Archive for July, 2008

31
Jul
08

LUG Spat

Originally, this was going to be a bitchfest about how I got kicked off the SF-LUG mailing list. The day after that incident, it became clear that I hadn’t been kicked off the list, although I haven’t bothered to find out if I’m still allowed to post. The whole thing was brought about over one of those “Linux devs should do X if they want more marketshare” conversations.

I wasn’t going to out the list maintainer at first, but I don’t think he really needs nor deserves the anonymity. (I also don’t get the sort of traffic that makes any kind of difference, but that’s a different story.) In short, the original topic had to do with high-level UI in and between various Linux distros. These consistency issues mostly stem from differences in philosophy between different projects like Gnome, KDE, Xfce, various upgrade managers like apt or package formats like .deb or .rpm.

Since it was just a friendly discussion lacking any trolls, the list owner, Rick Moen, apparently decided to step in and play the part of the troll himself. It started off fairly badly:

Quoting Paul Ward:

I think the problem is there’s no consistency for people used to the Windows or OS X experience.

You see a problem; I see something merely being itself. Ain’t
perspectives grand?

The big reason why I bought a Mac in 2002 was because OS X 10.2 on a powerbook was just that much of a better experience than I was having with either Linux or Windows on a series of PC laptops, plus it had the unix-y stuff that I had come to love!

Oddly enough, the big reason why I prefer to run Xubuntu rather than OS
X on my Macs is that OS X’s implementation of Unix sucks at nearly every
level. (I’ve used nearly every MacOS version going back to 1984, by the
way.)

What I’m trying to say is that for people who want to try linux, but are in between the levels of propellerhead and techtard, a lot of that low-level consistency has to make its way to the high level GUIs.

Funny thing: Just about every time someone says Linux “has to” do
something or other, he or she turns out to be factually mistaken. What
you appear to mean is: You would personally prefer that a vast
community of people whose paycheques you do not sign _change_ what they’re
doing at a very fundamental level, to do things in the way that you
imagine is best, probably (I would speculate) while having an at best
uncertain understanding of the details of what they do.

I hope that works for you, but I’ve honestly never seen it work for
anyone else, in the entire history of software.

And just degenerated from that point. I ended up getting this:

Anyhow, sorry, but I’m a bit busy today to even spend time reading OS-advocacy essays, which among other problems have nothing whatever to do with what I posted about before Bruce Coston suddenly gave the topic a huge yank in some random direction and then you appear to have done likewise. (No offence intended, but I have absolutely no reason to care what operating systems you or pretty nearly anyone else like and why.)

And then get get to this point:

The point is that it would be very nice if there was (a lot) more unity in the way that distros, particularly ones that purport to be mainstream products, like Ubuntu.

Actually, I think that’s quite obviously false — your “unity” is my my
“dumb inflexibility solely to cater to people unwilling to learn
anything new” — but good luck with that. (I remember the sheer
irritation value of dealing with visiting Apple “Human Interface Guidelines”
inspectors, when I worked at a cross-platform development house, back in
the day.

Which finally ends after I call his last comment an ass-tastic response to which Rick responds:

OK, we’re done. You’ll need to talk to procmail, going forward

I fully admit to being baited and not rising above it, but give me a fucking break. If Rick didn’t have time to get involved, why the fuck did he feel the need to not only get involved, but take over the entire conversation, act like a 13 year old troll, and then unilaterally shut down the conversation? What’s clear to me is that not only is Rick a fully ordained member of the Holy Fraternity of IT Douchebags, but he feels as if his tools should not be sullied by the unworthy members of the public.

I mean, is it really that big of a deal to ask the major distros that are trying to get mainstream marketshare right now to cooperate with each other, at least a little bit? I’m not suggesting that they all decide on single standards (OMFG, the horror), but to at least support each other’s standards, so you don’t need to worry if you can run an rpm on your system or not. There are those who, like Rick, have absolutely nothing to do but play with their machines, and then there’s everyone else, for whom their computer(s) are tools for getting other work done.

Computers are tools, nothing more. Yes, I’m aware of what a general-purpose device is, but that doesn’t change the fact that you shouldn’t need to know how to write a config file in /etc to use a computer. Should you know how to do that and why you should? Hell yeah! But that goes in the list of things you should know as a member of US society, like changing a tire, how an engine works, fixing a bike, growing vegetables, etc. These are all things you should know, but don’t really need to know. Rick’s attitude that people who are too stupid to use computers like he does simply shouldn’t is itself one of the most stupid comments I’ve read. And I’ve recently read a couple of Rob Enderle columns.

Rick’s shitty attitude towards differing opinions on virtually any subject makes the list a pain sometimes, and is the reason why I stopped participating. Its just not worth dealing with such an immature and hostile person, especially when the subject is just not that important.

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21
Jul
08

First iPhone Post

I just set up the native WordPress app for iPhone and wanted to take it for a spin. This might be very useful for me, as I don’t have to wait for time to sit down with my laptop and remember what I wanted to write about. I’m still waiting with baited breath for mobile MarsEdit, but this will do very nicely for now.

15
Jul
08

Office 2k8 is teh Suck

Originally, I was planning on writing this screed lambasting teh suck that is Office 2008. Its not that I’ve changed my mind since the idea came to me, its just that I’ve had a week to calm down. In my line of work, which is of the scientific persuasion, we deal with lots of data. In an average experiment, we’ll have around 90-100 test subjects that give us double that number in useful data points, plus metadata. Yes, metadata in meatspace. And of course, we use Excel to handle all that.

Our main template has 15 tabs to separate out all the stuff that we need to keep track of. Scientific excel sheets are a big reason why I can justify running multiple monitors. Anyway, we usually have fewer than nine categories, like so:

empty_template.png

This usually works pretty well, even when its filled:

full_template.png

The graphs that these generate are usually fairly readable, but its was a real PITA for experiment #664, which had 11 categories instead of the usual nine. Adding those categories required a lot of manual editing of complex formulas that really should be called incantations. That took me a little over an hour and way too much coffee. Then when I tried to get my charts to look like this:

664_graph.png

I was introduced to the steaming turd that is Excel 08. In order to get those last two bars to look like the others required eight edits, plus one to change the scale. That’s nine edits, per graph, of which there are four.

Not a problem, you say? Well, that’s because you’ve clearly never had to make any change in an Excel 08 graph. The problem is that Excel crashed every single time I made an edit. For the math impaired, that’s 36 crashes. Once Excel crashed, I could make my edit, but when I got to the next one, FATALITY! The real bitch of it is, I had to make the edit, then when I hit the OK button, it would crash. So I actually ended up making 72 edits, only half of which kept.

I don’t particularly enjoy wasting my time, especially on something as stupid as that. Office 04 didn’t do that, but when I downgraded from 08, it picked up the habit somewhere. I guess if I reinstall OS X, I could use Office 04 and it would work properly, but fuck that! Office 2008 is so poorly written that it can barely handle basic functionality. Office 2007 works well. So well in fact that I’ll actually boot Windows to use it. But it still doesn’t play nice with the Mac versions, and since my lab is all Mac, that’s that.

All I want is an office suite that works and works well. iWork is nice, but doesn’t (yet) do all of the stuff that I need it to. Microsoft really needs to get their shit together before someone one-ups them. Office is a bitch to use, but is still the only suite with all of the features I need. As soon as I can get my hands on a suite that meets my needs, I’ll drop Office so fast, it’ll make Ballmer’s hair grow back.

BTW, I used the full sized images to show the real scale of what I had to deal with.

15
Jul
08

v-moda death

Well, today marks the untimely end of my second pair of v-moda vibe duos, the nice (and nicely median-priced) iphone earbuds. The first pair suffered from some manufacturing defect that has since been corrected and were replaced under warranty without issue. I really have to comment v-moda’s customer service for being polite and professional.

Unfortunately for me, this probably isn’t covered under the warranty:
Dead V-Modas

After work, I went to the Starbucks closest to my job for a nice cold lemonade to enjoy the nice day. Nice days are a rarity in summertime SF, so time MUST be taken to enjoy them. Anyway, I got my drink, and as I was walking to my table, my headphones caught against one of those stupid racks they have everywhere and managed to pull the right cable from the junction.

So I’m emailing v-moda support to see if they’ll cover that. Probably not, but its not as if emailing them can hurt!

UPDATE
That was fast! No, stupidly destroying your headphones is not covered under warranty. (Stupidity rarely is)

09
Jul
08

Addendum to my Gadget Lust

Or: Why it pays to do some basic research before bitching about stuff.

Yesterday I vented my feelings about how while I very much want an iPhone 3G, I won’t be getting one. The big reason basically boils down to the cost of the family plan. The Death Star lists their family plans starting at $129/mo for 2 lines with 700 shared minutes. I was under the impression that that was one 3G iPhone and one regular phone. I also thought that there was no plan with fewer minutes, as my and Nicky’s combined anytime usage averages less than 100 minutes/mo. Add the whole texting thing and I was looking at a huge bill, which I am just not willing to pay.

So guess what I did today?

After shopping at the local Victoria’s Secret (yum!), we walked over to the Apple store so I could chat with one of the retail goons. The goon I caught pointed out to my surprise that the listed family plans assume two 3G iPhones. I’m not sure of everyone else in the world caught that or not, but if I don’t know it, its news to me. So come the questions about going from my plan to a family plan and switching phones between two people and I confused the hell out of the goon, who was as clueless about AT&T’s policies as I. (I should point out that this guy was actually very polite and helpful; I just call all retail people goons. It’s how I felt when I was a retail goon). 

Anyway, now that my interest was piqued, I headed over to the closest AT&T store to get some more info. And of course, here’s where the problems begin. It seems as if I can use the lower plan, add a line and switch the phones, but only if one or the other of us gives up a number and the 2G iPhone loses its plan. 

Sigh.

This isn’t what I’ve heard from other sources, including official Death Star communications, so I get to figure out what to do. I think that I’ll combine our numbers into a family plan first, then upgrade myself to the 3G and hand down the 2G to Nicky later. Perhaps splitting all the complex BS into steps will lessen my pain, but in any case, my resolve has gone from “Not gonna happen” to “Wait and see.” That’s much better.

I’m also going to see how well MobileMe works in the wild. That calendar sync and idisk will be damned useful to the two of us, but I want to see how well it integrates with the various Google services I use before  I plunk some cash down.

09
Jul
08

Gadget Pain

Like many other early adopters, I find myself faced with a decision. The problem is, I shouldn’t. There should be no conflict or even a question. However, my reptile brain finds itself still lusting over a shiny new iPhone 3G. There is absolutely nothing wrong with my current cell phone (an original iPhone, natch), its just that the new one is slightly better, and I do mean that. Just like all the rumors predicted, the 3G iPhone is last year’s phone + faster internet and GPS. My phone still gets all the nifty new software updates, and probably will for as long as the 3G gets its updates, since they have the same specs, excepting the radio. I had even decided, pre-WWDC that I was going to skip this update, since faster internet was not worth spending $400 to replace a $600-$100 phone that was a year old!

So what happened to make this an issue?

$199.

$199 is an impulse buy. A rare impulse buy, for sure, but that’s an amount of change that I would have no regrets over. So I had it all worked out. I figured that I’d just hand down the old’n busted iPhone to the SO, set up a family plan, get a MobileMe account, and everything would be awesome! But then the Death Star revealed their prices, including the family plans, which I found so unacceptable, I just dropped the whole thing. 

But the shiny new goodies, they beckon.

So, I’m going to hold out, for now. I managed to wait an entire three days before succumbing to the siren’s call last year. This year, I already have awesomeness in my pocket, while is a software update away from awesome x2, so I think I can contain my enthusiasm. I need to see about a cheaper family plan (since neither of us really use that many minutes anyway), and I’d really like a 32GB version. Yeah, that’s it. I’ll just tell myself that I’m waiting for that.

 

But its still $199……