217 Articles


4 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]

5 years Ago

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]

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.

6 years Ago

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 sense,... [More]

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]

7 years Ago

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]

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]

A list of lesser-known OS X keyboard shortcuts

Published by marco on

The post Please share your hidden OS X features or tips and tricks (StackExchange) yielded a treasure trove of keyboard shortcuts, some of which I knew and many that I’d never heard of or had long ago forgotten.

I collected, condensed and organized the ones I found the most useful below.

Finder & Open/Save dialogs

  • + + G shows a location bar where you can type a path (/ or ~ also works in Open/Save). This text field supports ~ for the home directory and has rudimentary tab-completion.
  • ... [More]

asm.js: a highly optimizable compilation target

Published by marco on

The article Surprise! Mozilla can produce near-native performance on the Web by Peter Bright (Ars Technica) takes a (very) early look at asm.js, a compilation target that the Mozilla foundation is pushing as a way to bring high-performance C++/C applications (read: games) to browsers.

The tool chain is really, really cool. The Clang compiler has really come a long way and established itself as the new, more flexible compiler back-end to use (Apple’s XCode has been using it since version 3.2 and it’s been the default since... [More]

Time Machine Backups

Published by marco on

I continue to be mystified as to how Microsoft has not managed to create a backup system as seamless and straightforward and efficient as Time Machine for OS X. The software is, however, not without its faults. As is usual with Apple software, Time Machine becomes quite frustrating and unwieldy when something goes ever so slightly wrong.

When it works, it works very well. It is unobtrusive. You have hourly backups. It is as technology should be: serving you.

At the beginning of the year, I... [More]

Windows developer machines

Published by marco on

A friend asked me for my advice on buying a Windows developer machine. In case anyone else is thinking about doing it, here’s my $.02.

What about a desktop?

I’ve got a desktop at work. It’s easily the fastest machine in the office. The hard drive’s a bit loud though. I’m being upgraded by my vigilant crew to an SSD in the near future, though. Otherwise, if you don’t need portability, you’ll get the most bang for your buck in a desktop.

You’re also more likely to be able to find something... [More]

Windows Live accounts and Windows 8

Published by marco on

tl;dr: If your Windows 8 is mysteriously moving your Windows and taskbar around, it might be because of your Windows Live account synchronizing settings from one machine to another.

Starting with Windows 8, you can connect your local user account to your Windows Live account, sharing your preferences and some Windows-App-Store application settings and logins.

I had this enabled for a while but recently discovered that it was responsible for mysterious issues I’d been experiencing on my... [More]

Refurbished Mac prices

Published by marco on

A friend asked me about the prices for refurbished Macs (Apple Store).[1] In case anyone else is thinking about doing it, here’s my $.02.

Is refurbished OK?

I can’t think of a reason why a refurbished Mac wouldn’t be a good idea. it’s good for the Earth, at any rate. My initial impression is that the price advantage is negligible—you can get last year’s model (June 2012) for only a 15% savings off of the price of a new MacBook. It’s impressive how little Macs depreciate. Still, 15% is better than nothing.

Retina... [More]

Disk Cleanup on Windows 8

Published by marco on

 Disk Cleanup – Windows.old & Recycle Bin Disk Cleanup – System FilesIf, instead of installing Windows 8 on an empty drive, you upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 8, the installation process retains a copy of your old Windows 7 installation in a folder named “Windows.old”. As you can see from the screenshot, this folder can be pretty big. If your Windows 8 is running fine and you have no plans of downgrading, you can safely throw away this folder.

What’s the best way to delete this folder? It’s probably protected and deleting it manually will be rife with... [More]

The Next Opera Next Browser

Published by marco on

 Opera started a public beta-testing program a few years ago called Opera Next. Whereas the stable version naturally moved along more slowly—but always rock-solid—Opera Next often had a more up-to-date HTML/CSS renderer (code-named Presto) and Javascript engine (code-named Carakan). Opera recently anounced that future versions—Opera Next Next—would be built on the WebKit HTML/CSS renderer and Google’s open-source V8 Javascript engine instead.

Why is it good news?

This is, I think, good... [More]

Iran’s -313 stealth fighter

Published by marco on

There are some pictures of it in the article World trembles in confusion and/or fear at Iran’s fiberglass airplane by Lee Hutchinson (Ars Technica). There you’ll find over a dozen pictures with commentary. The commentary is, on the whole, not kind, but it’s also neither entirely information-free not unwarranted. They note in the picture below that the “canopy has ludicrously bad optical qualities—note the scratches and distortion.”

 Plane with pilot

It’s also, well, it’s a lot smaller than I expected. Or, as Ars Technica put it, “[…] there’s... [More]

8 years Ago

FaceTime for Mac 2.0 – UI difficulties

Published by marco on

Skype for the Mac is kind of a CPU hog, so I’ve been looking for another solution.

I recently used Google Voice/Chat/Hangouts, which is kind of low-fi, but worked pretty well. The browser plugin is quickly installed. Although it didn’t work in Opera, it naturally worked in Chrome. It offered the UI that we’ve all come to expect from Google: bare-bones and adequate.

When everybody involved has an Apple device, FaceTime seems like a logical alternative to Skype and Google Voice. So what kind of... [More]

How to convert a Virtual PC 2007 VMC file to work with Hyper-V

Published by marco on

The following article was originally published on the Encodo blogs and is cross-published here.

Windows 8 was made publicly available a few weeks ago. As usual, Microsoft manages to guarantee compatibility with a lot of software, but there are a few tools that will simply no longer run.

One of these is Microsoft’s own Security Essentials product, which has been completely replaced with Windows Defender, which is built right in to Windows 8. So that one’s easy.

Another is Microsoft Virtual... [More]

Windows 8: felled by a modem driver

Published by marco on

tl;dr: if you can’t read the BSOD message or need to examine the minidump files generated by Windows when it crashes, use the BlueScreenView utility to view them. Windows 8 kept crashing on shutdown for me because of an errant 56K modem driver. Sad—so sad—but true.

My Windows 8 installation went off with just one hitch: the machine crashed on shutdown. Every. Single. Time. This made it impossible to use the hibernation feature, which was a blocker issue for a laptop.

So, how to solve the... [More]