Sunday, January 31, 2010

Lala - my not-so-new favorite thing.

This post is long overdue.  If you have seen any of my recent activity online (Facebook, Google Reader, or certain posts about top music), you might be aware that I have become an avid user of Lala.  The short story: Lala is a free online music service without advertising.  The longer story follows.

You can read Lala's official story about their features at their How it works page.  I'll expand on what I like about these main features, and one additional minor feature, to show what I think makes Lala pretty awesome.

  1. Play over 8 million songs for free.  They have a pretty extensive music catalog, of which you can play any song for free once.  After the first free listen, you can listen to 30-second clips of songs you don't own (you can always listen to full-length songs you own - see #2).  I especially like that they organize music so that it is easy to queue up albums, which is how I prefer to listen to music.
  2. Play your music, anywhere on the web.  You can match your music collection on your computer to Lala's catalog so that Lala recognizes what songs in their catalog you own (no, it does not matter how you came to own the music).  If you own it, it can always play it for free on the web.
  3. Discover new music through friends and experts.  They've got some social networking and cataloging aspects.
  4. Buy new music starting at 10 cents.  You can buy any song as a "web song" for 10 cents.  This gives you unlimited plays of the song via the web, but you can't download it to your computer.  You can also buy songs for download, usually for 89 cents.  Note that if you have previously bought a song as a web song, you only have to pay the difference (79 cents) to buy it as a download.  The song files are DRM-free variable bit-rate MP3s.  In my experience the bit rate is usually around 240 kbps, which is excellent unless you're an audiophile.

    I will add here that Lala's download prices are pretty phenomenal in comparison with the competition.  For example, here are some comparisons with two other major MP3 vendors for four new album releases that I bought this past Tuesday (yes, I went kinda crazy):

    Four Tet - There is Love in You
    iTunes - $9.99
    Amazon MP3 - $6.99
    Lala - $6.49

    Charlotte Gainsbourg - IRM
    iTunes - $9.99
    Amazon MP3 - $7.99
    Lala - $7.49

    Basement Jaxx - Zephyr
    iTunes - $9.90
    Amazon MP3 - $6.99
    Lala - $6.49

    Jaga Jazzist - One-Armed Bandit
    iTunes - $8.91
    Amazon MP3 - $6.99
    Lala - $6.99

    As you can see, iTunes is kinda ripping people off (though I will concede that they pioneered the MP3 selling business and make selling/buying music very easy for both producers and consumers), so it's a good thing that I don't even have an iTunes account set up.  I used to use Amazon MP3 quite a bit, but I have more recently been buying the majority of the music that I purchase through Lala
  5. Scrobbling to Last.fm!  Listening to music is pretty much worthless to me unless I can scrobble it to Last.fm, my ultimate music listening cataloger.  Without this minor feature I don't think I would have begun using Lala nearly as much as I do now.
I've actually been a Lala member since early 2007, back when their main thing was trading CDs, though I never really used it.  They've since dropped that business model and are now a digital music service.  I rediscovered them this past fall when Pitchfork started using Lala to share music that they reviewed and Google started including Lala previews in music searches.  Since then I've been using Lala to check out new releases, listen to recommendations from friends, and listen to my collection from work (don't tell Boeing).  It has greatly contributed to the amount of music I listen to and to the amount of music I actually purchase.

I was a bit disappointed in December to hear the news that Apple acquired Lala.  Although Apple appears to have used Lala technology for at least one good purpose (providing browser-enabled previews for iTunes songs), my fear is that Lala will be absorbed into iTunes and I will lose some of the features I have come to love.  For example, I'm pretty sure this would result in increased music prices.  Also, if the web streaming becomes part of Apple I think Boeing will get wise to the goings on pretty quickly as users jump on board, and therefore block it.  I hope these worries do not materialize.

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

about:me

Here at the Blog, we rarely take time go to get in touch with our inner feelings.  This is no exception to that generalization.

about:me is a Firefox add-on that "provides a fun way to see personalized patterns in browser usage, including trends in browsing history and download activity".  Some of you fellow nerds might notice that the name is a clever play on the about: URI scheme used in many web browsers.

I installed this add-on a few months ago, but rarely remember about it.  Of course, when you run out of ways to procrastinate instead of writing that philosophy paper, you remember all sorts of neat things that "deserve" to be blogged about.

So what truths has about:me revealed about my surfing habits on my main home computer?  You can see the results directly below (click to enlarge):


For one, I am in denial about how much I use Facebook.  It seems that I can't go around anymore saying condescendingly, "Oh, no.  I *only* get on Facebook whenever someone does something on my wall or sends me a message."  The same seems to go for OkCupid, though to a far lesser extent.

Other than that, the sites listed are for the most part what I would expect.  Google (and its various subdomains), Wikipedia, GMail (which is broken out from Google for some reason), Last.fm (because I obsessively want to view the charts about my recently listened music), and ESPN Soccernet are all mainstays in my Internet routine.  I'm a little surprised to see CNET, YouTube, and Blogger on there - I definitely use those sites fairly frequently, but I don't feel like I'm on them *that* often.  The one notable absence, though, is Yahoo!.  I feel like a check my Y!Mail often enough for it to beat out a few of the sites listed.

In addition to the sites I browse, the times at which I browse are also interesting, though there are no real surprises there.  I apparently hit the web hard sometime around 9 PM after a long day of doing whatever I do in the "real" world.  It's not unusual for me to still be surfing up until 1, or even 2, in the morning.  I'm guessing that the daytime surfing is mostly from weekend activities, when I'm not at work/school/soccer.  The graph also confirms that the period between about 4 and 7 AM pretty much does not exist to me.

So there you have it...a little insight into Obi.  But because it's somehow tech related, that's probably about the most you're gonna get here.

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Friday, November 27, 2009

Join the Wave!

LifeHacker had another Google Wave donation thread today, and I was fortunate enough to score an invitation (thanks Daniel!).  Now it's my turn to share.  I originally had 8 invitations to give out, and I've sent out 3 so far.  If you would like an invitation, let me know by commenting or by sending me a message.  If you don't know what Wave is, you can find out all about it here.

I honestly don't think Google Wave will be terribly useful in my daily life, but it definitely has a cool factor.  Maybe once some friends join up and start collaborating I'll see things differently.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Google Location History - my new favorite thing.

First there was Google Latitude, which allows you to share your location with your friends using your cellphone's GPS and your data plan that connects you to that nebulous interweb thing.  This seems to draw polarizing opinions from people, as some think it is the coolest thing since sliced bread, while the paranoid among us think this is tantamount to life in Orwell's Oceania (despite the fact that you have control of who can see your location data, and to what level).

Latitude now has a feature called Google Location History, where Google tracks and maintains a history of your location in your account.  The coolest part is that you can play it back like a movie.  Here's where I went today:





You can see that I got a late start to my day, and that I made trips to City Hall (where my attempts to renew my driver's license and license plates resulted in epic failure on both counts...but I'll leave my complaints of government incompetence for another post), Qdoba (free burrito!), and the dry cleaner before heading in to work.  Curiously, my GPS triangulation is not perfectly consistent throughout the day, as I appear to have made a dash to the airport at some point even though I'm pretty sure my phone stayed in my stationary car the whole day...

This was a bit of an accidental discovery, as I normally do not keep my location shared after I'm done using Google Maps on my phone. However, I left it shared last night while I was trying to get Google Location Alerts to work with Steve.  Location Alerts is another cool feature, where Google will send you a message when you come within proximity of a friend on Latitude.  Unfortunately, I have yet to succeed in causing an alert despite two attempts while sitting next to or across from a friend.

Anyway, if you are not one of those privacy advocates who think this is the work of Big Brother, friend me up on Latitude.

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Friday, November 06, 2009

A stroll through PC World's top 100 products of 2009

Around this time of year, PC World releases their list of the top 100 products of the year.  The list is a combination of products from many varied categories: social networking websites, desktop applications, operating systems, gadgets, consumer electronics, and pretty much anything tech related.  You can check out the 2009 edition by pointing your computer in this direction.

As I went through the list, I certainly encountered many familiar items (I'd list some of my favorites here, but there are just too many).  However, I also found others that I was either previously unaware of or had previously dismissed as uninteresting.  Here are some new gems that kept me up late tonight:

#8. Canon PowerShot SX200 IS
I'm in the market for a new "pocket megazoom" camera.  My requirements are at least 10x optical zoom and HD (720p) video.  I can now add this to the shortlist, which was previously occupied only by the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3.

#25. Boxee
A free open-source media center application.  This will come in handy for my office PC, especially while my media center PC is down with a faulty hard drive.  One of the big selling points of Boxee is the integration with online content, including Hulu.

#39. Qik
I've had their application installed on my Nokia N97 since I got the phone, but I never really knew what it did, besides that it was somehow related to video sharing.  Turns out that I can use it to stream live video from my phone to the interwebs.  Yes, seriously.  Stream.  Live.  Video.  From my phone.  To the web.  You could sit anywhere in the world with an Internet connection and watch live video streamed from my phone.  I tested it out.  It works.  And it's blowing my mind right now.  Oh, and you can share your videos on YouTube, Facebook, etc. after you're done recording.

#86. Hillcrest Labs Loop Pointer Remote
I've wanted a device like this ever since I heard of the Logitech Air Mouse.  This crazy design has me pondering whether I would prefer a mouse form factor (but movable in the air like a wand) or another potentially more ergonomic shape.

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Monday, August 24, 2009

No, I did not change my mind about not wanting that desktop shortcut.

Dammit, Apple...why do you have to be so insidious about shortcuts to your software? When I first installed Safari (which I must admit is actually a pretty good browser - perhaps good enough to displace Opera and IE in my hierarchy), I deleted the desktop and taskbar shortcuts that you placed there without asking me. Now, after updating Safari, and having to uncheck the box that would install iTunes (which I never wanted in the first place) as a tag-along, you have replaced the desktop and taskbar shortcuts once again without asking me. Why can't you just:
(a) only install what I ask you to?
(b) ask me before placing shortcuts?

Your current behavior is not helping you to win me over.

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Phone tech update.

A couple of developments regarding phone tech over the past few days...

First off, I received my coveted invitation to Google Voice. The mass message with my new phone number will be sent out shortly.

Secondly, I acquired a new cell phone - the Nokia N97. I selected this because it was one of only a few phones currently available that had all the features I was looking for (3G/GSM, GPS, Wifi
, Bluetooth, touch-screen, physical QWERTY keyboard). I had to wait until my trip to Chicago to get it because I wanted to actually use it before I committed, and they are only available at Nokia stores. One advantage of this is that it is unlocked, so I can use it on any GSM carrier - which fits in with my desire to avoid cell phone contracts for the rest of eternity. After reading a few reviews, I was fearful that I would be disappointed with the phone because of the "archaic" Symbian S60 operating system and the inconsistent menus (some take one tap to select, some take two). However, I'm pretty pleased with it so far, though the UI is not as fancy as the iPhone or Android. Overall, it's a win.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

5 people that I wish had Last.fm accounts...

...and used them...and were my friends on there. In case you don't know, Last.fm is an online social cataloging website that tracks the music that you listen to.

  1. Brian George. He basically introduced me (though I had heard one of their songs before) to my most favoritest band in the whole wide world. He's also turned me on to quite a few other good bands.
  2. Chike Orjih. After living with my bro for almost a year, I'm realizing that our musical tastes are more alike than I had previously thought. I've definitely had a few "Hey, what's that you're listening to?" moments that have resulted in pleasant discoveries.
  3. Adam Tsacoumangos. Although he hasn't yet given me any referrals, we have significant overlap in our musical collections. We also have a lot of the same interests in general.
  4. Jason White. Similar story to Adam, and a top concert companion. I'm still waiting for him to blow my mind with something.
  5. Robert Schwartz/Tom Musick. What top-5 list isn't complete without your best buds? So what if that's technically 6 people?

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Friday, July 10, 2009

A racial divide in online social networking?

This article is an interesting read. The author hypothesizes a white flight of sorts from MySpace to Facebook (or, as I refer to them at times, MyFace and Spacebook). I think I was part of that flight. Does that mean I'm white? Don't answer that.

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Friday, July 03, 2009

What is Google's civil responsibility?

Here's an interesting article about a two-pronged lawsuit that's being brought against Google:
http://news.cnet.com/8301-17939_109-10278274-2.html?part=rss&subj=news&tag=2547-1_3-0-5

The first claim that Ascentive makes (though they are not the first to do this type of thing) is that Google wrongfully allows other companies to purchase ads using Ascentive's trademarks. More on this in a bit.

The second claim (this is where they are trailblazers) is that Google unfairly removes their websites from search hits. The article goes on to explain why Google had dropped their sites (due to a malware warning), but to me this is immaterial. As the legal expert quoted in the article says, there's no way this claim gets anywhere in the lawsuit. I don't see how Ascentive can allege to have any say in how Google provides search results. Despite the ubiquity of Google search in society today, we must remember that this is a service provided by a private company - the pages of google.com are not owned by the public. As a side note, not many people realize the possible implications of having so much of their data on the servers of such private companies. And those that do don't seem to care (e.g., yours truly). But that's probably a separate blog post...

Back to the first claim. At first glance, it might seem wrong for Google to allow advertising with registered trademarks. But who's really doing wrong? I submit that the fault lies solely with the company that advertises using a trademark that they do not own. Google simply provides a service - it is the other company that misuses the service. It shouldn't be incumbent on Google to check that every ad they sell does not violate a trademark.

If I were the judge on this case, it would get tossed out faster than Matt Levine at a country line dancing bar (inside joke).

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Your web browser can soon be your web server.

At least that's the goal of Opera Unite (http://unite.opera.com/). I can definitely see the web headed in that direction, though I doubt (unfortunately) that Opera will be leading the charge...I'm sure Microsoft, Google, or some other bigger name company will steal this idea. My question: will such browser/servers provide enough functionality for me to ditch my paid hosting service?

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Yet another web browser - but this one is kinda interesting...

Flock - The Social Web Browser
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flock_(web_browser)
http://flock.com/

Why it's interesting:
It integrates many aspects of your social web presence into the browser.  For example, there are widgets built into the browser to manage a myriad of your accounts, including Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, GMail, Yahoo! Mail, Blogger, etc.  In fact, I'm using the blog post feature of the browser to create this very post.

Other points of note:
It is based on Firefox, and has a somewhat similar feel...sorta.

Will it become my new default web browser?  Highly doubtful.  But it's still pretty neat.  Perhaps the new order of preference will be:
Firefox
Chrome
Flock
Opera
Internet Explorer
Blogged with the Flock Browser

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Saturday, June 06, 2009

My first official Wikipedia edit.

I've made a couple of minor anonymous edits before, but I just made my first edit (actually, 2) with my Wikipedia account. I was reading a story on CNET about Jeff Moss (a.k.a. Dark Tangent) being named to the Homeland Security Advisory Council, and decided to look up his Wikipedia page. I noticed that the page did not have too much information on it, and lacked this recent piece of news. I dutifuly added this to the page with a reference to the source article. Go me! You can see my contributions here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Contributions/Obezma.

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Anticipated tech: Google Voice

Since I can't take my cell phone into work with me, some people have a hard time reaching me (because they don't have my work number, and because they don't realize that I'm an e-mail addict). With Google Voice, I would be able to have one phone number dial all three of my phones. Brilliant! Unfortunately, Google Voice is only in a closed beta right now. However, the FAQ page indicates that they will opening it up in a matter of weeks. You can learn more about it, including its other cool features, here: https://www.google.com/voice/about#.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Wolfram Alpha

Wolfram Alpha is the new "computational knowledge engine" that everybody's talking about (well, all the nerds are). If you don't know what this is or haven't seen a demo, check out this video: http://www.wolframalpha.com/screencast/introducingwolframalpha.html. It's kinda long, but you'll probably get the idea after a couple of minutes.

I don't think this is gonna put Google out of business or anything, but it does look pretty awesome.

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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Real-time shoe sale tracking.

This one's for the real nerds out there. Zappos, the online shoe retailer, has an application which shows the location of shoe purchases in real time on a map of the United States. Enjoy: http://www.zappos.com/map/.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Time traveling.

I have long vehemently contended that time travel is impossible. Facebook has just proven me wrong:

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Kid A, no. Kid B, no. Kid C, yes.

Apparently we are now capable of screening human embryos for diseases and other characteristics, thus allowing potential parents to select their desired children: click. While this is not a trivial (or cheap) procedure, it raises some controversial questions.

This takes natural selection to a whole new level.
I like the idea of being able to screen for debilitating or fatal genetic diseases, but I'm not sure how I feel about the idea of designer babies, i.e. choosing gender and other physical characteristics. I don't think I can say that I'm opposed to it, though.

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Sunday, February 01, 2009

More proof that wikis are awesome.

Even the U.S. intelligence community uses one to share information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intellipedia. I'm pretty sure the vast majority of the general public will never see an article on there, though.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Free e-file with no strings attached.

I have always felt that the ability to electronically file your taxes for free should be a right as a citizen of the United States. If the government makes you pay taxes, you shouldn't have to pay someone an additional fee to figure out how much you need to pay. It looks like the Free File program has finally achieved something close to how I think things should be.

For years there have been ways to e-file taxes (both federal and state) for free, but there have been stipulations that limit access to these options, such as caps on income. For the past couple of years I have semi-manually filled out my tax returns because I refuse to pay to have my taxes done. Thankfully, the IRS had PDF forms that you could fill in, though you had to perform the calculations yourself. Missouri went a step further and provided PDF forms that automatically performed the calculations. The drawback was that I had to print out my tax returns and mail them in.

It now looks like the IRS is offering Free File Fillable Forms that perform calculations and allow e-file! It is completely free for the federal return and there are no limitations, including on income. I should note that this option is similar to filling in the paper forms, except that it is all done electronically. People who are not comfortable with crunching the numbers or deciding which schedules to fill out are probably better off with the commercial software packages/websites that guide you through the process, though usually at a cost. In any case, you can bet that I will be utilizing this service this year. Unfortunately, this does not apply to state returns, so I would have to either pay for a Missouri e-file (head shake) or mail in the state forms as I have done in the past (head nod).

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Monday, January 19, 2009

An interesting take on the U.S. rail system.

I've been an advocate for enhancing the national rail system in the United States, especially after riding the trains in Japan. I knew at least one person (Michael Schwartz) shared my sentiments. I now know that there are others. This article has some interesting ideas on the issue. The guy who is interviewed basically wants to create a system modeled after the European one. It would be viable, more efficient, and more eco-friendly alternative to flying.

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

An SD card that does WiFi!

Seriously...http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eye-Fi. I kinda want one.

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

That's why you get a battery back-up.

I was using my office PC almost 2 hours ago when the power went out. This was the first time I had experienced a power outage since I moved into my house. I didn't understand why it had happened, because there was no snow or rain outside, though it had drizzled a bit the night before. Fortunately, I have a battery back-up for my office computers and my media center PC, so they did not experience a power interruption. Since I no longer had a working Internet connection, I decided to shut down my computers.

I called up Ameren, and their automated system helpfully informed me that there were about 650 houses without power in my area, and that the problem was being worked. The estimated completion time was 15:00, which wasn't too bad. I'm now at my mom's house, but hopefully the power has been restored at mine.


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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Everybody's got an online social network.

...even Boeing. Only theirs is supposedly for networking and collaboration within the company. It's called inSite, and it was rolled out the last scheduled work day last year...which is good cuz you can't expect productivity to be very high at that time. Unfortunately my productivity has not improved this year because of it. In order to help put an end to my addiction, I set a goal of 100 connections by the end of the week. I already reached this goal at 15:59 Tuesday afternoon, so I guess I have to go back to doing real work for the rest of the year...

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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Z2K9 update.

The Zune problem was apparently caused by a software bug related to leap years. Here's Microsoft's official response: http://forums.zune.net/412486/ShowPost.aspx. I hope mine actually works tomorrow.

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Curse you, Zune gods!

Last night (actually early this morning) I discovered my Zune 30 frozen on the logo screen. I thought it was related to the issues that I had with it during my recent trip to Asia. The two times it froze there (while I was trying to switch songs), draining the battery and restarting seemed to get things back to normal. This time that didn't work. I've spent the last couple of hours looking up Zune freeze fixes, and even tried disconnecting the battery (which requires popping open the case).

I eventually found a couple of articles which lead me to believe that I'm not the only one with this problem, and it is actually a bit of an epidemic (I hesitate to use that word since so few people actually own Zunes). See http://mobilitysite.com/2008/12/z-day-hits-zune-30s/ and http://gizmodo.com/5121311/30gb-zunes-failing-everywhere-all-at-once. Microsoft even posted the following Zune service status:
Customers with 30gb Zune devices may experience issues when booting their Zune hardware. We’re aware of the problem and are working to correct it. The Zune Social might be slow or inaccessible. Sorry for the inconvenience, and thanks for your patience!
My brother Chike ran into this DIY fix: http://gizmodo.com/5121618/how-to-revive-dead-zunes-30s. I'm a little hesitant to try it, since Microsoft is working on a fix. But then again, my Zune is already well past warranty and I already opened it up. I hope they come out with some direction soon, so that I can start listening to my Zune soon.

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

How 'bout that Blu-ray?

It's been a while since Blu-ray emerged as the winner of the next generation high definition video disc format. I had long maintaned that as soon as a Blu-ray drive went under $100 in price I would snatch it up, and to that end set up a couple of price alerts on Newegg (my main source for computer parts and all things tech). When I received the alert e-mail a couple of months ago, I was quick to buy this baby. Despite the exclusion of the advertised PowerDVD CD and SATA cable (the Newegg people say that OEM models don't come with that extra stuff, though I guess retail versions do), I was able to successfully install and set up the drive in my media center PC using an extra cable that came with my motherboard and the wonderful BitTorrent protocol. So far, I've only watched a couple of (bad) Blu-ray movies (The Forbidden Kingdom, 88 Minutes, Baby Mama), but I'm pleased with my purchase. Now if only a good Blu-ray movie could come out so I can have some people over to check it out...

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Mac is finally on the network.

Until tonight, my Mac Mini had not been connected to the Internet since I bought it when I moved into my house 16 months ago. This can be attributed to a few factors:
  1. I actually tried to connect it to the Internet several times without success.
  2. I'm lazy and give up easily.
  3. I have 3 other computers I could use instead.
I finally figured out today (technically yesterday) that the version of OS X that shipped with my computer last year still included the "old" Airport software which doesn't support WPA wireless encryption, which I use on my network. I temporarily disabled the encryption, connected to Software Update to acquire the new software, and then was able to connect after re-enabling WPA. I'm not sure why I never even tried connecting unencrypted or with WEP (which the old software supported). In any case, all is now well.

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

And then there was Chrome...

Not more than a few days after my last post about upcoming upgrades to Microsoft and Mozilla web browsers, Google surprised us all with a beta release of their own browser: Chrome. Features include a novel tab organization scheme, Incognito browsing (like IE8's InPrivate), domain highlighting in the URL (also available in IE8), an "Omnibox" address bar (mixes history and search), a novel "new tab" page, a simpler interface, and a slew of interesting "about:" pages. While the new browser is fairly sleek, it is not as full-featured as the big boys. Also, even though the project is open source, it does not (yet) seem like developers can write extensions like Firefox allows.

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Getting more done on the web.

Mozilla Labs is introducing Ubiquity, which I think is one of the coolest ideas in a while when it comes to browsing the Internet. It enables users to create "mash-ups" with web applications, allowing them to get more done within the same browsing session. The implementation is quite immature right now (alpha status, if you will), but this definitely has some potential.

At the same time Microsoft is releasing the second beta for IE8. There are actually a few things that are pretty exciting about this version. One is Accelerators, which provides functionality that has a similar concept as Ubiquity. Some of the other features (e.g., Web Slices, Search Suggestions) are similar to things that Firefox has already offered for a while, whether in the base package or by extensions, though some of the features improve on the Firefox implementations. The most original new feature is probably InPrivate browsing, which allows the user to browse without leaving tracks on a computer. Some people refer to this as "porn mode".

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

DEFCON 16

It's been a while, so I figured I should post on here just to prove that I'm alive. Anyway, this past weekend was the second of four consecutive weekends out of town, and I spent pretty much all of Friday through Sunday at DEFCON 16 in Las Vegas.

I arrived at the Riviera early Friday morning (~9:30 Vegas time) and didn't leave the hotel until I caught a shuttle to the airport Sunday evening (~18:00). Note that this made for a very early Friday (flight left St. Louis 7:00) and a very late Sunday (flight arrived in St. Louis 1:00 Monday morning). The conference itself was pretty good. The DEFCON badges are pretty cool, and they supposedly turn TVs off, but I haven't tested this yet. There were many interesting talks, including one on hacking social networks (especially MySpace), one on hacking Internet kiosks, one about the security of e-voting, and one about hijacking internet traffic using BGP. Of course Dan Kaminsky's DNS vulnerability was also big news (from Black Hat a few days earlier), but I did not brave the large crowd that turned out for his talk. Another significant development was the res
training order that prevented one group of presenters from giving their talk on hacking the Boston subway payment system...too bad their presentation had already been given to all the DEFCON attendees on CD. See the DEFCON site for more info on these and other interesting happenings. Also, here's my new favorite t-shirt (that I don't own...yet):



The weekend before I was in Chicago for Lollapalooza. This weekend it's off to Toronto for my fourth Radiohead concert this summer before a roadtrip to Bloomington (wedding) and Indianapolis (air show featuring F-22) the following weekend.

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Google Street View comes to St. Louis

Sweet.

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Saturday, June 07, 2008

Coolest remix EVER

This dude did a remix of Radiohead's "Nude" using electronic hardware in a novel way. Check it out on Vimeo or on Youtube. Note that the proper song starts about 1 minute in.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

I wanna see this in person.

The F/A-22 Demo Team is making the rounds at air shows this year, including a stop in Chicago. Check out this sweet video:

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Test the speed of your Internet connection.

While there are many sites that offer this service, my favorite has to be Speedtest.net. They have a great user interface which allows you to perform the test using one of a multitude of servers around the world (the default is the closest to your geographic location). They also maintain a history of all your tests so you can go back and look at past results. You can also get statistics for internet connections all over the world. Pretty neat if you're a huge Internet nerd like I am.

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Monday, October 29, 2007

In need of MP3 advice.

I have a $50 gift certificate that I could use at a bunch of places, including Amazon.com, Best Buy, and Circuit City.

I want a new MP3 player with the following features:
  1. Color display
  2. Video playback
  3. Good, if not spectacular, battery life
  4. At least 30 GB of storage
  5. Black case
I've narrowed my choices down to the following, in order of preference (prices are shown before gift certificate deduction):
  1. Creative Zen Vision:M - 30 GB
    • $289 @ Amazon
  2. Microsoft Zune (2nd generation) - 80 GB
    • ~$250 @ Amazon or Best Buy or Circuit City
  3. Microsoft Zune (1st generation) - 30 GB
    • $140 @ Amazon
  4. Apple iPod Classic (5th generation) - 80 GB
    • ~$250 @ Best Buy or Circuit City
If you have a glowing recommendation or just some simple advice, please feel free to share.

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Technology for the good of mankind.

CNET is running a series on technologists who are helping the the world's poor people. One of their stories is about a guy who is involved in the One Laptop Per Child project, which is something in which I have been interested for a while. You can read their story at this link. Another interesting note is that the first deployment of these laptops is in Nigeria.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

My newest toy.

Despite my previous musings, I didn't get the Black Carbon or the iPhone. Instead, I purchased an NEC N908, which could almost be the offspring of the other two. You can check out CNET's review of the phone here.

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Saturday, January 13, 2007

Revamped music page...sort of...

I removed the Song of the Week sections, which I have neglected for a while, and added some charts from Last.fm which should update automatically as I listen to music. Check out the new page here.

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Which phone?

I am in the market for a new cell phone to replace my antiquated little egg. I was pretty sure that I was going to get the Samsung SGH D900, a.k.a Black Carbon. That is, until Apple rocked my world, and the rest of the cell phone industry, with the iPhone. I'm pretty sure it's the best thing since sliced bread. So my quandary is: do I get the Black Carbon now, or wait until June for the iPhone? If you scroll down (unfortunately, my template is too narrow and changing its size messes up some previous posts...plus Blogger doesn't do the best job of HTML generation), you can see a head-to-head comparison of the two:






























































































CategoryBlack CarboniPhoneWinner
Cool factoriPhone
Cellular NetworksQuad-band GSM (850/900/1800/1900 MHz), EDGEQuad-band GSM (850/900/1800/1900 MHz), EDGEPush
Other ConnectivityBluetoothWi-Fi (802.11b/g), Bluetooth 2.0, USBiPhone
Display2.1 in 240x320, 262K color TFT3.5 in 320x480, 160 ppiiPhone
Camera3.0 megapixels2.0 megapixelsBlack Carbon
Music playbackAAC, MP3AAC, MP3, Audible, Apple LosslessPush
Video playback?H.264, MPEG-4iPhone
Input9 dedicated buttons, 2 soft buttons, flat number pad1 hard button, touch screeniPhone
Other featuresStandard cell phone fare + document viewer, TV outOS XiPhone
Battery life6.5 hrs talk5 hrs talk/video/browsing, 16 hrs audio playbackBlack Carbon
Size, weight4.1 x 2.0 x 0.51 in/106 x 51 x 12.9 mm, 3.3 oz/85 g4.5 x 2.4 x 0.46 in/115 x 61 x 11.6 mm, 4.8 oz/135 gBlack Carbon
Storage60 MB internal, microSD4 GB or 8 GB internaliPhone
Price$400 (phone) + $75 (2 GB microSD card) = $475 $499 (4 GB) or $599 (8 GB)Push
AvailabilityNowJune 2007Black Carbon

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Saturday, December 02, 2006

So I just googled myself...

...which I do from time to time, and I found an entry in a transportation related blog called Trans-Talk which references a paper that I wrote for a graduate class at Wash U this past spring. Even though it's just a blog and not a real publication, it's still kinda exciting. You can check out the blog entry here.

On a related note, earlier in the summer a co-worker was looking up a topic for work on the internet and came across the same paper. It almost makes me feel like I'm making a contribution to society.

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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Cool picture.

Space Shuttle Atlantis landing in Florida this morning.

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Monday, September 11, 2006

After killing 2 hours on Wikipedia and Google...

...I found a "famous" Nigerian professor whose name is the same as my brother's name and my name (or nickname)...Chike Obi. Here are some web pages with content about him:
http://www.math.buffalo.edu/mad/PEEPS/obi-chike-fermat.html
http://www.supernaturalminds.com/ChikeObe.html
http://www.math.buffalo.edu/mad/PEEPS/obi_chike.html

It all started with me looking up a place that I visited during my recent Eurotrip
on Google Maps. I was pleasantly surprised to find that they now have detailed maps of many major world cities. Pretty soon I was mapping the world, including Nigeria. A few Wikipedia searches and links later, I saw our names in an article. I googled the guy, and came up with the pages above. I'm a dork.

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Saturday, September 09, 2006

Seems a little ridiculous if you ask me...

This domain, obezma.com, was set to expire in November. It is currently registered with GoDaddy, but I wanted to transfer it to 1&1, who currently provide my hosting, as they have cheaper rates. When I tried to do this, I got a message which said that the domain could not be transferred. I eventually figured out that this was because I had a lock on the domain at GoDaddy, so I removed the lock.

After a couple of weeks I tried again to transfer the domain, but got the same message. I called GoDaddy and a technician informed me that ICANN does not allow transfers within 60 days of domain expiration. This seems a little ridiculous to me. The reason I'm transferring is because my registration is about to expire and I want to go with a better deal. In the end, I had to renew with GoDaddy at a higher price than I would be paying 1&1. When I switch, I'll then have to register for additional years with 1&1 to be able to transfer. I guess that's not so bad since I plan on owning this domain for the foreseeable future, but it just doesn't make sense to me.

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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Yahoo! Mail Beta...holler.

Yahoo! is giving Google a run for the money, this time in the webmail category. I was recently able to try out Yahoo! Mail Beta, which is based on AJAX technology similar to what GMail uses. YMB one-ups GMail, as it provides an interface similar to what is seen in desktop mail apps such as Thunderbrid and Outlook. Plus it looks like they're doing away with the annoying advertisement at the bottom of e-mail messages from free account holders. Now if they could do something to match Google Calendar...

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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Internet Explorer 7 Beta 2 - better than IE7 Beta 1.

Microsoft is looking to improve on its recently challenged, but still dominant, position in internet browser market share with Internet Explorer 7. The second beta of IE7 was recently released, and I am inclined to give props. IE7 has tabbed browsing and RSS support, features which have long been offered by Mozilla Firefox and Opera. Unfortunately, the tabs can't be rearranged like they can in the other browsers. Other noteworthy aspects of IE7 are the Quick Tabs preview feature and its slick interface. The rendering style is also markedly different from the competitors and previous IE versions. IE7B2 definitely fixes some bugs that were present in the first beta, such as an inability to properly render Yahoo! Mail (?!). Apparently, there were some other incompatibility issues, especially in the area of security, which were fixed in this beta. All in all, I give the product a thumbs up, and move it up from a distant third in my browser preference to tied with Opera for second.

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Thursday, April 13, 2006

Time to switch to Google?

Remember that one time I mused about Google getting a calendar application? Well, they either read my post or they wisened up, as they just released Google Calander today. I have maintained that the reason I still used Yahoo! Mail is because of the calendar next door. I guess this means that I'm switching to Gmail...

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Thursday, March 16, 2006

Why must Dell computers always give me a headache?

Tonight I finally had time to set up the new family PC, a Dell Dimension E510, that had been sitting beside the front door for the last week-and-a-half. After hooking things up and plugging them in, I turned on the computer, ran through some setup wizards, then began uninstalling the numerous unnecessary programs.

After getting through a few of them, I ran across one that prompted me to restart in order to make the changes. When I hit "Cancel" to restart later, the computer promptly restarted...without logging out or saving any settings. Upon restart, I didn't make it through logging in before I was greeted by the dreaded Blue Screen of Death (or BSOD, as I fondly refer to it). Two more restarts yielded two more BSODs as soon as I logged in.

Hmmm...I sense a PC restore is in my near future...

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Saturday, February 25, 2006

Adventures in computer maintenance.

For the past few months, I have had to deal with a defective Bluetooth card in my notebook computer. The symptoms were random BSOD/crashing (especially with the Bluetooth radio and/or VPN client enabled), pop-up warnings about a USB device not functioning correctly, and a randomly repeating (highly annoying) warning tone.

After trying to reinstall my Bluetooth driver on two separate occasions, I called up Dell a month-and-a-half ago and asked for a new Bluetooth card. After letting the card sit in my room for the last month, I finally decided to install it. This was a good two-hour ordeal which involved disassembling the laptop's keyboard, display assembly, and palm rest. In any case, things seem to be working much better now. Here's a picture of my laptop disassembled:


Laptop disassembled.

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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Penalized for doing the right thing...

When I placed my newly purchased CD copy of the album Z by My Morning Jacket into my computer at work, I was greeted by an End User License Agreement (EULA) which mentioned the installation of DRM-protection software if I accepted. My immediate response: Uhhhh...no!

After more research with the help of my friend the Internet, I found that "the SOFTWARE" (as they fondly referred to it) was SunnComm MediaMax Version 5. Sony BMG was responsible for this and another DRM software package, First4Internet's XCP, which installed a rootkit on Windows computers. For those who are not up to date on their tech news, XCP created a huge controversy because it opened a security hole when rooted on computers. In addition, Sony's initial uninstall program also had a security flaw.

The MediaMax support website insists that the two software products, MediaMax and XCP, are unrelated. However, I observed that both had similar symptoms and both were initially fixed incorrectly. Hmmm...

Needless to say, I was not happy about this. And neither are many other music fans...a Google search on the topic yields countless blog posts which protest against Sony. Even the artists are quite displeased...My Morning Jacket, for example, has a link to help pages about working around the DRM protection on their website. It's also been reported that they have sent out over 100 copies of burned non-DRM copies of the album to friends and fans who have had trouble with it.

Fortunately, when I ripped the tracks onto my laptop using Yahoo! Music Engine, I was neither prompted with the EULA dialogue box, nor affected by the DRM malware. The ripped tracks play fine, and when I downloaded and ran the MediaMax uninstaller it informed me that the software was not found on my system.

Alas, this brings us to my views on the issue. Though I was not harmed by this malware, I am still enraged. These days, I acquire the vast majority of my CDs through legal means. This is not because I am more ethical than thou...it is actually mostly because I am lazy. I would rather use a subscription service, such as Yahoo! Music Unlimited (shameless plug), to check out what's hot in music and then order albums that I like off Amazon.com, than spend hours scouring the Internet for high-quality versions of songs. The few exceptions to my legal acquisition are when a friend offers to burn me a copy of something he thinks is the fire...this usually leads to me buying more albums by the artist anyway. I think it's a shame that someone who acquires music legally is put at risk by buying the CD. Oh, and Sony is wac.

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Saturday, December 03, 2005

My next computer MUST have an AMD processor in it.

I am slightly disappointed in myself because the two computers I have purchased so far both have Intel processors in them, which have conistently been outperformed by AMD processors. The redeeming factor is that they are both Dells, and that I got a discount on them through Boeing.

After reading yet another article demonstrating the superiority of AMD processors, I'm pretty sure that there is no way that I am buying/building an Intel-based computer the next time around.

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Friday, December 02, 2005

My laptop is back.

The screen seems to be working properly, so everything should be back to normal.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Google Base is online.

From Google...
Google Base is a place where you can add all types of information that we'll host and make searchable online.
You can describe any item you post with attributes, which will help people find it when they search Google Base.

Looks like eBay has some competition...and it's free.

Find it
here.

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Friday, November 04, 2005

Take that, Google.

In the never-ending online service war, Yahoo! has unveiled the test version of their new map service. It offers the interactivity (dynamic scrolling without page reload) of Google Maps with added features such as locations of points of interests (ATMs, schools, gas stations, movie theaters, restaurants, etc). Until they roll it out as the final release, you can find this beta version here. I await Google's response.

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Monday, October 31, 2005

Since Google generally does everything better...

I am giving Google Talk a whirl. Unlike the other major chat applications, it doesn't install toolbars and other unwanted programs, nor does it change your settings without your knowledge.

In order for this to work, though, I need some friends. You can download the app
here. If you do so, add me as a friend.

Now if only they would add a calender to Gmail...

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Thursday, September 15, 2005

Impressive, yet slightly scary, satellite images.

Google Earth is an application you can use to interactively view satellite images from anywhere around the world. The resolution of the images in the U.S. is scarily impressive. For example, you can clearly see the two cars parked in the driveway of my house. You can even demarcate points of interest, such as restaurants, on the images. The user interface is also well designed. Check it out if you haven't already.

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Saturday, August 13, 2005

In case you're looking into acquiring an MP3 player...

CNET did a comparison of Apple's iPod Mini and Creative's Zen Micro, two of the best microdrive devices on the market. Click the link to find out who won.

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Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Another cool picture.

Two F-15s flying over the current and future Busch Stadiums.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Two of my favorite things in the same picture.

An F-15 protecting the skies over an attempted Space Shuttle launch.

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Monday, June 20, 2005

The purpose of falling is to get back up.

(that was paraphrased from Batman Begins)

First, I hurt my ankle playing soccer yesterday. I went to pivot and make a pass, and I felt a pop in my left ankle. Thankfully, the x-ray today was negative...it was just a ligament strain. I think I'll only be on the DL for a couple of weeks, at most.

Then, I crashed my desktop computer
today after attempting to add 1 GB of RAM to the 512 MB that was already installed. After discovering that a house call from the Geek Squad would cost at least $150, I decided to troubleshoot the problem myself. After much searching and nearly giving up, I determined that I had fried one of the memory modules...thankfully it was only a 256 MB one.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Kudos to Yahoo!

In their attempt to take over everything related to the Internet, Yahoo! has launched (pun intended) their new music subscription service, Yahoo! Music Unlimited. It does what Napster To Go and Rhaphsody do for less than half the price, as low as 5 bucks a month..."unlimited" legal music downloading. I use the quotes because some of their 1,000,000+ tracks are available only for purchase (e.g. any thing from Radiohead's catalogue). Note that you are not allowed to burn tracks acquired through the subscription service, though you can transfer them to approved portable music players.

In addition to the great value, the Yahoo! Music Engine's not too shabby. Admittedly, it still has it's bugs (which I've personally experienced - it is in the beta test phase), it lacks an equalizer, and it only downloads one track at at time. However, I was able to rip from 2 CDs, download an album, play a track from my library, and transfer an album to my MP3 player all at the same time.

Yahoo! Music Unlimited gets the Obezma Seal of Approval.

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Saturday, April 16, 2005

It's official...I killed Windows XP.

So I tried to dual-boot Linux and Windows on my newly acquired notebook computer... Well, I got the Linux operating system, Fedora Core 3, to work. However, Windows XP Home now crashes on boot-up...with a blue screen of death. Thankfully, I had not done much system set-up besides installing Firefox and Partition Magic.

When I try to recover it using Dell's built-in PC Restore, I get a black screen and the message "Cannot restore". And since Dell anticipated that this feature would be able to recover from the vast majority of operating system woes, they don't send the Windows installation CDs in the package...so I had to call technical support and request them. The CDs should arrive late next week.

Until then, I can only run Linux on my laptop...which wouldn't be so bad except for I can't figure out how to get WiFi to work on Linux.

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Thursday, April 07, 2005

I made a decision.

I went with the Dell Inspiron 600M. With the Boeing discount, I was able to upgrade to the top-of-the-line model (and get a few accessories) while only going over my original budget by $70.

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Sunday, April 03, 2005

Undecided 2005

I'm looking to buy a notebook computer. However, I can't find one for a reasonable price which satisfies all of my source selection criteria. You can help by taking a look at this table and telling me which one to pick. Alternatively, you can look for an option I am not aware of which satisfies my criteria.

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Saturday, April 02, 2005

My newest toy.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

My newest toy...

Check 'er out.

She's purrty...

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Tuesday, March 22, 2005

What internet website is more addictive than crack cocaine?

Your favorite porn site would have been a good guess. However, I am referring to WikepediA. Two hours ago, I did a simple inquiry on chess opening moves. Now, I must pull myself away from the computer so I can get a measly 4 hours of sleep before going to work tomorrow...err, later this morning. Multitudes of links to almost anything you might ever care to know about...

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Thursday, March 03, 2005

A fighter plane running code that I wrote flew today.

Today was the first flight for F15-K-1, the first Korean F-15, and I was there to witness the take-off. A small portion of the code running on the central computer was written by me. Needless to say, I was very excited.

Update: here's a link to the story (includes a video).

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Saturday, February 19, 2005

Tech (read: geek) update

In case you haven't already heard, there's a Napster hack that lets you burn a lot of albums for 10 bucks a month. Here's a source.

A chick from CNET thinks that IE 7 will kill Firefox. I'm inclined to agree.

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Saturday, January 22, 2005

Is this really necessary?

Sunglasses that play MP3s...check it out.

My verdict: a little over the top, but cool nonetheless.

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Saturday, January 08, 2005

The next big thing.

With the Consumer Electronics Show 2005 going on, we get a glimpse at the latest and upcoming gadgets for this year. In my opinion, the first manufacturer to find a way to combine a digital camera and an MP3 player in a practical way would have the hottest product on the market...at least until the imitators started eating up their market share. What amazes me is that I haven't heard anybody mention this idea.

Anyway, you heard it here first.

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