Posts tagged ‘computing’


From my desk, 1986

24.01.2021

Before this gets recycled, I thought I’d scan it as a memento: a 1986 printout off our Riteman dot matrix printer (which I still have, with spare cartridges), hooked up to a Commodore 64. I forget the printer interface. The image isn’t mine: I only imagine that 14-year-old me was claiming copyright over the layout and text. To me this was all amazing. Dad bought a box of the line-flow paper from the computer store, I believe, a place called Einstein, run by a really nice guy called Raju Badiani (who also sold the computer system). Anything seemed possible, and by the summer of 1986–7 I was hacking the bits and bytes and creating my own bitmap fonts on the 64, trying to make it all look like Eurostile. Nothing as sophisticated as Emigre. The 5¼-inch floppies are still around somewhere!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in New Zealand, technology, Wellington | No Comments »


Facebook prefers bots

04.12.2020

If I was on Facebook for personal stuff, I’m certain I could repeat those days where I found over 200 bots per day, but these days I’m only reporting the ones that hit groups or client pages.
   However, I’d say over 90 per cent of the applicants to one of the groups are bots or at least accounts running automated scripts to get into groups to hide their other activity, or to bombard those groups with spam. Facebook has improved its ratio of getting rid of them, but it still leaves roughly half untouched. In other words, if you are running Facebook bots, you’ll have a one in two chance that Facebook’s own people will give you a pass because they can’t tell what bot activity looks like. Little has changed since 2014.


Two Facebook accounts using the same software, it seems, getting caught on a group page. Both were reported, only one was taken down, despite them using the same techniques.

   I thought I’d also grab some screenshots on how automated activity is actually preferred on Facebook, too. I’ve mentioned this here before but here’s an illustrated example from Lucire’s page.
   First up, an automated addition that has come via IFTTT, which picks up the Tweets (also automated) and turns them into Facebook posts. This looks pretty good, and there’s even a preview image taken from the page.

   Let’s say I want to tag the company involved and remove the signature line. Facebook now lets me do this without starting a new line for the tagged business, so that’s an improvement on where we were half a year ago, where it was impossible using the new look.


   So far so good—at least till I hit ‘save’ and the preview image vanishes.

   I usually get the logo only when I feed in a post from scratch directly on to Facebook (assuming Facebook doesn’t corrupt the link and turn it into a 404). In other words, automated, or bot, activity gives you a better result than doing things directly on the site.
   I realize I could add some lines into the code to force the Facebook scraper to seek out the biggest image, but then we’re going into territory beyond that of the average user, and frankly I’m not skilled enough to do it in PHP. And why doesn’t Facebook require that of the bot when it picked up the page to begin with?
   That’s enough for today—I only wanted to illustrate that earlier example as I didn’t do it properly earlier in the year, and give a fresh bot warning. They’re still out there, and I’m betting most pages and groups have inflated numbers where non-humans are messing up their reach—and that’s just fine for Facebook knowing that people will have to pay to get around it.

Tags: , , , , , ,
Posted in internet, technology, USA | No Comments »


Payoneer frustrates and sends you round in circles

08.10.2020

I can safely say that I wouldn’t choose Payoneer as a payment service. As I told in their forums today as a last resort, after already spending hours (in the plural!) on this.

This has been deeply frustrating and here I am telling the story for the fifth time, since Payoneer stores none of my requests in the support centre.
   Today I received an email saying a payment was coming from a company that I work with. The problem: the bank account on file is out of date.
   There is no way I can make any changes.
   You may think that I can go to the settings on my account and do the edits there, but this particular account is not recorded there. So how can I remove or correct an account that is not even shown on the Payoneer website?
   No matter which option you select from payoneer.custhelp.com, you’ll get an automated response that is completely useless and irrelevant.
   The emails read, ‘If this response does not resolve your issue, visiting our Support Center is the fastest way to find a resolution,’ which is a complete and utter lie, since you cannot file a single support request. After you’ve typed out your story for the umpteenth time, support never receives a thing. You just get another automated email with useless information. When you look under ‘My requests’, you find that Payoneer never recorded what you wrote. This must be the quietest support centre in the world.
   When clicking on the link when the website’s advice is useless, you get a 404 that reads, ‘This site has been disabled for the time being.’
   They keep sending me to pages that I have already seen and can do nothing with. This has been the worst payment website I have ever had to deal with, as they keep sending you round in circles and nothing ever gets resolved. It’s out of sheer desperation I’m on a public forum in the hope someone knows how to do this.

   I’m not kidding about their website. Here are some fun pages it’s led me to in order to resolve my query.


   I’d like our money, please.

Tags: , , , , ,
Posted in internet, technology | No Comments »


Reaching the end of Facebook

05.08.2020

With the new season of Alarm für Cobra 11: die Autobahnpolizei nearly upon us, I decided I’d pop into my Facebook group (I’m still an admin) to see what had been happening. I’ve been there a few times this week and I have discovered some of the site’s latest features.
   Groups: these now have three posts. That’s it. Three. It doesn’t matter how long they have been running, Facebook doesn’t want you to be bothered by history or anything so stupid. Therefore, after the third post (fourth if you’ve just posted something), you’ve reached the end. Saves heaps on the server bills, since I guess they’re not as rich as they would have us believe.
   (This bug has been around for years but now it’s the norm, so maybe they eventually figured out it was a cost-saving feature.)


On groups: welcome to the end of Facebook. This is the last post.

   Comments: don’t be silly, you shouldn’t be able to comment. This is a great way for Facebook to cut down on dialogue, because they can then just propagate nonsense before an election. We know where Zuck’s biases are, so they want to be a broadcaster and publisher. You can select the word ‘Reply’ in the reply box, you just can’t type in it. (Again, an old bug, but it looks like it’s a feature. I’m still able to like things, although on many previous occasions over the last decade or more that feature was blocked to me.)


Commenting: they let me have one reply, but replying to someone who has replied to you? Forget it, it’s impossible.


In the reply box, you can highlight ‘Reply’ but you can’t type in there. That would be too much to ask.

   Notifications: these never load, had haven’t done for a long time. Remember the ad preferences’ page? They don’t load, either, so Facebook has now extended the “circle” to notifications. If you don’t see notifications, you won’t need to continue a thread—not that you could, anyway, since they don’t let you comment.


If you knew what your notifications were, you might stay longer and post stuff that makes sense. No, Facebook is for people who want to spread falsehoods among themselves. You have no place here.

   Messages: why not roll out the same spinning circle here, too? They should never load, either, because, frankly, email is far more efficient and everyone should just give up on using Facebook’s messaging service.


Time to go back to email: if you were ever silly enough to rely on Facebook for messaging, then you’re out of luck.

   I once thought that I encountered bugs on Facebook because I was a heavy user, but as I haven’t even touched my wall since 2017, this cannot be the reason. I also used to say their databases were ‘shot to hell’, which could be the case. And I still firmly believe I encounter errors because I’m more observant than most people. Remember, as Zuck’s friend Donald Trump says, if you do more testing, you’ll find more cases.
   I’ve even found the “end” of Instagram, at the point where nothing will show any more.


The end of Instagram: when you can find the limit to the service.


No one’s posting much these days. In the early 2010s, there’d be no way I’d ever get to see the end of my friends’ updates.

   Solution: don’t use Facebook. And definitely don’t entrust them with your personal data, including your photos—even if you trust them, they’ll potentially get lost. From what I can tell, the site’s increasing inability to cope suggests that its own technology might fail them before the US government even gets a chance to regulate! And—the above topics aside—it may be time to regulate Facebook and pull in the reins.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in internet, politics, technology, USA | No Comments »


After you’ve gone through the brands you’ve heard of …

23.05.2020


The mouse quest continues. After going through all of PB’s listings and coming up short—nothing (at least with listed dimensions) matched or came close to the size and shape of the Microsoft Intellimouse 1.1—I returned to Aliexpress for another look.
   This Tecknet mouse might be the right one, but it’s hard to say till I try it out. For around NZ$20 we’ll soon know.
   I’ve bought mice from Guangdong vendors on Aliexpress before, and even have one I regularly take with me when I travel, but it doesn’t have the side buttons, which I’ve become accustomed to. When you’re spoiled, it’s hard to go back—even though I have three mice here without those extra buttons which might be totally adequate size- and shape-wise. I’ll report back when the new mouse arrives. Here’s hoping this will be large enough for my hands—and if it is, Tecknet could well get a lot of business from many of us in the same boat who don’t wish to subscribe to the current trend of tiny computer mice.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in China, design, technology | No Comments »


Microsoft’s revived Intellimouse isn’t a successor to the old

17.05.2020


How I had such high hopes that the Microsoft Intellimouse Pro Special Edition bought at Noël Leeming would be a successor to my Intellimouse 1.1. The short version: it isn’t.
   It might be a successor to the Intellimouse Explorer 3 on which the shape is modelled, but for those of us who prefer symmetrical mice, because the higher right-hand side supports your hand better, it literally was a pain.
   There are only some counterfeit ones going for a decent price on Ebay, and I really should have snapped up more of the second-hand ones when I had a chance. The mice now at Recycling for Charity are, like all those reasonably priced ones in shops today, tiny. I imagine mice from the early 2000s aren’t even getting recycled any more, since it’s 2020 and the “old” stuff is from last decade—after the manufacturers began to shrink them.
   Asus did a good job with its ROG Strix Evolve which I bought three months ago, but I find that the absence of tapering at the front and the overall tightness of the buttons didn’t serve me that well.
   The Intellimouse 1.1 is back here as my reserve, and the Asus is on the mouse pad. It took all of a few seconds at my desk to know that Microsoft’s revived Intellimouse wasn’t right—and one wonders why they couldn’t just keep making something that worked so well for so many of us.
   I was lucky to get the similarly shaped Microsoft Laser Mouse 6000 five years ago, a dead-stock mouse made in 2005 that had been sitting at Corporate Consumables. In between the properly sized Microsoft mice—three in total, including my first in 2002—I had all manner of other types but nothing was as comfortable.
   When you go to some websites selling mice, they tell you that you can hold their product like a ‘claw’, as if that is a positive attribute. Once again we see the need for humans to adapt to technology, rather than the other way round. I can see why one might need to do this given how mice have shrunk. If your hand’s like a claw, then you may be the modern equivalent of the Chinese women who had their feet bound in the 20th century. You may feel that is the fashion, but you need not live with it.

I did it. On Saturday night I reset my Meizu M6 Note again, the second time in eight days, taking it back to factory settings. Except this time I didn’t load Whatsapp or Signal. Two days later, my phone remains OK.
   I suggested to PB that it may have developed a read–write fault, as deleting photos from the internal memory takes minutes (if it ever completes), which the warranty should cover. It also would explain why the gallery, camera and the downloads’ folder wouldn’t load properly, since they each tried to access the internal storage. I also had difficulty restoring my SMSs with SMS Backup, with the operation crapping out before completing—though strangely, today, the SMSs are back without any intervention from me.
   But it also wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Whatsapp wasn’t compatible with Android 7 now—Instagram never was, not fully. To save a load of time I won’t be putting messaging apps back on there. I lost a second evening to this and I’m not keen on losing more.
   There are two up sides: I don’t need to get a new phone, and if I did, I finally found a vendor on Aliexpress who’ll sell a Chinese-spec Meizu. No more of these western editions: they are less reliable, with a less well stocked app store, and you can’t update the OS. You have to root them to get rid of the Google spyware. I may stick with Meizu but I really won’t be buying domestically again.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in business, China, design, New Zealand, technology, Wellington | 2 Comments »


One more COVID-19 post: graphing and animating the data

06.04.2020

Russell Brown linked this COVID-19 trend page by Aatish Bhatia on his Twitter recently, and it’s another way to visualize the data. There are two axes: new confirmed cases (over the past week) on the y and total confirmed cases on the x. It’s very useful to see how countries are performing over time as it’s animated, and to get a handle on what trajectory you’re on.
   I’ve plotted us against some Asian countries and territories in the first graph and western countries in the second. South Korea is doing quite well and Taiwan is really bending its curve down. Try it yourself by clicking on either of the screenshot graphs below.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in design, globalization, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Sweden, technology, UK, USA | No Comments »


Twelve things I do to keep balanced while working from home

17.03.2020

When I was 13, my father became self-employed after being made redundant at his work. By choice, my mother did the same when I was in my early 20s. They both loved the lifestyle and I imagine it was inevitable I would do the same in my career, beginning at a time when I was still studying.
   As some who self-isolate because of the coronavirus pandemic say that their mental health is affected, I thought I’d share how I’ve been based at home for over three decades.

1. For those working, make sure it’s not just one project. There’s nothing more wearing that having just one thing to work on the entire day. I always have a few projects on the go, and make sure I switch between them. The second project should be a lighter one or be of less importance. Even if it’s not work, make sure it’s something that gives you a bit of variety.

2. Make sure you have a decent work set-up. I find it important to have a monitor where I can read things clearly. Also I set mine on a mode that restricts blue light. If you’re working at home, it’s not a bad idea to have comfortable settings on a screen. If your monitor doesn’t have a native mode to restrict blue light, there’s always F.lux, which is an excellent tool to make screens more comfortable.
   If you’re used to standard keyboards and mice, that’s great, but for me, I have to ensure my keyboard is either at around 400 mm in width or less, and my mouse has to be larger than the standard size since I have big hands. Ergonomics are important.

3. Find that spot. Find a comfortable space to base yourself with plenty of natural light and ventilation. At-home pet cats and dogs do it, take their lead.

4. Stretch. Again, the cats and dogs do it. Get out of that chair every now and then and make sure you don’t get too stiff working from your desk. Exercise if you wish to.

5. If you relax to white noise or find it comforting, there are places that can help. One friend of mine loves his podcasts, and others might like music, but I enjoy having the sound of web video. And if it’s interesting, you can always stop to watch it. One site I recently recommended is Thought Maybe, which has plenty of useful documentaries, including Adam Curtis’s ones. These give an insight into how parts of the world work, and you might even get some theories on just what landed us in this situation in 2020.
   When Aotearoa had two network TV channels, I dreamed of a time when I could have overseas stations accessible at my fingertips. That reality is now here with plenty of news channels online. If that’s too much doom and gloom, I’m sure there are others that you can tune into to have running in the background. Radio.net has a lot of genres of music.

6. Find that hobby. No point waiting till you retire. Was there something you always wanted to learn about but thought you’d never have time? I recommend Skillshare, which has lots of online courses on different subjects. You learn at your pace so you can delve into the course whenever you want, say once a day as a treat.

7. I do some social media but generally I limit myself. Because social media are antisocial, and they’re designed to suck up your time to make their owners rich (they look at how much attention they capture and sell that to advertisers), there’s no point doing something draining if you’ve got some good stuff to do in (1). However, they might be cathartic if you want to have some human contact or express your feelings. Personally, I prefer to blog, which was my catharsis in the mid-2000s, and which I find just as good today. It’s a pity the old Vox isn’t around these days as there’s much to be said for a long-form blogging network.
   Sarb Johal started the #StayatHomeEnts hashtag on Twitter where Tweeters have been putting up some advice on what we each do to keep entertained. I just had a scroll down and they’re really good!

8. Many of us have this technology to chat to others, let’s use it. We’re luckier in 2020 that there’s Facetime, Skype, Google Hangouts, etc. I had thought that if we didn’t have social media, we’d be finding this an ideal opportunity to connect with others around the planet and learning about other cultures. I remember in the early days of the web how fascinating it was to chat to people in chatrooms from places I had never visited. I realize these days there are some weirdos out there, who have spoiled the experience for the great majority. But I’m sure there are some safe places, and if they’re not around, see what friends are in the same boat and form your own virtual networks. Importantly, don’t restrict yourselves to your own country.

9. Don’t veg: do something creative. For those of us with a creative bent, draw, write, photograph, play a musical instrument—something to de-stress. I can’t get through a day without doing one creative thing.

10. Anything in the house that you said you’d always do? Now’s your chance to do it, and hopefully you’ve got your tools and equipment at home already.

11. If you’re in a relationship, don’t get on top of each other—have your own spaces. Having said that, seeing my partner helps as I used to go into town a few times a week for meetings; because I see her each day, that need to meet up with colleagues to get out of your own headspace isn’t as strong.

12. Take plenty of breaks. You’d probably have to anyway, in order to cook (since you’re not heading out to a café) so structure in times to do this. It soon becomes second nature. Don’t plough through till well after your lunchtime or dinnertime: get a healthy routine. Remember that self-isolation means you can still go for walks, just not into crowded places or with someone. When we self-isolated in January over an unrelated bug, my partner and I headed to a local park that wasn’t busy during the day and we were the only ones there.

   Normally I would have a small amount of meetings during the week but as I get older, they’re actually fewer in number, so I can cope with not having them.
   Do you have any extra tips? Put them in the comments and let’s see if we can build on this together.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in culture, interests, internet, New Zealand, technology, TV | 1 Comment »


Don’t rely on an algorithm to choose your brand ambassadors

14.03.2020

Here’s a cautionary tale found by Lucire travel editor Stanley Moss. His words: ‘Photographer Dmitry Kostyukov recently experienced a rich dialogue with an algorithm belonging to a Scandinavian swimwear company. He’d been auto-mistaken for a Y chromosome, and digitally invited to become a brand ambassador. Dmitry accepted, and received the sample suit of his choice, an influencer name and instructions on how to photograph himself wearing the product. This exposes one facet of what advertising has become, commodified advocacy. Following is the text of his statement about the project, filled with reminders of what today constitutes the new paradigm of product promotion. Caveat emptor.
   In other words, don’t leave your marketing in the hands of a program. I haven’t followed up with Bright Swimwear, but I hope they’ll run with it, not just to show that they are ‘progressive’, but to admit that there are limits to how algorithms can handle your brand. (They haven’t yet.)
   If the world desires more humanistic branding, and people don’t want to feel like just a number, then brands should be more personal. Automation is all right when you need to reach a mass audience with the same message, but cultivating personal relationships with your brand ambassadors would be a must if you desire authenticity. Otherwise, you just don’t know the values of those promoting your brand.
   Fortunately, I took it in good humour just as Dmitry did and ran the story in Lucire, and you can reach your own conclusions about the wisdom of algorithms in marketing, particularly in brand ambassadorship.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in business, humour, internet, marketing, Sweden, technology | No Comments »


Asus ROG Strix Evolve: a gaming mouse for a non-gamer

18.02.2020

My early 2000s Microsoft Intellimouse 1·1 is still the perfect shape for me. After getting the second-hand one into service last year, I thought that I needed a spare. I’ve several other mice, including no-brand ones, that are a decent size, but I got used to having the forward and back buttons on either side.
   Microsoft makes a Classic Intellimouse these days, but it’s based on a later design, and it appears the side buttons are on the left only, which seems to be the convention in the late 2010s and early 2020s. It’s also had some reviews criticizing the quality, so I knew I couldn’t go with the latest.
   I headed back to Recycling for Charity, where I sourced this Intellimouse, but judging by the stock, I’m not alone in my preference. All that were left were smaller mice, making me wish that I bought multiple Intellimouses a few years ago and stocked up. This surely is a massive hint to mainstream mouse makers on a latent, forgotten market.
   After sampling some during spare time at Noël Leeming in Porirua, which did fit my hand, I opted to look online. The Noël Leeming ones were mostly Logitech, and my experience is that their mice last about two years. I wanted quality.
   After much searching, one mouse that matches the dimensions of the Intellimouse (125 mm × 65 mm × 40 mm) with one millimetre out on the height is the Asus Republic of Gamers (ROG) Strix Evolve, and our old friends at Just Laptops in Albany had them on special at under NZ$70 plus freight. That’s a lot more than the NZ$3 I paid for the used Intellimouse and the NZ$25 I paid for the Microsoft Laser Mouse 6000 in 2015, but with Asus claiming that the switches were good for 50 million clicks—probably 10 times more than regular mice—I decided that three times the price for ten times the longevity (at least in one respect) was acceptable. And it had two switches on each side, which I could program.
   It arrived a (working) day later. A lot of the gaming features are lost on me: the option to have lighting effects, choosing your own colour or having it cycle, for instance. I don’t necessarily need DPI switching. It’s simply vital that I have something my right hand is comfortable with.

   The mouse comes with a second set of covers, so you can raise it slightly to suit your hand. I tried all permutations: left high, right low, vice versa, both low, both high, before deciding on having both sides in the raised position. The rubber side panels help with grip, and they aid comfort.
   The first negative is that the forward end isn’t as wide as I was used to. The Microsoft mice are a reasonable width all the way down, and the Evolve is slightly narrower. That means my ring finger touches the mouse pad more on the side, as it did with an earlier Lenovo (plenty of those at Recycling for Charity, incidentally). I thought I wouldn’t be able to get used to it, as I didn’t with the Lenovo, and it does continue to be a slight problem. In other words, I haven’t quite got the perfect mouse and it’s a lesson about buying online when your requirements are this strict (though again I wouldn’t have considered this a major problem if manufacturers weren’t skimping on materials and giving people repetitive strain injuries).
   Asus hasn’t deceived about the measurements: it is 125 mm wide at its greatest width, just as Microsoft has it on theirs.
   I may put up with letting my ring finger drop and go along the mouse pad for the time being just for comfort’s sake and see if I’m OK with washing the pad more regularly. Or adjust my hand positioning slightly. But I know I cannot use the modern mice.
   One Tweeter noted that maybe the mouse manufacturers are finally appealing to women, and I had to agree it was nice for us men to experience just once what it’s like for them in a usually male-designed tech world.
   The other features are excellent: the ability to program the switches, which I did very early; and I can turn the lighting off as I see no point to it if my hand is on the mouse obscuring most of it. Then again, I’m not a gamer.
   The mouse wheel and switches are far more solid than anything I’ve encountered, making the 50 million-click claim believable. I do occasionally hit the right button inadvertently, probably out of unfamiliarity, and I must hit the DPI switch from time to time, again accidentally.
   Nevertheless, I’m going to keep my eye out for second-hand Intellimouses. Mine has become the back-up again, and really I didn’t think I was asking for much. Microsoft had a perfect design for which the tooling must be long amortized, so it makes you wonder why they don’t just trot it out again and make a bundle more off us.

Tags: , , , , , , ,
Posted in design, New Zealand, technology | 1 Comment »