April 29, 2005

The Perry Bible Fellowship

Last night, I decided to investigate the origins of Hugbot, and I ended up discovering the Perry Bible Fellowship series of comics by Nicholas Gurewitch.

Hugbot comic

New Specs for Ken comic

Reset comic

I'm not sure that it gets any better than this. :)

There's even an RSS feed!

In General

Posted at 06:44 PM | Permanent link

April 27, 2005

Conan O'Brien on Starbucks

"Starbucks announced today that it will not sell Bruce Springsteen's new album, 'Devils and Dust,' because one of the songs is too graphic. Starbucks said, 'We don't want people listening to a song about getting screwed while they're paying nine dollars for a cup of coffee.'"

-- Conan O'Brien

In General

Posted at 10:32 PM | Permanent link

Congrats to Dave Johnson and blogs.sun.com team!

Congrats, Dave! (for winning the Chairman's award)

In Blogging

Posted at 09:49 PM | Permanent link

Why I blog

Swans that Katherine showed me at Lochmere Lake in Cary, North Carolina

Why do I blog? Some reasons...

Oftentimes people will ask me questions (sometimes technical, sometimes not), the answers to which I think others would find insightful. Rather than answer one person at a time, why not answer everyone at once?

Sometimes I ask questions of the internet and the internet does not give me a satisfactory answer. In these cases why not patch that hole in the information machinery once I do find an answer and distill it?

Other times, I simply have to capture the hilarity of daily life.

Does blogging make the act of publishing online easier? Yes. But it also gives me an excuse to throw up a bunch of otherwise unrelated writings without worrying (much) about organization or about whether they "fit".


In Blogging

Posted at 06:29 PM | Permanent link

24 hour comics day

What is 24 hour comics day?


This is an everest I need to climb at some point in my life. Maybe next year.

In General

Posted at 06:13 PM | Permanent link

April 26, 2005

An overview of blog publishing tools

I'm often asked what blogging tool I recommend for those looking to blog.

The easy-to-use hammer

For a complete blogging virgin, I highly recommend services such as Blogger and LiveJournal, just as long as it is not Xanga. For the love of god, please don't use Xanga. I'm not sure why my friends seem to have some unholy attraction to it. I had to write my own software just to read their blogs.

Anyway, using these services is dead simple. Just create an account and you'll be blogging within five minutes. They require zero technical knowledge, and don't require you to have your own site (although Blogger can publish your blog to your own site via ftp if you like).

The customizable hammer

Sometimes I have geek friends who aren't comfortable with their masculinity if they aren't running their own software on their own server. That's cool. I'm simpatico. I can relate. And it's more fun to talk about the personal publishing platform variety of software, rather than the services, anyway.

Realistically you want to go this route if you the likes of Blogger and LiveJournal aren't flexible enough for you. Perhaps their templating system doesn't allow you to customize the design of your blog to your liking, or perhaps you don't like the way such services handle comments. Whatever the case, running your own blogging software may be for you.

The contenders:

Movable Type

I use Movable Type for my site, although this has caused me enough hassle that I would use something else if I had to do it over again. The main pain involved with using Movable Type is having to rebuild your site every time you edit a design template. If this were easy then there would be no problem (if there were a way to trigger a rebuild from the command line, for instance), but no... As of Movable Type 3.15 rebuilding your site still involves having to login to Movable Type via your browser and navigate a web UI that involves popups in particularly inconvenient spots.

In theory Movable Type provides a way to dynamically generate the pages on your site so that you don't have to deal with rebuilding nonsense. In my experience, this is messy. It involves Movable Type hijacking your .htaccess file, and in the end doesn't work very well anyway.

Overall, I've been less than impressed with Six Apart's development of the standalone Movable Type software, ever since they became fixated on TypePad.

And, of course, unlike the other systems mentioned here, Movable Type is not free as in speech.

So Movable Type is out. I may migrate to another platform someday, after I can adequately abstract my permalink urls.


I use Blosxom for my work blog, and have been quite impressed with it so far. The nice thing about Blosxom is its simplicity. It's essentially a single cgi script, written in Perl. If you know anything about programming, you can read and understand the whole thing in about ten minutes, which makes it very easy to customize and extend. It's the epitome the "Try to solve 100% of the problem or 40%?" principle outlined by Philip Greenspun here (scroll about 2/3 of the way down the page to read what I'm talking about, although whole chapter is worth reading).

The downside to this minimalist philosophy is that a blosxom blog lacks many of the features that you want out of the box (search, comments), but the upside is that plugins have been written for nearly any feature you could possibly want (and if not, it's easy to write your own - see above).

Very clean, very zen, very good.


If you're looking for solution that is a bit more complete out of the box, I've heard good things about Wordpress, though I've never used it myself. The nice thing about Wordpress is that, because it is a complete opensource blogging solution, a lot of web hosting companies can install it for you with the click of a button, making it easy to maintain and keep up-to-date.


Typo is an excellent choice if you like being on the cutting edge. It is minimalist, like blosxom, and is built on top of the Ruby on Rails framework, which almost makes it cool by default. Again, I haven't used it, but I've heard very good thing. If your server supports rails, I'd give this one a hard look (unfortunately mine doesn't :().

In Blogging

Posted at 06:18 PM | Permanent link

April 25, 2005

Newly found IT Conversations

William B. Umstead State Park, North Carolina

Given that my daily commute takes under ten minutes, I mostly only listen to podcasts while taking walks.

In the winter this can be a problem, not so much because of the temperature, as because of the lack of daylight. Now that it no longer gets dark at 5pm, I've been able to enjoy Umstead Park more often and listen to more podcasts as a side effect.

Here are some of the excellent talks that I had missed out on this winter, each only has a cursory relation to computers and technology, so non-techies should find them interesting as well:

  • Thomas Barnett - Emerging Worldviews: Thomas talks about a number of interesting things regarding the post-9/11 world. One of the things I found particularly interesting was his discussion of the young fundamentalist muslim male's militant opposition to the westernized view of women (rights and all that).
  • Ben Saunders - The New Explorers: At 26, Ben has made multiple solo trips to the arctic while dragging hundreds of pounds of food and supplies behind him (proverbial badass). On his last trip, he live blogged the experience.
  • Frans de Waal - Human Nature: Frans has a very entertaining talk on the similarities between human and chimpanzee dominance hierarchies, with noteworthy comparisons in the realm of politics.

In General

Posted at 08:36 PM | Permanent link

April 24, 2005

No Ruby on Rails for Dreamhost

Much as I've been very happy with Dreamhost, since I first started hosting with them, they don't currently support Ruby on Rails, a new technology that I'm itching to play with.

I recently sent an inquiry on to Dreamhost on their future plans for Rails support. Unfortunately, it doesn't look good:

From: support@dreamhost.com

To: josh@joshstaiger.org


Currently we dont support Ruby on Rails and we really dont have any roadmap to upgrade our current version of Ruby as we receive very limited requests for it. However on our dedicated server offerings you would be able to run Rails as you would have complete control over the machine and could run system level applications that are unable on shared hosting setups. Let me know you if you have any more questions.



I highly encourage any current or prospective Dreamhost customers to contact them (current customers contact form, prospective customers contact form) and request support for Ruby on Rails. As I've said, Dreamhost has been great, and I'd really like to stay with them, but unfortunately this is a sticking point that might cause me to get friendly with Textdrive.

Feel free to borrow from my form letter below:

From: josh@joshstaiger.org

(sent via form at https://panel.dreamhost.com/?tree=support.msg)


I'm wondering if you are planning to add support for Ruby on Rails (http://www.rubyonrails.org/) any time soon?

This is a framework that I would really like to be able to use on my dreamhost site.

I have noticed that TextDrive (http://textdrive.com/) is offering this functionality (along with PostgreSQL support as well). As much as I have been thorougly satisfied with Dreamhost, this is a feature that would probably convince me to switch hosting services.


UPDATE 6/17/2005: Dreamhost has just added Ruby on Rails support! See my latest entry, Dreamhost now on Rails!

In General, Technology and Software

Posted at 11:06 PM | Permanent link

April 23, 2005

Sin City


(lifted from Dark Horse Comics)

I saw the movie Sin City last night. The movie is fantastic in the tradition of Kill Bill and Pulp Fiction.

Realistically, what more can one ask?

Like Kill Bill, it's one of those movies that is so violent that (for me) it skips the cringing reflex and goes straight to laughter (the sense: "Did that just happen!?").

Very dark, and very cool.

I'm interested to check out Frank Miller's comics, on which the movie was based (in point of fact, copied scene for scene I've heard).

In General

Posted at 11:34 PM | Permanent link

Great Coffee Shops in Raleigh

Inside the New World Coffee House

Here are some of the great coffee shops I've discovered in Raleigh over the past year:

Each has free wireless internet, a cozy atmosphere, great music, and a cool clientele.

I don't inherently have anything against the Starbucks that one can find on every street corner. In college, I spent more time at the Starbucks located at the corner of Cedar and Fairmount than I did in class. That was in the olden times, prior to the rise of wireless Internet, however. Nowadays, the fact that coffee shop chains expect you to pay through the nose for wireless internet is enough to get them sacked. Not having to suddenly find myself surrounded by teenagers yapping on their cell phones is a nice added bonus.

In Local, Matters that are otherwise worthwhile

Posted at 10:17 PM | Permanent link

April 18, 2005

Raleigh/Cary Bloggers Meetup, Tuesday April 19th, 2005

Join us tomorrow (Tuesday, April 19th) for the first Raleigh/Cary Bloggers meetup of the month.

What: An open meeting to talk about blogging, podcasting & whatever's on your mind
When: Tues @ 6:30 p.m.
Where: Cafe Cyclo, in Cameron Village

2020 Cameron St
Raleigh, NC 27605 (map)
(919) 829-3773

Who: Bloggers & people who want to blog (Podcasters welcome!)

Optionally RSVP at the Meetup.com Raleigh/Cary Bloggers Meetup page (I'll be there at 6:30pm, like normal, even though the meetup page currently says 7:00pm).

See the notes from our last meetup to get an idea of what we talk about.

Hope to see you there!

In Blogging

Posted at 09:44 PM | Permanent link

April 17, 2005

GNU Emacs Manual 15th Ed missing pages?

Recently sent to press at gnu.org:

I recently purchased a copy of the print edition of the GNU Emacs Manual 15th edition.

Unfortunately, I couldn't help but notice that in my copy, pages 307-404 seem to be missing. In otherwords, the book jumps from page 306 in chapter 24, directly to page 405 in chapter 31.

Unfortunately this leaves out some information on Dired that I was hoping to have handy.

Is this a common problem with all print editions of this book, or is my copy somehow unique? Is there any way that I can get a copy that does not have this defect?

UPDATE: 5/1/2005, No response from press at gnu.org. Resent to rms at stallman dot org.

In Technology and Software

Posted at 02:15 PM | Permanent link

April 12, 2005

Introducing Interchange 0.1 for Yahoo! Maps

US 540 / Hwy 70 interchange

Interchange is a greasemonkey script for Firefox that adds links to the Yahoo! Maps user interface, allowing you to view the current content of a Yahoo Map using Google Maps instead. Interchange works both for single locations and for routes.

Head to the Interchange project page for downloads, screenshots, and installation instructions.

In Projects, Technology and Software

Posted at 01:03 AM | Permanent link

New site design

My site has undergone a bit of a metamorphosis over the past few weeks, from this about a month ago to this, now.

Many of my original criticisms have been addressed, at least in part. I'm still tweaking things, but I think that I have reached a point where I am satisfied enough to feel comfortable turning my attention to other projects.

At very least, I think the new design is much more Zen than the old one.

Obvious influences include Mark Pilgrim and Philip Greenspun.

What do you think? Like it? Hate it? Suggestions? Does it display correctly in your browser? Let me know.

I'm also making the Movable Type templates behind the site freely available.

In Projects, Site News

Posted at 12:53 AM | Permanent link

April 08, 2005

Yahoo 360° initial impressions

In my first half-hour of playing with Yahoo 360°, I reported seven bugs and/or usability problems. Three of these issues were with the feedback form that I was using to report the bugs.

Hmm, I suppose it is a beta.

In Blogging

Posted at 08:22 PM | Permanent link

Yahoo 360° invites

I have 98 Yahoo! 360° invites burning a hole in my pocket.

Email me if you want one.

In Blogging

Posted at 07:16 PM | Permanent link

Holding up cybercafes

Yolanda: This place? A coffee shop?
Pumpkin: Why not? Nobody ever robs restaurants. Bars, liquor stores, gas stations... you get your head blown off sticking up one of them. Restaurants on the other hand, you catch with their pants down. They're not expecting to get robbed. Not as expectant anyway.
Yolanda: I bet you could cut down on the hero factor in a place like this.
Pumpkin: Right, just like banks, these places are insured. Manager? He don't give a fuck. He just wants to get you out the door before you start plugging the diners. Waitresses? Fucking forget it! No way they're taking a bullet for the register. Busboys? Some wetback getting paid a dollar-fifty an hour, really give a fuck you're stealing from the owner? See, I got the idea, last liquor store we held up, all the customers kept coming in?
Yolanda: Yeah.
Pumpkin: And you got the idea of taking their wallets. Now that was a good idea.
Yolanda: Thank you.
Pumpkin: Made more from the wallets than we did from the register.
Yolanda: Yes, we did.
Pumpkin: A lot of customers come into a restaurant.
Yolanda: A lot of wallets.
Pumpkin: Pretty smart, eh?
Yolanda: Pretty smart.

(from Pulp Fiction)

During our discussion on Tuesday, Dave wondered why more people don't hold up cybercafes.

Why not walk into Cafe Cyclo, or Helios with a gun and walk out with $10,000 worth of laptops?

A tip for you aspiring deviants...

Pumpkin: And you got the idea of taking their laptops. Now that was a good idea.
Yolanda: Thank you.
Pumpkin: Made more from the laptops than we did from the register.
Yolanda: Yes, we did.


In Matters that are otherwise worthwhile

Posted at 12:01 AM | Permanent link

April 07, 2005

Notes on the 4/5 Raleigh Meetup (the long version)

The latest Raleigh/Cary Bloggers meetup took place earlier this week. In attendance:

The only truly new face this week was Chris, who is an IBM Extreme Blue intern, and also a Senior at Case.

Owing to the beautiful weather, we decided to park ourselves outside at a sidewalk table in front of Cafe Cyclo.

Dave and I observed that there is currently a fairly clear contrast in the type of crowd that frequents the Raleigh meetup vs. the Chapel Hill meetup. Thus far the discussion our discussions in Raleigh have been almost exclusively technical, while those taking place in Chapel Hill tend to put a greater emphasis on journalism and social activism.

It's interesting to observe the different "cliques" that are attracted to blogging for different reasons, but why the clear split between the towns thus far? Most likely, we can simply chalk this up to luck of the draw with two techies primarily promoting the Raleigh meetup thus far...

Here are a few topics, and links that we discussed during the meetup:

  • Owing to Dave's recent dive into podcast listening, we talked briefly about podcasting.
  • Dave gives ITConversations a big thumbs up, as most techies do when they discover the site
  • As usual, Dave reports that he's been busy lately with Roller installations and his book
  • We also talked briefly about triangleblogs.com, registered by theshu, which will reportedly become a triangle blogs aggregator (similar to Dave's Planet Triangle experiment), along with a "community" site, running drupal.
  • When the Extreme Blue crew (Martin, Vincent, and Chris) decided to join use, they reported that they had just been go-carting at Funworks in Raleigh. Something that they highly recommended, as they apparently slick down the track somehow to give the feeling of driving a rally car (sounds kickass to me).
  • We spoke briefly about Yahoo 360. None of us had actually used it, but by the end of the meeting Chris had obtained and invite from one of his friends and sent out invites to the rest of us as well.
  • Vincent reports that after having questioned a Google developer at a recruitment event, internal blog usage at Google is surprisingly less common than one might expect.
  • Dave reports that judging from the error messages he has seen, Blogger is likely written in Java (I found this to be somewhat surprising).
  • Martin showed us a slick Firefox extension called GooglePreview that adds thumbnail images of webpages inline with Google search results.
  • We spoke briefly about the Robert Soble, Cory Doctorow autolink argument broadcast on ITConversations. This brought up the "moral" issues of tools such as autolink and greasemonky.
  • Dave reports that Mark Pilgrim has written a handful of new greasemonkey scripts, one of which "hijacks" Amazon.com affiliate links, allowing you to send proceeds to a "worthy charity partner" of your choice.
  • Martin reports that Jon Udell has written a bookmarklet that automatically links isbns for books appearing on webpages to an information lookup for the book at your local library.
  • Martin asked me how my own greasemonkey escapades were progressing, and I gave a quick overview of my experience developing Interchange, a greasemonkey scrip that adds links to view Yahoo Maps searches in Google Maps.
  • Dave reports that blogging has really caught fire at Sun, with Solaris developers mobbing OSNews to the point where OSNews had to push back to allow other viewpoints through.
  • The Wordpress scandal was briefly discussed, and it was also noted that wordpress.org now still shows up as the number 1 search result for "wordpress" on Google. Google must have given Matt Mullenweg a reprieve?
  • I mentioned having started an internal blog on my own server at IBM as an experiment to help me keep track of things I learn, and also help me to communicate information to my teammates. I'm running blosxom, having been attracted to it for it's simplicity.
  • Dave reports that there is a Java version of Blosxom available called Blosjom (which also happens to be his chief competitor to Roller).
  • On the topic of using blogs to help organize one's thoughts and remember things at work, Vince mentioned that he is currently reading a book called Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen, and was thinking about how he could write some software to facilitate the principles highlighted therein.
  • D pointed out that David Allen, himself, already puts out an Outlook plugin to help with this.
  • D also points out that an Emacs PlannerMode is available, that could also help (sounds really cool to me).
  • We discussed tagging a la Gmail and agreed that it is a much more natural way of organizing information than the traditional hierarchy structure.
  • D says that his aggregator, Gregarius now allows him to tag incoming items for alter retrieval
  • We talked about OurMedia.org, a new content management interface to Archive.org, though none of use had much experience with using it
  • We talked about Google's solicitation for home video uploadsfor analysis. Chris proposed that Google likely already has an abundance of commercial and otherwise processed video to work with, and are likely looking to balance out their sample pool with personal video (given that it obviously has a different style from commercial video).
  • Chris mentioned that HP is offering an incredibly interesting video editing research internship, where the idea is to develop software and algorithms for automated editing of video.
  • Speaking of cool internships, we talked briefly about Paul Graham's Summer Founders program, with different opinions on Paul Graham, himself.
  • Vince, talked about his Logitech io pen, a pen that automatically keeps a digital copy of things that you write, for later retreival.
  • Martin wondered whether there was a site that would extract only the photos from Engadget. None of us knew of such a script (even though it sounds trivial to write), however I mentioned LiveJournal Image Theft, a site which extracts the last 200 photos posted to Livejournal (may not be safe for work).

Please feel free to note any omissions or corrections in the comments.

Alternate Perspectives:

We will be meeting again in two weeks, same place, same time: Tuesday April 19th, 6:30pm @ Cafe Cyclo.

Stay tuned for an rsvp link.

In Blogging, Technology and Software

Posted at 10:24 PM | Permanent link

April 04, 2005

Raleigh/Cary Bloggers Meetup, Tuesday April 5, 2005

Join us tomorrow (Tuesday April 5) for the first Raleigh/Cary Bloggers meetup of the month.

What: An open meeting to talk about blogging, podcasting & whatever's on your mind
When: Tues @ 6:30 p.m.
Where: Cafe Cyclo, in Cameron Village

2020 Cameron St
Raleigh, NC 27605 (map)
(919) 829-3773

Who: Bloggers & people who want to blog (Podcasters welcome!)

Optionally RSVP at the Meetup.com Raleigh/Cary Bloggers Meetup page.

See the notes from our last meetup to get an idea of what we talk about.

Hope to see you there!

In Blogging

Posted at 08:53 PM | Permanent link

The Geeks Get the Girls

The very next day, he guessed she ran away
The one and only in his bed so lonely
But she comes walking in, with coffee and a grin
Crazy as it seems, it wasn't just a dream
And all around the world, people shout it out
The geek's got the girl

Last night he finally got it right
Even losers can get lucky sometimes
All the freaks go on a winning streak
Shout it all around the world cause the geeks get the girls

American Hi-Fi - The Geeks Get the Girls

Thanks to Jeff for telling me about this, although I'm sure that anyone who has ever stepped foot on Case's campus will have heard it by the end of the day tomorrow.

In General

Posted at 01:11 AM | Permanent link

Fixing the right alt key for a Debian woody console

Without fail every time I install Linux (my preferred flavor being Debian), I run into the same pitfalls over and over. Every time I end up finding solutions for these...eventually, only to forget them again by the next time I install.

In order to break the cycle, I'm documenting some of my more common problems, along with their solutions here. The first problem I'm going to tackle involves the right alt key.

Early on in a Debian woody install, we select a qwerty map for our keyboard.

However, after our system has been set up, Emacs does not recognize the right alt key as being a meta key when we are using an extended keyboard (PC104+) and a plain old console (sitting at the actual machine, no ssh, no telnet, no X).

The Solution

The solution to this is to remap the the keyboard in the operating system. Looking online, there is plenty of documentation on how to fix this problem under X, but little mention of how to do so when just using a plain console.

Continue reading "Fixing the right alt key for a Debian woody console"

In Technology and Software

Posted at 12:26 AM | Permanent link