Mastodon search?

Despite all the recent hype about the Mastodon social-media service, it doesn’t appear to be that useful for keyword search. For instance a search for keyword “research”, just now, found absolutely nothing…

Turns out that, though search is public (i.e. no sign-up required)…

if you search something in the search box of Mastodon, it will find only users or #hashtags. A more powerful search system will be implemented in the near future.

I did find the third-party service Social Search – Discover accounts across multiple Mastodon servers (‘instances’). This only searches the public account descriptions though. If ‘FluffyTwiddle’ is posting about “open access” but doesn’t have that in their description, you won’t discover them.


Hurrah. A robust YouTube update reverter in UserScript. Works fine, and removes all the new-fangled November 2022 official makeover malarkey. Also restores view-count numbers on individual videos and playlists, which had been removed by the makeover.

Works nicely with YouTube Playlist Time Length, and another free UserScript to auto expand description on video and playlists (no more clicking on “See more…”); with remove YouTube’s ‘recommendations’ and also remove the ‘shorts’ format; and with scripts to disable the overkill 60FPS play speed and the “Video paused. Continue watching?” annoyance.

Also works with the Web browser extension Unhook – Remove YouTube Recommended Videos (also removes comments); the extension AutoplayStopper, which handles autoplay on more services than just YouTube; and the extension Clickbait Remover for Youtube (the preview thumbnail is taken from somewhere other than the start of the video, thus making YouTube less “shouty”).

As always, UBlock Origin handles the ad removal and more.

How to remove the “Cashback” alert in Opera

How to turn off the invasive third-party “Cashback” alert in the desktop Opera Web browser.

1. First, is it enabled for your version of Opera? Visit eBay or similar, and if you see this invasive element-box adjacent to the Address Bar, then you have it…

2. Top Menu (left hand side) | Settings | Privacy & Security — and then in the Settings search-box search for cashb or cashback

3. You should then be shown the Settings panel section for an unknown service called “Dify”. It appears to be enabled by default. Toggle its button to “off” and then exit Settings.

4. Reload the eBay page and the noxious item should now be gone. The “off” setting should persist for future browser version upgrades.

I assume the process is much the same for a mobile version of Opera.

OpenAI’s Whisper

OpenAI’s Whisper can transcribe spoken audio from English and 96 other languages, and can then translate to English text. Not yet a public service, but it can’t be long now — as there’s a new technical paper and open source-code under an MIT licence.

It appears that these are the languages it performs best with…

I found specialists independently saying, elsewhere, that 8% is a “quite decent” score for auto-translation from clearly enunciated and well-recorded audio. So above you have the range roughly either side of that 8% figure. Of course the average lecture-hall recording or iffy phone+skype podcast interview may do significantly worse.

But generally the makers hail the “high accuracy and ease of use”, compared to other methods.

History of Art Bibliography

History of Art Bibliography, new and open-access. 1910-2007. Tests show an impressive range in the results, straying into industrial archaeology in one test re: ceramics. Although a search for “Tolkien” shows only six results, indicating that back-filling is still needed in places. I’d have expected at least 50 results on Tolkien’s own visual art alone, even without the interpretive art made by other artists. The site’s speed is good, the results instantly legible and skim-able.

Translation problems with “cover-price”

A useful note for magazine and journal editors who deal with those overseas. There appears to be a problem with mis-translation in translation services.

1. You send a request to a potential interviewee or contributor, perhaps in France.

2. You politely mention that your magazine or journal will have a “$5 cover-price”, and that it is not free. Something for the recipient to consider.

3. It seems that this phrase can be mis-translated as if a “cover-charge”, of the sort that you might encounter in a French restaurant. This being the price added just ‘to sit at the table’, without even ordering.

The risk is then that the speed-reading interviewee or contributor thinks they will be charged a small fee just to be in the publication, which is not the case.

Setup up CutePDF for 6″ x 9″

Problem: I recently had trouble getting a good PDF from a 200,000-word book. NitroPDF failed repeatedly, being very sluggish and crashing the Windows Print Spooler. And the type quality of a vanilla “Save to PDF” just was not good enough, and also randomly defaulted bits of text to bitmapping. Which messed up back-of-the-book index-building, as well as copy-paste.

Solution: the free Ghostscript Windows installer and the free CutePDF Writer (which requires Ghostscript). Install the open-source Ghostscript utility first, then CutePDF, so you don’t have any hassles caused by CutePDF’s installer needing to go online to get Ghostscript. No reboot is then required, the new printer driver is there straight away, and accessible from File | Print.

Lovely output… very fast (even though 32-bit)… great file-size… but… you then need to know how to get a 6″ x 9″ shaped save for the PDF. 6″ x 9″ inches is a most common paperback book size demanded by print-on-demand printers. And yet perversely it has no named paper-size that ships with printer software by default, for local Windows PDF printers to use. Getting 6″ x 9″ for CutePDF thus requires a bit of a workflow.


1. Windows Start Menu button | Control Panel | Devices and Printers.

2. Select the new CutePDF printer | Print Server Properties | Then set up and save a new 6″ x 9″ form, thus…

Yes it’s a gnarly setup, but you only have to do it once.

3. File | Print | CutePDF | Properties | Advanced | Set your newly created 6″ x 9″ setting | Also embed the fonts by switching to “Softfont”. For POD you may also want to set Postcript Options | Font Download | Native Truetype. OK.

4. Now you’re back in that initial CutePDF Print panel. Here there’s a further vital step. “Scale to Paper Size” | Then drag the drop-down list all the way down to the bottom | Just above the new “Postscript Custom” you see the even newer 6″ x 9″ setting | Select that.

5. OK. That should be it. Both 6″ x 9″ settings are live and aligned, and you should thus get a printed-to-file PDF that matches your 6″ x 9″ Word .DOC file.

To check the fonts embedded, have Acrobat (Reader or DC) open your PDF file. Go to File | Properties | Fonts tab. You’ll see the embedded fonts. Then check the selectability of the text, to see if anything went to bitmaps.

Missing with the free CutePDF Writer is 40-bit encryption to prevent copy-paste or modification. Also, it has problems with handling semi-transparency from Microsoft Publisher. Update: It also took me a long time to realise that the free version does not respect Web hyperlinks, at least from MS Publisher. Thus your readers have no clickable links in their PDF. This huge limitation is seemingly stated nowhere on the CutePDF site.

Update: Seems to add a “black fonts” problem when using “Save as” from Microsoft Publisher. The problem appears to be that CutePDF introduces a new universal line-art entry in the print panel, which is then also present for other printers. Try these settings as a fix, set before “saving as” a PDF from Microsoft Publisher…

Free Windows desktop readers for ‘fixed’ ePub files

Below are the details of the only .ePUB reader software found by my tests to adequately support ‘fixed-layout + animated pictures’ with test files, on the Windows desktop.

Sure, a PC user is not necessarily going to read a whole magazine/book from a desktop monitor. But many researchers, editors etc need to consult or flick through a fixed .ePUB while at their desk. And have it look as intended, ideally in non-clunky freeware.

1. Thorium. The best and really the only viable choice for most people, though not the ideal “only choice” to foist on readers of a magazine. Well designed. Display of small type is not as good as that in Azardi. Works back to Windows 7. In slow but active development.

2. Azardi. Does the job quite well but has several problems: i) only supports fixed layout ePUB (can’t even load re-flowable ePUBs); ii) opens files with dimmed background/overlay for the pages every time, and needs to be manually adjusted back to normal brightness; iii) it triggered a delayed virus alert for me and was thus uninstalled. No longer developed since about 2016, works back to Windows 7. Free “for personal use only”, so institutions and businesses may be wary of being hit with licencing fees from whoever currently owns it.

3. Calibre. Free. Primarily used as a conversion software, but also has a reader and ebook manager. Feels and looks old, though it isn’t. It’s just clunky. Actively developed, and has now long been “Windows 10 only”.

There is also Sigil, the dedicated ePub editor. It appears to only preview the first page of an ePub, and as such is not also a Windows reader option for the desktop.

While the DTP software Adobe InDesign can preview a document destined for a fixed ePub, to ePub standards, it cannot then re-import this output and preview it again. Nor can QuarkXpress.

I could not find any Chrome browser extension that explicitly stated “fixed layout” support. The Microsoft Edge browser had this feature until a few years ago, but the feature was killed off. The old Readium extension for Chrome also went, because it could no longer support javascript.

Windows 10 and 11 desktop users who allow mobile-style “apps” from the Microsoft Store may perhaps find one or two ePub readers there, though they have not been tested here for ‘fixed-layout + animated picture’ support.