Google Calendar Launches

Google Calendar has launched if you want to check it out. There is also an overview of the features available. Will this be a compelling calendaring solution? After looking it over and checking out the website, I think it might be for me. I’ve setup DAV on apache before so that I can have a portable read/write calendar available online but it hasn’t become critical for me. Of course, I was also the kind of person all through school and college that kept track of due dates pretty much in my head (and that’s why professors also give you a syllabus). This might just stick, at least I’ll try it out and report on if it does in the near future. This summer is full of travel and events so its as good a time as any.

Some observations on the funcitonality

  • Drag in grid to create events (ala outlook)
  • You can subscribe to any public ical/ics file (doesn’t handle stuff behind a password protection)
  • You can invite friends to view your calendar (even if it is not public)
  • You can search through other public calendars
  • You can invite people to events in your calendar, but I don’t see an option for scheduling the time/date conflicts
  • Event reminders via email or sms(to cell phone)
  • Can import a calendar from iCal or csv export from MS Outlook
  • Integrates with gmail
  • You can invite people via email to an event and they can reply if they will attend or not, ala evite but without the spam
  • You can subscribe to your calendar to view it via Mozilla’s Calendar app or Apple’s iCalendar.
  • Event organizers can embed a little button on their own pages to prompt users to add an event to the user’s own google calendar ()

Som things Google did not find essential, for this release and possible any other:

 

  • Scheduling free/busy for an event across all participants
  • Synchronizing calendars with other devices. Of course, if you have iCalendar on apple, iSync should take care of synchronizing with your cell phone or PDA.

 

One day, they’re just gonna tag me like a polar bear

I came back from a client meeting today to find 1 person looking for me, and then two people aiming me to let know the first person is also looking for me.  Sometimes I hate AIM.  Although one day I turned off IM thinking I’d get some work done, but then I got a call to find out where I was.

From Office Space:

Peter Gibbons:
You see Bob, it’s not that I’m lazy, it’s that I just don’t care.

Bob Porter:
Don’t… don’t care?

Peter Gibbons:
It’s a problem of motivation, all right? Now if I work my ass off and
Initech ships a few extra units, I don’t see another dime, so where’s
the motivation? And here’s another thing, I have eight different bosses
right now.
Bob Porter:
Eight?

Peter Gibbons:
Eight, Bob. So that means when I make a mistake, I have eight different
people coming by to tell me about it. That’s my only real motivation is
not to be hassled, that, and the fear of losing my job. But you know,
Bob, that will only make someone work just hard enough not to get
fired.

Is there really an income gap?

Cafe Hayek rightly takes an AP reporter to task for not questioning a recent study that found “Rich-Poor Income Gap Growing“. So while it sounds that inflation adjusted wages increased across the board, ie the income distribution (if you can think of it as a bell-shaped normal distribution) moved to the right. Which is good, people overall are wealthier. But it seems the study focused on the range between the highest and the lowest, which is less meaningful. It only tell you that your distribution got wider, not much more than that and certainly very little about overall wealth in your population.

This is fake analysis. It’s comparing two snapshots over time and
pretending that the people in the snapshots are the same people. The
implication is that if you were a poor family in 1980, you barely got
ahead while the rich families, turbo-charged ahead of everyone else and
left them in the dust.

Pointers: running your own mail server

There are a bunch of reasons why you might decide that running your own mail server is something you want to do. You have a lot of free time and enjoy spending a lot of time at the command line reading howto guides and installation manuals. Hopefully, you know you are running a mail server and don’t have a Windows machine that’s been turned into a spam zombie.

Ok, so that may not sound like good reasons. There are some real benefits, you can give yourself unlimited email aliases, give your friends and family easier-to-remember addresses, and set up mailing lists to keep in touch with people.

If you’ve got a linux server, Postfix is one of the more popular mail transports. One of the things about mail server jargon is that there are a number of lego blocks that go into the mail chain. I won’t attempt to write a complete guide to setting up your server, instead I’ll point you at some useful links that I found helpful, and to boot not horrendously diffult to install.

  • Postfix takes care of receiving incoming mail and routing it to a local destination. I found the Postfix Anti-UCE Cheat Sheet useful for making sure I had configured the server correctly to make sure it is being used for good and not evil.
  • Amavisd-new is a perl script for plugging in virus scanners and spam blocks into the delivery chain. I use Clam Anti-virus, a Free virus scanner, and Spamassassin, to protect users from unwanted or dangerous mail messages.
  • Once you’re system is running, you might find that you’re looking at the mail log to make sure nothing is out of sorts. Download pflogsumm and schedule it to send you a report on how many messages are being delivered/sent/blocked and other useful metrics.

Comedy Central Research to the Rescue

Comedy Central asked Nielsen Media Research to do a little audience research for them after Bill O’Reilly referred to their audience as “stoned slackers”. So who are the “stoned slackers” watching Jon Stewart?

Viewers of Jon Stewart’s show are more likely to have completed four years of college than people who watch “The O’Reilly Factor,” according to Nielsen Media Research

TIVO, ReplayTV: Pay-per-view content will be restricted

From: MercuryNews.com | 09/09/2004 | TiVo, ReplayTV agree to limits. How many people order pay-per-view, especially for movies? The last time I ordered PPV, I can barely remember. I think it was a friendly between the USA and Chile back in 1999…

The new technology also will allow Hollywood movie studios and broadcasters to regulate how often movies purchased through pay-for-view services can be watched. Digital video recorders that recognize these new copy restrictions will begin appearing in the spring of 2005. But it could be years before entertainment companies begin to take advantage of the technology, according to ReplayTV President Bernie Sepaniak.

Don’t get your cable provider’s DVR

With TiVo offering huge rebates on new TiVo2 recorders, why put up with the aggravation of a second-rate box that is useless? Mark Frauenfelder described his recent experiences with the Scientific Atlanta DVR that his cable company provides, including the claim that it was a real TiVo device:

Five days later a service technician came with a new box. I asked him if this problem was common, because Google returns a lot of pages from people who think the Explorer 8000 is a piece of junk. He said the system is fine as long as you didn’t store too many shows on it. If you fill up the hard drive, the system freezes up, and there’s no way a user can undo it. But how do you know when the disk is close to being full if there’s no gage to tell you? The service tech’s answer: “don’t keep very many shows on the hard drive.” That pretty much defeats the purpose of a DVR, doesn’t it?

I don’t work for or speak for TiVo, I’m just another satisfied customer. If you do get a new Tivo, how bout telling them that I referred you by giving them my email address: regis@oscarm.org ?

Update: Fixed a typo pointed out by my sis

Viacom channels back on Dish Network

Doc Searls has a good summary about Viacomm and Dish Network settling their recent spat over carrying Viacomm’s bundle of channels. Unfortunately, financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Why not? I think it’s because nobody who makes most of their money on advertising wants to see consumers become customers. Viacom, for example, is primarily in the advertising business. The programming they sluice down channels to consumers is just bait. Most of what they sell is best-guess numbers. They can’t begin to think about selling programming directly to viewers or listeners, partly because that’s not their business, but mostly because they don’t want advertisers to know specifics about actual viewing and listening – such as how often people tune away from advertising, or skip over it with their TiVos. Meanwhile the cable and satellite services are mostly in the business of satisfying habits.

But speaking as a consumer who would rather be a customer, a la carte is what I’d like. I think that’s exactly where we’re headed in the long run. And that the inevitability of advertising loss is the deeper issue behind the dispute between EchoStar and Viacom. That loss is will be felt on the supply side, by Viacom.

I think 95% of viewers would welcome being able to choose what channels they get and paying only for them. But the Viacom’s of the World don’t have any incentive to give it to them. Here’s a list of the channels I watch or want:

  1. Local over the air channels (get it via antenna now anyway)
  2. ESPN/ESPN2 (for MLS games although I might get the MLS DirectKick package this season.)
  3. Comedy Central – for the Daily Show.
  4. Fox Sports World, Fox Sports World Espanol
  5. ESPN Deportes
  6. TechTv
  7. And that’s pretty much it…

PHP Application Frameworks

Whenever I’ve read about projects or people advocating the use of a Model-View-Controller framework for a php-driven web site, I’ve always gotten a hunch that its an overly-big hammer to use for your typical website. While the theory of its use may make sense for a desktop client application, I’m not convinced it fits for a website where what you are doing is sending pages of content to a browser. Other people seem to share this viewpoint. See Web Applications: still no ideal architecture… which links to the more interesting The Mountain of Worthless Information who writes:

At the end of the day, we need to stop pretending that the Web browser is just an extension of the desktop, and recognize it for what it really is: the old mainframe terminal, gussied up by lots of colors, graphics, and better fonts. Treat your web apps as we did terminal-based apps 30 years ago, and you’ll find your system behaves a lot better as a result.

On a related note, while the MVC pattern may not work for a php webpage. There’s no reason not to use a Frontcontroller. The WACT project’s page on FrontControllers is a handy reference for all the different ways you can register such a script on Apache including: Physical mapping, using mod_rewrite, and using the ErrorDocument directive.

Turns out all this time when I’ve been coding I’ve been using FrontControllers, I just didn’t know it. I see some interesting ways I can automate what I’ve been writing to create a simple, reusable front-controller script.