The alpha and omega of the web

Twenty years ago, the Mosaic web browser was released into the wild. There’d been earlier browsers used by Sir Tim and others, but Mosaic was, to many, their first glimpse of what the web had to offer.
The Register marks this milestone with a brief history and a few tests of Mosaic 1.0 against the modern web. (Imagine a 1963 36-HP VW Beetle on the Mass Pike.)
Mosaic was my first browser. We had to compile it ourselves from a kit that we downloaded from the University of Illinois servers. It ran on the DEC workstations, both VMS and, if I recall correctly, Ultrix (DEC’s versions of UNIX).
There wasn’t a lot of content at that time, mostly engineering documents and related geekery. Nevertheless, you could follow a trail of links from morning to night. The most famous coffee pot in the world, the one in the Trojan Room at the University of Cambridge came to the web later in 1993.

The Trojan Room Coffee Pot

From then until now, we’ve heard every breathless, hyperbolic phrase used to describe how the web and its communications underpinnings are ushering a new era of human existence. Those ejaculators are probably right, at least in part.
After all, look how far we’ve come, from a program that allowed nuclear scientists to share research to a video of a cat in a shark costume, sitting on a Roomba, chasing a duckling, with a dog in another shark costume in a stellar cameo performance.

Ubuntu eats Windows driver

Each time I install Ubuntu on my Thinkpad T420S in a dual-boot configuration with Windows 7, the driver for my Ricoh multi-card reader goes missing. The error shows up as an error for “Base System Device in Device Manager.

The drivers for this device are not installed. (Code 28)

I tried re-installing several devices drivers that purport to handle this device. No joy.
The fix is to a) fix the MBR so Ubuntu isn’t available or b) ?. After removing the dual boot configuration, there is no error.

Java hates users.

In preparation for a class that I’m teaching, I perform a Java update on my Windows 7 system. After avoiding the installation of the crapware toolbar, I complete the installation.

A browser window opens up.

I click the button. Another window opens.

I click the link to resolve the problem. (Yes, the plug-in is enabled.)
I’m brought to a page where I can download and install the latest version of Java. Although I’ve just done that, by way of the update, I humor them and download and run the kit.
I’m rewarded with this:

My solution: I’ve uninstalled Java and refuse to use websites that require it.

We have the right to remain silent

Respecting Hakkarainen’s Law of Great Events, this may be a good time not to read too much of what other people are posting on the Intertubes. Lots of people, including people I like, are saying things for, against, and “I was for it before I was against” last week’s events in Boston. Much of what I’ve seen has been disappointing, both in what’s been said and by whom it was said.
I certainly don’t need to add to that pool of unhelpful commentary. (Ref. the corollary to HLGE.)

Published on the Friday before the world of Boston went a-scramble, this Guardian (UK) article shows that reading news is toxic to our minds and bodies. Among other things,

News inhibits thinking. Thinking requires concentration. Concentration requires uninterrupted time. News pieces are specifically engineered to interrupt you. They are like viruses that steal attention for their own purposes. News makes us shallow thinkers.

An Elvis impersonator sends ricin-laden envelopes to the President and members of the Senate.

via Google Trends on 4/22/13

The lethal mail doesn’t even outpace news queries about the Kardashians. We’re dealing with a news wave that’s too big to ride, let alone analyze with any coherence.

A sense of place

Americans are an unsettled people. Census records  (PDF) show that a third to nearly half of us moved at least once in the previous five years. The period 2005-2010 showed the lowest rate,  35.4 percent, in the past 40 years.

Geographical Mobility: 2005 to 2010

Even though the unemployed have a higher mobility rate than the general population, the  collapse of home prices seems to have kept people in place. Most moves, when they do take place, occur within the same county.
We still like to keep in touch. A study of our phone call patterns shows how frequently we call people within certain regions.

The Connected States of America

Worcester makes a lot of calls within the Northeast, but has surprisingly strong phone connections to Florida and southern California and Arizona.
Americans aren’t the only ones to move, to shake off our past and plot our futures. A hundred years ago, we had a time of singular convergence. Although there’s no record that they ever met, we learn from a BBC story that Hitler, Trotsky, Tito, Freud and Stalin lived in Vienna.

BBC — 1913: When Hitler, Trotsky, Tito, Freud and Stalin all lived in the same place

None of them was born in Vienna and all changed their names before making the 20th century.

More on passwords

When I went to BJ’s  to create an online account, I dutifully created a password with at least eight characters, including at least one letter and one number. As standard practice, I also include a punctuation mark, making password cracking that much more difficult.


BJ’s took exception to my choice. but did so only with a suggestion.

If a password should only contain alphabets (sic) and numerics, (sic+1) etc., then I would still be permitted to use punctuation characters against their advice. Grumble, grumble.

One of an occasional series.
A bunch of years ago, I worked for a software company. It was hard work for long hours. At one point, senior management made the pronouncement that the development team needed to focus more on a particular aspect of the product. The QA manager and I agreed that we’d be Focused More-ons.