Thursday, January 29, 2009

Vista failed on me and my prof is not happy

All that was to be done was to copy a couple of folders containing a few files of coding(used to solve Equations of State if you are wondering) and adapt them for my use. But Vista had other plans.

Indexing is a very useful tool, no doubt, because it scans the contents of every folder you open and keeps it ready in case you search for a file later on. I have no problems with that. But what I noticed and confirmed with Googling is that it indexes while we are doing work also - in other words unlike other indexing software it does not index only when the system is idle.

So when I copied the folder from the usb stick to my laptop and opened it, Vista started indexing. It started and wouldn't finish, going on forever. I agree the problem could be with only folders containing some files of coding or dat files, but even then, it's an unnecessary pain. Now since the previous day was snow day and continuous lab was essentially cancelled, prof had some time - but time is not worth wasting. But hey - Vista's got all the time in the world.

Prof gave up after the folders hang. He told me to fix it. I remembered coming across an option to turn off indexing, so I right clicked the folder on one higher level and unchecked the indexing. Done, I thought.

So we opened it again, but no avail. The green bar would start its pilgrimage across the address bar. Now his laptop specifically runs XP - I mean specifically because Vista had already fallen out of his favour. So he gave the laptop to me to fix it once and for all.

Control Panel had an Indexing Option icon, I recalled. Unselected all the folders there. No effect.
Googled and with that help went to Start Menu Search>Services>Windows Search>Properties. Stopped search and Disabled it. Nope. Looks like Indexing was on a war path to reaching its goal no matter what.

Now my patience was running out. Wasn't that supposed to fix the problem? Isn't that why those options are provided?

I tried Starting and Stopping in the Options again, toggling it. I tried after switching UAC back on(User Account Control -yeah I had killed that a long time - and you should too. It too is in the Control Panel). I tried the Services panel again. Na.

And did I mention all the time wasted while CPU usage reached 100% and I had to wait for Ctrl-Alt-Del to take effect and then wait till Task Manager appeared and then kill Explorer... Oh, by the way, I had to kill explorer every time I tested it.

Finally I realised I could stop indexing C drive itself. It said, OK, I will do it for you. And took 20 minutes to apply the 'no-indexing' policy to all the folders in it, which is basically all my files.

Thankfully at the end of the day after time spent with no progress, thankfully the necessary folders did not crash and some copying and modifying was done though incomplete. Yet, I may be overlooking something here, the green bar still races through the address bar for some folders.

That's it, Vista has ultimately lost the last few scraps of respect I had gathered for it inspite of its early debacles, for hindering productivity and frustrating prof to the point of anger. In the process it got a few choice words for Microsoft and Bill Gates and his 'one step back' software too. Windows 7 better be really special and cheap for Vista users, Mr. Gates. Ballmer is in, but Gates is responsible for this.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

How spammers know email id is legit: Embedded images

I never anticipated this, I am embarrassed not to have seen through it.

Spam, if you open them, inspite of them going to your spam folder, sometimes contain embedded images. Gmail blocks these and instead has a link 'Display images from...'. But I never realised that out of curiosity, whenever I viewed those images, I was telling spammers to spam me more.

Turns out, when the image(which is stored on his server) is viewed, it flags my email address - saying I open spam email and will do so in the future. Moreover, since the time the image is accessed - since it is from an external server - will show not only that you opened the email but also when you opened the email.

This is also why I have recieved newsletters and promos with a few images here and there - they are validating the emails on their list, giving them valuable information as to what time of the day their emails are being read, and also the IP addresses of their readers - giving them a geographical distribution.

Such a simple 'hack' has a lot of potential uses. You can send an email with an embedded image - and using the imgae logs you can show the person opened the email with an intention to read it, as this post shows. I was searching for stuff related to Google talk and this post caught my attention. As he also mentions, it delivers your IP address... So you can potentially know where your friend who has gone into hiding is reading his emails from(or which end proxy he is using). Or if the email is being misused by someone else. Of course, this is with the assumption that he choses to display the images in Gmail or is using some other mail provider automatically showing embedded images.

I am considering not allowing images on the one or two useless newsletters I get and never opening spam again.

Friday, January 16, 2009

What does -23 deg C feel like?

What does sub 20 degrees Celcius weather feel? So far the lowest I had encountered while outdoors was a measly -10, so it was exciting to experience lower temperatures.

You feel like coughing after your first couple of breaths as you step outside; the lungs need a few seconds of cold air to adjust.

Whatever mucus you have in your nostrils hardens, as you inhale, you have to expand your nostrils by force to avoid the clumped feeling. It is similar to stretching your hand after leaving a layer of Fevicol for 5 minutes.

The clothes for temperatures no lower than -10 C will seem insufficient by the end of the 10 minute walk to the unviersity. One more set(after inner wear, shirt, winter jacket with hood, first pant and jeans, half-work style gloves and ear warmers) should do.

The ends of your fingers, though inside gloves, will feel as numb as a piece of wood, if not inside kept inside pockets.

Of course, there's usually snow around. All of it. Whatever came down will remain, unless on private or university-public property which will be cleared for people to use. Less used sidewalks will be fluffy and ankle deep for you to step in for a late morning workout. A couple of days later, the latter mentioned snow gets compacted - sometimes into ice - for a great free lesson in skating. Walking on a thin layer of snow is somewhat akin to walking on sand - a grinding effect - the sand/snow gets pushed back as you back.

What if you want to walk in even deeper snow? Like calf-deep? I love doing it - but there's only one problem. The boots I wear are upto my ankles, but in deeper snow, as I put my foot down, the jeans lift up - and as I bring my foot back up snow enters the shoe - resulting in a momentary cool feeling. If it weren't for this, I would be walking all the way in the snow.

Then there is wind chill - which is basically the effect of higher wind speed resulting in lower 'feels like' temperatures than the above mentioned air temperatures. So -23 deg C was the air temperature; wind chill, which is the temperature the skin feels it to be, must have been around -30 deg C.

Indoors, you cannot risk turning off heaters - or a higher temperature will have to be set on the thermostat - or left on for longer at lower levels - in spite of the blanket-comforter combo.

A beard(hard luck, ladies) is most welcome, if you ask me, to help in insulating my so-so handsome face, much to the chagrin of my dad.

Well, all this will be forgotten when I get to the lab-room and get easy in the 'room temperature'. New tourist destination to add to my wishlist: Minnesota/Canada in the dead of winter.