Older blog entries for Waldo (starting at number 162)

I was really bored in biology lecture this evening, and so I took the three hours to write some image-manipulation code in PHP. You feed it a large image, and it allows you to zoom and scroll across selected portions of the image. I don't know if I'm going to bother to actually code it. I already know exactly what the code will look like, I know it will work, I have no use for it, and I see no evidence that the world really needs this.
I've been appointed to the board of my local library, and I attended my first meeting Monday afternoon. I've made them aware that they have a Peacefire anti-censorship activist on board now that has no patience for the "USA Patriot Act" or censorware. They don't seem to mind. Rock.
deekayen, I regret that I must agree with you regarding PostNuke when you say that it is "written by people that are new to PHP and are hailed by people that know even less about PHP." I can only speculate as to the background of the folks that work on the code, but I've gotten my hands pretty dirty trying to figure out where I can help, and the code is thick with newbie errors. The templates simply aren't templates in the traditional sense, and trying to figure where where to go about changing a bit of information in the layout...it's enough to make me want to throw things. I'm going to stick it out for a couple of more weeks, but I think I'm going to have to migrate my PHP-Nuke->PostNuke driven site to Slash.
Ever since Netscape 6, I've been unable to run Netscape on my Windows 2000 machine at the office. I've never been able to run any version of Mozilla. I can start it, but it bogs the system down such that I'm unable to do anything, until it eventually complains that I'm out of memory. (The system has 256MB.) Forcing a quit is impossible, and eventually I have to yank the power cord out of the back of the machine. This is true with every version of Mozilla that I've ever tried on here. Consequently, I'm stuck with Internet Explorer, something that I find extremely frustrating. (I intend to switch to Opera before too long, FWIW.) I wish that I knew enough about Windows to be able to debug this, but I don't.
I've been a PostNuke developer -- in the sense that I have CVS access, I'm on the developers' list, etc. -- for about a month. I'm yet to contribute a thing, and I think I've posted a grand total of once. It's not because I'm lazy, or disinterested. Instead, it's because I feel alienated, confused, overwhelmed and mis-matched. I'd just like to write some code, but I can't find any place to get started, and I don't want to get caught up in the mini-holy wars. The thought of another fork is incredibly frustrating, because it appears that a fork would be a consequence of personal and political issues, and not so much technical ones. I know that all of these things are normal and reasonable in any project -- I've been on the wrong end of this problem before, lord knows -- but it's serving as a real roadblock to me in this case.

I'm hoping that it will occur to somebody that the PostNuke team needs to break down into a whole mess of little teams. I'd like to squash bugs on the core code (that is, not the bazillion ridiculous little modules.) That's all that I want to do on the project right now. Maybe I'll figure out some way to do that.

I started class again this week. Just a Biology 101, Biology 101 Lab, and a U.S. Government class. (Can you say "prerequisites?") I have class three nights out of the week, in three-hour blocks, so there goes my prime programming time until December.
26 Aug 2002 (updated 26 Aug 2002 at 15:58 UTC) »
I got my 5GB iPod on Friday. Six hours later, my girlfriend's puppy ate the headphones.
Hackensaw Boys
Holy shit, Lolindrath, you've heard of the Hackensaw Boys? We're used to Local Boy Makes Good stories here in Charlottesville (Dave Matthews Band, among others), but the Hacks weren't a bunch I'd had pegged for that particular headline. :) Crazy.
I got my iPod in the mail today. I haven't gotten home to plug it into one of my Macs yet, but I love it. Very sexy. Wonderful presentation. Just in time for my trip to Boston, which I leave for tomorrow morning.
Digital Audio Content Authentication
As record labels become more aggressive about propagating false MP3s of songs (creating a file of the same size in bytes, the same length in minutes and seconds, with the same title, but contains garbage), it is inevitable that file-sharing networks come up with a method of fighting back.

I propose the use of a partial-match authentication system. I'll say right up front that I know virtually nothing about this concept, but I believe it's likely to be altogether achievable. Thus far, tracking of audio and images, Digimarc-style, has involved embedding a digital fingerprint in the file. This is good when the original creator of the information makes us of this, but when data has multiple points of origin (ie, many people ripping and sharing tracks), such a system is not of any use for purposes of authenticating the data.

Instead, it would be more desirable to derive a unique string for a song based not merely on the track length and the name, but the actual content of the song. If the track data as regards the actual music can be broken down into a short string of data, perhaps somewhere in the realm of 64 bytes, it will enable comparisons between tracks for purposes of determing whether or not they match. This is not any sort of a digital signature in the traditional sense, as it is never applied in the first place. It's simply an extraction of the data. We'll call this the authentication string. This string will need to be constructed in a manner such that two strings that are extremely similar are likely from extremely similar versions of the same audio file. A song that is encoded once at 192kbps and once at 128kbps should provide very similar authentication strings.

Now, this authentication string is not useful on its own. If Gnutella were modified to generate this data for every shared track, the information would be meaningless without a data source to compare it to. This is where a trust metric, of sorts, comes into play. Gnutella clients would generate this information for each track and, rather than storing it in an ID3 tag, store that data separately from the tracks. The servers (and perhaps the clients) would build up a database of the authentication strings for songs spotted on the network. This stateful database would track previously-spotted authentication strongs for an MP3, along with a voting-style system of currently-available MP3s, and perhaps even weight various authentication strings based on the total number of files shared by the owner and other, similar criteria. Whatever the nature of that trust metric, it would obviously have to be set up in a manner that would prevent the RIAA from poisoning the well.

I have no idea if somebody has already come up with a system like that. I obviously only know about the concepts behind this in the loosest of terms, so I'm not of any use in the development of a system of this nature. But I do expect that, short of some sort data-authentication system being put into place, file sharing systems will be spammed into oblivion by the recording industry.

I just returned from a week at the beach (Emerald Isle, NC, USA) a couple of days ago, and now I'm leaving for a weekend in Boston this Friday morning. It's a lot of driving, and doesn't allow me to get much work done on software and such. Hypothetically, I could do stuff between now and Friday, but by the time that I get caught up on regular ol' life things, it'll be time to leave again.
I went to the doctor today to get an ingrown toenail operated on. This one has been in a bad way since 1997. It's the third operation that I've had on my feet for ingrown toenails. The good news is that my big toes only have a single un-operated-on corner remaining, so I've only got one part left to get ingrown. :) Anyhow, it's quite tender, wrapped up quite thoroughly in bandages. It's on my left foot, making shifting gears on my motorcycle impossible, and so I am without transportation, save for the borrowed kind.
Paul Graham's Spam Plan
Like many others, I'm fond of Paul Graham's suggestions regarding what's to be done about spam. I particularly like the probability basis for ranking, as opposed to the arbitrary numbering system that SpamAssassin uses, though I'm fond of the overall concept of not ignoring the importance of legitimate-mail-recognition. I think that it would be good for somebody with more time than I right now to write a program that could take a mail file (mbox, IMAP, whatever) and run Paul's Bayesian filter on it to extract the hash tables that he describes. Then those hash tables could be sent back to him for analysis. I store all of my spam in a spam folder, as I have for years, so I suspect that data would prove useful. I also have a folder for mail marked "Family," which contains years of correspondence with my extended family. That would surely also prove useful in developing a decent image of what communications look like for people. If I could run a program that would quickly generate some files that I could send to Paul for analysis, I'd be happy to do so.
Writes sye:
Where's Waldo?

Right here.

Girlfriend, Meet Mac
My girlfriend, who I've gradually been converting into a Mac user for the past few years, has asked to borrow one for a while. She's currently running a rather-nice Dell and dual-booting between Windows 98 and Mandrake Linux. Now that she's finished with school, she mostly needs a computer for Internet access and digital photography. (Mostly pictures of friends and family and pets and such.) Now that she's seen iPhoto on Mac OS X, the deal's as good as sealed. I'm loaning her my Rev. A iMac (which I got the moment they came out, as a gift from a good friend.) I just wiped Yellow Dog Linux from that system last week and did a clean install of Mac OS X, the first time I've had a Mac sans OS 9. I think it will be perfect for her.

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