Grant Foster’s babbling again …

End of file

Posted in Uncategorized by Tom Kopacz on October 28, 2009

A long long time ago I decided that I needed to stop being anonymous and take credit for my words.

Done.

This blog is dead to me.

I can now be found by taking my real name and placing it in front of wordpress.com. See you there.

Odd trend in UK’s presidential futures trading

Posted in News, Politics by Tom Kopacz on September 24, 2008

Stumbled across this on fivethirtyeight.com this morning.

538.com | InTrade betting is suspicious

At BetFair, Obama “futures” are trading at a rate indicating a predicted 61.7 percent chance of an Obama-Biden victory. At Iowa Electronic Markets, the rate’s about the same. However, at InTrade Obama futures are trading at a rate indicating a 52.3 percent chance of victory.

So already InTrade’s out of line with the other markets. Then you dig a little deeper and a really odd trend shows up at InTrade. Look at the trading pattern over a 36-hour period:

Every so often, somebody’s shorting the Obama contracts in bulk and buying McCain contracts to reset the entire market, which climbs again naturally until that somebody does it again a few hours later. And now, the weird: starting with the second short-sell, he’s buying Clinton contracts as he short-sells Obama.

In other words, our rogue short-seller thinks something’s going to happen to Obama between now and Nov. 4. But it’s probably nothing — just me and the guys at FiveThirtyEight being paranoid.

Dvorak: To fight Microsoft, Adobe should embrace the penguin

Posted in Adobe, Computers, Linux, Microsoft, Windows by Tom Kopacz on August 21, 2008

God help me, I agree with John C. Dvorak.

The longtime PC Magazine columnist called one right last week in his MarketWatch essay about what Adobe Systems needs to do to keep one step ahead of Microsoft: Embrace Linux.

Read it here: How Adobe can stop Microsoft | MarketWatch

He encourages Adobe to not only port its Creative Suite products (Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, DreamWeaver, Acrobat and so on) to the Linux platform and sell them, he strongly suggests that Adobe should develop its own Linux distribution optimized for Creative Suite and offer the Creative Suite/Adobe Linux package for sale. Hell, just throw in a copy of Ubuntu as far as that goes.

This nearly happened nine years ago when Corel went into Linux in a big way, bringing WordPerfect Office, CorelDRAW 9 and other graphics programs to the Linux platform while at the same bringing out its own Debian-based Linux distribution. Unfortunately, Corel ran into financial trouble and Microsoft agreed to help Corel out of its mess so long as the Canadian company abandoned Linux entirely. Corel did so in August 2001; the former Corel Linux product is now Xandros while the Linux versions of the graphics apps and word processor have disappeared entirely. The fact that Microsoft put that condition on its offer of financial help suggests that the idea of bringing high-end graphic-design software to Linux scares the hell out of Microsoft. Wonder what Redmond would think if Adobe brought its video-editing software, as well?

The lack of a true commercial-grade graphic design solution is a big factor holding the Linux adoption rate down in favor of Windows and Mac OS X. I’d kill for the chance to have Creative Suite on my Linux laptop — the only open-source graphics software that even comes close to commercial grade is the Inkscape vector graphics editor (analogous to Illustrator). Krita seems to have decided to be more along the lines of Corel Painter rather than a true Photoshop competitor. The GIMP suffers from an ugly interface and lack of support for high-grade color bit depth (it maxes out at 8-bit). Scribus is a decent page layout program but it suffers from significant interface issues. The fact that it can’t import or export in QuarkXPress or InDesign format also hurts it. Bringing Adobe Creative Suite to the Linux world — even as closed-source software, which will deeply offend people like RMS — could open the floodgates, especially if it’s paired with a rock-solid distro like Ubuntu or a distro Adobe develops in-house.

Newspapers’ cancer: This guy said it better than I can

Posted in Good writing, Newspapers by Tom Kopacz on August 20, 2008

Standout reader comment posted the other week on the blog run by some survivors of the Lakeland Ledger here in Central Florida.

Here’s the permalink to the comment in question. It’s a must-read. This anonymous guy puts it perfectly:

Many of the people cut in this latest round of amputations are longtime
employees of the NYT Company. They’ve brought experience, creativity
and excellence to their work — far beyond that deserved by the bullies
in the corner offices — and the decision to target them is not simply
inexplicable; it is suicidal. Many fine people remain at The Ledger,
but so do several mediocrities who will be unable to maintain the
dynamic standards of journalism newspapers are desperate for.

(T)he power brokers and the brainless trust behind The Ledger are
preparing to euthanize it in favor of a Web presence that is nowhere
near able to support itself. … Along the way, they are eliminating many of their most skilled,
seasoned, award-winning workers.

Good stuff from a very good local-news-and-issues blog.

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Flash ad that hijacks your clipboard

Posted in Apple, Computers, Internet, Linux, Malware, Windows by Tom Kopacz on August 20, 2008

You’ve got to give ‘em a point or two for creativity, anyway … malware authors have found a way to get a minor malware exploit into non-Windows systems. They found some bad code in Adobe Flash and put it to work.

They use the Flash banner ads to put a URL (which I won’t list here) into your clipboard which claims to check your computer for viruses and other malware. If you go to that website, it requests permission to install a program that checks for malware, then if you click “Cancel,” it switches to a page that appears to use something called “Antivirus 2009 Web Scanner” to look for malware on your PC. It also claims to find it, of course. Then it presents an XP-style dialog box which offers you buttons to remove the spyware or ignore the problem; whether you click the “ignore button” or the “remove all button” (neither are buttons; it’s just a web graphic) it tries to install its “antivirus” program (which is a Windows executable). I rather suspect that they’re not actually trying to install an antivirus program, but instead something more insidious.

If you’re running Windows XP’s default interface, it looks really scary. If you’re running Vista, have changed XP’s window widgets or don’t use Windows at all (Linux, one of the various BSD flavors, OpenSolaris or Mac OS X) … well, it just looks out of place. I rather suspect that my Ubuntu system doesn’t have Spyware.IEMonster.b, Zlob.PornAdvertiser.Xplisit or Trojan.InfoStealer.Banker.s (assuming any of those actually exist) floating around on it.

The Flash clipboard exploit takes control of your clipboard as long as the browser window/tab is open. Copy or cut something else and the exploit re-inserts that address. The only way to stop it is to close the window.

Adobe Flash ads launching clipboard hijack attack
Related thread from Ubuntu Forums

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The weather is here, &c. &c.

Posted in News, Way too much first-person by Tom Kopacz on August 19, 2008

Greetings from somewhere inside the fringes of Tropical Storm Fay.

It’s been a very odd couple of days. We’ve been waiting for this piddly little tropical storm to hurry up and pass through, but this has not been the garden-variety tropical storm.

In fact, I’m beginning to think that Screwy Squirrel is driving the bus.

Most storms that roll off the West African coast develop into tropical cyclones immediately. Not Fay; she waited until she arrived at Puerto Rico before she showed any signs of development. And unlike nearly every other tropical storm that tears itself apart on the mountains of Hispaniola and Cuba, Fay kept right on going and finally made it to Florida. But instead of drawing energy from the Gulf of Mexico on the way up, she decided to wait until she’d made “landfall” in the Florida Everglades before she gathered strength.

It makes sense, in a perverse sort of way — the Everglades have more water than land and this time of year that water is very warm. Weather Underground co-founder Jeff Masters had this to say about the unusual phenomenon earlier today:

It does happen sometimes that the increased friction over land can briefly act to intensify a hurricane vortex, but this effect is short-lived, once the storm is cut off from its oceanic moisture source. To have a storm intensify over land and maintain that increased intensity while over land for 12 hours is hard to explain. The only thing I can think is that recent rains in Florida have formed large areas of standing water that the storm is feeding off of. Fay is also probably pulling moisture from Lake Okeechobee. Anyone want to write a Ph.D. thesis on this case? Wow.

And now she’s ground to a halt over Florida, dumping rain. If we were still worried about that drought that we’d been dealing with since (seemingly) the late 1990s, there are no worries about that anymore: now we’re worried about massive flooding.

One piece of good news: Although Fay has sort of followed the path across Florida blazed by Hurricane Charley in 2004, she’s not carrying the 150mph winds Charley did.

It’s been entertaining watching the computer prediction models over at the Weather Underground site, if only because they’ve all been so tragicomically wrong. Fay’s done everything except what the computers predict she will do. As she crossed Cuba, the computer models had her going into the Gulf Coast region and messing up Alabama. Then the predictions moved east. Then they diverged, reunited and started puttiing on advanced trigonometry demonstrations. For a while, they said Fay was going north into Georgia. Now they’re settling on a prediction that she’s going to emerge in the Atlantic Ocean around dawn tomorrow, gather strength from the warm water of the Gulf Stream and turn northwest towards Jacksonville as a minimal Category 1 hurricane.

The National Hurricane Center agrees with that assessment, having recently issued a hurricane watch for the northeast Florida coast.

Or is she? She might be stalling in the Atlantic and turning due west toward Orlando and the Gulf of Mexico. All the models now seem to agree that Fay will re-enter the Atlantic and turn back toward the northwest. Given how off those models have been for this particular storm to date, she could do something really strange like make a beeline for the mid-Atlantic.

I’m just thankful we haven’t seen the tornadoes here that they’ve seen further downstate. Fifty-one houses were hit by a tornado in a small dot on the map called Barefoot Bay this afternoon, with nine being rendered uninhabitable. My heart goes out to those folks; at the same time, I wouldn’t change places with them.

There’s even more tropical fun on tap. A tropical disturbance in the east-central Atlantic which the National Hurricane Center has dubbed 94L is showing signs of development and is making a beeline for my area of Florida.

So … er … Fay, Fay, go away! Don’t come back on any day!

Here’s some links to more Fay coverage:

The Orlando Sentinel
Florida Today in Cocoa, near where Fay is expected to return to the Atlantic Ocean
Daytona Beach News-Journal
The Naples Daily News — Fay first made landfall near Naples early Tuesday morning

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One tiny alt-weekly, one egregious case of plagiarism

Posted in Internet, Newspapers by Tom Kopacz on August 7, 2008

EDIT: I suck. I am informed that Jody Rosen is a he, not a she. I apologize.

+++++++++++++++++++++

At least, maybe it’s one giant case of plagiarism. Or maybe it’s dozens of cases of plagiarism — maybe even hundreds.

Jody Rosen of Slate found out that an alt-weekly in suburban Houston, The Bulletin, had lifted part of his story on Jimmy Buffett for its article on Jimmy Buffett. Then he discovered that the rest of the article was lifted from two other pieces by other authors.

Then he discovered that many of the articles published by The Bulletin followed the same pattern. Hilarity did not ensue, leading Rosen to an ugly question:

In other words, with the exception of the local events listings, every single item in the June 3-July 10 Bulletin is suspicious. Indeed, I wonder: In purely statistical terms, do the articles in the Montgomery County Bulletin amount to the greatest plagiarism scandal in the annals of American journalism?

The Bulletin has taken down its web site.

Slate | Dude, you stole my article

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