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The Elegant Universe

July 31, 2004

If you haven’t caught it already, you can now watch Nova’s excellent three hour mini-series, The Elegant Universe as streaming video from the pbs.org site.  (formats – Quicktime, Realplayer)

By an odd coincidence, I had just mentioned this to my father last night on the phone.  He had just read this month’s Discovery magazine feature on Albert Einstein, and I told him that if he liked that, he should watch for a re-run of this series on PBS; it’s a great layman’s introduction to the current state of thinking in cosmology and cosmology-related theoretical physics.

Unfortunately, if he could actually be coaxed into turning the computer on to watch it online, it would be sometime around next St. Swithun’s Day before the stream started on a dial-up connection…

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A Million Free Music Downloads?

July 29, 2004

Red Ferret Journal is a wiki that claims to have links to “1 million free & legal music tracks.”

You’ll have to count them yourself.

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Free SSH Clients for Pocket PC

July 29, 2004

eBCVG has a write-up on a pair of free SSH clients for Windows Mobile 2003

One is a “mini” version of PuTTY (PocketPuTTY), while the other (OpenSSH CE)is apparently a port of the BSD SSH client.  The latter is more full-featured, but takes some hacking to install. 

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like either of them support local tunneling for mail…

But hey, you can’t argue with the price!

Apple’s Real Mess

July 29, 2004

Apparently Apple is a little nonplussed with Real’s announcement that they’ve found a way to put their own DRM’d AAC files on the iPod.

“We are stunned that RealNetworks has adopted the tactics and ethics of a hacker to break into the iPod and we are investigating the implications of its actions under the DMCA and other laws”

Gee, and I remember back when Hacker Ethics weren’t dirty words at Apple.

Oh well, lie down with dogs and wake up with fleas, lie down with the music industry and wake up with lawyers, I guess. Not that Apple has historically been shy about litigating their way around problems instead of innovating.

What would be interesting would be if this actually shaped up to being a court battle to try to overturn this kind of use of the DMCA…
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Rip Internet Explorer out by the roots

July 29, 2004

Is making Firefox your default Windows browser not enough for you?  Would you feel better with a scorched earth solution, wiping out the last vestiges of Internet Exploder Explorer from your system?

Well, it’s not for the faint of heart, but the folks over to Crackbaby have posted detailed instructions for editing the registry to COMPLETELY remove IE.

Apparently Microsoft was so amazed that they had a technician call to find out exactly how it was done…  You’d think they’d know, wouldn’t you?  Apparently they also mentioned that they would NOT be putting out a tech note on how to do this, for “obvious reasons”…. 

Yeah, there’s a shocker… lol…

Related: Running Windows Securely

It’s a Real Mess (updated)

July 29, 2004

Apparently Apple is a little nonplussed with Real’s announcement that they’ve found a way to put their own DRM’d AAC files on the iPod.

“We are stunned that RealNetworks has adopted the tactics and ethics of a hacker to break into the iPod and we are investigating the implications of its actions under the DMCA and other laws”

Gee, and I remember back when Hacker Ethics weren’t dirty words at Apple.

Oh well, lie down with dogs and wake up with fleas, lie down with the music industry and wake up with lawyers, I guess.  Not that Apple has historically been shy about litigating their way around problems instead of innovating.

What would be interesting would be if this actually shaped up to being a court battle to try to overturn this kind of use of the DMCA…

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The Underground History of American Education

July 29, 2004

On Waking Up

If you’ve ever been to see a stage hypnotist, you’ve seen the drill—a volunteer up on the stage is told to return to their seat, and that upon hearing a certain phrase, they will begin clucking like a chicken, or preforming some similarly outrageous behavior.  Sure enough, most of the time, that’s exactly what will happen.  On the other hand, if when they arrive at their seat, the person next to them tells them that “when he says ‘egg’, you’re going to cluck like a chicken”, odds are good that when the time comes, they’ll fail to cluck.  They woke up.

Much of what most of us call our everyday lives is more-or-less sleepwalking.  Going through routines and rituals on autopilot.  The more we can manage to wake up, the more we get to direct our own destiny—regardless of what we’ve been hypnotized to do.

K5 has an interesting review of John Taylor Gatto’s The Underground History of American Education.

Gatto, an award-winning teacher who was both NYC and NY State Teacher of The Year, decided to leave at the height of his career, after writing a relatively scathing essay on the educational system for the Wall St. Journal.

Nine years later, he published this massively-researched tome that discusses the real state of American education, and how it got to this point, historically. 

Some of this has been a personal hot-button for me for several years, and I knew a bit of the historical context, but reading the first few chapters, I found I knew a lot less than I thought I did (not a new experience for me, of course.. lol).

Based on what I’ve read so far, it’s my personal opinion that anyone in the US who has, has had, or is planning to have kids, or who has ever been a kid (or is planning to be), probably ought to read it.  An online version is available here.  Unfortunately, if you’d rather read an e-book, you’ll have to roll your own.

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Pirate Violence On The Rise

July 26, 2004

According to the BBC killings by pirates are on the rise.  No word yet on how the ninjas are liable to react.

(via kuro5hin. Yar!)

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Securing E-Mail on Mac OS X with SSH

July 26, 2004

What can be more expensive than ordering a venté mocha latté with a triple shot at your average wi-fi hotspot?  It might just be checking your e-mail.

Most passwords for retrieving and sending e-mail are sent in the clear (i.e. unencrypted plain text.) This isn’t that big a deal when you’re connected to your network with a physical wire, as in order to “sniff” that plain text password, someone would have to get physical access to the network.  On most modern switched ethernet networks, they’d not only have to have physical access, but they’d have to have it at the right place.

When you use wi-fi, though, all bets are off.  It only takes a few minutes of Googling to find off-the-shelf programs that will let you sit on a wi-fi connection and collect passwords and entire messages as you suck on your caffine fix.  (You’re not using that e-mail password for anything else, are you?)

One method of avoiding this problem is to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to tunnel your connection onto the net in a safer spot.  If you’re not up to rolling your own VPN, a lot of people have said nice things about HotSpotVPN, a relatively inexpensive (about $9 a month) service offered to address this specific problem.

Unfortunately, I had real mixed results trying to get it working on OS X (your mileage may vary—when I gave up the trial, the HotSpotVPN folks said they were working on a re-write of the instructions for OS X.)

Fortunately, if you don’t have luck with that (or you’re a cheapskate, like me), and have access to a Secure Shell (SSH) connection, here’s another way.

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OS X Cheat Sheets

July 26, 2004

SS64 has a fairly comprehensive list of OS X Keyboard Shortcuts, as well as this great A-Z index for the OS X Command Line.

Other nifty command guides for Oracle, Windows NT, and Bash can be found here.

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