Archive for PEBKAC

Where has all the toner gone?

Not a very long time spilling:

Printer toner all over the goddamn place

In case of such a misadventure, some useful advice:

Don’t try to vacuum it up. Holes in most air filters are larger than particles of ink, so you’ll just launch them all up in the air.

Edit: also, that powder is very flammable. It’s static too, so electricity can build up in the tube, causing sparks. And it’s also cancerogenic. Fun combination!

Hazmat team to the server room, stat!


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Firefox and friends

I think I reached this point many months ago:

My Firefox browser just “updated” to 57. I promptly backdated it to 56.0.2 and turned off automatic updates.

I have a bunch of add-ons I use with Firefox — one of which is essential for the way I publish this blog — and the browser’s new paradigm has already ruined one of them. 57 broke another and I’ve had enough. The aforementioned extension that enables me to publish the Tally Book conveniently would be one of those I’d lose with 57, so 57 simply had to go.

I grew weary of Firefox’s feeping creaturism about the time they told me I really needed the tabs to be moved, because reasons. I then installed the Pale Moon browser, version 24.4.2, and set it up to look as much like the last Firefox version I could stand. Now at 27.6, it still looks like that long-ago-forgotten Firefox, though most of the code, originally a fork of Mozilla’s, has been rewritten, and a whole new rendering engine has been shoved under the hood. It has a couple of quirks, but so what else is new?

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Little slices of time

I’ve always been an op, not a coder: I could pound on a DECwriter, I could change a ribbon on some arcane IBM printer like the 4214, and when called upon, I could speak some pidgin version of VAXese. But I remember these days frighteningly well:

The last time I went down this road I wrote my own search function that would return the element with the closest value to my requested target. I also wrote my own insert and delete routines. I did this because when I went to school everything about computer programming was about saving CPU cycles. Beginning programmers got seven seconds of execution time on the mainframe. I screwed up once in a junior level class and burned my entire semester’s allotment before the OS kicked me off. That rated some words from my professor.

I wonder why it took me so long to figure this out. I’m thinking it might because most of the programming work I did involved making things work, and there was no end to it. Well, I guess it did come to an end which is why I am unemployed. Computer companies eventually got their acts together and started building machines that worked when you turned them on, and software companies started producing software that people could use to do something useful. Took a while but they eventually got it sorted.

I got a reminder of this last week when I ran an optimization cycle on the database that underlies this site. Cut the size from 125 MB to 121. And I remembered my very first hard drive, which would hold almost one-sixth of that database — reluctantly.

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Icon’t go on

This guy says he’s concerned with aesthetics, but I suspect there’s something else:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: Is there a version of Windows 10 that DOESN'T look like a tablet?


I love, love, love Windows 7, and I have put off upgrading because what I’ve used of Windows 10 looks absolutely gawd-awful. It’s all blocky and crap. I want a working laptop that looks professional, not a bigass tablet. Even programs are changed to being called “apps” in Windows 10 and it cheapens it. I’ve seen where you can download things to resemble Windows 7, but that’s almost besides the point.

I want a professional laptop that doesn’t look like it’s for kids. Is there anything available at all?


For 90 percent of the market, read “professional” as “looks expensive.”

The solution, of course, since Microsoft isn’t going back to pre-mobile days, is BAFM/STFU. The first half of that suggests the purchase of one of Apple’s Macs.

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Whitelist this, pal

Everybody in online media, I suspect, really wants a paywall, but most know how well that’s going to go over, so instead we get incidents like this:

The page I landed on immediately threw up a screen-covering box demanding I either put them on my ad-blockers whitelist immediately OR pay them some stupid amount of money to “subscribe.”

They try to soften the fuckery by saying ad-blocking is just not cool, and throw a little “thank you” in there, but it’s about as sincere as the IRS saying “sorry for the theft.”

Ad blocking really isn’t all that cool. It’s positively glacial, though, next to the standard practice of allowing indiscriminately all manner of streams, especially the ones who (1) contain autostart video and/or (2) try their damnedest to crash your browser. Running a skeleton crew, as most such sites do for financial reasons, makes it essentially impossible for someone to check all this incoming third-party crap and block the worst of it.

Okay, there are very few things in the world that will get me to add some random website to my whitelist, and demanding I do this is absolutely not one of them. In fact, demanding anything is a pretty quick way for me to tell you to go shove a rabid honey badger up your ass. I respond pretty well to “please” and “if you don’t mind.” Otherwise, it’s honey badger time.

One Mellivora capensis to go, please:

Fine. I’ve seen this shit before, I’ll just click back to the original place and continue on with my browsing, no doubt my life will remain full and fine without reading whatever nonsense I’d been shuttled to.

Except, unlike usual when I can hit the little left-facing arrow at the top of the browser to go back, [they] had decided to make that unavailable.

This is not passive acceptance for the sake of saving money; this is active malfeasance.

Do they sell honey badgers in lots of twelve?

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Learning the hard way

The creation of Swift on Security, expert:

And one more thing:

“Playpen dream of a nightmare” is about as Swiftian a line I’ve ever heard from Swift.

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Future paperweights

If you own a Logitech Harmony Link universal hub, you can expect it to be unusable in this universe very soon:

The company says a “technology certificate license” will expire next year, which they don’t intend to extend.

The supposed license is crucial for Harmony Link devices, which means the company will have to shut down all products or face a legal battle with the unnamed certificate license owner.

In simpler words, Logitech has decided to give up on a product it advertised for the past few years just to cut some costs and will ship a firmware update on March 16, 2018, that will render all Harmony Link devices unusable.

Owner reaction is about what you’d expect, with one interesting twist:

Logitech’s first reaction to this criticism was to censor the expression “class action lawsuit” on its support forum.

Yeah, that’ll help ease the pain of having bought a device its manufacturer is tired of supporting.

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Too stupid to be on the Net

A sampling of the last couple of days’ worth of Computers & Internet on Yahoo! Answers:

I want to block some country’s video on youtube.?

I just don’t want to see any videos from those countries. and want to block them forever. I DON’T WANT TO BLOCK MY VIDEOS ON THOSE COUNTRIES. I WANT TO BLOCK ALL VIDEOS FROM THOSE COUNTRIES. please help me. some videos are irritates me.

Dysfunctional illiteracy irritates me.

How do I remove someone else’s tweet?

What a meme

The same way somebody else removes yours.

Where can I safely buy real Instagram followers?

Hello, I’m looking for REAL followers not bots. And I don’t want to give out my password or bank account information. I’d rather do it through pay pal or something completely safe.

If you want me to follow you on Instagram, it will cost you $75 a year. I do, however, take PayPal.

Every time I log into Gmail I get my gmail and not my husband’s which is the account I want to see.?

This marriage is doomed.

Can someone please explain “coding” and can my girlfriend use it to cheat?

Those two will never even approach the possibility of marriage.

How do I create a website that flashes?

What I mean by that is, when you click on the URL it takes you to a site that flashes with words. How do I create a site to do this? A free one that is. Like changing from red to yellow with words on it and that’s all it does

This was tedious horsepuckey in the 1990s. Today it’s retarded, tedious horsepuckey.

What r good ways 2 get BAD revenge on someone besides taking them 2 court & hitman service? Pls tell legit links 4 Deep web hitman service.?

Spiteful little twelve-year-old. Needs to be grounded for a couple of decades.

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Origin unknown

Something called Trojan.Win32.Wauchos paid a visit to this desk Thursday night, and I was simultaneously horrified and mortified.

The little sumbitch chose to manifest itself about 9:30, when someone (no point in naming names) tweeted a link to something at Bloomberg. I hit the link, and Malwarebytes tossed up its big Quarantine screen in Check Engine Light Orange, assuring me that the infected file had been isolated, and that once I rebooted, I wouldn’t have to think about it anymore.

So I rebooted, and my browser had disappeared. Its directory was still in place, but the executable itself had vanished into that big orange maw. Fortunately, I keep a copy of Internet Explorer on hand for just such emergencies, and in not much time I had performed a reinstall. Was it a tweeted link that caused this? Only one way to find out.

Yet another reboot later, the truth of the matter became apparent. I went looking for a restore point; the most recent one was dated late August. Teeth unsatisfyingly grat, I set the machine for eight weeks ago and waited. It took about twenty minutes; when the system came back up, there was a dialog box indicating that the process had failed for some arcane reason, and no changes had been made. It took about twenty seconds to discover that yes, some changes had been made, because all of a sudden half a dozen Windows updates were waiting. I said fark it and went to bed.

The great discovery of the next day was discouraging but not surprising, really. There were lots of How To Remove pages out there, and about a third of them were blocked by Malwarebytes for, of all things, distributing malware. One that didn’t offered a small executable to rid myself of this Trojan once and for all; I downloaded their file, ran a scan on it, and of course it failed. “Jeebus,” said I. “Tell me what registry changes this little bastard makes, and I’ll unmake them myself.”

Turns out that it changes exactly one registry key. I duly fired up regedit, and, just my luck, I didn’t find that key on the premises. Does this mean all those scans I ran finally got rid of it? I’d deleted the Twitter app, just in case. I rebooted, all those Windows updates finally updated, I reinstalled that app and the browser, and, eyes raised toward the heavens, I clicked on the first link that showed up in my timeline.

Worked just fine.

This particular Trojan is, according to the scorekeepers, No Big Deal compared to some. But let me tell you, I was glad to be rid of it.

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Alphabet commands

Alphabet, you may remember, owns Google, and Google, at least as far as Google is concerned, owns all of us who own a Web site. I may have to obey, but I don’t have to like it.

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How is this even possible?

McG explains his most recent online change:

I’ve never heard of a hacker inserting malicious code on a purely static web page. Maybe it’s happened, but I’d have a hard time imagining it could do him any good.

It’s happened here, once, to one of the old Movable Type pages that were left in a static state after the fall of 2006. What happened: someone weaseled in through some unknown method (FTP?) and pasted a bunch of spam links at the bottom of the page. I didn’t notice it for some time; all I know is it happened between May 2015 and October 2016. Eventually I deleted the whole page and pasted the actual content into a WordPress post. (With the original comments, yes.)

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Yet another sexual stereotype

I do what I can to avoid them these days, but while I may not be interested in emoji, emoji are apparently interested in me:

There’s an implicit gender bias lurking in your emoji keyboard which you might not have even noticed.

There are currently three women’s shoe emoji, but all three of them have high heels. One Silicon Valley-based woman wants to change this. Independent arts publicist Floriane Hutchinson launched the #IWearFlats campaign to add a women’s flat shoe emoji to our keyboards. Her proposal [pdf] is currently up for discussion at the Unicode Consortium Emoji Subcommittee.

There are, in fact, five shoe emoji:

… a brown “man’s shoe,” a gender-neutral trainer or sneaker, and three high-heeled women’s shoes. Hutchinson says this absence of a flat women’s shoe emoji is problematic.

Should this proposal be approved by the powers that be, we should see something resembling a ballet flat by this time next year.

In the meantime:

A retired professional ballroom dancer in Tennessee set a world record by running an entire marathon in high heels.

Irene Sewell shared photos of herself following the Guinness World Record-breaking performance as she managed to complete the 26.2-mile race in the high-heeled shoes.

“Well world, I DID IT. I’m still in shock, but it really happened,” she wrote this week. “I ran a marathon today in high heels and set a Guinness World Record with two minutes to spare!”

Want to guess which shoe emoji she used?

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The eternal need for speed

A note received from the surfer dudes who host this Web site:

Over the next week, we’ll be rolling out “OPcache” for domains hosted on your managed Virtual Private Server.

OPcache is a PHP accelerator that makes your site faster by keeping code in memory instead of loading it on every page request. Since code doesn’t have to be loaded from disk repeatedly, you’ll also see reduced CPU and memory usage on your VPS. That means you’ll be able to do more with less power!

OPcache replaces the outdated “XCache” option which was previously available on virtual private servers. Unlike XCache, OPcache is supported on all versions of PHP that DreamHost offers, so there’s no special configuration required to make it work.

XCache will not work with PHP 7 or newer versions, so it is no longer recommended.

Combined with PHP 7, OPcache can often double the performance of WordPress sites. We’re pretty excited about it, and can’t wait for you to experience the magic and wonder of OPcache for yourself!

Precisely seven days later, they brought this plan to fruition. I haven’t run any speed tests yet, but I do have a little widget to measure RAM usage. For the last couple of years, it’s been hanging between 35 and 40 percent of my allotment. Reading last night: 8 percent.

Gosh. Maybe I should go ahead and implement PHP 7. (I’m still on 5.6.)

Addendum: PHP 7.0 is in place.

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Someone stole your iPhone

Um, I don’t have an iPhone. You don’t suppose this could be a … a SCAM?

Bogus warning not actually from Apple

Besides, a real message from Apple would likely be written in a less incompetent version of English. “You should complete some personal informations on our help center,” indeed. The link in the box goes to, which you may safely assume is not about to support your management.

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MStakes were made

Warren Meyer’s idea: buy Windows laptops directly from Dell, set up with exactly the applications needed for Meyer’s staff. Dell is willing. Microsoft, maybe not so much:

As part of the setup process before I create the default image, I switch the Windows default browser to Chrome and the default app for opening pdf files to Adobe Reader. No matter what we do, when the new computer boots up with this image, Windows switches the default browser and PDF app to Microsoft Edge (apparently via ‘sysprep”). I might be able to live with this for the browser, but Edge is defective in opening PDF files, specifically it does not allow pdf’s with form fields to be saved in a way that retains the form entry. My users will never be able to figure out how to reset this themselves so now I have to figure out how to write batch files so I can override the Microsoft override after it runs.

Yeah, I know users like that. Nor is this the only intrusion by Windows:

Less intrusive but still irritating is the fact that Microsoft also adds back all their sales spam I deleted, including their “get office” and “try skype” apps.

With the possible exception of @SwiftOnSecurity, people are going to argue in favor of ditching Win10 in favor of [name of Linux distro]. I don’t see that happening, if only because if the users can’t handle routine Windows finagling, they’ll likely be utterly lost in Ubuntu.

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Go ogle

It helps to have some of your shtick memorized, just in case someone actually asks for it:

(Via Rand Simberg.)


Hi-res hieroglyphics

This explains everything:

Ray Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 on a coin operated typewriter in 1950. A coin operated typewriter! One complicated mechanical contrivance piled on another! All these complicated, precision, mechanical devices are being replaced by electronic gee-gaws. In 100 years they’ll all be gone. In a thousand years there won’t be any evidence that they ever existed, which tends to support my theory that all the paintings on the walls of the tombs of the ancient Egyptians are really flat panel displays that froze when they ran out of juice.

Which explains the Rosetta Stone: some dimbulb got an animated GIF in the mail, tried to print it out, and then complained that the printed image doesn’t move.

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Number three goes for zero

It’s the third largest cell-phone platform in the world, and it’s dead, for a ducat, dead:

Microsoft has publicly admitted for the first time that its Windows Phone is dead. In a series of tweets, Windows 10 chief Joe Belfiore said that the company is no longer developing new features or hardware for Windows 10 Mobile, with only bug fixes and security updates to come for existing users.

Belfiore explained that his team had tried “very hard” to incentivize app developers by paying them and writing apps for them, but the low volume of users meant it was no longer worth the investment in Windows Phone.

I once looked into the possibility of getting a Windows Phone for the worst possible reason: having happened upon a happy user who was (1) quite lovely and (2) possessed of considerable smarts and (3) apparently willing to assist a newbie.

But she’s gone away, and Windows Phone is heading for the woodshed:

Windows Phone was released in 2010 and quickly became the world’s third most popular mobile operating system, but the platform couldn’t compete with iOS and Android, which accounted for a combined 99.6 percent market share earlier this year.

Oh, well.

(Via Fark.)

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Sounds okay

For about ten years, I ran all computer noises through a PCWorks 2.1 system by Cambridge Soundworks. The volume control was occasionally wonky, but I have some experience with cleaning soiled potentiometers, so the fix was easy enough. Then the power switch decided never again to turn on, and I reluctantly went looking for a new set of speakers. I found a pretty decent-sounding set on Amazon, but quality control was just this side of slipshod, and it died almost immediately after the warranty expired.

So now I have this:

Logitech Z333

Still 2.1, but that’s all I need in my little broom closet of a home office. Eighty bucks from Logitech; Amazon had it for $59.99, and I jumped. The instructions were inscrutable; I decided I would have an easier time of it if I ignored them in favor of my own instincts, and it turned out I was right.


My AIM is through

Truth be told, I wasn’t entirely sure it was still around:

It’s a sad moment: AIM, AOL’s long-running instant messenger service that was core to many people’s first social experiences on the internet, will shut down once and for all on December 15th. AOL announced the shutdown today, acknowledging that people now communicate in new ways online, so AIM is no longer needed.

“AIM tapped into new digital technologies and ignited a cultural shift, but the way in which we communicate with each other has profoundly changed,” writes Michael Albers, communications products VP at Oath (the Verizon behemoth that consumed AOL).

ICQ, the Israeli-developed instant-message client that AOL owned from 1998 to 2010, continues under Russian ownership.

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Greed is eternal

There are, I am told, a few people who are irked that CBS expects you to subscribe to their All Access service to see episodes of Star Trek: Discovery. However, this new stunt has all the earmarks (so to speak) of a Ferengi scheme:

The websites of US telly giant CBS’s Showtime contained JavaScript that secretly commandeered viewers’ web browsers over the weekend to mine cryptocurrency.

The flagship and its instant-access sibling silently pulled in code that caused browsers to blow spare processor time calculating new Monero coins — a privacy-focused alternative to the ever-popular Bitcoin. The hidden software typically consumed as much as 60 per cent of CPU capacity on computers visiting the sites.

The scripts were written by Coin Hive, a legit outfit that provides JavaScript to website owners: webmasters add the code to their pages so that they can earn slivers of cash from each visitor as an alternative to serving adverts to generate revenue. Over time, money mined by the Coin-Hive-hosted scripts adds up and is transferred from Coin Hive to the site’s administrators. One Monero coin, 1 XMR, is worth about $92 right now.

Shlubs like me aren’t privy to such things: my attempt to look at the Hive got me a Blocked message from Malwarebytes.

Did the Eyeball Network pull these shenanigans deliberately? Probably not:

[I]t’s extremely unlikely that a large corporation like CBS would smuggle such a piece of mining code onto its dot-coms — especially since it charges subscribers to watch the shows online — suggesting someone hacked the websites’ source code to insert the mining JavaScript and make a quick buck.

The JavaScript, which appeared on the sites at the start of the weekend and vanished by Monday, sits between between HTML comment tags that appear to be an insert from web analytics biz New Relic. Again, it is unlikely that an analytics company would deliberately stash coin-mining scripts onto its customers’ pages, so the code must have come from another source — or was injected by miscreants who had compromised Showtime’s systems.

But just in case, you ought to blow the dust off that book of Rules of Acquisition.

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The lowest form of data breach

From page 4A of this morning’s Oklahoman:

Announcement by Aetna of a data breach

The toll-free number, I suppose, is to give the company a chance to get to the customers before the customers find out about this:

The Legal Action Center, AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania, and Berger & Montague, P.C. filed a federal class action lawsuit [August 28] against Aetna for its repeated failure to respect the privacy rights of people taking HIV medication by mailing its customers Aetna envelopes where their HIV medication was visible through the large transparent window of the envelopes. The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, contends that the insurer’s mailing violated several laws by revealing highly confidential HIV information of approximately 12,000 customers in at least 23 states.

According to the complaint [pdf], the lead plaintiff’s sister learned that he was taking HIV medication from an unopened large-window of an Aetna envelope that revealed the highly confidential information. The plaintiff, identified by the pseudonym Andrew Beckett in the complaint, does not have HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, but takes Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), a regiment [sic] that helps prevent a person from acquiring HIV.

Widespread stigma still exists about HIV and AIDS, leading to discrimination in employment, housing, education and health care, and to violence. The lawsuit filed today alleges that the information about HIV medication was clearly visible through the large transparent window of the Aetna envelope, and charges Aetna with carelessly and impermissibly revealing highly confidential HIV information of customers to their family members, roommates, friends, neighbors, landlords, mail carriers, and even complete strangers.

Truth be told, I’d be peeved if I got a notification of sorts mentioning that I take a daily tranq, despite the fact that pretty much everyone who reads this site already knows that I take a daily tranq.

The word that jumps out at me, though, is “repeated”:

“In 2014 and 2015, Aetna was sued in two separate class action lawsuits,” the lawsuit explained. “Among other things, those lawsuits alleged that Aetna jeopardized the privacy of people taking HIV medications by requiring its insureds to receive their HIV medications through mail and not allowing them to pick up their medications in person at the pharmacy.”

Technically, these suits were never certified as class-action suits; instead, Aetna settled with the individual plaintiffs.

Still, it’s hard not to conclude that Aetna, for whatever reason, has it in for people with HIV.


The pentameter’s reading funny

Security is lacking, I declare;
However many layers there do lie,
Not one allows connection, to yourself,
Or to another who might wish to try.
This service cannot be performed; I beg,
Please try again tomorrow at this time,
Lest we conclude that there is no more rhyme.

Shakespeare quote of the day: an SSL error has occurred and a secure connection to the server cannot be made

(From reddit via Miss Cellania.)

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Technical distort

It began with an email:

We would like to purchase this plugin from you and take complete owner ship [sic] of it and take away the stress from you.

We are trying to build one of the largest wordpress plugin companies and in doing this we are trying to purchase some rather large plugins like yours.

I am wondering if me and my team would be able to purchase this plugin from you and then take over the complete development of it and push out a new update to make it work better with the latest wordpress.

The author of that plugin thought about it; in the end, she said Yes, and the buyer sent $15,000 via PayPal.

And then this happened:

On June 21st, the first release of Display Widgets under the new author went out. Then on June 30th there was a second release, version 2.6.1, which included malicious code … which allowed the new plugin author — Mason Soiza, in this case — to publish spam content on any site running Display Widgets. There were approximately 200,000 sites using Display Widgets at the time.

Mr Soiza apparently did acquire other plugins for nefarious purposes. Some of those purposes:

Our team has assembled a lot of data on Mason Soiza from public sources. He has interests in a wide range of online business that include payday loans, gambling and “escort” services, among others.

He has been active on black hat forums and has been banned from “Black Hat World” (username LinkRocket) and from (username MasonSoiza). Soiza is active on Reddit as IIRR and moderates a subreddit called /r/paydayloansnowcouk.

Oh, and the current version of Display Widgets (2.7.0) has been thoroughly disinfected.

(Via Dan Gillmor.)

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Not even 27 yet

About 9:30 last night, my trusty IBM Model M keyboard started coughing up Questionable Characters. I’m not at all sure why, but I’m guessing its internals got slightly damp during area cleanup. Of course, I have a spare keyboard, but it’s a fairly recent clunker with weird feel and all the lovely Windows buttons I have so far been happy to avoid.

The only liquid near the desk at the time was water. It will dry overnight. I’ll put it back on the desk tomorrow or the next day to see if it has healed itself. (Somehow, this worked once before.)

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Grounds for expulsion

This gall admits of no mitigation:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: Does anyone know how to wipe an iPad?

And why, you ask, would he want to do that?

My school issued me an iPad and I want to make it so that this iPad isn’t on their server. They block everything and I want to use an iPad that works with every site/app. Thanks.

In my idea of a perfect world, this jerk wouldn’t have been born, but I’m not in a position to be that picky. So let the school throw his butt on the street and send him a bill for $900 or so to cover the equipment he’s so eager to ruin.

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Subprime specimens

There are times when jail time just doesn’t seem like enough:

Sometimes I think the brutal tar and feathers practice of our forebears should be brought back into fashion. If anyone needed a ride on a rail it is the top executives of Equifax. Not for the massive security breach, but that they took the time to sell off some stock before they announced the breach, knowing the value of the company would take a deserving hit. These executives make capitalists everywhere look bad. I’m not advocating brutal mob violence, but I would give a small cheer of approbation in this case.

And should they survive this journey out of town, their credit scores should be permanently fixed at 499.


No wonder it’s taking so long

I mean, really:

Configuring Windows Updates, 3065% complete

I just hope it’s not running off battery power.

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Shat yourself

There’s always one, right?

Quickly followed by:

You. Do Not. Mess With. The Shat.

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You should have gotten sick 15 years ago

This pretty well speaks for itself:

Meanwhile, Microsoft implores you to get rid of that Stone Age stuff and install Windows 10. Like HotelBravo has.