Windows 10 April 2018 Update, Day 2

Microsoft just released the Windows 10 April Update on May 1, so it is time to update the Win10 Virtual Machine I run under Parallels on my Mac. I backed up the VM disk image and proceeded with the install. Today is Day 2 of the update running continuously and I am still only at 10% complete. It looks like this is only the first reboot so I have no idea how much time it will take in total. You can see a little blue semicircle under one of the icons at top, that indicates virtual disk activity. This VM is only supposed to use 2 of my 4 cores, but it still bogs down my entire Mac. Actions that are supposed to take one click can take 30 seconds of watching the spinning beach ball. I haven’t even launched this VM for 6 months, and Windows still manages to make me miserable.

Microsoft claimed they created a new method to install the system update quickly, then the computer would reboot and you could continue working while it downloaded the other 80% of the update. But this update has locked up my machine longer than any other [update: it finished after 6 more hours, about 36 hours total]. Even looking at the update screen, with the wrong aspect ratio and squished fonts makes me miserable. This whole update is a day late and a dollar short.

1995: My First Web Page

I have been searching through my archives for the first web pages I ever wrote. Unfortunately, I did not make any personal backups. I guess I thought the web pages were going to last forever. Maybe I didn’t think it was valuable and worth archiving, it was only a few pages of text anyway.

Much to my surprise, I found some of my earliest work on the Internet Archive Wayback Machine. It appears my first local ISP kept my old page online until 2008, even though I switched to a different ISP in 1999.

This is actually my second web site. My first website was on a shared server at the University of Iowa. I did several Japanese web projects when I was a student, they could have been as early as 1993. But I have not been able to locate any copies of that work or fix a date. The Internet Archives has archives dating back only to 1996.

My Links to Japanese Topics site originated on that uiowa.edu server, I moved them to this commercial server when I graduated. In those early web days, there was no such thing as a search engine. People made lists of links and traded them on the web. Around 1995, primitive search engines like AltaVista appeared. Locating and cataloguing useful links was still terribly time consuming, web searches were not very useful.

I started cataloguing Japanese Newspaper Web Links as soon as they appeared on the internet. This was my first website, sometime around the release of the Mosaic Browser’s support for Japanese language web pages, circa 1993. I am certain it was written before 1995, so I’ll just date it to ’95. If you want to see the page as it was originally displayed, you will have to manually change the text encoding to ISO 2022-JP. Most people don’t even know this browser option exists, modern software recognizes Japanese encoding automatically. But way back in the day, you had to switch encoding manually.

I thought this was the start of a New Golden Age of Japanese language learning. It was expensive and difficult to get native language reading materials. Imported books and magazines usually sold for 250% of their cover price. I spent thousands of dollars on textbooks, dictionaries, and magazines. But now we could get Japanese reading materials for free.

I was particularly proud that I received an email about my newspaper site from Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times. She said it was “invaluable to my work.” I would really like to dig up that email to cite it directly, I’d put that up on my front page as an endorsement. I’m sure I have the email archived somewhere, but for now, it is another antiquity lost to time.

New 64k RAM Board

After years of searching, I finally located a 64k RAM S-100 board for my antique SOL-20 computer. I got a tip from a SOL user that a set of CompuPro RAM17 boards were available on eBay. So I bought one. I can’t believe it, this appears to be untouched new-old-stock and I hope it’s in working condition.


This appears to be the last generation of S-100 RAM boards produced by Vector Electronics, circa 1982. It has some advanced features I had to disable. It’s set up for extended RAM, my old SOL was designed before that feature existed. So I had to pull a chip out, notice one missing between the blue switches.

Here’s what it is replacing: two Processor Technology 16KRA boards. These boards are original to my SOL-20, they have PT factory production stickers from early 1978. But now I can’t get them to work, they appear to be dead. Oh well.

I’m setting up to take a video of the first power-up with the new 64k board. If it explodes and goes up in flames, or if it actually works, I want a record of it.

Frist! *

This is my new iMac sitting on my desk, waiting to be unboxed. It is one of the first 2017 iMac models to reach consumers. This is the third iMac I bought this month. That is quite a saga.

About a month ago, my 2011 Mac mini’s SSD died. It was the second drive, so I had to pull it out so I could send it back for a warranty replacement, I could just run on the original (slow 5400 RPM) disk drive. But unfortunately, it was worse than I thought. My Mac mini was dead. And I had an online work shift the next day.

So I rushed online (via my iPhone) and bought a refurbished iMac 27″ with 5k Retina Display. I paid for FedEx overnight, and it arrived 10 minutes after my shift started. I plugged it in and got to work immediately. Nice.

But my triumph was short lived. I was extremely hesitant to buy an iMac, the current model was released in 2015 and updates were coming very soon, possibly at Apple’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference (WWDC) on June 5. Everyone put out warnings not to buy an iMac now. But I had no choice, I needed a new computer immediately.

After my work shift, I checked out the machine specs more thoroughly, and was horrified to discover it was an iMac from 2014! I had no idea that 3 year old previous-generation iMacs were available as refurbs direct from Apple. So I got on the phone to Apple and complained this wasn’t the computer I thought I was buying. Apple arranged to swap the computer for a current (2015) model. A few days later, I drove to Des Moines and swapped the computer, and paid about $200 more for a higher spec model. Apple said they have a 14 day exchange, so if a new model was announced at WWDC, it would be too late for the 14 day exchange window.

Of course Apple announced the new iMacs at WWDC. That was Day 17 of my exchange window. Apple generously arranged price protection, refunding me the $200 difference between the 2015 iMac price yesterday, vs the lower price today. And they extended the exchange window. I could replace the iMac a second time, but I’d have to do it in the store. It would take 2 days for the iMacs to reach stores and the first online customers. That day was today. I just returned from the Apple store with my nice new iMac. First I bought an obsolete refurb. Then I swapped it for a current 2015 model. Then that was instantly obsolete and I got the third iMac, and I hope my last for a while.

If you want to know the wrong time to buy a computer, buy one right after I do. I think the worst Mac purchase I ever made was a PowerMac 8100/110. I bought it with my student loan, and it took 6 months to arrive. Someone put an easter egg in the MacOS system software, a picture of Paula Abdul. Apple pulled all the machines out of the pipeline until new MacOS CDROMs were mastered, minus the picture. The 8100/110 was discontinued just 3 months after I received it. I suppose that iMac wasn’t such a bad deal in the end, I set it up as a web server using mkLinux, the prototype for MacOS X. It ran perfectly for quite a few years, and it prepared me for hardcore Unix on Macs. But I’m going to be paying off that computer on my student loan until I’m 90 years old.

*”Frist!” is an old internet meme, it originated on Slashdot.com. Comments were listed in chronological order, people often raced to make the first comment so they could write “First Post!” Then one day someone mistyped it “Frist!” and it stuck. People would post “Frist” to poke fun at the firstposters. This meme goes back to the late 1990s, which makes it the Internet equivalent of classical literature like Shakespeare.

Hey Syri

The two words that I speak most often are, “Hey Siri.” The iPhone voice command I speak is most often is “Hey Siri, where are you?” The iPhone lights up and answers, “right here!” I have a black iPhone 6s with a black case; when the lights are dim, sometimes I have trouble locating my iPhone even when it is sitting right on my desk. Sometimes I leave my phone in another room and forget where I left it. It must be quite a ridiculous sight, watching me move from room to room, shouting, “Hey Siri, where are you?”

When you first set up Siri, you train it to recognize your voice. In the early days of this feature, It was less selective and almost any voice could activate it, so you could walk up to someone’s iPhone and say, “Hey Siri, from now on call me Butthead,” and it would.

Phil Schiller made an interesting observation about Siri during an Apple product announcement. He said that when he talked to his team about the Hey Siri feature, they would often trigger their own phones. So they got into the habit of always saying “Hey…Siri” with a long pause, which avoided triggering the command. Sometimes if another person’s voice is similar to yours, it can trigger Siri anyway. Phil has a neutral voice, so I wondered how many iPhones he could trigger in the auditorium full of hundreds of iPhones.

Recently, something happened with Siri that I did not think was possible. I was listening to the NPR News podcast via their app. The announcer said “ToDAY SYRIa..” and suddenly Siri said, “Yes?”  Apparently Siri even listens to the iPhone itself. Now I want to buy advertising on audio podcasts, that in a neutral voice says “Hey Siri, from now on, call me Butthead.”

Snowstorm JavaScript Considered Harmful

Every winter, some websites run snowstorm.js as decoration. Yes, it is a festive and cheery thing. It used to be fun back when we all had tiny 1024×780 screens. But now I have a huge, high rez screen, and my computer will try to render all the snowflakes. Some people set the snowstorm to high intensity, it makes my computer overheat and the cooling fans run at high speed. Some people run the white snow over a white background with black text. The only way you can tell snowstorm.js is running is to watch random pixels of the text wink on and off, as the snowflakes drift past. It makes the text illegible.

Please stop using snowstorm.js.

Dream Crash

Last night at about 4AM, I was awakened by the noise of a loud conversation. I wondered who was talking so loud, maybe it was a noisy neighbor. I tossed and turned, and could not get back to sleep because a light was on. Then I wondered where that bright light was coming from.

It was coming from my office. My computer monitor was on, and a video was playing. It took me a few groggy moments to figure out what happened.

I always put my computer in sleep mode just before I go to bed. Somehow, the computer crashed while it was in sleep mode, and rebooted itself. My web browser restarted, and restored all the open windows. Then a video that I paused earlier that evening, started playing.

I think from now on, I’ll mute the sound too, when I go to bed.

Cold War

I have been forced to block my blog to all internet addresses in China and Russia. My blog receives thousands of spam comments every week from these countries, it is a waste of my time and my computer resources. Ironically, it is a waste of their time and resources, since all the spam gets blocked. Perhaps they want people to voluntarily close off their websites to their countries, to stop the free flow of ideas. Perhaps they are succeeding.