blarg?

I’m not the first person to say this, and I won’t be the last, but you know what the worst part of HP’s horrible website is?

The prize at the end of it is HP’s products.

I’m confident that none of the people who assembled (“designed” is, I think, far too strong a word) HP’s website have ever actually looked at it, much less tried actually using it to get something done.

Last night, my wife:

  1. informed me that she listens to the radio,
  2. didn’t appreciate being called a chimpanzee, and
  3. gave me a wedgie.

Buying a coffee this morning, the radio in the place was playing some completely unremarkable female vocalist’s cover of Coldplay’s “Yellow”. It didn’t even sound like a cover, but more like a karaoke overdub.

The artist in question successfully added nothing at all to a song that was:

  1. originally released less than ten years ago, and
  2. not very good in the first place.

See also, noting that the article in question is both older and better than the song. Mercifully, having completed my coffee-for-cash transaction, I was able to put the headphones back in and insulate myself from this unhinged mediocrity, but it was a near thing.

This is why I don’t ever listen to the radio anymore.

I confess though that some vestigial recess of my primitive lizard brain, long and deeply scarred by a childhood in our cultural sinkhole of a capital city still thinks that the radio is how people find out about music. It’s not, thank-you-jeebus; I hear about music from my friends and, truly, every time I turn on the radio I love my friends just a tiny bit more.

But radio? Mon dieu, non. That’s like wading around in the sewage downstream from an abattoir to try and figure out what you want for dinner tonight. Not just craziness, but extremely low-yield craziness.

Still, I feel this visceral concern that somewhere in my ecosystem of friends there’s one poor sucker doing just that, weeding through endless hours of miserable top-40 detritus to find the occasional song worth hearing twice, or at all. Intellectually I know that just can’t be the case, that even chimpanzees of modest-by-chimpanzee-standards intellect don’t get their music by twiddling bakelite knobs and twisting around rabbit ears anymore.

Right?

I sure hope so. If not, Poor Sucker In My Ecosystem Of Friends, sir or ma’am, I salute you.

But seriously, better you than me.

This is primarily going to be of interest to Mac admins, future Googlers and, er… Amos, I think? The rest of you can just nod and smile until I say something clever later.

So Microsoft treats Mac users as the Provisional Wing of their QA department, and as a result a lot of their stuff doesn’t quite work right with the rest of the Mac ecosystem. For example, Office 2004 turns out to be pretty good, but you can’t silently update it, or bulk-update it via ARD without user interaction.

Which is both less than ideal and occasionally (when you’ve got to, say, update everyone in the building because of a DST change…) very, very sadmaking. You really want to be able to silently and non-interactively update products like Office without user involvement and definitely without, God forbid, actually walking around to every desk in the building.

Here’s how you do that, at least as far as Office is concerned.

You need PackageMaker, which you can get as part of the XCode developer’s tools; it’s 10.4.x+ only, and part of a big download, but truly a must-have. We’re going to use a combination of that and the “find” unix utility to get this done.

So:

  1. Install Office on a clean machine, off the install CD. Use the Setup Assistant, don’t just drag-and-drop.
  2. Open a terminal window. “cd /Applications/Microsoft\ Office\ 2004″.
  3. Now mark all the installed Office files as having been created at some arbitrary point in the past, like so:

    find . -exec touch -t 0001010000 {} \;

    Which is to say, find all files, and when you find them use a program called “touch” to set their last-modified time to January 1st, 2000. Needless to say, you should be an administrator when you’re doing this.

  4. Now run the Microsoft AutoUpdate tool as many times as you want until your copy of Office is up to date; 11.3.4 is the most recent.
  5. Back in your terminal window, now:

    find . -mtime +2100 -type f -exec rm {} \;

    Careful, now. This one starts at whatever folder you’re currently in, looks at all the files in that folder and all of its subfolders and deletes the ones that are more than 2100 days, about six years, old. If you should start this process from somewhere else in the file heirarchy, it will do exactly the same thing starting there, without hesitation, mercy or remorse.

  6. Exit your terminal window, open up PackageManager, and build yourself a package out of the “/Applications/Microsoft\ Office\ 2004/” folder; the package that comes out of that process will contain all the files that were created or changed by the update process, and you can silently deploy it to your unsuspecting users at your leisure.

So, there you are – more of an overlay than an actual update package, but being a longstanding fan of things that actually work rather than doing that other thing it’s hard for me to quibble about the terminology.

Bear in mind please that this is a monolingual thing- if you try to apply a home-rolled english patch to a french version of Office, you might very well end up in the merde.

This is mostly for my non- or semi-technical friends*, and once you’ve read it I’m sure you’re going to “be all whatever” as the kids say, but bear with me here because I think it’s kind of important.

This year Daylight Saving Time happens much earlier than it did last year – in Ontario as well – and the details which I’m going to spare you are not pretty but also unlikely to improve the quality of your life. The short version is that when many computers talk to each other they need to agree on what the time is or the conversation won’t happen.

You wouldn’t think daylight saving time would be a big deal, but there’s a decent chance that this change is going to break a few things in ways that I expect to be subtle and hard to diagnose. “The reason my computer is telling me my user name or password is wrong is that my computer’s internal clock is wrong” just isn’t a leap that I expect most people to make, especially considering the time displayed on the screen will be correct.

Here’s what to do:

  • If you’re using Windows XP, do a full Windows Update and reboot.
  • If you’re using Windows 2000, take a look over here, download their Network Administrator tool, and use as described.
  • If you’re using Windows 98 or Millennium, the same people provide a comparable patch here.
  • If you’re using Microsoft Office 2000, XP or 2003, this link will take you to Microsoft’s tool for making sure you don’t miss two weeks of meetings when Outlook loses track of what time it really is.
  • If you’re using a Mac, running OS 10.3.x or 10.4.x, do a Software Update, let it finish, and reboot. If you’re using Office 2004 for the Mac, run Microsoft’s Office Auto-Update tool as well. You need to upgrade Entourage to version 11.3.3 or later.

You should do these things before Saturday evening. If you have any questions whatsoever about this, ask in the comments or email me.

* – because, boy, if you’re one of my technically-inclined friends and this is the first you’re hearing about this I’d lay odds you’re in for a pretty rough week.

So, I’ve got a laptop here with a built-in Sonix sn9c201-chipset camera. It’s not working for me, because apparently there’s no Linux drivers for it, but that’s life in Linux-land.

But hey, wierd thing, I do have drivers for it. I’ve got a .rar file that has compiled FC4 drivers for it, but no source code. In fact, if running strings on it is any indication, that file has driver for tons of ostensibly-unsupported webcams in it. Take a look at what the result from strings has in it, if that sort of thing turns your crank. It’s got USB IDs galore in there (Hi, Google!) and as far as I can tell, none of those have existing drivers in the tree.

Of course, I can’t use those, because I’m not using Fedora Core 4.

Somebody created this, and some other people say it works, and I can’t find them. There’s no email address in the readme.txt file or the code, no contact information whatsoever, and my googly efforts have come up totally empty. Help me out here, Lazyweb. Where does this code come from?

(07:33:40 PM) Libid: so like what… She Wants Tron?
(07:33:58 PM) Libid: Shetron?
(07:34:04 PM) Libid: Ladyvenge?
(07:34:11 PM) mhoye: Shetron Ladyvenge.
(07:34:16 PM) Libid: hehehe
(07:34:20 PM) mhoye: Tell me that isn’t a spectacular name for a supervillainess.
(07:34:28 PM) Libid: yes
(07:34:30 PM) Libid: yes it is

I have got an entry for you here that will seize your nerve endings with a musician’s delicate hands and strum them to a rhythm. You will feel a momentary inner stillness, and those parts of your apparatus charged with simple joys will shift and throb in time.

  • South By Southwest, SXSW, is a 20-year-old annual music and media festival that takes place in Austin, Texas around, oh, now. This year, they’ve released the SXSW Toolbox, and the first of the torrents they plan to release has 739 songs in it. 3.1 Gigs of music. They’re going to put up a torrent of their film trailers soon, and I’ll keep you informed.
  • If you’re a big nerd like me, and you like video game music, Zelda Re-Orchestrated is a good download. It’s fanart, of course, so it’s somewhat uneven, mostly good fun and occasionally great.
  • I don’t know what’s going on here, but it’s some kind of messed up and you should be looking at it right now.
  • I do know what’s going on here, but it’s pretty and good fun, so you should watch it anyway.

Don’t act like I never do anything for you, internet.