Yvan Rodrigues' problogue

(like a blog, but with less effort)

Disconnected ramblings about software development, iOS, FreeBSD, anti-social networking, kittens, drosophilidae, small business, Android, web services, finches, Windows, electrical engineering, XML, rental cars, rye, or ... FIVE dollars??!... something something beer.

Declawing is amputation

Declawing sounds innocent. You remove the nail so it won't grow back, right?

Cat paws and human hands and feet actually have very similar anatomy. Declawing actually is an amputation of the last bone in the paw and the connecting tendon.

It often leaves cats in pain, and arthritis at age 2 or 3 is common.

Learn more at the Paw Project.

"You don't currently have permission to access this folder" on symbolic link

You will face this error when creating a symbolic link (using mklink for example) to a network path.

I encountered this when trying to workaround Visual Studio's insistance that projects not be opened from network drives.

Symbolic links can only be created on local drives.

Profile of Mac vs. PC users


Does your family know what you do?

A fictional conversation between me and a well-intentioned family members.

Them: I was telling Jim at work about what you do and I gave him your contact info, he's looking for a Web Designer.
Me: Oh. Ummm. I'm not a web designer.
Them: Yeah, but you do web pages.
Me: Actually, I'm an Integrated Technology Solutions Consultant. I solve business problems by engineering custom hardware and software to automa---
Them: ---BUT I've seen you do web pages, and you did that nice site for XYZ Inc.
Me: Well, yeah, but that was part of a bigger project, I was creating an extranet to expose an e-commerce component that I integrated with their legacy back-end information system.
Them: Yeah THAT ONE, that's what I mean, you made it look really nice.
Me: Actually I outsourced the design for that project, I just assembled their---
Them: ---AND you designed that site for ABC Ltd. and it looks nice.
Me: Yeah I guess, but that project had a slim margin and I just made do with my own---
Them: ---PERFECT. I'm sure that would be fine for Jim.
Me: I'm really trying to focus on Industrial Automation. What sort of business is Jim in again?
Them: I think mousetraps..., or maybe its metal scrap...
Me: Uh huh---
Them: ---It might have been house wrap... I wasn't really paying attention.
Me: Right.
Them: He was wondering what it would cost.
Me: Well, I usually don't touch anything for under $5000--
Them: WHOA why does it cost so---
Me: --- well, there are a lot of factors to consider, is it data-driven, there's the cost of writing a proposal, I write a project plan, analyse his needs, define the scope, stakeholders, risks, define metrics for success, I need to hire a designer and a photographer, the content needs to be written and proofread, I do A/B testing and penetration tests, there's documentation to be written, and of course I have to cover the overhead of rent, my assistant, insurance, etc.
Them: No, no, he just needs something simple, can't you just whip something up?
Me: Well, projects that seem simple have a way of bloating into megaproject---
Them: BUT he said a guy from the Yellow Pages called and said they'd do one for $70/month if he bought an ad, and it would have Flash, and---
Me: Well I've seen some of those sites... umm... if that's all he needs I'd say go for---
Them: ---But then he said his nephew was good at computers and he could do it cheap.
Me: Actually that's a great way for young people who are learning to gain experience, he should take him up on---
Them: ---but he wants it to look professional.
Me: Uh huh.
[awkward silence]
Me: Hey! I heard an ad for SquareSpace on TWiT -- it actually sounded like you can make some pretty nice sites from their templates and it's only like $8 a month.
Them: Yeah, I think his business is really going to take off. It's going to be BIG. You know, you need to take these small jobs to build up a reputation---
Me: Actually I'm really well respected among my peers. Remember all those articles I wrote and how well received they were? And I've never had to look for work since I started the business, my skills are actually specialized and there is a lot of demand---
Them: ---look, if you don't want to do it just say so.
Me: I don't want to do---
Them: ---I was just trying to help, and Jim's such a nice guy and I just thought---
Me: Fine. Tell him to email me.


AFI's 100 Years… 100 Movies

In 1998, the American Film Institute (AFI) unveiled a list of the 100 best American movies, as determined by a poll of artists and leaders in the film industry from a list of 400 nominated movies. It became a must-watch list for a generation of film buffs who had enjoyed the films when they were released, and a generation of budding film buffs who discovered these masterpieces for the first time.

This app encourages you to browse both lists, enjoy the original movie posters, make your own watch list, rate each of the titles, and learn about the directors, actors and writers of these films.

Awesome Tips and Tricks


Speakout Wireless: But that's just stupid.

I needed a mobile account for a test device today, so I pulled a Speakout SIM out of my GSM drawer. It has been many months since I last used it, so I fully expected there to be no available call balance on the account, and that a new account and phone number would need to be reassigned.

When I tried to activate the SIM on their website, it told me that it had already been activated. Fair enough.

Since they use your phone number as an account number, I tried adding $25 to the account. It happily took my money, but gave me an error that the funds were not added to my account and that I should call service. A little annoying but sure, it has been a while, and this falls outside the realm of "normal" service activation.

When I reached an agent, she explained that once A SIM on an account goes dormant, it cannot be reactivated. You have to buy a new SIM. The old one is garbage. But... huh? It turns out that after your balance expires, you have 45 days to top it up. After 45 days, the SIM cannot be reactivated.

There is no technical reason for this. Heck, I'd pay $5 just for the convenience of being able to use the old one. That's just stupid.

Luckily my drawer also have some fresh SIM cards, so at least I don't need to make a trip to the store just to buy a SIM card.

Orient the bed to the North, of course.

My father was nothing short of a brilliant man. He was an engineer. He spoke 7 or 8 languages, 4 of them fluently. He was well travelled, well read, and well spoken.

He was also vehemently skeptical of the occult, astrology, and all things flaky. 

Every once in a while he would spew the odd wisdom, that I simply assumed was the truth, and usually it was.

Not long ago I found myself explaining to my wife Sarah that the bed should be oriented such that your head points North. I have always done so. When asked why, I didn't have an answer. It's just what Papa said.

Today something made me think of this again, and I thought I'd look it up on the internets. Apparently, the hot topic of nocturnal directionality has been around for eons.

Some say that sleeping with your head oriented to the North results in horrible dreams and exhaustion. That is pretty close to home.

In Hinduism it is said that you should not sleep with your head pointing North or West. Vishnu Purana says: "It is beneficial to lie down with the head placed eastward or southward. The man who lies down with his head placed in contrary directions becomes diseased."

Yet others following Hinduism suggest that the opposite is true. Proponents of sattvik living suggest that there are frequencies present everywhere, and that sleeping toward the North avoids alignment with the negative Patal and tiryak frequencies.

Feng Shui proposes the same sentiment, though prefers Easterly orientation.

I have also seen reference to a tradition that people in the Northern hemisphere should orient to the North, and the opposite for the Southern hemisphere. My father grew up 15 degrees North of the equator.

There may be some science behind all of this. It is theorized that humans like many other species have an internal magnetic compass, our heads being the North pole and our feet at the South. In birds and fish it is thought that this compass aids in navigation.

When two magnets are oriented such that their like poles are aligned, a repulsive force is created by the magnetic fields. Is it possible that sleeping with our heads pointing North results in a constant experience of a repulsive force at the cellular level that could affect our health?

Studies have suggested that humans who sleep in an East-West position have far shorter R.E.M. sleep cycles, in which dreams occur, compared with North-South sleepers who got more REM sleep.

I have found no shortage of testimonials of people who after reorienting to sleep South-facing experience more energy and focus and decreased stress. The same seems to be true about each direction.

One uncited source reports that babies, left to their own devices, will orient themselves toward the North.

Now I feel even less certain.

Candy Crush Saga Cheats

I gave in and I tried this Candy Crush game that everyone was talking about. I'm hooked.

Let me be clear. Five lives per day is a perfectly healthy number. It gives you some time for leisure, and then you are forced to assimilate back into society as a contributing member.

That said, I get just as much fun from taking toys apart as from playing with them, so I started tearing it apart to see what I could do about these limited lives.

These are notes, not instructions. A developer should have no problems here, but if you need step-by-step instructions you'll need to look elsewhere. Better yet, just buy some more lives/items.

The Save File

Your belongings in the gave are saved in a save file, called save_XXXXX.dat, where XXXXX is some sort of timestamp. This file is present in the app's sandbox once you have played the game. It is a binary file. If they used a serializer, I'm not sure which one.

For an iOS device you can read and write to the filesystem using DiskAid.

The process for reverse-engineering save files is no mystery. Copy the save file. Make a change. Copy the save file. Compare.

I used VBinDiff for the binary diffs and Fhred as my hex editor.

Here are my findings so far. Values are big-endian.

Item Byte Offset Bits Tested Bits Predicted
Disco ball 0x0050 32 32
Coconut ring 0x0068 16 32
Jelly Fish 0x005c 8 32
Wrapped & Striped 0x00a4 16 32
Lives 0x0290 16 32
Lollipop hammer  0x0074  8 32
Lucky Candy 0x0098  32


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