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So much for Halloween

Harriet Miers withdrew her nomination to the Supreme Court this morning. There goes my Halloween costume. I wonder if I'm in time to cancel my Amazon order.

Eh, who knows? Maybe I'll still do it.

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Dave Barry Wilma Q&A

In the wake of Wilma's destruction, Dave Barry answers some important questions regarding the status of utilities and other things in South Florida after the storm.

I'd like to add my own to his list:

How can people affected by the storm read this Q&A if they don't have electricity, let alone internet access?

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3rd Annual October Hard Drive Troublefest

For the third year in a row, I've had a hard drive give me trouble during the month of October. In 2003, my iBook's hard drive failed and I got my new PowerBook. Recovering the data was tough, but in the end I got it all.

Last year, my PowerBook's hard drive was giving me an error similar to the one my iBook gave me. I purchased an external HD last year to use as a backup. I was able to format the internal drive and map out bad sectors, but till this day, I question the integrity of the data on this drive.

Just a couple of days ago, I had trouble browsing the contents of the drive; drectories would take a few seconds to show up. Then it stopped mounting after a restart. Disk Utility, if it didn't crash when searching for drives, wouldn't show volume names but instead would show the Unix device name, "disk2s9". TechTool, when it saw the drive, would report that its SMART status was okay. I was able to plug the drive into a PC and run Western Digital's diagnostics. The PC and diagnostics saw the drive and both basic and extended tests came back okay.

So up until a couple of hours (when I ran the diagnostic), I was scared that my backup drive was dead. Now, I'm pretty sure it's the enclosure (*phew*), but I'll have to try a new enclosure to be sure.

Yes, everyone says, "backup your data," but the new phrase should be "backup your backups." With recordable media having a shelf life of a couple of years and hard drives only having an operating life of around a year (or so has been my experience), where there hell are we supposed to keep data that we intend to keep for a long time?

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Apparently you can find ANYTHING on eBay

Make this holiday season the most memorable ever by getting a great deal on fascists on eBay!

Merlin Mann of 43Folders has a really funny photoset of AdSense ads he collected from eBay. It seems that eBay's ads are tied to the actual search terms and so doing a Google Search for strange terms returns hilarious computer-generated ads.

Check out the photoset to see them all.

(via kottke.org)

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Open Sourcing the Breathalyzer

Slashdot reports that Florida courts will hear arguments on the accuracy of breathalyzer results because the manufacturer of the devices refuses to release the source code to the devices.

Some judges have dismissed DUI cases because the defendant asked how the breathalyzer worked. The manufacturer was unwilling to release the source and the cases were dismissed.

The story contributer brings up an interesting point:

With software bugs being a fact of life, consumers and organizations could claim that they need to be able to verify an application's source code before they accept that their calculations are accurate. Think credit card transactions, speed detecting radar guns, electronic voting machines…

While I think that requiring open source for pretty much anything for these types of reasons is out of the question, there does need to be some balance between the right of the user to have solid software and the right of the manufacturer to protect their intellectual property. This balance exists for most products in competitive markets in the form of competition, but for monopolized markets (such as with breathalyzers), there does need to be some governmental or other third-party certification.

Much like a crime suspect could be required to submit to blood/DNA testing, products with suspected inaccuracies used to determine guilt should be required to submit to source code "testing." Since the source code will only be seen by the court, and the court has no economic motivation for using the source code outside of the bounds of the case at hand, the product's manufacturer should be able to rest assured that its source code is still protected.

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New iPod, iMac and iTunes Released

Apple's big "One more thing…" media event that I mentioned last week took place today at the California Theatre in San Jose. Here's a recap of what was announced:

  • New iMacs with built-in iSight video camera and remote control. New software called PhotoBooth takes advantage of the new camera by simulating old arcade photo booths with a countdown timer, "flash", and real-time effects. Another piece of new software is Front Row, a Windows Media Center-type application that gives an iPod-like interface to the music, photos, and videos on your Mac. Also comes with a remote control with 6 buttons that looks just like the iPod shuffle with an extra menu button. In addition, the iMacs feature slightly upgraded processors, a SuperDrive standard and PCI-Express graphics (the first Mac to feature PCIe) for the same $1299 for the 17" and a $100 lower price for the 20" ($1699).
  • New iPods in 30 and 60 gigabyte models featuring 2.5" 320×240 pixel screens and offer video playback. They look like larger nanos but are much smaller than the previous generation iPods. Both models are now under .5" thick. Like the nano, they include the World Clock and Screen Lock apps and come in both black and white.
  • iTunes 6 released 5 weeks after iTunes 5. Some minor UI issues were fixed (anti-aliasing of window corners), but the main feature is support for video syncing with the iPod (one of the iTunes 4 point releases supported video playback in iTunes itself). In addition, the iTunes Music Store has a few new features, including the ability to give music, a "Just For You" recommendations section, customer reviews, and support for the sale of videos. Music videos and Pixar short films are just $1.99 each. Apple also announced a partnership with Disney (parent company of ABC) to offer 5 TV shows for sale, including Lost and Desperate Housewives. The shows also go for $1.99 an episode and new episodes are available the day after they are broadcast. Previous seasons are available also for $1.99 an episode or $35 for the entire season.

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Howie Day

Over 1,100 students packed into Irvine Auditorium at the University of Pennslvania last night for the last stop of Howie Day's fall tour. All were seated, but that didn't stop people from heckling Howie between songs. He finally had enough and improvised the lyrics of Sunday Morning Song to reflect one obnoxious girl who was screaming during a song. Howie was having a bit of a problem with one of his pedals but that only affected two songs, so it wasn't too bad.

I am disappointed in the audience. I'd say 90% of these so-called "fans" attended the show because they like "Collide" and have never heard a Howie Day song live to save their lives. The people around me were complaining about Howie's looping and how he should just give up on the "background music." Unfortunately, I think that was the sentiment of the entire crowd, since everyone pretty much got up and left before Howie even finished "Collide." Seeing this mass exodus of people, the light crew must have realized no one was sticking around for an encore so they turned the house lights on and we missed out on a couple more songs (slated to be "Perfect Time Of Day" and "Madrigals" per the setlist). I had a great time at the show and love the new songs and cover, but the entire experience was soured by people here at Penn generally being assholes and not knowing proper concert etiquette (or not caring enough to follow it) and leaving before the show was over.

The setlist was as follows:

Sorry, So Sorry
Brace Yourself > (Don't Panic %)
Numbness For Sound
Be There
Bunnies
I'll Take You On >
Don't Dream It's Over $
Sunday Morning Song
Disco
Been There
She Says > (One #)
Ghost > Beams of Light
Collide

% Coldplay
$ Crowded House
# U2

There were some changes to the original setlist, including a little bit of reordering, "Don't Dream It's Over" replacing another cover, "The Drugs Don't Work," and of course the loss of the two song encore.

Here's a Flickr photoset of some pictures I took during the show. Also, there was a taper at the show, named Casey, who said the show should be out in a couple of weeks. I'll keep an eye out for it and post a link to it here when it's available.

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Sun/Google and Apple Announcements

Everyone in the media was hyping up about the Sun/Google press conference that was held two days ago. People were talking about an online Office or the unveiling of a WebOS, with the purpose to destroy Microsoft one JavaScript and AdSense ad unit at a time. Instead what do we get? News that the Java Runtime Environment is being packaged with the Google Toolbar. How exciting! Was a press conference and live webcast really necessary to announce all of this? Sure "they look forward to working together in the future," but why not save all that hype-juice for when it is time to announce Google StarOffice?

Hot off the heels of that lackluster announcements, Apple announces they are holding a "One more thing…" event on October 12. For those not familiar with "One more thing…", it's Steve Job's trademark phrase for that bombshell he drops during the last few minutes of a keynote, right about the time he's half-expected to close up the keynote with boring marketshare numbers and vague forward-looking statements. Anyway, speculation immediately started on whether this is an event for the long-rumored video iPod and mockups immediately started sprouting all over the place.

ThinkSecret, an Apple rumor site with a decent success rate, posted an article stating that the event's purpose is to announce new PowerMacs and PowerBooks. The question is, why would Steve go out of his way to invite the media to an event showcasing already obsolete incremental upgrades to machines on a dying platform? I personally think he wouldn't. On the other hand, the nano has a profit margin of about $100, so Apple may not want to cannibalize nano sales just yet (but would a video iPod and the nano have the same target market anyway?). This event also falls just a day after Apple's earnings call, so this would be a great way to kickoff a new quarter. As such, I'm expecting nothing short of a new iPod (video or not) to be announced at this special event, but if the event does turn out to just be the announcement of new PowerMacs and PowerBooks, both me and the markets will be sorely disappointed.

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