Short Nerd Chief

Archive for the ‘internet’ Category

How to Force Yahoo! Fantasy Baseball Links to Open in New Tab

Posted by Fred on June 26, 2008

Here’s a fix for a very small but annoying problem. If you play Yahoo’s Fantasy Baseball, each player name is linked to their Y! Sports profile page.  The little news icons are also linked to this page. These links are done via Javascript with a target of “sports”. What this means is that Firefox will open the links in new windows, and not a new tab, which is very annoying.  The only way to fix it via FF preferences is to make all new windows open as tabs, even those that really should be popups (by setting to 0 in about:config).  There is a better way. First, install Greasemonkey, if you haven’t already.  Then install this Yahoo! Fantasy Baseball URL Target Fixer script, which will change all the target=”sports” links to target=”_blank”, which Firefox will open in a new tab.

Now if someone would just write a script to get Michael Young out of his slump or Rafael Furcal off the DL…


Posted in internet, Sports | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Google adds rainbow for Gay Pride

Posted by Fred on June 19, 2008

If you search for the word “gay” on Google, the search results and Sponsored Links will be separated by a rainbow, rather than the usual thin blue line. It’s a wonder the AFA hasn’t sent out one of their Action Alerts trumpeting another attempt by The Gays to advance their Agenda.  It’s only a matter of time; can’t allow gay people to search for stuff on the internet, after all.

On the plus side, the search provides another opportunity to find the almost-certainly-fake but still funny Gay Bands List.  There appear to be new parentheticals since the last time I looked at it – my favorite is “George Michael (texan).”

Posted in internet, Politics | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Is the Kozinski story less than it seems?

Posted by Fred on June 13, 2008

By now everyone knows the story of Alex Kozinski, Chief Judge of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, who recently suspended an obscenity trial due to some issues of his own:

A closely watched obscenity trial in Los Angeles federal court was suspended Wednesday after the judge acknowledged maintaining his own publicly accessible website featuring sexually explicit photos and videos.

Alex Kozinski, chief judge of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, granted a 48-hour stay in the obscenity trial of a Hollywood adult filmmaker after the prosecutor requested time to explore “a potential conflict of interest concerning the court having a . . . sexually explicit website with similar material to what is on trial here.”

That’s a story bound to attract attention, what with the sex and the alleged hypocrisy.  Prof. Lessig, however, says all is not as it appears to be:

What I mean by “the Kozinski mess” is the total inability of the media — including we, the media, bloggers — to get the basic facts right, and keep the reality in perspective. The real story here is how easily we let such a baseless smear travel – and our need is for a better developed immunity (in the sense of immunity from a virus) from this sort of garbage.

Here are the facts as I’ve been able to tell: For at least a month, a disgruntled litigant, angry at Judge Kozinski (and the Ninth Circuit) has been talking to the media to try to smear Kozinski. Kozinski had sent a link to a file (unrelated to the stuff being reported about) that was stored on a file server maintained by Kozinski’s son, Yale. From that link (and a mistake in how the server was configured), it was possible to determine the directory structure for the server. From that directory structure, it was possible to see likely interesting places to peer. The disgruntled sort did that, and shopped some of what he found to the news sources that are now spreading it.

Cyberspace is weird and obscure to many people. So let’s translate all this a bit: Imagine the Kozinski’s have a den in their house. In the den is a bunch of stuff deposited by anyone in the family — pictures, books, videos, whatever. And imagine the den has a window, with a lock. But imagine finally the lock is badly installed, so anyone with 30 seconds of jiggling could open the window, climb into the den, and see what the judge keeps in his house. Now imagine finally some disgruntled litigant jiggers the lock, climbs into the window, and starts going through the family’s stuff. He finds some stuff that he knows the local puritans won’t like. He takes it, and then starts shopping it around to newspapers and the like: “Hey look,” he says, “look at the sort of stuff the judge keeps in his house.”

This analogy, I submit, fits perfectly the alleged scandal around Kozinski. His son set up a server to make it easy for friends and family to share stuff — family pictures, documents he wanted to share, videos, etc. Nothing alleged to have been on this server violates any law. (There’s some ridiculous claim about “bestiality.” But the video is not bestiality. It lives today on YouTube — a funny (to some) short of a man defecating in a field, and then being chased by a donkey. If there was malicious intent in this video, it was the donkey’s. And in any case, nothing sexual is shown in that video at all.) No one can know who uploaded what, or for whom. The site was not “on the web” in the sense of a site open and inviting anyone to come in. It had a robots.txt file to indicate its contents were not to be indexed. That someone got in is testimony to the fact that security — everywhere — is imperfect. But this was a private file server, like a private room, hacked by a litigant with a vendetta. Decent people — and publications — should say shame on the person violating the privacy here, and not feed the violation by forcing a judge to defend his humor to a nosy world.

According to Jesse Walker (linking to conservative pundit Patterico), the lawyer with a grudge who outed Kozinski was Cyrus Sanai.

I don’t think the professor’s analogy is entirely apt – the server in question was accessible to the world at, although the index page just provided a message telling a visitor to go away.  That’s not really private, and blocking the Google spider via a robots.txt file doesn’t make it private either.  It could have been private with a password or other security, but it wasn’t.  So it’s not really the same as Judge Kozinski’s house.  But it’s not a “publicly accessible website featuring sexually explicit photos and videos” either.  Nor is the material revealed to date a “sexually explicit website with similar material to what is on trial” before the Judge.  It appears to be far more akin to the sort of mildly offensive viral email that would have gotten Kozinski in trouble had he forwarded it from work.

None of this should bar Judge Kozinski from presiding over this trial, of course.  Who is really aggrieved by any of this?  This offended lawyer with a grudge, to be sure.  People who hate judges generally or the 9th Circuit in particular.  People who think pornography should be excised from society by any means necessary and are afraid Judge Kozinski won’t put this particular smut-peddler in jail where he belongs, even if he didn’t actually break any laws.  That’s not necessarily a huge group, but it is a loud one, so this story isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, truth be damned.

Posted in internet, law, Politics | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Friday Fun: Wellgames

Posted by Fred on May 30, 2008

There’s nothing particularly novel about Flash-based casual games on the web, and there’s nothing particularly novel about online multi-player games. Wellgames does a good job putting the two together, creating fun casual games that you play against total strangers without seeming like Facebook surgically grafted onto the PopCap site. I’ll grant that I’m a misanthrope, but I’d much rather play a game against someone I don’t know than chat with them. Wellgames gives you the former but doesn’t try to force the latter (the way Yahoo and MSN and Shockwave do). Here are two games I like:

Clusterz is a variation on your standard Match 3 game. Shoot a colored ball at some other colored balls and make a match to remove the cluster. Fail to make a group of at least three and a whole bunch more appear, which can sometimes actually work to your advantage. If the balls reach the bottom of the screen, you lose. Get rid of all the balls and you win. This is one game improved by being multiplayer – you’re racing against an opponent and can see how much they’ve cleared on your screen. If you win, you get bonus points based on how many points they had at the time.

Patchworkz plays like a combination Tangram and jigsaw puzzle. Six pieces appear in a tray at the bottom of the screen and you have to figure out where they go in the picture at the top. You get points based on how fast you finish the puzzle. The pictures are pretty in an abstract sort of way. There are a large number of levels, but be aware that between level 60 and level 80, the game gets much harder, as there are hundred of tiny pieces to place (zoom in to at least 150% or get a migraine). After level 81, it gets easier again. This is one that isn’t improved much by being multiplayer – Shockwave has a single-player version.

Posted in Games, internet | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

FeedDemon 2.6.1 [Regular Guy Reviews]

Posted by Fred on April 24, 2008

catalog_feeddemon As I noted earlier, now that NewsGator’s RSS products are free for individual use, I decided to try them out and see what worked better for me, a standalone reader or web application (specifically Google Reader).  NewsGator Inbox 3.0 did not work – while the idea of reading feeds in a mail client was promising, certain limitations of Outlook made it far less useful than Google Reader (first and foremost was Outlook’s inability to show how many items exist in a subfolder if the folder list is not expanded).  FeedDemon has been a far better experience, and in limited use I find it superior to Google Reader, at least for now.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in internet, software, Technology | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

NewsGator Inbox 3.0 beta

Posted by Fred on April 17, 2008

NewsGator has released a new beta of version 3 of their now-free NewsGator Inbox, which lets you read feeds in Outlook, just like any other email message.  It has some useful features compared to my usual reader, the web-based Google Reader.  Grab a copy and install – it’s very straightforward, but here it is in pictures (click for bigger):

Let\'s begin.  Click Next.Your standard EULA. You know you\'ll ignore it, so accept and move on.Clicking install seems like a good idea.

Lookee, a progress bar.  Installation is fast, so don\'t blink.Already done.  Click Finish.Now set up synchronization.  Set up a new account or use an existing NG account.

Standard \Time to add some subscriptions. Use the OPML import to move feeds from a different reader.All done. Let\'s get started.

Some useful links here, but be sure to disable it or it will be annoying.

Installation was straightforward, but some issues came up right away.  The OPML import from Google Reader didn’t work properly for me, and it imported only the first feed in the list.  This is probably an incompatability with the XML file Google creates, but we can work around it.


An additional try with the XML file didn’t work any better for me, but NewsGator Online did.  Login to NewsGator Online, and click on Add Feeds. 

From here, click Import, and you’ll be able to upload the same XML file you used before:

Success! The Google feeds now appear in NewsGator Online, and because Inbox 3.0 syncs with NG Online, they’ll show up in Outlook.  To get there, however, you’ll need to update the subscriptions.  Clicking Refresh on the NewsPage (what you’ll get by clicking My News in Outlook’s Folder List) seemed to have no effect, but the toolbar button did (it’s the arrow next to the NewsGator Inbox dropdown).

Now you can read your RSS feeds in Outlook.  I’ve only been using it for a half a day, but a couple of features seem quite useful.  One problem with Google Reader is that if I don’t read items for a few days, they really pile up.  It would be best just to ignore the unread count, but I’m psychologically incapable of doing so.  Unfortunately, there’s no way to mark only certain posts as read.  NewsGator solves that problem, and offers to do so automatically:

You can also do this cleanup any time you want by using the NewsGator Inbox dropdown.

Inbox 3.0 also lets you easily post to your blog about any item.  Setup was a breeze – just open Options from the dropdown and click Posting Options.  Choose and fill in your account information.  Now you can post automatically using the NewsGator Publisher plugin.  Using the plugin is a bit clunky, however.  There’s no toolbar button, and no right-click option.  You have to choose Post to My Blog from the NewsGator Inbox dropdown:

If you use the NewsPage view, it’s a bit easier.  Each post has four buttons at the end.  The last one is a Post to My Blog link (I highlighted it in the image).  I don’t particularly care for the NewsPage view, however.  I know Dave Winer says I should like the River of News format, but I don’t.  I like folders – I don’t want a story on NewsGator Inbox to follow a story on how pitiful the Tribe is this year.  This brings up the other issue I have with NewsGator Inbox.  The Outlook Folder List shows your NewsGator folders, but it doesn’t tell you how many new items are in a particular folder, or if therre are any new items at all.  You have to expand the folder to see individual feeds.  You also can’t click on a folder to see a River of News-style list of all items in that folder, nor get a NewsPage view of a single folder.

NewsGator Inbox thus isn’t perfect, but it has some advantages.  I’m in Outlook all day long, so it is an easy way to read news.  Posting to the blog from an item works well, and works even better if you use the Windows Live Writer plugin instead of Publisher.  Feed and post management is easier than on Google Reader.  It should also work well offline, but I haven’t tried it yet.  Google now has offline access to Reader, however, so this isn’t the advantage it once was.  Plus, it’s free.  I plan to use it for a while and review it more fully later.

Posted in internet, Technology | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

User-Generated Book of Records? No Thanks.

Posted by Fred on April 11, 2008

Mashable praises a new site, What’s Your Record, which Kristin Nicole calls “a user-generated almanac of random, and not-so-random records.”  You can see why Mashable would like it, as it’s full of big buttons, tabs, drop shadows and orange gradients.  Add in some basic social networking and you’ve got a big tub of Web 2.0 gooeyness.  But is it useful?  Right now, the list of recent user records includes “fastest entire Mexico Metro traveling” (10:11), “Longest standing backward long jump” (1.2 m) and most e-mails sent and received in one day (60 and 64, respectively).  Not exactly earth-shattering stuff.  If the site grows at all, it seems likely to be crushed under the weight of its users own self-aggrandizement.  What’s to stop me from claiming I sent 2,000 emails yesterday?  Prove I didn’t.  There’s a reason Guinness requires verification.

This isn’t Wikipedia; it can’t be self-correcting.  I can’t go in and edit your claim to have eaten 64 whole habanero peppers.  It relies upon anonymous Internet users to be honest about their own exploits, which just seems incredibly unlikely.

Posted in internet | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Firefox 3 Beta 5’s secret robot page

Posted by Fred on April 9, 2008

If you enter about:robots in the FF Beta 5 address bar, you get a page about actual robots:


The title tag for the page is Gort! Klaatu barada nikto!  So you get references to The Day The Earth Stood Still, Isaac Asimov, Blade Runner, Futurama, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Battlestar Galactica.  Click the Try Again button and you get a button labeled Please do not press this button again.  Robots are cool. Except for the Evil Scary Robots, which are evil and scary. Except some evil scary robots are actually good, which makes my brain hurt.

[via Lifehacker]

Posted in internet, Movies, TV | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

My Today Screen: So Far, So Good

Posted by Fred on April 4, 2008

At first, I was a little hesitant about My Today Screen, the new Windows Mobile site started by Doug Goldring (late of Just Another Mobile Monday) and Tariq Bamadhaj (from a bunch of places, including Pocket PC Mag and his own blog, which now redirects to MTS). After all, do we need yet another WM site linking to the same stories about the release of Opera Mini 4.1 or Windows Mobile 6.1? My Google Reader list already includes Engadget Mobile and MobileCrunch, The Boy Genius Report and Smartphone Thoughts.

However, I’m coming around, for a couple of reasons.  First, although there’s little original reportage in the tech blog world, I have seen a few links on My Today Screen that I missed elsewhere, such as news of Amazon’s TextBuyIt service (I often miss items appearing first in TechCrunch, now that it’s descended almost completely into self-aggrandizement and Mike Masnick-style pseudoeconomic arguments about the collapse of the content industry business model).  More importantly, I like the balance Doug and Tariq and friends have struck. With the advent of the iPhone Era, too many mobile tech sites have gone over the deep end, fawning over the device as if it hung from the tool belt of the Carpenter of Nazareth himself, or descending into bitterness as if Cupertino’s cell phone was a personal affront, or praising Microsoft’s OS like tweens at a Hannah Montana concert, as if their hysterics counterbalance the Apple-groping at Engadget and Gizmodo.  My Today Screen seems to avoid all of that, treating WM like what it is, a tool that makes mobile phones do stuff.

With all of that said, there is one thing I wish the site editors would address – their entries in my RSS reader include this annoying disclaimer:

Copyright © 2008 My Today Screen. If you are not reading this material in your news aggregator, the site you are looking at is guilty of copyright infringement. Please contact admin at so we can take legal action immediately. (2)

I think splogs are as annoying as the next blogger, but this is both ineffective and unnecessary.  Most scrapers are now able to skip such disclaimers, and most readers are entirely capable of telling a legit site from a scammer looking to steal a few pennies via Google ads.  Unfortunately, the visual clutter of MTS’ site design makes me want to stay within the confines of Google Reader, so I’ll just learn to tune out the disclaimer:


Posted in Blogging, internet, Technology | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Happy April Fool’s Day, Google Style

Posted by Fred on April 1, 2008

If it’s April 1st, and my calendar says it is, then that means the web monkeys at Google have been busy creating I-really-wish-they-were-real services that will disappear tomorrow. Here are my personal faves:

From Gmail comes Custom Time, which uses an e-flux capacitor to send emails from the past. But only as far back as April 1, 2004, the day Gmail was launched, as after all,

You’ll only be able to send email back until April 1, 2004, the day we launched Gmail. If we were to let you send an email from Gmail before Gmail existed, well, that would be like hanging out with your parents before you were born — crazy talk.

<– Note the sleeping dude. Note the lovely pink hair.

Google Calendar brings you the Google Wake Up Kit, which I actually thought was real at first, as an SMS wake up message is kind of a good idea.  But then one gets to this description:

In combination with the kit, you can receive a new type of notification from Google Calendar, called the “wake up” notification. This notification is relentless in ensuring your timely awakening from restful slumber.

The “wake up” notification uses several progressively more annoying alerts to wake you up. First it will send an SMS message to your phone. If that fails, more coercive means will be used. The kit includes an industrial-sized bucket and is designed to be connected to your water main for automatic filling. In addition, a bed-flipping device is included for forceful removal from your sleeping quarters.


Google Talk says that on Earth Day, they will be converting all conversations to IM-speak, in order to save the 0.0000000000000000034 metric tons of CO2 released into the atmosphere by each character of a message. They also provide a conversion bot to let you practice.

My personal favorite, however, is Virgle, which Google and the Virgin Group describe as “a jointly owned and operated venture dedicated to the establishment of a human settlement on Mars.”  They have a web site, press release, FAQ and 100-year plan, culminating in the creation of Virgle City, projected to have a population of 100,000 by 2108. Fill out the application questionnaire and submit a video explaining why you should go to Mars.  Unfortunately, only the last bit is real.  The project will be Open Source, so the geeks will be happy:


Posted in Funny, internet | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »