Nostalgic Rumblings
The Ramblings of an Old Man




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3/27/2007


Updated Cincinnati Convention Flier With Schedule

Filed under: Old-Time Radio — Charlie Summers @ 5:26 pm

I thought sure I posted this before, but apparently not. Here’s the schedule for the upcoming 21st Cincinnati Old Time Radio and Nostalgia Convention in PDF format.

icon for podpress  21st Cincinnati Old Time Radio and Nostalgia Convention Schedule: Download

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You gotta hate the “modern” system administrator…

Filed under: General — Charlie Summers @ 9:39 am

As my regular readers know, we (like every other blog) have a considerable problem with trackback spam; while we use an excellent plugin which removes most of it, I believe I have a responsibility to spend some time letting system administrators know that their machines are being hijacked (usually it’s an insecure script on the server that can be abused) so they can fix the problem. Clearly I can’t report every machine (and simply firewall off those machines in China, Russia, and other countries where we don’t do business), but I do try to let operators of those machines showing a pattern of abuse (especially but not limited to government and university machines; lately the server farms have been the real problem) that they have an issue, and politely ask them to deal with it. I provide httpd logs showing dates/times of abuse, as well as an example of one of the trackback spams.

This morning, some childish sysadmin hiding behind an http proxy and throwaway Yahoo account wrote a comment to an irrelevant post complaining that I complained. The knucklehead actually whined that I was, “reporting [my] spam problems and passing them onto various datacenters, who in return, passed the buck onto the various server admins and webmasters.” Wow…apparently this guy (has to be a guy…no woman would be this immature) finds it an affront that his upstream expects him to fix his problem. How shocking!

It’s a shame I don’t know the IP address of the machine he “admins” that was (and probably is, considering that he spent time complaining to the victim instead of finding and eliminating the problem script - I dunno, since once I report a machine I add it to the firewall rules so it doesn’t bother me again) being used to send spam to hundreds if not thousands of machines on the Internet (what..you think I was the only server being annoyed by this machine? unlikely…this thing is likely being used 24/7 on a huge list of blog URIs) so I could thank the upstream for dealing with this issue professionally by reporting it to the “admin” of the server in question (and, from the sound of it, shutting the “admin’s” machine down until the problem was properly dealt with). Clearly he’s more interested in selling $7 websites…if his “customers” open a hole that can be exploited, he doesn’t want to know about it since it might make him actually get off his rear and do something. That it might cost innocents money in additional bandwidth fees doesn’t worry this guy.

The few times my server has been used by the bad guys, I thanked the reporters for letting me know (and my server farm tech folks for helping me identify and squash the problems as quickly as possible). While I try desperately to keep up with the latest patches, and help my clients every way I can when there’s a problem, there’s always some insecurity being introduced that needs to be addressed, patched, fixed, or removed. I consider that the most important part of an admin’s job, not some inconvenience taking me away from my game of Solitaire. Clearly I’m no longer the norm, though; the idea of being a good netcitizen has apparently been replaced with a, “don’t bother me if my machine is being used for spam so long as I don’t get any of it” attitude.

It makes me a little sad that the Internet has irresponsible people like this running machines on it, and a bit wistful for the good-old-days when a spamming victim wasn’t treated worse than the spammer.

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3/26/2007


Art Garfunkel on Artist Confidential

Filed under: Radio Today — Charlie Summers @ 6:22 pm

I’m seriously old. When Art Garfunkel opened his XM Satellite Radio’s Artist Confidential with Paul Simon’s The Side of a Hill, I’m probably one of the very few people who not only joined in the song, but sang “Artie’s part” (Art sang the melody, which was written for Paul’s range - if you listen to Paul playing, you can clearly “hear” Artie’s harmonies in the chords). Paul recorded the song in the mid-1960’s on an acoustic album released in England (The Paul Simon Songbook) which a friend of mine working at a record store snatched from an import bin and gave to me so very long ago, so Side of a Hill is as well-known to me as Sounds of Silence may be to you.

It was realizing how very long I’ve known those songs that has me feeling a little meloncholy…

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3/22/2007


CSI:NY - Product Placement Prostitute

Filed under: Television — Charlie Summers @ 6:59 pm

Product placement is getting rampant in television programs today…companies have decided that since we go to the bathroom or kitchen during commercials, they only way to reach us is to shove their products into the show itsedlf. The production companies are thrilled at this, since they get the money directly instead of being paid by the networks wheich are paid by the advertisers. The only person who loses here is the viewer, who has to sit through all the garbage.

CSI:New York has got to be the biggest PPP (Product Placement Prostitute) on television today; practically every episode of this program has some gratuitous product placement in it; last night, between the batteries and the music promos, I thought I was going to retch.

So you know what? I’m done…CSI:NY has been a distant third of the CSI programs anyway (being behind CSI:Miami with it’s annoying subplots and even more annoying lead is saying something), and the plots have been less than weak. Even with the strengths of the cast, this show has been putting the “b” in boring for a while now, but the product placement nonsense has finally tipped me over the line. I’m not watching this show anymore…so advertisers, whether buying commercials or paying to shove your product on the show itself, you’ve lost a set of eyeballs.

And later, I’m buying a pack of EverReady batteries, just to make myself feel better.

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3/21/2007


MP3 vs. Flac…a real-world look

Filed under: General, Old-Time Radio — Charlie Summers @ 1:41 pm

Recently on the Internet OTR Digest there’s been a suggestion that Flac, a lossless audio compression system, should be used for old-time radio instead of the lossy MP3 standard. Before I get into an examination of the systems, I should probably give you the disclosure that I keep uncompressed audio files (AIFF format) of any high-quality OTR files I have, while I am also perfectly comfortable using low-bitrate MP3 files for listening. That is, while I use MP3 I don’t depend on it for mission-critical files.

Ok, let’s use a real-world file - and note I am not looking at compression time, since I don’t think the time it takes to compress a file is particularly relevant. This morning, I created an uncompressed 44kHz 16-bit stereo file that runs exactly 59:15, file size 627,102,044 bytes (that’s ~598 Megabytes). I first compressed the file with flac from the command line, using default settings (that is, flac filename.wav). The resultant lossless file was 245,067,147 bytes, roughly 233 megabytes. Not bad, I suppose. I then re-compressed that same file using the best compression (flac –best –verify filename.wav to be exact), for a slightly better result of 241,472,932 bytes or ~230 megabytes.

I then compressed the same file using 224kbps joint-stereo MP3 encoding (for those lame lovers out there, I used the command line lame -b 224 -q 2 -m j), which I’m pretty sure everyone will agree is overkill for OTR, and definitely overkill for the real-world recording I made as well. Note that this 224kbps file would burn to a perfectly-respectable audio CD indistinguishable from the original by any human I know…about the only thing I wouldn’t want to do with it is back-convert to uncompressed for editing and then re-compress, since every lossy compression cycle removes more data. The size of this file is 99,542,308 bytes…that’s right, about 95 megs. I can’t hear any difference; admittedly I’m in my fifties, but I’d doubt anyone would hear any difference at that high a bitrate.

(For giggles, I also compressed this same file to a 32kbps mono MP3 using lame -b 32 -q 2 -m m, something that is perfectly serviceable to add to my Inno or Nexus for listening while walking, or to play overnight - yeah, I keep news, OTR, and other programming playing all night long so if I wake up I have something to help lull me back to sleep. Anyway, the 32kbps mono file came out to 14,220,121 bytes, about 13.5 megabytes. I can clearly hear the difference between the original and this file, but I don’t particularly mind the difference. I’m sure it would be more of an issue if it were primarily music programming instead of talk, but I could and do listen to files at this bitrate.)

Bottom line based on these real-world tests: If you have a file important enough to archive, leave it uncompressed; space is cheap, and the savings aren’t really significant. If your purpose for the file is to use as a listening copy, using flac over MP3 doesn’t make one bit of sense, even if your goal isn’t to fit a bazillion files on one CD. About the only thing flac has going for it is the “bragging rights” of using a lossless compression format that isn’t supported by many playback applications or portable players.

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3/19/2007


Different Morning Newscast for Public Radio Listeners

Filed under: News, Radio Today — Charlie Summers @ 4:16 am

From The New York Times: Different Morning Newscast for Public Radio Listeners

From the article: “The New York public radio station WNYC is teaming up with the distributor Public Radio International to produce a national morning radio program that will compete with National Public Radio’s long-running and popular ‘Morning Edition.’ Also participating in the not-yet-named program are the BBC World Service, New York Times Radio and WGBH, the Boston public radio station. BBC correspondents and reporters and critics for The New York Times are to provide on-air reports for the live news program and take part in what is expected to be its more informal, conversational format.”

It’s about d*mned time someone took on the NPR tail-that-wags-the-pubrad-dog. NPR itself is putting together a competing morning news show (probably more to muddy the waters here in a desperate attempt to keep news programming to itself), in effect admitting they have a problem with Morning Edition. That isn’t news to those of us on the outside…but then, I shouldn’t talk, I guess. I haven’t listened to NPR’s morning program since 2004, prefering to get my news and analysis elsewhere.

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3/15/2007


The Ides of March again so soon?

Filed under: General — Charlie Summers @ 8:28 am

Wow…it’s again the Ides of March, that day of death to Caesar and celebrated by the Bard…and me. Every year on this day, I avoid computers…it’s the one day of the year that I don’t type on a keyboard, don’t read news on-line (as you read this, I’m probably finishing up the front section of The New York Times while enjoying a cappuchino at Central Market in downtown York listening to The Bob Edwards Show on my Tao XM2Go), don’t look at email, and…well, you get the idea. On the sixteenth life goes back to normal for another 364 days, but for this one day I’m a luddite.

So if you need me, you’ll need to come down to market and Take Five. Or wait until tomorrow, when I’m back to the grind.

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3/14/2007


Court: The Dying may be charged for using marijuana

Filed under: News — Charlie Summers @ 3:49 pm

From CNN: Court: Dying can be charged for using marijuana

From the article: “A California woman whose doctor says marijuana is the only medicine keeping her alive is not immune from federal prosecution on drug charges, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.”

I am embarrassed that in this country federal prosecutors apparently don’t have anything better to do than go after someone with a brain tumor and chronic nausea. I mean, gees…arent there any more pressing crimes in the 9th Circuit than trying to stay alive? Bah.

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3/12/2007


Has Success Spoiled NPR?

Filed under: News, Radio Today — Charlie Summers @ 5:32 pm

From The Washingtonian: Has Success Spoiled NPR?

From the article: “A troubling footnote to Giovannoni’s report is his finding that listenership is down for NPR’s flagship newsmagazines, All Things Considered and Morning Edition. Listening to the two shows declined nearly 6 percent between 2004 and 2005…The decline may reflect fallout from NPR’s decision in 2004 to push out Bob Edwards, Morning Edition’s first host. Management thought the show needed a nimbler host who could handle breaking news and report from the field. Edwards, who’d been hosting NPR programs for 30 years, seemed wedded to the studio. The handling of his departure—he was demoted to correspondent before he left for XM satellite radio—outraged many NPR diehards…Says Tom Thomas of the Station Resource Group, a Takoma Park–based coalition of stations: ‘Personality is a huge factor in radio, and when you change personalities, there are some listeners for whom it’s just never the same.’ The show, he adds, ‘has lost half a step.’”

Of course, the problem is specifically tied to a few brain-damaged executives at NPR, in this writer’s opinion. Remove them at long last, and perhaps NPR can return to its days of respectibility. Meanwhile, many of us still start every weekday morning with Bob Edwards gently leading us to wakefulness, and have grown past the need for National Public Radio.

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3/7/2007


Best Buy Confirms It Has Secret Website

Filed under: News — Charlie Summers @ 6:15 pm

Best Buy Confirms It Has Secret Website

From the column: “Under pressure from state investigators, Best Buy is now confirming my reporting that its stores have a secret intranet site that has been used to block some consumers from getting cheaper prices advertised on BestBuy.com.”

What sleezeballs!

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3/6/2007


Postal Service fixes long waits by removing clocks

Filed under: News — Charlie Summers @ 3:30 am

From the Houston Chronicle: Postal Service fixes long waits by removing clocks

From the article: “…one of the nation’s 37,000 post offices in which clocks have been removed from retail areas as part of a ‘retail standardization program’ launched last year. The effort is designed to give the public-service areas a more uniform appearance, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported in Thursday editions.”

I noticed the clock in the downtown post office was removed. Apparently they don’t realize I have a cell phone with a really big clock on it…

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3/5/2007


XMPR Schedule - Readable, even.

Filed under: Radio Today — Charlie Summers @ 12:45 am

I got so confused trying to read the new schedule (hint: English reads from top-to-bottom), I created my own, written in a text editor with no CSS or other non-HTML frills and stuck it on a static page here on the blog. I don’t know how much time I’ll spend keeping it updated, but at least for now there’s something more easily-readable than the one on XM’s website…

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3/3/2007


How I spend my mornings…or why I hate spam

Filed under: General — Charlie Summers @ 11:03 am

So I get up in the morning, ready to face the challenges of the day. I stretch, scratch a few places, and I’m off to the computer.

First, I read the postings for the OTR Digest that have come in overnight. I used to save this as a “treat,” but as you’ll see if I don’t do it now, I won’t enjoy it at all. After reading the messages, I open the server log report; every morning, my server sends me a report of what’s happened the day before, and especially with the routines I added, it usually isn’t pretty. First, I have to deal with the attempted break-ins…these are generally trying to crack the SSH server, but lately the mail server has been taking a pretty hard hit with machines trying to crack a known vulnerability (yes, I’m patched, why?). Even though I know this is the work of a zombie machine which is part of a botnet, I report these to the upstreams, and depending on the severity of the attack and location of the server, I might firewall off that machine or its netblock (sorry, folks, but large parts of Russia, China, and other countries can’t even see this server - it might not be right, but it’s the only thing keeping the server on-line).
(more…)

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