Monday, January 31, 2005

Snails, penguins, and lip plugs

Now that the "Discount Bonsai Kittens" Google Ad is not longer on my blog anymore, I'm going to have to post about that weekend I referred to in my last post, before I forget. I probably already forgot a lot. So, here it is. (Remember, disruptive commas should be omitted.)

Ok. How did my weekend start? [a minute later] Oh, right. Leading up to the weekend before moving back (1/12 - 1/16), my sister paid for a new 120 GB Western Digital Caviar hard drive that we love so much (2 in my computer, 1 in my dad's computer and 1 in my brother's). I partitioned it (as inspired by Rad's partitioning strategies page) into six partitions: 16 gigs for Windows, 1 gig for Linux swap, 8 gigs for Linux, a 15 gig FAT32 partition for common access, (originally for archiving pictures/photos), a 25 gig unformatted partition (for games?), and a 46 gig NTFS partition for just windows stuff, perhaps video encoding?... in other words, I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it. Needless to say, I don't need this much space.

Let's skip the part where I first tried having Linux as my first partition, install windows on the third, and have it not be ever recognized as having completed an installation. I reformatted everything to make Windows first, crossing my fingers that there was enough space for the Linux to redo the bootloader.

After windows was installed, patched, and activated (again), I'm assuming this is Thursday night, I find instructions (jugdo?) to install the most recent version of Debian Linux. All I remember is staying up late finding download sources for the 4 GB DVD image and then the next couple days was a blur going into Friday and Saturday. After many late nights in my brother's room (that's where I set up my computer because my dad's computer was set up in mine) and going through an entire bag of Cajun Style Mo' Munchies soybean snacks and three Linux distros, plus lots of learning along the way), I successfully have MEPIS Linux running still with no sound, but I wasn't complaining.

In between, I met a friend from Rutgers while volunteered at a benefit to raise money from the NJ Asian Community for the Red Cross's Southeast Asian disaster relief effort for a little bit. The best part, however, was going into Manhattan on Saturday with my mom and my sister, going to the Guggenheim to see an exhibit about the Aztecs (btw, lip-plugs are a form of body piercing below the lower lip), and then eating good and very cheesy french onion soup and trying escargot (courtesy of hers truly) at a french bistro, La Bonne Soupe. The wait wasn't too bad and they even had wireless internet so we could look up information about the rabies virus during dinner. The escargot was definitely an experience, but I thought it was a bit too mushy and soft to take the time to enjoy. I think I just tried chewing away until I could swallow.

The next day, we went to Chinatown and I played some table tennis before pretending to pack to go back to school. See here for how little I've learned in moving in on MLK day. It's doesn't even count as deja vu. less


Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Bonsai Kittens: NOT available since 2001

I had originally meant to post a summary of my last weekend at home, but I just received a chain letter today that describes an evil "Japanese" practice consumed by Chinese, Indonesians, and, oddly, New Zealanders. They speak of boxing kittens in glass boxes to mold their skeletons to the shapes of the glass containers as souvenirs or decorative pieces. The site is called Bonsai Kittens and makes a despicable analogy of this absurdly cruel and time-consuming process of raising a contorted cat in a bottle for pure pleasure with the Japanese hobby of shaping miniature plants through painstaking care and attention. Because I had recently read of there being a new trend where Japanese sell bonsai TREEs in a bottle keychain until they are big enough to be transplanted, I took the time to investigate this sales venture.

I was disappointed with the time spent by the owner of the website (a presumed racist who was attending MIT) to demonize Asians. I was not convinced by the quantity of unconvincing text or pictures, but noticed that the quality of the hoax was diminished greatly by the author's overzealous attempts to make his site shocking and sensational.

I was most disturbed by the amount of people who had falled for the hoax in its most recent incarnation (although the site has remained fairly equally unconvincing since 2001) and the durability these negative stereotypes people sustain that's reflected in believing an absurd and impossible practice merely because it's purportedly undertaken and appreciated by wildly immoral "orientals".

Anyone with the slightest suspicion or belief in a common sense of human dignity that even Asians share would be satisfied by a quick Google search returns many results debunking the hoax, including an appeal by The Humane Society of the United States to deprive the creators of the site their desired negative attention.

A perhaps more telling version of the site (found here)can be found here where it seeks not to sell the kittens but to obtain names and emails of people who fell for the hoax and wanted to know more.

A particularly absurd quote: Months ago, you have masterfully shaped my kitten into a trapezoid; however, now, the 45-degree angle on the tail side is weakining, making her more of a rhombus than anything. Although, I could reinforce the front side with the angular clamps you sell, I'm afraid she might turn out to be a parallelogram. Any tips?
We would be happy to surgically restore the crisp angles to your cherished pet. In fact, you may have forgotten that we provide a lifetime warranty on the shape of your Bonsai Kitten. Please, pack the Kitten into the shipping container that we will send to you via special express, and we will contact you shortly with a time estimate for the repairs.
In addressing the "founder",
Dear Dr. Wong Chang,

First of all, let me express my most sincere appreciation and congratulations for your site. You truly managed to express a poetic balance of ancient tradition, modern art, life and science. I was deeply touched by it.
As this kitten will be a display model, we have chosen to divert to a separate waste tube via Super Glue anus sealing as usual.
Master Liu-Chen's writings repeatedly warn that deep tissue and skeletal damage due to careless cramming is sufficient to disqualify the resulting Bonsai Kitten from the highest levels of the art, and may also result in sub-optimal temperament as the kitten ages.
And, if you're interested, the chainletter followed by about 450 names. Show it.

This is so terrible. A site that we were able to shut last year has returned. We have to try to shut it down again! ( A Japanese man in New York breeds and sells kittens that are called BONSAI CATS. That would sound cute, if it weren't kittens that were put in to little bottles after being given a muscle relaxant and then locked up for The rest of their lives! The cats are fed through a straw and have a small tube for their Faces.The skeleton of the cat will take on the form of the bottle as the kitten grows. The cats never get the opportunity to move. They are used as original and exclusive souvenirs. These are the latest trends in New York, China, Indonesia and New Zealand. If you think you can handle it, view (PLEASE LOOK) and have a look at the methods being used to put these little kittens into bottles.

This petition needs 500 names, so please put yours on it! Copy the text into a new email and put your name on the bottom,then send it to everyone you know!

The names and locations of the signatories were omitted for their privacy.

SOURCES: thefacebook, The Humane Society of the United States

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

GMail vulnerability exposed :/ (AND FIXED)

UPDATE 2:18 EST 1/13/05: No, I can't promise that this is the last update. No, I don't have a life. Just got Google's reply (sent 12:37 AM) to my bug report concerning the fix. I can also read the test message I sent to myself (of which I got over 15 copies) without the "Oops..." message getting in my way. I thought I would continue getting them forever. I think Google's initial response was as I described below, blocking access to the emails until they could fix the problem for all users, but not wanting users to lose the mail, so they kept messages in the queue until they fixed the problem for good? Anyway, when you look at the message header as they show over at HBX, you still get to see the missing final >, but there's nothing else wrong with the email. I will report back about whether or not I keep getting those messages. [UPDATE 2:22 EST 1/13/05: I still do, but at least now I can make a filter for them :)]

UPDATE 10:00 PM EST 1/12/05: About 2.5 hours before I even read about the vulnerability, CNET said it had already been fixed. I feel stupid.

Re-live the insanity.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Things I'm really good at

Here's a sample:
  1. Thinking of really original blog titles (and Chess thinks he's got a non-unique title).
  2. Turning a blog named "Bits and pieces..." into a blog about Apple. (BTW, anyone catch Apple's use of the ffl ligature in their Apple shuffle ads?)
  3. Starting things.
  4. Forgetting things.
Things I'm not good at (the short list):
  1. Coming up with really original blog titles. (Any ideas?)
  2. Being creative.
  3. Finishing things.
  4. Anything that can be blamed on number four othe previous list.
SOURCE: Google, Changethis, Apple

Some keynote videos + AAPL news

UPDATE 5:26 PM EST: The webcast is up.
UPDATE 12:04 EST 1/12/0405: Al Gore was at Macworld.
UPDATE 5:39 PM EST 1/12/05: AAPL up almost 11% in after hours trading. Reason? Apple announced that its profits exceeded expectations by almost 50%. So much for being fairly valued. (DISCLAIMER: I'm a shareholder and have a skewed perception of Apple stuff.)

Since Apple's not posting its webcast until later today, here's some clips of the Mac mini and the iPod shuffle. Watching Steve Jobs do the keynote pushed me over the edge for the iPod shuffle. It's about half as thick as I imagined and so light (4 quarters?!). Now, if only I didn't just get a 1 GB USB drive or have a Pocket PC. Now's the moment of truth for people who don't really use all that space on their non-mini/shuffle iPod.

The bad news: AAPL drops $4.40 during the trading day. Could be because S&P says AAPL is "fairly valued" or just people cashing out while they could for other reasons I don't quite understand. Well, Apple's next earnings announcement is due tomorrow...

SOURCE: Yahoo Finance via Google.

A Mac and iPod in every home...

It's called the Mac mini!!!
$499 with 1.25 G4, 256, 40 gig, Combo
prices for mac mini: $499 and $599
available Jan 22
most important new mac 'ever'
another at 1.4 Ghz
1.25 Ghz G4
coming 1st half of 05
half as high as an iPod Mini, surface of a little dish
comes with Panther & iLife 05
analog, digital video out
pizza box style
quiet, fw, usb2, video out, ethernet - very very tiny
very tiny
Mac Mini
Next - talking about headless stripped down mac
Don't be fooled by the picture, it's only 2 inches tall:


UPDATE 2:20 EST: And the iPod shuffle!
dock available
shipping today
2 models - 512 MB - 120 songs - $99
1 GB 240 songs - $149
250 MB charge in the car
manual filling or automated
integration between the device and the jukebox
shuffle or playlist
12 hours on battery
cap covering inputs - USB
simple to use controls
weights under 1 ounce
ipod shuffle - built around shuffle playback - its TINY.
something happened in the ipod market - became most popular way to listen - shuffle
want to make something really great
forget batteries - no need to make music hard to find on player

Somehow I'm not too impressed by the iPod shuffle, but the built-in battery and lanyard strap are redeeming...

SOURCE: MacRumors live coverage of Macworld keynote.

UPDATE 2:06 EST 1/12/05: fixed IE css box trouble

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Not the iTunes phone

So, that phone Motorola was showing off at CES isn't the so called iPhone but a first of several upcoming Motorola phones loaded with a mobile version of iTunes.
But a Motorola representative clarified on Friday that the phone shown during the keynote was not the actual iTunes phone that is slated for release this year. Instead, it was a Motorola E398 equipped with the iTunes functionality for the demonstration.
Show more

This looks like another example of Apple telling its users, "If it's not on our software or our hardware, it's not worth playing." Apple has consistently refused to license it's FairPlay DRM to makers of both software and hardware players. Even though Motorola devices will be able to play Apple's protected AAC (*.m4p) format, Apple isn't even really licensing the FairPlay technology so much as helping to develop another version of iTunes. Consequently, as more people (namely iPod-less people) will be able to listen to their legally purchased music away from their computers, it's still in a very restricted way.

New Windows Mobile Smartphones, Pocket PCs, Pocket PC phones, and Portable Media Centers will soon be able to play and even download media protected by Microsoft's freely licensable DRM technology supported by, well, everyone else. While Apple maintains its strangle hold on the MP3/Digital Audio player market, how much longer will their 'only on iTunes' philosophy hold as the number of devices and ways to listen to your music expands?

Unfortunately for Microsoft, it would seem market share and brand loyalty for Apple is surging and not declining. Having multiple players and music stores all supporting its software is great and all, but doesn't match Apple's unified approach. In light of the recent court cases (a, b) involving Apple, isn't this similar to what Microsoft did with Windows, IE and Media Player?

SOURCE: Engadget

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Is this Yoogle or Gahoo?

When did yahoo's search page start looking like this?

At first I couldn't believe my eyes and thought,"Yahoo couldn't have rebranded Google's search service!" I guess Google wasn't necessarily the only one to have the clean simple interface Google's had since 1998. It's not just that it's simple and minimalist. IceRocket and Devilfinder have similar layouts but they just don't match Google's in every way to the page style to the same three links in the same order to the right of the input field to the vertical pipes separating the search types. Heck, putting NEW next to the new stuff is just so familiar from Google's use of it.

SOURCE: Can't I just say I found it?

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

You know you're an Operator when...

I can't say I've been working too long at NBCS Operations, because I've only been there for one semester. But, I was just typing at home typing when I suddenly got the urge to check the network monitoring tools I'm responsible for at work. Now, that's a milestone.

Well, I guess it couldn't hurt to log in from home... just kidding.

Engadget Awards results comparison

The results have been announced. The winners actually get real weighty awards! I've bolded in black the ones I agreed with as per my previous post. I admit that I didn't thoroughly research the choices, but I'm italicizing the ones where I could be having a change of heart. Of the four device categories where the editors and readers agree, I only agreed with one—the PSP.

Click to show the comparisonresults. Or see for yourself.
Gadget of the Year
Readers’ Choice:
Apple iPod (4G)
Engadget Pick: Archos Gmini 400

Disappointment of the Year
Readers’ Choice: Sony Network Walkman NW-HD1
Engadget Pick:
Treo 650

Merger of the Year
Readers’ Choice:
Engadget Pick: Sprint/Nextel

Worst Gadget of the Year
Readers’ Choice: Sony Network Walkman NW-HD1
Engadget Pick: Sony Network Walkman NW-HD1

Comeback of the Year
Readers’ Choice:
Netscape (as Mozilla)
Engadget Pick: Nintendo

Most Anticipated Gadget of 2005
Readers’ Choice:
Apple iPhone
Engadget Pick: Apple iPhone

Cellphone of the Year
Readers’ Choice:
Motorola RAZR V3
Engadget Pick: None of the Above

Desktop of the Year
Readers’ Choice:
Apple iMac G5
Engadget Pick: Sony Vaio Type X

Digital Camera of the Year
Readers’ Choice: Canon EOS 20D
Engadget Pick: Casio Exilim EX-S100

Display of the Year
Readers’ Choice:
Apple Cinema Display
Engadget Pick: LG Flatron 2320A

Game Console of the Year
Readers’ Choice:
Sony PlayStation Portable
Engadget Pick: Sony PlayStation Portable

GPS Device or Application of the Year
Readers’ Choice: Garmin StreetPilot 2620
Engadget Pick: TomTom GO

Handheld of the Year
Readers’ Choice: Dell Axim X50v
Engadget Pick:
Sharp Zaurus SL-C3000

Home Electronics Device of the Year
Readers’ Choice: Humax TiVo DRT800
Engadget Pick: Toshiba 37LZ150

Laptop of the Year
Readers’ Choice: Apple PowerBook G4
Engadget Pick: ASUS W1000N

Media PC of the Year
Readers’ Choice: Sony Vaio Type R
Engadget Pick: HUSH ATX

Peripheral Device of the Year
Readers’ Choice:

Logitech MX1000

Engadget Pick: Logitech MX1000

Portable Audio Player of the Year
Readers’ Choice:
Apple iPod (4G)
Engadget Pick:
Rio Carbon

Portable Video Player of the Year
Readers’ Choice: Creative Zen Portable Media Center
Engadget Pick: Archos Gmini 400

Robot of the Year
Readers’ Choice: Honda Asimo
Engadget Pick:
Roomba Discovery

Tablet PC of the Year
Readers’ Choice: Fujitsu T4010
Engadget Pick: NEC VersaPro

Wireless Technology of the Year
Readers’ Choice:
Apple AirPort Express
Engadget Pick: EV-DO

Wearable of the Year
Readers’ Choice:
Jabra BT800
Engadget Pick: Voltaic Solar Backpack

SOURCE: Engadget

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Matching glasses and computer case

I went into Chinatown and picked up my new glasses. They are plastic-rimmed and Gucci. I didn't ask for them to be Gucci, but when the lady behind the counter saw that it was my mom paying, or maybe because she knew we didn't have any particular plastic-rimmed glasses in mind, all she brought out were the Guccis, Calvin Kleins, and Versaces... I guess they're over-priced, but since my prescription has not increased, hopefully, they'll last forever. At least the eye glass people tuned up my old pair of glasses while I was there.

Which reminds me, Chinatown does look more busy (as in the amount of tourists) so that new welcome booth and the overall revival effort has been working. Good weather helps, too. So my glasses helped the Chinatown/Manhattan economy, but that act of consumerism, doesn't make me feel that much better. And they say that keeping diaries make your feel worse. I'm not sure if I believe that... plus, this is a blog that once in a while garners feedback and is public. Maybe, I'm just not posting this in the right blog.

As my glasses are black, they now match my eyebrows and incidentally, my new black Antec Sonata PC Case. The tagline is "Silence is beautiful". Now, the only think keeping me from near silent computing (running at under 80 degrees, BTW) is my loud 80 gig hard drive with my :ahem: windows partition on it. If you're wondering why I didn't replace it with the 120 gig that'd been sitting in my room since last year, it was installed into a system my brother built for my dad.

The installation was not entirely smooth, but it was a delightful experience with all the small innovative things I found. First the bad. For one thing, one of the pin-connectors for the front panel was the wrong size and I had to switch the position of one of the contacts. This probably contributed to the $30 dollar rebate during Thanksgiving when we got the case. Or, it could be unrelated and they could be waiting for me to tell them about the problem. Next, my front USB connectors didn't work. There may be an explanation for this (excluding the possibility of my ineptitude because they designed a one piece connector) but I won't go into it here. Also, I have yet to order a floppy drive.

I do miss my old case a little, but the led-accented front panel will remind me of ol' blue (just made that name up).

LINKS: My Case

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Interview with the Apple Store retail employee (and what should have happened)

When I was leaving the Short Hills Mall today, I walked past an Apple store for the first time where I thought there should've been an A/X store. I couldn't help but ask the employee standing by the half closed steel curtain waiting for the last of the customers and employees to leave whether or not Apple was really going to release a budget iMac. As expected, he said he didn't know or he couldn't say, but that'd it'd all be clear come January 10th. But there was a particular way in which he answered that seemed, at least with my perception, to betray an incompletely confident withholding of information. I don't know. I then asked him whether he received any notification from the company. "If I did, I wouldn't be able to tell you," was his response.

What I should of asked was this string of questions: 1) Have you heard about Apple's plans for a budget iMac? to which he'd obviously answer yes. 2) Some innocent question like, did you hear that it's supposed to be super-slim like the X-Serve? To distract him before I ask the incriminating question. 3) Where'd you hear that from?

At this point, there are two possibilities leading to separate replies to the third question.

A) There is no budget iMac, which would lead him to answer something like, "Oh, from a website" or "From a friend".


There is a budget iMac, leading him to give the same answer, but not before a brief hesitation to think of something other than the truth, which would have been a directly or indirectly (from a manager) official notification.

My thinking relies (damningly) on there having been no training or preparation by the employee for such questions. Or perhaps there really isn't a need to tell the employees as the product probably won't be stocked until later in the year.

Through the glass, I got a chance to look at an iMac G5 in person for the first time. It's pretty compact is all, as in "if you showed it to me last year and said this was the new iMac monitor, I'd look at you funny and believe you" compact. When we finally left, my mom said I should go work for them.

PS - In other news, it turns out that you can ride the Segway HT at Brookstone, but only if you make an appointment for a Tuesday or Wednesday evening and fill out some paperwork. I haven't been to the mall in a while and was only able to spend twenty minutes today before closing for New Year's Eve. Happy New Year.

SOURCE: An Apple Store (the big kind)

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