January 2003

Missing mate

by Michael Alderete on 1/29/2003

“Why is it that I only lose socks when Rochelle does the laundry?”

Yesterday Rochelle did a load of laundry, and this morning I was putting my items away. I came upon a single sock, and couldn’t help but ask aloud the above line.

Which of course is unfair, it’s totally unreasonable to immediately blame one’s spouse for a missing sock, when it could easily have still been in the laundry hamper. So, while the trail was fresh, I went down to our basement — where we have the washer and dryer — to look.

Found it. In the dryer. Waiting for its mate.

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DHI 20-26

by Michael Alderete on 1/26/2003

DHI 20: I emptied a box in my office, from the pile of many next to the office door. I cleared and sorted the nearly three inches worth of papers I accumulated in my last Java class. And I threw shit out.

DHI 21: Killed another box; it’s by the back door, waiting to be taken to the Goodwill pile in the basement. Among the things discarded are a couple of old messenger bags, a padded shoulder bag for my also-discarded StyleWriter printer, and a slew of baseball caps I culled from my collection.

DHI 22: I put my old ADB keyboard away in the dressing room, cleared out a large pile of old mail, filed some other papers, and cleared off the entire surface of the footlocker in the office. Then I moved the two plastic bins on top of the footlocker, for a later effort.

DHI 23: I culled from the back of my closet, getting rid of a pair of slacks, a couple sweaters, and a bunch of sweatshirts, none of which I wear anymore. (I did my shirts a while back, before 2003 got started. My closet’s ready for me to buy a few new items!)

DHI 24: Emptied a box of miscellaneous computer items. Kept the interesting items (a few lights parts), and will give the rest away (a very old scanner and a very old, semi-working inkjet printer).

DHI 25: Cleared off the sofa in the parlor of all my stuff, and a few of Rochelle’s items, too. The sofa is now actually usable for the first time in 10 months or so.

DHI 26: Moved all but one BeBox out of the parlor. Packed up all the crap I had littered on top of our bar. Consolidated a dozen shipping boxes, and prepared them for storage in the basement. Rochelle almost has her parlor back!

We also paid the interior design consultant Rochelle found, for the week’s worth of work he’s done with her, including amazing progress on the water closet and the lovely new arrangement for the back deck. Our house could actually be pretty cool in another month or two!

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BeBox extension Top 10

by Michael Alderete on 1/21/2003

Rochelle suggested that I should write up a Top 10 list of reasons why I should get an extension on my BeBox project, instead of her throwing them on the street. So here goes:

10. Technology’s complicated.
9. Fun with Gas #1
8. It’s the NFL playoffs, goddammit!
7. What BeBoxes? That’s a permanent art installation.
6. The cats distracted me with shiny things.
5. I’ve been drunk or hung over every weekend since I got them.
4. Hey! You tricked me!
3. Oh, yeah, right, I guess I need to work on those.
2. Because I wear the pants around here!
1. What about your projects?

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BeBox project update

by Michael Alderete on 1/21/2003

Back in October, Rochelle got me to publicly commit to finishing my BeBox refurb project, or terminate it. She cleverly suggested a deadline far in the future. The 17th of January, the anniversary of my buying the collection. I later modified that to be the weekend after the 17th, to give myself an extra two days.

Those last two days were this past weekend.

So, I’m not finished, and haven’t actually made a whole lot of progress. My Daily Home Improvements are primarily going to tasks to clear space for the BeBoxes in my office, so Rochelle can have her parlor back.

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DHI 13-19

by Michael Alderete on 1/19/2003

DHI 13: I worked on the BeBoxes, installing permanent RAM in the dual 133 that I plan to keep. Installed a network card too, but the Kingston card I tried isn’t working, not sure why. Might be tomorrow’s DHI — with my BeBox deadline fast approaching, that’s all I really have time for.

DHI 14: I updated my Mac to OS X 10.2.3, and ran the Repair Privileges tool on it, which corrected a few errors.

(Mac OS X tip: It’s always a good idea to do this after installing an OS update, or really, any installer that asked for the administrator password. You can run this without rebooting, or booting from a CD. Just run /Applications/Utilities/Disk Utility, and do a Repair Permissions on your boot disk. Works fine, and catches errors.)

I also found and fixed an error in our MIMEDefang configuration file, which may have been causing us to lose mail since the 5th (yikes!). So if you wrote to us and didn’t get a reply, try again!

DHI 15: I worked on the bookshelves again, selecting more books to be pass on to another household. I pulled out enough books, both paperback and hardback, to get all the other books that I didn’t have room for onto the shelves proper, instead of sitting casually on the edges.

I also installed MovableType, a different weblogging package, for Rochelle to try out on her weblog…if I can get her to start one!

DHI 16: This one’s kind of geeky (even more so than usual). I added my ICBM Address (latitude and longitude) to my blog page and registered with GeoURL. Now you can see what other web sites are near me physically.

DHI 17: Rochelle and I met with an interior designer for about two hours, to start the process of getting help to finish the water closet project we began almost two years ago.

Rochelle also got someone to come over and hook up the gas heater we’d worked on so hard previously. But that’s a whole other story.

DHI 18: I got rid of almost 20 old t-shirts from my dresser. I kept most of the Be t-shirts, though; I still can’t bear to part with them…

DHI 19: I cleared off my nightstand, throwing some stuff out, and getting rid of a pile of crap I was pretending I would eventually read. With a clear nightstand, I can now hook up my alarm clock and actually use it, a big improvement from Rochelle and I passing back and forth a little travel alarm (the person getting up earliest got the alarm).

I should add that Rochelle blew me out of the water this week, with less than two hours of work on the back deck. It looks fabulous, and it’s now worthy of having people over and hanging out on the deck. Woo hoo!
ICBM Address
Who’s Near Me?
Fun with Gas #1
Fun with Gas #2

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Phoenix from the ashes

by Michael Alderete on 1/19/2003

If you’re familiar with the ongoing debate over copyrights, you probably know that the Supreme Court ruled, in Eldred vs. Ashcroft, that Congress could extend copyrights essentially indefinitely. This is a case that a lot of people wanted to win.

The lawyer who lead the case, Lawrence Lessig, appears to be taking the defeat and turning it towards victory, with a proposal that would move the great majority of material affected into the public domain, while still allowing copyright holders who are actively using their rights to publish commercially valuable works to keep those copyrights:

Here is something you can do right now. In this NYT op-ed, I describe a proposal that would move more work into the public domain than a total victory in the Supreme Court would have. The basic idea is this: 50 years after a work has been “published,” a copyright owner would be required to pay a copyright tax. That tax should be extremely low—this proposal says $50, but it could be $1. If the copyright holder does not pay the tax for 3 years, then the work is forfeit to the public domain. If the copyright holder does pay the tax, then its contacting agent would be made a matter of public record. Very quickly we would have a cheap, searchable record, of what work is controlled and what work is free.

If Justice Breyer is right that only 2% of the work from the initial period affected by the Sonny Bono Act continues to have any commercial value at all, then this proposal would mean that all but 2% will move into the public domain within three years. And as the proposal applies to all work that is more than 50 years old, it would apply to a much larger range of work than would have been affected had we prevailed in the Supreme Court. This could give us (almost) everything we wanted—98% of the public domain that our framers intended. Not bad for government work.

It’s a great proposal, and one that deserves broad support, even from the giant media companies that fought so hard to extend their copyrights. There’s a FAQ about the proposal. I’m exceptionally proud to have suggested question #3 to Prof. Lessig. (I do not know if I was the only one with that suggestion, but it’s exciting to have made a contribution, no matter how small.)

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Fun with gas #2

by Michael Alderete on 1/19/2003

On Friday Rochelle had an appliance repair guy come and hook up the gas heater we had such fun with two weekends ago. We felt the need to have an expert come in and handle it, since we’d gone to another 5 hardware stores (yes, that’s 9 total), and not found the part we thought we needed.

And the funny thing was, Mr. Pearson didn’t want to turn off the gas either, he used Rochelle’s approach of “open the windows and work fast.” I guess when you know what you’re doing, it’s not a big deal.

But when he took the cap off the gas pipe, no gas smell! Hmmm, what’s up with that? A trip to the basement to trace the gas line revealed that, much to our dismay, the pipe has been removed over a 5 foot section. So there’s no gas running to the line, and it’s an ordeal to repair it.

Ah, well, we tried. And the vintage heater looks really cool where it’s installed in the dining room, even if there’s no gas to make it glow.


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Making news aggregators easy

by Michael Alderete on 1/17/2003

The time has come to make using news aggregators easy, Mac OS-style. Every browser should have a “Subscribe to this Site” command, which should send a standardized subscribe rss AppleEvent (or similar message on other OSes) to the user’s preferred news aggregator, which would use RSS auto-discovery to subscribe the user to the news feed.

This is a suggestion for Chimera, Safari, and other Mac OS X browsers to have a menu command “Subscribe to this Site” (I’m sure there are better words), and a corresponding toolbar button.

This is also a suggestion for Mac OS X to have a new standard Internet application category, of news aggregator, that the user would select in the system preferences. I think it would deserve its own tab, News, in the Internet preferences panel. (This could also be combined with Usenet reader prefs, I suppose, though that’s not my focus here.)

Aside: A promotion to a standard internet tool would require that Mac OS X include a news aggregation application in the distribution; I would imagine that there are a few third-party developers who could help out here (Ranchero and UserLand come to mind).

This is also a request for all the Mac OS news aggregator application developers to work together to design the right AppleEvent; that ought to be pretty simple. (It might even already exist…?)

Why is this a good idea? Here’s the Before and After user scenario:

Before Subscribe RSS support:

  1. User finds an interesting news site or weblog, and decides they’d like to read it regularly.
  2. User hunts on web page for a “RSS” or “XML” logo, or other subscription button or link (different for every site).
  3. User (hopefully) finds link, right-clicks “copy link to clipboard”.
  4. User switches to preferred news aggregator application.
  5. User selects the Subscribe to New Site command (different for every aggregator).
  6. User pastes in URL copied to clipboard.
  7. User clicks Subscribe button.
  8. User (hopefully) gets confirmation page/screen that they have successfully subscribed.
(Brent, apologies, I know NetNewsWire makes it a little easier, but I’m still using Radio right now.)

(Dave, apologies, I know that Radio has the slick coffee cup icon approach to subscription, but it’s Radio-specific [for both user and site author], not a general approach.)

After Subscribe RSS support:

  1. User finds an interesting news site or weblog, and decides they’d like to like to read it regularly.
  2. User clicks the “Subscribe to this Site” button on browser toolbar.
  3. System switches the user to their preferred news aggregator application.
  4. User (probably) gets confirmation page/screen.
A lot fewer steps, and all of them are simpler (except #1, the eternal dilemma of the Internet).

This is an opportunity for leadership from browser authors, especially Apple, to really leverage the weblog and news aggregation waves. I frankly find my news aggregator more important to my “digital life” than my camera, DVD drive, or even iTunes. This kind of usability could make news aggregation a part of everyone’s mother’s lives.

LazyWeb, take me away!
Mac OS X
Ranchero Software
UserLand Software
Radio UserLand
Chimera Project

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Quotation of the year candidate

January 14, 2003

This one’s for my brother John, who’s getting married later this year: “Every wedding is a train wreck, the only question is how many casualties there’ll be.” Prove it wrong, John!

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January 13, 2003

I just finished installing my new copy of Keynote, Apple’s new presentation program. It’s so beautiful, I am imagining that I will borrow a Mac to be able to give a presentation using Keynote during our sales kickoff, next week.

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DHI 9-12

January 12, 2003

Thursday I moved some cut boards from the hallway to the back of the house, where they will go to the basement. Friday I culled out a shelf’s worth of books, for selling/donating. Saturday I put a bunch of books that were stacked up around the house into boxes for storage. Sunday Rochelle and I de- and re-constructed our bedframe to be more stable, added a new power strip for my side of the bed, and rotated our mattress and box spring.

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DHI #8: Phone charger swap

January 8, 2003

I unplugged my old mobile phone charger from the rack, and plugged in the new one. Now I can charge at my desk, instead of random places around the house that have a free plug.

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