Thursday, September 21, 2006

neat toy

As if I didn't have enough distractions taking up my time, I have discovered a really cool toy. I have no idea how I found out about this.. I guess you can say I just "stumbled upon" it. But basically, it's "Stumble Upon" - . I've seen these kind of things in the past, but I have to say, this one does it right. The main premise is that you select which categories interest you the most. You are then presented with pages that match your interests, and, depending on how you (optionally) rate the sites, you will be presented with sites that even closely match what you like. Some of the work we're doing at Quantum Leap Innovations involves getting the right information to the right people at the right time, so these kinds of sites are fun to play around with over here.

If you're technically inclined, you might sandbox this. I run the toolbar and all of the new sites through a VMWare virtual machine running XP. (yes, everything is legal.)

Here are just a few sites that I have really enjoyed so far through this tool:

niyaz - fantastic conglomeration of indian, turkish, american, persian, etc. music all rolled into one awesome groove. very, very good. a bit religious, but i don't understand any of the lyrics.

Espresso Stories - a set of short (and when I say short, I mean two sentences or less) stories. Here are a couple of my submissions that might show up eventually:
Ambiguous Orders
by ben perry

"Which wire?!?", I pleaded to the transmitter.

4... 3...

"The blue one!", it barked back.


Not a good day to be colorblind.


and here's the other one:
final moment
by ben perry

Holding my hand, Dad uttered his last words: "Son, I need to tell you
something...". He breathed no more. But I know he loved me.
(no, that last story has nothing to do with me, my dad, or any psychological craziness. it's just an attempt to cram emotion into two sentences. you'll be happy to know that my dad loves me, he's alive, and all is well. *sniff*)

Arrow of time - a really cool and powerful photo essay. very cool.

Milgrim story - a commonly-told psychological experiment. I saw it before a long time ago, but it's still a moving and disturbing story to read.

ASA Photos - Make sure you turn your speakers up for this one - the sound track is part of the main allure. Nice interface and awesome sound track. The intro movie is excellent.

Spheric Lounge - great collection of techno ambient music, completely free and downloadable. Very talented musicians and computer junkies.

ansiform - another good set of ambient music.

The list could go on and on. These are some of the links that interest me. They might not interest you, but the cool thing is that you can "stumble upon" things that you really like.

Check it out.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Emergency Broadcast Overhaul

US citizens are increasingly turning to the internet and cell phones instead of the TV for their main source for entertainment and information. The national emergency broadcast system should evolve to include the internet and cell phones as mediums for emergency communication. There are two easy plans that the emergency broadcast system could implement. First, internet service providers in the United States could implement a simple switch during an emergency that routes any webpage traffic to a specific information page. For example, during an emergency, when a person tries to go to or , the person would instead see an emergency information page. Second, we could take a page out of China's book and send text messages containing emergency information to all cell phone users within the United States. Improving the way we reach out to our citizens in an emergency is an important step that should be considered.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Musically emotional experience

Being a semi-professional musician, I like to listen to live performances from time to time. Jessica and I went to a renaissance festival in Pennsylvania last weekend and had a really good time even though the weather was somewhat threatening. Anyway, as with most renaissance festivals, live musicians were everywhere. I sat in on four different performances throughout our trip, mostly for short two or three minute stints. But towards the end of the day, Jessica was off shopping at some jewelry store, so I started wandering around the area and I heard some decent celtic music with an interesting percussion going on. I pulled up to the group and it turns out that the audience - maybe seven people or so at this point - were all banging away at some random percussion instrument while the two performers were doing their thing. It was a husband / wife team, with the wife being on a harp and the husband being on a guitar. I sat down and just soaked in the environment for a really cool song.

Jessica had finished whatever she was doing, so she came up to me during the middle of the song. At the end of the song, the lady performer grabbed another set of percussion instruments and handed them out to the few newcomers, Jessica included. For their next song, the guy whipped out a bagpipe and ripped into a really cool irish tune. The audience was really into it. Right next to me, an elder gentleman was hitting some claves. To his right were a couple of young arabs on egg shakers. Jessica was shaking a tambourine. Some other lady was ripping a bamboo scraper. A cowbell rang out every once in a while. The culmination of everybody banging away at their own instrument -- completely unrehearsed -- and the power of the bagpipes made for an awesome ambience, but something even more special happened towards the middle of the song. Some lady sat down with the audience and, not having an instrument to bang on, just started clapping her hands in rhythm. I don't really know why that touched me, but it did. Everyone was making music in their own way and it was one of the coolest msuical experiences I've ever had.

Friday, September 01, 2006

x11 forwarding and localhost

It's sometimes the little things that get me. Like putting a decimal point in the wrong spot, and then explaining to the bank why they owe me $700 instead of only $7. X11 forwarding is one of those things. I use X11 on my windows box for cygwin and remote *nix apps. I write in java a lot, so I port my apps over to a local beowulf cluster and fire up some slaves to cary out my world domination plans. Some of my apps use GUIs, and being able to display them on my local machine through the aether via ssh and x11 forwarding is pretty cool.

But there was this one box that absolutely would not forward X11. The server was configured to allow X11 forwarding, my client was set to allow X11 forwarding, ssh was sending the right stuff over, but there was still a disconnect. I could send over an xterm if I explicitly set the display to my local machine, open up the firewall, and add the remote box to xauth, but that's pretty lame and it also isn't secure. When I ssh in, $DISPLAY was being set to localhost:12.0 , which makes sense. So the only thing left to check was the resolution of localhost. Turns out that some bonehead put an entry in the hosts file to set localhost to the host's external IP instead of - grr! Lesson learned.

So if you're at your wits end googling for "xterm Xt error: Can't open display: ", or why x11 won't play nice with ssh, or how to configure ssh to allow x11 forwarding, check your hosts file. It might save you a bit of sanity.