Herman I. May

Herman I. May


29 December 2004


This has been a jukeBox enhancing holiday for us. In addition to the iPod procured for music library portability, I also installed and configured a wireless means of piping the server-based library to the stereo system without the requirement to tether an iBook.

In early June, Apple announced the coming release of the Airport Express (hereafter AirTunesReceiver). This little device — no larger than the power brick accompanying modern Apple portables — has the supplemental ability to stream the content of one's iTunes Music Library to the auxiliary input of an untethered, remote sound system (or a set of powered speakers). By no means a perfect solution, it is by far the most affordable and versatile of the current crop.

Several reviewers have criticized the AirTunesReceiver for its inability to allow for local control of selections and lack of ID3 display. I feel, however, this is specious nitpicking. I take no issue with having to make use of a machine running iTunes to coordinate the playlist and prime the stream. In fact, with a little imagination and ingenuity, this "limitation" is actually an asset as it allows for much more customization than most alternatives. One feature I find particularly beneficial is the ability to rebroadcast an existing stream. By this I mean that the library being pushed to the AirTunesReceiver does not have to reside upon the machine used for control.

In our household, I have compiled and installed mt-daapd on the household server, Scheherazade. All other machines in the house feed off of the stream created by this daemon. With the proper knowhow and the ability to generate an ssh tunnel, it even allows broadcast outside the subnet. Any copy of iTunes on the local network can be launched and has the ability to redirect the output of the daap stream to the AirTunesReceiver. Because it is multi-threaded, a user at any machine within range of the server can listen to their own tracks (via headphones or the like) or one can rebroadcast to the AirTunesReceiver for the enjoyment of the household.

28 December 2004

A grim remembrance

Around 1900 this evening marked the thirtieth anniversary of the death of my father. When I was young, this was a particularly difficult time of the year for me. Having one's father die three days after a joyous occasion such as Christmas can definitely put a damper on celebrations in following years. It is always sobering to realize that, had his condition not manifest itself for as few as three to five years later than it did, he might very well have lived to see his children reach adulthood and create his grandchildren.

No wallowing here; just an annual recognition with a particularly notable anniversary: thirty years.

21 December 2004

youPod; wePod

Little did Mark realize what he would precipitate with such an innocent purchase. Today, both Fred and I have followed his lead and purchased iPods of our own.

The idea of procuring an iPod is something we (Elizabeth, the kids and I) have been toying with for several months now. Actually, it started out several years ago as an attraction to the concept of a portable MP3 player. However, given our penchant for things Apple, it did not take long for that temptation to shift to that company's vision of the technology. There is no better sales pitch than hands-on experience.

Mark received his 20Gb 4G device about one week ago, yesterday. It took him no time at all to rip and populate his iPod with many music selections. During the Adame Family holiday gathering on Sunday, instant, everyone had their turn at marveling at the features and capabilities. Fred was smitten and so was I.

Fred and Mark picked me up from work this afternoon to have some fun before a planned BBQ dinner. In the floorboard of the Highlander was a bag from the Apple Store and within the bag was a 40Gb 4G iPod Photo. Fred had purchased this device as a replacement for not only his aging PDA, but also to provide a means of delivering his PowerPoint-based Power Squadron curriculum via a means other than an iBook. Needless to say, I was gren with envy now that my brother and father both had iPods and I was without. So, en route to pick out a bike for Collin's Christmas gift from Fred, we stopped by Best Buy where I spent the balance of the prize winnings from this spring's Greyt Tea on an iPod for our household: a 40Gb 4G. Between the three of us we now own half of the current iPod product line

No longer is it necessary for us to lug around an iBook and an external FireWire drive when we wish to listen to our extensive music library when on the road. Now, we can simply jack the iPod into the vehicle sound system and enjoy just about any track we desire. <G>

17 December 2004

Domain taxation

I came across an interesting and somewhat disturbing news story at CNET this morning. Apparently, ICANN is trying to quietly push through a "taxation" scheme whereby holder of a .net domain will be levied a $0.75 annual tax. ICANN justifies this by suggesting it as a means of raising revenue needed to "expand and stabilize its annual budget." This argument seems a bit hollow and many have speculated that, in actuality, it is a means for ICANN to garner increased power of the domain registration process. Something which is supposed to be delegated to third-party entities. Just about everyone expects this practice, should it pass government scrutiny, to be extended to all TLDs.

This site is administered under the "network" domain. A change such as this will have negligible effect upon budgetary considerations. Nevertheless, it does suggest an attempt to tax an aspect of the 'net which represents a basic need — its very existence. The government has been very vocal in its desire to keep the internet tax-free.

16 December 2004

Holiday iPod shortage

Reports are being disseminated that many retailers are short on their supplies of iPods for the 2004 Holiday Season. Amazon reports that they have sold out of the 20Gb and mini models. Best Buy indicates the 20Gb model is going quickly and there will be no replenishment until after Christmas.

Despite retail limitations, the Apple Store seems to be humming along nicely. Mark reports that the 20Gb model he purchased through education channels directly from Apple arrived yesterday evening — less than a week after being ordered.

This is all sort of humorous when one stops to think about it. There are no reports that Creative and Dell are running low on supplies of the products they hope to use to dethrone the iPod! ;-)

15 December 2004

Illogical thought

SlashDot picked up on an article written by one of the KDE developers the other day, which has created quite a controversy among the denizens of that site. Entitled "How To Kill Open Source on the Desktop?", this treatise reflects a hypocritical misunderstanding of the whole Open Source paradigm.

The author, Aaron Seigo, argues that those who port their applications to proprietary software platforms run the risk of slitting their own throats as if there is increased availability of "valuable applications...why would anyone in their right mind switch to Linux/BSD." His entire argument is based upon the erroneous premise that "the vast majority of users select which operating system to run based on the applications available for it."

This logic is simply wrong on so many levels. Most people choose a platform based upon a) that which they use at work, b) the recommendation of others and c) low cost. Not too long ago, I would have argued that the latter was the most significant. However, one can now get an extremely serviceable Apple for under $1k. I would throw ease of use in there, but it would be a mistake. Anyone who has ever used a Wintel box knows that it is not terribly reliable or easy to use — especially when it comes to removing installed applications.

Others have argued that platform changes are due more to data portability. I disagree with this premise as well; at least on the most obvious level. Portability is a relative concept. Almost every application includes a means for exporting information locked within its proprietary format to a standard format which can then be imported into another. Some even have built-in, cross-platform importation scripts.

Seigo further argues that user adoption of Open Source applications on proprietary platforms (e.g. Windows) will result in being locked out of that market somewhere down the line. He argues that "As FireFox takes market share from IE, Microsoft will fight back not just with improvements to Internet Explorer but with investments in operating system and 'desktop environment' development that will give Internet Explorer unanswerable advantages over FireFox." This argument is specious. M$ has all but explicitly stated that they consider IE a finished product. Non-compliant to standards; relying upon buggy, proprietary scripts and extensions; and full of security holes.

It is easy to read between the lines and discover Seigo's true lament. As a leading contributor to the development of KDE, he wishes that more people would switch to Linux so as to increase the market share of his windowing environment. That lamentation assumes two things: a) Those migrating from Windows to another platform will choose Linux an that b) said migrants will choose KDE as their windowing environment. I say this is ridiculous. Even the most user-friendly Linus distro is rife with installation and configuration pitfalls. The average user will not allow themselves to be troubled with tracking down drivers and tweaking configuration settings in order to get their machine running. They want to be able to plug it in, maybe run a few wizards and get to work. Add to that the fact that very few consumer machines come with any UNIX style system (notable exception: Apple! :-) and there is little hope that Linux and KDE will make inroads into mainstream computing any time soon.

Seigo and his ilk should get rid of their hubris and get a clue!

14 December 2004

IR idiots

I am often frustrated by the incompetent morons employed by the Information Resources department at my place of employment. Recently, a user in my department was experiencing severe system sluggishness. Basically, something was accessing the drive to such an extent that the machine was brought to its knees. In attempting to troubleshoot it on her own, the user called the "Help[less] Desk" in search of advice. During the course of diagnosis, the "technician" inquired about the hardware. When informed of the specifications, he responded that the machine was incapable of supporting the windows XP operating system. Of course, this completely discounted the fact that the computer has been running WinXP for over two years with little if any performance issues, heretofore.

Frustrated with this answer, I was consulted. Following a few system checks, I determined that the hardware was more than adequate to the task of running WinXP. (It was also during this process that I discovered the drive access issue.) In the end, I was able to fix the probem by updating and running the current version of Ad-Aware. The cause of the system slowdown was due to the presence of over two hundred pieces of malware code — of which three processes were active and churning away at the drive. Once removed, the machine was back to its normal performance level.

This whole scenario is repeated often. The IR personnel attempt armchair diagnostics and pontificate on issues about which they have only limited familiarity. Many have been the times they have chalked an issue to inadequate hardware capabilities, usually following a lengthy and unsuccessful attempt at resolution. I am then consulted and usually have the system back in working order within the hour at most. One is left to wonder whether the university is aware of the amount of money it is throwing down the drain on salaries for these incompetents and on the purchase of unnecessary hardware where individuals such as myself are not available to verify and rectify ineptitude.

12 December 2004


I watched Saturday Night Live last night for the first time in many years. My lack of consistent viewership is not a slight against the show itself, though its quality has declined substantially since the days when I once watched it judiciously. Rather, I usually have something else to occupy my attention. Last night's episode reinforced why I do not watch it more often due to reasons of quality.

The evening's guest host was Colin Farrell. Though he seems to be a heart-throb amongst the female set, I have never found him to be a particularly compelling actor. He was pretty good in "Minority Report"; convincing, but obnoxious in the otherwise pitiful "Daredevil"; yet convincing in "Phone Booth" (never mind that the film itself was suffered from credibility issues). Nevertheless, his stint as guest host revealed a whole new side of him — he apparently cannot act in an ad lib situation. Maybe it was a bad night for him — you know, like it was for Ashlee Simpson during the 23 October airing. (BTW, the latter seems to have mysteriously disappeared from the SNL sight.) However, he did not seem to be able to take his eyes off of the teleprompter the entire evening. Even during his opening monologue/introdcution, his gaze was permanently affixed to a point in the vicinity of the camera. A cameo by Lindsay Lohan was made while staring at the camera and gesturing to the left audience area.

Speaking of Lindsay Lohan, what was with the computerized touch-up to her midriff during the opening monologue? She was wearing a bodice top which ended well north of her waist. When combined with her low slung pants, one would have expected to see some belly-button. However, there was nothing there. Unless she was hatched from an egg, this appears to be yet more revisionist broadcasting. The fact that New York native son Robert DeNiro notwithstanding, I think it will be quite a while before I watch this sad bit of televised flotsam again.

10 December 2004

"Greyt Health"

Making this information more generally available has been something I have intended for the better part of a month, but seems to have evaded my memory until seeing it mentioned again recently.

To the denizens of the Greyhound-L mailing list, Suzanne Stack, DVM, has been an invaluable source of health information specific to the sighthounds many of us know and love. Until now, anyone wishing to partake of her wealth of knowledge and experience has needed to join the list and/or browse the list archives for a specific topic. Now, however, a web site has been created for the purpose of compiling and presenting this plethora of information for the benefit of the all. Greyt Health was established a little over a month ago for the purpose of providing a centralized resource to glean data unique to greyhound health. In that short period it has already exceeded 3000 hits as a result of pretty much word-of-mouth alone.

In its present incarnation, the site design leaves a bit to be desired. Besides the arguably outmoded use of frames, each topic, though housed on the same server, spawns a separate daughter window whose individual design breaks with that of the root interface. Nevertheless, the tree is peppered with historical artwork showcasing greyhound inspired masterpieces through history as well as providing indispensable facts and figures for the guardian and health care provider alike. Anyone who has accepted this regal breed of sighthound into their lives is well advised to make note of this site and reference it often when the health of their hound is in question.

08 December 2004

GM contracts black lung disease

The Union of Concerned Scientists has released its survey of the environmental performance for the top six automakers in the US market. In a press release dated yesterday, the UCS placed Honda at the top of its list for the third consecutive year. Meanwhile, General Motors continues its steady descent; landing in last place. The blame for this fall is placed squarely on the shoulders of GM's trucks and SUVs, both of which have seen increases in displacement without the implementation of technologies to reduce emission levels.

Equally interesting to note is news that GM has announced a new gimmick plan to spur sales. Beginning Friday, 10 December, and continuing until 03 January, many 2004 and 2005 models will qualify for sales incentives. The reason for the new program? GM has seen a sixteen percent drop in sales for the month of November. Darn.

The report does contain a bright spot for one US auto maker. Ford has maintained its slot at number four; just behind the three top Asian companies: Honda, Nissan and Toyota.

07 December 2004

Playlist Meme

On occasion, one comes across an interesting concept that just begs participation. Such is the case as I recently paid a visit to the site of Rui Carmo. He posted the following on 05 December:

1. Open up the music player on your computer.
2. Set it to play your entire music collection.
3. Hit the "shuffle" command.
4. Tell us the title of the next ten songs that show up (with their musicians), no matter how embarrassing. That's right, no skipping that Carpenters tune that will totally destroy your hip credibility. It's time for total musical honesty. Write it up in your blog or journal and link back to at least a couple of the other sites where you saw this.
5. If you get the same artist twice, you may skip the second (or third, or etc.) occurances. You don't have to, but since randomness could mean you end up with a list of ten song with five artists, you can if you'd like.

The results of my contribution:

  1. Moment's Notice (03:38) Harry Connick Jr. — 25
  2. Two Worlds (03:18) Phil Collins — "Tarzan" Soundtrack
  3. Grand Canyon Suite, Sunrise (05:25) Ferde Grofé — Utah Symphony; Maurice Abravanel, conducting
  4. Morning (02:46) Chip Davis and Mannheim Steamroller — Yellowstone, Music of Nature
  5. What the world Needs Now is Love (03:14) Jackie De Shannon — "My Best Friend's Wedding" Soundtrack
  6. Sigurd Jorsalfar (Op.22), Interlude I (03:12) Edvard Grieg — Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, Neeme Järvi, conducting
  7. The Lily of the West (05:09) The Chieftains w/ Mark Knopfler — Long Black Veil
  8. Johannes Passion (BWV245), In meins Herzens Grunde (00:54) Johann Sebastian Bach — The Montiverdi Choir and The English Baroque Soloists; John Eliot Gardiner, conducting
  9. Concerto in C Major (RV443), Allegro (03:47) Antonio Vivaldi — Michala Petri with I Solisti Veneti; Claudio Scimone, conducting
  10. Cherokee (03:09) Charlie Barnet — Big Bands of The Swinging Years

Such is the result when one resides under a roof shared with a spouse and two children, I guess. <G> It would have been preferable to see a little Béla Fleck, some Outback or a helping of The Cranberries. Ah well, that is why they call it chance! :-)

06 December 2004

Power of persuasion

I am a log hound. That much I freely admit. I enjoy perusing the daily access logs for my site(s) to learn which pages are the most popular, what strings are bringing visitors and, for those that stay longer than a peek at what brought them in the first place, the browsing pattern which results. So, it was with great interest that I noted an intriguing event this past weekend.

A visitor stopped by for an extended visit Saturday morning. They initiated their three hour-long, discontinuous sojourn at just past 1150. Within forty-five minutes, they took an equally long hiatus before returning to continue their perusal. The interesting part is, between the period of their first visit and that of their second, they had changed from the use of IE 6.0 to Firefox 1.0 mid-visit. Whether this was a permanent change or simply an exercise of rendering comparison, it just goes to show that some people are willing to investigate alternative methods of surfing the web. If enlightened to the fact that Internet Explorer will result in a less than satisfying experience, they seem more than open to the prospect of investigating more compliant and appealing alternatives.

05 December 2004

Incredibly entertaining

Elizabeth, the kids and I saw "The Incredibles" yesterday afternoon in the company of Kristie and Mark as well as John and his family. It is by far the most entertaining of the Pixar/Disney films released to date. The plot and story line exceed those of the "Toy Story" franchise, "A Bug's Life", and "Finding Nemo". In fact, the film in general rivaled just about any live-action film in current release. Don not let the fact that it is an animated feature deter your consideration. "The Incredibles" is a great date film and will appeal to any action aficionados. A must see this holiday season.

Among the previews in my market: "Star Wars III - Revenge of the Sith"and another Pixar/Disney collaboration, "Cars" (due for release late next year)

03 December 2004

Strike three and Barron is out

For six months, I have watched as a laudable concept has struggled to exist. Beginning life as "AdameOnline.com" and later morphing into "MLAdame.com", the intriguing teacher fan site dedicated to the career of my mother-in-law, Margaret, never really achieved much success. The latter seems to be the result of not only limited participation, but also of administrative incompetence. By way of a short summary of its short existence, the following chronology highlights the pitfalls of inadequate commitment.

AdameOnline arrived on the 'net in late May of this year. It was the concept of one of Margaret's former students from the mid-80's as a means of celebrating and preserving the legacy of her over twenty years of educating in the Tyler Independent School District. Having recently retired from this vocation, this individual had hatched the admirable concept I came to describe as a "teacher fan site" — a means of allowing her former students to gather and share remembrances and anecdotes of learning English under Margaret. In its original incarnation, the site attracted at least six members within the first ten days. However, less than a week later the site was gone. No explanation of the disappearance; only a server-generated 404 error. Attempts to contact the admin were met with silence.

This hiatus was short-lived, though. AdameOnline reappeared just as abruptly as it had vanished five days later. The resurrected site contained a notice explaining that the prior loss of access was due to a combination of web hosting miscommunication, bandwidth limitations, and administrator vacation. Nevertheless, assurance was given that, having relocated to a new web host, future disruptions would be avoided. Such was not to be the case.

Not even three weeks would pass before the site was, once again, lost to the aether. In fact, at the time of this narrative, one can still visit the old domain and see the error message that perplexed wouldbe visitors for months.

Much to my surprise, I discovered the site had been resurrection under a new domain in early September. However, once bitten, twice shy, I held off on making an announcement to this effect until I had achieved some degree of assurance that it would not be another flash in the pan. Feeling that a month was sufficient to this task, I was happy to once again publicize the site. When asked of the causes that led to the eight week hiatus, the admin offered little in the way of reassurance. His excuse was that he and the previous web host had a misunderstanding with respect to specifics of the contract and that the latter was holding the site hostage for payment. This sounded fishy to me, but lacking any information to the contrary, I felt obligated to take him at his word.

As is obvious from the tone of this post, the site has once again disappeared. As with previous loss of access, no notice has been sent to any member. This third event has destroyed any confidence in the competency of the admin.

Issues arise from time-to-time. They can be unavoidable and rapid in onset. However, the abruptness and apparent circumstance of this most recent disappearance have stretched by willingness to be understanding to the breaking point. Throughout all of these manifestations, I have offered to lend both administrative and/or hosting support for the site. The concept of the teacher fan site is both meritorious and intriguing. Anything I could do to ensure its survival and prosperity I was happy to contribute. Unfortunately, the administrator seems unable to recognize his own limitations and abilities with respect to the maintenance of continuity. It is my understanding that he administers commercial sites for paying clients in addition to this labor of love. One must assume that they are all hosted by the same service and financed under the same accounting structure. These clients are certainly to be pitied for having to rely upon such an undependable admin.

Henceforth, I am dropping all support of this administrator and his otherwise deserving project. Should the site return, wouldbe frequenters are well advised to be dubious of the prospects for longevity.

02 December 2004

M$ desperation

The press is reporting that Micro$vengali has entered the realm of 'bLog hosting. Following on the heels of last month's disclosure that M$N was publicly releasing the beta version of its new internet search engine, the mothership announced the test debut of M$N Spaces, today.

As if they do not have their hands in enough pies, M$ seems to think they can offer wouldbe journalers something that the existing market cannot. Google (Blogger.com), Moveable Type (TypePad) and AOL (Journals) have all offered free or modestly priced 'bLog hosting services to the burgeoning masses of cyberCommentators. Micro$vengali's contribution will be tightly bound to its Hotmail and Messenger services and will be supported primarily by banner ads.

Personally, I think Gates and company are, as usual, a day late and a dollar short. As with their late arriving search engine, they have seen interesting technologies pass them by and are trying to make up for lost time. One can imagine a marketing model that will attempt to usurp the predecessors head start, then attempt to profit from the resulting carnage.

I guess they do not have enough to keep themselves busy. Their operating system and browser are still the most insecure and bloated on the market. In fact, thanks in no small part to a spate of WORM attacks earlier this year and various media reviews of the recently released Firefox, IE is slipping in its saturation by a couple of percentage points every quarter. This domain is no exception. Commanding more than 85% of the hits to xxx.kempiweb.net at the beginning of the year, all varieties of M$ browsers are down to 66% as of last month. A trend I am happy to see and hope to experience for the forseeable future.


continue to the November 2004 archive

HIM envelope
last BBEdited: 2005.01.03