Join our BOINC team! Again!

I suppose it’s okay to mention every two years or so that I have a BOINC team that is collectively pooling all idle computing power and using those idle cycles for scientific research and analysis. Since 2 years ago, the number of projects that use the BOINC software has increased and diversified widely, though the core projects (SETI@Home, Folding@home, etc) are still extremely active.
If you have a machine that’s frequently idle, why not consider installing the BOINC client on it, and signing up to join our team? I’ve recently re-started many of my idle clients in an effort to shore up some of the sliding numbers (many of our long time computing partners have stopped submitting updates, due to job changes or just disinterest.)
At our best, we were ranked # 662 about a year ago. Currently we ranked #935 in the world (out of 71,588 teams), according to our page on Boincstats.com.

If you’d like to join, our SETI@Home project page has signup information, though we also have teams at Rosetta and Predictor, both great projects.

primark

Dear Jboss. QA yer damned site.

Why is it so hard for any organization, from opensource on up, to understand it’s a good idea to give the users information they want, in a form that’s useable?
I zipped over to JBoss.org to see if there was an update to the 4.2 server I’ve been using for the last year. Sure enough, there’s a 4.2.2 release that came out in October. Great, I wonder what changed?
Well, the downloads page has the new release on it, and a link to the release notes. Which, you’ll note, is completely illegible because the lines are not wrapping. (I tested this in Firefox under Linux and Windows, Konqueror, and under IE6 in Windows. None of them make that page useable.)
Was it so hard for the JBoss release engineer to click on links and check if they worked? Apparently that capacity is beyond them. Sad.

Animation with GIMP, and a new icon

I’ve been thinking about learning how to make animated GIFs. They’re super-popular on Livejournal and other forums, so why not figure out how to put it all together?
Turns out The Gimp has a very simple mechanism for making animations. Just open multiple images in layers, and then save it as a GIF. When you go to save, it’ll pop up a dialog “This has multiple layers, and you’re saving as a GIF. Do you want to animate all the layers as frames?”
And that’s it! So, naturally, I had to try it out. I needed an icon for gaming, and this seemed easy to put together. It’s 27 frames, took me about an hour to draw the pieces, and then another hour of fiddling with GIMP to get the timing and assembly correct. Mad props to blk for figuring out that if you re-open an exported GIF, you can edit the timing on the frames just by altering the name of the layer (which is TOTALLY screwy in my book, but whatever).
Folks are welcome to scarf it and use it as much as they like. A pointer back to the blog here would be nice, but not required. 🙂

A snack marketed DIRECTLY at ME!

Someone at General Mills totally got this one right. I found these on the shelf while shopping for Arisia this year. “Protein, salty, AND sweet. And I LOVE peanuts!”
Lemme tell ya, they’re awesome. Tasty, not too crunchy, not too squooshy, and salty and sweet. Mmmmmmmm. If they had come to me and said “Design a granola bar. What would you want it to taste like?” – this comes pretty durned close.
And, while we’re pushing products, I’d like to just point out the massive LURV I have for my new Bose Companion 3 speakers. Bose has a reputation for doing mighty elegant designs, and under IMG_3473.JPGnormal circumstances I wouldn’t be able to afford their gear, but with an in, it becomes more manageable.
I replaced my old set of dying 3-ways with this system, and ZOMG are they schweet. I guess my only real complaint is the speakers are mounted on 5″ pedestals, which makes it somewhat difficult to work space around on a crowded desk.
I think I ended up with a reasonable desk compromise though, and I sure can’t complain about the sound. Note the above desktop picture is after a massive cleanup and rearranging, my desk is not normally this antiseptic, though I aspire to Star-Trek like geek spartanness some day.
Tasty salty sweet snacks, really good sound, and a clean workspace. Now all I need to do is get some work done, oh look! Day’s over! Later all!

It’s GROW time again!

Y’all have become complacent. Too much free time! Well, enough of that. Time to get back out there and help the little blob people! This time one of them has gotten sick, and it’s up to you to heal ’em!
This is a ‘nano’ version of Grow, while the author works on a new game. It’s got all the trappings of the original grow games – the cutesy music, the little blob people, and the plot twists. Only 6 items to choose from, shouldn’t take long to figure out (bout 15 minutes for me)
Click on over to Eyezmaze to check it out!

And now, a word or two about Bluetooth headphone usage

I’d like to take a few moments today to talk to those who have recently hopped on the Bluetooth Headphone bandwagon. Apparently its become socially acceptable and, frankly, chic for the general populace to wear a Bluetooth headphone for times other than a casual conversation. I frequently pass people in public who have a chunk of silicon and plastic stuffed in their ear, and invariably, they’re not actually using it. It’s become a fashion accessory.
Having said that, I’d like to hop up on the soapbox and toss out some basic etiquette suggestions on this topic – not only related to fashion, but also addressing simple social graces…
Please, Mister Businessman who has taken to using Panera as his own personal office. Take into consideration the volume you’re speaking when using your headphone. Yes, it may be necessary to speak above normal conversational levels to be heard, but to everyone around you, you’re just a loud, annoying person in a restaurant where simply moving out of range is not an immediate, convenient option. Take a moment to think about if you were talking to someone next to you at the table. Would you speak at that volume? Probably not. You’d certainly notice someone next to you doing it, and would likely be uncomfortable, if not actively complaining.
To the hip geek who just got your first headphone. Yes, we all see it, yes it’s geeky, and yes you can absolutely take calls anytime just by touching your ear! Congratulations, welcome to 2003. But everyone who would likely call you are all sitting around you right now, including your family, friends, and your manager. We got it, you have a headphone. Yay for you.
In that vein, people who have headphones should think about what they’re saying to the people they’re with. If I’m in an earnest and direct conversation with someone, I try and remember to take my headphone off and put it away. It seems that leaving the headphone online and stuffed in your ear is a way of saying “I’m listening to you, but I want to LEAP onto any possible interruption that comes along!” I find the headphones enormously convenient when driving in the car, or when walking around in public (I frequently don’t hear the phone ring on my belt), but seriously folks, when you’re sitting with a friend or a loved one, show some respect. Unplug.
And lets talk for a moment about blinking lights. What is it with blinking LEDs on headphones? Who are they signaling? Some of these suckers outshine traffic lights, and light up the inside of a car. The purpose of an LED on a headset should be so that the owner can look at it, in their hand, and see if it is turned on or not. Pretty simple. A small, muted LED is all that’s needed to do this. Not something that looks like it came out of some gamers casemod, and threatens to send random passersby into epileptic fits.
And lastly, to the manufacturers. Is it really necessary to make these things so ridiculously ugly? Of all the headphones I’ve seen, only the one I’m using now (A Jabra 500) doesn’t scream to everyone nearby I HAVE A BLUETOOTH HEADPHONE, SEE!?!? I like the subtle approach, where the headphone is as invisible as possible, but for the most part, it appears Jabra is the only company pursuing that design.
On a meta-level, I see BT headphones as the next step in acceptable ‘functional’ enhancements for people. Eyeglasses (chunks of metal and glass sitting on your face) are normal, even though they have a direct impact on a persons’ presentation. BT headphones are likely just the next step, but not until the bling bling lights are muted, the technical glitches are ironed out, and people get a slightly wider clue on how much their little piece of technology affects those around them.
Personally, I’m ready for direct wireless implants. Mounted right on the mastoid bone. No bit of tech widgetry hanging on the earlobe affecting normal hearing, it should all be inboard.
Ah well.

The Spam, it burns!

Just in case you were curious about the levels of spam I have to deal with daily. I have a filter running on my inbox that tracks how much mail I get each day, how much of that is list traffic, and how much of it is spam. Each night, the program (which is available here) generates a report that lets me see how things have been going.
I have many spam defenses running on boomer, and it does an admirable job of filtering out the spam. This week I’ve noticed a fair amount of the 3 line plain text spam getting through to me (which Thunderbird does catch). This spam is notoriously hard to filter due to it’s simplicity. I was sort of curious how much spam actually -was- getting caught.
Here’s my last 7 days of total mail I’m receiving:

Breakdown by day: (17606 posts, average of 2515.1 posts per day.)
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Feb 10 | Feb  9 | Feb  8 | Feb  7 | Feb  6 | Feb  5 | Feb  4
1983  |   1619  |   2636  |   2878  |   3020  |   2985  |   2485

That is the total mail received addressed to me on perhaps half a dozen domains. They all funnel to the same mailbox. How much of that is spam? Lets look:

Breakdown by day: (12676 posts, average of 1810.9 posts per day.)
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Feb 10 | Feb  9 | Feb  8 | Feb  7 | Feb  6 | Feb  5 | Feb  4
1656  |   1216  |   1918  |   1990  |   2135  |   2101  |   1660

An average of 1810 spams received each day. By one mailbox.
The spam report is showing ‘caught spam’. I get very few false positives (mail caught as spam and misfiled), so I have my filters set fairly liberal. Thunderbird is probably catching another 200 spam messages a day. The rest of my mail is list traffic (I’m on a dozen or so mailing lists). And what’s left? Legitimate mail, probably 25 messages a day.
One out of every hundred messages I receive, only one is something I need to pay immediate attention to.
Email is broken. It’s time to look at a radical paradigm change. I’ll be posting some more about this as I move ahead, but I constantly worry about situations where important mail may be missed, and it’s become abundantly clear that the current email situation has to change in order for net communication via electronic mail is to continue being a viable medium.

Grrr du jour, KDE + Flash = FAIL!

Well doesn’t that just frost your fingernails.
This morning an update came down the pike from the Ubuntu distribution that updated the Adobe Flash (nonfree) plugin, a plugin I use primarily in Konqueror. While it’s nice that Adobe is actively supporting the Linux community, this morning’s screwup makes me grit my teeth and take another long look at the rabbithole.
The new flash player is incompatible with the the Gutsy Gibbon (aka Ubuntu 7.10, aka ‘stable’) version of Konqueror. When you try to view any flash content, it the plugin crashes with a SIGSEGV fault.
Some whining on the #KDE support channel pointed me to a workaround using the KMPlayer tool, but after attempting a build under Gutsy, I realized that this patch will only work on Hardy Heron (the next ‘unstable’ release of Ubuntu).
Which I’m not running.
So, as it stands now, I have no flash player under Konqueror. I can start Firefox and use that, but I’ve been avoiding that as much as possible. So in some ways, yeah, I -can- view flash content. But I don’t like it.
As far as I know, there is no fix for this problem, at least until Hardy Heron goes into wide release.
I am grumpy.
UPDATE 2/11/2008 – The folks at Ubuntu have been redeemed! A patch was released that updated much of KDE, and included a fix for the embedded flash player in Konqueror. We’re back to using the Netscape plugin properly. Hooray!

Useful Firefox Plugin du jour

This one’s been nagging me for a while. When doing work on CONGO, I spend a lot of time editing templates and stylesheets within <textarea> blocks. This is all fine and dandy, except Firefox (and most other web browsers) consider the ‘tab’ key to mean “move to the next input field”. Makes it very hard to edit XML or HTML in a textarea when you can’t actually indent the text.
So I was mighty happy to find tabinta, a Firefox plugin that simply allows the tab key to type a ‘tab’ when editing a textarea. Nothing fancy, nothing major, but ZOMG what a difference when editing content.

Memories on the Web – Summer Camp

Tonight, while talking with blk about childhood memories, I started thinking about the summer camp I went to when I was around Zach’s age. It was a sleepaway camp, up in the pocono mountains, called Camp Susquehanna. I went for 3 years, and the experiences during those three summers left me with some fantastic memories.

I caught up with one of the sons of the family that owned the camp several years ago, and we exchanged some brief email, but I really hadn’t thought of the camp since then.

Tonight, a little googling, and I’ve found the Camp Susquehanna Alumni website, run by none other than Todd Schroder, the aformentioned son of the owner. Todd’s put together a wonderful site, with a lot of fascinating details about the camp and what it was like for us staying there, but there was one bit of magic I thought was lost forever.

The camp was divided into ‘units’ (remember this was the early seventies. Militaristic models were the norm – we ate in the mess hall, we bought candy and stuff in Canteen, and bugle calls played over the PA system with revelie, taps, and horsemans calls). The units were numbered, from 1 through 17, each with 4-6 campers in it. Each unit had it’s own counsellor. Once you were in a unit, you were there for the summer, and the camp ran for 8 weeks. That’s a long time for a kid 8-10 years old – your unit became your home, your unit-mates were your family.

Every summer, each unit made what was simply called a ‘Unit Sign’. It was a wooden board, about 2′ square, that could have anything you wanted painted on it, but it had to have the Unit number, all the campers names, the counsellors name, and the year being represented. The signs were mounted on the ceiling of the mess hall. During meals, you could look up, and see all the units that came before you. If you were a returning camper, it was great fun coming back the next year and seeing your name up on the ceiling.

These Unit Signs were an undeniable record of the summers I spent in the Poconos, and I thought they were lost when the property was sold.

They were not.

Todd, being the magnificent person he is, has scanned pictures of all the Unit signs, and therefore, I’m able to present to you my signs, now almost 35 years old:

1972 – Unit 3. My first year at Camp Susquehanna. I was only 8. The Unit was a tent platform, about 14’x20′, which had 5 bunks in it. The sides of the tent could be rolled up – it looked a lot like a MASH tent, but smaller, with a peaked roof in the middle. My counsellor was Ron Becker, who did a great job of making us all feel right at home. I remember being very confused at the beginning about what was going on, and what we were supposed to do, but it was only in the first few days, then it became comfortable and routine. Of the other kids, I only remember Eduardo, who became a good friend, and taught me a lot of Spanish.

According to The Lookout, I was involved in the yearly Skink Hunt…

Jim Weeks and Rick Davis told the assembled campers about the skink, an elusive lizard. Then, armed with laundry bags and noise makers, the campers set off to a rock quarry to practice for the big hunt. Robbie Devor, Greg Vogel, Andy Ziegler, and David Shevett eagerly volunteered to be the “catchers”, waiting at the end of the field for the skinks, while everyone else made noise and scared the skinks downfield.

1974 – Unit 6 – As the kids got older, folks moved up to higher numbered cabins. Unit 6 was toward the top of the ‘lower clearing’ (names that’ll mean nothing to anyone who wasn’ t there – humor me). This was an actual cabin – about 20′ on a side, with a roof and rafters and power and everything. The ‘windows’ could open by hinging up the shutters and latching them open with a hook and eye. These had bunkbeds too, so there was room for 7 kids plus the counsellor, but as I understand it, the camp was beginning to go into decline attendance wise, so the units weren’t all full. Eduardo was my bunkmate again, and another boy named David Strohl, whom I remember as being very sweet and a good kid (course, this was 30 some odd years ago. Who knows if I’m even remotely right here.)

1977 – Unit 11 – If I’m remembering this one right, it was another cabin, up toward the top of the upper clearing. By this time I’m 12, and the camp has a different feel. I’m more involved in some of the acting and stage stuff that Jim Weeks was doing, and I remember Andy Bershad (our counsellor) very well. He and Jim were icons of the camp. As to what the picture and caption on the sign meant? I haven’t the foggiest idea.

And if there were any question about my early love of old movies, according to the Lookout from that year :

“Ah yes!” wailed the familiar voice. And so began an evening of films starring W.C. Fields. The first in our series of films, the Fields evening was moved up to Thursday night due to rainy weather, but no one seemed to mind the quick announcement and showing. In fact, the next day found David Shevett and Todd Schroder giving people “hearty handclasps” in the Fieldsian manner.

I have nothing but positive memories from my time at the camp, ranging from massive games of capture the flag ranging all over the fields and woods, to long horseback rides, to the summer I was given my own horse to take care of (I became a ‘horseman’ – I was assigned one horse as my responsibility all summer. I fed and groomed her, prepped her for the days classes, and brought her up to and down from the paddock each day). Many of my current fascinations can be traced to this camp – I still love old barns, woods trails and camping, and the sound of rain on the roof of a barn or tent still sends me back to the summer rainstorms spent in our ‘homes’ with friends.