Monday, February 19, 2018

Remedying high CPU usage in Firefox when visiting the Esquire site

I recently visted the Esquire site, and Firefox hung for many long minutes, with Process Explorer (a Task Manager alternative) showing very high CPU usage. To stop this, I had to end the Firefox process.

I experienced this with Firefox 38.8 and 39.0.3, both on Windows XP SP3. These two browser versions are relatively close to one another, but in different computers, which led me to conclude, that the issue is server-side.

The culprit is a possibly malformed font file with the .css extension:

This is the file that you have to block.

If you use NoScript already, don't visit the Esquire site yet, and go instead to NoScript Options.
• In the Other tab, there is the ABE subtab;
• Click the USER rule/set in the left pane, and paste the following code into the right pane:


#This is a widespread tracker or ad service of some kind. Used by Esquire, too.

Click OK.

You can now try out the Esquire website. Works for me.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Predictions of FM radio's demise are overrated. FM radio in Estonia.

This was written as an AC and as a reply to a post on Slashdot, but turned out to be too long. There's plenty of discussion, among which there's a U.S.-centric notion, that FM channels there do not play much good music, and a substantial amount of airtime is devoted to ads.

So, I'm in Estonia, and the local public (national) broadcaster ERR has five channels, of which four are broadcast nationwide, while Raadio Tallinn airs just around the capital and its surrounding counties.

Of these, Raadio 2 is like BBC Radio One. It is youth-oriented, plays current music, has some talk programmes; its evening programmes are themed by music genre. Raadio Tallinn plays adult contemporary, jazz, and world music with just news a the top of the hour. Klassikaraadio is self-explanatory. There are promos to events, but no ads. Raadio Tallinn almost has no promos at all. It's all free to listeners, and ad-free ERR channels are entirely paid for by the taxpayer.

Across the country, there are 33 channels in total, but not all are broadcast nationwide. 28 channels are privately-run; of these, there are about four or five that are Christian; six are broadcast in the Russian language (seven total with ERR). Some are only regional. In the north of the country, I could sometimes pick up two Finnish channels.

The non-Christian privately-run channels typically play music geared toward different listeners: one plays only Estonian-language music; another only Russian-language music; another one is extremely conservative, dislikes the state and does conspiracy theories; yet another one is mainstream talk radio. Most others are in-between, vacillating between retro and pop.

Across Estonia, there's music and great (and not-so-great) content available to all tastes, and I don't know of anyone who'd be complaining about radio.

With the exception of Norway with only digital radio, I can imagine, that Finland and other EU/EEA countries have a similar radio landscape.

Because of the large installed base of FM receivers, it would seem really pointless for a country -- as it seems pointless in my view -- to switch FM radio off in its entirety. While digital radio broadcasting has its advantages, then it would be better to implement it side-by-side with FM radio in order to counter planned obsolescence. The side-by-side method is transitional.

Estonia's switch-over to digital tv in 2010 was a major thing. By then, most people had already transitioned away from Soviet-made SECAM sets to those made in the West because of a need to adopt the PAL standard, so anything with a SCART outlet was good for a digital box.

Friday, December 29, 2017

YouTube and Android 2.3

This article is not entirely a resolution. Its main content (further below) is a reply I wrote in a thread on Google Product Forums, but I thought to post it here first, because I can add links and more context.

What follows at this point, is what people might be looking for first.

Update: Since 30.12.2017, the YouTube app works again. Yay.
The original text will remain below.

So, the YouTube app does not work on Android 2.3 Gingerbread and below, and shows "Error 410".

For me, the currently working resolution in Android 2.3 is to use the mobile YouTube site in the default browser ("Internet"), which sends the YouTube stream to the built-in video player app. It works, but is impractical.
As of December 2017, Android 4.0 ICS is the earliest major version of Android still supported by the official native YouTube app. The app must be up-to-date, and version 11.01.70 certainly works.

This I found out, when I was granted access to a phone that runs Android 4.0.3.
Since Android 2.3 typically runs on lower-specced devices, then Firefox for Android is unlikely to work as a player conduit for YouTube.

That's because on low-end devices, Firefox can be a resource hog even when configured in conjunction with the NoScript extension to be as resource-unintensive as possible.

Nevertheless I consider Firefox on Android 2.3 with NoScript to be like a life-saver, expecially when many modern websites have refused to load in the default browser.

13.01.2018: It should be note, that on the basis of 2 billion monthly Android users (as of May 2017), the 0.4% of active Android 2.3 Gingerbread users make up about eight million people, which is the population size of several countries.
The forum thread reply:
The particular Android 4.0.3 phone I did research with, only has the YouTube app updated, and Google Play Services, too. (The latter auto-updates in the backround.)

Other apps in the device are not, and were never updated. — That was mostly through a stroke of curious unluck: As far as I could tell, the phone's owner never signed into his Google account linked to the device for the entire time he'd been using the phone. The Android UI did ask for account sign-in all the time, but the owner dismissed the notifications. So, this prevented automatic updates and upgrades to Google Play Services, and prevented automatic updates and upgrades of all of the other built-in apps in the device.

Then I came around and resolved the account issue. That fix enabled automatic updates of Google Play Services, and enabled access to the Google Play Store, where I quickly disabled automatic updates of apps.

Note, that Google Play Services is a core component of official Android, and therefore it's one of the few components for which automatic updates cannot be disabled.

Some of the Google apps in that phone might already have some updates applied, but they are not in their latest versions (Google Maps, Hangouts, etc.). Then I only updated YouTube—mostly in order to find out and report if at least Android 4.0 is supported.

The particular device I was checking out, has an 800 MHz single-core CPU, and 512 MB RAM. That's not a lot, but even nowadays, low-end phones with only that much RAM memory are still being sold as new.[1]

Such phones are good for just one or two apps at a time, and users would be well-advised to prioritise which apps they want to keep. For example, YouTube is a major go-to app. Facebook has an official lite version of its app available; others services, like twitter, offer mobile-friendly and lite versions of their website, if the default browser is too old.

Users should also close the apps they are not using at any particular moment.

In Androids ca version 4.x, long-pressing the Home button lists all the open apps; swiping apps to the right closes them. In newer Androids, single-pressing the Menu button shows the rolodex of any open apps; these, too, can be closed by swiping them to the right.

Friday, October 13, 2017

The Smith Corona Personal Word Processor laptop

I might have written a similar post before, but this herein offers ideas as to why I keep revisiting this device.

Once as a kid, I saw an advert for the subject matter in the Smithsonian Magazine, which mag was once handed to a relative of mine. As I finally got my hands on the journal, a page in it was dedicated to this beautiful advertisement for that machine.

Here's a separate picture of the beauty available on Flickr.

Now, the Personal Word Processor (PWP) is from ca. 1989, or 28 or so years ago as of this posting.

For its time, the device's industrial design was gorgeous, so it captured my imagination, and was thus etched into my mind. Note, that the breadth of my knowledge of computer tech back then was still somewhat limited.

What confused me even then, was this: Why would one build a dedicated word processor instead of a computer that could do that and more?

A quarter century later, I learned, that it was intentionally built as a rather limited machine, and so it lacked the kind of functionality that would have made it reasonably future-proof.

My best guess is, that the project might have taken quite a long while in the product development pipeline, and was maybe even late to market, as full-fledged notebook computers as we know them now, were just around the corner.

One possible cause for PWP's probable simmering in the pipeline may have been the small screen, for which software had to be custom-made. And that always takes time.

Whereas a full-fledged PC-compatible notebook akin to Compaq LTE and just with DOS, would have enormously reduced the time-to-market — DOS ran WordPerfect, Lotus 1-2-3, WordStar, and lots more; people trained on these would have taken very little effort to migrate. Ironically, Compaq LTE was released the same year.

Compared to PWP, Compaq LTE had a bigger and standard-sized screen, a hard drive, a standard diskette drive (PWP's Data Disk was non-standard), had some standard expansion ports, a modem, and included DOS.

Smith-Corona could have built one such general-purpose notebook computer (or even a series of those), and priced it competitively, but didn't.

So, in that same year of 1989, Compaq LTE was released, and completely changed the portables market.

In 1988 (then a year earlier), NEC UltraLite was introduced. The new and reasonably innovative thing about it was the familiar laptop form-factor in consumer space, but it notably lacked a hard drive, and was deathly expensive. (GRID Compass was the first one to have a clamshell design, but it was used in space and aeronautics.)

Smith-Corona could have provided the machine with their simple-to-use software layer anyway, which could have been made to auto-start at power-up. — And marketed it like they did, as a dedicated word processor that could double as a low-end computer.

Computer-literate people could have used a switch, a function, or a key combination to use advanced computer functions, and computer-illiterate people could have used it as a simple word processor and spreadsheet machine.

Nowadays, when compared to full-fledged computers of the time, the Smith-Corona Personal Word Processor feels like a feature phone to today's smartphones.

A cheap Android tablet almost feels the same or like a (limited) home computer of the 1980s, compared to a tablet PC with Windows or Linux.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

What causes user interface lag (yank) in Android, and remedies to that

This was meant as a reply in /. about lag in Android durin gaming.

The lags are there, because there are processes in the background doing something.

• Switch off all other running tasks.
• Check the services running in the background, and all the currently running processes to find out, what's going on.
• Switch off the animated main screen background image, and replace it with a still one.

The two things always causing mayhem during normal phone operations, were and are Google Play Services and Google Play Store apps automatically updating in the background at the expense of everything else. There is no notification or wait-until-idle-and-then-some period. On many occasions, I just had to wait until the phone was responsive again, and when checking in settings for apps, the version numbers of these two apps had been bumped up.

Another culprit is synchronisation — of all your data, and especially the sync of all your photos. Switch off sync in almost all the apps you have. Except maybe Google Play, because without sync for that turned on, the Google Play app won't be able to access the store under you account.

Friday, September 8, 2017

ID-kaart ja Eesti mobiil-ID

Apdeit: Mobiil-ID kuutasu on 1 euro — Tuleb siiski nentida, et tegemist on pideva kuutasuga. Kõnekaartide omanikele, kes oma kõnekaarte tihti ei lae, jääb edaspidigi ID-kaartide kasutamise võimalus. Sest risk on vaid teoreetiline. Aga põhimõtteliselt võiks sellisel juhul kuutasu üldse ära kaotada.

Disclaimer: Kuna ma mobiil-ID-d ise ei kasuta, panin mustandi väheinformeerituna natuke varakult üles, mille pärast tunnen ma ennast nüüd natuke kohmetult. Vähemalt märkisin selle mustandina, aga noh...

Oli: Avalik kiri Eesti mobiilioperaatoritele (mustand, köömes)
Seoses hiljutiste uudistega uuemates Eesti ID-kaartides sisalduvate Gemalto kiipkaartide Gemalto-poolse tarkvara turvalisuse kohta on hüppeliselt kasvanud mobiil-ID kasutajate arv, sest mobiil-ID-d sarnased küsimused ei puuduta.

Spetsialistide tehtud teemakohane kommunikatsioon on igati usaldusväärne.

Küll on mõnede vastutustundetute poliitikute ja parteide avaldused tekitanud ülemäära põhjendamatut ärevust.

Et võimalikke kahtlusi hajutada, saaksid Eesti mobiilioperaatorid ja teised asjaomased asutused võtta ette järgmiseid samme:

* Teha mobiil-ID-ga liitumine septembrist kuni eel- ja e-valimiste perioodi lõpuni maksuvabaks — et see oleks täiesti tasuta, sh. mobiil-ID-d toetav SIM-kaart. Et uue SIM-kaardi järele tuleb tihtipeale tulla operaatori esindusse, tuleb sinna ka rohkem kliente, kes valivad endale äkki uuema telefoni ka.

* E-valimiste perioodil võiks kõik mobiil-ID tehingud olla samuti tasuta, sh digiallkirjastamine. Sellisel viisil oleks mobiil-ID-ga e-hääletamine täiesti tasuta ning teeks hääletamise veelgi ühetaolisemaks (muidu tuleb iga digiallkirjastamise eest maksta operaatorile tasu).

* Niisugust või sarnast kampaaniat saab läbi viia iga kord kui toimuvad valimised; eriti just e-hääletamisperioodil.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

A small History of browser support for CSS variables

Firefox support for CSS variables began with version 29 (with the var- prefix, released 29.04.2014) and as an option to be turned on in about:config for this to work.

Support without the custom prefix exists since version 31 (22.07.2014) and with the about:config option turned on by default.

The about:config preference to toggle CSS variables was finally removed in Gecko 55 (08.08.2017), which is the current version; it includes Firefox 55 and other browsers that use the current Gecko rendering engine.

CSS variables have been supported in Google Chrome from the outset with the -webkit-var- prefix and when 'Experimental Web Features' were turned on in chrome://flags.

Prefixed variables functionality existed in Chrome until 33.0.1750 (20.02.2014, Blink 537.36, V8 v3.23.17), and was removed in Chrome 34.0.1847 (08.04.2014, Blink 537.36, V8 v3.24.35) because of performance issues. V8, or Chrome V8, is the JavaScript engine used in Chrome.

Un-prefixed variables were implemented in Chrome 49.0.2623 (02.03.2016, Blink 537.36, V8 v4.9.385). The current Chrome version is 61.0.3163 (05.09.2017, Blink 537.36, V8 v6.1.534).