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Main feed at aplawrence.com: Thousands of articles, reviews, consultants listings, skills tests, opinion, how-to's for Unix, Linux and Mac OS X, networking, web site maintenance and more..



Published: 2017-02-17T10:37:54+00:00

 



We have an app for that

Thanks to the nice folks at Ezoic, you can now read this site on your IOS device. Yes, of course it is free.

Why on earth would you do that when it works just fine in a browser? One reason might be that it's easier to read, especially on smaller screens.

I think the ads are far less intrusive in the app, though navigation isn'y as easy (I'm going to fix that). If you want to give it a try, here's where to find it:

https://appsto.re/us/W8xA_.i

-- This feed and its contents are the property of A.P. Lawrence, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.


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It's not an iPad virus!

Our local computer club provides free help to people in the community. Recently they sent out an email saying this:

I have now helped 6 people with a virus that has been infecting iPads. The message appears on the iPad screen stating that your software has crashed and you need to call Microsoft to repair it. The number to call is 1-855-720-2636. People who have called the number were told that they would have to pay $130.00 to get rid of it.The message stays on the screen and you can't get rid of it. This has affected iPhones as well. If you have this problem call me and I'll help you get rid of it For FREE.

I groaned when I saw that and immediately shot back that this is not a virus but simply a Javascript browser hijack and that it is easily fixed by closing Safari and doing Settings > Safari > Clear History and Website Data.

To my surprise, I later got this from the author of the warning:

I know it's not a virus, you know it's not a virus but it has been my experience that most people do not understand what Java Script Hijack means therefore I keep it very simple for them.

Sigh.

Keeping it "simple" causes very wrong impressions of what this is and what it can do. It also can cause stupid rumors to spread: "Oh, don't buy an iPad - they have viruses!".

Nor is it iPad related. Javascript hijacks like that happen on ALL platforms: Windows, Android, Apple computers - it's the browser, not the operating system!

I also don't think we should be deciding what people can or cannot understand. I agree that some of the people who seek help from that club are not capable of following even simple instructions or are too lazy to want to. But that's not the case for all and it's also true that assuming incompetence creates incompetence.

I've always taken the tack of explaining things like this fully (or at least providing a link to somewhere that explains) and then politely offering to provide direct assistance if needed. I think that's the best way to do it.

-- This feed and its contents are the property of A.P. Lawrence, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.


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Patent reform

Younger readers may not know that until the 1990's, software could not be patented. I'm of the opinion that it should have remained that way.

There has been some recent pushback and it is certainly possible that court opinions will change, but really we need to reexamine the patent system in general. I think it often does more harm than good. I'm not saying we should abandon it entirely, but I do think that overly broad patents should not only be denied, but be punishable as they hinder commerce. I also think that the length of patents should vary with the industry. Perhaps tech patents for consumer goods should have a shorter lifetime than miracle drugs or vice versa and both should be shorter than they are now.

As to patenting genes and GMO products, I think that's both ridiculous and dangerous. For example, a recent decision denied a gene patent because genes are "products of nature". Well, what isn't? An improved light bulb works because of the physics of its materials - where's the true difference and where do you draw the line?

We need change.

Can we patent products found in nature? It's complicated.

-- This feed and its contents are the property of A.P. Lawrence, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.


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Terminal type not recognized by Exact message is "tput

Anonymous asks:

We are transferring an old Unix app and get Terminal types not recognized. Exact message is 'tput: unknown terminal "WYSE50"'. Using man and other applications will say "WARNING: terminal is not fully functional"

Well, for starters, it is unusual to see TERM in upper case. In standard TERMINFO, it would be wyse50 and vt100, not caps. But you might not be using standard TERMINFO. For example, many old Cobol apps used their own terminal databases and a login script set it to point at a database somewhere other than in /user/lib. So if setting to "wyse50" and so on doesn't help entirely, that could be why - the database being pointed at may not exist. Also see my article on Termcap and Terminfo.

Termcap and Terminfo Explained

-- This feed and its contents are the property of A.P. Lawrence, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.


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Our cash drawer connected to a serially connected Wyse terminal stopped working

Anonymous asks:

Our cash drawer connected to a serially connected Wyse terminal stopped working. I made some changes in the device configurator and wondering if there's a way to restore those.

Any serial cash drawer should work. It's certainly possible that the cash drawer serial port has gone bad or the cable has broken or the AUX port on the Wyse is dead. You should test each of these by swapping this drawer with a working drawer to isolate the problem.

If it's not hardware, the software is wrong. You need to send the transparent print codes followed by the code for the drawer. The TERM variable has to be set correctly to match the emulation the terminal is using. See the debugging section of my article on transparent print as that's likely the problem if nothing else changed.

How do I do Transparent or pass-through printing (slave printing)?

-- This feed and its contents are the property of A.P. Lawrence, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.


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The value of libraries

I was never a fan of my public library. When I was young, I found the books in my own home to be all I usually needed. Of course not everyone has a home chock full of books and reference materials, so I was very lucky to have that.

When I was older, I found that the library still did not meet my needs. First, the technical books I wanted were seldom available. I might be able to request them from a larger library, but that took time. I also had to return the books and with most of these, I wanted them available longer. So my books came from bookstores, physical at first but later from the Internet. Again, of course I had the money to do that and not everyone does.

Because of that "not everyone does", I absolutely support my tax dollars supporting libraries. However..

Most library activity is entertainment, not research, not knowledge. It's still difficult, even with SAILS, to find good technical books. Romance novels, detective stories, sure, hundreds of those. But the tech side is weak at best.

So my question is this: would the general public support libraries if all that entertainment went away? I don't think they would, because most people don't really care about anything else. They'll SAY that they think their library is a valuable resource, but I think that's mostly lip service.

-- This feed and its contents are the property of A.P. Lawrence, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.


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Hacking the new more secure credit cards

In 2011, a bunch of the new "chip and pin" credit cards were stolen. The thieves physically modified the cards circuitry to accept any pin as valid, thereby letting them rack up almost $700,000 in fraudulent transactions.

Don't panic, because this particular hack method has already been blocked. But do think about how this was done: it was micro surgery on the cards innards. That's scary, because this particular modification was (relatively) simple and unsophisticated. What might the next one be?

It's obvious that anything physically accessible has a potential hackability. So how can we ever be secure?

Well, suppose your credit card number wasn't a number at all but was biometrics derived from your person. Suppose further that what you owe and what you own wasn't stored at a bank somewhere, but was stored in your biometrics - that is, you are your own bank account. That's somewhat possible now, though there's no way for you to control it - you wouldn't know if someone hacked you to steal your assets. But that might change eventually.

And then someone will find a way to hack that.

How a criminal ring defeated the secure chip-and-PIN credit cards

-- This feed and its contents are the property of A.P. Lawrence, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.


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Is stock trading doomed?

Is stock trading doomed?

Brace yourself: We may be headed towards a world dominated by a handful of tech corporations vying with each other to develop the best AI prediction algorithm.

That's from "Microsoft Bing Predicts and the future of gambling" at ExtremeTech. That article discusses how Microsoft Bing correctly picked winners for week one of the NFL season. That's groundbreaking, but the stuff about computer trading has been going on for some time now. People are still arguing as to whether it has caused market crashes, but there's no doubt that the best software with the quickest Internet connections has great advantages over anyone else.

A lone wolf day trader probably isn't going to do well against that. Without access to a firehose of data and the software to analyze it, he or she won't be able to compete at the same level.

I'm not sure what that means for the rest of us.

Microsoft Bing Predicts and the future of gambling

Algorithmic trading

Bing Predicts

-- This feed and its contents are the property of A.P. Lawrence, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.


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