Monday, January 10, 2005

Spam of the day

Well, this probably won't be an actual daily feature, but I don't want to attribute a greater length of time to spam. Anyway, here's the subject line of a spam that caught my eye while scanning my junk mail box for false positives today:

Subject: Two words= Diploma of a University.

Bill Gates at the Consumer Electronics Show -- crashes and blue screens of death

OK, I couldn't resist. Seems even a multi-billionaire head of one of the largest corporations on earth gets bitten by the demo effect. In this case, this means crashes of his Home Media Center edition PC and the blue screen of death from an Xbox during his keynote.

In my experience, most demo failures are due to lack of diligence on the part of the folks setting things up (which has pretty much always been your's truly, when I've done demos). The most likely cause here was that nobody actually tested the machines and software in question (the actual ones being used, not some other machines) during a dry-run rehearsal. Of course, using Mac OS X or Linux instead of Windows would probably have increased reliability, too.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Data processing with iTunes

The title links to a very interesting web page discussing (briefly) the use of iTunes as a more general-purpose database browser. I think that some interesting uses could be made of its live-updating "smart playlists". Of course, only simple DB tasks can be performed with it, since you are limited to browsing by ANDed combination of attributes (which are fixed), or, in smart playlists, a choice of AND or OR combination of attributes. Still, it's better than browsing through deeply nested directory hierarchies or thousands of cryptically-named files.

Monday, January 03, 2005

A bag of links

The following are some interesting links I've found lately. Who knows? Maybe I'll make this a regularly scheduled feature. I'm such a pack rat.
  • I just got an iPod, the rationale being that I'll no longer have the kids complaining that none of the ten CDs in the car has anything they want to listen to on it, and why didn't we bring CD "X". Now, we'll have every CD we own with us on every car trip, including last week's "Car Talk" for me. Anyway, now that I have it, I've been perusing the various podcasts on the web. For the uninitiated (which, now that I know about this, probably means nobody), podcasts are audio recordings (think of them as radio show recordings or audio blogs) that have their links embedded in RSS feeds; software (such as iPodder, which is free, or iPodderX, which is commercial with a free "lite" version) scans the feeds and downloads the enclosures, in my case adding them to iTunes for syncing with my iPod. Podcast Alley is probably the best organized podcast directory around. Both of the abovementioned programs have integrated directories; iPodderX's is pretty good. And not all of the podcasts are amateur crap like this blog; there are professional ones from WGBH radio, NASA, and the BBC.
  • Piled Higher and Deeper, the comics for anyone in graduate school (or married to someone in graduate school).
  • Bargain web sites: Cheap Stingy Bastard, Free After Rebate, and Hot Deals Club.
  • Metro FreeFi lists free (legitimately) wifi spots. It also provides "wiPod" downloads formatted as iPod notes.
  • You knew this would happen. They've got Linux running on the iPod. Remember, the point isn't that it does it well, but that it does it at all.
  • You can access the most recent episode of National Public Radio's "Car Talk" here.
  • Children's science education sites: The Yuckiest Site on the Internet, NASA Science Files, and Math/Science Nucleus.
  • The Virginia Tech Multimedia Music Dictionary includes audio files with pronunciation for each term.