Archive for the ‘Blogging, Computers & the Internet’ Category.
I have been using Amazon AWS servers for years to host large videos and to store backup files in their S3 service. But apparently their servers have also become the home of a lot of spammers and bots. I have been in the process of locking down the security of my climate blog, testing changes that I will then migrate here (Incapsula front end, Disqus comments, a package of improved wordpress security changes, and ZB Block to catch what still makes it through. I am not naive enough to think that I am safe from hackers, but I can at least be safe from stupid, lazy, or automated ones.
Anyway, I probably don't see a lot of the bots any more because they hit either Disqus or Incapsula. But a great number still get through, and if they are persistent they get banned. What amazed me was that of the first 22 IP's banned, 9 were on the Amazon AWS servers.
My sense is that this is one of those classic tragedy of the commons issues, which happens when valuable resources are essentially free. I had an idea years ago, that I still like, that charging a tenth of a cent to pass each sent email would shut spam down. You and I might spend five cents a day, but spammers would be hit with a $10,000 charge to email their 10 million name lists, which would kill their margins. Don't know if there is a similar approach one could take for bots.
This rental house has AT&T DSL. Never had DSL before, always use cable for broadband, but I am amazed at the problems it has caused. After a lot of investigations, it seems to shift my IP address frequently and near randomly, which tends to cause a frequent need to reboot the browser and drives services that try to increase security by tying one to an IP address absolutely bonkers.
Error message received today in Google Chrome browser:
Some people's RSS feed got a bunch of random comments from 4 years ago in them today. Not sure why. Been tweaking around with the site and site security, but can't imagine what caused it. Hopefully it was a one-time WordPress brain-fart, because I am really not in the mood to debug some messy problem right now.
I have been using Team Viewer for remote PC access this week and it is awesome - easily the fastest, least frustrating solution I have ever tried.
I have picked up my family and moved to a rental house on the California coast for a month. I am still working, but experimenting with getting out of town for the hot Arizona summers. I may or may not take the opportunity to cut back on blogging for a month or so. I haven't decided.
No matter what the SCOTUS decision on health care, the Internet is going to go apeshit tomorrow.
I suppose it is time again to remind folks about my comment moderation policy, which is: I don't moderate. I certainly strongly request that commenters remain civil, reasonable, and respectful. But, the combination of being lazy and not easily offended cause me to almost never moderate on content, except to eliminate obvious spam.
Readers should remember that the existence of comments from morons does not mean that I in any way endorse them - I simply have no desire, paraphrasing Napoleon, to interrupt a moron when he is proving himself to be such. I have never fully understood folks deleting comments of foul-mouthed idiots who disagree with them in spectacularly stupid ways -- aren't you just helping your opposition? The only folks I am ever tempted to moderate are those who agree with me, and do it poorly. Back in college, I used to much prefer a group argument when I was the only person on my side, as I always found that people who leaped to my defense did more rhetorical harm than good.
A quick information graphic for you:
This count does not include his Wikipedia page, where about half the content now is about the Funnyjunk/Oatmeal brouhaha. Hilariously, before this happened, Mr. Carreon's page was nominated for deletion for his being too much of a non-entity. Using a great new phrase I just learned from Ken at Popehat, "on information and belief" the original page was probably put up on Wikipedia by him or one of his paid help. Apparently
"On information and belief" is lawyer-speak for "I have no evidence whatsoever, but I kind of like to imagine that it's true, and who knows what I'll find in discovery."
Useful term, that. By the way, Ken has lots of updates at that link.
I have been trying to play with Linux/Ubuntu, mainly because Linux seems a much better approach than Windows for dedicated video streaming boxes (e.g. those based on XBMC software). I also just got a Raspberry Pi, which is a sort of Anduino-like Linux-based small computer project board.
In playing with them, I have been dual-booting, which is somewhat </understatement> of a hassle. So I appreciate readers who encouraged me to try VirtualBox. Installed last night and seems to be just what the doctor ordered.
My column this week at Forbes.com is on my business's experience with Facebook and what it might mean for Facebook's valuation. An excerpt:
And woe be to he who actually develops for the platform, because he may soon find out that it all became wasted effort at the next over-caffeinated random user interface change. I just did a tiny, minor bit of coding (less than a few hours) that takes my page administrators’ status updates and posts them as a news feed on our main web site. I could do more interesting things, but I have absolutely no confidence that whatever hooks I take advantage of into the Facebook system will still be supported tomorrow.
Now, one could easily argue that this is all fixable. And it is. Some simple steps might include:
- Create an internal advocacy group for enterprise users.
- Stabilize the user interface. Communicate a long-term plan and revision history to enterprise users.
- As in other publishing engines, allow multiple levels of editorial rights for pages (today there is just one choice: administrator)
- Allow more control of page layouts, perhaps in conjunction with a paid model, up to and including ability to eliminate ads and the patented Facebook clutter.
Over time, however, I have lost confidence that Facebook culturally is up to the task. No, that’s not quite right. I have lost confidence that Facebook evenwants to take on the task. In Facebook, pages were meant for fans who wanted to create homages to their favorite band. My gut feels is that the Facebook culture can’t get past the notion that corporations are “icky” and have hijacked the pages for crass commercial purposes. Perhaps I am overly pessimistic, but all the Facebook changes I have observed over the last two years have actually taken the platform backwards as far as my business needs are concerned.
By an accident of both finances and previously hitting the technology sweet spot at just the right time, I have not built a computer in several years. In anticipation of doing some upgrades on my home PC, I started by buying a new case. Wow! This is absolutely the best case I have ever had. I am not sure this is so much the particular case I picked but the evolution of case design in the past few years. Either way, its awesome.
Just the small step of turning hard drives 90 degrees so their wiring does not conflict with the graphic cards (and they are much easier to slide in and out without removing the expansion cards) makes a huge difference. This is great, since I am constantly swapping drives in and out (for example I am trying to teach myself Linux/Ubuntu so I have added a dedicated drive and dual boot to the system for that purpose). In addition, this case, as does many new cases, has a wiring management system the puts all the wiring in a back compartment accessible by a separate panel. Look how neat everything is:
There is also a hole in the floor of the case, covered by the back door, that allows access to the back of the CPU. This allows changing the CPU fan without taking out the motherboard, which I took advantage of after I somehow damaged the old CPU fan cleaning it in the case swap. As you can see it has tons of space, including plenty of room for one of the mile-long graphics cards they are selling nowadays. Other nice features are a hard drive hot dock and big huge quiet fans with a three-position fan speed control. The only downside is that there are no front cutouts for 3-1/2 inch drives, but I don't have any so that was not a problem.
This case is expensive - $160 after rebate, but it's the first case I can say that this may be the last case I buy. It's a Corsair Obsidian Series 650D and I highly recommend it.
I installed one of these beauties over the weekend. It was easy to install, and has a beautiful user interface that blows every other programmable thermostat away. And I can change it via a web interface, which is handy if I forgot to change it before I left town.
It remains to be seen if it actually saves money. It is a very satisfying piece of gear, though. It has that Apple kind of industrial design, which is unsurprising since it was designed by ex-Apple folks. It is currently in its learning mode where it learns where we like to set it at different times and days of the week. Maybe these guys can turn their attention to lawn sprinkler controls next, as that is another industrial design / user interface nightmare.
Here is my business problem:
On the positive side for Facebook, it is the only platform we have tried, from static web pages to blogs to Google to whatever, where we really get a good real-time interaction going with our campground customers. Its an easy platform for them to ask questions, provide feedback, and upload useful content about the campground (from pictures to reviews to videos). Many of my older employees are flummoxed by even the simplest computer tasks (I have had folks it has taken days of effort to teach how to get into their corporate Gmail account) but it is relatively easy to learn how to add an update or answer a query on a Facebook page (and by "page" I mean the corporate or business pages like this one here: http://www.facebook.com/RockCreekCanyon, not one's individual page).
But here is the problem: The Facebook staff changes FB's layout and user interface faster than a sugar-overloaded ADD 7-year-old gets tired of a new toy. I swear they have no reason for some of the changes other than "we're kind of bored with the user interface staying the same more than 3 months and some junior guy coded this timeline thing so let's make him feel good and put it up".
The shifting user interface is a training nightmare for my non-computer savvy managers. What used to be tabs across the top are now text links on the left. The Page admin panel changes almost every time I log on. And don't even get me started on the simply stupid dueling column format of the new pages, or the fact that useless information like number of people who liked the site in a given month take up enormous amounts of the timeline's real estate now. Just look at the page I linked above. For the first 2-3 scrolls, the right hand column is different data than the left column, but then suddenly it becomes an alternating home for data that at the top only showed up on the left. I am told that I can now pin a status update to the top, which will be nice, but at the cost of losing the custom landing page we used to have.
And woe be to he who actually develops for the platform, because he may soon find out that it all became wasted effort at the next over-caffeinated random user interface change. I just did a tiny, minor bit of coding (less than a few hours) that takes my page administrators' status updates and posts them as a news feed on our web site (ie here for the FB page above). I could do more interesting things but I have absolutely no confidence that, for example, the FB page RSS feed I used will still be supported tomorrow.
Not sure how one ranks blogs by traffic any more in the age of RSS feed readers - I can't remember the last time I actually visited a blog rather than just read its feed. Never-the-less, Coyote Blog was ranked #71 among libertarian blogs. I am not sure if that is good or bad. Traffic here is usually pretty proportional to posting volume, so splitting my time with other blogs, Forbes, and my actual day job of late has probably caused traffic to fall. I am happy enough with my little niche in the world, tends to get me about the right amount of speaking gigs and media appearances for the time I have available.
My flu from last week seems to have migrated to my chest. Lots of coughing, fever, and right now I can hardly talk. Yuk.
Went away for a few days with my wife and came down with some kind of flu thing everyone we know in Phoenix seems to have. Temperature, sore throat, coughing, achy joints, headache but fortunately no barfing. Without the vomiting, I can power through what I have to get done, its just not fun.
I am wondering if the CDC uses social media data to track disease outbreaks. I have seem Twitter data showing dynamically when such and such event happened by geotagged Twitter traffic. Be interesting to do that with all tweets with the word "sick".
I found this picture, c. 1961, in some old photos my parents took. From the photos around it, it looks to have been taken on a driving tour of ante-bellum mansions in Louisiana and Mississippi.
Update: Readers identified it as Longwood, an old mansion in Mississippi, which appears to have been fixed up since this was take.n
Not really sure what is going on, but you may get intermittent server errors. These may clear with a page refresh but something is definitely broken.
My feed reader today had a series of oddly-related articles stacked right in a row.
First, I watched bits from the 1903 Princeton-Yale football game, the oldest surviving college football film (apparently it is just barely old enough not to have Keith Jackson doing the play-by-play). It is amazing how much more this looked like rugby than modern football. The formations look just like rugby scrums except that the players are not locked together. Note there are no huddles, just power scrum after power scrum. Sort of like a missing link between the two games, and oddly less interesting than either.
I then was met with this post from Zero Hedge, discussing the current Greek bailouts in terms of a Nash Equilibrium, the game-theory concept developed by Princeton grad / professor John Nash (who was famously profiled in A Beautiful Mind).
It's not often I run into John Nash even once in a month, but two articles later I found this really interesting early letter, recently de-classified, from John Nash to the NSA, wherein he apparently anticipated many of the foundation of modern cryptography 10-20 years ahead of his time.
And its only a short walk from John Nash and cryptography to Alan Turing, and from Princeton to tiger stripes, so the next article I ran into was this one discussing a group of scientists who apparently have proved a Turing hypothesis for how tiger stripes (and other recurring patterns in animals) are formed.
Last year at a charity auction I was able to win, at a substantially discounted price, passes for a weight-loss program I would not normally be able to afford. My daughter and I will be attending this weekend in Las Vegas. I will post a report next week.
I will be on Fox Business Channel's Follow the Money, which airs at 8PM EST. Not sure which part of the program I will be in.
Update: finished taping. I suppose it is good practice, but this 2 minute TV interview thing is really a difficult format for me. Producer said it was on 10est so check your local listings, as they say. Dont blink or you will miss me. I think my forbes column this week may be "what I should have said in Friday night."
Looks like I will be on Fox & Friends at 8:15 EST tomorrow (Wed) to discuss the State of the Union, and specifically the Obama administration and public vs. private investment. That will make four national TV appearances and 4 entirely different topics (parks, minimum wage, electric car efficiency, and infrastructure investments). I'm really honing a razor-sharp personal brand.
A new fashion and style blog for women over 40 featured my wife in their December profile. Definitely the better half.
Instapundit reminded me -- this Snap Circuits toy is fantastic. Easily the best electronics lab for kids out there.