I’ve been thinking of a netbook for the family room and/or for carrying around (especially on vacations), but I’ve been nervous about a few things, in particular the small screen and small keyboard.

Now I trip over an article on TechCrunch: “Three Reasons Why Netbooks Just Aren’t Good Enough”: and two of the three reasons are the screen size and the keyboard! (The third is that they’re underpowered, especially if you’re stuck with one of the Vista-based ones).

I haven’t actually had a chance to put my fingers on one yet, either. I think I’ll wait a while longer…

posted at 8:56 pm on Saturday, November 29, 2008 in Personal | Comments (2)
  1. David Brake says:

    Arrington is such a whiner. The things he complains about are kinda obvious aren’t they? And some seem to be just his problem – eg not being able to scroll down without looking down at the kbd/mousepad. And I can’t believe 80% of a regular-sized keyboard isn’t easier to use than a blackberry-sized one for reasonable values of finger-size. As for speed you’re clever enough to install and use a version of Linux that would be sufficiently stripped down to be useable, no? Then again I seem to remember you’re not a big desktop linux fan…

  2. chk says:

    I’m a fairly heavy desktop user, and so my dislike of desktop Linux reflects that. Audio doesn’t work properly, the UI is inconsistent (at best, and unusable at worst :), and so on as reflected in many rants on the ‘net. It’s been getting better and better, but usability has always been open-source’s Achilles Heel.

    A netbook is a different beast, though; for me, it’s really a portable browser, with some local storage for simple documents and things like photo backup. And a Linux-based OS (especially something like Splashtop) is perfect for this environment, where Windows would be over-kill (and too bloated to run on a small device).

    I was already aware of the limitations of the screen and keyboard; I’m just not yet convinced that I would be able to put up with them. And for casual use, I don’t really want to spend $400CDN :)

internet takes over real world

The cartoon network managed to “rick-roll the Macy’s parade”:

(via Wil Wheaton).

posted at 9:13 am on Friday, November 28, 2008 in Humour, Links | Comments (1)
  1. Nita says:

    Yah – I saw this in a few places yesterday. Utterly brilliant for me, though I suspect confused the hell out of a lot of the non-internet savvy people…

rogers update

I appear to be back online.

* A technician came by my house on Thursday, spent less than 30 seconds “testing” my line, and then left without telling me anything about the neighbourhood-wide problem.
* A call center tech was able to tell me on Friday that they had isolated a “noise problem” in the area.
* A technician visiting the a neighbour was able to tell me that there was a signal problem in our six-house area, but he also didn’t know anything about the week-long, ongoing neighbourhood-wide problem.
* We had two analog cable outages on Friday, (recorded by my PVR, of course :) Since then my Internet connection has been rock-solid (other than my router locking up on Saturday night :).

I’d like to believe that it is unusual to have so many people working on the same problem and yet not talking to each other, but as I work for a large software company, I’m aware that this is the norm for most large organizations… *sigh.

posted at 11:05 am on Monday, November 24, 2008 in Personal, Rants | Comments Off on rogers update

overused cliches

* “Oxford compiles list of top ten irritating phrases”:
* “20 of your most hated cliches”:

I am dismayed by the number of these phrases I use…

posted at 10:59 am on Monday, November 24, 2008 in Personal | Comments Off on overused cliches

firefox 3 back button

The UI controls for Forward/Back in the new Firefox are strange. For a long time I believed that you couldn’t skip back multiple pages, something that I found extremely annoying! This finally bothered me enough that I performed a Google search, and found “Firefox 3 – Back Button UI Annoyance”: which explains that that little arrow next to the _Forward_ button is actually a history menu for _both_ Forward and Back!

counter-intuitive, indeed…

posted at 5:58 pm on Saturday, November 22, 2008 in Rants | Comments Off on firefox 3 back button

hospital visit

My son was knocked off his chair by a friend at school today. He ended up rolling under a table; when he tried to stand up, he bounced the back of his head off the underside of the table.

He was still feeling nauseated and dizzy an hour or so later, and had added shaky vision, so we trundled him off to the hospital. The wait was surprisingly short given the snow on the roads today, but still, by the time we saw the doctor he was feeling fine. The doctor ran him through a whole battery of basic neurological tests, and he passed (that’s my boy! :). They let us go with -a warning- instructions for head injuries.

He’s supposed to take it easy tomorrow, then try relatively mild exercise on Friday; if he can tolerate that without problems, then he’s allowed to play hockey on Saturday.

By the time we arrived at school to collect his sister, everyone was talking about how my son’s friend had “knocked him out” in class this morning! I love how rumors travel through a population like a school or an office… :-)

posted at 6:32 pm on Wednesday, November 19, 2008 in Personal | Comments Off on hospital visit


My internet connection has been playing yo-yo this week:

The staff at the call center are all very apologetic, but they can’t tell me what is wrong; why the connection keeps going down for hours. I’m afraid that what is happening is that every time it goes down, a different technician pushes the reset button, but nobody is correlating the multiple outages. On the other hand, they say that it’s always a neighborhood wide digital outage (which would include Rogers Home Phone and Rogers Digital TV), so I hope someone is paying attention…

They gave me a $10 credit. My employer pays for my internet, but at least Rogers is getting a little less money this month :-).

posted at 4:03 pm on Wednesday, November 19, 2008 in Personal | Comments (1)
  1. Ron says:

    Hey, I think we have some software we could sell them to help out, eh Harald? ;-)

I hate insurance companies

I carry insurance on my vehicles because of liability issues, because I want protection from catastrophic damage, and because I’m legally required to (in that order :-).

Two weeks ago my truck was hit from behind by a taxi while I was stopped at a pedestrian crossing. The guy hit me at an angle, so the right front corner of his car hit the left-center of the rear bumper. My truck doesn’t have any wishy-washy fiberglass or Styrofoam; it has a steel bumper, welded to the frame, with a plastic wrap-around cover.

His damage was a badly mangled right front bumper; he probably also cracked his headlight cover. My damage was a couple of new scuff-marks and a small, cosmetic fold in the plastic. I won that argument :).

Unfortunately, the taxi driver took off before giving me his drivers license and before taking any of my info. We had his insurance information, but that’s for the owner of the taxi, not the driver. And the insurance binder he showed us was expired. There was enough suspect about the whole incident that I decided to report the issue to my insurance company and the police, just to cover my butt (see “liability” above).

I took the truck to both the insurance company’s repair shop and my dealership, because I wanted to make sure there was no structural damage; it’s always possible that he cracked a weld on the bumper, for example. Both reported that there is no damage to the car, other than the plastic bumper cover and a $23 reflector. The cover cannot be repaired; it must be replaced, which they estimate at $932. I tow a trailer during the summer; once or twice a year I back into the trailer hitch, adding to the dings and scuffs in this plastic cover, so as far as I’m concerned, there’s absolutely no point in wasting everyone’s time (and money!) replacing the cover. It’s cosmetic damage, and even counts as “normal wear and tear” under my lease (I asked).

One reason I pay a god-awful amount of money for insurance is that car repairs are so expensive these days. Gone are the days of buffing out dings and dents in steel panels; now it’s all plastic composites, fibreglass, and large, wrap-around panels. So, thinks I, why contribute to this sad state of affairs by performing a useless $900 repair?

My insurance company has just informed me that if I don’t do the repair, they’ll drop my coverage. They say that if I have another accident, they can’t distinguish new and pre-existing damage. This despite the number of photographs taken by at least five different people in the process, and the damage report and estimate from the cops and from the repair shop.

All this for an accident I normally wouldn’t have bothered reporting… *sigh.

posted at 11:52 am on Wednesday, November 19, 2008 in Personal, Rants | Comments (5)
  1. Jeff K says:

    A pickup truck’s tire flew off on the 400 and landed on the 407 immediately in front of me one fine morning this past August. It made a horrific noise at 100km/h hitting my roof, coming, by my calculations, within 3 milliseconds of entering the cabin instead of just wrecking the roof. The cop said it was a non-reportable (i.e. <$900), but I insisted it be reported, and in the end, the insurance company was out $5,000. Despite this, I got the distinct impression by what was said that dropping $5k on a near-fatal was nothing to the insurance company and I was treated rather well.

    Actually, the dump-truck behind drove over the wheel after it hit me and then 4 lanes of traffic created a huge cloud of blue smoke behind me as they all came to emergency stops while the wheel rolled across all lanes in front of them. Lucky dogs, they had more than 250 milliseconds to deal with the thing. I suppose the insurers did get off easy on that one.

    See, aren’t you glad? I stayed alive by being cool for 250 milliseconds and doing the “right” thing, and the insurance companies saved millions in compensation, so between us, they’re way ahead.

    Hm, but is ducking your head to be right up against the steering wheel airbag the “right” thing? I guess we’ll never know.

  2. Ron says:

    Wow, now that is one twisted insurance company. Unless there is something different about Canada in this regard I don’t expect you can freely change insurance, right? And the new insurance company doesn’t come out and do a detailed inspection on your car, right? So they wouldn’t know about pre-existing damage …

    Last year we had a storm and I started a claim with the insurance company because I didn’t know how bad the damage would be and didn’t want to risk waiting a few weeks until I knew for sure. But while I was talking to them I asked if I could tell them to “forget the whole thing” later and they said no problem canceling a claim. Which is what I ended up doing.

  3. chk says:

    To prevent fraud, all of the insurance companies up here share information with each other, including claims histories, so I’m SOL on that account. Also, I’m with an insurance company that offers HP employees a 20% group discount, so I’m locked in, at least for a few more months! :)

  4. chk says:

    Jeff, I’m glad you’re visiting here again! You always have the best stories to share!

  5. jim says:

    In WA state insurance companies share information. When I started my new insurance with Farmers’, my agent Michelle L. found a couple of claims showing $0 paid. It was from me calling and asking about damages and coverage. To prevent problems, she had to come out and take pictures of my truck to show it was in good condition.

Best Buy reward zone

I just called Best Buy and canceled my “Reward Zone” membership. I understand the deal; I sell them my personal information and shopping habits. But they screwed up.

The program is set up so that earned points become gift certificates at certain thresholds. The certificates are only redeemable in store, of course (best buy’s website sucks grade-A rotten eggs, but that’s another rant :-). The problem for me is that they _automatically_ issue gift certificates as soon as you have accumulated enough points, *and* the certificates expire. Worse, the certificate expires before the points would have!

So basically, they gave me a bunch of points, and then stole them away. Best Buy agreed to purchase my privacy, and then used fine print and idiotic terms to renege on the deal. Customer service was no help, of course. So, good-bye account! It’s not like it matters anyway; I would have to spend $400/yr at best buy to get a $5 reward (that’s 1.25%), and I certainly don’t intend to spend that kind of money on consumer electronics anytime soon!

(The guys at Chapters/Indigo keep sending me useless “store-only” certificates too, but unlike Best Buy, the iRewards card _also_ gives me a 5% discount on all of my purchases, including sale items!)

posted at 10:07 am on Monday, November 17, 2008 in Personal | Comments (2)
  1. Nita says:

    Yup – I’ve been contemplating the same thing, for much the same reasons.

    Just haven’t had the time.

  2. Jeff K says:

    You can rant, no problem with that, but I find this one a little odd. I get a lot of those $5 gift certificates from Best Buy and I just spend them. The one I printed out last week doesn’t expire until Feb. Xmas is coming, the wife has a DVD wish list, the kids CDs, and I put “Planet of the Apes” Blu-ray box-set on my Xmas list, or boxing day list, however you want to look at it. $400 is not a lot to spend in December at Best Buy. That’s an Ape’s set, Man from Uncle, 2 Cokes and a “Mirror’s Edge”. Typical Saturday afternoon at Best Buy, actually.

    Hm, or a Wii, 2 Guitar Hero’s and a bag of chips.

    They haven’t sent me anything other than these certificates, nothing I can spot that is directed-advertising. Then again, the kids are under instructions to recycle all undressed fliers before I even see them…

    Amazon is a different story. They’re under instructions to send that data to the government, I believe, and I am receiving heavily directed advertising (when on their site). Apparently I like “Hannah Montana” & “Galaxies at High Redshift” ads on the same page. Aside from CBSA opening a lot of my international mail the government doesn’t seem to have done much with the info.

    Kind of a “We’re watching you! And if our employees knew how to read, you’d be in big trouble!” sort of thing.


As a friend wrote, “I never expected to see anyone but a white male elected President of the United States in my lifetime”: (That post is friend-locked, so only some of you can see it, sorry).

On the other hand, I still don’t expect to see the Toronto Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup in my lifetime. And until last week, I would have given better odds on the Leafs… :-)

posted at 1:23 pm on Wednesday, November 05, 2008 in Current Events, Humour, Politics, Random Thoughts | Comments (1)
  1. Jeff K says:

    I thought that someone who tries on women’s clothing without ever looking at the price tags was a shoe-in for a high office in the United States, but unfortunately it was not clear that Paulson could continue on under Palin.

mythtv update

Apparently I never posted about the latest changes. Most of this was back in September before fall TV started up…

My “Knoppmyth”: installation was getting a little old and decrepit, even after the update for Schedules Direct. These days I use “Ubuntu”: on all of the servers, so with the second release of “Mythbuntu”: available I decided it was time to switch the PVR.

The first upgrade was relatively painless. I started with Mythbuntu 7.10, because it used the same “MythTV”: version as my Knoppmyth install. First I installed onto my spare 160Gb drive; I have two, because I was originally planning to use RAID-1 on the PVR. Alas, the extra CPU and I/O required was too much for my wimpy PIII-933, so now I have a spare.

I was able to copy and/or merge most configuration files from the old setup to the new, since they were based on similar Debian releases. There were a couple of problems with TV-out on my ancient Matrox G400 card; once again vesafb was loading and blocking the Matrox drivers. At least this time they were both already modules, so I did not have to recompile the whole kernel! Then I restored the MySQL databases from backup and copied the video files over (that took a few hours). I tested the machine for about a week, and it was working fine.

Unfortunately, the upgrade to Mythbuntu 8.04 did not go as well. For some reason, the latest kernels would not boot on my old Compaq Deskpro! I never did figure out why. Since the cooling fans in that machine were dying anyway, I decided to swap in the old Baltimore Dell workstation that Andrzej gave me last year. I happened to have a spare CPU in the parts box, so I now have a PVR with two PIII-933 CPUs, making the box a little snappier when watching TV while recording.

Of course, about a week later, the Dell fan started chirping (as I posted about previously). Then my cheapo UPS died, and the Dell kept shutting itself down until I plugged it directly into the wall. Now everything is stable (and cool) again, and I’m quite happy to be running the same linux version on all six servers! (I don’t have _that_ many computers at home; four of those “servers” are virtual machines, two of them at hosting facilities in Atlanta GA…).

So, that’s it until next spring, after May sweeps, by which time Mythbuntu 9.04 will be out :-).

*Update 2009/05/28:* 1) the upgrade to 9.04 was uneventful. 2) My old server died, so I had to buy a new (old) computer. In the process of swapping hardware around, I had the “would not boot” problem again. I eventually discovered that my earlier problems with kernels not booting was not caused by the motherboard, but by the particular Matrox G400 that was in the old Compaq Deskpro. That was a day wasted, trying to get the right combination of hardware into one machine :-).

posted at 5:01 pm on Thursday, October 30, 2008 in Personal, TV | Comments (2)
  1. James says:


    I wondered if you could give a little more information on what you had to do to get the G400 card working. I’m trying to set up a Knoppmyth (or Mythbuntu; I’ve been thinking about switching too) on a system that has a Matrox G450 in it, which is very similar. It’s been giving me no end of grief and I haven’t gotten any help from the Knoppmyth forums so far (the solution seems to be ‘buy an NVidia’). This is the first time I’ve come across anybody describing a solution.

    What did you have to do to get rid of the vesafb problem? Just unload a module?

    Thanks very much!

  2. chk says:

    I edited the file @/etc/modprobe.d/blacklist-framebuffer@ and added an entry for @vesafb@. That stopped that module from being loaded at boot time. I also modified @/etc/modules@ and added:

    bc. matroxfb-maven

    To make sure that *those* modules did load at boot time, so that any later probe for a different framebuffer driver would fail. (Also, the probe for @matrox_w1@ was causing problems, and this fixed it). The combination of the two worked for me.

    In @/etc/rc.local@ I run the following to bind the TV-out properly.

    bc. /usr/bin/matroxset -f /dev/fb1 -m 0
    /usr/bin/matroxset -f /dev/fb0 -m 3
    /usr/bin/matroxset -f /dev/fb0 -o 1 2

    Finally, every time X starts or resets I run a script from @/etc/X11/xinit/xinitrc@ called @tvcenter@ that adjusts the framebuffer position and brightness on my system:

    bc. /usr/local/bin/fbset -fb /dev/fb0 -left 32 -right 8 -upper 70 -lower 20 -hslen 40

    bc. # set black level, white level, hue
    /usr/local/bin/matrox 0x0e 0x3f
    /usr/local/bin/matrox 0x1e 0xbf
    /usr/local/bin/matrox 0x22 0x76

    (@fbset@ and @matrox@ are programs that came with the Matrox drivers I found).

    I hope this helps!

home office update

I had two computers on my L-shaped desk: my desktop and my work laptop (connected to a real display and keyboard, of course!). Switching back and forth between the two was getting annoying, until I read about a package called “Synergy”:, that allows sharing one keyboard and mouse over the network among multiple computers.

I now have two displays side-by-side on my desk! Synergy works very well; the desktop switching is seamless, and all keyboard events (including the Windows key) get sent to the correct computer. Even the clipboards are synchronized; I can cut and paste between the two computers! Synergy can be configured to start at boot time, so even after a reboot (common on the work laptop), I still only need the one keyboard.

I’ve had two minor problems. The first was that I initially started with the server on the laptop and the client on the desktop. HP “upgraded” my firewall, and the new firewall blocked the Synergy server, so I had to swap their roles. The second is that when the Windows Explorer process gets busy with network delays or timeouts, switching between the two computers no longer works; it appears that the required events aren’t being sent to the Synergy software, or something else is blocking Synergy from switching displays. Fortunately this doesn’t happen too often.

Overall I’m quite happy; I have better separation between work stuff and personal stuff, but without the annoyance of separate keyboards and mice. I recommend this software.

posted at 9:43 am on Thursday, October 30, 2008 in Personal | Comments (7)
  1. David Brake says:

    How is this different from running VNC and displaying/controlling one computer using the other’s keyboard and mouse? That’s what I do with my PC and ibook combo.

  2. Pia says:

    Hi, do you really live at 64 Clareville? I’ve searched around for pictures but don’t see any around your site… My dad built that house, I grew up there, I’m curious as heck :) feel free to shoot me an email. ps my husband set me up with Synergy last year, I love it, works great. We do a lot of gaming so I use one machine for playing and zip to the other for looking up game info so I don’t have to tab out of the game.


  3. chk says:

    The house has changed a bit since you lived here! I sent you e-mail with some of the details…

  4. Pia says:

    thanks! Sorry if this is weird, the internet can be a creepy place, I promise I won’t try to get you to help me move 280 million dollars over from Nigeria or something! :D

  5. chk says:

    LOL! It’s pretty easy to avoid creepiness on the Internet when you can claim that it’s _your_ name carved in the concrete outside my patio door… :-)

  6. Jeff K says:

    There’s something to be said about privacy, I guess.

    I presume “Pia” is an Estonian name? Dad Toomas moved out Dec. 15, 1992?

    Incidentally, chk knows me, I’m harmless, I don’t really have a drawer full of watches beside my bed. Its only half full.

    I love going to the Estonian bakery downtown. Know of any good ones besides Broadview/Danforth?

  7. Reid says:

    Ya, Synergy rules. I used it at work for a while. It’s also cross-platform. So I had one mouse/keyboard for my Mac, Windows and Linux machines. It was a little awkward, because the Windows and Linux machines shared a monitor, using different inputs (DVI vs VGA).

orwell or huxley?

I saw this, and I had to share…

“What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.” In 1984, Orwell added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we desire will ruin us.” —Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death

(copied from “Will Shetterley”:

posted at 8:36 am on Thursday, October 16, 2008 in Current Events, Links, Politics | Comments (1)
  1. Jeff K says:

    “pain” and “fear” don’t seem to be quite the right words, although they are not completely wrong.

    It strikes me that people who write tend to make associations on paper not unlike the process of paranoid thought, and thus come off as “fear”. Its just a slightly unvarnished side to the creative process, in my humble opinion.

    The real problem is the unwillingness of people at large to re-establish the context of their beliefs as the context changes, or indeed if it is not known.

    Example: “Okay I want to write a book called ‘Clockwork Orange’ about the hedonism of violence and emotional music”. Director “Well, let’s make it into a movie for a buck”. Public: “Oh cool! Let’s beat the director up just like in the movie!”. Director: “Ban movie in Britain for life”.

    Pretty funny actually… (CWO was on a few days ago). Ain’t it sad knowing someone who’s been “cured”? [joke]

google reader 2

I’ve just discovered an annoying ‘feature’; in fact, one that many/most other feed readers had some version of, and the reason I stuck with Sharpreader for so long…

Google Reader automatically marks as ‘read’ any entries more than a month old.

Sometimes there are articles I want to be able to find again; because I want to read them with more attention, because I need more time to act on them, because I want to blog them, etc. etc.. I’ve been leaving them as “unread”, but I guess I’ll have to develop a different habit instead. “Starred items” is already overloaded. In some other feed readers I could add a “TODO” or “important” tag to the entry, but that doesn’t seem to be possible in Google. I see that I can email them to myself, although I’d rather not have to use two applications for this…

OTOH, I suppose if I haven’t gotten a round tuit after a month, it wasn’t really that important :-)

posted at 10:27 am on Wednesday, October 15, 2008 in Personal | Comments (3)
  1. David B says:

    you can give a tag to anything (see bottom R of any item) but I don’t know if that will save it from deletion after a month.

  2. Helge Koch says:

    Get AZZCadfile. Open a new card. Call it “something”. Copy the Google item to it and go back to it any time you want. When finished, delete. I do this with computer tech items from Ziff Davis all the time. Real easy. Helge

  3. Helge Koch says:

    Sorry about that left out the “r”. It is AZZcardfile. Helge

voter turnout

Yesterday’s Canadian federal election broke a new record; lowest voter turnout in history, at 59% of eligible voters. This apparently ranks us 83 in the world.

I received six voter registration cards; two for us, and four for previous owners of our house. We’ve lived here eight years and three federal elections. I called Elections Canada to ask if they wanted to remove those bad names from the list, and they replied “no”.

I wonder how much of that “drop” in turnout is real, and how much of it is a growing number of “dead” registrations on the Canadian voter list?

posted at 12:35 am on Wednesday, October 15, 2008 in Current Events, Politics | Comments Off on voter turnout


The Dell Precision Workstation has a chassis fan right next to the CPU(s). They have this annoying habit of chirping like a cricket as they get old and worn out. One of the fans in my PVR was squeaking so loudly today that it was annoying me in the office, 15′ and two doors away. I unplugged the fan at around 2PM today. I guess it’s kinda important… :-)

(Yes, those temperatures are Centigrade. It’s not _that_ cold in my family room!)

I think I have one more spare in the parts bin. If not, I probably won’t be able to get out to Tiger Direct until Saturday :-(

*Update:* I had three spare fans, all of them noisy! Ah, the joys of old hardware. Anyway, for now I’ve removed the cover, and the temperature has improved:

*Update 2008-10-25*: Finally found a store that stocks 90mm fans today, and put it into the PVR around 10PM. This graph is with the cover on:

And now I have a nifty blue glow coming from the entertainment corner! :-)

posted at 5:22 pm on Tuesday, October 14, 2008 in Personal | Comments Off on cooling

Google Reader

I’ve been using Google Reader for a while now, after finally becoming annoyed over some issues in SharpReader (understandable, since it is not being maintained anymore :-).


Google Reader allows me to share stuff I find interesting on a “web page”: and an “Atom Feed”:


posted at 6:25 pm on Monday, October 13, 2008 in Links | Comments Off on Google Reader

more ‘i hate people’

“Car vandals aim at Liberal supporters”:

bq. Toronto police patrolled a midtown area overnight, after vandals cut brake lines on at least 10 cars parked at homes with Liberal election signs on their lawns.

posted at 7:48 pm on Sunday, October 05, 2008 in Current Events, Politics | Comments (1)
  1. Nita says:

    I doubt they catch them, but if they do, a large part of me says “nail their asses to the wall.”

IBM Identity Management

I’m surprised this announcement took so long:

*IBM to Bail Out HP Security Software Customers*

read it at “yahoo”: or “marketwire”:

posted at 12:46 pm on Wednesday, October 01, 2008 in Personal, Programming, Security | Comments (1)
  1. RG says:

    I got this as an internal email flash this morning and just chuckled. I agree this seemed to have dropped out of a time warp or something…

linux sux

OK, I exaggerate. Linux as a _server_ is an awesome tool. Linux on the desktop sucks like a Hoover.

I decided to try Ubuntu 8.04 on a desktop machine. My primary goal was to have a MythTV client, so I could watch recorded TV when the kids had taken over the main television (for the Wii, of course! :). I’ve been a casual Linux user since kernel version 0.91, and a regular user since RedHat 5.0 shipped. I used Sun and SGI desktops, NCD X-Terminals, and even early Desktop Linux for 10 years before I started using Windows. Desktop Linux has come a long way since then, so I figured it was worth a try; I was experienced enough to work around any problems that came up.

Browsing and email are OK, because Firefox and Thunderbird are available. The official mailer, Evolution, is utter dreck, of course, and everything suffers the standard open-source problem; crappy UI, and feature-incomplete. It seems that when a developer encounters a program that doesn’t work in their ideal way, the reaction is _not_ to improve the program, as open-source supporters would have you believe. Instead, the reaction is to think “Wow, that sucks! I can do better from scratch!”. And so we have, for example, well over a dozen MP3 players that all suck in different ways! (Although, thanks to the underlying crappy audio support, they all suffer the problem that changing the volume lags by 2-3 seconds… *sigh).

I tried a compromise position for a while; I installed VirtualBox, a “free” VM solution from Sun Microsystems that allows one to integrate the host and guest desktops almost seamlessly, so that I could run my favourite Windows apps alongside the Linux stuff. But even that doesn’t work as well, and so I think I’m going to surrender and go back to Windows on the desktop.

I could go on, but instead I’ll link to a couple of sites and essays that cemented it all for me. There are many themes, but most boil down to the same problem: Linux developers act like they’re smarter than Linux users. If there’s one thing that 13 years of commercial software development has taught me, it’s that you ignore your customers/users at your own peril. I don’t think the open-source community is ever going to learn that lesson.

* “Linux Hater’s Blog”:
* “Desktop Linux Suckage”:
* More on the Linux audio mess: “Pulse my audio”:

posted at 9:13 am on Wednesday, October 01, 2008 in Personal, Programming, Rants | Comments (4)
  1. Richard Chapman says:

    You know, during the American Revolutionary War, columns of British infantry were often harassed by Colonial Militia using tactics that would be later known as Guerrilla warfare. It pissed the Brits off to no end. Battles were supposed to be neat and tidy. Everybody lined up and traded volleys until enough people were dead. We all know what battle tactics are not in use today.

    Ok, so what does this have to do with Linux development? You say you’ve had 10 years in commercial development but you didn’t say if it was Open Source development or not. A community effort will not come up with anything that looks and works like Vista. That’s not a bad thing. Think of the proprietary development model like the battle field tactics used during the Revolutionary War. Yeah, Open Source is messy as hell. I’m not a developer but I can think of at least two reasons why that is. It’s relatively new, compared to proprietary methods (I know a basic Open Source model was in place before the proprietary influences took over. Software was developed and traded freely before it was discovered to be a “gold mine” by the corporations.) Second, the Open Source model reignited, established itself and has begun to flourish in a proprietary “pond”. Imagine that, born and bred in a completely hostile environment. The Open Source model you see today is not the one you would see if it was as prominent as the proprietary one.

    What I don’t understand is that you should know this. Having as much experience as you do with Linux, you would have canned it a long time ago if you had issues with a little GUI quirkiness. There weren’t “well over a dozen MP3” players when you first started using Linux. They accumulated while you using it. Did it just hit you one day that there were “too many”? I say, if someone wants to create their own MP3 player or even a distro for that matter, go ahead, let Darwin sort them out. For me, a quirky GUI is just a nice little reminder that I’m not using a Microsoft product.

  2. chk says:

    I think you completely missed all of my points, but that’s ok; the other blogs I linked to are full of similar behaviour.

    I’ve been running Linux _as a server_ for over a decade. I gave up on Linux on the desktop nine years ago. I decided to try it again, and discovered that other than a few new bells and whistles, nothing has changed. Developers can’t even get basic functionality right, never mind the interesting stuff that really makes a program useful.

    My _example_ about MP3 players was not that there were so many, but that they _all_ suck. Nobody seems to want to collaborate to make one or two better. It’s not just the MP3 players.

    A quirky GUI just gets in my way when I have real work to do. I don’t want to be fighting with my computers all the time (And yes, for the record, both Apple and MSFT have problems in this area too).

    I’ll continue to run linux on my servers (5 personal, dozens at the office), but I’ll not be using it on a desktop. More importantly, I won’t be recommending it to my family and friends, either.

  3. Richard Chapman says:

    No, after reading your comment I believe I didn’t miss your point. I’m not saying there is something wrong with you for not liking desktop Linux. It just seems a little odd. If you’ve been working with Linux servers for the past 9 years you must be quite at home with the command line. Don’t use the desktop, it’s optional. I think it’s nuts but some people do it. I don’t know what distro you tried but desktop Linux has improved a lot in just the 3.5 years I’ve been using it. My needs aren’t great but it does everything I need and more without getting in my face. The maintenance is nonexistent compared to XP. Vista? From what little I’ve seen of it my computer would be smashed to pieces in a matter of hours if I had to use it. That friggin’ OS has an attitude and I don’t like it at all.

    I use PCLinuxOS and there isn’t any piece of codec crap it can’t handle. If you are happy with XP or Vista or whatever you use then there is no reason to switch. If you’re just investigating the “hype” then that’s fine too. Just understand that there isn’t any Linux hype machine, it’s just people’s experiences. Nobody said Linux was the Second Coming. They are just happy to finally get their work done without being pestered by their computer.

  4. Reid says:

    Yep it does.

    Now why would you go to Windows? There’s always Mac.


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