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mahna mahna .net
Wednesday, 23 December 2009
JWZ’s Christmas present to the whole interwebs is a post detailing how to get all your Facebook updates without logging in to Facebook. Yep, all those notes, links, and status updates can flow into your feed reader of choice, where you can read up without the lunacy of The Facebook Experience. Perfect.

[What’s that, you say? You like logging in to Facebook, spending time there? I see. You and I are not wired up similarly. You also like going to the mall this time of year, yes?]
posted to /tech at 8:57pm :: 0 responses
Monday, 09 March 2009
Firefox 3.1 beta 3 is expected to arrive this week. If you’re running the current version of Ubuntu Linux, this new Firefox edition (codenamed ‘Shiretoko’) is already easily installable via an unofficial package repository.

However, due to an oddity in Ubuntu’s default font settings, the fonts in Firefox 3.1 look spindly and kinda bizarre (though in no way unreadable) on Ubuntu Intrepid (8.10) machines. (The same apparently happens in the nascent Jaunty (9.04) version of Ubuntu; it’s being treated as a bug.) This issue has been noticed over at Ubuntu Forums but no simple solution was forthcoming. Until now. more...
posted to /tech at 7:09am :: 1 response
Thursday, 30 November 2006
The Great Pine, by CezanneI’ve written before about Pine, the e-mail client I’ve been using for more than a decade. My love for Pine is hard to describe. I cannot think of another software application (of any type) that so perfectly lets me do exactly what I want to do, quickly and efficiently, no more, no less, never crashing, never surprising me in any way even as it has slowly evolved and sprouted new features. Pine is very easy to learn and use for geeks and non-geeks alike. No, it does not look modern. It does not need to. E-mail is a text medium.* A text-based app can handle things just fine. Pine does better than that. Pine kicks ass.

And now even moreso. Earlier tonight, the Free Software ecosystem grew a bit richer with the first public release of Alpine, the successor to Pine. Alpine looks and works just like Pine always has, and runs on Windows, Linux, and the Mac OS just like Pine did, but they’ve cleaned things up under the hood and rebirthed the whole thing under the Apache license, which is good news for everyone. Pine’s source has long been available, but Pine was never Open Source (or Free Software) because though you were allowed to meddle with Pine’s source code on your own, you were not allowed to share any modified or improved form of Pine. That restriction is gone with Alpine, so if the University of Washington chooses not to accept code contributions from the hacking public, legitimate, supercharged versions of Alpine could still emerge.

It will be interesting to see what happens with Alpine. All I know is, I like the idea that if I just learn enough C, I can make the slight changes I’ve been itching to make all these years and bequeath Mahna Mahpine to the world. I like that this part of my essential software stack is Free at last.

Here I present what may be the Web’s first screenshot of Alpine.

* Or is it a textual medium? Is there a copyeditor out there to make the call?
posted to /tech at 7:29am :: 0 responses
Tuesday, 07 November 2006
One of the main reasons I am not an iPod owner: I can’t stand the way iPods store their files with scrambled filenames, in a pathetic and half-hearted attempt to curb music piracy. I simply don’t want to deal with the inconvenience of a device that can’t speak to a computer unless that computer is running iTunes (or some Linux-based program that speak iPodese, like Rhythmbox, Amarok, Banshee, or Exaile). A hard-drive based MP3 player should just behave like a damned hard drive.

Enter YamiPod, which seems cool enough to perhaps make me an iPod owner someday. This app lives on your iPod, and runs under OS X, Windows, and Linux. It seems to let you freely copy music to and from your iPod to any computer. Can one of my iPod-using homies give this a look-see and tell me if it’s as cool as I think it is?
posted to /tech at 3:06am :: 1 response
Wednesday, 01 November 2006
Aux2CarPROBLEM: You want to play the music on your iPod (or other digital jukebox) in the car, where you have a factory head unit with an AUX that only talks to CD changers — and you live in an urban area where all FM frequencies are taken, so those stupid FM transmitter solutions simply don’t work at all.

SOLUTION: The Aux2Car from Peripheral Electronics. You purchase this sucker, plus a customized harness that connects it to the head unit in your particular vehicle. As far as your car stereo is concerned, this sucker is a CD changer, but of course, it’s not. It just talks to whatever device you plug into it.

The whole shebang cost me about a hundred bucks (great prices on eBay…), and it took about an hour to install. The installation procedure includes the setting of DIP switches, which I hadn’t encountered for years; I felt taken back in time in a very happy way. And now, there’s a plug in my car that fits right into the line out of my MP3 player (a 20GB Rockbox-ed iRiver IHP-120 — soon to be replaced by an 80GB iPod, as soon as Rockbox runs on those), or the headphone jack of my Treo 700P cell phone, which is sporting a 4GB card full of tunes these days. Digital music in the car, at long last! HUZZAH!
posted to /tech at 10:01pm :: 0 responses
Thursday, 17 November 2005
There’s a nice little piece over at the WSJ Online (the free part of their online presence) about interactive fiction (or IF — sometimes referred to as text adventures). The 11th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition has just come to a close, and there are a clutch of new games to be played. Color me excited. Sure, modern games are great, but to a wordsmith like me, there is something special about interactive fiction. Beautiful prose that responds to the “reader’s” impulses may seem quaint by today’s gaming standards, but I find something restful and unique about a largely blank screen, a few magical words, and a blinking cursor. (As I have said before.)

Flying out to (and back from) Boston last June, I played For a Change and Galatea, two award-winning, free works of IF. Neither will drive you nuts with insane puzzles, and both contain some top-notch, engrossing writing. Highly recommended.
posted to /tech at 9:17pm :: 0 responses
Wednesday, 30 March 2005
You like your iPod? You dig that part of 21st Century life is a neverending stream of new and exciting gadgets? Salon’s Andrew Leonard has a fantastic piece up about why the Grokster case — argued before the Supreme Court yesterday — is so damned important. Edward Felten, a Princeton prof who’s no stranger to this and related issues, notes a brief real-world example of the future that awaits us if this decision goes the wrong way. If the court fails to, uh, grok what’s at stake here, you can kiss certain kinds of innovation good-bye, and you’ll have the big entertainment companies to thank.

It’s interesting to note that in arguments yesterday, one idea that got kicked around was that business models might be useful in determining whether a new technology is legal. If that’s the way the court goes, what will it mean for new technologies offered up by geeks for free, absent any business model at all?
posted to /tech at 6:30pm :: 1 response
Tuesday, 08 March 2005
Many of my geek friends chastise me for my love of certain pat phrases about technology, like “the Internet changes everything” and “information wants to be free.” Thing of it is, these two in particular keep proving themselves true over and over again.

Case in point: Fiona Apple’s new album, Extraordinary Machine. Or perhaps I shouldn’t call it “new,” since work on it apparently wrapped up more than two years ago. But then Fiona’s label, Sony, decided that none of her new work was radio-friendly, and thus they refused to spend money publishing and promoting the work. So Extraordinary Machine has sat collecting dust.

Some Fiona fans have been working on a grassroots effort to get Sony to release the material, but in the past week, something else has happened. All the music in question has been leaked — a lot of it going out over the airwaves of KNDD 107.7 in Seattle, apparently — and now you can grab your own complete copy of Extraordinary Machine online: Just ask your favorite Torrent search engine where to go. (Here’s a link that works for now.)

Information wants to be free, and in the digital age, music is just another form of information. And yes, the Internet changes everything: It can even make the art-hostile decisions of a moneygrubbing megacorp irrelevant.

[How’s the album? So far, sounds like stuff Fiona fans like me will enjoy…]
posted to /tech at 9:08pm :: 1 response
Saturday, 18 December 2004
If you use a KVM switch to move between a PC running Windows and a PC running Linux, you’ve probably encountered Drunken Mouse Syndrome, in which, upon returning to the Linux box, you find your mouse pointer freaks out and behaves wildly, unpredictably, and angrily when you so much as breathe in the direction of your input device. For a long time I assumed that Drunken Mouse Syndrome was the fault of my KVM. Turns out, (1) that’s not true, and (2) there’s a fix. more...
posted to /tech at 12:17am :: 2 responses
Thursday, 04 November 2004
Need to pull the Internet out of the air when you’re traveling? Here are the top five domestic hotel chains offering free WiFi.

[spotted at The Morning News]
posted to /tech at 12:03am :: 0 responses
Tuesday, 28 September 2004
I have two long, narrow rugs adorning the hardwood floor in my hall at Chez Newton (The Global House of Chillage). Until recently, said rugs were held in place by these nifty sorta-sticky things that IKEA makes that go under rugs. The IKEA name for this sorta-sticky thing is Patrull, a strange name to be sure, even for IKEA. And I’m pretty certain that the plural of Patrull is Patrull. But I digress.

The problem with Patrull is that over time, they lose their grip and you need new ones. Not wanting to deal with the traffic and parking nightmare that is modern-day Emeryville, I decided to stay away from IKEA’s brick-and-mortar store and instead head to to order myself a new pack o’ Patrull. more...
posted to /tech at 12:27am :: 1 response
Monday, 23 August 2004
A Spanish-language version of Windows XP, destined for Latin American markets, asked users to select their gender between “not specified,” “male,” or “bitch,” because of an unfortunate error in translation.
posted to /tech at 4:23pm :: 0 responses
Tuesday, 17 August 2004
Pine: the best e-mail app everThere has been a lot of online coverage about eBay now owning 25% of Craigslist, the Web site and indispensable tool (for Bayareans, anyway) where I found my current job, my current apartment, and even a couple of dates. But in this piece in the Chron, Craigslist founder Craig Newmark says something that makes my Pine-lovin’ heart sing:
I sometimes use an Apple PowerBook, but for my purposes the Linux systems are snappier. Frankly, I do most of my work in e-mail, and I use a fairly old e-mail tool called Pine (a free e-mail program administered by the University of Washington).
So now I am aware of two other people who use Pine. Neat!

[Thanks to Spike for the link.]
posted to /tech at 5:17pm :: 3 responses
Friday, 18 June 2004
EFF employee/activist and science-fiction author Cory Doctorow gave a talk at Microsoft Research about why he thinks Bill & Co. should quit building digital rights management into their software. He manages to tie together cryptography, the invention of radio, e-books, Flowbees, the way AT&T used to own every phone in the country, player pianos, Apple iTunes, Ringo, the Luther Bible, DVD region encoding, and cellphone ringtones as he explains why DRM will never work and can only inhibit innovation and incredible business opportunities.

If you’ve rolled your eyes at me during my DVD region encoding rant (or my iPods-are-evil rant), GO READ THIS DAMMIT. It’s also required reading for geeks and artists of all flavors.

(By the way, on the subject of ringtones, if you’ve chosen a cellphone that requires you to pay for ringtones, you’re on crack. One of the greatest things about my Treo 600 pda/phone is that any old MIDI file can be a ringtone. Didja know that the Web harbors free MIDI versions of just about any tune you can think of? My phone alerts me to the end of a meditation sitting with a sparkly little rendition of “Within You, Without You.” A nice little shot of George that always does me right.)
posted to /tech at 9:18am :: 4 responses
Thursday, 27 May 2004
It’s kinda creepy when a site you last visited on a lazy Tuesday afternoon at work more than three years ago suddenly e-mails you out of the blue.
We haven't seen you in a while...
our records show that you last signed in to Tickle,
formerly known as Emode, on February 13, 2001.
posted to /tech at 8:27am :: 0 responses
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