Team Murder No Brain No Headache.


Another X Company, Eh?

I'm actually pretty excited about Miguel de Icaza's announcement of the birth of Xamarin and the departure of Mono from Novell. I'm not an enemy of Novell per se, but it is good to see a stack with a bright future expand beyond its initial reason for existence (to compete against MSFT) and concentrate on being an awesome set of tools for the people actually writing code.

The Xamarin site is active and is currently hosting a survey about which features users would like to see prioritized. I'm guessing that expansion of Android efforts is under heavy consideration if only judging by the number of Android-related questions on the survey. I guess there are a fair amount referencing iOS as well. This is very cool to hear.

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No Pain, No Gain?

All class, these folks


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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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.


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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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.


Riding On The Short Bus With All The Cool Kids

I wiped two machines yesterday. I've been experimentally running Ubuntu on the aforementioned two machines to see partially what all the fuss was about and for laziness/lack of a better option after deciding that Sabayon and, more importantly, what it was based on, my old pal Gentoo, was a nightmarish mess for my admittedly strange requirements. I need a combination of fairly cutting edge software without a lot of breakage. That used to be Gentoo but it really isn't anymore.

I've dragged my feet while hearing people praise Arch endlessly. In fact one of the reasons that it took me so long to take a real stab at using it is that I was so tired of seeing comments that proposed an Arch install as the solution to any problem. That insistence that Brand X is the panacea for all that ails you is quite possibly the most annoying form of 'advocacy' ever especially since it typically comes from people who read forum posts and don't actually use much of the software they're loudly cheering for. Grumble, grumble, grumble...

Relentless bitterness aside, I installed Arch on two different machines. One is a generic P4 Dell box that I had sitting around and the other was my fairly new Lenovo Ideapad Y530. The impetus was the announcement of a release on Distrowatch that mentioned some refinements to the installer and other goodies so it seemed like a good time to take another stab at getting it up and running. I'm actually having a pretty hard time remembering what exactly fouled up attempted installs in the past and it might have been little more than seeing another shiny object that distracted me before I could get the machine configured and doing most of what I need it to do. For all I know it could just be a generalized reaction to people yelling in comments about the superiority of the Arch model. Who cares? Given that admission of terrible installation memory, the install was pretty smooth and didn't cause the brain damage that it is often criticized for. I've done Stage 1 Gentoo installations which is a little like DIY dentistry so editing a well commented configuration file or two didn't seem inordinately terrible.

One small stumble for me post-core install was the lack of a reminder that you need to add a regular user via adduser before being a huge idiot and configuring GDM as a daemon and then forgetting that you need to Ctrl-Alt-F1 in order to get a console login. I had a moment of panic when a couple of quick three finger salutes wouldn't kill GDM and let me create a normal user. There is a very good reason that most installation routines at least make you consider creating a normal user before dumping you into userland without an account you can actually login with. This is pretty minor as I figured out how to overcome my own sloppiness in a few minutes. I would suggest, though, for installations that force you to make active choices during the course of the install, that the installation fatigued be given a few necessary prods that pretty much every proper installer (and I can't even ding Gentoo here because that installation routine was entirely manual and completely unforgiving once you left the chroot) at least presents as an option before shooing you out of it.

Other than very minor issues that I've completely forgotten (I don't remember many issues that weren't solved by a combination of adding a daemon/module or adding my account to a group) both installations have been painless affairs. The only issue that I had at all with the laptop was making sure that networkmanager was running instead of the vanilla network and then wireless configuration was all but finished. I live in Gnome these days so that probably aids in the simplification of boring and basic functionality related configuration but it still felt pretty slick.

Pacman is exactly what I want a package manager to be. It's pretty fast (after the initial sync) and has much of the missing functionality that always made me loathe emerge. There are a bunch of GUI front ends for pacman but I'm sticking with the cli version if only because the arguments aren't ridiculous and convoluted and dealing with the bulk of clicking all over some bizarre interface doesn't seem like a better option.

I'm very happy with how things are working overall even if I feel a little bit like a crusty curmudgeon trying to 'connect with the kids'. Ick.

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Elitist Jerks Browser

This probably doesn't matter to you at all if you're not one of the legion of slack jawed, sleep deprived, gear perverts latched onto the massive teat of World of Warcraft but Opera and Elitist Jerks have put together a special edition of the browser all configured to make you wet your pants (if you're into Elitist Jerks at all) and maybe even use a browser that doesn't totally suck. Unfortunately, you'll need to use one of the more sucky operating systems in order to use it as it's only available for Windows and OS X. I'll probably take it for a test drive when I get home tonight as switching to the XP side of the KVM makes me twitchy.

Later that night:

I installed the Elitist Jerks browser on a Windows XP box at work and on my Apple laptop at home. It's Opera so that is a plus and also has a ton of categorized links to WoW related sites (although many of them are official forums) and preconfigured RSS feeds for an equal number of useful news sites. Obviously all of this would be much more helpful if you're running raids and playing the game with progression in mind. A year ago I would've found this ridiculously handy but now it just makes me wish I had more time to play.

Also, heads up to for bringing this somewhat amusing development to my often straying attention.

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Some Things Not About Michael Jackson

Microsoft versus email marketers. No matter who wins we all lose. I like the idea of scripts not running in mail clients on a surfboard made of bleached human skulls and Internet Explorer. I have no love for the concept that HTML constructs may be replaced by word art or worse. Mail is for reading not fucking clicking around in but thanks for playing.

The Andy Rooney of the web has decided that password masking (you know, part of the form standard in HTML) is a bad thing. I guess he and his merry band of sycophants decided that making shoulder surfing even easier than the eyes-follow-fingers-on-keys method will really help old guys correctly type in their passwords. Brilliant, fucktard, brilliant. I also love how he summarizes the masking as an impairment to 'visual feedback' because login failed is only apparent to the clairvoyant. The kind of users he represents are the kind of users you don't want (also known as the type who use your lack of security to the fullest and then litigate with you over it) and he manages to third party condescend to them in effigy. Grrrr.

Lenovo making some pretty smart keyboard changes on future ThinkPads. The Escape key on my IdeaPad is microscopic and it is a key that I hit probably 200 times a day when I'm not accidentally jamming down F1 mistakenly. Now all we need to do is rid keyboards of the seldom used (other than many CAD programs) caps lock key and put the control back where god intended it to live. Being a pretty heavy Emacs user makes me wish that laptop keyboards would give me, as opposed to the shouters, a fucking break at some point. I hit the control key purposefully more often than you hit the caps lock key accidentally.

That is all. Take the rest of the night off and enjoy drinking yourself to sleep..

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Some Things Before I Pass Out At 9 PM On A Friday Night

I'm tired and no amount of this brutally strong press of Peets French Roast I just made is going to keep me vertical for very much longer so I'm just going to dump some links with minimal explication. I'm trusting that most of you can read.

1. Jo Shields eloquently and more calmly than the situation really calls for explains why Mono isn't going to be the undoing of FOSS by raining MSFT-dependence and a hail of lawyers down upon our heads. I admire people with this much patience and goodwill in them. When you're essentially dealing with a bunch of Ubuntards who got all bunched up on a couple different sites about the evil conspiracy to keep them down as users by including functional and quickly expanded software as part of the default set of packages included in the installation, one shouldn't feel obligated to explain your motivations to a bunch of lusers who blatantly accuse you of being a shadowy MSFT operative for making software using libraries that share functionality with MSFT product. It reminds me a little bit of what we called 'taste vegans': people who couldn't stand the idea of eating fake meat product because it simulated the taste of animal products. Whatever makes you feel better about your shallow understanding of the topic at hand I guess.

2. The generation of purposely corrupted Office documents for the purpose of extending assignment deadlines for profit is kind of amusing. I can't find much disdain for this service because it provides props for potentially hilarious dramas more or less. If you're not clever enough to do something really technologically advanced like twiddling system time before handing in the real assignment then you're sort of asking for it.

3. I guess that's really it. Now it is time for sleep. I hate you sleep.


Like Suddenly Seeing The Familiar World Through A Microscope

A real quick one here since I'm technically watching Oscar and there is only so long the cartoon about bugs will actually hold his attention but make sure to check out this incredibly detailed overview of how https works in a common situation -- checking out at Amazon and presented through the use of very commonly available tools. I learned a crapton as my general knowledge of secure transactions is pretty limited.

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Short Notes About Some Pretty Things

Well, two of them...

1. The Gentoo web site got an impressive makeover that adds a bunch of content from Packages and Planet Gentoo which is much nicer than the previous little paragraphs. I'm really hoping that Packages will eventually gain some of its old functionality back because it was one of the best package listing sites I've ever seen. In it's present state you cannot even search. Sigh.

2. Gimp FX Foundry is crazy awesome. I had no idea it existed until I read about it here via a tutorial but a half dozen "wow, holy shit"'s later I had a whole lot more scripting functionality going in the Gimp. I've always thought the installed base of effects was actually impressive given that they were just bundled in as part of the application but some of these scripts are amazing. As is nearly always the case, some Photoshop-esque functionality is the inspiration for a lot of the effects but then again how many years of darkroom and negative manipulation inspired the filters Adobe includes?


Turn Your Web Content Into Vaguely Creepy Newsletters

I should probably start by saying that I think the ideas behind Zine Pal are totally fucking cool. This is of course less appealing to me than it would be for folks who do weblogs that are more like a personal zine or age a little better that the things I typically spend words on. At worst this is a great way to offline archive things in a more visually appealing way. Go play with it.

I created a PDF version of this website but I did it with the mail URL which only yielded something like the last five posts. I imagine it would've fared better with a feed where more posts are considered current.

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Or Maybe I Just Hate Old People

The entrance of digital tools into the 'art' realm causes all sorts of hysterical reactions from people who ought to know better or perhaps should have moved the panic button a few feet away from the television before spouting utter shit in dead tree magazines. Newsweek has an an article on the coming photo-pocalypse because the digital is apparently too easy, makes things like art less prohibitively expensive and lowers the price of experimentation, and doesn't speak in tongues to some shadowy god of nostalgia atop the majestic Art Is Here and Y'all Are Over There mountain. It would appear that this is the bad thing and too many of us are ostensibly doing it. Oh dear.

I should write a couple thousand words on that draw a dark conspiracy theory that overshadows fundamentalist Luddite aesthetics and the dead tree/smeared pigment industry but I'll spare everyone that including myself because 3 am is not the proper time to start an ulcer. What I do find interesting about much of this type of armchair elucidation is that it usually assumes that convincing photo alteration work in Photoshop is as easy as click-click-Grant-Dollars! and that anyone with a short attention span, a computer, and a fervent desire to immerse the mighty canon of high art in shit and garbage can produce, with little talent or knowledge, something that threatens the usual order of things.

I'm guessing that the intersection of art and technology is what is bugging Plagens here because other things he's written (this review that spans a whole lot of publicly funded art controversy in the process of talking about a book someone else wrote and seems (I'm no art critic) a lot more grounded as well as reading a whole lot less screechy) have the quality of serious thought and reflection being invested in them. It is probably a generational issue but, man, how little can you really understand about something that is building momentum and becoming more widely and wildly used and still be a critic worthy of readership? Especially when you spend a fair number of words in your own writing about the efforts of early photographers to make their own photographs less like photographs and more like painting. The connection between them doesn't seem like a huge stretch to me. Apparently the reading public is still cool with this. The most difficult part of this column for me is that Plagens often comes so damned close to getting the appeal of digital formats and manipulations to photographers. Then just staggers off down memory lane to leave the rest of us who've grown accustomed over the majority of our lives to the impermanence and fluidity of captured images to wonder what the fuck he's trying to get to underneath the landslide of anecdotes.

I'm sure there is more to this direction of criticism that I'm just not getting. There must be. This fella is no idiot but when I read that column I don't see the semi-hep art critic. I don't see anything. I just hear the sound of a ball mouse squealing as it is dragged across the surface of a fourteen inch CRT monitor. Does that make me a monster or did I just get whapped on the head during this bubble or the last one? I'm lost and don't understand what essential question he is asking here and why so many important aspects (like the idea of photography either being dedicated to or intended for the documentation of nothing but the truth) are being glossed over. I read it again and just threw my hands up in frustration. There is something out of joint here and I'm not willing to believe half truth in order to exhume it. Anyone?

The ironic side note is that I stumbled on this article while looking for something else and read it on the Newsweek website on December 5, 2007 when the article is from the Dec 10, 2007 issue. Ouch. Yep, when I said all of your base I meant it.

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Twindy: The Coolest Dead Thing Ever

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Partnership As A Euphemism For ‘You’re Going To Be In Our Donkey Show And You Don’t Get To Be A Donkey’

For a company (at least back in the Lindows days when Opie Taylor was still running the show) that set out to seemingly compete directly with MSFT Windows I'm amazed at how weirdly Linspire has shaped up as both a company and a distribution if you can even call Linspire a distribution. Obviously, the fact that their name even crossed my mind was due to the recently announced 'partnership' (grab your ankles and grit your teeth, partner) between MSFT and Linspire in order to add value and obviously to protect you, the innocent customer with your hands wrapped tightly around your ankles and your billfold clenched between your teeth, from becoming another casualty of the patent wars, and to make either side of the equation look like a little more than what they actually are.

The somewhat redeeming part is actually written into the press release like so:

Linspire customers only receive these three technologies (instant messaging, digital media and TrueType fonts) if they purchase a patent SKU. The technologies are not shipped with all Linspire 5.0 distributions.

And just when you think that Linspire might come out a winner in all of this take a quick gander at the statement that follows it:

Web search. Linspire will select the Live Search service of Windows Live as the Linspire 5.0 default Web search engine, allowing Microsoft to bring Live Search to a broader set of users and providing leading search capabilities to Linspire customers.

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And Absolutely No One Cared…

I really tried to be interested in the new release of Netscape but couldn't really get excited about excepting that it was the first OS X release in quite a while. I'm not sure that anyone is terribly excited although some some of the features are kind of cool though implemented in other browsers either natively or through plugins. Exporting OPML bookmarks is a nice feature but it really makes me wonder who the target audience really is for a new version of Netscape. From my relatively limited experience I've found that most people who stick with Netscape are hangers on from the early 1990's (pre-Mozilla) who are terrified of interface changes and hold the same old version of the same old browser in a death grip. Are other people really using NS especially one that does not include the mail client? I'm not convinced...

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The Musical Fruit

Okay, so I was reading a Lifehacker write up of a new word processor that had a lot of features but was slim and fast and had to check it out. It’s called Bean and I am digging it a whole lot already. I’ve written a couple of short things using it and I’m pretty amazed at how quick it is without being completely bare. I reset all the color options (black background and amber text, of course) and it is rapidly usurping Emacs for my text editing needs and is a whole lot more pleasant to use to just read a bunch of text. I’m not sure that it’s completely a keeper but I’m impressed after using it for a single day and how closely it straddles the line between a full-on (and intrusive usually) word processor with all of its formatting capabilities while staying lightweight and non-annoying the way a text editor should. Don’t know that I would do much code editing in this mode but it certainly makes text editing on this machine much more by simply being less.

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Into The Horrific And Gaping Maw Of All That Code

I bookmarked this Stefan Esser interview a while ago and finally got back to reading it and by reading it I mean that I actually read it closely and didn't just skim and click. I was sidetracked last time by messing around with Suhosin on my local machine just to check it out. By the way, it worked pretty flawlessly for me and without an unreasonable amount of mucking around given that it is intended to bolster security which seems inherently complicated. It also failed to break anything which is a nice surprise when your code is as slapdash and half finished as mine usually is.

The part that I really liked about this interview and Esser's attitude is the balance between technical understanding of things that may cause security problems and the acknowledgement that sometimes those problematic design decisions are based on how best to solve a particular problem without abandoning backward compatibility instead of the stupidity or laziness that so many security folks seem to think is responsible for many of the flaws they find. This is most apparent when he's talking about WordPress:

From my point of view, WordPress is not well designed. This starts for example with the fact that they are escaping all input for the database in the beginning, and later when issuing the queries they just put variables directly into the query. The bug I released (charset conversion SQL injection) would not have been possible if they had chosen the more common design, to escape everything right before it is put into the query. Others might argue that they should better use prepared statements and variable binding, but WordPress has to be compatible with old MySQL databases and PHP installations that do not support this. Another problem of WordPress is that it is sooo user friendly that it spits out detailed error messages when a SQL query fails, such that a potential attacker can gain information about the query.

In any case, it is nice to read an interview where security is the focus of the conversation and I actually take something away from it. Thanks, man.

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Less Whatever Than I Expected

I did have a chance to play around with Coda a little bit over the past few days. I was a little reluctant to initially take a look at it since I only learned of its release via other people talking about it giddily. Usually this is a pretty clear indication that I should stay away because a) I'm not a good litmus for software development/testing since the way I actually work would drive 99% of the universe completely insane within a matter of minutes and b) the moment I read the name of a new application that no one has even had time to actually use it the irritation begins to build. All of this is totally unfair but I reserve the right to be angry and suspicious while everyone else celebrates and hallucinates. It's my deal.

So, anyway, I fucked around with Coda for a while and decided that I actually liked it a lot despite the fact that I could never be happy using it. I'm a little hung up on discreet pieces of the development puzzle so it just won't work for me though I can see how it would work wonderfully for others. To begin with, Coda does look polished and its UI generally looks really spiffy and, as many others have already said more eloquently, Mac-like. These are selling points and attractive for most people but pretty and whatEver2.0 1.0 releases fill me with dread and mistrust. It does feel a little sluggish on startup and I don't feel bad stating that at all since my machine has 2 gigs of RAM which is decent for a laptop. Coda runs without hesitation or any noticeable pokiness afterwards but the uptake feels pretty damned slow. Again, so what?

In terms of functionality, this software kind of misses my, uh, demographic since I don't really favor the 'site' model of grouping files together. This is my own shortcoming since I tend to piece things together incrementally instead of according to a larger plan. This is a wussy way of saying that I'm extremely lazy and prone to do huge chunks of work during several day intervals and then ignore the entire mess for months on end. I tend to split up more programmatic projects into several projects and then slowly starting adding files here there to a larger project which doesn't work so well for a site oriented application like Coda. I'm not the target audience so that doesn't matter much.

What is impressive is the integration of so many different and desirable utilities into a single interface that doesn't operate under the assumption that the user is either incompetent or stupid. What makes Coda more of a winner and less of a condescending and monolithic idol to the angry and wrathful gods of (theoretical) user-directed design is the fact the design portion of this was done out of the actual needs of the developers instead of the usual 'research' that developers invest into the planning process. If you can stand the sites model and you'd actually like to be able to view the code you're working on if necessary, this might be a tool worth dropping the cash on.

On thing I'd like to see included in future versions is an image map utility. It's one of those annoying things that seems to be either poorly implemented or entirely absent from most web tools at least for the Mac stuff. It would be nice to have that functionality available as an included tool that didn't get all tangled up in invented terminology (layers?!) and leave the utility worse than useless. There seem to be a lot of people who really want Subversion support rolled in but I'm not sure I entirely agree since this is a tool for creating websites and not something like Eclipse. I do hope that plugin development takes off for Coda as much of the extraneous stuff could be appended through that rather than bulking up the client more than is necessary.

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Blogsnow Is Offline (As Of Over A Month Ago)

I just noticed that Blogsnow has been taken offline. That this happened in February is a solid measure of my inability to keep up with, well, anything. It's unfortunate that spammers have become so ubiquitous and pernicious enough to make projects like these more pain than they're worth to their creators. My hat is off to Andreas for pulling the plug when it was necessary, though and I hope we'll eventually see Blogsnow up and running again as it was one of my favorite aggregation sites if only because it was simple and to the point.


Does Anyone Reading Here Use Twitter?

I'm a little curious about how people actually use Twitter and what for. My apathy versus curiosity ratio has almost reached the point where I'm ready to sign up for an account just to see what the hell the current wave of hype is all about...

Okay, so I signed up for an account. posted one LOLWTF!!!1!one!!won thing, and I believe I am cured forever.

Seriously, is this any use at all to people as opposed to larger sites that can bombard you with tinyurl URLS in order to direct you to real (read: longer than 140 characters) updates? Maybe I'm just too old and/or verbose.

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Shit, Order Two Or More While You’re At It

I took a sick day today because I feel horrible. This day has not been terribly productive. I did notice the most essential product ever manufactured. It pains me to contemplate just how long I spent staring at that thing and wondering if it was some kind of elaborate practical joke. That said, I've experiencing some internal dissonance about whether or not any of the above is really intended as sarcasm.


Less Timely And More Relevant Software Stuff…

So, fuck, there has been a Intel build of Ecto out for nearly a month. This is, of course, unofficial and unsupported and probably cursed by a mummy or something but it is much, much zippier. Opening a preview pane or refreshing it seems much faster now. I will say absolutely nothing about stability because opening my mouth about any issue even peripheral to that of stability is a little like seeking shelter from a downpour of anvils beneath an electromagnetic umbrella. It is fast. I'll put that out there without having my hand bitten off.

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Memory Management Seems Weird At This Point

Maybe I've spent too many hours logging though reams of code in interpreted languages (I guess that would be 'scripting' or 'not real' to all of the purists out there) but handling memory management in a language that isn't good old fashioned C where deallocation is just a 'release' away just seems strange to me. I've been playing with Objective C a fair amount lately and the incrementing method seems completely alien to me.

I guess it's called 'retain count' but it is basically the same thing but in a weird limbo between being the lower level control offered by memory management in C (some would refer to the lack of it but I'm being nice here for reasons I don't really understand) and the more automated garbage collections found in higher level languages. Objective C uses a weird count attached to objects by release and retain messages that seems much harder to keep track of. On one hand you can send release messages to objects you no longer need to reference but that invisible integer is really what controls whether memory being deallocated or not.

All of this is dandy for the dinky little snippets of stuff that I'm writing now but I'd love to find a debugging utility that keeps track of these counts. Leaking memory makes the baby jesus cry tears made of flame and this seems like the ideal setup for those sorts of fits of crying. They are second only to the flood of tears I will produce when trying to debug the allocs in a larger batch of code. Am I just being stupid here? My acquaintance with OO oriented languages is admittedly pretty tentative but it seems like there should be an easier way of keeping track of piles of arrays than keeping track of a count manually. As always clues are much appreciated and applied liberally whenever possible.

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Holy Shit! I Mean, Oh Crap…

When Land of the Dead was released there was a fair amount of talk circulating about future Romero zombie films. The man himself was a little vague when he mentioned it in the DVD/Director's Cut extras but it was definitely there and, of course, led to all sorts of crazy speculation about Land of the Dead being the start of another extended story and other iffy extensions. None of those are bad concepts but none of it really sounds like a George Romero sequence of events. So, now Diary of the Dead has actually been announced and has dates attached to it.

I feel uneasy about the movie if only because The Blair Witch Project is an obvious point of comparison since it mirrors parts of that story: in the woods to make a movie and scary things happen. I am curious about what the film will actually look like since the film/video footage combination might make for some interesting atmosphere and Romero is an incredibly skilled editor. Those quick cuts so common in horror movies (especially the 1980's splatter movie variety) were popularized by his early movies. I'm excited but fairly worried at the same time. The word on the internets is that it will start filming in October. Okay, so I am more excited though the 2008 release isn't as exciting as the fact that it is going to start filming next month. We'll just have to see what the final result will look like.

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Underneath The Drop-cloth

Found via Jeremy Zawodny's always entertaining and time squandering linkblog today, at least for me who reads his aggregator data exploded in a browser while riding the bus, was this article about the hype/marketing versus reality when building application with frameworks. There are a number of really good questions that need to be considered when evaluating these sorts of claims in this post. It's also a pretty realistic summary of the sort of toil you are in for when designing an application that replaces an existing one especially when you have to carry all the data with you. He also made some decisions along the way that cost a considerable amount of time (the decision to switch to PostgreSQL during development) and some tasks that most sane folk wouldn't even consider like rewriting chunks of API (!) that didn't suit his purposes. If you've ever been faced with the choice between rolling your own or using a large framework or library when doing a project and ending up somewhere in between most of this will sound ominously familiar or possibly reopen some old wounds or at least headaches.

The only disagreement I could really find with his methodology is the question raised about using the appropriateness of the toolkit as an issue for debunking when looking at the amount of time that it require to build an application using it. You should be doing most of this before you decide to hand your life over to a framework. This is what becomes so worrisome about addressing all problems with a particular set of tools. Rails seems to be gaining on the Perl abuses of the good old days as it gains popularity and all of the trappings of duh-ness that come with getting religion all involved in your programming languages.

An side order of diversion-jitsu and disclaimer-fu here that needs to be made before the flaming begins: I'm blaming popularity for the abuse and zealous overuse and not the actual language here so drop it before it gets hot. I know it write things in far too many words but I expect you to read and comprehend some of them before I'm going to take any of your ham-fisted 'corrections' to my woeful ineptitude in the properly appraising the One True Flavor Of The Month according to the One True Source Of All Wisdom For Imbecilic Ponderers of Alleged Truth About Things Read About or Otherwise First Considered Ten Minutes Ago terribly seriously. Yes, too many words now please move on before I spill any more in anticipatory defenses of stupid, stupid acts performed by the invisible hordes of idiotic barbarians against my honor. This reminds me that I must get out the CrankyPhone at nearest convenience to demand Southern accent tags from W3C immediately, posthaste, and with damn-the-torpedoes style speeds of delivery... Please choose wisely your hammer oaf-y. Um, so, I kinda lost my train of though in approaching this paragraph or whatever other funny name you would like to give this train wreck of a construction so I will move on immediately before my word count exceeds that of the weblog post I intended to make a brief mention and quick commentary on...

I do think that one of the more enthusiastic positive notes for a first application developed in Django might be the inclusion of a link to the source code for the project which we'll have to shave a eighth of point or so off the overall delivery as it is mentioned as comment appended to post. Most first time developers in a new framework are too busy recovering from their newest ulcer and explaining copious new night sweats to their significant others to bother posting the actual source and/or discussing it in great detail. I think that more explicit discussions like these with some of both good and bad are more valuable as advocacy for a given framework or platform than marketing talk could ever be.