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Captain's Log, Supplemental — LiveJournal [Update Journal] Below are 10 entries, after skipping 10 most recent ones in the "Peter Cooper Jr." journal:

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November 19th, 2010
08:23 am

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A Recount Timeline

A saga of the election in the 6th Worcester District of the Massachusetts State House, between challenger Peter Durant (R–Spencer) and incumbent Geraldo Alicea (D–Charlton). The district is composed of all of Charlton, East Brookfield, and Southbridge, two of the four precincts in Spencer, and one of the four precincts in Oxford.

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November 18th, 2010
08:29 am

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A Keyboard Timeline
  • July 9, 2003: I purchase the FingerWorks TouchStream LP, for a total of $343.89 including tax and shipping. I purchase the one with QWERTY printing on it, figuring I'd learn to use it first and learn the Dvorak layout later.
  • Vague Time after that: I do learn to use it, and I fulfill my life goal of learning Dvorak.
  • September 23rd, 2004: I lose connectivity between the halves (the right half plugs into the computer, and the left half connects to the right half through a ribbon cable that's not designed to be user serviceable), so only the right half of the keyboard works. Presumably, they didn't test people folding the keyboard and bringing it back and forth to work often. However, I sent it back and they fix it, although it's annoying to deal with not having it in the meantime.
  • Q2 2005: FingerWorks goes out of business, as Apple gave the owners a deal too good to pass up. Apple hired the brains behind the operation and bought up the IP, which they've since slowly been putting to good use (from the iPod wheel, through to the iPhone/iPad and Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad).
  • February 15th, 2007: Once more, the left half of my keyboard doesn't work. I think that it's more than the ribbon cable this time, as I think I shocked it with static electricity before it died. So, I sadly put it away hoping to fix it one day, and get used to working with terrible mechanical keyboards and mice again.
  • October 20th, 2008: I try fixing a broken Dvorak-printed TouchStream keyboard (that the owner had managed to remove the ribbon cable from) by buying the ribbon cable and putting it in. Amazingly enough, I'm successful, and manage to purchase the keyboard from the owner for $200. (Fully working ones have been going on eBay for over $1,000, and a couple have gone over $2,000.) Happiness ensues.
  • November 13: 2010: I finally decide to try seeing if I can repair my old keyboard, and see if it's just the ribbon cable. I extract the cable out and test it, and not all the wires have connectivity. I order a new cable.
  • November 17, 2010: Cable arrives. I insert it. Amazingly enough, the keyboard works and passes diagnostics completely. I now have a working TouchStream at home and one at work. I feel thrilled that it all works, and somewhat silly that I hadn't tried it much much earlier.

I know that I could get well over $1,000 if I sold one of them on eBay, but I just can't imagine selling one. They're just so wonderful to use, and I spend a lot of time in front of a computer.

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August 24th, 2010
02:08 pm

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Quote of the Day
“If you were a Massachusetts state senator over the last 16 years, you were three times more likely to be indicted than you were to lose a reelection bid.”
— Jim O'Sullivan, State House News Service Weekly Roundup

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July 1st, 2010
02:47 pm

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Annoyance of the Day: Maps and Intellectual Property
For Christmas 2007, I received a TomTom ONE 3rd Edition GPS Navigation System as a gift from my parents. While I don't often do a lot of traveling beyond my daily commute to work, I do occasionally, so it's come in quite handy, particularly as we don't have a cell phone with which to communicate with someone else en-route if we get lost. However, over the past two and a half years, roads have changed. The only significant change in the local area that I'm aware of is the 146/I-290 intersection, but it's likely that other roads have changed as well, and the point of a GPS is to navigate me through the places I'm not familiar with.

So, I decided I'd finally get around to hooking it up to my computer and seeing how one goes about updating it. The TomTom software happily offered to update me to the latest version, plus the next 18 months of map updates, for the low low price of somewhere around $75. Since I think that's around the cost of a new unit, I'm not planning on going that route.

It's interesting how valuable map data is. It's an interesting form of intellectual property, in that one would think that most of it would be available from public domain sources. But somehow it's not, and so the various mapping companies (there's only one or two, I think, that just license the data to the various GPS manufacturers and online mapping providers) spend a lot of effort collecting the data, by driving around every road they can with their own GPS, and noting the various street signs. I suspect that one of the main driving forces behind Google's Street View car is actually to collect the mapping data themselves so they can at some point stop buying it from other sources. The Google Maps application for Apple's iOS doesn't integrate with the built-in GPS in the later-model iPhones since Google hasn't paid for that use of the mapping data, or so I've been told. It seems that companies that use map data as a business model have found that driving around to collect data is more efficient and/or accurate than trying to use various public domain sources such as government records of roads being constructed.

If there's a lot of effort that goes into creating accurate maps, it makes some sense for them to be protected by copyright law. But since we're all so used to going to online mapping services that offer their services for free, it feels like map data ought to be free. There's one organization I know of that is trying to create a free wiki-like map. I have no idea how accurate or complete they've gotten. I'm not aware of anyone working on loading free third-party map data into commodity GPS hardware, although I assume it must be possible.

I think this is just another poorly-constructed rant as I'm annoyed that I can't get current map data on my GPS. That's all.

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June 30th, 2010
08:44 am

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Annoyance of the Day: S/MIME and Mac Mail
S/MIME has what in my opinion is a flaw: There's no authentication of the time that a message is sent. As far as I can tell, there's not even any proposed extensions out there trying to fix this. As a result, when one signs an email message with a valid certificate, and then the expiration date of the signing certificate passes, one gets an error when one then later tries to read the email message, as the authenticity of the message can no longer be verified. (Signed code doesn't have this problem, as the signer can have a third party add a signed timestamp to the code signature, so that the code can still be verified as having been signed by a valid certificate as of the date of the signature, even after the certificate's expiration date.)

The practical upshot of that is, then when using S/MIME to sign one's mail, one wants to renew the certificate and start using the new certificate a couple months before the expiration date of an older certificate. You want people that you email to be able to authenticate that your messages are genuine for at least a couple months.

So, for this period of at least a couple months, one would have two valid personal certificates installed on one's system, the old one that expires in a couple months, and the new one (that would typically expire in a year). When sending email, one would pretty much always want to be signing with the newest certificate that has the latest expiration date. But, one wants to have both installed, in order to be able to decrypt messages sent that were encrypted to either key.

Mac Mail (and/or Mac Keychain Access, which it uses) doesn't seem to see things that way. In Apple's characteristic style, signing mail "just works" and there are no options to configure it. In particular, it just uses the first signing certificate that's installed which is valid for the sending email addresses. And by "first signing certificate", I mean the one that was installed first, which is going to be the one with the soonest expiration date.

So, whenever I renew my certificate and install the new one, I need to go into Mac Keychain Access, export the old certificate, delete it from the Keychain, and re-import it. That way, the old certificate is no longer the first signing certificate, and Mac Mail signs using the correct newest certificate that has the latest expiration date.

This is a real shame, because in most ways Mac Mail's handling of S/MIME is just perfect, since it does "just work" without any configuration. I just needed to get this annoyance off my chest. Thank you for reading.

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June 28th, 2010
08:13 am

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Seven
Today is our seven year anniversary.

Happy anniversary, Jessi!

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May 18th, 2010
12:02 pm

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Random idea: virtualtime-based forums
One of the interesting aspects of entertainment (TV, Video Games, etc.) has been the discussion of them with other people. As watching of episodic content becomes less synchronized (due to DVRs, Netflix, and even to some extent regional/time-zone-based release dates), this is harder to do without spoilers for people.

So, I think it'd be neat to have Internet forums for such media have a feature where each user put in how far along they were in the series/episode/game/whatever, and only saw the posts done by others when they said they were up to the point. That is, the time basis for the forum is however far along in the plot one is, and so you can have "interactive" discussions with others who are at the same point, even when you're actually experiencing the forum at quite different times.

I don't know how well it'd work in practice, or if things like this exist already somewhere, but I wanted to put the idea out there while I was thinking of it.

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May 1st, 2010
09:20 pm

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Charlton Election Results

Board of Selectmen

CandidateTotalPrecinct 1Precinct 2Precinct 3
Peter J. Boria627212193222
Joseph J. Szafarowicz2336610265

Moderator

CandidateTotalPrecinct 1Precinct 2Precinct 3
Peter S. Cooper, Jr.423151133139
Joshua Evans137494048
Carl Kaliszewski2516010883

Constable (2 seats)

John P. McGrath was on the ballot and won the first seat with 614 votes. Richard Fiske Jr. won the second seat with 10 write-in votes.

Voter turnout

TotalPrecinct 1Precinct 2Precinct 3Total Number of Registered voters in town
868 (9.59%)2793002899053

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April 30th, 2010
01:31 pm

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T minus one day
Tomorrow's the big election day. It's supposed to be a beautiful day. I plan to be standing outside at the polls (Heritage School) for most if not all of the day, holding signs and greeting voters.

This week's Charlton Villager (6.3 MB PDF) has an article on the race, with our file photos above the fold. I'm not sure my explanation of why I voted on the police issue really gets through right (I could see the "I'm not supposed to be a robot" line being taken the wrong way), but in general it seems alright.

Plus, elsewhere in the paper they finally announce that there's an opening on the Finance Committee, which was good to see.

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April 23rd, 2010
11:02 am

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Elected Non-policy positions
I'm curious what people think about pros and cons of electing positions that aren't policy-setting. For instance, Charlton currently elects its Town Clerk, and used to elect its Town Tax Collector and Town Treasurer. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts elects its Auditor and Treasurer. I'm not sure how policy-setting the Attorney General and Secretary of the Commonwealth are, but they're elected too and might fit in this category.

Many of these positions require specialized knowledge and training, and it's not clear that voters always know who would actually do the best job. Although, it's not always clear than an appointing authority (in the executive branch, say) would do the best job either.

Just wondering what people think about it.

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