Tuesday, September 30, 2008

AOL Journals - RIP

A couple of years ago I experimented a little with AOL Journals blogging service, but I eventually decided to do all of my blogging with Blogger. My old AOL Journal, Poli Ticks, is still there, but now I blog about politics on one of my Blogger blogs, Political Desk. I just received this dispiriting email from AOL:

Dear AOL Journals user,

We're sorry to inform you that on Oct. 31, 2008, AOL(R) Journals will be shut down permanently. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

It's very important that you save your Journals content before the shutdown. We're working on a way to easily move your Journal to another blogging service -- you can expect an email within the next week with more details about how to do it. We want the transition to go as smoothly as possible for you, so you'll have two choices. You can either save your information manually and find another place to blog on your own, or choose to automatically transfer your Journal to a different blogging service we've selected.

In the meantime, please bookmark the
People Connection Blog, where you can find out more about AOL Journals. You can also subscribe to the People Connection Blog RSS feed to stay informed about any changes. We'll be updating the People Connection Blog often, so please check it regularly.

Thank you for your patience and understanding as we make this transition.


The AOL Journals Team

It will be interesting to see what service they pick. I may keep my old blog when they move it, if only since I want to keep those old blog posts.

-- Jack Krupansky

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Chrome: Gray window of death

On occasion the Web page display area in Google's new Chrome Web browser will go dark gray with a little frowning face with X's for eyes in the middle of the window and the caption "Aw, Snap!" and the sub-caption "Something went wrong while displaying this webpage. To continue, press Reload or go to another page." below it. Usually, just hitting F5 reloads the page without any further problems.

-- Jack Krupansky

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Chrome: joke of the day - not properly recognizing Google's own web site

I wanted to check my Google AdSense account for the first time since I starting experimenting with the new Google Chrome Web browser. Certainly AdSense was in my old IE browser history, but I was not sure what Chrome would recognize. I typed "google.com/ads" but Chrome was still not able to suggest a URL. I finished typing "adsense" and hit Enter. Chrome showed "https://google.com/adsense" as the URL in the address box, but with the "https" crossed out with a red slash (I did not type "https") and the following message in the page display area:

This is probably not the site you are looking for!

You attempted to reach google.com, but instead you actually reached a server identifying itself as www.google.com. This may be caused by a misconfiguration on the server or by something more serious. An attacker on your network could be trying to get you to visit a fake (and potentially harmful) version of google.com. You should not proceed.

What a hoot! Google not being able to recognize its own web site!

Actually, the problem relates to a mismatch in the security certificate, google.com vs. www.google.com. If I try the same experiment in IE, I get a more useful message:

There is a problem with this website's security certificate.

The security certificate presented by this website was issued for a different website's address.

Security certificate problems may indicate an attempt to fool you or intercept any data you send to the server.

This is really a goof on Google's part. They should have http://google.com/adsense be a non-secure page that then redirects to https://www.google.com/adsense.

Still, Chrome was less than helpful and even less helpful than IE, although the message is correct when it suggested that the problem might be "caused by a misconfiguration on the server."

Just to rub it in, I would note that "misconfiguration" is not even a real word! Ask Google to define it by searching for "define" followed by the word and Google does not offer a dictionary definition. My suggestion is that the phrase be re-worded as "caused by an improper configuration of the server."

To be fair, misconfigured is in fairly common use, especially for networking, so it probably should be added to dictionaries, at least to the online dictionary of computing and other IT glossaries. And of course it should be added to Microsoft's dictionaries for Word, Outlook, and Outlook Express.

-- Jack Krupansky

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Chrome annoyance: excessive HTML codes for text copied to the clipboard

I thing that I find really annoying about Google's new Chrome Web browser is that if I copy and paste some text from a Web page into an email message in Outlook Express, such as this one, it smothers the text in an excessive amount of HTML codes that make it very difficult to reformat the text in the email message. Normally, I can simply select the text after it has been pasted and press Ctrl+Space and the formatting will be ignored. But now, Chrome wraps a convoluted "SPAN" HTML code around even simple text copied to the clipboard. For example, I just copied the text "Dedicated to providing information to individual investors" from one of my own Web pages and I know that it has no formatting, but Chrome obfuscated it with:

<SPAN class=Apple-style-span
style="WORD-SPACING: 0px; FONT: 16px 'times new roman'; TEXT-TRANSFORM: none; COLOR: rgb(0,0,0); TEXT-INDENT: 0px; WHITE-SPACE: normal; LETTER-SPACING: normal; BORDER-COLLAPSE: separate; orphans: 2; widows: 2; -webkit-border-horizontal-spacing: 0px; -webkit-border-vertical-spacing: 0px; -webkit-text-decorations-in-effect: none; -webkit-text-size-adjust: auto; -webkit-text-stroke-width: 0">...</SPAN>

That is ridiculous, all of that formatting for default, unformatted text.

For now, I either click on the "Source" tab in Outlook Express and manually strip off the SPAN codes, or paste into NOTEPAD.EXE and then re-copy to the clipboard before pasting it into my email. At least I can count on Notepad not to clog up the clipboard.

-- Jack Krupansky

Chrome benefit: Visual access to frequently accessed Web pages

As you start to regularly use Chrome, it does a better and better job of remembering your frequently accessed Web pages ("Most Visited") and actually shows you visual thumbnail images of the top nine them on the New Tab page. This means that the quickest and easiest way to get to one of those top pages is to simply hit Ctrl+T to open a new tab and then simply click on the image of the desired Web page.

Alas, Chrome does not offer any features for explicitly customizing the New Tab page. For example, I would like to shrink the image size and show more rows and columns. My top 9 Web pages has some value, but top 50 would be really useful.

-- Jack Krupansky

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Ban the automatic loaning of customer long positions to short sellers

I despise short selling as much as any bullish investor, but I think the optimal solution to short-selling abuses (e.g., naked short selling) is for the SEC to ban mutual funds and pension funds and insurance companies from loaning stock to short-sellers and to ban brokerage firms from automatically loaning customer long stock positions to short sellers without their explicit permission. How many mutual fund shareholders or employees represented by pension funds or customers keeping stock in their brokerage accounts are even aware that it is they who are the suppliers of stock that short sellers are selling short??!! Brokerage firms, mutual funds, and pension funds are supposed to be operating with a fiduciary duty to protect the interests of their customers but they are failing to do so. Fix this fiduciary duty problem and short sellers will instantly become a very minor force in the market rather than the tail wagging the dog that they currently are. It really is this simple.

One pragmatic logistical change which would help correct a lot of short selling abuses would be to go to T+0.0 settlement rather than the current T+3 settlement. Rather than giving short sellers a 3-day free ride to come up with borrowed shares, force them to cough up the borrowed shared up-front before the short-sale transaction can even be requested to be executed. T+3 is not needed these days and is a dog's age in today's computerized stock market. Even T+0 settlement (by the end of the trading day) is insufficient to deal with naked short-selling. T+0.0 settlement is needed and it is needed... yesterday.

These two changes would literally solve the current systemic problem with short-selling without preventing short-sellers or the beneficiary owners of long stock positions from engaging in stock loaning and short-selling if they so choose.

I find is horrifying and reprehensible that a brokerage firm is permitted to loan a customer's stock without the customer's explicit, up-front, opt-in permission to short sellers, and without any notice to the customer that it may or has been done. Opt-out would not be sufficient. It needs to be opt-in and without any onerous penalty for refusing to opt in.

Why the silly Democrats are not jumping up and down and loudly proclaiming this need  to get rid of this automatic opt-in and irresponsibly loaning by mutual funds and pension funds and insurance companies is rather baffling, other than simply that, as the saying goes, "they don't get it."

-- Jack Krupansky

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Chrome issue: Sharebuilder web site does not yet support Chrome

One of the issues that will constrain me from fully switching to the new Google Chrome Web browser is that the Sharebuilder investment Web site does not support Chrome, yet. The Web site has a list of supported browsers and eventually I am sure they will support Chrome, but for now the site displays the message "Please note: you are using a browser that is not supported for use on the ShareBuilder site. Please upgrade now." Actually, I think the site does work fine with Chrome, but when money is involved you want to be especially careful.

-- Jack Krupansky

Chrome issue: The following plug-in has crashed : Shockwave Flash

Very frequently the new Google Chrome Web browser displays a beige message banner across the top of the page with the message "The following plug-in has crashed : Shockwave Flash." I also notice that there are solid black rectangles where various ads usually appear and they have a little frowning face superimposed on a jigsaw puzzle piece in the middle of those black holes. I sometimes (but not always) see the same message on the Google News Web page which does not have any ads. I did a Web search for this message and see that others have encountered it, but there is no clue as to the nature of the problem or how to fix it. There is actually a Chromium issue page for the problem (Issue 530), but it sheds no light and merely concludes "Status: WontFix." Hmmm... OTOH, if the "bug" simply causes embedded ads to "break", I suppose that is a "problem" that I can live with. I find it ironic that Google with its financial dependency on advertising would allow such a bug out in the wild. OTOH, these are not Google ads that are blocked (I think, since they are dynamic display ads), so maybe there is something more sinister going on.

I did just recently upgrade to Windows XP SP3 and Windows Media Player 11, but neither should have any impact on Shockwave Flash.

In any case, the Web pages seem to function properly otherwise, so for now this is only a minor issue and annoyance for me.

-- Jack Krupansky

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Chrome annoyance: URL completion requires more typing than in IE

Even in IE where I have fast access to favorites, it is still faster to hit one control key to go to the address box and type in a partial URL to call up the URL from the browser history. For example, when I want to go to fidelity.com in IE, I press Ctrl+O to go to the Open dialog box and then type "fid" and the URL for Fidelity is right there and I simply press Enter. But in Chrome, since it is trying to do more in one address box, I actually have to type "fideli" before the Fidelity URL comes up. If I just type "fid", I see the Wikipedia page for Fidel Castro among other Web pages, which I am positive is not in my recent browsing history and certainly not used more frequently than Fidelity. Granted, now that I have selected the Fidelity URL, it does show in the URL completion list when I type "fid", but it is annoying that I have to "train" Chrome when the information is all there in my browsing history. And, even though Fidelity is now in the list, I have to press one or two down arrow keys to select it before pressing Enter, while in IE I can immediately press Enter after typing "fid". Oddly, I only have to press one down arrow if I used Ctrl+E to go to the address box with the intention of "searching the Web", but I have to press two down arrows if I use the basic Ctrl+L to go to the address box to enter a URL. Weird.

-- Jack Krupansky

Monday, September 08, 2008

Chrome annoyance: opening a link in a new tab does not make it the current tab

One of the most common operations I do in a browser is to open a link in a new tab. In IE I simply use Ctrl+Click on a link and presto I see the linked-to Web page in a new tab. It almost works that way in Chrome, but unfortunately the new tabbed page is hidden behind the current page and you have to manually select the new tab, either by moving the mouse to the tab and clicking on it or by pressing Ctrl+Tab (go to next tab). How annoying! IE is actually easier to use than Chrome! Ha-ha!!!

Alright, there is another way to open that link that is slightly easier, but undocumented and still not as easy as IE: mouse over the link (or Tab to it) and press Ctrl+Shift+Click, and now the new tab is automatically (yeah, but only after I pressed that extra key, duh!!) the current tab.

In truth, this is not much of an issue for the average idiot user (who is sticking with IE 6 anyway!) who just does a bare click on the link to open the linked-to page in the same tab, but I am a little more of a power browser and tend to keep a lot of tabs open and bounce between them. The really annoying thing about this is that I cannot effortlessly switch between browsers.

For reference, here are the official Google Chrome keyboard shortcuts:


I would add a new entry to the Window and tab shortcuts section:

Ctrl+Shift and click a link Open a link in a new tab and go to that tab

And while we are at it, you can get back to the tab containing the link by pressing Ctrl+Shift+Tab. And then you can flip back to the new tab again using Ctrl+Tab as described in the first paragraph.

I have a suspicion that the development of the Chrome keyboard shortcuts was sponsored by the American Association of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Surgeons. Yeah, I am kidding, but it would explain things.

-- Jack Krupansky

Minor Chrome bug: improper tab title for Web pages without titles

I continue to try out Google's new Chrome browser. This morning I went to the AAA Daily Fuel Guage Report web site to see how gasoline prices have trended in the past couple of days. (Even though Hurricane Ike is approaching the Gulf, retail gasoline is still declining.) I key in "fuelg" and Chrome promptly displays the full URL, http://www.fuelgaugereport.com/, from my old IE favorities. I press Enter and the page loads fine and looks fine. Except... the browser tab still says "Loading..." I tried it a couple more times, but the same thing happens. Nothing appears to be busy, there is no spinning progress indicator, and the full Web page seems to have been loaded. I tried it in IE and then I notice that IE simply displays the URL in the window title bar. I examined the source for the Web page and notice that there is no <title> tag. Ah ha, that's the source of the problem. Chrome is simply updating the tab title when it sees the <title> tag in the Web page, and has no logic to handle the case of the Web page not having a <title> tag. Bug.

In this case, IE simply uses the URL for the tab title. Hopefully Chrome will eventually improve on that and simply use the core domain name, fuelgaugereport.com, rather than clutter the tab with the unnecessary "http:/www."

Note: I am using IE 7, which does have full support for multi-tabbed browsing. If you do not have tabs in your IE browser, it is probably because you have the older IE 6.

-- Jack Krupansky

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Anybody know the Chrome shortcut to navigate to the bookmarks list?

I have been trying out Google's new Chrome browser. It has some interesting advantages, but the main obstacle preventing me from using it in my normal activities is that I cannot find the shortcut key to navigate to the bookmarks. Chrome did a great job of importing my IE favorites when I downloaded and installed it and they are all there in chrome to see, but you have to navigate to the list using the mouse rather than a keyboard shortcut. For example, in IE I can press Alt, "a", "w", right arrow, "n", "n", Enter and up comes the National Hurricane Center Web page, but in Chrome I have to drag the mouse way over to the upper right corner of the window and click on "Other bookmarks" before I can navigate using the keyboard. And, to add insult to injury, Chrome automatically sorted my bookmarks so the key sequences are now different. And, since it shifted my Weather folder down to the bottom of the list, it is off-screen and requires an extra keystroke to access it.

Overall, Chrome looks good, but I have not yet seen any compelling advantage for an average user.

I will certainly consider using Chrome more... if and when I figure out how to navigate to the bookmarks list with a single keystroke or two.

Ctrl+B does toggle the bookmarks bar, but that is not what I am talking about. I want the equivalent of alt, "a" in IE.

-- Jack Krupansky

Monday, September 01, 2008

Live TV for Hurricane Gustav from New Orleans

Three years ago, I watched a lot of coverage of Hurricane Katrina from Louisiana online from the WWLTV web site, http://www.wwltv.com. Unfortunately, for Hurricane Gustav all I see now on the WWLTV web site is a green rectangle instead of video. I can hear the audio track fine, but no video. Here is the web page that DOESN'T work for me:

http://www.wwltv.com/video/?nvid=57429&live=yes (This DOESN'T work, for me.)

But, I used right-mouse Properties to get a handle on the URL for the video and found that it works fine if I use it directly in Windows Media Player or Internet Explorer. Here is the direct URL for WWLTV live TV video:

http://www.wwltv.com/sharedcontent/video/makeASX.php?title=beloint_wwltv&live=1 (This DOES work, for me.)

-- Jack Krupansky