How are we supposed to find hidden and buried WMDs in Iraq if, wherever one digs there, we just keep finding mass graves?

Nelson Ascher answers the WMD critics

Monday, April 14 2014

Performer Kana

So we did our usual Shinkendo demo at the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival, and while it went over well, the crowd was a lot happier to see the followup act, Performer Kana, a street performer from Osaka. Can’t say that I blame them.

Performer Kana

(picture from Oyaji no Hitorigoto blog)

She has some videos up on Youtube, and a blog.

Thursday, April 10 2014

This is not a 3D mousepad

Load Galax mousetrap

If I made an AMV…

…it would mix footage from Re: Cutie Honey with this song:

Wednesday, April 9 2014

“We wuz tricked!”

Noted scientist Kate Mulgrew and several actual scientists are horrified to discover that they’re starring in a quack-science movie (no relation to actual Quack Science, as practiced by all right-thinking ducks). For more fun, the person behind the movie is a Holocaust denier and frothing anti-semite.

But this is the best part (emphasis added):

Following confusion as to why Mulgrew, a life-long Democrat, chose to narrate the film scientists have described as “garbage”, the actress posted a statement on her Facebook page denying she was a geocentrist or “in any way a proponent of geocentrism”.

So, the author of this piece apparently believes “Democrat” is synonymous with “scientifically literate” and “possesses critical thinking skills”.

What we did before the Internet…

Monday, April 7 2014

Dear Plex,

Your automatic metadata matching system is complete crap. Just thought I’d mention that.

So, the music video named Shy Boy by the girl-group Secret got matched to a 1931 movie named Local Boy Makes Good. Similarly, Hyuna’s Bubble Pop became the action/comedy film Knight And Day. Hoot, by Girls Generation, became the 2006 children’s film Hoot, and their song Gee became a Jane Fonda movie called Georgia Rule. Worst of all, perhaps, Leonard Nimoy singing Bilbo Baggins became the animated version of The Hobbit. In all of these cases, a four-minute video is being mistaken for a full-length ripped movie, based on some fairly vague keywords, and there’s no easy way to undo it; you basically have to start over to get rid of the downloaded image and phony metadata.

Sunday, April 6 2014

Saturday Morning rape culture

The academic feminists who view everything through the lens of usually-imaginary oppression would surely not tolerate something like this if it happened to a girl:

A single woman over the age of thirty promises a young boy a ride in her beautiful boat, in order to get her hands on his magic flute.

Friday, April 4 2014

Amazon Fire TV

Yes, I bought the Amazon Fire TV as soon as it was announced. It’s tiny, sleek, a pleasure to unpack and set up, and very responsive. I haven’t tried the optional game controller yet, but I did buy one, and you get a free game with it.

The voice search works quite well, in my limited testing. Sadly, while it correctly recognizes “Stargate SG-1”, it cannot directly navigate to “Stargate SG-1 Season 4 Episode 6”. Someday.

Also, it doesn’t appear that the Crunchyroll app has been ported yet, which means that the anime selection is mostly limited to dubs. I hadn’t realized how wretched the voice of Hermes was in the dub of Kino’s Journey.

[Update: I took it over to a friend’s house, and we couldn’t get any audio over HDMI, using two different cables. Works fine at my house, completely silent at his. We tried every option that was available on both his TV and the Fire TV, but no luck. I don’t see any mention of the problem anywhere yet, so it may be limited to a specific hardware configuration.]

Thursday, April 3 2014

Artistic License…

From the blog of Muku Flooring comes this charming picture of the statue outside Iwakuni High School Memorial Hall, a kendo dojo. It most likely predates modern anime, but would fit right in…

non-traditional swordsmanship at Iwakuni High

[Update: It’s Sasaki Kojiro, the opponent in one of Musashi’s most famous duels, the one that gave birth to the popular “carved oar” heavy training bokken. The statue is apparently a bit of a tourist attraction.]

Friday, March 28 2014

Triggers and Trolls

“Don’t say these terrible things that wound me psychologically,” we say. “I’m going out of town for a week and keeping my door unlocked. Please don’t rob my house,” is what the troll hears.

(via)

Thursday, March 27 2014

Microsoft Surface Power Cover

Microsoft finally released the Surface Power Cover recently, and it was worth the wait.

There is only one downside: the keys aren’t backlit, like the standard Touch and Type Covers. I can’t imagine why they did this, since the set of people who want significantly more battery life and don’t want a backlighting option has to be pretty small.

Physically, it’s twice as thick and twice as heavy as the standard Type Cover, giving my Surface Pro 2 more of a netbook feel to carry, but not unpleasantly so. It came with a warning label telling you to make sure you have all the latest software updates before attaching it, but since I preordered mine the moment they flipped the switch on the Microsoft site, I got it the day before the official release date, and the firmware updates didn’t show up until the next day. It worked fine, though, and after the update, the battery levels were tracked separately.

How well does it work? Well, I just finished 45 minutes on the elliptical with a ripped Bluray disc playing, at 2/3 volume and 100% brightness, with WiFi turned on. The system reported that I had just over 15 hours of battery life left, and based on how the Pro 2 has performed the past few months, I believe it.

Friday, March 21 2014

Aero considered harmful

Outlook 2013 started breaking for our users last week. Only some of them, and not all at the same time, but the symptom was that the application would no longer start, hanging at the “loading profile…” screen.

The solution is to switch to the “Windows 7 Basic” graphical theme, turning off all the 3D UI decorations.

No, seriously.

And that’s about four days of sysadmin time that we’d like back, please.

Wednesday, March 19 2014

New home firewall router

On a whim, I went looking for a new small-form-factor PC to use as a home firewall. I found the Shuttle DS61, which has several things to recommend it: dual gigabit NICs, mSATA port, dual serial ports, 4x USB2 and 2x USB3, HDMI and DVI, and the ability to take up to a Core i7 and 16GB of RAM.

Everything but the USB3 ports are supported by OpenBSD, so it will make a spiffy little firewall. It would be nice to have a third NIC to run a DMZ, but the only thing I’m using a second static IP for right now is my wireless, which I can leave untouched. The CPU and RAM are serious overkill, but it means I have plenty of spare power for Openvpn and IPSec tunnels.

So, for $427.61 on Amazon, I got:

It took about ten minutes to put it together and boot it up. I did a quick OpenBSD test first to make sure everything worked, then threw a graphical install of Scientific Linux 6.4 on it to see how it worked as a potential developer box. (modulo the lightweight CPU and small amount of RAM I put in it, that is)

So far I like it. I might even hold off on turning it into a firewall for a while, and use it to replace dotclue.org and move it out of the current co-lo. I’ve been running on an old beta NetEngine for, um, too many years, with a 500MHz Pentium 3, 256MB of RAM, and an 80GB hard drive.

Tuesday, March 18 2014

Fortunately, we’re not hiring proofreaders…

Dear student looking for a summer internship,

When one of the prominent credits on your thin résumé is “Perfect SAT Score in Math & English”, you really ought to have caught the howler in “I have learned how to diffuse confrontations…”.

And, yes, I know you’re an undergrad, so there’s not much to fill the page with, but the sidebar labeled Strengths has 2 lines of technical ability (repeated from the main text), and 32 lines of Precious Stanford Snowflake back-patting; this does nothing to endear you to me before the interview.

P.S. I know it’s not your fault that modern college admissions forces you to play up bulllshit like Presidential Community Service Awards. Just show up prepared to talk about problem-solving and putting your technical skills to practical use, and you’ll do fine.

Monday, March 10 2014

Columbo on Bluray

I just learned that there is a limited-edition Bluray box set of the complete Columbo series, for the Japanese market. It includes the English audio tracks, though, so the only snag for most people would be navigating the menus.

Well, and coming up with the $275 plus shipping at Amazon Japan. The “plus shipping” is what makes the $375 import pricing at Amazon US not completely outrageous.

It comes in a cigar box.

Tuesday, March 4 2014

435,265

That’s the number of emails sent out this morning by a test service that was getting pummeled by an automated QA script.

Mood: Cranky.

[Update: after many eyes explored the logs, the QA test script was found to have done exactly the right thing, and the bug was in the actual service. So, a big huzzah for catching a truly crippling bug before it reached Production, but damn that was a mess.]

Thursday, February 27 2014

Surface Pro 2

So, right after Christmas, I caught the brief window where the Microsoft Surface Pro 2 was back in stock in my preferred configuration (8GB RAM, 256GB SSD), and bought one, along with the only keyboard cover that was available in a non-hideous color, the first-generation Touch Cover. Since they still haven’t released the Power Cover that gives you real keys and an extra 50% battery life, I made do with that for a while, and then got a good price on the second-generation Type Cover at Amazon Japan.

[Note: for the last few releases, it’s been a lot less painful to switch keyboard types in Windows; you used to have to hack the registry when you had US Windows and a Japanese keyboard, now you can just add the correct layout and manually switch. It still can’t auto-detect different keyboards the way the Mac has been doing for a long time, but it’s progress.]

There are a few quirks that have been discussed in the many reviews of the Surface Pro, but it’s genuinely good hardware, marred only by the immaturity of Windows’ handling of high-resolution displays. Basically, every piece of software that isn’t rebuilt to use the (apparently-incomplete, at least that’s why Adobe says they’re having so much trouble) HiDPI APIs will be scaled to make the text readable, and this breaks all sorts of layouts. For many applications, your choices are “big and fuzzy”, “way too small”, and occasionally “missing most menus and dialog text” (yes, that means you, FontExplorer Pro). “Way too small” is particularly annoying with a touchscreen, but the pen and trackpad have the resolution to handle tiny targets. And the problem goes away if you connect an external HDMI display.

My only complaints about the keyboard covers have to do with the trackpad. First, there’s no way to shut off tapping. There’s an app that claims to offer this feature, but it simply doesn’t work on the Pro 2, and there’s no hint of an update. On any tap-enabled trackpad, I’m constantly mis-clicking while trying to move the pointer across the screen, and it drives me nuts. They’re just too damn sensitive about the amount of pressure required to “tap”.

The second problem with the trackpad is that it often doesn’t work if you plug a USB device in. Because Microsoft’s own USB/Ethernet adapter is a 10Mbit USB2 device, I bought a third-party USB3 gigabit adapter that also includes a 3-port hub. It works great, but if I plug in the adapter and then wake up the tablet, the keyboard cover doesn’t get enough power to run the trackpad. Reverse the order and all is well.

Typical battery life is 8+ hours, unless I’m playing Skyrim, in which case I get a bit over 4. It never gets uncomfortably warm, and the fans are nice and quiet. The two-position kickstand is a nice upgrade over the first-generation Pro, and makes it possible to play Skyrim in bed on a lap desk. The speakers are quite loud for a tablet, and better than most laptops I’ve used.

It’s fantastic for Illustrator since the last update, but until Adobe gets the resolution problems sorted out, Photoshop is annoying to use, both because you need a hack to make the icons visible, and because the 64-bit version has issues with the Pro 2’s graphics drivers. Lightroom is fine, and InDesign is reportedly working well, too. [all of these being the pay-to-play CC versions, which is a rant for another day. Let’s just say there are some cranky pros out there annoyed by a combination of incompatible changes and workflow-crippling bugs]

The “app” market is, as expected, filled with iPaddish crap. I’ve deleted most of the apps that I’ve tried, and I haven’t found a lot of good ones to try. If I had to choose between a standard Surface and an iPad, I’d buy the iPad and complain about it; instead, I get to enjoy the Pro 2.

How do I feel about Windows 8.1? It was designed for a tablet, works well on one, and sucks elsewhere. There are some compatibility issues compared to Windows 7 (VPN software, assorted third-party drivers, etc). On the little netbook I upgraded, I needed to hunt down a Start-menu replacement to make it tolerable; not good, just tolerable.

Oh, and how did I pay for it? A friend sold off a bunch of my old Magic: The Gathering cards on eBay. Just a handful of high-value cards paid for the tablet, keyboard, gigabit adapter, HDMI adapter, and a new Bluetooth mouse, with money left over. We still need to go through the rest of my cards and put them all up as a big batch. And then see if anyone wants to buy a big batch of INWO, black-border Jyhad, XXXenophile, etc…

Wednesday, February 26 2014

Cheesecake: Miwako Kakei

A rising star in the magazine-cover business is almost-20-year-old Miwako Kakei (筧美和子). An image search will turn up many pleasantly distracting images, of which this is one.

Miwako Kakei

In full makeup, she tends to look about as Japanese as I do, but that has more to do with stylists than genetics. She looks thoroughly Japanese in most of the photos on her blog.

Sunday, February 23 2014

Microsoft Understatement ™

From the Windows 8.1++ announcement:

“Some of those touch affordances weren’t really tuned as well as we could do for those mouse and keyboard users. We found people weren’t aware of where they should look in the UI. Those are the things we’ve really started to improve for this update coming this spring.”

Saturday, February 22 2014

In the next episode…

…Shiroe gets Delicious Cake.

“Need a clue, take a clue; got a clue, leave a clue.”