Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Google Calendar

Just trying to look at Google Calendar, that is all...

In A Desperate Attempt to Get Windows to Boot in Less Than Three Minutes

"Uncloaked on Monday by Oak Ridge — a Tennessee lab run by the Department of Energy — the Titan supercomputer is a Cray machine made of nearly 19,000 processing units stitched together with 710 terabytes of memory."

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


My XP computer has done this three times in the last two weeks.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Ubuntu Goof

The GUI you get with later editions of Ubuntu, Unity, has been the cause of no small controversy.  For one thing, it is almost completely non-configurable.

This is downright odd, but I'm actually OK with it.

Or would be.

If the software worked.

Here's what the left hand side of my Unity desktop should look like.

The "ribbon" down the side is the "launcher".  In a remarkable nod to the idea that I am after all actually trying to use Unity to actually do something with my personal computer, Unity generously allows me to add icons to this strip for applications I use frequently.  This feature may be an oversight on the developers' part.  Perhaps future versions will decide for me what applications to run, but I digress...

Every now and then, at intervals just great enough that I forget it happens, I look up at my screen and out of the blue, for no reason I can determine, I see this.

All the icons in the launcher are crammed up into the top, it appears.  It will not repaint.  The icons are gone, and unreachable, and the launcher is now useless.

The only way I have found to get the launcher back is to restart.  That's right, restart.  Check the calendar...  Yes it really is 2012, and I have to restart to get my computer usable again, running Linux!

Just...  Wow.

I have two computers with completely different hardware, both running Ubuntu and Unity, and they both do this.  And had for the last two major Ubuntu versions.

If you Google around, you'll find some proposed ways to fix this involving various unity reset commands, from the command line (if you have one out, because you can't launch a new terminal when in this state).  I have had mixed results from these commands.  The results range from A) piling all the windows together on one virtual desktop, in the corner, with no frames to move them.  To B) completely locking up the computer so as to require a hard power-off.

Of course since Unity is so "simple" and not configurable, there is no easy GUI reset command really, of the sort more "primitive" X-like windowing systems have.  No Ctrl-Alt-Backspace or anything.  No repaint.  Logging out, if you can doesn't even help.  Because, you know, why would you need all that?

I even figured out how to get Unity to not auto-hide the launcher.  I thought maybe it would work better if it wasn't repainting all the time.  Since Unity knows best what I want, this change is not simple and easy by the way.  Nor did it help at all.  And after an update, what I did reverted anyway.

Look Ubuntu...  It's 2012.  I just want a computer that can run a few simple programs and a web browser.  Has technology really not progressed enough in the last 30 years to provide this?  Maybe I should switch to Windows 8.  After all, I have not had to hard power-off a Windows box in awhile now.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Thursday, October 25, 2012

NULL Music

Google Music has a remarkably smart feature for automatically creating a nice playlist from a selected song.  It's a great feature, and it does an astonishingly good job at selecting music and works together.

This morning I went to use Google Music to create and "Instant Mix" from a certain song.

As sometimes happens, it gave the mysterious and creepy message "Can't create Instant List".  I did what I always do when this happens, reload the page.

Funny thing though...  Ha Ha...  The page that came up had the new instant mix on it, but it had called the Instant Mix, "NULL" in place of the song I had selected.

NULL Mix! 

(Is Google being ironic, or just post-modern?)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Nails It

"We don't care what smart people think.  There aren't that many of them." 
-- Scott Adams (via The Pointy-Haired Boss)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Thought I might pay a credit card bill at Citi Cards...
That's a quick task, right?

Funny stuff!

These guys are hilarious!

Update: I was finally able to make this payment this morning!  I'm not sure how long the facility was unavailable, but is was well over 24 hours.

And Another Thing About Images

Here at Computer Programmer Chimp, we weren't born yesterday, and neither should you.  We know full well that our reader likes to see a nice image of some or other interesting object or scene along with our posts and pages.  And why not?

This is the future!

There's a funny thing though; the HTML editors at Google Sites and at Google Blogger have very different ideas about how images from Google's Picasa Web Albums can be included in our Precious Webily Content.

Let's start with the Blogger editor.  With this editor, you click the image icon in the tool bar and, assuming you are in compose mode, a dialogue appears allowing several choices for the source of the image.  One of these is Picasa Web Albums!  Win!

Selecting the image to insert is a simple matter of picking the album, and the image.  Holy LOL Cats!  This works great!

Now let's try inserting an image with the editor provided for Google Sites.  This editor does not have an image icon in the tool bar.  Instead you'll find this functionality in the menus.  Click "Insert".

What you'll get is this menu jam packed and overflowing (hence the little arrow in the lower right) with cool stuff you can insert.

"Image" is right up front, so we'll click that.

Now here's where it gets interesting.  The naive chimp might expect to find something at least a bit similar to what we see to facilitate images in the Blogger editor.

Ha!  Ha!  No such luck!  The Google is not so easily pigeon-holed, silly chimp.

What you'll actually get is this dialogue offering only two options, uploading an image file, or entering the URL of an image.

To get an image from your Picasa Web Albums therefore, you will need to copy and paste the images URL from Picasa.

You go to Picasa, select the album, select the image, select a few options, and Picasa finally gives up the URL.

As an added bit of fun, it should be mentioned at this point that you will only see the link options in Picasa if the album is either public, or limited (public with link).  These choices are album properties that you'll need to set before doing any of this.


So there you have it.  Two HTML editors, both from Google, both dedicated to content creation within two Google offerings, and both with very different means of incorporating images from Google's on line image management tool.  Awesome!

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Things About Stuff

Editing with the editor to do some editing at is a real adventure.  I could go on about this all day probably, but today we'll keep it simple and take a look at just one bit of fun; inserting an ad.

Let's start with a simple blog post.  We'll add a title, a little text, and some minor formatting...

The preview on this looks great!  This blog is going to be insanely popular, I can tell already!

Wait, I know...  I'll insert an ad at the bottom.  Why, with all the page views this will get, I can go home early!

Now, one way to do this is in's options.  In there one can link up a Google adsense account, add ads to the blog's layout, and optionally opt for ads to appear between each post.  Oh sure, that's one way...  But suppose a chimp wants more control over ad usage and type?  For example, Google will render only three ad units per page.  So, if someone looks at the main blog page, they will only see three ad units, even though ads may be selected to appear between all posts.  You don't really get to pick which posts get the ads in this case. 

It's also nice to mix up the ad types, and placement manually.  And to not have ads in some posts.  In general, we know a thoughtful chimp is all about ad control on this here internet.

That said, there's nothing to stop you from getting some ad script from the adsense website and pasting it into your post.  First, switch the editor to HTML mode.  Here's what the post looks like.

Google's blogger loves the div tag!

But anyway, this is fine, no problem, it'll work.

Next you go get your adsense ad source, and copy and paste it, in HTML mode so you get the raw Java script.

Here's the result.

The ad is pasted at the end of the post body.  Can't you can just feel the revenue!  But wait...

Switch back to Compose mode and take a look.

What the chimp is that!?
Switch back to the HTML mode, quick!

Well, isn't that fun...  The editor has altered the script and changed "//-->" to "-->".  It took out the forward slashes and changed and greater-than sign, which we entered in HTML mode, manually, just moments before, to a gt literal.


Isn't it great when tools decide what you wanted to type when you espressly typed something else, in a specific mode, provided just for typing that sort of thing?

Clearly the script will not work and this sorry state, and you don't get an ad.  No ad, no early retirement.  Boooo!

The solution?  There isn't one.  The blogger editor will change that code everytime you switch from HTML mode to compose mode.  What you have to do here, is make sure you don't give it that chance.  Paste your ad code last, in HTML mode, and hit publish, from HTML mode.

And have a nice day.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Instant Upload!

This morning when I looked at my computer I saw a notification from Google+ of a photo uploaded by Instant Upload. 

"That's amazing!" I thought, since I had not actually taken any photos lately.  So I clicked and took a look.

There it was, barely remembered, a photo (one) I took four months ago.  That's awesome!

Having been a Google+ user for well over a year, I can say with some certainty that Google doesn't really have the hang of the "instant" part of Instant Upload so far.  Which is strange because they don't have any trouble instant uploading earnings reports...

Friday, October 12, 2012

Latitude 500

Google Latitude is currently giving a 500 error!



Once upon a time, a few days ago, I fired up Google's Latitude website to see how information was collecting lately.

Google Latitude has a fun feature where, if you enable it, it will save your location history, using information from your phone.  The web site can draw a map of this history and show some colorful graphs.  It can also share your location with others so you can tell when all your friends have a party and don't invite you!


But on this occasion, wow was I disappointed.  There was no fiend information, and no map or charts.  It showed my current location, but it was wildly wrong.


I reload.  Logged in again.  Still nothing.

Then I remembered something I had noticed before, long, log ago.  I went to my phone (a Droid 2) and started the Latitude application.  Settings...  Location settings...  There are two check boxes in that panel.  One selects "track my location", and the other selects "track using this device" (I assume some chimps have more than one).  On my phone both these boxes had helpfully unchecked themselves automatically for me.

Yes, I have seen it do that before.

I then went right back to my PC and reloaded the Latitude page.  Wham!  There is all was!  Graphs, history, cool map, and friends!  Just like that!

I don't know when those boxes uncheck themselves.  It's possibly during a Latitude update on the phone.  Google likes to keep us on our toes.

It is kinds funny that all the history information was there, just not shown, while the boxes where unchecked, for some unknown period of time, possibly quite lingering...  But Google's like that.  They don't know the meaning of "rm".

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


It's great the how Windows, by default, goofs up my work by rebooting itself overnight!  Isn't it just awesome when our tools decide what we want to do?

As an added bonus, when it came back up, Chrome had gotten corrupted and forgotten it's default tabs.  Even more awesome!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Play TV

Google has announced today a new update that will allow its customers to be able to access content paid for on Google Play through Google TV devices.

Wait...  What?
Let's see, Google Play is Google's platform for purchasing multimedia content including applications, music, movies books and more.  While Google TV is Google platform for...  Uh, enjoying multimedia content including applications, music, movies books and more..

Google TV was introduced in 2010.  Google Play, originally Android Market, was launched in 2008.   Only now did someone at Google have the idea that maybe content obtained through Google's online store should be usable on Google's flagship media platform?  It must have been an interesting meeting, when that idea came up.  I wonder what the counter arguments were?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Site to Sea

At Google, system redundancy is a priority.  So naturally Google has multiple facilities for doing almost everything.

For creating web pages, they used to offer two services, Google Webpages, and Google Sites.  Both of these offered a free way to create simple web pages, each complete with their own, two, separate, different HTML editors!  And by the way, if you count Blogger, then Google had three HTML editors.  Just awesome!

Awhile back, they discontinues the Webpages offering, and it's editor (leaving two HTML editors).  That old editor was actually a little better in that you could insert the code fragments other Google facilities helpfully offer as a way of tying up things like Google Web Master Tools, Analytics and adsense into the same Googlish bundle.

You can't quite so all that with Google Sites, so there's Googly things that you simply can't do, even with both feet, and hands up to your elbows, in the Google ecosystem (awesome!).

The other day, I foolishly went to try and simplify some pages I've made with Google Sites.  I wanted to pull a few images from Picasa Web Albums, instead of the server I had been using, and use a better template for the layout.

The truly great thing about WYSIWYG HTML editors, like Google Sites has, is that you really need to know a lot about HTML to use them.  And I mean a lot.  I don't mean that you have to know the simple handful of tags that any chimp-in-training could use to create a perfectly sensible web page.  To use these tools, you really need to know it all.  And you need to know all the options to every tag, no matter how obscure, because let me tell you, those tools will use all of them!  And they will insert every single available tag, and every option that tag has, into what you create, all with absolutely no code formatting.

In fact, as an added convenience, if you try to format the HTML yourself to give yourself some shred of a chance at reading it, the software will happily just mix it all up!  Take that self!  And it does not just run it all together either.  Oh no, this software is extremely sophisticated.  Look forward to line beaks at seemingly random, and blank lines added, in addition to the simple thrill of running things together.  The editor takes a special joy in creating non-breaking spaces.  Everyone loves a sprinkling of non-breaking spaces here and there.  There's nothing like that to give a paragraph that not-paginated-correctly look of extra white space at the end of some lines.

In addition, it appears the programmers that created it all got paid by the div tag, but I digress...

The whole point of this exercise in losing the will to live, was to simplify a few pages (in the name of Google, Apple, Microsoft and IBM, what was I thinking?).

This seemed to go pretty well.  I created two templates, cutting and pasting some items for the existing content, and used some URLs from Picasa for images (oh, did I mean that the Sites editor can not grab images directly from Picasa like the Blogger HTML editor can?  I didn't?  Well, it can't).  I used my new templates as a way to have a consistent header and footer on the pages, with an ad block down the side.

"Any chimp would be proud of this!", I insanely thought to myself.  Little did I know...

Later in the day I happened to look at the page on my phone with the Dolphin browser (a great mobile browser, highly recommended for chimps of all sizes).  To my horror, I found several links not working, and a large scattering of "not found" broken image icons - all things I knew I had tested.  What the?!

Well this post is getting long so I'll just cut to what I learned.

1) The Firefox I was using with the Google Sites editor did not display broken image icons.
2) The Sites editor, somehow, created broken img tags as a result of my cutting and pasting (never did figure out how that happened).
c) Because Firefox did not display the broken img icon, it also failed to cut and paste in an expected manner.  As a result, each time I cutted and pasteded, I'd get an additional copy of the broken tag,  Awesome!  On some lines that had a gif of a little bullet at the front, I had one, two, even three broken images!  All invisible in the editor, in Firefox, but sore thumbs in Chrome!
4) Since the templates were wrong, all the pages I converted to the templates were wrong.
5) When you edit and save a Sites page, it does not refresh and show your edits the first time you go back to it from another page - you have to expressly refresh it.  As a result, when I my edits created errors, I did not see those errors when I went back though to test everything.  I had even followed links that ere actually invalid!


(Next time, how much fun it is to load images into Picasa Web Albums!  Maybe.  Or something else...)

Monday, October 1, 2012

Field Trip

Google...  A chimp could get lost in that field.

This weekend I installed Google's new Android app, Field Trip.  Field Trip is a new application from Google that has just been, very quietly, released.  I didn't go back and look, but I'm pretty sure there was nothing in the Google blogs about the app.  I first took note of it from a Wired review, here.

Field Trip appears to be (another) location aware informational application for mobile devices.  It is tied into information sources on restaurants, tourist attractions, museums and the like.  The only thing unique in this that I can see, is that Field Trip is designed to pop up notifications when a user is physically near these sites.  It is in that sense like a proactive search, for people interested in things that are near by as they explore a presumably unknown city.

The first I noticed about Field Trip is that the user interface is completely unlike anything I have ever seen from Google.  And it is quite attractive too.  Obviously they just bought this app.

The second thing I noticed in setting the app up is that it is quite limited in information sources.  It has a remarkably small handful of sources feeding it, such as Zagat.  Some of these sources are specific to a certain city, and so are of no use 99.9% of the time.

Not enough information is an unusual flaw in a Google application.

The third thing I noticed was that Field Trip didn't do anything.  At least it didn't do anything at first.  After been on my phone for a hour or two, it popped up with a short review of a Mexican restaurant nearby.

Over the following weekend I visited a touristy little town an hour or two away.  The town has a trendy  old-town shopping area featuring many restaurants, galleries, shops and historic buildings.  There were also multiple special weekend events going on in the downtown area.

I set Field Trip on it's "tell me everything" mode.  Over the course of the weekend, as I walked from one end of town to the other, it came up with...  Nothing.

I am not surprised by this, given it's limited data sources.  It's not even tied into normal Google information, or reviews.

Meanwhile...  I read this:

Places Directory was an Android app that helped people find nearby places of interest. We've removed the app from Google Play and are taking down the Places Directory site because users can find everything in Google Maps for Mobile, which offers a much better user experience.

Google is pulling the plug on Places.

"Places" started out as "Local" and was supposed to be, thought to be, said to be, smelled like it would be, tied into Google's shopper/check-in/discount/location/social strategy.  But they never did much with it.  Now that is canceled, but they added this Field Trip, which doesn't have anything to do with shopping or check-ins or social, and isn't tied to Google's reviews or any of the things Google Places acted like it was all about.  

What are we to make of this?  Is Google interested in a local business strategy?

Two things come to my mind, one is that maybe they're right and the sun is setting on all that Yelp, Foursquare, Groupon stuff.  

On the other hand maybe the plan is to pass all that through into Google+, which does have some elements of this, but not all.

And why did Google buy Zagat if they don't have a Places?

A year or two ago, Google did a major campaign with small businesses built around Google Places.  Now it's dropped?   Why was all this never tied into Google Shopper?  It is said that Google wanted to buy Groupon for a serious amount of money, now they think that type of business is dead?

In typical Google fashion, none of this makes any sense.  Maybe it's all part of a Master Plan and a whole lot of new Google+ features are about to roll out.

Or maybe Google's strategies are determined by observing a pack of distracted squirrels dodging a self-driving car.