Team Murder No Brain No Headache.

31Dec/03Off

Out Damned Year!

So, this is probably it for this year unless I come home drunk and antagonistic and decide to piss some folks off. Hello 2004. Good riddance 2003. Everyone be safe.

There is something vaguely unnerving about watching gcc spit out errors while compiling a new version of gcc. Ugh. Recursion.

Filed under: General 1 Comment
30Dec/03Off

More Playing, Breaking, And Playing

Since I have an unholy number of hard drives sitting around the house I decided to do a couple of installs over the between alcohol outings and church stuff. I've been using Debian and its variants for solong now that I feel like I've been hiding under a rock. I always have a pretty fast desktop machine as my production box and experiment on one of the not-so-very-fast work boxes if I don't have to pay a lot of attention to the actual install or configuration or I plunk a distribution on my laptop which is both slow and oddly outfitted.

I tried PCLinuxOS preview first because it was a live CD with install options and I haven't seen a live CD installer that I'm completely happy with. Mepis is damn close but there were too many other things that I disliked about the way it was setup. On the few occasions that I used Mandrake I've found it pretty useless without the PCLinuxOS creator's RPM repository so I had pretty high hopes for PCLOS. Unfortunately, I downloaded the ISO twice from different sources, md5summed both, and neither one would get past the standard ISOLinux bootscreen for lack of a kernel image. Given Texstar's high quality work in the past I'm going to assume that this is just a fucked up preview build and make a note to give it a try closer to release. I'm a little disappointed but definitely not bitter.

Gentoo, on the other hand, is pure suffering and joy. I've bagged on its users a bit in the past for being so optimization-happy which I find annoying in a way that only overclockers have annoyed me in the past. I did notice a few differences but I'll get to that later. I botched the first install completely which shouldn't surprise anyone who's done a complete bootstrapping of Gentoo. The second time around after a day to read the Installation Guide and try to figure out what mistakes I'd made on the first attempt was equally disastrous. I made what is probably a classic newbie mistake by paying too much attention to the error messages spit out during a compile. I emerged portage and broke the whole install system. I realize now that it was an incredibly stupid thing to do during a base install and I'll wear my dunce cap without complaint. Lesson: follow the install guide and ignore (almost) everything else.

I've also had my share of frustrations and wow moments with emerge. The first attempt that I made to emerge kdelibs failed with a handful of somewhat cryptic errors. I set up the same compile this morning and it finished with no updates or alterations without complaint. I read a little on the Gentoo Forums before attempt number two and found that a whole bunch of users experienced the initial failure to compile and then did it successfully the next time around. This discovery is both good and bad: good because I was able to find an answer in a matter of five minutes but also bad because the solution seems incredibly arbitrary to me. A lot of the mixed feelings that I have come from being a long time Debian user where stability is job one so I've been trained to expect that almost everything works the first time and consistently. The huge difference here is that Gentoo is really fun even when it breaks and you're tearing out your hair in frustration. Even the documentation is fun reading in parts and doesn't simply spew raw and unqualififed information at you. I'm going to stick with this install for a while because it is such a fun thing to tinker with and I'm learning a lot of things that I should've known along the way. Um, I'm also about nine hours into compiling KDE so there is no backing out now. I'll write more about what I've discovered, like, and dislike over the next few days.

Filed under: General 1 Comment
29Dec/03Off

Is That Hitler’s Brain In Your Pocket Or Are You Just Happy To See Me?

A couple of points that apparently need clarification due to a great deal of fussbudgetry that I'm pretty tired of attempting to address. This is probably the utmost in futility because one of the entries is continually commented on by high school kids who either vent or assume I'm among their number and tell me to get my own computer (assuming that I'm using a computer lab to complain about Team Murder being blocked as a sexually oriented site by Websense) and the other by a person who is simply sharpening the chip on their shoulder by countering arguments that I haven't made. Futile, yes, but I'm all for exercises in futility.

The first is here and really has more to do with me asking someone at Websense to manually review my site to at least shield the innocent children from my four letter fixation under the right category. This was, of course, futile and I was rewarded with a form letter that said almost nothing in six hundred words of wraith-like legalese. Apparently I'm accessible from Denver Public Schools machines these days so I'm less inclined to keep comments attached to this old entry. That is one of the unfortunate side effects to the archiving of weblogs -- things do change over time and individual entries are frozen like a snapshot until folks drifting in on the tides of Google drive me crazy about something I wrote over a year ago. The problem that Websense still perpetuates is creating blacklists that they distribute to customers that are created with bots of some sort. They continually say that real live humans with soft skin review blocked sites but I didn't see any results until I harrassed them.

A couple people have brought up the fact that Websense is deployed largely at schools and larger corporate offices and maybe I was being a little sensitive. The problem here is that part of education (assuming that you're not attending parochial school) is research that extends beyond what is printed in a textbook. Want to do some research on breast cancer and its impact on low income women? You're out of luck due to the prominence of the word 'breast' on any relevant sites. That's just a single example of why the blacklisting process needs to be more granular or Websense needs to be more honest about their blocking criteria. If you truly believe that those exclusions are the right of the administration (and this does discount corporate deployments) then you should have no problem with me grepping the mail spool for your deep, dark secrets. Hey, I'm an administrator, right?

I was going to address the second issue but I realized after thinking about it that I've already explained my dislike for Apple a half dozen times here and now that I don't have to work on those machines anymore I'd rather stick to my usual patterns of thinking about Apple: not at all unless they're in GPL violation.

Filed under: General No Comments
28Dec/03Off

I Need An Excuse Script…

I've been doing way too much socializing to be productive so I've just switched to playing video games instead of trying to get any coding done since it's a hell of a lot easier to have free hours between midnight and four am to game than it is to think. I've actually got a whole theory about this and how it corresponds to getting older but it would just sound bitter and trite right now. At some point in my life I'm going to have to figure out how to do the stuff I'm supposed to do and the stuff I want to do without either being a cranky crybaby or never ever sleeping. The possibility of just growing up is a possiblity but not likely.

All of that said, Python Reference is a nice attempt to organize all of the available Python references into a more organized whole. This is an idea that needed to implemented because although there is a ton of freely available documentation for Pythonistas it really isn't arranged in a way that allows you to quickly track down all of the features of Python in an alphabetized list. It's handy enough to forgive the use of frames. For some reason it annoys me to have to have a graphical web browser open just to thumb through documentation. This is good stuff, though, and I were a little more collected I might actually make some use of it. Unfortunately this won't be the case.

Filed under: General No Comments
25Dec/03Off

So, What Does That Character That Looks Like A Giant Backwards One Next To A Zero Sound Like?

I had a pretty nice Christmas although two hours of church service in a language that I understand only food related words in was a bit on the taxing side. Yoon's parents and I are getting along and the whole atmosphere was so much more relaxed than in years past that I didn't feel like the asshole in attendence but more like a part of the family. That's bigger than I can really relay in a handful of words. Things are good.

Ever wonder what it sounded like when dinosaurs were sucked into tar pits? The only thing worse than being an unrepentant asshole is being an outmoded unrepentant asshole. The worst part is that I'm actually linking it. I guess when the evil, evil Democrats drive you out of the hobbyist software business you could maybe get a job at a company that shares your view of free software. Not even pity is free.

I sincerely hope that no one was bored and resourceful (that sounds like a job description) enough to construct any of the Mars Christmas bars. The part that really bothers me is the selection of fruitcake (who the fuck really eats fruitcake?) over marzipan which is really very edible in small quantities.

Filed under: General No Comments
25Dec/03Off

Like The Kitten, I Play With Things Until They’re Dead

One thing I did forget to mention the other day when I was praising XFCE4 shamelessly for its tiny footprint and its prettiness was the fact that it comes bundled with a very nice file manager called Xffm. It does the usual stuff you'd expect from a file manager but also globs files, creates tar archives from directories from a context menu, does diffs, and a bunch of other handy stuff that I don't need to do often enough to remember how to do efficiently on the command line. Like the window manager, it's lightweight and speedy. The Xfsamba component is definitely handy at work when I need to access a whole bunch of NT servers and I never feel like setting up even semi-permanent shares with them. Getting an SMB connections is very convenient and quick which makes me happy since I'd rather not piddle around for twenty minutes just to open a directory on a Brand X server. Here is the obligatory screenshot and it is in no way as pretty as the actual window manager but it isn't going to hurt your eyes either:

The other application I messed with a bit today is the PadPaper Editor which is a little GUI text editor(and it does indeed only edit text) coded up in 500 or so lines of Python. I wrote a couple of quick things using it and it seems pretty stable and has absolutely no bloat in terms of features. Again, a screen shot that probably won't mean anything:


I'm looking at the code right now as there are a couple of things I'd like to hack in and possibly submit as a patch. The namespacing when you unpack the tarball belies the fact that this application was not specifically intended for *nix systems. In most cases that just pisses me off (the namespacing not the cross platform-ness) but I'm excited to see projects like this being built on toy operating systems. With so much .Net hype it's very encouraging to see people building useful cross-platform stuff on systems that usually don't like to play nice with kids from different neighborhoods.

Filed under: General 2 Comments
24Dec/03Off

The Dead Walk The Earth

The Fast Company article about the failure of Apple to, uh, succeed is linked pretty much everywhere. It's weird because it's hardly revelatory. Apple has been riding the hardware bleeding edge for a long time and benefitting from an audience who will pay premium to buy hardware right after it's made available. It seems pretty obvious to me that the 'wait and see' philosophy that other vendors follow is the winning one and that people are willing to wait a month or so for the new new to trickle into the OEMs. Even with a fantastic OS (at least for a commercial operating system), Apple is still suffocating under the mountain of expensive hardware that most folks like but aren't willing to spend the raw dollars on. You see the same effect when more premium/consumer reputable box builders get knocked on their asses by Dell approximations of the more expensive product they're hawking. Duh. Clinging to aesthetic purity while Chicken Little screams about the economy falling on its head is nearly suicidal. Duh.

I don't mean to disparage the analysis of Fast Company because it is a very in-depth and more insightful mastication of Apple and its equivalents (uh, Segway anyone?) than I'm giving credit for but at the same time carving headstones for Apple is more of a rhetorical exercise after so many years of vultures circling Cupertino and for reasons few can understand they somehow survive. I'm really curious if this most recent onslaught of really pretty hard and software (especially with OS X thunking away on a 64 bit processor) paired with what seems like an IT spending ice age that won't end will be dangerous enough to knock Apple out of their happy place. There are a ton of people who would be more than happy to buy a mid-price Apple that wasn't one of the dreaded xMacs. As messy as the part soup of the x86 world may be at least when a part goes I can replace it with a part that's either dirt cheap and temporary or something a little better without ever worrying that a fried monitor would shut me down.

Filed under: General 4 Comments
24Dec/03Off

Send More Paramedics

I'm sitting around the house by myself. Yoon is hanging out with her parents which is great because I honestly detest holidays so it's probably more fun to hang around with people who enjoy that stuff. I think the ebb and flow of holidays is what gets me -- you,in theory, have time away from work or school or whatever your stomach mangling stress farm might happen to be but you never really get any rest or time to accomplish the things you've been procrastinating on forever. The weird panic that infects people around the larger and more food oriented holidays kind of freaks me out too. Given the horrible attitudes that businesses in the United States have towards vacation time that isn't oriented around a Christian holiday I hate to see anyone freaking out about anything on one of the ten or so feeble days we have off a year. So instead of making with the jolly, I'm sitting around with the cat and reading up on a few stray topics that have thus far evaded further research. By the way, classifying rapid fire Google searches as research is so pretentious I can hardly stand myself.

One question that I haven't really been able to find a satisfactory answer to: is there a canonical style guide to restaurant review/general food writing? I've looked at a few things that might fit the bill but restaurant reviewers are stingy about their resources. I've liked a couple of food related weblogs I've found while poking around. Food Dork is my favorite of the "I don't know what the hell I'm doing but this sure is fun" variety. I wish there were more frequent postings but what is there is fun reading. Chocolate and Zucchini is the best reading that I'vd found though, since every recipe posted is tied into a story of some kind. The explanation of why the author enjoys her glasses so much by way of a story about school children speculating about the numbering system is worth reading even if you hate writing about the edible. The recipes are French and look amazing if very labor intensive. Of course, there's always Alton Brown for those of us without Food Network access. I really want to eat this right now. Pomegranate and lemon grass sounds magical right now.

Um, for the dorks: Once More With Hobbits is a fusion of Lord of the Rings and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Yes, it is a musical. I can think of one person who should be pricking up his ears.

Filed under: General No Comments
24Dec/03Off

When You Start Regretting Past Support

I knew there was a reason that I haven't even logged onto Everything2 for the past year or so. It ceased to be interesting when most of the editors started aspiring to be amateur encyclopedia editors and made it serious unfun. That is one of the serious downsides to participating in large projects/experiments/what-have-you's: when new people get on board and start ripping out all of the old stuff there really isn't much point in hanging around.

Previously it was anything funny that was not posted by a weird inner circle of e2ers but now the worm has turned to copyright violation search and destroy. I understand that people want to eliminate as much liability as possible from any community-based project and I fully support efforts towards that kind of goal. It's the incredibly weak "well, we'd like to have professional writers participating and they are angered by copyright violations even when the owner would not object." Yuck. I wish I could take back all of the donations that I made way back when things were fun and productive in a non-Wikipedia sort of way.

Filed under: General No Comments
24Dec/03Off

What Vacation…

It's more like the afternoon before Christmas but unfortunately things keep stirring at work and most of them seem really angry. Some of the things that I worked on (and this is the part when I get all tense and righteous because I did less working on boxes than looking over shoulders while the work was done) yesterday are broken again. I'd love to wash my hands of all of it until next year but there was an angry professor waiting for me when I came in this morning. Serves me right for showing up thirty minutes early I guess. The point: I regard the Windows 2000 repair function as shit again. Argh.

Hope everyone else is home or elsewhere today because the idea of being at work is bothering me. Nevermind that I'm off and relatively free for a little over a week after today. I think I'll just sleep through the whole thing.

So:
Tomb Raider needlepoint...

This might be the only pragmatic use of Flash I've ever seen. It actally does something. Amazing.

Filed under: General No Comments
23Dec/03Off

Failure Is Not An Option But It Might Be An Alternate Choice

I'm working up until tomorrow afternoon because I'm an idiot. This has mainly meant that I'm cleaning up all the undesirable bits and pieces of unwanted help tickets and those deemed impossible or created by the criminally insane. I did, however, successfully use the 'repair' function on a Windows 2000 CD today and make a seemingly dead machine functional again. That just makes everything surreal since I've never actually done that before. I've thought of it and even tried it in a couple of desperate situations but the thought that it might actually work never really entered my head.

Today was mainly a test of my ability to navigate through a haze and I confirmed my incompetence by opening a piece of porn spam. Leave it to me to eagerly open a piece of mail with the subject line "Giant loads." Yes, I was thinking that it had something to do with one of the servers. Yes, I would like my lobotomy now. Thanks.

Aaron posted something about the new MT vulnerability which I'm grateful for because god knows I don't read 90% of the mailing list stuff that litters my inbox on a daily basis. On an eerily similar note, Savannah the motherlode of GNU software is accessible again. The Debian packages server is still serving up the same page albeit with suggestions of ways to work around it. This is especially frustrating because the archive is entirely accessible but other than the alternatives methods there is no big flat list to browse.

Time for sleep, unless of course someone has a patch for emacs that will actually write coherently for me. It would also help if it could make the text interesting and less verbose.

Filed under: General No Comments
23Dec/03Off

So Damn Close…

I'm starting to really like XFCE 4. I started playing with it after reading the numerous positive reviews and hearing about it from other people with opinions that I respect or at least consider valid. It is very easy on the eyes (it uses Gtk2) without being a total hog for resources. I have to admit that the final "huh, maybe I'll actually start using this regularly" breaking point was discovering that I could switch desktops as well as shade applications with the mouse wheel. It's weenie but I absolutely despise clicking on pagers to switch desktops and even if, for some ungodly reason, I'm working with a window manager that doesn't allow switching via some sane mechanism I still lay out applications in the order that makes sense to me with sane desktop switching.

XFCE4 seems like a sane compromise between a full blown DE and a minimalist window manager that does more to stay out of your way than offer you features and doo dads. I'm going to try to stick with it for a day or two. I'm already sold on it as a secondary wm rather than the old standby WindowMaker. I'd actually say that I like XFCE more than WindowMaker but the similarity between it and the terrible, awful, and horrible CDE still kind of wigs me out. That comparison isn't as true for this newest version of XFCE as it was for earlier versions. I cannot stand CDE but this environment is as configurable and a whole lot less clumsy than CDE or the atrocious commercial version for Linux.

The only real complaint that I have (and here I agree with the review above) is the lack of hovering tooltips for the buttons. You have a choice between opening up properties dialog or just clicking the button to see what happens. For actual application shortcuts on the panel the tooltips are actually configurable which is definitely a plus although it seems weird to assign one to a launcher that I've set up. That oversight probably wouldn't bother most people but it bugs me enough to start looking at configuration files.

Filed under: General 2 Comments
22Dec/03Off

Unstable CD Sets

Ok. So I got the hint and built new versions of the Debian unstable CD sets. If you've bugged me about it personally I will send you a reminder email tonight. Those who ranted anonymously on the Debian-CD mailing lists can stop sobbing and flaming. It's not like I'm sitting on huge piles of cash from this endeavor. I'm trying to do you a favor so, uh, shut up.

Filed under: General No Comments
21Dec/03Off

Loud And Clear

I'm just as guilty of paying little/no attention to typographical errors even when it's convenient to run a spell check but this README included in the ticker.py tarball was a self fulfilling prophecy that I couldn't resist sharing. You've also gotta love the bug listing. If only more developers were that brutally honest about their projects.


Filed under: General No Comments
21Dec/03Off

Probably Not The Answer They’re Looking For

I'm sure that plenty of people have noticed the NewsForge story about the Linux at home and Linux at work surveys that a Microsoft employee is taking. I'm not sure exactly what to make of it. Part of me immediately double layers my tinfoil hat and looks with anxiety through the window in full expectation of seeing the sky filled with winged monkeys coming to get me and my little cat too. The other part is chuckling about the whole thing. There has already been the expected amount of checking this guy out and he seems to be legitimate at least in terms of who his employer is. As far as what the data will actually be used for, well, let your conspiracy theories run wild.

I took both surveys and, in a departure from most demographic surveys I fill out, answered truthfully. The sad part is that for someone who doesn't use Microsoft product at all I spend the majority of my time on the clock working around the defects in those products and know more about their innards than is probably healthy to know. I think about the Windows question this way: Windows has absolutely no business being on the corporate desktop in its current state. The user run state that the Windows OS tauts as a big feature is a total failure in the corporate setting. I don't care if cube weight x can plug in his spiffy new digital camera and send pictures of the new baby to his grandmother at work. That ability to kludge together solutions for the greenest of end user makes the work of people who have to support the system that much harder. Although ease of use benefits the home user because a monthly Windows reinstall isn't as damaging in that case huge deployments on desktops are horrible because it's so easy for users to botch up even the most locked down desktop.

Obviously no amount of logical argument is ever going to convince management types that anything other than the de facto standard is going to fly on the desktop so most of us are stuck supporting an operating system that (for this purpose, at least) is broken out of the box and by design. The sanest solution I can think of is a desktop fork of the Windows Server environment where most defaults are set to the benefit of the poor bastards stuck supporting it. There are, of course, some arguments to be made against this sort of philosophy but most of them don't really apply to people who are simply workstation users. I'm probably in a huge minority here but I'd push more for a return to the terminal/server model than simply building more garbage on top of garbage in the form of individual desktops. I don't think the model really works and trying to bang little fixes into it is a time sink without a solution for either the engineers working on it or the support people who have to keep desperately bailing water out of a sinking ship just to keep everything operational. With more money than they're apparently capable of spending on anything but litigation, Microsoft really ought to be thinking about how to close this gap and level off their reputation with people like me while there is still time. I'm willing to bet that the corporate behemoth would be a lot happier with distrust instead of ire.

My short list:

1. A default account somewhere between administrator and power user that lets people run the applications they need to without leaving the barn door wide open.
2. A better way to deal with security problems than shushing up the security community and hastily issuing a patch that either breaks something else or fails to work. If sneaky and underhanded is really hardcoded into MSFT DNA then maybe restrict the notifications to licensees of the Windows corporate desktop edition that I mentioned earlier.

3. Windows fucking messenger. It should not be enabled by default. It should not even be installed by default but I'd settle for a default disabling.

4. No automagic update. I know everyone has wet their pants in either excitement or horror over this already but it needs to be disabled by default. I have users to break the machines I don't need the helping hand of Microsoft to swoop down and break them all at once.

5. Outlook Express... If you're going to shove this outmoded piece of shit in everyone's faces then make a default configuration that doesn't work in tandem with your other extraneous yet closely linked to the OS application Internet Explorer to launch anything executable with nary a nod of approval from the user. Learn from OS X here: Your mail client is trying to run an application. Enter the administrative password to destroy your computer. Really.

That's all I can think of now but I'm sure when I get into work tomorrow and see how many help tickets have piled up over the weekend I'm sure that plenty more will come to mind.

Filed under: General No Comments
20Dec/03Off

A New Thing To Play With: Part Million…

Yoon gave me my Xmas present today. Actually, we went to the mall together to get it. Note to self: do not go to any mall on or around December 20 without at least a stun gun or weapon of a similar class. I've finally joined the rest of the world in owning a cell phone that's actually smaller than a standard desk telephone and has a few extra toys rolled into the package. We both got Samsung e105 phones and it seems to be a wonderful compromise between cheap and loaded with goodies. It's Java enabled so you can waste time and money on downloadable games. I'm probably never going to use that functionality but having it is kinda nice.

The one thing that I really like (other than moving from the phone technology ice age into at very least the bronze age) is the AIM client built into the phone. The interface is not as bad as I'd envisioned although most of the IM sessions I have tend to be very short and equally verbose. This is probably the only situation where the predictive text input mode is handy -- otherwise it quickly causes insanity and abandonment. It also took me a few minutes to figure out how case handling works which led to some frustration when I was setting up my AIM account in dealing with alternating character case with numerals mixed in. For some reason the text input defaults to all caps which is probably sensible enough for AIM shouting matches but really, really sucks for entering passwords.

I'm thinking about trying to get IrDA working on the laptop. Not for any practical reason but because it's another toy that needs to be broken. The color screen is also nice and looks pretty good although it's nearly indecipherable in direct sunlight. Never a fan of that sunlight stuff anyhow. Um, yeah, that's it.

Filed under: General No Comments
20Dec/03Off

Another Damn Test

I'm giving this a shot with Gnome Blog after another pointless attempt at getting BloGTK to chew gum and walk at the same time. I'm not sold on either since one is very featureful but doesn't actually work and the other is a Gnome applet that I'm just not going to run an entire desktop environment to occasionally use.

Filed under: General No Comments
19Dec/03Off

A Couple Of New Toys (For Me Anyway)

There was a story at Debian Planet a couple of weeks ago about Apt-Kio (I realize there is all of zero information on that page but you can get the pertinent statistics here) but I didn't really have a desire to mess with it until packages.debian.org went down. Yeah, I know, it's just a front end for apt-cache but it beats the hell out of any of the other graphical tools that interface with dpkg/apt. While Synaptic is well done it is simply too intrusive to use as a package browser. That's where Apt-Kio really shines -- it does just enough to be really handy in times like these although I wish that it could be implemented in other browsers. Konqueror still is less taxing to simply scroll through an organized list of packages without the application you're using constantly checking dependencies or dealing with those shitty toggle menus. The other nice aside is that you can save your searches and spare the cycle consumption if you're referring frequently to a large list. Not essential but it's coming in very handy at the present.

I've been playing around a little bit with Inkscape as well. It's pretty arbitrary since vector drawing tools are pretty much fish bicycles to me but the application is well assembled for a 0.36 version application. I'm a little more willing to trust their roadmap if only because they've laid so much groundwork already. The big feature is the ability to transform vector and bitmap objects. They can also use alpha transparency. It's good stuff even if I don't personally have a whole lot of practical use for it.

Filed under: General No Comments
19Dec/03Off

Before This Gets Ugly

A Much Needed Note Of Clarification

Because I'm not always the sharpest knife in the drawer (especially when I'm hardly awake) I neglected to make myself clear in the post below. I am not at all opposed to people in India being employed by U.S companies at a rate of pay equivalent to what workers in the United States would make. It's the export of jobs to pay disadvantaged people far less for the same work (and, in many cases, more work) that really irks me. Outsourcing jobs does not give any stability or additional resources to the countries it exploits and strikes me as closer to white collar cash cropping than "helping" anyone other than accounting departments. Trying to justify this as some kind of inadvertent humanitarian action is misdirection.

Thanks to the people who gave me a heads up instead of ravaging the post in comments.

Filed under: General No Comments
19Dec/03Off

Circular Logic, Circular File, Circle Jerk

I took today off to hang out with Yoon which is something that doesn't happen enough given the train wreck alignment of our respective schedules. I'm not a morning person in any sense of the term. It's nice to wake up even at an hour that I would normally consider on the early side and putter around the house or, more accurately, putter over to the computer for a little information fix to go down with the coffee.

Quick question: Does anyone remember the name of the software that Quark tried to market as a DreamWeaver killer. I had a very funny conversation with someone who used to work there when they were developing the product and neither of us could remember what the thing was called. He did remind me that the shining example given when people asked what the software could do was the Spice Girls site. Oh, damn, it was Immedia and the extensions were .imd. I should really renice my memory so it'll start working before I type a couple hundred words in the initial attempt. I might get a copy of it so expect some proprietary and overworked examples that are probably unviewable at this point in the near future. I love playing with technology that was dead in the water before it was even deployed. Quark has eliminated any evidence on their site that the software ever existed. Probably the only smart thing that they've done for the past six years.

Also noticed an article about Symlin getting yet another FDA smack down here. I'm sure Eli Lilly had absolutely nothing to do with this. Notice the resentment towards Lilly -- since I pay them a monthly tax to continue living I feel entitled to resentment. Oh, yeah, before the outburst I was talking about is here. You fall asleep at my house and I'll steal your pancreas. Don't think for a second that I'm kidding either.

Due to the current state of disarray that the Politechbot archives are in, I'm just going to paste this in:

19 December 2003
Editor, The New York Times
229 W. 43rd St.New York, NY 10036-3959
Dear Editor:I'm curious: why, exactly, is it immoral for corporations to hireforeigners rather than Americans? Bob Herbert recently suggested thatit is so, and reader Joel Cohen agrees. Mr. Cohen apparently finds itunethical that his credit-card company hires Indians to field customerinquiries (Letters, December 19th). If hiring an American is noble,surely hiring an Indian or a Malaysian is even more so. No matter thecurrent state of American job opportunities, such opportunities indeveloping countries are far worse.Ethically enlightened people should applaud, rather than jeer, companiesthat offer employment opportunities to the world's neediest people.
Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux
Chairman, Department of Economics
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030

I'm tempted to leave all the contact information intact to make contacting him more convenient for people to ask him if he overdid it on the insanity peppers at the Xmas buffet. The short answer: You cannot answer this from a perspective of academic economics theory because I don't believe that there is really an ethical or moral base for considering either in the field. If you look a single step past the "any employment no matter how it happens to be leveraged towards the employer" philosophy that's become so popular over the last few years, I'd suggest you consider the question again and then rent Matewan. Merry fucking Christmas.

Filed under: General 2 Comments
18Dec/03Off

On The Other Hand, We Did Get Free Pizza

The burn out finally peaked over the past couple of days and I've been doing things after work like falling asleep on the couch in front of a steaming bowl of ramen. When you've lost your basic survival skills it's time to lay low and regenerate your missing manna. It doesn't help that I'm trying to reacquaint myself with six month old code at the same time. Note to self: write more coherent comments or I will travel back in time and strangle you in your sleep.

It seems like the Earthlink mail server is dying because I've been waiting something like ten minutes for 80 or so mail messages to be expunged from the server. Unfortunately all of the Team Murder mail also gets routed through there for the sake of convenience. Note to self: when you configure things explicitly for the sake of convenience finish the job and chew on some broken glass or maybe smash your head into the nearest wall a half dozen times.

I had to do some work with a software engineer from a medical software company that shall remain nameless yesterday. I can count the number of times that I've configured a static IP address on an XP box on a single finger. For some reason the engineer decided that he needed to be snide about the fact that I needed a couple extra seconds to navigate the oh-so-slightly changed tabs in XP. Dear Acquisition Without A Clue Medical Software Company: You can find your software engineer in the dumpster behind the student medical center. I was too tired to drive his body off a cliff in the rental car. My sincerest apologies for the inconvenience. Next time don't send assholes to maintain your beta software that we were dumb enough to buy. Consider this proposition while we stock up on rubber hoses and other implements to efficiently torture and destroy your soul less minions. Thanks. Should I put the mature audiences disclaimer here or do you already get the point?

Filed under: General No Comments
16Dec/03Off

Unsorted Thoughts On The UserLinux/KDE Controversy

The Gnome versus KDE argument never ends and it doesn't slow down or lessen in venom and the resulting hurt feelings. Bruce Perens has a new article at Newsforge about his decision to go with Gnome and leave KDE out of the proposed UserLinux. Of course, the partisan DE factions are tiring as all get out and I have absolutely zero patience for things like integrated environments because they tend to get in my way and feel like they dictate how my machine functions. That said, most people are nearly lost without one of the big two running on the desktop. It's pretty much a given that you're going to get one or the other in a deeply rooted way by even taking a stab at an enterprise (this should be a blinking buzzword but I'll spare everyone the agony of the eye) distribution.

I thought the KDE proposal for UserLinux was extremely well thought out and showed a lot of maturity in most of the points that they made. Bruce has made the point several times that he wants a completely free environment and that Qt has a dual licensing system attached to it when used for commercial development. While I agree that this is a good point and needs to be made clear to enterprise users who aren't going to have the granular knowledge to sort out the goodies you get to use when you're developing FOSS software and the ones you can use when you're building closed source stuff it also seems like a terrible fucking idea in terms of what people want. KDE is incredibly popular and if I was forced to exist in a DE I'd choose KDE over Gnome without hesitation. Regardless of the similarities between the Windows interface and the default KDE interface my own experience has been that people are immeasurably more comfortable in the KDE environment. I tend to find it cluttered and too heavy with options but I think for most users that is more feature than bug.

Regardless of subjective opinion on look and feel fluffiness, the gap between users who simply interact with their machines and those who develop on it as a platform is huge. It seems incredibly shortsighted to me to exclude a whole universe of very useful applications because there might be conflict between users and commercial platform developers. If this were my theoretical enterprise distribution to dictate policy on, I'd be very hesitant about excluding anything with restrictive licenses attached to it. Debian is the base for it all and includes in its archives software classified as non-free. Why not make the packaging for UserLinux more granular and geared in its labeling towards potential commercial developers instead of simply excluding useful tools and probably more importantly the excellent internationalization that KDE does so well? It's a pretty major sacrifice to ensure that only free software will be used in case its users want to develop closed/proprietary software under it at the price of losing access to so much available and well supported software. How is this any different at the core than say, Fedora which is the development playground for RedHat's Enterprise Linux? It's still the mediated and controlled harnessing of free software to serve the needs of business customers only in this version of the story many of the projects that benefit from the RedHat open source sweat shop methodology don't benefit from UserLinux because their software is excluded from the canonical distribution and the massive influx of testing and bug reporting that comes along with it. Lose + lose = victory?

There's actually a way better rebuttal of Peren's article over at the KDE Developers Journals. They feel betrayed not on some quasi-emotional level but because they think that Bruce is being intellectually dishonest and manipulative about his justifications for this decision. I tend to agree with that whether it is intentional or not. It does seem like Bruce's response has less to do with making hard decisions faster than it does simplifying the planning process. When all you've really got is a white paper as your product you've still got plenty of room to widen out the planning stages and maybe not shoot yourself in the foot so blatantly and dishonestly.

I'll probably write more on this in the days to come when there's been a little more exchange between invested parties and I'm not falling asleep at the keyboard.

Filed under: General No Comments
15Dec/03Off

The Odd Moment Of Real Life Introspection

I just found out earlier tonight that our drummer and his wife (talk about the most awkward way to introduce people...) have a baby boy on the way. I saw the blurry-and-creepy-gram and it looks scary. I for one welcome our new fiendish overlords from the shadowy womb. This probably isn't the least bit relevant to anyone outside of my immediate circle of friends but: congratulations, Matt and Deb.

Filed under: General No Comments
14Dec/03Off

Neat Quick And Dirty

Haven't quite decided whether Perthon is a terrible idea or a great one. Occasionally I've really wanted to do translations like this not because I wanted to actually use the script translated from Python into Perl but sometimes the change in perspective and syntax could be handy to evaluate what exactly you're trying to do without getting mired in syntactic idiocyncracies. I think it would be pretty handy for that if not for direct translation without some clean up. I'd probably still be more likely to dust off one of the gazillion Perl reference books I have laying around and trying to reorient my brain to the chaotic TMTOWTDI philosophy of Perl. I am curious how this project will evolve over time though, so I'm mentally bookmarking it for checking in sometime later. I'll probably be more enthusiastic (as will the author, no doubt) when it's a little further along than pre-alpha.

Filed under: General No Comments
14Dec/03Off

Operation Lucidity Evaporation

I read first thing this morning (via Slashdot of all fucking places) that Saddam Hussein was captured in Iraq this morning. This probably means that for every fictional Iraqi dancing in the street there will be ten stupid fuckers in like Oklahoma doing the same and mentally precasting their ballot.

That said, how much "bleeding heart propaganda" do you think it will take to remind people that we're aboard a sinking ship economically and that Saddam Hussein was not the person responsible for the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon? No need to answer, really...

Filed under: General 1 Comment
14Dec/03Off

Sideways Advocacy Fight Song

Oh, due to this day where everything broke (including Gnome and too many application associated with it on my desktop box) I have realigned myself with the mighty Sylpheed Claws. I'd nearly forgotten, between horrible webmail interfaces and the kitchen sink approaches that email clients can actually be fast and do more than just manipulate mbox files. It also functions quite nicely as a news reader which is one of the reasons why I've been delving into the hellish troll garden of news groups. There's also a Windows version of it and a more stable version for the compulsive and nervous. I'm sure some fuckwit is going to mention that Sylpheed in either incarnation isn't Gtk2.0 and isn't pretty enough for Joe Sixpack but then again I don't have enough bullets to respond to all criticism.

The real reason that I even brought this up was being reminded by visiting the Sylpheed-Claws site that there was a Windows port and it actually works from Windows 98 on up. I think more of my friends, stuck on the Windows platform for work or because of game addiction, could use a client that did just what it was supposed to instead of running executables, whoring out address books, and generally being a lot more trouble than it's worth. There's also a pretty good system of plugins if you need Spam Assassin stylee protection or virus scanning on the fly although the usual system of regexp filters seems to do the trick for me and there aren't any Internet connected Windows boxes at my house. If you've never given either variety of Sylpheed a try, it's a nice change of pace from the clunkiness of most clients with a whole world more functionality than most pieces of software that take the minimalist approach of dealing with mail. It was also a piece of cake to import my boxes from Ximian Evolution so I didn't lose anything in the transition from one client to another. I'm not so confident that address books and the like would import so easily but I can usually reconstruct those from the addresses in my inbox.

The obligatory screen shot:

Filed under: General 2 Comments
14Dec/03Off

Everything Broken. Go To Sleep.

It seems like everything is broken. I certainly don't feel at the top of my game at the moment. I'm not sure that I could pin down exactly where that semi-craprific feeling comes from and might just be an amalgamation of many slightly cruddy elements. I just finished the last final of this semester which is always an oddly deflated experience. I should be happy to finish and own my own brain for a couple of weeks but I don't. This experience seems common with other students that I've talked to and gets progressively worse or at least more obvious as the upper division gauntlet wears on. I'd love to just chalk it up as burnout or indifference or something but that would just be an easier explanation than I'm willing to go with at the moment.

Firebird and all of the Gecko-based browsers seem really, really balky and slow since the last upgrade. It feels like all the Mozilla-based browsers are leaking an incredible amount of memory. Just running Galeon with a single tab open was tearing through 55% - 90% of the CPU when it normally clocks somewhere between 15%-20% even when working hard. I uninstalled a whole bunch of arbitrary packages that I thought might be responsible but everything still feels slow and extra crashy. During the course of this admittedly rather random investigation I also rediscovered the file that lists the preference settings that are not navigable from the GUI: on my machine it's located at /usr/share/doc/galeon/README.ExtraPrefs. Needless to say, I haven't been looking at much web stuff except with emacs-w3m which should be my default browser with all the use it gets. In any case, it's irritating as hell and from what I could gather from linux.debian.user and the like I'm not the only one so it might be an issue with the Debian package.This isn't to say that there is usually any advice worth taking over there but if enough heads pop up you can be pretty sure that something is wrong. The trip did make me really want one of these fancy metal plated case badges though so it wasn't entirely useless.

Seems like a fine time to just forget about getting anything done and shooting for eight hours of sleep. At least I'm not alone in feeling like everything is broken.

Filed under: General No Comments
13Dec/03Off

Stuck To The Door With A Dagger

I am leaving this post as a note to myself. That was the original reason that this weblog started albeit on the small and inflexible space that Earthlink allows DSL customers. I used to think of it as the ultimate, cross platform roaming profile. That was before people started yelling at me and giving me unbelievable amounts of helpful suggestions. Anyway:

Note To Self: Dear Absent-Minded Idiot,
Please do not forget that Public Domain Photo exists because you will without a doubt need some kind of background texture for a flyer or something within the next month, curse yourself for forgetting/misplacing the above URL, and create some hideous blurred and splotchy thing in The Gimp that would make Cthulu cry. It's for your own good.