Team Murder No Brain No Headache.

31Jul/04Off

Because Email Is Worse Than Useless After A Day Or Two

We just got back from the mountains an hour or two ago and I've spent more time than I can ever remember pointing email addresses back to their correct destinations and looking at a Gmail spam folder with nearly twenty thousand pieces accumulated over three days. Confronted with messes like these all I can feel is some grey middle point between total apathy and resigned despair. If you emailed me over the past three days and haven't heard back today (I'm not kidding) please give it another shot in the very near future 'cause we're taking off for SF on the fifth and the whole process starts over again only with even less money. I don't think I can bring myself to skim that many subject lines ever again.

The mountains were interesting although I did more coding, watching the Democratic National Convention, and couch duty than anything else. Someone told me before we left that there was an alpine slide near Winter Park but that just sounded too much like something I did accidentally on a fishing trip long ago to hold much real appeal. A couple soaks in a hot tub will do wonders for moral even if you can't get anything to eat after 9 p.m. I feel well rested at the moment which is good because rough shit is coming up in the not-so-distant future. The little coffee place on the main drag (which is about four blocks long) actually had a wi-fi hot spot. I guess this is the last nudge that I needed to drop the ten paltry dollars on a wireless card for my old and chubby laptop. I did take advantage of the utter lack of internet connection to remain pretty much on task with what I was doing though. You pay for that sort of concentration in thousands of pieces of spam, I suppose.

When I have more than ten minutes to hang out at my desk I'd like to play around with PyPy. A working runtime would be very handy. I haven't even looked through the Gentoo Packages for it yet so that shows you where I'm at. Pho, I guess and then some wingnut band from Austin called Invincible Czars later tonight. The name is awful but I liked what little I heard from their website and I need to shake off this case of cabin fever.

Filed under: General No Comments
28Jul/04Off

Parting Shots Before Vacation

Two things:

A Firefox parody that is pretty funny. Pay special attention to the differentiation between technology preview and production usage. Too bad the alternatives are even worse, eh?

A pending class action lawsuit against PayPal. The site is dying at the moment under the strain of all us trying to recover the thirty six cents this suit will probably reward in the end. Also somewhat funny.

28Jul/04Off

Fried Brains Are For Babbling With

I'm finished with summer classes and Yoon and I are getting out of the city for a couple of days to hang out in a hot tub equipped cabin. This means no connectivity, no kitten, and exposure to the sun for extended periods of time. I have that totally deflated feeling after staggering through a couple of hyper-condensed and academically rigorous classes. I guess that isn't deflated in the sense that I'm apathetic and couch-with-Cheetos bound or anything but I keep anticipating some horrible surprise to happen that requires me to labor endlessly to impress and/or sate morons. That probably has more to do with the general direction that work has taken over the past month or so than anything else. The recent onslaught of viruses and worms has really made work seem like running in Habitrail while having bad instructions/orders shouted at you. Then again, maybe I'm just really tired.

I had a two hour long telephone conversation with an old friend last night.This fact is remarkable only if you've ever talked with me on the phone, a technology that I use a whole lot like a walkie-talkie or a telegraph. He's one of the people that I perpetually worry about on this subconscious and indirect level. It was reassuring to hear that everything is going well. We spent way too much of the conversation on SF punk rock gossip but it was worth the time if only to realize that you can transparently reconnect with people that you've barely communicated with for years and years. I'm hating the telephone a little less at the moment though I doubt this epiphany will actually cause me to answer the phone when it rings.

Yes. This is burn out.

Filed under: General 2 Comments
27Jul/04Off

Caching Against Slashdot

Speaking of caching, there's a nice comparison of how a few PHP/MySQL CMSs held up under the much maligned stress of a Slashdotting which really shows you how well e107 implements caching. I use .htaccess rules to keep that sort of direct linking under control which would doubtless collapse in a flaming heap under any real stress but it's good to see that other folks are thinking ahead and trying to minimize that sort of punishment for more community oriented sites. The whole thing is simulated by scripts but stress testing makes me happy. Drupal also held up pretty well at the 300 hits per second mark. I'm not surprised at the relative success of either one since both projects are absolutely crazy about continually refining their code base.

Filed under: General No Comments
27Jul/04Off

Your Funeral My Frisbee

Three thousand laborious words later I am finished with the summer semester and given the gift of a couple weeks to intellectually fuck off. Yup. The party starts with a link dump. I'd feel better about this if Yoon wasn't off seeing Sonic Youth at a semi-secret warehouse show right now.

A GIF animation of an autopsy that really, really makes me wish that this was a video game. Sorta.

I have no idea how I've used an X based desktop for this long without realizing what utter genius unclutter is. I cranked mine up to 2 seconds in my Fluxbox startup file and I am much, much happier working in terms and dealing with web forms. Gotta tip the hat to Debian Package A Day for the nudge to give unclutter a try. Deb Package A Day is a really great little project as well for keeping you interested in new software that might be tersely described by your distribution's packaging or whatever and gives you a glimpse into how you might actually use software instead of just an objective description of what it does. Adding to the links section...

I've been playing around with Pears a little bit between spasmodical typing. It's another Python and wxPython conglomeration and while it doesn't feel as responsive as other aggregators I've messed with lately it's still pretty good and relatively stable. The only problem that I've found so far is that Pears froze (I actually had to kill the process) the first time I tried to import a huge OPML list. The browser selection dialog also seems broken because anything but the default cannot be set with the current interface. You can also adjust the cache for each feed which is a really nice feature. The "about" dialog also gives you stats on uptime, number of times used, and other things that ring geek bells. Cross platform is good. There's also apparently a plug in structure but I haven't been able to figure that out from either the site or messing with the application itself but I did just figure out that right clicking a feed refreshes it. Woo. No screenshot because do you really need to see another huge screenshot of a 3 pane aggregator? Didn't think so.

There's a new version of the Ultimate Boot CD out. Time to fix your broken shit. I should probably play some Frozen Bubble and pass the hell out.

26Jul/04Off

Another Test…

Ignore me for I am short lived and content free.

This one is actually going to hang out for a while silently moldering into obscurity as a test post that I can reuse again and again. In this case it was to test the new version of the Staticize plug in. Seems quick and less break-the-holy-crap-outta-everything than the first version. Yay!

23Jul/04Off

Two Things That Annoy

Two things that I'm thinking about:

1. It would be great if Netflix provided a 35 character text field next to movies in your cue. Two of us share one account and I hear about a lot of things third hand, write them down on the back of a fast food receipt, and then forget all about why I wanted to see that film after a couple of weeks. I can't imagine that it would be too costly in terms of database abuse since the Netflix site seems to do a gazillion db calls every page load anyway. I'd also love improvements in the recommendation system. We've rated something like 600 movies and get almost no recommendations in a given category. Something about that says that it should've stayed in development a wee bit longer.

2. The next time someone refers to RMS and anyone who has similar beliefs as a communist I'm going to bludgeon them to death with a hard drive in a sock. Seriously, they don't require MBAs to take a single political science class at Matchbook Business College? What makes this even more offensive is that Stallman is such a freak about semantics and that is such a central part of the problems that many have with him.

Those are two things. Now I will go see loud music and drink cheap swill.

23Jul/04Off

We’re Going To Need Bigger Buckets

Interesting enough but kind of sad: There's a collective Internet Explorer weblog which links other IE developers weblogs and so on. The site I linked seems a little on the PR puff side while the dev weblogs are (of course) more infolicious. IE is in such catch up mode that nothing short of a monopoly on the corporate desktop will... oh shit.

Sarcasm aside (and all of the bitter rage that I feel towards cleaning up after such an outrageously outdated yet ubiquitous piece of software), I'm glad the browser is moving forward albeit by baby steps. Read the dev weblogs because some of the posts are very, very funny in the best/worst senses. That can't be fun work in general. I picture the IE devs as something akin to the janitors walking behind the elephants in the beginning of Fractured Fairy Tales.

22Jul/04Off

Choice Is Probably Best Chosen

I really have to agree with Hans Nowak when he says most of the time an IDE is annoying as hell when coding Python. There are just too many features in most IDEs or editors that want to be IDEs that are enabled by default and pop up with jack in the box regularity to annoy the fuck out of people who are accustomed to something more austere. The code completion thing drives me batty in a matter of minutes. One of the first things that I dug around in the pile of horrors that is the configuration interface for Quanta Plus to disable is the auto completion of parentheses and whatnot. I know it's not the right editor for programming per se but it is pretty good/efficient for PHP.

People could easily give me shit here, were they inclined to do so, for eschewing the minimalist splendor of vi for the sprawling, many tentacled horror of emacs. Yes, emacs can do way too many things but most of those things don't come clawing their way out of the box on a beeline to your crotch where they'll eat your testicles and convert all of your tabs to spaces without even a "Hello! I'm going to eat your nuts if you don't mind." Hell, the mouse scroll isn't even turned on in the version included with most distributions. I won't say that using the emacs interface to toggle options/features on and off is fun or anything but at least you don't have to deal with singing and dancing tip windows stealing focus from the application by default. That is the key right there and one of the strengths of both emacs and vi/Vim; you're not forced to use anything you don't want to excepting the colon and the control key.

Anyone have any really compelling arguments against programming in black boxes? I mean other than prettiness or whatever because I know some dumb motherfucker is going to get all rah-rah about Clippy or something.

Filed under: General No Comments
19Jul/04Off

Kupu: Go Kick The Tires While I Sleep

Ok, so another thing to play around with as mentioned by Edd Dumbill over at his site is the Mozilla compatible (and it works with that one icky browser that so many people think of as shorthand for the Internet) text editor called Kupu. I messed with the live demo and was pretty impressed there were a couple things available on the menu bar that didn't work the way that I expected them to or at all but this is a temporary version of the demo so I can't really get picky about issues of permissions and whatnot. What is really frightening and I wouldn't have really noticed this had Edd not pointed it out in his mention of Kupu: the thing is Javascript. Jeez. There is something incredibly masochistic about trying to do big implementations in a language that limited in scope but I'm impressed with the results.

Go give it a shot. I'd love to hear feedback from folks using IE. I don't even have a copy loaded in the Codeweavers stuff on this machine. Let the rest of us know how it goes. I've gotta get some sleep.

18Jul/04Off

Akgregator: A Good New Toy

Just dragged my sorry ass through a long and difficult paper that cost me a crazy amount of sleep and time that I would ordinarily spend doing something more fun than reading Ph.D dissertations as research material. I ended up working through the night and on until seven this morning. That said, I needed some five or ten minute breaks pretty frequently while writing that paper so the Bloglines clipping feature was pretty handy for that purpose. I'm becoming more of a linkdumper than I've ever been and while that sort of bothers me on one level I'm also trying to break the habit of working myself to death on things that are absolutely necessary. I'm much more apt to spend insane amounts of times on interesting problems than anything else which is ultimately more rewarding than most of the byproducts of weblogging. There's that whole sleeping thing to consider on occasion as well.

While I love, love, love aggregators for the most part all of them have incredibly annoying and what seems like very obvious flaws to me. With syndication becoming omnipresent and increasingly less annoying than actually visiting web sites the aggregator is approaching the importance of a web browser with the dependence on a zillion shitty plugins to simply read some text buried somewhere in all the singing, dancing trash. I imagine this stupid future will be brought to you by your non-dividend paying friends Microsoft. I've mentioned a million different Linux aggregators here and I'm never quite happy with them although Liferea the one disclaimed on its site as "under development" is about the closest to a perfect fit that I've found so far. It's pretty damn good for where it's at in development. I gave the new KDE aggregrator Akregator which unfortunately clings to that awful and arbitrary rule of all applications having a 'K' stuck in their name somewhere. I was impressed with its simplicity and speed. Importing the OPML file from all my Bloglines subscriptions took less than two seconds and I was up and running afterwards. The only thing that does annoy is the 'save as' dialog that pops up when you want to save your subscriptions. Dotfiles exist to keep you from doing this sort of thing and other applications that I've seen that use multiple configuration files often give you the option to create or open those files separately but never require you to create the initial or default file. It is a beta, though, so I can't fault the entire application for a design decision that I don't agree with when it functions very well already. Screenshot? Oh, why not:

13Jul/04Off

Temporary Sort-Of-Annoying Zones

I'm sure everyone with a weblog that spans more than a year or so is baked far enough into Google to have the ancient post that still picks up comments. Mine is here and was about being blocked as a sexually oriented site by Websense. Incidentally if you Google 'fuck websense' that post is the first result. Anyway, what's interesting is that that post has taken on a life entirely apart from its original purpose which was to allow me to vent some spleen about the inherent problems with filtering 'bots. I had more objections to being labelled a sexually oriented site than actually being blacklisted for being a potty mouth. Luckily the kids and by kids I mean folks who go to school in places where Websense is used in an out of the box configuration don't arbitrarily read anything and that aspect has been largely ignored. The comments attached to the post are where things get interesting.

I've only deleted one comment attached to it because it was so blatantly stupid and abrasive that I couldn't just leave it there. So there is a fair amount of grade school humor and non-pejorative use of words like 'fag' but after people started floating in on searches like 'fuck websense' I just had to sit back and see what happened without trying to steer the direction that comments took. There were actually a fair amount of helpful exchanges between people and an equal number of 3l33tists berating the others for coming here instead of Googling a better answer. The comment someone left today is a perfect example of this and is so full of posturing that it completely cracked me up. The Websense ban has since been lifted on this site at least as far as I'm aware of so it would be easy to just delete the post now especially after two years of sitting there accumulating cruft but I can't bring myself to do it unless I could somehow preserve the comments apart from the actual post. The sort of pseudo-TAZ that results from throwing your hands up in the air and relinquishing control is more interesting to me than ninety percent of anything that I've written here. It makes me want to spout some nonsense about the subculture of youth making use of our forgotten spaces and adapting them within the original framework to their own uses but I'm just not feeling the fruity sociological vibe tonight. Thinking about this means that I should probably just go to sleep and possibly delete this entry tomorrow.

12Jul/04Off

Hi. I’m Fucking Tired.

I've decided that four week summer classes are too fucking much. I'm a little delirious from trying to pack viciously paced classes and a little summer fun into the past seven weeks. The fatigue is probably the thing that impresses me the most because I got a serious case of giggles from a porn spam subject line that read: "chat online with real live vaginas" and then, if only for a split second, tried to imagine what a transcript of that session would look like. I'm sure something exactly like that is being cooked up for a Broadway musical as I type this so I refuse to feel too badly about thinking it.

The class that I'm currently taking is entitle Native Americans in American History and seems like a pretty deft maneuver given that my school doesn't have a Native American Studies department. Usually crosslisting would cover a class like that (especially an upper division section) but instead it's placed in a context that even the crankiest of the campus Republicans can't really argue with its inclusion. Fanboydom aside, it's been a rough month and a half. One of the definite upsides to this class has been assigned readings that include Native American authors. This incredibly condensed semester has really left me no time for reading anything that is not assigned. The reading load (assuming, of course, that you read everything you're supposed to instead of skimming it and pounding on bad chunks of PHP until your head explodes and your hands start shaking) is absurd and completely outside of reasonable expectations and that is as well acknowledged by the professors as the students.

So not only do I get to do some fiction reading from a group of authors that I'm entirely unfamiliar with but I get to use library copies of these books. One of the chief differences that I've found between using library copies of books usually included in the literary canon and those that usually full into the category of Xxxxx Studies is that people tend to have very BBS-esque conversations in the margins of these books. Sure, there is more than the expected fair share of Edgar Cayce/crude oil/jesus magic scrawling in the margins but more often than that are sprawling debates that span the course of decades. It's very tempting to read the whole thing as a cultural commentary on what was going on during the times (which is pretty difficult to discern and maybe purposely so) and entirely ignore the text. While this definitely falls in line with my "learn as much in college as possible by not doing any assigned work" plan for self education but doesn't make for particularly good papers especially critical literary reviews of half read books. So, grad students looking for an ethnology project or something take heed and score some grants to finance a definitive study of undergraduate social networks in library ethnic studies collections. I'm sure you'll get a big fat grant or something and me, I'll be terribly entertained.

Of some relevance:

Carthik unearths the sullen 800 pound gorilla of WordPress configuration which is linked by Photo Matt and reminds me that I really flaked on not adding Carthik to the good old link list. I'm specializing in flaking these days.

I've probably heard about Pheer at some point in the past but due to the fact that my interest in indie metal played by clean cut white kids waxes and wanes with astonishing regularity prevented me from filing its existence in cold storage. There are a whole lotta Washington, D.C shows, mainly of the metallish type, documented there. The fella that runs the place also really needs some help with bandwidth so if you're sitting on a giant pile of unused money and would like to go down in history as some kind of hardcore influenced metal saint... The Milemarker footage is well worth checking out.

The point::counterpoint piece in the Inquirer is probably the best use of search and replace I've seen in a while. Read all the way down before you start getting all antsy and shit. I'd actually like to see a TCO analysis on TCO analyses and how much brain share gets tossed down the crapper debunking, rebunking, and burying these things at sea. Vague is for the sales department.

I said ha ha:

"We continue to encourage responsible disclosure of vulnerabilities. We believe the commonly accepted practice of reporting vulnerabilities directly to a vendor serves everyone's best interests, by helping to ensure that customers receive comprehensive, high-quality patches for security vulnerabilities with no exposure to malicious attackers while the update is being developed," the company said in an e-mail statement.

PoynterOnline mentioned Audit My PC today. It's pretty handy for snickering when your browser refuses to jump through any hoops and might also be a good, quick demonstration for your friends who think that IE is safe enough. Firefox would've actually scored a 100% on the pop up blocker test but the time delayed user initiated pop up produces a warning telling you what is going on instead of just feeding you a pop up. The test suite interpreted this as a failure. Features. Bugs. Bugs. Features.

Filed under: General No Comments
7Jul/04Off

The Janitorial Aria Of Mourning

I'm doing a little clean up on the site spurred by Kenneth Hunt asking me about something I posted about a while back. I couldn't find it via a simple search which is pretty embarrassing given the actual content of the post so I decided to start sorting through the unholy amount of crap I've compiled here over the past two years. Soon the categories will actually be worth something. After that maybe I'll work on IPv9 compliance.

7Jul/04Off

Some Free Crap…

Usually I don't get too excited about product tosses but Novell is handing out copies of a number of different SUSE and Ximian goodies. It's a good plan, I guess, if you don't have a plan. Get in there soon because I imagine it's going to disappear in the near future. Oh, Photo Matt mentioned this as well which I'm convinced subliminally leaked into my thoughts since I glanced at his site earlier on today without noticing that link on his site.

Filed under: General No Comments
6Jul/04Off

Some More Grist To Mill –background

If you've ever been curious about the mystical world of OpenBSD (as I most certainly have) then there's an article/review over at Distrowatch that you should really check out because it's one of the most detailed and well thought out reviews that I've ever read and actually sheds a lot of light on the thinking behind OpenBSD and the reasoning behind deploying it. The nutshell explanations about the differences in partitioning basics and other seemingly arbitrary differences between the *nix and Linux sides of the fence that sometimes make for a frustratingly familiar environment that isn't exactly arranged the way you might expect.

This isn't exactly hand holding but it does give you a pretty honest and sometimes funny picture of what the installation process is like. This is a fantastic example (although I'm sure it's also mentioned in a FAQ too):

There are two utilities available for configuring X, xf86cfg (which is a graphical configuration utility) and xf86config (text-mode) - most people prefer xf86cfg, but the choice is yours. Most graphics cards are supported, and if the configuration goes smoothly you should be able to start X Windows with the command "startx". Well, actually it won't start because by default /usr/X11R6/bin is not in the path (edit hidden file .profile in the directory of all users who need to run X, log out, log back in, and "startx" should work).

If you want to make the addition of /usr/X11R6/bin to the path automatic for all new users created in the future, edit also hidden file ".profile" in /etc/skel.

it just isn't something that you'd necessarily think about if you're coming from a strictly Linux distribution background for installations. It's definitely giving me urges to give one of the BSDs another shot on a spare work machine.

4Jul/04Off

While Idiots Blow Shit Up Outside My Window

Eventually I'm going to narrow this posting to Team Murder thing down to a single post per month. I'd intended to do a fair amount of work yesterday including some code pounding but Yoon and I went to the eye doctor so I could get an eye examination and contact lenses again for the first time in something like eight years. I was really surprised at how much more cool and observable technology has made its way into optical exams and fitting. The look through the different sets of corrective lenses portion of an eye exam is startling short now since they used the prescription from my glasses (which should've been woefully out of date) and used some slick ass laser light thing to figure that out. This is all fine and uninteresting other than a sociological mini-tour of how long you'll let necessary health care lapse when you've been crunched for money for +4 years. The bummer part was the dilation drops since they rendered me useless for most of the day. I did get a chance to ask the doctor how they work and it turns out assuming that he was truthful that they actually block nerve reaction in your eyes. I'm a little paranoid about anything that's a neural inhibitor and having no practical vision for twelve hours or so didn't help. There's a pretty good justification for this barbaric practice that I didn't see until this morning. Uh, bad pun there but I did get a chance to try out Gnopernicus or at least the screen magnifier portion of the package so I could sort through some of my mail.

I've only seen snippets of Colonial House but I did read (woo hoo, I can actually read today) an engrossing article by one of the historical consultants on the difficulties faced when planning something like that with some shred of authenticity intact and whether or not that is even possible. I like the fact that he also thought of the show as something akin to Little House On The Prairie meets Survivor. Consider things like this:

However, there were practical limits to the project. For example, a real colony in 1628 would most likely have been an armed camp, complete with a night watch, a hastily constructed palisade, and a military leader such as John Smith or Miles Standish. Unfortunately, safety precautions and modern-day laws preempted any efforts to arm our colonists with clumsy matchlock muskets, leading to the wholesale elimination of an important aspect of a colony's first months. It is probably just as well, or we might have accidentally lost a colonist or two. Still, a little martial drill with some unloaded firearms and the construction of a section of palisade might have at least given the flavor of this experience.

and it becomes pretty clear that a project of this sort really has to cause feelings of conflict in a historian.

Filed under: General No Comments