Tools Change

Doing a software inventory of what tools I use in order to migrate to a new work computer. I make a private blog post of what software, extensions, and customizations to facilitate the move. Work provides software, but I prefer different web browsers, text editors, SSH clients, etc.

I have posts from 2009, 2011, and now 2016. Comparing the three lists, some of my preferences have stayed the same over time. Some I changed each time.


  1. Music player
  2. Notepad++
  3. SSH client
  4. Tweedeck
  5. Picasa
  6. WinMerge


  1. Web browsers
  2. Ad blocker
  3. Password manager
  4. Calendar
  5. Chat client
  6. Read later
  7. SQL editor
  8. PDF reader

I kind of wish I had tracked my most visited web sites in this way. I used to keep a web page with a bookmark to places I frequently visit. An occasional dump of the most important could be interesting for determine how my work and interests evolve over time.

Noisy Coworkers

Working in a cube farm, my ears perked up to an NPR story about how other people are distracting.

“In general, if a sound is coming from another person, it’s much more disturbing than when it’s coming from a machine,” Alan Hedge at Cornell says, because, as social beings, humans are attuned to man-made sounds. He says overheard conversations, as well as high-pitched and intermittent noises, also draw attention away from tasks at hand.

Of course, open offices are worse. We are not there. (Yet!) And the plans for filling in more spaces are not leveraging open offices.

I have heard many of these like the coughing, sneezing, fingernail clippers, bizarre ringtones, and especially conversations. I have been the culprit for coughing, sneezing, and very loud conversations. Pretty sure I am noisier than most of those around me.

fidget_cube_midnight_grandeThe new workstation keyboards in the cubefarm are much louder than the prior ones. I can hear these when before I could not. Of course, the former coworker who brought his own Logitech to work was known for his very loud typing. I’d thought it was just him. Nope. I now know it always was the keyboard.

The Fidget Cube pictured right is designed to allow people to fidget without clicking their pens. That funny enough is not a problem I’ve had to hear.

We do so much stuff over email or tickets or chat that phone calls are not very common. If I get one, then it almost certainly is a robocall or a marketer or follow-up to post conference spam because I deleted the emails.

Great headphones are how I hide from these distractions. There are fewer and fewer places to hide from others as the organization grows.

The interesting thing is these things kill productivity. They distract us from getting work done. Though, at the same time, when I overhear a conversation that I feel the need to contribute, I have involved myself and helping resolve the situation. Maybe the coworker who left lozenges on my desk was being helpful?

Race Is Immutable?

In the eyes of the law, your race is considered immutable because it cannot be changed from its natural state.

This made me laugh. Being mixed the perception of my race is very mutable. People often have no idea what to make of my skin color, hair, or facial features.The day-to-day decisions I make influence that perception. The day-to-day decisions I make influence what I consider myself.

Some days I consider myself more black than white. Some days I consider myself more white than black. Some days I consider myself more mixed than either. Some days I consider myself neither black nor white.

The article does address this:

Race is an elusive, fluid concept, and the courts have been manifestly reluctant to define it. What, in the end, makes a person black? The 11th Circuit wrestled with the idea in its ruling, dredging up old definitions and emerging with nothing more definitive than that “race” is nature, not nurture.


Post Conference Spam

Sadly information technology conferences give our email addresses and phone numbers to the vendors who attended. That results in me getting an uptick of spam especially in the weeks after it. It is easy to tell the spam from the conference because the vendors mention the name of the conference. All the conferences do it. It is just one of those things from going to them.

One recent gem: “Sorry we missed you.” Actually, I intentionally did not visit the vendor area. I have no budget authority,  so I am pretty much wasting their time. Last year I did with an old boss and ironically used my familiarity with Desire2Learn to get him a moose doll for his son. (He’d already gotten one for his daughters but felt bad about getting a third. Family stability is more important than some extra spam.)

Technically spam is “unsolicited usually commercial e-mail sent to a large number of addresses.” This is commercial email. The number of addresses is modest so not large. But, I think where it gets interesting is whether or not it is solicited. One could make the argument that the conferences solicit the email addresses of attendees as an enticement for the vendors to attend. The quality of the vendors entices attendees. (I’m pretty sure people who care enough at all are a small proportion.)

It is tempting to ask the conference if it is possible to have the vendors mark categories of products they sell and attendees to mark what categories they are interested in hearing. Unfortunately, I would expect 93% of attendees to mark nothing as their interests to avoid getting spammed. Maybe a mitigation is say if you mark nothing, then we send you everything. (So pick your poison.)


Complicated Calendar

Noticed “Election Day” was in the wrong place in my work calendar. It was on November 1st when it ought to have been November 8th. This is because the date is the first Tuesday after the first Monday giving it a potential range of November 2nd through 8th.

The Microsoft Outlook / Exchange pattern for recurring dates has nothing to accommodate this. The closest pattern Outlook has is “on the first Tuesday of November” which leaves the date that occurs this year as the lone exception. Looks like it will happen again in 2022 (non-presidential) and 2044. It last happened in 1988.

I think this came from a Microsoft list of United States holidays I added. Certainly, looking at that, I have “United States” checked for the locations shown in my calendar. All the entries appear to be entered for each individual date rather than patterns set to handle regular recurring dates and just individuals for the crazy ones.

The only other calendar entry that I can think of that is so complicated is Easter. OK, actually it is far more complicated. Well, Easter is dependent on Passover. Passover depends on the full moon. And Orthodox churches have a different calculus than than Catholic/Protestant churches. Everything else is on a date or first/second/third/fourth day of week of the month. These are all easy to program with a rule.

Becoming Ununique

Growing up my names were strongly identifying. If someone learned of my first or last name, there was a fair chance they knew of me. Almost no one else around was named Ezra. In college, there was a guy whose last name was “Esra” that caused a bit of confusion. But, all I had to say is “I am not Billy. My first name is Ezra.” And a woman in HR at my first job had a nephew named Ezra. Anyone with a last name of Freelove was related to me.

Of late not so much…

  • A place where I do business confused the two Ezra clients. The conversation made no sense to me. Eventually, it came out the guy I was talking to meant the other one.
  • There is a young boy named Ezra who is at the age where his parents call his name as he goes running away from them. A couple times over the past few month I have heard my name called only to realize it is the same woman who is his mother.
  • A friend’s new nephew is named Ezra.
  • A friend of my girlfriend’s son is named Ezra.

There are a few of us in town according to Facebook. I am getting less and less unique. My identity is getting more hidden in the crowd.

That is a good thing.

Social Minimalism

Listening to C.G.P.Grey talk about too much stuff in a room making it difficult due to the visual noise. I agree. But I also have an issue with chatter. Lots and lots of people talking over each other bothers me.

The inability to follow all of them is part of what I dislike about them. One-on-one conversation? Sure. A bunch of strangers talking? Okay. Apparently I can tune them out. But, people I know talking? My brain refuses to as easily tune them out.

Maybe one reason why I prefer social media is that I can follow the conversations in an asynchronous multi-tasking way. They can persist longer and cite sources and be better thought out. There are all things I love.

Resolution Progress 2016: Third Quarter

Here is an update on my progress for each resolution with a quarter of the year remaining. In other words, it is crunch time.

  • Read 75 books. Three Quarters is 56.25. I have read 57.
    • Hit 25,000 pages. Three Quarters is 18,750 pages and I have read 18,286 which puts me 464 behind. That is not terrible, but I slid further behind rather than make up ground.
    • Finish series already started. (25 of the 75 books.)
      • Earthsea Cycle Read books #4-5. Still need to read #4-5.
      • Ender’s Shadow Read book 5. Done.
      • The Expanse Read book #2-6, 0.1, 0.2, 0.5, 2.5, 3.5. Still need to read #3.5, 4-6.
      • The Magicians Read books #2-3. Done.
      • Millennium Read book 4. Done.
      • Robot Read books #0.2-0.6,1-4. Done.
      • 25 total. Three Quarters is 18.75. Read 19. So for this one, I am slightly ahead.
  • Lifting.
    • Bench 240 pounds (1RM equivalent). The actual 1RM that I did during this period was 225. That gives me 15 to go.
    • Squat 300 pounds (1RM eq). The actual 1RM that I did during this period was 285 . That gives me 15 to go.
    • Deadlift 335 pounds (1RM eq). The actual 1RM that I did during this period was 365. That exceeds the goal, so it is done.
    • After getting to these, I will shift to reaching the “essential benchmarks” of bench 1.5x body weight (360 lb), squat 2x bodyweight (480), deadlift 2.5x bodyweight (600).
  • Drop to 20% body fat. No progress.
  • Do the White and Orange trails in under an hour. Did nothing towards this during our brutal summer. I plan to get back at it this month since it will be cooler.
  • Attend 12 social events when invited. I am going to count having a party as 3. And going to a movie with friends as 1/2. I hosted a party in April which is 3. I attended a  couple movies with friends in a group. And then a cocktail party, birthday party for a 20 year old cat, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day. That puts me at 9 which is perfect progress.

(First Quarter, First Half)

“Random” Failure

Got an update to a ticket asking if it could be closed. I clicked the link in the ticket to get to the web site to close it. The web site told me before I could do anything I needed to provide my email address. “Um, the same one you used to email me to get here?”

I closed the browser window and tried again. Same thing. So I provided it. Next it informed me it already has that one. If this is in error, then I should email the administrator. The administrator tells me this sometimes occurs. They have no idea why.

While waiting on the administrator to respond, I happened to click on the link from another ticket. That one worked. I think all the prior updates to the failing ticket worked until the issue, but they all fail now, which is kind of good.

But it made me curious, so I started looking closer. I like root causes. What is the one thing that caused a failure. Even as I accept that many times the root cause is a scapegoat. Many things contribute to a failure, so often times it is a cascade of events leading to the thing we label the “root.”

First, I compared URLs of the failing link versus the link in the next update for a different ticket which works. I copy both to my text editor. There is a pattern. The URLs sent by the ticketing system have one variable provided. There is a pattern to them that I should be able to determine. The obvious part is the ticket number is first. The non-obvious part is code after. The ticketing system has areas for tickets of different types. It looks like the URLs that are failing have a type code inconsistent with the type of others. When I change it to the right area type, I get in.

But, it is easy to make a typo and end up in the wrong work space.

The question is why would it do this? I looked at the frequency. Only 28 times was the wrong code sent out of 4,480 messages.They only affected five tickets. All five are ones I opened. They happen on all messages for those tickets. They all have the same failure.

Also, it might be a bad assumption that the ticketing system is what is sending the corrupted URL. It could be an anti-viral server scanning email, something on the email system “fixing” a problem, or the security software work runs on my system. Hard to pin down what system in helping caused the corruption. Maybe not worth the effort.

Also, this kind of thing could be like chasing the White Rabbit down the hole. It probably just leads to more questions and surprises than actual answers.

Daily Show Chrome Ad

Very strange to be getting an ad that works against the displayed content. The Daily Show web site gave me an advertisement to use Chrome. Yet, Google is actively dissuading its users against using Flash. And the daily Daily Show uses Flash in its video player. I was only using another browser because the Daily Show has not reached 2014 and switched to HTML5 videos yet.

Chrome is my browser of choice. However, I stopped not use Flash in Chrome even somewhat before Google’s recent blocking the video technology. It was a strategy to improve performance of the browser. And Flash constantly has serious vulnerabilities which Adobe was slow to fix.

Even Adobe killed Flash nine months ago. When the company making something says, “Damn, we give up,” it is time to move on to better technology.