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Comment Agree! Win8/10 = crap. Here's how I got Win7 again (Score 1) 360

I had similar bad experiences with my work laptop, until I could get Windows 7 on a new laptop.

I was with a small workplace and given a laptop for work, one of those cheap ones you get at the local electronics store. It had Windows 8, a whole host of preloaded crapware, and was incredibly clumsy.

When I complained, I was given a small budget to get my own laptop. I got a refurbished Lenovo Yoga, one of those two-in-one things that could open fold back the screen completely on itself, and pretend to be a tablet if you ignored the keyboard on the back. Conceptually great, but also came with preloaded crapware, the biggest of which was this monstrosity known as Windows 8.

Moreover, there was a big problem for people like me who needed to close up the laptop, tuck it under my arm to walk into the next room, and open it up again without the laptop powering down.

If you held the laptop the wrong way up, the software would detect that you had rotated the screen, try to act like it was an iPad, and turn all the windows 90 degrees, squeezing them into the now-narrower-and-taller screen. The windows would get narrower to fit, but wouldn't grow taller to take up available space on the screen. It also took about 2 seconds for the software to realize that gravity had changed direction. The upshot was that when I walked into the next workroom, sat down, and opened my laptop, the windows would be sideways or upside down for a few seconds, and then rotate to the correct orientation but not size. I actually had to write an AutoHotkey routine to resize windows.

I tried to install Linux on these. I was able to boot from flash USB drive and install, but it would not naturally boot the installed Linux without the USB drive. It refused to boot GRUB and give me a boot selector.

I bemoaned the loss of Windows 7 (which is still a Microsoft product but a lot more predictable and came before the Let's-Make-Windows-A-Tablet-GUI era) and the ubiquity of crapware, until I was given a slightly higher budget to get a Dell laptop after bitter complaining.

Lo! and behold! The Dell Vostro small business laptop was available with Windows 7! It had no crapware, and the BIOS not only allowed but actually defaulted to legacy non-secure boot which allowed me to install Linux. (Some of the BIOS settings actually mentioned Linux: "such-and-such a setting should be used for Ubuntu", the BIOS said.) The Windows 7 must have been through some loophole, because this Dell laptop comes with a "recover disk" for Windows 8 and not Win7 (even though the computer comes with Win7 installed). It comes with a "generate your own recovery disk" software so that you can restore Win7 -- I guess somehow Dell's not allowed to provide a Win7 disk.

I am so happy that I can actually take shelter under Windows 7 and hopefully ride out the Win8/Win10 crapfest until something reasonable comes along. I swear if Linux had anything like AutoHotkey, I'd stop using Windows altogether.

Comment people (like me) ask smartphone questions often (Score 1) 44

Not once have I ever witnessed a person walking down the street and ask their phone a question.

I have never done that, but it's mainly because I tend to drive more than walk, so I agree with parent in addressing GP's point. In the car, I ask questions of my phone all the time, and it's not even Siri; it's an Android device that a snagged for less than US$70 (HTC MyTouch). Often when my kid asks a question, like "Daddy, when did Pompeii get buried?", we seize the moment and find out right away rather than waiting to look it up when we get home. I firmly believe that this ability to get information on the spot (which you couldn't do if you had to type in the web query on the smartphone) accelerates the development and intelligence of society as a collective organism. In other words, it's good for everybody.

Disclaimer: I still don't know what Cortana is, and I still plan to get the Neo900 when it comes out.

Comment send gobs of meaningless data for them to surveil! (Score 1) 123

The person I was responding to said that it was hopeless because it's practically impossible to avoid targeted surveillance of sufficient scope by the NSA. I said that this didn't matter because targeted surveillance is not the problem, mass surveillance is.

This may or may not be a bit off-topic, but deals a bit with planting the seeds of making it somewhat harder to monitor/decrypt your computer communications stuff.

The issue here is not that someone is watching you now because you are doing Something AntiGovernment (synonym for "Evil"), but that someone is vacuuming up everything you do, and then later when you decide to do something Evil, they will go back to their massive records and check out what you previously did.

It would be nice to have a scheme to:
1. interfere with your ability to record and decrypt everything
2. have an unbreakable code for communicating with other people

Since they vacuum up everything, let's give them stuff to vacuum up. I think I'm going to post a lot of stuff in my gmail account or hosted filespace, big gobs of files that are just random data. Ha! Let them decrypt that! I might create a TrueCrypt volume or two, and then stick that on the web. If everyone did that, the TLA agencies might drive themselves nuts trying to figure out if those files meant anything or not. I might even name the files "LatestPopularHits.mp3" or "" and dangle it in front of the latest MAFIAA antipiracy dogs.

One nice thing about having files of random gibberish on the web is that they make great one-time pads for encrypting. It's already out there, so you and I can just agree on a certain file that's on Rapidshare or something, and we can use that to encrypt; concepturally, it could be as simple as a bitwise XOR with the random file. To guard against the NSA just trying every single file on the planet for a key (I wouldn't put it past them), we could even say, "Our one-time pad is the first 123kb of File A, plus the second 456kb of file B."

So, start dumping those gobs of random data onto the web! You could even email large amounts of random garbage to a dummy email account, and then deleting it, thus costing you no more than negligible bandwidth, while the GMails and NSA's out there try to record an accumulating pile of useless garbage that no longer exists anywhere except in their own archives.

Screw all this surveillance. Screw Big Brother.

Comment Is FitBit *TOO* accurate? (Score 2) 128

I have a FitBit, I also have a smart phone with the FitBit app on. The smart phone has motion sensors and data collection ability.

The FitBit is a lot more accurate

I'd like an opinion from you as a FitBit user (or any other FitBit users out there)...

Yes, FitBit's advantages include the fact that it follows you everywhere since it's more easily worn anywhere, including the shower nowadays for some of the newer models.

I got a FitBit as a gift for a good friend of mine. She was appalled by how it asks for permission to send very private info, and was really hesitant about starting to use it. (And I thought *I* was the one always warning people about society being apathetic about the insidious encroachment of privacy by software!) I did some digging and found articles on the web nothing that "Ira Hunt, the agency's chief tech officer, had this to say about fitness bands: 'What's really most intriguing is that you can be 100% guaranteed to be identified by simply your gait - how you walk.'"

Also, apparently FitBit asks for permission to access your Contacts info on the iPhone, purportedly just so it can contact all your friends who own FitBits and tell them how excited you are to have gotten one.

Would it be true that, with a smartphone app rather than a purpose-built device, you'd have more control over the privacy settings and what the fitness program does with its data? At least, presumably, there would be a choice of apps and you could choose one that is less invasive of privacy. I don't know because I use a Linux(Maemo)-based phone and don't have access to the wonderful world of Android/iPhone. Any comments in this regard would be appreciated.

Epilogue: My friend started to set up her FitBit but got scared enough about per privacy that she decided to return it. Concerned about the company harvesting her data after she returned it, she hid it in a place for two weeks to guarantee that its battery would run out before she returned it. (Not sure if this is the way to do it.)

Comment hash a simple pre-password for a strong password (Score 1) 223

This is a reply not just to the comment from amxcode but the GPpost from ColdWetDog.

A random-seeming password doesn't really have to be random, and thus you don't have to rely on someone else's software to keep track. You can generate a long password by hashing a short, easy-to-remember "pre-password" that only you could guess.

For example, you can decide that your personal password-salt is "ColdWetDog", and the pre-password for your Amazon login is simply "amazonColdWetDog". (And the pre-password for your bank would be "bankColdWetDog".) Then you hash it with MD5 (or SHA-1 or RIPEMD-160 if you don't like the collision vulnerability of MD5, though in tis case it doesn't make a difference). The result is a long string, and you can take the first n bits and use that as your password. (Yes, MD5 only generates hex digits, so accumulate it into base64 to make them ASCII characters.)

And, boom!, there's your big long pseudorandom password that you can use no matter which operating system you switch to, without having to worry about any password app from some app store.

My own password manager is a text file encrypted with open-ssl. It's not just that I am paranoid about password apps someone else wrote; I also need it to work on multiple platforms. Write your own; it's not that hard.

Comment Agree: doctors fall into EMR vendor lock-in trap (Score 1) 240

As a physician who was dragged screaming and kicking into having to use EPIC, I have to agree.

I never knew I could hate a company more than Microsoft. Their client is a bloated horror that nevertheless acts like the thinnest client in the world: "Oh, look, the doctor pressed the Shift key ... I guess I'll send that over the network, and wait for a response ... oh look, s/he released the Shift key now -- I guess I'll send that over the network, too..." Apparently it's based on the Internet Explorer library, so there is no Mac version (at least not when I was using it)...

The interface was so bad that I learned how to program in AutoHotkey and probably spent in excess of 200 hours over a year to automate things. AutoHotkey was a lifesaver: open source and powerful. (In fact, the pitiful xdotool we have for Linux doesn't even come close to AutoHotkey for windows, and even if I weren't forced to use Windows for my work, I might have ended up choosing it over Linux just because of AutoHotkey and its ecosystem of experienced developers.)

At the time I was with a large clinic chain that had about 40% of the market in our large sprawling metropolitan supercluster location. They surveyed the doctors, who said that on average they were spending an extra hour per day using Epic. And in the end, it was a lot of *data*-generation and not a lot of *information*. Our specialists complained that everything was being crammed into a template form, and they really couldn't tell what we were thinking, just checklists of what the patient did/did not have.

Having vendor lock-in, they have no incentive to improve. They can do whatever they want... if the clinic/hospital is already stuck using Epic, why would they spend money on fixing their problems instead of recruiting more clients?

Having said all that, even Epic is better than what I'm stuck using right now ... eClinicalWorks. That's even worse than Epic. All the problems of Epic, plus even worse interface. Right now I type my notes in a plain text editor and then use AutoHotkey to cut-n-paste it into eClinicalWorks. What a nightmare.

OpenEMR all the way!

Comment CookieController deletes cookies with 1click (Score 1) 219

I use Cookie Controller. Among other things, it has a handy button to click on. On the first click, it will wipe out temporary (session) cookies for the site you're on right now. On the second click, it will wipe persistent cookies, too. The third click wipes out session cookies for all sites. A fourth click will wipe all cookies. The button appearance changes to let you know what it's going to do, and in case you forget, hovering over the button brings up a tooltip that tells you what sorts of cookies and how many are about to get wiped.

Very handy now that Google is tracking everything. I don't particularly want all my casual searches to be linked to my Google maps requests and my Google translates.

The plugin doesn't sound as automated as Self-Destructing Cookies, so maybe I will check it out.

Comment Palo Alto is Spanish for "perpetual traffic jam" (Score 1) 250

A benefit with Palo Alto and surrounding communities is that you can actually find parking.

Yes, traffic flows so slowly through Palo Alto (including Highway 101 on weeknights where drivers slow to a crawl as soon as you enter Palo Alto) that you can always find parking. You see, the entire city of Palo Alto is one big parking lot!

Comment Agree: So, can computer RAM literally fill up? (Score 1) 206

Agree. Unless "fill up" is interpreted this way, you might similarly say of the claim that "my computer RAM has literally filled up and there are zero bytes free" that there has been no physical cavity within the RAM chips which have decreased in volume due to contents physically occupying volume.

Comment also: resistive screen is okay if it's multi-touch (Score 1) 303

I hear a lot of people disparaging the resistive touch-screen of the N900, compared to the Technically Awe-Inspiring And Can't-Be-Topped (or "Apple" for short) capacitive touchscreen.

For the record, I think people just prefer the multi-touch capability of the capacitive screen. If the resistive screen could be multi-touch, then it would be okay (and much more high-res, apparently).

Well, Neo900 hardware is going to support dual-touch gestures like rotating and pinching, without replacing the original, resistive screen from N900! So you can have dual-touch on resistive. I think that addresses the complaint about resistive. Otherwise, what exactly is the advantage of a capacitive touchscreen?

Comment Scripting on the Android? Don't make me laugh (Score 1) 303

important that I run Vim.

Looking at the N900 keyboard I don't think Vim would be very usable...

Not sure what you mean. I actually and currently *do* use vim on my N900. With the keyboard.
It's what I use to take notes.
And also make phone calls (a keystroke mapping makes vim read the current line, identify the phone number on it, and call that number).
And also send text messages (a keystroke mapping makes vim identify the phone number at the start of the line, and send the rest of the line to that number as a SMS).
And also read incoming text messages -- handy when I'm driving and can't squint at the screen (a keystroke mapping makes vim call a bash script that pulls the latest text message via SQLite3, and then read it aloud using espeak).
And a similar keystroke automatically sends a reply to whoever sent the SMS, telling him/her that I got the message, but I'm driving and can't respond right now.
And so on, for "silence the N900 for (specified time, default 1 hour) then re-enable sound" because I'm in a meeting, etc. etc.
In fact, I mostly control my N900 from the vim screen, and sometimes from the bash screen; much more fine-grained control than the GUI interface. The hardware keyboard is what makes it usable when driving; with an onscreen keyboard, you couldn't keep your eyes on the road. (Cue the snarky comments about "You should never use your phone when driving, because I don't, and everyone else should be like me.")

Oh, part of the reason Vim works well on my N900 keyboard is because I've redefined it. By defaut each key has a meaning when pressed by itself, or with the Shift key, or with the Fn key. But there's a fourth combination of Shift+Fn key, which by default is the same as the Fn key -- which is completely wasted potential. So, by using the Shift+Fn key combo, I've got 30 extra characters to use, including []{}`|^~% which by default you'd have to call up the virtual keyboard to type. Maybe that's why you think the keyboard is not usable with Vim.

*I* want to be the one in control of the phone

There are lots of automation/scripting apps for Android, or with root you can get a real shell and install the scripting language of your choice.

I'd be interested in a "real" shell/scripting language. Right now I have a bash script for synchronizing various text files (such as my ToDo list) between various laptops/desktops, and I just use the same script for my N900. The script also synchronizes itself, so when I improve the script on my work laptop, for example, the versions on the other laptop and the desktop and, yes, my N900 will update themselves.

I see some really simple tools on Android -- a brief web search produces results like Tasker and AutomateIt, which are great when you want simple things like, say, changing the ringtones every Wednesday afternoon unless your phone is face-down.

I'm looking for things more like, if a SMS comes in, then make a different "SMS arrived" sound depending on who it's from; and if it's from the wife or my parents, then read the SMS out loud unless I'm at my workplace; otherwise forward the SMS contents to my email account. Here's a N900 script for "while I'm at the office, adjust my Google Voice virtual phone settings to not forward phone calls to home". Right now I'm working on something that sends a SMS to my wife telling what freeway exit I'm closest too, and my driving speed, so I don't have to manually text her while driving to let her know when I'll be home.

Tasker falls short in these abilities, to put it mildly; never mind that you can't reuse the scripts for the desktop/laptop. I don't mean to belittle your helpful info; it's just that smartphones like Android devices just aren't in the same league as computers-that-happen-to-have-phones-built-in like the N900. At the same time, I recognize that currently there's nothing quite like the N900 on the market.

So, the other choice that you mention is "with root you can get a real shell". I guess by rooting you mean jailbreaking. CyanogenMod seems to offer a lot of freedom compared to the as-is Android device, although it's a lot easier to achieve on the N900, and without jailbreaking.

How good is the hardware control in CyanogenMod-based scripting? Can you write a bash (or python) script for, say, connecting to a certain wifi? Turning phone off/on? Turning GPS on at pre-programmed intervals, getting a location fix, and then turning off again? If it's capable of that, then I'm going to keep CyanogenMod as my backup plan if nothing feasible comes out by the time my N900's fail.

Thanks for any info you (or anyone else) can provide about CyanogenMod scripting.

Comment Brother MFC-665cw keeps ink from clogging (Score 1) 155

If unusued for a week or two, my Brother printer will exercise the ink cartridge briefly to prevent it from blocking. Yes, this does involve using up a bit of the ink. I had our brother printer sit unusued for a year, plugged in, turned on (just in case we needed it -- but we happened to be in a phase of our lives where we didn't for a long time). I noticed that the ink level would go down slowly even when unused.

Compare that to my old HP inkjet. Sat unusued for a season or so, and then the ink cartridges were unusable. Had to be replaced.

Don't know if exercising the cartridge was the only factor, but I am impressed by how the Brother printer maintains itself. Now 7 years old, and still going strong.

As for cheap ... one HP inkjet cartridge (black ink only; order colour separately) is about $25.

For the Brother printer, 4 black cartridges, two cyan, two magenta and two yellow cartridges (individually wrapped) is $6.25 on Amazon for the ten cartridges.

Yeah, I think I'll stick with the inkjet for a bit longer.

Comment the important thing is scriptability and control (Score 3, Interesting) 303

I think it's important to establish what makes the N900 great. Can't speak for the OP, but this is what I'm hoping for in a phone once my N900 finally gives up the ghost. "Hoping," notice I said, but I'm not holding my breath.

1. Scriptability. First and foremost. *I* want to be the one in control of the phone, not some app developer vetted by The Place That Decides What You Can Do With Our --I Mean Your-- Phone (or "AppStore" for short). I want to write a bash script, or a python script, and tell me when my beloved has sent me a SMS containing the word "URGENT".

2. Freedom. Yes, I mean openness as in open source. Yes, I do know not everything in the N900 was open-sourced, but a heck of a lot of it was. That let a lot of people hack it, for the benefit of the community. And it didn't void the warranty. There's something to be said for a phone that does not need you to join the Apple club with a credit card, or sign up with Big Brother Google before using the phone -- you really are independent.

3. Portability of software. It's awesome that I can run Gnumeric on this thing, but even more important that I run Vim.

4. Three things you can change: the cell phone provider, the battery, and the memory storage card. Mainly a criticism compared to the early iPhones; not sure if they still apply. I understand that there are unlocked iPhones now (which still cost more than the N900 did) but you can't change the battery. Android phones will take microSD now, I think?

In fact, to lower my chances of being forced to make do without a good alternative, I bought a second N900, and regularly synchronize the spare so I can have it up and running in case it's needed quickly. I wasn't seeing anything on the horizon, and figured I'd probably have to hang on to my pair of N900's for at least another 3 years. This Slashdot discussion is very useful.

There are, of course, lots to hate about the N900. Most of it deals with the slow swapping caused by the relatively small RAM, versus the large RAM that would be needed by a truly multitasking computer/smartphone. (Compare this with the iPhone that was out at the time, which did not multitask. Do iPhones multitask yet?) The user interface is also unintuitive and poorly thought out. Wish it had been given a chance, but once Elop came on board, there was zero chance of that.

As I've said before, the N900 is a piece of crap --but it's the BEST piece of crap in the world!

Comment agree: as bad as "Anti-Fragile" (Score 2) 312

So you want to retire a statistical term......because people use it incorrectly in economics? Get bent. The standard deviation is a useful tool for statistical analysis of large populations.

Agreed that this is a ridiculous proposal. He probably just wants more publicity.

This was the guy who wrote the book "Anti-Fragile", which I had hoped would educate and broaden my way of thinking, in the same way that the Malcolm Gladwell books ("Tipping Point", "Blink", "Outliers") did. He ended up droning on and on without really making a worthwhile point, and I gave up after a while.

Comment You still have to show me how to get my keys (Score 1) 290

I guess I'm trying to cut to the essence of the question: can I get my keys? How can I get my keys?

To clarify: The aspect on which BIOS4breakfast and Alsee disgree is that the former feels that there is not a restriction on obtaining keys as long as they are not obtained from the TPM module, whereas the latter feels that the restriction covers non-TPM aspects as well. Alsee says: "The moment they ... give owners the option to buy chips that come with a printed copy of they keys, then I will [proclaim] that Trusted Computing is wonderful ..." This is the point of contention, and the aspect on which I am focusing.

I guess I should have been more explicit: "Alsee says I can't have the keys to the TPM which comes with the computer I buy, EVEN THROUGH NON-ELECTRONIC MEANS. You disagree with Alsee. We all agree that if I can have the keys, all would be fine."

In the end, it doesn't really matter who agrees with whom where. I want my keys. How do I get them?

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