Sat, 22 Sep 2007

Three Way Gun Duel

Boing Boing has a logic puzzle today. Head on over and check it out.

Once you've had a chance to think about it, mouse over this to see my solution.

Wed, 19 Sep 2007

"GPS" on the iPhone?

No, the iPhone doesn't have a GPS receiver, but I always suspected that adding GPS-like functionality to the iPhone wouldn't be too difficult for two factors.

First, there are projects that have assembled "wardriving" databases (these guys, for example). This process involves driving around various neighborhoods with a laptop, a GPS device, and a WiFi detector. Every time they encounter a WiFi network, they triangulate its location, and give that WiFi network GPS coordinates.

This database can reliably tell you where you are, just by virtue of seeing what WiFi networks are in your vicinity.

Second, you may have heard of E911 services, or Enhanced 911. The idea here is that when you dial 911 on your phone, your address information is sent to the dispatcher so they can tell police/fire where you are if you are unable to do that yourself.

This worked perfectly for land lines, but the feds required the cell providers to add E911 support at the cell towers, which means those towers closest to you also have geodata attached to them, and this information is accessible to phones from some towers.

At Gavin's wedding reception, I mentioned to Keith that this would be a neat idea for someone to put together.

And it turns out someone already did. They're called Navizon, and they integrate nicely with Google Maps. If Navizon figures out where you are, it plots that location in the Google Maps app, and at various red lights on my drive home this evening, I put it to the test, and while it didn't work everywhere, it worked frequently enough to be another useful tool on my iPhone.

Mon, 17 Sep 2007

The Next Big Thing: PowerSet?

Back in 1999, when most of the 'net was still using Altavista to search the Web, a few lucky souls had stumbled upon Google.

On September 21, 1999, the upstart search engine stripped the word "beta" from its search engine and the rest is history.

Now it's anybody's guess if the subject of this post, PowerSet will fizzle or take off like a rocket, but you (probably) heard about it here first.

They haven't launched even a public beta yet, but if you want to get in on the ground floor of testing what might be the coolest search app released this millennium, head on over and sign up for their mailing list.

(P.S. I would be much obliged if anyone has an invite code to send my way!)

For Wine Lovers

Barb reminded me of how much fun Christine and I had in the Yakima valley during their annual spring barrel tasting event.

Like most annual events, they're doing it again in 2008.

This year I was careful not to over-indulge since I was driving, but next year we're thinking of inviting a few friends and renting a limo or mini tour bus to shuttle us around over a dozen of the region's finest wineries.

Here's a PDF of the wineries (600KB) in the area.

Hiring a professional driver costs around $300-500 for 5-8 people for six hours of touring, and given limited time and logistics, it's probably best to spend the night in the Yakima valley area and do another six hour tour the second day.

Who's in?

Name/Blog: Barb
URL: barbara at_sign
Title: I'm totally in!!
Comment/Excerpt: That sounds fabulous. I've only toured a few of the wineries in an afternoon quite a few years ago. How many people did you want to get together? ~Barb

Sun, 16 Sep 2007

Poor DirecTV

There's a lot of hype about DirecTV launching their HD channels. They apparently launched a new HD website, but can't seem to manage leaving enough space on C: for their website to function.

Cannot write 2796 bytes to tmp file 
GetLastError() 112

I have an old 6GB drive sitting in a drawer upstairs, that should be sufficient to serve another 2 million pageviews.

If anyone at DirecTV reads my blog, send me your address, I'll even pay shipping.

Sun, 02 Sep 2007

touch -t is history

I've been blogging with blosxom for over two years now, and I've found it fits my needs for just about everything I need.

It's simple to extend and modify to fit my purposes. For example, I was getting comment spam, and I added my own hacks to require a simplified captcha system.

I added a hack to close comments on articles older than the previous month.

I recently added a web administration form that allows me to add and edit blog entries remotely.

While I was putting together this form I thought, "you know, it'd be nice not to have to use touch -t to fix timestamps when I find/fix a typo or add an UPDATED entry to a previous post." (Astute readers will note my discovery of touch -t two years ago.)

As I was contemplating the unpleasantness of unix epoch timestamps and perl's utime function and providing myself with a human-friendly UI in my admin form, I thought "this sounds quite a bit like reinventing the wheel".

And I was right. It looks like the entries index plugin (which sadly pre-dates my blog) does effectively what I need.

Flight Canceled After Passengers Aboard Plane Spoke Arabic

Shirt reads "I am not a terrorist" in Arabic
Perhaps you've heard the news of the flight in San Diego that was canceled because several passengers were speaking Arabic on the flight.

Or more likely, you didn't, because checking Google news, there's only 11 news articles covering the topic which occurred on Thursday.

I don't know what's more disturbing, really. That we've reached a point of mass hysteria where a woman doesn't feel safe on a plane because she's hearing a foreign language, or that the media can't tell its head from its ass.

Of the news reports that Google has listed, only three seem to tell the whole story. While the airline would like to place all of the blame at the feet of this woman, the reality appears to be a bit more complex.

The best media article on the topic appears to be this one which presents the information in the most uncontradictory way. Other reports make it sound like the lady was on the plane when it turned back to the gate, but she apparently disembarked before the plane began to taxi.

Consider these two reports:
Irene McCormack, a spokeswoman for the San Diego Unified Port District said the woman expressed concerns to the flight crew before boarding that six men were speaking a foreign language and exhibiting “strange behaviour”.

The passenger continued telling the crew her concerns, within earshot of the men, after the jet taxied from the gate, Ms McCormack said yesterday.
A woman who complained that some fellow passengers spoke Arabic and "had odd behavior" prevented a Chicago-bound American Airlines flight from departing San Diego, police said Wednesday.
The woman first complained to the flight crew that four to seven men were possibly speaking Arabic in the boarding area. The woman added that they "had odd behavior." The crew decided to return to the boarding area because the woman indicated she wanted off the plane.
versus this one:
...according to Robbins, “The plane never left the terminal with me in it.” She said she was on the jet for less than five minutes, that the flight attendants had not yet given their safety talk when she got off.

As proof, she noted her hotel reservations for that night were booked at 11:16 p.m., just two minutes after the airline had said the plane had left the gate.
Robbins said she was seated in the last row of the plane before the doors closed when one of the group of men left his seat and went to the restroom. She said she heard him “clunking around” inside.
she told the flight attendant she had to get off the plane. She said the attendant remarked that the men were strange.

She gathered up her sons and their things and left the plane. She said she never even heard any of the men speaking while they were on the plane, though she had chatted with one of them in the terminal.

About 20 minutes later, while she was at the ticket counter making hotel arrangements, an airline official came up to the counter and said the plane was returning to the gate, Robbins said. She said the official was angry and complained that the airline would now have to find hotels for everyone, Robbins said.

She left the airport before the rest of flight 590's passengers disembarked.
So it appears that while the doors had been closed, the plane had not begun to taxi, and she was let off the plane. The decision not to fly out may have been precipitated by her hysteria, but you can't quite blame her for the airlines/air crew's decision not to fly.

iPhone Hackery 101

I spent the last couple hours hacking my iPhone and now have the following additional capabilities:
  • (with vi, ssh, etc)
  • (via Apollo)
  • voice recorder
  • rss reader
  • perl, ruby, and python
And it's not nearly as hard as it would seem.

Start by installing AppTappInstaller on your Mac. It will "jailbreak" your iPhone and put an installer in your fourth row of apps in your "springboard" window (aka your home screen). Then, you get to seamlessly download and install everything else you want/need from there, such as the "dock" app launcher (since you only have 4 slots left and one taken up by installer, you need some kind of app launcher).

And that's about it! A full fledged OS X workstation in your pocket!

Khan Klatt

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