Decrease the width of a vertical taskbar in Windows 8

I’ve been annoyed for a long time by the fact that when choosing the option to place the Windows taskbar at the side of the screen instead of the default at the bottom, the width cannot be reduced to an appropriately small size and therefore it wastes space and looks terrible.

I decided to research it today and found a good blog post at sandipchitale.blogspot.com which discusses a really cool little utility called 7+ Taskbar Tweaker which actually allows the taskbar width to be decreased!

Because of wide screens the idea of putting the taskbar at the bottom of the screen doesn’t make sense anymore and just wastes space and makes it more difficult to select items. Finally its possible to have a narrow, vertical taskbar at the side of the screen in Windows 8.

1 – 1/n

1 – 1/n

That is the formula to compute the amount of available storage space for a RAID 5 disk array which is what I’m now thinking of getting for home.

The lowest number of drives that can be used for a RAID 5 array is three, so that would mean 1 – 1/3 = 2/3 So if we had a RAID 5 array of three 4TB drives that would mean the amount of available storage in the array would be 12TB x 2/3 = 8TB. For an array of four 4TB drives the available space computes to 12TB.

No one likes to think of purchasing 12TB or 16TB of storage space and then giving up 4TB for the sake of an array, but the nice thing is that one gains a substantial increase in both data security and in performance for that cost.

The array in question, which seems to be the best available on the market based on my searching, is the StarTech SAT3540U3ER.

The critical features are that it provides hardware RAID, meaning the box just does the RAID for you, independent of whatever computer(s) it may be connected to (unlike software RAID which is setup in the operating system of a computer attached to the drives). It also has USB 3.0 and eSata interfaces for the highest available speed connection to computers. Finally, it supports hot-swapping, another critical feature whereby drives can be swapped in or out of the array while its running live.

Trying out a new wireless bluetooth headset

photo of Jabra Extreme2 headset

Jabra Extreme2

At Fry’s the other day and needed a headset. There were a lot of options but ended up getting a Jabra Extreme2. Initially the earbud did not feel comfortable but after a while I got used to it and now like it because it enables the sound to be very clear. Audio quality is excellent but haven’t tested it yet in different noisy environments.

One nice thing is the way it clips to the ear very securely. Even when I was bicycling against high winds it held in my ear very well.

So far am very happy with it.

Questions about net neutrality and fairness

If you live in a building and you are not a heavy user of hot water, but there is someone in your building who uses it all the time, how would you feel when your access to hot water is limited? Or how would you feel if your rent was increased to pay for the cost of the extra hot water that someone else is using a vastly disproportionate amount of?

Of what about if you live in some place where a lot of people share an Internet connection. But the Internet starts becoming more and more slow. It turns out that one person in the place is hogging the Internet and downloading (or uploading) a disproportionately vast amount of stuff compared with you. How would you feel about your limited connection? Or how would you feel if you had to pay extra because it became necessary to upgrade to a higher-bandwidth connection because of all the use?

Are these examples valid for the discussion of net neutrality?

I would guess that it goes further than all this. What if it turned out that the person hogging all the hot water was running a for-profit spa and making money off it? Would it still be fair to just regular users to have to pay for it? I don’t think most people would think so. But of course its not that simple. What about a company like YouTube (a.k.a. Google) where the content is user content but its still a company making profit?

I think there are clear answers and solutions behind all this if one sticks to the basic principles that we, society, we the people, fundamentally own the “airwaves” a.k.a. lines which transmit data. They exist because of and for us. Companies which make profit and use those same lines, it seems fair, should pay for what they use.

There needs to be differentiation between companies that make profit and also how those companies make profit. Many companies are providers of some type of service such as video streaming. But other companies are more neutral. There should also be strong incentives for non-profit services, that is non-profits which provide equal functionality to what companies do. There should be a push from a policy standpoint towards free and open standards and services. Non-free should be the lowest, least-preferred tier and free and open should be the most preferred, subsidized tier.

It seems to me that not charging large, for-profit companies for their disproportionate use of resources is not fair. Somehow all the equipment – the routers which cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and all the physical networks which cost millions to outlay – had to get paid for. We as a society should agree that we want to provide such infrastructure as a social service, as a public good, but with limits for those who want to use it for profit.

But it is even more complicated, because the infrastructure is owned by private companies too. Perhaps that is part of the problem.

Major ownCloud update today!

ownCloud 7 launch

ownCloud has released a major update today to version 7.0.0. One new feature is the ability for someone who has their own ownCloud server running to share files with you via your ownCloud server. This server-to-server sharing is called federation. The ownCloud authors state in their release notice that file sharing via server federation is only the beginning. Down the road it will hopefully also provide server-to-server sharing of user accounts, chats, calendars and possibly more.

They are also stating that there have been improvements in real-time document editing. One major feature that came with ownCloud version 6 was collaborative editing: the ability to have multiple people editing the same file at the same time.

Note that if you don’t want to install ownCloud on your own box you can still use it via a third party and remember that some hosting providers such as Dreamhost now also offer ownCloud one-click installs. Usually a basic plan is about $80 per year and is totally worth it in terms of the freedom and liberty it enables.

Here is a link to the User Data Manifesto written by ownCloud’s creator. I highly recommend reading it. Every point in it is important. Notice too that this manifesto extends beyond simply data into what I call information logos or personal information logos: the creation, administration, transmission, and storage of data.

Clearly it encompasses things including social networking, e-mail, chat and other communications, and many other things. In short, the points of the User Data Manifesto apply to and encompass just about every type of activity that one may conduct with electronic information appliances.

An outrage and violation of the highest order

Many of the people searching through the haystacks were young, enlisted guys, 18 to 22 years old. They’ve suddenly been thrust into a position of extraordinary responsibility, where they now have access to all your private records. In the course of their daily work, they stumble across something that is completely unrelated in any sort of necessary sense – for example, an intimate nude photo of someone in a sexually compromising situation. But they’re extremely attractive. So what do they do? They turn around in their chair and they show a co-worker. And their co-worker says, ‘Oh, hey, that’s great. Send that to Bill down the way’, and then Bill sends it to George, George sends it to Tom, and sooner or later this person’s whole life has been seen by all of these other people.

–Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden just stated that, as a matter of course, the United States government commits felony sexual abuse.

And when I walk into a cafe, or am shopping for groceries, and someone there, whom I’ve never met, is smirking at me and clearly has a look of odd amusement at me, what am I supposed to think?

It was just in the news that a gynecologist at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore was found to have been secretly recording the genitals of his patients during gynecological exams. Those patients suffered extensive trauma and psychological harm because of this and were awarded hundreds of millions of dollars.

How much more damaging is it already, based on what is known about government invasion of our lives, knowing that anyone in our presence could be a rapist?

At least the women who were patients at Johns Hopkins could know exactly who it was that had seen images of their genitals. Imagine their horror if they knew or strongly suspected that tens of thousands of people, who could be anywhere around them at any time, had seen them.

It is an outrage.

I personally don’t even care anymore about living. Every day I think how it would be preferable to die than to this. I am living a a victim of the highest order of violation and abuse that continues day after day, and there is no accountability for it. No justice whatsoever. Just endless mockery, harassment, and abuse.

This is America in 2014. A sick, satanic, rapacious country run by thugs.

And who does the American government give its money to? The number one recipient of foreign aid from the US is Israel to the tune of over $3 billion annually in military aid.

Everything is utter, complete bullshit.

Amazing guitar sample app (Kontakt plugin)

This guitar sample app sounds amazing.

This one too!

This music is so soulful! It makes me want to grab my violin and find some resonant place to play.

One more! So enchantingly beautiful!

App spam is making me sick

I am so pissed with Google/Android and WordPress both because of the fact that its not possible to filter their lists of apps (plugins for WP). How hard would it be to add filters when searching for apps, one of which would be the ability to filter for things which are genuinely free, not some BS scams which deceptively claim to be free and end up being not free or laden with ads?

A second thing – more significantly for WordPress, and this would actually be useful for Linux distro repositories as well – would be the ability to filter by crustiness: the age of an app or how recently it has or has not been updated, or perhaps some kind of rating on how frequently it is maintained and updated by its author(s).

For this last one, there could be a rating system such as one that, if the author hasn’t updated an app every three months, it loses a star (or point or whatever). There needs to be some way to know that the author updates/maintains the app at regular intervals. How often? Weekly? Monthly? Bi-annually? Yearly?

There are so many reasons why people would not want to use or employ crusty software not the least of which is security.

But the thing that kills me completely every time with Android and WordPress is the way so many apps masquerade as free and end up not being free. There are times when I’m looking for something, searching for an app or plugin, and I really only want to see a list of things that are free. Do there have to be varying categories of free? Fine, then have them: Ad-status: yes/no. License: GPL/BSD/etc. In-app purchases: yes/no. Etc.

There are many times when I really want only something that is free, ad-free, no in-app purchases. No enhanced, paid-version promos/ads. Etc.

Its sad, but it seems like with Android, Google has created a new type of monster on the Internet: that of App spam. First there was regular e-mail spam. Later there was search-engine spam. Now there are spam apps and it is a total drag!

There are also deeper considerations behind this. With the app-as-spam model which Google and WordPress foster, it has really changed the mentality of the tech industry in a seriously negative way. It is cultivating a kind of grubbiness and greediness which I think is very unhealthy.

And, if people do want to be grubby and greedy, then I guess let them. But give me the choice to avoid it please.

I’m so sick of having these disgusting encounters with Google apps and WordPress plugins which claim to be free and end up being scams.

I’m waiting for something to succeed both Android and WordPress because my loyalty to both of these right now is seriously waning.

If, for example, Mozilla comes out with their Firefox mobile OS and it really is much more based on the model of free, Open Source Linux distributions with their repository models, I think a lot of people are going to bail on Android.

Another thing that kind of makes me sick is that Google, when it set up Android and its Marketplace (not called Play Store, woohoo) just copied the model of repositories from Linux distros but added a payment system to it. But by doing that they really destroyed something and I think the damage is way more pervasive than they are probably capable of seeing, being so bedazzled by greed as they are.

Prevent idiots from stealing your shopping cart at Ikea

Everyone knows how long it takes to walk through an Ikea store. Once you enter along the winding path and embark on your sojourn through the store its not like you can easily just exit or walk back to the entrance.

Which is what makes someone’s taking your shopping cart a really annoying experience. This has happened to me a few times at Ikea’s now and to be honest it really pisses me off.

After my cart was taken by an idiot today I asked the first store employee I saw about it. I also asked her if one of the staff would have taken it and she said definitely not. They do not take carts, even if they are empty. So it definitely was a moron shopper who did it.

Anyhow, I thought of a way to prevent people from taking your shopping cart in the middle of the store: Put an item or even multiple items in it. They do not have to be items you intend to buy. I know this is a sad thing to do because someone else at the store will have to place those items back in their original location, but it seems to be the only way to get people to not do what they already, if they had a sense of integrity, would not be doing.

Other than that, the only thing I can think of that might work would be to get one of their pencils, a piece of paper, and tape or somehow affix to the cart. On the paper write:

Hey moron! I didn’t push this cart a quarter-mile through the labyrinth aisles of this store up to this point and burn 1000 calories dodging kids, fat people, and invalids so your dumb ass could take it! Keep your hands off!

🙂

Remove the annoying folder links under “This PC” in Windows 8.1

It turns out that Windows 8.1 added a bunch of folder links to the topmost heirarchy of files which you see in Windows Explorer under “This PC”. It has added links for Documents, Music, Pictures, Videos, and Desktop which are all links to the actual directories in the user’s home folder.

This is highly annoying. When I’m viewing the level of “This PC” – which, by the way, I always rename to the name of my actual computer because “This PC” just sounds so silly to me – I don’t want it to be cluttered with links to folders in a completely different location.

It turns out that there is a solution posted at Eightforums.com which is as easy as downloading a .reg registry tweak and running it. There is also available there another .reg tweak which restores the links.

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