Stuff That I'm Messing With


Faces from in-flight magazine


I took all the faces from the airplane's inflight magazine and made a collage of the beautiful people.

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Spanning Sync Coupon Code

Use this coupon for Spanning Syn and save $5.00

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Off the grid for 12-hours

Organizing a Silence and Solitude Day

"Silence and solitude is fasting from people and noise for a prescribed time to connect with God and replenish the soul. The opposite of solitude is isolation, where someone is burned out and goes into survival mode by disappearing. Solitude is godly, isolation is deadly, and if we don't enjoy the former we'll wind up pursuing the latter."

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iSight Fix

A helpful bit of software I found to fix my built-in iSight

"Ok, so you have a MacBook with a built in iSight and MacOS keeps forgetting it even exists? You keep getting the infamous "camera is not connected or is in use by another program" error message?

You've come to the right place!

Source: {CODIUM();} :: iSight Fix

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Places I want to go

A store dedicated to soda:
Galco’s Soda Pop Stop
5702 York Boulevard,
Los Angeles, California 90042

A store where I can buy gold (that I can physically hold)
Irvine Gold Mine Suite E
14370 Culver Dr.
Irvine CA 92604

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I cannot believe what a geek I am. The cardoon flower bloomed last night (see picture). This is so awesome because it works as a vegetarian rennet for cheese making. But the fact that I have cardoon coupled with this extremely detailed analysis (see other picture) of the dna, chemical properties and distribution of clotting enzymes from a book scan on Google Book Search has me so excited.

If it weren't for Google Book Search I never would have found this article about the properties of the cardoon flower. Since I did find it, I ordered seeds from a vintage/heirloom seed company, planted the cardoon in my backyard, cultivated it and now plan on making homemade artisan cheese from it.

It is so unbelievably geeky foody nerdy engineery off-the-gridy wacky that I'm going to wet myself. Trivia question: What do I have in common with Portuguese farmers? We both make Serra Estrela cheese (sort of. I'm going to use goat milk instead of sheep milk)


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A fun picture I made of UCI based on the photograph located here

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Today's obsession is with mandarinquats. A cross between a kumquat and a mandarin tangerine, you eat them whole, peel and all. And while my family says they are sour and gross and taste like rind. I find them strangely pleasant with a delicious after-taste.

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Anti-shout-outs to and JungleDisk. Shout-out to SuperDuper.

I have had devastating hard drive failures in the past. That makes me very sensitive to keeping back-ups of my data. I was hoping that would be a wonderful option for keeping my data offsite in the cloud somewhere. Unfortunately it didn't work well. After several iterations with support I decided that they couldn't get their Mac client to work right. Plus the hassle that I got from my IT department who was telling me I was using too much bandwidth just made it all a pain.


From a technical standpoint, JungleDisk is much better. It is looks like an infinitely large disk on your computer. It accomplishes this by backing files to Amazon's cloud storage. Unfortunately Amazon limits file sizes to 5GB. So until that is fixed I can't use Jungle Disk for offsite cloud back up either.

My best solution right now then is to use the awesome program SuperDuper and back up to a network attached storage device which is RAID'd and in my office. I wish I didn't have to manage it, but for now that's my best option. I could use Apple's Time Machine offerings - that would act a lot like my NAS, but I already had the NAS when Time Machine came out.

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Well even though the sunrise isn't getting earlier yet, (See the previous entry on sunrises for a discussion of why) the days *are* getting longer and the sunrise is moving north again. Out my window it happens to reach it's furthest south point on the little hill shown. Then it starts to march North again, till it is almost not visible from my patio. Spring is coming!

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But you live in the land of eternal spring.

Posted by: Nate at January 8, 2009 4:18 AM

Garden Produce


The kids harvested some of our carrots last night. These were the "winners" our monster carrots. Since it doesn't often freeze around here, the carrots can stay in the ground longer than usual. Needless to say they taste great.

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The Second Cheese


Last night I made the second cheese. This was again a simple soft cheese like chevre, but this time it *was* made with goat milk. Not only that, but I found a local dairy to get the milk from! Summer Hill Dairy in Chino. Now I just have to raise a crop of cardoon and I am well on my way to authentic local cheese production. I've decided that when I actually get the cheese figured out I'm going to call it "Antigone" for various inside joke reasons.

Separating the curds and whey from the children.
Goat milk cheese with black pepper and basil. It was really good, but actually was better after our dinner than before it.

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Nice mixer.

Posted by: Nate at January 8, 2009 4:22 AM

that is super awesome!

Posted by: lilly at February 7, 2009 1:22 AM

The First Cheese Rings in the New Year


I'm happy to report success with my first cheese. Shown on the left is a delicious "lemon cheese". It is the easiest of all cheeses to make. I coated it with fresh herbs from our garden. It is like a chevre cheese, but made with cow's milk instead of goat milk.

My goal is to make a wheel of parmesan. But that is going to take a while to work up to it. In the meantime, my next target is a wheel of cheddar. I will pursue that during Spring Break. Hurray!

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I will be googling how to make that.

By the way, I hope you don't mind but I might be crawling your site for assignment 03.

Thanks prof.

Posted by: Chris Lee at January 25, 2009 3:04 PM

No problem. Crawl away. My bandwidth is allegedly free. But my website isn't wikipedia either...

Posted by: Don at January 26, 2009 9:53 AM

Made the cheese last night, and tried it today. It was awesome, although I didn't have fresh herbs to coat it with (I bought some dry).

P.S. Misread "quart" for "gallon". Huge mistake. Kitchen was a mess at the end of separation because I had to use multiple bowls to strain everything.

Posted by: Chris Lee at February 9, 2009 3:27 PM

Solstice turns out to be real


I started the day convinced that the Winter Solstice was merely a myth invented by pagans and picked up by atheists in an attempt to make themselves feel better during the darkest days of the year. A crutch to give them something to celebrate in the face of overwhelming hopelessness.

The source of this conviction was the data I have been collecting regarding sunrise out my kitchen window. The data is plotted on the left. As you can clearly see sunrise is continuing to get later and later well past the alleged "winter solstice" of 12/21.

My position now, later in the day, is that the winter solstice is, in fact, a real event, but much more complicated than a simple pagan could possibly comprehend (not withstanding Stongehenge). Or perhaps more than I can possibly comprehend. All the tools online agree that the 12/21 is the shortest day in the year, and they also agree with the data that I have collected which indicates that although 12/21 is the shortest day of the year, sunrise will continue to get later until sometime in mid-January. It's just that sunset stopped getting earlier on 12/21 and started to get later faster than sunrise was getting later. (It's kind of like a payment-option mortgage back in the good times)

So right now I don't quite understand why the sunrise and sunset don't increase and decrease symmetrically. Why doesn't the sunrise get earlier when the sunset gets later? Is it because I'm not in the middle of the timezone? Lazy internet, wikipedia has failed me, what do you say?

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*gets comment party started*

Irvine, CA-specific data from corroborates the traditional story. Posted at . How, exactly, doesn't it mesh with your data? Also, methods?

Running hypothesis: you perceive light differently, pre-morning coffee.

Posted by: Sam at December 30, 2008 12:09 AM

Just realized/was shocked that this means you wake up before sunrise.

Posted by: Sam at December 30, 2008 12:16 AM

I do wake up before sunrise (gasp!)

And I think that table does mesh with my data. My sunrise times won't be the same because I don't have a clean horizon. I'm timing the sunrise over Bonita Canyon. The trend, though, is consistent. Coffee notwithstanding.

In your data the sunrise continues to get later even after 12/21. Same with my data. Before this experiment I would have thought that on 12/21 the sunrise would start getting earlier and sunset later. That isn't the case in my data, or the data that you posted.

Posted by: Don at December 30, 2008 10:26 AM

From a private response from an Astronomy Professor at UCI Irvine:

"I can give you a shortish answer and maybe explain it better the next time we run into each other. It has to do with the fact that clocks are set using mean solar time (the time it would be if the earth's axis wasn't tilted with respect to its orbit around the sun, and if the orbit were perfectly circular).
     The 23.5 degree tilt and the fact that the orbit isn't quite circular both work to make local high-noon later than a clock's noon in the early winter. This shifts both sunrise and sunset later relative to the clock (note that without this effect, sunrise will become later and sunset will become earlier, as you might originally think). This systematic shift in both sunrise and sunset messes up your expectation that they should expand uniformly around clock noon.
     Why does this happen? Before solstice the sun is moving slightly slower to the east than it would if the earth weren't tilted. After solstice, it goes the other way.

So I read this as: the earths orbit is not round and clocks assume that it is.

Posted by: Don at December 31, 2008 12:14 PM

Two books I've read during the break

Crash Proof: In which I learn that the perfect storm has come to the U.S.

And... Home Cheese Making: In which I learn that to survive the economic collapse I must learn how to make artisanal cheeses in a cave which I dig out of the hillside in University Hills.

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The nearest library with Home Cheese Making is in Cerritos! *outrage*

Posted by: Sam at December 27, 2008 3:55 PM

A Whiteboard Christmas

O Holy Night, The whiteboard is brightly shining....

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WHOA. You just blew my mind. That was the most magical testament to Christmas I think I've ever seen.


Posted by: lilly at February 7, 2009 1:29 AM

Automated Targeting System

Thank you lazy internet (Matt in this case), for bringing to my attention the fact that among all the private data the Department of Homeland Security felt that it was important to black out, my credit card number was not one of them. So within the 19 pages of travel information that they had on me, which I requested via FOIA and then posted on Friday, was included my credit card number, expiration data, security code, and home address (albeit incorrect) .

So for the time being I pulled my dossier. I'm not sure what to do now. Maybe I'll self-blackout that info and repost.

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Automated Targeting System


Download my report (see this post)

Request your own:

For a long time I have been musing about the role of databases and data collection in our collective present and future.

Well the saga that started in September 2007 has come to an end. At that time I submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Customs and Border Protection Agency for all the information related to me in the Automated Targeting System. The Department of Homeland Security uses this system (with unknown effectiveness) to determine who are criminals and terrorists.

My request returned a 19 page dossier on me (!). Interestingly enough, a lot of information on the report was blacked out. I find it curious that there is so much information on me, especially the stuff I'm not allowed to see "to protect my privacy".

I'm posting my report on the left. I invoke the lazy Internet to find out anything interesting about me from the document. If you ask me it looks like there is a lot of information in the report that would be good for a forensic analysis after the fact, but I don't know that my trip to Osaka and email address are going to do much to stop terrorist attacks. If a plane blew up in Osaka, then, sure, you could find out that I was on it, but that doesn't require the ATS.

If you would like to request your own information I've posted the letters I used on the left also. The letter originated from a post on the Consumerist blog which has since disappeared.

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Domo Origato

I am so totally obsessed with this song/video. I think this song has a lot more going for it than I gave it credit for when it first came out. I don't know much about Styx, but the lyrics and art of this video are really working for me. Plus dressing up like a robot to escape prison is a good Halloween story.

"Thank you very mucho Mr. Roboto for doing the jobs no one wants to ... for helping me escape when I needed to. ... the problem's plain to see - too much technology... machines to save our lives... machines to humanize...."

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Rebroadcast of a talk I gave at Microsoft Research


A talk I gave at Microsoft Research was recently posted on the web. You need a Microsoft platform in order to view it.

ResearchChannel - From Sensors to Semantics: Intelligent Context for Situated Computing

Produced by: Microsoft Research 10/01/2007

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Inbox 3165


Ugh, vacation was relaxing, but the inbox/todo list blossomed in my absence. Green is a metric which captures my overall workload.

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Whither art thou summer?


Ugh... on the left is the graph of my inbox for the last month. I thought this was supposed to be summer!

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When I first glanced at the chart, I thought you were depicting temperatures for the global warmings in the SC.

Posted by: Nate at July 1, 2008 4:32 AM

When I first glanced at the chart, I thought perhaps the upward trend was the result of time spent creating such pretty charts.

Posted by: Sam Kaufman at July 2, 2008 4:18 PM

Oh sure... life's easy when you are in Cambridge.

Posted by: DJP3 at July 2, 2008 5:04 PM

Relief - my display is back

my office

Props to the Tech Room in Costa Mesa for repairing my cinema display to better than new quickly. It is a *huge* relief to have it back.

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I can understand your relief... huge displays are nice. But now I'm wondering - do your secret powers all actually come from having a crystal skull to stare at while you work?

Posted by: haasebert at June 17, 2008 6:24 PM

No one, except my arch-nemesis, knows the secret of my super powers.

Disregard the glowing crystal head in the corner.

Posted by: DJP3 at June 18, 2008 2:19 PM

Inbox 1238


A lot of you blog readers out there have been asking me, "Hey Don, how are you doing on the inbox zero stuff?". Well just wanted to let everyone know that zero has risen to 1238 - one thousand two hundred and thirty eight. So I'll be trying to get that under control again. But if you were waiting for a reply to your email... um.... try sending it again I guess?

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Department of Homeland Security


I fear the day when I get caught in some administrative snafu at the Department of Homeland Security which seriously impedes my ability to function and find that getting a response requires 5 months. But at least they aren't targetting me.

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iPhone RingTones for Free

Photo courtesy of

In typical fashion I got distracted this morning by ringtones on the iPhone. The iTunes music store will happily sell you a ringtone for your iPhone for $2.00. $1.00 for a song and then $1.00 for a ringtone based on it. I'm cheap and started looking on the web for all the ways to get a ringtone for free. There are a lot of programs that you can buy that will let you put all the ringtones that you want on your phone for just the cost of the software. I say, "Not good enough!"

With minimal hacking I discovered that GarageBand will let you export a ringtone to your iPhone. So it's as easy as importing an MP3 into GarageBand, trimming it to the part you want and hitting export to RingTone.

So now I have "3 is a magic number" by Blind Melon on my phone! (Yea it is)

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Thanks for sharing today. :-)

Posted by: Sam Kaufman at April 30, 2008 11:44 PM

Shout Out for Spaces


Mac Leopard comes with a virtual desktop technology called Spaces. It allows you to have multiple desktops that you can transition through to gain more window space and possibly visually isolate different activities from one another.

I have used virtual desktop software before and always ended up stopping for one reason or another, but Spaces is beautiful. All of the finer details of the way the program works make it a really great tool. Here's a nice YouTube video of it in action.

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Shout Out for CoRD

logo for CoRD

This is a shout out for CoRD: Remote Desktop for Mac OS X. This software allows you to connect to a remote MS Windows machine from a Mac using rdesktop as the underlying technology.

It is a lot awesomer than Remote Desktop Connection software from Microsoft. Why is it better? The U/I is much easier to use. It doesn't crash. The way the window is embedded is much more natural for Mac users.

It doesn't seem to forward sounds though and I'm also having trouble moving files between my local machine and the remote machine, but that is true in any multi-machine set up that I put together.

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Instant Messaging User Study

My lab is conducting a user study on mobile IM users. If you have 10 minutes and want a chance at $50.00 we'd appreciate your input.

More info here.

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Nomatic*IM Version 0.0.1 Released

Nomatic*IM logo

After a lot of work we are finally ready to release an early early version of Nomatic*IM. Yeah!

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NSF awards grant for Nomatic*IM

Flickr Image
Photo courtesy of julian-

Patterson awarded NSF grant to develop context aware IM client

"Assistant professor of informatics Donald Patterson has been been awarded a grant of over $400,000 from the National Science Foundation to develop a context aware Instant Messaging (IM) client."

Yea! Read more by clicking through the link above.

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Weekend Experiment #2: WiFi Telephone Calling

07142007024.jpg 07142007023.jpg

Oh, if only it were always summer and the research would flow like bubbles from a Woodbridge hot tub all the time:

The other cool experiment to occur this weekend was that after nearly wetting myself about T-Mobile's HotSpot@Home WiFi Cell phone announcement, I subscribed to the plan, got a new phone and wifi router for home, canceled my landline, and made my first WiFi phone call with T-Mobile's system. I think this is a fundamental shift in phone computing/communication that dwarfs the iPhone.

Using the hand-set I registered with UCI's network guardians so that the phone's MAC address was recognized on campus. Nearly instantly I was making unlimited calls everywhere on campus with much better reception that I had previously.

Several funny things happened. First I realized that I had gotten in the habit of walking toward windows when I was on my cell phone. Now, that's not the right thing to do with this phone. Second T-Mobile apparently has arranged that the phone will make unlimited WiFi calls from all T-Mobile Hotspots. So suddenly all Starbucks are also effectively cell phone towers. Futhermore, anytime I plug my laptop into a land line network I can turn it into a cell phone repeater by turning on Wi-Fi sharing. Which means that if I can get internet access internationally with my laptop, I can make unlimited calls to the U.S. with this phone and avoid the outrageous roaming fees.

In a lot of ways this is like Skype with SkypeIn and SkypeOut, but let's face it, it's a lot more convenient to use a cell phone to make calls and stay connected than a laptop. Futhermore, the cell phone gracefully transitions from cell to wifi and back again.

Okay, now the bad things. When I cancelled my home phone number, my DSL also got cancelled. T-Mobile assured me that this wouldn't happen, but it did. So I lost broadband at home in the process (hence why the experiment was going on on campus). I have a work order in with Speakeasy to set up a "One-Link" DSL line which cuts AT&T out of the picture. It costs $5.00 more than my previous broadband access, but it allows me to have DSL at home without any phone company involved.

Secondly, I haven't rigorously tested the hand-off from cell to wifi and back. Other reports suggest that wifi to cell is seamless and cell to wifi takes a minute or two. But in using the phone I never even noticed when it switched back and forth.

Finally, we haven't tested the Starbucks thing. It's just a matter of time of course, but fair disclosure/ buyer beware.

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You just pulled a Palmer. Don't try and deny it. Thanks a lot.

Posted by: Nate at July 20, 2007 12:01 PM

That's rampant consumerism at work. Yes!

Posted by: Nate at July 20, 2007 12:03 PM

Weekend Experiment #1: Solar Power

Flickr Image
Photo courtesy of sabellachan

One of my personal gripes about research here in Irvine, is about how we aren't effectively utilizing two of our strategic Southern California resources: sun and traffic. Well this weekend, the first domino fell. I am happy to report that I successfully charged my PowerBook G4, a bluetooth GPS unit, and a Nokia N84 phone from the sun via a Brunton solar panel. It felt really ubiquitous because suddenly that nagging problem of power was *gone*.

Now, granted there was a lot more gear involved. The solar panel is about the size of a beach towel, but folds up to the size of a laptop. It outputs 12V so you can use it to charge a car battery, or use the new ubiquitous power supply, the cigarette lighter plug. Both the GPS unit and the phone came with car chargers, so that was a snap. The PowerBook was a little more tricky. I first tried to use a transformer to alter the 12V to 120V and then plug in the white Apple brick into it. But the loss of power in the (2!) transformers could not be compensated for by the solar panel. Instead I used an airplane seat power adaptor (which I have never had the opportunity to use). With a little help from a hack saw I managed to get it to fit into a car lighter adaptor that Paul Dourish had lying around. So with the airplane cable and the adaptor the power went straight to the powerbook without any transformers. Viola! Now the solar panel was enough to trickle charge the laptop.

I didn't do a good job of timing the charge, but in bright sunlight it took roughly about 30 minutes for a 10% charge, so back of the envelope says a full charge would take 5 hours, which is consistent with the solar panel documentation.

One can daisy chain the solar panels up to a total of three to increase power output, so that would presumably be enough to match wall power recharge time, and be enough to run the powerbook while plugged into the solar panel. Currently the powerbook has to be off/suspended for the charge to be able to keep up with the discharge. The solar panel costs about $350.00 right now, so a daisy chain of three ain't cheap.

But it was really really cool and it demonstrated to me that none of our infrastructure is built to support solar panels. Because there is very little way for me to actually use it on a day to day basis. However, since I'll be in Africa in two weeks....

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Bad shots fired


These two shots of espresso, which I pulled this morning, are unacceptable. They will be immediately relieved of their duties and a replacement will be sought through our normal channels. That is all. You may return to your normal web-based activities.

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Fishing for bugs in loyalty card programs - 2

Flickr Image
Photo courtesy of carlosluis

I did a quad this morning. I bought my four things in four separate purchases. I feel the coupons rolling in.

Reference this blog entry.

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This appears to be symptoms of middle aged boring.

Posted by: Nate at January 16, 2007 11:48 AM

Sure, until i find the way to get free micro-brew by buying five packages of pampers in a two day period.

Posted by: DJP3 at January 16, 2007 12:57 PM

Fishing for bugs in loyalty card programs

Flickr Image
Photo courtesy of carlosluis

Albertson's has all kinds of ridiculous incentive programs which make it impossible to figure out how much something really costs. Loyalty cards, an additional in-store loyalty kiosk called "avenu", coupons in the aisles, coupons at the check-out. Uggh.. I hate it.

This morning I wondered if I could find a programming bug in the loyalty program by splitting my grocery cart purchase into 50 or so individual purchases of 1 item. I wonder if there is some code which counts "transactions" rather than "items purchased" that could be exploited.

If I get a chance to try it, and I see some wacky thing happen to my personalized incentive coupons that get mailed, emailed, printed and otherwise thrust at me I'll report it here.

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My Academic Family Tree


An academic family tree is the succession of Ph.D. advisors that go back in time. It's like a normal family tree, only it represents a professional heritage rather than a genetic one. I constructed mine. To see the details click on the image on the left. It was cool to find names like Fourier, Dirichlet, and Poisson in my academic ancestors. All from Dieter's side of course.

The source for this is the Mathematics Genealogy Project located here.

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I don't see Algore anywhere in here..?

Posted by: Nate at December 26, 2006 4:08 AM

Laser Etching my Powerbook

Some might ask why would you laser etch your Powerbook? I would say because I'm never going to get a tattoo.

I went to Atlanta and GA Tech this weekend. They have some sweet toys! Since the opportunity was at hand, and I was very tired, and I had a couple hours to kill, this just sort of happened....

The design in based on the LUCI website


1. Starting the laser etch.Kind of nervous, why is it being lased all the way across!?!?

1.jpg 1.jpg

3.Laser glowing white where it is cutting a lot.

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6. Don and Shwetak, grad student at GA tech and master of the etcher


7. Don and Shwetak


8. Close up of the don't-lase-the-plastic-thinking-its-aluminum zone

1.jpg 1.jpg

9. Starting the skyline


10. done lasing


Final product


11. Julie, the jedi knight, and Shwetak the jedi master with the finished product


12. Don, happy with final laptop


Back to work with my logo reaffixed

Then last but not least, a reduced quality version of the source image:

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I got to ride a Segway today! GA Tech has tons of great tools. 3-D printers, laser etchers, segways, oh my!

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That's so last year!

Posted by: Nate at December 13, 2006 9:47 AM

Derek Webb Agathos Mashup Desktop Background Screen Saver Image


The other night I felt compelled to make this Desktop / Screensaver image. It is inspired by the work of Agathos and the music of Derek Webb

Naturally it is made for a 30" apple cinema display at the appropriate resolution of 2560 x 1600

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I had a bad experience with


If you are looking for a web hosting company, you may be inclined to use because they are cheap. I do not recommend them. I have been in a dispute over their root server package for almost six months now. There are two credit card companies involved and about 30 people from 1and1. Every time I call them, or email them, I get a different person who tells me a different policy that the company has. Each contact requires hours of my time and ends unresolved with a situation that is bad for both me and

The substance of my problem is that they would not let my root server host a virtual machine in a bridged configuration because their network switches shutdown my Internet connection whenever they saw more than one MAC address coming from my machine. If you are going to run a web server in a virtual machine, you must have this ability. I contacted their tech support who refused to change the set up. Then they refused to give me my money back despite an advertised money-back guarantee. In the process they shut down access to my website on 3 or 4 occasions (a different package they offer), they charged and refunded my credit card 3 times, and they told me the issue was resolved and not resolved about 5 times. I'm still dealing with this issue today.

Instead, use The first person who picks up the phone will know what they are talking about and will solve the problem.

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old article from 06

Posted by: at February 11, 2009 3:20 PM

But I think they are still a bad company.

Posted by: Don at February 11, 2009 3:58 PM

Meebo is web-based Instant Messaging


Meebo offers a browser-based cross platform instant messaging solution. It works well for people behind firewalls that don't allow IM. You know, it's not a huge revolution, but for some situations, this is exactly what you need.

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So I'm having a great time in Dublin, Ireland this week. I'm enjoying Pervasive 2006 and LoCA, and especially Ireland. I went to the Guinness brewery tonight. I've seen some amazing foam art in lattes in Seattle, but the bartender poured a shamrock in my beer as shown in the lame camera phone shot on the right. Now that's cool. I also learned that the Guinness book of world records is the same Guinness as the beer and we heard a great Irish band called Anuna - kind of like Enya, but not so full of the vapors.

Dublin has tons of great music. Really good coffee. Beautiful architecture and a growing and sophisticated information technology infrastructure. So far, its been a good adventure.


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Fifty Ways to Take Notes

note squares
Photo courtesy of pupski.

This web site has an overwhelming list of Web 2.0/ Ajax-y sites that will help you take notes, write collaborative documents, wiki and do other text-based information management tasks. Uggh.. It's overwhelming.

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If you can use Scribbles, then I'm interested.

Posted by: Nate at April 24, 2006 4:04 AM

Google Earth Find


I found a house on fire while flying around Orange County with Google Earth. Click on the photo to get a .kmz file to see it yourself in Google Earth. Or go to Google Maps

(Stuff That I'm Messing With) Permanent Link made 5:41 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)


You're posts lately have been boring. Blokebot? Squirrels? Come on! I need my entertainment. Also dissapointing is the frequency between posts... Please submit my concerns to the appropriate agency.

Posted by: Nate at April 14, 2006 3:50 AM

Aaah - Command Line Shells!


So is it a directory or isn't it?

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Finding copies of web sites online


Here is a cool website that will find copies of two websites. Valuable if you are worried that people are ripping off your content and claiming that it is thier own. Copyscape

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Craigslist is amazing


Life is changing. Part of the changes in my life have been a reorganization of my computing resources. I had a Pentium II desktop computer at home that has become unused now that my family is running off of laptops. I was then faced with the eternal dilemma of how to dispose of a dual-headed-CRT tower computer that was somewhat obsolete. Being a responsible fellow, I won't put them in landfills because computers are filled with hazardous waste. (I know that no one else cares) So typically disposing of these things costs ~$50.00 and a bunch of time trying to find the right place to take them. (Side note: There's been news recently that sometimes these computer-dropoff places are just dumping the junk in Africa [NY TImes][blog][primary source], not recycling them, but still, I try to do the right thing)

So I took a few camera-phone shots of the thing, wrote a description of the guts and posted it on craigslist as a "free" item. Within 5 minutes of the ad going on the web, I had a list of 6 people who wanted to come by my house and take the computer off my hands! In fact the phone was ringing so often I freaked out and pulled the ad off of craigslist before I got anymore interest. The first guy that contacted me was at my house in less than an hour, carting it off.

So I asked myself, did I make a mistake? Was this computer worth something? So I looked on ebay to see the going prices of the components and pretty much convinced myself that between the profit that I would have gotten on the good parts and the cost of disposing the bad parts I would have come out even and spent a lot of time shipping stuff.

The moral of the story is: If you have marginally valuable stuff that you want to get rid of quickly, put a classified ad up on the local craigslist and stand by the phone. It worked in Seattle, it worked in Orange County with this computer and it's worked in Orange County in the past with a bunch of moving boxes I got rid of the same way. Props to craigslist. I still don't know what that means.

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I have a topper for that. I unearthed a bunch of landscaping rocks from our yard and put them on craigslist. We had multiple requests. They were gone within a week.

Posted by: Nate at January 11, 2006 12:14 PM

Samorost2 Flash Video Game


Samorost2 is a beautiful Flash based video game. It's not the type of game that gets the adrenaline pumping. It's more like Myst in that it is a puzzle game. But the enjoyment of this game comes from watching the artwork enfold as though it were primarily an interactive story. A story about a small white gnome-guy whose dog is stolen by space aliens.

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Get Rid of Pre-Approval Letters, Junk Mail, Spam, Telemarketing Calls, etc.

Photo courtesy of StefZ

Some handy anti-marketing help for you below.

Here is a link to get yourself off of the credit card company pre-approval lists:

And to not get telemarketing calls go here:
and here:

And to quit getting some junk mail go here:

And to quit getting some spam go here:

And to quit getting sexually-oriented mail, fill this form out and send it to the address listed here.

Some of the links will charge you $5.00 to get off the lists, but if you click the button for getting off the list by mail instead, they will pre-generate a letter that you can print out and mail.

As far as I can tell these sites are legit. Some are referenced by the FTC in the following article:, others are run by the Post Office. If it makes you feel better, I used all of them.

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Fink Commander Is The Sauce

finkcommander.png I just want to give out some props to the people who wrote Fink Commander. I needed to install Ruby, a new language that is taking the geeks by storm (sort of). Normally this would be a huge pain. But, not with Fink Commander. I just picked ruby and said install and it worked. No sweat. No security problems. Mad props to the FC crew! I don't know what that means.

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Mac OS X Screen Hack (updated)

Note: I'm resurrecting this story because I thought this had stopped working, but it started working again on my new laptop:
pantherlogo.jpg Invert the color on your screen and send it into black and white mode by pressing Control-Option-Command-8.

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Jim Gilchrist Can't Manage his Telephone Call List : Updated

Photo courtesy of FngKestrel

Jim Gilchrist is running for Congress for District 48 in Orange County, California. This is where I live and includes Irvine, CA.

He bugs me because his entire platform is based on a negative outlook on the present and future expressed through organizing volunteer border patrols. He must not be riding the bus around Orange County at 5 am or he'd see all the Mexicans going to their jobs cleaning up Orange County's trash, mowing our lawns and delivering our goods. We might need Mexican labor, as much as they need a place to earn a living. Anyway, I rant...

Of course the reason I'm blogging is much closer to home. He has some robot calling program that calls my cell phone, uses my minutes and my bandwidth to tell me about how he is keeping the Mexicans out of California and darn it isn't that good enough for my vote. Although I've asked his campaign to remove me from his list, I keep getting his calls. I guess he can't figure out how to find people who can run a database as easily as he can find people who will capture poor people in their spare time.

And just so that I have something to offer rather than just criticisms, I endorse a much better candidate, Bea Tiritilli. A well-spoken, apparently well-educated mom.

Here is the text of an email exchange that I traded with "Eldon" of the Gilchrist campaign. This was the second time I requested to be removed from their calling list:

I have received two telephone calls on my mobile phone from a Jim Gilchrist recording robot. Please stop calling me. My number is XXX-XXX-XXXX.


Dear Dr. Patterson,

I have removed your name and phone number from the file we used last night for the auto dial message from Jim Gilchrist. The number was generated from the voter files of registered voters from the OC Registrar of Voters. You may want to re-register to vote and not fill in a telephone number to avoid this in the future.


So the only reason why I'm asked for my phone number on the voter registration card is so that I can get automatic dialer messages from any candidate who can afford the list?

Well see what they say next....

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Mac OS X print queue trick

Photo courtesy of ChrisWiegand

This is the coolest Mac thing I've ever stumbled on.

I always have printing problems. Today my problem is that the closest printer is on the fritz. Unfortunately I had a bunch of things in the queue and needed them printed out. They are sitting there, but the printer won't respond to my laptop.

Well, I found out that you can drag the items in the queue to a different printer.

Just open printer setup. Double click on the two printers in question so that you can see the jobs waiting to be printed and the empty queue of the alternative printer. Then drag the waiting jobs to the printer that you want to move them to.

Viola' problem solved.

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"Getting Things Done" and my card based time-management

CD cover

I recently finished listening to the audio book version of David Allen's "Getting Things Done". This was a really good motivator for how to deal with the constant interruptions of modern information work. Not just external interruptions but also internal interruptions. The book presents a system for managing interruptions which is good, and which I was inspired to use, but most of the value comes from motivating you to actually take care of things that you have begun to let accumulate in your life. Either that, or renegotiate expectations about them with yourself.

In addition to this system, I also use a deck of index cards that have a task written on them which I use to manage repetitive things that do daily. These cards are also annotated with a time which is the number of minutes which I spend on the task written on the card. Each day I treat the deck as a fresh set of cards and over the course of the day I must "play" them by doing the task on the card. In some cases the cards list things that I tend to do too much, like check the news. In this situation the card is a limit of how much time I can spend checking news. In other cases the cards list things I know I should do, but won't naturally, like schedule the hours of my day. The last type of card is just a reminder card which I use to remember to do things daily, like backup my laptop.

Anyway this system has allowed me to better understand where my time is going. I am now explicit about the things that I was just doing "on the side" before so I can plan and manage them better. So far I have retired one card because I realized that it was a waste of my time. I have a total of 12 cards in my deck now representing a total of three hours of work.


(Stuff That I'm Messing With, Stuff That I've Read For "Fun") Permanent Link made 11:25 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)


Again, is this really necessary to indicate what activities are wasting your time? Seems to me that this is the obscene marketing ploy of the literary world.

Posted by: Nate at June 29, 2005 10:03 AM



I was getting so sick of typing in passwords to log on to different machines using various terminals. At the same time we recently had a break in at the University of Washington featuring hackers from Romania. So I was stuck. I needed strong passwords and it was a hassle. Then I rediscovered ssh-agent! This program acts as a password wallet for your ssh sessions. You authenticate to it and then it takes care of future authentications. Strong passwords and convenience. This and some clever bash scripting has shaved time from my daily routine!

I guess it's not that incredible, but I sure am happy I got it working.

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iTunes, JHymn, DRM

jhymn logo

What a wonderful little program JHymn is. Basically you read the instructions, then you run it and next thing you know all of your iTunes Music Store music has had its DRM stripped. Now I can play it on any device that I want and I don't have to worry about which computers are "authorized" and which aren't. So simple, so easy.

(Stuff That I'm Messing With) Permanent Link made 11:19 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


Nothing satisfies like a...


Nothing satisfies like a fine cup of coffee.

(Stuff That I'm Messing With) Permanent Link made 5:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)




One of the nice things about having my own domain and hosting company ( is that I can do cool things like install MediaWiki. A wiki is a webpage that is editted by the visitors to the site. It's most famous use is the Wikipedia, a user edited encyclopedia that is half-way decent if it has info on what you want. I plan on using the wiki to document projects and help pages that I wish existed on the web. Also I want to run a family gift registry on a wiki.

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BugMeNot Website Registration Avoidance System


BugMeNot is this great service that provides usernames and passwords for websites that require you to register before seeing content (e.g, the New York Times Web Site). The way it works is that you make a browser bookmark using a bit of JavaScript that BugMeNot provides. Then when you surf to a page that wants you to register, you click on the new bookmark. Up pops a webpage with a username and password that you can use to register on that website with. It is great for random surfing and doesn't require you to run a program or anything complicated on your home machine. Dubiously legal.

Click on the image on the left to go to BugMeNots website.

(Stuff That I'm Messing With) Permanent Link made 5:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


Little Snitch

Little Snitch Logo

This is a nice program for Mac OS X that monitors all outgoing network connections and uses rules to decide whether or not to allow them to pass. Some of the rules include asking your permission first. This is nice if you worry about programs randomly sending information out to the Internet for what ever reason they want. This program would also help identify a malicious program running on your computer by looking at unauthorized network access.

Click on the image on the left to go to Little Snitch's website.

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Vi Plug-in for Eclipse

eclipse logo

This is a wonderful plug in for the Eclipse programming environment that duplicates the vi keystroke behavior within Eclipse. If you use vi then you know how badly this was needed. Not all vi keystrokes work yet, but there is enough that my productivity has increased a bunch.

Clicking on the image to the left will take you, not to the Eclipse site, but rather to the site where you can get the wonderful vi plugin.

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