A Slice of Life

commentary on issues in politics, culture, environment and technology

07 Oct 11 Time to rethink the Steve Jobs iShrines?

steve jobs ishrineIsn’t the recent outpouring of emotion over the passing of Steve Jobs taking things just a little too far?  Midnight vigils at Apple stores?  Shrines? Millions of tweets, blogs, articles conferring almost saint like status on the ex Apple CEO?  Steve jobs certainly was a visionary.  Yes, he had some wonderful ideas but contrary to popular belief products such as the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad, while they may have transformed the consumer electronics market are not likely to solve world hunger, the energy crisis, the GFC, climate change or terrorism and wars.

Steve Jobs the man was apparently arrogant, selfish and inconsiderate.   While these attributes may well have helped him to find his path to success they would have been hardly likely to be endearing  to those that knew Jobs personally.  Apparently Jobs approached working relationships with a similar attitude, setting very high standards and regularly reducing to tears those who fell short of his vision. (more…)

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04 Oct 11 Mac vs PC: are you as free-thinking as you think?

The two characters from the ads who personify ...

Image via Wikipedia

The image of ‘Mac’ and ‘PC’ have become one of the most recognisable dichotomies imaginable; PC is unfashionable, old fashioned, straight-laced etc. while Mac is of course creative , cool and free-thinking.  This advertising campaign has been so successful that many involved in creative fields think it impossible to edit images or audio on a PC.  This is of course garbage and has been debated ad nauseam for longer than most of us care to remember.  An operating system is an operating system and most software will work on most systems, regardless of the platform.  If you want to pay twice the price for your system, go for a Mac; it may actually be marginally more reliable and you will of course have the added bonus of thinking how creative , cool and free-thinking you are.  It is of course possible that you are a good less free-thinking than you imagine.

Long before the advent of the iconic Mac vs PC ads, over 90% of the world’s population took to wearing a uniform very similar to the guy on the right.  Running shoes, jeans and T-shirts have become  obligatory for almost everyone.  This kind of outfit makes an undeniably bold fashion statement; I’m not trying too hard, I’m relaxed, I’m being myself, I’m not conforming to outmoded fashion trends.

The problem is of course that most of us are conforming very closely to a fashion trend which may not be outmoded but is undeniably highly unimaginative, non creative and really very boring.


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02 Jul 11 How To Fix an Overheating Laptop that Shuts Down Randomly

dusty laptop heatsink

image courtesy of Edmund Tse

My Dell Inspiron 1525 started to overheat and shut down randomly just after the warranty expired.  The machine starts feeling very hot to touch shortly after it starts up.  Applications run slowly or display the ‘not responding’ message, then, with absolutely no warning, the computer suddenly shuts down.  Any unsaved work will of course be lost.  I put up with this for a while; pressing Ctrl + S frequently I could manage to keep working and usually get over an hour of use in before the laptop shut down, but before long, the problem had become worse and I could only get the thing to run for 10-15 minutes.

I took my laptop to the local computer repair shop.  The technician told me that the problem was most likely caused by a faulty hard drive or faulty RAM.  When I came back to collect it, he told me he had installed a new hard drive, new RAM including an extra Gb and had upgraded the OS to Windows 7 (the 1525 came with Vista Home installed).  None of these measures worked.  He said that he had tried everything he could think of and that he couldn’t fix it.  At least he didn’t charge me for the privilege.This of course left me feeling very frustrated.  Dell won’t repair machines not covered by warranty and I was feeling like I had been conned.  Judging by the number of posts around on this problem this is a very common problem.  Thread like this one are filled with various solutions to this problem, most of which don’t get you anywhere.  They are also filled with angry comments and suggestions that users with this problem should take out a class action against Dell.  This is understandable but in actual fact, the problem is quite simple to fix and not the manufacturer’s fault, although they could perhaps provide a little more information on problems like this.

How to fix this problem:


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14 May 11 Have You Sold Your Soul to Facebook?

A tag cloud (a typical Web 2.0 phenomenon in i...

Image via Wikipedia

Some time ago Facebook changed it’s image viewing feature.  There was some discussion at the time around the social media traps, many commenting that they weren’t in love with the changes but eventually this died away and most seem to have accepted the changes without thinking too much about them.  The problem is, sooner or later you realise that the changed layout means you can now only view images, you can’t actually download them.  This may seem like no big deal but the implications are actually quite sinister.


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03 Jan 11 Flash not working in Firefox? Solution: downgrade

CHARLESTON, SC - NOVEMBER 29:  Rev. Dick Reed ...
Image by Getty Images via @daylife

I had noticed that for some time Flash had not been displaying properly in Firefox.  In fact, not displaying at all, yet behaving absolutely absolutely normally in Internet Explorer.  I had ignored this but when you have to design web pages that require some Flash content the problem becomes impossible to ignore.  I tried the usual Mozilla support forums and came across helpful pages such as ‘Flash not working properly after update to Firefox 3.6.7‘, but of course, the problem remained.  I tried numerous other trouble shooting fixes, some of which involved uninstalling then reinstalling the Flash plugin while others involved creating a new user profile within Firefox.  I’ve lost count of how many solutions I tried but none of them worked.  The problem seems to be quite widespread judging by the number of people reporting to Mozilla that they too have this problem.

The solution was incredibly simple as is usually the case…


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05 Jul 10 Referees Clowns but FIFA Remains Ring Master #worldcup

2014 FIFA Announcement (Joseph Blatter) 7

Image via Wikipedia

In the aftermath of a succession of what must have been some of the most awful refereeing decisions in football history, FIFA President Sepp Blatter has issued a statement saying that FIFA will re-open the debate on the use of video technology later this year. Well, he had to respond in some way; the poor decisions have been highly embarrassing and have surely compromised what has otherwise been a very entertaining World Cup.  In actual fact, FIFA remains resolutely opposed to introducing any kind of technology.  FIFA has said it wants to maintain ‘the traditions of the game’.  If the current mess is the outcome of staying with tradition, perhaps the tradition of the referee as absolute judge isn’t all it might be.

FIFA’s stubborn stance harks back to a time when people mostly accepted authority almost without exception.  Once a decision has been made, referees obviously feel they have to stick to it whether right or wrong or risk having their authority undermined.  This might have been easy to get around in the past, but with half the world watching on high definition TV, persisting with this position has become untenable and really, completely farcical.


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09 May 10 The Golden Age of (Digital) Piracy?

The Pirate Bay LogoThe period known as ‘Golden Age of Piracy‘ lasted from the 1650s until the 1720s. Colourful characters such as Henry Morgan, Captain Kidd, Blackbeard, Sam Bellamy, Calico Jack Rackham and Anne Bonny (yes, there were even female pirates!) perpetrated outrageous deeds on the high seas with near impunity until the authorities finally cracked down using a divide and conquer approach. During the Golden Age, pirates posed a serious threat to shipping and even held whole towns to ransom. An increased Royal Navy presence in the Caribbean and the the offer of pardons for pirates seriously reduced their numbers and by 1725 pirates no longer posed a serious threat.

The early 21st century may well have seen the Golden Age of Computer Piracy come and go. Those that argue for a free internet have many supporters. Wasn’t the internet originally set up to allow a free exchange of ideas and information between individuals? Surely Tim Berners-Lee never envisioned the commercial juggernaut it has become.

Colourful organisations like The Pirate Bay and other file sharing sites have come and gone (remember Napster?). It’s interesting to note that even The Pirate Bay’s logo is not covered by copyright. Under ‘permission’ on Wikipedia Commons, the following is listed:

This work is labeled as Kopimi, meaning that the copyright holder of this work does not only release it, but specifically requests that this work be used and copied for any purpose, including unlimited commercial use and redistribution. It is believed in good faith that a work classified as Kopimi is free to use in any way, including modification and the creation of derivative works.

Given The Pirate Bay’s free internet position, they could hardly copyright their logo. Specifically requesting that the content be copied for any purpose might well be a novel and successful promotional strategy. Making your brand as visible as possible might well be enough of a benefit to offset all that illegal file sharing but this, of course, is never likely to happen.

The game is up for The Pirate Bay and their brethren, just as it was for Blackbeard and co. back in the 1720s. The stakes are simply just too high. The large content corporations are circling and pumping an ever increasing stream of financial and legal resources into crushing digital piracy. NEC has created a pirated film detection algorithm with a 96% success rate. More and more control will be taken from the user until any use of digital media will be strictly monitored and restricted. Using the internet will be subject to just the same level of control. If the odd 13 year old girl is dragged through the courts for downloading a few Justin Bebier tracks so be it; just collateral damage.

It has never been reasonable for corporations to target little people like this but it has happened often enough. Many have argued that corporations that make their content accessible via the internet for profit bear the responsibility for safe guarding their products. If products are not copy protected, should individuals be prosecuted for copying them? Before very long, copy protection technology will develop to the level that will only allow us to use digital media in the precise manner intended by the providers and will render all these arguments obsolete.

Brave idealists might try to oppose the corporations but it is a battle they can never win. Soon the golden age of the internet might well be nothing more than a dim memory.

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05 May 10 Windows Desktop Search Solution for Vista

Internet Explorer 1
Image via Wikipedia

At last!  I have finally fixed the annoying indexing problem in Outlook 2007 that I’ve been obsessing about for the last few days.  I must have trawled just about every site on the web with discussion on how to fix the problem including the automated MicrosoftFixit‘ solutions with no success.  Every time I tried to search in Outlook I got an indexing status message with thousands of entries to process and nothing happening.  Going to the control panel > indexing options > advanced > rebuild index also had no effect.  I got a message indicating indexing was not running due to user activity.  I made sure I was doing absolutely nothing; still no success.  Grrr.  There are any number of solutions out there; going to control panel > administrative tasks > services > Windows Search , starting, stopping service, going to tools > instant search > search options in Outlook 07, selecting, deselecting folders to be indexed etc. etc.  Still no effect.  Grrrrrrrrrrrrr.

The solution turned out to be very simple:

  1. Install Service Pack 2, unless you have already done so.  If the ‘modify’ and ‘pause’ buttons are not available in control panel > indexing options reinstalling SP2 might well be the solution.
  2. Indexing options, Services > Windows Search all look okay but Outlook still won’t search?  A corrupted registry is most likely the cause.
    Download this registry update
    *I found Internet Explorer was the best choice for downloading this update.
    *Select ‘Open’ and allow the update to run
    (it’s safe; it can be found in it’s orginal context here: http://www.vistax64.com/tutorials/85803-index-windows-search-service.html an excellent tutorial which I followed to the letter with no success.)
  3. With SP2 installed and the registry update installed, my Outlook search now works perfectly, and I didn’t even need to restart my computer!

If your problem persists, rebuilding the index might be the way to go.  Try this:


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08 Nov 09 How To Change Weblink Sort Order in Joomla

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve been adding new links to the weblinks section of my Joomla installation (Sliced Wikizine)for some time now and have managed to build quite a nice collection of very cool Web 2.0 type links in a range of categories (including: Animation Blogging Code Graphics Web Design Social Media Multimedia Writing and Online Tools )

One thing that always bothered me was that the new links I added always displayed last on the list of links. Of course, links can be manually reordered using the admin backend but I couldn’t help thinking there had to be an easier way.

Of course there is…

To change the sort order of weblinks, you need to edit one file in your Joomla installation. Go to: yoursite/joomla_folder/components/com_weblinks/models/category.php

Edit the file ‘category.php’ (It’s a good idea to download a backup copy of the file first, just in case…). Use notepad or another text editor to edit the file. Code editor in cpanel works just fine.

Between lines 224 and 231 you’ll find this statement:

$query = ‘SELECT *’ .
‘ FROM #__weblinks’ .
‘ WHERE catid = ‘. (int) $this->_id.
‘ AND published = 1’ .
‘ AND archived = 0’.
‘ ORDER BY ‘. $filter_order .’ ‘. $filter_order_dir .’, ordering’;
return $query;

Make this change on line 229:

$query = ‘SELECT *’ .
‘ FROM #__weblinks’ .
‘ WHERE catid = ‘. (int) $this->_id.
‘ AND published = 1’ .
‘ AND archived = 0′.
//’ ORDER BY ‘. $filter_order .’ ‘. $filter_order_dir .’, ordering’;
‘ ORDER BY date DESC’;
return $query;

What we have done is commented out the line //’ ORDER BY ‘. $filter_order .’ ‘. $filter_order_dir .’, ordering’; to make it inactive. All links will now be sorted by date in descending order (most recent first).

Other sort options can be created by using these fields: url, title, description, date, hits.

For example, you could sort all weblinks alphabetically by title by changing the statement which now appears on line 230 to:

‘ ORDER BY title ASC’;

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