Friday, March 23, 2007

Find your lost kids with a USB Drive

If you've got kids, you know that even taking your eyes off them for a second can result in them wandering off and getting lost. A reader at Daily Cup of Tech took a tool designed to help you find a lost USB drive and adapted it to help find his lost son.

The secret is to embed a simple "I'm Lost" program onto a USB flash drive, with information about your child, how to calm him down, and how to contact you. Put an "I'm Lost" sticker on the drive, and hang it around your child's neck. The tricky part is instructing your child to show the drive to his rescuer in the event that he gets lost. With any luck, your lost child will quickly be taken somewhere with a computer, they'll get your contact info, and you'll get a phone call.

Although it's a great idea, and I'm likely going to try it the next time I take my kids out somewhere they might get lost, I think it's got a simple flaw. It relies on the person who finds your child being smart enough to know what to do with a USB drive, and having ready access to a computer. You may be better off laminating a business card with the same information and hanging that around his neck instead.

Atlanta's Lesbians are the Scariest Lesbians

Ok, so I'm linking to a post that links to a post that talks about nothing particularly important. But with a title like that, who cares?

I came across this post in my regular scan of all the blogs in the blogosphere mentioning the word "Atlanta". How do I do it? I use Google Blog Search. It's simple:

1. Go to
2. Enter your search terms and click "Search Blogs".

Not only do you get an up-to-the-minute search of all blog posts talking about your chosen subject, but you can subscribe to the search results using your favorite Feed Reader. Once you've done that, every time your reader updates, you'll get fresh content about your search query. It's a good way to keep up to date on what the world is writing about it. I use my subscription to "Atlanta" to find out about new restaurants, events, and Atlanta's scary lesbians.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Too Cool: Speed Painting

Regardless of what you may think of the show "Lost", watching a time lapse video of someone painting a near photo-realistic image of John Locke in Photoshop is just really, really, cool.

Big Sister?

When you think about it, Barack Obama is just as much a left wing socialist as Hillary Clinton, but you've got to give his people a round of applause for this remake of the Apple "1984" commercial, this time depicting Queen Hillary as "Big Sister".

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

And the next American Idol is...

Sanjaya Malakar!

I'm kidding of course. I don't believe there is any salvation for Sanjaya at this point. Last night's performance was his best to date, and it just could not compare to anyone else on the stage. However, I do think I can predict who will be the next American Idol. And I don't think it's going to be Lakisha Jones or Melinda Doolittle.

Mind you, I think both Melinda and Lakisha are amazing performers. I would pay money to see either of them in concert, assuming they don't take the hip-hop or teeny-pop road and stick to the classic and powerful R&B styles they both sing so well. But there is a third contender, who lately has demonstrated that she can bring it with just as much "Yo!" as either Melinda or Lakisha.

I'm talking about Jordin Sparks, my pick for the next American Idol. Last night, Jordin actually sang better than Lakisha. That's the first time since the beginning of the show that anyone, apart from Melinda, has been able to. I don't think Jordin sang as well as Melinda last night, but she was VERY close. But Jordin has something neither Lakisha or Melinda have. Jordin has a HUGE personality. Lakisha and Melinda are both somewhat meek. Neither seem to have accepted that they are going to be huge stars, and they're only just starting to climb out of their shells and show some personality. Jordin, on the other hand, has been bouncing up and down, brimming with excitement and personality. Since the beginning, I have enjoyed watching her, as well as listening to her. I can't say that about Lakisha and Melinda.

I think others will agree with me, and I think that's why Jordin is going to win this year.

Hi, I'm Linux! ;)

Spoofing the ever popular "I'm a Mac, and I'm a PC" commercials has become a pretty popular pass-time. Most of them are not at all clever (with the possible exception of the Wii vs. PS3 video). There have been a few failed attempts at creating a well done spoof bringing Linux into the mix. This week, Novell put together a spoof for their BrainShare conference which, I believe, does the trick, by introducing Linux as a sexy, yet friendly, alternative to the PC and Mac geeks.

Monday, March 19, 2007

A Drop in the Bucket - Water Drop

I've just created my first theme for GNOME's Login Manager (GDM). I've called it Water Drop, and it's more or less based on another theme called "Crystal Rose". You can download it from I hope you enjoy it.

1.0 - Initial Release
1.1 - Fixed CAPS Lock warning location.

Many thanks to Ricardo Lipas Augusto for his image "Splash", on which this theme is based.
Thanks also to Carlos (StackGuard) Ferreira who created the "Crystal Rose" theme I used as a template.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Minor Makeover for Google Reader

Yesterday I was having a lot of trouble marking batches of stories as read in Google Reader. I had to click the "Mark all as read" link several times before it would actually do anything. Perhaps that's because Google was making some changes behind the scenes. This morning, I noticed that the links that were there yesterday have been replaced by actual buttons today. I think it looks pretty good.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Finally, a Japanese car that stands out in a crowd

Japanese cars all look alike. Whether it's Honda, Toyota, Subaru, or one of the "Luxury" brands, they're all pretty much the same. But British artist Benedict Radcliffe has found a way to make this Subaru Impreza stand out in any crowd. He's made it invisible!

OK, so the car is not really invisible, but that's not a computer generated image either. It's a life size wire frame sculpture of a Subaru Impreza on display outside of the Paul Smith Gallery in Mayfair, Great Britain. After a few days parked out front, it even started collecting parking tickets.

Via: WindingRoad

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Enterprising Youth: Clean Cruisers

Twelve year old Forest Endicott is faced with a problem. Including tuition, room, and board, the college he has chosen to attend is going to cost him $44,000 a year. That's more than his father can afford. Unlike most kids, Forest is determined to find a way to earn that money.

With his father's support, Forest has established "Clean Cruisers". A giant leap from dog walking and raking leaves, Forest's company imports diesel powered Toyota Land Cruisers from Australia, modifies the engines to run on bio-diesel, and resells them in the United States.

He's run into a few hurdles so far, most of them compliments of our Federal Government, but he's learning valuable lessons at the same time about business and finance. It seems to me that Forest has a good idea going, if he can make it work. Environmental responsibility is the latest trend, and turning old SUV trucks into more eco-friendly transportation means not only will Mother Nature be happy, but one less truck goes into a junk yard. If he's able to find customers willing to buy these old, but durable trucks, he'll be able to earn the money he needs for college in just a few years.

I was inspired by his story when I read Gabrielle Glaser's story in the Oregonian. I wish I had the money to spend on one of his trucks. Hopefully, one of my readers will. At the very least, I think this story deserves to be passed on. Forest deserves all the help we can give him. Any 12 year old boy willing to take on the challenge of starting a company like this deserves all the positive attention we can give him.

Forest doesn't have a web site yet, but I'm told he's working on one. I'll update this story with the link when there's something to link to. In the mean time, please spread the word.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Earth viewed from books

Sometimes it's just amazing what technology can do. Matthew Gray, who created the Internet's first web search engine, has used the data in Google Book Search to create a map of the world using references to locations found in Book Search's extensive library.

Read more: Inside Google Book Search: Earth viewed from books

Songbird 0.2.5 - Cool, but Not Yet Ready for Prime Time

Maybe I'm trying to get something out of it that it's not intended to do, but I thought I'd download the latest release of Songbird and give it a whirl. It took me a grand total of five minutes to determine that it's not yet ready for prime time.

The first thing I discovered is that there's no .deb version of it out (at least not that a brief search turned up). Hopefully, that'll get rectified as the app matures some. I found installation instructions for Ubuntu though, which is nice to see, although as it turned out, I didn't need them. Songbird is extremely easy to test out. Just download the latest version, extract it to a directory, and run the Songbird executable from your terminal or file browser. You don't need to compile it, and you don't need to install it.

The first thing Songbird does is to (presumably) prompt you for the directory that has your music library in it. I say "presumably" because the way it asks is to pop up an "Open" dialog. There's no explanation as to what you're supposed to be doing. I don't have any music stored on this computer, so I just hit cancel.

Songbird is intended as a Music player and MP3 Blog browser. You can subscribe to blogs and automatically get new MP3 content. I'm not too big on downloading music and maintaining an audio library. I've got an iPod that I never use (especially since it's a Gen 2 with a dead battery). When I do listen to music, I tend to hook into a stream on Rhythmbox and listen to whatever the stream owner pushes down the pipe. Songbird makes it possible to do this, and even includes a link to the Shoutcast directory. But this feature alone isn't reason enough for me to switch from Rhythmbox, which is much lighter weight.

What I was most interested in testing out was the Video functionality that the screencast talked about. Based on the screencast, I had the impression that I could subscribe to video feeds and get all the latest content, similar to the way DemocracyTV works. When I started trying to make this happen, I ran into some issues. First of all, I use an excellent site, to find new episodes of my favorite shows to download. I've had trouble getting Democracy to subscribe to more than one search-based RSS feed, so I thought I'd let Songbird take a stab at it. Problem. The browser functionality in Songbird is weak. I couldn't browse past the front page without manually entering the URL of the page I wanted to look at. Frustrated with this, I decided to browse in my standard Firefox browser, perform the search I wanted a feed of, and then copy the feed URL into Songbird. Problem. Songbird can't handle RSS yet. I then pasted the URL of the search results page. Songbird couldn't find any media to download. This is presumably because all of the links on the results page are to other URL's, not to actual content. The only direct links to the content are in the RSS feed. I don't know if Songbird can download Torrents. There's no mention of it on the website, so I can only assume it can't. Perhaps there is an add-on that will include that functionality, but the add-ons section of the site appears down right now.

All in all, Songbird sings a sweet song for music downloaders. But with the semi-functional browser, lack of RSS feed support, and lack of Torrent support, I can only recommend waiting for a future version to make the song even sweeter.

Have you tried Songbird? Leave a comment and let me know about your experience.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Is race affecting the votes on American Idol?

I'm still in shock over what happened last night on American Idol. It seems almost unbelievable to me that Sanjaya Malakar was NOT voted off the show. Even Sanjaya exclaimed that he was shocked when the decision was read. I find myself looking for an explanation to this, and there's only one thing I can think of -- Sanjaya is Indian.

Before you accuse me of being racist, stop. I'm not. If I were racist, my statement would be that an Indian can't or shouldn't win American Idol. I don't believe that. I just don't think Sanjaya is as good as the other contestants. He's terribly shy, and seems unable to handle the pressure of the show. Both of Sanjaya's last two performances have seemed over-rehearsed and cold, as if he's reading from a script. He's consistantly been the worst singer in the bunch. That's saying something, too, given the terrible performances of just about all the men from the first week.

Incredibly, Ryan Seacrest indicated that Sanjaya was in the top 4 men after the first week. This week, I can't imagine he was that highly ranked, but I wouldn't be surprised. This brings me to my explanation of why I believe that Sanjaya's race is influencing his standing. I discount the fact that Sanjaya is young and handsome as being a contributing factor. Several of the other male contestants are also young and handsome. This dilutes the "teeny bopper" vote, which typically go to the cutest singer, not the best singer. I discount the charisma vote. The folks that voted for Taylor Hicks in Season 5 were voting as much for his personality as his musical ability. Sanjaya has no personality, he's just boring. I discount the musical ability vote. Sanjaya demonstrated some ability during the auditions and Hollywood week, but has shown nothing in the way of talent so far in the finals. That leaves the only thing that sets Sanjaya apart from the other contestants. As far as I can tell, he's the only Indian to have ever made the semi-finals.

There is a HUGE Indian population in the United States, made even larger if you include neighboring South-Asian countries as being part of the same minority group. I would not be at all surprised to find that the vast majority of Indians and Asians voting on American Idol are casting their votes in favor of Sanjaya, simply because he is the first Indian to have arrived on the big stage, and because they want to see him do well regardless of talent. Meanwhile, racially motivated votes for the others are split pretty much half and half between black and white, but diluted by the quantity of contestants representing each race. Non-Indian Asians have been on the program before, which could explain why Paul Kim didn't get the benefit of the vote last week despite being a better performer than Sanjaya.

Assuming that I am correct, how do we address this issue? I don't think anything really needs to be done. As we continue, other contestants will get voted off the show. People voting for those contestants will choose new favorites. Statistically, most of those votes will not go to Sanjaya. Eventually, the numbers will start to weigh more heavily against him and he'll get voted off. And, unless Sanjaya makes some enormous improvements to his act, he'll be gone sooner than later.

Alternatively, perhaps there should be a way for people to vote AGAINST a contestant. American Idol could set up a Digg style system, by which people could cast negative votes for people they believe deserve to get voted off, to counteract the affirmative votes cast by others. If it works for Digg, it could just as easily work for American Idol.

Tell me what you think. Is race affecting the votes? Am I just nuts in thinking that Sanjay is as bad as I think he is? Do you think some other forces are at work in keeping him in the running? Let me and my readers know!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

How to log into Ubuntu using your SSH key

This page shows you how to configure your Ubuntu system to log you in using your SSH key instead of the Unix password. Saves you from having to enter your keyfile password when connecting to remote systems as well. Cool! (Written for Dapper but works for Edgy and Feisty too) -- Consider this Dugg!