Friday, June 26, 2015

Clearing Unread Messages in Yahoo Web Mail Client

I had a problem in my Yahoo mail inbox that it was showing 2 unread messages in my Inbox, even though I had read all of my messages.

I scrolled up and down, and could not find any unread messages.

I tried doing "Select All" and then "Mark All As Read", but still it showed those unread messages.

I solved the problem by clicking the selector in the upper right, just above the message list. I selected "Sort by unread" from the drop-down list. When I did that, sure enough my two unread messages came right up on the top of the list! I read the messages and... problem solved.

Then I clicked to change the setting back to "Date: Newest On Top".

Monday, June 22, 2015


A friend and I were discussing hypnotism, particularly in light of the recent Howie Mandel incident on America's Got Talent. I don't know anything about hypnotism, but herewith are my random thoughts about it based on my general skeptical knowledge.

First, it is important to define the meaning of hypnotism. I think in today's common usage, the word will generally take on either of two definitions which I will now address separately.

The first definition of hypnotism is "show hypnotism". This is where a hypnotist gets up in front of an audience, and hypnotizes one or more people on a stage to get them to do things they would not typically do. In my opinion, the way this works is that the subject is playing along with the act because they have strong incentives to do so, many of which are subconscious. They do not want the show and the hypnotist to fail. They want to participate in a successful performance. They are strongly compelled by the atmosphere and the personality of the hypnotist to make the trick work. There are strong social forces that are compelling them to participate. For all of these reasons, they play along and the hypnotism works. In this case, the subject is not really being hypnotized in any meaningful way.

The second definition of hypnotism is "therapeutic hypnotism". This is where the subject meets privately with a hypnotist in order to achieve a pre-defined goal, such as quitting smoking or being able to speak in public. I used to be skeptical of this form of hypnotism, but lately I am inclined to see how it could work. It is well-known that memories, for example, are very malleable. If you ask someone to remember an event, you can actually implant details into their memory that never actualy occurred - in some ways like the seeds of ideas that are planted in the movie "Inception". Along these same lines, I can see that you could change a subject's outlook on a topic. For example, you could plant a thought that someone does not enjoy smoking, or that they have smoked less than they thought, or that their friends don't smoke as much as they thought, etc. Or the therapist could make suggestions to the subject that she is a good public speaker, and that she has done it successfully in the past. Although I think this is not rigorously understood scientifically, it seems reasonable that this type of procedure could have some significant effect in certain cases. However, I don't think the procedures and effects are understood well enough yet for it to be useful in most cases.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Validating the Strategy for Securing Oxygen Masks

I was on a 13 hour flight from Washington DC to Dubai UAE. The pre-flight speech included the standard line:

"In the event that the plane loses cabin pressure while at altitude, the oxygen masks will fall from the ceiling. If you are traveling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your oxygen mask first before helping others."

So I decided to take a few minutes out of the next 13 hours to determine if this advice would hold up under a mathematical analysis. The following table summarizes my findings.

Assumptions (for the purpose of this analysis)
1. The plane ultimately lands safely
2. Everyone who gets the mask on correctly will survive, and everyone who doesn't will die
3. There is one child seated next to you who needs assistance
4. Once someone starts working on a mask, they continue until success or failure of securing that mask
5. Without oxygen, you and the child will lose consciousness after the same amount of time
6. You have a 90% chance of getting your own mask on successfully
7. The child has a 10% chance of getting a mask on successfully
8. You have an 80% chance of getting the child's mask on successfully (either if you are already wearing a mask or not)

We can calculate the expected number of survivors using the probabilities shown above:

E[S] | You First = 2(.73) +1(.01) +1(.17) + 0(.09) = 1.64 survivors
E[S] | Assist Child First = 2(.72) +1(.08) +1(0.0) + 0(.20) = 1.52 survivors

So the advice they give you is correct, unless you value the child's life significantly more than your own.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Just Type This

Here is a quick and fun game that I finished in about 10-15 minutes: Just Type This

This is what the victory screen looks like:

Monday, June 08, 2015

Random Thoughts on Dubai

I spent a week in Dubai in April 2015. Here are my random thoughts:

  • It is very hot. The daily highs were around 95F, and this was in the springtime. One time I brushed my leg against a metal railing near the airport and got a minor burn.
  • There were a lot of people who speak English.
  • There are many malls and they are very large. Some of them are fairly empty much of the time.
  • Many of the stores are American and carry American clothing. If you go into an athletic store, for example, they will carry Nike, Reebok, etc. with all of the English slogans. They do not carry anything at all in these stores with Arabic writing on it.
  • They have just about every American restaurant chain, from Johnny Rockets to Burger King to Elevation Burger, etc. However, there are also plenty of local restaurants with Arabic food.
  • The drivers are very skilled but also rude and impatient. They will honk at a stop sign if you don't cut your way in to traffic. If there is an opening, you need to just take it. They will slow down and let you in.
  • The subway/metro was very clean and easy to use. There was only a red line and green line. It was also very cheap. The only down side was that it was overcrowded during rush hour and you had to push your way no and off. This was partly due to the Sharia type restrictions that had cars dedicated to women and children that the men were not allowed to ride in.
  • There seem to be a lot of Filipinos everywhere you go. Sure enough, I just looked it up and 22% of Dubai's population is Filipino (450,000 people).
  • You do ocasionally see people wearing the full Muslim garb. This can be on the street, in a business meeting, at the mall, etc. However, in total only about 3% of the people will be dressed in this full garb (burkas, white robes, etc.)
  • The sand is actually a bit "sharp". If you get on your hands and knees and shovel around the sand rapidly with your arms, you'll end up with small cuts on your hands and knees.

My pictures are available at:

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Fixing Double or Repeated Characters on Dell Laptop Keyboard

I was having a major issue with my new Dell Precision M4800 laptop that I got in 2015. I would frequently get repeated keys, especially the space bar. For example, after typping a typpical  senntence it  would look  something  like  this. I had to go back and touch up multiple items in every sentence after typing it.

This is what I did to fix the problem:
1. Go to Control Panel / Ease of Access Center and turn on FilterKeys
2. Select BounceKeys radio option and 2.0
3. Go to regedit
4. Navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Accessibility\Keyboard Response
5. Enter the following values:
  • autorepeatdelay:500
  • autorepeatrate:50
  • bouncetime:40
  • delaybeforeacceptance:0
  • flags:59
It is still happening some, but is a lot better (about 98% fixed). I may tweak the settings further to try to improve it even more.

The key setting is the bouncetime. When you type a key, it is making a connection that sends a signal. Sometimes the laptop will detect two signals on the same keystroke. Why? The bouncetime says to wait at least a certain time before recording a second keystroke. For example, say you press space bar and there is a period of 15 milliseconds where the receiver continuously senses the space bar signal coming through (for whatever reason). If the bounce rate was set to "14", it would detect the inital space bar at time 0 ms and then a second one at time 14 ms. By increasing the bouncetime to 40, only one space bar would be registered in this case. The signal would have to last for 40 ms before two keystrokes would be registered. The only downside is that if you are super fast and press a key twice in less than 40 ms, then it will only be counted once. I tried to do this and am unable to press a key twice within 40 ms, so this seems like the right setting for me. By the way, I just typed this entire paragraph without any repeated characters - and you have no idea how much better that is than it was before!

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Email Port 995 Blocked on Wireless by BitDefender

I am posting this because it took me a few hours to fix and I could not find any solutions for it on the internet.

I use Outlook 2013 as my email client for both Verizon and Gmail (Google Apps). I have them both set up as POP3 using the recommended port 995 (SSL) and the recommended incoming mail servers - and

The issue I had was an interesting one. Everything worked perfectly when my ethernet cable was plugged in via a wired connection directly to my FIOS router. But when I unplugged the cable and connected via wireless, my incoming e-mail stopped working (outgoing was still sending fine and I could connect fine to the internet).

Initially, I figured the problem must be my FIOS router blocking traffic on port 995 only when I was connected via wireless (perhaps they thought this was a less secure environment). So I logged in to my FIOS router configuration ( in my browser and admin credentials) and set up a port forwarding rule to forward both TCP and UDP on port 995 to my ip address (which I looked up via "ipconfig" command on the command line). Surprisingly this had no effect.

I called Verizon and after 30 minutes they said yep there is something blocking port 995 but they could not help beyond that.

Next I added an incoming rule on Windows Firewall to allow port 995, but that didn't help either.

Finally, I disabled by "BitDefender" virus protection and that fixed the problem. So BitDefender was blocking port 995 only when I was connected via wireless. I called our BitDefender administrator, and he had to log in to the BitDefender admin console and create a rule to allow port 995 traffic on my IP address. After he did that everything was working.

You may be wondering why more people are not affected by this issue. I thhink most people these days are using IMAP and  not POP3. IMAP uses port 993, so maybe that port is not blocked. And I don't think that many people use BitDefender either.

Hopefully this will help other people with this issue - and even if you don't have BitDefender, you may be able to use a similar troubleshooting process.