8 September 2006
Bring on the nanoswatters

Programming is an unusual art form: it fights back. Part of the collateral damage is the bug. (If your immediate response is "That's actually a feature," you've been doing this too long.)

And the smaller it is, the harder it is to get a grip on. Terry found this anomaly in Firefox:

I was generating a monthly archive list from a database.... Simple, straight-forward. Until I added May. It viewed over the top of April. June did the same. July viewed normally, as did the rest of the months of the year. This only happened in Firefox. IE and Opera were fine. To make it weirder, it straightened right out if I made the date May 2006. Apparently only strings of 4 characters or less were affected. Bizarre.

So I went back over everything Iíd written. I stripped every div out of the file and reduced it to that one element, an unordered list. A piece at a time, I disassembled the li definition until only 2 things remained —

text-indent:-2em;
font-weight:strong

It didnít matter which of those 2 lines I took out — removing either one fixed it.

But combined, it blew up. CSS is not my strong point, as should be obvious, but I'm wondering if maybe those two parameters overlap slightly: bolding the text changes its size, after all. Still, two em is a fair amount of real estate on screen, and it's not like she was using Double Secret Ultra Bold or anything.

What a wonderful use of 4 hours. Now I have to decide if itís worth the hassle to file a report on it.

Just email them a copy of the article and let them figure it out.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:42 AM)
10 September 2006
Five megs, no waiting

Way back in September 1956, IBM built a hard drive.

The IBM 350 Model 1 was huge: 68 inches tall, 60 inches wide, 29 inches front-to-back. The drive contained fifty metal platters, two feet across, each of which was subdivided into a thousand sectors storing 100 characters — bytes, more or less — each, for a total of 5 MB. The disks spun at 1200 rpm. By 1958, they'd built a 10-MB version in the same space.

Nowadays, of course, you'd wonder about a box the size of a Sub-Zero fridge that had the same capacity as a handful of floppies. But for the 1950s, this was space-age stuff, and a good thing too, since the actual space age was starting up right about then.

The 350 was produced through 1961; it was superseded by the 1301, which could store an astounding 25 MB.

Big Blue probably never imagined in those days that in a mere fifty years, it would be possible to store 250,000 MB — the size of the drive on my current primary PC — in a space smaller than an issue of TV Guide, and I mean the old TV Guide, and not the Fall Preview Issue either.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:06 AM)
12 September 2006
Props for the Mac daddy

It seems that Heather B. has it bad for Steve J.:

Michael Dell and I just had a terrible break up after his machine purged everything from my hard drive including over a year's worth of writing and fodder. So now Iím cheating on him with Steve Jobs. I've said it before; Steve just does it for me whereas Michael makes me want to pour boiling water over my head to forget the pain of losing dozens of documents.

I wonder if I should send this to confirmed Dellophobe Jeff Jarvis.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:44 PM)
24 September 2006
Beyond dumbed down

Elton Gallegly represents California's 24th Congressional District, and if you're a constituent of his, here's how to reach him by email:

  1. Go to Write Your Representative at http://www.house.gov/writerep (or click on the Write Your Representative icon above).

  2. When the Write Your Representative page loads, on the right you will notice a drop-down box and two data boxes. The drop-down box is the one that states "State" next to it. With your mouse, click on the arrow to the right of the words "Choose one." A list of states will appear. Using your mouse, click on California. California should now appear alone in the drop-down box.

  3. Below the drop-down box is the word "ZIP." To the right of ZIP is a text box. Using your mouse, click inside the box and then type your 5-digit postal ZIP code using your keyboard. To the right of that are the words "+4 (if required)." Some Congressional Districts cross ZIP codes. If your ZIP code is in two or more Congressional Districts, you will need the extra four ZIP code digits to complete the process. If you do not know whether or not you need the "+4," use your mouse to click on the "Submit" button below the "ZIP" box. If you reach a page that says, inside a blue-bordered box at the top of the page, "You are represented by the Honorable Elton Gallegly," then you don't need the "+4" and can skip Step 4 and proceed to Step 5. If you reach a page that states "Finding Your 9-digit Zip Code — There are multiple Representatives who share your 5-digit ZIP code...." then go to Step 4.

  4. Using your mouse, click on the blue-highlighted words "ZIP+4 Lookup" in the red-bordered box with the heading "Finding Your 9-digit Zip Code." You will first go to a page that says you are leaving the U.S. House of Representatives and the House is not responsible for anything outside its domain. Wait a moment and the U.S. Postal ServiceĻs ZIP+4 Code Look-Up page will load. You only need to fill in four boxes. First, using your mouse, click inside the box to the right of the words "Delivery address (required)." Using your keyboard, type in your street address. Using your mouse again, click inside the box below that, to the right of "City*." Using your keyboard, type in your city. Using your mouse again, click inside the box below that, to the right of "State*." Using your keyboard, type in CA. Use your mouse to click in the box below that to the right of "ZIP." Using your keyboard, type in your 5-digit ZIP code. Using your mouse, click on the "Process" button below the "ZIP" box. You will come to a page that states "The standardized address is:" and then list your address with the ZIP+4 Code. Write down your ZIP+4 Code for future reference. At the top of the page, use your mouse to click on the "Back" button. Do it again. And again. One more time and you should be back at the main Write Your Representative page. Your state and ZIP should still be displayed. Using your mouse, click inside the box to the right of "+4 (if required)." Using your keyboard, type in the final four numbers of your ZIP+4 Code. Using your mouse, click on the "Submit" button below the "ZIP" box.

  5. You are now at the page that states inside a blue-bordered box at the top of the page "You are represented by The Honorable Elton Gallegly". Below the blue box and to the right are a series of text boxes with red words to their left, followed by some boxes with black words to their left. You are required to fill in the boxes to the right of the red words. The boxes to the right of the black words are optional, but would be helpful. First, using your mouse, click inside the box to the right of "Name*." Using your keyboard, type in your name. Using your mouse, click inside the box below that, to the right of the word "Address*." Using your keyboard, type in your street address. If your address — not counting your city, state and ZIP — uses more than one line, you can use your mouse to click inside the box below that and, using your keyboard, type in the second line to your address. If your address — not counting your city, state and ZIP — uses more than two lines, you can use your mouse to click inside the box below that and, using your keyboard, type in the third line to your address. Using your mouse, click inside the box to the right of the word "City*." Using your keyboard, type in your city. Your State, ZIP is already displayed. Using your mouse, click inside the box to the right of the words "Phone Number." Using your keyboard, type in your phone number. Using your mouse, click inside the box to the right of the words "E-mail Address." Using your keyboard, type in your e-mail address. Underneath that box is a button that states "Continue." Using your mouse, click on that button.

  6. You are now at the page where you can write your e-mail message and send it. At the top is a personalized message from Congressman Gallegly. Scroll down the page until you come to a text box below the words "To the Honorable Elton Gallegly." Using your mouse, click inside that box. Using your keyboard, write your e-mail message. Once you have finished composing your message, you will notice a button below the text box that states "Send your message." Using your mouse, click on that button.

  7. You should now be looking at a page that states: "Your message has been sent to your Representative. Thank you for writing." That completes the process.

I am, of course, gratified that he made sure you were supposed to write your e-mail message using your keyboard.

"Surely our Oklahoma Congressmen don't inflict this on us," I mused, and sure enough, they don't; at least our pack of pols assumes we can read actual forms and can fill them in without pages and pages of exposition. Lucas, Cole and Istook (3/4/5) send you through the ZIP+4 check, after which they have their own contact forms; Sullivan and Boren (1/2) take you right to their forms, although they will ask you for ZIP+4 thereupon. (The ZIP check, of course, is to make sure you really, truly live in their district.) Of course, if you have no idea who your Representative is, the generic "Write Your Representative" page to which Gallegly sends everyone is useful; if, however, you know you're in Gallegly's district — and why else would you be using an email contact form to reach him? — by the time you've completed all this you're going to wish he'd stuck with his decision to step down after this term.

(Via Doc Searls, who lives in California's 23rd District. "A pile of email instructions," he says of the Gallegly page, "that are only a little less complicated than those for, say, operating a zero-gravity toilet.")

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:46 AM)
29 September 2006
Retrocode

If you call Lynn these things, you may as well include me too:

Call me a dinosaur, call me a neanderthal, call me an old fuddy-duddy, call me a stick in the mud, whatever, but I think we could easily live without CSS. I used to have a stylesheet but every time I thought I had finally wrapped my brain around CSS something went wrong or I couldn't get the simplest little thing to work. I got sick of it so now I've got tables. Tables are great. They stay where you put them. Tables rule! Long live tables! Yay tables! BOO CSS!

I've made my peace with CSS — at least, the decorative aspects of it — but when it comes down to Where Things Go On The Damn Page, I have more faith in <TD> than in {position: absolute; left: 30px; top: 5px}. This is, incidentally, why I still have "4.0 Transitional" in ye olde DOCTYPE statement.

I suppose eventually all this will be "deprecated," a technical term meaning "I can't believe you're still using this crap"; Movable Type is already deprecating the comment-box popup, hinting that it will be gone in some future release (4.0?). At that time I'll probably switch to someone else's template and then spend the next few years making it unrecognizable.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:55 PM)
30 September 2006
From the very dawn of time

After I extolled the virtues of old-fashioned code ("old-fashioned," in this context, meaning "existing in the 20th century"), it was perhaps inevitable that I should come across something like this:

I smiled and explained to him that the "favorites" are individual to each computer; the "favorites" on the computer at school aren't the same as the "favorites" here at home. He sighed and rolled his eyes. "Guess I'll have to do this the old-fashioned way."

And I, thinking proudly for a moment that perhaps my child was going to ask for an encyclopedia, asked, "what do you mean?"

He said, "I guess I'll have to type the address in this little white bar myself."

Times are evidently tough all over.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:02 AM)
3 October 2006
Random bytes

Computer-related stuff that's been on my mind of late:

  • Everybody should subscribe to the Daily Bitch feed, not just because it's Monty (though that's a good enough reason in itself), but because if you ever want to link to something of hers, it's a lot easier to pull the URL from your feed reader than to try to figure it out from the actual site. (And I should know.)

  • Does anyone know a reasonably-effective way to get someone who's put out X good podcast(s) to hurry up with Episode X+1 already?

  • I have this weird idea that EPROMs should not vomit up their contents just because you hit the power switch at a funny angle. Big Blue apparently disagrees.

  • Has anyone on earth ever successfully run a Lotus Notes client with 256 MB of RAM?

  • I'd still like to find a way to record CD-Rs at slower speeds than offered by my software. (Yeah, I know: get new software.)

I don't know if this will end up as another series. Yet.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:18 AM)
5 October 2006
I shot the serifs

Death to Comic Sans, says Julie Neidlinger:

It's the beloved font of teachers and school administration officials and people who think it looks like friendly and approachable handwriting and therefore makes them giggle inside because they are printing out computed documents that look like handwriting except it DOESN'T LOOK LIKE HANDWRITING AT ALL. IT LOOKS STUPID. AND YES, I'M YELLING. Sometimes I just wish the world was all Verdana or Trebuchet, if only to avoid the "whimsy" and "fun" of Comic Sans. Or maybe even boring Garamond. Or Copperplate Gothic. Anything but Comic Sans or its inbred cousin, Andy. Just seeing Comic Sans anywhere enrages me inside. I can't even form the words to express the anger.

The worst emails I get are in Comic Sans, all caps, bold (just in case I wasn't getting the implied insult), with text-messaging abbreviations instead of real words. Size 18 font. With about three animated GIF's in the signature line. What, I wonder as I sit enraged in front of my monitor, did I ever do to deserve this kind of treatment?

All I can say is that whatever mail client I have at hand, the very first thing I look for, and toggle on if I find it, is "Read all mail in plain text," the way God and RFC 822 intended.

For the benefit of our data-entry types, I spend about twenty-five minutes a week producing card-stock signage for freshly-opened document bins, generally 8.5 by 4.625 inches. In an effort to provide some semblance of variety, I rotate seven different colors of stock, with contrasting ink colors when available, and I bring in a different font each week from the 75 or so I have available that are actually readable from across the room. (Black Chancery is out.) I think I used Comic Sans once, and nobody liked it.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:19 AM)
Dispatches from the Gas Chamber

By some standards, I (or my lovely doppelgänger, about whom too much has been said already) achieved Fixture status in the local BBS scene in the middle-to-late 1980s. However, it must be said that while there were plenty of users in my chronological cohort, most of the headlines were inevitably made by, so to speak, punks half my age.

Except for Jack Flack, who was one-third my age.

Flack's memoir Commodork: Sordid Tales from a BBS Junkie, published under his ostensibly-"real" name of Rob O'Hara, is now out and about, and it's about as unfiltered a history of this era as I'm ever likely to see: yes, there were some, um, illicit activities going on, and O'Hara knows copyfests and krackage as well as anyone in this time zone. Today, of course, is (sorta) different:

I pay for the software I need, the music I listen to and the services I use. But this book isn't about now. It's about a time when pirated software ruled the land. Those with the most, newest, and best programs had the power; those who didn't groveled at their feet. It's about good friends, good times, good memories, and good warez.

And woe betide he who pronounces that last word as though it were a city in Mexico.

(Find Commodork at lulu.com. And do read this: it's an overview of that very subculture, written by Flack himself.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:21 PM)
8 October 2006
Up 'n Atom

Dynamo Dave explains how to use a feed reader, complete with Bloglines screenshots. If you've been wondering about this yourself, this is a good, nontechnical primer.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:26 PM)
15 October 2006
Tell me, who are you?

For four years I've had the same Toshiba notebook: Satellite series, 1100-MHz Celeron, 256 MB RAM (upgraded to 512 this year), 20 GB drive, CD burner/DVD player. (Some of you may actually have seen it.) There's a software gizmo inside it which automatically downloads driver updates and such from Toshiba's US branch, separate from the Windows Update function that comes with Microsoft's infamous OS.

And last night it downloaded a new registration system to replace the old one. The dialog box didn't ask for any new information, except for "where purchased," but it did take me by surprise, especially since the machine is long out of warranty. Best guess: Toshiba is cleaning up its user database, and anyone who doesn't fill out the new form doesn't get any more free updates. Second-best guess: Toshiba finally got around to reading the serial number of this machine, discovered that they'd foisted it off on a reseller as a factory second — there's a tiny dent in the case and the floppy door sticks — and was shocked to find it still in service. (I paid $889 for it in 2002; list price for this model was $1295. Machines with more muscle routinely sell for half that these days.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:05 AM)
So that's why it wouldn't work

First clue: the mouse was missing.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:23 PM)
23 October 2006
Suddenly Bob and Clippy look sane

News item: Microsoft's forthcoming digital music player, dubbed Zune, may make some Hebrew speakers gasp. The name for the device — which will take on the Apple iPod when released later this year — sounds like a vulgarity, specifically the "f" word, in Hebrew.

Big deal. Among the acolytes of Apple, the very word "Microsoft" itself is a vulgarity.

If Zune, or whatever they end up calling it, handles DRM the way Windows Media Player 11 does — which, apparently, it does — the only reason I'd have for buying one would be to drop-kick it over the back fence, and frankly, I have enough discarded hardware waiting in the Reboot queue.

(Via miriam's ideas.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:22 AM)
24 October 2006
Snakes on a backplane

SsssssssAnd I thought I was having problems. (From PCNews.ro via Scribal Terror.)

Then again, maybe he'd have been happier here.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:47 PM)
25 October 2006
Coming soon: Windows 1984

"Forbidding Vistas," says Wendy Seltzer as she decodes the next Windows End-User Licensing Agreement:

It is unlikely that a home user looking for a computer operating system has any of these "features" of the Vista EULA in mind:
  1. Self-limiting software
  2. Vanishing functionality through invalidation
  3. Removal of media capabilities
  4. Problem-solving prohibited
  5. Limited mobility
  6. One transfer only
       and a bonus,
  7. Restrictions on your rights to use MPEG-4 video

Number 4 perplexes me greatly: "You may not work around any technical limitations in the software," it says. The proper response to that, of course, is "Wanna bet?"

Users never asked for these impossible limitations. Microsoft decided unilaterally to add them, claiming it could abrogate personal ownership, fair use, and first sale rights because "The software is licensed, not sold." If Microsoft faced real market competition on the home desktop, users could vote with their wallets.

On the other hand, those Macs look better every day. Even Trini, our IT tech, who knows Windows backwards and forwards — backwards works better, she'll tell you — is contemplating going Apple.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:18 PM)
26 October 2006
Checksum? He doesn't even type 'em

I did not realize this, and it may be old news by now, but what the heck:

I just saw a scene with The Terminator's computer-generated vision overlays, and was reminded that the things that look like columnnar text are actually assembly-language program listings for the Apple II from Nibble Magazine. If I hadn't given away all of my Apple magazines when I gave away my Apple, I could probably even identify the program.

Now if I could just figure out what it is they're running at the end of Rocketboom.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:41 AM)
28 October 2006
Older and floppier

Budgets being what they are, 42nd and Treadmill isn't exactly replete with the latest hardware: while some of our stuff is fairly current (by which we mean "still supported"), some of it is downright ancient.

There's one old printer we're keeping alive for another year, just for routine green-bar reports. We still have a service contract on it, and when it began acting up this summer, we duly sent for a tech. To our surprise, he brought, in addition to replacements for the failed parts, a copy of the latest version of the machine's operating code — on a 720k floppy, dated 1995, sealed in one of those static-free bags presumably for the last eleven years. "In case you needed a backup," he said. Sensible enough. The actual code we've been using is from 1994, and as it happens, I did have a backup copy of it: on the only other 720k floppy any of us have seen in years. (The printer has its own floppy drive, wherein the original disk resides. Or maybe it's the backup; I don't remember for sure.)

So I can relate to this:

Normally a media sensing floppy drive is a good thing ... except for when you've got old 720K original distribution diskettes you want to make copies of so the originals can be tucked away safely somewhere and the copies used instead.

Finding a new 720K floppy diskette these days is near impossible, so one is forced to try this ploy using obtainable 1.44M diskettes. OK, so I put some tape over the hole in the 1.44M diskettes and got them to format as 720K. Problem solved.

But not immediately, apparently:

But still, if I tell the format utility to format a diskette as 720K, damnit, I want it to try, not just quit and refuse to do it. At least ask me if I want to give it a whirl.

For the hell of it, I looked on eBay for 720k drives. Going price was $135. Geez. I should have kept the 8-inchers out of our old System/36.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:01 PM)
The dawn of the Anti-Jeeves

Earlier this year, Ask.com gave Jeeves his walking papers. It's a shame, really; nobody on your screen ever did a better job of representing the True and Faithful Servant, and you always heard "Very good, sir. Will there be anything else?" in the back of your mind as you scrolled down the first page of search results. That was the essence of Jeeves: quiet, polite, unassuming.

And I suspect that were Jeeves to see this, ice would form on his upper slopes. Needless to say, it's a Microsoft product.

(Via Samantha Burns.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:42 PM)
30 October 2006
Ceci n'est pas un virus

I mean, it says so right in the name: it's NotAVirus.

Trini has been decontaminating one of the desktops (no, not mine) where this virus despoiler of Excel spreadsheets was found running rampant. I'm hoping she told the user something like "Oh, by the way, you have worms."

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:35 PM)
1 November 2006
Shoveling out the installs

Reprinted from Valentine's Day:

[T]he Playboy Advisor once took on a three-pronged question from a reader who was (1) worried about sexually-transmitted diseases, (2) suffering from premature ejaculation, and (3) dissatisfied with the size of the unit. The Advisor recommended:
  1. Wear a condom.
  2. Wear two condoms.
  3. Wear three condoms.

This sort of additive protection, as it were, does not work on PCs. After reviewing some of the more questionable decisions made by our end users, we have determined that the efficiency of one's antivirus protection varies inversely with the square of the number of antivirus products installed on any one box.

In other words, if you have two AV programs running, you have one-fourth the protection; three of them, one-ninth. (Spyware detectors and such interact differently, and cannot be so easily quantified.)

And no, you don't want to know how many we found on [description of machine redacted].

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:22 PM)
5 November 2006
A price far above rubies (2)

A couple of years ago, with crude oil in the $52 range and my DeskJet at work demanding yet another ink cartridge, I sat down with a calculator and determined the price of HP ink per 42-gallon barrel. The results were predictable yet still amazing: $292,900, more than you'd pay for even Dom Perignon in this quantity.

Gizmodo is now reporting that HP ink costs even more than human blood: 71 cents per milliliter for the contents of an HP 45 cartridge, versus 40 cents for the claret, Barrett.

And actually, it's worse than they say, because they're comparing with the 45, a relatively old unit (I use them in my ancient 720C at home) that has less-predatory pricing than newer models. My work box takes the HP 56, which holds a mere 19 ml (versus 42 for the 45) and costs even more than $30. So 42nd and Treadmill has to fork over, not $0.71/ml, but $1.84.

Does this mean that nothing on earth costs more than HP ink? No, it does not.

(Observed at Scribal Terror.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:23 AM)
11 November 2006
Taking cuts

I'm starting to think Sarah is fed up:

Everyone tries to one-up each other, usually by professional sabotage. For some reason, making other people look bad is a way to make yourself look good. Projects are mismanaged; mistakes are blamed on coworkers. And Those In Power seem to be either ignorant of (or, even worse, going along with) the whole charade. The very worst of employees continue to get away with staggering incompetence. Meanwhile, more conscientious employees have to fix their mistakes, and are rewarded only by having even more work dumped on them because theyíre the only ones able to do it correctly.

If it wasnít for the prospect of a three-day weekend, I would be perilously close to slashing my wrists with the edge of a blank sheet of 8½ X 11 MultiPurpose Office Paper. A slow, painful death by paper cuts seems somehow poetic right now.

Trust me on this. You want to open a vein? Get one of these, feed something to it, and then try to clean up the debris. It's the next-best thing to adjusting a lawn-mower blade while it's running.

(My vantage point at the bottom of 42nd and Treadmill's org chart gives me, I think, a unique perspective on these matters.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:27 AM)
12 November 2006
So this is where they all went

Floppy handbagSeen at Popgadget, the ideal gift for the geek girl in your life: a big, floppy bag made from real floppies. A dozen of them, in fact, mounted on a black vinyl liner, which contains various pockets on the inside and a removable magnetic latch on top. For those who read hangtags, here's what this one says: CARRY YOUR STUFF IN GEEK-CHIC STYLE WITH A PURSE MADE FROM TWELVE (12) GENUINE 1.44 MB COMPUTER DISKETTES. ALLOCATE INTERIOR POCKETS TO MANAGE INTERNAL FRAGMENTATION. TOTAL AVAILABLE MEMORY: 17.28 MB. Now all I need is a geek girl. [sigh]

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:12 AM)
13 November 2006
Forecast for today: blue

NewsOK.com usually has the weather radar at this link.

This morning, though, they had this.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:00 AM)
14 November 2006
Too much too Zune

Engadget installs a Zune, and the word "suck" appears prominently:

[T]he reality of our experience with the first version of the Zune software this afternoon is much like that of many version 1 software experiences. It sucks.

Some of the individual inhalations:

Oh, ok, it's starting to install the Zune software. No install location options, just already going. Nevermind the fact that we put our applications on a different drive than our Windows install.

Oh, wait, see how that Next button is orange? That's because this is where the software crashes for the first time. So we have to start over from "make a connection" — but if your Zune is still plugged in, the software won't see it. So kill the process, unplug the Zune, restart the software, plug the Zune back in. Ok. We did this a couple more times before we learned our lesson.

Icing on the cake: restart after uninstall. No, sorry, the icing on the cake is the crash our computer took after we hit this, causing our RAID 5 array to crap out and spend a few hours rebuilding.

I remind you that "Zune" is a four-letter word.

(Gleefully pointed to by Lileks.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:50 AM)
20 November 2006
Feels like the first time

I'd never gotten a real, live computer virus before, and this wasn't it: it was an exploit hiding inside a Java applet, inflicted on me by a message board which reportedly had been hacked and to which I may never return. Still, the discovery produced some major discomfiture, and I cleaned out all my in-house Java stuff just to be sure.

(Possible tip-off: same Microsoft update — for Flash, of all things — refuses to install after three tries.)

Update, 8:40 pm: I rescanned my Java directory, which came up clean. To my amazement, there were 31,406 files in there after the purge. (Total on the entire box is just shy of a quarter-million.)

Update, 10 pm: The Windows Update issue is apparently not related to the buggy Java stuff; Microsoft may be misreading the Flash version installed here (9.0.28.0). Further investigation is warranted.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:08 PM)
22 November 2006
Apache fog

There have been literally dozens of unusually-distasteful spams this past week, promoting forced sexual activity, something I'd just as soon not take part in promoting. (The actual text string is redacted to keep the pervs slightly less pervasive.) None of these made it past the spam traps, and MTAutoBan killed a number of offending IPs, but reasoning that ZombieNet will sooner or later cough up the same crap from new sources, I decided to tack on a line or two in the .htaccess file on the Apache server.

Not so wise. I got said lines out of sequence, and every subsequent http access drew a 403 Forbidden.

The fix, via FTP, was easy enough, but it was a tad scary for a couple of moments around here.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:19 AM)
4 December 2006
There's always another route

In researching the weird search-engine stuff, I go back through 3000 to 4000 visitor records, and I'm not just looking at Google and Yahoo and Ask results; I'm also looking for unexpected linkage and browser trends.

For those who may be curious, about 28 percent of visitors here use some form of Firefox, and 11 percent have upregraded Microsoft's Internet Explorer to version 7. Most of the rest are on IE 6, but two of last week's callers were on game systems: one on a Sega Dreamcast running Planetweb, and one on a Nintendo Wii using Opera.

I suspect that this place doesn't look too swift on the Dreamcast, which presumably hasn't been updated in a while, but I'm guessing that Opera on the Wii looks pretty much like Opera on any other platform.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:46 AM)
17 December 2006
Is this the negative Googlewhack?

Doc Searls reports:

[S]earch results for my name have ranged between one and ten million. Kinda meaningless, no? Especially when I'd like to see the 745,612th result. (You can only dig a few hundred down.)

I duly cranked up a search to try to hit that, and was promptly slapped down: "Sorry, Google does not serve more than 1000 results for any query. (You asked for results starting from 745610.)" Sheesh. I mean, it's not like I hit Next 75,000 times, or stretched out "Gooooooo ... oooooooo ... oooooogle" to the width of the Jumbotron.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:41 AM)
They're against us, every one

Some months back I recounted a sad story about a workhorse printer which, nearing the end of its life, had gone stark raving mad. The madness, of course, was contagious: it drove us all crazy.

So I can relate to this guy:

It seems that an HP service rep got a call from a customer who wanted a 250 foot power cord for his instrument and couldn't find a part number in the catalog. The rep called the parts department to get a part number. The parts dept. said they didn't stock a 250-ft power cord but they could get him the stuff to put one together. As an afterthought, they asked why the customer wanted a 250-ft power cord anyway. I don't know, the rep said, I'll ask him. The rep called the customer back and explained that he would have to put one together for him. OK, the customer said. Then the rep asked why he wanted a 250-ft power cord anyway. "Because I'm on the 5th floor of this university building," the customer said, "and I'm about to push this s. o. b. out the window; and I want it to still be running when it hits the ground!"

Now that's the spirit.

Once in a while, though, we can score an occasional victory against our electromechanical overlords. We are in the process of switching the corporate Web site to an open-source server — Apache — and while I run Apache here, I can't legitimately claim more than the bare minimum of expertise. At some point, it was decided that we would install some Unix variant on a PC and use it for testing purposes; after some discussion, the variant chosen was FreeBSD.

Our IT tech, charged with the care and feeding of our fleet of PCs (and the occasional Mac), duly pulled a machine from the shelf, scraped the Windows from its drive, and began running the install. While this was going on, she sought the appropriate documentation, which turned out to be available in handy PDF form. There was just one problem: said PDF ran over 900 pages. Running this off on one of the corporate lasers would take hours, and the job might well die halfway through for lack of toner. (The HP LaserJet in my shop, three weeks ago, was warning: "Less than 700 pages." This week the warning had changed to "Less than 800 pages," which was probably true, but not helpful as far as planning was concerned; I said something to the effect that "At this rate, the cartridge will have completely refilled itself by mid-January.")

So she came up with another tactic. Pointing to the big monster printer that had replaced the Machine From Hell, she said, "Is there any way we can print this document on this machine?"

I was doubtful, and indeed the first few tests were unsuccessful. Finally it dawned on us: the complicated graphics routines which we used for our regular stuff would work at cross-purposes to this task. It would, we reasoned, be possible if we could strip it back to being a purely basic machine, a mere 9-pin dot-matrix box capable of only the simplest print jobs.

So I reset all the sets, which wasn't quite as time-consuming as I had anticipated — wiping them all out was a lot easier than deleting one at a time — and we attacked the document again. This time it worked, although, inasmuch as we were working with a mere 9-pin dot-matrix box capable of only the simplest print jobs, the results fell into the general category of Not Pretty. Not that we cared. The machine chewed through 938 pages in fifty-five minutes; it took nearly that long to burst the forms and punch them for the binder. (More precisely, binders: it took three of them, each three inches thick.) One task down, a few zillion to go.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:53 PM)
18 December 2006
No wonder Tom is tearing his hair out

Someone phished a batch of MySpace users and came away with thousands of passwords. While it can be presumed that some of those passwords were unique, rather a lot of them were not:

The top 20 passwords are (in order):
password1, abc123, myspace1, password, blink182, qwerty1, fuckyou, 123abc, baseball1, football1, 123456, soccer, monkey1, liverpool1, princess1, jordan23, slipknot1, superman1, iloveyou1 and monkey.

At least they seem to have gotten past the Susan problem. But in general, this is not heartening, unless you're a big fan of monkeys.

(Via kottke.org.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:30 AM)
So presumptuous, these portals

Yahoo! dished up this little piece of vexation this morning:

Adapt or die

Actually, I'm thinking more along these lines.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:32 AM)
23 December 2006
It's all in the game

Earlier this month I mentioned that someone had reached this site from a browser on Nintendo's Wii, which probably impressed me more than it did you.

Is it possible to blog from the Wii? Apparently so:

This is really fun. I'm blogging to you now from the new browser channel for the Nintendo Wii (powered by Opera). The typing interface isn't as bad as you might think, but it definitely isn't something I'm likely to do again. You point and click with the wiimote on a visual keyboard, and the software suggests words as cell phones do.

> Just noticed that it also offers another visual interface that mimics the layout of a phone keypad. (I used that in this paragraph, the keyboard in the last.)

I probably shouldn't try this; I have enough trouble with real keys.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:02 PM)
24 December 2006
I am so jealous

Not because of the threat, but because of the action taken:

Due to an increased network threat condition, the Defense Department is blocking all HTML-based e-mail messages and has banned the use of Outlook Web Access e-mail applications, according to a spokesman for the Joint Task Force for Global Network Operations.

An internal message available on the Internet from the Defense Security Service (DSS) states that JTF-GNO raised the network threat condition from Information Condition 5, which indicates normal operating conditions, to Infocon 4 "in the face of continuing and sophisticated threats" against Defense Department networks.

The JTF-GNO mandated use of plain text e-mail because HTML messages pose a threat to DOD because HTML text can be infected with spyware and, in some cases, executable code that could enable intruders to gain access to DOD networks, the JTF-GNO spokesman said.

If we blocked all HTML mail at 42nd and Treadmill, we could get through a day's worth of customer communications in twelve minutes flat.

Suggestion to sysadmin: Set up an autoresponder to catch this stuff and dispatch a nastygram to the sender.

Chance that this will actually happen: Slightly lower than the chance that the next number that shows up on my Caller ID will be Eva Longoria's.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:25 PM)
27 December 2006
We don't need no stinkin' bundle

Hmmm. I was installing QuickTime on a new box this morning, and apparently — as of 7.1.3, anyway — Apple no longer requires you to download iTunes to obtain QuickTime.

It wasn't a big deal, unless you were on a dialup and had to get those extra 20 megabytes or so, and I'd never had any trouble removing iTunes from a box where only QT was desired, but at least Apple seems to be paying attention to our cries in the wilderness.

(This was for a work box. At home I run both iTunes and — dare I say it? — QuickTime Pro.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:24 AM)
29 December 2006
Today's graven images use TrueType

You've heard the joke before:

A group of computer geniuses get together to build the world's largest, most powerful thinking machine. They program it with the latest heuristic software so it can learn, then feed into it the total sum of mankind's knowledge from every source-historical, scientific, technical, literary, mythical, religious, occult. Then, at the great unveiling, the group leader feeds the computer its first question: "Is there a God?"

"There is now," the computer replies.

Who knew?

(Besides Samantha Burns, I mean.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:01 AM)
2 January 2007
A pause in the disaster

I've had generally kind words for Movable Type's version 3.xx spam tools; while the nasty stuff still comes in, none of it actually gets put on the site, which is fine with me.

For the last week or so, though, there has been literally no incoming spam, not even on TrackBacks, where most of them materialize. Since it's too much to hope that the scumbuckets have mended their ways, I went looking for a more plausible explanation, and here's what I found:

Bot-net tracker group Shadowserver noticed a gigantic drop in infected systems on Christmas Day. the total number dropped from more than 500,000 to less than 400,000, or more than 20%. Another independent group confirmed a 10% drop on their numbers. What's the deal?

Well, interestingly enough, the combination of people getting newly purchased, XP Service Pack 2 PCs (or Macs), combined with machines not being turned on for the holidays and people being away from work, made the number of infected PCs decrease dramatically.

I suppose this means I should brace myself, starting about ten minutes from now, for an all-out assault on my scripts.

Update, 7:30 am: It took a whole hour for the first spam to show up.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:29 AM)
4 January 2007
Sometimes it's just that simple

James Lileks, Technical Support Wizard:

Problem: wireless internet isn't working.
Diagnosis: may have something to do with the WIRELESS button in the "off" position.
Solution: depress button.
Explanation designed to burnish reputation: "there was a problem connecting to the router."

The man is obviously much kinder than I.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:14 AM)
5 January 2007
Sometimes misrendered as "farfromworkin"

"Vorführeffekt," in literal German, is "presentation effect," but it has been extended to cover a very specific situation: when the technician you've called in (probably at great expense) to solve your problem isn't able to replicate the issue with your machine.

The closest English equivalent I've seen is "serviception," which presumes a degree of hardware sentience: the machine can actually sense the presence of the technician, and will behave properly until such time as the technician departs or the machine is moved out of range.

(Via Laura Lemay.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:57 AM)
6 January 2007
Host with the most?

The DreamHost surfer dudes, who have hosted this place for five years now, went through considerable sorrow and pain last year, rather a lot of which was passed down to their unsuspecting customers. (One database machine I remember was thoroughly hosed, and not in a good way either.)

And their rep took a substantial hit:

Every time we had a server crash: "Overselling." A network fubar: "Theyíre overselling." A panel bug: "Didnít your mama ever teach you about overselling?" A power outage? "Oh yeah, sign up for DreamHost if you happen to like a fresh bunch of OVERSELLING!!!"

Of course, the power outages didnít help. Nor did the weird problem between our two core routers that made our entire network suck eggs for six weeks this summer.

What's an egg-sucking hosting company to do? Well, if everyone thinks they're overselling, then they'll sell (slightly) less:

Every day, starting tomorrow, the amount of starting disk and bandwidth we offer new customers (this does not affect existing customers at all!) will drop. You can see the amounts here.

Of course, once the new customers are snagged, they can benefit from the ridiculous disk and bandwidth increases that we old-timers enjoy. (My current disk limit is 333 GB; I'm allowed 3.95 TB — this is not a typo — of pipe per month.) And incidentally, my Web-server machine is being moved Monday night to the New and Improved Datacenter.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:36 AM)
Before you feel the burn

Regular readers will recall (and the rest of you can read this) that in the summer of '05 I put out the long dollar for Teac's GF-350 compact stereo system, which contained a CD recorder and a three-speed turntable. It produced decent, if not inspiring, CD versions of beloved (and merely tolerated) LPs, which at the time I attributed to the use of a ceramic phono cartridge, which can't compensate especially well for the RIAA equalization baked into the grooves: recordings were bass-shy and a bit peaky at the top end.

Fixing the EQ after the fact is not especially difficult, but I kept wondering: maybe if I bypassed Teac's own record player and used my own, I'd get better results. Today I tried exactly that, connecting my trusty Onkyo direct-drive turntable with Pickering XV-15/750E cartridge to the Teac's AUX jacks by way of a preamp from these guys. After recording six LP tracks, none newer than the early 1980s, I am persuaded that I was correct, although it's hard to tell the difference through the GF-350's own speakers, which have their own limitations.

There is one downside: when using the AUX input, the automatic track-increment gizmo does not work. This is no particular problem, since my standard practice is to rip the CDs produced on the machine on the desktop PC and twiddle the resulting .wav file as needed; I can break it up myself, or mark the track breaks when I burn a fresh CD with Nero.

Still, it's possible to eliminate one additional step: connect the output of the phono preamp to the line input of the PC's sound card. And if I could find the line input of this box's integrated audio, I would. (Actually, I know where it is, but I'm lacking in AC outlets on that side of the room, and I am loath to go buy a 20-socket power strip.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:26 PM)
9 January 2007
I already checked the power cord

Tech support didn't take care of your problem? Send them this, says McGehee:

Thank you for your completely irrelevant suggestions, they were very amusing. Now please scroll down to the bottom of this message, read what I actually wrote, and respond to the actual problem I actually have and actually described.

I may actually have to use this.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:26 AM)
The pod bay doors open

Because Erica asked, here's a list of my podcast subscriptions:

There may be others to come, depending on whether I can squeeze a few more minutes out of the day.

(Speaking of Erica, she's gotten herself a Coastbusters T-shirt.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:30 AM)
11 January 2007
In search of brains

Night before last, I sent an email to a friend of mine who has an Earthlink account; it bounced with the following curt notice:

550 550 Dynamic/zombied/spam IPs blocked. Write blockedbyearthlink@abuse.earthlink.net (in reply to MAIL FROM command)

As it happens, Earthlink is blocking mail from DreamHost mail servers, and DH hasn't been able to get the block removed. This isn't exactly earth-shaking news — and I can send mail, if I have to, from Hotmail, from my cable provider, even through Earthlink itself (I have a dialup account there for backup) — but I still feel just slightly insulted.

Then again, if you fuse all those complaints together, you get Dynamic Zombie Spam, which I think is a helluva good band name.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:34 AM)
15 January 2007
Haunting my very screen

Caitlin FlanaganThis is Caitlin Flanagan, former contributor to The New Yorker (at least, we are so assured), current contributor to The Atlantic, and author of To Hell With All That: Loving and Loathing Our Inner Housewife (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2006). She is occasionally derided by feminists, as in this Slate piece by Ann Hulbert: "The problem with ["How Serfdom Saved the Women's Movement," The Atlantic, March 2004] wasn't just that she ginned up a catfight, though she did, accusing feminists of winning freedom for well-off women at the expense of low-paid domestic workers, also women, who enabled their careers; Flanagan never paused to consider that plenty of feminists have been addressing just that issue, or that men have been arguably the biggest beneficiaries of cheap household labor, since it has let them off the hook at home." None of these things explains why her picture is here, and probably neither will this: for some inscrutable reason, every time Firefox 2.0.0.1 crashes on my home box, this same picture of her, named "write.jpg," automagically appears on my Windows desktop. I figure the image file is stuck in Firefox's clunky download manager somewhere, and I know where it came from, but it was downloaded something like two months ago. If anyone has a better explanation, I'm listening.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:32 PM)
18 January 2007
After which he will be grilled with lemon pepper

Jeffrey Brent Goodin, phisher, has been convicted on ten counts of varying heinousness and could theoretically face up to 101 years in stir.

How he did it:

Goodin had been running a sophisticated phishing operation in which he posed as a member of AOL's billing department and tricked users into divulging their credit card information.

To run the scheme, Goodin used several compromised Earthlink accounts and set up fake Web sites that mimicked legitimate AOL pages. Like other phishers, Goodin used good old fashioned fear-mongering and official-looking threats to scare people into giving out the data.

Being a fan of good old-fashioned fear-mongering, I suggest this guy get a few minutes of waterboarding before his sentence is handed down — and, purely in the interest of symmetry, a few minutes after. Pour encourager les autres, doncha know.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:46 PM)
20 January 2007
But I'll never run out of coasters

A pox on a certain retailer (I won't mention its name) for selling something labeled as "DVD+R-", and on me for being dumb enough to buy it.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:23 PM)
21 January 2007
Adventures in iTunes (5)

For the first time I actually ran afoul of Apple's DRM, and it was at least partly my own fault. I used to have iTunes purchases billed to my AOL account; when AOL reformulated itself into a more-or-less free service, I moved things to my own Apple account. After backing up the Purchased files today, things I had purchased under the AOL account would no longer work without jumping through an authorization hoop or three. At one point, none of my purchases were authorized on any computer.) It took rather a lot of dialog boxes to fix this up. Curiously, at no time did iTunes ever suggest that I had two machines (of the allotted five) running any of these files.

This experience, I suspect, is typical of DRM in general: you don't notice it until the exact point at which it gets in your way.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:07 PM)
23 January 2007
The beat of a different DRM

I grumbled a bit about the Digital Rights Management system built into iTunes a few days ago, but I noted that this was the first time that I'd even actually noticed the darn stuff.

Which seems to mesh with this:

Apple is selling DRM content because it provides a superior experience at a reasonable premium. People are cheap, but not infinitely cheap. Yes, Apple will lose the hard core misers, but those sort of people will never spend much money on anything, no matter how compelling. The key insight of Apple is that it doesn't make sense to compromise your overall product experience to chase after that sort, as you'll never get serious cash flow out of them. Instead, Apple seems to have optimized for the average person, who will pay a decent premium for content if that premium guarantees ease of use and quality. This is the root of iTunes' success. Everything is the same affordable price, the system as a whole (iTunes + iPod) just works, and the quality is top notch. Most people would rather spend the 99Ę and be done with it than spend a hour or two searching, downloading, and testing for quality.

Needless to say, this particular approach isn't being considered over in Zunetown:

In contrast, Microsoft and its backing content providers are acting more like misers, valuing the prevention of theft more than the increasing of sales. Better to prevent one act of piracy than sell a dozen tracks. That's just not a model that will provide long term success in an information society.

This may reflect the thinking of Bill Gates, who was griping about software piracy pretty much from Day One. (Can you say "Windows Genuine Advantage"? Without laughing, I mean.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:28 AM)
24 January 2007
Blue headstone of death

Windows 2525, if man is still alive, if woman can survive:

In this culture of instant information, some Microsoft Corp. researchers are pursuing a radical notion — the concept of saving messages for delivery in decades, centuries or more.

The project, dubbed "immortal computing," would let people store digital information in physical artifacts and other forms to be preserved and revealed to future generations, and maybe even to future civilizations.

After all, when looking that far in the future, you never know who the end users might be.

Todd Bishop notes:

[T]his is a Microsoft Research project. Sometimes those turn into products, or contribute to them, and sometimes they don't. The researchers declined to say if they have a working prototype.

My guess is they're still trying to figure out some way to cram DRM into it. After all, Disney has to be able to sue you if you use your Donald Duck voice in a deathbed video.

(Via Tech Digest.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:11 AM)
Programming, pasta and present

We've got tons of spaghetti code around 42nd and Treadmill, good enough a reason to post this set of guidelines from Purple Avenger:

How does one tell a good design from a bad? It's not always apparent. If you can add new features a year later without whining about how crappy the code is, you probably have design that isn't horrible. If the code base can survive for 5 years or so, and still be readily maintainable, it was probably a good design to begin with. If the code can transition to different platforms without major rewrites all over the place, it's probably not too bad.

And, contrariwise, there's this:

I suppose good designs are as Rehnquist said, kinda like porn — hard to quantify, but you know them when you see them. The real test is in their durability over the years. If the maintenance programmers are always whining about crap and wanting to rewrite stuff, you probably don't have a good design. In fact you may not even have an actual design, rather just a collection of code blobs stitched together with bubble gum and bailing wire.

Actually, that was Mr. Justice Stewart, but no matter. Right now we have to go scrape some gum off the Web apps, and pouring ragù over it won't help.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:20 AM)
25 January 2007
Printer Fu

Trini was working up a flowchart called "Printer Functions," and sent it over to a LaserJet for printing in landscape mode. The obligatory cover sheet, in portrait, failed to capture the entire document title, which was rendered as "Printer Fu."

The Master: "Close your eyes. What do you hear?"

Young One: "I hear the furnace, I hear footsteps."

The Master: "Do you hear your own PC?"

Young One: "No."

The Master: "Do you hear the error that the printer is about to produce?"

Young One [looking over and seeing the paper skew]: "Old man, how is it that you hear these things?"

The Master: "Young one, how is it that you do not?"

The Young One is strong, however, and she will endure.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:52 AM)
29 January 2007
So go get in line already

News item: Microsoft's long-awaited Vista operating system will become widely available to consumers tonight — and the world will be watching to see how well it sells. Vista, the latest version of Windows, officially hits shelves at 12:01 Tuesday morning.

Top Ten Essential Features of Windows Vista:

  1. Supports Windows Media Player 12, which automatically taps your PayPal account and sends the contents thereof to Sony/BMG

  2. New speech feature laughs at you when you try to install it over Windows 98

  3. "PlaysForSure" upgraded to more humanistic-sounding "PlaysIfWeFeelLikeIt"

  4. It will be at least a year before you have to install Service Pack 2

  5. New industrial-strength Windows Genuine Advantage package sends 2500 volts directly to your mouse if it detects you're using a pirated copy

  6. ActiveX controls replaced with more masculine ActiveY

  7. For security purposes, all Administrator accounts automatically forward to one guy in Redmond

  8. New Registry setting allows optional Cornflower, Magenta, and Chartreuse Screens of Death

  9. System Restore offers new "Random" toggle

  10. Instead of being three years behind those Macintosh wussies, you're now only two years behind

Bring lots of money.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:33 PM)
30 January 2007
Imagine the markup

This shirt prompted this commentary from Eugene Volokh:

</hate>

I spotted a T-shirt at school bearing this inscription, but I don't think it quite means what some people assume it means.

I take it that it's supposed to mean "end hate." But when you use a tag like </i>, you don't mean "end italics" in the sense "abandon italics forever." You mean "I've been using italics for a bit, I'm stopping for a while now, but I'll get back to using it later."

Substitute "hate" for "i," and you'll get my drift. I bet the guy has a <hate> T-shirt in his closet that he was wearing three days before; he's hated all the stuff between then and the </hate> shirt; and he'll be wearing the <hate> shirt next time he's got some hating to do. Plus he certainly wouldn't just wear the </hate> shirt without having worn <hate> before, and on the same page — that would be syntactically non-compliant.

Not that compliance, with syntax or with anything that smacks of "rules," is valued highly among T-shirt sloganeers.

Anyway, </i> is deprecated these days: the purveyors of Official Standards prefer </em>. So at some point they really do expect us to "abandon italics forever." And if that shirt doesn't validate, well, neither do I.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:14 AM)
1 February 2007
Monolog box

Hard to envision this as a dialog box. This was found by a local technician working on the production of recovery disks:

Say what?

He didn't mention whether the system complains if you don't answer quickly enough.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:00 AM)
3 February 2007
A passage from the Book of Jobs

As of this morning, there are a bit over 45,000 search results for "vista sucks", and you can be sure this did not go overlooked in Cupertino. In my mailbox this morning:

Go beyond Vista.

It's time to get a Mac. If you're thinking of upgrading to Vista, you'll probably need a new computer. Why not get a Mac? It's simpler, more secure, and way more fun. And it works with the stuff you already have, like printers and cameras. So before you upgrade anything, you owe it to yourself to check out a Mac.

I don't need a new computer, and I'm not thinking of upgrading to Vista, but sooner or later Microsoft will stop patching the leaks in XP — and that, I think, will be the optimum time to move.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:14 AM)
5 February 2007
Things techs hear

"Oh, you have to have the printer plugged in to install the ink cartridges?"

Duh Scale (1 to 5): 4.5

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:42 PM)
Could this text be any more plain?

Excuse me while I guffaw at this:

The results from this study suggest there is a relationship between typeface selection and the reader's perception of an email. The email presented in the typeface that was judged in previous studies to be low in appropriateness for email (Gigi) was perceived to be less stable, less practical, more rebellious, and more youthful than either Calibri (highly appropriate) or Comic Sans (moderately appropriate). This finding suggests that documents presented in typefaces that are viewed as less appropriate are seen as less serious and less professional in nature. The appropriateness of the typeface also affected the perception of the email author in that the email using Gigi created a perception of an author who is less professional, less trustworthy, and less mature. Finally, the typeface that was lower in appropriateness led participants to conclude that the author was a lower level trainee employee. When choosing a typeface for a document, the level of appropriateness should be taken into account in order to avoid sending unintentional messages.

Apart from the question of what there could possibly be on God's green earth for which Comic Sans is "moderately appropriate," I plan to ignore this entirely; anything you get from me will be in your mail client's default typeface because I think HTML-encoded mail is an abomination unto the Lord and a pain in the ass generally. With the exception of one monthly newsletter which is sent to me as a Word document (which I open in OpenOffice.org because I refuse to install Microsloth Office), I read everything in plain text; if nothing else, it creates the illusion of less spam.

(Via Swirlspice.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:03 PM)
10 February 2007
It's not just binary

Who's missing from those "I'm a PC/I'm a Mac" commercials?

Right you are.

(Via Fark.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:20 AM)
11 February 2007
If only

Laura Lemay plugs in a new drive, and she has more space than she ever dreamed of:

Total Capacity: 892.6 PB (1,004,931,217,620,206,000 bytes)

This can't be right, she reasons:

Laura: what does it mean when you plug in a disk and it says you have 900 petabytes of free space?

Eric: either the math is wrong or you've just opened up a worm hole in space.

Geeky explanation: It turns out that Maxtor drives do not jumper like the Quantum drives I've been using. I reset the jumper correctly and I got the normal .00025 PB capacity I was looking for.

Still, you have to figure that eventually we will all have drives that hold four times as much as Google's entire datacenter does today, and that shortly thereafter there will be some version of Windows which requires that much.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:50 PM)
13 February 2007
EULA be sorry

It was true then and it's true now: no one writes a software license like Microsoft.

(Thanks to wamprat.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:04 PM)
14 February 2007
Shade-tree mechanic blinded by sun

Apparently I've been neglecting my hardware duties for too long: last night I opened up the Old Box and stuffed into it a fresh new PCI card with four USB 2.0 connections thereupon, and I was so unbelievably clumsy I'm surprised I didn't drop-kick the tower into the corner. In fact, the machine wouldn't boot until I opened it back up and manhandled the card into a different slot; unless there was some vague grounding issue that I overlooked, I have no idea why.

And while it's probably a losing battle to keep a Windows 98 (albeit Second Edition) box going after all these years, it's either that or buy a new scanner.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:24 AM)
16 February 2007
New word order

So I got home and cranked up the PC — I am one of those oddballs who doesn't let it run 24/7 — and Windows Update promptly went out, as is its wont, and fetched a stack of patches. Most of these were hotfixes for specific security issues, but one of them was the regularly-scheduled monthly update to the Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool.

Which I misread in the list as "Malicious Windows Software Removal Tool," and wondered for a few seconds if maybe this would actually remove Internet Explorer 7.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:13 PM)
18 February 2007
Standing athwart the revenue stream

Note to [name of security-software vendor redacted]: Yes, I probably will renew my subscription after the next year; I am not at this time dissatisfied with your product. But no, I'm not going to let you automatically resubscribe me at that time and charge me whatever the going rate might be, and I resent your making this the default. I should not have to go to a second (and then a third) screen, then retype all the same damned information including the product key, just to prevent automatic billing. It's not like you're going to forget to nag me every two weeks for the last three months of the subscription term or anything.

(No, I didn't mention their name. But their initials are C.A.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:45 PM)
19 February 2007
My god, it's full of Macs!

According to the most recent figures I could find without spending more than three minutes looking, users of Mac OS X make up 6.22 percent of all Internet usage.

In researching this week's weird search stuff, I noticed that I'm pulling a little over 8 percent Mac users, the vast majority of which are on OS X. I haven't been looking up individual IPs to cross-check, but I have to assume tha