|Monday, 29 December 2003, 11:16 pm
I just got a phone call from KFI in Los Angeles. They want me to take over the Jeff Levy show starting… this weekend! Jeff is moving to another station – I think he’s even going to be on at the same time. He’s been at KFI for eight years and created one of the premiere tech talk shows in the nation. Mighty big shoes to fill – but I’m very excited for the opportunity.
The shows are Saturday and Sunday from 1-3p on 640 AM in Los Angeles, but the station has an excellent Internet stream at their web site. It works with Windows, Mac, and Linux, too! I’ll go down to LA to do them once a month, but most of the time I’ll be broadcasting from here at Casa Laporta. That’s the only way I could convince Jennifer that this would be a good thing!
This doesn’t affect my job at TechTV. They’re thrilled at the promotional opportunity it offers in the Southland. It does mean seven day weeks – but I’ve never thought of this stuff as work. I really enjoy doing it.
I have to run now – I’m flying to LA tonight to seal the deal and meet with sponsors tomorrow. I’ll be on the Bill Handel Show on KFI tomorrow at 8am to make the announcement.
UPDATE: KFI has just added another hour. Make that noon to 3p. I’ve also arranged to do the show live from the show floor during CES, noon-3p, Saturday, January 10 and Sunday, January 11.
|Tuesday, 23 December 2003, 12:49 pm
Well, not exactly, but the Call-For-Helpathon did make the cover of the Sunday New York Times television section, and that’s even better as far as I’m concerned. This is from the NYC local editions:
The national edition had a black and white picture, plus the title screen from The Screen Savers and a picture of Martin Sargent on page 12 of the Sunday Sports/TV section. You can also read Michel’s excellent article about us in at the New York Times online, free registration required.
The 12 hour telethon is this Friday, December 26, from 11a-11p Eastern. Don’t forget to watch as I slowly melt into a puddle!
|Friday, 19 December 2003, 3:39 pm
Stand by for news.
The last lunar mission, Apollo 17, came home today in 1972.
- Microsoft has confirmed rumors that it’s going into the online music sales business. The MSN Music Store will open some time next year. Meanwhile former Microsoftie, Rob Glaser, now head of Real Networks, has filed a lawsuit against Microsoft for (insert Dr. Evil pinkie here) one billion dollars. Real claims Microsoft is -gasp- illegally using its Windows monopoly to limit consumer choice in media.
- Wal-Mart launched its music download service today. They’re offering WMA files for a cut-rate 88 cents.
- The Dutch Supreme court has ruled that the makers of Kazaa can’t be held liable for the illegal activities of its users.
- Microsoft hasn’t done it yet, so Openwares.org, an open source site, has released a patch for the URL spoofing vulnerability in Internet Explorer. The site also features test pages to see if you’re vulnerable. FLASH: Openwares.org is down. According to The Register, the patch introduced more flaws than it fixed, including a buffer overflow flaw, memory leak, and enabled a spyware DLL. Makes Microsoft look good, doesn’t it.
- The British built Beagle II has separated from the mother ship and now begins its descent toward Mars. The lander is scheduled to touchdown Christmas Day. Its US brother will arrive next month. Watch the cool flash animations at NASA.gov.
- Unfortunately, 13 NASA web sites were defaced by a Brazilian anti-war group yesterday. NASA.gov was not hit.
- BusinessWeek Online is getting into the sketchy Apple rumor business. Columnist Alex Salkever predicts Apple will ship a G5 laptop next year based on a new low power chip IBM appears to be developing for its Blade servers. Sounds good to me.
- In a breakthrough for pasty-faced gamers everywhere, a Chinese court has ordered an online gaming company to return virtual goods, including a stockpile of imaginary bio-chemical weapons, to a player whose account was looted by hackers.
|Thursday, 18 December 2003, 5:14 pm
Hello news hounds.
On this day: John William Draper takes a daguerreotype of the moon, the first celestial photograph made in the U.S., 1839. Ratification of the 13th Amendment, and abolishment of slavery throughout the U.S., is officially announced, 1865. The first communications satellite broadcast takes place in the U.S., 1958. TV industry executives agree to adopt a ratings system in 1996.
Happy birthday Steven Spielberg. He’s 56.
Parents: before you run out and buy a CD for your kid, visit WhatACrappyPresent.com.
- The new kernel is here! The new kernel is here! Linus released Linux kernel 2.6.0 late yesterday with the cryptic words, “the beaver is out of detox.” The new kernel is faster and offers better support for desktop technologies like plug-n-play and USB. Download the source from Kernel.org and start re-compiling.
- Microsoft is joining the state of New York to file suits against a man it alleges to be a major spammer, Scott Richter of OptInRealBig.com. Microsoft is peeved because Richter supposedly spoofed Hotmail and MSN mail addresses for his spam. NY is asking for $20 million, MS for $18.8 million.
- Our fearless leader, Paul Allen, has been revealed to be the chief investor behind SpaceShipOne – a private effort to create a sub-orbital spacecraft and win the $10 million X Prize.
- Google is planning to add the contents of selected books to its search results. Google Print is expected to launch today.
- Don’t expect a Segway under the tree if you live in Brussels. According to Wired News, the Segway is illegal in most of Europe. Classified as a moped, brakes and lights would have to be added to the device for it to even be considered for testing.
- Want to know what’s in the forthcoming XP Service Pack 2 (now in beta)? Read the changelist on Microsoft TechNet.
|Wednesday, 17 December 2003, 2:59 pm
On this day, 100 years ago, the era of powered flight began when Orville and Wilbur Wright flew their plane at Kitty Hawk, NC. To commemorate the event, CBS will run a special 48 Hours on the collapse of a porch in Chicago.
It’s a good day for scientists, famed alchemist Paraclesus (1493), chemist Humphrey Davy (1778), electromagnetic pioneer Joseph Henry (1797), physicist John Kerr (1824), quantum pioneer Hans Kramer (1894), and inventor of the atomic clock, Frank Libby (1908), all celebrate today. A Christmas Carol was first published today in 1843.
- So much for the rumors that file sharing is legal in Canada. The CRIA is planning to take action against large-scale file sharers in Canada “sooner than later.” License fees on blank cassette tapes, CD-R media, and MP3 players do seem to protect people who download music online, but Brian Robertson of the CRIA says “uploading has never been an issue. It’s totally clear that it’s illegal.”
- Two Americans have paid $20 million each for the right to fly a Russian rocket to the International Space Station. The names of the space tourists are being withheld to protect them from mockery.
- Service Pack 2 – a major update to Windows XP – will go into beta this month aiming for a general release in mid-2004. Among other changes: a complete revamping of the Windows Firewall.
- Diebold may lose the lucrative California voting contract after State Secretary of State Kevin Shelley ruled that the company installed software that had not been approved by election officials. Diebold has already been accused of irregularities in Georgia’s gubernatorial election.
- Slashdot quotes two different sources who say Orville and Wilbur were not the first. Kiwi Richard Pearse beat them by more than a year in New Zealand. And Brazilians believe that Alberto Santos-Dumont deserves credit.
- Also on Slashdot: a Powerbook with over 55 different operating systems installed, including DOS, Windows, and OS/2.
|Monday, 15 December 2003, 3:13 pm
Tags: News, Technology
Joy to the news, Saddam is captured.
The US Bill of Rights was ratified on this day in 1791. Thomas Edison patented the phonograph in 1877.
- The controversy continues over SCO’s claims of being clobbered by DDoS attacks last week. (We reported SCO’s version of the facts on Thursday.) As we mentioned then, the Groklaw blog was quick to cast doubt on SCO’s claims, saying their story didn’t make sense. But the Cooperative Association for Internet Data Analysis (CAIDA) issued a report on Thursday that seemed to confirm the attack. Groklaw recanted on Friday. At this point it seems that something did indeed happen to SCO’s servers, but that SCO was mistaken in characterizing it as a SYN flood.
- Meanwhile SCO investor, The Royal Bank of Canada, has changed the terms of its investment giving the bank veto power over the high contingency fees SCO is paying its lawyers.
- According to the New York Times in an article titled “PowerPoint Makes You Dumb” [free registration required], the Columbia disaster was partly caused by NASA’s reliance on PowerPoint. NASA engineers presented their findings on the wing damage in a slide “so crammed with nested bullet points and irregular short forms that it was nearly impossible to untangle.”
- Microsoft is removing a font that contains swastikas from Office 2003. New versions of Office will have a modified Bookshelf Symbol 7 font, current owners can remove the font with a patch from Microsoft. Historians will note that the swastika is an ancient symbol used long before Hitler co-opted it as the symbol of his National Socialist Party, but considering its modern connotations, it’s probably prudent to remove it.
- Now that Windows 98 is officially Not For Sale, Microsoft is planning to drop support for the operating system next month. However, in a recent survey, AssetMetrix reports that 80% of companies are still running some copies of 98 and 95 and that lack of support could mean security problems ahead.
- Are you ready for a billboard that changes its message depending on what radio station you’re listening to? It’s not a scene out of Blade Runner, according to the New York Times, it’s here now, in use on five billboards in California, and soon to come to a billboard near you.
- According to SlashDot, Patrick Pelissier has released the first open source operating system for Texas Instrument calculators. PedroM is UNIX-shell like, features task switching, and runs in 192k.
|Sunday, 14 December 2003, 9:33 pm
Tags: Programming, Screen Savers, TechTV, TMBG
I‘ve been working here and there on setting up a Linux based Dial-A-Song answering machine for They Might Be Giants. I promised it to them in April, really buckled down in October, and I’m finally (almost) done today. If you want to follow the saga read my previous posts explaining the project and detailing some of the issues.
I did finally find a voice modem that works with vgetty – an old US Robotics external Voice/Fax/Data modem. After some trial and error I discovered that if I resampled the MP3s to 16-bit, 8Khz, mono sound files they’d work with the modem. It was such a thrill to dial up and hear a TMBG song on the other end.
The basics of the shell script follow – minus the extensive error checking code. If an error occurs anywhere (no CD, can’t read the disc, etc.), the script falls back to a default message stored on the hard drive.
# newsong - Leo Laporte, April-December 2003
# this shell script is designed to be run hourly by cron
# it pulls a random MP3 off a CD in drive, combines it with the
# outgoing message (message.mp3) on the same disc, then
# converts it to the appropriate RMD format and moves it
# into the outgoing message directory for vgetty
# pickrandom - a perl script to pick a random song
# SoX for the MP3 to WAV conversion
# vgetty's PVF utilities to convert the WAV to RMD
# Written for They Might Be Giants Dial-A-Song
# mount CD
mount /dev/cdrom /mnt/cdrom
ls /mnt/cdrom/*.mp3 >/var/spool/voice/work/files
# call an external perl script to select a random title from files
echo "$tune" >currentsong.txt
cp -f "$tune" tune.mp3
cp -f /mnt/cdrom/*message.mp3 message.mp3
# convert the MP3s to raw audio (signed, 16-bit, 8khz, mono)...
sox -V tune.mp3 -s -w -r 8000 -c 1 tune.raw
sox -V message.mp3 -s -w -r 8000 -c 1 message.raw
# combine the raw files...
cat message.raw >>tune.raw
# convert to RMD via SoX and PVF tools...
sox -V -s -w -r 8000 -c 1 tune.raw -s -w -r 8000 -c 1 standard.wav
wavtopvf -16 standard.wav standard.pvf
pvftormd US_Robotics 1 standard.pvf standard.rmd
# copy converted file to messages directory...
mv -f standard.rmd /var/spool/voice/messages/standard.rmd
The little randomizing perl script:
# picks a random song from the file list
open(TUNES, "files") or die 1;
rand($.) < 1 && ($tune = $_) while
} until $tune !=~ /message.mp3/i ;
A cron job will run the script hourly. I’ve been running it every ten minutes for several days and it’s been working without a hitch. (Here’s a cool little cron feature I’ve not used before. If you define a MAILTO environment variable in the crontab, cron will mail the output of each job to that address every time it runs. I’ve added MAILTO=root to the crontab, and now I can use pine to check the results of each run. Very handy for checking up on problems after the fact. )
Since this is a headless machine I’m planning to add audio error messages using pre-recorded WAVs on the hard drive. That way John can tell how the thing is working just by turning up the speaker.
We’re ordering the parts and plan to build the machine this week. I’m going to put it in a small case with a Celeron, small hard drive, and 256MB RAM. It’ll probably run SuSE Linux – my current favorite. Total cost well under $500. I’ll set it up so that I can SSH into the box if something goes wrong, but it won’t normally be connected to the network.
John and John live in Brooklyn so Joshua Brentano and I are hoping to fly out and deliver this to them for Christmas. With any luck it will run without maintenance for years.
|Thursday, 11 December 2003, 3:20 pm
Tags: News, Technology
It’s news time.
FCC Chairman, Michael Powell, joins us today on The Screen Savers. The Concorde SST was first shown on this day in 1967. A Federal judge ordered Microsoft not to bundle IE4 in Windows in 1997.
- SCO’s site is down again, the victim of a massive DDoS attack. The corporate email, intranet, and customer support operations were also brought down. Several thousand computers were used in the SYN flood.
- AT&T has followed Time-Warner in announcing that it will offer Internet phone calling to its broadband customers. The VoIP service will roll out to three East coast markets first eventually expanding to 100 markets and 1 million consumers. VoIP grew 80% globally last year, carrying 11% of all international phone calls.
- Can you lose money in the Wi-Fi biz? Apparently Intel can. The company is taking an “embarassing” $600 million charge on its wireless chips. It announced yesterday that it’s reorganizing the division. The chief reason for the write-down: sluggish sales on Intel’s wireless chipset.
- It’s going to be a green Christmas. Online shoppers spent a record $8.5 billion last month – an increase of 55% from the year before. Books, DVDs, and music led the sales.
- Microsoft’s gift to you this holiday season: no December Windows Update. Is it because there are no security flaws to fix? No. A new flaw in Internet Explorer makes it easy to spoof web sites. So the next time you’re redirected to a phony EBay site, let’s say, to extract your credit card number, the fake site can stuff Ebay’s URL in the address bar making it indistinguishable from the real deal. Microsoft is looking into the report, saying that security firm Secunia should have notified them before publicizing the bug.
- A flaw in Yahoo! Mail that allowed malicious code to launch automatically when messages were opened has been fixed. A similar bug in Hotmail was corrected last week. In both cases, security firm Finjan discovered the flaw.
- Fortune Magazine named the iTunes Music Store its Product of the Year.
- It’s the end of line for the Jenni cam. Jenni Ringley, the woman who paved the way for, well, you know, has decided to shut down her site at the end of the year. Apparently PayPal is closing her account due to “frontal nudity” and if you can’t make a buck, what’s the point? Fortunately, you can still get your frontal nudity at Chris Pirillo’s Rent My Chest.
- Researchers have used the Hot or Not web site to prove that pretty women scramble men’s brains. Or at least their ability to plan for the future. Women, however, were unaffected by good looking men.
|Tuesday, 9 December 2003, 4:42 pm
Tags: News, Technology
Stand by for tech news…
Eat your niblets, Clarence Birdseye was born on this day in 1886. Admiral Grace Hopper was born in 1906. Malkovich is 50. It’s Worf’s birthday, too. He’ll be born in 2340.
Doug Englebart demonstrated the first mouse at SRI on this day in 1968.
- The House has passed the CAN-SPAM Act. President Bush is expected to sign it into law before the end of the year.
- Even ATMs are vulnerable to worms… if they’re running Windows. According to SecurityFocus.com, ATMs from two banks were hit by the Nachi worm in August and we’re just learning about it now. The question is, why the hell are they running Windows?
- Coca-Cola is launching its own music download service next year. Who’s next? Midas Muffler?
- The new version of AdSubtract, a popular web ad blocking program, will block paid search results, as well.
- Steve Jobs tells Rolling Stone, “we don’t believe it’s possible to protect digital content” and there’s “this amazingly efficient distribution system for stolen property, called the Internet — and no one’s gonna shut down the Internet.” So how’d he talk the music industry into supporting the iTunes Music Store? “We don’t see how you convince people to stop being thieves unless you can offer them a carrot — not just a stick. And the carrot is: We’re gonna offer you a better experience . . . and it’s only gonna cost you a dollar a song.” Interesting interview. The first he’s done in a long time.
- That buck a song may be history soon. Consumers would like it to be lower, but music industry execs speaking at Monday’s iHollywood Forum’s Music 2.0 conference said they couldn’t afford to go lower, despite the fact that surveys show consumers would buy more at 79 cents a song.
|Monday, 8 December 2003, 5:21 pm
Tags: News, Technology
Tiptoeing through today’s timely tulips…
Eli Whitney, inventor of the cotton gin, was born on this day in 1765. Coaxial cable was patented in 1931. Jim Morrison would have been 60. John died 23 years ago today. Imagine.
- Microsoft is retiring Windows 98 December 15, claiming it necessary for compliance with a 2001 court order in the dispute with Sun over Java. Other Java enabled products that will be pulled from the shelves include SQL Server 7, Office XP Developer, and a number of Office 2000-related tools and patches.
- Yahoo is proposing a new, open, mail authentication system that would virtually eliminate anonymous spam if the big emailers adopted it. This is the system our entire panel supported on Friday’s Spam Attack Open Mike. Bravo Yahoo!
- IBM wins one. In a preliminary hearing in the SCO vs. IBM case, a Utah judge has approved two motions from IBM asking for more information. SCO now has 30 days to explain exactly how IBM and Linux have infringed on SCO’s copyrights.
- Kazaa is using the DMCA to try to shutdown the illicit Kazaa Lite K++. Sharman Networks, creators of the real Kazaa, is apparently contacting ISPs of servers that host K++ for download, threatening them with prosecution under the DCMA. Of course, you could probably find the program on P2P networks like, say, Kazaa.
- IBM will present a paper today claiming that they’ve found a way to use “molecular self-assembly” to build semiconductors. Interesting. That’s how I put on my hairpiece every morning.
- Google is asking a US court to rule on whether keyword ads are a trademark violation. American Blind and Wallpaper has threatened the Internet search engine with a lawsuit because it popped up competitors’ ads when users searched for American Blind.
- Yahoo has patched the flaw in Messenger we told you about last week. Download the new version from http://messenger.yahoo.com/messenger/security.