Vestigial organs of operating systems

On Google+, Dan Gilmor mentions that the Windows 8 machine he’s using still has tap-to-click set as default for his touchpad, and that despite years of experience, this setting stubbornly refuses to stay turned off when the machine is restarted.
Tap-to-click functionality began plaguing computer users when LCD screens were so expensive that laptop cases didn’t have room for a reduced-size keyboard, teeny touchpad and tiny buttons. To save space, touchpad drivers had the ability to translate a sharpish tap on the pad into a left-click. Back then, the smallness of the laptop meant that someone with average hands couldn’t rest the pads at the bottom of the palm on the case while in a natural typing position. Not that those hobbit-sized (movie tie-in!) keyboards could be used with anything like a natural position. Maybe this worked on an 11-inch laptop; I wouldn’t know, my first laptop had a whopping 13.3-inch screen and, having read of others’ travails with those newfangled touchpads, a joystickish thing called the Ergo Trac. (Thanks, Dad, that Fujitsu Lifebook E370 rocked!)
Time passed, and LCDs got bigger and cheaper, keyboards expanded until you could find laptops with full-sized layouts with arrow keys, home/end/etc. keys, and number pads. And, slightly larger than the first ones, touchpads with nice, big buttons (sometimes three), special zones at the edges for scrolling and other cool touchpad tricks—and tap-to-click set as default. Waiting to turn inadvertent resting of my wrist muscles into a click, to turn a gentle landing in preparation for a nice slew across the screen into a click, to turn a frog fart from three counties over into a damned click that trashed hours of work in one fell swoop. For some reason, it’s still the default (I have no quibble with it being available—I’m sure someone out there needs it and I can’t cast stones with all the idiosyncrasies I have) and for some reason it resets when you restart. Because, I guess, you’d really like it if you’d just give it a try, and once you like it there’s no reason to go back to a tap-to-click-free world, is there? Drink the damned Kool-Aid!
And, of course, to disable it you have to go to the control panel, go to Mouse, figure out what tab it’s hiding under, and finally click to disable this beast from hell intent on destroying your very soul. You know what would make a couple million dollars for someone who could write it? A switcher app that let you create shortcuts on the desktop for simple, repeated actions located deep in the bowels of Windows. Like one to change the default audio device to my USB headphones and one to switch it back to speakers. One to turn off the touchpad tap-to-click, and one to taser the person who came up with it. You know, useful things for the end user.
I’ve seen similar things done with batch scripts, but you have to either write one yourself, manage to modify one you find without mangling it or trust that the blob of executable code you downloaded from the Intertoobz won’t inadvertently turn your machine into a very expensive and maddening paperweight.? Which is just the sort of thing you’re trying to avoid by turning off tap-to-click.

Objectivity as opinionlessness or as self-discipline

Comment from Grant Buckler on “Is transparency the new objectivity? 2 visions of journos on social media”
If objectivity means journalists not having opinions, it’s obviously neither possible nor desirable. If it means not twisting the facts to support those opinions, it is possible and desirable.

Today seems to be a good day for people saying smart things about journalism.

Posted via web from Pierce’s posterous

Matt Taibbi:the system doesn't work when journalists are all nice people

Over at True/Slant, Rolling Stone political reporter Matt Taibbi not only defends Zero Hedge but gives what I think is an excellent argument as to why journalists should, by and large, be assholes, at least from the perspective of those we cover. Not to mention why a percentage of them should be, in fact, stone cold crazy. (Which some would argue you have to be anyway to pursue such a frustrating career, even when the main industry isn’t cratering.) And really, it’s not about style: I can look “aggressive” and never come close to challenging the status quo and its enforcers, or I can be polite, courteous and mild and eviscerate those who do evil in this world. Think of Stephen Colbert: he never once left character as a slightly manic right-wing ideologue, and he managed to slaughter the Bush hypocrisy—mere feet from the president himself. If a comedian has that kind of cojones, what about those of us supposedly dedicated to afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted?

I’ve also recently read Stowe Boyd’s takedown of the Washington Post’s new social media rules (which are horrible) and made a comment on how journalists have turned objectivity, the act of at least trying not to let your biases control your coverage, into a simpering refusal to take any stand on the facts and instead produce copy where somehow the truth becomes a political football to be kicked around by partisans who care mostly about keeping facts from ruining whatever scheme they’re running right now. And yes, there are people like this on all sides (I adamantly refuse to reduce politics, culture, etc. to the simplistic two sides).

Posted via email from Pierce’s posterous

Google aims to set your data free–from Google

A couple of Google programmers in Chicago have formed the Google Data Liberation Front (nice Monty Python reference!), says Lifehacker. As an acknowledged Google fanboy, I have to say I like this. Even though I can’t imagine wanting to free my data from Google’s cloud (backing it up, syncing it, etc. are a different story–though this development will likely make those activities easier, too), it’s nice to know that should that day arrive, they’ll be ready for me to export everything to our new reptilian overlords’ scaly servers.

Adventures in Editing

Try and parse this sentence: “Students demonstrate a superior understanding of the subject matter knowledge and skills of the science concepts expected of the measured objectives included in the Biology I PASS framework, and the ability to apply understanding to challenging situations.”
Put guesses in the comments.

Full Metal McCain—Matt Taibbi—Rolling Stone

Taibbi again gives us the mainstream media’s best political coverage. Choice nugget:

So if you thought Hillary was bad,
buckle your seat belts: The really dumb stuff is just
beginning.

As someone who gets extremely idiotic conservative e-mails from a relative, I’ve seen plenty of stupid. If this is just the beginning, we’re in for an F-5 stupidado. But the prudent thing to do isn’t to cower, but to speak truth to power. As always.