Facebook Disables Options, Floods News Feed

miqrogroove
2012-12-23T11:49:28+00:00
The News Feed settings menu.

These Don’t Work Anymore

Facebook recently rolled out changes to its News Feed feature, making it controversial and difficult to use again.

  • When your friends click “Like” on an item posted by someone who is a stranger to you, that story is now added to your News Feed.
  • These “Like” stories now comprise the majority of News Feed items, flooding the home page with irrelevant images and branding.
  • The settings that were designed to remove these stories no longer work.

When I log in to Facebook now, I am bombarded by photographs posted by people I have never heard of in my life.  My friends are clicking the “Like” button on these photos, causing them to appear on my News Feed.

What this problem means for me is that even though my friends sometimes exercise good taste, we do not have the same taste.  The images in my News Feed now frequently contain profanity, political messages, corporate branding, and other unwanted or randomly useless information.

And it’s not just me.  The News Feed became such an annoyance yesterday that I wrote about it on my Facebook profile, which quickly received replies from friends having the same problem.

In the past, unwanted posts could be permanently blocked by adjusting the feed settings.  Now Facebook has gone too far.  They have broken all of the settings listed under “What types of updates” to receive from friends.  Even though I have “Comments and Likes” turned off for many of my friends, I am still getting a flood of their unwanted activity updates.

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4 Aug 2012

Category:
Opinion

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Radar Loop of $25 Million Wind Storm

miqrogroove
2012-08-03T11:03:44+00:00
Thumbnail preview of the radar.

Centered on the Battle Creek Airport

Ever wonder what happened to that storm from last year?  Well, the trees have been removed and the damage repaired.  I heard the storm caused over $25 million worth of damage but was not classified as a tornado.  When a twister touches down on the earth, trees end up thrown in every direction.  If that type of wreckage is not found, then the storm is merely a severe wind event.  Still, it only takes one look at a storm like this to know to stay out of its way.

I recently familiarized myself with the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) in the hope that I could find an easy way to grab a local 24-hour radar loop.  I didn’t really find what I was looking for because the NCDC Archive is more vast than fast.  While I was experimenting, I grabbed the data for this memorable day back in 2011 and put together a nice animation from it.

My Radar Loop From May 29, 2011 (5 MB animated GIF)

You may be unfamiliar with this type of radar, so I will point out a few of the cool things that can be seen here.

This is a “radial velocity” loop, which has different coloring from a typical “reflectivity” radar image.  Instead of showing where the rain clouds are located, this imagery shows how fast the rain clouds are moving by putting brighter colors on faster clouds.  This is useful for distinguishing strong storms and tornadoes from an average thunderstorm.  Otherwise, they would all have the same reflectivity and look identical to each other on the usual radar.

Radial velocity works perfectly for this particular storm for two reasons:  1. The storm is moving from west to east and, 2. The storm is positioned due south of the radar station as it forms.  This sets up a right angle between the storm’s overall motion and the radar beam, causing any wind shear within the storm to appear in full contrasting colors on the image.  As the storm moves toward the east sector of the radar scope, the angle of the radar beam changes, causing the color contrast to gradually decrease.  The maximum value recorded on this loop was +40 m/s, meaning 90 miles per hour away from the station!

1 Aug 2012

Category:
Weather Spotting

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White Templates for GoodNotes

miqrogroove
2014-02-11T20:58:09+00:00
Screen shot of the template import screen in GoodNotes.

Template Import

I’m playing with a note taking application for iPad called GoodNotes. It has a lot of potential to help replace notebooks for homework. It requires some customization because the default templates have a beige background. Beige is easier to look at on a bright computer screen, but it is impractical when printing. The built-in solution seems to be to export “notes only”. However, I have mixed feelings about printing handwritten notes from lined paper that has no lines.

Here are my customized templates, based on the built-in options, with the background color removed for better printing.

iPad-Size Templates

Portrait Landscape
PDFRuled (lined paper) PDFLandscape Ruled
PDFSquared (graph paper) PDFLandscape Squared
PDFMusic (staff paper) PDFLandscape Music
PDFBlank PDFLandscape Blank
PDFWide Ruled PDFManuscript Ruled
PDFDouble Ruled

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10 Jul 2012

Category:
Free Things

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Navigating the I-94 Emergency Route

miqrogroove
2012-06-17T01:52:54+00:00
A portion of the map of I-94 Emergency Route between Kalamazoo and Battle Creek, Michigan.

E-Route Map Preview

The I-94 Emergency Route in Michigan, also known as Emergency Interstate 94, is a series of public highways that parallel I-94 across most of southern Michigan.  It is sometimes necessary to use this second route due to accidents, planned lane closures, or other traffic jams.  Without the secondary highway, the alternatives would involve driving on gravel roads or going far off course to get to a different freeway.  On the other hand, with a parallel highway available, getting around problems on the road should be easy.

In theory, this is a great system of redundancy for transportation.  But in practice, nobody actually knows where the Emergency Route is located!  That’s because the route was never published on any road map.  Ask any road warrior of southwest Michigan about the Emergency Route, and they will probably tell you about the times when they had to get off the Interstate and try to find their way through scenery of unfamiliar farms and small towns.  That’s what it feels like during the day, with plenty of gas in the tank.  Attempt this at night, and it becomes too intimidating for most drivers.

A favorite story of my own is about the night I was driving west from Ann Arbor in moderate Art Fair traffic.  There was a major accident near Exit 139 and I encountered a total closure of the westbound side of the Interstate at that point.  I knew all I had to do was turn south and then find my way back to the Interstate farther west where it was still open.  I might have been the only person around who knew how to do this, though.  Nobody was smart enough to follow me on my detour, and when I rejoined the westbound lanes, I was the only driver on that side for miles.  Even the truckers were turning around and heading back east.

To make commuting easier, I created my own map of I-94 to keep in the car with me.  I’m going to share it now for personal use by fellow drivers.

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17 Jun 2012

Category:
Places To Go

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Don’t Use min-width Media Queries

miqrogroove
2012-03-16T01:31:24+00:00
Opera Mini Screen Shot

Mobile Friendly

Two weeks ago, I tried to point out a shortcoming of example CSS code over at the Opera.com website.

The point in question was the use of the “min-width Media Query” which I felt was incompatible with Internet Explorer.

Since this is tricky to describe without drawing a picture, I decided to set up a few sample web pages here to serve as a live demonstration of the problem.

The demo is: My min-width Media Query Test Case

For readers uninterested in the demo or the raw code, I am providing a set of screen shots below to fully illustrate the results.

My scenario begins with a page that looks fine in most browsers, but renders poorly in Opera Mini, a mobile web browser.

In an attempt to make the page mobile friendly, I used the min-width CSS media query to cause Opera Mini to ignore parts of the code.  Unfortunately, this rendered poorly in Internet Explorer 8 and older versions.

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16 Mar 2012

Category:
Systems Engineering

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XMB Forum Offline

miqrogroove
2012-02-01T14:52:47+00:00
XMB Logo

XMB

The open source community website for eXtreme Message Board forum software went down Friday afternoon.  It is now going on two days of down time, and has been replaced by an “Apache 2 Test Page.”

I wanted to share the news and offer a place for comments.  I am one of the more active members of the community and already received some inquiries about this.

My position as a volunteer developer actually does not include administration of the xmbforum.com server computer.  I was informed yesterday that the server was no longer running and would be restored from a backup copy.  However, there is no current estimate for when the restoration will be done.

Update: A new server has been established at www.xmbforum2.com

22 Jan 2012

Category:
Website Updates

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Photo Privacy Broken on Facebook Timeline

miqrogroove
2012-01-10T16:31:14+00:00
Facebook Profile with sensitive areas blurred

My Public Profile Should Not Look Like This

Have you ever added one of your photos to a Facebook group?  If yes, you might want to delete your photo albums right now.  I discovered today that the Facebook privacy settings for photos do not work.

Inspired by a discussion about social media I heard on NPR, I went into Facebook to do a thorough check and re-check of all of my privacy settings.  Guess what?

Dozens of photos I have on my Timeline are now publicly available.  >:{  Every one of those photos is set to “Friends” only privacy.  When I click the “View As…” option and then “Public”, all of those photos are now appearing on my public Timeline profile.

To confirm this, I registered a fake account that has no friends.  I viewed my own profile using that new account and a different web browser.  When I scrolled down far enough on the Timeline, my old photos started showing up to this newly registered user!

The fake user gets nothing by clicking on the “Photos” section near the top, suggesting this bug is specific to the new Timeline profile feature.

In an unsuccessful attempt to hide the photos, I used my real account to reset the album privacy to “Only Me”.  At this point, the photos were still appearing in the public preview as well as the fake account viewing my real profile.

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10 Jan 2012

Category:
Security

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Server Monitoring Through DD-WRT

miqrogroove
2013-08-18T19:09:04+00:00
DD-WRT Commands screen with a server monitoring script.

Powerful Little Script

Happy New Year!  I’m kicking off my 2012 blog entries with a fun little hack for Linksys routers.

There are plenty of articles on the web about using DD-WRT to enable router monitoring.  I decided to turn this idea on its head and use my router for server monitoring!  When I realized DD-WRT comes with a sendmail command, I knew this was going to be quick and easy to set up.

This is great for anyone who would like their celly to light up as soon as something goes wrong with an important computer or website.  All of the needed software is already built in to compatible routers, so there is no need to purchase or install a dedicated monitoring system on a separate computer.

By following these easy steps, you can create your own reliable monitoring service.

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1 Jan 2012

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Systems Engineering

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SSDI Gone in Censorship Scandal

miqrogroove
2011-12-27T16:46:19+00:00
Screen shot of the SSDI website.

SSDI, Rest in Peace

Massive Loss to Genealogists Everywhere

In my ongoing research of personal genealogy and family history, I can honestly say that no single record set had been more valuable to me than the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) database that was freely available on the RootsWeb website.  I attributed no less than 193 individual citations to this database, just in my own family tree.

While conducting such research during this winter break, I was shocked to see this message appear on RootsWeb:

Due to sensitivities around the information in this database, the Social Security Death Index collection is not available.

I was further shocked to learn that this database take down was initiated by the United States Senate.  I cannot avoid decrying censorship.  The SSDI has become a national treasure of historical information, and to even propose blocking its public use is a violation of our guaranteed freedoms.

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27 Dec 2011

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Opinion

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PERT Chart With Nodes

miqrogroove
2011-12-05T18:21:33+00:00
PERT chart with nodes and a single task

PERT Chart

Visio 2010 is a great tool for designing PERT charts.  Since it lacks some of the shapes needed to easily add and connect nodes with other PERT items, I came up with a few tools to make it easier.

My step-by-step tutorial explains how to create nodes and connections that work seamlessly.  After completing these steps, you will have three new shapes to work with:

PERT Node, PERT Connector, and PERT Task.

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2 Dec 2011

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Systems Engineering

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