Damn, how I hate those wobdesigner idiots that make you click on virtual keyboards to enter your passwords. Virginmoney/Westpac has such a thing, and a very crappy one, too, but we have a fix. All this involves EczemaScript, not nice but better than suffering.

Now I've got another set of suckers to deal with, Citibank AU. Their setup is less gnarly but still annoying. This time, I produced a fix myself: Citibank-Demouse is a Greasemonkey script that simply clears the hooks that invoke the virtual keyboard; and hey presto! keyboard-entry of your password works again.

Update (Sun 29.04.2007 17:53):

Federico Schwindt pointed out the appropriate Citibank UK url, and the script has been updated with this information.

[ published on Fri 05.01.2007 12:13 | filed in interests/comp | ]

(Clearly not.) But nevertheless, this is a very interesting article about Fitts' Law and how interface design should be affected.

Some of the assertions seem...unfitting, though: for me, moving the mouse to the bottom is the most annoying move, not the least: the mouse
has to travel beneath my palm and wrist (I tend to control the mouse with my fingertips and a bend of my wrist and rarely ever lift my elbow off the desk.) Moving to the top I just extend my fingers, so that's faster.

But then I'm weird: I have the mouse on either side, with some bias to the left -- but I'm somewhere between righthanded and ambidextrous otherwise, I switch between two different keyboard layouts every day (german at home, english at work) and so on.

[ published on Mon 26.03.2007 23:53 | filed in interests/comp | ]

I complained about bank logins a number of times, the last one being citibank's mouse mess. Apart from that I have no major issues with their credit card service...except the insistence on a PDF plugin to read your statement. WTF?!

Well, now they can insist as much as they want because I wield the Greasy Monkey wrench...and I win! This greasemonkey script neuters the plugin-insisting code and also converts the EMBEDded (spit!) PDF into a normal plain link. Works for Citibank AU, maybe other incarnations. (BTW, userscripts.org sucks, I lost my password and can't reset it, thus this script will not end up there anytime soon.)

[ published on Sat 17.03.2007 20:13 | filed in interests/comp | ]

It's not exactly the CSS Zen Garden but not too bad either. I think.

Two weeks ago I rebuilt the chgc website from scratch, with nice new images, no more tables, standards compliant HTML and CSS and so on. I also got rid of \rho's HTML++ thingie and replaced the automation guts with Mason (but still statically rendering everything).

Comparing this with the current setup I'm pleased with the results.

[ published on Fri 10.11.2006 11:05 | filed in interests/comp | ]

Perl is a programming language, just like C, only it is even weirder.

$ perl -e '$a=3; $b=++$a + $a++; print "$b\n";'
$ perl -e '$a=3; $b=++$a + ++$a; print "$b\n";'
$ perl -e '$a=3; $b=$a-- + $a++; print "$b\n";'
$ perl -e '$a=3; $b=--$a + ++$a; print "$b\n";'

My Bizarrotron just broke its indicator needle. Fascinating!

[ published on Sun 22.10.2006 14:10 | filed in interests/comp | ]

I'm no fan of EczemaScript but the recent Westpac/Virgin mess convinced me that scripting in the browser is not necessarily bad - as long as I control what runs where and when (hence I use NoScript and deny all scripts everywhere except where I know the code).

Yesterday I mucked around with making the local TV guide website bearable - all I really want to see is the innermost table of actual information, minus all the square acres of blinking advertisements and similar drivel.

Upgraded to Firefox 1.5 (actually painless, very different from past experiences), installed the newest (0.6.4) Greasemonkey, found a script that claimed to fix that mess but which was too ugly by far, rewrote it to suit my prefs, done.

I learned a lot about Javascript and DOM (and also where Greasemonkey sucks) than I ever wanted to, but that's fine.

Today I thought about tackling the Virgin problem, but found out that Joel Hockey has already written a nifty simple small script that gives you text-based password entry back (without removing the silly buttons, should you be stupid enough to want them). Thanks, Joel!

But it didn't work. My stubbornness has few limits (and the weather was not flyable today), so I learned still more about JS and GM and the DOM, especially about the recent paranoia that badly affect the new Greasemonkey and wrecks most of the nice things about DOM and JS (if there were any in the first place).

In the end I fixed Joel's script (and sent it back upstream) and am now quite pleased with my army of greased monkeys.

Next step, maybe: adding a squad of platypuses.

[ published on Sat 24.06.2006 18:50 | filed in interests/comp | ]

I rebuilt my backup-and-music box recently, because the case was ugly and because I needed to fit another disk for online backup.

I had a Sun 811 case lying around, and another similar to a 411. Neither would take the Epia motherboard, PSU, dvd burner, two 3.5" disks and a 20x4 lcd, but together they can throw off the yoke of conformist PCism! ahem

So I cut out the plastic top of the 811 and riveted the 411 onto it, which gives me space for the drives. A face for the open rear end of the 411 was cut from the cannibalized pieces of my Sony stereo junk and hot-glued in. The frame for the HDs is an old cut-up drive bay, and the support for the burner is a piece of sheet metal that I riveted in (hot-glue isn't strong enough and I didn't want to use expoxy for no reason at all).

 2006_06_05-tosspot-top-inside.jpg 2006_06_05-tosspot-rear-face.jpg

The front with the lcd got a painted fascia (balsa) and the IR sensor was mounted internally this time.

 2006_06_05-tosspot-rebuild-open.jpg  2006_06_05-tosspot-front.jpg

After a shitload of further surgery on the cases and innards I ended up with this pleasant look.


But you can't see the rear in that photo which is good. None of my small ATX power supplies would fit without totally rebuilding the thing (not-so-perfect an idea as I'd basically have to strip all insulation off, then resolder half the high and low voltage connections and cram all the resulting mess into the franken-case), so I started looking at DC-DC PSUs. Like this one. Which I did eventually buy, thinking "the 90W/145W peak PSU I have used so far, so this 200W thing should do nicely". Cost me about us$100 (with a 9A AC-DC external brick and shipping).

Little did I know, and for that matter, too little effort did I spend on research. Plug it in, fire up, works - somewhat: now I get loads of noise on the audio out connection. Not just mains hum but all kinds of activity-dependent crap as well. This is when I started doing the research I should have done before. It turns out that loads of people hate the PW-200-M for being a crap piece of equipment. First, it's nowhere near 200W, and some other speciality PSU manufacturers have accused the makers of shoddy lying advertising. The 5V rail sagged under the load of my two disks down to less than 3V at times. The 12V line is not regulated, so iff you're not using a regulated brick you'll fry your gear (especially the carputer people hate it for that). The smoothing caps are not exactly large at 390-1000uF. (But the form factor rocks, which is why I bought it...)

Tried pretty much everything non-destructive, like powering only the board from the PW-200-M, trying different 12V supplies to verify the noise is coming from the PW-200-M etc...but no joy. It may be useful for really low-power scenarios where one doesn't care so much about power quality (i.e. non-audio application), but for me it's junk...Bugger.

Back to square one: normal PSUs don't fit. Most high-quality DC-DC PSUs like the Opus gear won't fit or require 19V like the DC2DC converters.... So for the time being, I plopped my normal small ATX PSU like an outboard motor behind the box...with some shielding and extra grounding it doesn't affect radio reception too much. sigh

[ published on Wed 07.06.2006 16:22 | filed in interests/comp | ]

...you see an ad on your Coke bottle that says "5 HUGE GIGS" and you think nah, 5 gigs is nothing special today but I remember when it was not just huge but UNIMAGINABLE only to blink and realize that they were talking about music...

[ published on Thu 23.03.2006 14:51 | filed in interests/comp | ]

The iptables recent match module is pretty cool; things like keeping the sodding ssh brute force guessers at bay are trivial: accept only X new connections to the ssh port within a minute, if not coming from a trusted known network. Two iptables-lines.

Unfortunately, the module isn't overly stable internally and there's some rollover bugs like this one. I'd still give it some extra coolness points for allowing me to implement Port Knocking without any userland tools in 5 minutes:
click here for the rest of the story...

[ published on Mon 20.03.2006 14:33 | filed in interests/comp | ]

The expletive (in Austrian German) applies to the Linksys people, who managed to castrate the WAP11 access point in its version 2.8 but good:
click here for the rest of the story...

[ published on Mon 27.02.2006 14:44 | filed in interests/comp | ]

A French court has recently decreed that using P2P systems is legal if it's for private use. This includes both up- and downloads. Sweeeet! French Freedom Fries! A nice result that doesn't make the Content Cartel happy.

Link to an article (in German) about this

[ published on Thu 09.02.2006 14:39 | filed in interests/comp | ]

Applied to computers this kiddo-truism would be like: "Lapdogs are obsolete the moment they leave the factory, and extinct by the time you buy it. You want software to work on it? Here's your two rocks, bang them together and see how you go..."

I've been Having Fun with kernel 2.6.14 and my machines. Lots of Bloody Fun. It takes heaps longer to configure things. The documentation has not exactly gotten better. The (feature-)stability of the 2.6 series is a joke. Some things still don't work. Lots of new things have stopped working. WAAAAAAAH.

The lucky list: ide-cd and ide-scsi still conflict. The latter ist needed for reasonable cd burning. The module documentation blithely says "There is usually no reason to remove modules, but some buggy modules require it". Idiots. The xserver will make your box hiccup badly and fuck up playing of sound if you run it with the previously required niceness. Vmware modules don't build on 2.6 at all, but somebody has cooked up a (really ugly but working) patch. The devmapper maintainer is a clue-resistant idiot who repeatedly refused a one-liner fix for a problem that breaks the use of the disk group so I rolled my own packages. The maestro3 sound support has gotten worse, the chip gets confused every now and then now (and I'm not going with the ALSA suggestion: You can install that bloated crap when you pry the keyboard from my cold, dead fingers.)

Loopback (ahem, devmapper) encryption is still not possible for non-root users. Wavemon does no longer work. The netfilter code is fucked up, IP_NF_NAT_LOCAL is gone since around 2.6.11 which means that natting local conns doesn't work anymore. My nice location-independent setup for the proxy (everything configured to use localhost:3128, then NAT that to the real proxy if needed) is now officially unsupported. Thank you, bastards!

And, of course, direct rendering for mach64-derivates is once again absolutely utterly fucked up (uncompilable, incompatible, non-working code). Might be a good thing that with trying to find out and fix all those niggling problems I've got no time to play any games anyway...

On the plus side, however, are things like the kernel key storage api: goodbye quintuple-agent, hello kernel! I'm currently experimenting with code to make that stuff easier to use; Debian packages to follow as soon as things stabilise...

[ published on Wed 16.11.2005 14:51 | filed in interests/comp | ]

The recent vacation had its very positive sides as well: I brought back about 11GB of condensed music from friends and family.

Much of it was not neatly tagged/named, but &rw mentioned musicbrainz, a project similar to freedb but extended to fingerprints for MP3 and similar.

The stuff is partialy lunixified; Debian packages do exist but the docs suck big-time and the interdependencies between libraries and software are as clear as raw sewage...

The tagger app is a/v as Windows dreck only at the moment, but there's a "simple tagger application" (and Perl and Python interfaces). Do not try the "simple tagger application" tp_tagger from libtunepimp-bin: it sucks oh-so-badly (where have these idiots learned programming and interface design?!).

The perl version tp_tagger.pl (only in the source package) sucks about as badly, but at least one can quickly rip out all the crap and make it work somewhat.

Rant done. The idea behind musicbrainz is very good and I'm sure the system will be used more and more once a reasonable tagger application and docs are available.

[ published on Wed 14.09.2005 17:24 | filed in interests/comp | ]

A mad norwegian has made this yahoo+google mashup: two frames showing you both search engines' results side-by-side. Very cool, especially as one shouldn't trust google to far anyway. (Nor is yahoo the One Source of Truth)

A firefox searchplugin is available over there.

[ published on Wed 13.04.2005 11:38 | filed in interests/comp | ]

If I'll ever end up having too much free time on my hands I'll try out some stuff from Abandonia, where classical games are kept alive.

[ published on Tue 15.03.2005 22:37 | filed in interests/comp | ]

\rho and I "own" some perl software packages related to topicmaps, mainly the XTM package (or libxtm-perl as it's called in Debian).
click here for the rest of the story...

[ published on Mon 14.03.2005 13:31 | filed in interests/comp | ]

It fells almost like software-archeology to dig through these old RCS revision logs. I can trace back certain constructs in there to my days at aut.alcatel.at and to hints from Klaus Reichl, emacs geek extraordinaire in the Elektra team.

this is how it looks when az has a bad day and takes a big hammer to the mh-e defaults:

;; gehts scheissn mit die bunten smileys...
(setq mh-graphical-smileys-flag nil)
[ published on Wed 02.03.2005 21:46 | filed in interests/comp | ]

No. Never. NO! Go Away! This is not what I want.
click here for the rest of the story...

[ published on Fri 25.02.2005 20:40 | filed in interests/comp | ]

(but likely just this time only.) The french consumer protection agency DGCCRF has sued EMI France and the music shop Fnac because their music CDs weren't CDs anymore (because of anti-copying measures that break the Red Book standard).

The French legal system guarantees the right of private copies, and EMI and Fnac broke not just that but also mislead their customers about the (lack of) quality of their product.

If the government wins that suit, then EMI and Fnac would have to call back the CDs and pay E 187k. Nice.

[ published on Sat 28.08.2004 01:07 | filed in interests/comp | ]

Cryptome is great; unvarnished, nasty, uncompromising. I love it. They've got an RSS feed, too.

"Ken Carpenter called at 1:10 PM to say that getting a court order would be complicated and time-wasting so why doesn't Cryptome be "patriotic" and remove the document in the interest of national security. He said NSA had vetted the document as being important to national security. Cryptome said it had published his request and he should take a look at it and a reader's response. Mr. Carpenter logged onto this file, and said, oh no, you published my telephone number and quoted me. We said that is what we do when a government official gets in touch."

Great job!
Link to that story

[ published on Sat 28.08.2004 00:54 | filed in interests/comp | ]

A family of collisions in MD5 has been found, and the "vultures are circling" (as Ed Felten put it) quite low above SHA-1. Bugger. Ah well, evolution at work I guess.
Link to Ed Felten's article

[ published on Fri 20.08.2004 13:21 | filed in interests/comp | ]

I just discovered a very interesting paper by Eben Moglen (of EFF fame) about software, property and anarchism. Not exactly new (1999) but really nice. Let's hope he's right.

Link to the paper

[ published on Mon 09.08.2004 00:15 | filed in interests/comp | ]

A very interesting article (where's the "rant", though?) on how and why ebooks work pretty well for authors (and their publishers, even though only a few realise this so far).
Link to the article

[ published on Wed 28.07.2004 21:53 | filed in interests/comp | ]

...says a recent German court judgement, wherein the netfilter project was awarded EUR 100k because Sitecom was using iptables technology in commercial products without abiding by the gpl rules.
Link to the heise article

[ published on Wed 28.07.2004 01:16 | filed in interests/comp | ]

Some tales of current {soft,hard}ware woes.

iptables doesn't fully like sparc64: the limit module, very useful for limiting log entries in bursty situations, is fubar'd on 64bit archs:

..."the problem is that the limit match does an ugly hack: it stores a pointer in its struct matchinfo. That pointer is 64bits in the kernel, but userspace is 32bits, and thus the compilar only allocates 32bit for the pointer in the structure: boom. The structure was commented by the original author with: /* Ugly, ugly fucker. */"

Thanks guys, very helpful. Grrrrrrr. Ok, for now my syslogd is set to not sync on the file where these logs go to, to keep the box from melting down because of any silly scanner out there but that's far from perfect.

Then my alcadreck dsl thingie is flaky as hell: it really doesn't like service disconnections, and occasionally doesn't get the always-on connection into always-on state...Time to get a BPAC-5100 and enjoy proper syslog, SNMP, real CLI etc.

And my Ultra1 is showing the onboard HME lockup behaviour: suddenly no more data coming in, but ifdown/ifup fixes the issue. (or is it the alcadreck? seeing collisions and carrier loss errors on a lightly loaded Xover cable doesn't really inspire confidence in the other comms partner even without knowing about the alcadreck...) Built the kernel with the one-liner patch, seems to be ok for now.

And df is fucked on sparc64:

$ df -k /
Filesystem           1k-blocks      Used Available Use% Mounted on
/dev/sda1             -1324350         1         0   6% /
$ df -k //
Filesystem           1k-blocks      Used Available Use% Mounted on
/dev/sda1              1511856     80608   1354448   6% /

So a trailing slash coaxes it into working. Fugly.

And mozilla-firebird with the tabextensions on crashes when trying to do talk to ANZ (who are evil bastards wielding their javascript bludgeon inexpertly, but who - thank eris! - haven't discovered java...yet).

To make debugging easier, at work the same mozilla-firebird with the same extensions, a 99.9%-same config works without a hitch. Oh the joy. Mozilla needs some code to selectively disable each and every javascript function (not just the few silly things like preventing scripts from hiding the toolbar)!


[ published on Thu 08.07.2004 00:16 | filed in interests/comp | ]

Their Meerkat Open Wire Service is a pretty cool aggregator of all things news; personally I like channel 916 (O'Reilly Net content, with all their open articles) a lot.

[ published on Sun 04.07.2004 12:34 | filed in interests/comp | ]

Yesterday I added this to my /etc/emacs/site-start.el

(defun browse-url-mozilla-firebird (url arg)
   (format "mozilla-firebird -remote 'openURL(%s, new-tab)'" 
(setq browse-url-browser-function 'browse-url-mozilla-firebird)
(global-set-key [S-mouse-3] 'browse-url)

and wohee, no more cut-n-mispaste. All hail emacs. Now where do I find something similar for trn (/me can't stand gnus)...

[ published on Sat 26.06.2004 19:02 | filed in interests/comp | ]

This article on Perl's special variables has reassured my view of the world: all software sucks, plenty. For example, the ".." operator in scalar context is a mighty beast with plenty of tentacles.

But I still like Perl most, compared to all the other scripting languages.

[ published on Mon 21.06.2004 13:12 | filed in interests/comp | ]

Whenever I've got to do anything with XML (and that's a fair lot with a couple of research efforts re topicmaps and james I feel like I'm in the nearest Crazy Clark's "hardware" aisle: lotsa tools, most overlapping in intended use but all subtly broken and at best fit to round off boltheads or screwheads after keeping you fuming for way too long.

And in the real world those bloody tools aren't even as cheap as Crazy Clark stuff, they require way too much effort.

So rant away like those at XMLsucks.org, go back to XML 2.0alpha? Maybe YAML is the answer to the questions XPath, XPointer, XSLT, XQuery, XUpdate and all the other lousy languages don't answer properly?

[ published on Tue 10.02.2004 23:20 | filed in interests/comp | ]

A fun to read article on how he fails to see piracy as the evilevilterrorismbadness other blokes try to present it.
Link to an ad-infested version
Linkto the textz variant

[ published on Sun 08.02.2004 16:28 | filed in interests/comp | ]

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