“Do Democrats know that Hillary Clinton is not second-in-line for the presidency? It’s hard to tell.”

— Scott Adams, yanking chains

Scam spam


Not only did I finally get one of the “you use illegal file sharing” extortion scam spams, it actually slipped past OS X Mail’s filters. Just the once, of course, now that I’ve told the system about it.

I’d love to know where they came up with the phony IP address they claim I’ve been using, though. I suspect it’s just boilerplate, since even if I were using a file sharing app, there’s no way they could associate it with that email address. Unless they (gasp!) really did manage to confiscate the contents of my computer. Tee hee.

Of course, there’s also a trojan attachment for infecting Windows boxes, which pretty neatly undercuts any claim that they ever got anywhere near the contents of my Macintosh…

Best part: the use of a phony Italian email address (from a machine that really is in Italy) while claiming to be associated with the FBI’s Department for “Illegal Internet Downloads”. They even supply a phone number.

Worst part: according to multiple news reports, there are quite a few people who are dumb enough (or, to be charitable, “sufficiently unsophisticated about the Internet and con artists”) to fall for this cheesy scam, and the associated “we found illegal porn on your computer” version.

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iPod mini


I found myself near an Apple Store on Friday afternoon, and saw the line forming for the new iPod mini. I’d been thinking of buying one, using the failure of the wired remote on my existing iPod (poor strain relief) as an excuse. “Hey, it’s like a $40 discount.”

Sadly, the mini doesn’t come with a wired remote, so I had to invent a new excuse. “Now I can leave the 30GB model in the car all the time, and not have to fiddle with cables when I want to go for a walk or get on the cross-trainer.”

Not as compelling a reason, but it does at least include the practical advantages of the mini. Smaller, lighter, much better controls, full compatibility with my existing iTunes library (including playlists and iTMS purchases), and compatibility with most 3G iPod accessories.

Sadly, the accessory I’d most like to use it with, the Belkin Voice Recorder, is not currently supported by the mini’s firmware. Hopefully Apple will fix that soon, since I’d love to take notes while I’m out walking. Dodging traffic seems to stimulate my creativity. :-)

New accessory I’d most like to see: a horizontal version of the clip-on holster it comes with. I’ve got one of these for my cellphone (which is about the same size…), and it’s very nice.

Oh, and by my rough count, there were 150 people waiting in line at the Valley Fair Apple Store at 6pm to buy a mini. There were eight people in line at 4:30pm, which I know because I was number nine. Fortunately I had my other iPod and a large stack of magazines to read.

Moving songs from GarageBand to Logic


Another potentially useful hack for GB: BandToLogic.

Darn good cookware


Calphalon One is not hype. It really is good stuff, better than their previous non-stick and hard-anodized lines. It browns beautifully, deglazes nicely, and cleans up with little or no effort. I bought the 4-Quart Chef’s Multipan to try it out, and now I’m seriously considering replacing my comprehensive collection of older Calphalon cookware. About the only things I really need to keep are the cast-iron skillet and the Le Creuset casseroles.

A week with Neilsen


I’ve spent the past week filling in my Neilsen Ratings diary. It’s been interesting to actually participate in the numbers that have shaped television programming for so many years.

The basic system is simple: for every fifteen minutes that each TV in your house is on, write in the channel it was tuned to, the show that was on, and who (if anyone) was watching. I live alone and didn’t have any guests this week, so it was pretty easy.

What was difficult was dealing with the fact that Neilsen hasn’t caught up with the times. For several years, I’ve had a Dish Network DishPlayer, which has PVR functionality. Like TiVO and Replay, this box completely changes the way you watch television. You no longer care when the station chooses to air a show, and with your favorite programs regularly recorded to disk, you spend less time watching random crap.

Neilsen’s diary can’t cope with this. There’s a single page at the back that lets you write in up to ten programs that you recorded on a VCR or DVD-R, but that’s ten for the entire week. I recorded only 26 different shows last week, and that’s primarily because it was a dull week and I had a lot of anime DVDs to catch up on. And it doesn’t account for the shows that I’d normally save up for a few weeks and then watch all at once.

It was easy for them to add DVD-R recorders to their data, because it fits in with the model they understand: time-shifting as the exception, not the rule. As PVRs increase in popularity, Neilsen runs the risk of becoming irrelevant, and TiVo’s much-hyped ability to count how many people “rewound” to check out Janet Jackson’s nipple shield is not a replacement. TiVo’s data gathering, like WebTV’s before it, is missing the critical data: the number and demographic breakdown of the people watching.

Fun with subtitles


Pardon me while I giggle myself to death:

Bon Voyage

Morons with Flash


Happened to stumble across Siobhan Donaghy’s web site. It opened a new window that used Flash to pretend to be a music magazine. I cannot imagine a less useful metaphor for navigating a web site, especially since it is completely unreadable without extensive use of the supplied zoom button and jump-scroll arrows.

It is the stupidest site design I’ve ever seen. Slow to load, hard to read, hard to navigate, effectively impossible to link to or quote from, and actively hostile to large and/or high-resolution displays. It is a remarkable exercise in “polishing a turd.”

It will probably win an award, which the designer will cherish forever and leverage to justify even greater sins.

Even when it’s free, they’ve got to cheat


Some people have figured out how to examine Pepsi bottles to find the ones that contain codes for free songs from the iTunes Music Store. At least one high-profile site has a detailed how-to on the subject, demonstrating their affection for gaming the system.

Should Pepsi have been more clever about securing the codes? Sure. The technique has probably been used against them for years, but it didn’t get publicity until it combined two of the Internet’s favorite obsessions: downloading music and outsmarting a large corporation. Fucking over your neighbors is just a bonus; after all, if they were plugged in, they’d be able to do it, too. Feh.

[Oh, and the site I found the link on is the same one that once posted a link to a site in France that contained a large archive of Playboy centerfolds; they thought it was just so cool that someone had made it possible to compare twenty years of Playmates online. They were so thrilled by this service that I almost didn’t have the heart to point out that the people who actually owned the pictures did it first. And better. And legally. Made me want to ask them if that EFF group they’re so fond of was really called Easy Freebies Forever.]