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December 28, 2008

Yet another DTV changeover failure (, , )

by fluffy at 4:42 PM
While I appreciate the sentiment to "analog nightlight" rules, this is not the way to go, at least not if that's the precise message they're going to broadcast. After all, digital sets can still receive analog stations, so I have a feeling that on February 17, a lot of people are going to turn on their fancy new digital TVs, tune it to an analog "nightlight" station, and get absolutely pissed off that they're being told that they still need to upgrade, since the TV is saying, "If you are viewing this message, this television set has not yet been upgraded to digital."

I'm not sure what better verbiage would be, but that particular message is not it.

Meanwhile, having a few analog stations for public safety would be a good idea in perpetuity, what with digital broadcasts being somewhat flaky and I can think of a lot of emergencies (weather-related, mostly) which would make digital broadcasts impossible to receive while still having analog reception at least vaguely viewable for those who don't have a radio.

On a related note, it's a bit disappointing that there are no readily-available digital converter boxes on the market which output an HD signal, meaning that everyone who bought an "HD-ready" set is still screwed. You'd think that now more than ever it'd be easy to find such things.

December 27, 2008

MacBook Pro unibody headphone hiss ()

by fluffy at 6:47 PM
Well, this is a bit annoying. The headphone amp on the MacBook Pro is pretty dang noisy. It's also something after the amplification stage, since even if I mute the sound, the hiss is still there at the same level. When the sound chip has been idle for a few seconds it shuts off entirely, so it suddenly goes completely silent, which is also pretty annoying (especially when it then wakes up again for another 5 seconds when I do something which makes an alert sound or whatever).

So basically the MBP's built-in audio is pretty much unsuitable for live audio work. Not that anyone would ever be silly enough to use it for that anyway, but still.

December 25, 2008

Connections ()

by fluffy at 12:04 AM
So, if I'd gotten to the airport half an hour earlier, I'd probably have my luggage right now.

Basically, there were a whole bunch of flight delays, which caused a cascade effect, and I got lucky enough to get on an alternate flight to LAX such that I could make my original connection to ABQ (rather than having to wait for a 9 PM flight), but my baggage didn't quite make it to the plane. So it should arrive sometime tomorrow. But in the meantime if I'd actually left for the airport when I meant to, I'd probably have not had such a long line to wait in, and would have probably gotten onto the same alternate flight with enough time for my luggage to get loaded.

December 23, 2008

Albuquerque ()

by fluffy at 9:09 PM
Forgot to mention, I'll be in Albuquerque from the 24th through the 30th, in case anyone there was interested in hanging out or anyone in SF was wondering where the hell I've gone off to.

December 18, 2008

So I had to print something in Linux ()

by fluffy at 5:55 PM
So I went to system > administration > printing

Then I selected "add new printer"

And it magically found the print server

And I used the default settings and sent a pdf to it

AND IT WORKED

Plaxo Google Calendar sync ()

by fluffy at 10:36 AM
Apparently, Plaxo's Google Calendar conduit has suddenly started syncing alarms. This is a good thing, for future events.

Unfortunately, Thunderbird/Lightning shares the same defect with Outlook in that it'll bring up an alarm dialog for newly-created alarms which were some time in the past. So when it suddenly has 87 "new" alarms to display at startup, things go a bit wacky.

Also, apparently, Thunderbird's "dismiss all" gets out of sync with what's on the server, causing 87 separate "the item on the server has changed" dialogs which all have to be dismissed one at a time (and it doesn't even tell you which items have changed, so good luck understanding what's about to happen in the case that you've actually caused a legitimate conflict).

Yet another place where people just haven't thought things through on a particular sync issue. ("People" in this case referring to Mozilla Lightning folks, who I guess decided that alarms should always be raised based on things in the past. I really hope that it's not relying on some sort of metadata flag on the event itself, which could theoretically be cleared somewhere else.)

December 17, 2008

First ride with the Down Low Glow ()

by fluffy at 5:56 PM
So, tonight I had my first Down Low Glow-assisted ride, and holy crap the difference it made.

I knew something would be different when I was on the bike lane on Townsend and the UPS truck stayed behind me.

Dishwasher auto-drying idea ()

by fluffy at 12:17 AM
So, I have seen two drying modes for dishwashers: either "air dry" which does no drying at all, or "hot air dry" which makes the moist air inside the dishwasher hotter and does no drying at all (but melts any plastic items you happen to have in the dishwasher).

But I have an idea which I think could revolutionize how dishwashers dry their dishes! (Or at least make drying happen more quickly and thus reduce spotting and pooling on the bases of my stemware and the like.)

(yes I drink from stemware regularly SHUT UP)

December 16, 2008

New Google "feature" ()

by fluffy at 9:09 PM
Looks like Google's testing a new "feature," where if you press ctrl-A, it highlights your search terms all over the page, and also prevents the normal function of ctrl-A (which, in OSX, is "jump to beginning of line," and in Windows is "select all") from working. So I guess they really hate people being able to quickly edit their search terms, or something. Thanks, Google.

December 15, 2008

Bike updates ()

by fluffy at 10:30 AM
  • I decided not to pursue the insurance claim. The (at most) $100 I could expect to get back would be more than paid for many times over by the increase in my insurance premiums, and it's an awful lot of trouble to go through.
  • My Down Low Glow arrived today. The whole system is a lot more compact than I thought. I shouldn't have any trouble attaching it to the folding bike (although the oddness of its single-tube frame means I'll have to be a bit creative), and all its mounting hardware is reusable (except the velcro for the junction box but it's not like velcro is some sort of rare irreplaceable item). Right now it's charging and so soon I can have fun trying to harass/blind R343L and/or ucblockhead.
  • Also today I couldn't bring myself to ride the little folding bike to work (feeling sore all over and worried about the rain) and so I took BART instead. Maybe I'll do an every-other-day thing with it. Or maybe I'll just break down and buy another full-size bike (used off Craigslist or something) sooner than I was expecting, since it's not really THAT likely that I'll get my old bike back (and if I do I can just turn around and sell the new one on Craigslist)
  • Although, after the last week on the folding bike, I do really like grip shifters. So that's another reason to consider getting another new bike (and this time getting one that's lightweight enough that hauling it up the stairs isn't as much of a chore — not that the Mongoose was all that heavy, though, and it was mostly my addons like the panniers and the like which did me in, so maybe I'm just SOL and I need to find a decent garage security measure).

December 12, 2008

MacBookPro unibody touchpad ()

by fluffy at 11:19 PM
So, while Apple only explicitly mentions four-finger gestures, there's actually at least one five-finger gesture — doing a four-finger gesture while dragging with the button clicked. I had been doing this automatically without thinking about it (since four-finger gestures are the easiest way to do Exposé-to-desktop with the new keyboard, and the only way to do it one-handed) and only after doing that a few times did I realize, wait, there's still no physical button!

Okay, granted, the gesture only involves four fingers, but it's at least smart enough to know that the fifth finger should be ignored for gestural purposes since it's what's holding the touchpad surface down.

December 11, 2008

Pop quiz for San Francisco drivers (, )

by fluffy at 6:57 PM
You are driving down Mission St. There is a bicycle in the right lane. The left lane is completely open. Do you:
  1. Slow down and use the full left lane to pass
  2. Slow down and split the left and right lane to pass
  3. Stay at the same speed, come within inches of the cyclist, slow down, roll down your window, shout a profanity at the cyclist, then peel out as loudly as possible before speeding off?
Answers inside.

Bicycle news (, )

by fluffy at 8:45 AM
So, the good news is it turns out my homeowner's policy does cover the stolen bike. The bad news is that my deductible is $500, so at most I'll expect to get like $100 back (probably less, what with having a whole 4 months of depreciation). Ugh.

Oh, and rather than get a check for the difference up-front, I need to itemize my claim, get a "settlement amount" from them, and then prove that I've used that amount of money to replace the item (which means if I buy something used off Craigslist I'll need to get a receipt etc.). So even though I lost property, I'm only covered for it if I run out and replace it right away (and possibly with the identical item, even though the last few days of riding on the Dahon have made me realize that I actually want a different bike than what was stolen; I'm really liking grip shifters, for example).

Plus, after doing all that, I'm guessing my policy premium will go up (I should have asked the claim representative while I had him on the phone), making anything I get back more like a permanent loan which I can never pay off. So maybe it's not worth going forward.

December 9, 2008

Folding cycle monologue ()

by fluffy at 9:44 AM

The beginning

I guess I should head to work on my folding bicycle. Oh, hey, carrying it down the stairs is a lot easier than the Mongoose. So there's that, at least.

December 7, 2008

Another day, another stolen bike (, )

by fluffy at 3:02 PM
Argh. So, I keep my bike in a shared garage. There is nothing to lock a bike to in the garage but I keep a big u-lock on the front wheel and frame to at least stop people from riding off, in the rare case that someone leaves the garage open or whatever (which happens with alarming frequency). So of course, today when I went down to the garage to put out my trash, and I saw my bike helmet just sitting on the floor, well I was a little livid.

So while I was looking around the garage to see if any other bikes were stolen (one other was), some of my neighbors happened to come down and asked what was going on, and I said my bike was stolen. "Oh, you should have locked it to something," they said. GEE REALLY YOU THINK

December 5, 2008

Rainbow Grocery! ()

by fluffy at 7:37 PM
Why did it take me so long to try them out? They are a lot like Ballard Market back in Seattle!

I'll still go to Safeway for a lot of things though. Rainbow's flour selection was surprisingly lacking (they carry King Arthur, but they didn't seem to have their bread flour, and the bread flour they did have was extraordinarily expensive), and their chocolate selection was abysmal. (Not that Safeway's any better in that regard.) But for bulk foods (dried beans and fruit, olive oil, and so on) Rainbow seriously kicks ass.

Boycott Whole Foods ()

by fluffy at 12:58 PM
Okay, Whole Foods has much better quality items than Safeway, and here in San Francsico it actually costs the same anyway. And I was willing to look past the astroturfing and their other odd foibles.

But now in their push for domination, they have gone too far.

Fortunately for me, Rainbow Grocery is actually much more convenient for me than Whole Foods, anyway (being only a block out of my way on my commute, which I didn't realize until now — hell, I'd still want to take Harrison to get to it so I've basically been riding past it every day without realizing it!). They don't carry meat, though, so I guess I'll still have to put up with Safeway for that (not that I'm buying much meat these days anyway).

Oh, and hey, they have a 10% SFBC discount. As a card-carrying SFBC member: Yay!

December 4, 2008

Picture hanging ()

by fluffy at 5:10 PM
Over on The Book Of Biff I just posted a description of how I hang pictures perfectly every time:
I live alone and hanging paintings is not a problem. I just eyeball where I want the first one to go, then I use the top of it as a reference point. Then I face the next picture against the wall and pull up on the wire and then measure the distance from the wire to the top of the frame, and then I know that’s how far down from the top line to put the next hook.

As far as horizontal positioning, I just add up the widths of all the pictures, subtract that from the width of the wall, and then divide that by one more than the number of pictures. That gives me the inter-picture (and picture-to-corner) spacing S, and so working from the outside in I start at S, add half the width of that picture to get the horizontal position where the nail should go, then hang the picture, and from its next edge I add S, and so on. By doing one on the left and then one on the right, I’ll end up with a nice balanced gap in the middle (assuming an even number of pictures). For an odd number of pictures, for the last one I just take the midway point between the right edge of the rightmost left and the left edge of the leftmost right to get where to hang the center one.

It’s not totally precise but it’s close enough. Sometimes I end up with a picture higher or lower than the top-line (since my initial measurement sometimes doesn’t tense the wire enough), in which case I just have to make another hole directly above or below the original one.

Math is useful!

December 3, 2008

One slight Linux annoyance ()

by fluffy at 8:43 PM
Okay, so there is actually one very tangible way in which Emacs is superior on Windows and MacOS. Maybe there's a way to get this on Linux too; I really hope there is because otherwise I'll be very grumpy.

Aquamacs, being a well-behaved Mac app, uses a single app instance to open all documents. XEmacs for Windows doesn't do this by default, but it has a wrapper shell called winclient.exe which provides this behavior as well. But on Linux, there doesn't appear to be any built-in obvious way to make an existing XEmacs instance open up a document spawned from an external program (such as p4 or the file browser or whatever).

December 2, 2008

Disney Digital Copy (, )

by fluffy at 9:26 PM
So, I bought the Wall-E Collector's Edition on Blu-Ray. One of the things it came with was the "Disney digital copy" version. Since the voucher was only good for a year I decided I'd might as well just redeem it anyway, and since it's using iTunes DRM it's not like I can't transfer the license between all my computers (unlike the Windows Media version which restricts it to a single computer forever and ever).

Anyway, the whole activation/transfer process was incredibly painless. I popped in the DVD, entered a code, and then 20 seconds later I had a copy of Wall-E on my computer.

So, not all DRM has to make things painful and stupid.

Two tales from today's bike commute ()

by fluffy at 7:13 PM
Positive: On my way to work, there was a rather loud and fast sports car revving alongside me for a while. I essentially went faster than it, what with all the traffic. I could totally hear the driver's penis crying out in frustration at revving, going 50MPH for about 30 feet, then having to stop, thanks to the fact that San Francisco is crowded and the bike lanes move fast.

Negative: On the way home, I almost got hit by a car, at a rather tricky spot. Basically, Division keeps going straight, but the right-side turn onto 9th splits off a bit early, and a lot of people assume they can just speed on through it even though the bike lane crosses the split part (which is a bit hard to see because of the complex bridge stuff, and it's only marked as a bike lane in some places). I always look behind me to make sure there's nobody about to hit me, which was also the case this time, but some person was driving really fast (I'd estimate nearly 40MPH) on Division and had to stop suddenly. They didn't hit me, but they did honk at me, as if it's my fault they didn't notice me safely moving forward while they were being too stupid to yield to me in the bike lane.

Oh, and further along Division, a bunch of people thought it was okay to pull pretty far to the right, crossing over the semi-marked bike lane. That's one of the aggravating things about a lot of the bike lanes in San Francisco, where they're not marked off but instead have occasional bicycle symbols in the space where the lane would be marked. A lot of people don't realize that it's a bike lane and seem to just plain ignore it.

Oh, and on that note, this morning I almost got hit because some idiot was waiting for a gate on Division to open and was basically blocking the entire right lane (when they could have pulled forward by at least 5 feet) and bike lane and I had to swerve around, and the big ol' SUV which was also in the right lane figured it could just keep going at its same speed and not slow down even though, you know, cyclist. A lot of people here seem to completely ignore the signs everywhere which state quite plainly that bicycles are traffic and have the same right-of-way rights as cars.

Basically what I'm saying is Division is kind of an unsafe street and it needs better bike lane markings.

December 1, 2008

Switched back to Linux at work (, )

by fluffy at 6:55 PM
So, for the last several months, Windows XP has been trying its hardest (and succeeding) to piss me off. The thing which pushed me over the edge was some ridiculous driver stuff that would have required me to just reinstall Windows anyway, and since the state of affairs regarding Linux support at work has changed again, I decided that now that I'm between projects I should finally take my chance to switch back to Linux.

I ended up installing Kubuntu, and then very soon afterwards transformed it into Ubuntu (which is pretty easy, since they're really just different package suites for the same master distribution).