February 2008

Album Cover: The Black Album

"Young enough to know the right car to buy yet grown enough not to put rims on it."
Jay-Z / 30 Something

On Man and Machine

February 28, 2008 12:27 AM

From an interview with Loquendo CEO Davide Franco:

Bearing in mind that technology will never be able to substitute all the manifold and extraordinary human talents and capabilities...

I wonder what Ray Kurzweil would have to say about that...

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Are Keytars Really Pimp?

February 26, 2008 1:21 AM

As seen over at snoopdogg.com:

When you wear a white suit and your hair looks simultaneously like a mullet and a bouffant, yet you are surrounded by beautiful ladies in lingerie, anything you do is pimp.

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Music | Post Comments | View Comments (0) | Permalink

At Wit's End

February 25, 2008 12:04 AM

I've completely had it with craptastic Comcast. Their so-called DVR is the worst allegedly customer-ready product I've ever used in my life. It goes out to lunch more than a couple of spoiled BFFs and its handling of queued up remote control commands is about as predictable as the Soup Nazi.

Comcast's one and only saving grace, at least in my local market, was their propensity for patching in HD feeds of prominent sporting events on the Mojo channel, but tonight, halfway through my HD recording of the Wake Forest/UNC game, the feed dropped, the screen went pitch black, and I got to listen to (not see) the dialog from some lame, old fashioned movie.

Thanks, Comcast! Oh, how I loathe thee.

Television | Post Comments | View Comments (0) | Permalink

Curt Warner's House Fire

February 24, 2008 12:30 AM

I was admiring a retro Curt Warner jersey at Champs Sports tonight, and then I come home to read that his house caught on fire yesterday (via Seahawks Insider). Pretty crazy. I'm glad to read that everyone was okay.

Sports | Post Comments | View Comments (0) | Permalink

Persai Gets Close to What I (and Others Will) Want

February 21, 2008 11:58 AM

Almost two years ago, I wrote the following about the concept of adaptive aggregators or feed readers:

Let's say [my feed reader] allowed me to give each post I read an optional "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" (similarly to how user comments are now handled over at Digg). That would teach my feed reader my reading habits over time. When these habits are better understood, it wouldn't be unreasonable to automatically hide posts from the feed that probably aren't of interest to me, or at least make them less visible so skimming through a long list of posts would become more manageable.

Since then, I've heard relatively little about any advancements in this area until today. Over at Buzzfeed, I stumbled upon mention of Persai, which bills itself as "a content recommendation system that learns from user feedback and can better recommend content."

I spent a little time reading through some coverage on Wired, catching up on (and subscribing to) the company's blog, wondering why the heck they bungled the "ai" in their logo, and even letting them know I was interested in a beta invite.

After all that, I can now say with relative confidence that Persai is the closest thing to what I envisioned in 2006 and still look forward to putting to use some day. However, where they fall short is that they set up content streams based on keywords in which a user is interested. They aren't a feed reader, but more accurately a feed generator (you can subscribe to feeds of their content recommendations in your feed reader of choice).

So why is this not quite good enough? Well, it's great that I can say I'm interested in Firefox and over time, see more and more Firefox content that I'm interested and less of the crap that often shows up in such general feeds (trust me, I know from experience). However, if I already know that I'm interested in everything Robert O'Callahan has to say on the subject, how does that help me in Persai?

Another thing I'm not clear on is whether or not subscribing to the feeds from Persai actually allows me to accept and reject content directly from my feed reader. If not, this is a big weakness, because it means I have to use their web app specifically for training their algorithm — something I'm not likely to do.

In summary, it appears that Persai is a big step in the right direction and will hopefully get more people thinking about how adaptation can make content much more useful to more people. As bigger fishes in the pond, like Google and Yahoo!, learn to aggregate the implied interests of their user bases (or, better yet, can infer such information from open platforms), we'll hopefully start to see this type of adaptation become more prominent on the web.

In the meantime, I'll still be here waiting for a feed reader to come along that wants to get to know me.

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The Seahawks Have Answered My Prayers

February 20, 2008 5:49 PM

The Seattle Seahawks used the franchise tag on Cornerback Marcus Trufant today (via Seahawks Insider).

Photo of Marcus Trufant

Awesome!

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Dotted Border Problem in Firefox 3?

February 20, 2008 12:37 AM

For the past few nights I've noticed something different about many of my websites while browsing in the latest Minefield builds (which correspond to the forthcoming Firefox 3 release). Tonight I finally put my finger on it: my dotted link underlines have been converted to solid underlines.

Here's what the current CSS rule at this site looks like, for example:

a {
 color: #FFF0D3;
 border-bottom: 1px dotted #FED271;
 text-decoration: none;
}

This has worked as expected in Firefox 2, Opera and even IE7 for quite a while, so it's an odd feeling to see it rendered as a solid line in the latest Minefield builds.

Unfortunately, I can't really find anything official on the issue in the usual places, so I guess, for the moment at least, I need to just write it off to a bug in the current Gecko code until I find or hear something more official from someone in the know.

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Reality TV and HD

February 19, 2008 11:39 PM

For the past year I've been wondering why more reality shows weren't taping their shows in HD format. It made absolutely no sense to me that shows like The Amazing Race and Survivor weren't taping and then providing their content in high-def. Then, today, I came across the following at IMDb:

Producers of reality TV series and game shows have, by and large, been slow to make the transition to high-definition television, blaming higher costs and the unreliability of HD equipment, USA Today reported today (Tuesday). Jonathan Littman, executive producer of CBS' The Amazing Race and president of Jerry Bruckheimer Television, told the newspaper that HD cameras "are not meant yet for that type of rough travel" necessary to turn out the program and that any effort to produce the show in HD would add "hundreds of thousands of dollars" to the show's budget. Survivor producer Mark Burnett indicated that many of his shows are shot with HD cameras but are not edited in HD. "The costs of post-producing in HD are tending to drop, and probably not only reality TV will be in HD, but all programming," he said. Of more than two dozen primetime reality and game shows, only Fox's American Idol and NBC's American Gladiators air in high definition, according to the newspaper. Program producers, it suggested, are probably deterred by the fact that currently only 11 percent of American consumers watch programs on HDTV sets.

So it sounds like equipment/production costs and a relatively small market are to blame. Hopefully this will change soon, since the costs will continue to fall and the market obviously isn't going to get anything but bigger.

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What More Should Man Say?

February 19, 2008 4:08 PM

I just stumbled upon this somewhat randomly in the Opera Community Forums:

Hi people from Opera, what OS are your browser best working in ? None, it seems! Once upon a time you had a quite well done desktop browser, but versions 8 and above are not worth a sh... Gadgets, Aspell, none add-ons? What to hell is this? All companies are trying to make as easier as possible, we users are tired of all experiments from to begin from Microsoft and downstairs, just Apple is holding promises, all others are so greed to make money and just make confusion om market. What more should man say? Take away Opera from computer and install Avant Browser that seems be best on market today and is compatible with Explorer, and you are loosing on home market, have nothing more new and simple to come with, just some weird ideas as gadgets, that even doesn't works if man successfully install it!

The lone reply was pretty good, too:

cant you see that we don't need people like you here

Haha.

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2008 Dodge Challenger

February 17, 2008 9:16 PM

Enough said.

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WordPress on the Verge of Valid YouTube Embeds?

February 16, 2008 3:33 PM

Because it links back to one of my blog's most popular entries, I came across YouTube Embed Not In Bed With Web Standards, written by Lloyd Budd, an employee of Automattic. As you know, Automattic is the startup that currently develops WordPress and several other platforms.

As I was reading through the entry, I noticed toward the bottom that a guy named Matt had left a comment:

We could turn this on for all our Youtube [sic] (and possibly other embeds) with a deploy, I think it'd be a worthwhile project.

As it turns out, that Matt is the one and only Matt Mullenweg (aka Photo Matt), the founding developer of WordPress.

What I take away from his comment is that there may be plans in the near future to convert YouTube embeds to their equivalent, valid XHTML 1.0 markup so that they adhere to web standards.

Though I don't personally use WordPress here at bernzilla.com, I still see this as great news because such a move would likely force feed readers like Google Reader to support the playing of embedded YouTube videos that were embedded according to standards, and not just how they are suggested to be embedded by YouTube itself. The fact that they don't currently is the reason many of the videos I embed here at my blog never show up in such feed readers.

I'll keep my eye on this and see if any further progress is made. If so, you'll likely be hearing from me on this topic again.

Web Development | Post Comments | View Comments (4) | Permalink

Here They Come, Pouring Out of the Blue

February 14, 2008 8:53 PM

If all goes according to plan*, this will be the last Valentine's Day my fiancée and I will spend together as an unmarried couple.

Things got off to a bit of a rocky start for me, since I kind of knew what she wanted, but not exactly. Unfortunately for me, and in Murphy's Law fashion, a certain retailer that shall remain nameless was having some problems with its website today (of all days). So I decided to wing it; afterall, these are the types of scenarios one gets himself into when waiting until the last minute (to make myself feel better, though, I ask "when did Michael Jordan make his best shots?"). Winging it turned out to be okay, as I found what she wanted and was subsequently able to put a big smile on her face when I got home.

To top the night off, though, she had cooked an Italian dinner for me (does it get any better?) that would have given Carmela a run for her money. She made Valentine's Day cupcakes, too, and my options at present are to continue to elaborate on the occasion or go and stuff my face with those. I'll leave it as an exercise to the reader to figure out what option I chose.

Personal | Post Comments | View Comments (0) | Permalink

Managing Multiple Gmail Accounts from a Single Gmail Account

February 12, 2008 7:54 PM

For a while now I've been wanting to manage multiple Gmail accounts from a single Gmail account, simply because I'm an "always logged in" type of Gmail user. My various Firefox extensions (Google Reader Notifier, Gmail Notifier, etc.) automatically log me in to my main Google account whenever I fire up my browser, so having to log out and back in several times isn't necessarily my idea of fun (or efficiency).

Tonight I finally decided to look into how I could manage my multiple Gmail accounts from my main one, therefore eliminating the need to log in and out all the time, and making managing my email much more convenient. To accomplish this task, I needed to go to my secondary Gmail accounts and enable POP support for each of them.

Next, in my main Gmail account, I went to the "Accounts" tab in the "Settings" area and followed the instructions on how to set up Mail Fetcher.

After following those relatively straightforward steps a couple times, I took things a step further and set up labels specifically for the new mail accounts I had added. Now, when I get email at my Browsersphere account, for example, not only does it show up in my main Gmail account, but it also skips the inbox and shows up as unread in a label I created called "Browsersphere."

If you've got more than one Gmail account and you're tired of jumping back and forth between (or among) the various accounts, I'd highly recommend doing something similar for your accounts.

Computers | Post Comments | View Comments (4) | Permalink

Utilizing cdata-section-elements in XSL

February 12, 2008 3:21 PM

If you're writing an XSLT that will transform one XML document into another, you may want to enforce that certain elements in your XML output contain CDATA sections. However, if you include CDATA sections directly in your XSLT, you'll likely find that the transformation process results in escaped text in the output.

As an example, if you included the following inside your XSL file:

<Description>
  <!CDATA[Paragraphs are represented by <p>.]]>
</Description>

...you'll likely see something like the following in your XML output:

<Description>
  Paragraphs are represented by &lt;p&gt;.
</Description>

To prevent this particular type of transformation from occurring, you should make use of the cdata-section-elements attribute of the <xsl:output> element. Along with the other, arguably more common attributes of the element that specify the output type (e.g. "xml" vs. "html"), the output encoding ("utf-8" vs. "utf-16"), etc., you can provide the name of elements in your XML output that should contain CDATA sections. If you wanted your <Description> node to contain the CDATA section, then, you might do something like the following:

<xsl:output
  method="xml"
  indent="yes"
  version="1.0"
  encoding="UTF-16"
  standalone="yes"
  cdata-section-elements="Description"
/>

Doing so will result in XML output that looks more like you intended:

<Description>
  <!CDATA[Paragraphs are represented by <p>.]]>
</Description>

For more information on using cdata-section-elements, see XSL element output.

XML | Post Comments | View Comments (12) | Permalink

How to Get Instapaper Functionality from del.icio.us

February 11, 2008 10:07 PM

Note: I've yet to try Instapaper myself, but based on everything I can glean from the website without actually joining, the following appears to be true.

If you wish to achieve the functionality provided by Instapaper using your already existing and tried-and-true del.icio.us account, simply tag the lengthier articles you'd imagine you'd save in Instapaper with the "unread" tag. At any point in time, you can access your unread items from a URI like:

http://del.icio.us/<your_user_name>/unread

Then, after you've gotten around to reading an item, you can remove the tag, or if you've decided it's not something you want lingering around permanently in your del.icio.us bookmarks, you can remove the saved article altogether.

Pros to this approach? Well, you can actually choose to keep articles around indefinitely even after reading them. The same isn't necessarily so in Instapaper, given the following FAQ entry:

Instapaper isn't meant for permanent, long-term archival of everything you’ve ever wanted to read. And while best efforts are made, your data's integrity is not 100% guaranteed here.

Another advantage is that you don't have to sign up for yet another service. Though, nowadays I think some people feel like if they aren't signing up for another service every day, something's gone terribly wrong.

Cons to the approach? Well, if you're one of the aforementioned people, you don't get to sign up for a shiny new service that is generating some buzz at the moment.

Miscellaneous | Post Comments | View Comments (1) | Permalink

What is a Superdelegate?

February 10, 2008 10:54 PM

According to Wikipedia:

After the 1968 Democratic National Convention, the Democratic Party implemented changes in its delegate selection process, based on the work of the McGovern-Fraser Commission. The purpose of the changes was to make the composition of the convention less subject to control by party leaders and more responsive to the votes cast during the campaign for the nomination.

These comprehensive changes left some Democrats believing that the role of party leaders and elected officials had been unduly diminished, weakening the Democratic ticket. In response, the superdelegate rule was instituted after the 1980 election. Its purpose was to accord a greater role to active politicians.

Furthermore:

...superdelegates are seated based solely on their status as current or former elected officeholders and party officials. They are free to support any candidate for the nomination, although many of them have publicly announced endorsements.

At the 2008 Democratic National Convention, the superdelegates will compose approximately one-fifth of the total number of delegates.

(Emphasis mine).

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Website Grader Report for bernzilla.com

February 10, 2008 8:28 PM

After reading about Website Grader on TechCrunch, I decided to give it a try. I asked the site to analyze my website, bernzilla.com, and report on what it found. Of the results returned, I found the following to be the most interesting:

Alexa is an online service that measures traffic for millions of sites on the Internet in a similar way to Nielsen television show ratings. Your website has an Alexa rank of 329,002 which is in the top 2.74% of all web sites.

And:

Technorati is a popular blog directory service. It measures the popularity of a given blog as compared to all other sites that have been submitted to its system. This blog currently has a Technorati rank of 263,682, which puts it in the top 0.38% of blogs tracked by Technorati.

All-in-all, I'd say that Website Grader is a step above or at least a modern take on the old SiteScore site that I blogged about in the past. It does a good job of explaining what your site does well and what it could be doing better, based on a bevy of relevant factors.

If you have the time, I'd recommend giving it a try.

Web Development | Post Comments | View Comments (0) | Permalink

History, Like a Song on Repeat, Repeats Itself

February 09, 2008 4:36 PM

Let's pretend it's a handful of years ago and an imaginary record label executive said the following when asked about the possibility of downloaded MP3s eclipsing the sale of CDs:

There are [X] million [CD] players in U.S. households. If you really think people are going to stop [purchasing CDs], you need to lie down until that thought passes.

Seems reasonable, right? Well, we all know how that has turned out.

Now let's take a look at what Barry McCarthy, CFO of Netflix had to say this week at the possibility of downloaded movies eclipsing rentals of physical DVDs:

There are 100 million DVD players in U.S. households. If you really think people are going to stop renting DVDs, you need to lie down until that thought passes.

Riiiight.

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Heard Coming Out of My Own Mouth

February 08, 2008 4:23 AM

"Thank God for evolution."

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The Difference Between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton

February 07, 2008 12:55 AM

Hopefully you're not looking for objective and thorough information on the key differences between Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. If you are, you've likely found some bias served with a little bit of bias on the side, and not much else.

Or, if you're as lucky as someone who posed the question on Yahoo! Answers (it has since been deleted), you may have finally stumbled upon such useful facts as:

One has a penis and one has a vagina.

...and...

One is black, the other female.

Long live the series of tubes.

Miscellaneous | Post Comments | View Comments (2) | Permalink

My Favorite Super Bowl XLII Ad

February 05, 2008 12:52 AM

Television | Post Comments | View Comments (2) | Permalink

Google on Microsoft's 'Hostile' Bid

February 03, 2008 3:21 PM

Do you read this post from Google and come away with a feeling of "we're looking out for you, the user" or "oh, crap?"

Elsewhere | Post Comments | View Comments (1) | Permalink

Bottleneck as Seen Through the Eyes of tracert

February 01, 2008 1:41 AM

For the past week or so, I've been experiencing really slow connection times to any of the websites on my main web server (i.e. the one on which this blog is hosted). I originally contacted my web host, thinking that the problem was stemming from something on their end. However, they assured me that my server is running very fast and were able to back up their claim via the output of traceroute.

This concerned me, because a problem on the server side would have been pretty simple to address. Now I'm stuck in a situation where it seems like Comcast, my ISP, is having problems connecting to my personal web server, yet not any of the other websites I go to (e.g. Google).

Tonight I decided to run traceroute from my computer to my web server in an attempt to see if I could identify any bottlenecks. I was successful:

tracert -d bernzilla.com

Tracing route to bernzilla.com [207.126.49.171] over a maximum of 30 hops:

1 <1 ms <1 ms <1 ms 192.168.0.1
2 * * * Request timed out.
3 8 ms * 9 ms 68.86.177.57
4 9 ms * 23 ms 68.86.96.122

If you'll notice, in the output, there's a very obvious timeout that happens just as the request leaves my machine. However, I have no clue as to why this is happening, whether it could be due to something I've done, or if Comcast is to blame. If the latter is true, I have no idea whether it's something that will right itself over time, or if it will remain the way it is now until I bring the issue to their attention.

Does anyone out there with traceroute experience have any ideas as to what might be going on, or advice on how I should try and alleviate the problem?

Computers | Post Comments | View Comments (4) | Permalink