Techcrunch had a post about a new company aimed at simplifying the cell phone for old people. As much as I understand all too literally how difficult it is to deal with old people (my work supports retirees for-fucking-ever and 'til death do us part. I would add something about prying Eudora from cold, dead hands but that is uncomfortably close to the truth as it is) the whole Jitterbug concept bugs the fuck out of me. The three button phone just reminds of way too many Photoshop alterations. I'm also a little creeped out by the use of operators to do pretty much everything service-wise for phone programming. I can hear the self-inflicted gunshots ringing out from that call center in my imagination already. If you aim your product at simplicity and simplicity alone you're going to end up with simple customers. Those simple customers are also the most expensive in terms of time and support ever in the world. Jitterbug was at least straightforward enough to detail how many minutes were automatically billed when a user calls the operator but, jesus, I would not want to be one of those unlucky bastards answering billing inquiries. It won't be pretty.
I do like some of the ideas behind it especially in the context of this device being part of a vehicle trunk emergency kit where single button 911 dialing might be useful. As a phone intended as a primary use unit I'm curious to see how this is actually going to pan out over time. I'm usually completely wrong about this shit so it could be sliced (or pureed, if you're mean like me) bread for old people and by the minute calling plans. All I can envision are class action lawsuits from 'exploited' elderly folks who thought the nice operator was their friend, etc, etc. Like most things, I think that the interface actually needs some flexibility and something less condescending than huge 'I've fallen and I can't get up' buttons. Adaptive devices for people with motor function disabilities have been available for non-toy phones for nearly as long as they've existed. How many people are going to buy in to the 'aim low' plan? Fuck if I know. I just wanted to use that image.
I just realized when looking for some old posts in the archives that I was coming up on/have already passed the five year mark of Team Murder. Weird. Good thing that this site exists because my memory for dates and times really is lousy.
I bookmarked this Stefan Esser interview a while ago and finally got back to reading it and by reading it I mean that I actually read it closely and didn't just skim and click. I was sidetracked last time by messing around with Suhosin on my local machine just to check it out. By the way, it worked pretty flawlessly for me and without an unreasonable amount of mucking around given that it is intended to bolster security which seems inherently complicated. It also failed to break anything which is a nice surprise when your code is as slapdash and half finished as mine usually is.
The part that I really liked about this interview and Esser's attitude is the balance between technical understanding of things that may cause security problems and the acknowledgement that sometimes those problematic design decisions are based on how best to solve a particular problem without abandoning backward compatibility instead of the stupidity or laziness that so many security folks seem to think is responsible for many of the flaws they find. This is most apparent when he's talking about WordPress:
From my point of view, WordPress is not well designed. This starts for example with the fact that they are escaping all input for the database in the beginning, and later when issuing the queries they just put variables directly into the query. The bug I released (charset conversion SQL injection) would not have been possible if they had chosen the more common design, to escape everything right before it is put into the query. Others might argue that they should better use prepared statements and variable binding, but WordPress has to be compatible with old MySQL databases and PHP installations that do not support this. Another problem of WordPress is that it is sooo user friendly that it spits out detailed error messages when a SQL query fails, such that a potential attacker can gain information about the query.
In any case, it is nice to read an interview where security is the focus of the conversation and I actually take something away from it. Thanks, man.
I'm always amazed at how patient and tolerant I am of ridiculous errors on Myspace given how often that parts of the site are entirely inaccessible or downright broken. The above is a banner ad and that should be excusable, right? The advertiser is at fault for putting together such utter crap and blah blah blah and end of story. The funny part isn't this particular error as much as the fact that it took me a really long time to actually see that it was an error. The randomly broken nature of Myspace is sufficient camouflage to make nearly any trainwreck of nasty HTML and half-witted CSS blend right in.
My one hope is that the kids who rely heavily on Myspace as some kind of latter day IRC grow accustomed to breakage and being barraged by errors and features that may or may not work depending on whether or not the wind is blowing in a certain direction will become more tolerant of software that doesn't really work and allow the rest of us to get even lazier and more sloppy about the steaming piles of crap we unleash on the world.
Mainly I'm just orange and blurry. I am two months old and weigh two pounds. I have to live up to a lot of unreasonable expectations and I just moved in yesterday. Sheesh
I had this horrible fear that the entry below this one would get lost in the bowels of Team Murder and never be seen again. It has been a day since we lost Pig and I couldn't stand the idea of him ever becoming an obscure entry in this mess. So, I made Pig The Cat as a more permanent home for our photos and memories of him as a thing apart from all of this babble. He deserves a lot more. The site is just a placeholder with a photo gallery right now as I just registered the domain a few hours ago but more is coming. There is a lot to remember and so much to miss.
Pig was euthanized at around 2 o'clock this afternoon. He'd been sick for a couple of weeks and over the past couple of days deteriorated really quickly and really badly. While it broke my fucking heart into a million sharp little pieces it was also the only real choice that we had. It was very likely that he had Feline Infectious Peritonitis and would never really get better. He sat on our laps being touched and loved while the euthanasia kicked in. I miss him already and it feels now like that will never stop.
My Akismet count hit ten thousand a couple of days ago. This would be less impressive if I posted with any degree of regularity. Since I'm rarely even in the admin interface these days it is a little frightening. The last attempted spam comment was from a domain that involved "All Steroid Planet" which seems like a pretty kick ass idea for a reality T.V show.
I had a pretty good conversation with a co-worker today about developing software and how need is determined when pitching your idea to other people who have only money to connect them to the idea of software or at least potential money. That's another thing entirely though than what I'm trying to eventually get at. I started thinking between rounds of tedium at the hands of hostile and incompetent retirees was what my wish list might look like. I'm a different demographic (now there is some terminology that hardly even makes my flesh crawl) entirely so I tried to formulate a list of tools that I would like to have. Here are some of them:
1. An integrated RSS reader and offline web content grabber. The only real time that I have during the work day (or most days for that matter) to actually catch up on reading the stupid number of feeds that I subscribe to is on the bus ride home which is both a long period of time and utterly interweb free. I would like to be able to follow some of those links especially since many of the weblogs I formerly had a hankering to stay current with are little more than distributed Digg clients that seldom offer much more than a line or two of comments about a big news story. I would like my content gathering feed reader to also be smart enough to realize that caching duplicate web content is a terrible idea so I don't get too much junk in my trunk but can still get the link contents (perhaps minus images or whatever) in the mix so the Twittery snarkiness would not sound like wind howling over a barren wasteland of jokes stranded without punchlines.
2. A browser plugin (not necessarily Firefox since ol' tubby already consumes an inequitable number of resources for the scant advantages it might provide discounting, of course, popularity) that would save a series of images like Google maps or the like into either an animation or a navigable interface where zooms and pans previously viewed would be contained and accessible. This works really well for things like maps and other content that appears in the browser a single frame at a time but appears dynamic when you actually have network connectivity. What I would really like to have is a simple way to specify number of 'actions' (this is total userland bullshit talk but my knowledge of Flash is minimal at best), trigger the capture, and then later watch the whole thing again in a little browser that didn't feature too many doodads or continually connect to remote servers and annoy me half to death with errors.
3. A mini application that would run a single PS filter on an image or just preview it that way without opening the vault of the behemoth when wading through a bunch of 'acquired' images. What might a box blur look like on this picture of peonies? I dunno because I'll be damned if I'm going to womp the holy shit out of my battery life just to see what a single filter pass would look like. It would also be nice if this application could produce a meta-data report that could either be read by PS later to automate the process or produce readable text approximate to the sorts of questions PS would ask when employing filters. This one likely exists already but I'll toss it out there if only to make the bus ride seem shorter.
This article over at the Columbia Journalism Review is worth reading unless you're paranoid and then it will drive you completely out of your mind. It has do with partnerships between news organizations and hospitals and how weird they are. What is even more creepy is how hard it is to distinguish between news and marketing and also how complicit most television stations are about this kind of pre-rolled content. From the marketing perspective, they're even more dubious like so:
One result of the epidemic is that the health stories that dominate local TV news tend to push expensive specialties and procedures—like bariatric surgery for obesity, which can cost upwards of $20,000, or expensive gamma knife surgery for brain cancer, with a price tag of $10,000 or more. Stories about less profitable diagnoses, like AIDS or pneumonia, are rare, let alone pieces about care for the uninsured.
This should surprise no one, of course, since the 'run it like a business' ethic has trickled down to even the television hospital dramas now. What I'm thinking is that insurance companies could throw their hat into this particularly 'let the market decide' ring and compete with commercials that advertise preventative measures and/or alternative procedures but that is probably just crazy talk.