Category Archives: Uncategorized

Turn Off The Dictation Hotkey

I have a habit where I’m about to type a control key (e.g. control-c), I’ll hit the control key twice. I don’t know why I do this, and I’m not sure why it’s only the control key, but on Mac, this has the unwanted side-effect of popping up a prompt to enable dictation. (If I had dictation enabled, I suspect it would start transcribing my speech, which might be even worse.)

Macintosh dialog box asking, "Do you want to enable Dictation."

To turn this off:

Go to system preferences and scroll down to “Keyboard.”

Macintosh preferences dialog with the "Keyboard" pane active.

At the bottom of the keyboard pane, is the “Shortcut” label. This shows the current hotkey for activating dictation. I really don’t want this hotkey, but there doesn’t seem to be an option to not have one, so I’ll choose the microphone and hope it doesn’t start transcribing every random conversation near the MacBook.

List of dictation hotkey options: "Press Microphone," "Press Control Key Twice," "Press Globe Twice," "Press Right Command Key Twice," "Press Left Command Key Twice," "Press Either Command Key Twice," "Customize..."

(Cover image generated by AI via

Installing PHP modules

I’m running a WordPress instance on a Zimaboard on the home network. Normally, that’s the kind of thing I’d put on the paid hosting service so I can let someone else worry about patching the OS and such, but since family calendars and the like don’t need to be on the public internet, I decided to do this one in-house.

Once I got WordPress up and running, I checked the “Site Health” and along with some old themes that needed to be cleaned up, there was a notice of a critical issue, telling me that “One or more required modules are missing.”

Expanding the dropdown, I saw the list included curl, imagick, zip, and gd. I tried to be thorough when installing PHP, but evidently missed a few. No biggie. Here’s how to fix it.

Performance warning that "One or more required modules are missing"

PHP modules perform most of the tasks on the server that make your site run. Any changes to these must be made by your server administrator.

The WordPress Hosting Team maintains a list of those modules, both recommended and required, in the team handbook.

Warning: The optional module, curl, is not installed, or has been disabled.

Warning: The optional module, imagick, is not installed, or has been disabled.

Warning: The optional module, zip, is not installed, or has been disabled.

Error: The required module, gd, is not installed, or has been disabled.

This is all running on Ubuntu, so the first step is to update the list of available packages. Because you always do that first.

$ sudo apt update -y

Next, install the missing packages. These are php modules, so the package to install is named “php-” and then the module name. (e.g. php-curl).

$ sudo apt install php-gd php-imagick php-curl php-zip

My machine is running PHP 8.1, so apt determined that the correct packages to install were php8.1-gd, php8.1-imagick, php8.1-curl, and php8.1-zip

Now I know the php-imagick module depends on ImageMagick, so I wanted to make sure that was installed, so after checking the apt command’s help text, I ran apt list -a ImageMagick

$ apt list -a ImageMagick
Listing... Done
imagemagick/jammy-updates,jammy-security,now 8: amd64 [installed]
imagemagick/jammy 8: amd64

Excellent. Everything should be good now right? That’s what I thought, but WordPress disagreed. Returning the Site Health page, the same message appeared, telling me that “One or more required modules are missing.”

I had to scratch my head for a bit on that one. Then I remembered, you don’t just install PHP modules, you also have to tell PHP you want to use them. (For example, Xdebug notoriously causes programs to run more slowly.)

You use phpenmod to enable modules and phpdismod to disable them. (Arguably, I should have included “-s apache2” so they would only be enabled for Apache, but I wanted to make them available for any use of PHP.)

After enabling the modules, you also need to restart apache so the new modules are loaded, so the final set of commands is:

$ sudo phpenmod curl imagick zip gd
$ sudo systemctl restart apache2

And now the Site Health report is a little bit happier.

Set up a MySQL Database for WordPress

I keep losing track of the file where I have these steps written down. It’s past time to put them someplace where I can find them, and perhaps help a few others as well.

create database SOME_DATABASE;
create user 'SOME_USER'@'localhost' IDENTIFIED BY 'A_STRONG_PASSWORD';

The database permissions grant can be fine-tuned a bit, e.g. after installation, remove the DROP, ALTER, and GRANT permissions. (This does, of course, depend on what your plugins are doing, and potentially the needs of a particular major version upgrade.)

Getting Verified on Mastodon

I’m not leaving Twitter, not yet anyhow, but over the weekend I decided to dip my toes in the water and check out Mastodon. I’m still collecting my thoughts on the topic (more on that later perhaps), but in the meantime, let’s talk about how to get verified.

Last week, Twitter announced you’d soon be able to get verified (i.e. a blue checkmark confirming that you’re who you say you are) by paying eight dollars a month. I think they’ve missed the boat.

For me, verification isn’t “Oh, this person’s name really is ‘Roy Kent.” It’s about verifying the account belongs to the same Roy Kent who used to play for AFC Richmond and not someone who coincidentally has the same name and uploaded the other guy’s publicity photo. (Update November 13, 2022: Oh wow! I thought they’d at least check that the name matched what was on the credit card. Instead, the blue check mark has gone from “This person is who they claim to be” to something more akin to the The Star-bellied Sneetches.)

Being a collection of independent web sites, verification on Mastodon doesn’t work quite the same way. It’s quite possible (and arguably, desirable) that and (or any other server) are different people.

The “tricky” part is, you need your online identity to be more than “I’m this person on this particular social media site.” (If your identity really is, “I’m this person on this particular social media site,” I don’t understand the value of verification – if you’re only on one site, where else do people know you from?)

If you do have a web site (or really, any page you control), you can link to it from your Mastodon profile. Then, while on the “Edit your profile” page, copy the verification link and put that on the page you linked to. This causes Mastodon to display the link to that page in green, meaning “verified.” (Or, put another way, “The person controlling that other site is also the person who controls this profile.”)

Using my own profile as an example, here’s how to do it (some of the details may vary between servers, but I believe the general steps will be the same):

Step 1: Edit your profile.

Step 2: Scroll down to the “Profile metadata” section. And put in both a label and a link to your website. (I labeled mine as “website” but you can use whatever text you want.)

Step 3: Click “Save Changes”. (This saves your work, but you’re not verified yet.)

Profile metadata block listing and as web sites I control.

At this point, your mastodon profile will show a link to your web site, but it won’t display that you’ve verified the ownership. You might still be some rando trying to claim that you own someone else’s web site. Next, you have to prove that you own the page you’ve linked to.

Step 4: Scroll back down to the “Profile metadata” section and click the “Copy” button under the verification text. This puts a link into your paste buffer, for my account, it looks like this:

<a rel="me" href="">Mastodon</a>

Place that link somewhere on the page and after a short while, your profile page will show the link to your web site with a highlight, verifying that you’re the same person who controls that page.

Do bear in mind that it might take a few minutes for the highlight to show up. Most mastodon servers are being run by volunteers and at the moment, they’re under a heavy load with people moving from Twitter.

Profile showing and as verified.

Oh, and if you really, really want a checkmark next to your name, you can add an emoji as part of your display name. ✅

Immutable Objects in JavaScript

Yesterday I learned you can have immutable objects in JavaScript.

Constant values of course are nothing new (e.g. const PI = 3.14), at least for simple values. But for objects, the name of the constant only affects which object the name refers to, not the value of the object’s members.

const a = { num: 5}
// outputs: 5

a.num = 10;
// outputs: 10

a = {}
// TypeError: Assignment to constant variable.

So it turns out you can make an object immutable by passing it to Object.freeze().

So if we take the previous example and freeze the object, changing the property’s value doesn’t work.

const a = { num: 5}
// outputs: 5


a.num = 10;
// outputs: 5

The thing that bothers me about this is the attempted assignment fails silently. That opens the possibility of some hard to find bugs.

Start the code with 'use strict', and now there’s an explicit runtime error.

'use strict'
const a = { num: 5}
// outputs: 5


a.num = 10;
// TypeError: Cannot assign to read only property 'num' of object

The other thing to note is that, much like const does for variables, freeze()only affects the values of simple properties. If a property refers to an object, that object’s properties won’t be frozen.

The examples in the Mozilla documentation includes a discussion of “shallow freezing” a deepFreeze() example method demonstrating a recursive technique for freezing object members recursively.

(Cover image via WikiMedia commons, used under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 1.0 Generic)

Turn off the “finish setting up your device” screen

One of my peeves with Windows 10 is occasionally I’ll get a screen saying “Let’s finish setting up your device.” (Uh, I finished setting it up a couple years ago, why do you keep suggesting this?)

This evening, I spotted a post on Twitter from @MrTurner asking how to get rid of that prompt. Great question! And there was an equally awesome reply from @Lucas_Trz with the answer.

So, just in case that isn’t clear enough.

  1. Go into settings (click the Start button, and then the “gear” icon), click 
  2. Click “System”
  3. Click “Notifications & actions”
  4. Uncheck the box next to the text that starts off with “Show me the Windows welcome experience after updates and occasionally” (I’d like to suggest you might want to uncheck a few other things as well.)

Going forward, this is on my list of things I’ll do any time I reinstall Windows. Right next to turning off the feedback surveys.

Cover image by twitter user @MrTurnerj, used in the context of a critique of Windows.

Why your organization needs to own its email address

Dear hypothetical reader: this is a coalescence of some thoughts that have been circulating through my head over the past several years. Hopefully if I write them down, I can make room for other, more interesting thoughts.

I’m opposed to the idea that an organization (I apply this equally to civic organizations, club, and businesses) might use email addresses which the people doing the organization’s business set up with their personal email provider of choice.

That is to say, the organization’s leadership shouldn’t send email to the general public (or even the organization’s own members) from,, or @whatever email address that isn’t owned by the organization. (Ideally, this would be the same domain name as the organization’s web site, but I do recognize that for some small businesses, their primary web presence is Etsy or something similar.)

I have three main reasons for this

  • It doesn’t look professional. People expect to get email from the organization they’re transacting with. (Would you do business with Amazon if the emails came from
  • Having mail boxes the organization administers provides a fallback if someone forgets their password. (This was recently driven home for me when a friend lost access to 20+ years of business correspondence because of a lost AOL password.)
  • Having email addresses the organization administers protects both the organization and the individual if someone leaves under less than amicable circumstances. (Someone leaving under such circumstances is unlikely to be happy if asked to forward emails indefinitely.)

(Image via Pixabay user Deans_icons used under Pixabay License.)


I’ve been experimenting with a Pi-Hole for the past two weeks. This evening I reconfigured the home network so all of our devices will default to using the Pi-Hole for IP address assignment and DNS.

Next, I set up a group so my wife’s work computer will be exempted from DNS filtering. A web-based application shouldn’t break because of a blocked tracker, but I don’t want to troubleshoot any collateral damage.

Finally, I reconfigured my phone and desktop to get their IP and DNS information dynamically instead of the static settings they’d been using while I evaluated the set up.

If all goes according to plan, I just sit back and relax and no longer have to deal with ads for an item I bought last week following me across the web for the next month.

(Public domain image from US National Aeronautics and Space Administration)

Typing Emoji on WIndows 10 ?

This has the potential to be dangerous. ? I was writing an email to a friend and wanted it to be perfectly clear that what I was writing was joke. I find the purely textual emoticons such as the sideways smiley 🙂 are often mistaken for punctuation and their intent lost, so I wanted to use a graphical emoji. We both use GMail, but I don’t care for the “melted lump” characters Google put in there.

On a whim, I did a search for how to type emoji on windows 10 and found a PC World article explaining how to type emoji if you have the Fall Creators Update. My immediate thought was to wonder if it was safe to assume everyone had it yet, and then I realized the article was from 2017! So the feature’s been there for a while and I just didn’t know about it.

So, if you on Windows 10, you can type emoji by pressing the Windows Key, followed by either the period or the semi-colon, and an emoji keyboard will appear. This is much more convenient – and universal – than any per-website or per-application emoji button.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a huge fan of emoji, but sometimes you just really want to type ? or ✈ without first visiting emojipedia. ?

(Only bummer on this is GMail replaces the emoji characters with the “melted lump” equivalents.)

By the way, Mac users can do the same by pressing and holding down both the [Control] and [Command] keys and then hitting the space bar.

Image by Pixaline from Pixabay. Used under the Pixabay license.

My Podcast List

I spotted this tweet from Zach Kahn and it got me thinking about my podcast listening habits.

Aside from traffic reports, I’ve pretty much given up on listening to the radio these days. Media consolidation has taken us to the point where you hear the same few songs on all the stations and the air personalities aren’t even in the same city as you any more.

About five years ago, I had to drive about 14 hours in two days. After the first leg of the trip, I decided to download a podcast app (I use Podcast Addict) to check out this “Hanselminutes” podcast I’d been hearing about and see what it was all about. I liked what I heard, and now when I’m driving to work, instead of listening to music, I’ll generally listen to a podcast.

In no particular order, here’s my listening list:

Hanselminutes – Hosted by techie Scott Hanselman, the podcast is self described as “Fresh Air for developers.” This was pretty much my “gateway drug” to the world of podcasts. Although Scott works for Microsoft, the podcast rarely touches on Microsoft-related topics, it mostly seems to follow Scott’s own interests which seem to range from career development, to retro video gaming, and accessibility but still hitting topics such as the Rust language and mathematics.

.Net Rocks – Hosted by Carl Franklin and Richard Campbell, the podcast covers topics of interest to developers who use Microsoft’s .Net frmework, so not just .Net and Windows, but also things such as Octopus Deploy, Docker, quantum computing, Test Driven Development (TDD), and JavaScript frameworks. For the past year or two, the show has dropped to one episode per week, mostly interviewing speakers at developer conferences.

You Bet Your Garden – Hosted by Garden Guru Mike McGrath, the podcast is a repacked version of the nationally syndicated You Bet Your Garden radio show on public radio. (In its current incarnation, the show is both an hour-long public radio show and a half-hour TV show on PBS station WLVT in Bethlehem, PA.) It’s a call-in show where people call with questions about plant care and related topics (gardening, lawn care, house plants, and pest control) and Mike gives them solutions using organic gardening techniques.

RunAs Radio – Hosted by Richard Campbell and described as “a weekly podcast for IT Professionals working with Microsoft products.” The show is somewhere between an interview and a casual conversation between Richard and that week’s guest about the guest’s area of expertise. The conversations seem to assume the listener is already deeply familiar with the topic at hand, but as a non-operations person, I still find enough of interest to keep listening. For example, a recent show about “Runbooks in Octopus Deploy” provided some interesting ideas for how to better approach my own DevOps needs.

Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me! – Because geeks need to laugh too. Hosted by Peter Sagal, Bill Kurtis, and a rotating panel of comedians and humorists, the show is described as a “weekly news quiz” in which listeners call in and attempt to answer questions about the weeks news. Each week also features a “Not My Job” segment in which a celebrity is first interviewed and then quizzed about something unrelated to their field of expertise (e.g. cosmologist Neil deGrasse Tyson being quizzed on Cosmetology).

RadioLab – A weekly exploration of, well…. it varies. They’ve viewed the world through the lens of Dolly Parton’s music, explored the origins and history of square dance, and generally taken a host of other topics and looked at them from all perspectives.

The TED Radio Hour – Interviews with TED speakers, intermixed with excerpts from their talks. Usually three or four speakers, with different takes on a common theme.

That’s my listening list. And so dear hypothetical reader, what podcasts do you listen to?

(Image by Pixabay user PIX1861, used via Pixabay license. )