Team Murder No Brain No Headache.


Why More Often Than Not I Step On Bugs With Few Twinges Of Conscience

I've been showing this monstrosity to people all day after seeing it on jwz's LiveJournal this morning and decided to actually link it up here. Life really is this disgusting apparently and I've had the creepy crawlies for at least twenty minutes after each viewing. Sorry:

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My Salute To A Recently Deceased Friend

I really, really hate coffee makers that can't last more than a couple of months under heavy use. Granted, this one was a Woot deal instead of the my electronic brain thinks I need cleaning and I will refuse to make coffee again until you chemically douche me coffee maker pictured that is equally broken at the moment. The coffee press still works thankfully.

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Flaws Are Funny Like That

Hoo boy. This has to be the most funny (at least by the title) security bulletin I've ever seen. I was going to make some rude joke about the BSDs but it looks like the fault lies with Gentoo's games group.

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Doesn’t Really Need Saying But That Is My Area Of Expertise

I don't like biting on the obvious ad revenue whoring pieces but this one is so ridiculously reductivist and serves as such a wonderful metaphor for what should be minimal interaction between the concerns of technology and business that I couldn't really pass it up. The suit (or, alternately, the dockers and dress shirt combo) is so emblematic of why management should stay the hell out of the problems and solutions that revolve around pure technology. Don't believe me? Have you suffered through consultants in your workplace lately? Suits. Utterly clueless fucking suits and management, in general, tends to buy whatever line they're selling and pay them outrageous sums of money for what amounts to nil. Applying the who you'd like to party down with at the frat house and have date your younger sister methodology of decision making to technology is stick stupid. I'm currently in the job market so maybe I'm just a little bitter.

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Unscheduled Downtime…

That reminds me: I need to actually do backups more often instead of miserably thinking that nearly four years of this crap has been flushed semi-permanently down the bit toilet. It wouldn't be the end of the world or anything but I hate it when things break for reasons that I don't understand. I guess that, in a nutshell, is why shared/virtual web hosting is always going to be painful.


Pre-Weekend Doldrums

Some things that didn't fit into anything longer:

Google making terrible choices when it comes to word choices for verifications. I laughed but many more will spend hours trying to unsee those words and atoning and all that shit.

Apparently TX law enforcement is trying to make people incredibly uncomfortable by scouting out public drunkenness in bars where people are both surprised and appalled by drunken behavior. We can't seem to fit any more fish into this barrel...

This otherwise well considered piece about desktop eyecandy, Windows Vista, and what it all means to the end user is hilariously sidetracked when people in the comments assert, without a trace of irony mind you, that eye candy is equitable to usability. Several people even say that they cannot be productive if their desktop isn't attractive. Insane.

I'm completely ignoring all of the incredulous news stories about the Windows Vista delay. Duh. Has a Windows release ever been on time? Have any of the features that would almost make life bearable ever actually made it into a product? Yup. You get new interface elements that your machine probably won't be able to handle. Luckily, I don't have to use that crap. I just have to fix it when it breaks which is like every fucking day of my life. As I am currently applying for jobs in the same painful area I don't see this ceasing in the near future.


Just These Stupid Kids…

So the above was my impression of ajaxWrite at least as it stands today after being trampled by the usual insipid horde from Digg all proud because they took another site down without reading a single word of it. The only thing that I was really able to figure out while horsing around is that the application deals with file types you'd normally associate with MS Word as its default. It seems far too crashy to hold up under the Friday crowd so I'm going to send myself a piece of mail as a reminder to come back when things are less stupid. Looks pretty good from what I was able to see and actually feels a little lighter/smoother than the limited experience that I've had with Writely. I don't remember whether Writely had PDF conversion capabilities but that is one of the most useful features of ajaxWrite for me -- being able to instantly convert things to a PDF format really takes some of the fear out of carrying files around in the ODF format.


National Whatever You Want, Stupid Week

I had the unfortunate experience today of witnessing a discussion between a user and one of my fellow desktop support types that reminded me why I need to have some patience enhancing drug prescribed post haste. The topic had to do with automatic/scheduled shutdowns of XP machines in what amounts to a public lab and the idea the user had was so horrible that it was almost funny. It did inspire me, though, to think that maybe for a week or so we should go forward with every dipshit plan that a user comes up. The clean up afterwards would be horrible but nearly worth it when pushy users were forced to deal with the consequences of ideas that they don't entirely understand in any sense excepting the "But that's what I want" way. This user wanted a scheduled shutdown and startup that didn't require any intervention and would simply shut the machines down presumably after a lab tech had issued some kind of verbal warning. The very first time that a user had their work nuked into the ether because the tech forgot to give that warning would be my reward. I could play stupid for a week. I really could.


Web 2.0r1

Major revisions:

The term 'Web 2.0' (often camel-cased into Web2.0 or the like) should no longer be used. After its overuse by buzzword aggregating industry magazines to the point where it is being twiddled around by management types in meetings like this year's Sharper Image castanet arrangement it really doesn't mean much anymore unless you're trawling for venture capital. Instead please revert to previous versions of same sentiment such as 'That's so money' or 'Where's the beef?' or the more dynamic solo thumb thrust triumphantly skyward and followed by the gutteral exclamation of "Ayyyyyyyyyyyyy!" for the purpose of board room song and dance routines and/or the half-assed assertion of getting this 'new thing' and renewing your commitment to getting it to market whatever the fuck that means.

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Saving You The Trouble

Oooh. Oooh. Just as I was preparing to write some of my own tests for making sure that MySQL wasn't bullshitting me I ran across page of testing scripts that the Digg folks use to make sure that MySQL and their storage devices aren't bullshitting them. The downside is that they are Perl scripts which wouldn't be the worst thing in the world other than the fact that they aren't made for use by the general public so you'll probably need to do some editing. Reading and understanding other people's Perl is something that is less than enjoyable. These are pretty humanely written and well commented but, still, be aware that it's prolly best if you do some editing. I did.

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Have I Been Helped? Yes, I’ve Nearly Been Helped To Fucking Death, Thanks.

Unfortunately we had to make a pit stop at Guitar Center after band practice tonight. If you've ever been in one them before you generally know what I'm talking about: the utter annoyance of a myriad of I-download-tabs-from-the-internet-then-head-immediately-to-the -guitar-store -to-demonstrate- my-incredible-skills guitar players who string together the most god awful effects imaginable and pair it with a solid state amp with the midrange turned all the way off and the sales people. Jesus, it's like running a gauntlet of Jehovah's Witnesses or something. What makes things even worse for me is that I play a pretty strange setup that sales people at all guitar stores would like to talk me out of.

I'm especially strange about strings. I play pretty much the heaviest gauge of jazz strings possible and avoid any of the bright sounding brands. Trying to explain this to the person behind the counter involves either making up elaborate lies to explain my weird yet specific tastes or basically insulting them while directly contradicting everything they were told at sell you expensive shit you don't really need university. I made the mistake of mentioning that I wanted to scale back a gauge or two tonight. The guy behind the counter immediately wanted to sell me the most expensive set of overly packaged strings they had in stock:

Me: So, these are a little on the light side for me. Are these strings bright?
Sales guy: Yeah, they're super bright.
Me: OK. So, do you have a little than heavy kind of jazz string that has a wound G string and is not at all bright sounding?
Sales guy: Where on earth have you bought strings that were wound all the way to the G?
Me: Here. (I point to the strings I normally buy).
Sales guy: Oh, those are really low quality strings.
Me: Because they're not bright sounding?
Sales guy: Yeah, they're really dull even when they're new.
Me: OK. Do you have those in the next smallest gauge?
Sales guy: Are you sure because I really recommend the ones I showed you.
Me: Yeah but they're super tinny/bright sounding and only come in white guy blues gauge. So, if you have a few sets of those low quality strings I'll take them.
Sales guy: Oh, ok.

I'm also sort of in the market for an equalizer pedal. I don't really need it to do anything other than halve my volume for certain parts of songs. The rest of the lack of comprehension will be revealed in Act Two where I start to feel like I am taking place in some hidden camera television show Abbot and Costello routine:

Sales guy: So, are you looking for some distortion?
Me: Not really. I'm looking for an inexpensive eq pedal to use as an A-B switch.
Sales guy: Well, we sell those.
Me: My amp only runs one channel at a time.
Sales guy: Have you thought about getting another amp?
Me: (stifling what would turn into hysterical laughter) Uh, no. I have a Sovtek and they're pretty rare and expensive these days.
Sales guy: Oh, you mean you have Sovtek tubes in your amp...
Me: No. Sovtek made guitar heads for years. Hand wired ones that never seem to break.
Sales guy #3: (after overhearing some of the previous exchange) Wait, I'll look and see if we stock Sovtek A-B switches.
Me: No, you don't. They don't exist. That's why I need a cheap eq. I don't care about the how many bands there are etc. I want to halve my volume consistently with a foot switch.
Sales guy #3: You want a volume pedal (starts gesturing towards the display of outrageously expensive volume pedals) like over here.
Me: No. I want an A-B switch but since my head doesn't switch channels I need something like an eq but I don't want to spend a hundred dollars on it.
Sales guy #3: Oh, I guess we don't really have anything that fits that description.
Me: I figured.

I want to start my own guitar store called something like "We Think You Know What You're Doing" and it will cater exclusively to people who have played their instrument for longer than six months and aren't easily distracted by shiny things and/or the term 'extreme.'


An Organized System Of Chaos And Confusion

I'm puttering away with the zombie game which largely means cleaning up the test scripts that I used to make sure that everything was playing nicely with all of the other components. Much to the dismay of other folks who seem to need to disparage PHP in order to lavish more beta++ praise on the current flavor of the month, I'm actually pretty organized when working with PHP. Yes, I begin with a hojillion files that separate out each stage of form-script-form-etc before compressing them into functions contained in each actual PHP page but everything is tested a half dozen different ways before it becomes a function. Usually this means writing a couple of test functions that are required in order to run the test script. Granted, I'm not using some gigantic IDE or anything so I'm able to skip some of the more tedious steps that many go through when doing initial testing and I've been working off and on with this lump of code for over a year (I think) so I need to do a batch of comment reading and running test scripts before I really remember where exactly I left off. The combination of a rigid naming scheme and the strategic placement of comments makes this a whole lot painful than it could be.

It's weird because I read many of the Ruby versus Python versus Java offspring are infinitely better than PHP rants and other ugly my language can beat up your language arguments started by Tim Bray's eloquent rant against PHP and had nothing concrete to contribute to the distributed conversation. I'm manually refactoring all of my code and I enjoy the process of working out kinks and refining the clarity of this pile of crap I'm hacking on. Maybe there is some degree of masochism involved in my enjoyment of the power and flexibility of the language. I like the amount of thinking I need to do in order to make my own code better and the idea of an IDE ripping the steering wheel out of my hands is one that alarms more than comforts me.

Speaking of, has anyone seen any web games successfully implemented in either Python or Rails? I'm really curious because my tentative stabs in either direction were disappointing to say the very least. I really like both but haven't been able to get much done on the web side that didn't involve a ton of pain and tedium or considering the creation of my own damned framework.


The Rat’s Ass You Give May Be Your Own

Tired and long past any point of cognitive linearity but still running on leftover steam from a very productive and fun band practice despite the personnel shortage. Everyone was basically tired but we still managed to assemble and rearrange a pile of loosely associated parts and massage them into things approximating songs. Playing shows seems a very long way off but the process of building up as opposed to the falling apart that I'm accustomed to.

The only proposal that I've heard today that sounds remotely reasonable is, of course, fictional. Still, I completely support the campaign to host the 2014 Olympics on Hoth.

Also worthy of note: The PowerSquid seems like a very sexy way to burn your house down. I want one -- for the organizational aspects and less so for the potential of fiery death.

Eventually this desktop metaphor that most modern computer interfaces are based upon will fall away and the age of the Jonathan Livingston Seagull interface will rise from its proven and useful ashes in order to satisfy people who will no doubt purchase the 'innovative' MSFT Vista in order to throttle their machines near to death running a bunch of eye candy goo. I was talking to a former professor today about his collection of antique computers and how he used to make money creating interfaces for people on secondhand equipment. His interface design tool? BAT files... There is a lesson about pragmatism in there somewhere but I have neither the attention span nor the cognitive coherency to extract them now.

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Free In The Sense That You Need To Pay Someone Else To Give It To You

While I wholeheartedly support the argument in this article that government funded and obtained information should be accessible to the tax payers that funded it the comparison the author makes to the information available in the United States isn't correct. A couple years back I started working on a system that included the use of geographical coordinates in conjunction with zip codes and quickly found that it is nearly impossible as a private individual to get your filthy paws on any of this information collected within the last five years. I searched again on the USPS site and couldn't find the page this time around but the basic answer that I got to all of my inquiries was to purchase the database from a private company. Apparently you can get this information but only if you intend to sell it back to tax payers. That isn't free.

If anyone has different information or a source that I've overlooked I'd love to hear otherwise but I think that most people are stuck when it comes to obtaining collected data and statistics from their government and that is not unique to the United Kingdom.


The Theme For This Week Is Obsolescence

The grandfather of tech aggregators, O'Reilly's Meerkat, was shut down a week ago on March 2nd. Man, this has been a bad week for the old schoolers. They are making an OPML list of the feeds offered to ease the transition to something else.

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When The Credit Card Companies Aren’t Raking In Outrageous Amounts Of Interest Then The Terrrorists Have Already Won

At this point I'm not entirely sure that this article is legitimate but nonetheless it has been determined by the Constitutional Work Around Committee, known to most of us as the Department of Homeland Security, has deemed that paying an unusually high credit card payment raises flags that you could be a terrorist. None of this should surprise anyone but the man in question actually had his line of credit frozen until further investigation. Fabulous. I don't imagine that we can look forward to many of the millionaires that constitute this administration's real constituency raising these sorts of warnings by moving huge amounts of cash around and out of the country.

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Not Even The Spellcheck Can Help You Now

I think the most difficult part about desktop support is actually interpreting the crude scratching the help desk provides as 'information' and less about dealing with users and their subpar methods of telling us what ails the machines in question. There are few users, at least in an academic setting, that would ever throw this out without qualification, clarification, or some kind of Rosetta Stone to aid us in decrypting their mysterious cant:

window started up. But it has a weird image can't do anything, the words is unable to read

That last sentence is nearly a statement of vague but consuming existential dread like a bad emo band from the midwest trying really hard to milk a whole lotta emotional response and resonance from grunted monosyllables over half-assed power chords.


Stupid Is The New Funny

The new Python site looks pretty slick and I guess that's at least in part necessary to aid in the push for Python evangelizing but I already miss the old and somewhat clumsy design of the old site. Cheesy as it might be, there was something endearing about the lack of slickness in the old design. The new design is more clearly organized which is definitely a plus but the absence of the old logo seems significant to me. Sentimental for old layouts? Hardly geeky at all...

PythonEggs seem like they're going to be pretty handy especially in terms of attracting deserters from Java. I love the fact that you can cook in metadata and that eggs will eventually be part of the standard libraries. More batteries == good. On a second reading I noticed that the devs were predicting inclusion in the standard libraries by Python 2.5.

I just spent a fair amount of time paring down my Bloglines subscriptions to something reasonable. My litmus was whether I actually visited a site with a real browser at least weekly. Not many emerged from the other side of that but I had to find some way to deal with unread feeds with dates ranging as far back as an entire year ago. I'm not exactly sure how the PR webloggers can endure reading three or four times as many feeds as I've ever had on a daily basis. Hate aggregators but love Planets as they do most of the sorting for me. I should just do away with the Bloglines account entirely as it just leads to abandonment and stagnation but, hey, that would take additional effort and I'm feeling the sort of lazy that borders on catatonia.

That's all I've got with the exception of Jack Bauer/Chuck Norris as the A-Team mash up. It's been that kind of day.

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Marketing Indeed

Ouch. It sucks when the very subject of your post leaves you vulnerable to the related advertising displayed on your weblog. Couldn't resist taking a screen shot of this one. Click the image to be teleported to the original post:

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Insults, Lies, And Other Aspects Of Office Marketing

If you've had any real experience with Open Office other than hurriedly pointing out its alleged deficiencies as a substitute for, you know, actual comparisons of functionality (or, better yet, functionality between different office suites) then you might find this bit of shit talking about, you guessed it, the deficiencies of Open Office when compared with Microsoft Office as knee slappingly hilarious as I do.

I am glad that I don't have to version pimp anything as part of my job because the end result paired with an apparent ignorance of what exactly the competition has to offer is embarrassing. I've managed to use OOo pretty transparently between three platforms and even for a class that served as nothing more than an indoctrination into MS Office userhood. We spent an entire class covering the use of clip art. I'm serious. I've never had a significant issue with compatibility between formats when doing assignments, writing documentation, or creating fairly complex spreadsheets intended for grading by a dyed in the wool shill that refused to acknowledge that there were even any alternatives to MS Office. She never knew the difference. I expect that most users would not be able to tell the difference either given that the entire purpose of the aforementioned class was to use as many of the features of Office (XP, in this case) until the documents we produced were nothing more than the side effect of those features piled up like something out of Fred Sanford's worst nightmares. To be honest, I kind of liked Office 2k. Why? Because it didn't feel like it was trying to tackle me and forcibly integrate itself into every aspect of my computer use. I used it under CodeWeavers Crossover Office for the better part of a semester. When the XP version was released it felt like a huge bloated mess that came out of the box broken and a good deal of that patching mayhem had to do with Outlook which Yates tries to pitch as an important feature. I feel the same way about 2003 which we've experimentally deployed on some machines at work. A new version should offer something more than the fresh hell of new problems and compatibility issues with documents created with legacy versions of the software. I'm guessing that would be a much more effective business plan than the fabrication of deficiencies to mudsling at the competition. Man, trying to compete with OOo on price is just foolishness.

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Everyone! Free Chuckles!

I quite literally stumbled upon a really wonderful diary of an Australian academic's (with his equally academic wife and their children) experience doing the college lecture circuit in the United States. Any number of his criticisms are scathing, often very funny and, unfortunately, completely true. It's relatively easy to forget how weird and polarized American culture is until you've had the opportunity to travel elsewhere. For me that was a trip to South Korea and I'm still looking slightly askance at the culture that I grew up utterly immersed in. While some of his observations are patently obvious others were surprising. It's well worth your eye time unless, of course, you have your head entirely up your red, white, and blue ass. If this is the case I would also hope that you never stop by again. Thanks.

This McSweeney's for this week is fucking brilliant. That declaration is nothing extraordinary since the gang over yonder doesn't seem to be capable of fucking up, at least on the site and in the magazine. There are a few books that are candidates for most annoying thing in the world but we'll set those differences aside for free chuckles.

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Pared Down Like Your Attention Span

Oooh. Ahhh. It's SimpleKDE which makes the KDE desktop simple enough for even the most annoying of 'nothing is more!' Gnomers. The really nice part is that this is a fork of the larger KDE project and not the roadmap for the future of a desktop that actually had experienced users.

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Problems Faced When Exploring Planet Fruity

I hacked on getting Symantec/Norton Anti Virus working on the OS X machines yesterday and it was an exercise in utter frustration for a couple of different reasons. One, the filesystem of OS X is a goddamned mess being splintered between userland names for directories that include spaces and camel-casing and the traditional Unix directory structure that is really, really quick and simple to navigate once you're accustomed to it. The eventual goal was to enable the client machines to grab definitions and other updates from a local server instead of the Symantec/Norton servers as they're usually ass slow and prone to dropping connections and the like. After checking all of the configuration files, which are spread out over the tree like fly shit, and editing them appropriately we're able to fetch the updates but can't get any further than that as NAV issues a typically cryptic error made worse by the alleged friendliness of OS X: NAV has encountered an error. Wonderful. I'm pretty sure that it has something to do with permissions since updates are indeed yanked into the tmp directory but the application dies before it can unpack them or before a log can be written. The lack of log is what makes me think that permissions might be an issue. The lack of log is also what keeps me from figuring out what is crashing the application. I spent roughly forty minutes dinking around with this with a handsome majority wasted searching around for folks who'd encountered the same problem as I was wallowing in. The problem with trying to find help is that most people set their Apple boxen up as single user environments so their instructions are often more careless with permissions than I can afford to be with machines intended for use in computer labs. What am I doing wrong here?

Side Note
I also had someone ask while I was fiddling why a college campus even needed malware/virus protection for the Apples. Man, when there really is a trojan more dangerous than proof of concept jaws are going to hit the floor. Don't forget that the legacy Mac OS had plenty of problems with viruses in the past although it seemed people who used them were a little less reticent and arrogant about taking protective measures to protect themselves as opposed to now when you talk about security stuff and people start babbling about fucking iPod accessories. Seriously, if it wasn't part of my job I could not spare a single fuck about PEBKAC problems like these.