Team Murder No Brain No Headache.

30Sep/04Off

Laughable Is Seldom Funny

Late night. Early morning. Burn burn burn. I'm getting through answering email. If people wouldn't tell me about such cool things, methodically solve all of my problems, and ask the sort of questions I love to answer then getting through a week worth of mail wouldn't be so time and mind consuming. Truthfully if it were any other way I'd probably delete it all without reading it. So along with the 'thank you' there must always come a 'fuck you.' Again, this is about email and some that I got after whittling my RSS and Atom feeds down to a summary instead of full text because the bandwidth was eating me alive. The funny part about it is people mailed me to tell me that they'd unsubscribed from my feeds as if I was going to get upset because they weren't yanking on full text feeds like some methamphetamine addled bukkake star. Yeesh. If you really, really insist on reading my overly wordy bullshit in its full verbose glory in a feed-like format I suggest Links or w3m or any of the other fine text based browsers out there. It's not like you're missing a fuck of a lot anyway. You can pretty much just spend a couple bucks a month on helping those around you drink three times as much coffee as they normally would and you'll get the same pointless ranting from them as you would from me.

I am not watching the debate tonight. I don't have the necessary powers of self-deception or the intestinal fortitude to swallow so much rehash and vagary in one sitting. Matt pointed to another Matt who pointed to list of things you're not supposed to know about presidential debates including the fact that they really aren't debates. Morbid curiosity would be the only rationale I could muster.

There's also an interesting interview/article at BME about a woman who auctioned off space on her head for an anti-Bush tattoo. If this at all grabs your attention you should check out the interview because it delves a lot further into the ideas and thinking behind the auction. The photo of the tattoo is probably the least interesting part about the whole thing. The guy who actually won the auction is also interviewed which adds an expected angle to the article especially given the fact that he really didn't care about the tattoo aspect of the auction at all but rather the process of getting there.

I'm lacking in the time aspect of it but this potential fiasco actually sounds like it might be fun or at least add another notch in my way too many ways to break a Debian install belt.

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29Sep/04Off

Most Mistakes Are Hidden Truisms

More lag time here as the real life stuff has been keeping me quite occupied thank you. I had a major rant building up over something that happened in one of my classes the other day but now, away from the awful and stupid moment, I'm not feeling much of anything about it. It would suffice to say that if people actually read the materials they were supposed to they would not suggest that Krishna was actually telling Arjuna not to fight in the Bhavaghad Gita. Yeah, so, uh, rant aborted.

MooKitty suggested in a comment that I might try out her Comment Pay Plugin to let people know that their comments are awaiting moderation and haven't been flushed down the awful toilet of destiny known to most as /dev/null. When time allows I'm probably going to hack the payment stuff out of it because although it is very funny conceptually it does expose your email address to robots, horrible robots and whatnot. I love, love, love having source available especially when something does more than I want and can probably be fixed with a little bit of commenting out.

Also got wind of Snakehandlers.net by way of the almighty Daily Python-URL and it looks like the start of something big. They say right on the index that the project was inspired by Perl Monks so hopefully they'll get just as complex and functional as that site.

Ars Technica gives their browser and platform report and they're just as unsurprisingly surprised as anyone else by the fact that Internet Explorer usage is on the decline. When you talk enough about something people will eventually listen. It does kind of suck that their logging software doesn't differentiate between the big fat lizard and Firefox. I imagine that Firefox is gaining pretty rapidly on Mozilla by this point.

Tired.Incoherent.Must sleep.

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27Sep/04Off

Some Pre-Lunch Messing Around

Another thing I neglected to mention along with all of the other hacks and changes I've made to this site lately is that I also trimmed the feeds down. I looked at the logs and RSS was indeed the bastard when it came to soaking me in bandwidth expenditures. Rather than disabling them completely I just let WordPress summarize posts. This is probably a terrible idea since whatever point that I'm trying to make with a post is usually buried in 300 words of whatev. In any case, it's working at least for the moment. Aggregators, in general, are going to have to start behaving a lot more grown up before I'm allowing full text in feeds again.

I read through a pretty lengthy summary of XUL this morning that rekindled my interest in tinkering with it more. I did a little hacking in the past but that never amounted to much. I doubt my next stab will be any more productive but I'm twice as curious now. It really is a good article that should probably be hosted on the main Mozilla site since it's a lot more engaging than most of the documentation offered there. Not that documentation has any obligation to be entertaining but rolling it up in some advocacy can't hurt.

If you add more fuel to the password controversy fire then this post about passwords vs. passphrases might be worth your perusal. I didn't know that newer Windows boxes supported 128 character (including spaces and unicode characters) passphrases. I'd favor those that know better abandoning the platform altogether but I'm happy to know that there's a glimmer of hope for those trapped in the matrix.

I'm actually working (term used very loosely since I have no installer rights on this machine, no browser with tabs, and no virtual desktops) on a Windows XP box in a public lab and using IE for the first time in months. I've pretty much pruned all of the sites that load pop ups from the links. I had no idea. Please let me know if I'm linking to a site that bombs you with pop ups. Then install Firefox and save yourself from future grief. Oh, and get yourself a better shell for your desktop while you're at it. And eat your vegetables.

26Sep/04Off

Thank You Tony, Mark, And MooKitty.

Damn. So, answering my call for convenience from the other day, via Wordlog, comes the plugin that I've been looking for: the Three Strikes plugin. It works like a spam blacklist and gives the space to open your comments back up if only to add the spammer details to your blacklist. It uses Kitten's Spam Words and a scoring system much like Spamassassin.I've only had it installed for something like 24 hours so I'm still seeing a fair amount of crap flooding but it's already a lot more tolerable than it has been for the last couple of weeks.

Speaking of the great comment toggle, my friend Tony mailed me a comment intended for my rant about the gbrowser snipe hunt. He said:

In all of your geekdom you missed the obvious... As did I.

#1 - Google doesn't need to "fix" any obvious problem in the browser market.
The original browser wars weren't about features, reliability, fit and
finish or anything else. It came down to branding and...

#2 - Distribution channel. Google has access to the single largest
distribution channel outside of Microsoft.

Is there a purpose? Is it commercially viable?

Fuck if I know... But I can tell you that my mom knows who Google is and she
and billions like her use their website daily.

The power and size of Google might get a significant portion of MSIE only
websites (SBC for example) back onto the path of W3C compliance.

I think he's completely spot on and the branding angle was one that had occurred to me but, as Tony said, I have a fair amount of geek shortsightedness to thank for not considering that point further. Jesus, the wild success of the Google Toolbar alone should've rung my clue phone. His point about Google steering more, ahem, web designers towards actual W3C compliance was something that hadn't dawned on me at all. This also makes a whole lot of sense since a united push towards W3C standards instead of new, new marquee tags has got to appeal to someone besides me despite my newfound adoration for the blink tag (my apologies to Bob).

I still have a fuckton of Gmail invites. Comment and you shall receive...

24Sep/04Off

If Only I Could Silence People In Real Life When They Annoy Me

Unfortunately I had to turn comments off for a while. The bombardment, although completely useless to spammers because their comments will never be seen by a search engine or another person, was getting to be too much to clean up. The wonderful Stop Comments plugin allows for this to be done painlessly and very quickly. I'm probably going to hack together a more visually pleasing denial screen in the near future but for now I'm just going to leave the default in place and go have fun on Friday night. In the mean time if you've got an especially salient point to add to a post please email me with it and I'll paste it with a link to where ever it is that you call home.

Disturbing Auctions is very much worth your time. I'm not usually a fan of jokey meta sites but this one is actually pretty funny. It's the same guy that does Spamusment which I also think is hilarious. Others, being the fools that they are, are not.

I haven't found much worth sharing today. Most of the "news" that I've read today has been of the "why the fuck" variety. Maybe I'm just cranky.

23Sep/04Off

Spread The Genius: The Nazgul

This was posted over at Groklaw from a comment left by a user and it was so damned genius that I had to put it up for folks intimidated and/or bored silly by the analysis of Groklaw. Once again, I love Creative Commons.

The Nazgul - A Derivative Work of the Intellectual Property of Edgar Allan Poe
~ by Alanyst

Once upon a midnight dreary, as I worked at SCO/Caldera,
Searching many quaint and curious printouts of forgotten source --
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my office door.
"Tis some co-worker," I muttered, "tapping at my office door --
Only this, and nothing more."

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the sere September,
And each fragmentary member of my UNIX code lay on the floor.
Nervously I feared the morrow; -- vainly I had sought to borrow
From old code surcease of sorrow--sorrow for the sinking score --
For the sinking, dwindling, stinking ticker telling our stock's score --
Profitless for evermore.

23Sep/04Off

Register A Domain And The World Goes Mad

The last couple days of one million monkeys furiously typing has yielded a lot of speculation about the potential for a Google branded browser. I have to say that my interest was instantly piqued although, thinking about it in retrospect, I'm not really sure why. The Google name obviously brings with it a fair amount of credibility and the often cited technology salon style of development is lauded with equal frequency. Gmail has been incredibly successful for a beta and held everyone's attention for a couple of weeks and is sort of being used as the example for the potential success of a Gbrowser.

Gmail was a pretty straightforward proposition. Give people a belligerent amount of email storage with a search capability that actually works baked in and you've got a pack of believers. That isn't a particularly difficult problem to hunt down and tackle. The browser issue is an answer to a problem that I don't particularly see. I'm all for the idea of funding even more R + D for Mozilla but I can't see the actual product in my mind or how it might differ from the furious development already going on around Mozilla or, more specifically, around Firefox. What are the actual enhancements and pitfalls? I'm having a hard time conceptualizing what kind of overhaul the browser needs at this point.

A couple things that I can think of immediately:

1. Integrating Gmail with Thunderbird would be a fine start although it technically isn't a 'browser' question. Given Google's reluctance to let folks tinker much with Gmail transport this would be a fine opportunity for Google to tie POP/IMAP capability in with a browser. I personally think this is a horrible idea but inappropriately tying services together is one of the roomier and more comfy fish bicycles for web development so I wouldn't be surprised.

2. XUL applications on parade. Obviously lending the monolithic 'G' to the XUL interface would lead more developers to at least look into what you can do with XUL outside the web browser and spur some development. The downside is that spy ware is probably the next item in line here. Installing XUL applications and extensions has become much easier over the past year or so. I don't even want to think about that a whole lot more. The use and potential extension of XUL gives a whole lot more weight to the Google OS meme that's been thrown around over the past few months as well.

3. Google desktop. This is an extension of the above and a skinnier version of the Google OS. You don't really need an operating system but a desktop environment for most users wouldn't really need to consist of much more than a browser, editor, and mail client. Google has all of those in essence and seems sensible enough to avoid the abysmal failures of 3D interfaces and whatnot that all of the marginal players have been pitching in various forms. Imagine this on a Linux platform with some crappy commercial Linux vendor in partnership and that Linux desktop argument becomes vastly simplified for many users. Maybe.

Thinking it through a little more I starting to buy into Kottke's Google OS idea a bit more than I did initially. Watching Google morph from a search entity into whatever it is that they're turning into is a fascinating process and gives more than enough fodder for lunatic in the street speculation. I'm also curious what other evidence will surface about this or whether Google will eventually bow to public pressure and give some official statement or what not. In the mean time, you can get yourself a copy of Gbrowser for Mac OS X right now. Oh what an unfortunate convergence in bad naming schemes. So, am I completely wrong here?

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18Sep/04Off

A Few Minutes Away From Reading

I've been doing some fiddling around with the innards of this site so the time that I spend in front of the computer has been more focused than the usual tooling around looking for interesting stuff. If you've dropped by over the past couple of days and found the site broken or only partially functional, that's why. I've learned a fair amount about the inner workings of WordPress but haven't really implemented things in a way that plays nicely with the other components. Part of that is probably my relative ignorance when it comes to PHP and probably some conflict caused by one of the other plugins I have installed. Much documentation must be read and testing on a live install is beyond stupid...

I did, at least, get a functioning word count installed. The Wordstats plugin does that a whole bunch more than just count words. It also generates all of those readability statistics that everyone is used to seeing in MS Word. These are all visible from the administration interface but you need to actually call them from within the index file to include the functions in a way visible to anyone else. The default implementation is actually very nice and displays the stats on the editing page without being obnoxious. It's there if you want it and basically invisible if not which is the way things should be.

I'm also going to give the turn off comments and take down weblog plugins a whirl over the next week or so. The gaining popularity of WordPress is making it a more popular target for comment spammers so for folks who don't have the comment moderation turned on (I certainly do) this would be very helpful when you're being flooded with crap. Hell, I might use this in cases when I'm getting blasted with comment spam. They might never be visible to the outside world but I've still gotta clean 'em up at some point and it would be nice to avoid it entirely since they seem to come in dozens. The Take Down Blog plugin lets you replace the entire site with a message telling people that you broke your weblog or whatever. I'll probably give that some play as well though I sincerely hope that I don't have to do anything like in the near future. If you ever see that a message like it would pretty safe to assume that I'm having a nervous breakdown or something. All of this good stuff, of course, comes via Wordlog which is Carthik's indispensable guide to what's going on with WordPress development and hackery. Groovy.

Also, people need to start reading licenses. Really. If you're going to use someone else's codebase for modification you'd best understand that you don't own what you've based your alterations on. Read it or look like a fucking idiot. To misunderstand that and toss around legal threats is unforgivable.

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14Sep/04Off

Darwin Is Calling. Collect.

I saw the first mention today of Havoc Pennington's Stateless Linux paper (it's a PDF file, of course) a couple of hours ago.There's already been a fair amount of "Whazzat?!?" and "Why?!" yelling from people who ought to know better. He's absolutely right about Windows deployments (as I've bemoaned here a thousand times in the past) being a miserable mess. The amount of breakage you see on an individual machine when simply migrating user profiles (and doing it correctly by creating the profile before populating it) from one nearly identical machine to another. Switching user profiles between 2000 and XP was horrible and completely inconsistent.

More importantly though, his proposal is a viable solution to the thick client/thin client mess we so commonly refer to as desktop support work. A lot of people (particularly over at OSNews) have been preoccupied with the question of how this might effect them as a desktop user and that concern would head off any Microsoft initiative for this sort of thing. The client user cannot be the center of your strategy any more than Fred Phelps can head an AIDS education project. Locking down the desktop is a constant battle and giving the users we're trying to save from their own carelessness all of the tools they need to circumvent these measures won't win you a whole lot of fans. Making things easier for the administrator is making things easier for the user. This is the large scale deployment thinking I was complaining about a couple of days ago. People buy gadgets off the shelf but companies don't deploy operating systems because they have cool new rendering engines. Yeesh. This is the sort of easy that I like not the "holy crap I can hose my system up in a matter of minutes even without administrative or elevated access" easy that is commonly mistaken for friendly. In that sense, Unix is more friendly than any other system imaginable. rm won't hassle you about anything but permissions. Of course, you wouldn't go crying to the author(s) of your flavor of *nix-ness but the poor, tired, and underpaid bastards who have to pretend they give two fucks or feel the slightest bit of ownership for your bad, bad decisions. That, essentially, is why Microsoft needs to smarten up, cater more towards their technical users, and stop using the same one-size-fits-enterprise brain tourniquet system design.

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13Sep/04Off

Welcome To The Impotence Club

Yes, that was the title. Nothing like a crushing blow delivered to an interweb denizen as a blind attempt to sell snake oil.

Filed under: Spam Poetry 1 Comment
13Sep/04Off

Adjusting To The Void

I've been silent for the last couple of days for any number of reasons not the least of which is the feeling that a little silence in honor of Aaron is necessary. I wasn't really sure if I'd processed his passing or not yet. I'm pretty sure that I haven't but I'm also sure that there isn't a damn thing that can be done about it other than feeling like the world is a slightly less pleasant place without him. There is so much more to be said but I haven't a fucking clue what that is. He is still very much in my thoughts even if I can't find the words to convey what I'm thinking.

I fired up Gaim for the first time in a couple of weeks and was immediately confronted with ahawk31361 at the top of my offline buddy list. It's difficult to describe how empty that makes me feel. The other overwhelming feeling I get is that I need to stop feeling like I'm bothering people when I'm concerned about them. I didn't pester Aaron with instant messages in the past even though I hadn't communicated with him for weeks or longer. I don't want to have that feeling of regret again not based on pretense that I really could have made a difference about his decision or that I had any place in influencing that decision but the feeling that greyed out icon gives me. It's the feeling that I'll never "talk" to that person again and that I squandered the last chances I might've had because I was self conscious. Self absorbed, I know, but I'm sorting a little slowly today.

Sorting may be a more apt term than I had intended. You might assume that a friendship played out entirely in the electronic medium would leave more traces and traceable record. It doesn't and that lack, the weird roaring void that comes along with the admission that you throw too many things out without hesitation, is another absence. It must be a positive process because it hurts.

12Sep/04Off

My Friend, I Miss You Dearly Already

I, like many people writing about his death, never actually met Aaron Hawkins in "real life" although I sent him probably hundreds of pieces of emails and actually listed his site first of many in the links bar of my weblog. I'm really not the person to eulogize anyone because the sort of relationship necessary to do a proper job of that sort of thing isn't something that I have with many people outside of my immediate sphere of friends. Aaron, I hope whatever it was that made you desperate is resolved now. As saddened as we are by your passing I don't think anyone begrudges you your choice. I sincerely hope that it ended the pain or despair that he was feeling. Special thanks to Dru for letting me know and sparing me the guilt and despair of hearing about the demise of a friend through the grapevine.

Filed under: General 1 Comment
10Sep/04Off

A Couple Of Invites

Too tired and rubbery feeling to write much of consequence. Surprisingly, I do have some Gmail invites. Leave a comment if you're interested. I really should hold some kind of contest to decide these things but I'm more hopeful that those I promised accounts to the moment I got invites will gently remind me.

8Sep/04Off

After Spending The Day Tossing Snowballs Into Hell

Note: I'm really tired and didn't invest a whole lot of time in this. Take with all the necessary grains of salt. I might finish this at some point but don't hold your breath.

I've been writing a lot lately about my job or at least what I do all day instead of doing things I enjoy like writing code or hanging out on the Gentoo IRC channel helping out where I can. With the ten gazillion pixels spilled debating the merits of whether or not Linux is ready for the desktop which is a very vague and strange way of evaluating nearly anything (You mean you have to put gas and oil and windshield wiper fluid in different places and figure out when each of them is empty?! You've got to be kidding. How is my blind grandmother going to use this car!) it never seems to occur to people that Windows in many senses is not ready for use on the corporate/academic desktop. Sure, it works out great on the home machine of gadget freaks with new toys that must be plugged in and must have an all singing all dancing user interface but I'm not sure that Microsoft really takes the idea of large scale deployments very seriously.

I spent all of my working hours today cleaning up after the newest batch of viruses. I don't necessarily have a problem with this aspect because it does follow at least in part the rule of large deployments correlating with a large number of malicious folks trying like hell to exploit every hole in the code base.When you have a lot of people using your software there is going to be a lot of people trying to break your software. I don't usually try to validate this line of argument because it is most often used as a silencing tactic from defensive Microsofties when the Windows security model is called into question. The widespread deployment doesn't excuse the inattention to security and Windows security is a fucking mess from the inclusion of the web browser as a core component of the desktop with hooks way deep into the OS innards down to the requirement by many pieces of software (can we safely assume that they're working from APIs instead of seeing real source code here or do you want to trot that dead ass Shared Source pony out for another couple laps around the track?) that a user needs administrative access in order to run the software. Faults like that need to worked out in beta, not on live machines that other people have the responsibility to fix when they eventually break. The design is simply bad and although there have been all sorts of meatless claims about commitments to tightening up security it's pretty hard to take seriously from a support perspective when you've got MS folk waffling on spyware:

But Stuart Okin, chief security officer at Microsoft UK, pointed out that one person's spyware is another's way of customising their internet experience.

"The trouble is that there is no clear definition of spyware," he told vnunet.com.

like closing some of the vulnerabilities that make the plague of it possible is an affront to the user. That attitude does not inspire confidence from me. Funnier still is that some spyware actually blocks the installation of the service pack touted in the aforementioned article. Again Microsoft's strategy involves someone like me manually cleaning the spyware from machines. Hey, it works fine for Aunt Tilly so it is therefor the correct action for everyone. This insistence on the imagined needs of the mythic all-thumbs Joe Sixpack is so ingrained in Microsoft culture that I have a hard time imagining MS ever taking the needs of businesses seriously.

4Sep/04Off

Hot Pants Make You Sure Of Yourself

The three day weekend is fucking here which I needed so badly that I was barely conscious of being at work yesterday. Given that a new semester has started all of the Windows machines at work are of course incapacitated by a new batch of worms and viruses. It figures. Like a horse and fucking carriage. Like Alabama Slammers and teenagers slipping in their own vomit. I'm not looking forward to Tuesday since our new strategy is to just reimage infected machines. The next person who blames me for their disasters with a Temporary Internet Items folder full of porn thumbnails gets cracked in the mouth. The time for advocating safer alternatives is over. Now it's time for the "Shut up and vacate your office while I fix your bullshit" flashcard. Considered doing a little research but then decided against it. I'm tired of learning about Windows simply because so much of the OS is marginally functional.

On the not-so-fortunate side, I'm going to have make some decisions in the near future regarding Team Murder. Every month I edge closer to hitting the bandwidth limit and it's a progressive disease. I'm either going to have to move to a burlier hosting package which I really can't afford or I'm going to have to shut down the feeds which I'm equally unhappy about. It'll probably be a bigger monthly bandwidth budget. Viva ramen.

Emmanuel Goldstein got popped along with another zillion folks for protesting the RNC. Ftrain gots the funny on.

Finally blew out the Vidalinux install on my laptop. This isn't due to any defect in the distribution but the realization that running a source based distribution on a PII is fucking stupid. Back to Debian for the time being. I've been monitoring Linuxbeta for interesting new stuff to try out.

Filed under: General 1 Comment
2Sep/04Off

Because Dead Tree Is Pig Latin For Credibility

I've been sort of holding back on commenting on the Wikipedia controversy that erupted at the beginning of the week. Part of that, beyond the time constraints that a new semester starting necessitates, is simply waiting around for people to write better summaries than I'm capable of and knowing that the collective opinion on this is going to be much more interesting reading than whatever twenty word episode of weblog clock punching happens to fall out of my ass that day.

What interests me about Wikipedia more than anything is how good it's become on what amounts to an informal (as compared to academic journals) peer review. I've had a little experience in an environment like that albeit a more chaotic one and people will harass the bejeesus out of you about inaccuracies even in the most wacky and subjective entries. Since the goal of Wikipedia is so much more focused I can only imagine how intensely active participants must scrutinize what is added as well as what is already written. One aspect of the 'pedia that already kicks ass is the inability for dead tree versions with incorrect information to sit around in a library and create an escalating snowball of bad information. There are cases like Alex Halavais' intentional introduction of false information that might temporarily poison entries but the availability of review and correction by anyone is a pretty convincing argument for the pretty good-ness of the information available. It just seems to me such an obviously superior methodology (even if you did it in a more strictly refereed way) for creating an encyclopedia that creating baseless doubt about it based entirely on methods seems amazingly short sighted. It also makes me think of the value of dead tree editions of things like newspapers where inaccuracies can be preserved forever in library archives. It gives some valuable and indelible cultural context about how and what people are thinking about during a period of time but given the hype-half check the facts-and get it out there methods of journalism I'm more skeptical of that model than Wikipedia.

I'm curious to see how this story or lack of a story will play out once the big names in journalism latch onto it and if Al Fasoldt is going to suffer some consequences from appearing suddenly on the weblogging radar. I'm guessing yes.

Filed under: General 1 Comment