Posts tagged ‘software’


Cellphone apps: InShot’s Music Player may finally be the one; Über remains a total waste of time

14.05.2021

Forgetful Muzio Player has been replaced by a program (or app) called Music Player, which isn’t the best brand name considering the many other apps out there with the same name. This one’s version 2.5.6.74 and its maker is InShot Inc., so if all goes well, this is the one Meizu users should go for.
   First, a good bit: it picks up the directories on the SD card, which, till Meizu upgraded its Music app, I thought I could take for granted.
   The not-so-good bits. It doesn’t pick up the album artwork, so you have to link each cover yourself. The disadvantage is that you have to search for the cover by image, and there’s no option to search by name. Mind you, it was the same story with Meizu Music, and provided you have a rough idea of when you downloaded the album (as it displays the covers in reverse chronological order), it isn’t impossible.
   It did, however, pick up the graphics from the songs where the cover image was embedded and used them for the album covers … at least it did till today, when it forgot all about those and I spent more time relinking the dozen or so that the app forgot.
   What is it about forgetful software, or at least software that operates differently every day? Do I need to invent the dot-ini file (since it doesn’t seem to exist in this universe) or radically suggest that software follows a set of instructions, line by line, that do not vary each time?


Above: InShot’s Music Player displayed an album cover for Gone with the Wave yesterday, but today it appears to have forgotten what it was.

   Nevertheless, Music Player does “share” the chosen album cover with the individual tracks, so when they’re played, the image appears on the player screen, something that Muzio was loathe to do.
   In other words, Music Player does what Meizu Music used to do before it became a lemon and, providing it doesn’t forget all the linked album covers (all 280 of them), it’ll stay on my phone for the foreseeable future. Since it didn’t come from an app store, it won’t be “upgraded” to something inferior, either, which appears to be the path of a lot of cellphone software.
   It doesn’t look too bad, though admittedly Muzio Player’s interface remains superior.
   Linking 280 covers with each album over the course of a day and a bit sure beats linking over 1,000 of them with each song on Muzio Player, and to have three weeks’ worth of labour vanish despite the program saying, ‘Changes saved’.
   If InShot’s Music Player keeps things as they are, then it’s the replacement I’ve sought for some time. Since I didn’t hear back from Muzio Player, I’ve deleted the app.

One program I can say is a genuine waste of time is Über, if you happen to use a Meizu M6 Note like me. I’ve always resisted it, on principle. If they didn’t play silly buggers on tax, I might be more inclined to have supported them, but I’ve remained very faithful to public transport and taxis all these years.
   Because of timing and circumstances that I won’t go into here, and having had a virus all of last week that I haven’t fully shaken off (one symptom being short of breath), Über was suggested again today. My first choice was driving to the station, catching the train (being careful not to spread any of my germs about), then either a bus or cab, to pick up a press car from town. That would mean after returning home, I would have to walk to the station while not feeling 100 per cent to get my own car. I know first-hand that a cab from here in the northern suburbs can be pricey—and that’s when one even shows up, as my partner’s faced ridiculously long waits for them during the daytime. So Über was a realistic choice and I’d be suckered into helping to concentrate wealth in the hands of the few milliardaires high up at these tech firms at the expense of working people.
   Never fear, for Über is a half-baked app that cost me two missed trains and I could have been typing this an hour earlier than I am now.
   Thanks to the full factory reset that PB did last year on my phone, and my installation of Meizu’s far more advanced Chinese OS afterwards, I was able to create an account this time and log in. It didn’t keep returning the message that I had attempted too many log-ins, even after a single attempt.
   After that, it takes about half an hour to read the terms and conditions and the privacy policy on a cellphone. You can opt out of promo messages, or so they claim (to be on the safe side, I’ve done it thrice: once when reading the T&Cs before I accepted them, once after I read them, and once more from the desktop when an email with an unsubscribe link arrived).
   And that’s really about all it does. You can’t type in any destination; I later checked their instructions on a proper computer and I was doing exactly what was asked. I could feed in my home address (it came up after I began feeding in the basics), and I could feed in some favourites, but I can’t actually go to them.
   Naturally, it will take your credit card details: Über made sure that that part worked.
   Having saved the Railway Station as a destination, and attempted to order a ride to there, I got to a screen to tell me that Über isn’t available in my area. Whether that means Tawa, or Wellington, or New Zealand, I don’t know.




Above: It’s impossible to feed in a destination in Über, but it’s probably because it’s not available in Tawa.

   I have map software on my phone—both Here Maps and Baidu Maps. And my partner does successfully use Über from time to time, on a Huawei phone which, like my Meizu, is Google-free. She has no Google Maps, so I know that isn’t a prerequisite for Über. I also know Google Services aren’t, either. At least these are points in their favour. I can’t be bothered troubleshooting beyond that, since they’ll just deny everything and pass the buck.
   Eventually, when I realized Über is a monumental waste of time, I carried out plan A, and took a train an hour after the one I could have taken had I not attempted to get an Übercab. And walked in the wintry air to collect my car.
   It was an easy decision to delete my account and the app soon after. Just as well, really. Big Tech loses once again. To think, the little music player made by a small company is more reliable than the milliards behind Über.


Above: Relieved to be on a desktop computer—and hopefully I won’t need to have any connection with Über ever again.

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Posted in design, technology | No Comments »


There go three weeks of ‘Changes saved’: another forgetful piece of software

12.05.2021

After all these experiences, I really shouldn’t be surprised that computers and their programs are so forgetful, and the same applies to cellphones. But of course it happened again today, undoing three weeks’ work.
   I don’t know if this is hardware- or software-related, but all I ask of people who make this stuff is to not have them be so damned forgetful. My email to the developer of Muzio Player follows. This was a player I adopted after Meizu Music also proved forgetful.

Hi there:

I’ve been using Muzio Player for just under a month and have found it attractive, and, other than the issues below, very practical. It’s been a far more stable player than the default one that came with my Meizu M6 Note.
   I am on the free version, so I don’t know if this is something reserved for the Pro one.
   Last month I sent you a small feedback item about cover artwork. Meizu’s default app stores the cover JPEGs in a folder of their own, and I was able to link the hundreds that I have on my phone with your app. I was a bit disappointed that the individual songs don’t “adopt” the chosen covers, but accepted that that was how you programmed it.
   Therefore, over the last month, I decided to link each song—I have over 1,200, and I imagine around 1,000 of those do not have cover artwork embedded in the song file—individually with the album covers. It took hours each day, and I’ve spent the last three weeks almost finishing the task. I estimate I probably had about 30 left to go. Each time Muzio Player would report ‘Changes saved’ and the app was looking better and better as the majority of tracks got linked, especially when I had the player going in my car and I could see the cover artwork with the track.
   Imagine my surprise when today, Muzio Player “forgot” all the cover artwork. Three weeks of individual linking gone. Every track now shows the default musical notes, other than the handful that have artwork within the files. It seems ‘Changes saved’ didn’t mean that after all. Surely these are saved somewhere?
   I should note that I haven’t done any system clean-ups in the last 24 hours, so that is not the reason these changes have vanished. Indeed, I have done them in earlier weeks without any effect on Muzio Player.
   Is there something I can do to get them all back, save for spending another three weeks relinking everything?
   I am on version 100666008, OS 25. Your advice would be greatly appreciated.

Kind regards,

Jack

   I hope they care about their product and can tell me just where everything was saved and can be recovered from. Advice on less forgetful software would be welcome. I’d still be on Meizu Music 8·0 if it didn’t insist on self-updating to an inferior version. It’s like computer mice: they actually make something good, and because they know they cannot top it, they wind up making worse things to succeed it. At the present rate, a computer mouse in 2030 will the size of a stapler, as they continue to shrink.

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Posted in technology | 1 Comment »


Time to abandon Meizu Music: 8.2 is a lemon

21.04.2021

That didn’t last long. Within a day, this was what Meizu Music showed:

   The songs, all 1,229 of them that I had fed in manually, are still there, and they still play, but the question remains: for how long? If they don’t show in the list—I told you computing devices were forgetful—then how long before the program fails to play them at all? Not only were the songs gone from the list, the few MP3 files that were on the phone’s RAM (from dynamic wallpapers and recordings) don’t show, either!
   I really didn’t want to chance it but you just have to conclude that Meizu has released a lemon, and if in a year they still can’t get it right, then it’s time to abandon it.
   I could go with Migu Music but I wanted something with the functionality of the old Meizu Music. After trying several apps, I’ve settled on an advertising-supported Muzio Player. It’s not perfect—the cover artwork doesn’t show for everything, and updating it manually for an album doesn’t see it shared with the individual tracks within—but it does the job for the most part. And, like every other app I trialled, it picks up the music on the SD card.
   Since I keep phones for some time—the old M2 Note is repaired—it’s going to be a long time before I’d contemplate a replacement for the M6 Note. But when I do I doubt it’ll be another Meizu. After being a cheerleader for the brand in the late 2010s, they’ve really fallen behind in customer service and, how, software development. Whomever else is willing to go the Google-free route is going to get my vote.

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Posted in China, design, technology | 2 Comments »


Facebook whistleblower gets fired; and a workaround for Meizu Music’s inability to find your SD card

19.04.2021

This is a pretty typical story: find fault with Big Tech, try to alert the appropriate people in the firm, get fired.
   Julia Carrie Wong’s excellent article for The Guardian shows a data scientist, Sophie Zhang, find blatant attempts by governments to abuse Facebook’s platform, misleading their own people, in multiple countries. Of course Facebook denies it, but once again it’s backed up by a lot of evidence from Zhang, and we know Facebook lies. Endlessly.
   Facebook claims it has taken down over ‘100 networks of coordinated inauthentic behavior,’ but I repeat again: if a regular Joe like me can find thousands of bots really easily, and report some with Facebook doing next to nothing about them, then 100 networks is an incredibly tiny number in a sea of hundreds of millions of users. Indeed, 100 networks is tiny considering Facebook itself has claimed to have taken down milliards of bots.
   And people like me and Holly Jahangiri, who found a massive number of bots that followed the Russian misinformation techniques, have been identifying these since 2014, if not before.
   Zhang reveals how likes from pages are inflating various posts—forget the bots I’ve been talking about, people have manufactured full pages on the site.
   She uncovered one in Honduras, and then:

The next day, she filed an escalation within Facebook’s task management system to alert the threat intelligence team to a network of fake accounts supporting a political leader in Albania. In August [2019], she discovered and filed escalations for suspicious networks in Azerbaijan, Mexico, Argentina and Italy. Throughout the autumn and winter she added networks in the Philippines, Afghanistan, South Korea, Bolivia, Ecuador, Iraq, Tunisia, Turkey, Taiwan, Paraguay, El Salvador, India, the Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Ukraine, Poland and Mongolia.

   Facebook was inconsistent with what it did, and its own self-interest interfered with it taking action. In other words, Facebook is harmful to democracy, and not just in the US which has received most of the occidental news coverage. On Azerbaijan, Zhang wrote in a memo:

Although we conclusively tied this network to elements of the government in early February, and have compiled extensive evidence of its violating nature, the effective decision was made not to prioritize it, effectively turning a blind eye.

   She was ultimately fired for her trouble, Facebook saying she wasn’t doing the job she had been hired for.
   So if you are going to work for Big Tech, leave your conscience at the door. That blood on your hands, just ignore it. Red’s such a fetching colour when it’s not on a balance sheet.

Little Tech can be troublesome, too. Last year, Meizu updated its Music app after a few years of letting it languish (a familiar theme with this firm), and it was a real lemon. It wouldn’t pick up anything on my SD card, at the location the old Music app itself saved the files. When I could still access the Meizu (English-language) forum, I managed to post a comment about it. Only today did I realize someone had responded, with the same issue.
   I can read enough Chinese to get the phone to do a search for local music files, and the only things it could pick up are what’s on the phone RAM itself, not the card. There’s no way to point to custom locations such as a card (even though there is a custom search, but it applies to the phone only).


Above: Meizu Music will only find music on the phone’s RAM—in this case sound files that come with the dynamic wallpaper and a couple of meeting recordings I made.

   Eventually I restored the old app through the settings, and all was well. It would occasionally forget the album cover art and I’d have to relink it (who says computers remember things?), but, by and large, Music 8.0.10 did what was expected of it.
   Until this last week. The phone insisted on upgrading to 8.2.12, another half-baked version that could never locate any SD card music.
   Sure I could just move the entire directory of 1,229 songs to the phone, but I wondered why I should.
   Restoring the app would work only for a few hours (during which I would try to relink the album cover art, ultimately to no avail). Blocking the new version the app store did nothing; blocking the entire app from updating did nothing. Blocking network access to the Music app did nothing. Essentially, the phone had a mind of its own. If anyone tells you that computing devices follow human instructions, slap them.


Above: I asked the app store to ignore all updates for Meizu Music. The phone will ignore this and do what it wants, downloading the update and installing it without any human intervention.

   I had a couple of options. The first was to make Migu Music the default—and I had used that for a while before I discovered I could restore the Music app. It’s passable, and it does everything it should, though I missed the cover art.
   The other was to find a way to make Music 8.2.12 work.
   There is one way. Play every one of the 1,229 songs one by one to have Music recognize their existence.
   Using ES File Explorer, you head to the SD card, and click on each song. It asks which app you’d like to open it. Choose Music. Repeat 1,228 times.


Above: I finally got there after doing something 1,229 times. As a non-tech person I know of no way to automate this easily. I can think of a few but developing the script is beyond my knowledge.

   Whoever said computing devices would save you time is having you on. They may have once, but there are so many systems where things are far more complicated in 2021 than they were in 2011.
   You may be asking: doesn’t ES let you select multiple files, even folders? Of course it does, but when you then ask it to play them, it ignores the fact you’ve chosen Music and plays them in its own music player.
   And even after you’ve shown Music that there are files in an SD card directory, it won’t pick up its existence.
   It’s at odds with Meizu’s Video app, which, even after many updates, will find files anywhere on your phone.
   For a music player with the same version (8) it’s vastly different, and, indeed, inferior to what has come before.
   How’s the player? Well, it connects to the car, which is where I use it. But so many features which made it appealing before are gone. Editing a song’s information is gone. Half the album cover art is unlinked (including albums legitimately downloaded through the old Meizu music service), and there’s no way of relinking it. European accented characters are mistaken for the old Big 5 Chinese character set.
   The only plus side is that some songs that I had downloaded years ago with their titles in Big 5, as opposed to Unicode, now display correctly. That accounts for a few songs (fewer than 10) of the 1,229.
   I know Meizu will do nowt, as its customer service continues to plummet. I may still file something on its Chinese BBS (the western one is inaccessible and, from what I can tell, no longer maintained by anyone from their staff), but it’s highly unlikely I’ll be brand-loyal. It’s yet another example of a newer program being far, far worse, by any objective measure, than its predecessor, giving credence to the theory that some software developers are clueless, have no idea how their apps work, have no idea how people use their apps, or are downright incompetent. It’s a shame, as Meizu’s other default and system apps are generally good.
   In the future, I’m sure someone else in China will be happy to sell me a non-Google phone when it’s time to replace this one.

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Posted in China, design, internet, media, politics, technology, USA | 3 Comments »


The Mediawiki page-count bug: what’s caused it?

18.12.2020

Either something is interfering with Mediawiki or I’ve reached the limit with the software after 4,300-odd entries on Autocade. Which is highly unlikely as the same software runs Wikipedia.
   For the first time ever I noticed this in the footer:

This is how a page with no views looks. Once it nets a few views, a count appears (‘1 view’). Except for the first time in 12 years, this page, which has been viewed multiple times—including by me as I reloaded it to see if I could get the count started—will not show a count.
   This is only happening, as far as I can tell, on the newest page, though the counts on other pages have stayed static despite reloads (including leaving the page and returning).
   The statistics’ page on Autocade doesn’t always update when I reload pages, either, which makes me wonder if the count to the next million is going to be accurate.
   Anyone else come across this error?
   It’s funny that software that has run for 12 years one way decides not to do so any more, without any change in the back end.
   I have noticed, however, that Disqus is doing some odd things, with the ‘Also on Autocade’ box showing ‘View source’ links that the general public is not permitted to see. Which means it’s following me. Is that altering how the pages behave? It’s the first time that that’s happened, too.
   And something is making sure the ads don’t show up, and it’s not me, since I never use an ad blocker, and Privacy Badger is turned off on my own sites. The browser has updated, but I’ve checked and the in-built ad blocker is switched off.

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Posted in internet, New Zealand, publishing, technology | No Comments »


How about a blog gallery here, if NewTumbl puritanically patrols posts?

28.11.2020

In relation to this incident on NewTumbl, one moderator has come forth, writing in the comments to a newer post referring to it:

I do a lot of rating on here. Which posts are you referring to? By the way w*nk is M, because we know what wank means. Rating on nT is done by people, not algorithms. We’re not perfect but we do our best.

   This user, calling themselves Bottomsandmore, is rather ’splainy, telling me things everyone knows as though they were somehow authoritative (everyone on the site knows NewTumbl rating is done by people—I’ve even done some), and being plain wrong about the word wank (note that in the original post that was taken down at NewTumbl, it had the asterisk).
   We all know what bugger and tosser mean but neither of them, as used in the colloquial fashion, is considered offensive, so they need to do better than that.
   ’Splainers bore me no end, and the internet is full of them. As the old Chinese saying goes, it’s like holding a feather thinking it to be an arrow. They lack substance and social media have taught me that pointing it out is futile because they lack the intelligence to understand what you are saying. Before you know it, you’ve strayed so far from the original point because the person keeps taking you further and further away from it as their defence mechanism, or unwillingness to be freed from their delusions. I don’t know if this is a conscious technique but it’s played out every day.
   If NewTumbl is Mary Whitehouse on steroids, where moderators are ‘puritanically patrolling posts’ (my words tonight), then it’s not exactly difficult to set up an image gallery here. I also wrote:

This seemed like a fun site but if a professional has to make his case in a post like this against the decision(s) of amateurs (which is the case with Wikipedia: look at the talk pages!), then that just gets tiresome: it’s not a great use of my time. If you don’t know the culture of the majority of countries in which the English language is used and somehow think 1950s white-bread America is the yardstick, then you’re already not on my level. It’s not terribly hard to put together an image-bank site where I share those ‘irrelevant’ thoughts, as I call them here. I don’t have Dean’s [site founder Dean Abramson’s] skill in making it a site for all, but my aims are completely selfish, so I don’t have to.

   And I may start experimenting with that soon, thanks to A WP Life’s New Image Gallery. Most of what I post to NewTumbl is imagery, and early next week I might see how this new plug-in goes. If it’s a success, then I may end my time on NewTumbl in under two years. As noble as its moderation system is, there is no appeal. The result is, like Wikipedia, actual expertise does not get its say. And that’s a real pity for the good people who actually run the site.

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Posted in culture, internet, USA | 3 Comments »


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 | 3 Comments »