360 degree panoramas

Here’s a really fun site a friend of mine directed me to: www.360cities.net

They have panoramas all across the world, and even underwater!  The one they have of London is probably the most impressive one to date though: http://btlondon2012.co.uk/pano.html

You can look around, and zoom in a LOT – it’s incredible the detail you can get, and what you can see.

Martin Jetpack–finally for sale $100,000

The long-awaited Martin Jetpack has finally been made available for civilian purchase.  The ducted fan “backpack” has a running time of 30 minutes, and can reach heights of 5,000 feet.  They also have an unmanned version for $180,000 which is useful for search and rescue applications among other things. Click picture below for full story:

The Martin Jetpack, developed with UAE institutions, at Idex yesterday. It can travel at 100kph and reach heights of 1,500 metres. Sammy Dallal / The National

Lorem Ipsum–goofy MS Word tip for the day

Here’s an odd one for you.  Try typing this in Microsoft Word on a line by itself and hit enter:


What you’ll get is this:


Pretty bizarre, eh?  This is the famous “lorem ipsum” pseudo-latin text that is used extensively by graphic design folks.  The idea is that if you present a layout that has readable text, whoever you show it to will READ the text and that will influence whether or not they like the layout.  The goal is to represent that “text goes here” but NOT have people waste their time reading and comprehending it.

In my example above, I specified “=lorem(2)” which means “give me 2 paragraphs of gibberish”.  If you want more, just change that number.  Word will give you 3 sentences per paragraph by default, but if you want more, you can have it!  Try =lorem(2,10) – that’ll give you two paragraphs with 10 sentences each.

Media Life Spans

Only the geeks traditionally worried about this stuff, but we always tend to assume that various types of media will be usable for many, many years.  This is not the case.  As you probably know from looking at old family photos, they don’t survive well over time.  This is also the case for tape backup (well, putting aside that even a week after it’s written, the odds are pretty good that you’ll have issues restoring from tape – I always did).

I ran across this neat diagram that shows various kinds of media, and the expected life spans.  I thought it was neat to see this all in one place.

Backup Storage Media Lifespan Infographic

iTunes, Safari, Bonjour updates

Ok, so I have a bone to pick with Apple on this.  Periodically, their software (iTunes, Safari, Bonjour, etc) needs to be updated.  Thank God they don’t do this as often as a certain vendor whose name we will not mention but who has the initials “Adobe”.

Their updater fires up, and tells you “hey we have an update”.  Fine, you authorize that, it downloads and installs.  That should be that.  But wait… it goes back to Apple’s server again and checks for updates.  Um… why?  Stop the silliness folks, and quit BUGGING me when I’m trying to do other things with my computer.

GoDaddy DNS Outage

Two days ago, GoDaddy had a major outage in their DNS system.  This affected probably millions of web sites (they currently have more than 45 million domain names under management, according to wikipedia), FTP sites, email sites, and so forth, whether those sites were actually hosted at GoDaddy or not.  I was among the list of affected users, as you may have noticed.

I do not use GoDaddy for hosting of any kind (I did, but really hated the performance, so I switched away pretty quick), but I have been using them as a domain name registrar for many years, and so I use their DNS that is included for free with my domain registrations.  It’s always been very reliable … until yesterday.

As soon as GoDaddy started having problems, some dork posted on Twitter that he was a hacker and took them down as an experiment in cyber security.  A little bit later, somebody posted a video to youtube ostensibly from the Anonymous collective, claiming that this was an attack because Anonymous dislikes GoDaddy’s support for government regulation of certain parts of the internet.

Yesterday, an article was released by the Times saying that the issue was actually an internal problem that GoDaddy had (a major networking failure caused by corrupted router tables), and that it had nothing to do with hackers.  Today, I received an email from GoDaddy apologizing for the outage, and offering me a credit – 1 month of free service for each of my active/published sites.  The email was signed by Scott Wagner, CEO.  I thought that was a nice gesture, and a very good move on their part.  In my case, I’m not using them for hosting, so the credit does me no good.

Bob Parsons hasn’t been in the CEO seat since December 2011.  I keep hoping that the new CEO will make some changes to GoDaddy’s “image”, and aim for a less juvenile persona than Bob had been pushing.  Bob came off as a Hugh Heffner wanna-be, and I know of several fair-sized companies that won’t deal with GoDaddy (for domain registration, DNS, and certificate authority) as a result.  I think this is a shame, because all-in-all, I think GoDaddy does provide a good and reliable service.  I continue to live in hope.

Operating systems over time

I’ve been involved with computers since 1978, so I’ve seen the evolution of operating systems and user interfaces.  It occurred to me today that there are three “phases” that have happened (or are happening).  I have some transportation analogies for this:

Unicycle ( unix, dos, cp/m ) – like a unicycle, these operating systems could pivot on a dime, they were small, and cool.  They weren’t very easy to use though, and took considerable skill on the part of the rider (operator).

Car ( Windows XP, Mac ) – like a car, these operating systems were much easier to use than the Unicycle.  They were fast and useful.  While they couldn’t quite pivot like a Unicycle, they were still very flexible.

Train ( Windows 8 ) – Even easier to use than the car, but it only goes forward and backward on the track.  The attempt to dumb down the user interface so it can be supported on all devices and screen sizes necessarily limits flexibility.


“My documents” folder renaming on a network share

This is a very annoying Windows 2008 R2 bug which was reported way back in 2010 but still there is no fix from Microsoft.  Here’s an example from the educational sector.

Here’s the symptom:  You have a bunch of users and want to keep their “my documents” folders on a network share so that it can be easily backed up, and so if their computer dies, it’s no big deal.

You create the share, we’ll call it “UserData” and share it out to all the workstations.  Then, you go to each windows 7 workstation in turn and start redirecting each user’s “my documents” to a folder with their name in that share.  So “Stan” would get a “Stan” folder inside “UserData”. Nice and tidy.  All of your users now have their own personal sub-directory and it’s easy to see who owns what data.  It’s also easy to back up and restore.

At some time later on (not sure what the trigger is, but it seems it has to do with when the user logs off), this folder is mysteriously renamed to “my documents”.  Now, you have a ton of folders in “UserData” which apparently have the same name (“My Documents”), and you don’t know who owns what data!!!  The links from the Windows 7 PCs seem to stay intact, but it’s impossible to manage at the server level.

Sure, one solution is to have “UserData/Stan” and put a “my documents” folder in there.  But why should I do that?  When you do the “my documents” redirect, it allows you to pick a folder as the redirect target.  If the folder name you’ve picked is not acceptable, you shouldn’t be able to pick it.  But there is no such error or warning.  Everything seems fine until some random time when the system decides to “fix” it for you.

This is what I refer to as “arrogant code”.  Somebody at Microsoft made a conscious decision that they know better than you do, and regardless what you wanted to rename that folder, they will impose their iron will and rename it the way THEY want it.  This isn’t a bug where somebody made a typo in the code.  This is a very poor consciously made behavioral decision.  One might wonder… why?  Why is some engineer at Microsoft overriding the customer’s decision?