Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

It’s real

And you can buy it at Etsy.

Read Full Post »

I’ve been dealing with Vista issues for the last 2 years of my life, but sometimes something happens that just astounds you. It’s not only that hotmail is incapable of knowing that my email address ends in “@hotmail.com” when I go to log in at http://www.hotmail.com, or that it seems incapable of preventing me from getting bombarded with spam everyday, no that is not the only failure…It now thinks it can predict that I, that would be me the customer, is sending out something suspicious in my message. That’s right. After I’ve logged in to the web site and manually typed in an email address, it thinks I’m doing something bad. Un-fucking believable.


Read Full Post »

I have been monumentally busy lately. Busy at work. I think I can truly express authentically what a piece of crap Vista is. For those people who just don’t like how everything is organized, you don’t know the half of it.

Inexplicably I can’t connect to Oracle databases in Access. The whole dang program shuts down. I’ve attempted 20 different work arounds to fix my problem. At one time I had 10 browsers open with the various error messages and steps to fix them. I really liked this one: “5 tedious steps for removing Oracle.” I don’t blame Oracle though. I blame this f—ing operating system.

In livlier news, I have now started a bicycle repair class. It’s so great to think I’ll be able to fix my main vehicle without paying someone else to do so. The teacher also gave me some good tips on how to ride my bike. He talked about how you are the motor. He said keep the gears low and get better excercise rather than put strain on your muscles and joints in a high gear. Protect your motor he said.

Bad knees has led me to go swimming every now and again. It’s much more daunting than running as there is limited space. Even in the slowest lane I get in the way of others.

I’ll be running a half marathon this weekend. Hopefully my knees hold up. Plus, I hope I get over this cold that I have. Some people ask me how I manage to do so much meaning running, swimming, cycling etc. I would like to say that first of all that I am not terribly good at any one of these. And second, sadly I am a truly ultra-efficient human being. My body can survive on half the calories of a typical person, so I have to be active in order to enjoy the pleasures of food and drink. You would never know by looking at me how much I do, but there it is.

I’m sorry for the spotty posting, but as I said I’m kind of busy these days.

Read Full Post »

Founder Visas

Here’s another interesting article on Slate talking about a proposal to create an immigration classification for entrepreneurs.

He wants the government to create a new immigration class for founders of new firms. Every year, Graham’s “Founder Visa” program would let in 10,000 immigrants who’ve shown a plan for starting a new company. These people would be barred from working at existing companies—in other words, they wouldn’t be “taking American jobs.” Instead, Graham argues, they’d be creating jobs: “If we assume four people per startup, which is probably an overestimate, that’s 2,500 new companies. Each year,” Graham writes. “They wouldn’t all grow as big as Google, but out of 2,500 some would come close.”

I have to admit that the above proposal sounds good. One of the reasons I’m reluctant to embrace immigration reform in general is that usually the reform is focused on increasing the immigration numbers for desirable high-paying jobs. A lot of people assume talks of reform are focused on the undesirable jobs that Americans don’t want; that isn’t the case. It’s about keeping wages artificially lower than they would be in the tech industry and it’s about an assumption that Americans are not as capable of performing high-tech jobs as foreigners.

I have known many a Computer Science graduate in America who have not been able to find work. Is that a problem with our education system in America? I believe it almost certainly is. Again from the article:

Why do American tech firms need so many immigrant employees? Because there aren’t enough native workers to fill the jobs tech companies need. According to the National Science Foundation, about 60 percent of doctorate degrees in engineering at American universities are awarded to foreign students who are in the country on temporary visas (PDF). And foreign workers are responsible for some of the tech world’s signature innovations.

I think it’s an important question to ask why our American schools can only send students that make up only 40% of the doctorate degrees in engineering at American universities. I’m making the assumption that 60% of the foreigners are more qualified than their American counterparts, and I’m asking why that is. Can we acknowledge that our education system may have flaws.

It justs strikes me that if we give up on Americans ever fulfilling the American dream then we do our country a disservice.

Read Full Post »

Here’s an interesting column about Mad Men where the writer talks about how she romanticizes the job of secretary in the 60’s after watching the show.

It’s twisted, but watching the heckled, thwarted women of Mad Men made me want to be a better assistant, and not (only) because I wanted to dress like them. I wanted to be them. On the surface at least—and surface was powerful in those days—these women (even the secretaries) are femme fatales.

Personally, I know a lot of great administrative assistants who are smart and extremely competent at their job, but for me I could never do it.

I actually started my career out as an assistant and it just didn’t work. I’m too opinionated for one, and very rebellious. Oddly enough, the better I performed in that job the more I was resented by my boss. He didn’t want me to be any better at anything than I needed to be. And he wanted to nitpick about things that didn’t matter. My wardrobe was often criticized. How Mad Men is that? Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a flashy dresser. The criticisms were a lack of nylons and I was told once that I dressed like a postman. Looking back the fact that all of the executives were men should have tipped me off but I guess I didn’t have Mad Men, this was the year 2000, to know what I was getting into.

Just one of the final straws was when I designed a database application that saved collectively 10 hours of time per week from other employees. The male executives took my design and passed it off as their own. I was sitting there in the meeting watching them do it and I couldn’t believe it.

After quitting because I couldn’t take it anymore, I turned down other administrative jobs to take a lowly data entry position. I felt that I wanted to work on something which I owned. Something that wasn’t boosting someone else but actually belonged to me. 9 7 years later I’m a database specialist and programmer. My strategy worked.

Read Full Post »

Amazon is being sued for deleting e-books from their customer’s Kindles when Amazon found out the e-books were pirated copies.

The lawsuit said Amazon never disclosed to customers that it “possessed the technological ability or right to remotely delete digital content purchased through the Kindle Store.”

No shit. I didn’t know that about the Kindle either. The book? You’ll never believe. Orwell’s 1984. Check out the story.

Read Full Post »

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Read Full Post »

In my last post about Facebook I said that face-to-face human interaction was too precious to avoid using Facebook, but Marcella Proust wisely noted that she uses Facebook exactly because she doesn’t want to talk to people. She uses it to avoid people. Maybe I’m thinking about Facebook in the wrong way. No I haven’t changed my mind about joining, but it does seem to me that if face-to-face social interaction is taxing you can avoid it all together by using Facebook, or Twitter, or texting a friend rather than calling one.

I have to admit, I do text people on my phone for the very reason that I don’t want to talk to them. Usually because I fear rejection. It’s much better for me to read in a text that my friend is unavailable to do X rather than have to hear them come up with an excuse while I’m talking with them on the phone. I have good friends who wouldn’t necessarily do that — come up with a lame excuse — but the fear of that nonetheless drives me to use text instead of voice conversations.

In any case, these are just some random thoughts.

Read Full Post »

I asked a friend at work how her two-week vacation to the Midwest went. She smiled and said that I would know how it went if I was on Facebook.

And then she kindly told me how her vacation was.

After this story, I am even more determined never to be on Facebook. If you ever catch me saying to you that you would know how I was if you read my blog, please shoot me. Human interaction is far too precious.

Read Full Post »

Why “screw that?” Because sometimes you read something so ridiculous in recipe that you have to curse.

We will be signing a lease on a new house that has a ceramic glass stove top. I have heard anecdotaly that you cannot cook using a cast iron pan on one of these stove tops. So of course I google to see what types of pans are appropriate on this type of stove top. It may be interesting to know that in America if you are purchasing a new stove and it is an electric stove the glass stove tops are the only options. Have a coil stove now? You have to special order the coils as they are widely out of circulation.

Here are some of the limitations of this “advanced” technology that I found on a dizzying comment thread regarding this topic.

Do not “slide” pots or pans around on the ceramic top, you must pick up the pots or pans and place them where you want them. Sliding them can cause cuts or scrapes on the glass.

Always use proper pan size for the cooking area you are using…to determine proper pan size, it would be the size of the pan compared to the size of the cooking area, always try to match the pan as close as possible to the size of the burner.

Never operate the cooking areas without having a pan on them.

Always keep utensil handles turned inwards towards the stove, not outwards where they can be bumped.

Pans that have a uneven bottom or are warped or “grooved” do not work as well as smooth bottom pans, and will tend to cook slower and in a uneven manner.

Do not taunt happy fun ball comes to mind. Are freaking kidding me? What’s the point of having a stove that you’re afraid to use. There are countless stories of people (gasp!) having their food boil over in the pan and the stove top is irreparable. Who makes this shit? Words do not describe how scared I’m going to be to cook. I’m going to have to buy plug-in electric burners to do canning or any of the other tasks which may taunt the cooktop. Screw it!!

Read Full Post »

Where pilots sleep

I like reading the “Ask the Pilot” column on Salon. I think my fear of flying makes me completely fascinated by anything to do with a plane. Today’s column is about the problem of pilot sleep deprivation. While the picture below is not typical of all aircraft, that is the problem says the author, it does look really snug. There are loads of more pictures linked in this column that I think you’ll enjoy.

Read Full Post »

Glad I didn’t program that

As a computer programmer, I occasionally make mistakes that get noticed. Those mistakes are bad as opposed to the ones I figure out before anyone knows about it. I hate to be this guy at Amazon who caused a Twitter fiasco by un-rating all Amazon products that had gay/lesbian themes.

In the comments to my earlier post about the Amazon Gay Glitch, monologuist Mike Daisey (who knows a thing or two about Amazon), comments:

[The following is another block quote from the Stranger penned by Mike Daisey]

After hearing from people on the inside at Amazon, I am convinced it was in fact, a “glitch.”

Well, more like user error—some idiot editing code for one of the many international versions of Amazon mixed up the difference between “adult” and “erotic” and “sexuality”. All the sites are tied together, so editing one affected all for blacklisting, and ta-da, you get this situation.

The CS rep who responded that this was Amazon policy was just confused about what they were talking about, and gave standard boilerplate about porn.

The dumbest part is saying it was a “glitch”. A “glitch”? Just say that it was one of your workers making an editing error. Really dumb PR move, that one.

Let me know if you actually want more details on how it went down, but it’s pretty boring and technical.

I asked Mike for more details, and according to his inside sources, the story is that a programmer at Amazon France was editing the site to filter porn out of some search results, and he “mixed up ‘adult,’ which is the term they use for porn, with stuff like ‘erotic’ and ‘sexuality.’ The system he was working on is universal, so the change he made propagated across Amazon’s sites worldwide.

Amazon’s systems are notoriously idiosyncratic so it’s not hard to imagine a change like this getting into their worldwide system, though it’s certainly interesting that it would be so difficult to correct the problem.

When Mark Probst received his reply from customer service, the rep misunderstood the problem and sent him a boilerplate response on how they deal with “adult” content.

Read Full Post »


This week several people were laid off at my work. I was spared. While I would like to think that it is because I am a good skilled worker and that my company would be unable to do without me, I know that that is not entirely true. There was to be certain an element of getting rid of low performers; however, not everyone who was eliminated fit that category. For instance, my closest colleague to be laid off was not a low performer at all.

My father says that he feels for my generation being thrust into the worst job market in decades, but I disagree. In the immediate aftermath the youth, and when I say that I mean under 40, are much better equipped to deal with the situation at hand. Who I worry about are my colleagues that were eliminated that gave 20 plus years to my company. The people whose skills are now almost entirely comprised of institutional knowledge that will do them little good elsewhere. What happens to them if they are too young (as many of them are) to retire? Where do they go? How do they begin again?

H1B Visas

And yet I do worry about the youth. This week I read Andrew Sullivan, a journalist who I suspect has never worked in the corporate world that so many of us are familiar with, talk about how the H1B Visa that allows foreign skilled workers to get green cards to work in the United States should be given out more generously rather than the Obama administration’s slight reduction. He further said that every foreign student who graduates from a American university should automatically be given permission to work in the U.S. Excuse me for saying this, but what an idiot. Here he quotes the Economist.

Chinese and Indian immigrants founded more than half of all high-tech companies in Silicon Valley. Immigrants co-founded Google, Intel, eBay and Yahoo. Immigrants contributed to more than a quarter of US global patent applications. Immigrant-founded companies employed 450,000 workers in 2006 and generated $52 billion in revenue.

Instead of trying to restrict the supply of H1B visas, why not increase it massively, starting by giving any foreigner who graduates from an American university the right to a visa. That might be exactly the long-term stimulus that the economy needs.

This is a rather rose colored view of what is happening. I suspect that these people have never had their jobs in danger of being taken by a foreign worker. If a green card was guaranteed by attendance at an American university I believe we would see a sharp increase in foreign student slots in our universities and foreign workers in our workforce.

The so-called “undesirable” jobs

When George W. Bush brought up immigration reform his speeches were colored with talk of immigrants accepting jobs that Americans did not want. I am sure there are many jobs that a typical American does not want, but I am sure a large element of why the jobs are not desirable is the amount of pay that a corporation is willing to offer. Given the expense of living in the U.S. and purchasing your own health insurance which these “undesirable” jobs no doubt require you to do, it is no wonder that many Americans do not want these jobs.

But while he touted the undesirable jobs, the real meat of his proposal was increasing the skilled H1B visas. These are jobs that Americans do want. These are jobs that a Computer Science college graduate would kill for. These are the jobs that are instead going to foreign workers while our college graduates become baristas at the nearest Starbucks.

I think the H1B visa is largely about keeping wages low. The H1B visa requires that any foreign worker make the same amount as their American citizen counterparts. Yet when you increase your job pool by two-fold the wages are not going to be as high.

The desirability of the foreign tech worker

There is no doubt that foreign workers are highly desirable for a reason. Let’s take the educational system in India and China (the largest recipients of H1B visas). These countries are churning out skilled tech industry workers who are ready to begin on day one. I presume (and I could be wrong) that their education is more practical and less theoretical than an American education in computer science. I once met a computer science major here who didn’t even know that the file extension of the code I was writing was significant.

America should be modeling our educational system on the education found in India and China, at least in technology, so that we can guarantee our youth also will be able to be part of the American dream. That they can become skilled laborers too and share the wealth.

Should we eliminate the H1B visas entirely? I think we all know that the H1B visa workers contribute amazingly to this country. Any mass elimination would be highly detrimental. And yet, I think that reducing the number of skilled foreign workers – especially in a time of mass unemployment – is the right move to make. I think an investment in our educational systems and a focus on boosting the skills of the American worker has to be our priority over increasing limits on H1B visas.

I welcome any respectful opposing arguments to the above. Feel free to tell me your story.

Read Full Post »

Time calls Slashdot overrated

I was interested to find Slashdot made Time’s list of the top 5 over-rated blogs:

Reading Slashdot these days is like visiting the IT guy at work. He’s infuriatingly smug and cares passionately about stuff you don’t care about, and views your lack of interest as further confirmation of his intellectual superiority. Enjoy.

Tell me about it. I’m sorry but those guys on Slashdot are assholes. I first became aware of this when I visited their site over a question on how to print extra wide web pages. A guy posted the question because he wanted to print some origami samples from a web page. I give you the stunningly ridiculous conversation:

Q. “I’m an origami folder, and I have some diagrams stored as web pages on a cd. I’d like to print them out (since folding in front of a computer monitor is not the easiest of tasks), but the web pages have all of the steps laid out horizontally. I’ve tried using Mozilla, Opera, Netscape, and even IE (on a windows platform), but I can’t seem to find a printing engine that can handle wide web pages. Am I missing something? Hasn’t anyone ever tried to print wide web pages before? What I’m asking is: Do you folks know of any utilities (or browsers) that I’ve missed that can handle printing wide web pages?”

A. Can’t you just set the paper orientation to Landscape and click Print? What is so hard about that?

A. This is pretty lame. A stupid question was asked and posted by an editor. Everyone (at this moment) giving…

A. …or are Ask Slashdot questions slowly degrading to crap?

Are you f—ing kidding me? Don’t you think the first thing the guy tried was printing to freaking landscape? That’s supposed to be tech advice?

This is actually a legitimate question and I ran into the same problem myself which is why I happened on the web page in the first place. I guess what I find hilarious is that the so-called experts A) don’t even get the question, B) don’t offer usable advice, C) clearly don’t know the answer and D) accuse the questioner of being an idiot so that they can save face. Some web pages just aren’t meant to be printed and a web browser can be a poor tool for that purpose.

And just in case anyone is intersted, my page was an organizational chart about 10 treeviews wide. The solution was to change to landscape, change the paper size, and adjust the % of normal size or select scale to fit. In my case, I also had to print to many pages because the font was way too small. I then taped the results together.

Read Full Post »

Via Americablog.

Read Full Post »

One of Norm Coleman’s (the loser of the Minnesota Senate Race) star witnesses in his lawsuit to unseat winner Al Franken explains just why his ballot was rejected.

DeMuth’s ballot was rejected because the signature on his application didn’t match the one on his ballot, and he said nobody ever called him to inform him of the problem. Upon his initial direct examination by Coleman lawyer James Langdon, DeMuth explained how it happened: Instead of signing the application with a pen, he downloaded a PDF copy and converted it into a JPG, then typed in the relevant text and “signed” his initials by using the mouse.

“It’s hard to get the signature I normally use, so I just used my initials,” DeMuth explained.

He then e-mailed the application in and got a ballot days later, which he filled in and signed his full name to in the old-fashioned way. Upon cross-examination, Franken lawyer Kevin Hamilton asked: “Do you have a pen in your dorm-room at Fargo?”

Apparently DeMuth didn’t want to pay to print out a copy of the application on campus, and he thought this would be easier.

Should this guy be allowed to vote? Via TalkingPointsMemo.

Read Full Post »

Roomb Van Nistelrooy, anyone?

Read Full Post »

Day one with the Roomba

We ended up purchasing a Roomba 410. This is an older model which was cheaper. The amazon reviews suggest that the latest models in the 500 series are problematic. As the 500 series were nearly double the price, we both thought the Roobma 410 was a good place to start. Many reviews on any Roomba model suggest that Roombas don’t last too long. A year being optimal.

Reviews also suggest the Roomba is like a bad dishwasher. Just like you need to “clean” dishes before putting them in a bad dishwasher, you need to “clean” before using the Roomba. If you want it to last. The Roomba arrived on Wednesday. Saturday we spent all day cleaning the house and sweeping the floors. Yes, it is a little ironic but I’d rather this Roomba last than over-tax it on its first day. Yes, I am laughing as I write this.

So far the Roomba seems very good at coverage. He (seems masculine, I don’t know) seems to have gone over every room on the first floor quite thoroughly. He can get himself out of most jams and he definitely knows how to get on and off of carpet. He went behind our TV which caused us some worry and we were amazed when he actually went underneath the TV cabinet. I can’t say when that was last swept. He has missed some dirt spots nonetheless. The bastard!

I hope he didn’t hear that…I was just kidding after all..I was kidding!

Anyway, I’ll keep you posted. Hopefully, he’ll still be working 3 months from now.

Read Full Post »

I have Christmas money to spend and I’ve decided to use it to buy a roomba. Only a quick search on Amazon shows quite a variety. Any reader reviews of roombas? Can anyone recommend a consumer web site for reviews on roombas?


Read Full Post »

This is an incredibly disturbing article at a pivotal moment in our country’s history. I recommend reading it in full. The article describes how many states are nullifying voter registrations illegally.

States have been trying to follow the Help America Vote Act of 2002 and remove the names of voters who should no longer be listed; but for every voter added to the rolls in the past two months in some states, election officials have removed two, a review of the records shows.

The six swing states seem to be in violation of federal law in two ways. Michigan and Colorado are removing voters from the rolls within 90 days of a federal election, which is not allowed except when voters die, notify the authorities that they have moved out of state, or have been declared unfit to vote.

Indiana, Nevada, North Carolina and Ohio seem to be improperly using Social Security data to verify registration applications for new voters.

In addition to the six swing states, three more states appear to be violating federal law. Alabama and Georgia seem to be improperly using Social Security information to screen registration applications from new voters. And Louisiana appears to have removed thousands of voters after the federal deadline for taking such action.

Anyone who works with databases knows how difficult it is matching data from one source to another. Even with the resources and time to match data properly, there is nothing that can account for human error or nuance. If a data entry operator types “Street” instead of “St.” for instance. Many of these can be accounted for, but there is no way to electronically predict them all. At least not with existing technology.

Many years ago in a data entry job I entered address data into a database. At the same time, automatic electronic updates which were purchased from the post office would overwrite my work. Time and time again the electronic process would overwrite what I knew to be good data. It was extremely frustrating.

Read Full Post »

As with the trains, this is via DailyKos.

Read Full Post »

Melamine baby plates

I was shopping for a baby shower gift when I saw these melamine baby plates. Melamine is the additive that has sickened and killed pets across the U.S. and now babies in China. The fact that the same product used in plates is found in baby formula and pet food says a lot about what type of product this is. Curious that no one has questioned the safety of it on a plate.

Read Full Post »

Beware Coreflood

I’ve largely been offline today due to complications arising from the Coreflood virus. For info on that nasty thing, click here. It’s not pretty.

The system infects PCs with a program known as Coreflood that records keystrokes and steals other information. The network of infected computers collected as much as 500 gigabytes of data in a little more than a year and sent it back to the Wisconsin computer center, Mr. Stewart said.

One of the unique aspects of the malicious software is that it captures screen information in addition to passwords, according to Mark Seiden, a veteran computer security engineer. That makes it possible for gang members to see information like bank balances without having to log in to stolen accounts.

What to do? I have McAffee Virus Scan 8.5.0.i but hopefully your virus software can help you also.

1. Update your virus definitions.

2. Run an On Demand Scan.

3. I can confirm in three cases that McAfee found the virus after running an On Demand Scan, so it appears to be working. What to do if you find it? The only 100% solution is to re-image the machine and start from scratch. Reset any online banking information on a clean machine. One that is not infected. Or just call your bank and stop your online banking. Good luck.

Read Full Post »

A friend of mine told me about this story of the San Francisco network administrator who took the city’s computer network ransom by refusing to give the administrator password it to his bosses. He was put in jail on $5 million dollars bail. Here we learn a little bit more about how this happened.

If Childs’ sole proprietorship of the FiberWAN network was normal operating procedure, how did the tensions between Childs and his managers come to a head? Why was Childs arrested on Sunday? There have been reports that the city’s newly hired head of security may have pushed for Childs to open the FiberWAN doors to other admins. My source doesn’t know for sure, but offers some insight:

“I don’t know much about his actions in the last few weeks. It’s been a couple of months, at least, since I’ve even spoken to him, and even then, it was probably only in reference to some specific request or ticket. But I can imagine that being the subject of disciplinary action by his supervisors for ‘performance’ issues would be absolutely infuriating to him. I can imagine that his response would be, ‘How can you say my performance is poor when I’ve been doing what no one else here was willing or able enough to do?'”

If Childs was pressured to give up the keys to the network that he had built and cared for so long, would he go so far as to explicitly prevent anyone else from tinkering with his charge?

“I can imagine that [Childs’] response to a demand to open up authentication to the FiberWAN would be, ‘Why? So you can screw it up and bring the city network crashing to a halt?’ I can even imagine that, under so much pressure, he’d take steps (deleting or hiding config backups, for instance) to make sure he was the only one in control.”

These tales offer significant insight into what may have occurred between Childs and the FiberWAN network hostage situation. Rather than a case of a rogue administrator attempting to cause damage to the network by locking out other administrators, this may be a case of an overprotective admin who believed he was protecting the network — and by extension, the city — from other administrators whom he considered inferior and perhaps even dangerous. One important fact seems to be in Childs’ favor if reports that the network has continued to run smoothly since his arrest are true. My source corroborates this.

The article is long but it’s great. Anyone with interest in Information Technology or the inefficiencies of government should read the whole thing.

Read Full Post »

The cool kids are not content anymore with the flat screen monitor as it has been usurped by the dual flat screen monitor. What’s next and how outrageous can it get?

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »