“We don’t need laptops. I don’t have to show you any stinking laptops!”

I didn’t know until a few days ago that many phones and tablets support USB mice, trackballs, and other devices through USB On-The-Go (OTG). After reading about it and that most Samsung devices support it, I got a pack of two Ugreen OTG micro-USB to USB Female adapters in the mail this week – US$7 – and was pleased to see it works on my 1920×1200 Galaxy Tab A 10.1″ tablet.

It’s a little strange the first time you see a traditional cursor on your tablet – see the middle of its lock screen in the photo below. I found that you can even control its speed under Language and Input settings on Android, so it’s now exactly the same speed as my desktop cursor. Buttons on my trackball duplicate the Android home and back functions, click-drag is the same as swiping, and the scroll wheel works perfectly. A slight touch of the trackball wakes up the tablet. With a trackball and a Bluetooth keyboard, there’s no need to touch the screen at all. Working with a remote 1920×1080 Windows 10 desktop becomes much easier and faster.

With a folding LED-backlit Bluetooth keyboard that has Android and Windows function keys, my favourite trackball connected through OTG, TeamViewer connected to my home or office desktop as in the photo below, a multi-angle folio cover, and a good pair of reading glasses, I’m not sure I have any need for a laptop. The only real difference is the screen size.

That trackball and its USB-connected receiver is Logitech’s Cordless Optical Trackman, long ago discontinued, with remaining new examples being sold for US$400-500 these days (when they were still being made, I believe their list price was $69). Why so exorbitant? Because it remains the best trackball anyone has ever made. I have two – bought at the much lower price, of course – that I’ve been using for many years at home and in the office, and this is one of three hot spares I still have that I bought for forty or fifty bucks apiece when they were still being made several years ago.

“Regarding your question on the price of cheese in Denmark…”

I believe I’d last no more than one question and one follow-up as an interviewer.

Excuse me, Prime Minister, no. What the people want to hear about is whether you can or cannot sack Johnson. Most think you can’t because, to date, you’ve let him get away with everything. So please stop with the supremely annoying prevaricating your advisers teach you. It’s not as clever as you obviously think it is; in fact, it’s far past tedious. No redirection: Answer the question yes or no first and then briefly explain why.”

New Print/PDF/Email function

I’ve added a new WordPress plugin called PrintFriendly for printing, emailing, and saving PDFs of individual articles on the site. I did this because for convenience I sometimes print or email myself the recipes I’ve posted here, and this plugin includes just the content of the article instead of the whole web page template, which was dumb. It’s much nicer looking and will save a lot of paper.

If you hover over sections of the article in the Print/PDF/Email dialog that opens, you’ll see that you can click to remove any paragraph, image, etc., making the output as abbreviated as you like, which I think is slick as a whistle. I’ve never seen this sort of feature in a print preview dialog.

The price for this is, alas, adverts the plugin author has included, but they appear only in the Print/PDF/Email dialog once you choose the output type, never on any page on my site or in your output. Without casting aspersions, I would suggest never clicking on them.

After enabling PrintFriendly, I removed the JetPack plugin Print, Email, and Pocket sharing buttons that used to be here. If you actually used the Pocket button, let me know and I’ll put it back in – I removed it because it looks cleaner without that button sitting all by its lonesome.

Practical application of Lucrative Coincidence Theory

Saturday, 29 July: Equifax shuts down a security breach of 143 million people’s SSNs, DOBs, addresses, etc. that had been ongoing since May.

Tuesday, 1 August: Equifax Chief Financial Officer and President of Information Solutions both dispose of a total of US$1.5M of stock options in unscheduled sales

Wednesday, 2 August: Equifax President of Workforce Solutions disposes of a quarter-million bucks of shares in an unscheduled sale

Thursday, 7 September: After biding its time – perhaps waiting until summer was over and all the staff was back? – Equifax announces security breach 41 days after they shut it down. 41 days seems like an awfully long time to me, but I’m no expert on security. Or securities.

Later on Thursday: Equifax insists – don’t you love when that word is used in news stories instead of “said”? – the three officers knew nothing about the security breach before their stock sales.

Yes, that’s right, the President of Information Solutions – sounds like the top IT guy to me – knew nothing, nothing of what may be the largest security breach in US consumer history 72 hours after it was shut down. By his own department. Mebbe in the same Atlanta building as him, I dunno…but jeez, shockingly poor communication must abound in that place. Or his competence is on a par with Jen Barber. In either case: Tsk.

Results of Finley Quality Used Car Test: Would not buy one from any of those three guys. Especially the one on the left.

Edited to add this notice that just appeared on my Credit Union’s login page:

Wait, I know, I know! Is the answer ‘Sell a bunch of stock before anyone gets wind of this’? Too late, you say? Pah. Skunked again.

When there are two conflicting versions of a story, the wise course is to believe the one in which people appear at their worst.

H. Allen Smith

What a load of horse potatoes

  • Made with Bulletproof clean coffee beans that are certified to be free of 27 toxins”
  • “…sustained energy and mental focus”
  • “…will allow people to conveniently take steps toward achieving their goals and unleashing their full potential”
  • “Brain Octane oil”

It’s true, they haven’t even added cyanide or hemlock to their buttered coffee – now gullet-ready at Whole Foods, five bucks a pop – because they respect their marks customers so much. I’m surprised, however, that they left out from today’s press release so many high-bogosity health claims frequently associated with I-Can’t-Believe-It’s-Got-Butter Coffee. For instance, metabolism jump-starting and consequent miraculous weight loss – doesn’t buttered coffee like doing that anymore? Too tiring?

I’m thinking of calling Hogan Brothers Coffee Roasters and Barrington Coffee Roasters to ask if the Thunder Mountain and Barrington Gold blends I get from them are free of 27 toxins – and if they can name them. You know, just to give them a giggle.

Brain Octane oil indeed. Never give a sucker an even break or smarten up a chump.

Time for a cleanse in the form of a balancing load of bullshit antidote. This guy is my kind of cynic, and full of novel phrases. Both of these videos are NSFW due to salty language. First up, a teardown of the just-torn-down Juicero. (Seeks a buyer? Surely they jest.) He made this one three months before their end of days last week.

And a look inside a KitchenAid mixer:

All the modern conveniences

I discovered the other day that my standalone DVD recorder had made the Q sign since the last time I used it years ago, possibly due to a blown capacitor, apparently a common problem of aging with the model I had. Rather than just replace it, I thought, “Maybe video capture on PCs has come a ways since I last looked into it.” Years ago, video capture most often involved a PCIe card in the PC and the results could easily be mediocre, with dropped frames and other artifacts if you didn’t have quite a powerful and therefore expensive PC. It was more reliable to instead plug the VCR into a standalone DVD recorder, so that’s what I did back then.

And so video capture has improved, to the point of being ridiculously easy. For US$23 – a couple hundred dollars less than capture cards of years ago – I now have a much more convenient way to digitise VHS tapes, bypassing the old DVD recorder middleman and directly producing MP4s. It comes with editing software and works very nicely indeed.

There are no worries these days about performance and poor quality captures. Yesterday, my four-core/eight-processor/16GB machine – US$900 two years ago – was simultaneously doing all of the following without any performance degradation. In fact, the CPU usage hovered around 25-30% throughout.

  • Downloading 11GB of a TV series at about 3MB/second
  • Continuing the BitLocker encryption of all of my 5TB offsite backup drive, including unallocated sectors for safety
  • Writing 20GB of a few series of another programme to a Blu-ray data disc
  • On the 2nd optical drive, ripping the last 100 CDs I’d never gotten around to digitising, about one every four minutes; they’re all in the dumpster now along with the DVD recorder
  • Merging seven parts of one episode of “The Story of English” I’d downloaded from YouTube (eight episodes are there in full, but episode 3 is split up); five more old tapes went into the dumpster
  • Capturing audio/video from a 2-hour VHS tape to test the TOTMC device and saving to an MP4 file

The first major project will be to digitise W.C. Fields and Rita Hayworth films I have on the VHS tapes pictured below. To that end, my VCR is now on a short bookshelf shelf right next to the PC for maximum convenience. I believe I have about a third of the films below in digital form already and will investigate before I start.

How’d I get so many W.C. Fields films? Well, it certainly wasn’t because they were all available on video. A good number of these weren’t ever released on tape but were broadcast regularly on Sunday mornings by a local TV station many years ago. They had some rare ones and I got every one they aired during that run, editing out commercial breaks in real time.

Fun with maths

Some months ago, I got a tad annoyed at dealing with 5-pound bags of ice in the freezer, mainly because when I’d go in for some, almost inevitably one or two chunks of ice would slide out and skitter across the floor. So, I did a little ice volume calculation and measured the depth of the freezer shelf and figured that this item was precisely the ticket, and I mean really precisely, as if it were made for just this task though no one mentions it.

I had a slight frisson of satisfaction when I put that first bag of ice into the container and found the lid was just able to close, and the container fit like a glove on the shelf, with the tabs under the back end of the container hooked around the back of the shelf and holding it in place. A bit of packing tape – which still sticks when frozen – on the back end of the lid turned it into a hinged one.

Reverse musical chairs

Repurposing my media cabinet as a display case the other day ended up kicking off a home decluttering project that’s going so well it feels a bit like conjuring. Moving the Lunar Module case and the other figurines freed up lots of space on a six-tier bookshelf on the other side of the living room, which allowed me to move some of the books I had piled on top of other things to that shelf. Two small purchases have helped carry this increasingly nifty game of reverse musical chairs several rounds forward and it’s still in progress. A new 2-tier Winsome bookshelf – my fourth – allowed me to clear all the remaining books that were piled on other things, letting me further declutter those other things. A second 16″ long clip-on drawer for the InterMetro commercial wire shelving in my kitchen allowed me to declutter the six shelves on that 74x48x18″ unit, and also store lots of little kitchen gewgaws that had been sitting in my simplehuman dish strainer for many moons simply because I had no good place to put them. That in turn allowed me to give the strainer a good scrub this morning, and so the list goes on.

My aims are 1) to go through everything and toss anything I haven’t even looked at for a decade unless there’s a damned good reason to keep it – no rationalising allowed – 2) excepting the Samsung TV and Dimplex fireplace insert cartons, get rid of empty packaging unless the item it held is still under warranty, and – the main point – 3) not have things piled on top of other things. I’m about three-quarters there, but will pause for several days until the dumpster is emptied again, which occurs fortnightly. Since last week, I’ve tossed out a 3-yard dumpster’s worth and probably have about one yard left to toss.

Some of the inspiration for this was the woman in the middle of the three units here moving out eight days ago. It got me thinking, “Geez, what if I suddenly had to move? What a nightmare that would be.” Now, less so. And the house is looking spiffier by the hour.