Monthly Archives: February 2004


Just a few links and excerpts I’ve come across lately.

Use absentee voting ballots so there will be a paper trail:

Michaan said, “I consider this to be the greatest threat to our democracy of anything we have ever faced in this country. There is so much possibility of fraud that there has to be a voting system that is verifiable with paper trails. Absent that we’re totally at the mercy of whoever controls this equipment.”

I have always thought it interesting that Diebold, known mostly for ATMs, has said that it would be too much trouble to have voting machines give voting receipts or some physical record of the vote when ATMs have no problem giving you a paper record of every transaction.

Quarantining dissent: How the Secret Service protects Bush from free speech:

When Bush went to the Pittsburgh area on Labor Day 2002, 65-year-old retired steel worker Bill Neel was there to greet him with a sign proclaiming, “The Bush family must surely love the poor, they made so many of us.” The local police, at the Secret Service’s behest, set up a “designated free-speech zone” on a baseball field surrounded by a chain-link fence a third of a mile from the location of Bush’s speech.

Similar suppressions have occurred during Bush visits to Florida. A recent St. Petersburg Times editorial noted, “At a Bush rally at Legends Field in 2001, three demonstrators — two of whom were grandmothers — were arrested for holding up small handwritten protest signs outside the designated zone. And last year, seven protesters were arrested when Bush came to a rally at the USF Sun Dome. They had refused to be cordoned off into a protest zone hundreds of yards from the entrance to the Dome.”

When the police attack sparked a geyser of media criticism, Mike van Winkle, the spokesman for the California Anti-Terrorism Information Center told the Oakland Tribune, “You can make an easy kind of a link that, if you have a protest group protesting a war where the cause that’s being fought against is international terrorism, you might have terrorism at that protest. You can almost argue that a protest against that is a terrorist act.”

Why does this secure CIA form for reporting terriosts use a Netscape favicon? I suppose I would be more scared if it was a Microsoft favicon. Maybe they should read my favicon tutorial.

The Myth of SUV Safety:

In a thirty-five-m.p.h. crash test, for instance, the driver of a Cadillac Escalade–the G.M. counterpart to the Lincoln Navigator–has a sixteen-per-cent chance of a life-threatening head injury, a twenty-per-cent chance of a life-threatening chest injury, and a thirty-five-per-cent chance of a leg injury. The same numbers in a Ford Windstar minivan–a vehicle engineered from the ground up, as opposed to simply being bolted onto a pickup-truck frame–are, respectively, two per cent, four per cent, and one per cent.

Matthew Thomas: Why I use WordPress:

WordPress is licensed under the GNU General Public License. I generally prefer GPLed software, because over a period of decades, it maximizes the rights of those who use it. (In the short run things may be different, but Iā€™m a long-run sort of person.)

Right on. Plus all the cool Matts are doing it.

Grants for captioning? How quaint:

The U.S. Department of Education has apparently decided that certain programming will receive sponsorship for captioning and certain other programming will not.

Joe is also running WordPress. He uses more lists than anyone I know. I wasn’t sure if Joe, a militant hand-coder, would appreciate a fully dynamic content management system, but he has taken to it swimmingly.

Curious QRIO

QRIO, our new robot overlords friends. Hat tip: Robert. Some videos in Windows Media format:

I’m really at a loss for words.

QRIO knows your face. It’s equipped with a camera and the ability to analyze the images it sees. It detects faces and identifies who they are. It can even learn the faces of people it just met. And it responds to specific people individually, adding to the fun.

QRIO is equipped with wireless networking equipment, and can connect to your home wireless network out of the box. There might even come a day when it serves as a guide between people and information technology.

We made QRIO as quiet as possible when it moves to help it fit in pleasantly in a home. Its motors and gears turn when it walks or moves, but the vibration-resistant frame dampens the noise. You’ll be amazed to see it move so silently.

Well Designed Weblogs?

Or not.

Lars Holst, who has a beautiful WordPress-powered blog, has been doing a bit he calls Well-Designed Weblogs. I have been pretty disappointed with the second round (and to some extent the first round) of “Well-Designed Weblogs.” It is subjective, but quite frankly there are some sites I don’t see anything in. To me some look plain, unimaginative, squished — overall badly designed.

For the list to be a useful Lars should put a blurb about why a site was chosen so if there is some nugget of inspiration there that I’m missing, I can be enlightened. It would also shed some light on the subjective process he’s going through, which would be interesting. Round 2 has 37 entries — some great, some mediocre, some bad. If it could be distilled to the five or six very best, in Lars’ opinion, it would be a lot more meaningful than the catalog it is now.

But if it’s just a list with screenshots, there are better places to go.

New Yahoo Search

Yahoo has flipped the switch and is no longer using Google for their search. (Some technical details.) The question on everybody’s mind: Is Yahoo’s search better than Google’s? Yes. Why do I think so?

  1. Results are given as an ordered list, or <ol>, which is a good thing.
  2. It shows 20 results instead of just 10.
  3. You have an option by each result to open it in a new window.
  4. They are somehow detecting RSS feeds for sites that have them, and linking to them directly and also allowing you to add them to My Yahoo. They seem to have gotten my RDF file instead of my RSS 2.0 file, which is prefered, but no worries. I’ve been meaning to replace that with a 301 redirect lately anway.
  5. It is much better designed.
  6. But the best reason to use Yahoo? I’m the #2 hit for “Matt”. Yes, even ahead of that Drudge clown.

What? Were you expecting me to check for any other search terms?

A quick trip to MyCroft and you can make Yahoo your default search engine for Firefox. Easy as pie.

Highly Confidential

I love it when I get forwards that, several people back in the forward chain, have something like the following:

This communication, including any attachments, is intended solely for the confidential use of the person(s) named above and is the property of [name removed]. If you have received this communication in error, please notify the sender immediately and delete/destroy the original. Any reader other than the intended recipient is hereby notified that any review, dessemination, distribution or copying of this message is strictly prohibited.

CSS Style Competition

There is still time to get your entries in for the WordPress CSS style competition, with the top prize currently at $70. Not bad for making a single CSS file. What’s great is no matter who gets the prize, the community wins as each entry is licensed under the GPL.

Update: It finished up with 38 entries, many of them quite good. Yes that’s 38 different designs you can use on your new WordPress blog after just updating one line. We might even automate that step too. šŸ™‚

Best Postcard Ever

My friend Becca just returned from the Dominican Republic where she taught English at several local schools and an orphanage for a couple of weeks. I’ve read over her notes from the trip and they sound really interesting, I hope she publishes them somewhere. When she came back she brought a “postcard” that was actually a picture she had taken on this gorgeous beach, “behind El Morro en Monti Cristi.”

1/30/04, Hi Matt! - Rebecca

It says:

Hi Matt!
– Rebecca

What I would give to be on that beach right now!

Orkut Cracking?

I have been surprised that so far Orkut has remained amazingly responsive even under the incredible traffic I’m sure they’ve been getting. I still stand by my opinion that Orkut will be a success, however when trying to log in just now I was greeted with not one, but four distinct error messages each time I reloaded. This outage has been the exception rather than the rule, so I’m not particularly worried. (I still remember the day Google returned an error when I did a search.) For entertainment more than anything the screenshots of the errors are below. The first one is very verbose, more than what you usually see on production websites.

First Orkut Error Second Orkut Error Third Orkut Error Final Orkut Error

Link Archiver

(Pardon my verbification.)

Here’s an idea for any website, though it could be particularly applicable to weblogs. I’m a reading junkie, I can’t get enough. When I come across a blog I like I often go back in its archives, which is a great way to get a feel for a site. It’s fascinating to see how some blogs have evolved over the years, how posting styles evolve, and to see what people were thinking around the time of important events.

There is one common thread in every archive I browse, I constantly run across dead links. Long-dead links. Dead permalinks even. I have read that the average life-span of a web page is 100 days—I think that may be generous. What good is the wonderful archiving of modern weblog software if those archives become irrelevant less than a year after they’re written?

I think the answer lies in some kind of automatic archiving of all linked content. When you publish a new post an intelligent spider tied to your blog engine could go and grab the content of the page you link to and store it locally. Once a week the spider checks all links on your weblog and if the resource no longer exists it updates the link in the entry to point to the locally archived version. The local archive would have a disclaimer and a link to the original location of the resource, much like Google’s cache. The link in the entry could also be modified in some way, perhaps with a different CSS class or rel value than normal links. The engine could also alert you so you could be sure to be wary of that website or publisher in the future.

How hard would this be? I know there are copyright issues that I’m ignoring, but I don’t forsee that being something that would hold this back. I doubt copyright holders who can’t keep their URIs cool are going to devote many resources to tracking down blogs violating their missing content. Besides, this could be covered.

I could see this done as a centralized service, something like Technorati meets Furl, but that would really defeat the purpose. Decentralization is the path of the future.