Need public domain content? Check out dp.la

The Digital Public Library of America celebrated its first birthday this year. Their archive boasts more than 7 million public domain works.

In this era of over-extended copyrights, it’s good to see a massive collection that demonstrates the value of an active public domain.

What it was like being a Royals fan from 1986-2013

If there’s one thing I’ve heard this week, it’s that people can’t imagine what it’s like being a Royals fan through their 29-year drought without playing in a postseason. I can tell you what it’s like. We’ve had some highlights, but mostly we’ve put up with endless parades of really bad players and really bad managers.

Those of you who enjoy looking at gruesome things, keep reading. These are the players we’ve spent 2.9 decades trying to forget. But keep this in mind: My hair started going prematurely gray in 1986, the same year Dick Howser died and the Royals started fading.

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Some tough-love money advice I missed before

I find little, if anything, to disagree with in this tough-love post from Mr. Money Mustache from February: Why the middle-class keeps giving itself the shaft.

I find several takeaways from it. Read the full post »

Why use a CMS like WordPress?

I had a discussion at work the other day after some WordPress plugin vulnerabilities came up. “Why not use Dreamweaver?” my coworker asked.

For a site that changes a lot like a blog, you need a content management system with a database backend. Otherwise the site gets unmanageable in a matter of months, if you’re updating it with any regularity. Read the full post »

My favorite LED bulbs for 2014

After talking about LEDs last week, a friend asked what my favorite LED bulbs today are. I’m not sure I would say I dislike any of the bulbs that are widely available today, but I do have two favorites.

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Replacing Lionel O gauge track pins with nails

Here’s a question that came in via an unknown search engine: Can you replace Lionel O gauge track pins with nails?

The answer is yes, but with a caveat. Read the full post »

Predicting the future, circa 2003

In the heat of the moment, I searched my blog this weekend for quotes that could potentially be taken out of context and found something rather prophetic that I wrote in the heat of the moment 11 1/2 years ago:

Keeping up on Microsoft security patches is becoming a full-time job. I don’t know if we can afford a full-time employee who does nothing but read Microsoft security bulletins and regression-test patches to make sure they can be safely deployed. I also don’t know who would want that job.

Who ended up with that job? Me, about a year after I left that gig. It actually turned out I was pretty good at it, once I landed in a shop that realized it needed someone to do that job, and utilized that position as part of an overall IT governance model.

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Bash is worse than heartbleed! Oh noes!

A really bad remote code execution bug surfaced yesterday, in Bash–the GNU replacement for the Unix shell. If you have a webserver running, or possibly just SSH, it can be used to execute arbitrary code. It affects anything Unixy–Linux, BSD, Mac OS X, and likely many proprietary Unix flavors, since many of them have adopted the GNU toolchain.

This could be really bad. Some people are calling it potentially worse than Heartbleed. Maybe. I’m thinking it’s more along the lines of MS08-067. But there’s an important lesson we must learn from this. Read the full post »

That time I told a tech support scammer my name was Naim

The other night my phone rang. The caller ID said some state I don’t ever get calls from, so I knew what was going to happen when I picked up the phone. I didn’t have much time, but I answered anyway.

“Hello, I am calling from Windows Technical Support. My name is Daniel,” the caller said with a very slight Indian accent.

“Oh, hi, Daniel.” I said, pausing for a second to think of a name. The last project manager I worked with was a nice guy named Naim, who had emigrated from India to Minnesota. So I stole his name. “My name is Naim.”

Long awkward pause. I grinned. Too bad “Daniel” couldn’t see me.

“Your name is Naim,” he said. His sarcasm and disbelief was so thick it was bulletproof.

“Yes Daniel, my name is Naim,” I said pleasantly, making no effort whatsoever to disguise my midwestern accent. I’ve lived my whole life in Missouri and Ohio. Read the full post »

Don’t like paying for software? There’s an answer but old software isn’t it.

Corporations are in business to make money. That’s the premise of the classic business book The Goal, and the point of The Goal is that a lot of companies forget that.

That also means they’re not exactly happy to spend money unless there’s an obvious reason why spending that money is going to help them make more money. So that’s why you see 30-year-old minicomputers in data centers. That old system is still making the company money and with no clear financial benefit to replacing it, most businesses are perfectly happy to run the machine until the minute before it will no longer power up anymore.

That’s what makes quitting Windows XP so difficult for businesses. At this point, Windows XP and that 30-year-old minicomputer are both about as sexy as a Plymouth Volare station wagon. But they get the job done, and they’re much better than what they replaced, so the business leaders are content to just keep right on using what’s already paid for. Read the full post »