If Your Are Reading This, You Are At Our Old, Defunct Site

If Your Are Reading This, You Are At Our Old, Defunct Site

If you reach this blog directly, make sure you bookmark "www.coyoteblog.com" or "coyoteblog.com" and not some other variation (look up and see what is in the address bar right now). Old URLs containing "typepad.com" will no longer update. And URL's beginning with www.CoyoteBlog.com/coyote_blog will also not work anymore, though you should get an error page redirecting you to the correct address (old permalinks in this format will still work, just not the home page. That is the real trick of the typepad to wordpress migration, getting the permalinks around the Internet to remain valid).

For those of you who read through feeds, you should be reading the feeds.feedburner.com/CoyoteBlog feed.  If this is showing up in your feed, then you have the wrong feed address, and it will no longer update. The easiest way to get the new feed is to go to www.CoyoteBlog.com and click on the feed icon either in the address bar or in the right sidebar and get the correct feed.

Posted on December 16, 2008 at 05:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (18)

I Want Design Input

I run this blog mainly for my own enjoyment, so I mostly am just designing the new Wordpress version whatever the hell way I want it.

But, I am split on the issue of fixed vs. variable width.  This blog currently is variable width.  Text expands and contracts to fill the screen width.  The pro of variable width is that it allows people with wider monitors to actually take advantage of the real estate they invested in.  The con is the site almost never looks as aesthetically nice as a fixed width site, where everything is a bit more in control  (example here of fixed width).

Any preferences out there?  Please comment.

Posted on December 9, 2008 at 09:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (57)

You've Been Warned

I am switching over domain registrars as the first step in the porcupine mating ritual that will eventually lead to a migration of this blog to Wordpress.  There may be short downtimes of the site or of the email associated with this blog as I futz around with nameservers and cnames and such.  But since I am unable right now to publish any content on typepad that includes a graph or drawing, I am willing to bear some problems to get on a new platform.

Posted on December 8, 2008 at 04:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Typepad is Sick Again

Something is wrong in the Typepad editor such that trying to include images is causing the system to hang.  This is the third or fourth time I have had to stop posting until Typepad cleans this up, all since Typepad introduced its new editor which is really driving me crazy.  As soon as I can get the site to migrate correctly with all links intact to Wordpress, I am moving off Typepad.

Posted on December 8, 2008 at 02:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Wordpress as a Content Management Tool

My company has over 20 URL's for various recreation facilities we manage.  I do all the design and maintenance of these myself, generally using a shared core design with some color and content changes.  Since this is just a side job for me, I often put it off and unfortunately things get dated fast.

For a while now I have been wanting to experiment with a content management system to ease the maintenance of multiple web sites.  So over the past couple of weeks, I have played around with various CMS's.  I was intrigued for a while by ExpressionEngine, but the fact it was not public domain (ie it charges per site licenses that would be prohibitive for me) finally killed the deal.  I also looked at Joomla and Drupal. 

Eventually, I settled on what many will consider an odd choice:  Wordpress.  Yeah, I know, its a blogging engine.  I know quite well, because I am in the process of converting both my blogs from Typepad to Wordpress.  I chose Wordpress for a few reasons:

  • I understand the blogging paradigm, and so I have a good sense for how the content will be handled, and the limitations.
  • I am, having messed around with my blogs, comfortable with the Wordpress templating system.  Though certainly more limited than ExpressionEngine, it does what I need to do. I am moderately facile in CSS and PHP, the two real requirements to make a good template.
  • Most of my sites are simple.  The only two API's I really need to plug in to are Google Maps and Flickr, and I have tested and am comfortable with the available Wordpress plugins for these.
  • I want to begin, carefully, to let some of my employees be able to add and edit some content (e.g. changing store hours).  I think the wordpress interface is pretty accessible to some folks who may be new to online content and gives me the amount of control I need as an editor.  For a noob content contributor, Wordpress is far more accessible than other CMS's.
  • With a static site, I have an advantage over a blog in that I can turn on full site caching to speed up the site (via WP-super-cache).  I also added an SEO plugin to make my permalinks and pages more SEO friendly, something I don't care that much about on my blog.

I think that the first site came out pretty well, and I don't think its obvious that it is built on a blogging engine (site here, for our Arizona snow play area).  The biggest internal debate I had was whether to go with fixed or variable widths.  I actually went the opposite way of most modern programmers, moving from variable to fixed rather than vice versa.  Most of my customers, as shown by my server logs, have slow and dated computers and monitors, so I think fixed width makes sense. 

Yeah, I know that no one will ever consider me a l33t h4x0r for using Wordpress, or even for using a CMS at all, but I was absolutely thrilled how fast the second site is going up now that I have built all the templates and functions I need.  More reports to come  (and hopefully this site will soon be on Wordpress, but I am not holding my breath.  Still having trouble with brinking over the permalinks so they all work right).

Posted on November 23, 2008 at 12:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (12)

Wikipedia's Highest and Best Use

Wikipedia is virtually useless as a source for anything controversial, such as global warming.  However, it is absolutely fabulous as a dictionary of pop culture.  Where else can you find 5500 words on h4x0r l33t speech?

Posted on November 23, 2008 at 12:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Intellectual Network Effects

John Scalzi writes:

I do get occasionally amused at being a poster child for Science Fiction’s Digital Future when I live in a rural town of 1,800 people with agricultural fields directly to my east, south and west, and Amish buggies clopping down the road on a daily basis. It’s, like, three cheers for cognitive dissonance.

I responded in the comments:

I would have had exactly the opposite reaction, that your situation is entirely representative.  For 500 years, from the Italian Renaissance through the 20th century, intellectual thought moved forward mainly hand in hand with urbanization.  I am not really an expert in describing the ins and outs of this, but there is clearly a density and network effect to intellectual advancement, and given past communication approaches, this required physical proximity.  The promise of modern IT technology is that it may allow us to achieve this density without physical proximity.

Posted on November 18, 2008 at 10:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Kudos for Typepad

I have criticized the new Typepad editor several times in the last several weeks, and I stand by those criticisms.  It is just daffy to have a spell check without a "skip all" or "add to dictionary" option, for example.

But Typepad has really come through for me in the last several days.  Their customer service folks helped me modify some of my archive templates so that they include even my oldest posts, and the archives now have a new navigation structure.  Also, I would add that for all the problems I have had with the editor, the new publishing platform I am on is much faster, and at least once has been able to help me recover unsaved material I was writing, always a pet peeve of mine when using an online editor. 

Posted on November 13, 2008 at 09:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Short Rant on the New Typepad Editor

I am getting used to the new Typepad editor, but two issues still really cause me to question the sanity of the developers, particularly since this roll out has been going on since June:

  • I cannot believe that a blogging engine -- not a generic text editor or HTML editor, but a purpose built blogging engine -- would eliminate the blockquote functionality from the editor.  Have these guys ever, you know, actually read a blog or two?  We bloggers live off block quotes.
  • How long has the computing spelling checking been around?  A couple of decades?  About 10 minutes into that 20 year span, developers learned from users that in addition to a "skip" button, they probably needed a "skip all" button.  Because if you write a 5000 word post on the banking crisis and use the "Bernanke" in that post 100 times, it is going to be real boring hitting "skip" 100 times in the spell check rather than "skip all" or even better "add to dictionary."  But, the rocket scientists at Typepad did indeed only put in a "skip" option, a bit like Ford building a car in which the windows won't roll down.

Posted on November 1, 2008 at 08:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (13)

Aaaarrrrggghhh- Typepad Put This Blog on New Editor, Which Sucks

The new Typepad editor is not at all ready for prime time.  I cannot find a single new feature in it, but it is rife with bugs.  Ones I have found so far:

  • Certain images will not upload correctly into a post.  The Typepad folks do not know why
  • Twice I had a crazy error when all of the text and buttons in the "add link" popup window suddenly were inserted into the post
  • All my category setup was overwritten and I had to redo it all
  • The spell checker is awful.  There is no "skip all" button.  I used "IPCC" 50+ times in one post at my other blog, and had to hit skip 50 times over and over
  • The eliminated the blockquote editor option.  Good job on a blog editor!
  • It is slow, slow, slow.

This is one of those enforced beta situations where all of use users are forced to do the beta testing they should have done.  This is the one downside to web-based applications, because there is no way I can do a rollback to the old version.

Update:  Also, publish is way slowed down.  Sometimes it take several minutes to be able to see new posts on my blog. This one still has not appeared after hitting shift-refresh now for 3 minutes.

Update #2:  They sent me an article to trumpet all the new features, but I could find not a single new feature listed.  And it is probably a bad sign they felt the need to put this up front in the article:

If you are seeing the new compose, please be aware that it is not a beta version, it's an upgraded editor that you should be seeing.

LOL

Update #3:  Getting good comments about Wordpress.  I may have to check it out.

Posted on October 24, 2008 at 12:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (11)

New Typepad Editor Bugged

For some reason, Typepad put one of my blogs (but not my others) on a new editor, probably as an involuntary beta.  The new editor is much, much slower, and has fatal bugs that make use of images in posts virtually impossible.  I have wasted a lot of time today.

This is actually a problem with online applications I had not considered before.  When I heard iTunes 8 was initially bugged or learned to hate Vista, I would just avoid making the "upgrade."  But with online services, I have no choice but to accept the new version, even if I consider it worse (as is so often the case nowadays in software).

Posted on October 22, 2008 at 01:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

New Open Office Release

I have for quite a while been a big supporter of OpenOffice 2.0 as an alternative to MS Office.  It is free, and it tends to be quite compatible with MS Office file formats.  In fact, I use the Open Office spreadsheet to open and fix Excel spreadsheets that Excel corrupts and cannot open.

I have not yet read the release notes, so I don't know what has been updated, but version 3.0 was released the other day.

Posted on October 16, 2008 at 06:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Two MILLION Visitors

Medium_dr_evil_1  Twomillion_2

Thanks, folks.  I still remember the first month I blogged about four years ago, when I wrote and wrote and was fairly sure not a single person was reading.  Like performing to an empty room.

Posted on September 29, 2008 at 07:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Windows Users: Beware the New iTunes Update

Via ZDNet:

I’m reading lots of complaints about the new iTunes 8 update causing horrific problems on Windows machines, including widespread reports of STOP errors, aka the Blue Screen of Death. My colleague Adrian Kingsley-Hughes has asked readers for reports and Gizmodo has a sketchy post as well.

The author goes on to blame some extra software Apple is "sneaking" into the download.  I tend to doubt there is some deep conspiracy here, but you can read more if interested. (remember Coyote's Law: 

When the same set of facts can be explained equally well by

  1. A massive conspiracy coordinated without a single leak between hundreds or even thousands of people    -OR -
  2. Sustained stupidity, confusion and/or incompetence

Assume stupidity.)

I think I will wait a while before updating, though.

Update:  Apple has a new version of iTunes 8 for windows

Posted on September 12, 2008 at 04:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Flying on 9/11

Seven years ago today, my wife came down to my hotel breakfast meeting at a midtown Manhattan hotel and told us that there was something we needed to see.  We went upstairs to one of my investor's rooms, which had a balcony, and watched the disaster unfold.  Several of our friends died that day, though we wouldn't know that for weeks.  In between was a bizarre cross-country drive from Manhattan to Seattle.

I am on the road again today, and will observe that the airport is pretty empty today.  I don't know if this is an anomaly, or a general reluctance to fly on 9/11.

PS- Ironically, I was making a presentation that morning to potential investors telling them that the commercial airline business, on which our small company depended, was due for a turnaround.  Oops.

Posted on September 11, 2008 at 09:32 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Cool Gear

These are really expensive and the performance is limited, but hey, what else would a bleeding-edge buyer expect?   They are super-small LCD projectors to take on the road for presentations and such, and they are barely bigger than an iPod.

Led_projector_toshiba

Posted on September 10, 2008 at 03:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

When Did This Happen?

My son and I like to play Guitar Hero together, though he kicks my butt, of course.  To show him that I was cool and "knew stuff," I showed him this YouTube posted by Megan McCardle showing a guy scoring 100% on "Through the Fire and Flames" on expert.  (If you don't know what this means, just trust me that Neo from the Matrix loaded with amphetamines in full bullet-dodging twitch reflex mode would struggle with completing this level of the game).

About 5 seconds in, my son says "It's a bot.  He's faking."  And then he walked away.

"Huh? Really?"  I stared at it for a while, and realized that he was very probably correct.  So when did I become more credulous than my teenager?

Posted on August 18, 2008 at 12:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

Pride

I am blogging from my mom's MacIntosh.  Apple has done a lot of good things with its electronics of late, but their absolute refusal to adopt the two button mouse is just absurd.  Sorry, but cntl-click is just not the same. 

By the way, I think the iPod may be one of the best bits of industrial design in decades, but I am not about to join the Apple worship.  Microsoft gets dinged all the time for silly instances of proprietary over-control, but to my mind Apple is often worse.  However, I may not be entirely unbiased in this judgment, as I spent an hour the other day waiting in some zoo of an Apple store line just to buy a new video cable for my iPod Touch, since Apple added a chip in their latest iPods to cause third party cables to no longer function.

Posted on July 27, 2008 at 12:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (13)

Off To Wyoming

I am headed off to Wyoming and my family's ranch for a while:
100_1126 Dsc_0251

Since data rates go down substantially when the cows are chewing on the phone line (really- the phone line is draped for miles on a fence) I am not sure how much I will blog.

In case I am offline for a while, I would like to offer this serious thought for world improvement.  We don't need more progressive taxes, or larger government, or more wiretapping, or more government control of mortgages, or mandatory service.   All we really need is ... more cowbell.

Posted on July 23, 2008 at 11:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Excel Question

I am almost embarrassed to ask this, with as many hours as I have spent in Excel, but I cannot find a way to export a chart or save a chart in Excel directly to an image format like jpeg.  The way I do it is to take a screen shot and then paste the screen shot into photoshop for cropping and saving.  But this is a kludge.  Any suggestions?

The problem I have is that I like to layer multiple charts on top of each other in photoshop, so I can turn on and off different lines on a graph.  I do this to make semi-animated charts for my climate videos.
Uah

For example, on the chart above, I like to start with a blank chart with the axes in place and then have the data line draw itself across (which you can do with a simple horizontal wipe between jpeg one with the blank chart and jpeg 2 with the same chart but the data line drawn in, IF the charts are scaled exactly the same.   The problem is that to do this right, I have to make sure I have the screen-shot taken at the same level of zoom each time and I crop the picture identically each time.  A real pain.

Posted on July 18, 2008 at 01:52 PM | Permalink | Comments (15)

Firfox Hacks

I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords   (link only works in Firefox 3)

Other hacks

Posted on July 2, 2008 at 03:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Blog Status

Well, I seemed to have chosen the exact moment Typepad started encountering general problems to try to make some changes to my blog.  Now I don't know if I screwed things up or Typepad.  I am going to let things settle down for a bit.  You may see an all-text home page for a while or even a reversion to an early layout.  If I can get through this mess, the goal is to get the RSS feed fixed once and for all, among a few other issues.

Posted on June 18, 2008 at 11:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Testing

I am again messing with the feeds to try to get my feed problem fixed.  This is just a test

Posted on June 18, 2008 at 11:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Here is Your Chance, Trolls

John Scalzi is running a contest --he wants your best hate mail, aimed at him.

Posted on June 18, 2008 at 10:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

I'm Still Not Down with Vista

I have now tried out Windows Vista with its first service pack and I am still not clear what Vista adds over XP, except upgrade costs, an interface system that requires retraining employees and a lot of extra computer overhead, and compatibility problems.  XP is stable and great for us. 

As you may know, most XP OEM sales come to an end on June 30.  Dell has already announced they will still sell XP units under the downgrade options in the Vista license.  Good for them.  In fact, it looks like Dell expects that customers will be willing to pay additional money ($20-$50) for the older operating system.  LOL.

Anyway, this month I bought an additional 5 Windows XP OEM licenses from NewEgg.com to put on the shelf to cover future computer builds out past June 30 (I build many of the computers for myself and the company).

By the way, if you want a gauge on how Vista is doing, check out the right bar pn this page at Amazon.com.  On the top 10 bestsellers (on June 18, 2008), XP occupies slots 2,4,6,7,9 while Vista is in slots 3,8 & 10.  Note that is over 18 months after Vista was introduced to replace XP.

Posted on June 18, 2008 at 10:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (12)

The Problem with New Wide-Gamut LCD Panels

Warning:  I am a video snob.  I often lambaste electronics store managers for doing such a terrible job adjusting their display TV's.  TV store managers have decided that the way to sell a TV is to jack up its color temperature as far into the blue range that they can, jam the contrast setting all the way to the top, irrespective of any blooming effects they get, and over-saturate the colors.

Anyway, the newest LCD panels have a property that theoretically makes them better:  They can display a much wider color gamut.  That means that there are more colors that they can display.   They do this by creating panels where the base colors are truer to their theoretical values, and by pushing each color value deeper into its possible range.  This means that the bluest blues are even bluer, if that makes sense. 

But these extreme colors are ones one seldom sees, because they are over saturated.  If you were to see the most saturated red or blue in any large field on your TV or monitor, it would make your teeth ache.  These colors look like neon lights, for lack of a better comparison.

But a wider color palette is good in theory.  My guess is that adobe photoshop running on a well-calibrated monitor could take advantage of this feature to improve the resemblance between on-screen and printed material, a key concern of graphics designers. 

The problem is that most software and color choices on the internet and in movies are based on what, say, a level 256 blue used to be.  A level 256 blue is now more saturated in the current monitors, but most software (and monitor drivers) are not smart enough to take this into account.  That means that if you buy a new LCD monitor, you will likely be looking at colors that are more saturated and therefore that glow more than your eyes can really stand, and most graphics cards and monitors do not have a control for saturation (as I found today, having to take an LG 26" monitor back to the store because everything just glowed too much  (I replaced it with a Samsung 2693M, which is much better).

You will know that this may be a problem if the literature or sales person describes the monitor as having "more vibrant" colors.  This is a euphemism for saturation, and would be all fine and good if monitor colors have previously been under-saturated, but if anything they have been the opposite.  Sales people like this feature, though, because the colors look more dramatic in their fluorescent-lighted showrooms and tend to make the monitor look "better" when next to less saturated choices.  My advice is be very wary -- Videophiles tend to run away screaming when told that a TV has some gadget that makes the colors more vibrant.

Posted on June 17, 2008 at 05:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Feed Repairs

I made some feed changes.  Can someone who has had problems with my feed please try it again and let me know by email if it is still broken or is working.  Thanks

Posted on June 4, 2008 at 08:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Feed Problem

Is this site having a feed problem?  I recommend people use the feedburner feed that is linked on the right side, but I have had two people email me to tell me my RSS feed is empty.  I have no problem reading it in google reader.  If anyone can help me with more details, that would be great.

Posted on May 16, 2008 at 07:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (18)

You're in the desert, you see a tortoise lying on its back, struggling, and you're not helping -- why is that?

We have all filled out online forms where one has to copy sometimes (purposely) hard to read letters from an image to confirm that one is not a robot (CAPTCHA).  Microsoft offers an alternative called Asirra, which stands for "Animal Species Image Recognition for Restricting Access."  I thought this might be a joke at first, but apparently it is real and MS provides access to it and sample code to use it for free.  You can get it here, and, perhaps more importantly, you can test to see if you are human.

Post title from here.

Posted on May 14, 2008 at 09:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (9)

Vista Gaming Performance Improved

I have been a big Windows Vista detractor, and continue to be skeptical that Vista offers the average corporate user any advantages over XP, while carrying substantial disadvantages in terms of legacy equipment and software compatibility.

But, credit where it is due, service pack 1 combined with better graphics drivers have at least apparently eliminated the Vista-XP gap in gaming speeds, with graphics applications performing now nearly as well in Vista as in XP.

Posted on May 13, 2008 at 08:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Why You Seldom See Me In My Own Comment Threads

A reader asks:

I enjoy reading your Coyote and Climate Skeptic blogs, thanks for hosting them! I am curious why you don't take part in the comments that rage over many of your postings.

There are several reasons.  First, I usually feel that I have said what I have to say in a particular post.  I enjoy reading the comments, but don't have a strong need to correct or combat those who misinterpret or disagree with me.  I learn from comments and try to make my arguments more bullet-proof in the future.  Second, I find it infinitely more powerful if my reader base makes the rebuttals for me.

Third, and most importantly, I just don't have the time.  Way back when, I used to get sucked into all kinds of chat-room flame wars.  It is just way to time-consuming.  Even blogging itself takes more time than I really should commit to an activity that does nothing to advance the well-being of my family or my business.  There is a person I consider an online friend (I have never met him in person) who writes a climate blog and gets sucked into the flame wars on his blog, and it seems to cause him all kinds of stress. 

This cartoon from XKCD seems appropriate as a summation:

Duty_calls

So, if I do not respond to your critiques in the comment thread, do not assume that your wit and eloquence have silenced me.  I am probably waiting to re-post on the subject in the future.  Just because you don't yet feel anything nibbling on your legs does not mean that the fin swimming around you in the water is going to go away peacefully.

Posted on April 27, 2008 at 03:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

My New Favorite Audio Device

About two years ago I made the time investment to rip all my CD's to digital  (this was a real death-march, at 20 CDs a night for a month).  In doing so, I actually ripped every one of them twice:  once into a small, variable bit-rate MP3 file for my iPod, and a second time into a much larger FLAC digital file  (this is an open-source lossless compression format).  All the FLAC files sit on an old computer on my network that does nothing but act as a file server for these music files.

Now, having lots of nice, high quality digital files, the trick is to play them through my home audio system.  My first solution was an iPod dock on my home audio system, but I found this awkward.  Next, I added a Squeezebox from SlimDevices, a small inexpensive box that hangs on the network that basically takes the digital files off the network and puts then in an analog or digital signal my stereo system knows what to do with.    SlimDevices has always been a favorite among audiophiles, because of their open-source approach and their willingness to continue to improve their product with user feedback.  And, they are pretty reasonably priced.

Both of these solutions suffered from one problem.  My living room is fairly large, and while each system had a remote, the menu screen I was navigating was way over there, either on the small iPod screen or on the larger squeezebox screen.  Either way, I still did not like the ergonomics.

In their new version of the Squeezebox
, Slimdevices has come out with what I consider the near perfect streaming audio device.  The product consists two pieces.  First, the audio device, which is pretty small, that hangs on the network (either by cable or wireless) and does the same job as the old boxes I had, converting digital music files to a format my music equipment can handle.  The key area of improvement is in the remote control.   The remote communicates with your wireless network, and allows one to scroll through his whole music collection right on the remote in an interface nearly identical to the iPod, including album cover art if one so chooses. (click for larger view)

Duet_hero_500_2  

I have had this new Squeezebox for over a month now, and I love it.  For those of you with a lot of CDs, like I have, it is just amazing how much more I listen to my music collection with this setup.  In the old world of shuffling through CD cases in a rack, I would tend to get the same five or six in a rotation.  Now, I listen to much more.  The remote also has a headphone jack so it can operate like a portable music player  (as long as it is in range of your wireless network).

By the way, I know there are devices like this that are all-in-one, meaning that they have their own hard drive so you don't need to network it to a computer.  I find those boxes to be a) way expensive and b) difficult to upgrade.  The cost of a cheap computer (it does not need much of a processor to just serve digital files up to the network) with a good size hard drive is cheap, and is the perfect use for an old computer you have upgraded.  The only real flaw of this device is its inability to do video, but SlimDevices has always focused on audio and will probably stay that way.

Posted on April 20, 2008 at 09:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Firefox Version?

Perhaps it is a glitch in the tracking software, but my logs show that 90% of the Firefox browsers that come to this site are version 1.x rather than 2.x.  Is there a reason for this?  I have been on 2.x for quite a while and have a beta running of 3.x.

If you are still on version 1, Firefox automatic updater will not take you to version 2 automatically.  You need to do it yourself here.

(Of course, the logs show 0.2% of you still using Windows ME.  God help you.)

Posted on April 16, 2008 at 10:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)

Save XP

If you are happy with Vista, fine.  Polls show that the majority of us are not.  I continue to order all of our company PCs with XP and have downgraded all of my home PCs back to XP.  If you want to try to get Microsoft's attention to keep XP past the June 30 stop-sell date, check out this petition.

Posted on April 15, 2008 at 09:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Observation on Norton Security

I just bought a new Fujitsu Lifebook P8010  (which I love).  It came installed with a 90-day trial for Norton security suite.  Here is my observation on Norton:  It is hard for me to imagine a piece of spyware or malware that puts as many spam messages on the screen, exhibits so many bad behaviors, or is so hard to remove as Norton itself.  In the middle of a 30-minute task that was within 30 seconds of completion, Norton just rebooted my computer for some reason.  It spams me with messages every startup, keeps adding its own toolbar to my browser, and I am having a terrible time getting it off my computer.   Norton is perhaps the worst spyware I have ever had on a computer.  Except maybe for the McAfee trial version on my last laptop. 

Posted on March 4, 2008 at 10:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (34)

Really, Really Busy

If you have not figured it out from the nature of the posts lately switching to quick links from extended bloviation, I am really, really busy.  I have huge bid packages due in a matter of days, and am currently running my every-two-year (biannual or biennial? ) management conference for my company.

Posted on February 19, 2008 at 08:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Save XP!

InfoWorld is hosting a petition to Microsoft to save XP and continue to sell it past the middle of this year.  You can sign their petition here.  I signed the petition, but the real petition for MS may be the numbers coming in for XP sales, which are still strong.  On this Amazon bestsellers page, as of 2/1/08, places #1,2,3,5 where XP and only #4 was Vista. IT News builds on my Amazon analysis:

Gates, in Las Vegas Sunday, boasted that Microsoft has sold more than 100 million copies of Windows Vista since the OS launched last January.

While the number at first sounds impressive, it in fact indicates that the company's once dominant grip on the OS market is loosening. Based on Gates' statement, Windows Vista was aboard just 39% of the PC's that shipped in 2007.

And Vista, in terms of units shipped, only marginally outperformed first year sales of Windows XP according to Gates' numbers -- despite the fact that the PC market has almost doubled in size since XP launched in the post 9-11 gloom of late 2001.

Speaking five years ago at CES 2003, Gates said that Windows XP in its first full year on the market sold more than 89 million copies, according to a Microsoft record of the event....

A survey published by InformationWeek last year revealed that 30% of corporate desktop managers have no plans to upgrade their company's PC's to Vista -- ever.

As de facto IT manager for my company, you can include me in that 30%.  My other posts on Vista here.

Update:  Face-saving suggestion for Microsoft:  Rename XP as Vista Lite or some such.  Then they can keep it and claim 100% acceptance of Vista.

Posted on February 1, 2008 at 08:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)

Long Time in Coming

Just about everything in the PC architecture has been upgraded -- much better microprocessors, more elaborate OS's, more memory, a much higher bandwidth bus architecture, etc.  However, one bit of 1980's era design still sits at the heart of the computer - the BIOS.  Sure, manufacturers have agreed to some extensions (particularly plug and play) and motherboard makers add in extensions of their own (e.g. for overclocking) but the basic BIOS architecture and functionality, which sits underneath the OS and gets things started when you flip the "on" switch, is basically unchanged. 

A few years ago, Intel proposed a replacement, but ironically only Apple has picked up on the BIOS replacement called EFI.  Now, it appears, at least one leading motherboard manufacturer for PC's is putting a toe in the water:

The specification allows for a considerable change in what can be implemented at this very low level.

EFI is a specification that defines a software interface between an operating system and platform firmware. EFI is intended as a significantly improved replacement of the old legacy BIOS firmware interface used by modern PCs....

Graphical menus, standard mouse point-and-click operations, pre-operating-system application support such as web browsers, mail applications and media players, will all feature heavily within EFI.

Posted on January 25, 2008 at 08:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Beware of U3 on Your Flash Drive

Without really knowing what I was doing, I bought a Sandisk flash drive with "U3" on it.  This is an application that when you plug the flash drive into your computer, spoofs the computer into thinking it is a CD-ROM drive, so programs can be run from it.  I presume this might be useful if you compute from a lot of public computers and want to carry your own email client around, but for me, this was useless functionality. 

All that U3 did for me was radically slow down the process of plugging my flash drive into the computer and getting my damn files on and off.  There is sort of a boot up process, and on several occasions it crashed my whole system, despite trying to update the software to the most recent version.  Unfortunately, the built in uninstaller does not work, so, like spyware, the U3 has become impossible to remove.  Despite paying $50 for this thing, I am seriously considering throwing it in the trash and getting a new one without U3 on it.

Update: Downloading this finally got rid of it.  Again, this might be a cool tool for folks who use public computers or other people's computers a lot.  However, if you don't need this functionality, and just want to move files around, you will not want the instability and incompatibility problems U3 brings.

Posted on January 23, 2008 at 10:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)

Beware Articles Without Links

Several sites have announced what purports to be a Darwin Award winner this year.  I saw the link first at Q&O,  but the same story has been on Pajamas Media and several other sources.  I thought the story was awesome, but was suspicious in that too-good-to-be-true way, particularly when the original source had "sources" but no links.  This is always a red flag for me. 

So I took a key phrase from a quote in the article, in this case "on that bridge when Thurston shot" and plugged it into google.  The second link is to the "official" Darwin Awards site, which tagged this story as an urban legend over 10 years ago.  Looking down the Google search, it appears this old chestnut comes back in 2-3 year cycles.

Posted on January 23, 2008 at 08:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Observer Effect in Blogging

Observer Effect:  Acknowledgment that the act of observing will make changes in the phenomenon being observed.

So yesterday I read the latest XKCD.

Dangers_3

Like the typical Internet geek who reads XKCD, I immediately open Google and search for the exact phrase "Died in a Blogging Accident."  Of course, I don't know if the answer was ever "2," but now the search yields 7,900 results, most of which seem to refer to this XKCD cartoon.  And now I have added one more.

Update:  One suspects that the number was always greater than "2", since filtering out responses that include "XKCD" still yields over 6000 results.

Posted on January 12, 2008 at 08:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)

Sorry for the Popup

Yesterday I seem to have embedded a quote that included code of an irritating popup that wouldn't go away.  Sorry.  Thanks for the emails form folks who alerted me to the problem.

Posted on January 11, 2008 at 09:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

OK, I know I am Getting Old

From the PC Magazine Blog:

The venerable BlackBerry manufacturer launches a native Facebook client that makes staying in touch with your Facebook friends a cinch.

Venerable?  BlackBerry?  ROFLMAO, as they say.

Posted on January 10, 2008 at 07:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Finally Fixed

After several years and jillions of emails telling me I have a problem, I finally have http://coyoteblog.com  (without the www) pointing to this site rather than an under construction page. 

Posted on January 7, 2008 at 09:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Spammers Get A Bigger Vision

In the middle of a block of Nigerian email scams and spam for cheap viagra, I got this:

Brazilian Sugar in Containers
C&F Price Worldwide
Icumsa 45 - US $ 435.00 per ton
Icumsa 100 US $ 425.00 per ton
Icumsa 150 US $ 420.00 per Ton
Minimum order quantity: 10 container of 20" with 27 tons per container and 270 tons in total

I must say that offering me $115,000 of sugar is not the usual come-on

Posted on December 28, 2007 at 09:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (9)

I've Got To Finish A Book Project

I am working on a submission (outline and several chapters) for a book prize that is due December 31, so I may not be posting much over the next week.  The contest is for a novel that promotes the principals of freedom, capitalism, and individual responsibility in the context of a novel (hopefully without 120-page John Galt radio speeches). 

My project is one I have been tinkering with for a while, an update of the Marshall Jevons economist mysteries from the 1980's.  If you are not familiar with this series, Marshall Jevons was a pseudonym for a couple of economists who wrote several murder mysteries that included a number of expositions on how economics apply to everyday life.  Kind of Agatha Christie meets Freakonomics.  I found the first book, Murder at the Margin, to be disappointing, but the second book called the Fatal Equilibrium was pretty good.  I think the latter was a better book because the setting was university life, and the murder revolved around a tenure committee decision, topics the authors could write about closer to their experience.  The books take a pro-free-market point of view (which already makes them unique) and it is certainly unusual to have the solution to a murder turn on how search costs affect pricing variability.

Anyway, for some time, I have been toying with a concept for a young adult book in roughly the same tradition.  I think the Jevons novels are a good indicator of how a novel can teach some simple economics concepts, but certainly the protagonist as fusty stamp-collecting Harvard professor would need to be modified to engage young adults. 

My new novel (or series of novels, if things go well) revolves around a character named Adam Smith.  Adam is the son of a self-made immigrant and heir to a nearly billion dollar fortune.  At the age of twenty, he rejects his family and inheritance in a wave of sixties rebellion, joins a commune, and changes his name to the unfortunate "Moonbeam."  After several years, he sours on commune life, put himself through graduate school in economics, and eventually reclaims his family fortune.  Today, he leads two lives:  Adam Smith, eccentric billionaire, owner of penthouses and fast cars, and leader of a foundation [modeled after the IJ]; and Professor Moonbeam, aging hippie high school economics teacher who drives a VW beetle and appears to live in a trailer park.  There is a murder, of course, and the fun begins when three of his high school students start to suspect that their economics teacher may have a second life.  As you might expect, the kids help him solve the murder while he teaches them lessons about life and economics.  The trick is to keep the book light and fun rather than pedantic, but since one business model in my last novel revolved around harvesting coins in fountains, I think I can do it.

Anyway, wish me luck and I will be back in force come the new year. 

Posted on December 21, 2007 at 09:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)

Vista Update: Still Floundering

Frequent readers will know that I have reversed all the new Vista machines in our household back to XP and I have banned Vista from any computers purchased in the company (Dell is quite happy to sell XP rather than Vista).  Here is a how-to on how to downgrade to XP.

Now, PC World has voted Vista as the technology failure of the year  (I would also vote the box as the packaging failure of the decade, and the new user interface in MS Office as the hose-your-installed-base gaffe of the year).

I thought this was an interesting fact, from PC World several months ago:

Certainly sales of Vista aren't blowing away XP in stores. Chris Swenson, director of software industry analysis for the NPD Group, says that, from January through July of this year, XP sales accounted for a healthy 42.3 percent of online and brick-and-mortar retail OS sales. By contrast, from January through July of 2002, after XP's launch in October the year prior, Windows 98 accounted for just 23.1 percent of retail sales.

I made a similar observation using Amazon sales rankings of XP vs. Vista here. Finally, just for the heck of it, I checked the OS's of users coming to Coyote Blog.  In the past, our users have demonstrated themselves to be ahead of the technology curve (Firefox eclipsed Explorer as the #1 Coyote Blog brower long ago).  As you can see, Vista barely has 4% share, in a near tie with Windows 2000 and Windows NT and barely edging Linux:
Servers2

HT:  What's Up With That

Posted on December 18, 2007 at 04:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

All Your Base Are Belong to Rick Astley

I have to agree with Roger at Maggie's Farm:  I really love all the silly weirdness on the Internet as well.  I already Rick-rolled my readers once (belated apologies) a while back so I won't do it again.  Instead, I will link with full discloser to this mash-up of Hitler doing Rick Astley.

Posted on December 7, 2007 at 10:41 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

The Real Coyote Blog

I get a number of search engine hits from people coming to this blog looking for information on, you know, coyotes.  I actually get a lot of questions about coyote behavior, which I struggle to answer since by knowledge of the animals generally is limited to:

  1. Watching them play outside my house as they likely fantasize about making a meal of my family's Maltese.
  2. Taking humor from their hapless interactions with the ACME corporation.

Via a reader, this is the woman you need to be visiting for real coyotes.  She also seems to be a marvelous photographer.  This, for example, is beautiful.

Posted on December 6, 2007 at 10:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Seriously Useful Privacy Tool

Many free websites (like newspapers and forums) require an email address to sign up.  To make sure you give them a real one, they send you a password or activation code, usually within 60 seconds, by email.

Guerrilla Mail will issue you an email address that is good for 15 minutes.  You don't even have to leave the web site, just hit refresh and any emails you receive show up there on the screen and can even be replied to.  The only problem is that this will leave you with an impossible list of user ID's, but it is great for, say, forums where I only need to post one time (say with a customer support question).

Via this list, via Tom Kirkendall

Posted on December 4, 2007 at 08:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Word Definition

A web site on which I was registering said "Your password must be alpha-numeric and a minimum of 6 characters."  I had an argument about this language with the customer service agent, but I may be wrong.  I would interpret this as meaning that all the characters in the password must be from the alpha-numeric set, as opposed to, say, symbol characters.  Therefore "asdfasdf", "12345678", and "asdf1234" would all meet the stated test.  The customer service agent said that I was totally wrong, and went so far as to inform me their web designer has a PhD in English.  Her contention was that alpha-numeric clearly means "must contain both a minimum of one alphabetical character and at least one numeric character."   In my example above, only "asdf1234" would therefore qualify.   Anyone have an opinion on this, or a definitive source?

If, from this and previous posts, folks out there are drawing the conclusion that I am losing patience with customer call centers, they would be correct.

Posted on November 29, 2007 at 01:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (24)

There Goes the Killer App. for Vista

We are rapidly coming up on the first anniversary of Vista, and it has been a very rocky year for Microsoft.  New releases of an OS are always difficult, but many users have really turned up their nose on Vista.  My experience has been much the same as everyone else's:  Applications run slower in Vista (I know because I had a system set up to dual boot and A/B tested a number of applications).  Networking, particularly wireless networking, is much less stable than in XP.  Good drivers STILL don't exist for many legacy hardware devices, including may graphics cards.  I ran into any number of quirks.  The most irritating for me was that a laptop communicating with a printer via wireless network would lose connection with the printer every time the laptop was shut down in a way that could only be rectified (as confirmed by MS customer support) by reinstalling the print driver every time I wanted to use it.

Most computer NOOBs probably never noticed, not having anything to compare Vista with and only using their computers for a narrow range of functionality (ie email and internet browsing).  However, many of us who are more comfortable with computers and who rely on our computers as an important tool have either avoided buying Vista computers (Dell, for example, still sells a lot of XP computers) and/or have taken the time to roll back their Vista to a dual boot system or even XP only  (which I explain here).  Which may explain why standalone XP packages are better sellers on Amazon than Vista.

For gamers, most of whom tend to be power users, Vista has been nothing but a negative, slowing games down and requiring use of buggy graphics card drivers (Microsoft crows that they get fewer customer service calls on Vista than XP, which may be, but I can gaurantee, from browsing gaming boards, that gaming companies get swamped with Vista calls from gamers who can't get the game to run on Vista). 

Looming over all of this, though, has been one word:  Crysis.  Gamers have been lusting after this game for over a year, with its promise of knock-out graphics and game-play.  To this end, Microsoft did something clever.  It updated its DirectX graphics engine in Vista to revision 10, and included in it all kinds of new capabilities that would really make a game look fantastic.  MS decided, either for technical or marketing issues, not to ever release these features on XP.  If you wanted DirectX 10 games, you had to upgrade to Vista.  Over the last year, graphics card makers have been releasing hardware to support DirectX 10.  Crysis was set to be the first game that would really take advantage of DirectX 10, and many hardcore gamers upraded to Vista solely on the promise of running Crysis maxed out with the new DirectX 10 features.

Well, Crysis was released a few weeks ago.  You may think I am building up to say it sucked, but just the opposite is true.  It is absolutely fantastic.  Easily the most visually stunning thing I have ever seen running on my PC.  First-person shooter games are not really my favorite, but I have thoroughly enjoyed the game.  (here is a trailer, but unlike most trailers, the game really looks like this in gameplay, maybe better due to limited resolution on YouTube.)  Click below for larger screenshots:
264396_full_2 266410_full_3
But here is the interesting part.  I keep my system state of the art.  I have close to the fastest Intel multi-core processor currently made running with two of the newest Nvidia graphics cards (8800GT's) running ganged together in SLI mode (don't worry if you don't know what all that means, just take my word for it that it is about as fast as you can get with stock components and air cooling). Crysis, like most graphics games, can have its settings changed from "low", meaning there is less graphics detail but the game runs faster, through "med" to "high" and "very high".   Only in the latter modes do the new features of DirectX10 really come into play.  So I ran the calibration procedure the game provides and it told me that I needed to set the game to "medium!"  That's not an error - apparently everyone else in my position who have a large monitor with high resolutions had about this experience.  I can set the game to higher modes, but things really slow down.  By the way, it still looks unbelievably awesome on Medium.

The designers of Crysis actually did something kind of cool.   They designed with Moore's law in mind, and designed the highest game modes for computers that don't exist today, but likely will in a few years.  So the game (and more importantly the engine, since they will likely sell the engine as a platform for other game makers to build their games atop) has some built-in obsolescence-proofing.

But lets return to Vista and Crysis being billed as a killer app.  As it turns out, none of the directX10 features are really usable, because no one can turn the graphics engine up high enough with their current hardware.  Worse, in a game where users are trying to eek out any tweek they can to improve frame rates and graphics speed, Crysis runs demonstrably slower on Vista than XP.  Finally, those who have run the game in its higher modes withe DirectX 10 features (presumably at the cost of low frame rates) have found the actual visual differences in the DirectX 10 graphics to be subtle.  The game boards are a total hoot, as folks who upgraded to Vista solely for Crysis are wailing that their experience on Vista is actually worse than on XP.

Posted on November 29, 2007 at 09:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Heading for New York

I have not idea how much blogging I will do this week.  I am headed for Manhattan to watch my daughter, who is in the opening act of the Macys Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Posted on November 19, 2007 at 01:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

A Few Observations About Apple

  1. I really like my new iPod touch as a movie player for trips.  With an add-on double-A battery for extra life, it beats the hell out of portable DVD players.  It is a decent Internet surfer over WiFi though I am still looking for something a bit larger.
  2. Anyone who fetishizes Apple's design capability has never tried to sync two iPods from one computer.  It can be done, with a klugey shift-click open to iTunes that brings up a "pick library" menu, but it really blows.  Also, they obviously have not had to endure QuickTime popups 415 times a day that say "Some of your Quick Time software is out of date.  You can fix this problem by updating the the latest version."  When one clicks "Do it now," one invariably gets the error message that the servers are busy (if the system does not crash entirely.
  3. The new iPod classics still suck.  I tried them again at Best Buy.  The menu is laggy as hell and very hard to make selections or browse.  It is no accident that new-in-box generation 5.5 iPods are selling for more on eBay than new generation 6 iPods with the same or more memory.

Posted on November 5, 2007 at 10:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

2007 Weblog Awards

I am a bit blog-awarded out, but having been nominated again, it would be embarrassing to get no votes at all.  Coyote Blog is in that Oh-so-prestigious category, "top 501-1000 blogs,"  the winning of which has always struck me as roughly equivalent to winning the NIT Men's Basketball Tournament ("We're number 66! Yeah!").

Anyway, drop me a vote so we don't get entirely embarrassed.

Posted on November 2, 2007 at 11:33 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Freaking Finally

We have a strict no-console-game policy in the household.  Generally, when I see how other people's kids spend their time, I am pretty happy that we have stuck to this.  However, it has meant no Guitar Hero in the house. 

Well, finally, Guitar Hero III is out and is available in a PC version, though of course Amazon is back-ordered right now.

Posted on November 2, 2007 at 11:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Comments are Weirding Out

Not sure what is up with comment viewing.  Have sent service ticket to Typepad.

Posted on October 25, 2007 at 09:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Rollover

The visit counter rolled over 1,000,000 this morning.   I'm not sure that this number is very meaningful any more, as Coyote Blog gets about a thousand feed readers a day who don't register on Site Meter, but its a fun milestone anyway.  Thanks to all you readers for your interest.

Posted on October 25, 2007 at 08:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Vista Sucks -- Fact of the Day

I won't go into my bad experiences with Vista, nor into the story of my purge of Vista from all personal and corporate computers, but you can read here and here.

Here are some interesting Amazon sales rank numbers as of 10/16/07 for Vista vs. XP, which Vista supposedly replaced 12 months ago.  All the following are sales ranks in the Amazon software category, with a lower number implying higher sales:

XP Home Full Edition:  #19
XP Home Upgrade: #105
Vista Home Basic Full Edition:  #277
Vista Home Basic Upgrade:  #174

Obviously this is unscientific, because it is just one channel.  Also, Vista has more different segmented SKU's, so the product comparison is not exactly apples to apples.  But it is interesting, no?

The OEM market is going to skew towards Vista because that is what OEM's tend to load by default.  But even so, Dell, for example, is still offering Windows XP as an OEM option, a pretty unprecedented move this long after a new Windows launch.  But the Amazon traffic is probably 99% OS changes, since almost everyone with a PC gets an OEM version loaded.  Most of the Vista purchases are going to be upgrades from XP, and most of the XP purchases are going to be downgrades from Vista.  Does this mean Vista downgrading is outstripping Vista Upgrading?

Postscript: It has now been two months since I downgraded to XP on my kid's laptop, and we are still amazed at how much better everything runs now.  I was afraid I could not get all the drivers for XP but in the end I was succesful and everything, including the sound, is working great.  There are a LOT of websites nowadays to help you downgrade.  Or you can try dual booting.

Update:  The real indicator that this is Vista downgrade sales of XP is that the Full Edition is out-selling the upgrade edition, which is a reverse of history when XP was the lead product.  When I downgraded, I found I could not use the upgrade version of XP and had to use the full edition.  My guess is that others have the same problem, and that the very high sales rank of the XP full edition is very likely due to high downgrade demand.

Posted on October 16, 2007 at 11:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (11)

Hurray!

In a blinding glimpse of the obvious for those of you who just reached CoyoteBlog.com, the blog is a going concern again. Problem explained here.  Sorry.

Posted on October 9, 2007 at 12:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

What Happened to Coyote Blog (Network Solutions Sucks Edition)

Years ago, I, without really knowing what I was doing, established a bunch of my URLs through Network Solutions.  I didn't understand at the time that Network Solutions was both irritating and the high-cost provider. 

Now that I know more, I have doing my registrations via a much lower cost supplier (GoDaddy).  A few weeks ago, I did a mass transfer from Network Solutions.  Apparently, Network Solutions locks the domains down, ostensibly for security (which is probably true) but also to make it harder to leave them, which makes sense as given their prices there must be a serious net drain of business out of the company.  Most of my domains cleared this Berlin Wall to freedom, but I screwed up on a couple, one of which was CoyoteBlog.com.  As a result, the domain ended up expired, and email dead.

Thanks for all of you who have tried to notify me of the problems.  Nearly two days ago I went ahead and renewed at Network Solutions for another year, just to get things back up ASAP.  Unfortunately, the URL still seems to be marked expired.  I don't know if that is their poor service or because I am in Hawaii and at the absolute end of the earth for name server updates.  Hopefully all will be right tomorrow.  For those who visited CoyoteBlog this weekend, I am sorry about the flurry of tacky popups Network Solutions was dealing out at the URL (as many as three at a time, the losers).  For those of you who access via http://camprrm.typepad.com/coyote_blog/ you should have been able to read the blog but without formatting.  I believe that RSS access was unaffected.

Posted on October 8, 2007 at 12:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)

Sorry

Network Solutions and I seem to have a disagreement as to whether I have already renewed my domain name.  Hopefully we will be back up soon.

Posted on October 6, 2007 at 08:44 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Public Relations Suicide by Essent Healthcare

Here they go again.  Another company is attempting to commit public relations suicide by blowing up the negative commentary of a small, low-traffic blogger into a national story.

An unlikely Internet frontier is Paris, Texas, population 26,490, where a defamation lawsuit filed by the local hospital against a critical anonymous blogger is testing the bounds of Internet privacy, First Amendment freedom of speech and whistle-blower rights.

A state district judge has told lawyers for the hospital and the blogger that he plans within a week to order a Dallas Internet service provider to release the blogger's name. The blogger's lawyer, James Rodgers of Paris, said Tuesday he will appeal to preserve the man's anonymity and right to speak without fear of retaliation.

Rodgers said the core question in the legal battle is whether a plaintiff in a lawsuit can "strip" a blogger of anonymity merely by filing a lawsuit. Without some higher standard to prove a lawsuit has merit, he said, defamation lawsuits could have a chilling effect on Internet free speech.

"Anybody could file a lawsuit and say, 'I feel like I've been defamed. Give me the name,' " Rodgers said.

The blog about problems at Essent Healthcare is here, called The-Paris-Site.

Interestingly, the hospital, owned by a company called Essent Healthcare, appears to be using the medical privacy act HIPPA as a bludgeon to try to stifle criticism.  To make a case against the hospital, general criticisms about poor care and medical mistakes are best backed up with real stories.  But the hospital is in effect saying that real stories can't be used, since doing so violates HIPPA.  I don't know if this is or is not a correct application of HIPPA, but it is a danger of HIPPA that I and others warned about years ago.  The hospital goes on hilariously about how they are not really worried about the damage to their reputation, but for the poor patients whose medical details ended up in the blogger's hands.  Memo to health care workers in the future:  If you think the hospital screwed up my care, you have my blanket permission to release the details of said screw-up.

Before starting my own company, I have worked in a number of senior jobs at publicly traded companies and a few soon-to-be-f*cked Internet ventures.  In several of these cases, I and my fellow managers came in for pretty rough and profane criticism.  In many cases the posts were hilarious, positing well-oiled multi-year conspiracies from a management team that was just trying to survive the day.  Most of us were pretty rational about these sites - the more you try to respond to them, the more attention you give them.  The best response is to ignore them except maybe on Friday night when you can drink some beers and laugh out loud reading the commentary.  But there were always a few folks whose ego just got inflamed by the comments, even though they were seen by maybe 12 people worldwide.  They wanted to put a stop to the commenters.

I am sure that this is what is happening here.  Because any good PR person who has been in the business for more than 5 minutes would tell you that the worst thing you could do for a critic with a small audience is to a) turn them into a martyr and b) increase their audience about a million-fold.  These guys at Essent are just nuts, and in the heat of ego preservation are in the process of making a massive mistake.

I am reminded of TJIC's response when a lawyer threatened to file a BS copyright suit against him:

With regards to your statement that you’ve been “looking forward for a class action lawsuit on a case like this”, I, too, would enjoy such a lawsuit. The publicity that we would derive from defeating your firm in court over a baseless allegation of copyright infringement, brought about by a law firm and a lawyer that does not understand the First Sale doctrine, and which are entirely ignorant of the Supreme Court case law on the topic, would be of incalculable value to us, and would be a very cost efficient way to further publicize our service.

Hat Tip to Overlawyered for the link.

Update: The blogger appears to have been around since 2005.  The article said that as of June, or after about 2 years of operation, he had 170,000-ish page views.  He now appears to be at about 230,000 just three months later and only a few weeks after the story went public.  Q.E.D.

Update #2:  I forgot to include my opinion on the case.  There has got to be some higher legal bar to be cleared to strip the anonymity of a blogger than just asking for it to happen during discovery on a lawsuit.  If the legislature is not going to establish this bar, then a higher court is going to have to do so. 

Posted on September 23, 2007 at 10:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Beware the New Ipods

A little while ago I wrote a post to say I was excited by the new generation of IPods.  I was ready to replace my 30GB v5.5 iPod classic with an 80GB that has the same form factor.  I am still hoping the iPod Touch (think iPhone without the phone) will turn out to be great, but there is a LOT of bitching out there about the new IPod classics.  Apparently, in a bid to make the interface prettier, it has become a lot slower (kindof like Vista).  Also, apparently some of the video functionality has been nerfed.  Research before you buy!  For example, check out the Amazon reviews.

Posted on September 18, 2007 at 09:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

More Vista Suckage

The laptop I bought my kids 6 months ago is rapidly becoming the worst purchase I have ever made.  Not because the laptop is bad, but because of a momentary lack of diligence I bought one with Vista installed.  It has been a never-ending disaster trying to get this computer to work.  A while back, I put XP on a partition and my kids spend most of their time on XP since, well, it works.  Vista does not.  It is the Paris Hilton of OS's -- looks pretty but does not work.

In particular, the networking is an enormous step backwards from XP.  The wireless networking was a real pain to get set up in the first place, in contrast to XP and my wife's Mac which both worked and connected from the moment the power switch turned on. 

Now, we are getting two new errors.  First, at random times, the computer will stop being able to connect to the internet.  It will have a good wireless signal, and see other computers on the network fine, and the other computers on the network will see the internet, but Vista does not.  Just rebooted the computer into the XP partition, and XP sees the Internet fine -- its just Vista that is broken.

Second, and perhaps even more inexcusable, I have to reinstall the printer driver in Vista at nearly every log on.  There is a bug in Vista such that laptops that move off the network and come back will find that the network printers are now marked "offline" and there is nothing one can do to bring them online short of reinstalling the drivers.  Really.  I thought I was doing something wrong, but searching the web this is a known problem.  None of the suggested workarounds are working for me.

Vista is rapidly becoming the New Coke of operating systems.  I have had every version of windows on my computer at one time or another, including Windows 1.0 and the egregious Windows ME, and I can say with confidence Vista is the worst of them all by far.  More: corporate demand for upgrading to XP from Vista;  DRM hell in Vista;  how I set up dual-booting on a Vista machine; and what happened to the File menu?

Looks like the XP partition is soon going to be the only partition.  But recognize how serious this step is:  Laptops, unlike desktops, have more model-specific device drivers.  For example, instead of one Nvidia graphics driver for all cards, you tend to need the driver for your specific card in your specific computer model.   The computer I have has never and will never publish XP drivers.  I have found drivers that work for XP for most things, but not for sound.  So I will be giving up a substantial piece of functionality -- sound-- in exchange for never having to swear at Vista again.

Posted on September 9, 2007 at 11:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (14)

Internet Technology Bleg

Back in 2003 when I set up this blog, I knew less than nothing about how to do it.  I mostly did things in a way I am still happy with, but I made one mistake.  In setting up the domain mapping from CoyoteBlog.com to Typepad, I mapped CoyoteBlog.com to my entire Typepad account, not just this blog.  As a result, my permalinks take the form of www.coyoteblog.com/coyote_blog/blahblah.html rather than www.coyoteblog.com/blahblah. 

I now know how to fix it, but when the site republishes, I am pretty sure that anyone who has ever linked to a permalink on the site will get an error, because they will be remapped to the shorter address in the www rather than the /coyote_blog domain.  My question is this, if I access to all the A and MX and CNAME etc. records for CoyoteBlog, is there some way to calls the the www.CoyoteBlog.com/Coyote_blog/ domain to www.CoyoteBlog.com/ ?  If I can do this, I *think* my old permalinks will work.  Maybe. 

I probably will be too scared to try this, unless I can get a good solution for this problem

Posted on September 3, 2007 at 10:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

Why I Blog

I had a call today from a reporter at the Christian Science Monitor who wanted to discuss climate skepticism.  What a disaster of an interview I am!  He would ask an open-ended question, and off I would go into feedback theory and then to acoustics and then into helicopter dynamics and back to the ice age and then to temperature measurement in Tucson.  I try to follow 6 trains of thought simultaneously and the result is a mess. 

The poor reporter was quite friendly and ended with "I am not sure where we are going with this story" which is the universal reporter speak for "your interview was such a mess I am not sure how we would ever use it."  LOL.  Only by writing, with the implicit governor applied by the keyboard, am I able to organize my thoughts well.  Which is why I have never invested in a computer dictation product - I shudder to think what I would find on the page after a session.  Which reminds me of the early Doonesbury cartoons with Duke when he was a reporter at the Rolling Stone, when he would come into the his editor's office and claim to have dictated some really powerful stuff, only to find a garbled drug-induced mess, which was obviously a reference to Hunter S. Thompson, who... oh crap, I'm doing it again.

Posted on August 31, 2007 at 11:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (14)

Recognition, Cool

Coyote Blog made another list of top economics blogs.  Awesome.  Also #23 here.

Posted on August 29, 2007 at 05:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Maybe I R Not So Stoopid After All

A while back, I bought a copy of MS Office for my kid's computer.  The embarrassing part was, though, that I could not get the box open.  No how, no way.  I was just sure there was a simple obvious way to do so, but I never found it.  I finally got a hacksaw and cut open the hard plastic case. 

Now it seems I may not be the only one.  (via TJIC)

It's a hard plastic case, sealed in two different places by plastic stickies. It represents a complete failure of industrial design; an utter F in the school of Donald Norman's Design of Everyday Things. To be technical about it, it has no true affordances and actually has some false affordances: visual clues as to how to open it that turn out to be wrong.

This is the same box that Vista comes in. Nick White over at Microsoft seems proud of the novel design, but from the comments on the web it seems I'm not the only one who couldn't figure out how to open it. It seems like even rudimentary usability testing would have revealed the problem. A box that many people can't figure out how to open without a Google search is an unusually pathetic failure of design. As the line goes from Billy Madison: "I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul."

And while we are banging on the box, I am reminded how my daughter called me over last night to help her print out of Word on her Vista computer running the new Office (My many problems with Vista here).  I yelled at her first across the room just to go to File-Print.  I mean, Microsoft has worked hard to make sure that in every program known to man that runs under Windows, you print by mousing to file-print or else type alt-f-p. 

"Where is 'file' dad?" 

"In the upper left corner"

"No it's not"

"yes it is"

"No it's not"

And sure enough, upon inspection, after years of developing a standard and training users, MS has abandoned the standard.  There is indeed no file menu drop down.  Only, it turns out, a circle in the upper left with the Windows logo that has the old file commands.  ERRRRRR.   Only from installing my wife's Mac this last weekend do I realize that for some reason MS is emulating the little Apple-shaped logo in the Mac OS where they put file commands.   

What a total slap in the face to your user base  (and don't even get me started on rearranging the control panel and start menus with every succeeding OS).  It's like MacDonald's randomly switching around the numbers for their value meals every few weeks. 

Posted on August 21, 2007 at 09:24 AM | Permalink | Comments (14)

Vista Still Sucks, But I Actually Found A Mac I Kindof Liked

Now, I won't argue that Vista will someday not suck - after all, give an infinite number of monkeys $30 billion a year in cash flow and they'll code Shakespeare.  Or whatever.  But I have to agree with this post by Glenn Reynolds that Vista is still not ready for prime time.  Now, I wrote this same conclusion over a half year ago, but incredibly, no updates of any seriousness have been issued.  It is still the mess it was then, and Moore's Law has yet to catch up to make the average machine run it acceptably  (particularly with laptops).   When I set up the dual boot back to XP on my kid's laptop, I did not make the XP partition large enough because my kids absolutely refuse to install anything on the Vista partition, which they use only because that is where MS Office is installed. 

Am I a lone wolf on this issue?  Oh my God, am I a Vista denier! Well, check out this announcement from Microsoft reported by ZDNet on June 28:

Microsoft is simplifying the processes via which its PC-maker partners will be able to provide “downgrade” rights from Windows Vista to Windows XP for their customers.

Microsoft will implement the first of the policy changes for its Gold Certified (top-tier) OEM partners within the next couple of weeks. The company will streamline downgrade-rights policies and procedures for the broader channel somewhat later, said John Ball, general manager of Microsoft’s U.S. Systems Group....

Microsoft is working on ways to allow the rest of the channel to take advantage of these simplified downgrade procedures, but is still in the midst of hashing out the details, Ball said. He didn’t have a timetable for when Microsoft will make its more liberal downgrade-rights policies available to the rest of its PC partners.

I am not sure this is the sign of a healthy product line when your top customers are demanding easier ability to go back to the old version.

As a side note, I have never, ever liked Macs.  First, I never wanted to be one of "the rest of us" and I enjoy tweaking and upgrading too much to be a fan of Macs.  Also, I thought their historic resistance to some obvious improvements, like the two-button mouse, was just stupid.  All that being said, I will admit that I really like the new iMac I bought my wife.  It is perfect for her, and it is gorgeous.  The keyboard is not great for speed-typing but it looks really cool and my wife is fine with that.  The iMac did a great job with the tough stuff - it immediately recognized the PC's on my network and was able to trade files with them (something our Vista laptop still balks at from time to time) and it set up a network printer on the first try.  And, for perhaps the first time ever on a Mac, I didn't feel like the things was wallowing in first gear when compared to my desktop PC.

Posted on August 20, 2007 at 12:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

Why I Don't Host This Blog on My Own Servers...

...Because there might come a slow news day in August when Tigerhawk, Hot Air, Pajamas Media, Reddit, the Free Republic, Ace of Spades, and many others all link to the same post at the same time.  In which case my servers here in the office and the poor hamster who powers them by running on his little wheel would be a smoking hole in the ground.

Posted on August 9, 2007 at 05:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

A Thought on Blogging Relevance

You know you are not one of the blogging big boys when you dig into your referral logs to find the source of a bump in traffic and discover it is from a link buried inside a comment thread at a larger blogger.  No one here but us minnows.

Posted on August 9, 2007 at 11:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (11)

Bloggers Union

A number of folks are getting a good chuckle out of the suggestion from YearlyKos that bloggers form a union.  Many, like John Scalzi, have asked, why?

I think folks are missing the point.  At its heart, those making this suggestion are not bloggers who want to be in a union, these are people who want to run a union of bloggers. They want the power and prestige that comes from being able to say "I represent the International Brotherhood of Bloggers." They are trying to channel the dispersed power of bloggers and the trendiness of blogging (such that it is) and aggregate it to themselves.

Posted on August 6, 2007 at 10:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Oddities at Coyote Blog

You may see some odd things happening with the post sorting on the blog tonight, as I am futzing around with them to facilitate some dead-tree archiving.  More on what I am doing here.

Posted on July 29, 2007 at 08:44 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

I Lost My Google Ranking

Bummer.  I seem to have lost the #1 Google search result for myself (though I do have 6 of the first 8). My blog gets crazy Google love, so its odd that some guy's training page (or whatever the hell that is) at the Church of Scientology could outrank me.  Have to start some serious SEO ;=)

Posted on July 23, 2007 at 03:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

Let's Not Start a Jihad against ISPs

McQ at QandO posts a number of examples of jihadi websites hosted on American ISPs, and goes on to urge:

If you’re doing business with any of these ISPs, you may want to advise them of your displeasure that your fees are helping support a company that is hosting websites of avowed enemies of your nation and culture. Granted, because these are in arabic, the ISPs may not even know what the sites are, but now you do. Point the ISPs to the MEMRI post. Tell them that websites which call for the killing of Americans, waging war against us and teaching radicals how to make bombs are unacceptable. This is not something which you must wait on government to do. These sites need to come down and they need to come down because of grassroots and market pressure to do so. Shut them down.

I have a number of problems with this.  Of course, in a free society, one can choose an ISP any way one likes.  However, given the nature of the Internet, this is one of those suggestions that may sort of feel good but have no chance of having any kind of impact.  Even if wildly successful, all you are going to do is drive these sites to offshore hosts, and I sure hope no one is talking about setting up Chinese-type filters and firewalls at our borders.

Further, there is nothing I like more than having my ISP blissfully ignorant of, and apathetic to, whatever it is they are hosting for me.  I DO NOT want to gear up ISP's to start reviewing and disallowing content.  That is a horribly slippery slope that will only end badly, as we have started to see with video banning at Google and YouTube.  In fact, given the precedents we have seen at YouTube, I would be willing to guess that if ISP's did start** putting a filter on sites and start** banning them based on public complaints, that McQ is not going to be happy be my sense is that their political filters are different than his.  Just look at campuses today -- many universities have defined a new right not to be offended that trumps free speech.  Do we really want to bring this horrible "innovation" to the Internet?

Finally, I think its awesome and what makes America great that we are so tolerant of speech from even the nuttiest of our worst enemies.  I had kind of hoped that GoDaddy would be on his list, just to experience the cultural irony of GoDaddy girl meets fundamentalist Islam.

** Actually, "start" is not the right word, since some undoubtedly kill certain sites when people complain.  Usually but not always today this is based more on irritating Internet behavior (e.g. spamming) rather than content of speech.  It would be more accurate to have said "substantially increase the banning of sites based on content."

Posted on July 20, 2007 at 09:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thanks for the Comments

Blogging may be light this week because I have to, you know, work and stuff.  However, I want to thank everyone who has been commenting on my new book, and please keep the comments coming, though it may be next week before I get through them all.

Posted on July 9, 2007 at 10:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

B-List?

TJIC, who really is a terrific up and coming libertarian-ish blogger, writes:

But in the short term, I’d like to thank the three B-list bloggers who have so kindly linked to this humble Z-list blog multiple times:

B-list?  I guess I will accept that, as long as I can be in the same category as one of my favorite actresses, queen of the B-movies Sybil Danning.  I am also consoled that just after Sports Illustrated called Mark O'Meara the "king of the B's", he proceeded to win two majors in the same year.

Posted on May 25, 2007 at 10:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Watch the Daily Show

I know a number of my readers are also friends with my Princeton roommate Brink Lindsey.  Look for Brink tonight on the Daily Show with John Stewart at 11PM EST on Comedy Central.

Posted on May 17, 2007 at 11:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Kudos to Open Office

My company is a big supporter of Open Office, the free MS Office clone that works great (and was developed by Sun as a jab at their least favorite competitor).  Generally I promote it because it works fine and costs $0.  We are putting it on all our new computers instead of Microsoft.

Today I have a new reason to promote it.  I had a very large and complex .xlw file that Excel refused to open - it gave me messages that it was locked and read only and eventually opened it as a total mess, giving me a message that the file was impossible to repair.  Obviously, the last time Excel had worked on and saved the file, it had corrupted it somehow.  All the formatting was gone, data was missing, etc.  So, on a whim, I dug up a copy of the Open Office spreadsheet (which can open and write MS formats), and what do you know, it opened the file right up.  Everything in its place.  I save-as'd to an Excel file, and now Microsoft can open its own file again, but only after Open Office fixed it.  LOL.

Posted on May 9, 2007 at 12:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Good News

My friend and Cato-ite Brink Lindsey is blogging again, in conjunction with the release of his new book The Age of Abundance: How Prosperity Transformed America's Politics and Culture.  Those who read his earlier blog will not be surprised to learn that one of his first series of posts illustrates the concept of freedom in popular music.

Posted on May 2, 2007 at 08:35 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Dual Booting Vista

I have written in the past that I have a number of problems with Vista.  However, I bought a laptop for which I had no choice but to accept Vista installed.  I have not really been pleased with the interface -- as is Microsoft's wont, every option you really use is in a new place in this version.  Hopefully I will get used to it, but I never, for example, was able to get used to the XP-style control panel, so I am not sure.

One thing Vista does NOT do very well is legacy games, particularly on a laptop where having up-to-date graphics drivers depends on the computer, rather than the chip, manufacturer  (I am not sure why, but you can almost never use the generic Nvidia drivers for Nvidia cards on a laptop).  Many copy protection schemes in older games will not recognize the CD in the tray in Vista, and a lot of legacy hardware components will never have Vista drivers written for them.

So I embarked on trying to dual-boot Vista with XP on a system that already had Vista installed on the whole hard disk out of the factory.  It turned out to be tedious, but following these directions got me there perfectly  (these directions cover going from XP to Vista+XP).  I used Gparted to change the partitions around, which was much easier than I thought it would be, and EasyBCD is an awesome product  (both are freeware).  The only problem I had was the same as the one in comment #52 of the article, but the link and workaround linked there solved the problem for me.

I don't think I would have a total noob try this, but it also isn't some complicated haxor procedure either.  Highly recommended for those of you with legacy software and equipment who want to try Vista or are stuck with it on your new computer.

Posted on April 29, 2007 at 12:24 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Instalanches are So Last Year

It used to be that Instalanches were the gold standard for blowing out your server bandwidth.  An Instalanche occurred when Glenn Reynolds (or one of the other super-large bloggers) pointed his enormous traffic to an article of interest in some small blog.  The results were sortof like hooking your transistor radio to a high-tension power line.  This was the traffic chart from my first instalanche.

Today, most of my huge traffic spikes come when an article of mine moves up high on reddit or stumbleupon or del.icio.us  (I don't remember ever getting much from digg).  Right now my article on water pricing is on the front page of reddit, and the traffic spike is enormous. 

Posted on April 18, 2007 at 08:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Why Doesn't Google Sell This Service?

With Google headed off in nearly every direction at once in their product development, I wonder why they don't offer a service to corporations (and even individuals, like politicians) that seems much closer to their core business.  The service I have in mind is the Internet version of the old clipping service (where some PR folks would watch the papers and keep a file of articles about you or your company, bitterly clipped out of the papers).

Let's say I am Dell, and I would like to see what people are saying about be.  Well, if I search for "Dell,"  the first 30 or 40 hits are probably the same -- retailers and such.  What I really want is anything new that popped up in the search today vs. the search yesterday, and which might be buried hundreds of items down in the list.  This is something that a third party could certainly do, caching the search each day, but it would be a layup for Google.  I'd think this service would be pretty valuable, certainly saving money over having employees manually troll blogs and comment boards.  I can think of 10 ways right now this base service could be improved over time with more value-added services hung on the basic structure.  I could sell it to retailers as a way to uncover pirates or illegal channel activity.  You could even charge premium pricing for fast spidering, where the Google spiders go looking in certain places the client cares about more often.

If I have reinvented the wheel here, and someone is already doing this, let me know in the comments.

Posted on April 5, 2007 at 02:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Rollover

Coyote Blog went over a million page views on site meter yesterday.  A while back, I would have thought this much cooler than I do today.  However, on any given day, 40% or more of my readers are not visiting the site but are reading the RSS feed and thus are not included in these numbers.   Yesterday we had 755 people access the RSS feed and about 2100 actually visit the site, a bit skewed from the normal mix because of a couple of articles I had high on Reddit that sent traffic to the site.  There is still a real need for someone to figure out how to better track RSS readership.  Feedburner has helped a lot, but is not the ultimate solution.

Posted on April 4, 2007 at 09:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

LOL, I Love This

Sorry Mac folks, but as a guy who builds his own PC's, I am rolling on the floor laughing with Charlie Booker (via Market Power)

I hate Macs. I have always hated Macs. I hate people who use Macs. I even hate people who don't use Macs but sometimes wish they did. Macs are glorified Fisher-Price activity centres for adults; computers for scaredy cats too nervous to learn how proper computers work; computers for people who earnestly believe in feng shui.

PCs are the ramshackle computers of the people. You can build your own from scratch, then customise it into oblivion. Sometimes you have to slap it to make it work properly, just like the Tardis (Doctor Who, incidentally, would definitely use a PC). PCs have charm; Macs ooze pretension. When I sit down to use a Mac, the first thing I think is, "I hate Macs", and then I think, "Why has this rubbish aspirational ornament only got one mouse button?" Losing that second mouse button feels like losing a limb. If the ads were really honest, Webb would be standing there with one arm, struggling to open a packet of peanuts while Mitchell effortlessly tore his apart with both hands.

The two-button mouse thing has always been a mystery to me.  Clearly it is better.  Hell, I can't do without my two button mouse and its scroll-wheel.  Only a pathological desire not to copy anything from the PC world (copying from Xerox* is OK, I guess) has prevented Apple from adopting this no-brainer improvement.

* I may be one of the few people around who ever worked on the old Xerox workstations from which so much of the Mac was derived.  They had their issues, but they were unbelievable for their time.  I would put Xerox's failure to capitalize on this technology right up there with Amiga in the category of lost technological opportunities.  </dating myself>

 

Posted on March 20, 2007 at 08:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

Where's Coyote?

Answer: Skiing in Utah (heh heh).  Yesterday and today we had two of the most beautiful ski days of all time, with shirtsleeve temperatures on a still thick base. 

I did not blog last night because I was so tired and sore all I could do is roll out of the hot tub and into bed.  I am in better shape tonight, so I may get a chance to catch up.  I have not read the news for two days, so I have obviously missed some critical political events, as days 490 and 491 before the presidential election are always key turning points.

Posted on March 20, 2007 at 04:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

It's Not Done 'till Firefox Won't Run

I wrote previously that I think Vista, in its current state, is inferior to Windows XP (particularly for businesses -- Directx 10 will make Vista a must for gamers).  For my desktop computers, I build them myself and can still get Windows XP OEM through NewEgg.  Unfortunately, for my kids new laptop, I had no choice but Vista.  I have not been very happy.  Here are my results so far.

  1. It is way slower than XP, even on a fast dual-core Intel machine with a Nvidia 7900 graphics card.  You may have thought that the reboot and shut down process could not have gotten slower - WRONG!  Shutdown alone takes forever.
  2. Many machines being sold today with Vista are not fast enough to really run it.  In particular, if your laptop is more than a year old or you paid less than $1700 or so for it, it is probably not going to do the job
  3. Um, its pretty
  4. Firefox will not run reliably.  It will install, and run once, and then it will give an error if you try to run it again.  It does not uninstall fully, and once (I tried to install and remove several times) it did not even show up in the uninstall menu
  5. Unlike with XP, networking did not work right off the bat with Vista.  I had to do a lot of fiddling in menus that the average user wil never find or understand to get it running.
  6. Of course, as is usual, Microsoft has felt the need to yet again totally reorganize control panel and the right-click-on-the-desktop menu.  I am sure some day the new organization will seem natural, but for now its just a gratuitous change with no apparent benefit

If at all possible, I advise you to wait for Service Pack 1, and for Moore's Law to let average computers catch up with Vista's requirements.  And don't even think about upgrading if you have old printers, scanners, and/or oddball devices you need to hook up -- there are very few Vista drivers out there for legacy equipmet

Posted on March 8, 2007 at 12:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (12)

I am So Disapointed

Maggies Farm reports that their site is banned in China.  I tested Coyote Blog at the same site they used.  And much to my chagrin, I am available in China.  I guess I am not trying hard enough. 

Posted on March 1, 2007 at 11:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Brains Too Scrambled to Blog

I took my daughter on a day trip to Magic Mountain, one of the better parks around for roller coasters (it's it still not Cedar Point, IMHO, though if you like inversions, Magic Mountain is the place).  We went on Friday because she had a special day off from school, and there was no one at the park.  In the first 30 minutes, we rode several of the top coasters all alone.  The only problem is that I am more used to getting a bit of a break between rides, waiting in line and such.  Anyway, we had a blast.

For those not up on their amusement park trivia, Magic Mountain was "Wallyworld" in the movie Vacation and is home to the first ever looping rollercoaster, the Revolution, which was featured in the movie Rollercoaster.  Since that first inversion, coaster designers have gone nuts.  The first roller coaster we rode on Friday, called Scream, had seven inversions in one ride.  It was also cool because it had no car.  When we were in the front, we were just strapped into chairs with nothing around us but the track below our feet - really cool.  Picture being the front guys in this photo. Through the day, we probably survived 50 inversions. 

Coaster designers have really gotten creative.  We rode sitting, standing, and lying on our stomach (what is called a flying roller coaster, you are sort of in the same position as in a hang-glider).  We rode on top of the track and hanging from the track.  One of the challenges of ride designers is to push the gees, both positive and negative, without making it downright painful.  Millennium Force at Sandusky Park is rightly considered perhaps the best roller coaster in the world because it plays with the gees without torturing you (the negative-G hills are great).  I thought several of the rides at Magic Mountain went over the line, in particular the Batman hanging coaster and the Tatsu flying coaster, when there were a few turns when I thought my head was going to explode.  Overall, we liked Scream the best - smooth, fun, scary without being painful.

Update: I said Millennium Force is the best coaster out there.  This one, also at Cedar Point, which I have not ridden, is the most elemental --  No  subtlety here  (go to the POV gallery on the right and watch the video).

Posted on February 18, 2007 at 12:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Beautiful Screen Technology

I saw this e-ink screen technology on a Sony e-book reader at Fry's Electronics the other day.  It is gorgeous.  Give me one of these with Linux and a web browser, and it will be very close to the device I have been looking for (something like the form factor of a Nokia 770 and the capability of the small sony handeld computer)

Posted on February 15, 2007 at 08:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Vista Update -- It Still Sucks

Short version: avoid Vista.  Longer version:  I wrote previously about Vista writing a new chapter in fair use: 

Because, having killed fair use for multiple copies, believe it or not, the media companies are attempting to kill fair use even for the original media by the original buyer!  I know this sounds crazy, but in Windows Vista, media companies are given the opportunity to, in software, study your system, and if they feel that your system is not secure enough, they can downgrade the quality of the media you purchased or simply refuse to have it play.  In other words, you may buy an HD DVD and find that the media refuses to play on your system, not because you tried to copy it, but because it feels like your system *might* be too open.  The burden of proof is effect on the user to prove to the media companies that their system is piracy-proof before the media they paid for will play...

Back to the book analogy, it's as if the book will not open and let itself be read unless you can prove to the publisher that you are keeping the book in a locked room so no one else will ever read it.  And it is Microsoft who has enabled this, by providing the the tools to do so in their operating system.  Remember the fallout from Sony putting spyware, err copy protection, in their CD's -- turns out that that event was just a dress rehearsal for Windows Vista.

Via Instapundit, Bruce Schneier concurs:

Windows Vista includes an array of "features" that you don't want. These features will make your computer less reliable and less secure. They'll make your computer less stable and run slower. They will cause technical support problems. They may even require you to upgrade some of your peripheral hardware and existing software. And these features won't do anything useful. In fact, they're working against you. They're digital rights management (DRM) features built into Vista at the behest of the entertainment industry.

And you don't get to refuse them.

The details are pretty geeky, but basically

Microsoft

has reworked a lot of the core operating system to add copy protection technology for new media formats like HD-DVD and Blu-ray disks. Certain high-quality output paths--audio and video--are reserved for protected peripheral devices. Sometimes output quality is artificially degraded; sometimes output is prevented entirely. And Vista continuously spends CPU time monitoring itself, trying to figure out if you're doing something that it thinks you shouldn't. If it does, it limits functionality and in extreme cases restarts just the video subsystem. We still don't know the exact details of all this, and how far-reaching it is, but it doesn't look good....

Unfortunately, we users are caught in the crossfire. We are not only stuck with DRM systems that interfere with our legitimate fair-use rights for the content we buy, we're stuck with DRM systems that interfere with all of our computer use--even the uses that have nothing to do with copyright....

In the meantime, the only advice I can offer you is to not upgrade to Vista.

We have about 50 computers in the company and I have banned everyone from upgrading to Vista.  I have studied Vista and there is nothing there that helps my business, and a lot that hurts it (e.g. higher initial price and much higher system requirements.)  If we upgraded, we might have to replace half our old ink jet printers just because the manufacturers are really unlikely to write Vista drivers for them.  We have 4 Dell's in the closet with XP loaded.  After those are used up, I will build all the future computers myself.  I have several OEM copies of XP on the shelf (less than 1/2 price of the Vista retail upgrade) and I will buy more if it looks like they are going to stop selling it.  I would switch everyone to Linux, except most of my employees are not very computer savvy and its just too hard to get them all trained.  I will probably only buy Vista for one box, which is my gaming machine at home, and even that is at least a year away before anyone has a killer DirectX 10 game I have to have.

Posted on February 12, 2007 at 08:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

End to Voice Mail?

I really hate voice mail.  It's like reverting back to the bad old days when data was stored on tapes and you had to spool through the whole thing to get what you want.  If you have 8 or 10 voice mails, there is no way to scan them to find the most important, you have to listen to them in order.  And how many times have you listened for five minutes to someone rambling on, waiting forever for them to get to the point or just give you their freaking phone number so you can call back.

So I am excited to try this service called SimulScribe.  Right now, it appears set up mostly for mobile phones, but I have an email into them about land lines.  Basically, you forward you phone to them when you don't pick up, and they record the message from the caller and then transcribe the message and send it to you by email or text messaging.  According to PC Magazine, it works pretty well.

Posted on February 7, 2007 at 09:41 AM | Permalink | Comments (10)

Computer-Building Lament

At the risk of being way to geeky here, I would like to ask the computer world if they could find some way for me to have a RAID disk drive array on my custom built PC's without having to also buy and install a floppy disk drive that I only use once.  For those who don't know, a RAID is an array of multiple, usually identical, hard drives that can be combined together for redundancy.  For example, two 250GB hard drives can be combined in a RAID such that they appear to be one 250GB drive to the system, but all data is mirrored on both drives, so if one fails, you still have everything, even without making backups.  I usually build RAIDs into my computers, either for redundancy or, if that is not needed, at least to combine multiple drives into one drive letter.  You can even build a raid where all files are split between the two drives, which is a reliability problem but makes for wicked fast drive access (kind of like splitting calculations between two CPUs)

Unfortunately, on most motherboards, the only way to install the RAID drivers if I want to install Windows onto the RAID is to load them with an old 3-1/2 inch floppy.  Which means I usually install a floppy drive on every build -- OK, its only $20 or so, but it still seems like a waste.   On my own computers, I just have one redundant floppy I pass around, but when I build for others, I don't want to leave them hanging if they have to reinstall the OS. 

I would think that this should be doable via a USB key, but I have never tried it.  Anyone out there know a better way?

</geekiness>  OK, I will now return to economics and business.

Posted on February 2, 2007 at 11:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (10)

Culver City Adopts Chinese Model of Internet Access

TJIC has a great link to a new law blog called CopyOwner focused no free speech issues.  CopyOwner observes that Culver City, California appears to be emulating the Chinese Internet model, providing access for free, but only if you accept state censoring:

First, they offer Internet access, but you must agree to “limited” Internet access. And they don’t mean limited hours of the day, limited locations, or a limited amount of time you can be on. No, when they say “limited,” they mean that they will censor access to parts of the Internet. (”By using this free wireless network you are agreeing and acknowledging you have read and accepted these terms and conditions of use, and this wireless network provides only limited access to the Internet.”) In other words, they do not offer Internet access at all....

Second, in order to gain the right to enjoy this free, public, non-Internet access, no matter what you read in the Bill of Rights (and the First Amendment, in particular) you must agree that the government may abridge your freedom of speech and you further agree that when it does so (as it promises to do), you will not exercise your right to sue for the violation of your First Amendment rights!

I’m not making this up. Here’s the fine print: “Further, [by using it] you are agreeing to waive any claims, including, but not limited to First Amendment claims, that may arise from the City and Agency’s decision to block access to … matter and websites [of its choosing] through this free wireless network ….”

From a legal standpoint, it is the same as if the Culver City public library were offering you free access to newspapers, but was first clipping out the articles it didn’t like and making you agree not to sue for censorship if you wanted to read what was left.

My thought at first was that this was a liability response, but my sense is that the courts have been pretty consistent in protecting ISPs when plaintiff lawyers try to drag them in as deep pockets into lawsuits  (e.g. trying to sue Earthlink because it was the medium for delivering a MySpace page which in turn allegedly facilitated some action someone is suing over).  I am left with the sense that this is just politicians trying to protect themselves from criticism.  I am almost tempted to see how this thing plays out - censorship really gets ugly in a democratic environment.  You end up with a million interest groups all lobbying that they know best what should be censored.  You would have people in the town office arguing for censorship of pornography, religion (both pro and con), evolution (pro and con), nazis, Israel, global warming skepticism.  Whatever.  (By the way, I have seen people arguing in some context for censoring every item in the preceding list)

Posted on February 1, 2007 at 09:46 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Is This Right?

I am really reluctant to post stuff like this without some independent vetting, because so many groups out there will distort reality into pretzels.  That being said, anyone know if this is accurate?  Or maybe point us all to a better source and/or debunking in the comments?

    "Section 220 of S. 1, the lobbying reform bill currently before the Senate, would require grassroots causes, even bloggers, who communicate to 500 or more members of the public on policy matters, to register and report quarterly to Congress the same as the big K Street lobbyists. Section 220 would amend existing lobbying reporting law by creating the most expansive intrusion on First Amendment rights ever. For the first time in history, critics of Congress will need to register and report with Congress itself.

    "The bill would require reporting of 'paid efforts to stimulate grassroots lobbying,' but defines 'paid' merely as communications to 500 or more members of the public, with no other qualifiers.

    "On January 9, the Senate passed Amendment 7 to S. 1, to create criminal penalties, including up to one year in jail, if someone 'knowingly and willingly fails to file or report.'

Mark Tapscott covered this issue here, but I am still not sure I have an accurate read on all this.

Update:  See comments.  As I feared, the above may distort the issue.  Brandon Berg thinks the law kicks in when you communicate to 500 or more members of the public on policy matters and get them to contact Congress.  It is not at all clear why I should have to register to perform such an activity, but this is narrower than implied in the press release above.

Update #2:  I am becomming increasingly convinced that Lieberman and McCain are the same guy.  Even down to their desire to protect incumbent politicians from political speech.

Update #3:  Jacob Sullum is also skeptical that the law is really as broad as advertised above.

Posted on January 17, 2007 at 03:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

I Need Some Blogs to Start Sucking

I am now past a saturation point on the number of feeds I have in my Google Reader account.  It has gotten to the point that managing the queue has become a chore rather than a pleasure.  Unfortunately, I seldom go more than a couple days before any one feed provides me with an article I would have been sorry to miss.

So, here is my request:  Some of you bloggers need to start sucking soon so I can pare down my reading list.

Posted on January 7, 2007 at 10:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Cool Site

This is a cool site for flight tracking.  It is better than other sites I have tried because it also allows tracking of private tail numbers (follow your CEO's jet! -- not really, most private owners block their tail number from tracking) and it has a cool real-time view around airports.  Here is O'Hare.  Hat Tip:  Tom Kirkendall

Posted on January 5, 2007 at 11:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

What Will Those French Think of Next?

Apparently, the French government is planning to sink a couple of Billion euros into a risky new technology called an "internet search engine." (via hit and run)

Germany and France had initially discussed plans to commit €1 billion to €2 billion, or $1.3 billion to $2.6 billion, over five years to Quaero. The project was to have been paid for by the French and German governments, with contributions from technology companies like Thomson and France Télécom on the west side of the Rhine, and Siemens and Deutsche Telekom to the east.

In related news, the French government also announced a massive technology development effort to invent some kind of round thing for cars to roll around on.

Posted on January 3, 2007 at 01:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

First Annual Blogsthetics Award

Yes, I know that the blogosphere needs another award like Washington needs another lobbyist.  But for a while now I have wanted to create an award aimed solely at blog aesthetics.  What I am shooting for is an award that pays no attention to content, that has as much to do with the blog's reasoned arguments as the Miss Hawaiian Tropic Bikini competition has to do with mental agility.  In a world where 1,998,000 out of 2,000,000 blogs are butt-ugly Blogger template jobs with all the charm of a Wal-Mart at 3AM, I would like to reward real creativity. 

What I want to do is take your nominations in the comments of this post. Please post links to the blog websites you think have the nicest visual style.  I will choose six or eight I like the best, and put them up for a vote.  Just to give you an idea, here are a couple I have viewed in the last few hours that I think are attractive in some way.  This blog has a pleasing layout.  And this blog has a gorgeous header image, though the rest of the layout does not do much for me.  Ironically, this blog layout has never done much for me, either, and this site always makes me want to poke my eyeballs out.  But you may disagree.  Again, please ignore content -- the last thing I need here is some left-right flamefest.

As a second competition, because everyone seems to like the flameouts more than the successes (just look at the popularity of the American Idol episodes where they show the total losers) I will also accept nominations for the worst blog look and feel.  Is there a blog out there you think has a "face made for RSS"?  You can nominate it too!

Posted on January 2, 2007 at 10:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)