Tech Annoyances #624


Do you use the “Send to” folder in Windows? I do. In most cases, it’s easier to right-click a file and choose “Send to > Mail Recipient” than it is to open a new email and attach the file manually. And before I started using Notepad++ (which adds an “Open with Notepad++” entry to the context menu), I’d often add a shortcut to Notepad to the SendTo folder; this allowed me to open any type of file by right-clicking and choosing “Send to > Notepad”.

A couple of nights ago I was thinking about how often I drag and drop files from some folder on my computer to my Dropbox folder, and I thought how cool it would be to add Dropbox to the SendTo folder. But then I thought it would be even better to have a Dropbox folder in SendTo, with shortcuts to my different Dropbox folders, like “Photos” and “Public”. That way I could just right-click a file and choose “Send to > Dropbox > Public” to share a file with someone.

Only problem is, Microsoft completely screwed this up in Windows Vista and Windows 7 (and, if I could figure out how to test it, possibly Windows 8). In Windows XP, you could easily do such a thing by creating a subfolder in the SendTo folder and adding whatever shortcuts you wanted to that folder. The subfolder would expand and you’d could access the shortcuts there:

XP Send to
Click to enlarge

In Vista, Microsoft changed this so that you can still put a folder in SendTo, but it no longer expands… so no more cascading icons for you:

Win 7 Send to
click to enlarge

WHY would Microsoft remove such a handy feature from the “latest and greatest” versions of their operating system? I can’t imagine that it posed any kind of security threat, and the people who really used the feature must have really liked it. Say you’re a software\web developer of some kind, and you use several apps to edit various documents. In XP could could have them all in one handy SendTo subfolder; in Vista\7\8, you have to put every one in the root of SendTo, making it harder to use and a mile long. Good job, Microsoft!


Is anyone else getting sick of seeing this on Google results pages?

Google WTF
click to enlarge

I was searching for a place to buy those limited edition Lay’s potato chips, and Google “helpfully” corrected me by showing me the results for “Lays” chips instead of “Lay’s” chips. The only problem is… the brand name of the chips is Lay’s:

Lay's Chips

I also like how every result in my screen cap refers to them as “Lay’s” chips!

This is happening more and more often. Not long before Christmas, I thought I’d search for a friend from elementary school. His last name is “Saunders”. Google instead showed me “Sanders”. There is no famous person with my friend’s first name and the last name “Sanders” (no, his first name wasn’t “Colonel”). As near as I could tell, there are as many semi-famous “Sanders” as there are “Saunders”. So thanks, Google. Ever tried searching for the Petroleum Research Fund by its initials – PRF? You get “Showing results for PDF”. Thanks, jackass. Searching for Firefly actor Adam Baldwin? Surely you meant “Alec Baldwin”, right? Searching for info about Katy Perry’s birth name, “Katheryn Hudson”? We’ll show you the results for “Kate Hudson” instead!

I don’t get the blind love everyone has for Google. They’ve repeatedly shown that they don’t trust their users worth a damn. As author Andrew Blum (“Showing results for Andrew Bloom”) said: “Their stance is the corporate equivalent of a 1950s-era gynecologist who believes women can’t comprehend what’s being done to their own bodies.” And goddamn is it annoying.

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Foods They Need to Bring Back

Hi Everyone! It’s that time again… time for me to sit in my office chair and assume my Andy Rooney persona. I’m only 41 years old, but I’m gonna be all like “why do kids today like Taylor Swift so much?” and “remember when Cops was the only reality show on TV?”. But in today’s episode I’m going to talk about… food. Read the following, but try to use Andy Rooney’s voice in your head when you do so:


Big John's Beans

I don’t much care for baked beans. It’s not that I don’t like the taste – they taste just fine. It’s just that I’ve had them a million times. Every cook-out you go to, every family get-together you’re forced to suffer through, every barbecue place – from Valdosta, Georgia, north to Richmond, Virginia and west to San Antonio – has baked beans. And yes, Big John’s beans were still baked beans… but with a delicious twist. You see the picture? Big John’s Beans actually came in two cans: one large can with the beans, and another, smaller can taped to the other which had the “fixin’s”. You opened both cans, dumped the beans into a pot, then added the fixin’s. You’d stir well and heat ’em through. They were so tasty, those beans. Gosh, I wish ConAgra hadn’t discontinued these a few years ago. Bush’s Grillin’ Beans aren’t nearly the same thing. Not at all. THERE, INTERNET.. I SAID IT! Thankfully, Big John’s has something of a cult following on the Internet, and there are tons of “copy cat” recipes out there (here’s one that looks pretty good).


Pop Tarts

Oh, I know what you’re thinking… “but they still make Cookies and Cream Pop Tarts! Isn’t that the same thing?” No, they’re not the same. Not at all. In fact, hell no. The Cookies and Cream Pop Tarts are a fine product, no doubt. But they taste like… well, whatever the hell “cookies and cream” flavor actually is. Chocolate Vanilla Pop Tarts were exactly what they said on the tin: chocolate pastry with vanilla filling inside. The pastry part, despite being chocolate, wasn’t all that sweet. It was more of a “cocoa flavor”, which was good, because the preternaturally sweet vanilla was all the sugar you needed. I used to keep a box of these bad boys on hand at all times – one two-pack of these and an ice cold Diet Coke were my go-to breakfast for years. So thanks a hell of a lot for ruining that, Kellogg’s!


Potato Pancakes

I think a lot about the duality of man. Light and Dark. Good and Evil. Pleasure and Pain. And I think it all started with IHOP. When I was a young man, I’d go to IHOP and every single time I’d struggle over whether to get chocolate chip pancakes or potato pancakes. Chocolate chip or potato? Chocolate chip or potato? Chocolate chip or potato? I’d deliberate over it as if the fate of the whole world depended on it. Remember the scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where Indy has to pick the right chalice? This was worse. Hell, I put more deliberation into one instance of chocolate chip vs. potato pancakes than I did in deciding what university I went to or the last car I bought. Chocolate chip had the sweet, but potato brought the savory. And potato pancakes came with an additional decision: apple sauce or sour cream on the side? Me, I was a traditionalist, going with sour cream. I had some vague notion of European sophistication in doing so, as if people in Austria were making the exact same choice at that exact same moment: “mit Sauerrahm, bitte“. There were a few times when I went down the apple sauce path, but always felt like an old geezer in doing so, like I should ask the waitress to turn the TV to Matlock and tell those damn teenagers at the other table to pipe down, ‘cos I didn’t storm the beach at Normandy so some punk-ass kids could shout over Andy Griffith. So I guess in a way I should be thankful that some damn bean counter at IHOP decided to get rid of the potato pancakes. It’s taken one of life’s most difficult decisions away from me. But dammit, I liked having to make that decision. And I liked having an old school dish like potato pancakes around, instead of the “Tuscan Chicken Griller” or “Spinach, Roasted Red Pepper & Cheese Griddle Melt” or whatever new slightly trendy crap IHOP serves these days. YOU BASTARDS!

Two Questions for Google

1) Why are / and \ different keys on the default Android keyboard? You have to press the “?123” key to get to the numbers and symbols keyboard, and / is available there. So you have to press ALT to reveal the \ symbol… but it’s not the same key as / was. And don’t say “That’s how it is on a QWERTY keyboard”, because you altered the ?123 layout anyway.

2) Why, in the name of all that is holy, does Gmail always mark every single newsletter and promotional email that I actually want as “SPAM” and move it to the junk folder… but never marks newsletters and promotional emails I never signed up for as junk, even though I have repeatedly told Gmail I’m not interested in emails from AstraZeneca and Pfizer?


DUMB RANT: Cashiers

I am a cash-only person. There are two reasons for this, which I’d rather not get in to right now. I’ll use a credit or debit card when dining out sometimes, especially if the check hasn’t been divided in advance – it’s much easier to just hand the waitress a Visa and say “put the burger, turkey sandwich, the Bass Ales and Shock Tops on my tab, everything else is on [the other couple’s tab]”. But if I’m buying something in a store, a fast food place, or a bar, 99.999999% of the time I’ll use cash.

So… the missus and I were on vacation recently, and twice a cashier accidentally “hit the exact change button”, meaning that the register didn’t tell her how much change to give me. In both cases, the cashiers panicked and looked furiously for a calculator. The first time it was a young white female, and she had a calculator handy, so it didn’t take her long to figure it out. But the second time the cashier spent a full two minutes looking through every drawer at the checkout stand for a calculator. She even called over to another cashier for help in finding a calculator! I was so tempted to say something, but since she was a young black female, I didn’t want to be the “old white man telling her how to do her job”. So I waited, almost amused by the whole thing.

I don’t know what’s worse… the fact that employers don’t train cashiers worth a damn these days, or the fact that neither of those two young women could figure out on their own the age-old practice of counting up change.

See ladies, it works like this: at one store, my total was $13.42, and I handed the cashier a $20 bill. All you have to do to make change is count up from the total to the amount of money the customer hands you. So you’d take my total ($13.42) and put three pennies in your hand (to make it $13.45). You’d then put a nickel in your hand (to make it $13.50), then put two quarters in your hand (to make it $14.00). You’d then put a dollar bill in your hand (to make it $15), then put a $5 bill in your hand (to make it $20). You’d then have $6.58 in your hand which, if you want to figure it out on a calculator, is the correct amount of change for that transaction. No calculator is needed… at all. Trust me: it works. Millions of your cashier ancestors used that method for decades before registers even showed you how much change to give the customer!

And while I’m on the subject, a few times in the recent past I’ve gotten the stink eye from cashiers for giving them “odd amounts” of money. You know the drill: Maybe your total is $5.52, and you give the cashier $11.02 so you can get $5.50 back in nice, even bills and coins. It’s like they’re paralyzed with fear and confusion. But fear not… the same system works here, too! Just subtract the 2¢ I gave you… put two quarters in your hand (to make $6) and then put a $5 in your hand to make $11. See? Was that so hard?

Am I alone here? Is it just me? I might be a little different because my father owned a wholesale grocery store and he often worked the register there. So as a kid I had a lot of toy cash registers and grocery store playsets. My dad taught me early on how to count money. I could be exaggerating, but I could swear I knew how to count up from the time I was 4 or 5 years old… and here are these teenage girls apparently unaware of even the concept of such a thing. Am I the lone voice in the wilderness here, or are teen cashiers even stupider today than they were 20 years ago?

The Left’s War on Science

If I say the phrase “War on Science”, what do you think of? Well, if you’re an American, you probably think about the Right’s “War on Evolution”. And yes, that’s a real thing: a minority of right-wingers don’t believe in Evolution, and have been trying to get “Creationism” or “Creation Science” placed into curricula in schools across the country. I’m not a fan of the practice. I mean, if you want to teach about Creationism in a philosophy class, that’s fine by me. But the inherent correctness of Evolution as a theory should be so obvious to everyone that it, and only it, should be taught in science classrooms.


But it’s not like the Right is the only side waging war on science. Yes, our favorite nutcases on the Left have their own little wars. While the Right’s war is mainly against Evolution, the Left has all kinds of issues with different aspects of science. And while the Right is at least straight-up in their opposition to Evolution, the Left likes to hide behind junk science and emotion to cover up their war.

Take the Left’s war on the internal combustion engine, for example. Yes, we all agree that fossil fuels are dirty and in (somewhat) limited supply. In a perfect world, we would indeed find some better alternative to gasoline engines. But the time, money and effort used by the Left in promoting electric vehicles is just silly. A Chevy Volt uses a 435 lb. electric battery to travel 35 whole miles. Chevy’s Cruze, on the other hand, gets 42 miles on a single gallon of gasoline. And the Cruze is probably (I’m no expert) friendlier to the environment overall than the Volt is. After all, in most parts of the country, the electricity used to charge the Volt probably came from a coal power plant, and the construction of all those batteries uses tons of energy. The nickel used to make the batteries comes from Canada, probably from an area in Ontario called the Superstack. The nickel is shipped to Europe to be refined, then sent to China to be made in to “nickel foam”, then to Japan for assembly, then to the United States for sale. As this article at Wired says, each Prius requires 1,000 gallons of fuel just to assemble the parts. In fact, the Prius requires far more energy to construct than a Hummer, although the Prius will eventually even it out (the Prius gets around 45 mpg while the Hummer gets 16 mpg on the highway). Of course, the Left’s inability to understand the limitations of current technology isn’t exactly a “War on Science”. Perhaps that’s just really wishful thinking. Or maybe they’re just bad at math (it would take nine years of $5/gallon gas for a Chevy Volt to be more cost-effective than the Cruze, due to the fact that the Cruze costs half of what the Volt does).

Continue reading “The Left’s War on Science”

SOPA Resources

By now you’ve almost certainly about today’s “Internet Blackout” in opposition to SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act (and its Senate cousin, the Protect IP Act, or PIPA). I was going to write up a rant about the whole mess, but in the end I decided it was kind of pointless. Many, many sites have SOPA pieces that are far more eloquent than anything I could write, and few would listen to what I had to say anyway. It’s not that my opinion doesn’t count, it’s that I’m just one guy in a small town in North Carolina. People with doctorates and huge followings online have done it better, so why not just link to those pieces instead?

If you have no idea what SOPA actually is, head on over to Wikipedia’s page about it (they’re not blacking out this page today). I’ve read the article, and it’s pretty balanced and comprehensive… although it lacks information about many of the small details that actually make SOPA so awful. If the Wiki article confuses you, or if you’re just not that technically inclined, check out this post at Lifehacker, which explains SOPA in easy-to-understand, non-technical terms.

Although the first two links tell you how SOPA would work, they don’t tell you why it’s bad. The jist of it is that the law would allow rightsholders to cut off financial support for sites they claim are infringing. The entire site doesn’t have to infringe on someone’s intellectual property… just a single blog entry or comment is enough. The EFF has this page, which lists why popular sites like Etsy, Flickr and Vimeo would be in danger under SOPA, even though none of them are what any reasonable person would call a “pirate site”.

And remember, SOPA doesn’t just target sites that host “pirated” content – it would allow companies to go after sites that “misuse” their trademarks as well. You’ve probably heard of Monster Cable, the company that sells vastly overpriced cables and has a history of suing anyone who tries to use the “Monster” name (including the Boston Red Sox). This post on Monster’s own website lists companies it considers to be “infringing” on its trademark. And while “” probably does sell fake Monster products, take a close look at some of the other sites on Monster’s list: eBay and Craiglist (neither of which sell anything directly), FatWallet, PriceGrabber and ComputerShopper (none of which sell anything at all: the first is a popular “deal” site, the others are price comparison sites), and Costco and Sears. Wait – am I saying that Monster Cable could, under SOPA, shut down the websites of giant retailers like Costco and Sears? Yes they could. In this case, it’s not about “protecting trademarks”, it’s about using a piracy law to control distribution of a lame product.

But don’t take my word for it. Read this piece from Tim O’Reilly, founder of O’Reilly Media. Or this piece by Tim Edwards from PCGamer. Or this piece by Ken Fisher at Ars Technica Or this piece by Elliot Noss of Tucows, which is not only extremely blunt, but also addresses the international chilling effects the legislation would have:

The Internet is a global creature. A “Made in the USA” solution will no more work to stop the problems talked of than would one made in any other single nation state. Worse, the US has been at the forefront of ensuring that the Internet has remained free and a platform for innovation for the last fifteen years. With SOPA, or ProtectIP, that leadership will effectively end and Syria, China, Iran and others will not only use the US as a role model, they will also use these actions as further evidence of US control of the Internet and justification for trying to turn it over to the UN/ITU.

Worse, the legislation itself is fundamentally corrupt. It is bought and paid for by big media, trying vainly to protect anachronistic business models. This has been demonstrated clearly in all of the hearings and the very conduct of the debate. Listening to how deeply uninformed those being asked to legislate this issue are has been nothing short of scary. Watching how support and opposition has lined up has been disheartening. This is the worst example of the kind of fundamental corruption that is at the heart of the US political system currently and is well defined by Professor Larry Lessig.

Sure, Big Content are jerks… but do you think you can trust the government? Ha! Ever heard of a hip-hop website called It was seized by the US government under “Operation In Our Sites”. I’ll let this article at TechDirt tell the rest:

Imagine if the US government, with no notice or warning, raided a small but popular magazine’s offices over a Thanksgiving weekend, seized the company’s printing presses, and told the world that the magazine was a criminal enterprise with a giant banner on their building. Then imagine that it never arrested anyone, never let a trial happen, and filed everything about the case under seal, not even letting the magazine’s lawyers talk to the judge presiding over the case. And it continued to deny any due process at all for over a year, before finally just handing everything back to the magazine and pretending nothing happened. I expect most people would be outraged. I expect that nearly all of you would say that’s a classic case of prior restraint, a massive First Amendment violation, and exactly the kind of thing that does not, or should not, happen in the United States.

But that’s exactly what happened to Dajaz1, only substitute “blog” for “magazine” and “domain” for “printing press”. This is your government folks, the “land of the free and the home of the brave”. And In Our Sites was conducted under existing federal law. For the love of all that is holy, please don’t let things get worse. Big Content is a dying business model, and they’re trying to buy our politicians to protect it. Destroying the entire Internet so that record company executives can keep their private jets isn’t just repulsive, short-sighted and illegal… it’s downright un-American!

TSA Follow-Up

My recent post about the TSA hasn’t generated a lot of comments on the site, but it sure has generated a lot of hits, especially from people who posted links on Facebook. I thought I’d take a few minutes today to clarify a few things and give you folks some additional links.

First of all, although most of you agreed that the TSA has crossed the line, it occurred to me that some of you might actually agree with their policies. After all, the old saying goes, if you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve got nothing to hide, right? Well, allow me to introduce you to the concept of Israelification.

Israel has been dealing with terrorists far longer than the US has, and has been far more successful than the US in dealing with airport security. Back in the 1960s, Israel instituted pat-downs and other procedures at their airports similar to what the US has today… and the Israeli public freaked. In the linked article, Israeli security expert Rafi Sela, says:

“Israelis, unlike Canadians and Americans, don’t take shit from anybody. When the security agency in Israel started to tighten security and we had to wait in line for – not for hours – but 30 or 40 minutes, all hell broke loose here. We said, ‘We’re not going to do this. You’re going to find a way that will take care of security without touching the efficiency of the airport.”

By simply refusing to put up with the status quo, the Israelis came up with a much more efficient and less intrusive system. And there’s no reason why it can’t work here.

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Touching Sensitive Areas

OK, so I’ve been wallowing in my own bile about this for a couple of days here at the house. I’ve written this piece in my head a couple dozen times already. I tried to go the erudite way, mimicking William F. Buckley. I tried to go the sarcastic way, mimicking P.J. O’Rourke. I even thought about being as crude as possible, in hopes of making my point simply and clearly. And, in a way, that’s where I’m going with this. So let me say this, as simply as possible, and in bold text so you just can’t miss the point:

Nowhere in the United States Constitution will you find words “except in airports”. Just because someone buys a plane ticket, that doesn’t give the United States government the right to strip search them electronically or put their hands in inappropriate places.

Airport security has always been a joke, but that joke isn’t fucking funny anymore. Sure, it was kind of amusing when TSA banned lighters but not matches, or pocket knives but not knitting needles. It was funny when a TSA agent made the parents of a small child empty a plastic doll that had a liquid reservoir inside (so the doll could “pee”) because it might or might not have held more than 3 ounces of fluid. It was even funny when Adam Savage of Mythbusters had a TSA agent totally miss two 12″ razor blades he’d accidentally left in his bag:


But there’s nothing funny about what’s going on today. TSA’s agents and policies have always been arbitrary and capricious. What’s accepted at one airport is not accepted at another, and agents even sometimes argue amongst themselves about what’s acceptable or not. And God help the weary traveler who should get the TSA agent in a foul mood that day, lest that rent-a-cop with a badge decide to take his anger out on someone who doesn’t take their shoes off fast enough or walk though the metal detector right on cue. Just don’t cause too much trouble for the TSA agent citizen, or you might find yourself on a list. Or maybe you’ll get lucky and get the TSA agent in a “joking mood” who plants a white powder on you, pretends it’s drugs and threatens you with arrest. They’re a laugh a minute those TSA agents, especially when they use the cover of a fake childrens’ book – My First Cavity Search – as the wallpaper of their computers or when Philadelphia TSA agents give the “extra special search” to a woman in a Dallas Cowboys jersey:


But what’s worse, the laws surrounding air travel have been kept unconstitutionally secretive. Sure, the TSA happily and publicly posts lists of whatever items are banned on planes this week… but have you ever wondered what law(s) give the TSA the right to ban such items in the first place? Or ask for your identification? Or what questions a TSA agent might ask that you are legally required to answer?

Continue reading “Touching Sensitive Areas”


Can I just rant for a minute here?

I’m SO FREAKIN’ SICK of seeing things like this on Internet message boards:

“Don’t use Microsoft software. They’re evil. Use Gmail instead. I use Gmail for my email, Google Voice for voicemail, Google Domains to host my small business, Google Apps to edit work-related documents, Google DNS for name resolution and, of course, Google for searching. I couldn’t be happier!”

Really? Seriously? You let Google index your email, transcribe your voicemail messages, scan and index your business website, scan and index your business documents, keep track of every DNS lookup your perform, and keep track of every search you make… and you’re happy about it? Google knows more about you than your wife and mother combined, yet whenever Windows wants to “phone home” to see if any important updates are available you scream bloody murder… Seriously? How naive are you, really?

Sometimes the mind boggles.

So THAT’S the problem!

A friend of mine moved to the Netherlands not too long ago. So I’ve been looking for flights over there, and I’ve been stumped as to why I can’t find one for under $700, no matter what time of year, time of day, or Saturday stayovers I choose. Then I found the problem:

ams ticket

So the ticket is $293 but the taxes and fees are $441? And my math might be off here, but those fees are around 148% of the ticket price?

When did TicketMaster start its own airline?