Is There a Pro-Technology Candidate Out There?

CNET has a pretty interesting article on Joe Biden’s less than stellar record on technology:

By choosing Joe Biden as their vice presidential candidate, the Democrats have selected a politician with a mixed record on technology who has spent most of his Senate career allied with the FBI and copyright holders, who ranks toward the bottom of CNET’s Technology Voters’ Guide, and whose anti-privacy legislation was actually responsible for the creation of PGP.

Well, at least we know who to thank for PGP.  What would we do without Biden and those internets Al Gore invented?

Check out this Voter’s Guide to see how the other candidates rank on technology.  Some of note:

  • Barack Obama:  50%
  • John McCain:  31.25%
  • Hillary Clinton:  33.33%
  • Ron Paul:  80%

First They Came For The Chemists…

A retired Massachusetts chemist had his home raided (without a warrant of course) and his property stolen by authorities. Why?

Experiments. That’s right. He was doing experiments.

Deeb is not accused of making methamphetamine or other illegal drugs. He’s not accused of aiding terrorists, synthesizing explosives, nor even of making illegal fireworks.

Pamela Wilderman, the code enforcement officer for Marlboro, stated, “I think Mr. Deeb has crossed a line somewhere. This is not what we would consider to be a customary home occupation.”

Wilderman thinks he has crossed a line…somewhere. Sounds like reason enough to me. I’m really scared by precedents like this when they go unchecked. It’s a threat not only to people who like to tinker with science as a hobby, but also to people who homeschool and people who may be developing new products or processes in their spare time.

One day it may be illegal to develop WordPress themes, and there won’t be any chemists to stand up for us.

via Slashdot

**UPDATE**

Reader Greg Compton sent this via Twitter–“inspector is a former theatre major“.

At least Massachusetts residents don’t have to worry about getting their doors kicked in during charades night.

iAm iStupid

That’s what this iPhone application should have been called.

I Am Rich was available for purchase from the phone’s App Store for, get this, $999.99 — the highest amount a developer can charge through the digital retailer, said Armin Heinrich, the program’s developer. Once downloaded, it doesn’t do much — a red icon sits on the iPhone home screen like any other application, with the subtext “I Am Rich.”

Apple has since removed this application from its store, but not before eight people bought it.  I say bully for the developer and his clever application.

I keep waiting for Apple to come up with a clever “A Fool and His Money” commercial.

I Would LOVE to RTFM

So I’m working on a project for my job job (I’m not quite able to support a family on blogging–yet), and have been wrestling with a biggish enterprise software package.  As you’d expect, there’s quite a bit of convolution to it–things like hundreds of database tables with nondescript names like T001, T0043, H3222, etc.  (Was this thing designed to run on AS400?)  It’s actually not that big of a deal.  A part of me secretly enjoys stuff like that.  It’s like a giant sudoku, except instead of 1-9 the numbers go 1-100.  And no matter how much of the puzzle you solve, there’s still more to work on.  That means no boredom, provided you like puzzles.

Most packages of this size were designed and coded up long long ago in a galaxy far far away.  Any growth, expansion, or enhancements they’ve undergone were probably done piecemeal with who knows who taking over and steering the thing onto the latest technology at each fork in the road.  That’s bound to happen to any project this size I guess.  It’s sort of like what you’d expect to happen to a person who was reasonably good looking in their youth and, as they aged, had countless plastic surgeries performed by different doctors of varying abilities.  The individual pieces may be really nice, but put them together and you have an odd colored face mess.

Usually these type products involve a lot of RTFM.

Don’t get me wrong…I like to RTFM.  My willingness to RTFM means I’ll probably never be out of a job for long unless I want to be.  You could say I make a living Ring-TFM.  But please, large software corporations who charge hundreds of thousands of dollars for your products, make the manuals readily available.

One of the manuals I was reading this morning referred to another manual–the “Installation and Tuning Guide”.  Like any good manual reader working for a company that’s shelled out some bucks for this pricey behemoth, I used the login for our company (they don’t give the info to just any old body), and searched for this manual on their site.  No dice.  So I searched the support base to see if anyone else had trouble finding it.  That didn’t work either.  I did find two other manuals–one which whose title led me to believe it was relevant but wasn’t, and the other to the last version of the same product.

So I asked my boss if they’d provided a DVD, pack of CDs, or even physical books when we bought the product.  Nope.  But he was able to find the manual I needed nonetheless.  Guess where…

Google.

Freaking Google found it, even though their own search engine on their own site that is available only to customers who paid for support couldn’t.  Now, not only am I irritated that it couldn’t be found on their site, I also feel like an idiot for not trying Google FIRST.

Thinking Games Useful For Corporations

Most video games hold my attention for about 3 hours. That’s not 3 hours at a time, that’s 3 hours total. The one exception is strategy games, which I can play into the wee hours of the night. Civilization is my all-time favorite, mostly because it absolutely destroys me, but there are several other “thinking” games out there, and now they are being used to do good instead of evil–unless of course you find corporations evil, in which case they continue to do evil.  Then again, that probably makes you a communist, so evil in your eyes is probably good in mine.

Now video games are making their way into corporations. These “serious games”—the term that’s been kicking around the last few years to describe games that are learning tools—use the same technology as the latest PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 titles, but they’re not targeted at Doritos-munching 14-year-olds

The Rise of Corporate Games.

Oh yeah…Rock Band 2 Comes out in September.

DING! I’m IM’ing You Regarding My Text Message

I’m a big fan of “pull” type communications like RSS and Twitter. I call them “pull” because I have total control over when and how I get information–nothing is ever pushed onto me. While they aren’t always productive, they are seldom interruptive. Interruptive technologies like IM and email with a little “ding” or popup are the quickest way to get me off my train of thought.

One reason I dislike text messaging so much is that it is abused. People feel like it’s ok to send a text about something that isn’t important enough for a phone call. From my perspective, if it isn’t worth a phone call or isn’t important enough to send later in an email, it’s not important. Loud concerts and emergency situations are the only ones that make sense to me for texting.

According to the NTY:

A typical information worker who sits at a computer all day turns to his e-mail program more than 50 times and uses instant messaging 77 times, according to one measure by RescueTime, a company that analyzes computer habits. The company, which draws its data from 40,000 people who have tracking software on their computers, found that on average the worker also stops at 40 Web sites over the course of the day.

Thanks to RSS, I have the number of websites I visit daily cut down to less than 10. Of course, I probably read info from 50-100 sites on any given day, but I only have to visit one site to read most of them. Maybe one day I’ll grow to love these technologies. Apparently I hated Twitter at one time too.

HT 43 Folders

LaCie’s 2Big Network Accessible Storage

Over the last few years I’ve recommended external USB drives to friends as a way to backup the photos, video, and music they store on their PCs.  It’s a really cheap and easy way to back everything up, and it served me really well for quite a while.  However, I eventually outgrew this solution, and I’m sure a lot of other people are in the same boat or will be soon.  With the addition of a couple of extra computers it was a hassle to constantly move the drives around to access stuff, and I don’t have a single drive inside a machine that’s big enough to hold everything.  As a result, I was having to maintain two separate external drives and having to keep them synchronized–HASSLE.

What I needed was a central location to store everything.  I needed every computer on my home network to have access to the data.  I needed the data to be automatically backed up in case a drive failed.  I needed to set up roles for different users so that guests could read some directories and not others.  Mostly, I needed it to be cheap.

I think I’ve moved almost everything over to the new LaCie NAS I bought a couple of weeks ago, so I figured it was time to give it a little review.

I’m usually slow to make decisions on these type purchases, and it usually pays off, as I think it did here.  I looked for about a year at various solutions, and I almost pulled the trigger on a RAID 5 terabyte last fall, but at ~$1k (which was a great deal) I couldn’t do it.

I ended up paying $311 for the LaCie 2Big at Amazon with free shipping.  I did have to make a couple of compromises, but I think the savings justified it.  First of all, this system comes with two 500 Gb drives to make a full terabyte.  That means there’s not chance to run RAID 5.  The only option to safely store data is to run it at RAID 1, which keeps a copy of the data on each disk separately. It’s plenty fast, but splitting the disks means that you only get 500 Gb of storage instead of the full terabyte.  However, I think this is justified because I could have bought two of these for $600, and still come out cheaper than buying the RAID 5 terabyte.

I’ve read some other reviews that say this NAS is noisy, but I don’t find it to be an issue.  Sure, you can hear it, but it’s not loud.  I have an old junk PC that I use for a web and database server, and the fan on it is much louder (and much more annoying).

Setup could not be easier.  It’s very simple to set up shares, users, and user groups.  Security settings are very intuitive, and the web server that controls the NAS seems reliable.  It is about as plug and play as I can imagine a system like this being.  Even the agent that runs on  machines that access the drive is lightweight.  As I said before, it’s also plenty fast.  Copying all of my music over to the drive from an old external USB drive took quite a while, but I think that had more to do with the network load than anything else.

The only real issue I’ve had so far is that I can’t seem to maintain a connection to the drive on a PC while opening a VPN tunnel open for work.  I’m sure I could fix this, but it’s not a huge deal since my I don’t use my work computer for playing media anyway.

Overall–extremely happy with this product.  On one hand I wish I’d made the jump to NAS earlier, but on the other hand I’m glad I waited and got so much solution for my money.  If you’re starting to run out of space with your media files or if you’re looking for a safe way to maintain backups this is a great system.  There are other options such as maintaining backups on an external server, but the solutions I looked at weren’t very cost effective.  JungleDisk, which comes highly recommended, was an option for me, but it was going to cost about $74 a month to store all of my data.

Twitter “Buys” Summize

The official addition of search–real time search–is definitely going to take Twitter to the next level and offer up monetization possibilities, but at what cost?  I don’t expect Twitter to go on commercial free forever, but is summize going to take the spammy stuff we’re already seeing there to the next level too?  And how exactly does a purchase like this work?

The one thing that remains a mystery is the acquisition price. Twitter hasn’t raised a huge amount of money and Summize had almost a million dollars in funds raised itself. What percentage of its coffers did Twitter just spend on all the Summize technology and five employees? It’s probable that Summize investors saw their investments in Summize turn into favorable investments in Twitter, rather than a pile of cash. When one startup buys another one, though, one always has to wonder. It’s usually a sign of desperation on the part of the acquired company – but that’s not likely the case here.

Confirmed: Twitter Has Acquired Summize – ReadWriteWeb.

WordPress 2.6 Nice

WordPress 2.6 has been released, and there are some really nice features in this version.  The biggest new feature to me is the revision history, which allows you to compare every revision of a post and also gives you the option to revert back to previous versions.   Other really cool features are a live word count, ability to reorder images in a gallery you’ve uploaded, captions for images, and a “Press This” button for your browser that let’s you post right out of an article you’re reading.  Does that mean I have no excuse for the light blogging I’ve been doing lately?  Now I have to pop in a post from EVERYTHING I find interesting?  We shall see.

On the admin side, plugin management has been changed to make things much easier (multiple activation is now enabled) and theme preview is now available without installing a plugin.  I’m sure I’ll write a post later complaining about all of the things that are broken, but I’m pretty happy with this update so far.  These features make WordPress even better for use as a full fledged CMS.

New Round of Purchases

It seems like I buy stuff in bunches, especially computer stuff. And I’m always looking for bargains, especially when I’m upgrading my old stuff. I may be a nerd, but I’m frugal–i.e. you won’t see me talking on an iPhone anytime soon. Here’s a quick rundown of the things I’ve purchased most recently…

Network Accessible Storage–I got this 1 terabyte (1,000 Gigabyte) network storage solution at Amazon last week for $311.50 with free delivery. It hasn’t arrived yet, but I’ll give it a full review when I get it all set up. Up until now I’ve been using external USB drives to store everything, and it was time to upgrade. The problem with the USB storage is that I could only connect it to one computer at a time and I had to have one drive back up to the other every night. This device connects to your network, just like any other node. That means any computer in your house (on your network) can access it. Also, there are actually two 500 Gb drives in the enclosure, so you can set it up as RAID 1, which means you actually only have 500 Gb of storage, but it is automatically backed up to the other 500 Gb drive.

22″ Monitor–I watched the prices on these things fall until I couldn’t resist getting in. Buy.com has a ton of big monitors at cheap prices. I paid ~$200 for a Soyo 22″ monitor. On things like this, I don’t worry so much about brand name. No matter the brand, chances are most of the parts are made at the same factory, and at $200 I can afford to buy a 24″ later if this one blinks out. In fact, I may actually prefer to do that.

Logitech Webcam–Under $50 (also at buy.com), great for talking with video over Skype (free), and does pretty well for capturing video as well.