The Misadventures of Quinxy truths, lies, and everything in between!


Motorcycle Seat as Secret Sexual Assault Device?

vib1I saw a bizarre and somewhat disturbing product advertised today, the VibeRider Motorcycle Seat Vibrator.  It is a vibration device meant for sexual pleasure that one can install discreetly in the rear seat of a motorcycle.  The device varies its vibration in concert with the bikes RPM, as well as inputs the driver makes to a control box.

I'm sure the vast majority of people who buy this device are right minded souls who will only use this with their informed and consenting partners.  But as I read comments from potential purchasers on a few different sites I realized that this device could be used to diabolically, insidiously sexually abuse a lot of women.   Someone with this device could invite a non-partner to get on the back of the bike and could then subject the passenger to vibrations which the passenger may not even know were being generated for their non-consenting sexual pleasure, rather than simply vibrations caused by the bike as part of its normal operations.   And that makes this product potentially scary, and somewhat unique in the danger it poses.

Someone walking up to a non-partner and without consent putting a vibrator against the other person's genitals would pretty roundly be recognized as sexual assault.  But I can imagine many people claiming not to understand that this is the same thing.  Maybe the offender would claim "It was just a joke." or "But the bike is already vibrating, what's the difference?"  And well, there's a quite profound difference: intent.

^ Q


Making the Best of Amazon Cloud Drive – Mapped Drive – Encryption – Speed

Amazon Cloud Drive recently relaunched with an enticing offer: unlimited storage in the cloud for $59/year.  Imagine a world in which you never run out of disk space to store photos, video, backups, etc.!  And where you never have to worry about drive failures, or backups, because they back everything up for you!

Sounds great, right?  Certainly a much better deal than you'd get with Amazon's S3 or DropBox or most of the other major players.  But, the devil is in the details...  and Amazon has made sure to this offering of theirs isn't going to break them financially.

The Amazon Cloud Drive software they provide is effectively useless.  They removed the previously available sync feature, presumably in an effort to discourage users from actually using their service.  And it is woefully weak in terms of basic capabilities.  You can drag and drop to upload (but no ability to choose a remote folder) and if you want to view or navigate your files you click a link in the app and it opens up a browser window and you have to use a very crude web interface.  There's just something so sad about software engineered purposely to discourage user's receiving maximum benefit of a service.

Fortunately there is a way around this pain point.  Amazon has made available an API that software vendors have used to allow you to map a network/local drive to an Amazon Cloud Drive.  The best products for these that I have tested are NetDrive2 (PC) and ExpanDrive (PC/Mac).  Using these products makes your Amazon Cloud Drive just like a locally attached hard drive, only much, much slower.  Amazon throttles your upload and download speed to the service, so uploads work at about 1 MB/s and downloads are at about 10 MB/s.  This limitation pretty much guarantees that they don't have to worry about you over-using their service.  To upload 1 TB it'll take you at least 12 days, assuming no errors, hiccups, problems; I've had enough trouble (timeouts, errors, etc.) transferring mere gigabytes that my primary hope of the service, freeing up local external drives by transferring the long term backups they contain to my Amazon Cloud Drive is probably not going to happen.  I can't really blame them for crippling the service in an effort to be profitable, but it does annoy me a little bit.

Beyond their crippled software and their transfer throttling, a much more serious issue exists...  Data security.  Now there are two main concerns here: integrity and privacy.  Personally, within this context, I am not worried about integrity as I would never transfer to a cloud drive like this anything which I do not also have on at least one local drive (with the exception of older system backups or files which I would not really mind losing).  Amazon Cloud Drive claims (vaguely) that they backup your data, but they provide no real details, so I cannot trust it.  But what does worry me quite a bit is privacy.  We are never more than a few weeks away from major news stories disclosing that yet another big company has had its users' data stolen.  Given that only a username and password is needed to access your Amazon Cloud Drive files, and that you do not keep encryption keys locally on your computer, I would never consider Amazon Cloud Drive a secure solution.  That said, it can still be useful as long as you never upload any files containing personal data without first separately encrypting them (using some other encryption solution).  Intriguingly I found a genius solution to this general problem.  Cryptomator sits atop your cloud drive (as its own mapped drive) and adds encryption to both the files and the file names/directory structure you create within it.  Sadly, for Amazon Cloud Drive users, it was designed with syncing cloud solutions in mind, such as Google Drive, and not Amazon Cloud Drive.  Because it expects to operate on local files which are later synced to the cloud it performs file operations directly on the files where they sit (for encryption/decryption) which seem to involve i/o commands not supported by the mapped cloud drives (I tested this in both NetDrive2 and ExpanDrive).  I have talked to the developer and may try to patch their code to see if merely making the file operations take place on a true local drive might not fix the issue.  You could use Cryptomator as you would a syncing drive service, but that means that you would need at least one extra local copy of all the content you wish to ultimately send to your Amazon Cloud Drive, and then you'd also need to sync that content in an automated way (using something like Good Sync, which I use for other things) , and that's not a viable or acceptable solution for me.  For now at least the only option is to use other products to encrypt your personal files before uploading.

So, my ultimate conclusion is that for $59/year Amazon Cloud Drive when used with NetDrive and acknowledging its serious limitations, is worth it, but only a little more than just.  I would be much happier paying $199/year for a non-crippled, effectively unlimited, and truly secure solution.



Jetico’s BestCrypt Volume Encryption Can Lead to Destroyed/Damaged/Lost Data

With the demise of TrueCrypt I moved to Jetico's BestCrypt Volume Encryption solution, having used them years ago for container encryption.  Yesterday I made the horrible discovery that there was a serious issue with their volume encryption software that caused me to lose (thus far) almost all my data on a drive.  I then discovered the problem existed on every Best Crypt volume I had created, across two computers.

Something about the recent BestCrypt's Volume Encryption version  (I was using 3.70.09) was causing problems with Windows built-in chkdsk.  I did a chkdsk on an almost new external drive I attached last month and got dozens of peculiar error messages, many like "File record segment X is unreadable."  I thought perhaps it might have been related to having to hard reset the computer after it froze the week before.

Knowing it was a BC volume I did a quick Google to see if the error came up in relation to Jetico/BestCrypt keywords and didn't see anything, so I thought it was just a disk issue.

Now, I'm clearly partly at fault for what happens next.  I knew that chkdsk /f would modify the disk, so to be entirely safe I should have backed it up.  But as it was primarily a backup drive, as it was 3 TB, as I had no other larger drives available, and as I had never seen chkdsk make an otherwise working drive worse in ~20 years of using it, I decided instead to use Beyond Compare to create a snapshot of the disk (file names/dates/folder structure only) so I could diff the post-chkdsk results with the pre-chkdsk state and see what if any files were modified/removed/etc.  I ran chkdsk /f and to my horror saw not only the huge list of "File record segment X is unreadable." but also adding 1200+ sectors to the bad clusters file and message that chkdsk died with an "unspecified error".  My drive contents were almost entirely gone.  I tried to run chkdsk /f again, same result.

In the moments after I realized I bent the rules a bit and had some things on the drive which weren't backups so I'm very sad and frustrated about that. (I'm waiting on a replacement drive so I can image the corrupted drive and see if anything is salvageable with recovery tools.)

I then checked my other BestCrypt volume (my main system drive) and sure enough it reported the exact same type of error with chkdsk (I had the wisdom not to try and fix the problem this time).

I also booted up a desktop computer on which I had initially installed Jetico's volume encryption a month or so ago as a test prior to installing it on my laptop and found that it, too, reported the same problem. That desktop is not in active use and had been idle since shortly after testing. And that computer is almost a vanilla install of Windows 8.1, completely different hardware (years older than my laptop), very little software installed (TrueCrypt was).

I contacted Jetico and they responded that they had seen this:

Thank you for using our software! We apologize for the inconveniences being in place.

With BestCrypt Volume Encryption v.3.70.09 installed, the chkdsk utility may indeed act abnormally and report
multiple errors on the encrypted drives. The effect is very rare (we have received a similar report only
twice) and could not be initially reproduced on our test systems. We've already implemented a fix and
released the updated version of the program. Please follow the link to
download the setup executable for BestCrypt Volume Encryption v.3.70.10 Run the downloaded file and proceed
through the installation wizard to refresh your installation, no advance decryption is needed. Reboot is
required for the update process to complete.

After installing the new version I can confirm chkdsk no longer reports the problems on the laptop's main system partition.  But my trashed mostly backup drive is still trashed.  My files remain gone.

I think the problem BestCrypt had must be much less rare than they realize or admit.  It happened on both of the computers I installed it on, and there were relatively few commonalities (beyond both running Windows 8.1 and having had TrueCrypt installed).

Since I could find no results when I searched for the chkdsk error I saw and Jetico's BestCrypt Volume Encryption I wanted to leave some record of it in case it saves someone else data loss.

^ Q


Balsamiq Suqs for Mockups

balsamiqThere are many pieces of software which achieve levels of success I cannot understand given their crappiness.  I've already made known my disdain (yet usage of) Evernote. Today I'll talk about Balsamiq, a tool for creating software mockups.

Most of my complaints and frustrations center around the their fervent belief that they know better than their users what features we want and how things should work.  They impose a rigidity which is painful, limiting, and often mind-bogglingly stupid.

Here are my chief complaints:

  1. Their UI library (see top bar in screen shot) insists on using stupidly huge image buttons.  Hope you have a high resolution monitor, because if you don't you're in for some screen robbing ugly.  Many programs in similar situations at least give you a small button option.  Not Balsamiq!  Workaround: Use ctrl+l to hide/show the UI library.  But why should I have to do that?  Make a small icon version!
  2. Stupidest Arrows Ever!  Their arrow element is the most unbelievably stupid implementation of a connecting arrow in any software since the mid-1970s.  Want to draw an arrow between things? In normal programs (Visio, any vector drawing program, etc.) you just drag the end points and optionally drag some middle item to change the curvature. Not so in Balsamiq! Balsamiq is just weird about arrows. The arrow you drag from the UI library can only move through 90 degrees without using one property panel item to flip it to cover 180 degrees and then you have to use another property panel item to let you flip the curvature to give you the remaining 180 degrees.  It's just confusing, screwy, and painful to use.  How on earth can people supposedly focused on great design, ready to preach to everyone about great design, create this monstrosity?
  3. Want to duplicate an item by ctrl+dragging like in most programs?  Nope!  Your only option is ctrl+d (or ctrl+c, ctrl+v)
  4. Want to duplicate an item and shift the copy horizontally or vertically only? Nope, when you duplicate or copy/paste it offsets the copy both horizontally and vertically (down and to the right) so you need to go back and re-align the item horizontally or vertically.  This wouldn't be the case if you allowed ctrl+drag!
  5. The Property Inspector (the properties panel for any object you have selected, and which you need to use) is supremely annoying, it feels like it is constantly in my way.  And their docking solution is weak and no help (it still takes up a lot of canvas real estate), and their collapse solution is of little help (since you can't see or use the contents).  Why couldn't they do what everyone else more intelligently does and make the content more compact and horizontal or vertical so it could fit in the space used in part by the UI library?
  6. The send backward feature of most intelligent programs understands that if you are performing that operation you must want the object(s) you have selected to move behind things that it is on top of. You therefore don't need to click send backward many times because you are only sending it back one time for each object below it. Not so with Balsamiq! It seems to move you backward by your z-order, meaning, if there are a billion things below you in the z-order, even if only 2 of them are under you, you're going to have to click back potentially billions of times until you happen to pass the z-order of the two items in question. Thanks, Balsamiq!  Workaround: It's not super useful, but grouping can help you through some of this.
  7. There is a companion site to the software, Mockups to Go, which has user submitted libraries of common UI elements (such as Android Lollipop UI elements).  This is potentially great!  But, don't expect to be able to copy things from the Mockups to Go files you download and use them in your existing file, because for some reason things don't look the same when you copy them into your existing documents.  Why?  I don't know.  Some missing meta information, some lost reference to something?  Whatever the case may be, it seems to mean you can only use the Mockups to Go items by using their document to build your mockup, which is limiting, frustrating and weird (in part because of the next item).
  8. Need more room on your canvas? Not so fast!  They limit the size of your canvas, you can only make it so wide or high.  Beyond that you need to create a new file.  Why not a new page instead of a new file?  See next item.
  9. Each Balsamiq file is one page, no multi-paging here, despite their restricting the size of your pages and forcing you to use multiple pages, which is therefore forcing you to use multiple files.  Hope you're good and consistent about naming schemes for pages spread across many files.
  10. Pasting in or importing an image? Hope you like messy file systems!  Balsamiq doesn't include pasted or imported images in their file format, nope they create an image file of your clipboard paste and put that in the file system, and reference imported images.  Hope you don't expect to move files around!  Maybe their main file format is XML or something, but come on, lots of XML-based programs at least zip up their meta file with their file assets, so the user just as one file to deal with.  Why couldn't you do this?
  11. Exporting a PNG? Want to pick your own name for the file? Nope! It exports the first time as the same name as the document, on subsequent exports it asks you if you want to over-write the original or pick another name. Why don't you just do it like everyone else? Let me pick a name, default to that name in the save dialog on every other save, letting me choose each time with minimal fuss.
  12. Want to scroll over to an area off the current canvas size? Nope, you can't. You need to add some object you don't want to then drag it outside to give you more room so you can perhaps think or get a more comfortable look at something.  Other programs let you scroll into empty areas, but not Balsamiq!
  13. Want to change the thickness of a vertical or horizontal line? Not allowed.  I get that this isn't a drawing program, it's a mockup program, but line thickness can convey importance and meaning and help you build widgets you might want to mockup.  But, nope, we can't be trusted to use line thickness wisely, apparently.
  14. Mouse pointer to show context related behavior? Nope, no built in mouse pointers to help you show how mouse hovers might work in a UI.
  15. Balsamiq uses simple markup to let you use text to create items which are bolded, italicized, linked, etc.  They also let you create checkbox groups this way using [ ] and [x] and the link.  But what they don't do is make these things consistently available.  One text element might support these sorts of markup many others don't.  What the hell?  Be consistent!  Why do I have to remember that this thing is a checkbox group text field and this other thing is a label text.  It's frustrating to want to add something and discover I'm using the wrong kind of text element.
  16. Want to set color of text inside an input widget? Like a light gray instead of black?  I don't know if you can.  You can't do it by using the properties inspector, where you'd expect to. Perhaps you can with markup, but I get tired of trying things in an unintuitive program.
  17. Changing the line spacing on a block of text? Not possible!  I don't want this to do fancy stuff, but a few times I've been trying to align lines of text with content from another widget (like rows of checkboxes from a checkbox group with lines of text) and it can't be done.
  18. When I try to switch between open (already loaded) documents (of moderate complexity) it takes more than 10 seconds, and that's on a nearly new top of the line i7, with 16 GB RAM, and SSD.
  19. And last but not least...  Balsamiq is a Java program, and suffers from everything that Java desktop programs do, such as clumsy, non-native interface, poor startup performance, poor UI refresh performance, etc.  I love Java, have worked in Java for years, but desktop Java programs never feel as nice as using native ones.

I am tired of fighting with this software to get things done, tired of limitations they defend as "intentional" to promote proper use of the tool.  Trust your users, empower your users, don't talk down to them, don't limit them.  Less is not always more. Sometimes a little more is more.

I am happy to have returned to the freedom and power of Visio, where arrows work and I am trusted to decide whether something should be rotated or not.



IT Innovation’s End Game: Eliminating God

In less than a century information technology has moved from crude practice, into systematized theory tested through crude prototypes, into early maturity, becoming a force critical to and ultimately driving every modern scientific endeavor. Every branch of science now relies on IT for such things as research, data collection, modeling, simulation, analysis, and results dissemination; IT can be just as much a part of protein folding simulations as aerodynamic flow simulations as Higgs Boson discovery as exoplanet data study and can help globally distributed teams work as one.

But one cannot help but wonder where it is all going, what is IT innovation’s ultimate end game? Will the forces that have always conspired to drive IT innovation ever be satiated and fade away?

I strongly suspect that the ultimate end game of IT innovation is to unseat God from His heavenly throne, to render Him a kitschy relic of less enlightened days. Belief in Him may linger as a curiosity, a nostalgic comfort from which systems of meaning, value, and ethics can be traced. But His role will be otherwise entirely supplanted. But what has He got to do with IT?

Let us first try and consider the history and forces which have driven information technology to this point. IT has its origin thousands and thousands of years ago in our earliest oral traditions and writings. We were engaged then, as we are now, in the storage, retrieval, and analysis of data. Where once a bard’s tale might have been the medium for passing along valuable life lessons, now it is more likely found on a wiki page. Where once a notch made in stone recorded the position in the sky of an unfamiliar comet for later analysis, now a row in a database is preferred. The means have changed, but the ends which information technology have served have remained the same.

We have used IT to help us understand the world in which we live, used IT to help us improve our situation within the world, and used IT to pass along the progress we have made to contemporaries as well as subsequent generations. Modern IT has not changed our nature, merely granted us the benefits of increased storage capacity, increased analytical power (manifest as computational power and an ever-deepening (and broadening) understanding of related fields such as data analysis, artificial intelligence, and math), and increasing ability to disseminate information.

When we look at our relationship with God (and religions generally) we see that for most of recorded time He has been the source of our understanding of the world in which we live, He has been our ultimate hedge against our inability to improve our situation within it (He gives reason and meaning to death and suffering), and His recorded and disseminated teachings have developed to included not only religious teachings, but also those of a more practical, ethical/moral, socially beneficial nature, that get shared and passed down for others’ benefit.

As IT furthers the progress of all areas of science it seems only natural that He will have increasingly little place left in it. We need only look at a few areas of science to see this. Medicine has as its goal the eradication of disease and improvement of everyone’s quality of life. As gene therapies, stem cell research, cloning, nanotechnology, and the like mature, lifespans will surely be extended further and further until death has been eliminated as a requirement. Furthering this end, it seems inevitable that minds will ultimately become further and further separated from physical bodies. What might begin as nanotechnological repairs of synapses or enhancements to lost memory will likely grow to carry more and more of the load of conscious thought until minds become entirely separable from biological brains. At that point we may choose to linger in the wetware of biological forms or may choose to exist only within virtual worlds built of information matrices. Either way, the question of what happens when we die, a question He has always had a ready answer for, will lose its urgency, lose its criticality, and perhaps lose all meaning. Similarly, quantum mechanics and astronomy may ultimately find its grand unified theory and be able to explain our origins to almost everyone’s satisfaction, rendering His answers effectively irrelevant. And philosophy, often seeming partnered in a dance with religion, will likely find itself emboldened, breaking into a solo, to a tune that now is not bounded by a series of lifespans but by a more comfortable, less angsty, quasi-infinite pondering. And even its most fundamental questions of “What is right?” and “What is wrong?” may not need be answered so much as peoples’ preference would need to be known, so those with compatible beliefs systems could be properly collocated, either in physical or virtual spaces. The domain of God will have yielded to the domain of science. If He retains any value it may be in continuing to supply people with some greater sense of meaning, but it will be a nostalgic group that pines for His comfort, there will be substitutes aplenty without the complexity belief in Him brings.

Through innovation, IT will bring all this, directly and indirectly. God will lose His place. It is time others see this as the natural consequence of IT innovation, either to embrace it or to rebel against it.

^ Quinxy


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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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

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, ; 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 (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.)


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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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.


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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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