22
Jul 11

Ze Frank is…

Inspirational, spontaneous, hilarious, insightful, and has helped make the world a more relatable place. He’s the kind of person I’ve always wanted to be more like. An intellectual without the arrogance; the wit to disarm naysayers; the will to execute ideas that are less than perfect. He’s always doing something interesting though I usually only catch it when it bubbles up through the thick filter layer atop my everyday “stuff” stream.

Ze is revisiting his show, “The Show”, likely because it epitomized a time of great change for him and pretty much made him famous. Though odds are, he’d have attained said fame one way or another. Of “Brain Crack” an episode from July 11 ’06. He elaborates on the concept articulated in song form. Tho, apparently the prolific use of fuck turned people off, which actually surprised me. One of my favorite bits, which I wish upon myself to seriously take to heart:

Execute as quickly and faithfully as possible. What I like about this is the quickly and faithfully pull in opposite directions. The first reminds you to act without delay and the second tells you to try not to cut corners.

When I started the show I decided to put this into practice as much as I could. I tried not to leave concepts in my back pocket for future shows, but rather to get them out on the day I thought of them. This what I meant when I said I leave in mortal fear that I have run out of ideas. Because I did. Each day. It never really got easier from an emotional standpoint. It was always terrifying. But I did develop a voice inside of me that could yell over top the terror and tell me to stay the course. You can sort of see this process at work in a lot of episodes. Many ideas, lots of them could have been ridden longer to stretch time or for diminishing returns in laughter or thought, but instead they are pushed off by the next few in line.”

I was an avid The Show watcher, unfortunately I didn’t write much about it. Thanks again, Ze, for having and continuing to be brain crack.


05
May 11

Moose

Here’s one of those funny, the singular form is is also the plural, words I particularly enjoy.

Moose

From the Nature Bulletin No. 504-A of Cook County IL, October 27, 1973

The word “moose” came to us from Algonquian Indians. Consequently
its plural, instead of being “mooses” or “meese”, is the same as the
singular. That is true of most Indian names whether of a tribe, such as
the Winnebago and Potawatomi, or of an object such as papoose. It is
also true of many wildlife names not of Indian origin — for example:
deer, mink and grouse.

Moose

Perhaps coincidentally, moose are generally solitary animals.

Moose are the least social species among cervids, remaining fairly solitary except during the mating season.

The quote above from the answers page “are groups of moose called herds“, to which the answer is yes, but only during mating season – one male herds a group of females.

No image of a Moose herd could be found in the 15 minutes I spent looking. Sorry.


15
Apr 11

An obscure discovery about using the xbox 360 as a windows extender

Gentle FTTA reader, if the title of this post means notta thing to you, you probably did not arrive via a search engine. Hopefully though, you’ll find some enjoyment from my colorful commentary on the journey of one man on a quest to watch Star Trek The Next Generation episode rips on his living room TV.

For the rest of you, anonymous tip seekers scouring the internets for possible solutions to an utterly frustrating and overly generalized error message, this info may help you.

“Connection Failure: The Xbox 360 could not connect to the Windows Media Center PC. Turn your Xbox 360 off then on again, and try to connect again.”

I attempted a plethora of configuration tweaks, tips and “fixes” to the windows firewall and registry, as gleamed from search engines google and bing*. All were no help until I stumbled upon this question “do you by chance have a fingerprint reader on this PC?”

Had I not spent hours learning how exactly Windows Media Center (WMC) “Extends” itself to the xbox 360 I would have completely overlooked the question. But since I now knew the ins and outs, *BOOM*, it became perfectly clear.

In short, the extender is simply a remote desktop connection to the single WMC application. And the stupid fingerprint reader on my Windows 7 ultimate laptop was preventing the login. Wasn’t there any error logs reporting (or hinting at least) this simple authentication failure in the windows event viewer? Nay!!

So finally, the solution: uninstalling the AuthenTec fingerprint software/driver (mine was provided by Lenovo for my X200). I lose the ability for fingerprint logins – at this point, SO what.

WMC via xbox 360!

Many hours were “invested” in troubleshooting this issue which could have easily been avoided given some better error reporting on either the xbox or windows side.

The real kicker is that I pretty much did this to myself; I must be a masochist. There is free software out there, like tversity, that do essentially the same thing for free. FREE. But since I have all this paid Microsoft shtuff (regardless if whether & what I actually paid…) I ought to use it, right!?


26
Mar 11

The Best Buy Credit Card Scam

First off, the term “scam” should be taken with a grain of salt, hopefully one of many stuck to a margarita glass. Secondly, what HSBC Best Buy has going can definitely be termed a racket.

The Pitch: Open a Best Buy Credit Card and pay no interest 24 months!!

The typically skeptical Consumer thought process: Hmmm, free financing; what’s the catch? OK, so this is actually an HSBC bank credit card, sure… nothing else jumps out as odd in the immediate fine print.

This seems ideal for a large purchase like that washer and dryer we so desperately need. I’ll read the minimum payment from my first statement and put this baby on auto-pay. Score.

The reality:

  • Month 1-6: minimum payment $10
  • Month 7: minimum payment $23; auto-paid $10 minimum payment insignificant; $35 late fee assessed
  • Month 8: minimum payment $36; oh shit, what’s all this now? LATE FEE? WTF!

According to a HSBC representative, “a new law was passed in January and you received a notice in the mail about your minimum payment.” To date, I have yet to find said notice. I did however, find the exact same claim from a blog post in The HSBC Monitor, “there was a new law that passed in January that requires them to charge a higher percentage of the balance” which, interestingly enough was posted in 2006.

Eventually, the representative passed me to a “manager” and the late-fees were waived. All was ok, I was alright even though I had spent hours on the phone talking to human script reading machines. I Had Won. So, I figure OK – boost the auto-pay amount to $30, well above that old minimum and I’ll be good. Then *two* months go by.

Minimum payment: $46. Auto pay shy of $16. Late fee bitch +$35.

Conundrum: call HSBC, waste hour(s) pitching how wrong they are to charge this fee. Or, pay it, stfu and take it.

Moral of the story: Signing up for a free financing offer means to mentally prepare to add that to your monthly checklist. Do not rely on auto pay to “beat the system”. Pay close attention to each and every message sent from the company providing that “free” credit. They Will Try To Screw You out of some money.


23
Feb 11

The Billboards are Alive, Judging and Profiling You

These billboards, in malls and other large public places, will chat at you with dynamically selected advertisements most relevant to “you”. How? Based on a new “smart” camera tech NEC has developed to make an advertiser’s wet dream come true.

The billboard can make instant assumptions about the buying tendencies of passer-byers based on physical characteristics such as body build, gender and age. It could easily and might make racial profiling assumptions as well though the ramifications of such would be heralded by civil rights activists.

It could get interesting: by monitoring and tracking which stores you enter and what you come out with, depending on what you do or don’t buy, ad hoc discounts or bonuses could instantly be offered. An omni-present intelligence inventing ways on the fly to encourage patrons to dump more money.


It’s happening, just like in the Minority Report

While rather different technology than acute audience targeting on the internet, it has a similar gut privacy wrenching reaction.


06
Feb 11

Coincidence or Acute Audience Targeting in Ads

Bargin and Luxury in an Ad pair

Targeting the Rich and Thrifty

Why did these two ads appear side by side as and when they did? Could they possibly have known I recently visited both slickdeals (thrift) and sites containing Mercedes (wealth) content?

Straight out the gate, this was likely coincidence. Disclosure: I work deep in the underbelly of internet advertising, and specifically on the audience segmentation and targeting technology that powers modern day website ad serving. The sheer amount of information exchange and processing required to match this up in-real-time in a cohesive and sale-able way is not (yet) happening.

Google is certainly close. And the more I think about it, the more I think this wasn’t coincidence at all. All the disparate information necessary to make the map is in their arsenal. They could have made this match.

A few factoids feeding the not-coincidence conclusion:

  • I primarily use Chrome
  • I am signed in to a Google account
  • I use Google search often
  • most every blog and site has Google Analytics
  • Ads were served by Google (adsense)

What do you think? Have we entered the era where even remnant banner ads speak specifically to our interests and tenancies?


28
Jan 11

Getting The Most out of Tools & Toys

I’ve always enjoyed wading through the underrated benefits-pool of owning just-sub mainstream products. My most recent two are an Android phone and a DLink file server (NAS). I left both “stock” for at least a month after purchase, satisfied with the performance provided out of box.

The devices, stock visuals:
* Samsung Epic 4G

* DLink DNS 323

Then the itch – spurred on by (profuse) reading of tweaks and hacks each device affords, that each can do more than what they do now – becomes unbearable. To scratch would appease but not without risk; each device will likely be void of warranty. Worse still is potentially “bricking” a device making it altogether unusable. Even with these consequences, temptation thrives and eventually overtakes.

Perhaps the greatest bit about these devices is that they are based on open source software. Getting to a Linux terminal shell (CLI) on either, is a relatively trivial task. Furthermore, due to the ease of stepping into such an accessible environment, the developer/enthusiast communities blossom.

Without having to write (or even look at) a line of code, both devices can be extended well beyond the consumer level they are marketed at. To tweak brings about such satisfaction, as deriving more function from form. The cost of which is a devotion of umpteen amounts of free time to push consumer hardware to its limits in exchange for paltry donations, “fame” and gratitude.

Even still, the software produced by these die-hards is dangerous. All the safeguards, QA, provided by these enterprise class companies with their tremendous R&D budgets, are effectively dissolved. When we step into rootshell, we leave the safe user level space established by the powers that be. But do we find glory or agony? Depending on the maturity of the community, generally the former.

And in my case? Most certainly the former. I had a few scares but all in all, both my NAS and phone are blazing far above stock. You’ve just got to be willing to put the time in and read read read. Don’t jump without reading everything there is to know about the “rooting” process. By the end, if you aren’t sure you fully understand what you are about to do, don’t.

The payoff, in screenshots from my phone:

ssh from my epic to the dns 323



23
Dec 10

Thrifty technology buyer’s bane

8GB RAM in my trusty thinkpad X200 laptop has been a desire / occasional-need for quite some time. As a point of perspective, since the 8GB DDR3 “kit” (2 chips by 4GB each) cost well over $300. When I finally bit the bullet, patience on a potential deal expired, the kit had been hovering around $110 shipped for a few weeks.

Today, no more than seven days after purchase and a day after installing, a comparable kit can be procured for ~$66. Color me irritated.

On the upside, the brand I bought is the same price and arguably of superior quality to the slickdeal PNY brand.


02
Dec 10

Sad or fantastic? Congress targets TV ads

To keep advertisers at large from dominating the airwaves within the US homes of TV watchers, it has come to this:

“…the CALM (Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation) Act will give the FCC a mandate to regulate and enforce volume limits on commercials, ensuring that their maximum loudness does not exceed the average maximum loudness of the program they’re accompanying.”

This one has got to have been easy to pass. Whatever it takes to attempt to kick the lame-duck congress wrap.

Not to say I’m totally displeased, some of these advertisers are outright audibly obscene. Then again, most of us who own a TV made in the last (two?) decade(s) know a secret that makes this Act of Congress utterly moot.

Can you guess what it is? I just gave you a hint! If not, you probably don’t use it and I probably don’t watch TV at your house. Hey, maybe this little act will change that. Lucky you!?


10
Oct 10

10/10/10

feels as though it should be significant. what was life like 10/10/1010?

here’s to another great day being alive.