Please Stop Streaming My Video

15.40.52 - Mark

While I'm tolerating YouTube and the like more than I was a few months ago, my lingering hatred of streaming video has reemerged in the last week or so.

What's prompted it has been NetFlix's announcement that they're starting to phase in streaming video to it's customers. A couple months ago after realizing that I've been blowing some serious cash on DVDs at the same time I was getting a serious craving for some older slightly obscure movies I signed up for Netflix.

I haven't really blogged about it since I've got mixed feelings about the service. The selection has been good (certainly satisfying my cravings) and after putting in about 120 ratings I've been getting some truly great results from their recommendation engine, but at the same time the turn around isn't always great (I'm starting to run into throttling issues) and I've been seriously annoyed by skips and freezes caused by scratched disks. However the service has allowed me to rent more and varied films without regrets. I've gone from foreign films to documentaries to cheesy blockbuster comedies, and at $2 a film I can even afford to rent a few stinkers.

So when Netflix announced it was starting to add online video I was a bit excited. Among other things more movies. However I'm not using it. Aside from the fact that they don't support Macs or Linux (I don't have a windows box) its streaming video, and my "broadband" internet is far from high speed. One a very good day pages load quickly and without fuss. One normal days I'm painfully reminded of dialup. On a bad day I feel like I would get a faster connection by using an acoustic coupler with my cell phone to dial up an AOL access point in the middle of Alaska.

While my current state of bandwidth maybe a little off the norm (and maybe a bit exaggerated), I have absolutely no problem letting a download sit in the background until it's finished. I'd rather wait a while and watch a video in one go than have it spontaneously freeze of stutter in the middle of a scene. Furthermore, I'd rather be able to move the video around, from a server, to a laptop, to a DVD, or to my iPod

So please, stop streaming my videos, or at least give me an OS independent download option.

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Buggy Browsers

18.49.34 - Mark

I don't own a windows box, so when I have to test a site in Internet exploder I usually try and get my hands on a windows box. You would think that as flexible as Firefox is someone would have written a hack that emulates the way IE renders pages. Then I thought about it and I don't think anyone is crazy enough to try and recreate all of the bugs in IE.

Which left me with a problem. Try and assemble a working PC from my parts pile and dump windows on it, or get Internet Explorer working on my Ubuntu linux box.

Surprisingly, it was easier to get IE working under linux than it was to work with Windows thanks to ies4linux, a neat little hack that installs IE on Linux, running under WINE (which I already had installed)

I love linux.

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Daa Bears

18.52.34 - Mark

I'm not the biggest fan of pro sports. Aside from games that run into overtime or the major events I'm usually pretty far away from the TV when there's a sports broadcast on.

I'll watch the super bowl, or other "big games", but this season I've taken a bit more of an interest in football. Especially the Bears. With a father who was born and raised in Chicago, and a younger brother who would ship himself in a crate to attend a World Series with the Cubs (if he had to) we've all been enjoying the Bears in post season.

Now that da bears have absolutely slaughtered the Saints (39 - 14) in the NFC championship, it feels like the Superbowl is coming twice this year.

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Smart as a Foxx

18.10.54 - Mark

From the Winston-Salem Journal:

This week, in a report broadcast on WFDD-FM, 5th District Rep. Virginia Foxx said that former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is not facing trial, has not been indicted and certainly does not face criminal charges. She hadn't heard. When informed that DeLay's trial on criminal charges of money-laundering is pending, Foxx concluded, with no further research, that the indictment was a "trumped-up charge."

This somehow seems in keeping with her conclusion last summer that the war in Iraq was going well.

As many times as I've received some boneheaded reply from Foxx about something in Congress, and trust me I have a few, I really don't have anything to add to this.

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Support our troops, duh.

00.22.49 - Mark

With the "surge" that our supreme overlord Bush has been "selling" the country on is once again bringing up this mess about "Support our troops". Which brings me to a simple question. What sort of sociopathic bastard would not support our troops? Is there anyone in America who is not supporting our troops? I mean aside from misguided congress critters claiming to "demonstrate fiscal responsibility" when voting on war funds.

The second gulf war is not going to end soon enough.

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Someone please turn down the heat

22.19.33 - Mark

Right now, its about 63 degrees Fahrenheit outside. 10PM in the middle of January and its as warm now as it was six months ago. Earlier today I was riding my bike in a t-shirt and shorts because it was at least 70. In the last three months I don't think that the temperature here has dipped below freezing except for about two days a month ago.

In the same period of time, I've only seen snow twice once for maybe 15 minutes last week and the other time I wasn't even in North Carolina (Georgia back in November)

As much as I hate people complaining about how its "too cold", I expect it to be cold in the middle of January. I like how taking a deep breath of cold winter air bites at your sinuses, and you can taste the purity of the air. I love how when my lungs are taking in cold air I can look up and the sky is so crystal clear even the regional light pollution can't dim the night sky.

Can we please turn down the heat?

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Staying the course - plus 21,000

23.42.31 - Mark

Bush's speech about his "new plan" for Iraq seems to be anything but. The speech itself seems recycled, dragging out his old shields like 9/11/01, and the plan itself is little different than what seems to be going on now. There were also clear fallacies in his plan. While he may have told Iraqi leaders that they need to step up and take control over their country or see American forces leave, but in the same speech he also said that any sort of withdraw from Iraq at this point in time would result in a disastrous catch-22. Fewer troops means increased violence and a near total destabilization in the middle east, which in turn would require even more troops (repeat ad nauseum). At the same time we're sending in diplomats to establish peace in the region - attempting to do something in a matter of months that hasn't been atainable in a matter of centuries.

It doesn't help matters that everyone is trying to apply victory and defeat concepts to this mess. I don't believe there will be anything resembling a decisive victory in Iraq, and applying those concepts isn't going to help anyone reach an acceptable resolution. Until then, I'm just going to try and forget the fact that I'm going to be paying for this mess for the rest of my life.

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Are you pondering what I'm pondering?

23.03.15 - Mark

I've been chewing though a lot of media in the past few weeks, but far the most time has been dedicated to good old fashioned nostalgia watching Pinky and the Brain Volume 1 and Volume 2, with the occasional episode of Animaniacs. Even at 14 years old they're still as hilarious as they were when I was a kid, maybe even more so now. The writing is well crafted and the episodes contain tons of references and spoofs of all sorts of stuff, from 1990's politics to classic movies lots of material that I would have never appreciated when they were first being aired. In a way it really reminds me of Pixar's work. Some of the value is in the animation and story, but there are so many easter eggs planted into the writing that it keeps adding value for older audiences. It's great that I'm able to watch these shows on DVD, but now I'm craving a bunch of shows that unfortunately aren't available on DVD

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Do not iron.

13.46.31 - Mark

In a way you have to admire the lawsuit culture that has developed in America. Without it we wouldn't have hilarious warning labels like "ďDonít try to dry your phone in a microwave oven." We also wouldn't have contests dedicated to finding the most bizarre and inane warnings.

I might have to look for the book they just released next time I'm in a book store, but until then I can laugh over some of the past winners

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00.51.43 - Mark

It's one thing to complain about the Bush administration, the US government in general, and the sad state of affairs in Iraq when you only have a vague connection to the whole middle east mess.

It's another when it hits close to home. Yesterday I found out that someone I knew,Jonathan E. Schiller was killed in Iraq last week.

Jon and I weren't friends exactly, but we tended to run into each other. I think our families went to the same church, and about the time I pretty much stopped attending church I started seeing him at orchestra practices at school. Jon played the sting bass and I was almost always the last chair cello so we occasionally talked (but more frequently hit each other with our bows)

If I went back to Iowa I certainly wouldn't be looking him up in a phone book, but I did know him, and I have several other, significantly closer, friends serving in various branches of the armed forces that could have been killed just as easily. You can't just shrug that off.

Here's to a quick resolution of this war - in whatever form that solution is

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Blog Newly Refined

15.22.41 - Mark

Getting bored while fixing bugs is not a good thing. Rather than simply fix the bugs in my commenting engine and clearing out the crap comments that have piled up over the last several months I started fiddling with other aspects of my blog code, adding toys like a complete tag cloud, and index pages for my better posts and my multimedia files, improved sidebars fixing a bug in my archive calender and adding a stripped down version of my tag cloud as a navigational block, as well as adding some practical features, like displaying post titles in the page headers and fixing a long list of things with the comments.

Having done almost no programming or web work in the last few months, I almost forgot how much fun it can be to churn out some code.

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Keywords, Links, and the Kitchen Sink

16.38.32 - Mark

The comment spam problem on this blog has finally gotten to me (the database powering this thing has 60MBs of plain text spam comments!) and I'm now in the middle to testing a couple of new tools in my little war on spam. The main reason I've put it off this long is because I though it would take an entire overhaul of the comment system to even attempt to cut back the crap comments, but thankfully I was wrong.

When I started Googling for spam filtering tools, I quickly found two existing services. One called LinkSleeve, which basically looks at the links in the submitted data and compares them to its existing database. The second is Akismet, which seems to be the intimidating sentry in the field.

As it turns out neither was that hard to install into my existing system, LinkSleeve was literally cut and paste, with no modifications needed at all, while Akismet was a little more hands on, involving registering with wordpress for a free account, then researching ways to connect my code with their services. While I was able to find the rights material, it involved some programming on my part, adding a couple of calls and changing some variables around.

Since early this morning, all of the comments on this site have been evaluated with my own filtering rules, along with LinkSleeve's URL screening and Akismet's blend of filters, and the results are a bit surprising. When I added LinkSleeve I though it had the best solution, since comment spam is all about the links, I though that it would catch junk comments my filters were missing (The Hey! Cool Site. Comments that are hardest to screen), but not only does it miss most of them, it also fails to catch spam comments with a dozen obvious junk links. This may be due to a lack of users sending comments into the system, but right now its even far behind my rudimentary keyword/ip based filters.

Of course once I had Akismet set up, it blew away my existing tools, capturing the vast majority of the spam comments that have trickled in since its installation. That's not to say its perfect, but I think its safe to call it as being somewhere around 90% right now

There will however be more spam comments here for the next couple of days. While I think Akismet will be my primary tool for stopping spam, I'm probably going to continue using all three systems to catch spammers in the act, and set up a master script to direct spam to various levels of purgatory based on which filters it trips. There are going to be a few other upgrades (in addition to a significantly cleaned up database) to my little system, but I feel so much better having found a better way of dealing with the spam around here.

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What is there to say

01.28.27 - Mark

Sometimes the internet is a blessing and a curse, right now I think its a curse. The various online video sharing sites have made it exceptionally easy to view a cell phone video of Saddam Hussein's execution, and for ignorant masses to comment on it. I've now made the mistake of viewing the video, and reading some comments on youtube, and I'm horribly disgusted by mankind right now. The idea that people are actually reveling in the the death of another human being, and bemoaning the fact that "they should have tortured the !#*$ for a few months before killing him". What does that say about our race? Are we really any better than the "monster" we supposedly slaughtered?

Several days ago I felt that the death penalty should be left on the books, and only used in exceptionally horrid situations. I no longer feel that way after seeing that video. The intentional killing of another individual, no matter how morally reprehensible that person may be, is completely unforgivable. Not because of some higher power, but because it demeans humanity as a whole.

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