Category Archives: Technology

Link Roundup

I don’t generally do link roundups, but in this case, there are a handful of notables, and I don’t really have the time or energy to write about each one individually.

  • “Antibiotics for Sinusitis”:http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=12 – This article from _Science-Based Medicine_ sums up exactly my thinking about the germs floating around out there right now. I’ve been sick twice this winter, and in both cases, I needed high-powered antibiotics to muck everything out, and even then it took two or three weeks to shake it off. From what I’m hearing from folks all over the country, this isn’t exactly unique – the bugs are bigger, stronger, and longer-lasting. It’s likely that over-prescribing antibiotics is one of the prime factors for this.
  • “SpySat stuff”:http://www.badastronomy.com/bablog/2008/02/21/spysat-stuff/ – Is it bad that I ignored all news about the US government shooting a missile at the spy satellite until Phil posted about it (as I knew he would)? Sorry, I just don’t trust the information given back on this sort of thing until I see it on the Bad Astronomy blog, and I have even less use for most of the unnecessary drama that surrounded this particular event. Why must the media blow stuff like this out of proportion? I appreciate Phil’s level-headed presentation of the facts.
  • “Wireless Digital Display Tattoos”:http://gizmodo.com/359018/cellphone-display-concept-designed-by-dracula-is-bloody-ridiculous – Call me strange, but I think this idea is really neat. Of course, I’m the guy who’d love to have a neurological uplink to a computer, too, so embedding a subcutaneous, wireless tattoo interface in my skin isn’t a huge leap from there.
  • “Um, Yeah – Grapefruit”:http://xkcd.com/388/ – xkcd apparently unleashed a monster with today’s comic about fruit. Bear in mind, it’s highly subjective, so his mapping may match yours. (In fact, it’s safe to say that it probably won’t.) Go easy on the guy. Just because he’s wrong doesn’t mean you need to beat up on him.

LaTeX vs. Latex

I’m on a mailing list for a

LaTeX

newsgroup, so I receive a digest of new postings a couple of times a day. I was skimming through the new messages in my Gmail inbox a few moments ago when some of the Google-placed ads and helpful links, which I usually ignore into invisibility, caught my eye. Check it out:

latex

Click for larger view

I’m actually kind of amused by the listing. It’s one of those times where you really wish Google’s search API would actually take case-sensitivity into account. I think they got it closer to correct with the ‘More About…’ links, but still, I’m scared to click on anything since I don’t actually know where they go.

Wubi – Ubuntu Installer

WubiI’ve wanted to run an installation of Ubuntu on my computer for some time now, but I haven’t wanted to fuss around with reformatting my HDD, setting up partitions, and the running the installs for both Windows and Ubuntu again. So I haven’t done it – until now. “Boing Boing had a story on Monday”:http://www.boingboing.net/2008/01/21/wubi-install-ubuntu.html about an Ubuntu installer called “Wubi”:http://wubi-installer.org that allows you install Ubuntu straight from your Windows interface without having to worry about setting up a partition.

I started the process last night, leaving it to work while I went to bed. Unfortunately, I woke up this morning to find that the installer had, in fact, stalled on the download. It wasn’t a problem, though, since I just canceled the process and started up the Wubi installer again, allowing it to pick up where it left off. Then there was the reboot and the selection of Ubuntu from the boot-up cycle and the completion of the Ubuntu install from there. Of course, I ran out of time this morning and had to leave for work before the install, setup, and configuration could complete, so I’ll mess with it some more tonight when I get home.

I’m pretty excited about this, though, because I’ve heard good things about Linux in general and about Ubuntu in particular. It’s supposed to be both faster and more stable than Windows ((In my opinion, it doesn’t take much to accomplish this feat.)) and just plain better all around. I’ve friends who use Ubuntu who swear by it, so it’ll be nice to give it a whirl and see what I think. If I find a way to do all the things in Ubuntu that I do in Windows, it may even replace Windows as my primary operating system.

Wubi is still in beta, though, so I’m not necessarily expecting everything to run perfectly smoothly, and the developers warn on the website that Wubi Ubuntu may run a little slow depending on how fragmented your hard drive is. ((They do provide a means, though, of configuring a partition for Wubi Ubuntu without, I’m guessing, having to reformat the entire drive so that it doesn’t have to run for the from virtual disk file.)) It should be a nice little experiment.

Any Ubuntu users out there who have some favorite applications they’d like to tell me about? I’m rather hoping that Firefox is the default browser that’s installed with Ubuntu. From there, I’m going to have to go on a hunt for useful applications.

Gmail Improvements

I’m tickled pink. I used to use a Greasemonkey script with Gmail that added colors to labels. Later, I changed to the Better Gmail addon that simply made every label a bright red. Easy to see, served the purpose. Trouble was, that was one script that made loading Gmail take longer than it probably ought.

So, I pleasantly surprised to discover a couple of days ago that Google had added the option to color your labels. And even better they’ve provided a limited (24) but stylish set of colors that blend well, rather than clashing with everything else on the page. Suddenly my inbox is dressing a little flashier than before, and it’s become easy again to find specific emails of note.

Fabulous.

Reclaimer Images

A little Reclaimer fun I’ve had in Photoshop today:

Reclaimer Splash Image

I’ve been toying with the idea of taking advantage of the new Facebook feature of pages, and I whipped up this little screenshot with title and URL for that purpose.

Reclaimer banner

A smaller version of the above, with the URL moved, for use as either linkto button or a forum signature image. I’m using it currently as my sig image on the “TTL forums”:http://forum.tiedtheleader.com.

Yeah, I love playing with Photoshop, and I don’t even tap into _half_ of that program’s power.

This Post Was Made Using Dvorak

I “just discovered”:http://dvzine.org/ a “new” keyboard layout that’s actually been around for several decades called Dvorak. I feel like I’m learning how to type all over again, which I kind of am – but the layout _is_ more logical. It’s just a matter of retraining my muscle memory to a new system after all these years of using the Qwerty system (the standard one that everyone is used to). Go check out the link and see what you think. I’m still a brand new convert, but already I love it, even if it is a bit maddening to have one’s typing speed drop to a snail’s pace in the meanwhile.

Twitter(Fox)

I’ve been using Twitter for a couple of months now, but I admit that I hadn’t really gotten into much until a friend of mine (thanks, Dweezle) pointed me at a nice little Firefox addon called TwitterFox. It basically lets you read and write twitters right from your Firefox statusbar. It makes it extremely convenient and fun to use. I still don’t use it as aggressively as some of the folks I’m subscribed to but I definitely use it a lot more now.

I’m curious – does anyone else use Twitter? If so, what are your usernames? Feel free to add me to your own list; my username is stitzelj.

Firefox Addons for Gmail Broken

I think Google changed something in relation to Gmail yesterday evening. I use two Firefox addons to make managing my email a little more efficient – Better Gmail and Gmail Manager – and as of yesterday, both addons now seem to be broken. I first noticed a problem when Gmail tried to refresh and issued a ‘Could not build contacts’ error and subsequently logged me out. No amount of cajoling or urging could get me logged back in. Initially I thought it was a Gmail problem, but when I tested it out, I found I could still login normally from IE7 and Safari. My next thought, then, was that maybe somehow the Better Gmail addon I use with Firefox to restyle Gmail and add a few convenient functions might have broken. I disabled it and restarted Firefox, and sure enough, I was logged back in just fine. I’m a little annoyed now that some of the features that Better Gmail added are currently unavailable, but I’d much rather not have them than not have access to my email at all.

The other plugin that no longer functions is Gmail Manager. This little addon puts a little module on Firefox’s status bar that allows to check and manage multiple Gmail accounts quickly and easily. Well, Gmail Manager no longer works, showing all emails accounts as having no email, despite there being mail in most of those inboxes.

My guess is that Google changed something in their Gmail API that has caused most, if not all, Firefox addons for the service to break. I haven’t had a chance to do much in the way of research into the issue yet, so I don’t know how widespread this issue is and if it’s affecting everyone or if it’s just something screwed up with my particular instance of Firefox.

If anyone knows anything about this, do please let me know. I’ll try to keep you posted in the meantime.

Update: Turns out this is a known issue. There is a comment from the Better Gmail developer that Google rolled out a new version of Gmail recently. They are currently working on developing a new version of the addon to be compatible with Gmail. No word yet on whether Gmail Manager is being updated.

No LaTeX

So, I found out from submitting a support ticket the other day that Bluehost does not allow LaTeX to be installed on their servers. I’ve no idea why. This may be enough to cause me to start looking for a new webhost again and run a server switch near the time when my annual contract expires. And it’s not just the inability to run LaTeX that’s fueling this; it’s a number of other server limitations I keep running into. For instance, I would really like to set up an openID server for those sites I comment on periodically (like LiveJournal blogs) that allow openID authentication. I’d also like to play around with Habari (still in development), but I can’t seem to get it to install on my server.

So, I’m going to start doing a little research and querying to see if I can find a decent and affordable host that lets me do all these things. Shared hosting is most desirable at this point, since paying the exorbitant monthly fees for a Virtual Private Server is well beyond my means. Trouble is, I’m not sure it’s possible to do everything I want to do on a shared server.

For LaTeX, I need a server that has tetex-extra and dvipng installed, as well as imagemagick. For Habari, I need a PHP5 installation that actually functions like PHP5, instead of being a limited version. And I know something else is needed for openID that I don’t currently have, but I haven’t yet been able to pin down what.

I’m open to suggestions from the community, as well. Anything that will make my research a little easier is most welcome.

Xanga Open Comments

I’ve “complained about Xanga in the past”:http://shamuswrites.com/2005/03/01/tuesday-march-1-2005-at-0628-am/ about a variety of pet peeves with that blogging community, things both pertaining to many of the members of that community and about the way the blogging platform itself is built. Well, in light of my “previous entry”:http://shamuswrites.com/2007/09/17/nursing-a-coke/, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Xanga is now a much more open community, i.e. they now allow ‘anonymous’ comments. What this means is that you no longer have to be a member of the Xanga community in order to leave your comments and feedback on any given blog. I don’t know how long this feature has been on Xanga, but I’m very pleased to see that the Xanga developers have finally gotten with the program. It’s been a big frustration of mine for quite some time that Xanga was so exclusive about this sort of thing, especially since I have a number of friends who still blog there (despite my earnest urgings to move over to wordpress.com).

So, kudos to Xanga. I, for one, am very pleased that this change has been made.