The Endless Debates: E-mail Signature

The Endless Debate covers topics that seems to come up again and again, which seems to have no winner in the end. The classic example of it is the number of spaces after the period. (This particular topic is not covered by me yet, but I will certainly get to it at some point, stay tuned!) The purpose of this series is to not attach people with the opposite view, rather, it’s an exploration of ideas, with the main focus on history, technology, and practicality.

In this article, I will be covering E-mail signature placement, which also covers reply styles.

What’s an E-mail Signature?

If you are sending E-mail daily basis, you know what is it. As many articles1 claims E-mail usages among young people are feeling, let me explain what it is.

My E-mail is my password.
Verify me.

Werner Brandes
Playtronics Corporation

Bottom of E-mail, with the name and the company name is an E-mail signature block.

A Typical E-mail Structure
A Typical E-mail Structure

What’s the argument?

With a single message (or the first message in the thread), there’s not much room for arguments; you begin by starting your message, and then you sign the message at the bottom. This starts to get a bit complicated when someone replies. I will illustrate two cases:

The first one:

Werner Brandes writes:
> Hi,
> My E-mail is my password.
> Verify me.
> -- 
> Werner Brandes
> Playtronics Corporation

Who are you?

Playtronics Corporation

and the second one…

Who are you?

Playtronics Corporation

Werner Brandes writes:
> Hi,
> My E-mail is my password.
> Verify me.
> -- 
> Werner Brandes
> Playtronics Corporation

You see two different approaches? The first example is called interleaved-posting and the second one is called top-posting.

What’s the specification say?

Currently, there aren’t any specification stipulate the way E-mail signature need to be placed. It is, however, the convention is to use “-- ” (two dashes, plus space) followed by a new line to separate E-mail signature from the body.

Many E-mail systems assume that this convention is used, for example Mozilla Thunderbird would dim the portion after the separator, visually separating the section of a message from the body. Gmail also treats it differently, too.



Gmail has a checkbox that says “Insert this signature before quoted text in replies and remove the “-- ” line that precedes it.” Apparently, it removes “-- ” so to prevent many E-mail software to mistreat quoted text as signature blocks.

Mozilla Thunderbird

Mozilla Thunderbird defaults to interleaved-posting style. Can be configured to top post. Like Gmail, I believe it also removes “-- ” when it is set to do top posting.

Microsoft Outlook

I do not actually know how this works with Microsoft Outlook. Mainly because I don’t even have a license for it. I’m assuming it’s using top posting.

Semantic differences

If the purpose of the signature is denote your ownership of the message, there are several ways you can view it. Perhaps, mainly this comes from the way one perceives quoted text.

Quoted text as transcript

This approach takes quoted text as a transcript of the message – therefore the message is signed at the end of the reply. Quoted text is thought to be a transcript, so the sender is not signing it, because it’s not his/her text.

Quoted text as treated text

This is the consideration that quoted text no longer holds parity to the originally replied message, even when they are identical. This is fair view that once it is quoted by someone else, the message was physically outside of original sender’s control.

Rational is that quoted text may or may not be modified, thus signature is very bottom of the message.


It’s actually really pointless arguments, for sure. Consider this, with E-mail system, we already face enough of a difference.

Many E-mail software (Mozilla Thunderbird, Gmail, and countless others) uses Usenet quoting for replying. Which basically means, something like this:

Werner Brandes writes:
> Hi,
> My E-mail is my password.
> Verify me.
> -- 
> Werner Brandes
> Playtronics Corporation

While some use forward quoting (Microsoft Outlook and some others):

----Original Message-----
From: Werner Brendas
Sent: Wednesday, November 26, 2014 8:20 AM
To: Cosmo
Subject: My password

My E-mail is my password.
Verify me.
Werner Brandes
Playtronics Corporation

And mixing those two:

-----Original Message-----
From: C
Sent: Wednesday, November 26, 2014 1:32 AM
To: A
Subject: Foobar

Foo bar bar bar
A writes:
> Foo bar
> B writes:
>> Foo bar bar
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: C
>> Sent: Wednesday, November 25, 2014, 9:00PM
>> To: B
>> Foo bar
>> A writes:
>>> Foo bar

You see? We are already forced to live much greater difference when it comes to E-mail. Placement of signature, or even reply style is least of our worries.

Why Windows 8 Will Be Support Nightmare (Especially in Small Businesses)

Windows 8 offers a radically new interface for computers, with new features like new Metro (what do they call it now? Windows 8 interface?) and other features, or non-features like lack of the Start button.

So why this is bad for small businesses? Simply put, it is bad for small businesses, unless whoever taking charge of IT in the organization is a Microsoft fanboy. In the context of small businesses I’m talking here, it is a size of around 3 to 10. (If the company is small enough, that it is only by yourself, or with just one other person, this is probably less relevant as IT administration is more of personal user than business users.)

So what small businesses lack that bigger corporation don’t? Usually, it comes down to more unstructured, and unorganized IT policies and privileges.

To name a few:

  • Smaller companies lack well defined upgrade path. Upgrade happens whenever the system gets updated. If the company is not big enough to take advantage of volume licensing, upgrade paths are often tied to the system being replaced.
  • Generally speaking, smaller businesses do not have access to downgrade privilege.
  • IT human resources for small businesses may not necessarily be dedicated. They may be wearing more than one hat beside IT. This means skill set of IT staffing in smaller company may be motivation driven — for instance, one who are investing more time on Linux or Mac may not be willing to improve their support ability in the new aspect of Windows 8 even when they are already knowledgeable in general know how.

I am maintaining IT assets for company size of 4 people, and it has been already bad enough when I have to support iOS devices — often I have to resort to unhelpful response, “I don’t know, I don’t use iOS.” Being a LibreOffice user (with a copy of Microsoft Office 2007 installed on the VM for occasionally compatibility, that I rarely boots up) I am more comfortable supporting Microsoft Office 2003 than what’s offered in those “ribbon interface” which makes it very difficult to support the application as well. (After all, I consider myself to be a computing expert, not vendor expert.)

So, yeah, this is pretty scary when it is time to upgrade a machine in the office is newer device. Hopefully, configuration of those devices is close enough that Windows 7 would be enough.

Why I decided to get Galaxy Nexus and go back to Vanilla Android

I have been Android user since T-mobile released their first Android phone, T-mobile G1 (HTC Dream), back in 2008. Couple years after that, I’ve moved to Nexus One, then on Sensation 4G (HTC Sensation) then recently, I’ve decided to move to Galaxy Nexus with vanilla Android.

Of course, Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) was one of many reasons I’ve decided doing this, but there are more, inherently what I feel broken with manufacture/carrier customization to a device.

Yeah, I’m talking about HTC Sense, yeah, I’m also talking about other pre-installed softwares like T-mobile TV that I haven’t, and don’t use.

Why did they remove useful features?

Couple of months ago, T-mobile pushed out 4.0 updates to Sensation 4G. Which I was happy with — Google Chrome finally ran on my phone (it is only supported 4.0 and up) and the system was overall much more stable. (more to the stability later)

But one thing I haven’t understood, and I still don’t is, why did HTC remove some useful feature from vanilla 4.0. One example is the fact that you can’t uninstall application by dragging and drop from the application menu to the top of the screen. As far as I know, it was first introduced in 4.0, which could have been very useful feature. (and in fact, my 4.0 Acer tablet does it just fine.) While this is such a minor small detail, considering relatively small storage size of HTC Sensation was issue when I want to experiment with different application. Being able to uninstall application by moving icons around certainly beats inconveniences of navigating through Applications menu. (and try doing it for 10 different applications you are trying to uninstall!)

Another thing was small, but visual styling on the operating system. I thought it’d be that cool 4.0 look, right? Nope, it’s same old “round button” style. Couldn’t they give at least an option to change visual style?

To me, these seem like clear indication that designers at HTC are more on the ball of trying to push their own mobile experience than bringing the best and current experience on the Android platform.

Address book: Polluted

One of the big issue I had with HTC Sense was its address book. When I see number of contact, I see something like following inserted to my memo section of Google contacts.

Notes: xxxxxxxid:xxxxxxxxxx/friendof:xxxxxxxxxx

It looks like this is meta data for their account linking. Why?

It appears like it decided to pollute 200 of my contacts this way, and to get rid of them, I have to go one by one. (or perhaps I can write a program that talks with Google Contacts API and do that…)

It is came to my attention when I used dialer/address book feature is much nicer than I recalled when I was back in vanilla 2.3 on Nexus One. Even though I already had Android 4.0 on HTC Sensation, I did not see those changes because of HTC Sense.

2.3 launcher instability

Stability of the HTC Sense launcher was joke back in 2.3. It apparently got garbage collected way too many times, which if you try to do anything useful on your phone, and go back to launcher, then you will be greeted with green HTC logo on white screen for 20 seconds, which you can’t do anything. If you need to make a quick call after browsing a web for while? Nope, you’ll have to wait 20 seconds. It was annoying. Fortunately, they fixed most of these problem on 4.0.

Bloat and delays

Complaining about bloatwares (or “pre-installed softwares” to put it nicer way) maybe have nothing to do with device, rather choice of retail channel, Those pre-installed software have been bit of nuisance to the platform. The mere fact if they are on the device, will take up your storage should you choose to update it, and if you don’t, Play market will nag you to update, and renders “update to all” function unusable as pressing that button will also update the application you don’t want update. (at least they have fixed this issue starting 4.0 update by making it possible to disable applications you don’t use — which makes them disappear from the launcher, and stops update detection.)

Also looking how some “application such as wi-fi calling” contributed delay in ICS update, it is now clear that those pre-installed softwares are now affecting release timeline of update, not just because of manufactures, but because of carriers they are involved with.

I’m not against carriers developing a software for their customers, I’m just against those being pre-installed. All of the problem can be prevented by just distributing those Google Play.

In summary

I’m not necessary bashing HTC Sense here. HTC Sense might have played much more relevant role introducing relatively friendlier interface compared to vanilla Android in the past. Perhaps back in the day of Android 1.6, it was still augmenting vanilla Android quite a bit (I’ve briefly used HTC Sense running on Android 1.6 on my colleague’s phone), but in my opinion, they stopped innovating there. Did Android 2.3 with HTC Sense any different from one that was running on Android 1.6? No. Was it different on Android 4.0? Nope!

Probably HTC Sense cater more to those prefers no changes; actually, let me rephrase it, refusing changes. I can imagine a lot of support calls for such change distracting a lot of users, but still, insulating improvement on this major operating system was most disturbing fact that I realized once I moved to vanilla Android 4.1. I guess it is side effect of Android platform is so prolific that now is becoming commodity. When the platform is spread to many class of people, their common denominator is set to those who just seek for more consistent, but in turn, boring (to those seeking active improvements) experience. It’s just like early days of smartphones. Was Windows Mobile 6 so different from Windows Mobile 5? What about versions of Blackberry? The gap is that Android is still evolving platform and that what makes the platform great. It is such a shame that 90% of device out there seems to be intentionally left in vacuum just because customers wants it? (or manufactures/carriers think so?)

Clearly Google doesn’t want manufacture from “reskinning” the phone (not that they can stop it, considering the open nature of Android platform.) Now Android has caught up to the point it doesn’t need custom interface to accomplish anything you can with those custom interfaces.

I think I know what my future phones will be from now on.

Why Computers Don’t Work the Way You Want To?

I actually do a bit of PC troubleshooting at work, and personal life. Just through of sharing few of insights, just so I can help people out.

1. [Software vendor] changed it that I can’t find how to do [something I want to do]

I often get this questions (complaints?) that software vendors change the user interface of the software to the extent that you can’t find it. I believe there are two points to it. One argument is that they are doing it so vendors can sell new stuff, and another one is to improve usability. Software vendors are in constant dilemma, where they need to include more features into their softwares but they still have need to be accessible.

Observing how people are working on computer, it often look like they haven’t established enough design patterns within their head how to work with the system itself. What I recommend is to read documentation available, and do not hesitate to try something new — a lot of what you do on your computer is reversible. So unless you are working on military gear or some other critical infrastructure system, try experimenting with different option. There’s undo button (Ctrl-Z on Windows / Command-Z on Mac) if you screw up. (And if your software doesn’t allow this, start finding some alternative, because that software is stupid.)

Also, to cut effect of interface changes, learning keyboard shortcuts for some commonly used task, such as Ctrl-B for bold. These often have longer lifetime between versions, so taking few hours of getting used to them will help you in long run.

Also having problem in softwares usually roots to not having learn how to use operating system — this is why I feel stupid when people buying “learn MS Office in xxx days” while they have no idea how to use Windows.

These foundations are very critical, in fact I often don’t have no idea about softwares I am helping out. These foundations help you get to where you need no matter what software you are using. (except for some odd balls out there…)

You may feel and complain, that changes and improvement in this area is unnecessary that only there to make you confused. Some changes are drastic enough to confuse you, and not every vendors get it right, but would you rather be stuck in old DOS interface where you’d have to remember all the command merely to copy your files?

2. [Software] doesn’t do things the way I think it should

Now when you find the feature you need, you actually try to use it, but you find that it’s not doing what you think it should be doing. This comes from poor implementation of the software as well as wrong method to get it accomplished.

This often comes from the fact that users are putting data in the way software won’t interpret. For example, say you want to create a document and want to make a heading, I’ve observed so many people using font size change to do this, and later finding automatic table of content generation is not working.

Why you shouldn’t do this? It is because by doing this, you are telling your software nothing more than “change the size of the font” and nothing about structure of the document. Correct way to do is to assign heading type. You may want adjust look of the resulting text, but telling software that it is heading is important part.

The problem of this is that a lot of software implementations, for the sake of user friendliness, try to let you do things in wrong way, and software won’t tell you that you are wrong. (and often it can’t — with previous example, what it is all you want is to make these fonts bigger without heading specified?)

3. [Someone’s data] is not in the way formatted I want 

Now, when you are collaborating with someone else, you may come across files that are not formatted in the way you want. This could be as complex as complete corruption on your screen, or something trivial as difference in font size. Why this happens? Because the ecosystem in computing is not often uniform. People use different platforms, and different softwares. Platform wise, most common difference is Windows and Mac. Most of time, data between them are fairly portable. But various factors including difference in fonts, screen capabilities can cause difference in its output. One technical way to solve this issue is to use portable format where you can. Instead of sending that document in MS Word document, you can use PDF — especially the case one person merely need to review the document. (and now newer Adobe Readers capable of PDF annotation, you can ask the other person to annotate PDF document as opposed to exchanging Document back and forth.)

Other problems include browsers (e.g. website that doesn’t display nothing but IE), E-mail programs (rich text formatting, text formatting, and could be even way the person choose to format E-mail) Unfortunately, this is life in computing and not much you can do about. Diversity is something you just need to get used to. Aside from written standard (such as HTML specifications) there aren’t clear line of “right” and “wrong” way to do things.


In the end, it often comes to, learn to accept changes and embrace. Unfortunately, we are not in the static world where you’re going around in circle. (if that what you want, you may want find profession that doesn’t involve computers.) But if you choose to use computers, especially extensively at your profession, doesn’t it deserve some space in your brain to learning about?

How the Gym has Failed

(My intension to this article is meant to complain to whole industry practice, and not meant to call out any particular franchise, so I will withhold its name and site. Also, any names shown on this articles are pseudonyms.)

The story begun when I received a little voucher by the mail — free gym membership through November. That sounds good, I probably can use some more exercise. But long story short, I ended up wasting 2 hours.

It turns out that the “voucher” was intended for other set of locations of the same franchise, and I wasn’t eligible. Fair enough — I don’t know why it was delivered to me, but that’s fine, just turn me down. However, things turned a bit different.

About the time someone at the counter was to decline the voucher (like she’s supposed to do) and I was about to leave, John, the sales rep, probably a trainer, too, approached to me and introduced himself, trying to be accommodating. So I started sit down and chat with him. Along with the topics like, what’s the most important aspect of gym membership, as then he gave me tour of the facility.

The facility was great, and after the tour, we sat again after taking weight, height. At this point, I was not necessary interested signing up for the paid membership — after all, all I was after was the voucher. Instead, he tried to make me sign up for commitment. For the fairness, they were not necessary attempting to sign me up for long commitment, but commitment is commitment, long or short.

They use fear in attempt persuade you — fear that you will be unhealthy if not signed up. Then they bring out urgency. “If you don’t sign up now, you’ll be ending up paying $100 more for sign up.” and when that doesn’t work, they starts introducing bundling, such as “you’ll get this and that if you sign up for it without additional cost.” Another thing I found common to sales in this industry is that they also use confrontation to prevent people from “thinking about it.” They claim that it is excuse of getting away from your habit. The person would say something like “You won’t be coming back if you leave now.”

Closer to the end of the conversation, perhaps knowing that the his sales pitches are going nowhere with me, John started “politely insulting” me gradually shifting to real insult, then I get pissed off, and that was over. Not only his greed didn’t pay out, he had to spend 2 hours for nothing. He perhaps also lost an outlet for opportunity of monthly membership, should I have decided to join.

John may have his own story to it, but to the myself as a customer, it is nothing more than confrontation by pressure. Bottom line is, I’m not coming back. I may consider gym membership elsewhere, but not there. The problem is that there are probably many people out there who falls for it with that “tactic,” and that’s probably exactly why he attempts this — I actually dealt with same class of people elsewhere, and their tactics were largely same.

From my experience, and observations, here are some of my personal tips to people who are thinking about joining a gym:

  1. Know that the person is trying to sell you something. When they say something like “I care about you” read “I care about you, because I have to pay my bill.” Remember, they advise you just because they are paid to persuade into joining. After all, they are sales representative and not your best friend.
  2. They may present you with information such as “your true age” — take that with grain of salt. Yes they might be presenting with you with decent ballpark figure, but they use this tool to drive your decision. It was also interesting to note how John’s attitude has changed from objective remarks (“You would look older than you really are in this figure.”) to more subjective word (“That figure is just scary!”) before and after my hesitation to commit and sign up.
  3. Apparently, hearing experiences from others, even at same place, some people get “targeted” more than others. It sounds like if you look unhealthy, more likely you will be targeted. (after all, they don’t want waste time selling sands to desert dwellers.)
  4. Assume you are under their control at the moment you step in. Don’t be afraid to walk out if you don’t like it, they can’t prevent you from doing it. (and I should have done that before wasting 2 hours there myself.)
  5. If you are dealing with someone preventing you from “taking it home” to consider, or rushing you for signing up, be very cautious.
  6. If you encounter questionable practice of how they try to sell you their membership or any products, contact your state’s attorney general with details.
  7. (I’d be very surprised if you would come anywhere close to this at any legitimate businesses but…) if they are confronting you to the point you feel you are not safe, call 911. Especially if they are preventing you to leave.

Also to service providers:

  1. Just say yes or no to whatever I ask for. If you can’t offer exactly what I’m asking for, decline. (In this case, you even had a legitimate reason to decline, and you didn’t and you ended wasting 2 hours with me.) You don’t need to introduce me to X if I’m asking for Y.
  2. When I say I need to think about it, I need to think about it. I don’t care it’s $2 a day or $100 a day, when I say I need to think about it, I meant it. And it is none of your business if I don’t return. And don’t you ever call that “excuse to get away,” as I don’t even need to convince you to walk away from it, and I’m entitled to make any decisions anyway I want, and that’s not your job to decide for me. It’s my money and not yours. (And don’t even say that you care about me, because that’s totally wrong. If you really meant by that, why don’t you pay for me?)
  3. Know not everyone’s goal orientated. When you ask me, what the purpose of the membership, that doesn’t mean I’m setting it as short term goal. Your “ideal” concept of exercise doesn’t always mean I’m up for it. If I’m coming in to the gym for certain goals, I will ask you about it.
  4. Know you can’t always sell things upfront. That’s why those trial vouchers are there for. You have plenty of opportunity to up-sell, but you just destroyed that opportunity by force feeding me with your ideals.
  5. More pushier you are, more likely you are failing. See:
  6. And…never, ever, insult or piss off your potential customer. This will not only damage your reputation to one person, but the word spreads. I’d tell my worst enemy to don’t bother going to you.

I guess just like everything else, there’s no such thing as free lunch, or free trial membership to the gym.

My Vouch to Support Free Expression

I have watched documentary called This Film Is Not Yet Rated. Basically this documentary outlines how secretive MPAA about who are actually rating films, as well as biased decision of rating, particularly between R and NC-17.

I always thought NC-17 is reserved for highly pornographic contents, but this documentary persuaded me that would not be the case. It appears to be line between R and NC-17 are very thin.

As my vouch to support free expression, I think I will be focusing little more on Not Rated and NC-17 movies. (though most of movies are edited to meet their R rating as NC-17 titles are pretty much kicked out from normal marketing and retailing chains…)

Don’t get me wrong, though, I’m not totally against idea of rating, but I have been always disturbed by highly biased rating on anything. In my opinion, all rating systems, as far as I know are all defective. It is perhaps easier than ever now we can skip draconian retailers and just market directly to people who are tired of biased rating systems. Ratings may be good guideline, but it shouldn’t be used as an instrument to regulate what on the market. If you don’t like what you see, just turn away from it and don’t patronize it.

Graphical Abstraction and Political Correctness

When we talk about anime and other graphical medium, both Western and Japanese (I’m not speaking of other cultures, because I simply don’t know well about them) features abstraction when they are drawn.

In Japan, it could be anime, and also chibi characters such as Nendoroid. Though a lot of features on those characters are abstracted drastically to the extent they don’t resemble typical humanoid figures, there is one part Japanese characters that rarely, if not never abstracted.

Can you guess what it is?

It’s number of fingers. Except for cases where fingers are not drawn at all. (e.g. it is too small, or illustrated someone standing very far.)

Let’s go back and take a look at Nendoroid again, take a look at this character. This particular character is 6.5cm high, so it’s still small, yet features 5 fingers. It is also obvious work like Shin-chanclearly shows 5 fingers.

It’s interesting to see some contrast to shows in the US, for example, take a look at Family Guy. You can see Peter’s hand are drawn with four fingers. (three where his thumb is not shown.)

This 4 finger figure seems to be quite popular in animated series in the US. For example though it is not really a illustration of human, humanoid characters in Spongebob Squarepants are shown with same style as well as the Simpsons.

This probably comes from difference in cultural sensitivities and political correctness to people who actually do not have one more fingers between Japanese culture and Western culture. (Perhaps Japanese culture is oversensitive about this.) But it is interesting to see the difference.

How Painful

Argh, this is painful. I don’t go into arguments if the lamp would have a feeling or not. (I don’t personally think so.) But I feel like sentiments of appreciating everyday thing is important.
If people don’t feel bad about throwing working items, we’d be full of garbage really. (which sadly, is what’s happening in many part of the world…)

Thought on 4000 Pennies

Just some stupid thoughts.
If you ever require 10kg weight for any reason, solution could be your bank. Just get 4000 pennies for $40.00, as each penny weigh for 2.5g.
Just wondered if it is actually economical, so I Googled, and there’s actual place who sell those weight.
10kg Cast Iron Weight, even non-certified one costs $77.00.
Though, those are probably used for applications like calibrating things, so it probably not side by side comparison. But at same time, they are very specialized that you can’t use it for anything else. (like, when’s your last time you had to order NIST weight reference for calibrating your scale in your bathroom?)
Getting 4000 pennies will be as easy as finding bank (can we find NIST weight at Home Depot?), and when you are done, you can deposit those 4000 pennies back to bank to get full refund, no refund policy to deal with, no restocking fee, and no shipping cost.
Could be good solution when you need to make sure that your bathroom scale, or WiiFit Balance Board is telling truth!

On Bikini and Coffee

I think i just have to write this one.

Earlier, I posted two messages on my Facebook page and also on Twitter.

This fiasco over Bellevue bikini barista is insane. Oh, and suggestion to photograph customer for defamation is illegal

and then

Also, Bellevue’s “Deputy Mayor” Claudia Balducci suggesting breaking a law while she is in office is just plain scary

Though I vaguely heard about this place before, I have not cared much, and never visited this establishment, but after hearing and reading all news about it, perhaps I should go there, just to check it out. They got free advertisements, way to go.
If anyone want take picture of me there, be my guest, but let me have that picture, so I can post it on my Facebook profile. (note, this statement should not be taken that I’m tolerating harassment and character defamation.)
Seriously, it’s just bikinis, it’s not that they are working naked in there. You can find far worse stuff on TV, come on. If you don’t like it, just don’t patronize them. No business can sustain without customers, just basic economy thing.
Like I wrote in the original quotes, it’s just eye opening to see that there is actually an elected official in the office who promotes committing crime. Especially considering customers aren’t doing anything illegal going there, and if she is suggesting “shaming customers” that seems to be clear case of harassment and defamation.
As much as I just don’t get the “idea” of bikini barista I really don’t get people going nuts and screaming about it. We are still few years away from 2012 and the world is not falling apart just yet.