Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Radio Active #25

Radio Active is now 1/4 of the way to Episode #100! Hmmm ... that sounded a lot more impressive in my head. This time around I've got a review of John Scalzi's Old Man's War, some thoughts on losing (and finding) my scifi and reviews of the Does My Geek, Roll 2d6 and BrickNebula podcasts

Steve Colbert: Epic Wizard

Yep, Stephen Colbert played D&D as a kid. Too bad he still doesn't -- we could use a few more dice-throwing celebrities...

Monday, January 23, 2006


BrickNebula is a podcast that proves you can find just about anything on the Internet if you look long enough. It's dedicated to the incredibly niche subject of Star Wars LEGOS. Published every month or so, the two hosts talk about new LEGOS kits, debate the merits of the different revs of Wars LEGOS, and delve into the occasional science fiction rant or rave.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Efficiently Delicious

"Several Habits of Wildly Successful del.icio.us Users" offers a bunch of tips for making good use of the bookmarking Web site del.icio.us. Among their suggestions, use your "inbox" to track specific tags, use the plus (+) sign to find all posts about multiple tags (e.g. xmen+comics) and how to do a daily dump of bookmarks to your blog.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

PATRIOT in Retreat?

A story on Reason discusses the unexpected resistance that's popped up to making permanent certain provisions of the PATRIOT Act.

I'm glad to see it -- the PATRIOT Act as never a good idea. The federal government couldn't handle the information and powers it had at its command before 9/11; what made anyone think they'd do any better with shiny new unconstitutional ones?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Flock: A Social Web Browser?

Flock is a Web browser that tries to put a friendly face on the Web by tightly integrating with a bunch of different kinds of social software, including del.icio.us, Flickr, Blogger. The idea is that rather than jump from page to page, utility to utility when you want to bookmark or blog something, you just use this Firefox spin-off instead. It's fun to play with, though sometimes it feels a little too cute for its own good.

Friday, January 13, 2006


I've finally created a del.icio.us page to track my bookmarks. Share and enjoy!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

GD Said What?

I recently had a problem where images that were supposed to be edited into three different sizes by the GD module within Apache were simply being copied to a new folder. I got three images, and their file sizes were different from the original, but their height and width were identical to the original photo.

Turns out that it was the GD module's doing -- it seems that JPEG support wasn't enabled, so rather than fail it just sort of faked it, copying the images, but not really manipulating them. I figured out what it was up to by running this bit of PHP code:

$gd = var_dump(gd_info());

gd_info snags the GD settings and throws them into an array that I then dumped. That's what told me that JPEG support was set to "false". So now you know ... and knowing is half the battle!

Patch Job

I'm pretty comfortable with Unix nowadays, but there are moments when I still feel like a stranger in a strange land. One of those moments was when I first encountered the patch command. Sure, I'd used patches before, but never a command line patch, and unfortunately (as is usually the way of such things in Unix) everyone just assumes you know how to do it, and never offers an explaination.

Fortunately, Wikipedia has one. The entry provides an overiew of the patch command, some history, and examples of its usage.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Giving Apache What It Wants

In Web development, it's a good idea to give the Web server read/write access to the files/directories it wants to read/write to (and ONLY the server, since giving too much access is an invitation to hackers/crackers/script kiddies), but doing that can be a somewhat ... arcane process. After some web wandering, here's the process I've come up with:

1. Figure out what user/group the server is running as. On Mac OS X boxes, the default is www/www; on Unix boxes I think the default is apache/apache, but it depends on where you are. If you have root access, you can look at Apache's httpd.conf file, which explicitly states which user and group apache runs as. If you don't have root access, then you can look at the Unix process list and see what Apache is running as.

2. Change the file's user and group Use the unix command chown command thusly (assuming the user/group the server is running under is "www"): chown www:www [file], where [file] is the name of the file/directory you're changing. You'll probably need root access to do this as well (something I'm still trying to work around on Nuketown's test server, a Linux box that I don't have root access to).

Monday, January 09, 2006

World of Waiting

You know, it figures. I've been out of World of Warcraft for weeks, only poking my head in occasionally to see what's up. Tonight I actually want to make an extended excursion and ... the server's down. Ugh.

Free Your Mind

It's not quite Neal Stephenson's virtual desktop, but Freemind still looks pretty cool. It's a Java-based "mind mapping" software, providing a visual tool for organizing your thoughts. I haven't tried it yet, but its on my list of stuff to play with this week.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

The Power of Mdfind

This article on O'Reilly explains mdfind, which offers all the flexibility of Spotlight from Mac OS X's Unix command line.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Lego Mindstorms Gets an Upgrade

Too cool. The next-gen Mindstorms robots can react to ultrasound, sound, light and touch, etc., and can be programmed via Bluetooth or USB (as in, one guy demoing the robot was able to control it from his freaking phone!). it's going to be expensive -- $250 -- but so was the first one. Plus, it is educational ... right?