Archive for December, 2005

Last post of the year

December 31, 2005

Earth, as seen from Mars. It's a beautiful picture.

JPL, via Digg:

On its 449th martian day, or sol (April 29, 2005), NASA's Mars rover Opportunity woke up approximately an hour after sunset and took this picture of the fading twilight as the stars began to come out. Set against the fading red glow of the sky, the pale dot near the center of the picture is not a star, but a planet — Earth.

Firefox Extensions

December 31, 2005

I've meant to do this for a while, but I never got around to it. I've just been doing some cleaning up today (has nothing to do with the new year), and I'm finally getting around to posting it.

It's hard to believe that Firefox is only a year old – it's become such an integral part of my life that it's hard to imagine how I ever lived without it. the beauty of it, however, lies not in the browser itself, but in it's hundred of wonderful extensions that are available for it. So what I'd like to do here is share the extensions that I have installed, and maybe get some feedback on any that I don't have installed but think I should.

  • PDF Download – There's nothing more annoying than accidentally clicking on a PDF link and waiting for Adobe Acrobat to load (and half the time, it seems, crash). This extensions intercepts such clicks, and gives you the option to view it, download it, or view as HTML. I can't tell you how many times it's saved me
  • Scrapbook – By far and away, the most mind blowingly useful extension that I use. Scrapbook lets you save web pages (articles) for offline viewing. You can highlight, annotate, and remove the ads from those saved pages. It stays on your hard drive, so when it comes to certain publications that like to “archive” articles behind closed doors, you still have a copy for later reference. It renders them searchable in a way that search engines can't offer – rather than searching the entire web, you can find a specific point in a specific article much quicker because it's limited only to those you've saved.
  • Context Search – Let's you right click a word and search in any search engine you have installed, very handy for wikipedia article lookups.
  • DeskCut – Creates a shortcut on your desktop or in a folder of your choosing. It's an alternative to bookmarking, I find that putting the shortcut to my desktop is a good way to mark a site “come back to later”.
  • Tabbrowser Preferences – Why these options aren't exposed by default is beyond me; this extension is a must have for allowing you to control the behavior of tabs.
  • foXpose – Not the most frequently used extension that I have, but I use it enough to justify keeping it installed. It displays all your open tabs as thumbnails.
  • BugMeNot – Bypass those annoying registration sites.
  • SessionSaver – Another no-brainer for what should be a default feature. Remember all your open tabs so you can get them back after closing Firefox (or a browser crash).
  • Greasemonkey – Extension that allows you to add custom web page scripts. I find it quite handy for enhancing my Gmail account – this extension let me add a delete button, as well as color code labels and create saved searches.
  • Adblock – Usually I ignore ads, but sometimes they're just annoying. So I block them.

Alright so that's what I have, now what am I missing?

Edited to add: Seems I managed to answer my own question.

More reviews of the year

December 31, 2005

One other I'll mention – Betanews has been doing per-company “Year in review” articles, so far for Google, AOL, Microsoft, and Apple. It's interesting because there's so much “Wow, that happened this year?” moments – a statement of how quickly the world of technology moves.

Lifehacker's Year in Review

December 31, 2005

Lifehacker is a kind of neat blog that I follow which offers a wide array of productivity tips to help save time and make life easier, or “life hacking”, especially when it comes to technology and geek things. They've recently compiled a year in review featuring an overview of what happened in 2005, and the best tips they had to offer. I've gotten some good ideas from them before and this is a good recap, so I recommend checking it out to see if anything is of interest to you.

Google sued for patent infringement

December 31, 2005

ARS (via Slashdot):

The fledging Google instant messaging service known as Google Talk has come under fire from a Delaware corporation that claims that Google is infringing on two of its patents. Rates Technology Inc. claims that Google has violated their patents on methodologies relating to reducing the cost of calls placed over long distance. In a statement yesterday Google said, “We believe the lawsuit is without merit and we will defend against it vigorously.”

You've probably never heard of Rates Technology Inc. (RTI), and that wouldn't be surprising since the company has no products and offers no services. By all appearances, RTI is a company that was set up to collect licensing fees and pursue settlements related to the company's patent portfolio. Gerald J. Weinberger, president of Rates technology Inc., once said that the company was “an enterprise based on patent licensing,” and that much of its business depended on the courts. Rich Tehrani looked into the company earlier this year, and has provided an interesting profile, to say the least.

[…]

The two patents in question are not for inventions, but processes relating to using a regular telephone to make long distance calls. The patents focus on the use of a centralized database with pricing information for the purposes of determining the cheapest phone call carrier on the fly. The patents do not deal explicitly with the Internet, however, and do not even appear to have VoIP ventures in mind. (I thank my lucky stars every day that I'm not a patent lawyer, however, so my initial reading of the complaint could be incorrect.)

I've never seen a more perfect example of just how fundamentally screwed up the patent system is. Yeah, Google probably has the muscle and the financial resources to deal with this – but if they didn't, this sort of practice only serves to have a chilling effect on innovation, not promote it.

Ticket sales down for third straight year

December 31, 2005

ABC (via Digg):

Hollywood's year-ending good news is that moviegoers are opening hearts and pocketbooks for “King Kong” — it brought in more than $60 million its debut weekend and counting.

The bad news is that audiences did not exactly go ape over the rest of 2005's cinema offerings, making this the third straight year of decline in Hollywood ticket sales — the first such stretch of bad news in 40 years. Because of the continued falloff — sales are down 12.6 percent from 2002 — a growing number of analysts are wondering whether America's movie habits are changing permanently.

So, I guess that means suing your customers wasn't such a brilliant strategy after all?

Alright Hollywood, here's some free advice:

1) Lower your bloody prices
2) Quit the half an hour of ads before every show
3) Make movies that aren't crap
4) Drop the lame “release window” bullshit and let people
4) “Piracy” isn't your boogeyman, your own incompetence is. Quit with the DRM bullshit that only hurts your legitimate customers, drop the lawsuits, focus on making a product and offering an experience that people will want to pay for.

That is all.

Horse Sex

December 31, 2005

Seattle Times:

As I look back at the year in news, it's clear I should have focused more on people having sex with horses.

That's the conclusion I reach after reviewing a new list of the year's top local news stories. Only this list is not the usual tedious recounting by news editors or pundits who profess to speak for you readers. This is the people's-choice list.

It's not a survey of what news you say you read.

It's what you actually read.

By tallying clicks on our Web site, we now chart the most read stories in the online edition of The Seattle Times. Software then sorts the tens of thousands of stories for 2005 and ranks them. Not by importance, impact or poetic lyricism, but by which stories compelled the most people to put finger to mouse, click, open and, presumably, read.

Which brings me back to sex with horses. The story last summer about the man who died from a perforated colon while having sex with a horse in Enumclaw was by far the year's most read article.

So the most searched for news item in 2005 was “Janet Jackson” and the most read news story was about a man who died having sex with a horse. God help us.

For the love of journalism

December 31, 2005

Yahoo:

But at some point, Farris Hassan, a 16-year-old from Florida, realized that traveling to Iraq by himself was not the safest thing he could have done with his Christmas vacation.

And he didn’t even tell his parents.

[…]

It begins with a high school class on “immersion journalism” and one overly eager — or naively idealistic — student who’s lucky to be alive after going way beyond what any teacher would ask.

Personally I don’t see the issue here. I’d love to spend my Christmas vacation in Iraq. It’s the happiest place on Earth right now…

Student make a million dollars

December 30, 2005

Yahoo (via Huffington Post):

If you have an envious streak, you probably shouldn't read this.

Of course, being a fool, I didn't heed this sage advice.

Because chances are, Alex Tew, a 21-year-old student from a small town in England, is cleverer than you. And he is proving it by earning a cool million dollars in four months on the Internet.

Selling porn? Dealing prescription drugs? Nope. All he sells are pixels, the tiny dots on the screen that appear when you call up his home page.

He had the brainstorm for his million dollar home page, called, logically enough, www.milliondollarhomepage.com, while lying in bed thinking out how he would pay for university.

That's so not right.

Bush's phrase of the year

December 30, 2005

Reuters (via Huffington Post):

Call it the wrong phrase at the wrong time but “Brownie, you're doing a heckuva job” was named on Thursday as U.S. President George W. Bush's most memorable phrase of 2005.

[…]

“The 'Brownie' quote leads our 2005 list of Bushisms — memorable phrases or new words coined by the president,” Payack said, adding that Bush may be the foremost White House creator of new words, citing such past efforts as “misunderestimate” (to seriously underestimate) and “embetter” (to make emotionally better).

Some may argue that Bush's legacy will be Iraq. I think it'll be his contributions to the English language though. I mean, I think “heckuva job” definitely deserved to win, but it came from a list of strong contenders:

— “See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda,” Bush said in explaining his communications strategy last May.

— “I think I may need a bathroom break. Is this possible?” Bush asked in a note to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during a U.N. Security Council meeting in September.

— “This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous. And having said that, all options are on the table,” Bush said in Brussels last February.

— “In terms of timetables, as quickly as possible – whatever that means,” the president said of his timeframe for passing Social Security legislation in March.

— “Those who enter the country illegally violate the law,” Bush said in describing illegal immigrants in Tucson, Arizona, last month.