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2008 is the year when all US TV broadcasters will be forced by the FCC to switch to digital broadcast only. The 15% of households who depend on broadcast TV and don't have a digital-ready set will be forced to deal with this change.
The government is here to help you. Their help comes in the form of coupons good for $40 off any of a number of approved models of digital->analog converter boxes. The boxes are estimated to cost around $50-$60 before the coupon; each household may have up to two coupons.
You have to apply for the coupons starting January 1, and there's a large but finite supply. I'd suggest applying for your household maximum right away; they're handy devices in an emergency even if you don't normally use broadcast TV. You can apply here.
Updated 1 January 2008: Corrected URL.
Update 6 March 2008. Got our coupons today.
I'm not sure I'm going to do Resolutions this year. Too much trouble with it the last few years. I'll post here if I come up with anything good in the next day or so.
I pulled my first blog post today. A while back I posted modified lyrics to Dan Fogleberg's Same Old Lang Syne. I found out yesterday that Fogleberg died of prostate cancer on the 18th of this month. I'm not sure exactly why, but it seemed wrong to me to have my hacks on his lyrics up after I knew that. New Year's Eve seems like an appropriate day to pull them, anyhow.
Had some good friends and their kids over this evening. Big fun was had by all.
I wish my few readers the happiest year ever, and offer you all the love I have to give. Happy New Year!
It looks like I'll finally have to learn Python thoroughly for a project I'm working on. Shouldn't be too hard. I was recommended Dive Into Python as a reference. It seems OK, and it's great that the authors and publisher have made it freely available online. I have to say, though, that the farther I got in it the more I wished I had been allowed to do some editing.
However, there's a few things about Python that bug me so far. In the interests of getting them off my chest, I'm taking some notes here, in the order I encounter issues in the text referenced above…
With emacs 22, apparently someone got the idea that it would be a good idea to drop you into a splash screen rather than your edit buffer when you say "emacs -nw filename". Sending an edit command, such as control-L to refresh the screen, shows you the buffer you wanted to edit. Good plan.
Anyway, I finally found the right Google search, and found out how to turn this behavior off. "(setq inhibit-splash-screen t)" in your .emacs will kill the splash screen off altogether. (Nice inverted variable sense, by the way.) If you just want it when you're not editing a file, it gets more complicated, and I haven't figured out a good plan. See this discussion for details. Note, however, that files seem to get opened after the .emacs is run, which invalidates the technique that discussion suggests.
So my 8-year-old boy got all excited about PowerPoint, of all things, at school yesterday. He and his friends were using it to make single pages with cool typographic text and images pasted from off the web. He came home and wanted to do the same on our Linux box, so I set him up with Open Office Impress, which worked great for him, except…
The two commonly used X desktop apps that work the most horribly as far as cut-and-paste are concerned are, hands down, Firefox and Open Office. X Firefox refuses to copy images, as near as I can figure out. It will copy image URLs, but that's not too helpful. Meanwhile, even with an image on the clipboard, Open Office grays out the Paste entry in the edit menu, and doesn't have a paste popup.
It turns out, though, that if you use Konqueror instead of Firefox, you can copy an image using the popup fine. And if you hit the paste accelerator (control-V) in Open Office, it pastes the image just fine. Problem "solved".
One of the things I promised when I joined the X.Org Foundation Board was to work on cut-and-paste. I did some stuff, but never really got anywhere. I need to get on that again. #$@! X cut-and-paste.
I found out a few days ago that my brother gets literally 1000 spams a day. I was kind of shocked. My two email accounts (which aggregate perhaps 10 different forwarders) probably get a total of 20-40 spams per day. Suddenly that doesn't seem so bad.
I can't understate my hatred and disgust for spammers, a category in which I include phone spammers and postal spammers as well as email spammers. Ethically, I think it's the lowest kind of behavior. Spammers prey upon the weakest people in society—purchasers of their products are hugely disproportionately the mentally ill, especially elderly folks with Alzheimer's. Further, their racket is based entirely on taking advantage of the goodness of the general public. We could stop spam tomorrow by simply refusing all initiation of contact from folks we don't know, but most of us aren't willing to live like that. Spammers work hard to poison our most valuable communications resources for their own usually minuscule benefit…
So, a friend's project tried to blind me today with a hideous "random color" for a large area of text. The quotation marks are because it's hard to say what a "random color" even means. For most purposes, it means a color that is chosen solely as a label, and that therefore can be anywhere in the color palette. The usual constraint is that a set of labels need to be chosen, and so successive random colors should be easily distinguished…
If you select the "fobtest" theme from the box on the left of this site as I write (although it may not be by the time you read this), your eyes will be assaulted. Red-on-pink, with a red spray-painted logo. It looks like a joke, and it is. But more than that, it isn't supposed to be here…
A long time ago (maybe 12 years, maybe more?) I signed up with a startup called mail.com, which promised free email forwarding for life. I started to use that as my primary email, since I was moving around a lot. Turns out they lied—they closed my account after a couple of years, saying in effect "what are you going to do, sue us?" They were right, I wasn't going to. So I moved my email to bigfoot.com…