maybe I *do* want the Small Web back …

All I wanted to do was read a post on Winston Rowntree‘s Patreon page, yet something was blocked by uBlock Origin. In trying to find what it was, I found the page was pulling in 91 separate resources from 15 different sites:

Do we really need all that crud? It’s a bunch of trackers and fonts and mystery swf and javascript. It might be all responsive web like, but the more fancy you do, and the more of other people’s “TRUST ME” code you pull in, something’s gonna go wrong.

Arabic Geometrical Pattern and Design (Dover Pictorial Archive) [Kindle Edition] review

Product link: Arabic Geometrical Pattern and Design (Dover Pictorial Archive) eBook: J. Bourgoin: Kindle Store

Summary: Buy the paper edition; this book is illegible on Kindle.

The original book features very finely engraved line drawings, with construction lines showing how the patterns are built up. The Kindle edition has only low-resolution scans, so the lines break down into noise and are very hard to follow. You can’t zoom in, either. The figure numbering is entirely absent from the Kindle edition, so you can’t use this book for reference. Some of the page scans are squint and partially cut off, too.

Very disappointed in this purchase. You’re better off with the paper than trying to squint at these smudgy pixels.


(unedited text as simultaneously posted to Amazon)

What a bunch of stupid Fiskars …

effin fiskars

On the left, a very worn blade from a roughly decade-old Fiskars paper trimmer. On the right, one of the replacement blades you can get at Staples. Note the extra lugs stopping the new-style blades working with the old-style cutters? Bet they think they’re really clever little Fiskars for coming up with that planned obsolescence move.

It’s nothing that a steady hand and a rotary tool can’t fix, though …


Put me out to pasture, my conference swag skills are failing.

I picked this up at Solar Power International:

I thought I was picking up a USB memory stick, as I’d nabbed one in the same form factor before. Break off the backing card at the hinge, and you’ve got a nice tiny data store like the Kingmax ones I used to use.

On plugging it into my Mac, a couple of icons bipped on my dock, then Skype opened. Wat? More importantly, there was no storage to be seen, so once my virus fears had subsided a bit, I was determined to find out what this pointless piece of plastic was doing.

The stick identified itself to the system as an Apple keyboard (USB ID 05ac:020b), and spits out the following characters (captured by cat and xxd on my Raspberry Pi):

0000000: 1b72 1b5b 317e 1b5b 3477 7777 2e62 757a  .r.[1~.[4www.buz
0000010: 7a63 6172 642e 7573 2f73 6365 2d32 3230
0000020: 0a                                       .

After reading about evil USB dongles, it seems that the Ctrl-R keypress it’s sending is the Windows “Open Browser” command, and then opens the url This link redirects to, which appears to do some Flash/JS stuff which I don’t want to understand.

The funny thing is, the card has the perfectly respectable (well, respectable if you consider a US .gov website as such) link printed on it. Even printing a card with a QR code linking to that address would be less opaque.

(This is not a link to goatse, honest.)

As is, a bunch of plastic was wasted in vain just to save people typing an URL. We’re all going to die, and it really is your fault …

okay, Google+, stop it now

So we’ve all got our shiny Google+ accounts now. I’d use it, if it weren’t for this annoyance: every few seconds, it pops up this:

Thing is, I don’t want to chat with people. If I click either button, it comes back. It won’t go away for more than a minute. I’m annoyed.

a Nook Color-shaped brick

Update: it works! And, suspiciously, I made no changes to the router settings, so I must add — with perhaps a smallish serving of humble pie, since I can’t prove I got the password right or wrong before — the following two steps to the troubleshooting script:

  • are you sure the wireless password is correct?
  • are you sure the wireless password is correct?

It’s really annoying that B&N tech support recommend hard resetting the device, as that leaves it useless until you get to a compatible network. I’d like to thank and Café Mirage for providing excellent connectivity to the Kennedy Commons parking lot to allow me to re-register my Nook Color …

I have a Barnes & Noble Nook Color. Well, no; I have something the size, shape, colour, weight, and smell of a Nook Color, but it might as well be a brick. It seems that, unless you’re exceptionally lucky with your router choice, it won’t connect to wireless. This is, for what is essentially a wireless information browser, a bit of a problem.

What happens with my Linksys WRT350N is that the Nook shows network Authenticating, then network Remembered, then network Authenticating again, then network Disconnecting, then finally Disabled, secured with WPA/WPA2 PSK. I called tech support (1-800-THE-BOOK; and if you’re in Canada, use Google Voice from gmail, as you get into tech support, where using a real phone puts you on hold then gets you kicked off), where I was told to hard reset the machine. That didn’t work; now I have a machine stuck in perpetual “Register your Nook” mode until I get to a different network. The tech support dude suggested taking it back to the store, then got completely flummoxed when I said I was in Canada.

What I’ve tried:

  • Forgetting then reconnecting to the network; nope
  • Restarting the router; nope
  • Updating the router firmware; nope, already on latest version
  • Checking the Nook firmware; nope, already on 1.2.0
  • Entering the Nook’s MAC address into the router filter table; nope.

What I haven’t yet tried is downgrading my network to Wireless G, which seems to be the suggested solution. But, c’mon — this is a device released late last year. B&N want me to downgrade my stable, slightly elderly router just to get this new trinket to work? Not gonna happen.

Oh and while we’re ranting, Barnes & Noble: do you really need to send me a sales e-mail every bloody day? I’ve just bought one of your blasted things, and every morning I’m getting “Buy a Nook!” in my inbox. Make it stop, okay?

Unstable airline passenger ignites self; none hurt

I try very hard not to write about the news; it affects me so little, yet frequently annoys me.

All that media noise about that guy on that plane. So much passenger delay will ensue.

Of course he was unstable. Killing yourself and others for a cause is not rational.

Of course he’d claim connections to Al Qaeda. He’s unstable, wants to sound badass.

Of course Al Qaeda would claim him as one of their own. What, would you turn down the free publicity?

So, the subject of this entry is how I think it should have been reported. Move on, people; there’s real news to be reported.

manifold: ur doin it wrong

This is supposed to be a nice site map, but Manifold GIS has this impenetrable and counter-intuitive user interface. No wonder it has such an active user community; they’ve all paid for it and are desperately trying to get some value out of it.

iTunes ate my iPod!

Kind of what my iPod now does, until the battery runs out
Kind of what my iPod now does, until the battery runs out

I have, well had, a 2GB second-gen iPod Nano. Now I have a very slim brick.

When I upgraded to iTunes 8, it offered an update for my iPod. I let it do its thing, then resync’ed it. I noticed that the iPod rebooted after the sync — no big deal — but then kept rebooting (back and forth …) forever.

I tried resetting it; nope, it would just start doing its thing again.

I tried putting it into disk mode, then restoring it; nope, back and forth, back and forth

In desperation, I tried restoring it on a PC, which needed to reformat the iPod. Partial success; it sync’ed music from the PC, but since my working music library is on my iBook, I had to restore and resync, and guess what? back and forth, back and forth

I’d heard that the problem could be caused by empty podcast folders, so I cleared out and rebuilt my library, put the iPod into disk mode and restored it on a PC, resync’ed on the iBook and … back and forth, back and forth

As a last try I’m going to fsck it under Linux. I might be stuck using yamipod, which is probably a bonus, as all I use iTunes for is as an iPod conduit. I really miss having a Rockbox-capable player, as it just worked the way I expected.

UPDATE: yeah, that last one did it. Shame about yamipod’s UI.

why does firefox crash so much on windows?

I’m giving up on firefox on windows for now. It can just crash sitting there doing nothing. Yes, it’s probably Windows’ fault, but the aggravation is all mine. Unfortunately, safari is a dog’s breakfast on windows, but what can you do?

At least I’m not alone

emusic: where Canada still means more expensive and second-rate

I’m not going to get all Swindleeeee!!!!! about it, but I’ve noticed a few things missing in the new emusic Canada site. I lost all my MP3s in the break-in, but I thought I’d downloaded all of the ones I’d bought from emusic a couple of days ago.

Not so. For unexplained reasons, I got humming The Whole House is Singing, and I thought I needed to listen to some Alasdair Roberts. Couldn’t find it in the share, so I went back to emusic to download it again, and rats!, it’s gone. So here’s some music I’ve paid for, but now emusic (champions of no-DRM) can’t make good on their promise to let you re-download everything you’ve bought.

(I’ve also noticed that most of the Deva Premal tracks [hey, they’re Catherine‘s] have gone, but have had no compulsion whatsoever to hum them …)

default means default, microsoft

When I’ve specified the default e-mail signature, I shouldn’t have to click on another drop-down called default to make it appear in my Outlook message:

coast plaza = dodgy dns

Coast Plaza hotel has a broken(ish) DNS — most web sites won’t resolve unless you hit reload about 8 million times (or use a shell loop to ping many many times). Aargh!

But it does completely block my office’s Citrix connections, so no work e-mail for me!

Air Canada: we only want your money

You know how much Air Canada wanted for changing a short flight from Fort St John to Vancouver to an earlier one?


Yeah, that’s more than the entire YXJ to YYZ trip cost. Smooth one, AC.

most annoying thing ever

I have an HP Photosmart C5180 scanner/printer thingy. It works fairly well, except when the drivers are being stupid under Windows. But it has one flaw so appalling that the first time it happened, I almost trashed the printer in a blind rage (yeah, I have some anger issues).

The power supply brick has a three-prong connector; pretty much the same as the “kettle lead” you get on PCs. But this thing, whether through vibration, heating and cooling, or just plain evil, slowly works itself loose. So you go to turn the printer on one day, and … nothing. You check the cables; all are plugged in. Check the wall socket; it’s (zap! ow!) live. After tearing some hair out, you troubleshoot every cable – all looks well until you notice that the plug is just a little farther out of the power supply than it might go. Snug it in a couple of millimetres, and a working printer is you.

This happens every few months. Even when I know it’s likely to happen, it still jars me. Wouldn’t have happened in Bill & Dave’s day.

not so clean

Took the D70 in for a sensor clean to Vistek. Pretty decent that they they could do a sensor clean for $35, I thought.

But I’m back on the stretcar for a reclean – they missed a huge macule which is obvious even printed at postcard size. Add four TTC trips each visit, I guess I didn’t get such a bargain.

not my favicon

I’m trying to make Firefox on Windows XP like Firefox with the GrApple theme on OS X. I don’t have to have it look the same, just compress all the bookmarks in the toolbar into the width of the screen.

This is how I want the bookmarks toolbar to look:

os x

And this is how it looks right now on Windows:

bar on windows

I can find any number of links about only showing the favicon, but none about turning it off to save space. Aargh!

the customer is always

Can I just say that the audio department of Long & McQuade at Ossington & Bloor is easily the worst sales experience possible? Not merely did the assistant (in the loosest possible sense) doubt the availability of an item that I’d previously confirmed with the distributor as being sold by L&M, but when I queried the go-away-and-leave-me-alone price he quoted, he aggressively queried where I’d seen a better price.

Sorry, but you’ve lost a sale. You may have lost me as a customer.

Update:  I just got a Canadian price from RVA which is at least $20 less than the US web price that the loser in L&M said wasn’t possible. A-ha ha, you suck, Long & McQuade!

Margaret’s petard (or, we’re their them)

The Globe‘s Margaret Wente is an effective opinion writer, in that she can get you riled about something without actually adding any valuable comment. Take yesterday’s piece “Yes, Virginia, there is a polar bear” (paywalled, but helpfully parroted by her friends) as a shining example.

In it she makes the following points:

  1. Experts predict (nameless, faceless, experts, of course. She might as well have written Them for true shock effect) that climate change will harm polar bears
  2. Her expert on prediction (J. Scott Armstrong, Professor of Marketing [?!] at Wharton – no doubt to her cuddlier than Knut and also firmly one of Us) says that experts are really bad at predicting things where models are complex and inputs have uncertainty.
  3. That Prof Armstrong has come up with the sew wittily-named Seer-Sucker Theory: “No matter how much evidence there is that seers do not exist, seers will find suckers.”

So, Margaret: advocating medieval ignorance, superstition and misery because your “[a]bundant research [uncited, of course; can’t have the taint of intellectual rigour here] shows that experts … are no better than non-experts at making accurate predictions”? More likely, you’ve elevated Prof Armstrong to be your seer. By his argument, then, you are your own sucker.

Instead, consider Advices & Queries 17: “… Avoid hurtful criticism and provocative language. Do not allow the strength of your convictions to betray you into making statements or allegations that are unfair or untrue. Think it possible that you may be mistaken.”


The Holy Modal Rounders documentary DVD, Bound To Lose is now available for us international types. But the price? $28 in the US balloons to $40 elsewhere. At that price, I’d expect Peter and Steve to deliver it in person!