Just a generic geek, with a tendency for taking things apart

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This blog is in the process of moving to Markw.us, just take note.

Sunday, January 01, 2006
It took a while, but I've finished my little move off of blogger/blogspot and onto a homebrew blog engine. I'm going to put in a site redirect into my template in a few days after I'm sure the new engine works well enough, this site should stay online (give or take the redirect). Anyways, the new blog is at Markw.us While it might be nice to have someone else to blame when things break, I think I'm going to like the freedom I'm picking up with getting off blogger. Its a great service for novices, but I outgrew blogger months ago. I can't imagine how anyone with more than a few hundred posts would keep using it when there are better engines for powerusers. To each his own I suppose.

Thursday, December 22, 2005
Blogger Exile Progress
I figured that I needed to make an update of sorts so here goes. I've moved all of my posts (give or take this one) into a database which was a royal pain in the ass (something like 4 or 5 long evenings). I then spent most of a night (all night) writing and running scripts to reformat what I pulled out of blogger to make everything ready for a custom blog engine, which after a few hours nap I managed start on. Right now I need to

1) Work out and write the code for all the archives (months and posts at least), once I figure out mod rewrite I think I might have it
2) Write RSS feed engine. I think this will be fairly simple since I've got the index working, its just a matter of fixing it.
3) Work in comments. I'd kind of like to try my hand at some AJAX like functionality here, but I'm not sure thats going to happen. Even if it doesn't I still need to add in the comment code
4) Beef up security and posting features. The scripts I wrote to move the database will help, but they are very, very crude, and certainlly not something I can post on a server
5) Work out the blogger redirect engine, this is low priority
6) Move the database and all the code over to the domain.
7) Build and expand. What's the point of custom coding a blogging engine if all you're going to do is write it and forget it?

I'd like to say I'll launch by the new year, but I had been telling myself that I'd be done by my birthday as well, and while that pushed me to finishing the DB and getting the main rendering code up and running, its since passed (aside: December birthdays generally suck, December birthdays within a week of xmas, really suck.)

We'll see. I'm out of school until the 5th, while I've got a pile of DVDs and video that almost rivals my podcast queue on top of whatever the 25th brings. If I decide to go to podcastercon (I'm up in the air about it), I'll really want to have something launched. This one feels a little ratty, and I feel a little cheap when I hand out the URL.

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Friday, December 16, 2005

Iced Buds
Originally uploaded by Mark_W.
While not as amazing as some of the ice storms I saw while I was still living in Iowa, the two ice storms that have hit Northwest North Carolina in the last week have been beautiful in their own right.

Because I haven't been blogging much between final exams, trying to get off blogger, and the fact I've horribly neglected my flickr account I've posted a set of photos I've taken after the two storms.


I love winter.

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Monday, December 12, 2005
One of the RIAA vs Consumer appeals came out with a decision against the consumer. In itself its not surprising, since the argument was a pretty poor excuse of canned defences. What's shocking is that she's been fined $750 per song. Which makes me wonder where the hell the judge got that figure. I can buy a the CD it came on for $20, I can get the track off iTunes for $.99, or I could subscribe to some download service and get it and a zillion more for something like $5 a month. None of those cases gets over $3 a track. I can understand a reasonable fine for illegal activity, a 750% increase. That's outrageous.

Makes me glad I'm not supporting the RIAA.

(unrelated side note - most blog posts have been moved over to a database, and after exams finish up this week I'll get back to writing the blog engine)

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Thursday, December 08, 2005

I may end up getting an Video iPod soon than I expected, my 20GB grayscale 4G iPod died sometime yesterday afternoon - massive hard drive failure. I've known since last night - between not booting, random error messages, and a very loud, clicking hard drive I knew early on it was the drive. Unfortunately its out of its 1 year warranty, and I know the drive is gone for sure since I was able to mount it long enough to run some disk utilities. Despite a full reset, an attempted repair, and a try at reformatting, its one very screwed hard drive.

At this point I could start shopping for a new drive off ebay, but a new known working drive is easily $150, and I was already outgrowing the 20GB drive. A new 60GB would run me around $370, give me photos, video, and more space.

I'm pissed, tired, and a couple other things, but in the end this just means I'm getting a 5g sooner than expected. I just wish I had moved some of the files I was storing on it over to one of my file servers before it died - most of them are replaceable, some not so much.

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Wednesday, December 07, 2005
Semi-happy ending
The Mount Airy City Schools have had a problem with bomb threats over the last month or so, receiving 4 bomb threats in 5 weeks (one at the high school, three at the middle school), all after I made a post about what I felt was a real blunder of disaster planning at the near by community college I'm attending and the FBI visit I received a few days later.

Well apparently the public postings paid off. After a couple rounds of echo the message (minus some of my colorful phrases) filtered up to the Superintendent of Mount Airy City Schools, who I've heard instantly caught onto the idea and that there's a good chance the the district will implement some form of distributed evacuation at the schools.

This isn't saying anything about the college, but then again, they haven't proven themselves to be especially receptive to criticism. Apparently they really pissed off the county commissioners last night. I don't know the full story there, but I know it deals with questions the commissioners had about the school's "very positive" reports despite all of the student complaints about the administration and some of its policies.

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Saturday, December 03, 2005
Writing a decent script to move all of my 1350 posts (+ comments!) into a database is nearly a fruitless effort. I couldn't get blogger to output everything in something resembling a useful file (I'm not supprised, I've discussed the issue before), So I'm going though the painful process of copying and pasting all of the entries. I whipped up a couple web forms and tied them to the database to make entry a little easier, but bleh. I've barely finished one month worth of posts (leaving me with ~1300)

Part of it is that I'm homebrewing a blog engine, but even if I was moving to word-press I couldn't use the existing scripts.

At least its fairly mindless, and I can eat my way though my podcast playlists while repeatedly hitting command C Tab Tab V Tab Tab.

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Thursday, December 01, 2005
Plan for Victory
It's too easy to make fun of this image.

heil Bush

Image is from reuters via Wonkette (via Kung Fu Monkey because I missed it at Wonkette)

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Blessed are the ignorance, for they shall internet the earth
Its amazing how ignorant people are when it comes to security. In a networking class today we had a teacher closed us off from the rest of the network and let us raise hell with hacking tools. Plain l33t hax0r script kiddie junk but a practical introduction to security, and more importantly, how its really hard to know when you're being attacked. So we're running our packet sniffing and password detection tools making one very hostile environment and nearly everyone is silly enough to log into some significant personal account. Several emails, a few personal web spaces, one fool even logged into paypal (which begs its own questions), I'm not sure what was more concerning - logging into priority accounts in a known hostile environment, or the week passwords. Makes me glad I use a lot of heavy passwords (the default brute force settings wouldn't have cracked my passwords).

At least this teacher seems to have the common sense to teach this well, even if it might give a few of the older students nightmares. He certainly seems to know the subject, and it looks like its going to be a smooth lead in to the network security course he's teaching next semester

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Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Dave Slusher has released his user-centric podcast/vlog directory AmigoFish, something I was lucky enough to be an alpha tester on. Rate a handful of podcasts, it goes out and compares your tastes to all the other users, then comes back with recommendations based on the ratings of similar people. Basically the same thing podcast networks and community do, except automated and genre independent.

Its been working great for me, all the way back to when it was drop down menus and tables, and I've found a few new podcasts and video blogs because of it. A lot of that was when it was drawing from a limited user pool. I can't wait to see how my recommended list morphs now that its public.

While its good for people like me already consuming podcasts, I suspect it will be most useful for those getting started, and, possibly, for the critics who've been saying that there's no easy way to find podcasts you like.

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Saturday, November 26, 2005
Assuming this hasn't been too skewered though the wiki process, the Netherlands seem to have a sane Drug Policy, as opposed to the money leach the US drug and alcohol policy seems to be.

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Thursday, November 24, 2005
We can rebuild it...
Slowly making progress on my little blogger exodus. I've pretty much completed my style sheet and basic page, I've set up a database structure, and I've even got a couple ideas on how to manage the blogspot redirects. That leaves moving all the content to the database then writing the blog engine and redirect script.

I wish I was better at programming.

And a happy thanksgiving or something like that...

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Tuesday, November 22, 2005
A little too much to do

Yeah, I need to trim down on the RSS feeds... even if I that is 4 or 5 days worth of content...

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Monday, November 21, 2005
Driving from NC to Chicago then coming back all in three days is almost suicidal. It can be done, but its by no stretch of the imagination fun or easy. However, it was important to make this trip this weekend since it was for my Great Grandmother's Memorial service (She lived to be 104 - so don't feel the need to express false sympathies).

While we didn't have a lot of free time in Chicago, one thing I was really itching for was a real deep dish pizza (I take pizza seriously) but for a variety of reasons we didn't get one while we were in Chicago. However I did get a Chicago Style Pizza out of the trip, just not from an expected place....

Irony (2.8MB 320x240 Quicktime Movie)

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Saturday, November 19, 2005
Not quite, but almost entirely unbearable
The family is on a very fast trip for a memorial service in Chicago this weekend. Drove all day yesterday, and looking to drive all day tomorrow. Stupid rushed me forgot to grab a half decent cassette adapter for my iPod so if I want to listen to my ipod when I'm behind the wheel I need to listen to intermittent sound and static in addition to appeasing everyone else in the car. On my own I could probably bear it, with others I was outnumbered. So commercial radio it was.

Bleh. Half the time I had to listen to it I was thinking about banging my head against the nearest available object and the rest of the time I was thinking that Van Goah might not have been so crazy. I mean I can tolerate NPR (when they aren't begging for money) but commercial radio is just that - commercials, and usually uncreative over produced clips of crap. Even some of the worst podcasts would have been preferable to driving with commercial radio.

On the other hand the local TV stations here are not crap. For corse, the stations in Greater Chicago Land have a decent budget and a pool of highly competent people. Now if only the internet connection at the hotel didn't suck so bad (port blocking == evil)...

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Thursday, November 17, 2005
Had to happen
As much as I love how advanced North Carolina is with respects to blogging, podcasting, and video casting (among other technologies). Unfortunately, those advances seem to be lost with my community college. I'll admit its not entirely surprising, we are in the mountains and Winston Salem (30 miles south east of here) seems to the western edge of NC enlightenment.

After three weeks, a movement started in part by an anonymous blog has helped catch the eyes and ears of the college administration and get them to address student concerns. Unfortunately both the local news and school are quick to dismiss the blog. While the local media is slightly more enlightened (they've excerpted this blog and keep tabs on several local bloggers, and have written about blogs, podcasts, and wikis among other things) the school administration isn't as kind. Rather than just dismissing the one student blog, they dismissed all blogs as a "national problem". Had I actually been approved to be there, I would have started ripping into him. His national problem of bloggers taking down corporations, media organizations, politicians is not a "problem" its a good thing.

Bloggers were the first ones to get the real stories out of Hurricane Katrina, and even as traditional media was in there reporting the news, citizen journalists were the ones writing the really moving stories. We're getting better, faster, and more informed looks at people like Harriet Miers. We can hear the real stories out of Iraq and the middle east, or find out the most recent Political squabbles from our own politicians, not just the wildly popular ones like Barack Obama, but even the small western NC representatives are taking time out to publish pieces in area blogs - at least if our politicians are so inclined.

Yes, you can get a disgruntled employee who wants to ruin your corporation, but I can't think of a really clear case where that has happened with blogs. (Someone feel free to prove me wrong) Yes, some companies have sued online publishers for soliciting trade secrets, and yes some have fired employee bloggers, but thats corporate America adapting to a new medium, but with IBM and others trying to get employees to blog I think that selecting a few cases in the minority is a low blow to a legimiant movement.

I'm willing to grant them that there are a lot of anonymous comments on the blog, and that there are probably a lot of people posting multiple times. However, if they bothered to count up the complaints signed with either a real name or contact (9 as of my last count) or handles (another 11 or so). I've heard that in Washington DC, representatives start a file when they receive 5 to 10 complaints. That may be out of 50,000 constituents. 20+ out of everyone who has passed though a rural community college should be lighting bon fires.

Its sad when you consider that they've launched an Internet Technology curriculum, but can't get themselves to pay even a minimal amount of attention to a website. More so when you think about how interconnected our societies are becoming, new and old, urban and rural, especially among the age groups that make up a large portion of their enrollment numbers...

(audio clips hopefully coming soon)

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Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Bush's Next Move?
bush '08
Bush in 08?

You heard right. 4 MORE years. Sure the law says you can only serve 2 terms. Repeal it! The country needs W in '08. Show your continued support for George W. Bush by wearing the shirt or placing the sticker over (or next to) your W '04 sticker. God Bless America.

I know this is supposed to be a parody, but isn't the 22nd Amendment just about the only part of the Constitution someone hasn't tried to mess with under the Bush administration? Nevermind, someone tried to repeal term limits in 2003.

Bush '08 via Warren Ellis

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Tuesday, November 15, 2005
The Low Cost of SoSo films
Well, actually went to see Walmart: the high cost of low prices and while it wasn't a complete and horrible waste of an evening, it didn't exactly break even. The movie looks and feels amateurish. For example, I'd swear they were using a stock copy of iMoive and didn't bother making really clean cuts. They also borrowed clips from The Daily Show, which really didn't lend the movie any credibility. Sure it provided a well needed laugh, but nothing new or useful to the argument.

Even without borrowing from Jon Stewart, most of the information was nothing new and the little amount of content they really went out and collected seemed pretty heavily scripted.

Do I agree with the message? Absolutely. I've had friends who have had walmart jobs and were asked to do all sorts of stupid stuff (Hey, employee there's a tornado watch and there are a few landing in the area, can you come in and help us manage customers?) But I didn't get the feeling that this is going to be a serious problem for walmart. It doesn't attract the fencesitters, it doesn't suggest solutions beyond Unionize / keep walmart out, and it doesn't present any new facts. About the only thing it does is attract urban liberals like crazy - and they don't have walmarts to deal with.

Over all if you can get in free and want to kill an evening and a few brain cells, go see it. Otherwise find some more complete summaries or do some research. Once you get outside major population centers it isn't hard to figure out how Walmart is hurting America.

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Monday, November 14, 2005
Hell is a Phone Network
I'm traveling this weekend and I would really, really like to have tripping the rift on DVD while I'm on it. Sure I've got some nerdtv and DrunkenBlog's EAA video to watch, but those only go so far.

Unfortunately best buy is a wretched corporation whose idea of a good joke/business model is to get disgruntled customers to to do the work of disgruntled employees. Who needs to outsource to india when you've got plenty of customers pissed off enough to work just to get their products?!?!

I know my item is on "backorder" (a fancy term for "we'll ship it when you'll pay full price for it" or "We're screwing you over by not honoring the price we advertised and accepted billing information for") but oddly every store in the area has a copy. A nice new, shiny, glistening shrinkwrapped copy at its physical location. How do I know this? Well first it says so on the website - right there under local pickup, secondly the minimum wage college drop out I called at the store (who BTW isn't in on this scheme) told me they had a freaking copy in the store. So why then, do you idiots at the phone bank spew bullshit about "sir, there are no copies at the stores in your area." and offer the useless advice of "call the store's inventory department and have them update theier database"?


I am the customer. Notice me giving you money, not taking it. Under NO CIRCUMSTANCES should I have to call a fucking inventory department at one of YOUR stores! None. Hell I should have to place 4 separate phone calls to you half assed organization.

I might be a devil, but you made the bad deal, at least live up to it.

I think I need to get irate with a phone farm managerial goon at Worst Buy.


(after thought, its slightly ironic that I want to pick this up before going to a screening of Walmart, the High Cost of Low Prices)

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