Archive for PEBKAC

Maybe they have a carbon-dating app

A bit of consolidation you probably wouldn’t have noticed (I barely did):

Internet provider Windstream today announced that it will buy EarthLink for $673 million in an all-stock transaction. The merger is focused on creating a stronger network operator for business customers, but it also provides a reminder that after all these years, dial-up Internet is still being sold.

EarthLink was founded in 1994 to provide dial-up Internet service and had more than 1 million customers by the late 1990s. But while dial-up has long been overtaken by DSL, cable, and fiber network technologies, EarthLink is still offering its original Internet service and boasts, “We’re the dial-up Internet experts. It’s what we’ve been doing best since 1994.”

EarthLink dial-up costs $9.95 a month for the first three months and $24.95 a month thereafter (or $14.50 a month if you prepay for a year). For that price, you’ll get “Unlimited 56K dial-up access,” e-mail, and “10MB of webspace for your own website,” the company says. EarthLink also advertises DSL, cable, and satellite service through reseller agreements that allow EarthLink to sell the services without building the networks itself.

And, since you’re going to ask, they’re one of the few ISPs who will let you keep an email address after you’ve terminated other services from them — for a price, of course. I kept an EarthLink dialup until about 2009, just in case.

(Via @JenLucPiquant. No, EarthLink has not sent me a notification.)


Bad, bad request

I was in the process of leaving a comment on one of those Blogspot blogs, and preview mode choked: it didn’t like the link I left behind.

On the basis that maybe I’d fouled up the link, I reformatted it just enough and sent it back through. The site disappeared entirely, replaced by Error 400:

The server cannot or will not process the request due to an apparent client error (e.g., malformed request syntax, too large size, invalid request message framing, or deceptive request routing).

Well, screw that.

In the meantime, this is the link I was trying to post.

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Well, you did ask

Baked beans, we assume, are off:

Spam ad dismissed as spam

In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it looks like Spam®.

(From reddit via Miss Cellania.)

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They’ll make it up in volume

This strikes me as one hell of a lot of email:

I can’t wrap my mind around 650,000 emails. Even before the next round of spam clearing, I have 55,617 emails on this box, and it took nearly twenty years to accumulate that much. Of course, I don’t have Carlos Danger’s propensity for hitting on every female within 20 ZIP codes, either.

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Macro version of micropayments

I don’t object to Web sites charging for access — it’s better than having them throwing you dubious ads from a dozen different sources every single time you visit — but there are few of them I visit often enough to justify paying the full rate. Is this the solution?

Everybody wants you to subscribe. I wouldn’t mind subscribing, but once you subscribe to one it’s much easier to justify subscribing to another, and then another and pretty soon you’re shelling out 50 or 100 bucks a month, and I ain’t gonna do that, so I don’t subscribe to anything. I wouldn’t mind paying $10 a month in order to get access to everything. I mean, if I have a subscription to one place, like the WSJ, I would spend all my time there. If I had two subscriptions my time would be split between the two, so I would be accessing each one only half as much. Likewise if I had ten subscriptions. The ISP should collect $10 a month from you and then dole it out to the websites on the basis of how many times you visit that site.

I’m pretty sure ISPs won’t like the idea, but hey, they have the information: they have to have it to figure how close you are to your monthly data cap.

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Overly Chromed

Our very own sysadmin circulated this warning late yesterday:

We have discovered today that a recent update to Chrome has caused it to have problems with the data it pushes through a print stream. It isn’t consistent, a reprint of the same screen report produced different results almost every time. If chosen to save as a PDF instead of written to a printer it would save the PDF correctly. The PDF would print without issue as long as you told the reader to print the page full size instead of fit to page. Be cautious if using Chrome for printed reports. If you notice any unusual blanks within the document you can save the document as a PDF and print it that way instead. Or try another browser. We have not verified but have no reason to suspect that the issue is across multiple browsers at this time.

This is, as the poet once said, a Known Issue. I have not encountered it personally, but then I hate Chrome. (How much do I hate Chrome? I print reports out of Lotus Notes, fercrissake.)

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You’re not getting enough fiber

Google Fiber, once believed to be coming to OKC, is apparently not coming to OKC:

Google parent company Alphabet has halted its plans to expand fast Google Fiber internet service to Oklahoma City and other cities throughout the country, the company confirmed Wednesday.

“Going forward we’re focusing on new technology and deployment methods to make superfast internet more abundant than it is today,” a Google Fiber spokeswoman said in a statement. “For now, that means we’re going to pause our operations and offices in Oklahoma City while we refine our approaches. We remain grateful to the city electeds and staff, and especially the communities, for their ongoing partnership and patience, and we’re confident we’ll have an opportunity to resume our discussions once we’ve advanced our technologies and solutions.”

Fiber guru Craig Barratt, then CEO of the Access subsidiary, did not explain, but perhaps this has to do with an earlier acquisition:

The future of Access, to a large extent, seems to lie in wireless. Access purchased the internet provider Webpass in June, giving it the technology to begin deploying over-the-air gigabit internet to homes. In theory, it provides the same service that fiber would, but without as many deployment hurdles.

What I want to know, of course, is whether this will delay Cox’s rollout of Gigablast.

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Geography by fiat

Adobe Photoshop/Premiere Elements v.13 arrived here yesterday, and there’s an FDA-ish Black Box Warning on the package:


Not for distribution anywhere else, including the EEA, Switzerland, Eastern Europe, Africa, the Middle East, the Caribbean, South America, Central America, Japan, or Asia Pacific.

Or, presumably, Mars, once Elon Musk organizes an expedition.



Semi-nastygram received from Yahoo! this week:

We’ve noticed that you have not changed your password or adopted Yahoo Account Key since we sent you our first email about this issue. We strongly recommend that you promptly change your Yahoo password and adopt alternate means of account verification, as appropriate. For example, please consider using Yahoo Account Key, a simple authentication tool that eliminates the need to use a password altogether.

I’ve noticed that now and then, but mostly now, it’s impossible to fill in their damned input boxes because some laggard tracking component of theirs isn’t keeping up. But they are scolding me.

This seems like a good time to drop my Flickr Pro account.

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This shall not pass

From the This Can’t Possibly Be A Coincidence files:

The blocked site in question belongs to the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco, a nonprofit that advocates for tenants. I wonder if this page linking to them is now going to be blocked.

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Just Dropped in

After several years of schlepping around thumb drives to move files from the home box to the work box or vice versa, I have installed Dropbox, which simplifies the matter considerably. So far, it’s worked admirably, though there’s still a distrust of The Cloud lurking in the back of my mind.

(And with good reason, I might add: over the weekend at the iTunes Store, I bought the BT album usually referred to as __, expecting that I’d be able to pick it up on the work box Monday morning. And indeed, the 25 tracks were queued for download, but in eight hours not one of those tracks was completed. If I can’t complete the task tomorrow, I’m just going to load my home copy into Dropbox. No, I don’t sync.)

If you’ve had experience, fair or foul, with Dropbox, or with Microsoft’s OneDrive (on the work box already), I’m wanting to hear from you.

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Cash-based solutions

When I ditched Windows XP in favor of 7, I ran into a couple of software issues, and the solutions turned out to be essentially identical: present plastic. Herewith, the original problems, and how they were subsequently solved.

Problem: Adobe Photoshop Essentials, though this is my fault: I can’t find the original installation DVD.

Solution: I eventually found the install disk, but it would not, you know, install. By 2014, Adobe apparently reasoned, I should be using a version newer than version 4. A reader offered me a legit copy of a newer edition, which was greatly appreciated; however, the ultimate solution came from Woot, which yesterday was offering the Photoshop/Premiere Elements bundle, version 13, for $49.99 (plus the de rigueur $5 shipping charge). This is slightly less than half what I paid for version 4 at CompUSA back in the Pleistocene era. Clearly I haven’t installed this yet, but I have no reason to think it won’t work.

Problem: Nero Burning ROM, which flatly refused my reinstall: “This serial number has expired.” This was a version-7 install; they’re up to something like 12 now. And I never could deal with the increasing bloat.

Solution: Apparently the Germans never throw away an email address. With Nero 17 on the way, they sent me a note to the effect that they were willing to cut a deal for a downloadable version of version 16, for $29.95. (Full package price is, and always has been, around $75.) The interface is much simplified, for which I am grateful.


When your appliances know too much

Eventually, everything in the doggone house will be electrified and given additional functionality, whether you want it or not:

Although I admit I do sort of like that non-television television set.

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From the spammer’s toolbox

This curious item landed in my spam trap:

Great news everybody!

New updated XRumer 12 recognize and break Google Captcha again, during automatic registering and posting.

The author suggests that you Google for the program, perhaps being reticent to provide an actual link.

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It’s third party

And you’ll cry if they want you to:

On September 13, owners of HP OfficeJet, OfficeJet Pro and OfficeJet Pro X began contacting third-party ink vendors by the thousand, reporting that their HP printers no longer accepted third-party ink.

The last HP printer firmware update was pushed in March 2016, and it appears that with that update (or possibly an earlier one), HP had set a time-bomb ticking in its customers’ printers counting down to the date when they’d begin refusing to follow their owners’ orders.

HP says that the March update’s purpose was “to protect HP’s innovations and intellectual property.”

Because what can possibly be more innovative than preventing others from making accessories for your equipment?

This, incidentally, is why I don’t want computer-industry types building cars. God only knows what they’ll do to keep third-party gas out of the tank.

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II much II have expected

I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting this:

[Thursday], software developer John Brooks released what is clearly a work of pure love: the first update to an operating system for the Apple II computer family since 1993. ProDOS 2.4, released on the 30th anniversary of the introduction of the Apple II GS, brings the enhanced operating system to even older Apple II systems, including the original Apple II and II+.

Which is pretty remarkable, considering the Apple II and II+ don’t even support lower-case characters.

Bloat, as you might expect, is nonexistent:

You can test-drive ProDOS 2.4 in a Web-based emulator set up by computer historian Jason Scott on the Internet Archive. The release includes Bitsy Bye, a menu-driven program launcher that allows for navigation through files on multiple floppy (or hacked USB) drives. Bitsy Bye is an example of highly efficient code: it runs in less than 1 kilobyte of RAM. There’s also a boot utility that is under 400 bytes — taking up a single block of storage on a disk.

All the things you expect of an early-Nineties operating system are on hand:

[T]he ProDOS 2.4 “floppy” includes a collection of utilities, including a MiniBas tiny BASIC interpreter, disk imaging programs to move files from physical floppies to USB and other disk storage, file utilities, and the “Unshrink” expander for uncompressing files archived with Shrinkit (helpful for using Apple II archives scattered about the Internet). All of this fits onto a single 140k 5.25-inch disk image.

Ah, those were the days.

(Via Jeff Faria.)

Update, 19 September: Fark headline: “Still compatible with Leather Goddesses of Phobos”.


A surprisingly risky business

Peter “Bayou Renaissance Man” Green Grant, like me, put in some time in operations on an IBM System/370, but there’s something he remembers that I seem to have forgotten:

I recall banks of gas cylinders outside the computer room, designed to release fire-suppressing fumes into the data center whenever necessary. However, none of us ever considered the noise of the gas being released as a potential hazard to disk drives. The system was more likely to kill us! One of my not-so-fond memories of that computer room was when we had a fire security inspection. The inspector turned to the Operations Manager and asked whether he had replacement operators lined up and ready to go after a fire. Puzzled, the Ops Manager replied that he hadn’t — why did he ask? The inspector then pointed out that the “gas masks” provided for the operators were to prevent smoke inhalation only. They had no oxygen cylinder to provide fresh air — but the halon gas that the fire suppression system would inject would absorb all the oxygen in the air. The operators would be asphyxiated before they could get out.

Which, if nothing else, shows you how highly ops personnel are regarded, compared to everyone else in the department.

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It’s not your book

Saturday night turned to Sunday morning, and sleep would not come, so I decided to read. I’d set the tablet screen for minimum blue light, and after the usual interminable bootup delay, I punched up a Kindle book.

And was met with this:

Invalid Item — This item is protected with DRM and cannot be read on your Fire. Please remove the item from your device and download it again or purchase a copy from the Kindle Store.

About two-thirds of my purchases were thus afflicted. I am currently theorizing that when all these things were moved off main storage and onto my 64 GB microSD card, Amazon’s clumsy DRM temporarily lost track of them. It was no particular trick to redownload the titles, but it was definitely annoying.

And it wasn’t the first time I’d had to fight with Amazon’s copyright cops, either. A friend sent me a novel he’d written in .epub format, and the tablet would not deign to display it unless I sneaked it in through a third-party file manager.

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Quick slowed

Bill Quick explains why you haven’t been able to get to Daily Pundit these days:

I initiated the transfer of the Daily Pundit domain to the new host as registrar on 8/27. I was told at the time that it would take “up to seven days” for the transfer to complete, at which point the domain’s DNS data would be pointed at the correct site, that data would propagate over the internet (DNS data is basically directions on how to find a site/IP#/whatever).

Well, the 7th day has dawned, and the transfer is still “pending.”

I hope we’ll see some action today, although when I inquired about it a couple of days ago, a tech said, “Sometimes it takes a little longer.” Which sent shivers down my spine.

I’ve done this twice, with two different domains, and neither time did it take more than three days. Then again, different hosts were involved.

In the meantime:

Anyhow, if you want to just look at Daily Pundit in its new home, go to this link:

You’ll see a few things right away: The site is there, it looks weird, and nothing on it works because every time you click on something it tells you that the site cannot be reached.

Still, this can’t last forever — can it?

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Have you seen this Wizard’s?

I admit to having shopped at this place a time or two, twenty-some-odd years ago:

At least the keyboard looked substantial.

(From the collection of Rob O’Hara.)


Pop down

Few things in life are as exasperating as the pop-up window that suddenly engulfs the entire screen. Those who endure this on laptops or desktops will presumably have to continue, but if you’re suffering with this on a mobile, Google might actually have your back:

Although the majority of pages now have text and content on the page that is readable without zooming, we’ve recently seen many examples where these pages show intrusive interstitials to users. While the underlying content is present on the page and available to be indexed by Google, content may be visually obscured by an interstitial. This can frustrate users because they are unable to easily access the content that they were expecting when they tapped on the search result.

Pages that show intrusive interstitials provide a poorer experience to users than other pages where content is immediately accessible. This can be problematic on mobile devices where screens are often smaller. To improve the mobile search experience, after January 10, 2017, pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as highly.

Which is probably more direct than the solution I thought of: a browser plugin that sends really horrible SQL-type codes to the goddamn mailing list to which they insist I must subscribe.

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I’m all about that baseball

While I was hospitalized, I rediscovered an old friend: baseball. In the period between the time they take the dinner dish away and the time they bring the nightly pain meds, baseball did a wonderful job of filling up the time I would otherwise use bewailing my fate and wishing I was dead.

Unfortunately for me, I managed to be in bed during the All-Star break, so there were a couple of rough nights to be faced. When I finally got out of there, I stayed with it, going back to the ancestral home of baseball: AM radio. No trick to pick up the local Triple-A club, the Oklahoma City Dodgers: they have a deal with one of the smaller stations. Getting the parent club is trickier: they have a nominal local affiliate, but not all the games get through the endless web of tedious talk shows.

When I discovered Sunday that the Pittsburgh Pirates/Los Angeles Dodgers game would not be carried here, I took action. I cranked up the tablet, which doesn’t get enough work, and installed Major League Baseball’s At Bat app, which gives me all the audio I can stand for twenty bucks a year. About halfway through the first inning, I had everything in place and running.

Standard MLB blackout rules apply to the Rangers, the Astros and the Cardinals, though not to the Royals.

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Piped in

This story has persisted literally for decades:

There have long been rumors that Microsoft copied CP/M to create MS-DOS for the IBM PC. Consultant Bob Zeidman in 2012 used forensic software tools to analyze the code for IEEE Spectrum and found no evidence of copying, as he reported in “Did Bill Gates Steal the Heart of DOS?” Since he did that analysis, Microsoft donated previously unavailable source code for MS-DOS to the Computer History Museum. (Zeidman did his original analysis using QDOS.). And the museum also located and released a more complete version of the CP/M source code. Zeidman reran his analysis and presented the results 6 August at the Vintage Computer Festival West.

The conclusion? Still no sign of copying of source code. And no evidence to support a long-running rumor that there is a secret command in MS-DOS that can be called to print out a copyright notice in Gary Kildall’s name.

Which is not to say that the two operating systems are completely and utterly dissimilar:

However, Zeidman did find that at least 22 system calls, the commands used to request an action, like sending text to a printer or reading from a hard disk, had the same function number and function. That, he says, might have meant that Kildall “might have had a copyright claim for the system calls that it could have litigated against Microsoft. On the other hand, there is a good chance Microsoft could have beaten such litigation by claiming it was a ‘fair use’.”

And there’s a prize for proving him wrong:

[Zeidman’s] putting up $200,000 in prize money, $100,000 for anyone who can use “accepted forensic techniques” to prove the copying, and another $100,000 for anyone who can find that secret Kildall copyright function.

If you ask me, there’s something sort of heartwarming about sustained interest in DOS after however many versions of Windows.

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We will control the environmental

We told you you didn’t want your thermostat hooked up to the Internet:

One day, your thermostat will get hacked by some cybercriminal hundreds of miles away who will lock it with malware and demand a ransom to get it back to normal, leaving you literally in the cold until you pay up a few hundred dollars.

For example:

Pay 1 Bitcoin to get control back

This was not an actual attack, but a proof of concept:

Andrew Tierney and Ken Munro, the two security researchers who created the ransomware, actually have no ill intention. They just wanted to make a point: some Internet of Things devices fail to take simple security precautions, leaving users in danger.

“We don’t have any control over our devices, and don’t really know what they’re doing and how they’re doing it,” Tierney told Motherboard. “And if they start doing something you don’t understand, you don’t really have a way of dealing with it.”

They expect the manufacturer to implement a fix shortly.

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The bad guys score again

This time they went for your iPhone:

This isn’t a new phenomenon, exactly, but it’s an exasperating one.

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Compatibility ho!

Yes, of course, let’s do this:

And why not make 802.11 work with something that existed two decades before 802.11 itself?


Farging text editors

A couple of weeks back, I complained that Chromebooks didn’t have any. Further research from elsewhere:

Today I am using a Chromebook and I have a couple of really feeble editors loaded: Text and Caret. Neither one can do a proper search and/or replace. Text doesn’t even offer replace. Caret’s search and replace function only works on regular characters, it can’t find line-feeds or tabs which makes it absolutely useless, absolutely useless I tell you.

So I’m looking around and I’m not finding much, mostly a bunch of articles about the ‘top 5 moronic editors for Chrome!’ and the ilk, but I do find one cool thing: a bit of html code that will turn an empty tab on your browser into a text editor. It will look like nothing happened, but click on the empty page and you get a cursor. Start typing.

Now they tell me.

What I wound up with was EditPad.

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There’s always another obstacle

In this case:

Sometimes, that thin wire is all you have.


Google eats the soul

And it chews at least 32 times per bite:

I sold my soul to GoogleDocs in exchange for autosave every fifteen seconds. But I sinned against Google or something, and Chrome decided it was no longer going to open for me. Uninstalled and reinstalled, checked for viruses, nothing. So I downloaded Firefox, which is … fine. Except that it will not allow me to copy/paste in GoogleDocs with my mouse. I tried the common fixes that pop up online, making sure “dom.event.clipboardevents.enabled” is set to “true” and trying to modify “user.js,” which I don’t seem to have (or at least it’s not where anyone says it should be and Windows refuses to find it for me.) Past those, everything I see seems to throw up their hands and says to use keyboard shortcuts, which is unacceptable to me because I am 32 years old, damnit, and I’m not going to change how I do things.

So there.


Perhaps a four-door

Says Google Groups:

Hi Charles G Hill, added you to the Sudan Brand 13 group.

Well, if you say so.