• Tell me you didn’t see that coming.

    So we’re a little more straight-laced in Canada, usually. Sometimes a little too straight-laced for my tastes, but eh. That’s my country and I wouldn’t change it. But loopholes exist, and we create new ones every day. One gigantic loophole no one’s apparently thought of is 3d printing.

    See, you’re supposed to be licensed up to your eyeballs to own, whether purchased or otherwise, a gun. That’s, like, the law. We can argue whether it should be all day long and I’m happy to, but it is. The problem is, well, like I said–loopholes. When you can print your own, suddenly the law doesn’t matter a whole lot anymore.

    A 34-year-old man has been arrested and is facing charges for allegedly 3D-printing guns at a house in Hanover, Man.

    The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) said the investigation began back in September when officers intercepted a suspicious package at a mail-processing centre in Mississauga, Ont.

    The package, which CBSA said was destined for southeastern Manitoba from the United States, had undeclared firearm components inside including metal parts and inserts commonly used to reinforce 3D-printed handguns.

    Now, honestly, who didn’t see that coming? If I had to guess, gonna go out on a limb here and say next time he uses UPS. Or, you know, shops a little smidge more local. Because I mean let’s be real here. We all, including the cops, know it’s going to happen again. It’s too easy.

  • In which WordPress lets me do with an interface what I used to do with code. 13 years later.

    I don’t even know what version of WordPress I was using when I relaunched this site back in 2008. 2.something, I’m fairly sure. Either way, I’ve been using it for a bit–and yeah, some of the code that used to make this site go is evidence of that. As so often is the case, this year means a new version, and with this new version, WordPress brings back a feature in user interface form that the previous iteration of this site let me do in Notepad. It’s a weird kind of full circle, with an accessibility twist.

    This site has existed off and on since 2006, December of. For a couple years it existed on LiveJournal (Remember those guys?), then was brought back here to the platform I’m using now. But in the very beginning, Movable Type powered this site. That… was a very different, and in a lot of ways way less flexible, experience. But here’s the thing now. The big feature this year is full site editing. And yeah, it’s a big feature. But it’s a feature I had before I made the switch–it took Notepad and MT’s templating language, but I mean similar to now, I did it once and pushed a button, and everything else was rebuilt more or less behind the scenes while I moved on to something more fun–like writing some new piece of content for my newly revamped and barely read website. So for me, as with so many things technology, I’ve essentially come full circle but with a prettier interface.

    I made the switch because I got curious, and because I built this website for two reasons–a place for me to brain dump on occasion, and a place for me to test out this or that new project in a way that won’t kill anyone–this place gets maybe 3 human visitors a week, so no one’s going to notice but me if I do a thing and it 500’s the server for 20 minutes (yes, that happened). I mean, if I do a thing and it freaking takes off, then awesome. But that’s very, very much a third-place benefit to me running this thing. So I got curious. And being curious, I decided fuck it, I had little to nothing to lose, and I took FSE for a spin.

    Couple things to note right off the top. If you hate the block editor, you’ll hate FSE. FSE is the block editor cranked up to 11 with a few extras thrown in just to make it interesting. FSE is still in beta (*), so it’s probably not going to do things the way you expect in this version. With a little luck, that changes when 5.9.1 comes out–whenever that is. But I mean, the block editor was released in December 2018 and it’s still being heavily worked on/improved/criticized 3 years later, so there’s room. I don’t personally mind it anymore (no, that’s not because I’m being paid by the WordPress people now–I’ve let fly with some unpopular opinions re: things that would be a lot different if they let me run the thing for a day), so I had a lot fewer concerns switching to full site editing than I did switching to the block editor–and it took me nearly the full 3 years to switch to the block editor.

    Like I said, though, I do have a few concerns–and I’m kind of hoping those get addressed before we rip the beta label off this thing. Notably, while the editor’s mostly accessible, there are still some things that only read properly if you navigate with browse mode turned off, or otherwise in the equivalent of JAWS for Windows’s forms mode.

    You can’t, yet–that I’ve found, but I’m open to learning I’m incorrect–resize the header or footer area with a screen reader. Or you can and I’m an idiot, but I’ve not as yet seen it.

    When editing templates directly, for example the “home” or “single post” template, you can’t immediately tell where the actual page content ends and your header or footer begins–you can if you know your screen reader inside and out and know when to rely on turning on forms mode/turning off browse mode, but the average user’s not going to be thinking about that. They’re going to be trying to design their website with a not quite completely accessible interface.

    Some of the individual blocks don’t read as well with a screen reader, again unless you turn on forms mode/turn off browse mode (I’m thinking, as an example, the various group/row/columns blocks), but that’s true when using the normal editor and doesn’t apply solely to the new site editor.

    Still, if you know these issues exist, and you know how to manipulate your screen reader in such a way that you can work around these issues, it’s usable. There’s an argument to be made that you shouldn’t have to, and I agree with that argument 150%, but until that gets fixed yeah that’s a have to thing. If you can work around these issues though, FSE isn’t a terrible idea. It’s also about 13 years late–at least if you’re me.

    If you can’t find a theme that gives you a left and right sidebar, just as an example, then find a theme that gives you most of what you want and build yourself a left and right sidebar using FSE. The entire right side of this site, such as it is, was built using FSE. It’s still a work in progress because–again, it being a beta and it not being entirely accessible–working with it takes a little longer than it should and I don’t feel like spending my weekend poking at it, but what’s there was built using FSE. The footer was slightly redesigned–again, work in progress–using FSE. The breadcrumbs were added (because search engines like them) using FSE–remember what I said about this website being a testing ground for my personal curiosities?

    I still have a lot of space to play with, and will probably find things to put there, but the point is in the old days, if the theme I was using didn’t support it, I either messed with code or found another theme. I don’t mind messing with code–I lived in the classic editor for as long as I did partly because I enjoyed writing the code for my posts by hand, and I may still switch to the code editor on occasion to do that just for fun. But if I wanted to be a WordPress developer, I’d be a WordPress developer. I don’t (at least not right at this second), so I’m not (**). I built this site largely as a brain dump. And yeah, over the years some of that brain dump has been code. But now if I throw a custom piece of code up here it’s because I want to, not because it’s meeting a need that isn’t met out of the box.

    FSE will probably piss me off. Hell, the Gutenberg editor will probably piss me off. It’s already responsible for a few of the things I’ve opened in GitHub because they annoy me (some of them are due to my employer, so I don’t count those). But they don’t stop pissing me off if I shut up about them. And I want them to stop pissing me off. So if some developer type reads this and thinks they can improve things, then it’s done its job. But if not, then it was pretty much just a brain dump–and well, that was kind of the entire point of this site when I set the thing up. I got away from doing that for a few years because, you know, Twitter’s all the rage these days, but one of the things I fully intended to do in the new year is get back into it. And hey, if nothing else, a new WordPress with a feature I haven’t seen implemented in 13 years is as good a reason as any. Plus, I mean let’s be real here. Mocking stupid people on Twitter is less effective in 280 characters. Apparently I’m more of a 1400 words person.

    (*): Who slaps a beta label on a thing then makes it a cornerstone feature of a production version of a major platform? This major platform, apparently. I really freaking hope you know what you’re doing, guys. I’m admitedly a little worried you don’t. That being said, I will beta test on the production box all day long, because it’s not like this production box is paying my bills or anything.

    (**): I have not ruled out eventually picking up a decent code editor and having at it. I just haven’t yet. But see the thing is, working for the WordPress people (no, this post doesn’t get the category when I eventually stop being lazy and create it) means if I decide I want to, they’ll cut me the slack I need so I can. So if I ever decide I want to, I can no longer say I don’t have the time. And if today I don’t have the money, then today I have a spending problem. I already fixed my revenue problem. But at this second, I’m most definitely not the developer type and have no immediate plans to correct that.

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  • Renewing your ID online is a good thing. So of course Ontario will screw it up.

    It’s no secret I’m a lasy S.O.B. None whatsoever. But see, I prefer the good, as in still productive, lazy–not the “I didn’t do what I needed to for 6 months because I didn’t want to” lazy. If you can do a thing without going significantly out of your way to do a thing, that’s my kind of lazy.

    Take for example doing my taxes–which yeah, that’s coming up soon. Dammit. I could collect all the appropriate paperwork, sit down with the forms, and manually work it out for myself. I mean, I know people who do that. Those people are weird, but they exist and I know them. Alternatively I could put together that paperwork, trudge on over to H&R Block and pay them to do it–slightly less effort on my part, but 1: that’s still effort and 2: that would require I deal with H&R Block. Or, you know, I could use any one of the way too goddamned many tax platforms that are out there today, file my taxes from my living room in my pajamas and be freaking done with it. I pick that third option every time. That’s lazy, but that’s the good lazy. Getting shit done, but getting shit done efficiently.

    Ontario has a system in place now wherein, when renewing some of your ID (health card, mainly), you can do that from your living room in your pajamas (maybe don’t take your photo like that). Awesome. Getting shit done, but getting shit done efficiently. I approve. But I live in Ontario, and in Ontario, we can’t have nice things. So a good system becomes a whole lot less useful than it could or should be because shut up.

    You need to provide ID to renew your health card, obviously. This is true whether it’s online, by mail, in person, or by carrier pigeon (you may want to have a fallback method if doing so by carrier pigeon). Logical, makes sense, cool. But now here’s where it gets messed up. Not all ID is created equal, and Ontario’s government’s in… we’ll call it a wee bit of hot water for the proclamation.

    The Doug Ford government is facing legal action over its policy for renewing Ontario health cards online.
    The online service is available only to residents with a valid driver’s licence, a rule that disability advocates say discriminates against people who can’t drive or don’t have a licence.

    “People who, like me, because of their disability, are absolutely disqualified from being able renew our health card online,” said David Lepofsky, a Toronto lawyer and chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians With Disabilities Act Alliance.

    They went the disability route with this, because I mean that gets more attention, but this applies to anyone who doesn’t, either by choice or otherwise, drive. People living in Ottawa on purpose don’t own cars because–when our beloved transit system is doing what a transit system should–they don’t need to. So many around here haven’t bothered getting their license. And why? The Ontario photo ID is as valid as a driver’s license, and can be used in nearly the exact same way as a driver’s license. So if you’re not going to drive, and have no intention of even owning a car, and couldn’t be bothered getting tested to qualify for a thing you’ll never use, the photo card makes sense instead–except, apparently, when the government decides it doesn’t.

    In person renewals are available, sure. And that’s a valid argument–in 2019. But here’s the thing. Even if we weren’t in the middle/coming up on the end of a pandemic, remember that whole thing I said earlier about good versus bad laziness? About getting shit done, but getting shit done efficiently? There’s nothing efficient, I don’t care who you are, about standing in line at freaking Service Ontario to get your shit renewed. I could be doing any number of other things that are not standing there with a bunch of other people who don’t freaking want to be there. But because I don’t drive (no, I’m not playing the “because I’m disabled” game), I get to go stand there with a bunch of people who’d rather be anywhere else. No thank you please.

    In its statement the ministry spokesperson said the government is “taking steps” to allow the online renewal system to accept the Photo Card.

    Guessing they end up losing this lawsuit before that happens. Come on, Ontario. This is not new. Get with it, will you?

  • The month in readership, January 2022.

    I’ve been doing this for a month now and I’m still used to writing 2021. I figure that’ll change by approximately 2023.

    January’s been weird, but the weird–for the most part–has stayed away from this space. I mean, partially because I haven’t been talking about it, but mostly because people haven’t been overly interested in looking for it–either that, or they have and because I haven’t been talking about it much they aren’t finding themselves here. Either way, I’ll take it. Still, the more things change/the weirder things get, in way too many ways, the more they stay the same. And that’s reflected in what people came here looking for last month.

    • 2012 was a not very good year if you were on ODSP. 2018-2022 haven’t been a whole lot better. And the bad ideas from 2012 are still alive a decade later. “Just get a job” is still not the right answer, Ontario.
    • Paramount Properties is still doing what Paramount Properties does, at least according to the folks who are still finding my issues with them from a few years ago. The second part to that soap opera has dropped down the list, apparently, so… maybe things are improving? Or is it more because pandemic so less fuckery?
    • You don’t hear much about the Canada worker Lockdown Benefit anymore. Probably because there still aren’t very many lockdowns. We heard a lot when it launched though–mostly because you couldn’t qualify if you weren’t in lockdown and well, no one was in lockdown. Smooth, guys. Real smooth. We voted for this (I did not).
    • Speaking of that second part to the Paramount soap opera, it’s right here. And yep, improving but not improved. I mean, get it together, would you please? Some of us have expectations. Minimal, but they’re there.
    • People are still trying to migrate their stuff to WebFaction. Which, I mean, I’m happy to help, but they’re kinda no longer with us in any form I care to acknowledge as decent. Now if you’d like to learn how to fire up your own Linode server and get the hell away from WebFaction, we can talk about that.

    I’m on purpose trying my level best not to post extensively about either Covid or the racists that want to pretend there’s no such thing as Covid, mostly because if you really want to hear about them every media outlet within 50 miles has a camera crew on site. That being said, the racists being racists are local to me, so… something will probably be written if/when they piss me off. At that point I expect February’s list to be… probably a little more colourful.

  • I thought that was what we called coffee?

    Okay, I’ll admit it–not that it’s a secret or anything. Not much of a Starbucks person. They have two drinks I like enough to justify going there regularly, both are seasonal, and neither are available now. So I almost never actually go there. Still, the impression I get from both knowing people who practically live there and the few times I’ve gone there is… well… isn’t the whole energy drink thing what their coffee’s supposed to be? Apparently, I know not of what I speak.

    Starbucks is giving customers new ways to perk up: a line of energy drinks called Starbucks Baya Energy and a bunch of fresh flavours in the grocery aisle.

    Baya will be available for purchase at stores and online starting this week, and will go on sale at U.S. Starbucks stores on March 1. The drink comes in three flavors: mango guava, raspberry lime and pineapple passionfruit. Each 12-ounce can has 90 calories and 160 mg of caffeine. It has a suggested retail price of US$2.89.

    I mean, okay, now I’m educated. Their flavour ideas could use some–or rather a lot of–work, but that’s largely Starbucks (see also why I have all of two drinks there I actually like). But still, given how much caffeine I swear is in their coffee… isn’t *that* their energy drink? At least, it worked for me–have one of those before a 10-hour work shift and don’t sleep the next day is apparently a thing. … But I suppose people who don’t drink coffee exist too. Weird.

  • This post brought to you by the number (redacted for copyright).

    Call it a bug, an oversight, or someone just having a really freaking bad programming day. Whatever you call it, somebody at Google screwed up in a very weird, but also very hilarious, way.

    I’m not sure if it’s been fixed since, but you can apparently trigger a copyright violation by putting one number in an otherwise empty text file and uploading that text file to Google Drive. Apparently… it’s quite reproduceable.

    Google Drive is flagging text files that only contain a “1” or “0” as copyright infringements. These seemingly harmless bits are automatically targeted by the storage platform’s filtering algorithm, apparently for a terms of service violation. As if that’s not drastic enough, there is no option to challenge this arbitrary decision.

    Either copyright just done turned upside down while I was sleeping/freezing/being buried by the usual Ottawa snowfall, or somebody’s up for a not so hot performance review.

    Hey, I mean I get it. Automation’s cool. And in theory, automated copyright protection’s an amazing idea. And when it goes right, it’s even an amazing idea in practice. When it goes wrong, though?

    If your bot thinks a single digit is somehow copyright infringement, then your bot is a bad bot and should be taken behind the woodshed and humanely sent to bot-heaven where it can run and frolic with all the other bots.

    Look, guys. I’m a fan of the whole work smarter, not harder idea. But copyright is dumb, and copyright protection bots are braindead. And also the number 1 is not protected by squat, much less copyright. If your bot can’t understand that, then

    1. You’re probably doing something very, very wrong.
    2. See above and put your bot out of our misery.
  • Bureaucracy kills, at least on paper.

    If it wasn’t for our government, I don’t know if I’d have nearly as much material on here as I do. That, of course, does not excuse the several months I tend to go before I put material on here, but you know.

    The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has something of a… we’ll call it a paperwork problem. Like the rest of the government, the left hand rarely knows what the right hand’s doing. Unlike the rest of the government, sometimes the right hand doesn’t know what the right hands doing. And sometimes, the right hand kills people.

    A Winnipeg senior has been declared dead by Canada Revenue Agency twice in a period of 10 months, even though she’s alive and living in a personal care home.

    This is the second time in 10 months that Dave Gibeault, the woman’s son, has received a letter addressed to the “Estate of the late Mary Gibeault.”

    “If I told you once, I told you twice” seems fittingly appropriate here. And the CRA has been told. Twice. Just in case–because it’s true–they didn’t hear it the first time.

    “It took several weeks and a whole lot of frustration [to get her reclassified as alive]. Hours and hours and hours on the phone, and lost income as a result,” Gibeault said, noting that he had to provide proof that he has power of attorney twice.

    And the shmuck who screwed it up the first time is, shall we say, very much still earning a pretty nifty paycheck for their efforts, just in case you were curious about the state of our federal employment situation.

    I’m not one of these anti-government taxation is theft type people, and yeah okay mistakes happen, but when those mistakes have legal/financial consequences for people who were nowhere near the mistake when it was being made, and who’s only real involvement in the mistake was having to pay the eventual bill it generated if not corrected, that… that’s a problem. Apparently it’s a long-standing problem at that, at least as of 2018. On the up side, I suppose, at least that problem’s slowly–ever so slowly–getting better. On the down side, though, should we really be borrowing ideas from movies?

  • Loose Rail transit

    It gets cold in Canada. Particularly if you’re living in Ottawa. In January/February, it gets extremely cold in Canada. I’ll admit to not being an expert, but you’d think someone might want to tell the experts.

    Saturday’s service outage on the Confederation Line was caused by a clamp on the overhead power line that shifted “by just millimetres” in the extreme cold, Transit Commission chair Allan Hubley said Sunday.

    “The train has to get its power from the catenary. And if there’s any change, even by just millimetres, it kills the power to that train. It says, ‘Something’s wrong.’ ”

    The Confederation Line was out of service east of Hurdman Station for almost the entire day on Saturday. OC Transpo replaced it with R1 shuttle buses between Blair Road Station and Hurdman, and ran trains between Hurdman and Tunney’s Pasture on a reduced frequency.

    Five trains were stopped on the tracks by the shutdown. All passengers were evacuated safely to platforms.

    These guys are new, right? I mean, tell me this is their first time in Ottawa. Please? Okay, so the trains didn’t go sideways when we got spanked with 48 CM of snow. Awesome. That’s good. But we hit -25 or -30 degrees a hell of a lot more often than we get whacked by record snowfall–that’s why it’s record snowfall. Someone… included that in a memo to these guys, right?

    At least they got everyone off the trains without issue–that would be a whole other problem our belovedly broken train system doesn’t need to deal with. But I think if I have things to do for the foreseeable future, I’ll just pay Uber or Lyft. Especially if it’s cold.

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  • I forgot Ottawa had 2 area codes. In March, it has 3.

    I grew up around here most of my life. Was born here. Went to school not far from here. So I mean, baked into my brain is one area code for this area–613. It completely slipped my mind that we needed, and received, another one–though I wrote about it before it happened. Which, I suppose, should tell you how many people I know–or have received calls from–who actually have it. Somehow, we’re getting a third.

    The Telecommunications Alliance announced the new 753 area code will be introduced in the regions currently served by area codes 343 and 613 starting March 26.

    Once the new area code is introduced, Ottawa and eastern Ontario residents and businesses requesting a new phone number may receive one beginning with 753.

    “Numbers with the new area code will only be assigned once there is no longer a sufficient supply of numbers with the existing area codes,” the Telecommunications Alliance said in a news release.

    Couple more of these and we’ll start to feel a little bit more like toronto. I’m not entirely sure if that’s the end goal, mind, but… there it be.

    In related news, we now have 3 area codes ending in 3. Either this is a weird coincidence or somebody somewhere has a little superstition thing happening…

  • Redefining the BSOD.

    Windows’s ever famous (or, if you’d prefer, infamous) blue screen of death (BSOD). Cryptic, irritating, and generally all manner of useless–even if you happen to be a technical person with a degree of somewhat impressive Google foo. Basically, a BSOD is a bad time. But with Microsoft apparently getting into the gaming industry in a big way, I mean, maybe–maybe that changes? Maybe?

    Microsoft is buying the gaming company Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion, gaining access to blockbuster games like Call of Duty and Candy Crush.

    The all-cash deal will let Microsoft, maker of the Xbox gaming system, accelerate mobile gaming and provide building blocks for the metaverse, or a virtual environment.

    ActivisionBlizzard, formerly–separately–Activision and Blizzard, are so recognized in the gaming community that even the blind geek from the middle of nowhere who’s never playd Call of Duty knows who these people are. So I got to thinking. This could be promising for Microsoft.

    It’s the blue screen of death, right? More often than not, some part of your system has just, entirely, had it up to hear and fried its everything. But it’s boring. It’s absolutely, undeniably, the worst. Not to mention you’ve got a 3-day migraine after reading the thing enough times to properly retain the error code you need to look up from the other machine that’s in the other room because, well, your current one’s dead. So I was thinking. Maybe we pretty it up a little.

    Diablo 2: Resurrected - Diablo Boss Fight 4K

    There. Now that’s a little better. And, if nothing else, at least a little more entertaining. This happens for real, I might not nuke my next blue screen from orbit. Eh, a guy can dream.

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