Category Archives: News & Annoyances

Random Spamdom

You know what’s fun?  Spam!

I think this one was from a politician-bot.

In this awesome scheme of things you’ll get an A just for hard work. Where exactly you lost everybody was on the details. You know, they say, the devil is in the details… And that couldn’t be much more true right here. Having said that, let me inform you precisely what did give good results. Your writing is actually rather convincing and that is most likely the reason why I am taking the effort in order to comment. I do not really make it a regular habit of doing that. Second, even though I can see the jumps in reason you come up with, I am definitely not certain of just how you appear to connect the details which inturn produce the final result. For the moment I will, no doubt subscribe to your point however wish in the near future you connect your dots better.

Any horse lovers out there?

If you offer him $10,000 for your horse, he’ll almost certainly probably market it
to you. Other factors, for instance pedigree,
trainer and jockey riding the horse and whether or not the horse
performs well about the turn or on dirt can also be carefully considered
by handicappers of their quest for that win. The one’s which do
win, have reached such short prices, you won’t
ever recover your losses.

Not clear why I would offer someone else money for my horse, but I’m getting pretty excited nonetheless.

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Last Gasp of a Dying Breed?

Remember when Sony tapes were relevant?  I had friends, even after the advent of the CD, who would live an die trading tapes.  They would even claim tapes where the only legitimate medium.  I miss those guys.

Oh, wait.  No, I still hang out with them.  One friend in particular still has a massive collection of tapes.  Go figure.

Sony has apparently introduced a new tape technology that makes an impressive expansion in what tapes can hold.  The number 185 TB is being passed around (though it is not clear to me which particular tape is in reference there).

Check it out:

R.I.P. iPod: Sony unveils cassette tape that can hold 64,750,000 songs

Never mind the silly title (iPod = portable digital music player just like Walkman = personal tape player) and the grandiose claims, this is an interesting change in tape storage capacity.  Even if the personal tape player never returns (and why would it?), this will have compelling implications for IT professionals doing backups.

And in case you are wondering why the personal tape players will not return, I offer this gem from them Interwebz:

Ultimate Demotivator
Ultimate Demotivator

Find more here.

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The New Disk Utility in El Capitan

Two steps forward, one step back.  Often in computing it’s a way of life.

There are a lot of new features in El Capitan and its related hardware.  If you want to learn about them you can find hordes of information in them Interwebz.  But if you are thinking something might be amiss, you’ll have difficulty slogging through the praises to locate the deficiencies.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Apple and Macs.  Well, I dislike them only as much as I dislike all computers and operating systems.  Same thing.  It’s just that Mac fans, greater than any other group of technology adherents, have the awesomest rose-colored glasses.

If you gander at this article on the latest version of Disk Utility, you will find much praise.

It made sense that repairing permissions on files for which OS X knew precisely what settings should be in place could fix random faults…. Even so, from all reports, permissions repairs had little real effect for years—it just made us feel better.

So here at work we support more than 200 Macs.  I can assure you that at least some of the time Repair Permissions does actually fix permissions and thus fix issues facing real users.  Yes, that gives me all the feels; but it does that by actually fixing problems.  It is not praiseworthy to remove such functionality.

Have the new security measures introduced in El Capitan removed the need for future permissions repairs?  This remains to be seen.  Nonetheless, it was doing good work.  Whether that work is now unnecessary is yet an open question.

What about Disk Repair?

Select a drive or a partition and click First Aid, and a seemingly much-changed repair operation proceeds.

It doesn’t just seem different.  It works differently and in at least one scenario fails utterly to repair the disk (presumably the partition table).

I used dd to copy a drive from an ssd to a thumb-drive of smaller capacity.  After dd finished it’s copy operation I checked the drive in GParted which reported no partitions.  This was likely due to the partition table including a partition-end beyond the end of the drive.  This is expected.  Just need to repair the partition table.  The drive booted as expected; all the data was good.

I attached that drive to an El Capitan machine and discovered the new Disk Utility.  Being that all the usual repair options were missing I ran First Aid.  That completed successfully.  Nothing was changed: GParted still reported no partitions.

I then attached the drive to a Yosemite machine and ran the old Disk Repair.  This also completed successfully.  The difference of course is that when I checked again using GParted the partitions were listed correctly.

In short, the Disk Utility on Yosemite was able to make the necessary repairs while the new Disk Utility on El Capitan was not.

I don’t know that the new Disk Utility will be of any use to IT professionals.  I recommend you keep a bootable Yosemite around in case you have need for these useful tools.

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Random Spamdom

Just a few entertaining spam messages we have received here.

Yes! Finally someone writes about tee inspector.

I don’t know why more people are not writing about tee inspectors.  I didn’t, but now I feel bad for not having done so.  Stay tuned for more tee inspector news.

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Who doesn’t want an apprentice?  Especially one into fantastic beats?  I’m game.

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These words of encouragement bring tears to my eyes.  Of course you can grab my feed.  Unless that’s a euphemism for sex.  Then sorry, I’m taken.

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to say that I have truly enjoyed surfing around your blog posts.
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I hope I write again soon too.

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Here Cometh the Smart Toilet

I have made some crazy predictions in my time.  For years I was convinced the Republicans would elect the first minority president.  Go figure.  It was the Reagan years.  They seemed to be getting all the candidates right.  I apologize.

Regardless, you can see my willingness to put my neck out there and for some time I’ve been doing neck stretches.  I am going to predict the Smart Toilet.  I know it sounds funny but hear me out on this one.

Our expulsions (piss, shit, and even vomit) carry a huge amount of information about our states of health.  You cannot even imagine.  Consider that our bodies consist of 10 foreign cells for every one of our cells and you begin to see just how vast the playing fields are in areas like nutrition and health.

Being healthy isn’t merely about keeping microbes out of our bodies.  It can’t be.  Our bodies are 10/11ths not ours.  Being healthy is about keeping that other 10/11ths content.  Well, at least as much as it is about keeping our 1/11th thriving.  (See this excellent TED talk for a discussion of bacterial presence in us and inter-bacterial communications.)

Our gut bacteria are particularly famous.  We believe (rightly or wrongly) that eating live-culture yogurt is good for that gut flora.  It has been tentatively demonstrated that introducing particular gut bacteria into peanut allergic individuals can cure that peanut allergy (see here as an example).

But what is in our piss and shit?

Sure.  Food.  Or rather ex-food.  Hopefully lots of fiber and probably some other indigestibles (I’m looking at you, corn).  But there is a whole lot more.  Our dead (human) cells; our dead bacterial cells (whether our symbiotes or our parasites); and a boatload of intercelluar communications chemicals (seriously, go watch that TED talk above).

In short, your piss and shit are really a cornucopia of data points concerning they who, what, and why of your current state of health.  As we get better at detecting the tell-tale signs of diseases (from AIDS to zinc deficiency) through their chemical traces, the toilet becomes an obvious informational trajectory.

We visit the toilet a good dozen times a day (or more) and if it were capable of analyzing what passes through it and then pass that information to the ‘net, the skies the limit.  You want a database of human excrement?  It’s coming.

A quick scan of your shit might reveal that you need more fiber or you are deficient in potassium or that you have breast cancer.  Early detection, I am told, is key to most if not all ailments.  You use your toilet every day.

Warning: bladder infection eminent

After a night of heavy drinking it might advise you to drink water (because it should see the water imbalance) and maybe make nutritional recommendations (because it should see vitamin and mineral deficiencies as well).

For crying out loud, we are using smart phones to detect parasitic worms (and HIV and heart attacks and monitor Parkinson’s).

Smartphone Microscope Diagnoses Parasitic Worm Infection

So, yeah, it sounds ridiculous, but the Smart Toilet is the shit!

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What Exactly Do You Mean?

I have collected a few odd error messages and I thought I’d share them with you.  You seem odd and so you surely will relate.

Let’s start with this little gem from Facebook.

I'll Save but I Can't
I’ll Save but I Can’t

So, apparently I “have already saved the maximum number of computers” (whatever that entails), and yet here is asking whether I want to save this one or not.  Defaults to Save Browser no less.  No idea what it’s doing after I hit Continue (which is what I’ve been doing).  Very useful message, obviously.

Next we have an interesting warning from Windows 7.

Power Failure... Not!
Power Failure… Not!

Yeah, that was from a desktop machine.  Fascinating.  Glad I was at my work station.

Then we have this even more usefulless message here.

Get Out!
Get Out!

It’s like Amityville Horror only in a computer.  How special.

Finally, there is this obvious reference to a previous version of the application in this Help dialog for Microsoft Office 2013.

File Menus Are so 2003
File Menus Are so 2003

Yeah, ever since the Ribbon (gack!) the File menu was first hidden by default and now is fully deprecated (read: removed from the application).  Thanks for the help, Microsoft.

And speaking of thanks here we have a failed FTP connection relating to Firefox trying to report a bug or crash.

Thanks for the Snark!
Thanks for the Snark!

I do what I can.

Nothing too horrible but hopefully at least a little entertaining.

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Bing Loves What Windows Media Player Does Not

When Bing first came out I noticed Microsoft was using Ogg-Vorbis video files as part of the Bing page background.  It makes for a cool effect without requiring the dying Flash or using a rarely useful proprietary format (like Windows Media Video).  Here is a code snippet from a Bing page.

## Code Snippet
# from Bing
video id="vid" onended="VM.play();" loop="" autobuffer="" preload="auto" oncontextmenu="return false" style="height: 768px; width: 1366px; left: 0px; visibility: visible; opacity: 1; top: -103px;" src="/az/hprichv/Chlorophyte_CorbisRM_791C869_069c_EN-US.ogv"/

You can see the .ogv reference at the end of this tag/snippet.  (See here if you are unfamiliar with Ogg.)

Now you may be thinking (as I was) “hey, this is good news for open sourced formats like Ogg and FLAC!”.  But you’d be only slightly right.

Surely this exposure bodes well for Ogg video as a format.  It gets some exposure and other developers may begin to embrace it thanks to that exposure.  However, if we dig a little deeper we find that Microsoft still hates the open source audio/video formats.

I downloaded an Ogg video file to test it against Windows Media Player (on Windows 7).  First, WMP doesn’t know what the file extension .ogv is supposed to be about.  I used Open With (because I have VLC installed but if I did not Windows would have no associated application or it might try to use Opera or another browser).  This is the first reaction of WMP:

WMP Remains Ignorant of .ogv
WMP Remains Ignorant of .ogv

But, hey, maybe WMP really does have the codec and is merely ignorant of the file extension.

WMP Fails on the Codec as Well
WMP Fails on the Codec as Well

Or not.

What does WMP have?  Moxie and self-confidence.  WMP has such faith in itself it has no idea it has failed on all counts here.

Ignorance Is Bliss
Ignorance Is Bliss

Play again?!  Thanks for playing.

We shall see what plans Microsoft has to expand this currently very limited love of open audio/video formats.  It would be a pleasant change to see them embrace FLAC and Ogg natively.  Then perhaps Apple will follow suit.

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Biometrics and the Fifth Amendment

Well, unless you have been vacationing in the arctic with your wind-assisted sled you probably know that Apple is releasing a new iPhone and thet that iPhone includes an on-by-default biometric scanner for access (a fingerprint reader in lieu of a pass-code).  Wired just put out an interesting article on how biometrics might relate to our Fifth Amendment rights.

Apple’s Fingerprint ID May Mean You Can’t ‘Take the Fifth’

In a nutshell, if access is based upon something you know (a combination or a pass-phrase) then said access is protected under the Fifth Amendment; and if access is protected by something you possess (like a key or a fingerprint) it is not.

(Yes, I know: the distinction between a combination and a key is pretty murky in the digital realm.  Let’s set that aside for a moment.)

Let’s dig a little deeper into who this might actually effect, if Wired has things right.

I was talking to one of my co-workers, a real Mac guy, and one thing we agreed on was that the most likely candidates for using the biometrics of the new iPhone will be folks (like him) who are currently not using any lock on their phones.  This will of course increase the security for those users.

You may recall the Gummy Bear problem as concerns fingerprint readers?

Check out this video on how to create your own fake fingerprints.

Honestly though, it is profoundly unlikely that most folks need worry themselves about someone hacking into their phones in this manner.  It’s a lot of effort, it requires physical contact, and (sorry) you’re just not worth it.

The classes who are less likely to use it are the security minded (like myself) who (whether with reason or without) want greater security; these folks are likely to use biometrics only if it can be combined with a memorizable user input.

For these folks this would return the usual Fifth Amendment protections which biometrics alone may not afford.

Have fun with that.

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What Can You Do with an off-the-Shelf Android Phone?

Why not send it into space?  Who wouldn’t want a tiny satellite all their own?  You could do satellite stuff.

NASA got busy with this slightly crazy concept and did just that.  They bought three Nexus 1 Android phones, supersized the batteries, duct-taped on a radio transmitter, and put them in control of three CubeSats (10 cm cubes).

You can read the full story here.  There is some additional information here.

Space!

Have fun with that.

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