Category Archives: Technology

Love for a dead BLOG

Blogs sometimes die, or are so far abandoned that they are dead for all intents and purposes. 

But there are still visitors as long as it shows up in Google, and some of those will enjoy the content immensely, so much as to write a comment. I don’t subscribe to the idea of nay sayers who assume that those visitors only leave these comments because they hope for a back link to their spammy sight – or worse, that they are evil AI bots!

I just believe that they really like my content – even if that content might be simply “coming soon…”

Here are a few of those cherished comments (unedited, only removed the link to their own website):

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Here you have it – people just love my dead blog!

Jennifer Aniston and Bill Gates

What comes to mind when you think about the ’90s?

Obviously, Jennifer Aniston of Friends and Windows 95!

As of the date of this writing, all this is an eternity ago – a quarter of a century, in fact. One of the two is nearly forgotten, and it is not Jennifer – thank God!

We have to admire the cloud and the foresight of Bill Gates to hire Jennifer and her co-star Matthew Perry to lend their fame to teach people about Windows 95. When the infotainment, below, was published, Friends was in its first season, and it could not have been clear what phenomenon Friends would become.

About a decade earlier Steve Jobs had rocked the world of product announcements with his Superbowl commercial introducing the MacIntosh. Boring Microsoft – in comparison – had to come up with something earth-moving, and celebrities probably seemed like a good idea.

The first move was to include a pretty cool music video on the distribution CD, Eddie Brickell’s Good Times, but the problem here was that you must have already bought the software, so it was not a particularly good promotional tool.

For this, Jennifer was put to work. At least by today’s standards, it was rather cringe-worthy, but then again, many of the 90s soaps carried the same hallmark.

Lean back, pour a drink and enjoy – all while learning how to use Windows 95.

Microsoft Windows 95 Video Guide – 1995 – Jennifer Aniston & Matthew Perry

As an afterthought – how much more fund would that have been, had Bill Gates hired Ross instead of Chandler!?

My Old TRS-80

TRS-80 top modelOne of my first ‘investments’ I made after college, when I started making a boat-load of money (that’s how it felt, at least) with my new job, was a TRS-80 computer from Radio Shack.

Today I ran into an article on Mashable about that Trash-80 that brought back memories of sitting on that machine for long nights, the ash tray overflowing, discovering all the things you could do with BASIC.

Despite my feeling of being totally rich, my pay check of nearly 2000 Deutsch Marks would not allow me to buy anything but the entry model of this computer. At that time the US Dollar was around 4 Marks which brought the price of that computer to an amazing DM 3000 – one and a half month’s pay. This made me think about what that top model Tandy computer would cost in today’s Dollars – – – turns out to be over 26 thousand Dollars!

And looking at the exchange rate from the other side – I made only $1500 in today’s Dollars and I thought I was rich? Now I wonder if the exchange rate of DM to US$ really reflected the relationship of cost of living. A quick Google search reveals that in 1980 a bread in the US cost about 50 cents, while a bread in Germany cost DM 2.50 – so the exchange rate is at least in the ballpark.

Maybe I should have moved to the US right after college – I might have been able to afford one of those fancy floppy drives from Radio Shack…

In case the TRS-80 catalog on Mashable ever goes away, here’s a copy…

Gibberish Last Names Clogging up Subscriptions

I had been annoyed recently by an increasing number of SPAM subscriptions on my Thaidye.com web site. The script behind the form for these subscriptions and requests for rebate immediate send out a confirmation email to the address entered (as well as to the admin of the site) and add the visitor to a database.

Initially there were a few of those spam entries and I could easily go into the database and manually remove them. But they became more and more numerous, so the first step was to add a link to the email the admin received which allowed for an easy removal of that spam entry.

But finally it got so annoying and time-consuming that I tried to think of a more automated way to handle the spam entries. What they all had in common was

  • a good first name
  • a gibberish last name like NLMAkPJpIVyqCkCeuEh, YijhgzswktJTVWqXhmA or MPSVPkfXInMzFYhEOpp
  • and a good email

The email was probably a good one because there were hardly any bounces for the automatic confirmation emails. That actually bothered me also because these poor recipients got some SPAM apparently coming from me.

Now the quest for me was to find something that all these spam entries had in common so that I could filter them somehow. Unfortunately php does not have a ‘gibberish’ function, so I had to come up with one of my own. Meditating over these entries I finally saw that these spam names often have longer sequences of consonants than would occur in valid names.

With a little bit of help from my friends at Google I came up with the following. With the hope that it might help somebody bothered by the same spammers, here the code snippet to filter those entries:

$first = $_REQUEST[first];
$last = $_REQUEST[last];
$gibberish = preg_match('/[bcdfghjklmnpqrstvwxz]{4,}/i', $first)
          || preg_match('/[bcdfghjklmnpqrstvwxz]{4,}/i', $last);
if (! $gibberish) {
    //do the regular processing
    }
else {
    // pretend every thing went find for the spammer
    // but don't really do anything
    }

Will see how many will slip through – gibberish with less than 4 consonants in a row.

What I am still curious about is ‘WHY’? What the spammer intends with these spam entries. I don’t see any way that could be beneficial to him/her. Discrediting me because the site sents out spam? But why then use gibberish in the last name? I am really curious.

Paperless Living

I am getting better at living a life without paper.

A few weeks ago I have started again to read a pulp science fiction series that I started to enjoy when I was at the tender age of 16. It is still available in print but hard (speak expensive) for me to come by. So, I found a real application for my tablet and am reading these novellas now on a screen.

But beside the entertainment part of my life, I  have also started to get rid of any receipt and other need-to-keep papers. There is a short decision when something comes across my desk if I will ever have to look at or refer to this piece again. If so, it get’s scanned and the  hard copy goes in the trash – or shredder.

This is also true for manuals. Fortunately most devices already come with electronic manuals or you can find them online. But unfortunately not always. Today I looked for the manual of the thermostat at our new house. There was one tucked right behind the wall unit, but obviously I will not leave it there. But I also did not want to start a new shoe box with manuals of things we have around the house, so the decision was made to scan it. But wait, maybe somebody else did this already and I can save the work.

Somebody did, but it was hidden behind having to jump through who knows how many hoops to get it free. Create a free account first. I still did that, but when I then was asked to try this subscription or sign for a trial membership on that other thing, I canceled out of that and did the scanning myself.

Hopefully Google will properly make it known that I did that, so, in case you need that particular manual you don’t have to sign up for any stinking free account – instead you get it right here…

DoIt Model No. 474045 5/2 Day Programmable Thermostat

 

Canon and Nikon together – At Last

Sometime in the dark ages – more than 15 years ago – I invested in a Nikon SLR 6006 with a nice 35-135mm zoom lens and it served me well until the dawn of the (reasonably priced) digital age. Early DSLRs were way too expensive and not worth the money, so I went with a few consumer digital cameras for some years, one of them also a Nikon, albeit not with exchangeable lens.

For many years my old 6006 sat in the closet losing value but I always had in mind  that at one point I would invest in a DSLR and then I could use the nice lens which was about five hundred bucks in the days I acquired it.

The time of the DSLR finally came in form of a Canon T4i. I had strongly considered waiting for the perfect mirror-less camera, but the deal I got on the Canon – I just could not pass up. I did not go with a Nikon DSLR because I also wanted to use the camera for video and Canon seemed to be superior in that department. Thus, I still had that good Nikon lens sitting there without any use. The idea of selling it on eBay shattered quickly when I saw for how little these cameras were traded – it really appears the time of the 35mm film is over.

I finally a reasonable offer for an adapter for Nikkor AF lenses to EOS bodies and it arrived today.

First test with that ‘good’ Nikkor lens were rather disappointing. It appears that lens technology has made long strides over the last decade and a half. The lack of transfer of data to and from the lens through the adapter (none) was no big deal, as I grew up, focusing manually and with the camera set to aperture priority the exposure was still pretty automatic – if I wanted. One feature of the Nikkor lens I was looking for was the macro range – at 35mm I could push one little button and extend the barrel quite a bit further, thus getting much closer to the subject.

Here the closes with the Nikkor

nikon-out

and the closest I could get with the Canon 18-55

canon-out

That was pretty good, but then I wanted to see how it fared when I looked closer, and this is where the disappointment took hold.

Big bad color fringes on the Nikkor lens

nikon-in

at least in the out-of-focus areas of the image while the Canon lens showed no such faults

canon-in

I will have to make some more test to see how the aperture will affect this behavior as, I believe, the Nikkor was wide open, while the Canon was exposing with the lens closed to 11. Now I start to imagine how the quality will be for a modern lens for the price of the old Nikkor, and even more so for a modern lens that I can not justify to buy.

What this little experiment really drove home to me is that the experts are right when they say that glass is more important than body.

UPDATE:

The above was written sometime in March of 2013. Since then I looked into other options of getting a closer look at things without using the macro setting on the Nikkor lens.

When it was time to buy something from Amazon with a price under the minimum to get free shipping, I added a Macro Extension Tube Set and a Macro Reverse Ring Camera Mount Adapter. The first one simply adds distance between the sensor and the lens, thus allowing to focus on objects closer to the lens (but losing the ability to focus on infinity with a ring inserted). The second allows to reverse the lens and mount it on the camera with the filter thread, allowing for extreme close-up shorts.

When I received these adapters I took my trusted lens cap and took a few shots to compare with what I could get with the old Nikkor lens. This time I was positively surprised. I got the same good quality of the image with my 18-55 lens – much better than the old Nikkor lens.

Close-up with Distance rings

Close-up with Distance ringsNow, that I have a solution to do close-up photography without the use of the Nikkor lens I can put that lens on eBay again, throwing in the body of the 6006 which I have not been able to just throw away so far.

How To Make Symbols With Keyboard

Alt + 0153   ™   trademark symbol
Alt + 0169   ©   copyright symbol
Alt + 0174   ®   registered ­ trademark symbol
Alt + 0176   °    degree symbol
Alt + 0177   ±   plus-or ­-minus sign
Alt + 0182   ¶   paragr­aph mark
Alt + 0190   ¾   fractio­n, three-fourths
Alt + 0215   ×    multi­plication sign
Alt + 0162   ¢   the ­ cent sign
Alt + 0161   ¡    upside down exclamation point
Alt + 0191   ¿   upside down question mark
Alt + 1   ?   smiley face
Alt + 2   ?   black smiley face
Alt + 15   ?   sun
Alt + 12   ?   female sign
Alt + 11   ?   m­ale sign
Alt + 6   ?   spade
Alt + 5   ?   Club
Alt + 3   ?   Heart
Alt + 4   ?   Diamond
Alt + 13   ?   e­ighth note
Alt + 14   ?   beamed eighth note
Alt + 251   ?   square root check mark
Alt + 24   ?   up arrow
Alt + 25   ?   down arrow
Alt + 26   ?   r­ight arrow
Alt + 27   ?   l­eft arrow
Alt + 18   ?   u­p/down arrow
Alt + 29   ?   lef­t right arrow
Alt + 0196   Ä   umlaut upper A
Alt + 0214   Ö   umlaut upper O
Alt + 0220   Ü   umlaut upper U
Alt + 0223   ß   german sz
Alt + 0228   ä   umlaut a
Alt + 0246   ö   umlaut o
Alt + 0252   ü   umlaut u
Alt + 0128   €   Euro

A more complete list of Windows Alt Key Codes.