Wednesday, August 31, 2005

killer apps

Web Browser

Mozilla Firefox. Platitudes might never adaquately describe what a breathe of fresh air this app is. Netscape's decision to open source its code is now paying hefty dividends as Firefox demonstrates time and again to be secure and feature-rich. And if it doesn't have enough functionality built-in for you, there are scores of plug-ins written in XUL available. Firefox is a stable app with a large community supporting it. It's not going anywhere anytime soon.
Runner-up: Opera. Despite having even more built-in features than Firefox, it still maintains a small footprint. The banner ads displayed prominently in unregistered versions are a bit much, but nothing can reproach this browsers at what it does best, porn surfing.
Apps that will kill you: Internet Explorer. The other day while walking to work, I saw a dead mouse on the sidewalk. It was covered by flies. That mouse still wasn't as buggy as this app is. And the decaying mouse had more features.

Music Player

iTunes. This app has it all: fast search, a nice music store, podcasts and the ability to share music libraries on a LAN. It doesn't hurt that it also supports the best MP3 player of all time.
Runner-up: Winamp. This vanilla app is simple and efficient.
Apps that will kill you: Windows Media Player. Start up the application, it hangs. Switch to view your libarary, it hangs. Try to view all Rock music, it hangs. When programmers write apps like this, they ought to hang.

Video Player

Divx Player. Beautiful interface reminiscent of Apple design. It just plain works.
Runner-up: QuickTime. Ditto, but only with their file formats and slightly less useful -- typical Apple design.
Apps that will kill you:
Real. Buffering ... It's gotten better in ... Buffering 75% ... 90% ... recent years, but I still wouldn't suggest any more than casual use.
Windows Media Player. In typical Microsoft style, it's a gargantuan, bloated app that claims to do everything yet accomplishes nothing adaquately. And did I mention the ugly interface? All the skins in the world won't fix it.


Notepad. It does only one thing, and it does it well. Is it possible that a Microsoft engineer took a computer science course in his life?
Runners-up: WordPad. Occasionally, you have a file too large for Notepad, or you need to do some light formatting. WordPad is there for you.
Apps that will kill you: Word. And occasionally, you feel like having an uppity animated paper clip act like it can write a letter better than you can. Now that Microsoft is embracing an open XML-based standard for its Word documents, we can all find solace in the fact that cloning it is that much easier for the kind folks of the Open Office project.

Integrated Development Environment

Dev-C++. Open-source IDE with a clean interface, a pretty editor, and a port of GCC doing all the work underneath. What's not to like? A must-have for freshman CS majors taking classes still teaching C++.
Runners-up: GNU tools on Cygwin. The first thing a Unix hacker does when forced to use a Windows machine is install Cygwin. Not quite like home, but good enough to keep one's sanity.
Apps that will kill you: Visual Studio. Is it even ANSI-compliant yet? Ugh, don't get me started. And you can stick your .NET where the sun don't shine, too.

Instant Messaging

Google Talk. Its interface is clean and discoverable, including VOIP and GMail integration. This program is still in beta, but Google's technological might and devotion to open standards ensure that the best is yet to come.
Runners-up: ICQ. Among the first IM apps ever, ICQ remains a haven for serious hackers and serious idiots. /me respects it.
Gaim. This is the open-source IM app that could. Supporting multiple protocols isn't easy, but they're doing a darn good job. It also supports features only found elsewhere in proprietary add-ons to the triumverate of hellish proprietary IM apps. Which brings us to ...
Apps that will kill you: AOL Instant Messenger, MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger. The unholy trinity itself. They don't talk to each other; they suck; ads suck; and they suck. They personify vendor lock-in.

Archiving Utility

WinZip. Archiving is its business, and business is good. For as long as I can remember, WinZip has reigned supreme while other programs came and went with the wind. Even Microsoft's anti-competitive move to bundle an archiver into Windows hasn't toppled WinZip. In addition to simply zipping and unzipping, WinZip can decompress tar'd and gzip'd archives and has added great features like virus scanning and self-extracting archives.
Apps that will kill you: WinRAR. There are few things as fustrating as spending a couple of days downloading a large file only to find it scattered about in a few dozen r-dot-whatever files, finding oneself at the mercy of a piece of nagware. Will the warez community please get a clue and ditch this proprietary pain in the ass?

System Utilities

a.k.a. programs to fix your girlfriend's computer
Spybot - Search & Destroy and Ad Aware SE Personal. These two programs are tied for this category, as they work best together. They're number one in their field because they're free, easy to use and lifesaving. Few apps are as indispensible as these; don't run Windows without them.
Runner-up: Disk Defragmenter. As sad as it is that your hard drives are utterly unorderly and, well, fragmented, it's reassuring that there's an app out there to glue the pieces back together, speeding file access and maybe even freeing up some space.
Apps that will kill you: the Windows operating system. After all, if it were better, this whole category wouldn't be necessary, would it?

Small Game

Minesweeper. The one and the only. Still waiting for that Web page to load or that bloated software to initialze? Double-click that mine icon and this lightweight app fires up immediately. Additionally, the games are over just as quickly with expert games lasting no more than a few minutes. Even as your computer slows to a sloth's crawl because every other app is failing in spectacular fashion, Minesweeper is there for you. Best of all, Minesweeper has the qualities of a classic game: easy to learn and impossible to master.
Runner-up: Yahoo Games. Yahoo has cast its net incredibly wide, so they were bound to get something right. That something is Yahoo Games. It boasts a truly impressive range of games, many of which are capable of competition online that just plain works. And all of this in a Java applet in your browser. There's just nothing like kicking ass at pool, chess and poker across platforms and continents.
Apps that will kill you: WildTangent, PopCap. Alas, the state of so-called "free" games online usually end up costing ya. If they don't blatantly spy on you, they probably want twentysome bucks to play past the third level. No thanks.


Maple. From freshman calculus to PhD thesis, Maple is the mathematics package. It knows more math than you ever will, and thanks to contributions from mathematicians everywhere, it's getting smarter all the time. And for those without math degrees, it has extensive help documents that truly help.
Runners-up: Windows's Calculator. It does anything you could reasonably expect from such a small app including calculations in binary and hexadecimal. It joins Notepad as the only Microsoft apps I know of that programmers can use every day without cursing it.
Google's Calculator. That all goes double for this calculator. No need to open up another app when the answer can be found through your browser's built-in search utility (which of course is set to Google). In addition to the basic functions you'd expect, this calculator supports conversions of just about every unit you could think of. How many milliseconds are in a century? Or how many teaspoons are in a gallon? Much more importantly, how many yen is a dollar? That's right, Google calculator supports currency conversions, too. As an added bonus, it can calculate "the answer to life, the universe, and everything" without waiting for seven and a half million years for Deep Thought to figure it out.
Apps that will kill you: MATLAB. Sure, it may be better for matricies, but you don't really want to do linear algebra, do you? The stilted and inconsistent syntax is just the tip of the ugly iceberg for this app.

Honorable Mention

Audacity. Excellent interface on top of a first-rate piece of audio editing software. A true testament to open source.
Nero. Does exactly what you tell it to do, burns CDs and DVDs. If you're lucky, it came bundled with your burner.
Finale. Composing music can be quite involved, but Finale makes it seem easy. It warms the heart to know that a well-designed piece of software can encourage creativity like this.
Google Desktop. The clearest evidence yet of Google's plans for world domination. It integrates many of the best Google products to date and welcomes add-ons. If Google can garner a large user following with these widgets, it may be serious competition to Windows Vista's cheap knock-off of Apple's Dashboard.

Notably missing

Image manipulation programs: I neither know nor care enough. Photoshop has a consistent and discoverable interface, but it takes forever to load -- far too long for my purposes which usually doesn't go beyond shrinking an image. I've never learned to use the GIMP, because c'mon, when have you ever been asked to edit images in Linux? Besides those two, there are no other apps I know of that aren't laughable (Paint Shop Pro? Give me a break).

Sunday, August 28, 2005

stay this

It's too late to continue making it a podcast. If it works with this link, good. If not, I'll deal with it tomorrow night.

In any case, here's the mp3 to download: stay this. Goooood night.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

all-singing! all-dancing!

First audio blog entry. It's 3.8Mb and about four minutes long. Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


All I'm looking for is a pair of Etonic Trans Am Trainers size 12 EE, preferably in blue. I've owned two pairs of blue ones and at least two more in other colors. You mean to tell me they're nowhere to be found online? And why the heck doesn't Etonic have a freakin' Web site up?!

It's a rough life I live.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

joshy karstendick has a thought

Why don't we ever hear conservative Christians morally outraged over the millions of American children without healthcare?

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

and he can joke in Latin, too

I've ragged on Judge Roberts a good deal recently because, ya know, he either has a limited understanding of jurisprudence or he justifies his immoral ideology using disingenuous arguments. But what I haven't shown you is the lighter side of Judge Roberts.

Let's just hope he stays good-humored when the Senate takes a crack at him next month.

Monday, August 15, 2005

six of one, half a dozen of another

Today I returned the six books I had out and checked out six more. Most of them are recommended by Eric S. Raymond. The book on SSH I casually noticed on the shelf, and the George Carlin book is there for good measure.

  • The Art of UNIX Programming by Eric S. Raymond
  • Advanced UNIX Programming by Warren. W. Gay
  • The Cathedral and the Bazaar by Eric S. Raymond
  • The Design and Implementation of the 4.4 BSD Operating System by Marshall Kirk McKusick, Keith Bostic, Michael J. Karels and John S. Quarterman
  • Implementing SSH: Strategies for Optimizing the Secure Shell by Himanshu Dwivedi
  • When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops? by George Carlin

I've begun The Cathedral and the Bazaar, and I recommend it. It provides some highlights of the open source movement and arguments in favor of it. This book is a good read for anyone involved in the software industry.

I also recommend Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. It's difficult to describe it, as it has no theme, but I can nearly guarantee you'll enjoy it. Ever wondered why drug dealers still with their moms or what makes a perfect parent? This award-winning economist and best-selling writer look solely at the hard facts to tackle these questions and more. The answers will surprise you.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

military blunders

The news today just comes with its own theme. I trust that if you live in the Philadelphia area, you've already read about the three local soldiers killed in Iraq. One was a Philadelphia policeman with a boxing career ahead of him who had already fufilled his six years in the National Guard. Damned war.

Also, Pennsylvanians have likely heard that Willow Grove is among the bases to be closed. Well, Gov. Rendell won't have any of that. He's filed suit against the federal government arguing that closing Air National Guard bases is up to state governors. You can read more in this New York Times article: States Opposing Plan to Shutter Air Guard Bases.

Recently, a four-star general was relieved of command for having sex with a civilian woman. This is the first time in recent history that a four-star general has been relieved of command. Oh, and he's divorced. The Washington Post has more details in an editorial today, An Army Affair. They can't believe a four-star general has gotten sacked over consensual sex with a civilian adult while the comissioned officers overseeing unthinkable attrocities at Abu Ghraib and other places have gotten away virtually scot-free.

I can't believe we're still sacking any soldier or officer for consensual sex with an adult civilian. We make them fight in wars with questionable reasons for little pay in godforsaken corners of the globe with insufficient equipment and training — and they're not allowed to have a little sex outside of marriage? C'mon, now. Let's get real, everybody. A little less yellow-ribbon bumper stickers; a little more understanding for our men and women in combat.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

i just don't get it

Why do stockholders have limited liability for their corporations? Seriously, who came up with this idea that stockholders should have less liability than ordinary citizens?

My guess to that is stockholders themselves, but it still doesn't make much sense. Why does everyone else put up with this? Why did they let it happen in the first place?

If you know, please tell me.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

good news day

Judge Roberts has responded to a list of basic questions posed by the Senate. The New York Times is hosting a copy, and you can access it in two parts here and here.

The Washington Post has an article today entitled "Documents Tell of Brutal Improvisation by GIs." I dare you to read all five pages of that and then justify it to me.

On a lighter note, here's the funniest editorial you'll ever read, courtesy of The New York Times.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005


  1. Name: Joshua
  2. Nickname: Josh, Joshdick, Dick, Foster
  3. Single or Dating: Dating
  4. Place of birth: Stoneybrook University Hospital
  5. Zodiac sign: Taurus
  6. Male or Female: Male
  7. Your last name: Karstendick
  8. School: Drexel University
  9. Birthday: April 26
  10. Residence: Philadelphia
  11. Screen name: joshdick13
  12. Your Appearance

  13. Hair Color: dark brown
  14. Hair Long, Short or Medium: long for a guy, short for a hippie
  15. Eye Color: brown
  16. How do your nails look: like they've been gnawed on for years. Oh wait, they have been.
  17. Height: 5'8"
  18. Weight: a svelte 210
  19. Do you like yourself: more than I like most people, yes.
  20. Braces?: no
  21. Think you're hot?: occasionally
  22. Piercings: no
  23. Tattoo: no
  24. Righty or Lefty: righty
  25. Your Firsts

  26. First kiss: Samantha
  27. First girlfriend: Kayla
  28. First best friend: That's a tough question. Vlad and Colin, I guess.
  29. First award: 2nd place in the 3rd grade spelling bee. I am not the man to see about spelling "bussiness." That's Brandon's department.
  30. First sport you joined: volleyball
  31. First pet: sea monkeys
  32. First vacation: Puerto Rico when I was three
  33. First concert: DMB at the Tweeter Center
  34. Favorites

  35. Movie: The American President is pretty darn good.
  36. TV Show: Battlestar Galactica
  37. Color: Blue

  38. Band: DMB
  39. Song: dunno
  40. Food: General Tso's chicken
  41. Drink: Well …
  42. Candy: white chocolate
  43. Sport To Play: volleyball
  44. Vacation: I have to say Senior Week.
  45. Brand Of Clothing: Etonic sneakers rock my world. I'm on my third or fourth pair of them now.
  46. School: SOHK, because I'm such a thug :-p
  47. Animal: Undoubtedly, dogs, the only animals on earth to align themselves with humans. Think about that for a moment.
  48. Books: I haven't read fiction for a while. I've been reading about politics lately. Of course, I've also read a good deal of programming and O'Reilly books.
  49. Magazines: Haha. I'm currently subscribed to two magazines, Playboy and Lego Magazine, and neither are sent to my current address. In addition to soft porn and building blocks, I enjoy newsmagazines such as Newsweek, Time, Christian Science Monitor, The Economist and Atlantic Monthly. I am not, however, a big fan of The Nation, as it tells me too little I don't already know for being a supposedly alternative magazine. Oh, and Rolling Stone and The New Yorker are pretty sweet, too.
  50. Currently

  51. Eating: nada
  52. Drinking: ice water
  53. Money in pocket? Hopefully, enough to fill my gullet for the rest of the week.
  54. Online?: yes
  55. Listening to: Reanimation by Linkin Park
  56. Thinking about: How best to structure the HTML for this entry.
  57. Wanting to: visit Kayla. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more.
  58. Watching: nothing
  59. The Future

  60. Want kids?: much, much later, yes.
  61. Want to get married? : yeppers
  62. Want to go to college?: Yeah … about that, you wouldn't happen to have a few tens of thousands of dollars you could spare, would you?
  63. Career(s) in mind: Software engineer, math or computer science professor, lawyer, political analyst, lobbyist.
  64. Where do you want to live?: With my wife and close to my job.
  65. Which is Better With The Opposite Sex?

  66. Preppy, punk or gothic: I'd rather not date someone who feels the need to define themselves that way.
  67. Cute or Sexy: That's not exactly a dichotomy, but the answer's got to be sexy.
  68. Lips or Eyes: eyes
  69. Hugs or Kisses: kisses
  70. Short or Tall: just a little shorter than I
  71. Easygoing or serious: serious
  72. Romantic or Spontaneous: romantic
  73. Fat or Skinny: What's wrong with normal? I dig normal.
  74. Sensitive or Loud: Anything but loud.
  75. Hook-up or Relationship: I'd get a beatdown if I didn't say relationship.
  76. Sweet or Caring: caring
  77. Trouble-maker or Hesitant one: You have to misbehave sometimes.
  78. Have You Ever

  79. Kissed a Stranger: I've kissed some pretty strange women so far, but I've always tried to get to know them.
  80. Drank Bubbles: yes
  81. Lost glasses or contacts: You can ask Kayla about the untimely demise of my last pair of glasses. I currently have disposable contacts, so they find themselves in sinks and trash cans when I've had enough of them.
  82. Ran away from home: yes
  83. Broken a Bone: Yes, my right collarbone.
  84. Got an X-ray: yes
  85. Broken someone's heart: Sadly, yes.
  86. Gotten a speeding ticket: No, but I half-expect a reckless driving ticket in the mail any day now.
  87. Broke up with someone: Yes, but I've only regretted it once.
  88. Cried when someone died: Of course.
  89. Cried at school: Somewhere along the line, yeah.
  90. Fallen up or down a flight a steps: Not in recent memory.
  91. Fell in a school hallway: Undoubtedly.
  92. Do You Believe In

  93. God: I prefer to believe in people. Let Him judge me on my will and deeds while not attempting to curry His favor.
  94. Miracles: Yes. Mathematically speaking, we all see a miracle with a one-in-a-million chance of occurrence about once a month.
  95. Love at first sight: nah
  96. Ghosts: no
  97. Aliens: "Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." — Calvin of _Calvin and Hobbes_.
  98. Heaven: "The mind is its own place, and in itself
    Can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven." — Paradise Lost by John Milton.
  99. Hell: "Here at least
    we shall be free; the Almighty hath not built
    Here for his envy, will not drive us hence:
    Here we may reign secure, and in my choice
    to reign is worth ambition though in Hell:
    Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven." — a few lines later in Paradise Lost by John Milton.
  100. Kissing on the first date: Why not?
  101. Horoscopes: I read mine in The Metro, but it's rarely accurate.
  102. Answer Truthfully

  103. Is there someone you wanted but you knew you couldn't have?: I got her back :-D

So, it appears that I have less than 100 questions here. Kayla, did you take some out? Ask me six more questions.

And just in case you were wondering, the HTML for this entry is real XHTML 1.0 strict, and it's amazing.