April 28, 2010

Baby Vs. Tech

Filed under: awesome,interfaces,life,parenting,toys — mhoye @ 8:22 am


A few days ago, Maya picked up an old cellphone, held it up to her head and said “Hi! Hi!” And I was really impressed, thinking wow, she’s learning really fast.

Of course, a few minutes later, she held a stuffed animal up to her ear, looked at me and said “Hi!”

Well, OK then.

Since then she’s answered our phone, more stuffed animals, her baby monitor, two socks and a box of cereal. So there’s work left to be done, but am willing to call this progress.

April 26, 2010

Tell It To My Facebook

Filed under: digital,documentation,fail,hate,interfaces,losers,vendetta — mhoye @ 8:12 am


The answer to the question you’ll have at the end of this is “because of a small number of real friends who think Facebook is the Internet.”

( UPDATE: Oh, this gets even better. See below… )

A little while ago I mentioned that between Facebook’s insistence on playing tetherball with my privacy settings and dumb games (or rather, dumb friends playing dumb games) filling my newsfeed with garbage that Facebook was getting pretty close to completely unusable.

Since then they’ve made more changes to their privacy settings and they’re 100% awesome. Basically they’ve decided to make your public information broadly available to advertisers while at the same time making a bunch of your personal information public. It’s already done, opt-out-only no less, because quietly changing people’s privacy settings without their informed consent is just how Facebook rolls. As far as I can tell you can now no longer “like” things that don’t have a page, which means you can look at a page and get a list of the tens, dozens or hundreds of thousands of people who “like” that. Which is 100% useless to anyone who isn’t going to try to sell stuff in bulk to that entire group, people we colloquially call data-miners and spammers.

That’s right, Facebook has changed their system such that in order to protect some sliver of your privacy, you need to stop liking things. Way to go, Facebook.

I hope you all like being monetized.

So, here’s what I’ve done to hammer my Facebook account down into some shard of tolerability. This is admittedly my personal definition of “usable”, an umbrella under which you’ll find a relatively clean interface with the best signal-to-noise ratio I can find and the best ways I can find to avoid being a soft target for spammers any other person or process that wants to make a buck selling a slice out of my attention span.


  • Under “My Account”, go to “Facebook Ads”, and set both options (the one above the fold and the one hidden below it, those weaselly fucks) to “No One”. Save changes and continue.
  • Also under My Account, go into “notifications” and judiciously pick the ones you’ll actually want, save and continue.
  • Starting with your privacy settings; open them up and set everything to Only Friends. Allow friends to post on your wall, because sure, and save changes and continue. Do the same thing for Contact Information, thought I’ve set “Add me as a friend” and “Send me a message” to anyone.
  • Again in your privacy settings, go to “Applications And Websites”. Set “Activity on Applications and Games Dashboards” to Only Friends, and disable “Instant Personalization”; this is key. Then go into “What your friends can share about you”, and carefully trim out whatever you don’t want; in my case, that’s everything.
  • In your privacy settings again, go to Search. Pick whichever options you’re comfortable with there (I’ve got “Friends Of Friends” and yes, respectively, which seems to have a fairly low noise threshold.
  • Ok, now the two tedious parts. The first is, go into your Privacy settings, and then to “Ignore Application Invites from friends”. Add all your friends to that list.  Tedious, I know, and you may not want this, but I’ve done it as a matter of principle; Facebook applications basically have access to all your personal information, whether or not you want that, whether or not they need it.
  • Follow that up by scrolling through your newsfeed for the first twenty or thirty Facebook game links, clicking the application icon and choosing “block” from the menu on the left side. You’ll need to play whackamole with these as new ones come in, but that is also just how Facebook rolls. You might want to consider blocking quote-friends-unquote who routinely play with those things, possibly without realizing how annoying it is to their quote-friends-unquote.
  • As per the EFF, you should also go to the Microsoft Docs, Yelp and Pandora applications and block them immediately, though this may be overkill if you’ve already prevented your friends from sharing information about you.
  • Log out, log in again.

I reiterate: “liking” things on Facebook now means your account is publicly associated with that thing. So if you tell Facebook you like it you’d better be ready to own it, forever, whatever the consequences; so let me mention again how repugnant it is to arbitrarily change people’s privacy settings, without telling them, so you can split the money with advertisers. Even the lowest pimps, pushers and whores need enough spine to deal with the people they’re screwing face to face.

UPDATE: It turns out this only addresses things Facebook has shared about you on purpose; the stuff they share by accident is even worse. Via The Guardian, “Facebook privacy hole ‘lets you see where strangers plan to go'”.

The discovery was made by Ka-Ping Yee, a software engineer for the charitable arm of Google, who was trying out the search query system known as the “Graph API” released by Facebook last Friday. In some cases – though not all – it will let you see the public events that people have said they will attend, or have attended.

Yee demonstrated the flaw by showing how the API – which plugs directly into Facebook’s databases – can show you a list of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s planned public events. Yee says that he was very disturbed by the discovery – because there seemed to be no way to prevent the events from appearing on the API, which is publicly accessible, except by saying you were “not attending” an event.

Have a comment? The original article is here.

April 15, 2010

All While Humming “Circle Of Life”

Filed under: digital,documentation,fail,hate,interfaces,linux,losers,vendetta — mhoye @ 4:48 pm

History Of The World

So, just for the googles: if you’re considering upgrading from Ubuntu 9.04 to Ubuntu 9.10 or 10.4 and you have a Broadcom Wireless adapter of the 43xx vintage (mine is a 4312) I believe this advice applies to most of them.

You should, before doing anything else, open a terminal, change your sources list located at /etc/apt/sources.list manually (globally replacing “jaunty” with “karmic” or “lucid” for 9.10 or 10.4 respectively) do an “apt-get update” and then install the b43-fwcutter package. Yes, the one you didn’t need before and won’t be informed that you need now. Otherwise you’ll find out that your wireless connection doesn’t work when you reboot post-upgrade. You should then pause, take a breath, and look forward in breathless anticipation to the day that “apt-get dist-upgrade” isn’t synonymous with “Russian Device Driver Roulette”, and know that we are of one mind on this.

But hey, it’s only 2010.

Yes, yes, I know I should know by now. Screw you guys.

Have a comment? The original article is here.

April 13, 2010

My Own Private Electrical Storm

Filed under: awesome,interfaces,life,science,weird — mhoye @ 1:50 pm

They're Serious About This

Every now and then during my semi-nightly 3:00 AM staring-at-the-ceiling routine, I seem to hear this wierd electrical fuzzing just for a moment, like loud, high-voltage arc, occasionally with accompanying visual effects. I assumed that it was just some sort of involuntary affect that I get to live with – it seems fairly harmless, aside from waking me up and spooking me a bit, but it doesn’t happen often. I’d never done any real research into it and assumed it was just one of those harmless, relatively uncommon things.

Turns out it has an awesome name, though: Exploding Head Syndrome. It’s apparently benign, and wholly unrelated to the number of times I’ve actually thought my head would explode, but there you go.

Thank you, inside-of-my-head, for keeping this streak of being broken in oddly entertaining ways alive. I can only hope that all the other types of brain damage I end up cultivating will have equally awesome names.

Have a comment? The original article is here.

April 9, 2010

The Unfrozen Caveman Employment Agency

Filed under: awesome,digital,doom,fail,hate,interfaces,losers,vendetta — mhoye @ 1:59 pm


Mein leben, check this out. Adobe – Career Opportunities:

At Adobe, we take pride in creating a vibrant and dynamic workplace that is fueled by ingenuity and innovation and that is recognized as a top employer. Great ideas can come from everywhere in the organization, and we know the next big idea could be yours. From developing cutting-edge technology and products to collaborating with exceptional employees and serving our communities, Adobe is redefining the true meaning of success.


Adobe has a new talent acquisition system. This system is optimized for performance on IE 6 or IE 7, running on Windows XP. Unfortunately it is not supported on Firefox, nor is it supported on a Mac at this time.

I want to say I’ve spotted the flaw in their plan, but strictly speaking that is definitely a redefinition of success.

“Our talent acquisition system is optimized for performance on IE6”, gah. Dear Adobe: Honestly, what the hell?

Have a comment? The original article is here.

April 8, 2010

How I Will Be Rolling

Filed under: analog,interfaces,toys — mhoye @ 8:53 am

Huge Steel Geometries

I mentioned a while back that I was looking to buy a bike and thinking about a single-speed/fixed-gear thing so I asked an old friend of mine who happens to have owned a bike store for twenty years or so what he thought of the idea. That conversation went something like this:

“Fixie, eh? Got any knee problems?”

“Yeah, some. Why?”

“Well, that’ll make ’em worse in a hurry.”

“Ah. Well, the bike I’m looking at has one of those flip-flop hubs on the back. So it’s not just a fixie.”

“Well, that’s a single-speed, that’s different. You’re not planning on carrying anything, are you?”

“I was thinking of towing my daughter around, in one of those chariot things.”

“On a single-speed? Are you living on the prairies these days?”

“Not exactly. The trails I’ll be on will mostly be around the Don Valley in Toronto.”

“Yeah, no.”

Okay, then.

So now I’m getting one of these, which seems like a very good fit. It’s got some things I like very, very much about modern bikes, the foremost being Shimano’s “megarange” cog on the back, so if you want it you’ve got enough mechanical advantage to pedal it up a ladder without breathing too hard. It’s got a narrowish drop bar, which is nice, a much sturdier body than the usual racing frame will give you and some very interesting disc brakes, which are the kind of thing you don’t need until you try, and then can’t ever do without. All told it seems like it makes a lot of sensible weight/durability tradeoffs, and once I get some decent pedals for it (and I can’t recommend those clipless-on-one-side-only pedals enough, they’re great) it should be a pretty good bike. I’ll need to replace all the quick-release stuff with security bolts, because that’s how this city works, but I’m OK with that.

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