Be careful what you wish for

A couple of weeks ago many a New Englander could be heard moaning about the incessant, unspringlike cold and rain. We got what we wished for, several straight days of 90F!

I’m making iced coffee. You start by brewing a pot of strong coffee and cooling it to room temp. Putting the hot coffee directly in the fridge seems like a bad idea. It would probably warm everything around it and drive up my electricity bill. How about…

Make sense? A saucepot’s job is to suck heat away from a source, it’s just that now we’ve turned things upside-down. I guess a water bath would be even better, but I don’t want to risk shattering the glass.

Comments and comments on comments

Weblogs like this one proliferate their content through RSS syndication. Frustrated in their attempts to get RSS to work the way they think it should, a group of folks is embarking on a journey to better syndication. I haven’t formed a strong opinion really. Certainly I salute their existence and enthusiasm. But I hope that they don’t forget some important lessons about the dangers of having too many cooks. The best comment I’ve seen comes, not surprisingly, from Dave Sifry: “[let’s] get to what’s really important – sophisticated interoperability and new features that users will love” (emphasis added).

Shifting ownerships

Two posts today about property:

Philip Greenspun: “Look around you at stuff that you believe to be public property. Very likely it will soon be given away to America’s largest corporations and consequently their stock will go up even if they don’t innovate.”

Brad Choate: “So long…and good riddance. United States Patent No. 4,558,302 expires today. Better known as the LZW patent. This is the technology behind the common GIF file.”

If this kind of stuff gets your goat up, take a look at the Reclaim the Public Domain petition.

More programmer nerdism

hackdiary: “Using an RDF representation of Wordnet, the lexical database of English, we attach keywords to photographs to indicate what they objects they depict. With simple inference logic, we create improved search engines over this data. For example, using the hypernym information in Wordnet to extrapolate from keywords, a search for buildings can find hotels, churches, houses and other related photographs. We can automatically build a Yahoo-like hierarchical web site of photographs organised by the meaning of their keywords.” Okay, this is really cool.

Bedtime reading

Tonight I cozied up with the first two chapters of Dive Into Python and also got PyTechnorati working. This is a lead-up to installing TechnoBot, which is written in Python.

[Warning: serious programmer nerdism ahead] I noticed that Mark plays the XML document object instance equivalence game in his unmarshal() function. Very cool. Neither of the C# technorati api implementations I’ve seen do this, though they could using an XmlSerializer. Instead, they return a string for you to parse. More flexible, but more work. Ho hum. In a neat twist, Python’s typing rules allow this all to happen more or less dynamically, whereas in C# you have to define the classes that will hold return data ahead of time.

The wrong target

Our congressfolk are talking again about targetting PCs that are used for illegally trading in copyrighted material.

Dave’s take: “…if I have an MP3 audio recording of a speech I made and recorded with my own equipment, and publish it on my own server, Mr Hatch’s robot might conclude I was a pirate and destroy my recording and possibly my computer.”

What Dave and the congressfolk overlook is that the lion’s share of illegal file swapping takes place on compromised machines. The serious file swappers realize that it is not in their interest to share files on machines that can easily be traced back to them. So they troll the net looking for insecure machines, particularly insecure machines with big hard drives and fast outbound bandwidth. When they find such a machine, they break in on a Saturday night or Sunday afternoon, when the machine’s owner is likely to be out of the office. Then they set up an FTP server and tell their friends about it in an impromptu IRC chat room. Everyone goes happily about their swapping and clears out by 8am Monday morning.

How do I know this? My Windows development machine at MIT was compromised twice in the space of two months. Both times a copy of Serv-U had been set up and loaded with gigabytes of movie files. MIT’s network security team was gracious enough to alert me to the problem so that I could back up my data before wiping and re-installing.

Now consider who the search and destroy tactics would hurt. It wouldn’t be guys like Dave with only a handful of files on their server. Nor would it would be the serious file swappers who know better than to proffer their wares through their cable modem connection. The computers getting clobbered would be those of unsuspecting university employees and office workers.

whatRUlistening2 “This weblog has been created to address the problem of too much good music being heard by too few people. Hopefully it will amplify word of mouth about our favorite bands or arrangements.”

In praise of the Grand

This morning my daughter and I took our weekly walk up to the park on Highland Ave. and then down into Union Square. These trips usually finish off with a stop at the Grand Coffeehouse at 61 Somerville Ave. Such a gem. The couches are big and comfortable. Today we found a children’s book about an ostrich. There was also a fantastic piece of local art that was a sort of cropped view of a classic three stooges photograph. The chocolate croissants are the best I’ve tasted since first trying them years ago in France. One of these days I need to venture over alone so that I can take advantage of the free wireless Internet connectivity. The best part is that’s part of the neighborhood. When we get there, I order “the usual”. The counter guy always waves “hi!” and makes happy faces at my daughter. We love the Grand!