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Idiot proofing my PC’s power switch

Although I'm a Mac person, I've almost always had a Windows PC in the house—partly to stay current on the competing OS, but mostly because I enjoy many PC games that never make it to the Mac. I tend to keep these machines much longer than I do my Macs, though—my 2008 PC lasted until the 2017 Frankenmac, and that one lasted until a few months ago, when I decided it was finally time to replace it (as it couldn't run Windows 11).

Long story short, I bought an assemblage of parts and built a new PC, which I love except for one niggling issue that was bugging me. The new machine has very quiet water cooling, a higher-end video card, super-fast SSD, and (most importantly for me) a nearly-silent case. But it's that case that was causing the niggling issue: The power button design was absolutely horrid, leading me to accidentally turn the machine on and off more than once.

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Mazda’s Magnificent Miniaturized Marvel: MX-5 Miata

Way back in 1989, Mazda introduced the MX-5 Miata, its take on the two-seat convertible sports car. To say the car has been successful would be an understatement; it's perennially well reviewed and still going strong 34 years later.

Over the years, we've been lucky enough to own a couple—the first was a 1999 version that we sold shortly before the kids came along. And the second is still ours, a 2020 model that we bought used last summer...

We bought it to have something fun and involving to drive around in—complete with manual transmission, just like in the good old days. But this post isn't about our car, it's about something amazing that Mazda has done—or rather hasn't done—to the Miata over the 34 years of the model's existence: It hasn't bloated it into some oversized imitation of the car it used to be.

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The greatest dishwasher innovation ever

This is definitely a "first world problem and solution," but in case anyone's in the market soon, I thought I'd share…

We'd had our dishwasher for over 12 years, and by last summer, it was starting to show its age—two of the modes couldn't be used at all (the buttons wouldn't activate), and the top rack would constantly want to fall out, despite my replacing its stoppers at some point. It was also quite loud.

Conveniently, I visited my father last summer and saw their dishwasher, which featured a thin silverware rack located at the top of the washer:

I'd never seen this feature before—hey, it'd been 12 years since we looked at new dishwashers—but after one cycle, I was a convert. This tray solves the single worst issue with traditional dishwashers: Loading and unloading the silverware bins.

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Why hidden UI is bad UI—example number 4,516,672,523

If only there were some way to add to the Favorites (or Smart Mailboxes or etc.) section in Mail's sidebar…

…oh wait, there is. As long as you magically hover in exactly the right general area to see the previously-invisible UI for adding favorites.

Thankfully, you can also right-click on a mailbox and select Add to Favorites. I consider the contextual menu items to be semi-hidden UI, as you still have to go looking for them. There is no way to do this using Mail's menus, however.

The best solution would be to have the down-arrow and plus sign always visible next to each item where it's applicable. A user setting could be included for those who prefer the clean look.

I really hate hidden UI.



(No) planes, (no) trains, and automobile

Our family (four of us) flew on Alaska Airlines to Colorado for the holidays; we left on the 20th, and were set to come back on the 27th. We watched the news of the mass cancellations on Southwest and others, but as we were set to fly back after the worst of the weather, we thought "everything should be fine."

Oh how wrong we were.

I awoke Tuesday morning to an email from Alaska Airlines, sent late Monday night, telling us that our Tuesday evening flight had been canceled.

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The most popular letters in Wordle and its relatives

Each morning, I spend a few minutes doing a set of word puzzles—I find they help clear the sleep and get me ready for the day. My daily set includes (in the order I do them):

My focus today is on the first three games in the list. Everyone is probably familiar with Wordle, where you have to guess a five-letter word in six tries.

Canuckle uses the exact same rule set, but all the words are related to Canadian history and culture.

Quordle also uses the same rule set as Wordle, but you solve four five-letter words at the same time. (If you like that kind of thing, Octordle (8 at once), Sedecordle (16), Sectordle (32), and Sexaginta (64) take it to extremes.)

When I started playing Quordle, I had troubles as I'd focus on one word and use up too many moves, preventing myself from solving the others. So I thought I'd "do the math" and see if I could find better opening words for the three Wordle-like games.

To do that, I looked at all the words that had been played so far, figured out which letters were most likely to appear, then created a set of four starting words, based on letter popularity, for each puzzle.

Note: The remainder of this post includes an analysis of all the words used in each game, and ranks the letters by occurrence counts. It also includes graphs showing the distribution of the letters. The images are hopefully unreadably small before clicking, and the top letters are ROT13'd to prevent accidental reading. Still, if you don't want to know, stop reading now.

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Using network locations in macOS Ventura

Update: macOS 13.1 brings the Locations feature back to macOS Ventura, so you can ignore this blog post. To use locations, open the Network section of System Settings, then tap the ellipsis with the down arrow at the bottom of the window:

While this is still a bit hidden, it's much more usable than having to visit Terminal. I don't know why they vanished, but I'm glad Locations have returned from their brief hiatus.

This weekend, I finally migrated my 2019 5K iMac from Mojave to Ventura. There were many reasons for remaining on Mojave, starting with the fact that I liked the OS and it worked very well for me. But I also had a couple 32-bit apps I relied on, as well as a number of 32-bit games I enjoyed playing now and then. As time went on, though, there were more and more current apps that I couldn't update to the latest versions, as they all required something newer than Mojave.

(I wasn't a complete macOS luddite—my 14" MacBook Pro runs Ventura, and that's what I use when supporting Many Tricks customers.)

After the update, I remembered one of the bugaboos about Ventura: Apple, in their infinite wisdom, removed the Locations feature from the Network System Settings panel.

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Monkey Bread recipe—the non-dessert variety

Update: I have updated this recipe to show all measures in grams, as well as fixed some formatting and typos. Given the approaching holidays, I chose to republish with a new date, as it's been a few years since I posted this.

Growing up, around the holidays my mom would bake something we called Monkey Bread. If you search the net for Monkey Bread recipes, what you'll find is a number of dessert-like breads, covered in a sticky brown sugar (or other sweet) coating. Those are not the Monkey Bread my mother made—hers was more of a "regular" bread (containing just ¼ cup of sugar) that you can eat with your meal.

What makes the bread unique—and fun to eat—is that it's assembled from small pieces, which you then tear off and eat.

Although I bake Christmas cookies and occasional other stuff, I'd never tried her Monkey Bread recipe. But for this year's New Year's Eve party/potluck, I thought I'd give it a shot…and after a couple false starts, I managed to get one done…

As noted, that was not my first attempt. I left the egg out of my first batch (whoops), and missed a whole cup of flour (whoops again) on my second try. But in the end, it came out great, and was well liked at the party.

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