I picked up on a tool called WinHTTrack from Dale Meredith’s Pluralsight course on reconnaissance (which I will review in a couple of days).  The tool has a simple premise:  grab website files based on links.

When I ran it against Catallaxy Services, it pulled back results based on each link.  The app handles subdomains separately and presents a reasonable picture of the site.  The advantage to using a tool like this is that you can grab a website and browse it locally later.  This lets you perform site analysis without actually being on the website.

Also, this tool will preserve external links but by default, it will not grab files from external sites.  You don’t want to try to collect the whole internet (right?  Right?), so being able to target downloads to one domain, subdomain, or even directory is very helpful.

Watson Personality Insight & Tone Analyzer

Here’s a fun pair of tools out of IBM’s Watson project:  the Personality Insights and Tone Analyzer.

Personality Insights

For Personality Insights, I decided to put in two separate blog posts.  The first blog post is my listing of three essential concepts in economics, written back in 2007.  Because that’s only 3101 words and I needed 3500, I also added in a second blog post on the silliness of the “marketplace of ideas” concept, which bumped me up to 4479 words.  Watson tells me, based on these two:

You are shrewd and skeptical.

You are philosophical: you are open to and intrigued by new ideas and love to explore them. You are empathetic: you feel what others feel and are compassionate towards them. And you are imaginative: you have a wild imagination.

You are motivated to seek out experiences that provide a strong feeling of efficiency.

You are relatively unconcerned with tradition: you care more about making your own path than following what others have done. You consider independence to guide a large part of what you do: you like to set your own goals to decide how to best achieve them.

I take shrewd and skeptical as compliments, but disagree on empathy and lack of concern with tradition…although 2007 me probably was more libertarian and less conservative than 2015 me.

Speaking of 2015 me, I decided to put in a medley of recent, technical posts, including Presentation Redundancy, Warehousing on the Cheap, and How to Troubleshoot Performance Problems.  Watson says:

You are skeptical, inner-directed and excitable.

You are independent: you have a strong desire to have time to yourself. You are self-conscious: you are sensitive about what others might be thinking about you. And you are unconcerned with art: you are less concerned with artistic or creative activities than most people who participated in our surveys.

Experiences that give a sense of prestige hold some appeal to you.

You are relatively unconcerned with tradition: you care more about making your own path than following what others have done. You consider achieving success to guide a large part of what you do: you seek out opportunities to improve yourself and demonstrate that you are a capable person.

Again Watson says I don’t care about tradition.  Aside from that, I can see agreeing more with this version of the result than the prior one.

By contrast, here’s my blogging partner in crime talking about Madden defense, Madden offense, and Madden, Madden, Madden, Madden, Madden (you’d think he was hooked or something).  This gives Watson 4410 words with which to work, and it comes up with:

You are skeptical, somewhat indirect and unconventional.

You are unconcerned with art: you are less concerned with artistic or creative activities than most people who participated in our surveys. You are intermittent: you have a hard time sticking with difficult tasks for a long period of time. And you are proud: you hold yourself in high regard, satisfied with who you are.

Your choices are driven by a desire for organization.

You consider achieving success to guide a large part of what you do: you seek out opportunities to improve yourself and demonstrate that you are a capable person. You don’t find tradition to be particularly motivating for you: you care more about making your own path than following what others have done.

I’d call this a relatively fair reading.  Of course, Watson personality tests share the same basic flaw as horoscopes:  people go in wanting to see certain things, and they’re willing to ignore the parts that don’t make sense to absorb the flattery.  You, as a smart, beautiful, and talented reader clearly know what I mean.

Tone Analyzer

After seeing what a machine learning tool says about me, I decided to put the marketplace of ideas blog post through the Tone Analyzer.  Compared to a business email—which is the default template for this demo—my blog post is much more analytical and confident.  What’s interesting is that the tone analyzer told me that my writing was simultaneously confident and tentative; as well as angry, cheerful, and negative.  I suppose “angry, cheerful, and negative” does tend to describe my writing style fairly well…


On the word count side, the analyzer picked up significantly more “social tone” than anything else:


I admit that I don’t fully understand the significance of this, but I do think it’s cool that there’s a machine learning algorithm which parses text and analyzes word choices for tone and writer traits.  Check it out with some of your own writing if you’d like.

Miata Paid Off

Yesterday marked the last payment on my new Miata.  My original plan was to pay upfront with a cashier’s check, but the check arrived a few days too late, so I ended up doing a payment plan.

Strangely, the loan provider’s website limited my payments to 3x the monthly payment, and only allowed me to make two a day using their online service.  That needlessly lengthened the amount of time it took for me to get their money in their pockets, but it no longer matters, as I’m completely paid-off.

The biggest lesson from this process is that next time, I should just wait for the check…

ChuWi Vi10 Thoughts

About a month or so ago, I purchased a ChuWi Vi10 tablet.  Now that I’ve had the device for a bit, here are my thoughts on the tablet.

First of all, dual booting is not a joke nor is it a novelty.  It really runs Windows, and it runs Windows pretty dog-gone well, even with just 2 GB of RAM.  The tablet does have a four-core processor, which helps some.  Now, when running in Windows, it can stutter and drag every once in a while.  I also haven’t pushed it beyond running one or two applications at a time.  Normally, I’ll run Firefox and Windows Live Writer, but not too much else.  It obviously won’t play real games, but streaming on Twitch is smooth and graphics are good enough for my low-rent web surfing.

In Android, things are pretty zippy, but the screen is blurry and out of focus.  It’s something you can ignore when page zoom is relatively high, but if you’re trying to read small print, you’ll notice the weakness.  Fortunately, you can root the device and fix the display problem.  After following these instructions, my screen is noticably crisper and I can read ebooks in Android.

As far as size and form factor go, this is a landscape tablet; it’s not something you want to try to carry around and read in portrait mode.  This means that it’s good for webpages and video, but not as good for technical books.  I’ll admit that I haven’t done much reading with this device, especially because I have a 7” tablet which is much better designed for reading.

The big benefit to the device is its keyboard.  When combined with the keyboard, the Vi10 is basically a low-price Surface Pro.  It’s not as powerful as a Surface Pro 3, not by any stretch, but it’s also about a quarter of the price, and because I don’t have laptop money to throw at a tablet, I’d much rather have the ChuWi.  As far as the keyboard itself goes, I’ve had problems with the touchpad.  It’s right in the middle of the keyboard area and you can easily move the mouse and click somewhere you didn’t mean to.  I end up turning the mouse off when I start typing blog posts or longer messages, and instead use the touch screen.

Touch screen precision is OK, but I’ve had some problems.  My fingers aren’t particularly fat, but I do seem to need to double-press or triple-press because I’m ever so slightly off.  If I lowered the resolution, I’m sure that would fix a lot of the problems, and I might end up doing that.  It runs in 1366×768 resolution, and maybe bumping magnification to 125% is the smart play.  I’m going to try that out and see if it’s the answer to my problems or if losing that much screen real estate isn’t worth it.  For precision work, I just use a mouse.

My biggest concern with this device is that the keyboard scratches up the glass—I see scratches all along the edges of my screen.  There haven’t been any deleterious effects and I haven’t tried buffing them out, but it does leave me concerned about the tablet’s longevity and whether it can withstand my…rough habits with devices.

All in all, if you can get this tablet for $150 or less—and right now you can—it could be a very good purchase.  There are rumors of more powerful ChuWi tablets coming out soon, so you might possibly want to wait, but I’m glad I made this purchase.

Weatherstripping Rejuvenated

As soon as I got back from SQL Saturday Cleveland (an event I rather enjoyed), I had to take advantage of the 72-degree weather to work on the Miata.

Today’s mini-project was around weatherstripping.  The weatherstripping on my Miata is old, but not really cracked too badly.  It is, however, not nearly as strong as it was 15 years ago, so I wanted to add a bit more insulation.  Working from this article on how to make old weatherstripping like new again, I bought some poly foam caulk backer and inserted it into the weatherstripping pieces the same as the note at the very bottom.  You only need one bag of this product and you’ll probably have about 12′ of it left over when you’re done.

I needed to find a way to fish the caulk backer through the weatherstripping pieces, and the solution I hit on was to grab a ~3″ screw with approximately 1/2″ diameter and a sharp point.  I screwed the screw into the caulk backer approximately 2″ so that it would stay firm, and that let me guide the foam through the weatherstripping piece so that I could pull it out the other side.  Use scissors to cut the foam (making sure to remove the screw) and you can stuff the insulation material without ripping the weatherstripping pieces.

I have to wait until tomorrow to see if this had any salutary effect.  Ideally, it will reduce wind noise and moderate cold air flow when the top is up, but we will see.


Tightening A Convertible Top

This probably won’t be a very useful post, but it is something I learned recently and figured I would share.

My 1999 Mazda Miata had a bit of a problem recently:  the top got loose on one side, up near the latch on the passenger’s side.


This bothered me for a few days but it was too cold to check out. Fortunately, Friday was a relatively warm day and I got home with some daylight to spare.  It turns out that fixing this problem is quite simple: there is a nut you can turn to tighten or loosen the top.


In this case, looking at the latch from the side, you can see what a loosened nut’s effect is. Looking directly at the nut, the mechanism becomes clearer:


The loosened nut elongated the latch mechanism, making it easier for me to put the top up, but leaving a gap for wind. You can tighten this nut by hand; no tools are required for the job.


Tightening the nut shortens the latch mechanism, leaving you with a tighter seal. Because my top is only about a year old and fits well, I have it tightened all the way. With a top which has shrunk slightly, you might need to loosen the nut a bit.  The end result is a top which forms a tight seal: