Monday, 24 June 2013

10:16 – Barbara went back to work this morning, although she’d used only two days of the five days’ funeral leave she had available. She said she just couldn’t afford to miss any more work with everything that’s going on there. In addition to her usual duties, they’re in process of training for the changeover to a new “paperless office” system, and Barbara doesn’t want to fall behind on learning that.

Today will be a tough day for Colin. He’s had Barbara home more than usual for the last couple of weeks, so he’ll have to get used to having just boring old me around during the day. This morning, I heard Colin barking. Nothing unusual about that, but the barking usually occurs either near the front door or from back in our bedroom, where Colin lies on the bed and looks out the window for things to bark at. This time, the barking sounded like it was coming from the hallway. So I got up and walked out to the hall, where I saw the rear half of Colin sticking of of Barbara’s office. He was bounce-barking and growling, obviously at something in Barbara’s office. The mystery was solved when I walked back and looked in the door. Barbara had brought home the poster-size picture of Dutch from the memorial service, and stood it up against the bookshelves on the far side of her office. Colin apparently thought the picture of Dutch was an intruder.

Science kit sales this month have been much lower than I expected. As Barbara said, in one sense that’s a good thing, because we’ve been otherwise occupied. I suspect the slowdown in sales is just a blip. As I told Barbara, last month we had a four-day stretch with no kit orders at all. The following day, we sold seven kits to seven different customers. And June is part of our historically slow time anyway. The first six months of 2012 accounted for something like 17% of the year’s total business. So we’re still filling bottles and making up subassemblies like mad to build stock for the coming rush.


30 thoughts on “Monday, 24 June 2013”

  1. The spyware saga on my sister’s computer continues. A browser redirector has taken over Chrome and after a few seconds takes me to a search page regardless of what I type. My sister is getting snarky with me for “causing” this problem. I leave tomorrow, so I might just mention to one of my nephews that the data needs to be backed up and Windows re-installed. I have no idea where the install disk is. Whoever advised me to avoid becoming a support person for the clueless sure was right. Ironically, IE is the safest browser on this computer. If FF isn’t installed I might download and install it.

    I strongly suspect that Google searches are being contaminated deliberately by the bad guys. I have also learned that I have to go back to Security 101. I used to know a lot about this stuff, but I’ve become complacent over the years.

  2. There’s been stuff online recently from security people saying that the current IE is pretty good in that regard, or at least as good as we might expect from any browser. I’ve used Chrome for years with very few problems but I’m getting leery of Google’s prone groveling before our wonderful regime and several of us here are getting fed up with gmail lately, which just pops up with your account as soon as you open it, no matter who’s sitting at the machine. FF is OK but once you set the recommended security stuff it’s slower than molasses in January.

    I’d say the same thing about that box down in Oz, miles-teg; format the drive and reinstall Windoze but they don’t know where the CD is so get outta there and don’t touch it again. Depending on how old it is, they may wanna get a new Windows license or a new machine altogether and then visit Security 101.

  3. I’ve installed the latest FF. Various browser hijackers asked if they could be installed, I thought for 0.0348 of a millisecond before saying NO! FF and IE are behaving, I’ve given up on Chrome. I will strongly advise the two fembots (63 and 27) in the house not to use Chrome. I am very tempted to format the drive and let them sort it out, but I need to doss down here for a couple of months while I’m searching for a place of my own so I’ll resist the temptation.

    I can’t believe how much of this stuff I’ve forgotten. I used to be fairly knowledgeable about hardware, software and security but I’ve become complacent. No clueless people use my PCs at home so I’ve almost stopped worrying about it.

  4. So you’re already deep in it, sorry to hear it. But sounds like you don’t have much choice right now.

    I’ve got CryptoHippie on this machine with “Viscosity” and running Comodo firewall, Avast antivirus, and Spybot. I may switch permanently soon to the Tor browser (stripped down FF) and Thunderbird for the email, but then I hear that development has stopped on T-Bird. So WTF?

    Anyone have any experience with hushmail?

  5. OK, what to get for a 24″ monitor at home? I bought a 24″ LG LED from sam’s club Saturday which is OK (but awful bright) and I derated it to 900p so I could see the pixels without straining.
    http://www.samsclub.com/sams/lg-24in-ips-monitor/prod9300299.ip

    I am wondering if I should have bought the LG 27″ 1080p monitor for $30 more. Are all monitors LED now (very bright for the cataract in my right eye)? I also miss the monitors that had built-in height adjustable stands.

  6. Never touched Chrome. I do not trust Google and try only to use their search engine because it is still the best.
    IE has steadily been getting much better since IE8. I like the latest IEs since they are faster than FF under normal browsing. The problem with IE is that there is no Ad Block-ing -that I know of- so for ad-supported sites I normally use FF.
    For years I used Avast for virus protection but it is becoming very bloated and slow; it also requires a lot of updates of engine, definitions and such. It is going the way all long lived products go. You start with a limited product and steadily get versions with better functionality and polish and then you start getting extra functionality you do not need and use. After that you get worse functionality and bigger size which ends-up being more error prone and needs more fixes: MS ribbon anyone? I took Avast off all my machines and use standard MS protection on all systems now. For people that do not stray from “reputable” sites it is more than enough.
    I am not too concerned about new development stopping with Thunderbird. It has become quite stable and functional. How much improvement is needed for an e-mail product that has been under development for many years? Do you want them to implement the new Metro look and feel and loose 75% functionality as MS has done with Mail and Skype?!

  7. but then I hear that development has stopped on T-Bird.

    I have been using Thunderbird for email (both home and office) for several years now. Highly recommended. I have moved several of my employees to it also. I would not be concerned about the lack of development. I would be more concerned about where the desktop environment is heading. BTW, my office pc email local storage is over 19 GB now.

    I also use Thunderbird as a news reader using http://www.eternal-september.org/ . Works OK.

    I dislike MS Outlook because the single PST file seems to get corrupted a lot. Outlook Express was discontinued with Windows XP. Windows Live is a horrible disaster using a buggy variant of the Outlook database (my experience in Vista – twice – was not smart enough to learn the first time).

  8. BTW, I was hoping that Thunderbird would move their local storage from Mbox to Maildir but that effort seems to have died on the vine. Oh well. The local storage mbox files seem to be able to go 4 GB but I would not take them above 2 GB.

  9. I think that the problems with the PST files was an implicit(?) size limitation with Outlook 2003. It started having heavy problems with 1GB sizes and over. I believe that was mostly overcome with 2007. I still use the Outlook 2003 in an XP system at work (although most of the company have gone Win7 and Office 2007 since last year). With automatic archiving my unvaulted email is about 1.5GB and gives me the occasional problem but not PST corruption. I just have to be careful to close Outlook and wait for disk activity to stop before shutting down if not it messes the local pst and the following day it has to recheck for consistency with the server. I also use Thunderbird. I prefer both to any of the web based offerings but have not bothered to implement them at home.

    I tried using Outlook against MS Hotmail for my wife’s email some time ago and that was very painful and broke more often than not so I quit trying that. She has an awful lot of mail accumulated over the years and the synching used a lot of bandwidth over a slow and capped Internet connection. It was not worth the hassle.

  10. Marcelo, would it be practical to bring your wife’s computer somewhere with a fast and uncapped internet connection? Maybe offer to bring pizza and beer if you can bring the computer to a friend’s house and leave it running overnight.

    Lynn, regarding the size limit on mbox files, there’s such a thing as subdirectories, you know. Even if you’re not bumping hard limits, veyr large files are slower to work with. (At least in Evolution on Linux, which gives you the choice of mbox or maildir. I experimented and found that mbox works better.)

  11. Lynn, regarding the size limit on mbox files, there’s such a thing as subdirectories, you know. Even if you’re not bumping hard limits, veyr large files are slower to work with.

    I have about 50 subdirectories from my inbox. I try to sub when I hit 1 GB and 2 GB for sure. However, my office pc is a quad core 3.4 Ghz Intel 2600K running 8 threads, 16 GB of ram with a 180 GB Intel SSD drive running Windows 7 x64. Very, very fast and loafs along most of the time.

  12. You kids and your fancy, fast computers. Why, back in my day our CPUs were hamsters. And they were always asleep during the day. And we were grateful!

  13. Outlook 2007 allowed files larger than 2 gig which was the Outlook 2003 limit. We have a couple of users with PST files that are approaching 10 gig. Speed is not an issue unless you compact the file. Then just go home for the evening and let it run.

  14. I have used Outlook 2003 since 2003, and have never had a problem with PST size. Mine is currently at 5.5Gb. Pournelle used to complain bitterly about all kinds of Outlook problems with large files, but I am living proof the size need not be a problem.

    On occasion, clicking on a large folder with thousands of emails in it, might cause some delay—like 10 or 20 seconds, but if I am patient and do not reach for ctrl-alt-delete, it eventually loads the folder and I can do what I want. Once loaded, I can leave and come back to that folder with no delays. I think Pournelle just rebooted instantly, whenever there was the slightest delay, thinking the thing had locked up. And I have a 5400rpm drive, as opposed to his 7200 drives.

    Not happy to have to rely more heavily on Gmail, but it looks like I am going to have to switch to IMAP and leave email on the Gmail server, if I want to access mail from both the smartphone and computer, and have them in sync.

    Right now, I am fighting Sprint on an update to voicemail on the Galaxy S3. If I allow it to upgrade, it will begin displaying ads, while doing transcriptions of messages to text. I do not want the ads thus consequently, not the upgrade either. But they are so damned persistent in giving me a couple upgrade notices every day, that I am afraid I will accidentally hit ‘install’ instead of ‘refuse’. Others online complain bitterly about this new upgrade. It seems there is no way to turn off upgrade notices.

    Makes me want to root the phone and be free of the Sprint-customized software.

  15. I have a free iPhone 4 enroute; tired of having to be a hacker guru on droid devices and their shitty plastic cases. Keeping, because not much choice due to coverage issues, the Verizon account/s. I also have a short list of security apps to load on it when it gets here, plus Evernote. Which I have on this machine already.

    What it boils down to for us is that at home we want stuff to just work outta the box, with little to no futzing around and hacking marathons. We do that shit at work for our fiat currency allowance.

  16. I have used Outlook 2003 since 2003, and have never had a problem with PST size.

    OK, my memory is off as to when the format changed. I know the Outlook 97 PST format file had a 2 gig limit as I ran into the limit on a couple of users computers. I had to create the newer outlook file format then transfer all their information. The version of Outlook they were using during the conversion was Outlook 2003.

  17. I have a free iPhone 4 enroute; tired of having to be a hacker guru on droid devices and their shitty plastic cases.

    I had a droid phone and it worked just fine and I had no complaints. When my contract was up with Verizon I bought an iPhone 5. Not because droid was a problem, but I wanted to be able to sync with my iPad. That was more important than features.

    Where I made a mistake was going with Straighttalk. The plan seemed good but it failed miserably. The phone service worked, the texting worked, the data sucked as all I could get was 2G speeds. Seems you need an AT&T sim to get 3G speeds but ST will no longer sell AT&T sims choosing instead to use T-Mobile.

    The other part of the problem was the wife had to get a new phone, GSM mode. She hated, hated, hated it. Chewed me up one side and down another because she hated the phone.

    So, I went back to Verizon. Now I get 4G speeds a lot of the time, 3G the rest of the time. Service area is broader than ST. Wife’s old phone (which was a Verizon phone) is now working again.

    I am paying about $130.00 a month for unlimited voice and text, 1 gig of data, for both phones. ST would have cost me about $80 a month so I am spending an extra $50.00 a month. I get better service and most importantly the wife is happy. That alone is worth the extra $50.00. Verizon allows you to monitor your usage with an APP or using their website. The customer service is better which is another plus.

    Wife talks and texts a lot so not having limits was another plus. ST throttles after 2 gig but with Verizon you can just add another gig or two if you need for the month and no throttling. No contract, just postpaid plan.

    Lesson learned, cheap is not always the best.

  18. I think you will find fewer problems with all carriers as time marches on. My friend who is responsible for building cell phone towers for one of the major carriers, says everyone—worldwide—is implementing 4G/LTE, and in the US, it is a race to see who can get them up the fastest. Old technology is being torn down. The CDMA equipment that shared the tower with the radio project’s transmitter, was turned off in March, and the equipment is being totally removed even as I write this. By the end of this year, all the new 4G towers will be in place at my friend’s company, and by the end of next year, any technology pre-4G will have been completely removed.

    Apparently, the savings of the 4G/LTE equipment is substantial over previous technologies: much lower power costs, cheaper antennas, more modular design for quicker repair. My friend predicts that anyone who remains with the older technologies will die an horrible financial death. So your experience might have been different a couple years from now.

    I know it is blasphemy around here, but I am seriously thinking of switching to an iPhone when my contract allows. I have enough on my plate just getting paying work done, I do not need the hassles I am fighting with a Droid phone. A couple weeks back, my carrier ‘reset’ my phone remotely, because I was having trouble with people not being able to hear me AT ALL on calls, when I could hear them just fine. (I don’t believe the problem was in my phone, btw.) It undid ALL the settings I had in the phone, and set me back to the point when I first took the phone out of the box. I truly do not have the time to live life with a Droid over and over again. Nobody I know with an iPhone (including all my family members with a smartphone) has these troubles.

  19. I hate Apple but will almost certainly get an iPhone when the contract on my current cell phone expires. My iPad is almost trouble free and very handy to take on the road. Was also useful in (trying) to diagnose the problems with my sister’s computer.

  20. I know it is blasphemy around here, but I am seriously thinking of switching to an iPhone when my contract allows. I have enough on my plate just getting paying work done, I do not need the hassles I am fighting with a Droid phone.

    Ironically, based on your previous decision to go with a Samsung Galaxy S3, I just got one to replace my original Motorola Droid. I like it, but that may well have to do with the fact I have Verizon instead of Sprint. So far I like the new phone. I actually like the Android OS, and if I weren’t cheap, I’d replace my Nook with a Samsung tablet.

    I for one have nothing against Apple. Periodically I get tired of fighting with Windows, and contemplate the switch. However, I work from home, and that requires a Windows machine. To keep work and personal stuff separate, I have two Windows machines and a KVM switch at my desk. I’m not going to pay Mac Pro prices just to get rid of Windows on my personal machine.

  21. I know it is blasphemy around here, but I am seriously thinking of switching to an iPhone when my contract allows.

    The phone just works. When there are problems you can go into an Apple store and generally get it resolved. Under the warranty of one year if the phone fails you just get a new phone with no hassles. After the one year Applecare takes over and it costs you $50.00. Also Applecare will replace your phone for the same cost as long as the serial number can be read regardless of the type of damage. There is a limit of only two replacements. A bargain at $100 in my opinion after an unfortunate experience with my iPad.

    There is also the advantage of only paying once for an App. If the app works on both devices you are good to go and many such apps have versions for iPad and iPhone.

    You can also backup your iPhone on you computer using iTunes. If you ever need to get a new phone all the settings, files, customization, everything can be restored from the backup. I have done that once and it works quite well. You can also reset your phone to a factory fresh condition and then restore the backups in case of a really screwed up phone. There restoration does not restore the screwed up stuff.

    Boatload of accessories, ability to transfer RAW images from my cameras, output to my TV using Apple TV, etc. Apple did the iStuff correct. It just works.

    My recommendation is to opt for the 64 gig iPhone even if you think you will not need it. It is only a couple hundred dollars more than the 16 gig and you may grow into the space. I also recommend a protective case such as LifeProof or Otterbox. LifeProof is slightly smaller than Otterbox and other than that functionality is the same.

    Get an extra USB to lightning cable and a second charger. I got a charger from Home Depot that plugs into the wall, provides three additional outlets, and two USB (2.1 amp) outlets. Makes charging much faster. An auto charger (2.1 amp) is also recommended if you spend any amount of time in the car.

    I have not regretted my decision about purchasing my iPhone. Yes, droid does more but the stuff it does I am not at all interested in pursuing. Synchronization between my iPhone and iPad was more valuable to me.

  22. Samsung Galaxy S3, I just got one to replace my original Motorola Droid. I like it, but that may well have to do with the fact I have Verizon instead of Sprint. So far I like the new phone.

    If I had not chosen the iPhone I would have opted for the Galaxy S4. Really nice phone and display. I do like the ability to add memory by just plugging in a micro SD. The only dislike was the plastic case. For a phone that costly a metal case would have been better. But that would probably affect the antenna. The iPhone is smaller than the Galaxy S4.

    I am using Verizon for my iPhone and a SIM is required. If if want to change from CDMA (Verizon) to a GSM provider all I do is replace the SIM. I did that in Europe and it worked very well.

    Cell phone technology is HPFM stuff. There are no wrong decisions on a phone. Syncing was important and droid did not offer that option.

  23. “PC sales continue their decline; Apple to overtake Microsoft in 2015”
    http://blog.chron.com/techblog/2013/06/pc-sales-continue-their-decline-apple-to-overtake-microsoft-in-2015/

    “From Gartner’s report:

    Worldwide Devices Shipments by Segment (Thousands of Units)

    Device Type 2012 2013 2014
    PC (Desk-Based and Notebook) 341,273 305,178 289,239
    Ultramobile 9,787 20,301 39,824
    Tablet 120,203 201,825 276,178
    Mobile Phone 1,746,177 1,821,193 1,901,188
    Total 2,217,440 2,348,497 2,506,429”

    The world is changing. Nothing is static.

  24. “I know it is blasphemy around here, but I am seriously thinking of switching to an iPhone when my contract allows.”

    I already committed that blasphemy; my new iPhone 4 is scheduled to arrive via FedX Ground by tomorrow night. I also got the Otterbox case and two chargers, before even seeing Ray’s recommendations, so of course I am a genius.

    If I ran an enterprise-level biz I’d probably go for RHEL servers, but for a small biz or a home situation, it boils down to whatever works; I try to use open source for most stuff but in some cases Windows does things better and faster and Linux still has a long way to go for some fairly basic stuff that most people wanna use and do. I won’t pay the extra dough for Apple’s desktops and suchlike, though; that’s just crazy.

  25. If I ran an enterprise-level biz I’d probably go for RHEL servers, but for a small biz or a home situation, it boils down to whatever works; I try to use open source for most stuff but in some cases Windows does things better and faster and Linux still has a long way to go for some fairly basic stuff that most people wanna use and do.

    I have a dedicated server for my domains at http://www.pair.com. Been there since 2000. They use FreeBSD which has taken them a long way. However, the growing thing in servers is Windows so a place like http://www.hostgator.com is growing by leaps and bounds (9,000,000 domains and growing rapidly) because they have both Windows and Linux servers.

  26. I am really more OS agnostic than most here, because the reality for me, is that I can get work done on Apple, Linux, or Windows. Windows is by far the more productive environment, from the fact that there are more offerings and fewer configuration problems. Windows is also far cheaper than Apple. Lots and lots of configuration problems with Linux; it is my last choice—except I do now have a single-purpose Linux machine set up for video and audio editing with Cinelerra and Ardour.

    Actually, I worked heavily with early Macs before we got desktop PC’s running Windows, so I have significant screen time with Apple. Before the Macs, we had those yellow-screen DEC’s, running WordPerfect among other things, including Unix newspaper publishing software, but in broadcasting, Macs got a solid hold early on, primarily because they did graphics, audio, and non-linear video editing first. The office end commonly runs Windows for sales, billing, scheduling and log creation, but production is often Mac. Except for open-source and free Rivendell, radio automation is exclusively Windows. Well, there is one Mac program, but it is not a serious contender for anything like real radio stations.

    Windows/Intel hardware finally caught up with Mac, and I actually prefer Windows, because there are dozens upon dozens of useful and very good programs and add-ons that are not available at any price in Linux or Apple. An example are several plug-ins that I use with Winamp or other programs that are compatible with Winamp plug-ins. Ordinary people have no need of anything beyond surfing and email, and that is probably the largest market, and Apple is grabbing a tight hold on it, because their stuff just works out of the box, with no tinkering or further installation necessary. But I have specific additional needs, and those have been there in Windows—amazingly at no cost.

    Developers nowadays are more frequently making their stuff cross-platform. Most radio automation and audio processing works only on Windows, although a device called Stereo Tool has recently been ported to Linux

    http://www.stereotool.com/

    Stereo Tool is—thus far—only one of two devices that actually attempt to undo clipping that occurs in the now universal attempt to make CD’s sound as loud as possible. Record companies these days rely on just a few mastering engineers around the country, and someone I was around was recently asking, ‘why have ALL these guys disregarded what was once considered a sacred trust: creating as close to perfectly-clean audio for recordings as possible?’ The other, besides Stereo Tool, is Leif Claesson’s Breakaway Broadcast, which was programmed as a Windows DSP; the professional version, made by Omnia, runs on a Windows emulator chip in a rack-mounted unit. That little baby will set you back $11,000. The Breakaway Broadcast software is only a couple hundred. So far, Stereo Tool is free. The most respected product for radio processing is Bob Orban’s equipment. He makes a PC card for Windows-only that you can hear in operation here:

    http://icy.cdn.radiostorm.com/oldies

    That outfit originates from Topeka. They recently kicked down on their stream bitrates. The above link is to an AAC+ stream at 64kbps, which still sounds pretty good, thanks in large part to the Orban card. This is one of the few operations that makes an effort to sound good, instead of loud.

    Sorry if I steered anybody wrong on the Galaxy phone. For an Android, I think it is reasonable, but I do agree that most of my problems are carrier related, and not endemic to the phone itself. Nevertheless, I have spent a good 40 minutes trying to get GPS working—so far, without success. Knowing it worked out of the box on my daughter’s iPhone, I actually see red.

    Not sure what I will end up using for a tablet, but my daughter’s iPad mini is looking awfully attractive. Many times I have pointed out that my iPod 5th Gen is sooo much more usable than the SanDisk Sansa e200. I LOVE the iPod running Rockbox. The Sansa COMPLETELY lacks any thought to design whatsoever. It’s a piece of crap that I paid over $200 for, when new. The iPod was only $400 at that same time, although I bought mine from my daughter, when she broke it out of warranty, and Apple wanted $150 to replace it. She could not afford that, so I did. Best $150 I ever spent. She is happy with her iPod mini solid-state that she can drop over and over and it never breaks. Both my kids are hard on equipment in a way I will never understand.

  27. Talk about timing. Just received a notice from my friend in cell phones, saying this Sunday will mark the complete shutdown of what is left of the entire Nextel iDEN network. That ends their famous ‘push-to-talk’ technology. The times they are a changin’.

  28. So how are phone calls made on a smartphone if only G4 is available? I thought that all phone calls went over CDMA or GSM?

  29. Not very well, apparently, as I have too many calls where nobody can hear my audio, but I can hear theirs.

    Actually, all I know is that 4G-LTE is the new universal standard, and it includes everything necessary for both voice and data. Even Europe has agreed to go to 4G and abandon GSM. In another year, my carrier (if I stick with them) will be ONLY 4G. It IS weird to be driving down the road and see a crew actually dismantling a former cell phone tower, instead of building one. Guess the early technology has been around long enough to be completely outdated.

    The other thing I have been told by insiders at the phone company, is that 4G-LTE is quite vulnerable to hackers, and it is not inconceivable that they could take down massive parts of the network. Apparently, in the rush to get 4G out the door, security was the last thing they were thinking about.

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