Month: January 2005

  • PyCon DC 2005 or Bust

    PyCon DC 2005

    Over the weekend I signed up for PyCon DC 2005, and I’m looking forward to it already. The earlybird deadline has already passed, but PyCon is still probably one of the best values out there as far as geek conferences go. I’m in the DC area so if anyone is going to be in town and would like to get together, let me know and we’ll figure something out. PyCon week also happens to fall during my spring break, which couldn’t have worked out better.

    See you there!

  • Taco and Podcast Use Case: Killing Time Before Class

    The one thing that has always bugged me about podcasting is that I never seem to have the time for it. There’s a lot of great content out there, but the vast majority of my typical day is spent either at home or at work, with a short 20 minute commute in between. I usually end up listening to WAMU, my local NPR station. If I sleep in just enough I can catch the Marketplace morning report.

    A 20 minute ride each way just doesn’t seem like enough time for listening to a podcast. The other thing that SUCKS is having to download an mp3, burn it to an audio CD, and then pop it in to my CD changer. That’s just too much work, and depending on the lengh of the podcast you’re lucky to fit one or two podcasts on a CD. That burns me up because you can usually hear how low the bitrate is, but raw audio is still raw audio.

    All of that changed on Monday when classes started again. Now not only do I have another 30-40 minutes commute to school from work and home from school, but I’ve got time to kill before class. Because of timing and the fact that I still needed o pick up a book that the campus bookstore didn’t have in stock last week, I arrived on campus well before class. After snagging my book and grabbing a bite to eat I still had a good hour or so to kill.

    Luckily it was 6pm and time for Markplace. I found a seat and whipped out my Taco, tuned the radio to WAMU, and picked up the Asphalt: Urban GT race I had started the day before. It’s situations like this that make me glad that I picked up an original taco used. There are only a handful of mobile phones that also have radio tuners and MP3 players, and I’m very glad that I have one of them.

    Over time my time before class will have to be much more productive, but for now I’ve found a viable use case for podcasting and my taco. Even if I just have the 10 minute walk to and from my car and 20-30 minutes before class, I should still be able to get through a podcast. I will probably have to save up for a larger MMC (my 256meg one is just full) or an iPod shuffle if I want to keep this up, but for now I’ll just try to throw a podcast on a spare 32 meg MMC. Of course I should really tie this together with the universal feed parser, some transcoding, and some scripted bluetooth sending. All in due time.

  • Snakes for the N-Gage Released

    Snakes for the N-Gage is almost go for launch.

  • Yet Another Reason to Attend PyCon DC 2005

    Here is one more reason to attend PyCon 2005:

    #16. Python for Series 60

    Erik Smartt / Nokia

    UPDATE 2005-01-04:

    A presentation where the Product Manager and one of the engineers do a joint presentation to quickly introduce and demonstrate the port, then cover the technical issues of porting and developing extensions

    In addition to the planned presentation, it would be great to get together a Series 60 Python BoF session or some time in the open space for further meets, greets, and hacking. What do you think? Let us know in the wiki.

  • The Taco Lives: N-Gage Spam

    For all the naysayers out there, I present proof that the taco is not dead. I mean really, if someone out there is sending spam featuring an N-Gage QD alongside a Nintendo DS, it can’t possibly be “dead” can it?

  • Emerging Gift-Giving Technology

    It has arrived. I’m referring to the Apple Store gift card that was arranged rather quickly days before Russ’ birthday. Looking back at it, I’m pretty amazed that a group of friends scattered throughout the world with a common love of mobile technology brought together by a guy named Russ was able to pull it off.

    To tell you the truth it would not have been possible without the use of traditional and non-traditional technology:

    • IRC: Much of the organization took place using IRC in #mobitopia and various backchannels and private messages. IRC was probably the most-used technology in getting things organized. Because we’re a bunch of mobile geeks, much of the IRCing was done on the run using WirelessIRC.
    • Wiki: Once we realized that more than a few people were going to be involed, I put up a wiki page on one of my secondary or tertiary wikis. The wiki page was called DonTTellRuss. This was crucial in keeping track of who had pledged, who had confirmed, and who had paid, as well as keeping general information about the status of the project.
    • Email: While email is a little old skool, it did play a role in bringing everyone together once the ad-hoc organization was complete. Email is still “old reliable” even though it’s not as timely or reliable as it used to be.
    • Transcontinental and Transatlantic SMS: International SMS messaging is one of those things that I’m glad “just works” most of the time. SMS messages were especially useful in keeping in touch with TomH who’s not an IRC regular. Costs associated with this were negligable: 15 cents or so for a SMS to the UK.
    • Paypal: Though I have misigivngs about PayPal and some of their draconian practices, it’s just the only way to move a little bit of cash worldwide in an instant. We would not have been able to pull this off if we were not able to pool money from Germany, the UK, Sweden, and America together in a timely manner. I love their emails: “You’ve got Cash!”
    • Jabber/Instant Messaging: This was especially useful in keeping everyone in touch during organization when we were at work and couldn’t be on IRC. Some of us used a Jabber gateway to Yahoo! and IRC. I used Gaim on windows to keep in touch wtih Martin via Yahoo! and others via AIM.
    • Next Day Shipping: We take it for granted, but getting everything organized around the world in a matter of days would not have been possible if we were not able to pick up a gift card in Virginia on Wednesday and have it arrive in San Francisco on Thursday. The original plan was to send it US Postal next day (so it could have been shoved in Russ’ mailbox), but we got a few inches of snow in DC and traffic was so bad that if I had waited to get to a post office in Maryland it would have been closed. It went FedEx and unfortunately arrived while Russ was at work. No worries though, because he got it Friday before the crucial Mac min purchase.
    • Voice on Mobiles: Believe it or not we do occasionally use our mobile phones to make voice calls. This was particularly useful in keeping in touch with Erik while he and I were on the road.

    Thanks again to everyone who participated. I’m glad that I was able to help facilitate the efforts of a bunch of mobile geeks in getting the guy that brought us together a birthday present.

  • WHFS Resurrected on 105.7: Good or Bad?

    I received the following email tonight:

    Dear Matthew,

    Last Wednesday, January 12th, at 12 noon WHFS signed off the air…

    YOU protested, YOU called, and YOU wanted HFS back! Well, someone heard you…

    Listen tonight at 7 PM to LIVE 105.7 Baltimore to witness the return of The Legendary HFS. Thank you, because without YOU this never could have happened.

    I’m not sure how I feel about this. I feel like I’ve been played. WHFS, a station sucking and going down in flames suddenly goes off the air without notice. Loyal fans and people who remember it from 20 years ago are pissed. Immediately the morning show returns to its roots on WJFK. Then, a week or so later, it’s announced that WHFS is back, this time on 105.7, a station that Infinity hasn’t been sure what to do with for some time now. The new HFS will share the air with Howard stern and Don and Mike

    It just feels so… rehearsed.

    Update: DCRTV liks to a Radio and Records article with more information. now points to this radio AOL page.

    I still feel played, but I have to admit I’m excited too. On one hand I feel like the WHFS brand is getting whored around and beaten to death. On the other, I’m glad to have HFS back.

  • Pycon 2005 Preliminary Program Announced!

    This gem showed up in my inbox tonight:

    You will be happy to know that the PyCon Program Committee, after lengthy deliberations, has now finalized the program for PyCon DC 2005. I can tell you that the decision-making was very difficult, as the standard of submissions was even higher than last year.

    The preliminary schedule is online.

    It looks like a great collection of stuff this year. I’m going to do my best to make it there and will try to organize a Python for Series 60 BoF or open session. I hope to see everyone there this year!

  • Apple Dropped the Ball on the iPod Shuffle

    On Monday after work I headed over to my local CompUSA to look for a new CPU fan for one of my boxes. After finding what I was looking for, I did the customary sweep around the store. CompUSA tends to be a bit behind the curve when it comes to new Apple products, so after a quick glance at the Aplle corner I moved on.

    I passed by the mp3 player section and was shocked when I walked around the corner and saw three little green boxes on the shelf.

    CompUSA had the iPod Shuffle in stock! That was quick. They didn’t have a display for it, but if you knew what an iPod shuffle was, there were three of them sitting on the shelf.

    That’s what bothered me so much when I found myself in the Apple Store at Tysons Corner, Virginia yesterday. I was expecting to see a small display of iPod Shuffle’s even if they didn’t have any in stock. I also expected to see a Mac mini or two on display, even though they won’t be available for purchase until Saturday.

    But they had neither.

    How long has it been since Steve’s keynote? Nine, ten days? There’s just no excuse for the Apple Store to still have “give an iPod” plastered all over the store. The holidays are over. Steve has made a pretty big bet that the Shuffle and the mini are going to be the next Big Things. Where would you expect to find that Apple product that was announced last week that will be out next week? The Apple Store, right? I mean isn’t that the whole point of having Apple stores? A sort of exclusivity and one stop shopping that you can’t find anywhere else.

    In that case, Apple has dropped the ball completely.


    Of all the places on the planet I expected to be able to play with an iPod shuffle this week, I thought it would be the Apple Store. If I wanted to pick one up, the first place I would check would be an Apple Store.

    But aparently I was wrong.

  • All Your OpenOffice Base are Belong to Us

    Speaking of, I recently checked out a pre-2.0 snapshot and was suprised to see something called “Base” show up in my OOo menu.

    After scratching my head for a few minutes, I concluded that Base 2.0 must be the Access workalike that will debut in OOo 2.0. Sure enough, it is. Reading though the Base 2.0 page is quite fasinating. It looks like there were some licensing issues at first, but I’m really glad to see HSQLDB powering an open source database for the masses.

    I’ve got to admit that I was completely unaware of Base 1.0. It looks like it is more of a database access library to be used within OOo than a standalone application. I’ve only poked around Base 2.0 a little bit, but from what I can tell it’s an ample Access workalike at the very least, and hopefully will be a platform that do much more. In the future I would love Base 2.0 to support other database backends, though the reasoning for going with HSQLDB makes sense.

    My hat is off to the team!

  • Why OS X Needs a Native OpenOffice Port

    MacMerc pointed to a status update on the native OSX port of

    It’s been over a year and a half since this page was last updated, and as of recent memory, all engineering for Mac OS X has been focused on X11 graphics, that is, Mac OS X (X11). Without significant contributions of time and talent this will most likely remain the case.

    No engineering work has been performed on Quartz or Aqua development within the project since mid 2003. For the last year and a half all engineering work focusing on a native Mac OS X version has been concentrated in the NeoOffice/J project, using a combination of Java and Carbon technologies to replace X11.

    This is a bit of a bummer for Mac OS X users. I can’t tell you how valuable it is to have a clean and solid office suite with good data interchange that runs on Win32, Linux, FreeBSD, Solaris, and Mac (using X11). The problem with requiring OS X users to have X11 installed is that most don’t. Of course the hardcore geeky OS X users know of Apple’s X11, XonX, and fink. Unfortunately the people that should really see this amazing suite: the non-technical masses, aren’t going to see it en masse until it’s a point and click native install.

    I totally understand the arcitectural decision for the mainstream OOo release to rely on X11. It’s solid, it’s standard, it’s tested, and it’s going to be around until the end of time. At the same time, Mac users really need a native, sexy port of their own. I’m hoping that NeoOffice/J, with its GPL license and associated political issues, can fill the void. They’re using Java and some other fancy bits to get around the need for an X server. They also seem to be very early in their release cycle, but I’m hoping that NeoOffice matures quickly and becomes that native free office suite that I know that OS X users need.

    Of course right now you’re thinking that with iWork who needs anything else? I guess that’s right as long as you don’t need a spreadsheet or if you don’t have $79 to shell out for iWork, or if you’d rather use an open source product.

  • WHFS 99.1: May You Rest in Peace

    The Washington Post:

    WHFS-FM, the Washington area radio station that was a pioneering purveyor of alternative rock to generations of young music fans, did a programming U-turn yesterday by ditching the genre for a Spanish-language, pop-music format that transforms it into the largest Spanish-language station on the local dial.


    I don’t know what to say.

    Just like that, my radio station of choice when I was younger goes off the air.

    WHFS has had a long history and has changed from a free-form throw it against the wall and see if it sticks format to a much more corporate and competitive format. They got picked up by Infinity Broadcasting somewhere along the way. Even when they had to change to the Clear Channel format to stay competitive, music director Pat Ferrise who has always had an ear for hits has kept things as fresh as possible in the monotinous neometal everything-sounds-the-same world of modern rock.

    I mean honestly, the only place I’ve ever heard anything from The Streets on mainstream radio in the US is when Pat played it during a segment on the latest HFS morning show. Speaking of the morning show, I used to listen to Aq and Kath and then later Lou Brutus. Every once in awhile on weekends I’d catch some random up and coming electronica on Trancemissions.

    Ever since I could remember, HFS has been the underdog station. They were always a little smaller and a little less popular than DC101, the “big” rock station in town. I’ve still got the ticket stubs to HFSTivals of years past that I camped out for, back when it was the big show of the summer. I didn’t realize that their numbers were so bad that it required a complete 180 degree format switch.

    It’s not that HFS didn’t suck. Of course they did. Radio in general in this city (and from what I can tell nationally) sucks. Stations must stick to an extremely tight playlist aimed specifically at their demographic, and under no circumstances shall they deviate at all. You can figure out the programming on any station in the DC area by listening to it for 20 minutes or so.

    Then there’s the Clear Channel factor. They own the “big” rock station, DC101, which sucks too. Not that I don’t listen to Elliot from time to time. But their programming tends to suck just about as much as any major radio station in the area.

    The sad thing is that this format change happened yesterday at noon and I only realized it because it was front page news on the Post. Why’s that? Because I tend not to listen to commercial radio much anymore. I’ve switched from well-tuned morning shows aimed directly at my demographic to listening to WAMU, my local NPR station and CDs while on my way to and from work. I tend to listen to Morning Edition on my commute in and The World or All Things Considered on my way home. I usually listen to CDs or listen to the radio in the mid-afternoon if I’m out and about. Of course that’s contingent on finding a song that doesn’t suck that I haven’t heard a million times.

    I digress.

    I guess that there are a couple of things to be learned from this format change:

    • “Independent” (and by independent I mean non-Clear Channel) radio is dying.
    • Spanish pop is The Next Big Thing. 99.1 El Zol is nudged between two big CC stations: 98.7 WMZQ and “Hot” 99.5. That’s prime time dial space in the DC area.
    • Radio conglomerates like Clear Channel and Infinity Broadcasting will do anything it takes to make a buck and exploit untapped markets.

    I’ll stop rambling now. Now I understand what my father must have felt like when Eddie Gallagher and WWDC/WGAY AM1260 was replaced by “business talk” and later “sports talk” 1260.

    I’ll probably point my HFS button on my car stereo to WRNR, a low powered station with awesome eclectic programming run by some of the old old school WHFS staff. WHFS, may you rest in peace.

  • Mac Mini Peer Pressure

    The Mac mini is a gateway drug. Everybody’s doing it.

  • Meet the Mac Mini

    Here is a collection of links with more information about the Mac Mini:

  • Keynote Frenzy

    So begins a tradition that I usually spend either at Apple’s Reston, VA office [pdf] or online at #mobitopia watching the quicktime stream. This year I’ll be madly refreshing the dozen or so sites I mentioned the other day and I’ll also be lurking in #mercworld on with the hopes that someone at the keynote has batteries long enough for “one more thing”

    What I expect

    • iTunes Flash – 1GB coming in at $149ish (which would be a great place to be: less than the mini butmore in cost and value than a 256 or 512 meg player for $100)
    • A solid ship date for Tiger (and various demos) and mention of iWork.
    • Talk of (and demos of) the Moto-Apple phone which is really just a mobile phone that can consume iTunes store stuff.
    • Minor speed bumps in Powermacs, Powerbooks, iBooks, the 80gb iPod, and general shuffling of the iPod line.
    • I expect Steve Jobs to say something along the lines of “Over the years we’ve brought you some of the best products on the planet. In 2005, we’re going to bring them to everyone else.”
    • one more thing… the cheapmac. I hope the price point will hit $499 but I wouldn’t be suprised to see it higher.

    What I don’t expect

    • The G5 powerbook
    • A tablet ibook
    • Newton 2.0
    • A major unrumored announcement

    I’ll be updating this post throughout the day as information comes in, so stay tuned.

    10:26AM EST: MacNN’s barebones Macworld coverage page is up.

    10:29AM EST: Mac OS Rumors has a dedicated page for coverage.

    10:50AM EST: MacMerc has gone Lite.

    11:31AM EST: Erik points out, though it’s not registered to Apple.

    11:44AM EST: This iPod Micro story is a fake..

    12:15PM EST: Steve was a little late but the show has begun.

    So far there’s been an hour of WWDC wrapup, the mac mini, and the ipod shuffle (“great for podcasts.”

    I could have easily skipped the first hour, especially with my only feed being IRC channels and websites. I am extremely impressed with the form factor on the mac mini and on the price point of the ipod shuffle.

    The Unofficial Apple Weblog has excellent coverage of iWork ’05. I’d love to see it in action.

  • Keynote Delayed by 9 Hours

    The Mac Observer notes that Steve’s MacWorld keynote will (hopefully) be available around 9pm tomorrow evening, almost 9 hours after the actual webcast. In other news, Mac Rumors has a good wrapup of the rumors that are out there. It looks like the flash-based iPod is going to happen according to some detective work done by

    I’m still holding my wallet for the cheap mac…

  • Preparing for a Keynote Without a Webcast

    I’ve made peace with the fact that there will be no live webcast tomorrow Tuesday. Instead, I’ve prepared a collection of bookmarks to ‘open in tabs’ and refresh as neccesary during the keynote. Here’s what I’ve armed myself with so far:

    I’d love to know if anyone that will be there plans to be on IRC during the keynote (until their phone battery dies anyway), or if I’m missing any crucial sites that I should be watching tomorrow.

    Update: Thanks to Jonathan Greene for pointing out that MacMerc will have live coverage at #mercworld on I’ll be there!

  • What Ubuntu Needs

    I love Ubuntu. It takes some of the best parts of Debian (god bless you apt-get) and fuses it with a good philosophy and some leading edge (but stable enough) Gnome technology. The thing that got me to try Ubuntu was that they were the first distro with Gnome 2.8. I just had to check it out, so I installed it on some tesbed hardware. I was immediately impressed at the clean lines and the improvements in Gnome 2.8.

    After awhile I got busy and the testbed got reappropriated to some other task. I went back to using my trusty Celery 600 (with lots of ram) Debian-testing desktop nearly fulltime again.

    I decided to take a look at Ubuntu again when Edd mentioned it in his weblog in late September. I decided to pop it on the linux space of my dual PIII 733 box. I keep most of the drive space on this box dedicated to Windows, because there are still just some things that can’t be done with the penguin. I switched back over to Ubuntu for everyday tasks for awhile: mail, web, irc, etc. It’s really pretty, really clean, and extremely repsonsive. I used the Synaptic package manager for the first time and was extremely impresed. I installed an SMP kernel. I installed Python and other apps that I had been missing.

    Eventually though I went back to my slow and steady Debian box. At the time I wasn’t sure why, but now I think I’ve figured it out. With Ubuntu, you can install a program in no time with Synaptic or with apt-get install. It’s really braindead-simple. Unfortunately when you install a program on Ubuntu you get the program and not an associated start menu entry. This gets really annoying quickly. After I install the program I then have to either manually add a shortcut to the programs menu or (more frequently) have to guess the name of the executable and run it from the ‘run program’ prompt or from a shell. This gets old really fast, as often the binary does not carry the same name as the package.

    From what I’ve come to understand from lurking in #ubuntu on Freenode and from poking around various wikis and documentation is that not adding programs to any menu is a philisophical decision. I’ve got to disagree. I really think that what Ubuntu lacks most is an ‘Ubuntu’ or ‘Extras’ menu that newly installed programs get shoved in to. Yes, it gets crowded. There’s really no way to avoid it, but if you put it in its own menu you keep the ‘clean’ looks of the everyday tasks like Internet, Office, etc. I really think that such a menu would add value to the Ubuntu distribution and would definitely make it easier to use various programs that have been installed but have faded from view.

    What do you think?

  • Comeon Steve, We Need Our Feed

    For the past several years I’ve tried to follow the big MacWorld keynotes by Steve Jobs. I’ve sometimes watched the Quicktime stream from home, other times watched it from a satellite viewing location such as Apple’s campus in Northern Virginia. In the leadup to MWSF05 I’ve been getting a little nervous that they haven’t announced satellite coordinates, viewing locations, or a stream location. AppleInsider may have an explanation.

    They cite a memo exerpted at MacInTouch:

    Apple will not be making satellite coordinates available. Although the keynote WILL be available on our web site – it will NOT be available until sometime AFTER the keynote is over. They do NOT have a time determined, so it may not be immediately after the keynote is over.

    Wow, that really sucks. I’m sure that Steve is pissed at the thunder-stealing that the rumors sites tend to do before keynotes. (Hint: don’t sick the laywers on them until after the keynote, it’s a dead giveaway.) Couple that with BillG’s miserable keynote the other day and Steve might just be a little spooked.

    Seriously tho, I’m reather bummed about this. Watching the stream and drooling over tech I can’t afford has become a semi-annual tradition for me. Especially if they are indeed rolling out a Mac in my price range, I want to see it in real time.

    This move could really backfire on Apple, as they’re going to instantly piss off a ton of geeks who might be thinking about that $500 price point. Then again, Apple might just be heroes if they reinstate the feed at the last second…

    Update: In the past when I’ve not been able to plunk down in front of a Quicktime stream I have found that MacNN tends to have very good realtime coverage of MacWorld. In the past they have updated their live coverage every few minutes during the keynote. As always, Frank is on top of this news too.

  • Win32 Wget

    I use wget on my linux boxed on what seems like a daily basis. This morning I got fed up with using browsers to download stuff on a particular Win32 box and went in search of wget binaries for Win32. Google led me to Heiko Herold’s windows wget spot, has a wonderful binary of wget 1.9.1 with SSL support.

    I’ve got it installed, in my path, and it’s rocking my world.

    As an aside, if you’re looking for a more complete Unixish environment under Windows, you might want to check out Cygwin.