さまざまの言葉… random items

September 30, 2008

The Age of Cleverness

Filed under: goofy — rithban @ 7:07 am
Tags:

Hardware constraints forced a lot of clever things to happen in the earlier days of computing. Trixter wrote about a disk hacked for both DOS and C=64 use.

There’s a certain intellectual pleasure produced by coming into contact with a good old-style hack.

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September 14, 2008

Personal Statement on Marketing Opportunities

Filed under: business — rithban @ 8:07 pm

Friends,

I have heartfelt appreciation for those of you who have offered to share business opportunities with me. Here I hope to lay out where I am currently at on the subject matter.

Robert Kiyosaki has discussed marketing opportunities in several of his books, videos, etc. In people’s enthusiasm for his endorsement of the concept of person-to-person marketing (P2PM), including multi-level marketing, sometimes his core message gets lost.

He took a sales job not for the pay, but the education. He describes himself as kind of shy and awkward with people when he took the job. Through the crucible of commission sales he gained the skills and confidence to work with people, build relationships, and find a mutually valuable exchange. He states that without these skills his later success would not have been possible.

Kiyosaki goes on to state that the foundation of a useful P2PM business rests on a proven training system and support team. Product, market timing, support material, buzz… all these are secondary. I say a useful P2PM business because I’m looking at it from the standpoint of how effective the opportunity will be for enhancing personal growth. The other items may be necessary for a successful business, but it’s not my business. It’s somebody else’s business.

I have been involved in P2PM campaigns in the past, lead by the best teams available. Based on my experience, I wholeheartedly concur with Mr. Kiyosaki. I underwent a similar dramatic transformation in my life because of that trial by fire.

The Bathroom Key

Leslie Householder tells a story of a bathroom key. The short version thus: An owner of a convenience story has a key to the bathroom. He approaches every customer about the restroom and the key. People turn him down because it’s not what they’re looking for. Those that want the restroom… they’ll give clues (crossed legs) or just ask!

How does that affect us, you and I? You have something fabulous, and I sincerely extend my best wishes. I’m not looking for the bathroom key — cool products, great services, cash in my pocket. The question is whether your P2PM business coincides with what would rock my world. In other words, the interest that I might have in a P2PM opportunity still revolves around the same topics Mr. Kiyosaki emphasizes.

I’m interested in the people. Can I forge relationships with not just outstanding people (which I’m always happy to do, and enjoy doing), but people who place value on my unique abilities and whose unique abilities I value at the same time? Do these people have the ability to inspire me, teach me, show me my weaknesses with grace and compassion, and lead me in further polishing my rough features? That is one thing that I value at this time.

If I look at a P2PM business’ web site, and see the wonders of the products they offer, odds are that it would be interesting… but won’t stir my soul.

August 7, 2008

Blocking Annoying Applications in FaceBook

Filed under: Uncategorized — rithban @ 11:09 pm

FaceBook has been surprisingly useful to me. A young acquaintance of mine sent me a message: “Welcome to the biggest time suck for people under thirty.” As my friend Dr. Paul wrote recently, it’s just another power tool. It can enhance your life or make short work of something vital (such as your time).

One of the annoying features of FaceBook are the applications. They can be good fun, but when you get the same invitation to start using an app twenty times in a two-day period, it starts to become the aforementioned “time suck” as well as an aggravation generator.

Fortunately I noticed some fine print:

Facebook | Confirm Requests.jpg

This prevents you from receiving any more notifications from this FaceBook app. Whew!

July 3, 2008

How to Put Amazon Affiliate Links on Your WordPress.com Blog

Filed under: How To — rithban @ 4:51 am
Tags: , , , ,

Amazon associates have had some gripes with the free WordPress.com (WP) site. WP places some technical restrictions on blog features in order to

  1. prevent nasty people turning WP into an anti-security weapons platform, and to
  2. prevent the avaricious from turning WP into the scam capitol of the world.

This, unfortunately breaks some of the shiny tools that Amazon provides to their associates. This is neither good nor bad, it’s just an unfortunate collision between two companies with mismatched goals.

Here are my personal notes for adding an Amazon associate link to a WordPress.com blog. It doesn’t look as nice as the other Amazon tools, but it’s completely functional. I’m placing them in a public space for others’ benefit.

The Familiar Part

The following should be familiar.

  1. Log into your Amazon Affiliate account.
  2. Click on “Build Link/Widgets”.
  3. Click on “Product Links”.
  4. Search for the product you desire to showcase.
  5. Click on the corresponding “Get HTML” button.

At this point, you cannot use the fancy “Text an Image (Enhanced Display)” option. WordPress.com will automatically strip out the floating “iframe” code. The iframe code allows Amazon to insert its web content into a rectangle on your screen.

The next best thing is to use the “Image Only (Basic Display)” option. You’ll need an extra couple of steps to get this to work — but it will work.

Copy the Picture to Your Blog

  1. Under “1. Select Link Type”, click on “Image Only (Basic Display)”. Wait for your browser to refresh.
    ScreenCapture-001.png
    Illustration for Step 1.

  2. Copy the HTML displayed in the box below, and paste it into your blog article. Keep moving; we’re not done yet.
  3. We need to upload the picture into your WordPress blog. Right click on the picture of your item, and save the image to you hard drive. Mac OS X users can simply drag and drop. Note! Do not change the name of the file. The name will be long and ugly, but that’s how it is in the HTML that you copied into your blog article in the previous step. (True geeks, yes, you may hack the HTML if you wish. You know how.)
    ScreenCapture-002.png
    Illustration for Step 3.

  4. In your WordPress.com blog, click on the “Add Media” picture button. If you’re not sure which is the picture button, hold the mouse over the first icon. A balloon will appear saying “Add an Image”.

    Illustration for Step 4.

  5. Click on the “Choose files to upload” button.
  6. Select the picture’s file.
  7. Give appropriate text in the “Caption” and “Description” boxes.

The Tricky Part

Here’s the tricky part. We have some objectives:

  1. Fix the Amazon.com HTML so the picture appears and the associate link works.
  2. Upload the picture to WordPress.com
  3. Prevent WordPress.com from inserting new HTML.

Here are the steps to do that.

  1. Look in the “Link URL” box. This displays the URL of the picture after it is uploaded. Highlight, then copy everything.

    Illustration for Step 1.

  2. Click on “Save all changes”. Do not click on “Insert into Post”!

    Illustration for Step 2.

  3. You’ll see the screen clear, and the word “Saved” appear. It doesn’t stand out very well, but if you see it, then all is well.

    Illustration for Step 3.

  4. Close the file upload screen by clicking on the small “X” in the upper right.

    Illustration for Step 4.

  5. Go to the HTML code that you copied and pasted from Amazon.com. Locate the HTML for the picture. It begins with:
    <img border="0" src="

    It may also look like:

    <img src="

    The variations don’t matter. The important thing is the src="" part.

  6. Notice that the name of the picture file comes immediately after that last quotation mark ("). Highlight everything up to (but not including) the next quotation mark (").

    Illustration for Step 6.

  7. Paste the missing HTML in (1) above.

    Illustration for Step 7.

  8. Now save your draft and check it. You’ll know that you have it right if you (1) see the picture, and (2) see the Amazon.com preview come up when you hover over the picture.

    Illustration for Step 8.

You did it!

Extras

I was asked, “How do I get the picture to justify right, left, or center?”

That’s a great question. In HTML, pictures start with the text:

<img

Options appear (separated by spaces) afterwards. Finally, the end of the picture is denoted by a single right angle bracked (>) also known as a “greater than sign”.

To cause the picture to center, make the starting text look like:

<img align="center"

Remember to ensure that a space follows the final double quote (“).

To cause the picture to stick to the left side of the text, use:

<img align="left"

And finally, to cause the picture to stick to the right side of the text, use:

<img align="right"

A (Maybe) Helpful Tool

You may also want to try a free helpful tool for fixing Amazon associate links.


Edits:

2008-0703
Made corrections and simplifications.

Post Script: The WordPress.com restrictions only exist on the free WordPress.com blog hosting service. The restrictions do not exist on sites that run their own personal WordPress.org installations. (Note the .com vs. .org difference.)

92F3C843-9836-48C1-876A-B086F7164BE1.jpg

This specific article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike License. Click the link for details.

April 10, 2008

Filed under: family — rithban @ 5:00 am

I stumbled across a blog called Dad’s House, and a collision between the author and another writer.

It got me thinking, that making light of common petty pains is as old as man (read the old Greek comedies). I’ve also seen such humor sting out of the blue, without warning. One never knows when cutting humor will strike a deeply personal chord in other person.

I’m not divorced, but that doesn’t reduce my own personal irritation with the stereotype that men (married or divorced) are incompetent, fools, lazy, narcissistic, or plain borderline evil. Can anybody come up with something more creative than these clichés? It seems that many people still cling to some of their ’60 and ’70s angst.

Though the producers of such stereotypes likely won’t be dissuaded, as a counter anecdote, last summer I kicked my wife out of the house for a week to give her a break. I did this fearlessly as my mom taught all her kids to take care of themselves, including cooking, cleaning, laundry — and mom didn’t raise sissies. Consequently, with no wife at home the kids and I had a ball. The domestic front was immediately conquered with the kids’ co-operation. The house was cleaned and laundry done daily, and we ate fabulously. (I’m a little more strict than my wife for nutrition. Kudos to mom for teaching me to cook, and kudos to my wife for ensuring our kids can cook.) I found it interesting that my wife was a little crestfallen that the kids weren’t bemoaning her absence, and that “Team Gooberfish” was a little better at housekeeping… but she got some good fishing time in at the lake along with visiting her folks.

That week was a lot of work, and nightly I went to bed exhausted and a little lonely. I can only imagine doing that for years on end with the emotional wreckage of a death or divorce on top of it. My hat goes out to widowers and divorcees with kids.

As for the stereotypes, I don’t have much hope for the near future, but maybe in the next generation or two. We went from the 1950’s depiction of “perfect” households to today’s “dump on dad and family” stereotypes. Both are idealistic (one positive, one negative), so perhaps a swing towards a more happy median will happen at some point.

I can hope, can’t I?

Anyhow, I have felt my own irritation and can empathize with Dad’s House’s very human reaction.

March 28, 2008

Screen Movies with Snapz Pro X and Final Cut Express

Filed under: video — rithban @ 4:58 am
Tags: , , , , ,

(Edit update 2008-04-15: This has been updated to include newer insights.)

I’ve been in the process of creating some tutorials that involve capturing video of what happens on the screen using Snapz Pro X (SPX). I made the sad assumption that I could simply throw the video into Final Cut Express (FCE), edit, and pump out the result onto the Internet.

Wrong.

This has turned out to be quite an ordeal with banging my head on the wall, hours surfing the ‘Net, hounding forums, and late nights. Let me say that I’m not 100% happy with the result… but I am to the stage where I can say, “not perfect, but it looks pretty good.”

I’m not a FCE guru or a professional videographer/editor… so please bear with me. If you’re laughing at something naïve here, please have mercy on others that may read this text and post a comment!

What’s the Problem?

There are several problems. One of the core problems is that video editors assume that one is working with, well, “live” video recorded with a camera. (Go figure!) When working with live video, one can make assumptions that work just fine with normal video. However, they don’t play well with screen movies, turning the crisp on-screen text into fuzzy, pixelated mush.

At this point, there is some kind of mismatch between Snapz Pro X and Final Cut Express that has been mentioned before in both the Ambrosia Software and Apple forums. For some reason, FCE always interprets the SPX-created movie files as being only 10fps — regardless of the actual frame rate. Why? I neither know nor care at this point. I’m not here to point fingers. I’ll leave the details for the two programming teams to hash out. I wanted to get my stuff done.

To crack the problem (at least to the “good enough” stage), I worked off of two core ideas:

  1. perform a minimum number of encodes (which are lossy), and
  2. don’t resize the movie (which again, is lossy).

Recording the Video with Snapz X Pro

To achieve #2, I set Snapz Pro X to a fixed window of 720×480, frame rate of 30fps, scale 100%, smoother video capture checked. This size (720×480) will allow us to pretend we’re capturing digital video (DV). Record as usual.

When saving, I wanted to achieve #1 above, and saved the video as uncompressed 10-bit 4:2:2 video at 30fps. These files are big — but nothing is lost to compression.

Converting to DV

Final Cut Express, being a video editing program, plays well with… video. So why not convert to DV? Firing up QuickTime Pro, experimentation provided the following insight: 4:3 DV violates #2. The result is ugly. However, while anamorphic 16:9 DV also violates #2, the result is not so bad. The picture is stretched horizontally to 853 pixels, but the fine details on the screen movie are pretty well preserved.

So, to convert the uncompressed video to anamorphic DV, I use the following steps in QuickTime Pro’s export:

  1. Export: Movie to DV Stream
  2. In Options… set the follwing:
    1. DV Format: DVCPRO
    2. Scan Mode: Progressive
    3. Aspect Ratio: 16:9
  3. Click on Save to create a DV stream.

Importing into Final Cut Express

When I import the video into FCE, I see a frame size of 720×480 at 29.97 fps. Victory! FCE doesn’t need to re-render the video, but it will want to re-render the audio, which I’m not worried about. When I import the DV stream and drag a clip from the DV stream to the timeline, it asks if I want to change the sequence to match the clip. Say yes. The change I can tell it makes is that it changes the sequence to be anamorphic also. Being a FCE dummy, I don’t know how to do that manually.

Now I can edit as usual.

Exporting from Final Cut Express

I found that I can preserve the quality of the video during export if I do the following. Understand that I haven’t played with these settings extensively, and some settings may be a little extreme.

  1. Under “User Preferences”, in the “Render Control” tab, uncheck both “Filters” and “Frame Blending for Speed”.
  2. Click on “OK”
  3. Export the sequence with File -> Export -> QuickTime Movie…

This will create a large QuickTime movie. It’s far too big for use on the InterNet, so we take one more step with QuickTime Pro.

Exporting for InterNet Use

  1. Open the QuickTime movie that Final Cut Express created with QuickTime Pro.
  2. Export the file for web use with File -> Export for Web
  3. Select Desktop, and if you wish, iPhone. Selecting Desktop will produce a full-size video. The iPhone size isn’t terrifically smaller than the Desktop setting, and will reduce the height and width of the video. You won’t be able to see your screen movie made with Snapz Pro X very well.

Please note that when you export to web, QuickTime Pro will create a directory and place a number of files in it. If you copy the directory to the media directory of your blog, and follow the instructions in the documentation file called Readme.html, you should be good to go. Note that it won’t always work if you don’t copy all the files (except ReadMe.html). I’m not willing to figure that detail out yet, but that’s my experience.

The size will be about 10MB per minute, which isn’t great but isn’t too bad either considering the size and quality of the video. The video quality should be high enough that one can easily discern details shown in the screen movie, especially when one pauses.

January 24, 2008

The Earth IS Doomed

Filed under: humankind — rithban @ 6:29 am
Tags: , ,

Commenting on the recent unveiling of Virgin Galactic’s spaceship, Graham Bailey posed a question:,

Climate change, unstable economies, and war are all factors that are putting the human race at risk, and if we don’t move soon, we may not have the option.

What are your thoughs on this?

It reminds me of a quote from the old TV show Babylon 5, set from the viewpoint of the future, the year 2258. Mankind is still struggling with essentially the same problems that it has for thousands of years. Space travel is expensive, there is pressure to pull back, and address our own problems “back home”.

Mary Ann Cramer: After all that you’ve just gone through, I have to ask you the same question a lot of people back home are asking about space these days. Is it worth it? Should we just pull back, forget the whole thing as a bad idea and take care of our own problems, at home?

Sinclair: No. We have to stay here, and there’s a simple reason why. Ask ten different scientists about the environment, population control, genetics – and you’ll get ten different answers. But there’s one thing every scientist on the planet agrees on. Whether it happens in a hundred years, or a thousand years, or a million years, eventually our sun will grow cold, and go out. When that happens, it won’t just take us, it’ll take Marilyn Monroe, and Lao-Tsu, Einstein, Maruputo, Buddy Holly, Aristophanes – all of this. All of this was for nothing, unless we go to the stars.

Babylon 5, Season 1, Episode 4 “Infection”

In the end, the Earth is doomed to being destroyed by Mother Nature. The question is whether we choose to quietly go extinct, or give “post-Terra survival” a go. Unless hit by comet or some such massive catastrophe, this is a task for us to start for future generations.

Excited(?) Over Space Travel in My Lifetime

Filed under: goofy — rithban @ 5:56 am
Tags: , ,

Virgin Galactic is building their next generation spacecraft. News articles here and here.

Makes me start to think we will have private space flight available to the general public in my lifetime. Hmm… suborbital flight between continents in a few hours… beats the grueling 18+ hours to hit the next hemisphere.

The only thing I really fear is the kid four seats behind me getting space sick and throwing up in zero gravity. With no gravity, it’d float straight until it encountered something, and largely continue to float around until re-entry where it’d splatter all over the place. 😦

Am I the only one that thinks about these things? *grin*

January 14, 2008

Super-Simplified Food Chemistry, Part 1

Filed under: food chemistry — rithban @ 6:04 am

Food

Food is the chemicals we eat. This was the most important thing that my Nutrition and Food Science professor wanted us to remember.

We’ve been trained to think of “chemical” as something nasty and harmful. Everything in our physical world is made of chemicals of one sort or another. Pure distilled water is a chemical — H2O — two hydrogen atoms stuck to an oxygen atom.

We should not automatically think of “chemical” as something sinister. Without chemicals there would be nothing physical.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are made out of building blocks called “simple sugars.” Take styrofoam balls. One colour for glucose, another for fructose, another for galactose. Alone these are called monosaccharides. That’s a fancy word meaning “one sugar.”

  • Glucose is very important for life. The body uses this as a package of food and energy for the cells. Plants create it with the help of sunlight. It is not as sweet as the table sugar we’re familiar with.
  • Fructose is common in fruits, berries, and honey. It is almost twice as sweet as table sugar.
  • Galactose is half of “milk sugar” (lactose). It is not very sweet.

If we start sticking monosaccharides together, we get different chemicals. If we stick two monosaccharides together, we form new sugars called disaccharides, which means “two sugars.”

  • Take a styrofoam ball for glucose and a styrofoam ball for fructose. Stick them together. We now have sucrose, or the ordinary table sugar we are familiar with. When we eat sucrose, the body pulls the two balls apart so it can use them.
  • Take a styrofoam ball for glucose and a styrofoam ball for galactose. Stick them together. We now have lactose, a sugar found in milk.
  • pf_whoppers.thumbnail.gifTake two styrofoam balls for glucose. Stick them together. We now have maltose, a type of sugar found in malted milk, including the candy “Whoppers.”

Polysaccharides

Starches and other polysaccharides (“many sugars”) are made from long chains of simple sugars. Take hundreds of glucose styrofoam balls and make a long string of them. This will give an idea of starch. These long chains can stick together, making branches like a tree, or sticking together along their sides.

Here is an example of long chains sticking together:

468px-glycogen.png

Originally written 30 July 2007.

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