Squeezing a Wikipedia Snapshot Onto an 8GB iPhone
Given the trouble Patrick had squeezing down a full DB dump of Wikipedia to fit into 2GB (for the app store), I find it impossible to believe that the 162 MB files I've found so far for Wikipedia in MDict format are anywhere near the full text (which Patrick's app is).
IE8 Update Forces IE As Default Browser
Automatic update will do an automated install including changing the browser. Running Windows Update manually will prompt you.
Bluetooth Versus Wireless Mice
My roommate has a wireless Mighty Mouse, and it never right-clicks properly for me.
Take your finger off the left side. It's touch sensitive: if you click with a finger on the left, it's a left click; if on the right, it's a right click. If both, it treats it as a left click (to prevent confusion for users who don't know the difference).
Click with just one finger on the mouse, and I bet it'll work just fine.
Bluetooth Versus Wireless Mice
I've had the issue you've described on my iMac; worse yet was that I discovered how to quickly and easily reproduce it, and was about to start trying to track down the issue to figure out how to stop it. Bad timing (IT emergency) and then a power failure meant that by the time I had a chance to sit down and figure it out, the batteries in my mouse died anyway.
I'm hoping that one day I'll stumble across some reliable reproduction method again and be able to figure out what the problem is and stop it.
Btrfs Is Not Yet the Performance King
Or, put another way, Sun released ZFS code under an open-source license, and that should be good enough, but the GPL is too focused on rigid adherence to a strict set of rules, and is thus incompatible with many open-source licenses, including Sun's.
How is it that FreeBSD, for example, got Dtrace support included, but Linux can't? Oh, that's right, it's Sun's fault somehow.
GE Introduces 500GB Holographic Disks
And are fixed storage. You obviously haven't R'ed TFA or you'd see that this is removable storage, like DVDs or Blu-ray.
These are essentially DVDs that store around 450G for $45. Even Blu-ray discs are about $0.50/GB.
That's a lot cheaper, and even if it takes so long for them to come out that BD discs are $0.05/GB, $0.10/GB for ten times the storage will be definitely affordable. These could be great backup solutions for homes or servers depending on the write speed.
RMS Says "Software As a Service" Is Non-free
RMS argues against having anything that is not under your direct control (or cannot be brought under your direct control). I wonder how he computes?
Does he have the source code to his BIOS? And to that of his video card, DSL modem, and cellphone? Does he host his own website, routing his packets using open-source routers that run only Linux?
Sure, all of this is likely possible to some extent, but not entirely. Should we avoid software as a service and do everything ourselves? I want a good issue tracking system. Lighthouse is pretty good. Github's new system is pretty good. All the open-source systems out there are pretty awful. Trac is awful. RT is awful. It's all junk.
I use a Mac. I'd use Linux, but it doesn't do what I want. It's not up to snuff. At the last job I worked at, we all used Linux on the desktop (we were essentially a team of sysadmins), and you know what? Not a week went by when someone had to spend an entire day 'fixing' their broke Fedora machine because some minor Xorg point update had broken, or their yum database was corrupt and they couldn't upgrade their systems. I had a button in my taskbar that ran 'killall -9 soffice.bin' because OpenOffice kept locking up on my machine (but not on anyone else's).
Open-source is great, and I use it whenever the benefits outweigh the drawbacks, but all I see lately is RMS talking about how everything should be free, but not helping to make good things free or free things good. Until he finally grounds himself in reality, I'm not interested anymore.
Contrasting User-Driven Play With Developer Vision
The same thing happens in World of Warcraft. A new 70-man raid instance is made available, and all the high-level, best-gear-available guilds on the server all start hitting it, doing it as much as they can, trying and trying desperately to be the first to beat it.
Eventually, one group beats it, and then there's a cascade. The second group finishes it, maybe faster. Then the third. Then 60 people. Then 40. Eventually you have three hotshots essentially solo'ing something that used to be nearly incomprehensible.
In a lot of cases, it's just a progression of knowledge and skill. Once you know exactly what needs doing, you can refine it further and further, hone the edge sharper and sharper, until you can make one swift stroke instead of the dozens it once took.
Yahoo Pulls the Plug On GeoCities
It's kind of amazing really. If you think about it, the scope of Geocities was likely huge, requiring what must have been, for the time, a colossal amount of bandwidth and hardware to handle the traffic being served by all those users.
Now, however, since it's largely static pages with some minor ad munging, you could probably serve the entirety of their content from a single server, largely from memory, without a lot of fuss.
We've come a long way from Geocities' (almost) static pages in 1995 to our current 'request per user per second' dynamically updating AJAX-enabled user-generated socially-networked drop-shadow rounded-corner web-font lifestyle. Time marches ever onward, and while there's something to be said for simplicity, it's hard to fathom a website that doesn't change any time I do something with it.
F-Secure Suggests Ditching Adobe Reader For Free PDF Viewers
Funny I know, but it's not far off â" Acrobat only bugs me about updating when I'm about to try doing something else. 'I know you said you wanted to see this PDF, but wouldn't you be happier waiting 10 minutes for a software update instead?'
Acrobat needs some method of downloading updates in the background and then just asking you if you want to apply them (yes/no) when you start it, but applying them later, when you're done.
Then again, most apps need to do things like that.
World's First X-Ray Laser Goes Live
As far as medical radiology goes, a pencil-thin beam would be nice for added precision, but also for dramatically reducing the radiation dose. My local hospital has stopped giving me CT scans because I've had so many in the past (out of necessity) that they don't want to fry me any more than necessary.
Replacing the emitters in a CT scanner, which basically spray you with radiation and rely on carefully-placed sensors to create the line-of-sight they want, with a directed, low-power beam that only hits with radiation those cells that actually need it, will dramatically reduce the amount of radiation that patients receive.
Should Network Cables Be Replaced?
I didn't overclock my sink and bling it out with tube lighting and a giant plexiglass window just so I could settle for a measily 100gpm. I want power, and damnit I'm going to get it, no matter how much those pipes cost!
Should Network Cables Be Replaced?
Part of the efficiency is the arrows, so the data knows which direction it should go. Otherwise it gets confused and just goes round and round in circles. You can save some money by drawing arrows on the cables you already have. I've done it on all the cables in our office building, and the tests don't show it, but it FEELS faster!
Build an Open Source SSL Accelerator
How does this reduce the number of certificates required? It might reduce the number of copies of the certificate, but you still need either one certificate per subdomain, or one wildcard certificate per domain.
I'll grant that it makes certificate management simpler, but not significantly so â" it really only saves two minutes every year.
The Low-Intensity, Brute-Force Zombies Are Back
I personally don't like the concept of fail2ban as it is permanently adding an IP address to your banned list. As most of these IPs are dynamic, keeping them in your banned list isn't really serving any useful purpose. I personally prefer a system that temporarily bans an IP.
fail2ban temporarily bans IPs. It removes them after a configurable time limit.
The Low-Intensity, Brute-Force Zombies Are Back
A fair point. I've set up on our production servers two lists for ipset, one each for China and Korea. Bullshit accesses to SSH and HTTP dropped way way off once I did that.
With 719 unique CIDR blocks for China and 430 for Korea, we get a lot less garbage traffic to our servers. Worth the hour it took to set up, too.
The Low-Intensity, Brute-Force Zombies Are Back
Likewise - I use fail2ban with iptables to drop any packets from someone who fails auth about 5 times in a few minutes. I've toyed with the idea of adding them to a global blacklist for all servers in all locations, but in reality this solution works just fine.
Paper Companies' Windfall of Unintended Consequences
Except that the largely prevailing attitude in the US judicial system seems to be that of the letter of the law, not the spirit of the law. The trend is that if there's a loophole, you exploit it, and if the law says it's ok, then it's ok.
The US needs to shift in the opposite direction, that of intending to do the right thing and punishing those who don't. The spirit of the law, in American legal culture, is meaningless. Until that changes, loopholes will be created and exploited at every opportunity.
Goldman Sachs Tries To Shut Down Dissident Blogger
The term for this is the Streisand Effect
Apple Promises Mother Lode to Billionth App Downloader
I've always found it amusing that in the US, you get taxed on things you win, whereas in socialist Canada, where our tax rates are *so high*, prize winnings are considered windfall income and are non-taxable. Thus, if you won this contest in Canada, you wouldn't pay any tax.
Who are you people?
Not to be rude, but who are you people? I don't mind fans, and I'm glad you like reading my shit, but last time I checked, I had like six fans, and I knew three of them personally. Now there's a bunch of people.
I don't check my friends/fans/foes/freaks lists very often, so don't take it personally if I haven't friended/don't friend you. I just don't have the time to look through everyone's stuff and see if I want to hear more of what you say (though chances are, if you want to hear what I have to say, I'll want to hear what you have to say).
So yeah, nothing personal, and hi everyone.
Stop it god damnit
Why do people keep posting in their journals then deleting them? It makes no sense. I get these messages and go to read and POOF, gone. Oh well.
You Know I Am
I know this place is where I am,
No other place is better than.
No matter where I go I am,
Proud to be Canadian!
I am, you know I am, I am Canadian!
I am, you know I am, I am Canadian!
I love this country where I am,
This land is where I make my stand.
No other heart is truer than,
The one we call Canadian, Canadian!
I am, you know (you know I am)
I am Canadian (you know I am)
I am, you know I am (you know I am),
I am Canadian.
I AM CANADIAN!
Fictional Journals for Fictional Times?
So I was at The Bakery today, and I came up with a neat idea based on something someone else said, so I thought I'd mention it here and see what people think.
We've seen all kinds of blogs and crap from high and low, people who feel it important to prattle on about their day, knowing that somewhere, there's some loser whose life is so much worse that they think this is the highest possible form of entertainment. How do we know that these things are true thoguh? Well, it's hard to say. But I have an idea that might be more interesting.
Fake people. Or rather, real people writing fake weblogs about fake personas of themselves. If I sat down and logged (well, blogged) the day to day events of my life, it'd be pretty boring. Here's a typical Saturday during the school year, to give you an example.
'Woke up at about 5 AM; decided to stay in bed. Got up around noon and played Unreal II while I ate breakfast. Read slashdot, checked email. No email. Went up to the mall, got a coffee at starbucks, read books at chapters for two hours. Went to EB. Games still all suck. Note all the cute girls in the city, but know that I couldn't get a girlfriend to save my life. Got depressed, went home, and played Unreal II until roommate comes home. Played American Conquest LAN game until I realized the game sucks. Went to bed.'
Exciting, eh? I can just see the hits I'd get on my site if I was posting juicy tales like that every day. But how about this:
'Woke up at about 5 AM again. Was going to go back to sleep, but I had too much to do. Checked stock quotes and mutual funds. Together with GICs, am up $1500 since Thursday. Excellent. Mike and I were invited to a private party in Ibiza on Sunday, so I checked the reservations. Talked to the woman at the airline, found out she's from Vancouver as well. Managed to talk her into upgrades to first-class. How cool is that?. Went up to Starbucks to grab a coffee, invited Kelly to the party, she accepted with enthusiasm. Unfortunately, I don't think my charm could get me an upgrade for another woman, so I'll have to pay for this one in full. Oh well, it'll be fun.'
Now sure, that seems a little far-fetched, but it's a rough example. Who wants to read a blog, you say, about someone who's everything they're not? Well, people watch it on TV all the time.
Check out the latest Degrassi thingie - you get a locker, get to write articles in the student paper, and so on. It's like a community, only it's a role-playing community.
Well, what if we had a role-playing community of our own? We'd each pick a persona, and then we'd integrate ourselves into the community of role-players, and we'd interact with them as they'd interact with us. I'd mention the Ibiza party that Mike and I are going to, Mike would mention this cute girl he met at the party when I was chatting up the hostess, and so on. Theoretically, you could even create 'real-world rules' - rules on how to create a character in this fictional world (no oen can be rich, good-looking, smart, successful, and charming all at once - that's just unrealistic. Who would choose to be a jackass?)
Theoretically, you could use some other RPG's rulesets - Shadowrun, for example, or the Star Wars adaptation of 3ed rules - but that might be a bit overdone. It would depend on what people wanted to do, I guess. That aspect would be best served by blogging an actual character's actual RP sessions, so that could be a secondary idea.
So back to the first idea - what if we all created characters, and characters had to be approved by everyone else (or a proportion of everyone else) before they were allowed to join this community. Everything that happened would be fictional, and would be predetermined, just like real life events are. People would be required to stay within the confines of their character (someone with average financial success couldn't up and buy a skyscraper), but large-scale events could be cleared by everyone (average financial success wins powerball lottery). Basically, a fake real community, with real fake people.
It's a rough idea now, and I'm pretty muhc just ranting, but I think it would be a neat idea. The most interesting part, however, would be keeping it real enough that no one would know it's all fake. Could it be done? Could we maintain the fourth wall? Would someone figure it out? It's hard to say.
From sql*kitten's journal:
In Italy, the productive North wants independance from the idle South. In Belgium, the hard-working Flemings want to split from the lazy and debt-ridden Walloons. And it cannot be long now before the support grows among the decent folk of the South East for independance from the dead wood in the rest of Britain.
Canada has set up a system in order to, as he put it, 'redistribute the wealth', called 'transfer payments'. The richer provinces pay a certain amount of money, based on their GDP, to the federal government, and that money goes to support the poorer provinces.
Result: Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, and BC are paying to support the Atlantic provinces. The money that Alberta earns (and Alberta is freaking rich) goes to pay Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, who apparantly have been pissing it down the drain. When I got to Nova Scotia, I was appalled. There are 50 km sections of paved road (in many places) that has crumbled so bad that gravel or dirt would be preferable. There is a dearth of culture, and layer upon layer of bureaucracy (a friend who works at the local tourist attraction can look forward to weeks of waiting for authorization if he wants to run a perl script on the web server). It's sadly mismanaged, and it's mismanaged with my tax money.
I'm not a fan of the whole separatist ideal - Canada is Canada, it's a family of provinces and I think we should stick together. Still, I'm tired of these provinces being a sinkhole for money that goes only to support the welfare bums of Cape Breton and Newfoundland. I'm not surprised Alberta is talking of separating, really.
The Atlantic provinces hardly hold their own weight, and it's not just hard luck either. The fishermen in Newfoundland knew ten years ago that cod stocks were running drastically low. Yet last month, when the cod fisheries were closed, putting hundreds out of work, it was as if it was some kind of surprise injustice, as if they hadn't been told this would happen ten years ago. But did they listen? Did they bother to look around and try to figure out something new they could do? No, they continued fishing as much as they could, buying $300,000 homes, yachts, cars, and everything else, and now that there's no fish, they're crying to the government about it.
Nova Scotia has discovered huge oil reserves. So they decided that they should be developed. However, since they were too goddamn stupid about it, they sold the rights to a New Brunswick company. Now half the houses in Fredericton have Natural Gas, the most efficient way to heat a modern home. In Nova Scotia, where the pipeline was built, no one has anything. New Brunswick is getting rich, and Nova Scotia is sitting around whining about it.
But don't think New Brunswick is full of geniuses. The federal fisheries minister lowered day quotas on crab fishing, so people aren't allowed to haul up as much. The reaction? The crab fishermen decided to go on strike. They weren't going to haul anything up. In fact, they prevented anyone else from going out there too, so no crab were getting fished. They didn't realize, however, that if they don't bring in crab, they don't get paid. So what do they do? The logical thing: riot. Though no one was injured, four boats, three belonging to the government and one belonging to the Big Cove First Nation, were torched. Along with that, they burned down one of the three fish plants, a warehouse, and tried to burn down the federal Department of Fisheries office.
When I lived out West, I thought that people in the Maritimes were all NDP-voting welfare recipients who never actually contributed to the country as a whole. Now I know they're all right-wing backwater Conservative welfare loonies who don't contribute to anything except the beer industry. I'm fairly certain there's not a useful one among them.
They say better the devil you know than the devil you don't, but I say better to think the devil than to know the devil. When I lived out West, I thought they were useless. Now I know they're counter-productive. They waste their money, and then they waste everyone else's money, and the best they can hope is to stay where they are without falling back down the slope to poverty.
Maybe I sound bitter, but believe me, if you found out that the parts of your country with the most potential couldn't reach that because they have to pay to keep the lowest-potential parts afloat, you'd be upset too. I don't know what could be done about it, other than terminating the transfer payments over time. After all, they're meant to help provinces in need, but only as a hand up, not a hand out. These people should have some pride and learn to stand on their own. Unfortunately, it seems they don't have much of an interest in it.
Maybe it's time we do like BC did to its welfare recipients: start making them prove that they're looking for a job. Make them show us that yes, they have tried to get their economy to be self-supporting, and it's just not working out quite yet, but they're trying. Then I'll be satisfied. But until then, you bet I'm going to be bitter.
About Damn Time Too
Well, here in the Land of the Freezing, we've had what I consider to be a breakthrough in the field of human rights: same-sex marriages.
TORONTO - Ontario's attorney general says the province will obey the law and register same-sex marriages.
The Ontario Appeals Court ruled Tuesday the definition of marriage was invalid, and ordered the city of Toronto to issue marriage licences to same-sex couples.
Unfortunately, this isn't as clear-cut as it should be. First of all, the decision wasn't made by the government - it was made by the courts. Judges in the Ontario Provincial Court decided Tuesday that 'All Canadians should have the right to marry.' Too true. Unfortunately, the government has been waving too much on the issue. And who can blame them? If they say 'yes', they'll be labelled as breaking up the idea of the family unit, and lose all the votes from conservatives and bigots. If they say 'no', they'll be labelled as conservative reactionaries and they'll lose a lot of Western and a significant number of Central votes.
Secondly, there are those - significant numbers of them - that want this appeal to be appealed. And if it is still upheld by the appeals court, or if it is later upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada, it could still be overridden by the notwithstanding clause - a necessary evil, though one that can backfire.
Oddly enough, it is the BBC which has the most telling article on this divisive issue.
And Derek Rogusky of Canada's Focus on the Family group, writes in the Globe and Mail that the Ontario decision " has devalued the institution of marriage".
Devalued the institution of marriage? How on earth can it be devalued any more than it already is? I point to stars like J.Lo, and the myriad of other Hollywood glamour kings and queens. These people have each married and divorced more people in their lives than I've ever dated - I'm no Cassanova, sure, but even if I were, that statement would still be true for some.
The sanctity of marriage is a sham, and has been for years. Divorce is rampant, cheating, spousal abuse, it's horrible. People get 'married' in casinos in Vegas ('By the powers invested in me by the Nevada Gaming Commission...' -- The Simpsons) ten times in a week. You can't tell me that letting a man marry another man is going to do more damage to the outdated institution of 'marriage' than Hollywood.
"We have long opposed same-sex marriages, believing marriage is the unique union between a man and a woman," says the Toronto Sun in an editorial.
Marriage between a man and woman has been a historical necessity. From hunters and foragers to husbands, from nurses and cavemakers to wives, human society has formed a bond between the sexes to help us survive. But that is no longer necessary. Women don't need to depend on men anymore, now that they have rights of their own. Single parentage, though I don't encourage it, is accepted as one way of life, not necessarily wrong. Men who just leave their wives don't get off scot free. There are institutions in place to protect those that marriage itself is designed to protect.
Personally, this reminds me of another rather large debate of this past century. I was told recently, by a friend that I thought was at least somewhat open-minded, that the purpose of gay pride parades was to 'flaunt it' in our faces. Gay people, he insisted (and his sister backed him up on this) think they're 'better than us', that 'we should all be gay' (he was very adamant about this 'fact'). This, I can't help but think, is preposterous - ludicrous talk that smacks of bigotry and a refusal to think, let alone understand. These people, the whole family, cheer a Member of Parliament named Elsie Wayne, who shouted in Parliament that gay people should 'get on with their lives, and shut up about it'.
I wonder if Elsie, who is getting on in years, and has undoubtedly seen large parts of the past century unfold, would have said the same thing of the african americans of years past who wanted 'equal rights' as homosexuals do. Should these people have '[gotten] on with their lives', instead of bothering their governments? Should they have 'shut up about it'? Hell no.
Likewise, are Black Pride parades because 'they' think they're better than 'us'? Is it because they want everyone to be black? Does Michael Jackson have it all backwards? Could it be more preposterous? Not really.
What these people don't seem to understand is that homosexuality is not a choice. One is born with the sexuality they are born with, and you can either accept that, or you can choose to live the other way, whatever that may be, either gay men who are in denial (or are living a lie for conveniance), or women who have been abused in their childhoods and prefer women to men because of their trauma, or whatever the case may be. If you are born as the 'man's man', then so you shall be. If, like me, you prefer the fairer sex, but have some 'feminine' attributes yourself (I have a very girlish figure, if I do say so myself, and I pay a lot of attention to my hair), then hey, roll with it. If you prefer the company of a woman or a man, no matter which you are, then so you are, as long as you are being true to yourself.
So why is it so wrong? Why can't people just accept that some people are different? Personally, the idea of gay sex disgusts me - but then, so does the idea of eating liver. Being a cunning linguist, however, is something I would encourage to everyone (personally, I enjoy it).
What it comes down to is this: I don't have a problem with gay sex or gay marriages, as long as they don't involve me (well, lesbian sex/marriages I wouldn't mind being involved in, but that's another matter). So why can't the conservatives 'get on with their lives, and just shut up about it?' After all, the only people infringing on others' rights are them.
Is that Interface or In Your Face?
A recent post by SQL*Kitten has reminded me of an issue I've been talking
about with Adam lately, so I think I'll rant about that for a while. Computers
are user-unfriendly. This is pretty obvious. It doesn't matter if you're a
programmer or a grandmother (or both!), they still have flaws. I'm going to
discuss one of those flaws (intentionally; I'll probably ramble on into other
The flaw that irks me the most is UIs. I use computers as a tool, as a means
to an end, not an end itself. Sure, when I get a new 'toy', I play with it
like a toy, but after that's done, it's all business. Mostly. But the problem
I have is when the computer gets in my way, and interferes with my ability
to do whatrever it is I'm trying to do.
Open up Outlook 2003 (and probably 2000) when you use an IMAP mail server,
but are not connected to the internet, and you'll have an unpleasant experience.
Outlook will try to contact the mail server. Specifically, it will send a message
to the mail server, which will not get there, and then it will wait for a reply.
You cannot stop this process. Once it starts (and it starts once you launch
the program), it continues until Outlook gives up, which takes enough time
to be frustrating. Ugh. Horrible.
Launch Thunderbird, the latest snapshots of the new Mozilla mail client. On
the P3/933 I tested it on, with the 512 megs of ram (a decent machine by any
standards), it took about three minutes for the window to come up. Once it
did, it was pretty much completely unresponsive for another two minutes, at
which point all hell broke loose. Turns out I'd accidentally launched two copies
(since you don't know if it launched unless you check the process list or the
window opens, and I'd thought the first double-click didn't take). Ugh, bad.
Worst part is though, the spam filtering. It requires you to download the messages.
All the messages. Then it has to process them. That's fine, except for the
several multi-megabyte messages I have in my inbox from when I was on broadband,
which I am leaving there until to broadband I return. But it wanted to download
them anyway, even though they're probably not spam since they were sent to
me in March and have been sitting there, read, ever since. I don't usually
archive spam, especially multi-megabyte spam.
So both copies of Thunderbird were trying to download several megs of e-mail,
and there was no easy way to stop them, except to force kill the process. This
is very similar to Outlook, in that it does the same thing when it starts up,
minus the spam filtering. Compare this, as well, to Phoenix/Firebird/Whatever,
which, when it's doing a DNS query, refuses to do anything else. If you drag
a window in front of it, you can 'paint' it - erase the contents of the Firebird
window with whatever dialog you happen to grab. This is a great source of amusement
for me when I'm bored, and I'm often bored when running any of these programs,
because they insist on doing nothing for such large amounts of time, and for
such poor reasons, and they do it so often.
At least they're consistant.
I've never noticed this on OS X, or even the old MacOS for that matter. The
interface was always there. You couldn't paint it away, because it would redraw
as soon as it was exposed. Nice.
SQL*Kitten had a good bitch about Mozilla. IE users will probably understand
his complaints too. It's not known to many computer users, but the technical
use of 'stop' in computer user-interface jargon means 'continue doing whatever
is wasting CPU cycles, memory, or time, until you're pretty much done, then
notice that you were told to stop and throw all that hard work out the window'.
It's true. I don't know why it's not in the Jargon file though. I blame ESR.
In Mozilla, when you click stop, nothing happens. It keeps loading the page,
or DNSing the server, or whatever the hell else it's doing, UNTIL such a point
as any reasonable person would say 'well, it's almost done anyway, may as well
let it finish', at which point it will completely throw out the DNS resolution,
the page loading, close connections, or whatever, not only having wasted your
time, but having wasted it pointlessly. It's as if it flaunts the fact that
you have no control, waving your UI (user ineptitude) in front of your face,
before robbing you of your dignity and dropping it in the garbage disposal
of digital torment. IE does this as well, but unlike Mozilla, whose UI is unresponsive
until the very end, in IE the toolbars respond fine, and everything works,
except the stop button. Click it all you like, but nothing happens. Ever. I
have a colleague at Microsoft who secretly showed me the source code to Internet
Explorer, and I verified this myself. There is no actual code attached to the
stop button in IE. It's not supposed to do anything. Amazing
Somewhere, something horrible has gone wrong. Back in the 70's, you see, computers
were not for people to use. In fact, computers were purchased with the same
rationale as trucks. Just like how middle-class city-dwelling husbands will
insist on buying
the biggest, noisiest, fuel-chugging truck possible, despite the fact that
it will only hold two of the five people in their household, is absolutely
for hauling groceries since it always rains, and will only ever be drive by
the man because the wife is terrified to death of the 12.9 litre 8000 Horsepower
V63 engine with the 19 speed transmission, and rightly so. Likewise, the first
computers were large, ugly, stupid things that took a lot of space, used a
of power, gave a lot of heat, and made the CS department heads think they had
bigger, uh, 'units of measure'.
These creations were like beautiful paintings, they argued. They are not there
to make life better, or to solve problems. Mona Lisa never lifted a finger
to help liberate Paris from the Germans! It's not the point! They exist for
the point of existing, so that people may admire them without understanding
what it is that makes them great!
A noble cause, and appropriate for the time. Meanwhile, Steve Jobs and Steve
Wozniak got unforgivably rich by making something that people could use to
do neat things. But I digress.
This attitude has descended down, through the creation of the first IBM PC
('it doesn't need to be usable, it's cheap!'), to Windows ('It doesn't need
to be usable, it's got solitare.'), and even Linux ('It doesn't need to be
usable, you need to RTFM you moron, then recompile your kernel with CONFIG_USELESSFOO,
which as everyone knows is needed to run, but you'll have to add another
#define on line 523 of arch/sparc/header.h even though you're running on x86,
because that's just the way it is').
You see, this is the sort of situation which you would describe by saying
'somewhere along the line, x happened', except that the problem is that x didn't
happen. People didn't realize that computers could be useful, and when they
did realize this, they tried their best to keep other users away from their
precious thing. Unfortunately, they failed, and now we have AOL, and they can
never be forgiven, but what's passed has passed and we have to look at
here and now.
Computers need to be designed for the users. Linux is built from the bottom
up. The kernel was written, then the userspace utilities were added. Then someone
said 'wouldn't it be neat if it were usable by everyone!'. That person was
lynched, and their head was placed on a pike as a message to others. Then someone
else said, more cautiously, 'wouldn't it be a challenge to code a graphical
user interface that made sense?', and of course people agreed, but that wasn't
enough. The sensible thing to do, they said, was to hack up an old protocol
(X11), written by two men who knew full well that they didn't know what they
were doing, add extensions to it that no one else would ever support, and then
proceed to write the most preposterous graphical toolkit ever concieved by
man. They called it the Graphically Torrid Kludge, or 'GTK'. In order to prevent
anyone writing anything useful using this, and to prevent anyone from writing
patches to make this new software usable by making sensible dialogs and menus,
they made sure the documentation was mediocre, the implementation was slow
and pathetic, and the code was incomprehensible unless you already knew what
it all meant anyway.
A noble goal, shared by all. Meanwhile, Trolltech amassed a huge following
by writing an object-oriented toolkit that was simple to program with, was
more responsive, and looked nicer in its default setting. But I digress.
Microsoft had a different design strategy, and that was 'oh shit, we have
to release this next week, what the fuck are we going to do?' This resulted
in an operating system that was written from the hardware up (DOS), a hacked-on
shell that was written from DOS up (Windows) and Windows 95, which I won't
get into detail about. Somehow, this philosophy of 'we don't know what this
does, but we'll charge $200 for it' made them scads of money. On an unrelated
note, Adam Smith is spinning in his grave.
Apple has a different design philosophy, which is quite clearly apparant.
I call this the user-down approach. If you use a mac for any amount of time
(without preconceptions of how things 'should' work based on other, crappier
OSes), you will notice this effect. When you see something, you can figure
out what it does by thinking about what you think it probably does, and you'll
probably be right. I know people who program on the Mac with Apple's toolkit,
and they have said, repeatedly, that they don't need to look up functions,
they just figure out what they're probably called, and figure out what information
they probably need, and they're almost always right. I've seen people write
entire applescripts for programs they've never used before, just by writing
what would make sense. In the words of Douglas Adams, 'This is, of course,
impossible.' It should be noted, too, that Douglas Adams was an avid mac user.
Apple's user-oriented design has allowed them to become friendly with people
who don't honestly care about their computer, except as a tool. For the people
who want to sit down, do something, then go have a life doing something more
interesting, the Mac is a well designed tool. Now, I'm not advocating rabid
mac-use (in this paragraph), but merely trying to point something out. Why
can programmers not realize that the user's input is the most important thing
the computer could ever hope to be involved with. I don't care if I'm processing
the cure for cancer, if I have some reason to stop it, then for god's sake,
stop the fucking process. If I'm loading a website, or running a Photoshop
filter, or printing a document, or sorting a directory by name, I should be
able to cancel, pause, or continue any of these actions.
Say it with me now: The user is the point of the computer's existance. I
am not there for the computer's edification, it is there for my use. So why
can't it be usable?
Damn those Protestants
I picked up a book last year, when I was still in my 'omg!! Chapters!@#$%'
phase, called 'The Hacker Ethic'. The discussion is the sort of thing the average
Slashdotter would approve of - 'Hackers aren't evil baddies, they can be good
guys. Or even computer-illiterate, like art hackers or car hackers' and blah
blah. One of the things discussed there is the Protestant Work Ethic. For those
who are unfamiliar, I will provide a short explanation.
World history is pretty long, but it basically starts out with dinosaurs roaming
the earth. After a while, they died and the Romans showed up, and they built
aquaducts and roads and took over Jerusalem. A short time later, people claim,
Jesus was born. For a more accurate historical analysis of this event, rent
Monty Python's The Life of Brian, which goes into great detail about
the coming of the messiah. Anyway, after he died, but didn't really die, the
people who listened to him started gathering together to talk about him behind
his back, and eventually they made a church and took over Europe. Everyone
had to do what the Church said, or they'd go to hell, which was alright as
long as you didn't mind your entire life and the life of your children being
indentured servitude to a bunch of ornately-dressed corrupt officials. Then
Martin Luther got pissed and wrote why he didn't like the church and nailed
it to his door, and then Europe fell apart.
The result of Martin Luther's actions was the splitting of Christianity into
Catholics and Protestants. Luther believed that it wasn't what you did that
mattered to God, it was what you felt. It wasn't working your ass off and then
giving it all to the Church that got you into heaven, no, it was having faith
in God, reading the Bible ('New Bible', as I refer to it as, to distinguish
it from 'Bible Classic', which contains my favourite book, Daniel), and making
up your own mind. This backfired for Luther because he naturally assumed
would read New Bible and come to the same conclusions he did, which they didn't.
Still, the idea was founded that you don't have to revolve your life around
the Church. Normally, I'd be happy about this. I think faith should be a personal
thing. But this sucked. Why?
They had to find something else to fill that void, and so they filled it with
work. After that, things went to shit, and then we made computers and offices
and cubicles and accounting, and now we're all in hell whether you go to church
or not. The Protestant Work Ethic came about because people decided that work
was a good thing to replace the church with. Today, therefore, you are a failure
unless you have a good job and are making good money. But why? If I earned
$150,000 a year, I'd probably spend $150,000 a year, give or take. Maybe I'd
take a vacation now and then, but who knows. Chances are good. If I made $50,000/yr,
I'd spend it. If I made $19,000/yr, I'd spend it. That's how it works. We get
this mindset of 'I have more money, I can buy nice things' but no one knows
how to manage their money, so it never goes anywhere. But if you're not making
as much as your neighbour, or if you're not in a secure job like your neighbour,
you're a failure, and you'll die lonely and miserable.
But there's another option. Watch American Beauty for a good example.
Life is hell for this guy, until he realizes that it doesn't really matter
what kind of job you have, or even if you have one. He realizes that he's happier
without a job than with one, because he didn't like his job anyway. Fight
another example, until later on when it gets really fucked up.
I'm the same way, but I have a different problem. I can't focus on things
I'm not interested in. I honestly can't, no matter how hard I try, my mind
drifts instantly and I can't focus. Ask my 'real life' friends if this is true
and they'll tell you how I forget what I'm saying in the middle of a sentence
a lot of the time, even when I'm really excited about whatever I'm saying.
Then apply that to me not caring at all what I'm doing, and imagine how hard
it is to focus. It's hard.
I don't want a job where I get hired, get my desk, then retire 50 years later
and die having wasted my life. I want a job where I can meet different people.
Where I can work here or there or anywhere. A contracting position for example.
Alternately, I would enjoy jobs where I could go from one company to another.
Small, relatively insignificant jobs that I can leave whenever I want, and
find another one right away. Like the guy from American Beauty. He
gets a job at a burger joint. I've made a solemn vow to myself never to work
in food service, but the example still stands.
So here's the question: what sort of jobs/opportunities are there out there
for someone who only wants to work a little bit and then go elsewhere? Or who
wants to move around a lot and make sure his life involves different things?
Or, alternately, for someone who wants to basically be able to do his job and
then be done (sysadmin, etc) except for routine maintenance?
I tell you what I'd like to do. I'd like to be a manager. Run a department
in a store like Superstore for a while. Then, leave, and get a job elsewhere.
Maybe Radio Shack. Maybe the Sony Store. Maybe Black's Photography. Corporate
stores. I think it'd be interesting. But I'm not sure how one gets into jobs
like management without being promoted or knowing someone. It's hard to say.
Anyway, that's my thought for the day. Later today, or tomorrow, I'll start
scribing the origins of humanity, as I believe they might have been. I'm hoping
the slashdot community will be able to add more to my timeline or correlate/clarify
some of my points. It's been a while and I've lost all the documentation I
had outlining where my evidence comes from, but it's an interesting archaeological/anthropological
theory. At least, I think so.
So I'm bored. Maybe I can't start a trend by posting porn in my journal, and I won't get fans by just having a chick-sounding name. But hey, let's start an experiment.
To Gerhard, Bethanie, and anyone else who reads this or gets pointed here, I have a task for you: add Anonymous Hero to your friends list. Why? I dunno. He has no posts, no fans, no friends. So why not give him some? A little silly, I know, but he's a hero, and though we may never know his identity, I think we should show our appreciation for all he's done for us, whatever that may be. So add him. And post in your journals for your fans to add him. And have them post in theirs. Will they? Who knows? But why not? It's not harming anyone, and we have that nice link to make it easy for people. So hey, if you're game, let's see how many people we can get on his fans list. He's been around a long long time, it's time someone said 'thank you'.
PS: Curiously, I don't seem to show up on his fans list. Odd. Oh well. Maybe this won't work after all. Maybe I just don't count.
Journal Boogie (Get down with the boogie)
Well, I don't know about the geeks you've met, but it seems to me that it's not intelligence that ruins people and gets people ostracized, it's how you deal with it. Geeks that I've met tend to think that the things they're better at are more important than the things that other people are better at. They're good at schoolwork and reading, but bad at sports, but sports are unimportant. They watch star trek, not Melrose Place (supposedly), because it's intellectually stimulating, as opposed to Melrose, which is /so/ unrealistic, and besides, it's not stimulating at /all/. Feh.
Geeks have different pursuits, sure, but (from being in the thick of things) I've found that most of the time, it's not because they enjoy them more necessarily, but because they think they're above anything else. These are the 'Ivory Tower' of geeks. Not all geeks are like that, of course. I'm actually quite a rounded person. I enjoy things like climbing rock faces (unprofessionally) travelling, cooking, programming, philosophy, and so on.
The thing that sets them apart isn't their intelligence, but it's how they portray themselves. Geeks that I know tend to set themselves apart from everyone else in their childhood. They're smart, but they're no good in social situations. Maybe they're no good at sports, so don't want to bother trying (that's me). Maybe they get persecuted just for reading books (shit happens), but a lot of the time, I think it has to do with your attitude and the way you go about things, such as social interactions. I know I was never any good at dealing with people, but I never blamed my intelligence (or accused them of having a lack thereof). If anything, it has to do with the fact that I moved pretty much every year and never had any semblance of consistant social development in my childhood.
Basically, what I'm saying on that topic is that it's not 'years of social ostracism based on his intelligence and (perhaps) less-than-refined social skills', but rather 'years of social ostracism based on poor social skills and (perhaps) intelligence'. I'm just glad that I realized my problems when I was 16 and decided to fix them, rather than waiting until 20 or 25 to try and change my ways.
I haven't read Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, but I have read a very similar book, which changed my outlook on... well, nothing. I'll consider looking it up if it's good, but I know the big barriers I have to becoming an effective person, it's just harder to get over them than just snapping one's fingers.
but if I start posting a bunch of links to porn sites under the guise of being enigmatic, somebody ban me!
Been looking through my Friends list? :P
Anyway, the reason I write is for other people. That's the whole point in putting it in words. I don't have much of an interest in my past (except for learning from), I don't know what the future holds, and I know what's in the present. I will admit that it's a nice idea to just vent and have other people listen, but I can't vent about people here on the chance that they might read it, and there's nothing else that I really have the need to vent about.
I guess the point is, I'd like to journal for other people to read, because I don't feel any need or desire to journal for myself, which I don't expect...
I left that sentence in because I thought it was weird. I was in the middle of typing and was interrupted, and when I went back to whatever it was I was saying I found that, as usually happens, I not only have no idea what I was going to say, I can't even figure out what I could have been about to say. It's weird, but gives an interesting mental excercise to try and discern what might have been about to be said. Whee.
Besides,...; AGH. Another quirk. I accidentally typed 'BNesides', so I went back to take out the 'N', and muscle-memory took over, so I ended up with 'Bnesides'. Took me two more tries to get it right. Curse you essay-writing.
Anyway, what I was going to say was that the last time I kept a journal, it ended up being a good window back onto a me that I didn't much care to be reminded of. Oh well.
Then again, maybe I'll just write rants about whatever comes to mind. Yeah, that could work. Hmm...
Completely off topic here, am I the only one who thinks that Anonymous Coward posting is completely useless to the purposes of slashdot? I mean, it's nice and all, but the only AC posts that ever get made are either 1) trolls, 2) people posting full text of articles, 3) people who are new to slashdot, or 4) (most commonly) people who have something to say but are afraid to attach their name to it. In order, these are rendered invalid because 1) No one likes trolls except other trolls; 2) let them post as users, they always get modded up; 3) If you're new to slashdot, it's better to register anyway, because otherwise you'll never have any idea how your comment was taken; 4) If you're afraid to express your point of view in public, then you either know you're just being a jackass ('who cares about the Jews, they deserved what they got'), or you've got a legitimate point of view but you're too much of a coward to stand up for what you believe.
I've got news for people though: even posting something that 'no one accepts ' can be accepted. I can't tell you how many 'Score: 5' posts I have from standing up for Microsoft. Or ID Cards. Or US-bashing. Or Canada-bashing. The trick is to be right (ha ha), or at least, be convincing in your viewpoint. Most people who post AC though basically say 'ID cards are bad', or 'bsd sucks'. Yet I've managed to get 'Score:5' by bashing BSD with good points, or 'Score: 3' bashing anti-ID card activists before they've even said anything.
So to all the ACs out there with something to say, I say this: stand up for what you believe in, and if it's not accepted, then so what. Don't hide like a scared little girl in a horror flick, stand up like the hero and say what you think needs to be said. And when the rest of us mod you down into oblivion, maybe you'll get the clue and get lost. Or maybe not. Either way, quit hiding.
Journal Fever (I didn't mean to make it that long)
Journal? Well, I got wordy. Skip to the third-last paragraph if you don't intend to read the whole thing. I don't mind if you don't read it, though I think the post puts it all in context, but please skip down at the very least just to read the point of this post.
Everyone seems to be getting on the journal bandwagon. Bethanie, a new friend/fan, is quite the journaller (and quite the successful slashdot poster too); sql*kitten is as chatty as usual, though he (yes, he's a he, but it's still a cute nick; and yes Gerhard, I knew before you ever suggested it) isn't saying anything particularly interesting lately, and I haven't felt up to replying to his latest rant about Israel (I don't intend to put much effort into explaining about the 'poor palestinians' and their plight, but no one tell me the Israelis don't have blood on their hands. Neither side is any less guilty, as far as I'm concerned). Gerhard started ranting a while ago but stopped; Dalassa started and stopped again too. Aridhol threw out a puzzle a while back, which led me to believe I'm not a sociopath. It's true. I just don't understand how human social interaction is supposed to work, and so I retreat from it. Oh well.
MikeFM started posting in his journal a while back. He wrote once in January, once in February, and once in March, but no one responded. I have to wonder how many people even read it. Now, i'm not trying to bring the guy down, but he said himself in several posts that he's a sociopath, and that he does his best to deliberately avoid people. Then, he said that people are toys if you learn how to push their buttons, and that he looks at them as pets. Interesting. Sounds like a bitter security complex. But back in February, he admitted in his Journal that he's lonely, and has no friends within 100 miles. Not that he has time for friends, of course. No no.
It seems to me that he's in the same position I was a while ago. Hate the world, hate the people in it. Decide that you're better than them. Not just better: superior. You are a god to these pathetic mortals. Superiority complex. They distance themselves from you, so you rationalize it by claiming it's by your choice. But no one chooses to be alone. Humans are social creatures. We make ourselves want to be alone because we can't face reality, we can't face that it might be us who is imperfect, not just the rest of the world.
Existentialism tells us that it is the choices we make that determine who we are. We don't have a big alibi to fall back on. God doesn't make our choices for us, as pre-reformation Christianity would have us believe. Neither does evolution, or the id and superego, as Darwin and Freud argued. The choices we make are what affect who we become, and it is only by understanding what we lack and choosing to pursue it to our fullest abilities that we are ever truly able to achieve the happiness we seek. I'm not denying Christianity, but if you want to look at it from a Christian perspective, think of it as 'God helps those who help themselves.'
These people, people who see the world as a horrible, negative, dark, unhappy place, people who complain a lot, people who hate the world and everyone in it, and believe that life is out to get them, seem to be almost an archetype. Ever notice that there's no one who's generally a happy person, but thinks that the world is a horrible place anyway? Or who thinks that the world is a perfect, pristine utopia, full of promise and helpful people, but is still constantly depressed, bitter, and whining? They all go together, because when we choose to be depressed, we choose to see the world in a depressing manner. When we choose to see the worst, the worst is all we see. It may sound like a crock, but I went from the most depressing person I know to the most optimistic. I've even run into trouble on several occasions because I've completely forgotten all sense of worry or concern for my personal wellbeing, because I just plain forgot that people aren't all, deep down inside, generally good. If I can do it, anyone can, and I think MikeFM could if he wanted to. He doesn't sound happy, and I wish he were, even though I don't know him, but he has to realize that it's a choice he has to make. I wonder if he'd listen if I posted in his journal. I wonder if he'd notice.
See, no one posted in his journal. Is it because no one had anything to say? Or because no one happened to read his journal? Or did no one care? It seems sad to think the latter, but it's possible, and there's always some lingering doubt in me that shouts that answer at every possible question: 'no one's replying because no one's listening, because no one cares.' And it got me thinking. Why don't I blog? Because I don't have anything to say? Not really. To a point, yes, but I always have some thought going through my head that I could put down. Or every day I could write a new chapter of 'Installing DebianSSL' or something similar, which is something I've been playing at doing lately. Or I could just rant about whatever.
Is it because I'm a very private person? To a point, but not really. If anything, it's the people I do know that I wouldn't want reading it, because they're the ones that can take things in context. Sometimes, I just want to get on the web and just let loose, but I can't, because someone might take offense to my bad news. If it were just people that only knew me through my writing, then it'd be different, but it's not, so I can't get too personal.
So what is it then? It's because I'm afraid that no one will read what I write. Not that I expect anyone to, or think it's worth reading necessarily (though I try not to write stuff I wouldn't like to read, I tend to get wordy, ramble, and nest my interrupting clauses rather deeply), but it would really bother me if I poured my heart and soul into some writing, spoke about the world and the people in it, and let everyone know how I felt about something, sharing some grand revelation that I've come to, and I realized one day that no one ever read it. It would get lost in the shuffle soon enough, stored in a MySQL database for perpetuity, or at least until the next major hardware crash, when it will be obliterated forever, gone to the great bit bucket in the sky.
I said all that to basically find out this: if I post a journal on Slashdot, and no one's around, does it make a sound? No. That's not the question. The question is... is anyone around to hear?
So if you got a notice when I posted this (a feature you can enable for friends in your preferences), or if you read the above and would come back for more, or if you're an obsessive-compulsive blogfan and want more fodder for your disorder, by all means, post below with encouragement. If you think the world is too full of blogging, well, post below too if you want, but I don't honestly care. And if you want to comment on the rest of the post but not on to blog or not, then you can do that too. Or anything, really. The point is that an artist knows if he has an audience.