|Browsing Category Archive → SciTech|
Monday, 08 February 2010, 0156
Believe it or not, I am writing this article on the Gateway Solo 2500 notebook I customized and purchased, or rather had purchased for me as a graduation present in May 1999. It arrived at my house in early June while I was vacationing in San Francisco and was the only thing enticing me to return to Orlando.
This system has provided reliable service to me for 10 years and 8 months now, but is obviously slow and underpowered for my current needs. My philosophy on buying a new notebook is simple: upgrading them can be difficult and expensive so I get the most powerful one I can afford. Although prices have fallen and technology improved in the past decade, my philosophy remains valid for modern desktop replacements.
Entering the 21st century, Gateway hit hard times and the quality of their offerings lessened. In the meantime, my line of work has provided me the chance to use a variety of business notebooks from Dell, Toshiba and HP/Compaq. By far the most impressive notebook is the well-designed ThinkPad by IBM, acquired by Lenovo in 2005. I have logged incalculable hours on the ThinkPad T43p and T61 and am continuously impressed with their quality and performance.
Yesterday afternoon, I placed an order for a custom build ThinkPad W500. The W Series is a recent line of systems designed as upgraded successors to the popular T Series and could probably be referred to colloquially as the Cadillac of ThinkPad notebooks. The W700 even comes with a secondary flip-out LCD panel and built-in tablet. Now that is overkill for me, but I am saving nearly $1000 on the W500 between a sale price and coupon discount.
My ThinkPad W500 will be equipped with the following components:
- Intel Core 2 Duo P9500 Mobile Processor
- ATI Mobility FireGL V5700 Video Card
- 8 GB PC3-8500 DDR3 SDRAM Memory
- 15.4" WSXGA+ CCFL TFT Display
- 128 GB Solid State Hard Drive
- Intel WiFi Link 5300 Wireless Network Card
- Bluetooth PAN
- 8x DVD/CD Recorder
- 7-in-1 Media Card Reader
- TouchPad, TrackPoint and ThinkLight
- Windows 7 Professional 64
Needless to say, I am fairly excited to get my hands on this computer. I will likely be compelled to run and post some speed tests and boot-up times. I have yet to use a solid state hard drive, but I am preparing to be blown away based on the performance results I found online. With any luck, the shipping estimate I was provided—22 March 2010—is highly conservative and it will only be a matter of weeks before it arrives.
Update: I received an e-mail on 22 February that it would arrive on the 24th and it did. I will elaborate at a different time, but for now it is sufficient to say this notebook is the fastest I have used and I absolutely love it.
Update: Read the follow-up article The New Computer II.
|3 Comments||The New Computer | http://mtsutro.org?p=930|
Sunday, 04 March 2007, 1047
Last evening I took my first local road trip since I decided to plan and execute more such outings. This trip was unique however in that the destination was basically unplanned. Unfortunately, it did not quite go as I had hoped.
If you did not know, a total lunar eclipse—the first of this type since 28 October 2004—was visible for Africa and Europe and partly visible for most of the rest of the world. The refraction of sunlight through the Earth's atmosphere during a total eclipse paints the moon in a reddish hue, particularly hypnotic during the moment of "greatest eclipse" when the moon is in the center of Earth's umbra.
As the sun set and the start of the visibility period for eastern North America neared, I headed outdoors to try to catch the moon rise. I descended the stairs of my apartment and turned right only to see an enormous mass of dense clouds filling the entire eastern sky. Since the moon was due to rise shortly, already in the middle of the visually best parts of the eclipse, I was obviously disappointed.
I thought perhaps getting into an area where I had more visibility of the lower sky and horizon might help, but only if the clouds dissipated some. Not willing to take the chance of missing a great show, I got into my car and headed towards Interstate 10. The plan was to drive west to Exit 181 (SR 267) and find such a spot.
Driving the fifteen mile stretch of highway, I anxiously awaited a sign that the clouds might disperse and offer a glimpse of the moon. That moment never did come but I decided to continue on the mission to find the right vista anyway. I exited and turned north on SR 267 as I did not recall seeing any particularly good spots to the south the last time I drove there.
Immediately to my left was what appeared to be a perfect location—an abandoned gas station with a long curvy entrance road. I drove up to the next intersection and made a U-turn during which I noticed a few cars parked on the grass and a small group of people standing around. Near them was a sign for some University of Florida facility, so I assumed they were an astronomy club or something.
The curvy drive to the former Exprezit! gas station was a nice spot, although the openness of the terrain and my proximity to the I-10 interchange made me feel as though every driver that passed on SR 267 was looking right at me. The view of the horizon was partially blocked by trees across the street but it was no matter; the clouds were still fully occupying the eastern sky.
There was a nice cool breeze gently wrapping around me as The Sounds of Swing quietly emanated from my windows and sunroof. With no change in the cloudiness in sight, I decided to head back to that group of people I saw and maybe learn a bit more. It was 1845 EST.
In this image assembled from three satellite photographs you can see SR 267 just north of I-10. In the upper left corner is the abandoned gas station and curvy drive. The upper right corner depicts some of the UF facility. You can see the intersection with SR 267 just below it. The tree closest to the intersection is where I joined the crowd facing east, which appears to be due south in this composite. [ interactive ]
You may notice the picture comes from Yahoo! Maps but I link to Google Maps. This is because while Google offers a higher resolution image with more zoom and clarity, a photo separation line bisects the region. It changed the focus of the composite so I went with the uniform version instead.
When I parked in the grass and started to get out of my car, the entire group stopped to look in my direction. If there had been a jukebox playing, it would have most certainly scratched to a halt.
"I assume you're all here for the lunar eclipse," I postulated, breaking the silence.
Astronomy students they were not. The crowd actually consisted of multi-generational members of the same family. They had come from various parts of Florida for a "reunion of sorts," as the man who responded to my query stated. A few of them had obviously convinced the others, ranging in age from high school or college age to late adulthood, to come out and witness the eclipse.
Ironically, I was the most knowledgeable person present and ended up fielding lunar eclipse and other space-related questions. There was some additional brief chit-chat but their conversation soon returned to family topics foreign to me. Staring over the group in silence, I watched the ever-darkening sky for a sign of anything.
At 1905 EST, I pointed and commanded to the group, "Look!" A faint glow of white light had managed to penetrate the clouds and was slowly getting brighter. This renewed hope invoked an energy in the crowd, now moving away from the cars to get a slightly better view without the interference of a telephone pole.
Over the course of the next twenty minutes, we watched with fading enthusiasm as the clouds continued to mask and slightly uncover portions of the moon, now in its final stages of eclipse. There were a few moments when it appeared the clouds would part just enough to completely allow a full viewing of the moon, but it would not occur.
The group eventually left and I soon followed suit at 1945 EST, watching what I could see of the moon during the twenty mile drive back. Again, for a few moments here and there unobstructed views seemed eminent but never actually materialized.
In all, despite the failure to watch the lunar eclipse, the evening was a lot of fun. And if nothing else, I have a new destination to choose from when I seek a place to view the sky.
Oh, and for the record, that UF sign that contributed to my false impression students and/or professors were gathered was not for any space-related facility. It is actually the Gadsden County Extension Office for the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
I have been collecting the following linkage for the past few weeks, so some of the items are more current than others.
This is an example of what we should have seen last night…
…but this is more like what we saw.
Lunar Eclipse Gallery
Featuring images from CNN, The Associated Press, NASA and Space.com.
Another Eclipse Gallery
Featuring amateur photographs from around the world.
Flickr: Lunar Eclipse
The most recently uploaded photos tagged with lunar and eclipse.
Autumn and the Plot Against Me
An interesting personal research piece about tracking the origins of a Windows XP wallpaper photo.
'Infomania' worse than marijuana
"Workers distracted by email and phone calls suffer a fall in IQ more than twice that found in marijuana smokers, new research has claimed."
Better Uses for $1.52 Billion
In the wake of Microsoft's loss in their $1.52 billion dollar patent infringement suit, Mike Davidson comes up with some alternative uses for that sizeable sum.
|4 Comments||The Lunar Eclipse | http://mtsutro.org?p=391|
Linkage Local Personal SciTech Travel
Saturday, 11 November 2006, 0212
For the past week or so my DSL modem has been on the warpath, seemingly bent on punishing me with technical minutia when I am not at work.
At first, minor connectivity problems occurred leading me to believe that either interference, line noise or central office difficulties were to blame. The problem quickly worsened and was finally compounded by the partial failure of the modem.
The web-based interface does not accept incoming requests or give any sign of presence. Telnet, SSH and even pings are all refused as if the hardware no longer exists. It still gives my network router an IP address dynamically, though.
I finally gave up and decided that my troubleshooting solved basically nothing and hardware failure of the modem must be the culprit. All that was left to do now was what I had been hoping to avoid from the start—call technical support.
While my one and only previous encounter with Embarq's customer service was an extremely positive one, dealing with computer-related technical support is something I loathe. Needless to say, I was enamored when I discovered I could chat with a support representative online.
What happened next can only be described as some of the best customer service I have experienced and absolutely the best technical support experience ever.
15:06:13 — You
Initial Question/Comment: I believe my DSL modem may be defective.
15:06:19 — System
Steve W has joined this session!
15:06:19 — System
Welcome to EMBARQ. For security reasons please provide your 10-digit EMBARQ Local Telephone number and last four digits of your Social Security Number. Once you have provided this, please allow us a few moments to respond.
15:06:36 — You
15:06:50 — Steve W
Thanks! I am sorry to hear that. Is the power light on it going out?
15:06:59 — You
No, but connectivity has become intermittent, the modem no longer responds to pings and the web-based interface is inaccessible.
15:07:45 — Steve W
I will send you a replacement for free.
15:07:52 — You
That would be great.
15:07:55 — Steve W
It takes about 2 to 3 business day.
15:08:05 — Steve W
Sure. Anything else today?
15:08:17 — You
No, that was it. Thank you so much.
15:08:36 — Steve W
You are very welcome. Thank you again for contacting Embarq's Online Services.
I mean, damn.
I fully expected to be grilled like a fish about my computer, network, settings and every other detail which I had already exhaustingly eliminated. But instead of alienating their (probably non-technical) customers with endless technobabble questions and flowchart nonsense, Embarq smartly cuts to the chase and delivers results.
The last part to be confirmed in two to three business days.
UPDATE: Tuesday, 14 November 2006, 1748
I just signed for a UPS package from you know who. True to their word and according to UPS tracking information, Embarq shipped my order Monday evening and it travelled all night (from Fort Wayne, Indiana with stops in Louisville, Kentucky and Albany, Georgia) to arrive in my hands. Now the internet functions again thanks to superior customer service from Embarq.
|3 Comments||The Perfect Exchange | http://mtsutro.org?p=388|
Local Personal SciTech
Wednesday, 16 August 2006, 2149
One of the things I have loved most about living in the south—next month marks my seventeenth year in the Sunshine State—is the variety of beautiful and amazing wildlife.
There are many animal species I enjoy. But even from the first day in Florida, my favourite has always been the lizard.
I have a memory of sitting inside a Wendy's restaurant either immediately preceding or following my move from New York, watching in amazement as the lizards scurried around in the bushes planted just the other side of the arched glass.
Through the years, the inevitable close encounters occur and from those experiences I have always gained a new respect. After all, nothing is more exciting than coming home to a small snake sitting comfortably on the carpet. Or wondering what your cat is chasing around the bedroom in the middle of the night. Rescuing lizards is just another part of the day.
During my year in Tallahassee—can you believe that?!—I have noticed the lizards are not as abundant here. I still see them regularly during the appropriate seasons, but compared to central Florida the population here is minor.
Perhaps with so much rural land nearby, they are not forced into cohabitation with humans as often. Whatever the reason, I learned yesterday the population is sufficient enough still for a close encounter.
Driving between work buildings in an Agency car, my eyes panned down slightly to notice a Green Anole (Anolis carolinensis) looking back at me through the glass, hanging on to the windshield wiper for dear life.
I hoped he could stay put for just a few moments longer. Soon enough I turned into the first driveway I came upon and quickly exited the vehicle.
"Oh, no!" I exclaimed aloud at the sight of a lizard-free windshield wiper. The surrounding area showed no signs of him either. "Shit."
I sighed and started to get back into the car when I saw him staring back at me from the roof, right above the driver doorway. My attempts to coax the poor guy into my hands were futile, but at the same time he could have very easily scurried away but did not.
I like to think this was so because some way, some how he knew I was not a threat, or even understood I was there to help. I know intellectually this is not possible, but there is no denying the fantastic power of animal instincts.
The rescue plan failing, I decided to try a new approach. I leaned up against the body of the car and placed my shoulder next to the lizard. Then with my hand I gave him a gentle poke.
There should have been a spring sound effect when he jumped onto my shoulder and quickly scampered to the top of my head. Walking lightly I approached the nearby grass and proceeded to bow. He jumped off into the grass and sat there looking back up at me before cautiously walking away to explore the new and unfamiliar surroundings.
As I continued my drive I hoped that the little lizard would adapt easily to his new environment, 1.7 miles northwest of his previous home.
And while in the grand scheme of the universe it might not mean a whole lot, I felt an enormous wave of satisfaction over having saved this lizard from certain death.
I know it made a difference to me. And to him as well.
|1 Comment||The Impromptu Deliverance | http://mtsutro.org?p=383|
Saturday, 05 August 2006, 0053
Earlier in the week, I arrived home from work around the usual time. Whilst emptying my pockets of the day's contents and undressing, I pressed the power button on my notebook to bring it out of its state of hibernation.
After the screen lit and the system whirred to life, the little white balloon I had been anticipating for around a week finally appeared. When the moment arrived I realised that despite some effort, no real contingency plan existed for this inevitable day. The neighbours and unwitting providers of my internet service since late last year moved away and with it my connectivity.
I had already planned on visiting the office of the Leon County Supervisor of Elections the following day to update my voter registration card—Sunday being the cut-off for eligibility in the primaries and all. Before leaving on that trek, I mapped the location of the one and only Embarq—the telecom formerly known as Sprint—retail store in Tallahassee.
My mission was simple: peruse the in-store marketing materials, ask a few questions of a customer service representative and get back to the office. Slightly more than twenty minutes after entering the store, I was strolling back out in to the parking lot, DSL modem in hand.
My unending frustration with the quality of service I have received from Cingular Wireless, the cellular provider forced upon me by AT&T Wireless' acquisition, has prompted me to think about moving on to other providers. The more I thought about it though, the more I realised that I could very easily move away from cellular service all together.
Combined with my lack of enthusiasm for Comcast's overpriced cable broadband service and my non-desire to have television service other than that provided by my DVD player and VCR, migrating to a traditional land line telephone and DSL service seemed like a logical step. Throw in a decent telephone/internet package on special due to Embarq's newness and you have an unbeatable deal.
It is thus my pleasure to announce the immediate discontinuance of my mobile telephone service. Calls and SMS text messages sent to my "current" number will be redirected to /null/ some time today, 05 August 2006. My new telephone number is 850.222.4747.
Those who know me understand the significance of the forty-seven. I am still rather pleased I was able to select such a personalized and easy-to-remember set of digits. Hooray for small talk with the Embarq guy, who I'll add was more than a little pleased when I told him he did not have to give me the "new DSL customer" technical walk through.
I should probably mention that while I can change my mind at any time, given the raw amount of telephone talking I (do not) do, I elected to go with the $0.10 per-minute long distance plan. If you get any one-ring missed calls from my number, I am just being cheap so give me a call back. Remember, the system exists so people can work it.
So far both services have performed nicely. The voicemail system is intuitive and the internet was literally plug and play. You have to love things that just work, especially when you are in the industry. The only blip so far is not even an issue per se, but more an "oh, ok" kinda deal—my packets travel to Orlando before going up to Atlanta and on to the world. While I would love a few less hops between here and my web server outside of New York City, the added routes do not constitute a major detour.
It feels good and rebellious to be abandoning the technology so intertwined in our "need it now" society. I concluded that most of my telephone conversations happen in the one place I am free and clear to have them: my couch. So why not give up the portable "sounds like 56k streaming audio" phone? Cost is certainly not the reason as my land line and internet service combined will be only slightly more per month than my mobile-only bill.
Needless to say, I could not be happier with my decision. But no tale of technology on Mount Sutro would be complete without a visit from our friend, Mr. Irony. In a final gesture of appreciation and dedication to service, Cingular offered me one final hurrah. If I had not already made the decision to cancel my service, I surely would have after this.
Simply put, I do not want to be charged past the current billing cycle. The plan was to call and schedule my cancellation on or before the final date in my cycle and to use the balance of my peak minutes before then.
The call went smoothly and everything seemed in order… until I hung up. No bars. No service ID message. Nothing. And then a message indicating to me the network no longer recognized my SIMM. The bastards had cut me off immediately!
I called back and after waiting on hold for a bit, was connected to someone to whom I expelled my displeasure. She was very nice, apologetic and efficient in getting my service restored. At the close of the call she informed me that I needed to call on the day I wanted to cancel, as their billing software was incapable of scheduling cancellations in advance.
To this I replied, "Okay, I understand. But you might want to tell your manager the person I spoke with before you was obviously unaware of this fact."
Later today when I make the call, it will be for real. So long and thanks for all the fish, even if they were dropped.
|1 Comment||The Paradigm Shift | http://mtsutro.org?p=382|
Local Personal SciTech
Sunday, 16 July 2006, 0412
While trying to fix a problem that had been preventing me from using the Offline Files feature of Windows XP, I saw repeated references to a command-line tool released by Microsoft designed specifically to work with Offline Files.
The first few sites that referenced the tool—called CSC Utility (csccmd.exe)—all pointed to a relevant Microsoft Knowledge Base article. Once there, I quickly realised why I saw so many people across the internet looking for the executable.
Microsoft developed and released the last version (1.0) of the CSC Utility as part of the Windows Server 2003 Resource Kit Tools. That kit is easily available to download, but from what I read about my specific issues, only the follow-up version (1.1) would suffice.
For an unknown reason, Version 1.1 is only officially available from Microsoft Product Support, and getting it apparently involves contacting Microsoft and either demonstrating the file is necessary to solve a documented problem or paying for the "support call." Even then, it seems that often people's telephone messages go unanswered.
In any event, there was only one way that I wanted to solve this problem and the CSC tool was it. I started searching around specifically for a site offering the download. When I finally found one at megaupload.com, I discovered it was a porno pop-up, ad-laden hell hole.
Fortunately the download that resulted was a legitimate, virus-free copy of the CSC Utility Version 1.1. Obtaining a utility designed to tweak a major component of Windows should not be this difficult. I have no idea why they refuse to make it available for public download and instead link to the 1.0 version—beneath a disclaimer about how several features are only available with 1.1.
Of course within minutes of finally using the tool, my offline files were in order and working perfectly. It is completely aggravating to spend more time than necessary fixing something stupid in Windows. Save yourself the grief and aggravation and download CSCCMD 1.1. Convenient, no? Please do not link directly to the file, but instead send your friends here.
I figure while I am at it, why not pass along some other facts you may enjoy.
- In the event your server-side share changes—which can include it being relocated, renamed or removed—and the Synchronization Manager fails to work because it complains about the modified share, use the csccmd /moveshare command to rename the share in the CSC cache.
- If you use a redirected My Documents folder as I do, enabling Offline Files forces it and other system folders to automatically cache locally. You will see the ticked "Make Available Offline" option dimmed for My Documents, My Pictures and the other administratively assigned offline files. This is particularly annoying in my environment, where every document does not need to be accessible all the time.
This one has a simple ending, though. Use the Group Policy Editor (gpedit.msc) to enable a setting called "Do not automatically make redirected folders available offline." It is located here: User Configuration > Administrative Templates > Network > Offline Files. The same panel under Computer Configuration contains even more settings, including the administratively assigned offline files option.
- Unlike some of the other folders Windows considers "special," the Offline Files cache (%WINDIR%\CSC) cannot be moved or redirected automatically. The official solution is to use the cachemov.exe utility from the Windows 2000 Resource Kit, but I crafted an alternative workaround.
The freeware Windows junction creator and reparse point viewer—aptly named Junction—by Mark Russinovich is the perfect way to relocate your CSC cache to another local disk or partition. Use Junction to create a symbolic link in %WINDIR%\CSC pointing to your preferred folder. All requests for that original directory will be seamlessly redirected to the true location, transparent to the user and system. This sort of symbolic linking is popular among Linux/Apache web hosts who generally set www to redirect to public_html.
- If things are really loused up, consider simply reinitializing the cache. This option will delete all offline files, reset the Offline Files database and clear the "Make Available Offline" settings. You can do this from the Offline Files tab in the Folder Options control panel applet. Press Control+Shift while clicking "Delete Files," then confirm your selection to begin the reinitialization. For Windows 7 and Vista, follow the steps in KB942974.
- It is easy to bookmark the specific key within the Registry Editor, so if you intend to modify administratively assigned offline files often, I suggest doing it here: HKEY_CURRENT_USER > Software > Microsoft > Windows > CurrentVersion > NetCache > AssignedOfflineFolders.
- Speaking of Registry Editor favourites, take them with you, share them with others and never lose them again by exporting this branch: HKEY_CURRENT_USER > Software > Microsoft > Windows > CurrentVersion > Applets > Regedit > Favorites.
- Sometimes when you use TweakUI, Windows will start displaying icons in sixteen color mode. If this happens, edit the Shell Icon BPP string to 16 and reboot. That key is here: HKEY_CURRENT_USER > Control Panel > Desktop > WindowMetrics.
- If you would like to force Windows to use a UNC network location in lieu of installation media, change the Installation Sources and Source Path keys to the UNC where the Cabinet Files live. Those keys are here: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE > SOFTWARE > Microsoft > Windows > CurrentVersion > Setup.
- The recently released Security Update for Windows XP (KB917537) may give you a hard time if you wisely do not have Internet Information Services installed. If you find this update installing repeatedly and appearing as a new update, create a zero byte file called asp.dll and save it in the inetsrv folder within %WINDIR%\System32. The next time you run Microsoft Update, the patch should stick. In the event it fails again, reboot your computer then scan for updates. A sign of success is the asp.dll file you created having grown in size to 361 KB from zero.
"Traces of two earlier buildings on a wall in old Montreal"
Like counting the rings in the trunk of an old tree, the photo of this Canadian building allows us an unusual yet compelling glimpse into the past.
Save Flash Video (FLV)
Supports sites like YouTube and Google Video.
Free Player for Flash Video
FLV Player 1.3.3 is a standalone client for playing FLV videos.
Vote Side of Hashbrowns for America
"Featuring multi-media public service advertisements (PSAs) and a new Web site, www.PayAttention.org, the Vote campaign is designed to educate young adults about the ease and importance of voting in the 2006 midterm elections. This target audience, 18 to 24 years old, is the largest group of non-voters in America, according to the U.S. Census Bureau."
|21 Comments||The Knowledge Base | http://mtsutro.org?p=381|
Sunday, 11 June 2006, 2321
When I last changed hosting providers nearly four years ago, I made sure that my plan had room to grow. I wanted plenty of monthly data transfer, a decent chunk of hard drive space and various other bells and whistles. My industry friend Marty fixed me up well and thus I shall remain with TLC Web Enterprises indefinitely.
With ample features in hand, the current iteration of Mount Sutro took form and in its own way gained some popularity. Certainly there has always been more traffic from people using web and image search tools versus that from regular readers, but never disproportionately so.
That is, until January of this year rolled around. Between connectivity issues—which, aside from a few recent examples, have been fixed—and my lack of interest in writing for the site, regular updates have been notably infrequent in the time between then and now. I naturally expected to see a drop-off in overall traffic as a result.
When I checked the site logs in early February 2006, I was rather surprised to see January 2006 was the new record holder for data transfer used. Over ten and a half gigabytes of data passed from my server to the world that month.
These figures may seem small in comparison to hard drives you can purchase for $100 today or the amount of transfer seen by mainstream blogs and websites, but for my little operation I have to admit being a bit impressed.
February rolled through and with under eight gigs transferred, I assumed the expected slow down was occurring. While the hiatus continued, traffic did its normal ebb and flow, but kicking between nine and eleven gigabytes of transfer monthly instead of the usual six to nine.
I knew there must be a logical reason for all this so I set out to find it. You do not have be no Sherlock Holmes to figure out this mystery, either. A simple in-depth review of the log files told the story loudly and clearly.
The social cum media-frenzying phenomenon known as MySpace might be getting people's panties in a twist over the charge the networking site, popular with minors, is the unwilling accomplice to child exploitation, pedophilia and pornography. My gripes are a little different, as you might imagine.
First, and these are in no particular order, not since GeoCities has there been so impressive a centralized repository of ugly, unreadable, compliance-hating, auto play multimedia-filled sites. At least GeoCities users have the excuse of time, since the mid-nineties saw the web come into its own. I will take animated GIFs and <BLINK> tags over MySpace sites any day.
Second, as with other social networking sites like Friendster, after some initial amusement I find no real purpose or need for them. I maintain my own website so I can advertise the information I choose to advertise, without the help of any profiles or three page forms. Specific to MySpace, I am not at all interested in the daily ramblings of high school students, nor do I have a desire to meet other people on the basis of which American Idol star I may or may not prefer.
Third, embedded auto play multimedia sucks. Yes, I know I mentioned this item already, but it is so offensive I had to mention it again. It used to be cool to have music play on your pages, I feel mostly because MIDI technology was just getting to the point where commercially-available sound cards could adequately play those nifty rock band songs. Share all the music you want, but at least make me have to press play first. And if you cannot comply with that simple wish, at least stream me something decent.
Fourth, did you know that when MySpace was acquired by News Corporation, the terms of service contract was modified to include a clause (6:1) effectively giving MySpace and hence News unrestricted rights to "use, copy, modify, adapt, translate, publicly perform, publicly display, store, reproduce, transmit and distribute" any and all content posted by users. Without having to pay for it, I might add. All this from a free service actively inviting bands and musicians to set-up a MySpace account and post their otherwise copyright protected lyrics and music.
Fifth, the leeches and yes, the main point.
Search engines have always been friendly to my site, but the multimedia searches can be deadly. As I posted more and the search engines indexed more, incoming traffic for and the leeching of images increased. At first I would check out the offending site and decide if I cared or not. Most often I did not if the site contained nothing objectionable and if it was personal or non-profit.
But the growing popularity of MySpace has served to exacerbate this issue. After recently reviewing my logs, I quickly concluded that although my downloadable assets for Sutro Tower and the MasterCard advert featuring Robert De Niro accounted for a noticeable portion of the increased data transfer, the majority of it was the result of leeching from MySpace.
One by one I identified the graphics most commonly hotlinked and decided on an appropriate bait and switch tactic. Instead of simply renaming the images and leaving "red x" placeholders on the leeches' pages, I knew I wanted to program a redirect so that an alternative image would instead be displayed. Further, I was going to use a public resource I (indirectly) support to host the replacement graphic, therefore achieving two goals: data transfer reduction and leech dissuasion.
Wanting to take the high road while also selecting a replacement image that would not be legally dubious, as my plan would affect countless minor's pages, I narrowed down my choices to one.
I only wish I could have been there as the junior "webmasters" came to their site and found hero Johnny Cash replaced with that. Not to mention the proprietors and users of the forums and other sites I took action against.
Return visits to leech sites have shown most people have now removed the offending hyperlinks, but the Seal still decorates some Spaces. A picture of the Constitution was the runner-up, by the way. The Seal won in the end because of its size and dimensions.
The lesson here, kids, is to not leech images. Upload them to your own space. That is why they call it MySpace, after all. Are you given insufficient space? If so, you should complain! I think the $23.9 billion dollar father News should be able to swing an upgrade.
|6 Comments||The Leeches | http://mtsutro.org?p=376|
Personal SciTech Site Notes
Wednesday, 12 April 2006, 1829
I have been experiencing several odd issues with my telephone of late, including a mysterious new icon that appeared today and the complaint of callers that my voice mail service is acting wonky. I decided I would call my provider and enter that living hell of phone trees and people that regularly offer no assistance.
As soon as the connection to the customer service number was complete, I was greeted by the standard welcome message with one minor modification. It identified the line as the "Business Support Center." Interesting, I thought, considering this account is in my name alone, unlike others that use my d/b/a. Now, after completing my call, I am extremely happy I was directed as such and hope future calls will be similarly connected.
While I was not able to resolve the technical aspects of two questions from above—due to the fact I was using the telephone in question and have no access to a land line at home—my experience with the customer service representative was incredible. He was courteous, knowledgeable, friendly and explanatory, expertly providing other answers to policy questions. I have never received more than sub-par support from this provider, so that this experience even occurred amazes me.
I suppose my surprise is somewhat illogical given I have always maintained you should connect to the "small business" or "business" call center of ISPs and computer manufacturers. Instead of dealing with typical level one questions, the business-only representatives generally allow you to detail your situation and provide direct help.
Quod erat demonstrandum. Thus, it is proved.
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