by Felix — Who am I?
Review of Asus L406M
I've had this as my primary laptop since about 2018 October, and I've been happy with it. In no particular order, here are answers to a number of things I want to know when choosing a new laptop:
If you know for a fact that 4 GB of RAM is enough for you, and you want a machine that's quiet and light like a netbook but has a full 1080p screen, I highly recommend this laptop.
If you're like me and run a lightweight tiling window manager and no desktop environment, this computer is great and feels more than powerful enough.
If on the other hand you're one of those people who has 20+ browser tabs open all the time, this is not the computer for you (not enough RAM). It will comfortably run full GUI Linux distrubtions (e.g. Mint), but you'll have to be a little bit careful of memory usage in that case.
I can't speak to its ability to run Windows, as I haven't tried.
Long list of points:
- The screen hinge sensor triggers "early", i.e. if you're shutting the lid and have "go to sleep on lid close" set, the laptop will go to sleep when there's still an inch or two between the top of the screen and the laptop body. This is a good thing, because it means this laptop is not prone to accidentally waking up by being jostled when it's in a bag or carrying case (or when the hinges get looser with age).
- The battery life is amazing -- running Linux, I've actually seen the 14+ hours claimed on the sticker (with careful usage), and with normal usage (i.e. leaving the screen on most of the time, and with a VM running), I can leave the charger at home, take this laptop to work, start it up in the morning, and it'll still have 20-40% battery left at the end of my 9-hour workday. That's without letting it go to sleep. I'm impressed, especially at this price point.
- On that note, I paid $399 CAD for it.
- To quantify the battery life thing: this laptop uses between 2.5 and 3.5 watts at idle. How they've even managed to light the screen for that amount of power I don't know.
- There is a strange high-pitched intermittent set of noises that it makes. This is only noticeable in a quiet room. At first I was concerned it might be capacitor squeal, but I went back to the shop and the display model and several other similar laptops from this Asus lineup make the same noises. It's most likely coil whine, which, unlike capacitor squeal, is harmless and not a sign of impending failure. (If it is bad capacitors, at least the fact that all laptops of this era from Asus make the same noise means there'll likely be a class action or something if they start dropping dead in a year. But I really think coil whine is more likely.)
- This laptop has no moving parts inside. That's right, not even a cooling fan. This is amazing, and one of the most attractive features of a laptop for me. (This is actually what made me choose this laptop over a slightly more powerful one -- given the choice between 2 GB more RAM and a silent machine with no moving parts to fail or get dusty, I'll choose the latter.)
- A slightly annoying thing: the "turn display off" hotkey (Fn+F7) is just a software command, so it requires the OS to receive the keystroke and then generate and send the appropriate DPMS signal through the graphics card. I prefer the display on/off and brightness keys to be direct hardware controls so that driver issues (and being booted to a rescue USB stick) don't prevent that from working. But I can live this this.
- USB ports are not too close together, but they're not far enough apart to separate the worst offenders (USB devices with obscenely sideways-fat plugs). The USB ports are also only on one side, so if you do have an annoyingly fat flash drive, you may want to have a USB extension cable handy so it can't block your other port. I would have liked at least one more USB port on the other side.
- There is no Ethernet port, so you'll need to buy a USB NIC if you need that. I recommend the StarTech USB31000SPTB, as it's relatively cheap, USB3 and Gigabit Ethernet, works out of the box in most Linux distros and recent Windows, and has a USB3 pass-through port so you don't reduce your USB port count when using it.
- Hardware support in Linux: The wireless adapter, USB3 controller, internal eMMC drive, micro SD card reader, and on-board sound card are all supported out of the box in the latest version of Arch Linux, which means those devices are supported in recent Linux kernels. Debian can use them using a backports kernel, which is my current config and seems to be working well.
- A Canadian-specific thing: the keyboard has a US enter key shape and standard placement of the backslash/pipe key, rather than the annoying French/European vertical enter key. This is a rare find in Canada nowadays, so I recommend this laptop if you also dislike the French enter key and type backslashes and pipes a lot.
- This laptop will not boot from the SD card slot. That hasn't been important for me, but I thought I'd mention it.
- Middle-clicking on the built-in touchpad is surprisingly easy compared to most modern laptops -- clicking on the little white dividing line between the left and right sides of the touchpad always results in a middle-click. This is obviously very useful in Linux.
- The performance of the built-in eMMC drive (this machine's main storage) is good: 300 MiB/sec sustained read (and this was while feeding that data through sha256sum, so that's also a rough measure of its CPU speed); 110-200 MiB/s write speed. TRIM is supported and works well.
- The CPU virtualization extensions are exposed and can be enabled in the BIOS. If you run a lightweight main OS, you can comfortably run VMs (I run two VMs for web browsing simultaneously without problems).
- This laptop is UEFI boot only; there is no CSM boot option in the BIOS.
- The power button is a keyboard key, located where Del normally is. This is annoying and sometimes you hit it by accident, but it takes a little more force than the usual keys, so at least hitting it doesn't always result in the machine shutting down. You can probably also disable the ACPI shutdown even for that button, if your OS supports that.
Thetis Lake Perimeter Swim
So I swam around the entire perimeter of Thetis Lake - annotated map.
Maintenance advisory for 2002 Dodge Caravans
If you have a Dodge Caravan with these symptoms:
- Stalls at low speeds / when the accelerator pedal is gently depressed, but not with more assertive use
- Stalls when starting from standstill or when shifted from Park into Drive or Reverse
- When idling, gently touching the accelerator causes a drop in RPM and in some cases, a stall
- Stalling seems to happen more frequently in wet/damp/cold weather
- The above symptoms are worst when the car is cold, and gradually decrease or go away as the car warms up
- When idling, briefly and abruptly depressing the accelerator pedal to halfway and then letting go (to rev the engine) alleviates the above symptoms immediately most of the time
Check the Idle Air Control (IAC) valve to make sure it's clean and functioning. Cleaning it will probably alleviate the problem for at least a short while. If the problem recurs, check the plastic valance between the back of the hood and the windshield for cracks or unsealed sections -- the IAC valve is located directly below this, and if water can drip down from there, it can carry things like dirt and pollen into the IAC. (IACs are allergic to pollen.)
Air mattress invention
I think I invented something new today: on a survival exercise with search & rescue, I made an air mattress out of ziplock bags, lashed together with Gorilla tape and sandwiched between two tarps. This has the advantage of putting the user farther off the ground than most compact ground sheets, being a hell of a lot cheaper, and taking up less backpack room. (My original idea was to use a garbage bag of inflated balloons, but ziplock bags take a lot less lung effort to inflate.)
1046808 BC LTD VICTORIA
In case this information is useful to anyone: "1046808 BC LTD VICTORIA" is The Bent Mast pub at 512 Simcoe St., Victoria, BC. (For some reason they show up as a numbered company on credit card statements, even though their receipts say their business name.)
"Hope Amantine" recently posted a story called "A lesson in the OR that prepared this doctor to be a surgeon", and there's been some resulting controversy.
The original source material was then suppressed, and I have some things to say about that (in addition to mirroring the original story).
Software thought *not* vulnerable to CVE-2015-0235:
apache, cups, dovecot, gnupg, isc-dhcp, lighttpd, mariadb/mysql, nfs-utils, nginx, nodejs, openldap, openssh, postfix, proftpd, pure-ftpd, rsyslog, samba, sendmail, sysklogd, syslog-ng, tcp_wrappers, vsftpd, xinetd.
In addition to the above, I believe these are safe too (from my own inspections, so you might want to confirm this yourself / from another source):
- courier-imap: seems OK if you use the "-nodnslookup" option. gethostbyname is used in only one function, and that function is skipped if this option is set.
- rsync: gethostbyname appears only in one source file, and this file is apparently not used / not compiled in on a modern (newer than early 2000s?) system. tried deleting this file and compile ran find on an ancient gentoo system, so rsync is probably safe.
Wal-Mart Canada receipt tax codes (as of 2014-12-31)
I've seen the following letters on Wal-Mart receipts in (BC, Canada) as tax codes:
From this Facebook post, I tried out values for A, D, E, H, J, then worked out that C is also "both taxes" (it applies to BC Environmental Fees on electronics, etc., which are apparently taxable).
So, the table of values is:
Code Taxes Value (i.e. total price = [1 + Value] * [pre-tax price]) -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- A GST 0.05 J GST 0.05 C GST + PST 0.12 E GST + PST 0.12 D No tax 0 H No tax 0
(In case this is useful to anyone: To use this in a spreadsheet, put the letter code and value columns in next to each other -- suppose you put them in columns G, H, and I. Then if you have some price entries you can use them in a formula like this:
1 2 3 A 1.00 J =VLOOKUP(A1,$G$1:$I$6,3,0) B 0.03 A =VLOOKUP(B1,$G$1:$I$6,3,0)(This works in LibreOffice; I'm not sure about Excel.))
Ingredients (specifically colouring) for Strawberry Nesquik Syrup, UPC 0 55000 20024 0
Mostly for vegetarian-checking purposes (quoted from a reply from Nestlé customer service on 2014-12-19):
"The colouring used in our Nesquik is
- Strawberry: Red #40, and Blue #1.
- Chocolate: Caramel, Red #40, Blue #1, and Yellow #6.
(This was a rabbit-shaped red bottle, purchased in western Canada.)
Someone on my Facebook stream posted this graphic:
Here is my progression of thoughts while I puzzled it out (note that on first reading, I missed the fact that Ansari said "men and women"):
Still confused about this one. My best attempt to reconcile it so far is something like:
"workman" used to mean "worker" -> bad because using "man" to mean "person"
"feminist" used to mean "person who supports equal rights" -> OK because using "woman" to mean "person who needs equal rights" is accurate when men have more rights
future (some hypothetical time when equal rights achieved):
"feminist" used to mean "person who supports equal rights" -> bad because using "woman" to mean "person who needs equal rights" no longer accurate / not inclusive enough
...I'm still not inclined to use "feminist" in place of "equal rights supporter" for myself, though, because my daily thinking is not "women need more rights" but "women [a subset of all sapient beings that it should be unnecessary to draw special attention towards] inherently *have* equal rights. There are some stupid people out there who do draw distinctions between women and other people in order to give them fewer rights, but it is best to treat those stupid people as if what they are doing makes no sense, and point that out to them whenever possible."
The word "feminist" doesn't seem to fit that very well, any more than "supporter of rights for women who are left handed and have black hair and blue eyes" does -- sure, I would certainly support equal rights for women who have black hair and blue eyes, but why stop there?
Extending that, why stop at women? Responding to the graphic, my trouble with using "feminist" to mean "for equal rights" isn't that it's "too aggressive", it's that it isn't aggressive *enough*.
Or, if "feminist" is a language-literal-accuracy-exception meant to encompass the concept "why stop at women?", then why are some language-literal-accuracy-exceptions more OK than others? That is, I don't think anyone saying "workman" or "actor" actually thinks those words only refer to men; they are making a language-literal-accuracy-exception when they use them -- just as this post asks us to do for "feminist". So why is one OK and the other not? History / when the words were coined? Maybe.
Although, there is a parsing of this graphic that does make sense to me, and reconciles with all of the above: maybe Aziz Ansari is talking about subsets and supersets the same way I am, after all. "Feminist" isn't equal to "equal rights supporter"; it's a subset of it in the way that dermatology is a subset of medicine. If I'm a general doctor who treats everything, then when I treat a skin case I'm being a dermatologist.* If I'm a general supporter of equal rights and someone asks me how that applies to women, I'm a feminist.
Is that how it works? Because in that way, I'm quite comfortable calling myself a feminist.
[* This is where things don't quite mesh with Aziz Ansari's quotation -- Ansari doesn't say "general practictioner," or "doctor who treats all diseases," he specifically says "doctor who *primarily* does diseases of the skin" -- but, he also doesn't equate feminism with "equal rights for all sapient beings", he specifically says "men and women". This is a subset/specialization of what an "equal rights practitioner doctor" might do, and for our present culture the most relevant angle to male/female equality is to advocate for boosting female rights, so that's feminism.]
Footnote: Ansari's precision of language aside, I have seen it said online that "feminist" = "supporter of rights for all people" (and presumably extended to "all sapient beings"). I did some Googling to try and find reference to when the word could have taken on this extra meaning and was not successful. From what I can tell, "feminist" was certainly focussed on the "rights for women" side of things during the early parts of the movement. If it currently means more than that, it must have changed at some point... but I was not able to find any specific reference for this, and I also have not encountered any pre-2000 evidence of its use this way. My guess is that it's just a modern, post-Internet-age sloppy use of language thing. If anyone knows of some carefully considered writings or theory that make a case for using "feminism" to mean "equal rights for everyone and not specific to women", please let me know; I'd be interested to read it and will amend this appropriately.
PSA: Western Digital My Passport (2.5") USB drives not useable as laptop
drives; don't buy them
My supervisor at work recently bought one of these and discovered that the USB 3 interface is soldered to the drive itself and can't easily be removed to expose the SATA connector.
So, don't buy these drives: you won't be able to use them as laptop drives and more importantly, if something goes wonky, data recovery will be much more difficult.
Idea for a phone hold queuing system
A system for call priority when calling a large call centre (like Canada Revenue Agency, or any customer service line), where you normally have to wait on hold for a long time:
When you first call in, an automated system assigns you a unique code. You can then hang up.
Later you call back, and you give your code. Your call is then placed in the queue sequence, prioritized on how old your code is. That is, if you called and got your code 5 days ago, and everyone currently waiting on hold has only been waiting a day or two, you jump to the front of the queue.
This means that if you have a call about something that can wait a few days, you can avoid the large time investment of waiting on hold for 45 minutes — but if you do need to get something dealt with same-day, and a 45-minute wait is worth it, you still have that option.
This also opens up some interesting possibilities for secondary markets: People could call in, get a code, wait a month, then sell the code on eBay or something. "Need to talk to the tax people right freakin' now? Pay me $50 and you can!"
(But the part that I like about is that unlike those "leave us a callback number and we'll call you when it's your turn" systems, it bypasses the need for the remote party to call you back — automated callback systems don't seem to be all that reliable.)
Ingredients of Oh Henry bars, UPC 0 68000 79285 1
For allergen- and vegetarian-checking purposes, because these don't seem to be posted anywhere else online:
Ingredients: sugar, peanuts, corn syrup, modified palm oil and modified vegetable oil (shea, sunflower and/or safflower), modified milk ingredients, unsweetened chocolate, dextrose, high fructose corn syrup, modified palm kernel oil, soy lecithin, mono and diglycerides, salt, invertase, artificial flavour, disodium phosphate. then, two symbols: capital letter U inside a circle, capital D
(Date recorded: current as of 2014-02-24, in Victoria, BC, Canada)
Reading old-people writing
My wife and I just discovered a trick for deciphering my grandmother's nearly-illegible handwriting: Tilt your head and look at it from one side. Somehow the perspective change makes the words much more recognizable.
My mother has since confirmed that this is how my grandmother writes: looking at it slightly from the side.
City of Victoria, BC Parking Free after 18:00 (6 p.m.)
Public service announcement:
The city of Victoria website is a bit vague about this, but if you go to Parking > On-Street Parking, it does say "A pay station is to be used for short-term, on-street parking downtown, Monday - Saturday from 9 a.m. - 6 p.m." — I have called Parking Enforcement and confirmed that the correct interpretation of this is, in fact, that parking is free downtown after 18:00.
(This is one of those things that people who drive all the time just know, because they've learned it through experience... but for the rest of us, having it documented is nice, when deciding whether to bother taking a car into downtown on those rare evenings.)
Crypto teaching resources
I was recently assigned to prepare some cryptography materials for a class being taught at UVic. Some of these might be more widely useful:Cryptography teaching materials
Tour de Disaster
I rode in Tour de Disaster — a disaster preparedness exercise in Victoria, demonstrating the use of cyclists after an earthquake.
IL# ingredients on Christie/Kraft food products
Sometimes on ingredients lists you'll encounter something like "IL# B5082" at the very end. This is common on Kraft/Christie cookie packages, such as Oreos or Dad's brand. I've seen the following:
IL# B5082 - Oreos IL# B5086 - Oreos IL# J5023 - Dad's assorted cookies IL# J5027 - Dad's oatmeal cookies IL# J5022 - Dad's oatmeal chocolate chip cookies IL# J5021 - Dad's coconut cookies
At first glance these look just like the E-numbered ingredients found on Asian foods — but they're not ingredients at all. After I called the company, they told me that these are actually recipe numbers — they identify the specific process used to turn the aforementioned list of ingredients into the particular food in the box you've got. Kind of like express service tags on Dell computers; if you call in with a complaint or something it helps them narrow down where to look.
Short answer is, if you ended up here while trying to find out if some product is vegetarian-friendly, or you have an obscure allergy, and the only thing you're unsure about is the IL number, then you're OK: the IL number is not an ingredient.
The commissioner described it as
the most dynamic, most interesting
ceremony that [he's] ever prepared in [his] marriage career, and that's several
Do NOT paraphrase when calling tech support
It's very important that you always repeat exactly what you see on the screen when talking to tech support. Never simplify, paraphrase, or interpret it in any way.
Paraphrasing can turn a 5-second, free-of-charge support call into a 2-hour ordeal that ends up costing you $100 or more. It will make both you and the technician unhappy.
Here is an e-mail I sent to a user recently, giving an example of why paraphrasing makes problems take longer to solve.
Test your "secret questions" or "security questions" regularly!
So, I took a trip to England recently, and of course half of my various online accounts went into lockdown mode when I tried to sign on from a different continent. Unfortunately, account recovery mechanisms have a short shelf life:
If you set up your Facebook security questions a while ago, Facebook has randomly renamed them, so good luck working out which answer they want when you told them your mother's maiden name and they ask you who your first grade teacher was.
Yahoo questions were character-set restricted at some point, and any answers that contained non-alphanumeric characters or were longer than 32 chars now no longer work.
So, it's probably a good idea to artifically trigger an account lock *before* you go on a trip, just to see if your security questions actually work. It might also be a good idea to assume that all security question implementations were written by complete idiots (well, they'd pretty much have to be... anyone who thinks adding a way to bypass the password on an account using publically available information has to be an idiot), and use fairly few alphanumeric characters in your answers.
Oh, and some services just plain don't let you log in from afar, e.g. Equifax requires you to use a North American proxy server. Not sure what good credit monitoring is if you can't access it...
CASH ADVANCE FEE / you can't gamble with a credit card
I learned that there's a rule somewhere that "you can't gamble with a credit card" -- but this does not manifest as you being unable to pay for lottery tickets with a credit card. No. I bought my first ever lottery ticket on a random whim on my birthday, and the terminal looked exactly the same as the ones at the checkout lanes at this grocery store. Nothing was different about how the transaction went through, no warning messages anywhere, etc.
It even looked normal on my credit card statement -- except that below it was a "CASH ADVANCE FEE". I've never made a cash advance in my life, so I called them up, and apparently that's what that perfectly normal-looking transaction was treated as.
So yeah. Don't pay for anything remotely gambling-construable with your credit card.
Formula for the length of a Hamming code from message (i.e. data bits) length
Apparently this is not published anywhere. For a message of length d bits, a Hamming code will be this many bits:
length of hamming code = d + 1 + floor(log2(d+1+floor(log2(d))))
I derived this myself with not much mathematical rigour, so you might want to check it if you're gonna use it for something important. (I actually don't know how to derive it symbolically, or I'd post the derivation. I worked out this formula by sort of... throwing logarithms at the problem until it got better.)
Why cats save humans from house fires
I realized today what their thought process probably is, in those cases we sometimes hear about of cats saving their humans by waking them up when there's a fire.
My ex-mother-in-common-law was in the kitchen cooking, and set the smoke alarm off. Moritz (that's the cat) immediately came running from wherever he was out in the yard, to investigate. He associates the smoke alarm with food, because whenever it goes off, food is being prepared.
So, when there's a real fire and the alarm goes off, the cats wake up their humans because something isn't right: the food annunciator is sounding, but no one has prepared any food for them! The humans must be awoken at once to rectify this situation.
Here is a book related to the copyright kerfuffle from a few years ago. It's still relevant — and I've finally finished assembling a nice PDF of it (I meant to do it during the original kerfuffle, but it's been on the back burner ever since). The whole thing is available for free here, but in separate files per chapter. I combined them into one file, redid the cover graphic, added a table of contents, copied in all the "about the author" bits from the download website, and added document bookmarks. I think that's OK under the licence the original content was under :)
New Project: Food moulds that are harmless
Lamenting the death of the netbook
Turn off Google search auto-correct/auto-suggest
Lately, it seems that Google's "I think you meant this instead of what you actually searched for, so I'm not going to show you what you actually searched for" algorithm has gotten a lot more aggressive. This is bad, because it often leads to me concluding that there's no useful information on the topic I searched for.
For example, I use a PDF annotation program called Xournal. Recently I've seen talk of a new version called Xournal++. It's still in the early alpha stages, so when I got no useful results, I assumed that the developer hadn't released any info about it yet. Except...
Showing results for "xournal"
Search instead for "xournal++"
Dammit Google! If I hadn't wanted those two + signs there, I wouldn't have typed them!
Anyway, you can disable this nonsense by putting "&nfpr=1" in the search URL. This is easy to change in Opera; Firefox users will need to do a bit of hacking. (What does nfpr stand for? My guess is "no fucking proof-reading" :P)
This may well be the first time I've ever done this, but... This thing is
(Ultra USB 2.0 to IDE/SATA Cable for 2.5-Inch/ 3.5-Inch / 5.25-Inch Drive with Power Adapter)
It's a USB to any-kind-of-hard-drive adapter. That is, it's got a USB plug on one end, and all the kinds of hard drive connector mashed together on the other end. I just ordered one, because this is going to save me so much time disassembling USB enclosures (see below).
List of Cities in British Columbia by Regional District
I needed to code a list of 114 cities in BC with what regional district they belong to. This is not an exhaustive list of BC's cities, but if you ever need to do the same thing, this may save you some time.
Source/method: I snarfed the wikipedia page for each city, using a shell script like this:
cat cities.txt | while read l; do wget "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/$l"; sleep 4; doneThen, I parsed the regional district out of the files that had it (manually for a few of them). Finally, I looked up the remaining few using this Google map plotter and ran their locations against the official maps.
The cities file has each regional district spelled out in English, but each text string is exactly equal to the official name, so you can do a simple search/replace against the "official ID numbers" file to get the official codings.
(I didn't use the official ID numbers because they are duplicated for the Island/Mainland regions for the two that have this distinction, and we needed those separated in our database.)
Shaw hijacking NXDOMAIN responses
I have a Shaw cable connection, and today I was surprised to find myself here:
Shaw is hijacking NXDOMAIN responses. There's a whole bunch of literature out there about why this is bad and how it breaks the Internet. To disable it for your connection, go here:
On the extremely remote chance that anyone else needs this academic paper on the origins of the name 'Sahul' for the Australian tectonic plate, here it is. It was practically impossible to find, so I think that trumps copyright. (I think it's pretty old, too, so it should be in the public domain anyway. Of course it legally isn't, but that's because of Disney and Sonny Bono lobbied/bribed US legislators, not because of any actual good that comes to society from having indefinite copyright terms.)
The Author Actual Moneys Project posted 2011-03-16
Looking for an alternative to book piracy that still pays the authors for their work? Try this.
A short story posted 2010-03-11
(Fun fact: 'remainder' is a legal term in property/inheritance law. Look it up after reading the story.)
Disassembly instructions for Seagate "Expansion" ST310005EXA101-RK 9SF2A4-500 external hard drive posted 2010-01-04
Eventually I'm going to set up a sort of knowledge base where I can dump articles on
all the random things I discover while I'm working. Til then, I'm going to post this here
because I couldn't find instructions for this anywhere on Google and it was a bitch to
figure out without damaging the thing.
How to disassemble / open up the casing of a Seagate "Expansion" ST310005EXA101-RK 9SF2A4-500 external hard drive (PDF)
Downloaded flickr photo sorter posted 2009-11-07
So I had a substantial collection of unclassified, um, pictures, that I downloaded from Flickr, and I thought to myself, "Wouldn't it be nice if instead of having to sort through all these pictures, I could just have them automatically sorted by username?"
So I wrote this perl script to do just that:
ls *.jpg | flickr_classify.pl [a flickr session ID cookie] > outputfile
It'll work without the session ID cookie, but on pictures that you need to be logged in to see it'll return "Dont_know" or "No_permission_to_view" (you'll see those on other photos too; usually it means they've been deleted). Then view the output file in your favourite text editor to make sure it worked out alright, flip the mkdir lines up to the top, and run it as a shell script.
I highly recommend you run this script on a COPY of your, um, photo collection and then double-check that nothing got overwritten/deleted before keeping the results.
Disassembly instructions for Lacie 301304U external hard drive ("Design by Neil Poulton") posted 2009-08-10
Eventually I'm going to set up a sort of knowledge base where I can dump articles on
all the random things I discover while I'm working. Til then, I'm going to post this here
because I couldn't find instructions for this anywhere on Google and it was a bitch to
figure out without damaging the thing.
How to disassemble / open up the casing of a Lacie 301304U external hard drive (PDF)
Critical Mass Bike Ride, Victoria, BC posted 2009-08-01
I attended this event for the first time yesterday. First, Google, here are a number of things everyone needs to know about the Victoria Critical Mass ride:
- The meeting location is Centennial Square, by City Hall.
- The date is always the last Friday of any given month.
- While the usual time for these things is 17:30 (5:30 p.m.), the Victoria, BC one doesn't seem to start until about 19:00 (7:00 p.m.). The "official" meeting time is between 18:00 and 18:30, however, most people are half an hour to an hour late.
Now, some commentary (things that didn't impress me about the ride):
The turnout was very small for a city this size. I mostly blame this on our nonstandard starting time and conflicting information posted on those few websites that have it. See above for the correct information.
I know that running red lights is kind of a standard practice for Critical Mass, and it makes sense for a parade-like event, but the execution on the Victoria ride this month was very poor. We ran red lights that were red when we got there, i.e. deliberately biking out into cross traffic and stopping it. I had originally intended to set an example by waiting at reds, but the turnout was so small that I wouldn't have been able to keep up with the group if I did that (especially since they wouldn't wait at the next red, either).
At least one person repeatedly went into oncoming traffic. I didn't think that was a good idea. Ironically, though, he had more chance of being run over from behind than in front — by the pissy car drivers who didn't want to take a few minutes out of their day and roared into oncoming traffic themselves to get around us.
We were very rude to the horses. Victoria, BC has horse drawn tour carriages, and while the horses are probably drugged (or very well trained or so psychologically broken that they don't care about traffic), being mobbed by tens of small, shiny bicycles probably sucked for them. Critical Mass riders also kept their horns and bells going when we passed horses, further startling them. Several trainers/minders had to reassure their horses after we went past the main parking spot for the carriages.
In conclusion, since this is a decentralized event there's no one to complain to about things. Instead, I'll be talking about them to the crowd before we leave on next month's ride (since I'm as much an organizer as anyone else).
So we just had a big election in BC. From my point of view, we lost. It was
the saddest I've ever been after an election — I'm used to the person I
voted for not getting in, but this time we had a referendum on electoral reform
and the thing I voted for didn't get elected there either. I'll moan more about it
some other time, for now, here's a document I'm working on:
Why BC-STV failed (PDF)
As some who know me know, my strategy when I have a great idea for a business or a product is to immediately tell everyone I know. The hope is that someone with more free time, capital, or entrepreneurial drive will implement it so that I don't have to bother. I'm more concerned with bringing things into existence than owning and controlling them (which is why I hate patents and intellectual property in general).
Anyway, my idea is this: When you move, wouldn't it be great if you could just liquidate all your stuff instantly, and buy new stuff at the other end? No shipping, no worrying about stuff getting lost or broken on the way, and hey, a couch is a couch and a desk is a desk, right? (Obviously there are a few sentimental things that you'd want to really move, but the majority of our stuff really is just stuff.)
My idea is a kind of teleportation by logistics -- there could be a stuff escrow company (a national self-storage chain would be the ideal candidate, since they already have lots of space to keep stuff), that would record the transaction and then grant you all the replacement stuff when you get to your new city. Think of all the millions of litres of fuel and trucker time it would save.
Anyway, I'm going to go and tell a bunch of self-storage companies about this now; I just thought I should post it here first in case any of them got any ideas about patenting the process or something. Prior art!
So I thought of this all by myself last night, and was surprised to learn
that no one's ever thought of it before! (Says Google.) So the riddle is —
what animal is this?:
(Look at the image filename for the answer.)
Condoms in wallets
Why do people still do this? You'd think that several years of Google-assisted sex-ed would've put this (and a few other not-so-good traditions) to rest forever, but apparently not.
My boyfriend and I were on a bus back from the ferries the other night, when a fellow passenger sat on a wallet left by someone. In typically human fashion, he foisted it off on us as soon as we expressed any interest in being the ones to take responsibility, and naturally we started rifling through it.
(I'm the kind of person who likes to do his own detective work rather than turn stuff in to the lost & found — I believe [correctly or not] that I would put more effort into getting the one item returned than would the staff who deal in lost items by the bucketload.)
No useful ID, since the owner was a kid of 14 or 15, but we did find the clichèd condom. We did end up just passing it on to the lost & found, but not before I stole the kid's condom and left a note in its place:
Dude! Condoms in wallets = BAD IDEA
On the one hand, we might've just ruined some poor kid's First Time (I imagine him, all genuinely and justifiably horny and nervous for the first time, fumbling awkwardly into his wallet for... a note from a creepy random stanger with an odd sense of humour), but on the other (says my boyfriend) he's probably better off without that extra baby. Besides, maybe he'll find it amusing too.
My own take on the condom-in-wallet tradition? I keep a fragment of the wrapper from my first time :)
I love the fucking Russians
So today I finally decided to make an attempt at converting my small selection of Liquid Audio files to something that I could actually play. Most of you are probably thinking, "Liquid Audio? What's that?" and you're right -- Liquid Audio was an obscure format in its peak, and has been a totally dead format since before my boyfriend graduated from high school.
However, for a brief few weeks, a younger version of me (who didn't fully grasp the problem of DRM and closed media formats) thought that Liquid Audio offered the best audio quality per bitrate of anything out there. At that time, it was easy to find a Winamp plugin (there were Winamp plugins for everything back then, and this was before Microsoft forced them to lock down the Disk Writer so it couldn't be used on WMA files). I also found the "Liquifier" encoder, which, being the content creator side of things, conveniently ignored all playback restriction flags.
Back then, I was also naive enough to assume that CD's would last forever and that (and this is a worse assumption) people I lent things to would always return them.
I put all of my Liquid Audio software on one CD. Somebody lost that CD.
I hadn't listened to those Liquid Audio tracks in so long that I'd set up a new computer and not bothered to reinstall the player, Liquifier, etc.
Liquid Audio failed, went out of business, and their downloads section disappeared from the web. Because they were a closed, proprietary, sue-happy company as much as the next one, no one else was providing copies of those programs.
Enter 2008, me running Linux as my main OS, and the fucking Russians (btw, I don't mean that to sound offensive at all; it's more along the lines of "Russians are fucking AWESOME"). After some Googling, I found one download link to Liquifier version 5, in Google's cache of an old Russian warez site. Those Russians -- they don't care about North American copyright law at all, and it's thanks to them that bits of our culture can sometimes be saved where they would otherwise have been lost to the intellectual property mongers.
I'm going to take this opportunity to return the favour, and help anyone else who might have Liquid Audio files still locked up in DRM obscurity. Here, as my first foray into posting content that might get me sued, is Liquifier Pro and some assorted utilities:
WARNING! For all their usefulness, Russian warez sites do sometimes slip nasty things into programs. There's no guarantee that these files are completely safe, so I strongly recommend that you only use them in a virtual machine.
- Liquifier Pro v5.0 beta 24
- LQM to LQT converter for Liquifier 5
- Liquifier Pro v4.0.0 build 41
- LQM to LQT converter for Liquifier 4
- Total Recorder (lets you record a digital audio stream before it hits the sound card (i.e. losslessly))
Since Liquid Audio has been stone dead for years (at least as far as their player/encoder software goes), I don't think they'll care much. Also, for all its shortcomings, Canada's proposed copyright bill C-61 does enshrine violation of intellectual property for the purposes of interoperability, and I'd say rescuing people's dead music files counts.
Total Recorder seems to still be around so I might get a takedown notice from them, but we'll see. Hopefully they won't care about 7-year-old software that's 3 versions behind current and probably doesn't even run under Vista...
Stop bill C-61 please.
posted 2008-06-24 07:45 UTC
The Internet vs. the Library
Gary: "There was a famous quote at the time [1990's] that the Internet was like the Library of Congress, but with all the books thrown on the floor.
Felix: "Well, the Internet is still like the Library of Congress with all the books thrown on the floor, only now we have an autistic person who knows where he threw them — that being Google."
Update on the mudslide story
posted 2007-06-06 20:17 UTC
Turns out 2 people did die; buried under it in their truck. They were from Williams Lake and related to someone my mom knows. Archived here.
If I had spacial distortion technology...
posted 2007-06-05 21:30 UTC
...I would use it to put more stuff into my sandwich.
In other news, I wrote another short story (an episode in the Feline series); it should be up on AnthroArchives.org soon. It's called "Werecat!".
100 000 words!
posted 2007-06-03 03:09 UTC
Well, perhaps I will finish my novels within a year — I crossed the 100 000 word mark today in book 1. (For anyone not up to speed on that, I'm writing a trilogy of novels about werecats.)
I also tried to find something similar to what I'm writing in the library the other day, just to see what it was like. Apparently I was right when I said no one ever thinks of werecats — I can't find any examples of novel-length fiction that feature werecats that aren't just including them because they have werewolves and a miscellany of other werecreatures. Maybe I really am doing something new here?
Mud/Rock Slide Near Terrace
posted 2007-05-29 21:02 UTC
event in question 2007-05-28 15:30 UTC
The details, as I've heard them so far:
- location: Highway 16, 37km east of the junction between 16 & 37, in Terrace [says Terrace Standard]
- dimensions: 15m deep, 40–25m wide [says e-mail forward]
- composition: looks like rocks, trees, & mud to me :)
- casualties: none [says Opinion 250]
- total volume that needs to be removed to reopen the road: 25 megalitres (metric baby, yeah) [says Opinion 250]
- alternate route around it? yes, via "Cranberry Connector" (a logging road, 50km long and unpaved) [says Terrace Standard]
Pictures (click for bigger):
Wouldn't it be easier to just find a real crab?
2007-05-29 06:18 UTC
Bay Street Bridge Fire
2007-05-29 02:18 UTC
So the Bay Street bridge caught fire Sunday evening; pictures:
Dream: (possibly related to watching The Fountain with my roommate last night): I dreamt I was in the plotline of Titan, but most of the cast were characters from Lexx., including me (I was Kai). I remember doing something like the tai chi dance scene among the background of stars from that scene in The Fountain (I'll get a still of it later) while singing the Brunnen G chant.
The Fountain: Good movie; I'd recommend it... my roommate and at least one of his friends call it the "best movie made so far;" I'd be a bit reluctant to call it that, but then again, they're Lit majors ;) I will say that it has some of the things the best movie ever made will need, though (namely snow, a woman with short hair, love, death, and the aforementioned starry sky).
Favourite word this very minute: mondegreen
2007-05-27 21:08 UTC
I bought this honey this morning that I just had to blog about: the non-drip spout looks like something out of Lexx.
Here it is passing gas:
...and here it is in action:
Here is the whole container, next to a tub of margerine with a questionable slogan on it:
No, Parkay, I don't know™... pray tell. They probably can't without upsetting the Butter Lobby:
In the United States, the color bans, drafted by the butter lobby, began in the dairy states of New York and New Jersey. In several states, the legislature enacted laws to force margarine manufacturers to add pink colorings to make the product look unpalatable, but the Supreme Court struck down New Hampshire's law and overruled these measures. By the start of the 20th century eight out of ten Americans could not buy yellow margarine, and those that could had to pay a hefty tax on it. Bootleg colored margarine became common, and manufacturers began to supply food-coloring capsules so that the consumer could knead the yellow color into margarine before serving it.[from Wikipedia:Margerine. It's missing a citation, but we have a similar silliness in Quebec, so I believe it. If it were up to me, all food dyes that serve no purpose beyond changing a food's colour would be illegal — if our food is grey, then let our food be grey, I say! The truly ironic thing is that most butter is also artificially coloured.]
Favourite word this very minute: malapropism
Turn Signals a la xkcd
Watch the leading car in the left turn lane and the van behind it — sorry the quality's so bad, I took this freehand with auto-focus on, shooting through a dirty bus window, and with almost no space left on the camera.
Egg in the Microwave
This is from a while ago; mostly using it to test video embedding.