Making Unreadable Sites Readable

2012-12-09 09:32

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

2012-06-24 12:29

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…




2012-05-13 20:43

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.    ‣ more…



Expiring Domain Name: Lesson Learned

2012-03-08 16:53

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.

   ‣ more…



Journalistic Units of Measure

2011-12-10 16:59

(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

2011-09-03 11:11

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

2011-07-24 18:25

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 (maybe Frank Romano?): “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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Luthera Burton Dawson, 1911 – 2011

2011-07-02 19:44

My mother passed last Monday June 27. We had celebrated her 100th birthday weeks before. I have just completed her obituary (PDF); it ran Sunday July 3 in the Portland (Maine) Press Herald and the Knox County Herald Gazette (a.k.a. Village Soup).

Here is the funeral home's tribute site, at which those who knew her can leave remembrances. Donations in lieu of flowers (to a local scholarship fund) can also be made here.

Maine Public Broadcasting ran a short note about her passing. It includes a link to an audio interview (4:19) the reporter conducted with my mother in 2004. At that time they ran a series of short video pieces called Luthera's Lingo, in which she talked about Maine language and expressions.

[ 2011-07-13 ] Here is the order of service (PDF) for the memorial on July 16 at the Thomaston Federated Church, 11:00 am. (It helps to imagine it folded in half.)

[ 2011-07-24 ] Here are the four eulogies delivered at the memorial by Rev. Anne Roundy, Alice Phalen, Roger Dawson, and me.



How New England In February Is It?

2011-02-15 18:05

It’s like this as February wears on in my little New England town. Before our first (freak) 50+ degree day yesterday, it was all “Earth as hard as iron, water like a stone.” The snowplow-wrought mounds lining all the roads are grey with soot and road salt. I captured this lonely sign on the road behind the American Legion hall. The field in the foreground is where the town-wide festival is held in September. The old burying ground, dating to 1655, is to the right in the middle distance. According to the forecast, the next several days will be above freezing: maple sugaring time begins. (Click on the image for a larger version.)



Sorting the In-Laws

2011-01-08 13:12


The diagram shows three siblings and all of their spouses, and those spouses’ siblings in turn.

What is Adam’s relationship to George? And how is that different from his relationship to Larry? In conventional parlance, both would be called his “brother-in-law.” Now, all in-law relationships involve one blood bond (a sibling) and one marriage bond (a spouse). The difference in Adam’s relationships to George and to Larry is that in the former case the blood bond is near to him, and in the latter it is far from him.

So: George is Adam’s brother-near-in-law, and Larry is his brother-far-in-law.

These relationships are explicitly not commutative. Because George is Adam’s brother-near-in-law, Adam is perforce George’s brother-far-in-law.

Relationships that traverse three bonds would also likely be called “in-laws” in common parlence. For example, what is Nick to Adam? In my proposal, he becomes the brother of Helen, Adam’s sister-near-in-law.

How about still more distant relationships? Between Nick and Mary one encounters five bonds: three of blood and two of marriage. So from Nick’s point of view, Mary is the sister of George, my brother-near-in-law Carl’s brother-near-in-law.



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