Category Archives: Web/Tech

whenever i type “lions,” i have to make sure i haven’t accidentally typed “loins”

A friend of mine showed me the most awesome picture of a little Voltron toy I think I've ever seen. It had lions for hands.

This bounced around in my head for a moment, and I shared my great wisdom with Twitter, thusly:

Voltron with Lions > Voltron with vehicles. THIS IS SCIENCE AND YOU CAN'T ARGUE WITH SCIENCE. (and now, pot stirred, I'm back to work.)

This screenshot from Twitteriffic (with bonus Memories of the Future edit in the background) illustrates one of the reasons I just love using Twitter. These replies are captured exactly as Twitteriffic displayed them to me:

Lions vs vehicles qft

Okay, now I'm really going back to work.

in the country of the kaurava king

This made it past my mail filters last night:

This is youur penis: 8–o
This is youur penis on drugs: 8=====O

Any questionss?

He said. Yes, and he can beat any man in the country of the kaurava king (suyodhana) with all his followers an apportionment bill and carefully revise it of view. Insoluble conundrums of john's national zeal and lower stipendsthat a most interesting.

You know why spammers send these things? Because somewhere in the world, there is a guy, and that guy saw a subject line that said "Nothing can seduce women faster than aa…" and shouted at his monitor, "than aa what?! Than aa what? Tell me! Tell me! I MUST KNOW THE ANSWER RIGHT NOW SO THAT I CAN FINALLY SEDUCE WOMEN!"

Then that guy opened the e-mail, saw that little ascii drawing, and was shocked into silence. He sat there, alone, and quietly admitted to himself, "You know what? You're right. My pe–" a sob caught in his throat, and he faced the brutal truth. He didn't have any questionss, only sadness. "My penis looks just like this: 8–o and that is why I can't seduce women."

Redemption was just a click away, though! He grabbed his credit card, went to the website and placed an order, and started making plans for exactly how he and his new penis on drugs were going to walk down there, and fuck all of them sheep.

It's because of that guy that the rest of us get spam like this … but does anyone have the heart to tell him? Does anyone have the heart to take his dreams of seducing women with his 8=====O and dashing them into insoluble conundrums of john's national zeal and lower stipendsthat? Because that guy's life is already pretty sad, and I'm not going to kick that guy when he's downn.

Books I Love: The Hacker Crackdown

Now that we've figured out which one is Pink, allow me to welcome you to the machine…

In the late 80s, I kind of knew a bunch of people who were involved in what we called The Computer Underground. They weren't my friends, and I couldn't even tell you what their handles were (well, I could, but I won't) but I learned a ton of stuff about technology and other mysterious subjects by dialing into BBSes and reading the textfiles they left behind.

By 1990, I was spending less and less time online, while I continued to struggle with my existential acting crisis. I read books about acting, and all of them left me cold. I read books about filmmaking, and I just didn't care about them.

Then, in 1992, I saw this book called The Hacker Crackdown on the front table at a book shop. I was intrigued, and I started reading. After standing at the table for a long time and getting deeper into the book than someone who is standing at a table near the front of a bookshop should reasonably get, I bought the damn thing. I finished it within a day, and before a week had elapsed I had read The Cuckoo's Egg and Cyberpunk, the only other books on the subject that I could get my hands on at the time.

On one level, The Hacker Crackdown is about how the US Department of Justice launched a nationwide operation to bring down a bunch of hackers in something called Operation Sundevil, but it's also about a subculture and its people who remain misunderstood to this day. Most importantly, introduced me to a world where information and intellect were incredibly valuable, and it inspired me to learn all that I could about the online world I'd eventually call my home. On the way from there to here, I met a lot of the people who are in the book, and formed some friendships that lasted for years.

Cory Doctorow said that The Hacker Crackdown changed his life and it "inspired me politically, artistically and socially." He's not the only one. I can draw a very short and very straight line between reading this book and learning how to navigate the World Wide Web, which is what we called the Internet before you damn kids today were born.

In 1994, Bruce Sterling released the book online, and in 2007, Cory Doctorow recorded the entire book as a series of podcasts. If you want to understand how we got here, I'd say The Hacker Crackdown is required reading.

next time: the prince of wales

a few self-publishing resources

The positive response to Sunken Treasure has surprised and delighted me even more than the fantastic sales of both the print and PDF versions. As of this writing, PDF sales have vastly exceeded my expectations, and though print sales have slowed, they haven’t stopped. I’ve seen a direct relationship between PDF sales and print sales, which is awesome and totally validates what I’ve always suspected to be true, but I was too afraid to try on my own.

This isn’t the first time I’ve self-published, but it is the first time I’ve released a PDF, and used a print on demand service. The entire experience has been so wonderful, I hope I can serve as an inspiration to other authors who may be considering going this route.

In case I am, I thought I’d share a couple of resources I’ve recently come across, as well as two of my own, that may be helpful:

6 ways to publish your own book from Mashable

Just what it sounds like: six different sites that let you self-publish. I’m pretty much sold on Lulu, but it’s always smart to research as many options as you can.

Fixing the Pig Book Model from 1889.ca

This post is all about marketing, eBooks vs. print books, the 1000 True Fans model, and what to expect when you’re self-publishing. If you’re serious at all about not just being published, but actually earning something for your work, this is a must-read.

My interview with the Lulu blog

I’ve posted this already, but I think it’s relevant, especially my advice for writers.

Five simple ways to just keep writing

Another oldie of mine, included here for the sake of completeness.

I’m sure some of you reading this have come across resources of your own that you’ve found useful. I’d love it if you’d be willing to share them in comments, so we can build a more complete and hopefully useful resource for anyone who wants it.

Adding:

Self-publishing review, which has a nice review of Sunken Treasure, as it turns out.

Cult of Done Manifesto. It totally creeps me out when something I’ve had rattling around in my brain comes out of someone else’s brain, better than I could have said it myself. (I especially needed to read this today, having experienced my first truly massive truly EPIC FAIL in a very long time early this morning.)

end user blog: the slacker media player (or, the good kind of nostalgia in the palm of your hand)

This month’s column for the End User Blog is now online for your enjoyment:

Kids, I want you to take off your jetpacks, and step out of your flying cars for a minute. Come sit down over here, and let Old Man Wheaton tell you a tale of a time when television didn’t have a pause button, renting videos meant actually going to a store – during hours that they set – and listening to the radio meant hearing the same 27 songs every two and-a-half hours, with ten to eighteen minutes of commercials every 60 minutes.

Now, I realize that some of you think I’m just making this up to scare you, but it’s true. We didn’t have any control over how we got our entertainment back then. We couldn’t skip songs we didn’t like, and we couldn’t tell the radio how frequently it should play certain songs. It was a different time, when nickels had pictures of bumblebees on them and the King of England would just show up at your house and expect you to make him a cup of tea.

Those of you who have grown up in a world where you have unprecedented control over your media (DRM, which is beyond the scope of this story, notwithstanding) may have a hard time believing that we who came before you would actually wait for a song we hated to go away, or sit through loud and obnoxious commercials and DJs because we knew a song we loved was coming up. I know it sounds ridiculous, but it’s true; that’s just how the world worked back then, and we accepted it without question.

Then it gets weird. Well, not really, but I can’t think of a better segue. Anyway, give it a read if you want to know what I think about the Slacker portable media player.

Warning: it’s way longer than I thought it would be, probably because I spent so long fighting my brain to actually let me write it, and once I beat my brain into submission, I couldn’t turn it off.

Geek in Review: The Musical Future

My Geek in Review this month is all about how weird it is for me to have existed in the world before and after … well, here, let me just quote myself instead of trying to rephrase myself:

My kids have never seen a floppy disc, heard the sound of a modem connecting, blown into a NES cartridge in the futile hope of making it work, or looked up an address in a Thomas Guide. I have experienced all of these things, and though I’m grateful that I don’t have to deal with them in any meaningful way now, unless I want to, it’s odd to me that, at just 36 years-old, I straddle this tremendous and significant technological rubicon, while my children can barely see it in on the distant horizon behind them, as they speed away on their jet packs and rocket bikes. I mean, they hardly remember cassettes, let alone cassingles, and occasionally I will consider this fact and quietly weep for them, alone, while they play Call of Duty against some stranger on the other side of the world in real time.

I am totally aware of living in the future, but I really feel it when I pick up my iPod, because music has been that important to me my whole life, and I have this crystal clear memory of standing at a MacWorld around 1992 with Paul Montgomery and Tim Jenison (who were my bosses when I worked for NewTek) and Tim had this little slab of RAM that was about the size of a credit card.

“One day,” he said, “you’ll be able to put a whole album on something this size.”

I saw a lot of cool stuff from the future when I worked for NewTek, but the way Tim presented this thing to us — not like it was something awesome that could happen but that it was something awesome that would happen — made quite an impression on me. It was at that moment that I became truly aware of how rapidly the world was changing, and how lucky I was to be living in it.

I wasn’t mature enough to consider it then, but I wonder if people have felt the way I did throughout history, just for different reasons: mechanical flight, telegraphs, telephones, atomic energy and weapons, home computers, stuff like that…

I’m looking at my iPod shuffle right now, and it’s about 1/5 the size of that thing, and holds dozens of albums. My regular iPod Classic, next to it on the desk, holds about 8000 songs, about that many pictures, and everything I’ve ever written plus about 40 eBooks. I can put both iPods in one hand and take them anywhere I want.

Think about that: I can put everything I kept in my room when I was 15 into the palm of my hand or into my pocket.

Well, except Cindy Crawford, but I hear that science is working on that.


(Please note that Geek in Review is hosted at Suicide Girls. There’s nothing NSFW on the news page, but the site will trip filters and get you a visit from your company’s IT guy, who wants to know why you’re looking at the same site he was. Don’t complain to me; you have been warned.)

twitter funtimes

I don’t think you need a lot of context from me to set this up, so I’ll just say that this happened last night on Twitter:

Me: @BrentSpiner: Just watched you on Leverage – You ROCKED. You were such an awesome dirtbag, and I know a thing or two about playing dirtbags.

Brent: @wilw Thanks Wil. I hope we get the chance to be dirtbags together one day.

Me: @BrentSpiner I just had a great idea: why wait for a show to be dirtbags together? (I mean, other than the obvious don’t be a dick reasons.)

Brent: Almost missed Wil’s last tweet. He’s right. Let’s be dirtbags together everywhere.

Brent: Wil, when this show is over, let’s go out and get arrested.

Me: @BrentSpiner Done and done. World, you are on notice: Spiner and Wheaton are coming to get you, and we defy you to stop us. RAWR! Um. Yeah.

Brent signed off for the night, and then…it got weird:

Me: I SAID RAWR! STOP LAUGHING AND START RUEING! RUE! RUE DAMN YOU! RUE LIKE YOU’VE NEVER RUED BEFORE! RAWR! RRRAAAWWWRRR!!!11 *cough* *choke*

Me: [::wears these sort of sun-god robes on a pyramid with a thousand naked women screaming and throwing little pickles at him::] KEEP RUEING!

Me: There has been sufficient rueing. I am pleased. Now, let’s all take a step back, then a step forward, then back, and we’re cha-cha-ing!

This is when people began to wonder if I was under the influence of some magical substance that makes this sort of thing amusing to me. The sad truth is: no, I was not. I was just entertaining myself via the great geek tradition of quoting geeky movies. So I said: Okay, everyone can just relax: it’s only yogurt.

Then: You don’t even want to know what I can do with a six-inch spike and a board. How do you think I got to be king of the winter carnival? Luck?

And finally, after much Real Geniusery, A little Doctor Horrible to end the night: And the hammer? …yes. Yes it is.

I hope that, for the rest of my life, I will always be this easily amused.

reminder: I’m on this week in tech today

After playing an epic game of “How about this Sunday? No, that doesn’t work, how about this Sunday?” that went on for months, Leo Laporte and I have finally gotten our schedules to match up, and I’m doing This Week In Tech in about six hours.

The stories we’ll be talking about are here, and Leo tells me that he may add some more before show time. If you want to add some of your own, you can add them to delicious.com with the tag for:twit.

The show starts at 3pm Pacific, and you can listen live if you like. If you miss it, it’s available as a podcast, and I’ll update this post with a link when it becomes available.

Podcasts I love: The Night Air

I hope you know more stuff today than you did yesterday, because today's podcast I love is going to grab your mind and take it on a journey through The Night Air.

This incredible podcast comes to us from Radio National in Australia, and they describe it as "an audio adventure in which ideas, sounds and music are remixed around a new theme each week." They also call it "a listening experience" which would seem super pretentious to me if I didn't already listen to it and agree fully with that description. The best way I can think to describe it is "the lovechild of Joe Frank and This American Life, babysat by William S. Burroughs."

I discovered The Night Air pretty much by accident, just grabbing things that looked interesting from the Podcast directory in iTunes…

Imagine that it's July 2005, and you're sipping on an Anchor Steam next to the pool at the Mirage in Las Vegas. You've just busted out of your first World Series of Poker, but you're staying in town for a few days to play in another event. This is what you see when you look around:

Half of the pool area is populated by beautiful twenty-something girls in tiny bikinis that make me wonder why they bothered to put anything on in the first place. The other half is populated with middle-aged men and their unfortunate wives who may as well be wearing housecoats. Throw in a few frat guys unsuccessfully trying to put the moves on the aforementioned beauties, and it makes for great people watching.

You remember that you have this new Podcast on your iPod, so you lay back on a lounge chair, and listen to Islands. For the next 40 minutes or so, Las Vegas vanishes as you go on a journey: "Whether caught in the crosshairs of an exact latitude and longitude or existing somewhere in a faraway place of the mind, islands seem always on the horizon of fantasy. Tonight we venture to and fro' seeking, as Captain Cook once said 'a convenient situation' where we might trade commodities and replenish our stocks for journeys new. Way off the coast of Prosaic we fetch up on the shores of Speculation Island."

I was utterly and completely captivated. I didn't even realize that my beer had gotten warm, so after quickly correcting that egregious error, I played another episode, Holes: "Is there such a thing as a bottomless hole? Do they go on forever? Do some holes have a will of their own, durable, transient, and just waiting to stave you in? This Night Air is full of holes: architecture, the body and reminiscence. We fathom a suite of works about emotional absence and gutted structures; and finally see what's at the centre of a donut."

Each show combined interviews with music and soundscapes to create something unique and remarkable. I was hooked, and I've made countless commutes endurable by leaving my body on the train and letting my mind go wherever The Night Air takes me.

Unlike all the other podcasts I've featured this week, The Night Air truly must be experienced to be appreciated. I could tell you about it until I used up all my English, and it would still be inadequate. The audio archive doesn't go as deep as it once did, so you can't listen to Islands or Holes right now, but I wil direct you to a recent episode called Once Upon A Time. "Are you ready? Then I'll begin: Once upon a time there were fairytales, stories, fables and myths … distorted and passed down from generation to generation—some you remember and some you think you remember. This show re-tells many of them—as well as the art of telling the stories themselves—which lived on, and on, and on, sometimes happily, sometimes not but, of course, always ever after."

I hope that week's brief guide to some podcasts that I love has been informative and useful to you. I enjoyed writing these entries, so I made a new category here called Things I Love, which I plan to use for sharing…wait for it…things that I love, like board and video games, movies, beers, blogs, and other, um, things that I love in the weeks and months to come. If enough people are into it, I may even do a week of reader requests.

Until next time, here's a podcasts I love roundup:

Pseudopod

60-Second Science

Driveway Moments

Stuff You Should Know

The Night Air