It’s Hard To Let Go: The Ultimate Mass Effect Fantasy Element Is The ‘Load’ Button

I just finished Mass Effect 2 again. The suicide mission is always unnerving because it reflects reality: it’s possible to do everything right and still lose.

This time, I lost Mordin and Tali. This is especially hard, since both of them have core plot points in the third game. Mordin will never gain pennance and cure the genophage. Someone else will do that…but someone else might get it wrong. Tali’s death ensures that there will not be peace between the Geth and the Quarians – without her, the choice is ‘which race will die‘.

But I don’t have to do that. I can reload my game save and make some changes to who I assign. And if I get it wrong, I can do it again. And again. Until everyone lives.

Beyond the mass relays, quantum entanglement based communications, and all of the other nearly-impossible parts of the game’s story, that ability is the ultimate fantasy: being able to undo your previous choices and avoid having to live with the consequences.

Let’s go save Mordin and Tali.

Redirect all HTTP traffic to HTTPS

Have you ever wanted to ensure all your http traffic goes through https instead? I have, and it took me forever to figure out how to do this.


These are the exact steps I used to do this on a web server I host, running on the excellent Turnkey LAMP appliance. Thus, it is Debian-based.


From the linux shell, type: sudo a2enmod rewrite
restart Apache
sudo nano /etc/apache2/sites-available/000-default.conf
Add the following in the <VirtualHost *:80> config, commenting the existing lines out:
RewriteEngine On
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ https://%{HTTP_HOST}$1 [R=301,L]
restart Apache again.


You’re done!

Privacy Policy Change

I’m doing some testing on Piwik, a Google Analytics alternative for an organization who needs such functionality. While I am not tracking IP addresses or any form of personally identifiable data, please note that for the next few weeks, page views and other similar site usage statistics will be stored for the duration of this exercise.


I’ll post an update when this has been removed.

UI Rant: Stateless Status Bars

So, you know those ‘status’ bars that keep scrolling along but don’t tell you anything useful, including whether or not the process has hung or failed. Yeah, they need to go. Really, what needs to return are status indicators that give the end user some concept of how far along the process is, even if it’s a raw number. Processed 387 records out of 12 million? Great…tell me that. Processed 387 records out of who-knows-how-many? Great…tell me that. Stateless status bars are useless in that they don’t actually provide a status at all. the more information shown in a status window, the more empowered the user is to make useful decisions as to how to proceed.

I’d say “we can do better, UI designers”, but UI designers gave us infinite scrolling webpages, Windows 8, Windows 10, iOS 7, Android Lollipop, GNOME 3, Office 2013, Mediashout 6, and Acronis True Image 2013+…so trusting the people who make computer interfaces to make usability a consideration in their designs is like trusting Comcast to make a policy change that lowers cable bills.

Beware your biases…and how they’re being reinforced

Go and read these two articles. I’ll wait.



Did you read them both? Good. Now go read them again. I’ll wait.


Did you read them a second time? Half of you didn’t, and the other half didn’t read them the first time, so I’ll summarize.

The first article describes the fact that Facebook and Google tell you what they think you want to hear. Are you conservative? Don’t expect any liberal news in your Facebook feed. Are you liberal? Don’t expect Google News to show you conservative articles. Maybe you’re a person who prefers an echo chamber. That’s your right, but I would encourage you to at least recognize that it is a right you are exercising.

The second article is a bit less social media specific, and talks about the psychology behind our own self-built echo chamber. Are you more worried about being killed by ISIS, or by a car accident? Most people are worried about ISIS, but the ISIS death toll, as of January, is a bit under 19,000 people, exactly half as many who died in car accidents just in 2015. This is an example of “Salience”, number 16 on the list of cognitive biases we face as humans.

It’s vitally important to be aware of these things when making decisions, be it what cell phone to get, or who to vote for. Know what’s manipulating the information you’re using to make a decision…and whether you’re really making a decision in the first place.

The Zombie Cable Box

I’m almost certain that none of my readers have any interest whatsoever in my cable box project, but I had a development this weekend. I’d love to be running MythTV, but since Cablevision insists on putting the Copy Once flag on about 2/3 of the channels I get, so that’s not practical for me (I pine for FiOS still…). Thus, I am stuck with Windows Media Center, which itself isn’t the worst thing ever because WMC is actually an excellent frontend when it works.

The problem, as you might have guessed, is that it hasn’t been working.

About three weeks ago, I installed a heatsink on my DVR, and apparently it got stuck in a boot loop after a botched patch. I was hoping to be able to restore it, because recordings with the copy once flag wouldn’t play on a rebuild. However, after about three hours of poking at it, no dice, so a rebuild it was.

I reinstalled Windows 7, let it sit to download its updates…and then I got back into the boot loop issue again. I then tried Windows Vista (with 5GB of RAM, an actual GPU, an SSD, and a 3.4GHz Core 2 Duo, it’s actually quite usable), which worked wonderfully..except it doesn’t support my HDHomeRun Prime properly. I would’ve gone to Windows 8, but apparently it’s not possible to activate a Media Pack serial number anymore, even though I already have one.

So, I managed to find a place on the internet (not the shady side of the internet, a forum for people like me) where the procedures were found to get Media Center running on Windows 10. It took two installations of Win10 to do it, and I still have to tweak my firewall to only allow it to get guide data (not a fan of Win10 Telemetry), but I finally have my cable box back up and running again.


I get accused of being a cynic. A lot. There’s definitely a level of truth to it.

Yesterday, I was at 7-11, and there was a sign that I could use the mobile app to pay bills with cash. This seemed like an interesting and helpful tool (I frequently receive cash from clients), but I immediately dismissed the idea when I realized that 7-11 would have a list of my bills and when I paid them, something that is already being used by a number of companies for their benefit, not mine. Using such an app would produce additional insight regarding the fact that I’m paying with cash, which store I do it in, what time of day, and how frequently.

I may well be a cynic, but since virtually every app is doing some form of data collection these days, it’s a tough sell for me to get excited about an app anymore. This is coming from someone who used to jailbreak his iPhone to get apps before the App Store opened its intangible doors.
…posted from the WordPress app.

…and you thought photography didn’t involve math



A well written article arguing against the standard “rule of thirds” being the go-to standard for photographic composition, and instead arguing for things like “a Root 4 Rectangle with its Basic Armature (two diagonals, four reciprocals, horizontals and verticals)”.

My head is spinning, but it’s got lots of example shots that are excellent, and definitely worth the read.

Minor Differences

“Let it rain” is a common lyric in worship songs, where we petition the Lord to make His will known, and His blessings evident.

“Make it rain” is what rappers do in strip clubs to flaunt their wealth by quickly dispersing stacks of bills.


Words matter.

My first rant…

Whoever designed Sonicwall devices, and thought they were a good idea, needs to spend a year in Gitmo. After that, they need to go back to first grade for a year…but with an old-school Catholic nun with a ruler in her hand and a trigger finger. Once they graduate from first grade again, they must go back to high school for the math chapters in logic, they must join debate team (and win a championship somewhere), and they must go through Professor Maurer‘s critical thinking class. Then, they need to spend some time with the folks over at pfSense, taking copious notes on how to make a useful UI, and take every word they say as if it was spoken by God Himself. Then, and only then, will they be granted the privilege of being allowed to pay for their sins by rebuilding the Sonicwall UI, from the ground up.
The final test will be to give them a week to show their first grade class (now third graders) how to configure a Sonicwall. If they finish their tutorial, and not one of the students can figure it out, the process repeats again.

I have spent far too much time this weekend reconfiguring Sonicwall devices and it’s starting to get to me.


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