Category Archives: techno doom

feature requests for my blog

As many of you have probably noticed, my blog is crashing beneath its weight. It’s time for it to be updated and given new life so that I can integrate my various output in a way that is useful for others. I intend to do that in the next couple of weeks. So, given that y’all do the reading, I thought you should have a chance to share your thoughts.

  1. What blog features would make this blog more useful to you?
  2. What other types of output would you like me to integrate into my blog and in what form? (e.g., twitter, video, delicious, etc.)
  3. What design fixes would you like me to address?
  4. Are there any bugs that are driving you batty?

Thanks for reading and hopefully an upgrade can make it a more enjoyable experience.

darn thee european internet

I’m in Switzerland. The internet is atrocious and hella expensive so I won’t be online (or handling much email) this week. Bear with me.

Update: Conference center has reasonable WiFi but no power… Figures.

do NOT upgrade to Leopard (why I’m offline)

I foolishly decided to upgrade to Leopard five days ago, at the beginning of my trip east for the holidays. This was the worst idea ever so for everyone waiting for me to respond to anything, please be patient… I won’t really be online until I can get back to LA and wipe my machine and start over.

For the geeks, here’s what’s going on with Leopard:

  • I cannot seem to run more than 3 major apps (Word, Mail, Firefox) simultaneously or else one freezes and the entire machine halts to a stop, requiring a restart.
  • No major app seems to be able to quit without requiring a “Force Quit” to get it to stop. Restarting seems to freeze midway through and require a hard reboot.
  • Opening a folder in Finder seems to take a good 20-30s and results in a freezing of applications, making multitasking impossible.
  • And then there’s Mail… When I open Mail with no other apps open (on network or off), it’s a disaster – trying to open each message results in a beachball. The activity monitor doesn’t seem to indicate anything strange – no hanging or anything, just regular opening of mailbox, moving and saving to mailboxes, syncing, etc. But it’s impossible to open messages because they hang for 30s before they’ll open. I don’t have the patience to wade through my thousands of message with this level of hanging. I went through all of the Apple Support notices, updated my DNS servers, and am at a complete loss.

Anyhow, if anyone has any clue, I’d be happy to provide more details and try whatever. But I can’t balance this and family and holiday shopping and hotels and keeping sane, so I’m just going offline until I get home. Plus, I need to do a proper backup before I can feel comfortable turning this thing over to anyone else. Le sigh.

Update: Thanks everyone for your comments! I ended up re-installing my machine and it’s a much happier camper. I realized that I’ve been through 7 machines and 4 OSes without ever cleaning anything out – all I do is firewire to the next one. So far, so good. But damn is email overflow daunting.
PS: Sorry about my blog… apparently the spam killed my quota and thus caused a hiccup in the comment section. Ironic, eh?

algorithms for dumb security questions

I share David Weinberger’s irritation with dumb security questions, albeit for slightly different reasons. My irritation stems from the fact that they are often culturally insensitive, require brilliant memories, and assume that favorites don’t change. Maybe I’m not normal, but I have no foggy clue who my 1st grade teacher is, I couldn’t name a single sports team, and my favorite movie changes depending on who I’m talking to let alone how I’m feeling that day. (Today, I think that The Matrix will do.) David gripes about the fact that people’s favorite tastes are quite common; my problem is that we know damn well that people are dreadful at this, but that it works quite nicely as a way of marking identity on online dating sites. Which reminds me. Why are security questions the same as the information that you put on your public MySpace page? Dumb dumb dumb.

So you know that people write down their dumb answers and then lose them and then they’re screwed. I’ve decided to approach this from a different angle. I’ve instituted a consistent tactic for answering stupid security questions. It’s an algorithmic approach. The basic structure is:

[Snarky Bad Attitude Phrase] + [Core Noun Phrase] + [Unique Word]

Although these are not my actual phrases, let’s map them for example:

  • Snarky Bad Attitude Phrase = StupidQuestion
  • Unique Word = Booyah

Thus, when I’m asked the following question: What is your favorite sports team?

My answer would be: StupidQuestion SportsTeam Booyah

And when they ask: What was the first car you owned?

I’d respond: StupidQuestion Car Booyah

It’s easy to remember a snarky bad attitude phrase and a unique word that you use consistently. And then to make sure you’re answering the right question (cuz they do have scripts that check that you’re not answering all questions the same way), you just have to be able to pick out the noun phrase each time.

Of course, the fact that I have to do this just pisses me off to no end. And I still can’t figure out why they can’t ask me to write my own question, store that in cleartext, encrypt my answer, and then offer me back my cleartext question rather than a stupid list of 8 questions that boggle my mind and remind me of how heterogeneous the world is. I realize that it’s the difference between a byte and a string, but when we’re talking about security, is that really a big deal? Grumble grumble grumble.

blotchy burns on my legs from my Macbook

I acquired my black Macbook late in the spring and was doing a lot of traveling until mid-July. Since then, I’ve been at home working on my laptop all day and all night. I purchase laptops because they’re LAPtops (regardless of Apple’s avoidance of that term) – I need the machine in my lap so that my hands can be at the right angle to prevent my carpal tunnel from flaring up. This is why I haven’t owned a desktop in almost a decade. (Managing my CTS is a longer story, but laptops are the only thing that I’ve found to work.)

Much to my horror, a burn started emerging on my lap this summer. It’s just like the woman who reported this last year. It’s kinda creepy actually. The burn is all blotchy and it shows where my laptop clearly sits. I didn’t feel it happening, but it’s noticeably there and very much in the shape of my Mac. (And it makes it clear that I angle my Mac funny on my lap.) In fact, when it first started to appear, I ignored it because I thought maybe I had done a bad job with the suntan lotion on my thighs. But it got worse and then it dawned on me. I had heard about this problem, but I thought they had fixed it with some firmware upgrade. But it is distinctly the shape and size of my Mac. And it most definitely happened this summer and I have done all of the upgrades requested.

The eerie part is that it’s not going away. I went to Burning Man (which meant 5 days without the laptop) and when I returned, I found a wooden lap-seat to place the machine on, but it still hasn’t gone away. (In the meantime, the burn I got from getting seared by the Temple embers has gone away, as has the slight sunburn.) I’m starting to get a wee bit creeped out. What kind of burn is this? Did my laptop cause more damage than I thought? Are people who aren’t seeing the burn still being affected by whatever is causing it? I never thought that my Macbook was that hot – it was always comfortable in my lap with my yoga pants on. The burn happened without me noticing pain. And there’s no dreadful sound or anything. Just a creeping blotchy ugly burn that doesn’t show any signs of going away.

(Photos not getting posted cuz my thighs are *not* my sexiest feature.)

airport extreme wifi failure: help?

The Apple stores near me have no appointments so I thought I’d see if anyone out there might have suggestions before I camp out at the store for a few hours. My Airport Extreme was working quite fine until this morning. I see my network in the list of networks, but when I try to go to it, I’m told that there is an error joining it. I’m able to connect to the Extreme via a tethered Ethernet cord. I updated the firmware and I restarted it. The light is green and it’s in my list of networks but I can’t actually join that network (nor can my Airport Express). What on earth am I doing wrong?

Update: and the prize goes to DK for suggesting that I just needed to tell the router my lucky number and all would be well. (Tx to Dan and Joe and Jacob for taking the time to help me debug. Another techno doom averted!)

javascript features make reading a nightmare

For as far back as I can remember, I have highlighted words while I read on the screen. I don’t know why. It’s kinda the equivalent to moving my finger along the written text. Apparently, this is not a common practice. If I highlight words at the NYTimes and accidentally click on a single word, the NYTimes tries to look up the word with a new window. I really don’t need a definition of “the” and it just makes me lose track of what I was reading. Lately, I’ve noticed that blogs are starting to sport these annoying javascript-y in-page popups that block text with information about the links that I’ve accidentally scrolled over. Again, I lose track of what I was reading. Usually, I just give up and quit any blog that has those annoying things. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I really don’t want to see a screenshot of a website when I mouse over the link. A mini-picture of a page full of text does nothing except annoy me. It’s not additional information; it just feels icky. Le sigh. Am I alone on this one?

a practice broken, another silo solidified

I know i have some quirky habits but i really really really hate when web companies break them with their latest updates. One of my weird ones concerns getting directions to a place (which i do 2-3 times a day). For years now, i’ve thrown the address of the destination into google toolbar. Up would come the address (recognized by Google as an address) with three links: Google Maps, Yahoo Maps, Mapquest. I would always click Yahoo Maps. From there, i’d click on the “To Here” link and then choose “home” and click. I’d then copy/paste the directions into an email that i’d send to my Sidekick and then use that to navigate while in the car.

A while back, Yahoo Maps broke this path by going all web2.0-y. While it sure is pretty, it makes getting directions more difficult and you can’t copy/paste the directions. So i saved the “classic” style in the preference and didn’t sweat it any longer.

Today, Google broke the process completely. At first, when i searched for an address, it wasn’t found. Apparently, the Google search engine got a bit more picky and required me to know if it was Street or Road and required a comma between the city and the state and couldn’t cope with a 9-digit zipcode. This was never an issue before (and part of why i loved it – it let me be lazy). But even worse, they’ve gotten rid of the three choices and now only have their map with a box for me to put in the “start address” to get directions. This infuriates me because there’s a reason that i don’t use Google Maps. Their directions are *atrocious* AND you can’t copy/paste the directions once you have them. And it completely pisses me off that the “email” button tries to email me a link not the content of the page. (This is even worse on Yahoo where it has the nerve to send a text message with a link when you send to phone.)

I’m grouchy. I realize that this is a subtle thing but it really makes me quite unhappy. Plus, i’d always touted Google’s willingness to link to both Yahoo Maps and Mapquest as a sign that not every search company has to focus on being a silo. Google broke that today, signaling that it does indeed prefer to be a silo than to offer choice that the consumer might want. I know that i can work around this but it requires more clicks for a practice that i do so often it hurts (yes, i’m always lost). Le sigh.

oh dear cute chumby

I told myself that there was no playing with the chumby until i finished unpacking my new apartment. But then, in the midst of unpacking, i realized i had no clock. Since i knew that was the default application, i decided to unpack the chumby. I figured, what harm could be done in just using it as a clock, right? OMG, cuteness. It talked to me. It showed me an adorable little octopus. And then it found my network just like my Mac. And it made me register it. And then it told me that someone else had put together a Cute Overload application for it. So now there’s cuteness on cuteness. And there are Flickr photos. And news. And ooooohhhhhhh….. Sooooo cute.

I will not play with the chumby until i unpack, i will not play with the chumby until i unpack….

change in feed and other blog bits

I’ve just added a Feedburner feed for my blog. It would be great if you’d be willing to switch which feed you’re subscribed to but if not, that’s cool. I’m doing this for two reasons. The obvious is having something resembling statistics for my own curiosity. The other is that i’m hoping that if folks primarily use Feedburner, i might get a reduction in bandwidth from readers grabbing the feed.

Although i’ve been using for a long time, i mostly use it for myself. I decided to create a special tag of things that are relevant to others: 4blog. I’ve added to the sidebar of my blog. I’m not mixing my feed in with my regular blog feed because i just think that’s rude. So, if you want to subscribe to that separately, here’s my feed.

While i’m on the topic of my blog, does anyone have a good chunk of Javascript that might reduce the archive clutter over there on the left? Ideally, i could just list years and then you could click to open up the months per year. Except maybe the current year which would show all of the months. I keep procrastinating taking care of this so i thought i’d see if someone else has done it already.