Slower time

Apple’s QuickTime was an early acquisition when I clambered aboard the great ship Windows: it was necessary to play clips in the .mov format, and iTunes wouldn’t run on Wintel boxes (or their AMD cousins) without it. In fact, I ponied up $29.95 for the Pro version, which is now for all intents and purposes, or for Apple’s intents and purposes anyway, dead in the water:

Apple has announced that they’re no longer supporting QuickTime on the Windows platform. That means there won’t be any new updates coming, which is especially bad news since two fresh QuickTime vulnerabilities have just been discovered.

Trend Micro published details of the vulnerabilities in a pair of security alerts this week, ZDI-16-241 and ZDI-16-242. They actually reported them both to Apple all the way back in November. By the end of February, Trend still hadn’t gotten much more back from Apple than a read receipt for their original report.

In March, Trend checked in again and Apple responded by inviting them to a conference call. That’s when they announced that QuickTime for Windows was being deprecated. Two weeks after the call, Trend pinged Apple one more time to say they’d be publishing the vulnerability. Apple responded by saying “go for it,” and pointing them toward this handy article that helps Windows users uninstall QuickTime.

Curiously, Apple seems to be recommending that those hardy few of us with QT Pro registration keys hold on to them, for whatever reason. Or maybe that’s just something they haven’t edited out yet.

Comments off




Artificial tweetener

As of yesterday, the Windows version of TweetDeck is dead, dead, dead; I reluctantly switched over to the Web version, which I deemed marginally acceptable at best. If I find a reasonable workalike, I vowed, that’s where I’m going.

This is where I wound up:

Tweeten is available for Windows 10, 8, and 7. Our Windows app is currently in beta, and you can download it from the links below.

There followed links; there are OSX and Chrome versions as well. I jumped. It looks about as much like TweetDeck as is algorithmically possible without being actionable, and it doesn’t eat a browser tab while so doing. According to Tweeten’s profile, it was “Developed by @mehedih_ and @gus33000” in England and France. The first of those chaps is Mehedi Hassan, deputy editor of MSPowerUser.com. If he sees me with a hat, I will take it off the moment I recognize him.

There are, inevitably, some things that scream “Beta!” The Light theme is indistinguishable from the Dark theme, and column widths don’t seem to be adjustable despite a toggle. On the upside, it doesn’t scroll stupidly the way TweetDeck always did, which is reason enough to keep it right there.

Comments off




At the very edge of the soda shelf

The folks at mental_floss have come up with something called “The Tragic History of Royal Crown Cola”, and as a genuine RC fan, I read it, wincing as I went along, and while I didn’t weep into my beverage, I did occasionally make regretful-sounding noises.

Lucille Ball for Royal Crown Cola

I have no idea if Lucy actually drank this stuff in 1946, when The Dark Corner was released, but at the time, Royal Crown — they, meaning Nehi, the drink’s parent company, had only just adopted “RC” as a nickname — was on a roll:

In 1944, the courts ruled that Coke did not, in fact, own the word “cola,” thus allowing Royal Crown to become Royal Crown Cola, or RC Cola. With nationwide distribution and sales on the up and up, Nehi shoveled money into print and television ads featuring stars like Bing Crosby, Joan Crawford, Shirley Temple, and Lucille Ball. “You Bet RC Tastes Best!” magazine ads crowed. And this wasn’t just an empty boast: Nehi had staged public taste tests across the country pitting RC against competitors Coke and Pepsi, and declared itself the winner. It was the first time a beverage company had ever done such a promotion. Whether or not the tests were rigged in some way is up for debate; what mattered was that people believed them.

And hey, it’s not like anyone paid attention to the Pepsi Challenge.

RC was a Southern drink, first concocted in Columbus, Georgia, and it was in the South Carolina lowcountry where I first discovered it, as an adjunct to rock and/or roll: the leading Top 40 station in the area gave away tons of the stuff, in the form of store coupons for a six-pack, and in those days, I could dial a phone with the best of them.

The “tragedy” apparently was caused by RC’s sister product, Diet Rite Cola, formulated in 1958 and sweetened with that miracle stuff, cyclamate, which was declared Very Bad For You a decade later:

Controversy developed when, in 1966, a study reported that some intestinal bacteria could desulfonate cyclamate to produce cyclohexylamine, a compound suspected to have some chronic toxicity in animals. Further research resulted in a 1969 study that found the common 10:1 cyclamate:saccharin mixture to increase the incidence of bladder cancer in rats. The released study was showing that eight out of 240 rats fed a mixture of saccharin and cyclamates, at levels of humans ingesting 350 cans of diet soda per day, developed bladder tumors.

Too much risk, said the FDA, always mindful of rat health. RC, which then had almost 10 percent of the soft-drink market, went into a slow, then a not-so-slow, decline. There was one two-liter bottle left at the supermarket tonight, and I grabbed it.

Comments (3)




An effing good song

Danish singer/songwriter Medina has just unleashed this single, which you will never hear on the radio in the States, even if she records an English-language version.

Make that especially if she records an English-language version:

Translation of the chorus: “I freaking love you.” Except, of course, it’s not “freaking.”

(Via Strong Language.)

Comments off




The root to serfdom

Quite reasonably, we fear computer attacks from without. But the worst ones, sometimes, come from within:

A man appears to have deleted his entire company with one mistaken piece of code.

By accidentally telling his computer to delete everything in his servers, hosting provider Marco Marsala has seemingly removed all trace of his company and the websites that he looks after for his customers.

Mr Marsala wrote on a forum for server experts called Server Fault that he was now stuck after having accidentally run destructive code on his own computers. But far from advising them how to fix it, most experts informed him that he had just accidentally deleted the data of his company and its clients, and in so doing had probably destroyed his entire company with just one line of code.

That’s one heavy line of code. This is it:

The problem command was “rm -rf”: a basic piece of code that will delete everything it is told to. The “rm” tells the computer to remove; the r deletes everything within a given directory; and the f stands for “force”, telling the computer to ignore the usual warnings that come when deleting files.

Together, the code deleted everything on the computer, including Mr Masarla’s customers’ websites, he wrote. Mr Masarla runs a web hosting company, which looks after the servers and internet connections on which the files for websites are stored.

Oops.

I once deleted 9,000 or so files, and it was pretty scary to watch them dissolve. Then again, I started in a subdirectory down low enough to insure that the important stuff would remain untouched.

Potential amusement value: Mr Marsala ran this command from Bash, a standard *nix shell. Guess what’s being added to Windows 10.

Update, 18 April: The whole story is starting to unravel a bit.

Comments (3)




Deprecated squirrel

Actually, that sounds like a swell Twitter username: @DeprecatedSquirrel. It’s here because my mail service is switching away from SquirrelMail to something different:

Atmail was chosen as it is a step up from former DreamHost Webmail clients in that it’s faster, offers more features, and is in constant development.

Of the features mentioned, two might be of use: drag-and-drop attachments, and a mobile user interface.

There are a couple of downsides, and they’ll admit to them:

Requires more bandwidth to send complex HTML interface compared to SquirrelMail (approximately 100x to get from login screen to empty inbox; about 15 KB in 8 HTTP requests for SquirrelMail versus 1,500 KB in 35 HTTP requests for Atmail.)

Yeah, a hundred times as much bandwidth. Mobile users will just love that.

And there’s this:

Atmail needs more maintenance because it is less mature and more complex: it has more bugs. SquirrelMail has not required a fix since June 12, 2011.

Noteworthy: originally, “Atmail” (typically styled “atmail”) was known as “@mail.” Imagine that.

Comments (7)




He made it after all

The true hero of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, contends Lileks, was Ted Baxter:

He was a silly puffed-up man, and yes he was cheap and vain. But he was a decent fellow. I’ve said this before, but Ted’s the real hero of the show. Lou was a grumpy curmudgeon wounded by divorce. Murray was a pill, his sarcasm masking the fact that he knew exactly how small his skill-set really was, which is why he was working at the low-rated station; Mary couldn’t keep a boyfriend for more than two episodes, which may have been a clue to something in her personality we never saw on the show.

Ted, on the other hand, got married, stayed married, adopted a Vietnamese orphan, was utterly enthusiastic about life in general, and kept his job. There are times you fear you’re really Ted, and then there are times you think: could be worse.

And better yet, no one ever told him he had spunk.

Comments off




Department of Subtle Reminders

For just about as long as I can remember, whenever OG&E has had a rate case pending, there’s been a note stuck into the electric bill with all the other detritus. And yes, there’s a rate case pending; the Corp Comm is scheduled to open hearings on the third of May, and my particular rate class would go up by about 6.6 percent.

Nothing too surprising here, except that on the bill itself, for the first time I can remember, there is a LARGE PRINT statement:

*** PLEASE SEE ENCLOSED SPECIAL NOTICE TO OKLAHOMA CUSTOMERS. ***

(They do have a few Arkansas customers, who would not be affected.) And the notice itself is marked SPECIAL NOTICE, so there’s presumably no excuse for missing it.

The April bill, for me anyway, is typically the lowest of the year, so the rate increase looks like a mere four bucks or so. In August, it’s going to hurt a little more.

Comments off




Frugal crook

As thieves go, this guy was remarkably unambitious:

I got a call from my credit card provider. They were questioning certain transactions made in California last month: to wit, a charge for gas at a Shell station, and a purchase from In n Out Burger. The two together were less than $50.

At least he’s picking name brands. Still:

I’m struck by the modesty of their desires. Why not buy an expensive camera or a set of tires? (These are the items a thief bought on my credit card last time I was robbed.) Why would anyone risk getting a criminal record for a hamburger?

So if you’re planning to steal a credit-card account — skimmers were found at a Circle K in Edmond this week, so clearly somebody is — you may as well spend big; the jail looks the same regardless.

Comments (5)




Wheels within wheels

This device is none too cute, but I have to admire the sentiment that made it possible:

That said, there remains one problem: this sort of thing has been tried before, and the outcomes were deemed ungood.

Comments off




Technically, it’s a highbrid

Two bad tastes that probably taste bad together, but who cares?

A Brooklyn-based lab has successfully bred the world’s first Kale x Cannabis hybrid. The company, Williamsburg Wonders, announced today that the new cross, called Kaleabis, would be available as a superfood juice shot in Oregon dispensaries this summer.

The successful cross is the culmination of a two-year project that began with a Kickstarter campaign by Williamsburg Wonders’ founders, Mark and Todd Takota. When the Takota brothers announced their desire to breed a plant with the dietary benefits of kale and the therapeutic properties of cannabis, funding poured in. The project reached its investment goal in less than a week, significantly outpacing other local investment opportunities like DIY mustache wax and kombucha colonics.

Where do they go from here?

The Takotas plan to launch a line of Williamsburg Wonders Kaleabis superfood drinks. A spokesperson confirmed the beverages will be available in dispensaries but acknowledged the ultimate goal of being the first cannabis product sold at Whole Foods.

It’s certainly more likely than a kombucha colonic.

(Via Christopher Johnson.)

Comments (6)




You must be this flush to buy this car

Ford will apparently not sell its new GT to just anyone:

Ford estimates the price of the 2017 GT as being in the low- to mid-$400,000 range (USD), but money probably isn’t a huge consideration if you’re actually considering a GT purchase.

The cumbersome ordering process is meant to weed out the reputable buyers from the shifty hoi polloi, with special consideration given to buyers of the first-generation (2004-2007) GT.

“Ford is conducting this application process to identify from a host of deserving candidates those individuals who will be invited to discuss a potential Ford GT purchase,” the automaker states on its application webpage. “Completing an application does not guarantee that you will have the opportunity to purchase a Ford GT.”

Not that this is particularly unusual: makers of high-end Italian exotica, and of some other cars that compete in this price range, long ago let it be known that you had a better chance of getting to own one of their Special Editions if you’d already owned one or three or a dozen of their previous models.

Comments (3)




Reputations at stake

Remember when seemingly minor incidents drove people to buy up — or steal — all copies of the local newspaper, to prevent the world from finding out? Now scale that to a non-minor incident in the Internet Age, and this is what you get:

UC Davis contracted with consultants for at least $175,000 to scrub the Internet of negative online postings following the November 2011 pepper-spraying of students and to improve the reputations of both the university and Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi, newly released documents show.

The payments were made as the university was trying to boost its image online and were among several contracts issued following the pepper-spray incident.

Some payments were made in hopes of improving the results computer users obtained when searching for information about the university or Katehi, results that one consultant labeled “venomous rhetoric about UC Davis and the chancellor.”

Venomous? What, did someone not like being pepper-sprayed or something?

And maybe this needs to get around, too:

The release of the documents comes as Katehi is once again under fire, this time for her acceptance of seats on private corporate boards, including a textbook publisher and a for-profit university that was under scrutiny by the Federal Trade Commission. First revealed in The Bee, her outside board positions have sparked calls for her resignation as well as student protests.

Students have occupied the reception office outside Katehi’s office since March 11 in a sit-in that they say will last until Katehi resigns.

(Via Lindsay Beyerstein.)

Comments (5)




It followed me home

Debra Monroe, Professor of English at the University of Texas at San Marcos, is a Facebook friend in an unexpected manner: she appreciated the reception I gave to her memoir My Unsentimental Education. Now it’s hardly unexpected for a woman on Facebook, even one with serious intellectual heft, to comment on her new shoes, and I, being, well, me, duly said something about them, with a consequence I should have expected: Amazon, having apparently heard from Facebook that I had said something about this shoe, sent me an actual email offering to sell me a pair of my own, and probably will bother me about them for several weeks.

Anyway, this is “Carissa” from Miz Mooz:

Carissa by Miz Mooz

“They make me euphoric,” said Professor Monroe.

“Who puts a price tag on euphoria?” I replied. “Not me, not ever.”

The current Amazon price depends on color and size: might be $82, might be $140. That heel, 2.75 inches high, is described as, um, “moderate.”

I told a friend at lunch that I didn’t know what I’d do if anyone actually started sending me shoes for review. She smiled and said “I wear a 7 wide.”

Comments off




Live with Kelly

Last week, Rep. Jason Nelson (R-Oklahoma City) announced he would not seek reelection:

The Republican floor leader of the Oklahoma House says he will step aside from his northwest Oklahoma City seat after eight years in office.

Rep. Jason Nelson said Wednesday he will not seek re-election to his District 87 House seat in November. The 44-year-old Nelson announced his decision on the floor of the House where he was congratulated by Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb and Republican and Democratic House members.

As an actual resident of District 87, I am of course interested in Nelson’s successor. And the first flyer has arrived, on behalf of Kelly Meredith. Her political affiliation is not disclosed, but let’s read between the lines, specifically these lines from the flyer:

Kelly will bring her experience as a strategic planner, an educator, and a mother to the Capitol. She is tired of seeing reckless budgeting, wasteful legislation, and political games that hurt our children and our state.

Got to be a Democrat. (Republicans have a 70-31 majority in the House, so at least two of those charges will presumably be blamed on the GOP.) Which means I will eventually meet her; in the 12 years I’ve lived in 87, every single Democratic candidate — and no Republican — has come out to knock on my door at a time when I could conceivably have answered it.

Comments (3)




Protection without racket

After wearing them pretty consistently for 40 years or so, I think I (mostly) understand seat belts. And despite having never seen them deploy, I have a reasonable grip on the concept of air bags, four of which can be found in my current car. But some of the new safety gewgaws simply astonish me. Eric Tingwall, in the May ’16 Car and Driver, reveals a couple of options for the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class:

The optional Pre-Safe Impulse system adds radar units to the front corners of the car and inflatable bladders in the outboard bolsters of the front seats. It predicts an imminent side-impact collision, and inflates the bladders — without damaging the seats — two-tenths of a second before impact, pushing the occupant inward, away from the B-pillar and the intruding car.

Spiffy. But this goes beyond:

Pre-Safe Sound plays pink noise (it sounds like a TV that’s lost its signal) through the speakers to contract the stapedius muscles in your ears prior to a crash, reducing the risk of hearing damage during an accident. This is what a successful civilization looks like: fixes for problems you never even knew existed.

An E-Class with these goodies will likely cost around $60,000: base price, guesses C/D, will be $52k. Still, you know these things will gradually start showing up in cars within my budget.

Comments (2)