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Gus Van Horn blog

Reblogged:Friday Hodgepodge

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Four Things

1. Regarding a couple of past posts, we have a somewhat humorous "porn filter update":
Sen. Frank Ciccone said he pulled the bill after The Associated Press reported Monday that the legislation had been pushed around the country by a man with a history of outlandish lawsuits including trying to marry his computer as a statement against gay marriage.
So, the good news is that all these oddly-similar proposals come from the same source, and people are alert to it. The bad news remains that these proposals aren't being laughed off as soon as they are made. Consequently, I await a sequel with trepidation.

2. A Hacker News thread solicits stories about "the weirdest hack you ever saw in production." Many were related to the ridiculous hoops people have to go through to automate certain kinds of tasks on Windows:
In my startup days, we were working on a proof of concept with a really big bank. Because of their security rules, we couldn't have direct access to their systems - so if we wanted to do something remotely, we would have to start a webex, they would join and share their screen, and give us remote control.

This worked great, except if we wanted to work over the weekend, since if we left the screen alone for more than a few minutes, the screen lock would kick in and we'd lose the session.

Our solution? We purchased a small fan with an oscillation mode, and tied a mouse to it. We then had the fan drag the mouse ever so slightly back and forth whenever we wanted to step away from the remote session. Kept it going for weeks.
A few others chimed in with less entertaining alternatives, but another kind of hack related to dialog boxes and the need to free human beings from sitting next to a computer just to "push the effing button." There's even an application one can buy to do this (as well as aid in the cause of automation in other ways). Oddly enough, it's called PTFB.

Call me crazy, but isn't automation one of the things computers are for?

The oscillating fan: It cools you off, helps you sleep, and frees up IT staff in Windows shops.

3. I don't spend much time wondering how Microsoft stays in business. I just use Linux whenever I can. And so it is that a comment on another thread caused me to think of things I use scripting for. Here are four:
  • Collect everything from the past 24 hours from new sites I follow, so I needn't visit multiple times a day.
  • Concatenate content from sites I follow whose pages take too long to load, so I can quickly catch up with them.
  • Grab relevant content from the web for the administrative parts of reports I have to prepare, and format it in a way suitable for quick editing and subsequent dumping into Word.
  • Automatically create, organize, track, and archive projects.
Some readers will look at these and wonder why I don't just buy some software or subscribe to a service. There's nothing wrong with that, but my own systems are immune to being orphaned, bought out, or radically changed for the worse. And it doesn't hurt that I enjoy writing scripts, anyway.

4. Of course, a tool is only as good as its user, as someone recently showed in Utah. Combining a lack of focus with the power of technology, someone at the Utah State Bar Association recently sent a topless photo to every lawyer in the state.

-- CAV

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