Cedar Point: Christmas in July

Cedar Point is offering admission tickets for $25 online (normally $43) if you buy 4 or more. If you’ve never been to Cedar Point, all I can say is that you’re missing out on the best rides in the world. Period. They have three out of the top ten steel roller coasters in the world (the only park to have multiple coasters on the top 10). And if you’ve only ever been to “Great” America, I laugh at you 🙂 Do yourself a favor. Take a road trip this summer and get to The Point. As long as you like roller coasters, you won’t be disappointed.

Can you say 310 feet, 80 degree angle?

Can you say 310 feet, 80 degree angle?

Cedar Point has received the Golden Ticket Award by Amusement Today for “Best Amusement Park in the World” for the past ten years. –WP

Easy Upgrades

WordPress 2.6 came out yesterday (ahead of schedule). It’s got a few nice new features to it, but not nearly as many changes as was found in 2.5. It was certainly more of a fit-and-finish release, but it looks like (as usual) they did their homework and fixed some good stuff. One of the features from 2.5 that’s still working great is the automatic plugin upgrades. Any time a new plugin comes out, I get notified and upgrading is as easy as clicking a link that pulls the latest version right on to my site. Matt Mullenweg (founder of WordPress) had mentioned a similar idea to automatically upgrade WordPress itself in the future. Well as I was going to download the WP database backup plug-in (that I didn’t have installed for some reason), I saw that an automatic upgrade plug-in for WordPress has been implemented (but not by the WordPress team). Once I was sure I had everything backed up correctly (I learned my lesson), I decided to try out this new plug-in. Needless to say, it worked great. It even has automatic back-up features built in for files and the database. If only Drupal made upgrades as easy as WP, it would make maintaining RMstudents a whole lot easier.

So far, WP 2.6 seems to be working great! Man, I love this software. It’s got to be one of the best pieces of FOSS out there. Grab it today!

Giving Copyright ‘The Slip’

Nine Inch Nails has pre-released their new album, ‘The Slip‘, online (via Chicagoist). I’m not really a NIN fan, but there’s something a little different about this one. They’ve released it completely for free under a Creative Commons license (CC-BY-NC-SA) in many different formats (including lossless). Apparently, Mr. Reznor feels that Radiohead, who gave users the option to “choose their own price” to download their previous album, was nothing more than a marketing scam to arouse interest and sell a regular album in sub-standard quality. In addition to providing top-quality music files in various formats, the NIN are making a bold statement with this album, especially for mainstream artists, and it’s right there is black-and-white on their website:

we encourage you to
remix it,
share it with your friends,
post it on your blog,
play it on your podcast,
give it to strangers,
etc.

I can only hope this trend toward Free Culture continues. I don’t think that everything needs to be free (at least initially), but this album’s copyright is merely an example of the other extreme to a completely restrictive copyright, which doesn’t allow anyone to more than listen to it for the next 95 years. Yes, that’s how long current copyrights last.

There’s a Hole in the Bucket

I received word today that my Stafford loan lender for school (Northstar’s Total Higher Education Loans, T.H.E.) is temporarily suspending new loans for next year. As I went to look at the benefits available through another popular med student lender, MEDLOANS (a Sallie Mae subsidiary), I quickly read about how Sallie Mae is likewise tanking financially. They have not said anything about their plans for the 2008-2009 school year, despite its impending beginning. This is a problem, and not just for me. It’s a problem for nearly all students in higher education.

This is frustrating because I really like T.H.E., and I don’t want to look around for another lender. They gave great benefits to their borrowers, like no fees and good interest rate reductions with on-time payments. Unlike most other lenders, they also paid out benefits to more than 80% of their borrowers (many other lenders only pay out 20% or less), and if you lost your interest rate reduction benefits, it was very easy to get them back. They even have their own blog called The Ramen Report, which keeps students informed about hot topics and “things you should know” about financial aid.

Seeing good companies like this, standing there holding a bucket with a hole in it, makes me angry. We need to get the economy back on track, and I’m not sure that the soon-to-come economic stimulus packages are going to cut it.

Collapse?

Is Microsoft Windows “collapsing”? Some are saying it is, and I kind of believe it, although the process is likely to be a very drawn-out death. Experts are warning that the new version of Windows, due out at the end of 2009, needs some major changes in order to keep it competitive. My only hope is that people that are jumping ship take a look at Ubuntu and don’t automatically turn into Apple fans.

Large Hadron Collider

Will the Large Hadron Collider bring about a cosmic Doomsday event, be used to shoot pidgeons, or just create the Higgs Boson and discover the meaning of life? Only the next few months will tell…

Note to dyslexics: Don’t transpose the “d” and “r” in that second word, or you’ll get an entirely different set of Google search results 😛

Upgrades

Lots of upgrades for me over the past 24 hours. The most relevant one is that WordPress 2.5 was officially released today, so my blog is now running on 2.5. What does this mean? Well not a whole lot for you readers unfortunately, given that the big changes occurred on the back-end (where I write my posts from). Two things you may notice are the introduction of galleries and Gravatars. I’ll try posting a bunch of photos in a gallery later.

Gravatars are “Globally Recognized Avatars”. To use them, you need to sign up for an account with Gravatar.com. Once you do that, you will need to upload an image that you’d like to use as your avatar (you can trim the image down after you upload it). Your image will be linked to your email address. A lot of websites (like this one), forums and other online services use email addresses to identify you. If they use Gravatars on their site, they’ll be able to display your image just by using your email address. Want to see it in action? Check the comments. A nice feature of Gravatar is that you can manage multiple email addresses and pictures all from 1 account, so there’s no worries if you get a new email address. Plus, if you ever want to change your picture, it gets instantly changed all over the web. Gravatars can also be integrated into email clients and more. Expect this service to take off considerably over the next few months.

The next upgrade probably won’t concern anyone, but I realized that my fonts on the new website weren’t displaying correctly on all browsers. Apparently I’ve been doing font sizes in CSS wrong for a long time. You should use pixels instead of points unless you’re designing something for print. So I changed a bunch of stuff, but hopefully for most people you won’t even notice a difference.

Finally, my big upgrade was installing Ubuntu Hardy Heron (beta) on my new Thinkpad T61 last night. Everything seems to be running super-smoothly so far; I’m really liking it. The “official” release is not scheduled to come out until April 24th, but considering how much I like Ubuntu, I thought it would be good for me to test it out and report any bugs I can find. Yeah right. This was just my excuse to install it a month early 🙂

Vanity

I should be a plastic surgeon because I just gave my website a wicked face lift. This is a design I’ve been working on for quite a while now. I started it last spring/summer when I was thinking about making a blog. By the time I actually got the site up and running, school had started, and I had no time to finish the work. I just figured I’d limp along on Kubrick (the default WordPress theme) until I was able to get my design looking the way I wanted it to look.

This design is (at least in most respects) one that was started from scratch. I borrowed selected bits of code from Kubrick and elsewhere, but I have a good enough understanding of how WordPress works (or how to learn when I don’t) that I was able to just figure out what I wanted things to look like and tell WordPress what to do.

Some highlights include:

  • The theme should be ready for WordPress 2.5 (as am I :)), with support for Gravatars.
  • “Regular posts” and “Asides” are now displayed differently. Many of my posts (categorized as Attention Deficit) are what I’d consider an Aside. They’re usually short, sweet, and off-topic, and they likely contain a link and very little input by me. Regular posts are generally supposed to contain more input by yours truly (although depending on my mood, this may or may not be true). This is an example of a “Regular Post”.
  • Fancy new graphics. They’re everywhere. I’m not an artist. Sorry about that.

And there’s a little more on the way. I’ll be adding ShareThis links to every post. More importantly, I’m going to be assessing the structure of categories on the site. Personally, now that “tags” have been implemented in WordPress, categories seem more like a “post type” to me. For example, an “aside” is a type of post (as explained earlier). A “rant” is another type of post, and so is “news”. A post is “tagged” with key words pertaining to the subject of the post. Some of my categories don’t seem to fit this structure, so I’ll be working on my organizational skills to keep this place as clutter-free and logical as possible. Thanks to blogs like LifeHacker and ifacethoughts, I’ve come to understand the importance of organization and productivity in my electronic life. Now if I could only figure out the IRL version :p.

Let me know what you think of the new design. Don’t be afraid to tell me it sucks. If enough people don’t like it, I may change it back or to something else. If you don’t like all or part of it, let me know what specifically bugs you. Sometimes I feel like the design is somewhat disconnected (maybe because of the 2 ways to display posts on the front page), so this may be something I need to work on in the future as well.

If for some reason you’re interested, the source files for this design will be available on the Colophon (definition).

Hulu now open

Hulu, a site by NBC, opened today (via LifeHacker). You can view full-length episodes from some of your favorite TV shows and also some full-length movies. Currently, the TV shows seem to just be a conglomeration of whatever was available on the individual shows’ websites. I’m hoping this service continues to grow and expand to include more episodes and many more movies. I’m also curious about how speedy and reliable the streaming is.