Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Sunday, December 29, 2013

XKCD dump

The site is XKCD.
There may be a better smart/funny webcomic out there, but I don't think so. You should spend five minutes checking it out.


This happens to me every night!
xkcd #203

Chromebooks: just kicking ass!

Numbers are good...
Well, it would seem that Microsoft has reason to be worried at the Chromebook, as the holiday numbers were quite good. Add the Android tablets, and the Apple margin, I'd be worried, too.
Of course, Microsoft has plenty of money to burn through before they feel any pinch from the market-place, but I celebrate a bit with every Chromebook or Android tablet I sell.
Usually on twitter.
With the "#SuckIt @Windows"
Seriously, I'm @merelyjim

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Way funnier than it has a right to be...

If you have the chance, search twittet under #BorgDad.
Anytime your Father's voice is mixed with science fiction, you should listen, if only to laugh...

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Sand, magnified for your viewing pleasure.

Sand, magnified.

Yes, these "grains" of sand were picked for their attractiveness and composition; coral, shells, crystal, etc. A lot of sand isn't this pretty, but the point was to tell you to look deeper than you have been.

Philosophies and Operating Systems

Back in 1999, Neal Stephenson wrote an essay on operating systems called In the Beginning Was The Command Line. He has since made the text free to download from his website. But even though it's "old" writing on technology, it still holds water today. I'd recommend taking a look at it if you've got some time.

Around the time that Jobs, Wozniak, Gates, and Allen were dreaming up these unlikely schemes, I was a teenager living in Ames, Iowa. One of my friends' dads had an old MGB sports car rusting away in his garage. Sometimes he would actually manage to get it running and then he would take us for a spin around the block, with a memorable look of wild youthful exhiliration on his face; to his worried passengers, he was a madman, stalling and backfiring around Ames, Iowa and eating the dust of rusty Gremlins and Pintos, but in his own mind he was Dustin Hoffman tooling across the Bay Bridge with the wind in his hair.

In retrospect, this was telling me two things about people's relationship to technology. One was that romance and image go a long way towards shaping their opinions. If you doubt it (and if you have a lot of spare time on your hands) just ask anyone who owns a Macintosh and who, on those grounds, imagines him- or herself to be a member of an oppressed minority group.

The other, somewhat subtler point, was that interface is very important. Sure, the MGB was a lousy car in almost every way that counted: balky, unreliable, underpowered. But it was fun to drive. It was responsive. Every pebble on the road was felt in the bones, every nuance in the pavement transmitted instantly to the driver's hands. He could listen to the engine and tell what was wrong with it. The steering responded immediately to commands from his hands. To us passengers it was a pointless exercise in going nowhere--about as interesting as peering over someone's shoulder while he punches numbers into a spreadsheet. But to the driver it was an experience. For a short time he was extending his body and his senses into a larger realm, and doing things that he couldn't do unassisted.

The analogy between cars and operating systems is not half bad, and so let me run with it for a moment, as a way of giving an executive summary of our situation today.
Imagine a crossroads where four competing auto dealerships are situated. One of them (Microsoft) is much, much bigger than the others. It started out years ago selling three-speed bicycles (MS-DOS); these were not perfect, but they worked, and when they broke you could easily fix them.
There was a competing bicycle dealership next door (Apple) that one day began selling motorized vehicles--expensive but attractively styled cars with their innards hermetically sealed, so that how they worked was something of a mystery.

The big dealership responded by rushing a moped upgrade kit (the original Windows) onto the market. This was a Rube Goldberg contraption that, when bolted onto a three-speed bicycle, enabled it to keep up, just barely, with Apple-cars. The users had to wear goggles and were always picking bugs out of their teeth while Apple owners sped along in hermetically sealed comfort, sneering out the windows. But the Micro-mopeds were cheap, and easy to fix compared with the Apple-cars, and their market share waxed.

Eventually the big dealership came out with a full-fledged car: a colossal station wagon (Windows 95). It had all the aesthetic appeal of a Soviet worker housing block, it leaked oil and blew gaskets, and it was an enormous success. A little later, they also came out with a hulking off-road vehicle intended for industrial users (Windows NT) which was no more beautiful than the station wagon, and only a little more reliable.

Since then there has been a lot of noise and shouting, but little has changed. The smaller dealership continues to sell sleek Euro-styled sedans and to spend a lot of money on advertising campaigns. They have had GOING OUT OF BUSINESS! signs taped up in their windows for so long that they have gotten all yellow and curly. The big one keeps making bigger and bigger station wagons and ORVs.
On the other side of the road are two competitors that have come along more recently.
One of them (Be, Inc.) is selling fully operational Batmobiles (the BeOS). They are more beautiful and stylish even than the Euro-sedans, better designed, more technologically advanced, and at least as reliable as anything else on the market--and yet cheaper than the others.

With one exception, that is: Linux, which is right next door, and which is not a business at all. It's a bunch of RVs, yurts, tepees, and geodesic domes set up in a field and organized by consensus. The people who live there are making tanks. These are not old-fashioned, cast-iron Soviet tanks; these are more like the M1 tanks of the U.S. Army, made of space-age materials and jammed with sophisticated technology from one end to the other. But they are better than Army tanks. They've been modified in such a way that they never, ever break down, are light and maneuverable enough to use on ordinary streets, and use no more fuel than a subcompact car. These tanks are being cranked out, on the spot, at a terrific pace, and a vast number of them are lined up along the edge of the road with keys in the ignition. Anyone who wants can simply climb into one and drive it away for free.

Customers come to this crossroads in throngs, day and night. Ninety percent of them go straight to the biggest dealership and buy station wagons or off-road vehicles. They do not even look at the other dealerships.

Of the remaining ten percent, most go and buy a sleek Euro-sedan, pausing only to turn up their noses at the philistines going to buy the station wagons and ORVs. If they even notice the people on the opposite side of the road, selling the cheaper, technically superior vehicles, these customers deride them cranks and half-wits.
The Batmobile outlet sells a few vehicles to the occasional car nut who wants a second vehicle to go with his station wagon, but seems to accept, at least for now, that it's a fringe player.

The group giving away the free tanks only stays alive because it is staffed by volunteers, who are lined up at the edge of the street with bullhorns, trying to draw customers' attention to this incredible situation. A typical conversation goes something like this:
Hacker with bullhorn: "Save your money! Accept one of our free tanks! It is invulnerable, and can drive across rocks and swamps at ninety miles an hour while getting a hundred miles to the gallon!"

Prospective station wagon buyer: "I know what you say is true...but...er...I don't know how to maintain a tank!"

Bullhorn: "You don't know how to maintain a station wagon either!"

Buyer: "But this dealership has mechanics on staff. If something goes wrong with my station wagon, I can take a day off work, bring it here, and pay them to work on it while I sit in the waiting room for hours, listening to elevator music."

Bullhorn: "But if you accept one of our free tanks we will send volunteers to your house to fix it for free while you sleep!"

Buyer: "Stay away from my house, you freak!"

Bullhorn: "But..."

Buyer: "Can't you see that everyone is buying station wagons?"

Friday, December 20, 2013

Back to #!

So, for some silly inexplicable reason, my Manjaro Xfce desktop reverted to the standard, pretty ugly, default interface last night. Thought it might be an easy fix, but after tinkering with it a but, um... No.
Thought about Arch, even downloaded the ISO, booted into the live environment, and just got the command line. That's it, nothing more. Right of the bat, that's not going to work for me. I'm sure it's great for the people who want that sort of build-from-scratch experience, but I don't want to assemble a car from the ground up everyone I want to go for a drive. Sabayon had problems of it's own, but similar to the Manjaro issues with updates. So, maybe back to Debian?
Oh, but wait... Here's an old copy of CrunchBang already on the flash-drive....
Fifteen minutes later, #! just as I remember it. Left it copying files over from the external hard-drive while I went outside to enjoy the warm weather before a winter storm hits tonight.
It's hard to argue with what works.
And it does work! Within fifteen minutes, I had handbrake installed and running, because the #! forums know just about everything there is to know about a Debian system without the Debian culture.
Now that I think about it, CrunchBang is a sort of rolling release, in that I never really had to reinstall the system (aside from distro-hopping). You could just point the sources.list to repository [stable/testing/experimental], sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get dist-upgrade, go make some coffee, and your new system is installed. Done.
So, at least as far as x86 or AMD64 machines go, sometimes it's better to stay where you are and make your surrounding change to fit you, rather than looking for something better elsewhere.
Besides, I miss the people on the forums...

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Code Monkey by Jonathan Coulton

I don't write enough Code to be a Code Monkey, but the feeling's there...

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Sports; never going to understand.

Completely ripped-off of G+
I really don't understand sports. I never have.

Whenever someone starts telling me about it being a game of chance, it's a non-starter. The rules are designed to cover all eventualities. There's no action that's unaccounted for, and if by some miracle something unusual enough occurs that it's not covered in the rules, it's added pretty quickly.

I get that there's a clannish feeling of community among the fans, but really, if you had to talk about anything other than the game of choice, how connected are you? The players, getting paid stupidly huge salaries, for playing a game, barely tolerate you when they meet you. It's weird.

I get that I'm in the minority here, and I'm glad that people who don't share my interests have found something to do with their time, but every once in a while, you're world bleeds into mine, and I'm left wondering.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Winter comes to town.

Rain last night that froze, combined with sleet later in the night.
Most of us try to deal with this by staying home and waiting for the soon to come out again.
Conditions are to continue until Monday.