Blogspammers are persistent little boogers

Just an observation while I wait for my lunch – I’m getting several obviously-fake user registrations a day here now.  It makes no difference, since registering as a user doesn’t immediately allow mass un-moderated posting, but seeing the stream of notices from the blog IS slightly annoying.

Also, blogspot sucks.  Apparently a few years ago some dork made a “blogspot” theme that hotlinked (idiotically) a blank white graphic on my other webserver.  Why they didn’t just use a background colo I have no idea, but now there is a mass of blogspot blogs in Indonesia, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, etc now clogging my webserver’s log with requests for this now-non-existent file.

I need to find a massive site-choking graphic I can redirect them to until they knock it off.  Any suggestions?

Stir-Fried Stochasticity Ep 04 (“TuberculosisBurgers”) is up…

Oh, I forgot to mention here that Episode 4 is up at http://www.dogphilosophy.net, where I’m trying out the “Powerpress” plugin for WordPress to see how it works out. Please give it a listen and let me know how it is.

I’m still plotting to expand out to three different podcasts/oggcasts or so, including of course the current Stir-Fried Stochasticity podcast (Science news direct from primary sources: scientific publications), an intermittent “Perceptive Peripatetic” series literally based on random things that I happen to run into as I wander around which happen to amuse, interest, or inspire me, and a “The Computer Is My Friend” free-fun-with-computer-nerd-stuff podcast. Upcoming episodes being considered for each include:

    Stir-Fried Stochasticity

  • Episode 5: This Episode Is Garbage (concerning Landfills)
  • Episode something-higher-than-5: “Two Mass Spectrometers, High Performance Liquid Chromatography, and a Female Donkey” (concerning exactly what it says…)
  • Episode also-something-higher-than-5: “Is there anything Beer cannot do?” (concerning some interesting beer-related publications I’ve collected)
  • Various other papers from various fields have also been collected for consideration. Suggestions are welcome.

    Perceptive Peripatetic

  • “The Firebreathing All-Devouring Skybeast of the Gulf” (inspired by a photo I took recently, if I can get it to turn out the way I want it.)

    “The Computer Is My Friend”

  • Episode 01: “Freetarded” podcasting (concerning practical, ethical, legal, and technical stuff I’ve run into and considered while trying to support this new podcasting hobby of mine – hopefully useful for anyone else interested in producing their own audio and/or video for the web and for public participation.)
  • Episode sometime-after-01: “Enterprise Linux Must Die” (Tentative plot: it’s actually “pro-Linux” but is a rant against “Enterprise” distributions, or at least one in particular, and some praise for “rolling releases”).
  • Episode also-sometime-after-01: “Freetarded” mobility (concerning Android, Meego/Maemo, and my quest to get as much functionality on my cellphone while remaining as “Legally Free” as possible. Might possibly include instructions for making an external microphone adapter for various cellphone models, and might also include some (optional) video content.
  • Episode yet-another-sometime-after-01: Where? (Concerning geolocation, geolocated digital photos, other geolocated media, “geotagging” in general, and some verbal chastisement for people who say they are “geotagging” but [in my opinion] are not.)

The schedule for all this is still unspecified (but far quicker than “another year” until the next episode, at least), and as usual is heavily influenced on what anybody who is willing to listen might be interested in. I may be doing this for fun rather than profit, but the fun will be greatly enhanced if I’m not just sitting here talking to myself. Feel free to post in the comments (anonymously if you prefer – just put a fake email address in the field that asks for it.)

A bad case of “Now What?”

My schedule means I have virtually no time to do anything but work (including the commute) during the week, and increasingly the two days of weekend that I have tend to have an overflowing list of “stuff I’ve been wanting to do – often for quite a while – but can’t possibly do much of in the time I have this weekend”

I’ve got a minimum of two different podcasts/oggcasts that I can be working on (Episode 4 of “Stir-Fried Stochasticity”, regarding Tuberculosis and “heat-fixing” [and ninjas], should be ready to post soon. I also have plans to do an intermittent computer-nerd podcast, perhaps also to be submitted for “Hacker Public Radio“.) I have a bit of relatively minor but useful hardware-hacking to do (make a cable allowing me to plug an external microphone into my Android phone for potentially recording podcast/oggcast material and other things). I have work to do on www.dogphilosophy.net (which I plan to turn into the main podcast/oggcast distribution site). I have vague ideas of general creative endeavors that I could work on developing. I have a seemingly endless mass of domestic chores that could be attended to (it’s quite frightening to think of myself as “the neat one” in this house…).

It’s grotesquely hot outside as usual (why is it that no matter what part of the country I live in, the temperatures seem to spend most of their time 5-10°F above supposedly “normal” for the last decade or so? My hypothesis is that the universe dislikes me for some reason), so outdoor activities are currently lacking from my list.

I need one of those “life” things I keep hearing about. I’ve heard they’re kind of fun.

Any suggestions from anyone (anonymous or otherwise)?

P.S. Motorola corporation sucks. Thankfully it turns out HTC (unlike Motorola) actually knows what “geotagging” means…

Also P.S.: only one post and one off-blog comment letting me know the “Breakdancing Ghost of Narada Falls” post actually worked. Did anyone else listen to it (or try to and find they couldn’t)? If so, how did it sound? Thanks…

The Breakdancing Ghost of Narada Falls

Gather around the campfire, boys and girls and everyone else. It’s story time.

(This is both an attempt to entertain AND a technical test – I’d be most appreciative if any or all of you left me a comment letting me know how this works for you. I’ll put some technical information at the end of the post.)

This story concerns a certain location in Mount Ranier National Park…

http://www.panoramio.com/photo/38235159After you hear this harrowing tale, if you can’t make it out to Mount Ranier National Park to verify the story for yourself, you can see a picture of the monument online. Click or scan the QRCode image to the right to see it after you’ve heard the story.

Feedback is welcome and encouraged. For those who are interested, here’s what this post is supposed to do, technically:

If you are viewing this post in a modern (HTML5-supporting) browser, the “native” audio player in your browser should appear above, allowing you to press “play” and listen to the story. All but one of the modern HTML5-supporting browsers support the high-quality (and legally free to use) “Ogg Vorbis” audio format and will play that version. If you are in the minority of HTML5-browser-using population (Safari), an MP3 version should play instead. (The problem with Safari is that Apple doesn’t include a Quicktime component for Ogg media formats out of the box. Personally, I would recommend going ahead and installing the Free Quicktime Components, which will enable Ogg media formats for Safari, iTunes, and all other Quicktime-using programs.)

If you are NOT using a modern, HTML5-supporting browser at all (or are perhaps using one I’ve never heard of that supports neither higher-quality Ogg Vorbis nor MP3) – mainly Microsoft’s “Internet Explorer” browsers and really old versions of Firefox or Opera that may still be in use – if you have Java installed, a Java-based Ogg Vorbis player should appear instead, allowing you to play the higher-quality audio anyway.

If your browser doesn’t support HTML5 AND doesn’t support Java, a link to an Adobe Flash-based MP3 player should appear. Click on that, and you SHOULD have a window pop up that will play the lower-quality MP3 version of the audio.

In short, nearly everyone should be able to play the audio if I’ve done all of this correctly. Please let me know.

I’m back…


I’m still around, honest.  Just got back from a semi-business trip involving way more sitting-in-a-car than is comfortable.  I have a few pictures from the trip, which I’m working on getting uploaded to my Panoramio page.  A few are up now, a few more will follow soon.  See anything you like?

Meanwhile, I’m way behind on sleep.  Good night, y’all.  More in the next day or two…

Making the great leap out of the 1990’s…

I have a shiny new Android-based phone. I’d still rather have a MeeGo/Maemo one, but I got tired of waiting for something besides the expensive (though desirable) Nokia N900 to become available.

More to follow relatively soon, but I wanted to try out the beta-test version of the Android WordPress blog-thingie.

If you see this post, it works (at least well enough to get a basic post up-I still need to figure out how to do raw HTML from this thing…)

The Maker Shed is Moderately Awesome

I’ve got two blog posts that I want to get done this weekend. This is one of them.

I’m something of a fan of MAKE magazine and its related websites and such, being a frustrated “Maker” and all. “Frustrated” because although I have a strong urge to make things, I seem to have a gross oversupply of chores and issues constantly popping up to keep me from getting much done. Still, I try, despite the efforts of the Dog and five (insert mild profanity here) cats (I seem to have been declared the household “Stuff that goes into and comes out of nonhuman mammal companions technician”), and living space that thinks it’s necessary to demonstrate how entropy works on a constant basis. MAKE’s slogan is “If you can’t open it, you don’t own it”, which I so passionately agree with that I wish they were a political party so I could vote for them.

Anyway…MAKE magazine recently posted a poll asking for opinions on the magazine, the website, and so on. The way the poll was structured didn’t really let me address what I really like and dislike about the site, so I thought I’d post it here in case anyone besides me is interested.

But first, some praise: part of the poll was asking about the online store they run – The Maker Shed. I filled in the poll just a day or so before I went and ordered something from it, so I couldn’t give any opinion of it at the time. Having now gotten what I ordered, I have to say the store seems to be moderately awesome.

One of my complaints about the MAKE franchise is that it often seems to be made entirely of Arduino™ electronics, Arts-and-crafts (e.g. knitted things), and baking-soda-volcano sorts of projects for children. In truth it’s not that bad, but I would personally like to see “less Arduino™, more ‘Bioreactor’” – they actually published a “Bio-hacking“-themed issue a while back, so there’s hope. I bring this up because what they had at the Maker Shed that I bought was microbiological staining supplies (not actually the kit pictured above, but they didn’t have pictures of individual bottles of what I got). I put in my order online expecting it to be shipped the next business day, and was pleasantly surprised to find an “okay, you’re order’s been shipped” notice in my email within an hour or two. The stuff even arrived by that weekend (i.e. today), hopefully leaving me time to use it for my planned second blog post of the weekend. So, definitely fast service at the Maker Shed.

There are a few annoyances I have with the MAKE franchise, though:

  • Their “pod®casts” appear to all be videos (no audio-only podcasts at all)
  • I’d actually really like to have actual no-video-required audio shows that I could listen to on my 2½-hour daily commute. Not all of us want to (or can!) sit and stare at computer and/or “iPod®” video screens but still would like regular infusions of MAKE-related news and information.

  • The videos appear to be all presented in proprietary Apple® formats or proprietary Flash on youtube.
  • This isn’t a major technical problem for me – Mplayer handles the files just fine. However, given that Apple’s preferred formats are all heavily patent-encumbered and proprietary and therefore not really legally usable for “making” video without special paid-for permission from Apple® corporation, it seems an odd choice for the “If you can’t open it you don’t own it” folks. Perhaps they’re just paranoid that Steve Jobs is lurking just on the other side of the bay, waiting for an excuse to come up there and kick their butts if they aren’t pro-Apple® enough? In any case, I’m kind of surprised they seem to have no interest at all in legally-free, amateur-multimedia-maker friendly formats like Vorbis and Theora.

  • Where are the “Food and Drink” issues of MAKE?!?!? (And I don’t mean an Arduino®-controlled Lego® motorized model of a carnivorous cupcake or something, I mean actual edible food and potable brews. Not that “Killer Lego Robot Cupcake” wouldn’t be kind of neat….)
  • There’s enough “kids stuff” to split off into its own publication
  • Or so I believe, anyway. They already split the arts-and-crafts stuff off into its own CRAFT magazine. If they also split off the “make a paper plate toy” stuff to “Make: Kids” (Wait, “making kids” sounds like some kind of pornographic euphemism. Make that “Kids: Make”) there’d be more room for the more hardcore stuff (and a higher chance of more stuff I’m personally interested in).

  • It doesn’t seem like you can log in to comment on the Make blog without an account somewhere else (I USED to have a login directly on the site from when it first started, but that login no longer seems to work and the login screen implies the need to login through some other site’s service. Time to look up how to set up my own OpenID server…)
  • The Maker Faire always seems like it’s awesome but I can never go.
  • This isn’t really MAKE’s fault, unless they’re part of the secret cabal that conspires to keep me from having enough wealth and leisure time to attend things like this.

  • I can’t get this dang cat to quit jumping on my lap while I’m trying to type.
  • Okay, this has nothing to do with MAKE, but it’s annoying me right now.

There – now I’ve gotten it out of my system and out here where if anybody actually cares they can see it. Just some stuff that there was no way to convey in the survey. Otherwise I highly recommend MAKE magazine and its associated online material. The world needs more Makers and they’re doing some spiffy stuff to help in Sebastopol these days.

Now then, if all goes well I should have another post tomorrow with some pretty pictures of soap. Stay tuned…

Audio Geotagging

“Kimz” left a comment over on the blog’s “About” page asking about geotagging of audio, so I thought that was a good excuse to bring the topic back up here.

Even less audio (and video, for that matter) seems to get geotagged than pictures, and even though more photographs online are getting geotagged automatically by GPS-enabled cellphones, I still usually find myself disappointed when running into an interesting photograph online and finding no geographical information in the image telling me where it was taken.

I have the same kind of interest in where and when other kinds of recordings where made. I’m obviously not the only one: the Freesound project also maintains geographical information for some of the sound recordings they have. Unfortunately, although they SAY the recordings are “geotagged”, they’re not.

Take this sound sample, for example. It’s an ambient sound recording from the lobby of an office building, and you can see there’s a link to a map showing where the recording was made. However…if you download the actual sound file, there is not geographical information associated with it at all. If the geographical information is not directly attached to the file, then I maintain that the file is not “geotagged”.

Let’s say I work in a very odd sort of specialty shop, and one day we get in a shipment of inflatable anatomically-correct life-sized Australian marsupials. “Price-tag these”, the boss says. The next day someone asks the boss how much the inflatable male platypodes are. “Isn’t it on the price tag?” “There is no price tag!” When the boss chews me out for not doing my job, do you think I’ll be forgiven when I explain that I DID “price-tag” the shipment…by writing down the prices in a little notebook that I keep with me, separate from the actual merchandise? No? Then keeping the geographical information in a little database that your server keeps separate from the files isn’t “geotagging”, either!

I suppose the bizarre and potentially incoherent nature of that example just serves to illustrate my over-busy and under-slept state. Anyway, the point is that I’d love to see more geographically-tagged media, and I open up this post for discussion of how, why, and what to geotag. (For “How”, I would offer up my “Geostrings” proposal as an option that ought to be feasible for virtually any kind of media…).

If they ever get around to publishing “Mapping Hacks, Volume 2”, what should the entry for geotagging media include?

YOU DANG KIDS GET OFFA MY LAWN!

Looks like the truckloads of candy-seeking larvae are done finally. Wretched little urchins now get driven from block to block rather than walking the neighborhood like we did.

(It doesn’t actually bother me as much as that makes it sound, I just like having an excuse to say “wretched little urchins”…which reminds me – I have only about a month to get a cheerful flashing “Bah! Humbug!” sign built…)

The only thing that really annoyed me is the fact that having to be ready to be interrupted by another horde of costumed consumers meant I couldn’t really spend any of the evening getting into anything requiring any real attention…which means the 113g of CaCl2.2H2O I’ve got sitting here now to go with my Xanthan Gum has been left neglected, and I still don’t know if I can make Xanthan Gum gel into beads the way you can with sodium alginate. I figure it must be possible, given that both Xanthan gum and Alginate (among others) were all formed into little “bio-booger” beads using the same kind of process in the paper I discussed in Episode 2 of my little audio oggcast. Perhaps I’ll have time to find out tomorrow.

For now, it’s time for bed. Daylight Losings Time starts tonight, so if the critters allow me to actually sleep, I ought to be well rested to attempt some serious lake-spanking in the morning – there’s supposedly a resort on the shore of the lake that has a sushi bar, and the idea of being able to paddle out for sushi amuses me. It looks like it’s at least 9-10 miles away, though, so it’ll be a long trip if I attempt it. Hopefully I’ll have time left after that.

Also, the developer of the libdmtx datamatrix barcode encoder and decoder software posted a recent comment on my previous post about the software and its potential uses – looks like some interesting projects going on there, including one intended to generate ID cards that only legitimate authorities could read (so as to prevent identity theft).

P.S. Anybody know how to build a really good (but simple) ozone generator for sanitization purposes? Or the effective pore sizes of commonly available materials like plastic wrap? Or if a corporate entity can be a shareholder/partner in a Limited Liability Company?