A disconnect.

00.13.05 - Mark

Stupid on so many levels.

My old homepage.mac.com/g3head website is about to die. Not by my choice, rather, Apple's choice to pull the plug on the public websites hosted by Apple. When Apple released iTools as "Free for Life" I was hooked, and while I had other email addresses (then and now) the idea of a free webhost ment a lot to me at the time. iTools Homepage feature helped me really get myself online and hacking HTML code. While they designed for it to use their publication tools, I learned the tricks of code, and built my own site, and hosted files for a few others. After a couple of years, Apple took away the free part, and turned iTools into .Mac, and the high rate of $100 a year.

I bit the bullet and stayed onboard. While I didn't like the not-free part, I was using that email address a good amount at the time, and I knew I wasn't going to be looking for free hosting for mywebsite, as they all added ads, and had a far less cool domain name.

I've stayed onboard, as while the website part of .Mac became less important ("replaced" by using Blogger, and then real hosting), other features, maintained it's value. Plus, you know, my first site would stay online.

While I love how it helps me sync my computers and iPod touch, and to a degree still use the email account, I think we started seeing the death of hoempage.mac.com last year. In July 2009, Apple took down the HomePage publication tools they had developed. Supposedly, at that point websites could not be added or edited. While I had been planning on moving the content to my current servers and giving them a domain, but because of some things that happened to me at that time, that never happened, and as July 7th came and went, I figured they would be no more changes to that old website.

Tonight however, as I was backing up the site and putting thought into reworking the code to keep the site online, I figured I'd kick the tires one more time. I figured it wouldn't work, but sadly, it did. I still had full read/write access to that website part of my iDisk, and within seconds of adding it, a burried test page could be viewed online.

So much for a year of coded redirects. Now so much for the site. I always loved it when someone linked to homepage.mac.com/g3head even when I haven't touched it in years. So in a few days, I'll be feeling the same pain as other users of homepage.mac.com, who built a bit of an online reputation over the last 10 years.

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I Fear Change - Appease Me!

02.48.46 - Mark

Earlier this week Flickr added the ability to post short (90 seconds or less) videos to the site for it's pro users (people that fork over $25 a year for the service) and now a while bunch of people are up in arms saying that by adding video the site is going to turn into youtube, which is complete crock, and are boycotting groups that allow video, block people that post video, and some claim they'll be defecting from the site or otherwise demanding the new feature be taken offline and thrown into a deep dark dungeon and never be allowed to see the light of day again.

They may as well be chanting "I fear change - appease me!", which would be preferable since it would 1) do just as much for their "cause" 2) would tell you more about how far along they are in terms of mental and emotional development and 3) would simply be more entertaining.

For one thing Flickr is a business. Sure it's a business that makes you feel like it's all warm and soft and friendly and that it's totally hip to it's friends customers interests, and to be fair it does to a lot to be customer friendly (it is a community site after all) but it's still a business, and this is a business move.

Videos uploads are only open to those with pro accounts, so to upload video you have to pay. New pro membership benefit == more members == more money. Then there's the fact that yahoo (which owns flickr) doesn't exactly have a strong video presence, and flickr is a closer fit than a lot of things it could have tried.

Second, comparing Flickr to YouTube is pretty silly when you look at it. YouTube is free to all, and after a few family friendly parental type controls the site is pretty much a free for all. YouTube also isn't exactly interested in quality. Flickr seems to be sort of the opposite. The video clip I uploaded to flickr looks almost as good there as it does when I play it locally, and the player interface isn't bloated or bland. So you don't have the total dreck we've all come to expect from youtube clips.

The third thing is since you have to pay to use the service, you're setting a good barrier to entry. Everyone has seen a myspace page that made you want to suck your own eyes out with a drinking straw, and look at all the number of craptacular free blogs and websites out there. Now how many sites have you seen with a registered domain name (and I'm not talking a .tk or some other free domain) and real paid hosting? Nowhere near as many. Pay walls keep a certain level of junk out, so again, none of the youtube free for all.

Should flickr added a "Don't show me video" option? Probably, and it would surprise me if they don't (or if someone fails to come up with a no video hack) but I'm finding it a useful feature. I've got a bunch of short clips that are neat, and worth sharing, but nothing I really care to piece together into a video. So while things like youtube and blip (another video service) fail, flickr video works, and gives me more of a reason to keep up my pro account.

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Giving into Twitter

00.34.25 - Mark

I've been more or less ignoring Twitter since it's start up buzz at SXSW last March, partially because I didn't see it as being useful, but also because I'm a big fan of keeping control over my content. Getting onto facebook several months ago to keep in touch with some friends started to show me the usefulness of "microblogs". When my cell phone got upgraded to a text messaging plan a few weeks ago I started a twitter account (maybe the last geek on earth to do so...), and I've started playing with twitter. I'm really starting to like it. Sort of.

Being able to send off short what I'm thinking kind of messages is great, and sometimes I have something I want to share without writing out a lot of detail (or filler content) For that purpose Twitter is great. I need to upgrade some code, but I'll probably tie my twitter account into this site, and I'll be even happier.

What I don't like is seeing this rehashing of the A blog is this, a blogger is that, here's a commenter, and over on that stone tablet is a list of things you now can and can't do. I've seen this same useless diatribe in Are you Twit or Twerp and the 10 Commandments of Twitter (both via Dave Slusher)

I've sat through insanely boring meet ups at blogging / new media conferences where a handful of orating idiots argue definitions and language, and use, and whatnot for hours on end and three things happen. 1) Nothing is decided or agreed upon 2) Nothing useful is said 3) Everything is ignored by everyone (especially by the general public, and except the orating idiots)

Rather than pay attention to stupid arguments over usage and language, or the seemingly regular attempts at analyzing twitter from the outside, I'm going to use a free online tool in a manner that suits me.

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Funny Pages

02.07.41 - Mark

It all started with a call from Global Frequency, well sort of. Like all good general purpose geeks I like comic books, but I had the misfortune of growing up in the speculator boom era of comics when they became $3 special edition collectibles, were 40% ads, and you had to decide which of the half dozen versions of a character you wanted to read. Not exactly the 10 silver age comics my dad used to collect. So mostly I grabbed some comics whenever the local comic store was clearing house, and attempted to find remnant's of my dad's old collection when ever we visited my grandparents (who despite being packrats threw out many of the comics)

But when global frequency came out so did my interest in comics, and I've been picking up a TPB or two every few months (currently more or less in sync with Ex Machina releases, which means I'm due for an Amazon order), getting the occasional graphic novel like The Watchmen or Maus, reading free web comics and using other means of getting comic book fixes. I've considered buying some of the phone book sided collections of classic comics, but they tend to be pretty bad. Black and white on cheap paper in the book the size of a dictionary, so I'm happy to hear about Marvel's Digital Comics. I may even try it out, but I have a tendency to read when I can't get online (or don't want to go online) so the web-only approach is a turn off. Offer a (DRM free) CBR or CBZ subscription based download service and let me load them into a reader of my choice, now I'd pay for that. It would probably boost my book buying too, since I've found a few series where the art is good enough that I only want dead tree editions.

Even if I read online, the flash interface they have would eventually drive me nuts. Compared to ComicBookLover (Mac) or Comix (Linux) it feels slow and cluttered.

Still, I may have to give it a try. While I'm not really into the superhero comics, I do like a lot of Marvel characters, and it would be nice to read up.

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Your vote was foretold by the stars

04.13.34 - Mark

I was looking up how my Senatorial congress critters voted on the Mukasey confirmation (they're for it, which isn't surprising considering their track records) with the Washington Post's Vote Database. It's is easier to use than THOMAS but what I found odd was I can sort by astrological sign, among other criteria of various silliness (baby boomer status, late night votes, political affiliation...) I know congress critters were predictable, but I didn't realize that it was written in the sky.

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Blog Readability

23.13.20 - Mark

Today's random web poll gadget meme thingamabob, which really looks like an attempt to googlebomb some payday loan site (whose link I removed before posting this). Remember, it's not technically spam if the blog's author posts it...

Junior High School

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02.05.14 - Mark

Wiki is Hawaiian for "Quick", and that is supposedly one of the underlying themes in the various Wikimedia projects. I may have bought into that two hours ago, but I've spent the last 90 minutes fighting with Wikimedia services.

It started out with honorable intentions. I've got a copy of the game Polarity, and like all things involving strong magnets it's fun to play. At some point in the past I got to wondering what kind of magnet goes into the Polarity pieces, so I checked the wikipedia article, which is more or less a stub. I filled this tid bit of information away, until yesterday.

I was bored yesterday and decided to set up my $2 macro photo studio (based on this handy design) and shoot some various objects. Because I've had magnets on the brain for a few days, I though it might be fun to shoot some pictures of Polarity pieces leaning on each other, and about the same time that thought occurred, the memory of the wikipedia stub popped up. A quick check confirmed that the article hadn't been expanded, and that it still lacked any images. So I go and shoot my photos, come back a while later, and I set off on the process of adding them to the Hitchhiker's Guid... I mean Wikipedia.

I'm familiar with the mechanics of wikis. I've got a personal mediawiki install, I've played with a couple other wikis, and on occasion have come close to making small changes to the Wikipedia So it should be easy to upload an image right? Wrong. I spent over an hour reading and rereading help documents and wikipedia style articles on how to upload an image, how to format it in the article, blah blah blah, found out I needed to start an account, did (at wikimedia commons, then started to upload the image before getting confused by the media licensing requirements, eventually managed to upload the image (it's here for the curious) quickly realized that despite the fact that they share databases, I needed another account for wikipedia, got that set up, then spent a bit more time looking at formatting guidelines and help files to figure out how to include the image in the article, and finally (after over an hour) managed to edit my image into the article that had an open request for images.

How exactly is that quick? Wikis are supposed to be Web 2.0, so how come the usability is so slow and awkward? All of the information they wanted when I uploaded the image was single line stuff, but they forced me to slow down and rewrite it in their unique syntax. Where's the clean, easy to follow interactive tutorial or brain dead form to fill out. It would have taken me 90 seconds to do the same thing on Flickr and the resulting upload would have almost exactly the same information. It's a bit insane, and more than a bit off putting. I might help the Wiki if I see some simple change that needs to be made, but I don't see myself contributing that much, even if there are some articles I could really help out on.

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Flickr Reloaded

22.42.17 - Mark

So I finally got around to connecting my flickr account to a yahoo ID (and got past how stupid Yahoo/Flickr is for forcing that on users) and dug out some of the Raven Knob Photos from last summer (just in time for this summer...) and uploaded them to my account. Anyone who was reading last year has probably seen them, but I wanted to put them up on flickr anyways. I need to stow some other stuff on there, but I'd really like an upload solution that lets me upload full resolution versions to my site, and then forward scaled down versions onto flickr. Its not that I don't like web apps, its that I've got Gigs to spare on my server, and Flickr limits me in a number of ways that fail to justify $25/year (at least to me).

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10.27.57 - Mark

I've been trying to figure out what exactly I want to say about Tim O'Reilly's proposed Blogger Code of Conduct. Others have posted on the issue and looked at the proposed code in more detail than I will.

That said, this post has gone from it's a bad idea, to it won't work, and now to I don't really give a damn. This isn't something I'll be joining up with because I don't see any of the problems that this claims to be a solution for. I've had anonymous commenters I've disagreed with, trolls I've been tempted to delete, arguments and embarrassing things go public. I've never deleted a post I've made, and I've only deleted two non-spam comments intentionally, and even then I wouldn't make the same decision today since they were rooted in a misunderstanding rather than problematic. All in all I've broken nearly every one of the proposed codes of conduct in one way or another, from posting copyrighted material (if you can find it) to not requiring email addresses from commenters.

The only thing I can say about my blog is that it's mine and I'm responsible for it. I don't need to sign a pledge for that to be true.

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Stuff I didn't pick up in Math class

22.56.01 - Mark

The web toy I'm building is all of a sudden becoming a pain in the ass. The design is more or less done, and most of the important features work, so tonight I set up a couple dozen fake users and a script to populate it with "answers" using random numbers, almost completely forgetting that all I would get would be a perfect real world example of the law of averages. D'oh!

I don't know that that's actually going to be a major concern, the test showed me that the scripts can handle the load, but I think some of the math powering the thing isn't what it should be, and I probably need to pull out the math books I've got floating around and read up on statistics. More importantly, I should probably be developing more social tools like implementing groups. That and test it with humans instead of random numbers.

Still, would have been nice to launch the site tomorrow. April 1st is an easy birthday to remember.

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Wonders of the Interwebs

17.51.42 - Mark

I love the interwebs, and despite doing it for years now I'm amazed at how I can find more interesting coverage of regional news from organizations half a world away. The UK version of this regional story, is so much better than the local article (and comes to me via California based WWdN).

The story itself isn't all that interesting except for the involvement of pirates as part of Pastafarianism.

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Coding mode.

23.50.15 - Mark

Funny how time disappears when you're working on a project. I'm juggling a couple small site designs and a renewed effort towards one of my own web 2.0-ish side project. I want to think I'm getting close to opening it up, but there are a few things that still need ironed out (which is important) and an unending list of features I'd like to add. Fortunately it's a web app and I can constantly release upgrades :)

My secret web project

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DNS Swindling

15.12.47 - Mark

or, Never let a domain name you want to keep go into "Redemption Period"

I'm doing some web work for a local business, and when I met with them a couple days ago I quickly learned that they already had a domain name. I've actually found it pretty common for small business to have domain names but lack anything more than a place holder, if anything.

Anyways, I start checking to see what needs to be done to start building a usable site. Well it turns out, the domain name registration didn't get renewed, and the domain in question is locked into a special state of hell known as a "redemption period".

In theory, redemption periods are a good thing. Recently expired domain names don't instantly fall back into the public pool, but they also fail to work and are gradually removed from the system. If you forget to renew, didn't get the notices because of an out of control spam filter, failed to keep your DNS records perfectly up to sate, or some other semi-legitimate reason, you get the shock of learning your domain no longer works, but have the ability to buy redemption by paying a fee (all of this applies for the next phase "pending deletion", a more expensive period of hell I'm not going to delve into)

Now, what would be an appropriate fee? Most domain names on the web are registered at discount registrars, like GoDaddy, Yahoo, and others who sell domains for a little more than the wholesale cost of the domains. For most domains, wholesale cost is under $10. Looking into the Redemption Fee, it started out as being $85, with a goal of $40 after development costs were recovered. Seems fair enough, it's enough that if I'm ever hit with it, I'll be sure to renew in time. Except, that's not the pricing I'm seeing.

When I figured out my client's Registrar, iPowerWeb (who are only a domain name reseller for TuCows), and after finding nothing useful on their site, I called their tech support (in a word, miserable) and after half a hour of waiting learned that their redemption fee is $160! As far as I can tell, this is actually a pretty common number, but its eight times what my client probably paid to register the domain for three years, and four times what ICANN's wholesale target price is for redemption renewals, and twice what GoDaddy charges. Hell, it might be cheaper to let it expire and use various services to play the drop market (Good article about snatching up expiring domain names)

I'm not sure what my client is going to do. I laid out the options, but in all honesty I'm not sure what I'd do. This is lose, lose for the consumer.

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Making iPod Accessories

15.23.47 - Mark

iPod Stand I saw this iPod stand on the web somewhere last week (the link with it was to a German forum), and since then I've been playing with the idea of doing sometime similar. I might try and do a charge/sync dock since it's possible to buy iPod conectors in small quantities. The brain storming begins...

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Do not attempt to adjust your Television

17.05.01 - Mark

Sometimes you find something online you never thought you would see online. I'm not talking about the weird ternds that just get amplified by the internet, I'm talking about truly strange things that predate the internet and were so temporary that you couldn't possibly expect to find them online. Like the hijacking of two Chicagoland TV station's signals in 1987 by a guy in a Max Headroom mask. The fact that that little tidbit of text exists is pretty amazing on its own, but the fact that someone has a digitized video of the rogue signal is mind blowing (that page has a couple of other interesting video clips).

This Internet thing is truely amazing

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23.18.50 - Mark

This story just makes you feel all warm and cuddly about human nature. Kid finds camera, parents find owner, owner gives them money for its return, parents can't bear to part kid from camera and therefore screw the owner. The 336+ comments the own has received from don't help. Everything from calls for mobs of people to harass the parents and kid, to cries of public humiliation, to calling the owner a liar, to offering to donate cameras to the kid and or former owner. There's an up and a down to being internet famous on any level. Up is it gets things done. The down is that more often than not its not the thing that needs to be done.

The other link is to guidelines for podcasters and is a few days old. I agree with nearly everything the author says, although like everything else in life there are plenty of exceptions. The one I disagree with the most has got to be the get a buddy / "couplecast". While there's a support staff behind a few of my favorites, most of my favorite podcasts have a single host. I'm also willing to more that time limit up. To me 40 minutes per feed per week is workable (not that I want all my shows to be eating that much time). More than that and you've got to be offering something really compelling to avoid slipping down my playlists.

Fortunately podcasts are flexible and I get to be my own network programmer.

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Two steps taken

22.44.27 - Mark

Going offline for the evening wasn't so bad. I got someone tolerable at the CompUSA tech desk (can't really say the same for the customer service) and snagged one of those $30AR 200 GB seagate drives. Guess we're honoring George and his fellow Commanders by making their green tinted portraits go a little farther than usual. Gotta love this consumer culture of ours. Not that I'm complaining about a $30 hard drive. This pushes me up past .75 TBs in my primary computers. I think this is when I'm usually supposed to date my inner geek by making some comment about how I never thought I would fill a 160MB hard drive, let alone contemplate measuring my network's storage capacity in terabytes

Also stumbled across Stainless Steel Chopsticks at another store. Part of them is for the sake of having decent chopsticks around the house for when I eat Asian cuisine, part of me likes the idea of being able to toss a pair or two into my camping kits and not need to worry about them breaking or finding whatever silverware I need. Kind of like my brothers obsession with metal sporks

Too bad tomorrow isn't looking that enjoyable...

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Inane Unsanity

09.51.31 - Mark

I am in what I hope will be my last semester at High School Univesity (name changed to protect the guilty) and one of my classes to finish this 2 bit internet tech degree is a projects class.

The main project is to create a website for a student organization on campus, and make it easy for non-technical students to edit. To me that means "no more complicated than email". Not "no more complicated than raw xhtml in a text editor".

Supposedly we are allowed to use everything that has been covered in past classes which in terms of page creation include XHTML, CSS, PHP, MySQL, scraps of Perl, and an almost useless ammount of Javascript.

Except we're not. I'm now being told that using PHP and MySQL would make the site incompatible with the (school) server that the site is to be hosted on.

I could go in a number of directions here, but the vast majority of sites out there (70%) uses a Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP/Perl/Python configuration. That 70% also includes majority of the major sites out there, like Amazon and Google.

The minority use the Windows, IIS, ??? setup the school uses.

If they didn't want me using it, they shouldn't be teaching it. Then again, they haven't been teaching it that effectivly, so maybe I'm missing some subtle hints...

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Ego Boost

01.17.12 - Mark

It's been a while since I've indulged myself with an ego surf, so I punched my name into google and for the first time ever my name popped up on top. I've been in the top 5 for a year or two, but I've always been below a Wake Forest Chemistry professor or a Linux Geek in Ohio (usually in battle with him for second)

Oh, and while writing this post I came across a web2.0 ego-surfing site, EgoSurf.org Here's my ego's history, looks like I'm a bland 1990 on Google I'm not too bad on the other search engines, except del.icio.us, no one seems to think I'm tasty ;)

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50,000 Gallons of Fun

21.40.06 - Mark

Some people have some deliciously weird hobbies, and though the wonder of the internet we can all share them.

Like Building 50,000 gallon fish tanks, building Bars out of Books, which would go lovely with some other book projects I've mentioned, building a table out of a pinball playfield, or wilderness engineering (which will be added to my feed collection shortly) I've done some good sized lashing projects (wish I had some photos), but that blog puts some of what I've worked on to shame.

While I'm not all that interested in building a monster fish tank, the book based furniture, table, and the rope and pole engineering are all fun.

Most of the Stuff found via MAKE, Extreme Fishtank, Rope and Pole Engineering, Book Bar, and Pinball Playfield Table

I really need to build something.

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