January 2010

Gosh, now why would Adobe do this?

I received a little piece of email sent to an address that I’ve only used with Oakley, in ever-so-slighty-off English, claiming to direct me to download a new version of Adobe Reader from adobe-pdf-pro.net, which is registered to a company in Moscow and hosted in the UK. Visiting that site (with wget, not a real browser!) redirects me to signup-way.com, which redirects me to pdfnewdownload.com, which tries to get me to become a member to gain access to this and other free software. I strongly suspect that someone visiting with a real browser will get a lot more than a deceptive and pointless offer.

Hey, maybe it’s not from Adobe after all!

Sadly, the real Adobe does not provide a way to inform them that this is going on; it doesn’t qualify under any of the feedback categories they permit, sigh.

[and it got past my spam filters because I whitelist the special addresses I give to companies I’ve done business with in the past; looks like someone “acquired” a copy of Oakley’s mailing list…]

Otoko-tachi no Yamato

Much thanks to the Duck for his review of this film, which led me to include the DVD in my latest order from Amazon Japan. I was able to find a set of soft-subs for it that seem to be reasonably accurate (and were apparently used to subtitle the bootleg DVDs that people were selling on Amazon US for a while). It’s a gorgeous, ugly, moving, and quite sad film, and Joe Hisiashi’s score suits the material perfectly.

The few non-Duck English reviews I’ve found come at it with an axe to grind, making them basically useless for evaluating the film. Oddly, they all seem to think that no one outside of Japan would be interested, which says more about them than it does about the film.

It’s not available on BluRay, but the image quality is still superb (Handbrake ripped it at 850x364). Sample screengrab below, from late in the film.


Spam that does not tempt

Some of the recent subject lines from my spam folder:

Meet and marry a gorgeous Russian queen.
Russian queens are waiting.
I can do for you is - what can not no girl!

Doomed, I tell you, doomed

Found in the latest issue of Ansible, whilst hunting for Thoggisms:

George Bowie, Radio Clyde presenter:
"Which famous detective features in the Agatha Christie [sic] novel The Hound of the Baskervilles?"
"Is it Harry Potter?"


All I can do to help is send money, which I have. Fortunately, one of the few things the American government reliably does well is disaster relief.

I’ll refrain from partisan sniping, unless some jackass tries to use this as justification for passing the healthcare bill…

Update: this is what I’m talking about:

...Four large Coast Guard ships—a 210-foot Reliance-class cutter and three 270-foot medium Endurance-class cutters—left Miami today, bound for Haiti....

...A C-130 cargo airplane also flew into Haiti from Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater in Florida....

...Next to arrive will be urban rescue teams from Florida, Virginia and California...

...The crew of the Comfort, one of the Navy's two 894-foot-long hospital ships, is now rushing to the ship, ported in Baltimore, to sail for Haiti.

The Navy hospital ship will be joined in Haiti by the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson. The carrier's crew of more than 3000 had been at sea for just hours, leaving Norfolk, Va., for its new home port in San Diego, when the call came to reroute to Haiti. The massive craft can launch helicopters loaded with supplies, make and deliver fresh water and, if need be, augment hospital space by pitching aid tents on its flight deck.

The Zen of Cooking...

A little something from The Random Recipe Generator:

Butter Crumble

Serves 1
You will need:

  • 60g butter
  • 70g kidney beans


  1. pre-heat the oven to 180 C
  2. eat the butter
  3. discard the kidney beans
  4. bake for 50 minutes and serve hot


(apparently from the store window of Asobit Chara City in Akihabara; I don’t know if they sell signs or stickers)


Found at a gas station in Morgan Hill on the way to work this morning:

Update for great justice: “LolNozzle iz inside ur gas tank, breakin pumps”

Looks more like Two Piece to me

Official One Piece Oppai Mousepads.

Nigerian scammer neologisms

My spam folder just got its first “my boss died in the Haiti earthquake and I need a partner to help me get his money out of the country” scam letter. In an odd bit of honesty, the fractured English includes the following among the list of items you must include in your reply:

A valid copy of your identity or passport so that this ransaction can begin immediately.

Emphasis mine. :-)

The Return of du Toit

After their retirement from blogging, I did not expect to find Kim and Connie du Toit doing Internet talk radio. They started back in September, and I didn’t notice until tonight.

“Welcome back; the Internet was getting too gruntled without you.”

There's tone-deaf...

…and then there’s Chris Van Hollen. Here’s the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, on why he expects the voters to agree that Martha Coakley should take Teddy Kennedy’s place in the Senate:

"Why would you hand the keys to the car back to the same guys whose policies drove the economy into the ditch and then walked away from the scene of the accident?"

No, seriously.

Mr. Brown goes to Washington

My condolences to US Senator Scott Brown and his family. After last night’s stunning victory, millions will be spent over the next three years in efforts to destroy him, both personally and professionally.

Software, good and bad

Good: Sony’s SPUDownloadManager. Lost the install CD for a Sony product, or is it old enough that Microsoft has released two new operating systems since you bought it? Plug the device into your computer, run this tool, and it installs the latest versions of all the relevant software and drivers.

Bad: Lenovo’s VeriFace. This is a biometric authentication system that uses your laptop’s built-in camera to scan your face as your password, and record the faces of people who fail to login. It includes an optional check to make sure that it isn’t being fooled by a photo, but it’s still useless, because it only works under excellent lighting conditions. You can spend upwards of a minute finding good light and staring at the screen until it recognizes you, or you can just type your password.

Making Windows Work

In the Mac/PC wars, I’ve occasionally commented that my primary computer is a Mac because it’s simply more useful to me right out of the box, and it takes less work to add the rest of what I need. Well, a few weeks ago the Lenovo outlet store had a few refurbished (~30% off retail price) S12 netbooks with the nVidia ION chipset that replaces the pathetic Intel shared graphics that the Atom comes with, and while I waited for it to ship, I started assembling things to install.

[Update: in the essential column, add GetGnuWin32, the wrapper for the GnuWin32 packages. Better than CygWin, less conceptually disgusting than Portable Ubuntu]

Bare minimum to make a computer more than a toy (supplied with every Mac):

  • Perl (I used Strawberry, not ActivePerl)
  • GNU Emacs
  • Putty (SSH)
  • Sqlite
  • Quicktime
  • Update: Virtual CloneDrive (mount ISO images)

Equivalent to extremely useful supplied Mac software:

  • Safari/Firefox/Chrome
  • iTunes
  • TrueCrypt
  • PasswordSafe
  • Sharpkeys (the CapsLock-killer; sadly doesn't install under Win7)
  • SecureW2 TTLS (sadly no longer free, despite all earlier versions being GPL'd)

Other stuff that helps make a laptop useful:

  • 3G drivers (AT&T USBConnect Mercury)
  • Adobe Flash 10.1 (beta, with hw-accelerated video)
  • CCCP codec pack (like Perian on the Mac)
  • DisplayLink
  • GPG4Win
  • Mercurial
  • Microsoft Office
  • Python
  • RealVNC
  • TeamSpeak
  • VLC
  • Windows Security Essentials


  • Steam
  • Good Old Games: Fallout, Fallout 2, Might & Magic 6
  • World of Warcraft
  • Champions Online

I still need to find something that will mount ISO images as file systems, buy a cheap bare drive to use for backups, and bump the RAM from 2GB to 3GB, but I’m set for now. I wish that the ION version of the S12 didn’t replace the ExpressCard slot with an HDMI port, and I’d love to find a Bluetooth mouse that holds up under regular use, but this is a nice little cool-running carry-around machine, with reasonable performance and battery life.

Oh, and I installed the Nanami OS-tan theme that shipped with Japanese pre-orders of Windows 7. :-)

Nami's cup size...

Speaking of One Piece, here’s a picture of a well-stacked Nami, courtesy of Mari Yaguchi’s blog (Mari sings the current OP for the series):


Modern Times

Tomorrow morning, Steve Jobs speaks. Tomorrow night, President Obama speaks. One of these speeches will be filled with hope, change, and a bright economic future. The other will be the State of the Union.

(yeah, I was off by a day the first time…)

Rejected names for the iPad

[Update: I’m leaning towards iSpork – only good for consuming canned goods; if you want to cook, it’s the wrong tool]

  • iMaxi
  • iReadOnly
  • iCantTakeNotes
  • iCanHazDongles?
  • iGotRejectedByTheAppStore
  • iPodTouchButBigger
  • iPoundAndAHalf
  • iTrophyWife
  • iOnlyConsumeContentCreatedElsewhere
  • iStreamPornOver3G
  • iHuntAndPeck
  • iBling
  • iWTF
  • iDrinkKoolaid
  • iLikedTheNewtonBetter

Dear Steve Jobs: why carry an iPad?

Student tool?
The iBookstore format is ePub, which has relatively limited layout support, making it a poor fit for most textbooks. Apple has not announced any support for Adobe Digital Editions, and non-DRM PDF textbooks are a pipe dream (feel free to solve this problem next, though, if you're up for a challenge). Also, the tiny on-screen keyboard with no support for a stylus means no serious note-taking. You can tweet and fingerpaint, but that's about it, so you'd still need to carry actual notebooks. If you were, say, going to the library to work on a paper, do you take the iPad and an external keyboard, or just carry your laptop?
Carry it to meetings?
No remote for using it in presentations, need to carry a dongle to attach it to a projector, no serious note-taking, microphone unlikely to work well for audio notes.
Pretty big for holding your shopping list, no GPS for finding your way around (although WiFi-based triangulation may work in some areas), no camera for scanning bar-codes.
Only on a train or bus, and definitely only with an optional case to reduce the risk of dropping it (and also hide the big shiny expensive steal-me gadget).
Visiting friends and family?
"Hey, check out the new pictures of the kids! Oh, you want a copy? Hmm, I can't plug it into your computer because it will try to sync, so maybe if I plug in the SD dongle and copy it to a card from your camera, you can transfer it to your machine later. Oh fuck it, I'll just mail you the Flickr link."
No GPS, no offline mapping, poor 3G pretty much anywhere interesting, and can't read a book after the "up to 10 hour" battery life is over.

Not an exhaustive list, to be sure, but so far, every reason I can think of to carry this gadget involves either doing without some functionality or carrying it in addition to something else, like pen and paper, a laptop, a phone, a GPS, a camera, or some of the many optional accessories. Taking notes? Add a Bluetooth keyboard or the special dock. Transferring data, including attaching it to a larger display? Carry dongles and cables. Etc, etc.

It’s 7.5x9.5x0.5 inches and weighs a pound and a half. Add a case to protect it from damage, and you’re carrying around a cookbook. In fact, you’re carrying around this cookbook. I could carry this cookbook everywhere I go, but it’s big enough that I wouldn’t do so without a good reason. Take a look at the top 100 applications for the iPhone; are any of them compelling enough to justify carrying a cookbook around? I haven’t found one, and the notoriously capricious approval process makes it unlikely a compelling app will get released quickly, and the notoriously clunky App Store makes it unlikely you’ll find out about it if it does.

Apple promises optimized versions of iWork, but even in landscape mode, the on-screen keyboard is no bigger than the one on the original 7-inch EeePC. And if you put the iPad in a comfortable position for typing, the shiny screen is at an awkward angle for viewing, especially in less-than-perfect lighting.

Am I rationalizing my recent purchase of a Lenovo S12 netbook, and wishing I’d saved my pennies for the iComeToJesusTablet? No. Not only didn’t I expect the iPad to ship before March, I never expect the 1.0 release of any Apple product to be stable, so I wouldn’t have bought one until at least June anyway, and in any case, I can afford to own both. Right now, though, I don’t want one, because I can only envision using it around the house, and all my stuff is already there, so why bother?

I get some use out of the iPod Touch, and I’ve often wished for a scaled-up version, but what I wanted scaled up was the capability as much as the size. The iPad has the size (very close to B5, with a bigger-than-B6 screen), but is basically limited to consuming content created on actual computers. So why not just carry a real computer when you want to work, and an iPod when you only need canned content?

No, wait, I've got the name for it!

It just came to me in a flash (but not with Flash, because that would make Steve mad). Apple’s in the hardware business, and the tablet is not a standalone device, so you need something to connect it to. If you have a home machine and a carry-around tablet, then you don’t want a laptop, you want an all-in-one desktop. An iMac. Hence the name for the tablet:


“iMac and iTosh”, or perhaps, “I Mac and Tosh”.

Bad case of Flash

John Nack of Adobe argues that because Flash gave us online video, we shouldn’t focus exclusively on its flaws. This is a bit like saying that because a hooker got you off, the burning rash is nothing to kick up a fuss about.

…and that’s why I use ClickToFlash in Safari, Flashblock for Firefox, etc. Also, John? Adobe Air sucks for all the same reasons Flash does, making, for instance, many sections of the Adobe site (no longer really part of the web) excrutiating to use. What do you suggest as compensation for that sucking chest wound?

Amazon versus Macmillan

Most people who’ve opined on the current Amazon/Macmillan flap have reflexively sided with Macmillan, without waiting for statements from either side. When the CEO of Macmillan issued a statement explaining that they went to Amazon to renegotiate their contract and the two sides failed to come to agreement, this was taken as further evidence that Amazon was Teh Evil and should be shunned from now on.

I read that statement a little differently.

M: “Okay, Amazon, our current terms are A. We want B (higher retail prices for ebooks), but if you don’t like that, you can have C (current pricing, but no ebook sales for N weeks after release).”

A: “We like A. Our customers like A. We’d like to stick with A.”

M: “No deal.”

A: “Okay. With no contract, though, we’ll have to stop selling your books. Today.”

M: (ohshittheydidn’tblink)

[Update: when the Kindle blog was updated with a “we’ll have to cave in to M’s demands eventually, because we want to sell their books”, this was immediately spun as a massive victory for Macmillan (and, in many eyes, for “us”). It’s now Tuesday, February 2nd, though, and a spot check does not show Amazon selling Macmillan books again. Apparently people were so excited that they missed the word “eventually”. As of right now, the deal’s still off, which has got to be hitting Macmillan where it hurts.]

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