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Messages - CWuestefeld [ switch to compact view ]

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General Software Discussion / Re: Collage software recomendation
« on: January 10, 2014, 12:35 PM »
My favorite is Microsoft's ImageCollage. (this isn't a normal Microsoft product, it's put out -- and not really maintained -- by Microsoft Labs).

The two unusual things about this program are

  • The resulting collages don't have hard edges between their pictures. They blend into one another, and it's really cool the way this can work out in many cases.
  • You point it at a folder of images, telling it how many it should incorporate and the desired relative sizes between the primary, secondary, and other photos (which can be equal), and it automatically chooses them and lays them out. It recognizes faces, and tries to place the faces properly so that they don't get chopped.

I use this every year at Christmas. My wife and I produce a calendar for family and friends, where each month's picture is a collage of photos we took the corresponding month of the prior year.

I've never seen another tool do this, and it's cool enough that I really recommend that you look at it.

Déjà vu. A "teppups" already dissed XY ...

And look at the letters making up the name: take off the ending "s", and reverse the rest. I hypothesize that "s" stands for "sock", yielding "puppet sock".

Setting aside political and style complaints....

I used DOpus for about a year, maybe 5-6 years ago. I found it a robust and full-featured product -- up until the time I got socked with a high-priced upgrade notice.

After a bit of searching, I found XYplorer. The price is far more reasonable (especially the lifetime license, if it's still offered), and the functionality is top-notch. I've said before that I think the DO design is more elegant, but that and a buck still just gets you a cup of coffee.

Initially there were a few features I missed (like real breadcrumbs), but there is constant improvement (really fast over the past few months), so there's no deficiency that I see in XYplorer.

Bottom line: I recommend it.

In general, I'm hugely opposed to this year's revelations about spying. Capturing our phone records, even just the metadata, if far beyond what the government is given the power to do.

However, I'm not very bothered by this action. It's OK for police to walk around the streets and take note of what they see. And it's OK for police to come engage me in conversations and, if I agree (whether or not I know he's a cop), ask to participate in whatever I'm doing.

If all that is OK in the real world, why would it be a problem for a cop to walk around a virtual world, taking note of what he sees, and engaging with other people.

The only problem is when they're watching something that we believe should be entirely private, or held in confidence between myself and whomever I'm interacting with. Surely if I'm in a virtual public spot in, say, WoW, I can't object to someone observing what I do.

Do you have the system set to auto-update, (default is 3am everyday)?

It seems that a couple of months ago, Windows did something that switched both my PC and my wife's to auto-update. That setting had previously been turned off (because it's evil), but it got turned back on somehow. I'm not sure if it's due to something that happened as a result of a previous Windows Update, or maybe because I had recently dropped both machines out of our domain, into a workgroup.

General Software Discussion / Re: What's your preferred File Manager
« on: November 27, 2013, 12:41 PM »
I played with Vole when it was a giveaway several weeks back. I just didn't get it - it was hard to get into due to the lack of menu labels, as you can see above. It might be really powerful if you know it all, but getting to that level's going to be painful. But overall, it gave me the impression of being more an organizational tool than of a tool for ad hoc file management.

FWIW, I've been really happy with the improvements made to XYplorer over the past few months. I now conclude that although it doesn't seem to have the elegance of DOpus, XYplorer's functionality and usability is unsurpassed.

The irony here is that the overuse of trans fats is largely caused by prior FDA actions. Back in the '70s when I was a kid, we were told that it was butter that's evil. Everybody should lower their cholesterol by switching to margarine instead.

I'm not trying to make the argument that the FDA is stupid. There are doubtless a pile of really smart scientists there. The point I'd like to make is that it's folly to believe that we can really understand anything as complex as all of the interactions within the human body and with its environment, in order to come up with a single list of simple rules that will affect everyone. When we act as if we can do this, the result is inevitably that mistakes are made, such that unforeseeable effect lead to unintended consequences, such that, however well-intentioned, the effort ends rather worse than we were initially promised.

I'm reminded of the old children's song about "I know an old woman who swallowed a fly". Every time we try to force a correction like this, we cause other problems down the road, so that we must continually keep swallowing spiders and birds and cats, just to maintain equilibrium.

No, wraith. You're just insisting that the only things that should be considered are technical specifications, and I'm trying to point out that the quality of a product encompasses the entire user experience.

Consider that many people are willing to spend $1000+ on a purse, just because it has a certain name on it. There is no objective measure that makes it better - it's not more versatile, more durable, more comfortable to carry. It just confers on the owner a certain status. Just that cachet of status is a feature of the product that people consider when deciding which product to use.

Similarly, the convenience in the ability to keep a repository of historical email is a factor when deciding to keep using gmail or change to, say, The fact that Google has seen fit to hold onto your email for you is a benefit of their product. And that benefit is tipping the scales, making it so that all things considered, you want to keep using Google. For your needs, using it is superior to using an alternative.

And if, etc., were smart, they'd make it easy for you to upload the repository that it's possible for you to download from gmail.

At one time gmail was superior.  Now, not so much.  But when all of your data is with a service, it's hard to change.

That's part of the point. It may not be superior in the list of features it supports, or in the responsiveness of its UI, or things like that. But taken as a package, the total product they offer, is demonstrably better than others. We know this is true, because if it weren't, you would have switched.

Apparently for you (and for most of us), the convenience of having our old emails in there is a compelling feature.

(And from a technical perspective, it is possible to download all of your email history from Gmail. You could, if this need was greater than your disdain for other parts of the service, do this. But apparently your disdain is less than the convenience factor derived from not having to go to the trouble.)

a big company like google comes in, kills all the competition and establishes a monopoly by offering a free service with no advertisements.

I don't see how you get to this. Google achieved dominance by having search results that were incredibly better than its competition at the time (Yahoo, Alta Vista, etc.). And back in those days, much of the web had no advertising, as the companies were trying to establish mindshare first.

I also don't see how you can claim that Google is a monopoly in any of the services it performs. For search there's Bing and numerous smaller players; for video there's Vimeo and others; for email there's and too many others to even think about; for social networking, they're playing second fiddle at best; and so on.

So where you're using Google, it's because, in one way or another, you believe they've got a superior product.

Living Room / Best Roku channels?
« on: October 25, 2013, 12:40 PM »
I've had it [1], I'm cutting the cord and switching to Roku. We've had conversations here before about the best Android apps, etc. Roku has a similar thing they call "channels", which are mostly portals to VoD content or livestreams, but are also sometimes apps.

So, for any other Roku users out there, what are your favorite channels?

[1] I've been a DirecTV subscriber since they started, but we're not able to use it in the new house. We're now using TWC, but their prices are much higher than they originally lead you to believe, their customer service's badness is the stuff of legend, and their DVR boxes are poor and have intentionally crippled functionality.

Found Deals and Discounts / Re: 10/24/13 Abbyy PDF Transformer 3.0
« on: October 24, 2013, 12:57 PM »
I think this tool is the best of its class.

For very simple PDFs, there are other tools that are able to extract data directly from the PDF, and that can work very well. But when the PDF gets complex, or -god forbid - it's actually just images, those other files start to fail spectacularly. This tool works on even the worst PDFs.

Post New Requests Here / Re: IDEA: Package Tracker
« on: October 15, 2013, 12:25 PM »
Recommended for Android is the app Slice.

This thing will watch your gmail for shipping notices from most sellers, and automatically watch the shipment tracking, showing you a notice when it goes out for delivery and when it gets delivered.

Replacing a DC is no problem really, just build a fresh server and run dcpromo to make the new one and then dcpromo the old one to remove it.  Just make sure to have DNS installed on the new box before promotion and point it to the old one for DNS, then when the new DC is happy (always seems to take an extra reboot for me) point everything to it for DNS instead before decommissioning the old one. 

So now you've got to understand DNS, too, including how to properly configure your own domain, and how this interrelates with ActiveDirectory -- it's not as easy as just pointing to your ISP's DNS. And this is the part that I was never able to get to work properly (this may have been complicated by the fact that I own my own domain name as well, I use that for my email address, so I needed to be able to get name resolution to hosting provider's mail server that has my domain name).

I actually thought NT4 domains were simpler. Back then, you had a PDC and some set of BDCs, and it was perfectly clear which was which. So to replace an old PDC, you'd just bring up a new BDC, get him acquainted with the old PDC, and then promote him.

Active Directory has only two states of being, DNS is configured and working properly, and shit hit the fan


That is the thing. Getting it set up and running and normal isn't a big deal. But wait until 5 years down the road, when that machine's dying and you need to get a new DC handling the domain. I know this is possible -- corporations do it all the time -- but I've been completely unsuccessful in figuring out how to completely replace a DC.

The thing about domains is that you need a domain controller. And getting that set up (and administered, with backups and everything) is a whole other skillset.

The top one is the New version of (XP's) Simple File Sharing. So it's trying to combine file and share permissions into one thing.

So that's what "simple file sharing" is doing? I have to admit that I always found it confusing -- NOT simple -- and so have avoided it since it came out.

Living Room / Re: Going cold turkey on the unholy trinity
« on: October 11, 2013, 12:40 PM »
I can't find the link right now, but I just read the other day that Mozilla is going to put into the official Firefox distribution js-based Flash support. You won't need to install Flash itself, your browser will continue to run (most) Flash content, and it'll automatically be sandboxed by the browser's existing protections for js.

Living Room / Re: TrueCrypt Audit
« on: October 10, 2013, 12:31 PM »
From the discussion of this that I've seen, there isn't really any reason to suspect that there's a problem. It's just that people want to *prove* that TC is secure, and hasn't been compromised.

Living Room / Re: Rebuilding my home network
« on: October 09, 2013, 11:06 AM »
When you say remote access, do you mean you can't get the Android client working from within your LAN or from outside your LAN?

I couldn't get it to work from outside. That's because I couldn't get my server to register itself with their system. The website that runs on my server asks for me to provide the credentials to access the myplex server, and apparently it tries to use that to get the myplex server to query back to my server. But without static IP from my DHCP, I wasn't able to set up the firewall settings for port forwarding, so my server never received the ping back from myplex.

Living Room / Rebuilding my home network
« on: October 07, 2013, 05:07 PM »
It's been a few months since we had a serious discussion about home networking. I've just had to rebuild much of my network, and thought I'd share my experiences with current products and configurations.

I just moved to Texas, but a week before the move, a mega-thunderstorm burned out a bunch of my electronic equipment. On the trash heap following that:
  • Cable modem - owned by the cable company, so no loss to me
  • Router - these are cheap, but I lost the whole DHCP configuration, and getting all this stuff configured again will be a pain
  • 8-port gigabit switch - oddly, about half the ports still work, but I don't trust it anymore
  • DLink NAS
  • Desktop computer's NIC
  • One DirecTV PVR's NIC
  • PhonePower VoIP adapter - after the hit, it started to generate so much heat that its plastic case is warping
  • An HDMI switch connected to my TV, of all things

The NJ house I moved out of, I'd completely wired for ethernet before WiFi was a real option. The new house in TX doesn't have that, and TX houses don't have basements, making new wiring too much of a headache.

Getting myself back onto the net was the first task. I decided that in the long run it would be cheaper to buy my own cable modem (it'll pay for itself in 1.5 years, and with buried cables in my new town, there's minimal chance of its destruction). I went for the fastest I could find, a Motorola Surfboard, but really, any DOCSIS 3.0 would do. I had to let Time Warner Cable know the MAC address (their horrible customer service could fill another lengthy post). I subscribed to 50Mbps service (up from the 15Mbps maximum I could get in NJ), partly because the wife will be working from home, and will need plenty of bandwidth for that. I'm glad to report that the actual, measured bandwidth from TWC is slightly higher than that, even in prime time.

I also had a cheapo WiFi router in a box, which I'm currently limping along with until I can get better. That got me bootstrapped to where I could at least function.

The PhonePower VoIP adapter was easy. I called them, and had a new adapter in two days, minus $15 shipping. And it's pretty cool that I can just plug in here in TX, and still have the same phone number.

Since I don't have ethernet wiring, and don't want to be tied down to WiFi speeds, I needed a way to move the signal around. I'd previously used powerline adapters to good effect, and found that they've gotten faster in recent years. With three pairs of 500Mbps TP-Link Powerline Adapters, I can get the data into almost every room. I really like these things. They're super-easy to set up, and although they don't really provide the whole advertised 500Mbps, they're still a lot better than WiFi.

To get a wired connection to the damaged desktop, I needed to free a slot (the NIC had been on the motherboard). Who needs a phone modem these days? That card went in the garbage, with a spare gigabit NIC in its place.

The biggest challenge so far was the NAS. I had planned for the future by using RAID drives, but in fact both drives were intact; it was the NAS itself that was dead. And with no device to read the RAID array (and this being an older, discontinued model), I had no good way to get the data off the drives. Luckily I'd made a backup onto a portable drive just a week prior, in anticipation of my move, so data loss was trivial.

To replace the NAS Server, I got a Synology DS-212j. This is in the process of being discontinued (there's one lesson I didn't learn), so they're relatively cheap. I stuck the drives from the original NAS into this. I'm *very* impressed with this device. I don't know if there's anything special about the hardware, but they've obviously put a ton of effort into the software. Its configuration and management tools are just orders of magnitude nicer and easier to use than anything else I've ever seen. And the first thing I was able to do with it was plug that portable drive into its own USB jack, and copy off my backup (at this point I hadn't swapped out the desktop's NIC, and I really didn't want to push that much data through WiFi!)

One of the slick things about the Synology system is that it supports add-in applications (I know other vendors off this as well, but not with such an easy-to-use repository as Synology offers). And one thing I wanted to accomplish was to run a media server, to replace an old server that I'd decided not to bring to TX with me. Synology lets you install a Plex server with just a couple of clicks. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get the Plex server working for remote access from my Android.

I think the reason I can't get that remote access running is because of the network configuration in that crappy router I'm using. In particular, it doesn't give me sufficient control of DHCP to ensure that things live in the network where I want them to be. So I've got on order a new, better router, a NetGear WNDR3700 (another product near end of lifecycle, that you can get relatively cheap). It's supposed to have very good radios, to allow for access out in the backyard, or to support the wife's multifunction printer thingy in her office (which only offers WiFi connection, no wires allowed). I plan to install DD-WRT onto it (which I also had back on the old router in NJ), so I'll have pretty much complete control over the network.

I wasn't able to replace the DirecTV receiver - the technician wouldn't go up on the roof to install the dish, and couldn't guarantee that the signal strength would reach the box if he stuck the dish onto the side of the house. So now I've got a whole-house HD DVR system from TWC (again, with the nightmare customer service). Years ago, before HD, I had TiVos. Those were better than the DirecTV DVRs. And those DirecTV boxes were way better than the TWC boxes. They're awful! Clunky user interface, intentional crippling of features like 30-second skip, and again, their awful customer service, make me regret this part of my decisions.

The last bit is that pesky HDMI switch. The only reason I had it in the first place was because my old AV receiver doesn't support HDMI at all. Rather then spend a money for the particular weird setup I'd need for that, I tossed out the receiver and got a new one, a Pioneer VSX-822-K. So now I've got a complete, integrated switching system, making the wiring much, much, simpler.

In the past, I'd use a weird off-brand networked video box to get access to my music and video library. I thought I could use DLNA in the new AV receiver to get access to the library. But DLNA sucks. It doesn't need to, but I've yet to find any implementation of it that's anything close to usable with a large library. With hundreds of artists in my music collection, just paging through the list of artists is too painful. So while this *should* be a feature of the new system, in fact it's not usable at all. The old no-name video network box lives on.

If anyone's at all interested in this ramble, I'll report back when I've got the new router set up. And maybe I'll come up with another alternative rather than DLNA. I've been thinking about getting a Raspberry Pi to run either Plex or XBMC on.

(edit: I included a bunch of links to products in Amazon. These aren't affiliate links, I just wanted to give folks a way to look at specs.)

I'm not a parent, but I have been a kid.

It seems to me that the development of any child travels through a world where different types of treatment are appropriate at different times. The youngest kids don't have the understanding of the things that populate the world, nor the thinking skills, to be able to make proper decisions on their own. As they age, they may know what's right, but not have developed the confidence to implement that knowledge. Later on, maybe we want to let them try their independence, but still be there as a safety net if things go wrong.

So I think that for small children blockers are appropriate, just as I keep my gun safe locked. It's too easy to do the wrong thing.

And toward the older end of the spectrum, perhaps we don't want to actively interfere with the child proving to himself that he can do the right things. But maybe it's still helpful to know what situations he's running into, in case there's a need to explain to him. Those animal snuff flicks, or something, certainly warrant a conversation with the kid, even when he has the normal reaction of revulsion.

Many kids have the wherewithal to ask their parents, or someone, about such experiences. Others don't. I'm reminded of a favorite song, "Silent Cries" by Fates Warning. The first two verses go like this:

Born to an air of apathy
Indifference shapes a fragile mind.
Questions formed at an early age
Beg answers unasked
Silent cries

Behind curious eyes resides
A child who cannot speak.
Silent cries

Years find a mind alone whose
Questions flow too deep for words.
Covered in a shroud of silence
Watching the world go by
Silent cries

Living Room / Re: The issue of Ad-Blocking in our browsers.
« on: October 03, 2013, 04:13 PM »
As others have said, it's the annoying ads that are the problem.

I run AdBlock Plus in my browsers. But I've disabled it for DC, and for some other sites. I don't object to ads as such, and indeed, when they're topical, they can even be useful.

But ads that interfere with my usage are the problem. Animated ads that demand your attention still are common. My wife uses Chinese pages all the time, and these frequently look like someone vomited on them; I've added dozens of custom rules to ABP for her.

At a minimum, if you don't allow the ads to detract from the experience of the web page you've worked so hard on, then I'm willing to go along with it. But when you let the ads try to invade my experience, then I don't want to allow that.

Living Room / Hating on new Google Maps
« on: September 30, 2013, 05:01 PM »
Surely I'm not the only one that hates the new design of Google Maps. Let me count the ways that I hate it, and see if anybody's found good solutions to these problems with it:

  • Slow to load - it takes quite a while, even on a fast (e.g., 20Mbps) connection, to load up the page
  • Slow to interact - the page just doesn't feel snappy, at least in Firefox
  • No multi-stop direction - I can only find a way to get directions from point A to Point B; I can't see any way to go from A to B to C
  • Hideous links - to send a map takes a huge, opaque URL, but I can always use or something to fix that
  • Did I mention that it seems really slow?

Any other problems Google should be addressing?

the most useful setting in Tomato that I think every router firmware should have is the one that lets you set it to reboot itself in the middle of the night every day

I've been running DD-WRT for about a year, and I've had the router up for months at a time with no ill effect.

Does anybody out there have a pointer to a Tomato versus DD-WRT comparison, to help decide which I should use?

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