1. Advice to the Grey Lady

    brian on 2006.01.27
    at 03:32 am

    The other day, I came to the end of my rope.

    I enjoy reading David Pogue’s work. I was happy when he announced a while back that he would be beginning a blog at the New York Times.

    It has thus far been so-so. David’s a pro writer, so I suppose I expected more, but I suppose since he’s a pro writer, he writes so much stuff all over the place, there isn’t much left over for the blog. The tid-bits that fall through to this his last bastion of word and thought though, are enjoyable.

    I thus subscribe to his RSS feed. This is where my frustration began. His feed supplies only a title… not much to go on when deciding whether to click through to the piles of advertising that surrounds David’s work on the Times’ site. Annoying.

    But when you arrive and want to actually stay and read his blog, well, they make that difficult, too. Say I follow one link in. Then I want to get to the main blog page, or the next or previous entry.

    No links.

    Maybe I’ll hack the URL, and just shorten it down to the section’s root.

    Nope – the URL string is a dynamic fake.

    I was upset, so I sent David an email. I figured if other readers were annoyed, eventually something would change.

    “I’ll pass this along, Brian. All of this is way beyond me, but I will admit that I get a lot of complaint mail along similar lines!”

    It was really nice for David to write me back. Even if it didn’t change, a little human touch goes a long way.

    But, I may have had more influence than I had hoped. A day or two later, David writes again,

    “Hey Brian, your email has lit a fire under some people at the Times. These are only baby steps, but they wrote…”

    and there was a little more. Basically it says they were addressing the concerns I raised in my original email. Now, as soon as they roll out, I’ll feel like a feedback loop from your average Joe all the way to the most respected news organization in the world is beginning to become more responsive. Excellent.

    Posted in: Media · Web

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  2. HD comes home

    brian on 2006.01.26
    at 09:17 pm

    A few weeks ago I used my corporate discount to purchase a Panasonic LCD HDTV. It’s quite nice. But only today did I get my HD cable box form Comcast.

    I’ve been playing with it all afternoon. This evening, when my lovely fiancé arrived home, we tuned into a The Who concert on INHD. To quote Amanda…

    You can the spit and sweat flying off him!

    Yup. That about summarized HD for us. People look as sickening as they do in real life. The companies sell HD by saying it’s like looking out a window. It’s not that clear, but it’s damn nice.

    I personally have been infatuated with the 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround sound. That’s hot. Finally get to give my Yamaha Digital Receiver a work out. It’s great when a plan comes together…

    Lastly, I still have a SD TiVo. I’ll post again with all my wirings to set that up to use it to the best of its abilities.

    It wasn’t until today that I realized I’d be buying TiVo’s Series 3 HD DVR when it comes out… hopefully it’ll be just long enough for me to save up all my loose change… this is all slowly bleeding me poor.

    Posted in: Technology · Television

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  3. Bio Heat, part III

    brian on 2006.01.26
    at 08:24 pm

    This is the conclusion on my series on finding home heating bio fuel.

    Last time, I was facing desperation. My 275 gallon oil tank was on zero. We had the heat low and off at every opportunity. I had still not found an area supplier of the friendlier fuel.

    On a whim, I decided to call Dennis K. Burke. They host Massachusetts’ first retail biodiesel pump. You can just drive up your regular old diesel fueled car and put some soy juice in the tank and it’s actually good for your engine.

    Visiting their website, I was disappointed to see no mention of home heating fuels, bio or otherwise. But I figured if could call and ask, and then when they said no, I figured they might know if anyone in our area did carry this product.

    To my surprise, and despite what their own website omits, they did indeed sell a B5 biofuel. That’s 5% vegetable oils, 95% petroleum. I was hoping for perhaps a B20, but I was happy to find any biofuel. The good news was the cost: biofuel was a mere ten cents more than standard no. 2 home heating oil. $2.49 per gallon… factored out to a full size tank I paid about a $30 premium. But that’s $30 I invested in American farmers… and reduced the pollution my home emits. It is also voting with my wallet, by purchasing bio fuels I state there is a market for environmentally-sound every day products.

    Go forth and vote with your wallet. And invest in well-made websites. I know some people who can help with such and initiative.

    Posted in: Science

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  4. Search Folder for flagged in Thunderbird

    jake on 2006.01.26
    at 01:48 pm


    I should preface this short tutorial explaining that this is for older versions of Mozilla Thunderbird. Think of it as an alternative to the abilities added in version 1.5.

    Some background.

    I’ve been using Thunderbird at work for a long while now. I grabbed Thunderbird way back when it was in beta.

    I also have a problem with keeping my email organized. I get various messages on a weekly basis asking me to update minor things on various web sites. And if I’m currently busy with an unrelated project they quickly move off the screen and disappear from sight and from memory.

    There are two methods for highlighting messages in Thunderbird called labels and flags. Labels give color in the message window and their titles can be customized. They are easily applied using the keys 1-5. Flags can be inserted as a column and clicked to turn them on and off. There are of course other methods for applying the two.

    Read More

    Posted in: Software

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  5. Bio Heating Fuel, part II

    brian on 2006.01.23
    at 09:02 pm

    I’m sad to report that I have been thus far unable to locate any distributors of bio fuel who would deliver to Medford, to heat my home. Despite the best efforts of this blog, Universal Hub, and Craigslist, it looks like I will be forced to buy regular old petroleum. Yuck. Luckily, we seem to stretch our oil usage.

    When we bought our place in July, the tank had just been filled (around \$400), and it is just now running on empty. So that means conceivably, by the time we need to fill up again, perhaps a local distributor will arrive on the scene.

    For anyone out there, here’s what I found for Boston-area alternative home heating oil:

    Dedham: Mass BioFuel

    Regional: Mass Energy Consumer’s Alliance

    Cape and Islands: Self Reliance Oil Cooperative

    I’m still astounded by the fact that the majority of homes that heat with oil are in the Northeast, and the majority of biofuel use is in the Northeast, yet I cannot find supplier of bio fuel delivered to my home, a mere five miles north of one of (if not) the most progressive city in the nation, perhaps the western hemisphere.

    Posted in: Science

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  6. Making progress

    jake on 2006.01.23
    at 07:43 pm

    I am surprised that it took this long to get this thing going anywhere. Of course Brian and I have been busy, so Re¢ently was slow going. It is still not done yet. But I have made progress in at least making things a little more easy on the eyes.

    At the rate we’re going I’ll probably get sick of the design before we even finish it. Enjoy it while it lasts… ;)

    Posted in: Service Announcement

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  7. BioHeat in Medford?

    brian on 2006.01.21
    at 10:39 am

    Lazy web, I invoke thee! (Hopefully Universal Hub will pick this up!)

    Anyone out there know who a Medford resident could call to buy some bioheat/fuel/diesel for home heating? I’m having great trouble finding a distributor for my area!


    I really should have asked sooner, because we’re almost out of fuel!

    Update: Here’s a story from the Boston Globe which will tell you a little more about using plant-based, non-petroleum alternatives to home heating oil, for anyone who’s unfamiliar with BioHeat.

    Posted in: Science

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  8. Live, Lossless, Free and Free

    brian on 2006.01.06
    at 06:23 pm

    Phish may be outta business, but they’re not… um, outta business. In fact for a band that no longer plays together, they’re light-years ahead of anyone else in regards to music downloads.

    1. DRM-free music downloads.
    2. Choice of MP3 or Lossless (FLAC) formats

    But then, it got better.

    Now you can download video of their concerts, track by track. Whereas, I don’t know how many people want to be able to purchase a video of a song from a concert on an individual basis, but its nice to have the choice. But wait, it gets better.

    1. DRM-free
    2. MPEG-4 format.

    Excellent. What could be better?

    Free. And until January 15th, you can participate in their noble experiment by downloading an MPEG4 clip for free. Get while the getting’s good.

    (I still maintain that iTMS is the best current option for purchasing non-Phish music, since the vast majority of the industry is still lock-down obsessed.)

    Posted in: Music

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  9. Watch your Step

    brian on 2006.01.05
    at 03:37 pm

    Hey, if you hadn’t noticed, we’re in the middle of a major overhaul around here. As Jake and I debate over such things as “Favicons” you’ll see us actively changing our templating around here. We have a private section dedicated to bleeding edge changes, but they pretty quickly get dropped over here.

    If you read via RSS, we’ll give you a heads up when she’s prettier than she is now…

    Posted in: Service Announcement

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