Saturday, July 26, 2008

Gnome's Messed-Up GLSlideshow

For some inexplicable reason, in Ubuntu 8.04, the screen saver GLSlideshow has no configuration options. There's a long discussion of this issue in the Ubuntu Forums, suggesting that a lot of people have found this perplexing. I think the best how-to on managing GLSlideshow is provided by Bits 'n Pieces.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Mark Berg Climbs Kilimanjaro

First, the Boston Herald article
The NHL has a day-by-day log of the trip:
[ Added 2011-12-30: the NHL seems to have deleted the day-by-day log, but they have a video, likely shot by Mark, at ]

Memorex: Explain This, Please...

I had need for CD-Rs and the only brand at the University bookstore was Memorex. I had very bad luck with their 5.25" floppies in the early or mid '80s, but that was a different item a long time ago. The cylinder's wrapping said "Cool Colors." Fine. Like I care. It turns out I do care. Several of the CDs are black. How exactly do I write on those? I don't think it matters what color Sharpie I use, it's not going to show up.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Considering Google AdWords?

A post at Securosis suggests that maybe it's really not worth it.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Privacy Naiveté

The State Department has placed RFID chips in the identity card usable for surface travel between the US and Canada or Mexico. On the page Where they describe this card they state have the following question and answer: Won’t this chip violate Americans’ privacy?

There will be no personal information written on the electronic chip itself. The chip will have only a unique number pointing to a stored record contained in secure government databases.

However the card will have a unique identifier--the number State is using as a database key--and this number can be used to track specific individuals and to detect the proximity of a US citizen. Carrying one of these outside a Faraday cage will threaten the bearer's privacy.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

OpenOffice Calc 2.4.1 Read Only Mode

As long as I'm on the topic, another aspect of OO 2.4.1 Calc that can only be considered a bug is that when one opens a spreadsheet in read-only mode, it's not possible to select and copy parts of a formula from the formula box. The closest one can come, so far as I can tell, is to copy the entire formula out of a cell. Why can't I copy read-only text? This is a copy I'm trying to do, not a cut, not a modification.

Disabling OpenOffice's Stupid Autocomplete

[ An updated version of this information appears here. ]

With autocomplete, OpenOffice has managed to make a completely useless, very annoying behavior default. They've also done a good job of hiding the menu options to disable the "feature," and have hidden it in different places in different tools. This is a case where consistency would reduce the impact of a stupid default. Anyhow, as others have mentioned, whenever I'm using a freshly-installed OpenOffice (e.g., after installing a hopefully less-buggy version of Ubuntu), OpenOffice reminds me how much I dislike this "feature." And I spend too much time hunting down how to kill it.

First, in OO Writer it's not really that well hidden. Copied from * Tools -> AutoCorrect/AutoFormat… * Word Completion tab * Uncheck “Enable word completion” 

Unfortunately, this doesn't disable the "feature" in OO Calc, and the OO Calc option is very well hidden. Today I really was having trouble figuring it out--it is, of course, not in what passes for help in OO--which led me to via Google. From their blog entry: Tools -> Cell Contents -> AutoInput

Of course, this is the root of the problem: we're supposed to magically know that in OO Calc they call it autoinput rather than autocomplete. What, if anything, are the OO folks thinking? This has been a usability problem and unnecessary time sink for a lot of people for a long time now. When will they disable it by default, or at least make it possible to find the option in OO Calc? Or maybe talk about disabling it in OO Help?

Charter Communications' Unethical Browser Hijacking

Tony Bradley at has a very interesting article on how his ISP is hijacking Microsoft's Windows Live Search. This is a very good example of why we need strong net neutrality laws.

Friday, July 4, 2008

What's Wrong With This Sentence?

Sentence: "Sequoia blamed the discrepancy on pollworker error and said the problem could be fixed with a software update, but state clerks wanted a third-party investigation." Context: A Computerworld article describing irregularities in the February NJ presidential primaries in which the electronic counts in Sequoia machines didn't match the paper log counts of votes.

According to Computerworld, the county clerks had asked Princeton's Ed Felton to look into the matter, but, hearing this, Sequoia threatened legal action saying that Felton's investigation would violate the terms of the licensing agreement. Upon asking the NJ AG for help in dealing with Sequoia, Sequoia chose an outside firm--one of their choice--to analyze the systems and deliver the result to Sequoia and the AG's office. The article closes Even if pollworker error was to blame for the voting discrepancy, the issue should still be addressed, Dressler said. "There should be a fail-safe measure so the election workers can't do that." "This is too important of an issue to be swept under the carpet," he added. "If there is any issue with the Sequoia machines, we should shed a light on it."

Oh, and what was wrong with the sentence? Fixing human error with a software update seems tenuous at best, and it totally ignores the issue of that particular election.