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January 23, 2012
[funny] In Which I Fix My Girlfriend’s Grandparents’ WiFi and Am Hailed as a Conquering Hero‘The people did beseech the warrior to aid them. They were a simple people, capable only of rewarding him with gratitude and a larger-than-normal serving of Jell-O salad. The warrior considered the possible battles before him. While others may have shirked the duties, forcing the good people of Ferndale Street to prostrate themselves before the tyrants of Comcast, Linksys, and Geek Squad, the warrior could not chill his heart to these depths. He accepted the quest and strode bravely across the beige shag carpet of the living room…’
January 9, 2012
[tech] Computers in space … a look at the supposedly antique technology used in space missions … ‘The ISS is packed with processors to keep its crew happy, or at least alive, but at the core of its operational hardware are the Command and Control Computers. They’re 80386SX-20s. But they’ve got 80387 co-processors! A couple even have hard drives!’
January 8, 2012
[flight] Software bug fingered as cause of Aussie A330 plunge‘The problem was fixed by turning the unit off and then on again. It’s not clear what caused the ADIRU to shift into failure mode, as this is only the third time that it has happened in over 128 million hours of operation – although one of those other incidents was down to the same ADIRU in that aircraft. The investigators checked all the usual suspects, including the use of electronic equipment by passengers, but were unable to find a fault and suggested it may be down to a high-energy atmospheric particle striking one of the integrated circuits within the unit.’
October 13, 2011
[usb] How to Plug In a USB Cable Correctly Every Time … a great tech tip – can’t believe I didn’t realise this years ago!
October 6, 2011
[apple] How Robert X. Cringely summed up Steve Jobs in 1992…

The most dangerous man in Silicon Valley sits alone on many weekday mornings, drinking coffee at Il Fornaio, an Italian restaurant on Cowper Street in Palo Alto. He’s not the richest guy around or the smartest, but under a haircut that looks as if someone put a bowl on his head and trimmed around the edges, Steve Jobs holds an idea that keeps some grown men and women of the Valley awake at night. Unlike these insomaniacs, Jobs isn’t in this business for the money, and that’s what makes him dangerous.

I wish, sometimes, that I could say this personal computer stuff is just a matter of hard-headed business, but that would in no way account for the phenomenon of Steve Jobs. Co-founder of Apple Computer and founder of NeXT Inc., Jobs has literally forced the personal computer industry to follow his direction for fifteen years, a direction based not on business or intellectual principles but on a combination of technical vision and ego gratification in which both business and technical acumen played only small parts.

Steve Jobs sees the personal computer as his tool for changing the world. I know that sounds a lot like Bill Gates, but it’s really very different. Gates sees the personal computer as a tool for transferring every stray dollar, deutsche mark, and kopek in the world into his pocket. Gates doesn’t give a damn how people interact with their computers as long as they pay up. Jobs gives a damn. He wants to tell the world how to compute, to set the style of computing.

Bill Gates has no style; Steve Jobs has nothing but style.

A friend once suggested that Gates switch to Armani suits from his regular plaid shirt and Levis Dockers look. “I can’t do that,” Bill replied. “Steve Jobs wears Armani suits.”

Think of Bill Gates as the emir of Kuwait and Steve Jobs as Saddam Hussein.

Like the emir, Gates wants to run his particular subculture with an iron hand, dispensing flawed justice as he sees fit and generally keeping the bucks flowing in, not out. Jobs wants to control the world. He doesn’t care about mantaining a strategic advantage; he wants to attack, to bring death to the infidels. We’re talking rivers of blood here. We’re talking martyrs. Jobs doesn’t care if there are a dozen companies or a hundred companies opposing him. He doesn’t care what the odds are against success. Like Saddam, he doesn’t even care how much his losses are. Nor does he even have to win, if, by losing the mother of all battles he can maintain his peculiar form of conviction, still stand before an adoring crowd of nerds, symbolically firing his 9mm automatic into the air, telling the victors that they are still full of shit.

You guessed it. By the usual standards of Silicon Valley CEOs, where job satisfaction is measured in dollars, and an opulent retirement by age 40 is the goal, Steve Jobs is crazy.

September 14, 2011
[wordpress] How to upgrade WordPress via SSH … this is my #1 geek tip for using WordPress … ‘If you know how to log in via SSH (Secure Shell Access), then you will be able to upgrade your WordPress site in three minutes or less by using the following lines of code.’
August 24, 2011
[funny] Go Look: Herbert West, Data Entry Specialist‘REAL MEN DON’T USE MENUS.’
August 22, 2011
[tech] Gizmodo: Unedited Thoughts About Technology Better Left Unposted … On Nerds:

You know more about technology than anybody else, and anybody who knows less than you is a total dipshit. I love you for that. But normal people deserve wonderful technology too. And half the shit you call computing—running custom ROMs, reinstalling OSes, fucking with network settings—is like a chef sharpening his knives over and over and calling that cooking. Real computing is the actual stuff you do—cutting videos, editing photos, writing. Or at least it should be. Not the shit people do to make all of that work.

July 29, 2011
[web] Internet protocols: Removing the internet’s Relics … On the long slow death of FTP … ‘The internet never throws anything away. Instead, engineers twiddle, update, and overhaul. The e-mail system in use today has a strong resemblance to that of 1971, just as transferring files between two machines in 2011 is, at heart, a 40-year-old relic…’
July 20, 2011
[web] Panopticlick … How unique, identifiable and trackable is your web browser? ‘…web sites may be able to track you, even if you limit or disable cookies. Panopticlick tests your browser to see how unique it is based on the information it will share with sites it visits.’ [via Lifehacker]
June 23, 2011
[books] Kevin Kelly On When Books Disappear: ‘We are in a special moment that will not last beyond the end of this century: Paper books are plentiful. They are cheap and everywhere, from airports to drug stores to libraries to bookstores to the shelves of millions of homes. There has never been a better time to be a lover of paper books. But very rapidly the production of paper books will essentially cease, and the collections in homes will dwindle, and even local libraries will not be supported to house books — particularly popular titles. Rare books will collect in a few rare book libraries, and for the most part common paper books archives will become uncommon. It seems hard to believe now, but within a few generations, seeing a actual paper book will be as rare for most people as seeing an actual lion.’
June 17, 2011
[life] Go Look: Clay Shirky’s Cognitive Surplus Statistic Visualized.
June 11, 2011
[lifehacks] F.lux … nice little software programme that automatically adjusts the colour of your computer display for the time of day – less harsh at night, brighter during the day. Available for Windows, Mac and Linux.
June 6, 2011
[tech] Information Overload, The Early Years‘But around 1500, humanist scholars began to bemoan new problems: Printers in search of profit, they complained, rushed to print manuscripts without attention to the quality of the text, and the sheer mass of new books was distracting readers from the focus on the ancient authors most worthy of attention. Printers “fill the world with pamphlets and books that are foolish, ignorant, malignant, libelous, mad, impious and subversive; and such is the flood that even things that might have done some good lose all their goodness,” wrote Erasmus in the early 16th century…’
May 17, 2011
[tech] The Art of Endless Upgrades … Kevin Kelly on an issue I’ve noticed too – I spend far to much time maintaining a few simple websites … ‘Keeping a website or a software program afloat is like keep a yacht afloat. It is a black hole for attention. I can kind of understand why a mechanical device would break down after a while — moisture rusts metal, or the air oxidizes membranes, or lubricants evaporate — all of which require repair. But I wasn’t thinking that the intangible world of bits would also degrade. What’s to break? Apparently everything.’
May 11, 2011
[tv] Adam Curtis – All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace … promotional trail for Adam Curtis’ latest documentary … ‘WE DREAMED THE SYSTEMS COULD STABILISE THEMSELVES THROUGH FEEDBACK.’
May 10, 2011
[docu] Have computers taken away our power? … Adam Curtis on his new documetary series “All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace” …

The central idea [of All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace] leads Curtis on a journey, taking in the chilling über-individualist novelist Ayn Rand, former chairman of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan, the “new economy”, hippy communes, Silicon Valley, ecology, Richard Dawkins, the wars in Congo, the lonely suicide in a London squat of the mathematical genius who invented the selfish gene theory, and the computer model of the eating habits of the pronghorn antelope.

You can see why Zoe Williams once wrote that, while watching one of Curtis’s programmes, “I kept thinking the dog was sitting on the remote.”

April 25, 2011
[life] Born Digital … some anecdotes from Kevin Kelly on what it means to be born in a digital world …

Another acquaintance told me this story. He has a son about 8 years old. They were talking about the old days, and the fact that when my friend was growing up they did not have computers. This fact was perplexing news to his son. His son asks, “But how did you get onto the internet before computers?”

April 10, 2011
[history] The Bayeux Tapestry Archiving Model … interesting view of the Bayeux Tapestry as a medium for archiving data … ‘Our understanding is that the Tapestry features 45 to 48 threads per inch which gives us a resolution approximating 47dpi with a colour depth of 8, ignoring later repairs. Thus, in information terms, the tapestry contains 2.429MB of information, assuming 1-bit per colour, 47dpi, and a 51,678.72 square inch surface area.’
March 26, 2011
[tech] Microsoft Spends $7.5m On IP Addresses‘This kind of “black market” – or “gray market” – for IP addresses has been anticipated for some time. IPv4 is now scarce, there are costs and risks associated with upgrading to IPv6, and the two protocols are expected to co-exist for years or decades to come.’
March 3, 2011
[tech] Self-Erasing Flash Drives Destroy Court Evidence‘For decades, investigators have worked with tape, floppy drives and hard drives that continue to store huge amounts of information even when the files they’re contained in are marked for deletion. Even wiping the disks isn’t always enough to permanently erase the contents. SSDs, by contrast, store data in blocks or pages of NAND-based transistor chips that must be electronically erased before they can be reused. As a result, most SSDs have firmware that automatically carries out “self healing” or “garbage collection” procedures that can permanently erase or alter files that have been marked for deletion.’
February 3, 2011
[tech] How to disable Building Font Cache Dialog of VLC Player … great tip to stop a very annoying feature of VLC.
January 6, 2011
[phones] Simplest Phones Open to ‘SMS of Death’‘In the worst cases, including the Nokia and Sony Ericsson, the message would disconnect the phone and force it to reboot, without registering the fact of the message’s receipt — in most cases forcing the operator’s network to continue sending the message and triggering the shutdown cycle again. Fixing the problem required putting the SIM card into a new, unsusceptible phone.’
December 28, 2010
[tech] How I Filled Two Dumpsters And Went Paperless With The Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500‘Organizing, scanning, and shredding all this paper took me the better part of three weekends over the course of this year, but I think it was worth it. In this post, I’ll cover some of my reasoning, methods, and tools that I used through this process. I should also note that my paperless efforts don’t just stop at recordkeeping; I’ve gotten rid of more than 95% of my books over the last year, replacing the ones I really like with digital versions on my Kindle. My paper books now all fit on one small shelf in my office.’
October 29, 2010
[mobiles] The Most Popular Phone In The World … Gizmodo looks at the Nokia 1100 and mobile phones in the third world … ‘This phone was meant to survive and to do; its only jobs are to call and to text and to create convenience for as long as possible, as cheaply as possible.’
October 2, 2010
[movies] Starring the Computer … a pretty comprehensive looking list of real computers shown in movies and TV … ‘NCIS – Season 6, Episode 13 (2009): McGee receives a parcel containing his old computers including a Mac Classic.’
August 26, 2010
[life] Placebo Buttons‘In many offices and cubicle farms, the thermostat on the wall isn’t connected to anything. Landlords, engineers and HVAC specialists have installed dummy thermostats for decades to keep people from costing companies money by constantly adjusting the temperature. ‘ [via As Above]
August 17, 2010
[tech] 1975: The First Digital Camera‘This is a prototype digital camera Kodak produced way back in 1975. The “toaster-sized” system relied on a cassette tape for recording data. The digitized images took 23 seconds to record to tape which then had to be played back using a specialized system…’
August 15, 2010
[internet] What’s the carbon footprint of… the internet?‘If we decided (somewhat arbitrarily) that half of the emissions from all these laptop and desktop machines were down to internet-based activity, and then add on the emissions from the data centres that make all this online activity possible, then the internet would clock in at around 1% of all the CO2 emissions released from burning fossil fuels. Put another way, the internet releases around 300m tonnes of CO2 – as much as all the coal, oil and gas burned in Turkey or Poland in one year, or more than half of those burned in the UK.’
August 5, 2010
[tech] On Tablets …some thoughts on iPads, magazines and tablets computers from Lee Maguire‘That was my first thought: This seems ideal for my technophobic mother. She refuses, point blank, to touch keyboards. When, as a kid, I got my first computer she asked me if I knew what all the buttons did. “That’s not an answerable question,” I told her, “the function of the keys is contextually dependant. Any key can potentially do anything.” Whoops, turns out that sort of revelation is not an effective way to cure the older generation’s fear of computers.’
July 25, 2010
[brain] Why Minds Are Not Like Computers … a long article on the history of artificial intelligence research and why it might not be possible to create a thinking computer … ‘People who believe that the mind can be replicated on a computer tend to explain the mind in terms of a computer.’
July 9, 2010
[comics] Crackpots In Computer Security … an example of the nutty emails sent to the Microsoft security team …‘HE CAN INTRUDE AT WILL. HE COULD BE VERY DANGEROUS. LAST FRIDAY YOUR DEPT HAS GPS SEARCHING, BUT THE HACKER CUT US OFF. THEN TRASHED 4 OF MY PCS.’
June 29, 2010
[tech] The Enemy Within … Interesting article by Mark Bowden on the history behind The Conficker Worm

“Take Windows,” he explained. “The understanding of Windows’ operating system, and how it worked in the kernel, needed that kind of a domain expert, and they had that kind of ability there. And we realized as a community that we were not dealing with something normal. We’re dealing with one of two things: either we’re dealing with incredibly sophisticated cyber criminals, or we’re dealing with a group that was funded by a nation-state. Because this wasn’t the kind of team that you could just assemble by getting your five buddies who play Xbox 360 and saying, ‘Let’s all work together and see what we can do.’”

June 25, 2010
[weird] Building A Homemade Nuclear Reactor In NYC‘By day, Mark Suppes is a web developer for fashion giant Gucci. By night, he cycles to a New York warehouse and tinkers with his own nuclear fusion reactor.’
June 24, 2010
[tech] A History Of Media Technology Scares, From The Printing Press To Facebook‘These concerns stretch back to the birth of literacy itself. In parallel with modern concerns about children’s overuse of technology, Socrates famously warned against writing because it would “create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories.” He also advised that children can’t distinguish fantasy from reality, so parents should only allow them to hear wholesome allegories and not “improper” tales, lest their development go astray.’
June 22, 2010
[tech] Go Look: Andrew Orlowski’s Photo Diary of a visit to the Vintage Computing Fair at Bletchley Park.
June 21, 2010
[fonts] In Defence of the Comic Sans Font‘You see it in the most inappropriate places. I once read a leaflet about irritable bowel syndrome that had been written in Comic Sans. Now that’s just wrong.’ (Holly Combs)
May 28, 2010
[tech] Predicting the Present, First Five Years of Wired … interesting selection of quotes from the first five years of Wired …‘In a world where information plus technology equals power, those who control the editing rooms run the show.’ — Hugh Gallagher
April 16, 2010
[iphone] Victor Keegan: My First iPhone App … a retiring Guardian tech writer on the thinking behind his first iPhone app …‘This month I finally left the Guardian after nearly 47 years. At the end of last week I had my 70th birthday and today my first iPhone app came out.’ [via Meg]
April 9, 2010
[weird] The Porn Detection Stick … when you absolutely positively gotta find all the porn hidden on a computer – Accept no substitutes.
April 7, 2010
[wired] Wired Reread … a blog looking back at the adverts in the early 1990’s issues of Wired Magazine – plenty of oddities like the Sony Malvica Floppy Disk Digital Camera [via Waxy]
March 25, 2010
[work] Intranet Secrets‘Our most popular intranet blog post ever was a rant that complained about the queuing system at the supermarket next door. It had even more hits than when we announced the bonus payment.’
March 21, 2010
[woz] Steve Wozniak is on Twitter: ‘Rare massage (for me), then dance practice. No pain, no gain. Awkward but fun, this dancing. I still can’t do Macarena.’ [link]
February 18, 2010
[movies] Kosmograd: Why 2010 wont be like ‘2010’ … why the imagery and portrayal of computers in the 1984 film 2010 doesn’t match up to the computers we use today … ‘Unlike the computers of 2010, the computers in ‘2010’ do not create space. The computers of the Leonov, and even HAL 9000 on the Discovery, are little more than tools or automatons, tactile and solid. Whereas HAL looked out into our world, today we look into the world created within the computer.’
January 21, 2010
[life] Two AI Pioneers. Two Bizarre Suicides. What Really Happened? … Wired on the story behind the suicides of two artificial intelligence researchers … ‘Singh was convinced that the potential of artificial intelligence was enormous. “I believe that AI will succeed where philosophy failed,” he had written on his MIT homepage. “It will provide us with the ideas we need to understand, once and for all, what emotions are.” According to Bo Morgan, a fellow student at MIT, Singh suggested that giving common sense to computers would solve all the world’s problems. “Even starvation in Africa?” Morgan asked…’
August 25, 2009
[tech] Xkcd’s Tech Support Cheatsheet … follow this flowchart and remember the other other golden rule: “Have you tried turning it off and on again?” and you will have a lucrative and rewarding career in IT Support.
June 10, 2009
[computers] The Register makes a good case for the Minuteman 1’s nuclear missile guidance computer being the first truly portable computer‘We should celebrate this wonderful nuke. Oh sure, the computer system couldn’t run “Wordstar” or a game of “Colossal Cave,” like the Osborne 1, but how many computers do you know that can destroy the world? That feature offers some serious LAN-party cred right right there. And with a three-stage, solid-propellant rocket build in, travel is a breeze.’
May 31, 2009
[retrocomputing] ZX81 Webserver … Amazing – a Sinclair ZX-81 on the internet.
March 17, 2009
[weird] Computer programmer from Finland has lost finger replaced with USB drive‘Using a traditional prosthetic finger Jerry has been able embed a ‘USB key’ – like the ones used in traditional flash drives – giving him the world’s only two gigabyte finger. The finger is not permanently attached to his hand meaning it can be removed when plugged into a computer.’
March 14, 2009
[life] Why Systems Fail and Problems Sprout Anew‘Stated as succinctly as possible: the fundamental problem does not lie in any particular system but rather in systems as such. Salvation, if it is attainable at all, even partially, is to be sought in a deeper understanding of the ways of systems, not simply in a criticism of the errors of a particular system.’ [via Robot Wisdom]

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