Posts tagged ‘technology’


Opera GX wins over Firefox in typography; Über’s still a lemon

17.05.2022

I’ve had both Firefox and Opera GX running as replacements for Vivaldi, which still crashes when I click in form fields, though not 100 per cent of the time. It’s running at about 50 per cent, so the fix they employed to deal with this issue is only half-effective.

I see Firefox still doesn’t render type as well. This is a matter of taste, of course, but here’s one thing I really dislike, where I’m sure there’s more agreement among typophiles:
 

 

No, not the hyphenation, but the fact the f has been butchered in the process.

The majority of people won’t care about this, but it’s the sort of thing that makes me choose Opera GX over Firefox.
 
Due to a temporary lapse in good judgement, I attempted to install Über again, this time on my Xiaomi. Here are the Tweets relating to that:

Evidently no one at Über has ever considered what it would be like if someone actually read the terms and conditions and followed through with some of the instructions in the clauses.

After getting through that, this is the welcome screen:

This is all it does. There’s nothing to click on, and you never move past this screen.

This is less than what I was able to achieve on my Meizu M6 Note when I tried Über on that—at least there it was able to tell me that Über is not available in my area (Tawa—and yes, I know Über is lying).

This has nothing to do with not having Google Services as my other half has a non-Google Huawei and is able to get the program working.

For me, it’s three out of three phones over six years where this program does not work—and frankly I’m quite happy taking public transport rather than waste my time with this lemon. Maybe one day they will get it working for all Android phones, but I won’t hold my breath.

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Musings for today: back on Facebook, untracked ads, Autocade rankings

16.05.2022

It’d be unfair if I didn’t note that I managed to see a ‘Create post’ button today on Lucire’s Facebook page for the first time in weeks. I went crazy manually linking everything that was missed between April 25 and today.

Maybe I got it back as it would look even worse for Facebook, which still live-streams massacres as a matter of course in spite of its “promises” after March 15, 2019, if white supremacist murderers had more functions available to them on the site than honest business people.

The upshot still remains: get your supporters going to your website as much as possible, and wind down whatever presence you have on Facebook. You shouldn’t depend on it, because you never know when your page might disappear or when you lose access. Both are very real possibilities.
 
Bob Hoffman’s newsletter was gold this week. It usually is, especially as he touches on similar topics to me, but at a far higher level.

This week’s highlights: ‘Blogweasel calculations indicate that adtech-based targeting adds at least 100% to the cost of an online ad. In order for it to be more efficient it has to be more than twice as effective. I’m slightly skeptical.

An article in AppleInsider this week reported that, “Apple has revealed to advertisers that App Store search ads served in a non-targeted fashion are just as effective as those relying on targeting via first-party data.”’

Indeed, ads that might use the page content to inform their contents (contextual advertising) work even better. Why? The publisher might actually get paid for them.

I’ve seen so many ads not display at all, including on our own sites. Now, our firm doesn’t use trackers, but we know the ad networks we use do. And for whatever daft reason, there are ad networks that won’t show content if you block trackers. (Stuff is even worse: their home and contents’ pages don’t even display if you block certain cookies.)

If we went back to how things were before tracking got this bad, the ads would be less creepy, and I bet more of them would display—and that helps us publishers pay the bills. If you don’t like them, there are still ad blockers, but out of my own interests, I would prefer you didn’t.
 
I came across Drew Magarry’s 2021 article, ‘There’s No Middle Class of Cars Anymore’, in Road & Track’s online edition.

‘You’re either driving a really nice new car, a deeply unsatisfying new car, or a very old used car.’ Drew notes that there are nasty base models, and also fully loaded ones, and the former ‘treat you like absolute shit, and everyone on the road knows it.’

It seems what’s happening is that the middle—the “GLs” of this world, as opposed to the Ls and GLSs—is getting squeezed out.

It says something about our society and its inequality.

Interestingly, it’s not as bad here with base models, and that might reflect our society. But look at the US, as Drew does, or the European top 10, where cheap cars like the Dacia Sandero do exceptionally well.

This goes back many years, and I’ve seen plenty of base models in US rental fleets that would make a New Zealand entry-level car seem sumptuous.
 
Finally, the legacy pages are reasserting themselves on Autocade. When the latest version was installed on the server and the stats were reset, the top 20 included all the models that appeared on the home page, as Mediawiki recommenced its count. Search-engine spiders were visiting the site and hitting those the most.

Fast forward two months and the top 20 are exclusively older pages, as visits from regular people coming via search engines outnumber spiders.

Until last week, the most visited page since the March reset was the Renault Mégane II. It seems the Ford Taunus 80 has overtaken the Mégane II. Peugeot’s 206+ (207 in some markets) follows, then the Ford Fiesta Mk VII and Renault Mégane III.

Before the reset, the Ford Fiesta Mk VII was the top model page, followed by the Taunus 80, then the Mégane II, Opel Astra J, and Nissan Sunny (B14).

Probably no one cares, but as it’s my blog, here’s the old, just before the switchover:
 

 
And here’s where we are as of tonight:
 

 
You can see the ranking for yourself, as the stats are public, here.

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Letter-writing is not just a lost art

22.04.2022

I hate sounding like a cranky old fella but there is definitely a generational divide now on letter-writing. I imagine something had to give if people are using apps to message each other (not great from a business point-of-view if maintaining an official record becomes this much harder). From a thread on Reddit:
 

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Autocade reaches 28 million page views

19.04.2022


 
On March 19, 2022, Autocade had accumulated 27,647,011 page views. That was the last recorded total, and the new site went live the following day. That means over 10,000 views didn’t get added to that total, but as it’s the last I have (unless the Wayback Machine has one from the 20th ult.), then that’s what I’ll have to use as the new zero point.

The new stats’ set-up on the more modern Mediawikis does not update the numbers live; instead, that happens once a day. Some time overnight it ticked over to 351,079 on the new server.
 
27,647,011 +351,079 = 27,998,090
 

Even being very conservative, Autocade will have served its 28 millionth page view by now—though I may update this page tomorrow after I confirm it.

Sorry, for those who hated these statistical posts, the new server hasn’t seen the end of them! OCD is OCD!
 
March 2008: launch
April 2011: 1,000,000 (three years for first million)
March 2012: 2,000,000 (11 months for second million)
May 2013: 3,000,000 (14 months for third million)
January 2014: 4,000,000 (eight months for fourth million)
September 2014: 5,000,000 (eight months for fifth million)
May 2015: 6,000,000 (eight months for sixth million)
October 2015: 7,000,000 (five months for seventh million)
March 2016: 8,000,000 (five months for eighth million)
August 2016: 9,000,000 (five months for ninth million)
February 2017: 10,000,000 (six months for 10th million)
June 2017: 11,000,000 (four months for 11th million)
January 2018: 12,000,000 (seven months for 12th million)
May 2018: 13,000,000 (four months for 13th million)
September 2018: 14,000,000 (four months for 14th million)
February 2019: 15,000,000 (five months for 15th million)
June 2019: 16,000,000 (four months for 16th million)
October 2019: 17,000,000 (four months for 17th million)
December 2019: 18,000,000 (just under three months for 18th million)
April 2020: 19,000,000 (just over three months for 19th million)
July 2020: 20,000,000 (just over three-and-a-half months for 20th million)
October 2020: 21,000,000 (three months for 21st million)
January 2021: 22,000,000 (three months for 22nd million)
April 2021: 23,000,000 (three months for 23rd million)
June 2021: 24,000,000 (two months for 24th million)
August 2021: 25,000,000 (two months for 25th million)
October 2021: 26,000,000 (two months for 26th million)
January 2022: 27,000,000 (three months for 27th million)
April 2022: 28,000,000 (three months for 28th million)
 

Currently there are 4,551 models on there, with the latest Mercedes-Benz S-Klasse the newest entry.
 
PS.: And here we are, the following day. Autocade’s new stats’ page shows 361,627.

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Browser history

11.04.2022


In 2011, I was definitely on Firefox.
 
I believe I started browsing as many did, with Netscape. But not 1.0 (though I had seen copies at university). I was lucky enough to have 1.1 installed first.

I stuck with Netscape till 4.7. Its successor, v. 6, was bloated, and never worked well on my PC.

Around this time, my friend Kat introduced me to Internet Explorer 5, which was largely stable, so I made the leap to Microsoft. IE5 wasn’t new at this point and had been around for a while.

I can’t remember which year, but at some point I went to Maxthon, which used the IE engine, but had more bells and whistles.

By the end of the decade, Firefox 3 was my browser of choice. In 2014, I switched to Waterfox, a Firefox fork, since I was on a 64-bit PC and Firefox was only made for 32-bit back then. A bug with the Firefox browsers saw them stop displaying text at the end of 2014, and I must have switched to Cyberfox (another 64-bit Firefox-based browser) around this time.

I went back to Firefox when development on Cyberfox stopped, and a 64-bit Firefox became available, but by 2017, it ate memory like there was no tomorrow (as Chrome once did, hence my not adopting it). Vivaldi became my new choice.

There are old posts on this blog detailing many of the changes and my reasons for them.

I’ve always had Opera installed somewhere, but it was never my main browser. Maybe this year Opera GX will become that, with Vivaldi’s latest version being quite buggy. We shall see. I tend to be pretty loyal till I get to a point where the software ceases to work as hoped.

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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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Vivaldi 5.2’s bugs: time to go back to Opera GX?

08.04.2022


Above: Vivaldi appears for less than a second; each entry then disappears. One of the bugs from last night.
 
Vivaldi updated last night, and nearly instantly shut down.

Sadly, there’s a bug which shuts the program down the moment you hit a form field (filed with them, and they are working on it), and I found that ZIP archives would not download properly. Getting rid of a Spotify tab somehow got me around the first bug, but I know others have not been so lucky.

In the meantime, I discovered downgrading did not work—Vivaldi wouldn’t even start—while upgrading back to 5.2 didn’t solve that problem. I’d see Vivaldis in the task manager for a second but they’d then vanish.

Removing the sessions from the default folder helped me start the program again, but I lost my tabs; fortunately I was able to restore those, in order to duplicate each and every one on my old browser, Opera GX.

I had duplicated tabs onto other browsers reasonably regularly, and I could have retrieved a fairly recent set from my laptop, but it’s always good to have the latest.

Right now I’m deciding whether to stick with Vivaldi while its techs work on the problems, or return to a stable Opera GX, which I last used as my regular browser briefly in 2020.

The type display is still really good, without my needing to add code to get the browser working with MacType.

However, I like Vivaldi and what they stand for, which is why I stuck with it for so long. According to this blog, I’ve been using it reasonably faithfully since September 2017. And I have become very used to it over any other Chromium-based browser.
 
Some of you may have noticed that this website is finally on https, years after that became the norm. There was one line in the code that wasn’t pointing at the correct stylesheet when this blog loaded using SSL. That was finally remedied yesterday (I hard-coded the stylesheet link into the header PHP file). I’m no expert on such matters but it’s now loading a certificate I got at Let’s Encrypt, and it seems to be working.

One of the changes in the stylesheet that controls the indents and the paragraph spacing does mean some of the line spacing in earlier posts is now off. This happened on the Lucire website, too, but it was one of those things I had to do to make posts going forward look a bit better.

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Posted in design, interests, internet, technology, typography | No Comments »


April 2022 gallery

02.04.2022

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

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Replacement for Notepad found, but what about Windows Explorer?

02.04.2022


 
Now that Microsoft won’t let us type certain characters into Notepad (anything above ASCII 127, at least on a standard US keyboard), I’ve had to look for alternatives.
   This is a daft move on Microsoft’s part as I am sure I am not the only person in the world who needs to type £ or or the word café. I accept not everyone needs to type en and em dashes.
   A number of kind souls on Twitter suggested Notepad++, which I had heard of years ago, but it was just far too complicated for me. What I really wanted was Notepad as it was before a few months ago.
   The closest: EditPad Lite 8, which is like Notepad but with a more convoluted search and replace, and tabs so you can have a bunch of files in a single instance of the program.
 

 
   Windows Explorer is the other one. It keeps rotating photos by itself, even images with no orientation code (such as screenshots). There’s no rhyme or reason to it. Sometimes it’ll rotate left. Other times to the right. Or upside down.
   Sadly, the timestamp changes, which is very problematic for, say, email attachments, which I file by date. Also linked files for magazine work—we can’t afford to have photos suddenly rotated in a file because Microsoft thinks so.
   That proved to be a lot harder to solve, as most people who make Explorer alternatives want to do multiple windows. Others have clunky interfaces. If you don’t want to pay, and even if you do, your choices seem rather limited.
   Eventually trialling more than half a dozen, I settled on One Commander, which doesn’t rotate photos without human intervention, and I had been happy with it till today—when it changed the timestamps on a whole bunch of photos during a transfer.
 

 
   I know the program would love to call these photos ‘modified’ at the time of transfer, but that’s exceedingly unhelpful for my purposes, when I need them to show the original date and modified date exactly as they were in the originating folder.
   Your suggestions are welcome. I do need to preview thumbnails, which knocks out some of the offerings. But again, you have to wonder why on earth Microsoft has introduced bugs when both these programs functioned fine under Windows 10.
 
PS.: Milos Paripović, the developer of One Commander, responded to my query about this. He says, ‘One Commander is using Explorer for file operations so it should behave the same way.’ And here’s the thing: I haven’t been able to replicate the bug described above since. So it looks like I’ll continue with One Commander, which has the best UI of them all. Altap Salamander did get a brief look-in, but it’s just not as nice to look at.

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What’s popular on Autocade

31.03.2022

What’s been quite fascinating with having the stats reset on Autocade is getting a fresh perspective on what its most popular pages are. When a website has been going for 14 years, and the stats have never been refreshed, it doesn’t give you the most up-to-date picture. You know historically what was most popular, but what about in the last year? Unless you really kept an eye on the rates of change, you wouldn’t know.
   Here’s how things looked on the old site before the move (March 17). It’s a corner of the ‘Popular pages’ page:

   It’s a pity I didn’t take more screenshots on subsequent days, but I had been watching the models linked from the home page occupy the top slots for the last week. That only seemed logical: both readers and search engine spiders were hitting them more. Here’s how things looked on March 23, with Autocade at its new home after a couple of days:

   But here we are today, a week later:

   You’re beginning to see the earlier highly trafficked pages reassert themselves.
   For a long time, the Nissan Bluebird (910) page led the table, before being overtaken by the Toyota Corolla (E120). Now it seems the Renault Mégane II, Ford Fiesta Mk VII, Ford Taunus 80, and the Peugeot 206+ and 207 are leading the way. I see a few other top pages make their way up: Opel Astra J (which isn’t that old a page), and the Holden Commodore (VE), Chrysler–Simca 1307 range, and Ford Cortina Mk III (which are old pages, from the first years of Autocade).
   I assume these pages have been somewhat grandfathered by the search engines. It’s a relief to know that the transition to the new box has been relatively seamless for the search engines not to notice.

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