Team Murder No Brain No Headache.

25Sep/07Off

Twindy: The Coolest Dead Thing Ever

I started on this with the thought that it would end up being a review and then I started digging a little further in (meaning I read the developer's website) and found out that the project was no longer under development. I hate it when things like this happen and when I say 'happen' I mean when I keep my head in a different set of clouds for long enough that new ideas go whizzing right by me and by the time I've noticed the impetus that lifted a project off the runway has given in to the dusty arms of old man inertia. So, anyway, I promise this is actually about something but there is a little bit of necessary back story. If you've come here for brevity then Hello Newbie and please don't let the door slam too loudly behind you on the way out.

This weekend or maybe late last week I installed Open SuSE on a spare laptop with the intent of sniggering at it and then wiping it out with something more fun and/or sexy. The thing is that I actually kind of like it which not only complicates things tremendously but gives me a whole new set of mental hobgoblins to root out and internalize. I used an old version of commercial SuSE when I bought my first gigahertz machine a couple centuries ago (SuSE 7.2 was brand new at the time if that gives any sort of rough time frame because I can't remember for the life of me) and absolutely hated it. This was a valuable experience because it taught me not to trust magazine reviews of anything and it also reminded me that just because something offers support when purchased doesn't mean that you're going to find answers to many of your questions especially when the distribution is centered entirely around a proprietary control center (yast) that convolutes every ordinarily helpful tutorial into a pin the tail on the donkey game of WWSuSED? It motivated me to abandon 'easy' (and nothing really is) for flexible and capable (Debian potato, at the time) and was probably one the best mistakes I've ever made. Coming back to SuSE after Novell laid the smackdown on the distribution being a walled city was mostly to see what had changed (preferably for the better) and to see how a recent pre-rolled kernel would handle my screwy wireless chipset.

I liked the SuSE way a whole lot more this time around probably because it was much, much less broken and that many of the limitations of yast that I found so frustrating were either absent from this version or addressed in the interface (ie. you can manually edit config files which was really what I wanted to do way back when) so I've been playing. The major addition for me was being able to add repositories of software outside the official stuff and get some of the things I really needed in order to actually use the distribution. Along the way, I downloaded Twindy because I'd never heard about it before and it was small and fast supposedly. Turns out it is the coolest fucking thing ever and closer to the minimalist approach I've always wanted than any of the almosts like Ion or any of the other managers I've flirted with on occasion.

First, look at the interface and bear in mind that this is the entire desktop:

Well, that isn't entirely true as there are a configurable number of different workspaces (the tabs at the top of the page) available and the preferences are all edited from a similar page which is pretty intuitive once you get your head around the aesthetically pleased fixed layout of each workspace. The upper and lower areas of each workspace are separate entities but the lower tends to keep an application you're likely to need available on all of the workspaces which is a bit annoying at first but turns out to be really handy when you're actually working in the environment instead of just frowning at it and wondering what all the fuss is about.

Some of the the tabs in the active workspace are actually empty remnants of taking the screenshot with The The Gimp which have to be manually dismissed. This seems like much more of a pain than it actually is because although transient windows leave zombie tabs behind when the application banishes them at very least the multi-window interface of an application like the Gimp actually operates within the environment without breaking any functionality. This is typically a problem for many of the tiling WMs as they tend to give each windows from the application its own inviolable space that is a nuisance to reclaim. Twindy makes this a much simpler bit of janitorial work to deal with -- the tab is empty? Close the tab. Poof. Done. You could theoretically have a couple dozen open applications in each workspace if you wanted to but the design works more efficiently to just switch workspaces and open the app you need there.

The really cool part about the entire project was the source of its inspiration: the workflow of an application the developer really liked and thought would be useful expanded as a multi-application environment. It's really good stuff and is based on the how tools work together rather than on plugin bling and bits and pieces of the functionality being spread out all over the interface. This makes much more sense as a desktop environment to me than the taskbar-desktop-strap-ons interface or is at least a much more cohesive environment. I wonder how other folks would fare with it but, unfortunately, it is essentially a dead project so I guess that isn't really at the top of anyone's to-do list. It does still work, however, so if you're feeling curious at all go check it out. Even if it isn't a perfect fit for you (it isn't for me either) it is still a pretty interesting experiment in cohesion and minimalism and you'll at very least enjoy messing with it.

Filed under: General, New To Me 1 Comment
24Sep/07Off

Version Is Bumped

WordPress upgrade was released a couple of hours ago. It's one of the few that I am not hesitant or worried about upgrading immediately. I did backups first because I'm not a total idiot but, yet again, I haven't seen any need for them yet. The new plugin update notifications are awesome although they don't seem to detect duplicates. I have an old version of Akismet that I've been meaning to delete for a very long time now and the plugin page just dutifully informs me that there is a newer version. I actually like that it doesn't detect duplicates as it makes futzing around for the almighty dollar a lot less frustrated when it is necessary. There aren't any other other huge changes that I noticed but I guess the more GUI editing interface is more ridiculous feature-ful in the new version. No pain here...

Filed under: General No Comments
24Sep/07Off

Disappearing And Reappearing…

Some things start all brand new and blinky-eyed, some end either silently from old age or apathy, and some others start again and hopefully last a little longer:

Burningbird is up and running again. I'm thankful for this because I like her writing on technology as much as the next geek but I missed the writing that fell somewhere between. You can get geek anywhere, just jostle the contents of any dumpster, but the crossover between technology and the real people behind it is rare and more often than not just plain annoying. The funny part about this is that I had no idea until I started pruning links off the old 'roll and clicked through the one to Shelley's site just to see what was there now. That link will stay and I'm glad for it.

On the sadder side of things, it looks like Bob is packing in Note To Myself due to hosting limitations. I'm a little sad about that as he often hit on some areas of the human/technology overlap that few others seem to. The small number who wander into those territories don't often do so with such goodnatured-ness either. Wanna move it over here Bob? I have lots of space and bandwidth. I'm completely serious, by the way...

Oh, and before anyone gets all twitchy with their 'delinked me' key: I removed a good number of links because they were pointing to sites that had either become defunct (of the 404 variety) or had expired domains picked off by the shit-I-hate embargo and needed to go bye bye. No one has annoyed me that much recently or attacked me personally or at any length for quite some time. The message: I heart the web and I don't necessarily hate you although you could click on my advertising a little more often.

Filed under: General No Comments
24Sep/07Off

Quickly! The Magic Cookie…

Apparently the boy wonder is also a script kiddie at least judging from the gibberish he's talking in the panel above. I also had no idea that he had a legal background. I thought he was a circus performer burned by criminals but that might be a story arc/parallel universe thing that I'm not getting. You have to give them credit where it is due for apparently busting spammers and SEO types at the Link Farm.

Filed under: General No Comments
23Sep/07Off

Learning Something Along The Way Should Always Be Job One

I've seen a fair number of links pointed towards this post about moving a web application from Rails back to PHP which unfortunately includes a Slashdotting in the mix. The first lesson is there: when Slashdot links to something you've written it is in your own best interest to disable comments because it is highly unlikely that anyone from there has read anything you have written. Ruby On Rails has an outspoken bunch of supporters to say the very least whether those cheerleaders originate from /. or not.

What this article is great for illustrating is that a new framework/language/doohickey is not going to address fundamental design flaws in your initial application. It just isn't and sometimes, as was the case for the author, you're going to discover that there are things about the language you started out in that you're going to miss sorely. More importantly though is that he learned a lot from the failed Rails implementation and had some important realizations:

Rails was an amazing teacher. I loved it’s “do exactly as I say” paint-by-numbers framework that taught me some great guidelines.
I love Ruby for making me really understand OOP. God, Ruby is so beautiful. I love you, Ruby.
But the main reason that any programmer learning any new language thinks the new language is SO much better than the old one is because he’s a better programmer now! You look back at your old ugly PHP code, compared to your new beautiful Ruby code, and think, “God that PHP is ugly!” But don’t forget you wrote that PHP years ago and are unfairly discriminating against it now.
It’s not the language (entirely). It’s you, dude. You’re better now. Give yourself some credit.

I love it when people have revelations like this and start divorcing the tools from the job that needs to be accomplished. If you don't have your entire emotional life tied up in this particular flavor of the month then go have a read. It's good stuff for people who have to make painful design decisions.

Filed under: General No Comments
20Sep/07Off

Because Your Privacy Matters

They're admittedly getting better at this as even the language sounds, uh, governmental.

For People With 48" Monitors and Ridiculously High Resolutions:

The circled portion of the above graphic says: Note: For security reasons we recommend that you close your browser after you finish the refund process.

20Sep/07Off

One Of Those Mysteries That Man May Never Solve

It's hard to imagine why this might happen. Mind you, the search this is based on is 'technical support.'

Filed under: General No Comments
18Sep/07Off

Zombie News Sites?

Okay, that may be the most ridiculous title I've ever attached to a post that has absolutely no sarcasm as part of the package. So, here is the deal: My old standby, All Things Zombie, hasn't posted anything since October of last year and I'm getting a little twitchy. Where does one go for zombie news that isn't either a semi-decomposing GeoCities site or a flashing banner laden slop-fest that offers little in the way of real news or interviews? I do keep a pretty close eye on the more generalized horror movie sites but they just aren't hitting enough of the stuff I'm really interested in. Suggestions gladly accepted in comments or whatever.

Filed under: General No Comments
17Sep/07Off

One Of Those Things That Makes Me Feel Really Old

I'm downloading the Gentoo installer because, as much I would like to and other folks seem to, I don't heart Sabayon as much as I initially thought which has a lot to do with a bunch of binary installs that break everything later. Fuck it. I'm installing it the brand new old fashioned way: with the install CD albeit via the new and somewhat sexy Gtk installer. Actually, when compared to the old method of installing even a Stage 3, the new stuff is a laser concentrated beam of writhing parts on the sexy scale (I may actually be talking about Cthulu here) or at least a whole lot easier.

Monitoring the download of the ISO is what really made me feel slow. It isn't a huge amount of bits to grab -- 700 MB total but I found myself fascinated that 147 MB had already downloaded what seemed like seconds after I'd started it. I'm impressed by fast connections even when they're really not that fast. It makes me think of the old Austin days when Dan and I used to hunch sullenly over his Mac Classic, eagerly awaiting the arrival of 120k of precious/pirated data. We dreamed longingly of the inevitability of an affordable 9600 baud modem and the unholy speed it would grant us. It caught up and I'm still not quite over it. You'd think I was 150 years old or something. Yeesh. Imagine how slow modems were 150 years ago.

Filed under: General 1 Comment
15Sep/07Off

Once Explained It Is No Longer Funny

I did a bunch of Photoshop work today which is aggravating when working for someone else -- I come from an offset printing background of sorts so I am absolutely anal about details. I worry most about problems that don't really exist like small point size trapping and other whimsies of tight registration manipulation that fucking WON'T look exactly the same as your shitty fiery output. Um, so, I ended up slapping together a new banner and throwing it up top. Whoopee.

The point I'm almost ready to explain is that I've been increasing the offset more recently which has brought on a slew of comments about it being decidedly off center. Yes, eagle eye, it is indeed not centered. People used to tease me about my complete disregard for the standards of CSS and how slapdash I was about everything. This needling seemed to center around the perpetually askew banner that I've plastered across the top of this site for the past five years. I kind of like this one as it looks kind of bargain basement steampunk (for something slapped together in five layers over the course of fifteen minutes) and it is making me want to actually redo the theme here. It's something I've procrastinated about for at least a year and now that the relatively inside joke is no longer simply a matter of personal amusement I don't feel like I need to keep running with it. Soon.

8Sep/07Off

With Luck I Will Not Be Eaten By A Bear

Being the unemployed loser with too many spare machines and too many hours between 'honing my resume' (the flash banner that writhed infinitely suggested I do that) before having yet another conversation that is a half step above trying to have a conversation with one of those automated switchboard 'bots (Please say the last four letters of the extension you are trying to reach. When finished hit the pound key) I did a quick install of Sabayon last night and am trying to clean up the end result tonight. The previous sentence is a work of evil.

I really like Sabayon because I really like Gentoo. Initially I even liked the total lack of installer that sort of defines Gentoo as the super cool go fast, fast, fast distribution. Like any other process that eats up the better part of two days, the third or forth time you begin to wish that when something went awry with a huge emerge that your machine would also detonate like an atom bomb and spare you the misery of fiddling around with USE flags for a while and hoping that the end result (a couple hours later) will be less catastrophic. This is really the usefulness of a meta-meta distribution. If possible I would like to avoid another manual Gentoo install but I love the way the distribution is assembled otherwise.

I installed the mini version that fits on a single CD after spending fruitless hours trying to satisfy the bottomless pit of torture that the full DVD seems to be for me. The md5sums were fine but I had spectacularly inconsistent results every single time I tried to use either anaconda or the text based installer. Sometimes the install would hang when trying to configure network cards, sometimes it would hang 'preparing the live CD environment', and sometimes I would see the installer in a language only H.P. Lovecraft could dream up and then when it seemed like progress was further along (more screens of gibberish than when anaconda was spitting out English) it would hang. After nearly giving up I decided to just download the mini CD and it flew right through the install in a matter of 20 minutes (slower machine with minimal RAM) without a single complaint.

All of that was fine, I guess. It was only after I realized that packages.gentoo.org was down as of sometime today that the despair really kicked in. Manually scrolling through the Escher-esque levels of directories that compose the portage structure I realized that I really, really dislike the ports system. I will never again complain when the Gentoo packages site lags a little or takes forever to cough up search results. I miss you dear friend. Please come back soon before my fingers are worn down to nubs after typing cd .. for the nine hundredth time in a twenty minute span. Oh, and curse you FreeBSD for making the idea of digging through a trillion directories seem like a sane way to manage software installations.

Nearly forgotten:

The full story about what the hell happened to a bunch of Gentoo services has been sitting there in the limbo of a opened and immediately forgotten tab for a long time. I'm posting here to undo that bad hoodoo.

8Sep/07Off

New Release You Can’t Really Live Without

In the midst of upgrading WordPress due to the announcement that it was a necessary security release so I'm hoping that the upgrade gods are smiling on me and this will actually post. If you didn't already know...

Filed under: General No Comments
8Sep/07Off

Slapping My Own Hand Back From The Cookie Jar

I've been reading some of the reactions to the alpha of the new version of Opera and it sounds pretty damned good. Unfortunately, I use Opera as my primary browser so I'm reluctant to fux0r up anything more than absolutely necessary.

I use Opera because it is fast, more feature-ful than most browsers on OS X, and generally more stable than most of the others. This really doesn't say much for other browsers as most are simply shit on the Mac. They're either close (like Camino which is a great browser that doesn't do all of the things I need it to) or so crazily unstable that I can't work for more than 30 minutes with everything falling apart or other applications going down in flames as a result of its monomaniacal pursuit of all available resources (uh, Firefox used to be the answer to all of those problems but now it is the perfect example of all those symptoms) and, as important as a browser is in these damnable 2.0 days, my computer needs to do things other than run a web browser.

I've found Opera to be a near perfect compromise on either side of the equation of desirability -- fast, less crashy and dependent on third party extensions while being extremely capable in terms of features which were implemented long before many of its current competitors were more than a scratch that needed itching. Tabs and mouse gestures and all of that emerged in Opera first when it was still an annoying pay or deal with the fucking ads that impacted performance and made you feel like you were using a bubble product that was ready to evaporate any second. There are a gazillion features rolled into Opera that I discover when I need something I don't think is built into the browser and start searching around.

Anyway, blah, blah, blah: I'm pretty excited about the potential for history searches. These days I'm more likely to use browser history than say bookmarking a page because my bookmarks are already a huge monstrosity without adding any things I might visit again. Searching the content is a bonus although I hope that feature is less intrusive than it sounds. I tend to lean pretty heavily on things like Quicksilver for operations like that and I'm curious how the release version will actually parse those results out on the return. Speed Dial is stupid but inobtrusive so I have no real feelings either way about it but improvement beats the shit out of a blank so I'll see if I have any use for it when the betas start rolling out. The synchronization feature is also a bonus for those of us who use Opera across multiple platforms and on a bunch of different machines. I know there are plugins for a couple of different browsers that do this but I like the fact that is baked in and presumably, at least from the reviews I've read, doesn't impact performance. All of this stuff is part of the core set of features without completely fucking up how the browser actually functions. Sounds great but, as much as it pains me, I've got to wait for at least a beta before I start mucking around with it. That is a big complement to the releases as I'm not willing to part with the same old, same old in order to gain a few goodies. I do look forward to a more stable version of the goodies, though.

Filed under: General No Comments
5Sep/07Off

A Hilarious Offer That I Can Gladly Refuse

This was posted in comments which are moderated so most of the real point of our friend the entrepreneur is lost to 2002's hottest technology but I'm going to paste the entire thing in because it's a fabulous scam and cracked me up mid-conversation with some recruiter that apparently cannot read (more .NET shit and so little patience):

Anikrichard | [email protected] | wwwwww.com | IP: 72.9.235.218

hello , my name is Richard and I know you get a lot of spammy comments ,
I can help you with this problem . I know a lot of spammers and I will ask them not to post on your site. It will reduce the volume of spam by 30-50% .In return Id like to ask you to put a link to my site on the index page of your site. The link will be small and your visitors will hardly notice it , its just done for higher rankings in search engines. Contact me icq 454528835 or write me tedirectory(at)yahoo.com , i will give you my site url and you will give me yours if you are interested. thank you

I made the email address link-y because he said he knew a lot of spammers and what I am if not a hub for networking? With any luck, he'll get a lot of business offers in the near future.

Filed under: General 1 Comment
1Sep/07Off

Don’t Panic For Me

I'm working on a redesign of this site and since I don't strap the word designer on the end of my name I'll be rolling bits and pieces out live. Anyway, things will appear broken because they are broken but I won't cry if you don't. The main reason I'm putting this up is that I tend to get strange and alarm-ed/ing email when I'm fucking around with things. Don't. Thanks.

A Fine Example Of Why Not To Announce Shit Unless You Are Actually In The Middle Of It
So, this never really happened. I could pretend that I was laboring hammer and tongs on something that never actually happened but that isn't how I really work so the grey, grey tedium is sticking around for a while or two.