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Archive for February, 2009


Safari’s New Interface: A Shiny Mess


Though the Web browser has grown in importance and changed drastically in function since the first version of Netscape Navigator ruled a fledgling Web, its interface has not changed that drastically.

Though tabbed browsing introduced an important new element, most browsers sport forward and back buttons along with stop/reload buttons, an address bar and, more recently, a search box. Most browsers today look enough like Netscape Navigator 0.91 that few would be lost if they traveled back in time.

But lately there has been an attempt to shake that up some. First came Google Chrome, introducing the idea of tabs on top, and now comes the new beta of Safari 4, which adds even more new interface changes.

Though I’m always a fan of innovation, there’s a lot about these interface changes that bug me and not just the new “bug report” button. I’m admittedly no interface designer, but there are a lot of things that I would definitely do differently… Read moreRead more


Mardi Gras 2009: Wrap Up

Creative Commons License photo credit: Toast to Life

Mardi Gras 2009 is over. At 12:01 AM this morning local time, the police swept Bourbon St., shutting down the celebrations and bringing on the coming of Ash Wednesday. Another Mardi Gras is in the books.

Some people asked what I thought of this year’s Mardi Gras, unfortunately though, I don’t have a lot to say about it. I was sick the entire week before and most of the weekend before too. My revelry was limited to a bit on Sunday and Monday evening and most of the day Tuesday. I wasn’t able to go to any of my favorite parades, save Krewe Du Vieux early in the season, and it really feels like I missed most of this year and I don’t even have any pictures to share (be thankful for Photodropper).

Which, unfortunately, is a terrible shame. It was a very good Mardi Gras. In my estimation, it was the first Mardi Gras since Katrina that felt like the holiday was “back”. The 2006 one was a very bittersweet one, largely for the locals and the workers rebuilding the city. The 2007 one was still too early after Katrina. 2008 was just too early in the year (early Mardi Gras are always more tame) and this was the first time the city has both healed enough and has had a good date to work with.

On that front, 2010 looks very promising, with a mid-February date and 2011 even more so, with an early March date. I think we’re poised for a good run of Mardi Gras years coming up. Read moreRead more


Why Boycotts Fail

Oh no!!! Don't club the baby seals!!
Creative Commons License photo credit: EDgAr H.

Last week, the The Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology announced that they were going to boycott the state of Louisiana due to recent laws passed in the state that has opened the door for creationism to be taught in the state’s schools.

As a result of this, they will not be holding their 2011 meeting in New Orleans, instead, they will be taking it to Utah.

No matter what you think of the politics of teaching creationism in schools, one can easily see why an organization like SICB would be opposed to it and why they might want to do something about it.

But boycotting Louisiana, in particular New Orleans, isn’t going to solve the problem and is only going to hurt good people who work hard and likely agree with them politically. After all, New Orleans is a very liberal city (a bright blue dot in the deep red south) and one of just four parishes to vote against Jindal in the 2007 gubernatorial election.

However, the problem with boycotts runs deeper than that. With only a few exceptions, they are just lazy, ineffective means of protest that do more harm than good. They are misused, especially in modern history, and almost never achieve the intended goal.

The reason is pretty simple when you look at the math. Read moreRead more


Mardi Gras Monday: Beads

Creative Commons License photo credit: DoctorWho

Truthfully, I’ve been loathing this article. Keeping this site-family friendly and discussing an item so rightfully associated with very adult activity is a challenge.

So, rather than discuss what one does with them, which is a very personal choice, I’m going to talk about what they are and where you can get them. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.

So this brings us around to the main question: What are beads? Beads are strands of cheap plastic spheres and shapes strung around a thin cord. They come in all colors and are typically worn during carnival season that you can find them pretty much year-around on weekends in the French Quarter.

So where do you get them and how do you know which are the best? Those questions aren’t nearly as simple. Read moreRead more


A Quick Question for Financial CEOs

Creative Commons License photo credit: Tracy O

I’m not a mathematician. I admit that I completely suck at math, a big part of why my childhood dreams of becoming a programmer were dashed and I switched to writing. However, I think I spot a number issue here.

You see, many of your banks and firms have received billions of dollars in government assistance over the past few months. You say your firms needed it to stay afloat and, looking at your staggering losses, I am definitely hard pressed to disagree.

But then comes the rub, you take that money and, out of the funds, you give yourselves and other executives multi-million dollar bonuses. While I grant that it was only a percent of a percent of the bailout money spent that way, it certainly shows a lack of care and concern for saving money at a time where your companies are, supposedly, so desperate to stay alive they need government help.

This, understandably, upset the public. After all, very few taxpayers earn anywhere near the amount of money you guys do on your worst years and we aren’t getting any serious government assistance. In large part, we’re the ones financing you. So we made some noise and the government heard. President Obama signed an executive order limiting executive pay to just $500,000 and adding some additional oversight.

How do you guys respond, by trying to give the money back.

This begs a simple question. What are you guys thinking? Sure, you don’t get to keep making your multi-million dollar salaries, but you get billions of dollars in cold hard cash and you get to keep your business afloat. What is there to decide?

I have a sneaking suspicion that even laypeople are better with money than you guys and I think I can prove it pretty easily. Read moreRead more


My Dark Linux Confession

Creative Commons License photo credit: phauly

When it has come to operating systems, I have always had a hard time making up my mind. Windows, for me, has been a good choice for my gaming consoles and a reasonable one for work as well. Mac has become my default office system, having used it now for nearly two years as my primary “getting things done” machine.

However, Linux has always been my secret love affair. It is a relationship that has stretched over half a decade. It began with some spare hard drive space and a desire to to see what Linux was all about. Now, it is a relationship on life support.

You see, I’ve come to notice something. After seven years of using Linux, seven different distros, countless versions and six computers, I’ve finally hit a point where I have to admit something. That every computer I’ve had both Linux and Windows XP on has worked far better with Windows than Linux.

There’s a lot of reasons for this, but none of them bode well for penguin. Read moreRead more


Mardi Gras Monday: Alcohol

Creative Commons License photo credit: nyki_m

If you want to learn about “portion distortion”, head to Bourbon St. on a Saturday night.

Between the “Huge Ass” beers, fishbowl hurricanes, giant hand grenade glasses and much more, “only having a couple of drinks” is even more meaningless to the nice police officers than usual.

Alcohol is entwined with Mardi Gras in a way that no one can deny. From drunken revelry in the French Quarter to the wine tastings in the Garden District, alcohol is practically the gasoline that fuels Mardi Gras.

Now, I have to plead a little bit of ignorance. I’m not really much of a drinker, I much prefer a glass of wine at home to a pair of hurricanes in the quarter. However, I’ve brought in a little bit of help (from both Google and harder drinking friends) and am going to bring you the need-to-know information about drinking during Mardi Gras. Read moreRead more


Twitter’s @Reply Stupidity

twitter-logo-1If you’re using Twitter’s “replies” feature, or the similar feature on many Twitter clients, you’re missing a lot of the responses you’re getting.

You see, Twitter has a pretty strange definition for what constitutes a reply. It is perfectly possible to type @username and not have Twitter realize that you’re talking to that person. If they’re checking on the Web site or a weak Twitter client, they might never see your message.

The “bug” is that Twitter only tracks replies if the message BEGINS with the @reply. So unless the “@” is the first character in the tweet and the username is the first one replied to, Twitter doesn’t see it as a reply.

This set up defies both the way we communicate as human beings and how people use Twitter. That, in turn, has led to some pretty inelegant solutions to get around the problem. Read moreRead more


Does Anyone Want My Comments?

wordpress-logoThere’s something of a war going on right now, a war for your blog’s comments. Sure, any blogging platform worth its salt will provide you with a decent commenting system, but there are others who promise you more. Services like Disqus (which is used right now on this site) and Intense Debate say that they can add features, make commenting easier and encourage your community.

Now I am the first to admit that blog commenting right now sucks. When a company like CoComment, which does a mediocre job at best, can earn a living just by tracking and seeking updates on the comments you post across the Web, there is a serious problem. Users have a lot of reasons to prefer centralized commenting tools as having two or three commenting accounts beats checking dozens of sites for updates.

But what about bloggers? What do we get out of the deal? Though I’ve kept Disqus here on IS for some time, on PT I’ve been bouncing around from comment solution to comment solution trying to figure out what is best for my blog. I’ve tried nearly every service out there and the only conclusion I’ve reached is that no one, repeat no one, really wants my comments.

That is, at least not bad enough to create a truly compelling service… Read moreRead more


Mardi Gras Monday: Sleeping and Parking

hello honda, nice parking job. I was here first (hi) over here... next to you... parked nicely next to the wall in a COMPACT spot. Were you *really* in that much of a hurry to park like this? KTHXBYE
Creative Commons License photo credit: mil8

This is part of an ongoing series of Mardi Gras-related posts. You can follow the rest of the posts here.

If you’re visiting New Orleans for Mardi Gras, you’re going to face two challenges, finding a place to stay and finding a place to park.

It may not be the most pleasant things to think about when visiting New Orleans, but if you don’t put some planning into them your time here is going to be ruined and they are two very easy things to mess up.

The problem is pretty simple. Though New Orleans is a tourist town, Mardi Gras is the absolute peak of its season. Though the entire time between Halloween and Fat Tuesday is active in general, in the last weeks, the city gets slammed. Hotels fill up quickly and parking, already scarce in the city as it is an older one (much of it laid out before automobiles), becomes prized.

So how do you overcome these obstacles? There are a lot of ways, but here are some of my tips. Read moreRead more