<CharlieDigital/> Programming, Politics, and uhh…pineapples


How NOT to Implement a Paywall

Posted by Charles Chen

Yeah...I hope they didn't pay these guys too much.

Via: Cynical-C.

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Windows 7 0x800704cf Error

Posted by Charles Chen

So I turned on the computer today and the network shares weren't working.

Ran through a couple of checks:

  • Can I ping the machine? Check.
  • Can I remote desktop into the machine? Check.
  • Are the firewall settings okay? Check.
  • Can I access the share using the IP? No go.
  • Can I access the share using FQDN? No go.
  • Reboot and try again? No go.

Turns out that this is an issue with Windows 7.  It creates hundreds of these random adapters in Network adapters (need to turn on Show hidden devices from View).

Now the question of how to remove all of these.  That led to a Microsoft tool called devcon.  Conveniently, Microsoft doesn't include an x64 version of it in the download on the Microsoft website; only an x86 and ia64 version...(not enough ellipsis in the world to express my annoyance).

Luckily, others have already gone through the pain of extracting this from other sources.

Now just run:

devcon remove *6to4mp

And you should be good to go.

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Misc. Adventures

Posted by Charles Chen

Just some random photos to unload from the camera.

We recently saw this little guy scouring our Mums for prey:

Spent the weekend in Tennessee. Stopped by a BBQ/country music festival in Nashville. Got myself some Bayou Billy's homebrew soda. Love their tagline: "Put Some South In Your Mouth":

You're supposed to keep the mug for lifetime $1 refills. Sandra particularly liked how I carried mine around:

Spent Sunday at Cheekwood Botanical Gardens just outside of Nashville. Amazing place; a shame that I didn't have a better camera, lens, and -- well -- skill to capture it all.

The main mansion was beautiful as well, however, photography wasn't allowed.  The backstory is that it was once owned by one of the early investors in Maxwell House Coffee (The Cheek family).  There's a whole section of the garden, the sculpture trail, that we didn't do...maybe next time.  Also, there's supposed to be a Dale Chihuly exhibit next year if you're planning on making a trip to Tennessee!

If you're ever in Tennessee, don't pass up the chance to stop by Cheekwood.  Bring some comfortable hiking/walking shoes, a bottle of water, a nice camera, and some time.  Oh, and finally: where did this guy come from?

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Advertising Done Right

Posted by Charles Chen

This one made me chuckle:

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I Learned A New Vocabulary Word Today…

Posted by Charles Chen


Apophallation is a technique resorted to by some species of air-breathing land slugs such as Limax maximus and Ariolimax spp. In these species of hermaphroditic terrestrial gastropod mollusks, after mating, if the slugs cannot successfully separate, a deliberate amputating of the penis takes place.

The slugs are hermaphroditic and have a full set of organs of both sexes. They have relatively large penises which, during mating, wrap around each other in a tight spiral. They sometimes have difficulty separating afterwards. When separating seems impossible, one slug gnaws off either its own, or its partner's penis, so that separation is then possible. No replacement penis grows, and the apophallated slug adopts a purely female function from that point onward.


(We've been having a pretty heavy slug infestation due to the inordinate amount of rainfall we've been getting...luckily, they don't seem to like pineapple)

As if that wasn't fascinating enough, their sex organs protrude from the side of their head.

And if that didn't boggle your mind, how about eating slugs (warning: cute and gag inducing at the same time)?


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Posted by Charles Chen

Got myself a Bialetti cappucino/latte set this week. I have to say, I'm pretty impressed. Check out the results for yourself:

It comes with a milk frother cup, which worked out really well.

Check out my Amazon review:

I'm a pretty "average" coffee drinker; I'm not so into it that I'm going to be roasting my own beans anytime soon. On the other hand, I've also had my share of watered down and bitter tasting sludge water once in a while from national chains as well and I can appreciate a good cup of coffee.

This little device seems like a good middle ground. Not so steep in price that you feel like you need to be a coffee snob to really appreciate it, and yet it produces an above average cup of cappuccino. You can certainly spend a lot more on a coffee preparation device, but there's no guarantee that you're going to get results that really justify the extra cost.

Compared to some devices I've used in the past, I would list the key pros of this one as:

1. Very easy to clean. The frothing cup has a non-stick coating and it's easy to rinse out. The percolator is pretty easy to assemble/disassemble once it's cool. All the parts are easy to remove and rinse clean. The coffee grinds are very easy to remove as well (one of my main concerns).

2. The frothing cup works GREAT. I was a bit tepid to try it out with some organic skim milk, but it worked out great! I set about 3/4 cup of milk over very low heat until I saw a bit of steam coming off the cup and put the plunger over it and within 10-15 pumps, I had a nice, thick, frothy mixture (even with skim milk!).

3. Paired with some Illy coffee, the coffee came out very, very well. Perhaps the best coffee I've had in quite a while. No bitterness and, to my surprise, even with the fine grind of the beans, the coffee was pretty much free of grinds.

4. To my surprise, I was able to get a bit of crema! Yes, it's possible even with this relatively cheap device (there are a few videos on Youtube demonstrating this).

A few things held this combo back from being a 5 star product:

1. The directions are TERRIBLE. No suggestions on the amount of grinds to use (yes, to some degree, this is really dependent on your personal taste, but at least give me a baseline!). There's also no suggestion on the grind to use either (I ended up using a fine grind Illy). There's no measuring cup and at least on mine, there were no water level markers on the inside of the percolator. I ended up filling it about 3/4 of the way to the valve. As for grinds, I ended up using a bit more than 2 tablespoons and it seemed to work out well for me.

2. Unless you're standing next to the thing the whole time, there's really no way of telling when it's done; you really have to kind of stand there and watch it. With enough usage, I assume that you'll get the time down, but it would be nice if had some mechanism to alert you when it's done.

3. At least on my gas stove, it takes a while to heat up. Compared to a drip machine or other electric percolators I've used in the past, this device does take a bit more time since you can't really use high heat on your stove (unless you have an electric one). Since the base is rather small, you have to use it over a smaller burner and even then, you may have to use a rather low heat setting. All of this means that it takes a while for it to heat up. While this might contribute to a better tasting coffee, it also means more time.

All in all, I think it was well worth the $40 some dollars I paid for it. It's a great weekend companion; it's very satisfying to wake up on a lazy Sunday morning and make a cup of cappuccino for the wife and I and sit back and relax, without having to get dressed and rush out into the cold winter air. It's probably not ideal for every day use as it is a bit more time consuming and there is a bit more cleanup involved compared to a paper filter drip machine. But then again, if your working life is busy and hectic, it might be just the thing you need to slow down for a moment and enjoy a hot cup of cappuccino!

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Now For Something Completely Random…

Posted by Charles Chen

"Network Apologizes For Mocking Athol"


(AP) A cable sports network says it no
longer will make Athol the butt of its jokes. Comcast SportsNet said
Thursday it would pull a newspaper ad that leaders of the small central
Massachusetts town called insulting and offensive.

The ad featured two side-by-side signs that together read: "We can pronounce Worcester ... without sounding like an Athol."

I grew up one town over from Athol 😛 It was always a joke the kids would play: hold your tongue and say "Athol".


And I Thought My Setup Was Badass…

Posted by Charles Chen

Excessive? Maybe.

Badass? Most definitely.

Now I'd be way more impressed if those monitors were 30-inchers.


Commitment Chains, GUIs, Frustration, And Other Ramblings…

Posted by Charles Chen

Warning: massive brain dump ahead...

As I was laying down to sleep and having a discussion with my wife - much to her dismay - the topic of her current graduate class came up and she mentioned how much she enjoyed just sitting down and writing for 45 minutes each class.  I found it strange that she should put it in such a perspective.  I mean, there's nothing preventing her from taking the time to sit down and write for 45 minutes each day (and she did keep a journal up until maybe 3 or 4 years ago) as surely, countless minutes of her day (and any average person's day) is spent doing mindless things like watching television or eating or something else equally useless.

The idea of commitment chains occurred to me as I was using an analogy about exercise and trying to convince her that writing for 45 minutes each day is relatively trival compared to working out.  Think about it: in exercising, one starts a chain of commitments which can seem unconsciously daunting.  To exercise is to sweat, to sweat is to necessitate an immediate shower (well, unless you don't mind body odor or the salty stickiness of sweat), to exercise necessitates a larger load of laundry, and most importantly, in this proposition, is that it necessitates a healthy lifestyle lest that exercise went for naught. 

It is a relatively large commitment chain to make simply by exercising and perhaps this is why so many people find it so difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle: the weight of this commitment chain is simply too heavy.  On the other hand, writing for pleasure carries little commitment of any kind.  You write if you want to, you don't if you are not in the mood.

What's the point?  No point, really 😀  I guess if there was a point, then perhaps it is that very often in life, we don't really take into consideration how little commitment it takes to do what we want to do and do what we enjoy.  We also fail to realize how these low commitment activities have a profound effect on our lives as they help us feel like we've done something.  Simple things like taking a stroll around the block, watering some flowers, laying down and watching the clouds pass, sitting with a cat on the grass, drinking a cup of lemonade on a hazy summer afternoon.  Perhaps that's the secret to finding balance in life: to have a healthy mixture of tasks with long commitment chains (work, family, health) mixed with activies of low commitment (I'm mixed on whether blogging is the former or the latter, but I do find it constructive to put thoughts to text some times).

Shifting gears now.

Prior to this discussion, we had another discussion about how we visualize dates.  I was thinking back to something that I had once read about how to interview tech candidates: propose that some object typically comes in a set of 14.  Now 5 additional elements are introduced...ask the candidate how he or she would organize the new elements.

Some people, like my wife, would tend to place the 5 elements "below" the 14 elements and line them up and start to form a multidimensional array - or a matrix, if you will.  Some people like me, would visualize it as a separate block of elements, but in a linear manner...more like containment where the first set contains 14 elements and the second set contains 5, but they are part of yet a larger set.  It is less of a repeating pattern and more of a general grouping.

This manifested itself clearly in the way in which we think about and visualize dates.  For her, as day of the week is important, she tends to organize her events and key dates in a typical calendar fashion and in fact, she can visualize it so well, that given one event in a month, she can probably tell you the day of the week of any other date in the month nearly instantly.  She views the set of 7 days in a week as a part of a matrix much as a calendar is typically visualized.

In my case, as day of the week is generally not that important, I visualize date and time as linear and quite abstract (I think the most natural way to think about it since it really is linear and absolute...it is only the incidental cyclical nature of our orbit around our Sun that defines constructs like seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, years and so on).  In my case, I am terrible at remembering dates and I am terrible at remembering order; I only roughly index that I have something to do some time in the future.  Ask me what I'll be doing two weeks from now, and it'll take me a good amount of time to figure that out whereas my wife's response will be nearly instantaneous.  I tend to think of time in blocks where I have commitments (meetings, errands, and so on) and blocks where I don't have commitments.

When you really think about it, time itself is completely abstract (what is it? will it end? when did it start? how much of it is there? what does it look like? what is the absolute unit of time?  can it really even be counted?), but the organization and demarcatinon of time into units seems...weird and useless to me; I am fine thinking about it in the abstract (i.e. "some time in the future, I need to do this") and not as an absolute (i.e. "on such and such date at such and such time, I need to do this" or "x units from now, I need to do this").  

There is a parallel in my profession: as a software developer, there is nothing tangible about the constructs that I build; the contructs that I build are purely abstract in nature: every GUI, every construct in software, is but an abstraction of numerous lines of code - or, is it the other way around?  Software is but one layer of abstraction on top of another...modern day software could not exist without the huge levels of abstractions that have been built to allow programs to be written efficiently.  Buttons are not buttons, they are rectagles.  Rectangles are not rectangles, they are arrangements of lines.  Lines are not lines, but merely a linear set of pixels.  But in essence, there is nothinig to grasp and to utilize to visualize proportion, all of it is purely hypothetical and kind of "uploaded" into my brain as a set of objects, relationships, and other abstract constructs when I sit down at my desk in the morning. 

In actuality, I find this process of uploading and unloading quite unpleasant (particularly the unloading part).  I have been told by my coworkers, wife, and family members that I can become quite unruly when I'm involved in my work.  The reality of it is that when I'm in my groove, unloading and then loading so much abstraction and so much data causes some sort of mental instability...I just get frustrated at the individual forcing the purge or I just lose my groove and have to kind of veg for the rest of the day...I simply cannot be constructive.

From an observer's perspective, I think this makes me seem like a loner or anti-social or if a colleague is coming to me with questions, it may seem like I'm impatient or uncooperative.  In reality, my bitter reaction is more of a defensive mechanism to kind of keep myself from having to go through these periods of derailment as in my case it's not a temporary derailment...it's like a long term derailment once it happens as there is simply too much data to store and reload that it's taxing on my mind.

For this reason, I think I've recently been in some hot water with some coworkers.  I simply don't take afternoon interruptions very well as that is the time when it is hardest to recover from derailment at that point.

Of course, the whole reason that this discussion and train of thought came up was the movie Stranger Than Fiction (it's an absolutely brilliant screenplay with an absolutely excellent performance by Will Ferrell (everytime you think he's going to break into his "normal" genres, he surprises you and keeps his acting true to the character...a brilliant perfomance)). 

This movie draws my attention on various levels: it is at once a deep inspection of what it means to live and to be alive, it asks what exactly is the scope of one life in the grander scheme of the universe, on some level it is a movie about religion (I haven't really fully formulated this part of it yet), and of course, it's a touching romantic comedy :-).

I also found the specials (and this isn't the first time) to contain some very insightful information on teamwork and project management that would apply to almost any field (but that's a discussion for another day).

What also caught my attention was how director Marc Forster and the visual effects team realized how Harold's thoughts were visualized with these planar "screens" with metrics, text, and data layered together.  It's much the same way I visualize data, code, structures, and tasks, all on virtual screens that I slide around, stack, layer, and intermingle.  I now realize that there is no organization to how I think about these constructs and abstractions...I simply see them in my mind as if before me was a stack of cards strewn about and yet I am able to reach out and pluck the ace of spades at will with no effort.

Maintaining such mental order requires a lot of effort and a lot of concentration.  I think it is because of the amount of effort required to work the way that I do, that I am so unpleasant when interrupted (much to the dismay of my wife, mother, and coworkers).  And believe me, it's not that I don't like to help others with the development issues or educate other developers and team members, rather such tasks are not my primary concern and shifting gears is extremely difficult when you have to maintain such large abstractions and structures in the mind.

So of course, the question is, what is the solution?  Well, perhaps I need to invest some time in some organizational books.  Perhaps I need a whiteboard to help unload some of the data and make it easier to reload as well.  Perhaps I need a bigger desk so I can scribble more and keep better notes.

Well, I think that about wraps this up.  Possibly not the most coherent or well organized entry, but it contained data would have kept me up all night if I didn't unload it 🙂


Photo Tour Of China

Posted by Charles Chen

Rediscovered an awesome photolog of a tour of China today.

Note to self: visit China.

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