Team Murder No Brain No Headache.


No Pain, No Gain?

All class, these folks


Futzing With Themes

I'm messing with the look of the site for the first time in a couple of years. Brokeness will ensue I'm sure.


OS X Monodevelop

Damn. How did I miss this. Monodevelop download. This means, in theory, that I can work on projects (still not talking about it) without switching from the MBP to the Oscar-damaged Linux laptop. This is a clear lesson about the value of being fairly oblivious and how it can cause delayed happiness. Wooooo.

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Birth of a Fascist

Today was a terrible day for getting anything done. Most of the (granted, this is MSFT software we're talking about here) infrastructure that I'm supposed to keep running or at least afloat managed to be broken by outside forces that I do not have direct control over. The whole experience, from the here and now perspective, is making me want to lock my network down to the point where people can just barely get the absolutely necessary accomplished. This is what creates new BOFHs. I've resisted for a long, long time but this day where the torrent of error emails carved my iPhone 4 down to 60% battery life by mid-day without making any phone calls may just be the final shove that I've needed to slough off this facade of niceness or cooperation and just run the network like a train system or something. Damn it. The trains will run on time.

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Domain Consolidation

Lifehacker posted a question about the best domain registrar which reminded me that I have a whole bunch of domains registered with GoDaddy and I fucking hate GoDaddy. This domain was actually registered eons ago with Dotster which was the default registrar for the amazing PureNRG folks (I don't endorse them for the purpose of being paid. They're just awesome but I outgrew them pretty quickly mainly in the bandwidth department) so I've decided to consolidate them all onto a single registrar. I've heard stellar things about 1 and 1 (including a bunch of laudatory stuff in the post mentioned above) so I decided to move everything on over since it was inexpensive and didn't rely on boobs splashed all over the index to market what is essentially a pretty simple service and doesn't (as far as I know) have an outspoken right-wing douche at the helm.

The purpose of this post is to remind myself how to transfer domains away from GoDaddy:

  1. Unlock the domain.
  2. Machete your way through one of the worst administrative interfaces on the planet to get your authorization code.
  3. Sleep better knowing you're a little bit less of lazy bastard and throwing money at businesses who you feel guilty being associated with.


Now That The ‘I Voted’ Stickers Have Settled At The Bottom of the Hamper

We made it out relatively unscathed in Colorado. Hickenlooper will more than likely be a decent governer and Bennet has not been replaced by that Buck wingnut. We lost a couple here and there but they were largely in districts that are traditionally pretty deep red and given the reactionary tendencies of rural folks this shouldn't come as a total surprise to anyone. Betsy Markey being ousted was a little surprising but I think that has more to do with the party affiliation than performance during time in office. Disappointing but fairly typical. Oh well, it looks like the apocalypse has been deflected for yet another election cycle.

The national picture is less happy but I can live with Republicans only being in control of part of Congress. At least with partial control they cannot persist with the run the ship aground strategy they've employed since Obama took office. It's small comfort but it beats the shit out of the alternative. I'm also a little disgusted that my least favorite orange guy, John Boner, will be shooting his mouth off that much more but I'm hoping that a less polarized (now there is an optimistic term, eh?) Congress will give him less opportunity to talk shit and then recede into the shadows until he can opportunistically jump on every negative event and claim that his party would've done things differently had the Socialists not been in power. Hopefully Boner can tie his own noose.

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Ebooks, Pragmatism, and User Generated Hysteria

I'm a really big fan of my Kindle. I've actually procrastinated about reading many books that I've highly anticipated reading because they're still dead tree edition only or priced exactly the same in either paper or electronic edition. The upside is that I'm also reading a huge number of classic books in free editions in quite the same way that I'm accustomed to from back in the PDA days. I don't miss those days much but I did really dig being able to carry around my entire reading list in a searchable format where I could very quickly and easily dig out precise quotations when necessary and didn't destroy my spinal column in the process. Unlike the old and rather pricey PDAs, I seldom need to charge my Kindle (as long as I remember to disable wireless connectivity when I'm finished downloading new material) and hardly even think of it as a distinct electronic device anymore. Now it's just a white plastic slab that words come out of. I probably do more actual reading now than I've ever done before if only because I'm spending much less of the time my attention will allow tracking down the books I'm reading, figuring out what page I left off reading on after losing yet another fucking bookmark, and figuring out what the hell I did with the sheet of paper I typically keep in books with my notes because I hate re-reading marked up books.

I've been mulling over, coming back to, and re-reading this article in Prospect Magazine today because it actually engages authors who do not necessarily have religious attachments to the format their material inhabits as long as their skills still pay the bills. It's generally an engaging read especially Don DeLillo's extracted bits at the end -- they're taken from a speech but I wouldn't have seen them otherwise.

One thing that seems fairly consistent about the larger criticism of explosive electronic book growth is the loss of publishing intermediaries as ad hoc quality control. Part of me understands this immediately when I look at listings in Amazon's Kindle store where huge numbers of titles are just there in every category and indistinguishable when one has not yet been reviewed by either an Amazon customer or lifted from another publication or website. You could conceivably buy a book based entirely on its title without knowing any information about it other than title, author, and price. There isn't a spine with a publishing house mark to separate those who have braved the manuscript hawking from the great unwashed who simply wrote and published. This is understandably upsetting to those who rely greatly on the merits of manuscript pimping and press releases/review copies to validate their output.

I'm thinking that what scares publishers and traditional authors more than anything else isn't a great flood of amateurs flooding the already submerged marketplace but the idea of actually having the marketplace opened up for anyone and being forced to adapt their own models for that changed environment. I mean, face it, best selling books are largely utter shit -- well handled genre fiction that might as well be delivered via trough. The operative difference here is that the branded slop has been vetted by an external organization that thinks the book will make money. This is a reductionist way of looking at it and taken mainly because I think its funny but the reverse is most certainly true. The traditional publishing industry and its constituency would like to reduce the tension to the published and unpublished, retain the hardcover price, and forget the whole thing ever happened.

It seems like the folks who are reacting to the rise of the ebook format are doing so preemptively. Has this made some radical change in the way the book industry functions? Did this suddenly make Americans seek Tom Clancy and John Grisham instead of writing by people capable of not pooping out link after link of a chain of formulaic and episodic bullshit. I don't think so anymore than the 80's power combo of frat boy comedy and slasher flicks destroyed film production. One segment ate up a huge amount of expendable cash and the intensely ADHD generic public interest. That generalized interest doesn't radically change even in response to genuinely cool things but like a teenager in the 80s listens to the same cassingle of the same overplayed radio hit that composes their entire esthetic palate until they've burned out their sensitivity to it entirely puts it down and moves tepidly onto something else to overuse. The seemingly inevitable response from the powers that film was to either imitate (which typically and quickly sates the public desire for more of the same posthaste please) or adapts by miraculously whipping up another bland but at least novel new flavor of the month to seduce the generic public attention away from the twisted wreckage of what was the height of cool mere days ago. If you buy my line of thinking (and good on you if you don't) then there is a sort of symbiosis between the easily entertained and the hardly entertaining that is necessary for bestseller lists to even exist.

I think DeLillo's quoted questions at the end of the article are spot on. I hope I'm understanding his hints correctly but it seems like a shrug towards the medium more than anything else. He doesn't seem to fear or resent it as many of the others quoted do but (kinda have to remember here that Don is like 10000 years old) is simply waiting around to see what happens because what he really does isn't completely married to the format either. I think that is one of the reasons that I will read and (sometimes grudgingly) respect the stuff DeLillo creates. He takes some risks and even the worst of them and the least likely to make a room full of people absently high five one another is still light years ahead of teenage vampire Mormon love stories. At the same time, he used a novella (Pafko at the Wall) as the introduction to his best (in my not-so-humble opinion) novels and then later republished it as a separate book, as hardcover even. The motherfucker adapts and you should imitate that willingness to keep writing and adapt more than you should concentrate on aping the style and structure of White Noise (his worst, in my fervently disagreed with opinion) when sitting down at the keyboard all clueless and scared.


Where I Hope To End Up Going Eventually

Again, I've been away from this particular channel for an unacceptable number of months. I say unacceptable because although I'm busy being a parent and running an IT department I feel like I've bypassed writing about a number of things I've thought were either important or worth sharing simply because I've gotten rather lazy about doing anything here. I've announced this site either dead or sleeping so many times that doing so again would just make me feel stupid. Eight years after the first post that would be more annoying than anything and I'm much happier being directly annoying than through some sneaky and underhanded measure.

Point one: I'm entertaining job offers again. It dawned on me (mainly due to unrelenting harassment from a seemingly endless number of recruiters) that my current job is another case study in underpayment for services rendered and unbelievable scope creep (this in the sense that I spend more time dealing with budget concerns and phone bills than anything else) and that I should probably move on. That said, I'm waiting to hear about a position that is one of the best that I've ever been considered for and it is making me impatient as all hell. Part of that is wanting to leave my current job as soon as possible now that the option seems feasible but another entirely is how much more fun the new place would be and how much less bullshit it sounds like. The key thing that makes it exciting: No Windows servers at all. Zero. It's either Linux or OS X or a hosted solution (Hosted Exchange which doesn't sound terrible at this point) or doesn't exist. I've administered what amount to exclusively MSFT networks for a long time now and I'm pretty fed up with it. Granted, they're easy as fuck to make small changes to (AD isn't the worst thing in the world these days) but when something does go catastrophically wrong, between featuring some of the worst error logging I've ever seen and reacting differently to similar environs for no logical reason, shit gets painful quickly and I spend hours reading through horror stories reminiscent of my own on Expert Sexchange until I find some miraculously opaque solution or just burn things down and start over. I'm a little tired of that and the duct tape and baling wire feeling of my network. When working on things that are time and sanity consuming (this is, of course, the nature of the job) I'm haunted by the feeling that I'm going to reboot the machine only to have an NTLDR error come wailing out of its crypt like a malevolent Egyptian curse to tell me that all my crops are going to fail and my weekend has been banished. Do not like. There was a hysterically funny blog post I remember reading years ago (but cannot find thus no link action) that compared administering Windows boxes to being a member of a cargo cult, sitting in a palm tree tree with half a coconut held to each ear and pointlessly muttering "Roger Wilco" endlessly until you die and/or lose your mind and that sums it up succinctly I think.

The funny part is that a goodly number of potential employers completely fail to see multi-platform experience as a good thing. I interviewed a couple weeks ago with a ginormous company and completely aced all levels of the technical interviews (there were 4 before I ever talked a person face to face and each individual interviewer noted that I had a very easy time with their questions) then showed up at their corporate HQ for a three hour interview festival (hate these by the way, nothing keeps me snappy like sitting in a random conference room for a third of the day) which went swimmingly while talking to the developer and QA folks I would potentially be working with. Then I hit the stage of interviews that are typically easiest -- the direct interview with the person who would be my boss. Simple, right? No, the entire 30 minutes was dedicated to voicing his concern about my experience with both Apple and Linux platforms and how their business was dedicated to Microsoft and only Microsoft and how there was no future in anything else. He also turned a little red when I said that I manage my network from a Linux machine with a VirtualBox installation of XP for applications that are Windows-dependent and told me that 'That wouldn't work here at all because we use images.' Um, okay, so let's get back to the actual interview, dude. As far as I can tell I entertained all of his real questions as best as I could (including the weird DOS one. Wha?) and left fairly confident that I would have an offer that I would likely decline. I got a call from the company's head recruiter guy (who was swell and actually sounded more technically competent than your average corporate recruiter) who told me that although my interview results ranged from excellent to stellar someone else was chosen because their background was more in line with the company's chosen IT future. The recruiter actually seemed kind of embarrassed to have to tell me this and to be told that I would not have accepted the position because of the verging on platform-racist attitude their technical director had towards pretty much anything that wasn't Windows.

It was odd to say the very least. The more unsettling part about this entire round of interviewing is that weird 'This is my platform. There are many others like it but this one is mine' has been a near constant at least with the huge companies. In the other cases, it has been more like 'This position is not concerned with x platform at all and won't ever expand to touch that so we need to be sure you're not in love with that or actually like it or would know how to fix it if it were broken' which is equally weird. The company I actually want to work for, on the other hand, was really receptive to my breadth of experience and admitted that my Windows experience was worth having around as they're not committed to any one thing specifically and that if something on that platform turns out to be the thing they need then they'll adopt it. See, grown ups make me want to work for your company and bringing out weird insecurities in the actual interview don't Luckily, crazy seems to rule the process so I haven't even needed to decline any of the other positions and have moved merrily on my way away from companies who can't even deal with the fact that one of their sysadmins might have had a fling with another operating system. I feel kind of embarrassed while the interview is going on and wildly relieved when it over. It's been a learning experience of sorts but the Google-style infinite repetition quiz show and uncomfortably long and mostly irrelevant (you say anything attempting to link the above with my posting style and I will interview style that is becoming the default for even the piddliest of companies I'm about out of patience for it. The folks who were honest enough to admit it are as wearied by the process as I am. So, wish me luck with this one that I really want because I'm pretty goddamned tired of everything else.

I didn't get that job. The new head of the IT department decided to bring in one of his friends instead. Typical.


When I Am Forced I Might

So, I've mentioned that, by and large, I administer and have administered for the past half dozen years nearly exclusive MSFT shops right? Windows Windows everywhere and nary a sysadmin who gives a shit.

I really am kind of indifferent to what actually happens to machines on my network because it is/was constructed idiotically by people either enamored with every new conceptual shiny thing that crossed their keyboard or people who had not the slightest clue what they were doing or why. This doesn't create a whole lot of intrinsic concern for what actually happens because I can't fix it all because it is all wound together like cotton candy on the other end of a hurricane and my users are (largely) rude, stupid, and annoy the fuck out of me about anything changing ever so I've basically decided (consciously or not) to just keep the jalopy running until I can find another means of paying the mortgage. So, I mainly let things go and put out fires (albeit very slowly) when they happen. This saddens me because typically I feel very much responsible for my network and how well its components work together. Not so much these days.

The one joy that I do have is that servers (some of them pretty critically important too) slapped together demolition derby style generate a huge amount of errors. Because of this and because, if nothing else, I am a friend to the master's hand in Redmond I dutifully report each and every error that all of my servers spit out ever to MSFT. Today I had probably 200 java errors of various sorts on one of the file servers and happily hit send each and every time I was prompted to. This are small moments of pathetic joy in an otherwise abyssmal situation.

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Haters of Acronyms Rejoice (or Something)

I've long been an enemy of the ubiquity of acronyms because hearing them in coversation (or, god forbid, in more formal workplace communication) with someone operates under the assumption that I'm privy to the same world of overuse to the point of shorthand that someone else is immersed in. Robert Lane Greene wrote a great couple of articles about the consquences (intended or not) of acronym use that I've really been liking a lot.

I hadn't thought of the military branches as the source for much of the acronym soup we currently find ourselves afloat in but it makes a ton of sense given that military organizations tend to be closed organizations with excruciatingly specialized vocabulary that aren't that keen on sharing. If you've ever been the third leg in a conversation between ex-military folks you'll likely know what he means.

The idea of acronym subversion is also pretty appealing. Go check it out. I'm trying to start posting here more often again. Perhaps this is the start.

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In Sarcasm One Often Finds Utter Brilliance

I've often made fun of the complete despair the infomercial actors find themselves mired in while trying to do utterly basic tasks. While I just chuckled and moved my attention elsewhere, others found inspiration:

Discovered via Jason Kottke.


Typography For Whoever Will Listen, I Hope

This site that Matt Mullenweg linked yesterday was notable for him because it used WordPress in a unique and novel way but the actual content of Typography for Lawyers is insanely well done in terms of writing and applicable use. I wish that this site had existed when I spent far too much time on a weekly basis translating Colorado Supreme Court and Court of Appeals opinions into something web-worthy from the source PDFs.

The interview linked in the 'About' section of Typography for Lawyers is also an entertaining read. I didn't catch it on the first read through (hey, it's Monday morning and things are broken, man) but, according to the interview,:

Heller: On your website you list a number of books about law writing. Do any of these address typography?

Butterick: Bryan Garner’s books about legal writing touch briefly on typography. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has a great little guide to legal typography on the front page of their website. But I’ve recently signed a contract to turn Typography for Lawyers into a book, so the void will soon be filled.

it looks like Butterick is working on a print version of Typography for Lawyers which is good news since a dead tree version of anything loans credibility to the, um, man and might create some traction to get a text on typography added to law school curriculum.

My personal interest is long finished as I'm already five months away from my last job but, in the interest of making things more readable and less terrible, I'm excited for the potential of making specifically formatted printed matter less onerous to read.


The First Of Many I’m Sure

I was inspecting the pile of links over yonder on the right looking for mildly entertaining content to read while trying to eat lunch. Seeing my old pal Planet Sun there made me think I might find some drama/insight into what those who were consumed by Oracle are up to these days. I've never been a huge fan of anything Sun in general but most of the planet postings were longer and more in depth that what you'd expect to be aggregated into a planet. Instead, we get a notice of closure and a redirect. How unfortunate.


How To Undisappear Momentarily…

I've been informed that I do not post nearly enough which is completely true. The not entirely obvious part of this absence is that I've been experiencing what I can only call writer's block. Whether or not you actually believe in this phenomenon is completely subjective and I've long been a critic (imagine that) of its overuse as a excuse maker's panacea for all sorts of laziness and ineptitude. My particular version of this has more to do with feeling like I can't write what I am thinking and becoming quickly frustrated with everything I pound out and then, because this isn't essential to anyone, just abandoning the effort with something akin to relief. I'm pretty quick to blame this on being away from school for so long and realizing that outside academia that anyone who can assemble a complete sentence is praised as a genius. That is just a little sad.

Since I last posted I've also started a new job. When I say 'new' I mean that in location and pay grade only as what I do now is a slight variation of what I've been doing for the past eight years or so. Once again, I'm a system administrator of a largely Windows infrastructure that serves a 'mixed' environment. That means there are a bunch of Apple machines that graphic designers use. In short, other than being poorly maintained in the past, it is plain old boring. There is seldom any quiet time but it's generally because the last person here was sleeping while driving for a long time. Long enough for major revisions of interconnected software to fall softly and silently out of date with one another. Again, I am King Turd of Shit Mountain with a slightly larger paycheck. It's distressingly similar to how things were arranged at my last place of employment minus the blame I could lay on outside consultants who were responsible for most of the network and server work. Here, it was just a bunch of lazy fuckers. It's powerful motivation to keep up the status quo of suckiness and just do oil changes instead of building new and more solid infrastructure. I just can't care a whole lot.

Another thing that is new and unappealing about the new work situation is the amount of stress that it generates. In terms of structure, I basically manage an entire department that consumes a huge percentage of capital expenditures but I don't technically have a management title (which I'm totally fine with) and I don't have any employees other than a contract worker who may get shoved out the door by budget constraints at any given moment. Being responsible for a whole lot of money and remote offices, phone contracts, and other crap that I didn't setup and need to administer on demand kind of freaks me out. I've also needed to remotely close an office in Chicago with less than a single weeks notice which was, um, less than optimal. I'm slightly in the market for better things but not enough to say update my resume or bother sending any out. It takes longer than four months for that degree of burn to really set in. It always does though, eventually. It's a part of the process, I guess.

The saving grace of 'running my department' is that I can administer my MSFT network using a real operating system and no one can question me. Granted, I'm still using Virtualbox to take care of some Windows only applications but largely just doing a high percentage of what I need to do with RDC clients and guesswork. I'd nearly forgotten how instructive it is to torch a Windows install and start new in a predominately Windows network. P.S. Fuck you Cisco.

I also bought a new car in January. This would not be at all remarkable other than the fact that I've never really owned a car much less a new one. I drove a totalled 1995 Civic around for a year or so but, excepting that, I've never had a completely unused car. It's strange. On the upside of this aren't you like 37 years old or something story is that I bought a hybrid that's actually fun to drive and doesn't randomly accelerate into fiery death. I got a 2010 Honda Insight EX with Navigation. I didn't really want the navigation but I've learned to love it dearly when I'm trying to get to some fucked up place I've never been to before. I had to make a trip out into the here be dragons areas outside Denver today to drop my amp off for repair and would probably still be somewhere in Littleton, CO if not for the nice lady who tells me where to drive. Since I'm primarily a city driver, like on city streets and typically during the very worst part of rush hour, I don't get stellar gas mileage but I'll settle for the 38 I'm getting and try not to remind myself that I drive like a complete jackass who drives only in the city proper and has terrible and incurable habits that come from getting a driver's license in high school, letting it expire for something like ten years, almost never driving again, and then going through the entire process again. All of that aside, I really like the little fucker because it doesn't randomly dump me into battery operation, has stability control which has already saved me from any number of fiery/snowy deaths, and has a stupid amount of space for things that aren't even people or trash which I'd previously been ill equipped to accomodate. I also enjoy the voice activation feature which allows me to do many things with my car without ever knowing how to do them manually and making me feel like Batman. When stamping on the gas becomes necessary the car will chirp its tires and take the fuck off. Plus mine hasn't been recalled. Woooo.

Oscar will be two in July. That is pretty nuts. He becomes more fun all the time. He keeps surprising us by spitting out new words on a nearly daily basis and is apparently very keen on waking up before 6am every morning. Keeping with my policy not to discuss Oscar here, that will be all.

More to come when I've got time and inclination. Both are scarce commodities lately.

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Less Misery Please…

It's that magical, magical time again when I've grown completely frustrated with my feed reader and am looking for recommendations for a Linux feed reader that isn't a machine killing hog.

Liferea (1.6.1-1) used to be my default choice but its performance over the past couple of months has caused me a ton of frustrating downtime where my desktop is completely unusable while Liferea updates 130 feeds or so. It might be Arch's package or not but it isn't really an option. I thought about building it from and then decided against it.

I also tried Akregator for a while and it was a lot less antagonistic towards my CPU(s). It also has some pretty buggy behavior, though, and instances like the below finally convinced me that it was a stopgap rather than a good replacement for Liferea. It's also a KDE which makes it look pretty strange in Gtk-land.

I even fired up Flock with the intent of using is just for feed reading. It doesn't work so swell these days -- a bit too monolithic and tuned for its own purposes rather than mine. I toyed with it for awhile and then shuffled it off to /dev/null.

So, anyone have any good suggestions for me? I like lightweight, GUI (preferably Gtk+ but I can deal with whatever for the sake of working), and capable of importing OPML. Thanks


Not Dead, Just Mutating

There is a fan-fucking-tastic article on The Globe and Mail about the future of the book in the face of the rising popularity of ebook readers. The general gist of the article is that ebooks work phenomenally for everyone but publishers. I feel the same way about this as I do record companies, especially now that the more industrial means of production (note: there really needs to be a 'commie' HTML tag so I could nest it in sarcasm tags) for printed material have largely been rendered optional. You don't need an expensive to produce trade paperback to have a fair number of folks able to read your work.

I hope that over the course of time this evolves to make self publication easier for writers who aren't political wingnuts with an agenda to push and works to erode the control publishers currently have over what is available to the masses. This doesn't necessarily mean that spare bedroom fiction writers are going to storm the marketplace (and they probably shouldn't) but that you could feasibly have a book out there with a large means of distribution without the overhead of having a publishing company and all of the baggage that typically comes with influencing that availability. The downside to this is that, as is typically the case when something gets easier and becomes more visible, the marketplace will likely be flooded with (e)reams of unreadable genre fiction that will make discerning between half-assed experiments and totally assed experiments in publishing difficult if not impossible. This flood might be the savior of traditional publishers, enabling them to gain additional cachet as a litmus for quality or at least works that have been checked for spelling and grammar. This might even convince publishing houses that they might need to do a bit of marketing that matters to promote books instead of limiting it to the typical book signing events and review copies.

The interesting part about this is the role that Amazon is beginning to take in shaping the pricing structure of ebooks. Rather than directly fighting publishers prices, Amazon just started selling them for less and sometimes at a loss. Media types have done no small amount of speculation on how free Kindle offerings are going to skew the popularity of ebooks on the whole and this plays out when you look at the digital bestsellers list. The hole in this particular theory about free ruining the market is that most of what is listed and is zero cost is genre fiction that wouldn't ordinarily be at the top of any list much less a bestseller list. The authors (or, maybe, publishers) have made a conscious choice to make their books available at no cost in exchange for the increased visibility. Amazon then takes care of the distribution end of the deal and gives people a little more impetus for buying a Kindle. Seems like a pretty good deal for everyone at the party other than publishers. They would largely love to pretend that ebooks never happened or that things remained the way they were when readers were still expensive or next to useless in terms of functionality and that paper books were still the absolute nadir of written word consumption where they had more control even when dealing with the world of one stop distributors (which are famously vicious about their terms for selling a product that is not a bestseller). I have precious little sympathy for this weird protectionist stuff and almost no patience for folks moaning about their deflating bottom line while others are actually doing pretty well by, you know, adapting to the circumstances.

I'm no marketing dude and despite the fact that I work for a publishing company of sorts, I'm the IT guy so I have no idea how all of this will play out. Maybe it will mean the end of the written word as we know it (insert ominous music here) but, as someone who reads a lot and dislikes most of the physical aspects of the book format (especially the dreaded hardcover edition that always precedes the mass market edition), I hope that the growing multitude of forces that have a stake in the future of both ebooks and publishing manage to shake things up in a productive way that might provide the appropriate shaking out of stupor and slap of reality. People who write, keep on writing. Thanks.


The Beta Of Infinite Loneliness

I have a bunch of Google Wave invites which is good since, so far, Wave is a bit like an MMORPG with few players. You log in, look at the same handful of objects you had last time that may look slightly different, and then you log out again. That said, you want one?

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Quiet, Lame, And Suitably Tired

I haven't posted much here over the past few months and I can't say that I feel much of anything about that. I can't really feel any sort of guilt or sense of laziness about that because, in truth, I've been incredibly busy and none of it has been anything to proverbially write home about. I have an increasing number of balls that I'm obligated to keep continually aloft and precious little energy for tech fetishist pseudo-intrigue. Excuses begone:

1. I'll own a Kindle in a few days which I'm pretty excited about. I can't really comment a whole lot on the controversial DRM because I buy books pretty consistently and hate the fact that I'm left with an all but useless husk when I've finished the book. I also dislike the fact that the cheap trade paperbacks that I favor when thinking about the comparatively small amount of disposable income that I have to blow on fiction are not durable at all. I'm much happier with access to sanely formatted text than I am with twenty more pounds of paperback to cart around until I eventually spill coffee on them and they are destroyed.

A former co-worker was kind enough to let me mess around with hers a bit and I'm pretty happy with the e ink display. I'm pretty sensitive to glare after too many years of squinting at bad monitors attached to server room KVMs and making the mistake of buying more porous contact lenses and the Kindle display is ridiculously glare resistant.

The only real downside that I can see is the issue of expense -- no more super cheap used books but I think there is some exchange in value there simply because I can't lose or physically destroy the book. I'll write some more on this when I've actually had some time to beat on it and figure out if the interface is as good as it seemed after using it for a few minutes.

2. New job. I finally found a new job which is apparently something akin to a miracle while the economy is being nudged down the shitslide into eternal torment and damnation or something like that. It's the same basic deal as always but pays a lot more and will (hopefully) give me more time to do system administration and less call to delete and play seek and destroy in the Windows registry. This is wishful thinking because, although I sincerely feel as though I've paid my desktop support dues, I will be the entire IT department for a 60-85 user environment. This is pretty similar to the situation I just left but the money certainly helps. I start tomorrow and feel better already.

3. Ubuntu. I've finally settled on using Ubuntu on my desktop machines instead of the other distributions that I've known and sorta loved. I really tried to keep a couple of installs of Debian unstable sane but they eventually broke or conflicted in a way that made them useless. I've always held Ubuntu in mild to moderate disdain as a luser-oriented distribution in contrast to Debian's QA-centric take on building the stable branch of the distribution. Unfortunately, I'm mainly using Linux on the desktop these days so I typically need newer/sexier versions of applications and libraries and can't deal with unfucking dpkg/apt after every update. Ubuntu is a fairly good compromise between the tendency towards bleeding edge and having your shit actually work. Feel free to heckle me so I can give you the interWeb equivalent to a blank stare. That is oddly fulfilling.

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Chrome For A While

I'm trying out Chrome as my primary browser on this machine for a couple of days. I've converted all of my *nix boxes back to Debian because, whether I'm comfortable admitting or not, I like the way that things work in Deb land and most other distributions are frustrating. I'm even running the stock kernel (2.6.30-2-686) which doesn't happen very often.

Anyway, back to Chrome because that was my intent when I opened emacs to write this. I installed the developer release straight from the mouth of the beast which seems wiser than the community built Chromium releases that I've found pretty crashy and not very much fun. Most of those early builds were missing any of preferences which are scant but at least accessible on this version. I'm hoping that one day I'll be able to run Chrome and control which fonts it uses. Right now, that isn't a presented option which was disappointing because I do a fair amount of reading from web sites and being unable to bypass the demonic urges that cause some folks to force us to read in small, serif fonts is making me kinda headachey.

Other than that rather small glitch (which is perfectly acceptable for somethng that is released for developers), my Chrome use has been really stable and easy on resources. It's a much lighter browser than Firefox by miles and with the inclusion of Flashblock basically disappears from the process landscape when I'm not actively using it. This works out great for me since I typically have somewhere between 15 and 30 tabs open in a browser. I tend to open links people have mailed me or from things I want to read from an RSS reader and Chrome has yet to freak out and freeze or crash. That is exactly what I needed and here's hoping that the eventual move from beta to something closer to a final release doesn't change that sentiment drastically. Remember when Phoenix was jaw droppingly awesome? Sigh.

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Get While The Getting Is Good

I'd nearly forgotten that MariaDB existed or that it was nearing the point of being a viable replacement for MySQL but Jeremy Zawodny mentioned the project and its progress today on his linkblog. It's pretty surprising how well things are coming along and the features it offers in comparison to MySQL. Given the questions surrounding the future of MySQL now is an ideal time to start looking into alternatives in case Oracle decides that they can suddenly reap huge profits by making that software less accessible or something equally inane.

The really super duper good news is that the devs have organized a Debian and Ubuntu repository for packaged versions so taking MariaDB for a spin is a much simpler process than I first imagined. I'm hoping to set aside a little time to install and configure it on a test machine tomorrow. If that actually happens I'll try to write something about the observable differences or at least how well a clean install or conversion went.

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You Strange, Terrible, Old Thing

Question posed to no one in particular:

Has anyone ever seen an actual implementation of the Coda file system. I started reading the CM site sometime in the past couple of weeks and noticed that it was updated within the past year. You couldn't tell that from the available documentation though since most of it is nearly ten years old and does its comparisons with Linux based on ext2 and seems pretty ambiguously hostile towards file systems that are actually used. Just curious if anyone knows about any actual uses of it and how it fared under real world stress and being accessed by the usual gamut of applications.


Wherein The Whiny Consider the (In)Human Elements In Employment And Ponder Building a Rocket Ship And Leaving Earth Permanently

I've been looking for a new job for the past couple of months and I've reached an epiphany of sorts about it. I'm starting not to care at all about potential environments and thinking more about the potential money. This is probably a pretty solid indicator that I need to move on to something else. I've grown pretty weary of the dichotomy between HR-heavy interviews where I'm asked too many questions about teamwork and the developer-esque interviews where people try to stump me according to their favorite hangups and and amounts to a dick measuring contest. Although I really do want another job that doesn't require me to jump through so many ridiculous hoops crafted from years of laziness and incompetence, I'm also less willing than I've ever been to keep cranking on the dimmer switch for my actual personality predictively for each and every loathesome interview. Perhaps the more correct methodology would be to wear a tiara and just answer: a best effort to fix all of your broken shit because I hate things that don't work the way they're supposed to. Also, I'm tired of simultaneously nodding and rolling my eyes when asked about Vista experience without screaming "You deployed that bullshit!?!?" at people interviewing me.

School? Shit, maybe.


Because Midlevel Administration Is Serious Business

Had a particularly poignant moment of realization this afternoon about the real reasons that I loathe searching for a job when I saw one re-listed. I interviewed (well I thought) for the position and was operating under the assumption that I was at least in the top three. Today the exact same position was re-listed on the major job site site with $10,000 knocked off the bottom level salary they'd posted a month or so before. I imagine that I will see it again in the weeks to follow listed as a paid internship or something. I'm glad that this search is out of wanting something better and not necessity or desperation. If I were in the market due to hand to mouth issues I would be in some shitty bar drinking myself stupid.


Spork Shanking Narrowly Prevented

I don't keep very close tabs on the state of culture in other countries but it seems like the U.S is creeping slowly towards a sort of fundamentalist culture where pure dogma (the rules, man, the rules) is steamrollering interpretation. I think of interpretation as a matter of being engaged in something, a sniff test for making sure that you're actually awake when you're outside of your home and acknowledging that there are other people walking the surface of the Earth that are not you.

I think that inane tendency to simply look out for your own interests by a very narrow (or non) interpretation of rules put in place mainly for good reasons is what makes situations like the one this six year old has to deal with so infuriating. If the contents of the article are reasonably accurate then the faculty of this kid's school ignored all of the things they knew about him and instead sketched in the potential for a statistical anomaly. As a student, what do you take away from this? That you're actually a prisoner? That is simply embarrassing.


Trying To Look Smart Often Makes You Look Stupid

It's a snowy day so I'm doing snowy day things like playing with Oscar and reading twice my RDA of stupid crap on the web. One of the things that I've truly enjoyed (other than chasing the little monkey around) is a post by Ted Dziuba entitled "I don't code in my free time" which is a spectacular summary of all the reasons that even the whippersnappers ought to think of languages as tools instead of canned solutions to a given problem. I also agree that solving actual problems (and getting past that particular problem) is much more rewarding than trying to rush ahead to learn every flavor of the month that might be really, really useful in a hypothetical situation in an imagined future.

That said, if I were charged with hiring programmers I don't think I'd really bother with folks who did obsessively learn new languages. That seems to me more the earmark of an intern who is viciously underpaid because they need to get the 'this new widget will cure cancer if only I can get through a few more rote exercises using it' syndrome worked through their systems. Despite the fact that the old guys might not follow each and every twist and turn on dev mailing lists, the old guys have an alternative approach to throwing everything at a problem to see what sticks: they actually know a bit about how to solve problems with tools they're actually skilled at using. I don't hate questions but I hate people that answer any given question/problem by posing a hundred other problems. Sometimes trying to look smart makes you look really fucking stupid.

To Ted, good work and thanks for being cranky. That's something the world could use a lot more of. Dealing with cranky fuckers who know what they're doing adds some pressure to the showboaters to actually get things done. God forbid.


Google Wave Invite?

If anyone has an extra, I would love to play around with it. The recent videos captivated the thirteen year old that secretly lives inside me. I expect at this point that I am mainly talking to myself but just in case...

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Might As Well Just Make A List

I've lagged again for a freakishly long time and there are several reasons for this. I was thinking about the millionth hibernation of Team Murder this afternoon and decided (while fixing a bunch of fucked up permissions on a huge number of files shares on a Windows 2003 box because what the fuck else are you going to do while the progress bar creeps along glacially in its march of the damned?) that the reasons I haven't had the necessary concentration or interest to do much writing here are more worthy of extrapolation than whatever cool crap I gazed idly at on the web.

  • Brain Injury One:
    I'm looking for another job pretty seriously. So seriously in fact that I'm returning phone calls from recruiters. It bears mentioning that right now is probably the worst time in the history of IT to be seriously nosing around for a better place that offers more money but I've grown pretty attached to the idea of leaving my current place of work. It isn't the soul crushing call center of misery that I mined salt in before but I'm pretty unhappy for a number of different reasons. The most prominent contributor to the ick is that I'm the only member of my three person department that has any background or present interest in computing outside making quick Google searches in the same way that a twelve year old might employ a magic eight ball to determine the outcome of one horrible decision after another. All of this IT related thinking is an intolerable interruption to reading a ton of fascinating material on nutritional supplements and the latest health scare about oxygen or whatever. I'm sure that everyone else who administers a network used mainly by clicktards suffers similar frustration at the state of things but, in this case, the really thick decisions that impact me directly are made by someone who allegedly labors under the same labor genre that I do but is influenced by trade magazines and an artificially inflated job title than common sense or decency. Okay, the 'decency' part is hyperbole but little else really is.

    So I'm doing some interviews at the moment. One today, one tomorrow, and so on until I eventually move up a couple of notches on the income totem pole and hopefully avoid defaulting on student loans. I had a particularly hilarious interview today for a company that handles routing software for taxis. The gist of the position was that I was going to be an installer and nothing else. Affix mounting clips to the inside of a car, adapt down power supplies, and on and on. It didn't sound interesting in the slightest but the dollar amount did catch my ear and kept me from fleeing the scene immediately. See, the office I was being interviewed in was a large empty room on the top floor of a taxi building with a card table set up in the center bearing a lone laptop and a battered phone that was likely fished out of a box of surplus office supplies found in the basement. The guy who I actually spoke with was, to his credit, very straightforward and told me that the job would likely expand to include a hellacious amount of travel and that I would be the only person employed by the company in the United States. I narrowly avoided bursting into a fit of giggles about just how awful it sounded until it was time to meet the 'engineers.' They were both from the UK and here a day's notice to scrape together parts for a Vegas trade show. They were both very sleep deprived and unwilling to spend more than a few minutes talking to me about how the actual software/hardware worked (just looking for fail over here, folks) before trading places and rifling through the contents of another cardboard box filled with taxi meters in various stages of dissembly. To add to the hilarity the fellow 'interviewing' me repeatedly asked me if I had any additional questions before letting me know that the opening was due to one of the engineers having his visa declined while trying to come into the US. It was a geyser of awesome. I'm supposed to get a call back from them within the next couple of days but I'll probably let that one go to voicemail.

    I had another interview shortly after the one I mentioned above that was equally terrible for entirely different reasons. I guess the methodology has changed for attempting to load up Tier 1 support positions with overqualified people who will grow bored and hit the ejection seat trigger within a year. The new strategy involves calling the position 'System Administrator' when posting it and only revealing the grunt level expectations after the interview (the first of four, of course) has started. Riiiight.

  • Brain Injury Two: World of Warcraft
    I had a pretty abysmal WoW habit while Oscar was still tummy bound. Besides being a plentiful source of disdain for pre-teens who apparently type with their elbows it was an all consuming distraction from all of the scary things that I ought to have thought about. Now Oscar is walking around, starting to say recognizable words, and sleeping through the night so I have a bit more time to play with. I recently rolled a death knight and a hunter to level up because I am a masochist.

    All of the above said, if you happen to favor my particular flavor of crack give me a holler via comment or my user name at this domain. I'd love to level with other folks who can complete a sentence and not ninja all of the good loot. I'm predominately on the Shandris realm but I could roll on another as long as it's not PVP. If I have to heal for one more PVP geared, holy spec'd paladin I may retire.

  • Brain Injury Three: Reading stuff I'm supposed to

    Since I dropped out of college I've gotten progressively more lazy about reading. I tend to fallback on books that I've read a couple dozen times in the past. This isn't a complete waste of time as re-reading works for me as a sharpening of my meandering attention and allows me to digest and comprehend parts of books that aren't part of the plot push or tangential. I'm trying to avoid this pattern by actively seeking out books that I should have read but have dodged for whatever reason. The first on the list Atlas Shrugged is more a matter of knowing my enemy. Libertarians tend to be trust fund babies that were incredibly traumatized by the need to earn money, the hierarchical nature of the working world, and other startling obvious economic matters. So, I'm struggling with this 500 page plus turd and not gaining enthusiasm as I turn the pages. Ayn Rand was a terrible writer and developed characters with all the subtlety and understanding of a four year old wielding a sock puppet. I feel obscurely embarrassed for both her and all of her fans when reading this stuff. It's difficult to feel much of anything for people who can wear t-shirts that say things like "Taxation is Slavery" without a glimmer of understanding of why that sort of historically uncomfortable bobbing for oppression might make people around them who have been adversely affected by things like, you know, literal chattel slavery and hand to mouth economic adversity instead of the hallucinatory, dorm room sort of adversity feel a bit hostile towards them

    That brings me back to my current quandary (which I will not try to equate with slavery, starvation, the Holocaust, or any other hyperbole at the expense of others) which is not treating me well. Given that each page of this execrable novel is making my toes curl I tend to avoid reading entirely. This is bad and I may need to scrap this idea entirely before I lapse into illiteracy or Objectivism or something even worse.

  • Brain Injury Four: Learning some languages I've previously ignored.

    I'll readily admit that one of the prime motivators for me even investigating Mono was all the controversy about its inclusion in some distribution's packaging of Gnome. I have this habit of assuming that people generally have a good reason for bothering to respond to the foaming at the mouth variety of criticism and in this case I think the response has been reasoned and generally out to correct misconception rather than get in a my god is bigger than your god war with ideologues. Given the handling of this by folks on the free as in freedom is all there is to think about in the world crowd and RMS being on full time moron duty lately, I'm thinking about revoking my FSF membership. I support much of the work they do but have a really hard time justifying contributing any of my piddly income to funding flights around the globe so their mascot can insult women and generally act like a teenager. Sorry but there are a lot more important things that can be accomplished within free software and nearly none of them have anything to do with RMS babbling about Emacs virgins.

    Anyway, I started looking a bit at the spec for Mono and realized that it could actually be pretty useful to me. The downside is that I've really disliked the books published on the topic and the online documentation stops at the 'is your Mono install functional' level so I've been working with C# books and trying to adapt their contents to my purposes which mainly means Gtk Sharp projects. I like C# for the most part because it includes what I thought was handy about Java (I'll pause here to note that my Java use has been pretty minimal as the overhead is just too large for most of what I do) without all of baggage that made me hate it worse than the plague. So, I've been hacking away on that stuff for learning purposes and for the sake of knowing a bit about .NET and ASP crap. See the above crap about job hunting for all the rationale you would ever need. I'm having fun which is much more than I can say for my journeys into most programming languages.

That's what I've been up to instead of bothering to post here. I'm pretty bored with the state of tech news. I'm not very interested in Windows 7 so tech news has been a continually busy signal for me for the last couple of months. More here when I make some more poor choices.


The Sad Pile Of Greyish Ashes At The End Of The Week

I've been off doing other things like recording music and writing/reading a ton of code (some of it is my own and, in that case, reading is less straightforward than I would like it to be) and other things a lot less entertaining than just reading, reflecting, and writing about ideas. Ideas in the abstract just cause a whole lot less brain damage than figuring out why something modeled after examples in the official documentation don't fucking work. I've hit my brain damage quota and saturation point at least a couple of times in the last month or so and I need an hour of distraction.

The scary part about this post is that I started writing it well over a week ago and now I come back to it, with only like 50 words written and so tired I feel like I'm ready to collapse on my keyboard, to do one of the massive idea dumps that spelled the near demise of Team Murder.

There was a bunch of hand wringing over Robert Scoble's inclusion in a recent WordPress worm that fucked up old installations of WordPress. Guess what folks? You need to keep web facing installations of anything current and if you can't then go with hosted services. This isn't a difficult concept. Either keep up with security (reminding me that the protagonist in this somewhat pathetic melodrama was formerly a MSFT employee and an evangelist much less) or you look for a hosted environment where you can fuck around without getting taken for a ride. It's nearly as binary as I'm presenting it. Applications that you install on web server need to be maintained. We've seen minor versions of this same sort of attack happen again and again and to blame the particular application when they've done more than many others to ensure that upgrades are fairly painless is unfair.

I made a couple of physical switches of computers to Arch and I think my heart is there too. I've had nothing but good stuff happen while using it and all of my machines have close to 100% of the functionality that I want and have next to zero that I don't want. I'm starting to understand a lot of why the fanboy approach to this distribution.

It's the anniversary of that terrible day again eight years after I managed to know nothing about it until far far into the PM. I'm glad that it's nearly finished without any basic rights being eroded, a minimum of people in the Midwest crying about some shit they saw on tee vee that happened in a place they formerly considered less than a single step removed from Gomorrah while flags wave and eagles cry, and no one dying senseless and terrible deaths. Feel free to get all pissy in a comment I'll delete to speed the outright destruction of America.

I'm working on a new application using RoR and beginning to understand why people are so butt crazy (this is the polar opposite of 'butt hurt.' Thanks for playing) about it. It reminds a whole lot of my first Python outings in the best possible sense. I do get pretty pissed off about its failure when an exclamation point is in included in your MySQL password. That kind of silent error is the kind that enrages me even while the rest of the feature parade has me ecstatic. I don't even know which part of the stack to blame so I'll just grumble on off to bed all butt hurt and glad that I'm not baffled about the failure of MySQL to play nice with Rails.

The aforementioned bone tiredness is what I will blame for posting this incredibly mediocre pile of words without any proofreading at all. I'm always happy (although not giddy or anything) to disappoint. A quick trip into the Aspell dunking tank for a half assed moistening is about all I've got the energy for.

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