This is just going to be a quick and dirty jotting of things that I've been thinking about over the past couple of days. I'll spare all of us the bulleted list and just get to gettin'.
If I haven't answered a piece of mail you've sent me please don't be terribly surprised. We're moving into the new house at the end of the month which, of course, needed painting and carpeting and cleaning beforehand and this process coincides with the end of the semester meaning a gazillion pages of papers are due and finals are not far off. I'm a little more concerned with scheduling in showers than I am dealing with technical questions at the moment so pestering will not be rewarded. I'm guessing that I'll get around to the less exciting mail sometime in the middle part of next month. I'm just saying... unless you really want to know what I'm thinking about 'unhomeliness' in Homi Bhabha's Location of Culture in relation to Jamaica Kincaid now is not the time. Trust me, I'm not that exciting.
Speaking of email and the like, if you do use my Earthlink address (and I think I've already given most people who use that address a heads up already) please stop. That account won't exist past next week. You can hit me up by mailing goneaway at gmail dot com or by just goneaway at this domain. Earthlink really blows. Canceling service was an incredible pain in the ass. I understand the ubiquity of menu driven phone robots but their phone system is just plain broken. If you navigate through the 4 or 5 menu choices necessary to cancel service you're transferred to the phone line of weird clicks and buzzing. Then, you hear a message that sounds like it came from the distant past: The Cellular One customer you are trying to reach is... and then another click and dial tone. I had to badger someone into allowing me to cancel my account by refusing to hang up until I had either unhooked myself from this parasite or had a good explanation why the 'cancel account' function seemingly transferred your call into limbo. Two plus years and I wouldn't do again. Speakeasy has been ridiculously easy to deal with and will happily set you up without the necessity of a land line. So far my relationship with them has been nothing but cool. I also love the fact that the sales guy didn't try once to upsell me anything or slather on a bunch of unnecessary crap. This is a glowing review without service being enabled, of course, so we'll see if my opinion remains consistent. They did make a fabulous first impression and did somehow manage to kick Covad into high enough gear to get the loop installed on Monday. In an ideal world that would mean I could have DSL up and running by the end of next week. That isn't likely.
Since this had ended up being all about my problems with email and whatnot I might as well just put this out there: if you're trying to get a free ipod or whatever do not mail me in hopes that the allure of your Ponzi scheme will be too much for me to resist. I will warn you and then black hole you if it's mail actually intended for me. I'm not really reading lists right now so go nuts.
After watching my site slowly eat itself over the past week due to my too busy to be either posting or consuming anything interesting enough to be posting about status I decided to dump some links at very least. WordPress degrades a lot more gracefully than Movable Type when you go extended periods of time without posting so there isn't the looming disaster on the horizon to really push me to do anything other than write the papers I'm supposed to be writing and shove books into milk crates. We have an absurd number of books.
The spammer attempt at fucking with Jay Allen did surprise me a little bit. I've been getting hammered over the past week or so. My Spam Karma total jumped by about ten thousand in just a couple of days. Server load is shitty, as always, so it doesn't seem like it's adversely affecting page loads and whatnot. I'm reaching a point of frustration with spam that makes me want to punch people when they send me frivolous forwards. Jay Allen is the sort of person that spammer shits ought to fear. If anyone has a copy of the email with full headers could you send it to me? I'd like to follow the trail as far back as possible since this particular spammer did more than activate a bunch of 'bots and did it as a personal attack. I mean I'd rather have the person behind it torn apart by a pack of wild dogs but until that's possible over TCP/IP (note to self: begin hacking the 'tear apart with pack of wild dogs' protocol immediately) I'll have to settle for cheap shots where I can get 'em.
Speaking of weblog software and our prejudices, I was reading a pretty sane evaluation of migrations from MT to WordPress earlier tonight that was actually pretty helpful but I didn't bookmark it. Google is your friend: Switching From Movable Type To WordPress. One really good point made in the post is that you can do same directory migrations and have your old MT install still functioning (the old index.html versus index.php thing) while you finish and tweak the install. A lot of his complaints were related more to the default theme of WordPress than functionality. I'm still not convinced that particular theme (Kubrick) is necessarily the best for the default. I always liked the old minimalist/ugly one that forced to edit it before you went blind looking at it. The new theme system makes it easy as hell to switch though so...
There are a ton of police cars and screaming people outside. I guess that means it's time to get some sleep.
It's probably worth mentioning, since I haven't seen anyone else mention it, that Libranet finally released the 3.0 version of their distribution. There aren't many details on the site but the CD count has gone from 2 to 5 which is 2 discs short of a Debian Stable set. I wish I had the cash to buy this version but since I only use it on the laptop I can't really justify coughing up the $$ for it at the moment. I'm curious what the reviews will say this time around since what they include with installation seems to be substantial this time around. They've also undergone a redesign which makes their website a whole lot less eyegouging.
It isn't good exactly but it is comforting to hear that I'm not the only one dealing with the out of control hotlinking problem that seems to be rampant over the past month or two. I'm actually pretty reluctant to allow anything these days and what exacerbates this is the fact that the logs are so full of referrer spam that they're basically useless for finding abuses and anomalies. I sort of use awstats for this by figuring out very quickly which domains are eating up too much bandwidth, creating an entry in .htaccess for them, and then watching the error logs to make sure I'm not cutting off anyone that should have access to things. I broke another site with anti-hotlinking rules so I need to keep a closer watch on that sort of thing. Finding the balance between reasons to monitor, because you're being abused or because people can't access parts of sites, is the tricky part.
I've been cursed for the past few days with a combination of the flu and a very flaky net connection so I've been offline for the most part. I'll probably take an extended break after the first of the month until I have some broadband at the new place and that probably isn't a bad thing.
Um, contrary to the emails that I've received, I'm not 'on fire.' I'm just really, really tired. If you'd like to support this on-fireness please don't come over to our new house this weekend and help us paint. With no help I will likely stagger into next week with the same degree of incoherence and animosity.
If You Think The API Is The Only Thing Attractive About A ‘Platform’ I’ve Got Some Wetlands To Sell You
Can't tell you why I feel the need lately to rebut clueless filler from the analysts lately but I'm having a hard time not responding in my own talking to myself way to the recent (as in the last two weeks or so) resurgence in "linux is ok but it will never replace x or x" articles in the usual group of computer magazines with such widespread and devoted readership that they need to spam the hell out of me to goad me into applying for a free subscription. It's disappointing to read so much of this stuff because it serves as yet another virulent reminder that professional journalism is the realm of pushy dilettantes as often or not more often than the weblogging world.
Tom Yager's dismissal is novel, in a sense, because rather than citing a bunch of MSFT-funded white papers he just rolls his own version of a term and runs with it. Again, much of what he says, underneath the ham-fisted attempt to use the vernacular of the non-salaried geek, is basically true but what he seems to miss is that it doesn't matter. The development of Linux continues with complete disregard of whether or not people see it as a 'platform' or a 'bag of legos' that will fulfill their desktop needs. What he's really talking about in the article is desktop usage albeit in the guise of developers who are lost without click-click-click installers and uniform APIs. God help you if you think that making 'developers' feel safer while simultaneously reducing the flexibility and functionality of an environment (there's my buzzword) or a wrapper around functions. That incredible difficulty he finds with Linux is really more like an instinct for self-preservation: some insulation between folks who'd love to steer with dollars and people who need their computers to do things instead of pseudo-administering itself.
Damn. There's also an alpha release of Wordform in the wild. This is yet another thing I'm really upset about not having any time to play with. Another month and time won't be such a precious commodity. Everyone else: roll up your sleeves and help squash bugs. The screen shots look great (functionality being foremost in this kind of evaluation) and I'm eager to actually set a copy of this site up using it. I love the fact that trackbacks are disabled by default.
I always discover insanely interesting things when I should be studying for an exam. The exam happens in an hour but the excitement is now. Go read up on RSDP and think about the three gazillion ways that you could apply this idea in the next 48 hours. Dealing with databases from a web application especially if you intend something to be portable from MySQL to PostgreSQL can be a huge pain in the ass even when you're using a pretty simple subset of the API. Solid implementations of this would make a lot of the little stuff (like, say, opening a connection) more portable. The vendor fragmentation of SQL is pretty annoying already (especially given the purpose of SQL -- to simplify interaction with databases) and RSDP is one way to stop gap those library compatibilities for the short term. Of course, it isn't going to fly for the long term but for dabbling with little web-based applications this is gold. All of the usual concerns apply like security and the possibility of a protocol being overextended and fragmented like SQL but this would be a handy set of functionality for small and quick stuff.
As I've said far too many times here, although I run Linux exclusively at home and work for my own uses I support Windows 200 and XP machines for the unwashed masses of others. I don't like talking down to people so I make a very concerted effort while wearing my stupid badge to avoid dumbing things down when asked for an explanation of what went wrong. Today I had to explain the behavior of chkdsk to someone and I realized exactly how fucking stupid it is to have it featured in XP as is and prominently visible. The person who put the call in had booted the machine a couple of times and chkdsk started on each boot. If you've experienced this creeping horror that makes fsck seem friendly and fast at all you probably know that it isn't exactly fast and sometimes does odd things. Well, along with its slowness (and I'll grant any disk utility a lot of leeway because its job is neither quick nor simple) what especially irks users is the fact that it dumps a whole bunch of output to the screen that is absolute trash. The user saw the words "100% complete" (in this case referring to Stage Two of Three but making that information unavailable after the first stage zoomed by deleting index files) and nothing for five minutes. He assumed that the scan had finished and that the machine was not responding anymore. Why oh why do users see this? Why isn't there meaningful feedback? I wasted a helluva lot of time waiting for the scan to complete which is to be expected given my support monkey position in the food chain but the fact that the user had suffered the same fate three or four times while having more clue than average is almost inexcusable.
I realize that I'm hollering into the void here but I also wonder if there's a registry key to force chkdsk into a non-verbose mode or to simply render percent completed bars instead of dumping screen after screen of useless information to the console that obscures any useful information/instruction it belches out at the beginning of the scan. Even a workaround that didn't involve a shit ton of bat file muckery would be helpful.
What makes yesterday's can of worms even more comical are articles, also allegedly aimed at a large group of users, that directly contradict them using the same justifications. Debian would be the ideal distribution for commercial developers to standardize on. There are almost never changes in the stable branch that break compatibility or any of the crucial components of the operating system. This is one of the reasons that stability gains precedence over incremental feature releases of software included in a distribution aiming for wide use. If you want to please a bunch of desktop users, then make a damned mess but don't be surprised when commercial companies ignore your distro of choice completely.
The one really offensive aspect about the article linked above is its insistence that the major distributions needed to steward standardization for commercial developers. That is a fork in the road that won't be taken by many especially if embracing a "standard" that one company or even a consortium of companies means breaking compatibility with other more crucial pieces of software. I can't imagine any commercial developer playing nice across different distributions if they somehow bilk its developers into adopting whatever it is they mean by a standard. This may be cynicism rearing its ugly head here but most commercial entities that I'm familiar with always try to leverage differences to cut other players out. I haven't heard many good arguments to the contrary. Anyone wanna feed me some PR flack?
The good part is that there are plenty of companies that are willing to play nice and work with the communities they're trying to sell to instead of feeding them bullshit lines about the impending apocalypse if they don't change the way they do things. Codeweavers is a fabulous example of how well a company can function across multiple distributions while simultaneously giving back to the community that spawned it. Your shrinkwrap model is broken and that is not the fault of community developed software. Study up, rethink, and show up at the table when you have offers to make instead of demands.
Oh, and the difficulties of the administrator, as discussed in the article, are the fault of the administrator. When you hack on code then depend on those hacks instead of implementing a solution to your problem that a) works and b) has external upstream support you've wandered outside the reach of a distribution. Why is that so difficult to grasp?
I wanted to try to write something about the latest Slashdot tempest in a teacup but I'm projecting failure here because I'm running on a less than optimum number of hours of sleep and I've been working without stopping since nine this morning between work-work and the house (the thing that sucks up all of my energy and thought). To begin with I've always found it strange when people who should know better (and Slashdot, the source of unmoderated forum echolalia, doesn't quite make that list) willingly participate in the biannual "Debian is doomed! Dooooooomed!" circle jerk. The last time that this argument got all front page of the trashy tabloid was the last time Libranet had a release. Debian is the base for all of these projects and the anal retentive core that makes polishing up a few rough edges and scratching your own personal annoyance itch much easier than it could be.
Ok, so I'm actually too tired to come to a real point here. It doesn't help that I can still smell ammonia despite the hours that have passed since I last touched the stuff. I guess what I'm trying to say is that people love their shiny objects. They pay a lot of attention to them, carry them back to the nest, and eventually forget all about them because something newer and shinier has come along in the interim. A good majority of the offshoot projects from Debian are successful because they address a shortcoming that hasn't been properly handled in the proper distribution. That's fabulous because, and here's the rub, the Debian project doesn't care whether you think it's shiny and new enough. They strive for technical perfection and let the upstarts handle the questions best answered by RTFM.
We had our customary spring blizzard last night/this morning and everything is covered in a thick and wet blanket of snow. It doesn't encourage much activity. Luckily we're in the city proper because apparently the mountains are getting pummeled. We did lose power for a few hours this morning so my beautiful dream of an endless uptime is blown.
Um, so I'm not really posting this because, lord knows, my spectacular rant about the plumbing in the new place coupled with my newfound insights into the union gasket of a hot water heater would be titillating but I'm going to spare us both. What I really wanted to mention is that I finally badgered the Never Moderate Admin plugin into working the way I wanted it to. I assume that the difficulties I had were brought on by my own incompetence and/or sleep deprivation because when I took another whack at it earlier tonight everything worked the first time. So, the basic gist is this: if you register then you can comment directly. I set it up so that any registered user isn't moderated and we'll see how long it takes for the robotics hawkers of *iagra to script their way through that one. I probably don't need to say it but any spamminess whatsoever and I'll shut it off. I'm trying to save time and manually deleting spam comments is more time consuming than manually approving the legit ones.
I watched Dead End earlier tonight and it's still kind of messing with me. I'm not sure that it would appeal to everyone because it does rely pretty heavily on the semi-schlocky Twilight Zone plot twists to keep you focused on the movie and to stop sputtering about the dad in the movie also being Laura Palmer's dad in Twin Peaks. The first hour of the movie was nerve racking in the best possible sense of the term but I was kind of let down by the completely pointless ending that detracted from the psychosis and claustrophobia evoked earlier in the movie by introducing a filler character that doesn't fit into the story at all. I really want to compare it to the Blair Witch Project in the sense that it's a story of people being lost in modern day America only in this case it's a stretch of road instead of Scary Fucking Noises In The Night Woods. I'd guess that this was produced on a pretty tight budget but it delivers the creepies better than most. The aerial shots of car headlights cutting through the otherwise dead landscape deliver more atmosphere than most CGI bullshit. Plus, you know, Laura Palmer's dad...
I'm going to pose a question to the void here since I know that there are at very least a handful of people who stop by here on the Apple platform: I've searched through all the visible preferences I can find in Safari but have yet to find a way to display the actual URL of a link as either a tooltip or, as most other browsers do it, on the missing lower bar of the application. I'm thinking that there's gotta be a way to do this unless the quest for simplification and enhanced user experience means not being able to distinguish between links that point at places I want to go and others that will get me fired after the barrage of porn pop ups gets sprayed across my screen. Anyone?
Note: I'm working on a public machine so I might not have all the access necessary to actually do this but I'm still curious if this is a problem for anyone else?
Solved: It's just a view preference accessible from View > Status Bar that isn't enabled by default. Thanks to everyone for doing groundwork for my minor annoyance especially Tony for emailing people and figuring out both the uber-geeky way to do and the GUI way to do it. The next time I use a Macintosh I will not be anxiety ridden while blindly clicking on links in a public setting. This probably means that I need to reevaluate which sites are necessary reading during work/school hours.
This also brings up another thing I've been meaning to mention -- if you register an account here and are logged in (which is stored like forever in a cookie) you comments will shoot straight through the pipe instead of being held up until I can moderate them. A couple people have expressed anxiety/annoyance that their comments are disappearing into the void so I thought enabling this might be a good idea although I despise anything that requires registration. It is an option though.
On the long list of Things That Kill Me that I'll required engraved on my tombstone, the marketing types misunderstanding (perhaps willfully so) any type of marketing that doesn't fall under the heading of: I Sell and You Buy is a serious competitor for the topmost bracket. The fussing that I've seen in a whole bunch of places over the new pop up blocker Asa is testing is a lovely example of this. Nevermind the actual new new marketing sites but even the comments at Slashdot seem to be nuzzling the cold, hard teat of the oppressed and hunted intrusive advertising pushers. The hysterics are similar:
They have the right to advertise!
How will they pay for their sites!?!
Babies will starve!!
and on and on and on. There's this crazy idea that I've developed about advertising. I think people should try to sell you things by making them appealing. When folks develop technology for the sole purpose of ridding their screen reddened eyes of your attempts to sell your things you've done something very, very wrong. Persuasion might not be your thing. Maybe you could write parking tickets or guard federal prisoners.
Yahoo and Google. They are distinct entities. Yahoo has made a couple of smart decisions recently which has allegedly saved them from near-obscurity. So what? In my mind they should have dissolved back into the proto-ooze that formed the corporation in the pre-dotcom-implosion days when they sucked harder than any other of the the Brand X search engines out there. I'm glad they're doing cool stuff (read: stuff that is relevant to those who don't do ridiculous premium services nonsense) and I hope they continue. Google has recently started making kind of stupid decisions. They still have a universe of latitude to correct that tendency. The only reason that Yahoo is suddenly gushworthy is that they've hired some bright young blades and moved from a Sid Vicious-like trajectory of self destruction to a place where it doesn't look like the company is running on damaged auto-pilot. Congratulations and welcome to the real world.
Yoon and I (more accurately just Yoon since I just sat there and read legal documents over her shoulder) closed on our house on Friday. Apparently non-HUD closings are a little more organized and a little less stressful. We were supposed to be there at 3 p.m. and there were people waiting in the lobby of the title company when we arrived that were supposed to close hours and hours before. We finished ours in about an hour, arrived at the place so the realtor could let us in, and we were in possession. Weird. Oh, the reason that the realtor had to let us in is that all HUD houses use the same key set. Kind of funny to need to change the locks immediately after assuming ownership if only to be sure that you can get back in. The whole experience was odd because it was completely new to me and because the company that was ultimately in charge of the whole arrangement was so disorganized. I'm reading up on plumbing. This is probably not a good thing.