Sunday, February 26, 2012

Emacs Documentation Oddity: Basic Display

At, the description for command-line option --basic-display says:

Disable the menu-bar, the tool-bar, the scroll-bars, and tool tips, and turn off the blinking cursor. This can be useful for making a test case that simplifies debugging of display problems.

That may all be true, but once one learns how to use emacs, the menu bar, the tool bar, the scroll bar, and tool tips only waste screen real estate and are completely, 100% superfluous.

Saturday, February 25, 2012


According to Freeman [1] the word 'protocol' comes from the Greek proto (first) and kolla (glue) and indicated the first sheet of a roll of papyrus whose sheets are glued together. It "listed the contents of the manuscript and its purport." The American Heritage Dictionary [2] concurs. The reason this caught my attention is that in most network protocols the first part of a packet is generally the header, which also lists its contents.

[1] Morton S. Freeman, The Story Behind the Word, ISI Press, Philadelphia, 1985, pp. 218-219.
[2] The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, fourth edition, Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, 2006, p. 1410.

People Don't Really Do This, Do They?

Yeah, I know, they really do. I was meandering about in Yelp and clicked on find friends. Yelp wants full access to my Gmail account, with which they would do ... something.

It's not clear if they would tell me which of my contacts have yelp accounts, or send them e-mail, or what. They are clear that they do not store my Gmail password, but say nothing else about what they do. And since many online providers have been penetrated, and since many online providers mislead users about how they respect their users' privacy (see Google's recent subversion of Safari security settings for a recent example, or Facebook's historic lack of regard for their users), it's foolish to give one service complete access to another service.

So with my Google password comes access to Gmail, Blogger, Picasa, Docs, etc. Nope, not giving that out to another service, and especially not one that doesn't explain it's intended use for said password.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Allowing Apps Access to Accounts

EFF points to an interesting article The Perpetual, Invisible Window Into Your Gmail Inbox which talks about pitfalls of allowing apps access to one's Gmail, Twitter, Facebook, etc., accounts. It's a good read, though my basic advice is don't give access to your e-mail to any app. However, with a smart phone the temptation might be great.

One of the sites mentioned there is I recently deleted my Google+ account and barely use my Windows Live account, so the only account of interest there was LinkedIn. It turns out they think I had given access to two applications, an event announcement app and a survey app. They are probably both innocuous, but I was never aware of giving them access, and actually like the idea of getting rid of their useless event announcements, so I was able to disable them. Also, looking through my LinkedIn settings, I saw a number of settings that they had chosen for me by fiat, as I never would have chosen to allow e-mail from partners, for example. All that is cleaned up, but apparently bears revisiting from time-to-time.

In my Gmail account I had sharing among various Google services enabled and the ability to use my Google account to log in to some services enabled. Basically, if my Google account is penetrated, other dominoes fall.

Yelp Mute on Full Sail University

Full Sail University is a non-accredited degree mill that has good ratings at A friend asked about them so I looked them up. I noticed that yelp had reviews, and was surprised at how positive they were. However, it turns out that most of the reviews were quite negative, as one would expect for a school that exists largely to separate students from their money. However, yelp had filtered most of the negative reviews. Most disturbing.

Note: Full Sail might take issue with the non-accredited statement at the opening, but they're not accredited by a regional accrediting body and so their credits will not transfer to a real college or university. For all practical purposes, they are unaccredited.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Thunderbolt (1947)

This is a very good documentary about US P-47 pilots flying from Corsica during the second world war. It outlines the goals and how they planned to attain the goals of cutting off German supply lines in Italy, gives one a feel for how the pilots lived, and provides very good war footage. You can stream it from the Internet Archive:

As Seen on the Daily Show

In this video, posted on youtube by RickSantorum, and approved by Rick Santorum, Rick Santorum spreads santorum on Mitt Romney:

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Threat of Literalism

Ken Kovacs wrote a very interesting piece in a local newspaper, which greatly deserves a wider audience:

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Ad Attitude

If it moves or makes noise, kill it.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Virginia Senate Votes to Loosen Gun Sale Restrictions

In a move suggesting a belief that not enough innocent people have been killed in Blacksburg over the last decade, the Virginia State Senate has voted to remove the limit of one gun purchase per month. The hope is that the state can become a gunrunner's paradise.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Escaping from the Google+ Minus

Sharing Picasa albums doesn't work well with Google+. When I would send a link to an album, the receiver would be redirected to a Google+ photo page. The album maps would be removed, and the user would have to click to see entire captions. Almost as bad was a big, obnoxious entreaty to join Google+ at the top of the page. This morning I deleted my Google+ profile, which I never saw a practical use for anyhow, and Picasa is returned to full functionality.

Above I said that I had never seen a practical use for Google+. This is not strictly true. A few months ago I had circles and stuff, and would have been fine with it, but the Gmail page would always announce activity among those in my circles. It was distracting, and though some of what was going on was interesting, little of it related to anything that needed the sort of immediate attention Gmail seemed to suggest.

Our Recent Trip to Northeast Italy (and Slovenia)