September 4, 2012



April 15, 2012



(At the time of this writing, Incredibox had been 9gagged.)

January 13, 2012

Le “livre brun” Recettes Culinaires enfin réédité

Recettes culinaires et hygiène alimentaire – Le livre brun – Ancienne Édition

Le “livre brun” Recettes Culinaires, que certains d’entre nous utilisaient à l’école ménagère, est enfin réédité et disponible en ligne.

Voir les articles sur le blog de Gasser Media :

et son passage au minimag de la TSR.

Recettes culinaires et hygiène alimentaire – Le livre brun – Nouvelle Édition

December 19, 2011



December 6, 2011

Abysmal Michael Gambon


November 6, 2011

Good Guy Ajay


And here’s the antithesis to the previous one.

Scumbag Ajay


From CNN Tech, USB inventor is tech’s unlikely ‘rock star’:

In the early 1990s, [Ajay] Bhatt, like many people, was trying to hook up a printer to his computer. To do so, he first had to fiddle with a plug that had a dozen or more tongs on it. The plugs of the ’90s looked somewhat like acupuncture devices. They were difficult to use. Tiny screws held them in place.


“There’s got to be a better way to do this,” he recalled in a recent interview.

Note regarding the post title: “Scumbag Steve” is the Internet meme that inspired this montage. It’s not me being offensive (for once).

October 25, 2011

Jedi Bathrobe


Just something I made to post on 9gag

September 2, 2009

Mars vs. The Moon

So I’ve received this e-mail (in French) a couple of times, titled Two Moons in the Sky, saying that on August 27th this year (though the two times I received it were on different years) at 00:30 (precisely, mind you, not during the whole night or for a few nights before and after that date), Mars will be the brightest object in the night sky, as bright (sometimes also as big) as the full Moon, even though it’s 55 million kilometers from Earth, and that it won’t happen again before year 2287!

I mean, WOW!

No, not World of Warcraft. No, not “Wow, Mars will be as bright as the full Moon” either.

Rather, “Wow, I have friends who believe this shit, who believe it enough to forward it to me as a fact, not even to ask me if it’s true.” (I happen to have a teeny, tiny PhD in some branch of Physics. Not many people know that.)

What’s good with this joke is that, by a happy coincidence on the numbers involved, the calculations needed to debunk it can be done in your head. Well, maybe not in your head, but certainly in mine.

See, everybody knows that the Earth is 150 million kilometers away from the Sun. The e-mail tells us the Earth-Mars distance at its shortest will be 55 million kilometers, which happens to be the only correct information in the whole message. This gives us the Sun-Mars distance as 150 + 55 = 205, make is 200 million kilometers.

Now the amount of sunlight received by a celestial object (or any kind of object, really) is inversely proportional to the square of its distance to the Sun, meaning that if you double the distance, it receives four times less light. So the amount of light received by Mars compared to the Moon (which is at the same distance from the Sun than the Earth) is

(Sun-Moon distance/Sun-Mars distance)^2 = (150/200)^2 = 3/4)^2

Let’s keep it this way for now.

Then the amount of light reflected by the planet is proportional to its surface, which is proportional to the square of its diameter. Maybe not everybody knows that Mars (6772 kilometers in diameter) is twice as big as the Moon (3475 kilometers, I told you the numbers involved were convenient), but people know that Mars is “a bit like Earth”, which would make it four times bigger than the Moon, which would be in the benefit of Mars and still work. But let’s stick with the correct numbers. The amount of light reflected by Mars compared to the Moon is therefore

(Mars diameter/Moon diameter)^2 = 2^2 = 4

Finally, the amount of light received by the Earth from each of our objects is, like before, inversely proportional to the square of the distance. Again, everybody knows that the Moon is 384 thousand kilometers away from the Earth. That’s the average distance. The maximum distance is rather 406 thousand kilometers. I’ll round it to 440 thousand kilometers because it’s in the detriment of the Moon and it’s convenient. So the amount of light received by the Earth from Mars compared to the Moon would be (beware the units)

(Moon-Earth distance/Mars-Earth distance)^2 = (440 thousands/55 millions)^2 = (8/1000)^2

Now it might be that the surface of Mars reflects light better than the surface of the Moon. It’s even probable: Mars is red whereas the Moon is black (Don’t believe me? Remember those rocks they took back from there, like exactly forty years ago? Did they look bright white?). But I’ll assume they both reflect light equally so we can compare the numbers with real data in the end. We can make the calculation again with Mars ten times brighter than the Moon later if you want.

So, to sum up, we have:

  • Amount of light received by Mars compared to the Moon: (3/4)2;
  • Amount of light reflected by Mars compared to the Moon: 22;
  • Amount of light received by the Earth from Mars compared to the Moon: (8/1000)2.

Let’s multiply all this (because the light reflected is proportional to the light received from the Sun, and the light received on Earth is proportional to the light reflected):

(3/4 * 2 * 8/1000)^2 = (12/1000)^2 = 1.44/10000 = 1/6944

The light we get from Mars, in the best case ever, is almost seven thousand times less than the light we get from the full Moon. What a surprise! And if we had taken Mars to be as big as the Earth (four times bigger than the Moon instead of two, gives another factor 4 once squared) and ten times brighter than the Moon (i.e. very wrong numbers in its favour), it would still appear 170 times fainter.

Now let’s check this result quickly. The Wikipedia article on apparent magnitude tells us that the magnitude of the full Moon is -12.6 and the maximum brightness of Mars is -2.9. It also tells us that the ratio in brightness between two objects is given by


where x is the difference between the two magnitudes. In our case:

2.512^((-2.9)-(-12.6)) = 2.512^9.7 = 7589

We weren’t far with our seven thousand, given the approximations we made, don’t you reckon?

Do we need to check the claim that Mars can appear as big as the Moon, too? That won’t take long, now that we’re experts in the field. The apparent size of an object in the sky is given by the angle under which you see its diameter. In radians and for such small angles, it’s calculated as diameter/distance. Hey, we happen to have all the necessary data already. For Mars:

alpha_Mars = 6772/55 million = 1.23e-4 rad = 25 arc-seconds

For the Moon:

alpha_Moon = 3475/406000 = 8.6e-3 rad = 29 arc-minutes

That is, Mars appears 70 times smaller than the Moon in the sky.

So next time you see a message that claims such unbelievable things, make a quick mental calculation before forwarding it to everybody. Or even easier, ask yourself if you have ever seen a celestial object that looked bigger than a dot to the naked eye, apart from the Sun and Moon, and check on the Internet. There are sites like Hoax-Slayer (English) or HoaxBuster (French) dedicated to this and checking the validity of such e-mails can be done very quickly.

Next time in this column: why doesn’t the height at which you must throw a grenade to have it explode the moment it touches the ground depend on the weight of the grenade?

September 25, 2008

Double testing

Testing both Movable Type 4 and the iMT plugin to publish from the iPhone.

September 9, 2008

Mobile phones

Does anyone remember the days when we used to put the wole, credit card-sized SIM card in a mobile phone?

May 10, 2008

Please, attack Louise Attaque

I used to have a doubt about it. Not anymore: Louise Attaque sound like shit.

May 1, 2008

Maybe a doughnut for PayPal

Wow, apparently PayPal doesn’t switch the language to German when I tell it I live in Switzerland anymore. It keeps it to English. Moreover, I was able to type spaces in my credit card number and have it accepted. The nearly four year long development effort required from PayPal was well worth it.

It doesn’t support standard telephone numbers, though. Maybe in 2012.

April 7, 2008

Office 2008

I’d like to say that Microsoft Office 2008 is not a steaming pile of crap. I’d really like to.

But that would be a downright lie.

I should say that Microsoft Office 2008 is a steaming pile of crap. I really should. But ethics forbid me to do so.

Because would be offensive to steaming piles of crap.

Update: To humor Fred, here’s the reason for the post: on my Intel Mac mini, PowerPoint 2008 (allegedly a universal binary) takes fives times longer to launch, open a file and get to a point that I can, with quite a stretch, call responsive, than PowerPoint 2004 that runs under Rosetta. Thanks to Time Machine, though, Office 2004 swiftly got back to my applications folder.

My take is that Office 2008 is a Java program running in a virtual machine written in Basic, and that the Basic interpreter is a universal binary.

March 14, 2008

Return to Dark Castle is out!

Return to Dark Castle for the Mac is out! Hope their online shop is solid.

Minimum system requirements (Turn all special effects off to run at 15 frames per second):

  • Mac OS 10.3.9
  • 500 MHz G3 processor
  • 128 MB of RAM

Recommended system requirements:

  • 1.0 GHz G4 processor
  • 256 MB of RAM


  • Over 50 brand-new levels, including all 30 classic, re-mastered levels from Dark Castle and Beyond Dark Castle;
  • 25 orbs to collect;
  • All of the classic foes plus new monsters and bosses;
  • New weapons, power ups, and secret items;
  • Random labyrinths and mazes provide unique puzzles every time;
  • Game recording and playback;

March 3, 2008

Stephy’s web sites

My flatmate Stéphanie has a web site, appropriately called ‘Stephy’s Page’, and now a weblog, aptly named ‘Stephy’s Blog’.

There you will find pictures of her holidays (although she says ‘vacations’ as she, unlike me, is U.S.-biased), Sci-Fi conventions she attended (Gatecon, Pegasus), the teeny, tiny list of the TV shows she’s watching and the latest practical joke I played on her (Fev 2008).

February 19, 2008

Stupid PHP function name of the day


Escapes a string for use in a mysql_query

This function became deprecated, do not use this function. Instead, use mysql_real_escape_string().

Alright then:


Escapes special characters in a string for use in a SQL statement

And what makes it more ‘real’ that the previous one? The fact that it’s not deprecated yet? Then why not call it mysql_not_deprecated_escape_string? Or mysql_not_deprecated_as_of_php_4_3_0_escape_string?

February 7, 2008

Tag test

Testing tags in MarsEdit 2.1.1.

November 29, 2007

HTML tags


November 15, 2007


The clown who’s systematically filling CDDB with track names like this:

Death Of a Clown - (Something Else - 1967)

would better stop it, FYOSP. There are the album and year fields for, well, the album title and the year.

October 30, 2007

A bit of work ahead

This arrived today:

Friends 1

Friends 5

Friends 2

Friends 3

Friends 4

September 26, 2007

HTTP security

From the Apache HTTP Server manual:

It is important to never use <Location> when trying to restrict access to objects in the filesystem. This is because many different webspace locations (URLs) could map to the same filesystem location, allowing your restrictions to be circumvented.

Apparently, (1) the same thing applies to Microsoft IIS and (2) our IT department is not aware of it.

September 24, 2007

Exemplary Windows

Steven Frank:

It’s important for me as a Mac developer to use Windows once in a while, because it’s a fantastic lesson on how do absolutely everything wrong when designing software. (For example, one of my top ten favorite Windows XP features is the one where it asks you to confirm your wireless network password by entering it twice when you join a network.)

I had forgotten about this one.

May 10, 2007

Headline of the decade

Associated Press:

Skywalkers in Korea cross Han solo

SEOUL, South Korea - They came from all over the world, poles in hand, and feet ready to inch more than half a mile across a high wire strung over the Han River in a spine-tingling battle of balance, speed and high anxiety.

Skywalker crossing Han

via Jason Kottke

February 8, 2007

More information on said New Era

Le Temps, 6.2.2007:

Neuchâtel. Après plusieurs semaines de tensions, le Conseil d’Etat a licencié avec effet immédiat Alfred Strohmeier. Une décision prise en fin de semaine dernière suite à l’échec d’une tentative de conciliation […]

Lundi matin sur le coup de 7 h, le recteur de l’Université de Neuchâtel a reçu un courrier par porteur du Conseil d’Etat lui signifiant son licenciement avec effet immédiat. Avec un impératif: avoir quitté son bureau le même jour avant 18 heures.

L’Express, 6.2.2007:

Université de Neuchâtel. Le Conseil d’Etat coupe la tête du recteur […]

«Nos rapports de confiance sont irrémédiablement rompus», a sèchement argumenté la présidente du gouvernement Sylvie Perrinjaquet.

February 5, 2007

Happy New Era

Champagne !

December 6, 2006

15 things that are wrong with installing Adobe Reader 8

I just installed Adobe Reader 8 on my mac mini. It was an even more convoluted process than I thought it would be, and I was not optimistic.

  1. Adobe Reader 8 is not a Universal Binary. You have to select PowerPC or Intel when downloading;

  2. The indicated file size is 22.9 MB but the downloaded file is actually 412 kB. This is because…

  3. the download is neither Adobe Reader, nor an installer for it;

  4. It is a disk image that contains an Installer package that installs Adobe Reader Download Manager in the Utilities folder;

  5. The download manager downloads a second disk image, to your Desktop (not to your Download folder.) This is the 22.9 MB file mentioned on the web site;

  6. Since Adobe Reader 8 is not a Universal Binary, the download manager should automatically choose the appropriate version between PowerPC and Intel, instead of having the user tell what version of the download manager they need. It doesn’t.

  7. The download manager is not removed from the Utilities folder after it has done its (silly) job and is not needed anymore;

  8. The disk image does not contain Adobe Reader 8 but another installer;

  9. The installer starts installing as soon as it is launched;

  10. It doesn’t let you choose the install location. An Adobe Reader 8 folder containing Adobe Reader and a Read Me is created in /Applications;

  11. It apparently doesn’t install anything else than the Adobe Reader 8 application (in particular, in doesn’t install the Internet plug-in), therefore there was no need for an installer;

  12. I say apparently because it doesn’t leave an installation log;

  13. It launches Adobe Reader after installing it;

  14. Adobe Reader asks whether it should install its Internet plug-in, when that was the job of the installer;

  15. To install the plug-in, it needs to quit Safari;

And that’s only for the installation.

Some advice to Adobe

  • Make Universal Binaries1;
  • Don’t make an installer when none is needed;
  • Don’t make two installers when none is needed;
  • Clean up after yourself, don’t litter your users’ hard disk with useless downloads and software;
  • Don’t install anything before the user says so. Launching an installer is not saying so;
  • Don’t automatically launch an application after installing it. The purpose of an installer is to install software. Otherwise, name it “Adobe Reader Installer and Launcher”;
  • Don’t require Safari to quit to install a plug-in;


  • John C. Welsh also notes that declining the license doesn’t cancel the installation, since the license agreement appears after the software was installed, and Jeff posts links to the direct downloads:

  • John Gruber notes that an install log is written in ~/Library/Receipts/ com.adobe.Reader/install.log. It’s a very bad location, but at least there is a log and it shows how Adobe litters your hard disk with useless stuff all over the place:

    • Utilities/Adobe Utilities.localized/Adobe Updater5/Adobe
    • /Library/Application Support/Adobe/Help/en_US/Adobe Reader/8.0
    • /Applications/Adobe Help Viewer
    • Stuff in /Library/Application Support/Adobe/
    • /Library/Internet Plug-Ins/AdobePDFViewer.plugin/

    As a reminder, from the pre-installations, we have:

    • AdbeRdr80_DLM_en_US_i386.dmg in the Download folder;
    • Adobe Reader Download in /Applications;
    • AdbeRdr80_en_US_i386.dmg on the Desktop;

    POS! some cleaning is needed (but make sure you first disable Self Heal):

    • Adobe Reader is going out of its useless folder. The Read Me is already gone;
    • I don’t need no stinkin’ updater. Having tried its previous incarnation, I’m better off downloading the full version from the FTP server every time;
    • The help viewer is going too. Since it will certainly not work if I move it elsewhere, better trash it now;
    • I had forgotten to trash Adobe Reader Download Manager.

1. Don’t think I’m not seeing you coming. You will make separate versions of Adobe CS 3 for PowerPC and Intel Macs, forcing G5 users to buy the PowerPC version and subsequently upgrade (for a fee) to the Intel version when they change their machine. 

December 2, 2006

Bloggy Friday, finally

I am definitely going to regret this when I wake up in five hours to ‘exercise,’ but if I don’t blog about it now, I never will. Moreover, it’s the perfect opportunity to apply both of Stephanie’s nice and mean solutions to the blog that doesn’t write itself up:


I have something to say (although not remotely interesting) and I am taking the time to say it:

I finally got around to going to the Bloggy Friday.

Now for the proof:


Good night.


October 10, 2006

“Well, I’m back,” he said.

The new hosting is up and running. The rest of the site will be back shortly.

As for why I needed a new hosting, that’s a story I’ll have to write about.

September 6, 2006

Sony Ericsson bitten by Auto Smart-Ass Formatter

I contacted Sony Ericsson support today, and here’s a bit of the automatic response I received (emphasis mine):

Nous vous remercions d’avoir contacté le Sony Ericsson Call Center. Votre demande a été enregistrée et porte la référence « CaseIDonlyTag ». Le Sony Ericsson Call Center vous contactera le plus rapidement possible.

Yes, apparently when you write in French, Word/Outbreak automatically adds non-breaking spaces inside the guillemets and it screws up your template tags.

Fortunately, Auto Formatter is one of the many Microsoft bugs that has a preference to fix it.

July 22, 2006

ADSL prices


Now, if [Swisscom] would cut their prices for ADSL by half as well …

…and provide decent speed options. The downstream/upstream ratio of the least expensive one, 2000/100 for CHF 45.-/month, is sooo ridiculous. Get real and give us 2400/600 for 64.-, 1200/300 for 32.- and 600/150 for 16.-.

Then cut prices in half.

I would also be delighted to recommend a place where they can shove their 150/50 plan at 9.-/month plus 2.40 per hour…

June 21, 2006

Something happened here

Some details later.

April 12, 2006

Microsoft Code Names Successor to Vista


According to insiders, Microsoft has code-named its next version of Windows, calling it Fiji. So that’s right, Fiji is the next version after Vista, and we’re also hearing that after Fiji will be Vienna.

It makes sense. People from the Windows team at Microsoft need a way to identify the versions of Windows to which they are postponing a new feature of Vista each day.

April 5, 2006

If You're Ready for Vista, Vista is Ready for 512MB

Gizmodo says: If You’re Ready for Vista, Vista is Ready for 512MB.

While Vista probably won’t be out until after the holidays […] you’ll need at least 512MB of RAM (Read “2GB”) and a DirectX 9 graphics processor (Read “a Cray”) to just boot up.

I don’t see how it’s a problem. By the time Vista ships, every new PC will outperform these requirements by an order of magnitude and any two year old machine will meet them, so every working PC will be able to run Vista.

February 9, 2006

Vista 2006

Gizmodo reports that Windows Vista could be released on December 1. It looks reasonable to me; Vista will be Microsoft’s 2006 Advent calendar. Every day, you open a window and uncover a new bug or design flaw. It will be reusable too, with enough ‘content’ for 2007, 2008, up until 2754.

December 31, 2005

574 connards

Suggested listening for today: 500 connards sur la ligne de départ by Renaud on Marchand de cailloux. Here’s an excerpt:

Le rallye mécanique des Mad Max de bazar
A r’commencé son cirque au soleil de janvier
Vont traverser l’Afrique avec le pied dans l’phare
Dégueulasser les pistes et revenir bronzés

November 15, 2005

An idea for the 'delete' file

With the World Summit on the Information Society starting tomorrow in Tunis, some governments think that since the Internet was made for everyone’s use, there is no reason why the United States should have control over it through ICANN. Therefore that control should be handed over to the United Nations.

That seems perfectly logical to me. After all, it’s not as if the U.S. invented the Internet or something. Similarly, the French didn’t invent Champagne and this is why anyone in the world can produce white wine, with or without bubbles, and sell it as Champagne.

Anyway, USA Today has a nice analysis of the subject in U.N. control of Internet? An idea for the ‘delete’ file and I share their point of view (if it wasn’t clear from the above sarcasm):

The common, mistaken wisdom is that the United States runs it. But it doesn’t. Nobody does. The closest anyone comes is the non-profit ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), headquartered in the same coastal California building where Postel had his office.

ICANN is little more than a technical coordinator with an internationally diverse board of directors. For the past seven years, under a system Postel helped shape, it has assigned Internet addresses and made sure the vital infrastructure functions. The U.S. Commerce Department audits ICANN but, for the most part, in hands-off fashion.

The whole article is worth a read.

November 8, 2005

Video game soundtracks

Inside Mac Games:

Electronic Arts Game Music Coming To iTunes

Electronic Arts has joined with Nettwerk Music Group to form EA Recordings, a library to manage recordings from some of its most popular games. The library will offer the tunes to various online music providers including iTunes.

I’m pretty sure that in the event of every track starting with the “EA Games, challenge everything” whispered jingle, there will be murder.

August 26, 2005

La Crosse WS-3600 serial protocol

Sander and Grzegorz managed to understand how the La Crosse WS-36001 weather station communicates over its serial port. They launched the Open3600 project and have a program for Linux and Windows (with source code) that dumps the contents of the memory.

Hat tip to them, it looks like the protocol is quite unorthodox.

Open3600 – Serial communication with the La Crosse WS-3600 weather station

  • dump3600: a program that reads the memory of the WS-3600;
  • Available as source code and binary for Linux and Window. Compiles on Mac OS X 10.4 (but not tested yet);
  • Communicates over the serial port2;
  • Works without requiring the Heavy Weather program or its history.dat file;
  • They now need help with the investigation of the memory map.

1. a.k.a LaCrosse WS3600. 

2. Serial port, COM port, RS232 port, whatever. 

July 4, 2005

Governing people

The major problem — one of the major problems, for there are several — one of the many major problems with governing people is that of whom you get to do it; or rather of who manages to get people to let them do it to them.

To summarize: it is a well known fact, that those people who most want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it. To summarize the summary: anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job. To summarize the summary of the summary: people are a problem.

And so this is the situation we find: a succession of Galactic Presidents who so much enjoy the fun and palaver of being in power that they very rarely notice that they're not.

And somewhere in the shadows behind them — who?

Who can possibly rule if no one who wants to do it can be allowed to?

— Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, Chapter 28.

What if the one who wants to do it happens to be allowed to? Now that smells like disaster.

June 26, 2005

Rubyfication pending

Jens Alfke — whose blog I discovered today after he'd been Microsofted — doesn't like PHP anymore and I share some of his reasons. My pet peeves with PHP are:

  1. Crappy Unicode support (none in PHP 4, remember?);
  2. Needs to be recompiled every time a new extension is needed;
  3. Poor set of default extensions (see 2);
  4. Overlapping but not identical feature sets in different extensions (see 2 and 3);
  5. Nasty installation-dependent differences in behaviour (as Jens says so well).

Jens is looking at Ruby On Rails. So should I.

Update: Jens removed both posts. So much for permalinks.

June 16, 2005

How can you expect to be taken seriously?

I pity the companies that have to come up with advertisement campaigns for Microsoft products:

  • They can’t make an ad about security and be taken seriously;
  • They can’t make an ad about stability and be taken seriously;
  • They can’t make an ad about ease of use and be taken seriously;
  • They can’t make an ad about innovation and be taken seriously.

That must be depressing. Then again, nobody forced them to work for Microsoft.

June 6, 2005

Géant !

I just updated Movable Type to 3.17 and noticed that I don’t need one of my hacks anymore. I had modified dirify in to convert two-byte UTF-8 characters to their unaccented equivalent. It allowed nicer URLs to entries with accented characters in their title like, for this one, ‘geant.html’ instead of ‘gant.html’.

Movable Type 3.17 implements this very similarly to how I did it. Moreover, it examines the PublishCharset configuration variable to determine how dirify should behave (which I didn’t, it was a hack). The only catch is that it’s case sensitive. PublishCharset must be set to utf-8 (and not UTF-8) for it to work, so check your mt.cfg.

May 23, 2005

Pick me! Pick me! Me! Me!

Steven Frank is wondering whom to pass the musical baton to. Please, Pick me! Pick me! Me! Me!

May 21, 2005

UT2004 Easter egg

I came across this the other day in Unreal Tournament 2004, on map DM-CBP2-Meitak:


I’m glad I took a screen shot because I’ve never been able to find it again.

Googling “OMG LOL Jay Meitak” return results about Community Bonus Pack 2, with the following description for Meitak:

DM-Meitak by Nick ‘neoduck’ Donaldson

As the cheers of the crowd echo in the stadium outside, you prepare yourself for the battle ahead. You hear a voice, distant but clear, ring though the arena. You look around, intent on finding the source. It cries out again… ‘OMG LOL’ … it’s only Jay.

Has anybody else seen this Easter egg? If so, drop me a note in the comments.

May 3, 2005


I am pinging this entry about Wordpress and Movable Type to test if trackback works.

April 26, 2005

Deux pour le thé (42)

That’s outrageous:

Release dates for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

UK, Australia

28 April 2005

USA, Canada

29 April 2005

Brazil, Latvia, Switzerland (Italian speaking region)

3 June 2005

Austria, Croatia, Germany, Switzerland (German speaking region)

9 June 2005

Denmark, Norway

12 August 2005

Belgium, France, Switzerland (French speaking region)

17 August 2005

The delay is probably due to the Frech translators but we already know they’ll do a terrible job1 so why bother spending so much time on it?

(Source: IMDb)

1. The French versions of The Lord of the Rings, books by Anne McCaffrey and the TV series Friends are a few examples of translations so bad that you can spot the mistakes (and deduce the correct meaning) without checking the original version. 

April 19, 2005

Are there any feed: URLs out there anyway?

Dave Hyatt posted a response to some Safari 1.3 comments:

(1) The feed URL dialog that tells you 10.4 must be installed to view RSS feeds is simply a bug and not part of a master plan for global domination.

Well, if there had been more than two feed: URLs on the whole Internet to test Safari with, I’m sure this bug wouldn’t have happened.

April 17, 2005


Word of the day on April 12, 2005 by Cambridge Dictionary Online:

to remove the stomach and bowels from a dead animal, or to kill a person in this way, especially in the past as a punishment.

I think we could have figured out on our own that it was not as a reward.

April 8, 2005

Reverse marketing

Look at the image below and guess how a company can push the odds towards losing my business:


Answer: by sending me an advertisement written in German using Comic Sans.

Of course, Microchip is not risking much because its PIC microcontrollers are nifty little toys.

March 24, 2005

Hit the road, Jack

So General Motors announces it will equip some of its new vehicles with a radio that features an auxiliary input jack on the front panel. There’s nothing wrong with that, except perhaps the some.

But MacNN is quoting Paul Nadeau, director, infotainment displays and controls, for GM Engineering:

We think the ability to easily connect an iPod or other audio source directly into the vehicle audio system will be a big hit with customers.

This is preposterous. Is he actually expecting us to marvel at GM for having the so-called idea of putting an input jack on car radios back?

I may be the only one but I clearly remember that the first car CD players did indeed feature an auxiliary input. It was natural: you couldn’t use a tape adapter anymore so a line-in was provided instead. Only later did the car manufacturers start locking their customers into proprietary systems1, expecting to sell outrageously expensive CD changers to those who didn’t want to die of boredom after listening to the same album for a whole trip. And now they finally step back, in a move that must cost them at most fifty cents per car, and congratulate themselves over it, making sure they mention the iPod to attract the media’s attention? Ooooh pathetic!

1. So much so that not only the connectors are proprietary but the voltages as well, according to an Opel technician. I don’t believe a word of it of course but it could discourage some. 

March 18, 2005

For Google

Imagine my surprise when I discovered just now that, as of today, March 18, 2005 at 0:30, Google returns no results whatsoever for the following query:

Les flombs qui ont pondu

For Google then:

Les Aventures de Tintin – Les Bijoux de la Castafiore (1963) par Hergé, planche 38, case 1 :

Dupont : Vous dites que ce sont les flombs qui ont pondu… Soit !… Mais l'avez-vous constaté vous-même ?…

Tintin : C'est-à-dire que c'est Nestor qui me l'a dit lorsqu'il est remonté de la cave…

Dupond : Nestor ?… Le domestique !… Hé ! hé !

Dupond : Hé ! hé !

Update: It took approximately 28 hours for Google to find this entry after it was posted. Obviously, the query above now returns something.

February 25, 2005

Comet Machholz

As the media thoroughly avoided mentioning, Comet Machholz (c/2004 Q2) has been discovered last summer. It has been visible to the naked eye since early January and is now on the wane, although it should still be visible for some time, passing Polaris.

For more information:

Yes, these links are working. Weren’t you listening? I said ‘As the media thoroughly avoided mentioning.’

Now for the real links of interest:

January 26, 2005


Rick Schaut tries to explain why it was difficult to make Word’s Auto Formatter correctly guess what it should do, but his readers nailed the real reason: because the only certainty you have with something that acts differently each time you use it is that it will be wrong every time.

I learned something reading this article, though:

The fancy name for Word’s Auto Formatter is a “rule-based inference engine”

Silly me, I always thought it was a “Fool-based interference engine”.

Via Betalogue.

January 20, 2005

My nerd score

jr had to do this test. So did I.

I am nerdier than 97% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

January 13, 2005

Lobotomy, definitely.

Pierre Igot of Betalogue just came upon the laziest updater ever. And not from the smallest company, mind you. Spooky.

November 25, 2004

Hold me back

% updmap

!!! ERROR: The right location for map files has been
    changed for this release and the map file `' has
    not been found in the right location, but in the obsolete

    To fix this, please move this file into an appropriate
    subdirectory of fonts/map in one of your texmf trees.

I have kept my cool until a minute ago (jr will wonder how it’s possible), but now I shall fetch the appropriate tool and demonstrate my MBBA1 certificate on the people responsible for this.

1. Master in Baseball Bat Administration 

November 10, 2004

Comment policy

A quick note regarding comments: your e-mail address will never be disclosed, even if you don't provide a URL. Therefore, any comment with a URL that leads nowhere will be considered spam and will be deleted before it even has a chance to appear.

Likewise, following Erik's new policy, if I want to send you an e-mail to the address you gave in the comment and it bounces at me, the comment will be deleted. I am not going to randomly send e-mail my fellow commenters, though. I only do so if I reply to your comment and think you would appreciate to receive the reply by e-mail.

These are reasonable measures I think and they are not likely to affect any legitimate comment poster.

November 3, 2004

Unexpected File

I need to remember this one (hat tip to Christopher Breen of the Mac 911 Weblog):

Here is a transcript.

October 30, 2004

Laziness or lobotomy?

The screen shot below shows what happens when you launch Unreal Tournament 2004 without the DVD in the drive:

Unreal Tournament 2004

Restart the game, nothing less. How much time would it have taken for the obviously highly skilled programming team that’s capable of developing such a game to implement a Quit button and make the OK button check for the disc’s presence again? Fifteen minutes? (This includes three minutes of programming and twelve of discussion with the management).

So, laziness or lobotomy?

October 26, 2004

Contemporary Sci-Fi

My dad and I started giving a shot at some recent science-fiction novels lately. Here are my feelings about the ones I read, may they benefit anyone.

Voyage by Stephen Baxter, 1996

This novel depicts an alternate space program in which the USA land a manned mission on Mars in 1986. It tries — and unfortunately manages — to be extremely realistic and tell with pin-point accuracy how things could have happened if the American space program had taken a different direction after the Apollo missions.

If I needed help sleeping I’d read a real history book, thank you. It would have the same soporific effect but would at least compensate for it with authentic facts.

Une porte sur l’éther by Laurent Genefort, 2000

The hero of this book is the pollen of a plant, Ambrosia, that transits between two planets through a giant artefact, the Axis— Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…

The only amazing thing about this book is that I read it in its entirety. The ultra-basic story (each planet needs the other one but also hates it, so they go to war) is told in a ridiculously complex manner using a plethora of invented words (described extensively, did I say zzzzz already?) in an attempt to make a book about politics look like a science-fiction novel.

Wang : Les portes d’Occident by Pierre Bordage, 1996

The author seems to enjoy describing torture so much that he had to write two books about it. This one went straight to the trash.

So much for batch one. I am now taking a break with modern science-fiction before I start batch two. I just re-read some novels I thoroughly enjoyed the first time:

  • City (Demain les chiens) by Clifford D. Simak, 1952
  • The world of Ā (Le monde des Ā) by Alfred E. Van Vogt, 1945
  • The players of Ā (Les joueurs du Ā) by Alfred E. Van Vogt, 1948

Boy, it feels good.

October 13, 2004


I learned a new English word today, thanks to the Cambridge Klett Compact, French–English dictionary online:

adjective [before noun]
consisting of many different types and therefore appearing strange or of low quality:

There’s a motley assortment/collection of old furniture in the house we’re renting at the moment.
The people who turned up to the meeting were a motley crew (= a group consisting of many different types of people).

The analogy (which is likely to make me lose one reader) struck immediately:

proper noun
operating system programmed by many different developers, merging many different user interface philosophies and available in many different flavours and therefore appearing strange or of low quality.

October 3, 2004

Reader poll

I’m going on holiday for a week, so it’s seems the perfect time for a little poll:

Does my blog have any readers?

If you read my blog, either from time to time or regularly, please leave a comment. (I hope the comment form works well. Otherwise, you can e-mail me at os3476 at this domain.)

September 19, 2004

Feedback on Bö

Tim Gray says he likes Bö and it’s nice to hear it. He also has a couple of interesting comments.

Hopefully Bö will grow into a BBEdit plug just like Markdown and SmartyPants are.

It will, but I haven’t yet figured out a way of calling Markdown from within the BBEdit plug-in portion of Bö, so I decided to wait for Markdown and SmartyPants to be converted to Perl modules. John Gruber once mentioned that he would consider it after Markdown 1.0 is released.

I looked at how Blosxom calls its plugins (including Markdown) but I have not been able to reproduce its behaviour.

I was thinking that it would be kind if Bö could insert the footnote text into the title attribute of the footnote link in the body text. You could then just mouseover the link and read the footnote without leaving your place in the text.

A very nice idea indeed. It should not be too hard to implement, although not as easy at it looks at first, as Tim noticed:

I took a look at the PHP code for the Bö plugin to see if I could modify it myself for the above mentioned behavior, but it appears to me that the plugin doesn’t slurp the actual footnote text until after it writes the footnote link in the main body

The reason why the actual footnote text is slurped after the footnote link is written is to make the distinction between a footnote and a Markdown link definition easier. I only consider a line as the start of a footnote text definition if its label has been used in a footnote call in the text. Thus, I must process links first.

I see two ways of implementing the new feature. I can process the text in three passes (list footnote calls, slurp text and write links) instead of two (list footnote calls while writing links, slurp text) or I can put a placeholder in the link’s title and substitute it with the text later. The former seems a bit cleaner.

I also have to see how to pre-process the footnote text before putting it in the title attribute. Markup should be removed and it should probably be truncated to a reasonable length (e.g. n characters or the first paragraph).

September 5, 2004

Air 04

jr, don’t worry, I did take photographs at Air 04 and I will post some on this blog. But please bear with me as I spent the Saturday afternoon and the whole Sunday in Payerne and I don’t feel like posting today. It will have to wait until I sort the rather unusual amount of pictures I took there and select the ones I’ll post.

September 1, 2004

Your hours are counted

Well, that’s a novel way of looking at time-limited demos:

The Dreamcard Evaluation Edition is a free 10 hour trial with no restrictions on functionality. Use the 10 hours as and when you want.

It’s a nice idea considering that when I download an n days demos, I tend to launch it right away, play with it for a bit and then forget about it for n-1 days.

August 31, 2004


Here are two quotations I feel are appropriate regarding the recent events. Those who need to understand will.

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics.
— Benjamin Disraeli

The only statistics you can trust are those you falsified yourself.
— Sir Winston Churchill

Fuzzy logic

Seen in a film recently, in the header of a letter:


At least they’re sure they’re not hijacking an existing site :-D

August 27, 2004

Good marketing

Altera Corp. surely knows how to treat its customers. Today, along with the semestrial software update package, they sent a pad of Post-it’s. Not the black, high absorption at all wavelengths ones I need for the lab but still, nice.

Bö 1.0b3

Bö 1.0b3 is now available, with a proper Read Me and the ability to escape footnote calls so I could add examples to this entry.

Bö 1.0b3

Continue reading “Bö 1.0b3” »

August 26, 2004

Bö 1.0b2 released

Bö 1.0b2 is now available for download. See the official announcement on taking the red pill.

This entry is powered by Bö1 and no, I’m not telling you what it is yet2.

1. Seriously. 

2. Patience, my friend. 

August 22, 2004

Beach volley quiz

  • When, during a SUI/USA beach volley game, you hear Born in the USA, does it come from an American supporter who thinks it’s a patriotic song or from a Swiss fan who knows its not?

  • Which one of the Laciga brothers do you prefer, Martin “Apollo 8” Laciga or Paul “French Fries” Laciga?

  • Can you guess the reason behind these nicknames? Hint: today’s date.

Update (April 20, 2005): Since it’s been a while since I posted this, I’d better explain the nicknames before I forget why I invented them. So on that day’s SUI/USA game, Martin “Apollo 8” kept serving the ball in orbit while Paul “French Fries” tirelessly tried to smash it through the net.

August 5, 2004


Our IT department installed a Greylisting filter on our server two days ago. The technique is efficient, smart and yet simple and I wonder why we didn’t hear about it sooner.

  • Until August 4th, 2004: 30 spams a day or 6700 since January 1st;
  • Since August 4th: 0 spam a day or 0 in total.

Small digression: Here, the Google Spell Check gives:

  • Gray: 24’800’000
  • Grey: 24’500’000

Which is consistent with the observation that the British term is the second more frequent.

June 22, 2004

Bad pal, no doughnut

I ordered my Daring Fireball T-Shirt through PayPal today. I was first asked to specify my country. As soon as I selected Switzerland, the whole site turned into German, without any means of changing it to French or reverting to English, except by ein anderes Land auszuwählen. Nicht guuuuuuuut!

June 15, 2004

Smoking the newspaper

Yesterday, the Swiss Parliament refused to decriminalise cannabis. Today, the headlines of Le Temps read:

Drogues: où est passé le courage des politiciens ?

(Drugs: where did the politicians’ courage go?)

I wish I saw it sooner because I would have liked to stick up my own poster next to it:

Drugs: where did the journalists' common sense go?

Anyway, if there are enough people working at Le Temps who think cannabis should be decriminalised for them to write such a headline, then it explains the increasing number of typos they’ve been making recently.

June 12, 2004


I saw this at the entrance of the Coop near work.


Clearly, they have something against open source software. That’s another reason to boycott them, in addition to the ugly hangar they built near my home and their megalomaniac effort towards one store in every square kilometre.

June 8, 2004


Venus meets the Sun on Tuesday, June 8, 2004 at 8:29 CEDT.


June 4, 2004


Obviously, the news that Sony would stop selling Cliés in the U.S. and Europe, frantically relayed by countless news sites, is only a rumour. Maybe it was secretly started by Sony itself, to probe the market’s reaction, maybe by someone else, to spread FUD, but a number of facts should have come to our attention:

  • Among the sites that relayed the news, not a single one provided a link to a page even remotely looking like an official announcement;
  • Nothing is mentioned on the Press Release page;
  • Europe was never explicitely mentioned. I don’t see Sony saying “We won’t sell Cliés in the U.S. anymore but we’ll continue to make them for the Japanese market. About Europe, we let you guess;”
  • An employee of a Sony Digital World Shop told me that it was not official.

There is still hope, I feel better.

June 2, 2004


Most tech news web sites, apparently relaying an announcement from Sony, although it does not appear on any of their web sites:

Sony will not introduce any new Clie handheld models in the U.S. this fall. Product development and sales continue for the Japanese market only.

Which makes me wonder: is Europe part of the U.S. or of Japan? Geographically speaking, it’s closer to Japan but Sony-doesn’t-give-a-shit-about-it-ally speaking, it looks a lot closer to the U.S.

It’s an important question, though, as I just bought a TH55 when it was released a month ago and I was hoping for some carrying case manufacturers to announce new models for it.

May 19, 2004

It was not even planned

For its birthday, my blog gets a new template. How timely.

May 15, 2004

TypeKey: first impression

When I post a comment in a TypeKey-enabled weblog, my nickname, Ölbaum, appears like this: Ölbaum. It looks a lot to me as yet another example of software not tested with international charachers.

Pas bieeeeeen!

April 24, 2004


This is the first entry posted from my Clié PEG-TH55. Movable Type’s editing system is not designed for handhelds so the entry will end here.

April 16, 2004


It looks like everybody’s doing as they’re told, but I ain’t. Instead, I’ll:

  • Grab the nearest book.
  • Open it to page 23.
  • Find the fifth sentence.
  • Shrug.
  • Move on to page 68.
  • Find the sixteenth sentence.
  • Decide this one is far better.
  • Post the text of the sentence in my journal along with these revised instructions.

Here we go:

‘Ford!’ he said, ‘there’s an infinite number of monkeys outside who want to talk to us about this script for Hamlet they’ve worked out.’

March 29, 2004

Random thought

This entry deleted due to self-censorship. I was reminded yesterday by an episode of JAG that what I wrote as a joke was not funny at all. I apologise to the people I may have offended.


This is the clock in our entrance hall. It is radio synchronised on an atomic clock of the observatory.

Atomic clock

I took this picture today around 9:12 CEST (Central European Summer Time, UTC+02:00). We switched to daylight saving time yesterday and apparently, some switched in the right direction and some didn’t.

March 24, 2004

Then I must go for my axe

jr blames Microsoft and he’s so fucking right!

I installed Virtual PC with Windows 2000 on a Mac yesterday and ran our network-based updater, that’s supposed to update Windows and, I foolishly thought, install Norton AntiVirus (don’t misunderstand me, I am not blaming it for not installing the antivirus, I am just deeply sorry of my misconception on this point).

Today I tried running Windows Update, without success, and then installing Office 2000. When it was almost finished (i.e. a long time after it started), our system administrator told me that a new virus had infected our network (which is protected by a firewall) and that my Virtual PC installation is among the machines infected.

In a way, that’s good news. It shows that Virtual PC does a good job emulating all the features of a PC.

What? You see steam coming out of my ears? No kidding.

Update: Apparently this virus is of a new kind, extremely evolved. It infects a PC under Windows, spreads to the Macs by means of the user (it must be a computer/human hybrid virus) and then makes iTunes play Deep Purple dead loud, without any possibility of lowering the volume, quitting the program or shutting down the Mac. Not that it bothers me, though. I find it rather soothing.

March 23, 2004

Conspiracy Theory

Some of my colleagues are conspiring against me, I am sure. Every day at noon they go and eat together, then move to the cafeteria for a coffee. I sometimes go with them but strangely, every time I do, all of them decide to skip the coffee break and directly return to work.

All of them, except my office neighbour, who’s probably considered a rebel by the others and to whom I wish a prompt healing, by the way.

February 25, 2004


Here is a transcript of the first headlines of today’s news on the French television:

Madame, Monsieur, bonsoir. L’actualité de ce mercredi marquée par un nouveau bras de fer commercial entre les États-Unis et la France. Les États-Unis qui suspendent les importations de charcuterie et de foie-gras francais, une décision que Paris estime injustifiée.

Plus de cinq-cent soixante morts, c’est le dernier bilan du séisme qui a frappé avant hier le nord du Maroc. De nombreux villages isolés ont été touchés et rendent difficile les opérations de secours.
France 2, Journal de 20h, 26.2.2004

And this should give you a hint about the tune that will be on my mind for the next few days:

Finies les vendanges en octobre,
Le raisin fermente en tonneaux,
Ils sont très fiers de leurs vignobles,
Leurs Côtes-du-Rhône et leurs Bordeaux,

Ils exportent le sang de la terre,
Un peu partout à l’étranger,
Leur pinard et leur camembert,
C’est leur seule gloire à ces tarés.

— Renaud, Hexagone

February 20, 2004

Unicode ribbon campaign

Welcome to the home page of the Unicode Ribbon Campaign.

The aim of this campaign is to reduce the time wasted educating people about international text and how programs should all be able to deal with it (no excuses).

If you received a link to this page, choose the category that applies best to you:

Software developers

Software that corrupts user data because it encountered unexpected non-ASCII characters is a plague. It must be eradicated and the developers punished. Joel Spolsky’s suggestion1 is particularly adequate, although only practical in a city like San Francisco where you can visit a WWII submarine for a few bucks. In the rest of the world, a broom cupboard can replace the submarine.

Software that cannot deal with international text and displays illegible characters instead, without corrupting any data, is less troublesome. It is only evil. Unfortunately for the developers, though, Joel Spolsky’s punishment applies to them too.

Bottom line:

The Unicode Ribbon Campaign recommends against paying for software that cannot deal with international text. It is nice, however, to notify the developers of the issue. A short introduction sentence and a link to this page should be sufficient.

If you are a software developer and your application cannot deal with international text, go and fix it now or prepare the gas mask.

What are you still doing here? I thought I just told you to go and fix your software!


E-mail clients and servers that do not support sending and receiving messages containing international characters hinder the evolution of the Internet and are therefore considered harmful. The handling of UTF-8 sent in Quoted-Printable and optionally 8-bit is required for an e-mail client to be considered decent.

Note: Outbreak2 using an Exchange Server in MAPI mode is considered harmful because regardless of how Outbreak is configured, Exchange encodes UTF-8 messages in Base64, which makes them more likely to be rejected by spam filters and wastes bandwidth.

Some mass mailing programs used to send newsletters cannot seem to know about Content-Type headers. They complacently send their rubbish in an unknown character set resulting in unreadable messages.

Bottom line:

If you have problems reading e-mails with Unicode content or if you cannot send a message with the proper content type headers, get a decent e-mail client. If you are using a webmail interface, show this page to the system administrator and make sure he reads the following paragraph.

If you are the administrator of a mail server or of a webmail system that does not support sending or receiving Unicode messages, update your software to the latest version. If it doesn’t fix the problem, send the URL of this page to the software’s developer.

If you are responsible for sending a newsletter, think of the bad publicity for your company if the message was not sent properly and either configure your software correctly, update it to the latest version or change it for a decent alternative.

Web browsers

Web browsers that do not support the UTF-8 character set must be wiped out. It is so comfortable to edit web pages in UTF-8 without needing to use HTML entities that nobody should be forced to do otherwise because their visitors use an obsolete browser.

Note: Fortunately, even Netscape 4 deals with UTF-8 content. It is therefore quite safe to write UTF-8 web pages.

Web sites

Some web sites manage to use a Unicode encoding but announce a non-Unicode one. I don’t know how it is possible that the webmaster doesn’t notice it, nor do I care; just fix it!

Unicode hall of shame

Burnout Menu

Two months ago, I tried Burnout Menu 1.1.4 and it irremediably messed up all my iCal calendars. It apparently read them as Mac Roman and wrote them back as UTF-8, several times in a row (probably each time the menu was drawn), like this:


It would have been recoverable if the different entries had not all been messed up a different number of times. Fortunately, I noticed it before my calendar files hit the 4 terabyte (242 bytes) file size limit, which would have happened sooner than you may think if you remember the story about the man who is said to have invented chess3.

I immediately contacted the developers of the program. I was remarkably polite considering the nature and consequences of the bug. I have not yet received an answer and no update was released. This is, sadly, how some developers care about their international customers.


By default, PHP does not include any extension for character set conversion or quoted-printable encoding, which makes it a pain to send e-mail messages in French, German or Elvish. Since PHP must be recompiled to enable additional extensions, some negotiation with one’s hosting provider is often required. The only benefit of this deplorable limitation of PHP is that it helps rate hosting providers on their readiness to rebuild their PHP module on customer request.

Update: It looks like PHP 5 might address this issue as iconv is enabled by default. mbstring isn’t, though.


As its name tells, SQLiteManager 1.2 manages SQLite databases. Its problem is that it cannot correctly read back data that it wrote itself to the database.

It’s very easy to test. Launch SQLiteManager, create a new database and a table with one column. Then insert the following value:


Click OK and behold:


(Some people might think that using such a complex combination of strange characters is being too harsh on the software. They’d be plain wrong. Moreover, SQLiteManager cannot handle a simple word like “Débile” either.)

Considering that SQLite can be set at compile time to use ISO-8859-1 or UTF-8 and that SQLiteManager uses the UTF-8 variant, such a flaw is a shame. What’s worse, the developer has known about the issue for months but does not consider it to be a problem.

E-mail signature

The official Unicode Ribbon Campaign e-mail signature line is:

∞ Unicode Ribbon Campaign — No ASCII, anywhere ∞
∞ <>                   ∞

It can only by used in Unicode e-mails (obviously). Moreover, the Unicode Ribbon Campaign supersedes the now obsolete ASCII Ribbon Campaign. Therefore, e-mail messages sent in HTML, RTF, MS Word, or PDF are prohibited. These formats are allowed in attachments under the following conditions:

  • attachments must be additional documents, not a replacement of the message body;
  • the message body must therefore include all the relevant information, e.g. object, date and location of an event;
  • MS Word and RTF attachments are allowed when the recipient is expected to modify the documents;
  • HTML attachments should be limited to web site updates and HTML coding examples;
  • PDF attachments should be used in the remaining situations, when the page layout is essential, meaning that the same function cannot be achieved with a plain text message.

The recipient should never have to open an attachment to know what a message is about. People used to sending e-mails with a subject like “Invitation” and a Word document for sole content are partly responsible for the dreadfully quick spreading of viruses like MyDoom last January.

Links of interest

1. The Absolute Minimum Every Software Developer Absolutely, Positively Must Know About Unicode and Character Sets (No Excuses!) by Joel Spolsky 

2. Outbreak: Sometimes incorrectly called Outlook: Daring Fireball — Good Times by John Gruber 

3. Try this at home:

echo é > e
iconv -f macintosh -t utf-8 e > f ; mv f e

Run the last line 10 times and you have a 13 kB file. Run it 10 more times and you have a nice 124 MB file. 

February 16, 2004

MyDoom affects Macs ...

… but it requires third party software.

MacBidouille reports:

NAV pratique la politique de la terre brûlée

Norton Anti Virus, accompagné de sa définition virale de février, a un drôle de moyen de supprimer le virus MyDoom.

Si vous recevez un mail le contenant (très fréquent) NAV va détruire non pas le virus ou le message, mais le fichier contenant la base de messages de mail.

Ce sera une perte sèche de tout ce que contient la mailbox.

En attendant que Symantec arrive à résoudre ce problème, il est urgent de désactiver leur cheval de troie.

Rassurez vous, ils sont très réactifs… a plusieurs mois près.

Wich roughly translates as:

Norton AntiVirus and its definitions of February has a strange way of dealing with virus MyDoom.

If you receive an e-mail containing it (which happens often enough), NAV will not destroy the virus or the message but the entire mailbox file containig it.

It will be a complete loss of all the mailbox content.

While waiting for Symantec to try and solve this problem, it is urgent to disable their trojan horse.

Don’t worry, they are very reactive… several months later.

It seems that Symantec managed the seemingly impossible: make the Mac vulnerable to a virus written as a Windows executable.

When I think that no later than a week ago, I was discussing with jr that Norton Utilities was the most reliable way of screwing up your hard drive and that Symantec’s only decent product was Norton AntiVirus… Spooky.

February 15, 2004

Someone should get what they deserve

If I ever catch the

  • moron
  • bastard
  • asshole
  • son of a b**ch
  • motherf***er

who invented DVD User Operation Prohibition1, I swear I’ll

  • glue his fingertips together with epoxy.
  • tar and feather him.
  • tie each of his fingernails to a different horse.
  • inflict upon him the Three Chinese Tortures.
  • disembowel him and strangle him with his own intestine.

Vote in the comments. My answer: [5, 5].

1. User Operation Prohibition is the so-called ‘feature’ of DVDs where the program on the disc can decide what you can and cannot do with the remote control, like skipping the half dozen trailers before the main menu or switching audio and subtitles during the film.

There is a patch for Apple’s DVD Player that addresses this issue. 

February 2, 2004


After planning it for several months, I finally wrote my own Movable Type text plugin. I will test it a bit and then post the source and some documentation.

But in the meantime here is a demo.

I can easily write <, > and & using backslash (\) escapes.

Block quotes in ÖlbauML rule.

Automatically numbered headings (not in Markdown, though)

Yes, really

And easier than in MS Word.

Of course, regular headings are possible too

I can write code, inline and

> in  a <
> block <


  • Lists
  • are
  • easy
    • and
    • can
    • be

  • nested

Update (today): This was no real update, just a demo of the <update> tag.

Note from Olivier: On the other hand, this was a real note and a demo of the <note> tag.

Other features include this1 and easy sub- and superscripts (not in Markdown either):

E1 = v t2 / 2

Schrödinger’s cat is dead alive.

Update (19.4.005): I have re-written this post using Markdown and as they basically let me do the same things and I didn’t want to port ÖlbauML to PHP to use with Movable Type’s dynamic publishing feature.

1. Semi-automatic foot notes, now powered by

January 30, 2004

The other purpose of Windows

jr pointed out the real purpose of Windows. This hilarious article mentions another one:

[…] a Macintosh simply cannot compete with a Windows machine when it comes to what matters: keeping techs employed.

I encourage you to read the entire article, it is worth it.

Here is another excerpt, not related to the first one but so accurate:


December 10, 2003


I came up with this just now:

The ASCII certainly has only one purpose: To write the many curses it inspires us.
— Ölbaum

Who thought I’d ever write verse without a gun pointing at my head?

December 9, 2003

Kill Bill vol. 1

I saw Kill Bill vol. 1 yesterday and unfortunately my fears were confirmed: Tarantino put all the babbling in the first volume and kept the action for the second one.

November 26, 2003

Planetary challenge

The Swiss television announced on Monday that Bertrand “Main Invisible” Piccard will unveil on Friday (November 28th, 2003) the object of his next adventure, “a new planetary challenge of world scale.”

What springs to the mind is that it will hopefully consist in trying to stay quiet for a whole year in a row. Since the details of this announcement are kept secret until Friday, let’s dream on.

September 11, 2003


jr and I were recently talking about how to make Microsoft Outbreak1 send UTF-8 emails using the quoted-printable content transfer encoding2. It seems that by default, Outbreak sends UTF-8 messages in Base64. Not only is it a waste of bandwidth — a quick test showed that an average UTF-8 message in French weights a third more in Base64 than in quoted-printable — but it is also problematic because some spam filters, especially those filtering mailing list posts, tend to give a high junk rating to Base64 messages on the grounds that an encoded attachment is probably a virus. Likewise, the recently released SpamSieve 2.0 can be configured to systematically flag Base64 HTML messages as spam.

Unsurprisingly, there is no setting in Outbreak to make it send quoted-printable UTF-8. This is because the problem is in the Exchange server. In Exchange mode, Outbreak sends messages using the MAPI3 interface, which leaves the burden of encoding to the server. And the server makes Base64. The million dollar question is therefore: how do you make Microsoft Exchange send UTF-8 emails using the quoted-printable content transfer encoding?

The short answer is: you can’t. The long answer is: it is not possible.

But if there’s only one thing we remember from the Mathematics courses we followed during our studies, it is this: when you don’t know how to solve a problem, try and reduce it to a previously solved form. In our case, to prevent the spam filters from rejecting our emails, we only need to prevent Exchange from sending them in Base64. And this is easy, provided we are properly equipped:

First shalt thou take out the Holy Pin. Then, shalt thou count to three. No more. No less. Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, nor either count thou two, excepting that thou then proceedest to three. Five is right out. Once the number three, being the third number, be reached, then, lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thy Exchange server, who, being naughty in My sight, shall snuff it.
— Armaments 2:18-21

1. Daring Fireball: Good Times by John Gruber 

2. The reason for sending UTF-8 messages should be obvious but will be discussed in an upcoming entry. 

3. Mamma mia, Another Proprietary Insanity. 

September 4, 2003


Since Steve Jobs unveiled Mac OS X 10.3 at WWDC 2003, several web sites started discussing an apparently new feature called Expose. As no such thing is mentioned on Apple’s web site, it called for a bit of investigation. The results showed that the sites in question are referring to Exposé, the new window switching mechanism of Panther, and led to a saddening conclusion: many webmasters are running their site on a tight budget and cannot afford the eighth bit necessary to turn their old, useless ASCII character sub-sub-sub-set into something useful, closer to this ancient but none the less wonderful invention we call writing.

Therefore, I decided to help you, webmasters with a tight budget, by releasing the 8-THB 4000. The 8-THB 4000 is the extra bit everybody’s missing and I am giving it away free of charge1.

But that’s not all! If you order within the next millennium, I’ll be adding no less than 51 ready to use packets of eight bits, suitable for writing in many European languages. Don’t be mistaken, these are not your every day bytes. They have been carefully selected and manually sorted to guarantee first-rate readability as well as a high degree of scalability. Moreover, they come with a handy user manual, complete with examples of how to use them in words and expressions borrowed from foreign languages.

Are you tired of your 7-bit ASCII? Well, in any case I am, so wait no more and take advantage of this incredible opportunity! All you have to do is save the following characters in a safe place, along with their user manual below.

 The 8-THB 4000

Á  À  Â  Ä  Ã  á  à  â  ä  ã
É  È  Ê  Ë     é  è  ê  ë
Í  Ì  Î  Ï     í  ì  î  ï
Ó  Ò  Ô  Ö  Õ  ó  ò  ô  ö  õ
Ú  Ù  Û  Ü     ú  ù  û  ü
Ç  ç  Ñ  ñ  Ø  ø  ß

 The 8-THB 4000: User Manual

Using the 8-THB 4000 is easy. First, write all the letters of the foreign word that you can type with your keyboard. Then copy-paste the missing characters from the 8-THB 4000. Here are a couple of examples to get you started:

apritif — apéritif
dj vu — déj vu — déjà vu
tte--tte — tête--tte — tête-à-tte — tête-à-tête

Now try yourself with the following words. Don’t worry, it can be daunting at first, but you’ll get used to it in no time.

à la carte
à propos
maître d’hôtel

1. Legal notice: charges may apply pertaining to the electrons required to display, store or transmit the 8-THB 4000. Contact your local elementary particles dealer for more information. 

2. Synonym for cheese. Has nothing to do with Cheddar. 

August 21, 2003

Bundle madness

Last week, Belkin announced the Bluetooth Wireless Optical Mouse. It caught my interest because since the 12” PowerBook has built-in Bluetooth, such a mouse would be convenient. I could just dig it out of my bag, turn it on and use it without having to plug a cable or wireless adapter.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of information in the press release. I don’t know if it will be as bulky as the Microsoft equivalent, which is way too big to consider carrying with a 12” PowerBook. I know however that it will cost $80, that is ten bucks more than the Logitech MX700.

It’s all about features

The Belkin will have four buttons and a scroll wheel, which translates, from press release language, to three buttons and a clickable scroll wheel. The MX700 has seven buttons plus a clickable scroll wheel.

Optically speaking, I’m pretty sure the press release would mention it if the Belkin used the superior MX engine of Logitech, so I can safely assume it will not be as good as the MX700.

The MX700 comes with a docking station that charges its batteries and is also the wireless receiver. The Belkin probably uses alkaline batteries. You can replace them with rechargeable ones but you’ll need an external charger.

Finally, the Bluetooth Wireless Optical Mouse will come with a bundled Bluetooth adapter. When I read this, I decided to play naive and write to Belkin’s public relations to ask whether a version without adapter would be available and at which price.

 Lawyer bullshit

Unfortunately, I cannot cite their reply here because according to some legal text at the end of the message, it is strictly confidential. I will however take the risk of saying that the answer to the first question was either yes or no and that is was not yes.

I would not have bothered to blog this if I didn’t think it’s a silly idea (yes, that’s a double negation. I have no problem with that) so read on.

Follow the guide, please

There are a lot of cheap, non Bluetooth wireless mice on the market, like the MacAlly rfMouseJr ($49). Clearly, the benefit of a Bluetooth mouse is that it uses the same technology as the mobile phone or PDA you already own so you don’t need an additional USB port for a proprietary cable or adapter. Therefore, the people who are likely to buy such a mouse will often already own a Bluetooth adapter, whether they bought it or it came built-in on their computer.

When you buy the Belkin mouse, you’ll have an extra adapter. It’s no big deal, you can give it to a friend or sell it on eBay. Now this wireless mouse is very convenient. Why not add a Bluetooth keyboard so you can play UT2003 from the sofa using your brand new beamer? Guess what, every Bluetooth keyboard on the market also comes with a bundled adapter. So does the Logitech Cordless Presenter, by the way.

This is getting silly. You have three modern wireless peripherals, all of them using the same technology, and you had to pay for three Bluetooth adapters you have no use for. Knowing a Bluetooth adapter sells for $50, it is likely that a bundled adapter increases the end-user price of a peripheral by at least $35. It means that with your keyboard, mouse and Presenter, you wasted more than a hundred bucks on useless hardware. Well, I am fond of the silliness, but not when it involves such an amount of money.

You could try and open a museum of Bluetooth adapters and have people pay to see it so you recover a bit of the wasted money, but I doubt it would work in the long term. People would quickly get bored. Alternatively, you can bug the manufacturers of Bluetooth peripherals so they start selling their products without a Bluetooth adapter. I’m going to try the latter, even though I’m convinced it’s due to fail. I won’t be allowed to publish Belkin’s answer here but don’t worry, I’ll find a workaround.

It’s that time again…

…to learn the day’s lesson. Wheel of morality, turn, turn, turn; tell us the lesson that we should learn.

And the moral of the day is: “Forget Bluetooth and go buy a Targus Ultra Mini Optical Mouse with Retractable Cord, it’s only twelve bucks.”

August 8, 2003


In Switzerland, like the rest of Europe, it’s been about two months without a drop of rain, except for a couple of lame attempts from the Chief Pipe Fitter to fix the plumbing.

Therefore imagine my surprise when I slowly realised what the loud hum that was starting to annoy me actually was…

Continue reading “Attila” »

July 28, 2003


noun UK (US vacation) a time, often one or two weeks, when someone does not go to work or school but is free to do what they want, such as travel or relax.1

Although it will obviously not affect the frequency of my posts, I’ll be on holiday for the rest of the week. I’m going to Poitiers to visit the Futuroscope2, something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. Thanks to R@f for the idea and the organisation.

I’m going with him and a friend of his. We’re leaving by tomorrow’s TGV of 9:16 and, on the return route, we’ll be taking a detour through Disneyland Resort Paris2 because it’s a good idea.

1. from Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary 

2. I’m not linking to this kind of web sites, unless bad web design is the subject of the post. 

July 24, 2003

Paléo 2003

I just got back from Paléo Festival. Alanis Morisette played from 23:30 to 1:00. It was quite alright, although the sound was a good bit louder than needed. There were of course a lot of people but for once we couldn’t say they were crammed together. And this is worth noting.

Note to self: parking the car in Lausanne, going to Nyon by train and returning by bus is a convenient alternative to taking the car all the way through the trafic jams.

June 16, 2003


There were four or five Stag Beetles (Lucanus cervus, Lucane cerf-volant in French) in my garden on Thursday, around 22:00. They made a strange noise against the window and my sister had seen one about the same time the day before.

I managed to take a couple of pictures, even though it was pitch-dark. I even caught one. It was surprisingly easy: when you disturb them, they take a menacing pose and freeze completely. The one I caught didn’t move a leg during the picture session, until I put it back where I found it.

There are some pictures below.

Continue reading “Dangeruss!” »

June 3, 2003

Oh happy day.ter

johann followed my subtle suggestion about starting a blog and now I have the difficult task of writing an entry to trackback his first post.

I don’t think he quite understood the extent of this task when he asked me to do so. Writing a blog entry should never be done lightly. It should be done on an impulse and the topic should not be imposed. Otherwise, it would be the beginning of chaos. And everybody knows the consequences of chaos: a storm bursts in Zürich in the morning, causing a butterfly in Chicago to flap its wings, in the middle of the night… Who knows what an angry butterfly, disturbed in its sleep, might be capable of?

I’m not sure I want to know the answer to this question. Therefore, and I’m sorry about it, I will not write an entry to trackback johann’s blog today.

May 29, 2003

Steal this button generator

Bill Zeller wrote a nice PHP script that uses GD to make 80x15 buttons like the ones found at Steal These Buttons. I downloaded it to so I could make my own buttons quickly on my local machine and the next minute I found myself hacking through the code and modifying it.

The only difference from the outside is that the central bar and the right hand side text now position themselves automatically if no value is given for the corresponding parameters. Under the hood, since I can be pretty maniac when programming sometimes, I grouped all the default values together, I put the code for text drawing into a function and I made it easier to take the parameters from the $_GET or $_POST globals in case register_globals is turned off, like on a freshly installed PHP 4.3. I even considered (and wrote some code for) using constants for the dimensions of the image and calculate all the other values, but I decided it was not worth the trouble since the text is bitmapped anyway.

Here is the source.

Update (June 4, 2003): The font must be downloaded on Bill Zeller’s site. font.png should go into a folder named silkscreen next to the PHP script.

Update (February 9, 2004): I forgot to mention it, but Rob found the solution to his problem:

It turns out the problem is that I have an older version of GD, and it doesn’t support imagecreatetruecolor(). I changed the directive to imagecreate(), and it works fine now.

Update (October 11, 2004): font.png is now available here. It should go into a folder named silkscreen next to the PHP script.

May 23, 2003

The point of the other blog

I have created another blog, called Ölbaum’s Knowledge Base. Its main purpose is to archive the knowledge I gain by failing at something, documenting myself and eventually succeeding (or sometimes just understanding why I can’t). Its secondary purpose is to be able to point people who ask questions to a ready-made answer instead of having to make up a new explanation and/or look up references again. It is only its tertiary purpose to be available for people to browse and find answers to questions they didn’t ask in the first place.

Entries about Apache, SSH and CVS are to be expected in the near future as I never remember the arguments to the import command or the flags for update that prune empty directories and create the new ones.

I’d talk as well about how I discovered the drastic limitations of CSS2 positioning after hours of trial, error, harder trial and complete failure, but Dave Hyatt recently described the problem better than I would ever have done.

May 21, 2003

The point of this blog

The main motivation behind this blog is that whenever I decide to go mad and write silly things, I have usually no trouble finding a friend or two who’ll tell me I’m being really funny. Of course, they might be lying to me — and occasionally they must be, considering the incredible amount of bullshit I’m capable of writing in no time once I’m started — but someone said “You asked for it, you got it, Toyota,” and therefore behold: here is my blog!

(Of course, Toyota has nothing to do in the picture, they just happen to have a slogan that is 78% accurate in this particular case, which is more than I need to make my point.)

So I’m going to write things here, and I’m going to enjoy it. If I ever get anyone to tell me that what I write is funny, then my blog will have proven its usefulness. If I don’t, it’ll mean I didn’t get enough readers and I might have to take extreme measures to get people to read it, like threatening friends with WMA (Weapons of Mass Abomination: cups of decaffeinated coffee), ‘accidentally’ sending excerpts to my research group’s mailing list or worse, citing popular blogs in my entries and sending trackback pings so they link to me.

May 19, 2003

Oh happy day

One of my best friends got married yesterday1, so I’m dedicating my first blog entry to him and his wife. That was an amazing day. After the ceremony and apéro in Kerzers, we moved to the Gurten, a very nice place on a hill near Bern. There’s a beautiful view on the city (and on the Bundeshaus too where, we could verify, there are no lights, neither by day nor by night2) and, most importantly, a tchoo-tchoo. In case you’re wondering, tchoo-tchoo is technical for “model steam train that really works and on which you can actually ride.”

The dinner was delicious and the dessert buffet, oh my God, I can still hear them cry “Eat me, eat me, plllease!” There were great contributions from the guests, too, during the afternoon and evening.

The guests’ writing skills were widely sollicitated during the evening. There were two quizzes to fill about the couple, a photo album with a page dedicated to each of the guests and a collective short story that everyone was invited to complete. I guess the couple will have great fun reading all of this. Note to self: remember to come with a ghostwriter next time.

The night ended with a great fireworks-enabled balloon release. It was lucky the fireworks went out before the ballons reached the Bundeshaus, though, because they were dropping pretty big sparks and could have looked like an attacking UFO to any overzealous, half-drunk security guard who’d have happened to be on duty that night.

1. Assuming I finish writing this entry today, i.e. in the next half hour. OK, let’s put it this way: the wedding took place on the seventeenth of May and now I can take my time to write. 

2. R@f actually came up with the Bundeshaus joke. 

Do not meddle in the affairs of Coding Ninjas, for they are subtle and quick to anger.