Nostalgic Rumblings
The Ramblings of an Old Man




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7/2/2013


BBC Radio Shows Now Filled with DRM

Filed under: General, Radio Today — Charlie Summers @ 11:48 pm

So the BBC is now going to add DRM (Digital Rights Management) to their radio files, allowing “downloads” of these damaged things which will sit for up to thirty days, and play for up to seven days. If I were a Brit, I’d raise holy hades with my parliamentary representative…I mean, for god’s sake, who’s paying for the d*mned things?

What’s really frustrating about this is the Radio Downloader can no longer pull BBC files. It was a great little device, allowing scheduling of programs in advance (when they were announced); set it and forget it. Once they aired and were available on the BBC website, they would end up on your drive ready to be enjoyed.

Something that simple and convenient cannot be allowed to continue, so it’s been closed down with the addition of this nonsensical DRM. (*shrug*) Of course, those of us who insist on recording BBC programs will continue to do so, and will be retaining them in non-DRM format for considerably longer than seven days. We’ll just have to do it the hard way. Some shows (Newshour, for example) are already available in podcast format, so nothing needs to be done there, but for the rest of it…well, I’m guessing there will be increased activity on the BBC-focused USENET newsgroups.

Wake up, kids; DRM simply does not work.

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6/21/2013


Random Shorts I would have posted on Twitter…

Filed under: General, News — Charlie Summers @ 7:54 pm

As I mentioned, I’m miffed at Twitter with its determination to control all things timeline, so I’m making a short compilation of things I might have posted there on the spur-of-the-moment:

  • News headling: Eyeball Licking Trend Giving Pinkeye to Japanese Kids. Er…did we really need to be told licking someone’s eyeball was a bad idea?

  • Everyone seems to be putting videos of themselves talking about nothing on YouTube, or worse, showing us video of them playing video games. What the heck is with that…and who is watching all these sorry videos? I mean, I understand the “covers” of music, even if bad, I understand why people would post them. But talking at a webcam in their bedrooms as if they are news commentators or variety show hosts? Giggling while playing video games? No one cares, so stop making these silly things.

  • Dear Johnny Depp: Are there any more of my youthful memories you can make a travesty of? Or have you run out of them now?

  • To those of you asking me for shortcuts in how to tell if a specific Old-Time Radio show is still under copyright or trademark protection - there ain’t one. Contact a lawyer who specializes in United States “intellectual property” (that a recent creation and not anything real, since something non-tangible cannot be “property”) law and pay them to do the research. Anything else, including listening to my opinion, is just plain wrong.

  • Received spam from “IMF OFFICE” - is it wrong of me to immediately think, “Impossible Missions Force?”

  • Speaking of spam, when the subject calls me, “dear,” pretty sure it’s going to get trashed unopened.

  • “John” (with an Indian accent) called me telling me my computers were affecting their servers. This is, of course, a well-known scam, where I am supposed to open up security holes in my computer so the b*stards can take it over and use it as part of a botnet, or charge me hundreds of dollars to fix a non-existant problem. I…um…declined, and finally got to use every four-letter-word in my arsenal against a human instead of the robocalls I generally get. Rather satisfying, actually.

    Guessing “John” won’t be calling me again any time soon.

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6/8/2013


Cincinnati Nostalgia Expo Wrap-Up

Filed under: General, Old-Time Radio, News — Charlie Summers @ 12:18 pm

It’s been a week since the first Cincinnati Nostalgia Expo, and I’m still not caught up from the weekend. Everyone I’ve heard from (with the exception of one unpleasant and spiteful little man) had a wonderful time with the panels, the performances, and the fun of getting together and chatting with friends frequently emailed yet seldom seen. The video and photos are below the jump below (hit that “More…” link if you’re on the front page).

During the expo, I posted pics in real-time to my Twitter stream, and I’ve copied those pics here - just click the thumbnail for a larger version. I’ve also stuck a short piece of video down there from the SummersTime Live program Friday afternoon which includes both Bob Hastings, Kate’s buddy from when she was small (and “nice,” as Bob put it!), and Ivan Cury, who I can’t help but think would have killed to have the technology I used to assemble this short video back when he was directing television. Non-linear video editing was just a dream back then.

The weekend was far too short for almost all of us, and if you haven’t visited the Cincinnati area you don’t know how awesome the food choices are…yes, there’s the required selection of chain restaurants (and is the one time of the year I am guaranteed a bag of White Castle burgers!), but there are also great barbeque joints, home-style cooking places, and even Blue Ash Chili, a shop featured on an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives we saw in rerun while we were there that is, from personal experience mind you, excellent! (Look below for a photo of the place with two awesome spokespersons sitting on the wall!)
(more…)

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4/24/2013


Bitcoin…What, Where, How…

Filed under: General — Charlie Summers @ 1:26 pm

A somewhat one-sided discussion about Bitcoins…

What the heck is a Bitcoin?

It’s a non-existent currency, a virtual number that is created out of thin air by computers performing meaningless computations (kinda wish the developers had at least programmed-in something actually useful for the “mining” processes). People assign value to it, kinda like a credit default swap, so it has a value, sometimes a stupid-high one. Its purpose originally was to be used as a virtual currency not controlled by any government to buy and sell items and services. What it has become is a wildly-speculative commodity — think pork bellies on steroids.

Why should I care?

You probably shouldn’t, unless you’re attracted by the romance of a monetary system not controlled by governments, or want to gamble on something other than horses.

What happened that made Bitcoin hit the news?

Something that was worth $12 at the beginning of the year topped off over $260 before “crashing” to the $70-100 range. BusinessWeek had a pretty good article about some Bitcoin millionaires that has a pretty good overview of the Bitcoin. This was, FYI, written before the drop.

Is it really a crash?

Of course not. Bitcoins are worth about eight times what they were worth in January. That’s not a “crash” by anyone’s estimation. On the other hand, like the housing market in the United States, it did take a serious tumble from its high point, even if the high point was wildly inflated by bogus trading. But then, the housing market didn’t start off at pre-1950 rates before the bubble, either.

Ok, smart guy, what did you do?

I never bought Bitcoins. There were a bunch of places around the Net who gave away small micro-amounts of Bitcoins, and I’d spend a few minutes every day at the beginning of the year playing these sites for tiny amounts of coin. I also played around with “working” for Bitcoin…this is back when Bitcoins were worth about $12 each, so my “work” was probably worth about 3-cents an hour average (some people reading this might suggest that’s about what I’m worth every day…). But it was kinda interesting, and my goal was to get one Bitcoin. I have to admit, I got kinda bored with it all, and ended up with less than a half-Bitcoin.

When it went stupid the other day, I decided to sell what little I had. Because of the way Bitcoin works, I had to transfer my tiny amount from the local wallet to my Mt. Gox account before I could sell on the exchange. While I was waiting for the transfer to be confirmed (it takes hours on a day when there isn’t wild fluctuations in the value), the price bottomed-out. This is not a new thing to me…my investment skills usually can be summed-up by, “Buy High, Sell Low.” ;)

But I took a flyer and set a $150 sell price on what I had, and let it sit. Turned out there was a, “dead-cat bounce,” which brought the price over that amount, my partial-Bitcoin sold, and I ended up with ~$60 in my account. (Side note: this trade took place on the 10th of April. On the 13th, I received an email from Mt. Gox telling me the trade took place. Hum…guess they were a little busy…)

So, one could say I made a “massive” profit, considering the $60 basically dropped from the sky, appearing from thin air. Hardly high finance, but an interesting experience nevertheless. Once Bitcoins stabalize, I may spend my $60 buying another partial. Or maybe not.

Ok, ok, so how do I play?

First, get yourself a wallet. There are on-line systems that will provide one for you, or you can simply download and install the client software. See the Bitcoin.org website for more information, and I suggest you read it carefully if you are going to do more than own freebie partials. Once you have a wallet, create incoming addresses; you may have hundreds and hundreds of incoming addresses, so you can have a different incoming address for each incoming transaction. Just be careful about maintaining security on your wallet…people have been “ripped-off” by viruses solely designed to attack Bitcoin wallets. Again, if you’re going to play with the free microcoins, it’s not a huge deal, but should you decide to buy any of these things, you really want to take security seriously.

Now that you have a wallet to keep them in, and an address or twelve to receive them from, time to grab some “free” partial Bitcoins. Try these places - just don’t spend all day trying to strike it rich…pretty sure it ain’t gonna happen. On the other hand, it is kinda thrilling when your wallet announces you have “free” BitCoins, even if they are tiny fractions:

CoinTube TV - Watch videos, get free partial Bitcoins

BitVisitor - View websites for a specific time, earn free partial Bitcoins

Net Lookup - A Bitcoin “fountain” (meaning they give away a really tiny fraction of a Bitcoin for doing practically nothing)

EarnFreeBitCoins - Another place to view websites for coin fractions.

btc.pt - Supposed to have movies to watch for Bitcoin partials, but was out of videos when I entered. Still, you can grab some Satoshis (0.00000001 BTC) for solving CAPTCHAs.

And if you do hit it big and become flush with Bitcoins, feel free to donate a few, either with the link or the QR code over on the right.

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3/6/2013


BASIC Rises from the Ashes…

Filed under: General — Charlie Summers @ 4:23 pm

A lot of what I do is command-line-based. I realize in these days of Graphical User Interfaces that is a rather quaint concept, but it’s true. Even in Windows, much of what I do routinely is done using command lines.

Let me give you an example; when I record The Bob Edwards Show in the mornings, I want to make an MP3 listening copy. I use lame (”LAME Ain’t an MP3 Encoder”) to encode the files (yes, I know there are patent and copyright issues with lame and The Bob Edwards Show, but it’s for my own use and not distributed elsewhere), typing a command line something like:

"C:\Program Files (x86)\Lame\lame" -b 224 -q 2 -m j "C:\Users\Charlie\temp\20130201_0756_bob_edwards_show_sirro.wav" "C:\Users\Charlie\temp\20130201_0756_bob_edwards_show_sirro_224.mp3"

(I’d explain what those options mean, but to keep most of my readers from having their eyes glaze over, I’ll point those interested to the lame man page for more info.)

Anyway, that can get…tedious every morning. But I wasn’t sure it was really worth all the energy of writing a program to handle it…until I bumped into FreeBASIC.

I was teaching my daughter programming the way I learned it, using the BASIC language, with the freeware implementation JustBASIC; it’s a nice implementation with lots of GUI (those Graphical User Interface elements I mentioned above), but the runtime is a little hinky, requiring an intermediate file and a runtime EXE which must be named identically for everything to work properly. An excellent learning ground, and even reasonable to create useful applications (our first application was creating a factoring program - give it a number, it determines all the integer factors for that number).

But when I bumped into FreeBASIC, a freeware and open-source version of Microsoft’s old QBASIC, I found something that, while missing a lot of GUI bells-and-whistles, compiles into tiny EXE files which are perfect to use as “droppers.” That is, drop a WAV file on one, and it automatically calls lame with the filename, sets the proper command-line parameters including output files, and then gets out of the way.

I keep finding all kinds of applications for these tiny dropper files; one I quickly put together this afternoon handles stream-fixing recorded .ts files from my Hauppauge card. Another allows me to create the various MP3 versions required of SummersTime, the OTR show my daughter Kate and I do. Since the “ninja-slicing” subroutines are already written to cut the dropped filenames into path, filename, and extension, I keep finding more and more uses for these tiny droppers.

Admittedly, they don’t save me a lot of time each; copy/pasting a filename into a .BAT file, the way I used to do it, doesn’t take all that much time. But even a few moments savings is worth it to me…and over the course of a year, this simple BASIC language might save me enough time to, like the network executives Fred Allen frequently complained about, grab a vacation…or at least make a cappuccino while the computer performs the conversion/repair/whatever the dropper is single-purposed to perform.

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2/20/2013


BitTorrent Common Questions and Answers

Filed under: General — Charlie Summers @ 12:45 pm

Recently BitTorrent, Inc. (the company behind the BitTorrent client, not the “owner” of the protocol, which is open) set up a website to explain or justify why BitTorrent (the protocol this time) is a “good thing.” Unfortunately, like any public-relations-based campaign, it’s full of feel-good but doesn’t have much in the way of education. Since I’m a firm believer that if you know about something it stops being scary, here’s a Q/A about BitTorrent that might explain a bit more than the fluff BT, Inc. is shoveling around.

What is BitTorrent?

BitTorrent is a “P2P” (Peer-to-Peer) protocol that distributes files among peer downloaders. Files are broken down internally into tiny pieces, and as you download some pieces, you are simultaneously uploading pieces you already have to other users. By sharing pieces, everyone who is downloading receives the file faster than they could if there were only a single access point for everyone.

Isn’t it illegal?

Nope. People can do illegal things with it, just like people can use a hammer to drive a nail or bash a head. The protocol itself is perfectly legal and legitimate…as long as you don’t download a torrent with copyrighted files without the holder’s permission, you’re fine. (Truth is, most illegal file transfers don’t use BitTorrent anyway. A while back some Italian hacker used a software flaw to use my server to serve illegal files via IRC DCC transfers…if it weren’t for my server farm tech support crew helping me remove the installed DCC server and files, it could easily have bled me of all my bandwidth and gotten me in serious trouble with the law.)

Does it do nasty things to my system?

Nope. For some reason, a lot of people have the impression this tiny application takes over a computer, forcing it to do whatever the application wants. Nothing could be farther from the truth; indeed, most clients are actually just Python scripts, which can be read by anyone (although it looks a little like gobbelty-gook unless you know how to program in Python) and so they are easily audited. I’m not sure how this rumor got started, but it is quite prevalent among those who don’t understand BitTorrent.
(more…)

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2/8/2013


TPB AFK (The Pirate Bay - Away from Keyboard) Film Available

Filed under: General, News — Charlie Summers @ 5:46 pm

Disclaimer: Haven’t seen it yet; haven’t even started downloading it (am transferring future SummersTime episodes to the blog right now), but the film detailing the trials of the operators of The Pirate Bay is now available for downloading from…ok, this should be really obvious…The Pirate Bay.

Please note the copyright holder of the film encourages you to download and watch…this is completely legal all over the world.

Still, though, since I don’t trust my ISP or the Entertainment Industry, I’m going to download it through a VPN (Virtual Private Network) - that way, even with the invasive tracking, they can’t “strike me” for downloading a legal file they might not want me to see. (The simplistic methodology of MarkMonitor seems to be, “BitTorrent…Bad!” even though there are many legitimate uses for the protocol.)

From the NFO file accompanying the film:

My name is Simon and I am the director/producer of the film TPB AFK:
The Pirate Bay Away From Keyboard. After 5 years of hard work, it's a
great pleasure to finally upload a torrent about this great website
onto the site itself. In a way, I guess TPB AFK has finally come home.
This is not just a film about the founders of TPB, but also a film
about all of you who use the site. Please convert this film into all
possible formats and share it as much as you can!

Note that there are english subtitles both embedded and included within the torrent files. And to avoid linking directly to TPB (some U.S. ISPs, and even some entire countries block access directly to The Pirate Bay), here are the magnet links to supply to your BitTorrent client:

1080p - TPB.AFK.2013.1080p.h264-SimonKlose 6.84 GiB (7349488128 Bytes)
720p - TPB.AFK.2013.720p.h264-SimonKlose 3.5 GiB (3753784421 Bytes)
480p - TPB.AFK.2013.480p.h264-SimonKlose 974.11 MiB (1021429419 Bytes)

Feel free to review the film in the comments. And after you’ve downloaded, please continue to seed this legally-downloaded film.

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2/2/2013


Fixing “Low on Space” Errors on Samsung Dart & Other Android Phones

Filed under: General — Charlie Summers @ 7:54 pm

Anyone with a low-end Android device like the Samsung Dart has, or eventually will, run into the dreaded, “Low on Space” error. The notification you receive directs you to the Manage Apps app, where the generally-accepted solution is to either delete some of your applications or to clear the cache on every application you have. The former will fix the error, but cripple the phone since you can’t use the applications you remove. Clearing the cache is a temporary solution at best, since eventually the cache will fill up again and this warning will return.

In researching this issue, I was not-so-surprised to find many snide answers that suggest you buy a new phone, since clearly you bought a low-end phone in the first place and so shouldn’t expect to get anything done with it anyway. Those kids can be as smug in their superiority as they wish, but obviously that doesn’t fix the problem. Some Dart owners can’t afford to spend hundreds on a phone, others can’t see it’s particularly worthwhile, and the rest of us actually like the underpowered-yet-capable Dart and aren’t particularly interested in replacing it.

The “buy a new phone” answer is a lot like suggesting that if you can’t read a CD you should replace your entire computer system…pretty unacceptable, if you ask me. So let’s see if we can research the problem and come up with an actual, helpful solution to the problem instead of just being a patronizing jerk, shall we?
(more…)

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2/1/2013


Why I’m using a VPN…and why YOU should, too

Filed under: General, News — Charlie Summers @ 5:53 pm

As yet another added monthly expense that, like most folks in the world right now I can’t really afford in this economy, I have purchased and am now using a VPN - Virtual Private Network. It’s a fancy name for an end-to-end encrypted connection to another machine somewhere else on the network. As I connect to my server right now, the logs in my server show me connecting from an IP in London, England…a trip I assure you I am only making virtually, not actually.

Why in the world would I want to connect to my own server from England when I have a perfectly good connection through Verizon aDSL? It’s actually because I have a connection through Verizon that I made the decision to connect through a VPN. Because Verizon is monitoring my connection and my datastream. And if you have your Internet connection through any of the “big five,” your provider is monitoring your connection, too. It’s in the name of combating “piracy,” but it is in reality all about the money - yours, and how to separate it from you.
(more…)

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1/13/2013


SummersTime for the week of 12/31/2012

Filed under: General — Charlie Summers @ 11:23 am

In our return-from-vacation program, to say goodbye to the year 2012 Kate starts us off with a New Year’s Eve (Arden) episode of Our Miss Brooks, I can’t let go of Christmas and play a holiday-themed episode of The Minnesota School of the Air followed by a New Year’s themed show of the same series, she counters with a funny episode of Fibber McGee and Molly, and I finish up with the New Year’s Eve 1947 episode of Philco Radio Time starring Bing Crosby with guest Danny Thomas!

SummersTime is the Radio Once More show hosted by father-and-daughter team Kate and Charlie Summers. Our goal is to pick some awesome Old-Time Radio shows that we want to hear or share with each other, and then play them for you, too! Be sure to listen to this week’s broadcast - schedule posted both at the SummersTime website and at Radio Once More!

You may stream the show using the player below, or download it with the link. Remember, by subscribing to this blog with any podcasting client (Juice, iTunes, etc. - just add the the RSS link over on the sidebar or hit the button) the shows will be automatically downloaded to your computer or MP3 player!

icon for podpress  SummersTime Dec 31, 2012 [119:30m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

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1/11/2013


Verizon’s “Six Strikes” Anti-Piracy Measures Unveiled

Filed under: General, News — Charlie Summers @ 6:25 pm

From TorrentFreak: Verizon’s “Six Strikes” Anti-Piracy Measures Unveiled

From the article: “While none of the participating ISPs have officially announced how they will handle repeat infringers, TorrentFreak has obtained a copy of Verizon’s full policy. Among other things, offenders will have to watch a video about the consequences of online piracy, before their speeds are reduced to 256kbps. Also worth mentioning is that the copyright alert system will also apply to business customers.”

While I admit articles from this website tend to be not-terribly-balanced (personally, I really enjoy the wildly-hyperbolic comments that every post regarding copyright is certain to generate), it is important that everyone in the United States who receives Internet access from any of the “big-5″ understand what they are up to…monitoring, or more accurately allowing a third-party, MarkMonitor, to monitor all of your Internet traffic. This is abhorrent to me, and frankly calls into question the ISP’s standing as a “common carrier.”

I am working on a piece for this blog that explains why not just filesharers, but everyone should carefully consider purchasing and using a VPN, Virtual Private Network, to prevent MarkMonitor and Verizon from monitoring your email, web browsing, and other Internet traffic. I already have one, because I believe it is no business of Verizon or MarkMonitor what I transfer to and from this server, for example…I am now retrieving my email over an encrypted connection from London, or Toronto, or even Romania, for heaven’s sake. Just because you have nothing to hide doesn’t mean you want everyone knowing everything about you, you know.

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12/24/2012


We take pleasure in answering at once and thus prominently…

Filed under: General — Charlie Summers @ 1:22 am

 
…the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:

Dear Editor, I am 8 years old.
Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
Papa says “If you see it in The Sun it’s so.”
Please tell me the truth. Is there a Santa Claus?
Virginia O’Hanlon
115 West Ninety-fifth St.

VIRGINIA, Your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, not even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

— Editorial page of the New York Sun, September 21, 1897

From our entire family to yours - Annie, Katie (who knows perfectly well there is a Santa Claus), and yours truly; no matter what you are celebrating at this truly amazing time of the year, Happy Holidays!

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12/13/2012


“You get what you pay for?” Retire that bromide!

Filed under: General, Reviews and Impressions — Charlie Summers @ 4:23 pm

A while back I asked via Twitter for help in converting the format of some “e-books” I have here; since a lifetime ago I used to have a Palm PDA (Personal Digital Assistant…geez, how quaint!) I have a butload of public domain books in various formats that worked on the Handspring, mostly PalmDOC .prc files, and wanted to convert them to the more modern ePub format (basically a ZIP file containing XHTML files and support files like graphics, etc.).

One of the responses I received was from a sales drone trying to sell me on a commercial web-based application for authors; it’s basically an on-line word processor and export application that charges a whopping $19.00 every time you export a book to .epub and .mobi format!

(This same company had started a micropay service in competition with PayPal. Never heard of it? Me, neither.)

Clearly I had and have no intention of paying $20 per book to convert a public domain .prc file to .epub…heck, I doubt this commercial service would even handle the input of .prc, so the response was inappropriate and nothing more than some sleazy salesguy searching Twitter for mentions of e-books. I admit I was annoyed, and called him out on it suggesting his “service” was massively over-priced; if you are an author of nitch books and want to convert to a non-DRMed e-book, there are much cheaper (read, free) ways of getting there, so this “service” depends on authors uneducated in the concept of free software.

The salesdrone responded, “You get what you pay for.” Which got me thinking about this old bromide, one I’ve used myself quite often.

In the world of the Internet, I think it’s time to retire this nonsense.

Hear me out…as a proponent of free (as in beer and as in speech) software, I know something about it, and can usually recommend some open-source or free software to accomplish almost any task. But the argument of the bromide is, the free stuff simply cannot be as good as the software you pay for. So let me throw out a few examples where the freeware alternative is near the equal of the commercial version, at least for the common consumer:
(more…)

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9/23/2012


Sometimes websites are just too big for their breeches…

Filed under: General — Charlie Summers @ 2:18 pm

I recently bought a replacement computer for one that went belly-up, and around the same time realized I was eligible for a low-price ($15) upgrade to Windows8. Now understand, Windows7 is the first version of Windows I actually liked since Windows98SE, so normally I wouldn’t consider it, but since some clients will certainly purchase machines with this installed, I should probably know enough about it to tell them how to work around all of the inevitable flaws, so what the heck.

Of course, my first problem when reaching the website is it doesn’t like my browser version, and tells me it isn’t supported. Apparently they think their unnecessary bells-and-whistles are worth my upgrading from my Firefox 3.6.28 workhorse (I have contemporary versions on some of my virtual machines, and I really don’t like them). So I quickly change the reporting user agent to Firefox 10.0.0.1 (not the browser, mind you, just the user agent) and the website cheerfully allows me in.

Next, they are going to try to stop me from pasting my email address; understand, I create a new email address for every form or website so I can easily close them should the morons allow it into the wild for spamming, so it’s a little difficult to manually retype. But they are oh-so-clever to prevent the use of cut/copy/paste in their fields, so I have no choice, right?

Wrong. I routinely use AutoHotkey (a free macro software) in command-line SSH applications so I can paste the clipboard with WINDOWS-V, so I used that. The macro I use is simple:

#v::send %clipboard%

…so I copied the newly-created email address into the clipboard, and used AutoHotKey to “type” it into the fields that disallow paste.

Of course, everything worked perfectly even using an earlier browser version and pushing the data into the fields they tried to prevent pasting into. Seriously, HTML hasn’t changed much, and other than some validation javascript they didn’t need anything else. (I did reject javascript from all of the outside sites they tried to load, to use for tracking and followthrough - screw ‘em, I run only the bare minimum of javascript required, and frequently not even that much!)

Here’s a hint, web designers: If you try to make it difficult for users to effectively use your website, we will do one of two things; either work around your pitiful attempts at control, or just go somewhere else.

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9/21/2012


Kinda liking the technology…

Filed under: General — Charlie Summers @ 8:07 pm

So the Katester picked an unsuspecting caterpillar off the weeds and housed it inside for the last few weeks. After feeding it based on Internet research and having it grow amazingly large, it built itself a chrysalis and slept for a while.

Today, the chrysalis became transparent, and eventually opened showing a beautiful butterfly stretching its new wings and legs lazily, hanging around for the blood to energize its new body parts.

To share with the Mrs., who was still at work, I took a photograph with my Android tablet, posted a reduced version to Twitter and called the Mrs. so she could view and share. Then using a Canon app I downloaded, I printed a 4×6 borderless print to the printer in my office over the WiFi, and later took video with the same tablet as we opened the enclosure and watched it take its first tentative steps into the outside world.

Yeah, I’m really liking the technology…

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7/25/2012


Lost Stuff #1 - Star Trek III Radio Spots

Filed under: General — Charlie Summers @ 10:08 pm

I’ve been spending some “quality time” cleaning up some of the decades-old crap in the basement lately, and have been finding strange, weird, and bizarre stuff I didn’t even remember I had. Truth is, I have media of every stripe (16mm and 8mm film, umatic, beta and VHS video tapes, reels, cassettes, 8-tracks, CDs, DVDs, heck, even 8″ floppy discs), and some of them I still have the ability to play. Since I shouldn’t be the only one shocked and amazed by this stuff, I’m going to post some of my finds here.

In this first installment, two radio commercials (”spots”) for the film, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. I found this reel in a large box of 5″ reels buried under some other boxes of 7″ reels…there were a bunch of movie commercial reels (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Flashdance, Staying Alive to name a few), and maybe I’ll play more later. But I should probably explain a bit about how commercials were delivered in the days before digital voice tracking.

The studios through their publicity departments would buy spots on local stations and then provide the commercials on 1/2-track 1/4″ reel tape. The commercial would then be copied onto a “cart” (short for cartridge) which worked like an 8-track - the continuous-looped tape would come out of the center of the single reel, cross the heads for record/playback, and then wind on the outside, slowly working its way back to the center for the next play. The DJ, who was actually in the local station’s studio and not voice-tracking from the other side of the country in those days, would load the cart into a machine which would, when he hit the button, play back the commercial and at the end re-cue the commercial for its next play.

Barbaric by today’s standards, I know, but if you knew where the phrase, “cutting tape” for editing came from, you’d probably swoon.

Anyway, here are two commercials for the film Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, directed by Leonard Nimoy and featuring the voices of William Shatner and George Takei. There’s one player for both files, just hit the “Play Now” link to switch files in the player. Sorta like removing one cart and sticking in another…

icon for podpress  Star Trek III Radio Spot 1 [0:33m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

icon for podpress  Star Trek III Radio Spot 2 [0:31m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

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5/14/2012


Thoughts on email spam…

Filed under: General — Charlie Summers @ 7:10 pm

Just some random thoughts about the spam I deal with every day:

If it says, “Legitimate Loan Offer,” it ain’t.

I trash unopened anything that comes in in a language I do not speak. Might sound politically-incorrect, but it sure saves a lot of time.

Ok, one that cracked me up was the spam from “BBC English” that was in Spanish.

No one is going to offer anyone a job out-of-the-blue via email. No, seriously.

“Scam Compensation Alert” means this email, not older ones.

Actually got spam email from “Captain James T. Kirk,” supposedly an American captain in Afghanistan. How stupid are these spammers?

If the subject of an email is “Hello” I say goodbye.

Political spam is really annoying. The odds of you coming anywhere near what I believe is negligible, and the odds you’ll tick me off are really high. When you’re running for office in a state I don’t even live in and send me spam, you are just pathetic.

Although one political spam made me laugh; it complained that bad politicians, “pander to the views of their voters.” But…um…isn’t that the job of an elected representative?

No, you can’t trust me with your fortune of $21-million. I won’t give it to the poor, I’ll just party it all away.

Look, knuckleheads…Robert Mueller, III is not going to be emailing me for anything, be it an arrest threat or to pick up the millions left to me in some Nigerian bank account - he has flunkies for that, and is far too busy sucking up to Congress and his boss at the White House to waste time emailing me. And while we’re on the subject, try not to put the entire threat letter in the Subject: header field…makes you look even more foolish than you do already.

Feel free to post your own thoughts about spam in the comments section.

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5/7/2012


Why reining in Google is good for us

Filed under: General — Charlie Summers @ 7:07 pm

From CNN: Why reining in Google is good for us

From the opinion piece: “I don’t like feeling stuck in a particular operating system, social network or piece of software. It’s not that I won’t commit to a product or company — it’s that I don’t trust any of them enough to get married to one of them. Once they own me, they’ll start either selling my data to other companies, limiting my Web experiences to the ones that help sell their clients’ products or otherwise screwing with me as a consumer and person.”

This is what I have been saying for quite a while now; surrendering our privacy to any company, be it Google, Apple, Microsoft, or any other, is a really bad idea. Really bad.

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4/19/2012


Jonathan Frid, actor in “Dark Shadows”, dies at 87

Filed under: General, Television — Charlie Summers @ 8:37 pm

From the Associated Press: Jonathan Frid, actor in “Dark Shadows”, dies at 87

From the article: “Frid died Friday of natural causes in a hospital in his home town of Hamilton, Ontario, said Jim Pierson, a friend and spokesman for Dan Curtis Productions, the creator of ‘Dark Shadows.’”

I met Mr. Frid once, many years ago; he was unassuming and kind, polite to a fault. He was gracious enough to sign the poster from my Dark Shadows soundtrack album, something I treasure. I truly despise the idea of Johnny Depp spitting on this show, just as he has already decimated Willy Wonka and will soon destruct The Lone Ranger; for all its many faults, it was one helluva soap opera. And while Mr. Frid is gone, with television reruns, DVDs, and whatever future media will exist, he will be almost as immortal as his character.

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3/23/2012


Facebook strips ‘privacy’ from new ‘data use’ policy

Filed under: General — Charlie Summers @ 11:38 am

From CNN: Facebook strips ‘privacy’ from new ‘data use’ policy

From the article: “Facebook posted a draft version of its revised terms on March 15 and gave the site’s users a one-week comment period to weigh in with questions and suggestions. The changes include many semantic tweaks, like stripping the word ‘privacy’ out of Facebook’s ‘privacy policy,’ which is now called a ‘data use policy.’”

There’s a reason the word “privacy” is gone…there is no privacy on Facebook. What I don’t understand is why so many people who share intimate details of their lives with complete strangers should complain about the obvious — Facebook profits by violating your privacy, period.

If you use it, you should expect this.

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