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Against my better judgment…

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Apr 11, 2010 in Technology

…I created a Twitter account :surprised:

And in less than a minute no fewer than three separate people pointed out I had caved to the peer pressure despite my obstinate refusal and stated oppostion to using it.

#fail

Sooo…. anyone with graphic design talent wanna cobble together a file for my Twitter background? :beatup:

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MBP, R.I.P. (maybe)

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Feb 22, 2010 in Technology

One would think somebody who graduated with a degree in, say, Computer Science wouldn’t be so surprised by the fallibility of modern electronics.

But there I was this afternoon, trying to open up an Excel spreadsheet with my final exam schedule, sitting there perplexed by the lack of noticeable activity. Little did I know the truth: my 4-year-old MacBook Pro was sitting there dying in front of me :(

I eventually shut it down, thinking this was just another Microsoft Office bug and that would be fixed by a quick restart. I power it on, hear the familiar chime, see the Apple logo come up, and…

…nothing.

Restart and try it again, thinking it’s a fluke. Same result.
Restart again and try to boot into the Windows Vista partition I use for ExamSoft. This time it freezes at the initial Windows progress bar.

Fear starts to creep into the back of my mind. “Just relax,” my mind reassures itself, “It’s probably just a corrupted hard drive we can fix in about 20 minutes.”

Grab my Snow Leopard install DVD and try to boot from the disc. Nothing.
Reset the SMC and PRAM then restart again.  Nada.
Restart in the Unix equivalent of “safe mode.” Nil.

I notice the complete and total lack of noise from the hard drive, meaning it’s something other than a failed drive (usually a corrupted disk makes a clicking sound). Fear turns into dread.

Restart in verbose mode to to see how far along the boot process gets, and notice it hangs at:

ACPI: System state [S0 S3 S4 S5] (S3)

My heart sinks; dread turns into panic. The inner-geek in me notices that particular line was a stumbling point for the Hackintosh1 folks when there was an incompatibility with the motherboard and the OS.

Translation for MBP users like me: the motherboard is dead :cry2:

I run to my old desktop in the other room (used for doc archives) to see if I can load the laptop’s hard drive in FireWire Target Disk Mode. It works, so I’m thankfully able to at least pull off the docs I’ve modified since my last backup.

I promptly schedule an appointment with the Genius Bar at the local Apple Store. Pack everything up. Jump in the car. Speed to the Apple Store. Plaintively explain everything to the guy at the Genius Bar.

All to no avail.

20 minutes later, after trying a few other tests I didn’t have the resources to try myself, my fears are confirmed — the logic board has failed and my laptop won’t be booting any time soon. I reluctantly agree to have the laptop shipped to a repair depot, where hopefully a logic board transplant will get it in good working order again.2 It gave me a better understanding of what this feels like.

That’s pretty much how my afternoon/evening was spent today. I’ve lost hard drives before (always backup your data!!) but never a logic board. It put me in a sufficiently frosty mood when I got home that I neglected to follow one of the cardinal rules of cooking as I made dinner, ending up with grease burning the heck out of a couple of the fingers on my right hand :beatup:

BUT, on the bright side, this means I’ll have to pay attention in class for the next few days since I won’t have the news or Facebook to distract me :D  I’m determined to find a silver lining to this whole scenario…

  1. A hacked installation of MacOS X on non-Apple hardware. []
  2. The downside is that I’ll be out a few hundred $$ and have to give up my laptop for 5-7 days… 1 day before meeting with my partner on our Legal Research project, 4 days before the monthly UNCASG meeting, and 9 days before midterm exams. :beatup: []

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Eagle Pride… Amplified :)

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Feb 7, 2010 in Technology

It’s no secret that I think pretty highly of the North Carolina Central University School of Law, a point I made clear in one of my first entries here at law:/dev/null.1)

So when the Executive Board of our Alumni Association met yesterday and asked for tech-savvy current students to come up with ways to improve interaction between alums and plebes (including possible changes to its anemic web presence), my inner Eagle and inner Comp Sci geek both jumped at the opportunity :)

It was an interesting and enlightening way to spend a Saturday morning.

On the extremes, among the alumni in attendance was an ADA from the Class of ’08, relatively fresh out the law school door and still fairly “hip” to current trends in technology; then there was at least one immigration attorney who graduated in the mid-’80s, trained to Shepardize cases exclusively by hand since the Internet hadn’t even been invented when she earned her J.D. And of course there were a half-dozen or so folks in between, along with an equally wide spread of current students of varying technology backgrounds.

Discussing tech options is hard enough among tech-savvy folks. It’s even harder among an eclectic mix of people spanning years and comfort levels:

  • Some folks didn’t like email listservs since they already got enough email from clients; others (including me) think they’re indispensable since they’re more “in your face,” forcing you to pay at least fleeting attention to them.2
  • Some folks (including me) didn’t like the idea of using Twitter3; others thought it was a useful tool we already deploy, and leveraging it helps us reach into more nooks and niches of the alumni pool.
  • Some folks (including me) liked Facebook pages; others (also including me :beatup: ) realized it was both tacky and counter-productive forcing people to register for an unrelated service in order to access alumni information.

About the only thing we all agreed on was that WordPress is pretty nifty. I briefly showed them the law:/dev/null Dashboard, realizing a few seconds after I volunteered that doing so was probably a bad idea in light of the inevitable spam comments and general lack of redaction polish to the blog.

Fortunately Lotta was the only commenter showing up on the screen, and the breadth of the Plugins directory helped hide the fact I only use a few of them.4 :D

Not sure where things go from here, but whatever the results I’m looking forward to it. Some amped up school pride never killed anyone. I think. :angel:

Have a great night everybody!

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  1. An entry I made sure to link on the “About” page just in case there’s ever any doubt ; []
  2. Unless you set up a filter to route them to a folder that you never check. I confess to being guilty of that on more than one occasion :beatup: []
  3. Supporting Iranian protestors notwithstanding, I think it’s an innovative technology whose utility is inversely proportional to its userbase. See cnet or Slate for similar critiques. []
  4. Akismet, Custom Smilies, Feedsmith, and WP-Footnotes :D []

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Blog Housecleaning

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Feb 5, 2010 in Technology

Over the past couple days I’ve been going through and tweaking up sections of the blog, mostly on the backend.

The most noticeable frontend change has been the blogroll, where I’ve been trying to add in all the various law school-related blogs that are still updated.

If you’ve got a blog that I should add to the list that’s not here, please let me know :D

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So, this iPad thing. Why?

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jan 29, 2010 in Technology

Let me preface this post by stipulating 1) Steve Jobs is one of my role models, and 2) I  really do :heart: Apple and its products — I used to work for the company in undergrad, only buy Macs, swear by Keynote for my job, and will snap up an iPhone if they ever come to Verizon Wireless.

But why get an iPad?

I finally got around to watching the Quicktime stream of the iPad unveiling, after intentionally avoiding all non-weather-related media since Wednesday afternoon so I wouldn’t learn about any details before seeing the video.1

The positives seem compelling.  The technology in the iPad is impressive, especially given its size. The price point is lower than I think any rational person would expect with the components packed into it. Being able to seamlessly run iPhone apps is a perk to everyone with an iPhone. And there’s plenty of potential for gaming.

How many of those are compelling enough to justify adding another gadget to your technology ecosystem though? My reflexes are too slow for gaming,2 I don’t have an iPhone so no already-purchased apps, and as much fun as reading the news looked in their demo I’d just as soon pull out my MacBook Pro or read it on my BlackBerry.

I’m sure it will eat into the Amazon Kindle market, and there will undoubtedly be niche markets for the gaming folks or the type of people who use the MacBook Air. But (at the moment) I don’t see the hook into the broader market. It basically reminds me of the G4 Cube, which was a huge flop until Apple tweaked the idea into the Mac mini.

History favors Steve though — after all, while he’s making $$$ reinventing entire markets, I’m shelling out $$$ to join one of the slowest-evolving professions in the world :beatup:

Time will tell I guess :) Have a great night folks! :D

  1. Yes, I’m one of those people :P The good folks over at MacRumors.com help with their spoiler-free stream links :) []
  2. I have to stick with turn-based strategy games like Civilization :beatup: []

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I quit!

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Nov 16, 2009 in Technology

Just kidding :)

It does seem to be that time of year though. From new blogs I just discovered this week to that guy who unknowingly got me blogging, it seems to be a post-summer of discontent for law students. My own fingers are firmly crossed that I don’t get hit with the Reality Stick until after the J.D. is mounted on my wall… :beatup:

The thought of getting out of law school did cross my mind earlier today, but it had nothing to do with exams.

Madame Prosecutor wanted to start a new web-based venture (I’ll let her furnish the details at a later date/time) and mentioned it to me a couple days ago. She asked for my help. And since I graduated with a degree in Computer Science, used to build websites professionally1), and already run law:/dev/null, I figured I’d walk her through buying a domain name and set her up with a WordPress installation on one of my own servers since I could do it all at next-to-no cost.

And from the minute she sat down next to me, there was a steady stream of back-and-forth commentary between us over legalese. From figuring out who was going to register the URL (my GoDaddy account, her billing information, and whenever she sets up her own account I’ll transfer the domain to her) to the details over the WordPress installation (I keep root access for emergencies and leave 100% of all daily operations to her) to ownership of the content (she keeps it) to liability for illegal activities taking place (she keeps that too) and more, we hammered out the rudiments of a full-blown contract.

It made me wish I was back in politics.

My travails in the WakeGOP notwithstanding, the political arena largely operates on trust.  Now you can differentiate between what I call “positive” trust and “negative” trust:  the former is where you actively trust someone because you know them / have worked with them / think they’re a good person / etc, and the latter is passive / the basis of economic game theory / “rational people respond predictably to incentives” / you know what someone will do without even meeting them / etc.

But trust is ultimately at the root of the system. It’s the implied foundation of one of my rules of politics: loyalty is more important than competence (in politics at least).

So when I used to build websites for politicians, there were no extensive formal contracts. Somebody told me they needed a website, I’d quote a price, they’d counter-offer if it was too high, we’d settle on an amount, I’d get the site specifics and go to work.  Out of the dozen or so sites I put together there was never a dispute over me getting paid or over the customer being satisfied with the finished product. No one needed or contemplated reducing everything to writing, much less having a choice of venue clause.

And here I was helping out a friend with comparatively miniscule project, and both of us are trying to make sure we formally protect ourselves from getting screwed by the other’s activities :crack:

shootmenowplzkthxu :beatup:

—===—

In other technology-related news, I went ahead and installed a FeedBurner plugin for law:/dev/null. I’m still not sure what it does, but I was told by a fellow blawger I needed to have it — and since Fight the Hypo and No634 used it, I figured it was legit. You can access the “Subscribe” page up at the top of the blog.

And at some point I’ll fix the little “Subscribe” links that show up on each post to actually go where they’re supposed to go… just as soon as I figure out why I can only see them on some posts and not on others :beatup:

Finally, I stumbled upon a blog by one of my fellow Legal Eagles earlier today. It’s not solely law-focused and the updates have been sporadic, but it’s worth checking out. The guy’s got one of the sharpest wits in the class — his Facebook status routinely keeps people rolling, and I’ve jotted down a snippet or two on occasion. Enjoy: http://realgoesright.blogspot.com/

That’s it for tonight folks, I’m off to enjoy the Parol Evidence Rule and more defeasible estate festivities :)  Don’t forget to go watch the Leonid meteor shower around 2am EST! :D

  1. The backend coding at least. I manifestly fail at graphic design, as evidenced by the fact I had to use someone else’s theme for this site ; []

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Misreading IP addresses (or, “Hi Eagles!”)

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Nov 4, 2009 in Technology

In one of the Mailbag entries from last month, I mentioned regularly checking the server logs to see what IP addresses you loyal readers are using. I’m not trying to stalk anyone, I just prefer cross-referencing the IP history with the most popular posts in case something appears unduly salacious and in need of editing.

My misplaced paranoia has thus far been… well… misplaced, largely because my law school life is actually pretty boring :beatup: (contrast with the excitement idwsj gets to enjoy up the road/coast at NYU)

So yesterday I’m sitting in the Fishbowl and decide to poke around with the wifi, so I can network my MacBook Pro with one of the printers at the law school in case I ever need a case for class or something. I print out the HP LaserJet 9050 diagnostic page with its IP address, click a few buttons on the laptop, and voila everything is good to go in about 10 seconds.

But instead of throwing away the diagnostic page, I tucked it in my bookbag so I could recycle it later (yes, though I’m a Republican I do care at least somewhat about the environment :P ). I happened to have that page out with other recyclables when I checked the server logs earlier today. And randomly noticed that I’ve been misreading my traffic stats.

Remember back in August when law:/dev/null first got started that the bots and I were the largest source of traffic — no surprise since no one knew this place existed beyond myself and Google. So in the server logs the biggest slice of the traffic pie chart was always red (me @ home), the next biggest slice was blue (me @ school), and there were a bunch of teeny slices in various colors (the bots and everyone else).

Well apparently that switched in October and I just never noticed. As I stopped logging in so often to set up/maintain the basic blog-related stuff, the red slice that I thought was me at home actually became folks other than me at the NCCU School of Law. October has been our busiest month so far with ~327 daily visits by non-TDot people (double where we were a couple months ago)… and nearly half are Legal Eagles.

So to those Eagles who are new here, hi!  (And to those of you who have been lurking for a while… hi! :D )

Now I just have to figure out a way to deal with the performance anxiety of knowing my peers are actually wasting spending their time reading this stuff…

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Friday drive-by (brought to you by the Stone Age)

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Sep 4, 2009 in Technology

I was planning on having a little more substance to today’s post, but right around 3pm a TWC technician was kind enough to disconnect both my cable and internet service when he meant to disconnect someone else in my apartment complex.  I called customer service and the soonest they could schedule someone to come out is 5pm tomorrow.  The guy I usually work with on my service (Kevin — awesome guy, if you live in Durham and plan on getting TWC service make sure to ask for him) is coming out first thing in the morning to get it fixed instead, but I didn’t think to contact him sooner so I’ve been stuck for the afternoon/evening in relative silence.

And, I’ll note, slowly going insane from the lack of connection with the outside world.

So how am I posting this now?  The glories of BlackBerry tethering, which temporarily went kaput after I upgraded my BlackBerry a few weeks ago (from an 8830 to a 9630 Tour), was briefly fixed, then went kaput again when I upgraded to Snow Leopard a few days ago.  I got so desperate for internet I finally went rummaging through my pre-Snow Leopard files.

After using an old Time Machine backup to find a suitable modem script, some CSC-esque “tweaking” to said modem script to work with the 9630, some info in my Keychain to find my username and password, and random guessing on the access number to dial, suddenly I have internet again through the phone.  It’s not blazing fast or anything, but it’s good enough to get the job done and maintain my sanity :)

Anyhow, given the drive-by nature of this post I’m keeping it short:  I decided to volunteer to brief a case in Professor Torts’s class today.  We’re going over conversion and there was only 1 case to brief (Pearson v. Dodd) so the Professor asked for volunteers.  I knew the case pretty well and hoped I’d be able to buy myself a way out of getting called on at some point in the relatively near future.

It didn’t quite turn out as well as planned.

Rather than read from the briefs I write, starting this past Monday I’ve been trying not to have my laptop running during class and instead go from memory.  1) It helps me remember the material when I can’t read it there in front of me (as weird as that may sound), and 2) it stops me from being on Facebook or reading blawgs when I should be taking notes.  The downside is that reciting information from memory is slightly more verbose than a tightly-worded issue statement in a brief.

And Professor Torts made that point fairly clear in short order, then asking if I wrote anything down (“Yes ma’am”), where it was (“On my laptop”), where the laptop was (“Right here in front of me”) and to pull it up and read what I had written while she went to someone else for a proper issue statement. She then came back to me for an opportunity to recover ever-so-slightly, before noting that she’ll be coming back to me on another day soon.

Clearly no one has ever accused me of being a genius… :)

That’s all I’ll write tonight in my internet-free world.  Have a great evening everybody! :D

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And we’re back!

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 31, 2009 in Technology

Sorry for the abrupt and only partially-explained disappearance over the last couple days.  I’m actually the guy in charge of that statewide student advocacy group mentioned in Friday night’s post, so any time they have a business meeting I usually go without sleep the day before making sure everything is totally prepared, stay in a very stoic über-focued “ASG mode” shepherding legislation and other initiatives through the end of business on Saturday night, then party with everyone after it’s over, go to bed late, and drive home the next day.  That quasi-ritual gets slightly more extreme when things go really really really well and I get everything I want done (as happened this weekend), so the plan to post something on Sunday never materialized.

The upside?  Not only do I have more stuff to write about for the rest of this week, but my absence has helped fix the disproportionate traffic stats on my server logs :D

My apologies if you were expecting something more significant :)  It’s been agitating me for weeks that such a high percentage of our August traffic was showing up as MacOS X 10.5.8 / Safari just because I was the only visitor here when the blog got started.  Since I’m no longer in the CSC game I don’t bother trying to do “graceful degradation” of stylesheets to accommodate the majority browser(s), but it’s still nice to know that the high volume of Mac visits was partially an anomaly (though there are still quite a few non-me Mac users as well as Windows Safari folks stopping by).

In a minor bit of law-related news before I devote the rest of my night to Contracts reading, a couple folks asked how my campaign for SBA Representative was going (and thanks to Evan Schaeffer at the Legal Underground for including the post in his Weekly Law School Roundup!).  Our “platforms” were due to the SBA folks today by 3pm and are now available online for the Class of 2012 to review.  I put “platform” in quotes because we’re actually supposed to put it in the form of a letter, which runs counter to everything I’ve ever learned as a student politician.  If you’re bored and want to see how awkward a platform in paragraph format looks, feel free to check out a PDF copy of my letter.  Basically I’m hanging my hat on getting earlier refunds for everyone, and praying I can overcome my general distaste for pandering for votes to introduce myself to the other class sections tomorrow and Wednesday.

Also missed both of my classes today, ironically in both instances as a result of dealing with government agencies (State Motor Pool and the Internal Revenue Service, respectively).  If I’m in a sufficiently salty mood later in the week I’ll rant about one or both of those great bastions of government efficiency (</sarcasm>).

Finally, installed Snow Leopard on my laptop last night.  Have to confess to being disappointed so far, largely because of the things it breaks (Little Snitch), bugs it creates (had to create a new Location in Network preferences to properly use NCCU’s wifi), and UI improvements that don’t really improve anything (the new Dock context menu background sucks IMO).  Hopefully I’ll be more impressed as time goes on.

That’s it for tonight — off to study Contracts!  Thanks for sticking around through the hiatus and reading this far through the post!  Have a great night! :D

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The impact of RSS on readership at law:/dev/null

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 25, 2009 in Technology

Nothing law-related in today’s post.  I stayed up late reading Contracts, but still got up on time, got out the door on time… and got stuck behind a tractor trailer for most of my early morning commute, thereby making it to class about 4 minutes late, just in time for a quiz in Legal Reasoning & Analysis.  I was sick of law for the day by about 8:05am :P

The spark for today’s post actually came from looking at the server statistics for law:/dev/null:  I didn’t realize how significant an impact things like RSS readers have on blog statistics, and I got my bachelor’s degree in Computer Science!

Last week we averaged about 312 unique visits a day.  Now bear in mind a good chunk of those numbers are web crawlers and of course me, but factoring out the roughly 50% of the traffic from those two sources that leaves ~150ish daily visits — which completely blows me away btw, and I suspect is due in large part to people following shout-outs from other blogs like No634 and the Reasonably Prudent Law Student. Last Wednesday’s entry on Professor Torts murdering a student’s self-esteem was the spike for the week, with 660 unique visits.

But what about last Friday, when I fell asleep before writing anything?  A mere 79 visits, of which it appears only 33% weren’t myself or bots — meaning only 26 unique visits by other humans, a drop of 83%+ over the week’s average (which was itself weighted down as a result of that particular low-traffic day).

How did all those folks who were stopping by daily know not to check for a post on Friday?  Did everyone take the weekend off?  Are we all psychically linked?  Is my writing just that bad?  (Don’t answer that last question ;))

My slightly-educated guess is that RSS readers, things like Safari’s “Top Sites” update indicator, and other new “content-on-demand” technologies are responsible for the overwhelming amount of traffic any given blog gets, at least in its formative months. On the upside it means a blog’s audience can expand rapidly in a fairly short amount of time if people visit once and then add you to their RSS feeds.  The downside is that your traffic will virtually disappear if you’re not able to produce something on a fairly regular basis.

Those are my CSC-based pontifications for the day :)  Off to go study for “hump day” classes, which in my case actually are in the shape of a camel hump on my schedule (and, correspondingly, suck).  Have a great evening everybody! :D

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