Video about SVS-like School

29 04 2006

This is a GREAT video posted on YouTube – it’s part of a documentary about the Fairhaven School in Maryland. Fairhaven is a Sudbury Valley-like school, which is where my son Zach goes. This video covers all aspects of the school, interviewing students and showing what life is like in a environment democratically run by the students.
BoingBoing has the link to the video.
If you’ve ever had any questions about the Sudbury Valley School, this is a fantastic overview of what it’s like.

Fox News Questionable Business Practices?

28 04 2006

One of the functions of my blogging software is to keep an eye on who is posting comments to the blog, and where they come from. Over the last few months, I’ve been seeing several posts of this variety showing up, always pointing to Fox News, and having -nothing- to do with the topic being replied to.

A new comment has been posted on your blog Planet Geek!, on entry #2674 (10 Years Ago...).
View this comment: 
IP Address:
Name: defwjkd
Email Address:
<A HREF=",2933,193083,00.html">Zarqawi:
'What Is Coming Is Even Worse'</A>
this is so scary - cannot believe this...

This is obviously spam, something bloggers are well used to (we use various measures to block spammers). Blogspam’s purpose is to raise the google ranking of the target site by providing more links to it. It’s somewhat the bane of bloggers in general, though most blog software has decent countermeasures, but traditionally, these types of spam were promoting sex enhancement drugs (real or fake), or the like. However in this case, it’s a known, established, and high profile business. Fox news.

I can’t think of any legitimate reason a comment like this would be posted to my blog. I’m assuming Fox has hired some marketing company to up their news ranking, and the marketing company is resorting to blogspam to accomplish their goal. Heads up, Fox, this is not the way to do business, and will get your site banned from commentary pretty quickly.

Mosaic Newsletter posted

28 04 2006

Our first newsletter has been posted Mosaic Commons Blog. Check it out, lotta cool stuff going on!
LJ folks, you can subscribe to the mosaicblog feed.


27 04 2006


Originally uploaded by eidolon.

I do like taking walks. After a morning helping out family members, I spent almost 2 hours in the woods near Bolton, MA on the conservation trails. Toward the end the sun was beginning to go down, and the trail crossed this stream.

I don’t think I’d ever been on this bridge before, but I loved the patterns of the light and the water.


27 04 2006

Gosh, it seemed like a good idea. I have a Bluetooth phone (sort of, the Treo 650 is… not the best bluetooth platform out there). I have a Bluetooth enabled laptop. I listen to music on my laptop via headphones all the time. And the laptop has a microphone. Bluetooth phones support remote ‘hands free’ models, I should be able to use the laptop as a HF device on the phone, right? Anyone? Right? Anyone?
Well, not quite. The bluetooth support in Linux is quite good for many things, such as file transfer support and wireless modems, but the handsfree module that was part of the KDE bluetooth package seems to have gone missing.
And, I have to admit, I’m really less than thrilled with the Bluetooth stack on the Treo. It’s painful.

Real Estate Valuation via

26 04 2006

I’m a little late coming to this, but NPR’s All Things Considered aired an interview with the CEO of and I had to give it a shot. Forget Mrs. Grundy, this tool lets you find out how much your house, your neighbors house, your bosses house, or any house in fact is worth given current market conditions. The folks at Zillow are the first to admit it’s not 100% accurate (in fact, looking at when we sold our last house, the chart showing property values rates that house at 20% higher than what we sold it for. Sort of sad, actually), but it’s fascinating looking up house prices and history of sales for not only the house you’re in, but the houses around you as well.
Update: fixed broken HTML. Sorry

The Continued Improvement of KDE

25 04 2006

The Continued Improvement of KDE
I’ve written before about the fairly detailed advances that have been occurring in the KDE desktop environment. This past week I got a chance to test out a few more, and for me the environment gets better and better with each passing week.
USB Device Support
One could argue this is better attributable to Kernel level and OS-level improvements, but history has seen that desktop enhancements often lag far behind kernel and OS changes. In this case, they’re moving forward hand in hand.
I use several ‘external’ USB devices that I connect to either yawl or to hunter. These consist of any of the following:

  • A 256 meg pen drive (used for ‘hot’ backups of databases while at events)
  • A generic 190gig external USB drive for backups and general storage
  • an Olympus C-770 camera
  • A Palm Treo-650
  • An Apple iPod

Traditionally, using ‘removable’ filesystem devices under Linux would involve much finagling of automounting device confifgurations, as well as the ‘Pray and Pull’ approach to disconnection. It might disconnect cleanly, it might not.
With the switch to devfs in the 2.6 Linux kernel, USB devices are mounted and unmounted automatically upon detection. I have been able, without doing any filesystem tuning, to simply jack in any of the above devices, and both of my machines mount the device immediately. Under KDE, the devices even show up on the desktop as an active icon, and I’ve configured KDE to automatically open the device in a file browse window upon detection. This makes moving pictures and other items on and off the drives a breeze. A simple drag and drop. For camera operations, this is sufficient, but read on for considerations for other devices.
iPod support in Amarok
The Apple iPod is an unusual device. It does function as a USB drive, and shows up on the filesystem with appropriate file structures and the like, but it’s really not meant to be manipulated as a filesystem directly. Music is stored in ‘numbered’ directories, with cryptic names on each. Not very helpful when simply browsing with a filesystem view. Fortunately, some bright lights have come up with a great interim system.
I had originally been using GTKPod as a tool for working with the iPod, but I found the interface less than intuitive, and it didn’t integrate well with the rest of my desktop. It was a typical standalone Gnome app, with only the faintest nods to the concept of desktop interaction and interface sharing.
When confronted with “Hm how am I going to sync my music collection to my iPod”, I noticed in the Amarok window a selection for ‘media devices’. And sure enough, in there, there was the iPod, available for synchronizing. I went through my already selected playlists (I use Amarok constantly), selected a handful of new songs, and said “Add these to media device queue”. Once they were all set, I simply clicked “Synchronize”, and the system connected up to the iPod properly, synced the music over to it, and shut down cleanly. Total time, about 8 seconds.
My understanding is this is similar to how iTunes works (I’ve only run it briefly – my exposure to it under Windows only brought up feelings of ‘bulky, slow, unintuitive, and not native. Looks like an Apple port’, and after that I didn’t bother. With Amarok, I’m using my own music collection via a tool that is an absolute joy to use (Amarok). The iPod synchronizing is just icing on the cake, but a pleasant find nonetheless.
A good desktop
All in all, the KDE desktop simply continues to improve and improve and improve more. Yes, some of these functions are things that others have been doing for a while. But when was the last time anything really revolutionary was done in the desktop environment? The gap between the ‘stable, consistent Windows desktop’, the ‘warm and fuzzy and friendly mac desktop’, and the opensource rogue of KDE is far narrower than many would say. At the moment, I’d put the useability, capability, and flexibility of KDE over the Mac, and in many ways, far over Windows as well.