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!"