Team Murder No Brain No Headache.



Will you or won't you work without crashing?

I was talking about Plogit which is an amazing weblog client that does everything I want and then causes a soft reset of my Palm. Damn it. Damn it.


Hardware That Isn’t Ten Iterations Behind The Curve

The replacement PDA is finally here after months of random clashes with my el cheapo Zaurus and I really really like it. I bought a Palm TX (I'll spare you the logo-included pipe between the 't' and 'x' that PalmOne Palm seems to stubbornly use to pollute so many of their product names) and it is pretty damned close to the ideal machine for what it costs. The only complaint I have so far is the flimsiness of the tiny leather loincloth included in the package that is presumably intended as some kind of protective flap. Mine disintegrated on my second attempt to attach it. When forced to decide between the exclusion of an item like that or passing along a total piece of crap I really do wish that more people would opt for the negative as my experience with the crude little mud flap was more frustrating. I ordered one of the aluminum cases for it and until it arrives I'm stashing the little fucker in a sock. If I were a public relations drone for PalmOne Palm I would note that substitution with some degree of embarrassment.

Most of this stuff is probably old news to those with more disposable income than me but there were a couple of features that really impressed me. One, the widescreen-ness of the PDA inspires a little awe in me after dealing with the cramped confines of previous handhelds. The fact that you can orient the screen in either portrait or landscape format with a single button makes the screen size an asset instead of a feature you might learn to use at some point when you have time to read the manual instead of just looking at porn or speed dialing prank calls with a Bluetooth connection. As I said, these distinctions might be dusty for folks acquainted with more recent versions of the PalmOne Palm OS but they're new to me as is the graffiti area that you can dismiss and actually use the entire screen. It's good stuff although there is a noticeable lag with Graffiti2 that kind of annoyed me especially since I was really fast with the older version and I tend to double up characters under the assumption that the first strokes were missed. I read a few reviews before I kicked down the cash and the main complaint for most people seemed to be with the mail client. I had it working with two IMAP accounts in a couple of minutes so I'm not sure what issue others had with it. I would fucking love it if more mail applications shipped with the ability to import keys for signing and encryption but when it comes to commercial software I'm always mildly pleased when it works at all.

One thing that bothered me about setting up the new toy was setting up my laptop to synch with it. I learned far too much about udev and spent an equal amount of time directly editing files that told me they should not be directly edited to be happy about the experience. It works now but I had to do quite a bit of indirect tinkering to put it in working order. It sucks to be unable to chmod permissions on a file because it phases in and out of existence on the whim of hotplug. Those solutions always seem more broken to me than the problem they are supposed to remedy. Everything does work though and looking at that from the perspective of one who has installed Debian Potato manually only to find that his kernel didn't feature USB support I'm pleased as hell to accomplish that in a couple of hours and learn something along the way.


Stop, Uh, Things That Are, Uh, BAD!

Hm. Looks like some other folks (namely Google and Sun) are teaming up to fight spyware under a wider and less closely defined umbrella term: badware. Ugh. Don't take it from me as I'm half asleep and higher than a kite on night time cold medicine. Stop Badware is what it's called if you can fucking believe that. The intentions seem pretty pure even if the name inspires nothing but cringing, at least from me.

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The VI-Emacs Conflict Resolved!

A couple of things before I go to sleep:

GPLv4 is a very funny site that takes some theoretical whacks at what the next version of the GPL might cover. The nice part is that all of the links are legit and actually yield real information. There is also a footer that clearly states that the site is a joke. I wonder how many times this site will be submitted to Slashdot in the next 24 hours as something legitimate. I need to remember to keep an eye on this site for changes.

Here's something I didn't anticipate seeing: an attempt to defend Web2.0 as valid terminology and some good responses from his readers. When we have time to argue over terms, especially terms as vague and self-congratulatory as the aforementioned, then the actual technology it refers to is probably stagnating. Flavor of the month is still just that even when it encapsulates some of the things you care about.

NXSYS is a simulator for the NYC subway system. The mere fact that you can mess with the switches and trains really makes me want to fire up a Windows box at work tomorrow so I can tinker with this. I might also try installing it with Wine as well and if that is successful I will pass the news along. The realism extends to places we might not appreciate fully and simulates the safety features of the system. So, no crashing but still worth a once over.

Nyquil again so I must go crash before things get even fuzzier...


Neither Really Nor Likely

I'm sick, tired, and beginning to wobble on the dose of Nyquil I just dosed myself up with before dinner but I did notice something newly annoying about my usual tidal wave of spam: YOU NEEDA MACINTOSH!!!!! over and over and over again. I'd guess that various mutations of the above with text that matches with no links or any other spamminess within. EASYEST TO USE!!! Hmmm. When I am confronted with statements like these there really isn't much for me to say other than: No, I really don't. I did NEEDA TI-8x but I bought one of those. Now I don't need all that much of anyone much less the illusion that everything is going to be all right.


But If You Pay Us We’ll Show You A Working Implementation

I'm finally sick with the cold that everyone else I know has already suffered through various versions of so I haven't done much other than sitting on the couch fooling with (and this means doing nothing particularly productive or interesting) my laptop. The one thing that did amuse me was the Tux Machines review of VLOS. It was well written as most things are featured on TM but the strange and somewhat pathetic state of Vida Linux (I assume the acronym simplifies into Vida Linux Operating System or something equally inane) and the frequent claims that the download and commercial versions are completely different animals and blah blah blah. Well, I've actually tried earlier versions of the same distribution and was not completely impressed although for completely different reasons. Basing your own commercial distribution on Gentoo and shipping (I promise that I will stop flinging around dot.comedy terms now) a broken version of gcc is not the way to win customers especially when the free version isn't adequately outfitted to begin with. According to their own announcement (on the front page of the site with no permalink action whatsoever), they are excited to add gcc-4.0.1 which probably won't work so swell with the normal Gentoo repositories since that version is masked. I guess they have their own binary repos that might work with a broken compiler but I wouldn't spend the money to find out.

Seriously, if you're going to make a non-functional version of your distribution wouldn't it make more sense to stick with a live cd that does keel over dead the first time someone actually tries to use it and doesn't make the premium version of your offering look like an even more extensive pile of broken software? At least with a working live cd you have the advantage of demonstrating what people might get if they paid to drink your Kool Aid. Oh well, at least it made for an entertaining read.

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Jolted Awake By My Elbow Slipping Off The Table

Finally did the WordPress upgrade that I didn't want to do with the usual utter lack of snags. I do these things when I'm completely exhausted and ready to fall soundly asleep in my chair just to add tension and drama to what would otherwise be a lot of waiting around for files to finish uploading to the server. I'm not entirely sure that I completely like the new admin interface but my exposure to it has been something along the lines of ten minutes so I'm willing to give it some time. I disabled the rich editing monstrosity immediately as it rendered really slowly and is not something I necessarily need. As always, please let me know if anything I haven't had the chance to examine in my sleep deprived stupor is broken and I'll get to fixing it right around the time that I'm capable of focusing my eyes again.

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Wherein I Whore Out Merchandise To Prevent Myself From Smashing It Out Of Impotent Rage

I gave it a second shot and I'm sick to death of all of the shortcomings of my Zaurus 5500 under an actual Linux machine. Apparently the thing works wonderfully under Windows but I'm not going there, preferably ever, again. I also hate Ebay and most other auction sites because they've been overrun with people who resell everything they buy and that is just annoying. Here's what I've got:

Zaurus 5500 with all original parts and stock ROM (no packaging, though) with the obvious charger and USB cradle.

TrendNet Compact Flash Ethernet Adapter that I've actually used and it works with the stock ROM without any configuration.

Wireless adapter. I'll have to dig this up as well but it does 802.11b without much configuration. It was also outrageously expensive so it is probably worth the price of all combined components for this part alone especially if you're a Zaurus user. I will append this post when I find it with the pertinent details.

I'll also throw in some Compact Flash memory that I have no other real use for.

Make me an offer before I smash this frustrating little machine. goneaway (at) this domain.

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There’s Always Time For Mean Spirited Potshots

This is a quick link dump of things I messed around with today. Due to circumstances that totally suck I have to be back up and moving in a little less than five hours so:

Retrievr works surprisingly well and didn't yield many erroneous results when I drew a couple of shapes I thought would baffle and/or break it. The interface is a little clumsy as most web based pixel drawing tools are but you're scribbling a rough estimation of what you'd like to see as the subject of a photograph and not temporarily filling for Hieronymus Bosch so you'll have to forgive the occasional wackiness. The fact that you can add color to your sketch is pretty amazing. My use of the color picker was limited if only because I didn't notice it in the tool pile until pretty late into my excursion. Online retailers need to get on this sort of alternate search methodology quick and stop trying to vigorously stroke the AJAX genie out of the Web 2.0 bottle. Your customers don't give two fucks. They like finding things and better so for you if the stuff they want to find happens to belong to you. Then again, taking business advice from me is probably not the best idea you'll ever have like that time when you tried to have Double Dutch at the Christmas party or possibly worse.

Euronode is a great idea that just costs too damned much money. The gist: roll your own Debian-based CD through a web interface and a couple of different basic configurations and then download an ISO of whatever you've created. I signed up for an account just to step through the process and it seems to be thorough and offer enough options to make most people who need help setting up a basic Linux server happy. When I finished all of my configuration and reached the final page of the distro rolling I was unprepared for the gales of hysterical laughter that would come gushing out of me. Three hundred and something dollars. As I said, really great idea but outrageously overpriced for something that runs from a script. Maybe now would be the time for one of our current millionaire philanthropists to kick a little change into a free project like this. A free Euronode does exist but it just isn't as cool as the commercial version.

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Sometimes, Robot, There Is No Business Plan

I have to say a big thanks to Tim Bray for providing a cogent antidote to the recent and annoying flood of "I'm an MBA and I know FOSS" articles that have appeared recently. Seriously, analysts, if you haven't the slightest clue about what might cause humans to do things they enjoy without some kind of cheese-moving type motivation or hope for direct profit for doing so you might want to submit to a Voigt-Kampff test or perhaps taking up a hobby that doesn't involve ingestion and regurgitation of themes already worn threadbare by overuse by the under-knowledgeable. I can't guarantee it but I'll venture a guess that it would improve your empathy rating and could possibly save your life or at least that withered thing filled with pitch you once called a soul from slumbering eternally in a vat of preservatives on the CEO's desk. How does that scan for wide eyed idealism?

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Simplicity Flaws

Yep. I think Donald Norman nails the Google interface pretty well which I've come to call spaghetti interface: the deceptively simple front end that does one job (which is great and doesn't necessarily need any qualification whatsoever) and one job only and effectively white washes the more complex tools available behind the box and logo. I've always disliked the 'more' page available after the main page and the necessary pause when you click through to it for the first time in months. Google works better and yields more real functionality as a service invoked from another piece of software entirely. Never mind the software Google actually peddles because I'm not a user of either of the big platform guns so my main use of even the search is through a browser usually.

What we need is an official cheat sheet that is, like Donald Norman talks about in his post, accessible by a click or even two and not by the frustrating process of the present navigational system. I often end up doing a search for the services that I can't remember how to call directly. That is terrible fucking design. Norman has it precisely when he faults Google for forcing you to learn a meta-language if you don't feel like hunting through several screens of a whole lotta text. This is me agreeing with a usability expert. Crazy. Mark your calendars. It happened on this day. The notion apparently threw emacs into such a tizzy that it crashed for the first time in a longer span of time than I can remember. That at least in terms of variety would be exciting if it wasn't so annoying.

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It’s Late. Time For A Terrible Idea.

The keyboard was filthy so it seemed like a good idea to tear it apart and start cleaning at midnight. I really wish that Happy Hacking/PFU still sold replacement key as I managed to break one of the fragile little tabs in the process of removing more than eighty keys. I guess I'll wait another couple of years before I think about attempting this again. That very future-tific looking surface is just a paper towel. It looks very 2001. That is the sole consolation for several hours and a lot of effort essentially wasted.


The Literal Clash Between Quality And Quantity

I was dredging through the usual aggregated lists of boring shit that I've already seen a few times too many when this incredibly absorbing story about the CEO of Snapper (the lawn mowers, man) making the decision to sever ties with Wal-Mart. Seriously, go read it before you chalk it up as another working joe resisting the corporate behemoth story usually right before their operation goes under. This is a much more complex situation than the hypothetical one posed previously. The CEO of Snapper operates his business nearly as anally as you'd expect Wal-Wart to but is seriously focused on quality at high speed instead of the even faster production of crap that appeals only by pricing. I'm not sure that I'd even like the guy if I met him but the story is worth reading if only for the description of his meeting with Wal-Mart management and the details of how Snapper's production line works. Wier's position is probably a unique one for most people contemplating their immersion in the cult(ure) of Wal-marketing as his stand was ultimately not about distaste for the unsavory parts of Wal-Mart that we're all too familiar with but the realization that his company would have to start making disposable crap to further court the 'Mart. Like I said, interesting.

Filed under: General, New To Me 2 Comments

Not Ever Leaving The House

You would think that I'd been out socializing and carousing during this vacation but I've actually spent the majority of my time at home and parked in front of machines of one sort or another for most of the break. I decided to switch my laptop from Debian back to Gentoo since I'd managed to do two installs with the Gentoo Installer which is still very much experimental on two desktop machines. The installer has some bugginess that would suggest avoiding it in its current incarnation unless you know your way around the Gentoo system already. The pth ebuild included on the CD causes the installer to hang and after watching it happen on both of the other installs I decided to try a different tactic on my laptop. This had an effect exactly opposite from what I had intended: instead of saving time I ended up embarked on several reinstalls that took three times as long as either of the desktop installs did. Lesson learned: do not try to skip over KDE to save time if you want those packages later. The minimal compatibility libraries and whatnot really screwed up portage and eventually led to a completely fucked system. So, I did the full install of both KDE and Gnome because I really love applications from both DEs even if I use neither and just restarted the machine after the installer bombed out. After doing things the slightly less hard way you do need to configure X a bit if using a wheel mouse (ZAxisMapping, I hardly knew you) and make a few other tweaks here and there to get things into proper motion. Yes, it saved me some time but I've wrestled my way through several Gentoo installs which aren't really installs but more akin to following the instructions and learning firsthand what tedium really is. As maligned as the Gentoo non-install may be it really is worth going through at least once as the knowledge I gained during those painful hours has been really useful over the past couple of weeks. The installer is definitely a fantastic project even in the state it is in now but isn't ready for prime time quite yet. I'm excited about the possibilities of a less intimidated crop of users now that the hot rod cachet that haunted the rest of us in the past has diminished. The weird thing about Gentoo is that I know parts of it are horribly broken and often maddeningly so but using the framework is so damned much fun that I'm willing to put up with a whole lot. Compared with the often glacial pace of even the unstable branch of Debian it's a whole lot more engrossing and without the frustrations that dpkg messing with things often causes me.

One other bizarre thing that happened while I was finishing up this final install was the apparent destruction of all Mozilla/Gecko based browsers on the machine after installing Crossover Office and the usual host of plugins. I tried manually removing each of the plugins as part of a larger strategy to figure out exactly what was causing the mozilla-launcher to segfault each time I tried to launch one of the 'Zillas. Later I completely uninstalled Crossover and all of the browsers suddenly worked again. I ran the Cxoffice install script again and installed the same stuff as I had earlier and everything is mysteriously working again. I'd love to report a bug but it would make me look like an insane idiot. I'm happy with everything working. Maybe the next time I drag myself through an install I'll try to track down which application is truly at fault a little more precisely.

Wlassistant is my new best friend especially after wasting too much of my time fiddling with the somewhat broken network-admin tool that comes with Gnome. Wow. Profiles. Storing of keys instead of pasting them in from text files? That is sooooo this year, man. Wifi Radar is also a nice package but it is masked in Gentoo and uses PyGtk2 which I'm a little anxious about installing despite the fact that I haven't written anything substantial in Python for over a year. Still, it looks very similar in terms of functionality and doesn't limit itself to the most brain dead options that no one wants or needs like most Gnome applications.

It's also looking like the spammers are trying very hard to poison the Akismet database as I've had a few dozen spammy comments left today with links to things that are otherwise legitimate if irrelevant. There is something about the secret sauciness of Akismet that worries me. I'm guessing that this will be rectified in the future. Akismet is being developed by a group of people way too smart to depend on secrecy for the success of their service so my confidence is high no matter what the invisible man standing on my shoulder blade keeps shouting into my ear.

If you're not reading Russell Banks then you really should be. I hauled ass through The Sweet Hereafter and Affliction over the past week and I've been enthralled with his writing the entire time. It is difficult to write so simply and powerfully without sounding condescending but he pulls it off and probably without a supreme exertion to do so. He is also working on the script for a movie adaptation of On The Road and I imagine that transforming that into something coherent is going to be some challenging work. Those giant loops of paper that Kerouac used so famously? Around here we call those toilet paper.