I had the worst experience at work today: I had to prepare a computer for a new employee. That’s usually a pretty painless procedure, but this user was to be on Windows, and I had to … well, I had to call it quits after making only mediocre progress. This evening I checked online to make sure I’m not insane. A lot of people hate Windows 8, so I enjoyed clicking through a few reviews online, and then I just had to respond to Badger25’s review of Windows 8.1:
I think you are being way too easy on Windows 8.1 here, or at least insulting to the past. This isn’t a huge step backwards to the pre-Windows era: in DOS you could get things done! This is, if anything, a “Great Leap Forward” in which anything that smells of traditional ways of doing things has been purged in order to strengthen the purity of a failed ideology.
As far as boot speed, I was used to Windows XP booting in under five seconds. That was probably the first incarnation of Windows I enjoyed using. I just started setting up a Windows 8 workstation today for a business user and it is the most infuriatingly obtuse Operating System I have ever, in decades, had to deal with. (I am a Unix admin, so I’ve seen things….) This thing does NOT boot fast, or at least it does not reboot fast, because of all the updates which must be slowly applied.
Oddly enough, it seems that these days, the best computer UIs are offered by Linux distros, and they have weird gaps in usability, then Macs, then … I wouldn’t suggest Windows 8 on anyone except possibly those with physical or mental disabilities. Anyone who is used to DOING THINGS with computers is going to feel like they are using the computer with their head wrapped in a hefty bag. The thing could trigger panic attacks.
Monday is another day. I just hope the new employee doesn’t rage quit.
I think the El Camino BRT could be a great project to transform El Camino Real from a ghetto of 1950s strip malls into the sort of place where people would go to enjoy shopping. Maybe. Anyway, the news that a dedicated lane from Santa Clara to Palo Alto could make the bus faster than cars excited me. I’ll try to be at the Sunnyvale meeting this evening, and I also submitted my own enthusiasm to our governments via Transform’s handy link:
I used to commute along El Camino from Mountain View to Palo Alto. I switched to the bus out of environmental concerns. El Camino has the best transit service in the county but it still took 2-3 times longer to take the bus than it would have taken to drive. Now it sounds like you could get BRT running on El Camino FASTER than cars? YES!! If the cars get slowed a bit that’s not such a big deal, especially since any driver going any distance knows that Central Expressway / Alma is a much nicer car trip. Even though I now live 1.5 miles off of El Camino in Sunnyvale, if there were excellent transit services I would be tempted to hop on the 55, walk, or bike to enjoy the transit corridor, especially for trips up to Mountain View or Palo Alto or Stanford Shopping Center. What a pleasure it would be to not have to hassle with parking, traffic, or the Caltrain schedule. If it were sufficiently fast, I would totally use that as a commute option up to Menlo Park.
Also, I’d probably be more inclined to visit Santa Clara.
We had company over Wednesday evening. Friends of the family who have cat-sat for us. They brought dim sum. After dinner we sat around chatting. I got a call on my mobile from a 408 number. I took it.
“Are you the owner of Maxwell?”
“I am. Is he causing trouble?”
It was the opposite. I grabbed a cardboard box and hustled down to the corner, where a small crowd had gathered. The woman who had called me said he had been standing in the street, looking the other way, when the car hit him. He died instantly. She removed him from the street and found my number on the tag. We hugged. She was obviously a cat person, who was glad that he had a collar, a bell, and an identification tag.
I brought him home. He rested briefly where his feline companion Maggie took a last opportunity to groom him. The young woman who drove the car and her father came by to express their remorse and see if they could make amends, but there was nothing to be done. The young woman was in tears. She wants to be a veterinarian. The Father remembers dogs who had been lost to cars. We agreed that the Humane Society might receive a donation. We shook hands several times. What a way to meet the neighbors.
Maxwell napping in the front yard in June.
In the back yard, a shallow grave was dug. Maxwell was wrapped in a familiar fabric, and lain to rest. Words were said.
It will take some time to feel his absence and truly mourn his departure. He might have lived a much longer life as a house cat, but he loved the outdoors and was well known in the neighborhood. He lived as he chose and while his end was violent, it was swift and he did not suffer.
I reported the following to the FBI, to LogMeIn123.com, to Century Link, and to Bing, and now I’ll share the story with you.
Yesterday, May 12, 2014, a relative was having trouble with Netflix. So she went to Bing and did a search for her ISP’s technical support:
Bing leads you to a convenient toll-free number to call for technical support!
She called the number: 844-835-7605 and spoke with a guy who had her go to LogMeIn123.com so he could fix her computer. He opened up something that revealed to her the presence of “foreign IP addresses” and then showed her the Wikipedia page for the Zeus Trojan Horse. He explained that she would need to refresh her IP address and that their Microsoft Certified Network Security whatevers could do it for $350 and they could take a personal check since her computer was infected and they couldn’t do a transaction online.
So, she conferenced me in. I said that she could just reinstall Windows, but he said no, as long as the IP was infected it would need to be refreshed. I said, well, what if we just destroyed the computer. No, no, the IP is infected. “An IP address is a number: how can it get infected?” I then explained that I was a network administrator . . . he said he would check with his manager. That was the last we heard from him.
I advised her that this sounded very very very much like a phishing scam and that she should call the telephone number on the bill from her ISP. She did that and they were very interested in her experience.
I was initially very worried that she had a virus that managed to fool her into calling a different number for her ISP. I followed up the next day, using similar software to VNC into her computer. I checked the browser history and found that the telephone number was right there in Bing for all the world to see. She doesn’t have a computer virus after all! (I’ll take a cloer look tonight . . .)
I submitted a report to the FBI, LogMeIn123.com, Bing, and Century Link. And now I share the story here. Its a phishing scam that doesn’t even require an actual computer virus to work!
As a SysAdmin, people ask me how much they need to worry over the heartbleed vulnerability. Here’s my own take:
Google were known to be vulnerable. They co-discovered the vulnerability and deployed fixes quickly. I like to believe they are analyzing the scope and likelihood of user password compromise and will issue good advice on whether Gmail passwords should be updated.
For everything else, my small opinion is “don’t panic.” Not every web site would have been affected. The Ops folks at each site need to patch their systems and assess the extent to which credentials may have been compromised, then take appropriate steps to mitigate compromised data, which might include asking users to set new passwords. But if they’re still waiting on some patches, then submitting a new password could actually put both passwords at risk.
For other important passwords, like your bank, check up on what they’re recommending that you do. If a site is important to you and they offer two-factor auth, go for it: that typically means that if you log on from a new computer they’ll text a one-time pin code to your mobile phone to double-check that it’s you.
Two quotes passed along on September 11, from my meat-eating Grandmother:
A USDA inspector reviews the carcasses of slaughtered pigs for our safety. Credit: Wikmedia Commons
“As long as there are slaughterhouses there will be battlefields.” –Leo Tolstoy
“We are the living graves of murdered beasts
slaughtered to satisfy our appetites.
We never pause to wonder at our feasts,
if animals, like men, can possibly have rights.
We pray on Sundays that we may have light,
to guide our footsteps on the path we tread.
We’re sick of war, we do not want to fight –
The thought of it now fills our hearts with dread,
and yet – we gorge ourselves upon the dead.
Like carrion crows we live and feed on meat,
regardless of the suffering and pain
we cause by doing so, if thus we treat
defenseless animals for sport or gain
how can we hope in this world to attain
the PEACE we say we are so anxious for.
We pray for it o’er hecatombs of slain,
to God, while outraging the moral law,
thus cruelty begets its offspring – WAR.”
–George Bernard Shaw
At long last, I retired my old T-Mobile G2. It was the last in a long line of phones I have owned for the past decade with a physical keyboard. (I think I owned every Sidekick up to the 3 before going Android with the G1 and the G2.) I like the ability to thumb type into my phone, but the G2’s old keyboard had long ago gone creaky, and it had lacked a dedicated number row besides.
Obligatory picture recently taken with my new computer telephone. Featuring a cat.
They don’t make nice smart phones with keyboards any more. Market research seems to indicate that the only remaining markets for keyboard phones are horny teenagers who need a cheap, hip Android-based Sidekick, and those legions of high powered business people who will never abandon their ancient Blackberries.
Anyway, the new Nexus 5 is here. The on-screen keyboard is okay slow and inaccurate. Like moving from a really fantastic sports car to a hovercraft piloted by a drunken monkey. I mean,the monkey-piloted hovercraft is undeniably cool technology, and I can eventually get where I need to go, but . . . its not the same, you see?
So, lets explore Voice dictation! It works . . . well, about as well as the monkey hovercraft, but with the added benefit that you don’t have to keep jiggling your thumb across the screen. But how do you do new lines and paragraphs? Where’s the command reference?
The other thing that excited me about the Nexus 5 was that on the home screen you can drag apps right up to “Uninstall” . . . unless they’re Google apps! “Way to not be evil,” I cried. Until a Google colleague pointed out that it was just a bit of UI funkiness on Google’s part, owing to the applications coming bolted into the UI, there is at least a method to disable them.
Anyway, this is useful knowledge that helped me to vanquish the Picasa sync thing that has been hiding images from the gallery for the past few years. I have another project where I’m testing out BitTorrent Sync to pull images off our phones and then sync a copy of the family photo archive back down to the phones. If that works out, I’ll write it up. I may pursue that further to see if I can’t replace Dropbox, which, unfortunately, does not (yet) offer any sort of a family plan. Also, if I can host my own data I needn’t share as much of it with the NSA.
As new parents, it is not as if we are getting out to the movies at all these days. All the same, when the Ender’s Game Movie page popped up in my Facebook I had to pay a visit, and share my opinion:
FWIW, Card has continued to advocate and advance his beliefs that homosexual people should have lesser rights than heterosexual people. If you see this movie then some of your ticket price goes to Card and will help in your own small way to advocate for discrimination. This reason alone turns me so far of the prospect of seeing this movie.
When I was younger, I loved the entire trilogy, and I would still encourage folks to borrow the books from the library, but the thought of giving another dime to Card fills me with revulsion.
Discrimination is not cool, and every dollar of revenue this movie fails to book is a dollar that has been better spent elsewhere.
Unsurprisingly, people who are planning not see go watch Ender’s Game aren’t spending much time on the movie’s Facebook page. So, comments like mine get a lot of pushback. Some guy in Netherlands reads what I said above and responds, “So you liked the books and then you learned about OSC’s beliefs and you didn’t like the books anymore?”
Which, no, that’s not quite what I said. So, I’ll try again:
Peter, I love the books. What I dislike is the idea of giving any money to a guy who uses it as a soapbox to preach that gay people should be discriminated against. I dislike the idea of giving my money to someone who preaches against the rights of homosexuals just as much as I dislike the idea of giving my money to someone preaching Racism or Sexism or Ultranationalism or Religious Extremism or any of the rest.
Fortunately, there are plenty of great books to be read, plenty of great movies to be watched, that aren’t asking me to support the cause of hateful people. There are plenty of great books I have not yet read, plenty of great movies I have yet to watch. Plenty of enjoyment to be had without giving money to those preaching a tired old hatred.
Ask yourself this: would the idealistic young kids portrayed in “Enders Game” be lining up to see a movie produced by someone preaching hate? There are surely any number of more valuable things that you could be spending your time and money on, neh?
At any rate, as I said, there’s only so much time I have to spend that I’m not going to blow too much of it debating kids on Facebook. I have done my little part, and Orson Scott Card is pretty small-fry compared to the kind of awful stuff that is happening in Russia.
Honestly, that just feels slimy. They are my data. My data are not a premium feature. This restriction puts a bad taste in my mouth and that is a strong deterrent to purchasing further products from you folks. Which is too bad, since I otherwise like the hardware and I am ready to be upsold to an NFC device. But since my data are not my data … well, I’d rather just spend my money elsewhere.
If anyone has an activity tracker they particularly like, I am keen to hear about it.
My Red State Relative Posted this to his Facebook Wall:
“Scalia Resigns Post as Scoutmaster”
Justice Scalia quit his post in a terse resignation letter that read, in part: “Some of the happiest memories of my adult life have been as a scoutmaster. Huddling under blankets around the campfire, and so forth. But now, all of that has been ruined. Ruined.”
I quipped that “if enough bigots quit they’ll have to start recruiting gay adult leaders.” To which my relative responded asking how I might feel about my son on a campout with the gays, or an alcoholic, and that safety, righteousness and common sense should prevail.
[Relative], I hope Tommy takes an interest in scouting, and I feel better to know that if he joins, he will not be denied the friendship of a fellow scout simply because one of them is gay. I hope they go camping together, and I know from first-hand experience that when Scouts exhibit a gross failure of ethical or moral conduct, their behavior is reported and disciplinary action is taken. (Like the boys who got expelled from the Scouts for shoplifting during a camping trip.)
And, for what it is worth, our Scoutmaster was a combat Veteran and a Recovering Alcoholic. He told some good stories that I think probably helped a few of us young men make smarter decisions in our adult lives. It was always hard to get a sufficient number of adults to join our outings, which is why I will be glad to see the eventual end of the exclusion of gay adult leaders.
You would think that turning a computer off would be a simple ask. But on my corporate laptop, Windows 7 is ever concerned that I am an idiot.
Me: Okay, we’re done. Shut down. Windows 7: Okay. Hey, wait, some programs are still running. Me: Kill them. Force shut down. Windows 7: Bu-bu-bu-bu-buuuut you could lose your work!! Are you sure you want to shut down? Me: Yes . . . I’m always sure . . . but thank you for your heartfelt concern.
So it goes.
(I do 98% of my work from Linux, which thinks shutting down is a grand idea.)
Earlier this week, Yahoo! unveiled a new and improved Flickr! !! A radical new redesign, which, while kind of slick to look at, totally steamrolls all the narrative features that many Flickr users like me love. Time will tell if Yahoo will backpedal enough to let us old-timers see our photos in the ways we like. Given that the new business model appears to be ditching the user subscription model for ads ads ads I am not optimistic.
Tommy smiles at his father photographer.
Enter Iperntity, a 7-person outfit in Cannes, FR which appears to have cloned the Flickr interface back in 2007 and have since moved in the direction of building it into a site where you not only manage and share your photos, but you can also write stories, and keep track of the friends you have on the site. Basically, a little outfit building something like Flickr into what Flickr might have become had Yahoo! not spent the past decade neglecting it. In a way, it is even giving us the core sharing features that people like about Facebook, without all the skeeviness. (Or … critical mass.)
I miss the nice drag-and-drop web uploader that flickr recently launched
The site feels a bit short of snappy … not dog slow, just not snappy … to be sure, they’re seeing a spike in load
The first thing that really makes me smile is that by default the photo lists the date taken, rather than date uploaded … that always frustrated me about Flickr
I of course opted for their 3-month paid service. Once the Collections feature comes online then I reckon there is a very good chance I’ll migrate my data from Flickr and sign up for their two year plan.
It is just nice to discover that there is new technology waiting in the wings when the big megacorp decides to shoot its product in the foot.
A test view of a plugin I wrote to view Flickr photos on a WordPress site.
Wow. It is hard even to add a post here.
I loved the old interface. I also loved that when you added new layout options to the old interface, they were OPTIONS that users could turn on or off.
I like that you could browse photos with annotations, click on a photo for a larger view, look over the metadata, &c . . . then click through the photostream or set.
Back when I joined in 2005 I was wary that Yahoo! might eventually do something stupid to what was really a very nice, well-designed interface for managing photos. My main assurance is that there would still be an API . . . I guess I will have to brush off the old API . . .
Really, you should give users the option to use the interface they like. This feels like instead of sitting down with users, seeing how they use the site, figuring out how to make it work better, you brought in some jackass designer who sighed that the site looks oh-so-2005, and decided to replace it with a mashup of Google Image Search (which is a terrible UI, by the way) and the Facebook header image (which wastes space at the top of screens which are getting shorter and wider but at least looks kind of neat.)
Please respect your existing users, many of us who have been paying you real, cash money for years now, and give us at least the option to enjoy the user interface we loved about your site.
Back when I lived in Mountain View I was deeply saddened to read of the death of Gwen Araujo in 2002. She was a transgendered teen in the South Bay who was brutally murdered by classmates. Why? She had given a few blowjobs to the boys. The boys realized in horror that they had committed a “homosexual” act. They felt betrayed by Gwen, beat her to death, and buried her in the woods.
The tragedy bothered me because Gwen was apparently accepted by these friends enough to become somewhat intimate, but the homophobia that had been instilled in these kids was so strong that they went from lust to the worst sort of violence.
For me, “Gwen Araujo” is as a reminder that homophobia is a deadly poison that can turn even a lover into a brutal murderer. Gays aren’t murdering people: it is homophobia that is the dangerous sickness. The younger generations have proven increasingly tolerant, but Gwen’s friends were still held under its deadly influence . . .
I dream of a world in which people can be who they are as they are without fear of violence.
In an age where innovation and creative thinking move ever faster, it is sick and demented that we have extended copyright periods to over a century. It is shame for the current generation and those of the twentieth century that the intellectual commons ended in 1923.
The gradual seizure of the intellectual commons. CC: Wikipedia
The United States hereby withdraws from International Copyright Treaties, especially the Berne Convention. The substance and spirit of the Copyright Law of 1790 shall be restored. All intellectual property rights must be recorded by the government. Software copyright protection requires a copy of source code for software to be stored in escrow with the government. Exclusive rights are conferred to the author for 14 years, plus an option to extend rights for 14 years if the author is alive at that time.
A Copyright Will Protect You From Pirates! CC: Wikipedia
All other works are Public Domain. Upon expiration of software copyright protections, the government will publish the source code.