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We ♥ MediaTemple, codes & coupons for July 2014

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We’ve used a bunch of hosts (and continue to be involved with many, many hosts on a daily basis) but the only host we trust to give us decent feedback and a prompt response to support requests, along with excellent uptime, communication, and prices, is MediaTemple.

We currently use (for Xyclops) one Grid Server package and one Dedicated Virtual server. Including our clients, we work with roughly 15 MediaTemple services multiple times a week, and with this experience we’re more than happy to recommend them to anyone.

Right now you can make use of the following MediaTemple codes and coupons:

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Disclaimer: if you click through to MediaTemple with one of the above links and purchase a new service, we will be paid a percentage of that sale. You do not need to do this, and if you’d rather not, you can just click here: http://mediatemple.net, and use the coupons/codes above without us making any money at all.

Badger Sotar 20/20 back in stock on Amazon.com

I’ll be keeping this updated as and when the Sotar 20/20 is back in stock on Amazon.

Not correct? Use our Contact Form to tell us

Note: if you click through via here we get a percentage of the sale as a reward. That’s why I’m keeping this up, but don’t feel that you have to do this, you can always go straight to Amazon and find it yourself, and I’d rather you do that if that’s what you prefer.

Get Free Adobe CS2? It’s More Complicated Than It Seems…


Image credit: Wikipedia

Adobe have decided to make their Creative Suite 2 software available for free, rather than maintain the licensing servers. At the time of writing, their download page is getting hammered, so we’re mirroring the links here for you. At first we’ll just have the links to the main CS2 downloads, then we’ll update to the full list of files.

Update 1: Apparently Adobe only meant these to be offered to existing license holders, so bear that in mind while you’re downloading – if you never had an existing license, you shouldn’t be grabbing these. Okay?

Update 2: It seems that Adobe are trying to retroactively change their position on these downloads. According to forums user CaptainSmingey, an Adobe rep originally said the files were available to anyone with an adobe ID:

“Yea CaptainSmingey we are aware that the software is available for all users with an Adobe ID. Please keep in mind that due to the age of these software titles it is likely that they will not function properly on modern operating systems.”

The post in question has since been edited to include the line:

“You will want to have a valid license for a software title affected by the activation server outage.”

Update 3: Here’s the latest official comment from Adobe Staff Member Jeff A Wright:

“Effective December 13, Adobe disabled the activation server for CS2 products and Acrobat 7 because of a technical glitch. These products were released over 7 years ago and do not run on many modern operating systems. But to ensure that any customers activating those old versions can continue to use their software, we issued a serial number directly to those customers. While this might be interpreted as Adobe giving away software for free, we did it to help our customers.”

So… does this mean ‘we’ve effectively given the product away for free’ or not? It seems like they don’t want to say they gave it away for free, but they also don’t want to admit to any error on their part, so they are blaming this on some kind of misinterpretation that came about as a result of them helping their customers. A direct statement on the matter would surely be more helpful than this vague answer, and I’m surprised this is the best the Adobe PR dept could come up with.

Update 4: It seems that the licence that the CS2 files shipped with (and continue to ship with as of now) don’t give Adobe the authority to stop anyone from using them as long as they obtained them from Adobe. Using the links below should provide users with a legal copy of CS2 until Adobe change the language in the licence. Forums user Ozpeter has a good explanation of why this is.

The previously linked statement by Jeff A Wright has been removed and replaced with a word-for-word repost by ‘Community Admin,’ here, and then moved again to here. This is apparently the official statement – as I said before this is pretty non-committal, most likely because of the licensing issues mentioned above.

Update 5: Once the official statement – such as it was – was made, the original download page came back up: http://www.adobe.com/downloads/cs2_downloads/index.html. Adobe is also offering the following localized versions (some are incomplete – that’s pretty unfair IMO):

Individual Products

Installation Issues/Errors

These were all taken from various places on the Internet as issues and fixes to the CS2 installation process

Windows 7 and 8: if and you’re having trouble installing CS2 you can use VirtualBox from Oracle. Ninite also offer it as part of their awesome installer packager. You will need a valid XP image/installation disk, but you can then run a virtual XP on your Win7 and higher machine.

Windows 8 Pro may also include Hyper-V, which is a similar virtualization tool. Again, you will need a valid XP image/install disk.

If you have a “Disk 2 error” installing the Suite, you should rename the extraction folder for disk 2 to make sure it matches the disk 1 and disk 3 folders. By default, disk 2 extracts to a different folder.

To fix the “Error: the path you select for installation contains unsupported characters. Please choose a different folder for installation.” error, you can either edit the installation path, or follow Adobe’s fix here

A further fix for an installation path error is to use the old DOS-style shortpaths to folders, e.g. C:\Progra~2\Adobe. This will install your CS2 files to C:\Program Files (x86)\Adobe. You can get current short path names by running dir /x in cmd.exe

Calculate Resistance with our Resistor Calculator

Hey folks – I decided to learn some electronics at long last, and so with the help of Getting Started in Electronics by Forrest M. Mims III, I’m building some guitar FX projects. Takes me back to my dinky little electronics project kit with the spring connections and that medical-looking flesh-colored crystal earphone/microphone, except now I have a rudimentary understanding of how electricity works…

To help me out when sorting my resistors, I built this little tool to save me consulting the table in GSiE:

Feel free to share it/use it for your own projects!

Netflix Cookie Error Reveals Private Information

Netflix have leaked sensitive customer data and exposed users accounts to cancellation by malicious individuals

BREAKING NEWS: An update by Netflix over the weekend to their site has revealed sensitive, private information for thousands of user accounts, and allowed strangers complete control over the accounts, including the ability to initiate account cancellation

Netflix Exposes Customer Data

At around 2am on September 3rd, 2012, we noticed that our account was displaying a strange error: netflix streaming error n8107-154-5007 – not an error that is described on the Netflix Support Site, but one that was easy to understand. It said that we were out of minutes for the rest of the month. There was just one problem – we have unlimited streaming. I figured that something had probably got set incorrectly in a cookie somewhere – other computers were able to log in and play movies normally. That’s when the second, much more troubling problem became clear, that being the name on the account was not the name on our account – we were logged in as someone else.

A New Netflix, a New You

Clicking around the site to see how bad the problem was, I was shocked to see I was able to access all the ‘My Account’ pages. I had access to viewing history, for example. Who knew that a pastor could be so into kung fu movies? And what would he think now that I’d used up the last of his monthly viewing with my belated catch-up of Breaking Bad?

Digging deeper, the problem became much more troubling. I had access to the last 4 digits of this fellow’s credit card. I had his full address. I had his name, and his hotmail email account. I doubt it would be too hard to gain access to his email account with just that information. If I had an inclination to do so, and I found it too difficult, I could always send him an email or write. If I felt it was too urgent, there was always the option of a whitepages search for his phone number. Presumably, this also meant that the details on our account were up for grabs. Wonderful.

Appalled? Don’t Worry, I’ll Cancel the Account For You

As well as the access to personal information, I also had access to the account cancellation screen. I didn’t get any indication that there would be a code sent to the email address linked to the account – it looks as though it’s as easy as cancelling the account there and then. If it is, you can bet that some poor sods are going to have their accounts shut down by someone with a little less kindness than me (yes those people exist, thankyouverymuch). The change subscription page reverted to my account, strangely enough, but if that’s the case then people who might think it funny to just change an account are going to be more motivated to shut it down. Yay.

“We Thought They Were Confused”

I called Netflix (using the service code from the account I do not own) to let them know what was going on, and to find out how much they knew so far. As anyone who has worked with cookies knows, it can seem like it is a pain in the behind to run any kind of forced cookie refresh method (though technically it is possible, and actually pretty simple, so I have to wonder why they are not doing this), so instead Netflix are directing people who are “having trouble logging in” to visit http://netflix.com/clearcookies which will apparently solve this problem. You know, aside from the fact that they just gave out your info to strangers.

“We made some changes to the website over the weekend,” said the call center phone jockey, “and while we had some problems yesterday the weird stuff didn’t start happening until a short while ago, when people started complaining they were logged into the wrong account. At first, we though they were confused, but as time has gone on we’ve realized this is a real and serious problem.” All the more serious because, as of the time I called, they still had “no idea why this is happening.”

Netflix Troubles Continue

Netflix has been under pressure to adapt and improve during the last few years, with strange business plans from its CEO including spinning off the streaming service under a daft new name (and separate charge), and this latest gaffe is not likely to help improve its image. The total extent of the damage is yet to be seen, but nobody is happy when their personal info is given out to strangers over the Internet. Even harder to deal with in this case is that until Netflix fix this, your info is vulnerable. You can’t change your password to do anything. It may even be that if someone is able to store the information in a cookie for another account, they will be able to access your account at any time in the future – Netflix is giving users’ info out based on only the information stored on external computers, meaning there is nothing you can do for now.. Those of us who are particularly proactive might want to try and change the shipping address for the time being, at least – if anyone has any other suggestions be sure to contact us and we’ll share.

For the meantime, there are going to be a lot of angry people out there, not least one pastor in North Carolina who can’t watch anymore martial arts movies for the time being. I hope that he can forgive me – I doubt the same will be true for Netflix.

Brains, Tech, and Memory Revisited

Digging Up (Brain)Worms

I was thinking again about the only livejournal post I ever wrote, and strangely enough it is still there, though there are now a lot more irvingw’s on the Internet than there used to be. In fact, finding the article needed me to use the kind of skills I talked about, way back in twenty-ought-seven.

Here it is, in full:

Brains, Tech and Memory

This has been on my mind for a while…

The effect of technology on people is reasonably well documented. People complain about seeming to have less time than they used to, about being harassed by communication devices (presumably the perceived benefit of the device prevents them simply turning it off), and about issues such a privacy, identity theft, and pictures of vast gaping anuses on the Internets.

Lauded qualities of tech include the ability to more easily find, process, and manage information, whether that be your contacts, your porn stash, or your references.

External Information Storage

I’m of the opinion that these benefits have been leading towards a shift in the way the human brain operates (within that section of the population that is heavily exposed to, and makes use of, the above kinds of technology). Douglas Coupland, in 1995′s Microserfs, had one of his characters stating that pretty soon, the amount of information stored outside of humanity’s collective consciousness would be larger than that held within our combined brains. This point has to have been reached by now, and it must be having some effect on the way we interact with information.

I think people are becoming less ‘memory machines’ and more ‘information processing machines’. I usually ask people I talk to about this, who remember when mobile phones were not commonplace, or even available, to think about the way they used to deal with phone numbers compared to now. Most (not all) are of the opinion that they used to be able to recall many more numbers than they now can, even those ‘important’ numbers (say loved ones, friends, work, family). They have externalised the process of information storage and retrieval. More so, we have done this as a species. You no longer ask someone else, but something.

Yeah, and, so, what?

So what?, some might say. Granted, this is somewhat interesting in that we are thinking in different ways, perhaps it is a sign that we are not using those parts of our brain that we used to, so some neurological change may be underway. It’s just a form of evolution that allows us to best make use of the world around us.

This may be true, but, paranoid that I am, I can’t help but feel that there are some real negatives that could result from such a shift in brain usage.

If humans become less involved in the information storage and retrieval business, and instead use their brains to process the information that they get from elsewhere, they may be a risk that people give too much credibility to externally sourced information. This has already been seen with Wikipedia, for example, ranging from wholly fictitious articles to false academics being quoted in the press. It sounds daft, but, suppose someone changed a single digit on one of the lesser-used numbers stored in your mobile phone. Would you notice, if the new number had someone on the other end of the line who sounded enough like the person you were expecting?

Now I descend into the tinfoil-hatted realm of the Internet Conspiracy Theorist, but hopefully with some logic to back me up. If people end up only processing data without questioning its authenticity and credibility, to me the dystopian world of Nineteen Eighty-Four does not seem that much of a fantasy.

As always, I suppose my only possible counter against this is to watch who controls the information, but, as equally always, whoever does control it, really does control us all.

Where I’m @

I think that I have become much more of a concept-familiar programmer than a language-familiar programmer. These days I am focused on the things I need my language to do, rather than its capabilities. A downside of this is that if the Internet were to collapse, I’m not going to be able to write code particularly efficiently.

Part of this I blame on the amount I have used PHP in the last few years – when you have to call a function like getcwd() and you’re unsure if it is get_cwd() or getcwd() or getCwd() – because the core functions of PHP don’t have any consistent naming convention, you’re going to take the few minutes to check you’re doing it right. Luckily it’s really easy to look up PHP function syntax. A PHP IDE with built in code completion would solve this, but I’ve yet to find one that makes me happy, and that breaks my excuse anyway so I’ll just ignore that for now.

The benefits, for me, mean that I can play it loose and flexible when it comes to managing my data and process models. I’m not really constrained by what I know about what a language can do, the way I was at the start of my career. Many times I did something without really thinking, because that was the way I had been taught. Using my information-finding skills rather than my information-recalling skills has meant that I’ve been able to stay current with development practices, and I’ve found that there are lots of ways to achieve the same implementation of a function, class, or design pattern.

The separation of design and code is helping me develop faster and with a greater assuredness that I’m producing something I know my client needs. I’m also constantly discovering, learning, and where relevant, contributing. I believe the programming community in particular is very good at posting solutions to problems, because we all know the annoyance when our search skills let us down, and I am sure most of us know the utter outrage when we find someone having the same problem as ours, in a thread with multiple posts, only to be thwarted at the last moment because we’re reading “never mind, I worked it out for myself. Thanks anyway!”

The good old tinfoil hat still fits somewhat

As far as the idea that controlling information == controlling the populace, I’m now living in the US instead of the UK, and it seems there’s even more to worry about here. Zuckerberg is pushing zero-privacy, while WikiLeaks is currently releasing information that purports to show that ex-CIA are setting up covert surveillance via the nation’s network of security cameras, and possibly even selling it for a price. China keeps its citizens behind a firewall, while encouraging development of social application clones – they have their own facebook, their own twitter. The rulers of countries facing a public revolt attempt to quash organization by ‘turning the Internet off.’ The idea that knowledge is power has not been ignored by those who have power, and it would do those of us with precious little to pay attention, too.

Not a conclusion, just another 5-year pause

I’m happy in this updated world, compared to the one I lived in when I wrote the original piece. I’d put some of that down to being older, married, and generally happier with my life. I’d also say that I’m comfortable with the way I’ve adapted to become better at finding information – it seems to be the way to go. Finally, I am concerned with the way things are going on the privacy front, but I’m not in a position to do much about that from where I am now. I’ll check back in another 5 years or so and see where I’m at, provided neither I or this post have been spirited away by agents of fear and malicious destiny.

Get 25% off Mediatemple DV Hosting

Mediatemple (mt) are pretty reliable in my experience – you need to spend a little time locking down their gridserver hosting package, but that is part of the routine you should be following when you’re hardening wordpress, and now is a great time to grab a Dedicated Virtual Server package.

Packages start at $50, but you can get 25% off and be entered into a drawing to win a Macbook Pro with Retina display.

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Full disclosure: If you purchase a service after following our link, we will receive an affiliate payment. This doesn’t affect our opinion of MT – we’ve been hosted by them for around 3 years now and we’re picking up a DV ourselves in the next month or so. If you want to know who we’re moving from, then drop me a line and I’ll spill the beans privately – let’s just say that the last weekend was the bale of hay that broke a couple hundred camels’ backs…

Who is the Jell-O Art Queen? Yes, She Is

The Jello Art Queen Will See you NowFrom the Jell-O Art Queen herself, a superbly regal roundup of the Jell-O Art Show.

Xyclops Welcomes Our New Undulating Overlords as Jell-O Art Queen is Crowned

McWho, as I have always known her, has been a fantastic Jell-O artist and silk screen t-shirt printer (sometimes combining the two) for many years. Appropriately, she was crowned Jell-O Art Queen in TYOOL 2012, and we at Xyclops are most enraptured with our newest Royal.

We’re willing to bet her acceptance speech was a damn sight better than the first public offering of another recent member of the crown and scepter club.

New Royalty Improvement on the Last Lot, Offers Transparency and Versatility

Follow more news about Jell-O art from the Queen’s own blog at http://gelatinaceae.blogspot.com/

Long Live The Queen, say I!

New 404 Page

I decided it was time for a new 404 page. This time I figured that instead of something dry, boring and unfunny I’d try and cheer up whoever doesn’t find what they are looking for.  Maybe they mistyped and are feeling dumb? I want to be the dude who makes that guy or girl smile again.

My two black cats are terribly dumb, so our new 404 page features a picture of Winston, a cat who tends to sleep with his arms out in front, as though he is dreaming of being Superman. This pose can often make for a good picture (though it was shot with my terrible phone camera, not that you’d know anyway because I can’t take a photo to save my life, but as you can see, I digress), and the shot on our 404 page makes me warm and fuzzy whenever I see it.

 

I can’t think of a nicer way to follow a dead link.