Slashdot and

February 27, 2005

I keep seeing this in

Who are these people who keep adding bookmarks to for Slashdot, anyway?  I know I’m becoming a curmudgeon, but who discovers without having discovered Slashdot?

I think the tide turned on when I started noticing bookmarks for Google…

We must be getting near the middle of Endless September by now…

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Coffee Tycoon: Empire of the Buzzed

February 26, 2005

Coffee TycoonWell, it had to come to this. If your coffee doesn’t occupy enough of the waking hours it supplies, you can slam back a few extra mugs while you try to dominate the wired world on your PC.

Coffee Tycoon [Game Gossip]

Today, Anarchy Enterprises announced the upcoming release of Coffee Tycoon for the PC. Coming from Jamopolis Interactive, the developers of Moon Tycoon, Deep Sea Tycoon and National Lampoon’s University Tycoon, Coffee Tycoon has players building up a coffee empire, moving from a single store to chain. The game will let players customize their business, including 5 different company logos and coffee store styles, 5 cities (New York, Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle) to start in, 100 store upgrades and coffee recipes, and various events and bonuses. Coffee Tycoon is scheduled for a spring 2005 release.

(Via Coffee Blog)

Philips Senseo Review

February 26, 2005

Philips Senseo
I don’t want to come off like I’m a Coffee Snob, but the fact is, I probably am. I drink enough of the stuff that I’ve gotten rather picky over the years about what it tastes like.

A couple of years ago, I recieved one of the Cuisinart “all-in-one” brewers, which I truely enjoyed at the time – the thing even ground its own beans.. Due to various circumstances, I’d been drinking some rather hideous coffee at the time, and it was a nice step up. Lately, I’ve come to loathe the thing, though, and I’d hoped that the Philips Senseo would be a decent step up…

Really, really good coffee is dependent on a handful of factors. In no particular order, these are:

  • Good quality fresh beans. The variety and the roast are much a matter of taste, of course. But a few days after coffee is roasted, flavors begin to be lost. Too long a delay, or improper storage, and you end up with tasteless coffee. Once coffee is ground, flavor evaporates even faster — ideally, you should grind just before brewing (not at the store, and not when somebody puts it into a can).
  • A grind appropriate to the brewing method — ranging from fairly coarse for french press, medium for automatic drip, to fine for espresso.
  • Proper water temperature (around 190°-205° Fahrenheit) during the brewing process. Brew with colder water, and you have sour coffee. Brew with hotter water, it tastes burt.
  • Proper ratio of grounds to water contact time — not enough water, and you end up with an overly-strong cup of coffee. Not enough grounds, and you end up over-extracting — the flavors we
    want are in the first 2/3 of what can be extracted — go beyond that, and you get a lot of bitter flavors (not necessarily weaker coffee, just bitter — if you want weaker, don’t use less grounds, just dilute
    it after it’s brewed.)
  • Get it off the heat — once it’s brewed, if coffee is allowed to set on a burner, it goes bad quickly.

Follow these rules, and you’re pretty much assured of making a good cup of coffee. Fail to follow them, and you’re drinking drek. The Cuisinart made a cup of coffee substantially better than instant (what isn’t?), but the fact was that it brewed too cold, losing a lot of flavor, and it didn’t use an adequate amount of grounds for a full pot. It was also a pain to keep clean (the grinder was in the thing, after all). Over time, these things got worse. Last but not least, you had to make a full pot for it to work even partially well. Since I’m the only coffee drinker here, I’d make a pot, put it in a vaccuum carafe, and end up throwing half of it away as it got too cold or aged.

So, I really, really, wanted to like the Philips Senseo. Outside of being a rather striking piece of kitchen-sculpture, it promised to do just what the doctor ordered — brew one cup at a time of proper coffee, fresh and hot, in about two minutes. Even better, it promised to produce pressure-brewed “crema coffee” — essentially coffee with a head on it, just like some little Italian bistro. All of which it does. Doing a little web research, these things have taken Europe by storm, and they’re getting ready to repeat the process here.

As I said, it does produce fresh and hot proper coffee, in about two minutes — with very little cleanup. It’s just BAD coffee. I don’t think there is anything necessarily wrong with the design, it’s just the coffee itself.

The Senseo uses a “pod” system — you buy the coffee in little round disks with about a tablespoon of coffee in them, formed right into a filter — kind of like a specialized little teabag. There’s nothing new about “pods” — there have been standardized sizes of coffee pods available for espresso makers for several years.

The Senseo pod is rather different, however. It is a proprietary size (you can’t use others), and the only coffee available for them is made by Douwe Egberts — a company Americans probably know better as Sara Lee. These proprietary pods are available in four varieties — mild, medium, dark, and decaf.

As you may have guessed, I don’t have much use for decaf or mild. As far as I’m concerned, the other two ought to be referred to as Bitter (medium) and Extra Bitter (dark). The coffee is hot, aromatic, attractive (that crema thing), and bitter. I like a robust coffee taste (I believe that Columbia Supremo is the coffee of the gods) , but I dispise bitter coffee. The first cup of the day out of the thing isn’t bad, but I drink about 8 cups (well, about four, with the cup I use). After the second one or so, this begins to grate on me. Even more so, in that the medium isn’t terribly robust, but the dark is too bitter to drink, as far as I’m concerned. So I’m drinking bitter, weak coffee. Blech. I’d been in hopes that some of this is just inadequate “seasoning”, and that it would improve as the unit was broken in, but it’s been weeks now, and I think this is what it’s going to produce.

The other big problem is these damn pods are expensive. It takes two to brew an 8 ounce cup of coffee. At around $7.50 for an 18-pack, that’s around 8.5 cents an ounce. That makes a 64 ounce a day coffee jones about a $5.30 a day experience. That’s a lot of money for coffee you don’t much like.

Hope springs eternal, however. An outfit in Europe has apparently made a little reusable device that will allow you to use your own fresh-ground coffee in the Senseo. They were having problems organizing shipping to the US, but theoretically the kinks are worked out of that now, and I’ve got one on its way. I’ll report back if it improves the situation.

In the meantime, I hate to overly complain about the Senseo. It’s a remarkable little unit, and for the right person, it’s probably perfect. If you’re currently drinking “grocery store canned coffee” and are looking to step up to something a little more pleasant, this might be just the ticket for you. If you’re not a pot-a-day coffee junky and would just like a cup or two a day of fresh brewed coffee without all of the mess, bother, and cleanup, this thing might be hard to beat. For me, though, it falls disappointingly short of the mark.

An Open Letter to Vonage

February 24, 2005

Dear Vonage;

I’ve been a happy customer and ardent supporter for several years now.  I’ve convinced a number of peers, co-workers, friends and relatives to dump their ILECs and move over to you.  I’ve even helped them debug their network problems so that they could have a great experience.

Imagine my chagrin when I started seeing Vonage ads running in these damn TribalFusion Pop-Unders that are cropping up like cockroaches the last week or two.  This code is designed specifically to defeat the fact that I go out of my way to run browsers that do NOT let normal pop-ups and pop-unders fire.  There is no excuse for using this except to specifically tell me to shove my choice of experience up my ass, and I don’t appreciate it.

If reputable advertisers refused to allow their ads to be displayed in such a manner, much of the profit would go out of it.  Frankly, I don’t see this as much more excusable than a mainstream company hiring spammers to fill my e-mail inbox with garbage, or allowing their affiliates to send spam on their behalf.

If you allow this to continue, I =will= pack up and take my business to one of the other VOIP companies, whether I can get number portability or not. I will also encourage everybody who will listen to me to do the same thing—and a number of them have already listened to me once.

I strongly suggest you go take a long hard look at the lesson learned about this kind of behavior.

Kindest Regards,

Your Customer (for the moment)

– Chuck Lawson

Ultimate XP Automation

February 24, 2005

In a related note, MSFN has a tutorial on how to build an Unattended Windows Install CD.

You can preload it with all of your information, push a button, walk away, and come back and have Windows installed—even with your applications and customizations.

Is this the next step in anti-malware tools?  Just pull the flush handle and let Window’s bowl get emptied and refilled?

Actually, all this REALLY needs is two more steps—one to plug itself into the net and get itself hopelessly corrupted again, and another to get frustrated with it and press the reinstall button.

If I could get that, I could just unplug the monitor, slide in the CD, and watch it cycle while I use my PowerBook…

This could even lead to a whole new school of benchmarking for Windows hardware… We could rate new systems by how long it took from reinstall to reinstall…

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Uncover Hidden Malware: RootkitRevealer

February 24, 2005

It’s getting ugly out there—I’ve talked to two XP users this week whose machine has caught “something”—in one case, the user gets steady advertisement popups whenever the machine is running, and in the other, the machine will just barely run, and times out all over the place.

But when they run all of the standard anti-spyware and anti-virus utilities, none of them find a thing.  Or they find stuff, remove it, but two minutes later they’ve got something again.

Chances are that they’ve got one of the newer infestations that use a rootkit.  A rootkit that burrows into the operating system and removes any traces of itself from the OS’s own process tracking mechanisms.

It’s getting ugly (well, uglier) out there…

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Hello Kitty iPod Mini

February 24, 2005

Am I the only person that gets more creeped out by Hello Kitty every time I see it?  I mean I even like tolerate have been colonized by cats, but there’s just a serious “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” vibe I get every time I see the thing… (I mean geez—crop circles, even?)

In any event, if you’re already a pod person, or otherwise a Hello Kitty fan, there’s now a Hello Kitty iPod mini for you, complete with the trademarked Sanrio emblem and a keychain… There’s even a dock available, shaped like a bear that’s even more creepy looking (if that’s possible.)

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Delicious and Firefox

February 24, 2005

I finally managed to blow up my Firefox extensions the other day, probably the result of having been adding and deleting and adding and deleting and adding and deleting extensions since way back in the early betas.  So, I ended up just deleting my Firefox settings folder (after saving my bookmarks) and starting over.

The good news is that it got rid of a lot of cruft that I really wasn’t using (and hey, that really does speed things up).  The bad news is that I’m now going through cycles of remembering yet another extension I need (usually right when I need it) and adding it and restarting.  I’m also finding some nifty new upgrades and alternatives though, so it’s all to the good.

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More Money from Longer Keyword Phrases?

February 22, 2005

When picking your keywords for a page, I usually suggest that you look for keywords that have less competition, even if they return less traffic — owning some of a smaller pond is better than owning none of a bigger one.  Typically, these are longer phrases (three – four words).  Now it turns out that there may be an another good reason to target these phrases.
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Paris Hilton Hijack Hoax?

February 21, 2005

Well, now that didn’t take long—despite all the protests of authenticity surrounding the “Paris Hilton Sidekick Hijack” (SFW link to The Register’s coverage—you’ll have to find the pix yourself), I’m already starting to see spam from porn sites that claim to have bought the rights last week to the “lesbian photoshoot” (from 3 years ago) that a few of the grainy “hacked camphone shots” seem to cover.

Yeah, this smells about as honest as the sex tapes release did.

Aren’t this skank’s 15 minutes up yet?

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