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My apologies to everyone who is following me on Livejournal! I re-imported my entire Livejournal archive into my blog but I accidentally left my LJ cross-posting plugin turned on, so it got into an infinite loop where I would import a post, and then it would get cross-posted, and then imported again… This meant that duplicates of my old posts dominated everyone’s friends pages. I went back using Xjournal and manually deleted all of the duplicate posts from Livejournal, so everything should be back to normal.

The good news is that all of the old LJ comments have been imported with threading this time, thanks to the new Livejournal importer in the unstable “trunk” version of Wordpress :) Huge thanks to Beau for writing the importer, it worked perfectly.

Originally published at Please leave any comments there.

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I'm moving my blog from LiveJournal to my new personal website at, following in the steps of Nick. The rumors about LiveJournal being in danger of shutting down certainly triggered this move, but it's something I've wanted to do for a while, to have more control over my own data.

I would like my loyal LJ readers to follow me to my new site, and to achieve that I'd like to make sure that my new blog has all of the features of LiveJournal that my readers find important. Why do you use LiveJournal? What makes it a good experience for you? What features of LiveJournal do you think are useful, and distinguish it from other blogging sites? I have already added a number of features to my blog that LiveJournal has:

  • Threaded commenting - This is included by default in Wordpress 2.7 but not all Wordpress themes have been updated to use it yet. You also have to turn it on in Settings->Discussion->Other Comment Settings->Enable threaded (nested) comments, it isn't on by default.

  • Reply notifications by e-mail - Below the comment field is a checkbox labeled "Notify me of followup comments via e-mail". If you check that box, you'll get an e-mail when someone replies to your comment (if you've filled out the e-mail field). I'm using the Subscribe to Comments plugin.

  • Not having to enter identifying info every time - I've enabled OpenID using this plugin, so all you have to do is enter in your LiveJournal URL in the website field and it will accept your comment. No need to fill in your name and e-mail each time.

What else should I do? Please let me know in the comments.

Originally published at Please leave any comments there.

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Do any of you microblog? Do any of you have a Twitter account, or use any similar service like Jaiku, Pownce, Plurk, or Identica? I've been microblogging for about 6 months, as you might have noticed since I've got my Identica syndicated to Facebook using the excellent openmicroblogging Facebook app (source code here), but I'm still not sure whether it is a worthwhile endeavor or a colossal waste of time. (If "Twitter" is the magic word for you, I now syndicate my Identica on Twitter as well so you can follow me there.)

On the plus side, it takes much less time to *finish* a micro-post or tweet than to finish a serious blog post, and therefore I am able to do it much more often. Posting interesting, relevant stuff to my blog on a regular basis takes conscious effort, discipline and willpower. Posting something interesting in 140 characters can be tricky but easy to complete and therefore more immediately rewarding. Ultimately, writing enough interesting tweets to match the length of a real blog post takes as much if not more effort, but like most mere mortals I often have difficulty finishing what I start, and finishing and releasing stuff frequently seems superior to letting stuff stew in my brain until the Great American blog post emerges.

Also, microblogging can replace some of the functions of social bookmarking (which doesn't seem to have really caught on the way microblogging has), namely sharing links with my friends and spreading memes (mwahahahaha). I am still extremely excited about the next generation open source / decentralized version of Ma.gnolia, Ma.gnolia 2, but I am not desperate enough to use any of the current social bookmarking services while I wait... the network effects are just too limited. (I like open source service Connotea for instance, but it doesn't actually let you friend people or anything... it's missing the "social" part of social bookmarking!) Given the existence of microblogging, I now mostly want to use social bookmarking services to build a public online searchable database of articles that interest me... a reference trail, rather than a way to alert friends to what is currently interesting to me.

On the minus side, deep analysis is impossible in microblogging, and it is difficult to have thoughtful discussions with a 140 character word limit. At best you can reference thoughtful discussions occurring elsewhere, or respond with pithy one-liners that summarize your positions. Summaries can frequently be hilarious (brevity is the soul of wit) and to the point, often people add words without adding meaning/substance. But there are still fundamental limits to what can be said on a microblog, and therefore I think it would be sad if microblogging took away too much time/effort from real blogs such as this one.

Additionally, there are a limit to how many useful links you can include in 140 characters, and it can be difficult/impossible to include pretty pictures or videos in microblogs without the help of external services. As long as you are happy with following links that may not be a problem, but something is lost I think when you can no longer bundle all of the media together in one cohesive page.

No doubt there are other pros and cons that I haven't thought of. What do you think?

UPDATE: The Identica badge at won't work in Livejournal because LJ bans scripting languages like Javascript from LJ posts. Phooey. The Twitter badge does work, however.
skyfaller: (Default)
I am in love with this panorama photo-stitching program called Hugin. Perhaps it is because it is open source and cross-platform. Perhaps it is because of the adorable logo, which is a person hugging a panoramic photo. But most likely it is because it makes really beautiful panoramic photos for me with almost no effort on my part. All I did was take a few pictures by spinning around in one place, feed those photos into Hugin, and ta-da!

panorama A

panorama B

Aren't they pretty? Why don't you download Hugin too and give it a try?
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These last several weeks have been very difficult for me.

I voted Libertarian in 2004, I consider myself to be a libertarian with a small "L", and I generally support the positions of the Libertarian party. The World's Smallest Political Quiz pegs me as a left-leaning libertarian. I met Michael Badnarik personally (the picture of me meeting him somehow found its way onto Wikipedia) and after talking with him I found him to be a genuine, principled person, albeit a bit old and clueless about free culture / technology policy and similar issues that are very important to me. While I did not consider his political acumen to be amazing, and I didn't think he would have a chance to win even in a fair election (as opposed to one rigged against 3rd parties), I respected his principles and passion for the cause.

I generally disagree with the Democratic Party and its platform, I do not trust it to preserve my civil liberties or to do anything good with free culture issues and IP / tech policy, and I frequently find myself in conflict with the nanny state. Why the @#$% can't I buy raw, unpasteurized almonds or raw cheese? As an amateur pyrotechnician I've seen my friends persecuted+prosecuted by the police despite strictly following safety procedures and doing their very best to follow the letter of the (unreasonable) law. The war on drugs, the war on filesharing, the war on moisture in our airports (and of course actual war) have all continued under a Democratically controlled Congress and I do not expect the Democrats to make any positive changes in any of these areas. I oppose big government and its intrusion into my private life, and I hold the Democrats responsible for a great deal of it.

This election, however, I had to make my decision based on the candidates, rather than the general philosophies of their parties. While I do not agree with many of Obama's positions, and in fact disagree violently with some of them, I have come to believe that he is the candidate best prepared to lead our country for the next four years. This is sad, because I also do not trust him to keep his word or protect my civil liberties after his FISA vote. However, after researching this year's Libertarian Party candidate, Bob Barr, I do not think he is good for the Libertarian Party, I do not trust him or believe him to be a sincere libertarian, and I do not think he would be a good president even if he had a chance of being elected. Despite my serious misgivings about Obama, there are many things I like about Obama as a person, Obama as a President, and Obama's policy positions that allow me to cast a vote for him in good conscience, to vote FOR him rather than against the other guy (which is not something I would ever want to do).

I intend to follow up this post with details about my feelings on Obama and why I decided not to vote for Libertarian candidate Bob Barr.
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Today I'm in Burlingame, CA at the First Annual Seasteading Conference, sponsored by the Seasteading Institute... it's all about building floating platforms on the ocean and living on them. I'm liveblogging it on my, and there are other people using the tag #seasteading08.

Tomorrow and Sunday I will be at the Free Culture 2008 conference at Berkeley, hosted by Students for Free Culture of course and its Berkeley chapter. People will be microblogging that with the tag #fc2008.
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I'll be speaking at the University of Utah this Monday, September 22nd, noon-1:30pm in the Collegiate Room in the Student Union. The title is "Free Speech, Free Software, Free Culture: The Movement for Cultural Participation". (I'm always torn as to whether to title my talk something witty/silly, or to try to be serious and official-sounding, but I usually go with the latter because different people have different senses of humor and I don't want someone to skip my talk because my attempts at humor on the advertisements didn't agree with them.) I'll also be giving a talk to some librarians beforehand about the Diebold case etc., and afterwards I'll be doing a "how to start a chapter" workshop with the brand new Students for Free Culture chapter which is starting up there. Monday will be a busy day ^_^

If anyone is in Salt Lake City on Monday night, I'd be interested in meeting up for dinner... just leave a comment or drop me a line. And naturally, if you attend the University of Utah, please come to my talk!

UPDATE: Apparently my talk is only open to invited guests, perhaps because they are serving lunch. If you want to attend, please contact me so I can put you on the invited list.

Sep. 8th, 2008 08:52 pm
skyfaller: (Default)
Is anyone else on It's an open source, decentralized Twitter-like microblogging project, and it is pretty awesome. Among other things, you can post to it using a Jabber account such as Gtalk or LJ Talk, and it can send you your friends' updates over Jabber as well. (I understand this functionality has been broken/disabled on Twitter for a while.) Anyone can install their own version of the software driving it, called Laconica, and friend people on other Laconica services (such as itself).

If you want to follow my posts or "dents", just subscribe to skyfaller on or use the RSS feed you can find on that page.

Hope to see you all there!
skyfaller: (Default)
On a completely abstract level, if you had a choice between using proprietary software on OS X, or installing Windows in order to use some open source software which for some reason only runs on Windows, which would you do?

[Poll #1227784]

I suppose the answer might turn on how good you think OS X is (partially open source, prettier, easier to use, less crufty) and how much you hate Windows, but perhaps this question is more complicated than that?
skyfaller: (Default)
Frequently I find myself waiting for the nightly builds of some open source program to fix some bug, or to add a feature that doesn't exist in the stable version of the software. It would be wonderful if there were a good way to be notified when a bugfix or feature appears, either in the unstable or stable versions.

For instance, right now I need some open source software that can capture a screencast from the output of my computer screen. VLC is supposed to support this, but that feature does not work in the stable version on OS X. The next version of VLC, 0.9.0, will apparently have a GUI for recording output from an iSight camera or your screen, but although the GUI is there in the unstable builds, it doesn't succeed in saving to a file yet. I would like to be notified when VLC supports recording screencasts on OS X.

For another example, I would like to start using Thunderbird 3 with the Lightning calendar/todos add-on... Thunderbird 2 has been boring and stagnant for a long time, and I'd like to help the Thunderbird 3 effort in any way I can, at least by testing the nightly builds. However, there is a showstopper bug which prevents you from switching back and forth between the mail pane and the calendar pane (it gets stuck in calendar mode), and until that is fixed Thunderbird 3 is unusable for me. I have subscribed to the bug so I get an e-mail every time someone submits a patch or makes some uninteresting comment on the bug, but really I just want to know when the darn thing is fixed so I can use Thunderbird 3 again. I don't want to get all of this extraneous e-mail.

What I'm imagining is a sort of social networking interface, or perhaps a Digg/reddit voting interface like Ubuntu Brainstorm, for bugs/features, where you can get a feed for each bug / feature request, or "friend"/"favorite" them on the website. Then you can either track all activity on the bug/feature request, or simply get a single update e-mail when the bug is fixed or the feature is implemented. This would be really awesome as a global interface for all open source projects, but a more realistic goal may be for something like this to be released as an easy to use/install open source package which all projects use and thus the interface is at least familiar even if it is not a single interface/website for every project under the sun.

Will someone please create this for me? ;-)
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I'm trying to split up the bill from my last trip to Target between Karen and myself, and it is rather difficult because I'm having trouble decoding the cryptic labels on the receipt.

300PC ALUMIN = The poker chips+cards that I bought for the semi-weekly poker nights my law school friends have. They are in an aluminum carrying case.

GAIAM TANMAT = The yoga mat that Karen bought. (It's tan.)

RISK BOOK = A Risk game in a box with a book-like form factor.

AUTO OPEN = An umbrella which has a button that automatically opens the umbrella and automatically collapses it if you press it again (sadly you still need to manually retract the umbrella after collapsing it, but it's still cool). You'd think they could say "umbrella" on the receipt, though.

AUTO OPEN umbrella

So I've figured some of the items out. But what about:

I'm guessing we bought 3 packs of batteries, but couldn't they be a little more descriptive? Like, what kind of batteries were they?

Or, for the grand prize of un-descriptiveness:


Yes, merchandise. I bought merchandise at Target, big surprise. BUT WHAT KIND OF MERCHANDISE WAS IT???

The mystery remains.
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I have been very disappointed in my law school grades the last two semesters. My highest grade 1st semester was a B+ in Torts, and my highest grade this semester was a B+ in Criminal Law. This is unacceptable.

I have decided that I will not shave my face again until I land at least one grade of an A- or above in a law school class.

This could be a relatively brief beard-growing episode, since I am taking a class on Copyright at the law school this summer. My final exam is in 5 days on July 10th, and hopefully I'll have my grade back around the beginning of the semester. I could get an A in that class and terminate my beard after about a month.

Or I might not get an A until the end of the fall semester, which could mean growing my beard into January or beyond. But hopefully it will end sooner!

Wish me luck.

More posts to follow about the details of beard growing when I find time to research it.
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If you or any of your friends are looking for an apartment in the DC area, check out my Craigslist ad for a room in my 2BR/2BA right next to the Virginia Square metro on the orange line. Constructive criticism for the Craigslist ad is also welcome, it's never too late to make it better!
skyfaller: (Default)
I still can't believe what a useless POS iMovie '08 is, and I can't believe that Apple hasn't fixed it by now. It was released in August 2007, it's been almost a year and Apple has released several point releases for OS X since then. Would it be so difficult for Apple to open iMovie '08 up to 3rd party add-ons so that people can put back in the features that Apple removed? The loss of slow-motion/fast-motion is really killing me.

Oh well, back to iMovie '06 HD. I guess Microsoft isn't the only company that releases "new and improved" products that are actually downgrades.

UPDATE: I just realized what iMovie '08 reminds me of: the Matrix sequels. It has lots of potential, but none of it is realized; it has plenty of good ideas, but the implementation of them is horrible.
skyfaller: (Default)
SPARC is looking for some open source webcasting software to replace the proprietary software they are currently using, Infinite Conferencing. The crucial functionality they need is:
(1) Slide delivery - They need to be able to conduct a powerpoint/slideshow presentation over the web in a user-friendly manner, without having to download any plugins. I am unclear on how Infinite does this, Jennifer suggested that it might be ActiveX, but that would only work on Windows/IE and she also claims to have used it on a Mac, so that can't be right.
(2) Text chat - IRC + web portals should be good enough to handle this?
If we could do those two things in an open source fashion, they could just a conference call on a phone line to handle the audio portion, and ditch the proprietary software. Of course, it would be nice to handle that and other things online as well, so other useful features would include:
* Group VOIP chat / online conference calls
* Video option
* reliable
* easy to install + use.

Any ideas folks? C'mon lazyweb, I'm counting on you ;-)
skyfaller: (Default)
I am trying to make a video using free stock footage from the internet. It is very difficult! For some reason I thought it would be easy, because I frequently use free stock photographs from e.g. Flickr when putting together presentations, and I have no trouble finding high-quality, Creative Commons-licensed photos. Video is clearly different, unfortunately.

Here are my requirements/preferences for stock footage:
(1) Downloadable in high resolution/quality - This is problematic, because most video on the internet is in low-resolution Flash formats. Even when it is possible to download the flash file (which frequently takes some hacking), the video is too low-resolution to use for serious video-editing. Ideally I would like the video to have a resolution of 640x480 or higher.
(2) Freely licensed - Ideally I would like to use public domain or CC-licensed footage, with a license that permits me to make derivative works. This basically reduces my options to the Internet Archive and a few video-sharing sites such as Revver, most of the stuff on YouTube and its ilk is not freely-licensed.
(3) Actually relevant to the topic I am covering - It is actually rather difficult to find footage illustrating a particular concept/idea... the current state of video search is pathetic.

Does anyone have any ideas for websites / sources that meet these criteria?

I've had some success with the Internet Archive, but it has been a long and painful process, and I wish I could find some other options as well.

My trials and tribulations with the Internet Archive. )
skyfaller: (Default)
My old pal Gavin Baker came up with this idea which I thought was amazing: a dating site that makes it easy for you to suggest possible matches to your friends.

Most dating sites have you try to teach a computer everything about you so that it can match your profile with somebody else's profile. This may work relatively well with Netflix and movies, but I think people are somewhat more complicated, and it might very well be that humans are better at getting to know humans and at discerning which humans may be a good match for one another. Also, isn't it a little less weird to get set up on a date with someone who is at least peripherally connected to your social circle rather than a total stranger?

Why isn't there a dating site that makes it easy for you to recommend people to your friends and acquaintances who seem like they might be good matches for one another? Gavin drew a parallel with Linked In, which makes it easy for people to recommend one another for job openings and other business relationships. There ought to be something similar for romantic relationships. ("I think it should be called 'Linked in for Love'", Gavin says. I say "That sounds like an excellent trademark infringement lawsuit heading your way.")

This ought to be relatively easy to do with a Facebook app, for instance... Facebook relatively recently added a feature that lets you "Suggest Friends for ___", i.e. to recommend one Facebook friend to another (scroll all the way to the bottom of a friend's profile to see the link). It should be easy to write an app which adds a few bells and whistles to that functionality in order to make it better for the purpose of recommending romantic relationships.

What do you think? Is there anything like this already in existence? If not, should it exist? Or is there a fatal flaw in this concept which I am missing?


May. 24th, 2008 12:31 am
skyfaller: (Default)
Muxtape finally came back online so that I could try it out. Here is my muxtape! It's filled with songs that I have found myself singing in the shower recently.

* Muxtape allows you to upload whatever songs you want, which in comparison to Mixwit makes it better for handling obscure songs. Also, this allows you to better control the sound quality than Mixwit, since Mixwit leaves you reliant on whatever song files are floating around the Web.
* Muxtape doesn't use Flash or some other silly proprietary technology, yay! It uses javascript to make your browser temporarily download and play each song in the mix automatically.
* Yes, you read that right, Muxtape is already downloading the songs to your computer, just not in a permanent location. That means if you want to save the song permanently, you just need to find each song's temporary location, rename it to an .mp3, and stick it in your music library. In Firefox, I did this by:
1) viewing the source of the page
2) finding the funky number that identifies each song
3) going to about:cache and searching for the funky number
4) saving that file to my desktop
5) renaming it to .mp3 and sticking it in iTunes
You could also use a Greasemonkey script like this one if you want to make it easy on yourself, I'm told. I don't use Greasemonkey, so I couldn't say.

Muxtape is simple to use, if you have the songs that you want to use on your computer. And honestly, how can you make a good mixtape out of songs that you don't possess?

* Muxtape only allows you to have one mixtape per account. LAME. I have lots of mixtapes I'd like to share, what am I supposed to do with the other ones? Make 50 accounts? What a pain in the ass. (Use another service / method for the others, I guess.)
* Muxtape limits you to 12 songs per mixtape. Most of my old mixes were developed for mix CDs, which can comfortably fit 18-20 songs, if they're mostly short pop songs. In fact, my shortest old (completed) mix was 13 songs in length. This is a new mix I made specifically for Muxtape to fit in the 12-song limit.
* If you don't have the song you want to use already, you'll have to go download it. Fortunately, between stores like the Amazon mp3 store or, p2p networks, and music search engines you should have a pretty easy time finding whatever song you want in mp3 format.
* If you want people to be able to download your playlist and take it with them on their iPod, there is no easy way to do that, not even if the listener pays money and buys all the songs. Seriously, Muxtape has "buy" links next to each song (which go to Amazon), how hard would it be to have a "buy them all" link that saves itself as a playlist in your iTunes library? Hard, I guess, because there is no such feature for sharing playlists in iTunes, but why isn't there?

RESULT: Muxtape is an excellent solution for exactly one mix of 12 songs or less. That's not a solution for the general problem of sharing mixes.
skyfaller: (Default)
The alternate reality game A World Without Oil began in a fictional world where gas prices just broke $4/gallon. Everything goes downhill from there. (See the Salon article.)

As you can see at GasBuddy, gas prices in real life have now broken $4/gallon in some parts of the country, especially California.

One interesting thing that A World Without Oil got wrong is it has gas prices significantly higher than diesel, which wasn't a bad guess a few years ago. Diesel was historically always cheaper than gasoline as far back as my dad can remember. Reality turned out differently, however. The fact that diesel is more expensive in real life means that certain parts of the economy will be hit harder than others, perhaps in a different way than the game predicted. I wonder if it is a significant difference?
skyfaller: (Default)
I've been thinking about the future of the music business lately (in the context of my long-distance band Wrong Side of Dawn), and one issue that interests me greatly is the future of the mixtape, which traditionally was a very important way that people shared music with their friends and provided viral marketing. It's unnecessarily hard to share mixtapes with one another in the internet age! There ought to be an easy way to just save a bunch of songs as a bundle, a playlist which you can just double-click on to load it into iTunes, Songbird or your music player of choice as a playlist, with the songs automatically in the desired order. I have not found a good way to do this. Have you?

At any rate, I decided to try the fancy web 2.0 interfaces for making and sharing mixtapes on the web, to see how well they work. First I wanted to try Muxtape since that's what my friends seem to be using, but their website is currently down, so I looked in the comments to blog posts about Muxtape for alternatives. Incidentally, I have to agree with the BoingBoing comment "I miss Webjay." Webjay was nifty when I was playing with it roughly 4-5 years ago. At any rate, the major competitor that I found in the comments was Mixwit, which seems to offer a similar service to Muxtape. Embedded below is the result of my attempt to use Mixwit:

It's a flash player, so my apologies to free software advocates and Linux users who don't have a fully functional flash player for whatever reason (Adobe has not released a Flash player for Linux on the PPC architecture, for instance).

PRO: Mixwit does not require you to upload songs. It can find song files for you that are already on the world wide web using music search engines SeeqPod and SkreemR, and it lets you embed those songs in that nifty little flash widget.

CON: It is difficult to find some more unusual or unpopular songs floating around the Web. Of course, an eclectic taste in music is essential to making a good mixtape, and it is slightly disastrous if you cannot put less popular songs on your mixtape to impress people / hawt chix with your musical knowledge. For this mixtape, I was unable to find "Lonesome" by Unwritten Law, "Dance Craze" by Millencolin, shockingly "You've Got To Die For The Government" by Anti-Flag (I thought that was a classic), and "Eat The Meek" by NOFX. I replaced "Dance Craze" with "Twenty Two" which is a very similar song that I was actually listening to around the same time, but which I thought was not quite as good... also "Dance Craze" mentions both pinball and dancing, two things which I enjoy greatly. The other three songs had no good replacement, there just weren't any other songs by those bands that I could find online which impressed me as much and/or fit with this mixtape the way I wanted them to.

The only solution if the songs are not already online is to upload the songs to some other website yourself, perhaps on a music blog or something, so that you can import the hyperlink to the songs into your mix. This is something of a barrier to entry, since many people do not have a personal website where they can upload whatever files they want. It would be better if you could upload the songs directly to Mixwit, but that would dramatically increase hosting/bandwidth costs for Mixwit, and it would be a copyright minefield / death wish. I'm not sure how much I want to host other people's music on my personal blog without permission, so although I'm not ruling that option out for the future (MP3 blogs have been doing this for years without any ill effects), for now my mixtape remains simply incomplete.

RESULT: I remain dissatisfied with the state of mixtapes in the internet age.

February 2009

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