April 17, 2007

Unzip into a subdirectory!

Filed under: Tech — Chris @ 12:33 am

Most folks know this. If you are one of those folks, just move along. I’ll wait…

Now. When you make a TAR or ZIP file, make it so the files will un-tar/zip into a subdirectory, damn it! Do you really think I want your files spread all over my /usr/local tree?

This is especially common amongst people who make ZIP files, so I’m usually on my guard for it. But tarballers: come on! Get with it! It’s easy: “cd ..; tar cvf foo.tar DIR


April 16, 2007

Some Thoughts on Taxes

Filed under: Not Tech — Chris @ 2:44 pm

First, I’d like to observe—uniquely, I think—that people like me ought to pay less.

Second, it hardly needs to be said that it would be both good politics and good policy to simplify the tax code and payment system. You see, if paying taxes wasn’t complicated, time consuming, and painful, people wouldn’t mind paying them so much. John Edwards is apparently hip to this, as are the wing-nuts. (Via Becks via Neil the Ethical Werewolf)

Finally, if you are a giant corporation with an internship program, a nice benefit you could provide—nicer even than a ping-pong table or free snacks—would be free tax advice. Along these lines, you could also make a little effort not to put your interns in an annoying, complicated tax position.

P.S. Oh, yeah, I meant to say: it’s your patriotic duty, blah blah blah.

April 14, 2007

Oh, Brave New World That Has Such Feces In It

Filed under: Not Tech — Chris @ 5:59 pm

I’ve been meaning to blog the LitterMaid self-cleaning litter box for months now. Every time I come into contact with the damn thing it makes me want to call my congresswoman (hi, Nydia!).

If you’re not familiar with the product, it’s a litter box with a sensor and a motorized rake. A few minutes after a cat jumps in the box, the rake makes a pass over the litter and scoops whatever is clumped there into a little plastic bucket. Sounds pretty great, right? Wrong.

People on the Internet are not happy with this product. A lot of complaints are centered on the apparent fact that the motor breaks down quickly and often. But even with a fully operational motor, this is a deeply flawed product.

  1. If you fill the box up to the line marked “Full”—or even just somewhat near it, say, anywhere above the line marked “Add Litter”—or, actually, to tell the truth, even if the box is not the least bit full but the litter is somehow unevenly distributed into unfortunately placed dunes—the rake will actually get stuck, going back and forth and back and forth all day or night—oh, and did I mention that it’s really fucking loud—until you turn it off and remove some (or a lot of) litter and smooth it out and pray.
  2. The rake teeth are about a half inch apart and don’t reach down to the bottom of the box. Tiny poops escape unharmed. A layer of fine urine-soaked dust accumulates. Stench ensues. The thing weights 20 or 30 pounds, so dragging it into the bathroom or backyard to scrub it out is a hassle.
  3. With a regular litter box, if you want to ignore it for a week or more, you just have to play chicken with your cat’s inclination to go start pooping and/or peeing somewhere else. Usually, at least in our case, the box will become just completely unacceptably stank long before the cats give up on it.

    With a LitterMaid self-cleaning litter box, if you ignore it for more than a few days, it starts scooping poop and urine-saturated litter onto the floor. Thus, the self-cleaning litter box, far from relieving you of the stresses of litter box management, actually makes careful attention to the state of the litter box more important.

  4. Somehow, because of the way the dirty-litter bucket is wedged into a little gap on the side of the box, you are actually more likely to come into contact with cat shit in the process of changing the litter than with an old-fashioned litter box and scoop.

So, to summarize, here is the litter box of the future: it’s loud, it’s stinky, it scoops shit onto your floor, and then makes you touch it. And then it breaks! It gets my highest recommendation.

Kids, Don’t Be Like Me

Filed under: Tech — Chris @ 5:47 pm

You probably think there’s just no possible way your computer’s BIOS could fail to recognize your new ginormous EIDE hard disk—that problem just sounds so DOS-era, doesn’t it?—but, yes, this can happen to you. My PowerMac G4 thinks my new 400GB drive is… 128GB. And the best part is: no returns! Who’s the tech expert in this house? I am!

April 12, 2007


Filed under: Not Tech, Waste of Time — Chris @ 4:45 pm

The security guard in my building, who let’s me walk by with a nod 9 times out of 10, chooses today, when I’ve got a bag and an umbrella and a hot cup of coffee, to ask for ID? Really?

I never know where I stand with these people. Am I supposed to do chit chat? I hate chit chat.

Oh, Ubuntu…

Filed under: Linux, Tech — Chris @ 4:21 pm

It just wouldn’t be a system update if it didn’t break Suspend.

If, for whatever reason, you have been moved to install the latest version of the Nvidia drivers—eschewing the always classy, always out of date nvidia-glx package—you must must must re-install after a kernel upgrade. The reason being that the driver compiles a custom kernel interface that is, in all likelihood, now broken.

Bonus tip: How do you shut down the server so that you can install the driver?

sudo /etc/init.d/gdm stop


sudo /etc/init.d/kdm stop

for you Kubuntu people. (What’s wrong with you?)) (Hat tip: TheOS)

April 11, 2007

Television’s "Marquee Moon"

Filed under: Music, Not Tech, Waste of Time — Chris @ 2:49 pm

Not good treadmill music.

April 7, 2007

एक्ष्केल्लेन्त् वर्क, टोबी

Filed under: India, Not Tech, Waste of Time — Chris @ 4:21 pm

Mr. Kellner (who else?) wins the prize, which is no prize. Bonus points if you know where it came from. BTW, my browser doesn’t even render this script properly. Something to do with the right-to-left text.

April 6, 2007

आ गूढ़ ग्लास इन थे बिशोप’एस होस्टल

Filed under: India, Not Tech, Waste of Time — Chris @ 12:30 pm

Blogger snuck a Hindi transliteration feature into the post composer. Why? I don’t know. Does it work? Beats me. What does it say above? Does it make any sense?

April 5, 2007

Moving to a new Gmail account

Filed under: Tech — Chris @ 2:25 am

Interestingly, it can be done without losing your email, although it is not officially supported. Here’s how it’s done (with a hat tip to these guys over here):

  1. In your old account, go to “Settings -> Forwarding and POP” and select “Enable POP for all mail”.
  2. In your new account, go to “Settings -> Accounts” and select “Add another account”
  3. Enter your old email address and click “Next.”
  4. Enter the username and password for your old account. From the “POP Server” drop-down list choose “Other…” and type in “”.* Unselect “Leave a copy of retrieved message on the server.”** You may also want to tag or archive the retrieved messages, but you can change these settings later.
  5. Click “Add Account.” If something goes wrong, fix it.
  6. Now wait. The emails will come slowly and out of order, but they will come. They’ll even have all the right timestamps and such. It took about 8 hours for approximately 800 messages to be loaded from my old Inbox. (Presumably, Google throttles the message transfer so that you don’t interfere with everybody else’s everyday Gmailing.)
  7. When all of the emails have transferred, you can go back, turn off POP, and enable regular forwarding. This will be much faster, in general.

Transferring your contacts is easy. The Export/Import links are in the upper right corner of the Contacts page. There doesn’t seem to be any way to get somebody into your Quick Contacts box without sending them an email.

Note: Changing your Gmail account will screw up all your other Google Account stuff. Like your Blogger account. D’oh. [UPDATE: No really, this is probably the worst “feature” of Google Accounts. If I log into Blogger, I log out of Gmail and vice versa. I can probably somehow get around this by inviting the new me to join this blog…] [UPDATE 2: As you may notice in the Contributers bar to the right, there are now two of me contributing to this iblog. This is annoying.] [UPDATE 3: This was a known bug with “New Blogger” that has since been fixed.]

* This is part of the trick. The pre-fab list of servers won’t let you suck in all of your mail, but this undocumented server will.

** This sounds frightening, so some clarification: Gmail won’t let you leave this selected; they’ve got the POP server set up to complain if you do. However—and this is weird—your mail won’t actually be deleted from your old account. This setting doesn’t mean what it says, somehow.

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