Lewis' Blog Tales from the trenches of information technology

26Oct/180

Noisy utility company email

Why do utility companies feel the need to email and phone to advise of their readiness for an impending storm? Would I otherwise suppose they were not ready? And, if they were indeed not ready, then what?

On top of this, my phone rings incessantly with this nonsense, advising me that they are prepared for the coming nor'easter (for those of you unfamiliar with this type of storm, these are particularly nasty - high winds, lots of rain - in the northeast US). Anyone living on Long Island (New York State) more than a year should be quite familiar with these regular occurrences. So, why is my Inbox filled with this junk? (Okay, my Sophos UTM catches most of these, but sadly can't do anything about the telephone ringing.)

This is a tremendous waste of resources. Don't tell me that you're ready, just focus on being ready.

Regular readers here will know of my profound distaste for poor email etiquette, and sending superfluous email falls into that category. Messages should be sent when relevant (they don't need to advertise to me; I have no real choice in the matter, other than slapping immense, ugly solar panels all over my roof).

17Jan/180

The importance of Common User Access design guidelines in 2018

Apparently, a poorly designed user interface was at least partially to blame for last weekend's terrifying missile notification mishap in Hawaii. I've had my share of dealings with less than adequate user interfaces, including the tax preparation software we are currently using, which takes me much more time to do my work than our previous software (though a fraction of the cost). Unfortunately, lousy user interface design seems to be the norm with most Windows software (and a goodly amount of Linux software, as well).

4Dec/170

Navigating Coinbase’s customer support

A company with which I am involved recently reconfigured its Coinbase account. This was precipitated by a change in the Stripe API, where Stripe shifted away from Coinpayments.net to another exchange for handling cryptocurrencies.

So, while this company had a prior arm's length arrangement with Coinbase, it never actually had to deal with the entity directly...until recently.

13Aug/170

Configuring the IOGEAR GWU627 wireless ethernet bridge device under ArcaOS (and OS/2)

While Arca Noae continues to work toward adding support for WLAN adapters in its MultiMac driver set, many modern wireless adapters remain unsupported by OS/2 (ArcaOS, specifically). The best way to work around this limitation involves no computer disassembly, very little technical expertise, a few minutes of time for the initial setup, and a device which is generally available for under $50.

13May/160

Hate KDE Plasma5 on openSUSE Leap 42.1? Me, too.

After severely breaking my well-oiled openSUSE 13.2 installation, and wasting a couple hours trying to fix it (unbootable), I finally bit the bullet and just did an in-place upgrade to Leap 42.1.

Of course, the first thing I noticed was that my display driver was incorrect (max res 1024x768). The second thing was that the desktop was all but unusable.

My first assumption at that point was that it was just the resolution, and that I was indeed missing something which was somewhere off-screen. However, after installing the proper radeon driver, I was left with the same, barely usable desktop. What happened?

Apparently, the openSUSE team decided to switch to KDE's Plasma5 from KDE4 as the default desktop. Not only is Plasma5 unfinished (unfinished=still missing some expected functionality and components common to KDE4), but it seemed (for me) to leak memory badly and do a number of other not-very-nice things when moving windows and such. In addition, the kicker was awkward to use, cluttered to read, and decidedly non-SuSE in appearance.

I tried a few new themes, thinking that perhaps it was just the rather unbranded, default KDE theme which was at fault, but alas, nothing would help.

I stumbled upon this thread in the openSUSE forums, which provided some great links.

Once I got KDE4 back (as well as my old familiar desktop selector menu at login), I discovered that my Apper widget was missing from my panel. I fixed that by downgrading to Apper from plasma5-pk-updater, then uninstalling plasma5-pk-updater and friends (breaking the pattern to satisfy the dep solver), and then marking Apper as locked and plasma5-pk-updater (and friends) as taboo (never install).

Perhaps at some point I'll provide a detailed set of instructions for all of this, but for now, my heartfelt thanks to Wolfgang Bauer (wolfi323) for his wonderful repo and build of plasma5-session (which allows switching back and forth between desktops).

8Oct/140

JFS chkdsk options on OS/2

As most of us OS/2 users know by now, IBM never fully finished fleshing out the original port of JFS to OS/2 from AIX. This is especially true for the documentation of the (few) utilities related to JFS (see my other post concerning the JFS service log).

6Oct/140

Fixing broken folder classes in CommuniGate Pro 5.4

I'm not sure how far back IMAP folders were "classed" in CommuniGate Pro (I should look), however today, when logging in via webmail to accept a calendar invite, I noticed that my calendar wasn't showing as a calendar, but instead like a plain IMAP folder.

28Sep/143

Updating bash to patch Shellshock on discontinued CentOS 4.8

By now, this week's news of the Shellshock vulnerability has quieted to a bit of a rumble. What a mess, and to think that this exploit has been possible for such a long time...

What to do about old Linux distros, then? Yes, the rule of thumb is that if the distro is no longer widely supported, one should move off of it, or at least put it behind something more secure. But what if there is a single application which requires just that particular old distro, and will not play nicely with anything newer, and what if that particular app is proprietary, and no longer available?

26Sep/140

How to determine the installed version of eComStation

The installed eComStation version can be tough to decipher. It's not like Windows, where either the desktop is a dead giveaway or right-clicking My Computer and selecting Properties will instantly reveal what is under the hood. It is actually possible to make plain old OS/2 Warp 4 look just like the most current eComStation release.

So, how can one tell?

9Aug/140

Google’s HTTPS Everywhere initiative: not so fast…

It seems that Google has a new factor to consider for web rankings: HTTPS.

I understand the allure of encryption. Heck, I use StartPage as my search site, and all of my searches go over HTTPS. The problem is that HTTPS is expensive.