No Windows, No QWERTY

After more than a decade of computing experience, and being stuck with Microsoft Windows along with the QWERTY keyboard layout, my non-conforming self just wanted to be different.

After more than a decade of computing experience, and being stuck with Microsoft Windows along with the QWERTY keyboard layout, my non-conforming self just wanted to be different.

I’ve learned about Linux[1] years ago (ca. late 1990s), but, even though I was interested to see one running, I was hesitant to try because I was neither a programmer, nor a techie back then. So, open-source applications you compile before you execute, command line interfaces, and gzipped tarballs, among others, were still some things I fear to tinker with.

Now that easy-to-use Linux distros, such as Ubuntu, have been available, nothing could stop me anymore. Besides, with a more secure system, a much cooler desktop environment, and a free[2] license, who could ask for more?

The transition to Ubuntu was painless, except for the loss of my favorite text editor, EditPlus, which probably is the only software besides Mozilla Firefox I’d die without. But, I’m trying to learn GNU Emacs anyway. Hopefully, I’d feel more geeky using it. I’ve also tried command line installation of some software,[3] but I must admit Synaptic Package Manager is easier even compared to Windows installers.

On the other hand, I couldn’t remember when I’ve learned about the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard layout since I love reading about a wide range of information almost anytime I am not busy with anything. I didn’t care much about it back then, because I thought I did not have the proper hardware. After reading much about health, world records, language, and technological history, as well as software developers (all those topics are related, btw), I became interested with the DSK.

When I said those topics are related, I meant it. On the subject of health and RSIs, DSK has been said to minimize, if not eliminate, hand discomfort by incorporating a layout designed to lessen hand/wrist movements, which I hopefully experience once I get used to it. World records show that the fastest typing speed of 212 wpm is being held by Barbara Blackburn on a DSK. I’ve measured my peak on a QWERTY at 59 wpm,[4] and I aim to reach higher speeds. Dr. August Dvorak, the inventor, researched letter frequency on the English language to make a more efficient keyboard layout. History proved the (almost) one and a half century old typing layout, QWERTY, difficult to displace, but two famous software developers, Matt Mullenweg and Bram Cohen, whose products I use and love,[5] use DSK.

So, I made mine DSK, as well. And, it’s hunt-and-peck all over again! Oh, I so love challenging myself.

Footnotes:

  1. ^ And, Tux, its cute penguin mascot.
  2. ^ As in freedom.
  3. ^ Just for experience, and the fun of it.
  4. ^ Measured using Typeonline Speed test without mistakes.
  5. ^ WordPress and the BitTorrent protocol, respectively.

P.S.:

I actually tried to remember my own history with computers as I write this blog entry. Though it remains unclear, I still remember using the Norton Commander text user interface to play DOS-based games probably even before I’ve been to Windows 3.1x—and that was a long, long time ago. I typed this entry using DSK within the span of 48 hours. Tedious, but I’m starting to forget QWERTY, which I don’t know whether it is a good or a bad thing. Heh.

Avoid MS Excel 2007

MS Excel has a certain multiplication bug reproduced by doing multiplication that would result to 65,535 (0xFFFF). Try =850*77.1 on yours.

I’ve just read this news from /. about Microsoft Excel 2007.

I haven’t tried this myself as I’m usually on Linux and I use OpenOffice.org on my Windows partition as well, but I’ve just asked my classmate who has OEM Vista with Office 2007 to try it on his notebook. He confirms (as well as two more of my friends), MS Excel has a certain multiplication bug.

The bug could be reproduced by doing multiplication that would result to 65,535 (0xFFFF). Try =850*77.1 on yours. Excel 2007 would have displayed the result to be 100,000. According to one reply:

Suppose the formula is in A1.
=A1+1 returns 100001, which appears to show the formula is in fact 100000 and a very Serious problem.

And if you multiply be [sic] say, 2 you get something else:
=A1*2 returns 131070, as if A1 had 65535. (which it should have been)

=A1*1 Keeps it at 100000.

=A1-1 returns 65534

=A1/1 is still 100000

=A1/2 retuns [sic] 32767.5

A very serious problem indeed.

There were many speculations about the cause of the bug, but it usually points to the 16-bit to 32-bit internal data conversion since 65,535 is the cap of 16-bit integers. However, some points out to testers and programmers that are just not doing their jobs correctly.

This issue has been reported to Microsoft already. Consider waiting for an update from Microsoft before installing or upgrading unless you don’t mind valuable data and computations be fscked up 100,000 times more. Downgrade to MSO 2003 or switch to the free OpenOffice.org Calc for the meantime or forever.

Calamities Bring Up Broadband Speeds

Who would have thought that I’d get speed ups whenever there is a calamity? I know I shouldn’t be happy, but who wouldn’t? I’ve been downloading at a semi-steady rate of ±100 kiB/s, and have been getting boosts of up to 175 kiB/s on BitTorrent and above 200 kiB/s on linear HTTP downloads.

Who would have thought that I’d get speed ups whenever there is a calamity? I know I shouldn’t be happy,[1] but who wouldn’t? I’ve been downloading at a semi-steady rate of ±100 kiB/s, and have been getting boosts of up to 175 kiB/s on BitTorrent and above 200 kiB/s on linear HTTP downloads.

I’ve posted about this certain speed up last December after the Pacific earthquake that destroyed international underwater communication lines connecting South East Asia. The test result from that entry was already gone, but I have another bookmarked result dating around that time, which probably is just below to what speed I’ve had back then:

TestMy.Net Test Score: 775 kbps or 95 kB/s

And now, during the rage of Egay in this storm season, I get this:

SpeedTest.Net DL: 2275 kb/s UL: 508 kb/s

Amazing, isn’t it? Thinking that I still have that cheapest old myDSL plan, which isn’t NGN yet, advertised at 384 kbps. I think I’ve currently downloaded 2.5 GiB of data within the last 24 hours, not including what my father had on our desktop. Any more ideas on what to leech? I have to get the most out of this before the Sun comes. Heh.

Anyway, are you experiencing this as well? One friend of mine have had comparable results, but not everyone on the same ISP. I really don’t think PLDT has had my connection upgraded yet, for they required me to pass a speed increase application form for old subscribers that I still haven’t done yet.[2]

Test your speed now, and comment below to tell me I’m not the only one who should be happy. ^^

Footnotes:

  1. ^ well, about the calamities
  2. ^ I know, what the hell, right? It should be automatic!

Energy Conversion Starts Making Sense

I just came to realize that my most hated subject at the moment, EE204: Energy Conversion, in which I have flunked my exams 2 out of 2, would be useful to me as an aspiring Electronics Engineer. At first, as an ECE student, I thought I’m not going to need this course since I’m not planning to specialize in electric power generation that EEs should be doing.

I just came to realize that my most hated subject at the moment, EE204: Energy Conversion,[1] in which I have flunked my exams 2 out of 2, would be useful to me as an aspiring Electronics Engineer. At first, as an ECE student, I thought I’m not going to need this course since I’m not planning to specialize in electric power generation that EEs should be doing.

While browsing through blogs and tech news sites like I usually do, I’ve read about emerging technologies that deals with the use of hand cranks and similar manually-operated power generators, instead of the conventional way of plugging devices onto a power outlet. I’ve also read about environmental issues concerning electric power consumption and conservation with computer and even search engine usage.

We still haven’t gone to discuss DC generators as we are just halfway through the course. But, seeing how the OLPC plans to make human-powered laptop computers by means of a crank, a pedal or a pull-cord in the form of XO-1 to be distributed to children on developing countries who have little access to electricity, I got the insight. Furthermore, I just saw a portable media player utilizing the same idea, thanks to Bernie of Talkin’ Tech.

I know I shouldn’t have been posting this now as our preliminary exam week is just a day away, and the exam on EE204 is first on the list. I am just happy to see current applications of what I am studying theoretically as it gives me more understanding of the subject matter.

So, let me just ask, what would you say about manually-powered electronic devices that use less power than conventional ones? Would you be seen using it in the future or you would just stick to conventional devices until none of them exists anymore? Hand cranks and pedal generators on the nearest Wi-Fi–enabled coffee shop, anyone?

Footnote:

  1. ^ a course dealing with the conversion of mechanical energy to electrical energy (as with generators) and vice versa (as with motors)

Prevent Autorun-driven Virus Infections

USB flash drives and portable hard disk drives are commonplace today as PCs and digital media are conquering the market. But, while ease of use and portability of the UFD and HDD [as well as their digital content] increases, the spread of malware on them also increases. There are several ways to prevent this from happening, with or without the help of an AV product.

USB flash drives and portable hard disk drives are commonplace today as PCs and digital media are conquering the market. But, while ease of use and portability of the UFD and HDD [as well as their digital content] increases, the spread of malware[1] on them also increases. There are several ways to prevent this from happening,[2] with or without the help of an AV product.

Case 1: Clean PC+AV, Infected UFD/HDD; Automatic

This is the easiest, though not necessarily the best solution[3] to detect and clean autorun-driven malware.

  1. Update the anti-virus product on your computer before plugging in the portable drive.
  2. Do not open your drive contents after plugging.
  3. Scan your portable drive for malware immediately.
  4. Clean all infections found by your anti-virus.

Case 2: Clean PC, Infected UFD/HDD; Manual

In some cases, an anti-virus product or an update is not available, or the anti-virus product is just not strong or smart enough.[4] We could do a manual search and destroy for the malware.

  1. Plug on the drive to your computer.
  2. Use the Folders Explorer Bar[5] to open the drive contents on Windows Explorer, instead of double-clicking the drive icon on the main window; or
  3. Right-click on the drive icon on the main window, and select Explore or Open, and not Autoplay or Autorun
  4. Look for the file named autorun.inf.
  5. Open the file using Notepad or the text editor of your choice.
  6. Take note of the line that says, open=<path\filename.ext>, where <path\filename.ext> is the location of the malware itself.
  7. Locate the malware and delete it along with the autorun.inf file.

Case 3: Infected PC

You would know if your PC is already infected when it copies the malware and the autorun files to your portable drives automatically. If your AV software couldn’t handle cleaning your system from it, or if you have none, consider browsing the Web for manual detection and cleaning procedures as different variants and, therefore, locations of them would be hard to summarize in this post. Try Trend Micro‘s Virus Encyclopedia.

Case 4: Clean PC and UFD/HDD; Prevention

Here’s the nifty part, this is based on a hack from a friend who works on an anti-virus company.

  1. Create a folder on the root of your portable drive.
  2. Rename it as autorun.inf.
  3. Right-click on the folder, and click Properties. Alternatively, select the folder, then go to the File menu, and select Properties. KB shortcut: [Alt]+F, R
  4. Under the General tab, on the Attributes section, check Read-only and Hidden. KB shortcuts: [Alt]+R, and [Alt]+H, respectively

The above instructions would prevent other infected computers from copying an autorun directive to your portable drive. It doesn’t necessarily mean an instance of the malware itself would be prevented from being copied as well. It just protects you from your own muscle memory of instantly double-clicking the drive icon to open the contents, but instead, running the malware to be installed on your clean PC.

Footnotes:

  1. ^ malicious software; collective term for viruses, worms, trojan horses, spyware, et al.
  2. ^ Cases assume you’re on the virus-prone Microsoft Windows platform.
  3. ^ Your AV would probably delete only the instances of the malware and not the autorun.inf file for it is intended as a convenience feature for legitimate software manufacturers. You could safely delete the autorun file manually.
  4. ^ This pertains to my experience with a fully-updated AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition on my classmate’s notebook, which was not able to detect a simple autorun-driven malware.
  5. ^ If not visible by default, go to View on the menu bar, locate Explorer Bar, and then check Folders. KB shortcut: [Alt]+V, E, O