Archive for the ‘misc’ Category.

The snow day meme

BuzzMachine… by Jeff Jarvis:

Has anybody else heard this: Our kids suddenly started wearing their PJs inside out. Turns out all the kids do it when they’re hoping for a snow day. It’s good luck, says the meme.

My kids added the embellishment of sleeping with a spoon under your pillow.
It sure does make me wonder where these things arise and how long they’ve been circulating before I hear about it.

Domain Registrars & RegSelect

Reinstall Windows XP without product activation

Sniptools | Tips/Tricks | Reinstall Windows XP without product activation:

Isn’t it galling that we need to contact Microsoft for “permission” if we choose to reinstall a product that we already legally own and use, and have “stamped” so before?! Well, no worries, there is a trick for getting around product activation for Windows XP when reinstalling.

Amazon’s 800 number

Kevin Kelly — Cool Tools:

No other merchant online or offline has provided the ease and accuracy of ordering as Amazon does. Still, in my experience there are occasionally glitches that their email-bots can’t deal with, usually entailing a minor billing snafu. In these rare cases you need’s almost-secret real-person customer service telephone number. You won’t find it on their website. I once got it by calling 800 directory assistance. In any case, they make it hard to find because a call costs Amazon more, so you should jot down this number for those special moments when only a human will do: 800-201-7575.

“Ditto” from me. Thanks for the legwork.

Microsoft ships GPL’d software


Their Computational
Clustering Technical Preview Toolkit
includes the
PLAPACK Parallel
Linear Algebra Package, which is released
under the GPL
Microsoft also ship some GPL’d GNU utilities in their Services
for Unix

Intel’s Open Source Machine Learning Library (OpenML)

Intel Software Accelerates Development Of Computers That ‘Anticipate’ The Needs Of Users: Intel adds open-source
Probabilistic Networks Library to its already-released Computer Vision and Audio-Visual Speech Recognition libraries.

NTT stimulates inner ear

ABC News Online (Australia): Electric currents to control game players’ posture:

Japanese telecom giant NTT has succeeded in controlling human posture by applying weak electric currents and is aiming to use the technology to develop realistic simulation games, an official said on Monday.

Researchers have found they can control how human beings position themselves by sticking tiny electrode patches behind the ears, said Minako Sawaki, a planning division official for Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp’s Science and Core Technology Laboratory Group.

The electrodes are connected to a remote control device enabling a weak electric current to be administered to affect the part of the inner ear that controls the sense of balance.

Researchers found they could change the posture of people by manipulating the electric current, which is at an extremely low level, Minako Sawaki said.

NTT hopes to use the technology to develop more realistic games for driving and flight simulation, making players’ bodies lean as they corner or pull gravity inducing turns at the controls.

The Fable of the QWERTY Keys

Stan Liebowitz: The Economist: The QWERTY Myth:

A fine tale, but largely fiction. The paper by Messrs Liebowitz and Margolis shows, in the first place, that the first evidence supporting claims of Dvorak’s superiority was extremely thin. The main study was carried out by the United States Navy in 1944 (doubtless a time when every second counted in the typing pools). The speed of 14 typists retrained on Dvorak was compared with the speed of 18 given supplementary training on QWERTY. The Dvorak typists did better — but it is impossible to say from the official report whether the experiment was properly controlled. There are a variety of oddities and possible biases: all of them, it so happens, seeming to favour Dvorak.

But then it turns out — something else the report forgot to mention — that the experiments were conducted by one Lieutenant-Commander August Dvorak, the navy’s top time-and-motion man, and owner of the Dvorak layout patent.

This LEGO robot solves Rubik’s Cube

Workarounds for certain old DVIPS-generated PostScript files

This is for the benefit of other RH9 or URW font users googling for a solution to this problem:

Valek Filippov <> distributes
the URW fonts, modified to include Cyrillic characters.
The RedHat 9 and RawHide distributions are tracking his version.

The problem is some old versions of the Tex converter DVIPS generated PostScript code that depended on fonts having an executable FontBBox attribute (defined
with curly braces ‘{‘ ‘}’ not brackets ‘[‘ ‘]’).

The following PostScript code dumps the FontBBox of every font (one way to run it is to pipe it into GhostScript with the command “gs -sDEVICE=nullpage”):

FontDirectory { exch == /FontBBox get == } forall

and it turns out that the fonts Times-Roman AKA NimbusRomNo9L-Regu
and Helvetica AKA NimbusSanL-Regu are not executable under the default RH9 install.

The problem PostScript code generated by the Tex converter DVIPS,

/Helvetica findfont begin FontBBox 4 array astore

One published example that demonstrates this bug is:
this TR from MIT, but there are
plenty of others.
I speculate that the idiom arose from an early (also buggy) Apple LaserPrep file.

The GhostScript error produced when these fonts are installed is like this:

Error: /stackunderflow in –astore–
Operand stack:
false FontBBox –nostringval– –nostringval–
Execution stack:
.runexec2 –nostringval–
–nostringval– –nostringval–
2 %stopped_push
–nostringval– –nostringval– –nostringval–
false 1 %stopped_push
1 3 %oparray_pop
1 3 %oparray_pop
.runexec2 –nostringval–
–nostringval– –nostringval–
2 %stopped_push
–nostringval– –nostringval–
–nostringval– –nostringval– –nostringval–
Dictionary stack:
–dict:1050/1123(ro)(G)– –dict:0/20(G)–
–dict:93/200(L)– –dict:207/270(L)–
–dict:12/14(ro)(G)– –dict:12/13(L)–
Current allocation mode is local
GNU Ghostscript 7.05: Unrecoverable error, exit code 1

I have posted bug reports to Valek Filippov and to the developers of the pfaedit tool, and I hope that will result in new releases of the fonts that are more tolerant of this historical DVIPS error.
George Williams, author of pfaedit,
has pointed out
the relevant text in the PostScript Reference Manual:

In many Type 1 fonts the FontBBox array is executable, though
there is no good reason for this to be so. Programs that access
FontBBox should invoke an explicit get or load to avoid
unintended execution.

but has expressed willingness to change his pfaedit font editor to produce fonts with executable FontBBox.

In the meantime, system administrators can manually edit the fonts themselves, e.g., on RH9, edit /usr/share/fonts/default/Type1/*.pfb and make sure all FontBBox definitions uses braces not brackets.

Or, if you want to fix the incorrect code in your old dusty-deck DVIPS-generated PostScript files, you can use the following shell script:

perl -pi.bak \
-e ‘s@(?!/)FontBBox(?= 4 array astore)@currentdict /FontBBox get aload pop@’ \

Note that the
URW fonts distributed by the GIMP project do not tickle this problem (but they probably don’t include the Cyrillic characters either).