Thursday, January 29, 2015

AdBlock a Firefox memory hog? Not if you slim your filters!

There are lots of articles out there talking about what a memory hog Adblock Plus is. And in my experience, especially on older machines, they're right, if you leave it subscribed to a bunch of filter lists.

But have you ever actually looked at those lists? EasyList in particular is a huge collection of blocking rules for sites you probably will never visit. I use Firefox on a computer with only 1GB of RAM, and it really slowed me down.

So I took a look at my situation and realized: I mainly visit the same handful of sites over and over. Do I really need to waste that precious memory having Adblock check for ads from half-the-web?

So here's what I did:

  1. Installed Adblock Edge, because I can block whatever I want, and the custom filter lists I create with it sync over to my other Firefox computers
  2. Copied the filters from EasyList from sites I use frequently (a certain Tube site, a certain Centralized Comedy site, and, um, *ahem* a certain rodent site) and added them to my filter list. 
  3. Spent a few days browsing in my usual habits, making note to spend just a minute or two on each site adding my own filters, by just right-clicking on the ads directly. The wildcard character comes in handy here.
  4. Done!
This has resulted in 90% of ads being blocked for me. I also will use the "Open Blockable Items..." menu entry to check for third-party entries I might have missed. Anything that looks suspicious, I block it. If it turns out necessary for the site's function, I disable the entry, not delete it, so that it will be "greyed out" but still visible, so I'll know not to try to block it again if I ever get trigger happy.

What's the point of saying all this?


Screenshot of Firefox memory usage.
Highlighted portion is Adblock Edge ID.

With five tabs open, Adblock Edge is taking up just half a megabyte of memory, and I have no ads visible. HALF A MEGABYTE, people.

They key here is numeric simplicity. Even a simple blocking filter like "*/ads/* removes tons of junk. I have maybe 200 active filters now, compared to the thousands that pile-up with those subscriptions.

Of course, I do use some simple filter subscriptions, like the Facebook Annoyances remover. Plus, there might be some sneaky beacons or trackers, so I have Ghostly and NoScript take care of that (you might also give Disconnect a try, though I found it interfered with sites often enough to be annoying.)

I'd also given uBlock a try as a potential ABE replacement, and I liked it well-enough, and if you always use the same computer, go for it. But, at the moment, it has no syncing feature (and I respect that, for its goal of being as light-weight as possible). As I'm "rolling my own" custom filters, I don't want to have to be blocking the same things twice over. ABE's use of Firefox Sync ensures that what I block at home carries over automatically to the work computer.

I know that some people just want simplicity, and using EasyList and the other filter subscriptions is great for that, especially for their auto-updating nature. I get that, I really do. Even I myself sometimes take a poke back at EasyList for updated YouTube ad-blocking strings. If I had the hardware power, maybe I'd use the filter subscriptions too. But for people complaining about high memory usage, there's really no excuse for so much bloat. Slim it down and your browsing will speed up.

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Monday, January 26, 2015

Naver Maps features "Old Incheon"

Naver Maps has a special map section called 테마지도 ("Themed Maps"), where you can explore certain topics they've presented. One that caught my eye recently was "Old Incheon" in which they've made it convenient to switch between years of old aerial and satellite photos, from between 1985 to the present, so you can explore the various geographic and demographic changes to the Incheon area over these years.

A table of buttons lets you quickly select photo views from the years 1985, 1998, 1989, 1990, 1994, 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2006, 1007, 2008, 2009, and 2010. The map area does not cover all of Korea, but focuses on the western Incheon area, particularly focusing on Yeongjongdo (영종도), the Incheon International Airport (인천국제공항) island. Very cool!

screenshot of Naver Maps' "Old Incheon" featured topic

One problem though, which I ran into on both Firefox and Chrome, is that switching through the years seems not to load the corresponding tiles well. Like most things Korean Internet, you'll want to use Internet Explorer for it to run smoothly.

Check it out at

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Russell Crowe's singing

The following is my opinion on Russell Crowe's singing, and has nothing to do with Korea other than the fact that his being in Korea prompted me to voice an opinion I've only ever shared with friends when drunk. 

Russell Crowe was in Korea this week to promote a film and during an interview with JTBC, had this to say about this singing in Les Miserables:

"It is what it is," the 50-year-old actor said with a smile when posed the question by JTBC anchorman Sohn Seok-hee on Tuesday. "I'm not a Broadway singer and I don't care to be. [Korea Times]
Screen capture from JTBC / Korea Times

I'm going to buck the trend and say this: I liked his singing. He certainly won't get any awards for musical talent, but I didn't feel that it distracted from the story. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that, to me, it suited his character well.

Now I've never seen the stage-play nor read the book, so maybe I'm unqualified to speak, but from the film I gathered that much of Javert's obsession with capturing Jean Valjean came from Javert's own upbringing inside prison walls. Javert's obsession with suppression and order seems some psychological way of bolstering his own undesirable inner identity [a good analysis of this is here]. He's a man who appears good on the outside, but born dirty and hating this part of himself and his origin. Thus his identity as policeman is inherietly weak. His single-mindedness and narrow-view stems from his not wanting to see the whole picture, which extends especially to Jean Valjean, the man born good but made outer-dirty.

And must I now begin to doubt,
Who never doubted all these years?
My heart is stone and still it trembles
[AZ Lyrics]

So all-in-all, his fragile ego and pettiness should be reflected in his actions (they are) and in his songs. I'd say the lyrics of his songs show this (wanting to make the "schoolboys" "wet themselves with blood") and in his voice itself. The weak singing voice, trying hard to be as strong/good as the "lower" people around him but ultimately unable to match them, seems a manifestation of his whole character. So it suits him.

But what do I know? Maybe I'm just jealous that even Crowe sings better than me.
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Thoughts on Uber in Korea

The following is my opinion on Uber's troubled entrance into Korea.

20101018 kia k5 taxi 01.jpg
"20101018 kia k5 taxi 01" by Chu
Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Taxis in Korea. There's a lot one could say about them, and a lot the media has said about them. Sometimes they are sex criminals. Sometimes they attack foreigners. Sometimes foreigners attack them. Sometimes they do bad-ass things that, really, they probably shouldn't have done.

Would Uber solve any of these problems? No. For whatever lack of qualifications, manners, tact, what-have-you that taxi drivers here might be accused of having, the cold fact is that Uber doesn't solve those issues. I'll grant that it's better for the environment and the "sharing economy" but, in Korea at least, if the meter's running (and that's a big "if"), then Uber isn't going to save much in the way of taxi fare, but it would indeed put a large number of taxi drivers out of work. And I don't know about you, but I personally like being able to walk out of an office and immediately hail a taxi.

What I do not like, and I cannot stress this enough, is the actual act of speaking to the drivers. I'd wager that 40~50% of the time, there's no problem. I get in, greet them, state my destination, and we enjoy the ride smoothly, quickly, in silence, with the driver often making legally questionable maneuvers that I nonetheless appreciate for helping me to arrive on-time (though they often look oddly at me, I always wear the seatbelt).

But the other half-times, I get pulled into some useless conversation about my Korean speaking, and my home country, and how the cabbie's got a cousin living in Canada and he says blah blah and somehow this degrades into an argument about where exactly I intend to go.  

No, sir, not City Hall, the -gu office. The -gu office. No, I know most foreigners go to City Hall area. No sir, I'm not mistaken. Sir you're now going the wrong way. Yes sir, I know you've been driving for 30 years, but the GPS in my hand right now, not to mention the street signs passing us by, all indicate that you're now heading in the wrong direction. No sir, I'm not confused. OH FOR FUCKS SAKE just let me out. 

That last line always seems to set things straight.

And this is where Uber, or rather, the threat of Uber, comes in. Though I don't feel any affinity towards Uber itself, it's the threat the Uber has presented that most excites me, for it seem to have been the kick-in-the-butt that taxi companies here needed to get on the whole geolocation bandwagon. I have a lot of Korean friends, and their default behavior has always been (1.) look outside for taxi, and (2.) if no taxi, call the "Call Taxi" service who dispatches a nearby cab, the driver of which calls you five minutes later confused about preciesly where you are, and you have to stay on the line with him for another five minutes while he roams around the blocks looking for you. When he finally finds you, you repeat your destination again because apparently he wasn't notified, and he gets angry because it's not near an area he was hoping to stay in.

Clearly what started well ended inefficiently.

Image Credit: Korea Economic Daily

So it's with hopefulness that I look forward to things like Kakao's taxi service. I'm not a huge fan of Kakao either, but I can testify that they do a good job making their apps foreigner-friendly. If I can use my Kakao account to hail a taxi,  input my destination, and get a price estimate, then the fact that the actual transportation is being done by a licensed taxi driver rather than an unemployed guy with time on his hands (really, is there a difference?) is only an icing on the cake. It will take a company like Kakao to make this happen; I highly doubt the city government or the cab companies themselves will produce an English-language app (or, dare I say, multi-lingual app?). But Kakao at least has a proven track record in making their apps efficient and user-friendly.

So at the end of the day, I don't really care exactly which app I use or exactly what kind of car picks me up. I understand others may support Uber on moral or preferential grounds; I am only speaking for myself here. I want to get from point A to point B as painlessly as possible, with minimal speaking, maximum reliability, and above all, able to initiate/execute the task in English (obviously I'm much stronger in English than Korean). If Uber provides that, fine. If the Korean government blocks Uber but allows for a domestic service that offers me, the foreigner customer, the same basic feature set, then fine again. I already use Kakao anyway. One less service to sign-up for.

So come on Daum-Kakao. Don't let me down.

Although if they fail, and my only recourse is to install some government-sanctioned Active-X-laden certificate-checking app that's 55MB and requires a vaccine app as well and then won't recognize my 영문 name, then I'll be singing a different tune...

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Elote in Korea

I had to laugh when I read this article:
Photo source: Newsis

Home plus, the Korean arm of U.K. food giant Tesco, has introduced a recipe for corn on its website with an interesting name: "drug corn."
The recipe calls for sautéing canned corn with butter, mayonnaise, cream and sugar. [Korea Times]

For those of you who grew up in areas with a large Mexican population, this might sound a lot like the elote that the old grandfather pushing his cart sells at baseball games. Ah, memories... This Homeplus version of "마약옥수수" seems more a ploy taking advantage of recent Honey Butter Mania to promote some imported products (that Tesco canned corn and parmesan), so I guess it's mostly done with corn off-the-cob. Mmm but look at those cobs there... my mouth is watering, though my 동배 is having mixed feelings.

I wonder how long until the chaebols start ripping off the paleteria man? ;-)

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

"Tight Whales" inappropriate sound clip

I was sorting through some old files I had saved on CDs years ago, and came across a collection of small sound clips I had saved. Most were just funny lines from movies. Basically, it was my own personal "sound board" before such things so easily existed.

So I put them all in a VLC playlist and let them play away in the background, getting a nice chuckle from most, until suddenly I hear a girl, in apparent ecstasy, backed by a wild-times saxophone riff, moan out:

Ugh, my asshole's so tight the fucking whales can hear it when it squeaks! Mmm uhh!

Wow. Mind you, I have no idea where this came from. All I know is that I must have downloaded it from somewhere maybe 10 years ago, and in all that time, it's been preserved on a rewritable CD (remember those?).

I did some investigation, and it seems others know of this but also can't identify it. See Reddit comments here and here.

I also came across this "Roommate Confession" on dated 2008 (relevant portions in bold for your convenience):

Sophmore year I lived in a 2 bedroom apartment with 3 other guys. The 2 of us were "normal", clean guys, and the other 2, while we were friends with them, were pretty lazy and huge slobs. Only one of them had a computer, and he was usually at his girlfriend's place (who we couldn't stand). One Thursday night, after coming home to a trashed apartment, and a note that said he wouldn't be back until Monday, we had enough. My roommate, "Sam" is pretty computer savvy, so he put a program on slob's computer that would allow "Sam" to control it from his own computer. Needless to say, we messed with slob's computer. We downloaded a porn clip and took the audio from it, which was a chick saying, "Oh my ass is so tight even the whales can hear it when it squeaks," and set it as the sound for every single action. Monday rolled around and slob sat down at his computer to do whatever. Everytime he clicked on something, opened something, minimized something, etc, this chick's voice blared over his speakers, "Oh my ass is so tight even the whales can hear it when it squeaks." After a minute of him trying to figureit out, he could hear us laughing through the wall.A couple months later, his hamster got out of its cage and crawledinto his subwoofer, chewed through the cables, got electricuted anddied inside. So slob lost his hamster and a subwoofer the same day.
Dave, Univ of MN – Duluth

It is entirely possible that I somehow got hold of "Dave" from Duluth's handiwork. Well Dave, it's time the whole world enjoyed the fruits of your labor, for here now, I present to you that very clip. Enjoy.

► TightWhales.mp3

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Sunday, January 11, 2015

Google Now "Contextual Photos" backgrounds in Seoul

Over at his Google Operating System blog, Alex posted about how the background image in Google Now has changed for some people from the generic-but-cute default Google pictures to pixelated cityscapes that appear to be from the user's local area.

I noticed this in my Google Now several weeks ago, but to be honest I just assumed everyone saw this same image. I sure didn't recognize it as being from the local area then. But in fact, it looks like other Korean users are being shown the same image, so it must be from Seoul.

Here's what I usually see:

My Google Now card, showing the background cityscape

Detail view of Google Now's (Seoul?) skyline image

If I had to guess, I'd say that tall building near center-right is the 63 Building (육삼 빌딩). Compare this scene with photos taken of it such as this one here and this one here. What do you think? Same scene? I can't seem to find exactly the shot that Google is using here, so anyone has any more information, let us know.

UPDATE 2015-01-12:

Wonhyo Bridge (?) background in Google Now
Well look at that, I posted yesterday and suddenly today, another image is available. This one looks to me to be the Wonhyo Bridge (원효대교). Compare the image with these photos.

UPDATE 2015-01-17:

Seongsu Bridge & Namsan Tower background in Google Now

Here is yet another that showed up yesterday. This one pretty clearly shows the Seongsu Bridge (성수대교) at foreground with the N Seoul Tower (N서울타워) on Namsan (남산) in the background. Compare Google's image with this one taken by Robert Koehler. Pretty spot-on. Incidentally, visit Robert's blog for more great photos of Korea.

At any rate, I think most of these photos are pretty... pretty ugly. The weird pixelation makes it look childish and a bit distracting. I like the sentiment behind it, but surely there are better photos they could have chosen.

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Saturday, January 10, 2015

KT Galaxy S4 Mini updated to Android 4.4.4 in Korea

If you, like me, are an expat in Korea that bought a Galaxy S4 Mini (SHV-E370K) from KT's online store, you're in luck. Last week Samsung finally released an Android update. If your phone is running 4.2, you can now update to 4.4.4 (aka "KitKat").

Note that it is not available* as an "over the air" (OTA) update (if you try, it'll just tell you "Latest updates have already been installed"), so you'll need to do it manually by connecting to Samsung Kies. I updated mine a few days ago, using the US-English version of Kies, and it worked just fine. If you need to download Kies, use version 2.6, not 3.
*** UPDATE 2015-01-19: The upgrade is now apparently available OTA.

I haven't noticed much difference, really. Some previously-unavailable apps are now downloadable, such as the Google Camera, so I can now take "Photo Sphere" pics with my S4 Mini. The printing features are here now too.

More info here:
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Monday, January 5, 2015

Removing black boxes in URL bar on Firefox on Lubuntu

After a fresh install of Lubuntu 14.04 this week (yes, I know 14.10 is out, but I'm a LTS kind of guy) on an old Samsung Sens X05 laptop, everything went well except for (1) typing in Korean (which was remedied by my old method here) and (2) some strange black boxes that blocked out the text in the URL bar in Firefox.

Luckily it was a very easy fix, following this suggestion:
  1. Go to about:config
  2. Search for the "gfx.xrender.enabled" entry
  3. Toggle to "false"
  4. Restart Firefox

Ah, that fresh, clean, new-install feeling...
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