The Big Birthday Roundup!

Yes, today is my 40th birthday. And really, what better way to celebrate is there than by posting a bunch of links?

– First of all, good vibes and prayers to the folks in Japan after last night’s earthquake. God bless!

– Google has finally allowed users to block domains from search results. You basically go to Google, enter a search term, click a link to a domain you don’t want to see results from, then go back to the Google page and click “Block [domain] from search results”. For those of us who frequently search for IT issues, it’s almost worth the wait to be able to block!

– The TSA is at it again: they busted Montel Williams for having a marijuana pipe (even though they’re only supposed to have jurisdiction in airport safety issues) and they photocopied a man’s credit cards and other personal papers. Oh, and the FAA has ordered airlines to remove the emergency oxygen supplies from airplane restrooms, just in case a terrorist might think of using it as a bomb. They’re supposed to be working on a safer replacement, but in the meantime, if you’re in the restroom and the oxygen masks deploy… I guess you just die. And, for the record, Montel Williams has multiple sclerosis, and uses marijuana medicinally. So there.

– Think Americans are stupid? Apparently 30% of all British adults think time travel is possible. I’m not talking about “possible” in the theoretical sense of “maybe one day, with the right technology”… I’m talking “something you can do right now”. 44% of Brits also think some form of Men in Black-style “memory erasing” technology exists, 24% thought Star Trek-style teleporting exists, and 22% thought that light sabres are real, genuine weapons. Saddest of all, 18% of adult Brits think that you can see gravity.

– Back in the world of science fact, Voyager is still giving scientists information. The probe, launched in 1977, is approaching the very edge of our solar system, and in a few years will be in interstellar space. Cool!

– Back in Britain, Rifca Stanescu, an immigrant from Romania, has become that nation’s youngest grandmother… at the age of 23!

– Ever wonder what Pi would sound like as music? It’s actually quite pretty.

– Lastly… remember the egg toss from your youth? Cadbury’s Canadian website allows you to hurl their famous Easter eggs at any Google Maps address you want. It’s silly fun! Look, here’s Sanford Stadium in Athens:



Shamrock Shakes are a green, minty treat from McDonald’s available in most of March in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. You might not know this, but Shamrock Shakes have an important history. For starters, they were one of the first big seasonal drinks at the national food chains. But, more importantly than that, Shamrock Shakes had a lot to do with the founding of the Ronald McDonald House.

Although Connecticut franchisee Harold Rosen claims to have invented the shake in 1966, McDonald’s official corporate history says the drink was invented in 1970. One way or the other, Shamrock Shakes didn’t become a big thing until 1975. That’s when the daughter of Fred Hill, a tight end for the Philadelphia Eagles football team, was diagnosed with leukemia.

Fred ended up spending a lot of time in hospital waiting rooms, and he noticed several other families doing the same. These folks had traveled long distances to get treatment for their children, but it bothered Fred that costly medical bills prevented mothers and fathers from getting hotel rooms during their stays. It just didn’t seem right to Hill that parents had to camp out for days at a time in waiting rooms, so he asked his teammates to help him raise funds to buy a house for the parents.

When Jim Murray, the Eagles’ general manager, heard about Hill’s cause, he called a friend who worked in McDonald’s PR department. Murray suggested that the fast food giant use the shake as a PR tool for Hill, as St. Patrick’s day was approaching and the shake was green, like the Eagles’ uniforms. Murray’s friend agreed, and by the end of the month enough cash had been raised to buy a four-story house, which became the first Ronald McDonald House. Since then, a portion of the Shamrock Shake sales has been donated to the Ronald McDonald House charity.

Enjoy this 80s-licious Shamrock Shake commercial:

I tried to find a commercial with Uncle O’Grimacey, Grimace’s Irish uncle, but the quality of the videos I found on YouTube was… lacking. So enjoy this picture instead:


Killing Facebook’s “Theatre View”

If you’re a Facebook user, you probably know that the site frequently changes and updates things. Some of these updates are welcome, others are not. One of the least popular changes of late is “theatre view”, in which a black background is displayed around photos:


Sadly, there’s no easy way to get around this. Pages with theatre view enabled have “&theatre” added to the URL of the picture, so you’d think that it’d be easy to add a rule to AdBlock to kill this “feature”. Not so. You can simply reload the FB page, or add the following as a bookmarklet to accomplish the same thing:

javascript: window.location.reload()

But I wanted to fix this directly. And I found a nice Greasemonkey script that will do just that. But, as great as Greasemonkey is, I didn’t want to install it just for this one thing. So I found a way to convert the script to a Firefox extension! So, here it is… my very first Firefox extension:


The extension is around 7KB and works with FF versions 2.0 to (at least) 3.6.15. It is based on this Greasemonkey script by David J. Harvey, was complied using this online compiler, and is released under GPL version 3. Harvey says that the script works most of the time, but you may still see “theatre view” from time to time.

My extension is 100% safe, but if you’d like to download an almost identical extension from the official Mozilla site, click here.

NOTE: If you click on the link and are prompted to save the extension instead of installing it, download it to your desktop and then click File > Open File to install the extension manually. I don’t know why you don’t get the standard extension install prompt (it might be because I have AdBlock and several other features disabled for this site). I will look in to this as I have time.

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-03-06

  • AMBER ALERT reported in LA. Little boy named Oscar taken from rightful owner David Fincher. Culprit believed to be foreigner. #
  • A name you haven't heard in 25 years: Koo Stark. #
  • "Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?" #
  • PFT reporting that Jeremy Shockey is coming to Carolina. Not that I care, but JS is the white TO when it comes to locker room harmony! #
  • Thanks for bringing back the Shamrock Shake, @mcdonalds! #
  • I survived… the NC DMV office in Mt. Holly! #
  • She let me wear my chain and my turtleneck sweater… #

Powered by Twitter Tools

Installing SP1 on Windows 7

Service Pack 1 (SP1) for Windows 7 was released on February 22, and while there haven’t been widespread reports of problems with the installation of it, there does seem to be a higher than normal rate of people having trouble installing the darn thing.

I installed it on three of my home computers. I had no trouble installing SP1 on a 32-bit netbook running Windows 7 Starter, but I ran in to a lot of issues trying to get it to install on two 64-bit computers, one running Windows 7 Ultimate and the other running Windows 7 Home Premium.

The Windows Update based installer, which downloads the SP files from Microsoft via a small executable file, failed repeatedly. Because this might have been due to overloaded Microsoft servers, I then downloaded the entire 900+MB SP file. It seemed to install properly on my Ultimate machine, but the computer did not automatically reboot after install, so I waited 10 minutes and rebooted manually. After the reboot, I received a cryptic error message saying that the “Service Pack was not installed properly” with the reason code of “Operation completed successfully”. I had similar issues with the Home Premium computer.

I ran CHKDSK on both computers, but no errors were found on the disks. In desperation, I downloaded the System Update Readiness Tool and ran it. That, apparently, did the trick.

The file (which is around 100MB for x86 installs and 300MB for x64 installs) runs like any other manually downloaded update or hotfix. There’s no progress bar, so you have no idea who long it will take to run (seems like it took 10 minutes on my triple-core system and slightly less on a quad-core system). Once it’s done you reboot, and SP1 should install without any (more) errors.