Firefox, Outlook and “General Failure”

Yes, I still use Microsoft Outlook. It provides me with one app for my email, contacts, calendar, RSS feeds and tweets. So there. But there’s one well-known (and years old) bug that sometimes drives me insane: when you click a hyperlink in an email, RSS post or tweet in Outlook, you get one of the following error messages:

General failure. The URL was: "" The system cannot find the file specified.


General failure. The URL was: "" An error occurred in sending the command to the application.

(Obviously, “” is an example. The address in an actual error message will vary.)

This happens because the Registry key that tells Firefox that it’s the default browser becomes corrupted or changed by some other program. I don’t know how to fix this in Windows XP, but the solution for Windows Vista and Windows 7 is pretty easy:

1) Close Firefox and Outlook, and then open Regedit.

2) Navigate to HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\FirefoxURL\shell\open\ddeexec

3) Look for the “Default” entry in the right pane. The value will probably be an odd string of letters, numbers and symbols (such as “%1”,,0,0,,,,). Remove whatever text you see in this entry, then click OK and exit Regedit.

4) Restart Firefox and Outlook.

I get this problem on my computer once every six months or so, and this has always fixed it.


Top 10 Tunes

From the home office in London, here’s the Top 10 song chart for the week ending February 12, 2012:

1) Marsheaux – “Stand By”
2) Saint Etienne – “Tonight”
3) Marsheaux – “Summer”
4) Marsheaux – “Thirteen/True”
5) Marsheaux – “Destroy Me”
6) Parralox – “Supermagic”
7) Psychedelic Furs – “Into You Like a Train”
8) Freezepop – “Pop Music is Not a Crime”
9) Cloetta Paris – “Secret Eyes”
10) Foretaste – “The Prototype of Love”

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2012-02-12

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Quote of the Day

“Rory? Yeah I know Rory. He’s not to be underestimated, you’ve got to look past the hair and the cute, cuddly thing – it’s all a deceptive facade. A few nights ago Rory’s Roger iron’s rusted, so he’s gone to the local battle-cruiser to catch the end of his footer. Nobody is watching the custard so he turns the channel over. A fat man’s north opens and he wanders over and turns the Liza over. ‘Now fuck off and watch it somewhere else.’ Rory knows claret is imminent, but he doesn’t want to miss the end of the game; so, calm as a coma, he stands and picks up a fire extinguisher and he walks straight past the jam rolls who are ready for action, then he plonks it outside the entrance. He then orders an Aristotle of the most ping pong tiddly in the nuclear sub and switches back to his footer. ‘That’s fucking it,’ says the guy. ‘That’s fucking what’ says Rory. Rory gobs out a mouthful of booze covering fatty; he then flicks a flaming match into his bird’s nest and the man’s lit up like a leaky gas pipe. Rory, unfazed, turned back to his game. His team’s won too: four-nil. ”

– Danny John-Jules as Barfly Jack in
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

Going down faster than…

Sorry for the downtime earlier today folks. My web host disabled my site again this morning. I haven’t been able to figure out exactly what happened, but from the looks of it, my WordPress backup plug-in – BACKWPUP – once again went crazy on the server. It’s been disabled, and I’m doing manual backups until I can find a plug-in that doesn’t randomly eat gobs of CPU and memory space. Suggestions?

Beef Rendang

Beef Rendang is a delicious dish from Malaysia. It’s kind of a thick stew, like a curry. But it doesn’t contain any curry powder. If you’re one of those strange people who likes the look and mouthfeel of curry but hates the taste of curry powder, this dish is for you! Beef Rendang also doesn’t require a lot of expensive, hard-to-find ingredients or complicated cooking steps. You should be able to find everything for this dish at any grocery store with a good “international” section!

Beef Rendang

1 knife
1 cutting board
1 food processor
1 peeler (optional)
1 tall pot (see below)


2 lbs. stew beef
2 tbsp of vegetable oil
2 cinnamon sticks
12 cloves
2 bay leaves
One large (19oz.) can coconut milk (600ml is the goal)


6 shallots, peeled and chopped into quarters
2 lemon grass stalks, roughly chopped
2 medium red chilies (see below)
6 garlic cloves peeled
1 two-inch piece of ginger root, peeled and chopped
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp ground coriander
2 tbsp water

1) Put all the “paste” ingredients into a food processor or blender and process until it becomes a paste. I used four of the small Thai chilies available at my local Asian market, however you’ll probably want to use 2-3 (or more, depending on your taste) red jalapeno peppers. They’re for their red color as much as their taste. If it’s not very “paste like” add water a couple of tablespoons at a time until it comes together (but don’t make it too wet).

2) Heat the oil in a pot, pan or wok until it’s smoking hot (you’re gonna stir-fry, so keep that in mind). You’re probably also going to want to use a tall pot for this, as the dish cooks faster uncovered, but tends to splatter while cooking.

3) Add the cinnamon sticks and cloves and stir fry for 1 minute, or until it becomes aromatic.

4) Add the bay leaves and paste and stir fry for 3 minutes.

5) Add the coconut milk and stir well.

6) Add the meat and stir thoroughly.

7) Bring to a strong simmer and cook for 2½ hours, stirring occasionally.

Serve with rice!

This is actually a neat dish to make – the sauce starts off as a pale milk color, but slowly changes to a nice warm brown color. And you can tell it’s getting done when the sauce really starts to thicken up and the meat starts falling apart.

Top 10 Tunes

From the home office in London, here’s the Top 10 song chart for the week ending February 5, 2012:

1) Saint Etienne – “Tonight”
2) Marsheaux – “Thirteen/True”
3) Freezepop – “Pop Music is Not a Crime”
4) Two Door Cinema Club – “Something Good Can Work”
5) Marsheaux – “Stand By”
6) Ambra Red – “It’s Just A Dream’
7) Rolla Scape – “Heaven is Real (feat. Marsheaux)”
8) Ladyhawke – “Black, White and Blue”
9) David Sylvian – “Waterfront”
10) The Jody Grind – “Eight-Ball”

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2012-02-05

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Free Dropbox Space!

You might have seen the story on other websites: Dropbox is offering up to 5GB of free space to any account that updates to the latest version of their software. While this is true, it’s a bit more involved than some websites make it out to be (I’m looking at you, Neowin!)

Basically, you need to go here and download the latest version of the Dropbox software for Windows (although beta clients are also available for Mac and Linux, I can’t tell if the free space upgrade applies to those versions or not. The feature Dropbox is testing is the photo importer, and the FAQ at the linked site says “photo import feature is not available on Mac 10.4 and Linux”). So just use the Windows version if at all possible.

Anyway, after updating the software, connect a camera or cell phone to your computer. If you have Autoplay enabled (and you’ll need to for this), you will see this:

Dropbox Import

Click “Import pictures and videos using Dropbox”. The software will create a folder called “Camera Uploads” in your Dropbox folder, copy the pictures from your device to the new folder, then upload them to its servers. So you can disconnect your phone after the import is done, even if the upload to Dropbox will take a couple of hours. And here’s the crucial thing: you get 500MB of free space for the first picture you upload using this method, and 500 free megabytes for every 500MB of pictures you upload thereafter, for a total of 5GB. So it’s really 500MB + 4.5GB in 500MB batches, assuming you upload 4.5GB worth of pictures.

For the first few batches of imports, I was a good boy and copied pictures to my phone, disconnected the phone from my computer and then reconnected it to allow the import to start. I don’t know if this counts as “cheating” or not, but on my final round of imports I figured out that I could just copy some pictures to a flash drive and they’d import as long as they were in a DCIM folder (Dropbox won’t import images on a flash drive outside a DCIM folder). Also, know that once you’ve imported the pictures, you can delete them from the “Camera Uploads” folder; you don’t have to keep them there to earn your free space.

Be warned, however, that there is one giant pain in the ass with Dropbox’s import feature: it renames all the imported pictures based on the time and date in the EXIF data. This would be fine for importing pictures directly from a phone; after all, one could easily argue that “2012-02-06 12.35.30.jpg” is a more useful filename than “IMG_20120206_002.jpg”. But if you’ve carefully named your pictures, you’ll find this feature infuriating. And my phone’s camera has a bug where around 20% of the pictures I take are dated 12/8/2002 at 12:00, which makes the feature less than useful. I could also imagine someone going to swap out the battery in their digital camera and getting distracted for a few minutes, and the date resetting, thus screwing it up for Dropbox. This feature is not well liked by users posting in the Dropbox dev forums, so this feature may be altered or removed before going live.

In any event, I started my Saturday with 2.6GB of Dropbox space, and I now have 7.6GB of storage space for free, all for just shifting some pictures around. So I can’t complain!

New Banners!

Yep, it’s been a while… so here are a bunch of new banners for the website! Enjoy them… until July or so, when I update them again!

Alexander HamiltonAlexander Hamilton: As George Will once said, “we worship Jefferson, but live in Hamilton’s world”.

Bobby DoddBobby Dodd: Georgia Tech football coach from 1945-1966, compiled a record of 165–64–8.

Bernard CornwellBernard Cornwell: Author of historical fiction, esp. the “Richard Sharpe” series from the Napoleonic Wars.

Katy PerryKaty Perry: I just don’t care what anyone says… Katy is America’s Sweetheart!

NeptuneNeptune: This gas giant, the last in the solar system, is my favorite non-Earth planet!

Pecan PiePecan Pie: Why? Because it’s just the best damn dessert in the whole world!

Richard HookerRichard Hooker: Along with Thomas Cranmer and Matthew Parker, considered a father of Anglicanism.

SylvieSylvie: This is taken from the cover of Saint Etienne’s “Sylvie” single.

Steven LevittSteven Levitt: American economist and co-author of Freakonomics.

Marsheaux 2Marsheaux: Greek synthpop band. I’ve fallen in love with them the same way I fell for Jenni Belle in 7th grade:

MarsheauxMarsheaux: instantly, overwhelmingly, and giggledy. Seriously: I get love pangs when I listen to them!

StiltonStilton: Is there any cheese that can compete with Stilton? It’s the King of Cheeses!

Thomas AquinasThomas Aquinas: Highly influential theologian, one of the 33 Doctors of the Church.

The VarsityA meal from The Varsity: Because sometimes you just jones for hometown deliciousness!

Thomas MoreThomas More: English lawyer, social philosopher, author, statesman and noted Renaissance humanist.