229 Articles


3 years Ago

Why don’t I believe most of what I see online?

Published by marco on

It’s easy enough to make fake text and fake articles. Anyone can write something online. You can make up information out of whole cloth or you can subtly manipulate the so-called truth to slant it in a desired direction, either by omission or by emphasis or both.

Since many people read only the titles of articles, you don’t even need to try too hard to make well-substantiated and well-linked articles. Sure, somebody’s going to “debunk” your text. However, by then, your lie will have made its... [More]

Reserved filenames in Windows

Published by marco on

Did you know that there are some filenames you’re not allowed to use in Windows?

I knew that there are characters that you cannot use in a path, like : and ? and *, but I didn’t know that otherwise innocuous-looking names like aux.txt and con.txt are verboten.

I learned about this from the article It is 2018 and this error message is a mistake from 1974. This limitation, which is still found in the very latest Windows 10, dates back to […] by foone (Thread Reader), which has a pretty click-bait–y title and is... [More]

4 years Ago

The scandal of mining currency with energy we don’t have

Published by marco on

From the article New botnet infects cryptocurrency mining computers, replaces wallet address by Dan Goodin (Ars Technica)

“Records show that the attacker-controlled wallet has already cashed out slightly more than 1 Etherium coin.[1] The coin was valued at as much as $1,300 when the transaction was made. At the time this post was being prepared, the records also showed that the attacker had a current balance of slightly more than 1 Etherium coin and was actively mining more, with a calculation power of about 2,100 million... [More]”

MacOS System folder is huge

Published by marco on

I noticed that when I emptied the trash in High Sierra, I didn’t see a corresponding rise in available space in the status bar of open Finder windows.

I opened “About This Mac” to the “Storage” tab. Here I could see that my System was using 70GB.

 Huge system (not mine)

A search turned up the article macOS High Sierra – Huge System Storage (Apple Support), which explains that High Sierra introduced a feature called local backups for Time Machine (About Time Machine local snapshots (Apple)).

It does pretty much what you would expect it... [More]

Small Mac Notebooks, January 2018 Edition

Published by marco on

Use Cases

This evaluation is for a machine that is excellent at the following tasks:

  • Photo editing with Photos
  • Playing HD movies
  • Using Word processors like Pages and Word

The following tasks are not a priority:

  • Playing high-powered 3D games
  • Video editing


  • Must run MacOS[1]
  • Must be relatively quiet (fan noise only in extreme usage scenarios)
  • Long battery life (6+ hours)
  • Lightweight/portable/easy to store in most bags
  • Sturdy (doesn’t feel plastic-y or cheap)
  • High-quality... [More]

Bitcoin Explained (Video)

Published by marco on

Before[1] jumping on the Bitcoin bandwagon, you should acquaint yourself with how it works. I found the following video to be quite helpful.

Ever wonder how Bitcoin (and other cryptocurrencies) actually work? by 3Blue1Brown (YouTube)

Another article, How bitcoins became worth $10,000 covers some of the same territory as the video, but also provides more of the history of Bitcoin as well as details about some of the current factions and infighting among the various communities and e-currency proponents.

“Bitcoin’s status as the default medium of exchange in the blockchain world pushes... [More]”

Blocking Trackers and Ads

Published by marco on

This is a public-service announcement. There are several ways of blocking trackers and ads on desktop browsers. I’ve been using Ghostery for years, but am a little leery of the company behind it. For a while now, my browser of choice, Opera[1], has included ad-blocking natively. I’d also heard about a tool from the EFF named Privacy Badger that is supposed to do what Ghostery does.

 I wanted to figure out which software I actually need to use in order to turn off tracking. To that end, the EFF... [More]

Extra Keyboards in Windows 10

Published by marco on

I’d recently started using Windows Remote Desktop (RDP) to connect to my desktop at work from my laptop. The advantages are many: My nearly 4-year-old laptop no longer has to groan under the strain of running Visual Studio with 150 projects open. It was working very well, actually, but drained the battery considerably faster than I’d like. The battery lasts longer and the CPU no longer runs so hot, making it a viable laptop again. Hat tip to Björn for telling me to give it a go.
... [More]

Y U No Use Firefox?

Published by marco on

Every once in a while, I feel bad for not using the only remaining truly open-source browser: Firefox.[1]

Opera is my go-to browser, but that’s been bought up by the Chinese, right? So far, things haven’t changed but who knows what’s going on under the hood? Chrome is a decent testing browser, but offers me nothing better than Opera and its memory profile is, for whatever reason, consistently worse. I’m a very happy Opera user.

Still, Firefox is, in version 57, supposedly much faster and uses... [More]

5 years Ago

The annotation web standard

Published by marco on

The Web Annotation Working Group has published [t]hree recommendations to enable annotations on the web.

What does that mean for you, as a consumer of the Internet?

This standard will bring commenting and conversation and annotation into the 21st century. It will possibly bring order to the myriad systems and accounts and formats currently in place that allow for interaction and discussion.

The diagram Web Annotation Architecture (W3C) (SVG) is interactive and steps you through the whole concept.... [More]

The 40-car pileup that is the UPC Horizon Box

Published by marco on


We’ve been subscribed to UPC Cablecom for almost 15 years now.

In Switzerland, you have two parts of a cable package: a fixed price that pays for the cable company to get cable into your apartment, and a content package for services over that cable.

Until recently, the fixed price had been included in our rent and we’d had a pretty good deal on services for TV/Landline/Internet. This year, the cooperative where we live decided to stop including the fixed price in the rent. This... [More]

iOS Battery Drain

Published by marco on

I’m just going to leave this here. I used the stopwatch during a workout.
It was on for about 8 minutes total, and stopped about 5 or 6 times. I’m not sure whether I remembered to stop it or whether the stopwatch kept running in the background.

 The Clock? Really?

At any rate, this seems an inordinately large amount of battery usage for a stopwatch. Whoever wrote a smartphone clock app that can use 41% of the battery should be ashamed of themselves.

Update from 2 May 2019: The screen was on for 6m, with no... [More]

6 years Ago

Carnival Cruise Lines and Security

Published by marco on

tl;dr: Carnival Cruise and American Airlines both have appallingly unprofessional web shops. While nominally secure (main page is delivered via HTTPS), neither appears secure in modern browsers and the console is littered with warnings. Terrible.

The Carnival Cruise Lines web site has a lot of useful information. It’s reasonably easy to find answers to almost any question you might have.[1] Their security—and the security of partner web sites—is a mess, though. It’s not as bad as it could... [More]

Beware the Hype: .NET Core

Published by marco on

The article .NET Core, a call to action by Mark Rendle exhorts everyone to “go go go”.

I say, “pump the brakes.”

RC => Beta => Alpha

Mark says, “The next wave of work must be undertaken by the wider .NET community, both inside and outside Microsoft.”

No. The next wave of work must be undertaken by the team building the product. This product is not even Beta yet. They have called the last two releases RC, but they aren’t: the API is still changing quite dramatically. For example, the article Announcing .NET... [More]

Apple Photos: a mixed review

Published by marco on

 A few months back, Apple replaced iPhoto with Photos.

There are some good things about it. It’s noticeably faster on my machine and, at the same time, seems to use less RAM (at least at first; see below). These are good things. However, the speed and space improvements come at the cost of a mysterious loss of functionality.

I call this lack mysterious because Apple didn’t just replace iPhoto with Photos—it claims to have merged iPhoto with Aperture, which is/was a much more powerful... [More]

7 years Ago

Apapter: software that works

Published by marco on

 The main UI, with a batch process in-progressI have a reputation for complaining about software all the time. I feel justified in doing so because most software is disappointing bordering on hateful. I was a proud member and contributor to Hates Software for years.[1]

Therefore, when the opportunity presents itself to laud a piece of software, I feel that it’s my solemn duty to do so.

Introducing Adapter for OS X and Windows. It converts images, audio and video files from one format to another. That is, it puts a lovely UI on top of the... [More]

Mouseless Macs

Published by marco on

For the next time the batteries in your Bluetooth mouse die:

Press Ctrl + F2 to focus the Apple menu. From there, you can navigate using the arrow keys.

Found by luck when looking for old comments of mine in the Hates-Software archives.

Garmin Connect: still not very good

Published by marco on

I’ve had a Garmin bike computer for years, so my data is stored “in the cloud” at Garmin Connect. This application underwent an overhaul several months ago. I gave it a chance for a while, but it appears that the redesign was only skin-deep. The look has changed, but some of the basic stuff just doesn’t work.

Upgrades are hard

Even the upgrade to the new style—”Classic” to “Modern”—is not consistent. Months after telling the site to upgrade to the modern style, I still end up on pages in... [More]

More fun with SmartTV apps: TuneIn

Published by marco on

tl;dr: The login requirements for all of your linked applications and web sites should be 100% consistent. Data-entry on a Smart TV is hard enough; don’t make your users have to enter their login data 20 times.

No matter how amazing our technologies become, they still fail in so many small ways that no-one seems to want to talk about. We manage to solve all of the hard problems in software development and then let our products die on the homestretch. Tiny failures turn what would be wonderful... [More]

iTunes: another tale of woe in UX

Published by marco on

I know that pointing out errors in iTunes is a bit passé but Apple keeps releasing new versions of this thing without addressing the fundamental problems that it has as a synchronization client.

The software has to synchronize with hardware from only one manufacturer—the same one that makes iTunes. I’ll leave off complaints about the horrific, very old and utterly non-scaling UI and just regale you with a tale of a recent interaction in which I restored my phone from a backup. In that... [More]

8 years Ago

OpenBSD takes on OpenSSL

Published by marco on

 Much of the Internet has been affected by the Heartbleed (Wikipedia) vulnerability in the widely used OpenSSL server-side software. The bug effectively allows anyone to collect random data from the memory of machines running the affected software, which was about 60% of encrypted sites worldwide. A massive cleanup effort ensued, but the vulnerability has been in the software for two years, so there’s no telling how much information was stolen in the interim.

The OpenSSL software is used not only to... [More]

Where did Marco go on Google+?

Published by marco on

If anyone’s wondering why they can’t find me on Google+ anymore, it’s because recent changes led to my YouTube account no longer functioning as I wanted it to.

What was the problem?

Essentially, my situation was like this:

  • I have an ancient YouTube account associated with my only gmail address
  • Until recently, this YouTube account was not associated with Google+
  • A while back, I created a Google+ account for the same gmail address
  • Until recently, this Google+ account was not associated with... [More]

Instapaper demands permissions

Published by marco on

 I use Instapaper quite heavily for managing the content I read. After I’ve read something, I usually archive it so that I can search it later and I “like” it if I found it interesting.

You can see my archive and likes as RSS feeds, but I was looking for something a little pushier.

I have a Twitter account that I don’t use very much. It currently tweets blog posts from earthli News almost exclusively.

I figured it it might be kind of useful if I could have Instapaper automatically post... [More]

Setting up the Lenovo T440p Laptop

Published by marco on

I recently got a new laptop and ran into a few issues while setting it up for work. There’s a tl;dr at the end for the impatient.

Lenovo has finally spruced up their lineup of laptops with a series that features:

  • An actually usable and large touchpad
  • A decent and relatively sensibly laid-out keyboard
  • Very long battery life (between 6-9 hours, depending on use)
  • Low-power Haswell processor
  • 14-inch full-HD (1920x1080)
  • Dual graphics cards
  • Relatively light at 2.1kg
  • Relatively small/thin... [More]

TrueCrypt: yet another organically grown user interface

Published by marco on

I use TrueCrypt at work to encrypt/protect the volume where I store source code for various customers. It generally works pretty seamlessly and I don’t even notice that I’m working on an encrypted volume.

The other day, Windows started complaining in the Action Center that my drive needed checking because errors had been discovered. At first, I thought that it was referring to my system drive—which is not encrypted—and I rebooted Windows to let it do its thing.

Windows was back up and... [More]

The Internet of Things

Published by marco on

This article originally appeared on earthli News and has been cross-posted here.

The article Smart TVs, smart fridges, smart washing machines? Disaster waiting to happen by Peter Bright (Ars Technica) discusses the potential downsides to having a smart home[1]: namely our inability to create smart software for our mediocre hardware. And once that software is written and spread throughout dozens of devices in your home, it will function poorly and quickly be taken over by hackers because “[h]ardware companies are generally bad... [More]”

ELI5 answer to: How and why do computer programs crash?

Published by marco on

ELI5 is the “Explain LIke I’m Five” forum at Reddit. I recently answered the question “How and why do computer programs crash?” and thought the answer might be worth cross-posting (even though the post itself never gained any traction).

What is a program?

Programs comprise a limited set of instructions that tell them what they should do when they encounter certain inputs under certain conditions.

Who writes programs?

People write computer programs. Therefore, programs only do what those... [More]

Frans Bouma (founder/developer of LLBLGen) “discovers” Quino

Published by marco on

Encodo Systems AG started work on its metadata framework Quino in late 2007. We’ve used it successfully in many projects, from Windows desktop applications to standalone servers, Windows services and web sites. It has grown considerably since its inception and the core concept of keeping the focus of an application on its metadata has stood the test of time quite well.

The recent article Code-first O/R mapping is actually rather silly by Frans Bouma recounts how the lead developer and architect of another... [More]

How to drag rewind and fast-forward into the 21st century

Published by marco on

The most difficult technical problems to solve are the ones that you don’t notice. The workflow and tools to which you’ve become accustomed are terrible, but they’re so ingrained that you might actually find yourself unthinkingly defending them because that’s just how it has to be.

Why is your DVR’s fast-forwarding feature stuck in the past?

Fast-forwarding and rewinding digital movies is one of those things.

Many people have DVRs now—provided, often enough, by the cable company... [More]

9 years Ago

A rant in O–minor (the decline and fall of the Opera browser)

Published by marco on

Opera has officially released their first desktop browser based on the Blink engine (forked from WebKit). The vision behind Opera 15 and beyond by Sebastien Baberowski (Desktop Team) explains how Opera 15…

…is dead on arrival.[1]

Choose your market

For years, Opera has held a steady 1.7–2% of the desktop browser market. This seems small but comprises dozens of millions of users. More capitalist heads have clearly prevailed at Opera. They’ve struck out for a more lucrative market. Instead of catering to the 2% of niche, expert... [More]