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(12/18) blogs & S P A M revisited permanent reference link
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pixel My laments about blog overload coincided with Gartner saying
"Blogging and community contributors will peak in the first half of 2007. Given the trend in the average life span of a blogger and the current growth rate of blogs, there are already more than 200 million ex-bloggers. Consequently, the peak number of bloggers will be around 100 million at some point in the first half of 2007." [emphasis added]
pixel Not quite as focused is the TIME Magazine article, "Person of the Year: You". TIME elaborates through more than five paragraphs, eschewing the year's conflicts and tragedies, citing Wikipedia, YouTube, MySpace and Web 2.0 before mentioning blogs. But the technical press, e.g., The Register, and a number of bloggers seem to equate Person of the Year with blogger(s).
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pixel I spend too much time trying to track too many blogs, but do so with ruthless efficiency, only skimming the <title> lines, much in the fashion of skimming news groups in the 80's or reviewing the morning report of yesterday's 1000+ discarded spams. Among the noteworthy trends are the multi-day propagation delays between original posts in specialized blogs to regurgitation in more general sources. This occurs with a variety of topics, from technical to what might be called "geek social", e.g., Microsoft knocked out by mother nature, to the more general.
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pixel For example, when Ahmet Ertegun died December 14, some blogs posted the news that day. Since the death resulted from a fall October 29, it was not a surprise. The New York Times obituary likely was prepared in advance. Lots of sources had the news the next day. But other sources just got around to reporting his death today, when he was buried.
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S P A M, again
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pixel After months of a seeming plateau, there are widespread perceptions and statistics that spam has escalated. Closer to home, my "Suspect" folder seemed to be gathering tens of mails at a time. Spending time purging those items, and forgeries that made it into other folders, made it clear that my previous attempts to discard mail based on originator names, whether forged or real, were fruitless. What I have now is simpler, yet more effective:
  • First, the "white lists" are used to classify and deliver wanted mail, based on origin and recipient. Though spam gets mixed in, due to forgery, most of this mail is valid. Sooner or later authentication technology will exist to eliminate the forgeries.
  • SpamAssassin, with fairly strict settings, marks presumed spam.
  • My own heuristic content filters get a chance to mark as spam anything that SpamAssassin passed.
  • Everything else, which is not much, goes to "Suspect"
  • Though the spam goes to a /dev/null (trash) folder, a nightly report of From & Subject: lines gives me a chance to recover false positives. (Since there can easily be a thousand discarded mails listed in the report, "ruthless" efficiency is expedient in skimming the report.)
In spite of the overall escalation, the latest revisions seem more effective than anything I've used before. Example Procmail configuration is visible at http://technologists.com/~procmail/.procmailrc and the referenced files visible as links in http://technologists.com/~procmail/.
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pixel Of course, along with anticipation about VOIP benefits, there are hazards. "SPam over Internet Telephony" (SPIT) may be one of them.
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coda
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pixel Now that we've adapted to the NT4 end-of-life, or chosen to go on with NT4 in spite of Microsoft, the Windows 2000 end-of-life issues are next.
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pixel Today I was supposed to have my own "high patient satisfaction" surgery, removal of cataracts in my right eye. But my opthamologist was ill, so the surgery is rescheduled for Wednesday morning. If we go ahead with the left eye now, it will be next Thursday.
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(12/13) blog, blog, blog permanent reference link
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pixel Reasons I haven't been writing?
  1. Busy with family
  2. Busy with work, both paid and pro bono
  3. Writer's block
  4. All of the above, but...
"blog overload" has also affected me.
  • Trying to keep up with far too many blogs -- see http://www.bloglines.com/public/CharlesHSauer.
  • Dismay at the questionable over popularization of "blogging" -- everywhere you look there's a new blog, a new RSS feed.
  • Dismay that five years ago I was unable to conjure up good projects leveraging the emerging importance of blogs and RSS.
  • Dismay that five years ago I was unable to persuade local venture capitalists that they should be looking for blog/RSS investments.
  • Doubting whether I had enough worthwhile things to write about.
A few months ago I convinced myself that writing more "tidbits" wasn't a good idea. It was not hard to find supporting searches:
"To blog or not to blog" found over 300,000 matches
"Nothing new" "To blog or not to blog" found over 1,000
"Enough new" "To blog or not to blog" found about 50
But as I revisit various old ideas, I am finding new inspirations. So I'll try to resume writing, perhaps not taking things so seriously, and, perhaps, having a little more humility.
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Videoconferencing
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pixel Ten years ago, when Joe and I had finished Mainstream Videoconferencing, our optimism about the future of the industry was premature. The then dominant suppliers were not nimble enough in the midst of Internet "hyper-growth" and "Year 2000" concerns. For example, PictureTel, the dominant U.S. supplier in the 90's, saw year-to-year revenue declines such that 1999 revenue was 66% of 1996 revenue. After 9/11/2001, new predictions of industry growth flourished, but combined supplier revenue this year is probably no more than half the corresponding figure for 1996.
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pixel However, the evolution of computers, Internet connections and packet-based implementations has finally enabled casual use of videoconferencing. In 1996, high-end PCs were fast enough to handle video coding, audio coding and communication protocols, but were not fast enough to do other things at the same time, and were not inexpensive. For a number of years now, inexpensive PCs have been up to the tasks, so personal video conferencing hardware can be thought of as "almost free".
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pixel The biggest technical hurdle had been "the last mile" connections, which were too slow and too expensive. Pervasive broadband connections are fast enough and affordable. As I use packet-based implementations, both H.323 and SIP, it is delightful to see how robust they can be.
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Packet Telephony (VoIP - Voice over Internet Protocol)
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pixel Though videoconferencing is not yet "mainstream", much of wired telephony is transitioning quickly from circuits to packets.
  • Long distance carriers began transitioning to packets years ago to save costs, unbeknownst to most of their customers.
  • Popular services such as Skype and Vonage have brought Internet telephony to individuals.
  • Broadband providers are doing likewise.
  • Asterisk and other open source software can now turn a PC into a very low cost PBX.
  • Cisco is seeking to expand their presence in voice communications.
  • Microsoft and other software vendors are trying to extend their offerings to fit with voice over Internet protocols.
I have set up a simplistic Asterisk PBX for my own use and am gradually understanding the myriad issues and opportunities. LDAP and other administrative tools have renewed relevance.
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System Administration
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pixel Just as I questioned whether to write more of these "tidbits" I questioned whether I wanted to be committed to the expense and effort of having my own servers and business Internet connection. The monthly fees would probably go down by about two-thirds if I switched to ordinary broadband and a shared hosting service. However, both for client purposes and my own explorations, continuing with my own servers seems worthwhile.
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pixel In particular, if I want to seriously explore Asterisk and alternatives, having the servers and connections I have seems necessary. I had put off upgrading Linux servers from Fedora 3, but when Fedora Core 6 seemed stable, I put it into production. So far, no regrets.
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Macs
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pixel As I reorganize and recycle equipment, doing something better with my dilapidated iBook seems worthwhile. In particular, I want to try videoconferencing with XMeeting, since Joe seems happy with XMeeting on his MacBook. Mac OS X 10.4 is a prerequisite to XMeeting, so upgrading from "Panther" was the first step. Initial testing with XMeeting is promising, even on the obsolescent 900 MHz G3.
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pixel But the way I was using the VGA port on my LCD was cumbersome, and I really disliked the iBook keyboard. Now I have an external USB keyboard and a USB KVM. The iBook is out of sight, analogous to a Mac mini, but definitely not out of mind -- the iBook is finally enjoyable again.
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(4/5) Post-Hiatus Miscellany: Surgery, Photos, Phones, Notebooks, Fedora 5 permanent reference link
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pixel After the last long hiatus, "If Tomorrow Wasn't Such A Long Time", I did not expect another, but it happened, for similar reasons: personal illnesses, a variety of family challenges and blessings, and trying to keep up/catch up with commercial and pro bono professional activities.
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pixel One of the challenges was the continued deterioration of my wife's arthritic left knee. It had been troubling her for over a dozen years, presumably from the stress of pursuing classical ballet until she was 37, and landing on that leg when she did jumps. In early October, our excellent orthopedist recommended knee replacement and scheduled surgery for November. However, family matters took precedence and delayed the surgery, similar to her hip replacement last May, and the surgery was not performed until February 28.
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pixel Knee replacement is more challenging for all than hip replacement. It is more painful, by far, and recovery is slower. Caroline was in the hospital for seven days, vs. four days for the hip. Fortunately, all of the medical professionals we dealt with were good or better, in contrast to the unfortunate experience at the hospital after her hip replacement. I still spent most of my time at the hospital, and one physician told me that if his wife were in the hospital, he would be doing what I was doing. However, five weeks after surgery, Caroline is walking without a cane. Two days ago she was discharged from physical therapy and saw the orthopedist for follow-up. He was pleased enough with her progress that he doesn't need to see her for six months.
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Returning to Managing Digital Photos
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pixel I've not done much, except ponder, since saying I was going to ponder what to do next. I have taken a few photos and have become more fluent in PHP, due to one of my pro bono web site projects. However, on the surface, it doesn't appear that Flickr has changed much except to allow more of their own metadata. Flickr does not seem to have a lot of competition, though others might disagree -- see Flickr has some catching up to do, for example.
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Photo Phones
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pixel One thing I have done is think more about how photo capable phones fit with "real" cameras (note the bias I carry). Caroline got me an LG PM-325 with a built-in camera. At first I thought that the built-in Bluetooth would allow me to transfer photos to Bluetooth capable computers, so I got a little USB Bluetooth dongle. However, the PM-325 doesn't have any useful Bluetooth profiles for file transfer. (The PM-325 does have a profile for Windows "dial-up networking", but my first attempt at using the PM-325 for DUN failed to establish pairing between the notebook and the PM-325.) So, for now, the most pragmatic approach seems to be Sprint's services for email and web access to photos. So far, these are unimpressive. In particular, the navigation is clumsy and (predictably) there is no (preservation of?) metadata.
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Notebooks
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pixel I did get the Dell Latitude D510 as planned and it seems to be what I wanted/expected for both Linux and Windows XP. Though it is bigger than the iBook, it is small enough for my purposes (and I purchased a warranty that will apply even if I drop it!). The iBook is still functional with the external LCD, but it does not get used much.
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Fedora Core 5
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pixel Fedora Core 3 on my production Linux machine is now in legacy status. That is about the only motivation to go with Fedora Core 4, but Fedora Core 5 now seems stable and will probably go on the production machine soon. The only apparent holdup is integrating the mod_auth++ changes into the rewritten mod_auth_basic.c that comes with Apache 2.2 in FC5.

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