Wednesday, November 29, 2006

web: an OpenID for me

Open ID logoI complained about the hassles of identity management in "it's one social network, not 1000 sites", so the least I can do is try out a proposed solution.

I followed the steps in this post. Now I’ve got an OpenID from myopenid.com (skierpage.myopenid.com). I am using delegation so that my official identity can forever live at the URI http://www.skierpage.com/openid.

What's the point?
To login to an OpenID-enabled website (even one you've never been to before), just type your OpenID URI. ...
Note: No more registering over and over at each Web site! What happens next:
The website will then redirect you to your OpenID Provider to login using whatever credentials it requires. Once authenticated, your OpenID provider will send you back to the website with the necessary credentials to log you in.
Sounds cool, I hope this takes off because unlike corporate attempts like Microsoft Passport:
Nobody should own this. Nobody's planning on making any money from this. The goal is to release every part of this under the most liberal licenses possible, so there's no money or licensing or registering required to play. It benefits the community as a whole if something like this exists, and we're all a part of the community.



Tuesday, November 28, 2006

jiu-jitsu moves against rampant consumerism

At fast food: "Do you want to super-size that for only 10 cents more?"
Correct answer: "You mean I can save money by getting less food? I'll take the smallest portion you've got!"

New flat TV ploy: "From ten feet away, you can only appreciate the finer detail of 1080p resolution if you buy a 65-inch monster."
Correct response: "So at a sane TV size there's no reason to buy a set with more pixels? Thanks for saving me $1000!"


stuff: low-quality Hi-Def at Best Buy

Criticizing Best Buy is like shooting fish in a barrel, but their sales effort is so poor they have to hear it over and over.

I want a new TV. It's in a bright room so I want LCD rather than plasma. I don't want to block the fabulous view so 46" is my limit. According to this fine explanation, at my 10-foot viewing distance I won't be able to discern the finer resolution of a 1080p set (1920x1080), so a 720p set (usually 1366x768) is sufficient.

So I go to Best Buy. The TVs are arranged at random, with plasmas next to LCDs. Most are running concert video footage that's 480p at best. A few are playing DVDs. Some have the sharpness control set so high that hair and fur sparkles. None of the sets I want to compare are next to each other. So picture quality comparisons are simply impossible. They are selling a Samsung true 1080p TV for less than the Samsung 720p TV that the salesman recommends to me, and there's no indication of why the lower resolution TV costs more.

Later I go to Best Buy's web site and try to compare. They have a Sony KDL-46S2000 for $1,979.99 and a Sony KDL-46S2010 for $2,519.99. There is absolutely no difference between them in Best Buy's online comparator, and the individual product page for the cheaper set lists many more features. Each TV in the comparator has several features that no other set has, e.g. for "Brightness" the Samsung has "500 cd/m²" and the Sony has nothing, while for "Remote control type" the Sony has "Standard" and the Samsung is blank. ??!

I could read the Plasma and LCD Flat-Panel Displays AVS Forum to get feedback from some impassioned expert users, but most product threads have 400 replies and some have over 2,500 replies!

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Monday, November 20, 2006

dogs: killer instinct

Our terrier mix saw a movement on the ground and went into full-on stalker mode. I scooped him up in my arms and we watched a fat and fearless squirrel run up a tree and stare back at us. Every single muscle in the dog's body was coiled and ready to explode in a paroxysm of violence. He grew hotter as he torqued every muscle group up to 11. After a minute the squirrel ran off and I carted the dog back to the car, where he guzzled water. That single-mindedbodied intent to attack is intense.

Here he is, "innocently" stretching:
dog stretches


stuff: Briggs & Riley fixes forever for free

I bought a Briggs & Riley carry-on suitcase about 11 years ago. The airlines have repeatedly beaten it up, until the zipper tore away from the corner, in an altercation that shattered the solid metal pull.

I took it to the Briggs & Riley service center in Moss Beach, they UPS'd it back repaired, for free. To quote their brochure:
We know what luggage goes through, so every Briggs & Riley bag comes with the only no-holds-barred guarantee in the business: if your luggage is ever damaged (even if it was caused by the airlines) we'll fix it, free of charge. Simple as that. By examining every damaged piece, we see how to continuously improve and refine our bags. We call it "Reality Engineering" and it means that Briggs & Riley luggage gets smarter every day for a better travel experience.
In a disposable world where everything is made cheap and a warranty is a cost center to minimize, that's impressive. I bought a closeout Superlight carry-on at a discount to tide me over and it is indeed better in many ways large and small. And Briggs & Riley have just improved again, with more rounded handles, improved wheels, etc.

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Saturday, November 18, 2006

no self control

(Peter Gabriel)

I'm haughtily dismissive of the obese and otherwise addicted. Just go hungry, go without; feel that want and choke it back. It feels good for the soul in the machine to say no.

But my dentist and hygienist told me to floss regularly, and I just didn't, despite knowing that weak enamel and a diet high in McVities Hob Nobs don't mix. Every night it's late and I've got better things to do than shove string in my mouth, so I declared victory at once or twice a week.

Oops. I've had one miserably uncomfortable 75-minute filling, a week of toothache, had to return to have it ground down ("if the pain doesn't go away you may need a root canal"), and need another filling. Am I addicted to not-flossing? Why couldn't I Do the Right Thing? Not so haughty now.

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eco: both kinds of solar panels

As I mentioned in comments, the solar power system that's finally working is electricity. Here's a shot of two of the nine photovoltaic panels:
two SX170B 170 W solar panels on roof
Note the shade from neighboring tall house in autumn that's cutting efficiency.

Our heating system is still inoperable, despite 17 months and all those tubes and wires. So the solar heat-collecting tubes have yet to be placed on its rack:
waiting for solar heat tubes
Wait, that entire thing is in shade! Will it ever work?

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

computer: One Laptop Per Child going gangbusters

OLPC news looks good. B1 prototypes! Supposedly the learning community responded well to this keynote. Paper textbook publishers and people with ties to Microsoft/Intel are going to go even heavier into politics and FUD mode to bring this down.

By designing everything from the ASICs to the apps in an open concerted manner, they're optimizing and improving the entire system on an hourly basis, in a way that a Wintel laptop can only dream about. (In contrast, here's a long sad post from a Microsoft engineer about the hassles and crapware of a typical Windows PC.) Even though I'll probably never own one, much of the improvements in software will flow to LinuxBIOS, Linux, X windows, and other open source projects.

And I find another super-talented long-timer is working on it, Mitch Bradley of Sun, Forth, PROM fame.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

eco: solar power payback time

Jake from Declination Solar installed 9 SX170B 170 Watt panels by BP (the slightly-less-evil oil company that bought Solarex) and a Xantrex grid-tied inverter months ago, but we didn't have sign-off to hook it up and local utility P.G.&E. kept losing our proof of insurance. Finally they found the right form and a guy came out to plug in a new electronic (but not remotely readable) electric meter.

I powered up circuits, turned on the Xantrex inverter, BIOS versions appeared (does this inverter run Linux ?), it began a 240-second countdown to sync up with the utility power, and then:
Xantrex inverter shows 1112 Watts instantaneous, 0.120 kWh so far
Wahoo! 1112 Watts baby!

Run outside to new meter and:
P.G.&E. receiving 451W net from house
I'm contributing more energy than the house consumes, P.G.&E.'s wasteful customers are getting 451 Watts from me. Maybe the polar bears will survive after all.

Of course, if I so much as turn on a hair dryer:
P.G.&E. giving me 1010 W
One 1500 Watt appliance and I've swamped the photovoltaic panels and need 1010 Watts; we're back to paying the utility to burn fossil fuel.

I've yet to get the rebates and tax credit and accounting from our builder, so I'm not sure how much this cost. But it's a great feeling for a drop in the bucket.

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Sunday, November 12, 2006

house: beautiful

Random guy on street: "That your house? It's beautiful"

Damn right it is. Thanks to us and Markoff-Fullerton Architects

More to come.

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