May 28, 2004

Trust the Octopus

I've been using POPfile for a couple weeks so far, and it's doing fairly well. The built-in filter in Apple's free Mail.app had served me well for a long time, but I check my mail from multiple computers. For me to benefit from Mail's junk mail sorting while on the road or on any computer but my desktop Mac, the Mac has to have already seen the mail -- which isn't always viable. Like, say, when you're in Colorado for a summer vacation and the Mac isn't even plugged into an outlet.

I had used SpamAssassin in the past, but its rules-based system started failing me a while ago. Valid advertising mail was being flagged as spam, and spam was making it through unscathed. I wanted something that would learn from my mail what was valid and what wasn't.

POPfile does just that: like the junk mail filter in Apple Mail, you teach it what's junk and what isn't, and eventually it gets good enough to pluck out the good stuff for you. Unlike Mail's filter, you can stick it at a point in the retrieval process that it will filter (or more accurately, mark) out junk for wherever you may be.

"Trust the octopus," the POPfile site proclaims below their orange tentacled mascot. After a month of using it, I do.

In a month, POPfile has reportedly attained a 98.73% accuracy rate. 67% of my mail is in the "general" bucket (good mail), and 33% in the "spam" bucket (spam). A measly 9 messages have stumped POPfile.

Those numbers are actually misleading, as they represent my total mail, and I'm subscribed to numerous mailing lists. Of the mail that actually goes into my inbox, it's probably closer to 80% spam and 20% valid mail -- but POPfile has successfully tamed the unruly hell that is my inbox.

The Windows version of POPfile needs some work before it's ready for the masses (stability issues, mainly), but detailed instructions exist for getting it running on Linux, Mac OS X, and the like. For a freak like me who downloads all his mail from his ISP, sorts it using procmail, and stores it on a local IMAP server, POPfile's an easy step to drop into the process. And makes it painless to read your mail, no matter where you may be.

Posted by Colin at 11:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 26, 2004

Spider Woman Underoos

Adam mentions shaking out his clothes looking for cockroaches.

A couple years ago, I dumped out my laundry hamper on the floor to sort my clothes and this freakin' gigantic spider crawled out of my darks. I believe it was a wolf spider. And she had all her children clinging to her back!

I'm not normally bothered by spiders. They're imminently smashable. Heck, I'm the one my friends usually con into killing their eight-legged residents.

But this one freaked me out. Until she and her brood met the bottom of a nearby dress shoe. Best $75 I ever spent. Of course she was one of the twitchy ones, whose leg went seizing off across the floor after I killed her. And all those babies left a gross paste on the sole of my shoe.

Mind you, the University of Arizona says I should have kept her, but what are you going to do when Ms. Spider and her billions and billions of babies run out of your clothes and you've just rolled out of bed?

Posted by Colin at 1:13 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

From the Legal Department

A correction, before some overzealous corporate lawyer sends me a trademark dilution notice.

I incorrectly referred to Ziploc bags and the yellow-and-blue-make-green seal in my Cockroach entry. In fact, it is Glad sandwich bags that have this feature, and a Glad sandwich bag which contains our six-legged friend.

My apologies to both Ziploc and Glad for this most grievous of errors.

Remember, when trapping defenseless filthy insects, don't get mad -- get Glad.

Posted by Colin at 12:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 25, 2004

Your vehicle is in compliance.

Best words I've seen on a piece of paper recently.

I was starting to worry I'd have to replace the catalytic converter on the Jeep, which, at what the shop was asking, wasn't a pretty picture. $300 for aftermarket or $700 for OEM, plus labor! I'm still not entirely sure where $300 was coming from, given I can walk into any auto parts store in the valley and walk out with a direct-fit cat for $100 or less. Maybe that's for a remanufactured part. Beats me. Don't care.

It only took almost $500 worth of voodoo to get the vehicle in compliance. Two parts were replaced. Two. A $2.50 gasket, and a $100 oxygen sensor. The rest was all tune-up crap. You haven't seen overcharged until you've seen what a dealership charges to update the vehicle's computer. Yeah, I bet it took a lot of hard work for that tech to hook up the cable and mash the "upload" button.

Oh well. Now I can get my tags ordered before they expire at the end of the month.

Fun fact: Arizona's emissions testing only offers you one free retest. They also don't accept anything but cash or checks, so it's a darn good thing I took $40 with me to the testing center this morning.

Posted by Colin at 4:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 23, 2004

Mac Quick Tip: Quickly Install New Preference Panes

Have you downloaded something like RCDefaultApp that exists in the form of a System Preference pane, but think the instructions on creating a folder and moving it seem like an awful lot of work?

It is a lot of work. Way too much work.

In Panther, you can simply double-click an uninstalled Preference Pane in the Finder. System Preferences will open, and ask you if you'd like to install this for the current user only (no rights required) or all users (administrator rights required). Pick one, click OK, and you're off to the races. No knowledge of the folder hierarchy needed.

Posted by Colin at 7:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 21, 2004

IKEA is the Root of All Evil

I'm actually eagerly awaiting the opening of the Ikea store in Tempe later this year. It's not a distaste for their products that makes them evil.

No, it's the variety of products. I got their catalog in the mail today, and there's far too much I'd like to buy to redecorate refurnish my bedroom. It's currently overwhelmed by massive, ugly furniture, and still doesn't have enough storage space. For a couple hundred dollars and an hour with a funny-looking bastard child of an allen wrench, I could replace the stuff I don't like, create more room, and organize.

Those damn Scandinavians (of which I am one by heritage) are trying to take my money for inexpensive build-it-yourself Scandinavian goods. The Swede in me says "buy, buy, buy!" Or "Köp, köp, köp," according to this Swedish-English Translator.

There's something tacky about big blue buildings and giant yellow shopping bags, though. A whole lot of something.

Then again, there's something overwhelmingly pleasing about being able to create your own furniture using modular parts. Journalist pieces, you will make my next entertainment center.

Posted by Colin at 6:22 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Proudly Financing Tex's Empire Since Last Month

I swear, if Tex Earnhardt's children were still in college, I'd be putting them through it. Three weeks, three visits to Earnhardt's. Oh joy and rapture.

It seems like every time I blink, someone wants to replace the oxygen sensor in the Jeep, too. No matter where it goes, it only takes a few visits before I'm informed the O2 sensor has gone to crap. At $60, it's one of the cheaper parts on the vehicle (which is a nice change from $400 neutral safety switches, $300 window regulators [which is the only option when a $2 plastic guide rail breaks], and $250 A/C switch panels).

Now the service advisor is telling me the techs think I'll still need a new catalytic converter after this. I'm taking it to another garage for a second opinion before I dive into that one. I'd much rather pass emissions and ignore the cat. Cheaper that way. But if I fail the test again, of course, that's pretty much the only piece left to be replaced. Damnable automotive technology!

Posted by Colin at 12:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 20, 2004

Emissions Hell

I think the emissions testing station has something against me. At no time in the past many years has the Jeep failed emissions.

It's now failed twice, and I'm not so happy with the "repair" I just had done. $350 took me from passing HC and CO by a huge margin and failing NOx by a small one to failing HC and CO by a huge margin and passing NOx by a large margin.

CO is the worst. Went from 9.03 before the repair to 110.3 afterward. Wonderful.

On the other hand, the NOx is the lowest it's been in the past four years (three emissions tests). It had always been above 2, it was 1.11 at my retest.

As a friend said, emissions tests are like some sort of torturous balancing act. Pass one, fail the other. Adjust it to pass the other, and you fail the first. Half a lifetime later, you might manage to squeak by in all three tests.

I just got off the phone with my service advisor at Earnhardt's, who thinks it may be an oxygen sensor. I hope so. They're not all that expensive. Cheaper than a new catalytic converter, anyway.

Posted by Colin at 5:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Qwest Choice DSL

As much as I love my 1.5Mb/s Qwest DSL, Qwest makes for a really crappy ISP. It doesn't take a brain surgeon to realize it isn't their main business, or that no one working at Qwest has run an ISP. It's crystal clear why everyone but their VDSL customers and a few masochists were transferred to MSN's high-speed offerings.

Don't get me wrong -- technologically, Qwest is at the head of the herd. My DSL has never been out, it's always in great shape, ping times are excellent... the telco side of things rocks. It's just the whole service provider thing that's lacking.

Like the fact that though you can have four e-mail addresses which are by and large seen as individual accounts, you only get web space for the "main" account. Like the fact that there's no network status page, so while I sit here unable to login to their POP3 server, I don't know why there's an issue, or even if they're aware there's an issue. There's no (useful) FAQ, no support center, no links to spiffy software, no customer service page. Billing problem? Call Qwest. Technical support? Call or e-mail our Choice Online staff.

Or the thrilling account management page, which different parts of require you to be logged in as the main account, though you don't know this until you're logged in as a sub-account, and you're then screwed until your login expires in a couple hours because Qwest provides no way for you to log out.

From a customer service standpoint, things are pretty sad too. As Qwest Choice Online isn't rolled out except in major test markets, it hasn't been through the grinder like most of Qwest's products. The product information just isn't maintained well -- the high-speed version is currently 1.5 down/1.0 up for $39/month, but you'll only find those figures one place on their site. Even the welcome package you receive at signup is grossly out of date. Some of their technical information is inexplicably just about a decade in the past. Macs haven't shipped with AAUI for a good long while, but Qwest's spanking new page for their VDSL states that "Macintosh laptop computers must have a built-in AAUI Ethernet Interface." At a quick glance, the last Mac laptop I could find with AAUI is the PowerBook 550c, which was discontinued in early 1996.

But again, it's not all bad. When you do have to call technical support, it's astoudingly good. So good it reminds me of my first ISP from way back in, oh, probably 1995. The representatives are friendly and actually know their stuff, not to mention they're in the United States. Even my "EarthLink VIP Customer Support" line doesn't get me native speakers of English who actually know what they're doing.

And the speed, which is what really counts? Wonderful. I laugh at my cable-using friends who complain of their oversold neighborhoods. Well, in my head, anyway, because laughing at someone else's misfortune tends to get you the evil eye. Even for its shortcomings, I wouldn't give it back.

¡Viva la broadband!

Posted by Colin at 10:40 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 19, 2004

Celldweller

Independent artists continue to show up on the iTunes Music Store, and this time it's an artist I discovered way back when MP3.com still had actual music and didn't suck: Celldweller.

The man behind the band has had a profitable career producing music for MTV, in addition to his previous project, Circle of Dust (which released three albums).

If you're familiar with Enigma, Celldweller and CoD are pretty much the same deal (single man as whole band), except the music is considerably harder.

$9.99 for 18 songs is a bargain, especially the way some of Celldweller's stuff sticks in my head.

Celldweller: Celldweller (Album)
Celldweller

Since I already brought Enigma up, a moment of mention for them/him as well: Voyageur is one of the stranger songs I've heard from Enigma. Couple the cool song with the weirdly sexy music video, and I'm hooked.

Engima: Voyageur
Voyageur

Posted by Colin at 4:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

How Not to Get Hired

I'm not hiring, but the occasional resume finds its way to my mailbox. Or I stumble across them on the web.

Today's is a hum-dinger. One of the most important things, many hiring directors will tell you, is to spell things correctly. Since you went to all the trouble of typing it up on a computer, it's obvious you had spell check available and didn't even try it. A single error might be written off as overlooked or a typo.

Then there's this resume. Nearly every other line has an error. 14 errors, and that's just on a first read-through looking for spelling mistakes. There could be worse mistakes hiding under the surface.

In fact, while beginning to copy the mistakes, I just caught another one.

The following are not words and/or should not appear in a resume you want to be taken seriously: buisness, intership, corrdinator, representitive, incress, customers (should be possessive), puting, additude, familys (should be families), buisness (again; it should be "independent contractor," but I digress), my self (myself), andworking, computor, errons (twice), misspelling of a city, misabbreviation of a state.

Since this person is apparently talented with a computor, not a computer, I suppose some of his or her sins can be forgiven. Apparently computors running Microsoft Word (which this person lists as a skill) don't have the spell-checking functions the computer versions do.

The real rub, however, is not that I'd readily dispose of this resume if it crossed my desk. No, it's this person's desired field of employment: writing.

I had a stint as an editor in high school. I had one author who, despite writing an article on one subject, spelled this subject differently every time he named it. I didn't discover this until he submitted it right before we were supposed to go to press. There were also sundry other grammatical and spelling errors present. I though the layout goddess (if you're out there, Erin, drop me a line sometime!) was going to flip when I told her. I had to run to computer lab, retype the entire thing, correcting every mistake along the way, and then fight with a lab full of students trying to print off assignments for the class that was in that room at the time.

Editorial duties are fine when your writers are apt. It's fun when they bounce ideas off you or ask you to proofread an article or make suggestions about how to successfully do x. When you're saving your ass and the publication's ass by saving someone else's ass because they're too inept to proofread or spell check, it's not so much fun. And I sure wouldn't hire someone on purpose who demonstrated with their resume that they would need excessive amounts of my time dedicated to correcting their follies.

While I did score adoring praise from Erin for my ability to fix things under pressure and a very tight deadline (hooray for 60wpm!), I shouldn't have needed to receive that praise or the hug that went with it.

It's obvious the writer of this resume hasn't had some of my college professors, one of whom (who's an art history teacher, not an English teacher) would grade down a full letter for each mistake after the first three. If this person did get stuck with that professor, he or she would be wise to consider him or herself lucky negative grades don't exist.

Except negative grades do exist in the job market. A resume like this could easily drop your standing into the molten core of the earth.

As a result of my teaching and editing, I developed a mnemonic for writing. It saves you from skin cancer, and it will save you from screwing yourself looking for a job: SPF.

1. Spell check: It won't catch all your mistakes (homonyms, for example), but it may well catch the most obvious (like 90% of the mistakes above).
2. Proofread: Read it to yourself, both silently and aloud. Spread your readings out to increase the chances obvious mistakes will spring off the page. This is more likely to catch grammatical errors, since people who can't spell won't see their spelling mistakes (which is also why it's the second step and not the first).
3. Friend: Have a friend proof your writing. They'll catch things you won't.

Posted by Colin at 1:43 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 18, 2004

Style

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I designed a new template for this site.

I've been meaning to install it for a long time. But with moving between hosts off and on, that kind of flew out the window.

No more: before midnight tonight, the default MT template will be taking a long walk off a short bridge. It's about time.

Update, 16:02: And of course it's broken at least in IE 6, because I felt adventurous and took out all the box model hacks. Brilliant choice indeed. It still works, though, so just bear with the ugliness.

Update, 17:06: I'm redesigning it from scratch, and the CSS is close to done. After that it's just a matter of plugging template tags back in. If you're using Windows, work with CSS, and haven't discovered TopStyle Pro, you owe it to yourself to give it a try. Mmm, code completion. Every keystroke counts!

Update, 17:42: Done and fixed. I think it still needs some additional tweaks for readbility, but so far so good.

Update, 17:58: In testing using IE6, I failed to realize it doesn't render properly in every other modern browser. And I forgot to paste the JavaScript back in, so comments and trackbacks are currently unavailable. Damn you, Internet Explorer, damn you!

Posted by Colin at 3:32 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Cockroaches

I hate roaches. And not the kind that... nevermind. Some people would think unseemly things.

The disgusting crawling kind that sort of shuffle across the carpet until they realize you're trying to kill them, and then take off at a mile a minute.

Bastards.

I had one get away from me earlier this evening when I realized it wasn't a really ugly cricket. Trapped it under a Dixie cup, tried to scoop it up, and off it went. But the little moron went back to the scene of the crime as I was preparing to brush my teeth. Idiot.

It called for some serious MacGuyvering. So I grabbed another Dixie cup from the bathroom dispenser. I then dug to the back of the cabinet for Stridex pads, stuffing two of them in the cup in hopes of melting through his rubbery little exoskeleton.

And then I lurched for the vermin, sealing his body squarely in the mouth of the cup. Not content, I smashed the cup down, hopefully putting the acid directly in contact with his body, and I can only hope burning a hole directly through his little bug head (but given roaches can survive being microwaved and frozen, I doubt it).

Somewhat satisfied, I let go of the cup to see if anything would escape. Nothing did. Grabbing a spare sheet of printer paper, I quickly slid it under the cup, wrapped the whole mess into a makeshift package, and beat the living hell out of it on the bathroom tile.

Let that be a lesson to any other cockroach planning a visit!

One friend has told me the process up to this point was a little excessive. But it gets better. Since I absolutely hate the things and don't want to take any chances, I decided to entomb him in coffin with a yellow-and-blue-make-green seal. Mr. Roachy is currently in the bathroom trash can, securely sealed away in an impenetrable Ziploc fortress. Unless cockroaches have suddenly developed a way to chew through sandwich bags after being violently murdered, I think he won't be paying me another visit.

Fine by me. The squirmy little bastards can live all they want, so long as it isn't on my property.

I'll take the wolf spider Dillards sent home with last year's Mothers Day gift over cockroaches any day (and that one leapt at my brother before setting its desires on my armrest -- all while driving down the freeway, naturally).

Posted by Colin at 12:25 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

May 16, 2004

Stattoo

Those sneaky guys at Panic released their long-awaited stattoo while I wasn't looking. I never even saw an announcement in my RSS reader, either, despite the fact their site lists it having been released the 29th of April.

But it's there now. So go and grab it.

Posted by Colin at 1:21 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 15, 2004

Movable Type 3.0: Undo/Redo

I previously had an entry all typed up discussing the asinine changes Six Apart had made to their license agreement for MT 3, specifically the single-CPU clause in the free version.

Turns out it wasn't supposed to be there.

More Six Apart response to customer backlash is over at the Six Log.

In short, rather than taking the approach some companies do (We Know All), they're responding to customer feedback. The number of authors for the personal edition is increasing, they've clarified why the pricing is how it is, added additional options to get around the exorbitant prices some personal users would be subject to, and -- best of all -- redefining "weblog" in the license to mean the sum of the parts rather than the parts alone.

Some of the major concerns -- that secondary content like link logs or other sidebar material count against your total weblogs -- have been addressed. Also, inactive weblogs and authors don't count.

But why am I summing this up? If you were one of the people frustrated by the new product structure (as I was, despite the fact I feel Six Apart certainly do deserve to make money from their products), go read it yourself.

That said, I don't know if I'll be buying MT 3. I've never needed support, I don't foresee needing support, and I don't need the increased quotas, either. $70 (or $100 in a couple months) for nothing but a warm fuzzy feeling just isn't in my future.

Posted by Colin at 1:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 12, 2004

Somers: The Sexy Years

Half the fun of going to Borders is seeing what new books have come out recently that I wasn't aware of. While shopping for a Mother's Day gift, I stopped into Borders' Mesa location, picked up a CD, and queued at the checkstand.

While I was standing in line, the smiling late-model face of Suzanne Somers stared back at me from a blue background. Intrigued, I squinted to read the title floating over her obviously-retouched visage. Even Suzanne Somers' constantly-reconstructed "youth" does not feature perfectly white teeth or a wrinkle-free face (not to mention how puffy and horrible her recent press photos are).

"The Sexy Years," the cover read in large white letters.

"The Sexy Years?," I mused aloud.

I know Somers has been on an alternative health-nutrition-whathaveyou kick lately (and apparently repeated plastic surgery is among it), but I didn't know she'd taken the headlong dive into writing fiction.

Of course she can have the sexy years despite being almost sixty. Coming from the money she does, she doesn't have to age like mere mortal women. But how, exactly, is she qualified to write a book telling mere mortals the secrets of her undying "beauty?" Why would I take "natural" advice from a woman who has opted for the nip-and-tuck approach year after year to slough off the decades?

Even the full title of her opus leads to intrigue: "The Sexy Years: Discover the Hormone Connection: The Secret to Fabulous Sex, Great Health, and Vitality, for Women and Men". It's currently rated 181 on Amazon.com's sales lists. $25 for 384 pages of advice she herself has probably not taken. "Eat, Cheat, and Melt the Fat Away," indeed. Mostly cheating, in her case.

The title isn't quite accurate, either, gauging by reviews from several locations. Apparently the entire book is centered around how to deal with menopause. Given men don't suffer menopause (except secondhand) and no amount of "natural estrogen creams" are going to make us feel more womanly again or remoisten our vaginas, I don't quite see where most of this text applies to the barely-minority with the Y chromosome.

There's only one minor improvement in this self-help book over Somers' previous: this time, she's not trying to sell her own products. But I wouldn't be surprised if she holds a stake in the natural drug companies whose products she plugs throughout it.

Posted by Colin at 1:10 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 11, 2004

Water: Worthless!

I, for one, support the efforts of the Center for Science in the Public Interest in removing nutritionally deficient foods and drinks from our nation's schools. While the CSPI directly mentions soda in their list of naughty things, they leave out one thing we've been pushing on school children for decades: water.

Worse than throwing soda in a vending machine, though, we're giving it to children for free, and even paying for it with our tax dollars! Like so much other junk food, it has no redeeming nutritional qualities. Water has no calories, no vitamins, no protein, nothing. It's a completely empty substance we should not be encouraging our children to enjoy.

We put drinking fountains in every new public school, people! Look around you! We are encouraging rampant use of this unhealthy beverage! Even worse, people have been known to die from inhalation of as little of a half-inch of water. The potential for abuse among our nation's teens, many of whom will inhale anything that might get them "high," is enormous. Join me now in supporting new legislation to reducing our children's access to this deadly and unhealthy substance.

Posted by Colin at 6:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 8, 2004

Page 23

  1. Grab the nearest book.
  2. Open the book to page 23.
  3. Find the fifth sentence.
  4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
Dan'l had been a swimming star at Princeton, and he had a swimmer's physique that required custom tailoring.

As much as it sounds like a line from a sleazy romance novel, it's actually from ISBN 0-7679-0432-X, The Second Coming of Steve Jobs.

Posted by Colin at 5:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Windows XP SP2

I've been playing with XP SP2 since the intial beta was released, and it's been working nicely. Release Candidate 1 was made available today, and it's looking equally good.

Microsoft is really making leaps and bounds in securing the user's computer without any technical knowledge. The much improved Windows Firewall (as opposed to the old useless one) is welcome and should help the average clueless home user stay more secure.

My favorite improvement is the improved support for WiFi connections.

That's not to say the betas and RCs don't still have their little incompatibilities. For most people, things probably still aren't ready for prime time.

When it's released later this summer, the more people who upgrade, the better. I'll be making sure everyone I know installs it.

Posted by Colin at 4:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack