Monday, December 22, 2008

Go, Pack, Go!

For tonight, at least, I am a Packer fan!

I sure hope they can do us a favor, and help keep our slim hold on a Playoff spot (we sure won't see a wildcard!).

As far as all the Vikings fans blaming Childress - do you really think he coaches them to turn over the ball?!? Of course not. The blame lies on two guys who are probably staring at their toes today. Buck up! Get a grip!!! You're off to face the Giants!!!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Skål Vikings!

For the past several weeks, I've actually written several blogs about the Vikings - all in my head, as a matter of respect for the team. I've thought of many clever and discouraging things to say about the way the team was playing ... but I've followed the old maxim about "if you can't say anything nice ...".

Sunday, however, I saw the Vikings I had been waiting for all season. Penalties held to a minimum, no bone-head plays (although the defensive touchdown on our second possession left me with a sense of deja vu), and we really looked like we were in control most of the game.

What has been sad to see the past Sundays was all the effort and improvement by individuals that just wasn't translating to the team. Great plays on the offense and defense were being negated by stupid penalties; so many great plays countered by bone-head moves the next play (and the next, etc). Now, it's finally looking like it's starting to gel.

The only thing to watch out for now is hubris. I think that's what got us at the beginning of the second half yesterday - luckily, we got back to the game and held on the rest of the half.

As far as Childress as a coach ... earlier this year, I was on the "he's got to go" side, but now I am reconsidering. Penalties have consistently been declining - something that has plagued the Vikings as long as I have watched them. Perhaps discipline is setting in in the locker room & on the field (a far cry from Tice's Vikings). As far as the QB position, Childress stuck firmly with his choice, until it was obviously the wrong one. I think that he stood by his decision (and QB) as long as he did speaks a lot to his determination and commitment. It's good to have a coach who worries more about the game than his popularity rating with the fans.

It's not too late to take the NFC North!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Asta la MS Vista

About a month ago, I got a new laptop from work. It came with XP installed, but a Vista DVD was included as well. Being a curious guy, I thought I'd give it a try ...

The first thing I couldn't help but think was how much the new interface looked like a Gnome desktop I had used on Linux some five years passed. It didn't take me long to realize that all that extra "eye candy", as cool as it looks, only takes up more screen real estate (my favorite theme is actually one with a very small frame & buttons, leaving more room for my actual important content). I'm sure MS is imitating (reverse-innovating?) Apple's windowing system rather than linux, but it's still interesting how old the "new" Vista desktop looks.

In case you haven't guessed, I primarily use Linux, not Windows. Like most Linux users, I have a better than normal understanding of how operating systems work, or should work. So, when I found certain actions required the system to pause, and the user alerted to an "Administrative" task, I thought there was real merit to the concept. This is actually built right in to the Unix and Linux kernels - a "user" space for user actions, and a "system" space - when a user needs to do something in "system" space, they need some sort of authentication - typically, asking for the root (linux administrator) password. While I am not sure exactly how Vista achieves this, I guarantee it's not in the kernel, but somewhere that causes a lot of slowness to even switch to administrative mode. I should note, too, that just being an "Administrator" on Vista is not enough - it will still prompt you to continue every time.

Similarly, if you run an installer program that extracts and runs files as part of the installation process (pretty common, really), you will be prompted when the extracted files try to run. Again, probably a good safety measure aimed at trojans from the internet that may try and install software without your knowledge, but when faced with the practical task of installing programs, well, be prepared to click "Continue". A lot.

Of course, all this can simply be disabled, which is far, far easier than trying to configure that balance between ease of use and security. (I could go on a tirade here about how security has to be USABLE, not just AVAILABLE to truly be security, but another day...)

Still, there is something to be said for the "newness" of Vista ... I can't think of any specific "oh this is better than XP" items, but just because it was different from the same old XP I've been using for 6+ years (more like 9, considering how much like Windows 2000 it is), there was a certain cool factor to using Vista.

That is, until I started seeing Mr. BSOD on a regular basis.

The "Blue Screen of Death" was fairly common prior to Windows 2000, but it seems to make a strong comeback in Vista, or at least it did for me. Multiple times a day. At first, it seemed almost random, and there was no one act that was causing it as far as I could tell. Then yesterday morning, as I logged into work to check my e-mail, BSOD. Rebooted, tried to check my e-mail again, BSOD. I did this five times, getting quite frustrated, and finally gave up on Vista.

Only seven hours later, I had XP and Office installed and patched, and ready to get back to work.

Meanwhile, my OpenSuSE 11.0 installation just runs. It does fancier eye-candy than Vista. And if I log in as root, I can delete the entire system without so much as an "are you sure?". Okay, that might not seem like a good thing ...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Vacation 2008

I'm nearing the end of my vacation this summer. My wife has been calling it a "stay-cation", since we chose to stay in town. I do miss getting away from the city, but we had a good time doing things right here in the metro.

We also found out this week that Kitty has been accepted to school this fall, something we were pretty sure would happen, but now know for sure. This was actually the primary reason for staying home rather than renting a cabin this year.

I've placed a bunch of photos from my Vacation 2008 on Picasaweb, shown as thumbnails above. One of the pictures has a bald eagle eating a fish on a fallen tree - but you'd never know it looking at the thumbnail.

There is also a map of my vacation photos as well.

Where did we go?

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

"Web 2.0" Reflections (Thing #23)

A lot of "Web 2.0" seems like so much flash, and much of it with it's share of security risks. However, where "Web 2.0" shines seems to be where the technology bests fits with it's users needs, and does not aim to lead it's users to work in a particular way; nor does it attempt to secure a market share.

Today marks the 15th anniversary of the public release of HTML and HTTP, and today, the web is still in it's infancy, according it's primary inventor.

Flash, cool factor will always have it's appeal, but without community buy-in, it will merely be a "flash" in the pan. HTML and HTTP were contributed to the public fifteen years ago, and XML five years later. While Netscape and Microsoft fenced over features in their JavaScript (and JScript, respectively), the ECMA-262 standard laid out the rules for developers to write browser-side scripting that could work regardless of the user's choice of browser.

Competition is good. Collaboration is better.

On "Web 2.0" tools (Thing #22)

One of the greatest tools available today has got to be craigslist. Not only has it been a tremendous aid every time I have to clean the garage, but it's been a great way to get tickets to the Minnesota Opera.

I think one of the best things about craigslist is it's simplicity: it does what it's intended to, and little more. Evolution at it's finest.

The only thing wrong with craigslist ... what is a "st paul", anyway?

ON Web-based Apps (Thing #21)

There are a lot of advantages to web-based apps, especially when combined with network storage. While I would not trust sensitive documents to Google Docs, it becomes very useful for storing a shopping list (especially when comparison shopping).

Google Docs is also a great way to share information - I've used it in the past to compile a camping equipment list.

Hmm ... presentations ... now that sounds like fun!

On PBWiki (Thing #20)

PBWiki seems to have a very nice package for starting up a new community site. This is an area that has expanded by leaps and bounds, as people realized what they could do with the technology (and who knows what's next).

On Wiki-Wiki (Thing #19)

Wikis are just plain cool. I think Wikipedia was most likely my first experience with a wiki. I've been a contributing user for a while, and haven't contributed all that much.

My favorite, though, is my small contribution to the Superior Hiking Trail entry, especially this picture.

The Apache Wiki was my inspiration for bringing MoinMoinWiki in house several years ago. One of my favorite features was it's ability to format different types of source code (which is likely why Apache Software Foundation uses it). Like Plone, MoinMoinWiki is written in python, but at the time I looked at it, it did not have the GUI editor - a major downside.

WebJunction, MINITEX (Thing #18)

Silly me! Trying WebJunction Minnesota with Firefox (on Linux, no less!) ... painful. I guess I should have heeded the warning.

I do frequently use one MINITEX site - the MnLINK Gateway. Minnesota has a wealth of materials available through inter-library loans, including technical books from the U of M.

More on Tagging (Thing #17)

I guess I've talked about tags and tag clouds on a couple of posts now. Yep. Very cool stuff.

One thing I did notice, when I was looking at my blog before, it seemed like there should be a good way to list all the tags (or "labels") used on my site. When I didn't see it at first, I went to "Customize" my site, clicked on one of the "Add page content" links, and sure enough - a list of labels!

That should make it easier to find all my Web 2.0 stuff, right?

On (Thing #16)

The tag cloud is one of the more interesting visual reporting tools I have seen. I had first noticed it used on, and ended up creating an account on some time ago to play with it in action myself.

Of the links I have on, the most popular one seems to be the TV guide on, linked by 241 other people.

It's also interesting to be able to see what tags other people are using for bookmarks.

How could we implement tagging in Amanda? ...

On Rollyo (Thing #15)

Looking at Rollyo reminds me a bit of what we were trying to do at PageLab, but our business model was to roll together search engines for paying customers (which never showed up) that returned relevant results, AND links to their products.

Rolling your own search engine would certainly have it's uses. I could see limiting it to search just common developer sites, so when I do a search for "Tomcat", I'm only getting results for the Application Server.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Image Generators (Thing #13)

It's interesting to see these as part of "Web 2.0". I suppose this is another case of technology waiting for it's use. Many of the image generators looked an awful lot like some of the "Script-Fu" image manipulation that was written for GIMP. Could this be using the same framework?

It will be interesting to see what happens once Internet Explorer can handle SVG images (afaik, it currently requires a buggy plug-in from Adobe). I think image generation will grow by leaps and bounds at that point.

LetterJames is just plain cool. You can tell some real thought and design work went into each of the templates available.

Finding RSS Feeds (Thing #12)

One thing I've noticed about searching for feeds is the garbage to noise ratio is extremely high.

In the past, I've subscribed to many feeds (too many feeds), and found that I not only did not have time to read them all, I really didn't care to read most of them.

Generally, the feeds I subscribe to today are not from the result of a search, but generally discovered another way - for example, I had been a long-time visitor to, home site for Eric Meyer, CSS guru. So when I discovered he had a regular feed, I subscribed.

Beyond subscriptions, there is one site I visit frequently, even if I do not subscribe to their blogs - The use of a "tag cloud" gives a nice quick glance at what are the more hot topics at Sun.

Linked Out, thank you (Thing #10)

Sorry if I'm paranoid, but social networking sites concern me.

I am almost certain I would have done something incredibly stupid if Facebook or anything similar was around when I was in junior high / high school.

On Podcasts (Thing #9)

Podcasts are an interesting extension to RSS ... another example of how open formats can evolve to fit the needs of a changing community (like a community that suddenly is inundated by iPods).

As a geek, it's interesting to note the different methods of "adding" a podcast - iTunes and MY! users both register their selections through service providers. Zune makes it less obvious what is being done, as it apparently registers it's own protocol (zune://).

But in all the methods above, ultimately you're relying on RSS (a type of XML) for the delivery of the playlist.

I did find a podcast of a radio program I like, and frequently recommend - "Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!", a game show based on current events, featuring a panel of three comedians. Mo Rocca, Roy Blount Jr., Paula Poundstone are a few of my personal favorite regular guests. The show is on locally on KNOW at 2 pm on Sundays, a time that almost guarantees I'll miss it if I'm not driving ... now I have another option!

On Web 2.0 Technology (Thing #7)

No one can deny that there is a certain "cool factor" to "Web 2.0". Long gone are the days when the internet was only for University Geeks and European Nuclear Physicists!

I remember the cool factor of Java Applets - incredibly cool at first, but as that wore off, people became less and less impressed with waiting 30-60 seconds with a frozen system while the Java applet loaded. And while Sun did first improve, and then eliminate the problem in later releases, too little, too late! Shockwave Flash is on the scene!

Next thing you know, every web site starts with a "jump" page, that serves no purpose but to show off the design skills (or lack thereof) of the site's developers. Okay, I guess it also helped sell Flash, but maybe I'm confusing chicken and egg.

But in my mind, the "Web 2.0" lineage is not from Java or Flash, but like so many things on the web, descends directly from the openness and usability of HTTP, HTML, and it's step-child, XML.

HTTP was made to be an extensible protocol - it's been extended by adding a secure layer (SSL), allowing PUT and DELETE operations (WebDAV, although originally part of HTTP), fully supports proxying (helpful for crossing networks), and essential to SOA / WebServices.

HTML made no attempt to hide itself behind proprietary code and end-user license agreements. It was made open to all, and even attempted to be somewhat understandable to the novice user. A standards body (the W3C) was even formed to allow global participation in developing future standards.

XML takes HTML (or possibly SGML) one more step, and allow developers to develop their own set of tags, and even provide facilities for validating those tags. XML became a hot topic several years before it truly started showing it's potential, but when it did ... look out!

So how do these boring protocols and markup languages relate to the coolness of "Web 2.0"? Because in my mind, the "Coolest" part of "Web 2.0" is the interaction between systems, and the collaboration between people that can develop as a result. Proprietary formats, license requirements for development, put limits on developers AND end users. Both Java and Flash started their life as proprietary formats, each hoping to dominate the "cool thing" market. "Web 2.0" did not develop in the vacuum of an R&D facility, but evolved in the public square.

And the evolution continues! Developers throw their gadgets into the ring; people use the gadgets or they don't; Some people will tell the developer their gadget needs "this", and the developer will agree and add it (or they won't, and maybe someone else will branch it!). People will learn about security risks the hard way (I predict cross-site scripting will lead either to people abandoning embedding video from YouTube and the like, or some new method of authenticating content being developed).

Cool factor gives it it's appeal to the masses, but it's open collaboration that truly has driven "Web 2.0" (2.5, 3.0 ...)

Dotting the "i"s, part one (Things #5 and #6)

Earlier this year, my employer gave the staff an assignment to discover "Web 2.0". Each week, a number of "Web 2.0 Things" were given for us to try out. While I did try out many of the things, there are a few I guess I've left behind.

Thing #5 and #6 both focused on using a specific photo sharing web site, owned by a search engine company that I refuse to give any support or business to, due to their poorly chosen name. I don't mention that name primarily because I don't want to give them any advertising.

The specific reason I avoid this company is in it's name. I was raised where saying "gosh" and "jeeze" was considered offensive, and while I generally do not take offense at words uttered in my presence (I fall victim to "sailor tongue" myself), it doesn't mean I have to approve of a business that uses an old blasphemy in it's name.

The fact that it's a common blasphemy, and one most people don't recognize only makes it more insidious to me.

I'm a goofball, I know. But I have the right to chose where I give my business.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The List - a special Earth Day edition

Over a week ago, I ordered a set of bread pans from King Arthur Flour. Like so many online retailers, they wanted my e-mail address in order to do business with them. I specifically unchecked the little box that said "I want to receive special announcements and specials".

The e-mail confirming my order was accompanied by a second e-mail: spam. I sent an e-mail to their customer service, requesting that they remove me from the list. The next day, more spam from King Arthur. This is actual spam, by the way, not merely order confirmation, or shipping information. This is completely unrelated "come buy more stuff" e-mails, which I explicitly (by un-checking a checkbox that is checked by default) told them I did not want.

The $8 shipping also said it would take five days. Today, day nine, the pans arrived. In a big box.

Happy Earth Day!

Today just so happens to be Earth Day. I might have actually forgotten, but Kitty went to Valley Natural Foods this morning, and was nearly trampled by an unruly mob waiting for free Earth Day totes (interestingly, the "tramplers" didn't stay to shop in our nice little co-op).

Then this afternoon, I get a big box from a certain retailer.

As you can see, it took not only a huge box, but an awful lot of paper to make sure that my metal bread pans arrived safe and sound. Especially appropriate for Earth Day!

That's it. KAF, you just made The List!!!

... and I need to pound the pavement, and find a local bakery supply store!

Monday, March 03, 2008

On Google Earth (Thing #14)

This week, we're also looking at Google Earth, and app I've played with from time-to-time (mostly depending on how well their current software works with linux). It's a pretty cool app, and is great eye candy.

The question I always struggle with when it comes to some of these tools is just how much of myself do I want to make available online? It's cool to zoom to my house, and I've navigated my way to work, to friends, and to vacation spots using Google Earth, but I don't know if I want to make any of that information available to the general public. For example, I'd

I did decide that despite my privacy concerns, I could share photos and the location of one of my favorite fishing trips. If you scroll towards the bottom left of the album, there is a link to view the photos using either Google Maps or Google Earth (or you can use this direct link).

On RSS Feeds (Thing #11)

It's Alive!!!

I had abandoned RSS for dead maybe about five or six years ago, and now it's back!

I had first played with RSS (or "RDF", as it's cousin was once known) using a java application server library called "Jetspeed", and later built my own RSS reader in PHP. At the time, it seemed like such a good way to share information that I thought we should jump on board. And since the home page stories were dynamically generated, it was relatively easy at first to create an RSS (actually RDF) feed for the city's home page stories.

Back then, I envisioned a time when all government sites provided RSS feeds. I even bought the domain "", thinking users could enter their zip code, and be provided the latest news from all their government agencies. But of course, it was too early - there were limited tools for the consumer, so there was little push for governments to provide RSS with their web sites.

What a difference a few years make!

Now, I have a home page that shows about eight different feeds - NBA, NFL, weather, slashdot, BBC News, etc. Of the feeds I subscribe to (ignoring the owner of the BBC), only one feed actually comes from a government site - US-CERT for security updates. There's still virtually nothing from my local government.

The city's RSS feed, by the way, was never really used, and ultimately abandoned when they changed the way home page stories were generated.

Ultimately, I believe RSS was given new life by the iPod, and their choice to use an extended form of RSS for podcasting. But it's still nothing like what I envisioned. It's a lot more fun.

Monday, February 25, 2008

YouTube (Thing #8)

As part of the "Web2.0" initiative, we've been asked to look at YouTube, and find a favorite video. I have been using YouTube for quite some time for all kinds of things - finding concert videos for favorite musicians, finding old Muppet Show routines, as well as other old T.V. shows.

But I think for my favorite, I have to go with the Hammer Juggler. While I initially was e-mailed this video, I was able to find it on YouTube, and thus I could send it to others without the bandwidth overhead. Each time I watch this video, I try to see if I can find any scars on this guy's face from previous practice sessions. Do not attempt at home.

One of the interesting things about YouTube is that it seemed to prompt the whole online "video on demand" concept that lead to studios releasing their own videos, and subsequently, the writer's strike. While it would be unfair to blame the writer's strike directly on YouTube, you can see how these events fall into sequence. In the future, you may see more creativity from common citizens using YouTube, and networks left to unscripted entertainment, like news, true crime and sports.

On the embedded player: I see the embedded player for YouTube turn up quite a few places. It's a cool little widget, but any secured web browser would not allow it to run, since it uses the same technique as a common cross-site scripting attack. A cool widget is not worth the security risk.

Monday, February 11, 2008

A favorite pic (Thing #5)

At my workplace, they've asked the entire technology group to look at "web 2.0", and try some of the features that are being built into web sites and web browsers. This week's lesson was to find a favorite pic.

After looking at my favorite spot for photos - Wikimedia Commons - I decided to choose one of the ones I took instead. I was just too overwhelmed with great pics!

The picture above is of a hidden lake north of Bemidjigamog (or just "Bemidji") in the State Park. There was a trail that lead from the campground through a "bog walk" - a boardwalk allowing visitors to walk into the bog without destroying it. Through the bog, and through thick woods, you come out at this small hidden lake - perfectly quiet and tranquil.

Pitcher Plants in the bog!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Attend the Tale ...

For my birthday this year, Kitty purchased tickets to the Broadway revival of "Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street". As a teenager, I stumbled upon the very end of Sweeney Todd on PBS (probably waiting for Doctor Who to come on), and thought "That looked really interesting". I soon rented the video from that performance, and became a big fan.

The week prior to seeing the show, I heard a story on MPR that this revival used a minimal set, and had a minimal cast, with the actors also playing instruments (no orchestra!). This did worry me a bit, knowing that there is one version of the musical that is not acted out, but merely sung while standing in place.

The production was incredibly brave, with the actors constantly acting their part, playing their instruments or moving set pieces. The music was wonderful, and amazing to watch the actors deftly handle their increased musical responsibilities. But sometimes the additional work of the actors became a distraction from the story itself; other times, the instruments and staging interfered with natural, direct interaction between the characters, leaving the audience wondering who is supposed to be a talking with who.

Also, by having the complete cast on stage at all times, it was not always clear when a scene transitioned from place to place, or even who was actually in the scene. Especially the opening scene in Act II, it's hard to tell that the pie shop is now crowded, as it is filled with as many people as before.

Sadly, one of the most important "characters" was missing from this production - Sweeney's barber chair. This prop was important enough that you can hear it in use on the Original Broadway Cast recording. I think some of the black comedy was lost without the chair. Not only did it change the timing with the way each murder was symbolically staged, but I think the quick exit of the body in the original staging made it easier to laugh at the situation. Maybe it's not as polite to laugh at a murder victim if they're still in the room (and playing an instrument).

That being said, I fully understand how the chair would be a logistical nightmare for a ten-person ensemble.

Again, it was a very brave production, and incredibly well performed by the cast. I would gladly see it again if it were to come back through town.

Now, if only they'd do "A Little Night Music" ...

Monday, January 21, 2008


Seems kinda familiar, huh?

I think as of last night, I lost all interest in Football until late August. Good luck getting your ring, Randy - but I can't stand to watch another Gnats football game.

Football's over, Basketball may as well be over ... must be time for fishing again!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Maybe next season

The week after my last post, Vikings running back "All Day" Peterson drew the national spotlight back on the Vikings following a record-setting day. Suddenly, the mediocre Vikings are looking at a potential play-off spot ... I decided I better not jinx anything with another post!

But we struggled with Oakland! We only beat the Chargers because they paid no heed to our "unstoppable" running back ... but then, the next three games we struggled to do anything on offense - our one-trick pony had met it's match. We barely beat a struggling Chicago team (what a great day for Urlacher, though!), and that was pretty much all she wrote for any post season hopes.

Two things kill us - penalties on the defense, and a lack of coordination on the offense. While I would have preferred starting the season with a veteran QB, Jackson is showing signs of improvement - at this stage, I think it would be a huge mistake to back away from Jackson. He's there, he's capable - let's start building a solid offense around him. Wade and Ferguson seem pretty solid. Allison might not be bad, but why is he in number 84?!? That number is WAY to big for him! And speaking of numbers, what happened to #40 this year? I know Childress has his own game plans on offense, but hey - Kleinsasser gets yards and points! Granted, he's a good blocker, especially when running the ball, but he needs to have the ball in his hands more often.

Lastly, there were a lot of comments from the announcers about Jackson "telegraphing the ball". I saw that too - but can that be fully blamed on Jackson, or the less-than-accurate receiving staff? You can read where he's looking - but I swear you can read his eyes, too: "Are you going to catch this damn ball, or make me look foolish again?!?".