Must see TV interview

I just watched this weeks Bill Moyers Journal on PBS it’s an excellent interview with Andrew J. Bacevich author of The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism. You can Watch & Listen to it online and there is also a full transcript of the interview on the site. Below are are couple of excerpts to wet your appetite.

BILL MOYERS: You intrigued me when you wrote that “The fundamental problem facing the country will remain stubbornly in place no matter who is elected in November.” What’s the fundamental problem you say is not going away no matter whether it’s McCain or Obama?

ANDREW BACEVICH: What neither of these candidates will be able to, I think, accomplish is to persuade us to look ourselves in the mirror, to see the direction in which we are headed. And from my point of view, it’s a direction towards ever greater debt and dependency.

This reminds me that I haven’t sent you two readers to Tyler’s blog in a while, he very often points out what should be obvious realities to rational minded folks but that most US citizens just don’t want to face. Check out this post from a few weeks ago for a good taste of this, Elementary, My Dear Pwoggie. Now back to Bill & Andrew.

BILL MOYERS: And this is connected, as you say in the book, in your first chapters, of what you call “the crisis of profligacy.”

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, we don’t live within our means. I mean, the nation doesn’t, and increasingly, individual Americans don’t. Our saving – the individual savings rate in this country is below zero. The personal debt, national debt, however you want to measure it, as individuals and as a government, and as a nation we assume an endless line of credit.

As individuals, the line of credit is not endless, that’s one of the reasons why we’re having this current problem with the housing crisis, and so on. And my view would be that the nation’s assumption, that its line of credit is endless, is also going to be shown to be false. And when that day occurs it’s going to be a black day, indeed.

I couldn’t agree more!

Full Screen Playback of a Whole YouTube Playlist

This information is very old and out of date, please see this new post for up to date information.

Recently  Richard Carter, FCD had a post at The Red Notebook pointing me to YouTube videos of James Burke’s wonderful series “The Day the Universe Changed“. This led me to the JamesBurkeFan’s Channel on YouTube, a fantastic resource, I am thankful he took the time to record, cut up and post all the James Burke video series. JamesBurkeFan even took the extra steps to make playlists for each episode from all of the series. (Note: JamesBurkeFan’s TDTUC episode 4 playlist is backwards, here’s a corrected playlist The Day the Universe Changed Episode 4 Playlist [Update 1/6/08 the JamesBurkeFan channel is no longer available details here.

Using playlists to watch these and other shows cut up to fit YouTube’s 10 minute limit is nice but I did find one annoyance. The problem is that the full screen view always terminates at the end of each video clip. I like to kick back with the Media Center remote for volume and watch the playlists just like regular TV. Having to get up and click the mouse to re-activate full screen mode every ten minutes wrecks the experience for me.

I went searching to find out if it was possible to work around this annoyance. Everything I found was saying, sorry your out of luck until YouTube changes their system. Then I found this post on the I learned something new today blog with a great idea. You take the embed URL from the playlist page, place it in a local HTML file with a few modifications and presto the whole playlist runs while staying in full screen mode. The embed code from that blog post seemed to have a lot more parameters than should be needed so I read the YouTube Embedded Player Parameters from the YouTube APIs and Tools pages @ Google Code. Sure enough the actual requirements are less, all you need to add are these parameters in the right spots.

&fs=1 (gives full screen button on player)

allowfullscreen=”true” (Enables full screen operation)

You also probably need to have an up to date version flash in your browser, I have 9.0 r124. I’ve created a small HTML file on my desktop that I simply modify using the playlist ID from the YouTube provided playlist embed code. When I want to watch a playlist uninterrupted in full screen I simply edit the file and start watching. Here’s the source code for my local HTML file.

Replace the XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX parts of the following URL's with the values from the YouTube embeddable URL.
[1/6/08 Ugh, the code plugin has stopped working for HTML comment lines in HTML code]

That’s all there is to it, now I’m gonna kick back and watch another episode of Connections.


Update Nov. 4th, commenter Mary got this working on a Blogger hosted blog using this code snippet:

Thank you for the code Mary.

Firefox 3 news, comments and tips

This is mostly old news but I’ve been so busy with other things lately I never got around to publishing this. Now that I’ve got some time I figured I should post this even though it may be old news to my one or two regular readers. 😉

Firefox has officially set the Guinness World Record for the most software downloaded in 24 hours, read about it at the Spread Firefox Download Day 2008 page. The record now stands at just over 8 million downloads and as of this writing the total download count is over 28 million.

I am very pleased with the latest release of my favorite browser, it feels quicker and according to process explorer it now has the same memory usage as IE7 (~20M). The Firefox team has managed to plug the memory leaks while reducing the base memory footprint.

Only one of my essential add-on’s, Copy Plain Text, hasn’t been updated for Firefox 3 yet. So I went to the all versions page and downloaded the v 0.3.3 installer by right clicking the button and choosing “Save Link As …”. But when I tried to install it I saw:

“Copy Plain Text” will not be installed because it does not provide secure updates

On the add-on’s reviews page Firefox user ervee posted a link to a pre-modified version for those who don’t want to hack the installer. Of course I just had to be a geek and roll my own so, I headed over to the the Mozilla Wiki to read about the new add-on security system. It turns out to be easy to patch the installer for this too. The warning is do to the update source not being an SSL server (HTTPS). I simply removed the update source and it installed fine.

A couple of non-essential extensions that I like are still not updated for V3,  Download Manager Tweak get a Firefox 3 hacked version here and MozCC which I may hack myself some day when I have some free time.

I have also started using a couple new extensions, Interclue and Foxmarks both are very handy and Foxmarks is a perfect example of using cloud computing for convenience in a safe way (you have copies of all data locally as well as in the cloud).

A good tip for increasing your privacy on the web without major inconvenience is to disable third party cookies. You’ll find this option in Tools-Options-Privacy of Firefox, simply uncheck the “Accept third-party cookies” checkbox. You may need to add exceptions for some web sites/services. So far I have only needed to add one exception,

Since I’m likely to need this link when I upgrade Firefox for friends and family I’m adding it here. Microsoft Windows Media Player Firefox Plug-in, you can download it from Port 25: The Open Source Community at Microsoft.

Finally some fun Firefox stuff, to see the latest chapter and verse from The Book of Mozilla enter about:mozilla in the address bar. There is also a new Easter Egg in Firefox 3 check it out by entering about:robots in the address bar.

Backup & Synchronization utility for Windows

By now everyone should know that backing up your data is an essential part of computing. All the important data I use is maintained in multiple storage media types in multiple physical locations. One application I find very useful in maintaining my backup policies is Backer by Leanware. I’ve been using it for many years to backup and synchronize my data with excellent results. My most frequent use is to synchronize the data between locations via compact flash cards. Recently I upgraded my CF transfer cards to 2Gig as my previous 1G cards where getting close to 80% full. When I upgraded I also added substantially to the quantity of data involved in this process, this slowed down the operation enough that it became inconvenient. I had know for quite some time that the later versions of Backer had speed improvements so, I purchased an upgrade and was blown away with the speed improvements.

For reference my most used backup/synch operation has 521 directories with 10,531 files and on Backer 5.1 it was taking 8:21 to finish comparing the source and destination. The new version, Backer 6.7 performs the same operation in only 0:44 a 10X increase in speed, wow! Now that’s what I call a very worthwhile upgrade.

While you’re visiting there also check out the free Leanware Window Sizer I find it very useful.

Poor Man's Ring Light

imgp09411When taking indoor macro photos getting the lighting correct has always been a challenge for me. In the past I would use two or more halogen desk lamps for lighting but, getting all the lamps positioned correctly takes a long time. Even after carefully placing the lamps I was often not satisfied with the result. Frequently the light sources would not produce a flat enough lighting effect (even brightness with few shadows). The standard method of achieving the lighting I’m looking for is to use a ring light.

A few months ago I got sick of moving my desk lamps between my work spaces and the copy stand I use for macro photography. So I headed on up to a local Staples to pick up an extra halogen desk lamp. Browsing through the lamp aisle I spotted this fluorescent magnifying clip-on lamp (Item# 612507, Model# 13464-US) and thought it could make a nice ring light. So I bought one for $25, a bargain for a 3.5″ diameter ring light.

Converting the lamp is one of the simplest hacks I’ve ever done. You start by following the included instructions for replacing the bulb. Take out the three screws holding the bulb cover and diffuser and pull off the diffuser. Gently lift the bulb off the metal retaining clips while pulling out the connector. The bulb and connector are not rigidly attached so be careful not to break the two apart.

The lens is held in the lamp by three small metal plates underneath the bulb clips. Remove the three screws, pull out the bulb and lens clips and, then the lens. With the lens out reassemble the clips with the screws but reverse the direction of the lens clips so that they don’t cause light reflections outside of the diffuser. Make sure you position the tall sides of the bulb clips away from the center hole like they where originally.

Reinsert the bulb and reattach the diffuser with its three screws. The last step is to permanently remove the hinged lens cover. Simply grab the cover and twist it off the housing leaving hinge bumps that can be cut off with a utility knife.

The result is a good ring light that fits well on my copy stand.

Now I can can use my ring light alone or in combination with one or more halogen lamps to easily get a lighting effect I like.

Cosmic Wimpout Die Ring and Halogen Lights

The much cooler operation of the fluorescent compared to the halogen lamps got me using it with my microscope which only has built in halogen lighting. I quickly got tired of sharing the lamp between the microscope and copy stand so, I bought two more lamps one for the microscope plus one for spare parts in case I need them.imgp0978

Here’s a good article with information about Choosing the Correct Illumination.