Technology Understanding Fail

One of the great things, I think, about today’s current state of technology is that if there’s something that I need and it doesn’t exist, I can create it. Case in point, there was a group1 who added and published MP3’s to their website on a weekly basis, but had no Podcast to distribute it. Thus, if I wanted to listen to these audio files on my iPod, I would have to manually download it every week, add it to my iTunes, and then sync to my iPod.

Of course, I would not stand for this. So I wrote a simple script that would check for a new audio file on this groups server2, download the files to my server, and the generate the appropriate XML needed to bring the file into iTunes. Insta-podcast.

Anyway, being the nice and sharing guy that I am, I decided to unleash my little XML podcast feed to the world. And all was well. A few people found it, including the Apple iTunes store, and I was pretty content. Eventually the group get’s their act together and publishes their own XML podcast feed. I see this and do something called a “301 Moved Permanently” redirect. In short, if you were using my XML podcast feed, your program got a nice message that says, “Hey! What you were looking for isn’t over here anymore, it’s over there. Furthermore, it’s never coming back here, so you should just always go check over there from now on.” I figure cool, I did something good. They never notice (which is how it should be). All is right with the world.

Well, a couple years after all this goes down, I get an email:


I recently found out that you submitted the ABC podcast to iTunes. While I am sure you were doing this to be helpful, it does not allow us to edit the submitted podcast in iTunes. We need to be able to do this, please remove the podcast so that we can submit it ourselves.

Thank You,


I do some poking around and, to humor the guy, send a request to the iTunes Music Store requesting that the feed be removed. Remember, I’ve done a “301 Moved Permanently,” so I shouldn’t be having this issue. Just to be sure, I remove everything…including the redirect. Any future requests for this resource will now result in “404 File Not Found” error.

A couple months go by, and I get another email from the guy.


I just checked the podcast again, and it is still listed under your e-mail address in the iTunes store. Would you mind following up with Apple?



At this point, I know the problem can’t possible be on my end. It has to be this guys problem. So I do some more checking and research. And respond back:


I did some poking around and here’s what I’m thinking. The podcast has been completely removed from my site for several weeks now and accessing it produces a 404 error (whereas it used to just be a 301 – Moved Permantely redirect). However, when I check iTunes, I see the latest podcasts. This makes me believe that iTunes is in fact fetching the content from your server and not mine.

Looking at the XML formatting for your podcast (, I noticed that you are not using the iTunes specific tags (, specifically the “<itunes:author>” tag.

My thinking is that iTunes has decided to cache the information and that’s what you’re seeing. If you were to update your XML file with the iTunes specific tags, you should be all set.

Does that make sense?

I check the next day and the data on iTunes had been updated. I never did hear back from Bob.

About a year later, the group decides they’re going to outsource their entire podcast to another company. They post a podcast say, “Hey, we’ve moved feeds…here’s how to find us again.” Which is fine, I guess3. However, there was a much better way. I did a bit of research (seriously, about five minutes) and sent Bob another email:


I noticed that you guys changed the URL for the podcast and are asking people to resubscribe. As a thought, you could set the current podcast URL send a 301 – Moved Permanently instead of having people resubscribe as it will automatically tell the program that the URL has changed and it should update its records with the new URL (which is actually the entire point of issuing a 301).

iTunes and the iTunes store support this nomenclature in addition to a special “<itunes:new-feed-url>” tag.

For more information on the iTunes redirect:

For more information on sending 301 headers with ASP:

Merry Christmas,


They never did implement my idea. And Bob never did email me back. Sometimes I think it would have been better to have kept the podcast, rather then let them run it. It never ceases to amaze me the monkeys some groups will let control their network. As of the time of this posting, Bob still works for ABC Group.

  1. historians of this blog may know who I’m talking about 

  2. they happened to name their files in a sequentially predictable manner 

  3. The danger here is that you risk losing subscribes when you ask them to perform a required action. Thus, if you make the action automatic, you don’t risk losing subscribers. It should be a “no-duh” point, but often people miss it. 

Note Craze

As I prepare to head out to Europe, I’m trying to clear out my inbox to zero (thus earning this badge). Ergo, another episode of Inboxen™ cleaning:

A friend from Mines posted a note on his Facebook:

Post your name and I will do each of the following:
1. I’ll respond with something random about you.
2. I’ll tell you which song or movie you remind me of.
3. I’ll pick a flavor of jello to wrestle you in.
4. I’ll say something that only makes sense to you and me.
(if it doesn’t yet, we can give it meaning.)
5. I’ll tell you my first memory of you.
6. I’ll tell you what animal you remind me of.
7. I’ll ask you something I’ve always wondered about you.
8. I’ll tell you my favorite thing about you.
9. I’ll tell you my least favorite thing about you.
10. If you play, you MUST post this on yours

I responded. Here’s what Sam had to say about me:

1. I bet you procrastinate a lot like I am doing right now.
2. You remind me of Primer, because you’re a young, charismatic, engineer like the guy in the film.
3. I always pass on the Jello thing, because I dislike Jello. I guess if I had to, I’d pick the white grape flavor.
4. Particle physics also gives me a hadron.
5. Down in the GRL a year ago, we were brainstorming.
6. A ferret, not sure why.
7. Do you plan on pursuing or somehow involving photography in your profession?
8. You’re good to work with, but also an interesting, artistic person. I rarely run into that.
9. I’m jealous of you, shame.
10. I want you to spread this thing like herpes.

With regard to number 7: I hope so.


Cleaning Out

I’m cleaning out and packing up my apartment and my life. In an attempt to rid myself of some paper clutter, there’s going to be a barrage of posts (I think) with little tidbits of things I wanted to blog about but never got around to. They’re going to be mostly random thoughts, so just go with it and consider it Inboxen™ cleaning time.


Where Did BURL Go?

On Friday I had a bit of scare. From my Inboxen™:

Attention Andrew:

Your BlueHost.Com account for was deactivated. Your data may still be temporarily available even though your web site may not be functioning. If you feel this deactivation is in error, please contact support as soon as possible.

Thank you,

Bluehost Support

A quick check on my site indicated that it had been deactivated.

Fuck, was pretty much the only word that came to mind. I quickly called up BlueHost to see what the problem was.

As it turned out, some spammer had found my little project and was using it to disguise their links. This made it look like I was spamming, even though I was not. Not even ten minutes later, everything was cleared up. Then I went and took down BURL offline.

I may go back and implement a CAPTCHA or include a Terms of Service Agreement. But that’s where BURL is.



Blogers Rights

More Inboxen™ cleanout time. However, this is something that everyone who blogs, or is thinking about blogging, should read. As a blogger you have many rights and you probably should know about them. From BoingBoing’s EFF’s blogger’s rights guide for students:

Do Public School Students Have Free Speech Rights under the First Amendment?
Absolutely. Both minors and adults have First Amendment rights, and according to the Supreme Court, public school students don’t “shed their constitutional right to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” See Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, 393 U.S. 503 (1969). In the Tinker case, the Court said that public high school students had a First Amendment right to wear black armbands to class in symbolic protest of the Vietnam War. “Students in school as well as out of school are ‘persons’ under our Constitution,” the Court said, and “they are possessed of fundamental rights which the State must respect…”
But I’m a Private School Student–What About Me?
You also have First Amendment rights, but those rights only protect you from government censorship, not private censorship. As a general matter, you will receive no protection from censorship or punishment by a private school or college. See e.g. Ubriaco v. Albertus Magnus High School, No. 99 Civ. 11135 (JSM) (S.D.N.Y. July 21, 2000) (dismissing claim contesting private school expulsion for content on personal web site). However, as discussed below, some states provide private high school and college students with additional speech protections that go above and beyond the First Amendment. Furthermore, if your private school has an applicable written policy, the school must follow that policy.

Also keep in mind that even though your private school may have the right to enforce a stupid rule, that doesn’t make it any less stupid. So, if your private school is going overboard in trying to squelch online speech, contact EFF. Depending on the facts, we may be able to help you publicize the problem and hopefully convince your school to be more reasonable.

Link: The rest of the student blogger FAQ

Link: More Rights for Bloggers