One of my favorite early C64 games may be returning to mobile platforms. M.U.L.E. would work great as a networked iPhone game. Hopefully these folks do a good job with it.
Archive for the ‘Blogging, Computers & the Internet’ Category.
Every three years I have to endure a sales tax audit from the State of Florida. This year they actually sent me well in advance a list of all the paperwork they needed. I sent everything to them electronically weeks ago. So why do they have their auditor fly to Phoenix, stay in a hotel, and do her analysis of this paperwork on her laptop in my office? In the hour since she has been here she has not asked me for one thing. It is just bizarre. Given that I have been audited by them twice in the past and never owed more than forty or fifty bucks in back taxes from computation errors, I am pretty sure her flight cost way more than the expected value of her trip, particularly since she had done nothing so far she could not have done (better probably) in her own office.
I get egregious amounts of spam related to my blogs, but this was a new one:
I wanted to touch base with COYOTE to obtain some more background
information, mission statement, goals, history and interview for a
piece I am writing for CORSET magazine on sexual issues. The interview
will be conducted via email and ental approximately 10 questions for
There was some back and forth at Glenn Reynolds site about delaying iOS 7 upgrades. The day before the iOS 7 rollout I emailed all my family and told them not to install it until some time had passed and Apple had a chance to do revisions. This is my general policy with all major OS upgrades (and many program upgrades) but all the more so with Apple software because they never allow download of older versions of things like iOS or iTunes and thus make it impossible to roll back problematic releases. Now that we see issues about battery life and slow performance with iOS 7 on certain iPhone versions, I am glad we are waiting. Feature-wise this is a very incremental release (masked to some extent by a totally new visual look) so I can certainly wait.
(The other software that is very much in this category is Quickbooks. Their history of buggy software is terrible, and because upgrades tend to modify the database in ways that cannot be rolled back, it is another example of software where one needs to be very, very careful before upgrading. Let others be the bleeding edge).
My first post was on September 29, 2004. Thanks for the support over the years. Those first few months were bizarre, and felt like lecturing to an empty room. 6266 posts with 54,901 comments, which probably makes me solidly mid-size as far as blogs go. I have no idea any more how many readers I have -- page views lost all meaning in the era of RSS feeds and with Facebook and Twitter, it's even more difficult to track.
Skip every other release.
Here are the original cast Star Trek Movies:
VI: OK, kind of
IV: Goofy but enjoyable
III: Truly terrible
II: Awesome, to the point that the two Chris Pine et al reboot movies have drawn more heavily on the Wrath of Khan than the original show
I: Flat, boring
Here are the recent Windows releases:
Windows 8: Sucks
Windows 7: Excellent
Windows Vista (6?): God awful
Windows XP : Very Good
Windows ME: God awful
Windows 98/2000: OK
Do you see the pattern? Windows 7 redeemed the awful Vista in the same way XP redeemed the awful ME. I can only hope the to-be-released-in-October Windows 8.1 fixes some of the awful mistakes in Windows 8, not the least was the grafting of a butt-ugly touchscreen tablet interface to a PC OS most of us use with mouse and keyboard. Until then our company is still only buying Windows 7 computers. Some of my employees buy their own computers -- I provide all the company's tech support and have told them they are on their own if they buy Windows 8 and then can't find the control panel.
Over the last several days I have been desperate for information on the Chariot Fire east of San Diego. This brush fire destroyed the campground next to ours and came right up to our gates, so it was touch in go for several days to see if we would lose it.
I am often disdainful of social media but the best up to date source of information, bar none, for me was the Brush Fire Partyline started on a Facebook page. It was a fabulous resource in a news situation when the local media was often 12 hours behind the story and official government announcements were at least 24 hours tardy. (If you click through and their header image has not changed, you will see the red burned area stop just short of Laguna Campground, the campground we operate.
I get a lot of bizarre stuff but this one made me laugh:
The Turkish renewables market is set to grow rapidly and the Turkish International Renewable Energy Congress (TIREC) is your access point. Once again 500+ attendees, serious about playing their part in the growth of the market will attend to do business for two days of discussion, contact making, and lead generation.
My VPS was migrated to new servers several weeks ago and my IP addresses changed. I have had a series of down times over the last several weeks, most of which have been related to finding yet another spot where I did not change the IP addresses to the new ones and caused some sort of instability. Having thought I had gotten them all, I found yesterday that I had not properly updated my records at Incapsula, a filtering and caching service I use for this blog and a few others. Now that is fixed. Hopefully, that is the end of it.
For a second time in a month the MySql database became corrupted. I am not sure why, but it now looks like it may be a systematic problem I have to tackle rather than a one-off.
Here is what you may have missed today
Dr. Mercury at Maggie's Farm supports my use of "they" as the gender-neutral third person pronoun English needs but does not have (though he includes a tasteless picture of a family member in distress). But he wants to make it clear that I am 20 years late in joining the revolution. So be it. I will add that I am also on board with putting punctuation outside of "quotation marks". For anyone who has done a lick of computer programming, in which resolution order of mathematical symbols is a key part of early training, putting sentence punctuation inside of quotation marks makes no sense. Quotation marks are like parentheses in math, holding together one coherent expression, and so putting sentence punctuation inside them (as I did in the title) is, to me, the equivalent of this: (2 + 4 x) 8 = 48
There was a great little book a while back called the Professor and the Madman, discussing the origins of the Oxford English Dictionary. While the French dictionary is constructed top-down by a few folks to describe what French should be, the OED was constructed bottom-up from actual examples of usage, describing English as it is actually used.
By the way, for those of you who are horrified by the grammatical mistakes on this site (I know my friend Tom in Seattle pulls his hair out over this), they come mainly from my inability to proof, not lack of knowledge or concern. I have some sort of mental dyslexia that can read right over horrible typos and gaffes, even four or five times, without spotting them.
PS: Looking back at my title, I suppose we could even get into an Oxford comma argument too.
In the end, required a SQL database rebuild. Now I have to put the site back together again.
For years I have been blogging from articles in my Google Reader, which is going away in a month. When I cut and paste the article URL from the reader, I get a Google shortcut like "http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Twistedsifter/~3/BohimNYue3Y/". This resolves to "http://twistedsifter.com/2013/04/strangely-similar-movies-released-around-the-same-time/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Twistedsifter+%28TwistedSifter+%29". The links are written in my wordpress data base, in many cases, as the feedproxy version. So they depend on this Google service remaining live to work.
Does anyone know if the Google feedproxy servers are going away with Reader? If so, about a zillion links on my site are about to break. My hope is that Google uses these for more than just reader. Perhaps at Feedburner? (though if Google is bailing on RSS that might be next on the kill list).
I would normally just do a Regex search to fix this, but there is no systematic way to do it, you have to resolve the link and then replace the resolved URL. Someone seems to have an app for this, but I am not sure it is ready for prime time and I do not want to use it unless I have to. But once the servers are turned off, it will be too late.
Anyone know about this or have advice? Obviously, I have been trying not to use these feedproxy URL's if I can remember not to do so.
I had some problems on the site when my credit card failed at my caching / proxy server company Incapsula and my account got deleted. I think all is well now. But there is a certain problem I never know how to address on the Internet -- after all, its not really of much use to post something here and ask people to email me if they are having trouble reading it. But maybe a Twitter or Facebook reader will let me know if there is a problem.
Host Gator usually does a good job for me but screwed up bringing the server back from maintenance. To their credit they admitted the mistake. All looks well EXCEPT for some reason we have picked up absurdly high Disqus Twitter reaction counts.
Unfortunately, Kevin Drum's prediction is probably dead on
a fellow with the Twitter handle @FootyTube_ quickly changed his handle last night to @Dzhokhar_ and swapped out his avatar for a thumbnail of the suspect in the Boston bombings. That's hilarious!
Or not. But I predict a growth industry in this kind of thing. FootyTube's idiocy was easy enough to see through, but someone out there now has the bright idea of creating a Twitter/Facebook/Tumblr/etc. account and populating it over time with grievances of some kind. Islamic, gun nut, anti-tax, libertarian, PETA, whatever. Just create a nice long chain of posts and then wait for the next terrorist attack. As soon as pics and names are available, switch the account name, make it public, and wait to be discovered.
I am left to wonder today how much of Earthlink's remaining income is from zombie accounts. I generally hate the hassle of dealing with a changed credit card number, but one advantage is that I discover some zombie accounts that I have forgotten about and keep charging my card every month.
Today I had an amazing one -- from my old Earthlink dial-up account. I had thought I cancelled Earthlink something like 8 years ago (I certainly have not used it since about 2003). That is several credit cards ago and so I have absolutely no idea how they were able to continue to bill me, but they were, right up to this month when my corporate card number changed due to a fraud alert. It is kind of depressing that I spent well north of a thousand dollars over the years on a service that I would never even consider using again, but that is the danger that comes as a company gets larger and one can't personally inspect every bill that gets paid.
Of course, despite evidence that I never used the account, they would not waive the final month's billing and threatened collections, etc. They wanted my credit card for one last charge, and then they would cancel. Which made me suspicious that this is how they got my credit card for the last five years - by asking for it for one last charge and then continuing to bill for 5 years. So I told them I did not trust them with my new credit card number and to send me a paper bill that I would pay by check. As a final insult, they said they had to charge me an extra dollar for the paper bill.
If I had time, I would challenge them and give them grief, but sometimes one has to put one's ego away and just move on with the loss.
During the call, it was very, very clear that trying to collect money on zombie accounts that people had forgotten about was very, very typical for their customer service folks. Leading me to wonder just how much of Earthlink's revenue comes from such zombie accounts. As a funny side note, they were perfectly fine taking money from me without any identification, but would not cancel the account without an extensive account verification, a verification that is rather hard if one has not used the account in about 8 years.
Came in via email this morning
Dear President & CEO,We are an organization specified at dealing with domain name dispute and registration in Asia. We have something important on intellectual property right need to confirm with your company.On April 13, 2013, we received an application formally, one company named "Phgbuhfcj Holding Ltd" applied for the Brand Name "coyoteblog" and some domain names with our organization.After checking, we found your company is the original trademark owner. If the company's action haven't been authorized by your company, so their behavior will conflict with your interests. In order to deal with the matter better, please contact us ASAP. (If you are NOT President, please forward this to your President & CEO, because this is urgent. Thanks.)
Update, from the comments: Yes, it is! I figured as such. This blog gets pretty good Google ranking so I like to post this stuff for others to find in the future.
The personal computer is in crisis, and getting little help from Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 8 software once seen as a possible savior.
Research firm IDC issued an alarming report Wednesday for PC makers such as Dell Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co., saying world-wide shipments of laptops and desktops fell 14% in the first quarter from a year earlier. That is the sharpest drop since IDC began tracking this data in 1994 and marks the fourth straight quarter of declines.
Gartner Inc., a rival research firm, estimated global shipments sank 11.2%, which it called the worst drop since the first quarter of 2001. Gartner blamed the rise of tablets and smartphones, which are sapping demand for personal computers.
Windows 8 was never, ever going to save the PC, because Windows 8 represents an abandonment of the traditional PC. It is essentially a touchscreen tablet OS forced onto the desktop. Like Windows Vista, it is an absolutely awful OS that our company has banned any employee from using on a company machine. Fortunately, we can still buy a few Dell computers with Windows 7, and when that is no longer possible, I will go back to building our company machines and putting Windows 7 on myself, the same thing I did to survive the Vista nightmare (hanging on to XP until Windows 7 came out).
Later in the article, the author recognizes that Windows 8 is killing the PC rather than saving it
But there is little sign that buyers are responding. In a surprisingly harsh assessment, IDC said Windows 8 hasn't only failed to spur more PC demand but has actually exacerbated the slowdown—confusing consumers with features that don't excel in a tablet mode and compromise the traditional PC experience.
Mr. Chou said not only has Windows 8 failed to attract consumers, but businesses are keeping their distance as well. Chief information officers at several companies echoed his opinion Wednesday.
Ricoh Americas Corp., which replaces about a third of its 17,000 PCs every three years and upgrades to the most current operating system available, said this year it is sticking with Windows 7, released in 2009. Tracey Rothenberger, the company's chief operating officer, said the benefits of switching to the new software aren't worth the effort of training employees to use it.
I am sympathetic to Microsoft's goals, if not their tactics. Certainly market share in OS is shifting to handheld devices, such as smartphones and tablets, and Microsoft has largely missed this market. To stay relevant, they need to gain share in these markets -- and trying to gain a foothold by somehow leveraging their market share in desktops makes sense. It would be great to have an OS for tablets that allowed more access to the file system and customization options, as a competitor to Apple's walled garden, though Google is way ahead in that particular niche.
But the imposition of tablet aesthetics, user interface, and apps framework on desktop PC's is just frustrating as hell for those of us who still like using a mouse and prefer our traditional desktop interface. The training issue for employees is not a trivial one -- when Microsoft completely abandoned the menu structure and user interface of their Office products several years ago, we decided not to upgrade any of our PC's and, when necessary, to use the OpenOffice alternative, as much because it retains the old Office interface as for its being free.
I still use Word, Excel, and Powerpoint 2002 on this computer, because I have never really been happy with the new Office interface. I use no other software even remotely that old. I routinely upgrade everything I have. I dutifully upgrade Quickbooks and Norton Security and a dozen other programs every year. So to go a decade without upgrading shows how little I think of Microsoft's upgrade strategies.
This sounds a lot like what AOL tried to do, back before anyone knew what the web was or how to navigate it. Interesting how these things come back around
Facebook's long-term ambition has been twofold. First, to become the de facto front end for the web— to become a portal not just to the lives of your buddies, but to everything else that is on the web in the first place. (There is remarkably little discussion about Facebook eclipsing Google as a search engine, maybe because nobody thinks the subject is worth taking seriously; they need to reconsider.) The second step is to replace the web entirely— to take every piece of functionality that we've normally associated with the rest of the web, from picture storage to news aggregation to messaging— and reincarnate it inside Facebook's ad-driven walled garden.
Facebook Home is yet another way to do that. By giving people a low-entry-level device that's essentially a front end for Facebook— or a convenient all-in-one fullscreen app— they make it easier for people to dispense with dealing with any other part of the web that's not Facebook. They don't have to block anything explicitly; they just have to make the Home experience so immersive, and offer so much through it, that after a while you don't feel the need to touch anything else. And given that I have friends who barely know a web that exists outside of Facebook, that's really unnerving.
First, an update on SimCity. I am a huge SimCity series fan from way back. I was excited by the new release, which turned out to be a total disaster. I wrote several weeks ago about the horrendous decision to make SimCity an always-online game, which led on day 1 to the game being unplayable for most because of server problems and overloads at EA.
Since that time, they have (mostly) fixed the server overload issues and I have been able to play. Sort of. The game is beautiful and the interface is pretty nice. And the game tantalizing retains many of the elements that made the previous games so compelling to some of us. But in the end, the game is a fail.
First, it is full of bugs. One horrible bug ensures that over time, almost every city you build will crash on the online server. The only solution is to accept a rollback to an earlier state, though every once in a while this leads to a total city loss.
Beyond that, almost every element of the game is broken. Sims will suddenly stop going to school, and complain about there being no education when an empty school is right across the street. City water tables can be drained in a matter of months, making a city unplayable -- one can avoid this only by putting their sewer plant right by their water supply. Certain city specializations added to the game, like gambling, don't work right. Meteor showers cities every few months and can't be turned off. etc. etc.
It may be that this game will be playable in 6 months or so, but even then I fear that the EA team has simplified the game so much and removed so many options to appeal to the mass market XBOX set that the wonky complexity many of us enjoyed in early games will never be there. In particular, city size is limited such that in about 20 minutes of play I can completely fill the city space. All that one can even do with the game after that is just sit and watch density increase and expand a fire station or two as the population grows. In fact, a lot of the game for me runs unattended, since EA had to turn off the fast speed mode. The city now needs to just run for hours for anything to happen, so I resorted to leaving it on in the other room and checking back on it every hour or two.
Oh, and by the way. The highly touted multiplayer features are a bad joke. Someone in the business department told developers that the game had to be online for piracy protection, and told them to go develop some game features that justified this decision so they could tell users that the online requirement was really for their benefit and not for copy protection. Well, they failed.
Bioshock Infinite. I don't play a lot of first person-shooter style role-playing games, but my son talked me into playing the new Bioshock. He has played a lot of this genre (e.g. the Mass Effect series) and said that this was the best he had ever played. This evaluation may be in part due to his fascination with strange dystopic visions of society, because we certainly get one in this game (as in each of the Bioshock series).
I am not every far into it but I will say that is a fun experience. So far I would say it was less of a game and more of an immersive novel -- WTF is this place I am in and what is going on. The environment is really fascinating to explore. I am still trying to figure out the back story, but piecing it together is a fun process. Already I have been to several memorable locations.
I found out more about why the WordPress Bad Behavior plugin was blocking updating of my Feedburner RSS feed -- apprently, Google got a bunch of its IP addresses blacklisted in project Honeypot, which Bad Behavior uses as one source of spam data. Here is more:
This is caused by an architectural problem at Google, and will require Google to resolve the issue for the problem to go away permanently. The issue is that, in the case of FeedBurner, Google uses IP addresses which are shared by third parties using Google App Engine, some of which are spammers. The spammers quickly get Google’s IP address blacklisted all over the Internet, and suddenly FeedBurner stops working.
If you are impacted by this issue, you can whitelist the affected IP addresses or the FeedBurner user agent string, or disable Project Honey Pot. Be aware that doing any of these will increase the amount of spam you receive. You should also complain to Google, since this isn’t the first time this has happened, and they seem to have done absolutely nothing about it.
OK, the Twitter problem was fixed by shifting from gd.is (which Twitter has apparently blocked) to Goo.gl for URL shortening. For reasons I still don't fully understand, the Bad Behavior plugin was blocking the RSS feed to Feedburner. My guess is that this may be something to do with an interaction with Incapsula. I like Incapsula as a service, but they are constantly shifting their servers around so the .htaccess file and the proxy server list in Bad Behavior have to be constantly changed.
I was just informed, and have confirmed, that somehow my RSS feed stopped syndicating about 2 weeks ago. And then, on an entirely other date, the new Twitter feed stopped, but Facebook still works.
I think I have diagnosed the Twitter problem, which we will confirm with this post, that Twitter flagged and blocked the default URL shortening service my plugin uses for malware. It is either that or Coyoteblog has been blocked. Crossing my fingers I will see this on Twitter in about 5 seconds.
NOTE: We had some sort of massive fail with the WordPress scheduler where this post failed to post at the scheduled time. For some reason, if it misses the scheduled minute it is supposed to post, it fails (it does not just post a minute late). So this is 3 days late and we likely won't have many folks join, but its free and a nice bracket site and you are welcome to join between now and tomorrow.
Back by popular demand is the annual Coyote Blog NCAA Bracket Challenge. Last year we had nearly 140 entries. Yes, I know that many of you are bracketed out, but for those of you who are self-employed and don’t have an office pool to join or who just can’t get enough of turning in brackets, this pool is offered as my public service.
Everyone is welcome, so send the link to friends as well. There is no charge to join in and I have chosen a service with the absolutely least intrusive log-in (name, email, password only) and no spam. The only thing I ask is that, since my kids are participating, try to keep the team names and board chat fairly clean.
To join, go to http://www.pickhoops.com/CoyoteBlog2013 and sign up, then enter your bracket. This year, you may enter two different brackets if you wish.
Scoring is as follows:
Round 1 correct picks: 1 points
Round 2: 2
Round 3: 4
Round 4: 8
Round 5: 16
Round 6: 32
We have upped later round scoring to try to keep things more competitive at the end. Special March Madness scoring bonus: If you correctly pick the underdog in any round (ie, the team with the higher number seed) to win, then you receive bonus points for that correct pick equal to the difference in the two team’s seeds. So don’t be afraid to go for the long-shots! The detailed rules are at the link.
Bracket entry appears to be open. Online bracket entry closes Thursday, March 21st at 12:18PM EDT. Be sure to get your brackets in early. Anyone can play — the more the better. Each participant will be allows to submit up to two brackets.