Around the Site
Open Source Software
Not many updates (September 9, 2013)
As I'm sure is clear to you based on the dates below, I
haven't been doing updates here. I have done them lots of other places
though. Specifically we had a blog during our volunteer experience in
bolivia, filled with lots of good things that are still relevant. Read up.
pub 1024D/95207C90 2006-05-23
I'm Getting Married! (4-1-07)
Yesterday I proposed to Laura and she said yes! It was a wonderful day, I'm so excited! See the video.
Day Against DRM (10-3-06)
Today is the day when people all over the world are standing up to fight against DRM. If you don't know what I'm talking about, check out this explanation of DRM. For those who didn't click the link...Basically its technology that companies put on music, video, text, images, etc that keeps you from doing things with it. The only person who controls how much you can do is the company that put the DRM on the content, and these companies frequently use it to take away your legal rights to the content. For example, the DRM that comes on DVDs keeps you from making a backup of that DVD. Its not technically difficult, lots of people have figured out how to do it, its just illegal for you to make a backup. So, when you get a scratch on your DVD you'll have to go buy a new one.
However the real reason that the content creators are using DRM isn't to keep you from making backups....there aren't enough people who lose/damage their media for that to make a significant impact on their bottom line. The real reason is so that when the next wave of technology comes out, you'll have to buy the content all over again. The problem for them is now that we have DVDs and CDs, we can make perfect digital copies of our media. In the case of movies, apple has recently come out with an iPod that plays videos. The movie studios want you to go out and buy their movies in the iPod format, even though you already own the DVD, and all you'd have to do is run the DVD through some cheap or free software to get it on the iPod. By making using that software illegal, they force people to buy it from the apple store, which puts even more profit in their pocket (did you ever notice that movies on iTunes are just as expensive, even though there's no cost for actually making the DVDs and shipping them to the stores!) .
Anyway, today's the day to stand up against DRM. From today on, stop buying media with DRM in it, from Apple iTunes, Napster, Yahoo, Amazon's Donwload Store, etc. Also, check out Defective By Design, they're big in fighting DRM.
Using RSS Feeds with Azureus (5-31-06)
Did you know that you can setup Azureus to automatically download and start torrents using RSS feeds? You can. You just need the RSS Feed Scanner plugin! I've written a nice tutorial on how to do this, check it out.
The New Wikipedia (1-12-06)
It's in everybody's interest to make Wikipedia a trusted source for information (Except the nice people at Britannica, they're scared). However, even its authors agree that by its very nature, its not a stable, reliable source. We need a way to keep the positive aspects, like the ability for anyone to easily contribute. However, we need a way to make the good content stand out, the controversial content be know, and the bad content fade to the back. It should also be able to change rapidly with the times, yet preserve some historical record of what the original authors were thinking. To achieve all this, Wikipedia will have to change and grow in new ways.
Cool (Legal) Music (8-10-05)
Grrr, I'm so frustrated how many industries can amass great fortunes (and their leaders get filthy rich) while there is so much poverty (and a ton of associated problems) in the world today. In my opinion the most ridiculous of these industries are the music and movie industries. They don't even deal in goods (like bananas, cars, or t-shirts) but in ideas. Their whole industry is built off taking the copyright from artists and using it to make the most money possible. The value of a CD isn't the plastic that makes it up like a banana, but is the data that is on it. Now I don't have a big problem with the situation thus far, but it gets worse. The record companies are basically a big anti-competitive monopoly. If you're an artist and don't sign with one of them, its very hard to get your music out there....so any musician who wants to succeed in the music industry feels they need to sign with one. Because the musicians don't have any choice besides the big guys, the big guys can basically do whatever they want. This is where it gets really ugly. The companies often take up to 90% of the profit off the top, then charge the bands for things like studio recording fees. But that's not even the bad part...the companies also make the artists sign away the rights to their art! So, if I ran into on of the members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and we got to be buddies, he couldn't legally give me a copy of his song! Also, many groups are often forced into long-term contracts, where any future songs they develop automatically belong to the company! To me it's ludicrous that someone else can own and idea that came from your creative talent....not just a CD (or some new physical invention) but the actual idea!
Anyway, I'm soooo sick of all this I've decided that I'm never going to buy a CD from these groups again. I'd like to encourage you to join me. If you don't know which groups this may consist of, check out http://magnetbox.com/riaa/, that will tell you what CDs are helping the evil system. Also, for a more professional view of this whole situation, check out the website http://www.downhillbattle.org/, they say it much better than I can.
Also, I've been listening around for good, non-major label music for a while. There's a couple nice sites to check out if you want to search http://www.mp3tunes.com and http://www.garageband.com. Also, I've found a couple of really awesome songs that will only cost you 88 cents (plus you can sample before you buy)! Check out Emily Richards, the song Surrender and Brother Love, the song Summertime. They're both great songs, that I'd really recommend :-)
Bit Torrent (and the Health of the Internet) (6-08-05)
There's never enough upstream bandwidth for a server. Everybody from Yahoo and Microsoft on down to me and my little server has to be weary of what they host and how they host it. It would be easy for someone to post a hundred megabyte video of something, and if somebody linked it on Slashdot, you could have ten thousand people all trying to download it within an hour :-( This would require thousands of megabits of bandwidth to keep up, something very few can afford.
The solution.....BitTorrent (check it out on Wikipedia, they have a MUCH better description). This takes the file and breaks it up into small chunks. Then when people start trying to download the file, it hands out the chunks. The trick is, once somebody downloads a chunk, another person trying to download that same chunk can now be directed to the first person instead of the server. That way, as more people try to download the file, there is a lot more bandwidth available for people to download from. That makes it REALLY fast for people download, and cheap for people uploading.....everybody wins! I would STRONGLY encourage you to use BitTorrent whenever possible to download things, and encourage others to as well. For a client, I recommend Azureus....its free an open source.
I've written a page on how to get podcasts. They're really cool, and I'd highly recommend trying it out.
My personal favorite is The Catholic Insider. This show is done by a catholic priest from the Netherlands, who is quite hip and definitely not an "in-your-face-religion" type. He does some neat stuff about the Catholic church (like covering the pope's death, funeral, and benedict's election) but he tries very hard to make it something even non-Catholic or non-Christians would be interested in.
There's another one that I check out almost every day: Slashdot Review. This is a ten minute summary of the day's news on Slashdot. Its really cool because I can listen to the news on my drive to work every day, then I can spend my time in the evening having fun instead of catching up on the news.
Maps (Before 5-1-05)
If you haven't tried it yet...there's some awesome ways to get maps and aerial photographs (and satellite images). First, there's the one everybody talks about: Google Maps - maps.google.com. Its cool, but because its totally web based, its somewhat limited in what it can do.
There's also terraserver - www.terraserver-usa.com, which is a similar thing, but it doesn't have quite as nice of an interface. Terraserver does have some other types of maps available though, such as 1m for (almost) the whole US and USGS topo.
So, like I said, terraserver has a pretty lousy interface, well this guy named Doug Cox made one that is far better called USAPhotoMaps. This is my favorite, it absolutely rocks! I like it most because I can download huge swaths of map and put it on my laptop for when I'm not connected to the internet. It also works with my GPS, so I can load tracks from hikes into it and see exactly where I went. (Check out our Meremac hike (88MB) and Taum Sauk hike (62MB), go to GPS->Tracks->Display and select the file that ends in .CSV to see our track).
There's one other really cool tool for maps, this one came out of NASA and uses some of the same terraserver data. The cool one about this one is they make it really easy to zoom in and out. They also let you change the angle that your looking at it from (instead of straight down) which is really cool because they then add in elevation data and make the map or pictures 3-D. So with enough finesse to the controls you can fly around a mountain....way fun. This tool is called WorldWind (Wikipedia) and you can download the latest executable from my server , but I HIGHLY recommend you use the bit torrent feed. (If you don't know what bit torrent is, check out Wikipedia and get Azureus (or get it from my server) (you'll also need the Java Runtime from Sun or my server).
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