Category Archives: Help Desk

Disable Windows Antivirus When Installing aspell English Dictionary

A lesson I learned the hard way today, while installing aspell support for Notepad++:

If you’re installing Kevin Atkison’s English dictionary for aspell, you need to disable your antivirus program (at least, if you’re using Avast, as I am).

If you don’t, the dictionary installer can’t write its unpacked files to disk and will fail silently. As in, it just plain closes, and Notepad++ will report something along the lines of “Aspell and/or dictionaries are missing.”


Also, if you haven’t heard of Notepad++, you should check it out. It’s an open-source, GPL-licensed Win32 text editor. (It runs perfectly fine in Win64).

Highly extensible via plugins, translated to all kinds of languages, exceptionally powerful, with support for syntax highlighting in just about every programming language under the Sun and syntax checking for a fair number of them, too.

It’s pretty much the only tool I use any more for Web coding, even when writing ASP.NET Web Forms. (I still use Visual Studio for some Windows coding. But Notepad++ has completely replaced Dreamweaver.)

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Chrome Just Isn’t Up To Firefox’s Snuff

Chrome-logo-2011-03-16Three weeks ago I decided to give Google Chrome a shot at replacing Mozilla Firefox as my primary browser. And believe me, it was a fair contest: I only called upon Firefox when I could not get Chrome to work.

Unfortunately, I had to call on Firefox at least once every other day. And while I still run across the occasional Web site that requires me to use Internet Explorer — mainly, Web sites that use some Microsoft technology, such as LiveMeeting or an ActiveX control of some sort — that’s maybe once or twice a month.

(And no, I have not given IE a chance to be my primary browser. When it truly embraces Web standards, then I will consider it. Internet Explorer is barely in the neighborhood of standards compliance right now, never mind on the same street. Safari? C’mon, man. Opera? Seriously, stop now, you’re embarrassing yourself.)

So I’ve made up my mind: Chrome gets sent back to the minors to work on its skills, and Firefox — older, fatter, slower, but far more dependable and experienced — is back as my ace starting pitcher.

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It’s All Chinese To Me: Reader Has Google Translate Built-In

I really like Google Reader; one of its great features is its recommendations. As long as you choose to “like” articles and media on a fairly consistent basis, Reader can do a very good job of finding new content and sources (provided, that is, they come from a Feedburner RSS feed).

Because Google expected me to have at least a modicum of Internet savvy — perhaps from the nature of the things I “like” and share — Reader occasionally sends along to me tweets written in Chinese.

A tweet written in Chinese

Google Reader suggests a tweet, but it's all Chinese to me. Note the "not interested" tick is checked. That's because I failed to RTFM.

According to Google Translate, the tweet above reads:

RT @ aiww: Ha, yes. RT @ luanmazi: Republic of the “unsung heroes” bei RT @ june197433: “China’s Internet status” throughout the White Paper did not mention GFW, Fang Bin-Xing Academy of Engineering uncomfortable it? Http:// @ aiww

That’s clear enough: China doesn’t mention, in its recent statement on the Internet, the school where China’s infamous firewall was developed.

As the “not interested” tick indicates, previously I had been marking these Chinese tweets to disappear, but I’ve been getting 2-3 per week, despite my attempt to indicate I can’t read Chinese. It’s time-consuming to copy and paste these tweets into Translate; I already waste enough time on Reader, Twitter and Facebook.

Which sent me on a quest to find a way to translate Reader posts inline.

Being a typical programmer, my initial thought was a $10 solution to a 50-cent problem: I could use the Reader and Translate APIs to do on-the-fly translations. That, however, was quickly dismissed as a gross impracticality.

I could find, or write, a Greasemonkey script to do the translation. I did find a Greasemonkey script that translates tweets on the Twitter Web page itself. I installed that and it works great, from a technical standpoint; but the Engrish it generates is, shall we say, rough.

A Twitter translation by Google: Wait, what?

A Twitter translation by Google, from Japanese to English: Wait, what?

So I was resigned to having to live with a choice between no translation or bad translations. Until I decided to STFW one more time, and found the solution: Google has already handled translation for me. As in, translation is just a button click away.

Google Reader translation option

Oh, you mean I should click *that* button. Why didn't you say so?

Proving, once again, it’s important to read the manual.

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Google’s Web Browser Has Its Problems, Too

Remember last month, when all the Internet was crowing about how “no one even attempts hacking Chrome” at Pwn2Own, an annual hacking contest with a primary focus on Web browsers?

The implication was, of course, that the Chrome Web browser cannot be hacked; or, at least, that its architecture is so good, and that hackers know this so well, that Chrome somehow becomes the Sword In The Stone, if not the Holy Grail.

This, of course, is nonsense. Fast-forward to today, where Google announces patches to three major Chrome security holes.

While Google isn’t revealing the specific nature of the three holes — “the referenced bugs may be kept private until a majority of our users are up to date with the fix” — their titles alone are alarming: “cross-origin bypass” suggests it’s pretty easy to spoof / forge where a request comes from; and all “memory corruption” causes concern about at least forced crashing, if not unauthorized access to system privileges.

Is Chrome a bad browser? Hardly. Has it had problems? It sure has. Did the refusal of hackers to go after Chrome during Pwn2Own mean Chrome is invincible? Not at all.

For one, there’s money to be made at this competition, and time is limited, so it only makes sense to go after the browsers you know can be compromised easily: Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari, which was most easily hacked in previous Pwn2Own contests and leverages the same base technologies — WebKit and Chromium — used to power Google Chrome.

For another, these other browsers have been out longer and are used more widely than Chrome. That means knowledge of how they are built, information about glitches that could prove to be exploitable, etc. is greater.

Or I may be completely wrong. It could be that Chrome is, indeed, completely feared within the black- and white-hat communities alike.

Whatever the case, my point is that Google is not infallible, Chrome can be exploited, and why no one bothered to try to do so during a specific competition is hard to say.

Take with a grain of salt the hype you hear about hacking and security, especially if it’s proclaimed loudly. Anything complex is vulnerable to compromise and collapse, be it the Mayan civilization or even the Oracle DB server. Chrome is no different.

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