A handy solution to a disarming problem

The puns may get me some w(r)istful looks, but after Simone took a 9-year old kamikaze pilot to the pedal bike, we’re in dire need of some light-hearted humour to lift our spirits…

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That ‘sprained’ wrist turned out to be broken. In two places, in fact, the radius and the tricky scaphoid. So that cast will stay on for six weeks minimum, and hopefully no more than that.

Of course, typing is a real pain with this whole situation, even though she’s lucky that it’s her left hand and not her right (mouse) hand. We immediately scoured the net for some easy solutions for one-handed typing, but most relied on dodgy software or text-prediction with half-assed dictionaries.

Luckily, Max Baker, back in 2008, had the same idea and scrounged up a super-useful AutoHotKey script for one-handed typing by a forum user known as ‘mbirth’. I have found AutoHotKey to be one of the most generally useful pieces of utility-software on the planet anyway, and it did not disappoint on this account either.

The script causes keys on the keyboard to be mirrored onto the same position on the other hand (if you’re a standard blind-typist).

Max needed something for the left hand (a nice solution if you don’t want to let go of your mouse), but of course Simone needed a right-handed solution. The script is well-written though, so it was as easy as flipping the original and mirrored key definitions around. I then figured a one-size-fits-all solution would include both left and right hand and would just flip the whole keyboard.

I like Max’ suggestion of flipping the key caps, but it’s less practical on a laptop, so a few dollars spent at a news agent and a Sharpie-scribbling session later, we managed to get around the problem of remembering key positions as well.

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Problem. Solved.

(whole solution for download here, if you need it – get AutoHotKey from their own site)

QR codes rock, strictly personal tablets don’t

Although I am aware of (and use) wonderful services like Read It Later, Springpad, Evernote and the ability to send myself links through various means such as mail, Twitter, Facebook updates or the old “typing what I read”, I find that shooting a QR code beats all of the above for ease of use and speed. Here’s the situation: I like to read ezines (web magazines, whatever you like to call them) on a tablet. In my case, I read them using Pulse on the Xoom. Sometimes I find something worth sharing, but here’s the problem: my wife and I share the tablet, so it’s not configured to use either of our social network logins.
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Virtualbox running PostgreSQL

If like to keep the PC I use for development as clean as possible, to reduce the odds of “other installed stuff” influencing whatever I’m writing. Whenever I need to install some kind of server-type software on it, I prefer to use small virtual machines to install them in. Like a sandbox running the server, which I can just start and access from the host machine whenever I need it. Another big advantage of this approach is that it allows me to just copy the entire virtual machine to another machine and run the server there, for example on a colleague’s machine. Below are some tips on getting the open source database server PostgreSQL running on a virtual machine, accessible from the host (or any other machine on your network).
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Rant: welcome to 2011, not unlike 2001

Remember how mediaplayers were really primitive back in the day? How they always had trouble keeping your music properly sorted and display the right metadata for whatever format you preferred? I bet you do because nothing changed, really. (Yes, I know, “RAEG” right?)

When I drop my properly standardized ID3-ed MP3’s and FLACs into my player, I get all sorts of interesting effects. And before you start, we’re talking about my own CD’s here. Ripped to FLAC for playback on my media center and MP3-encoded for convenient use on my smartphone and other devices. Depending on where you live, that may be illegal or borderline illegal, but where I live, it’s legal – at least at the time of writing. At the worst, we could be having a discussion about the legality of mp3-encoding.
Continue reading Rant: welcome to 2011, not unlike 2001

Two admins and a security hole

If you’re like me and you trust your wife to be the other admin on your desktop PC running Windows, you may have a serious security hole. I didn’t realize until recently, but if you’re logged in to Windows 7, or Windows Vista for that matter, and you’re an administrator, you get to change all users passwords, including the passwords of other admins without exception.

Now, if you try to change the password for your own account, you have to enter the old password before you can change it into a new one. But here’s the thing: for other users, even admins, there’s no such requirement. Of course it makes sense that you don’t have to enter their old password, how would you even know? But it doesn’t require you to enter your own either.
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Fight flames with Unix and Firefox

Thanks to my colleague, who went tripping around Andalusia in the south of Spain and spotted several of these fire extinguishers. Finding the Firefox alone would have been awesome, but the Unix one takes the cake. Between these and the ubiquitous “Bimbo”-brand bread (which is originally Mexican), the Spanish seem to have a knack for branding that raises some eyebrows and lifts some corners of mouths in Anglophone countries.

Firefox fire extinguisher Unix fire extinguisher

Geordi and Picard prefer Android

If you’re still on the fence on which smartphone OS you prefer, maybe this will swing you towards Google’s Android:

Geordi Laforge and Jean-Luc Picard prefer smart Android

Geordi Laforge and Jean-Luc Picard are talking on a phone, conveniently housed in the innards of the popular android Data. (Note how I didn’t mention their respective ranks, to avoid coming across as too much of a geek – or worse: a Trekkie)

The shot is from “Phantasms“, an episode (#158) of the TV-series “Star Trek: The Next Generation”. And in case you’re wondering: no, I did not shop the phone in myself, it’s the actual shot from the series. And yes, the lousy shopwork with the mismatched placement of the phone is in the series as well. In the scene itself it doesn’t show as much, since there’s another shot of Picard talking inbetween.