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Archive for April, 2017

Mr. Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr., AKA Muhammad Ali, was not just a boxer. 50 years ago he refused to be drafted into the US Army, after having tried in vain to get the status of “conscientious objector”. I don’t like boxing, but I salute the man who followed his conscience and his principles. His example could quite well have been a catalyst (perhaps among others) of the resistance against a continued war in Vietnam.

Photo Associated Press, as published in the Washington Post

15 years later, I (unknowingly) followed his example. I just did not have to go to jail, I did about two years of “civil service”. Less mediagenic, I’m afraid.

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I’m very happy with my Galaxy S7, thank you. But given all the talk about the new kid in town, the Galaxy S8, I took the time to read Ars Technica’s review of Samsung’s new top phone. The S8 looks like a nice piece of kit, even when the fingerprint reader clearly isn’t ideally positioned – that could be a deal breaker now that I am used to unlocking a phone and tablets with just a finger.

I strongly agree with Ron Amadeo when it comes to Samsung and operating system updates:

Historically, Samsung is very bad at delivering major OS updates for its flagship device, and that looks to continue with the Galaxy S8. The latest OS version, Android 7.1 has been out for six months, but it hasn’t made it to the Galaxy S8.

It’s best to look past Samsung flagships for an idea of what future support will be like. Samsung only released Android 7.0 Nougat for the Galaxy S7 in January 2017—five months after the initial release—and we’re only referring to the very earliest unlocked models of that device. Updating the full Galaxy S7 line across carriers was a multi-month process that didn’t finish until March.

A process that didn’t finish until March? Well, here in Belgium that process still has to start, let alone finish! Since several months, I wait for a sign from Samsung that I can upgrade my S7 to Android 7. An update to Android 7.1 is even further away, it seems…

April 27th, 2017 – 23:00 EST

I know that the Sammobile website has lots of firmware downloads available, including some for the S7. But the Belgian version is explicitly destined for the models sold by a major carrier, and mine is unlocked, so I’m not (yet) risking that version ;-)

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In a blog post titled “Securing our Digital Economy“, the president and CEO of the Internet Society writes:

The truth is that economies can only function within a secure and trusted environment.

Which brings us to encryption. […]

Encryption is a technical building block for securing infrastructure, communications and information. It should be made stronger and universal, not weaker.

Stronger encryption? I’m all for it. Do I really have to explain that government-enforced “backdoors” in encryption tools will only weaken those tools – and the trust they are supposed to deliver?

Source: Shutterstock

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RIP Robert M. Pirsig

There is no way I can forget Robert M. Pirsig (September 6, 1928 – April 24, 2017). It took me a while to read his first book, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values“. Mostly so, because after the first chapter I wanted to understand, even contemplate, every paragraph he wrote.

In ZatAoMM, Pirsig wrote down the best possible description of what motorcycle riding means to me:

In a car you’re always in a compartment, and because you’re used to it you don’t realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You’re a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame.

On a cycle the frame is gone. You’re completely in contact with it all. You’re in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming.

To me, Pirsig will remain a philosopher rather than an author. That is also why from time to time, I am able to pick up his books, read a bit at a random page, then find myself contemplating his words and their implications for life in general and my life in particular. In fact, ZatAoMM is the only book that makes me do that…

My personal feeling is that this is how any further improvement of the world will be done: by individuals making Quality decisions and that’s all.

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Archive.org is publishing a series a programs, that allows any Mac-aficionado to return to 1991 and play around with old software on a modern computer. All you need is a browser, and – like me – you’ll be playing Crystal Quest again. The only drawback: I had a Mac IIsi in those days – with a colour display, and Crystal Quest comes up in a monochrome version…

And don’t worry if you do not like Crystal Quest: the site contains already a nice collection of programs, including games.

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Last week, I did loose a lot of time in what should have been a quick ColdFusion hack. My colleagues and I were just trying to set up a web service-based solution for a simple problem: they had a JavaScript page that needed a bit of data for which I already had the code in ColdFusion. So I created a new directory in an existing application, whipped up the required code in ‘index.cfm‘ to return a bit of JSON and tested the result from my browser… only to get an “Error 500 - Application index.cfm could not be found“.

Weird, heh? The required file was there, so why could CF11 not find it? Adding an ‘Application.cfm‘ did not help, neither did repackaging the code in a CFC. On CF8, on the other hand, everything worked as expected. So what was going on?

It took some time, but I did find the explanation: CF11 reserves the directory name ‘api’ for special treatment, so you can’t use it like any other directory name – and of course that was the name I had chosen! Adam Tuttle described the situation nicely in 2015:

Funny you should mention that the issue is inside an /api folder. I’m trying to track down the same problem, except I’m directly accessing an index.cfm (sort of — onRequest intercepts the request and redirects to CFCs as appropriate — it’s a Taffy API) and I’ve found that renaming the folder from /api to … literally anything else… works fine. It’s almost as if something in CF has special meaning at /api, like the special /rest mapping does.

Indeed, renaming my directory solved the problem – too bad it took me so long to find the cause. On to the next problem!

PS. Adam Tuttle has more to say on the subject, but his post on the subject has disappeared: the URL ‘http://fusiongrokker.com/post/coldfusion-11-sometimes-chokes-on-api‘ no longer points to the relevant text, but is redirected to another blog also belonging to Adam Tuttle. There, unfortunately, the post is NOT available. I won’t call this a case of linkrot, but it’s not good either. Luckily, the Wayback Machine has a copy of the page, including a few comments…

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My Palm – a PalmOne Tungsten E2, to be exact – still can be used for more than waking me up in the morning (or later ;-). Just to prove it still works, even on battery, here’s a picture of my latest Sudoku.

Dated 2017-04-11

The Tungsten E2 was introduced into the market in 2005. The funny part is, you can still buy them on Amazon. Since they can sync their data with a PC over a Bluetooth connection, they’re even compatible with the latest versions of Windows – how cool is that?

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IDG Connect pointed me to the website of Planet Computers Ltd. Planet Computers uses the Indiegogo platform to fund the development of the Gemini PDA. Basically, the Gemini PDA is a Psion Series 3/5 lookalike – but with modern hardware and running Android and a GNU Linux variant.

Could be a Psion Series 5, indeed!

I must admit that I lusted after a Psion “personal digital assistant” in the late 1990’ies. But the Psion devices were quite expensive, especially when compared to some of the quite capable devices that Palm Computing managed to build. I still have three Palm devices in the house, although these days their functionality is limited to being alarm clocks ;-)

Much as I would like to see Planet Computers succeed in making the Gemini a success, I tend to agree with the IDG expert, Francisco Jeronimo, IDC Research Director for Mobile Devices in EMEA, who..

… is sceptical of the extent to which the Gemini will appeal to buyers, citing the relatively limited uptake of the recent BlackBerry smartphones that also combined the Android OS with a QWERTY keypad.

“There’s a very small market for this kind of device. Everyone has got used to typing on a touch screen, and most users that really need a physical keyboard or a larger screen have a mini tablet plus an external keyboard,” he adds.

On the other hand, the Indiegogo campaign seems to work well, and perhaps many of the millions of Psion buyers are prepared to spend quite a bit less money on a possibly very functional device, even if it’s just out of nostalgia. We’ll see what the pundits say about the Gemini, if and when Planet manages to build (and sell) them!

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It has been a long time since I needed one, and it turned out that I did no longer have one available (installed) on my current machine: a hex editor. But there is ample choice on the web. I tried two of them: first Hex Fiend, from ridiculous_fish. You wouldn’t tell from looking at the homepage of the site, but the author(s?) has written serious code – and explanations about them to boot. Hex Fiend works well, and can supposedly handle very big files. That could come in handy.

My second test concerned 0xED, a tool (the only one?) by Suavetech. It has a somewhat different user interface, probably because it is a bit older. It works quite well too. Like Hex Fiend, it displays selected bytes in different interpretations, but it has more of them. As an extra, you can even write your own plugins to display your selection – that might come in handy if your dealing with somewhat more exotic data than text or numbers.

0xED examining its own download file

For the moment, I’ll leave 0xED on my disk.

 

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Brent Simmons isn’t a new name in this blog – I have cited his name several times since 2001. A few days ago he wrote:

It’s been years since I could build the Frontier kernel — but I finally got it building.

[…]
The high-level goal is to make that tool available again, because I think we need it.

The plan is to turn it into a modern Mac app, a 64-bit Cocoa app, and then add new features that make sense these days. (There are so many!) But that first step is a big one.

“Frontier Is Interesting”, says Jim Roepcke – click to see what he writes

It’s an interesting development, from several viewpoints. I wrote some of my first “web applications” in Frontier, and that makes that Frontier will always have a special place in my book of tools. It’s also nice to see a relevant piece of software evolve so that it continues to run on modern hardware and OS’s. At some point, I will certainly download and run a copy on my Mac.

But the question is: do I want to go back to developing stuff in Frontier? Do you want to?

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Just three months ago, I bought a Galaxy S7 smartphone, then the absolute top-end phone in the Galaxy range. Since then, Samsung has announced the brand-new S8, and Google has already release a preview of Android O.

The Galaxy S8 looks great, and I could have regretted buying an S7 if the S8 was not so expensive!

Ars Technica has a nice, enthusiastic write-up of a first “Hands-on with Android O—A million new settings and an awesome snooze feature“. I’m sure Ron Amadeo and his colleagues will add more details about the upcoming release in the coming days and weeks, detailing performance enhancements, support for keyboard devices, and more.

But why should I care about Android O, when Samsung seems to be incapable of bringing the previous release to the best phone in its current line-up in the shops? First announcements of a possible upgrade dat back to mid-2016, and Nougat has already been seen on a number of markets. So come on, Samsung! Make it happen in Belgium. I really want to see Nougat on my S7 ! Android O can wait a little longer ;-)

Google made Nougat for me, indeed!

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As Engadget writes:

It’s a tragic time for both music and technology. Ikutaro Kakehashi, best known as the founder of Roland Corporation, has died at 87. The engineer turned corporate leader got his start making electronic drums and rhythm pattern generators, but it was after he founded Roland in 1972 that he hit the big time. His company quickly became synonymous with electronic music effects, and the machines built under his watch didn’t just become popular — they changed the cultural landscape.

It’s safe to say that digital sound as we know it today would not have been the same without Kakehashi.

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National statistics may say that March 2017 was sunnier than “normal” (statistics since 1830 or so), but on our roof the numbers are different: March 2017 generated less solar electricity than the average of the previous 7 years (178.345 Wh). Still, it could have been worse: the first half of the month made it look as if the system would not even make it half way to the average. So in the end, I guess the conclusion is that March was more or less “average” when it comes to the sun. The good news, of course, is that Spring is in the air, with flowers and blossoms and fresh green all over our garden.

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