Friday, October 28, 2011

7 Days Without Firefox Makes One Week

I've been using Chrome exclusively for a week. It works well enough, although the zoom thing is still annoying. Setting the page zoom to 144% for all pages works well enough for most sites, but I still miss each domain having its own zoom. It's not a deal breaker, especially given the alternative of trying to use a browser that crashes five times a day. I'll stay put for now.

There has been a lot going on in the tech world recently. Dennis Ritchie died a couple weeks ago. Not that the news media noticed nor are they even aware of who he was. In many ways, he was far more important to the IT world than even the biggest fanboy can make Steve Jobs out to be. But Dennis wasn't in the habit of parading on stage in black turtlenecks, so his passing doesn't unleash a spasm of national mourning.

Speaking of Steve Jobs, it looks like the reality distortion field that enveloped him immediately after his death has began to lessen as of late. Stories of his smelly hippy days when he convinced himself for a couple years that he didn't need to bathe, his violent temper and his autocratic management style are beginning to circulate. Not that any of that diminishes what he accomplished, but it does serve as a useful counterweight to the Saint Steve movement.

Probably the biggest irony of the whole Apple/Steve Jobs story is how by creating the walled garden of "i" products and the Apple Store, he became the very thing he/it were supposed to be against:

Apple right now has the second-highest market cap of all companies in the world and more cash in the bank than almost any country you care to name. Apple has out-IBM'ed IBM.

While we're on the subject of Apple, why is it that every innovation for the iPhone makes people act in ways that are indistinguishable from schizophrenics? Introducing Apple's latest method for pretentious douche bags to annoy us normal people. Gods help us.

Remember the Stuxnet worm? Remember how a number of people mentioned that it might be a bad idea to give everyone on the internet a road map for how to shut down another countries infrastructure? Well, guess what:

The new malware, dubbed “Duqu” [dü-kyü], contains parts that are nearly identical to Stuxnet and appears to have been written by the same authors behind Stuxnet, or at least by someone who had direct access to the Stuxnet source code...

Someone is following the map. Who and to what end is not known. I assume we will find out sooner rather than later. Joy.

Matt Taibbi cuts through the BS about the OWS'ers:

And we hate the rich? Come on. Success is the national religion, and almost everyone is a believer. Americans love winners. But that's just the problem. These guys on Wall Street are not winning – they're cheating. And as much as we love the self-made success story, we hate the cheater that much more.

I have issues with the OWS thing, but portraying people who are pissed off that so-called private businesses are having their losses back-stopped by taxpayers while keeping their profits as anti-capitalists is propaganda aimed at the ignorant. Here is a list of charts that spells out what some people have been saying for a long time: The bottom 80% of America has been in steady decline since the 1970's. That's what has people worked up. Not that some people make more money than other people, but that the 20% get to live by a different set of rules than the 80%; rules that benefit the 20% enormously while killing the 80%.

Because of that, we can probably expect more of this:

The group surrounded the 21-year-old woman's car and began beating on it with an object that shattered her driver's side window. One of the boys involved in the attack also pointed a handgun in the direction of a passenger in the car, but didn't make any threats or attempt to open the door.

The title of the article is Teen Mobs Harass Motorists. Whoever came up with that needs to look up the meaning of the words "harass" and "assault" and see which fits the facts better. Notice also the down-playing of the race angle; if a mob of white teens "harassed" a black woman by blocking the street, smashing her window and pointing a gun at her, it would be all over the national media, the FBI would be investigating the "hate crimes", the victim would be on every news network, the local schools would cancel classes and force the entire student body into sensitivity training... well... I could go on for pages. Instead we have this tepid article in the local paper. But what is really interesting is the action down in the comments. It's still mostly words with maybe a minor scuffle here and there, but it won't take much to blow things into something seriously ugly.

Well, it's late and we're supposed to get up early for a trip down to Animal Kingdom to see the baby elephant! We'll try to get some good pictures!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Buh Bye, Mozilla

I've been running Mozilla Firefox pretty much since the first day it was released. At the time, the only other options on Windows had major issues of compatibility, speed, security, etc. Since then, Microsoft seems to have mostly gotten it together with IE and Google Chrome came on the scene. I have all three browsers pinned to my taskbar, but I still used Firefox almost exclusively. Part of that was inertia; the devil you know and all that. Part of it was annoyances with the other two options: Chrome's zoom feature doesn't remember what you zoomed a page to from one visit to the next, and IE is still noticeably slower than either Chrome or Firefox. So I stayed with Firefox in spite of its recent problems with releases, speed, memory leaks and whatnot.

About a month ago, Firefox and Adobe seem to have gotten into a pissing match, at least on my computer. Freezes, hangs, crashes (both Adobe and Firefox) became a routine part of my web browsing. I've put up with it mostly because I've been up to my eyeballs in tax code and just didn't want to deal with it. Today, I decided to take a break from all things IRS and try to fix the problem. Adobe has a separate uninstaller app that is supposed to remove all traces of Flash from a PC. I ran that, then did a clean install of the latest version of Flash (11.something). As soon as I started Firefox, I knew there was a problem; Firefox informed me that I was missing a plugin. Specifically Flash 10.something "or higher." Now I'm not a math genius, but I'm pretty sure 11 is "higher" than 10. I tried to play some videos; some would play, but fullscreen still showed the Firefox window and the taskbar, or the video would randomly freeze. Others would refuse to play at all saying I needed at least Flash 10.something to play this video. Again, did I miss the memo that made 10 greater than 11?

I still had no idea if the problem was Firefox, Flash, or the combination of the two. I fired up Chrome and... well, long story short, the problem is almost certainly not Flash, unless the folks at Adobe have declared war on Firefox and added code to Flash that borks Firefox. (There is precedence for such a thing; Microsoft's software team's unofficial slogan in the late 80's and early 90's was, "Word's not done until Lotus won't run.") So Chrome it is, annoying zoom malfunctions and all. Maybe Firefox will fix the problem, but by then I may be over my anti-Chrome pissyness and won't bother switching back.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


So while I'm taking a break from taxes this morning, I'm over at The West Virginia Surf Report reading Jeff Kay's latest blog post. He used the line from the song Ironic as part of his post that goes, "Like rain on your wedding day, or a free ride when you’ve already paid." Whenever I'm reading, the little voice in my head is usually what I imagine (or in rare cases, know) the author's voice sounds like, but when I got to that line of Jeff's post, it didn't "sound" right. Some other part of my brain said, "Huh?" and cocked its head to one side like a dog trying to track down the source of a noise. Yet some other part of my brain told the head-cocking part, "Shadup already; we're trying to read in here," made a mental note to check my meds, and kept reading. I made it about two sentences further when the Jeff voice in my head gets interrupted by someone repeating, "Like rain on your wedding day, or a free ride when you’ve already paid." What the...?!?!

At the exact instant I was reading "Like rain on your wedding day..." Songbird was playing that exact line over the computer speakers. It was so closely synch'ed that I didn't realize what was going on until the line came up again in the song. I must have stared at the computer screen for a good five minutes muttering, "How the....  What the....  Holy crap!"

I'm not sure whether this means I should set the apartment on fire and run naked and screaming out into the middle of the street or buy a Powerball ticket.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Five Years Ago Today...

...we began this weird little journey we've been on after leaving behind everything (and everyone) we've ever known. Thanks to technology, we still have contact with all those friends and family, unlike my great-great-grandfather who left everything and everyone behind to (eventually) homestead in northern Michigan. But in spite of that, life has been very different on a day-to-day basis since walking away from our support structure. For one, we now depend on each other a great deal more instead of always looking to others. There are times when working without a net can be terrifying, but I'm glad we did what we did.

What sent me down Memory Lane was a Facebook conversation yesterday with someone I hadn't talked to in 25 years or so asking what I've been up to lately. I realized that October 2006 was five years ago and I wondered just when in October we headed out to Arcosanti via Florida (the shortest distance between two points is sometimes a line in the opposite direction). After digging around in the blog archives, it turns out that October 15th was the day. In some ways, it seems like Michigan was an eternity ago. Yet it seems impossible that it was five years ago when we crammed the back of the Durango with everything we thought we might need for the next year or so and rolled out.

That conversation ended like most similar Facebook conversations I have with long-lost acquaintances: "Sorry to hear things didn't turn out how you planned." While I appreciate the sentiment, it misses an important point; Like the secret ingredient in the secret ingredient soup, there was no plan. We didn't have the first clue what we were doing or where we were going beyond the Arcosanti workshop, which was merely an excuse for me to go back to Arizona. We went and did stuff, until we wanted to do something else somewhere else, then went somewhere else and did something else. Rinse and repeat. Now we're here. Doing this. For now. And our plans always turn out exactly how we didn't plan them. Don't think that isn't a horrifying way for a couple OCD list-makers and planners to try to live, but the longer we do it, the better we get at it. I still make all sorts of to-do lists and time lines, but I now forget about them almost as soon as I write them. When I stumble across one, sometimes months or years later, I note that everything on the list is still not done and all the deadlines made a really cool whooshing sound as they flew by, and yet the universe didn't end in some titanic matter/anti-matter explosion. We're both still standing, together, with a roof over our heads, food on the table and a family-sized bag of crunchy Cheetos on the top of the refrigerator.

At the end of the day, what more is there?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Full Week

The last week or so has been rather full of news. The most obvious is the death of Steve Jobs. I find all the gushing over him to be a bit creepy. Jobs was good, no doubt about that. But the equal of Einstein? Sorry; don't think so. He was a glorified Billy Mays in a black turtleneck who managed to convince 10's of millions of people that they couldn't draw their next breath without an electronic doohickey glued to their hand that didn't even exist five years ago. That was his real genius. And ripping off the Xerox Alto, but then everyone did that eventually, making it hard to find fault with Jobs simply for being the first. It will be interesting to see what happens at Apple over the next five years or so. I don't envy the guy who gets to replace him as the face of Apple.

In her last post, Debbie mentioned us trying and failing to get down to see La Nouba last weekend. Because it was dead at her work on Friday, she came home early. We jumped on line and were able to find two seats together. They weren't the best seats, but they ended up being good enough. So we made a run to Downtown Disney to wander around a bit then see the show. La Nouba was good (I put it not quite as good as O, but much better than Ka), although we saw something not normally seen in a Cirque du Soleil show: a hard crash. One of the acts was four little girls (looked to be maybe 8 at the most) doing acrobatics while working diabolos. The last trick involved one girl throwing her spool 20 feet or so in the air and a second girl jumping up onto the first girl's shoulders to catch it. On the first try, the toss was off, so they made a second attempt. That time she kinda sorta caught it but took a hard fall and was a bit slow getting up. The third try was successful with a great deal of wobbling around, but they held it together long enough to call it good. Of course, they got the biggest applause of the night.

Other big news is that I finally got a job. Sort of. Since we moved down here, I've been volunteering at the library one or two days a week as a page (shelving books, pulling holds, etc.). They had a part-time page job open up, so I went ahead and applied for it not expecting to get it. Typical for central Florida, there were over 160 applications for the part-time job including large numbers of people with freshly-minted graduate degrees in library science. Why would they hire someone who makes all sorts of grandpa-noises when he has to shelve on the bottom shelf when they could have 20-somethings with college degrees? Then I was called for an interview. I went and was my usual charming self during the interview, followed by their standard library page test, which involves alphabetizing six groups of four words, six groups of four authors, and most challenging of all, putting six groups of four Dewey decimal numbers in numeric order. I still didn't expect to get the job. I got a call on Friday just as we were leaving for Disney that I got the job. When I was at the library on Sunday, I found out I was offered the job because I was the only person that managed to get a perfect score on the test. Wow. Knowing the ABC Song and how to count pays off big time. If you can call a part-time job the big time. At least it's permanent.

So now I need to see what my schedule there is going to look like and decide what to do about the whole Tax Geek thing. I'm hoping I can do both, but we'll just have to wait and see. I don't start the library job until the last day of October, so that gives me time to get through the second section of my SEE tests. I figure I've gone this far so why not finish up the Enrolled Agent thing? I can use the library job to backstop the first few years of The Tax Geek and see which one turns into a full-time job first. Or something like that. It's all a bit squishy right now.

The bicycle riding is going much better now that I have a back wheel that turns. My average speed is way up (12.8 mph), so tomorrow I'm getting back to adding miles. Other than three straight days of rain over the weekend, the weather has been much more pleasant as well; 20 degrees cooler and about half the humidity. I may hit my 15-miles-in-an-hour-or-less goal by the end of the year after all.

Well, it's late so I should try to get some sleep. I can't keep my eyes open during the day, then I'm suddenly all perky and awake at 11pm. Grrr.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Beautiful Day

It is suppose to be a beautiful day today -- bit cooler (in the low/mid 80's) and no rain. Last nite I told Ric I wanted to do "something" today -- get out of the apartment and outside.

I didn't join him for his bike ride this morning though and we just finished up going through old posts on FB and seeing the comments on his new Tax Geek caricature. Now, time for him to jump in the shower and then we are heading down to Disney World for the rest of the day. I tried to get tickets for the Cirque show (La Nouba), but they did not have two seats together for either show tonite. Maybe another nite this month while they are running some specials.