Monday, August 29, 2011

I've Found Religion: Google Voice!

I take Spanish and occasionally other stuff at the local community college and have signed up for their alert system. I get the alerts in e-mail and to  my cell phone, which turns out to be inconvenient since, for example, this morning they called at 5:45 (this is voice, not text). By changing the number they have for me from my cell to my Google Voice number I am easily able to tell GVoice to send anything from their number directly to voice mail.  It worked this afternoon:

Ain't technology grand? As usual the audio is easier to decipher than the text, but they don't do that bad with the text: "done dot" is Dundalk, "s 6" is Essex, and "K this bill" is Catonsville.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Pointy-Headed Boss Loses Again!

I just saw a LinkedIn update where a boss and a worker disagreed on the utility of LinkedIn. The boss said he would give the employee $1 for each "like" he received. Here's the current tally:

So the boss owes over $16k and counting. I'm not sure what the number of "likes" has to do with the utility of LinkedIn, but it was amusing enough to click "like." I wonder how much Ben Lugavere will end up collecting.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Mild Surprise: Deleted Picasa Photos Show up in Google Docs Trash

I was looking at my Google Docs trash and noticed a number of images. They appear to be images deleted from Picasa. Picasa's delete dialog still uses the term 'delete' rather than 'trash', but it no longer warns that the action is irreversible.

Chrome: Blocking HTML Referer [sic]

It's easy to block HTML referrers in  Firefox: visit about:config and set network.http.sendRefererHeader to zero.

It's easy to block referrers in Opera: Make sure "Send Referrer Information" is unchecked at Opera | Settings | Quick Preferences

So how about Chrome? The man page is incomplete, not saying how to do this.

Googling sent me to a a Chrome extension. I have no reason to trust the author of that extension, so I looked a little more.

The answer is, surprise, in the Chrome help forum,

The thing is, I don't usually start Chrome from the command line, and I don't recommend doing so. If Chrome (or Firefox, or Evince, etc.) are given a command shell, they dump gobs of junk to, probably, stderr. So it's necessary to change the shortcut from which Chrome starts. Gnome instructions follow; Windows instructions, untested, are here. [ Note added 2012-09-10: I think the following is incorrect and that Firefox does require an extension to block referers. Bad Firefox, bad. Original text: I do not endorse their method of blocking referrers in Firefox, as it is simply not necessary to install an extension to do this. ]

In System | Preferences | Main Menu | Internet (your system may vary) right-click on Google Chrome. Add --no-referrers to the end of the command line. Kill Chrome. Restart Chrome through the updated shortcut.

On referrers: this is from a time when the Internet was a less dangerous place. I have trouble seeing how this was ever a good idea, but now it is simply an invasion of privacy. It isn't likely that any subsequent version of HTML will drop this, but it would be nice if browsers would default to not sending referrer information.

A note on the misspelling 'referer': the word was misspelled in RFC 1945 (!996 Berners-Lee, Fielding, Frystyk), which is a bit odd since they spelled 'referred' correctly. Wikipedia says the misspelling originated in a different document, by a different author. Fielding says that neither 'referer' nor 'referrer' were in the UNIX spell program at the time. I thought by 1990 everyone was using ispell or aspell; okay I never actually thought that. Paper dictionaries weren't available at the time? I'm just happy to not have my name as prominently associated with a dumb little mistake like this. Of course, it is just a dumb little mistake.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Considering Dropping My ACM Membership

Over the past few weeks I have occasionally pondered whether I should let my ACM membership expire this fall. I would continue my IEEE-CS and CCSC memberships. I really like ACM Computing Surveys, but IEEE Computer is consistently more interesting than CACM, and by a wide margin. I was reminded of this today walking through the CS department and stumbling across the 3/1976 issue of the CACM on a table. Here is the beginning of the table of contents from that issue:

Yes, kiddies, once upon a time CACM published real research. Now it's mostly fluff, mostly not from CS departments. This change occurred around 1990 or thereabouts. At the time I had a brief dialog with Stu Zweben about this, and he said the change in focus from CS was in order to appeal to a wider audience. Stu was faculty at Ohio State, where I was a grad student, and soon thereafter he became ACM president. Around the same time a letter to the CACM forum  referred to the CACM as having become P.A.M., pabulum for all members. IMHO pabulum is a reasonable description, and a sticking point is that CACM is still required for ACM membership.

With the decline of the CACM, the ACM gradually ceased to provide a general overview of computing research. Fortunately, IEEE Computer continues to fill that niche. So I maintain my ACM membership to receive Computing Reviews and out of a likely outdated notion that a computer scientist should belong to the ACM. UMBC does not reimburse me for the membership, but it is tax deductible, and there is a sister-society discount for belonging to both the ACM and the IEEE-CS. Still I do not get much for my membership dollar from the ACM.

I will have to verify that it is still not possible to belong to the ACM and yet not receive CACM, and also to see if I can get Computing Surveys at a reasonable price (or electronically gratis as UMBC faculty) before making my final decision.

Quality of Research Publications

In the '90s when I was active in parallel computing (compilers, algorithms, architectures) I had the perception that the number of parallel computing publications was multiplying to fill the market, and the growth had little to do with the number of quality papers produced in the field. Maybe this was necessary for the increasing numbers of researchers seeking tenure, but I think it hurt the quality of research in the field.

It was hard to tell which tail was wagging what, but researchers "needed" more publication venues, and libraries and researchers "needed" to subscribe to more journals.

August 5 NPR's Science Friday, there was a pair of guests talking about retractions in science journals. An interesting comment one of them made was that with more publication venues, especially with the growth of online publications, the number of items to be reviewed is growing faster than the number of reviewers. This must impact quality in a negative fashion.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Skydrive/Windows Live or Google?

For the past month or so I've been using Microsoft's Skydrive to save files online for transfer among systems and off-site backup. I have a free gigabyte there. I've also been occasionally using Google Documents for this purpose. In each case, what I transfer is an encrypted compressed tarball, and I saw little difference in terms of performance or convenience.

Today I've decided to stop using Skydrive--it's too unreliable. Two of the last three times I've tried an upload (using Chrome from an Ubuntu box) the transfer to Skydrive has stalled. Each time, when giving it extra time, I've opened a tab and Windows Live informs me that if I leave the page the upload will be canceled. WTF? I was leaving that tab open and going somewhere else.

Until yesterday I would have said I like Skydrive, and that it's nowhere near as clunky as Outlook Live, which is very retro, and very limited in what it allows one to do. Now, I think I can say Microsoft online services are to be avoided.

Do these work better with IE on a Windows machine? Probably, but that defeats the purpose of a web-based service. Why might they work better with IE/Windows? Possibly ActiveX, and intrusive access to the PC.

Stupid Chrome Tricks

I'm using Chrome 14.0.835.15 dev on Ubuntu 10.04 LTS and I viewed a web page today, the bottom left of which looked like this:

Chrome wasn't rendering the ñ in enseñar correctly. However, I took this screen shot with the mouse pointer hovering over the link to enseñar.jpg, and at the bottom, it was rendering the word correctly. So Chrome halfway knew what encoding was in use. I went to Wrench|Tools|Encoding, and it claimed a UTF-8 encoding. Odd, this word should be rendered correctly with that encoding. I changed the encoding to ISO 8859-15, which was no better. Then I changed it back to UTF-8 since as default encodings go, that seems a good choice. Voila! The page was rendered correctly.

Apparently Chrome only said it was using UTF-8 initially, but after changing away from UTF-8 and then back, it suddenly really was using UTF-8.

Firefox 3.6.18 on the same system worked fine.

Another amusing thing is that Chrome on a Windows 7 system I occasionally use, when rendering the same page, says the original is in Afrikaans, and offers to translate it to English. Does Spanish look that much like Afrikaans?