Monthly Archives: May 2008

Weird bug

Let’s say, for example, that a system supplies you the time of some event in UTC, you convert it to local and shove the date/time up on the display. Say, for argument’s sake, you also include the Day Of Week, ending up with a format of DD/MM, DOW HH:MM. Everything looks fine, until someone notices that the Day Of Week is wrong. The 28th of May is a Wednesday, not a Thursday.

What happened?

The date conversion routine that generates the DOW string does a bunch of odd stuff, but seems to work correctly; it certainly works in other parts of the code, and generates the right string there.


The UTC time seemed to be converted to local time twice, but that wasn’t the culprit; surprisingly, no-one is killed in an explosion of silicon splinters when that code is double-executed. Whatever.

Could it be that the system supplying you the time of that event in UTC is off by a year? One year into the future. That would give you that behaviour.

Check it.

VirtualDub error -100

Memo to self: When VirtualDub complains about an error -100, which it claims could be due to a corrupt file, or a codec problem, check it’s not the latter. In particular, if using the resizing filter, make sure the size can be handled by the codec. In the case of XVid, it won’t handle a size not divisible by 4.

Twitter == yoyo?

Twitter’s ups and downs are now almost legendary. There’s now a web site which can tell you if it’s up or not.

Twitter is very popular. It has a lot of users. (Including me.)

But it hasn’t commercialised. There’s no ads, no user subscription fees, no deals, and, I suspect, no money. Or at least not very much.

Or at least not much. It’s maintained its independence and integrity, but I wonder if subsequently having no dosh is the reason the service is becoming so unreliable as popularity increases. At least the commercial services out there have been through all these issues.

Some are blaming it being built on Ruby On Rails, which evidently doesn’t scale very well, but this is only a problem if they don’t have the funds and the will to migrate it onto another platform.

It’ll be interesting to see where Twitter goes as more people pile on. Are they up to the challenge? Will they just give up and sell out in return for investment in reliability, or can they find another way forward?

Free, but commercial

Sometimes Lifehacker is just overwhelming, posting zillions of things per day. Way too many to keep up, and for some reason Lifehacker Australia posts things that it calls “US-centric” which are, in fact, useless to anybody outside the US. Not sure why they bother.

That said, they also post some real gems.

A beauty the other day: a link to the Wikipedia List of commercial games released as freeware.

Some of them are oldies. Some are pretty new. Some of the classics that caught my eye included a 90s era Lode Runner sequel, the classic Sim City, an old instalment of The Elder Scrolls, and that ol’ favourite Elite.

The forgotten code

Forgotten the security code for your Nokia phone?

I did. I dug out my old mobile to give my eldest son, and while it would happily accept my old SIM, it wouldn’t accept his new one without the security code.

As long as you can get into the phone, use *#06# to get the IMEI, then feed the number in here to get the “mastercode reset”.

The same site also has facilities for network unlocking phones, but I haven’t needed to try that.

PS. It doesn’t work on a stolen phone, assuming the SIM has been disabled by the owner’s network, as you have to get fully into the phone to get the IMEI and do the reset.

Quicktime and a decompressor are needed to see this picture

Of all the useless error messages, this one would have to take the cake. I found it in a Word document tonight.

Quicktime and a decompressor are needed to see this picture

It appears to be caused by the author using Mac Word, and having pasted a picture into the document in some weird and wonderful way.

The error is useless, because I already have Quicktime installed on this machine. (I didn’t particularly want it; it came with iTunes.) And if it wants a particular decompressor, it would be very helpful if it gave me a hint as to which one, and where I should get it from.

I couldn’t even see a way of extracting the picture so I could try and throw it at another viewer program.

In this age of standards, when the vast majority of pictures flying about the place are either GIF, JPEG or PNG, and even proprietary standards like MS Word are almost universal, why on earth should I be getting an error message like this?

Evidently the only fix is to go back to the source (on the Mac) and change the picture to something more universal. Thankfully the document’s author was around, so I could do that. But who knows why Mac Word lets people insert pictures in this way in the first place. (Powerpoint is susceptible too.)

Conclusion? Blame Microsoft!

Stop grabbing focus, dammit!

I’m working from home today, and looking at some system monitory stuff in Firefox. In the background I’ve also got an Remote Desktop session open to my work PC.

Every few minutes, the corporate screensaver kicks-in on the work desktop. For some reason, RDP decides it absolutely has to show me this. It grabs focus, bringing its window into the foreground.


It even does this while connecting. If I alt-tab away onto something else while waiting for the connection, it keeps grabbing focus to show me… that it’s working on it, so please wait… Other applications do this sort of thing too.

And it keeps losing the connection, and re-connecting. But that may be a server and/or VPN issue.

(This is the RDP client in XP SP2. I’ll upgrade to SP3 in the next few days and discover if that’s any better.)

Recent finds

Ever wonder how they fitted an entire computer language into just a few kilobytes, back in the 80s? Documented disassembly of BBC Basic 4.

How to highlight author comments in WordPress … but it relies on the author being user ID 1, so it won’t work here, where we have several people posting. Could easily be customised to look for other user IDs though.

Some developers are throwing in the towel and running Vista as Admin.

The excellent Secret Life of Machines not only has a web site, but is available freely (and legally) via BitTorrent. And the theme tune is available on iTunes.

iPhone in Australia

It’s official — Vodafone will sell the iPhone in Australia. It’s not expected to be exclusive to them; I’d bet on hearing from other carriers soon confirming they’ll be selling it too.

And reasonably persistent rumours suggest it will be launched when the Apple Sydney store opens, towards the middle of this year.

(via Shane)

Small XP

Sounds like there are broadly two ways of getting a small WinXP installation:

  • Build it that way using a tool like the freeware nLitehere’s an article about it
  • Do it after the event by ripping stuff out using something like XPlite (not freeware, but free trial available; it also works on Win2K, and also available for Win98) — article here

Something else to do for performance is shutdown extraneous services, though it’s said this doesn’t gain you much. This guide goes into a lot of detail, but is painfully formatted with one service per page. This guide is a bit briefer. This one is a nice balance.

Goldplated parts

What dumbarse designed the Optusnet web site? Out of interest I went to compare plans to other providers, and Optusnet has turned into a portal which has so much stuff on it, I can’t even find anything about services they sell.

When I did find it (memo to self: go to the main Optus site, not the Optusnet site), I found some totally incredible equipment service charges, where if a problem isn’t their fault, and you’re out of warranty, you’ll get slugged:

  • Faulty Network Interface Card (NIC) — Service call ($99.00) and replacement fee for NIC ($50.00)
  • Faulty Ethernet Cable — Service call ($99.00) and replacement of Ethernet cable ($55.00)

Please tell me I’m reading that wrong. They’ll try and charge me $149 for replacing a NIC? $154 for replacing an Ethernet cable?

Where does one buy a $55 Ethernet cable, anyway? It’s like $10 a metre retail. And it’s not hard to buy a NIC for under $20. I guess Optus’ ones are all gold-plated.

I guess they don’t really want the business.