February 2003 Archives


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I've been contemplating upgrading Movable Type over the past few days. I'm running 2.51 currently, and 2.63 has recently been released. I was just now checking out the changelist for 2.6... the wonderful itemized list of improvements, enhancements and new features. I could read them for hours.. regardless of how small each change is. Slowly scrolling down... thinking that every item is something that will be different and better when I upgrade. Each item a small surprise. Like Christmas.

Printer Toner Cartridges

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Lexmark has just won an injunction against the company Static Control Components that will put a stop to them selling the Smartek computer chip. This chip can be installed into a Lexmark printer so that the printer will work with cheaper recycled toner cartridges.

Sounds like a good thing right? Not as far as Lexmark is concerned. The way there business model works right now is to sell you the printer as cheap as possible then make a mint as you churn through low-capacity, high-priced ink and toner cartridges. Those low, low prices you see advertised in computer stores are often just the tip of the iceberg of the full costs to owning the printer. If you are buying cheaper, recycled, re-filled cartridges then Lexmark ultimately will lose money on your purchase. If you ask me, it sounds like a problem with their business model, rather than another companies ability to produce a product, sell it cheaper, and still make money.

For a while the printer companies had nothing to worry about. Their business model seemed to work well. They sell you the printer for less than $100.. you are overjoyed... until you find out that your printer either doesn't come with ink/toner or the cartridge is only partially filled(!). Then you find out that typical cartridges are in the $30 to $100 range. Hmm. Seems a little deceptive, no? Others thought so.. and some enterprising individuals made it possible to buy ink and toner replacement kits. Just squirt the colours into the right compartments, or pour the toner into the cartridge opening and away you go. Other companies offered to take in your old cartridges and then gave you some newly refilled ones for a much reduced price. This could easily save you $100s of dollars a year.

The printer companies were not happy. They retaliated by making any new cartridges sealed and very difficult to access. No way to open it without destroying the cartridge. But if you think about it, if the ink or toner can get out onto the paper when printing... then it must be able to get back in the same way -- perhaps just not as easily as with older cartridges. A few special tools and the ink-sellers and cartridge recyclers were back in business.

Eventually the printer companies went high tech and embedded special computer chips into the cartridges that monitor the ink-level. The printers had corresponding chips and the printer chips talks to the cartridge chips and they became good buddies. There were different approaches, but in essence the cartridge chips refused to acknowledge new ink within themselves and once they determined they were empty they would tell the printer chip and the printer would just refuse to use that cartridge anymore. No amount of prodding would convince the printer otherwise.

There were more retaliations.. like cartridge ink/toner level chip-resetters that electronically re-program the cartridge chips to think they are full again... but the company Static Control Components had a better idea. Instead of worrying about the cartridge chips.. they looked at the chip on the printer that talks to the cartridge chips. This is a classic software cracking maneuver. Instead of trying to figure out where a software serial number is stored, generated and validated.. a potentially complex process, you just modify the function that checks where the serial number is stored, generated and validated and force it to always return something appropriate.

This is what Static Control Components did. They designed a chip to replace the ink/toner-level checking chip that resides in the printer. At this point the chip can completely ignore the level the cartridge claims to be and just tell the printer to use the cartridge. With such a chip installed, there was nothing preventing you from using the refill inks and recycled cartidges again.

Which is why Lexmark took Static Control Components to court. There were likely two good reasons for this. First, it made more sense to take the litigation route than to invest in sneakier more devious cartridge protection systems. As technical as the protections became, people always managed to workaround them. Second, until this time, Lexmark had no legal reason to take anybody to court. What makes the latest developments different is that Static Control Components apparently had to reverese-engineer the chip that resides within the printer. It makes sense. It isn't as if Lexmark is going to produce stats on how the chip works. But according to the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, a highly controversial piece of legislation introduced in 1998, you aren't allowed to reverse-engineer a technological measure put in place to protect copyright. This was originally intended to prevent people from doing things like cracking the encryption on DVDs and distributing a non- encrypted version. Who knew it would apply to computer chips in printers to protect an aging, faulty business model? If this continues to be succesfully upheld, then we can likely expect to see this become a common way for companies to prevent competitors or anybody else from infringing on their market share. Wrap your interface within a hardware chip or obfuscated code and you've created a tripwire for legal action under the DMCA. It isn't an issue of copyright. It's an issue of money and greed and silly exploitable laws.

New Fangled Designs

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The website of Pixeltable Studio makes me cringe. And then I feel old. This is the new cool designs right? Trendy and chic? Why does it make me feel like my browser is broken? The background gives me a headache.

They were linked to by zeldman with a bit about how Pixeltable doesn't use tables.. only CSS. Whoopdi-do. "Their site causes bile to rise in my throat... but hey! They're W3C compliant!"

I think I'm a little grouchy.

Caring For Your Introvert

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Woo! I do believe I've found one of the most applicable articles for what is going on in my head on a regular basis. Caring for your Introvert by Jonathan Rauch is an excellent account of what it is like to be an introvert and gives excellent insight for the decidedly non-introverts of the world. I think my wife should read this to better understand me!

Ping. Snap. Pop. Blooey.

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via Reuters : Cremations are getting hazardous in Sweden (and not just for the crematee) because of the potential for explosions. Items such as pacemaker batteries, farewell bottles of alcohol and ammunition left by family, and silicon implants in women's chests have been known to explode during cremation.

Talk about going out with a bang. (sorry)

The Story About The Baby

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For a bust-a-gut, no punches pulled, account of what it is like from week 1 to have a baby, check out The Story About the Baby. As the author puts it, he finds just about everything 'very interesting' and he is also a 'jerk'. The combination makes for some excellent reading.

Some snippets:
On diaper treasure:
I went into the bathroom to wash it off. Then, thinking better of it, I returned to the room, grabbed the camera, took two good, close pictures of my finger and the goo for Baby Album B, and went to wash my hands really well.
On incessant sucking:
And if I didn't give her something to suck on, she would scream. A lot. Given the chance, she would suck my wife's nipples until there was nothing left there but a bare patch, like a Barbie. And sure, that would be totally sexy. But then our next kid would have nothing to eat.
On breastfeeding:
Oh, and about that "special bond" breastfeeding helps you develop. Come on. If you clenched a spiral-cut ham to your chest for eight hours a day, you'd develop a "special bond" with it too.
On vomitting:
Of course, maybe it's not just spitting up. Maybe she's three weeks old and already bulimic. I am a little worried about this, though, if this is the case, it's not all bad. At least she knows how important it is to be pretty.
On 'The Poo Bomb':
I watched TV, peacefully, with Cordelia lying on the couch next to me. She made some mildly fussy noises, so I picked her up, took her into the nursery, and checked her diaper. I then found that she had shat out, conservatively, 70% of her body weight. The waste product flowed around the diaper like the wind passes by a stick. I had to cross myself. It was majestic.
On potential first words:
This means, basically, that when she looks at me, I say daddy a lot. Daddy. Daddy. Daaaaady. It may be her first word. If it, and not mommy, is the first word out of her mouth. I WIN.
On the dangers of mobiles:
So if my darling Cordelia is going to hang herself on something, it's not going to be some shitty thing I threw together. No. My daughter deserves to meet a horrible and unexpected fate on the best educational device this world has to offer. And if that means dropping thirty bucks at Target, so be it.
Alright. That's enough snippets. Convinced it is funny yet? Go read the article.

Shift Magazine Shutting Down

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via Toronto Star :: The Canadian tech magazine, Shift, will be shutting down. Sucks. This was an excellent magazine that managed to never sell-out and crappify themselves like Wired did. Maybe that's why they have to shut down. Remember when Wired first started? And they actually seemed to 'get it'? It was fun to read and full of interesting angles and viewpoints instead of the latest hype and buzz words? That was Shift.

No More Kitty Litter

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I'm not actually living with my cat right now, but as soon as my wife and I are somewhere a little more stable, I'll definitely give this a go with our little bundle of furry joy, Myra. She's smart I'll bet she would flush as well :)

Weekend in Review

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Cirque du Soleil was incredible. We laughed. We cried. The performance is fast and furious. The humour is very unique. Trips will be planned to see other shows.

Spent the weekend in San Francisco. Visited Alcatraz and then jumped on our hotel bed that was wider than the jail cells. Enjoyed the Chinese New Year parade, even though it poured rain for the second half. Damn those firecrackers are loud!

On Sunday, we guiltily watched the protest march from atop the Hilton hotel restaurant, Cityscape. Sipping champagne and munching on caviar on the 46th floor in front of 20 foot windows. Impressive. Our friends drove into town to hang out with us and we walked around nob hill and washington square being tourists. I have a picture of Tracey holding the Transamerica Pyramid between her fingers that I'll have to dig up.

Delicious aphrodisiac dinner at Millenium Sunday night, a sleep at the Savoy Hotel, then back to Palo Alto on Monday morning to hang out, walk around downtown and get ready for Tracey's flight out.

And that was just the weekend. I think her total visit was the fastest 10 days I've had in a long time.

Valentine's Day

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Happy Valentine's Day my most loyal (yet scarce) readers :)

Little do (many of) you know but my wife is in town right now, and I'm taking her to see Cirque Du Soleil tonight in San Jose. I'm really looking forward to it. I've never been but to one of their shows before and neither has Tracey. A nice treat.

Human Billboards

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The 'guerilla' advertising agency Cunning Stunts (not to be confused with their alter-ego: The Stunning *****) has embarked on a campaign that involves paying students to put logos on their foreheads. Sad but true. Students at Oxford, Umist in Manchester, Leeds, and Roehampton in London are being offered up to 88 pounds a week to wear a corporate logo for at least 3 hours a day. I wonder how long this will last? A flash in the pan is my guess.

One Nostril

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It's a common misconception that we use both nostrils all of the time while breathing. It just isn't so. Jason Kottke is lamenting how he has a cold and can only breathe out of a single nostril. But he's wrong to think this is unusual. To all of you healthy people out there... test it out. Breathe through your nose and check to see if it is coming out of both nostrils. Mine's currently just using the right one.. but I'll give it a few minutes and it will likely switch.

Breakfast Club

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The Seattle Times: Criminal, Basket Case, Jock, Princess or Brain

Remember the Breakfast Club? The learning-about-life-and-ourselves movie starring Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson and Molly Ringwald? Well apparently some research scientist, back in 1987, asked 900 high school sophomores which character they most identified with: Criminal, Basket Case, Jock, Princess or Brain. And more recently followed-up on their answers to see how true to life they were.

Actually the above article sucks. Very few details. I'm really just posting this because I remember the movie fondly. It's a bit of an ill-match, but I likely consider myself to be most like the Brain. Not to be confused with The Brain.

Mein Fuhrer! I can skate!

I've been fooling myself for the last 15 years that I am incapable of skating. I don't know why. The last time I tried was around grade 5 or so and I likely fell on my ass a few too many times.

The thing is.. I had convinced myself that the balance, coordination and abilities of a 10 year old trying to skate still applied to me today. Why is that? I don't think that about other aspects of my abilities. Strange.

Anyway, while on the Google ski trip last week (yes we had a ski trip! woo!) I decided to try out skating again. I'm so glad I did. I *can* skate gosh darn it! Even without holding onto the rink wall! Wow! It was quite the rush I must say. Proving oneself wrong. Pushing aside incorrect assumptions. Cool.

I also went downhill skiing... first time in about 10 years I guess. Cool thing I discovered about skiing is it is like riding a bike. You don't forget how to do it. Half an hour after putting on my skis I was flying down the hills weaving from side to side. Fun!

Wireless Hijack

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I'm posting this from a wireless network that has not been secured. I'm in my new place and the guy with the admin password for *our* wireless router is out of town. No problem. I just put my wireless NIC on the ledge of the window and voila... four other wireless networks to choose from. The third one I try is unprotected and kindly assigns me an IP address via DHCP. Cool. The link quality isn't great. I'm only getting about 20% quality apparently. But when I test my speed from Bandwidthplace.com I apparently can still take advantage if the full 1.2 megabits offered by the DSL / Cable my 'provider' has.

This has been my intro to riding free on someone else's wireless feed. It's a little too easy I'm afraid.

Invisible Cloak

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Ananova - Japanese scientist invents 'invisibility cloak'

From the oh-so-many details at the other end of the above link, it is not clear to me whether the special 'viewfinder' is part of the viewer's apparatus.. or part of the cloak's apparatus. In other words, is this what you see with the naked eye? Or does the coat work like a wearable blue-screen that the viewfinder fills in with the appropriate details when you look through it.

Regardless, this reminds me of a joke I heard on the Prairie Home Companion this last weekend.

A man walks into the Doctor's office wearing nothing but Saran Wrap around his waist.
The doctor looks at him and says: "Well, I can clearly see you're nuts!"

Just Released on DSL!

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The other day my wife made a funny verbal mistake after checking to see if Kazaa had a recently released movie available. She couldn't find it and then instead of saying "I guess it hasn't been released on DVD yet" she mistakenly said "I guess it hasn't been released on DSL yet".

hehe. It makes sense though. The current movie distribution model goes like this: Theaters, then Video and DVD, then (unofficially) DSL (i.e. the Internet in general).

[The above was a completely hypothetical situation and any references to piracy, actual or imagined, were included for the purposes of filling a void in my blogging schedule. If you, or someone you love, is suffering from hair loss then please, please carry a broom to sweep behind yourself (or your loved one). We've got enough cat hair around as it is. The above in no way advocates the downloading, use, or promotion of Kazaa. It in no way is meant to give the idea that Kazaa can find and download movies. Kazaa can't. Kazaa requires help from a human. Guns don't kill people. Kazaa kills people. It is a known fact that most of the pain and misery in the world is because of Kazaa. Or at least its childhood friend, Kazoo. -ed]

Musical Printer

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IBM's 1964 printer the 1403 was (apparently (I wasn't born yet)) very noisy. Some engineers figured out which characters generated which notes and used it to play music. Make sure to check out the MP3s.

Tan Lines

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Tan lines from typical summer activities.

Day of Yucky Things

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First was feeding the fish. I reached behind the aquarium to poke the cube of frozen brine shrimp into the water flow only to come in contact with something warm and soft and squishy. Likely just some seaweed / algae stuff.. but when you can't see what it is... it's quite unpleasant.

Next was having the bathroom sink clog on me.. plunging it a few times and having multiple years worth of gray, whisker-filled water splash onto the front of your sweater. Fun.

Then I stepped into, with socks on, some of above gray water that had splashed onto floor. More fun.

An hour later I'm picking out hard-outside, soft-center, moldy coffee-flakes from a neglected coffee cup. Woo. Woo.

And it's only 10:30.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from February 2003 listed from newest to oldest.

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