“New” Computer?

mint1702_postinstall_smOkay, not really. It certainly feels that way, though: I just replaced the operating system I use for “everyday” purposes with a new one: good-bye, Ubuntu 12.04 (Linux), and hello Mint 17.2 (also Linux).

I spent about four hours this morning laying the groundwork, which mostly involved researching the problems I might expect to encounter (and how to avoid or recover from them), doing backups, and so on. In the event, though, the installation process itself took about a half-hour to run — during only a few minutes of which I actually had to be hands-on involved.

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Pure (But Minor) Geek Stuff: Font Problem (Ubuntu, Chrome)

I’m currently running Ubuntu 12.04 as my main operating system, and primarily use Google Chrome for Web browsing. (The “About Chrome” page says it’s version 32.0.1700.107.) I haven’t added any goofy font-management packages — or goofy fonts, for that matter. And I’d never noticed any problems with the same setup on my older computer, replaced last summer: same OS, same browser.

For the record: Chrome under Windows did not display the same problematic behavior.

But on this computer, oy. On certain pages, particularly Wikipedia pages, I could see a very vexing problem. (The problem occurred only with Chrome, not with Firefox or Opera.) To illustrate, here’s a partial screen capture of a current Wikipedia article as I saw it when I first browsed there a little while ago (click to enlarge); the red ellipses highlight problematic areas on the screen:


As you can see, especially (but not only) on lines containing boldface text, adjacent characters — sometimes entire words — appeared to overlap. I could sorta-kinda read this text, but it was getting very, very tiresome to puzzle it out when I was really in a hurry to get to a page’s content without having to fight its form.

I did some research, saw that others had experienced the same problem, but the specific solutions proposed (often involving the installation of new software and/or fonts) didn’t interest or even apply to me. Yet the focus on fonts did

Short answer:

  • In Chrome, go to the Settings page and click on the Show advanced settings… link at the bottom.
  • Scroll down to the section headed Web content. Click on the Customize fonts… button.
  • Look at the default sans-serif font. Does it say Arial? If so, use the drop-down list to change it to one of the generic substitutes; I picked FreeSans.
  • Reload the problematic Web page.

At least in my case, the improvement was immediate (click to enlarge):


I can’t promise you identical results if you’ve got a similar problem. This one just worked for me.

And now, at last: back to researching minor planets, Chthonian planets, hot Jupiters, trojan planets, Lagrangian points, and yes, planetary cores…

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Things Programmers Think (and Sometimes Say)

In my day job, I have a couple of stock responses to questions from clients or just to my (and their) experiences with computers. One of these stock responses is something which clients almost never like to hear, because it translates, roughly, to This may sound like a “yes,” but if you believe that you’re crazy:

Oh, the [program/database/software tool] I’ve provided you with can be made to do almost anything. Some things aren’t worth paying for, though.

They often don’t hear the other stock response at all, because it comes across as a bit too braggy, smug, self-satisfied; I may be all of those things, but — haha — just don’t want anyone to know it.

But I think it to myself often enough, you bet. Always after a bout with some truculent beast of a technical problem: a program whose interface didn’t let me do X (although I knew damned well that X was among the things it should let me do); an oddball hardware device — a label printer, scanner, digital camera, trackball — which finally allowed itself to be fitted (usually tightly) with the software clothing available; a database query which had always taken thirty minutes to run but suddenly, simply because I poked at it and finally changed just, like, two words, returns its results in seconds. Whatever. Here’s what I think to myself:

The programmer always wins.

From my post earlier this week, you may already know this has been the sort of week with my home computer to make even an ardent technologist long for the days of abacus and quill. The image at the top of today’s post (like the one from mid-week) sort of sums it up. I had to take it with a camera, rather than the system’s built-in screen-capture feature, and as a result it’s sort of wobbly and muddy and Moire-patterned, but it gives you the idea.

Late yesterday afternoon, I took the “after” counterpart:

Big difference, huh?

True, I haven’t yet restored everything. But at that moment, I’ll tell ya: I felt pretty damned full of myself.

(Which brings to mind, now, that other thing I keep forgetting, what is it?, something about… pride? Yeah, that’s it. Pride. Oh, and I think there might be something about a fall involved, too.)

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Smashing Your Thumb with Your Trusty Hammer

[Technology alert: If you’re not into PC tech, especially wonky stuff about operating systems and such, you might want to give this post a pass.]

As some of you may know, I almost never use Microsoft Windows anymore — at least, when at home. (At work, there’s no other option.) Until a couple days ago, in fact, I hadn’t used Windows since, oh, August, maybe? July?

That phrase “almost never use Microsoft Windows anymore” catches a lot of people by surprise. Especially when I clarify further: “…and I don’t own a Mac, either.” Like, what other option is there? And all other considerations aside, why would someone NOT use Windows or a Mac in the first place?

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