How to get on the front page of Reddit

   10 March 2006, early afternoon

Reddit is a cool site, but is not without its problems. Since I took time out of my busy day to make fun of Digg a little while ago, I feel it is only fair to make fun of Reddit as well.

Reddit works reasonably well, but as with Digg, could use a human hand to help keep its front-page clean. The quickest ways to get a link you post to the front-page of Reddit are:

  1. Link to an article about Reddit (or another Y Combinator site).
  2. Write about how great LISP is.
  3. Link to an article by Joel Spolsky, it doens’t matter how old the article is.
  4. Link to an article by Steve Yegge, it doesn’t matter how old
  5. Link to an article by Paul Graham, it doesn’t matter how old

These are some sure fire ways to see your link on the front page of Reddit. Why would you care if your link makes it there? Why for all the Karma of course. Why would you want to earn Karma? I really don’t know, but the fact that your Karma is visible to everyone makes you want to earn it; trust me, it does. This is yet another problem with Reddit. I am certain people post simply to try and earn Karma. (This is probably why their are so many duplicate stories, and so many old stories on the site.)

Comments, recently added to Reddit, are for the most part better than those found on Digg, but I suspect this is solely because it has a smaller user-base. There is currently no way to filter them as far as I can tell. As more users start using Reddit, I imagine the quality of the comment will decline. (They are already pretty lame for the most part, but there are so few of them this is OK.)

The hot page is a bit of a mess to read; the page changes throughout the course of the day, so if you check back, you will find a mix of links you saw earlier in the day and new links, all mixed together. (If you made it a point to rate all the links you saw this wouldn’t be the case, you could identify new links on the page as those without a highlighted arrow.) The recommended links page seems to suffer from this problem as well.

All of this said, I still like Reddit. For the most part it is a good source of interesting links.

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Panic's Transmit

   24 February 2006, mid-morning

When I was a younger boy I used to love pirating software. It was easy and I felt no guilt about it. Software wanted to be free. (That, or I wanted software to be free.) As much as software companies wanted you to feel like stealing software was like stealing a car, I just wasn’t willing to buy that—or their software. I grew older, and I started writing software, and contrary to what you might think, my views on this matter didn’t change. It was really only after realizing how much I spend on a night out drinking or on a nice dinner that I realized I was just being a jerk and should buy the software I use.

Read the rest of this post. (614 words)

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Google Talk Logging

    7 February 2006, early morning

Well it looks like Google is going to start letting you log all your Google Talk conversations within Google Mail. You just need to turn this feature on within GMail and you are good to go. (It is off by default, at least for myself.) On the one hand, being able to search through all your old IM conversations would be really cool. On the hand, there is the whole “Google has all my information” thing to think about. I’m sure there will be plenty of people happy with this change—the lack of logging in Google Talk was a big oversight.

Update: According to the official Google Blog, Chat + Email = Crazy Delicious. True Dat! Double True!

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RAW, Why Must You Torment Me So?

    6 February 2006, mid-morning

I have been taking photographs using the RAW capture mode on my digital camera. What this means is that my camera takes the raw data it reads on its light sensor and saves it to an image file without processing it whatsoever. You are supposed to post-process the images on your computer, which give you much more control.

The other option available to me, and the one most people use, is to save their photos as JPEGs. If I went this route, the camera does some processing on the photo—colour correction, white-balancing, and what not—and then saves the images as a JPEG image. JPEGs are smaller, and easier to work with on a computer. The problem with JPEGs is that they achieve their size by throwing away a lot of the data in the image. You can’t take a JPEG and apply some transformations to get the original image back; once an image is compressed, the information that was removed is gone forever. As such, we call JPEG a lossy compression scheme. A high-quality JPEG will still give you a very good image, however, you will never have the exact image your camera saw.

The main advantage of shooting RAW is that you can do post-processing on your computer with an untainted image. On your PC, you can fix the white-balance, curves, and other such things, getting the image you want, before exporting the photo as a JPEG (or some other image format you can work with). You can decide what you think looks best, as opposed to letting the circuits in your camera decide. This is a big plus.

There is however a big problem with shooting RAW, at least for myself: the files are huge and a pain to work with. It takes my iBook a full minute to convert an image from a RAW file to a JPEG. One minute is a really long time for a computer to spend doing anything in this day and age. It took me 45 minutes to export this set of photographs from a dinner I had at my house on Saturday. I am still trying to figure out the best—and quickest—way to deal with processing a large batch of RAW images.

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Six Forty by Four Eighty

    4 February 2006, the wee hours

Ubuntu Linux is a pretty good attempt at making Linux more user-friendly. It’s no OS X, not by a long shot, but compared to other Linux distributions it is quite easy to use. It is a shame it is so buggy, at least on my brothers old computer. Firefox has a habit of crashing on this machine. Today, when I turned the computer on, I was greeted by a desktop squeezed into a 640×480 space. I can’t change the screens resolution, no matter how hard I try. Changing the screens resolution shouldn’t be a challenge.

I should point out that my site fits nicely on a 640×480 screen. (If you have ever wondered why my site is so skinny, it is because for a very long time I had a Powerbook 5300cs, whose LCD screen was fixed at 640×480. I got very used to designing pages that fit on that screen. I haven’t used that computer in ages, but still seem to have a design sense shapped by my use of that computer.)

I think it is time for a new Linux Distro; any suggestions on which ones to try?

Update Feb 5th: For the record, straight up Debian was a big mistake. I am actually back running Ubuntu, and it is working perfectly. I am still not sure what went wrong last time.

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Flickr Pro

   20 January 2006, late morning

I bought a Flickr Pro account the other day. I’m not quite sure why I didn’t get one sooner. I have never thought they were particularly expensive, but at the same time I suppose I have never had a big reason for getting one.

My photoblog isn’t well suited for posting a set of photos. The few times I have used Flickr in the past, it was to post a set of photos from a day or night out. For example, here is a set of photos I took on Caroline’s adventure around Toronto. A few of the photos in that set are also on my photoblog, but many of them are not, either because I didn’t think they were interesting enough, or because I didn’t want a weeks worth of very similar photographs.

Now that I have a Pro account, I am trying to think of the best way to use it. The upload limits for Pro users are basically non-existent. With unlimited sets you have a lot more freedom in how you can arrange your photographs. I have started cross posting my photographs to Flickr, and will probably continue to do so. I want to figure out the best way to move all my old posts from We Must Abuse the Broadband over to Flickr. I’ve been looking at how to do this via a computer program. We’ll see how that goes.

Anyone join any interesting groups on Flickr? Anyone have good suggestions on what to do with the account? You can expect a boatload of pictures from Tokyo up there some time soon.

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Quicksilver + iCal

   13 December 2005, early morning

I use Quicksilver to open applications in Mac OS X quickly. This is one thing Quicksilver does well. However, to use Quicksilver as a glorified application launcher is a bit of a waste. Yesterday I thought I’d try and figure out how to add events to my iCal calender using Quicksilver. I had already installed the iCal plugin, so I had two actions I could do with a snippet of text: create an iCal event or create a To-Do in iCal. The plugin is quite smart. If you create a new event, it analyzes the text you enter to figure out when the event takes place. For example, “Dinner tomorrow with Prasanna” gets scheduled tomorrow, though the time seems to picked in an arbitrary fashion; “Concert Thursday with Matt” gets scheduled on Thursday of this week; if you enter an actual date, it will schedule it on that date. The redundant date information is a small nuisance, but is worth the productivity boost you get form being able to enter iCal events from anywhere without having to use iCal itself. I haven’t been able to find any documentation whatsoever for this plugin. I feel like asking for the source code so I can read through it and figure out what it does myself.

Update: The documentation for the plugin is now online.

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Mouse support in VIM

   17 October 2005, early morning

One day I will write a longer post about VIM, and how it is the bees-knees if you need to edit text, on UNIX, in a GUI-less environment. Till that day, I will share this little tid-bit I discovered while reading Slashdot’s post on the release of VIM 6.4. You can reposition the cursor in VIM using the mouse if you use the following command: set mouse=a. There is a lot of geeky humor in the thread, for example: “I hope they fixed the bug that made you type all those weird key combinations to write to a file and save.” If you don’t think that’s funny, it’s because you are a lamer.

Comment [2]

   12 October 2005, early morning

We hope that someday this institution will eclipse Google itself in overall world impact by ambitiously applying innovation and significant resources to the largest of the world’s problems. is the philanthropic wing of Google. Currently the site is quite empty, but in the future it will be a place to find out information about getting grants from Google, and I suppose to find out what non-profit activities Google is up to. The GoogleBlog has more information about current endeavors Google is undertaking, in a post entitled About I like the we-can-change-the-world mentality of Google.

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Bulk Rename in Unix Using sed

    5 October 2005, lunch time

You can use the stream editor sed to do some useful things. For example, say you had just built and compiled a newer version of gcc, and want to rename all of these new gcc binaries from their default names to names that include the programs version suffix. You can do so using a simple comand like: for file in * ; do echo $file; cp $file `echo $file | sed 'some regex magic'`; done. Regex magic should be of the form '/pattern1/pattern2/'. Well perhaps that isn’t so simple, but you get the idea.


Barak Obama has a Podcast.

   22 September 2005, late at night

Perhaps I was too harsh on Podcasting. Whether it is a fad that will last or not remains to be seen. For the time being we can all enjoy listening to the brilliant Barak Obama, the man who should be president, speak on current events and politics. You can listen to Podcasts in iTunes, but I think Odeo is a much better application for finding and listening to Podcasts. (Check out the Odeo page for Barak Obama’s Podcast.) The Odeo widget is the best way to listen to Podcasts, in my humble opinion.

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Have a Mint

   18 September 2005, late afternoon

As I mentioned in passing a few days back, I spent some of my hard earned money on the web site statistics application Mint. I hate buying software—a lot. Paying money for a bunch of PHP pages was even harder for me to do, but I am glad I did it.

Read the rest of this post. (544 words)

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One Reason Hotmail Sucks

   30 August 2005, evening time

My Hotmail account has been deactivated. However, I still have a fair number of people who try to email me there. I think this is because it is the account I use to log in to MSN Messenger with. The problem with a deactivated account seems to be is that emails sent to the account silently disappear. One would expect the messages to bounce, but no such luck. Anyway, the point of this post was to simply ask that you don’t email me at my Hotmail email address. I have a perfectly good email address here at funkaoshi.

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Open Standards are the Future

   24 August 2005, mid-morning

Nerd Alert: A little bit lot more on this topic of the future of the web, and then I’ll shut up and start posting about movies I’ve watched again. I read over what I wrote yesterday, and for the most part it sounds like my objection to the WebOS is simply because it is a stupid name—not so, I think it’s a stupid idea too.

Read the rest of this post. (725 words)

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Kottke the Quasi-Computer-Scientist

   23 August 2005, mid-afternoon

There are several things I find thoroughly suspect or outright stupid in Jason Kottke’s post on the WebOS. I’ll write a longer post later. I had to say something now, as I feel dirty reading all this quasi-computer-science. Briefly: Kottke describes at great length his vision of the “WebOS”, which requires another OS to run. Awesome.

Perhaps I am being unfair. Maybe he hasn’t posted about how his vision of a WebOS will run the file system, perform memory management, schedule tasks, handle network communication and perform a slew of other tasks that operating systems perform. Or, perhaps I am being totally fair, and Kottke doesn’t know much at all about what he is talking about.

The Web browser (along with other browser-ish applications like Konfabulator) becomes the primary application interface through which the user views content, performs services, and manages data on their local machine and on the Web, often without even knowing the difference. Something like Firefox, Safari, or IE…ideally browser agnostic.

Kottke talks at length about the WebOS, when what he is really describing is the top most layer we as users typically deal with when working with computers: shells or window managers.

You don’t need to be on a specific machine with a specific OS…you just need a browser + local Web server to access your favorite data and apps.

If you think what Kottke describes is revolutionary, than you will definitely want to read all about XUL. What Kottke calls the WebOS is already here. Or, if you want to be a little bit boring, Sun already invented the WebOS, only they called in Java.

I wonder how Kottke expects his web server and browser to run. Magic? If you still need an OS, what is the point? This doesn’t shake things up for anyone—least of all Microsoft.

update: I was going to write more about this, but the comments are already full of interesting stuff. I may write about this topic another day, only next time i’ll be a little bit less snarky. Just a bit.

update: I’ve written a bit more about this topic: Open Standards are the Future.

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Changing Saved Password in Thunderbird

   28 July 2005, early morning

I have to change the password I use to log in to the mail server at work every X number of days. I have only been using Thunderbird for a short period of time, so I haven’t had to change the password in Thunderbird till today. Thunderbird is a nice enough mail application, but it is still marred by some pretty obtuse design issues. How do I change the password I use to log in to the mail server? Well, the short answer is:

In the menu, select Tools > Options…, click on Advanced, expand the Passwords section and click Manage Stored Passwords. Select the site/username line you want to delete and click Remove. When done, click Close and restart Mozilla Thunderbird.

The next time you try to check your mail you will get prompted for a password.

The password you use to log in to a mail server isn’t one of the settings in the server settings dialog box. There isn’t even a hint that the passwords are stored in the advanced tab of the options dialog box. I suppose most people won’t need to change their mail server passwords often, but this seems like particularly a poor way to go about doing so.

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Awesome MD5 Collisions

   10 June 2005, late morning

Perhaps awesome isn’t the word, but these researchers present two different meaningful documents that share the same MD5 checksum. Usually MD5 isn’t used to sign documents like this, but it is quite common to use MD5 to verify binaries on the Internet.

Briefly, MD5 is a hash function, a program that takes a big string of 1s and 0s (which is what everything on your computer is), and outputs a much smaller string of 1s and 0s. This smaller string is usually called a fingerprint of checksum. MD5 was thought to be secure, but was recently broken. For a hash function to be considered secure:

  1. given the value of a hash, it should be infeasible to find the input that produced the hash; given any input x
  2. it should be infeasible to find another input x' such that the hashes of x and x' match
  3. it should be infeasible to find two different inputs that have the same hash value.

One attack I could envision is creating an evil Trojan distribution of a popular open-source program: You could tell people you are mirroring a popular program—when you download from SourceForge for example there are countless mirrors for you to choose from. No one would assume anything is amiss, since the checksum for your application would match the checksum generated by the real programs being hosted by all the other mirrors; when the people run your evil program and it would do its evil things. (Update: not quite right, see comments.)

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Apple to Use Intel Microprocessors Beginning in 2006

    8 June 2005, late morning

Today, Apple put out a press release I never thought I would ever see: Apple to Use Intel Microprocessors Beginning in 2006. This is a big deal—but if you aren’t particularly geeky, you can stop reading now.

My first Macintosh was a Powerbook 5300cs, which ran on a PowerPC 603e. Apple had made a big switch from Motorola 68k chips to IBM PowerPC chips in the early 90s. Ars Technica has a great write up on the history of PowerPC chips at Apple for those who are interested in such things; the article also explains some of the advantages RISC machines have over CISC machines. Intel x86 computers are all classified as CISC machines. PowerPC based computers are all RISC machines. Intel and AMD are also basically the only compaines that still make CISC computers, as they went out of vogue in the 90s.

Back when I bought my Powerbook 5300cs, RISC chips were simpler, smaller, and more energy efficient than their CISC competitors. One big advantage RISC chips had over CISC chips was that the simple instruction set on RISC machines lent themselves to pipelining to speed up the processing of instruction. Pipelining involves having the processor work on several instructions at the same time.) Nowadays, the distinction between RISC and CISC chips is very subtle; modern Intel chips do things that were the domain of RISC chips alone several years back. For example, I think most modern CISC chips will break down a complex instruction into a series of smaller instructions suitable to be pipelined. In this way they behave very much like RISC chips. Mind you, I could be talking out of my ass here.

I’m not sure how Apple will spin the change. They have spent so many years touting the advantages of their hardware as well as their software over their competitors. Their hardware advantage hasn’t disappeared, but it certainly has diminished.

Update: I’ll post links to other sources of info as I find them.

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Deconstructing Maui X-Stream.

   24 May 2005, mid-afternoon

Cherry OS gained some notoriety for promising to bring OS X to the PC. It was quickly discovered that Cherry OS was probably PearPC repackaged—illegally. The company that produced Cherry OS, Maui X-Stream, have taken liberties with the licenses of several other open source projects. Deconstructing Maui X-Stream is a very impressive article on this topic.

‘Open-source codes’ are protected by copyright, and with the way things are starting to go in this country, if forced to choose between being caught with a van full of pirated DVDs or heroin you’d actually have to pause and think about it.

via Metafilter

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Play Station Portable

   25 March 2005, early afternoon

One of my coworkers stood in like from 8:00 in the morning till 12:00 at night to be one of the first people to get a Play Station Portable. He brought his new toy in to work the next day. I want one. The screen is absolutely amazing. I watched part of Spiderman II, as well as clips from various games, and it all looked great. The screen is so sharp. I really don’t see how the Nintendo DS is going to compete. It looks so kludgy in comparison.

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Language of Choice

   19 March 2005, mid-afternoon

Sometimes, while you surf around on the Internet, you may come across people have a Language of Choice argument. In the western world we call these people geeks, but maybe where you are from they are referred to by another name. Recently I stumbled upon such an argument. When it comes to web development, some people are obsessed with Java. Others with Ruby. The lead developer at Signal vs. Noise, David Heinemeier Hansson, is a bit of a Ruby Zealot. He wrote the popular framework Ruby on Rails. He used the framework to write a simple To-Do list application, Ta-Da Lists. Of course, once the application was released, the bitching began. On the internet, especially with software, people will quickly tell you to put-up or shut-up. Geert Bevin, the bitcher in question, opted to put-up. Of course, this got everyone up in arms about which implementation was better. This is the geek community equivalent of a pissing contest.

Comment [7] |  

GMail for the Masses?

    3 February 2005, early morning

I just noticed I have 50 GMail invites. That is a lot. I wonder if Google is ready to open the system up to anyone and everyone? If you want a GMail account comment below.

Comment [8]  

Corporate GMail

   16 December 2004, mid-morning

I wonder if companies would pay Google for a corporate version of GMail ; a version they could run on their own private web servers. I get a lot of email every day. Being able to search through it the way I search through my GMail would be quite handy. My project manager must get ten times as many emails as me at the very least. I’m sure he would also love a private GMail. If Google added a calendar/scheduling system to GMail, so one could book meetings, GMail could be a very competitive product in the corporate sector.

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OS 9 Tab Windows

    9 December 2004, mid-morning

Remember in Mac OS 9 when you drag a window to the bottom of the screen and it became a tab. That was awesome. Actaully, Apple managed to drop a lot of good things when they moved from OS 9 to OS X. Now, OS X is also awesome to the max, but I mean, how hard would it have been to keep the Application menu? Thankfully, people are hard at work trying to bring back 1999.

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Replay Attack on TypeKey?

   23 November 2004, evening time

On my system I can login to a TypeKey powered site in Safari, copy the URL TypeKey redirects me to from Safari to Firefox, and thereby login to the same site in Firefox without entering any of my information. This is essentially a replay attack, albeit a stupid one.

Read the rest of this post. (442 words)

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