An oblique reminder.

Hey everyone, this is a forward slash: /
This is a backslash: \
Trust me, when you’re reading a website URL in ad copy, you do not mean backslash. The backslash is not commonly used in anything other than local file paths on CP/M, DOS, and Windows computers. NOT Trust me on this. It’s just “slash”. And this is Slash. Clear? Good. Stop saying backslash.

Not particularly oblique. See what I did here?

Photo by William Hames / Atlas Icons.

The Westinghouse Prog Stom Ass’y, or Lost Arts in Electronics

IMAG2765…You read that right, the module has an ancient TYPO on it.

Today I was at the Miami-Dade County Store, and somewhere in the shelves of weird old broken network hardware and PCs that had been picked clean by creepy Jamaican exporters, this one bronze colored anodized aluminum mystery box peeked out at me. The thing just had a strange energy about it, I couldn’t really explain it.

This box has silently served hundreds of thousands of people on their way to work, to play, in good times and bad. But what is it? And what’s with the typo?

Continue reading »

Mac OS X is beating your hard drives to death. Here’s the fix.

You read that right.

Quick link to the fix before I get to my usual rambling: hdapm. Install it and it will automatically set itself to auto-start on each boot and disable the auto park feature for all your drives.

Under Linux you can also use the hdparm command. Please note that you still need to fix your Mac OS X system with hdapm though as it will by default reset the power management on each boot!!
hdparm -B 255 [device]
or, if that throws an error
hdparm -B 254 [device]

device is usually /dev/sda.

My usual rambling as to the background on this problem follows…. 🙂
Continue reading »

Bye now Florida.

Scottdemort won. After mostly destroying the state and its economy in his first term, he now has four more years to finish the job.


Funny how accurate this is for being over half a century old — South America does pretty much own at least most of South Florida.

See also


Why it all sucks

Microsoft Windows: it’s fragile and its innards are buried in obscurity and Mandelbugs. The networking stack likes to die for no reason.
Mac OS X: oh dear eris, Apple, what the ever living fuck?! You broke EVERYTHING on Mavericks. SMB defaults to a  protocol that’s known to run at dialup speeds for no good reason. System will not even touch a disk with a guid partition table with data corruption. (Linux is all like “hey, I see a checksum error. I’m reading your disk anyway, because this isn’t harmful. Here’s how to fix it. Would you like some coffee while you do this?”)
Linux: there’s no simple *click*, this folder is now shared. Configuration files have to be hand edited. Why?!
Marketron, Citrix MetaFrame: well no duh we’re having severe compatibility problems, marketron is running a citrix virtualization service (MetaFrame XP) which went end of life/support IN 2007!!! Well no shit new versions of the client won’t work right. OSaaS: obsolete software as a service.

Sorry, it’s been a long, tough week. Doesn’t help that I turn on the DMR radio and hear everyone but me up at the excellent Melbourne Hamfest and I’m just surrounded by broken computers and annoyance.


The new SunPass

FDOT ran a program a while back providing free replacements of the old battery powered SunPass transponders


with new units with no battery. Unfortunately they sent me a dud (in the sense that the serial number cannot be registered) with the only recourse being for me to buy a new one for $25.

I pried the useless brick apart to see what’s inside.


The unit is very difficult to open but is not weatherproof. This should be noted by anyone planning to use one on a motorcycle.


Here’s the board inside. Not much to it. What are the extra pins? No circuit traces are attached to them. The two between the two that are in use are not even soldered down. It’s reasonably possible that only two of the ic pins are used – this is not uncommon at all on passive RFID devices. Antenna, antenna ground.

Box Store Hell – from the people who brought you YAFULC.

Yeah, so I don’t like ‘urban lifestyle centers’ or Yet Another Fucking Urban Lifestyle Center – YAFULC – but it’s actually one step up from what is far more common out in the suburban sprawl… Box Store HELL!!!

Above: Tropicaire Shopping Center, a Box Store Hell constructed on the grounds of the former Tropicaire flea market and drive-in cinema, and nearly cutting off a block of apartments from the outside world.

Box Store Hell is yet another example of complete and total failure in urban planning, coupled with a myopic belief that everyone drives a car and never goes anywhere without it.

I guess you could really say the same thing about the box store in general. Typically, it’s the equivalent of a poorly laid out department store, surrounded by parking lot. Usually a MASSIVE expanse of parking lot separates it from the road.

Back in the early 1990s, the mini-mall or strip mall began to disappear as box stores took over where other things had been. The original phrase for a strip mall filled with box stores was “power strip”. It was a number of box stores that had a common walkway in front, sometimes covered. The box store hell, though, is a new kind of awful.

Owing to an obsession in the retail industry for strictly planogrammed stores, many retail chains now insist upon making the very building their store is built into a part of the strict planogram. You may have already noticed this with Walgreens, CVS, Target, and Wal-Mart stores. They all have to be built exactly the same, right down to how the entrances and exits are positioned. Unfortunately, this doesn’t really fit well when all the stores are located together in a ‘power strip’, so the buildings are now just separately dribbled across a vast parking lot. Thus, the Box Store Hell was born and glommed up every bit of commercial zoned landscape it could get its hands on.

Your typical Box Store Hell has a massive parking lot which usually floods in seconds when it rains. Sometimes the parking lot is large enough (especially in the case of Walmart stores) that it required its own stormwater treatment system and underground detention pond be installed. The urban heat island effect is so strong on some of these parking lots that a plastic shopping bag cast into the wind will rise endlessly out of sight, finally disappearing several hundred feet into the air from the thermal updraft.

The parking lot will be a sea of randomly strewn shopping carts, people peeling in and out of parking spaces in sport utility vehicles and minivans without looking first, and a baroque arrangement of nonsensical reserved parking and tow-away zones. There are usually a few spotters for towing companies nearby lurking, watching for you to park in the wrong zone, sometimes even “helpfully” directing you to do so.

Each store has its own shopping carts. You will not be allowed to use the same shopping cart between more than one store, of course; you are expected to pull up to Box Store Hell in your car, visit exactly ONE store, then leave. What, you thought this was supposed to be CONVENIENT?

A second generation of Box Store Hell appeared in some urban centers; it’s basically vertical Box Store Hell. A parking garage is attached and allows access easily(?) to the stores via massive elevators sized to accomodate shopping carts.
These are the goofiest pieces of shit you will ever encounter. Some of them have free parking, but will hold you hostage in a massive line when you’re trying to exit. The line is actually the tail end of a line for valet parking. Others have a pay garage that offers free or discounted parking with validation from one of the box stores in the stack, but if you stay too long you’ll probably be paying a hell of a lot to get out of there. At Midtown Miami, for instance, it’s $30 the moment you hit three hours. Most of these do have pedestrian access though, as opposed to forcing pedestrians to walk through a quarter mile of blindly launched SUVs to get to the stores.

The really curious thing about Box Store Hell happens when a retailer decides to close one of their locations that’s set in one. The entire building will usually be left to rot for a few years, then eventually demolished, because it doesn’t fit the new potential tenant’s planogram. Sometimes it’ll just be knocked down and turned into more parking lot area. There’s just almost no market for a lot and building that big; it’s a total waste.

The most recent Box Store Hell project planned down here in Miami-Dade County is actually seeking to destroy an area of tropical hardwood hammock containing endangered plant species. What’s really more important, yet another Walmart, or one of the last areas of undisturbed tropical hardwood hammock? Seriously? Bueller?

Comcast BVE / Business Voice Edge settings you should hopefully never need

Useful info for the Comcast Business Voice Edge service:

The portal login is at – at the time of this writing the security certificate is expired (way to go Cumcast)
To log in as admin, you must add TA to the end of your username authorized as administrator. For instance: rmutt1917TA

If your phones lose their settings including the provisioning server they will act really stupid. Press Menu -> Status -> Network to find the phone’s IP address then log into it from a web browser. On Polycom phones the admin password is 456

Go to Settings -> Provisioning Server. The Comcast business voice / Comcast BVE provisioning server address is
No password.
Server user: PlcmSpIp
Tag SN to UA disabled

If you have other WORKING phones on your network when this happens, please confirm the provisioning address on those first – the fact that it ends in 01 makes me wonder if this may vary regionally. (???)

Note that if the DHCP on your network provides an option 66 response to point phones to a TFTP server, the provisioning WILL fail as the phone is too dumb to proceed to the programmed provisioning server address. Once it gets a tftp address passed to it and this provisioning method fails, it will give up immediately and throw the toys right out of the pram. Wondering if your lan’s dhcp provides response 66? Did you set it to? If not, then it doesn’t. End of story. Honestly, most embedded device/router DHCP daemons don’t even support it.

You can use firmware versions later than what Comcast provides and I’ve had much better results doing so (better audio quality, fixes phone UI hangs/reboots….)
Go to Utilities -> Software Upgrade in the web UI. If you’ve never done this before, go ahead and select Polycom hosted server, click check for updates. The software version selector will populate. Choose the latest version and make it so.

If you HAVE done this before, do not click check for updates. The web UI and then the phone itself will freeze*. Uhhhh, it’s a feature, not a bug?! Click clear upgrade server. The phone will reboot, DOWNGRADE to whatever Comcast provides you, then you’ll be able to do the aforementioned procedure. Hey, we didn’t become Comcast customers because we wanted sane, reasonable, and logical services, did we?

* may be a model dependent thing. The SoundPoint 335 locks up like a dumb brick and eventually reboots itself, but the SoundStation will just do it all right. Who knows. I hate these things, they always make it sound like the person you’re talking to is actually talking waaaay too close to your ear and like you’re half expecting to spit down your ear canal or drool on your shoulder

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