All posts by JagEsquire

Wallpaper 2

I went looking for a new set of wallpapers for my Apple HD Cinema 2560 x 1600 pixel monitor. The old set of 1920 x 1280 wallpapers have served me well. But I needed to grab something new.

Type in 2560 x 1600 and you’ll find a hundred links to pretty cool archives but most only via rapidshare. And I don’t have an account. So after a lot of looking I found a new site, way down the google rankings that had some of the sexiest desktops I’ve seen.

I was going to steal the pictures and host them here, but then decided that due to the bandwidth required, I’d leave them where they were and tip my hat to the site. Check out the wallpapers at ClearVapour.com.

I’ve been back to the site a few times and appreciate the syle. And it brings up the point of what is appropriate online. I’ve never shied away from sexy. But at what point is a site “pornographic”?

A couple years ago I spun off my tech stuff to a new buisiness site, and my personal stuff to a another site (I don’t have much there). Now I’m thinking of turning TransparentSmoke back into the blog it should have been. Essentially annonymous, and full of the under currents running through my head.

Enjoy the stuff at ClearVapour and post any cool wallpaper galleries you know about.

Integrated Electronics

There is a interesting trend developing in clothing manufactures. Clothing that encompasses our everyday technology. Below is some of the coolest new clothing accessories I’ve seen in a long time.

This iPod Nano belt buckle is probably the coolest thing I’ve seen because I’d actually wear one. Run the head phones up under your shirt and I think you’d get away with the secret agent look at worst.



A must see, this backpack is I suspect a one of a kind but really interesting none the less. Take note of the shot of the cell phone carrying location.

Dragon Backpack

**NSFW** Dragon Backpack **NSFW**


(Sorry, the rest of the photos are on a non-work friendly Russian site)



I think this jacket might be a close second on the wear ability list, But I just don’t think I could tolerate having a jacket that has it’s own phone number.



Now this jacket I would buy, it uses cameras to take pictures of what’s behind you and displays it on the front from the inside. Not sure what I would use it for, but I like it.

Integrated electronics in our clothes. Cool idea. I’ll keep you up to date on anything else I find.

Firefox – What is with the name?

I don’t get the name “FireFox”. I don’t get it on so many levels.

Lets look at the other browser’s names first.

We have “Internet Explorer”, descriptive, but not very creative. Microsoft does get credit for being the first to copyright the words internet and explorer together. Also Credit is due for the “IE” acronym, which makes it easy to refer to.

“Netscape” is a much more interesting name, it seems to derive from “landscape”. Meaning a view of everything around you, everything on the net that is.

Apple’s “Safari” is another play on the landscape theme.

“Opera” has to be my favourite, for it is the stage that interesting, epic stories are told. I think the creativity behind that one is top notch.

“Mozilla” is good, but no longer makes sense unless you have been around for a while, and know what Mosaic is in everyday life – “Mosaic killer/Godzilla”.

“Konqueror” seems to play on the Mozilla theme and refer to dominating other browsers.

“Lynx” is a cute name just referring to the links on the net.

But I just don’t get “FireFox” originally known as Phoenix and briefly as Mozilla Firebird. This browser has one of the worlds worst identity problems. At first Blake Ross (writer) called it Phoenix, but because of copyright issues he changed it and lost what could have been a weak reference to the fact that Netscape had lost almost all the market and he was building the browser to “rise from the ashes” based on it’s open source code. He changes the name to Firebird, keeping only the fire reference. There was a bit of confusion because another project was being developed with that name and so he changes it again. FireFox was chosen because he was sure that there was no other software being developed under that name. But it turned out a European company owned the trademark to the word FireFox, and a deal was reached to share the domain.

The frequent renaming led to a running joke among FireFox developers and an extension called Firesomething that accomplishes one thing: Every time FireFox is loaded, instead of Mozilla FireFox, the top of the screen shows a random combination of two words. You could be browsing with Mozilla Firecow or Mozilla Lightningkangaroo. Click here to download the Firesomething extension.

So I’m updating my page, tweaking my code, and I get this bright idea to try it in FireFox because hits to my site from FireFox browsers have increased to a whopping 18.5% and BOOOM.

I just didn’t get it. Perfectly compliant code and it won’t display properly in FireFox.

And that’s the problem. Which browser is broken? Well that depends on how you look at it. The FireFox people swear that IE is the one with the flaws. And according to Microsoft itself, the answer is that it is Internet Explorer itself that is not interpreting the code correctly. But I’ve got something to say about that.

Let’s try a small analogy. My car runs on gas. I buy that gas from the store and I’m sure it is made to some kind of standard. Now I’ve been using that gas for 10 years and it works. Now the car companies build new cars all the time, and they make sure it runs on the gas I can get at the store by my house. If cars started blowing up 18.5% of the time because of the gas, we would shut down that gas company in a matter of days. It doesn’t matter if the big gas company has made changes and is no longer making gas exactly to standard anymore, because of the number of pumps that carry it, it has become the standard.

I understand the car developers asking for the standards to be defined. I understand car makers complaining because there may be a better type of gas. I understand lawsuits, government action, and standards committees. But what I don’t get is cars that blow up. How can we tolerate that?

If the “gas” the internet runs on is our browsers and the “car companies” are the websites themselves. You can see the problem we are faced with. A standard gas is required to allow for fair competition, and Microsoft is moving in that direction (wait for IE 7). But in the meantime, it is the responsibility of the gas companies (browser manufactures – read Firefox) to make sure their products work most of the time.

I wonder how hard it would be to have a small pop-up appear in FireFox that says “this page was written using IE flaws, some items may not have displayed correctly, would you like FireFox to emulate these IE flaws?” I’d say it would be worth the time and effort. Users must be downloading FireFox and turning around to say “this browser sucks” because none of the pages they go to display properly?

Forty Four Million downloads and only 5% of people browsing are using FireFox on average? What that means to me is that lots and lots of people downloaded FireFox, but only a few zealots are still using it regularly.

I’m not sure it’s our responsibility as “car manufacturers” (web developers) to redisign our “cars” (web sites) to run on a “fuel” (browser) so that it doesn’t cause our customers to “blow up”. As the little guys, I guess thats all we can do if we wish to support this small zealot crowd.

If you happen to be writing your own web pages I’ve got two fixes that will allow you compensate for IE’s display flaws with a minimal amount of rewriting. Write these down somewhere, because these are what made my page “Blow up” in FireFox.

  1. Padding – Microsoft seems to think padding and margins are the same thing. I never really noticed, but that seems to be the issue. The CCS standards actually say padding is outside of the “div” box and margins are inside it. Microsoft applies both inside the box. Change all of your padding to margins and most of the errors will disappear.
  2. Float tags – There is a error in IE that works like this. If you tell something to float left or right in a “div” box and then tell it to come off that same edge a bit with the margin tag. Internet Explorer only moves it double the number of pixels you asked for. Why? I have no idea, but you can fix it by adding the “display:inline;” tag right after your float statement.

I’m not going to fix the differences between Microsoft and FireFox. I’m probably not even going to come up as the person that suggested Firefox has the responsibility to accomidate it. But if you’ve been lucky enough to stumble upon this post, then you have a solution to fix your pages so the zealots can view your site the way it was intended.

I told you I don’t get it. Maybe I understand it now. But I truely don’t get why someone trying to break into the market is causing headaches for those people that make the products that their browser needs. Without the web sites, there is no need for FireFox’s browser.

RFID – Orwellian Overtones

BarCode TattooEvery year I read a new article in which someone says that George Orwell just got the date wrong. That the novel 1984 was the right concept, it just came a couple, ten, twenty years too late.

Every year I wonder if those people ever read the book.

Eric Arthur Blair’s (George Orwell’s) famous novel, 1984, was about a world locked in perpetual struggle. Three massive countries locked in an eternal “Cold War” controlling the planet. Each country had instituted provisions to control its massive populous. Totalitarian doctrines were put in place to control their people so as their distinct ways of life would not be effected by the belief systems of the other two countries. Thinking against the state had been deemed a crime. Love had been deemed as evil as murder.

It is war that forces an Orwellian society on people, or more specifically the fear of losing a war. People tend to forget that part of the book and focus on how the citizens were treated. In real life, each new law and new technology is wrongly blamed for moving society towards Orwell’s totalitarian regime. Conspiracy theorists seem to always look for the worst possible incarnations of technology. I have to admit, most of the time I’m one of those people. I always seem to be able to see how “Big Brother” is removing, or limiting my rights. What we forget is that our country, Canada, is not in a position to detrimentally limit our rights and freedoms as long as we are still open to the idea of a global community. The Americans on the other hand …

Radio frequency identification tags or RFID tags have the potential to be just such an Orwellian technology. Ten years ago none of us would have considered tracking people via radio frequency. Ten years ago the Barcode was the technology we feared. Movies like 12 Monkeys showed us how the tracking and identification of individuals would be controlled by branding them with Barcodes. Many people who felt the pressure of “Big Brother” went out and had themselves tattooed with Barcodes in mock parody of society’s move towards a completely totalitarian regime.

Ten years ago, they had already succeeded and we didn’t see it. Ten years ago they introduced the affordable cell phone. People tend to forget that their cell phone is continually talking with the towers asking if there is a new call yet. Each person that owns one is allowing themselves to be tracked with a radio signal far stronger than a RFID tag. Move us 10 years ahead to 2004 and we have governments, and police forces and kid finder services using this technology to triangulate your position in a matter of minutes.

RFID tagRFID tags are scaring people left and right. which is ironic becasue we’ve been living with their threat for the last ten years. The fear may have to do with news that Wal-Mart has just started using them to track inventory. I’ve added Wal-Mart to my boycott list until I can figure the implications of these things out, because sometimes, like the cell phone, the device causes more good than “evil”. The conspiracy theorists will rant about how our freedom is being removed by “Big Brother”. But what happens when we start using the technology for improvement of society instead of just focusing on the Orwellian implications.

Japan

Right now in Japan you can purchase a RFID tag for your phone (small amount of irony there). Once in place, your phone becomes your credit card. Wave it over the point of sale device and your purchase is automatically debited from your account. No waiting in line, no delay over entering your PIN number, no need to carry a card.

Canada

In Canada RFID tags have been in use as easy pay devices for gas stations for a couple years now. Ask anyone on the streets and I bet fewer than 10% know they are carrying RFID tags.

I’ve also got one in my new parking pass for work. Just hold it up to the reader at the garage and “bing” it lets you in. I’ve got no proof on this next one, but I believe my cat is walking around with one imbedded under her skin. That’s got to make that tag almost 7 years old. It’s incase she runs away. The serial number coincides with information on file at my veterinarian’s.

Spain

There is right now a huge underground movement of young people that participate in Raves. In Barcelona this phenomenon is pushing the envelope in the use of RFID tags. To understand the solution you must first be aware of the problem.

“Beautiful club-goers have a problem: If you’re going to wear a halter top and micro-skirt, there’s not much of anywhere to put a wallet. And who wants to carry a purse when you’re there to dance? Luckily, a company called VeriChip this year unveiled a solution based on radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology.”

Rave Girls

It seems the young people and club owners have taken it upon themselves to solve their problem. “Nurses” are implanting RFID tags under the skin of Rave goers to enable them to purchase drinks, etc, at the Rave without having to carry any money. Now these people are doing this freely, of their own volition, to stop them, wouldn’t that truly be Orwellian?

Office 2003 – Hidden Data

About time a removal tool got here.

I’ve been copying my plagiarized text to Notepad for more than 8 years. And I’m tired of it. I’d just like to copy the text I want and not have to worry about anybody realizing where I got it from. Not only does it make me look smarter. I advertise how smart I think those people are that I copied from when I get caught. It’s a win-win situation.

I’m just surprised it’s the company that started the damn tracking that is the one to finally release a removal tool.

Microsoft releases metadata removal tool

A year ago, 10 Downing Street published a dossier on Iraq’s security and intelligence organisations. It was cited by none other than Colin Powell in his address to the United Nations. Then a lecturer in politics at Cambridge University discovered that much of the 19-page document was copied from three different articles, one written by a graduate student.

How did he know? In the document there was a listing of the last 10 edits of the document, showing the names of the people who worked on the file. These logs are normally hidden and cannot be viewed directly in Word.

MS Word is notorious for containing private information in file headers, but not any longer. Microsoft has quietly released a tool to scrub leaky metadata from documents edited with its software. The Remove Hidden Data Add-In will permanently remove hidden and collaboration data, such as change tracking and comments, from MS Word, MS Excel, and MS PowerPoint files. For Windows XP/Office 2003 only, we should add. ?

Funny thing is, I just did the same thing the British government did. Only difference is, that only about two hundred people will see this and because there is no picture, only about twenty will read it. Of those 20 I bet most will be close personal friends and family, so there is only an outside chance I’ll get in trouble for stealing all of this information.

Microsoft Ram Tester

Recently someone asked me about test utilities for Microsoft XP.

Remember the good old days when you could install a copy of Norton and it would fix everything and you’d be on your way again? Well since the advent of Windows XP that’s not the case. Norton is pesky and intrusive, more often than nought, it can’t even tell you what’s wrong anymore. It just keeps telling you to restore your system.

Well I’m of the type that wants an answer before I take it to the shop. That’s how I get things fixed quickly and cheaply. I just walk it in and tell them what’s broke.

If you’re blue screening under Windows XP I’ll put dollars to donuts (no idea what that means) that its heat, ram or the motherboard (in that order).

  1. Open the case and point a giant oscillating house fan at the motherboard from about three feet back. Money says if your married, you’ve got one of these lying around (probably on your wife’s nightside table, even though it’s the dead of winter). If it still “blue screens” move to step two.
  2. Woman with Fan

  3. Run Microsoft’s new Ram tester. If it tells you your ram is good, move to step three.
  4. Reset your BIOS. This is a complicated and annoying thing to do, so thats why it is so far down the list. (Honestly though, if you use your system all the time, try this second, if its someone else’s system, keep it at step three)
  5. Flash your BIOS. Ok this is really, really, annoying. Download all the BIOSes your manufacturer has released since you bought your system. Chances are one of them will work. Usually I start with the newest and keep flashing backwards till I get one that works.
  6. Take machine to a repair shop, it’s Hooped!

A Mysterious Network called Internet

In 1993 I still did all of my university work on a “Coleco Adam”. I still remember using Scotch Tape to cover over the record inhibit holes in audio tapes so I could save my reports. I think I must have bought Van Halen’s 1984 3 times because I kept having to use it to save my work. This machine rocked. I’d had it for almost 10 years at this point, an unheard of amount of time today. It was loaded with a Zilog Z80 4MHz processor and 64K of Ram. The thing that was soo cool was that it would save tones of text right on the machine, so you only had to get the tape when you were writing a huge report. It had a 32K ROM.

Coleco Adam
Coleco Adam

A year later I would get my first X86 machine. A NEC laptop. A 4X86 DX 100 with a colour display. What a change. But it would take me three more years to get online. “Life, the Universe and Everything” else got in the way. Even in that decision I made some bad choices, to put that in perspective, I’ll tell you that my first email was JagEsquire@Aol.com.

To understand how far things have come take a look at this CBC report from October 3 1993.

Legal MP3s in Canada

The Canadian Copyright Board ruled in December 2003 that the download of music for personal use is LEGAL. I’ve been waiting for this. I guessed it almost a year ago, as soon as they raised the tax on recording media to compensate the CRIA (Canadian Recording Industry Association).

I’ve read everything I can find in the media about this. Let me outline what we can and cannot do.

  • You can legally download MP3s from the internet for personal use as long as you are not selling, renting or otherwise disseminating them to other people.
  • You can borrow CD’s from friends and create your own MP3s
  • You still can NOT give MP3s to friends or upload them on the internet. Providing MP3s to others remains a criminal activity.
  • Illegal MP3s are still illegal. This means prerelease MP3s that are stolen from the recording studios are illegal to own. It also means that if an MP3 is digitally encrypted you may only possess that MP3 if it is available from a source that was never encrypted. Breaking MP3 encryption remains illegal.

Thankfully the Americans are still breaking the law in record numbers and the Net is saturated with MP3s to download.

This is all made possible because we’re paying a small tax on all our blank CD’s and tapes. All we need now is a small tax on photos and then pictures like this would be legal too.

Pretty Girl
Only if everything was free

Tokyo Apple

On November 30th 2004 Apple opened a new store in Tokyo Japan.

I have always thought Apple was on the down slide, that the number of users was dwindeling. But based on the following footage I believe I’m wrong. Maybe I shouldn’t have sold my G4.

Project Gutenberg

I’d like to say I was as web savvy as the average guy, but I have always hedged my response. Lately, I always think I can’t find original enough things that are interesting online. News sites and Link Dumps seem to always beat me to the punch. I keep holding back on my posts and have slowed down to a measly once per week because I’m unable to come up with unique content more often than that.

Today was an eye opener for myself though. I was in conversation and mentioned that you could read classic novels online for free, and that you have been able to for as long as I can remember being connected. Specifically I mentioned that people who enjoyed “The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen” could read the back stories online for free.

The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen

It was at this point, because of the stunned look on the other person’s face, I realized that some of the knowledge I take for granted is not common. The general public is not aware that any writing out of copyright has a huge chance of being available for free at Project Gutenberg.

“The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen” was not turned into the best movie ever made, but if you spend the time, and read the novels below, and then Moore and O’neill’s comics. I believe you will realize the mastery of literature at its finest form. And the reason extended copyright is stupid.

If your a big fan. Read even more about which classic novels influenced the story in this article by Jess Nevins