u200b: What it is, and why it messes up your code or data

u200b: What it is, and why it messes up your code or data

I was pushing some old data through an API at work when I received a weird error message. The API coughed up a hairball. It responded that I had u200b at position 154, and if I needed that character, I’d have to encode it. But I looked at position 154 and it was a number. Nothing weird. So what’s u200b, why does a problematic character exist, and how do you clean it up?

U200b is a Unicode non-printing space. It’s meant to assist typographers in doing page layouts, and it’s extremely useful in certain languages that don’t use the Roman alphabet. But those of us who use the Roman alphabet may go a lifetime without needing it.

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Don’t forget the .NET Framework when troubleshooting

I’ve been troubleshooting a program that’s written in a combination of Java and .NET (yes, now I’ve seen everything), and the program misbehaved. It misbehaved a lot, and the vendor was confused too. About four hours in, one of us had the idea to uninstall the .NET Framework 4.0 and install the newest .NET Framework 4.5.1. The 4.5.1 framework is designed to be backwards compatible with multiple predecessors.

It turned out to be the miracle cure that had eluded us.

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How I fixed an infuriating printer problem

Windows 7 and my HP Laserjet 4100 weren’t getting along. And I was pretty livid about it. I paid $125 for my Windows 7 upgrade, and for that money, I got to mess around for 4 days trying to get better-than-1997 functionality out of what’s supposed to be the latest and greatest. I was about ready to trade it even up for a copy of Windows ME and Microsoft Bob. Because at least then I’d be able to print.

I finally fixed the problem, but finding the solution wasn’t easy. So I’ll present the symptoms and the ultimate solution here.

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Fixing my b0rken WordPress installation

A little over a week ago, WordPress started acting weird. First, it just got dog slow. Then my site stats page started freezing until I scrolled down and then back up again. Then I started seeing a WordPress.com logon screen on my site stats page. I had to look that account up. Thank goodness for Gmail. Then my Akismet spam filter quit working. Then my stats page stopped working entirely.

I lived with it for a couple of days. I figured maybe WordPress and Akismet had changed something. Or maybe my Linux distribution had. And maybe some update messed things up, and some other update would come along and fix it. No such luck. Read more

Completely bizarre computer problems? Check your system date

PC Magazine’s editor in chief wrote a long column late last week talking about his weird computer problems and a Quixotic quest to fix them. Among other things, his antivirus wasn’t working, and Windows wanted to be activated and wouldn’t let him. He thought he had a virus, but all his scans came up clean.

It turned out his computer thought it was 2013. The date and time were right, but the computer was trying to live three years in the future. Read more

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