Sunday, December 27, 2009

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Google's Wonder Wheel

I found out about this cool search tool via Powerful Seo tool all bloggers should know about. Google's Wonder Wheel lets you view related search terms. It is interesting to follow the path for a few steps to see where it leads.

Related: Viewing Unpersonalized Google Search Results - PageRank Distribution

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Photo Management and Web Gallery Creation Software

What suggestions to people have for photo management and web gallery creation software. I don't need anything fancy. I have been using Picasa and it is ok. It does take me a long time to do some things though. And the latest version (Picasa 3.0 for Linux) seems to eliminate the main function I liked (replaced with only letting you upload photos to their web site).

Essentially what I have been doing is

  • putting the photos I want in this gallery in one folder (these are the high resolution unedited photos)

  • cropping the some of the photos

  • using Picasa's make a web page feature (which automatically created thumbnails and let me set the maximum size of photos [say 800 pixels] and it reduced the image size - for web display)

  • it also created pages for each of the photos (the idea is you could just upload the resulting files (html and jpg) to your site and you had a live web page

I like this model. I want to keep the photos on my Curious Cat Travels site - not some third party site (like Picasa Web, Flickr...). The most annoying thing about old process was I had to manually edit each page and the html Picasa generated wasn't really what I needed - so I just cut out a portion of the html from each page and pasted it into the template I had for my photo galleries.

Does anyone have suggestions for the best tools to do this using Linux?

I am installing digikam, now and will try it out.

Related: Curious Cat Travel Photo Blog - Using Your Digital Camera

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Interactions and Data Analysis

Re: Context Matters

Multivariate testing is great. And it a great way to determine interactive factors - which are essentially not possible to determine with one variable at a time testing (though a smart person can see indications within this type to view them).

Your example though seems to largely be about properly stratifying the data for optimization. While it is always difficult to tell with short examples it seems like it may well be that you have 2 different audiences and a solution that, for example, intercepts the search engine traffic and gives them some context might help a lot (you see this on many blogs where they say - "I see you find us search on X - you may also be interested in Y...

But the biggest point I think your story illustrates is the importance of the experimenter. They need to think. Their role is not just to calculate some numbers and whatever number is higher wins. George Box: "it’s not about proving a theorem, it's about being curious about things. There aren't enough people who will apply [DOE] as a way of finding things out."

Related: YouTube Uses Multivariate Experiment To Improve Sign-ups 15% - Using Design of Experiments - Statistics for Experimenters

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Stonefather by Orson Scott Card

Stonefather by Orson Scott Card is a novella and prelude to a forthcoming fantasy saga: Mithermages. I found it enjoyable and reminiscent of his previous fantasy work especially the Alvin Maker series. I don't read hardly any fantasy, other than that by Orson Scott Card.

Another recent publication (2008), Keeper of Dreams, collects 22 short stories and novellas by Orson Scott Card, not found in Maps in a Mirror:

The Elephants of Poznan
Geriatric Ward
Heal Thyself
Space Boy
Homeless in Hell
In the Dragon's House
Inventing Lovers on the Phone
Keeper of Lost Dreams
50 WPM
Feed the Baby of Love
Grinning Man
The Yazoo Queen
Christmas at Helaman's House
God Plays Fair Once Too Often
Worthy to Be One of Us

Both are well work reading in my opinion.

Related: Ender in Exile by Orson Scott Card - The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman - Reading in 2006 - Create Your Own Book

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Disregard for People by FedEX and UPS

My comments prompted by UPS: Disrespect for People? by Dan Markovitz

I consistently see UPS and FedEx park in traffic lanes, in front of a fire hydrant, in no parking zones meant to provide pedestrians view of the traffic to cross the street safely... when there are available parking spaces less than 20 feet away (and actual loading zones not much further away).

It would seem they must do this hours every day (based on the level of abuse I see). I often see the illegally parked vehicle from UPS or FedEx, park legally, get done what I need to do, and drive away and the illegally parked vehicle is still there.

It is obvious that UPS and FedEx systemically violate traffic laws and make the roads more dangerous. The extent of the abuse make it obvious to me they design their work process with full knowledge that they endanger and inconvenience others for their convenience. I am not sure why such consistent intentional systemic dis-rearguard for laws is allowed to continue, but obviously it is.

Maybe in Manhattan parking in traffic lanes is the way things work, but that is not the case in most places. Only UPS and FedEx chose to systemically endanger inconvenience others for their convenience (well, and others such as chemical companies dumping toxic chemicals into the water supply, here I mean only UPS and FedEx do so with an obvious policy on how they use the roads). Society doesn't work when you allow those that just don't care about anyone else to do whatever they feel like and force others to suffer the consequences (for the actions they take based on their disdain for the rest of us). Ethics obviously have lost the ability to influence a significant number of people - whether they chose to park illegally hours every day or loot "their" companies. The government is suppose to enforce laws to punish those that have disdain for others rights. When that is not done everyone suffers so a few rude and disrespectful can do whatever they feel like.

Arguments like we have to break the law to deliver packages make no sense to me. If package delivery is important then buildings need to provide parking or delivery companies drivers drive around drop of packages to employees with carts to deliver a few blocks worth of packages then meet up with another truck... Or whatever else will work, I would sure hope a multi-billion dollar company can figure out better solutions than I can in 5 minutes. If you can't figure out how to meet a customer need without violating the law that means you don't have a viable business - not that you have to violate the law. You can't say, oh we dump the toxic chemicals in the river. Yes, it is against the law but, we have no other option but to violate the law so don't blame us for our disdain for those of you who must cope with our actions.

Related: Don't Excuse Immoral Looters - Manners - Why Pay Taxes or be Honest - Violations tagged as ups were caught parked in a bike lanes around the world 50 times

Double Parked Delivery Trucks

I'd go with a carrot and stick system. I like the "FedEx" loading zone idea. Let delivery companies purchase a special parking permit (Ex:a "D" permit) that lets them park in any of these loading zone spaces and then put them in all the logical places with consultation from the delivery companies themselves. Charge a price that will keep those who don't really need one from buying one but keep it cheapish.

Then enforce double parking and escalate tickets for it. After the 5th ticket, they double, ad infinitum. If UPS starts getting some $12000 parking tickets, they'll rethink their strategy.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Create Instant Screencasts

Screenr - create instant screencasts. Looks pretty cool.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Wordpress Plugins: Super Cache and Bad Behavior

Wordpress is a great blog platform. I started with blogger but switched to using Wordpress for my blogs (other than this one) several years ago. One great advantage to Wordpress are the great Plugins that are available. I have continually had problems with Super Cache and Bad Behavior, however. Getting errors including:

Cannot modify header information

[function.include]: failed to open stream: No such file or directory in /wp-content/plugins/wp-super-cache/wp-cache.php on line 49

They are great plugins but seem to have not played together too well. They have tried to work out the problems and searches find explanations that this problem has been fixed. However I continued to have the problems when I upgraded a blog today. I tried various things that didn't help. I deactivated both and if I reactive super cache after bad behavior the errors seem to persist. However if I activated Super Cache and then Bad Behavior things seem to work fine.

Related: Gallery of Free WordPress Themes - 50 Wordpress Tutorials - Wordpress Admin Page Not Found - The First Blogger

Monday, August 24, 2009

Death at the Hands of Others Today is Actually Historically Low Now

Why is There Peace?

When the archeologist Lawrence Keeley examined casualty rates among contemporary hunter-gatherers—which is the best picture we have of how people might have lived 10,000 years ago—he discovered that the likelihood that a man would die at the hands of another man ranged from a high of 60 percent in one tribe to 15 percent at the most peaceable end. In contrast, the chance that a European or American man would be killed by another man was less than one percent during the 20th century, a period of time that includes both world wars. If the death rate of tribal warfare had prevailed in the 20th century, there would have been two billion deaths rather than 100 million, horrible as that is.
The sociologist Norbert Elias suggested that European modernity accelerated a "civilizing process" marked by increases in self-control, long-term planning, and sensitivity to the thoughts and feelings of others.
Whatever its causes, the decline of violence has profound implications. It is not a license for complacency: We enjoy the peace we find today because people in past generations were appalled by the violence in their time and worked to end it, and so we should work to end the appalling violence in our time. Nor is it necessarily grounds for optimism about the immediate future, since the world has never before had national leaders who combine pre-modern sensibilities with modern weapons.

It is good to remember that statistically things are often much much better today than 100 years ago or 200 years ago. We still have much to be ashamed of. We need to do much better for the future of humanity but in many many ways we have made great progress.

Related: Leading Causes of Death - Global Cancer Deaths to Double by 2030 - Too Much Stuff - Water Wars Break Out in India

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Still Young Contrary to Appearances

Great comic from the great xkcd comic. "I'm pretty sure I stopped growing up in my teens and have been faking it ever since"

Monday, August 03, 2009

Mountain Dew

I actually like Mountain Dew. That alone isn't worth mentioning but I like it enough to be tempted by new flavors. Now I know that likely these flavors will be lame. But I am tempted enough to try. Most sounded bad but I decided to try the orange Mountain Dew. It is as bad as you would expect. I was hoping maybe it would be good, but instead the odds (that any brand knock off add-on product is going to be horrible) turned out to be accurate again.

You would think companies could do better than this type of product addition. Granted sugar water is not exactly the hotbed of innovation. But this attempt to just slap a brand name on some slight alternative in the hopes it will sell seems pretty lame to me. And the items I have tried have disappointed far more than they have succeeded. I don't try them often but do occasionally.

I guess these ad-ons work though since we see them so often. I would think they will be bad in the long run as you create tons of bad products that you try to sell by claiming a tie to a liked product. Then people associate those lame products with your good product. But I can believe in the short run you get more of a chance to get people to buy your add-on product.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Water Wars Break Out in India

India prays for rain as water wars break out

In Bhopal, which bills itself as the City of Lakes, patience is already at breaking point. The largest lake, the 1,000-year-old, man-made Upper Lake, had reduced in size from 38 sq km to 5 sq km by the start of last week.

The population of 1.8 million has been rationed to 30 minutes of water supply every other day since October. That became one day in three as the monsoon failed to materialise. In nearby Indore the ration is half an hour's supply every seven days.

The UN has warned for many years that water shortages will become one of the most pressing problems on the planet over the coming decades, with one report estimating that four billion people will be affected by 2050. What is happening in India, which has too many people in places where there is not enough water, is a foretaste of what is to come.
He and a group of friends slapped Gyarasi, 35; Raju tried to stop him. Someone produced a sword and, a few minutes later, the Malviyas lay dying. "We were too afraid to do anything," said a woman who gave her name as Shanno. "Dinu didn't want them to take any water. He wanted it for himself."

Everyone stood around, looking down at the hole in the ground. The pipe is dry. "It is a terrible thing, that people should be fighting over water," said Shanno.

Related: Water Pump Merry-go-Round - Agricultural Irrigation with Salt Water - Water From Air

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Bad Security on Government Required RFID e-passports

Those that understood security and RFID said from the beginning embedding RFID chips in passports was a very bad idea. Now the Feds are saying you need to make sure you completely encase your e-passport inside something that blocks RFID transmission or take security risks. That sure is a recipe for disaster - how many millions of people are going to fail to do that. We sure do need the government to start making better technology decisions now that such decisions are so critical to the functioning of society.

Insecurity of Homeland Security RFID passports shown by researcher

The current EPC Gen 2 RFID tags used in the wallet-sized Homeland Security passports use no encryption, and are unable to selectively transmit any data. Instead, the RFID tags broadcast sensitive information, enabling anyone with the proper equipment -- such as Chris Pagent -- to collect information that could potentially be used for identity theft, or other nefarious purposes. "The passport card is a real radio broadcast, so there's no real limit to the read range. It's conceivable that these things can be tracked from 100 meters -- a couple of miles," he was quoted as saying.

Chris had no trouble collecting -- and copying -- information from the RFID passports of six people, in a half-hour of driving around.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Google Operating System

Google Chrome Operating System

the operating systems that browsers run on were designed in an era where there was no web. So today, we're announcing a new project that's a natural extension of Google Chrome — the Google Chrome Operating System. It's our attempt to re-think what operating systems should be.

Google Chrome OS is an open source, lightweight operating system that will initially be targeted at netbooks. Later this year we will open-source its code, and netbooks running Google Chrome OS will be available for consumers in the second half of 2010.
Speed, simplicity and security are the key aspects of Google Chrome OS. We're designing the OS to be fast and lightweight, to start up and get you onto the web in a few seconds. The user interface is minimal to stay out of your way, and most of the user experience takes place on the web. And as we did for the Google Chrome browser, we are going back to the basics and completely redesigning the underlying security architecture of the OS so that users don't have to deal with viruses, malware and security updates. It should just work.
The software architecture is simple — Google Chrome running within a new windowing system on top of a Linux kernel. For application developers, the web is the platform. All web-based applications will automatically work and new applications can be written using your favorite web technologies. And of course, these apps will run not only on Google Chrome OS, but on any standards-based browser on Windows, Mac and Linux thereby giving developers the largest user base of any platform.


Related: Ubuntu 7.1 - Viewing Unpersonalized Google Search Results - Google's Search Results: Should Factors Other Than User Value be Used - Last Google Toolbar PageRank Update of 2008

Monday, May 11, 2009

Police Failing to Enforce Law If Lawbreaker is a Police Officer

APD officers caught running red lights

Dozens of Austin police officers have been caught on camera running red lights since the city first installed red light safety cameras in May 2008. The city has installed nine red light cameras since last year and issued more than 6,000 citations to red light runners.

In that same time, more than 36 local police officers have also been caught on camera. The officers are not running on calls and do not have their flashing lights on, as is required by department policy. The videos below clearly show the violations, which include running through red lights or failing to stop before turning right on a red light.
"If they're going to enforce the law, they should also abide by the law, I mean no on should be above the law no matter if you wear a badge," said Austin driver James Thompson.

Unfortunately we seem to have many people that believe the more authority you have the less you have to be held accountable for. That is the reverse of what is needed for a civil society. You need those with authority to be held to a higher standard not a lower one. Such continued evidence that even on the obvious minor items (that are easily visible) provides good reason to question the underlying corruption of those responsible for regulating society.

These failures extend from police abusing power to try and prevent liberty (taking photos etc.), not enforcing laws against those in power and regulators failing to regulate financial markets. Those responsible for watching society need to do a much better job. As long as the watchmen seem to support those in their ranks that break the law and see questioning of their refusal to practice fair justice when those with authority violate laws the entire profession is tarnished. The solution is not to get mad at those that expect those in authority to behave and be held accountable but to reform the system and stop tolerating corruption.

Just like the media needs to do more reporting like this (where they act as the watcher of the watchmen, performing a valuable service to society) and less of non-news they seem to be partial to in the last few decades.

Related: Watching the Watchmen - Tired of Incompetent Government Harassment - SWAT Raids - Systemic Failures?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Eliminating Regulation Led to Our Financial Crisis

Response to: Note to Regulators: Beware the Montana Paradox

Understood. My point is that the regulators were not empowered. Congress eliminated the regulations that held things in check at the behest of those given them large cash contributions. In addition, regulators can be greatly hampered by the leadership of the organizations they reside in. Regulators are prevented from regulating by the political appointees at the top of their organizations (or by politicians not funding the organization - think FDA food safety failures...).

There certainly is a difference of opinion over what is appropriate regulation. And then once the appropriate regulation is agreed to, what are appropriate response to real world situations is still an open question. I find that many today still don't understand how much a failure of proper regulation is response for our current situation. That failure took at least 4 forms: failed policy of removing appropriate regulation, failed political appointments of regulatory bodies with those that believed regulation was by its nature bad and fought to not enforce even the regulations still in the law, restricting funds to regulatory agencies (this is a common strategy when eliminating the laws that required regulation, still did not satisfy those that wished to eliminate the governments proper regulatory role in a capitalist system) and fourth, the failure of regulators to act properly after those 3 failures were in place.

To me the system problem was above the people problem of regulators failing to act well. It seems to me blaming the regulators is equivalent to blaming the workers. After policy had managed to strip huge amounts of sensible regulation to then blame the workers is not the best way to look at the cause of the failures in my opinion. After crippling regulatory organizations (by changes to the law due by politicians), starved for resources (again by politicians) and led by those fighting the regulatory role of their organization and instituting policies prohibiting sensible regulation (aging by politicians) to then blame those workers (regulators) who failed to properly regulate just seems the wrong analysis in my opinion.

The system was changed to eliminate regulation at the behest of those proposing that regulation was bad for the economy. The results of removing regulation do not seem to support their contention.

I agree politicians made poor policy decisions to encourage more home ownership. That was a part of the problem. To me the main thrust of the problem was not that but the continued erosion of the restrictions on excessive risk taking by financial firms and the removal of regulation that had been in place since the great depression, after a collapse of the financial system.

Anyway, those that appose regulation of financial markets control DC, even now. So there is very little danger (for those that see it as a danger) of putting regulation of financial markets back into the shape it was before the recent few decades created the unregulated current environment. The amount of cash those benefiting from the current system have to give to politicians to continue to the current system is in no significant danger.

I must say Phil Graham is not someone that has much credibility on financial matters with me. He was as responsible as anyone else for eliminating the regulation that was in place previously and received huge amounts of donations from those in the financial community to pursue strategies that benefited them.

So, I guess we disagree on the main causes of the failure of many financial firms until they were bailed out by the government. Thankfully, we are allowed to have our own opinions.

Related: Failure to Regulate Financial Markets Leads to Predictable Consequences - Monopolies and Oligopolies do not a Free Market Make - Too Big to Fail - Sound Canadian Banking System - posts on economics

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Librarians Standing Up to the Madness

"You are ordered to comply and you can tell no-one of this investigation." FBI to librarian. The librarian said I think this is unconstitutional and I will not comply. Listen to the story of what can happen if some brave souls stand in the way of government trying to suppress liberty.

Related: Freedom Increasingly at Risk - Watching the Watchmen - Tired of Incompetent Government Harassment

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Dave McKean, is a great, fun, read. It was awarded the Newberry medal (awarded annually by the American Library Association, to the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children).

Related: Publishers Fight Progress Again - Against Amazon Kindle - The World at the End of Time - Hugo and Nebula Award Books

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Don't Excuse Immoral Looters

I believe those that loot should held responsible for their actions. It is not the fault of international aid donors that Mobutu Sese Seko (widely credited with behavior responsible for inspiring the term: kleptocracy) looted the money meant to help starving people. It is not the fault of government that they don't manage to outlaw and then enforce those laws against all unethical and immoral behavior.

There are too many in the USA to determine which CEOs and board members are most responsible for the current corporate kleptocracy mentality. There are legal boundaries (widely broken in recent decades) where that kleptocracy so far exceeds the self serving behavior of many CEOs that legal action is obviously correct. However, prosecution of CEOs for stealing millions seems to be less supported by those who golf with them than prosecution some kid who stole a few hundred dollars. But even more important is the failure of those that support the unethical and immoral behavior regardless of legal action.

Yes government is partially responsible for not policing corrupt dictators better. And yes government is partially responsible for not enforcing laws in support of regulated markets that capitalism requires (regulating negative externalities like systemic risk, exploiting monopoly profits, pollution...). Looting corporations is mainly a problem of the entitled elite conspiring to take what isn't theirs. In my opinion this huge failure of our society is mainly a problem that needs to be addressed by not accepting such immoral and unethical behavior, not laws against excessive taking by CEO's and executives of the wealth created by companies.

Those responsible for encouraging the moral and ethical failures of our "leaders" are those "leading" citizens sitting on corporate boards and approving the looting. And those lawyers arguing for, approving, and defending such unethical pay for big pay in return. And "experts" making cases for such ludicrous pay packages in return for big pay. And those that encourage the looting by including the looters in their high society in ways that they probably would not include Mobutu Sese Seko (though honestly their behavior makes that highly questionable - maybe they would include him).

I image those that welcome the looters would not support those using child labor in factories (even if say that was not illegal in some country in which they exploited the laws for their benefit). Plenty of things are unacceptable even if they are not illegal. Yet these supporters of looters want to be forgiven for welcoming looters since, well all their buddies at the exclusive country club loot, so I can't possibly expect ethical behavior for any of them.

Even more dis-heartening are foundations, charities, educational institutions that welcome looters without any question of their ethical and moral failures. Those supporting the looters are responsible for their behavior. They are not excused because others also support the immoral behavior. And we should make it any easier for them to excuse themselves for their encouragement of such unethical behavior.

In response to: Stop Blaming AIG

Related: CEO's Plundering Corporations for Personal Benefit - Why Pay Taxes or be Honest - Obscene CEO Pay - Businesses Tell the IRS They Are Not American but Executives Stay in USA - Losses Covered Up to Protect Bonuses - Super Spoiled Brats

Friday, March 20, 2009

Little Watchmen

Little Brother is the novel by Cory Doctorow about individuals using technology to turn the tables on Big Brother. It was an enjoyable read, but I think the enjoyment will have much to do with your political views. If you believe in putting your trust in government (like the mode was for at least 6 of the 8 years of the Bush Presidency) you probably won't like it. If you prefer free speech and freedom from government control, and big brother style spying by government you probably will enjoy it. It also has a dose of techno-geek culture.

Corey Doctorow understand the new possibilities technology allows. The content of the book is also available for free online

Giving away ebooks gives me artistic, moral and commercial satisfaction. The commercial question is the one that comes up most often: how can you give away free ebooks and still make money?

For me -- for pretty much every writer -- the big problem isn't piracy, it's obscurity (thanks to Tim O'Reilly for this great aphorism). Of all the people who failed to buy this book today, the majority did so because they never heard of it, not because someone gave them a free copy.

A particularly nice little lesson on the paradox of false positives from the book:

If you ever decide to do something as stupid as build an automatic terrorism detector, here's a math lesson you need to learn first. It's called "the paradox of the false positive," and it's a doozy.

Say you have a new disease, called Super-AIDS. Only one in a million people gets Super-AIDS. You develop a test for Super-AIDS that's 99 percent accurate. I mean, 99 percent of the time, it gives the correct result -- true if the subject is infected, and false if the subject is healthy. You give the test to a million people.

One in a million people have Super-AIDS. One in a hundred people that you test will generate a "false positive" -- the test will say he has Super-AIDS even though he doesn't. That's what "99 percent accurate" means: one percent wrong.

What's one percent of one million?

1,000,000/100 = 10,000

One in a million people has Super-AIDS. If you test a million random people, you'll probably only find one case of real Super-AIDS. But your test won't identify *one* person as having Super-AIDS. It will identify *10,000* people as having it.

Your 99 percent accurate test will perform with 99.99 percent *inaccuracy*.

That's the paradox of the false positive. When you try to find something really rare, your test's accuracy has to match the rarity of the thing you're looking for.
This is the paradox of the false positive, and here's how it applies to terrorism:

Terrorists are really rare. In a city of twenty million like New York, there might be one or two terrorists. Maybe ten of them at the outside. 10/20,000,000 = 0.00005 percent. One twenty-thousandth of a percent.

That's pretty rare all right. Now, say you've got some software that can sift through all the bank-records, or toll-pass records, or public transit records, or phone-call records in the city and catch terrorists 99 percent of the time.

In a pool of twenty million people, a 99 percent accurate test will identify two hundred thousand people as being terrorists. But only ten of them are terrorists. To catch ten bad guys, you have to haul in and investigate two hundred thousand innocent people.

Guess what? Terrorism tests aren't anywhere *close* to 99 percent accurate. More like 60 percent accurate. Even 40 percent accurate, sometimes.

What this all meant was that the Department of Homeland Security had set itself up to fail badly. They were trying to spot incredibly rare events -- a person is a terrorist -- with inaccurate systems

"I'd recommend Little Brother over pretty much any book I've read this year." - Neil Gaiman

I wouldn't agree with that but it is a fun read, though with quite a strong worldview that some will find overwhelms the story. I myself and tired of tired of incompetent government harassment, so that wasn't a problem for me.

Related: Watching the Watchmen - Freedom Increasingly at Risk - Systemic Failure of SWAT Raids - Photographers are not a Threat

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Terrorist watch list hits 1 million

Terrorist watch list hits 1 million, doesn't that seem a bit high? It seems to me the processes being used to provide safety are faulty.

The government's terrorist watch list has hit 1 million entries, up 32% since 2007.

Federal data show the rise comes despite the removal of 33,000 entries last year by the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center in an effort to purge the list of outdated information and remove people cleared in investigations.

It's unclear how many individuals those 33,000 records represent — the center often uses multiple entries, or "identities," for a person to reflect variances in name spellings or other identifying information. The remaining million entries represent about 400,000 individuals, according to the center.
About 95% of the people on the list are foreigners, the FBI says, but it's a source of frequent complaints from U.S. travelers.

In the past two years, 51,000 people have filed "redress" requests claiming they were wrongly included on the watch list, according to the Department of Homeland Security. In the vast majority of cases reviewed so far, it has turned out that the petitioners were not actually on the list, with most having been misidentified at airports because their names resembled others on it.

There have been 830 redress requests since 2005 where the person was, in fact, confirmed to be on the watch list, and further review by the screening center led to the removal of 150, or 18% of them.

Without specific rules for who goes on the list, it's too bloated to be effective, says Tim Sparapani, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union.

Related: Watching the Watchmen - Freedom Increasingly at Risk

Monday, March 02, 2009

Tips for Your First 24 Hours with Ubuntu

Ubuntu Newbie Guide: First 24 Hours With Ubuntu

Q: How do I find and install new software?

A: Here comes the fun part. Go to System > Administration > Synaptic Package Manager, type in your password when prompted, and welcome to the world of finding new software! At this point, you can either browse or search. Browse around just to get an idea of what’s available. Search if you know what you want.

Let’s go ahead and install one nice little utility right now, so you can see how it works. Type “sysinfo” (without the quotes) into the Quick Search box. You see one or more listings come up, with a checkbox to the left of each. If the checkbox is empty next to the sysinfo listing, you can check it by clicking on it, and choosing Mark for Installation from the resulting drop-down box. This often brings up a box letting you know that in order to install this app, you’ll need to also install a list of other things. Just agree by clicking on the Mark button. Now that you’ve chosen to install sysinfo, click on the big Apply button (with a green check mark in the menu) and when asked if you want to apply the changes, click Apply.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

50 Wordpress Tutorials

Glen Stansberry provides some nice links in Top 50 Wordpress Tutorials including: Multiple Wordpress Installations Using a Single Database, How to Create a Wordpress Theme in 5 Minutes, Dynamic Sticky Pages, How to Write a Simple Wordpress Plugin and How to Add Photo Captions.

Monday, February 23, 2009

12 Good Ideas for Scaling Rails

Building and Scaling a Startup on Rails: 12 Things We Learned the Hard Way

The HTTP protocol lets you tell browsers what static content they can cache. You set this in apache. Rails automatically will put timestamps in the IMG / javascript / CSS tags, assuming you're using the helpers. The Firefox plugin YSlow coupled with Firebug are your friends here. The improvement is significant and well worth your time, especially if you add gzip'ing. 100KB initial page load can be brought down to 5K (just the HTML file) on subsequent clicks around your site.
Fix your DB bottlenecks with query_reviewer and New Relic
This basically saves your ass completely. Everyone complains that Rails is slow. Rails is not slow, just like Java Swing is not slow. Rails makes it easy to shoot yourself in the face. If you do follow-the-textbook-example bumbling around with Rails ActiveRecord objects, you will end up with pages that drive 100 queries and take several seconds to return.

Very good post, definitely worth reading.

Related: Ruby on Rails Tutorials - Joy in Work for Software Developers

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Publishers Fight Progress Again - Against Amazon Kindle

Once again publishers are talking a stupid stand on copyright. They are claiming the ability of Amazon's Kindle 2.0 to read aloud the text on the screen violates copyright. Neil Gaiman, provides a Quick argument summary of his discussion with his agent:

When you buy a book, you're also buying the right to read it aloud, have it read to you by anyone, read it to your children on long car trips, record yourself reading it and send that to your girlfriend etc. This is the same kind of thing, only without the ability to do the voices properly, and no-one's going to confuse it with an audiobook. And that any authors' societies or publishers who are thinking of spending money on fighting a fundamentally pointless legal case would be much better off taking that money and advertising and promoting what audio books are and what's good about them with it.

Publishers really seem to be out of touch with the way the world is moving. Pretending the world doesn't change and holding onto outdated ideas is not useful.

Related: What is Wrong with Copyright Taking Public Good for Private Special Interests - Innovation and Creative Commons - Recent Reading - Publishers Continue to Fight Open Access to Science

Monday, January 19, 2009

Watch the Full I Have a Dream Speech

Sorry EMI Music Publishing has blocked you from seeing Martin Luther King's I have a Dream Speech. Sadly our society's historically important moments are not considered something people should see to the copyright cartel and those they pay in congress to push their agenda. I can't imagine Martin Luther King would have desired to restrict those seeing his message. I do understand that it isn't uncommon for those that gain the rights to material created by great people seek to cash in rather than to promote the work the great person did (and still would be doing if they could).

Today is Martin Luther King Day in the USA. Watch the entire I Have a Dream Speech.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Death of Newsprint

End Times by Michael Hirschorn

The thinking goes that the existing brands—The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal—will be the ones making that transition, challenged but still dominant as sources of original reporting. But what if the old media dies much more quickly? What if a hurricane comes along and obliterates the dunes entirely? Specifically, what if The New York Times goes out of business—like, this May?
And it will seriously damage the press’s ability to serve as a bulwark of democracy. Internet purists may maintain that the Web will throw up a new pro-am class of citizen journalists to fill the void, but for now, at least, there’s no online substitute for institutions that can marshal years of well-developed sourcing and reporting experience—not to mention the resources to, say, send journalists leapfrogging between Mumbai and Islamabad to decode the complexities of the India-Pakistan conflict.
Common estimates suggest that a Web-driven product could support only 20 percent of the current staff; such a drop in personnel would (in the short run) devastate The Times’ news-gathering capacity.

The benefit of a free press that also has resources to investigate is very important. I would think it would make sense for Google, Microsoft... to buy trophy media outlets if they were in danger. My guess is setting up some type of foundation might well make sense. The company that buys it would want to benefit from the purchase by having content to make money on, but I don't think they would want to manage the media outlet as part of their organization.

The exactly solution going forward is not easy to see. But some solution that provides for a free press with funding is important to any country and so we need to find a solution.

I also have no doubt the value of this to society is lost by many watching what passes for our free press today. With all sorts of useless, superficial, stories that mainly seem to just be splashy graphics, exciting sound effects, and almost no content. There is no loss to society if that goes away. There is a great loss to society if work of those like Bill Moyer's went away, Here is an example David Heath and the Seattle Times exploring congress hiding earmarks while claiming reform. This is the type of free press the founding fathers had in mind to check the power of corrupt government officials paying out public dollars to award those giving them checks and hiding those favors from public view.

Related: Programmable New York Times On the Way - Deming and the New York Times - Washington Paying Out Money it Doesn't Have - Time to start a newspaper by Seth Godin - Lobbyists Keep Tax Off Billion Dollar Private Equities Deals and On For Our Grandchildren

Friday, January 09, 2009

PageRank Distribution

Continuation of Last Google Toolbar PageRank Update of 2008

I see very few pages with a PageRank of 1. This doesn't make that much sense, logically. The vast majority of pages should have a page rank of 1. Now it could be those are pages that no one (or at least I) never see. I would think, roughly, the distributions of 211,111 pages would be

no pagerank 100,000
pagerank 1 100,000
2 10,000
3 1,000
4 100
5 10
6 1
7 0
8 0
9 0
10 0

Now this isn't exactly true because there would be natural clumping... So a higher number of high page rank pages would make sense to me. But I think that means if you had say 2 more pagerank 6 pages that you would lose hundreds of pagerank 2, I would think.

Also my choice of 100,000 at no pagerank and pagerank 1 is basically arbitrary. But the whole area of no pagerank I find confusing to reconcile with the logarithmic scale. Some pagerank 0 could be so low a pagerank it is less than .5 and so not displayed as 1. However, some are also penalized to that "rank"... Anyway I just made it up completely. The rest I am just making up to but based on the idea if a logarithmic scale were used a very quick estimate that is at least better than no concept of just saying well 211,111 and 11 possible "ranks" means each rank should have about 19,192. I think the above estimate I made are at least more accurate than the true distribution than a estimate that each pagerank has an equal number, even if my rough guess isn't very accurate.

Well part of the problem in trying to figure this out is that I don't think Google ever confirms it is a logarithmic scale. But I think it is (or something close to it). I'll try to do some research on this - just because I find it interesting.

Related: Multi Site PageRank Checker - Google's Search Results - Should Factors Other Than User Value be Used

Monday, January 05, 2009

Ruby on Rails Tutorials

Nice post with a bunch of Ruby on Rails Tutorials

Ruby On Rails Tutorial: The Basics A two-part tutorial to getting up and running on rails by Huw Collingbourne.
Catching rails error messages An easy example of how to use the 2.x approach to catching errors in your rails applications.
Stop Rails from sending email A useful way to check that mail is getting sent, without actually sending it.
Ruby on Rails Rake Tutorial Gregg from RailsEnvy again running through how to make the most of rake. If you’re not already writing your own custom tasks in rake you should definitely take a look because there is probably a handful of things your could (and should) be doing in it.
Ruby on Rails Security Guide Storing and protecting the session, user management, projecting from injection, and more.

Follow the link for many more.

Related: What Does This Error Mean - ruby on rails posts - Ruby on Rails Job Opportunity