Friday, January 30, 2009

The Office

I don't usually recommend The Office since some of the episodes are a little crass, but these recent clips are just too funny to not share. Enjoy.

Doggy dog:

Princess Unicorn:

Saturday, January 24, 2009

McKinley quote of the day


Today at lunch:
Me: "McKinley, where did this chicken nugget come from?"

McKinley: "Um, they cut up dead pigs and find the chicken in it?"
Wow, the pig is an even more magical animal than I thought. =)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Thursday, January 22, 2009

OS X trojan horse

To all my Mac-using buddies -- don't be tempted by pirated copies of software on file-sharing sites, specifically iWork '09. Slashdot is reporting that someone has embedded a trojan horse in iWork '09 and distributed it over file sharing sites.

Note, this is not a virus, it can't infect your computer without your permission. If you're installing the software, you're granting permission! Support good software by buying it legally.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Mall during the inauguration

This is the mall during the inauguration ceremony, as taken by the GeoEye1 satellite.

I actually enjoyed reading the inauguration speech. There was little that I could argue with in there. My favorite quote:
Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends — hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

I wonder who wrote it.

For me the question remains: in 4 years, will our nation be better off? Will we be more likely to blame others or our government for our personal failings? Will social programs become the lifeblood of more Americans, being easier and more profitable than holding down a job? If abortions become easier to get, will they be more likely to be gotten? Or will violence abroad increase as tyrants smile and nod through diplomacy but do what they please knowing no one will stop them? Will we still be allowed to own guns to protect ourselves? Will churches lose official status for refusing to marry gay couples, or for taking other moral stands?

I'm still nervous about the answers to these questions.
Check out this interactive zoomable photo of the inauguration -- double-click to zoom, then hover your mouse over a person to see who it is. Not all the people are labeled, but probably all the ones whose names you've heard are. Very nice!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Buying good reviews

I love Amazon's review system for researching stuff I want to buy -- but it looks like I'll have to start being more careful now, check out this story. Yep, a Belkin representative was paying people to put in glowing reviews for their products, and vote down the negative ones. Ouch.

I think Amazon should suspend all Belkin sales for 90 days as a signal to any other companies considering padding their products' reviews.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Steve Jobs on "leave of absence"

Today Steve Jobs announced that his medical problems are "more complex" than he originally thought, and is going on a medical leave of absence until the end of June.

It's a sad day. Truly he's not looking very good, and I can't help but feel my heart go out to him and his family.

Nobody questions that an Apple without Steve Jobs at the epicenter will be different -- in 1997, he was basically tossed (back) onto a bloated, sinking barge*, and somehow managed to rebuild the whole thing into a sleek, giant luxury cruiseliner without sinking it. Amazing.

I've been listening to The Tao of Warren Buffet, a neat little collection of his lessons learned on investing -- which just happen to apply broadly to lots of other stuff in life.**

It's a great book, and has me thinking now: How is this change going to affect Apple as a company? How much does Steve Jobs actually do there? From what I can tell, he generally has a pretty tight grip on the wheel and rudder of the ship, and doesn't hesitate to turn hard sometimes. He's often been found turning against the "winds", and has mostly been right, and that instinct and vision is hard to replace.

You could say that pretty much anything he touches either turns to gold, or gets treated as gold, even long after the shine rubs off. His temporary replacement, Tim Cook, may well have the former, but it'll be a long time before he's earned the latter.

In fact, if you went back 2 years and inserted a Steve-Jobs-to-Tim-Cook transition in 2007 but left all the product announcements and direction from those 2 years intact, I bet half a dozen times since you'd have seen big op-ed pieces declaring Apple's glory days to be over and Tim Cook to be the failed steward of a once great empire. It's human nature to overemphasize imperfections, and when you have a big change like that it's easy to point to that as the cause, regardless of what the upside looks like.

I think it's also important to note that Steve Jobs didn't design the iMac, the iPod or the iPhone -- that was Jonathan Ive. Steve also doesn't build anything, nor does he write software. The guys doing all the design and writing the software and building the hardware are still there, doing it.

In some ways Steve just acts as a giant filter on all the garbage that inevitably gets dreamt up by engineers and designers with caffeine addictions living in Silicon Valley. Probably even from his bedroom he can still do a lot of that.

Me? The stock's down 6%, so I'm thinking of buying some.
* ... that used to be his own cute little yacht, but had a bunch of big ugly shipping containers welded onto the sides by "professional business-people" ...

** I love the one about you getting a car, then being told that it's the only car you'll ever own and it has to last the rest of your life. Any rational person hearing that would realize if it's going to last, they'd better take really good care of it. Well guess what -- that's exactly what we've got with our bodies and minds. Only one of each, and it's got to last.

Oh, and the hood's welded shut so if any of the parts go bad, we'll have to cut through the sheet metal to get to them. =)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Password-less ssh logins

I'm not sure where else to post this, so I thought I might as well post it here.

We have a process for logging into a remote Mac or linux computer using ssh without a password. It looks something like this in the terminal:

Create a pair of rsa keys:
cd; mkdir -p .ssh; ssh-keygen -N '' -C '' -f .ssh/id_rsa
... then copy that .ssh folder to your home directory on the remote machine. Easy as pie.

But one of our users couldn't make it work. His .ssh folder contents and permissions were identical to the other users, but it still wouldn't work. We even tried copying another user's .ssh folder over and using that. Still no joy.

An obscure posting on some unix help website gave us the answer: his home directory was group-writeable. Once we did a "chmod g-w ~" in his account, and rebuilt the .ssh folder (who knows why we had to do that), everything was back in business. SSH is notoriously particular about the permissions in the .ssh folder, but apparently it is also particular about the user's home directory as well.

Somebody out there needs this, I hope they find it here.

The "megapenny"

A billion dollars isn't unfathomable anymore... It's only about $3.25 for every man, woman, and child in America. What's $700B between friends?

But lest you lose perspective, the megapenny site will show you what a billion pennies looks like-- and the pile of pennies in this picture isn't quite it.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

On backups

My brother just asked me about backups for his Mac laptop, so I thought I'd share my 2 cents on the matter with everybody --

You really don't need a backup until something goes wrong. And what could go wrong here in America? =)

Lots of stuff. Here are a few things that can go wrong, from most likely to least likely:
  1. You accidentally delete/overwrite a file
  2. Your hard disk dies
  3. Your computer is stolen (or destroyed)
  4. Your house is burglarized or burns down
  5. A large bomb destroys half of the city
  6. An EMP wipes out all electronics in the region
Don't let your kids play with EMPs in the backyard!

With most of those (all except #1), you lose *all* your data, which includes pictures, emails, iTunes songs, etc. So here are a few solutions, and a list of which problems they address:

OptionEasy?Rough costTime to get back up and runningProblems addressedWhat gets lost
Backup cloned hard drive connected to your machine (cloned once a week or so)so so$100up and running in minutes1 (maybe), 2Up to a week's worth of stuff
Backup time machine hard drive connected to your machinevery easy$100up and running in a couple hours1, 2up to an hour's worth of stuff
Backup time machine hard drive stored on the other side of townvery easy$100up and running in a couple hours (after you drive across town to get it)1, 2, 3, 4, 5whatever you've done since the last time you plugged it in
Online backupscumbersome?maybe $20/month?varies, probably many hours1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 (all depending on the service)depends on the particulars of the service
DVD backupsvery cumbersome$1-3 per 4.7 GB disclikely many *many* hours to get back up1, 2, 3, 6whatever you haven't burned to discs

My advice? Go with the backup TM drive stored on the other side of town, and periodically make DVD backups of important files. It's cheap, and covers almost everything that can go wrong.

Hope that helps!

Does anyone read this thing?

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