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It's been more than two weeks since the race and the organisers still only posted the first 120 finishers. I was outside that (I'm figuring roughly 175th or so of 1,600 entrants) so I still don't have my official time. This is rather slack; they had the full results up the same day as the race last year. Anyway, this afternoon I trawled through 1,600 photos on Flickr looking for any that might feature my running self, and turned up just the one (I'm #512, and this is shortly before the finish, and shortly after my push for the line started flagging). Flickr's search is really painful for this for several reasons:
  • The photos taken by the organisers, or someone posting on their behalf, aren't tagged;
  • There were several events on that weekend titled "Jingle Bells";
  • Flickr's advanced search lacks useful features like "discard any photos by user X from these search results" or "discard any photos with tag X from these search results" (the latter is achievable by redoing the search, but really, it should be dynamic)
I seem to recall whining about Flickr's wimpy search interface some time ago, probably for exactly the same reasons, and as a result of doing exactly the same search. Which would suggest it's not changed in at least a year.

updated to add: according to the EXIF tagging on the photostream, this is about 18:40 into the race, which would put me 40 seconds from the finish line. Which means I was probably still puffing like a steam train and attempting to persuade myself not to back off.
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Et tu, ThinkGeek? Like most of the sites I register for that actually support it, I registered for this one using an email address with a plus-sign in it[1]. Today, attempting to do a little Christmas Shopping, I noticed that the email field on the shipping address was empty, and filled in the exact same address as I'd registered with. And the site not only told me it looked incorrect, but the text of the error suggested that I could go ahead with it anyway, except there was no way to do that. On top of this, my phone number, which, being an international number, I also helpfully added a plus-sign to, had said plus-sign dutifully replaced with a space[2]. Which is the only reason I can think of that my payment was declined when I got to the checkout; I checked every other single bit of information, and it was all correct. I wound up paying via Paypal, and sending the ThinkGeek folks a little friendly feedback suggesting they fix this mess.

[1] For those of you who haven't seen this before, it's a trick supported by some email systems that allows you to receive mail to your regular address, but also allows you to figure out where that mail came from. So if, for example, I'd registered on somesite.com using waider+somesite as the mailbox part of my address, and then I subsequently received spam from another source to waider+somesite, I'd have a good indication that somesite.com leaked my info to spammers. Of course, I'm mildly surprised that no spammers appear to try to fake this.

[2] This is old-school web stuff: once upon a time, you represented spaces in a data submitted to a web form by replacing them with plus-signs. This has various technical explanations, but ultimately it boils down to laziness on the part of the guys who developed the system. As soon as people figured out that, hey, this made it difficult to enter actual plus signs, a new means of submitting data was decided upon, but the old pluses-to-spaces thing remains in place for backward compatibility with, like, the 500 people who were using the web before it was determined that this was a bad idea. And this bad idea still trips people up, even big-name people who really should know better.
waider: (Default)
In the past 24 hours I have had no less than three DC power supplies die on me. One killed off my 5-CD changer, which hasn't been used much since I ripped everything to MP3 a few years ago, so that's no great loss. The other two were the original PSU for the only decent non-laptop screen in the house - a 15" LCD, uncased -which died at some point since I last fired up said screen (or perhaps as I fired up said screen) and the other I had cannibalised from a 3com hub, but it couldn't handle the load and melted something vital internally after about an hour. So now I've solved the problem by resorting to my Finn-like heap of as-yet undiscarded junk, and rigging up the following gem:
Read more... )
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So Values of N is shutting down (which, I suspect, means that that's a volatile link). I had played around with Stikkit and thought it was interesting; I was more interested in I Want Sandy (a digital personal assistant, lest the name makes you think it's some sort of questionable content!) but was frankly disappointed with the fact that the Stikkit API never made it to I Want Sandy despite the fact that they were both based on the same technology and there was a long-running user request thread to implement such a feature. Ignoring all arguments for and against the viability of giving away your core product for free, I think one of the key things in making a product successful is allowing other people to add value - whether that's through an API, or through a SDK, or some sort of developer program is not relevant; the fact of the matter is that one company can't come up with all the possible ways in which their product will be used, and even if they could, they have limited resources and have to concentrate on the applications of that product that are expected to provide the greatest return on investment. Anyway, if you had accounts on either of these sites, now would be a good time to go and fetch your data and/or nuke your account. I'd been meaning to shut mine down anyway as the lack of API had pretty much turned me off most of the possible interactions I'd otherwise have had with the site, so for the last year or more it's been emailing me the same to-do list and I've just been deleting it and ignoring it.

update: I've just finished reading the followup comments on the linked post. They're laughable, to say the least. People apparently feel that because they put their data into a free service, that free service is obliged to stay running ad infinitum. And various people are standing on soapboxes declaring the death of Web 2.0/Cloud Computing/Buzzword Buzzword Buzzword. Dollars to dimes these people have free accounts on last.fm, twitter, myspace, livejournal, facebook, flickr, etc. and while soapboxing against Values Of N will not even consider these other places storing their precious bodily fluids data. It's very simple: whatever else you do with your data, keep a local copy. If you're blindly putting data you value into the hands of others with no scope for force majeure recovery, you really don't value that data very much.
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Dammit, looks like my server just fell over (again). This means email to me will remain undelivered for a few hours. Just, you know, in case you're expecting a reply or anything.

update: huh, it's back. I guess it just rebooted rather than freezing. Please be assured that the root cause of this is being addressed as fast as I can do a live repartition a 350GB USB-connected drive (which isn't very fast, and isn't helped by the box rebooting in the middle of the process)
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while true;
do mpg123 absurd.mp3;
done



Yes, that's the Fluke track I mentioned earlier this week. Listened to it for about an hour straight in the office today. And it's STILL going around in my head.
waider: (Default)
Got a short-notice invite to a friend's place last week, where after the initial social activity had been dealt with we had a few rounds of Guitar Hero II on his PS3. After an initially promising start, I basically sucked rocks - got booed off the stage on the first attempt and possibly second or subsequent attempts, and when I finally did make it through a song I had something like an 80% hit rate. Given that I play an actual guitar I was pondering why it was that I found this game so tricky, and I think it's a combination of three things:
  1. My sense of timing is a bit slack, which doesn't matter so much when you're playing on your own, but really sucks when you're trying to play this video game;
  2. There's no concept of recovering a bum note or almost getting the right timing, which is particularly galling when the note you missed is a long one and you basically have to stand there like a spare tool waiting for the next note to arrive;
  3. The guitar itself is more like one of those keyboard-worn-as-guitar (keytar?) things so beloved of 80s musicians, in as much as the "notes" you're playing are fret-wide buttons. On the other hand, you do "strum" it, so it winds up being an odd sort of hybrid and I'm not sure my brain quite understood how to deal with it.
I thought it might be interesting to hack a bunch of extra strumming buttons onto one of the guitars so you could effectively finger-pick - useful for fast runs, I suspect. I would also be interested in seeing a more realistic controller; I played around with a fully electronic guitar at some point years ago, which had real strings (slack, heavy nylon) as actuators and used pressure sensors on the fretboard to figure out where you'd put your fingers, and on the whole was pretty much exactly like playing a real guitar - albeit lacking the facility for things like pick scrapes and harmonics.

I also had a few rounds of the original Wipeout, the soundtrack to which I've owned since it came out (I'd never seen the game before this particular evening, though!) and the high point was finishing third in a race, but mainly I was happy with any race in which I didn't finish last.

updated to add: I've been looking for the video clip that was floating around a while back of a guy playing pretty much every instrument in a studio, followed by 30 seconds of him swearing in frustration at either Rock Band or Guitar Hero. While looking for (and failing to find) the clip, I discovered that there's a lot of people out there who really get on a soapbox about how these gamers should, like, go out and buy a real instrument. I'd like to stress that I'm in no way in this camp.
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No, I'm not visiting again (at least, not just yet, anyway) but you should know about this:
Sereniversary Shindig!
Saturday, Sept 27, 6 - 11 pm
at Wayward Coffeehouse
8570 Greenwood Ave N, Seattle WA 98103
www.waywardcoffee.com

SERENIVERSARY 2008 ... celebrating the third anniversary of the theatrical release of the best movie in the 'verse: Serenity

As we do every year, Wayward Coffeehouse will be putting on our annual Sereniversary Shindig on Saturday, September 27th.

a) Vixy & Tony providing live filk music with plenty of Firefly-inspired songs (830 - 1030 pm)
b) Firefly/Whedon Trivia Contest (7 - 8 pm)
c) Firefly SKIT (written by Broenwynn) (8 - 815 pm)
d) Costume Contest (at 9 pm)
e) general Browncoat socializing (6 - 11 pm)
If you show up, tell Broennwynn that waider sent you.
waider: (Default)
Cuil may be "an old Irish word for knowledge", but those of us who learned the language more recently (like, say, in the 20th century) will recognise it as meaning "rear". I've even found a dictionary which indicates that this meaning comes from old Irish. In fact, the only references I can find to it meaning "knowledge" are the word-for-word press release reprints from Cuil themselves.
Ah, but there's a catch. In one of the longer articles, the name is revealed to be "derived from a character named Finn McCuill in Celtic folklore" which is an entirely different thing. In this instance, Cuill is a misspelling of Cumhaill, and the name means, simply, "Fionn, son of Cumhall" (Irish tends to insert and remove the occasional vowel to keep you on your toes), which has this new search engine potentially named after... a female slave. Or maybe "keeping", which might make for an easier backstory for a search engine? In any case, I suspect I'll be continuing to use Google despite this "Cuil" new site (their intended pun, not mine).
waider: (Default)
For future reference: the airport in Prague has free WiFi.
waider: (Default)
I was poking around at pedometers also, and in particular looking at the Nike doodad that plugs into your iPod. I won't be getting one (I'd need to buy another iPod, it appears), but despite much suggestion to the contrary, you don't actually need the Nike footwear to go with it. The only benefit of the special footwear (beyond any actual athletic benefit) is that the pedometer fits right into the shoe itself. You can pay your €30 for the doodad and hang it off a pair of flip-flops if you like. Of course, you might not be happy that people know you're out running.
waider: (Default)
Got some new running goodies this weekend: a heart-rate monitor, a new pair of running shorts, and some decent running socks - still trying to find that perfect pair that'll save me from the blisters at mile 3. The HRM wasn't quite what I wanted; I'd been looking at the entry-level Polar kit, but none of the places I tried had it - Elverys, who advertise it on their website, had no HRMs in stock, Champion Sports (or was it Lifestyle?) had nothing either, and the only other likely spot, Argos, didn't have any of the Polar kit in stock, so I opted instead for their bottom-of-the-range offering given that worst case, I'd be out €22. Back home, I read the piece of paper with the HRM to find out how to use it, then went out for a run.

The plan: 5 miles, 40 minutes; I'm doing a 5-mile next weekend, and I didn't want to do the sort of hard burn I did last weekend. Aside from that, Sunday's supposed to be my day off exercising in general, just that my schedule got shunted slightly this week.

The reality: I can't, apparently, run a kilometre in five minutes, unless I've got someone else pacing me. It just seems too slow to me. I would up doing 4:15's or thereabouts, ultimately finishing the 5 miles in 35 minutes.

The socks: no blisters! there was a very mild chafing towards the end of the last kilometre, but I sailed past the three-mile mark without a twinge. Hurrah!

The HRM: functional. It can be used as a stopwatch - which I needed - as long as you bear in mind that there's a few-second lag between pressing the BIG RED BUTTON and the stopwatch actually starting. My resting heart rate is about 41 - which I knew, and which apparently means I'm either quite fit or verging on death - but I was quite surprised at how quickly it went up; within a couple of hundred metres of my front door, my heart rate had tripled to over 120bpm, and ultimately sat somewhere around 170 for the bulk of the running, peaking at just over 180. Hurrah for numbers! Ultimately, it's not a great HRM (the entry-level Polar has a real stopwatch, for example; the Polars have the added benefit that they'd talk to the stuff I use in the gym) but it'll do me for now.
waider: (Default)
I finally got around to hauling some (in fact, very little) of my old computer gear plus some bedding and a bag of shoes to the recycling depot in Ringsend. Finding information on recycling is a bit confusing: there's the Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown County Council website, which tends to focus more on getting information out there than it does on laying it out clearly, so the details on Ballyogan Recycling Centre (my alternative to Ringsend) are duplicated, stale, etc. depending on which versions you look at. Repak seem to go to great lengths to hide information from you, putting a thin menu on each website section that your attention is completely distracted from by the boilerplate rubbish on the rest of the page. WEEE Ireland, the newest of the bunch, provides a county-level map of the country but no links to useful information like what waste is accepted at which centers. And finally Dublin Waste is about the best of the lot, with the minor exception that the price list for Ringsend is out of date, which makes me wonder what else is out of date there. The location of the Ringsend Centre is a little tricky, too; it's the first exit off a roundabout where, if you miss that and take the second instead thinking there might be an alternative route around, you find yourself paying €1.65 to cross the Liffey on the East Link toll bridge and there's no means of correcting your navigational error short of turning around in the middle of a narrow two-lane road. Anyway, when finally I got there, the guy on the gate looked at the stuff in the car and waved me in without charging, which was neat; the prices, as noted, are not those listed on the web (they've actually dropped, perhaps to encourage people to recycle) and at worst I'd have paid a tenner for my bootload of junk. Now to try and consolidate the rest of the computer junk into as small and non-commercial-looking a pile as possible and see about getting rid of that.
waider: (Default)
Maybe instead of saying "written by Robin Luckey" it should say "loosely edited from a generic template by Robin Luckey:
If you wish to update or correct any of the foregoing information, you may access your account and review, correct and delete your personally identifiable information or you may contact us at: [insert applicable e-mail address]. (link)
(my emphasis)

Interestingly, for something purportedly geek-friendly, this is the first site I've tried to remove my account from that doesn't advertise any sort of account removal link or procedure.
waider: (Default)
Generally whenever an online service has popped up offering free registration, I've tried to snag the waider username as quickly as possible. Sort of name-squatting, if you will. This means I've got accounts on so many systems I can't remember them all, and practically speaking all I use is livejournal and my own website (updated: and flickr). So I've decided to clean up the rest. Just an FYI in case you're wondering where my Facebook/Orkut/Myspace/Advogato/etc. accounts have gone.
waider: (Default)
I've finally given in and run up Firefox on the Mac.

Why?

Because I can no longer access either my online banking or my motor tax renewal forms with Safari. Who'd have thought I'd be driven to open-source technology by a bank and local government?
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Today I decided I'd use some of my large pile of change-jar coins to pay my way on the DART. Since they've got a 20-coin "rule" on the manned window, I figured I'd feed my coins to the machine. Which, er, broke. With a message like "can't display template 82" or thereabouts. It eventually timed out whatever it was doing, but would not allow me to insert more coins, so I cancelled the transaction and tried again, this time with less coins. And I broke it again. And the third time, I used more high-denomination coins and less of the crappy 5¢ ones, and got my ticket just in time for the arriving train - because otherwise I'd actually have taken a picture to capture the moment, and possibly have taken the time to figure out exactly how many coins break the system. Seriously, though. I wrote vending machine logic in college, in FORTRAN, as part of my college girlfriend's project. It's not hard. Getting it this badly wrong is pretty dumb.
waider: (Default)
The existence of paywalls (i.e. a requirement that you be a subscriber to read full content) is something I'm not wholly opposed to; while much has been written about the quality of free vs. paid-for content, and paying for something doesn't necessarily make it any better (human nature being to at least unconciously assume this to be the case, going by several studies), I still like to think that someone, somewhere, is getting paid for entertaining or informing me - even if the subscription revenue is only a fraction of that. Anyway, it appears the Irish Times has decided to take down their paywall from Monday, although I can't say the move from Ireland.com to irishtimes.com makes a whole lot of sense to me given that it's effectively discarding one of the biggest online brand-names in the country. Apparently it's being turned into a portal site, last seen in the wild in the Internet Gold Rush of nineteen ought eight (or something like that). Portals, I seem to recall, were a good way of killing off a piece of Internet real-estate. Maybe that's the intention.
waider: (Default)
The telemetry was busted in the gym last night, so I figured I'd enter in what I could manually tonight. It's all FitLinxx kit, oddly configured in that some machines are in metric while some are in imperial, and the user interface is all in imperial. That aside, though, entering cardio details manually includes a "rate on a scale of one to ten how hard you went at this" box, which alters your calorie burn. It's all fairly meaningless, I'm sure, but I figured I'd try and get it to match what the machine said. So I punched in distance, converting - poorly - in my head from km to miles, added weight and time, and looked at the calorie box. 10 calories? Hmm, must have one of my numbers wrong, since I know the warm-up run is usually 60 or 70 calories. So I figure I'll tweak the distance and see what happens...

Long story short, the user interface apparently sees a difference between (for example) 0.4 miles and 0.40 miles. I'm trying not to think too hard about how badly you'd have to code to mess this up.

(updated to add: I poked around on the Fitlinxx site, and came across their Pace Calculator. Which asks you to enter your one-mile pace and then select one of 4 race distances, two of which are in kilometres...)

M-x reboot

Jun. 23rd, 2008 11:25 pm
waider: (Default)
Huh. I guess SXEmacs is for all those people who believe that Emacs as a customisable editor from which you run your life isn't quite enough.

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