Posts tagged ‘computing’


Life in the fediverse

21.11.2022

Nathan Griffiths finally answers why Facebook used to freeze on the 1st of each month. I think his theory is very plausible. Now I know, after over a decade!
 

 
Meanwhile, I see CBS News has suspended its Twitter account (after the likes of Balenciaga deleted theirs altogether). This was before Donald Trump was let back on after Musk (whose followers are probably 70 per cent bot) ran a poll approving of the former president’s return to what must now be called OnlyKlans. (MySpaceX seems passé now.)

CBS News’s words: ‘In light of the uncertainty around Twitter and out of an abundance of caution, CBS News is pausing its activity on the social media site as it continues to monitor the platform.’

It’s still live on Facebook, so I guess the genocide of Rohingya Muslims and abundant misinformation are fine.
 
We’ve already had an account be temporarily suspended over on Mastodon.art but there’s a very reasonable moderator there and the appeal was granted within hours. You can read up on this over at Lucire, which is now on a fashion-friendly instance at fashionsocial.host. (The art account remains open, probably to post covers and photography on, a bit like Lucire’s old Tumblr account.)
 
With all this fediverse talk, what a pity my Hubzilla account has gone. I was there in the 2010s, probably around the time I signed up for Mastodon in 2017, possibly before. I did get myself a Pixelfed this time, so spot me at [email protected], and Lucire is at [email protected]. Will I use them? Time will tell, but possibly not. I’d still prefer focusing on our own sites, unless we can figure out how to bring this in-house.

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Posted in business, internet, media, technology, USA | No Comments »


Windows 11 22H2 arrives; now for the usual post-upgrade tweaks

02.10.2022

Windows 11 22H2 arrived for me yesterday, and the first order of business, as always, was to sort out the typography. This earlier post is roughly right: make the registry hacks, then change the properties of the fonts in C:\Windows\WinSXS (namely by giving them administrator access) before deleting them. However, I needed one extra step to get them out of C:\Windows\Fonts, and that was to boot up in safe mode and delete them from 7Zip. Only then could I change the properties and say farewell to the dreaded Arial.

You still can’t type most characters above ASCII 128 in Notepad—a crazy state of affairs introduced during Windows 11’s time—though I managed to get the pound sterling sign to work (even though there might be less need to type it now thanks to the UK government). I guess no one uses the euro symbol at Redmond, or goes to a café (forget about any accented characters).

We’ll see if Explorer still rotates photos by itself—but as I’ve replaced it with One Commander for most of my file management, it will be a while before I will find out.

The new icons look good, and the new Maps seems to work reasonably well. Mostly I just care that my usual programs are fine and Windows’ font substitutes don’t do anything silly.
 

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Posted in design, technology, typography | No Comments »


Rare: an Asus product not lasting the distance; awaiting its successor

16.09.2022

I see it was only 19 months ago since I bought the Asus ROG Strix Evolve mouse. A mouse that cost several times what a regular one does, claiming the switches would last 50 million clicks. It has now developed a fault, and I wouldn’t even consider myself a heavy user. I’m certainly not a gamer.

Mice seem to last shorter and shorter periods. An old Intellimouse 1.1 lasted from 2002 to 2013. Its successor (after trying badly made Logitechs) Microsoft mouse lasted from 2015 to 2020. Here is the latest lasting 19 months.

Its problem is that a single click is being recorded as two clicks, with increasing frequency. Right now, a very cheap no-name unit bought in August 2021 is the daily driver with my desktop PC, and one of the earlier ones will now have to go with my laptop. It’s reasonably comfortable because the size is (almost) right (the biggest criterion for me), it’s light, and it works. Those switches won’t last 50 million clicks and the unit feels cheaply made, but right now I need something usable, and most mice are just too small. I even saw an article testing mice for ‘large hands’, and I can tell you in no uncertain terms that they are for medium hands at best.

A Delux M625 is on its way now from Aliexpress (here’s the seller’s link). I’ve never heard of the brand before, but one Tweeter who responded to me says he has tried one, and found it acceptable. What sold it? None of the features that I find useless (a rapid fire button for gaming, RGB lighting effects that you never see because your hand is on the mouse and your eyes are on the screen, high DPI up to 24,000) but three simple figures: width, length, height.

The Microsoft Intellimouse 1.1, which I have raved about for decades, measures 126 by 68·1 by 39·3 mm. A bit of height helps so I don’t mind if a mouse exceeds 40 mm.

The Delux vendor claims 130·6 by 68·9 by 42·5 mm. That sounds very comfortable to me, as width is very important (something the Asus didn’t have, with my ring finger off the body of the mouse and on to the mouse pad). The no-name could be better, too. In a few weeks, I should know.

I had been so desperate after coming up empty with local sellers I even looked on Amazon. But I couldn’t be arsed converting Imperial measurements to metric, which the majority of the world uses. Jeff’s mob can carry on abusing workers and selling to their own country.

As to the Asus, caveat emptor: it hasn’t even lasted two years reliably.

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Posted in China, design, technology | 4 Comments »


Forget Duck Duck Go, Bing, and Google—I’m trying Mojeek

17.07.2022

It was disappointing to note that after switching to HTTPS, and signing on to Bing Webmaster Tools, the search engine results for those sites of ours that made the change are still severely compromised.

I’ve written about searches for my own name earlier, where my personal and company sites lost their first and second positions on all search engines that I knew of after we made the switch. Only Google has my personal site back up top, with the company site on the middle of the second page. Bing has my personal site at number two, and I’d love to tell you where the company site is, but their search engine results’ pages won’t let me advance beyond page 2 (clicking ‘next page’ lands you back on the same page; clicking ‘3’ and above still keeps you on p. 2). Duck Duck Go, which uses Bing results, has it well below that—I gave up looking. And this is after I signed up to Bing Webmaster Tools in the hope I could get the sites properly catalogued.

It’s a real shame because Duck Duck Go has been my default for 12 years this August.

However, it was the loss of search results for Lucire that really bothered me. Here’s a site that’s 25 years old, with plenty of inward links, and c. 5,000 pages. Before the switch to HTTPS, the popular search engines had thousands of pages from our site. These days, Bing and Duck Duck Go tell me they have dozens of pages from Lucire’s website. Again, only Google seems to have spidered everything.

When I check Bing Webmaster Tools, the spidering has been shockingly poor.

The received wisdom that you should have HTTPS instead of HTTP to do better in search engines is BS, and the belief that search engines will eventually catch up has also not been realized. We made the switch in March, and I’m to believe that Bing hasn’t completed the indexing of our sites.

Are they using the same computers New Zealand banks do? (Cheques used to clear overnight in the 1970s, and now banks tell us that even electronic payments can take days. When we last used cheques, they were telling us they would take five to seven days. Ergo, bank computers are slower today than in 1976.)

The real downer is that Lucire’s website search box is powered by Duck Duck Go, so our own site visitors can’t find the things they want to look for. If you believe some of the search engine marketing, over 40 per cent of site visitors use your search function.

What to do?

I began looking at having an internal search again. We used to have a WhatUSeek (later SiteLevel) internal site search, but that site’s search functions appear to be dead (the site is still live). A user on Mastodon recommended Sphinx Search, an open-source internal site search, but the instructions were too complex. I even saw real computer geeks having trouble. The only one that I could understand was called Sphider—I could follow the instructions and knew enough about PHP and MySql—but it was last updated many years ago, and successive projects also looked a bit complex.

A Google internal search was absolutely out of the question, as I have no desire to expose our readers to tracking—which is why so many other Big Tech gadgets have been removed from our site(s). Baidu and Yandex also have very limited indices for our sites.

I am very fortunate to have tried Mojeek again, a British search engine recommended to me by Matias on July 2. What I didn’t know then was Mojeek has its own spider and its own index, so it doesn’t have to license anything from Bing. And, happily, it claims to have 3,535 results from lucire.com, which might not be as good as Google’s 5,830, but it beats Bing’s 50 earlier today—in fact, at the time of writing, it showed a grand total of 10. That’s how bad it’s got. Duck Duck Go now has 48, also down from a few thousand before March.

Like Google, it seems to have coped with the switch to HTTPS without falling to pieces! And guess what? For a search of my own name, my personal site is number one, and our work site is number two. Presumably, Mojeek is the only search engine which coped and behaved exactly as the experts said!

You can imagine my next move. Mojeek has a site search, so now all Lucire searches are done through it. And readers can actually find stuff again instead of coming up nearly empty (or having very irrelevant results) as they have done for months.

Duck Duck Go’s lustre had been wearing off as there were recent allegations that its browser allowed Microsoft to track its users, something which Duck Duck Go boss Gabriel Weinberg personally denied on Reddit, saying that users were still anonymous when loading their search results.

I still have good memories of chatting to Gabriel in the early days and figuring out ways of spreading the word on Duck Duck Go. My contribution was going to hotels and changing the search defaults on business centre computers. Back then I had the impression Duck Duck Go did some of its own spidering, but these days, if Bing has a shitty index for your site, the Duck will follow suit. And with HTTPS not living up to its promise, that’s simply not good enough.

Tonight, Mojeek is very much the site of the day here, and I heartily recommend you try it out. I’ve switched the desktop to Mojeek as a default, and I’ll see how it all progresses. Right now I feel it deserves our support more than Duck Duck Go. Finally, we might truly have an alternative to Google, and it’s run from the UK’s greenest data centre. With our servers now being greener, too, running out of Finland, the technology is starting to match up to our beliefs.
 

Google, the biggest index of them all
 

Mojeek, a creditable second place
 

This is it on Bing: a 25-year-old history on the web, and it says it has 10 pages from lucire.com. Altavista, Excite and Hotbot had more in the 1990s
 

Duck Duck Go is slightly better, with 48 results—down from the thousands it once had
 
After switching to HTTPS
Number of results for lucire.com
Google: 5,830
Mojeek: 3,535 (containing the word Lucire, as term-less searches are not allowed)
Duck Duck Go: 48
Bing: 10
 
Number of results for jackyan.com
Google: 878
Mojeek: 437 (containing the term “Jack Yan”)
Duck Duck Go: 54
Bing: 24
 
Number of results for jyanet.com
Google: 635
Mojeek: 297 (containing the word jyanet)
Duck Duck Go: 46
Bing: 10
 

Presumably the only search engine that could handle a server going from HTTP to HTTPS and preserving the domains’ positions

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Posted in business, internet, publishing, technology, UK | 1 Comment »


Bing Webmaster Tools: how to make sure you vanish from a search engine completely

03.06.2022

With my personal site and company site—both once numbers one and two for a search for my name—having disappeared from Bing and others since we switched to HTTPS, I decided I would relent and sign up to Bing Webmaster Tools. Surely, like Google Webmaster Tools, this would make sure that a site was spidered and we’d see some stats?

Once again, the opposite to conventional internet wisdom occurred. Both sites disappeared from Bing altogether.

I even went and shortened the titles in the meta tags, so that this site is now a boring (and a bit tossy) ‘Jack Yan—official site’, and the business is just ‘Jack Yan & Associates, Creating Harmony’.

Just as well hardly anyone uses Bing then.

Things have improved at Google after two months, with this personal site at number two, after Wikipedia (still disappointing, I must say) and the business at 15th (very disappointing, given that it’s been at that domain since 1995).

Surely my personal and work sites are what people are really looking for when they feed in my name?

The wisdom still seems to be to not adopt HTTPS if you want to retain your positions in the search engines. Do the opposite to what technologists tell you.
 
Meanwhile, Vivaldi seems to have overcome its bug where it shuts down the moment you click inside a form field. Version 5.3 has been quite stable so far, after a day, so I’ve relegated Opera GX to back-up again. I prefer Vivaldi’s screenshot process, and the fact it lets me choose from the correct directory (the last used) when I want to upload a file. Tiny, practical things.

Big thanks to the developers at Opera for a very robust browser, though it should be noted that both have problems accessing links at Paypal (below).

We’ll see how long I last back on Vivaldi, but good on them for listening to the community and getting rid of that serious bug.
 

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Posted in internet, marketing, technology | No Comments »


Hopefully this week: farewell, Amazon Web Services

10.04.2022


 
Wow, we’re nearly there: the long journey to migrate our sites off AWS and on to a new box.

We began hosting there in 2012 but the server—which appears to have had a single major update in 2016—was getting very old. In 2018 we began searching for someone who knew about migrations.

A second instance for Lucire Rouge was fired up in September 2020, thanks to a wonderful developer in the US. A New Zealand expert moved Medinge’s website on to there subsequently.

The work hadn’t been finished but both gentlemen wound up getting very occupied in their regular gigs, and it was another year before a good friend said he knew how to do it.

From that point, it was about finding a few hours here and there that worked with both our time zones.

I am deeply grateful to him because I know just how busy he got, both professionally and privately.

The sites are now all on to a new box, and not on AWS.

We were only on there to begin with because in 2012, we chose to host with a friend’s company. AWS was familiar turf for him, but I never understood it. It’s a mess of a website, with an incomprehensible interface. No wonder people have to do courses on it. You really need a professional computing qualification to understand it.

Whomever said computers would become easier to use in the future was dead wrong, as I have never seen such a maze of technobabble offered to consumers before. It’s not even that presentable.

My hosting friend soon was head-hunted and I was left to deal with AWS.

The fact is if AWS was even remotely comprehensible I might have been able to do the migration myself. I estimate that if it were anything like normal, each of the sites would have taken me about five hours to do. It would have all been over in a month in 2018. If I had a week off to just do this, I probably could have done it—if server software was how it was in 2005.

It’s little wonder, given the convoluted confusion that AWS is, that it took three years to find someone match-fit to tackle it. And even then it took several months.

A week in 2005, three years in 2022. I don’t call that progress.

I approached half a dozen techs who had experience in web hosting and serving environments, some of them with very major organizations. A few of them were even given the keys to SSH into the server. I think three of them were never heard from again. I can only surmise that they saw a Japanese girl with long hair in front of her face crawl out of a well when they Telnetted into the box.

Once my latest friend had set up the basics, I was even able to do a few migrations myself, and handled the static sites. I even got a couple of Wordpress ones done. He did the lion’s share, beginning with the most complex (Lucire and Autocade, plus the advertising server).

Tonight, he did the last two sites from the second AWS instance.

The first instance has been stopped. The second is still running in case DNS hasn’t updated for the last two sites. The database has also been stopped.

You probably wouldn’t ever hire me or this firm to deal with AWS and, as it turns out, there are quite a few techs out there, who do this as their full-time job, who also don’t know it.

I plan to terminate the instances and the database by mid-week and close my AWS account. Amazon can figure out what to do with the S3 boxes, VPC, Cloudwatch, Cloudfront, and all the other stuff which I have no idea about.

It’s going to be a good day, provided they haven’t made account closures as contemptible a process. Because it’s not the only thing contemptible about Amazon.
 
Speaking of technology, it looks like I’ll be sticking with Opera GX going forward. The bugs in Vivaldi persist, despite another bug-fixing update last week. Five years with one browser isn’t too bad, and probably one of the longer periods I’ve stuck with a single brand.

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The new Autocade is coming soon

17.03.2022

At just past its 14th birthday, Autocade will return on a new server, with a new Mediawiki installation.
   Because Mediawiki got rid of the stats with v. 1.25, sadly they weren’t imported into the new version that we’re running. We’re going to start the count from 0, though of course right before the changeover I’ll take note of where we got to.
   For those sick of me commemorating every millionth page view, you might get your wish, because of the extra arithmetic that’s going to be involved.
   I’d like to thank my friend for doing all this work anonymously behind the scenes. Unlike 2000, websites are far more complex things, and just customizing the look took me a few days. You can imagine how much more complex it was to import a PHP database and hooking up the site to Plesk.
   What we have is an Autocade that looks familiar—like Lucire’s website redesign last year I tried to keep everything as close as possible—but there are minor tweaks that go with the newer software.
   Certain pages did not make the transition, namely the ‘About’ and community portal, so these had to be added manually from the original. But as far as I can tell, all the cars are there, and that’s the reason that almost all of you visit. You can see how it all works very soon.
 
I imagine this blog will be next—and then I will likely get back to updating it at the usual pace. Though as my experience with social media demonstrates, it’s remarkably easy to break a habit!

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Posted in cars, design, internet, media, publishing, technology | No Comments »


January 2022 gallery

01.01.2022

Here are January 2022’s images—aides-mémoires, photos of interest, and miscellaneous items. I append to this gallery through the month.
 


 

Notes
More on the Ford Falcon (XA) in Autocade. Reposted from Twitter.
   Taupō Plimmerton summer sunset, photographed by me.
   BBC parody news item, via Twitter.
   More on the Wolseley on Autocade.
   More on the Mitsubishi Colt Galant at Autocade.
   Dodge 1500 advertisement via George Cochrane on Twitter.
   Model Alexa Breit in a bikini, via Instagram.
   More on the Renault 17 in Autocade.
   More on the Renault 20 in Autocade.
   More on the Renault Mégane IV in Autocade.
   ‘Sign not in use’ posted by John on Twitter.
   Asus ROG Strix G17 G713QE-RTX3050Ti, at Asus’s Singapore website.
   Pizza Express Woking parody still, via Twitter.

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Posted in cars, gallery, humour, interests, internet, marketing, media, New Zealand, politics, UK, USA, Wellington | No Comments »


Can a no-name mouse take the place of a Microsoft Intellimouse?

01.08.2021

I’ve occasionally had good luck with ultra-cheap Chinese mice. Years ago, I bought one, with very simple left and right buttons and a scroll wheel, and it proved to be one of the most comfortable I owned. The wheel didn’t run smoothly at first but a quick trim of the plastic, and it’s been fine since.

   This US$3·89 mouse (price at time of writing) was a similar case. I ordered it to see if it might be better than the NZ$75 Asus ROG Strix Evolve mouse, and that was bought to replace my favourite, the Microsoft Intellimouse 1·1. One of those was being used after my Microsoft Laser Mouse 6000 died—like the Intellimouse, these had large bodies that people with bigger hands, like me, can use.
   As those in a similar predicament know, mice have shrunk over the last decade, so finding a replacement takes months as you read the specs and, in some cases, visit the stores to see if they have anything.
   A Tecknet mouse proved too low by a millimetre or two to be comfortable, but when I saw this no-name unit being sold by a place called 7 Elves Store (did they mean dwarves, as in Disney?) on Aliexpress, I decided to take a punt. (The specs suggest the brand name is Centechia, but it’s nowhere to be found on the device or in the heading and description.) And for US$3·89 plus (sorry) my share of carbon emissions from the air freight, it didn’t cost me much to find out.
   It arrived a few weeks ago in damaged condition. The buttons did not work at all, and once again I had to make some simple repairs to get it working. It’s too light. The plastic is of a crappy grade. And the details on the base of the mouse suggest whomever wrote the text had not been in the occident much, if at all. I don’t like the lights because I don’t care if a mouse has pulsing RGB effects since (a) my hand is over it and (b) I’m looking at the screen, not the mouse.
   But here’s the thing: it fits my hand. It’s nowhere nearly as comfortable as those old Microsoft mice, but as a cheapie that I can take in my laptop bag, it does a better job than the Tecknet. It’s not as comfortable as the Asus, but it beats every other mouse, that is, the ones I didn’t buy, that I’ve seen in the shops. On the whole, I can use it more than the Tecknet, and it will do when I’m travelling or out of the office, though I still haven’t found the holy grail of a decent sized Microsoft mouse. (The revived Intellimouse, as I may have mentioned earlier, is asymmetric, and its shape doesn’t work for me.) I’m not sure why this is so hard for mice manufacturers: you’ve all peaked a bit early, and none of the improvements you’ve made have advanced the ideas of user comfort and ergonomics.
   For those who care about this stuff, here’s the Aliexpress link.

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Fixing Wordpress’s problem of fake bolds and italics

11.06.2021

I haven’t been able to find anything on this bug online, but it’s very common.
   As far as I can recall, all of our online publications that use Wordpress have themes designed or modified by yours truly. However, Lucire Rouge has a mostly bought-in theme, where my changes have been limited to a couple of CSS rules. The theme developer actually came in and helped us with a few modifications, which shows the extent to which he does follow-up for paying customers.
   But there was one thing he was never able to crack, and I don’t think it’s his fault, since it happens on a lot of websites, including Medinge Group’s (also a theme I did not design, though I did earlier ones). On both these sites, there were no bolds and italics. There still aren’t on Medinge’s.
   There are <strong> and <em> codes in there, but the bolding and obliquing are done by the browser. The font files actually aren’t loaded, so what we see are false bolds (the browser attempts to “overprint” the roman, duplicating the outline and shifting it marginally to give the illusion of a heavier typeface) and obliques, not italics (it’s the roman file pushed over 15 degrees or so). The former is particularly bad, as the outlines clash, and the result can be hollow glyphs, something that any font developer will know when one outline winds up accidentally on top of another in Fontographer or Fontlab.
   These Wordpress themes rely on Google Fonts (another sin, in my opinion) so I don’t know if the fault lies with Google or Wordpress, or the developer. If Wordpress does indeed power 70 per cent of websites, then I have to say the bug is awfully common, and I probably do see it on a very high percentage of visited sites.
   The themes allow us to select the font family, but the selection only calls a single font file from the family.


Above: A graphic clipping text from Lucire Rouge that I sent to the developer.

   The solution, as I discovered after months of toing and froing with Lucire Rouge’s theme dev, was to do your own font-linking rules in the CSS file and upload the fonts themselves to the relevant directory on the server. I must note publicly the ‘months’ were not his fault, but due to my own delay. I should not expect computer programmers to be typographers, either.
   It is something that one needs to watch out for, as the fake bolds and italics are horrible to look at, and must look amateur, even to the non-professional.



Above: Fixed at last by yours truly.

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