Figuring Stuff Out

Archive for the ‘semi-structured thoughts’ Category

This is where the posts in which I ramble aimlessly go. Usually there is a theme or reason for the post, but it’s not specifically on a project.

Weather Wimps

Posted by Mike on May 12, 2007

My Firefox plugin for the weather forecast isn’t working today so I went to the Weather Network. The temperatures listed and such are all fine, but if you’ll direct your attention to the screencap below you’ll understand the title of this short post. Are they seriously suggesting mitts, snow-boots, and a parka for 6 Celsius? I kind of want to see the suggestion for a cold winter’s day now, is it a space suit?



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Posted by Mike on May 4, 2007

It’s been awhile since last I posted, this stems largely from the fact that I’ve not been working on any projects (other than a supremely frustrating one involving Samba, I’m not super hot at networking it seems).  I came across this admittedly minor mistake today but it’s always fun to me when American’s screw up on Canadian stories (to be fair they did things properly in the article, but the title is a little misleading).  Anyway, it seems that the Ontario Liberals have decided to block Facebook and Youtube on their worker’s computers.  The article makes the valid point that there is actually a lot of useful information to be had on these two sites (although the time wasting temptation is pretty hard to deny).  Anyway, I’ll report back with a little more when I next get through a project, or perhaps I’ll go back to trying to explain the steps of installing Linux.

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Feeding the beast

Posted by Mike on April 17, 2007

Hello all. I’ll get back to posting about my adventures with Linux again soonish but for now I thought I would play into the hands of the Internet marketers and talk about two applications that I’ve been fooling around with recently: Joost and Particls. Joost is an attempt to create a viable Internet TV service that depends on short targeted adsJoost GUI (you can read a better description here). It’s in closed beta and I applied to get in a few months ago and recently got an invitation. I’ve played with it a bit and things look pretty reasonable at the moment. The video does occasionally stall (I imagine this is because the user base is not that big yet, it depends on p2p) and the content is a little weird, they have a lot of weak ‘game show’ format stuff from Much Music but also some pretty cool sports movies and indie films. The interface is pretty intuitive to me, which is good because there aren’t a lot of instructions, and it sure is pretty.

The other App I’ve been messing with is called Particls (not a misspelling). It’s a new approach to monitoring your various streams of information on the web. The idea is that it after giving it terms that interest you, along with the RSS feeds that you follow, and letting it look at your browser history it is able to find items that are of interest to you and bring them to your attention, while having the general feeds scroll unobtrusively along the screen (or not it’s all very customizable). It to is in private beta, but again I signed up a few months ago and recently got an invitation. I’ve had a little bit of trouble with this one, it doesn’t seem to actually be displaying most of the info it finds which is a bit frustrating. I’ve found that their support staff is very helpful and quick to respond (although we haven’t figured out what’s gone wrong yet).

On the whole, I’m a little bit more excited about Joost. If they can get some more content and smooth out the hiccups in video delivery it would be really cool (I’d love to come up with a means of cutting my TV cable, so get the CBC to sign up Hockey Night in Canada and I’m there). Particls is a neat idea, but I’ll reserve judgement until I get it up and truly running.

One last interesting discovery I’ve made while participating in these private betas is that they give us invitations that we can pass on to others. I like getting comments on this thing and they seem like a good way to bribe a few of you to do so. With that in mind I’ll give one invite, of the person’s choice, from one or the other to anyone who comments on a different post on this blog (so make sure to leave your e-mail address so I can get in touch with you). I’m not going to announce when I run out of invites, cause I want people to keep commenting (and I might get more), so it’s probably worth a shot.

See you in the comments…

Update: Seems that I have Particls working now (there was something hinky going on with my Firewall, I hate it when tech problems are my fault).  I’ve got a constant stream of information scrolling across my desktop now, although at the moment it seems to all be coming from a few of my feeds (So not that much discovery yet, but that will probably take time).  It seems kind of neat, although I think I will have to turn it off whenever I want to be truly productive, but that is probably mostly the result of my fascination with moving pictures….

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Distracted, but back

Posted by Mike on April 17, 2007


 Well, the Mono is nearly gone and I’m getting primed to start posting again (soon after I finish the last few papers so I can graduate).Desktop Tower Defense  Standing in the way of my ability to post, complete papers, or eat is this crazy little flash game called, Desktop Tower Defense.  It’s super simple but it appeals to the strategy gamer geek in me and you can kind of set it up and let it run (at least on the easier settings).  I figure that if I’m not getting any work done I should at least try to pull you all down with me so have fun.

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Cough Cough

Posted by Mike on March 26, 2007

No posts for the next little while, I’m sick with something mono, can you believe that?!?  Well, I’m going back to bed perhaps I’ll post in a day or two.

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Hey Artsy Folks

Posted by Mike on March 15, 2007

In my trolling of the blogosphere I came across this profile for a website that has kind of a nifty approach to custom designed t-shirts.  Basically they have a gallery of images and you drag and drop them wherever you want on the T-shirt you’re designing.   Where the appeal to artsy folk comes in is that they will let you upload your own designs (that do get vetted it seems) and when someone uses it to put together a t-shirt you get a, small cut.  I know that some of you have artistic abilities, and I think it would be cool if I could mix and match your stuff on a new t-shirt (my current collection is developing some pretty scandalous holes..)

That is all.

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Getting up and Waddling

Posted by Mike on March 11, 2007

Back to the main project at hand, selecting and installing a Linux distro on your computer.

But first a little self-congratulation, in an earlier post I crowed about my first search string but felt bad that my blog had not been helpful in solving the problem that my searcher was aiming to fix. As penance I posted up the command for exiting the command line in Ubuntu. As luck would have it, it seems that another poor soul found the process for getting out of Ubuntu a little confusing and came to my page in search of help today, hopefully he found the post in question and got some help.

Now that I’ve described a couple distros, the obvious question would be: “Why would I ever want to use Linux?” To be honest it’s a good one, but there are a number of good answers. Apart from the obvious Microsoft hating answer (which I don’t buy), the best reason is that it is free, in both senses of the word. This is not the place for a discussion of the open source philosophy, but let me say briefly that not only do you not have to pay any money for Linux, or most of it’s many many applications, you also are allowed to do anything you want with the code that runs it. For the non-coder geeks out there this is probably not super important, you likely don’t want to change the behaviour of your operating system substantially and might be a little scared at the very idea (I certainly was).  There are other reasons though.

Depending on the Distro you use, you will learn a lot about how your computer works and slowly but surely become much more able to fix problems as they arise (it’s been nice to have access to an old computer that I don’t mind having to wipe out from time to time).  This strikes me as a really good reason for more people to get on board with Linux.  Working with OS X and Windows is great, they both take care of most of the difficult stuff of running our computer and look pretty good doing it. The problem is though, that when something goes wrong (and really it’s just a matter of time) most people are basically helpless.  Fooling around with the settings and building your own system (even in the straightforward and user friendly environment that Ubuntu presents) just arms you with a few more tricks up your sleeve when the bottom falls out.

OK, enough of that.  Another post will follow close behind this one with details on actually moving forward on the installation process.

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Heads Up

Posted by Mike on March 4, 2007

Or eyes up I suppose. I just put up a new page, called Mac Hack Roundup, on this blog that contains all of the best tips and apps I accumulated from my own research and the suggestions of my visitors. This is how I plan to deal with all of the projects I undertake here, keep on blogging while it’s going on and then take the cream of the crop and put it in a static page that you can check out anytime (which hopefully saves you having to go back through old posts searching for the app that sounded good 3 months ago). Hope it helps

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What’s an Ontology?

Posted by Mike on March 3, 2007

I’m not actually going to answer that question, largely because in my field it’s highly confusing (and somewhat debatable). Instead I mean to write briefly about a rather old essay posted by a guy named Clay Shirky (he’s a little famous in some circles). I’ve come across this article a few times for various assignments I’ve done here at school and it’s always been one of my favorites (I would wager that even those of you not doing library school will find it at least a little entertaining).

Aside from his lively prose Shirky’s article centres on a topic that I have developed a keen interest in over the past two years, namely user tagging. There are a lot of competing terms for describing this phenomenon , but it seems that folksonomy has won the day (despite being completely inaccurate) over the next closest rival, democratic tagging (also completely misleading). If all of that sounds like Klingon to you, and you are not an even bigger Star Trek geek than I, perhaps a quick jaunt over to Wikipedia would be worth your while.

Any-who, Mr Shirky basically argues that days of the professionally created and maintained thesaurus (controlled terms, taxonomy, ontology) are quickly coming to be numbered. He uses a number of arguments, some more convincing than others, to prove this. In puttering around Google though I found a couple well crafted counter arguments to Shirky. I’m not at all negative about the potential of folksonomy, in fact I think that ignoring it or dismissing it is an enormous mistake, but to argue that it will wipe out all the old ways is foolish. Just like overly enthusiastic predictions were made that automated indexing would render human practitioners obsolete have proven false, the rise of folksonomy just represents another tool in the shelf for organizing information.

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Posted by Mike on March 1, 2007

This is to cool.  A web-app blog that I frequent has pointed out a new effort by conservatives to strike a blow against the Liberal Web Media (or something like that) by setting up the Conservapedia (I don’t know if this is a one month early April Fools thing or not).  Leaving aside the insanity of creating an encyclopedia for the sole purpose of representing a particular political point of view, there are some really funny articles in it.  This one for instance is a fantastic example, it seems pretty dry until you get to the last little bit and then you really just have to ask yourself: “What the Hell?”

It’s no Wookiepedia but look around a little and see if you can’t find any other examples kookieness…

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