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Encrypt The Web

There's a line from Spafford saying that most email was like a postcard. Anybody anywhere involved with moving it around could just read the back of the postcard and tell what the message is. And, honestly, this is true of the web, too. I've heard of stories where they hook a packet sniffer to the WiFi at conventions and such and sent all the images they grabbed to a projector. The stuff is wide open.

There are sites that use HTTPS, which encrypts your traffic. The sites that do tend to be banks and other financial institutions. And there was a time when I dreaded hitting a HTTPS site, because the computer would chug a bit at the decryption. But honestly, that was back when I was hating on Javascript because it did the same thing. I forget when I started saying it, I think it was around 2002, but there's no reason why every site isn't HTTPS. I don't care if it's only kitten videos, there is no reason for anyone between the server and me to know what I'm downloading.

Which is why I'm so happy to see this. The Electronic Frontiers Foundation has created a Firefox extension that pushes whatever traffic you're doing onto the HTTPS server. It doesn't work for everything, and it's in beta, but you can write your own rules. I'm a Chrome guy these days, but this is such a great idea.


My Life Just Became Easier

I get mail off of three classes of mail server. The first is an old-school, all-in-one server where I can log on, read mail with a built-in mail client like PINE. I can set a .forward file to send all my mail anywhere, or run it through a filter like procmail. With procmail, you can do almost anything. You can configure it so that when you send an email with the subject "reboot webserver", procmail will run a script that shuts down and restarts your webserver. It is an awesomely powerful and useful thing.
Then there's Gmail. I have nothing bad to say about Gmail. You cannot use it to run abstract programs — I've been playing with the idea of using Google Calendar to set up a remotely-configurable cron/at/batch equivalent, but it isn't there yet — but you have great stability, great interface and filtering. At this point. I'm going to state my position: If you can't filter mail, mail is useless. You'll get squashed by the deluge.

Which brings us to non-Gmail webmail. Specifically, my employer's webmail. You have to pay to get IMAP access to Yahoo Mail, which is a dealbreaker for me. My employer's webmail had fine POP and IMAP access, but what you couldn't do is filter on the server. You could configure clients to filter, but that means you have to copy all your filters to each client, whether it's the web interface, Thunderbird on this machine, Thunderbird on that machine, and so on.

My solution was to write my own filters to run on my workstation via crontab. It worked, and it allowed me to develop a means to specifically alert on things I find crucial rather than Thunderbird's "Alert if new mail" approach. But we've moved to a Zimbra-based solution which seems to have everything I'd want. 


Coder Input Hardware Beg

A while ago at the office, I made the jump from PS/2 to USB for keyboard and mouse. This is related to me going to a USB KVM so I could use two computers without needing two sets of keyboards and mice. I went trackball years ago and far prefer them to mice, but over the years, I came to the conclusion that, following Ricky Bobby, if you don't type on an IBM Model M keyboard, screw you. I wasn't about to spec a big clicky thing that would annoy my coworkers, even if they're perfect otherwise, so I went to the cheapest keyboard I could with a name I like, the Logitech K120.

And, lately I've been experiencing a sticky control or Windows key key. Not physically sticky, so I don't notice anything as I type, but there are types when the mouse click behaves like I'm holding down the Windows key, which in Linux is to grab and move the current window. And when I move over to one of my Windows machines, I start typing and find myself locked out when I get halfway through "halfway".

I spend eight hours a day or so at my keyboard, so these minor things are a big and crucial part of my day. So, what can I do? Get a Unitech or other modern Model M takes? Run my keyboard through the washer to make sure any cruft I forgot I spilled into the thing has been washed out? And, if I do go the replacement route, what is the preferred programming keyboard in 2010?

A Few Words From Larry Wall


Array of Troubles

This is perfectly legal Perl.
my @x = ( 1 ,2 ,3, 4, ) ;
This can be useful when you have things you want to add to or move around, not having to be sure to remove the last comma and add one if you move up the last element.

Compare this SQL.
SELECT foo , bar , blee  , FROM quuz ;

That'll give you an error. In one sense, well, sure. On the other hand, it sucks because the same dynamic forces that happen as you program in Perl come forth as you develop SQL queries.

I suppose the solution is to put a kind of null into the last field so you can shuffle until the cows come home, but I'm still frustrated.

Dimensions and the New Television

I saw this article from Maximum PC:
While 3D-enabled displays struggle to gain a foothold in mainstream living rooms, Internet-connected televisions are barging through the front door. According to market research firm WitsView, TVs with integrated NICs will balloon to 40 million units in 2010, or roughly 20 percent of the global LCD TV market.
That's a cool thing. I was told years ago on Twitter that I should get a Mac Mini and connect it to my TV. My initial attempt was to put a monitor on top of my TV and connect the audio out of a broken laptop to it. With Hulu and Netflix (and, in my house, That Guy With The Glasses), there's lots of net-available stuff that's set for the whole family to watch. Being broke, I used a broken laptop and moved up to a five-year-old tower rather than a new Mac with the footprint of a Sun IPC, but the ability to see our favorite shows on the big screen of the house still is there.

Which gets to the other thing.

I've tried 3D TVs at Best Buy. Are they dang cool? Yes. They are dang cool. Am I amazed that you can get 3D shots of football games? Yes. Am I going to get a set? Not likely.

Here's the thing. You get a TV, and it's crazy expensive and comes with 2 pairs of 3D glasses. I have five people in the family. I'd have to pay extra for three extra pairs, or more if I want people to come over and try it out. And, lets face it, watching TV in 3D while your friends watch the weird pre-formatted ugly stuff, that's just rude. If TV is for the whole family to watch together, then make it for the whole family to be able to watch together.


More on the New Television

I think the last time I relied on over-the-air broadcast for TV was in 1985. I was living in St. Louis, and we did have cable, but not for every TV. I remember using a little plastic tube to turn the knob to get the VHF stations at the top of the dial, and watching Benny Hill and Doctor in the House and Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In. I remember the jokes, how in 1984, Ronald Reagan would be President, ha-ha-hah. 

I don't remember even trying to get a TV signal in North Carolina. In Arizona, we had cable and the only broadcast channel I remember watching is KTLA from Los Angeles. In South Dakota, the day rooms in the residence halls had cable, and I never had my own TV, so I never tried. And here, in Indiana, in a city served by one television station, we didn't get great reception from a station with a broadcast tower three miles away, so I stopped trying.

Until now.

I've just moved, and we have one of two cable boxes. I had bought an antenna for the TV tuner card but had kept the cable plugged in, wanting the wider selection of the cable, even if it was a low-resolution analog signal. Right now, rather than dig through boxes and find coax cable, I tried the antenna. Two takeaways: Of course nothing came in but the local station (now about seven miles away), and man, digital looks so much better than analog. Will have to A/B some screen shots from my recorded shows, but trust me, big difference.

Which is what they've been saying forever, I'm sure.