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May 20, 2012

Lion fixed my SuperDrive. (Alternative title: Snow Leopard broke my SuperDrive)

Yesterday Disk Utility told me to restart my Mac from a boot disk and run the disk repair function (= Disk Utility). Fine. Except I was unable to boot from any of my three Mac boot disks (including the original) whether they were in my laptop’s SuperDrive (= Apple’s plain old DVD drive) or in a USB-connected DVD drive. The system would notice the DVD when asked to look for boot devices (= hold down the Option key when starting up), but froze after I clicked on the DVD (= no change in the screen after 30 mins).

So, what the hell, I installed Lion, which I had been hoping to avoid (= my pathetic resistance to Apple’s creeping Big Brotherism). Thanks to the generosity of Guillaume Gète, I downloaded Lion DiskMaker, followed the simple instructions (= re-downloaded Lion, all part of Apple’s makings things hard by making them easy program), and now have a Lion boot disk. I was able to boot from it and fix my hard drive.

The whole episode was so reminiscent of why I left Windows (= Windows 7 looks pretty good these days).


November 8, 2011

Warm Birthday Wishes to [your_name_here]

It used to be that on my birthday I’d get untouched-by-humans birthday wishes from my dentist’s firm and perhaps a local car company and real estate agent. Now I get them from sites I once age-verified for (gaming sites, not porn, fellas), a Prius forum, a diabetes forum, and — one level of abstraction up — from Xing itself.

If these groups are going to issue pro forma birthday wishes, I think they ought to be required to hire someone who has to sit there and actually think warmly about each person before pressing the “send” button.

And then, as a special birthday present, keep your stupid marketing messages to yourself.


November 2, 2011

The hotel with no metadata

I’m staying at a “boutique” hotel in NYC that is so trendy that it has not only dressed its beautiful young staff in black, it has removed as much metadata as it can. There’s no sign outside. There are no pointers to the elevators on the room floors. The hotel floors in the elevator are poorly designated, so that two in our party ended up on a service floor, wandering looking for a way back into the public space of the hotel. The common areas are so underlit that I had to find a precious lamp to stand next to so that the person I was waiting for could find me. The room keycards are white and unmarked, without any indication therefore of which end goes in the lock.

Skipping metadata has always been a sign of mastery or in-ness. It’s like playing a fretless guitar. But hotels are for strangers and first-timers. I need me my metadata!

BTW, I think the hotel’s name is the Hudson, but it’s really not easy to tell.


June 21, 2011

The Argument against Word, Reason #513

Here’s what’s happening with Microsoft Word 2008 on Mac. Note that I am not looking for help. I am merely venting.

1. Redefined heading2 so that it begins with an auto number.

2. Now when I select Normal paragraphs and apply the “number me” button to them, they all turn into heading2’s.

3. Create a new element called Normal-List, defined as beginning with an auto-number.

4. After the fourth instance of heading2, begin my fourth set of Normal-List items.

5. That fourth set continues the numbering from the third set. Select the first item and choose “Restart numbering.” It is a no-op.

6. Try every thing you can think of. Nothing works.

7. Re-open it in LibreOffice (nee Open Office) and fix the goddamn autonumbers.

Q: How many years will it take for Microsoft to get auto-numbering right?
A: How many years are there?

This is especially frustrating since the software company I worked at from 1986-1994, Interleaf, got this right about twenty years ago. AAAaaarrrrrgggggghhhhh.


March 23, 2011

Yet another reason to hate your mobile provider

4. [NOTE: (These notes are in reverse chronological order. I have numbered them for your reading convenience.)I unlocked my Blackberry by calling Verizon support. I bought an Orange SIM card in a cigarette store in the Old City of Jerusalem for $10, plus $9 of calling time that times out in a week. So, I now have a working phone. It does not come with a data plan, however.]

3. [NOTE added minutes after the note right below this one: I’m on the phone with Verizon. It is indeed $20.48 per MEGABYTE. But wait…I am now talking with a tech support person who assures me that attachments don’t count unless you actually download them. Well, that’s something. She, however, is also telling me that the first two reps I talked with are wrong; in fact (says the tech support person), Verizon’s international plan gives you 70MB per month for $100, and every megabyte after that is $20.48. That’s still piracy, but the broadsword goes into you slightly more slowly.]

2. [Note added minutes later: Some other knowledgeable people tell me that Verizon must mean $20/gigabyte, not per megabyte. So, this may have been a mistake by the the service rep. I would happily take the blame for any misunderstanding, except that I confirmed that the rep said “megabyte” by inquiring, “PER MEGABYTE? PER MEGABYTE? ARE YOU FREAKING CRAZY!!!!!!!!!!,” to which he replied in the affirmative to the first two of the three questions.]

1. I’m going overseas tonight for a week. In the past, I’d call Verizon and have them switch service from my Droid to my previous phone, which was a Blackberry with “world phone” service. For $2/day, I’d get unlimited data access, so I could check my email and perhaps check the news on the Web now and then. (Believe me, on a Blackberry you don’t want to do a lot of heavy Web browsing.)

Today when I tried to make the switch, Verizon informed me that they have changed the plan, entirely for the benefit of their customers of course. So, now it’s $20 per megabyte. Holy crap! What kind of unearthly profit margin is that?

My knowledgeable friends tell me that that I should figure 50-100 emails per megabyte (although that number is conservative). So, no email for me. That’s what happens when the “free” market is so pwned that it laughs in the face of competition.

And these are the folks we’ve handed our Internet to? Great. Freaking great.


September 4, 2010

Verizon’s False Friends and Dysfunctional Family program

On paper, Verizon’s Friends & Family program is sweet. We can list up to 10 telephone numbers we can call as much as we want without those minutes subtracting from the 2,100 minutes we pay for. (We have five lines.) Verizon also doesn’t count against those 2,100 minutes calls made to other Verizon wireless subscribers.

So, what one piece of information do you need in order to figure out which ten F&F to choose? You need to know which ten numbers outside the Verizon network you have spent the most minutes on. And what information can you not get from the Verizon site, from the person you chat with on the site, or the customer support person on the telephone? Yay!

The site lets you see calls ranked by minutes or expense within each telephone line, but not across all lines. Worse, you can’t tell if the calls are within the Verizon network. The telephone person I spoke with actually was quite kind and spent many minutes looking through our 40-page bill, pulling out useful information. But even she didn’t have the magic query that would answer the question. And it’s really not that hard a question for a computer to answer.

I’m sorry to say that the most plausible explanation is that Verizon simply does not want its customers to make effective use of the Friends & Family program it promotes so heavily.


June 12, 2010

Joho’s style is broken [solved and fixed]

Alert reader George Janczyn points out the truth I’ve been avoiding: Joho the Blog isn’t sizing correctly. It seems to be of fixed width, with the right-hand column shoved out of the frame. Resizing your window doesn’t resize Joho. That’s true in Firefox, Chrome, and Safari.

It didn’t used to be so. And I haven’t changed anything in my Word Press template. I also can’t find any particular elements of content that are sized too large. I’m stumped.

The body of Joho consists of a table with three columns. The overall table is sized at 95%. The left and right columns are at a fixed 150px because if I made them a percentage, they’d wrap funny. This has not been a problem until a couple of weeks ago. (Yes, I tried laying it out “properly” using floating divs and CSS. After losing a couple of days at it, I figured I was struggling to do with divs exactly what tables were designed to do easily.)

I have tried setting the columns to percentage widths. I have tried setting the middle column to a fixed size. Nothing seems to affect the bad layout. I have inspected the elements on the page using Chrome’s inspector, and have found that the computed width of the table is 1432px, while the style widths I’ve set are not that wide. I’ve also looked at the two inserted graphic elements that happen to be in the blog posts currently displayed, and neither is sized very wide. The problem persists using all of the styles offered at the top of the page next to the “Hard to read?” text.

So, I’m stumped. Any suggestions?

LATER that day: See the comments for the solution. Thanks!


February 28, 2010

I’ve been hacked. Help?

My WordPress account has been hacked.

JohoTheBlog’s RSS feed is showing up in NewzCrawler embedded in spam. Results at Google have begun showing up with spammy titles (“Buy Online, No RX (Prescription) Required! » Zoloft online stores”), with long, hacked URLs (

Googling around tells me that there have been similar-seeming attacks on WordPress accounts.This article is quite helpful. I found some odd cruft in my header.php, have changed passwords, and am stilling looking around.

Any other suggestions?


January 1, 2010

My meta-resolutions for 2010

Is there any holiday that is less grounded in anything than New Year’s Eve? It celebrates what? The completion of an orbit around the Sun? But every day does that, so we’re really just celebrating having picked an arbitrary day to celebrate. Yay for us. We made it around the Sun again. Good job, Earth!

What a sorry excuse for getting drunk.

So, in the spirit of the season, I offer the following content-free meta-resolutions:

I will make good resolutions this year.

I will follow through on those resolutions.

If I do not follow through on them, I resolve to make better resolutions next year.

There, am I done?


December 11, 2009

Downloading large files: The elusive eternal dream

Christian Sandvig tried downloading a file of a mere 1.7 gigabytes — as he points out, the Blu-Ray version of “Ice Age 2” is 22gb, and that’s just an animated movie about frozen squirrels or something, so imagine how big a movie with complex ideas might be!* — and found that IE, Chrome, Firefox and DownloadThemAll FAILed, in their own ways.

That accords with my own experience. Even if the browser-based download completes, it’s likely to result in a corrupt file. Sigh.

*That was a joke


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