* Posts by mjflory

55 publicly visible posts • joined 9 Oct 2015


Silicon Valley roundabout has drivers in a spin


Four directions, five lights

I was amused to read that there were supposedly three roundabouts in the US in the 90s. We have three surrounding Prospect Park here in Brooklyn and nothing is that new here. The little one at the south end of the park https://maps.app.goo.gl/B7Byh27bLrs9EaJ78 is a special aggravation. New York, in its neverending quest to bring traffic to a halt, has installed five traffic lights within the circle, with a few more just outside it. If you're lucky you can hit three red lights in one turn around the circle. There are no lane dividers, so the usual direction to drive is diagonally. But it will all be OK, as they are set to further lower speed limits citywide soon.

The successor to Research Unix was Plan 9 from Bell Labs


At least it wasn't a Doctor Syntax syntax error!

The 15-inch MacBook Air just nails it


Linux on a more recent MBA

I splurged on a 2TB Aura X2 SSD for a second-hand 2017 MBA and put Monterey (magenta mountains), High Sierra (golden mountains), and MX 23.1 (no mountains) on it with rEFIt. High Sierra is the oldest version that handles the SSD properly and it runs most of my old software. Monterey was just out of curiosity, as it of course refuses to run almost all the old programs. (Unfortunately, rEFIt gives both MacOS versions the same logo, so I often don't know which I'm booting.)

Sick of Windows but can't afford a Mac? Consult our cynic's guide to desktop Linux


Re: Desktop Linux in Workplaces

I do statistical analyses. My main stat workhorse, Stata, now ships with Windows, Mac, and Linux installers. I've used the R stat language occasionally, and I have to prepare text (LibreOffice Writer, SoftMaker TextMaker graphics (GIMP) and presentations (LibreOffice Impress, SoftMaker Presentations) that colleagues can bring up in Microsoft Office. My main three email accounts (it's a long story) are handled by Thunderbird, with Outlook accessed through a browser (Chrome/Chromium/Firefox). Zoom and VMWare Horizon's Linux clients work well. Occasionally I'll fire up an old Windows XP installation in a VirtualBox session for an odd program or two.

I use almost identical setups at the office and at home: Dell and HP workstations with 24 to 32 GB RAM, SSD for the system, RAID HDDs for /home. Dual monitors at work, just one at home, NVidia cards everywhere (and CUDA installed for machine learning experiments). I'm still on Linux Mint 18 but I'm setting up version 20 on another machine and playing with MX Linux. I've been using Linux since kernel 0.99 (the SLS distro on a huge pile of floppies) but I switched most of my work to Linux about 2010. Aside from occasional Caja annoyances on the Mate WM my principal problems are compatibility failures between LibreOffice/SoftMaker Office and the various Microsoft Office versions colleagues use. (I bought SoftMaker to try to remedy this but there are still occasional glitches; in desperation I can bring up MS Office 2007 under Wine -- it's fairly stable.)

GNOME 42's inconsistent themes are causing drama


Re: I hate "modern" UIs.

> “Creatives” shouldn’t be let near user interfaces until they have been properly designed.

Properly designing "creatives" is a nearly impossible task.

No, seriously, your points are very well taken. After all, if the driver can't manage the car's UI, the result can be a crash. That's true of computers too, I suppose, but the results are usually less dire.

Three major browsers are about to hit version 100. Will websites cope?


The 99% solution

Then again, the Chrome and Firefox maintainers could emulate early Linux kernel numbering. In 1993 it felt like Zeno was numbering the kernels: http://www.oldlinux.org/Linux.old/docs/history/0.99.html . One hundred and five versions, from "0.99" (13 Dec 1992) to "0.99.15j" (2 Mar 1994), separated "0.98.6" from "pre-1.0". Perhaps "Chrome 99.99991" could follow ""Chrome 99.9999" -- or should it be "Chrome 99.99999"?

Microsoft veteran demystifies Abort, Retry, Fail? DOS error


Ah, the good old days

Inspired by a Hackaday post about Raspberry Pi palmtops I put some batteries in my DOS-based HP handhelds the other day. Sure enough, I soon encountered "Abort, Retry, Fail." And sure enough, I didn't know what to respond. (I think "Abort" got it to stop trying to access the memory card with a dead battery.)


Re: because MS-DOS was "heavily inspired" by 70s CP/M

You've left out that great crowd-pleaser, Windows 8! It was hurriedly followed by Windows 8.5, which you'd think would have been Windows 9... but "9" sounds like "suffering" in Japanese.

UK to splash another £1.4bn on protecting non-existent 'national interests in space'


Re: UK Space Race

Meanwhile, a little farther west... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nfz9O_mSY1U

OpenShell has been working on a classic replacement for Windows 11's Start menu


About Linux taskbars...

I'm risking going a little off topic here, but I have quite a few Mate desktops on Mint and Ubuntu and I've had no trouble with left-side taskbars. I recall them working well in Cinnamon too, though I went with Mate for the greater choice of widgets (CPU load and temperature, etc.). I keep a much narrower taskbar on the bottom to show running processes.

On my dual-boot-desperation Windows 10 partition I've somehow avoided the updates that broke Classic Shell. Let's hope my luck holds. (Win 11 isn't even on my radar.)


Re: Yet what about Windows 12 & 13's breakages?

Or Windows 86. "86" used to be restaurant staff slang for a dish the customer didn't want after all.

Version 7 of WINE is better than ever at running Windows apps where they shouldn't


Sometimes the antiques just work. Today a colleague sent a .docx document loaded with recorded changes and comments. I opened it on my increasingly creaky Mint 18.1 system in LibreOffice 5 but just to double-check I brought it up in Word 2003 -- I installed the compatibility add-on for .docx files ages ago -- and it opened without a problem. I checked my Wine version: it's Wine 1.6.2! It's not from CodeWeavers either, just the free release. Word crashes on exit and offers to report the problem to Microsoft, but I doubt they're too concerned about it. Neither am I, as I can open, read, and save documents with no problems.

I'm looking forward to getting Wine 7 running, but I think it will require the Mint 20.3 system I'm setting up now... and my Office 2003 disks, wherever they are.

The monitor boom may have ended, says IDC


Re: Blue Christmas

I'm sorry to hear it... but I must say you have a very clever cat, probably the first one to kill a mouse using electronics!

Dozy ISS cosmonauts woken by smoke alarm on eve of 5-hour spacewalk


Routing the internet cables

Yesterday I rerouted some of my internet cables, then helped a neighbor reroute some of her internet cables. A few hours ago the ISS app on my phone excitedly told me a spacewalk was in progress. I tuned in and they were, yes, rerouting internet cables!

A minute ago I checked in on the spacewalk and Pyotr and Oleg were still rerouting the internet cables, and they sound very tired. Working in spacesuits, handling the cables with space-gloves, working in Zero-G, they have my respect for their persistence. Sometimes they have to stop for a minute just to catch their breath. The back of my desk is a cable-bound mess, but my rerouting was nothing compared to that.

Don't know if anyone else caught Piotr's (?) description of the round cable-spool cover, over the disposal of which there was much deliberation. He got it loose, held it up, and said, "What a beautiful object! This is the source of all those UFO rumours!" So now we know.

LibreOffice 7.2 brings improved but still imperfect Microsoft Office compatibility


Re: Does "compatibility" mean having the same issues?

True, I confess...


Re: LaTeX

Alas, I am in a science/research field and no one I'm working with has ever seen it before.


Re: Does "compatibility" mean having the same issues?

If only that were true... We have a smattering of old versions of MS Office in various offices and I've seem vertical lines go askew in PowerPoint and no end of variations on mangled text in Word when we exchange documents. I'm not the best at keeping my software up to date, but I've had documents go awry when I brought them up in LibreOffice and SoftMaker Office on my Linux boxes as well. My fallbacks are to open a sent document in Office for Mac or in Office 365 (or whatever that online pain is called). Still, yesterday a friend sent me a multilingual, footnoted .docx that choked his Office for Mac. I opened it in LO 5, added a space at the end, resaved it, and returned it. Today he said it opened perfectly now in Word.

I'll make the leap from LO 5 to LO 7.2 and see how it goes. (I should install that SoftMaker 2021 update I bought, too.)

Windows 11: What we like and don't like about Microsoft's operating system so far


Classic Shell

Of course, after an upgrade Windows 10 started telling me that Classic Shell had been disabled because... I forget why, because it would blow up my computer or something similar.

Boffins show sleight-of-hand tricks to Corvids, find they are smarter than people


Prior research

"Garcia-Pelegrin has not ruled out using his talents to try and vex more animals in the name of science."

It's been done. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1tsIxNci_dE

NTT slashes top execs’ pay as punishment for paying more than their share of $500-a-head meals with government officials


Re: Japanese curry

Japanese curry must have improved greatly since I lived there (albeit several decades ago). Back then it was mild and oddly sweet. (I wonder if "Vermont Curry" is still being sold?)

Apple ditches support for pre-2015 MacBook Air, Pro laptops with macOS Monterey


Re: what distribution?

Linux Mint is derived from Ubuntu, which in turn is derived from Debian. I've also found that it handles old hardware very well.

How do you save an ailing sales pitch? Just burn down the client's office with their own whiteboard


Commodore smoke

Anyone else ever notice that the early Commodore VIC-20's power socket is the same as that conventionally used with innumerable 110v devices? (I did -- too late.)


Re: " 220V on which South Korea operates"

I've wondered how people keep things straight in Japan. The country uses 100v (not 120v, though the outlets are the same as in the US), but what's worse is that it's 50 Hertz in eastern Japan and 60 Hertz in western Japan. (I think Siemens designed one end of the country and Westinghouse the other.)


Re: Interviews

Just over a third of a century ago my IBM Portable PC arrived -- a mere 30 lbs. of portability, though I think the keyboard added 7 lbs. more. It came with a postcard with a space for comments, and I mentioned that, though I was in New York, it had arrived with the power switch set to 230 volts. A few days later an IBM representative *telephoned* me to check on this grievous misconfiguration. Customer service and follow-up have changed a little since then...

Raspberry Pi Foundation moves into microcontrollers with the $4 Pi Pico using homegrown silicon


Re: Annoyingly low on RAM

256 BYTES! We used to program with 8 BITS of RAM! Every time we rewrote the byte we had to scrawl a letter on the cardboard box we lived in, in the middle of the road...

(8 BITS and a cardboard box! We just had ONE BIT! It was a hole in the road and when it filled with water it was 1 until we bailed it out to make it 0 ...)

[Sorry, couldn't resist. Programming in 256 bytes is quite a skill.]

DeepMind's latest protein-solving AI AlphaFold a step closer to cracking biology's 50-year conundrum


Re: ML limitation

The URL for the Arxiv paper on underspecification has lost a digit. It should be:


I work therefore I ache: Logitech aims to ease WFH pains with Ergo M575 trackball mouse



Years ago I realized that much of my hand and wrist pain came from the pronation (wrist rotation analogous to roll of an airplane) required to use my Trackman Marble. I kludged a stand of sorts to tilt the TM by about 45 degrees and I felt much better. Since then there have been a couple of trackballs with this sort of tilt built in -- among others, the Logitech Trackman Ergo has an optional stand -- and recently I've been using a Kensington Pro Fit Ergo Vertical Wireless Trackball (https://www.kensington.com/en-gb/p/products/control/trackballs/pro-fit-ergo-vertical-wireless-trackball/). It tracks well, it's easy to pop the ball to clean out accumulated crud, and my only problem has been its tendency to switch itself from WiFi to Bluetooth once in a while. (I suppose I'm brushing one of its innumerable buttons by mistake, but I now know which button to push to unswitch it.) The Kinesis Advantage has eliminated the pronation pain I had from flat keyboards and the tendonitis that almost kept me from working thirty years ago hasn't come back.

As we stand on the precipice of science fiction into science fact, people say: Hell yeah, I want to augment my eyesight!


Re: Tetrachromicity

I'll have to look up Cooper a.k.a. Avery. I wonder if implants couldn't improve upon our original design. (They might be biological implants, after all.) An eagle's resolution, a cat's night vision, an insect's UV perception... or are there contradictiory requirements there?

Best wishes re: your joints, ears, and all. I probably made my ailments sound far worse than they are. The arthritis has just started in a couple of joints, and my corrected vision is as good as ever. You'll get used to the omnifocals (or varifocals, I presume they're the same) and the formulae have actually improved in recent years. But do be careful walking, as the distance to the ground can be distorted a bit by them.



Mr IP, you have my sympathies for your nearsightedness, sore joints, and tinnitus. (Mine come from genes, arthritis, and friends in rock bands, respectively.) But I especially share your enthusiasm for widened color perception! I've read of some tetrachromatic women in Denmark and seen some colorful canvases by a tetrachromatic painter trying to convey her vision of the world, but -- alas -- it would take some serious genetic engineering to allow a man to see four primary colors. (Conceivably we could train ourselves to distinguish extra colors with notch-filtered lenses, perhaps a different one on each eye, but I'm sure it wouldn't be the same.) How was Mrs IP's gift discovered? I recall reading that some tetrachromats were unaware until they were tested.

Venerable text editor GNU Nano reaches version 5.0 and adds the modern frippery that is scrollbars


Re: Tilde

Fifty years later I still remember XEDIT for VM/CMS. At least I remember the pain...

No, boss, I'm not playing Minecraft. Minecraft is where I run VMs on the desktop now


Re: Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=21h0G_gU9Tw -- at 2:37. But worth watching from the beginning.

Devuan Beowulf 3.0 release continues to resist the Debian fork's Grendel – systemd


KDE on MX Linux

Dr S, there have been some attempts at a KDE respin of MX. I had good luck with mikejade's one, described here: https://forum.mxlinux.org/viewtopic.php?f=127&t=54469 . My luck with the "Full Monty" respin was not so good. There are others I haven't tried. The KDE page in the MX wiki is very out of date, alas. There's a forum page devoted to KDE respins, though: https://forum.mxlinux.org/viewforum.php?f=127&sid=342539807776f8f77264344969732b9c . There is a list of all respins (not just KDE) here: https://forum.mxlinux.org/viewtopic.php?p=486469#p486469 .

Russia-backed crew's latest malware has discerning taste – when screening visitors to poisoned watering holes


Re: "an Eastern European government"

Armenia is in western Asia.

Social media notifications of the future: Ranger tagged you in a photo with Tessadora, Wrenlow, Faelina and Graylen


Remarkable names

My great-aunt's family realized too late that "Iva Price" had certain connotations in the late 19th century, so Iva Elizabeth was thereafter known as Beth or, sometimes, Babe (long before Babe Ruth or the famous pig). I've always thought her name was worthy of inclusion in "John Train's Most Remarkable Names" or "Remarkable Names of Real People" (also by John Train).

Apple strips clips of WWDC devs booing that $999 monitor stand from the web using copyright claims. Fear not, you can listen again here...


It's back...

I just watched it in its 35-second entirety, as apparently did 16 other people, as YouTube reports 895,744 views now (about 18:00 UTC 2019-06-06). The volume's awfully low, but I don't think that will stop anyone from hearing the groans.

We'll help you get your next fix... maybe, we'll think about it, says FTC: 'Right to repair' mulled


Re: Why is voiding of warranty a problem?

I can understand designing with Torx screws -- it's a lot easier to keep a screwdriver centered on them and apply torque, hence the name. But I didn't expect to find the bottom of my Toshiba Portege held on with 13 Philips screws and, hidden under a glued-on button in the center, a "security" Torx screw. Those are the ones with a tiny pillar in the middle of the head that prevents a standard Torx driver from even being inserted! (I suppose it would have cost them something to license pentalobe screws from Apple.) As usual, my iFixit screwdriver-bit set came to the rescue.

Micro Focus offloads Linux-wrangler SUSE for a cool $2.5bn


Re: Cut-and-shut

I'd never heard of anyone trying that except Red Green.


Here's the list of Chinese kit facing extra US import tariffs: Hard disk drives, optic fiber, PCB making equipment, etc


Tough for vampires

30029051 ........... Human blood (p. 15)

(I suppose the amount gathered in blood drives is insufficient for transfusion needs.)

2 + 2 = 4, er, 4.1, no, 4.3... Nvidia's Titan V GPUs spit out 'wrong answers' in scientific simulations


Effect on machine learning?

An error like the one described could wreak havoc with exact calculations, but I wonder if it would make much difference in the machine learning models for which these cards are so widely used. In the early days of neural networks, "graceful degradation" was said to show their similarity to our brains, where the loss of a neuron or two has a negligible effect. A systematic error might throw off calculations of connection weights, but random errors might well have a comparably minor effect.

Google's cell network Project Fi charged me for using Wi-Fi – lawsuit


Re: An actual Fi subscriber here...

Should have noted that my Fi bill agrees with those figures.


Re: An actual Fi subscriber here...

That agrees with my experience. With just a few days left in my billing cycle Settings tells me I've used 1.7GB on wifi and only 91MB cellular data, which sound plausible, so it's not happening to all subscribers. (Nexus 6, Android 7.1.1)

Have three WINEs this weekend, because WINE 3.0 has landed


Re: Will it run Wordperfect 8?

Corel once provided a version of WordPerfect 8 compiled for Linux, and it was FREE! See http://www.control-escape.com/linux/wp8.html for an overview. Apparently it's still downloadable -- see http://www.tldp.org/FAQ/WordPerfect-Linux-FAQ/downloadwp8.html -- and folks have been downloading and installing it on releases as recent as Mint 17. The site http://www.xwp8users.com/ has advice on the installation. Somewhere in the piles I have a Corel WP8 CD, probably from a trade show, and I was just thinking how nice it would be to get it running on Mint 17 or 18.

Leftover Synaptics debugger puts a keylogger on HP laptops


Re: Here's what you need to do...

My HP 95LX is doing just fine, thank you.

Two new Raspberry Pi models emerge steaming from the oven


Re: Off topic (a bit) but...

Burma Shave! We date ourselves a bit.

I still remember the sequence of little red signs along the road to my grandparents' house in Wisconsin.

"In this world

of toil and sin

your head grows bald

but not your chin.

Burma Shave."

And fifty years later, I've found that they were right.

Oi! Linux users! Want some really insecure closed-source software?


Linux leap

In 1992 the Linux kernel went from 0.12 or so to 0.95 when it became X-Windows capable. That's only a difference of 0.83 but proportionally it's quite a leap. (The Wikipedia "Linux kernel" article mentions 0.12 and 0.95, but I dimly remember an 0.17, so there may have been some intermediate versions.)

Chap turns busted laptop into phone keyboard, in Himalayan book-rescue mission


Illuminating a dark screen

Thomas Buckley-Houston's blog post is a very helpful guide to using a display-challenged laptop. I've found my way around a couple of MacBook Airs with dead backlighting by shining a 1000 lumen LED flashlight (or "torch," if you like; "Rayz" brand) at the screen at an oblique angle. It's hard to find the cursor, but sometimes shining the light through the translucent Apple logo on the back helps with that. It doesn't sound like the backlight was the problem with his Dell XPS 15, though.

More than half of Androids susceptible to ancient malware


Multiplying marshmallows

Ten percent for Marshmallow and Nougat sounds a little low. The most prevalent number I found for last month for Marshmallow was 18.7%, with a trace on Nougat (about a tenth of a percent).

What says Internet of Things better than a Bluetooth-controlled smart candle?


Not there yet...

They have a way to go. It can't do email yet.