This is BrainLog, a blog by Dan Sanderson. Older entries, from October 1999 through September 2010, are preserved for posterity, but are no longer maintained. See the front page and newer entries.

February 2004 Archives

February 27, 2004

"Mah Na Mah Na" was originally composed for an Italian soft core pornographic documentary, by film composer Piero Umiliani. This bio site includes a letter from Elisabetta Umiliani, Piero's daughter, to the site author with some nice details about the man.

How To Cross The Street. (Thanks Dan.)

Home Automation with Mac OS X (and part 2). Mr. Graham successfully gets me interested in a subject I've been dismissing as frivolous customization all these years. (There have been lots of things I've been dismissing as irrelevant until I had a kid and started looking for a house. Now at least I can understand some of the crazy compulsions we adults supposedly have.)

While Stargate SG-1 may not be as good as I originally blathered when I first started watching (somewhere near season 4, which is more consistently good than other seasons), I still watch and enjoy the show. I've had to watch the show rather ridiculously out of order, which is an annoying way to catch up on the plots. I had to get one of the DVD's from Netflix to catch the second part of a two-parter, and noticed they are much more satisfying to watch on DVD, probably due to the image quality and the lack of commercials (and some decent commentaries). I once tried watching an episode of the abysmal animated Stargate Infinity (but do kids like it?). I also revisited the original 1994 movie, which was as badly written as I remembered it. Better music, lots more extras, and it was refreshing to see a planet that didn't look like Vancouver for once. (But gah, the script!)

Now there's finally official news of the full-blown spinoff series Stargate Atlantis (with a pretty picture on the official site), and I can't help but be excited. With SG-1 having jumped (pretty recently, I'd say, though again, I'm out of order), it'll be nice to see what a fresh cast can do.

I'd pay money for a quality Stargate video game. Of course, the game I imagine is heavy with clever Myst-like puzzles involving alien technologies and languages, rich backstory, and hours of full-motion video cut scenes. But the Stargate franchise seems built for it, more so than another boring FPS. There are some old ones, but I don't have a Sega Game Gear.

February 26, 2004

Ed responds to a survey of university presidents on the five must-read books for undergraduate students and the lack of science and technology books on the resulting list by asking his readers to suggest the five must-read science and technology books.

Two examples of ATM skimming devices: one from U of Texas police, another from a victim who tore the equipment off the machine. The pictures are scary, I'm not sure I'd be able to tell the difference between a skimming device and a legitimate ATM card slot.

Search Beyond Google.

Find What You Want with Plucene, a kind of Perl search engine, useful when the usual suspects don't quite do the job.

February 19, 2004

World of Ends, What the Internet Is and How to Stop Mistaking It for Something Else, by Doc Searls and David Weinberger.

Like movie soundtracks? How about computer game soundtracks? The complete soundtrack to SimCity 4 Rush Hour is available for download for free as MP3's, and also includes printable CD labels and cover art. Some tracks were recorded by a 70-piece orchestra; fans of movie soundtracks might enjoy "Wheels of Progress" for orchestral fun. (Apparently a similar effort to distribute music was made for SimCity 3000, but the links are broken. :( )

They were a smidge stingier on the soundtrack to the new James Bond game, only making tracks available via a browser-embedded media player (click on "Launch Spy Radio"). But the tracks by 24 composer Sean Callery are worth a listen. I'm betting the game isn't as good as its soundtrack. Nice cast, though.

February 18, 2004

An introduction to LaTeX for Mac OS X users. I keep thinking I'm a LaTeX kind of guy, but I guess I've always thought of it as primarily for print (esp. for math— or music), and I don't really write for print that often. I wonder if it really could be a decent central format for conversion to other formats, but for now, HTML meets most of my needs. Which makes me think I'm missing something.

segusoLand and reciprocal list narrowing. (Thanks Jerry.)

Jason Kottke's post on insecurity as a barrier to innovation reminds me that I've had a redesign for this blog on my hard drive for over two years that I haven't installed. The new design uses new software, and includes many of the best blog design ideas of the last few years— not because they're hip, but because they're useful. The main reason I haven't installed it yet is that the design represents the obligatory new direction every blogger takes after so many years, one that's inevitably more expensive to keep up than the current format, while I scramble to find the time to write anything of any quality as it is. But while most personal webs are not afraid of doing something different, it's possible that I'm afraid of doing something the same.

But really, I'm just busy.

February 17, 2004

A Few Thoughts on Cognitive Overload. (Thanks Rebecca.)

How to Make a Complete Map of Every Thought you Think. (Thanks Jerry.)

Via the above, The Curse of Xanadu:

It was the most radical computer dream of the hacker era. Ted Nelson's Xanadu project was supposed to be the universal, democratic hypertext library that would help human life evolve into an entirely new form. Instead, it sucked Nelson and his intrepid band of true believers into what became the longest-running vaporware project in the history of computing - a 30-year saga of rabid prototyping and heart-slashing despair.

GEOS for Commodore 64 now available as a free download. GEOS pre-dates many consumer windowed operating systems, and seemed cool at the time, though I can't say I ever actually used it for anything. I was too used to the READY. interface, I guess. Apparently, you can still buy GEOS on original install media for $25, if you like.

Cameron Mackintosh Ltd. is replacing half of the Les Miserables orchestra with a computer in the London production when it moves to a smaller theater. Inevitable, end of the world, and so forth. Let's just hope we can tell the difference, so we can ultimately win the war against the machines.

February 16, 2004

Teh Tarik Time, via Geegaw.

In this interview with Scorched 3D creator Cameron Smith, Cameron discusses some of the challenges of developing a cross-platform networked 3D game.

There will indeed be a Battlestar Galactica series based on the Sci Fi miniseries.

Amazon keeps a list of videos, movies and TV shows popularly desired, but not yet available, on DVD. It's a neat list, movies in the popular consciousness that are just obscure enough to not have DVD releases. Some seem on the verge, and some that seem less likely deserve a march on movie distributors' offices.

I was going to mention the perpetual lack of a US release of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead on DVD (and the VHS is out of print), until I did a quick check of eBay and noticed a NTSC no-region "new factory sealed" DVD, Buy-It-Now for $25. Then I remembered when I bought Topsy Turvy on DVD from an eBay seller because Amazon.com didn't have it: when it arrived, it had a little Canadian sticker on it. So I checked Amazon.ca and found it readily available. CA doesn't have R&G, but UK does ("region 0", but PAL).

Also: Murnau's Sunrise is available on DVD in the US, but apparently only as part of this boxed set— which is a good thing, because you also get How Green Was My Valley, Gentleman's Agreement and All About Eve, all with historian commentaries and other nice features, for just $31.

February 9, 2004

Microsoft is dropping support for including authentication information in URL's, of the style http://username:password@server/... This comes after a recent vulnerability found in Internet Explorer that allows miscreants to display fake URL's in the address bar, the fix for which was released yesterday.

I'm in favor. Very few people use this feature, and it's mostly just a hazard. By removing support for this, I no longer feel like I have to tell strangers on the street to watch out for web addresses that look like http://www.bankofamerica.com@127.0.0.1/ when they receive email that looks like it comes from Bank Of America.

The flaw that allowed the URL to be obscured in the address bar was exceptionally serious. After following a strange link, the URL is the only reassurance you have that you're actually browsing a website you can trust. The trick URL above actually goes to 127.0.0.1, not to www.bankofamerica.com, and a bad guy could set up a site at that address that looks enough like BofA to get you to enter your account number, SSN and password. If the flaw can be exploited to make the address look like "http://www.bankofamerica.com/", then not even someone saavy to this trick would be able to tell if the site is real. I still believe organizations such as banks should not expect or encourage customers to click on links in emails, and I wonder if the technology (web or email) will ever be safe enough to reverse that position.

Intellectual Property in the Real World.

The Amiga NewTek Video Toaster software has been released. The Amiga and the Video Toaster made professional video production affordable over a decade ago. I wonder how the old code could be of use today? I assume there's some use for legacy compatibility, but perhaps it could be used for study or building into other more modern video projects.

In case you were wondering, I settled on the Sony DCR-TRV33. Compact, solid, quality images, all the features, decent stills and a nice price, especially after telling the wife I was considering a camera that cost twice as much.

I had a nice conversation with a salesperson at Talls Camera, then meandered over to Best Buy to look for demos of other models and ended up getting the same camera for $50 less. I mention this not because of the hot deal, but because I feel a bit guilty about it, and not just because Best Buy stole a sale from a smaller store and a helpful and friendly salesperson, but because they did it with such a horrible shopping experience. It would have been worth the $50 extra just as a personal statement against carpeted warehouses run by rude, clueless teens. Sure, I played a simple market and got a lower price, but it's the kind of play that will jilt the knowledgeable salespeople off the face of the Earth until all that's left is Best Buy-style shopping. (Naturally, my original plan was to test drive at Best Buy, not expect to talk to anyone, then purchase online for a better price. Which doesn't bode well for the conscientious B&M storefronts, either.)

I got my Olympus from Talls and never regretted it. There, I plugged them on my blog and feel all better.

February 5, 2004

I've received enough contacts from people finding my entry from August 21, 2003 and a follow-up entry from August 27, 2003 in search engines that a clarification is in order: To my knowledge, www.mynewcard.com is a legitimate Bank of America website, and is not a scam.

My intention was to point out that recipients of Bank of America's unsolicited email have no way of establishing the message's actual origins, and very few ways of determining that the links in the message go to a legitimate Bank of America website. The email advertised the website www.mynewcard.com, which was registered to "Douglas-Danielle", and not to Bank of America. (Matching registration information would not have been conclusive, but the mismatch was suspicious.) It took further research to determine that Douglas-Danielle was a marketing firm, and it wasn't until I contacted Bank of America directly (through www.bankofamerica.com) that I could confirm that the email and the website were legitimately affiliated with the bank. Given the ease with which such an email and website can be faked, Bank of America and Douglas-Danielle are doing everyone a disservice by encouraging customers to click on links in unsolicited email.

It's worth asking yourself: Do you trust email solicitations? Would you enter your Social Security Number in a web form linked from an unsolicited email? Do you trust telephone solitications? Would you give a telephone solicitor your SSN? Would you even if they knew other information about you, such as your name and mailing address? Do you trust postal mail solicitations? Would you fill your SSN into a paper form from such a mailing and return it using the enclosed pre-addressed envelope?

Would you enter your name, mailing address and SSN into a form on a website at an address printed next to your bank's logo on glossy paper that you received via postal mail? I'm not saying you shouldn't, but it's worth thinking about why.

February 3, 2004

Red Dwarf, Series 3 & 4 was released on DVD in the US today. Hooray!

The authors of the Perl Template Toolkit book used Perl templates to write the book instead of a word processor. These freakazoids wanted to write it in POD. I call them freakazoids, but I use a very very small templating system I wrote for some of the docs I write at work to produce clean HTML output with automatically generated tables of contents. The temptation to extend my little system is staved off only by the foregone conclusion that a system that would meet my (rather particular) needs has already been written.

The Art of Computer Game Design, by Chris Crawford.

Chris Crawford's webs site.

Game Design Wiki.

www.sco.com is a weapon of mass destruction.

Introducing Mac::Glue. Yay!