A is for “ailanthus,” Z is for “zoom”

RIP Driveway Ailanthus ~2005 – 2019

Here’s a word from Zoom, letting us know that they are taking things “extremely seriously…”

Overall, this is a good message. Zoom appears to be taking the right steps to fix both their existing problems and the mistakes they have made in developing/marketing their product.

Nobody could have forseen the huge increase in volume that Zoom has had to deal with in the last few weeks. They found themselves in the coveted position of “easiest option that currently sucks the least” for a service a lot of people have suddenly needed. That’s as good as it gets.

Performance and support issues are understandable in explosive growth situations like this, and honestly, Zoom has done a much better job at both than I would have given them credit for. They must be paddling like mad, struggling with the best and most daunting problem a tech company can have.

So kudos–and all the patience you can muster–go to them for that.

It’s important to keep in mind however, that the majority of the security and privacy issues that they are now rushing to correct were baked into the product BEFORE this increase in volume, and that increase in volume in no way caused those issues.

They did not underthink the use of the FB SDK, nor fudge the definition of “end-to-end,” nor include the spooky attention tracker, nor release a buggy, insecure Mac OS version because they suddenly had millions more users. In fact, those things were exposed in part because they suddenly had millions of users, and their product came under much more scrutiny as a result.

Zoom built something that had some serious problems, millions of people used it anyway, and the suckage was exposed. Now they are trying to make it right.

I really hope they do. I really hope Zoom ends up with a secure, solid, kick-ass product that does what is supposed to and maintains the ease of access, usability, and low cost of use that attracted people to it in the first place.

But keep in mind that most people did not choose the best possible solution when they chose Zoom–they chose the easy option that sucked least. Most people continued to use it while it was doing things they didn’t want it to do, because it was too much work to change to something else.

If Zoom ends up a solid, kick-ass secure product that does what it is supposed to do and respects privacy and leaves a lemony-fresh scent, it won’t be because people chose that product.

It will be because people are willing to use a worse product.

Can you remove the default screen savers in Mac OS?

Spoiler: Don’t.

This applies to Mac OS 10.15.3

By default, Mac OS comes with the execrable “Album Artwork” screen saver. When activated, this thing tiles any album artwork that it finds in your Apple Music (formerly iTunes) folder across your screen. That’s fine, but if you happen to click on your mouse while it is running, it starts Apple Music and tries to play something from whatever album you clicked on.

I usually click the mouse to deactivate my screen saver, and I don’t want to open Music all the time, so this behavior completely sucks. You can not disable this behavior in the screen saver settings, which also completely sucks.

Because I’m an exciting devil-may-care kinda fellow who lives on the edge, I like to set my Mac to use a random screen saver. But I don’t want the Album Artwork screen saver to run, and Apple doesn’t let you choose which of the default screen savers are randomly used. You either use one screen saver, or all of them. This also completely sucks.

All that suckage lead me to the question “Can you remove a default screen saver from your Mac?”

The shortest absolute answer is “Yeah, but it’s not simple.”

The shortest workable answer for most people is “Nah.”

The best answer is “If you want to use a screen saver, use Xscreensaver.”

The actual answer is “You can, but I decided not to, and you probably will too.”

Everything from here on pertains to bad decisions. Your life will be better and simpler if you just leave this page now and go learn how to make cheese.

But if you are determined, here is what you need to know in order to make a bad decision about the default screen savers on your Mac.

I warn you now that I am not going to explain how to do each step. Knowing what you are doing is the cost of entry here.

If you don’t understand what you are reading, I STRONGLY suggest you stop doing it and either go learn more or give up entirely.*:

The default screen savers are located in /System/Library/Screen Savers.

Doing things in Terminal

  • CD /System/Library/Screen Savers
    You will need to tab-complete or escape the space in “Screen Savers.”
  • ls or ls -la to see all the screen savers. Yep, they are directories.
  • You can then nuke the directory of the screen saver you hate.

I recommend you copy it somewhere else first, in case your plan to delete a system file doesn’t work out as smoothly as you’d planned. Because you planned this, right?

Doing things in Finder

  • Open Finder, hit CMD+shift+g and type in the location of the screen saver folders.

The directory will show up as empty. That’s because it contains system files, which are hidden by default.

  • Hit CMD+shift+. and you can see the hidden files.
  • You can then nuke the directory of the screen saver you hate.

I recommend you copy it somewhere else first, in case your plan to delete a system file doesn’t work out as smoothly as you’d planned. Because you planned this, right?

If you are now asking yourself “Why can’t I just right click and move the directory to the trash?” then you have more research to do. I do hope that dissuades you from continuing.

*This is some pretty solid general life advice

Information and links – Mar 25, 2020 – The GIMPening!

Stuff I have learned–or at least looked up–recently.

How to fade an image to transparency using GIMP

Short version:
Create a layer mask for the layer you want to fade. Apply a black-to-white gradient to that layer. The area marked as black will show as transparent.

This worked in GIMP 2.10 on my Mac. I found that the stupid black-to-white gradient did not allow me to adjust the fade–it’s just locked at halfway. I made that work.
Here is the first useful link I found about this.

WTF is up with that stupid grey “Tool Options” box that appears on the top left of my screen when using GIMP?

Short version:
This bug has been around for a while. It happens when you click (and maybe drag) inside the “Tool Options” tab in the Tools window. A grey box that says “Tool Options” appears on the top left of your screen, covering up the “File” and other menu items.


You can make it go away by clicking (and maybe dragging) in the Tool Options box. Try dragging the “Tool Options” text to the right just a little bit. This worked in GIMP 2.10 to 2.10.8 on my Macs running both El Capitan (10.11.6) and Catalina (10.15.3)

Here is the first useful link I found about this

I just opened a really big image in GIMP on my Mac and now I can’t right-click on anything with my mouse!

Short version:
Gosh, this sure is annoying. This happened in GIMP 2.10 in El Capitan on an old Mac Pro with 16 gigs o’ RAM.

You might be able to get regular mouse functionality back by opening the “Mouse” settings in System Preferences. All I had to do was open Mouse–that must make the OS check in with the mouse and give it a Stern Look.

Semi-pro tips for musical people

1) Do regular room recordings of rehearsals so you can hear what you sound like, and what you need to fix.

2) These recordings are for you to hear what you are doing badly, so you can fix that. They are not the same as the recordings you do for other people to hear what you are doing well.

3) Recording quality does not matter, as long as you can hear what you are doing and what needs to be fixed. Record it using anything you have.

4) In order for these to have any value, you are probably going to have to hate yourself a bit when you hear them. FEEL THE BURN SO OTHERS DON’T HAVE TO.

5) Send your rehearsal recordings to your bandmates as an MP3, medium quality. Yeah yeah– you are all using the the same chip jewelry and yeah yeah they should all be able to play the same files and LOL MP3 jeez that’s so old-school, grampy! Send it as MP3.

6) Oh, you don’t know anything about that stuff and that mp4 file works fine on your chip jewelry and gosh you’re so busy being creative and windswept and interesting that you can’t learn all that tech stuff? Don’t bother then. You’re doing terrific.

7) I honestly hope these recordings sound great and you are happy and you have nothing you think needs fixin’. But neither of us are you a month from now, and I will bet you a nickel that you a month from now will not be happy with these recordings. Do not post your rehearsal recordings anywhere, ever.

8) If 50% of your bandmates actually listen to these recordings, you are doing way better than average. If one of them actually fixes something that needs fixing, you are KILLING IT. This bit sounds particularly cynical and cranky, but these results are WAY better than what you’d get if you didn’t do this at all.

4) White vinegar on pizza. Seriously. Try it.

You need to get out more

Here’s a fun party behavior:
  • Pronounce or explain something in a way that is totally wrong in a barely-plausible way.
    (EG: Hagrid’s half-Sasquatch lineage IS CANON; If we’re going to go back to calling things by their original names, everything named “Washington” should be called “Hertburn;” Your aunt’s friend lost 45 lbs. in a month by eating more barium; Tom Verlaine has eaten half a regular-sized tube of Sensodyne toothpaste every day since 1974, but they changed the formula, and THAT’s why the last good thing he did was “Glitter in Their Eyes” on “Gung-Ho.”)

  • Someone will correct you
  • Then someone else will correct that person (you may need to repeat what the first person said loud enough to get attention).
  • After that, everyone should quickly go all comments-on-the-1nterhenets. Lots of name-calling and fun.  Everyone gets their phone out, because that’s where they keep the truth.
  • Use the distraction as cover while you eat all the shrimp/steal the good beer/plastic-wrap the toilet seat.
  • Get the heck out of there. Why were you even there?

    Inspired by the most recent brilliance of XKCD.

I’m not that much of a celebrity – 1

If I was Ray Liotta, every time one of my friends did something that I didn’t like, or made a humorous wisecrack at my expense, I would good-naturedly punch my right fist into my left palm and say “Why I LI-oughta!..” like in an old gangster movie.

I’m just saying that if I was Ray Liotta, Ray Liotta would probably not have as many friends.

The clicking is deafening!

I’ve been updating my Link Din stuff.

Every interaction with someone causes Link Din to automatically prompt you to send a thank you message.

Thing is, I’m the kind of person who does that anyway. Doing stuff on Link Din feels like when your mom told you to do something polite that you were already doing, and you thought “Geez Mom! How rude do you think I am?”

If they actually want this stuff to mean anything, they should make the default messages really rude. That way, you’d have to actually go in and change them to something you really mean. You’d have to actually BE polite, instead of having a chunk of code pretend you are.

And if you just clicked and sent the default, someone would get a message that says “I don’t need your endorsement, you ugly turnip-interfering squat!” and immediately know that the person sent it automatically.

This would also make it easier to be polite, because there are a limited number of ways to say “Thanks for endorsing my ability to sex walruses*” or whatever it is you do. If the computer types that for you, and you don’t even read it, just click “OK” then really the message you are sending is “Can not be arsed.”

Even typing out the most rudimentary “THX 4 the Ndorsnt” shows more engagement than clicking on one of the three words in Link Din messenger.

If you don’t think about it, there’s no difference between being rude and being polite.

(PS HIRE ME KTHX)

*not as rude a sentence as it looks.