St. Jude Beautified

Jude Milhon, a.k.a. St. Jude, one of the founders of Mondo 2000 magazine has died of cancer. St. Jude was a legend in SF and the hacker community, a trailblazer in the chicks-with-modems world and in the world of cyberculture publishing. She was a chaotic attractor, whip-smart, talented, funny, and deeply weird.

A few random reminiscences:

* She came to visit me in DC (in 1991?) and walked into my home office and saw two non-color monitors. She freaked. “Ack!, what are you doing?! The world’s not in black and white, why would you want your computers to be?” She seemed genuinely disturbed that a Mondo editor would still be living in a B&W version of cyberspace.

* She came to DC to be on a panel I moderated for Filmfest DC on the influence of cyberpunk lit on film. She was having terrible stage fright. At one point, somebody in the audience asked the panel (Jude, Mark Dery, Mark Pauline, D.A. Therrien and me) if we were more comfortable in “the real world” or would we rather be in cyberspace? We all began to say “the real world,” except Jude who blurted out: “CYBERSPACE! I *really* want to be in cyberspace!” And you could tell she really meant it.

* I have this hysterical image in my mind of the party after the Filmfest talk of Patch Adams chasing Jude around trying to give her a hug. She was WAY not into it. She didn’t strike me as the touchy-feely type, and especially didn’t want a hug from a big, dirty hippie/doctor/clown. They ran out of the front door of the house, Jude yelling and flailing her arms, Patch with a big pucker on his lips, cackling maniacally. It was such a bizarre, Fellini-esque moment.

* My last thought is more an RU Sirius story, but involves Jude. I’d been sending and resending an article to both of them via email and they kept losing it. Finally I called RU to complain: “How can you guys be so f-ing spacey? I thought you all take smart drugs.” Without skipping a beat, he said: “Yeah, but you don’t know what we were like BEFORE we started on the smart drugs.”

Street Tech Webmaster Tim Tate wrote this morning to say: “If it weren’t for Mondo 2000, I’d never have heard of you.” So thanks Jude. You were always good at connecting the dots. You’ll definitely live on in the heavenly 1s and 0s.

“Billing Issues” Email Scams

I’ve been noticing a growing trend in email scams that I wanted to point out to those who may not have seen it yet, or who may not to be savvy enough to spot spoofed messages.

I’ve recently gotten “Billing/Account Problem” emails from Amazon, eBay, PayPal, and Earthlink (to name just the few I can think of at the moment). The email addresses and website links look legit, and if you click on the links, you’re taken to a site page that looks legit. They’re not. It’s a credit card/password trap.

The emails usually say things like: There’s a problem with your billing information, or You have to update your billing information, or We changed servers and we lost your account info. They say that if you don’t log on right away and fix the problem, your account will be terminated.

Don’s fall for this. Don’t even take the link. If you think a message like this even MIGHT be legit, it’s easy to find out. Just go directly to the site and check your account info. If it’s not a scam, they’ll likely be a notice about any real account problems on the site itself. And if you go to the site’s message boards, you’ll see plenty of info about the scams, along with the hard luck stories of those who’ve fallen for them.

It’s really sad to think of all of the people who must be falling for this. Email all of your non-geek relatives (those friends and family members who are still falling for those Internet chain mailings and who are still circulating the “Save NPR!” petition)

BS Shoveling Machine

Deloitte Consulting has released a free program called Bullfighter which attaches itself to Word or PowerPoint and offers writers a gentle reprimand when they get caught up in meaningless jargon like “mindshare” and “leverage”. The software offers suggestions for alternate phrasing and, much like Street Tech’s own BS Detector, calculates a “Bull Composite Index” for the document. The software is available at the Deloitte Consulting web site and requires Word or PowerPoint 2000 or XP.

New Sony PDA; WiFi, BT, Camera…

Sony has announced yet another PDA in a completely new form factor; the UX50 is similar to the Sharp Zaurus 760 in that it has a keyboard and flip around 480×320 screen, but the Sony runs Palm OS5, has 16 megs of usable RAM (with 22 megs of ROM) plus internal 802.11b and Bluetooth, and a low-res digicam. It also plays MP3 or MPEG from the MemoryStick slot. All of this packed into a case about 4″ x 3″ x .7″. Price is expected in the $500-$600 range.

Update: More details have become available since the original posting, namely that the price is going to be $700 for the UX50, $600 for the UX40 (without WiFi), and that the RAM is actually “104 megs” according to some sources, though none of those sources adequately explain how that’s true — 16 megs is available for programs, 22 megs for “media storage” such as pics and MP3, and the remainder presumably for data backup and OS storage. Memory can be expanded with the new Memory Stick Pro with up to 1 gig sticks (maybe more in the future.)

GPS-Based Gaming

One of the coolest features I’ve seen on a GPS yet — location based gaming. The new Garmin Gecko ($250) includes five different games that are played by moving around virtual obstacles. The user plays by moving around in real space while watching the GPS screen for information. The games include a version of Snake in which the user walks around picking up numbers while trying to avoid his or her virtual tail, and a virtual maze where the user must navigate invisible walls to get prizes (pictured, left). Up next — wireless networked location based gaming?

Poor Man’s Portable Video Feed


So my wife is driving the kids 800 miles to see her family in Oregon. I have to work, and will meet up with her in a couple of weeks. I’ve been trying to figure out how to keep our kids, 6,3, and 2, respectively, from killing each other or going catatonic on the 13 hour trip. We’ve got the usual assortment of road games, coloring books, stickers, legos, snacks and music, but at the last minute it occured to me that maybe a portable dvd or a gameboy would make a big difference. If I can just neutralize the six year old, then he won’t torture his little brother when he gets bored. The problem is that I am cheap, and not totally excited about dropping almost $200 for the cheapest available W*lmart dvd player. So I’ve come up with a couple of other options and wanted to solicit your input:

1. get a $40/350 watt inverter, then take our existing small tv and vcr, duct tape them together, and make our own portable entertainment center

2. Get a Pixter (kiddy PDA) instead of a gameboy

3. Buy the $178 Initial dvd player from CrapMart, then sell it on Ebay when the trip is over. Or keep it and wire it into the car speakers and use it as a combo dvd/cd/mp3 player.

4. Travel back in time and install a $200 bookpc with a $100 overhead lcd. Figure out some way to justify the cost later. Put a wireless card in it, and get a wireless keyboard. Put a bunch of games on it too. While visiting the past, figure out a way to protect Sarah Connor from evil terminator.

5. Quit crying and remember that when you were a kid, you drove across the country with nothing more than colorforms and lived to tell about it.

Wus’on the Telly, Love?

Interact-TV of Colorado announced today that they’re beginning to ship their MC1000 Digital Entertainment Center a.k.a. the “Telly.” This Linux-based box is designed to function as an all-in-one digital media computer. It will record cable TV, record and rip CDs, play DVDs, and access (limited) Net content. The box even has a built-in Web server so you can access your Telly content from any browser.

The most exciting thing about the Telly is that it’s Linux-based and has been designed to be easily software and hardware upgragable. The makers claim that it’s no biggie to swap out for a bigger hard drive, add a DVD-RAM drive, etc.

The Telly sells for US$900 and comes with a free programming guide for the PVR function.

More info at: