Variable Evaluation

NYPHP – PHundamentals – Variable Evaluation – “Evaluating a variable, whether it is generated by a script or input by a user, turns out to be somewhat more complicated than one might suspect. The focus here will be on determining whether the variable contains something; if it does, then additional tests will normally be necessary to determine whether it contains something meaningful.”

Electoral Shedding

An interesting commentary on the upcoming election, and the unlikely, though constitutionally possible, situation that electoral shedding could elevate a person who is not running for president to the top spot: Tech Central Station – Tie Goes to the…
> Interested in becoming president this year? If so, hope for an electoral college tie. With an unlikely, but plausible, perfect tie — 269 electoral votes for both George W. Bush and John Kerry — anyone meeting the Constitutional qualifications for president could end up president. Here’s how.


Sarah and I just got back from early voting, and while it took an hour, it was time well spent.

Don’t forget to vote today (the last day for early voting in Texas), or on Tuesday!

URL Decoder/Encoder

Eric Meyer has provided a nice URL Decoder/Encoder for developers to use, and if they wish copy. So you now have a useful tool, for those times that have an encoded URL (in a bookmarklet, or a part of JavaScript) that you wish to transform into an intelligible string, or alternatively, you want to quickly encode a URL so it is JavaScript-friendly.

Mac Modding Shortcuts Mac Modding Shortcuts – “Make repetitive tasks simpler and maximize ergonomic efficiency with this excerpted chapter from Erica Sadun’s Modding Mac OS X. This comprehensive chapter covers everything from the philosophy of keyboard shortcuts to step-by-step instructions to a look at speakable items, complete with shortcut management tips and screenshots.”

The Washington Redskins Predict the Election

Snopes, the ultimate site for proving or debunking urban legends has reviewed the legend, circulating the Net, which claims the “outcome of Washington Redskins football games has correctly predicted the winner of every U.S. presidential election since 1936.”

Their findings? It’s true.

While, I personally don’t believe that there is some form of ethereal connection, providing a glimpse into future results of this important election, I must admit this light-hearted injection in such a contentious period is welcome. I just may tune into Fox on October 31st for the game.

Sixth Circuit Reverses Lexmark DMCA Ruling

As reported on Copyfight, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a ruling that was in favor of Lexmark against Static Controls, a company that makes replacement ink/toner cartridges. As the EFF explains “When Static Controls reverse-engineered the authentication procedure in order to enable refilled and remanufactured cartridges to work with Lexmark printers, Lexmark sued in Lexington, KY, claiming both copyright infringement and circumvention in violation of the DMCA.”

A snippet from the opinion:

> Lexmark would have us read this statute in such a way that any time a manufacturer intentionally circumvents any technological measure and accesses a protected work it necessarily violates the statute regardless of its “purpose.” Such a reading would ignore the precise language – “for the purpose of” – as well as the main point of the DMCA – to prohibit the pirating of copyright-protected works such as movies, music, and computer programs. If we were to adopt Lexmark’s reading of the statute, manufacturers could potentially create monopolies for replacement parts simply by using similar, but more creative, lock-out codes. Automobile manufacturers, for example, could control the entire market of replacement parts for their vehicles by including lock-out chips. Congress did not intend to allow the DMCA to be used offensively in this manner, but rather only sought to reach those who circumvented protective measures “for the purpose” of pirating works protected by the copyright statute.

The Story of Eleanor Rigby

We recently picked up the Ray Charles album Anthology, on Amazon. It is an amazing album, which is no surprise. But, I must say I was truly struck by the depth of emotion expressed in his version of Eleanor Rigby. While I have always been fond of the song, Mr. Charles infused it with a soul that has never been there, bringing the song back down to a more human level. It isn’t just a song, it is a story, expressing true aloneness, and loneliness, something that we, as humans truly fear at our very core.

Web Site Marketing Call

I just received an interesting phone call:

Me: Hello, this is Alex
Caller: Hello, I would like to speak with the person who is in charge of Marketing for
Me: That’s a personal site
Caller: Oh….well, uh do you have any sites that you need to market?
Me: No, ‘fraid not.
Caller: Okay then, thanks

Now, I wonder if they will call about marketing for any of the other domains I have registered…

Now Playing – WinAmp 5 Plug-in

One area that I am constantly trying to improve on this site is the Recent Playlist functionality. For a while now I have utilized the Do Something plugin by Oddsock to ping a script on my site whenever Winamp changes songs. But it has had one major flaw: it only reads information from the ID3V1 Tag instead of the information contained in the ID3v2 tag. While that might sound like a bunch of gibberish, it boils down to a couple of major differences. The updated tag (ID3v2) has more fields for information, and more importantly, doesn’t have the character limits assigned to the old tag.

Using the limited confines of ID3v1 causes a lot of albums to not appear as their names would be cut off. For example, the Duke Ellington disk “The Duke Ellington Carnegie Hall Concerts January 1943 (Disc 2)” would be cut to “The Duke Ellington Carnegie Ha”. Not very helpful for people reading it, is it? It is even worse as Amazon (which provides the album covers) wouldn’t understand it either, and thus would not return the proper (or any) album cover.

Now that I have rambled on, explaining the nuances of the issue, I will introduce the solution to the problem: Now Playing, a great Winamp 5 plugin that pulls the information from the ID3v2 and sends it to the PHP script on my site exactly as I want it to.

Now, all I need to do isi eliminate the disc number (typically “(Disc 2)”) from the query sent to Amazon, and we should see vast improvements in the Recent Playlist area!

Update: I have packaged and released my code as SilverSpider Play List.

Passport Chips

Wired has a great article discussing the plan to use RFID microchips in American passports. While I am a fan of technology, and the speed and security improvements it often brings, I must admit that I shiver when I think of some of the stupidity that can come along with it. For example, the fact that the current plan is to use technology that would be able to read these chips remotely. At first this sounds like it could prove to be a convenient setup for traveler and customs alike as it would cut down on lines. But, the problem lies in the fact that anyone with an RFID reader (which are inexpensive, and easily available to the public) will be able to read the data held on a passport remotely. Oh, and the data isn’t encrypted. At all. So much for security and identity protection. A nice quote from the article:
> The State Department hopes the addition of the chips, which employ radio frequency identification, or RFID, technology, will make passports more secure and harder to forge, according to spokeswoman Kelly Shannon.
> “The reason we are doing this is that it simply makes passports more secure,” Shannon said. “It’s yet another layer beyond the security features we currently use to ensure the bearer is the person who was issued the passport originally.”
> But civil libertarians and some technologists say the chips are actually a boon to identity thieves, stalkers and commercial data collectors, since anyone with the proper reader can download a person’s biographical information and photo from several feet away.
> “Even if they wanted to store this info in a chip, why have a chip that can be read remotely?” asked Barry Steinhardt, who directs the American Civil Liberty Union’s Technology and Liberty program. “Why not require the passport be brought in contact with a reader so that the passport holder would know it had been captured? Americans in the know will be wrapping their passports in aluminum foil.”

Hopefully the digital signature used on the passport is truly secure, and this won’t prove an issue.