March 29, 2005

Florida Takes "Stupid Education Law" Mantle Back From Georgia

The Independent Florida Alligator

Wow. And I thought Georgia was a bit goofy with the textbook stickers. Looks like Florida's showing everyone exactly how dumb they can be.

Republicans on the House Choice and Innovation Committee voted along party lines Tuesday to pass a bill that aims to stamp out “leftist totalitarianism” by “dictator professors” in the classrooms of Florida’s universities...
The bill sets a statewide standard that students cannot be punished for professing beliefs with which their professors disagree. Professors would also be advised to teach alternative “serious academic theories” that may disagree with their personal views.

According to a legislative staff analysis of the bill, the law would give students who think their beliefs are not being respected legal standing to sue professors and universities.

Students who believe their professor is singling them out for “public ridicule” – for instance, when professors use the Socratic method to force students to explain their theories in class – would also be given the right to sue.

... Rep. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, warned of lawsuits from students enrolled in Holocaust history courses who believe the Holocaust never happened.

Similar suits could be filed by students who don’t believe astronauts landed on the moon, who believe teaching birth control is a sin or even by Shands medical students who refuse to perform blood transfusions and believe prayer is the only way to heal the body, Gelber added.

Can I just point out, students' beliefs are supposed to be challenged in college, and that teachers are supposed to know more than students? Also, what teacher would want to teach, when the slightest provocation would grant a student with the grounds for a lawsuit?

Hey... if I don't believe in this statute, can I sue the college system for forcing me to believe in this?

Posted by Ted Stevko at 11:03 PM | TrackBack

Ethernet-jack Sized Linux Web Server

Picotux Linux-Based RJ45-Sized Computer : Gizmodo

Kleinhenz Picotux 1 Ah, small computers. Places to stick that annoying ping server that will drive your network admin crazy trying to track down... and with April Fool's Day just around the corner. The Picotux is a Linux OS with 8MB of flash on it, a serial port, and up to 55MHz of processor on it. Oh, and it's the size of an Ethernet jack. Just right for hiding inside of a miniature robot, or sticking into a wall and abusing your network. About the worst thing is the 3.3v DC power, but hey, if you can hide that, this will drive everyone bats.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 05:30 PM | TrackBack

Using Robotics To Get Out Of The Hood

Wired 13.04: La Vida Robot

Wired Magazine: La Vida RobotIt's definitely a bit Horatio Alger-ish, but this story still made my day. Wired talks about a set of 4 bright Hispanic kids (and two dedicated teachers) from Arizona who formed a robotics club, entered an engineering competition, worked exceedingly hard, and beat MIT & Stanford students in building a robotic sub (One of these kids hadn't even seen the ocean before building a sub!) These kids are, according to the story, from poor backgrounds and not well off; despite that, they beat some of the top engineering groups in the country. But because of a lack of funds and/or not being US citizens, they're stuck in dead-end jobs after high school graduation. The story links to a fund to help these kids go to college. Please do donate. The world needs kids like these, intelligent and who aren't afraid to work hard.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 04:00 PM | TrackBack

March 28, 2005

Bill Gates' Reading Week

In Secret Hideaway, Bill Gates Ponders Microsoft's Future

I've heard about Bill Gates' "reading week" for years, but what I'd heard was that he saved up books and anything else he wanted to read, and went to town on those. Made me a bit jealous: first, that he could take a week twice a year to do nothing but read, and second, that he had the fortitude to hold off reading but for two weeks a year, and third, that he had the stamina to read everything he wanted to read in just two weeks a year.

Thank god for this article before I tried it myself. (Can you just imagine this? A guy, sprawled on his back over a coffee table, eyes blurry from all the eyeball strain, drooling from the glut of information, with books piled over him, around him, below him -- and one hand stretching outward weakly towards a TV Guide lying unopened on the ground?... OK, so you can't. Never mind.)

Gates takes a week to read papers from Microserfs twice a year. Now, that's still a pretty big effort -- around 100 in a week, which, given that they can be as long as 120 pages, is still pretty good -- but it's nice to read the actuality of a net rumor, rather than let my imagination run wild.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 01:42 PM | TrackBack

Robogames 2005 Photos

Boing Boing: Robogames 2005 photos

Ah, to be in San Francisco, where the robots run wild. Boing Boing's got some links to photosets from Robogames 2005. Mostly robot battles type stuff, but some interesting photos of novel concepts (faces, etc.).

Posted by Ted Stevko at 12:41 PM | TrackBack

Genetic Algorithms and Lego Mindstorms

"sex bots" (Geez, some people must be hard up.)

OK, the "sex bots" article refers to using Lego Mindstorms interaction to generate the success factor as part of a genetic code-sharing algorithm rather than the bots going at it like two rabid hyneas. Having said that, it's a really cool experiment. Simply put, the experiment basically allows to bots to share code between one another under certian conditions; if they don't meet those conditions, the bots can't share code, and they don't combine code.

Granted, this is not *new* new, just new in the sense of not having been done with Mindstorms, nor by anyone not involved with some form of AI work. It's very, very cool.

Interesting note: Luxo Jr., one of Pixar's more popular animated shorts, was developed in part using genetic algorithms, which helped the animators come up with the unusual walk that Luxo and son both have.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 09:42 AM | TrackBack

TSA Lied About Protecting Passenger Data

Schneier on Security: TSA Lied About Protecting Passenger Data

Ouch. Looks like the TSA lied to everyone, and in fact did not protect passenger data very well. Plus, it was using real passenger data from JetBlue, Delta, American Airlines, and a ton of others; this, while telling everyone that, at different times, it was not using real data, it was not using certian kinds of passenger data, and the Freedom Of Information Act staff published a notice on their site stating that the TSA had no JetBlue passenger records in September 2003 -- and left it there until the following year, despite finding out that there were records in May 2004.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 09:25 AM | TrackBack

March 27, 2005

Ronnie Del Carmen

Ronnie Del Carmen

Dammit, Drawn! finds the coolest artists... including Ronnie Del Carmen, who's more accomplished and does more than I do by far, and works at Pixar. Jealous? Me? Absolutely. Grumble grumble. Check it out.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 11:45 PM | Comments (0)

The Neighborhood Project

The Neighborhood Project via Craigblog, who got it from Fab

How cool is this? Using geo-mapping and personal posts to create a map detailing the net's opinion of a neighborhood. While it's only in SF, this would be fantastic for Atlanta: a consensus map of the net's opinion of a neighborhood. If anyone decides to make one of Atlanta, I'd love to hear about it.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 11:41 PM | Comments (0)

Font Cache Problems in Mac OS X 10.3.6 and above

Daring Fireball has some information on a problem bothering a number of Mac OS X users, including me. From these links, you can see that there's a problem with font caches, which cause long (14 minute +) login times. Daring Fireball traced it to a bug in the Apple Type System, which uses Adobe type code to use cache.

In other words, if you've got long startup times, try killing the font caches.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 11:30 PM | Comments (0)

Apologies & Allergies

I took a break for the weekend; a little bit of a cold, followed by spring springing everything pollen-related on the Atlanta area, left me a little drained. Back now.

For fun, take a look at Atlanta's pollen count, and you'll see this is the week that a lot of pollen hits Atlanta. Interesting note: last year's high pollen count was on 3/29, at 5156. "Extremely High" is 120 or over. Yep, if you're allergic to pine pollen, run, don't walk, away from Atlanta.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 11:24 PM | Comments (0)

March 25, 2005

PNG Headers

PNG Headers:

I'm a big fan of PNGs, for a number of reasons. Alpha channels are number one on this list (have you ever spent a couple of hours on different machines trying to match a GIF to a background color on both Macs and PCs? Then you'll understand while I like alpha channels.) But this also brings up the nice fact that with alpha channels, layered images actually can be used and useful:

The technique is fairly straight forward. You layer 2 images on top of each other. The top image is a PNG with an alpha-channel that makes some areas transparent and other not transparent. The bottom image is a plain JPEG or GIF that shows through the transparent parts of the overlaying PNG file. The implication is that you can design a header for a website template (for example) that is attractive and orderly but still allows novice users/bloggers to personalize their site in a meaningful way. Upload a new image to a site and change one URL in that sites CSS and you can change the content of the banner.
It's worth a look for anyone who's interested in web layout, and hasn't succumbed to the Cult of Flash yet.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 04:16 AM | Comments (0)

Blue Screen Democracy - Open Source Electronic Voting Software

Blue Screen Democracy - Secure, Open Source Electronic Voting Software, Advocacy, and Awareness

Now how cool is this? Blue Screen Democracy is starting up a project to build open source voting software, and is looking for coders. Considering all the problems electronic voting systems have had in Georgia, I'd be thrilled and delighted to see an open source software solution for voting. Join! Please!

Posted by Ted Stevko at 04:09 AM | Comments (0)



I got a set of these a few Christmases ago. Cuboro has got to be one of the coolest and simplest toys around; it's a series of blocks with holes cut in them. You create a path for a marble to roll through with the blocks. Sound simple? Considering some of the kits contain as many as three levels, with kits also containing dual side-by-side tracks, you can really go to town with something this simple. Thinkgeek sells the base sets, but if you need other sets, try Construction Toys, which has the Duo, the Plus, and the Metro additional kits as well.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 04:05 AM | Comments (0)

Radio Shack Vex Robotics kits

New Radio Shack Vex Robotics kits

Engadget's got a post up on the Radio Shack's Vex Robotics kits. They sound interesting:

The kits, available next month at Radio Shack outlets nationwide, will offer a competitively priced Erector-set-style robotics environment, including a pro-level radio controller, programmable micro controller, and over 500 parts for assembling autonomous bots.
If nothing else, it's a cheaper solution to doing robotics than most kits available right now, priced at $299. But considering Radio Shack's general attitude towards selling quality parts, I wouldn't bet on these being the most solid of equipment.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 03:41 AM | Comments (1)

Kids' Names and The Influence of John Hughes Movies

It appears that Ashley Bristowe has named her child: Sloane Lantau "Duckie" Bristowe Turner. Sloane, for the Mia Sara character in "Ferris Bueler's Day Off"; Lantau, for the island on which Hong Kong's airport is located; Duckie, as a nickname, from "Pretty In Pink"; and the two last names are one from each parent.

This kid's going to have either a great career in movies, or an identity crisis by the time she's 8.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 03:18 AM | Comments (0)

GA Senate study to look at splitting Fulton County, GA

Senate study to look at splitting Fulton County

A little bit about Atlanta politics and counties, to start: Atlanta is one of the most spread-out cities you'll ever find. The Atlanta metro area itself is spread out over a whopping 28 counties (according to the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce). Each county is responsible for it's own police department, it's own roads, it's own libraries, etc. So, while *most* people live in counties other than the one where Atlanta resides, none of these counties share the cost of the services Atlanta provides.

Atlanta itself is contained in Fulton County, which contains both some of the poorest counties in Atlanta as well as the rich, tony areas of Atlanta. Fulton County is shaped vaguely similar to a duck, with the body and the head connected by a narrow neck. The head -- usually called North Fulton -- contains much of the richer suburbs of Atlanta, like Alpharetta, Roswell, and Sandy Springs, while the body -- naturally, called South Fulton -- is filled with Atlanta proper, College Park, and several other smaller towns.

So, the northern suburbs have complained for years that they are being taken advantage of by South Fulton, because they bring in more taxes but it's mostly spent in South Fulton, keeping the peace, building stuff, etc. Meanwhile South Fulton/Atlanta proper, which contains a measly 1/10th of the entire metro area's population, doesn't have the tax base to support themselves PLUS all of the extras that people insist that a city keep up (things like stadiums, convention centers, light rail, and major highways), isn't thrilled by any prospect of cutting off the majority of their tax base.

It's an interesting glimpse into a city grown so large, it can't support all of the growth, and the problems that it might cause. Worth a look.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 03:10 AM | Comments (0)

March 23, 2005

Georgia Senate Redistricting again

Georgia Senate pulls a DeLay

Daily Kos notes that Georgia is doing a redistricting...

They're doing one of those wacky mid-decade redistricting.
Wacky, yes; unexpected, no. Georgia has a Republican majority in Georgia's House and Senate for the first time in a lot of years. They've been doing a lot of odd legislation lately, and you are talking about a state congress who isn't even ironic about calling their kickoff dinners "Big Feeds". So, what did you expect?

Posted by Ted Stevko at 04:41 AM | Comments (0)

March 22, 2005

Om Malik on Broadband » FCC may say no to Naked DSL

Om Malik on Broadband » FCC may say no to Naked DSL

Om Malik mentions that naked DSL (DSL, without a phone line) is being asked for by California, while the FCC is trying to nix it's previous ruling stating Bells have to let people buy naked DSL. I can't really comment on it too much -- I'm "in the biz", so to speak -- but I can say that I disagree with the FCC's ruling. I know of a large group of people who do not want, nor use, their home phone. Prior to this ruling, they were forced to pay for phone service to get DSL. By rescinding this rule, people will be driven away from the Bells and to cable modems. This ruling would hurt the Bells more than it would help. Not good for them, consumers, or anyone else.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 05:35 AM | Comments (0)

Plastic Noodle on Emergent Chaos

Emergent Chaos just linked to my post earlier this week on Choicepoint. It's labeled as Two Minutes of Hate... which is true, if a little extreme. I'm really annoyed at the idiots. Someone breaching security is an obvious problem and a liability waiting to happen; now that it's happened, Choicepoint wants forgiveness and to ignore all responsibility? Pshaw.

It also seems that Emergent Chaos is keeping tabs on what's being posted about Choicepoint, which is wonderful. I'm slapping that one into NetNewsWire right away.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 05:01 AM | Comments (2)

OSX 'at risk from attack' - ZDNet UK News

OSX 'at risk from attack' - ZDNet UK News via Slashdot

Symantec has decided that since OS X is becoming popular, it's more likely to get malware attacks now. Well, possibly; but as was pointed out at Slashdot, frankly, anyone who gets money protecting someone from malware probably isn't free of vested interest. Besides, Symantec has been losing shares of Mac users for a while now: Norton Utilities used to be the top product for protecting Macs, now it's TechTool Pro. Norton Anticirus, last I heard, had problems with Mac OS X; plus, the only true outbreak of a virus was a while ago, and was MS Office based. Symantec may be right, but be wary.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 04:01 AM | Comments (0)

March 21, 2005

A Directory Of Programs Designed For USB Drives

Jeremy Wagstaff's LOOSE wire: A Directory Of Programs Designed For USB Drives

A directory of programs that you can install on USB drives, and then carry around with you. What's especially cool is that it includes things like operating systems, browsers, e-mail programs, and PIMs. Very, very interesting. Think of the possibilities! A machine becomes just a receptacle for your USB drive, which contains everything you use: operating system, programs, files. Then a computer would be nothing more than a dumb terminal with internet connectivity. Bring in your own tools into work!

Posted by Ted Stevko at 05:41 PM | TrackBack

A Summary Of America and Politics


"These politicians," Shorty hissed, her hands trembling with emotion. "They're just playing a game. It's not about her anymore, it's about them getting what they want. It's about them wanting to look good in front of the people who are pro-life. I'm against abortion, too, but I believe each person has their own right to decide. You know in your heart what is right for you and you have to live with any decision you make."

Remove the pro-life and abortion statements, and nothing I could say about politics and America could get simpler than this. Nice job, Miami Herald (too bad I can't link to them, paid subscription).

Posted by Ted Stevko at 04:24 PM | TrackBack

Beatle Bob on Salon

Beatle Bob: Funky man, kingmaker

Interesting article about Beatle Bob, a St. Louis fixture. Beatle Bob shows up to music shows and dances. That's about it -- but it was always well rumored that if Beatle Bob showed up at a show, it was the hippest place to be. Quite a few people, though, seem to say he's conniving -- and an St. Louis Riverfront Times article both praises and brings up questions about him.

I went to college in St. Louis, and I met Beatle Bob a few times and got to talking with him. He struck me as a nice guy, who liked music. No, he *adored* music. He lived for it, it got in his blood and he just could not get enough. And while I couldn't tell you if the accusations are true, I can say this -- watching him dance was a pleasure. When Bob dances, you see how much he loves music; and it infects the rest of the room, radiating the love, the acceptance, the freedom to just move your body and get funky. Can't change that with all the problems in the world.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 03:44 PM | TrackBack

March 20, 2005

Do I Need A Jacket?

Do I Need A Jacket? - The Weather Right Now

Exactly as much weather as you need. Tells you if you need a jacket when you go out. Not as nice as Mom, but close enough.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 11:53 PM | Comments (0)

Andy Ihnatko Finishes Book

I'm free! And freedom tastes of Reality! And cheesesteaks!

But it double-sucks when it's a book about a huge and complex piece of software that has been undergoing constant evolution in the three months since I wrote the book's first elements. I'm a Sensitive Artiste...

(Andy pauses, takes a long sniff from the lily he's holding, and pauses to reflect upon the rarity of the Aesthete in today's thuglike world before continuing)

...and in general, I actually enjoy rewrites; it's another opportunity to burnish each and every sentence into a Flawless Gem of Perfect Truth, Beauty, and Wisdom.

(another long sniff, then Andy wipes a single, sensitive tear from his eye)

Few people finish a book, then write about THX-1138, showers, being a Sensitive Artiste, the Oscars, time zones, and his entire houseful of equipment. Andy does it with style, too. Grumble grumble.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 09:21 PM | Comments (0)

John Sugg Blogging Again At

John Sugg, senior editor for the Creative Loafing alternative weeklies in Atlanta, Tampa, Charlotte, etc. is now blogging again. He did it some last year, but it closed up. Now, it's back -- and he can WRITE. I mean, write up a storm. Very worth checking out; it's amazing what he's put up since he started March 1st.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 01:57 AM | Comments (0)

March 19, 2005

Bedazzled!: Mystery Date TV Commercial

Bedazzled!: Mystery Date TV Commercial:

About 10 years ago, I saw a bit done by Joel Hodgson of Mystery Science Theater 3000 fame on Saturday Night Live, where he deadpans this TV commercial. And I mean *deadpans* -- practically a monotone. And considering the lyrics resemble, well, a TV commerical( "Mystery Date/ oh yes it's Mystery Date/ is he a dream (rising "ahhh!")/ or a dud? (disappointed "ohhh.")"), done by a mid-20s guy in a tux who's voice reminds you of Droopy Dog... well, it couldn't be any weirder.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 06:05 PM | Comments (0)

Shooting, Missteps Hurt Atlanta's Image (AP)

Shooting, Missteps Hurt Atlanta's Image (AP)

AP - Atlanta has spent years promoting itself as the welcoming, friendly Capital of the New South — "the city too busy to hate." That image has taken a beating following a deadly courthouse rampage that left many with the impression that the city is unsafe and its police inept.
Trust me, this has in no way damaged that image. That image was never around to *be* shattered. The "City To Busy To Hate" has spent plenty of time hating blacks, whites, hispanics, asians, and pretty much every ethnic group you can imagine. It hates being close together. It hates gay and lesbian clubs. It definitely hates the poor, gays, and paper trails.

And as to safety, well, it's hard to tell. See, we under-report our crime.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 05:49 PM | Comments (0)

30 Least Hot Things You Can Say To A Naked Woman

The 30 least hot things you can say to a naked woman. Based on The 30 hottest things you can say to a naked woman, via Metafilter, (who claims it's via defective yeti, except it's *on* defective yeti, but who cares?)


  • "I can't stop touching you. Stupid OCD."
  • While looking at moonlight reflecting on the ceiling: "What do you see? I see Gene Hackman."
  • Any use of the word "hot." Especially: "You're so hot" or "Ever since we ate that dim sum I haven't felt so hot."

Posted by Ted Stevko at 05:33 PM | Comments (0)

Attack of the celebrity blogs

Attack of the celebrity blogs on Salon

Interesting critique of celebrity blogs, with a rightfully justified love-fest for Wil Wheaton Dot Net. Most celebs seem to think that because it's "written by the celeb", it's interesting. But it's like most of the net; good writing shines out, poor writing gets relegated to the back of the bus. You're only as good as your last sentence on the net.

Probably more importantly, Wil approached the community as a member, not as someone who expects to be responded to. The worst way to approach a group of strangers is to expect that group to recognize you and to be fawning; Wil did neither. (If anything, he came into blogging in the hole with a number of geeks, including from me -- Wesley Crusher, as a character, wasn't exactly respected a lot, mostly because he portrayed it exactly on: being smart, being a prodigy, being a teenager and awkward. Except he got to save the world and look brilliant, while I still had to explain to my teachers that I was falling asleep in their classes because I knew the crap and was bored. This difference annoyed the crap out of me. Now, I'm older, awkward, not as smart, not a prodigy, and still get bored when someone lectures at me. Oh, and Wil's not Wesley. So we're cool.) He came into blogging as someone who blogged, and wrote about interesting things in an interesting way. He placed himself on the line, and kept it up. That's what it takes to both get better at something and win respect, and I respect him quite a bit for it.

And he still deserved more time on his CSI episode.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 04:26 PM | Comments (0)

March 17, 2005

"The Case for Comics", Comics Journalism and Political Cartooning

AlterNet: MediaCulture: The Case for Comics

Article on comics journalism. Not that I agree with all of it, but the article is interesting and has many good points. Art Spiegelman, who's one of the most over-used sources on comics and still finds interesting things to say, pipes in, as does Joe Sacco, who's Safe Area: Goradze has got to be one of the most moving, solid pieces of journalism I've read in years (think Kevin Sites, but as a cartoonist).

But I think this article misses one vital point: "comics journalism" is really political cartooning in disguise, replacing it's elder sibling. Before the comics medium became "respectable", the closest to comics journalism there was, was political cartooning. When you wanted a simple, punch-to-the-groin explanation of a situation, that's what the political cartoonist did. But for years, political cartooning has been dying. The once thriving and crucial field is now a smattering of less than 100 jobs spread around the country; and as cartoonists die off or leave, the political cartoonist positions are disappearing from papers. Papers, if they do decide they need a cartoonist, are now filling it with syndicated political cartoonists, not with local talent. And that's very, very sad: political cartooning has played a huge, huge role in American history. From Thomas Nast and Tammany Hall, to Paul Conrad being on Nixon's Enemies List, political cartooning influenced politics in ways no other artwork has. We're poorer for the losses.

But I'm heartened for several reasons. Comics journalism is expansive. It's focus is anything journalists would take on, and then some. Political conversations have almost become too complex for a single panel explanation, so they've become entire pages of explanation, like Peter Bagge in Reason Online. It's not the solid, steady work that political cartooning was; but in it's way, it's more meaningful than political cartooning could have ever been. The new comics journalism field is also more alive and vibrant than "regular" journalism, covering topics with a deftness and sharp eye that most papers have lost over the years.

Now all we have to do is find an all-comics paper to put these in.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 11:41 PM | Comments (0)

Headline Goof, or Typo With Meaning?

NPR : FCC Nominee Favors Strong Anti-Decency Fines via Metafilter

To paraphrase Metafilter: Freudian slip, anyone?

Posted by Ted Stevko at 11:14 PM | Comments (0)

Harry Shearer Guest-Blogging Talking Points Memo

Talking Points Memo

I'm sure to get slapped upside the head as a raving fan-boy for this one, but: Harry Shearer is guest-blogging on Talking Points Memo this week. Rapture!

Posted by Ted Stevko at 11:07 PM | Comments (0)

Code v2.0. and Writing Collaboratively

Code v2.0 and the CC-Wiki license:

Today's fun online experiment: seeing if Code v2.0 can be group edited. I have to say, experiments like this are what make the web such a cool place. The question remains, can a book be openly edited, and still make sense? One of more interesting things set up on this spot is the "Things to think about" section:

Tone and Style
Writing papers with a uniform tone and style can be difficult even for small groups. As a collaborative writing project expands, goes online, and becomes an international effort, this difficulty increases.
And that's the one that's always puzzled me about collaborative writing. How *do* writers get the same tone? Wikipedia has collaborative writing, but the tone is meant to be pure objectivity. But writing novels and/or short stories, that's always puzzled me. Anyone have any ideas on how this is accomplished?

Posted by Ted Stevko at 10:56 PM | Comments (0)

March 16, 2005

New Site Design

It's a start; but let me know what you think about the new site design.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 01:20 AM | Comments (0)

March 15, 2005

Wired News: ChoicePoint Says It's Sorry

Wired News: ChoicePoint Says It's Sorry

I'm not buying it. ChoicePoint knew and ignored the problems of information gathering.

Privacy advocates argue otherwise. When it comes to the definition of information "made publicly available by others," Chris Hoofnagle, an attorney for the D.C.-based Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), claims public records taken out of their original context and lumped together are no longer "public" at all -- especially if only select customers can pay to see them.

"What [ChoicePoint] does is go out there and collect something that is free and public for good reasons," Hoofnagle says. "And they've twisted these beneficial collections of information into private and more dangerous purposes."

In other words, an individual record on file at the county courthouse showing how much you borrowed to buy your home should be available -- to the tax assessor or a nosy neighbor or whoever else feels like trudging down to the courthouse to dig it up.

But to give that record a new home, alongside the make and model of your car, every lawsuit filed by or against you, all your recent traffic tickets, the names and ages of your children, and any crime with which you've ever been charged, is to morph it from a benign court document into a crucial component of an unauthorized dossier, Hoofnagle claims.

Lee, of course, doesn't see things EPIC's way. "That's their view of the world," he says. "They're certainly welcome to that."
In fact, until recently ChoicePoint wouldn't let you check your own information without paying, and sells this information they're gathering to the government -- circumventing US law about keeping files on it's citizens.

Now, the CEO is sorry the information got in the wrong hands. Well, I guess that just clears it all up and lets them off the hook. I'd personally like to see them charged for every individual release. This was not only forseeable, it wasn't even a question that it would happen. There's Law And Order episodes where the plot revolves around the release of data from a data gathering company like ChoicePoint. For pete's sake, this was going to happen; and now, you're "sorry?"

Potentially, for each person's information that was lost, that's years of credit card problems, housing problems, insurance problems, loan problems that you've created for them. 140,000. Information about rental histories. Maiden names. Social security numbers. Credit card accounts.

And this should go away because the CEO says he's sorry?

Why doesn't the CEO tell us what he's going to do to stop the next release of information? And how they'll stop this one? They've made millions off of selling information about people -- shouldn't they bear some responsibility to the people who's information is now in the wrong hands?

Posted by Ted Stevko at 11:36 PM | Comments (0)

March 14, 2005



Making money via Podcasting? Several people have stated that they are making money (either by selling podcast access, ancilliary products (selling t-shirts, etc.) or by sponsorship.

David Lawrence, Dave Slusher and Eric Rice all weighinwith news that they actually make money with their podcasts...

This doesn't sound like a problem to set up either; primarily, it's a standard pay-for-access model. People get access to the RSS feed via an XML file, which can be password protected... once it's password protected, then you can charge for access. T-Shirts and sponsorships are even easier.

The question is: will the product sell?

Posted by Ted Stevko at 11:38 PM | Comments (0)

On Kottke: "My Business Influences"

My business influences

Great article on which businesses Mr. Kottke is influenced by; primarily, it's people who are in business to do great things, without compromising what they believe in. Definitely worth a read.

I honestly believe that people are more attracted to a company who's goal is not to make themselves rich, but to make a decent living for everyone in the company. When I started working, I'd often get the platitude that "If you're not growing, you're failing." It's a winner-take-all mentality, one that I could never get my head around. Isn't the goal of work to do your best? To make something you'd be proud of?

Here's to hoping that Mr. Kottke's influences, influence the rest of us as well.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 11:25 PM | Comments (0)

Brenda Starr, Commentator? Or, How Far Can We Fall.

The Further Adventures of Brenda Starr via Wonkette

I'm actually shocked -- shocked! -- to be posting this. It seems that the comic strip Brenda Starr is inserting commentary on current Washington politics and the media. (Note -- In the following excerpt, Brenda's at a journalism awards ceremony accepting an award for someone else.)

“Imagine! In a democracy, the government tries to bribe journalists!"

Next panel: "And some journalists can be bought as easily as chewing gum!” The president, Huffington, and Buchanan all appear stricken.

Finally, waving the award before her, she concludes: "Most journalists are honest. But parties like this and awards like this compromise us all!”
OK, I guess I don't need to fear: this is about as close to real commentary as Teen Talk Barbie. My world-view is back to normal.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 10:50 PM | Comments (0)

March 13, 2005

AOL Changes AIM TOS, 0wn Users

AIM Terms of Service via Slashdot, Metafilter, etc.

Ech. AIM, the provider of both AIM and iChat's services, changed their terms of service so that they own anything sent over their network. It's more inconvenient than problematic; now I won't use AIM, but there's a ton of other services. So what's the point of doing this? Frankly, I'm astonished; it's like an airline saying they'll only take people and not luggage. For Mac OS X, try, or Proteus. Both support iChat Rendezvous for local chatting, and Fire definitely supports AOL encryption, and both support alternate chat methods. For Windows, Trillian is tops, and supports a ton of options including encryption and direct Trillian-to-Trillian chat.

Sidenote: you know you're getting older when you ask yourself if using "0wn" will make you look like a geezer trying to be "with it".

Posted by Ted Stevko at 11:45 PM | Comments (0)

First Impressions of the Parallax USB Starter Kit.

Spent part of today working my way through the "What's a Microprocessor?" book that came with the Parallax USB Basic Stamp Kit. Along with MacBS2 program I wrote about earlier, it's a really cool kit to work with. So far, I've done LEDs, pushbuttons and servos; but I've got to get other stuff done, so I had to put it away. But so far, it's not been difficult to do it on a Mac at all.

So let me go over what I've had to do to get this started:

  • Buy the kit and a power supply. Don't forget the power supply; you can use 9v batteries, but I've had to unplug the power a ton of times already, so the power supply is a definite plus.
  • Got MacBS2, downloaded it.
  • As mentioned at the bottom of the MacBS2 page, download the USB drivers from FTDI.
  • Install the drivers, then install MacBS2
  • Add the BS2 chip to the board; the Parallax Board Of Education that comes with the kit doesn't have the BS2 chip on it already; you have to install it. (Of course, this means you can take it off and use another chip; other chips have more commands, more memory, and extra spaces for programs.)
  • Put together the first project, a simple one resistor, one LED circuit.
  • Set the power to "0" (it's a 3 way switch, "0" is off.)
  • Hook up the power and the USB
  • Turn on the power
  • Start MacBS2
  • Select the "serial port" so that it gives the USB port -- there should only be one
  • Program something, check syntax, and hit the run button
This is a pretty thorough list, but it took me a total of 15 minutes. I'm chip programming. On to building robotics... again!

Posted by Ted Stevko at 11:19 PM | Comments (0)

March 12, 2005

BASIC Stamp Project on Hack A Day

The Robogrover

Cool use of a BASIC Stamp kit, to detect movement via change in light, and move towards the larger light source. Neat idea.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 02:28 AM | Comments (0)

Speech-Activated Password Resets

Schneier on Security: Speech-Activated Password Resets

Definitely interesting, and for the companies that I've been at, Mr. Schneier is right about the statistics. Phone calls into call centers are much, much more expensive per call than you'd think; $5-$30 a pop. So, when companies try and get you to use their web site, it's most often because of the cost.

Voice pattern recognition is interesting. Either you'd need either an exact match to a key pattern, which means that you'd have to have the same inflections, tonality, etc. within an acceptable range, or you'd need to have a large enough sample to make some judgement calls on the input code.

Could actually be interesting.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 02:13 AM | Comments (0)

The Atlanta Apology And Helpful Links Posting

A couple of helpful bits of information; first, if you live in Atlanta, and need a lawyer, check out Atlanta Bar Association's Lawyer Referral (via Atlanta Metroblogging). $35 gets you a half-hour with a lawyer. Great bargain.

Next, probably the best thing about Georgia is it's law to give consumers 2 free credit reports per year. (Sadly, I'm not kidding, this is in my opinion, the best thing about Georgia.) And since ChoicePoint has been making so many... interesting choices... as of late, and since ChoicePoint is based in Atlanta, I'll help make up for the state's blunder in allowing these bloodsuckers to co-habitate with us humans by posting the information on how to get your report from ChoicePoint. Check out, and while you're gagging on the irony, they give a free copy of their report to you every year. Evidentally, because they swallowed up a lot of smaller companies in order to get to the irresponsible size they are now, the data's goofed.

Oddly, there really is no relation between the two.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 01:28 AM | Comments (0)

March 11, 2005

Robot Worker

Fun for this evening, and what's on my mind:

Robot Worker.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 01:42 AM | Comments (0)

The Daily Show Cast Members on NPR

From On Lisa Rein's Radar, we have Stephen Colbert on NPR's Fresh Air, also at NPR as RealPlayer. Stephen Colbert does a analysis of his own humor, very lucid and intelligent. But NPR has more: check out his stint on Talk Of The Nation last year, Jon Stewart's Fresh Air interview, and Lewis Black's Talk Of The Nation interview last summer. Guess they like The Daily Show.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 01:17 AM | Comments (0)


Spamusement! via Drawn!

Skipping over the grateutious use of exclamantion points, Spamusement made my day. It uses spam subject lines as the captions for comics. Definitely worth a browse; if nothing else, Your Managers Don't Have Expertise They Have This is worth it.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 01:05 AM | Comments (0)

Parallax BASIC Stamp Kit

Finally... after nearly a year of promising myself I'd get into BASIC Stamp kit programming and BOE-Bot creation (to do Mini-Sumo robotics and smaller, other robotics stuff) my kit arrived at my doorstep. And I've had a total of 1 hour with it, so no conclusions yet.

But, for the ten gazillion people who don't know what BASIC Stamp kit programming is: it's programming a microprocessor, using a specialized set of BASIC commands built into the microprocessor. This means, for example, you can control a set of electronics through programming, which is a lot easier to create higher level logic than using pure wiring (for me, at least.)

The other cool part is that it's a pretty simple introduction to robotics, outside of Lego Mindstorms. Not that Lego Mindstorms is anything to sneeze at, no sir. It's just limited to what Lego provides (or that you can create. Check out Extreme Mindstorms for more info).

Parallax's system has more components that you can put together, and you can hook in your own electronics easily. The coding language, though, is smaller; so if you're looking for better logic, best to aim towards NQC or leJos for Mindstorms; the languages they have are subsets of (respectively) C and Java, which hold more functionality. LeJos is especially cool, but as a Java programmer I'm a little biased.

Anyway, this should be interesting. We'll see how it goes!

Posted by Ted Stevko at 12:16 AM | Comments (0)

March 09, 2005

R. Crumb interview

Robert Crumb Interview via Boingboing:

If you've never seen the movie Crumb, really, you won't get a good idea of who Robert Crumb is from this interview. The best way to describe it is, it's a walk through who Crumb is, via his surroundings and his life, rather than through himself. Crumb is a pretty private person, so it's hard to get a grasp on why cartoonists dote on him; his artwork is good, but there's better. It's more his subjects: a kind of a walk through the most primal and most screwed-up parts of a person's world-view, a Boschian filter placed before what he sees. And it works, for whatever reason. Either way, check out the article.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 02:18 AM | Comments (0)

New Art Blog: Drawn!

Drawn! Blogging the illustrated web. via Metafilter

Interesting new blog; it covers a lot of the same things I'm interested in: illustration, comics, and animation. Looks pretty neat, especially for fun drawings.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 02:06 AM | Comments (0)

Single in Atlanta revisited

Single in Atlanta revisited via Atlanta Metroblog

The local weekly alternative posted, in my opinion, a very sub-par article on dating in Atlanta. Normally the local alterative, Creative Loafing, is usually much better than this. While I'm sympathetic to a bad headline, a bad assignment, a poor subject, and a failed attempt at humor, (explanations pointed out in the comments of the Atlanta Metroblog article), the critique in Atlanta Metroblog is accurate: the point was lost, and the article didn't work.

That being said, I agree with the premise: the dating scene in Atlanta is poor at best. It's a bar, a friend, or a service... and that's it. I've been wondering if I shouldn't go back to school just to meet people. It's life in Atlanta, and America for that matter: get drunk, pay someone money, or hope for help from a friend -- it's a set of choices that apply to way, way too many situations.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 12:11 AM | Comments (0)

March 08, 2005

Comic Cafes

Manga kissaten – comic cafes – have evolved into some of the hippest places in Japan… via Warren Ellis

Manga kissaten, from what I'm reading in the article, are your average restaurant/coffeehouse with comics to read. Would be a fascinating place to try out; but the cultural differences would be the killer to bringing them into the US. Simply put, the comic book output for the US during a year could be put into a store, and you *might* get people in for a few weeks, maybe a few months. But Japanese comics are a team business, rather than an individual effort or Marvel/DC; a group will produces 200-page to 800-page tomes every month, rather than a 32 page comic.

Damn, what I wouldn't give to do something like that here.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 11:54 PM | Comments (0)

From WBEZ in Chicago | This American Life

From WBEZ in Chicago | This American Life:

This week's show, called "Should I Stay Or Should I Go?" is going to cover The Graphing Calculator Story; the story about two guys who sneaked into Apple in order to finish a product. The story's a wonderful tale, I suspect the audio will be just priceless.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 03:49 PM | Comments (0)

March 07, 2005

Sci-Fi Eye for the Geek Guy ||

Sci-Fi Eye for the Geek Guy ||

Quick, think of your favorite sci-fi television or movie franchise or writer... Don't think about it too much. I just want you to remember the first one that popped into your mind. Ok, got it? Great. Read on to see if I peg your personality type at all.

Check it out, it's lots of fun.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 11:48 PM | Comments (0)

Heavy metal umlaut - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Heavy metal umlaut

Sometimes browsing the encyclopedia can be fun. With the above article in Wikipedia comes links top some of my favorite uses of the umlaut: Moxy Früvous, Deathtöngue, and Djörk. Umlauts: signs of wholesome goodness from the '80s.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 11:39 PM | Comments (0)

Puma Beisser

Puma Beisser

...The Beisser, which translates to 'Bites,'....

Please, please market these with the English translation. Snopes's Business Mistranslations needs a few good true blunders.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 11:08 PM | Comments (0)

Gunn High School shuts down after-school robot program

Gunn High School shuts down after-school robot program via Engadget

Interesting story about a robotics program as an after-school program. Let me point out one thought, though: this sort of problem is hardly unique to robotics. Often, school programs fall apart due to teacher apathy, student apathy, or student conflict.

In high school, I was on an award-winning school paper. Columbia Scholastic Press awards for several years running, pride of the school, got at least one group per year protesting the school, often got the local daily and alternate weekly to cover them. We were good, no question.

One year, it was all together. Next, it fell apart -- although I wasn't around by then. I'd quit over a... dammit, I want to say trifle, but it wasn't to me at the time. I was on the school paper to do a comic strip, and everyone knew it. My strip proposal was rejected, on the last day of the school year, with half the staff gone, and after the bell rang. I announced then and there I was quitting.

The teacher who'd put together the paper quit either late in the year or over the summer. By the next year, we had a new teacher, who let the rest of the class put me in a hot seat, literally. First day of school, I was hauled into a long room, with everyone seated all around the door I came in. I had to stand with my back to the door, while a star chamber of kids told me I'd have to basically start from scratch and redo what I'd worked on the prior year. This is the kids, mind you; the teacher refused to comment. When I said I wasn't interested in this farce, the teacher wrote me the pass to get out of the class without any comment.

When the idiots insist you bow to a sacred cow, walking out is the second best thing to do. (Destroying the cow is the first.)

A lot of other things happened after that. Over the year, kids left like flies. Nothing like a good issue was printed that year. Eventually the paper was shut down, as the advertising editor had forgotten to collect money. So, everything was sold off, and the school had no more paper.

These things happen. Kids, especially geeks, are very bad at interacting; they're sensitive, react poorly to rejection, and are even more isolated in their own "personal world" than regular high schoolers. So having interaction problems is a natural; in fact, I'm surprised it's not worse. The best I can say is, that's where to make the mistakes. It's sad, it's downright horrid; but it happens, more often than you'd think.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 11:02 PM | Comments (0)

Creativity without Props

Creativity without Props via Seward Street

One of my favorite points -- and my least, least, least accomplished goals -- about creativity. If you can't do it with a pencil and a napkin, it's time to quit.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 10:36 PM | Comments (0)

A Few Days...

A few days have passed since I posted; my apologies. I needed a few days to clean out some stuff. Back on the case now!

Posted by Ted Stevko at 10:32 PM | Comments (0)