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The Misadventures of Quinxy von Besiex truths, lies, and everything in between

2Mar/140

Evernote is the Worst, It’s like Hipster Software

evernote-logo-designThere are few things I hate more than when something barely worthy of note being over-hyped.  Evernote enjoys a popularity and success it has never deserved.  What it does it does only barely, arguably tolerably.  I have been a premium user for 3 years, falling for and into that only because a free premium account came with my LiveScribe pen.  Since that initial period I have stupidly, accidentally been auto-renewed (forgetting  to cancel in time); though to be fair I do not know what alternative I would use.

What has driven me nuts about Evernote is that from its debut until now it has been little more than a painfully buggy and seriously crippled MS WordPad-like app which could sync between your devices and had a web interface.  And it's just never evolved much beyond that.

Evernote is still extremely and horrifically buggy as an editor.  The worst bugs I experience almost daily are:

  • Lossy copying/cutting/pasting
  • Broken undo
  • Unpredictable and lousy content editing.

When I go to edit a note I will routinely cut some content from one place to paste in another location and find that the paste only remembered a small fraction of what I'd cut.  I cut 10 lines and it pastes only 3 of them.  This happens 10-30% of the time (primarily with lines which involve checkboxes).  This bugginess is pretty unforgivable.  You surely do not expect your text editing software to take literary license and make decisions about what content deserves to stay in your documents.

Worse, though, is that in these moments undo doesn't.  Perhaps related to the bug which loses the content the undo feature simply refuses to go back and restore the missing content back to its original location.  The content is just wholly and completely gone, for good.  I've had to resort to resurrecting past saves of the document to find the missing content.  And I now have to try and remember to alter my edit workflow and always copy, never cut, then go back and delete only when I'm sure the content has been faithfully copied.  And, of course this requires me to try and remember exactly what I'm moving within Evernote to be sure it didn't fiddle with it.  Ugh.  If I was not heavily invested in having my content in their stupid system I would surely flee to any competitor at this point.

And as if their system could get worse, editing a note is highly unpredictable.  You might be on a mobile device and find that rather than just let you edit normally it for some reason will not let you edit chunks of your note, or will only let you edit it in chunks.  I use no fancy features, I rarely paste in any photos, it's just text and checkboxes and maybe a URL or two.  And somehow this confuses it.  Formatting can change for no apparent reason, regions refuse to be modified, etc.  And these issues occur if you stick with the same platform or jump between them.

It is all just absolutely awful.  And when I try and find solutions, bug fixes, etc., I find nothing.  And I've always used the latest versions.  It just seems to me that if you can't produce a good, reliable editor then you have no business being in the document management business, and that's why I am forever amazed that Evernote has had any success, let alone the rabid success they've had.  Perhaps everyone else feels as stuck with them as I do.

evernote_crapAnother thing that bugs me, they are always promoting the "Trunk" area of their site, as if it was some sort of app store, or Chrome extension gallery, but for the most part it is just a collection of tangential merchandise, much of it not even that related (e.g., offering pens for sale).  Just a couple hours after writing this rant I received yet another email from Evernote trying to sell me something that arguably has nothing to do with document management. A back pack, seriously? Fix your damn bugs! Improve your OCR! Focus on doing your core business well, not peddling other crap.

And so that's why I feel like Evernote is like a Hipster.  It presents this veneer of cool utility while really, truly being utterly devoid of any real marked specialness or competence.

^ Q

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30Jan/140

Remapping your 101 Key Keyboards (e.g., IBM Model M) to Restore the Windows Key, Menu Key, Media / App Keys on Windows

Thought I'd share this for others using an older 101 key keyboard (like the venerable 1980s/1990s IBM Model M) on Windows.

Using this registry entry I get back my Windows and Menu key:

  • <Shift Lock> is now the <Windows> key
  • <Right Alt> is now the <Menu> key

Just save this code as .reg and double click the file to merge it into the registry, then reboot (or download the file from the link below).

Windows Registry File:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Keyboard Layout]
"Scancode Map"=hex:00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,03,00,00,00,5c,e0,3a,00,5d,e0,38,e0,00,00,00,00

You can add your own remapping by reading this Microsoft document which describes the format of this registry key and using these scan codes.

I also wrote a little Autohotkey script to make my entirely ignored number pad useful again, with media, volume, and app launching keys.

Here are some basics:

  • <Number Pad 5> is Volume Mute
  • <Number Pad 8> is Volume Up
  • <Number Pad 2> is Volume Down
  • <Number Pad 6> is Next Tab (<Ctrl> + <Tab>)
  • <Number Pad 4> is Previous Tab (<Ctrl> + <Shift> + <Tab>)
  • <Number Pad 1> is Previous Media Track (works in Spotify, Winamp, WMP, etc.)
  • <Number Pad 3> is Next Media Track (works in Spotify, Winamp, WMP, etc.)
  • <Number Pad 0> is Play/Pause Media Track (works in Spotify, WMP, etc.)
  • <Number Pad *> launches Task Manager
  • <Number Pad /> launches default browser with http://google.com

AutoHotkey Script:

SetNumLockState, AlwaysOn
Numpad8::Send {Volume_Up 5} ; increase sound level
Numpad2::Send {Volume_Down 5} ; decrease sound level
Numpad5::Send {Volume_Mute} ; Mute sound
Numpad6::Send {LCtrl down}{Tab}{LCtrl up} ; Next tab (ctrl+tab)
Numpad4::Send {Shift down}{LCtrl down}{Tab}{LCtrl up}{Shift up} ; Previous tab (ctrl+tab)
NumpadMult::Send {Shift down}{LCtrl down}{Esc}{LCtrl up}{Shift up} ; Task manager
NumpadDiv::Run, http://google.com ; Browser to Google
Numpad0::Send {Media_Play_Pause} ; Pause/play media track
Numpad1::Send {Media_Prev} ; Previous media track
Numpad3::Send {Media_Next} ; Next media track

You can just paste that into Autohotkey, compile it into an EXE, or download my compiled exe below.

Download remap_keyboard.zip (374 kb).

Instructions for Download:

Download the file, unzip it, double click the registry file to add the registry entry (reboot to activate the change), and then run the common_remaps.exe to start the number pad remapping.  I added it to my Startup folder in the Windows menu.

(The AutoHotkey script forces Num Lock on so that the hotkeys will work, you can remove that line in the script if you don't need this.)

Users on Deskthority alerted me to the tools Key Tweak and Sharp Keys, tools which lets you do much of the above automagically, through a nice GUI!  That said, the advantage of the AutoHotkey script is that you can script complex and even context-dependent interactions, which only matters if you need or want to do it.)

29Jan/140

My Move Away from the Das Keyboard and Back to the IBM Model M

modelm_4My Das Keyboard experiment was short lived.  I sent it back after a week.  The Das Keyboard was good, don't get me wrong, but it just wasn't good enough.  I was looking for something that would feel to me like an improvement over the venerable IBM Model M, and it just wasn't.  The feel of the Cherry MX Blue keyswitches was good, but not quite the same as the buckling spring Model M keys.  And the click of the Cherry MX Blue keys seemed a little higher pitched.  At $140 the Das Keyboard was too expensive to keep when I could get a refurbished IBM Model M off eBay for half the price.  And so I did.  I got a 1991 IBM Model M (1394540).  The guy who did the refurbish job made it like new, truly impressive.  And with a little "blue cube" USB to PS/2 converter it's working great on my Windows box.  The only thing I had to do was to remap some keys so I could add some of the modern functionality we expect from keyboards, restoring the Windows key, menu key, media control keys, and app launching keys.

Ah, the joys of typing on the IBM Model M.

^ Quinxy

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24Jan/140

My Move to the Das Keyboard Ultimate Model S

metadot-das-keyboard-ultimate-i50-800I'm a mostly self-taught typer.  Years of doing it have meant that I do it respectably quickly and without the need to look down (except for very infrequently used keys, e.g., F7), but the problem with being self taught is that I've never kept my fingers over the home row, and that has meant I do two big things wrong: a) if my keys went off the keyboard, perhaps to reach for the mouse or a drink, my initial resumed keystrokes are highly likely to miss unless I look down and re-orient my fingers, meaning at best I slow down and at worst I make typos, and b) my typing is dominated by my index and middle fingers, leaving my ring and pinkie fingers doing relatively little (the ring fingers jump in occasionally, but aside from the right pinky hitting return the pinkies do almost nothing), and this surely causes a slow down.  So, wanting to finally tackle this problem, wanting to boost speed and reduce typos I decided to take action.  Also, I was having nostalgic pangs for the keyboards from the 1980s, like the much loved and wonderfully clickey-clacky IBM Model M keyboard.  As a result, after a little research I went with the Das Keyboard Ultimate Model S keyboard, with the Cherry MX Blue key switch option.  This keyboard setup is pretty well regarded as the most IBM Model M-like (apparently you can also still buy remakes of the original, but the Das Keyboard seemed a better option for me).  What makes this keyboard "ultimate" is the lack of lettering on the keys, they are all, without exception, black.  No hints as to what key represents what letter, beyond your muscle memory (and normal memory).  I first learned of the keyboard about a decade ago, but dismissed it entirely as some sort of joke, seeing it as a novelty keyboard meant primarily for programmers in an office so that they might brag about their l33t typing skills.  With no one to brag to, and now a buyer, I suspect my initial dismissal was hasty.  I'm now only a day into using this keyboard and my greatest relief thus far is that I'm able to type at more or less my normal rate.  The only significant problem I'm encountering is when I switch from writing prose to coding and need to use the keys farthest away from the center, where my accuracy without looking is poor.  I've been trying to force my fingers into the home row and onto their proper keys, but then all my fingers rebel, the pinkies furious that they are being asked to do work they've never done, and my index and middle finger annoyed they're suddenly almost idle.

We'll see what comes, my old speed was 75 wpm...  here's hoping I get up to 85-90 wpm once my fingers get used to this.

^Q

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17Jan/140

Japanese Soldier Stupidly Fought WWII for 30 Extra Years

Today Hiroo Onoda died at 91.  He is famous for having refused to accept that WWII ended in 1945.  He continued to fight the war for 29 more years, living in the jungle, first with a couple of fellow soldiers then alone.  He only accepted it when his commanding officer from 1945 personally delivered his stand down orders in 1974.  Initially my reaction to the story was the same as most people's, likely similar to the feelings of the Japanese who welcomed him back home as a hero.  I was in absolute awe at his unwavering dedication to duty and commitment to honor.  If only more people were like that...

But the more I read about his story and began to think of the reality it represented the more I began to feel like everyone was reading the story wrong.  During his three decades "fighting" a war that no longer existed he killed as many as 30 locals.  He needlessly, senselessly killed almost three dozen fathers, brothers, sons, daughters, etc.   He killed them because he chose to reject reality.  Various efforts were made over those thirty years to contact him and convince him the war was over, but he rejected the evidence every time.  And so he went on killing innocent people.  But not only that, the praise which he roundly receives relates to his commitment to duty, and yet what was he accomplishing?  His final orders were supposedly to stay behind and spy on American forces.  Surely by any measure he must have done a fantastically rotten job of that.  The purpose of spying is to collect and relay information.  What information did he collect in 30 years?  What information did he relay in 30 years?  Presumably almost none.  Perhaps initially (for the first year or so) he was somewhat active in collecting information about troop movements, but clearly he had no one to whom to relay it.  And simply senselessly evading capture and killing innocent people cannot count as good spying or soldiering.  He was simply wasting his life and worse wasting other people's lives, all in the name of some blind, dumb, pig-headed honor.  I can't find anything praise worthy in that.

Why wouldn't his honor require him to make contact with his homeland?  Why wouldn't his honor require him to return to his homeland for new orders?  Why wouldn't his honor force him to realize that he was failing to fulfill his final orders and that he needed to be given new ones?  Those sorts of people we do not need.

I began the day impressed with Hiroo Onoda, and ended it disappointed in him.  Ah well...  So it goes.

^ Q

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4Jan/140

A Happy ACA (Obamacare) Subscriber

The news is filled with people bemoaning the ACA (aka Obamacare).  I am not one of them.  My situation has greatly improved.  I was a single guy, no kids, early forties, paying $650/month for a HIPAA plan with very high copays and $5,000 deductible.  I am now paying $370/month for a platinum plan (10% copay) with $500 deductible.  I couldn't be happier.

I have always been a non-smoker, non-drinker, non-drug user, and reasonably healthy.  But no insurance company would give me an individual healthcare plan, not since I was 25.  I was rejected without explanation by many companies.  Presumably they rejected me based on pre-existing conditions, but my pre-existing conditions were trivial, some mild depression and anxiety, but never hospitalized for that or anything else.  I finally got insurance through work, and was able to transition to an individual HIPAA plan after becoming a consultant.  I could not switch to anything better or cheaper, though, still no company not forced by HIPAA to take me would have me.  And I looked into the "high risk" pool coverage (the only other option) that California offered and was shocked to find it was a) expensive, b) had a long waiting list to get in, c) provided really low and weak coverage.  So, until the ACA rolled out January 1, 2014 I was stuck.

The news reporting of others' experience with ACA plans has me a little confused.  The vast majority of people seem to have had really lousy policies which didn't offer much coverage and they are now complaining that they are forced to buy a more comprehensive policy and thus pay more for it.  I have somewhat limited sympathy for those situations, because I think the reality is that those cheap policies often just wind up shifting the cost to everyone when someone who has one of those policies gets seriously ill, finds their policy doesn't provide adequate coverage, and goes bankrupt or otherwise requires the hospitals and debt agencies to eat the loss when they can't pay their bills.  The people buying those policies may claim that it's the right plan for them, the right price, and that it's just what they need, but I have to believe on a macro scale that's just not born out, that the rest of society takes a financial hit for their stinginess.  If you know that to be false, please correct me.  For the remaining minority of people making the news whose prices have gone up significantly without an increase in coverage, and without any offsetting tax reduction, I do feel very badly, and hope cheaper options become available, or other corrective measures are taken.

If nothing else, I am very glad that the health insurance system was finally forced to move away from the cruel and capricious system of excluding people because of pre-existing conditions, it was a savage system that usually unfairly penalized people who had no hand in their conditions, leaving them to fend for themselves or pay dearly for rotten coverage.  Whatever people may say about the ACA, at least it did away with that...

^ Q

3Jan/140

Why Christians Should Pay for Health Insurance Covered Abortions

I wish that we lived in a world where people could always control what their dollars directly and indirectly funded, but we don't, and Christians only seem to care when it's their money and something they believe is immoral.  Would most Christians support another person's "rights" not to have their income tax fund foreign wars/actions they morally oppose?  The vast majority of Christians would certainly not, and for that reason I cannot support their right to pick and choose their healthcare funding according to their morals.  If they want to broaden the debate, and argue that everyone should be able to refuse to contribute towards things they believe are immoral, then I'll be happy to support their cause.  Until then, we might as well all be stuck in the same boat, until we together pick a course that gets us to a better land.

^ Q

P.S. - Of course beyond issues of morality, there are lots of other purely lifestyle related costs we make others pay for.  If a couple chooses to have 5 children that can incur public schooling costs of $600k (from kindergarten through high school), that burden is disproportionately covered by those who choose to never have any kids or have just one.  As a society we have decided to pool our resources, accepting the many potential inequities, injustices, and betrayals of personal conscience.  We can't have it both ways.

28Dec/130

Note to Self: Clean Out Laptop Vents More Often!

I recently had a problem where my laptop shut down to protect itself from heat after only a few minutes of playing a game.  I'd played the game quite a bit in recent weeks, so I couldn't figure out why the computer shut down this time.  I installed Core Temp to keep track of just how hot my CPU was getting and sure enough it would instantly jump up to 200-215 F the moment the game started and hover there (max CPU temperature before shutdown is ~221 F).  Not knowing what the temperatures were expected to be playing this game, I didn't know if my situation was highly unusual or totally normal (seemed unusual, but I wasn't sure as the laptop wasn't meant for gaming).  I made a mental note to clean out the CPU and GPU vents on the laptop.  Today I did that and wow, doing the exact same thing the CPU temperatures are now 160 F instead of 210 F, a huge 50 F drop (25% drop)!  I had no idea it could make so much of a difference.  I really must remember to clean out the vents/fans once a month.

^ Q

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2Dec/132

The Unsporting Life of Deer Hunting

hunting-deer-designI understand many of the aspects of what makes hunting appealing. I like guns. I like the outdoors, and experiencing it through hiking and camping. But where I begin to lose my understanding is with the selection of deer as targets. Deer are pretty inoffensive creatures. From my contact with them, in my backyard, on hikes, on roads, at parks, they seem fairly sweet, fairly trusting, and fairly stupid. A few times a year they wander into my back yard and even with me or my dog outside they don't immediately take flight. The only real danger they represent to man is of the jumping in front of the car variety; and while that is a problem, and does take human lives, the deer are as innocent as can be in the matter. So, why pick on deer? Making matters worse is the way in which many people choose to hunt deer.  Today begins deer hunting season where I live and I just read a news article which included interviews from people about their kills and this one woman said, "The deer had just bedded down for a rest, right in front of me, and I got it!"  Umm.... That just seems so unsporting. The deer doesn't have a chance. It's not moving, it's not afraid, it's not on guard, it's just lying down to relax after a hard day of deer-ing, and this woman sees that as the perfect moment to end its life?

I knew a guy who owned a large piece of land on which he ran a hang gliding school during the summer months. Someone approached him one fall to see if the property could be used for hunting. The guy I knew politely declined, saying he didn't think deer hunting was very sporting. The man then revealed that his method of hunting was to use only a large knife, and to leap from a tree to kill the deer. The property owner changed his mind, and gave the other man the go ahead. And apparently the guy was legit and did in fact kill a deer this way. Now, I'm not sure what was involved in that hunt, I imagine some bait was used to get the deer to stray under the tree where the man was. But, still, it seems a hell of a lot better than safely dropping a sleepy buck from fifty feet away with a scope.

I can make some sense of people killing lions, tigers, sharks, (perhaps) bears, creatures that seem to possess some cunning, that require some skill to take, involve some element of personal risk, etc. But killing a friendly, curious, inoffensive deer just does not make much sense to me. And of course when hunters use automated feeders to bait and lure the animals, providing them feed for weeks or months ahead of the hunt to ensure they will be easy, docile, trusting, available prey when the day comes, I completely lose the plot.

I don't get it. Clearly I don't. I must be using the wrong yardstick to try and measure the sporting-ness and enjoyment of deer hunting. Perhaps a more realistic understanding of deer hunting is to see it as a mix of a plinker doing some backyard target shooting and a farmer killing a penned animal. It's not about giving the animal a fair chance, or any chance at all, it's about the conversion of a deer into meat and/or a trophy, with the added enjoyment of firing a gun and relatively easy target shooting. Still, it doesn't sound like fun to me. Even if the deer was animatronic, and any moral questions were suspended, I just can't imagine myself finding much delight in this type of hunting, against what seems relatively easy prey. My only experience of anything close to "hunting" is playing paintball, against witting humans, and for me the enjoyment is the challenge of getting inside the mind of the opponent, trying to do battle with his strategy, and in the skill involved in the shooting, and selecting, tuning the equipment.  If you replaced my human opponents in the paintball park with some deer wearing goggles and face masks I think I'd feel rather embarrassed to take a shot at them, least of all because they were wearing goggles and a mask; it just wouldn't seem sporting.

^ Q

1Dec/130

How is Paul Walker’s (Fast and Furious) death a tragedy*?

Actor Paul Walker of the Fast and Furious movie franchise and his friend and business partner Roger Rodas died the other day and the world seems to be mourning the loss as a horrific, unexpected, unfair tragedy, but I'm struggling to see it as they do.

Paul Walker and the Fast and Furious franchise celebrated street racing and tuning culture, directly and indirectly encouraging its growth in recent years.  Paul Walker and Roger Rodas were business partners in a tuning, custom car company, which surely supplied sweeter rides to many people who would then drive them at excessive speeds on public roads. People illegally street racing, even if it's only racing against themselves, arrogantly put others lives in serious danger for their own pleasure. Paul Walker and Roger Rodas died in a car meant for racing going (we can safely assume based on the destruction of the car) well above the speed limit on a public road. It is a horrible thing when anyone dies, but I'm struggling to understand how this situation is extraordinarily tragic.  He and the driver made a conscious choice, as they had no doubt many other times before, to put others' lives at risk by driving at excessive speed on a public road.  They rolled the dice, and this time they lost.  It feels more predictable than tragic.

Paul Walker may have been in many respects a wonderful human being, a kind and generous human being, doing more good for the world than bad, but I find it a little disturbing that so many who celebrate him and bemoan the event seem to fail to recognize the cause-and-effect nature of the accident, and how much worse it could have easily been if they had taken others' lives with them.  I don't expect people in their mini Twitter eulogies/etc. to remark about this, necessarily, but in the dozens of news site comments I've read I've not seen a single person seem to make the connection, instead I see people saying things like, "If Paul had been driving I bet this wouldn't have happened, he was a great driver."  and "If they'd been driving XYZ car instead this wouldn't have happened."  Surely a lot of people are missing the point.

Imagine if this had instead been a heroin overdose death of a great actor whose professional life involved making six movies celebrating the wondrous joys of heroin and drug culture and co-owning a company that sold drug paraphernalia.  People would mourn the loss of the actor but not fail to notice the pretty direct cause-and-effect relationship at work in the death.

If you drive recklessly and/or at excessive speeds on public roads you are selfishly risking other people's lives and your own for your own kicks.  You should be jailed until and unless you can abide by the laws and pose a no-more-than-normal risk to others.

^ Q

* I mean "tragedy" in a sense greater than that attached to anyone's death; all deaths being tragic.