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My friend Sumana Harihareswara is working on a geeky standup comedy routine (“about project management, Linux, relationships, Agile, public transit, science fiction, and These Kids Today”), and needs an audience of science fiction and computer nerds in front of whom to practice it.

To that end, she’ll be performing for half an hour, starting at 7 PM, on Thursday, April 21st, at Seaburn Bookstore, 33-18 Broadway, in Astoria. Looks like it’s near the Broadway stop on the N/Q, and the Steinway stop on the M/R. I know a bunch of you live in or near Astoria, so heads up. Chris and I are going to be there. (I might also show at Pacific Standard on Friday, since I can walk there.)

I'm back

Aug. 17th, 2009 09:35 pm
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I have successfully raised my computer from the dead.

Seems it was just the hard drive. I swapped out the old, dead 100 GB drive for the 320 GB drive I had sitting around. There were a lot of screws involved, and I had to zip out to the hardware store at one point to get a better #00 Phillips-head screwdriver than the one I was using, but aside from that things went pretty well. Oh, and Migration Assistant bogged down while porting my Applications folder across, so I had to finish that up by hand.

So I’m back, with 200+ GB of free hard drive space that I don’t know what to do with.

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So I hauled my laptop to Tekserve (saving NYC Mac-owners' asses since 1987), and the helpful guy at the repairs counter was successful in getting my machine to boot off a network volume. He ran some diagnostic tools (fsck?) and concluded that my hard drive is horked. He was unable to figure out why I couldn't boot from an install DVD; that's apparently something that happens sometimes when a hard drive goes bad, or it may mean my DVD drive went bad too in a display of component solidarity. But it doesn't seem to be the logic board, which is what I'd been fearing.

This is actually good news! It just so happens that I've got this old replacement hard drive that I ordered last year when I started running low on drive space. When I saw how much of a pain in the ass it was to swap drives out in this model, I just deleted a bunch of unnecessary files instead, and wound up never installing it, but it's still sitting right here a few feet behind me.

It also just so happens that I've got a replacement DVD drive sitting in our study, as well. I ordered this three years back, after some books fell on my laptop and I thought my DVD drive was damaged. (Damn, there's some decent drawing on that page. I need to get back up to that skill level.)

Since I'm doing all my repairs myself, Tekserve didn't charge me anything for the twenty minutes or so of staff time I took up. (The Coke machine still isn't working, though.)

The next step is figuring out a way to print out the PDF I've got on my desktop (and therefore on my backup drive) that tells me how to open up my machine. Then, I need a large, clean, flat surface. There's a special tool -- something like a dental pick -- I'm supposed to use to disengage catches above the DVD slot, and nobody sells it, but I think I can improvise something out of a paper clip.
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With LiveJournal’s new owners announcing that LJ will no longer allow the creation of new Basic accounts, lots of people are upset over the prospect of having to look at ads. For those of you lagging behind the leading edge of web browser technology, here’s a solution:

Step 1: Firefox if a free open-source web browser available for Windows, MacOS X, and Linux. (If you use Linux, you already know all about it, so just skip right on to some other post.) Download and install it. It’s free. Costs no money. Since it’s open-source, it’s highly customizable with lots of themes and add-ons, which brings us to…

Step 2: AdBlock is a free add-on for Firefox that allows you to block ads from showing up when you browse the web.

Special for Mac users: If you don’t want to leave Safari, you can still block ads! SafariBlock is a Safari add-on based on AdBlock. Or try Ad Subtract, which uses CSS to hide ads.

Another reason to use browser extensions: Y’know how when a LiveJournal post gets a lot of comments, LJ starts hiding some of them, and you need to keep clicking to unfold the hidden comments? Doesn’t that annoy the crap out of you? Here’s what you do:

Now those long comment pages will get an “Unfold All” link at the top of the comments. Click that, and it all unfolds. (In my experience, this doesn’t work perfectly — a few comments stay folded — but it works pretty well.)

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Sad iPod iconSo I was walking down 9th Street this afternoon, and I pulled my iPod out of my pocket, and it wouldn’t turn on. This is pretty typical behavior now if I’ve left it sitting for more than a day; I have to soft-reset it to get it on. So I soft-booted, and it came up, but none of my music was showing, as if I’d done a hard reset and wiped the drive. I was pretty sure I hadn’t, so I tried soft-resetting it again. This time it came up with the sad iPod icon. Uh oh.

Once I was home, I tried again. Sad icon, and this time I could hear a noise, sort of “Vooo-click-click. Vooo-click-click.” Not a happy sound. Repetitive clicking like that is generally the sound of severe hard drive fuckage.

I looked around a bit on the net. My iPod’s well out of warranty, which means Apple would just charge me $250 and swap me for a new one. For $250 I could just buy a nice new 30GB video iPod, which I have kinda been lusting for, but the rumor mill has it that high-capacity flash iPods will soon be available, and I’d rather wait for one of those if I’m gonna spend money on a new device. (Leaving aside the question of whether I should be spending that much money on a luxury at the moment, which I really shouldn’t.)

So I googled for “ipod ‘hard drive’ failure”, and turned up this article on the Low End Mac site. The guy talks about exactly the problem I was having (sad icon, clicking sounds) with exactly my model of iPod (40GB iPod photo). Turns out it’s a five minute fix, if you can manage to pry the iPod open. It’s a bit of work with a screwdriver, and then you jiggle and re-seat a cable, then snap the iPod back together. Worked like a charm. All my music was even still there. I’m wondering if maybe the needing-a-soft-reset behavior will stop now, too.

Next project: Replacing my laptop’s CD/DVD drive.

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For a while (a few days, I think) my email address is going to be:

agrumer and then
an AT and then
gmail and then
a DOT and finally
a com, and man isn't that a pain in the ass.

And not long after that I'll be looking for yet another domain registrar. And holy crap, do I not recommend Dotster.

I've been generally annoyed at Dotster because they keep sending me spam about getting .info or .biz or whatever domains, and 000Domains offered a better price, so when grumer.org came up for renewal in March, I transferred. There was some hassle with the transfer, Dotster authorize losing the domain, but a call to tech support cleared that up. Or so I thought.

I'd gotten the email message saying that the transfer had gone through. Dotster kept sending me email warning me that the domain was about to expire, but since they were (I thought) no longer the registry, I ignored it, figuring it was some kind of database bug. Turns out I was wrong on both counts.

Last night, grumer.org stopped resolving, and I was unable to log into my 000Domains account. I fired off some email to 000Domains tech support. I accidentally left the grumer.org address as the reply-to, because gMail's settings feature is still a bit rough. This morning I realized what I had done, so I resent it with the gMail reply-to.

By about 3 PM I still hadn't received a reply, so I phoned customer support. Turns out that Dotster had bought 000Domains a few weeks ago. Also turns out my domain had expired, and was in the reconciliation grace period, and I was gonna have to pay $100 to get it out. This could have been a lot worse. Reconciliation is a new feature of the domain expiration process; before that, my domain would have just expired, some squatter would have picked it up, and I might have been lucky to get it back for $1000.

To make matters weirder, when I log into my Dotster/000Domains account through Dotster, I don't see either of the domains I have registered with them, just grumer.info, which is a freebie Dotster is giving me in the hope that I'll decide to register it when it expires at the end of the year.

So once all the issues resolve and I can be certain my domains are out of limbo, I'm jumping ship again. Not sure where to. Probably Dreamhost, since I'm using them for hosting. First I have to call them and make sure they aren't using Dotster for registration.

Update: OK, that's done with. The domain's back up, the mail's going through on the usual address.

And the thing may have been my fault. It's possible that the problem was me not updating the credit card info with Dotster. Or a combination of that and their having bought 000Domains. I may stick with them, since they've been really quick about resolving the technical issues once I complained.


May. 3rd, 2005 09:24 pm
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One of the things I’ve been fiddling with over the past few months is seeing how many of my computing needs I can offload onto some free or cheap web app that I can access from home or work, on whatever operating system is handy (provided it’s got a modern browser). The ones I’ve been using a lot are:

Google’s free email service, which I have thoroughly adapted to.
A social bookmark manager. I’ve stopped using my local bookmarks file for anything but bookmarklets and the stuff I use every damn day. And the ability to subscribe to other users’ bookmarks is a great source of new links.
Yeah, this counts.

Another I just subscribed to today, but haven’t found a use for yet:

A personal information management site. For free, you can get your own little wiki-like site as many as five pages with specialized features for to-do lists and reminders. Lots of cool integration — you can have your reminders sent to you by email or SMS to your phone, or exported to an iCalendar, and each page gets a unique email address you can use to add stuff to it, or even (for paid users) email it files and images. And you can share pages with other Backpack users. The site just went live today, and the servers were really getting hammered for most of the afternoon. They seem to have gotten the problem straightened out by the evening, so you might as well sign up for a free account while there’s still a chance of getting your preferred user name.

A few more I’m not using:

From 37Signals, the same people who made Backpack, this is a project manager aimed at businesses. You can get a free account that lets you manage one project.
Ta-da List
Yet another 37Signals project. A free to-do list manager.
A wiki with simple integrated applications. I think. They don’t let you see the advanced tour till you join, and you’ve got to apply as a beta tester to join. When it goes live it’ll cost $5/user/month, so I’m giving it a miss.
Probably the most popular web app I’m not using. I’m just not into photo-sharing, and I’m turned off by having to pay for more than whatever the limit is on most recent number of pictures accessible.
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Best political blog post of the month: “In Other News, the Check is In the Mail” by Jim Henley

Best browser add-on of the month: Destroy Target by Sergi Meseguer, which strips target="_blank" out of links. I’ve been wanting this since about ten minutes after Netscape introduced frames. First get Firefox, then install the Greasemonkey extension. You might also want to browse this collection of Greasemonkey user scripts.

Best music download of the month: CD-quality MP3 rip of Fiona Apple’s Extraordinary Machine, which her label has been refusing to release for two years. “Promote the progress of science and useful arts” my ass.
Runner-up: “Sixteen Military Wives” video by The Decemberists.

Best new webcomic discovery of the month: [livejournal.com profile] normallife, who really needs to find herself a better image host.
Runner-up: No Rest for the Wicked by Andrea Peterson.

Coolest hack of the month: Using the motion detector in new PowerBooks to control iTunes by tilting the laptop. Makes me want a new PowerBook right now.
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From Steve Lambe: the best picture of Mr Magoo ever.

Greasemonkey is an extension for Firefox that lets you run arbitrary DHTML in viewed pages. In other words you can add stuff, delete stuff, change function, fix bugs, whatever, on whatever pages you want. People have written a bunch of user scripts already that you can install with a simple right-click.

The Lazy Way to Success: “Hard work is passé.” I think I’m doing it wrong.

Top 10 Most Dangerous Locations for Manhattan Pedestrians, 1995-2001. Number 1 is the intersection of Park Avenue and East 33rd Street. I believe it; there’s an exit for the 6 train right next to where the underpass lets out.

Have I mentioned Garlicster already?
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My roommates were just listening to a filk concert being webcast live from Consonance. How long before we get live webcasts of open filking, and people listening from home (probably Tom Smith, typing so fast he melts his keyboard) compose new songs and email or IM them to people with laptops at the filk, who then perform them?

Abrupt subject change: Wouldn’t “Brother of Jared” be a great name for a Mormon rock band? Or maybe ex-Mormon.
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Testing Hblogger, which ought to let me post to LJ from my Palm. Just in case I can't go five days at Worldcon without posting.

[Posted with hblogger 2.0 http://www.hexlet.com/]
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Ever followed a link to a news story only to plow into an annoying registration wall? Back in the old days (like, five or six years ago) there was the cypherpunks hack — try “cypherpunks” for both the user ID and the password; if that wasn’t already registered, then register with those values. There were complications — if the site didn’t allow a password that was the same as the user ID, “writecode” was the traditional alternative password. Then some sites caught on and started blocking that ID, so people started using “cpunks”, and with four possible combinations to try, it got unwieldy.

Next step: a common clearing house of ID/password combos — BugMeNot! Pretty handy, especially if you install the Firefox extension, or the MSIE extension, or use the JavaScript bookmarklet. [Note: I’ve modified that copy of the bookmarklet, adding “www.” to the bugmenot.com domain name; it wouldn’t work without it. Must be a side-effect of the host move.]

Not that it’s a perfect solution. Various news sites have been spidering BugMeNot’s content, and then dropping those IDs from their registration databases. Sometimes it takes two or three tries to get a password that works. But still, a decent solution.

(And no, they aren’t sharing credit card info or anything like that. BugMeNot has a firm policy of only storing passwords for free sites. Any pay site can send them email asking to be removed/blocked from their database.)

Then, tragedy! BugMeNot was gone! For several days news sites like LAtimes.com had to go without my eyeballs. Turns out someone had pressured BugMeNot’s web host to shut the site down.

But now they’re back, hosted on NearlyFreeSpeech.net. And there’s a discussion going in that Mozilla forum on how to improve the service — decentralize it, publish in XML format, etc.
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Bwah-hah, I just fixed our toilet using nothing but a needle, a Leatherman, and my mad toilet-fixin’ skillz!

April 2017



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