The Aardvark Speaks : essence, effervescence, obscurity. Established 2002. A weblog by Horst Prillinger. ISSN 1726-5320

The Aardvark Speaks : the body electric

This page contains the last 50 stories posted to this category, sorted in chronological order (earliest first). For earlier stories, you need to check out the monthly archives.

Lies, lies, lies!

I deny everything. It's just another false accusation from some robotic right-wing pundit who is trying to ruin my reputation.

Update: This weblog has no permalink, and the entry I linked to has expired. I made a screenshot of the page with the accusations to document this case of slander.

Posted by Haldur Gislufsson on September 24, 2004 | # | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

A major design goof-up

Yesterday I saw the new iMac G5 for the first time in real life (rather than on pictures). I must honestly say that I have never been this underwhelmed by computer design since Apple stopped making beige boxes.

Often when Apple announced a new product and I saw the pictures, I wasn't sure if I liked the design, but whenever I saw the actual computer, I liked it immediately. This time, I thought the iMac G5 looked really gorgeous on the pictures, but boy is it ugly in real life. It's basically a thick, plump blob of white plastic.

A recent review on Der Spiegel online [in German] brings the point across nicely: the slogan "Where did the computer go?" is backfiring seriously — the iMac G5 simply looks too much like a TFT monitor, a badly-designed one, for that matter. "A clunky LC-Display with a non-matching metal stand will not even please those who like Apple computers for purely aesthetic reasons." Indeed not. The company that won a reputation for designing the most elegant computers on the market has committed a major design goof-up.

Posted by Horst on October 18, 2004 | # | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

A giant red panda

Some people apparently think that the Firefox logo/icon is in particular bad taste and have filed an according report in the Firefox bug database. And they seem to have a problem discerning pandas from koalas. Oh well, never mind. Ming Hong Ng has a longer list of nonstandard bugs in Mozilla.

Posted by Haldur Gislufsson on November 01, 2004 | # | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

I guess I was asking for it

From my referrer log.

Posted by Horst on November 18, 2004 | # | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

iPod or iPod mini?

I just can't seem to be able to decide.

And why aren't the darn things getting any cheaper? I thought the whole tactics behind the free fall of the dollar compared to all other currencies was to boost American export sales?

Posted by Horst on December 02, 2004 | # | Comments (11) | TrackBack (1)


That huge empty white space at the bottom of this page has something of a disquieting quality, like it might erupt at any moment, but it seems there is nothing I can do about it than write more often and not take a Christmas break. Which is something I won't do.

If anyone cares to check this, they might find that this posting has a low ID. That's because almost a year back, I wrote a lengthy article about European vs. American democracy and the art of mythmaking in response to a stupid political posting from Jeff Jarvis. When I had finished it, I felt that my article was stupid, too, so I never published it and simply waited if it would become less stupid over time.

It didn't, so I finally decided to overwrite the article with this posting today. Which I hope is less stupid.

The alternative would have been to write a 2004 retrospective, you know, favourite records, worst electoral decisions, that kind of thing, but I didn't feel like it.

Posted by Horst on January 04, 2005 | # | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Browsing alphabet

Suw picks up on a meme from Liz Lawley where you type each letter of the alphabet into the address bar of your browser and see what it suggests, and I am wimp and nerd enough to jump the bandwagon and give away all about my browsing habits.

Sheesh. Apart from a couple of friends, my life looks kind of bland and boring. Maybe I should start visiting those x-rated sites after all.

Posted by Horst on January 05, 2005 | # | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Assistance needed

Just noticed that BBC4 will broadcast a documentary on my favourite band, The Fall this Friday, January 21st, at 10pm.

Now I would be extremely grateful if any of my readers in the UK (Ralf? Konstantin? Jag? Suw? Anyone else?) could record this for me on video. As far as I understand, BBC4 is a pay-TV channel, but maybe somebody out there is paying for it. In return, I'll invite you for dinner next time I'm in London. Or send you an Indian movie on DVD. Or a complimentary copy of my book. Or of my other book. Or publicly express my sincere thanks on this weblog.

Update: There's an interview with Mark E. Smith from The Guardian here, and another one from The Observer here.

Posted by Horst on January 19, 2005 | # | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)


Working on a new design for my employer's website. It's one of those days when I wish I had at least some basic training as a graphic designer. I mean I can do decent HTML stuff and everything, but a good graphic design is a totally different thing, especially as I'm highly critical of my own and other people's work and won't easily accept anything as "good". Apart from technicalities, like, I accidentally turned off the colour channels in Photoshop today, and it took me 15 minutes to figure out how to turn them on again. I feel like such a dilettante (btw, is that an English word? I know vigilante is, but that's not what I want to say).

Anyway, here I am with a vague idea in my head that I'm struggling to turn into a graphic design, and I have to get it ready by next Thursday, when a couple of drafts will be discussed by the editorial board. Problem is, I usually get my best ideas about a week after my first draft, once my brain has been able to quietly continue working on the design while I'm doing other things. I hope it takes only six rather than seven days this time.

Posted by Horst on January 20, 2005 | # | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)

Regional differences

Up until my recent stay in London I may have had a completely wrong idea about the impact of Apple's iPod music player. At any rate I never quite understood why everybody in the media and on the Internet was so excited about it. They made it sound like the iPod was a huge success, and that seemed odd. That's because here in Vienna, you hardly ever see the iPod's very distinctive earphones in people's ears in the streets. Hardly anybody buys iPods here. No idea what they buy because shops have an extensive selection of MP3 players, but you hardly ever see iPods anywhere.

And then I was in London and noticed that almost everybody who's wearing earphones is wearing iPod earphones. Compared to Vienna, it seemed almost as if nobody was using anything other than iPods. Suddenly I understood that the success of the iPod existed, it just didn't exist in Austria.

Which again proves that Vienna is a technological backwater in the grasp of cheap Taiwanese imports. But then iPods are much less affordable here than they are in London: the price of an iPod is roughly the same, but people here earn significantly less than they earn in London, and they'd rather spend the money on mobile phone bills anyway.

That's another interesting thing to notice: the number of times an average person in London hears mobile phones ringing during one week is about the same an average person in Vienna hears mobile phones ringing during the train ride from the airport to the city. For some reason people here think that mobile phone ring tones are much cooler than iPods. It's one of the things I'll never understand.

Posted by Horst on January 26, 2005 | # | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

New design over there

If you are wondering what I've been up to all weekend, look here. After remaining unchanged for 8 years, I decided it was time for a complete redesign (and in case you were wondering: apart from the title page, the English version is still in its original state).

Update: Nice. So I slave away all weekend to find out today that the site looks great with all browsers except Internet Explorer for Windows, which chooses to ignore a few CSS standards that I'm using. And which just happens to be the browser that 70% of my visitors use. Seems like I'm going to spend more time in CSS to clean up the mess. Did I mention that I hate Internet Explorer?

Posted by Horst on February 07, 2005 | # | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Music thingy

This comes in from Mr Deedee (Update: and ad++), who handed it on to me purely to make me violate my site's blogging manifesto. How mean of him.

However, since it's possible Mr Deedee is interested in my answers, I'm afraid I have to resort to drastic measures: I need to institute a manifesto-free zone on this weblog. Unfortunately for you, manifesto-free zones come in pretty garish colours. Read on at your own risk.

Manifesto-free blog zone

1. Total amount of music files on your computer:
Uhm, no idea. My computer won't give me a count. But if it helps, my music directory is approx. 18GB. Oddly enough, believe it or not, it's actually all legal.
2. The last CD you bought was:
The last parcel from contained two CDs: Oh, inverted world by The Shins, and Young liars by TV On The Radio.
3. What is the song you last listened to before reading this message?
"The Tain" from The Tain by The Decemberists.
4. Write down 5 songs you often listen to or that mean a lot to you.
I don't have any songs that mean a lot to me, but there are a few that I can't seem to get tired of. For example:
 "Rain" by the Beatles.
 "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands" by Bob Dylan.
 "Did I Tell You" by Yo La Tengo.
 "Hate My Way" by Throwing Muses.
 "Abril 74" by Lluís Llach.
 "Gimme Shelter" by The Rolling Stones
5. Who are you going to pass this stick to? (3 persons) and why?
Uhm, since most people I know i.r.l. aren't exactly music buffs, I have to pass this on to readers of my weblog: So this would then be
 Ralf (because he was in the audience during the famous WotB recording),
 Mig (because I want to know what cello players listen to) and
 Gibarian (because of his occasional comments on my weblog).
Actually, since I hate chain letter schemes, I'm cheating a bit here because I'm not going to send an e-mail to these people. I'll simply trust that they read this entry.
Posted by Horst on February 07, 2005 | # | Comments (8) | TrackBack (1)

New toy

It has arrived. Excuse me while I go and play a bit.

Posted by Horst on February 09, 2005 | # | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Metro thoughts

According to my site statistics, 2% of my visitors are using Netscape 3.0 to access my heavily stylesheet-dependent Vienna Metro website. Since Netscape 3 doesn't support about half the tags and stylesheets I'm using there, I wonder what just exactly they might be seeing. At any rate, 2% of Netscape 3 users seems an awful lot. Makes you wonder who they are, where they are, and why they are still using it when it can't display most current pages.

On a related note, I'm not sure if "Vienna Metro" is a good name for the site. I wonder what word people are using to search information on an underground railway in English, but I fear that it's probably not "metro". That, and the fear that I might at some point be sued by the Metro Group for using the word "metro" (they think they are owning the word — even though recent law suits would indicate otherwise — and almost closed down Robert Schwandl's site when it was still at made me think about whether I shouldn't use a different word instead.

Problem: "subway" and "underground" both mean very different things depending on whether they are used in British or American English. And "metro" is kind of correct in the case of Vienna, as the first underground railway was called "Stadtbahn" (="metropolitan railway"). So if any native speakers would enlighten me whether "metro" is a good or bad choice of word, I'd be very thankful.

Posted by Horst on February 10, 2005 | # | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

Yes, I believe every word you are saying

A recent spam mailSebadoh/Harmacy album cover

But I still won't buy anything from a "p. harm aaaacy" because it sounds like it'll cause pain in a very delicate place. Plus, my name is neither Nicholas nor Friedrich anyway.

Posted by Horst on February 14, 2005 | # | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Where it is due

I probably should credit Volker Weber at this point for giving me the idea to incorporate an element into some of my web pages that you can see only if you are using one particular browser. I've had the necessary JavaScript knowledge for ages, no idea why I never thought of this myself.

Posted by Horst on March 14, 2005 | # | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Get rich and unpopular fast

I suppose that one of these jobs that they offer you in those "get rich fast" spam mails where you "earn $$$ while surfing the Internet" is actually surfing the Internet rather specifically in search of guestbooks and entering links to porn sites into them.

And there seem to be people who are doing this on a large scale, and I'm pretty sure they're people, not automated scripts. I had to delete a number of remarkably non-machine-like entries from a more or less machine-proof guestbook lately.

And I feel kind of sad for these people because it seems such a desperate way to make money, and I'm not sure if they're really the ones who are making $$$. And I will remember in the future that MT-Blacklist has to be turned on manually for newly created weblogs.

Posted by Horst on March 14, 2005 | # | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

What's all this then?

My vintage 1999 PowerMac G4 at the office refuses to accept any of the newly (2005) released Miles Davis remasters (Jack Johnson, Seven Steps, Funny Valentine, Four & More) and just spits them out after less than five seconds of trying to read them. It does accept any of the older Miles Davis CDs that I have, though. Actually, it accepted all other CDs that I fed it so far. Oddly, my (slightly newer) G4 at home accepts the new CDs without any problem at all. What is this — some kind of weird copy protection? It doesn't say anything about copy protection on the cover or label of the CDs, and I suppose if they were protected, they shouldn't play at all. Odd.

Posted by Horst on March 18, 2005 | # | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

Printer woes

I hate printers.

Everything started when my printer ran out of cyan ink. I inserted a replacement cartridge only to notice that afterwards the printer refused to print at all. All it would print were just stripes at more or less regular intervals. I thought the print head might be clogged and started the printer's self-cleaning option, to no avail. If anything, things seemed to be getting worse. And of course, the warranty had expired only 29 days ago.

In total despair, I did a Google search for "epson printer 5200 clogged" and was directed to this page, which pointed out that cleaning the print head might actually damage it and that with this particular kind of printer (and others of the CX series) the problem could be that the ink purge tube might have come loose and fallen off — they even had instructions how to fix it.

I checked my printer, and lo and behold! the tube had indeed fallen off. However, re-attaching it turned out to be a lot more difficult than it had looked in the pictures, mostly because of lack of space to accommodate my hands inside my printer.

About 50 minutes were spent cursing and swearing, resolving twice to simply buy a new printer and forget about this one (but then why buy a new printer if re-attaching a tiny tube can fix it?), getting all kinds of tweezers and tongs, blackening 8 pairs of latex gloves and managing to get ink stains on pretty much everything on my desk.

Eventually, I managed to re-attach the tube, printed a test page, and everything was working beautifully. I was happy.

For a while. I did some 20 colour printouts, only to notice at that point that all the excessive printhead cleaning before had emptied the magenta ink. I exchanged it for a new one, wanted to continue and found that the printer doesn't print magenta. It looks as if the magenta jets are clogged, but that's unlikely as they worked just fine 3 minutes earlier with the almost empty cartridge.

I checked the tube, it was still in place. I cleaned the print head. I did some magenta cartridge shaking, all to no avail. All the other colours print just fine.

I think I'll just get a new printer.

Posted by Horst on April 30, 2005 | # | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Printer woes (2)

The magenta ink still isn't working, even though the cartridge is new and 90% full. Then today, after some black and white printing, the black cartridge said it was empty. I replaced it with a new one. Now I can't print black either. The yellow cartridge is now down to 10% and I think I know what's going to happen when I replace it.

I'm getting a new printer. In terms of tech specs, I need something like the Epson CX5200 or CX5400. Any suggestions?

Posted by Horst on May 02, 2005 | # | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

Weather forecasts

Now we all know that weather forecasts are notoriously unreliable, but this is just ridiculous:

Mac OS 10.4 Weather Widget displaying a curiously wrong weather status for Vienna

This is what Mac OS X 10.4's weather widget has to say about the current weather in Vienna. Just for the record: The real weather in Vienna is sunny, extremely humid, and with temperatures around 26°C, expected to rise to, or even above 30°C later today.

I don't know which Vienna the widget is talking about, but it's definitely not the one I'm living in. The whole thing is so far off the mark that it can't be bad data, it must be a case of poor localization/wrong city.

By the way, be sure to check the list of known incompatibilities before you install. And the new Mail application in OS 10.4 is butt ugly.

Update: To get the correct weather for Vienna, Austria, click on the information button in the lower right-hand corner and change the city name from "Vienna" to "Vienna, Austria".

Update: Justin Bur writes on "The Dashboard widget for weather displays city names, but not states or provinces. Beware! The automatic choice may not be what you expect. With my home address set to "Montreal", the weather widget was giving me information for Montreal, WI (pop. 800 or so) instead of Montreal, Quebec (metro pop. about 3.5 million). To make sure you get the right city, hit return in the widget's city configuration field, wait for the transaction with AccuWeather, and choose your city from the pop-up menu."

Posted by Horst on May 03, 2005 | # | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)

Possibly a rhetorical question

I am wondering... should I shell out €59.49 for a dvd2oneX licence so that I can fit the contents of a double layer DVD onto a single-layer DVD-R, or should I instead spend €57.45 on a Pioneer DVR-109 double layer DVD writer?

Is it just me or are shareware licence fees becoming somewhat unreasonable lately? And why is the Mac licence €10 more expensive than the Windows version?

Posted by Horst on May 09, 2005 | # | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)


After two days in the office with my new Mac mini, I think I learned that what I always suspected was actually true; I learned that Apple products are not so much about performance (although the G5s are pretty good in that department, too), but instead all about ergonomics.

I had this suspicion first when I touched the click-wheel iPod for the first time at the Apple Store in London last January: I had never really wanted an MP3 player before, but the user interface was so compelling and straightforward, so simple yet allowing for so much functionality that I was instantly hooked (not to forget the beautiful enclosure). Other MP3 players may have better tech specs, but you cannot match the iPod's elegance and simplicity both in design and user interface.

The Mac mini is not the world's fastest computer. It is, however, fast enough to never appear slow or sluggish during anything an average user is likely to do on a regular basis. The slower processor not only allows for a lower price, it also generates less heat, so that this computer does not need a fan.

I cannot stress the bliss of a fan-less computer enough. Image working in silence. Like, total silence. The absence of that annoying humming sound that everyone associates with offices these days, this is ergonomics for you (I also suspect that the metal box design co-functions as a cooling device for the processor, but I'm not sure about that). The form factor, which is only marginally larger than the CDs and DVDs that you can read and burn in it, can hardly be surpassed in simplicity and elegance. Don't get fooled by the pictures on the Apple website: it's infinitely more beautiful in real life. Everybody who comes into my office stares at it in awe and can only barely believe that this is a full-fledged computer.

When you switch the Mac mini (and apparently every other new Mac) on for the first time, it asks you to connect it to your old Mac with a Firewire cable. All your user data, applications, documents, preference settings are then transferred to the new computer. Within less than 30 minutes, I had an exact copy of my old computer without any need of further configuration at all. I could resume working on the Mac mini exactly where I had left off on my old G4, just as if there hadn't been a hardware change at all.

The difference being the silence and a computer about five times faster than my old one, of course.

Posted by Horst on May 20, 2005 | # | Comments (7) | TrackBack (1)

What happened to shareware?

Recently, I mentioned a software product to compress video so that it fits on a single-layer DVD; the problem being that it costs more than a double-layer DVD drive. This software is marketed as "shareware", yet it comes as a crippled demo version that is seriously limited in functionality and will not allow you to fully test it before you buy a licence.

Referring to this as "shareware" is little other than a travesty. What happened to real shareware, like we knew it something like ten years ago?

Strictly speaking, shareware never had to do with the price or the vendor of the product; it was always a distribution model. You got a piece of software, you could try it out and hand it on, and if you used it, you were supposed to pay a (usually small) amount of money. In the early to mid-90s, you could get amazing software that way for as little as $10, or if they were really expensive, $20.

At some point, two things happened: because programmers felt that users didn't pay enough, they built reminder messages into their software. The other thing was that some programmers went professional and turned their products into commercial software.

Then the reminder messages turned into code that would disable the software after a trial period. And going commercial meant that prices rose to twice or three times as much as they had been previously.

All of this is okay, I suppose. Costs have risen, and people are entitled to get money for their efforts. However, what we are talking about here is no longer shareware. As soon as the product is marketed by a company and as soon as the product cripples itself after a trial period, we are talking about a commercial demo. This is especially true of the lastest trend in "shareware", which is to hand out crippled software to start with, requiring you to pay before you can actually test the full functionality.

As someone who has lived through what I'd like to call "the Golden Age of Shareware", I perceive this at best as an example of euphemistic newspeak, at worst a perversity. Okay, let them hand out crippled demos, let them charge enormous amounts of money for their products — after all, nobody is forcing anyone to buy the stuff if it can't be evaluated or if it's too expensive — but I feel sick when these people appropriate the term "shareware" for their business dealings, because it's disparaging the work of countless other programmers who set different priorities.

Posted by Horst on May 25, 2005 | # | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

Why software patents are a bad bad thing

Briefly before the EU vote on software patents, a German initiative had a look at the websites of EU MPs and noticed that if software patents are introduced later this year, most of the politicians' websites would have to be shut down because they are violating patents. Not yet scared? Well, for startes, paying licence fees for every JPEG file that you put online is just one of the goodies. [link via SWR]

Posted by Horst on May 31, 2005 | # | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Apple-Intel alliance

The obvious consequence of yesterday's announcement that Apple will migrate its platform to Intel processors over the next two years has one major consequence as far as I'm concerned:

The dual-processor G5 that I had planned to buy next year will not be bought next year, because I don't want to find myself at a technological dead end a year later. And the planned iBook G4 suddenly looks a lot less necessary than it did only two days ago.

I've gone through three processor/OS architecture changes, and each involved lengthy periods of working with tediously slow emulation layers and forced software upgrades that solely happened to stay compatible, NOT for the (usually totally unnecessary) new features. Announcing another architecture change just when it looked that things would finally be stable for the foreseeable future is putting a very serious strain on my relationship with Apple.

If I weren't such a design freak and bought Apple computers mostly because the competition's hardware and OSs are so butt ugly, I swear that this would be the time to defect to Linux.

Posted by Horst on June 07, 2005 | # | Comments (1)

Installing Windows XP on a miniMac running Virtual PC 7.0

23 hours, 47 minutes and counting. Downloading and installing Service Pack 2 alone has taken something like 16 hours so far.

Posted by Horst on June 08, 2005 | # | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Download Beethoven

Legally. Unbelievable. Thanks to the BBC. [link via SWR]

Posted by Horst on June 08, 2005 | # | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

On second thought

On having a look at the Steve Jobs keynote about Apple's migration to Intel processors, I may revise yesterday's post. If I'm not under the influence of Steve's famous Reality Distortion Field and what he says is true and the Universal Binary format (Mac OS X apps running on both PPC and Intel CPUs) is grabbing hold, then there should be no problem at all of current PPC Macs becoming obsolete any sooner than the first non-beige G3 Macs, and that was something like 7 years ago. In fact the major problem would be the required emulation layer for the new Intel Macs, which means that it may actually be a better idea to buy a PPC Mac now than wait for the Intel Macs and then be confronted with their teething problems.

Posted by Horst on June 08, 2005 | # | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)


Did I already mention that iDisk syncing in Mac OS X 10.4 is just one giant bug heap? Well, in case I didn't: it's one giant bug heap. I have to rebuild my local iDisk almost every other day because synchronisation seems to go on forever, never actually syncs anything, but if you cancel it, it crashes the Finder. Not to forget that it doesn't delete files that you want deleted — you delete them locally, but they keep coming back from DotMac over and over again. Can anybody fix this, please?

Posted by Horst on June 09, 2005 | # | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

I like

It seems that Apple Mail has some built-in anti-phishing mechanism that I noticed only today after receiving a bogus "Paypal" mail:

anti-phish in Apple Mail


Posted by Horst on June 28, 2005 | # | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Stop Software Patents

Not that I think it's going to change much, but I'll place this banner here today to remind you of something with a potentially huge impact on how we use computers:

Tomorrow we can expect the European Parliament's decision on software patents in the European Union. The EP already voted against it once; but this time, thanks to intensive lobbying on part of the big software companies, it seems possible that the Conservative and Liberal parties will vote in favour of it, and that would mean that the law is passed and Microsoft etc. have achieved a huge step in getting rid of Linux and other open source projects.

Posted by Horst on July 04, 2005 | # | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)


Too much work to blog. Oh, and JavaScript can be more fun than I thought. If you have a good reference book.

Posted by Horst on July 11, 2005 | # | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Discuss the role of danger birch as a counterpoint to magpie, both in terms of comic relief and possible parallels

I don't know when I switched on Word's auto-correct feature again, but I must have because it's on, and it's interfering with my ability to assign sensible essay topics to my students.

The first person who knows what I'm talking about in the headline gets the usual prize. [Hint: three words were modified, but only one vowel was changed into a different vowel, and one consonant into a different consonant. Film buffs are at an advantage.]

Posted by Horst on October 27, 2005 | # | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

Help needed

Okay, I give up. Can someone tell me why Safari sometimes refuses to render some of my web pages (like this one, this one or this one) and instead only shows the HTML source code, but if you click the Reload button, everything looks alright again?

As far as I can tell the source code is clean; the pages validate as XHTML 1.0, and Firefox has no problem with them at all, but I have not found any reports of Safari refusing to render web pages anywhere else?

If anybody knows what's wrong here and what I can do to correct this, any help would be much appreciated.

Posted by Horst on November 05, 2005 | # | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

This is the Internet

And there I was, trying to find pictures of the Ancient Persians for the website of the new Oriental Studies library, and did an image search on the Internet, hoping to find something that I might be able to use in some way. The results were not exactly what I wanted, even though they were, in retrospect, kind of predictable.

Here is what I found on Google.
Even more interesting, this is what AllTheWeb had to offer.

This is the Internet for you.

Posted by Horst on November 22, 2005 | # | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)

Inspected with pride

Inspected with pride

I found this little card lying on the floor in an electronics shop, where it must have fallen out of some package. I took it of course, because it was so instantly compelling. You may remember that two years ago (has it really been this long?) I already talked about inspectors who leave cryptic sheets of paper inside boxes, but Inspector Forty-Three impressed me particularly because he is the first one whose notices I've ever encountered who does his job "with pride".

I tried picturing Inspector Forty-Three proudly inspecting products, but somehow it didn't work out. Pride seems to be an odd concept on the assembly line.

I checked the company website to find out what kinds of objects Mr. Forty-Three is inspecting, and it turns out they produce accessories for laptops and other mobile computing equipment. It also turns out that the home page of their website has a link to "Important Recall Notices", where they are currently warning customers about two specific items, both of which can apparently give you electric shocks and/or set your house on fire.

Perhaps someone ought to tell Mr Forty-Three to inspect his products with care, rather than with pride? Just an idea.

Posted by Horst on December 01, 2005 | # | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Advanced Googling

Is there some trick how can you find out the URL of the website, or the contact e-mail address, or the telephone number of a club called "West Germany", located in Berlin? Is it likely that they would have neither? And why would they pick such an un-Googleable name for a club?

All I found was a postal address (Update: and an obscure mobile number that doesn't seem to be working). Seems as if I'll have to write an old-fashioned letter.

Posted by Horst on February 01, 2006 | # | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

This Saturday

An electrifying evening with DJs h-prill and deedee at the Cafe Frame, 1200 Wien, Jaegerstrasse 28

Expect an evening with strange music from a wide spectrum of genres and for all kinds of tastes.

How to get there: tram 5 or 33 to Wallensteinplatz or tram 31 to Gaussplatz + five minutes walk or subway U6 to Jägerstrasse + ten minutes walk.

Posted by Horst on March 21, 2006 | # | Comments (1)

Hack April fool

It looks like someone hacked into and replaced all the uploaded album cover images with rather silly ones. Have a look before they fix it.

I just hope they have a backup somewhere, or this is going to be a major pain.

It looks like someone at is having a bit of fun on April Fools' day and has replaced all the uploaded album cover images with rather silly ones. Have a look before it's back to normal again.

Posted by Horst on April 01, 2006 | # | Comments (5)


Nutzen Sie die Dynamik, die in Ihrem Unternehmen steckt

So I spent eight hours trying to determine just which part of my perfectly valid HTML code caused Microsoft Internet Explorer (and only Microsoft Internet Explorer) to not display part of a web page I'm designing. It turned out MSIE would display the page correctly if I merely scrolled down and then up again, which seemed to confirm that it was really a bug in Internet Explorer and not some kind of problem in my code.

First, I checked my HTML if all of it was valid. It was. Then I checked my CSS if all of it was valid. It was.

Then I spent a couple of hours to determine just which part of my code would trigger the display bug. This morning, I came closer to the soulution as I found that MSIE doesn't want one particular text section to be defined by means of a text block tag (such as <div>, <p> or <h2>). In fact it also doesn't want the text to be defined as normal text with a different background colour or some padding added by means of a <span> tag. Each of these cases would cause the text to disappear.

Having finally isolated the cause, I managed to come up with a solution, which was to place the entire part of the page that was affected by the bug within a <div style="width:96%;"> tag.

And I thought I'd post this here just in case somebody googles for "Internet Explorer text disappears", they find this and give it a try.

In related news, Microsoft is currently running an intense advertising campaign in Austria. The slogan, pictured above, translates as "Use the dynamics of your company". Following what I would describe as a colossal waste of time, which I had to spend on trying to identify and work around a Microsoft software bug, I feel prone to read the slogan as "Use the dynamics of your company to deal with our buggy software."

Posted by Horst on May 17, 2006 | # | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)


My email to them:

Guten Tag, meine Bestellung Nr. XXX ist heute angekommen, aber Sie haben mir leider eine falsche CD geliefert. Ich habe bestellt: Chet Baker Ensemble (Pacific Jazz) / Sie haben geliefert: Chet Baker Ensemble and Sextet (Fresh Sound). Bitte um Anweisungen bezüglich Rücksendung und Ersatz.

Their answer to me:

Dieser Artikel ( Chet Baker Ensemble [Audio CD] Chet Baker ) ist unterwegs seit dem 02/06/2006. Die durchschnittliche Lieferungsfrist beträgt 5 bis 10 Tage. Jedenfalls können wir Ihnen keine Lieferungsfrist gewährleisten. Diese Frist kann wegen Post und Zoll verzögert werden. Wir bedanken uns für das Vertrauen, dass Sie uns erteilt haben.

I don't know how many emails their customer service department is receiving every day, but my guess is it's more than they are able to read.

Posted by Horst on June 12, 2006 | # | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)

Two kinds of frustration

Which feels better: two blog readers a day who are coming to this weblog from the Top 10 Blogging Librarians Page, where I'm apparently ranked at number 9, or about 35 readers who are coming, of all things, from the wikipedia article on sliced bread, which for some obscure reason is also linking to me?


And the proof that I'm at least as sucky as wikipedia is that I'm such a sucker for visitors that I still haven't found the heart to delete the link on the sliced bread page, even though I don't think it makes much sense.

Given how often my anti-wikipedia rant from two years ago is linked to and quoted (and it's linked to a lot), I'm quite surprised that no-one has so far deemed it necessary and/or interesting to actually conduct an interview with me. I admit it's easier to copy and paste lines from a 2-year-old rant of mine (and it certainly mirrors the spirit of today's media culture, which is essentially a copy-and-paste culture), but even if they think I'm a raving lunatic you'd think somebody would be interested in the person behind the rant.

Like: what was I thinking when I wrote the anti-wikipedia article? Am I a raving lunatic? What about the tomatoes on my windowsill? Would I love to discuss the influence of jazz on tomatoes with Jane Perrone? My thoughts on how to achieve world peace? Do I think Lee Konitz's Motion is more underrated than Grachan Moncur's Evolution? What about the woman who is the great love of my life? Can we expect my big breakthrough novel anytime soon? Why are there so many typos in my weblog entries? And suchlike.

Not so. But then I'll have to admit that I don't really see how anybody could be interested in any of this (except perhaps the jazz/tomato thing) either.

As part of our increased PR efforts at work, a colleague of mine was trying all day Friday to get an article on Vienna University Library into wikipedia. His expletives could be heard all along the corridor. His conclusion was that no normal person has the time to figure out all the necessary mechanisms to get a properly formatted article online. He said that the 200+ pages of printouts of help pages weren't particularly helpful and doubted the democratic nature of wikipedia. He said that very obviously only an elite of initiates can know how to do it.

I told him that the easiest thing might be to insert a really long text about the library into the existing article on the university, because the democratic nature of wikipedia works in such a way that one of the initiates is bound to be annoyed about that long text at some point and will either delete it or turn it into an article of its own.

He agreed that a 50:50 chance was better than nothing and said he'd give it a try.

Posted by Horst on July 28, 2006 | # | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)


After careful consideration, I have now reached the conclusion that iTunes 7 is a mess. That is because after installing iTunes 7, the following symptoms appeared and persisted even after the 7.0.1 and 7.0.2 update:

  • My iPod would freeze/lock up/crash several times a day, mostly right at the beginning of a song, but sometimes also in the middle.
  • My iPod would refuse to play the tracks of some albums in the correct order. iTunes showed them in the correct order, but once disconnected from the computer, the iPod would show and play them in a different order.
  • After switching it on, my iPod would sometimes act as if all the music on it had been deleted; the songs would, however, reappear after a reset;
  • iTunes 7 neither manages to print correct CD booklets, nor does it print correct album lists. In booklet, it fails to print album titles, in album lists, it only prints the first album of each artist.

I could have lived with the printout problem, but the constant crashes made my iPod near unuseable. Not sure whether my iPod was broken or not, I figured that one way to find this out was to revert to iTunes 6, which is not an entirely easy undertaking:

  • Delete iTunes in your Applications folder
  • Delete the file "iTunesX.pkg" in your /Library/Receipts folder
  • Delete the file "iTunes Library" in your user/Music/iTunes folder
  • Open the folder "Previous iTunes Libraries" in that folder and make a copy of the file "iTunes Library 2006-09-13" (or the closest similar date)
  • Rename that file to "iTunes Library" and move it to the user/Music/iTunes folder
  • Download iTunes 6.0.5 from the Apple website
  • Once it has downloaded, install it
  • Launch iTunes and select "Add to library" from the File menu
  • Select your iTunes music folder so that all the files you imported since installing iTunes 7 appear in your library

It's a lengthy and not particularly simple procedure, but once I had iTunes 7 off my hard disk, my iPod stopped crashing, plays the songs in the correct order again and I can once again make proper printouts.

I would strongly warn against installing iTunes 7 unless you absolutely have to.

Posted by Horst on November 26, 2006 | # | Comments (4)


French Connection 2

Coming up this Friday, December 15th: French Connection 2; join me (a.k.a. DJ h-prill) at Café Frame, Jägerstrasse 28, 1200 Wien (near Wallensteinplatz) for two hours of French music and two hours (or more) of jazz. I'll start at 9pm.

You are herewith cordially invited. Admission is free, and if you want to buy one of my books, this is your chance to get signed copies at a substantial discount.

Posted by Horst on December 12, 2006 | # | Comments (0)


My iPod died yesterday.

As it's no longer covered by warranty, the repair would cost €261. A new iPod costs €289. I am not willing to spend either amount, especially not the former as that would be a very stupid thing to do.

My unwillingness to buy a new iPod is mostly due to the fact that I recently spent a lot of money to publish those books of mine and thus my bank account is not looking pretty. As also decided to remove Messages from the Lost Continent from their catalogue (for unknown reasons), there is also no chance of it becoming a surprise best seller, so I'll probably have to live with that hole for a while.

Can I live without an iPod? Unless Santa Claus is bringing me one, time will tell, I suppose.

(In slightly more uplifting news, I can announce that the bookshops phil and Shakespeare & Co. both have Messages and The Happiest Guy in stock now.)

Update: It seems that even if I had the money, buying a new iPod would be pointless because both my computers are too old to allow a current iPod model to be connected to them. Meaning I'd have to buy a new computer first. Which in turn means that having my iPod repaired, even though it's ridiculously expensive, may be the cheaper option after all.

Posted by Horst on December 15, 2006 | # | Comments (6)

French Connection III

French Connection IIIClick flyer to enlarge.

Chansons and French pop start at 9pm.
Jazz starts at 11pm.

You are cordially invited.

Posted by Horst on July 31, 2007 | # | Comments (3)


There's this seller on eBay who always times his auctions so that all of them are ending at the same time, at 7:00pm CET. I came across him yesterday, when I wanted to get one of the CDs he was offering. And then something happened that has never happened to me before. I placed a bid at 6:59:45. Usually the eBay server takes about 1-2 seconds to respond. In this case, the eBay server did not respond for more than 15 seconds. In fact, it responded at 7:00:03, and instead of telling me whether I had won the item or not won the item, it told me that the auction was over and I could no longer place a bid.

The most frustrating thing about the whole story was that my bid would have been $20 above the winning bid.

My guess is that so many auctions ended at that time, with so many people placing bids in the last 10-20 seconds, that the servers were overloaded and didn't respond. On the other hand, if that is true, then the seller is a very stupid person for timing his auctions in this manner. I don't know how many other people were locked out like I was, but on that item alone he could have made twice as much money as he did, just by letting his auction end one minute later.

Posted by Horst on September 07, 2007 | # | Comments (2)


Okay, so I spent 3 hours on Sunday, 6 hours yesterday, and 2 hours today on piecing together a PowerPoint presentation for a 2-hour lecture tomorrow. And that's without encountering any technical problems at all, apart from spending 20 minutes looking for clip art of a stick figure. In what ways was PowerPoint supposed to make us more productive again?

Posted by Horst on October 09, 2007 | # | Comments (3)

What you missed yesterday

At pretty short notice, I sat in with DJ Barbara at Rhiz yesterday for a light, breezy set of summer music. The few people who were there said they liked it. If you want to hear the five hours of music that we played, check out these streaming links (online until August 10th):

Tracks were selected in strictly alternating order by Barbara and myself. Barbara started, then it's my track, and so on.

Due to a glitch in the sound system, the streamed sound is mono only. For the first three hours or so, you'll hear the left stereo channel only, then during Cat Stevens' "Here Comes My Baby", I noticed the glockenspiel was missing and switched the amp to mono, so at least you get both channels.

If you have any questions about any of the tracks I picked, feel free to ask.

Posted by Horst on August 04, 2008 | # | Comments (1)

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Most of the stuff on this page is fiction. Everything else is my private opinion. Please read the disclaimer.

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