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2008 (old posts, page 3)

The 100 word version

I wouldn't exactly say I'm proud of reading Valleywag on a regular basis. It's not so much the brainwashed feeling that trashy journalism engenders as it is the wonder of what life would be like with that time instead dedicated to some of the more noble pursuits of western civilization.

Ah yes, time. Perhaps their most valuable contribution is the 'hundred word version', an act of distilling down the long, meandering press releases and leaked e-mails into something more readily digestible.

It’s a good thing to remember when writing: if you can say it in 100 words, why use more?

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My digital picture frame: John's Background Switcher and MinimizeOnIdle

Digital picture frames are getting cheaper and larger but they still have a way to go in terms of display quality, resolution, size and convenience before I'm going to invest.

Meanwhile, I do have a decent 17" LCD attached to the wall in the kitchen connected to a PC in the closet. Aside: The massive convenience of a built-in PC in the kitchen was not wholly obvious to me before I installed it but it has since become the most used console in the house.

Rather than a screensaver, I use John's Background Switcher which is a tool that among other things can be set up to poll Flickr for a set of photos and create various desktop backgrounds from randomly selected ones. Full screen, montages and photo mosaics are simple configuration options apart.

The last trick is a scheduled task that performs the 'Toggle Desktop' to minimize all windows after a period of inactivity.

ShowDesktop.scf

[Shell]
Command=2
IconFile=explorer.exe,3
[Taskbar]
Command=ToggleDesktop

Installation

copy ShowDesktop.scf %systemroot%
schtasks /create /sc onidle /i 15 /tn "Show Desktop" /tr "C:\Windows\System32\cmd.exe /c %systemroot%\ShowDesktop.scf"

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More graffiti in Kirkland

Seems it's not only Seattle seeing the rising trend in tagging. The Kirkland Weblog reports an increase on the East side too.

I am impressed that police departments log every reported tagging event. Combined with some local population information, I wonder what some basic data mining might turn up.

Useful links:

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MetaWeblogAPI backup tool

My recent migration over to WordPress was about the fourth or fifth blogging platform I've used in the last eight or nine years. As far as possible I've preserved the post content each time I've made the move.

For the latest, here's a quick C# app I wrote to do the transfer. It polls the Windows Live Spaces MetaWeblogAPI to download all of the posts and writes them to a simple text file. Then it republishes those posts by reading them from a file and calling newPost on another blogging service.

The app requires the XML-RPC.NET library and Visual Studio 2008 for compilation.

Open MetaWeblogBackup

MetaWeblogBackup

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Addicted to connectivity

An interesting article in the New York Times this week points:

OPEC 2.0

AMERICANS today spend almost as much on bandwidth — the capacity to move information — as we do on energy. A family of four likely spends several hundred dollars a month on cellphones, cable television and Internet connections, which is about what we spend on gas and heating oil.

Just as the industrial revolution depended on oil and other energy sources, the information revolution is fueled by bandwidth. If we aren’t careful, we’re going to repeat the history of the oil industry by creating a bandwidth cartel.

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Sudden rise in Seattle graffiti: is the economy to blame?

Over the last few months there's been a notable rise in the amount of graffiti in Seattle. It's a shame for a city that was once almost entirely free of the affliction but I've not lost hope. For a while, it seemed like it could be just a neighborhood-specific thing; perhaps some kids getting to the right age to be making trouble. But looking around it seems as though it's a city-wide problem (supported by the city's cleanup numbers, up 44% year on year). That brings the local-effect conclusion into question.

To their credit, the city has done an impressive job of cleaning up within a few days. The behavior continues but it's far better than letting it run unchecked.

Reluctantly jumping onto the bearish bandwagon, I do wonder how much of this can be attributed to a flagging economy. A can of spray paint costs less than a movie ticket, a couple of lattes or an album on iTunes and I wonder whether it's a cheaper form of entertainment, thrill included. On the upside, if this is the case, it likely ends at some point - either with the city cleanup fund outlasting the taggers assets, or with an economic recovery to more comfortable times.

Perhaps the most unexpected tags I've seen are the 'Obama 08' messages on mailboxes and underpasses. All I can say is those responsible had better be voting in November.

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Policing counterfeit gourmet food

There was an article in the Sunday paper yesterday titled Food cops: Italy's palates guard. Who knew that there was such a business to be made from fake cheese, ham, basil and vinegar?

The food detectives, empowered to not only enter premises on demand but are also allowed to carry firearms(!) and have ways of detecting such counterfeit products. Special machines are used to generate slight flaws in the logo on the rind and sniff-tests involved a needle made from a horse's shin bone can root out imposters.

Fascinating.

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\"It\xE2\x80\x99s the most Seattle thing that could have happened\

It's hard to know exactly what transpired during the altercation at the Critical Mass event this weekend, accounts seems to vary depending on who is talking. I did enjoy reading the driver's point of view however:

While a some cyclists I’ve spoken with have written Mark off as another indignant road-hog, Mark says he actually used to be a bike commuter when he lived in Seattle a few years ago. “I sympathize with [cyclists’] cause. I ride bikes too. I’m a liberal hippie democrat,” he says, adding “I’m gay, the person with me was a lesbian and we were a attacked by eco-terrorists. It’s the most Seattle thing that could have happened.
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