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Welcome to my home page. I became blind at birth. I started programming computers at a young age. I also earned my general class amateur radio license, KA3TTT, a hobby to which I have returned with great joy. I practice Qigong and identify as a Taoist. I use Linux as my desktop and Android as my mobile OS. I eat gluten-free vegan meals. For the rest you'll have to read my blog.

The FiOS Chronicles

October 29, 2008

I will chronicle my experience with FiOS. I just got it installed yesterday. Verizon FiOS provides a fiber optic line right to the house. The technology has moved a rung down the social ladder. As a kid, I remember long distance telephone companies advertising that they now use whisper-quiet fiber optic lines, and now the end user has this technology.

I can’t believe I’ve gone to Verizon for my Internet, but there you go. A guy called and told me I could get 20mbps down, and 5 mbps up, upgradable to 20 mpbs up. That sounded great, plus telephone and television would all come on one bill. I love Speakeasy, but they have a nightmare accounting department, and I just can’t battle with them every month. Mom got FiOS and loves it, though of course we have very different computer usage patterns. I held my nose and entered the labyrinth of Verizon FiOS!

I wanted a static IP of course, since I actually do things. I also didn’t want any port restrictions, which a tech support person confirmed exist – port 80 outgoing and port 25 incoming. Nice. So beware: if you actually use your Internet connection for servers, you’ll want the business FiOS Internet, as opposed to the residential FiOS Internet. You will still want residential television and telephone services, however. This makes things nice and confusing. Originally, the guy pitching the promotion told me I could get all three for $145 or so. I asked about getting a static IP and he said I just had to call ahead of time. Wrong’o! I called over the weekend before the installation date, and they told me that I needed the business Internet. They had to cancel my original order, then make separate business and residential orders, then join them together on the same day, moving it back to the morning. So now with the services as described I pay around $200 for all three.

I feel amazed at the Internet speeds. The business connection gives a guaranteed speed, and it appears to deliver on that. The telephone sounds great. I worried that they’d just use some crappy Vo/IP, but they assured me that they use real fiber optics, suitable for data use even. I do feel worried that it has a battery backup, giving me eight hours of talk time. If the world comes to an end I won’t have telephone. It sounds great, noticeably better than copper. The same applies to the television, going from old-style Comcast crappy cable to fiber offers a vast improvement in audio. I don’t care about picture. I don’t care about HD! I feel absolutely overwhelmed with the television channels and can actually use the DVR to at least pause and rewind shows in real-time. This takes the stress away of missing your favorite show. Too bad as a blind user I can’t access the nifty neato functions which require using a menu. Come on, guys!

I do have to bring up another issue for tech savvy folk: the moronic router they tell you that you have to use. Don’t you believe it, though I still do as I write this, that may soon change. Sure it works, but I have already started getting errors going to one of my machines. I also had some trouble changing the initial admin password, which annoyed me, so we had to reset it, then reenter in everything, which necessitated a call to tech support. We had to enter in the info in the Ethernet as opposed to the Coax network, if that saves someone out there some trouble. I also felt confused by the port forwarding setup. Protocols have rules, and you have to configure it from the point of view of the router, i.e. you want to configure the incoming ports for most services. You then have to go and apply the rules, the protocol, then go back and select your protocol in the forwarding rule, then apply that and then apply your changes to the application which you have just applied. It always bothers me when designers

try to make something for advanced users so simple that a fool can use it, but obfuscate it so those of us who know what we want to do and how we want it done can’t. Give me some textfiles and a simple console interface any day!

Despite all this router monkey business, I definitely love the speeds I have started getting. I started downloading a 10GB torrent at around 1500KBPS at its peak! wow! amazing! I remember getting DSL for the first time, and a friend downloading music with Napster, and us feeling amazed that we’d get speeds around 100K. Now it has moved to the next level. Just watch that router, and to quote Hunter THompson: “Don’t take any gup from those swine!”

My Continuing Battle with the Elago 2.5mm to 3.5mm Adapter

August 20, 2008

Previously, I wrote about this adapter, and how it almost broke

my phone. I may have to amend that by removing the word almost.

My cordless phone still works intermittently. The tip broke off,

and now makes contact with the jack. This really bothers me.

This two dollar adapter (supposedly on sale for $14) may have broken my

phone. Now I will have to spend money on a new cordless phone with

talking caller ID, and a $150 or so phone patch to do this properly. At

least it will cause me to use it less and reduce my exposure to

radiation. Remember to stress-test your adapters. If it breaks, throw it

out. Cheap solutions rarely work as planned. They piss me off!

My Review of the Elago 2.5mm to 3.5mm Adapter

August 15, 2008

I would have posted this review on Amazon, but their new review system makes it impossible to post one with a screenreader. You need javascript. The Bane of the Internet! Mark my words!

Recently, I wanted to make a cheap phone patch by using a 2.5mm to 3.5mm adapter, then splitting that into my mixer. I’ll have more details on that when I get it working. I purchased the Elago 2.5mm to 3.5mm stereo adapter from Amazon. This adapter takes the mini jack of a cordless phone or cell phone, and allows you to plug in a standard 3.5mm (eighth inch) plug into it.

I opened the package to find the adapter, two little plugs held together by a very thin wire. This made me nervous, cables represent the most important part of a setup. I tried it by first plugging it into some standard Ipod earbuds I had lying around. Immediately, I noticed the unreliability of the adapter. I could not get a solid connection, it came and went. I had a bad feeling about this.

I inspected the plug, and to my shock, noticed that the little 2.5mm end had started to bend. Already? After less than two minutes? I straightened it out, my hopes dwindling. “It’ll break off in your phone.” I heard my inner voice warn as I tried fiddling with it again. I couldn’t get any sound, the adapter had broken. I pulled it out, and lo as the voice had predicted, the end had snapped off inside my phone, making it silent. I used a pipe cleaner and fortunately that worked to fish it out. Leave it to a smoker’s ingenuity to solve the problem.

All and all, I would NOT recommend buying this product. It almost permanently damaged my expensive cordless phone. I do not know how it lists for $14.99, but do have a good idea how Amazon can charge $1.99. Caveat Emptur!

A tip for M-Audio MobilePre USB Users

July 24, 2008

I just got a hot new mixer, which I will shortly write about. In the mean time, I wanted to just share a quick tip for users of the MobilePre, a beautiful USB-powered audio preamp made by M-Audio, which I use as one of the components in the mixer. I have it both as an output and as an input. To do this, first turn on direct monitoring. You can do this in the volume control, under playback controls. Make sure that under “advanced” you have the “1-channel input” option unchecked. Hook the mixer or whatever you want to use to the line input on the MobilePre. Now the kicker: The two gains on the front control all audio data coming over all inputs, not just the xlr microphone inputs. This really threw me. At first everything sounded all muffled, and in mono. I couldn’t figure it out, it certainly did not seem on par with M-Audio’s respectable reputation. After some fiddling around, I realized this property of the gain controls, which seems somewhat obvious in retrospect. So, first connect the line, and connect

headphones to the headphone out. With the direct monitoring on, you will hear the audio coming over the line-in. Carefully adjust the two gains on the front – one for the left channel and one for the right. Use your brain to balance out the sound until it sounds perfectly balanced. There you go. Turn off direct monitoring, then hook the line-out to your mixer and enjoy. I wanted to post this on my blog in case someone else has this problem, then they will hopefully find it through a search engine and save themselves a few moments’ panic. No, you don’t need to buy a new sound device just to record your beautiful mixer’s output. Have fun!

The Five Phase Magic Bean Model of Internet Media Platform Development

July 16, 2008

The Five Phase Magic Bean Model of Internet Media Platform Development

The Internet has allowed people and groups to establish media outlets, circumventing the restrictions of licensing and regulations placed on mainstream media outlets. This tend towards greater freedom represents the nature of information in general – seeking the quickest path to greater distribution in the same way that electricity seeks the quickest path to ground. Internet media does however present unique challenges. Some challenges exist in all projects with at least five people involved, other challenges exist unique to the medium. I have worked on several such projects, and have come up with a five-phase model of a project’s birth, flourishing, and death or transition to something better, circumstances depending. I relate them to the story of Jack and the Beanstalk, and will present it in this paper in an attempt to aide others struggling with the same difficulties. I also hope to give some understanding to those unfamiliar with the inner workings of such projects.

The story of Jack and the Beanstalk begins with Jack going to the market to sell his family’s cow, as ordered by his mother. On the way to the market, Jack meets a butcher who offers magic beans (five according to some tellings) in exchange for the cow. Jack accepts, and returns home. His mother becomes enraged, and throws the beans out the window, and Jack goes to bed supperless.

This represents the first phase of development, correlated with initial chaos. Fortunately, people will often help if they can in the beginning, and with a little luck and much perseverance, you will have your new media outlet in a month or so. Wow! Magic beans! Free radio! Free television! The word goes out, and people come to the site, only to become disappointed by the lack of a beanstalk, in other words a smooth slick appearance with content to match. Some curse and say they will never visit the site again. Others hang on, waiting to see what the morning will bring.

Jack awakens to find his room darkened. At first he assumes that he woke up early, or just that things suck, but then he realizes that a giant beanstalk obscures the light from outside. Without even getting breakfast, he gets dressed and goes out his window and climbs onto the beanstalk. He finds it sturdy, and climbs to its top. He feels fatigued and hungry, oddly ignoring the plentiful supply of beans on the way up.

As soon as he orients himself to his strange new surroundings – a barren land with dried rivers, a fairy appears. This particular manifestation of Goddess tells him that this magical land once belonged to his father, a kind man and a good ruler. Unfortunately, a giant who lives in the land has the sickness all elites have had throughout history, and considers himself more important due to his size, so kills Jack’s father and usurps the land. The fairy tells Jack that he must kill the giant to avenge his father. He can also take back the treasure, since it rightfully belongs to him. Feeling a new passion, Jack proceeds to the giant’s castle, which he quickly finds.

When he gets there, he doesn’t know what to do, so he knocks on the door to ask for some food. Why oh why did he ignore those beans? The giant’s wife, a kind enough woman, answers. How did this kindly human get hooked up with a big ill-tempered giant? So it goes! She agrees to feed him, but warns him that her loser husband will probably kill him if he sees him. Sure enough, half way through his meal, the house shakes as the giant comes in. His wife hides Jack in the oven. The giant smells fresh meat, and we first hear his terrible cry:

Fee! Fie! Foe! Fum!

I smell the blood of an Englishman!

Be he live, or be he dead,

I will grind his bones to make my bread!

Eventually he gives up searching and contents himself with his supper. Afterwards, he demands that his wife bring him his magical golden hen, which lays golden eggs on command. After forcing the hen to lay a pile of golden eggs, the giant falls asleep, and Jack absconds with the hen, and returns home to his joyful mother. They soon have a beautiful pile of golden eggs of their own.

This second phase, correlated with discord, represents the initial growth of the project. New hosts come on board, as well as new help, often with mixed results. Jack ignoring the beans represents ignoring potential help and opportunities. Jack learning of his father and his cause feels similar to the feeling of wanting to make something new and different to challenge the mainstream media. Everyone recognizes the evil, and they want to fight it. This leads them onto the giant’s castle, so to speak.

Each of Jack’s confrontations with the giant represents a challenge to the project. This first encounter finds the giant’s wife mostly friendly, but wary, and with good reason. As soon as things feel like they have finally settled down to a steady easy path to good fortune (i.e. Jack eating his meal), the giant enters. This represents the masses of new users. At this point, their terrible cry first becomes heard:

Fee! Fie! Foe! Fum!

I smell the blood of an ombudsman!

Be he live, or be he dead,

I will grind his bones then make a thread.

Ombudsman: noun.

  1. A government official appointed to investigate complaints made by

individuals against abuses or capricious acts of public officials.

  1. One that investigates reported complaints as from students or

consumers.

The first sense applies to the world at large, people demanding answers from their government, as heard through the alternative media. The second sense refers to the poor administrator who gets swamped with the complaints regarding the platform. People want to find someone so they can either tell them about the problem, or failing that, kill them. We will concentrate on the latter definition. A thread in this case refers to a new discussion topic on an Internet message forum.

Despite these inevitable growing pains, the project continues growing and doing well. The hen with the golden eggs represents that first time when everything finally seems in order – a full schedule, a relatively stable platform, and happy enough users. This sets the perfect ground for the confusion to follow.

After some time, Jack decides that he must go back up the beanstalk, since he must eventually kill the giant. He does so, again ignoring the beans. This time, according to one telling, he pleads with the giant’s wife twenty-two times, before she lets him in on the twenty-third. Apparently, a certain young hoodlum stole the giant’s hen, and he feels none to happy about it. He blames the wife and treats her thusly, but she stays with him for one of those unknown reasons that we may never figure out. Again Jack begins eating, again he gets interrupted, and again the giant comes thundering in.

Fee! Fie! Foe! Fum!

I smell the blood of an Englishman!

Be he live, or be he dead,

I will grind his bones to make my bread!

After an intensive search, he gives up, and grumpily eats his supper. Afterwards, he demands that his wife bring him his bags of coins. To Jack’s amazement, the wife brings the giant two huge bags, one filled with silver, one with gold. The giant counts each several times, and secures them, before again falling asleep. Jack, with a little more effort, carries off the bags and goes back down the beanstalk, though a big more slowly this time. Of course, Jack’s mother feels overjoyed to see the coins. Jack has yet to complete his quest, however.

This third phase of confusion sees the project at a peak. Users pick up, hosts enter their stride, and the project moves along at a comfortable pace. Nevertheless, the terrible cry again issues forth:

Fee! Fie! Foe! Fum!

I smell the blood of an ombudsman!

Be he live, or be he dead,

I will grind his bones then make a thread.

Sometimes things can take a little nagging to get done, but they happen, with relatively easy reward. Things continue on well enough. The future looks exciting. Everyone loves the project, until the confusion broiling under the surface emerges, like a drunken giant lumbering out of an overly splendid castle.

Jack realizes he must go up again, since he still hasn’t defeated his enemy. He does so, but this time finds the giant’s wife even more hard to convince to let him in. Apparently, some young punk made off with hubby’s bags of coins, and he swears he will kill her if this ever happens again. Still, she stays with the loser. Half way through Jack’s meal, the giant comes rumbling in. The giant’s wife hides Jack, but this time the giant’s awful cry will not go unrewarded:

Fee! Fie! Foe! Fum!

I smell the blood of an Englishman!

Be he live, or be he dead,

I will grind his bones to make my bread!

He finally stops looking for Jack after turning up the entire kitchen, luckily ignoring that barrel in the corner. After supper, he demands that his wife bring him his golden harp, which plays on command. After amusing himself with the harp and ignoring his wife, he again falls asleep. Jack scampers out to snatch the harp, but this time the harp cries out in a human voice. “Master! Master!” The giant wakes up, and sees Jack. Jack runs out of the castle, the giant in pursuit, though Jack has the advantage. He nimbly climbs down the beanstalk (inspiring another story perhaps) and as he sees the giant coming down, he chops the beanstalk down with an axe. The giant falls to earth, dead. Jack and his mother live happily ever after. The magical land of Beanstalkville becomes restored! The giant’s wife becomes the new queen, and whether she finds a real man or not, this tale does not tell.

This combines the fourth phase of bureaucracy, and the fifth phase of aftermath. In the fourth phase, the showdown comes, with forces too evenly matched. Most users have no idea of the turmoil behind the curtain, but the vibe changes. Things go on as best as possible, but a change must come.

Fee! Fie! Foe! Fum!

I smell the blood of an ombudsman!

Be he live, or be he dead,

I will grind his bones then make a thread.

In the fifth phase of aftermath, one of two things can happen. On one hand, the parasites who have infested the project reach critical mass and influence, crowding out the few good people to make room for their own egos’ agenda. The project destroys itself from within, resulting in a classic catabolic collapse. On the other hand, the good people band together, neutralize the parasitic influence which has crept in, and move the project into the next evolution of the revolution. I listed the first one first for a reason. At this point, the fate of the project lies within your hands, so tell the truth.

This concludes the Five Phase Magic Bean Model of Internet Media platform Development. I hope you find it of value, or at the least a good laugh. The Goddess prevails! Remember Beanstalkville!

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