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The 2012 NFL season kicks off soon! Please join me and others from the Brutal Deluxe Football League on Yahoo’s Fantasy Football games!

Fantasy Football: The BDFL Experimental League
I reset all the scoring to defaults this year, no bonuses, and added just PPR to the scoring. Draft date and type will be set later, but will be on or before Tuesday, September 4th.
League ID: 688316
Password: brutal

Pro Football Pick ‘Em: BDFL and Friends
Straight-up picks, no spread, drop your worst week (or a week that you forget to pick). Pick through the playoffs.
Group ID: 33565
Password: brutal

Survival Football: BDFL and Friends
Pick one game per week; each team can only be picked once per season. Three strikes and you’re out. Pick through the playoffs.
Group ID: 15451
Password: brutal

The BDFL is gearing up for our draft and the 2012 season! Visit us at New podcasts coming soon!

…right now, not so much.  It’s shaping up to be the choice I made between MP3 and Ogg Vorbis: MP3 makes the most sense to use for compressed storage and playback on devices, and Vorbis is preferred for streaming.  In this case, H.264 is like MP3 and WebM is like Vorbis (appropriately, since WebM includes Vorbis audio).  Right now it’s not as easy for me to create WebM videos as it was for me to create Vorbis files back in the day.  I remember using the “spinning fish” applet that Xiph published before there was more embedded support for Vorbis.  Miro Video Converter has a WebM output mode, but it doesn’t appear to be tunable.  Spelunking with the ffmpeg or vpxenc parameters tp create WebM videos doesn’t appeal to me.  It’s one thing to get into the LAME and OggEnc parameters when you’re dealing with a single audio stream.  Add video with its more complex set of parameters to that and it’s scary.

I really like being able to crunch out H.264 videos of decent quality from Handbrake that I can use on my iDevices and computers.  While I would like it if the Handbrake developers would provide similar support for WebM, I really don’t have a reason to use WebM videos right now other than for computer playback in certain scenarios.

Google’s decision to remove native H.264 support from Chrome (and hence, Chrome OS) is going to be great for the web because the trickle-down effect of this will be to:

  • Force MPEG LA to choose whether or not to sue Google for patent infringement over the technologies in WebM and finally get some resolution to the same argument that has always prevented companies like Apple from supporting Ogg Vorbis: the lurking possibility that patented techniques are embedded in the open-source media solution.  I don’t think this will happen since it appears that some of the On2 patents have been infringed by MPEG LA’s solutions.
  • Incent hardware makers to add support for WebM because websites, led by Youtube, will make it their native format.  There were (are?) several makers that supported Vorbis decoding in hardware, and I’m not aware any of them got sued.
  • Make H.264 a completely free implementation for all uses because if it isn’t available for free, software and hardware makers will favor the lower-cost WebM technology.

As far as VP8 video not performing as well as H.264 at similar resolutions and bitrates: it took quite a while for MP3 encoding to catch up to, and in some cases surpass, Vorbis.  There no reason to think that with more development, VP8 won’t catch up.  I look forward to using WebM when I have an easy way to encode to the format and I can use it in as many places as I can H.264/MPEG-4.

I see this decision more like HD-DVD vs. Blu-Ray; different logical formats that could be equally supported by hardware and software.  In fact, until Toshiba killed HD-DVD I thought that (playback of both formats) was the solution that was going to win out.  There’s no reason other than these licensing issues that support for H.264/MPEG-4 and WebM couldn’t co-exist.

How about this?:  Google will continue to ship H.264 support in Chrome if Microsoft and Apple agree to support WebM in their browsers.

  1. Validate that my existing Chrome bookmarks and apps are indeed available on the new computer once I sign in. << DONE
  2. Browse the web! (Duh.) << DONE
  3. Plug in my Blue Snowball and Eyeball 2.0 and attempt to use them with GTalk.
  4. Browse to the Squeezebox Server instance on my Windows Home Server to listen to music. << Squeezebox didn’t work.  I got this going with Firefly Media Server and Fireplay.  However, couldn’t save the Fireplay web page as a bookmark or app. Filed a bug report.
  5. Plug in my digital camera and iPhone to upload pictures and video to Flickr. << Plugged in my iPhone and couldn’t browse the file system while trying to use Flickr’s web uploader.  Filed  a bug report.
  6. See, what, if any, of my podcast production workflow might be able to be done using ChromeOS.
  7. Carry it in a side pocket of my main work laptop case and use it while on the go. << DONE.  When you’ve got six geeks ogling your new tech toy, you know it’s popular. 🙂
  8. (New) Edited my WordPress blog!


  1. Validate that my existing Chrome bookmarks and apps are indeed available on the new computer once I sign in.
  2. Browse the web! (Duh.)
  3. Plug in my Blue Snowball and Eyeball 2.0 and attempt to use them with GTalk.
  4. Browse to the Squeezebox Server instance on my Windows Home Server to listen to music.
  5. Plug in my digital camera and iPhone to upload pictures and video to Flickr.
  6. See, what, if any, of my podcast production workflow might be able to be done using ChromeOS.
  7. Carry it in a side pocket of my main work laptop case and use it while on the go.

Here’s hoping I’ll get to play with one of these over the Christmas holiday.

Update: I received a CR-48 today! Will be unboxing later tonight.

I just shared this with my extended family on our private forums and thought it would be useful to cross-post here:

You may have heard that Facebook’s default privacy settings are under scrutiny. It’s been discussed to death in the tech media the last few weeks. Among other things, Facebook is trying to make using your Facebook account through “unauthorized” third-party tools a criminal offense, and they’re having third parties insert their code onto non-Facebook websites to track users’ online habits. My takeaway was that I didn’t get enough value from Facebook to justify having a presence there. I’ve deactivated my account and will probably delete it soon; the only thing that’s holding me back is losing the URL.

While I’m not recommending that any of you deactivate or delete your accounts, I would recommend that you check your privacy settings and “dial back” those settings that might be making your postings/photos/etc. available to people outside of those who you’re comfortable sharing with. Facebook has changed their default privacy settings several times since the days when “private” was default, and if one hadn’t changed from the defaults, their settings were gradually made more public. The best illustration I’ve seen of this is here:

If I were going to continue using Facebook, I would login only when I want to use the Facebook site and would then log out. This would prevent Facebook from collecting data from non-Facebook sites I visit without my expressed consent.

Sorry to get preachy, but I know many of you use Facebook and I wouldn’t want you to be caught offguard if your online activities are being observed more than you’d like!

Reading this NYT article in the Sunday Patriot-News, I couldn’t help but think that the officials that are up in arms about Google’s “inadvertent” Wi-Fi data collection are ignorant about the security available when web browsing:

“Google is in the process of frittering away its last shred of credibility,” Mr. [Till] Steffen [the justice senator for the city-state of Hamburg] said. “The company must immediately disclose to what degree it has secretly eavesdropped as we’ve sent e-mails to friends in Germany and the rest of Europe or as we’ve done our banking in the Internet.”

This prompts a question: are there still banks that don’t use HTTPS when dealing with customers’ sensitive data over the internet?  Even if someone is using open, unencrypted Wi-Fi, their HTTPS session data is protected with encryption.  That would also be the case for any other protocols that encrypt their payload end-to-end (POP3S, SFTP, SSH, etc.).  For example, I use HTTPS sessions by default with Gmail and Google Reader.

The cited German privacy laws as they apply to electronic communications seem to be a way to compensate for the ignorance of those who implement and use this technology in unsecure ways.  I’m not a fan of Google’s collection of that data, but I don’t think that they are on the wrong side of this issue.  Wi-Fi is a broadcast-based technology using public airwaves, and if you’re not securing your broadcast you’re open to being spied upon.

I think the bigger issue here is whether the benefits of technologies like Street View and Wi-Fi-based geolocation outweigh the personal liberty of people whose image or data might be caught by a machine.  Would it make a difference if the Street View vehicles had a bunch of photographers in the back as opposed to automated cameras?  If they had nerds wardriving with laptops as opposed to automated Wi-Fi sniffers/collectors?  I can only recommend that you protect your communcations and wear a mask in public if you’re worried about this kind of stuff.  Or, for now, move to Germany. 🙂

Yes, I’m a fan of Google in general and Street View in particular.  It’s nice to be able to view pictures of an unfamiliar location before having to navigate it for the first time.

Getting back into Unreal Tournament 3 with the 2.1 patch and Titan Pack.  I’m “aharden” there.  (Surprise!)  If you’re there, friend me and invite me to a clan?  Thanks.

Monday’s Gillmor Gang finally convinced me that FriendFeed is the way to go to aggregate my online activities.  I’m “aharden” on FriendFeed, just like I am here and on my preferred services moving forward.

Which services do I prefer?  They’re the ones I’ll link to FriendFeed.  I may still use a service like to update my status/microblog in multiple locations, but only one of those places (right now it’s will be in my FriendFeed.

A few changes as a result of this:

  • No more daily link posting here.  My links are in my FriendFeed.
  • No more Yahoo! Pipes on my homepage (which is still being rebuilt — slowly) – I’ll embed FriendFeed.
  • I’m going to start using my account more to see what kind of data will flow out of it.
  • This may be the tool that gets me out of Bloglines and into Google Reader.  We’ll see.  I think some of the data flows I watch in Bloglines will be obviated by what I’ll end up watching in FriendFeed.

I think FriendFeed is probably doing the best job of both aggregating content and stimulating conversation around it.  I haven’t used it much, but I’ve heard a lot about it.

The only portion of my social graph that I mined when joining FriendFeed was my Gmail contacts.  I plan to ease myself into the FriendFeed pool by being careful about who I choose to follow.

On Thursday we had Verizon FIOS Internet/TV/Phone service installed; we were previously Verizon analog phone customers and had Comcast TV/Internet service.  After using the new service for a few days, I’m pleased with the Internet and blown away by the TV – more about that later.

Some of my neighbors made the switch from Comcast to Verizon FIOS recently, and with the free installation and temporarily free equipment Verizon was offering, it was time to try it out.  Before we ordered FIOS I called Comcast and gave them a chance to keep our business by offering us more TV services for a similar price.  We had kept our Comcast bill low for years by not subscribing to the “Standard” service tier, which meant we had a big gap between the Basic channels and the ones we were getting on Digital Preferred.  We’ve also had the HDTV/DVR services a number of years.  To compete with what we’d get with FIOS, Comcast would have had to give us the Standard tier for free (minus the extra HD stations to match Verizon FIOS TV Essentials that we ordered).  They wouldn’t commit to any deals beyond 6 months, so we ordered FIOS.

To prepare for the FIOS install experience I read forum posts and talked to neighbors and friends who had recently ordered the service.  I was pleased when I found out that the Internet and TV services would share the existing coax wiring (like Comcast) because it meant that no new wires would need to be run.  The FIOS ONT box and its battery backup were small enough to fit comfortably next to the other utilties on our basement wall, right near all the coax leads and the telephone punchdown block.  I had mounted a surge protector near there to prepare for the install, and the system was plugged into that.

Verizon had committed to starting the install between 8-Noon on Thursday at the time of the order and they had followed up with automated and human calls over the 2 weeks prior to confirm that we were still on schedule.  They estimated 4-6 hours of install time.  I got a call from the installer (Bill) around 8:30 Thursday morning to let me know he’d arrive soon.  He arrived at 9:30 and the install lasted until about Noon.  I worked with him when required and did proactive testing on my computers, which really sped up the process.  The Internet service is delivered through a nicely-appointed Actiontec MI-424-WRv2 wireless router.  For the TV service we got the Home Media DVR for the family room HDTV and a standard-def box in the master bedroom.  The cable boxes took about 20 minutes to activate over the Internet service; once done, Bill gave me a demo of their features.  They’re Motorola boxes similar to what Comcast uses, however the gorgeous menus and their responsiveness leave Comcast in the dust.  Two really cool things we get with the Home Media DVR include the ability to watch SD stuff we’ve recorded on the upstairs box and Media Manager software, which lets a computer on the network serve pictures and videos to the DVR.  I’ve played with the pictures so far.  There’s also a feature that lets you interact with your DVR over the internet, but I haven’t set that up yet.

The router is full featured and has advanced settings like Q0S that I will be digging in to to optimize Skype and move things like FTP and Bittorrent to low priority.  It has an easy-to-use web interface that clearly shows you the devices that are on the Ethernet, Wireless, and Coax networks (including the cable boxes).  I quickly opened up RDP and FTP services for my server and verified that was working within the first hour after the install.

Since I still have Comcast services until Monday, here’s a comparison of my Comcast “Performance” service with the Verizon 2/10 (up/dowm Mbps) service:

They’re similar, as I expected, but notice the much lower ping time with Verizon.  I’m pretty pleased with the internet performance I got from Comcast.  The reason we moved to FIOS was the difference in TV services for the price, as well as to get better telephone services like flat-rate US long-distance calling.

Speaking of price, we’ll see how the two vendors compare after our initial promotional pricing expires.  We were paying about $120/month ($90 Comcast/$30 Verizon) before and I think we’ll be paying about $110/month to Verizon for the first year an then about $130/month in the second year.

The one thing that didn’t get set up on Thursday was our Verizon Online account, but I was able to quickly do that over the phone with a Verizon customer service rep on Friday morning.  They give you up to 7 accounts that have email/newsgroup/web services.  I couldn’t get “aharden”, but I did get “aharden3”, “alexharden” and “alex.harden”.  I may even go ahead and get accounts for Ryan and Zachary so they’ll be waiting on the boys when they’re old enough.

We used the DVR to play back some of our series recordings last night and it works just as good as Comcast’s.  The menu navigation is very different.  One difference from Comcast that I like is that the box doesn’t display the timeline bar as you’re skipping around the recording.  The FIOS TV remote is well-laid out and isn’t requiring much time to get used to.  Unlike the Comcast DVR remote, keys for skipping both forward and backward are provided.  I had to program a macro key on the Comcast remote to get the skip forward feature.  On Demand content is roughly the same between the two carriers, but one thing I noticed was that Verizon charges $6 for new HD movies.  Comcast charges $5. 

Let me know if you have more questions about the FIOS service.  I’m sure I’ll post more as I continue to use it.

WordPress has upgraded to the 2.7 engine and it’s got quite a different Dashboard.  I had gotten a preview thanks to Paul at work, who’s worked with me on implementing WPMU for our internal blogging site.  Even though the default color scheme is neutral, it can be spruced up and I like the responsiveness, especially with Turbo mode engaged.  Thanks to Automattic and the team for keeping this such a great, free blogging platform.

Manolas has been running Movable Type 3.33 for a while, so it was time to get it up to the latest version we’re still entitled to: 3.38.  I put my MT hat back on and had the upgrade done in no time.  I wouldn’t mind upgrading our license to 4.x, but at $200 it doesn’t fit into the budget.  The business is not growing right now.

Speaking of MT 4.x, that does run my home page, which is in desperate need of attention.  I’m going to upgrade it to the latest MT 4.23 soon.