OnSwipe Sucks

I have nothing really to blog about. I just created this blog on WordPress.com so I could see if there was some way blog owners could disable inflicting OnSwipe on iPad users.

There is (iPad settings under “Appearance” in your blog settings).

Now when I tell people whose blogs shit OnSwipe onto my iPad that their blog sucks on iPad, I can also tell them how they can fix it.

UPDATE: if you are wondering why there are a bunch of posts whose dates precede the date of this post, even though this post claims to be the first post on this blog, it is because I imported a bunch of posts from an older blog I had.

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Idea: keyboard for taking notes at meetings

OK, here’s another gadget I want. Someone please make this and offer it for sale at a reasonable price, please, so I can buy one.

It would pretty much be a computer keyboard, with a built-in one or two line LCD display. When attached to a computer, it functions as a normal keyboard. However, you can disconnect it from the computer, and take it with you to meetings. There, you can type notes, which you can see, and do simple editing of, using the LCD display. The device stores the notes, and when you return to your computer and reconnect it, it uploads those to the computer.

No need for fancy software on the computer, either. The device could upload them by simply sending them as keystrokes, so you just have to go into whatever program you use to store notes, and hit the “upload” button on the keyboard.

A one or two line LCD display would be sufficient, because you aren’t meant to use this to take elaborate formatted notes. It is just mainly for writing down all those short action items that you acquire in meetings, and is for those of us who just suck at taking handwritten notes and suck even more at reading those notes later.

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Idea for Credit Card Security

The credit card companies are promoting cards that have instant pay systems. You’ve probably seen the ads, where the user just swipes the card over the instant pay terminal, and the transaction is done. No signing. No ID check. The sales person doesn’t even necessarily see the card.

Sounds great, but what happens if you lose the card? Won’t it be easy for someone who finds it to use it, at least until you report it lost? Sure, you are probably limited in what you will be liable for, if you report it promptly, but it will still likely be an annoyance to get the items off your bill. It would be much better if the card would stop working by itself after you lose it, automatically.

Idea: build Bluetooth into the cards, and let the user pair them with their cellphone. When the card is about to do a transaction, it can check for the cellphone. If it does not find it, it should not allow the transaction. That way, you’d need to lose both the card and your cellphone to allow the bad guy to use your card.

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A New Word

At work, while discussing a broken piece of code, a coworker intended to start a sentence with the phrase “When this was written”, but he botched it and said “When this was wrotten”.

We have decided we like that word, and have added it to our vocabulary. It means written, but also means that the thing that was written was broken from the start.

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A Difficult Choice…

Thought experiment: aliens contact us. They have been observing Earth for a very very long time, going all the way back to the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. They have detailed records of all significant events on or near Earth since then. They’ve got the evolutionary history of Mankind, and all other species now on Earth. They have the history of every human civilization. They have copies of all the great documents Mankind has lost, such as the contents of the Library of Alexandria. Basically, everything a historian or scientist with a time machine would want to go to the past to fetch or observe, the aliens have records of.

The aliens give us a choice. They are going to give us one gift. We can choose this gift from among two choices.

The first choice is to choose the past. The aliens will give us the story of ourselves. All that information they have gathered on us and our planet will be turned over to us.

The second choice is to choose the future. The aliens will give us their technology. Interstellar travel, cheap energy, the key to understanding life and intelligence, nanotechnology, faster computers, better communications, and the necessary physics to understand all this, and more, will all be ours. This will put us about 1000 years ahead of where we are now in technological development.

Question: which would you choose?

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Making An XP Full Install Disc From An XP Upgrade Disc

Suppose you’ve got one of the new Macs, with an Intel processor, and want to install Windows XP to dual boot, using the nifty new tools that Apple released today, but you notice that they say you have to have a full XP disc, and all you have is an upgrade disc? Is all hope lost?

I’ve been doing some reading on this requirement. The reason for it is that there isn’t a way to eject the CD during the install, and so, if you are using an upgrade disc, you are screwed when it asks to see proof that you are entitled to install the upgrade.

A possible solution is to burn a new XP install CD that merges your upgrade CD and the CD that you would use to prove eligibility for the upgrade. This turns out to be fairly easy. This turns out to be fairly easy. I’ll use the Win98 CD as the proof CD, but something similar should work for other possible proof CDs.

These instructions assume you are on Linux. (If you don’t have Linux handy…it’s only a live CD away).

1. Make a directory, newcd, and copy everything from your Windows XP CD to newcd.

2. In newcd, make two subdirectories, named drivers and win98.

3. Copy all the files from the win98 directory on your Win98 install CD to your newcd/win98 directory. You do not need any of the subdirectories of win98, just the files.

4. You need to grab the boot image from the XP CD. How to do that is described at himinbi.org. Save that boot image as newcd/boot.img.

5. Make an ISO image of newcd:

mkisofs -relaxed-filenames -d -D -l -N -o newcd.iso -b boot.img -c boot.cat -no-emul-boot newcd

6. Burn newcd.iso to a disc, using your favorite ISO burning software.

You should now be able to install without having to swap discs. This is still the upgrade edition of XP, so it will ask for proof of eligibility, but you can just hit ENTER.

BTW, when it is checking for proof of eligibility, it doesn’t necessarily look at the contents of the files in the win98 directory. It just looks at the names. So, if you want to save space on the disc, say to make room to slipsteam SP2 in, you can try this:

cd newcd/win98
for i in *
> $i

That will truncate each file to 0 bytes. Do that before you make the ISO image.

NOTE: Here are instructions for slipstreaming SP2.

NOTE: I have now had a chance to try a disc made according to the above instructions, from an upgrade Windows XP Pro disc + a Windows 98 disc + slipstreamed SP2. It installed fine on my 20″ iMac, and I’m typing this from Windows right now on that Mac.

UPDATE: An 80 min CD-R is big enough to allow you to skip truncating the files from the win98 directory.

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The Security Device I Want…

OK, gadget makers, here’s the device I want. Please make it, so I can buy it.

I want a small USB device that I can use to store passwords. It should store them securely, of course, and contain a PIN pad, maybe combined with a fingerprint scanner, to authenticate the user. It needs some buttons to allow specifying which stored password you want to retrieve, and a display so you can tell what the heck you are doing.

So far, I haven’t described anything that isn’t available now, I think. (Not sure about the fingerprint scanner…). Now here’s the thing I want that sets this apart:

Once you have identified to the device which password you are trying to recall, you should be able to plug the device into the USB port on your computer, and the device should emulate a USB keyboard, and type the password for you.

Let me give a complete usage example. Say I go to my investment broker’s site. I want to log in to access my account. I would enter my account name, and then tab over to the password field on the web form, and then, on this USB password device, I’d use the interface there to tell it I want to retrieve my brokerage account password. I’d enter my PIN and put my finger on the fingerprint scanner. The device would recognize me, and indicate the password is ready.

I’d then plug the device into the USB hub in my keyboard, or the USB hub in my monitor, or the USB port on the front of the computer (you get the idea), and press the “type password” button. The device would type the password.

There would be management software running on the computer to manage the device, but once set up, it should be usable as described above, without requiring any special software on the computer (so that it would work with Windows, Mac, and Linux, and you could use it on computers on which you don’t have permission to install software).

The manufacturer could go beyond this, of course, and also offer software to intergrate the device into the system. E.g., software that could tell the device which password is needed for a given site, automatically fill in forms, and such. Manufacturers usually only bother with Windows for that, so it is important that the device be functional without such software.

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