April 2007

If I’m paying for hotel broadband…


…I expect it to actually work correctly. The Luxor in Las Vegas fails this test. They redirect any outgoing port 25 connections to their server, which silently discards the messages, and they do something peculiar to SSL traffic that made it impossible for me to establish a secure IMAP session with my server. The server showed a connection attempt, but never saw the username and password, and my mailer took a long time to time out.

“Faith Lightspeed”


It’s very easy to find free pictures of naked women on the Internet. Some of them are pretty. Some have nice bodies. Some are comfortable in front of the camera. Some contain only OEM parts with no aftermarket accessories. Some are decently made up, lit, posed, focused, photographed, and edited.

A casual google for the name “Faith Lightspeed” will turn up a few hundred nude pictures of an adorable, cheerful redhead whose only significant flaw is being excessively shaved. A pay site is available. Also DVDs.

弱肉強食


I’m always intrigued when a kanji study guide includes “unlikely” vocabulary choices, such as today’s surprise proverb, 弱肉強食. The four characters are common and important, and taught fairly early in most books, but the combination isn’t a phrase most students will use, and one hopes that they won’t be hearing it much, either.

Loosely translated, it’s “the strong eat the weak”.

Another one that jumped out at me was 帰国子女, “children who return to Japan after living abroad”. It’s a lot more useful, especially if, like me, you were trying to figure out the meaning of the title of the light novel 彼女は帰星子女.

If Windows Update just broke your PCs…


…here’s the hotfix. The symptom is an “Illegal System DLL Relocation” dialog and one or more drivers that fail to load. It affects a number of third-party applications, although the hotfix page currently only mentions one. Fortunately, that was the one that bit me, and it does indeed fix the problem.

Dear Microsoft,


It’s annoying to have to configure each Office 2007 application for each user on each machine to save in an Office 2003-compatible format by default.

It’s fucking stupid to randomly ignore that option once I’ve gone to the trouble to set it. I have non-stupid users whose documents are ending up in the new 2007 formats through no fault of their own, which means I now have to run around manually installing the compatibility update on everyone else’s machines. Gosh, thanks.

PS: any chance you’ll include this as a normal Office update someday? You know, so that the users who actually apply downloaded updates will get it without me walking up to their machines with a flash drive?

PPS: please release the Mac converters soon…

Quicksilver quicktake


Lots of Mac users seem to like Quicksilver. I figured I’d give it a try.

Okay, that was enough. For application launching, I’m much happier with Overflow, and even after overriding the automatic “you stopped typing for two seconds so I’ll start a new search” behavior, it’s not terribly useful to me, because it bypasses input managers and assumes that all the world’s in ASCII.

This, despite the pretentious preciousness of quoting the Tao Te Ching as their design philosophy.

Vista doesn’t suck


Mossberg is right about how much crapware infects a brand-new Sony laptop running Vista, and that’s sad. Because Vista sucks a lot less than Windows XP, and it deserves better.

Despite all of the stuff that got cut from the release, Vista isn’t just another minor update to the ancient NT codebase. There are serious architectural changes that make it an honest-to-gosh 21st Century operating system that will produce a better user experience on newer hardware, once every vendor updates their software to use the new APIs.

Microsoft has done a lot of good, solid work to improve not just the use, but also the installation. Rory and I both did fresh installs of Vista Ultimate (onto MacBooks…), and felt that the install process was on par with Mac OS X, if not a little better in places. I’m still installing XP at least once a week, and I can’t tell you just how significant an improvement this is. [don’t ask about Linux installs, please; I just ate]

Is the Aero UI gaudy and gratuitous? Yes. Are the menus and control panels different from previous Windows in ways that aren’t obviously functional? Yes. Does any of that really matter after about twenty minutes of familiarization? No, not really. I expect the adjustment period to be pretty short for most users, and none of them will ever want to use an XP machine again, just like most Mac users were delighted to abandon the limits of Mac OS 9 once they settled into Mac OS X 10.0.

Because that’s what Vista is: Microsoft’s OS X 10.0, with all that that implies. The XP compatibility is a subtler version of Apple’s Classic environment, and they really, really want everyone to rewrite their software to use the modern APIs that, for instance, use “fonts” instead of “bitmaps”. There’s going to be a few years of mostly-compatible legacy apps, service packs that break random things as a side effect of improving performance and reliability, and general chaos and confusion. And because it’s Microsoft, they’re going to try to solve the problems faster by throwing more engineers at them, which never works out well.

In the end, though, Vista will have 90% of the desktop market, Mac OS X will have 9.99% of it, and the rest will be evenly divided between fourteen different Linux distributions that don’t ship with all of the drivers you need, but they’re free and you control everything and you can fix it yourself and it even has Ogg Vorbis support.

Office 2007, on the other hand, is a major upgrade hassle, and it has nothing to do with functionality or cost. Microsoft’s grand release plan failed to cope with one very significant fact: experienced Office users know where everything is, and spend far more time navigating Office menus than they do Windows menus.

We’ve been forced to start slowly rolling it out at work, and it’s painful. Everyone who gets it hates it, because they need to get their work done right now, and they don’t have time to go to a retraining class and learn the joys of the ribbon and the “obviously superior” new arrangement of commands and menus. They don’t care about Vista; they just find the Start button, select “Word” or “Excel”, and they’re happy. But when the Word and Excel interfaces change in fundamental ways (and, worse, ignore the settings that are supposed to make sure files are saved in Office 2003 formats…), they’re angry and frustrated.

[Side note to Gerry: read the preceding paragraph carefully three times, and then shut the fuck up about OpenOffice.org as an alternative. It’s not better, it’s not a complete suite, it’s not as compatible, it adds to my support load, it requires just as much retraining effort, and I can’t hand the users Dummies books and send them off to training classes, which we don’t have time for anyway because we’re a startup in the middle of a major product launch. Got it?]

If we’d had the money a few months ago, we could have picked up the volume license agreements that would let us avoid Office 2007 for another year. And we’d have been a lot happier, because “launching your first product” is not the time to cut into everyone’s productivity by changing their tools.

66%の誘惑


Tonight’s amusing Japanese phrase is “66% no yuuwaku”, brought to my attention rather indirectly by my friend Dave’s recent wedding in Las Vegas. Translated literally, it comes out as “two-thirds of temptation”, which isn’t quite what the original songwriter had in mind.

One of the things Dave was working on before the wedding was assembling a collection of music for the reception, and my extensive Eighties collection filled in some gaps. I also had a few items from earlier decades that fit in as well. Along the way, though, I discovered that at least thirty CDs that I’ve owned for many years weren’t in my MP3 collection at all. This song comes from one of them, although it’s not the song that we actually used in the mix.

Once I had the album safely ripped, I found myself nostalgic for my college days, when I’d spend my nights delivering pizza with a well-worn cassette tape of it playing continuously. There have always been a few lines in one song (not this one) that I couldn’t make out clearly, so I went a-googling for lyrics. And after a little while, I found this:

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“Blogger Code of Conduct”


Lots of folks are piling on Tim O’Reilly for his efforts to create a kinder, gentler blogger. While my initial reaction consisted of three words, ending in “yourself”, I thought I’d actually read it and see if he says anything new or interesting on the subject. Short version: “can’t we all just get along?”.

1. We take responsibility for our own words and for the comments we allow on our blog.

Too wimpy. I take ownership of my words, and control over whether anyone else can say anything at all here. They’re responsible for what they say; I just decide if it annoys me enough to hit the delete button.

We are committed to the "Civility Enforced" standard: we will not post unacceptable content, and we'll delete comments that contain it.

We define unacceptable content as anything included or linked to that:
- is being used to abuse, harass, stalk, or threaten others
- is libelous, knowingly false, ad-hominem, or misrepresents another person,
- infringes upon a copyright or trademark
- violates an obligation of confidentiality
- violates the privacy of others

As much as I might agree with the individual points, I wouldn’t describe them all as “uncivil”. Some are unethical, some are criminal, but there’s a whole lot more to being “civil” than refraining from crimes and misdemeanors. Perhaps a section on “not redefining commonly-understood words” should be appended to this Code.

2. We won't say anything online that we wouldn't say in person.

I will, and I’m not even one of the many bloggers who obscures their identity to avoid some form of retaliation. There are things I’ll say here that I won’t say on the street, and things I won’t say here that I’ll cheerfully say to someone standing next to me at the local adult bookstore. Different places, different audience, different speech.

3. We connect privately before we respond publicly.

Once upon a time, I followed the ancient Usenet maxim “take it to email”. But that was long ago and far away, and besides, the wench is dead. Despite the common requirement for a valid email address on most comment forms, these days most people neither want nor expect an email response to a public comment or blog posting. And to be quite blunt, I often don’t want to talk privately to someone who’s being an ass.

There is one and only one person who’s been banned from commenting on this blog, and he was such a persistent nuisance that I simply blocked all of his university’s public labs in my firewall rules, completely cutting off everyone who used them from my words and pictures. I had no interest in discussing this with him; I made one public statement on the matter and he didn’t change his behavior, so I quietly erased him from my universe.

4. When we believe someone is unfairly attacking another, we take action.

They’re adults, let them deal with their own problems. If I don’t have any interest in either party, it’s none of my damn business.

5. We do not allow anonymous comments.

I do. I’m not fond of falsely-attributed comments, however, and reserve the right to decide whether or not you’re who you claim to be. Actually, I reserve all rights; it’s my site, after all.

6. We ignore the trolls.

[I disbelieve]

My favorite part is the two “certifiably something-or-other” graphics, which I’ll cheerfully swipe and snicker at:

There's a new sheriff in townFree Speech Zone

I think these images are misleading and, frankly, silly. I think they should more openly reflect the desired audience by replacing the badge with a ballgag and the dynamite with goatse.

Does it restart?


I needed to put a Mac Mini in someone’s house.

But it had to run Windows XP.

Headless.

And restart automatically after losing power.

The headless part was handled by our master solderer, following the instructions from the nice folks at Mythic Beasts. They also explain the power-on problem, but don’t provide a direct Windows solution.

To make a long google short, download WPCRS120.EXE from Japan, run it, run the included installer, reboot, run wpcrset.exe, set {Bus 0, Device 31, Function 0, Register A4} to 0, and reboot again.

Before each of the required reboots, you’ll see this:

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Open-slot surgery


Slot-loading optical drives suck, especially when they refuse to eject a disc that shouldn’t be allowed into the hands of J Random Technician down at the Apple Store (or anywhere else, really).

For future reference, if you really, really need to crack open a MacBook Pro and peel the optical drive open, the nice folks at Other World Computing have you covered.

Be sure to pick up a Torx size 7 and a Philips size 000 before starting, and keep very careful track of which screws came from where. And don’t forget to plug the keyboard back in before you seal it back up.

Buttons are jealous, kittens are terrified…


…dogs are howling in pain from the sound of her voice.

Kusumi Koharu

Kusumi Koharu can’t sing. Here’s proof. There’s plenty more where that came from, but it should be watched with the sound off, because while she’s a really, really cute teenage girl who can bounce around cheerfully with the other girls in Morning Musume, she’s painful to listen to.

It’s not that all of the other girls in the Hello!Project empire were chosen for their vocal talent; the majority will never “graduate” to a solo career, and you’ll only hear them solo individual lines in a group performance (sorry, Tsuji, but with Kago’s permanent departure from the organization, your career is screwed). It’s just that Koharu stands out for pushing the cute/voiceless trend to a new extreme.

Although from the audition video, at least one of the two Chinese girls who were just added to the group might actually be a worse singer…

[oh, and the ED from her anime is sung by another H!P group, °C-ute, some of whose members will eventually become teenagers…]

A perfectly good theory…


…shot down by a definitive quote. In Hand Maid May, the genius cyberdoll who applies rigorous logic to all actions (including how much salt to add while cooking) is named Kei, and unlike the title character, gets a -san from everyone. Kei-san = 計算 = “calculation”.

Except the creator came right out and said that she was named after Robot Detective K, who isn’t nearly as photogenic.

He also said that May comes from maid, Mami from mommy, Sara from The Terminator’s Sarah Connor, and Rena from actress Rena Tanaka (This one, not this one).

[…and on an unrelated note, I had no idea that someone was planning a TV spinoff of The Terminator, called The Sarah Connor Chronicles.]

Poodle me once, shame on you…


Usually when you buy a luxury item for half the usual price, there’s a good chance it’s a knockoff or a scam. So, when someone starts selling large quantities of $3,000 poodles for half price, what are you really getting?

In Japan, you get sheep.

The sad thing is that thousands of buyers were fleeced before a celebrity brought her new dog on TV and wondered why it didn’t bark or eat dog food.

[update: hoax/joke/tabloid nonsense]

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