All posts by Russ Bellew

Walt Mossberg, WSJ Tech Critic

I just listened to an excellent interview with Walt Mossberg, who since 1991 wrote a weekly computer industry column for the Wall Street Journal. Walt’s now retired. Leo Laporte, an industry podcaster, coaxes some great stories from Mr. Mossberg. 

Walt’s perspective was always that of a user — not a tech freak. Most industry reporters are techies who don’t appreciate that most of us don’t care about the inner workings and secret mechanisms of computers.

Walt speaks a bit about his long relationships with both Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. (Walt sat in the passenger seat as Gates, frustrated by traffic, drove his Lexus for miles on the road’s shoulder.)

It’s a pleasant and informative hour-long conversation. 

[Triangulation (MP3)] Triangulation 310: Walt Mossberg

http://podplayer.net/#/?id=39772523 via @PodcastAddict

Google, the app killer

Meebo, Picasa, Wave, Google Plus . . . All of these useful apps were killed by Google. Google has a fickle reputation. More often than not, they quickly kill struggling projects, rather than refine them.

Compare this to Microsoft. Excel, Word, Access, Internet Explorer, Windows Server, Windows itself — all were weak also-ran competitors to much stronger market leaders. Yet in each case Microsoft worked hard for years at improving its initially weak product until finally it kicked the king off its perch.

Google doesn’t seem to have Microsoft’s tenacity. Why? Maybe success came too quickly to Google. Pagerank and AdWords were instant succeses.

Which model will succeed? Don’t assume that Google will always be the search leader. Microsoft continues to refine Bing, and there’s a long trail of onetime market leaders — Novell, WordPerfect, Lotus, Netscape — lying dead in Microsoft’s wake. 

Why some videos have disappeared from this blog

Some videos that I’ve linked to in this blog are no longer available, for one or more reasons:

  • Someone has claimed a copyright and objects to its being published here,
  • A video hosting or file sharing service has changed its policies or is no longer on line,
  • I’ve goofed in any of dozens of ways.

I hate seeing these dead links. In some cases without the video, the article is pointless, so I’m taking these articles off-line. In other cases, the article still makes sense, so I’ll leave the article on-line, dead video links and all.

Stop annoying pop ups on your phone’s web browser(s)

When using my Android phone, I’ve become reluctant to click on links to unknown webpages because many — maybe most — of them contain obnoxious pop ups. I’ve stopped this by disabling Javascript in my phone’s web browsers(s). Each browser is different, but in general go to the Settings for your web browser and turn off Javascript. This will work on both Android and IOS (Apple iPhone) phones. 

Most browsers will allow exceptions to this Javascript off rule. Your webmail hosting service, bank, etc. probably require Javascript. Add these sites to your browser’s list of sites on which Javascript may execute.

I know — it’s inconvenient to configure, but you’ll be glad that you did, when you’re no longer bothered by those awful pop-ups.

 

Dropbox Uploads (Needlessly?) Consume Available Space On Phones

I notice that the Android Dropbox app, when uploading a file to the Dropbox server, first copies the source file to a cached file in a hidden folder on your phone’s system storage. Then it uploads the cached file to the Dropbox server.

Why? I don’t know for certain. Maybe the app developers wanted to ensure that the source file isn’t altered or deleted during the upload process. First caching the file is a conservative tactic. 

So what?

The cached file consumes precious system storage space on your phone. On my phone with 8 GB system storage, this is significant.

Regain lost storage space

To regain that space, delete the Dropbox cache. You can do this from within either the Dropbox app or Android’s settings (Applications, Application Manager, scroll down to Dropbox and press the Clear Cache button).

Dropbox explains that Dropbox’s cache folder is hidden.

It would be nice if the Android Dropbox app allowed the user to choose whether the Dropbox app first cached the file before uploading it. Oh well, no app is perfect.

Speed Up Twitter On Android 

I’ve been using Twitter on my Android phone and noticed that over a period of days or weeks it slows to a crawl. A simple way to kick Twitter back into high gear is to exit Twitter and just delete all of its data, and then restart Twitter.

On my Android 5 phone, I go to Settings, Applications, Application Manager, and scroll down to Twitter, then press the Clear Data button. You’ll be asked to confirm. Click CLEAR – you do wish to clear all data.

Exit Settings and Restart Twitter. It should find your profile(s) and download your tweets. Now it should be faster.

Try this at your own risk. It works for me, but your mileage may vary.

Piscine DELIGNY, Paris

When I travel, I like to find local swimming facilities. The oddest — and most charming — pool was Piscine DELIGNY, a floating barge that contained a swimming pool(!), on the River Seine in Paris.

I’d guess that the pool was about 25 meters long by 15 meters wide. It was surrounded by two decks of private changing rooms. This superstructure hid the pool from the outside world and gave the pool and surrounding pool deck a cozy private atmosphere.

There was even a unique “ski nautique” concession: a speedy winch powered by a powerful electric motor would quickly pull a skier from one end of the pool to the other! It’s the oddest skiing contraption I’ve seen anywhere. The ski ride was fast but brief.

1965 video of Deligny pool on YouTube

THE SWIMMING POOL THAT SANK

In the mid 1970s, while in Paris for a few days, I first found this unique pool. France — even rural France — has some great swimming venues, but this was unique.

Video from 1973

From Vogue:

This is the deck in La Piscine Deligny, Paris, 1975, perhaps the most glamorous public pool in history. It contained wood from a boat that transported the body of Napoleon Bonaparte. It was frequented, over the course of its 200-year life, by kings, by Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Errol Flynn. “Do you remember that day?” I ask sort of naively. Looking at Schlesinger’s photos, you tend to imagine a story lurking below the surface of each image. “Every day was like that,” he says, laughing. But of course.

Alas, nearly 20 years later, La Piscine mysteriously sank to the bottom of the Seine, never to be heard from again, so Schlesinger’s shot of its loungers, like all of the pictures in A Photographic Memory, offers a blissfully carefree record of a lost bohemia.

 

Deligny pool, or bath Deligny, a floating pool was open air on the Seine, moored on the left bank (Quai Anatole France, in the 7th arrondissement of Paris) since 1796. She included a restaurant and private dining rooms.

The BRANDT brothers (Edgar and Jules), among other famous swimmers, swam here beginning in 1898.

Deligny the pool was the place of the swimming events of the 1900 Olympics.

It was a popular place where you had to be seen.

Wikileaks publishes DNC emails

Yesterday, Wikileaks published almost 20,000 emails that were purloined from the Democratic National Committee. You may search the emails on this page.

Overnight, evidence was discovered within these emails of

  • a conspiracy within the DNC to hinder presidential candidate Bernie Sanders;
  • a close relationship between DNC and the mainstream media.

Twitter is jumping with revelations from these emails. Apparently Hillary Clinton and the DNC are taking legal action to plug this leak. Of course, it’s too late.

Google reviews MUST include text

I tell my SEO (Search Engine Optimization) clients that “Five-star Google reviews are like gold”. One client listened and encouraged customers to write reviews . . . which his customers did. Unfortunately, while they scored my client as a five-star vendor, their reviews included no text. None.

These five-star reviews with no text are, as far as I can tell, worthless. Google places them at the end of review lists, and seems to give them no value. They seem to provide no SEO benefit.

Moral: To receive SEO benefit, ensure that your customers include some text when they create a review of your business. A review of three or four sentences is fine.

Copy many large files from phone to SD card

When I replaced my Android phone, I needed to copy files from an old micro SD card to a new micro SD card. I used a Windows 7 computer with the phone (with old SD card) attached to a USB port on the PC and the new SD card attached to another USB port on the same PC.

This large copy operation worked fine except with files larger than 400 megabytes. Windows Explorer’s drag and drop copy function would fail after copying several hundred megabytes. Without warning the new SD card would vanish from Windows’ device inventory and the copy operation would stop.

I wrote an article in 2009 about Windows’ copy problems. The robocopy command line utility seems to fix many of these problems.

I used Windows 7’s ROBOCOPY command line utility with the /XO and /W:5 switches.  This way, even if the robocopy operation fails, it won’t try to copy files that already have been copied. It worked, even when the new SD card would vanish from Windows’ device inventory.  The restarted command would simply resume copying from the point at which the last attempt failed.  Voila!

 

ES File Explorer devolves into junkware

I’ve become fond of — maybe addicted to — ES File Explorer on my Android phones. It allows me to quickly manage folders, files, drive space, etc. I wrote a gushing article about it in early 2014. However, the latest version (v 4.5) is a mess. Apparently the company changed ownership last year, and we now see the new owners’ values. It’s an old story in computer software: the original developer carefully perfects his baby ’til he sells it, then the new (often clueless) owner tries to cash in and ruins the product.

I’ve stored earlier versions of ES File Explorer apk files that you may download and install:

  • Version 3.2.5.5 is a rock solid release of ES File Explorer from early 2015. It’s my favorite version. Its older user interface requires fewer keystrokes than the newer user interface.
  • If you’d like, you can try the newer version 4.05. It has a new user interface, but hasn’t yet devolved to the awful state of version 4.5.

To install either of these apks, you’ll need to go to your device’s Settings / Security screen and temporarily allow installation of applications from unknown sources.

Who and what visits government websites?

Have a look at analytics.usa.gov. You’ll see statistics for the aggregate of most federal government websites: Number of Visits, Top Pages and Domains, Visitor Locations, Top Downloads, Devices, Browsers, and Operating Systems.

Thanks to Steve Gibson of grc.com.

The Quote Investigator

While verifying quotation authenticity, I found a useful — and delightful — website, quoteinvestigator.com, which tries to chase down the origins of quotations.

W._C._Fields_1935 300w
W.C, Fields in 1935

The most recent entry quotes an aging W.C. Fields, when discovered reading a Bible, explaining,

I’m looking for loopholes.

.