November 2003

Super screen

I want one of these. Screw putting it into a PDA, though. A 300dpi LCD display? I want it on my 15” PowerBook!

Of course, it would probably cost more than my Lexus, but I can dream, can’t I?

Today's I'm-not-a-telemarketer call

“You realize I’m on the do-not call list?”

“We’re not trying to sell you anything, we’re just offering you a low interest rate.”

The Lending Company. Typical mortgage broker, apparently operating out of Scottsdale, AZ. They did not supply any caller-id.

WPA needs strong passwords

Wi-Fi Networking News reports that Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) is vulnerable to dictionary attacks. This means you gain nothing by turning it on unless you choose a strong WPA key.

The best source I've found for creating strong keys is Arnold Reinhold's Diceware page. There's a wealth of information here, including a number of alternatives to the main Diceware system, such as creating a strong password using only coins and your keyboard.

A few additional tables are only listed on the original ASCII version of the Diceware article. I particularly like the random syllable table, since you can print it out and carry it in a small container with a set of dice.

1bcdfgh 1a
2jklmnp 2e
3qurstvw 3i
4xzchcrfrnd 4o
5ngnkntphprrd 5u
6shslspstthtr 6y

There are a lot of online stores that sell casino dice, but if you ever get to Las Vegas, many of the big hotels sell their used casino dice in the gift shop. The Luxor even sells theirs online for $2 a pair. You can get their playing cards, too.

They Don't Live

At least, not at Borders. Nine days after special-ordering a copy of the They Live DVD, released in September, I received the following postcard:

“The publisher reports that this title is currently OUT OF STOCK. Your order has been CANCELED. Please check back in a few months if you are still interested. Thank you.”

Fortunately I was able to find a copy at Suncoast, and if that had failed, Amazon has it in stock. Hey, Borders, guess what I’m going to do the next time I can’t find something in your store?

Adobe CS suite adds revision control, insecurity

Version Cue is a revision control system for Adobe applications, introduced as part of the new CS suite. It’s off by default. It makes local copies when you check out files, and requires explicit commits. It’s based on public standards (WebDAV and XMP, implemented with Tomcat). You can lock a file to keep others from editing it, and you can break locks set by others.

All good so far.

If you turn it on, it defaults to sharing your projects with everyone on the local network. Privacy and user administration are optional, and must be administered locally, from their GUI tool; usernames and passwords are not integrated into your network infrastructure (Windows or Mac). It appears to be non-SSL WebDAV, which means anyone on the local net can sniff passwords and access anyone’s “secured” projects. For real fun, they recommend starting with wide-open desktop-based project sharing, and adding dedicated servers and access controls later. It doesn’t look like there’s any direct support for branching, labeling releases, or reverting to previous versions. Oh, and turning it on chews up a minimum of 128MB of RAM on each machine.

Not so good.

Makes me glad I don’t do user support for graphics/publishing people these days. I’d hate to have to strangle a manager who insisted on rolling this thing out right away.

On the flip side, if you’ve got the RAM and you turn off sharing, it’s A Good Thing for people who do a lot of tinkering in Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. I’m going to be importing a few of my Illustrator projects to try it out, while I read the available documentation. If it runs correctly under Panther Server, I might even use it for photo editing in Photoshop, as a convenient way of preserving the raw scans side-by-side with the corrected versions. After I upgrade my laptop to 2GB of RAM.

Update: I just spotted something hilarious in the Version Cue Preference Pane.

workgroup size screenshot

Yes, that’s right; a large Version Cue workgroup is 10+ people. Gotta love that scalability!

Oh, this is gonna suck...

Ready? A Major Motion Picture Event, written and directed by the man who brought us Independence Day, about global warming. The sort of global warming that causes a simultaneous breakout of tornados, tsunamis, and other CGI disasters all over the world (or at least the parts Hollywood is interested in), and then brings on an instant ice age.

I figure he’ll find a way to blame it on Bush.

Wear a bikini, go to jail

If you’re lucky. It seems that Vida Samadzai, also known as Internet pin-up girl Miss Afghanistan, is in serious trouble back home.

Fortunately for her, she fled to the US at age fifteen, where she’s not only allowed to wear bikinis in public, but also study at a California state university. For her next act of cultural independence, I suggest training at Gunsite; she may need it soon.

They Live still holds up

Best. Fight Scene. Ever.

They Live

After all the trouble I went through to find a copy, I’m delighted to report that the new DVD of They Live is worth the effort. It’s a bare-bones budget release, but they didn’t skimp on the transfer. It’s crisp and clean, sounds great in Dolby Digital, and the film itself is every bit as entertaining as I remember.

The IMDB page currently refers to an older DVD release, produced by Image in 1998. The quality was apparently rather disappointing. I’m glad they did it right this time.

When spammers get desperate

This is the only spam to make it past my filters in the past 24 hours. Needless to say, the message didn’t get through. Even if they hadn’t screwed up the subject line, its spam-nature was still obvious to the human eye. For more fun, their clever attempt to evade the common “html-only messages are spam” filters backfired with OS X Mail; it displayed the raw HTML, which was unreadable due to their other filter-evading strategies.

It’s pure poetry. They’re trying so hard to hide their message from filters that they’ve ended up hiding it from the people they’re trying to reach. Incidents like this are why I’m becoming more optimistic about the future of email.


For want of a brain cell...

The nominal subject in this news report isn’t terribly important: soldier brings home souvenir, gives it to friend, friend throws it away, kids find it and use it for a toy. What’s interesting are the “man on the street” quotes:

“That’s pretty bad. I don’t think the security is as good as it should be, at least over here, because there are too many people running in and out [of the precinct] too easily,” said one father who lives in the neighborhood. “That’s precious blood. That’s right around the corner where my daughter goes, and security could be better.”
“It’s scary because I live here and my kids are here, if it’s going to start happening again,” said another area resident. “I don’t understand who would do something like that.”

Did someone forget to tell them that the object in question was completely harmless? The reporter at least mentioned this fact before he went looking for a spin. And what planet did that “security isn’t as good as it should be” line come from?

I hadn't thought of that

While looking at my server stats, I noticed Babelfish showing up in the referrer logs. What was so interesting that someone wanted to translate it into their native language for better comprehension? The Bloomin’ Onion recipe.

Now I’m going to spend the rest of the night wondering if we’ve poisoned someone with a literal translation.

"And he shall rise abhorrent and ancient..."

Drove down to LA for a very abbreviated visit to the latest Glamourcon, and my despair at having my original vacation plans cancelled was lightened considerably by the loan of A Very Scary Solstice, from the charmingly demented folks at Cthulhu Lives!. I’ve grown particularly fond of “It’s beginning to look a lot like fish-men”, but it’s all good. There are free samples…

On the bright side, it looks like the model shoots I had originally planned for this week will now take place over New Years in Las Vegas. I’m cashing in my special-person status at the Luxor to get a jacuzzi suite comped.

Sentenced to anime

For my recent road trip to Kirkland (which was what cut my road trip to LA short), I filled my suitcase with anime DVDs, most of which I picked up based on recommendations. Somewhere along the way, I started thinking of one-sentence summaries of the stories, for both the new stuff and the ones I’ve had for years.

Possible mild spoilers…


OS X 10.3 downer

So I’ve been using the OS X Stickies app for a while. Its primary limit has always been scaling; it doesn’t track the z-axis ordering of notes from launch to launch, it doesn’t let you search notes, it doesn’t supply multiple note sets or 3M-style “noteboards”, etc.

With Panther, they added the title line of each window to both the Windows menu and the contextual menu on the Dock. This isn’t a bad thing, as such, but it definitely doesn’t scale! It also doesn’t work quite right, since it often inserts gratuitous whitespace in this menu (which will change every time you view it).

What I never noticed during any of the betas, and only spotted today because a third-party app managed to rearrange my Stickies so that some of them were offscreen, is that they’ve removed the “arrange windows” option in Panther. If it weren’t for Exposé, I’d have never been able to select them all to get them back on screen.

[I suspect Burning Monkey MahJong as the culprit; it insists on switching video resolutions on startup. blech.]

Another misfeature in Panther Stickies, which I did spot right away, is the use of tooltips to show you the creation date and time of each note when you hover the mouse over it. This frequently interferes with actually reading the note, and there’s no way to turn it off.

So, two steps forward, one step back, one step down.

[and before I forget, yes, the data format is still binary garbage]

“Need a clue, take a clue,
 got a clue, leave a clue”