How to determine scale of an unknown toy or model

A frequent question on train forums involves a particular diecast toy car, usually available for a limited time but at a good price, and asking if it’s suitable to use in a particular scale. It seems not everyone knows how to determine scale themselves.

I understand why. I’ve never seen anyone explain how to do the math to figure it out, but it’s really not hard. All you need is a search engine, a ruler, and a calculator.

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Change a headline, go to prison

A former journalist whose track record includes being fired from the Tribune Co. and from Reuters is facing two decades in prison for giving the hacking group Anonymous credentials to log into a Tribune web site and change stuff.

Anonymous changed one headline, and it took about 40 minutes for someone at Tribune Co. to notice and change it back.

It reminds me of something that happened at the newspaper where I used to work.

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Cleaning a PC when fdisk-format-reinstall isn’t an option

There are any number of pie-in-the-sky pundits who will tell you when a computer starts to get slow, to format the hard drive, reinstall Windows, and go on your merry way.

Unfortunately it’s not always realistic. I don’t clean up PCs all that often anymore, but here’s what I do when I need to.

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Why someone would hack a WordPress account

I wasn’t surprised people were trying to hack my blog. What surprised me were how many people were trying to hack my blog–there was a time when I probably had more hacking-related traffic than I had reader-related traffic.

If you have a WordPress blog, you’re probably in a similar situation.

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Make WordPress more mobile-friendly

I took some steps this weekend to make the site more mobile-friendly. I get a lot of traffic from tablets and phones, so I figure the better their experience, the more likely they are to stay around. Fortunately it’s not hard to make WordPress more mobile-friendly.

First, I switched to a 2-column format. On small screens, two columns display better than three.

Next I installed a plugin called definitely-allow-mobile-zooming. This forces your page to allow zooming on mobile devices, since some CSS disallows it. On some devices my page worked fine without it, but Google’s tools flagged me as mobile-unfriendly until I installed it.

Google is going to start tweaking search results based on whether the searcher is on a desktop or a mobile device and favor sites that render well under the searcher’s conditions, so these adjustments are worth making if you value search engine traffic.

Keeping your NAS off Google

I read in a couple of places the last few days about search engines picking up data stored on poorly configured consumer routers acting as a NAS. This isn’t a case of being evil; rather it’s a case of people accidentally posting stuff in public where search engines will find it. Finding difficult-to-find data is what search engines do for a living, so I don’t fault any of the search engine companies for this. Keeping your NAS off Google is probably something you want. Here’s how to do it.

The solution is to know what you’re doing when you need to access your data both at home and on the road. I apologize for the snark, but there are consumer-friendly ways to do it, like using a cloud provider.

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How to make it harder for a scammer to file your taxes for you

Tax fraud is one of big payoffs from data breaches. But there’s a simple thing you can do to make it harder for a scammer to file your taxes if your employer or health insurance provider gets breached and your social security number is one of the ones that gets stolen.

Change your social networking profile.

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Larry Page’s exile and rebirth

A lot of people really dislike Google the way I’ve been known for disliking Apple and Microsoft. It never really occurred to me that all three are related, until I read this piece on Google cofounder Larry Page. Much of what I disliked about Apple and Microsoft were their founders. I found the Bill Gates of the 1980s and 1990s childish (even when I was still a child myself) and a jerk. I didn’t know much about Steve Jobs in the 1980s–back then, people talked about Steve Wozniak more than they talked about Jobs–but as he resurfaced from his exile, I didn’t especially like what I was seeing then, either. Jobs, you see, didn’t come back to Apple as a demigod. He was still a little rough around the edges and, from my outsider perspective, for those first few years at Apple when he was trying to turn Apple around, he was still turning himself around to a degree as well.

I always saw Larry Page as different. He and his classmate, Sergey Brin, developed this great search engine that actually presented the results you were looking for on the front page, and it was fast. And he had this motto that said, “Don’t be evil.” It sounded good to me. And I guess it doesn’t hurt that Page isn’t much older than me. I found him easier to relate to than Gates or Jobs, who literally were getting their start in computers a year or two before I was born. Read more

Upgrading a D-Link DIR-615 to DD-WRT

Last year I bought my mother in law a D-Link router, an oddball DIR-615 revision E1 that was only sold at a few stores. It was supposed to be a Fry’s exclusive, but I bought hers at Micro Center. It worked for a while, then gave her trouble, so this year I was working with it again, and when I was setting it up, I noticed it had some security vulnerabilities–remote code execution, UPnP vulnerabilities, and who knows what else.  So that got me some practice upgrading a D-Link DIR-615 to DD-WRT.

DD-WRT’s track record and attitude towards security research could be better, but I’d rather trust my mother in law to DD-WRT’s B+ security than D-Link’s F.

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