Two Words: Chuck Norris

I don’t know much about Mike Huckabee, but this campaign ad is hilarious.

My favorite line: “There’s no chin behind Chuck Norris’ beard, only another fist.” I know it’s old, but it makes me laugh every time.

QuickTime Player Annoys Me

The QuickTime player that Apple ships really, really annoys me. There are two reasons why I hate it: volume and geometry defaults. By this I mean that the player defaults to 100% volume, which is really loud, and top-left-of-window placement, with no way to set either of these in preferences. I don’t know who on the QT team at Apple thought these were good/valid defaults, but regardless of stupid defaults, I should be able to set preferences for these and have them respected. I would prefer the player to startup with a volume in the 25 – 50% range, and centered on my screen, or at least closer to the middle than the top-left. It’s absurd that these things can’t be changed by the user. I notice from Apple’s docs that if you want to embed a QT movie in a webpage you can set the volume…

I wrote an Automator script that changes the volume once the player starts, but there’s no way to set this workflow as a default. In other words, the only way I could use it was to drag a movie I wanted to watch onto the workflow’s icon, rather than just double-clicking on the movie file.

Is anyone else annoyed by this?

Security vs. Usability

This Dilbert is a perfect explanation of the moronic security policies that Chase bank has for accessing your accounts.

I should be able to access my account through their website from anywhere in the world, anytime I want. But noooooo. They use a browser cookie to make sure you’re on a machine they’ve seen before. If you use a different machine, or a different browser on the same machine, or clear out your cookies in the browser you always use, you can’t login. You get a page explaining their stupid security policy and telling you that they have to send you a new authorization code. You have to get it via email or a text message to your cell phone, both of which are not always that convenient. Or you have to actually call them and talk to a human.

I have a credit card with Chase, but my regular banking stuff is with another bank, who makes it much easier to get to my account info. I really hate having to check anything to do with my Chase account.

Monitor Log Using

When I’m working on a Linux desktop, I will frequently open a new shell window with tail -f on a log file I need to watch, such as my JBoss log. When I switched to my glorious Mac Pro I did the same thing, but it wasn’t exactly what I wanted.

I discovered that you can execute from the command line, so I have created a Bash alias that I run when I need to. Here’s what I put in my ~/.alias file:

alias jbtail='/Applications/Utilities/ /opt/jboss/server/default/log/server.log &'

(Make certain all of that is on one line!) Obviously you should change the path to the log to be something you want to monitor. You can change the alias name to something else if you like. After editing the file, either logout or type . ./.alias (notice the dots) and that will load up the alias. Now you can type jbtail (or whatever you chose to call it) and will open for you watching changes to that log file.

What’s really nice about this method as opposed to just using is that remembers things like window geometry, fonts and, most importantly, which monitor it last ran on. This is really nice for people like me who have two monitors. I always want this log to show up on my second monitor, and once I’ve placed it there, future invocations of my alias will open it right where I left it.

If you already have a .bash_profile or .profile file in your home directory, look for a line that looks like this

test -r ~/.alias && . ~/.alias

If you see that, you’re all set. If not, adding it will ensure that your aliases get loaded when you next login. You could add the alias=... line directly to .profile or .bash_profile if you like, and skip the .alias file altogether. I have several aliases and I like to keep them in their own file.

Late Night Religious Programming

This is one of my favorite videos. It’s two Australian guys making fun of late night religious programs. This is great stuff.

The bit about “the Hebrew word for ‘word’ is just too funny.” Stick around for the ending. It’s worth it.

Insanely Large Numbers

I was reading A Walk through the Heavens on Saturday and after reading for a while, I started doing some calculations.

First, light travels through a vacuum at 186,282.397 miles per second. That works out to 670,616,629.2 miles per hour, which is 16,094,799,100.8 miles per day, which is 5,878,625,371,567.2 miles per year. That’s 5.8 trillion miles in a year. That’s really fast.

Now, the book went on to say that besides our sun, the nearest star to us is Alpha Centauri at a distance of 4.37 light-years. That works out to 25,689,592,873,748.7 miles from Earth. So, our “nearest” star is roughly 25 trillion miles away from us.

Feeling small? No? OK, try this. Our solar system is located in one arm of our galaxy. The center of our galaxy, according to the book, is about 30,000 light-years away from us. That means that we are about 176,358,761,147,010,000 miles away from the center of the Milky Way. That’s 176 quadrillion miles away.

Still comprehending the numbers? The latest issue of Astronomy Magazine has an article about a collision of 4 galaxies that has been spotted that is 5 billion light-years away. That works out to 29,393,126,857,835,000,000,000 miles away. That’s 29 sextillion miles away.

On Sunday I was watching a program about a manned mission to Mars, and it got me thinking about these huge distances again and how long it would take to traverse them in a spacecraft. From what I can tell, the fastest manned spacecraft so far has moved at around 27,000 miles per hour. I found an article from 2006 about a prototype that was purported to travel at 36,000 mph. But let’s use the 27,000 mph figure. At that speed, assuming it stays constant, the craft could travel 236,682,000 miles in a year. At that speed, to go just one light-year would take 24,837 years. To get to the places I mentioned earlier would take

  • Alpha Centauri: 108,540 years
  • Milky Way center: 745,129,588 years
  • Galaxy collision: 124,188,264,666,666 years

And some humans think we are alone in this vast, great expanse of space.

Note: The numbers I used for the speed of light and the distance to Alpha Centauri are different from what is in the book. I found more accurate values for these on WikiPedia, so I used those. It only changes the calculations by a few billion miles… Also, please note that I’m no mathematician, and some of these calculations may not be completely accurate. I did the best I could.

No Flash By Default In Fedora 8? Huh?

I saw that Fedora 8 had been released, so I thought I’d install it inside Parallels and check it out. After a long install, I booted up in 800×600 mode… Lovely. I googled to find out how to change the screen resolution and discovered I needed to edit /etc/X11/xorg.conf, so I typed sudo vi /etc/X11/xorg.conf and was promptly told that my userid was not in the sudoers file, and that “this incident will be reported.” I’ve just gotten used to OSX and Ubuntu that handle that sort of thing, so this was a bit of an annoyance. Of course, I was able to just su without issue…

So already, I’m not overly impressed. The WTF? moment came when I ran Firefox and discovered that there’s no Flash plugin installed! Who thought that was a good idea? Flash is used on 80%, 90% of all websites, and the Fedora people thought it would be a good idea not to ship the plugin?

OK, so it should be easy to install, right? I clicked on the “click here to download plugin” button and after it chugged for about 10 seconds I was told that it failed. So I went to the Adobe website to download the installer. I’ve now got it installed, but what a joke. The Linux zealots love to claim that “linux is ready for the desktop” but it’s stupid things like this that really show that it isn’t. Granny isn’t going to know how to manually install the Flash plugin.