The Dangers of “Stranger-Danger”

Interesting to see the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children denounce outright the whole “stranger-danger” thing….

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Ubuntu and VNC

I seem to occasionally find myself sparring with Ubuntu on getting VNC server configured correctly. I use the default (RealVNC) vncserver package included with Ubuntu. There are two main points of configuration I seem to rediscover each time:

Make sure vncserver is looking in the right place for configuration

For my setup, the “right” place means ~/.vnc/xstartup. I’ve seen vncserver look to /etc/X11/Xsession by default. To change this, make sure the following line is in /etc/vnc.conf:

$vncStartup = "~/.vnc/xstartup";

Now you need to make sure the configuration exists in your user home directory. Following is the contents of ~/.vnc/xstartup (note: there are several commented lines I leave there for posterity:

# Uncomment the following two lines for normal desktop:
#exec /etc/X11/xinit/xinitrc
#gnome-session --session=gnome-classic &
[ -x /etc/vnc/xstartup ] && exec /etc/vnc/xstartup
[ -r $HOME/.Xresources ] && xrdb $HOME/.Xresources
xsetroot -solid grey
vncconfig -iconic &
#x-terminal-emulator -geometry 1280x1024+10+10 -ls -title "$VNCDESKTOP Desktop" &
#x-window-manager &
startxfce4 &

Then I just have a simple script in my home directory to start a vnc session, looks something like this:

vncserver :1 -geometry 1440x900 -depth 16 -name my_lil_desktop


EDIT (2015-01-23) : Today I installed version 14.10 of Ubuntu. By default, it uses the ‘vino’ application for remote desktop tasks. It did not work out of the box for me, and this seemed to be the case for many, based on what I read online. At any rate, I fell back to the configuration described in this post but had to install vnc4server first, as it was not installed along with 14.10. I initially tried tightvncserver but it did not work with this configuration; vnc4server, however, did.

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Asus RT-AC68R Periodically Drops Wireless (2.4GHz) Connection

This does not strike me as specific only to this router, but has to do with a configuration setting around 20MHz vs. 40MHz channel bandwidth.

I picked up an Asus RT-AC68R a while back and it’s been fantastic. One bit of behavior I wasn’t crazy about was the periodic – and somewhat frequent – dropping of the wireless connection. This happened with multiple devices (all of which happened to be Apple). I read around a bit online and there were a few suggestions, ranging from configuration to third-party firmware, but the one I homed in on had to do with channel bandwidth. I live in an urban environment and there are many APs within range of me. Evidently, by default, the Asus comes configured with 2.4GHz to use a channel bandwidth of 40MHz (or 20/40) as opposed to a strict 20MHz bandwidth, and this has been identified as a potential issue in crowded AP environments. I limited the channel bandwidth to the more concise 20MHz and my dropped connections have disappeared in the weeks since.

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BBC Questions the Harm of Fat In One’s Diet

Not as amusing as an emotionally-fueled blog post with misguided assertions and misrepresentations, but interesting, nonetheless; I like dietary advice like I like my wine: dry.

It comes back to variety and moderation. Statements indicating unequivocally that food or ingredient X is “bad for you,” advocating for complete elimination with no mention of dosage or consumption rate, are invariably arbitrary and lack thoughtfulness; as so many things in life, it’s just not that simple.

I enjoy the fact that through the fads and in the face of growing mountains of research, the tried-and-true Mediterranean diet (full disclosure of personal bias, here!) continues to withstand scrutiny.

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Web Browser Cookies Between Sessions (IE, Firefox, Chrome)

Was looking into this for a client, and I’ve come to the following conclusion based on various reading across the ‘tubes:

How cookies are handled between browser instances varies between web browsers. Why do we care? Well various web applications are going to get wonky if you try opening multiple instances of them when those instances share cookies. And by “wonky” I mean it’s just not going to work. So isolating browser instances allows us to have multiple sessions of that web application open simultaneously.

Internet Explorer

IE7 does *not* share cookies if you start another instance of it (e.g. double-clicking on the icon when an instance is already open) but will share them across tabs or if you use “New Window” to open new window.

IE8 *does* share cookies between instances by default, but it can be made to not do this by either:

– Going to File–>New Session

– Starting IE8 with “iexplore -nomerge” (custom shortcut)

Mozilla Firefox

It would appear Firefox shares cookies between tabs and windows if those windows are created under the same Firefox profile. If you’re like me (and using Firefox), you probably only have one Firefox profile setup for yourself. You can force Firefox to use a different profile by creating a custom shortcut that looks like this:

firefox.exe -no-remote -p “myProfile2”

where myProfile2 is the name of the profile you want Firefox to use. If the profile does not exist, Mozilla will bring up the profile management tool which will let you create it. From then on you can then open two instances of Firefox, running under two different profiles, which will *not* share cookies and, thus, will allow you to run two simultaneous sessions of your favorite web application (I know what mine is).


Allegedly, Chrome shares cookies between instances unless you use its Incognito feature by clicking on the wrench and going to “New Incognito Window” (Ctl-Shift-N).

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Just Haven’t Had the Time

I often hear the expression (I can only imagine you do, too): “I just haven’t had the time.” I contemplate how we might better serve one another – and ourselves – by replacing in our vernacular the words “had the time” with “made the time.”

In all but the most unusual of circumstances, we ultimately determine by the decisions we make where and how our time is spent. Regardless of whether the repercussions of such a decision are foreseen, regardless of whether its impacts affect the next hour, day, year, or decade of our lives, regardless of whether the decision was even a conscious one, only in rare cases may one justifiably relieve oneself from responsibility for one’s own time.

Time, a human construct meant to somehow provide context or perspective – maybe even meaning – to our existence; it would appear it also serves as a convenient culprit, accepting without protest our deflected accountability.

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Guide to Bathroom (Occupancy) Etiquette

It happens all the time, all around us, in public bathrooms around the world: people are unwittingly placed in uncomfortable situations which, in all likelihood, were entirely avoidable. Broadly speaking, my goal with this post is to provide you the tools with which to avoid awkwardness between you and anyone else utilizing the same facility.* The bathroom occupancy quandary is not the exclusive domain of men nor women, so I will address the topic for each gender individually.


1. IF there is a single toilet and no urinal, you are in a bathroom intended for single occupancy. Turn around and you’ll most likely find a lock on the door. Use it, and enjoy what’s bound to be a relaxing event.

2. IF there are multiple urinals in the bathroom, you are in a bathroom intended for multiple occupants and bound again for a straightforward, carefree – albeit more social – experience. Claim any unoccupied urinal as your own. In the case where both/all urinals are occupied, forming a line within the bathroom, space allowing, or just outside of it is generally acceptable (as opposed to scenario #1, where lines inside the bathroom are typically discouraged).

3. IF neither section 1 nor section 2 apply, and there is one toilet and one urinal, the odds of an awkward encounter can increase dramatically, but the opportunity for you to demonstrate your savvy increases, as well. The following mental steps should be performed quickly, and appear effortless – in fact, they should be imperceptible – to any casual observer(s):

Take stock of the door. Is there a lock? Is it the type of door you would expect to see in a residential bathroom, which might suggest single occupancy? Or is it a common-style door with no knob/latch, which might be indicative of intended multiple occupancy?

Survey the size of the room, as well as the proximity and placement of the single urinal and toilet in relation to one another. This is key. Would the average male be comfortable operating in tandem with a stranger given the space provided? Go with your gut instinct on this; chances are, it will serve you well. If the answer is “yes, he would be comfortable,” proceed to section 3(a). If the answer is “no,” proceed to section 3(b).

3(a). If you are alone (i.e. the first in), proceed to section 3(a)(1). If one or more people beat you to the punch, check out section 3(a)(2).

3(a)(1). If there is a lock on the door, you are within your right to use it, but do not use it simply because it is there. In the eyes of your fellow patrons, the questionable practice of disallowing the concurrent use of a perfectly good station can easily overshadow the subtleties of etiquette. Be smart about it; take everything into account. The style of the door noted in section 3 can also weigh into this decision, but don’t be afraid to stand by that instinct which got you to 3(a) in the first place. Whatever you decide, act with confidence.

3(a)(2). Under no circumstances do you lock the door. If there is a station open it, go for it. If both toilet and urinal are occupied, make a quick determination whether there is sufficient room to wait in line within the bathroom (in my experience, scenario #3 does not normally lend itself to internal lines); otherwise, wait outside until one person exits.

3(b). If you are alone (i.e. the first in), proceed to Step 3(b)(1). If one or more people beat you to the punch, check out Step 3(b)(2).

3(b)(1). A lock on the door is a green light for you to stake your claim to exclusive use of the facility during your tenure. It would be wise of you to use it. If there is no lock, you will likely be at the mercy of anyone who follows during your time inside; suck it up. It isn’t a bad idea to consider the style of the door at this point; though such knowledge can’t really be put to use by you directly, it might help you get inside the head of the next guy who walks in.

3(b)(2). Someone dropped the ball, and it wasn’t you. If no eye contact is made, casually make your way out of the bathroom to wait. If eye contact is made, diffuse the situation by combining a head-tilt motion toward the door behind you with the pointing of your thumb back over your shoulder, indicating to the occupant you’ll just wait outside.


Enter the bathroom and take note of current occupancy of any stalls. If one is available, use it. If not, turn around and take a seat on the couch until one becomes available.

On a personal note, I had a recent experience with scenario 3(b)(1), which was actually scenario 3(b)(2) for the other guy concerned; one in which *I* dropped the ball. The bathroom offered fairly tight quarters, but I think I was thrown off by the common-style, non-latching door. At any rate, I neglected to thoroughly inspect the door, and it is exactly this kind of cavalier attitude which causes problems.

I had assumed my position at the single urinal when shortly afterward the door opened and a guy about my age made his way to the adjacent toilet. Not only was this toilet in close proximity and sharing a wall with the urinal, but a large mirror between them and on the same wall made the situation doubly awkward. I have to believe this guy was not in peak form, either, because he was fully committed, standing almost directly in front of the toilet, by the time he realized the error of his ways. His next actions, while obviously desperate and wholly unpredictiable, were arguably effective.

He took a step back from the toilet and proceeded to do some callisthenics in order to buy himself some time. I respected that; it struck me as conciliatory but without retreat. As I finished and turned toward the sink, I issued him what I imagined was a knowing glance with the hint of a smile. The look was returned in-kind. As I expediently dried my hands on the way out, I noticed on the door, at an unusual height, a small lock I had not seen during my initial inspection. I grumbled to myself; classic mishandling of a 3(b)(1).

* This post assumes normal operating conditions. It would be foolish of me to ignore the fact there are occasional, unfortunate states of distress where desperation trumps formal etiquette; consider such frightful scenarios hereby acknowledged by me as extenuating circumstances.

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Was out tonight, looking around, and realizing how uncool I am (specifically from a fashion standpoint, I suppose). While comments are enabled in all of my posts, I guess this was not exactly meant as an opportunity for everyone to pile on, but whatever. The top five reasons I came up with off the top of my head:

5. If my jeans are dragging on the floor behind my heels, I’ll likely cuff them. Oh, and I won’t usually buy “distressed” jeans; I’ll distress them myself, thanks.

4. Chances are, if you see me out, I will not be wearing a button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled thrice. I’m not saying I wouldn’t or don’t; it’s just not my ideal arrangement.

3. If #4 somehow sneaks by, I will have little desire to wear flowered print on said button-down shirt, be it embossed, monochrome, etc.

2. I won’t usually sport the stubble. If I do, it will accurately appear as if I am just being lazy that night (or the past three); those sparsely arranged follicles do nothing but lead me to further question my masculinity.

1. For whatever reason, when I towel-dry my hair after a shower, it automatically ends up in fairly well-formed faux-hawk. I flatten it out.

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The More You Know

An excerpt from an article in the May 2009 edition of Discover magazine:

“Pinar Letzkus, a vision researcher at Australian National University, rewarded bees with sugar whenever they extended their tongue at the sight of a yellow rectangle on a computer screen. He then fashioned tiny eye patches and put them on a new set of subjects. Bees with their left eye covered learned almost as quickly as did bees without a patch. But bees with their right eye covered did far worse.”

I would like to emphasize the broader implications of this finding: there is a man out there who makes bees watch television, and he can also make bee eye patches.

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The World is Not Ready

I received the most ominous text message today. And it was simply, “hi Jeff.”

I was not as much spooked by the content as much as I was the sender: my mother. My mom, who I have just forever assumed to exist in a universe parallel to the one containing such digital trinkets as text messaging; and yet, here was this text message, staring at me, its origin apparent. It was as if some mad, forgotten experiment, after years of compiling, suddenly blinked into sentience with the words, “hi Jeff.” I just kind of looked for a minute, in awe, at the screen of my cell phone.

And so, while coming to grips with the full realization of the unholy alliance struck between these two universes, my fingers slowly tapped out a reply…”the world is not ready.”

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