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Month: November 2022

Tax filing software has been sending your income amounts to Facebook

Tax filing software has been sending your income amounts to Facebook

The Markup reports that tax filing services like H&R Block, TaxAct, and TaxSlayer have been quietly sending their financial information to Facebook.

These services use Meta Pixel (also known as the Facebook retargeting pixel) – a snippet of code inserted into the back end of your website to track visitor activity. It works by loading a small library of functions which can use whenever a site visitor takes an action (called an event) that they want to track (called a conversion). Tracked conversions appear in the Ads Manager where they can be used to measure the effectiveness.

It turns out the information sent included users’ income, filing status, refund amounts, and other information. The team that found this behavior has a github repo that shows the actual data sent if you want the gory details.

Intuit’s TurboTax also uses Meta Pixel – but they do not appear to send financial information to Meta.

Just more reason to be very cautious about the tax software you use. As was noted over 10 years ago, if you’re not paying for it, YOU (or your personal data) ARE the product being sold (to someone else)

Manual Cinema

Manual Cinema

Manual Cinema does shadow puppet shows in Chicago. They do some amazing shows such as Frankenstein, A Christmas Carol and many others. They use combinations of puppetry and live acting. Here’s a video on how they produce some of their effects and shows.

Here’s another video of how they create their effects:

Here’s an example of what they can produce in a short film called Eighth Blackbird

Cars like the Subaru Crosstrek

Cars like the Subaru Crosstrek

I like my little Subaru Crosstrek. It’s the right amount of offroad utility and daily driver. I’ve taken it up to the mountains to go snowboarding, through rough forest roads and trails, as well as use it as my daily driver. My only grips are that it lacks in storage space and is pretty underpowered. The later is a fair tradeoff considering the MPG I get from it.

But I was surprised to learn how many other car makers are now trying to capture that same form factor. Enter cars like Nissan Kicks, Mazda CX-30, Honda HR-V, and others. Unfortunately, it looks like a fair number of them aren’t really good for off-road use. I guess I’ll stick with my affordable Crosstrek for now, but good to know there are other options. I hope they get better and give Subaru a run for their money.



Do you have lots of Thanksgiving leftovers? The Mad Mex in Pennsylvania is at it again with a Thanksgiving favorite: The Gobblerito. I made my own version last year with my Thanksgiving leftovers, and it was great. It looks like they have tweaked it a little by making them square and flat.

It seems like they’re still made of turkey, corn, black beans, stuffing, and the wrapped in a burrito and smothered with gravy with a dollop of cranberry. I can confirm they are Mmmm delicious!

No drives found when installing Windows 10 on new Z690 motherboard with a NVME drive.

No drives found when installing Windows 10 on new Z690 motherboard with a NVME drive.

I have a nice MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WIFI motherboard with my shiny new Intel 12th gen i9-12900k processor. Recently, I tried to upgrade my 1TB Samsung 960 EVO M.2 with a 2TB Samsung 970 EVO Plus M.2; but ran into a hitch. When I booted from the Windows 10 installation USB, the NVME drive would not show up in the list of drives for installation. Running Windows repair tools didn’t help.

The process I used was to first use the Windows installation media creator to make a bootable Windows 10 installation USB. Then, I turned off the PC and replaced my 1TB drive with the blank 2TB drive. When I booted off the USB device and tried to install Windows 10, Windows setup claimed it could not find any drives:

Hmmm. I tried running the installer repair tools – but it would give a unhelpful errors and no drives would appear. Even though I had 1 NVME drive and a standard old SATA drive as well.

I read around a bit and found something helpful from Majekk who also saw his NVME drives disappear.

This is probably because you have Intel Rapid Storage Technology enabled. If yes, I would suggest keep using it, because it will let you get as much performance as possible, from you NVMe drives, on Windows 11. You need to run W11 installer (with VMD enabled) and the load Intel drivers. It will make your M.2 drive appear in the Windows installer. Remember that the drive will never be visible in BIOS when using VMD. It is normal.

If you rather don’t want to use VMD (not recommended) – disable the Intel Rapid Storage (or Intel RAID – don’t remember how it’s called in BIOS).

When I went into BIOS, I noticed VMD (RAID) was indeed enabled in my BIOS because I had a set of RAID 5 drives on my previous installation. For an experiment, I turned off VMD (RAID) in BIOS, booted from my Win10 installer USB, and sure enough I could see my NVME and other drives during Windows installation. If I turned VMD back on, the drives would disappear.

The solution came from something I should have realized earlier. The Windows 10 installer (and apparently Windows 11) doesn’t know about my fancy Z690 chipset storage devices. I needed to download the Intel RAID storage controller drivers, unzip them on my Windows installation USB drive, and then manually load those drivers at the drive selection page during Windows installation.

So, here’s the two solutions (but solution 1 is best)

Solution 1: This method includes full Intel storage controller and RAID support. It’s your best bet for full perforrmance and full functionality.

  1. Create your USB Windows 10 installer USB stick.
  2. Download and unzip the MSI Intel RAID storage controller drivers onto the USB stick you created in step 1.
  3. Turn the system off and install the NVME M.2 drive
  4. Boot to BIOS, turn VMD (RAID) on
  5. Save BIOS settings and boot off the Win10 install USB stick
  6. When you get to the drive selection page in the Windows installer there will be no drives. Click the ‘Load Driver’ button.
    • Browse to the USB stick, select the directory where you unzipped the Intel RST drivers. Be sure to point to the proper sub-directory with the floppy version of the driver files: <unzip root>\VMD\f6vmdflpy-x64\
    • You should see at least two Intel devices listed. You don’t need to select anything, just hit ok and Windows will load the drivers
  7. You’ll be returned to the drive selection page and you should see your NVME, RAID, and other drives listed!
  8. Pick the boot drive you want to install too, and hit OK.
  9. Windows 10 will install and you should boot normally after that. You should see all your drives – including any RAID sets you already had.
  10. Be sure to run Windows Update and download/install the latest Intel RAID drivers.

Solution 2: No RAID support later without completely reinstalling Windows. It’s also likely you will not be getting the full performance of your NVMe or other drives either.

  1. Create the USB Windows 10 installation stick.
  2. Turn the system off and install the NVME M.2 drive.
  3. Boot into BIOS, and turn VMD (RAID) off
  4. Reboot from the windows installer USB stick.
  5. Install Windows like normal. Turning off VMD will let you see all your attached drives during the installation phase (all but any RAID drives) and install Win10 on any of them.
  6. You will not be able to use hardware RAID of your motherboard unless you completely re-install Windows. If you turn VMD/RAID on later, the system will ‘lose’ the NVME drive and refuse to boot. If you set it up with the RAID controllers, then the Windows bootloader apparently makes sure the drivers for the VMD device are always loaded. This is why it’s recommended to use solution 1, because it lets you use RAID later if you want.
Christmas Ghost Stories

Christmas Ghost Stories

The British have an intriguing history of telling ghost stories at Christmas. The most famous one is probably Dicken’s Christmas Carol with the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future who haunt Ebenezer Scrooge on Christmas eve. The immensely long running play Woman in Black starts with the protagonist Arthur Kipps being asked by his children to tell a ghost story on Christmas eve.

Here’s a collection of wonderfully 70’s era BBC productions of traditional ghost stories from the likes of MR James, Dickens, etc. They hardly classify as what we would considered horror today, but are a wonderful look back into what scared and intrigued people 100 years ago. I recommend listening to audiobook versions to give them a fair shake. They were originally designed to be told out loud compared to produced into plays (which often mess up pacing/lack description of the experienced horror of the characters).

You can find other productions like Mr. Humphrey’s and His Inheritance. Full of epic 70’s experimental theatrics and music:

Update: Here’s an even bigger collection of videos that includes everything above and more.

The Colonel’s Bequest

The Colonel’s Bequest

The Colonel’s Bequest is an old school graphical murder mystery adventure game made by Sierra in 1989. It features the budding sleuth and Tulane University student Laura Bow. She is invited by her flapper friend, Lillian, to spend a weekend at the decaying sugar plantation of Colonel Dijon. The reclusive and childless Colonel has gathered his quarrelsome relatives for a reading of his will. Tensions explode and the bickering leads to murder. You play Laura and try to solve the mystery as the body count goes up and up.

It is notoriously difficult the first few times you play because it uses a pseudo-realtime clock that advances whether you are ready or not. It’s tremendously easy to miss important details and key character interactions. The first time I played it, I barely knew what the heck was going on. It’s the sort of game that requires a lot of experimenting and replays to catch everything you need.

OneShortEye does a great job revealing some of the more esoteric things that happen in the game, secrets, bugs, as well as finds some interesting industry folks to talk about the game. He covers odds of certain events as well as issues created by emulators and the fact early cracks for the game broke the random number generator which caused the game to act incorrectly.

In revealing secrets – he looks at code and unpacked game resources. He uses information from The Sierra Chest. This site is a tremendous resource of archival and historical information about the creation of The Colonel’s Bequest – including original design documents. It also has information on other Sierra games. Definitely worth checking out.

I personally love this genre of murder mystery game and wish we had more games like this. The game itself sells itself as a murder mystery play in several acts. I think the industry has made many (even recent) attempts at murder mystery games over time, but I don’t think we’ve really figured out good mystery mechanisms that aren’t too difficult, esoteric, or capture links/events in a way that are fun. It’s an area I hope developers and designers keep exploring.

If you’d like to watch a full walkthrough of the game with many of these secrets shown and full score, I recommend Dilandau3000‘s walkthroughs. He does an excellent job – and his channel is full of great playthroughs of older classic games.