Passwords Not Going Away Any Time Soon
About a million years ago (1997, maybe?) I worked for a financial company that wanted to implement client-side digital certificates. No more passwords! At a time when all the web stuff was coded in Perl making external calls to a C library that talked to something called a "SafeKeypr" box to generate the actual certificates, it was pretty darned advanced. That crucial bit of hardware in middle was so secure that it literally had several WarGames-style keys that all had to be inserted simultaneously for the thing to work. At one point when it needed to be debugged, the tech wouldn't even let me see how she cracked it open, she just took the whole box back to her lab. (Neat - just found a link to a book on the project I never new existed. I wrote that code ;)]
And yet, here we are almost 15 years later still using usernames and passwords. Oh, well. Was a fun project. :)
True story -- when the project launched we had a big event, with everybody gathered around the box to turn their keys. Then they all took their key and scattered off to wherever, what with the whole "must keep the keys off site and multiple locations" thing. What nobody realized is that the network center (we did our own hosting) had already posted plans for a scheduled power outage that weekend, and nobody'd connected these particular thoughts. So they cycled power in the room to do whatever it is that they did, and the box didn't come back online. Somebody contacted me. I told them to round everybody up to come back and turn their keys again. :)
Review: Captain America
Are you referring to the new super hero movies, or to Raiders of the Lost Ark? I certainly remember that "through a propeller" sequence - not to mention the whole "melting their faces off" thing. But that was 30 years ago - plus I'm pretty sure I was more like 8 or 9 when that movie came out.
Review: Captain America
My son is just 5 years old, and he's heavy into his superhero phase. I think it's a crime that all of these movies are rated PG-13 while the toys are clearly aimed at capturing a younger audience who may not even get to see anything but the tv commercials. He's got no less than 3 different Captain America shields (one that I made him, one that his grandfather made him, and one we bought from the store). The one his grandfather made him - out of wood! - came with a home made Thor hammer. He doesn't care. He's Captain Thor America.
So, somebody tell me - of this and all the other superhero movies this summer, would you take a 5 yr old? Just how scary/bloody is the violence? I expect that any "adult situations" will go right over his head (bordering on outright nudity and/or sex scenes, which I don't think these movies have). But a really scary monster/bad guy may give him nightmares. I know that most of the others will be gone from the theatre now, but as they start coming out on DVD, which would be the safest to let him watch?
Help me out. I desperately want him to have the memory of going to these movies when they were a big deal, like I remember going to see Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark and E.T.
Oracle Shells Out $1B To Buy ATG
I was using ATG's products back in 1998. This was before even Java Server Pages had caught on (one of my great regrets in life was having the opportunity to write a JSP book and turning it down :( ). If I remember correctly they even told us that Sun used some of their patents in developing JSP (though don't hold me to that, it was a long time ago).
Their technology was very ColdFusion-like, trying to create an entire programming language complete with conditionals and looping structures all inside a markup syntax. But once you got used to it, it was very powerful. We ran our entire ecommerce platform on it for buying and selling mutual funds, encompassing 16 business units.
It was a fun company, founded by some wanna-be rockstars (Jeet, really - not so much Joe). They threw a heck of a party. At least one of them ended with a shirtless Jeet playing guitar inside a gogo-dancer's cage. Ah, memories. I think that was the party that took place in New Orleans, where I bumped into my very drunk "customer advocate" coming down Bourbon Street, who asked me if I was having a good time. Apparently not as good as he was.
Funny story - I got a tour of the place once. This was during a time when we were trying to use their brand new adapter for the content management system Documentum, and it was not going well. During the tour, before being shown engineering, my tour guide (Hi, Katja!) paused and asked me if I could identify my technical contact by sight. I said no, so the tour continued. I honestly think they were afraid I was going to make a scene.
I used to own some stock, I'll have to go see if I ever dumped it.
Free E-Books, With a Catch — Advertising
It'd be one thing if they just stuck a random graphic here and there. But I expect that the trend would go in the same direction as the multi-page web article. Namely, ads in between the pages that you can't skip. Can you imagine how annoying that would make your book?
"I've discovered the identity of the murderer. His name is....."
"...and now a word from our sponsor."
Brings to mind archaic memories of old radio shows where you really had no choice. I suppose if it's still just another page, you can hit just as fast and skip it. But how long before an ereader has some sort of Flash-like ability to play a quick movie? And then you're stuck.
The Ease of Publishing an Ebook
Thanks Anne. I know that my topic is pretty specific, which makes it that much more important that I promote it far and wide. You never know when you're going to run into somebody who knows somebody who's getting married, after all!
The Ease of Publishing an Ebook
It may be a little late for me to weigh in on this one, but I've just published an ebook (http://www.hearmysoulspeak.com) on Kindle within the last couple weeks, so I figured I'd offer my own experience from a different angle.
I'm not a traditional published author. This is my first book. Using the logic that an ebook has numerous formatting considerations that make it easier (far less worry about page numbers, page size, left/right concerns, etc...), I decided to go with the ebook in the hopes of making enough $$ that it'd be worth my time to properly format a print book.
The book is about Shakespeare (specifically, a collection of Shakespeare wedding material), and I knew two things - I should have some sort of credentials in the area I'm writing about, and some sort of way to market. I run a number of Shakespeare sites (http://www.shakespearegeek.com primarily among them), and have done so for a number of years. They've got a pretty good following. I thought I'd be all set there, at least as far as getting a jumpstart goes. I'm also a web guy for a living (though not a designer), so arranging a domain and getting some content on it was not much of a worry (http://www.hearmysoulspeak.com did I mention that?) My strategy has been "Have something acceptable up, then drive traffic, and then once you've got traffic up, worry about making a prettier site."
I did have an editor. You need an editor. You will make stupid typos, if nothing else, and you'll need another set of eyes to spot them. An editor also serves as your first reader, and can say things like "This part didn't make sense to me" or "You said the same thing here that you said over there." Get an editor. I lucked out, one of my regular readers who happens to be a college professor said he'd do it for me, and was very helpful.
The publishing part is actually the easiest. There are a zillion "ebook converter" apps out there. But instead of doing that, just go straight to Calibre (http://www.calibre-ebook.com), as it does everything. I originally started mine in LaTeX, because I was heading for print. Then I switched to PDF (easily converted) until eventually ending up with EPUB since it seemed popular. EPUB, for the curious, is basically just a zip file of HTML with some organizing context thrown in). See below, though, for thoughts on how to handle multiple formats.
Here's the tricky part of publishing, even if you do crank out multiple versions of your book : a) every publisher wants a different one, and b) you have to do it individually for each. I started out on Lulu, because that was the most efficient way I saw into the iPad store. iPad wants EPUB. Fine. But then I wanted to release a PDF version as well, to cover the wider case for people reading on a PC. Lulu can handle that - but it can't apparently associate them both on a singe page. So I'll forever have two products in their catalog. I can live with that.
Aha, but what about Kindle? Kindle has its own store, for one. And, it wants MOBI format. Ok, did that. Now I've got to maintain my book in two places.
Guess what happened last week? Barnes and Noble opened up their Pubit! store for the Nook. Yayyy, three places to maintain my book. I hear Borders has a project in the works as well.
I generated every format (EPUB, MOBI, PDF) of my book in Calibre, and then tweaked them by hand until they looked the way I wanted (or at least, as close as I could get). Although all of the ebook stores will do automatic conversion for you, keep in mind that your copy will end up looking terrible.
Your pages on all these stores will also look very plain, until you get some reviews. Seriously, go get some reviews. Give away as many copies as you can, and beg reviews. This is the stage I'm in now. I've got web reviews, but I'm trying to get people to take the time and go give Amazon or iPad reviews. They help. Nobody wants to feel like they're the first one taking a chance on what could be a piece of garbage.
Lessons learned so far? The publishing part was fun, and I'd do it again. Marketing, unless you're born to it, is harder than it looks and also a serious ethical dilemma. Every singlel time I try to promote my book in an online way (including now), I worry that I look spammy. Offline is different, you can talk about your book all you want and just seem annoying -- but, you have no way of telling whether you got any traffic out of that, either.
It will be disappointing. The day I published, a former coworker spotted it on Facebook and told me that he'd be picking it up that day. A week later I asked how it was, he said he hadn't gotten it yet. Two weeks later, he still hasn't. Get used to that. Family will back you up, and some friends. But if you think, like I did, that you've got any sort of following that will buy something from you just because they like to read what you've said online? Not so fast. Some will, sure, and I'm grateful to my followers that did. But it hasn't exactly catapulted me into phase 2 of my project yet.
Anyway, hope that added some value. Yes, this is self-promotional, but hopefully not spammy. See the difference? See the ethical dilemma? A link from slashdot, even in a comment, would be good traffic. It's a relevant topic, I have experience to add. Yet I can't help but think just by including my link, people will turn their nose up at it and move on. Who knows, maybe I'm oversensitive to that. Prove me wrong ;).
http://www.hearmysoulspeak.com/ - Wedding Quotations from Shakespeare
Looking Back From the 1980s At Computers In Education
I was in college from 1987-1991, and my "major qualifying project" (Worcester Polytech) was a workshop where I brought together local high school teachers from math, computer science and social studies for the day. I pitched the idea of a whole new type of computer classroom, state of the art, where everything was networked not just with their local counterparts but with similar schools all around the world. I talked to them about massive scale datasets, public information records, voting data, etc etc etc etc... the ability to run your own queries, to question what you're being handed in the newspaper every day. In other words, a whole bunch of stuff we take for granted these days - but a good number of years before the Web took off.
The computer science and math teachers heard "new computers" and said, "Great, we'll take it."
Then I dropped the surprise on them, and said that this new lab was for the social studies teachers. That this was about exploring all areas of study with computers - art, literature, politics, you name it. "Nonono," said the CS people, "You've been misinformed. *We* get the computers."
That did not surprise me. What surprised me is when the social studies teachers said "Yeah, they get the computers. We don't want them." All they saw was a burden, changes to the curriculum, technology they did not understand, and a new dependency on their coworkers to keep the machines up and running. They were perfectly happy to let the CS teachers teach programming and that would be that. No need for computers in any of the social studies (and, by extension, humanities) classrooms.
Funny how far we *have* come, honestly. If only we could take what's out there on the net at our fingertips, and integrate it more directly into students' education.
[ At the time, in my neighborhood, the "state of the art" schools had a Mac hooked up to a laser disc player, and the students would put together multimedia reports on John F Kennedy to present to the class. The more typical schools had text terminals of maybe the 286 variety, and would be taught keyboarding and other office skills. ]
Good Podcasts and Podcatchers?
I used to pick and choose podcasts carefully trying to get a balance of different areas I was interested in. Screw it. There's too many. Hit a directory, browse, and whenever you see anything that looks vaguely of interest, subscribe. If you find that you hate it, unsubscribe. There's really no commitment beyond that.
What I've found is that if I pick a top ten of podcasts I love, then there will be down periods where I've listened to all of them and then have nothing new. So instead I keep a very wide variety from stuff I just right to as soon as it comes in (Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, Squadcast, Scott Sigler, Startup Nation...) to stuff that makes good filler (Siskel and Ebert Reviews, The Onion, NPR Story of the Day...) to stuff that it's just good to have in case I have some time to sit and appreciate it (IT Conversations).
If you listen on a commute like I do, look for podcasts in the 8-20 minute time frame. Your odds of acutally listening to one or two podcasts in full is optimal. If you have many that are an hour or more, then you really have to be in some dedicated listening situation like the gym.
One plot, for instance, found another mathematician (played by Doogie Howser) nearing a solution to the $1million Riemann prize when his daughter is kidnapped. That's actually a perfectly valid plotline combining FBI and math geeks. When it's determined that his solution is not correct, and Rob Morrow asks if his brother can't help out, he replies "You just asked me to solve a 150yr old math problem in a couple of hours." So they're being realistic about the tasks, too.
When the FBI brother is injured on duty, math brother (David Krumholtz, btw) retreats to his garage which he covers wall to wall (and ceiling) with chalkboards and begins working on unsolvable problems. "Please understand that I can't always work on what I want...sometimes I have to work on what's in my head" was the quote of that episode. Been there.
When I asked my math geek friend to watch it her primary complaint was that it is unrealistic to believe that a single math savant can each week demonstrate his genius is seemingly random areas of math. One week he was predicting the pattern of serial killers, the next he was doing structural integrity of skyscrapers, the one after that he was doing the spread of a disease. So she's got a point there. The only defense they've come up with so far is to make him a genius at "applied mathematics" so they have at least a basic excuse for why they can use him all over the place.
The writing is fun. Krumholtz's character manages to keep a great semi-smug expression on his face whenever trying to explain math to mere mortals. Sometimes he does it as if he really does want them to learn. On the subject of predicting the serial killers next move he said, "Imagine a lawn sprinkler. I can't predict where each drop of water will fall, it's impossible. Too many variables. But give me the location of enough drops, and I can tell you the location of the sprinkler."
Other times it comes off like he is treating them as 2yr olds. After discovering that 36 was a significant number in a code, somebody else spotted a 37 and declared that it must be connected to 36, since they were similar. "37 is prime," says Krumholtz, "36 is not. How could they be similar?"
Hey, I know it's not very deep stuff. But given that all primetime tv these days can be divided up into: fatguyhotwife sitcom, reality show, law and order spinoff, CSI spinoff, I have to say I'm finding it refreshing.
New life for old geek toys
- Our old Thinkpad 600 whose battery died now sits in the family room (plugged into the wall forever onward) with the almost sole purpose of playing flash-based games on sesameworkshop.com. I also stuck an email reader on there so my wife can check her mail if she wants, but we hardly ever use that.
- Bought one of those "key chain" cameras that are about 2inches square but never used it because the picture quality was so poor. So now my daughter carries it around and takes pictures of people. She never asks to see them developed, she just likes pushing the button and hearing it beep.
- Most recently I let her use my old MP3 player. Since I got a 20gig iPod this 128Meg one has just been sitting around. So I ripped a bunch of her Sesame Street CDs and stuck them all on there. Since it has its own speaker she doesnt need headphones. She now has her own personal jukebox.
Next I want to setup the old scanner that's sitting in the closet so she can send her drawings to her grandparents.
Geek jokes you don't get to use every day
"So my doctor saw something on my tonsils she didn't like and sent me to an E N T."
"She sent you to one of those giant tree creatures from Lord of the Rings? That's cool."
Today's Meditation Trick
Different one. Across my bedroom is the cable box, which has an LED display. So in a pitch dark room I close my eyes until I can see only the LED and nothing else. Then I just focus on it.
First thing that happens is I see two of them. Fair enough, that's just my eyes unfocusing.
Then they both keep trying to drop, quickly but smoothly, to the bottom of my field of vision. I'm intrigued by this. After all, the light is a constant. Therefore I must be witnessing my eyes rolling back in my head. Fascinating. Each time I become aware of it, the lights come back up to the center where they belong - but only deliberately, when I will them to. I can let them stay down there if they want.
Then, they begin to move independently. This is a little weird. They get farther apart, then closer together, like two little spaceships floating around my field of vision. I wonder if my eyes are supposed to be doing that, and since I'm not sure if it's bad for my vision, I give up on this little exercise.
I have to try that again. It was definitely unexpected and very close to the state I was aiming for, since I would periodically become aware that I was no longer looking at an otherwise blank room, but rather that my awareness had come to be focused entirely on the lights, and the surrounding area was not just dark, but nothing at all.
Somebody alert the Vatican
So the other day at the dinner table she says "There's Jesus! There's Jesus right there!" and begins pointing. We're trying to figure out what she's looking at, moving things closer to her pointing finger. Finally I found it.
My daughter is seeing Jesus in the Land o Lakes Butter. This is the one with a female indian sitting crosslegged as the logo.
I thought this was hysterical, because now I could say things like "Daddy put Jesus back in the refrigerator now" and have her say things like "Bye bye Jesus, Jesus go in fridge."
Yesterday at dinner she reached for the butter and said "Katherine hold Jesus." At that point we decided that a joke's a joke, but it was getting a little silly. So I tried to explain that it's not Jesus, it's an Indian. At which point I think the joke was on me, because the conversation for the next five minutes was:
Finally I put it away and said "Indian going back in the fridge now" and she said "Jesus going back in the fridge now." I think she's playing with me.
Bush and the Almighty
Ummmm.....HOLY SHIT? How does that *not* make him a religious fucking psycho who is basically sending our troops to die in his own personal crusade?
It's one thing to not be a fan of Bush and look for reasons to slam him. But somebody dissect what exactly he meant by that sentence and how it could be anything other than bad? We don't have a single government mandated religion in this country. Therefore he can only possibly be speaking about his own interpretation according to his own belief in what God wants. If I grabbed 100 random people said "Excuse me, but does God want Iraq to be a democracy?" I'm sure I would not get 100 "Absolutely!" answers.
Bush then admits to taking the country in a direction based on that.
Isn't our government supposed to follow the will of the people, rather than the will of the voices in the president's head?
The B Student Philosophy
Take the analogy of the bathroom scale. Say you weigh 150lb. But your scale only goes up to 100. So when you step on it and it says 100, what does that mean? That 100 is an accurate measure of your weight? Or that this particular device is incapable of measuring what you're trying to measure?
I just thought of this recently as we drive toward our latest project launch. It's late. I'm pissed off. But at the same time I'm thinking, you know what? If we had picked a date and hit that date with time to spare I would have been *more* pissed, because it'd feel like we took the easy road. What I do is not rocket science -- I can definitely concur that space shuttle programmers should NOT follow my philosophy ("Sorry we missed our window, maybe next time") -- so where's the harm in biting off just a bit more than you can chew? Aim high and then adjust your goals as the deadline looms, I say.
OR, is this just the hindsight justification of a B student looking for a reason for missing his deadlines?
Kids n Legos
How long do you think it took before I was down on the floor with her, pulling bricks out of her hand and saying "Nono, sweetheart, let me see that...Daddy's building something....damnit, daddy needs another yellow one..."
Tivo and Kids Today
The best part is that if I pause the show she will get up, come over and press the yellow pause button to start it up again, and go sit back down.
(It's actually become a very nice "drink your milk" compromise -- pause, come get a few sips from sippy cup, resume show). It's gotta be the fact that the button is yellow. Because she cannot differentiate all the other buttons yet. Likes to push them, but has no clue what they do.
It's got me wondering how different tv watching will be for her as she grows up. When I was a kid, shows were on at a certain time and if you missed it you were out of luck until tomorrow (or next week). Her introduction to tv has been that she can have a show whenever she wants.
Phish, always cutting edge
What not every report is mentioning (I think I found this in the NY Post) is that he apparently enticed the girl to go with him by taking her for a ride on his Segway transporter.
Microsoft Interview Questions
- You have one room with 3 incandescent lights, all off. You have another room with three light switches. Starting in the room with the switches, how many times do you have to go in the room with the lights in order to determine which switch controls which light? (Assume all the obvious stuff like you can't see the light through the door, and so on). There is an easy answer, which I got, and a harder one, which I got with a hint.
- You have a block of cheese. You wish to cut a smaller cube of cheese from the middle. How many cuts does it take. I got this one.
- Write "string reverse" on a char array, in place (i.e. without cloning the array). I wasn't happy with my answer to this one, I overthought it.
- Insert into a binary tree. (Not sure why he put this one in there, it seemed kinda easy. Maybe it was to see if I knew how to answer a recursion question.)
- Reverse a singly-linked list. Annoying pointer math.
- Count the set bits in an unsigned int. I gave him an answer he called "a good, brute force answer." This bugged me so much that the next day I emailed him a better answer. I even wrote "You probably don't care but my head will explode if I don't write this down."
- You have randomly distributed numbers from 1-n in an array of size n-1. In other words, one of the numbers in the range 1-n is missing. Determine which one. When I gave him a standard answer (since I knew this one) of "While iterating through the array once, make separate sums of i and a[i]. The difference at the end is your answer" he said "That's a good, optimal answer. Now give me a different one." That really threw me. Even when he showed me the answer he was thinking of I tried to optimize it for him (and couldn't).
A Java Rant
Nice Trip, Mr. President?
Am I a Bad Person?
But everybody's fine, bottle didn't hit her, she didn't seem to be phased by it in the least. A quick bath later and everybody happy.
Can you project a scrolling LED display?
Can't quite find the combination of parts I need to start. I have to figure out what the technology is behind the projection aspect (i.e. can I make it project anything or just segmented LED?), and then whether it can be applied to a scrolling display (I assume that if I have n-char LED display and can refresh at a good rate I can scroll). There's a zillion kits that will show you how to drive an LED display from the serial or parallel port (such as a recent slashdot article shows). After that it should be easy. :)
Anybody got any suggestions?
Mmmmm, free sushi
"Ummm....I guess....we ordered.....huh?"
"The reason I ask is that you ordered 2 but I screwed up and put you in for 4." Which would be 8 pieces.
"That's too much, we don't want that much."
"Ok, I'll take care of it."
He then, get this, comes back with $4 cash, sticks it under the menu on the table and says "We're all square." Eh?
Manager comes over to bring us our food and chat. He looks at our order sheet and asks, "Two orders of salmon, right? Not four?"
"Right. I guess there was some mistake when he put the order in."
"Ok, don't worry, I fix."
A few minutes later over comes the waiter to actually scold us! "Guys, that was my manager. That's why I gave you the cash so we'd be all square."
"Oh. You want your cash back? I never asked for it."
"No, keep it."
Manager brings out the 8 salmon, as well as an additional order of shrimp for our trouble, and tells us our drinks are free too. I wonder if we'll ever see that waiter again. :) The thing I find funny is that the only real inconvenience was them bringing us more food than we ordered. It's not like they got our food wrong or didn't bring something. My guess at what happened is that rather than tell the chef his mistake, the waiter put the burden on us to keep it quiet with his $4, and thats what pissed the manager off.
For the first time we actually ended up leaving sushi on the boat.
So now I have a question (for my few fans that will read this :)). You're in a sushi restaurant where the staff all knows you. They've poured free food on you (we also often get samples from the chef, and at the very least extra tea when coming in for takeout). While leaving and saying thank you, they're all bowing like crazy people. Do I bow back? How, exactly? Is it better to not bow at all or to do it incorrectly (and possibly offend)?
Hmf. I have freaks. How odd.
The other one is this deblau person, and I have no clue. Has no journal. I don't know anything about his sourceforge project. I can't even find any threads we both contributed to in which I might have pissed him off. The strange thing is that he's only got like 2 foes. So I really wonder what I did to get on that short list.
Dear lady at the train station...
I should have called out after you. Sure, a binky that falls on the train station floor is disgusting, but you can boil it when you get home. At least, you'll know what happened to it. I know the expression on my own daughter's face when she is playing with a toy and it drops out of her reach. She can't ask anybody to pick it up for her, or even alert you that it is gone.
A few minutes later I did scoop up the binky and go looking for you up and down the station. There were only two trains at the platform so I walked up and down looking in the windows hoping to find you, but couldn't. Too little too late.
So, tell your daughter I'm sorry. I felt horrible when I imagined you strapping her into the car seat and saying, "Where's binky?" just like we do, and it being gone, even though she'd know what happened to it and not be able to tell you.
Somebody did find it and try to return it, he just didn't try as hard as he could have.
You have an array of 1..N-1 randomly sorted integers in which one of the sequence is missing. Got that? So if N=3 you might have 1,3 and 2 is missing.
The challenge is to determine, in as efficient a way as possible, which number is missing. Give you a hint, the answer doesn't involve sorting the numbers at all.
Jesus Christ Superstar
On my list of favorite shows, it's in the top 5. I think Les Mis, Hamlet, HAIR, JC Superstar. How's that for a mix? It's all for different reasons, of course. Comparing Les Mis and Hamlet is just weird. :)