October 30, 2004

@#$%! Political Phone Calls

Nobody likes being woken up by a phone call. I tolerate it from my friends -- I've got enough in enough time zones that it's tough to reach one another when we're not sleeping.

But I despise it from people I don't know. And I especially despise it when it's a political hack trying to get me to vote for him.

The one time our government does something for the people -- the Do Not Call list -- they spoil it with opportunistic and self-serving stupidity by saying that political ads are exempt.

And then, they use "automatic messages", which are illegal in Georgia. Vote for them? I'd like to bring 'em up on charges.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 11:29 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 29, 2004

October Surprise, All Right.

Red Sox Win World Series

Ok, this *was* a surprise.

Of course, as a Cubs fan, I knew the Red Sox weren't as big at losing as their fans claimed them to be. We're number one. 1908, baby. Nearing 100 years since a World Series win, 1945 since a World Series appearance.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 01:36 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

VoIP goodness

First Looks: Sipura SPA-3000 :: Voxilla :: A user's guide to the VoIP revolution

This is pretty sweet. Voice over IP has started to upswing again, not the least of which is for the simple reason that it's starting to be cheaper than the Bells.

To understand VoIP, you have to get the basic premise that there's got to be some point where voice, a naturally analog data source, gets translated into computer data, a digital data type. Whether this occurs when you're on your computer, or using some other device, just really depends.

A lot of systems, like Vonage provide boxes which digitize your phone calls, as well as route those calls to the appropriate places. You don't need your computer on for these.

Both of the above have some problems. First, you need to have a form of broadband and power both going to make a phone call -- no phone calls during an outage of either. Second, making 911 calls are either impossible (Skype, most VoIP providers) or don't contain location (Vonage). And finally, if you have DSL, most of the Bells practically require you to keep your POTS -- your regular phone line (I kid you not, the official terminology for your regular phone line is POTS -- plain old telephone service.)

The link above is to a device which takes in not only Ethernet for VoIP, but also a POTS line. This means that you can do the following:

  • Route POTS calls to your VoIP service

  • Rout VoIP calls back over to a local POTS call (you're calling from someplace with cheap broadband, and you want to make a call that's local at home: VoIP to home, out the POTS line to a local call.)

  • 911 and auto-failover to the POTS line

  • Call routing through multiple SIP providers, meaning you can have a call go out through a VoIP provider of your choice. Example: you've got a VoIP plan based in the UK, and another based in the US. You can dial out the UK numbers using the UK service, and the US using the US, and not incur charges.

Talk about neat.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 01:21 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Cool Tools

Kevin Kelly -- Cool Tools

Not that this needs my recommendation by any sight, but in case you haven't found this web site, I highly, highly recommend Kevin Kelly's Cool Tools site. It's a site for "stuff that is extraordinary, better than similar products, little-known, and reliably useful for an individual or small group".

It's really quite amazing. People have contributed a very wide variety of things, from Radio Journalism Production Tools to one of the most fantastic lists of documentary & educational films I've ever seen, to things like bio diesel guides as an alternative fuel. And that's just a sample.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 12:40 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 27, 2004

Scott McCloud's Blog

The Morning Improv - scottmccloud.com

I shoulda known, Scott McCloud has a blog. The guy does *everything* first.

OK, nothing says depression and anxiety like comparing yourself to someone who spends his whole day doing something you're limited to at nights.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 01:10 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Portable XM radio

XM Radio - Delphi MyFi

Sadly, the new Delphi MyFi portable sattelite radio *does* do it for me, at least more than the new iPod. I dislike the fact that ClearChannel is a part-owner, but at least it's more than the 5 channels that I can stand in Atlanta, and it's not pop-rock-wacky morning DJs format.

One problem: while you can store 5 hours of audio on this, there's no way to pull it off. Probably on purpose, still very sad.

And the price... oh, the price. Why must you torment me so, Gods of Cool Gadgetry?

Posted by Ted Stevko at 01:01 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

New iPod... eh.

Apple - iPod Photo

The Apple iPod Photo came out today.

My reaction? Eh... Ok, whatever.

For someone as visually oriented as I am, it should be a big deal, but I'm just not as into photos as this. The color screen is nice, but it's not $100 worth of nice. And syncing photos just doesn't do it for me. I can easily see if someone's got hundreds of photos that they might want to share them with people, and this would be a neat way of doing it.

As an aside, this would be ripe for an absolutely hilarious send-up of the old travel-slideshow-from-Hell joke. "Aw, man, this is the MODERN way to put people to sleep with your slides."

And while the extra 3 hours of battery life is nice, the tech specs aren't as spiffy. You lose some skip protection (really, not a big deal; 17 minutes instead of 25 minutes, as opposed to the 30 seconds on some CD players) and the charge times are longer.

Hooking it up to a TV is nice, though; I'd really like to be able to play short video files -- now *THAT*, I'd pay the $100 for easily.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 12:43 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 26, 2004

What Happens...

OK, let me start out by saying DO NOT DO THIS. It's not funny, it's not cute, you won't make your hacker bones and be 1337 (that's "leet" in hacker-typing, AKA "elite") by doing this. You'd be a criminal and very, very under arrest if you did this.


As a thought puzzle, I was wondering what would happen if someone were to cut the power at a polling station.

The nice part about a mechanical system that uses no electronic parts is that voting requires no knowledge of this stuff. That's why punch-cards have survived so long, they're easy to set up, easy for users to use, easy to maintain.

Electronics require power. They also require set up, require occasional maintenance, and can lose everything for no reason ("Yep, cosmic rays," a collegue of mine used to say.)

Anyway, one power outage at a polling station, would be amazingly simple to create, and could affect the outcome of several races. That's nothing to say of an EMP taking out not only an area, but in a city, a LARGE number of electronic systems. I encourage no one to do this, ever.

Frankly, I'm not thrilled about Georgia using something this fragile. It's way too easy to hack. See Black Box Voting for more information.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 02:04 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Another Poll, Telling Us Nothing New

CNN.com - Poll finds tight race, with little apparent change - Oct 25, 2004

I'll be honest, I'd be more worried about the polls if someone -- either Kos or Atrios, I believe -- hadn't kindly explained "likely" voters to me. And the above CNN.com article at least takes the time to explain it to people. Basically, they take a poll, find out who's registered to vote, what they're registered as, and then take percentages of that as people who are likely to vote.

Straight polling figures: 49 Bush - 47 Kerry, + or - 3. In essence, a dead heat.

Why the difference? It turns out most "likely voter" models favor Republicans. Of course, what hasn't been taken into account is things like the 71% of Democrats saying that this is the vote of their generation, vs. 21% of Republicans. And the fact that most new voter registrations are Democrats.

But then again, with electronic voting, you can do whatever you want without anyone seeing you.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 01:54 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Cell Phones

One of the consequences of finding a new job was that I had to get a cell phone.

Let me save time by putting in my side of the conversation: No, I didn't have a cell phone until a little more than a month ago. Stop looking at me like that. No, I'm not some sort of Luddite. For pete's sake, I worked at a phone company for 5 years, yes, I know what a phone is.

Look, there's this level of geekdom that comes slightly above regular geekdom, the "rational reasons with somewhat less than normal conclusions" level of geekdom. My rational reasoning is that I didn't need a cell phone. Early on in the cell phone craze, I couldn't afford one. By the time I had enough to get one, I really hated them -- they interrupted people, they constantly went off, and they were expensive. I was reachable by e-mail in six different ways. I had a home phone. It didn't make sense for me. So, I didn't get one.

OK, you think that's geeky, try this: I have no TV, cable, or dish, but I do own a Tivo, secondhand. Yep, it's a weirder world with me around.

Back to the point. I got a Nokia 6600, which leads to a lot of interesting things. First, because the cell phone has Bluetooth, and has GPRS. These two lead to using my GPRS phone as a modem for my laptop, and through that getting an unlimited 33.6 connection wherever my cell phone has access. Naturally I got that all hooked up.

It also lead to using my cell phone as a terminal program, using my cell phone as remote control, and just generally figuring out the thing.

One interesting problem I've had is importing my cell phone photos out of my cell phone. First, Mac's Bluetooth connectivity with Symbian OS leaves a lot to be desired, in terms of just connecting to the stinkin' system. Reading files on the Symbian OS isn't currently possible, for some reason. To transfer files onto Symbian, you send a message to the phone -- it works, but it's annoying. Second, transferring files off of the phone onto Mac involves a laborious process that, for most of my less than stellar photos, is a PAIN. It's the reverse of the process above, I have to send each individual one. Also, Symbian OS is not scriptable out of the box (yes, I'm looking at perl and python), and I'm not spending 10 days sending items to myself just to get the stinkin' photos off. So, I'm working on it.

Aside from that, I've also gotten my Snake EX score up to a respectable number, so I'm well working my way to getting this thing integrated.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 01:40 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Once More Into the Breech

If you've got to disappear from your weblog, common sense says, say something and give a time that you'll be back. It's polite, it gives readers an idea of when someone's going to be back, it's a way to set expectations.

Ah, but then there's idiots like me....

OK, to start with, my apologies for the sudden disappearance; it wasn't planned per se, but was thrust upon me like a flyer when you're walking down the street. You don't want it, but what do you say to the poor guy who's job it is to hand out flyers and has a face saying "Just take the damnable thing so we can *both* get on with our lives." You take it, and dispose of it as best as you can.

What happened was, in order, my job took a turn for the worse, so I started looking for another job; then my company took a turn for the worse, so I figured I should find another job right away; then my company decided to keep me, so I suddenly had to read up on several systems I hadn't touched in years; and then I decided that this was A Clue From On High, and that when a company starts laying off more than 70% of it's staff in one office, that that's not a good thing, so I should, in fact, continue with my first impulse.

In other words, I had to find a new job. Immediately.

Part of the problem with blogging non-anonymously (and thank you, FTP, for forcing me to learn to spell "anonymous") was that talking about this was impossible. I think the total number of people who've read this can be counted on a finger, so I wasn't too panicked that my bosses would see it -- but this site does figure pretty highly when I'm Googled. And I had nothing else going on.

But that's ended, and I'm back, and I should be blogging on a more regular basis now. My apologies for the drought, and this should be a lot more fun now.


Posted by Ted Stevko at 01:10 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack