“Building Font Cache” in VLC

VLC is one of the best media players around, mainly because the app can play almost any video file you throw at it. However, it does have one strange quirk: after installing (or upgrading) it, you might see this dialog box when you try to open a video file:


The font cache is responsible for displaying subtitles in the VLC window. Which is fine… but sometimes the dialog box can hang, or the “less than a few minutes” can turn in to 20 or 30 minutes, or the box appears every time you open a video file. And all of those things can be annoying.

There are two routes you can take to fix this.

The first is to delete the cache and start over. To do this, type %APPDATA% into the Start Menu’s run box (Windows XP) or search box (Vista\7). Delete the “VLC” folder in the Explorer window that opens and try opening VLC again. The “building font cache” window will appear again, but (hopefully) this time the cache will be compiled correctly and you’ll only see it once.

If you’ve tried this and find that it doesn’t work for you, open VLC and choose Tools > Preferences. Look in the lower left corner of the preferences window and make sure that “All” is selected under “Show Settings”. Then click Video > Subtitles\OSD. Change the value of “Text rendering module” from “Default” to “Dummy font rendering functions” and then click “Save”. This will disable font caching completely.

Office Starter vs. Office Web Apps… fight!

“Everything old is new again”, or so the old saying goes. The current buzzword in IT is “The Cloud”, which, at its most basic, means “storing data on a server instead of a desktop PC”. In many ways, this is an idea as old as computing itself, and isn’t all that exciting.

However, today’s “New Cloud” is much more than that. It’s not just about storing data on a server, it’s about presenting that data, too. Companies want to write desktop applications that can access cloud data, but they also want to create webapps for remote users that look and feel like traditional desktop apps. They also want to create smartphone apps that allow executives and traveling salespeople to manipulate cloud data in a format that fits their phones.

Most analysts predict a war in the very near future… a war between traditional software companies (like Microsoft and Adobe) who have made billions off desktop applications, and between upstarts (like, well, Google) that will offer similar applications over the Internet. To give just one example, Google is hoping to vanquish both Microsoft Office and competitors like the open-source OpenOffice and IBM’s Lotus Symphony with Google Docs. Results, so far, are mixed.

But Microsoft isn’t going to just lie there and take it like a roofied-up sorority pledge. The company has created its own online suite – Office Web Apps – which includes capable versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. As webapps, they’re available to anyone with a web browser and an Internet connection. And, as of this moment, they’re free.

Continue reading “Office Starter vs. Office Web Apps… fight!”

News Roundup, AFC Champs edition

Wow… I’m just now coming down from the Steelers’ victory over the New York Jets in last night’s AFC Championship game. What can I say about it? The first half was simply an old-fashioned Steelers beatdown of epic proportions… and the Steelers D did just enough in the second half to secure the victory over Gang Green and their curiously slow offense. Kudos to the much-maligned Bruce Arians for his aggressive playcalling on the last Steelers drive; many other OCs would have run the ball, milked the clock and punted. But not last night. And now… the news:

– Contrast my joy with the Steelers’ win with the bitterness of the Atlanta Falcons’ defeat at the hands of the Packers a week ago. Long time Atlanta Journal sports columnist Mark Bradley has this piece about Atlanta’s sad history in pro sports: 148 seasons with only one title. Read it and weep.

– Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake bet Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl that her Ravens would beat Pittsburgh last week. She lost. Here’s the YouTube video she made per the terms of the bet, complete with Hines Ward jersey and the pronouncement that Pittsburgh has the “superior football team”:


– I certainly won’t be attending the Super Bowl this year. Why? Because face value of club seat tickets is now $1,200. This article at Yahoo! also notes that the NFL will charge you $200 to watch the game on a huge TV in the plaza outside the stadium, and $350 to watch the game in the standing room only section… it’s a bargain!

– One last sports item: the Utah Jazz mascot taunted a fan of the opposing team, and the fan got mad and punched him. Security began escorting the fan from the arena… but the fan wrestled away from their grip and charged the mascot one last time… something he probably ended up regretting:


– One Alabama law firm is suing Taco Bell, claiming the quasi-Mexican food giant is breaking the law by advertising “ground beef” in its products when it should use the term “meat filling”. It’s not a silly as it sounds: the USDA has a legal definition for ground beef which is “chopped fresh and/or frozen beef with or without seasoning and without the addition of beef fat as such, shall not contain more than 30 percent fat, and shall not contain added water, phosphates, binders, or extenders”. Taco Bell’s “meat” products are said to include “wheat oats, soy lecithin, maltodrextrin, anti-dusting agent, autolyzed yeast extract, ‘Isolated Oat Product’, modified corn starch and sodium phosphate”, and thus aren’t legally “ground beef”.

– From the Department of Duh: Alan Penn, director of the Virtual Reality Centre for the Built Environment at University College London, says that Ikea stores are purposely laid out like a maze to get you to spend more. Thanks for the tip there, Einstein!

– The £20 million home used as Geoffrey Rush’s home and office in The King’s Speech was also used to have “wild sex parties”, according to sources.

– Earth may (or may not) get a second sun this year. The star Betelgeuse is set to finally go supernova… and when it does, it will be so bright in our sky that we’ll have a second sun for a week or two. Don’t get too excited, though. As the linked article says: “Brad Carter, Senior Lecturer of Physics at the University of Southern Queensland in Australia, claimed yesterday that the galactic blast could happen before 2012 – or any time over the next million years” (emphasis mine).

Quote of the Day

In the 2009 Family Guy episode titled “Jerome Is the New Black”, Glen Quagmire doesn’t like Brian any more, so Brian takes him out for a steak and begs him to explain why he doesn’t want to hang out with him. So Glen says:

“Okay, I’ll tell ya. You are the worst person I know. You constantly hit on your best friend’s wife, the man pays for your food and rescued you from certain death and this is how you repay him? And to add insult to injury, you defecate all over his yard. And you’re such a sponge. You pay for nothing, you always say “Oh, I’ll get you later”… but later never comes! And what really bothers me is you pretend you’re this deep guy who loves women for their souls, when all you do is date bimbos. Yeah, I date women for their bodies, but at least I’m honest about it. I don’t buy them a copy of Catcher in the Rye and then lecture them with some seventh-grade interpretation of how Holden Caulfield is some profound intellectual. He wasn’t! He was a spoiled brat! And that’s why you like him so much, he’s you! God, you’re pretentious! And you delude yourself by thinking you’re some great writer even though you’re terrible. You know, I should have known Cheryl Tiegs didn’t write me that note. She would have known there’s no ‘a’ in the word ‘definite’. And I think what I hate most about you is your textbook liberal agenda, how we should ‘legalize pot, man’, how big business is crushing the underclass, how homelessness is the biggest tragedy in America. Well, what have you done to help? I work down at the soup kitchen, Brian. Never seen you down there! You wanna help? Grab a ladle! And by the way, driving a Prius doesn’t make you Jesus Christ! Oh, wait! You don’t believe in Jesus Christ or any religion for that matter, because ‘religion is for idiots’! Well, who the hell are you to talk down to anyone? You failed college twice, which isn’t nearly as bad as your failure as a father! How’s that son of yours you never see? But you know what? I could forgive all of that, all of it, if you weren’t such a bore! That’s the worst of it, Brian. You’re just a big, sad, alcoholic bore.”

Although hilarious, this quote pretty much encapsulates why I don’t watch Family Guy any more.

Button Gwinnett follow-up

In this History Blog post, I raged about people who misspell “Gwinnett”, the name of a county in metro Atlanta. It’s named after Button Gwinnett, one of Georgia’s signers of the Declaration of Independence.

In the article, I mentioned that Gwinnett’s signature is one of the most valuable and sought-after in the whole world. This is because there’s a group of autograph collectors who try to collect signatures from all the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Gwinnett’s signature is very rare, because he was practically unknown before the American Revolution and died in a duel only ten months after signing the Declaration.

Well, it looks like another copy of his signature has been found. According to the linked article, St Peter’s Church in Wolverhampton has discovered his signature in its parish register, from when Gwinnett married a local girl named Ann Bourne in 1757. Five years later, Gwinnett and wife would emigrate to the colonies, first to Charleston and later to a plantation on St. Catherine’s Island, Georgia.

The document, which has since been secretly moved to a bank for safe keeping, is expected to fetch over £500,000 ($795,550) at auction, a huge windfall for St Peter’s.

And, just to show you what a small world it really is, the current mayor of Wolverhampton, Malcolm Gwinnett, is descended from Button Gwinnett.

Quote of the Day

“He judged the car to be about a 1928 or ’29 Ford. ‘Lady,’ he said, and turned and gave her his full attention, ‘lemme tell you something. There’s one of these doctors in Atlanta that’s taken a knife and cut the human heart – the human heart,’ he repeated, leaning forward, ‘out of a man’s chest and held it in his hand……he don’t know more about it than you or me.'”

– Flannery O’ Connor
“The Life You Save May Be Your Own”

80s Tech Memories

Ahhhhh… memories of the 80s, and the technology thereof:

Toothpicking the cable box – The first cable boxes had a row of 12-15 buttons on them, and a slider switch to choose the channel row, like this:


If you put the slider on the right channel and carefully inserted a toothpick into the top of the button, you could (sort of) get the scrambled channels, which, for teenage boys, usually meant The Playboy Channel. Cable companies were always warning against “toothpick damage” in their monthly bills, on the informational channels, and on stickers put on the boxes themselves… thus basically telling you how to do it. My family moved in 1984, and our new cable company’s boxes just had a giant dial on them that went from 2-99. You could fold an index card in half and stick it under the dial and accomplish the same thing as the toothpick trick.

Cable Guides – Speaking of cable, you used to get these little TV Guide-like magazines with each cable bill that gave you the listings of every movie in the upcoming month. You still see these in hotels sometimes, especially in Myrtle Beach for some reason, but they stopped sending them out to consumers years ago.

Programming a VCR suckedWhy did this always suck? I mean, from a UI perspective? It seems like VCR manufacturers went out of their way to make it as difficult as possible to set a VCR. Our first VCR (a 150lb. model with a wired remote) was actually as easy as setting a digital alarm clock: there were two toggle switches (OFF\ON and START\END) and two buttons to select the hour and minute. So you’d flip the START toggle to START and select the start time, flip it to END and choose the end time, then flick the OFF\ON toggle to ON. Easy peasy. But so many people whined about it being “difficult” that VCR makers tried hundreds of tricks to make it easier (anyone remember VCR Plus+?). Unfortunately, this made each model different, thus paradoxically making it more difficult, and in the end it was worse than using Lotus Notes.

Continue reading “80s Tech Memories”

Quote of the Day

“To be GOVERNED is to be watched, inspected, spied upon, directed, law-driven, numbered, regulated, enrolled, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, checked, estimated, valued, censured, commanded, by creatures who have neither the right nor the wisdom nor the virtue to do so. To be GOVERNED is to be at every operation, at every transaction noted, registered, counted, taxed, stamped, measured, numbered, assessed, licensed, authorized, admonished, prevented, forbidden, reformed, corrected, punished. It is, under pretext of public utility, and in the name of the general interest, to be placed under contribution, drilled, fleeced, exploited, monopolized, extorted from, squeezed, hoaxed, robbed; then, at the slightest resistance, the first word of complaint, to be repressed, fined, vilified, harassed, hunted down, abused, clubbed, disarmed, bound, choked, imprisoned, judged, condemned, shot, deported, sacrificed, sold, betrayed; and to crown all, mocked, ridiculed, derided, outraged, dishonored. That is government; that is its justice; that is its morality.”

– Pierre-Joseph Proudhon

Although I don’t agree with much else that Proudhon says, I sure agree with this!