Running out of ideas

I was thinking that I’d have to run an apology today because I didn’t have anything ready for the blog. As mentioned last week, I shot a lot of time playing Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker, and had used up all of my existing backlog. Plus, there’s been almost no activity from Gakken, so nothing to write about there.

I am getting frustrated with Gakken. I’ve been expecting an email newsletter to talk about their upcoming projects, but, nothing. I’ve been checking the editor’s blog, and that hasn’t updated since they announced the postcard giveaway for their “Science of Beautiful Skin” kit. I’m fully up to date on the Facebook articles, but the only thing recent there was the mention of the Slope Measurement Grand Prix, and that was just a competition for smart phone apps. I keep checking just in case the Auto Writer Doll kit gets listed, but that’s been a bust, too. Generally, Amazon lists the kits 2-3 months before the release date, even if there’s no cover artwork, just to be able to take pre-orders. Gakken has the Auto Writer as potentially coming out in July, but if it’s not on Amazon at this point, then I expect the ship date to slip another month or two, again.

Anyway, back to me. I wrote a while back that I’d gotten 400 loose LEDs for Christmas, and I’ve been considering, off and on, what to do with them. One specific idea involved having some kind of cylinder. But, since my apartment is so small and the only tools I have room for are an xacto knife and a pocket screwdriver set, my options for machining a cylinder out of aluminum or acrylic were kind of limited. But, just a few minutes ago, I used up the last of the plastic wrap, leaving me with a pretty hefty cardboard roll. I think I can start my project now.

Resourcefulness is just another word for desperation.


Sam Loyd

I’ve been playing Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker for the last couple weeks, so I’ve fallen behind on my blog writing here. I hope to catch up by next week. It doesn’t help that Gakken has taken such a low profile lately, since the entire point of this blog was to talk about their new projects. Anyway, in the meantime I’ll talk a bit about Sam Loyd.

If you like logic or chess puzzles, you may be familiar with Sam (1841-1911).  He was a puzzle designer and chess player; at his peak he was ranked 15th in the chess world. His son published his collection of puzzles entitled, “Sam Loyd’s Cyclopedia of 5000 Puzzles, Tricks and Conundrums with Answers“. 5,000 is a lot, although a number of them may be from other people. You can find several books on Sam Loyd and his puzzles on Amazon.

A couple months ago, I was contacted by someone asking if I could buy a copy of the Q.E.D. manga (vol. 45)  in which the Sam Loyd donkey puzzle was featured in. The return address was for Sam Loyd and I wasn’t sure whether he’d come back from the grave to pull tricks on people. In fact, the sender was the curator of the Sam Loyd gallery and store in Australia, and he wanted the manga for their archives. In the end, I helped out by translating the instructions for the Trick Donkey into Japanese for him. The gallery’s ultimate goal is to have the Trick Donkey available in every language on the planet.

If you like puzzles, I suggest you visit the official gallery website and try them out. Then visit the store and pick up some copies for yourself.


Slope Gauge App

Another slow week for Otona no Kagaku. The only activity has been on the Facebook page, where they have a link to another page showing slope gauge apps for the smartphone. I’m not finding any information on the Ban-1 Grand Prix in English, but it looks like a contest for smartphone app makers.

Blocking Floating Ads

A slightly different entry today.

3-4 months ago, I was prompted on the computer to install the latest Adobe Flash Player update. Right after doing so, I started getting a lot of ads popping up on Firefox. Generally, these were floating panels that would slide in to the right, left or bottom sides of the window whenever I visited a site that was ad sponsored. These contained additional ads for stuff already on the page, like for American Apparel. Closing the panel would cause 2-3 more windows to pop open. The panels blocked 40% of the screen and mostly had garbage I wouldn’t want to look at even if I was interested in related products. The ads were also appearing in Chrome and IE, indicating that it was something either in Flash, or an add-on app used in common with all three browsers.

At first, I tolerated the ads because I didn’t know how much work they’d be to remove, and I was pretty sure they weren’t outright malware. They were getting annoying, though, so I went to CNet’s Download site and grabbed a copy of ADBlock Plus. This worked relatively well for a couple of weeks, blocking both the floating panels and the pop-up windows. But, I was noticing that the number of sites with floating panel ads was gradually increasing over time and the pages were loading slower, so I went to the ADBlock site to try to get a newer update. There, I learned that the author wasn’t supporting it any more (at least not for Firefox).

So, I needed some other alternative but I was still too lazy to search for it. Three things ultimately tipped me over the edge. 1) Realizing that the ads were somehow related to my not being able to use the Gakken Pocket Miku setup webpage anymore. This page only works under Chrome, and it’s the only way to add new vocabulary to the “singing keyboard”. Without it, the keyboard is a very limited toy. With it, you can update the keyboard with up to 15 lists of any Japanese phonemes you like (up to 56 characters each). 2) ADBlock was preventing me from running Skype (I had to disable it to get past Skype’s splash screen). 3) I couldn’t use MediaFire for hosting my blog photos (again, I had to disable ADBlock to be able to copy the photo URLs for embedding in my blogs). The odds that the pop-up apps were interfering with everything were pretty high, but I wanted to make sure.

I decided to go to again and see if they had an article specifically written for evaluating the best ad blockers, or detailing how to remove floating ads. For some reason, they didn’t. Ultimately, I ended up signing on to CNet’s forums and asking there. One person replied, pointing to a forum message entitled How to remove PUPOption (PUPS = “Potentially Unwanted Programs”).

It’s a fairly long list of instructions that I won’t duplicate here. Suffice it to say that the instructions worked and I don’t have the floating ads or pop-up windows anymore. YAY! What really made the difference was running ADWCleaner. It found over 20 offending items, including a few add-ons, and lots of cookies. I was concerned when it started messing with my registry, but that turned out ok. I suggest backing up your files before you run ADWCleaner, just in case the registry does get damaged.

I didn’t try using the other suggested programs, like RKill, SuperAntiSpyware, Malwarebytes or Unhide, so I don’t know how well they work or if they’re necessary.

In any event, not only don’t I have the floating ads in any of the 3 browsers, my webpages load faster, and I can access the Pocket Miku webpage app again. One of the instructions in the CNet forums page is to look really closely when doing update installs for any third-party software that will also automatically install and to uncheck the boxes, because this is where the PUPS often get introduced. I can’t say that Flash Player itself caused all my problems, but it probably did have a third-party app that WAS responsible for it. I’ll be more careful about unchecking those extra boxes in the future.

Electronic Google

I’ve been wanting to write a post on this for a while, so I might as well do it and get it out of the way.

Google will occasionally run special images or animations on their main search page to commemorate specific people, events or dates. Two that they’ve done in the past that are appropriate to be mentioned here are for Les Paul, and the Moog Synthesizer. Click on the image to go to the google page, play with them and have fun. (Although, the page for the Les Paul link may have been taken down already.)