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Click on the image to hear (and see) Annie Lennox and the London City Voices perform Dido’s Lament on YouTube

Historians will have plenty of time and material to unravel what happened in Washington DC on January 6, 2021. If I read my RSS feed correctly, even large parts of the preparatory conversations on Parler have been salvaged for study. Although I’m interested in what happens all over the world, I’m too far away for relevant commentary on the subject, so I’ll limit myself to point out a few interesting snippets and posts I read.

First off is a very thoughtful and reasoned statement by Martin Fowler, an eminent ‘software developer’ aka. guru who usually stays away from political comments. Let me quote from ‘The Lies that can Undermine Democracy‘:

But as much as I despise a demagogue like Trump, I also acknowledge that he’s a symptom, not a root cause. I still remember an episode of This American Life from 2016 when reporter Zoe Chace is mocked by a Minnesota state representative because she questions his assertion that cities in the U.S., such as Dearborn Michigan, are under Sharia Law. [ … ]

This ulceration of lies is why, even if Trump decides to spend the rest of his life playing golf, the problems of the last few years won’t go away. When so many people have these beliefs, they elect people who pander to them…

Dave Winer proposes an irreverent comparison (I guess HongKong would be a better choice than the Kremlin, these days):

What happened certainly was no laughing matter… but this could make you smile anyway:

Seriously, though: it remains to be seen what the long-term consequences of all the lies and mistrust will be. Not just for the USA, but for the whole world! Will there be more human casualties in the next days and weeks? Let’s hope not! What will become of US politics? What will happen to the Republican ‘party’ (parties?) ? What will the new Administration be able to do to restore some form of unity? What will all this mean for the rest of the world? What will happen to the Biggest Loser? And who will be brought before justice?

Joey Skaggs has help for those fearing presecution: you can print your very own ‘Trump Presidential Pardon‘ – don’t hesitate to get it now, because the stock is running out!

Click on the image to learn how to make your own!

You will have to read the original Github ticket – or one of its copies, in case the Github ticket were to be closed/deleted/… –  but the essence of the message is that Chrome extension “The Great Suspender” (TGS) has become a very suspect suspender. According to the ticket, version 7.18 in the Chrome Web Store does not correspond to the source on Github, and has been modified in such a way that it could (can/will/…?) be used to invisibly execute tracking or malicious code!

Copy of a tweet urging to delete TGS from your computer

I was a great fan of that extension: I’m always juggling reading material and lots of browser-based applications at the same time, and that extension made it possible to keep them all open yet limit the memory and CPU footprint of Chrome to more reasonable sizes. I read about the trouble yesterday, and did not hesitate to delete this extension from all my computers!

There is mention of a few alternatives to The Great Suspender; at least one of them is a copy of the latest “pure” version of  TGS. But at the moment it isn’t available at the Chrome Web Store and requires a bit of manipulation to get it installed properly: that’s not for everyone.

By the way: if the ticket mentioned above is too technical for you, hop over to Life Hacker or The Register get their take on the subject.

Anyway, the worst part of the whole story is that Google does not seem to be interested in doing what it should do, that being to kick the extension out of its Web Store, at least while investigating the matter. But so far there seems to have been no reply from them, even though several people, including me, reported the extensions as incompatible with the rules of the Chrome Web Store. In the words of The Register:

The Register asked Google whether it plans to implement any measures to help make it easier for people to understand who maintains Chrome extensions and to understand code changes that have been made. We’ve not heard back.

2020 is over, so here’s a quick and short report on the electricity production from our photovoltaic installation. December 2020 was a rather dark month: we did not have a single day where the sun shone from sunrise to sunset. That resulted in a measly production number, just 80% of the average.

Over the whole year 2020 the sun did quite well: an annual production of 2.086 MWh is almost average and perfectly median for our panels! We can only hope for similar (or better) results in the new year ;-)

We all know now that 2020 was a strange, an atypical and – for some of us – a horrifying year. Even though I was pretty certain that the trouble with Covid-19 wouldn’t be over by now (just add at least another 12 months, if not more), I did not have the clarity of mind to foresee so many of the things that did happen, to me as well as to all of us, since March.

But I’m not a poet, a writer, an artist; I’m not like Francesca Melandri. In March 2020, this Italian novelist wrote “A letter to the UK from Italy: this is what we know about your future“, published by The Guardian. Reading it will make you nod your head, not once, not twice, but many times: yes Francesca, that’s exactly what I did or thought…

Even now, when the crisis is far from over, it’s clear that the prediction at the end will turn out to be true:

If we turn our gaze to the more distant future, the future which is unknown both to you and to us too, we can only tell you this: when all of this is over, the world won’t be the same.

The Clearmounts smartphone holder in our Audi has won my praise, mostly because of its elegance and practicality. But I do have to mention that the mechanism that locks the grip on your smartphone isn’t the best you can have. In the position shown on the picture in my previous post about the charging cradle, it failed to hold my Samsung S7 while driving on a bumpy road (and we have lots of those in Belgium!), resulting in a cracked screen. I turned the the cradle 90 degrees to improve the grip, and that made things better – for a while.

Today, less than 3 years after its installation, the locking mechanism of the cradle has failed completely. There is no more way to use the holder. I did open it up to see if I could repair it, but whatever I tried (without 3D-printing replacement parts) there was no improvement to be made. So for the moment, I replaced it with the non-charging cradle that came in the box. Allow me to mention that we did not use the cradle on a daily basis; it served mainly when we were on holiday, so I doubt that we handled it more than 75 or 100 times…

(Image taken from the Clearmounts website – click to see more details about this product)

A a final replacement I ordered the new “Qi Gravity Cradle Wireless Charging Mount”. I do not like to fiddle with cables when using a phone that accepts wireless charging, and this Qi cradle has a bracket to hold your phone while using the cradle in its intended position: vertically! That should lessen the need to tighten the grip strongly, hopefully avoiding the fate of its predecessor. Time will tell if that’s true ;-)

The past few days our home intranet WiFi wasn’t performing as well as previously. But everything I needed worked OK (I telework on a machine that connects to the intranet/internet by cable) and my family did not complain, so all was more or less well.

Until our daughter needed to print out papers to prepare for the upcoming exams at uni. Each time she tried to print, the printer would work OK for two pages, and then the Mac complained about an unresponsive printer. So I spent an hour checking the (or even resetting!) configuration of the router and the WiFi range extender, trying to figure out on what IP address all the devices in our home were to be found. In the end, it was almost by accident that I noticed (in Fing on Android) that there existed one device on our little network with a strange identification: ‘Ikea’ was listed as brand, and ‘Xerox’ as the name of the device…

There’s the Ikea hub, close to our router…

Disconnecting the Ikea Trådfri WiFi hub brought the printer to life without any further issues, making it clear that the Ikea hub and the printer had somehow managed to “use” the same IP address 192.168.1.3. Reconnecting the Idea hub a bit later I did check that it received another, unused IP address – just as I expected that to happen all the time.

I have no explanation for that situation, since I did not force any device to use a fixed IP address on our intranet. But the situation caused a lot of frustration! I would have thought this kind of mix up could be solved by the router software, but clearly it did not.

As a sidenote, let me tell you that my daughter proposed to buy a new, “better” printer. Of course this would also have solved the problem, since a new device would (hopefully) have received a hew IP address. But that would have meant throwing away a perfectly good printer – just because of a software failure on the router. Or is there a better explanation for what occurred here?

I had not expected it, but Twitter may after all turn out to be a medium that makes storytelling possible. As an example, and without wanting to comment on the subject of this story (really!), take this thread from Twitter, written by Kenyan Patrick Gathara:

The author explains his reasons for writing this on the website of The Guardian. Recommended reading!

I know: I should have reported this a few days ago. Just so you know: the latest system update for the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ has arrived. It contains (among other things, but probably in essence) the December 1 Android security patch level.

Baseband version N975FXXS6DTK8 is here!

It goes without saying that all your other devices are better off if you keep them up to date, software-wise ;-)

We live in an era of rapidly increasing digitalisation. Hence it’s no surprise that digital systems, however complex they may be, are the subject of increasingly sophisticated attacks. If you want proof of that, take a few hours and read “An iOS zero-click radio proximity exploit odyssey” by Google engineer Ian Beer. He explains how he discovered – and “exploited” – a vulnerability in Apple’s iOS that made it possible to take over an iOS device remotely without the user knowing what happened.

If you like programming, like me, you’ll find the story lacking in code but rich, very rich, in debugging techniques. Plus a lot of detective work and experimenting – in soft- and hardware. That’s what “hacking” is about, of course, and this story is a good illustration of just how devious you have to be!

There’s not much else to say about the Sun in November 2020, at least when it comes to Belgium: our solar panels produced slightly above average. Temperatures were much above average, making for a strange combination that did not really feel like Autumn until the last two days of the month. This morning it was raining, but now the sun is back – hurrah!

When I took this photo in the summer of 2018 I was pondering how to label it: should I blame Microsoft ? Should I say something about Italians and technology? Or does no-one care about tourists? We’ll never now what we were supposed to see then…

“Impossibile avviare il computer” – indeed!

The not so funny point is that even today Google Streetview shows the exact same message on the exact same spot in Orta San Giulio (Novara, Italy), in a picture that is probably/possibly a lot younger than mine!

Screenshot of Google Streetview on 2020-11-22 – Copyright by Google, of course.

I cant’ help it: whenever I see a BMW R1100S I have to give it a closer look. Here’s a picture from a 2002 model with quite a few modifications – including a unique look!

Details (as long as it isn’t sold) on 2dehands.be

Don’t tempt me: I would love to give it a spin, for old times sake ;-)

The Android November 1, 2020 security patches – and possibly more updates – are now available on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+. Since 2021 is coming closer and closer, I wonder: should I already start hoping for Android 11 on this device?

The N975FXXU6DTJ4 update includes the November 1, 2020 security patches