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A Voice in the Dark

In AD 2101 war was beginning. What happen? Someone set up us the bomb! We get signal. What? Main screen turn on. It's you. How are you gentlemen!! All your base are belong to us!! You are on the way to destruction. What you say? You have no chance to survive. Make your time. HA HA HA HA.... Take off every 'Zig' You know what you doing! Move 'Zig' For great justice.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Linux World Just Doesn't Get It

Linux Watch has written a parody article of sorts about Five reasons NOT to use Linux.

Three of the four reasons are really the same reason: "Linux is too complicated", "Linux is a pain to set up", and "Linux isn't secure". Let me illustrate.

When I installed Fedora Core 3, it installed a process that opened ports on my computer and sat there waiting for connections. It was some protocol I never use; I don't remember what it was. Might have been RIP or ARP or RPC. In any case, something was listening on my machine's ports, and I didn't ask for it or want it. That's insecure.

In order to even know I had the program, I had to portscan my system - which I do as a matter of course, because it's just what you do with a new system. You check to see whether it's running what you need, no more, no less. That's a pain to set up.

In order to get rid of it, I had to edit my SysV init configuration. This is hardly deep magic, but for a new user, it's incomprehensible. That's too complicated.

IOW, it's too complicated because it's a pain to set up because it's insecure. So just say it's too complicated and be done with it.

The insecurity of Linux comes from a different place than the insecurity of Windows. Windows is insecure because programmers have made mistakes, which happens in any system. Linux is insecure because it doesn't stop you from doing stupid things, and then provides every user with an endless stream of opportunities to do something stupid.

Furthermore, Linux does stupid things all by itself. When I say "don't install package X" but the installer happily ignores me and installs it anyway, it takes me extra time and effort to remove that package, and I don't get to spend that time and effort on something else. Most of the time I spend on this isn't actually removing the package, which only takes a few minutes, but figuring out WTF was going on and eventually realising that when I said "don't do this" the installer thought "I'm smarter than you" and did it anyway without telling me.

Example? Sure. When I think "there is a conflict between package X and package Y, so I don't want package X because I'm installing package Y later"... I actually mean it. When I go to install package Y and get a conflict, my troubleshooting starts with "it can't be a conflict with package X because I didn't install package X", since the installer in its infinite wisdom didn't think I needed to know it was ignoring my request and installing whatever the hell it felt like installing. So I go through everything else that might possibly have gone wrong, and I don't find anything because it's actually the conflict with package X... which can't happen.

Then I go to some public forum, tearing my hair out over this weird problem, and someone says "you have package X installed" and I say "no I don't". Eventually, I discover that I do in fact have package X installed, and it has not only cost me a lot of time and effort trying to fix it... it has made me look like an idiot in public. That's about as expensive as you can get.

And now, I can't trust anything I told the installer. I have to go through each and every thing I said to install, and make sure it really did get installed. Then I have to go searching around to make sure I don't have any of the stuff I *don't* want installed. How many hours do you suppose that will take? For every Linux installation I ever make, from now until I finally have some confidence that Linux doesn't install things behind my back?

That's really expensive. Not in terms of cash, which I actually seem to have in pretty good supply most of the time, but in terms of time and energy and reputation. I don't have enough of ANY of those.

Microsoft, on the other hand wants my money. I understand that. And what do you know, I can spare some of it. So I happily hand Microsoft my money, and dance around the projector at Microsoft's free seminars for Windows users, and over the years Microsoft have started to notice that I actually seem to genuinely like them. Well, not me personally, but just the general type of business owners who attend Microsoft seminars. As a result, we've been given a number of very favorable options to get boatloads of Microsoft software for very little money. It's the new Microsoft Partner Program. You can have the same options; all it takes is filling out a few forms and signing up for the Action Pack Subscription.

So take a break from the politics. Look at what Microsoft is *today*, and ask yourself who's more likely to be a solid and stable foundation for your business. I certainly wouldn't be building mine on Linux; I tried that for a few years, and damn near went bankrupt.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Applebee's, Alcohol, and Africa

I went to Applebee's with my wife and son tonight, and we had THE WORST SERVICE EVER. I tipped him a NICKEL. Why a nickel? Because if I didn't tip at all, he might just think I forgot. So I tip a nickel, just so he knows that I'm not a cheap bastard - I'm simply VERY DISSATISFIED.

Our waiter was very very busy with a table full of Russians. I hope they tipped well, because by my count he visited their table five times while visiting ours twice, and once was because we told the girl sweeping the floor to go and get him.

The girl sweeping the floor, Emily, is going to Kenya for four months. I gushed all over the place about how I had been just outside Nairobi for about a month, and it literally changed my life. She was very appreciative, because everyone she knows has been telling her to just stay home and don't bother and why would she ever want to do such a thing.

Well, once you've walked on African soil and looked out across the plains, you will know exactly why. And until you've done that, you know JACK SHIT. There is magic in Africa, and you can't find that magic anywhere else. There is certainly other magic. I know there is magic in the Mesopotamian region, and in the rain forests of South America, and in the cities of Eastern Europe, because I have been there; I am certain that similar magic is found in Australia and Antarctica, because they are the sorts of places that it could be found. I may go there someday, and until I do, I will not know the special magic of those places. But each of these types of magic is distinct, it is unique, it is individual, and unless you have known such magic it simply cannot be described. Once you *have* known such magic, it doesn't really *need* to be described. So if you need to know why, just shut up. We can't explain it to you. Go there, and you will know.

But in any case, I wanted to complain a little on the alcoholic side of things. When I order a top shelf Long Island iced tea with no ice, one should observe from the "top shelf" portion of the order that I actually give a shit how my drinks taste. A bartender should therefore NEVER EVER EVER assume that in order to fill the glass, he should add MORE SWEET AND SOUR. This completely screws up the ratio and makes the drink taste like CRAP. Leave the drink short. If you don't know how much mixer you use, make it with ice and then strain off the ice.

I took the opportunity today to taste a few "premium" beers coming out of the big breweries. I got some Budweiser Select, Michelob Lager, and Black Hook Porter. (The last is a local Washington brewery, Red Hook, although it's one of the larger ones.)

Budweiser Select tastes like Budweiser, only it's good. I know, that's a bit of a smartass answer, but it's true. It has the same distinct bite and fizz and flavor, but it has a cleaner finish and seems crisper and more mature somehow.

Michelob Lager is very much like Budweiser Select, but has a slightly more robust flavor. It has a kind of grainy and nutty undertone, which is not unpleasant. What really surprised me was the limited edition aluminum bottle, which somehow makes the beer seem better. It hefts better in the hand, feels colder on your lips, it's just an altogether better experience than a glass bottle or aluminum can. I heartily recommend extending that limitation on the aluminum bottle, because it ROCKS.

Black Hook Porter starts out much better than either of the previous beers, but then gets a nasty aftertaste that really sort of kicks you in the shorts. My wife, who hates beer, tried all three. On the first two, she happily remarked "yep, that's beer, tastes like shit". On the Black Hook, she choked and made a face. It's a nasty-tasting beer.

Of course, Guinness is THE beer, so everything else can piss off. But new stuff deserves a try here and there. I also tried Mike's Hard Berry (reasonably good), Zima XXX Black Cherry (alcoholic fruit punch, what a great idea), and Smirnoff Triple Black with Lime (pretty good, slightly more distinctly-lime taste than the prior vaguely-citrus flavor). I *like* babysitter drinks, which are after all so-called because they're good to keep around for when you want to nail the fifteen-year-old babysitter. They're *designed* to be liked. And if you think that makes me less of a man, who cares? There are plenty of women who appreciate a man that can kick back with a few Bartles and Jaymes wine coolers, and their opinions matter a lot more than some hairy sweaty guy.

Although that reminds me: lately, a lot of people have been arguing with me about various homosexual urges and behaviors. They frequently remind me that I am not myself gay, so I cannot possibly understand. But let me toss this one out there.

Jude Law is uncircumcised.

I'm not telling you how I know that, but trust me: I understand.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Left-leaning professors

Jim Lindgren has posted about intellectual diversity at Volokh Conspiracy. I was about to comment on the thread, but decided to blog instead.

I think whenever you have a group of people that is defined primarily by the choices they have made and the priorities they have assigned, you're going to observe a certain homogeneity of ideology, and the group will inevitably be further homogenised by proximity and intellectual cross-pollination.

(Holy crap, what a sentence.)

So no matter whom you hire, they're eventually going to be remarkably similar in political ideology, and if they're the sort of people who have strong opinions... like, say, professors... you end up with a significant bias. When these are people who value knowledge over material wealth, that bias is almost certainly to the left, and vice-versa.

So a left-leaning faculty is pretty much par for the course at any university, much as a right-leaning board is par for the course at any corporation.

In other news, I won the Outside The Beltway caption contest again. This is becoming a habit. It's probably what I'm doing to procrastinate about resurrecting Crap Comix.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

It's About Time!

Paul Sheehan has written In Praise of Female Sexuality.

Damn straight. Now let's get started on the legal and social support structures for the men who want to have sex with them. Like lowering the age of consent and doing away with the various laws against adultery, polygamy, and sodomy. Sexual harassment law also needs some hefty reform, so we can actually tell women we want to have sex with them instead of being forced to conceal it until they happen to approach us.

Penises want to be free.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Bob, we'll miss you.

Bob Moog died today.

No halfway serious musician should be unaffected by this. It's every bit as significant and landscape-altering as the deaths of Hendrix and Lennon.

How far the technician has come.

Blog linkage on right

I don't read a lot of other blogs.

I don't use an RSS reader, either.

Through the links on the right sidebar, I visit the blogs listed there roughly in that order on a roughly daily basis. Usually two or three times a day.

Why? I don't know. It's easier than finding a good RSS reader. There are a lot of them, but I've found that most suck.

So if you're wondering what else I read, that's pretty much it.

Woohoo! I got a comment

Someone named "e" posted a comment, and it was actually a positive comment. I'm so excited. It's like having your first fan. It's literally the only evidence I have that anybody reads this stuff.

There are a lot of ways I could generate more traffic faster on this blog, but I've chosen not to use them. I think the basic idea of the blog community is to just say what you think, and your audience will just gradually arrive as they start to resonate with what you're thinking.

I'm always tempted by Outside the Beltway and their daily Beltway Traffic Jam. It would be really easy to just toss a link up there, and get a little exposure. OTB is a pretty heavily trafficked blog.

What stops me from doing that is the general idea that it's sort of... well, cheating. It's not in any way immoral or unethical, but it just seems like I should let search results and word of mouth do the work. I do have two links out there, according to The Truth Laid Bear, tracked in the last week of July and first week of August respectively. They're probably links tracked from comments I made on other blogs or on Slashdot. TTLB won't show them to me. (When I click on "show all links", I get a blank white screen.)

I like the organic idea. If I just stick with this and ramble about what interests me, other people will eventually migrate over and start paying attention. Will it take longer? Sure. But that's how things grow... slowly, in fits and starts, until they either fall over and die or burst into bloom.

You might say I'm a dreamer.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Well, shit.

Blog Maverick complains that:

"If you are an individual blogger whose blog is hosted on blogspot.com, every day the chances of you being excluded from icerocket.com’s, and other search engines’ indexes increases."

That really sucks. I guess I need to move somewhere. It shouldn't be that hard, since I have no comments and no readers. I'll probably just leave the blog here and start a new one on my own domain.

Hell, even if I write my own blog software, at least it will support native TrackBack pings.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

I'd weigh in on the Sheehan debate, but...

I also need to get on with my life.

What would Bush gain from a meeting?

What would Sheehan gain from a meeting?

What exactly is the point?

Nothing, nothing, and there isn't one. It's all just the latest big steaming pile of worthless crap to which the media has flocked like the annoying flies they are.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

How to Succeed

Paul Graham has written a brilliant article about What Business Can Learn from Open Source.

Joel Spolsky has written a brilliant article about Hitting the High Notes, his metaphor for writing great software.

I wish I could write a brilliant article about these things. I've been saying much the same sort of stuff for years, I'm just not as good at saying it.

Joel said one particular thing that resonated with me: "Five Antonio Salieris won't produce Mozart's Requiem. Ever. Not if they work for 100 years." For years, I've referred to this phenomenon as the Infinite Monkeys Fallacy.

It's said that if an infinite number of monkeys sat at an infinite number of typewriters for an infinite number of years, one of them would eventually produce the complete works of Shakespeare. This is wrong. What actually happens is they eat all your bananas, break all the typewriters, and start flinging poop around the room. Which is pretty much what you get when you try to replace a high-end worker with a collection of low-end workers: they consume your resources, break your equipment, and just make a big mess.

Paul also says something that resonates with me, "The sterility of offices is supposed to suggest efficiency. But suggesting efficiency is a different thing from actually being efficient." That also calls to mind something that I've said for many years: efficiency is bad for you.

Efficiency is all about getting the greatest return for the smallest investment. To an employer, it's about getting more work for less money. To an employee, it's about getting more money for less work. This puts the employer and the employee on opposite ends of a rope, struggling for all they're worth to win the tug-of-war and get what they want. And what's missing from that equation is the concept of BETTER work, which is what we really want in the first place. To (improperly?) extend the tug-of-war metaphor, the rope never gets appreciably longer no matter how hard you pull.

Efficiency can become the enemy in software development. Every so often, a television program will show a classic comedic scene. The protagonist is attempting to cook something, but it takes too long. So to speed things up, the following thought process is followed:

If it takes TWENTY minutes at three HUNDRED degrees,
it only takes TWO minutes at three THOUSAND degrees.

Hilarity ensues, because this simply does not work. We all understand that. Some people may not understand *why*, but they still know it doesn't work. It's just intuitive.

And yet, I often find that when I say "this project will take four days", my clients are confused when I don't spend every second of those four days doing things related to the project. They complain that what I am doing isn't in their interest. I try to explain that the project is "in the oven", so to speak, and will take time to "cook" before it's ready to come out... but they seem to think I should be working on something else for them while it's in the oven.

To an extent, I should. When the roast is in the oven, salad may be tossed and wine may be uncorked to breathe and a vegetable side dish may be prepared on top of the stove. But you can't bake a cake. If you tried, it would absorb a significant amount of flavor from the roast, and you would have meatcake.

Efficiency really comes in two forms. One is where you are doing lots of work, and one is where you are producing desirable results. People really need to start looking for the latter instead of the former.

And on a high note, I won a caption contest at Outside the Beltway.

Friday, August 12, 2005

WTF i didnt click there omg this game blows

This is quite possibly the funniest WW2 joke ever. And without a single reference to the holocaust. I laughed till I cried. My wife laughed till she cried. You'll probably like it, too.