Ravens Wimp Out!

Awwwwww… The poor Baltimore Ravens! It seems that the Browns Ravens don’t want to play at Pittsburgh in prime-time this year, and have petitioned the NFL to have any such games taken off their schedule:

There were rumors that the NFL would begin this season with Ravens-Steelers, a rematch of the AFC championship game, for its Thursday night game. But the Ravens asked not to be considered for a prime-time game at Heinz Field this season when they submitted their scheduling requests to the league, a team official told The Baltimore Sun.

Seriously? What, are you guys afraid to play the Steelers? Seriously? Don’t want to break the cycle of prime-time ass kickings (the Ravens have never beaten the Steelers in Pittsburgh in prime-time)? What is it, Bawlmerr? You guys too chicken to take on Steeltown after losing to us three times last year?

Random fact: the 2008 Steelers became the first team in NFL history to beat a team three times in three different uniforms in a single season: week 4 at home (throwbacks), week 15 in Baltimore (whites), and the AFC Championship in Pittsburgh (home black).

Read more here.

Guest Mode in Windows 7

Windows NT (and Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows Vista) has always had a “guest account”. In theory, you could enable the guest account to allow friends, family members or house guests to access your computer without messing things up too badly. Unfortunately, Microsoft has never made it quite clear (to home users) just what the “guest account” is, and how access rights operate under that user. So most people just don’t bother using it at all.

Windows 7 has a groovy new feature called “guest mode” that’s like the guest account on steroids. It can do this because it uses an improved version of another Microsoft tool – Windows SteadyState – to take a before and after “snapshot” of your PC. As soon as someone logs in under guest mode, a snapshot of your system is taken. The guest user will not be able to change system settings, install any software, or write anyone on the disk outside their own user profile folder. Once the user logs off, any changes made to the profile folder are discarded by SteadyState, and you’re presented with a shiny “new” guest account again. Also, drives can be “locked”, and users would not be able to change anything on a locked drive on your system.

It’s a cool feature, especially for folks like me that are too paranoid to let anyone else use their computers!

Read more about Guest Mode at Lifehacker here.

Stupid Region Codes

While the rest of us have been dealing with Hollywood’s stupid “DVD region system” for years, it’s only now that Tinseltown’s folly has hit the corridors of power. It seems that President Obama gave British PM Gordon Brown a basket of 25 “American classic” films during his recent visit to the US. Brown, not normally a film buff, was reportedly “touched” by the gesture… that is, until he actually tried to watch them. It seems that no one in the White House knew about regions, because when Brown popped one of the discs into his player he got the dreaded “Wrong Region” error message.

I find it hard to believe that no one in the White House knew about R1 vs. R2 (to say nothing about the NTSC\PAL thing). How hard would it have been to have someone order them from Amazon UK? Or have someone at the US embassy in London hit the nearest Virgin Megastore and Fedex them to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?

This is our technology president?

Amusingly, one British journalist wondered if Clueless might have been included with the film…

Elderly Charles Manson

Charles Manson

California corrections officials have released a new photograph of convicted mass murderer Charles Manson, who is now bald with a thick grey beard.

The photo of the 74-year-old Manson was taken yesterday as part of a routine update of files on inmates at Corcoran State Prison, where he is serving a life sentence for conspiring to murder seven people, said Seth Unger, spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

via Prison releases photo of elderly Charles Manson.

RETRO REVIEW: Lectric Shave

Lectric ShaveYou know the old saw in films and television about the little girl who gets into her mom’s makeup and tries on all her clothes? Little boys do that too (hopefully with their father’s stuff, though). I know I did.

When I was a little boy, my Dad’s vanity was a wonderland of colognes, balms, creams, combs, sideburn trimmers, and all kinds of exotica. More than once I played “Daddy getting ready for work”, and one thing I’ve always remembered about that was his Lectric Shave.

Lectric Shave is a “pre-shave balm” for people that use electric razors. It’s supposed to lube your face, making it easier for the razor to glide over your skin, and it supposedly makes your facial hairs “stand up” for easier cutting. It’s something that’s been around for years, but I hadn’t thought about it until I saw a commercial for it a few weeks ago. On a following trip to Wal Mart I saw a small bottle of the stuff and decided to give it a try.

Guess what? It works! After using it for a couple of weeks, I can absolutely say that I get a better shave using Lectric Shave then I do without… and with less effort, too! It really does lubricate your skin, and that really does make shaving easier.

Continue reading “RETRO REVIEW: Lectric Shave”

R.I.P. Natasha Richardson

Natasha RichardsonNEW YORK – Natasha Richardson, a gifted and precocious heiress to acting royalty whose career highlights included the film “Patty Hearst” and a Tony-winning performance in a stage revival of “Cabaret,” died Wednesday at age 45 after suffering a head injury from a skiing accident.

Alan Nierob, the Los Angeles-based publicist for Richardson’s husband Liam Neeson, confirmed her death Tuesday night in a written statement.

“Liam Neeson, his sons, and the entire family are shocked and devastated by the tragic death of their beloved Natasha,” the statement said. “They are profoundly grateful for the support, love and prayers of everyone, and ask for privacy during this very difficult time.”

The statement did not give details on the cause of death for Richardson, who suffered a head injury when she fell on a beginner’s trail during a private ski lesson at the luxury Mont Tremblant ski resort in Quebec. She was hospitalized Tuesday in Montreal and later flown to a hospital in New York City.

via Natasha Richardson dies at 45.

Thomas Jefferson: Spy

Since the dawn of human civilization, people have needed to communicate secretly, because as long as there have been generals, diplomats, revolutionaries, and businessmen, there have been other generals, diplomats, counter-revolutionaries and businessmen who wanted to know their secrets.

In humanity’s early days, people needing to communicate secretly often relied on trusted messengers to relay information. The problem with this approach is obvious: a messenger can get lost or killed, he can be bribed, he can be tortured to reveal the message, or he can be searched for any messages hidden on his person. Sometimes using a trusted messenger isn’t even very practical – Herodotus, an ancient Greek historian, wrote about a ruler who shaved a slave’s head, tattooed a message on his now bald head, then waited for the slave’s hair to grow back before sending him on his mission. One wonders how “pressing” a secret message is if one has to wait two months before it can be sent.

The ancients certainly had other methods of sending secret messages. The Spartans used a long strip of fabric called a scytale to send secret messages: the strip was wrapped around a wooden rod, and a message was written on it. The person receiving the message would simply wrap the strip around another rod of identical diameter, and the message could be read. Transposition ciphers, in which letters are shifted by a certain amount, were also popular. Julius Caesar is thought to be the father of the Caesar Cipher, in which all the letters of the alphabet are shifted by three letters; thus, A becomes C, B becomes D, and C becomes E, and so on.

Transposition ciphers were easily the most popular type of cipher in the ancient world… but it all came crashing down in the 9th century, when Arab mathematician Al-Kindi discovered the science of frequency analysis. Simply put, frequency analysis looks at how often letters appear in a language, and applies those percentages to a ciphered text. For instance, the most common letter in English is the letter e. If the most common letter in an encrypted English language message is x, chances are good that x represents e. You can then move on to the next  most common letter (in English, this is a) and apply it to the second most common letter in the encrypted message. Continue down the line and you’ll eventually decode the message. This can be simplified further by the use of cribs, which are “cheats” that code breakers can use. For example, if you’re trying to crack a message sent by a general to one of his subordinates, you can safely assume that certain words – like “troops”, “attack” or “movement” – are contained in the letter, and you can look for them in the text. This can cut out a lot of the keyspace (the possible combinations) you have to search to decrypt a message.

Continue reading “Thomas Jefferson: Spy”

Rooney ambassador to Ireland

It’s official!

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama on Tuesday selected Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney to be U.S. ambassador to Ireland, turning to a lifelong Republican who provided the Democrat critical campaign support during the White House race.

The 76-year-old Rooney endorsed Obama over Hillary Rodham Clinton during Pennsylvania’s contentious Democratic primary; Clinton won the contest last April. Rooney later campaigned for him in Steelers country in western Pennsylvania, and Obama went on to win the state last November.

In the 1970s, Rooney helped found the American Ireland Fund, an organization that has raised millions for advocacy of peace and education in Ireland. His legacy is reflected in a Steelers-themed bar in a disused linen mill in one of the roughest parts of northwest Belfast.

Congrats, Mr. Rooney!

via Obama taps Steelers owner as ambassador to Ireland.