The good news is that you can listen to the entirety of Neil Young's new 'protest' record at his site and it is well worth checking out. I love that Young continually moves forward even when some of his decisions aren't the wisest, and that he seems to learn from his mistakes.
The bad news is that our stupid war continues and seems to be gathering additional corporate sponsors.
This afternoon when I was heading down to the coffee place to drink about a gallon of espresso and coffee mixed together I neglected to bring my book as well as my mp3 player. Usually these two devices need to work in tandem so I'm glad that I wasn't stuck with just one of the pair. Instead, to pass the fifteen minutes or so of travel time, I war-light-railed with my Palm just to see how much wireless was available. The unconfigured Linksys category of wifi access is still the prime mover out there but it was encouraging to see more little cartoony padlocks next to the access point name instead of the usual chaos of the plug it in and let it rip philosophy that most people tend to stick to when setting up wireless for absolute strangers with criminal intent.
One of the nicer discoveries I made was the addition of free wifi service to the entire 16th Street Mall area of downtown Denver. The suck part is that the login system (click this button to surrender your first born child) requires Java and boots you from a continuous connection after 2 hours. It was generally pretty slow and balky so it seems intended for use with PDAs and the like. Still nice to be able to look up RTD schedules and maps while on the bus...
The grey areas of non-employment are still freaking me out. I had to actually leave my house today and go to a coffee house to get anything done. I used to think that free hours were the essential ingredient to accomplishing anything but I'm starting to realize that my intrinsic motivations are weaker than I'd previously thought. Go figure. So, I'm at the coffee place trying to de-spaghetti a pile of old PHP and, in moments like these, I realize that I haven't really been working with this language very long although I've made some pretty substantial improvements by moving masses of scripts into functions. I'm not sure if it's any more human readable than it was before but at very least I'm not chasing session variables around like a fool. Maybe calling that an improvement isn't the most accurate terminology in the world but it sure feels a whole lot better than the previous mess.
I was going to come up with something appropriately cynical and world weary sounding to mark the occasion but I ran out of readily assembled thoughts several hours ago. Whatever. It's three in the morning. Time for a PBR. The four year anniversary of Team Murder is also coming up next month and I doubt I'll even remember on the actual day. The increasingly dark gradient of apathy towards things you once thought were incredibly important is, I guess, what differentiates between youth and decrepitude and seems to creep into everything like static into a radio station. Anyway, I'm older.
I'm in that restless limbo between two jobs if indeed you can really call what I do now a job in the purest sense and I'm feeling it. I guess what really bucks my equilibrium is the impending change between people, schedules, and even the city I work in as well as the environment. The worst part about all of this is that it effectively negates any motivation I might have to spend this slack time on anything remotely productive other than rambling IM conversations that are less coherent than usual and looking at new toys that I might have the money to waste buying in a couple of months. I'll be the first to admit that it is a problem that most folks being pummeled by fiscal reality wish they had but it is uncomfortable nonetheless.
On April 20th, 2006 SkyNet went online...
My friend Tony sent this image to me this morning and after I stared at it blankly for a while I realized that it was hysterically funny and that I must share. So, yuk it up.
Apparently there is some human interaction with spambots as one attempt to spam the comments of my most popular post on the evils of Websense (though through popular usage, at least in the comments attached to the post, the evil bastards responsible for it should consider changing the spelling to 'Websence' as it apparently has about three times the amount of market recognition) by placing a porn URL in the URL field and claiming that he couldn't access it. This is a pretty clever (and old school) approach as the post has become more than anything else a semi-open forum for techniques to get around web filtering software and if I had approved the comment with the usual lack of scrutiny I apply to things related to that post his comment would have been permanently affixed to the single post in all of Team Murder that actually has some Google juice. Nice try.
Okay. I'm going to pose a random question to the void here, specifically for people who spend more time working in a Windows environment and less time simply fixing broken machines: Is there a virtual desktop application that allows switching desktops with the mouse wheel (and here is the really important part) that doesn't fuck with/override the focus of application windows -- I want to be able to use my mouse wheel for scrolling in applications and flipping desktops when the desktop is active. Any clues?
I tried Cool Desktop which does offer mouse wheel switching but was plagued with the above problem even when I set the focus to follow the mouse. When I'm fully installed in the new workplace I might just spend the money to buy Cool Mouse which enables X style copy and paste unless I can find a FOSS solution to that problem. It's funny though because both of the above shortcomings of the Windows shell have always made me wonder how people can live without that functionality. I guess once you ride in a rocket car you want everything to be a rocket car...
I'll be starting a new job on the first of next month so I've been spending a lot of time stressing out and taking naps and things like that instead of tirelessly trawling the IntarWeb for more tedium to spread even thinner. This new job will represent a significant improvement in income for the first time in six years. It feels good to ascend triumphantly above the poverty line and, more than anything, takes the burden of paying for everything away from Yoon. I'm sure she will be reluctant to relinquish her role as Sugar Mama but that problem is sort of endemic to the solution. Money is the upside. The downside is that I will be working a help desk instead of actual desktop support. The really incredibly massive downside is that the campus does not have a standard image for deployment meaning that every single machine is another nasty can of Cthuloid worms waiting to be opened. I have quite a bit of persuasive work to do.
Still caught up in the job hunting crap so I have been spending all of my free time pointlessly stressing out which has lead to the production of my first resume in probably ten years. I fucking hate resumes.I can't think of a more popular application of turd polishing and my participation is anything but willing.
I did notice, as you should, a map of the changes states might make if Roe v. Wade is overturned and it seriously disturbs me. Nearly half of the states are theoretically poised to "significantly restrict abortion access." My stomach hurts even considering the possibility.
In messing around with scripting the start up and shut down of printer shares in the horrible operating system that will not be named but somehow provides a source of employment for me I found AutoIt and instantly got a whole bunch of work done without driving myself crazy. There is an included syntax highlighting and auto completion package for SciTE that had me up and running pretty quickly. Another nice bonus is the inclusion of a "Window Info" application that, you guessed it, gives you all of the important properties of active windows (and also features the all important pause function) since in the operating system that will not be names those properties make little to no fucking sense compared to what appears to the human eye.
I haven't done any GUI work with it yet but judging from the rather complete documentation it would be pretty easy to pick up. I may roll my own version of something like XAMPP's control panel just to get the feel for how everything works. I like the simplicity of AutoIt's implementation (and the lack of some over the top IDE) and that it seems to stay out of your way when a little cli scripting is all that needs to be done. I'm sure that some of the operating system that will not be named has more powerful scripting languages that are nestled more tightly against the teat of the behemoth but I can't take the platform seriously enough (other than, you know, as the essential ingredient of my day job) to invest a whole lotta time to grok something I don't want to use. Overcoming the urge to throw things out entirely when they are broken beyond usefulness is kind of important for the support line of work. No cause is too futile to avoid wasting hours trying to solve elegantly and necessity is a mother.
Yet another example of why most coffee places that have free wireless offered to the public mixed in with their own cash registers and credit card machines shouldn't just blindly set things up and hope for the best smacked me in the face when I stopped off for a little coffee and work on the zombie game this morning. I set up a shared printer on the XP test box last night and installed smb4k for quick scanning of my own network. After setting up shop and trying to figure out why one of my nested way too deep loops wasn't working without any success, I fired up smb4k for the hell of it. I should not be able to see your cash register transactions as a share. Really. I helped the guy at the counter lock it down which required a phone call to get the administrator password and had some free breakfast. I heart the barter system but the fact that their innards were that far exposed freaks me out. I suppose this is all too common and why I end up with new credit card numbers more often than I would like.
Always happy to gleefully waste time at work...
Heh. I saw this mentioned on several geeky/tech newsy sites but didn't think until now to follow the link. I'm stupid like that sometimes but go check out 100 extensions at once super-browser that remarkably runs at all. According to the person who runs the site it was actually pretty stable. That frightens me since I seem to have noticeable slow downs with only a select few extensions installed. The title does remind of the time I was stupid enough to tell one of the people I was supervising that mixing ammonia and bleach would make a SUPER CLEANER. I had to talk to paramedics later that day and as funny as they thought the situation was...context is the killer app.
I guess sometimes fake is just as good. I wish companies could send statements that didn't sound so much like poorly concealed threats. Also, that shitty rubber signature stamp, it doesn't fool anyone but senior citizens these days and the ones with surplus cash already cashed out to the Nigerians anyhow.
Adapting to the coming of spring and the inevitable summer after it is awkward at best. With the windows opened for the first time in months all sorts of sound from outside charges in with teeth bared. This should normally be a transition between the deadness and insulation of winter (not so much with the global warming thing, though) to the regeneration of spring and bring more positive feeling with it. Unfortunately I am too tired for any of this so the night just seems too damned crowded.
I should know better than to enter into the weekend, the hero of many a AOR radio rock and song, with thoughts tilted towards goodness. This weekend pretty much sucked other than the beer drinking parts of it which overlapped some of the misery and tedium like a dirty bed sheet concealing a corpse. Actually, that is almost entirely exaggeration. This weekend was actually O.K other than our drummer telling me that he didn't want to play music with me any more via an incredibly awkward speechification wherein I heard a story about the chills and spills of motorcycling in the mountain right before I heard about our drummer not wanting to play drums any more. I really wish that were the case but it's much more likely that I'm parting ways with yet another band member too chickenshit to say they hate what we're doing or the direction we're headed in or whatever it is that makes them predictably quit like punk rock edsels moving on to projects instead of bands where they can play in front of film strips or wearing panda costumes instead of being in bands. This probably isn't the case with our most recent departure but the sting is still about the same. It will eventually wear off and taper down to a vague unease when the person who quit is spotted across a room while some other band even worse than the one we were in is playing. Eventually it will just turn into nods and vague smiles filled with too many teeth. I'm already moving I hope and if not I'd like to at least feel like I'm moving outside the stupid rut I've dug myself into.
I really like planets as they seem like the most logical arrangement of aggregation and since they draw from related sources never seem to suffer from a lack of new and interesting things to read. That said, planets can also be boring as hell if you're not intimate with the subject matter. I finally discovered Planet MySQL this afternoon and I've been reading it non-stop whenever time permits. One thing that distinguishes PM from other developer planets is the consideration of problems that people actually have and the willingness to dig a little deeper to not only find the source of the problem and make a commit but to explain it to a user/less experienced developer audience in terms that see daylight outside of mailing lists. It's also nice to see that I'm not the only one who has temper tantrums when software misbehaves in a way that makes almost no logical sense. A couple pages into it I find a solution to a problem that has plagued me in the past and I find myself having one of those oh-so-totally moments where I wonder if reading too many weblogs is still an efficient way to waste time especially since my patience for Flash game du jour falls into the negative numbers.
After the surreal mess of dealing with the aftermath of a not quite migrated server the first comment in the queue is, of course, spam. Keeping with the surreal theme, this spam is from the Cookie Monster:
Good site. Me very much has liked.
Awesome. This is nowhere as funny as the Spamusement take on the same butchered grammar but I'll take what I can get.
So, I was down for nearly fourteen hours with no reponse from my hosting company and I had a few moments of total fear. One of the things I noticed immediately while my site was yielding nothing more than "looks like you haven't installed wordpress yet" pages is that my database backups were nearly empty. I actually messed around a little with trying to trick the site into working correctly again but it contained none of the tables specific to WP. Visions of four years of babbling lost didn't exactly terrify me but I really needed to do something to the database to ensure that it could actually be backed up and restored if necessary. It turns out that a couple of plugins that I'd deactivated eons ago were causing mysqldump to error out before it even reached the real data. The whole thing was almost frustrating enough to force me to consider just abandoning it all and starting something new.
I did fix that stupid Creative Commons license problem in the footer. I also changed licenses to the slightly less restrictive Attribution Non-Commercial license. Really, it matters fuck all but I like being able to give explicit permission without being bothered to skim through a whole bunch of faux-fessional mail everytime someone wants to lift a quote (usually out of context) or something.
Anyway, life fucking continues and I've learned something about mysqldump so I won't consider any of this lost time a total waste. It helps that everything has also been moved to a faster server and not only does everything work now but it actually works faster than it did before.
If you can imagine a probable application there is someone likely hacking away on it as we sit here on our hands. php4Mono is one of those things. I have no idea what I would ever really use it for since I am not in the habit of trusting my asschip to Windows for anything 'net facing but it's a helluva interesting concept and seems pretty far along in its development cycle. It's also pretty minimal in requirements -- if you have a recent version of Mono and you're pretty much in the business of converting PHP to that icky MSFT Common Intermediate Language stuff. Like I said, it's cool to be able to do this although I can't see a practical application for my own use of it. Unfortunately, I'm working on coffee shop wireless at the moment so I can't remote my Windows box at home to give it a real go. Oh well. This will be filed under the don't forget category so, uh, I won't forget.
Another article from the recent past that failed to make a blip on my radar as it sailed right past me into the collective unconscious dream state of a gazillion maligned desktop support monkeys who spend their days and nights furiously pitching snowballs into hell without health insurance or paid vacation days.
Um, the word from MSFT is that a lot of spyware/adware is non-removable and they suggest simply automating a system of burning and reimaging infected machines and in the same breath advocated the extension of a day into 150 hours and the immediate minting of certificates useful for redeeming lost hours of your life watching a progress bar creep across a screen. Wow. That is some advanced fucking research and development that is nearly novel and exciting a couple years after many of us have been doing exactly this sort of stupid thing day after day. With pronouncements like that I have only the utmost dread for the horrors that will no doubt be lurking beneath the clunky, Skittles-like asscandy of Windows Vista.
Then again, when you build an operating system around the principle of near unrestrained whoring for the user (user friendly, I guess) you shouldn't be all awe struck when your house is soon full of pimps selling off your cycles to even less savory characters. Really what I want from the bazillionaires that run MSFT is for them to grow the starts of a spine about user access to the internals of the system. It should be hard to install and require user intervention to install things that have system access - why is it insanely easy to install a rootkit but difficult for a user to install and use a USB jump drive? That doesn't sound much like a sane default to me. The other side of that coin is allowing a fucking web browser to pimp out kernel hooks to whoever happens to show up with a handful of spare change and that is just plain stupid. The worst part is that this glaring pile of crap built on more crap is that it was built that way by design and even used as a justification of sorts for avoiding monopoly litigation. Yeah, I'd pay for that.
I missed the Harry Fuecks contribution to April Foolery by a couple of days and it actually had me going for a few seconds due to the date funkiness. There are times when feeling suckered is rewarding even if the invocation of the horror of Intercal causes temporary damage against which there is no saving throw. Thanks, man.
The other day I overheard a pretty funny and truthful definition of podcast(ing) given from one dull knife in the drawer to another: "It's like streaming audio only it doesn't have to stream." Yup. Inert files that don't contain any magic that defines nearly any file available for download on the IntarWeb since there was, in the vernacular, an IntarWeb that doesn't have some piece of software associated with its mime type. I'm pretty much of the opinion that podcasts should have their own unique mime type if only to spare me the indignity of accidentally clicking on what appears to be a link to some of that crazy HTML stuff and instead getting blasted with yet another dose of someone babbling at me only in this case it doesn't originate from a cell phone conversation or a semi-coherent Acorn activist. For me, the purpose of an mp3 player is to give me a brief respite from the increasing number of people who don't know when to talk (never) and accordingly also lack the knowledge to know when to shut the fuck up (always). In any case, I thought I'd share that small nugget of wisdom culled from the seemingly unlimited resource of the idiot mind/mouth short circuit that is undeniably pure in the sense that it is unsullied by anything for more than a few minutes at a stretch and quite zen-like in its ability to reflect the circumstances of the world around it especially if that world is presented by television.
Anyway, the point here is to sort of introduce Derek Powazek's expression of the proper sentiments for the wrong reasons and why I think that users pontificating on their relative position to other users is next to worthless: Only the very best/worst of social networking sites maintain any audience at all and it isn't because of superior content. Jesus. You'd be lucky to find any fucking content at all in your average (and their number is legion) MySpace profile. Numbers matter which is part of the reason that MySpace is still kicking the ass of EggFly and other alternative efforts in a similar direction. Sure MySpace is constantly broken and is owned by Satan himself but everyone is already there, has learned to cope with the failure and mediocrity of the site (ColdFusion? Really?), and has limited their scope of use to maybe catching some underage boobies. There really isn't a whole interesting going on there and that makes it user generated content in the worst possible sense of the term like monkeys typing or the home page explosion on GeoCities way back when. No one gave a shit about what anyone else was doing with available resources but fiddled around until it became screamingly obvious that no one else in the universe cared except those who wrung a few bleak advertising dollars out of the mess. Eventually the tidal wave of laziness and apathy will catch up to and its pointless minions. Then we'll have to poke through the deserted wasteland of pointlessly tagged things, intricate maps that start somewhere uninteresting and terminate in limbo, and the Easter candy-like explosion of oversized type and pastel colors in hopes of extracting some lesson that wasn't pounded into skulls during the last fucking bubble. If you can keep the user in the loop and feeling like someone might care about all of this pointless crap they're making or that pinning a bunch of tags on otherwise unremarkable things like so many cardboard donkeys gaining so many paper tails, then just maybe your brilliant start up will survive the next week. Those chips? Cash those fuckers in while they're still worth anything at all.
I don't care what common sense tells me. That is not your average child and that non-average child is not eating pizza. The free floating question mark only enhances the effect. Thanks to Pizza Hut for giving me fucking nightmares with poor design decisions.
I had a job interview today although I can't really think of it as an interview in the traditional sense since I didn't actually interactively talk to anyone. Instead I took a written test that asked questions like "What is SSL, why is it important, and how do you activate it in Outlook Express?" I was underwhelmed to say the very least though the second half hour of the interview process when I had thirty minutes to answer ten pretty detailed questions was a little exhausting. What was most interesting/unnerving about the whole process was the source of the verbal response questions: a binder full of sheet laminated pages. I read the questions and then answered a panel. This sounds OK until you consider the fact that they asked no clarifying questions whatsoever. I was talking to three faces and a tape recorder. My answers were probably not the best examples of human communication ever since I felt like I needed to answer each aspect of each question while not coming off like a robot reading from a teleprompter. Towards the end I was starting to feel like an unwilling participant in an undergraduate introduction to psychology course. The cumulative effect of that environment is confusion, anxiety, and doubt which is kind of a given when talking to a group of silent people for 30 minutes. The actual testing probably went fine but I left feeling a little lost at least until we made it back to Denver and ate amazing hamburgers.
All of that said, I haven't interviewed for reals in a very long time and for all I know the process may well have transmogrified into some terrible Orwellian process dreamed up by the satanic forces that conspire under the guise of human resources.