Dylan: December 2005 Archives

Play-Doh Finger Fraud

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An engineer at Clarkson University has been investigating ways of fooling fingerprint scanners by using severed digits, plastic models and play-doh. Sounds like a fun job, no?

"Digits from cadavers and fake fingers molded from plastic, or even something as simple as Play-Doh or gelatin, can potentially be misread as authentic," she explains. "My research addresses these deficiencies and investigates ways to design effective safeguards and vulnerability countermeasures. The goal is to make the authentication process as accurate and reliable as possible."


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I was late to the game with del.icio.us. I had visited a few times but it never really clicked with me. I just didn't get it. Lists upon lists upon lists was all I saw in a very spartan unintuitive interface.

Two things have clued me in. First was the recent purchase of del.icio.us by Yahoo. From OddPost to Flickr, Yahoo has definitely been making great choices with its acquisitions. So why del.icio.us? After some digging I came across this article titled Interview With Experts: What's so cool about del.icio.us?. Apparently I wasn't the only one who was having trouble grasping the importance of this site. From the article:

Delicious is, basically, a social bookmarking service. In a nutshell, that means that Delicious stores lists of bookmarks for me and tens of thousands of my closest friends, and we all get to see and search through each other's lists.

The final step that brought it home for me was signing up for an account and actually trying it. Wow. Now I get it. After using del.icio.us for less than a day I can now say confidently that the Bookmarks systems within browsers is seriously lacking. Broken even.

I add new links to my browser bookmarks daily but since organizing is such a pain it just gets appended to a giant multi-page scrolling menu of bookmarks. The list is so daunting that I rarely actually go back and use those bookmarks. I typically will try to re-find a site through Google for many minutes before even considering scanning the monstrous list. And even then just giving up is more appealing.

Del.icio.us uses 'tagging' to help you organize your links and without a doubt bookmarks and tagging were meant for each other. And since the bookmarks and tags are all shared and co-mingled with other people's bookmarks and tag, you get that warm squishy good feeling knowing you are contributing to some larger useful system. I've been converted.

Hands Still Sore

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Almost 3 years ago I wrote in my blog about fluid buildup in the middle finger of my right hand that caused pain first thing in the morning. It's gotten worse over the years and it now affects all fingers on both hands. I wake up and have to be very careful not to move my hands in a way that causes something to curl my fingers otherwise I get sharp shooting pain in my knuckles. After a few minutes of slowing curling them I can eventually make a fist and then am fine for the rest of the day. I consider myself lucky that after that initial hand-curling I can continue my typing-filled day without any pain.

About a week ago my wife put her foot down and forced me to schedule an appointment with a local chiropractor specializing in Active Release Techniques. She had had good success with relieving back pain with this process and I was willing to give it a try. I had an hour session yesterday and my arms are still very bruised and tender. The process itself is quite painful and involves lots of pressure on tendons as they are shortened and lengthened through movement. Something about separating joined tendons and scraping off lesions. I'm supposed to try going twice a week for a few weeks and hopefully correct the problem. Right now the idea of going back for more is extremely unappealing. Perhaps when my tendons and tissue mend I'll feel different.

I've also started really looking into ergonomic alternatives for my keyboard and mouse. I have been using the Microsoft Natural Elite split keyboard for about 5 years and I love it except I believe part of my pain is related to reaching away from the keyboard to use the mouse and so to use the Microsoft Elite means using a separate mouse. I also work a lot on an IBM ThinkPad and absolutely love the TrackPoint red eraser mouse embedded in the keyboard. No need to move your hands away, no arm stretches and now that I'm used to it I believe it truly is a better point device interface.

IBM does offer the ThinkPlus USB Keyboard with UltraNav a full-size keyboard with an integrated TrackPoint but the keyboard isn't split like the Microsoft Elite. I'm really worried that I would just be trading the occassional arm-extending mouse reaching for constantly mis-aligned wrists. I've so far been unable to find anyone who manufactures an ergonomic split keyboard that also includes a TrackPoint nub. Many companies offer the split keyboard with a TrackPad but I've just always found that interface clunky and prone to error plus it requires taking your fingers off the keys.

I've been tempted to take apart an old Thinkpad 600E and try to incorporate the TrackPoint into my Microsoft Elite. My wife thinks the idea is stupid. And I quote: "I'm sure it would be fun but you'd just break everything." Nice. Perhaps I've just been reading Hack-A-Day and MAKE:BLOG too much lately. It can't be *that* hard, can it? :)

JustBlogIt 0.3

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After Firefox 1.5 was launched I received a surprising amount of email from users complaining it no longer worked. Sorry it took so long but I finally got around to updating the install code and now version 0.3 of JustBlogIt is now available.

I was happy to see that at least the Bloglines and Rojo scraping JavaScript in JustBlogIt was still functional. I was worried that they would update their HTML structure and break my parser but so far so good.

Rainbow Apple PowerBook Logo

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A nice HOWTO detailing the steps to turn the standard white PowerBook Apple logo into the rainbow-coloured logo from the 80s. He uses coloured gels so the backlight still shines through.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries written by Dylan in December 2005.

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