Giving Google Advice


It’s what we all love to do, right? “Search would be really useful if only…”

And a thousand thousand slimy things
Lived on; and so did I.

What I want is for Google search to do the right thing when I ask it to sort the results by date.

Say Google has presented me the first 10 of 2.6-odd milliion results. The ranking by rele­vance is, of course, pretty good (modulo years of sleazy SEO and other gaming of its algorithms). Now what I want to see is the relevant results, sorted with the most recent first.

When I tell Google to sort by date, what I get is: 2.6-odd million almost exclusively crappy results, sorted with the most recent first.

Google: you have already lifted the useful 100 out of the vast steaming ocean of slimy results. Why throw them back now?



Apple Missed an Opportunity to Make’s UI Slightly Less Unusable



I was happy to see a usability improve­ment show up in’s version 9.1 in the recent El Capitan update (10.11.1). But Apple missed the refinement to this improvement that would make life easier for power users of email.    ‣ more…



The New “Support”


Dropbox exemplifies it.

I have a free account with over 7 GB of storage, built up in the early days when few knew about DB and I got bonus gigabytes by proselytizing it to friends & colleagues. You’d think that loyalty might count for something? Think again.

I knew that free accounts get back-of-the-bus service in terms of timeliness. But this does take the cake.

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Making Unreadable Sites Readable


White text on a black background. Yellow on grey. Puce on green. Not only are they unreadable -- for those who spend most of their screen time looking at things with a white background, these inverted sites mess up the eyes' adaptation. Read a couple of paragraphs of white on black and, when you go back to a more conventionally formatted page, the afterimage will degrade the reading experience for half a minute or more.

I use the bookmarklet below every time I encounter an inverted page. It changes the background to white and the type to black. As my eyes age, I'm finding the greater contrast helpful even on those modern, design-heavy sites that use grey-on-grey.

I found this bookmarklet years ago on some hacker's Web site; no idea who or where, and I can't find any trace of it online now. So I'm posting it here as a public service so others may find it.

Drag the link to your bookmarks bar and when prompted, give it a name. I have named mine "mono."




How Not to Be Tracked


This note describes the steps I take routinely to keep from being tracked online by advertisers, publishers, social networking sites, and other parties desiring to profit from information I consider personal and private. The steps below constitute pretty much what is required not to be tracked today. Few have the patience to do so much work to safeguard their own privacy.    ‣ more…





So after 17 years of running servers on the open Net, I got hacked on March 2.

Or as Jon Cox (@generic_person) put it, with probably greater accuracy: “It’s more realistic to say ‘I detected my first hack.’”

I discovered the break-in by finding an unknown file in /cgi-bin on one of my domains. When I brought it down to my local machine for a look-see, it triggered ClamXav. (Yes, since Flashback I run AV routinely on the Mac.)

Dan O’Neill (@dkoneill) did most of the heavy lifting in figuring out where the vulnerability was. I owe that man so many bottles of wine by now… Cases…

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Expiring Domain Name: Lesson Learned


I work with a non-profit that has had a Web presence since 2000. They changed their name a couple of years back and rebranded everything around the new name. The old domain hung around, and even though it forwarded to the new one, it caused confusion and brand dilution. The director wanted it gone.

We let the old name expire.

Big mistake.

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Journalistic Units of Measure


(Added 2011-12-10, 18:52 EST: Wikipedia trumps it, as always: the list of unusual units of measurement features many, but not all, of the units below. Hat-tip to @starc.)

The human hair

"The trick is to fabricate a lattice of interconnected hollow tubes with a wall thickness 1,000 times thinner than a human hair," said lead author Dr. Tobias Schaedler of HRL.
link [ ]

The dime

Verbatim Store 'n' Stay USB is Smaller than a Dime
link [ ]

The credit card

The Planon SlimScan SS100 is a credit card-sized high-resolution color scanner, designed for scanning and keeping track of receipts.
link [ ]    ‣ more…



How To Move A Mailman Mailing List Between Domains Or Servers


I have a VPS (virtual Private Server) running CentOS 5.4 and Plesk Web-hosting management software. Under Plesk, Mailman is installed; this mailing-list management package is not necessarily present by default in Linux distributions.

I host a few dozen domains with a number of Mailman mailing lists scattered across them. Recently I had occasion to move a mailing list from one domain to another on the same server. It was not immediately clear how to go about this, and Googling didn’t turn up much that was helpful. So I’m documenting the process here in case it proves useful to others.

The technique, with suitable modifications, works as well to move a list from one Linux server to another.    ‣ more…



Hanging Punctuation in CSS3


In the 1980s, I worked for a company in the business of text processing. This was Texet Cor­por­ation — it lived from 1982 to 1987, and it is well-nigh impossible to find any reference to it on the Internet now. (LinkedIn has an ex-employees group.) Texet made a hardware-software system — later software only — aimed at professional doc­u­ment production departments in cor­por­a­tions. For a time I was in charge of the wish­list and require­ments for future versions of the pro­duct.

“Hanging punctuation” was a feature that had been on the list from the beginning of the com­pany, but it was never deemed important enough to bother speccing out, let alone implementing. One quote I read at the time somewhere in the industry: “Two people in the world care about hanging punctuation, and both of them work at the Poetry Foundation!”

Hanging punctuation is a style of setting type in which certain punctuation marks fall outside of (to the left or right of) the margins in fully justified text. The theory behind it is that punctuation marks, being so small and taking up so little of the cap height as they do, break the visual line of justification. For this reason full cap-height marks such as ! or ? are not commonly hung.

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