Efforts to understand, improve, or do less harm to the world around me.


Thursday, August 17, 2017

Printer tracking dots


I've always wondered about tracking dots - here's a really cool breakdown.  Always thought they'd be on the edge of the paper, but turns out they're in the middle.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Recent places (Win7 trick)

This is an old trick that I'm sure has been highlighted elsewhere at length, but to me felt like a new discovery.  There's a place on your computer where the machine automatically saves things you've been doing.  It works like a browser history and is helpful if you just can't find what you were working on yesterday.

On Win7, you can find this here:


If I remember correctly, this had a standard presence on your start menu back on Win2k and before, but somehow got pushed out, and I had a hard time finding it.  Right now I'm working day to day on any one of a hundred different files on my machine so this has become increasingly important.

Note that unlike browser history, if you want additional privacy, just clearing this folder is not the answer.  Definitely look into disk encryption and programs like CCleaner and BleachBit.

Monday, August 14, 2017

John Oliver on Charlotte

I was really disappointed by the US President's response to the violence this weekend.  I struggled with some kind of response to that and didn't want to stare blankly at ugly events in my country.  I'm still at a loss but meanwhile, someone else was very disappointed.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Fear at the heart of the American experience

It's an admittedly left-leaning analysis but I think many of the concepts of an ongoing national paranoia are hard to ignore.  More than anything it helps underline that fear is undoubtedly a kind of commodity.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Decoding the warning signs

A very well written, sad, and beautiful story from the NYT about addition and loss.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

How wolves change rivers

I've heard several stories around how ecosystems work and how interconnected they are.  I never had a clear understanding until I saw how wolves impacted their world.  A short version and a longer (video) one.

Politics near and far

Related articles: Analysis of the rather strange psychology of a very strange situation.  Also, someone may just not be having fun.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

How to be sick (part 2)

Part 1: How to get over the flu
  • Listen to your body. Certainly this isn't everyone but for me, if I'm not doing well, I've got to remember to take the hint.
  • Immediately get warm. Turn on the heater, put on a jacket or extra layers even if you're not cold. Early moves in this can save hours of misery. 
  • Don’t trust a mild cold - too often I’ve had something that looked very temporary that turned into a bunch of unpleasant symptoms on day 2.  Take time off, lay down, and watch movies.  Turn up the heat and wrap yourself in blankets.  Take no chances.  Speaking from a moment where I didn’t do that, it really didn’t end well. 
  • Real drugs.  If you have any medication to knock you out, make sure you drink a lot of water.  As always, whatever you take, make sure you take half first.

Emotionally stunted

This is something a lot of my friends who are girls run into even a decade outside of high school when that kind of behavior should have died.  Summed up by the first comment: "I'm a nice guy ... you bitch."

How to submit a bug to Microsoft

An amusing take on how to try and notify a billion dollar corporation that their software is buggy.

Approaching it differently

 Some videos today:
  • This is kind of wonderful.  I can't quite figure out how to preface it.
  • Some David Mitchell videos -- a somehow more pleasant way to think about taxes and a grumpy analysis of extraneous disclaimers
  • The supremely weird and kind of fantastic "nut spoon" bit on Conan.
  • A generally fluffy youtube personality gets weirdly deep.  Notable in places for getting surprisingly close to a lot of serious philosophical and existentialist thinking.

And if none of that works, an awesome time-lapse look at a windmill being built.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Get your loved ones off Facebook

An important analysis of harm done by a "free" service like Facebook and how it's just going to get worse.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Encrypted email tools

It's a little out of date, but here's a very good overview of the encrypted email situation, even with NSA leaks and OpenSSL vulnerabilities.

It's roughly the same as it was ten years ago: GPG / PGP is annoying and nobody wants to use it (I've even traded emails with GPG devs that don't actively encrypt their mail).  Similarly, S/MIME has been around forever but nobody uses it.  Even though both Enigmail for Thunderbird and gpg4usb radically simplify the process, there's been little impact.

Basic Sony Clie usage guide


I kept telling myself that I'd eventually find an a replacement device for the Sony Clie device I found back in 2009 and finish this intro.  Unfortunately, it's been quite a few years and it's just not a project I'm going to come back to.  What follows is hopefully some useful data for someone who finds an old device and wants to breathe some life into it.

This discusses the Sony Clie device of the PEG series.  It may serve as a kind of HOWTO and FAQ in place of many that exist on the Internet, including Sony's Web site, which was mostly useless.

I have spent an enormous amount of time working and researching and reading to try and make the device work *relatively* well.  It is useful now but its features are tightly restricted by how much energy and focus I'm willing to put towards the device.  Busy professionals should steer away from this model as inefficient and unintuitive.


Sony started out the market in the 1980s with the walkman and started the whole hand-held market.  However, it's clear that they have not followed up into the digital age in any way, shape, or form.  This author has had similar problems with their MiniDisc series.

Sony's Web site was largely useless.  You cannot download the drivers, you must either order a CD from Sony or find someone on the Internet who will let you download the CD's contents from them.  I was lucky enough to find the second option.

Common operations

Playing Music on your Clie

  • You cannot transfer MP3s that have odd characters (such as parenthesis, !, or others) or files with especially long names.
  • Transfer is *extremely* slow over the PDA or IR (approx a minute per megabyte).  Try to find an adapter for Sony's Secure Digital cards and transfer the files independent of your PDA, then insert it.  This may significantly increase transfer rates.

First, you must move MP3s over to the device.

  1. "Install" feature in the Palm Desktop (just drag-and-drop mp3s into the window and it will transfer them).  Note: you can also use the Infrared transfer, which you must somehow turn on on the palm's IR.  All that is necessary is to somehow initialize ANY infrafred transfer activity on the palm which may be done via using the sync tool over IR, trying to "beam" practically anything, or otherwise.  (This is highly unituitive and confusing.)
  2. The files will slowly transfer to your PDA
  3. Move them to the /Palm/Programs/MSSOUNDS directory on your memory card.
  4. Eject the memory card and re-insert it.  The MP3 files should then be available.

Moving ATRAC3 files over to the device

This section is unfinished because it is so difficult.  Presumably the same as above but because SonicStage does not transfer the files directly from CD to Palm, this has been very frustrating.

The device plays both MP3 files as well as ATRAC3, which can be generated almost exclusively by Sony's poorly made SonicStage software.  Although much smaller than MP3, it is also very low quality.  On portable devices with poor headphones, this may not be an issue but making ATRAC3 files is painfully difficult and the files do not transfer

The frequently asked questions, documentation, and other elements seem to have been updated *only* when the device first arrived on the market.  Although there is a wide variety of feature-rich software and it is clearly a step forward in many ways, it is disjointed, hard to use, and (again) uninuitive.

Notes on Recording Audio
  • Make sure to set Mic Sensitivity under the Preferences menu.  High and Low are drastically different, with Low being much more suited for personal recordings and High for lectures.
  • Recording mode should, with rare exception be set to SP (higher quality).  LP sounds "foggy".
  • The A->B button is useful for repeating a specific phrase or statement.  It does so by repeating specific parts of an individual file.  Hit A when you wish the file to begin and B when you want it to end.
  • To prevent the record button from being accidentally pressed while being jostled around in your pocket, set the power button to "hold".

Copying recorded files to your computer

This is easy.  You may either "Beam" (Infrared) or "Send" (USB cable) via the sound recording application.

Encoding the copied files into MP3

The files copied to your computer are not in a normal format that can be transferred easily to MP3.  At the time, I used Winamp to re-encode them as raw WAV format, but there are a lot more tools available than back then.  Here's the process I used:
  1. Use Winamp software (http://www.winamp.com) and go through the "Options - Preferences" ... Under "Plug-Ins" on the left-hand menu, select "Output" and choose Nullsoft Disk Writer Plugin.  Then, in the same window, select "Configure" and set the output directory (probably the Desktop or c:\Documents and Settings\'''YOURUSERNAME'''\Desktop).
  2. Now, simply click the play button on Winamp and it will output to regular windows-format WAV files.  These files are the correct format to be encoded in MP3.
  3. If you wish, you may edit the files using a program called [http://audacity.sf.net Audacity] to cut out silent portions or to do minor fixes poor sound recordings.  For a more advanced software for audio cleanup, look to SoundForge.
  4. To encode high-quality MP3s, look to the program [http://www.google.com/search?q=lamedrop&start=0&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official LameDrop].  LameDrop is easy to configure by right-clicking on the small window.  Be sure to set the program to the lowest setting (all the way to the left) and on "mono".  Then just drag-and-drop the Winamp-created WAV files onto the window and wait for the progress bars to convert them.

Sony Clie downloads: http://sony-clie.pdatopsoft.com/  (may be down but includes freeware)

Device Technical Specifications

Info taken (and modified in places) from
Manufacturer: Sony Electronics, Inc.
Part number: PEGTG50


    * Built-in devices
    * Display, Speaker, Jog Dial, Keyboard, Microphone

    * Weight: 6.2 oz
    * Included expansion base(s)
    * Docking cradle
    * Keyboard back-light

Operating System / Software

* OS provided: Palm OS 5.0

* Software included: SMS, HotSync, Reversi, Vindigo, Breakout, Contacts, Memo Pad, NetFront, PowerOne, Security, Bejeweled, CLIÉ Mail, CLIÉ Memo, Card Info, Date Book, WorldMate, CLIÉ Album, CLIÉ Files, Calculator, PhotoStand, To Do List, CLIÉ Viewer, AcidFreecell, Address Book, Audio Player, Movie Player, Photo Editor, CLIÉ Launcher, Remote Camera, Sound Utility, Flash Player 5, SonicStage 1.5, TakTik (Trial), Voice Recorder, QuickTime 5.0.2, Mobipocket Reader, Sound Converter 2, World Alarm Clock, BumpAttack Pinball, Image Converter 1.0, Memory Stick Backup, Memory Stick Import, Intellisync Lite 4.0, StreetFinder Express, CLIÉ Remote Commander, Margi Presenter-to-Go, PictureGear Studio 1.0, Memory Stick Export 1.3, Palm Desktop 4.1 for PC, Adobe Acrobat Reader 5.1, Picsel Technologies Picsel Viewer, Stand Alone Crossword Puzzles for Palm OS (Trial)

Supported operating systems
Microsoft Windows XP Home/Professional, Microsoft Windows 98 SE / Windows ME, Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional

* Installed RAM: 16 MB
* Installed ROM: 16 MB ROM

Processor: 200 MHz
Input Device: QWERTY Keyboard


* Digital audio standards supported:MP3, ATRAC3
* Audio input type: Microphone
* Audio output type: Speaker(s)
* Voice recording capability

* Display type: TFT active matrix
* Color support: 16-bit (64K colors)
* Max resolution: 320 x 320

Expansion / Connectivity
* Wireless connectivity: IrDA, Bluetooth
* Expansion slot(s) total (free): 1 Memory Stick
* Total free slots: 1

* Battery installed ( max )
* 1 Lithium polymer
* Mfr estimated battery life* 10 hour(s)
* Power supply device* Power adapter
* Power device frequency required: 50/60 Hz

System Requirements for PC connection
* Min RAM size
* 96 MB
* Min hard drive space
* 200 MB