archive for February, 2004

Projects

I start more projects than I finish. My current open projects include: finish Max Payne 2, write the code for a online plant encyclopedia, write a paper on commercial open source software, read Orson Scott Card’s Alvin Maker series, write a program to create mix CDs to listen to in the car, maintain and improve my blog, flesh out apejet.org, learn Esperanto, learn the basics of Mandarin Chinese, learn to read music and play the keyboard, finish Metroid Prime, create an online photo gallery, work on a short movie, build something with electronics, get in better shape, be a better person, learn to cook something really well, read the MIT encyclopedia of cognitive science, read Feynman’s physics lectures, write an application in python, and more.

I will finish many of my projects, but others will eventually be forgotten. I don’t know about most people, but I remember recognizing when I was six or seven that I get interested in something, work on it for a while, and then drop it. Maybe it’s just how I keep from getting truly bored. I’m sure it’s the same for most other people, it just doesn’t seem to bug them as much.

Games! 40% Off!

If you haven’t heard yet, The Game Keeper is going out of business. While this is surely a sad event, it does have its plus side. Practically everything in the store is for sale at 40 to 50% off.

We made a trip there on Wednesday and picked up a few games. Definitely worth it.

Every Day Blog

When Gordon started blogging, I suggested that he blog every day. It’s the best way that I can think of to keep people coming back once they’ve found your site. So… as of today, I’m going to try to blog, at least a little, every day.

Space Politics

President’s Commission on Moon, Mars and Beyond has been formed to provide comments to the president on moon and mars missions. They’re calling for comments from anyone, so below you’ll find mine. I’m doubtful that my comments will make any impression, but it’s worth the practice to think and write about such things. Oh, and I’ll probably change my mind on all of the following points, so take it as a snap shot of ideas only.

We need NASA pushing the raw/basic science missions. The ones that will teach us new things. Right behind that, we need funding for X Prize style “missions” anywhere that is ripe for private funding. For example, NASA should be sending mapping missions to the moon to find the best places to built hotels. They can even setup basic bases with power stations, radar, communications, etc…. Then, the government can fund an X Prise for the first private company to orbit the earth, send a human around the moon, land a man on the moon, keep a man on the moon for 2 weeks, etc…

Mars is farther off on the privatizing time line. We need to figure out how to get humans there to get some real work done. The Mars Direct program looks great. A good test run for it would be a mars sample return mission that makes its return fuel in situ.

Of course, anytime someone can come up with a good prize that’ll advance science, I say go for it. You’ll get 10 times the research out of it compared to spending the same amount on the lowest bidder. I think the contestants should be required to release any related patents and designs into the public domain. Their economic incentive is the prize money, and once you’ve had research paid for by the public, it should be owned by the public.

Firebird… Firefox… Whatever

The latest version of the lite-weight Mozilla is out. They’ve changed the name yet again, this time to Firefox 0.8. I don’t really have a problem with the new name, but I’m sure all of this renaming is hurting the marketing of a great browser. I hope they (and others) have learned to do through background checks before choosing a name for a product.

The good:
From what I’ve seen, Firefox is a great little browser. It includes all of the features you’ve come to expect from a modern browser: tabbed browsing, popup blocking, integrated search, standards compliance, and much more. It’s also a relatively small download (6.2 MB for windows), and it doesn’t use up a ton of memory. It also has quite snappy render times. If you’re still using Internet Explorer, you’re truly missing out.

The bad:
I’m currently running Mozilla 1.6. It’s not quite as slim as the fox, and I do miss out on some of the great extensions, but it’s home. I have all of my mail and bookmarks here, an integrated irc client, and more preferences than I know what to do with. I do plan on switching away from the Mozilla Suite to Firefox + Thunderbird + Sunbird, etc… but not yet. I’m hoping that by the time Firefox 1.0 is out, they’ll have built into the installer a profile importer, and a few more of the Mozilla features that I’ve come to love (or at least made them available as extensions). For me, Firefox hasn’t quite lured me away… yet.

The Verdict:
If you’re still using IE, switch. For most people out there, Firefox is a much better browser and after using it for a few weeks, you’ll never want to go back to the bug infested waters of Microsoft.

A New Kind of Science Online

Stephen Wolfram‘s A New Kind of Science is online. There’s a lot of debate about the importance of this book. Either way, it’s interesting to see that it’s being given away online. I don’t think he has to worry about this hurting sales. Anyone interested in reading more than a tenth of the 1192 pages would surely buy a copy.

Cory Doctorow's Eastern Standard Tribe

Cory has done it again. Eastern Standard Tribe is available for free online, and the dead tree version can be pre-ordered. I went ahead and ordered a copy and bought a copy of Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom (free shipping!). I read Down and Out online when it came out, and really enjoyed it. I think I’d rather read Easter Standard Tribe on paper.

BBC Nonsense

Here’s a complaint I sent to the BBC regarding their “story” Linux cyber-battle turns nasty:

It’s totally ridiculous to claim that the MyDoom attack on SCO was unleashed by the Linux community. Not for one second would someone within the Linux community believe that using a virus against SCO would do any good. First of all, it would raise suspicion against the community itself, and it would do absolutely nothing to change the SCO court case. It’s simply dishonest to imply, without any proof, that there is “little doubt” that the attack came from the community.

Read what the community is really saying and thinking about the attack:
http://www.perens.com/SCO/DOS/

FTP Verdict

Well, I think I found my replacement FTP software. FileZilla is “a fast and reliable FTP client and server with lots of useful features and an intuitive interface.” It’s also open source, and it provides all of the features I require of an FTP client. (I haven’t tried that server, and don’t have any plans to soon.)

It is still lacking in the niceties department: tool tips on the toolbar items, pretty icons, etc… Some of the features that I especially like are that it can store your config info in an xml file instead of in the system registry (this is great for when you need to reinstall windows, and you don’t want to lose your settings). It is also available as a zip file, or a traditional windows installer.

So, if you’re not completely happy with your current FTP client, I suggest that you give FileZilla a try. I think you’ll be impressed.

Roomba

Jesse and I have been looking at getting a new vacuum cleaner for the past few months now. Our old one served us well for a while, but it’s so loud now that we just can’t stand to use it (plus, the smell of burning rubber is pretty bad).

We definitely wanted to get a get a bag-less model. Not being able to find new bags for our old vacuum was a major pain in the neck. I was trying to decide between an upright (better for the carpet), and a canister (quieter on average) models when I ran across some reviews of the Roomba from iRobot. I was expecting to see quite a few negative reviews because it’s such a new product, instead I found that the reviews tended to average 4 out of 5 stars. For those of you that haven’t heard of the Roomba yet, or haven’t clicked on the above link, it’s an automated vacuum cleaner. According to the ads, you charge it up, turn it on, and set it lose on a room. Being battery driven, and pretty small, I don’t expect it to clean as deeply as an upright vacuum. It also has a relatively small “particle bin”, so it’s likely to fill up after cleaning a single room. Like all vacuums with a powered brush roller, long hair does tend to bind up bind it up, so that’ll have to be cleaned regularly (every 5 to 10 uses according to the directions).

I am hoping that the added convenience of being able to turn it on and walk away will mean that we’ll actually clean our floors much much more often than currently. I expect this to result in an overall cleaner house (the Roomba doesn’t like clutter).

Well, it’s charging now. I’ll try to post some updates after I’ve used it for a while.

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