Archive for category Things that are Busted

Fix OSX’s weird (mis-)mapping of the home and end keys

So, one of the things that drove me nuts about MacOS/OSX for years is Apple’s non-standard mapping of the home and end keyboard keys to start-of-document and end-of-document.

The non-standard key combinations CMD+ and CMD+ are used to perform BOL and EOL instead.

Here’s the problem: That is not how it’s been done on other platforms that long pre-date MacOS/OSX or even the Mac itself. I typically switch between multiple operating systems every day, and consequently, coming back to MacOS/OSX fouled up my typing/editing every time. So I went looking for a solution. I found one in Karabiner.
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Some answers on Climate Change

Someone asked some questions on climate change elsewhere, and I took some time to answer them. I’m cross-posting the questions and my responses here for the benefit of any of my visitors who might have similar questions:


Why should I support fighting climate change?

Do you have kids? Are there any kids in your near family, or do friends have kids you care about, or (reaching, but) do you care about kids in general? Because if this isn’t stopped, they’re going to be at least miserable, and possibly much worse.

What action should I take to help reduce climate change?

Change, if it’s coming at all, must come from both the top and the bottom.
Starting with your own actions… drive less, set your home to warmer in the summer and cooler in the winter, keep appliances off that don’t need to be on. Do this even if you’re in an area with hydro or other non-stank power, because power you don’t use can be shared to other areas that may not be hydro or other relatively clean power. Unless you’re 100% power independent, for instance, if you run your own isolated solar installation.

How much money is it going to cost me?

Your own actions will probably save you money, potentially quite a bit, but how much depends on your present circumstances. Next is getting your representatives — senators, congresscritters, the president — to take political action, which can be much more effective, but is comparably much more difficult to achieve. They can fund the science and technology that will be needed to counter the effects, and they can set emissions regulations that can slow the onset of the more serious problems somewhat, thus providing more time for the science and tech folk to create and implement remedial counters.

What will happen if I do nothing?

In the nearer term… food shortages as crops have to be moved to more northern temperate bands into the hands of farmers who are unfamiliar with them, and as ocean acidification increases and blows out the balance of life there, resulting in changes that may in fact turn out to be catastrophic — a lot of the world depends upon the ocean as a food source. If it’s unavailable to them, they’re going to want the other foodstuffs, and that will change the market price and availability — not in a good way. Violence is definitely possible over this issue. Harsher weather, generally speaking warmer and carrying more intense storms. In the longer term, some ocean rise, which will cause people in low-lying coastal areas to relocate, which will (a) reduce the available real estate people can live on, and (b) destroy or very seriously inconvenience all businesses that are presently operating in those locations.

End game… probably this will get solved, IMHO, but it may be well into some of the above problems before it is if our politicians and citizens don’t get after it. If it isn’t solved… might be pretty much apocalyptic within a few hundred years. Worst case… runaway warming… ever look at the climate of Venus?

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I’ve figured out politics

Often, we look at the activities of politicians and we fail to understand what they’re doing, or why they’re doing it, or both. The politicians themselves would generally like you to believe they’re playing 4-dimensional chess.

But that’s definitely not it. After many decades of observation, I’ve learned that what is actually going on is:

The game is checkers.
Angry checkers.
Being played by monkeys.
On a Go board.
With poop.

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Some observations about the news

I think it’s important to keep in mind that $$$-based journalism tends to have built-in mechanisms for all kinds of spin and/or information hiding. This is useful when considering not just what we are reading, but how and why it managed to get in front of our eyes. The following list, while not complete, serves to highlight some of the filtering going on:

  • The advertisers extend yea/nay force directly to the owner / publisher / board with $$$
  • The owner / publisher / board extends yea/nay force downwards to the editors and reporters
  • The editors extend yea/nay force downward to the reporters and the stories
  • The reporters extend yea/nay force to the choice of stories
  • The editors apply tone force to the stories
  • The reporters apply tone force to the stories
  • The reader’s reactions apply force upwards and this will slowly but strongly moderate the tone of the stories as the nature of the audience makes itself clear to the journalistic enterprise.
  • In some enterprises, the political correctness of a story will affect selection and tone
  • In other enterprises, backing agendas will affect selection and tone
  • The nature of the story – for example, “if it bleeds, it leads” can force other stories out, because drama=$$$ and there’s only X amount of time/energy to cover this or that, and advertisers primarily pay for eyes, and journalism, unfortunately, almost always devolves to a $$$-counting undertaking.

Long story short, the news that reaches us may not be the news that is most important to us, the coverage that highlights the details we should really know, or even remotely even-handed. All those pressures and factors are there almost all of the time, in almost all of the news.

On top of this, we may harbor various biases that are based on misinformation, social indoctrination (the long resistance to LGBT is one example of a source of this, as is the so-called “drug war”), and dogma from from various sources.

IMHO, much thinking is called for. My observation is that there isn’t nearly enough thinking being done by many. :/

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OSX Sierra crash recovery

Well, that was unpleasant.

Without any warning, my Mac Pro began failing to redraw web pages. Presuming that Safari had become unstable, I commanded a reboot.

The reboot process got to 1/2 progress bar, then the machine shut down. Repeated several attempts, same results. Not just Safari then.

Time to recover. First I slapped a new HD in there, then used CMD-R (hold while powering up, keep holding until you get a dialog) to initiate recovery using the First Aid application from the original drive. The drive checked out okay as far as file integrity, but apparently (hopefully) the OS had developed some damaged boot settings. So. Time to recover to a new drive. I have a time machine backup on a different drive, but as it looked like the original drive was okay according to the tests the disk utility made on it, I decided to try to recover right from there. So off I went, installing OS X 10.12.6 on the new HD.

The dialog initially told me that 5 minutes were remaining. That stayed up for an hour without any visible changes in the progress bar. So I opened the log window (it’s in the Window menu of the first aid window) and saw that the progress value was at about .02%; 1% is complete (trust me, it’s not 100 as you would expect. .5% is halfway done.) It was changing, but very slowly. So I knew I had quite a wait ahead of me.

Twelve hours later, the install finally put up the OS X setup dialog. The progress bar dutifully moved from 5 minutes to 4, 3, 2, 1 and zero (Over 12 hours!?!?) as the percentage indicated in the install log window climbed towards 1%. I mean, come on. Really? I know Apple’s been lagging behind on software quality, but… really? This was over a 30 Mb DSL connection, btw. I can (maybe) understand the trickle rate of the download (Apple’s so poor they can’t afford a good connection, as all know) but the 5 minute indication… that’s just pitiful, shows a serious lack of QC.

Anyway… the recovery went well enough, if glacially, that the machine can be rebooted now, and it looks like most things are intact (not everything… recent file lists are clear, for instance) so I guess my griping can’t legitimately rise above some discontented mumbling.

It was a very unpleasant experience, though. If you have to reinstall Sierra, be aware that you can expect the dialog to bald-faced lie about the install time, and I suggest you open the log from the Window menu so you can see what actual progress is being made.

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Kenwood and Yaesu, where are you?

ICOM’s R-8500, IC-7300, IC-7610 and IC-9700 are making huge impacts on AROs everywhere. This is no surprise to those of us familiar with SDR technology; older analog radio designs simply cannot offer the kinds of performance advantages a good SDR design can.

However, one thing these radios from ICOM have in common are some poor design choices; spectrum span choices are crippled compared to a center/demodulator tuning scheme; spectrums and waterfall displays that are insufficiently adjustable; noise blankers in the least useful portion of the signal path; insufficient “knobbiness”, so that the user interface of the radio is a great deal more clumsy than it actually needs to be.

The opportunity for Kenwood and Yaesu is clear: there’s an opening here to step in and knock ICOM off the hill they climbed up on.

Imagine a stand-alone SDR transceiver where:

  • You could conveniently place the spectrum/waterfall anywhere
  • You could adjust the amplitude/level of the waterfall and spectrum separately
  • The noise blanker reduced the noise on the display as well as in the audio
  • The display was capable of high resolution output to a monitor
  • Transmit pre-distortion provided very high quality TX
  • Important controls were given their own front panel placement
  • Full mouse/trackball integration was standard
  • Broadband IQ output was available for external use
  • Multiband EQ and compression / limiting for TX audio was provided

These are just some of the obvious places where ICOM’s radios, thus far, have fallen woefully short.

Yaesu? Kenwood? Where art thou?

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2009 Mac Pro with DVI and HDMI displays – restart problems

So I bought a new (old) Mac Pro; late 2009, 12/24 core, 64GB, NVIDIA GeForce GT 120 512 MB. It’s running macOS 10.12.3 Sierra. I hooked up one monitor to the HDMI port, and one to the DVI port. Seemed to work fine.

Until I rebooted the machine.

Then it refused to show the mouse pointer (Apple magic mouse), although It would warn of the mouse’s disconnect and reconnect if I powered the mouse up and down. Likewise, there was no response to the keyboard. It just sat there showing login options for me and a guest; it wouldn’t respond to anything at all I did with mouse or keyboard.

After trying power downs, pulling the plug for a while, pounding on the keyboard, powering the mouse up and down, I finally thought to pull a connection to a monitor. Specifically, the DVI-connected monitor. Immediately the mouse pointer showed up, and I was able to log in.

Up to this point, I had the machine set up so that the HDMI monitor was on the left, and was my home (boot screen) monitor. That’s the one you drag the menu bar to in the Prefs / Displays panel. But I noticed when the machine booted, it showed up on the DVI monitor first, then the HDMI monitor, and then it locked up.

So, still booted up after all this screwing around, I swapped monitor cables, then set the DVI monitor to be the home monitor, as the left monitor was now my DVI-connected monitor instead of my HDMI-connected monitor.

Now the machine restarts cleanly, or at least, it has a few times in a row.

So if you’re having this kind of problem, after the login screen shows, try pulling one or the other or both of the monitor cables to see if it will unlock the mess. And make sure the DVI monitor is your home monitor once you get things running again.

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On Civil Disobedience

Today, the Guardian published remarks by Michael Hayden, former director of the US National Security Agency, with regard to Edward Snowden’s actions in revealing our government’s immoral actions against its own citizens. Here’s what Hayden said:

If Snowden really claims that his actions amounted to genuine civil disobedience, he should go to some English language bookstore in Moscow and get a copy of Henry David Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience. Thoreau points out clearly that civil disobedience gets its moral authority by the willingness to suffer the penalties from disobeying a law, even if you think that law is unjust.

Here’s the problem with the whole “it’s the law and must be obeyed or suffered” paradigm:

The law said slavery was okay and provided for punishment for trying to escape slavery. The law said repressing women’s right to vote was okay, and provided punishment for women who tried to vote. The law said informed, consensual personal choice of sexuality was not okay, and punished people for such choices in the bedroom and elsewhere.

First, none of those things are actually okay. Those laws were (and remain) immoral and wrong; and more to the point, anyone who charged anyone under those laws was immoral and wrong, anyone who advocated punishment under those laws was immoral and wrong, and of course, anyone who applied punishment under those laws was immoral and wrong.

Second, with regard to Henry David Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience, which (essentially) says that the moral authority for civil disobedience comes only from being willing to suffer the slings and arrows of an unjust law’s unjust punishment, not only no, but hell no.

The moral authority for civil disobedience comes directly and inevitably from the fact that the law is morally wrong.

There is no moral authority in advocating, creating, obeying or enforcing a law that is wrong, nor in simply declaring “it’s the law” as a rationalization for an imaginary duty to obey that law. Only moral failure.

For instance, when a law is made that says (or supports the idea that) involuntary slavery is ok, there is nothing that can make that law moral. There is nothing that can make enforcing that law moral. There is nothing that can make obeying that law moral. There is nothing that can make disobeying that law immoral. The only moral path available to the individuals subject to that law is to outright disobey the law. Anything else is immoral.

If you want the law to have moral authority, the only way you can achieve that is to create moral laws.

The very first step in that is to make absolutely certain the law is not trampling on any individual’s informed consent, or allowing one individual to trample on another’s informed consent. If the law can’t pass that bar, it is not a moral law. Anything else is tyranny.

Our central problem in this regard is that our politicians and a very large number of the people they have appointed are, in fact, immoral individuals acting contrary to the interest of the public at large and every individual they are supposed to be working in service of. Not to mention breakers of the oaths they took that give them the moral right to hold the offices they sit. They don’t deserve to be supported in any such undertaking. They deserve to be kicked in the shin. Hard.

Now, yes, it is true that in fighting immoral government acts, you may indeed suffer at its hands. That is the core nature of immoral law; it does wrong. But that is a far cry from any legitimacy for the conception that says you should so suffer. Thoreau was flat-out wrong. So is Hayden, acting as an echo chamber for Thoreau. And just so we’re perfectly clear on the issue of the day: Snowden was, and remains, right.

If you would like to take away a money quote about law that is moral in its characterization of law, rather than the sophist nonsense Thoreau was (and Hayden is) peddling, I’m delighted to oblige (emphasis within the quote mine):

…in so far as [law] deviates from right reason it is called an unjust law; in such case it is no law at all, but rather a species of violence.

Thomas Aquinas

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