Sat, 29 Aug 2009

Just last week I finally got a brace on my teeth. Those who have met me in person will appreciate just how big of a change this could turn into, as I've had this one tooth sticking way out for ages, since I was a kid. A combination of a lack of funds and a family mistrust of dentists (we had some bad dentists back in the day) meant that I didn't get it fixed when I was a teenager. A couple of years ago I noticed someone a little older than myself wearing a brace and it gave me the idea; this year I have the money, so I've gone and sorted it out.

I asked my dentist about it at my last checkup, 6 months ago, and he wrote a referral. The orthodontist saw me for the initial consultation and gave me an idea of what to expect, then I went back for impressions a few weeks later. A couple of weeks ago I had both upper #4 teeth out to make some room, and just last week I had a fixed brace applied, which involved brackets being glued to my teeth and then wires and elastics being attached.

It's going OK so far; the first couple of days were pretty sore stuff but I managed to apply painkillers in sufficient quantities. There's a stop on my back tooth to prevent my overbite from coming together in a way that would stress the brackets out, so I can't really chew at the moment. This means I've had a lot of soup these past few days. Soup and mashed potato and all sorts of similar things.

Despite the minor inconveniences, I'm pretty pleased with it all so far. It's not a huge amount of hassle and any movement is going to be an improvement. The first night I had the brace on, one of the brackets came loose, so I had to go back the next day. While I was waiting in the waiting-room, there was a teenage girl who'd just come in for her last check-up. Her teeth were super-perfect-straight, and that image, that smile, that's what's driving me on now.

Fri, 28 Aug 2009

I recently got hold of a new laptop for work purposes, and for the first time had access to administrative priviledges on my main work computer. It came with Windows XP, which despite being pretty ancient these days still seems to just about be a reasonable choice. I recalled seeing some posts made by DeathBoy ages ago in which he pointed out that despite initial appearances, Windows is customisable and tameable without too much fuss. While I didn't directly consult his LJ for advice, it was the fact that he'd bothered to point this out that led me to try to do something about my work environment on Windows XP.

What I eventually ended up with is the following:

  • I switched to the silver theme in Control Panel → Display → Appearance → Color scheme. It's the least horrid of the themes that came with the system.
  • I switched off the screensaver in Control Panel → Display → Screen Saver. I also adjusted the power-saving features to my liking - much of the time I use the computer in a dock at my desk. The main change here was in Advanced where I made sure that it prompts for a password on resuming, does nothing when I close the lid, and prompts me when the power button is pressed.
  • I set folders to show details, hidden files, file extensions by setting that view in the Desktop folder and then choosing Tools → Folder Options and under View selecting full path, hidden files, and unchecking "Hide extensions for known file types", and then clicking Apply to All Folders. In General I also made sure that it would open each folder in the same window.
  • I turned off desktop icons by right-clicking the desktop, and under Arrange Icons By unchecking Show Desktop Icons.
  • I added the Desktop toolbar to the taskbar by unlocking the taskbar and activating Toolbars → Desktop. I resized it to show just the Desktop header. I also switched off the language bar in Control Panel → Regional and Language Options → Languages → Details → Language Bar by unchecking Show the Language Bar on the Desktop.
  • I installed Vim, and had it add an "Edit with Vim" context menu entry, so that I have a familiar editor available in a pinch.
  • I set the tray to hide inactive icons by right-clicking on the Start button and selecting Taskbar then Hide Inactive Icons and in the Customize settings hiding the unwanted icons.
  • I customised the show/hide settings to show just the icons that I generally use
  • I switched off some services and other auto-run things by installing ccleaner and using its startup management features.
  • I activated X style window focus by installing TweakUI (obtained from annoyances.com) and selecting Mouse→X-Mouse→Activation follows mouse
  • I turned off autoplay in Tweak UI → My Computer → AutoPlay.
  • I turned off the Sophos anti-virus icon with a registry setting, by creating and running a .bat file containing REG ADD HKLM\SOFTWARE\Sophos\AutoUpdate /v HideTrayIcon /d 0x00000001 /t REG_DWORD /f
  • I turned off autodial in IE in Tools → Internet Options → Connections → Never Dial a Connection. This was only annoying because my work VPN connection appears as a dialup connection and when the regular connection was a little slow the system tried to dial up.
  • I installed AMP Font Viewer and used its previewing and copying features to archive away a whole raft of fonts that I doubt I'll ever use. This leaves me with a manageable font-list in applications.
  • I remapped Caps Lock to be another Ctrl key with another registry setting. This time I used a .reg file with:
    [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Keyboard Layout]
    "Scancode Map"=hex:00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,02,00,00,00,1D,00,3A,00,00,00,00,00

Some things that didn't work out for me:

  • I tried to make it easy to type ë with a couple of applications:
    • AllChars was good and mirrors the way I type characters on Linux, but it got confused as I moved in and out of NX sessions and VirtualBox sessions.
    • CFi Characters was even better with a pretty neat interface, but crashed a couple of times.
    Ultimately the disappointment is that these seem to be limited to CP1252 characters.
  • I tried to remove the tray icon for networking, by removing the HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\CLSID\{7007ACCF-3202-11D1-AAD2-00805FC1270E} but then I couldn't enter credentials for the work wifi network (it's a bit of a jittery network setup, so it does seem that sometimes I have to enter the details again.)

Overall, I think I've managed to get a useful environment without too much fuss. Many thanks to DeathBoy for inadvertently setting me off on this little quest!

Wed, 26 Aug 2009

Thanks to Heather Maclaren for pointing out that the blobs on the front page look like they ought to be clicky blobs. I've enabled clickyness on them. The labels were wandering a bit, so I put them back too.

Tue, 25 Aug 2009

My name is Zoë and is supposed to be spelled with a diaeresis. However, there are several barriers to making this happen on computers. Here's some of the issues and what can be done about them:

  • The common ASCII set doesn't have the right symbol in it. On a typewriter, you could type an e and then backspace over it and overstrike with a " to get roughly the right effect. Some printer drivers and other software dose this both to synthesise missing characters and to create bold text. If the character set simply doesn't have the ë in it, then it's probably OK to just use e instead.
  • There are many extended character sets in use that add symbols used in various parts of the world. The ë symbol is generally considered to belong to the Western European region, and is found in IBM code page 850, Windows code page 1252, ISO 8859-1 and Unicode. Quite which of these is in use at any one time is a matter of complex negotiation between the different computer systems that create, transmit, process and display the text, so a character-set and/or encoding mismatch can arise. This leads to ë being shown as ë, for example (I get mail addressed to Zoë sometimes...)
  • In some systems, it's possible to construct the ë character from e and a combining character. For example, in LaTeX one can write \"e. In Unicode, there is a combining diaeresis character (U+0308) that is used after the e.
  • Once there's a representation for ë and all the character sets and encodings line up, there's the question of how to actually type the character into the computer - the typical English-language keyboard doesn't have a key for ë! Here's the many different ways to get the right character to appear:
    • In languages like HTML that accept SGML character entity references, use the sequence ë.
    • In Microsoft Windows, type Alt+0235.
    • In Microsoft Windows, run charmap by finding it in the Start menu or by selecting Run and typing it in (Run can be accessed directly with Windows+r). Find the ë character and copy it to the clipboard, then paste it where you want it to appear.
    • In Microsoft Office Word, type Ctrl+:, then e.
    • In vim, in insert mode, type Ctrl+k then : and then e.
    • In the X Window System implemented by X.Org, enable compose with a keyboard settings application (typically found in a control panel) or by running a command like setxkbmap -option compose:ralt, then use the right Alt (Alt Gr) followed by " and then e.
    • In OSX, type Option (Alt)+u and then e. For further reading, here's a pretty good explanation of OSX multi-language input.

All in all, it's sometimes not worth the effort to put the character in correctly. Emails and Usenet posts don't allow for such things in the headers without some devious shenanigans that aren't guaranteed to be widely supported; IRC nicks aren't generally allowed these characters either, so in these cases I don't bother. A lot of web forms don't accept any extended characters, and I don't usually kick up a fuss. The rest of the time, I usually give it a go just to see if it works out.

I fixed the configuration issue that was causing the navigation problems. There's a permissions problem in the commenting system still - this is a pretty common occurrence, and there are several ways for me to fix it. I'll look into it this evening, I hope.

Otherwise: yay, blog!

Mon, 24 Aug 2009

So it all looked like it was working here in testing-server-land, but as always there are some issues to iron out for the deployed version that you're looking at now, mainly to do with navigating around the blog. I'll sort it out Real Soon Now.

As part of my recent efforts towards self-improvement, I've created myself a Day Zero list. The list contains 101 things that I aim to achieve in 1001 days. One of those things was to get my website content/look/feel updated, and I've achieved that in spades. Here's to the other 100 things!