Monday, June 14, 2010

Free Wi-Fi at Starbucks

Starbucks now says they'll be offering free Wi-Fi at their stores starting 7/1. Hopefully it really will be free, not requiring registration, etc. For the last couple years I've never gone to Starbucks if there was a Panera nearby since, even if I wasn't interested in Wi-Fi that particular day, I've felt that Panera deserves some support and loyalty due to their free Wi-Fi. Of course, Panera also offers a much better variety of food. I'm not a coffee drinker, so that doesn't enter into my considerations. Interestingly, the USAT article ( says that this is to compete with McDonalds. I have gone to McDonalds for free Wi-Fi, but it's typically very loud and not a pleasant place to be, so I've never viewed them as competitors.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Blackboard 9

I think I've figured out how to most effectively use Blackboard 9. I need both a Firefox and a Chrome window open so that when one locks up, I can copy and paste what I was working on into the other and try it from there.

Between Blackboard and Peoplesoft, there seems to be no bottom to the level of quality of software UMBC is willing to pay for.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Baltimore Independent Music and Arts Festival

Baltimore Independent Music and Arts Festival, August 2010

This looks like a series of events worth attending. It's August 26-28 2010 here in Baltimore.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Different Browsers for Different Purposes, II

I previously commented on how I've started using different browsers for different purposes. I just visited the Weather Underground ( using Chrome, and it wasn't pretty. Right next to the weather map was this obnoxious flash animation. I quickly closed the frame and reopened it in Firefox, where NoScript screens out much of the obnoxious, much of the dangerous, and much of the insipid.

I had a similar experience last week while out of town. I don't have cable TV, and so am usually not subjected to cable news. Cable TV news is terrible, all commercials all the time and almost no news. Give me NPR and BBC any day. I've mostly stopped watching NFL games for the same reason.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Emacs Spontaneously Shifting to DOS Mode. Yuck.

For some reason emacs (GNU Emacs 22.2.1 (i486-pc-linux-gnu, X toolkit, Xaw3d scroll bars) of 2010-03-26 on rothera, modified by Ubuntu) on Ubuntu 9.10 has been spontaneously deciding to use MS-DOS/Windows line endings rather than Unix. This is rather wasteful of space, and sometimes causes issues with other tools. It's also inconvenient, since I was killing the emacs buffer, running dos2unix on the file, and then loading the fixed file back into emacs. Looking for a fix, I stumbled across three blog entries of note:

1) recommends a tool called flip. This makes no sense to me whatsoever since it does exactly what dos2unix and unix2dos do. It looks to me like someone's CS1 assignment that somehow got added to the Debian repositories.

2) has a good short-term fix, a bit more convenient than what I was doing. Within emacs, type the following key sequence: C-x [ENTER] f unix [ENTER]. This sets the "Coding system for saving file." Good enough.
Also, has a great tagline: "If all you have is a Bloom filter, everything looks like a set whose membership you wish to test with a possibility of false positives."

3) Barriehie at has the winner, a good, permanent, catch-all type solution. Essentially, modify .emacs to include:

;; Set ALL files to UNIX line endings
(add-hook 'find-file-hook 'find-file-check-line-endings)
(defun dos-file-endings-p ()
(string-match "dos" (symbol-name buffer-file-coding-system)))
(defun find-file-check-line-endings ()
(when (dos-file-endings-p)
(set-buffer-file-coding-system 'iso-latin-1-unix t)
(set-buffer-modified-p nil)))

I've tested it just a bit, and it works beautifully.

Also, my .emacs is all in one file, and I prefer the way he splits it across multiple files. I'm using the .emacs that grad students were given at Ohio State ca. 1992 with many, many modifications. Following Barriehie's lead, I've split my .emacs it into multiple files, thus allowing me to keep my modifications separate from the stuff passed down from Brutus Buckeye.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Maxwell Smart Solutions

People apparently really don't think about names. First, the Nooky Reader from Barnes & Noble. And now, Max Smart has his own business. I wonder if 99 works there. If not, they should 86 the whole idea.