Sunday, January 25, 2009Facebook applications were basically a backdoor to gather up info on you and your friends. I still almost choked on my iced coffee today when I saw, as I poked through Facebook's privacy settings, the following list:
- Profile picture
- Basic info
- Personal info (activities, interests, etc.)
- Current location (what city I'm in)
- Education history
- Work history
- Profile status
- Groups I belong to
- Events I'm invited to
- Photos taken by me
- Photos taken of me
- Relationship status
- Online presence
Oh, but it's not for applications you add. It's for applications that your friends add. So when that girl you knew from high school who is addicted to celebrity-alike quizzes adds that app to her ever-growing profile, the impact to you isn't limited to getting the weekly spams begging you to take the test as well. The way Facebook words it:
When a friend of yours allows an application to access their information, that application may also access any information about you that your friend can already see.And, perhaps even more creepily:
Please note that this is only for applications you do not use yourself.You can flip this crap off in Privacy > Applications > Settings.
My plan to include as little info as possible is looking pretty smart.
posted by zigg 4:00 PM 6 Comments
Saturday, January 24, 2009Facebook the other day. I'm not sure quite what spurred it on, in retrospect, though I can point to a few catalysts.
I originally left because of the Beacon debacle. I don't know why it'd never occurred to me before, but Beacon exposed a vector I'd not considered before: my e-mail address. Everyone who I'd registered with as firstname.lastname@example.org (which isn't exactly private) could aggregate data on what I'd done with them. I started creating tagged e-mail addresses that would at least defeat simple aggregation, a practice I continue to this day (I expect it'll be sufficient since few others on the planet seems to care much, yet), and left shortly thereafter with concerns that the company was out to monetize my social graph by any means possible, and tie it back to anything they could outside of their enclave.
I've moderated somewhat since then. I decided I can be careful about what I say and what I tell the site about myself, and still use it at least as a meeting point to connect with friends. So, after Cory announced after months of resistance that he'd signed up for Twitter, and having seen many friends catch the Facebook bug, I thought, eh, why not. I could handle it.
My friend list is rebuilding with speed that'd be astonishing except that I'm pretty sharply aware of how a few simple queries can map possibilities in the social graph that only need confirmation by the next person to sign on and see them. I've picked up a few new friends that I haven't had before, and amusingly, some that I did have before are welcoming me to the fold as if I'm totally new. But what really has surprised me is how open people are when they think they're surrounded by just their close friends.
In the real world, you make decisions as to who to share information with. If you have friends, you might talk to them about personal problems. You certainly wouldn't stand up in the office or at a high school reunion and broadcast them to the world. If your friends turned around and talked about your problems to others, you'd label them gossips.
Now, social networking has become that gossip. When you hit that "post" button, everyone knows what's what, whether it's your best friend or a passing acquaintance. In some situations, you might think you're even talking to a specific friend, only to have your comments be seen by their friends.
Looking down my "news feed", a list of what's been going on among the people I've marked friends on Facebook, there's already some really personal stuff in there. Stuff I wouldn't necessarily share with everyone if it happened to me. I'm aware there are so-called "privacy nudists" in this world who would do this anyway, but I think there's a curtain of illusion there, intentional or not, that when you make a post on Facebook—or any other similarly-operating network—that you're talking to your friends.
You should know that you're talking to everyone else, too.
posted by zigg 11:46 AM 0 Comments
Monday, January 12, 2009
I can get in there, mind—I just have to click the freaking logo.
How unintuitive is that?
posted by zigg 6:37 AM 0 CommentsN-Sider chat, as it is often wont to do, spurred a long-lost memory. This time, it was a game I used to play, oh, probably a decade ago now, on an IRC much like said chat. I'm proud to say I started it, though I can't be held responsible for where it went or whose lives it might have destroyed in the process. I'm not so proud to say I don't even really remember who I played it with...
It had its genesis in a really dumb light bulb joke, actually. Here, I'll torture you too, since it's occupying part of my brain:
How many surrealists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?For some reason—probably lack of sleep—I just jumped into a random conversation with a variation on the punchline, in an action, probably something like "zigg fills the bathtub with brightly-colored bicycles." It got attention, of course; most people simply didn't know what to make of it, but others joined right in, and pretty soon a few of us were having entire nonsense conversations. (The rest were probably going through bottles of aspirin.)
Two: One to hold the giraffe, the other to fill the bathtub with brightly-colored bicycles.
Figuring out how to converse—or, at least, go through the motions—when you're not even really sure what the other person is talking about is a real brain-stretcher. Trying to reply in kind without retreading past ground felt like it was giving the creative mind a good workout. I wonder—perhaps if this "programming computers" thing doesn't work out, I might have a future in inspirational speaking, toying with the neurons of my gray audiences and collecting five-figure appearance fees.
If you want to play this game yourself, find a chat medium, preferably with at least a few people willing to play (and for bonus points, spectators whose feeble minds you can break.) There are a few ground rules:
- No images. Words only.
- No links. Your words only.
- In fact, keep your browser shuttered. Even using the Internet for inspiration, weird as it is, might lend you to make sense of your conversations.
posted by zigg 6:33 AM 0 Comments
Wednesday, January 7, 2009Koss PortaPro headphones. If they look like something out of the '80s, that's because they are; they were introduced in 1984 and as I understand it have not been changed since. (Well, my pair actually come with a ridiculously small plug thanks to Apple's infamous flouting of the headphone jack standard, but that's really not here nor there.)
The PortaPro has long been pretty high on, if not atop, the list of under-$50 headphones when it came to sound quality. These days, and perhaps at least in part due to the PortaPro's severely old-school looks, most people opt for the Sennheiser PX100 or something else, but since I am, after all, a child of those infamous '80s as well as notoriously unconcerned about being cool, I was in an ideal position to let two things swing my decision to the PortaPro: the into-a-ball folding design (perfect for my laptop bag) and most importantly, the Koss no-questions-asked lifetime warranty. When you've worn out as many headphone cords as I have, the notion of tossing these into an envelope and sending them off for a repair/replace is very attractive.
I've been 99% happy with these things since I got them Monday. They're a lot smaller than I expected; I have the headband set to almost full-open in order to get them on my large noggin—and that's without hair. The sound quality is an epiphany; hooked up to my Fuze and now going anywhere, I'm gaining new appreciation for stuff I grabbed from eMusic long ago and left off to the side because running it through inferior sound setups stripped it of the joy I am now feeling.
The "comfortZone" feature is where I have mixed feelings, though. The PortaPro has pads that sit on your temples, relieving ear pressure. I'd seen the little blue switch near those pads and figured it made the pads firmer or softer, somehow. But that's not exactly how they work; what they do is let the earpieces swing out to one of three angles. The switches aren't really so much switches as little spring-loaded tabs that permit the earpieces to swing out more if they're set all the way to "light", and if the earpiece isn't swung out, they'll snap right back to "firm". This means that if I'm not happy with "firm", I have to re-set the switches every time I unfold the headphones... and, annoyingly, if the earpieces are swung inward even slightly, the switches snap right back to "firm" again. If I'm wearing the things, this doesn't happen, but if I take them off, it can.
Despite that little annoyance, I can heartily recommend these babies, though. I just wore them tonight as I was scraping the day's snow off the driveway (in preparation for doing it again tomorrow morning, of course) and just basked in knowing how, for the first time, I was really appreciating The Rainmaker—which I downloaded so very, very many months ago.
posted by zigg 8:47 PM 0 Comments
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Shopping online for a bike like this is pretty much pointless. So many variables, so little chance to walk back into a store and raise a fuss if there are problems after I bring it home. I instead opted to take a tour around town of all the stores that had bikes and eventually settled on one for sale at Dick's Sporting Goods. In light of the fact that I really didn't want to be replacing that one quite so fast, I opted to pick up their relatively inexpensive "No Sweat Warranty".
Fast-forward to December 2006, and I'm now using said warranty, as my bike's entirely driven by the computer perched atop the front column, and without it I can not only not run programs or measure calories but can't even adjust the tension. The computer works, but its buttons don't. So, after leaving it unplugged over Christmas to see if maybe it might reset itself, on December 26, I called the warranty hotline, got a claim number, and was told I'd get a diagnostic callback in 2-3 days.
At the close of New Year's Eve (which I thought was three business days after my original call), I'm on the phone with Dick's again, asking the nice young lady, hey, when exactly is someone going to call me? Oh, well, the claim went through on Monday. You should hear on Friday. And if not, here's the number of the guy who'll be fixing your bike.
Friday comes and nearly goes and so I prepare to pick up the phone and call the dude. Before I do, I go look it up and find out that this guy's in Traverse City, Michigan. I live in the Grand Rapids area of said state. I'm a little shocked that they don't have anyone local; Traverse City's not exactly a hop/skip/jump from Grand Rapids—more like a three-hour drive. So I call and leave a voicemail at 4 p.m., figuring maybe he'll try on Monday.
I finally heard from the guy last night at 9 p.m. He'll be in the area Friday, so I have an appointment that morning for—get this—diagnostics. I noted to him that I was pretty darned sure it was the computer, and if he could get that part, we could save ourselves all a load of trouble, but no, that's not the way the "No Sweat" system works. He has to come out and poke at the thing himself. Then, I imagine, he'll come to the exact same conclusion I did: an electronic part has failed, and needs to be replaced. I'm guessing that before this is all wrapped I'll have been bike-less for a month.
So, yeah, "no sweat", literally. I am not breaking anything close to the sort as I continue to wait for this problem to be resolved.
UPDATE (1/9): A new computer has been ordered, and if I'm lucky, I'll be up and running within a week. I'm to expect the computer to be delivered here, but it'll need to be programmed for my unit, so I can't install it myself. I asked how much it would cost me to acquire one of these computers on my own; repair dude said, probably $300. Which is about what I paid for the bike. In the end, I suppose I'm grateful that I did get the plan, and even with the long downtimes, will probably renew in April when it comes up.
If you think this was bad, you might be interested in what happened next...
posted by zigg 6:13 AM 1 Comments
Sunday, January 4, 2009
I also discovered that somewhere down the edit line, Blogger eats leading whitespace—slowly—inside of <pre> elements. Delightful. I apologize in advance for any code snippets that lose their indentation over time.
If you take a peek at the source and note that I'm using px units, well, there's a reason for that, and that is that we lost the em/%/what-not battle ages ago. Whether it's CSS not being up to the job, browser manufacturers being sloppy, the proliferation of raster graphics, or a combination of all of the above isn't really something I'm interested in talking about today, but just know that I came to the conclusion that I should be working in px from here on out with a heavy heart. I do have some other ideas for dealing with variably-sized screens, though, and someday I shall tell you all about them!
posted by zigg 4:21 PM 0 Comments
Saturday, January 3, 2009
One change I did make: the titles of posts are all links to said post now, for easy copy/pasting. To be honest, I've never been impressed with the convention of stuffing the link to the post in the post signature, as the time. Completely nonintuitive, to say nothing of the option Blogger had to let me make my post title link to some other site entirely.
posted by zigg 10:04 PM 0 Comments
The core idea originated in an internal perfectionist tirade I had while building a simplistic content-publishing site in LAMP. The modus operandi for LAMP is that your content is stored in a database, and a script fits that content every time it is requested into HTML.
The database model has won the day because it is very flexible and supports a model that is pretty easy to understand, but it's always nagged at me that, especially for a site that publishes high volumes of content, code on the web server is constantly issuing queries (as opposed to just quickly navigating a file tree), fetching the pieces of content, and custom-assembling what is almost always the same exact content for every visitor. Bigger players in this space often use caching—essentially, inserting yet another server between publisher and reader that keeps a copy of this custom-assembled page to serve up to multiple people instead of having the backend server do it again for every request.
When I first discovered markup languages like HTML I was very intrigued by them. They (at least when used properly) don't just pretty things up, but they also impose a structure for a document. What's so great about that structure, though, is that it means that if you construct your document carefully, you can read it back again and deconstruct it into its component pieces (i.e. title, publication date, author, text). If a web publishing platform took this into account, it could circumvent the whole process of assembling the same servable content for each visitor and still retain the flexibility, permitting each document to be changed simply by reading it in, changing what needed changing, and writing it back out again.
There's one other piece to the puzzle that makes my platform complete, though. Despite all this tirade about inefficiencies in web publishing, I am actually a great fan of what is possibly the most inefficient platform of all, Zope. The reason for this is the model by which I interact with it; instead of dealing with rows in databases or opaque files on disk, I instead deal with Python objects, whose classes can encapsulate all kinds of behavior. I determined that if I take the read-in/change/write-out bit named above and apply it to object persistence, I can now insert the power and ease-of-use of object-orientation into this very efficient platform. It's kind of heady, honestly.
I call the whole thing "teaspoon", which is a bit of a geeky play on words; round-tripping a flat-file form to objects and back is called persistence, and I'm parsing HTML as "tag soup"; giving me the concept of "tag-soup persistence". The Python module for this is called tsp, which is also the common abbreviation of the good old teaspoon measurement that I still use cooking today... and so I have my sufficiently Web 2.0 name ready to go.
Until I do get this project off the ground in a real way, I continue to use Blogger to write, and while Blogger's feature of publishing HTML pages that don't require rejiggering for every visitor is a step in the right direction, it's not fully bidirectional like teaspoon would be.
So, I press on.
posted by zigg 10:39 AM 0 Comments