Archive for PEBKAC

Fast fixing

“Didn’t we just get 3.8.2?” I mused as the email notifiers came in last night to tell me that 3.8.3 had just arrived. There was, of course, a reason for that:

The “Quick Draft” tool on the dashboard screen was broken in the 3.8.2 update. If you tried to use it, your draft would disappear and it wouldn’t save. While we doubt anyone was writing a novella using this tool, any loss of content is unacceptable to us.

We recognize how much trust you place in us to safeguard your content, and we take this responsibility very seriously. We’re sorry we let you down.

Now what kind of nimrod writes novellas in the WordPress editor?

Oh, right. Never mind.

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Peripheral vision

The “desktop” metaphor for our computer rigs fails here:

[I]n the old days of a real desktop, they did not bother extending desks out to 10 feet long in a lame attempt to maximize productivity. Having too many separate sub-areas of the desktop makes it hard to focus on the one at hand. About the only task that truly benefits from two separate areas visible at the same time is manually copying a target document onto a blank one, analogous to dubbing cassettes. Otherwise, the world churned right along — and saw greater productivity gains over time — with just one central work area on their desks.

As a non-multitasker from way back, I can testify to the ease with which I am distracted.

And this is even less comprehensible:

Something similar is going on with the phenomenon of “twenty tabs open at a time,” as though keeping twenty books open on a real desktop would somehow make you absorb information more efficiently. Or as though playing twenty TV channels simultaneously would make for greater entertainment. In Back to the Future II, that was presented as satire; today it has become the unremarkable reality.

If I have more than five or six tabs open, I get antsy (not to be confused with ANSI). I know people who can do ten or twenty or forty; I’m simply not one of them.

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I before E, if you must

I admit that this made me laugh:

The computer came with Chrome and he installed Firefox. I said I didn’t care as long as it wasn’t Internet Explorer and he fistbumped me over that (heh. I guess no one likes that browser).

This may be a case of “nobody likes it, but everybody uses it.” From NetMarketShare:

Screenshot from NetMarketShare March 2014

One might ask, I suppose, how many of those folks using IE actually know they’re using IE?

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While you’re at it

WordPress announced the release of version 3.8.2 yesterday; I was planning to do the update later that evening, but an email around dinnertime announced that the dirty deed had already been done. Three others followed in short order, for some other sites I maintain, and one of them deviated slightly from the formula by telling me that “You also have some plugins or themes with updates available.”

Heck, you’d think that if they could update the whole WordPress core remotely, they could also update those plugins — especially since those plugins are their plugins (Akismet and Jetpack). But this is just grousing; anyone who updated WordPress in the old days, by which I mean before about 2010 or so, isn’t likely to complain about the automatic (or is it Automattic?) core-update system.

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Failure to RTFM (one in a lifelong series)

I had a few documents to update yesterday morning, and so I duly loaded the templates into OpenOffice. OO balked. After a standard-length period of staring in disbelief, I came upon the truth of the matter: a font common to all of them no longer existed.

Wait a minute, said I. Didn’t I copy all that crap from the old box during the Win7 migration? Alas, some crap went uncopied: Windows Easy Transfer will not move system files, which I knew, and Microsoft deems fonts to be system files, which I should have known but evidently didn’t.

So the first order of business when I got home was to crank up the old box, which hadn’t been used for a month, tell Adobe that no, goddamn it, you can’t bring up a dialup to get your precious update, and copy 900-odd font files onto a flash drive. (They weren’t on the new home box either, for exactly the same reason.) I’m not going to reinstall every last one of these, of course; but the ones I know I’ve used and will use again will be put back into service.

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The browsers have been doubled

As an experiment, I’ve replaced my normal browser with Folger’s Crystals Pale Moon 24.4.2, which takes what was good about Mozilla’s Firefox and replaces that which was not so good (constant memory leaks, constant interface revisions, the need to support really old hardware, and for some, minor political considerations). So far, it’s pretty impressive; there’s a 64-bit version which I could have installed, but didn’t, not being entirely sure what might happen if I did.

Bill Quick definitely likes it:

I wish I’d known about Pale Moon long ago. It does everything Firefox did, with pretty much the identical user interface, but much faster and with less memory use — in fact, that awful FF memory leak issue seems to be gone in Pale Moon. I’m sold!

Interestingly, the user-agent string contains both names:

Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; WOW64; rv:24.0) Gecko/20140329 Firefox/24.0 PaleMoon/24.4.2

You’ll recall that “NT 6.1,” for reasons known but to Microsoft, is Windows 7.

And the Status-4-Evar addon, in my view mandatory for Firefox once they killed the status bar (circa version 4), is superfluous with Pale Moon. Imagine that.

Hint: If you’re planning to switch from Firefox to Pale Moon, first run the installer, don’t run the importer, and with neither browser running, run Pale Moon’s separate profile-migration tool.

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Connect for?

Yesterday, the surfer dudes who host this site sent word that they’d pulled down all of my stuff on Server A and moved it to some Server B, which they assure me is a Good Thing:

Our new server clusters are running a more recent version of both Debian and Apache. It is also being transitioned from a 32bit server to a 64bit one. If you don’t know what this means, it probably won’t cause any issues with your services. If you’re doing anything fancy that relies on software that’s changed (such as custom PHP), you may need to get with the times and upgrade your site software.

Actually, I was on an older 64-bit server, running vanilla PHP 5.4.20, but hey, I’ll take it.

This move landed me on a whole new IP address, which shouldn’t matter to anyone once DNS is finished propagating. It did, however, upset my security team, which duly sent me out a note to let me know that they’d seen it, and please respond with instructions if any. Nice to know they’re on the ball.

Today I got home and had zero connectivity, to that IP or anywhere else. Usually I figure it’s a local outage, wait an hour, and try again. Didn’t work this time, so I called Cox, which decided to subject me to their Automated System. I had a bit of trouble understanding the canned voice — perhaps they ought to give it something of an accent instead of a stock AnchorBot™ timbre — and that undoubtedly prolonged the experience, but she did ask the right questions and provide the correct answers, so there’s that. (And no, it wasn’t a neighborhood outage, at least by then.)


Sexist hardware

It wasn’t planned that way, of course:

In the fall of 1997, my university built a CAVE (Cave Automatic Virtual Environment) to help scientists, artists, and archeologists embrace 3D immersion to advance the state of those fields. Ecstatic at seeing a real-life instantiation of the Metaverse, the virtual world imagined in Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, I donned a set of goggles and jumped inside. And then I promptly vomited.

I never managed to overcome my nausea. I couldn’t last more than a minute in that CAVE and I still can’t watch an IMAX movie. Looking around me, I started to notice something. By and large, my male friends and colleagues had no problem with these systems. My female peers, on the other hand, turned green.

Clearly, further experimentation was called for:

I created scenarios in which motion parallax suggested an object was at one distance, and shape-from-shading suggested it was further away or closer. The idea was to see which of these conflicting depth cues the brain would prioritize. (The brain prioritizes between conflicting cues all the time; for example, if you hold out your finger and stare at it through one eye and then the other, it will appear to be in different positions, but if you look at it through both eyes, it will be on the side of your “dominant” eye.)

What I found was startling [pdf]. Although there was variability across the board, biological men were significantly more likely to prioritize motion parallax. Biological women relied more heavily on shape-from-shading. In other words, men are more likely to use the cues that 3D virtual reality systems relied on.

And that word “biological” is there for a very specific reason:

Scholars in the gender clinic [in Utrecht] were doing fascinating research on tasks like spatial rotation skills. They found that people taking androgens (a steroid hormone similar to testosterone) improved at tasks that required them to rotate Tetris-like shapes in their mind to determine if one shape was simply a rotation of another shape. Meanwhile, male-to-female transsexuals saw a decline in performance during their hormone replacement therapy.

The spiffy new Oculus Rift may compensate for this — or it might not. I’ve never seen one, and for that matter I never was any good at rotating random polygons. I’m thinking, though, that of the various differences between the sexes, this is one of the more easily minimized.

(Swiped from Erica Mauter’s Facebook page.)

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DOS right

You can look at this as “too little, too late,” or you can envision something growing from this old but compact kernel. Microsoft has released the first two versions of MS-DOS (1.1 and 2.0) to the open-source community:

On Tuesday, we dusted off the source code for early versions of MS-DOS and Word for Windows. With the help of the Computer History Museum, we are making this code available to the public for the first time.

The museum has done an excellent job of curating some of the most significant historical software programs in computing history. As part of this ongoing project, the museum will make available two of the most widely used software programs of the 1980′s, MS-DOS 1.1 and 2.0 and Microsoft Word for Windows 1.1a, to help future generations of technologists better understand the roots of personal computing.

The software — you get both source code and object code — is generally free from restrictions: you may not post copies elsewhere, but otherwise you can do pretty much what you want with it.

(Via this Costa Tsiokos tweet.)


I suppose I asked for this

Yesterday I answered another question at Yahoo!, this one having to do with continuously-variable transmissions, and somewhere therein I said this:

CVTs (such as the Jatcos used by Nissan, which owns most of the company) behave differently than ordinary slushboxes, and J. Random Goober, confronted with rising engine noise and a stock-still tach, goes completely to pieces.

This morning, having been notified that I’d been awarded Best Answer, I returned to the page and discovered that Yahoo! had stuck a link under “Random Goober.” Curiosity won out, and this is what I saw:

Random Goober images

Well, um, okay. Who’s that guy in the center?

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Manger contains 1 dog

“I can’t use it, but I don’t want anyone else to use it either”:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: My Domain name is expiring in 3 days, what should i do?

The scoop:

In 3 days my domain name will be expiring but i dont want to renew it as it costs too much. Any ideas what i can do with my domain name ? i dont want it to let it expire. As i cant sell it in 2days, if you have any ideas please tell me, if quick selling idea you have, then tell me. It is .me domain, but it is very good domain name (a top level)

About one out of every umpteen bazillion domains has a resale value higher than the cost of the original registration. Evidently this character thinks it’s worth more than that, but he says he can’t pony up for the renewal fee. (WordPress offers domains for something like $25 a year, so I’m betting this is not some enormous sum.) Cue the world’s smallest violin.


Though Minitel is not coming back

Fleur Pellerin has the clunky title “Minister Delegate with responsibility for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, Innovation and the Digital Economy” in the François Hollande cabinet. In that capacity:

“I would like to make France one of the top nations in terms of digital innovation,” Ms. Pellerin said during a recent interview in her office at the Finance Ministry, which juts out over the Seine in eastern Paris like a giant, modern version of a medieval river toll barrier. “If we don’t act in the next few years it will be too late.”

Pellerin, born and abandoned on the streets of Seoul in 1973, then adopted by a French family, is completing her second year in office.

Fleur Pellerin going to work

Minitel, which began operations in 1978, was a French videotex service that did a lot of things we think of as purely Web-based; it finally expired in 2012.


Putting it all on 7

Back in the Old Silurian times, I ponied up for WinZIP 6.0. At least, I think it was 6.0; I never paid much attention to it while it was working.

Now they’re at 12 or thereabouts, and of course, the old version didn’t make the transition to the Windows 7 box I had built. The builder, mostly as a convenience, threw in an evaluation copy of WinRAR, but WinRAR has always left me cold as a cod for some reason.

So I’m trying to get the hang of 7-Zip, which nominally isn’t too tricky, but which isn’t totally free of learning curve. I did have the install for a 32-bit version, but tossed it in favor of 64 bits. Not that I particularly understand 64 bits, either.

Addendum: About half an hour after I posted this, I got an offer for WinZIP version 18.

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Down the rope they go

Mozilla is abandoning the sinking Windows 8 ship:

Windows 8′s controversial Metro interface has received another blow today as Mozilla has revealed that after 2 years worth of development and testing that it is shelving the Metro based version of Firefox. Microsoft launched Windows 8 with a new Metro start screen 2 years ago and developer interest in the platform has been slow. The latest snub from Mozilla is not likely to help matters either. Microsoft have been trying to entice developers to write touch friendly apps for its new touch interface but so far the interest has been minimal.

And speaking of minimal interest:

In a blog post the vice president of Firefox said, “On any given day, we have, for instance, millions of people testing pre-release versions of Firefox desktop, but we’ve never seen more than 1,000 active daily users in the Metro environment.” The blog post goes on to explain that with so few people interested in this version that bug testing would take far too long as there were not enough people actively using the software to properly test it and squash bugs.

This being Mozilla, “properly test” is open to interpretation. Still, it’s another blow to Microsoft Bob 2.0 8.

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Meanwhile at the Conversion Bureau

The sysadmin expects to have every last one of us onto Windows 7 in the next four weeks, reasoning that the day after Microsoft pulls support for XP, we can expect a massive attack on any and all XP machines remaining. I’m not so sure — I figure the malware artists will wait forty-eight hours instead of twenty-four, just to lure the suckers into a false sense of security — but there’s no sense asking for trouble, and since most of the XP machines we have online are between four and seven years old, there’d be a reason to replace them even if we had to replace them with Vista.

Or maybe not. Trini, when she was running our hardware support, refused to allow any Vista machines in the building. I keep meaning to call her and ask what she thinks of Windows 8, though I suspect I already know the answer. (There was a time when we were pretty adept at finishing each other’s sentences, a neat trick for two people nearly two generations apart.)

So it’s going to be Win7. I left Microsoft Easy Transfer running over the weekend to move my stuff to a new work box; it took six hours to push files around, but only about an hour or so to restore the functionality to which I am accustomed. I’ll take that. I expect most of the other upgrades will be easier; they’ll certainly be for me, since I won’t have to do them.


Let us move you

Does this makes sense to you?

Reacting to criticism from customers that upgrading from Windows XP was “impossible,” Microsoft [last week] announced it would give away a limited migration tool to help people move to a newer operating system.

The tool, PCmover Express for Windows XP, is one of several migration utilities from Laplink, a Bellevue, Wash. company whose offices are near those of Microsoft.

I ask this because Microsoft already has a limited migration tool to help people move to a newer operating system; it’s called Microsoft Easy Transfer, and the price is the same: zilch, if you can find the download page. I used it myself to move 130 GB or so of data off my old home box to my new home box, which runs Win7 Home Premium. Someone wanting to move from 7 to Win8, assuming there exists someone who wants to move from 7 to Win8, doesn’t even need the download: the tool is built into 7.

But maybe there’s something else at work here:

The free PCmover Express transfers files and users’ settings only from an XP PC to one running Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 8.1. It does not migrate any applications, just files and user settings, a ploy to prod people to pony up for PCmover Professional, which will transfer an unlimited number of applications from the old PC to the new machine, as well as migrate files and settings.

Several caveats apply: “Antivirus and Anti-Spyware programs will not be moved to your new PC,” noted Laplink as one.

Apparently people were scared stiff about reinstalling their applications — or perhaps those apps were obtained through, shall we say, non-standard provenance.

The Professional version of PCmover is $60; multiple license packs are available at a discount. Meanwhile, as I write this, Easy Transfer has finished up migrating my work box to the new work box (running Win7 Pro).


Only the dreggiest

I had mentioned earlier that I was unable to reinstall Adobe Photoshop Elements on the new Win7 box because, well, I couldn’t find the install disk, which wasn’t in its box and wasn’t in my Small Stack O’ Disks. (Adobe recommends against this sort of thing anyway.) So I went further into the stacks and found some horrifying things that should have been consigned to Sheol long before:

  • Windows 98 (retail version)
  • Sony SonicStage CP 4.1
  • Win95 drivers for a Umax parallel-port scanner (no XP drivers were ever issued, and I don’t even have a parallel port anymore)
  • Nero Burning ROM 5.5
  • America Online 6.0 (with 1000 hours free!)
  • America Online 8.0 (with 1045 hours free!)
  • Microsoft Works 8.5

I should probably blowtorch the whole drawer; there are also a couple of dozen unlabeled CD-Rs in there.


A software bleg of sorts

The Windows 7 environment, new to me, is not overly daunting, though there are some things I have yet to get used to.

The following things don’t seem to work:

  • Panorama32, my wallpaper switcher of choice. Fortunately, Win7 has its own.
  • Lotus 1-2-3 and associated apps. Actually, these barely worked on XP, though 1-2-3 itself has dealt with my search-engine spreadsheets for years. Open Office 3.4.1 — I have had bad experiences with 4.x — seems to be able to do the job, and it reads all the old files well enough.
  • Adobe Photoshop Essentials, though this is my fault: I can’t find the original installation DVD.
  • Nero Burning ROM, which flatly refused my reinstall: “This serial number has expired.” This was a version-7 install; they’re up to something like 12 now. And I never could deal with the increasing bloat.

So basically I’m looking for a Nero replacement. Suggestions are welcomed. (And no, I haven’t tried whatever application Windows itself provides.)

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The good, the bad, and the scarifying

Microsoft’s official Day of Death for Windows XP is the 8th of April; fain would I have run right up to that date, but my old XP box, pushing eight years old, was showing signs of imminent failure, so I decided to engage a local builder of my acquaintance, inasmuch as he assured me he could still get Windows 7.

He could. The new box is based on the AMD Athlon X4 750K, a modest little CPU running four cores at 3.40 GHz. It is, shall we say, decently quick. Unlike several AMDs of recent vintage, it does not contain its own integrated graphics, and neither does the motherboard, so a video card was thrown in. (The packaging for this card — a Radeon R5-230 — is hilarious, boasting of “what a real graphics card can do.” Generally, a real graphics card costs five to ten times as much. Still, I’m no gamer, so this is genuinely adequate.)

Microsoft’s Easy Transfer labored long into the night to move 130 GB of files from the XP box to Win7. It warns you up front that it doesn’t actually move programs, although this depends mostly on where you stored them on first install, and most of them will require a reinstall anyway. Of the three applications I was sweating most — Windows Live Mail, Firefox and Agent — Agent worked right out of the box, while WLM required a quick reinstall that found everything quickly, but Firefox demanded that its default profile be replaced, file by file, with the old ones.

Only one piece of genuinely bad news so far: the CD/DVD drive seems to be brain-dead, though it does have enough sense to open the drawer.

Update, 7 pm: CD/DVD drive fixed. Slightly twitchy connection to the mobo.

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Your basic blowhard

A bad idea with, possibly, a worse justification:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: Where can I find an adapter to use a can of automotive R-134a refrigerant as a computer duster?

The argument, such as it is:

I know that R-134a sold for use in auto A/C systems is more expensive ounce-for-ounce, but it would be well worth the extra cost if it means I don’t have to get denatonium bitterant all over my hands when I dust stuff off. Those damn kids who decided to huff it ruined it for the rest of us, and now they put that crap in duster cans, making innocent users suffer as a result. I don’t care where the adapter comes from, as long as it works with the cans of R-134a you see at the auto parts stores.

This is the point where we run into the actual EPA regulations on R-134a, which say that it’s illegal to vent the stuff into the atmosphere “during any service, maintenance, repair or disposal of an appliance.” Is a computer an “appliance”? I rather suspect EPA is not above declaring a computer an “appliance” should they wish to get, um, huffy.


Hey, deprecate this, pal

I admit to not meeting the first requirement, but otherwise:

Have you ever shoved a <blink> into a <marquee> tag? Pixar gets all the accolades today, but in the 90s this was a serious feat of computer animation. By combining these two tags, you were a trailblazer. A person capable of great innovation. A human being that all other human beings could aspire to.

You were a web developer in the 1990s.

With that status, you knew you were hot shit. And you brought with you a score of the most fearsome technological innovations, the likes of which we haven’t come close to replicating ever since.

One of which I still use every single week:

Are images too advanced for you? HTML For Dummies doesn’t cover the <IMG> tag until chapter four? Well, you’re in luck: the &nbsp; tag is here!

You may be saying to yourself, “Self, I know all about HTML entity encoding. What is this dastardly handsome man going on about?”

The answer, dear reasonably attractive reader, is an innovation that youth of today don’t respect nearly enough: the stacked &nbsp;. Much like the 1×1.gif trick, you can just arbitrarily scale &nbsp; for whatever needs you may face.

Two of them, for instance, keep apart the search string and the remark appended thereto, in every Monday’s list of strange search-engine queries. And the text file that serves the “It is written” proto-widget contains several, though they’re intended to keep pairs of initials — think “P. J.” or “G. K.” — from being split at the end of the line.

I realize that this will irritate people who can’t bear the thought of a page actually not passing validation. But hey, you take your little delights where you find them.



Remember your email address? Well, forget it:

Facebook’s foray into email ended Monday, when the social media giant quietly retired the email service that many users didn’t even know existed. Users received a notice saying the email addresses they deployed are going away.

“We’re making this change because most people haven’t been using their Facebook email addresses, and we wanted to make it easier to view all your emails in one place,” the message read.

Yeah, sure. I’ll believe that when they delete the “Other” message folder.

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What’s up, docs?

When I moved out of IBM’s Big Iron and into the midrange — System/36, AS400, System i — there was one thing I could always count on: enormous binders full of A-level tech-speak, which maybe, just maybe, included the answer to my current question.

Big Blue now seeks Big Consolidation:

IBM will soon be providing a new “one-stop shop” for all your IBM product information needs, including IBM i. This new “Knowledge Center” contains all of the individual IBM Information Center documentation under one system. It’s designed this way to make it much easier to search and find content from any interest area, and to give you the ability to customize your own knowledge space.

All of the Information Center documentation for IBM i releases 6.1 and 7.1 have been migrated to this new framework, and when 7.2 comes out later this year, all of its information will be accessed using Knowledge Center. Eventually the saved and bookmarked links to your favorite pages and content will be redirected to its new home in Knowledge Center.

I still, however, reserve the right to keep a small binder of pages I look at on a regular basis.

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Improvements from up North

I occasionally have to look up Canadian postal codes, inasmuch as the powers that be won’t pony up for a proper Canadian database, and I have not always been thrilled with Canada Post’s user interface.

The new version, though, rocks, or at least rolls. Instead of filling out the appropriate boxes of the form, you just start typing the address, and, Google-like, it suggests and keeps suggesting until you get to the one you want. (I was two letters into “Powassan” when it finished.) The amount of time gained is not substantial, but it’s something, and I suspect that when I have to deal with rural routes and sites and whatnot the advantage will become more blatantly obvious.


This could take a while

And not just loading; even picking it up will be tedious and painful.

Windows 8.1 on 3711 floppy disks

I remember when you used to be able to fit Windows on six floppies.

(A K. Latham pin from

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Why software sucks

Oh yes it does, believe you me. And if you don’t believe me, believe Jack Baruth:

Once upon a time, software was written by people who knew what they were doing, like Mel and his descendants. They were generally solitary, socially awkward fellows with strong awareness of TSR gaming. They were hugely effective at doing things like getting an Atari 2600 to run Pac-Man or writing operating system kernels that never crashed, but they weren’t terribly manageable and they could be real pricks when you got in their way. I once worked with a fellow who had been at the company in question for twenty-three years and had personally written a nontrivial percentage of the nine million lines of code that, when compiled, became our primary product. He was un-fire-able and everybody knew it. There were things that only he knew.

I am not a developer, but this is what I aspire to. (In fact, apart from not being a developer, this is about where I am.)

This kind of situation might work out well for designing bridges or building guitars (not that Paul Reed Smith appears to miss Joe Knaggs all that much, to use an inside-baseball example) but it’s hell on your average dipshit thirty-five-year-old middle manager, who has effectively zero leverage on the wizard in the basement. Therefore, a movement started in the software business about fifteen years ago to ensure that no more wizards were ever created. It works like this: Instead of hiring five guys who really know their job at seventy bucks an hour each, you hire a team of fifty drooling morons at seven bucks an hour each. You make them program in pairs, with one typing and the other once watching him type (yes! This is a real thing! It’s called “extreme programming”!) or you use a piece of software to give them each a tiny bit of the big project.

Actually, I think the going rate for drooling morons is now $7.25.

This is what you get from a management perspective: fifty reports who are all pathetically grateful for the work instead of five arrogant wizards, the ability to fire anybody you like at any time without consequence, the ability to demand outrageous work hours and/or conditions (I was just told that a major American corporation is introducing “bench seating” for its programmers, to save space), and a product that nominally fulfills the spec. This is what you get from a user perspective: the kind of crapware that requires updates twice a week to fix bugs introduced with the previous updates. Remember the days when you could buy software that simply worked, on a floppy disk or cartridge, with no updates required? Those were the wizards at work. Today, you get diverse teams of interchangeable, agile, open-office, skill-compatible resources that produce steaming piles of garbage.

What can I say? “Arrogant wizard” is surely somewhere in my DNA. The kids have it, for sure.

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Oh, but we insist

This particular scenario seems inevitable with Windows:

Of course there’s no “I don’t want an automatic update, thanks” and my computer has gone into Nag Mode, where it periodically throws up a “Hey, I’m'a gonna update in 15 minutes unless you expressly tell me that’s not OK” which is really annoying and I’d love to make it go away. I’d love to tell it “NO. I am the user, you are the computer. You will only install updates when I expressly tell you to install updates” but as far as I can tell, that’s not an option. (I found a way, but because I don’t have “full administrative privileges,” I can’t turn off the auto-download. Dang.)

I know of one XP machine, pushed off into a corner to perform a particular server task, which downloaded just as many updates as it wanted — but didn’t get rebooted for five months. (The longest I’ve yet gone with a Win7 box is three and a half months.)


Offensive rebound

Firefox is about to send you ads:

Mozilla made itself the villain of the online ad business early last year by announcing that the latest version of Firefox would block third-party ad technologies by default, a move the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s top lobbyist called “a nuclear strike” on the industry.

A year later, the non-profit Mozilla is launching an ad business, at the IAB’s annual meeting in Palm Desert, Calif., no less.

The ads will appear within the tiles of Firefox’s new tabs page, which will also begin to suggest pre-packaged content for first time users. Mozilla is calling the new initiative “Directory Tiles.”

Not being a first-time user … oh, wait, what am I saying? They’ll get me soon enough.

And “tabs page”? I don’t quite like the sound of that at all.

(Via Consumerist.)

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Too long, or not too long?

This is a question because:

Most edit boxes pass the string you enter into some sort of processing or database. Within the processing process or the database table, the code expects some sane limit on the amount of text entered.

Now “sane” is open to discussion, but I’m guessing you’re probably not planning for this many:

William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, stripped of line breaks and punctuation, contains 135,014 of the most thought-provoking characters in the English language. This should exceed the limits of most individual controls unless you’re testing a word processor.

I ought to try that on some of our 40-character fields, just to watch the database stand and unfold itself.


The OS that wouldn’t die

Microsoft can’t possibly be happy with this: BGR reports that Windows 7 has over 47 percent of the PC operating-system market, while Windows 8 and 8.1 combined barely broke 10 percent.

This, however, escalates to Utterly Flabbergasting:

According to the latest report from Net Market Share, XP’s market share increased from 28.98% in December to 29.23% in January.

XP. Otherwise known as 5.1. Who knew? (Me. I still run XP at home and on my work box.)

Implausible as it may seem, there are still a few actual Vista (Windows 6) users out there. Everyone I know who bought Vista either downgraded to XP or happily jumped to 7 the moment it appeared.

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