Posts Tagged “annoyances”

Blocking Adblock Blockers

Published on January 9, 2019

One of our local news stations recently deployed an anti-adblock package (Admiral) on their website. It detects the presence of adblock software on the client, and prevents access until you white-list the website. The ads shown by this particular website have previously included malicious ones that attempt to deploy malware. As such, I refuse to white-list their site, having had bad experiences in the past.

While searching for tactics to sidestep this, I stumbled upon two Reddit threads (thread 1 and thread 2), both of which gave me enough information to figure out what was going on. The second thread above points to a repo of domain names used by this third-party solution for serving their adblock detection software. There are enough similarities in the domain names they use that make it pretty easy to pick out patterns. A typical pattern they employ is:

  • <adjective><noun>.com

This is similar to how default Docker containers are named. An example is, which also happens to be the domain serving the aforementioned news website instance.

Adding this domain (or list of domains) to your adblock filter list should block the adblock blocker.

Floor Lamp Trouble

Published on December 30, 2018

My wife and I have had three floor lamps, all purchased at different times, fail in the same exact way (the third failed tonight). In each case, the crappy concrete base falls apart and the lamp separates from it. Here are some photos:

Crappy lamp base
Poorly constructed concrete lamp base
Crappy lamp base (alternate view)
Underside of the lamp which broke away

We will now institute a “no floor lamp” policy in our household, seeing as these things are so poorly manufactured. Has anyone else had this experience?

Font Rendering & Firefox Hardware Acceleration

Published on April 11, 2013

By default, Firefox ships with the Use hardware acceleration when enabled option turned on. Unfortunately, Firefox has a number of font rendering bugs under the hardware acceleration umbrella (the following are a select few):

As a result of these bugs, I’ve run with hardware acceleration disabled on my personal systems for quite some time. This, however, has resulted in an unforeseen consequence with my web development. The apps and pages I’ve developed look great in every browser, except stock Firefox! I only recently ran into this issue when I re-enabled hardware acceleration on my work laptop (in the process of creating a new profile). To my horror, several sites I had developed looked pretty terrible, my photo site being one among them.

I have since rolled out an updated stylesheet to my photo site, fixing the problems that showed up in stock Firefox. It should (hopefully) still look alright in all other browser variants (if you spot a bug, let me know). It’s worth knowing, however, that enabling hardware acceleration in Firefox is a worthwhile thing to do if you develop things for the web. The underlying bugs in the rendering engine may bring out underlying flaws in your design.

Stack Overflow Hates New Users

Published on January 4, 2012

Update (Sep. 26, 2016): See my updated post on how I think new user’s should approach Stack Overflow.

Stack Overflow has always been a better-than-average resource for finding answers to programming questions. In particular, I have found a number of helpful answers to really obscure questions on the site, many of which helped me get past a road block either at work or in my hobby programming. As such, I decided I’d join the site to see if I could help out. Never before has a website given me a worse first impression.

In an effort to keep the community as clean and orderly as possible, new users have very little rights from the get-go. On paper, this is a pretty nice idea. In practice, it makes it difficult for new users to gain any traction. I read through a number of questions today and had several comments for the original poster. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make my comments, since new users cannot post comments on articles they themselves didn’t write (you have to gain “reputation” in order to gain that privilege). Posting my comment as an “answer” to the original question seemed like bad form, so I didn’t do that.

Looking elsewhere around the site, I found a few questions I felt I could answer. As soon as I went to answer said questions, someone else (in some cases, a number of other people) had jumped in and beaten me to the punch. I never had a chance to provide a helpful answer. Not only do you have to be very knowledgeable about a subject, you’ve also got to be very fast in providing said answer. I eventually did provide an answer for a question, then realized that my approach wouldn’t work. Before I could take action and modify the answer, my submission had already been modded down by several people, several of whom left snarky remarks. What a warm welcome for a new user! I subsequently deleted my answer.

I later searched the Meta Stack Overflow site, looking for advice for new users. It turns out I’m not the only one who thinks that it’s very easy for new users to get dumped on. Take a look at the questions revolving around new users on the site, and note how a number of them revolve around how hard it is for new users to improve. Documentation for how best to contribute as a new user is sorely needed.

The folks who manage these websites need to examine the barrier of entry for new users. I fully understand the need for keeping spammers and trolls out, but someone needs to develop a tutorial (or better yet, a set of tutorials) for how to properly use the website. New users do occasionally need hand holding, especially with websites as complicated as Stack Overflow. I think the community as a whole would benefit, and it would certainly help people like me who have been quickly overwhelmed by what the site offers.

The Day the Computer Died

Published on August 26, 2010

My desktop computer at home has been giving me some occasional graphical problems ever since I updated to Windows 7. I have the latest and greatest drivers for my graphics card, but every so often I get graphical trash on screen that, usually, corrects itself. Tonight, it seems to have died for good. I can’t get the system to boot reliably, even after trying to reseat the card. To add to my woes, I’ve also been having the occasional “double-beep” at startup, indicating that I have a memory problem. This has been an issue ever since I switched to the abit motherboard I’m currently using.

Anyways, I’m going to bite the bullet and buy a bunch of new hardware to fix all of this. New motherboard, CPU, memory, graphics card; the whole shebang.

If you have recommendations as to what to buy these days, I’d sure appreciate it. I’ll be putting in some orders ASAP, so the sooner you can recommend something, the better.

Website Email Headaches

Published on April 7, 2010

I’ve recently had a perfect storm of email woes here at this site. Last month, my email servers changed at DreamHost (for reasons I still don’t fully understand), breaking all of my approved SSL certificates (not to mention my SMTP settings). Around the same time, I updated to Thunderbird 3.0 from 2.x. The new interface is bizarre, and I’ve only had problems from day one of the upgrade. As such, I am now actively working towards moving all of Born Geek’s email (including this website) to GMail.

Unfortunately, someone is apparently squatting on my domain over at Google Apps. I attempted to reset the account password there, but no secondary email address is on record, making things much more difficult for me. I have started a manual password reset process (via proving to Google that I do indeed own the domain), and hope to have things up and running by this weekend.

Long story short, any direct emails sent to me through the contact form at this website may not be answered for a while. Please bear with me during this painful process.

Firefox Adding a Ribbon?

Published on September 23, 2009

It is being reporting that Firefox will replace menus with an Office-style ribbon interface. Personally, I couldn’t be more against this. I’m no fan of the Office ribbon (it takes up way too much screen real estate and looks clunky), and I fail to see how this interface will make things better for the user. Mozilla is known for screwing around with the GUI, however, so I won’t be surprised when something like this shows up. I can’t imagine how this change will affect many extensions out there, like Googlebar Lite, that add UI elements.

What do you think about the Office ribbon interface? And what do you think of this decision? Thankfully for me, someone will undoubtedly come out with a theme to fix this stupid design decision. Consider me signed up for it already!

Animation: Not Just For Kids

Published on September 9, 2009

A recent newspaper review for the new computer animated movie 9 warned that the movie isn’t necessarily kid-friendly, and that young children will most likely be scared from the post apocalyptic setting. Shouldn’t the PG-13 rating indicate that kids under 13 probably shouldn’t be watching it anyway? Why does the reviewer jump to the conclusion that, because it’s animated, the movie is for kids? It frustrates me that Americans think animation belongs solely to children. The medium should be taken way more seriously than it is. Foreign films like Princess Mononoke (another PG-13 film) are proof that animation can be used successfully for adult topics. Someone out there needs to buck the current trend and develop an animated movie purely for adults; maybe something that’s rated R. Though I can only imagine all the angry parents complaining that the movie was “too adult” for their kids.

Why can’t Americans just grow up?

WordPress 2.8 = FAIL

Published on June 17, 2009

If you use WordPress, I advise against upgrading to version 2.8. I attempted to do so to this site this evening (via Subversion), and everything appeared to go smoothly. Unfortunately, upon logging in to my admin panel, I noted that everything was broken. The external site still performed as expected, but I couldn’t get around in the admin area.

Zero steps forward, twenty steps back.

Maybe others will have better luck than I did. I have since reverted back to 2.7.1 for the time being, though my database may now be corrupt. If you notice anything funky around this site, please, please, please let me know.

Those Stupid Age Gates

Published on June 16, 2009

A recent trend among websites for games that have a “M for Mature” (or similar) rating is the use of age gates. These gates require the user to enter their birth date before they can view information on the subject in question. Usually, the user is presented with three pull down menus: one for the month, one for the day, and one for the year. From a legal perspective, I can understand why companies want to use this feature. But who are these gates really keeping out? Every kid should know that by providing an old enough date, they can gain access to the site. After all, this isn’t rocket science.

Every time I visit a website with one of these gates, I enter the most ridiculous date possible by selecting the oldest year offered (usually 1900). Maybe if enough people enter ridiculous dates every time, this annoying website ‘feature’ will go away.

Giant Grocery Portions

Published on April 19, 2009

It’s no surprise to anyone that obesity in America is getting worse every year. This animated map shows the progression in the US between 1985 and 2007, and it’s quite a depressing sight. Lots of factors are contributing to everyone’s weight gain: poor eating habits, no exercise, etc., but part of the blame certainly lies with food manufacturers. In recent times, food portions have increased by an incredible amount, and they only seem to be getting worse. Not only are the larger portions contributing to our weight gain, they are also making it much harder for people like me to shop in the grocery store.

Before I go much farther, I must confess that I’m not a big eater. Growing up, I knew guys who could eat two or three times as much as I do at each meal. And there are plenty of my peers today who can do the same thing. So I realize that I’m already starting out on the low side of the curve. However, this doesn’t change the fact that food manufacturers have gotten out of control with portion management.

Shopping for one is difficult enough to begin with, but I’ve noticed that it’s gotten more so in recent times. While at the grocery store recently, I picked up some potato chips for lunch through the week. The bag I bought had “20% more chips free,” making it even larger than the normal bag (which is a little too big to begin with). A sign below the bags of chips offered the following deal: buy 2 get 2 free. So, you have to buy four bags of chips to get a deal! Who in their right mind eats four, full-sized bags of potato chips? Even in reasonably sized families, that’s an insane number of chips to buy at once.

Similarly, doughnut manufacturer Krispy Kreme apparently no longer sells their half-dozen doughnut boxes. Instead, they offer a new box of 9. Every once in a while (maybe once every two months), I used to pick up a half-dozen doughnuts and eat them through the week with my breakfast. By the end of that week, the last doughnuts had nearly grown stale, but were still good enough to reheat. A box of 9 would certainly not last the way I eat them.

There are plenty of other examples, but these two stick out in my mind since I encountered them recently. If food manufacturers would provide smaller portions, at somewhat lower prices, I would be able to enjoy their products more often and I wouldn’t be wasting perfectly good food. As an added bonus, I wouldn’t eat as much, and would feel better as a result. Does anyone else feel the way I do?

A Stupid Interview Question

Published on March 20, 2009

Back in the spring of 2005, after having graduating from college, I went looking for a job. I got the chance to interview for Microsoft, though I’m not sure what I would have ended up doing had I gotten the job (they never really told me). My interview was conducted entirely over the phone, and consisted of the typical “brain teaser” type questions that Microsoft is famous for. Needless to say, I performed very poorly and was instantly rejected. The guy on the phone said he’d let me know and, 10 minutes later via email, I knew.

One of the questions they asked me stumped me beyond belief, and I butchered my answer terribly. Not only was I embarrassed for myself, I was embarrassed for the interviewer, having to patiently listen to me. 😳 Anyway, here’s a retelling of the question I was asked:

Given a large NxN tic-tac-toe board (instead of the regular 3×3 board), design a function to determine whether any player is winning in the current round, given the current board state.

I realize now that I misinterpreted the question horribly. The interviewer stated the question quite differently than I have it written above; I believe he used something along the lines of “given a tic-tac-toe board of N dimensions …” I assumed that the bit about dimensionality meant delving into the realm of 3 or more physical dimensions; essentially something like 3-D tic-tac-toe. Obviously, solving such a problem is much more difficult than solving on an NxN 2-D board.

Tonight, for whatever reason, I recalled this question and the fact that I never found an answer for myself. Happily, I subsequently stumbled upon someone else’s answer (see question 4), which is quite clever. It’s good to finally resolve this problem.

I know interviewing candidates for a job can be tricky, but asking these kinds of questions is silly. Does someone’s ability to answer this kind of question really prove they are a better programmer than someone who can’t? In the end, I’m eternally glad I didn’t get hired for Microsoft; I now realize they are one of the companies I would least like to work for. My current employer seemed much more concerned with real-world problems, my previous employment experience, and the (increasingly rare) ability to program in C++. For that, I am oh-so-grateful.

If I Ran the Oscars

Published on February 22, 2009

If I ran the Academy Award ceremony:

  • The host would be a news reporter, chosen specifically for their inability to make lame jokes.
  • Said host would read the award category, the nominations, and the winner, without any pauses or cuts to montages of said nominations.
  • Award presentations that no one cares about (best sound editing, best art direction, best makeup, etc) wouldn’t be televised.
  • Award winners would receive their award on a side stage with no podium or microphone, thereby removing their ability to give an acceptance speech.
  • The entire award ceremony would be 30 minutes long.
  • Nielsen ratings for the event would be at an all time high.

Hold your applause, please.

Microsoft Ships Rogue FF Extension via Updates

Published on February 2, 2009

It appears that Microsoft is quietly slipping in a Firefox extension with updates to the .NET framework. The extension is named “Microsoft .NET Framework Assistant” and, based on the description, “Adds ClickOnce support and the ability to report installed .NET versions to the web server.” According to reports, this extension:

  • Cannot be uninstalled through Firefox
  • Changes the Firefox user-agent string
  • Does God knows what else

Happily, people have figured out how to uninstall the extension. This move seems pretty dirty to me, but Microsoft has been pointed in this direction for some time now. If you find yourself ‘infected’ with this piece of malware, do yourself a favor and remove it.

Christmas Jingles Go Away!

Published on November 28, 2008

Here it is, one day after Thanksgiving and the official start of the Christmas season, and I’m already sick of Christmas songs. Earlier this week, while shopping in a local Bed, Bath, and Beyond, I was treated (or was it tortured?) to the sounds of ‘contemporary’ Christmas tunes. You know, classics like the hip-hop version of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” or a techno-influenced rendition of “Deck the Halls.” I’ve never been ‘in’ to Christmas music per se, but I suppose I can consider myself ‘out’ of it at the moment. Apparently, everybody who’s anybody in the music industry has recorded an album of Christmas songs. And there exists an unwritten convention amongst retailers that these songs are to be crammed into shoppers’ ears. You know, so as to “get them in the spirit.”

I’m all for celebrating Christmas. In fact, it’s my favorite holiday of the year. But I think it’s time that we, as a society, take things down a notch. Christmas displays went up at stores as soon as Halloween was over, and in some cases, days before. Holiday commercials are being aired on TV and radio every 5 minutes, each one with its own variation (nay, perversion) of a beloved Christmas tune. Like Andy Rooney says:

It ought to be against the law to start Christmas before December.

Television Reception Woes

Published on November 17, 2008

A while back, I noted how I was planning on watching my television over the air. I recently bought the Antennas Direct DB2 Multi Directional HDTV Antenna. I started out by placed the antenna next to the TV, pointed in the direction indicated by Reception was OK, but could have been better.

Thanks to the fact that my house is prewired for cable, I was able to move the antenna to an upstairs bedroom, and wire it directly to my television in the family room downstairs. This helped, but didn’t fix things. My dad helped me mount the antenna outside on an old satellite dish mount. Again, the hope was that this would help my reception. And again, I’ve been disappointed.

Unfortunately, my antenna is ‘looking’ directly through a line of trees about 100 feet behind my house. When the weather is windy, my reception is really bad (and it’s been very windy here recently). As such, I’ve been disappointed with the antenna.

Does anyone here get TV over the air? If so, how do you maximize your signal strength? I’m getting frustrated with my current setup, and I’m not sure how to proceed. Cable television is ridiculously expensive, and I like having stations in HD. But my options seem so limited. Anyone got any tips?

Time-Warner Gets Grabby

Published on February 5, 2008

Slashdot is running a story on how Time-Warner is considering moving to a per-gigabyte service fee. According to them, 5 percent of their customers use over 50 percent of the network. So, because of these few “bad apples,” they’ll make everyone pay more. Steven Levy of the Washington Post has an interesting theory that Time-Warner is trying to hobble movie rentals via iTunes (trying to keep their pay-per-view stuff alive in the process).

I hope above anything else that this ‘idea’ of theirs never sees the light of day. Capping folks at 5-gigabytes (which is their current idea … can you believe that?) is incredibly poor judgment. This kind of thing will single-handedly destroy the online viewing capabilities of Netflix, it will ruin online gaming, and it will make MSDN subscriptions irrelevant.

And that might just be Time-Warner’s ultimate goal. Let’s hope they fail in every way possible.

Three iTunes Annoyances

Published on January 21, 2008

There are a few gripes I’ve got with iTunes, all of which revolve around my subscriptions to podcasts:

1. Large downloads freeze iTunes (and sometimes the entire system) upon completion.
When a large (~250 to 500 MB) video podcast file has completed downloading, iTunes will completely freeze up. It feels to me like this hang is related to copying the file from a temporary download location to the intended destination (which is undoubtedly what iTunes is doing). Seeing as iTunes is a multi-threaded application, this should not, under any circumstance, happen. It should spawn a child thread to do the copy operation in the background, so that I can still use the application. Every once in a while, I even see my entire system hang up during this operation, which is doubly bad.
2. Some video files cannot be recycled immediately after viewing them.
After completing a video podcast, I find that I cannot immediately recycle the corresponding file from within iTunes. If I try to do so, the entry in iTunes is removed, but the file does not get removed! To recycle the file properly, I have to shut down iTunes, start it back up, and delete the entry. Somewhere a handle isn’t being released properly, and the file remains locked. Again, this is a bug that could easily be solved.
3. The Windows screen saver screws up video playback.
If you have iTunes installed on a Windows system, try this experiment. Get a video file through iTunes (a video podcast for example), and start it playing. Pause the video and walk away from your computer for a while. Allow the screen saver to turn on and, when it has, come back to your computer. When the screen saver is cleared, try to play the video again. What happens? No video! This particular bug has existed for years (I’ve seen forum references to this bug as far back as iTunes 5 and 6), and it’s apparently a known bug at Apple. That they don’t get around to fixing it is very intriguing to me.

When Hosting Goes Wrong

Published on January 15, 2008

I got an email this morning mentioning the following:

This is just a notice that your DreamHost Account #XXXXX has a balance of $71.34 (including any charges not due until 2009-01-23), with $71.34 due (since 2008-12-23).

What?!? I renewed my subscription about a year ago (if I remember correctly), and I got a 2 year renewal, meaning that I should still have about a year left. Furthermore, I completely used rewards money to pay my bill (since I had it available), so my credit card was never charged to begin with. Thankfully, the credit card they have on file for me had expired, but I’ve lost all of my referral rewards! Needless to say, I was pretty upset by this. Then I found this post over at their emergency status blog: “billing issues“. It seems like something went wrong, they know about it, and are fixing it.

I have yet to get my money back, and I have no doubt they’ll fix the problem, but it bothers me nonetheless. This problem, coupled with the DreamHost hack seen back in June, are starting to concern me. Not to mention the fact that the server this blog is hosted on has degraded in performance drastically over the past several months. It might be time for me to find another web host. I’ll be sure to keep you posted.

Update: To their credit, DreamHost has corrected the issue.

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