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Fausse alerte, Google n'a pas fumé de joint

admin Saturday November 4, 2017

J'ai pris connaissance de l'étude High intelligence: A risk factor for psychological and physiological overexcitabilities. Malgré les limites méthodologiques de cette étude préliminaire, je l'ai signalée à un ami extrêmement intelligent mais souffrant d'une grave allergie qui vit à l'autre bout du Canada, en lui écrivant un courriel par l'interface web de Gmail. En déclenchant l'envoi, j'ai été surpris de voir apparaître :

Gmail wrote:
Avez-vous oublié votre pièce jointe?

Vous avez écrit "joint" dans votre message, mais sans joindre de fichier. Voulez-vous tout de même envoyer votre message?


Curieux, j'ai relu mon message et rapidement compris que l'inquiétude de Google provenait de ma conclusion :

Philippe Cloutier wrote:
Prends ça du bon côté; bin vite on va pouvoir se fumer un gros joint ensemble légalement, question de retrouver un QI plus viable pour un p'tit bout :-)

Dealing with costochondritis

admin Monday September 25, 2017

During fall 2015, I developed chest pain. In a matter of 2 or 3 days, pain went from null to highly disabling. I was then told I had developed costochondritis, which I had never heard about. Possibly as a result of strenuous exercise, or playing tennis.

At peak intensity, lying in the most comfortable position was painful if I didn't pay attention to my breathing. I then applied ice, took a couple sick days, NSAID, and about as fast as it had came, the pain went away.

Mostly. Unfortunately, ever since, I frequently experienced lesser pain on and around the affected rib, in particular when exercising, but also sometimes when doing everyday movements, unpredictably. This was worrying enough that I diminished/changed my exercises to avoid worsening the situation. Unfortunately, 3 months ago an acute costochondritis struck again (probably just a relapse).

This setback is quite frustrating, but on the positive side, I took it more seriously and it allowed me to study and understand what caused pain. Put simply, pain occurs when the breast is inflated. Which means that breathing is painful, but not if you breathe only with the belly. In the acute phase, breathing abdominally rather than apically will allow you to breathe without pain.

This is very simple to do once, but very hard to keep doing, since most of us don't breathe consciously. To force myself to stop breathing apically (with the top), I even strapped my chest with a lace, which can work.

Another source of pain is torsions. One thing which is very clear during the acute phase in the pain caused by rising and laying down, if you're used to doing so without using your hands (i.e., if you use your abdominals). An important lesson if you experience pain rising and lying down is that torsions are a lot less painful when your chest is deflated. But naturally, we tend to inflate the chest before rising or lying down. When you suffer from costochondritis, you should either switch positions without torsion, or go against that tendency and deflate your chest before rising or lying down.

If you exercise your abs, you should also expect pain, since most involve flexing the abdomen, and we tend to do that with the chest inflated. Exercising the abs while breathing abdominally is difficult or impossible. An alternative is to do the "plank" (static exercise on your forearms).

Good recovery

SMTP error 452 4.1.0 "requested action aborted: try again later #AUP504"

admin Thursday September 21, 2017

If your SMTP server on Bell is failing to send mail from a web application with an obscure/misleading error like the following, just avoiding a foreign sender address (like @gmail.com) may solve.

Mail delivery failed: returning message to sender wrote:
This message was created automatically by mail delivery software.

A message that you sent could not be delivered to one or more of its
recipients. This is a permanent error. The following address(es) failed:

foo@example.com
host smtp.bellnet.ca [204.101.251.122]
SMTP error from remote mail server after MAIL FROM:<chealer@gmail.com> SIZE=2471:
452 4.1.0 requested action aborted:
try again later #AUP504: retry timeout exceeded

Autostarting Klipper on KDE Plasma 5

admin Sunday September 10, 2017
kde

If you've upgraded to Plasma 5, you'll want to:

  1. First get rid of the broken new default clipboard manager which is very similar to Klipper. Sorry, I forgot how I managed that, but it's possible.
  2. Start Klipper
  3. Finally, get Klipper to start automatically... which is also non-trivial. To achieve that, exit Klipper, and when asked whether Klipper should start automatically, obviously agree.
  4. If you're like me, enable Synchronize contents of the clipboard and the selection


And that, my friend, completes the path to go back to an experience as sane as KDE 4, at least in clipboard terms... if you manage to get Ctrl+Alt+V to bring up Klipper, and accept that selecting text using the keyboard will update the clipboard.

Tmart.com "terribly sorry" after choosing not to honor its commitments

admin Sunday August 27, 2017

When I found the replacement battery I needed for my laptop on Tmart.com, I verified before since I didn't know the store. The first review I found was positive, so I bought. Unfortunately, I did not realize the BBB's rate for Tmart.com is "F", and for good reasons.

As indicated here, Tmart doesn't ship you what you bought. In my case, over a month after my order, they refunded me. The reason they invoked is terrible (no, I did not request a shipment to the skies or to another planet):

Tmart.com wrote:
Due to recent airline safety regulations,world airmail service is now prohibited from transporting packages containing certain purely power products such as batteries or liquid. We are striving to find other available logistics companies to deliver such items,but we are currently unable to ship to your address.


The "compensation" they offer is even worst:

Tmart.com wrote:
We are terribly sorry for the inconvenience caused by this.You can continue to choose other items you like and we will try our best to fulfill the following order.As for compensation of the inconvenience caused, we provide the 5% discount coupon for your next purchase.

Coupon Code: Se7en
Valid Date:From 2017-08-07 00:00 EST to 2017-08-31 00:00 EST


That's right. A 5% discount from a worthless company valid for 3 weeks.

But the worst part? They are still "offering" me the very same product, supposedly shipped to the very same impossible-to-reach location.

Lenovo: Review your Ideapad Flex 4

admin Friday June 30, 2017

After I worked around the issue with Lenovo's Yoga Mode Control, my Flex 4 worked fine. But now that it was stable, it was time for me to proceed to the storage drive change I had planned.

The easy part should have been to physically switch the drives, right? Well, if you have ever opened a Lenovo Ideapad Flex 4, you will remember that is not the case with these laptops which are physically anything but flexible.

If you want to replace any part of your Flex 4-1570, sorry, but your weekly nightmare is coming. Unless you are reasonable and just give up.

Replacing anything will require you to remove the whole motherboard case. As Lenovo's Hardware Maintenance Manual shows, opening is possible. After removing 10+ screws, your are supposed to simply lift the case. As discussed in this forum thread, this apparently trivial step is in fact incredibly difficult and costly (both in time and risk of damaging the notebook).

Thanks to the instructions on the forum, I managed to open mine, but it took me an insane amount of time, and I still broke the case.

If you are extremely determined, secure:

  • A good starting mood, a worthy objective and much patience.
  • at least 1 hour
  • at least 1 sufficiently long nail
  • Several tools. I used screwdrivers with flat and very sharp heads (in addition to the electronic screwdrivers which will remove the screws).
  • A surface where your laptop won't move despite great force. It should not move back nor on any side.
  • Ideally, an anti-static device (of course)
  • The new parts you want to install. No, really, all the new parts. You will not want to do this twice.


I managed by starting with my nails, then using a small (electronic) flat-head screwdriver, and then a regular flat-head screwdriver. In general, your should start at the front and progress towards the back, except the most difficult part is the rear half of the Ethernet port's side. I broke my case when I got to the USB ports there. It was necessary to open the back before opening the rear half of the left side.

Good luck, seriously. And if you read this before buying, buy something else.

Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees Elections 2017

admin Saturday May 6, 2017

I voted in the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees Elections 2017. I had interacted with no candidate and was neutral for most candidates, but I supported:

  • María Sefidari, for her work on transparency.
  • Dariusz Jemielniak, for his huge knowledge of Wikimedia, his work on transparency, and his past stance against bureaucracy
  • James Heilman (general impression)
  • Peter Gallert, for his goal of improving transparency


As in the 2015 elections, there is no way to modify our vote (submitting a new vote would require to fill a new vote form from scratch).

As in the 2015 elections, I hit an important issue voting. But I managed to report it this time.

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Pour boire, manger... et toute autre ingestion

admin Sunday April 23, 2017

Ma mère est d'une générosité extraordinaire, c'est bien connu. À preuve, suffit de rappeler le cadeau à l'humanité qu'elle fit en lui donnant son fils.

Mais en regardant sa facture le lendemain d'un souper dans un nouveau restaurant de Sillery, elle est néanmoins restée étonnée de mesurer la générosité dont elle avait elle-même fait preuve la veille :

Générosité maternelle débridée («POURB» pour «pourboire»)
Générosité maternelle débridée («POURB» pour «pourboire»)

On ne peut certainement pas reprocher aux concepteurs du terminal de paiement électronique utilisé aux délices tandoori de freiner les élans les plus altruistes.

P.S. Le restaurant a bien sûr accepté une révision de la générosité de ma mère à son égard.

Liberal Party of Canada responds to petition e-616

admin Saturday April 22, 2017

After the liberals announced they would break their promise to get rid of FPTP, some 130 452 Canadians protested by signing petition e-616 (thanks to my readers for having grown that number). Perhaps the fact that no other online petition to the Canadian government had gathered that many signatures compelled the government to respond.

Unfortunately, it seems the government preferred a lengthy response to a concise and focused response. If "The Government of Canada is pleased to respond to this petition.", rather than listing over a page of measures supposed to "enhance public trust in the integrity of the electoral process", it would have helped to provide a more convincing apology than...

The Minister of Democratic Institutions wrote:
Furthermore, without a clear preference or a clear question, a referendum would not be in Canada’s interest.

…in particular since petition e-616 never asked for a referendum. E-616 merely requested to honor the party's promise:

Liberal Party of Canada wrote:
ensuring that 2015 will be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post voting system.


In fact, the Minister's response has little to qualify it as an apology. While it may contain many excuses, it does not contain the words "apology", "apologize", "sorry", or really any terminology characteristic of apologies.

And as if this treason and this non-apology weren't enough, they didn't even take the time to fill the response form properly ("Prepare in English and French marking ‘Original Text’ or ‘Translation’" at the very top? Oh please, better stay silent if you can't help!)

CVE-2017-5638, the Heartbleed Virus and Quality at CBC

admin Sunday March 26, 2017

Taxes are very important. So much so that I learned about 2 critical security vulnerabilities in important free software components, namely CVE-2014-0160 (Heartbleed) and more recently CVE-2017-5638, by watching CBC, because both affected the CRA's website during the income tax returns filing period.

I confess that learning about Heartbleed on The National was exciting in a sense - because I was learning of free software usage by the federal government on TV, because I was learning about free software in a national broadcast, because I had never heard about a free software bug on TV before, and because I was discovering the first named free software bug (it is after watching the report that I discovered Heartbleed had its Wikipedia article).

Unfortunately, I was less excited when a similar scenario repeated with CVE-2017-5638 and The National broadcast this report. In part because CVE-2017-5638 is much less interesting than Heartbleed, in part because I do not use Apache Struts, and in part because the report did not mention the vulnerability anyway. But mostly because the report refers to what is possibly the world's most known bug as "the Heartbleed virus".

My ears are almost done bleeding from hearing the report. It was broadcast nearly 2 weeks ago, and still features uncorrected. How can Canada's public broadcaster make such a flagrant error and fail to correct it for weeks? A 2014 article from CBC itself asks "What is Heartbleed?" and describes it as a bug or software vulnerability, obviously never as a virus.

Margo McDiarmid is a parliamentary reporter, and surely cannot be expected to know each field deeply. For the first part of the question, one could think that having to publish each news story first, CBC put the story out quickly, before having the time to have it reviewed by someone knowledgeable about information security. This hypothesis breaks down when we see that the report was broadcast on 2017-03-13, more than 2 days after a story with no major error was written by the CBC, and even after private media had published articles identifying the vulnerability more specifically (the Globe and Mail and MoneySense, the latter specifically mentioning Apache Struts). Less than 12 hours later, even the CBC had written a quality story with all the necessary details. That story was written by CBC's Matthew Braga, Senior Technology Reporter, who should have been able to catch such an error. The rush hypothesis seems even invalidated by the fact that the CBC could have requested the report to be reviewed by the very expert interviewed in the report.

As for the second part, the webpage which contains the report has a "Report Typo or Error" link. Should I feel guilty for not having reported the error instead of complaining? Not a chance; click on it, and you find a simple form, without any indication of previous reports. Does the CBC really expect me to send a benevolent report without even being sure that the problem has not been reported already?!

There is probably no simple answer. The conservative government's 2012 cuts may still mean CBC's information sector is unable to guarantee a minimal level of quality. I sincerely hope that budget restoration will make the CBC a source of information which can be trusted.

I do not frequently notice gross errors from our public broadcaster, but then I am ignorant about the vast majority of the world. Most of the serious errors I hear from the CBC and from the media in general are about computer science, my own field of "expertise". At these times, I ask myself how such a lack of rigor is possible, but also how bad the problem is. How specific to computer science are errors in media coverage? Is health coverage also unreliable? If our public broadcaster can't tell software viruses and vulnerabilities apart, can it distinguish biological viruses from genetic diseases? Looking at the efforts (or lack thereof) it makes to fix errors post-publication, I doubt it; the issue with quality is systemic. If this has to do with budget, here is one more confirmation that taxes are very important.

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