30 November 2005

Bloglines vs Newsgator

I have been a long time Bloglines user. I used to be a heavy RSS Bandit user. When the latest version of RSS Bandit came out, I saw they had added support to synch with Newsgator, a competitor to Bloglines.

Since I don't really have any loyalty to Bloglines and I really liked using RSS Bandit on the desktop, this seemed like a great reason to once again give Newsgator a try (I had tried it a number of months ago).

I tried, I really did: I updated all my feeds in Newsgator and in RSS Bandit; I set up my account in RSS Bandit; I started my first synchronization. And.... nothing. After 2 hours I had to end the process manually. Bummer. Ok, maybe it's a first try thing. Check the password, delete all the feeds from RSS Bandit, start the download. Error. Arg. I keep using Newsgator as my main web-based aggregator, getting used to the interface and digging in the settings.

So, I think to myself, self, it's just a first day problem; the service is busy because lots of people are trying to do this. Something didn't get configured right. I wait a day, uninstall RSS Bandit, clear out all the local setting on my machine, and reinstall. Same thing. Now I'm a little annoyed.

This morning, I went digging into my Bookmarks menu to find the link my Bloglines link. Why? I just like it better. Here's why:


  • Bloglines lets me mark all my feeds as read. Seems simple, right? You can't do this in Newsgator. Have 3000 new posts? Too bad, get ready to click the Mark This Page Read link about 50 times.

  • Both services allow me to sort by date, but only Bloglines sorts by source as well. If I open a newspaper view of all the feeds in a folder, Newsgator list them only by date. Bloglines first sorts them by source, then by date. This, to me, is the more logical way to present the data and mimics RSS Bandit.

  • I know it's bad design to some people, but I like having my feeds in a separate frame. When I scroll the newspaper view in Bloglines, the feed list stays visible in the left pane. Newsgator uses one page and the feed list scrolls off the top of the window as I scroll through the newspaper view.

  • That said, I like the styling of the Newsgator interface much better. The fonts are a bit small, but scale. The colors and shading are attractive and well designed. One criticism for both services: let me choose a style. CSS is cheap, give us some choices.

  • Bloglines lets me easily add feeds for tracking specialty items, such as UPS packages or weather; they put it right on the main page sometimes when I load my feeds. I could find an easy way to add these kinds of feeds in Newsgator.


Other than that, the services seem fairly similar. I do wish some of the desktop aggregators would integrate with both Bloglines and Newsgator, but I'm guessing that Newsgator has made it easier for developers to use their API as they're the only service I see supported. Both RSS Bandit and FeedDemon have added or will add support for Newsgator; I haven't seen any desktop aggregators doing the same with Bloglines. If I can get the synchronization to work, I'll probably switch to Newsgator and learn to use it, but I'm wondering why I have to make that switch.

29 November 2005

Firefox 1.5 today

Get ready to update.

Firefox 1.5 also includes new support for Web standards, adding support for Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG), JavaScript 1.6 and new versions of CSS (Cascading Style Sheets).


Link

27 November 2005

What Don't Tech Companies Get?

Technology.



I play Battlefield 2; it's a kick-ass FPS. EA, the publisher, has a long and storied history of releasing many, many (needed) patches for the series. They just released the latest for BF2.



When I started to download the file from their site (this is EA, largest game company in North America), I was getting about 26KB/s down. Yeah.


After an hour (of an estimated 2.5 hour download), I searched up a Bittorrent link from 3DGamers.



Current speed: 239.2KB/s, 24 minutes total download time estimated.



I'll leave it to the brain trusts at the various publishers to figure that one out.

21 November 2005

... And I Feel Fine

Not to be left out of a good thing, Ford today announced 4,000 white-collar job cuts.



I don't see any posts of these cuts on the local pro-Union blogs. Funny that...

It's the End of the World as We Know It

General Motors announced today that they would be closing 9 plants and RIFing 30,000 people in the next 3 years. 30,000 people. For Michiganders, that means the Lansing plant, the Flint engine facility, and the service and parts center in Ypsilanti will be closed, with the potential for another plant closing.

For three areas that need all the jobs they can get, this is a huge blow. For a state economy that's floundering, this could be devastating. It's also the first of what will likely be more announcements. Northwest has been louding proclaiming their financial problems; other auto makers aren't doing as well as they would like.

When are we going to get serious about moving away from a manufacturing-based economy? We need to start busting the myth that people entering the work force can get a job on the line just like their parents. Those jobs just won't be there in the numbers needed. Unions need to start being honest with their members that they can't stop plant closings at this scale. Workers need to wake up and realize that no matter what orginization you belong to, you aren't safe from these kinds of actions. And Michigan needs to shake off the dream that manufacturing jobs are going to come back.

17 November 2005

ColorMatch Redux

A freakin' awesome tool for generating color schemes. Makes me want to work on this site again.



ColorMatch Redux

Huge list of Open Source software

Looking for a CMS? How about a screen reader? Or try a new email client. This Wikipedia list of open source applications can point you in the right direction for any of those and hundreds of other needs.

16 November 2005

Installing Drupal on 1&1

Has anyone installed Drupal on a 1&1 hosted site? I'm trying to uplaod the SQL file that creates the tables in my MySQL database, but I can't get it to run. Google, so far, hasn't been any help. Any advice would be much appreciated.

Update: Nevermind, I got it to work. Had to run the uploaded file from the server through the phpMyAdmin console at 1&1, but only after configuring the database.mysql file to point to the right server (duh).

Google Base is Live

Quick note for today, Google Base is live. (Insert obilgatory "All Your Base" joke.)

Link

14 November 2005

Collaborative Novels

Got a novel in you? How about a chapter? What about that great character?

Toss any of them into the mix a Glypho, what appears to be an online, collaborative novel-writing site. I wonder if this would help NaNoWriMo participants gets over the hump.

11 November 2005

Lemur Named after John Cleese

A Zurich University team has named a newly-discovered species of lemur after comedian John Cleese. Cleese has been a long time spokesman and campaigner for the endangered animals. The new species, avahi cleesei, declined comment, but did hit Michael Palin in the head with a halibut.

Link

10 November 2005

Flame of the Week

Via Boing Boing, a link to a flame against the developers of Sony's rootkit. (NSFW)


MY GOD MAN!!! Do you realize what you're doing? DO you? What kind of HONEY BITCH TOOL have you become? Have you no shame? None at all?

Look at you. Look at yourself. Look at what you've BECOME. Your job is writing code to BREAK PEOPLE'S COMPUTERS if they dare to put a CELINE DION CD into their disk drive. Is this what you always wanted? Is this what you went to school for? Is this what we've all -- all of us, every other hacker and programmer and geek and computer person -- is this what we've all helped you to do?


It goes on... funny stuff and so true.

And the counter attack begins

Huzzah to the New York Times for jumping on the latest trend from the Fourth Estate; Blogs aren't just annoying; they're actually bad for society. Just a few, brief years ago, flash mobs were the source of all those riots at G8 and Seattle. Now, the French riots are the fault of evil 14-year old bloggers. And these evil bloggers are getting off after being arrested because for "procedural reasons". It almost begs for a suspension of those ridiculous laws so we can round up all those bloggers and hold them.

Why do reporters always have to reach for an angle to blame the technology? If this was 1517, the New York Times would be questioning the need for nails as they aid disruptive elements such as Martin Luther in the nailing of theses to the doors of church doors. They would then have to draw a line from the 1440s and blame not just Luther, but Gutenberg as well for enabling "anyone who can afford one" the ability to print virtually unlimited amounts of material.

Here's a very brief rundown for all the Fourth Estaters who don't get it: It you're focusing on the technology, you're missing the story. People don't riot so they can post about it on the French version of LiveJournal. People riot because of societal problems. People riot because no one is listening to them. People riot because reporters who try to blame the delivery system aren't doing their job and telling the real story.

09 November 2005

Christmas comes early, thanks to Amazon

My Christmas came early this year, courtesy of Amazon's kick-ass Amazon Prime service ($79 for unlimited two-day shipping). I got a new set of cookware from J--, who, despite the unintentional gifting, has accepted that I love my gift and will count it as a gift when the appropriate day arrives. (UPS left it on our porch and it was shipped in the original box; hard not to know what is was.)



Of course, since I had a slowly dating set of cookware, I had to get rid of it. Instead of chucking it, I FreeCycled it. The Ann Arbor FreeCycle group is very active and a great place to offload some of those things that aren't worth throwing out, but you don't use. I've used it twice, both offers, and had a response within minutes.

Un-Effing-Believable

Detroit deserves everything it has coming to it after re-electing Kwame Kilpatrick. The thug mentality and corruption in Detroit will run wild right up until the whole city goes into receivership. The fallout will be felt statewide.

Detroit is facing a projected deficit of $200 million in its $1.4-billion general fund budget, and Kilpatrick has delayed making deep cuts or layoffs until after the election. Unless Kilpatrick can perform a financial miracle in the next eight weeks, he may find paying city workers and vendors and warding off state oversight of city finances his next great challenge.


This is the same deficit he's been unable to fix in the previous four years. Maybe the voters are right and he needs "another chance". The first few hundred chances just weren't enough. Idiots. Note to Lansing, start prepping the finance manager you're going to have to appoint when the City goes into receivership. The mayor's own finance director told the City Council that, barring significant cuts, the City will run out of money before the holidays.

In an unrelated note, 33% of Detroiters want to leave the City, preferably for another state. Surprise, surprise.

The city's population has shrunk by half in the last 50 years. About 10,000 to 12,000 residents leave yearly, and the city's population is now around 900,000.


This is terrible day for Michigan. Our largest City is on the brink of financial disaster and the person in charge, again, is the same person who has been unable to fix anything previously. I believe that's the definition of insanity.

08 November 2005

Honoring Rosa Parks

I know quoting The Onion is low-level slogging, but this is so damn funny, I laughed out loud.

Alabama State Senator Hank Erwin, one of the hundreds of emotional guests at Bush's $5,000-a-plate dinner, proposed a toast, saying, "If I may paraphrase the words of Dr. Martin Luther King... 'I am free at last, free at last—thank God almighty, I'm free at last to stop thinking about civil rights.'"


And the sad thing is, someone out there will believe this.

The Death Of Rosa Parks - The Onion

How It Should Have Ended

These guys make alternate endings to blockbuster movies. What should Han have done at the end of Episode 4? Why do all the Smith's just stand there in Matrix Revolutions? Just what the hell is going on in Blair Witch? Download the movies and find out. (Help the site out and use BitTorrent; I highly recommend utorrent (microtorrent)).

The Official How It Should Have Ended Website

07 November 2005

CVS camera: Hacked

I hacked the CVS disposable camera tonight. It was kind of fun, aside from the fact that I totally suck at soldering. I used the instructions at Make and Hack a Day.



Instructions are all over the place to hack this camera, so it's not like I was doing any actual exploration, but I've never done a much hardware hacking, so this was a fun little project. I highly recommend the Make instructions.



Tips for anyone thinking of doing this:


  1. Get a good soldering iron. Mine blows, but it cost $5. You get what you pay for.

  2. Practice soldering on something you don't care about. My first and only experience soldering was this project.

  3. eBay is your friend. Aside from the camera, which I found on sale, the Palm connecter can be had on eBay for less than $10 shipped.

  4. Don't expect too much. It's a $25 camcorder. The quality is so-so. Our house is a little dark and the picture quality isn't great. It's a nifty little toy, but that's about it.

  5. Pets hate camcorders. At least ours do.

Homer Simpson was Right - Beer Really is Good For You

Want to be healthier? Drink more beer, and the more hops the better.

It turns out that beer hops contain a unique micronutrient that inhibits cancer-causing enzymes. Hops are plants used in beer to give it aroma, flavor and bitterness.

"It clearly has some interesting chemo-preventive properties, and the only way people are getting any of it right now is through beer consumption," [Fred Stevens, an assistant professor of medicinal chemistry at Oregon State's College of Pharmacy] said.


Praise God and pass the IPA.

ABC News: Drinker's Delight: Beer May Fight Disease

06 November 2005

For that special AOL user in your family

El Edwards, the voice of AOL's "You've Got Mail" announcement, is selling customized WAV files on his web site. For $10, you can have El say "You've Got Mail, Ryan".

Anyone know of any remixes of this guy's work?

Link

03 November 2005

In which I Immerse Myself In Local Politics

(Cross posted to Chelsea Blog)

The chill in the air isn’t just from the change in seasons.

A Chelsea City Trustee has unleashed the first salvo in a public battle over… I’m not sure. But it sure sounds like some people don’t like each other.

Since the story broke in The Chelsea Standard, I’ll have to recap instead of linking.

Back in October, the City Council approved a lease (a link!) for a Ford Five Hundred from Palmer Ford for Mike Steklac, a car provided by the City to Mike in his capacity as City Manager. The approved lease payment was $291.11 per month. When Mike went to pick up the car, the salesman informed him that the offer the City had negotiated was no longer available. The new price was $662.43, a slight increase.

So Steklac went to Faist-Diesing Chevrolet and negotiated a deal for an Impala at around the same price as the Ford lease (actually, $40 less a year). When Steklac brought the new lease to the City Council for approval, City Council Trustee Jamie Bollinger pounced. Bollinger stated that he had spoken with Biff Weber, the owner of Palmer Ford, and indicated that Steklac should have discussed the discrepancy with management before leaving. Bollinger alleges that Steklac only waited 35 minutes before leaving Palmer Ford, “not allowing time for the dealership’s management to address the problem”. Steklac defended this by claiming that “Ford Motor Co. credit department would have ‘kicked back’ the lease if he had pursued it,” an incident, by the way, that Biff Weber felt compelled to apologize for.

But the real stinger came later. Bollinger “suggested Steklac’s behavior [of negotiating a new lease without discussing it with City Council] is emblematic of a larger problem with [his] job performance.” This claim was supported by City Trustee Jim Myles as well. Myles is up for election next week.

By the way, I should mention at this point that the new lease was unanimously approved.

Moving on, Bollinger then confronted Mayo Ann Feeney, who had defended Steklac. The Standard quotes Bollinger as saying “So you approve of (Steklac) going outside of the City Council’s decision?” There is no follow-up comment.And then, we get to the rub. Why is Bollinger so incensed with the lease not coming from Palmer Ford? “Bollinger said Monday that part of the reason he was displeased with Steklac was because Palmer Ford has done favors for the city in the past.” Such as? How about repainting a police cruiser at no cost and donating a vehicle hoist to the city. I did a quick search on Google and vehicle hoists run anywhere from $1600 to $2100 dollars for a basic model. Painting a police cruiser isn’t cheap, either.

Let’s step back a little bit and look this over thoroughly. First, who the hell at Palmer Ford decided to try and bilk the City for an extra $13,367.52? ($10,479.96 for the first three-year lease subtracted from the new quote for 36 months; $23,847.48.) Unless they’re pleading New Salesguy Syndrome, someone seriously dropped the ball. Especially for an organization who is so generous to the City.

Next, I’m not sure how this whole City-negotiated lease things works. Is the City Manager legally bound to take the lease, even if the stated price at closing isn’t the negotiated rate? Everyone better say no to that. Then I fail to see the issue with the City Manager, a person entrusted with, uh, managing the City, negotiating a car lease.

Bollinger's belabored point was that the lease Steklac brought to the Council wasn't the same lease they had approved. He has a point; Steklac didn't bring that back. However, what Steklac did bring back was a better deal. And, he did it on his own. We'll come back to that.

I also don’t put a whole lot of credence on the statements of a Trustee who appears to have a huge conflict of interest in the lease negotiation process at Palmer Ford. Things went kittywompas and he called the dealership owner? Does the Trustee expect to call Craig Common if he has a bad meal at the Common Grill? Add in this whole kick back tack, and sudden Palmer Ford seems to have a little too much influence with certain members of the City Council.

Bollinger and Myles also accused Steklac of having a performance problem at his job. This is a serious accusation and hardly done justice by The Standard. If the Trustees honestly believe that Steklac’s performance is poor, then tell us why. Don’t throw out accusations from behind the wall of the newspaper. Make your case. If they don’t have one, both of them should not only be ashamed, but removed from City Council.

Bollinger’s last statement to the Standard is hilarious in it’s irony. “We’re still living in a small city, where you can go to an owner and shake his hand if you have a problem.” Of course, in this scenario, that handshake was false. The deal was broken the moment the City Manager wasn’t offered exactly what was agreed to. Handshakes in imply trust. Palmer Ford broke that trust. In my opinion, anyone, City representative or not, who gets that treatment is well within their social rights to scoff at a dealer and walk away. Palmer’s past donations do not earn them the right to sweat out a City official. Apparently the only handshake that's good in this town is Bollinger's, not Steklac's and certainly not Palmer Ford's.

This whole thing has the smell of a political smear. It reeks of backroom, old boy, cronyism, just the kind of politics that thrive in small towns. (And I know, I’m from one.) There are questions not answered here. Why can a lone City representative negotiate a better deal on his own than a Trustee with a direct line to the owner of car dealership? Why does the dealership with ties to that same Trustee switch the terms of a City-negotiated lease at the last minute? Why does the City Manager get broadsided when he calls the dealership’s bluff and gets a better deal? Why does Bollinger jump Steklac in a City Council meeting with some ethereal accusation of poor job performance, but present no evidence? And then when it’s all said and done, why, if what Steklac has done is such a sin, does the new lease get approved unanimously? Bollinger doesn't even have the fortitude to vote against it.

Sounds like the new lease just needed a bit of hot air to get off the ground.

Excellent breakdown of why Google Print != Indexing Web Pages

One of the arguments for Google Print is that it's the same as crawling the web and making that index searchable. A comment on Slashdot nukes that theory very, very neatly.

I'm going to quote the whole thing, but credit is due to Bulmakau.

I am sure many will ask what the difference between books and sites is. And since we all like google scanning out sites, why should we oppose book scanning?
Well, for several reasons:
1. It is WE who like our sites scanned, and if not, we add a Robots.txt file. We can protect some of the content on our site, or all. and we easily know if its being spidered, so we can take action. How will that be with books? Robots.txt is not probably. You know what? if anything, it already exists in a way. All (most) books say have on them, in print, right in the beginning a text saying "copying of material from this book is not allowed unless permitted, prior, in writing, by the author or the publisher". I think that resembles a robots.txt file. no? And authors have little ability to "check the web logs" and see who scans their books.
2. We get something directly from it. Fair use dictates that google links to our sites directly. How will that be with books? You have to go to the shop to at least consider buying the book? Not likely. They can send traffic to Amazon maybe? But still, not a parallel (and if they do, I am sure they will collect referral fee ;))
3. Our sites operate in the internet. Books "operate" in libraries, stores. You go to a library? you can search there for a book. On the internet, you can search for sites. Not only that, but internet has shaped to be mostly a free and open medium. Books - not. Books, you have to buy, or at least subscribe to a library (paid, directly or indirectly). Different "market".
4. Most of our sites are free, and are freely accessed. Most of the sites in google are such sites. As a matter of fact, subscribed sites where their content is protected and paid for (as books are) do NOT have their content on google. And IF they have, THEY take the steps to get it into google. Books are in a sense like protected/paid sites.
A world of difference that is going to be erased very abruptly by google..
Good or bad? You decide (and also authors, publications and libraries which seems to have decided already)

01 November 2005

Things Are Funnier with Juxtaposition

Dire Straights, The Best of.
Blink 182 - Greatest Hits

Tipping point

WinZip 10.0 was released today. Hardly anyone noticed.



WinZip is one of those eponymous applications that has outlived itself. It's not that no one compresses data anymore, but WinZip has started the downward spiral into obscurity. At one point, one couldn't get around without WinZip. In the days when hard drives were measured in megabytes and floppy disks were the backbone of the sneaker net, WinZip was The Application, an essential tool in any computer user's kit.



Now, with native support for ZIP files in Windows and open source applications like 7-Zip and Izarc, WinZip's hold on the market is slipping. With no native support for common formats suchas RAR files and the ever increasing irrelevance of compression in a terabyte world, and WinZip's lack of splash isn't hard to imagine.



That's not to say that WinZip 10 won't be a success. But with a slim list of improvements I just don't see a great push to upgrade or purchase. Especially when I can get the essentials for free. Of course, none of this is WinZip's fault; the world has just taken the first major steps away from the need for WinZip. It's a marker of the passing of another standard from the early days of the 'net (ah, wither Z-Modem).



Just think, some day they'll say these kinds of things about monitors and hard drives.

$500 Gaming Rig

Please ignore this post, this is so I don't lose the link.

Link