Friday, July 25, 2008

The story of the antihat

I normally don't wear a hat when I go outdoors. My mom on various occasions told me to wear a hat for protection from the sun, and today I finally wore a fishing hat (which I had around for some unknown reason). Today my scalp got sunburned. This has never happened before, and I cannot think of any other possible reason besides the hat. It's like the hat is an antihat!

(I guess what happened is my hear stuck together from sweat under the hat and this let far more sun get to my scalp during the times when I wasn't wearing the hat.)

Best argument ever for raves being free

Alienz said:
the thing is, i don't MIND just taking.....
i paid for it
why should i bring anything.
i brought my $250.
that's what i brought to it

I think that's the best argument for why raves should be free. It seems to me the idea is people contribute to the experience. For him it is about appreciating the art as a consumer. Though on second thought maybe there's nothing wrong with that either.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Dark Knight didn't impress me

Earlier tonight I watched The Dark Knight and I wasn't impressed. It's not a bad movie; it's a good movie. It's just not so great that it deserves to be anywhere near #1 on IMDb or draw the biggest crowds I've ever seen at the cinema. I'm guessing this has to do with people's attachment to the Batman character or the superhero genre. It's probably the best such movie I've ever seen. It has far more depth than most such movies while still retaining the usual good vs. evil combat and effects. I still recommend seeing it if you watch a lot of movies as it is one of the better movies this year.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Mamma Mia was great!

Mamma Mia was great! It was far better than I expected. I ended up seeing it twice, and I don't think I've seen a movie twice at a cinema since Waking Life in 2001. The Greek islands it was filmed on are beautiful and this was skillfully used as a backdrop for the movie. ABBA songs were skillfully integrated into the plot and sung quite well IMHO. I even enjoyed the plot even though I'm not generally that interested in romantic plots. Perhaps the best part overall is that taken together it all made the movie full of a sort of happy energy.

It seemed like others at the cinema also really liked it. Both times there was applause after the movie and that is quite rare. The second time there were some people dancing during the credits.

Monday, July 14, 2008

New way to download Flash videos

The popular Firefox extension AdBlock Plus now filters requests made by Flash. In "Open blockable items" they show up with "object subrequest" in the type column. This allows you to obtain URLs of Flash videos which are accessed using http. You can simply right click on that line, "Open in New Tab" and get a download dialog. If the video is already loaded in the player, the "download" typically comes from the Firefox cache so it's fast and bandwidth is not wasted.

(I'm using Firefox 3.0 and AdBlock Plus Note that Flash can make other requests besides just those for the video and there are other ways to show videos (besides loading FLV files via http). However in most cases, http is used and it's easy to save the video. For those who don't want to do it themselves, there are services like KeepVid.)

Saturday, July 12, 2008

More on Messenger URL blocking

Microsoft recently unblocked URLs in Windows Live Messenger. They claim the blocking was unintentional. Based on this and their earlier blocking of YouTube I think the blocking is automated. The algorithm is probably triggered by a pattern or quantity of messages. It is probably meant to block malicious URLs sent by viruses or worms and it is probably triggered by activities such as many people sending links to a popular YouTube video to many of their contacts.

The article about YouTube blocking says that "a third party Microsoft partner manages URL blocking on the Messenger network". This is even worse than I imagined. This means content from messages you send via Windows Live Messenger is shared with a third party. Even if they only share URLs, that is a big deal. These URLs may contain or point to private information, such as files being sent to a contact, web sites under development, or even just the subject matter of the links.

Are there any consumer stereo NTSC RF modulators?

Earlier I got a Dynex WS-007 RF modulator and I found it connected the left and right audio inputs together. After returning that RF modulator I found out from tech support that the "GE Video Converter RF Modulator with S-Video" "SKU: 23298" was also mono. They said that there is a patent on stereo output. Wikipedia also says that "Modulating a TV signal with stereo sound is relativly complex and most low cost home TV modulators produce a signal with MONO audio. Even some units that have two audio inputs simply combine the Left and Right audio channels into one mono audio signal."

So, are there any stereo NTSC RF modulators? I don't feel like contacting many companies' support departments because it's time consuming and they may not tell the truth. I also don't feel like buying and returning many products. I wonder what's the chance I get a useful response here.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Do not use Windows Live (formerly MSN) Messenger

Windows Live Messenger blocks messages which contain certain strings. For example, one time they blocked all .info domains and another time they blocked YouTube. Currently, among other things they're blocking and DynDNS domains. (Blocking of is especially annoying because MSN file transfers are often slow and unreliable and http transfers using dynamic DNS domains are an alternative.)

This filtering is server-side. It happens even if both sides of the conversation use a third party client (such as Miranda IM). This means Microsoft is inspecting the content of your messages! Maybe they're just doing it to block messages, but it would be easy to also do other things.

Microsoft may also be engaging in anti-competitive practices by blocking competitors' websites. I am not sure it is happening, but I wonder why else they blocked YouTube.

You may know about network neutrality and the various problems that can come up when using a non-neutral network. This is the same sort of thing, just on a proprietary service and not the whole Internet. Fortunately, there is something you can do about it: get an account with another IM service and encourage others to switch. Jabber is probably the best choice because it is an open standard and not something proprietary.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Bell Mobility upgrade credit is a lie

I was just checking the deals I get with the Bell Mobility upgrade credit. They're exactly the same as the deals they give to new customers. This means the upgrade credit is a lie; it's not really a reward for loyal customers. I also note that the situation hasn't really improved since last summer.