No, I'm not really leaving Facebook.  It's too useful a tool for keeping in touch with people I would otherwise be prone to neglecting.  I think it best to keep my participation minimal, however.

I've never done apps, for example, because I mostly find them annoying.  Today's Wall Street Journal provides another good reason to avoid them, a massive security breach.

That revelation was enough of a push to make me rescind my previous decision to share my blog posts as notes on Facebook.  Not that the recent breach had anything to do with notes; it merely makes me less comfortable with the platform and less willing to take whatever risks there might be when I've seen no discernable benefit.  Having my posts duplicated on Facebook does make them more accessible to some people, but (1) Facebook usually posts them in clumps, so that most are hidden under a "see more posts" link; (2) there are few comments made, so if people are reading them I rarely know about it; and (3) I prefer to have all comments here, anyway, to keep the conversations in one place.

So, I apologize to the few of you who I know do read my posts on Facebook, but after this one posts I'll be stopping the feed.  Please come here instead; you are more than welcome.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, October 18, 2010 at 2:46 pm | Edit
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Can you believe I get tired of hearing that my blog is absolutly brilliant, and the commenter can't wait to share it with his friends?

Well, I do, and so I'm trying out comment moderation.  If I'm going to have to spend log in several times a day to remove spam, I might as well spend that time approving comments.

The down side is that if you write a comment here, you won't see it right away, at least not at first.  Jon has enhanced the moderation software to allow previously-approved commenters to bypass the moderation process, though you'll have to go through it again if you write from a different IP address.

I trust it will go smoothly, but if your comment gets lost, please let me know.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, October 8, 2010 at 4:03 pm | Edit
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Not long ago, my lovely external monitor gave out completely.  I suppose I could complain about how nothing lasts well these days, but it lasted a lot longer than the Gateway computer it originally came with, which self-destructed after 19 months of an 18-month warranty.*

One does not need an external monitor, and I was prepared to do without for a while, but Porter, God bless him, cares for his wife's desires as well as her needs...and an external monitor is especially nice when the regular one is a small laptop screen.  So we ventured out shopping. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, October 1, 2010 at 9:32 am | Edit
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Category Computing: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

It shouldn't have been so hard, though I'll admit I'm stubborn.  Firefox has been nagging me for days to update my Flash player, but I have to check the box that says I've read the EULA, and every time I tried to download the pdf, it gave me an error at best—and sometimes crashed my machine.

I tried on another computer with the same result.

I don't mind skimming EULAs, and even fudging on the part that requires me to say I actually understand them, especially when half the agreement is in French.  But I refuse to say I've read something when it's not even possible to get a copy of it.

After checking the Adobe site, forums, and Google to no avail, finally inspiration struck:  I copied the url of the recalcitrant file out of Firefox and into Internet Explorer—and it worked.   Then I could go back into Firefox and complete the update.  Even that required several attempts and a couple of Firefox restarts, though.

And that was just for one computer.  For the other I still haven't been successful, as the update refuses to download, telling me a plug-in is missing—without telling me what plug-in is missing, and when I search for the missing plug-in, nothing is found.

What a waste of time!

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, September 25, 2010 at 6:26 am | Edit
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Having family all over the globe makes for an interesting life, but sometimes it's hard to know which end is up—or more importantly, who is up when.  Enter FoxClocks, an add-on for FireFox, which has made that task much easier for me.  There's also a version for Thunderbird, and I use both to my advantage.

My two favorite display formats are (1) showing the city, time, and day in the status bar:

and (2) a tiny icon in the status bar which pops up that information when I hover my mouse over it.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, September 23, 2010 at 1:35 pm | Edit
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On Sunday, Firefox suddenly stopped working on my computer.  It would open all right, but no matter what URL I used it would only display a blank page.  Existing HTML files on the computer worked fine, but nothing online.  The problem was not with my connection, as Internet Explorer worked, as did other network connections.

I have no brilliant solution to the problem—though mine is now "fixed"—but am writing it up because I appreciate reading other people's experiences online when I run into a problem.  My Invisible Firefox post is also one of the most read on this blog.

I did find other folks out there with the same blank-page-only issue, but no clear solution.  Suggestions included doing a system restore, creating a new Firefox profile, reinstalling Firefox, and/or making various changes to Firefox, firewall, and registry settings.  In my limited research, I found no obvious reason for the changed behavior of Firefox, and no definitive evidence that the suggested approaches would work.  Moreover, there wasn't a one of them that I trusted myself to implement, given that all this was taking place under the exciting and sleep-deprived circumstances of the home birth of my latest grandson. Thus I was reduced to depending on IE, which I dislike, though I must admit times like this make me glad it's there as a backup.

By Wednesday I figured I was in sufficient command of both my faculties and a few moments of time to tackle the problem.  But before I could make any changes at all, Firefox suddenly started working agan.  To all appearances it is back to normal.

As my father always said, I'm suspicious of inanimate objects that appear to heal themselves.  I don't understand the fixing any more than I understand the breaking.  But there it is.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, July 1, 2010 at 1:27 am | Edit
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Category Computing: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Everyday Life: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

Today I almost gave up before I started.  First, there was a blog post that I felt needed a comment, and I was guiltily trying to get it written without using up the entire hour, when I learned that there was yet another wrinkle in my ongoing struggles with the insurance company over a medical procedure from last year.  (It isn't even an acrimonious battle; everyone agrees that the company should have paid.  But one small error in a procedure code has taken months to rectify.)  I thought we had finally gotten it straightened out, but this morning another charge popped up that the insurance company says it has paid but the provider says it hasn't received.  I managed to take myself out of the middle and now have them talking directly to each other on this one—but by the time I was done my computer time was well over an hour, and the day barely started.

Still, I plowed on, deciding merely to log the time while trying to keep it down.  That worked somewhat (though I did keep coming back to the machine more than I had hoped), until mid-afternoon, when I realized that the timer had been running throughout a long conversation with Porter and now read nearly four hours.  Probably three of that was legit, but not really knowing the truth I again gave up the fight.  At least I lasted longer than I did yesterday.

Ganbarimasu!

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 7:01 pm | Edit
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Last night I finished a project that had kept me welded to the computer for the better part of several days, and I awoke wondering if it would be possible to go through a day limiting my computer use to one hour.  The experiment started out well enough, though I had accomplished but the minimum of my normal morning computer routine when I realized I'd already used up a quarter of the time.  It was not too hard, however, to set the routine aside and turn to (mostly) non-computer-related projects.  I felt empowered, and looked forward to a day of accomplishment.  Occasionally I needed the computer briefly for something I was doing, but managed to do the job and get off, resisting the temptation to check blogs, news, or e-mail.

That lasted till maybe 9 a.m. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 9:09 pm | Edit
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What drives spam?  Money, obviously.  And sin.  Sin on both ends:  the sin of greed on the part of the spammer, and the sin that the spammer is hoping will entice his victim to throw money his direction.  Spam, therefore, may be a diagnostic tool, an x-ray scan revealing the broken and diseased places of our society.

If the spam that hits this blog (and is mostly filtered out before you see it) is any measure, the sickest area of our society is sex, although that observation is a bit like peering at an x-ray and announcing that the patient's leg is broken when anyone can see the jagged bone protruding from the flesh.  Porn of the worst kind, body part enhancements, "performance" drugs:  "greed meets lust" is a terrible combination. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, February 22, 2010 at 8:39 am | Edit
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Category Computing: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Random Musings: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

Someone else posted an enthusiastic link to Michael Hyatt's Do You Make These 10 Mistakes When You Blog?  That I am not so enthusiastic is probably due to having a serious problem with the first sentence, which reads, 

Assuming you want to increase your blog traffic, there are certain mistakes you must avoid to be successful.

After reading Hyatt's article I realized that not only do I make several of the mistakes, but I often make them on purpose.  That's when I realized the real problem:  I'm not convinced I want to increase my blog traffic. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, February 21, 2010 at 4:23 pm | Edit
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This article about the mathematics department at the University of Rochester credits much of their recent success to an online homework system developed by two U of R professors.

Any system that results in 80 percent of undergraduates taking calculus, without any requirement to do so, bears looking into.  (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 4:23 pm | Edit
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Category Education: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Computing: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

You'd think that being freed from the 9 - 5 routine, Mondays wouldn't bother me.  (What's with 9 - 5 anyway?  When I was employed I never worked that few hours in a day!)  And normally that's true.  This week was another story.

It began when the alarm went off at 4:30...a.m.  That's when I took Porter to the airport for a week out of town on business.  Still, that was only bad in hindsight; normally getting an early start imbues the day with productivity, and I was looking forward to digging right into my many awaiting projects.  I returned home, drove into the garage, walked through the door, entered my office, and turned on my computer.  Which promptly turned itself off.  Further attempts disclosed the unsettling warning, "Fan error." (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, February 7, 2010 at 12:33 pm | Edit
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Check out this TED lecture:  Pranav Mistry: The thrilling potential of SixthSense technology, not only for what might be ahead in the world of computing (hint: the line between computing and interacting with the real world is about to get quite blurry) but also for what a brilliant mind can think of when pondering the workings of an ordinary computer mouse.  You are in a taxi on your way to the airport and want to check the status of your flight.  Who needs an iPhone?  Simply look at your boarding pass, and a tiny device attached to your body reads the information and projects back onto the card that your flight is 20 minutes delayed.  Thanks, Janet, for sharing this.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, January 30, 2010 at 11:19 am | Edit
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The latest version of Thunderbird, 3.01, includes a number of significant changes from Version 2.  I think I'm going to like it, at least once the fix a major bug, which I understand they are working on.  The old Thunderbird allowed the assignment of nicknames to e-mail addresses, so, for example, I could set up simple two-letter codes for people I write frequently, and typing those codes into the "To" field auto-completed the correct address.  The new Thunderbird still allows nicknames, but they work differently:  the named address becomes merely one of many suggestions made by the auto-complete engine, and it's rarely the first.  Hence I, and from the word on the Internet, many others, have been embarrassed by sending e-mails to the wrong people.  What's more, the auto-complete engine insists on searching all addresses for possible matches.  I have three address books in Thunderbird:  my Personal Address Book, one I call Archives, into which I put addresses I might want once in a blue moon, and one Thunderbird adds, called "Collected Addresses," which it populates from e-mails sent and received.  All of these are useful, but I'd like to be able to tell Thunderbird to ignore all but the Personal Address Book.

Like Firefox, Thunderbird now uses tabs.  In Firefox (and Internet Explorer) it's annoying, because the button to open a new tab is right next to the button to close the tab, and I'm forever closing tabs by accident and often losing work in the process.  But Thunderbird doesn't have the "add tab" button to foul me up, and it's handy to be able to have several search results and a few e-mails all open in tabs.  Thunderbird remembers what tabs you had open when you exited the program, and restore them when you open it again. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, January 24, 2010 at 6:33 pm | Edit
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Category Reviews: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Computing: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

If you haven't received a call from us lately, it's not only because I don't like to use the telephone.

Shortly before Thanksgiving, our previously excellent phone service started giving us trouble.  Callers could hear us fine, but what we heard from them was distorted.  Back in the good ol' days of monopoly telephone service (black, rented phones and impossibly expensive long distance), if something went wrong, you knew who to blame, and they knew it, too.  Now I can call Switzerland for three cents a minute, but problems invite an endless circle of finger-pointing.  Especially when the problems are intermittent.  Before—possible points of failure = 1:  the telephone company.  After—possible points of failure = many:  the cable Internet provider, the VoIP provider, the VoiP phone, the modem, the router, or some combination.  (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, January 12, 2010 at 7:40 am | Edit
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