Autodidact: self-taught


Stephen Fry’s 100 Greatest Gadgets

by V. L. Craven

Stephen Fry's 100 Greatest Gadgets

Stephen Fry’s 100 Greatest Gadgets is a completely subjective list of gadgets Fry loves. How much you enjoy this will hinge heavily on how much you enjoy Stephen Fry and hilarious writing.

If there’s something fundamentally wrong with you and you dislike Fry or dry humour, you won’t find this amusing in the slightest.

It’s only a couple hours long, so each gadget gets very little time (which involves when it was invented and other factoids) yet every one made me laugh out loud. There are also comments from British presenters, actors, comedians, etc, that are equally hysterical.

The complete list can be found here .




Sunday Science and Technology

by V. L. Craven

The Science Part of the Post

There was a bit of a kerfuffle in Russia this week. It seems a meteor exploded several miles above the earth and …things happened.

The sort of things that leave giant holes in ice lakes in Siberia.

So… we didn’t see it… I know we were all paying attention to the incredibly unimaginatively named 2012 DA14*, but a bit more attention to the things that could seriously bollocks up a well-populated area would be appreciated. After all, if outer space sends us an event that’s going to mess up Earth’s shit, there’s not a lot we’ll be able to do about it so let’s focus on things we can affect.

Visit for breaking news , world news , and news about the economy

This is a very interesting page about the last time a (really big) meteor hit Russia . Basically, it must have been scary as hell before the time of massive media telling you the rest of the world wasn’t under attack by blue light fire throwers capable of breaking things forty miles away. So, though your day is a thousand times more bizarre than you’d expected, it wasn’t the beginning of an alien invasion or the end of the world.

Weather Underground has a great article with more information and photos and video, as well.

*I know that there are quadrillions of bodies in space and astronomers are very busy and don’t have time to name all of them, but if something is going to have any real impact (sorry) on Earth, give it a name a person can shout at the sky whilst clinching their fists in frustration. They should name them based on size, speed, and weight, as well as possible consequences; if it could do an enormous amount of damage it’d be a Class A Fuckton meteor with an appropriate name like Ragehorn or Titanium Handgrenade.

The Technology Part of the Post

You know how, sometimes you want information on a medical problem and you go to Wikipedia and MYGODMYEYESWHYYYYY!

YAY! I’mma learn something! NOOOOO!

There, in front of you are the most horrific, psychically scarring images outside of a Saw film. At least with gore-porn films, you expect it & you know it’s not real. But no one needs to know what an excised verruca looks like. After my husband and I finished gagging and cringing and lamenting our lack of eye-bleach over the aforementioned photos, we found Hide Images . It’s an extension available for Firefox, Chrome and Safari and will hide images, logos, backgrounds, videos, iframes (Facebook boxes, YouTube, etc.), and multimedia/flash objects.  Click on the button whilst the page is loading and it removes all images before they’ve had a chance to make you regret every life decision that’s led you to the moment of seeing those images. Click the button again and the images return. It’d be nicer if you could tell the extension to load all pages from a site without images initially, but I’m happy to no longer fear vomiting on my laptop because I wanted to learn something new.

With our tax refund I’m getting a subscription to Poe Forevermore , the complete works of Edgar Allan Poe from Library of America, and a Kindle Fire.

Ugly Hill by Paul Southworth

Its primary use will be reading comics, but I’d like to check out free apps. So please share your recommendations.

Yay! Kindle Fire!

Yay! Edgar Allan Poe!

Yay! Not being killed by a meteor!


SEOs, Link Rot, and Breadcrumbs

by V. L. Craven

One of my goals for this year is to improve my blog–in terms of hits and subscribers and such and, to that end, I asked the proprietress of a blog I quite enjoy, Upon a Midnight Dreary , Dahlia Jane, for advice. She asked what I knew about SEOs.

My response: I know what it stands for.

SEO by Yoast

So I looked into plugins and came across WordPress SEO by Yoast, which, aside from having a staggering number of options to tweak to your geeky heart’s desire, comes with an extremely useful guide . The guide can be used by anyone wishing to improve their site or learn about SEOs, but it would work best with the plugin.

In the process of optimising TAitA, I’ve been learning about such exciting things as link rot and breadcrumbs . [‘Link rot’ sounds like a euphemism for problems with your willy, which makes me laugh. But I digress.]

The first thing I’ve done is acquired the domain for, rather than including my personal domain in the address. Hopefully, this won’t mess up too very much, as WordPress are supposed to be good about re-routing and that sort of thing. If you have problems with the site, please contact me through the contact form at the top of the left sidebar or comment on the offending post or page.

RSS subscribers prior to last Friday will need to resubscribe. I’ve put the RSS link at the top of the right sidebar. However, if you’re using bloody Chrome and click on that link, you get the XML file rather than the option to subscribe through various services the way you do with Firefox and (probably) IE. This is a rather WTF since Google (the entity that owns Chrome) has an RSS reader. [ This  Chrome extension allows one-click subscribing to RSS feeds.]

copyright Southworth--Ugly Hill

From Ugly Hill by Paul Southworth

I’m learning a lot, and also having loads of, ‘What does that mean…why is it important’ moments. Discovering that there are loads of hidden rules of the Internet reminds me of this bit from Black Books:

Start at 7.00

‘The Internet is a game. It has rules. And you need to learn those rules because it’s not a game.’

If you have a WordPress blog and use plugins, please leave a recommendation in the comments. Or if you have any recommendations to improving hit-count and subscribers, your comments would also be appreciated.


Up-Goer Five and Hypothetical Questions

by V. L. Craven

Up Goer Five very very top

XKCD is one of my favourite webcomics. I’m always particularly pleased when I understand the jokes. Luckily, there’s a site that explains the ones I don’t understand (80-90% of them).

Not long ago, there was a comic about the Up-Goer Five, the space car. It was a graphic that explained/described the shuttle using the thousand most common words in the English language and it was brilliant. Then, someone made a text editor that would only allow you to compose text using those thousand (whoops, ten hundred) words. FUN.

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a nice article about the Up-Goer Five text editor . It also mentions the Up-Goer Six text editor , which I find to be even more fun, as it colour-codes your words by how common they are.

There’s also a hilarious Tumblr of film descriptions using Up-Goer Five.

This came up when I searched for ‘Up-Goer Five’. I don’t know why, as it doesn’t apply.

Every Tuesday, the author of XKCD, Randall Munroe uses physics to answer hypothetical questions . Questions like: “If you carry a penny in your coin tray, how long would it take for that penny to cost you more than a cent in extra gas?” and “If every person on Earth aimed a laser pointer at the Moon at the same time, would it change color?”

Somewhat related to this is Slate’s Explainer , where they give actual answers to questions inspired by current events. Warning, that page is addictive to trivia-buffs. It’s like freakin’ TV Tropes in that you go in for a second and find yourself there right hours later, being interested in everything. Sometimes it’s a topic you’ve wondered about, while, other times, the topic makes you say, ‘You know… that’s an excellent question… How do courts handle the innocent half of a Siamese twin, if the other half has committed a crime?’


iTunes Backup and Hidden Files

by V. L. Craven

My Asus Eee Top has two internal hard drives. The one with Windows 7 on it is 40gb. I’d moved my Dropbox files to the 250gb, as well as anything else that could be moved. Still, the 40gb was consistently full. It seemed I couldn’t do anything without receiving an error message saying I only had a few megabytes of space on my hard drive. It gets old, fast.

Just… Fucking… GRAAAAAAA

Through the usefulness of the internet, I found Treesize Free , which checks the size of all files, including hidden files. Through this I discovered there were several months’ worth of backup files in iTunes, occupying several gigs of space.

The best way to delete those is by:
Mac: iTunes –> Preferences (or)  Windows: Edit –> Preferences
Devices > Delete Backup

You can then set it to backup via iCloud . mmmm cloud storage.

Another very useful piece of software for tidying computer files:  CCleaner


iPoe on Your iPod

by V. L. Craven

Poe was old-school even in his own time, tending towards overly-elaborate language no matter the audience–but modern fans can rediscover some of his work in a modern way through the  iPoe apps for iOS.

iPoe Volume One They’re incredible, interactive versions of several of his stories and poems. The text is unedited, but there is music and artwork and elements controlled by the reader. Volume One ($1.99) contains ‘The Oval Portrait’, ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ (which allows you to dismember the old man, whee!), ‘Annabel Lee’, and ‘The Masque of the Red Death’, as well as a brief biography and sketches from the making of the app.  All of these are excellently rendered, though I think Red Death is my favourite. Early on, you can make a Raven peck out a bit of a corpse, (which I had to do a few times, giggling every time) and the final arrival to the party is delightfully creepy.

iPoe Volume Two Volume Two ($2.99) contains ‘Hop-Frog’ and ‘The Black Cat’, with ‘The Raven’ being added at a later date. Bonus material includes The Edgar Allan Poe Route, featuring information about his haunts (apologies) and another sketchbook. The pages you read from are a bit more ornate in this one, but it felt like the illustrations were less interactive than the first volume. Part of that could be down to the fact that ‘Hop-Frog’ isn’t one of my favourite Poe stories, though the app brings it more alive to me than before. All of the selections in both collections are extremely well-done.

My only quibble is that you have to forward all the way to the end of the stories to loop back around to the beginning, rather than being able to access a menu after each tale. That aside, I’m looking forward to ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ though it’s quite long and don’t really expect it to appear.

Here is the tumblr account for the collections, which has illustrations both from the apps as well as other artists.

Dark Tales Rue Morgue

Other apps of interest to the Poe-ophile are hidden object games based on ‘ Murders in the Rue Morgue ‘, ‘ The Black Cat ‘, ‘ The Premature Burial ‘ and ‘ The Gold-Bug ‘. All four are made by ERS Games and distributed by Big Fish Games for the PC, though the first two are available for iPhone/iPod through iTunes.

I’m about halfway through ‘The Black Cat’ and it’s one of the best hidden object games I’ve played. Atmosphere, music, game play, story line, etc is outstanding. I have nothing bad to say about it. I’ve also started ‘Murders in the Rue Morgue,’ which is similarly engrossing.

Dark Tales Black Cat

You can play free demos of all four and then purchase the full game, if you’re hooked. Prices are a few dollars for the apps and up to $15 for the PC versions, though Big Fish usually has some offer on that will bring that down a bit.

[Some people can get the PC-only games to work on Linux with WINE, but I’m having the devil of a time making that happen. If it works I’ll happily purchase both of the currently PC-locked games.]

I’ve looked at some other apps, none of which impressed, but if you find any with merit, please leave a comment.


Electronic Tools for the Autodidact

by V. L. Craven

I’ve had my iPod Touch eight months and would like to update and add information for this post.

($5 & worth every penny) I could wax lyrical about AwesomeNote all day. It’s a calendar, a to do list, a place to jot down ideas… I use it every day and it’s the sort of tool that helps you both  be more productive and feel more productive. Ticking things off during the day and at the end of the day is quite satisfying.

Here is a review from the Chronicle of Higher Education that lists the pros and cons (mostly pros) of Awesome Note.

($10)  Track and Share is great for those of us who love
graphs. Highly customisable, you can track anything you’d like (I keep up with migraines, time writing, number of words written, daily productivity, exercise info, etc.) It converts that information into graphs so it can be easily visually compared.

They also have an app to help track symptoms of people with autism, which is very useful for parents of autistic kids.

($6) Office2 (read Office Squared). Supports importing and exporting files to Dropbox. I only wanted to be able to access spreadsheets and text documents and most office apps are quite expensive. This is probably the best app for people who simply want access to their documents on their iOS device.  This  is a useful review.

Cons: Dropbox is better for just reading your documents–rather than editing them, as Office2 doesn’t display formatting the way it looks on your actual computer screen. Dropbox doesn’t allow you to edit files, but doesn’t give you a heart attack when you loko at a file and it looks completely different from how you expect it to do.

(free) Oh, Dropbox , how I love thee. The mobile app allows you to browse everything in your Dropbox folder that isn’t an OpenOffice or LibreOffice file. It also allows you to save photos in your Dropbox folder to your photos organiser. You can also save documents to your mobile device.

You can also download Project Gutenberg files directly to dropbox, though I’m not certain of the application of that, as you can directly open Kindle files from the Gutenberg site with your Kindle app.

(free) CloudReaders . This is the app I use for reading comics. It supports PDF, CBZ, ZIP, CBR and RAR format, though I use Adobe Reader (see next entry) for PDFs. Reading a comic book on an iPod screen takes some adjustment, but it’s nice to be able to carry all of the Sandman and Lucifer series in my pocket.

(free) Excellent for list-lovers, Springpad is great for to-do lists, shopping lists, to-watch/read/drink lists, etc. To add an item, put in a title and Springpad searches sites like Amazon and gives options from which to choose. You can even share lists. My husband and I can both add items to the grocery list. You can even access your lists online .

(free) Chrome. iOS comes with Safari and it’s fine, but I like having my tabs and bookmarks automatically on all of my devices (an Asus EEETop running Windows 7, an Asus netbook running Linux Mint Maya and an iPod Touch 4g running iOS6). Other than the bookmark usefulness thing, there isn’t an obvious difference. Except! Tapjoy , which I enjoy greatly, doesn’t work with Chrome.

(free) Adobe Reader . There are several apps that allow you to read PDFs, but the Adobe Reader app has mark-up capabilities. Sexy, sexy mark-up capabilities.


No, I Will Not Fix Your Computer… Oh, All Right, Then

by V. L. Craven

This goes out to all of my technologically-gifted friends, called into active duty by their less technologically-gifted friends, family, strangers-who-think-you-look-geeky.

5 Reasons The Guy Fixing Your Computer Hates You — powered by


Click for full size

They even have it on a shirt .

Lifehacker Articles for handling the situation practically.
How to Fix Your Family’s Computer So the Rest of the Year is Easy
Troubleshoot someone’s computer remotely
How Can I Get Out of Doing All of My Family’s Tech Repair?

And a bit more humour

The Family Tech Support Meme

Or you can just show up wearing this :

Or this :

Whilst carrying this :

And if you absolutely have to fix someone’s p.o.s. computer, just think of this:


Addiction and Pets

by V. L. Craven

This week’s links is a short one (two entire entries), as I’m being lazy. I believe in honesty, so there it is.

First up, a fantastic video on the evolutionary explanation of addiction (drugs, alcohol, nicotine, video games, sex, gambling, everything-you-enjoy-doing). It’s also an excellent intro to neurochemicals in the brain. ‘Mo’ synapses, mo’ problems, yo.’

The Scishow has lots and lots of other entertaining and informative videos.

And secondly, for the animal lovers, put together a Pet First Aid Kit in case of an emergency. Animals are people, too.


How to Permanently Deleted Unwanted Apps from an iPod Touch or iPhone

by V. L. Craven

When you uninstall an app from your iPhone/iPod Touch, it still appears in your apps list. This is a pain in the [body part of your choice] .

This is how to permanently remove unused and unwanted apps:

In the image below, you can see I have uninstalled Netflix and JumpOut, so the boxes beside them are unticked.

Go to the ‘Apps’ menu in iTunes (not your iPod). This will show all of the apps that are currently (and ever have been) on your device.

Click on the app you wish to banish. It will be outlined in blue, as Netflix is in the image below.

Press ‘Delete’ and it disappears. As so:

Now, when you return to the apps screen in your idevice:

Netflix and JumpOut have gone the way of the dodo.

And no one was ever unhappy again.

[I know this works for iPods (and, therefore iPhones,) but please let me know if it works on iPads, as well.]


Geeks Hate Mondays

by V. L. Craven

I had a set of links chosen for today, but the morning of the day I composed this (Sunday) I was happily putting the new English (the country) versions of Harry Potter on my iPod, and had to add Cassandra Clare’s Draco Dormiens trilogy, as well as Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality by Eliezer Yudkowsky.

And I realised my geek card was well and truly safe.

So this post is for my compadres in the–sometimes harsh–world of geekdom, as well the people who seek to join us.

From Tech Republic: 10 Geek Sins That Will Get Your Geek Card Revoked. I’m proud to say I’m guilty of none of these.

If any of those apply to you and you need to re-up your cred try these 15 things . And then hit up Think Geek for some useful things of the geek variety. I’ve done eight of these things, but as I’m 0 for 10 on the first list, I’m confident in my geekself.

And the last one from Tech Republic: 75 Must-Read Geek Books
This was a pretty poor showing–I’d read two books and then all seven of the Harry Potter books, however, I’ve 29 in my library/TBR stack. My question for this one was: No Discworld? Really?

If you’re the sort of person that feels this way about technology in Hollywood films: [click to embiggen]

(That’s Penny Arcade . They’re awesome.)

Then the nice people at Cracked have written for you: 8 Scenes That Prove Hollywood Doesn’t Get Technology

From Mental Floss, we have the 11 Geekiest Family Portraits Ever.

And one more Penny Arcade strip because all IT geeks know someone whose destiny appears to be to destroy any and all electronic equipment within fifty feet (without touching said equipment in some cases.)

And if this post has got your geek juices flowing, you may want to hit up RedBubble , as they have some incredible merchandise–for everyone, but geeks, too.


Useful Info for Ipod Touch 4g (Part 1)

by V. L. Craven

This week’s Useful Info post is late because I got a new iPod Touch 4g and have been setting it up properly. When new technology comes into my life, it must be poked and prodded and brought to heel. And this was very new to–it’s my first touch device.

As much as I love technology, I don’t have to have the newest thing the second it’s released. My previous iPod was a Classic and it lasted five years before needing to be retired last week (because I can’t live without music). And I am quite taken with this addition to my gadget arsenal.

Here are some links and information I needed to set up my iPod (her name is Lilith, as I name anything that appears to be alive–including technology).

 “Waiting for sync to start” error

You can set up your iPod so it opens iTunes when connected to your computer. However, occasionally, you may receive the error “waiting for sync to start”. It’s better to open iTunes and then connect your iPod. If you receive the “waiting for sync to start” error, eject your device, restart iTunes and reconnect your device.


“Username or password for “” is incorrect” error

When setting up your gmail account, you may receive this error.

1.] Make sure you’re using your full email address, not just your usename.

2.] It could be that you need to let gmail know your new device is indeed yours by going here
(Hat tip to the responder in this thread.)


Turning off the Shutter Sound

Settings > sounds > “The volume of the ringer and alerts will not be affected by the volume buttons” turn to ‘on’


Accessing Playback Controls While iPod is Locked

You don’t have to unlock your iPod; just double click the home button.


Useful Info for 05-03-12

by V. L. Craven

I never leave the house so I have no use for a phone to occupy my eyes and hands. (I have a Kindle, laptop and DS for that.) But I still found this CNN article on How to Kill Time Without Your Phone to be hilarious.

For my techie friends: a Cracked article about 5 Things Spammers Ruined While We Weren’t Paying Attention .

From Lifehacker: Brainwashing Techniques You Encounter Every Day (and How to Avoid Them) . You’re being blasted with hype left, right and centre. Learning to recognise it is the first step in protecting yourself from it.


Mmmm Raspberry Pi

by V. L. Craven

First there was the One Laptop Per Child initiative to introduce children in developing countries to the wonders of the Internet. Now we have the Raspberry Pi . It’s a credit card sized computer. It looks like this:


You plug keyboard, monitor, ethernet, OS and memory into it. Thusly,


It was designed in order to help kids learn to code. Outstanding. So, in twenty years, when I need tech support, some jumped up child is going to tell me I should just code a better version of the software. ‘Look, you obnoxious tech support person of the future, I didn’t call you to hear that. Tell me how to make the thing do the thing!’

They’re hoping individual programmers will fiddle with them and come up with wonderful new ideas, which is the best way to go about it–just see how well open source software has done.

Some bright spark didn’t put in a big enough order, though*, so now, geeks the world over have to wait until they’re available again.

(I know this is an old meme, but I picture every geek on Earth doing this:)
Take it, damn you!


*Apparently, the Raspberry Pi Foundation can only produce 10,000 twice a month, with an upper limit of 100,000 per year. That may sound like a lot, but when they’re 16 pounds/25 dollars, people can afford a few.


Asus Eee 1215b and 1215n Trackpad Problems

by V. L. Craven

Roughly a week ago I received my new Asus 1215n netbook. It’s the fourth Asus Eee I’ve had and my favourite, thus far. The only complaint I have is that the trackpad malfuncations at least once a day. It only wants to move on the vertical and when I tap to click it reacts as thought I’ve right-clicked.

I consulted the internet and found out that many other people had had this problem. They were told by Asus to reinstall drivers to no avail. Then a few industrious souls opened up their machines to move a couple of pads beneath the trackpad and that worked. Well, that worked for me, as well. For a little more than a day.

Several people returned their 1215ns and received replacements. That had the exact same problem. It’s clearly a construction problem. No other Asus Eee has the same specs so I’m keeping this one. I’m just using an external mouse now.

Instructions on how to move the pads beneath the trackpad:

1. On the bottom of your computer you’ll need to remove two screws. One on the upper left and one on the right.

Remove two screws

2. Use a credit card (technique shown at the 05:30 mark of this video) to pop the small tabs up all along the edge of the palm rest area, including along the keyboard. This piece will want to slide upwards towards the screen a small amount while being removed. Do not try to completely disconnect the palm rest, as it’s connected to the computer by a cable.

3. Move the grey/silver pads to the right:

Insides of Asus Eee 1215

–Some people completely removed the top grey/silver pad for success. (I did and it was a permanent fix.)

This information came from this site.

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