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Archive for June, 2005

Becoming Robots

Robot-man enhancementScientists in Japan are developing equipment that can enhance human strength. Awkward as it may seem, such developments might have a positive impact. Robotic assistance to one’s muscles means that more elderly and disabled people will walk up the stairs without great difficulties. One the other hand, when power suits like that get misused, they can make us appear like bunch of supermen, powered by batteries. This funny item from the Onion in 2056 comes to mind.

Picture and information from

Music Log Files

Ever wondered how much you listened to a particular song?

XMMS possesses a great extent of flexibility. It provides facilities which, when customised appropriately, can dump complete song descriptions. XMMS can then progressively, accumulatively add song data to log files. Timestamps imply the duration of listening, which lead to possible future extensions, e.g.:

  • Automatically parse (scan, hash, then analyse) the log file/s
  • Compute an average listening time — that is before skipping to another track — for each individual song
  • Erase music that is frequently skipped or just output a ‘prospective deletion list’ to another file

Input/output operations are made quite simple. These can be invoked as command-line strings whenever a new track begins. It is a built-in XMMS plug-in, which can be found under Preferences » Song Change » Configure (see illustration below)

XMMS menu

Add the following line to the “Song change” Command field:

(date; echo %s) >> ~/My_playlists/playlist.log

XMMS KDEI am providing an example log file, assembled naturally (not artificially. Honest!) over 20 minutes or so. I still need to get rid of the doubly appearances, apparently caused by xmms-kde in my dock (screenshot on the right). As well as giving a minimal user interface, xmms-kde enables control of the player with CTRL+SHIFT+keypad even if the player is neither visible nor in focus.

A music log file results in even more redundant data to store. According to a rough calculations, I will see it growing by 1 megabyte every month or so. Compression, however, should make it only 10-20% of its original size.

UPDATE 26/06/2005: The following command, which can be set to become a nightly cron job, will slice the large log file so that it is composed of daily ‘chunks’:

mv ~/[Path]/playlist.log ~/[Path]/playlist-`date +%Y-%m-%d`.log

This can be extended to form an annual and monthly hierarchy of directories.

See the later extension: producing history spreadsheets

Old Version

ArchiveBecause newer is not always better” is the motto of It is apparent that software vendors deny or disguise access to previous versions of their products. That is exactly why archive previous releases of popular products, much like what the Internet Archive does with the World Wide Web.

Later versions typically become a resource hog and do not suit computers that are not modern. Winamp, for example, has become a heavy media player — a bloat if you like — which will rarely suit a user who only wishes to listen to music within an instance. That is where the potential of software archives practically lies.

Phishing Vulnerability


ZDNet Australia writes (on behalf of Secunia) about potential phishing attacks which affect all major browsers.

How does this exploit work?

  • A user arrives at a malicious site
  • The site re-direct the user to a trusted site while opening a pop-up
  • The user gets fooled into entering a password in the pop-up
  • While the user believes that the password reaches the trusted site, it actually reaches the malicious one

Pop-up windows, JavaScript and their nasty siblings again take the blame, but if someone is foolish enough to log in via pop-ups, perhaps the flaw lies within the user. Very few sites, if any, will use child windows to request details. It is understandable that many surfers are unaware of that, but they probably ought to stay away from malicious sites to begin with, or at least disable some browser functionality.

Greedy Feeds and Generous Feeds


Try comparing news feeds from CNN against those from the BBC. I am subscribed to various feeds from both and in CNN no descriptions are bound to the titles. Why even syndicate if the subscriber gets 2-word provocative titles? The BBC is different, possibly because it has no commercial interests. It also opened its news API to the public recently, which was inarguably a wise step.

The ‘greedy feed’ attitude will possibly change due to Google’s embedment of adverts in feeds. This, in turn, is likely to set a precedent and motivate competitors (e.g. Overture) to do likewise. The official Google Factory Tour includes a preview of AdSense in feeds; see the picture at the bottom-right corner of the page.

Time Travel – Past and Present


The BBC published an article about a model which solves the “I’m my own Grandpa” paradox in the context of time travel. The model is based on laws of quantum mechanics.

Researchers speculate that time travel can occur within a kind of feedback loop where backwards movement is possible, but only in a way that is “complementary” to the present.

In other words, you can pop back in time and have a look around, but you cannot do anything that will alter the present you left behind…

Music Without Effort

Music shopSome months ago, an automatic and effective way of obtaining music was described: no need to run any heavy graphical program; no need to select music (only sources of music of the desired genre); no limits on bandwidth or volume.

Taking this further, Dr. Scott Tobkes explains about his method of bringing commericals to a halt.

Something I’ve had fun doing lately is recording live of archived streaming audio from radio stations around the country

There are innumerable subjects and programs. I record it to mp3 or wav, and listen in my car or PC, while fast-forwarding through the commercials. I know that there are aggregators that will make this a seamless process like Ipodder.

I don’t like to call them podcasts. I use this program…

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Original styles created by Ian Main (all acknowledgements) • PHP scripts and styles later modified by Roy Schestowitz • Help yourself to a GPL'd copy
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