24 August 2002
Patent nonsense (1)

So apparently British Telecom was combing through its archives and found something bearing U.S. patent number 4,873,662 which, BT thought, was the basis for the hyperlink. Visions of dollar signs (what with sterling giving way to the euro, doncha know) danced in their heads, and they hit up more than a dozen ISPs for licensing fees. When said ISPs told BT to go pound sand, BT decided to make a test case out of one of them: the soon-to-be-transmogrified Prodigy.

Prodigy, asserting that BT was full of it, petitioned for summary judgment to have the case thrown out, and now Judge Colleen McMahon, saying that "as a matter of law, no jury could find that Prodigy infringes the [BT] patent," has ordered exactly that.

Just because I'm spiteful, here's a hyperlink to BT. (Muchas gracias: Planet Swank.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:49 PM)
30 August 2002
Déjà entendu

Game developer Hudson Soft and hardware manufacturer JVC say they've come up with an uncopiable CD. Well, a CD-ROM, anyway; the process does not work on audio CDs.

Any bets on how long this claim will stand?

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:38 PM)
5 September 2002
Take this dial and shove it

I've run for a number of years with two ISPs, one local and one national, mostly out of a sense of maintaining redundancy in case of emergency. This doesn't work very well, however, when the local dial doesn't answer half the time and the national service insists that you install their insipid software package or they won't answer either. (It may even be true; I set up standard Windows DUNs for their two local numbers and neither one of them will connect.)

Broadband, you say? For this? Sheesh.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:27 PM)
9 September 2002
Lessons from life (one in a series)

When researching hardware to see if it's sufficiently fast, it is highly sub-optimal to rely on the judgment of the guy who took six years to implement a program enhancement.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:34 PM)
10 September 2002
What color is your elephant?

Mine is that sort of off-white that distinguishes, or fails to distinguish, too many PCs. It cost about as much as a small sedan, and was purchased on the strength of the same model having served a subsidiary office reasonably well for the past couple of seasons. Curiously certainly The Man From Tech Support found it curious setting the box to exactly the same parameters used by its faraway sister produced unsatisfactory results.

Of course, like any piece of hardware these days, it has more settings than Oneida, and only the expert can arrange them all on the first try. Definitely lets me out.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:06 PM)
27 September 2002
Neither tech nor support

Problem: Printer spits out 0.93 page (tractor-fed) in 17 seconds, then pauses 43 seconds before beginning the next 0.93 page.

Proffered solution: Reduce printer memory by one-third.

If this works, I'll start carrying extra anvils in the car to improve gas mileage.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:10 PM)
4 October 2002
The Windows slam shut

Microsoft has given the Oklahoma City Public Schools until 14 October to rid themselves of software not complying with Microsoft license agreements, and the district has launched a major software-license audit.

In the first pass, the district found 1700 PCs with questionable licensing, each of which could theoretically generate a $500 fine from Redmond; a second pass is scheduled to begin today. "I think we're in pretty good shape," said Jerry Dimmitt, team leader for the audit, "but we have so many computers it will be difficult to catch everything." The district has a site license from Microsoft for volume purchases, but it doesn't cover software acquired before the license, and most of the offending stuff, as it happens, is installed on PCs donated to the district, many of which will have to be weeded out to pass the audit.

The district is also putting out a list of minimum standards for donated machines, which reads as follows:

Minimum Hardware Requirements:
  • Pentium III processor with 64 MB Memory, 6GB Hard Drive, 3.5" Floppy, CD- ROM, SoundBlaster sound adapter, and an Ethernet 10/100 network adapter.
  • Monitor- 15" SVGA 1024x680, .28 pitch with an IBM standard monitor connector.
  • Keyboard- 101 key with a PS2 connector
  • Mouse- 2 button with or without the scroll wheel. PS2 connector.
A certificate of license for that product must accompany any software on the donated computers.

So don't even think about bringing over that old 286.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:37 AM)
7 October 2002
Lessons from life (another in a series)

When Microsoft states up front that the "maximum download" for an operating-system update is 30 MB, you can usually be sure that you're not going to get by with a mere 1.9.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:28 AM)
19 October 2002
DOS vidanya

Sean McEntee at GI Party remembers what it was like in the ostensible Good Old Days before Windows of BillG assimilated the desktop, back when all my .BATs were in D:\BELFRY.

(Muchas gracias: Scott Wickstein.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:00 AM)
21 October 2002
Marked for death by Information Services

(Note: Particularly grievous or exceptionally stupid computer actions will be reported here, since it's demonstrably pointless to report them to anyone in a position to do something about it.)

Offense: Putting a notebook computer into hibernate mode instead of properly shutting it down. When the machine was awakened, it responded with a series of BSODs. (Incidentally, leaving a shortcut on the desktop to a game is seldom advisable.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:30 PM)
ADA DOA in cyberspace?

A federal judge in Florida has ruled that the Internet is not a "place of public accommodation" subject to the provisions of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Southwest Airlines had been sued under the ADA by a blind man and a group of advocates for the blind, claiming that the purchase of tickets on Southwest's Web site was "extremely difficult", though apparently not impossible. Judge Patricia Seitz noted that the ADA was very specific in defining areas for which accessibility must be made available, and that no references were made therein to cyberspace.

It could have been worse. They could have wanted to fly the planes.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:38 PM)
22 October 2002
Marked for death by Information Services (2)

Offense: Activating "Active Desktop" on Windows 98. There is a reason it's disabled when we hand the machines out. Desktops should be quiet, passive, inert, and they are not supposed to distract you from the work you were doing a few moments ago.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:22 PM)
23 October 2002
Computing worthy of trust

When Microsoft announced its Palladium ("Trustworthy Computing") initiative, the cynics among us reacted predictably: Redmond's plan to (among other things) build anti-copying technology into both operating system and hardware was greeted with exactly the sort of grumbling you'd expect when industry Goliaths huddle to plot against individual Davids.

"Digital rights management," the current euphemism for thwarting fair use, is of course part of Palladium, but what concerned some of the cypherpunks was the possibility that enforcement of software licenses might be on the menu as well. (Anyone who has suffered through the Windows XP "activation" farce should fear this prospect.) Microsoft denies such a thing is being planned, but just in case, a member of the opposition went ahead and filed patents for software-license management based on what is known about the Palladium architecture. Needless to say, the patent holder, Lucky Green, is not interested in managing software licenses; his goal is to keep Microsoft at bay. Whether this will work is arguable, but I persist in believing that keeping PCs as open as possible is a Good Thing.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:14 AM)
26 October 2002
Harry Potter and the Service Pack 1

Fritz Schranck runs the clock forward thirty-five years, and how surprised are you?

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:00 AM)
7 November 2002
Skies and screens of blue

James Lileks, waxing philosophical about the interaction of the divine and the damnable:

This is where computers meet the realms of philosophy: if a thing is impossible, yet appears before you, then it obviously is not impossible. Yet it is not possible for it to be possible. All those philosophers who wondered if it was possible for God to create an object He could not move are missing the point. If God is running Windows, then He will just get an error message informing Him that the object does not exist.

And, being God, He will have known in advance He would get that message.

And I thank Him that He apparently doesn't think in hex; I have enough trouble with ten commandments, let alone sixteen.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:35 AM)
20 November 2002
Lessons from life (one in a series)

Tape drives interpret the position of the write-protect device differently from the way you or I (especially I) would do it.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:58 AM)
You could look it up

For poor Page, "RTFM" is honored mostly make that exclusively in the breach:

If you're a user, you're not expected to know everything there is to know about a system. Fair enough. That's why people like me are paid to write instructions, documentation, and manuals, whatever, for you. But if I take the time to write it, you can take the time to read it. Show some initiative, for cryin' out loud!

Unfortunately, this willful sort of ignorance extends into other areas of technology. I've been known to hang out on a couple of automotive message boards, and when the Same Damn Questions recur, I'm not above being snippy enough to tack on "Further details can be found in Section [whatever] of your owner's manual." And, sure enough, the next reply is I bought it used and I don't have one.

Well, why the hell not? You can't go to the dealership and plunk down $25 for something to show you how your expensive little playpretty actually works? I bet you spent more than that upgrading your goddamn stereo, you corksoaking icehole. But no, you'll be back here in three months begging for help with your "check engine" light because you can't bear the thought of paying the shop to hook up a scan tool.

And then I erase all that and type "See your nearest authorized dealer for a copy." Wonderful things, those Terms of Service.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:10 PM)
21 November 2002
Unintellectual property

"The Digital Millennium Copyright Act doesn't affect me," you sniff. "I don't download music and I don't pirate software. All those people complaining about it nothing but a bunch of thieves trying to justify themselves."

Well, think again, chum, and by "again" I mean "once." Storm Concepts operates a site called FatWallet.com; its members utilize an extensive array of message boards to swap information about bargains available online. Perfectly harmless, right? Then some big-name retailers threatened the site with legal action under the DMCA, claiming that their sale prices are trade secrets, hence actionable. Subsequently, FatWallet.com asked members to refrain from posting prices from those retailers, lest the lawyers escalate the attack.

Now ask yourself: Are people who are trying to save money thieves? If you're prepared to answer "Yes" to this question, I fully expect you to pay full MSRP on your next car, and to brag about it to all your neighbors. I expect you to call the police and complain about everyone in line during two-for-one Wednesdays at Whataburger. And I expect you to take the standard deduction on your Federal tax return for the rest of your unnatural life.

Or you can do us all a favor and fall on your sword right now. If you don't have a sword, get one. And don't expect a discount.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:36 PM)
4 December 2002
Waving it in the wind

Even if you've never heard of Bonzi Software, you've seen their ads: they look like half-assed (maybe quarter-assed) imitations of Windows dialog boxes, usually titled "Message Alert" or something comparably absurd. You're too smart to click on those silly things? Then you're not part of the class-action suit filed against Bonzi by a Pacific Northwest legal firm.

While I personally wouldn't mind seeing Bonzi and its imitators forced to gargle with ground glass, I'm not quite sure that litigation is the answer, and I'm reasonably certain that the outcome of this suit will be a windfall for the lawyers and little or nothing for anyone else. And right now, the people I really want to see disemboweled with a slotted spoon are the ones who, when you close their popup ad, ask if you'd like to change your start page to their sleazy site. Not even Bonzi does that yet.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:36 PM)
6 December 2002
FatWallet revisited

Last time, you'll remember, FatWallet.com was being threatened under the DMCA by retailers who claimed that their prices were trade secrets and therefore covered by copyright. One of those retailers, the ever-surly Wal-Mart, went so far as to subpoena FatWallet to demand the name of the person posting Wal-Mart prices on FatWallet's message board. How were these prices obtained? Newspaper inserts require a certain amount of lead time, online prices are right there where you can see them, and, well, you can guess the rest.

A law clinic at UC Berkeley said that they would fight Wal-Mart's subpoena and DMCA claims on behalf of FatWallet. Wal-Mart, for its part, has decided to cool its jets for now.

None of this is likely to put much of a dent into the DMCA, but it's almost always a good sign when people refuse to roll over and play dead for the big shots.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:57 AM)
10 December 2002
@ are belong to us

In France, don't be caught calling @ the "at sign". It is the arobase.

They're still looking for a suitably-Gallic replacement for "email", though.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:46 AM)
The Real truth

Dave Dobbs is sorely vexed with the sore vexation that is RealPlayer:

[J]ust about every time I'm forced to use it because a stream is in ram format it tells me I need to upgrade.

I actually removed the miserable thing from one of our PC fleet today for failing to comply with a "Do not show this message again" request.

I mean, Microsoft's various Media Whatzits are annoying, but they generally shut up when told to.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:26 PM)
12 December 2002
Size matters after all

The Interactive Advertising Bureau would like you to know this:

In IAB ad effectiveness research conducted by Marketing Evolution's Rex Briggs, it was found that "?the larger format sizes, which are naturally more visible and provide more creative freedom, did prove to be significantly more effective than smaller, standard banners across all campaigns."

In related studies, it was found that, all else being equal, deer will eat significantly more of your garden than will squirrels, and that getting an inoculation in each arm hurts between 1.9 and 2.1 times as much as getting a single inoculation in one arm.

(Via Fark)

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:27 PM)
15 December 2002

I have never paid a great deal of attention to what Google thinks is its Zeitgeist, if only because I am more comfortable thinking of Google as a tool rather than as a breeding ground for the eventual Masters of the Universe.

Fortunately, this presents an opportunity for Colby Cosh to contemplate our Googlecentric future:

Do you think the people who came up with the name "Google" knew that they would essentially be running the world within a few years, and they deliberately gave their creation a cutesy, frankly imbecilic name so we wouldn't despise and fear them? The typical instinct would be to create a menacing, ahistorical brand that made you think of a gory metal maw gnawing live babies by the cord. Like "Omnix" or "Info-stopheles" or "Lycos".

In the latter case, substitute "Point" and "Tripod" for "live babies", and the truth-to-poetry ratio goes up substantially.

Of course, my greatest regret is that former Yahoo! CEO Tim Koogle has yet to serve time at Google.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:09 AM)
The nine billion ZIP codes of God

Patrick Nielsen Hayden finds Google's actual physical plant somewhat disconcerting:

It's like discovering that the Holy Spirit has a storefront headquarters, and it's in Fresno. That can't be. Like the downward-diving pigeon, Google is numinous, immanent, and everywhere at once. It doesn't have a street address, for cry eye.

Remind me not to mention what's at 1313 South Harbor Boulevard in Anaheim.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:05 PM)
18 December 2002
I seek bucks

According to U.S. Patent #6,449,344, filed in 1997 and granted this fall, instant messaging as we know it was invented by Mirabilis, the Israeli firm which created the ICQ IM client, now a part of the lumbering AOL Time Warner conglomerate. This will come as a surprise to those of us who were sending IMs in the middle 80s on QuantumLink, an online service dedicated to the Commodore 64 computer, whose parent company is now known as, um, America Online.

It's difficult to imagine why AOL would bother to try to get a patent on this fairly nebulous concept, unless it's to further annoy rivals who would like access to AOL's AIM and ICQ users, and to toss a monkey wrench into the FCC's demand that AOL, as a condition of the merger that put it under Time Warner's tent, open up its IM network. Armed with a patent, AOL could theoretically stall for twenty years or so. But given AOL Time Warner's always-precarious financial condition, the most likely result of the patent, should it stand up in court, is that AOL will seek licensing revenue from firms with IM clients of their own.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:00 AM)
21 December 2002
What you see is what you get

Flip Wilson used to say that a lot on his NBC-TV variety show in the late Sixties; as "Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get," it was a big hit for the Dramatics in 1971. I was eighteen in 1971 and had no real interest in computers, let alone how this phrase might apply to them.

Eventually, of course, it became an acronym: WYSIWYG. And when it did, Jeff Jarvis was there.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:03 PM)
22 December 2002
It's not easy bleeding green

The European Union's new "electroscrap" rules contain a provision which is intended to reduce the number of discarded inkjet cartridges on the Continent. Manufacturers are now barred from installing smart chips inside their cartridges to insure that only the OEM brand can be used as a replacement, or to prevent the use of refill kits. Given the commodity status of inkjet printers these days, this is rather like requiring Schick and Gillette razors to accept each other's blades.

Alternatively, the EU could have mandated something resembling an incentive, a couple of euros for your used cartridges from your nearest recycling center, which would then send them back to the manufacturer for salvage, but I suppose this sounds too mercenary, too market-oriented in short, too American.


Permalink to this item (posted at 9:22 AM)
3 January 2003
Hobson v1.0

You're working in a software package, and at some point you encounter a dialog with a single option: Exit Program. What do you do?

If you said anything other than "exit the program," you probably work here.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:11 AM)
23 January 2003
Patent nonsense (2)

SBC Communications, whose main contribution to the Internet up to this point has been putting perennial money-loser Prodigy out of its misery, is now claiming a patent on the invention of HTML frames.

I expect Bill Gates will now demand royalties from the people selling Ginsu knives (only 19.95!) for daring to use the number "95", which is, after all, a version of Windows.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:19 AM)
26 January 2003
You can't keep a good virus down

What with the world's attention suddenly focused on SQL Slammer, older viruses like the much-feared Klez are, like, just so 2001, you know? But shed no tears for Klez; its future is assured.

(Muchas gracias: Doc Searls.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:45 AM)
30 January 2003
Four score and seven edits ago

Well, this is kinda semi-neat: Abraham Lincoln's 1863 address at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania as a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation. (I live for the moment when PowerPoint perishes from the earth.)

(Via Fark)

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:16 AM)
5 February 2003
And bullet holes may affect respiration

In a regulatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Microsoft made the following startling declaration:

To the extent the open-source model gains increasing market acceptance, sales of the company's products may decline, the company may have to reduce the prices it charges for its products, and revenues and operating margins may consequently decline.

In a footnote, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates noted that rainfall is sporadic at best in the Mojave Desert, and that children under six should not drink bleach.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:57 AM)
11 February 2003
No gander left unsauced

Retired (yeah, that's the word) computer vandal Kevin Mitnick has had his Web site hacked twice in the last couple of weeks.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:58 AM)
28 February 2003
Cast your dreams to the wind

Former videogame power Sega, having abandoned its Dreamcast console, was getting ready to sell itself to pinball manufacturer Sammy. But now Sega may have a couple of other suitors waiting in the wings: Electronic Arts, current videogame power, and Microsoft, current videogame wannabe.

There is reason to think Sega might prefer EA over Microsoft. Presumably, were Microsoft to take over, Sega would become a provider of Xbox games only; EA provides games for multiple platforms, and an EA-controlled Sega would likely follow suit.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:50 AM)
12 March 2003
Lessons from life (one in a series)

Do not ask so-called Value-Added Resellers for technical advice. You will have better luck getting diet hints from Krispy Kreme.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:31 PM)
16 March 2003
She's so fine, my 419

By now, the 419/Nigerian Scam is old news. Been there, done that. And yes, there's a T-shirt.

How come I never think of things like this?

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:50 AM)
24 March 2003
Block that spam!

Phil Goldman says you get too much spam, which is almost certainly true, and he's going to do something about it, for a small fee.

Goldman's new Mailblocks service incorporates a so-called "Challenge/Response" mode. If you're sending mail to a Mailblocks user and you're not in that user's address book, the mail is not delivered until (1) you receive an auto-generated message from Mailblocks and (2) you reply with the authentication code included in that message. Spammers, of course, don't reply, since they sent out a bogus reply address to begin with and therefore will not receive the authentication code. Once in your recipient's address book, you can send mail with no interruptions.

Mailblocks also permits aliases which will allow computer-generated mail that is wanted mailing lists, newsletters, e-commerce confirmations and the like to pass through without challenge.

Undelivered mail is held in "quarantine" for two weeks and then automatically deleted; the recipient can inspect it at any time. Mailblocks supports both POP3 and IMAP, regular email clients or Web-based mail.

This service has only been up and running for a few hours, so I can't tell you how well it works. But for a mere ten bucks a year (twenty-five bucks for four times the storage space), it may be hard to resist.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:13 AM)
25 March 2003
Passing of a pioneer

When I hit the keyboard on my svelte little Toshiba Satellite, I don't often think about some of the ostensible "portables" that preceded it, although I do remember what it was like to schlep around an Osborne 1, a machine that was considered "portable" if you had forearms like Popeye the Sailor. (At one time I had two of these things, which today would be like having separate anchors for port and starboard.)

Adam Osborne, who came up with the idea for this spiffy (for 1981) box and sold lots of them, died last week in India at 64.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:52 AM)
27 March 2003
Beyond repair

Microsoft's latest Security Bulletin discloses a hitherto-undetected flaw in Windows NT 4.0, 2000 and XP which affects the Remote Procedure Call Endpoint Mapper, usually accessible via port 135. While the flaw does not allow an attacker to gain access to the machine, it is susceptible to the dreaded Denial of Service attack.

What's interesting about this is that while Microsoft has rushed out patches for 2000 and for XP, there will be no patch for NT 4.0. Redmond explains:

Although Windows NT 4.0 is affected by this vulnerability, Microsoft cannot provide a patch for this vulnerabilty for Windows NT 4.0. The architectural limitations of Windows NT 4.0 do not support the changes that would be required to remove this vulnerability.

Instead, they suggest, you enable your firewall to block port 135. (What? You don't have a firewall? What's wrong with you?)

This is, I think, the first time that Microsoft has actually admitted they couldn't fix something.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:15 PM)
5 April 2003
Filter this

For some time now, there's been some general uneasiness about the placement of items on Google's News pages. Now it seems that Google's very definition of "news" is arguable: The Register reports that corporate and NGO press releases can be, and occasionally are, considered to be "news" in the estimation of Google, and that Google has had to backpedal on its claim that the selection is entirely computer-based. How bad is it?

[A] search for "cluster bombs" on Google News yielded five stories, and four of them were press releases. Only one was a "news story".

I ran this search myself, and this time more than five stories came up, but the first few pages were indeed larded with press releases. Under pressure, Google has announced the release of official guidelines for what is, and what isn't, a news site, which are supposed to be due some time Monday.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:41 PM)
10 April 2003
Google's Kinda Like News

Last weekend The Register broke the story that Google News was actually accepting press releases from nonprofits and from corporate PR departments and passing them off as, well, news; some of you may have read about it here.

It gets worse. The Register has now determined that Google, far from allowing some presumably independent computer program to select its news links, is actually selling them, and the company is looking to hire someone to, um, "develop...relationships with news sources." And this, mind you, while Google maintains that placement on the Google News page is selected by computer.

I don't have a particular problem with paid links, so long as they are clearly identified as such; however, I would be much happier (as would The Register) if Google would spell out its policy on these things in something resembling plain English.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:31 AM)
13 April 2003
Too many fossils in this coal

Lynn Sislo wants to know:

Why can't we sue software companies for being a pack of idiots?

Because we agreed not to when we clicked on that "I Accept" box in the installation routine, thereby legally binding us to their definition of "warranty", which translates roughly as "Tough tesseracts, Casper, you're on your own."

Of course, the very nature of software complex at the migraine-inducing level, yet viewed by the end user as nothing more elaborate than a garden rake almost certainly insures that we will view it negatively.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:53 AM)
14 April 2003
We got your tort reform right here

Columnist Daniels at 411mania.com does the math on the RIAA's lawsuit against college students:

The lawsuit...claims damages of $150,000 per copyrighted work...for up to 700,000 files.

For those of you who don't have a calculator handy, they are suing four college students for more than 96 BILLION dollars. And that's just ONE of the cases.

So, what you have NOW is, not only is the RIAA shutting down corporate websites who are trying to make money... NOW they?re suing college students, who can probably barely afford their next dinner not provided by the dining hall, and who probably make about $8,000/year, much less afford a lawyer for the years that they may be stuck in legal wrangling. It's ridiculous and it should make you sick to your stomach. See, there's another group in the United States that use similar strong-arm tactics to intimidate their marks into submission, but we try to put the Mafia in prison all the time.

Not that the record industry has ever had any connection to the Mob, of course.

Oh, wait....

(Via Fark)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:52 AM)
30 April 2003
Next: the Auckland A's

NZ Pundit reports that the New Zealand government spent $500,000 US (about 900,000 Enzed bucks) to buy the newzealand.com domain name for a tourism site, which caused some stir in Parliament.

What makes this even weirder is that the government had first gone to the World Intellectual Property Organization and charged that Virtual Countries, the Seattle-based firm that owned the domain, had no right to it because "New Zealand" was a trademark belonging to the nation and Virtual Countries had no legitimate interest in it. WIPO, unimpressed by this argument, dismissed New Zealand's claim.

So, unable to force the domain owner to give it up, the government hence, the taxpayers decided to buy it. I can conclude only that they wanted this domain very, very badly.

Would newzealand.co.nz have been so bad?

(Via Tim Blair)

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:55 AM)
2 May 2003
Blade running

As of last night (two deleted, one added), I have twenty-three spam filters working on my incoming mail; their success ratio is somewhere between not much and zilch, but any spam I don't have to look at counts as a very minor moral victory.

The email provider for this domain recently installed a server-level despamming system called Vipul's Razor, which is supposed to catch the varmints before they reach my POP3 box. I set it up last night for my primary mailbox, and it caught fifteen of twenty-seven before I was able to provide it any feedback. Not too bad. Better, there were no false positives: nothing I actually wanted was misidentified as spam.

I'll leave this in place for a while and see if it's sufficient, or if I need to go to a more activist, locally-based system like MailFrontier's Matador.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:57 AM)
Four songs per second

No, it's not the sequel to Moby's 1000-beats-per-minute "Thousand"; it's the approximate sales volume at Apple's Music Store, which moved some 275,000 tracks in its first 18 hours of operation.

The Register notes that two labels have signed up for the eventual Windows version of the Apple store, and wonders about it:

We'd have thought Apple would have built such a licence into its agreement with the labels from the word go, but maybe that's not the case.

As would I. Is there some reason other than sheer volume why the music industry should fear Windows users more than they fear Macintosh users?

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:42 AM)
11 May 2003
Exhibit A

The ever-electric Joni, with the Scorn-O-Meter turned up past Withering:

Every idiot with a copy (bootlegged or otherwise) of Microsnot's Front Page has fancied himself a web master, with horrifying consequences.

If it's any consolation, I got to this level of idiocy with mere text editors.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:24 AM)
13 May 2003
Because they can

The Recording Industry Association of America sends out little bots to crawl around Web space and look for copyrighted music files, and should any be found, the lawyers grind out the boilerplate.

They ground out some of it to the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the Pennsylvania State University, which puzzled department officials, inasmuch as there weren't any such files on their servers. Eventually they found what the bot had: a filkish tune about a gamma-ray satellite, written by Dr Peter Usher, which the bot had misidentified as a song by R&B yawner Usher.

The RIAA noted in its apology to Penn State that it does not require its enforcers to audition files called into question. Similarly, you'd hardly expect Stalin to keep track of every single kulak.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:19 AM)
21 May 2003
Marked for death by Information Services (3)

Offense: Checking out a corporate notebook and bringing it back defiled with some sixty-four pieces of assorted spyware and associated crap.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:47 PM)
26 May 2003
Now he tells us

This frightening little gem turned up at Tony Talks Tech:

Monday morning is the most likely time for a [corporate] website to crash. It's not because hackers like to get up early and start the workweek off with a few extra machines to take down, but because in-house IT staff come into the office with their groggy brains chock full of ideas they had over the weekend. They have a "weekend inspiration" and come in Monday morning and tinker...and the website goes down. The researchers say the best uptime days are during holidays like Christmas and New Years when the IT staff stays home. But then, "as soon as you see the developers logging on again, the trouble starts."

Hmmm. Monday is on a Tuesday this week, so let's see what happens.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:55 PM)
29 May 2003
Tweedledum, Tweedledee settle

Last year, AOL Time Warner, corporate parent of What's Left of Netscape, filed a nuisance suit against Microsoft, complaining about the usual antitrust bushwa. Today, Bill Gates pulled $750 million out of Redmond's petty cash to shut them the hell up.

Oh, there are the usual pleasantries, including an extension of AOL's license to use Microsoft Internet Explorer in its online service, and an agreement to make MSN's and AOL's IM clients slightly less incompatible, but there's no sign of what I'd really like to see: a joint effort to crush RealPlayer once and for all.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:02 PM)
30 May 2003
The MS/AOL connection

Tristan Louis analyzes the Microsoft/AOL agreement, and what is most interesting about his analysis, I think, is his take on the internal politics of the two companies:

In the mid-90s, Microsoft was starting to move more into the general media space. With this agreement, Microsoft signals the completion of a shift back to its software roots. It is probably a realization that there is still a lot of growth in that arena and that it doesn't make sense from their standpoint to try to get into the media world by acquiring and/or building media assets.

On the AOL/Time-Warner front, this annoucement shows a clear power shift in who controls the company. The power is now in Time-Warner hands, with any concept of competing with Microsoft on the software end now a distant memory. Time-Warner understands media and figures that it is better to rely on an outside party to deal with the software side of the business than to try to develop things themselves.

How this fits with the rumors that AOL will be spun off from the rest of Time Warner remains to be seen, but fractiousness has been part of the corporate program ever since Warner Communications merged with/was absorbed by/ransacked Time Inc., and peace in the valley will not be bought by selling off those damnable Internet interlopers.

As for Redmond, well, they're never happier than when they're dominant.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:01 PM)
4 June 2003
Marked for death by Information Services (4)

Offense: Checking out a corporate notebook and bringing it back in Standby mode. I don't much care what you were doing at the time; I do care that the battery was down to 8 percent. Fortunately, I checked it over the day before it was scheduled to go out again, so it will have the benefit of an overnight charge, but dayum, people.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:55 PM)
10 June 2003
Doing a perfect 360

Dear Lynn:

Do you need 5¼-inch diskettes? Let me know. I have boxes of the darn things.

And a drive, should it be necessary.

Love and segment registers,


Permalink to this item (posted at 11:20 AM)
Marked for death by Information Services (5)

Offense: Generating a six-hour print job and then one hour later sending an underling to ask if it's ready yet because "we need something to do."

I suggested something, but it requires an extremely detailed knowledge of anatomy, topology and non-Euclidean geometry, so I rather expect that it went undone.

(Update, 11 June, 7:05 am: They haven't picked it up yet.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:48 PM)
16 June 2003
Sex.com, lies, and VeriSign

Gary Kremen owned the presumably lucrative domain sex.com, and all was well, as the phrase goes.

Then in 1995, one Stephen Michael Cohen forged a letter from Kremen's company asking domain registrar VeriSign to transfer the domain to, um, Stephen Michael Cohen. And VeriSign promptly did so.

Six years of litigation followed. Cohen admitted to the forgery, but has thus far managed to avoid the $65 million in penalties and restitution ordered by the court. He appealed the size of the judgment to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which refused any relief, and last week the Supreme Court upheld the judgment. Cohen himself wasn't present; he is hiding out in Mexico.

Gary Kremen, however, has bigger fish to fry: VeriSign has refused to accept any responsibility for turning over the domain to Cohen, arguing that a domain name cannot be considered "property" in any legal sense and therefore they cannot be held liable; further, says VeriSign, if it is found liable, the entire registry system could crumble, heralding the end of the Internet as we know it.

VeriSign's Network Solutions unit has been working to clean up its act in recent years and, not incidentally, to further limit its liability in domain disputes but should the courts find for Kremen, it will cost NSI $100 million and what's left of its credibility.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:43 AM)
26 June 2003
A tapestry of delight

So we got the workhorse printer serviced, and it was good, and a day and a half later the main circuit board failed. The tech managed to get us a new board in a day, which isn't at all bad, but once it was installed, we were still a long way away from getting any work done: not only did the EPROM have to be reflashed for some reason, it loses what brain it has when it's moved to another socket and there are eleventy-one absurd little settings that have to be tweaked for our graphics stuff to work, which said EPROM doesn't trouble itself to save at all.

Which wouldn't have been so bad in and of itself, inasmuch as it was 4:05 or so and the clock was running down, until Chatty Cathy decided to unleash a couple hours' worth of print (on some other printer, at least). Of course, she's not going to stay late and wait for it, but if it's not done when she comes by in the morning, she'll emit the sort of whine you usually associate with misaligned disc brakes.

For the record, it took an hour to reconfigure the wounded beast, during which I uttered a number of things which would upset, if not longshoremen in Long Beach, certainly convent girls in Philadelphia.

Tomorrow, it appears, will be worse.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:30 PM)
9 July 2003
Ink: it's what's for wasting

The nonprofit association Consumentenbond, sort of the Dutch equivalent of Consumer Reports, has taken the unusual step of recommending that its users avoid Epson-branded ink jet printers. According to The Register, the group found that the "smart" chip inside the cartridge signals "empty" when there is enough ink remaining for about 50 pages of text. The chip is used by Epson and other manufacturers to prevent users from refilling the cartridges and reusing them.

Epson questions Consumentenbond's findings and denies any skullduggery, but given my experience with current Hewlett-Packard printers a since-discarded DeskJet 3800 would demand a new cartridge about three days (60 pages, say) before the ink actually gave out, and my current 5500 seems to be no more abstemious I'd say that ink-jet manufacturers are making a really strong case.

For lasers.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:29 AM)
12 August 2003
Tripped up in the patent minefield

The University of California owns US patent number 5,838,906, granted in 1998 after a four-year wait, which describes a method for embedding executable code in a Web page and a means to execute it in a browser. The University has engaged Eolas Technologies to administer this patent.

Eolas quickly hit upon an administration tool: sue the pants off Microsoft, whose ActiveX controls constitute a method for embedding executable code in a Web page and a means to execute it in a browser. The suit was filed in 1999, and yesterday a jury found that Microsoft was liable for infringement of the California patent. Damages of $520.6 million were assessed.

Bill Gates, of course, could pull this sum out of petty cash, though Microsoft can be expected to fight this tooth and nail at least until the patent expires. And rival browsers might also be considered to be infringing upon the patent, but makers of rival browsers don't have this kind of money.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:33 AM)
13 August 2003
Worm turns

Blasted are the users, for they are afflicted with that damnable MSBlast thing. Among the blasted: the Oklahoma State Supreme Court.

I'm not even sure I want to boot up the Road Warrior tonight.

(Update, 9 pm: My trusty notebook is just fine evidently I downloaded the pertinent patch some time during the World Tour, probably while running to the ice machine at the hotel but Norton jumped in with a scream screen anyway, mainly because it's been almost a year since Symantec got paid.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:28 PM)
14 August 2003
Blue Screen of Math

Scott Charney, Microsoft's go-to guy for security matters, told developers at Tech.Ed 2003 in Brisbane, Australia that "half of all crashes in Windows are caused not by Microsoft code, but third-party code."

Of course, this means that half of all crashes in Windows are caused by Microsoft code.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:30 AM)
29 August 2003
As the worm turns

The Feds are coming down hard on Jeffrey Lee "teekid" Parson, who allegedly has admitted to rewriting the Blaster worm and turning loose his handiwork on an insufficiently-suspecting world.

What to do with a bratling like this? Michele mocks him far better than I, but the solution I like the best comes from one of her commenters, a chap named Morpheus:

[T]his little boil on the backside of the nation has caused something like tens or hundreds of millions of dollars of damage (if not billions), so a simple (or even complex) spanking is not really a suitable punishment. A nice, long, horsewhipping, followed by a few weeks in the stocks somewhere on Wall Street, followed by a 100% garnishment of his wages above, say $10k/year for life might begin to cover it.

Cracking: it's not just a job, it's indenture.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:59 PM)
31 August 2003
Bill Gates and the Templates of Doom

A couple of weeks ago, Microsoft lost a civil suit filed by Eolas Technologies, charging patent infringement. Damages of over $500 million were assessed.

The World Wide Web Consortium convened a meeting the next week to see how this verdict would impact the Web and its future development. Microsoft, a W3C member, indicated that Internet Explorer would be revised, presumably to remove the offending code.

The Register suggests that one motivation for the Microsoft move would be to avoid paying future royalties to Eolas. (As the Bill Gates character said in an episode of The Simpsons, "I didn't get rich by writing a lot of checks.") The financial aspects mean very little to you or to me, but inasmuch as a rather large portion of us test our Web stuff on some version of IE, we may be in for some rewriting somewhere down the line. Not that we aren't constantly tweaking and editing and rewriting already, of course.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:12 PM)
9 September 2003
Copywronged again

You might think you had the right to open your own damn garage door.

Not necessarily.

(Muchas gracias: Hanah at Quare.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:06 PM)
21 September 2003
And how big is yours?

40 gigabytes, which, according to the drive manufacturer (Seagate), is forty billion bytes.

Computer manufacturers have duly copied claims like this into their advertising, complete with an explanation in tiny type, and now four chaps from L.A. have filed suit against the big brand names, charging that the practice is deceptive, that a gigabyte is not in fact one billion bytes but 1,073,741,824 (two to the thirtieth power). A "40-gigabyte drive" like mine in practice will store only 37.25 gb.

Just wait until they see how much is left after installing Windows XP.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:16 PM)
28 September 2003
A VeriStupid move

Two weeks ago, the Internet registrar VeriSign began redirecting lookups for misspelled and nonexistent .com and .net domains to its own Site Finder page in a blatant attempt to snag some advertising revenue. Critics pointed out at the time that VeriSign was breaking some antispam services which checked for invalid domains: if a domain was reported as invalid, the email was marked as spam, and Site Finder doesn't report the same way.

ICANN subsequently asked VeriSign to quit screwing around, VeriSign refused, and now the lawsuits have begun.

The Register says that VeriSign's Site Finder revenue expectations are unrealistic, even if the service isn't eventually shut down by legal action and/or technical workarounds. For individual Webmasters, this whole affair will probably be seen as yet another reason not to trust VeriSign as a domain registrar.

(Disclosure: I own two domains, one of which is registered through VeriSign's Network Solutions subsidiary.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:34 AM)
3 October 2003
VeriSign gets a dope slap

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers has ordered VeriSign to shut down its controversial (and, to some of us, incredibly stupid) SiteFinder facility. SiteFinder, which VeriSign designed to intercept requests for misspelled or otherwise defective .com and .net domains, has been accused of "breaking" various spam filters and other Internet systems.

VeriSign said they would comply with the ICANN request temporarily. Said VeriSign's Russell Lewis:

During the more than two weeks that SiteFinder has been operational, there is no data to indicate that the core operation of the Domain Name System or stability of the Internet has been adversely affected. ICANN is using anecdotal and isolated issues to attempt to regulate nonregistry services.

Inasmuch as SiteFinder must consult the VeriSign registry to be able to intercept requests for domains not registered, it's difficult to see how anyone can seriously consider the facility to be a "nonregistry" service.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:09 PM)
16 October 2003
Apple turns a buck

Actually, 29 million of them for the quarter ending September, despite a couple of accounting charges. What's more, Apple's US retail stores, after a start which could charitably be characterized as slow, are now profitable.

Yeah, I know, I'm on one of those evil Wintel boxes. (Well, not precisely; my desktop at home has an AMD CPU, as did its three immediate predecessors.) But so long as the insanely great stuff starts on the Macintosh side of the aisle, it's clearly in my best interest to cheer Apple on.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:40 AM)
5 November 2003
Will greed undo geeks?

Microsoft apparently thinks so; they're offering $250,000 US for information leading to the capture and conviction of the individuals who inflicted the MSBlast worm and Sobig virus upon the computing world, part of an overall $5 million war chest.

Which is probably still cheaper than writing security patches.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:25 PM)
14 November 2003
Uplifting news

Well, whaddya know: You do have the right to open your own damn garage door after all.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:49 PM)
17 November 2003
Marked for death by Information Services (6)

Whoever had the bright idea of designing an EPROM that can't survive being powered off and somehow managed to sell it to a major printer manufacturer.

(Said printer manufacturer should also be dispatched, for buying such an asinine idea.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:26 AM)
2 December 2003
It's the Ether Bunny!

Well, I've started to assemble something resembling broadband: I have a suitable modem for the cable system (Terayon TJ 715 series), and I've bound TCP/IP to the desktop's NIC.

Of course, I haven't a clue what I should be doing next, except that I am exceedingly wary about running the cable company's Big Disk O' Goodies, most of which are probably superfluous. Still, it's a start towards getting weaned from the dialup.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:35 PM)
3 December 2003
Birds of a feather

Dante didn't assign a Circle for spammers and virus writers, though it's probably not hard to figure out where in the Inferno they should go, through the miracle of data interpolation: they'd slot above child molesters (as almost everyone would), but below, say, Tom DeLay.

The important thing, though, is that they stay together, especially now that there's evidence that they're working together. W32/Mimail-L is a new worm which, when installed, triggers a Denial of Service attack on the servers of antispam groups (and on Disney's Go.com, which surely means something).

The worm is packaged with an email ostensibly from a woman named Wendy who claims to be offering photos of an erotic encounter. Like I'd actually be interested in that.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:36 PM)
It's full of bytes!

The cable connection seems to be delivering tonight, though there was one odd glitch which both saturated the cable modem (I'm guessing) and sidelined the secondary IDE controller (thereby killing both CD-ROM and CD-RW). Fixed by cycling the BRS.

Thanks to everyone who wrote with advice. As usual, you were all correct. :)

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:18 PM)
9 December 2003
Diebold with a vengeance

A number of people are distrustful of Diebold because (1) they make voting machines and (2) their management is staunchly Republican.

My gripe with them, on the other hand, is that they're building Windows XP-based automatic teller machines, that a small fraction of them were actually infected with the Nachi/Welchia worm this summer, and that they're only just now admitting to it.

Could Diebold's voting machines be similarly infected? Probably not; they run Windows CE, which lacks some of the obvious holes in other versions of Windows, and they're usually not operated on a network.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:35 PM)
12 December 2003
Cross purposes

Microsoft's Bookshelf Symbol 7 font, included with Office 2003, includes a couple of swastikas. The company is offering a utility to purge the font set, which, says microsoft.com, contains "unacceptable characters."

The Third Reich, you'll remember, used only one swastika variation: clockwise, rotated 45 degrees. Apparently today any swastika is now considered a Nazi artifact, even if it's religious in origin; if you use the hated symbol, it has to be because it's always been your dream to annex Austria and invade Poland. Similarly, possession of a Confederate flag implies possession of enough rope to perform a couple of lynchings, and the twelve-story illuminated cross on the Bank One Tower in downtown Oklahoma City, something we see every December, means that the bank doesn't want business from non-Christians.

All this reminds me of a dust-up from about a decade ago, when someone with too much time on his hands discovered that if you type NYC in Microsoft's Wingding font something you'd really have no reason to do, generally you get a skull and crossbones, a Star of David, and a thumbs-up graphic. Interpreted, of course, as an anti-Semitic statement. Penn Jillette, bless him, said at the time that it could just as easily mean "Jewish people make really good pesticides."

There is defensive, and there is demented. Used to be, there was a recognizable difference between the two.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:24 PM)
13 December 2003
No hard drive jokes

The upheaval that comes with a move on the severity scale, I rate one move as roughly equivalent to 0.6 fire inevitably means that some books at the bottom of the stack will be rotated upwards, which is how I found a 1992 Que manual called Real Men Use DOS, written by the presumed Real Man Mike Miller and the apparently Highly Unimpressed Shelley O'Hara.

Of course, the Home Improvement-like approach of this book is a bit on the silly side, which is probably why I bought it in the first place. Then again, sometimes it cuts deep. Chapter 17, written by Shelley, opens with the following assertion:

By now you should have figured out that DOS is like most men unattractive and noncommunicative.

Hmmm. Do I have trouble communicating?

And just incidentally, eleven years after this book was written, the most avid DOS user I know is a woman; she fears no hardware known to man and sneers at dumbed-down documentation.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:29 PM)
22 December 2003
Don't they know it's the end of the world?

Call it Y2k04.

PTC, manufacturer of product lifecycle management software for business, has run into a lifecycle issue of its own. Their products' internal clock for computing dates maxes out at two billion seconds since 1970, a date chosen to match the introduction of Unix, and a date common in Unix-based applications.

The two-billionth second, however, will arrive on 10 January 2004, at which time PTC's products will grind to a halt. Software updates are in the pipeline, and no serious downtime is likely to result, but anyone who was thinking that Y2k-like problems were gone for the next thousand years or so should probably think again.

(Via CNet News.com)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:28 AM)
28 January 2004
A three-finger salute

David Bradley, the IBM tech who devised the Ctrl-Alt-Delete key combination for freeing up a frozen PC, is retiring after twenty-eight years with Big Blue.

He is modest about his accomplishment: "I may have invented it, but Bill [Gates] made it famous."

[Pause while Macintosh owners snicker.]

(Muchas gracias: Eugene Volokh.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:53 PM)
12 February 2004
Memo to an unnamed school

If your filtering software is obtuse enough to think my site is pornographic, it's prima facie evidence that two roads diverged in the wood, and you took the path of least resistance.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:12 PM)
13 February 2004
Get it now before it works

Literally for months, Windows Media Player's auto-update feature has been nagging me to upgrade to version 9, and finally I bit the bullet yesterday and downloaded the 13-megabyte package.

This morning, of course, there was a new "security update."

Let it be said that all software beyond the level of Hello, world! has bugs and/or "random features" and/or "undocumented functionality." Still, any Microsoft package rivals the Albert Hall for holes.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:29 AM)
14 February 2004
First I look at the source

You read enough bad press about Windows, you start to wonder just what sort of horrible things really are inside that mass of code.

Now I know.

(Via Rocket Jones, who always suspected as much.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:55 PM)
10 March 2004
Redmond dodges a bullet, maybe

Back in 1999, Eolas Technologies, on behalf of the University of California, sued Microsoft, claiming that Internet Explorer's method of embedding executable code in a Web page infringed upon UC's patent; last summer, the jury found for Eolas and awarded damages upward of half a billion dollars.

Of course, Bill Gates didn't get rich by writing a lot of checks, and it appears he may not have to write this one either: the US Patent and Trademarks Office, acting on a report by World Wide Web founder Tim Berners-Lee that the original HTML spec described comparable methods for embedding code long before the patent was issued, is now considering declaring that patent invalid. Examination of the patent continues; Eolas gets 60 days to explain itself.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:07 PM)
14 March 2004
Digital signaling

The current build of Mozilla Firefox has a Download Manager, the background of which looks like this.

A lot of people are reading things into it that really aren't there. At least, I think they aren't there.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:03 PM)
22 April 2004

Google's Gmail isn't even available to the general public yet, and already a California (of course) state senator is calling for it to be banned.

Liz Figueroa (D-Fremont) has introduced a bill which, in its current version, would bar an email provider from scanning incoming customer email for content other than spam or viruses.

Google has not made a public response to Figueroa's bill at this writing.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:19 PM)
28 June 2004
You're choking in it

The Code Warrior reported today that over the weekend, we were favored with some fourteen thousand individual spams, which would take a large part of the morning to delete and which in the interim would likely slow the corporate mail service. (Well, duh.)

There is, of course, no way to be properly avenged, but I suspect it will be easier for a mailbag full of Levitra® to pass through the eye of a needle than for a single spammer to avoid eternal damnation.

I'm stocking up on extra-small needles as a precaution.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:17 PM)
26 July 2004
Rip van Hoodwink

Those wonderful folks at Macrovision claim they have a "99-percent" effective copy-protection system for music CDs. A CD thus protected will demand to be run on Windows Media Player, which will then offer (yeah, right) to install Macrovision's Active Software Protection program, which blocks rippage and cloning.

For a few more weeks anyway, until they come up with a version of this that will screw up Apple as well as Wintel boxes, this looks like another good argument for a Macintosh.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:52 PM)
12 August 2004
38911 BASIC bytes free

And remember: if you LOAD [filename],8, it loads to the bottom of the BASIC program area, whereas if you LOAD [filename],8,1, it loads at the location specified in the program itself. (Of course, if you just type LOAD, it pulls the first program off the Datassette.)

I think. After a couple of decades, it's hard to be sure without access to the original hardware.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:31 AM)
30 August 2004
Marked for death by Information Services (7)

And, in fact, by anyone who's ever received a call from them: the sleazeballs who have tweaked Caller ID to read 000-000-0000, a violation of FTC telemarketer rules, which is evidently intended to evade telco blocking technology.

I never answer my phone anyway, but having it ring every twenty minutes and seeing these miserable jerkwads on the screen is beyond annoying; anyone who is positively identified as having done this should be forever barred from wired, wireless, or VoIP service.

After being horsewhipped, of course.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:05 PM)
1 September 2004
More uplifting news

A Federal appeals court has ruled that you still have the right to open your own damn garage door.

If you missed this, the case in question is Chamberlain Group, Inc. v. Skylink Technologies, Inc. Chamberlain, miffed that Skylink had come up with a third-party remote that works with Chamberlain openers, sued under the the government's all-purpose harrassment tool, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, arguing that Skylink's remote sneaks around the computer program in its openers.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation published this summation of the appellate court's findings:

Chamberlain's proposed construction would allow copyright owners to prohibit exclusively fair uses even in the absence of any feared foul use. It would therefore allow any copyright owner, through a combination of contractual terms and technological measures, to repeal the fair use doctrine with respect to an individual copyrighted work or even selected copies of that copyrighted work. Again, this implication contradicts § 1201(c)(1) directly. Copyright law itself authorizes the public to make certain uses of copyrighted materials. Consumers who purchase a product containing a copy of embedded software have the inherent legal right to use that copy of the software. What the law authorizes, Chamberlain cannot revoke.

(Disclosure: I have a Skylink remote, though it's not being used with a Chamberlain opener.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:05 PM)
25 September 2004
Be vewy, vewy qwiet

I'm downloading Windows XP Service Pack 2.

[semi-maniacal laughter]

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:21 PM)
3 November 2004
A price far above rubies

Actually, I haven't priced any rubies lately, but work with me here.

Here in the oil patch, the price of crude is always a topic of discussion, and with the price hovering in the low $50s of late, and gas prices running $1.85 per gallon around town, speculation as to what will happen at the pump next week is always rampant. And at some point in today's speculation, we wandered off-topic to the question of More Expensive Liquids, of which the most expensive, of course, can be found in the cartridges of your inkjet printer.

The common comparison, of course, is with Dom Perignon, but since not even The Donald buys Dom in 42-gallon barrels, we decided to do the math one more time. An HP 56 cartridge (black and white) for the DeskJet I use at work runs $35 and contains 19 ml; one liter of the stuff 52.6 cartridges full comes to $1842. Multiply by 159.05 liters per barrel, and you're looking at $292,900 for a barrel of ink.

The plastic shells? Well, I send those back to HP for recycling, so I figured it was easier to take them out of the equation, but surely they cost something.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:06 PM)
26 November 2004
The big Mo

I downloaded the full 1.0 release of Mozilla Firefox (dated 7 November), and it installed without a hitch. I like it fine.

(Update, 2:45 pm: The following paragraph has been superseded see Comments.)

[O]ne irritant from the pre-release version inexplicably remains: there's still a link for "Mozilla Firebird Help," and it points to a page that's since been moved. I assume this will be fixed at some point, though for some reason I had assumed it would be fixed by now.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:44 AM)
29 November 2004
Weaselboy runs for it

Peter Francis-Macrae has been described as, among other things, "Britain's most prolific spammer" and "a slimy ball of crap." He's currently at large, having apparently fled after being charged with a variety of misdeeds, including screwing with Britain's .uk domain registry and phoning in death threats to a telephone operator.

I mention this because earlier in his career, he issued a threat to, well, me. Nothing came of it, as I expected, but this has pretty much always been PFM's M.O., and the thought that he might wind up in the Hotel Greybar fills me with considerable glee.

My thanks to this chap at UserFriendly.org's message board, who was kind enough to send me enough traffic to tip me off.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:47 PM)
5 December 2004
Just browsing

Since people are starting to post their browser distributions, sometimes to make a political point, sometimes to refute one, and since I don't have my SiteMeter results open to the public before you ask, it has something to do with the fact that I actually pay for the darn thing I'm posting my current market-share data here.

  • 74.1 percent: Microsoft Internet Explorer
  • 17.5 percent: Mozilla Firefox and related browsers
  •   3.9 percent: Safari
  •   3.3 percent: Netscape
  •   1.1 percent: Opera
  •   0.1 percent: WebTV

Possible skew factors: I browse with Firefox at home, but with IE 6 at work. SM seems to break out Netscape separately from other Gecko-based browsers, but Camino, for one, seems to be lumped in with the Mozillas (Mozillae?).

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:02 PM)
17 December 2004
It was just a matter of time

Google's SafeSearch filter, within its limitations, will parse your search results and excise anything sexually explicit or otherwise not particularly safe for work. What they don't have is a filter for that undifferentiated mass of preverts who seek only the rude, crude, and occasionally screwed.

Enter the inevitable third party. Monzy.org's UnsafeSearch actually performs two Google searches on your string: first they pull in all the results, and then they run a SafeSearch to pull in only the "safe" results. It becomes then a simple matter of subtracting B from A.

And do read the statistics. Preferably not out loud.

(Via Cruel Site of the Day.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:27 AM)
1 January 2005
An insanely great deal

Could Apple talk me into an iMac if they dropped the price to $500 or so?

I think they could. It wouldn't necessarily supplant the succession of Wintel boxes that have been cluttering up my desktop, but it would give me an opportunity to play with some Mac-specific stuff for once, and it would give me some experience on yet another platform, which is always useful in case of, let us say, life-changing incidents.

Besides, a low-end Macintosh is hardly shameful; I've never owned a high-powered machine of any description, unless you were overly impressed by the Commodore 128 in 1986. (Then again, I did shoehorn 1.6 MB of RAM and 60 MB worth of hard drive into a lowly 10-MHz XT clone once upon a time.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:14 PM)
16 January 2005
Panix in the streets

Public Access Networks Corporation, an ISP which traces its origins back to 1989, had its primary panix.com domain hijacked this weekend.

A lot of DNS records get screwed up from time to time, and it's as often due to stupidity as it is to malice, but this particular incident looks, well, evil. The company briefly posted a notice on its alternate panix.net domain; it's gone now, but Dawn Eden transcribed it:

Panix's main domain name, panix.com, has been hijacked by parties unknown. The ownership of panix.com was moved to a company in Australia, the actual DNS records were moved to a company in the United Kingdom, and panix.com's mail has been redirected to yet another company in Canada. Panix staff are currently working around the clock to recover our domain, but this may take until Monday, due to the time differences and difficulties in reaching responsible parties over the weekend.

Indeed, a check of whois.sc last night, which I repeated this morning, identifies the registrar as Melbourne IT, Ltd. d/b/a Internet Names Worldwide, lists the owner as one Vanessa Miranda, 1010 Grand Cerritos Avenue, Las Vegas, NV 89123, and designates the admin contact as Burnhill Business Center, Beckenham, Kent, England. At this writing, http://www.panix.com/ brings up the stock Under Construction screen from freeparking.co.uk; the specified nameserver is ns1.ukdnsservers.co.uk. The IP address given resolves to Koallo Inc. in Canada.

As Dawn says, "This is bizarre and scary." It won't affect The Dawn Patrol, which is not hosted at Panix, but the potential for screwing with people's email is certainly substantial.

Panix, as it happens, was the victim of the first publicized Denial of Service attack, as Bruce Scheier reported in his book Secrets & Lies: Digital Security in a Networked World:

In Sept 1996, an unknown hacker attacked the Public Access Networks Corporation (aka Panix) which was a New York based internet service provider. What they did was send hello messages (SYN packets) to the Panix computers. What's supposed to happen is for the remote computer to send Panix this hello message, for Panix to respond, and then for the remote computer to continue the conversation. What the attackers did was to manipulate the return address of the remote computers, so Panix ended up trying to synchronize with computers that essentially did not exist. The Panix computers waited 75 seconds after responding for the remote computer to acknowledge the response before abandoning the attempt. The hackers flooded Panix with as many as 50 of these wake-up messages per second. This was too much for the Panix computers to handle, and they caused the computers to crash.

These days, SYN flooding is treatable: we know better. But the present-day Panix attack is something quite a bit more insidious, since it goes directly to the heart of a shared resource and screws with the allocations therein.

(Update, 8 pm: Progress is being made; the domain transfer back to the proper owners is underway. However, it will be a day or two before all the DNS servers worldwide are updated with the correct information.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:23 AM)
17 January 2005
Panix stricken

If you're following the domain hijacking at Panix, you might be interested in today's MOTD, which reads as follows:

This is a (relatively) brief statement about the hijacking and return of the panix.com domain name. In the days and weeks to come, we'll have more to say, but at the moment, we need to continue to work on finding the perpetrators, or else catching up on missed sleep. (That's a lot of catching up!)

The domain was transferred by parties unknown. It took effect around 4-4:30 AM EST Friday night/Saturday morning. The incorrect data was replaced by correct data shortly after 6PM EST Sunday evening, by the new registrar. The domain will be transferred back to the old registrar soon, but this is no longer urgent.

Neither the hijacking or the return were under Panix's control. That is, they involved the manipulation of third parties (Dotster, MelbourneIT, and Verisign) that control the use of domain names on the Internet, and which neither Panix nor any other ISP controls.

The effect of the transfer was simple: the name "panix.com", and any name ending in ".panix.com", pointed to servers that did not belong to Panix. That meant that all services provided using the panix.com name failed, and mail to panix.com was accepted by the bogus servers, then bounced as undeliverable. Sometime on Saturday, however, the bogus mail servers became unavailable. So a lot of mail sent after that time will be (or has already been) delivered.

Customers with their own domain names were generally unaffected by this problem, with the notable exception of some web service customers. The problems they experienced were due to use "behind the scenes" of the panix.com name in the delivery of their service. This was fixed well before the domain was returned to us, as we changed our service to use "panix.net" instead.

The effects of the hijacking were not immediately apparent to everyone, because of the effect of "DNS caching". It takes up to 24 hours for DNS changes to become visible (depending on how recently, before the change, that name was used). So the failure wasn't noticed by some people for up to 24 hours after it started, and similarly, it will take until about 6:15PM EST on Monday for the fix to affect everyone.

This hijacking involved multiple felonies here and abroad. Many members of law enforcement agencies in the US and at least three other countries have already been involved. We hope to catch the perpetrators, just as we caught the last person to attack Panix (several years ago). For obvious reasons, we can't discuss the investigation.

Because of the scope of the problems caused by this hijacking, we may not be able to respond to each individual customer query (either by email or in the newsgroups) as well as we'd like to. We'll try to answer the questions as best we can, but we may resort to mailing back a "FAQ" (Frequently Asked Questions) sheet. I also recommend that Panix customers refer to the "panix.questions" newsgroup, which contains lots of questions and quite a few answers, though in a somewhat chaotic format.

Please be patient if we don't respond to your mail instantly. It's been an incredibly difficult weekend, and the next few days are going to be only marginally less so.

As always, I'd like to thank the many customers and friends who sent in expressions of loyalty and support (even financial support!).

Alexis Rosen
Public Access Internet & UNIX [panix.com]

This can't have been easy on anybody at Panix these past few days. It's good to see that some semblance of normalcy is being attained.

Why Panix, anyway? A support person at Panix, having read my previous article, detailing an earlier attack on them, noted:

I guess we're a favorite target because we have historical name recognition and a certain reputation for skill and know-how, so it's a bigger coup in the eyes of the fellow pond scum when one of them manages to make our lives difficult. Eh well.

If nothing else, this should demonstrate pretty clearly the kinship between computer vandals and terrorists: the mindset is almost identical.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:51 AM)
25 January 2005

America Online has announced the discontinuance of its Usenet news servers, citing low usage.

AOL users will presumably still be able to access Usenet newsgroups through Google, or by signing on with an independent news server at their own expense.

There is no indication that AOL's decision was at all related to AOL users' legendary netiquette, or more precisely, the lack thereof. (Then again, in twelve years of newsgroup usage, I've seen lots of lusers who weren't on AOL.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:50 AM)
27 January 2005
Serves him right

Well, technically this is a serving suggestion only.

(Via Reflections in d minor.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:00 PM)
31 January 2005
Clicked out

Old keyboards, at least on the Wintel side of the aisle, still have a great deal to offer: they have solid feel, they don't have a bunch of Windows-specific keys to mess with, and they last forever.

Well, almost forever. My work box had a genuine Big Blue-branded keyboard that managed a good thirteen years before starting to develop signs of erratic behavior, and when it wouldn't respond to a cleaning regimen, it was sent to the parts bin. Its replacement, you'll be happy to hear, is nine years old; it's quieter, but I won't hold that against it.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:52 AM)
1 February 2005
Heavy leakage

Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel has turned up the nefarious Spector Pro scumware on three computers in his office.

District 1 Commissioner Jim Roth says that the program was presumably installed by someone with administrative access to the county network or to someone actually using the machine; he does not believe it was acquired by simple Web browsing.

Whetsel is properly appalled:

Anything sensitive that we might have been working on, they could have taken a screen shot at any time and be looking at material that they have no business looking at. If someone was watching and taking screen shots, there is a good possibility that sensitive law enforcement information has been compromised.

Spyware detectors are being installed system-wide.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:13 AM)
11 February 2005
Low-tech hacking

Our esteemed health-insurance provider, CFI Care (not its real initials), has been pestering me for weeks to sign up for some third-party "disease-management program," and their HQ in deepest [location redacted] calls about three times every two weeks. When I don't respond, CFI sends a letter to scold me, then the cycle repeats.

I was expecting the regular scolding in this week's mail, but instead got a security advisory. It seems that the aforementioned third party had had a security breach which may have jeopardized my personal information, had I bothered to send them any. The nature of this breach?

[A]n unauthorized person accessed secured office space in [firm name redacted] headquarters and stole a computer from an employee's desktop.

No Trojans, no keystroke recorders, no secret mirrors in Estonia: some guy just went in and hoisted a PC off someone's desk.

Yeah, I want these people to have all my medical records at their disposal, don't I?

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:56 PM)
25 February 2005
Yeah, format this, pal

Apple's iPod has no support for the open-source Ogg Vorbis file format, which bothers Lileks hardly at all:

Let me speak for millions here who just want to listen to music: I don't care about Ogg Vorbis. If Ogg Vorbis came to my house and waved tentacles at me demanding in a slobbery moan that I kneel and submit, I would shoot it. I don't know what it is and I don't care.

Yeah, we know: Ogg Vorbis is open-source and doesn't contain that evil Digital Rights Management bugaboo. Inasmuch as circumventing DRM is a fair-sized cottage industry already, I don't think this is much of a selling point.

Meanwhile, in the unlikely event that someone should send me a VQF file, I'm prepared.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:23 AM)
24 March 2005
It ain't me, babe

N. Z. Bear warns of the dangers of Google's reverse telephone-directory lookup.

In the past I've not found such things particularly reliable, but I duly plugged in the ten digits anyway, and found, to my surprise, that I live in a duplex north of 23rd and Ann Arbor.

Also, that I'm a girl.

(Neither my alternate number nor my wireless number produced results.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:30 AM)
U! S! R!

USRobotics, who manufactured the modem I keep in reserve in case I need a dial-up, has sent me a list of deals on wireless gear. Are they worth a darn? I'd like to set up a wireless network at Surlywood, and I have a pretty good idea of what I need, but I draw a blank on brand names.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:47 PM)
25 March 2005
Tech support may be withdrawn at any time

This is just wrong on so many levels, but....

The Terri Schiavo Status Firefox Extension is available for download.

(Via Screenhead.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:13 AM)
5 April 2005
It's two! Two! Two searches in one!

Have you ever said to yourself, "Self, wouldn't it be freaking cool to pull both Yahoo! and Google search results at the same time and throw them up on a split screen?"

Enter Yagoohoogle. Use it now before it's litigated out of existence.

(Via Lifehacker.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:54 AM)
10 April 2005
Blessed are the pessimists

For they hath made backups.

(Don't ask.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:00 PM)
18 May 2005
Abort, retry, fall?

No way I am getting into an elevator with a farging DOS prompt.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:07 PM)
26 May 2005
Qwertyer than thou

I type about 55 wpm with four to seven fingers, but I have to glance down at the keys every once in a while to make sure I haven't migrated so far off the home row that I'm inadvertently creating manual cryptography.

Of course, if this catches on, there's an obvious idea for product placement have the Fantastic Four's Invisible Woman use one of these on her computer but I, as a typist, am doomed.

(Via Brian J. Noggle, who isn't buying one either.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:29 AM)
It's part of the business plan

Susanna Cornett talks to PC technical support for a firm whose name rhymes with "hell":

When all was said and done, she concluded the exchange by giving me a link to a Microsoft self-help page. My goodness! Nothing I could have done for myself! She said if that didn't work I could contact another tech for additional help. Of course, after such a great experience, I'm likely to do that, ohhhhh, sometime in the next millenium. But perhaps that is their goal. If their tech help absolutely sucks, then it stands to reason no one will use it and thus they will cut costs. You like to deal with a company like that.

Packard Bell? Um, no.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:47 AM)
3 June 2005
Considering a notebook?

If you're about to run up your MasterCard to get a new laptop computer, Syaffolee knows the questions to ask:

If you want to get a laptop, definitely consider what you're going to be doing with it. Are you going to be using the laptop for everything or just traveling? Do you really need all those doohickies when a five dollar LAN cable will work? Is size and weight a factor? What are other people's experiences with the particular laptop you're looking at? Does it break down all the time?

My own little Road Warrior, a Toshiba Satellite, vintage 2002, gets more use on the road than it does at home. It has a CD burner/DVD player. I carry a PC Card with a Wi-Fi adaptor and, well, a five-dollar LAN cable. It's not too light, but not too unwieldy either. Battery life is an unimpressive two hours, which declines markedly with use of the optical drive. It's never given me a bit of trouble, though 42nd and Treadmill bought two of the same model for its traveling staff, and the troglodytes therein managed to kill them both in less than nine months.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:33 AM)
4 June 2005
Windows on the womb

I have never had a great deal of faith in fetal-monitoring devices, and this doesn't help.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:54 AM)
The war inside the desktop

I upgraded both Firefox (to 1.0.4) and QuickTime (to 6.5.2) on my work box yesterday, which had the non-salutary effect of causing rather a lot of Web pages to display incorrectly. After a period of cursing, investigation, and recursing, I determined that at some point during these processes, Macromedia's Flash and Shockwave plugins were somehow screwed; reinstalling them seemed to restore some semblance of normal operation.

Needless to say, this is a Wintel box. And one does get used to failures on Wintel boxes, no matter how inconvenient, but "get used to" does not translate into "appreciate."

Which makes me wonder what sort of hell Francis W. Porretto was put through, to motivate him to post the Curmudgeon's Laws of The Adequate Device Driver, a list of ten desiderata, on which typical Windows systems can count on, oh, 0.5 or so.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:57 AM)
7 June 2005
Maximum cram

Everybody who burns the occasional audio CD knows the drill: 650 MB/74 minutes, or (far more common these days) 700 MB/80 minutes. I've run a few discs up to the 79:45 mark before, but never before did I attempt 80:00.05.

And Nero (version 5.5) balked. Not enough space, it insisted. I reedited a couple of fadeouts and got it down to 79:59.55. (Before you ask: I had changed the default 2-second between-track spacing already.)

No soap.

I did a tighter fade on two more songs. At 79:58.30, it took.

It's gotta be that damn digital. Most of my 90-minute cassettes run 91:45 or thereabouts.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:17 AM)
8 June 2005
Note to someone in a hurry

If you can't bestir yourself to go to the trouble of putting actual paper in the remote printer, there's very little reason for me to answer system messages about it, y'know?

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:40 AM)
16 June 2005
Keyboard not found, press F1 to continue

This is right up there.

(Via Dan Lovejoy.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:41 PM)
26 June 2005
We got your pregroove wobble right here

Previously in this space on the Teac GF-350:

One word of warning: the GF-350 expects CD-Rs (or CD-RWs, if you can find any) that are specifically labeled for digital audio. I was unable to trick it into using the cheapie CD-Rs I buy in bulk.

Of course, this invites the question: "How the hell does it know? The disc is blank, fercrissake."

Well, almost:

Even though general purpose CD-R and CD-RW discs and their consumer audio versions appear for all practical purposes identical, only blank media bearing the "Compact Disc Digital Audio Recordable" (CD-DA Recordable) and "Compact Disc Digital Audio Rewritable" (CD-DA Rewritable) logos can be written in consumer audio recorders. The reason for this restriction is to comply with international copyright agreements. A special Disc Application Code present in the ATIP information of a CD-DA Recordable/Rewritable disc's pregroove wobble identifies it specifically for audio use. Consumer audio recorders are programmed to reject discs not containing the correct code. By adopting this safeguard various countries and other authorizing jurisdictions may selectively apply copyright levies to the price of blank discs intended for consumer audio use while exempting those destined for computer or professional applications.

Now to me, "pregroove wobble" sounds vaguely sexual, and indeed it's possible to see this as a screwing of sorts:

The disc application codes are used to distinguish between discs used for different applications. The two main application codes used are "Discs for Unrestricted Use" and "Discs for Restricted Use." Within the "Disc for Restricted Use" code, another additional encoded identification may be used for special disc applications. One example of this would be the Photo CD.

This is why, for example, you can't use blank data CD-Rs in a consumer audio disc recorder. You must use an audio CD-R. The audio recorder will check to ensure that the blank CD is encoded for audio applications. The audio CD-R isn't any better or different, but will cost more because of copying fees paid to the RIAA.

Ah, yes. The RIAA. The last thing they did that was of any value to anyone other than themselves was the LP equalization curve (500 Hz crossover, 13.7 dB rolloff, and it scares me that I remembered that).

This still doesn't explain why at least one GF-350 I know of supposedly runs just fine with ordinary CD-Rs, but there are such things as running changes, and well, he bought his first.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:48 AM)
6 July 2005
Wiffle ball

Things will move even more slowly around here; my Wi-Fi card has malfunctioned, or something, and won't connect to anything without causing a big-time system crash.

Dial-up still works, and I assume a wired LAN connection will work, but for now, no wireless.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:49 PM)
28 July 2005
You can't use that

Sean Gleeson once tried to explain to me the manifest benefits of b2evolution and why it wasn't anywhere nearly as sucky as [fill in name of CMS software used by someone else].

Apparently this same explanation is lost on his Web host, which seems to have shut him down until he switches to something else. I don't know enough about b2evolution to say what the problem is, though I suspect that heavy database usage is what cheesed off the host.

On an impulse, I looked at my own database results at my host. Over the last 30 days, I've had 22,064 connections and 863,048 queries. The rule of thumb at DH is:

The ratio column gives you the number of queries divided by 25 times the number of connects, and is an indicator of whether you're using a disproportionate number of database connections.

A value of 1 is ideal (meaning 1 connect for every 25 queries). Ratios less than one mean you're using less than 25 queries per connection, an indication of either poor connection management or a particularly simple database.

For the thirty days just ended, I have a ratio of 1.565, about 39 queries per connection. I assume I'm still in their good graces for now.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:03 AM)
2 August 2005
It could be voice

Does your podcast stink? According to Costa, it might be the way you sound:

[T]he worst thing about podcasting is the incomprehensibility of the average person's speech patterns. If they're serious about spewing their stuff in audio form, they should counteract the inherent laziness in the approach by ensuring that their voice is as clear and distinct as possible.

Not that he thinks he's some kind of role model for the rest of us:

I wouldn't mind getting a consultation from a vocal coach. I know I can improve my everyday speech usage, particularly for personal interaction. And I encounter people every day who certainly can use the tune-up.

It would take more than a "tune-up" to help some of us.

On the other hand, or ear, I could probably listen to Julie Neidlinger all day: her delivery is not the slickest in the world, but she doesn't grate, which is surely worth something.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:21 AM)
3 August 2005
One variable at a time

Linksys apparently has a new driver for my Wi-Fi adapter (dated 28 July, and you can't get much newer than that), so I'm downloading all 33 mb of that little jewel and will try once more to reinstall that card and get it to work.

If it fails this time, I think I'm going to seek out a competitor's card. (Don't wait up for the results; I'm not doing this right away, but I wanted to post a reminder so I don't forget about it somewhere down the road.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:22 AM)
17 August 2005
Meanwhile on Triple X Road

McGehee is not impressed with the Bush Administration's unwillingness to embrace the concept of a .xxx domain for smut 'n stuff:

What the .xxx TLD will do is create an easily filtered "ghetto" of porn sites. Want to keep your kids from surfing for cyberporn, just block any website with a .xxx URL, and voila!

Perhaps it's just that the White House doesn't want to look like it's actually approving of the sort of thing that would belong in an .xxx site, but considering how much of the stuff is distributed through just about every other top-level domain, you'd think they'd appreciate this gesture toward ghettoization.

Not that smut peddlers will appreciate it, necessarily:

[I]f I were a purveyor of cybersmut, I?d avoid .xxx domain names like the plague.

I'm starting to think there should be a top-level domain just for blogs, in which case I'm going to have to produce an alternate version of the top graphic reading dustbury.bfd.

(Note: There really is a Triple X Road sometimes rendered "Triple XXX Road," which seems slightly redundant in Oklahoma City; it's a section-line road located at the 17000 block East.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:00 PM)
4 September 2005
The new Agent

Forté has brought out Agent 3.0, and it has more of a learning curve than previous versions of this venerable Usenet software: it now supports multiple news servers, which is a boon, but its new folder structure threw me at first.

Still, it's wicked fast compared to its predecessors: instead of queuing tasks, it splits them into threads and runs them simultaneously when system resources and user demands permit. I don't do that much nntp stuff anymore maybe twenty newsgroups or so but I'm guessing I'm using maybe a third less time negotiating those groups, which would justify the price, had they charged me anything for upgrading from a paid 2.x version, which they didn't.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:18 PM)
7 September 2005
No spaces in them thar domain names

Which is why you run into issues like this, as I once discovered at The Spoon Sexperience.

(Via Lifehacker.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:43 AM)
9 September 2005
The first circle of Dell

A mere fourteen months after picking the site, Dell Inc. will be throwing open the doors to its new Oklahoma City customer-contact center on Monday. Dell CEO Kevin Rollins, Governor Henry and Mayor Cornett will be on hand for the grand opening.

A second building is already under construction at the Dell campus, south of the Oklahoma River and west of Portland Avenue.

Jeff Jarvis had no comment has a comment.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:15 AM)
10 September 2005
Goldilocks vs. MS Word

Somehow I doubt she'd find this just right.

(This, incidentally, is one reason why you should never write HTML in Word; it can't keep track of tag attributes reliably.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:21 PM)
11 September 2005
There's always another wrong button

I managed to hose up the previous-page links on my WordPress site today, which eventually proved to be the fault of a badly-written (by me) .htaccess file. I wrote it in a text editor, not in the WordPress editor, and duly CHMODed it to 644, but the syntax was twisted beyond any reasonable parsing. This also explains why a copy of said file wasn't working properly at this site.

Incidentally, it is not wise to open forty-three (!) Firefox browser tabs at once, especially if you have a QuickTime video running in one of them, unless you have more RAM than God, which seems unlikely. (Then again, there is no evidence to indicate that God runs Windows, though I suspect He allowed Job to download a copy.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:24 PM)
17 September 2005
How to tell your computer store is in trouble

"We offer a service contract on this item for three years for only $5.99."

On a mouse, fercrissake.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:16 PM)
20 September 2005
Modern marvels

The JPEG compression algorithm and who knew Al Gore had rhythm? is, according to Sean Gleeson's students, not cool.

Maybe I've been fortunate enough to hang on to bits and pieces of Young and Impressionable, but I think it's pretty swift.

Obligatory story: Many of you once owned the Commodore 64 doorstop computer, which ruled the low end of the marketplace in the middle 1980s. Its VIC chip could handle 16 colors at 320 x 200 resolution, which was pretty remarkable for a piece of hardware seemingly hewn out of a chunk of flint. And its architecture was open enough (okay, there wasn't enough to hide) that all sorts of people did all kinds of gee-whiz things with it that it wasn't supposed to be able to do.

One day someone handed me a 170k floppy, most of its 664 blocks filled with a mere two files: some sort of graphics-rendering tool, and a GIF. (Choosy dweebs choose GIF.) "Two hundred fifty-six colors," he said, and warned: "This will take a while."

Indeed, it took almost all night for the computer to crunch all those numbers actually, it sort of just brushed against them and fool the video display into producing sixteen times as many colors. (Gripe if you want about your slow machine: we were running at a breakneck 1.02 MHz.) But the results were simply incredible. I hate to think how long a C-64 would have to labor to cough up a JPEG (though it can be done), but I assure you, I have an appreciation for how these everyday things work; after all, I got to see them before they were everyday things.

Footnote of sorts: Before the last firm selling C-64 enhancements backed away from what was left of the market, you could have your little beige box running at 16 MHz, with user-port support for 56k modems, SCSI hard disks in the multi-gigabyte range, and scads of RAM. And there exists an 8-bit Web browser (no graphics or Javascript) for the 64, the Apple II (or, as some insisted, the ][), and the Atari 800. I'm not surprised: I had a COBOL compiler (!) for the 64, and somebody thinks it's possible to port Java to the 64.

Let me know when this stops being cool.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:23 AM)
An aggrieved customer

Last Monday, while my Web host was shivering in the dark due to a citywide power failure, this came in on their voicemail.

No, it's not me. (Discovered here.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:05 AM)
Nothing lasts forever

Except maybe some of those "temporary" taxes.

I lost a CD-R this week to actual bit rot, or something: it looked as though the edge of the aluminized layer had been eroded away, and the last audio track was unplayable. (It was a Maxell, if that matters to anyone.) I have backups, of course, but this was something of an annoyance, since it was the traveling copy of one of my music compilations (specifically, this one).

Still, I've ruined more of these in the production stages than I've ever seen victimized by entropy.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:43 AM)
21 September 2005
Breathe deep, the gathering spam

Last time I emptied the "Deleted Items" mail folder was the first of August.

There were 4,344 items in it last night.

This includes all of the items that were routed directly to this folder by my spam filters.

This does not include any of the items that were caught at server level by their spam filters and were never picked up via POP3, which includes probably three to five thousand more.

I'm figuring, as a SWAG, a thousand spams a week. And apart from some infinitesimal quantity of inexplicable net.fame, I am essentially nobody. I'd hate to have to go through [fill in name of someone who is legitimately well-known]'s mail.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:18 AM)
Sam's bandwidth club

Someone wandered over here yesterday by way of Wal-Mart Connect: apparently the Behemoth of Bentonville now has its own presumably-discounted ISP. Any of you have any experience good, bad or indifferent with it? I'm not looking for a new ISP, but I'm curious to see how the home of Low Prices Über Alles handles this fairly mundane task.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:01 AM)
24 September 2005
Where it's @

We're so used to reading @ as "at" that we assume the whole world does the same, and, well, they don't: I noted some time ago that in France this character is called "arobase," which is presumably related to the Spanish "arroba," which has Arabic antecedents, and the Germans apparently refer to it as "Affenschwanz," which supports the comic-book truism that monkeys are always funny.

A whole list of such variations (found via Tinkerty Tonk) is here.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:35 AM)
Reformat, hell

I'll show you a Blue Screen of Death, you miserable piece of ....

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:49 PM)
30 September 2005
At least it doesn't run Windoze

Hundred-dollar laptop computers for Third World children? Sounds nice to me, but Tamara K's not so sure:

Does the screen have high enough resolution for serious pr0n usage by the cannon-fodder thugs of Third World strongmen, and is it equipped with WiFi for the surreptitious uploading of "419 Scam" emails through the local missionary school's network?

I guess it's easy, when coming up with a visionary system to wire every dusty schoolyard from Moyobamba to Mbala, to forget that no nascent computing technology seems to catch on with us great unwashed un-visionary types until it's adept at three things: Games, Porn, and Email.

Geez. Even I am adept at only one of those.

Addendum, 1 October: Andrea Harris thinks this is a really bad idea for different reasons:

As a matter of fact, typewriters might be more useful to Third World students than a laptop that won't hold much data, and won't be able to be on for more than ten minutes if you have to use the hand crank (really, what can you do on a computer in only ten minutes?). A manual typewriter needs no electricity, its ribbons can be re-inked to save money, and they are sturdy, especially if made entirely of metal no delicate, easy-to-break but impossible-to-fix parts. I used a typewriter throughout my highschool years that was a solid piece of iron from the forties. Will these laptops be useful two years from now, let alone twenty? I rather doubt it. The people that came up with this idea have rocks in their heads; they'd be better off offering them to schools here, instead of saddling overburdened school districts with expensive Dells and HPs that kids drop and spill soda on. As for the plight of Third World children in need of education, I think that the ongoing war against terrorists, who are the main cause of instability in vulnerable parts of the world, will do much more to help them than crates of shiny, useless toys.

We ought to get some of these for 42nd and Treadmill. We have people on staff who can break machines faster than four-year-olds in a sugar rush, and, well, $100 is quite a bit less than $1100.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:20 AM)
4 October 2005
Tell Kofi to bite a root

The United Nations is persuaded that it, and not those awful Americans, ought to have control of the Internet. Aside from being totally unfair to Al Gore, this is a generally bad idea, but it really can't be implemented:

ICANN, the corporation that distributes IP addresses and domain names, doesn't own the Internet, nor does the United States government. The Internet is a standard; anyone who's willing to communicate in conformance with that standard can come aboard. No one can own a standard, though persons can squabble, as the UN has been doing, over whose proposed alterations to it should be respected.

Imagine for a moment that the UN were to put itself forward as an alternative to ICANN, and were to designate its own collection of root servers and domains. Would that have any particular bearing on what standards we in the United States might choose to observe in our digital communications? Only this: it would compel us to choose between the root servers and domains that have been nominated by ICANN, and those put forward in their place by the United Nations Committee Overseeing Overall Linkage (UNCOOL). Inasmuch as the overwhelmingly greater part of Internet activity, particularly commercial Internet activity, is based in these United States, we would hold the whip hand regardless of any and all UN assertions or maneuverings to the contrary. It would simply be about which set of standards users would choose to employ.

See Beta vs. VHS for comparison.

John F. (comment to previous link) explans how UNCOOL would work:

The Security Council would require that posts critical of the UN or constituent government members be restricted in the interests of "amity".

UNCOOL would levy a "small" use tax to defray "administrative costs" necessary to support their "management conferences" in such internet hotspots as Tahiti.

Users would be required to register with UNCOOL in order to ensure that only "responsible" people had access to the internet. Registration approval could be expected (by snail mail) only a year after the necessary registration fees were paid (and paid, and paid).

UNCOOL would be forced to establish the Internet Police (UNIP) in order to ensure that internet regulations (UNIR) were complied with. Spamming would become a capital offense unless conducted within a certified third world country by an oppressed minority. Hackers would be shot on sight by UNIP thus saving the costs of unnecessary trials.

We could get the same results by turning the whole shebang over to the Mafia, and probably a hell of a lot cheaper to boot.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:43 AM)
14 October 2005
Return-authorization blues

Further indications that the damned are working tech support:

"Just send us an email, Donna"

"An email?"

"Yeah, put it in an email."

"Let me repeat myself, MY COMPUTER IS IN A BOX ON A FEDEX TRUCK"

"Oh! I guess you can't send an email then can you?"

This is not quite "Browser not working? Visit [URL] for online help," but it's close.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:28 PM)
16 October 2005
Broader broadband

A wish list from Doc Searls:

I would gladly pay $100 per month for a block of six IP addresses, no port blockages, and 1Mb of symmetrical service to my home. I would also gladly pay more on a tiered basis for higher levels of traffic and higher grades of provisioned service. Also perhaps for hosting. Offsite data backup (a potentially huge business for which high upstream speeds are required). And perhaps much more. And I'm sure there are millions of small businesses out there that would be glad to do the same. But most of us are stuck with a choice between 1) a shitty asymmetrical service from a phone company that wishes it could still charge for time and distance; and 2) and a shitty asymmetrical service from a cable company that wishes it were still just in the TV channel delivery business. Worse, when these two kinds of utilities each think of expanding beyond their shrinking legacy business, they look to compete with the other utility's shrinking legacy business: TV over phone lines vs. VoIP over cable.

Subtracting the price of the television-delivery service I hardly ever use, I'm already spending $94 a month on these dinosaurs. (Symmetry have I none; I can download at close to 2 Mb on a good day, but upward traffic is capped at 600 kb, and I mean 599.5.)

The answer won't come from fixing the phone and cable companies. There is no hope for them; and they will suck to death. Eventually. (Yes, the ice caps may melt faster, but the trend is still clear.)

And why is that? He explained it the day before:

In the course of talking, way too much, to Verizon and Cox representatives the last few days, it's clear these kinds of companies simply cannot imagine a world where consumers also produce, where demand also supplies, where the Net is anything other than a new way to deliver the same old crap.

Oh, you mean the old same crap. It's out back. Here's the key.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:37 AM)
17 October 2005
Lessons from life (one in a series)

An ink cartridge for a Hewlett-Packard DeskJet cannot reasonably be expected to work three years after its pull date.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:20 AM)
Active desktop

You don't see Mac OS acting like this.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:50 PM)
25 October 2005
Note to an antivirus software vendor

Throwing up a warning on the screen that the annual subscription is about to expire is one thing.

It should not be two things, every day, for three goddamn weeks.

If I have anything to say about it and we'll see if I do the site license will be allowed to expire and you'll have lost twenty users.

(Hint: Launching a Web browser ad lib is the sort of activity one expects from the very scumware you claim to be preventing.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:06 AM)
26 October 2005

Comparison shopping? Not always possible, as Doc Searls finds out the hard way:

[I]f you go to book with any car rental agency from the United [Air Lines] site, you can't open multiple sessions with multiple agencies to compare deals. United won't let you do that. If you start your booking process with one, you can't open another without losing your session with the first. In other words, they replicate the airport experience online.

I don't know which is worse: the chance that this was done accidentally, or the chance that it was done deliberately.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:41 AM)
13 November 2005
You can go your own way

Brian Carney of the WSJ thinks it's possible to give those Other Countries some play in Net governance without involving the graftmeisters at the UN:

Here's how it might work. At some point, China will grow tired of the U.S. refusal to give up control to the U.N., and it will secede from the status quo. It will set up its own root server, tweaked to allow access only to those sites the government deems nonthreatening, and simply order every Internet service provider in the country to use it instead of Icann's. The change will be seamless to most users, but China will have set up its own private Net, one answerable to the people's revolutionaries rather than to the U.S. Commerce Department.

Others may follow suit. Root servers could spring up in France, or Cuba, or Iran. In time, the Internet might look less like the Internet and more like, say, the phone system, where there is no "controlling legal authority" on the international level. More liberal-minded countries would probably, if they did adopt a local root-server, allow users to specify which server they wanted to query when typing in, say, Microsoft.com.

As a technical means of content control, going "split root," as they say in the business, is too compelling for governments not to give it a try. But the user experience would likely be much the same as it ever was most of the time. ISPs, as well as most vaguely democratic governments, would have an interest in ensuring broad interoperability, just as no one in Saudi Arabia or China has yet decided that dialing +1-202-456-1414 the White House switchboard number from those countries should go somewhere else, like Moammar Gadhafi's house. Nothing stops phone companies from doing things like that, except that the market expects a certain consistency in how phone calls are directed, so it is in the interests of the operators to supply what the market expects. The same principle would apply in a split-root world.

This won't play well at the General Assembly, where it will be pointed out that members of the Bunghole tribe of West Easteria won't be able to achieve the same level of technical asshattery as the Chinese, but this is the situation for which the phrase "Who gives a flying fish?" was invented.

(Via Robert Prather.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:47 AM)
22 November 2005
Debugging is a pain

And this tells you exactly where it's a pain.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:51 AM)
27 November 2005
It's that age thing

Lachlan, who is way younger than I am, reports:

One of my coworkers, we?ll call him Dan, came up with this unknowing gem today.

Dan: Would you take a look at this video tape? I think it's prohibited for sale on the site.

Me: Sure, send me the link. (Remember, I work for A Cool Company. Details will be, to protect my ass assets, sketchy and vague.) Link arrives. I scan it. It's a page for a copy of "Ruthless People."

Me: So, umm, why do you think this is prohibited? I don't see anything unusual.

Dan: Well, that beta comment threw me.

I search the text again. There it is, in big black letters.

Me: Dan, beta is a format. Like VHS. This tape is just really old.

Dan: Oh.

Poor Dan. It could just as well have been on one of Edison's cylinders; it was that far removed from his existence. And small-b beta, nowadays, means something wholly different.

And no, I don't think the change in the vernacular hastened the format's decline; the appearance of Beta inventor Sony's first VHS machine in 1988 one of which I have, in fact probably sealed the deal, and a lot more people in 1988 were worried about home video than about computer software development.

I will mention in passing that this particular Sony machine, which offered a weird 15-year clock, would literally time-stamp a recording: you set the timer, the program records, you rewind, and there are the recording details at the beginning, right on the tape. Great for archivists, and for practically no one else on earth. This is the sort of gee-whiz thinking at Sony that brought us simulated digital frame grabs (on a late-Eighties Beta machine I still have), a clock-radio that requires half a dozen button operations to change the alarm time (which I bought and now deeply regret), and now CDs that hijack your operating system. It's almost enough to make one say kind things about Microsoft. (Now there's some Ruthless People.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:53 AM)
Holy tera

Maxell's first holographic storage system will ship in late 2006, they say, with a storage capacity of 300 GB eventually expandable to 1.6 TB.

Terabytes on your desktop! At this point (meaning I don't do any video work on the PC), I can't even imagine 1.6 terabytes, which works out to 1,759,218,604,442 bytes, or 45,211,344 Commodore 64s (at 38911 BASIC bytes free).

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:31 PM)
2 December 2005
We're talking history here

I know zilch (well, this much) about this group, but this photo of them was apparently the first photo ever published on the World Wide Web.

And you thought I was an old-timer.

(Via Screenhead.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:00 PM)
7 December 2005
In pinball we call this "tilt"

Assuming you actually have an Xbox 360, you might be well advised to leave it in one place:

If you couldn't resist the lure of Microsoft's new Xbox 360 game console, do yourself a favor and don't move it while it's on. Even though a selling point of the new console is that it can be oriented either horizontally or vertically, turning it from one position to the other while it is on will cause the game disc inside to be gouged. Big scratches on your new $60 game and the smell of burnt plastic.

It's nice to know that Microsoft, having mastered the art of cantankerous, less-than-robust software, is now applying that expertise to its hardware.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:00 AM)
12 December 2005
Signs of extreme boredom

This one I have to admire:

I just sent a PJL job to all the network printers to change their LCD displays to read "INSERT COIN."

What I want to know: Did anyone approach the sysadmin and ask if s/he had change for a buck?

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:22 PM)
17 December 2005
Please insert Blahnik disk to continue

Express your inner VAIO

Sony is using this picture (shrunk to fit click here to rebigulate) in its current advertising I've seen it so far in Entertainment Weekly, in InStyle, and on their Web site to sell VAIO-series notebook PCs. Far be it from me to complain about strappy sandals, but somehow this seems inappropriate, especially since these are Windows machines and will therefore require, um, occasional rebooting.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:52 PM)
18 December 2005
At the Festival of St. Vinton of Cerf

FWP intones:

The Web has made it possible for me to express myself in ways that, little more than a decade ago, were out of reach of all but a few. It's allowed me to find friends and kindred spirits I'd never otherwise have known. And it's renewed my conviction that the great majority of Americans really are the tolerant, decent, agreeable sorts I'd always believed them to be.

The Church really should nominate a patron saint of the Internet Protocols.

I think this is being assigned to Isidore of Seville (c. 560-636), the "Schoolmaster of the Middle Ages," though I doubt that his name was passed on to I. F. Stone, who published a weekly (later biweekly) newsletter which, as much as any 20th-century publication, is an inspiration for the 21st-century blog.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:47 AM)
19 December 2005
And their practitioners never leave the house

The more I read about this Web 2.0 business, the more I think it's some sort of mass delusion, a bizarre masturbatory frenzy that, had it the flexibility, would quickly devolve into endless (and solitary, one assumes) sessions of autofellatio.

Which, says Go Flock Yourself, is not quite accurate it's already there:

  • Both are attempted by many people, and most attempts end in frustration and outright failure

  • Both are ill-advised means of compensating for something else that is missing (i.e., either a worthwhile and tangible product, or a healthy relationship)

  • Both will leave you with a bad taste in your mouth

  • Successful implementation of either can make you famous on the internet

And, as they say, you've only heard the half of it.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:36 AM)
26 December 2005
Sans more than serif

Can we call them "dongbats"? Dynamo Dave discovers Smutty Fonts, which I suppose proves that you're never too old to kern.

[Insert "caps lock" joke here]

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:48 PM)
29 December 2005
Google algebra?

This Google query came in this morning:

How old is this person? In two years she'll be twice as old as she was five years ago.

I know Google can do arithmetic, but I wasn't aware that they could solve equations for x. (And if they could, there would have been no reason to send this poor shlub to my site.)

By the way, she's twelve.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:10 AM)
10 January 2006
Marked for death by Information Services (8)

A slow and torturous demise for the slob who picked up a couple of cartridges for a DeskJet and then neatly parked the empty boxes back on the shelf, creating the illusion of greater stock than was actually on hand.

Update, 10:50 am: Confession received from slob.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:48 AM)
14 January 2006
Congress not quite tossing its cookies

CNET reports:

Dozens of U.S. senators are quietly tracking visits to their Web sites even though they have publicly pledged not to do so.

Sixty-six politicians in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives are setting permanent Web cookies even though at least 23 of them have promised not to use the online tracking technique, a CNET News.com investigation shows.

This is, I strongly suspect, one of those instances where Hanlon's Razor applies.

Oh, and if you object to a cookie I sent you, simply uncheck the box that says "Remember info?" in the comments area. And yes, I have a privacy policy.

(Via Scribe.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:16 AM)
20 January 2006
Taking a stand against evil

Rep. Guy Liebmann (R-Oklahoma City) has prefiled House Bill 2083, which if passed would permit the filing of lawsuits against purveyors of spyware and other scummy software.

Under 2083, service or hardware providers, or the Attorney General, would be allowed to sue anyone or any entity who "deceitfully" plants unwanted software on a computer.

Things I want to know: if burying something in the second paragraph of a EULA will constitute deceit, and how effective this measure will be against a pack of sociopaths in deepest Elbonia.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:25 AM)
2 February 2006
This is no way to make friends

Especially on the day before a heinous worm is supposed to crap all over us:

You may experience problems with updating your [antivirus] program. The error message you will receive is "Fatal Error 3". We are aware of the problem and are working to post a fix shortly. Please try the update again later. Please do not open a technical support issue related to this problem.

Not that I'm worried if I'm reading this right, I already have a signature file to detect this little POS but I know an awful lot of people who don't.

(Macintosh partisans: go ahead and gloat, but be sure to identify yourself as such. Not that it's hard to tell. Besides, it's not like Chairman Bill is looking out for us.)

(Update, 4:15 pm: Fixed.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:22 PM)
7 February 2006
Here we go loop de loop

Usually I keep my wireless phone shut off at work, not so much to avoid the interruptions I get relatively few calls but because reception at that location is somewhere between suboptimal and nonexistent. Once I leave the building, I crank it back up.

And the little blip came on to tell me I had a voice message. Okay, fine, I've had these before; I dialed the usual shortcut and was connected to a tutorial on how to set up voicemail.

They've been threatening to revamp the voicemail system, I remembered: maybe they finally broke down and did it. I set the phone down and drove home.

Back at Surlywood, I fired up the browser and jumped onto their Web site, and sure enough, there were a couple of lines on the tech-support page which suggested voicemail changes. I hit the pertinent one, and was rewarded with a lovely semi-transparent screen overlay which asked me which of the 70 or 80 phones they support I actually use. I made the selection and was sent back to the tech-support page, where there were a couple of lines which suggested voicemail changes. I hit the pertinent one, and was rewarded with a lovely semi-transparent screen overlay which asked me which of the 70 or 80 phones they support I actually use. I made the selection and was sent back to the tech-support page, where there were a couple of lines which suggested voicemail changes.

You can see where this is going, and the answer is clearly Nowhere. I exited the Web site and forced myself to endure the tutorial, which, however annoying, actually got me to my voicemail.

Perhaps this is what one should expect when a firm from the Seattle area is acquired by the Germans: lackadaisical yet somehow militant.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:24 AM)
9 February 2006
Baby got loopback

Winston Rand spotted this on a truck bumper in Nashville:

Click your heels together three times and ping.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:59 PM)
21 February 2006
Yet another argument for a Mac

And, well, at least it wasn't a Blue Screen of Death.

(Via Fark)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:47 PM)
2 March 2006
Freeze a jolly good fellow

When Ask Jeeves announced that they were undergoing an extreme makeover, they let it be known that they were putting Jeeves himself on ice.

Or carbonite, which I suppose is close enough.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:39 PM)
15 March 2006
Hey, nice ASCII

James Lileks finds a beautifully-preserved example of computer-generated erotica from the summer of 1964. (Safe for work unless you work for Donald Wildmon.)

The specifications of the, um, individual in question looked familiar, and sure enough, I'd seen them somewhere before.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:16 AM)
22 March 2006
ISP on you

The last time we mentioned Earthlink in this space, they were causing Matt Deatherage entirely too much grief.

Matt, you'll remember, was trying to cancel. But Dr. Weevil was trying to stay with them, and they screwed him over too:

When I finally got hold of a human being on the telephone Sunday evening, I was told that Earthlink no longer had possession of my domain, had nothing to do with it, and I should do a WhoIs through registrar.com to find out who has it now.

And they offered to sell it back to him:

So I need to spend $49 to join afternic.com ("the Exchange"), then bid a minimum of $200 to get my domain back possibly much more, since the anonymous bidding would (hypothetically) allow Host Master to pretend that there are other offers, even if there are none. All because Earthlink couldn?t be bothered to bill me for another year of domain registration with them, or even e-mail me before canceling the registration. Perhaps I'm being cynical, but it looks to me like a technically legal but morally contemptible scam designed to cheat unwary customers.

(Disclosure: I keep a dialup from Earthlink for emergency and World Tour use.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:04 AM)
23 March 2006
The llama watches fearfully

I am loath to mess with a software installation that works: you'll note that this site is still running MovableType 2.64, which goes back to the days when Prester John was the Emperor of Ethopia.

That said, I decided to upgrade Winamp last night, because (1) my D: drive, where it resides normally, is occasionally flaky and (2) I reasoned that the difference between 5.20 and 2.80 might actually be substantial.

It could be my imagination, but the newer version seems to sound better, which makes very little sense; I'm guessing that it has a slightly better MP3 decoder. I haven't tried to play back or rip CDs yet.

And at least the old, familiar 2.x face is still available: I hate new interfaces.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:16 AM)
24 March 2006
Where there's a manger, there's a dog

Difficult times call for innovative solutions, which is why, in the wake of Katrina, New Orleans Chief Information Officer Greg Meffert opened up the citywide 512k Wi-Fi network, originally designed to service the city's network of surveillance cameras, to all comers.

With about half the city's wired infrastructure still teetering on the edge of the bit bucket, about 15,000 people a day are using the New Orleans network, and corporate sponsors were being sought to expand it.

This did not sit well with Ma Bell's minions, who swarmed Baton Rouge, and when the buzzing was over, the legislature was ready to order New Orleans to shut down public access to the network, or at least cut it back to 128k, lest they compete with the private sector despite the fact that about half the city's wired infrastructure is still teetering on the edge of the bit bucket. (Note to BellSouth: If you're going to complain about the city cutting into your service area, it would be nice if you were actually providing the service.)

(Via The Consumerist.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:46 AM)
25 March 2006
The self-pwn3d man

Ever seen this page before?

Yeah. No big deal. It's a default page that the CentOS version of Apache serves up before the Web server is given a proper index page.

But when a version of it showed up on cityoftuttle.org, the Web site of the city of Tuttle, southwest of Oklahoma City, city manager Jerry Taylor spiraled into a State of High Guano.

Who gave you permission to invade my website and block me and anyone else from accessing it???

Please remove your software immediately before I report it to government officials!!

I am the City Manager of Tuttle, Oklahoma.

Ashlee Vance snickers in The Register:

Few people would initiate a tech support query like this, but these are dangerous times, and Taylor suspected the worst. (Er, but only the world's most boring hacker would break into a site and then throw up a boilerplate about how to fix the hack.)

After a heated exchange between Taylor and CentOS tech Johnny Hughes, the truth of the matter was at hand:

The problem has been resolved by VIDIA who used to host the City website. They still provide cable service but do not host the website. The explanation was that they had a crash and during the rebuild they reinstalled the software that affected our website.

Still not CentOS's fault, but hey, you work for the city, you find people to blame.

As of this writing, cityoftuttle.org is still showing the Apache test page.

I could say something here about not letting your service provider also host your site, but I won't.

(Hat tip: Mad Mel.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:25 AM)
28 March 2006
The self-pwn3d man (the sequel)

Last we heard from Tuttle city manager Jerry Taylor, he was distraught at finding a default Apache information page instead of the town's Web site, and was sending out emails that just missed the threshold of hysteria.

He's no longer missing. To The Register, which broke the story, he sent this:

I do not follow instructions that show up when a website that I am not familiar with appears on my computer and I do not think anyone with experience would do so either. Once the Centos site appeared on four computers at one site I contacted our web service provider. The web service provider did not know what could cause the problem and had never heard of "CentOS". I then contacted the internet provider's local office and was told that they did nothing to cause the problem. I checked the building's server and found nothing relating to CentOS on the server. I was then left with only the web page email address to contact. I asked for the strange website to be removed because it blocked my City web site and I could not post public information. I only got help after threatening to contact the FBI.

Now I am being flooded with emails from CentOS users that after knowing the answer say the problem was simple. I think this is unjustified and would like for this to stop. Your website should provide useful information and be a credit to the IT world. I do not believe it should be used to incite the users. Your attention to this matter is greatly appreciated.

The users seem to be doing just fine inciting themselves, it seems to me.

But cut the guy some slack, wouldja please? If you were thinking of, say, sending him a batch file which runs fdisk, you might want to reconsider.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:39 AM)
30 March 2006
More Tuttle scuttlebutt

The lovely and talented Amanda Congdon makes fun of Jerry Taylor:

Is the city manager a true dolt, or is this some kind of thinly-veiled publicity stunt?

She reads a couple of excerpts from the Gospel According to Jerry, and then:

Regardless of his intentions, what a nutjob, right? Man. I have half a mind to send my Virtual Wingman on his ass.

Waste of time, darlin'; the man responds to email like a dead fish responds to ultraviolet light. (No movement, per se, but the, um, aroma increments.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:27 PM)
3 April 2006
All the good ones are taken

Another one of my alone-again-naturally whines? Nope. This is from a pragmatist, Dennis Forbes of Pragmatic Software Development, and here's the sad story:

Now you just need to find the perfect domain name ... at (and, in true new-economy fashion, you'll base your corporate name upon whatever available domain name you find ... PILLAGEANDPLUNDR Corporation).

You pull up GoDaddy and start punching in clever names, along with their many variations, only to find that they're all seemingly taken.

"This can't be!" you cry. "Has every possibility already been registered?"

Just about, says Forbes:

Given that there are approximately 50 million .COM domains registered, it is indeed true that the low-hanging fruit domain names are overwhelmingly taken, and your chances of lucking upon an unnoticed available three-letter acronym (TLA) are close to zero, and your only recourse would be to haggle with domain speculators.

Of course, if you're willing to go for a long and inscrutable domain name, you're allowed up to 63 characters, as reflected by, um, DIDYOUKNOWTHATYOUCANONLYHAVESIXTY-

Disclosure: I own four domains, three .COM and one .NET.

(Via Lifehacker.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:21 AM)
6 April 2006
Press Alt-F4 for higher access

Belhoste points to this MeFi thread, and a lot of these seem awfully familiar:

"My first modem was a screamin'-fast SupraModem 2400 I bought for the low, low price of $150. I got PC Pursuit at some point and started calling around the country. I remember spending a good amount of time on a couple BBSs in Philadelphia. At my first job I ended up setting up a ProLine BBS for my employer and later helped set up a network of NovaServer BBSs (dubbed theLINQ) for schools. Somewhere in there I also became a forum assistant on GEnie, mostly so I could enjoy free access to the service, which cost $6 an hour for 1200 bps access."

"I was 14 years old. I lived at home with my family. We had one phone line. We used this phone line mainly to talk to family and friends. I had just posted the number for this phone line as a 'Hot New BBS' on all the local BBSes. Like many 14-year-olds, I didn't think through the consequences of my actions. I guess I just thought that the computer would answer the phone when another computer dialed it. It was an experiment I hadn't done. And, y'know, it was ok for the first few hours, while my folks were out of the house. The phone rang, the computer answered, the local BBSers got to see my BBS. But then my parents came home."

"Apple II+, Hayes Micromodem. 213 AC. It was called Dragon's Lair one of several Dragon's Lairs, turns out. A useless but fun BBS. Useless for everyone else, fun for this 11 yo SYSOP, until we moved to Saudi Arabia & it died."

And many more. As a relic of this period myself though I was already thirtysomething years old I can relate to a lot of this.

Belhoste continues:

In my opinion, blogs do foster relationships and can help revive old ones (I have briefly gone off on this tangent before here and here). I also noticed a link to BBSmates that I will have to check out when I get a chance.

Could it be that the BBSers of old have just found a new voice?

I wouldn't doubt it for a moment.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:45 AM)
17 April 2006
Cluttering up the desktop

Later this week I'll take delivery of one of these, though I had enough extra stuff crammed into it to make that $499 price seem like a distant dream.

Okay, not that distant. It was $849, not counting the little 1GB USB flash drive I bought. And I didn't buy a new screen, reasoning that my ViewSonic 19-incher wasn't quite obsolete just yet.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:29 AM)
18 April 2006
That new box

It's taking a spectacularly long time to set up, largely because I have something like 240,000 files to move. I haven't even started the F: drive (9.5 GB) yet. On the other hand, email and the browser are working properly, and some of the more essential applications (Lotus 1-2-3 and WordPro, Winamp, WinZip) have been installed.

Still to do: Agent, most of the music files, install printer and scanner.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:01 AM)
20 April 2006
The feel of the familiar

When you buy a new computer, the tricky part is getting it to act just like your old one only better and faster. So while the recently-arrived Big Black Box (well, it is) came with a new keyboard and a new mouse, the first thing I did was attach my old keyboard and my old mouse. The mouse isn't that old last year but the keyboard, built by IBM in 1990 (!), is truly an industrial-strength device: large, clicky, devoid of screwy WTF? keys along the fringes, and unaffected by anything this side of a full-on nuclear attack, including Dr Pepper and Grape-Nuts.

I mean, if I wanted something new and unfamiliar, I could have ordered something with no key inscriptions. For that matter, I could have ordered something with no actual keys.

(With thanks to Lynn, who is also in New 'Puter Mode.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:37 AM)
21 April 2006
O ye without shame

By which, of course, I mean me.

I've had XP on the notebook for four years and more, and not once did I hit Regedit to screw around with the Evil Farging Registry*. Give me four days with XP on the desktop, and suddenly I'm trying to do Registry hacks.

Actually, this situation is born of frustration. The old patterns-plus-wallpaper from Windows of old has been replaced in XP with a simple Background app in Control Panel; my wallpaper-switcher of choice, in the W98SE days, would swap out the photograph every 19 minutes and leave the pattern in place. In XP, there is no spoon pattern; the switcher works just fine, but the pattern, which I used to use as a framing device, does not appear.

So far I have tried writing a Pattern description directly to the Registry and running the old W98 Control Panel Desk app. Neither has been successful or my current color scheme is so somber that I can't see the darn thing. (I swear by the Windows Classic "Rainy Day" theme.)

I'm sure this proves something, though I'm not sure what.

* "Evil Farging Registry" is a trademark of Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved to Bill G.

Update, 7:30 pm: Problem solved with (1) Registry hack and (2) mondo tweakage to monitor settings.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:14 AM)
22 April 2006
A tale told by an idiot

Never underestimate my capacity for screwing up a computer.

I spent way too many minutes in Safe Mode this morning before getting back to a reasonable Restore Point. I have no idea what happened after the last post, about midnight, but this morning brought all sorts of boot issues.

Given last night's activities, which were unusual only to the extent that Trillian was up most of the evening, I'm not quite sure what to think. I am reasonably certain it had nothing to do with this, however.

Update, 1:45 6:15 pm: The Tech Guys have declared that the hard drive is fan and video card are wonky, and will replace it them with one presumably less so.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:47 AM)
25 April 2006
It's new, unimproved UltraSpam!

Once a month I vacuum out the Deleted Items folder in my mail client, at which point I have usually accumulated 3,000, maybe 4,000 such.

This used to strike me as a lot, but not anymore.

On the other hand, most of my Deleted Items came from without.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:29 AM)
27 April 2006
Looking for recommendations

With the move to speedier equipment comes, inevitably, a desire for spiffier software.

Historically, I have done quick-and-dirty graphics work in Irfanview and (yes, it is true) Microsoft Paint, with the more industrial-strength stuff in Adobe's PhotoDeluxe. But PhotoDeluxe is positively ancient, and I've pretty much decided to upgrade to Photoshop Elements, which will read the old PD files and do most of the things I expect to need to do.

That decision, at least, is made. I'm still wavering on what to do for CD and DVD authoring, and for DVD viewing and (I hope) screen-capturing. The machine came equipped with trial versions of Cyberlink PowerDVD, which seems okay, and the current incarnation of Nero, which is sufficiently unlike previous versions (I was using 5.5 happily) to put me off. If you have preferences for applications of this sort that run on the hated Wintel platform, I'd like to hear them.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:36 AM)
30 April 2006
Upgrade updates

I have ordered Photoshop Elements 4.0, boxed with Premiere Elements 2.0, direct from Adobe. The price was about the same as it was at local retailers; there had been a rebate at one time, but apparently it's expired.

The trial version of Nero does indeed have the one feature of the old version I was using that I missed: the wave-file editor. However, attempting to bring it up outside the regular Nero interface brings chastisement for not having paid the long dollar for the full package. I think, though, I can learn to work Audacity at least as well, and though it doesn't interface directly with Nero, that's a small price to pay for not having a large price to pay.

I have postponed my search for a new scanner, inasmuch as a legal-size flatbed now sells for upward of $300. My old one still works, but it's connected through the parallel port, and as such is slower than Christmas to a four-year-old, with the added annoyance of having to daisy-chain it off the printer cable like some sort of Commodore 64 device.

And I'm getting used to CyberLink, which does decent screen captures but which has what I consider somewhat wacky controls. I suppose the next step is to try to figure out the difference between DVD-R and DVD+R.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:03 AM)
1 May 2006
Compiles only because of luck

Back in the day, I actually had a COBOL compiler for the Commodore 64, and I can tell you, there were times when I couldn't tell a PICTURE clause from Santa Claus.

But there's a whole lot of COBOL code still out there, which is apparently what keeps Rocket Jones in incendiary devices:

I'm actually a young whippersnapper compared to a lot of the COBOL programmers still working, and that pool of talent is shrinking faster than the remaining need for 'em. One of the best skills to have for the massive Y2K effort was COBOL. Business needed them, and paid dearly because they needed them badly.

I must point out here that I work in an RPG shop, which means that I'm not in any position to snicker.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:11 AM)
Life could be a dream

I hesitate to say that DreamHost, which has been the home of dustbury.com since the last day of 2001, ever takes my advice on anything, but they've definitely filled out one item on my wish list: they've put up an ongoing status page, off their regular network (in case they go down or get DDoSed), with RSS feeds.

If it saves me just one instance of "What the hell is going on here?" it will have been worth it, I say.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:13 PM)
3 May 2006
Apple 1, France 0

The French government, says CNET, has apparently reconsidered a proposal to force Apple Computer to make the songs it sells through its iTunes Music Store playable on devices that compete with its iPods.

For those keeping score, the color of that flag in RGB is #FFFFFF.

(Courtesy of ZP.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:18 PM)
5 May 2006
Riding the learning curve

The Big Box from Adobe arrived yesterday, with Elements versions of both Photoshop and Premiere. I wasn't going to install this stuff until the weekend, but Geek Guy Mode took over, and I watched as somehow two CDs managed to eat up 5 GB of disk space. (Now that's compression.)

I haven't fired up the Premiere application yet, but I did a Photoshop experiment on one of my old (and bad) scans of a magazine page, where the bleed-through from the backside was a full-fledged hemorrhage. Cleaned it up in just under 55 seconds, including save time.

I do hope, though, that this small success doesn't induce me to try to clean up every last graphics file on this machine; there are literally thousands.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:15 AM)
7 May 2006
Adventures in iTunes

I am now resorting to quoting myself:

I now find myself increasingly tempted by the offerings therein, and indeed one marginally-obscure album track caught my eye this evening. (You'll never guess what it was.)

Actually, it was a bit more dramatic than that; I opened up the Store and said, "If they have [insert song information here], I will sign up, and I will purchase that track, and no doubt there will be others to follow."

They had that track. It was, in fact, "The West Wind Circus," a narrative by Adam Miller that Helen Reddy cut back in '73 for her Long Hard Climb LP; it has stuck in the back of my head for lo, these many years, but never pushed its way far enough to the front for me to track down either the LP or the current CD release. (Yeah, yeah, I know: Helen Reddy. Forget those 45s you threw away; this is a lovely song, beautifully sung.) Ninety-nine cents well spent, I'd say.

There were some surprises in the Music Store, not all of them pleasant. No Johnny Nash tracks, not even "I Can See Clearly Now"; the wrong (which is to say, "not the 45") version of Gerry and the Pacemakers' "I'll Be There," and not even the usual incorrect version, but a different incorrect version; the crummy stereo mix (with the wrong vocals) of Marianne Faithfull's "Summer Nights." On the upside, they had Garnet Mimms' solo single "I'll Take Good Care of You," which I'd been wanting, and both 45 and six-minute LP versions of Bebu Silvetti's dance classic "Spring Rain."

I don't think I'm going to spend an incredible amount of money on iTunes; after all, I've spent the last forty years accumulating records in more tangible forms, and most of the ones I've wanted, I have. But once in a while, I have to assume that something there will demand my attention, and since Apple's DRM is a bit less annoying than it could have been, I'm not averse to giving them a buck for something I don't feel like searching for elsewhere or, as in the case of Quarterflash's "Take Me To Heart," something I'm too lazy to clean up from vinyl.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:50 PM)
8 May 2006
Low-level high-level languages

Leave it to Lileks to write an operating routine for dogs.

Of course, Lileks is old-school: he wrote it in some dialect of BASIC. Naturally, this just screams out for conversion.

(Oh, and there's a routine for cats, also, though how you get a cat to parse anything is beyond me.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:48 PM)
15 May 2006
Glutton for punishment

For some reason, last night about 8 I got the idea to install Windows XP Service Pack 2 on my notebook.

Took about two and a half hours just to run Setup (from a CD, mind you, not from Windows Update), almost half of which was taken up by something called "Performing cleanup."

I suppose I'll find out later this week if I regret this action.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:41 AM)
16 May 2006
Reboots and jackboots

This surprises me hardly at all:

A poll has revealed what sobbing IT operatives already know only too well: their chosen profession is the most stressful on God's Green Earth and Iraqi A&E doctors should consider themselves lucky not to spend their days at the sharp end of a relentless assault of clueless users and badgering bosses.

That's the conclusion of a probe of 3,000 "IT experts" carrried out by "online learning provider" SkillSoft, which reveals the staggering fact that "97 per cent of people working in IT claim to find their life at work stressful on a daily basis".

Indeed, four-fifths of IT consultants "feel stressed before they even enter the workplace", while a quarter of the poor buggers "are under such enormous pressure to perform at work they have taken time off suffering with stress".

Further "comment" from me would obviously be superfluous.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:06 PM)
18 May 2006
Marked for death by Information Services (9)

The instruction "Do not run these jobs on Friday" does not in any way suggest "Queue these jobs on Thursday night after the operator has left."

Unless, of course, you want to wait until the following Tuesday. Farging tool.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:46 PM)
21 May 2006
So much for that bright idea

I decided to hook up the old scanner to the new box last night, and Windows sneered: "You dare to present me with this lame excuse for a TWAIN driver? Have a screen. Guess what color it's going to be."

One Last Known Good Configuration later, I was back up and running again, but it appears I will be in the market for a new scanner after all. Unfortunately, I got the bill from the Arborist this weekend, and that must be paid first.

For those interested: It's a UMAX Astra 600P, which runs through LPT1. Maximum resolution is 4800 x 4800 dpi. Sample depth: color, 30 bits; greyscale, 10 bits. Output depth: color, 24 bits; greyscale, 8 bits. Runs on W3.1 or 95/98; will apparently not run on XP SP2. How old is it? The install CD comes with Adobe Reader version 2.1.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:28 AM)
22 May 2006
FBI alert

Which, of course, means Freaking Big Install.

I decided to update OpenOffice.org (that's apparently the correct name of it now) to 2.0.2, and it's just about twice the size of 1.0.1, which presents a delightful symmetry to the eye even as it wolfs down disk space.

I should note here that I am primarily a Lotus user: 1-2-3, WordPro, stuff like that there. But development on these products seems to be at a standstill, and worse, people persist in sending me Microsoft Office files, which Lotus SmartSuite used to be able to import before New and Allegedly Improved versions were foisted off on the computing public by the ant armies of Redmond. (Heck, even lowly WordPad, which is still my text editor of choice, used to be able to do MS Word 6.0 files.)

Now if I can just stall that Firefox 1.5 thing, I'll be sitting, if not pretty, at least marginally comfortably.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:48 PM)
24 May 2006
My typing is teh suck

Apparently, so is Gina Trapani's, but she's apparently annoyed enough to do something about it: she's writing an AutoHotkey script to change her too-frequent rendering of "teh" into "the".

Persons fluent in 13375p34k, I imagine, already have such scripts in reverse.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:12 PM)
30 May 2006
Cyclical phenomenon

Is it just my imagination, or is there something that causes Cox to go down right before eight o'clock every night?

This plays hell with my connectivity, as it were.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:17 AM)
I'll have you know I paid for this

Somehow you have to figure that Microsoft put a lot of effort into the name "Genuine Advantage": it sounds like it bestows benefits on the user, when of course the real advantage accrues to Redmond, which is a regular Sir Francis Drake on meth when it comes to policing piracy.

The newest incarnation of the program actually points an accusing finger at the pirate, which wouldn't bother me particularly, inasmuch as I have a legit purchase of XP, except that this being Windows, sooner or later something is going to break, and there's no reason to think that Genuine Advantage will cut me any slack when it does. (Ask this guy.)

And you can be sure Microsoft is tracking this stuff: 35 million validation failures, including a disproportionately-high number in western Oklahoma for some reason known only to God and/or Chairman Bill.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:14 AM)
14 June 2006
I shot the desktop

But I did not shoot the monitor:

A Midwest City man was arrested after shooting his computer during a dispute with his wife over an Internet password.

William Lawrence Perras, 36, was released after he agreed to turn over his eight firearms and underwent a mental health evaluation, police chief Brandon Clabes said.

Clabes said Perras told police he was tired from working a graveyard shift and wanted to unwind by surfing the Internet, but his wife had changed the password without telling him. When the argument over the password escalated, Perras shot the computer with a .40-caliber handgun, he said.

Me, I'm usually not tempted to shoot a computer unless Windows is acting up, which happens less than, oh, eighty percent of the time.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:21 AM)
27 June 2006
Shoot it and move on

From about three years ago, the following was Marked for Death:

Whoever had the bright idea of designing an EPROM that can't survive being powered off and somehow managed to sell it to a major printer manufacturer.

(Said printer manufacturer should also be dispatched, for buying such an asinine idea.)

Frighteningly, said printer is still here, though the Visigoths (presumably using VisiCalc) have determined that it will not survive the summer. (At the moment, it won't survive a power-up cycle, but they don't have to know that, so long as they get it the hell out of here and replace it with something that actually works more than twenty percent of the time.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:40 PM)
28 June 2006
Unironic foreshadowing

Diane poses a puzzler:

If Gore invented the Internet, why do so many Internet addresses start off with Dubya, Dubya, Dubya?

Tangled Web, indeed.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:21 PM)
30 June 2006
Drip, drop, ka-ching

File this under "Wouldn't It Be Nice":

Given that you are essentially subscribing to Hewlett-Packard's or Brother's or whatever your brand's printing subscription program, you should be privy to a little more information on how much your subscription is going to cost. Few people really need to know how many Pages Per Minute their printer is going to spit out. As long as it's above ten, the average consumer can be content. Pages Per Minute is a stat that is similar to the time it takes to go from zero to sixty, featured in car commercials. Whose driveway is a highway onramp? What consumers need is a statistic that is more similar to the gas mileage stat. Consumers need to know about how many pages their printer will print before exhausting a cartridge of black and a cartridge of color ink. And we need that stat in both draft and standard modes. It should be listed on the informational card so that the office supply store employees can provide you with useful information.

Gwendolyn does zero to sixty in eight and a half seconds not in my driveway, which is fairly long, but not that long, and you've already seen how I deal with onramps.

Still, absent any consumption specs, we're at the mercy of the printer makers, and they'd pretty much like to keep us that way. Once I did the math:

An HP 56 cartridge (black and white) for the DeskJet I use at work runs $35 and contains 19 ml; one liter of the stuff 52.6 cartridges full comes to $1842. Multiply by 159.05 liters per barrel, and you're looking at $292,900 for a barrel of ink.

By comparison, $70 oil is cheaper than dirt. And it adds a whole new dimension to that old saw about "Never pick a fight with a man who buys ink by the barrel."

I have a very old DeskJet at home: a 720C. It takes the HP 45 cartridge, which holds a startling 42 ml and costs less than $35. No wonder it's been discontinued.

(Seen at BatesLine.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:16 AM)
4 July 2006
Scraping away

There are no formal screenshots from Genesis: it's all text. And there's not a whole lot of Scriptural basis for the notion of God looking at His monitor and reading "Formatting Universe, 0.000000000001% Complete," but hey, He had six whole days, while I was dumb enough to try to clean off an old PC in half of an afternoon.

And anyway, I didn't exactly scrape it down to the hull and start over. For one thing, Windows 98 support is well and truly over; while I had my original Microsoft CD at hand, I wasn't entirely sure I could locate every last patch and tweak that's come down the pike since the dawn of time, and I wasn't about to upgrade this box to XP: the only real reason for keeping it at all is to provide a way to run my old scanner, which dates back, if not to Genesis, certainly to Phil Collins' solo days.

So the first order of business was to uninstall all but a handful of apps, which was as much fun as you think, and then to reformat three of the four disk partitions. (This is a nominal 40-GB drive, so each partition is nine point something gig, and it's slow going.) At some point it dawned on me that I'd deleted my install for Adobe Reader 6 version 7 won't run on 98 and so I had to download that monster again.

The box has now been stripped to Windows, stuff supporting the sound card (though there are no speakers attached at the moment), a graphics app (to acquire from the scanner), and Firefox (in case the other machines go troppo). I suppose it would be useful to install software for the CD burner, but it's not a high-priority item at the moment.

And while this was going on, I ordered some RAM for the laptop, which is still in good shape but which has only 256 MB, barely sufficient to take on XP's Service Pack 2. It should run better with 512. On the other hand, its original 20-GB disk is down to about 6.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:07 PM)
6 July 2006
The greed for speed

The new desktop machine, with the OEM software provided a slightly-stripped version of Nero offers three speeds at which to burn CDs: 32x, 16x, and a lowly 8x.

Now I've always believed that the slower one burns an audio CD, the more likely it is to play flawlessly on whatever players one has. The old box burned at 4x or 8x, and it took me a while to work up the nerve to use 8x.

I have noticed, though, that the hyperexpensive stereo in my current car is a bit more sensitive than the more generic unit in my previous car: it doesn't notice bumps or anything, but once in a while it jumps slightly on a CD-R, and the newer it is meaning, in effect, the more likely I burned it at a higher speed the more likely it is to come up with audio problems.

As an experiment, I have taken a disc I burned at 8x and made a copy of it at 4x, using that old computer I'd cleaned off during the holiday. (If anyone cares, it's this.) We shall see.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:22 AM)
7 July 2006
Checkered Flag of Death

Do people attend auto races, or watch them on television, in the hopes of seeing a crash?

The most reasonable answer, I suppose, is that some of us do, but most of us probably don't.

Of course, we're generally watching NASCAR here in the States; the dynamics may well be different in, say, Formula 1.

And, while we're on the subject of crashing, the official supplier of engine-control systems for the 2008 F1 season will be ... Microsoft.

Now they'll be able to crash without ever leaving the starting line.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:46 AM)
11 July 2006
Thanks for the memory

Whether Service Pack 2 actually slows down a PC running Windows XP is a matter of debate; however, I'm quite certain that no one is arguing that SP2 speeds up a machine.

My notebook, a five-year-old Toshiba Satellite, seemed to be a bit draggy of late, though I wasn't sure whether this might be simply a question of perspective, inasmuch as it's no longer competitive wth contemporary hardware: an 1100-MHz Celeron, it was about as fast as my AMD Duron 850 desktop, acquired about the same time, but it's a snail compared to the new 'puter. And while I suppose I could dig myself deeper into debt and snag a nice Pentium 4 dual-core luggable, I reasoned that the path of least resistance lay in boosting the Toshiba's RAM beyond 256 MB, and by 256 I mean 240: sixteen megs are sucked away by the integrated video subsystem.

Fortunately, Toshiba considers this a simple process. From the manual:

If the computer is on, begin at step 1, otherwise, skip to step 3.
  1. If the computer is on, click Start, Turn Off Computer. The Turn off computer window appears.
  2. Click Turn off. The operating system turns off the computer.
  3. Unplug and remove any cables connected to the computer.

And so forth. These guys would write instructions for toothpaste beginning "1. Remove cap."

There are, in fact, 16 steps, the last three of which involve opening Control Panel/System to verify the amount of RAM installed, which is now 512 496 MB.

Yes, the machine does run faster. Is it fast enough to override my desire for a new machine? Ask me in a couple of weeks.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:09 AM)
12 July 2006
Assuming it isn't 403

Text messaging is a tedious business at best, which explains the plethora of abbrev + spl diff.

It won't always fit the circumstances, but often your response can be expressed in a server response code:

200 = OK
The client?s request was successful, and the server?s response contains the requested data.

[FRIEND] hows the sushi ovr there?
[YOU] 200

Of course, if [YOU] were I, you could expect a lot of 500s.

(Via Lifehacker.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:24 PM)
16 July 2006
Rules for using other people's Wi-Fi

1. Express gratitude.

After that, you hardly need a 2.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:23 PM)
28 July 2006
Tech bleg

Weird problem at NGM HQ. The lad has a DSL-cum-gateway with which he connects to the Net; it provides a wired link for the desktop and a wireless link for a notebook. What he'd like to do is swap files between the two. Unfortunately, while the notebook has Net access, it won't share files no matter what settings are in place, in the (gag) Windows Firewall or anywhere else. Most galling, my notebook connected right up first time.

I'm thinking he should delete the connection altogether and start over. Does this make sense?

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:30 AM)
1 August 2006
Vengeful little paperweight

"Why do you name your cars?" people occasionally ask me. And typically they give me the classic Spockian eyebrow raise when I explain, "I don't name them. I live with them for a while, and eventually they tell me."

A common response to this boils down to "You shouldn't anthropomorphize mere machinery," to which I reply, "If they object, they'll say so."

If this seems like imputing some form of intelligence to mere hardware, listen up.

About twelve years ago, we took delivery of a nice console printer, which was assigned number 2. It did far spiffier graphics than the machine it replaced, at somewhere between two and three times the speed. And it performed valiantly until the moment when a newer model was moved in beside it at the number-1 spot.

Number 2 was furious. First its powered stack mechanism began acting up, shredding parts as though there were no tomorrow. It got so bad that one year while I was on a World Tour the sysadmin summoned tech support and bade them rip that frigging stacker out of the box and throw it away.

Which they did. Meanwhile, the machine was beginning to suffer memory problems, as in "Oh, I just lost all my 183 different configuration settings." These could be keyed back in, albeit tediously, but eventually Number 2 figured out that this was extending its useful life, and began burning up system boards, which meant that not only did you have to rekey all the configs, but you had to reload the microcode from a floppy disk read by a notebook computer connected to the machine's otherwise-unused parallel port.

To make sure its appetite for boards was addressed, Number 2 devised a system whereby on every third power-up it would stick halfway through the process. I don't know how many boards for this model actually exist on earth, but I doubt seriously there's one we never used; at one point we were going through one or two a week.

Eventually tech support figured out that for their three grand a year, they'd put roughly $150,000 worth of parts into a $15,000 printer, and they threw up their hands and begged, "Please, no more."

A new printer was ordered, and old Number 2 was powered off and left there to collect dust and random paper boxes. Scheduled date for the new box: 1 August 2006.

This morning I started powering up Number 1 when a message came across the console: "Failure, Printer 2."

"How in the hell can it be failing? It's not even varied on!"

Despite a lack of life signs, somehow something got across its section of the controller, and onto Number 1, which wait for it had lost all of its configuration settings. It took the better part of half a day to get it back to normal.

I swear, the miserable little washing machine was laughing at us.

And no, the new box didn't arrive today.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:07 PM)
2 August 2006
Golden brownouts

DreamHost, which has hosted this very site since the waning hours of 2001, goes public with a list of Everything That Went Wrong last month, and it's a long list.

Meanwhile, a commenter asks:

Kind of off-topic, but: Why do internet companies constantly choose to locate in LA, which has chronic power problems in the summer? Why not Dallas, Atlanta, or Richmond? There are tons of other cities with great infrastructure, cheap land, adequate power/no brownouts, and a skilled labor force. But for some reason, LA is chosen despite its lack of adequate power during the summer. I don?t really understand that.

These are surfer dudes, dude. They're not gonna go to Dallas, fercrissake.

Disclosure: Your humble narrator once sought fame and/or fortune in 90254.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:21 AM)
3 August 2006
The coming of the pod people

Apple, says Autoblog, has contracted with GM, Ford, and Ford's Japanese affiliate Mazda to provide iPod access to OEM audio systems beginning in 2007.

The new services will allow use of the OEM head unit to control volume and such, and will permit charging the iPod's battery in the car.

GM will offer the iPod jack (or whatever it turns out to be) in all its US models; Mazda will implement it worldwide; Ford's plans are still up in the air.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:18 PM)
5 August 2006
I'm more of a C-minus, myself

Exactly as I saw it:

OkCupid is hiring. We're looking for both senior and junior C++ developers; pay to scale upward with experience. Applying is a highly competitive process there's even a test you have to take so only the best should apply.

if ((iq > 120) && (experience != 0)) {

sendResume (job7@okcupid.com);

} else {



Now, where was I?

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:35 PM)
6 August 2006
Safe for work at last

WorkFriendly is a proxy that strips out graphics and reformats Web pages as innocuous Microsoft Word documents, which might be useful if you're staring at trying to read Fleshbot in between phone calls.

(Via Boing Boing.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:25 PM)
7 August 2006
Little Joe never once gave it away

The manufacturers of inkjet printers are constantly looking for ways to make sure you pay and pay, no matter how much it depletes your wallet; in fact, they're even resorting to setting time bombs in the cartridges to make sure you have to buy new ones.

You might not think that such a scheme would be possible with an impact (read "dot-matrix") printer that runs off old-style spools of ribbon.

As we discovered today at 42nd and Treadmill, you would be wrong.

IBM's 6500-series printer is an impressive workhorse, but don't try to fool it with a generic ribbon: the spindle is just slightly too small, and there's a gizmo inside the head assembly that:

  • tells you how much life the ribbon has left, based on some algorithm which you're not told;

  • checks the spool for the presence of a barcode, and refuses to accept an off-brand ribbon no matter how clever your jury-rigging may be (and mine's close to legendary).

There is one way out unroll all 200 feet or so and thread the contents of a generic ribbon onto IBM's spool but this is messy and time-consuming. (Do not ask why I know this sort of thing.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:25 PM)
12 August 2006
The little beige doorstop still lives

I gotta love this: the C64 Orchestra is a real live band that, for the moment anyway, plays music from Commodore 64 games.

Details, sort of:

Recent fascination in the Commodore 64 (not just as a retro game computer) has fuelled compelling interest for the C64 as an instrument in the dance-scene (think of the Dutch hit from the artist Bastian "You've got my love" in 2001).

For this new production, Micromusic and Productiehuis ON invited members of the Dutch Riciotti ensemble and conductor Bas Wiegers for the C64 Orchestra. This new orchestra focused their attention on the groundbreaking 80s computer, the Commodore 64. Micromusic and ON approached two of the most experienced C64-composers of the 1980's, Rob Hubbard and Jeroen Tel. The Dutch Ricciotti ensemble will perform their music, with scoring done by Rob Hubbard himself. The game scores that are to be performed include the following Rob Hubbard compositions: Monty on the Run, One Man And His Droid and International Karate.

Also Jeroen Tel's Cybernoid II, Hawkeye, Myth and Supremacy will be performed.

Okay, it's not a massed array of SID chips, but I'm impressed just the same. And here's a highly-subjective list of the greatest C64 game music, just to jar those memory locations.

(Seen at Popgadget, which, despite being billed as "Personal Tech for Women," is rapidly becoming my favorite geek-overload site.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:30 PM)
16 August 2006
How to be as cool as Sean Gleeson

Well, okay, let's not go overboard here. Nobody is as cool as Sean Gleeson, except maybe William Shatner. And the Shat can't teach you Web design.

But Sean Gleeson can, and he's filling up Web Design classes at Oklahoma City Community College. This is your one chance to partake of all that Gleeson goodness. (You didn't really want to wait another whole semester, now, did you?)

Details here.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:07 AM)
17 August 2006
Redmond: home of tools

Microsoft is readying a "blog tool," and Winston is sounding the alarm:

[G]o hide in a dark corner and think ... and become afraid ... very afraid. Close your eyes and envision a future in which all blogs are done through Microsoft's BillyBlog service on their "pay-per-post" plan. All posts and all comments will become the property of Microsoft to do with as they please, including suing my ass for making these comments.

This reminds me of, well, me, circa 2003:

What would Windows blogging tools be like? Probably something like this:
  • All posts must be composed in Word.

  • You'd have to ping microsoft.com with a registration code before the program would send pings to blo.gs or to weblogs.com.

  • Any build error would generate a Blue Screen of Death and require a reboot.

  • The comment-spam filter would randomly block Safari and Opera users.

  • Windows Media Player would automatically delink any linked mp3 files.

  • Microsoft.com would wind up on the TTLB Ecosystem as the Highest Being, Dammit.

  • The built-in spellchecker will have issues with the word "Unix".

  • There will be a new security "upgrade" every other Tuesday.

  • Each member of a group blog would have to pay for a separate license.

  • A rogue email will be able to infect your templates.

On the upside, complaints about Blogger and Blogspot should diminish markedly.

Plus ça change, and all that.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:25 AM)
29 August 2006
Why Big Blue is still around

They may be fleeing the hardware business as quickly as possible, or so it may appear, but a call to 800-IBM-SERV almost always seems to get someone with Actual Smarts.

I had a printer issue to report this morning, and after the details were taken down but before the tech guys were summoned, I was punched through to an intake person, for lack of a better term, and she was sharp: she knew exactly the right questions, even for an oddball problem like this, and I have no doubt she was prepared to talk me through a procedure if she thought it could be solved in that manner.

Which apparently it couldn't, so the tech guys did get the call to come out and breathe upon the machine. But given the ginormous problems that seem to exist with call centers these days one look at The Consumerist and you'd think that phone banks are manned by monsters and/or morons I'm always grateful when I can get through something without screaming and/or tearing my hair out. (No points for sneering "Since when do you have hair?")

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:48 AM)
30 August 2006
Little wheel spin and spin

To no avail, apparently.

I have a mild mystery on my hands. I bought a DVD of Indian origin it is identified under "Regions" as "All NTSC" from a dealer in Bangladesh. I popped it into my DVD drive, and it whirred and sizzled and made other untoward noises, but at no time did the computer actually read it.

Peeved, I pulled the disc out of the drawer and shoved it into the DVD burner (same brand, next bay up). Worked fine. It also plays correctly on the Panasonic DVD player connected to my TV set.

None of this presents any particular problem, unless I decide I want to copy the disc in a single pass. Since I'm not planning to copy the disc at all, this isn't an issue, but I'm perplexed just the same. There's nothing apparently wrong with that drive, since it's able to play other discs without difficulty.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:37 AM)
1 September 2006
Fun is where you find it

And upgrading WordPress is not where I prefer to find it, but part of this afternoon was spent upgrading an existing installation to 2.0.4 and, for no good reason I can think of, installing a new one somewhere else.

Still, I could update five or six or fifty or sixty WordPress installs in the time it takes me to do one Movable Type upgrade on this place, which perhaps explains why I'm always a version or three behind.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:44 PM)
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The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

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