Author Monica Valentinelli shares an essay about the value of social media and how its presence and absence affects her writing. I have discovered pretty much the same things whenever I've taken a break from LJ/FB/Twit/etc, and I bet I'm not the only one. Unless you're seriously addicted, I don't think you need to go cold-turkey as Valentinelli did - a day or two off, and you'll discover whether you're addicted or not.

Speaking of which, off goes teh interwebs! I'm off to wrap up some work stuff and then get some of my own work done. I won't be gone for months, though - more like hours ;-)

mckitterick: (write hard die free)
( Mar. 27th, 2011 05:36 pm)
Remember how someone posing as Anonymous announced war against the Phelpses, and a day later Anon said, "We didn't post that," then the Phelpses immediately replied by mocking Anon and got lots of media attention etc? The prevailing theory is that the Phelpses posted the initial letter (calling for war against, um, themselves) in order to draw fire in order to gain more attention. Makes sense, in a twisted Phelpses way.

The best part, though, is that their sites went down to denial-of-service attacks shortly afterward... and are STILL DOWN.

This interview between Shirley Phelps-Roper and an Anonymous rep - whose user-icon is freakin' Batman attacking a Megashark using a light saber! - is icing on the cake and sheds a lot of light on things. Plus it's enlightening (and entertaining in a schadenfreude way) to watch the crazy stream off dear Shirley:

My favorite part is when Lightsaber-Weilding-Shark-Battling-Batman says, "Shirley, I have a little surprise for you" about a note he uploaded to the main Phelps website during the interview.

So let's tally the score of this little feud:
Westbugger Baptiste Churz: 0
Anonymous: 9000

The childish part of me is so very happy.

Do you use Twitter? I'd like to know why. Seriously - I'm not being a smart-ass!

I mean, I check in every week or two to read Conan O'Brien's posts, see what the Onion has to say, and so forth, but even after years of being on the service, I have yet to uncover its utility as a communication tool.

For example, I could see it being useful if users got emails notifying us that someone responded to a post (or @ed at me), but as-is, the only way to have meaningful conversation on Twitter is to leave it on constantly and not "follow" very many people. Also, there's no threading, so how does someone know a conversation is going on unless they're following everyone who's a part of every conversation? And how does one figure out WTF is going on when visiting, say, a friend's Twitter page and seeing a bunch of random @thises and @thats?

Facebook feels like it actually does what Twitter was intended to do, in that you make short comments or post photos or links and people can respond to them right there in context. Took me a while to find FB's utility and warm to it, but now I see how it's a very handy tool - especially in how it simplifies communication to many and enables users to do things that would be challenging if they don't know HTML and don't want to mess around with technical stuff. On the other hand, FB limits posts to 420 characters, so posts are by definition not very complex - and Twitter only allows 120. Barely enough to write a complete sentence.

So Twitter consists of a cacophony of lonely little shouts - tweets, as from a bird sitting on a telephone wire hoping to get someone's attention, hoping usually in vain to find someone to sit on the wire with them and tweet in unison at the uncaring world around them.

Am I missing something, or is Twitter just a site for people to peep randomly into the lonely and vast Webiverse?

Today, the Google eBookstore makes its bow. They're working with 9000 publishers big and small, and they let publishers choose the price - starting at $9.99/book.

Here's a good analysis of what Google's up to.

They use a cloud-computing model, so you don't need to store your books on your device. Their books will run on every e-device except the Kindle, which I find interesting: Is this Amazon fighting Google or Google trying to crush Amazon?

Google comes into bookselling with a few huge advantages: They own massive mountains of data about everyone who uses the internet, and they have been scanning and sharing books for years now in a way that looks very much like piracy, but they have the money to successfully fight legal challenges. So they own massive mountains of ebooks ready to give you for free. Clearly they've been preparing for this for years, despite their denials during the legal challenges to their book-scanning efforts.

The NPR commentator this morning says that ebooks will be 85% of all book sales in 10 years. Google wants a piece of that pie!

mckitterick: From a US nuclear test in the 1960s. (mushroom cloud)
( Dec. 2nd, 2010 12:40 pm)
Does anyone have a suggestion on how to make LJ readable again? I'm going blind with this new, blurry, skinny font. It's not just IE, either; also in Chrome.


mckitterick: From a US nuclear test in the 1960s. (mushroom cloud)
( Jun. 24th, 2010 01:16 pm)
Starting yesterday, I can't hear things on YouTube (or other Flash videos) anymore; seems Flash is doing something that's blocked by my firewall, I guess. IRRITATING. Doesn't matter what browser I'm using.

Anyone have info on how to fix this? I've allowed Flash to let 3rd parties download crap to my computer, but that didn't fix it....

Hi folks -

My job, my CSSF activities, and my life require me to do a lot of HTML. Since getting my new computer and installing Office, I discovered that Microsoft no longer makes FrontPage. Yes, I know it sucked as a WYSYWIG HTML editor, but I learned how to work with it in ways that it couldn't hurt me. Features I liked best:

. Click the Preview and it takes you to the right spot in your code.
. Type text in the Preview and it shows up in the code.
. Open a bunch of files (say, an entire website) simultaneously, make one change and apply it to all of them, then save all at once.

I work mostly in the code section, so I don't encounter the typical coding errors FrontPage injects.

Today I needed to make a bunch of HTML changes to some files, and searched the internets high and low for a program that would serve my needs. The closest thing I found was good ol' HTML-Kit, but that doesn't do most of what I need. If I only want to work in code, I prefer Notepad++; I can open my own browser to see the result. I tried a few others and ended up uninstalling them right away.

Any recommendations of programs that have those features? I'd prefer free, but don't mind paying a little. Free is best because I can have it installed on the classroom computers, where students can use it and download something they know how to use at home.

mckitterick: Yes, this is one of my actual scooter helmets. RESPECT THE EMPIRE. (computer - ENIAC)
( May. 25th, 2010 04:42 pm)
This is a really neat tool: GodMode for Windows 7. Here's how it works.

Yes, I finally bought a new computer, my first since... geez, the 1990s, I think. (Shut up.) I've been using an ancient computer my mom gave me after viruses fried the hard drive and memory, and a work laptop for mobile computing, upgrading their memory and video and everything else along the way. Well, when those both finally became unusable, and the English Department IT guy said that they didn't have a decent laptop that I could use, I figured it was time to buy a new machine.

After much research and deals-hunting, I got myself a wicked-fast and beautiful laptop so it could serve all my functions: work and class demonstrations, writing both at home and on the road, telescope imaging with my astro-camera, coffee-shop goofin' off, and so forth. click for technical details )

And it's pretty:

Click the image to see the story.

Anyhow, it comes with Windows 7, which seems pretty neat, and reviews say it's great and very secure, but it's taking some getting used to. So I went in search of the secret GodMode feature I heard about on the radio. Here's how it works:

Create a new folder and name it thus:


(No ohs, only zeroes.)

After you do that, the folder gets a cool icon that lets you know you can enter GodMode by opening it. Basically, this is an Uber-Control Panel that houses tons of control and configurations options all in one place. Super handy.

I'm at the office right now, installing software: Microsoft Office (KU has a deal for Office - only $10 for those with a KUID - and the same deal for Windows 7) and Sophos Anti-Virus.

I see that Sophos virus protection has finished installing; I'm off!

mckitterick: From a US nuclear test in the 1960s. (mushroom cloud)
( May. 3rd, 2010 11:49 am)
Last night, I was testing links to various SF magazines, and some time during those clickings I downloaded a file called "check.exe" that wrecked my operating system and prevented it from rebooting once I realized what was going on. Awesome.

I'm not sure where it came from, but these are the sites I suspect: the old DNA Publications page (now dead) and SyFy's website. I suggest staying away from those until I figure out where it came from - if you work at, I suggest you check for malicious advertisements posted last night.

While I was searching for the old SciFiction site, I noticed my drive crunching along as I downloaded the virus, and soon I was unable to launch Task Manager. I hurriedly disconnected from the internet (the hard way, by killing the router, because I couldn't stop any programs), then ran msconfig to see what had added itself to the startup programs, where I found the file(s) and that they had downloaded during the time I suspected. After deleting them and forcing a hard shutdown (it wouldn't restart as usual, of course), that was it for booting the OS.

Great timing: I was working on several files that need to be done ASAP, so of course I hadn't backed them up yet.

Now I need to figure out how to grab those files off the laptop hard drive. Anyone know if a laptop drive can be daisy-chained to a desktop drive array? Or if that's a smart idea? Should I instead try reloading Windows?

Well, I'm not too pissed, because this is the first virus I've gotten since Windows 98....

Don't know if I've mentioned lately, but Hell hath a special spot for malicious hackers, where they have to go line-by-line through the operating systems they've infected, and make those OSes inpenetrable. While Satan himself randomly hacks the machines they're using. They're told they get to leave as soon as they're done, giving them hope. Which of course is an impossible task.

PS: Oh, and on Saturday, I discovered that someone hacked my credit card and tried to order from the Apple Store and Skype. US Bank noticed right away and blocked those transactions. Wow, modern banking AI is incredible.

In this essay, Mike Selinker strikes a sad note in England's history, when they killed national hero and genius Alan Turing, thereby relegating themselves to the dustbin of history. It's a must-read.

One can see this tragedy as an opportunity for an alternate-history story. Has anyone written this: What if England hadn't forced Alan Turing into an intolerable situation? What if he had gone on to establish a British computer industry in the 1950s? What if computer science had flourished twenty years sooner than it did?

Questions that elicit answers that make Turing's death even more tragic.



mckitterick: Yes, this is one of my actual scooter helmets. RESPECT THE EMPIRE. (Default)


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