Can Humans Fail the Turing Test? Yes.

June 30th, 2016 No comments

I had the unfortunate experience of having to talk to CenturyLink about something, so I thought I would give the “Live Chat” feature a try. I wanted to know how much it would cost to have service for three iPhones and whether or not they would pay any cancellation fees with my current carrier.

I was asking too much. I am still not convinced that I was talking to a real human being; maybe I just have too much faith in humanity to believe this was a human operator.

Here is the transcript of the chat that took 15 minutes to get nowhere.

Read more…

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Fixed Poor Netflix Performance with pfSense

June 3rd, 2016 No comments

I was having terrible Netflix performance when connecting through my pfSense 2.3 router (running on XenServer 6.5), but Netflix was fine when I bypassed pfSense altogether or when I connected to Netflix through my StrongVPN connection passing through pfSense.

After much research, investigations, and Wiresharking, I made the following three configuration changes that seem to have fixed the problem.
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My iPhone Leaf Fell Out

April 26th, 2016 No comments

I hope this is a unique problem, but my month-old iPhone SE with the “fancy” inlaid Apple logo on the back had a leaf failure. The “color matched stainless steel logo” on the back is made of two separate pieces, the apple and the leaf, which are pressed into place.

My leaf fell out.

At a genius bar Apple replaced the phone free of charge, but they did not know how to classify the problem. I was the first they had heard of such a problem.

I suspect it was sucked out by a car holder I use with a sticky pad that holds the phone in place.

leaf-missing

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Run iMovie HD (and maybe other older applications) in Yosemite (and now El Capitan)

January 23rd, 2015 94 comments

I was disappointed to see that I could no longer run iMovie HD (available here) after upgrading to Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite. The Finder gave me an error saying, You can’t use this version of the application “iMovie HD” with this version of OS X. You have “iMovie HD” 6.0.3. I was delighted to discover a workaround that works, well, for now. Here’s how.

UPDATE, Sept 2015: Looks like this trick works in El Capitan too.

UPDATE, Nov 2015: Skip straight to Rolando’s comment below for the best solution yet.

iMovie HD error message on Yosemite
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MSP430 (or Arduino) Library for PCF8574 I2C Port Expander

August 8th, 2014 8 comments

port-expanderI bought an 8-port general purpose IO expander for adding ports to my MSP430 projects via I2C, but I couldn’t find any library for accessing it. Fortunately the I2C communication with the on-board Texas Instruments PCF8574 chip is pretty straightforward, so after studying the LiquidCrystal_I2C library, which uses the PCF8574 for communicating with the popular 162 LCDs, I made my own library for this port expander. You are welcome to it. I release it as Public Domain code.

Download PortExpander_I2C
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Setting up Bluetooth to Bluetooth Master with HC-05 for my 16×2 LCD Office Door Sign

July 30th, 2014 1 comment

For my office door I’ve made a sign using a 162 LCD display controlled by an MSP430 and connectable via Bluetooth. A button lets me cycle through canned messages like, “The doctor is in,” and “At lunch.” Via Bluetooth I can give it an ad hoc message that I had not pre-programmed.

Door sign using 16x2 LCD, MSP430, Bluetooth, 433Mhz radio

Door sign using 162 LCD, MSP430, Bluetooth, and 433Mhz radio

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DNS is a Hog (for DNS) on iOS

June 14th, 2014 No comments

I can’t imagine how DNS services on my iPhone could chew up 5.7 MB of data in two weeks. These are tiny little queries being made, aren’t they?

20140614-215815-79095559.jpg

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Searching GZipped Log Files

March 18th, 2014 1 comment

I have a few handy scripts for searching through log files, especially monitoring SSH login attempts. I cannot just grep through log files however, because the log files get “rolled”: compressed, and archived.

rob@kanga:/var/log $ ls -lh system.log*
-rw-r-----@ 1 root  admin   289K Mar 18 17:16 system.log
-rw-r-----  1 root  admin    79K Mar 18 00:00 system.log.0.gz
-rw-r-----  1 root  admin    39K Mar 17 00:02 system.log.1.gz
-rw-r-----  1 root  admin    36K Mar 16 00:02 system.log.2.gz
-rw-r-----  1 root  admin    35K Mar 15 00:02 system.log.3.gz
-rw-r-----  1 root  admin    25K Mar 14 00:01 system.log.4.gz
-rw-r-----  1 root  admin    69K Mar 13 00:01 system.log.5.gz
-rw-r-----  1 root  admin    68K Mar 12 00:01 system.log.6.gz
rob@kanga:/var/log $

Suppose you want to grep through your log files for SSH login activity, you can do it like this:

rob@kanga:/var/log $ { cat /private/var/log/system.log ; gunzip -c /private/var/log/system.*.gz ; } | grep sshd | wc -l
   11364
rob@kanga:/var/log $

The magic happens in the curly braces, which concatenates the standard output of all enclosed commands. Be sure to include a semicolon after the last command, right before the closing curly brace.

An even shorter example:

rob@kanga:/var/log $ { echo hello ; echo world ; } | cat -n
     1	hello
     2	world
rob@kanga:/var/log $
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Congressman Barber’s Response to Inquiry About DHS Alleged MRAP and Ammo Orders

April 19th, 2013 3 comments

640px-Navistar_MaxxProRegarding the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) alleged purchases of 2,700 Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles and billions of rounds of ammunition, I just got off the phone with a fellow named Mike from Congressman Barber’s (D-AZ) office. Congressman Barber is on the House Armed Services Committee. I was concerned about these reported unusual purchases, and I wrote a letter in February. I asked for answers; they investigated. Here is their answer.
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Help Me Win Saddleback Leather

November 28th, 2012 2 comments
The contest is over. Thanks for those who helped by clicking through to Saddleback’s homepage. -Rob

I love Saddleback Leather products, and they have a great tagline: “They’ll fight over it when you’re dead!” They’re having a Christmas giveaway with lots of loot.

Please help me out by clicking through to their homepage often for the next three weeks in December (through 19 Dec 2012). Woo hoo!

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