Friday, April 21, 2017

TIP - How to navigate quickly through Scientific American archives

For subscribers to Scientific American, see How to navigate quickly through Scientific American archives or read below.Scientific American transition in 1921 from weekly to monthly issues.

Subscribers to Scientific American are given access to every issue, in PDF format, right back to the magazine's launch in 1845. Wow!

It can be quite a laborious, hit and miss process to navigate back through all those issues, particularly for the earlier years (prior to November 1921) where there are about fifty issues per year.

Originally there was an issue per week, then in November 1921 came a transition to an issue per month.

The website provides only a very primitive way to navigate through those hundreds and hundreds of archived issues.

Simplistic navigation provided for Scientici American archives.As shown on the left, you can select the nearest fifty years by clicking on a radio button drop-down list, and that's the closest you can get to a desired issue.

As a consequence of this simplistic navigation design, I found myself doing lots and lots of laboriously  slow paging in order to arrive at any given issue.

After a while I cottoned on to a much quicker way to go any particular year's list of issues.

At the end of each page's URL is the four-digit value of the archived year currently being viewed, such as:

So there you are. Merely by altering this value to some other year you can go directly to that year's archives (the December issues are displayed first):

Scientific American archives URL wit year highlighted

Quick Navigation within a Particular Year

When you open an archive page for a particular year will find that the Scientific American issues for that year are displayed in descending chronological sequence. There are five pages per year, with twelve issues per page (except for January).

The first page displayed shows the issues for December and November, beginning with the final issue for the year (the closing week of December). There are up to four issues per row, fewer when the browser window is made narrower.


You can save time and effort and jump to a given month by replacing the page= paramter in the URL (green balloon) as indicated in the above screenshot.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Firefox browser is stuck since 2006 at file version – Why so?

I have saved quite a range of Firefox installers, and there’s something that puzzles me about them

Let’s start with Firefox release 1.0.3 which is indicated to be File Version as follows:


My understanding of “file version” is that the developer is supposed to register each file with a unique number that truly represents the release number, as happens with RoboForm 8.3.3 (its latest version at the time of writing):


With many products, the external  “release” number and the internal “file version” number are kept in sync like this.

When Firefox release 2.0 was made available in December 2006, it was changed to File Version as follows:


Most strangely, ever since then and up to the current  Firefox release 53.0 (April 2017) the internal “file version” has remained at which irks me. It seems rather sloppy, but I might be missing something.

Can anybody advise me why Mozilla hasn’t kept the release number and file version number in sync since 2006?

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Combo BBQ and Drinks Cooler

            BBQ and Drinks Cooler

When you are finished, just turn the handle and it extinguishes the fire.

Not sure who came up with this nifty idea,
but don't you wish that you were this clever?

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

TIP – Add Safe Mode to the Boot Menu of Windows 10 (and 8)

Recently I had a PBSOD (pale blue screen of death) crash with one of my Windows 10 systems, and kept getting crashes within minutes every time after rebooting the system.

Somewhat annoyingly, starting with Windows 8 Microsoft removed the old boot menu options that we were used to with Windows 7 and previous versions. Run a search like this to see the complaints about this from the Windows user community.

It’s not a bad idea to modify the Windows boot settings in order to get back the capabilities of the old boot-time settings:


As good an explanation for doing so, in easy steps, can be found in this article at How-To Geek and I recommend that you do it on your systems too, in advance of being caught out.

For reasons best known to Microsoft, you cannot make this happen with Windows 10 Home edition. They really do make some weird decisions.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Informed consent, software-wise -- or software-dumb?

This is an update to a post originally published way back on 11 January 2010. Unfortunately, the industry of creating stupid software still is thriving in 2017.

You should learn something new each and every day of your life, so I keep reminding my young grandsons. It’s a maxim that I still follow myself, in a desperate bid to keep my brain alert and defer that day when my grey matter finally degenerates into a useless pile of wobbly jelly.
As an example, this morning for the first time I came across the legal term “informed consent” which is explained thus at Wikipedia:

“An informed consent can be said to have been given based upon a clear appreciation and understanding of the facts, implications, and future consequences of an action. In order to give informed consent, the individual concerned must have adequate reasoning faculties and be in possession of all relevant facts at the time consent is given.”
I was led to this learning opportunity by David Platt’s MSDN Magazine Blog post The Myth of Informed Consent (go read it yourself before continuing here). He finishes with:
“We developers are the experts, and users depend on us. We cannot abdicate our responsibility by asking for guidance from someone who cannot possibly know. Informed consent in computing is a myth, and companies that claim it as an excuse for their malpractice are weasels. Stop it. Now.”

“Low Risk”? Who knows?

David was commenting on the a dialog box generated by Norton Internet Security which leaves the hapless computer user to work out and decide on the significance of the meaning of an obscure message. Actually, I’d go even further and call the message is obscurantist (rather than just obscure), leaving the user most likely to have to guess what to do, rather than coming to a reasoned conclusion.
Software tends to be rather difficult to design, develop and test, and in my experience the people involved typically focus on the the technical architecture/design/coding accuracy rather than the textual precision and accuracy.

Usability testers should always be involved, and if worth their salt they should pick up on wordings and meanings that are obscure, incomplete, misleading, indeterminate, and so on. I wonder how much software gets released without any significant degree of usability testing.

Sensible and accurate wordsmithing takes time and effort, hence adds cost (which is doubtless the reason why it’s often not done). Further, not all people are good at writing clearly and concisely – not to mention spelling properly, as well as using accurate terms and terminology.

As an aside, my pet peeve at the moment is the schoolboy howler error of referring to a single building as a “premise” when discussing broadband (such as Australia’s National Broadband Network), using terms such as cabling is laid right up to the premise and  in-premise terminating equipment. However it wasn’t my intention here to focus on poor writing, spelling mistakes, bad grammar, and the like, bad practice as they are.

David Platt’s security warning dialog box is just one example of the sort of rubbish that software designers and developers keep forcing upon us.

You’ve surely got your own examples.

Below, without further commentary, are a few others: inane, puzzling and meaningless gibberish from software vendors big and small,  that I’ve collected over the years …

Mr. Software Vendor, I do happen to run more than one application at a time,
not just the one YOU developed, whichever it is of all that are currently active!
And I have multiple hard drives, so which one?

At least I know that the problem’s occurring with Eudora,
but that’s about all I know.

Thanks for telling me, so what?

I knew this was associated with Acronis True Image. but what should I reply?
[It took some time to discover which of the drives was “hard disk 7’ and
I wonder why they don’t make it easy by quoting the drive letter instead]

image  image
You don’t say!

  image and  image

I do really like Lotus Notes, but for crying out loud.

Oh no, Techsmith's Snagit suffers from such inanity too.

The above messages are about as useful as the following unique device:


Click “Yes” or “No” .. or so you say:
Does the right hand know what the left hand is doing?


One of many applications has sent me a message:


Here’s yet another one, just encountered:

Enough, enough! We need some relief.
The above are laughable (or perhaps “cryable”),
but the following is laughworthy:

"For gorsake, stop laughing, this is serious."
Stan Cross (in Smith’s Weekly, 1933, Australia).

One of my favorite illustrations of all time!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Cricket can be a deadly game

Two old blokes, Dave and Pete, had been friends all of their lives.
When it was clear that Dave was dying, Pete visited him every day.

One day Pete said, "Dave, we’ve both loved playing cricket ever since school. Please do me a favour: when you get to heaven, somehow you must let me know if there's cricket there."

Dave looked up at Pete from his deathbed and said, "Pete, you've been my best mate for many years. If it's at all possible, I'll do this favour for you."

Shortly after that, Dave died.

A few nights later, Pete was awakened from a sound sleep by a blinding flash of white light and a voice calling out to him, "Pete...., Pete...."

"Who is it," asked Pete, sitting up suddenly. "Who is it?"
"Pete... it's me, Dave"

"You're not Dave. Dave just died."
"I'm telling you, it's me, Dave," insisted the voice.

"Dave where are you?" Image result for royalty free cricket cartoons
"In heaven," replied Dave. "I have some really good news and a little bad news."

"Tell me the good news first," said Pete.

"The good news," Dave said with joy and enthusiasm, "is that there is cricket in heaven. Better yet, all of our old mates who died before me are here, too. Even better than that, we're all young again. Better still, it's always springtime and it never rains or snows. And best of all, we can play cricket all we want, and we never get tired. "And we get to play with all the Greats of the past.

"That's fantastic," said Pete "It's beyond my wildest dreams! So what's the bad news?"

"You're opening the batting next Tuesday."

Friday, October 21, 2016

Zuver hosting is so boring!

Congratulations to the folk at Zuver Hosting for providing a service that is so fast and reliable that I’m getting oh so bored with receiving weekly performance reports like the one in the following screenshot:


The above free weekly report comes from a US-based monitoring site, and the connect times would probably be even better if measured from within Australia.

Since November 2014 I’ve experienced the same boringly good performance and reliability, week after week, and all for such a low monthly rate.

Note that I’m not at all saying that there aren’t any equally good Australian web hosting companies, some of which I used previously, just that I’ve found Zuver pretty darn good and great value for money. This is just my pat on the back for their team.

I’m just an ordinary customer of theirs, with no business affiliation whatsoever -- not an agent or reseller of their services or anything like that.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Brain stretch

Here’s a reminder of our place in the grand scheme of things.

The above movie was generated using the iOS App "Cosmic Eye", written by Danail Obreschkow at the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research at the University of Western Australia.
Watch for the quarks making the briefest of appearances in the atomic nucleus.

There are older versions of this “cosmic zoom” approach, such as this one created by the National Film Board of Canada:

Enough of that easy-peasy visual stuff. A new research report indicates that there are even more galaxies in the universe than we thought

This article links to: The Solar System recreated to scale in the Nevada desert

And if all the above hasn’t sated your appetite, then take a look at
Size comparison of the universe 2016

UPDATE (15 April 2017): Here's another mind-blowing video that compares planet and star sizes, and more:

Thursday, October 13, 2016

You just can’t get through to some people

I was browsing for Java programming books yesterday, and came across this one:



Notice the asking price?  $1,421.99 (Australian dollars)

The same book (Introduction to Java Programming: Comprehensive Version by Y. Daniel Liang) at other sites such as Amazon was – depending on the edition and type (hardcover or paperback) and whether new or used – going for anything from around $20 to $240.

I thought that I’d warn the seller (World of Books) that there was a serious anomaly here, so sent them an e-mail advising that there was a major pricing issue with this particular book (and asking whether the pages were made of gold leaf).

Well, they did me the courtesy of answering, but can you imagine my disbelief that they just didn’t get my message. Here is what they replied:

We have an automatic pricing system which adjusts the prices of our items based on several variables, including things like market demand and availability. The postage prices for each country are also fixed by the marketplace themselves, so we’re unable to alter these in any way.

Our listing prices are updated many times each day – sometimes they increase, sometimes they decrease. Please check the marketplace listings to keep up to date with our prices.

Kind Regards,
Customer Service Assistant
(name supplied)

That’s right, blame the computer – “We have an automatic pricing system” – and completely disregard the GIGO principle.

You just can’t get through to some people.