Team Murder No Brain No Headache.


Preaching Atop Coffins: The Great American Pastime

I too am pretty goddamned tired of September 11th and not just on the day when everyone simultaneously turns into a weepy mourner and a bloodthirsty U!S!A! cheerleader. I'm probably also less sympathetic than the current target of ire on the topic. Although it is impossible not to empathize with the losses of people who actually lost loved ones and friends during the attack it is equally hard not to feel a scarcely restrained fury towards those who would piss on the tragedy like some kind of territorial marking ritual and hijacking it like a lobbyist maneuver to slide people closer to their side of the political spectrum. It used to be called waving the bloody shirt instead of presumed patriotic duty and now it is swallowed whole as duty to god and country as inseparable and those two things have become in the damaged American mind. Instead of becoming some kind of experience that marks a dark time in American history it has become a blanket excuse for 'fighting terrorism' which apparently comes from every direction depending on which way the money is blowing in this week.

It is also frustrating that many Americans got themselves so wrapped up in the event that they fail to remember that they did not know a single person that died in either of the successful attacks (the Pentagon isn't quite as sexy though so I forgive you for never remembering never to forget that less glamourous strike) and instead drew all of the turmoil inward with all of the emotional depth of a reaction to one of those "Hang in there!" puppies on the posters. If you're going to be devastated over the losses that others suffered you might want to consider pulling your head momentarily from the depths of your fat American ass and looking at the devastation that followed the attacks. You will be paying for the mission that wasn't accomplished for the remainder of your life and, since you're probably not a millionaire unless you had the foresight to invest in Halliburton stock, so will your children. It's fucking exhausting just to consider which I guess is why it is so appealing to simply slap more empty slogans emblazoned on magnets on cars.

So, I stopped listening. It helps me feel less doomed and less like I live in a country looking for a tar pit large enough to stagger into to make room for less ridiculous countries. Not coincidentally I will likely delete comments. I'm guessing you weren't there and your tear soaked utterances that would shame Hallmark into silence benefit no one. Fuck it. You're entitled to anger (rage even) and sadness but the endless stream of excuses for whatever insanity pops into your head is wearing me fresh out of patience. It seems like the handful of countries that make up the rest of the planet are sort of feeling that way as well.


The Plan To Spread As Thinly As Possible Is Pretty Much An Awful Plan

I can't say that I was terribly surprised to hear the mostly woeful assessment of the direction and evolution of NetBSD and this is entirely apart from the running 'BSD is dying' gag replicated in some many forums and comment sections of tech sites. I've always wondered how the hell something like NetBSD with the goal of running on as many architectures and devices as (in)humanly possible could possibly be organized. I know that work on new stable versions of Debian is often impacted by its commitment to so many different chip architectures but those folks are generally drawing on a much larger pool of people who take QA work (especially for stable) pretty damned seriously and will draw and quarter loudmouths who don't even out their complaint-to-lines-of-working-code ratio by providing patches, albeit some of them incomplete or just plain wrong, in attempts to rectify the problem that vexes them.

The system of organization does seem like a disaster waiting to happen as it does afford far too much time in the limelight to those who complain the most and not nearly enough to those who fix broken shit. If you're not giving top priority to pounding showstopper bugs flat they you're definitely doing something wrong. Decentralizing the control of the project seems like a good first step as placing more responsibility in the hands of the people actually coding the project will relieve a good deal of the tension. Having the hands of those who don't have a clue about what they're doing meddling around in your code is incredibly frustrating and even more so when that meddling is done through organizational tomfoolery instead of line edits to bases of code.

Another thing that sounds worrisome to me (and I probably need to state right here for those who don't know me that I have very little insight into how NetBSD works organizationally other than the things on the mailing lists and other places that I've read over the past couple of days) is the dependence on bringing in features from the other BSD projects without solving essential problems in their own bases. If you're a NetBSD user then the lack of sane threading and/or journaling in the filesystems should scare the hell out of you. The other problem with these sort of infrastructure shortcomings is that it makes the existing base of code much less appealing for the purposes of forks and side projects. If it's internally that broken then for folks outside the specifics of the project it might be easier to build on something that does sanely implement the aforementioned features which seem less like features now and more like something essential that is all but taken for granted in other operating systems. Proper threading is hardly optional at this point.

I think his examination of the leadership question is also worth considering as he brings up good points about how Linux is organized. The idea of limiting the "locking" to really important parts of a given project like the kernel that all others more or less depend on (the Ur-dependency) to a dedicated and competent team of developers is great but it should ideally work in conjunction with a more loose structure for more loosely related applications and associated pieces of code. There is nothing revolutionary about this as most of the larger and more established Linux distributions already practice variations on this pretty logical theme. It is kind of amazing that a project could flounder and stagnate for so long with models like these on the rise all the time. All of that said, I really hope that people take heed of the warning as it would be sad to see one of the BSDs just disappear due to bad organization and lack of leadership. The real question I guess is whether something like NetBSD is sexy enough to attract new blood?


Contractual Obligation May Be The Killer App

Things have been busy at my workplace so I have not had the time to do much messing around on the web but there have been a couple things that have caught my eye over the past few days. One of them was the My Dream App competition which seemed like the worst idea ever for any number of reasons. My objections or more like 'aspects that make me wince empathetically in anticipation of pain and suffering' mainly have to do with the idea of having someone perhaps on intellectual par with your average marketeer come up with the magical idea for a magical application and then paying a handful of developers to make this idea into real, working software. It sounds wonderful but so do Horatio Alger rags-to-riches stories until you consider the likelihood that the man had himself had some sexual interest in the boy heroes of his stories and then the shit just gets creepy.

Of course my summary of perceptions is clogged with bitterness and a little anemic on real solid criticism other than my usual mission in life further spreading the unconfirmed rumor that Horatio Alger was a child molester or at least pedophile. Lucky for me some of the sharper knives in the drawer immediately saw most of the potential problems with an arrangement like My Dream App and have written them down and expanded on them to the benefit of news skimmers with serious time deficits like myself. I didn't realize earlier that the developers saddled with the task of bringing half baked ideas to life in code pounded out by people hoping to garner some reputation for doing such. Jesus. What an awful fucking idea. I'm sort of glad that I missed that aspect of the process on the first go-round because it sounds like not only the aforementioned worst idea in the history of software development but a fabulous opportunity for those poor bastard developers to get a bad case of burnout trying to craft feasible code out of fucking pipe dreams. Perhaps they could add a crippling RSI or early bout with alcoholism clause to the contracts as well just to perfect the insanity. Oh, and there is the 'no money' thing. That definitely adds to the 'huh' factor of this project. Go read the post on the Red Sweater Blog. Really.

Another aspect of the idea that is tackled pretty agilely in the post is the relative worth of ideas versus concrete implementations that you can actually do something with. I agree that conceptualizations especially by those entirely unfamiliar with the process of writing something larger than hello world are pretty much worthless. I would guess that a large percentage of the jokes thrown around my workplace by the exhausted and frustrated in response to user stupidity and unwillingness to learn anything new (whew!) would likely be a more likely candidate for actual implementation than some cool sounding ideas tossed around by casual users. Casual users have difficulty simply using the features in existing applications much less those dreamed up by someone charged with the task of transmuting those half-assed wishes into cold hard code. I too wish these developers a lot of luck because they're going to need it.


Might Be Signing Off For The Week

Today marks the first day of the really busy time of year at my work which is internally referred to as 'peak' but that just makes me feel like I work at a fucking ski resort or something so forgive me if I never refer to it again. Apparently this is going to kill us and let god sort us out so I'm unsure if I will be posting much of anything for the next bunch of weekdays. The hysteria implemented by management types as a productivity boosting tool might be just that, 'hype', but I'm prepared for the worst because that is what I've come to expect working here. Ever the optimist, I guess.


Because ‘Bots That Fake Their Agent String Are The Most Reliable Way To Gauge Market Share Especially If The Goal Of Your Research Is To Please The Right Corporation

Well, what do you know? The new OneStat results are in and XP is still winning the bogus agent string lottery. It's amazing that a company could even try to sell this sort of bobbing for research as anything remotely relevant since a huge amount of traffic to any given site is not human and will identify itself as whatever the author thinks you want to hear. Wonderful. I'm sure this keeps research consultants from starving to death in the streets or something.


Do People Really Want Debian To Be Ubuntu?

As more time goes on and the encrustation of hype grows even more thick and impenetrable around Ubuntu I find it more and more difficult to gauge what people are really thinking about the wholesale incorporation of Debian into Ubuntu. OS News linked to a a weblog post that considers a lot of these points which is fine and great but the creepy part is that the Ubuntu folks (and by that I mean users and not the developers) should be thinking about the relationship between the two a bit more seriously and thinking about the friction between them before Ubuntu, as it inevitably will, becomes a commercial or otherwise non-free entity.

At this point I really wish Ubuntu would become a commercial product with some more really stupid marketing and a prohibitively high price tag if only to spare the Debian developers more grief and the incessant whining about including closed drivers and the like into the main tree despite the fact that the Debian Social Contract says that Debian won't do that. That social contract so often kicked around and made fun of by new converts in various forums is going to become more important if and when Ubuntu is commercialized.

The beneficial part about Debian (as a project) being a relatively closed (from the user perspective: expecting to land on the web site and be greeted with marketing materials) environment that pays little attention to public perception of it is that they're more concerned with actually assembling software into a flexible whole that isn't assembled for a specific purpose (like the desktop) or a particular architecture. Whether or not you can play Flash games with an out of the box (oh lord, what a misnomer that is) is immaterial to the direction in Debian development and when x distribution changes licensing or folds or just starts making stupid design decisions you will be glad that Debian operates in such a strict manner and at a seemingly glacial pace. Why? Because the next flavor of the month Debian-derived distribution will be out and trying to conquer the world with icons and new, improved wallpapers before you can wear out the Cafepress t-shirt you bought to show off your allegiance. I've (too) often harped on the popularity of Debian derivatives draining resources from the main project but that is personal crankiness as the project makes it ridiculously easy to do exactly that and doesn't compete with the new jacks by selling, well, anything.


Evil Genius Monday

Whichever satanic emissary it is that actually plans and schedules the city and regional bus clearly has it in for me. Monday is one of the few days that I really cannot deal with things being late or even terribly off schedule. The bus, the one that delivers me daily to my job where minutes are counted up like magical beans, is consistently late on Monday. This means that no matter how carefully I plan and try to budget my time I am going to be late for the first day of the week. It is insidious and utterly effective for shrugging off whatever relaxation the weekend may have imparted on me and shuttling me right back into the frayed nerve week that I was just shot out the other end of.

What makes this insane plan more effective is that there is a bus running the same route that leaves ten minutes later than the one I usually ride. My bus today left exactly one minute before the second bus is scheduled to leave. What this means is that I get on a bus which will deliver me to a corner stop a block away from my work about a minute before I am due there and the bus which drops us a scant few minutes before the next is due to arrive will be jam packed with the people facing the same dilemma as I do. Fucking genius.


More Mail Disasters…

I've switched all of my mail accounts around with vague hope of actually receiving mail when it's sent to me. I know that is an idealized and lofty goal but I'm going to take my dream of having something that I pay for work the way it's supposed to and run with it. Actually, that is a total lie as I just moved all accounts to a completely different configuration of forwarding and redirection.

One of the guys I work with mentioned that he's heard many complaints about the mail service Speakeasy offers where clients and the mail sitting on the server 'get out of sync' (I have no fucking idea what that means in terms of POP3 accounts) and more drastic action has to be taken. This drastic action that I speak of consists of logging in to the web mail system and painfully deleting thousands of pieces of mail. The great part about this is that if you actually have a mail client open while doing this you can still see mail flowing into your local inbox. I think the protocol the server uses is 'magic' or 'reallyComplicated3' or possibly just 'brokenSSL.' So, I switched all of my accounts to forwarding to Gmail where I have a larger quota (bad) and there don't seem to be the same kind of issues with clients (either Apple's or Thunderbird) where either the server or client is telling lies (bad). The good part is that it has actually inspired me to open a help ticket at the Speakeasy support page when I have done a little research into the matter, namely to figure out where the disconnect between client and server is happening.

Again, if you've sent me some mail that requires response and you haven't heard back from me please give it another shot. Now that I know this is not going to be a one time mail snafu I shouldn't see these sorts of issues again and readily look forward to new problems that will make me swear off email for the foreseeable future. I should probably mention that Speakeasy is in every other aspect a fantastic if expensive ISP. I've heard back on every issue that I've ever raised in minutes rather than hours.


If You’re Going To Sell Things Understand The Fucking Licensing…

I have not been digging the response to Mepis is dealing with GPL compliance and most of the response that I've seen (albeit from users not developers who would likely advocate the implementation of Soylent Green if it was, you know, convenient) has been pretty fucking annoying.

I'm sure that if I was all hung up on this particular variant of the Debian-base distribution I might be equally supportive against all common sense since there are so few distributions based on Debian and after the complete and utter failure of both Knoppix or Ubuntu to pique the public interest who could blame them.

The difference between people who simply use GPL'd software and those who distribute it is a pretty fundamental difference in licensing terms. If you are repackaging (and that really is not the right term in this instance but bear with me) and then selling that repackaged distribution you might want to consider actually reading and understanding the terms of the license that the software falls under. If the license in question were some EULA laden with legalese and intended to keep you from actually owning or being able to modify the software I might be more sympathetic but I'm not. Follow the license or don't use the stuff. Hell, I'm sure the Mepis crew could probably replace gcc in a couple hours, right?


Why I Left And Probably Should Have Left Sooner

I decided to unsubscribe from three podcasts today for causing me to waste time. What I'm talking about specifically is the inclusion of music in what should otherwise be purely tech news and opinion. I do actually subscribe to a couple of music 'casts because they're a little more granular than tech podcasters who find something funny or 'interesting' and plaster it along with three others into what could be a 20 minute cast. Jesus. I'm not going to mention any names because generally the folks responsible have good intentions. The bad bar rock should probably stay at bars though.


Food Poisoning Is Among The List Of My Least Favorite Things

It's been a really long time since I ate something that messed up my digestive tract quite as badly as what happened late last night and early this morning. The idea of eating anything other than tortilla chips (oddly enough) still makes my stomach feel all swimmy. The bad part is that I actually had to cash in a sick day on being sick. I don't know that I've actually done that ever before -- been sick on a sick day. I avoided computers for most of the day as well since the radiant heat made me feel worse.

Luckily as I sat there considering my tortilla chips and wondering if they were going to turn on me once ingested the mail arrived and I finally laid eyes on Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children which I enjoyed tremendously despite it being a cheesy video game derived anime. What it made me aware of pretty quickly is that no video game will worm its way into my heart quite the way that FFVII did. Since then I've never looked forward to playing every minute of a game (other than the continual attacks that were parodied viciously in Kingdom of Loathing) and been so drawn in to the story line. Yeah, yeah saving the planet gets to be pretty tedious by the end of the game but most of the other aspects were thoroughly engrossing. At the time I had absolutely no internet connection, a 19 inch Curtis Mathes television set rescued from the recesses of someone's attic, and more time than I was accustomed to it being my first semester of returning to college so this game still leaves me with a quasi-religious feeling about it. The bonus material is totally hilarious as it just features scenes from the game with the omnipresent dialog boxes popping up and being translated into English in subtitles. I'd forgotten how much I missed the terrible cartoonish graphics and over abundant dialog that often made no sense after translation.

The absurdity of strong waves of nostalgia being triggered by a video game does not escape me.


A Less Babbling Aside About Mail

This is just a note to let everyone know that I've managed to completely destroy most of my mail. I've still got archives for the more creaky and dusty past but if you mailed me in the last five days or so it is pretty unlikely that I received it. Ironically, I answered a whole bunch of mail right before everything went loopy so I'm sure of your replies got sucked into the phantom zone. If you've got copies in sent mail please ship 'em out again. I'm not going to fuck with mail configuration for a long, long time. Unfortunately my new job is the antithesis of an environment where you can concentrate on a task for more than a couple of minutes. I've made a whole lot of mistakes recently. My apologies for wasting time that doesn't belong to me.


Why Do Journalists Feign Such Ignorance?

It's weird because it seems like a whole lot of hot air is being blown in fifty different directions about data breaches from large organizations via mobile devices most notably laptops and removable storage. Wired has a very superficial look at it that really bothers me. What is frustrating about this sort of sensationalist crap is that the term 'laziness' is bandied around like the desire to work on things away from your crappy cubical in your crappy office where no one will ever shut up for ten seconds to let you actually complete a thought is some kind of conscious effort to shirk the restrictions of data security and dance naked through Dobie Gillis-land handing out social security numbers and home addresses instead of just trying to get shit done. Maybe it's my own experience with being unable to get anything done that doesn't involve whatever popped up on Digg lately that makes me more sympathetic to folks who have been caught up in these sorts of scandals.

One of the most troublesome aspects of cases like this is that more often than not the companies/organizations in question have no secure method for their workers to access confidential information. Lots of places throw out the VPN option and then just pardon themselves from further considering the question. Secure access sucks in almost every organization and making it workable seems to be the very least of things concerning those waving their hands and making grumbling 'Uh-oh's at the situations. To be really blunt, people are going to take work away from their place of work. That is pretty much a given unless you're some CIA spook or something. Upper management types are going to encourage and/or lie about this sort of information leaving an agency because they're more concerned with getting a few more hours of work out of their data mungers than what might happen to the information should they feed it after midnight.

I think some of the ideas in the article are pretty solid thinking but the problem with all of it is that it is just thinking. Encryption is pretty readily broken and doesn't matter a bit if the files are unencrypted or the machine (assuming that, to do along with the image of the worker drone working on reports somewhere without network connectivity, these are Windows machines we're talking about here) isn't locked when not in use. Plain text files is plain text files. In that particular can of worms also lies another problem: if all of this stuff is centralized and kept under the watchful eye (again, where are my goddamned sarcasm tags) of IT security then where are the worker drones accessing it from? Wirelessly in a coffee place? Sounds really fabulous and great. Their own wireless network at home running on a commodity router with no security? Fucked yet again. The whole thing is largely another disaster (with more expense and training this time) waiting to happen.

All of this said and in far too many words, the laziness is really on the part of sites like Wired splashing a little ink over the problem without really exploring what a complex problem it is. I guess those quotes are good enough without any context at all? I sound like a right wing nutcase (first, we kill all of the journalists) but this sort of half assing is pretty annoying regardless of the source.


Failure Is The Strategy Of The Day

After continuously reading about WGA again and again it's become pretty obvious that MSFT is insane. Read the comments attached to the story and becomes obvious that even if a fair number of the folks leaving them are cranks there are also a bunch of folks who will eventually either be harassed or intimidated into buying new licenses even though they've got a legitimate OEM copy. The dial up issue is especially annoying as people in countries where net access is doled out in minutes are going to eventually install one of the cracks and be done with it. Paying for MSFT to check in each and every time you login to a machine is not a reasonable expectation. This is made especially ironic by the fact that a good number of the people that have written complaints about the issue were actually trying to the "right" thing by installing the piece of shit to begin with.

The worst part is that all this piece of software really does is open MSFT to yet another lawsuit and this one from angry consumers who've actually purchased the OS instead of legislative moves from states or countries. I can just imagine the people who've tried and failed to resolve this problem installing the patches and feeling justified being 'pirates' for the first time. It just keeps getting worse and worse. If you've actually got investments in MSFT now might be a time to pull that money out. When was the last time you saw a dividend anyhow?


The Most Recent Mail-Pocalypse

Yesterday I had to temporarily blackhole all mail to this domain. The spam and its resulting bounces were completely out of control and I was seeing something like 1500 pieces of mail blown out of a fire hose at my mail account per hour. I know this isn't impressive for most people but it got even worse towards the end of the day. After about the twentieth notification that I was nearing the quota cut off point I finally just started flushing everything down the toilet of /dev/null. I thought it would eventually freak me out but I was more relieved than anything. Email fucking blows as both a method of communication and as an ecosystem. I also switched all of my accounts from IMAP to POP again after swearing more than once that I would never go back down that 'lost all my shit' road again.
Thunderbird also ate shit after a few hundred rounds of trying to battle the spam/bounce influx in IMAP mode. It remained broken when I switched everything to POP and didn't want to build new accounts correctly. I sat and stared at the rubble for a little while and then fired up the Apple I like it a lot more now that I did in early versions. Its speed has improved tremendously since the last time I used it and the integration with Spotlight is actually pretty handy. I don't know how long I'll stick with it but it's a nice stopgap measure for the short term. I have no idea if there were recent vast improvements because I didn't fire the application up until after I'd successfully installed all of the recent (10.4.7) upgrades. I have no idea.

So, I deleted around 30,000 pieces of mail yesterday without looking at any of it. If you sent me anything important then please do it again. I was able to save most of my address book from Thunderbird so almost everyone I mail regularly shouldn't get arbitrarily filtered but keep that in mind if you don't hear from me for a couple of days.


Yeah, But The GUI Changed

Ooops. It looks like WinFS, the only really compelling thing that a next gen Windows really had to offer other than to video card manufacturers, is permanently playing possum. This should not surprise anyone but it is a little disappointing since I have to support this shit day in and day out. I was really hoping for one less broken aspect to the operating system and had dreams of a halfway robust file system but as is nearly always the case with MSFT this was largely marketing in the Longhorn days. Instead you'll get a bloated interface that costs more than the hardware you bought to run it on. Jesus. The comments attached to the post are more brutal and specific than I could ever get as someone who is more accustomed to fixing broken Windows machines than fixing them so go read those.

Update, I guess

I've been reading a little more about what other people think about this announcement and I'm not sure that the abolition of WinFS from the operating system is quite as apocalyptic as I first thought. Tim Bray said his piece about it and some of the links he included in his post were pretty informative. It seems like a lot of folks are pretty happy that NTFS is going to stay whether they've weathered the storm of the transition with Windows 2000 or whether they're working on FOSS software that needs to place nice with NTFS. I'd entirely forgotten about the much hyped Cairo project which is probably the point here. Announce the vaporware, kill the vaporware and endure the small bit of outrage, and then announce the next batch of marketing bullshit new technology that will never make it into production and people will just keep forgetting.


To Mediocrity! And Beyond!

I just realized that it's now June and the four year anniversary came and went without even having to pretend that this span is somehow meaningful or something more pretentious than that if that is indeed possible. Michelle Jones just celebrated her fourth year of doing much cooler things. I'm excited that other people are feeling inspired instead of just, you know, tired.


High Adventure

The above is a simple reminder to those close to me (ahem, ahem) who tend to take expiration, or in this case 'buy by', dates a little too seriously. Right now it is May 29 by a couple of minutes. I hate summer and I love bread. Fucking climates...

I also fired up iTunes for the second time since I've owned this laptop. I've never been a fan so I decided that I should give it a fair(er) shake since I've put my money down and at least in part bought into the whole digital lifestyle shuck. Part of my distaste has to do with a general distaste for music players in the general sense. I don't like that each player has its way and all other ways must stand aside to make way for yet another crappily specific implementation of the playlist. iTunes still has some irritating habits that haven't changed since the very first time I used it in the grim 10.0 days when fucking everything was either broken, slow, or a combination of the two. One thing that drives me absolutely batshit and remarkably is one of the few holdovers from the general save me from my own potentially bad decisions design decisions that make what is intended as a consumer driven easy to use application an exercise in frustration that will drive me back to Linux full time pretty damn quickly. I converted a whole bunch of files from mp3 to aac to see what the fuss was about and was impressed at the smaller file size without any audible loss in sound quality. I'll chalk that in as a point in Apple's column for the moment. This is all happy, shiny, icon-bouncing-in-the-goddamned-dock-even-though-I-ordered- it-not-to-like-ever experience but the exercise in frustration and time flushed down the toilet like that shit is supplied in quantities approaching infinite comes when you start deleting the mp3s you converted from. This must be done item by item if you're stupid enough to try to do this through the iTunes interface (I did this a total of two times before the hysterical laughter I associate with minutes of my life I've wasted and am not getting back in tax refund dollars or any other way took hold) and how do you actually get the missing files which iTunes keeps around faithfully just in case you need a memento of those nonexistent files out of your playlist is also a line by line item that you can't circumvent by switching to the Finder (yeah, yeah, I'm sure that items can be blown out of the main playlist through a more sane route but tell me that after I've finished venting) and simply dumping what needs to be dumped. I've used amaroK extensively and although it comes with all the usual size associated with KDE the application seems more apt at doing your bidding than iTunes. I'm not exactly sure what my point really is here other than the typical struggling with the hostility of things engineered to be 'user friendly' towards actually getting things accomplished.

On the other hand, I've completely destroyed the included install of Apache without even trying. I'm going to mess with the config files a bit but it's kind of startling that it broke after being started twice. For some reason permissions were changed on one of the ssl modules and I'm out of patience ahead of time so I'll have to go looking for it tomorrow after Yoon and I celebrate being married for two years. I doubt I'll be in the mood for it and will instead be happy. That is okay with me.


Will Work For Toast

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.


Bad Ends And What Else Is New

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.


There Is Nothing Easy Or Friendly About Any Of This

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.


Tricking You Into Feeling Like You’re An Active And Vital Part Of The Pet Rock Community Is Job One

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 Web2.0 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.


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.'


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.


The Curse Of Success

The memory hogging cache feature in Firefox has been in the back of my mind for the last couple of days simmering and making me wonder exactly what the future holds for Firefox and the current fascination for many folks with it. I've been using this browser since it was called Phoenix and ran out of a subdirectory of my home directory and did not get along with its older brother at all. That said, I find myself disabling an increasing number of things in about:config with each new release as it seems that the disturbing road Firefox is following is something akin to the really dumb decisions that Galeon developers made about the direction their browser was taking way back when. In the case of Galeon, as much as their chowder-headed-ness grieves me as I really loved that browser when it was still human configurable and would do exactly what I wanted it to, I am willing to give them a slight break as the entire Gnome desktop environment has shifted into cater exclusively to the day one user and no one else mode.

The thing that concerns me more than anything else is the perception that nascent adopters might have of Firefox when they have a couple of tabs open and the browser starts chewing through memory like a rabid badger and crashes. People who develop Firefox have recently voiced similar concerns about the possibilities that extensions might cause the same sort of negative opinion about the browser as they frequently cause instabilities and memory leaks of their own. The crucial difference here is that extensions are a separate piece of the browser and although they may be bundled with specific versions of Firefox (think of the allegedly user-friendly Linux distributions if you need a concrete example of this idea at work) they aren't an included part of the core application that is enabled by default in every single instance of the browser out there.

Making this setting default is a terrible fucking idea and every time that a user with a substandard amount of ram or some other constraint invisible to developers has a terrible experience with the browser that terribleness spreads outward in terms of expectations and the general public idea of how well the software functions. In that case, I would much rather see the slight increase in page load time than the browser crashing or, as far too often happens with Windows, the browser making the OS get freezy or crash. I know a little about the mysterious workings of browsers (again, I'm really wishing for the implementation of the sarcasm tag in HTML here) so I can simply disable "features" that cause instability or the rampant consumption of available memory. That really doesn't matter though since the interest of FF developers has more to do with new adopters looking for an alternative to the horrors of IE. Crashing doesn't give them much of an alternative. Using sketchy default configurations isn't wise especially since the rise in Firefox usage has a lot to do with people having good experiences with an alternative browser and the novelty of using a browser that isn't the default installed with their operating system. That lead is very fucking easy to lose. For me, it doesn't matter. If the current direction of the project continues to delve into territories of unreliability I'll just switch to something else but for many that simply means going back to the comfortable familiarity of IE. It would be a shame to see all of the advocacy efforts done on behalf to be wasted. IE7 is allegedly a much closer competitor. Take heed and don't fuck this up.



Nothing interesting to report here but there are a few petty annoyances that have stacked up over the past couple of days that I thought I might write a little about and clear my thought processes for really important things like video games and reading David Moody's Autumn novels instead.

Kottke got all cranky about an article written about the atrocious design/style of various very popular and otherwise useful websites. I basically agree with Andy Rutledge's assessment (apart from the quibbling over terminology that seems the true root of the objections mentioned by the sensitive purveyor above) of the sites he's talking about and his idea that many things succeed despite bad design instead of that utilitarian-as-aesthetic laziness being an essential ingredient. Google is ugly but no one actually looks at the presentation. I can't remember the last time I actually loaded directly into a browser as I use the baked in search box in Firefox to go directly to results. I miss the seasonal logos but, again, I see that as more of an unexpected bonus than essential content that I'm missing out on.

The weird part is that his entire rant (as he terms it here in an apology for sorts which is odd since the magazine is more at fault for their editorial choices than he is for what he posts to his weblog) is an offhanded compliment to the many very popular eyesores that people subject themselves to by choice and that bad simple design is a better error than the endlessly convoluted and nearly baroque bad design you commonly see on worthless portfolio sites (possibly the GeoCities 'home page' of this decade). Part of me is always going to feel that the term 'design' will never overcome the dilution and endless stretching like taffy that it got in the early 1990's by every dipshit in the world with a pirated copy of Pagemaker who worked as a print designer by slopping ovals around text and gouging innocent eyes with the overuse of gradients. I'll grant that as a former printer who had to actually make this brand of brokenness run through a printing press I have an entirely jaundiced eye that doesn't take kindly to high-horseplay and will personally travel to fatten the lip of anyone who preaches the design gospel and knows nothing about trapping or registration marks or not using six point serif text knocked out a band of solid black or doesn't know that a metallic color without white space around it is going to look like brown or grey no matter how much of your trust fund and color theory you throw at it. I'm glad that people full of terribly ideas of how things should function are drinking the simplicity KoolAid these days because, at very least, the things they're responsible for will have a gut level of functionality. I'm a broken person that requires insulin injections simply to get accumulated sugar out of my blood before it kills me. I'm willing to do that in order to continue to live but when it comes to a web site... I can say that in addition to things like 'suckass' because I'm not selling you anything much less the illusion that I am some kind of professional that you should give your money to for my compiled lists of links and whatnot.

I've also been attempting to field some rather strange criticisms of my old band Midcentury via our MySpace page. There are still some songs up there and blah blah blah. The smack talking had to do with our CD and my allegedly elitist methodology for its distribution. The strange part here is that the CD was never an official release or anything; it has no packaging and isn't manufactured. I made copies of it to give away at shows to anyone who asked. We never played outside of Denver and only played a double handful of shows in any case. All of the songs are licensed under a Creative Commons license so you can rip mp3s of those songs and do whatever the fuck you want with them other than something that involves money changing hands. I obviously still have the songs so if you're all weird and obsessive about bands that no one else on the planet cares about leave a comment attached here and I will gladly send you a CDR for the cost of postage. Yeesh. Is that shiny, happy, and inclusive enough? Maybe I could burn a hug and/or support group on an additional CD or do you think you could just get over the idea that a group of people who sometimes play musical instruments don't think about past formations a year after they've ceased to be?


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.


Request For Sympathy More Than Anything I Guess

MySQL decided to permanently check out from my work machine yesterday and I had a whiz bang of a time trying to figure out why or what caused it to fail so oddly and spectacularly for no apparent reason. I didn't realize until I'd been fiddling with it for nearly an hour that I hadn't actually used MySQL for anything in at least a month. The all important user table was plain old empty and for some reason I could log in as the root user without a password but had no other privileges other than connecting to the server. Has anyone else seen this happen lately? Just curious because, for once, I'd love to think that it wasn't something stupid that I did.