Posts tagged ‘software’


Another mailbox bites the dust from another crash—what is taking out Eudora’s data?

17.09.2020

Something is crashing my PC and taking Eudora mailboxes with it.
   The latest is losing my Q3 outbox table of contents, which I suppose isn’t as bad as losing the inbox, outbox, and all third-quarter emails, though being at the end of the week, there was still some repairing from the weekend back-up I made.
   The outbox was there but the table of contents was corrupted, and when Eudora rebuilds, for some reason the recipient isn’t recorded, only the sender.
   Once again I was faced with a line-by-line (or, rather, group-by-group) comparison of the back-up and the existing mailboxes, to see what changes had been made since the 11th.


Above: What remained of the third-quarter outbox. I can no longer group this ’box by recipient, since Eudora doesn’t rebuild sent email folders with the recipient in the relevant column.

   There were about three dozen emails that weren’t in common.
   The below Windows crash appears to have happened just after the last recorded “recipient-less” email in the corrupted table of contents.

   That was a while back, but I do remember another crash that slowed the computer to a crawl, with the non-closing app on restart being something to do with an AMD capturing window error.
   Could AMD’s software be crashing and deleting mailboxes? If so, it’s cost me many, many hours of frustration and the knowledge that I have a corrupted table of contents for this quarter’s emails that will never be fixed—a rare imperfection among years of perfectly archived ’boxes.
   I was also able to trace it to when I sent a message to a friend on Facebook who is not easily reachable by other means. Since I rarely use the site it was pretty easy to pinpoint when I was last there.
   Considering my phone died after installing Whatsapp what’s the bet that running Facebook on a desktop browser kills your desktop’s data?
   It’s as I always say: the newer the software doesn’t mean more reliable. Just ask anyone using Facebook today.
   I have updated the AMD driver so let’s see if the bug recurs. I’m considering running Eudora back-ups on a daily basis but the weekly Windows back-up takes in many other work folders, and I don’t believe there’s a way to run a second job through the default service.

I visited a dental surgeon earlier this week and noticed his software didn’t perform as he wished. He couldn’t edit things in his billing software due to a bug. He had to return to the file minutes later and repeat the task before the program let him.
   I dispute those who say I encounter more bugs than the average user. Watching the surgeon, he just lived with the bug, and knew that if he waited long enough, his program would allow him to make edits again. It seems to be a bug affecting the most basic of tasks. The difference, I imagine, is that he didn’t document the stupidity of the software developer in preventing him from doing a fundamental task, whereas I regularly call them out, especially when it comes to common sites such as Google or Facebook where the (misplaced) expectation is that they must hire the best. Not always.
   Prof Sir Geoffrey Palmer once said in one of his lectures, ‘The more lawyers there are, the more poor lawyers there are.’ The analogy in software is, ‘The more software developers there are, the more thick software developers there are.’ Like any profession, and I include law, not everyone who graduates is smart. Just look at some of our politicians who claim to have law degrees.

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


Recovering mailboxes and tables of contents in Eudora after an extraordinarily massive crash

12.09.2020

I’ve used Eudora for around 25 years as my email client and in the early days, when the inbox got too big, I had it crash every now and then, necessitating the program to rebuild the table of contents. From memory I’ve lost some emails back then, too, and had to ask friends to re-send. But, by and large, it’s been largely stable, and since Windows 7 I don’t recall it crashing so badly that I would be up shit creek. Till last night.
   Normally, Eudora has back-ups for its in- and outboxes (which it renames with 001 and 002 suffixes) so in the case of a lost ’box, you can rename the old ones and hopefully not lose too much. But what if a crash was so severe it would take out not only the in- and outboxes, but also the content of the back-ups, as well as your third-quarter email folder? That’s exactly what happened.
   I haven’t gone back into Windows to find out what caused the series of crashes but it seems to have begun with RuntimeBroker.exe and ntdll.dll. I’m not even going to pretend I know what all this means:

   So what do you do when you’re up shit creek and renaming mailboxes (which I’ve had to do when we had a fuse blow) doesn’t work?
   The most recent back-up I had was from September 5, and a lot happens in email-land for me over the course of six days. But it was the most recent, and it had to be the starting-point. So, first up, I retrieved them from Windows Backup and put them into a temporary folder (you can’t put them into the original folder).
   The third-quarter ’box’s contents were still there, but the table of contents had been corrupted, but it had six days’ worth of changes to it. I renamed this to Q3 In (2), closed Eudora, and placed the backed-up third-quarter mailbox and table into the Eudora folder.
   Then it’s the laborious process of seeing how they differ. The best thing to do—and why Eudora remains superior to so many later programs—is to line up the mailbox windows side by side, size them the same, sort them both by date, and begin going through screen by screen. If the first email and the last email are identical, chances are the ones in the middle are identical, so you’re only looking for the emails in the corrupted table that are newer. You then have to shift them one by one into the backed up one. I deleted the identical ones from the corrupted mailbox and by the end of the exercise I had over 4,200 emails in the trash.
   The status (read, replied) is gone after the transfers but it’s a tiny price to pay for completeness.


Above: The remnants of the exercise, after discarding trash and duplicate emails from the corrupted third-quarter mailbox.

   Then the inbox. Same story: there was a 001 ’box that had survived the crash but none of the tables of contents were usable.
   In this case, it’s fortunate we use Zoho as our email service. I went into the trash folder, where all checked emails wind up after POP3 access, and transferred everything from the 5th to the present day into the inbox. Fortunately, from there it’s not difficult to do a fresh POP3 access. Again, I closed Eudora, put the backed-up inbox into the main Eudora folder, and simply checked my emails. You do lose once more the status of the emails—you won’t know if you’ve replied to them—but at least you have an inbound record.
   The outbox was a very sad case, and unfortunately the news is not good. Here, the table of contents was complete but the mailboxes (all of them) were blank. Therefore, clicking on the table of contents’ entries actually deleted them because the mailbox was corrupted. Strangely, all showed the correct sizes.
   There’s no easy way here. You can’t take sent emails from Zoho and put them into your inbox expecting Eudora to be able to download them. The only solution I found was to forward each one, one by one, to myself from within Zoho. Then I placed them into either my third-quarter outbox or the active outbox. My own name appears in the recipient column, and the dates are wrong, but, again, if completeness is the aim, then it’s a small price to pay. Sadly, of the three recovered ’boxes and tables of contents, it’s the least elegant.
   I imagine I could edit each email as a text file within the outbox and allow the table of contents to generate new entries, then recompile them into a new table, but after you’ve spent hours doing the first two ’boxes, you’re not keen on such a technical solution after 3 a.m. And there’s also no guarantee that the table would generate properly anyway.
   Windows was the culprit here, as Eudora has always been very stable, and crashes like this are exceedingly rare, if you keep your in- and outboxes to reasonable sizes. I’ve never seen the back-ups get wiped out as well. A good case study in favour of regular back-ups, and maybe I might need even more frequent ones.

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Posted in business, New Zealand, technology | 1 Comment »


How to delete Windows 10 system fonts for real, not just remove registry references to them

13.08.2020

My last post implied that I ego-surfed and found a Wikipedia chat entry about me, but that’s not the case. I was searching for information on how to remove a system-protected font from Windows 10, and seeing as I often post solutions to obscure technical issues on here, I had hoped I recorded my how-to last time. The libel posted by some Australian Wikipedia editor came up during that search.
   Once upon a time, Microsoft didn’t care if you removed system fonts, but at some point, it began protecting Arial, whose design, for reasons I’ve gone into elsewhere, I’ve always considered compromised. There was one stage where you could replace Arial with something else called Arial, and as I had a licence for a very, very old Agfa version of Helvetica (do people remember CG Triumvirate?!), I decided to modify its file name to fool Windows into thinking all was well.
   The last time Windows did an update—version 1909—I had to resort to a safe-mode boot and taking control of the font files as admin, but I really could not remember the specifics. The problem is that when you install the “new” Arial, the existing roman one is used by quite a few applications, and you don’t really replace it—your only solution is to delete it.
   With version 2004, safe mode is quite different, and the command prompt and Powershell commands I knew just didn’t cut it. I realize the usual solution is to go into the registry keys—I’ve used this one for a long, long time—and to remove or modify the references to the offending fonts at HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Fonts. I’ve also used the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\FontSubstitutes key to make sure that Helvetica does not map on to Arial (in fact, I make sure Arial maps on to Helvetica). Neither actually works in this case; they are ignored, even bypassed by certain programs. And, really, neither deletes the file; they just attempt to have Windows not load them, something which, as I discovered, doesn’t prevent Windows from loading them.
   By all means, use these methods, but be prepared for the exception where it doesn’t work. The claim that the methods ‘delete’ the fonts is actually untrue: they remain in C:\Windows\Fonts.
   The other methods that do not work are altering the equivalent keys under WOW6432node (which get intercepted and directed from the 32-bit keys anyway), using an elevated command prompt to delete the files (at least not initially), or doing the same from safe mode (which is very different now, as safe mode is in the same resolution and the Windows\Fonts folder displays as it does in the regular mode—so you cannot see the files you have to remove). You cannot take ownership of the font files through an elevated Powershell (errors result), nor can you do this from safe mode. Nothing happens if you delete FNTCACHE.DAT from the system32 directory, and nothing happens if you delete ~fontcache files from the Local directory.
   What was interesting was what kept calling arial.ttf in the fonts’ directory even after “my” Arial was loaded up. The imposter Arial loaded in most programs, but for the Chromium-based browsers (Vivaldi, Edge), somehow these knew to avoid the font registry and access the font directly. This was confirmed by analysing the processes under Process Monitor: sure enough, something had called up and used arial.ttf.
   This Wikihow article was a useful lead, getting us to delete the fonts under the Windows\WinSxS folder, and showing how to take ownership of them. I don’t know if altering these ultimately affected the ones inside Windows\Fonts, but I followed the instructions, to find that the original Arial was being accessed by three programs: Vivaldi, Keybase, and Qt Qtwebengineprocess. I shut each one of these down and removed the Arial family.
   Reboot: it was still there. Then it hit me, and I posted the solution in the Microsoft Answers forum (perhaps inadvertently prompting a Microsoft programmer to make things even harder in future!). Another user had told me it was impossible, but I knew that to be untrue, since it had been possible every other time.
   The solution is pretty simple: since you can’t see the full Windows\Fonts directory with Windows Explorer, then I needed another file manager.
   Luckily, I had 7zip, which I opened as an administrator. It allowed me to go into the folder and view all its contents, not just the fonts called up under HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Fonts, which we know is not an accurate representation of the fonts being used by the system. From there I could finally delete the offending four fonts without changing the ownership (which makes me wonder if the Wikihow advice of changing the owner under Windows\WinSxS wound up affecting the Windows\Fonts files). Once again, I had to close Keybase, Vivaldi and Qt Qtwebengineprocess.
   It took from c. 4 p.m., when my desktop PC updated to v. 2004 (my laptop had been on it for many weeks; soon after its release, in fact) to 2 a.m., with a break in between to cook and eat dinner. I’m hoping those hours of having typographic OCD helps others who want to have a font menu where they determine what they should have. Also, user beware: don’t delete stuff that the system really, really needs, including an icon font that Windows uses for rendering its GUI.


Using Google as a last resort—except this search, which I did again as an illustration, now displays in CG Triumvirate rather than Arial. Normally, Google is a big Arial user (Arial and sans-serif are in the CSS specs) and Chromium browsers are all too happy to circumvent the registry-registered fonts and go straight into your hard drive.

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Posted in design, technology, typography | No Comments »


After 18 months, some progress on the Meizu M6 Note

23.06.2020

That was an interesting day in cellphone land. I collected the Meizu M6 Note from PB last Friday and switched it on for the first time in the small hours of Tuesday.
   I originally wasn’t pleased. I had paid NZ$80 for a warranty repair (there is provision under the Consumer Guarantees Act 1993 in some circumstances) and was told at the service counter that all that was performed was a factory reset, followed by a week’s testing. In other words, what I had originally done, twice, before bringing the phone in. I replied that that was not going to work, and was told by the PB rep that maybe I shouldn’t have so many apps open. Conclusion: a newer phone is far less capable than an older one.
   But he wasn’t the technician, and as I discovered, Joe had done more than a mere factory reset. When I switched the phone on, it was back to square one, like the day I bought it, complete with Google spyware. I wasn’t thrilled about this, but it suggested to me that the ROM had been flashed back to the beginning.
   Meizu’s factory resets don’t take you right back to factory settings, not if you had rooted the phone and removed all the Google junk.
   To his credit, this was a logical thing to do. However, within 10 minutes it developed a fault again. The settings’ menu would not stay open, and crap out immediately, a bit like what the camera, browser, and gallery had done at different times. All I had done up to this point was allow some of the apps to update, and God knows what Google was doing in the background as messages for Play and other programs flashed up in the header. The OS wanted to update as well, so I let it, hoping it would get past the bug. It didn’t.
   So far, everything was playing out exactly as I had predicted, and I thought I would have to head to PB and point out that I was taking them up on the three months they guarantee their service. And the phone was warranted till December 2020 anyway. Give me my money back, and you can deal with Meizu for selling a lemon.
   However, I decided I would at least try for the umpteenth time to download the Chinese OS, and install it. Why not? Joe had given me a perfect opportunity to give this another shot, and the phone appeared unrooted. The download was painfully slow (I did the same operation on my older Meizu M2 Note out of curiosity, and it downloaded its OS update at three to four times the speed—can we blame Google for slowing the newer phone down?) but eventually it got there. The first attempt failed, as it had done countless times before. This was something that had never worked in the multiple times I had tried it over the last 18 months, and I had drawn the conclusion that Meizu had somehow locked this foreign-market phone from accepting Chinese OSs.
   I tried again.
   And it worked. A fluke? A one-off? Who knows? I always thought that in theory, it could be done, but the practice was entirely different.
   It took a while, but I was astonished as the phone went through its motions and installed Flyme 8.0.0.0A, killing all the Google spyware, and giving me the modern equivalent of the Meizu M2 Note from 2016 that I had sourced on Ebay from a Chinese vendor.
   I may be speaking too soon, but the settings’ bug disappeared, the apps run more smoothly, and as far as I can tell, there is no record of the phone having been rooted. I had a bunch of the APKs from the last reset on the SD card, so on they went.
   Meizu synced all contacts and SMSs once I had logged in, but there was one really annoying thing here: nothing from the period I was running the western version of the phone appeared. The messages prior to December 2018 synced, plus those from the M2 Note during June while the M6 was being serviced.
   It appears that the western versions of these apps are half-baked, and offer nothing like the Chinese versions.
   With any luck, the bugs will not resurface—if they don’t, then it means that the read–write issues are also unique to the western version of the M6 Note.
   I’ve spent parts of today familiarizing myself with the new software. There are some improvements in presentation and functionality, while a few things appear to have retrograded; but overall, this is what I expect with a phone that’s two years newer. There should be some kind of advance (even little things like animated wallpapers), and with the western version, other than processor speed and battery life, there had not been. It was 2016 tech. Even the OS that the phone came back with was mid-decade. This is what the western editions are: out of date.
   The only oddity with the new Chinese Flyme was the inability to find the Chinese version of Weibo through Meizu’s own Chinese app store—only the foreign ones showed up on my search, even though the descriptions were all in simplified Chinese.
   These mightn’t have been the developments that Joe at PB expected but if things remain trouble-free, that NZ$80 was well worth spending to get a phone which, for the first time in its life, feels new. The other lesson here is to avoid western-market phones if you don’t find the Chinese language odd. I had already made enquiries to two Aliexpress sellers to make sure that they could sell me a non-western phone, ready to upgrade. Hopefully that won’t need to happen.
   Next week: let’s see if I can shoot some video and have that save without killing the gallery, the bug that kicked all of this off.

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Posted in business, China, design, New Zealand, technology, Wellington | 1 Comment »


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.

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


The first world problems of the cellphone (lockdown edition)

09.05.2020


This Pukerua Bay Tardis was the last thing I shot before the cellphone’s camera and gallery failed

First world problems: the cellphone. Right now my partner and I have half a phone each, so between us, we have one phone. She can receive calls on hers but no one can hear her answer. Mine no longer rings but you can hear me speak. So I guess the way to communicate with us, while there are no repairers within easy reach during Level 3, is to call her, we note down the number, and one of us calls you back on my phone. Oh, and neither of us can take photos any more: hers has had an issue with SD cards from quite early on, and mine developed an inability to function as a camera last week.
   I’m not that bothered, really. I’ve no real desire to get a new one and while it’s a shame to lose a very good camera, one wonders whether I should just get a camera. After all, those last longer than a mere 18 months …
   The fault on my Meizu M6 Note isn’t easily explained. I’ve spotted similar errors online, solved by deleting the app cache or app data. That doesn’t work for me. The camera crashes on opening, as does the downloads’ folder. The gallery is a grey, translucent screen that does or doesn’t crash eventually. The stock music and video apps cannot find anything, though the stock file manager and ES File Explorer tell me that everything is there, and the music and video files play.
   I’ve not lost any important data—I’ve always backed up regularly—and I’ve transferred everything off the SD card, including all SMSs and contacts, as well as photos.
   PB (who sold my phone) says this is a software issue (avoiding a warranty claim) but I’m sensing that the phone is crapping out whenever it’s trying to write to one of its disks. That sounds like hardware to me. I can transfer files via ES File Explorer but it crashes immediately after the transfer. It doesn’t appear to be the SD card, as when I unmount it, it makes no difference.
   Meizu has been useless: no forum answers and no customer-service answers, though I did contact them during the CCP Workers’ Day holiday and mainland China was, it appears, shut.
   I’d go back to my old phone but the only way to charge it is to drive to Johnsonville and ask the repair shop to charge it—that’s been the only way since they repaired the screen last year. They claim they haven’t altered the charging mechanism, but since no charger in this house works, not even a new one, I can’t explain why this is. The techs there are mum because it would be giving away a trade secret, I suspect. It seems I need a special charger since the manufacturer’s one is no longer compatible, and, guess what? I bet you the repairer will sell me one at some ridiculous price.
   But for now it is rather inconvenient, making me wonder: just why on earth do we need a cellphone anyway, when we have perfectly adequate land lines, when they become this much of a nuisance? They are frightfully expensive for little, fragile trinkets that I now increasingly use for just calling and not apps. There is no utility to a phone that can only be charged at one location, and there is no utility to the newer phone to which no one has posted a ready solution.
   Last night, I reset the newer unit to factory settings, and, happily, none of the Google BS returned. Maybe it was software. I still can’t do any updating with Meizu’s official patches, which is annoying. But for that brief, glorious period, I could take photos again. The camera, gallery and downloads’ folder would open.
   I did have to find, with some difficulty, the Chinese version of the Meizu app store, since I never saved the APK separately. This at least allowed me to get some of the Chinese apps not available on Meizu’s western app store. It was a shame to see some of the apps I once had no longer in the catalogue; presumably, the licence had expired.
   And there I was, for about five or six hours reconfiguring everything, and I’m now suspecting that I should not have put the thing into developer mode or downloaded Whatsapp. Those were the last things I did, content that all was well, before waking up this morning to find myself back to square one, with the bugs all returned. The log files tell me nothing other than Meizu’s servers not responding properly (they’ve been getting progressively worse supporting people outside China).
   I never wanted Whatsapp but for one friend formerly in Germany, and one of Dad’s friends in Hong Kong. The former has moved back here and can be reached on Facebook, accessible via a basic browser. And sadly, I doubt I will hear much from the latter now that Dad has passed away. He knows my regular number anyway, and if I had a cellphone that rings, maybe he could call it.
   Since Whatsapp and Instagram are owned by Facebook, it would not surprise me if both were becoming less and less compatible with Android v. 7, and I’ve charted Instagram’s increasing, Facebook-era faults on this blog before. If Facebook can’t get its basics right on its flagship site, then why should I have their crap in my pocket?
   Generally, I could live without it. Maybe tomorrow night I’ll give the reset another go. I’ve saved most of the APKs from this round, and it was a good opportunity to do without some apps that I seldom used. But I already lost a day to it earlier in the week, a night to it last night, and I face the prospect of more hours to come. These things are not productive when they take up this much time. And I don’t like typing on tiny keyboards, I do absolutely zero work on them other than calls since it is impossible to compose a logical email (which you then have to somehow sync back to the desktop to maintain a full, professional record, wasting even more time), and they serve only a narrow range of purposes, photography being one. I’m still quicker looking at a paper map than relying on a device.
   However, I don’t like faulty gadgets that have cost me hundreds of dollars, and since a reset solved the problems for a few hours, it might be worth one more shot to at least bring things closer to normal, useful or not. Let’s at least have that camera and music back.

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Posted in China, New Zealand, technology, Wellington | 2 Comments »


Finding an Android browser that works without fuss is harder than you think

25.04.2020

With my last two cellphones, I’ve not used the default browser. I usually opted for Firefox, and in December 2018, I believe that’s what I did on my then-new Meizu M6 Note.
   I don’t recall it being too problematic, but the type on some sites displayed a tad small, so I sampled a few others. I must have tried the usual suspects such as Dolphin and definitely recall seeing the Brave icon on my home screen, but my friend Robin Capper suggested Edge.
   You might think that that’s a ridiculous option given what Edge’s (and IE’s) reputation has been like, but it actually worked better than the other browsers I sampled. It played the videos I loaded on it, and it displayed type generally well, but there was one very regular bug. If I left a session and came back to it later, or let the phone go to sleep or standby, Edge would almost always falter when I tried to pick up where I left off. It would stutter and close. When I opened it up again, it was fine.
   The latest version began displaying in my notifications that it wouldn’t work properly without Google Services, which was a blatant lie, since it was still stable other than the bug above, and all previous versions were absolutely fine. I wonder if this was some leftover from the Chromium base, but, as with the overwhelming majority of Android apps, Google Services are unnecessary.
   The other bug that began happening on a more recent version was Edge getting confused by stylesheets and not knowing what size to display type at. It might change as you browsed, and when you scrolled back up the page, the text that was legible before had turned minute. It did this on Lucire, and it is serious enough for us to redevelop a template for the site.
   I began wondering if there was life outside Edge. I returned to Firefox to find it stable but utterly incapable of playing videos. I don’t remember it being like this when it was my default, but like so many software programs, the more they upgrade, the crappier it gets. I also believe that a lot of these boffins don’t test with older gear, for reasons I’ve outlined elsewhere on this blog.
   Four browsers were suggested to me as replacements: Vivaldi (which I went to anyway, since I use it on the desktop), Duck Duck Go (which I had heard was slow, but I downloaded it anyway), Brave (they have a programme where they claim to give money to publishers but it’s impossible for a publisher like me to sign up to), and Bromite (hadn’t heard of it before today). I had already tried, and rejected, UC Browser on another occasion.
   Vivaldi has been and gone from my phone as I write this post. It’s buggy as heck. Twitter displays about half a centimetre off, so you think you’re clicking on one thing you see on the screen but you’ve just activated the link that’s 0·5 cm above. YouTube will crash the browser (two out of four times). It loses the tab you were browsing on when you come back to a session. It gives the same BS about needing Google Services when it doesn’t. I was very disappointed considering it syncs with Vivaldi on the desktop, the settings seem comprehensive, and the interface looked pretty good.


Vivaldi struggles to display YouTube before crashing


Vivaldi displays everything a bit low (though it functions as though everything is fine, leading you to click on the wrong things), and the tabs I set it to show have gone

   Duck Duck Go has been working quite well. Other than the pop ups that tell me about things I already know as a decade-long user of the search engine, I haven’t noticed the slowness that I’ve heard from a very reliable and knowledgeable source.
   Brave was back, still telling me about their rewards’ programme, but I haven’t experimented with it enough to form a proper opinion. But it has sent a notification about my first Brave advertisement, which I actually can’t see. I admire what they’re trying to do but if only they’d let me sign up as a publisher—yet their site doesn’t permit it. It might be short-lived on my phone, too.
   Bromite, so far, has worked in a standard fashion with nothing too remarkable, and I’ll be investigating further.
   The day has ended rather differently on the cellphone—a whole lot of time invested on a device I barely use. But it’s been a fun exploration of what’s out there and how some fall well short of the basics of stability, consistency and compatibility. Duck Duck Go has so far won the default slot but the jury is still out on Bromite.

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Posted in cars, China, design, technology, USA | No Comments »


Fixed Vivaldi’s poor type display, thanks to wmjordan

07.03.2020

It took two months but I finally got there.
   Vivaldi now displays type normally though the browser interface is slightly messed up. But I’ll take good type display, thanks.
   On the MacType forums, a user in China called wmjordan was in the same boat but had found a solution. In their words:

For the recent version of Vivaldi 2.10, 2.11, you need to create a shortcut, and modify the command line, append the "--disable-lcd-text" parameter behind the executable name, and MacType will work on the web page content window. The "--disable-features=RendererCodeIntegrity" parameter is recommended by snowie2000.

my command line:

vivaldi.exe --disable-lcd-text --disable-features=RendererCodeIntegrity

   I used the latter method, but the type was still quite poor for me. I had to do one more thing: start Vivaldi in Windows 8 compatibility mode.
   It’s messed up the top of the browser a little but it’s a small price to pay to have everything readable again.
   Snowie2000, the main dev for MacType, says a registry hack is their preferred workaround, at github.com/snowie2000/mactype/wiki/Google-Chrome#workaround-for-chrome-78.
   It turns out that Chrome 78 (and presumably Chromium 78, too) did indeed have a change: ‘Starting from Chrome 78, Chrome began to block third-party DLLs from injection. But they provided a way to disable the protection either from the command line or by policy.’
   I was right to have investigated which version of Vivaldi represented the change earlier (it was 2.9, which equated to Chromium 78). After testing wmjordan’s suggestions out on 2.9, I upgraded to 2.11, and it was still fine.
   Opera GX is still the more resolved browser (works as it should out of the box) but there are some aspects of Vivaldi that I’m familiar with after two-and-a-half years (to the day). Looks like I’ll be going back to it for my main browsing, but I know I’ve found another great browser along the way, and I’ve updated my Firefox, too.

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Posted in China, technology, typography | No Comments »


Has Directwrite arrived on my Chromium-based browsers four years after everyone else?

03.03.2020

After considerable searching, the bug that I reported to Vivaldi, and which they cannot reproduce, appears to be one that the general public encountered back in 2016, when Chromium took away the option to disable its Directwrite rendering. I don’t know why I’ve only encountered it in 2020, and as far as I can tell, my experience is unique.
   It’s a good position to be in—not unlike being one of two people (that I know of) who could upload videos of over one minute to Instagram without using IGTV—though it’s a mystery why things have worked properly for me and no one else.
   When I switched to Vivaldi in 2017, I noticed how the type rendering was superior compared with Firefox, and it was only in January this year when it became far inferior for me. Looking at the threads opened on type rendering and Chromium, and the screenshots posted with them, most experienced something like this in 2016—a year before I had adopted Vivaldi. If my PC worked as theirs did, then I doubt I would have been talking about Vivaldi’s superior display.
   There’s a possibility that what I saw from 2017 actually was Directwrite, and whatever they’re using now is yet another technology that no one has made any note of.
   I’ve posted in the Vivaldi and MacType forums where this has been discussed, as my set-up could provide the clue on why things have worked for me and not others. Could it be my font substitutions, or the changes I’ve made to the default display types in Windows? Or the fact that I still have some Postscript fonts installed from the old days? Or something so simple as my plug-ins?
   Tonight I removed Vivaldi 2.11 and went to 2.6. I know 2.5 rendered type properly—Bembo on the Lucire website looks like Bembo in print—so I wondered if I could narrow down the precise version where Vivaldi began to fail on this front. (As explained earlier, after 2.5, no automatic updates came, and I jumped from 2.5 to 2.10.)
   It was 2.9 where the bug began, namely when Vivaldi moved from a Chromium 77 base to a 78 one. This is different to what Ayespy, a moderator on the Vivaldi forums, experienced: version 69 was when they noted a shift. Yet Opera GX, which works fine, has a browser ID that claims it’s Chrome/79.0.3945.130 (though I realize they can put whatever they like here). Brave, Chrome and Edge look awful.
   We can conclude that not all Chromium browsers are created equally (goes without saying) but I understand that the rendering isn’t something that each company (Vivaldi, Opera, etc.) has fiddled with. Therefore, something I’m doing is allowing me to have better results on Opera, Opera GX and Vivaldi versions up to 2.8 inclusive.

Vivaldi 2.8

Opera GX

Firefox Developer Edition 74.0b9

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Posted in design, internet, technology, typography | 1 Comment »


Human-centred peripherals should be the norm

02.02.2020

I’ve had a go at software makers before over giving us solutions that are second-best, because second-best has become the convention. While I can think of an explanation for that, viz. Microsoft packaged Windows computers in the 1990s with Word and Outlook Express, it’s harder to explain why peripherals haven’t been human-centred.
   I thought about this with my monitor. It’s “only” 24 inches, despite being QHD. But it works for me, as 27 or more would see me move my neck to view the corners. I was always happy with the 24-inch Imac: I had no desire for it to be larger. If I had 27 inches I might need to sit further back, cancelling out the upsizing. Despite saying this, I can see in some situations where people would be quite happy with 27 (and even larger ones for coders), but it begs the question of why there aren’t more 24-inch QHD monitors on the market. My friend Chelfyn Baxter believes it is the optimum size for productivity (granted, he told me this over five years ago, though I still see little to fault him). Are our suppliers driving us to larger sizes, just as car importers are driving us to automatics here? (The latter is not backed up by any research on preferences, to my knowledge.)
   The same thing applies to keyboards. To me, the optimum width of a keyboard is around 40 cm. Any wider, you’re reaching for your mouse and causing repetitive strain injuries. I’ve stuck to my 40 cm rule for a long time and haven’t had the sort of pain I had in the late 1990s and early 2000s when I had a standard-width keyboard. The mouse is roughly where I expect it to be, and I wouldn’t object if it were closer still. Again, it begs the question of why 40 cm isn’t a standard if it saves us from pain.

   Then there’s the mouse—I now use a Microsoft Intellimouse 1.1 from the early 2000s after my 2005-made, 2015-new one gave up. I know there’s a lot of comedy around the US president having small hands, but we’re no longer in the sort of society whose products change to appease a leader. But regular mice are awfully small, a trend that seemed to have begun in the 2010s. I can’t hold them and maybe I have large hands, but I can’t be alone. In so many places I visit, I see some very uncomfortable hands try to grip a small mouse. I learned that was a bad thing in the days of the round 1999 Apple USB mouse (it wasn’t the Imouse), which created a trade in adapters that snapped on around it.
   Fortunately, mice manufacturers do offer larger sizes, recognizing that not all of us accept a child’s size as the standard. Here I can understand why mice have downsized: the manufacturers attempting to save a few bob and forcing more of us into it. However, there must be a decent part of the population who think, ‘I’ll be uncomfortable with that. I won’t buy it,’ and let the market move accordingly.
   I wonder how much more comfortable and productive a chunk of the population would be by following a few basic rules: have a monitor—whatever size suits you—where you limit strain on your neck; have a keyboard around 40 cm wide or less; and have a mouse which your hand can rest on (and keyboard wrist rests and mouse wrist rests to suit to make you comfortable). But I know most of us will just go, ‘The default is good enough,’ and unnecessarily suffer.

Speaking of practical, I hope Mudita gets its designs on the market sooner rather than later. Who needs pizzazz when we all value simplicity? Technology serving humanity: what a novel idea! Here’s how we can help.

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Posted in design, technology | 1 Comment »