Monday, December 19, 2005

Helios Proves Linus Right

Linus Torvalds has been much quoted recently for his views on Gnome Vs KDE. Part of what he said is this: "If you think your users are idiots, only idiots will use it.."

I guess Microsoft have been designing for idiots for a very long time now, and in the following article Helios demonstrates just how successful they have been - » Blog Archive » What Part of Virus and Spyware Didn’t You Understand?

Target Equals

You know what I hate?

Popups, that's what I hate. I'm not talking about ads, and those that are traditionally regarded as unrequested popups - stuff like "onload=open-another-bloody-window();". I mean, sure those are hidious and obnoxious, but the thing that really really pisses me off is "target=_blank", and various JavaScript equivalents.

When I click on a link I almost always want it to open in the current window and tab. If I want to open something in a new tab, I will do so myself using the middle mouse button. This should be my choice. Opening a new window or tab should not be forced on me by the designer.

Which brings me to one of my favourite Firefox extensions: TargetAlert. This excellent add-on gives advanced warning of just what kind of nasty evilness the web designer is about to attempt.

The author: "Provides a visual cue for the destination of a hyperlink by appending a link with an icon that shows what type of file it leads to, or the effects it may have, such as opening a new window or leaving a secure site."

Is there a Firefox extension to add "Open Link in Current Tab" to the right-click menu? That would also be helpful.

Friday, December 16, 2005

End Procrastination Now!

The google ad says "End procrastination now", and I'm thinking about clicking on it, really I am. But what if it's some kind of a con or something and then what if it's one of those nasty websites that hijacks my wonderful Internet Exploiter browser, which is really secure and don't go letting those damn Mozilla users tell you any different, and then what if it turns out to be really really expensive and then I really need to buy it because of this procrastination problem I have and anyway who the hell do those guys think they are telling me I have a problem. Those bastards.

So, I'm thinking about clicking on the ad.

Anyway Here's a list of Gifts for Geeks. Extremely pathetic gifts, if you ask me, which seems unlikely.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Writing with Writely

No doubt this is old news to everybody else, but I've only recently discovered the online word processor known as Writely. So I created this document in Firefox on a win2k machine, and am now editing it in Firefox on Debian. It appears to look and work exactly the same on each. It has the usual formatting options, can save as Word, Openoffice, RTF, and PDF. As far as I can see the default format is HTML. Writely also allows collaboration on documents, and supports a revision history.

Now I'm going to click "Blog" in order to, hopefully, publish this article directly to my weblog from within Writely...

Oops, I tried to edit this again after previewing and got an internal server error - had to then close the tab, go back to the writely main screen and select the document again.

So, here goes my second attempt... Success!!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Plug and Play

So I buy a couple of air conditioners, take them home, and live happily every after in climate-controlled comfort. Yeah, right.

It turns out the damn things have to be installed. You need to get some guy to measure and cut and hack and do all sorts of things with wood and metal and electricity that I don't understand just to get the stupid things working. What kind of a useless product is that?

This really is unacceptable. They should just work, like my computer does, or the toaster, as soon as I take them home. None of this installing stuff, and hacking it, and making sure it has the right kind of protection and won't, you know, fall over as soon as I turn it on. It's just crap. When will the white-goods industry get their fingers out and try to do the right thing by their customers, like the computer industry does.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Linux.com | EULAs, indemnification, and user protection

Linux.com | EULAs, indemnification, and user protection: "In proprietary software, the restrictions on warranty and liability included in these EULAs would be unacceptable."

This is bullshit.
Here's a few snippets from a fairly common EULA from a little company called Microsoft. As you will see it is just packed full of restrictions on warranty and liability.

"12. ...Except for the Limited Warranty and to the maximum extent permitted by applicable law, Microsoft and its suppliers provide the Productand support services (if any) AS IS AND WITH ALL FAULTS, and hereby disclaim all other warranties and conditions, either express, implied or statutory, including, but not limited to, any (if any) implied warranties, duties or conditions of merchantability, of fitness for a particular purpose, of reliability or availability, of accuracy or completeness of responses, of results, of workmanlike effort, of lack of viruses, and of lack of negligence, all with regard to the Product, and the provision of or failure to provide support or other services, information, software, and related content through the Product or otherwise arising out of the use of the Product. ALSO, THERE IS NO WARRANTY OR CONDITION OF TITLE, QUIET ENJOYMENT, QUIET POSSESSION, CORRESPONDENCE TO DESCRIPTION OR NON-INFRINGEMENT WITH REGARD TO THE PRODUCT."

"13. EXCLUSION OF INCIDENTAL, CONSEQUENTIAL AND CERTAIN OTHER DAMAGES. TO THE MAXIMUM EXTENT PERMITTED BY APPLICABLE LAW, IN NO EVENT SHALL MICROSOFT OR ITS SUPPLIERS BE LIABLE FOR ANY SPECIAL, INCIDENTAL, PUNITIVE, INDIRECT, OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES WHATSOEVER..."

"15. LIMITATION OF LIABILITY AND REMEDIES. Notwithstanding any damages that you might incur for any reason whatsoever (including, without limitation, all damages referenced above and all direct or general damages), the entire liability of Microsoft and any of its suppliers under any provision of this EULA and your exclusive remedy for all of the foregoing (except for any remedy of repair or replacement elected by Microsoft with respect to any breach of the Limited Warranty) shall be limited to the greater of the amount actually paid by you for the Productor U.S.$5.00. The foregoing limitations, exclusions and disclaimers (including Sections 11, 12 and 13 above) shall apply to the maximum extent permitted by applicable law, even if any remedy fails its essential purpose."

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Microsoft is Funny

So, I've got the Win2k box at work with a corrupted registry such that it will not boot. A little searching indicates a tool from Microsoft which may or may not repair the registry.
It is here.
"Overview
Registry Corruption in Windows 2000 can prevent your system from booting. The Windows 2000 Registry Repair Utility is a tool that can help to recover a Windows 2000 system from registry corruption. "

That's not the funny bit. The funny bit is that in order to download this tool you need to go through the "Genuine Windows Validation" process. This involves running a validation tool on your Windows box that determines if your copy of Windows is legal. Of course this requires a bootable Windows system.

Do you see the problem here?

Adsense Cracks Me Up

Google Adsense is funny.

For some unknown reason lately I've written a number of posts explaining various reasons why laptops suck (and, by the way, laptops do indeed suck, but you knew that already, right). Now every time I load this page Adsense tries to sell me a laptop. That's funny.

I also find shiny things amusing.

Xubuntu - Ubuntu with XFCE

Xubuntu - Ubuntu Wiki: "The aim of the Xubuntu community project is to provide a nice Ubuntu desktop experience (even on older hardware) by using Xfce4 as the desktop environment and GTK 2 applications wherever possible."

I'd just kind of assumed it was Ubuntu for the XBox or something. Yes I am a bit thick.

I'm not convinced that having a seperate Ubuntu for each window manager and/or desktop environment is really the way to go, but what the hell do I know.

Looking forward to FluxboxUbuntu, E17Ubuntu, and WindowmakerUbuntu. Also, how about one that uses the Explorer shell - it could be called BSODUbuntu.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Cheaper Veggie Diesel May Change the Way We Drive

Cheaper Veggie Diesel May Change the Way We Drive

"Japanese scientists may have found a cheaper and more efficient way to produce biodiesel." Well good for them. Excuse me while I go and bury my head in the sand and deny the serious potential for resource depletion that faces us right now.

Now if somebody could please point me to a cheaper and more efficient, and let me add more effective, way to produce the toxic waste known as Henry the Adequate that would be really handy. I have to type all of those words, by hand. Not only that, I have to actually make up the sentences myself. What a drag.

Fortunately I don't have to worry about arcane concepts like plot, and characterisation, and theme, and good writing. Because that would be really difficult.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Damn You Ubuntu

It is common knowledge that Mark Shuttleworth and his merry band of Ubuntuites will ship you your very own Ubuntu CD at no charge - not even postage. What is not widely reported is a serious bug in the whole process. Let me explain...

I go to http://www.ubuntu.com and start thinking "Wouldn't it be cool to get my very own official Ubuntu CD in the post". I click the "Ship It - Free CDs" link, sign up for the Launchpad, then go to order myself some CDs. It turns out the minimum they will ship is five, since the cost to send five is barely more than for one.

I fill in my details. Now so far the process has been smooth.

But it is right about this point the whole thing falls in a heap,and there is nothing I can do to recover from the crash, no matter how many time I start over. I just cannot get my brain to accept the idea that it is ok to allow Mr Shuttleworth to pay the cost of sending me the CDs. Pesky conscience.

But the thing is I have no qualms about downloading the CD at no charge, even though it costs Mr Shuttleworth and his company $$ to create their distribution. Pesky inconsistent conscience.

Next time I'm going to do it, dammit. I shall muster ever iota of willpower at my disposal and click that damn submit button if it causes my brain to leak out through my ears and leave a nasty stain on the carpet. I will kid myself that it's alright because I will give the extra CDs out to friends, and thus spread the word, and somewhere down the line somebody will pay Ubuntu for services or something, and that will make it alright. Whatever it takes, because I really really want my free Ubuntu CD.

Damn pesky inconsistent hard-to-fool conscience.

UPDATE: And the solution is of course, as pointed out to me here and on the Ubuntu forums, to donate.

Hard Disk’s hard life

glandium.org - Hard Disk’s hard life

Sigh. Another reason to avoid laptops. Is this turning into a bit of a crusade? I really don't feel strongly about this stuff. Honestly I don't.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Helios Extracts Microsoft Stupid Tax From Windows User

� Blog Archive � Helios Extracts Microsoft Stupid Tax From Windows User

Shame on you Helious - helping extract the Microsoft Stupid Tax is reprehensible, irresponsible, and maybe a little bit risible.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Wanna Buy a Bridge?

So I'm looking at laptops. Why? I hate laptops, but on the other hand do love gadgets. Besides, it seems I can now get one under a thousand dollars, even in Australia.

Anyway, my requirements are simple - cheap, and will run Linux. Actually it turns out my requirements are incredibly complex. It seems vendors are only interested in selling laptops that will run a certain five year old operating system.

http://www.linux-laptop.net/ while theortically useful turns out to have no information on any of the models I'm looking at. Google is altogether less useful in this case.

I just want to repeat this one more time: Retailers will only sell laptops designed to run an ancient, insecure, unreliable hack of an operating system from a company that demonstrates over and over that they cannot be trusted.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Quote of the Moment

There are but two ways of forming an opinion in science. One is the scientific method; the other, the scholastic. One can judge from experiment, or one can blindly accept Authority. To the scientific mind, experimental proof is all important and theory is merely a convenience in description, to be junked when it no longer fits. To the academic mind, Authority is everything and facts are junked when they do not fit theory laid down by authority.

- Robert Heinlein

Friday, November 18, 2005

Quote of the Day

"People sometimes ask me if it is a sin in the Church of Emacs to use vi. Using a free version of vi is not a sin; it is a penance. So happy hacking."
- RMS

I have a lot of respect for RMS. He's wrong here, of course. Emacs sucks. Long live vi.

MIT $100 laptop

Pocket-lint.co.uk MIT unveils $100 laptop to the world - PLUS IMAGES news story

I want one of these.

PS I hate laptops. Laptops suck.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Symantec is Evil too

� Blog Archive � Like finding out your brother’s been sleeping with your girlfriend

Helios tells it like it is. Did I mention I really miss Windows?

I was going to leave it at that, but just couldn't. It has been clear for some years now that Microsoft's customers can't trust Microsoft. For some reason this is considered acceptable by most of them. But if your antivirus company - the people you turn to for the security Microsoft failed to provide - if your antivirus company is also screwing you then how the hell can you continue to use Windows?

Who exactly are you going to turn to now?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Cluelessness and the Internet

http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20051029224050493
"Corporations prefer clueless customers, I guess, but the Internet is wiping out cluelessness."

Can anybody really be so clueless as to think the internet is wiping out cluelessness? On the contrary, the internet is the greatest cluelessness facilitator ever invented by man. Just read some of the opinions out there. Hell, read some of mine!

The one saving grace is that the internet also facilitates truth and cluefulness, and artlessly constructed pseudo-words like cluefulness.

"Never underestimate the power of human stupidity" - Robert Heinlein

I Hate Printers

I have a Canon printer. (Serves me right, you say? How can I argue with that?)

It is an inkjet, utilizing four ink tanks. Whenever one colour runs out the printer driver refuses to operate, even if we are only printing black. And 99% of the time we are only printing black.

Big deal, I can hear you say, so the colour tanks will last forever if you're only printing black. Ah, but the damn ink evaporates. We are constantly replacing colour tanks, just so we can print black. Why do I get this strange feeling I am being screwed? And if I'm being screwed, how come I'm not enjoying it?

Monday, November 14, 2005

Linux = Boring

Linux has become boring.

I used to read Distrowatch daily.
I used to download ISOs just to try them out.
I used to switch distros regularly, looking for something better.
Now all that has ended, and I blame Debian. Why O Why did you have to be so damn good!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Turn on the Babysitter

Contrary to popular opinion the Television (or computer, gamecube, etc) makes a lousy babysitter. The TV can't feed the kids when they're screaming for food, or force-feed them the damn remote control they're fighting over, or even bash them round the head with a big stick. What kind of a babysitter is it that can't do these fundamental things.

Send them off to work in the mines. Not only do you get a little peace and quiet, you actually get paid for it!

Monday, November 07, 2005

Statement of Audience
---------------------
I realize that nothing I say matters to anyone else on the entire planet. My opinions are useless and unfocused. I am an expert in nothing. I know nothing. I am confused about almost everything. I cannot, as an individual, ever possibly know everything, or even enough to make editorial commentary on the vast vast majority of things that exist in my world. This is a stupid document; it is meaningless drivel that I do not expect any of the several billion people on my planet to actually read. People who do read my rambling, incoherent dumbfuckery are probably just as confused as I am, if not moreso, as they are looking to my sorry ass for an opinion when they should be outside playing Frisbee with their dog or screwing their life partner or getting a dog or getting a life partner. Anyone who actually takes the time to read my bullshit probably deserves to ingest my fucked up and obviously mistaken opinions on whatever it is that I have written about.

Ben
http://mama.indstate.edu/users/bones/WhyIHateWebLogs.html
Please add the above Statement of Audience to your own weblog.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

The Insidious Effects of Computer Games

Five year olds are playing with their toy ponies. One stands and announces "I'm going to the toilet. Pause the game."

Cracks me up every time.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Introspection, Extrospection

I couldn't sleep. It was a clear night. A little after midnight, I sat on the back steps and watched the stars for a couple of hours. I haven't done this in the last decade or two, and am not going into the reasons for last night here.

I remember as a teenager thinking that maybe I was born a generation or two too early and that maybe my children, or theirs, would think of space travel, at least within our solar system, as normal. Seems absurd now, after the stagnation of the space program, and the disaster that the shuttle turned out to be.

Now there are lot of scientists talking about resource depletion. Oil, steel, silver. But particularly oil - the end of cheap energy. Hell it's even in the news. I'm not going into the pros and cons here, mostly because I am entirely unqualified to do so. Let's just assume for the moment that peak oil is real, and that it is here approximately now.

What this may mean is that where we stand now is the technological high point of human civilization. I feel honored to be able to witness it, and maybe a little nervous at the possibility that I may witness the beginning of its decline. We were the tool makers. We made it to the edge of space, though history will probably show that only our tools ventured beyond Earth's orbit. The numerous advances that give me this device - this computer - that connects me to so many others. These are tremendous achievements.

Our greatest achievement is not ours at all, but belongs to the random forces of evolution. It is the combination of traits that allows all this to be. Imagination, primarily. But also our barbarism, our ruthless willingness to destroy all in our path, including each other, for the sake of our own comfort. Oh, and the thumbs.

For whatever reason we are here now, and we should be proud of what we have achieved in our short time on this planet, just as we wait for the fruits of our extreme success to bring about our decline. It is possible for an organism to be too successful.

Monday, October 17, 2005

This happens to me every time

I pick up a frozen dinner at the supermarket. Lasagne, for example. The instructions say "Place on the middle shelf of the oven at 220 degrees". Every time. What are the other shelves for?

Also, my oven only has two shelves. Which is the middle one? What the hell am I supposed to do? I panic.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Quote of the Day

"All opinions are not equal. Some are a very great more robust, sophisticated and well supported in logic and argument than others." --Douglas Adams

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Opinions

Why do certain people expect me to always have opinions?

Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of situations in which it is reasonable to expect an opinion. However forming an opinion in the absense of data is unreasonable. Lets look at some examples.

  1. Is linux ready for the desktop: Hell yes. I'm using it myself, at home and at work.
  2. Which is better, mysql or postgresql, for this particular task: I have used mysql, but not postgresql. I can do some research, consider features, read whatever has been written on the subject, and then come up with something that resembles an opinion. Actually what I'd have would most likely be somebody else's opinion, or a combination of several somebody elses' opinions. I am fairly well suited to this task, due to a background that includes related experiences.
  3. Which pair of high-heel shoes do I like: How the hell should I know? Where is my frame of reference? I've never worn high-heels, and have no idea what makes one pair better than another. I'm not even very well suited to researching this, since I'm pretty sure they won't make them in my size. Hell, most of the time if I ask the shop assistant which one is better I'll get some wishy-washy answer about taste and style - and this person sells the damn things. What hope do I have?
  4. Do I think this kooky new-age course is a good idea: I could probably research this, as in 2, and give you somebody else's opinion on the subject. But you can do that yourself, so why the hell should I do it for you? I have zero experience in the area, and there is no reason to expect my research to be better than yours.
If there is no data, or insufficient data, "I don't know" is a valid opinion.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Announcement - and a quote

The previous post may have contained material that could be considered critical of America, and Americans. Use of the word "MORON" for example.

Please consider that words are tricky things, and reality is fluid and uncertain.

"When I use a word," said Humpty Dumpty in a rather scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less"

Anyway, any criticism you may or may not apply to my words is merely a figment of your fragmentation. Or a fragment of your figmentation. One of those.

Please don't invade.

Poms

I decided I'd say at least one thing good about the poms today - no particular reason - and it is this: If the English know how to do one thing right it is making fantastic comedies. Fawlty Towers, The Blackadder, Mr Bean - the show, not the movie which was a hideous american travesty. You morons, Mr Bean doesn't get a happy feel good ending. MORONS. I will never forgive America for that.

Ok, kinda sidetracked. I think I've been reading too much of The Mogambo Guru.

Then I started thinking. Ok, I can think of a hundred great British comedies. How about software? Is there some software I use every day that came from England?

Well there are probably plenty of things, and I'm just not aware of them. Who knows, or cares, where their software comes from these days, geographically speaking.

While thinking about this I fired up a VNC session to check out something on my desktop at work. Of course I am pretty thick, so it was a few minutes later that the original web address of VNC occurred to me( uk.att.com/vnc I think it was). So, of course I trip on over to www.realvnc.com and it appears VNC originated in the AT&T labs in Cambridge, England.

Yes, it is a slow news day. Thanks for asking.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Dell - Microsoft's Lap Dog

How Dell repels...

I laugh uncontrollably. Dell's attempts to appear as though they're selling non-MS pcs is just so damned funny.

I't not for me to speculate on what Dell and Microsoft get up to in the bedroom - uh, boardroom - but I'm pretty sure there's some bondage going on.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Quote of the Day - stupidity again

The two most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity.
- Harlan Ellison

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Quote of the Day

It pays to be obvious, especially if you have a reputation for subtlety.
-- Isaac Asimov (1920 - 1992)

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Quote of the Day

Debugging is twice as hard as writing the code in the first place. Therefore, if you write the code as cleverly as possible, you are, by definition, not smart enough to debug it. -Brian Kernighan

Now if this is true, and there's no guarantee that it is but lets just assume for the sake of argument that it is, then it is potentially rather disturbing.

Let's just take a wild guess and suggest that successful programmers write code that is fifty percent as clever as they are capable - ie only just dumb enough for debugging purposes. This suggests that I will not be able to debug code written by somebody cleverer than myself (ie almost everybody). It also follows that one should only ever reuse code written by somebody stupider than oneself :)

This means that my work should be seriously in demand, because practically everybody can reuse it. I, on the other hand, should always develop from scratch since I lack the capacity to debug the code of others.

Just to show that I realize I am talking shit:

Logic is a feeble reed, friend. "Logic" proved that airplanes can't fly and that H-bombs won't work and that stones don't fall out of the sky. Logic is a way of saying that anything which didn't happen yesterday won't happen tomorrow.
-- Robert Heinlein, Glory Road

7am This Morning

Five year old: You know what the birds sounds like?

I hadn't noticed but birds are indeed doing their singing thing outside.

Me: what do they sound like?

5yo: Opera.

Lazarus Project

So I'm screwing around with Lazarus/Free Pascal, and I'm thinking these guys have done a great job of cloning Borland IDE.

Then I go to install a package, following the instructions. I get an error: "Fatal: Can't find unit LResources". I check and the unit is in the appropriate location, and paths seem to be set up correctly in the IDE. This really blows me away - these Lazarus guys are so good they are not only cloning the Borland IDE, they're also cloning the bugs :)

Fantastic.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Quote of the Day

"The truth carries the ambiguity of the words used to express it."
- Frank Herbert

Transitions - part 3

Part one and two are here and here.

Things started to change when I installed Suse at home. I found myself using Linux more. No idea why but to me it was comfortable. It was nice.

Suse had a couple of show stoppers however, the most significant being package management - this was just plain broken. The Suse package manager always insisted that it's version of a package was the latest, even when I had installed one with a more recent version number from a different source (as was sometimes necessary, for example to fix the broken multimedia functionality). For software installation Yast cannot hold a candle to URPMI.

Anyway, Suse helped nudge me further in the direction of desktop Linux, but it had to go. In late 2003 I installed Debian (using the Testing repository) at home, and have barely used Windows since. I have since replaced Windows on my system at work with Debian (Ok, I have a win2k virtual machine - sometimes I do still have to develop software for Windows, using CBuilder). In fact the entire IT department now uses desktop Linux.

Reading this back to myself it sounds as though the changes in my usage have occured suddenly. Actually the change has been much more gradual. Mandrake was good, Suse was better, and Debian ... I could go on for hours about the goodness that is Debian.

So what has changed, such that I am now an almost-full-time GNU/Linux user? Sure Linux has improved significantly. I can point to countless technical reasons why Linux is way better than it used to be, and vastly superior to Windows - and I started to do exactly that. But that story is old an tired and has been done to death.

I am therefore going to give only two reasons why I now use Linux as my primary desktop:

Firstly, It feels right and comfortable. Yeah, that's vague.

Secondly - and I've cunningly failed to mention this until now so that you get the impression that Linux made it on my desktop purely on its own merits ... The second reason is called "Windows Product Activation". What's so bad about Product Activation?

By and large people will take a lot of shit, some more than others. However there comes a point when an individual cries "Enough. I will not relinquish another of my rights/freedoms." The proverbial straw, and all that. For a highly principled individual like Richard Stallman this point is very early on in the piece. For me it is Product Activation. There is no way I'll volunatarily submit to such measures. And this meant that as of the XP release in 2001, Windows was, and is, a dead end for me.

And since Windows was now a dead end this made it easier and easier for me to let it go. I mean, I won't use XP, Win2k is now five years old (which is like, a million years), and I don't need/want/can't afford a Mac, so what else can I use? The stellar advances of the last few years make the Linux desktop seriously rock, and Microsoft's policies make it the only viable option.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Quote of the Day

A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.
- Douglas Adams

Transitions - part 2

Part one is here.

I've been with my current employer since easter 2002. The factory's real-time system is DEC based. A DS-20, an Alphaserver, even a couple of old VAX servers still in use. There were also several Windows servers when I started: Domain controller/File server, Proxy, Exchange and Accounting. Users in the office have win2k desktops. In the factory we had, and still have, vt-420 terminals. There was no Linux.

Microsoft Proxy server 2.0 is nasty. Requires constant attention and regular reboots. My boss was therefore open to the idea of replacing it. I had a Linux proxy/firewall installed faster than you could say "Hey let's install Linux here". Originally I used Mandrake 9, because I happened to have MDK disks. Later we standardized on Debian.

In early 2003 three of the five disks in our Exchange server's RAID array failed simultaneously. The array was therefore trashed. Furthermore due to a configuration error recent backups were not available.

This was an excellent opportunity for me. So long Exchange. Bye bye per-seat licensing. Hello Postfix + Spamassassin + Anomy Sanitizer, and reliable email serving.

Meanwhile at home I was up to version 9.0 of Mandrake, and still mostly using Win2k. But that's a story for part three...

Screw With Their Minds

Somebody must already have thought of this. It is such a simple concept. And devious.

When replying to an email insert really idiotic spelling mistakes into the quoted text from the original email. Imagine the cumulative psychological effect. "Jeez, did I write that. How embarassing." Immediately you have the guy on the back foot - useful for delicate negotiations.

Of course, since ninety percent of email users can't spell anyway, it is quite possible that nobody will notice. I guess the next level would be to completely bork their original text (swedish chef style). Alternatively just start pointing out their(your) spelling mistakes.

You could also insert sentences into the quoted text - say a random quote from Ralph Wiggum (Simpsons), or a suggestion that you really deserve a massive pay rise (if replying to The Boss).

Why I Don't Use Win/Office XP

Product Activation.

Gee that post was a lot shorter than I anticipated.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Back from the movies

Serenity spoiler:

It is really really good.

Serenity

I'm off to see Serenity.
The cinema is 150 KM away, so no posts today.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Quote of the Day

See previous post.

Another Excuse From Dell

article
"Thanks to Michael Dell, we now know that I wasn't just yakking to hear myself talk. The big computer vendors, and one presumes their customers, still think there's too much "alienation" in Linux for them to invest in it for personal desktops.

And this, mind you, from a man with a personal stake in Red Hat and who already ships Red Hat Linux on his company's high-end boxes!"

Me: So, what you're saying is a guy with a vested interest in a particular Linux distribution would like to see less competition. Who would have thunk it.

A gold star for the reader (assuming I have a reader) who can guess where this quote comes from: "That's not a conflict of interest. It's a convergeance!"

Friday, September 30, 2005

Contributing to Debian

Sometimes I think of contributing to Debian in some way. There are three things that stop me, and here they are, in order of importance.
  1. Inertia. Just not getting around to it. Possibly a certain amount of laziness.
  2. Mailing lists. I had to use mailing lists at university, and I hated it. Hundreds of mostly inane emails each day to wade through. Awful. What a wholly inadequate substitute for newsgroups.
  3. Complexity. I started reading about contributing, and that led to the new maintainer process, and all that other documentation stuff. This is the internet age - anything requiring an attention span of more than five minutes will not be read. Remember The Big Chill: "We only have one editorial rule: You can't write anything longer than the average person can read during the average crap." (Actually I'm sure it is not really that complex - this is probably just a restatement of 1. above).
  4. Scale. Debian is big. Really big. Where do you start?
Yes I know that was four things. However since 3 is really just a restatement of 1 then 4 is really 3, and I was right in the first place.

Recently I read somewhere that submitting bug reports is considered at contribution. I guess that's obvious, but for some reason it hadn't occured to me. I have reported bugs a couple of times! Excellent. That means I can stop feeling guilty about my lack of contributedness, and maybe go and read some ctrl-alt-del, content in the knowledge that I am not such a freeloader after all.

Browncoats: You lost. Get over it.

Transitions - part 1

My experience with Linux began with Red Hat 5.x and Mandrake 6. In the early days I dual-booted win9x (hell at one point I triple booted win9x, NT4 and Linux on a pair of 2GB drives) Now it is win2k.

From day one I thought Linux was really cool, derived considerable pleasure from fiddling with it, and thought this whole multi-user operating system idea just might take off someday. Multiple desktops, multiple window managers. Choices choices choices. All good.

However in the end I would reboot to Windows, and there, for the most part, remained. There were some valid reasons for this. As a Delphi developer it was hard to avoid Windows during business hours, at that point Linux lacked a mail client that didn't suck, and Panzer General was only available on dos/Win. Stuff like that.

I read about the Free Software movement, agreed with its principles, and really did want to use GNU/Linux and other Free software wherever possible - at least on an intellectual level. However on booting Windows I could feel my shoulders relaxing, and tension draining away. Windows felt comfortable. Linux did not, despite its power and all the cool features. And that's the real reason I ended up in Windows most of the time.

Over the years since then I have always had a dual-boot system (usually Mandrake), and experimented in VMware with many different distributions. I used Freesco on an old 486 as a firewall/gateway for my local network. And yet until very recently my primary desktop was still Windows.

When did I migrate my primary desktop to Linux? Why did it not happen sooner?
And why not Windows XP?

Maybe later.

Articles and Hyperlinking

RT Essentials

Here we have an article about a product, Request Tracker, that does not contain a link to the product homepage. There must be a good reason for this, because it is so damn common. Is it a corporate thing? Are editors afraid that if you click through you won't come back?

Surely it is reasonably to expect that an article about Foocorp's new widget should contain a link to foo.com/widgetX?

Quote of the Day

"There has grown up in the minds of certain groups in this country the notion that because a man or corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years, the government and the courts are charged with the duty of guaranteeing such profit in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary to public interest. This strange doctrine is not supported by statute or common law. Neither individuals nor corporations have any right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped, or turned back."
-
Robert Heinlein(1939) describing the RIAA and MPAA.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Quote of the Day - stupidity

Never underestimate the power of human stupidity
- Robert Heinlein

... and here's an excellent analysis of the whole subject:
The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity

Amusing PC case designs

A Mini ITX computer built with Lego pieces - http://home.hawaii.rr.com/chowfamily/lego/

A case built from case fans - http://www.peteredge.orcon.net.nz/casepics.htm

Heavy Metal - http://www.badgerpackaging.com/heavymetal/

Save the Sheep


Makes me proud to be Australian

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Quote of the Day

The gods do not protect fools. Fools are protected by more capable fools.
- Larry Niven (Ringworld)

The Teacher Fainted

So I'm enjoying some funnies at amazing jokes. Well, mostly enjoying. I really really hate jokes that end with "The teacher fainted", "The doctor fainted", "The lawyer fainted".


For Example:

Little Mary

Little Mary was not the best student in Sunday School. Usually she slept through the class. One day the teacher called on her while she was napping, ''Tell me, Mary, who created the universe?'' When Mary didn't stir, little Johnny, an altruistic boy seated in the chair behind her, took a pin and jabbed her in the rear. ''God Almighty !'' shouted Mary and the teacher said, ''Very good'' and Mary fell back to sleep.
A while later the teacher asked Mary, ''Who is our Lord and Savior?'' But Mary didn't even stir from her slumber. Once again, Johnny came to the rescue and stuck her again. ''Jesus Christ!'' shouted Mary and the teacher said, ''Very good,'' and Mary fell back to sleep. Then the teacher asked Mary a third question, ''What did Eve say to Adam after she had her twenty-third child?'' And again, Johnny jabbed her with the pin. This time Mary jumped up and shouted, ''If you stick that damn thing in me one more time, I'll break it in half!'' The Teacher fainted.


What's wrong with "The Teacher fainted" here?
  1. It's not funny.
  2. The sentence before it is the punch line. A joke should not continue after the punch line.
  3. It adds nothing to the story.
  4. People just don't faint that easily.
Technology link: I typed this on my computer.

techno-incompetence

A flatmate used to record daytime soaps so she could watch them after work. So we've already established that she's not too bright, however that's not the amusing bit. The amusing bit is this - she insists that the TV has to be left on all day, otherwise the program won't record.

I explain to her that the signal between VCR and TV is purely one-way affair, and that the state of the Television can in no way influence the ability of the VCR to record. (Ok if she were to place a pot-plant on the TV and water it the resulting fire might affect the Video Recorder, but that's a story for another time).

She insists that on one occasion she had turned the TV off, and on that day her show was not recorded. Therefore, she concludes, the Television must be on all day.

I explain that this is not sufficient to establish causality, and reiterate the simple facts of TV-VCR interaction. This has no effect. I explain that no doubt solar flare activity messed with the timer on her Recorder. This she accepts.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Reminder to Self

Think of a better name for this.

KDE Control Center - Confusing?

http://software.newsforge.com/article.pl?sid=05/09/19/1616206&from=rssAn interesting article about kde4. However:

"... the KDE Control Center, which currently organizes the configuration modules into a confusing hierarchy, ..."

Me: "Confusing? Are you out of your mind? It is a treeview. You click on the little arrow, and the tree expands. You might find these oh-so-tricky trees in such seldomly used applications as, say, just about any non-text-mode email client ever written. But you're right - treviews are so confusing that this email thing will never take off."

I'm a big fan of both Gnome and KDE, but spend most of my time in the latter. Gnome has a clean interface, some excellent tools, and the Gnome applications start up faster than their KDE equivalents. However KDE has the control center, which allows me to easily configure the DE the way I want it. Gnome's configuration tools are seriously lacking in detail.

I believe the Control Center is KDE's chief advantage over Gnome. Lately it seems most articles flag the Control Center as KDE's weak point, and I just don't get that.

It's true that Kcontrol could use a bit of housekeeping.
For example: It is not immediately obvious which branch a given node will be under, and some are definitely in the wrong place. What is "Paths" doing under "System Administration"? This is clearly a user-level setting. However these are minor issues, and do not justify cries of "too confusing".

Millions of Outlook Express users have proved that even a complete idiot can deal with a treeview.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Daughter #1

My nine year old daughter can crash any OS, sometimes in strange and innovative ways. I used to think it was just normal Windows instability/insecurity (At the age of four she managed to uninstall her 3dfx drivers. What kind of operating system gives ordinarly users permission to do that anyway - yeah rhetorical question)

Recently I configured her system to dual-boot win98se and Debian GNU/Linux, and discovered some very intersting things:
  1. Daughter #1 enjoys the free games in Linux at least as much as the expensive commercial games I buy her for Windows and Game Cube.
  2. Daughter #1 could probably bring a DEC Alpha to its knees with a couple of keystrokes.
  3. and therefore there is no such thing as a stable operating system.
An example:
#1 is listening to some MP3s. She has Nautilus open, clicks on file, listens to it in Totem, closes Totem, clicks on another file, etc. (BTW why is it Totem can remember where it was on the screen, its window size and volume setting, but can't remember that I had the Playlist open last time I used it?).

Anyway, after a few minutes she's calling out to me in her "I hate computers" voice, so I take a look and it seems ok. "So what's up?"

She closes Totem, and three more Totem windows pop up. Closes Totem. Five more windows. Close one. Three more. I got to the console and killall totem . Lots more windows. It doesn't matter how many times I do this, Totem insists on respawning. Eventually I "/etc/init.d/gdm restart" and all is well.

No doubt this is a Totem bug, and the point is not that this is #1's fault or anything. It's just that if there is a way for an appliction to fall over she will find it. If there is a game that locks X so bad that the only way to access her machine is via SSH from another box, she will decide that this is her favourite game of the moment, and insist on playing it constantly. I swear, if I have to restart her X server again today I will "apt-get remove blobwars" and tell her to find something else to play.

I have found her vocation in life, and it is QA tester.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Borland Can't Write Software for Linux

It's just their nature. Delphi version X is released. Then a couple of updates come out to fix the nastiest of the showstoppers. And that's it till version X+1. Any further bugs? It'll cost you another $2000 to see if they're fixed in the next version.

Progress in Linux is a lot more dynamic than that. "Release early. Release often."

Borland don't Get Linux and they don't Get Free Software. They tried a few years ago with Interbase and something about that scared the hell out of them - they backpedalled so fast the skid-marks must be visible from orbit.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Futility of Blogging

In 2003 I kept reading about something called a "weblog". Surely, I thought, this is just another name for the personal homepages that have been around since prehistoric times (ie the 90s). And of course I was right.

Still the articles persisted, and insisted that with tools like Blogger creating your own weblog was dead easy - anyone could do it. Eventually I succumbed and created this, wrote my first post, and published it proudly to the blogosphere (*cringe* - I hate that word).

... and two years later that single post stands as a testimony to the futility of blogging for its own sake. It turns out that in order to do this thing a fairly fundamental requirement is that you have something to say about something or other. And apparently I do not have anything to say.

So I come here to remove this blog, but with finger poised to click "Delete" a thought occurs to me. Then another. Ok so now I have a couple of ideas for posts, and I make a bit of a deal with myself. I'll leave it up a while longer, make a kind of semi-commitment to write up these ideas and see if I end up having something to say after all. And if it's gone nowhere in a month or so, well I can come back and delete it then.