1. Rein in the Vote

    brian on 2004.12.30
    at 12:38 am

    Lisa Rein is the web’s source for information on the 2004 National Voting Debacle. This link has a very thorough fleshing out of what’s going on.

    Posted in: Politics

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  2. Holiday Update

    brian on 2004.12.28
    at 03:33 pm

    Of course, posting traditionally lapses during the holidays. Mine thus far are going well, aside from having to sprint to southern New Jersey for a 24 hour visit before rushing back to work to deal with the 26th of December mobs. My back hasn’t yet recovered, and that’s partially due to the foot of snow dropped on us on the 27th.

    Recently, I’ve been playing with a few new acquisitions. I picked up an iSight camera , which I’ve temporarily deployed as a webcam in my front window. It’s running EvoCam from Amanda’s iBook, so when she returns from Connecticut after her extended stay, I imagine she’ll want to use it again. So be it noted, this link will break , rather it will still be there, but not updated as it is currently, starting by probably tomorrow. I’ll find another solution. BTW – you must refresh that image manually, since I’ve written no code for auto-refresh. It gets a new image every five minutes. They’re hardly ever anything interesting, and I apologize for the screen.

    Elsewhere, I have a new base-model G5 tower for our home server, and this is the first post from the new machine. I set it up just today, and I first wiped the drive and reinstalled the OS to make sure I have the bare minimum install (no extraneous foreign languages I’ll never use, for example) taking up the least space.

    I am currently backing up my life from my main PowerBook, via Target Disk Mode which is a fabulous invention. Recently, my PowerBook has been chirping and occasionally a clack can be heard as well. This worries me, thus, I have started the tower’s first purpose: backup vehicle. Soon, I will be adding a second SATA drive to the unit to improve upon the base storage (80GB), and some extra RAM as well. These will help me accomodate the second purpose of the tower: home media server, which will begin with hosting all of our iTunes and iPhoto needs. The third planned purpose is as in-house web server, and that’ll be the last thing I set up. I’ll likely start simple by adding controls for PHP, a little MySQL, and then probably in simple implementation of Instiki and lastly an install of TextPattern .

    More updates when time permits, but for now I’m off to work.

    Posted in: Apple · Cool Info · Hardware · Software · Technology · Web

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    brian on 2004.12.22
    at 01:37 am

    BTW, if you're not playing with "": yet, you should sign up. I think this going somewhere, although I'm not quite sure where yet.

    Somewhere similar to where "Flickr": is going, I'm sure.

    And if you want an open source OS X GUI for, then you're looking for "Cocoalicous": , of course.

    Posted in: Apple · Software

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  4. Saving Blogging's Rep

    brian on 2004.12.22
    at 12:46 am

    I have a friend, let's call him "Dave." Today he says to me "I hate blogs, and bloggers. They're always bitching and they should shut up." I had two thoughts race instantly my mind. 1) Hey, I'm a blogger. 2) Has he seen any other blogs than the three links I sent him? Reading my mind, he then continues "Not that I ever read blogs, just those links you sent me, but they pretty much turned me off."

    Well, I am responsible for the bad name blogs (I hate that word, from here out, "weblogs") have with him. I sent him three links to dopes who were complaining about our employer, who we happen to like.

    Tonight, I aim to reverse his opinion by finding some excellent links to good bloggers who aren't a) big bitches b) not web developers. The latter is mainly because something like 75% of the weblogs I read are by web geeks. OK, well if they post general interest stuff, they can squeak in. This post is for to all my non-blog-initiated friends...

    * Daring Fireball

    - Mac Punditry done right, by John Gruber.

    * "The Unoffical Apple Weblog":

    - A pretty generic Apple-centric blog, but entertaining

    * "Signals vs Noise":

    - Leaning toward web-geeks, but often just web and tech centric.

    * "AutoBlog":

    - Excellent for auto fans. Dave'll appreciate all the new Mustang coverage.

    * "":

    - Very infrequent posts nowadays, but I think he'll appreciate the attitude.

    * "Acts of Volition":

    - A web geek that doesn't often get into web geekery, good music info, and open-source and Mozilla stuff. Also, Canadian.

    * "Matt Haughey":

    - Matt made "MetaFilter(MeFi)": and I also read his "PVR weblog":, which is a great resource for TiVO fans.

    * "Lawrence Lessig":

    - If you're interested in what the government wants to do in regards to the law and the internet, this is _the guy_ to listen to.

    * "Engadget":

    - One of two of the definitive geek-toy blogs.

    * "Gizmodo":

    - Two of two of the definitive geek-toy blogs.

    Those, hopefully will get you started.

    Any other thoughts for good "starter" blogs for getting people hooked on blogs? Slight geek tilt OK for our purposes...

    Posted in: Web

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  5. It's an OS X Planet

    brian on 2004.12.22
    at 12:37 am

    Today I was turned on to a wonderful application called OS X Planet, thanks to a MacUpdate search looking in to EarthBrowser. I was considering dropping some cash for EarthBrowser (I believe paying for shareware beings good karma, and more shareware, and new economic models), but, damn, although certainly less feature-rich that EB, OS X Planet does everything I wanted, for free. Impressive.

    Note to EB developers, I probably wouldn't have even looked for another app if their app didn't cripple the demo mode with low res pictures.

    And to everyone else, happy planet browsing.

    Posted in: Software

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  6. Mind wandering back

    brian on 2004.12.15
    at 06:27 pm

    Today I am off from the usual gig. Jake and I have been working on research to present in a proposal to a prospective client, which could be a very cool project. More on that when/if we have something to talk about publicly.

    I've been pondering the fact that I haven't been posting as much as I should, and if you're a regular reader, I do apologize. We've considered adding a quick "links we've read recently" section, a la Kottke's remaindered links. which would have helped during the recent dry spell. I'm still reading the web / NetNewsWire voraciously, but I've not been spurred to comment much about what I've read recently. The only thing I might point to is Lisa Rein's coverage of the Ohio/National voting debacle. Otherwise, I've been trying to hold back on my political commentary. It just makes me so angry, that I don't want this to become a rant log.

    But what has captured my mind over the last 24 hours has been weather, snow and webcams, and simultaneously thinking back to my cross country trip this summer. {Post One | Post Two} Someday we'll have more of a story about it. Maybe.

    Particularly, our favorite part of the trip was Montana. If you combine Montana with weather, and snow, you get Brian in wonderland. Just something about snow out there that calls to me. Working for the National Weather Service or Montana DOT dealing with snow out there is just so appealing to me. Why? Am I nuts? Certainly. I am certainly not qualified to be a weather person. (question: do some schools offer meteorology as a major? or do you study environmental science and move over?) Whatever it'd be, it'd certainly involve the web.

    So today I found a wonderfully simple way to transport myself out there, into the conditions... Montana webcams, many from the NWS and Montana DOT.

    Also, I've been trying to think up a project that would allow me to combine the NWS's new XML feeds, a webcam (likely an iSight + EvoCam, but possibly adding a Linksys WiFi camera if I were to go all out) and some sort of personal weather center that I could collect my own data from, when we get to our new abode, sometime later 2005. I'd love to run this all off the new, pending G5

    Till then, it's pure escapism. See you there.

    Posted in: Cool Info · Technology

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  7. Standard issue?

    brian on 2004.12.09
    at 02:24 am

    If I find these enjoyable, and think about acquiring them, does this make _me_ an ass?

    "SHHH. Society for HandHeld Hushing Handout": (caution! small 460kb PDF file)

    "Urban Asshole Notification Handouts": (these are actually for sale)

    Posted in: Humor

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  8. Using PGP Encryption and Signatures with Apple's Mail

    brian on 2004.12.08
    at 05:37 pm

    How to: Using GnuPG and Apple Mail for Encryption and Digital Signatures.

    Jake and I were curious to see how we could get our email more secure. He was working on getting a set up at his job for some sensitive financial information to be transmitted via the internet. I was just curious about more secure email, since I knew Mac OS X had some good security features in it.

    I had looked into this once before, and my eyes glossed over when looking it over. Jake, being more familiar with unix was not so detered, and figured it out without much fuss. Thus, once he set it up in Mozilla Thunderbird, his work email app that he uses with his company's Windows machines, he figured out how to add it to his personal PowerBook.

    Wanting to learn, I had Jake walk me through the steps of the set up. It's clear from the attempt that while its not exceedingly difficult to implement PGP on Mac, it's not going to spread like wildfire until someone improves the user experience. The following walk through will dive into the terminal briefly, and some of the GUI aspects leave much to be desired.

    Let it be noted that I am eternally grateful to those who took the time to build GUIs for OS X so that I might enter the PGP world without much fuss, and I hope my criticisms here are seen as only constructive and supportive towards their authors efforts.

    And just before we begin the installation, I just wanted to mention that some of the functionality we are about to install is already present in OS X, however, it is well hidden, designed to automatically kick in when needed. It is however, a different style of email security.

    To use the built-in encryption and digital signature abilities of Mail, you need to have a digital ID certificate of your own, stored in the keychain. However, the Mail Help is very vague on how to achieve that. Additionally, Keychain Access does not have its own help (it has a very tips thrown in to the general Mac OS X help).

    Apple's Mail Help says

    You can get someone's certificate if that person sends you a digitally signed or encrypted message, since that person's certificate is automatically included in such messages. When you receive one of these messages, Mail automatically stores this person's certificate in the keychain.

    Once you have a signing certificate for your mail account stored in your keychain, additional buttons appear in the Compose window, allowing you to digitally sign or encrypt a message.

    It does not tell us how to add our own signing certificate into the Keychain, or how to create one if we don't have one. The secret is thus: Apple's Mail and Keychain only currently work with third-party certificate authorities. The one most people talk about in these circles is, where you must establish an identity. This third party vouches for you, that you are who you say you are.

    If you would care to use this style of security in your email, then I might direct you to two excellent tutorials,

    PGP works differently. It only needs two parties. For example, I know Jake in the real world, we've lived together even. So when he sends me his public key, I don't need a third party to establish who he is. If you have this level of comfort with those your are attempting to communicate with securely, then you are all set, PGP will work for you. Let's see how to get it to work for Mac OS X.

    First, go to the MacGPG website and download the latest Mac version of the application, "GNU Privacy Guard." (often shortened to GPG, just to be confusing.) When I wrote this tutorial, version 1.2.4 was current.

    Next you'll want to be able to create your own PGP keys, so you'll need an application for that, too. Smartly enough, it's on that same page and called "GPGKeys" You can download it now, too.

    We're going to install MacGPG first. It's simple... an installer should automatically appear when its finished downloading. If it didn't automatically appear, then double click to open the GnuPG disk image (.dmg). An installer will appear. Follow the instructions. When it is finished, you will not see the finished product anywhere... its off in the BSD section of your Mac... that's OK. We're going to use other applications which will use GnuPG behind the curtains.

    (If you manually turned off the BSD part of the Mac OS X install at any point in your Mac's life, chances are this install will not work. You will need to install this portion from a Mac OS X install disc. By default, the BSD goods are installed. If none of this sounds familiar, worry not, it's likely in there.)

    Next, we'll install the application to create our key. Find "GPGKeys " (in the downloads folder, usually your Desktop) open it up. There is no active installer for this application. Drag the "GPGKeys" application to your Applications folder (or the place of your choice).

    Now, go find it, launch. GPGKeys is a GUI interface to create a PGP key, only in the most loosest of interpretations. Under the Key menu, click "generate" and you'll be brought proptly to the command line. Gasp! I don't see why this couldn't be wrapped in a GUI, but luckily, it's a pretty straight forward CLI.

    First, it'll ask what types of cipher you'd like to create. I chose the default.

    Second, key size, I again chose the defaults.

    Third, expiry... how long do you want this to work until you have to create another.

    Next, it asks for name, email, both pretty self-explanatory, and a comment, which is whatever you want it to be. Perhaps a title for your own use, so you might identify this key later.

    Next, the app will create the key, using some random text, which you'll be asked to participate in, if you wish.

    It will end by showing you a key. You won't have to copy this, because when you quit the application (which is will now ask you about) it'll show up in the GUI app, once you leave the terminal. Once you leave the terminal, if your key isn't seen in the window, refresh the window. (Window > Refresh)

    Last words about GPGKeys... if you're looking to exchange PGP-secured documents with others, you'll need their public key. This is stored as a file, and you need to store it in this GPGKeys application. When you aquire the file, you can put it here by simply choosing (File > Import)

    Next, we need to incorporate PGP into Apple's

    Acquire the GPGMail app from

    I didn't see this as a qualification anywhere, but i would suggest quitting Apple's Mail during the following install, since this app will be attaching itself to it.

    This application also comes with a double-click installer. Use it.

    Now, open Apple Mail and check the Preferences, you should have a new pane called "PGP." Set the preferences you'd like to use.

    Once these are set, whenever you open a Mail composition window, you'll have a new row beneath the addressing section, which allows you check a box if you want you message signed and/or encrypted (you can sign an un-encrypted email), and pull down menus to select which keys to use in these tasks.

    Once you have this set up, and a friend who is also using a similar set up, and you have exchanged keys, then you can send, receive and read encrypted email. Enjoy.

    Posted in: Apple · Technology

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  9. News about News, Conclusion

    brian on 2004.12.08
    at 04:15 pm

    Hello to our readers... few bits back I announced that there would be an announcement here, but then, didn't follow up on my promise. Here we are...

    I'm getting married to my girlfriend of six and a half wonderful years, Amanda. It should go down in Connecticut in 2006.

    No offense to our blog readers, but I had to notify all of our more personal friends first, since I didn't want to get any angry emails, "Hey, you blogged your engagement, but didn't contact me?" This may still happen...

    No plans for Amanda to start blogging here anytime soon, although she does partake in reading them from time to time.

    Posted in: Cool Info

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  10. Wrestle Control of your TV

    brian on 2004.12.02
    at 01:48 am

    "If this thing didn't run Windows, I'd be all over it in a second": . Seriously, Linux DVR hackers... get to work. This is the only thing that can save us from the corporations coming together and ruling what we watch on TV... so long as "Alienware": can stay up and independent, and someone can put _anything_ but Windows Media Center.

    And while they're out there... mind as well enable some open formats (MPEG4 etc) and toss that Intel chip for something that runs cooler... but I'd deal with the first two of the three as a first step...

    Posted in: Media · Technology · Television

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