Monday, March 29, 2010

Blogger images busted

I noticed my blog images have been busted today (I use Blogger). Apparently Google, who owns Blogger, is having issues with some or all of their images servers. This is intermittent: sometimes they'll be busted and sometimes not; no doubt this is because they are massively clustered.

Blogger (in case you were not aware) uses Picasa Web Albums as their back-end image server, which means when you upload an image for Blogger, it's stored on a special Picasa Web Album associated with your blog.

Update -- looks like their tech wizards have this fixed.

Happy Birthday, Microsoft Bob!

Slashdot reminds us that this week would have been the 15th birthday of Microsoft Bob. For a look back, see the Bob Chronicles on -- worth a visit!


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Ted Pillsbury : Rest in Peace

Briefly noted: Ted Pillsbury, director of the Kimbell Art Museum from 1980 to 1998, passed away at age 66 on Thursday, March 25 of an apparent heart attack. During his tenure he was responsible for numerous important acquisitions and major exhibitions, turning the Kimbell into a world-class museum along the way.

The Dallas Morning News and Fort Worth Star-Telegram both have good overviews of his life and career. There's also a 1998 interview with him on the KERA TV site.

Late update: Family members are now reporting Pillsbury's death was a suicide. The Dallas Morning News has more information.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Opera Mini for iPhone submitted to App store

The news is now out that Opera Mini for iPhone was submitted to the iPhone App store yesterday. Opera has a page where you can sign in and win a bright shiny new iPhone by guessing when Opera Mini will be approved and available for download.

I signed in but didn't see a choice for "when Hell freezes over."

Because - seriously - that's going to be the winning guess.

Anybody remember the ugliness that erupted over Google's Google Voice app? Expect a repeat. Actually compared to what this will no doubt morph into, the GV business will look like a love fest.

Which is a shame because Opera makes a fantastic browser, especially the Opera Mini. I've used versions for the various Nokias I owned for years and loved it. By the way, if you're tired of IE, add Opera 10 to your list of alternate browsers to install.

A (partial) evening with Leo Kottke

I first saw Leo Kottke at UTA about 35 years ago. He opened (opened!) for poor unsuspecting Jesse Colin Young. Baby-faced Leo came out armed with nothing but a couple of acoustic guitars and astonishing virtuosity and left the crowd howling for more. One of the notable tunes from this period was "Vaseline Machine Gun." That pretty much described Leo's playing.

After the intermission, Jesse took the stage only to discover half the  audience had deserted him. Guess what -- they hadn't come to see him. He was visibly annoyed.

I saw Leo Kottke tonight at Bass Hall in downtown Ft. Worth. Fortunately Los Lobos, who he opened for, has a pretty loyal and enthusiastic audience. But it was plain to see there were a lot of folks there (like me) for whom Leo was the main event.

The lights went down and gray-haired figure wandered to the front of the stage bearing a guitar. Gone was the baby-face, but the goofy grin remained as did the astonishing virtuosity. I was sitting in center section, five rows back and in heaven.

His playing had slowed down (just barely), but the breathtaking athleticism of his youthful technique had eased into something more relaxed and nuanced. A perfectly fine trade-off to my way of thinking. He played a number of old favorites, including Pete Seegar's "Life in the Country" (see the clip below), broken up with the usually shaggy dog monologues.

Alas, the only downside to the performance was that it was barely an hour long.

Incidentally, Los Lobos gave a credible performance (and unlike Jesse Colin Young, did not lose half the audience during intermission). I may be mistaken but I could have sworn they had Dick Armey back there playing bass for them. Nah....couldn't be.

Follow up note to outraged Los Lobos fans: sorry -- I didn't intend to damn by faint praise. The band played a hell of a set. And the audience obviously enjoyed it. Me -- I was there to hear Leo. And I gotta say, Conrad does bear a passing resemblance to Dick Armey, save the perpetually sour expression Armey seems to wear.

Monday, March 22, 2010

David Frum on how Republicans blew it

Former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum, a Canadian Libertarian and resident fellow of the American Enterprise Institute has this analysis on how Republicans (and other opponents of the recently passed Obama healthcare package) blew it.

Could a deal have been reached? Who knows? But we do know that the gap between this plan and traditional Republican ideas is not very big. The Obama plan has a broad family resemblance to Mitt Romney's Massachusetts plan. It builds on ideas developed at the Heritage Foundation in the early 1990s that formed the basis for Republican counter-proposals to Clintoncare in 1993-1994.

Barack Obama badly wanted Republican votes for his plan. Could we have leveraged his desire to align the plan more closely with conservative views? To finance it without redistributive taxes on productive enterprise – without weighing so heavily on small business – without expanding Medicaid? Too late now. They are all the law.

Further on he observes:

We followed the most radical voices in the party and the movement, and they led us to abject and irreversible defeat.

There were leaders who knew better, who would have liked to deal. But they were trapped. Conservative talkers on Fox and talk radio had whipped the Republican voting base into such a frenzy that deal-making was rendered impossible. How do you negotiate with somebody who wants to murder your grandmother? Or – more exactly – with somebody whom your voters have been persuaded to believe wants to murder their grandmother?

The Democrats have been shooting themselves in their collective feet for years. Looks like the Republicans have learned that trick as well. Don't look for the noise level to die down anytime soon.

Read the full article -- worth the effort regardless of your political leanings.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

".com" is 25 years old

Slashdot reminds us that March 15th will mark the 25th anniversary of the first ".com" domain registration. That would be March 15, 1985, for those of you who chronologically challenged.

On that date Symbolics computers of Cambridge, Massachusetts registered the domain (sold last year).

Back in those days, registrations were handled with enormously complex paperwork by the National Science Foundation, a U.S. government agency. Network Solutions, for those who care, was the first (and only) domain registrar from 1993 until 1999. I registered my first domain in 1997, using Network Solutions (I currently uses SRSplus, a NetSol subsidiary, as my sole registrar).

The article has a few other amusing factoids as well.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Vindictive Cops 'Out' Air Force Sgt.

Air Force Sgt. Jene Newsome was working at the base when Rapid City, S.D cops showed up at her house with an arrest warrant for her partner on theft charges in Alaska. According to the AP report, she declined to immediately come home, so when they peeked in her windows and saw a marriage license from Iowa (where same-sex marriage is legal), they outted her to the Air Force.

She was then discharged.

"It's unfortunate that Newsome lost her job," said police Chief Steve Allender. "It was a part of the case, part of the report and the Air Force was privileged to the information." An internal investigation by the Rapid City Police Department has ruled the officers who spyed into her house acted appropriately.

Newsome, a 9-year Air Force veteran, said, "I played by 'don't ask, don't tell.'"

Of course, the simple answer is to finally get rid of Don't Ask Don't Tell so crap like this can no longer take place, but considerable institutional foot-dragging coupled with lack of political will is delaying that obvious solution.

I'm a little surprised my libertarian friends haven't had more to say about this. I guess they'd rather bitch about Obama's health care plans.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The Secret Origin of Windows

Slashdot had a link this morning to an article entitled "The Secret Origin of Windows," written by Tandy Trower, who was the Microsoft Product Manager responsible for Windows 1.0. A fascinating, if not geeky read. Thanks, Slashdot!


Update: after posting the above, I remembered The GUI Gallery - which has a vast collection of screenshots of operating systems you've never heard of.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Round up of free web-based image editors

Because not everyone needs or can afford Photoshop, here's a quick round up of some of the better free web-based image editors. All will allow you to upload an image and do basic photo-editing: resize, rotate, crop, correct exposure, color-correct and sharpen. Some do one thing well, others may do another. Most are Flash based. Your mileage (as they say) may vary.

In no particular order:

  • Picnik - no registration needed but free registration gives you additional features; premium ($) version available. Just acquired by Google, so keep your eye on it.
  • PHIXR - unregistered logins good for 3 hours; free registration lets you save, etc. Same basic corrections as above, plus some holiday effects (goofy) and text tools. It has a quasi-Photoshop-like interface.
  • - no login or registration required. Some interesting effects. No text tools. You can play with some of their default images if you don't want to upload your own.
  • FotoFlexer - no registration required. Good range of basic and advanced tools. Clean, easy to use interface. Has text tools, squishing. Unlike some tools, it lets you use layers. Integrates with your online photo storage like Flickr, PhotoBucket, Picasa, etc.
  • Photoshop Express - the sleeping giant finally awoke and launched their own web-based services. Free but you have to register to use. This gets you the ability to store images in your account. The interface is clean and elegant. Not surprisingly a good range of tools, but no layers. Huh? 
  • Citrify - free (no registration) and premium versions. A spare interface, but it does include good tools for retouching faces, including a blemish remover.
  • Aviary Phoenix - no registration required but you can create a free account. Tools include the standards (see above) and layer support. Another quasi-Photoshop-like interface. Lots of online tutorials. In addition to Phoenix, Aviary has a suite of other online tools, including an audio editor.
  • Splashup - formerly known as Fauxto. Another quasi-Photoshop-like interface. Register or not -- your choice. Advanced tools including layers, or for quick and dirty, there's a Light version as well. Integration with Flickr, Picasa and Facebook.
Here's a more in-depth look at web-based photoeditors, from about a year ago.