December 30, 2005
My latest fun area is MusicalGeeks.com. It's not "my" site by a long shot. In fact, out of everyone there, I'm the N00B, as it's a musician's site, and i've only been able to call myself that for about two years now.
But that's kind of the fun part. I'm not particularly good at playing guitar, I'm still at the stage of realizing that I can, with practice suck, but in a way that sounds vaguely like what i'm trying to play. It's new, there's tons I don't know, and I haven't been this new and untried at anything in years. It's a challenge, and one like I haven't had in a long time, but it's also more fun than I've had with computers in a long time as well.
Go take a look, it's kinda neat, but then, I'm biased. ;-)
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December 21, 2005
See ID get smacked like the stupid evil inflatable clown it is
In case you haven't heard, the ID (Intelligent Design) vs. Science lawsuit had its day in court. Like all shyster attempts to disguise religion as science, ID did...poorly. No, amend that...ID got beaten like a baby seal in a fur factory.
From the decision in the Dover, PA ID case...(ID didn't just lose, it got bitchslapped):
Although in Darwin's Black Box, Professor Behe wrote that not only were there no natural explanations for the immune system at the time, but that natural explanations were impossible regarding its origin. (P-647 at 139; 2:26-27 (Miller)). However, Dr. Miller presented peer-reviewed studies refuting Professor Behe's claim that the immune system was irreducibly complex. Between 1996 and 2002, various studies confirmed each element of the evolutionary hypothesis explaining the origin of the immune system. (2:31 (Miller)). In fact, on cross-examination, Professor Behe was questioned concerning his 1996 claim that science would never find an evolutionary explanation for the immune system. He was presented with fifty- eight peer-reviewed publications, nine books, and several immunology textbook chapters about the evolution of the immune system; however, he simply insisted that this was still not sufficient evidence of evolution, and that it was not “good enough”. (23:19 (Behe)).
On "Prof." Behe's "Irreducible Complexity Theory":
By irreducibly complex I mean a single system which is composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning. An irreducibly complex system cannot be produced directly by slight, successive modifications of a precursor system, because any precursor to an irreducibly complex system that is missing a part is by definition nonfunctional . . . Since natural selection can only choose systems that are already working, then if a biological system cannot be produced gradually it would have to arise as an integrated unit, in one fell swoop, for natural selection to have anything to act on.
He uses blood clotting as an example of this balderdash. Alas, science pwns him again:
Second, with regard to the blood-clotting cascade, Dr. Miller demonstrated that the alleged irreducible complexity of the blood-clotting cascade has been disproven by peer-reviewed studies dating back to 1969, which show that dolphins' and whales' blood clots despite missing a part of the cascade, a study that was confirmed by molecular testing in 1998. (1:122-29 (Miller); P-854.17- 854.22). Additionally and more recently, scientists published studies showing that in puffer fish, blood clots despite the cascade missing not only one, but three parts. (1:128-29 (Miller)). Accordingly, scientists in peer-reviewed publications have refuted Professor Behe's predication about the alleged irreducible complexity of the blood-clotting cascade. Moreover, cross-examination revealed that Professor Behe's redefinition of the blood-clotting system was likely designed to avoid peer- reviewed scientific evidence that falsifies his argument, as it was not a scientifically warranted redefinition. (20:26-28, 22:112-25 (Behe)).
I see the Zombie Feynman standing over the ID(iots) screaming "I'm REAL SCIENCE BITCH!"
Of course, the final nail in Behe's Irreducible Complexity argument is that Irreducible Complexity is not in fact, proof of ID. It is only a test of evolution:
We therefore find that Professor Behe's claim for irreducible complexity has been refuted in peer-reviewed research papers and has been rejected by the scientific community at large. (17:45-46 (Padian); 3:99 (Miller)). Additionally, even if irreducible complexity had not been rejected, it still does not support ID as it is merely a test for evolution, not design. (2:15, 2:35-40 (Miller); 28:63-66 (Fuller)).
Still more idiocy from the ID(iots):
Unlike biological systems, human artifacts do not live and reproduce over time. They are non-replicable, they do not undergo genetic recombination, and they are not driven by natural selection. (1:131-33 (Miller); 23:57-59 (Behe)). For human artifacts, we know the designer's identity, human, and the mechanism of design, as we have experience based upon empirical evidence that humans can make such things, as well as many other attributes including the designer's abilities, needs, and desires. (D-251 at 176; 1:131-33 (Miller); 23:63 (Behe); 5:55- 58 (Pennock)). With ID, proponents assert that they refuse to propose hypotheses on the designer's identity, do not propose a mechanism, and the designer, he/she/it/they, has never been seen. In that vein, defense expert Professor Minnich agreed that in the case of human artifacts and objects, we know the identity and capacities of the human designer, but we do not know any of those attributes for the designer of biological life. (38:44-47 (Minnich)). In addition, Professor Behe agreed that for the design of human artifacts, we know the designer and its attributes and we have a baseline for human design that does not exist for design of biological systems. (23:61-73 (Behe)). Professor Behe's only response to these seemingly insurmountable points of disanalogy was that the inference still works in science fiction movies. (23:73 (Behe)).
Let's look at that last part:
Professor Behe's only response to these seemingly insurmountable points of disanalogy was that the inference still works in science fiction movies. (23:73 (Behe)).
I have no words.
Of course, when pressed, Behe falls apart:
It is readily apparent to the Court that the only attribute of design that biological systems appear to share with human artifacts is their complex appearance, i.e. if it looks complex or designed, it must have been designed. (23:73 (Behe)). This inference to design based upon the appearance of a “purposeful arrangement of parts” is a completely subjective proposition, determined in the eye of each beholder and his/her viewpoint concerning the complexity of a system. Although both Professors Behe and Minnich assert that there is a quantitative aspect to the inference, on cross-examination they admitted that there is no quantitative criteria for determining the degree of complexity or number of parts that bespeak design, rather than a natural process. (23:50 (Behe); 38:59 (Minnich)). As Plaintiffs aptly submit to the Court, throughout the entire trial only one piece of evidence generated by Defendants addressed the strength of the ID inference: the argument is less plausible to those for whom God's existence is in question, and is much less plausible for those who deny God's existence. (P- 718 at 705).
Even the ID EXPERTS cannot make ID work if you don't make God the Designer.
One of the central books in the ID arsenal is Of Pandas and People, and it, along with Behe's book, Darwin's Black Box gets a thorough slapping by real science as well:
In addition, Dr. Miller refuted Pandas' claim that evolution cannot account for new genetic information and pointed to more than three dozen peer-reviewed scientific publications showing the origin of new genetic information by evolutionary processes. (1:133-36 (Miller); P-245). In summary, Dr. Miller testified that Pandas misrepresents molecular biology and genetic principles, as well as the current state of scientific knowledge in those areas in order to teach readers that common descent and natural selection are not scientifically sound. (1:139-42 (Miller)).
I bet that kind of beating leaves a bruise, you know? But it doesn't stop there. When pressed about peer review of ID, Behe once again folded like old origami:
The evidence presented in this case demonstrates that ID is not supported by any peer-reviewed research, data or publications. Both Drs. Padian and Forrest testified that recent literature reviews of scientific and medical-electronic databases disclosed no studies supporting a biological concept of ID. (17:42-43 (Padian); 11:32-33 (Forrest)). On cross-examination, Professor Behe admitted that: “There are no peer reviewed articles by anyone advocating for intelligent design supported by pertinent experiments or calculations which provide detailed rigorous accounts of how intelligent design of any biological system ccurred. ” (22:22-23 (Behe)). Additionally, Professor Behe conceded that there are no peer-reviewed papers supporting his claims that complex molecular systems, like the bacterial flagellum, the blood-clotting cascade, and the immune system, were intelligently designed. (21:61-62 (complex molecular systems), 23:4-5 (immune system), and 22:124-25 (blood-clotting cascade) (Behe)). In that regard, there are no peer-reviewed articles supporting Professor Behe's argument that certain complex molecular structures are “irreducibly complex.”17 (21:62, 22:124-25 (Behe)). In addition to failing to produce papers in peer-reviewed journals, ID also features no scientific research or testing. (28:114-15 (Fuller); 18:22-23, 105-06 (Behe)).
So not only are the main proponents of ID misleading, deceptive, and wrong in their theories, they cannot even muster up support via peer review, which is essential to science, as it allows hypotheses, theories, and research to be tested and critiqued. Think about the old "Cold Fusion" debacle. Can you imagine the waste if there had been no peer review, and everyone had started designing for Cold Fusion because someone with an advanced degree said it was true?
Well there is one article that Behe can find...because he helped write it:
The one article referenced by both Professors Behe and Minnich as supporting ID is an article written by Behe and Snoke entitled “Simulating evolution by gene duplication of protein features that require multiple amino acid residues.” (P-721). A review of the article indicates that it does not mention either rreducible complexity or ID. In fact, Professor Behe admitted that the study which forms the basis for the article did not rule out many known evolutionary mechanisms and that the research actually might support evolutionary pathways if a biologically realistic population size were used. (22:41-45 (Behe); P-756).
Behe can't even fake peer review without supporting the very thing he's trying to discredit. He's not only intellectually dishonest, he's incompetent!
ID's not science. It's not even close. ID is yet another attempt by a minority of Christian nimrods to play upon the general scientific ignorance in the US to sucker us into thinking something that's not testable or provable. It requires faith, and that's never science.
December 20, 2005
Love my Airplane more than you...
Yes, it's a ripoff of a book title, namely "Love My Rifle More Than You", a most excellent book about one person's time in the US Army in Iraq. Written by former Sgt. Kayla Williams, this book is not going to answer all the questions about Iraq, women in the Army, women in the Army in Iraq. It probably won't answer many questions about Kayla Williams.
There's a lot in the book that quite honestly won't make any sense to you unless you were in the military. Things like "what goes TDY stays TDY", and the rather unsurprising games like "let's throw rocks at each other's privates" and "bet you won't". It's hard to explain a lot of these things to ex-military who weren't in your unit, much less civilians. There's a reason why quite often, current and ex-military members seem to get along with each other so quickly. It's not some silly band of brothers thing. It's more slippery, but a lot of it has to do with the thought you get when you find out someone was in the military: Cool, they get it.
But what is it? Well, that's the hard part. You really do almost have to have served to really get it. That's why a lot of the stuff Ms. Williams talks about in the book get such a different reaction from current/ex-military than from the civilian world. Because, in a real sense, we are different.
First, I don't want to make it sound like all readers with a military background will like her book. Some will be appalled at some of her stories, some will be angry that she talked out of turn. The military is not the homogenous group civilians believe it to be. For example, i was in the USAF from '86 to '93. Every time I talk to someone who was in one of the other services, I get "Air Force? Wussies!". That seems perhaps far more insulting than it is. The truth is, with a few exceptions, mostly special forces - related, the Air Force is the wuss service compared to the other branches, especially the Marines. When I was in, BMT, Basic Military Training was 30 days. (Note, that's thirty training days. Weekends didn't count, nor did holidays, so it was more like thirty business days). I had to fire a weapon one time, an M-16 modified to shoot .22 rounds. I ran the confidence (obstacle) course once. Our fitness test was a timed 1.5 mile run. Face it, there's not a lot of call for being able to hump your stuff miles on your back. For one, we have lotsa planes. For another, most of my equipment was rather huge. B-1B bombers have big support needs. We had a coolant cart that required at least a C-141 if it needed to be flown somewhere.
I was also in during the last years of the Cold War, and Persian Gulf I. So our mission goals were, well different. But they were weird too. We lived at ground zero times ten. Grand Forks AFB had B-1Bs, KC-135Rs, and Minuteman III missles. We didn't practice bombing terrorists, we lived with bombing Soviets. At some point you realized that if we went to war, everyone died. Not, "everyone near the fighting", but everyone. We figured that in a full on exchange, the planet would quickly become rather lifeless. Except for roaches. And Cher. So you get a real fatalistic attitude towards things like dog tags and identification. Because, like dude, there wasn't going to be enough of us to match dental records or even DNA to. Of course, there'd be no records for matching, and no one to do the matching anyway.
But we worked, outside a lot in Northeastern North Dakota, or as we called it..."This fucking hellhole". If you want the true experience of working outside in -40°F wind chills with a -10°F ambient, clamp some dry ice between your legs for a few hours while someone blows freezing air on your face. Now, stand on a rickety ladder, and hook up 30 or so individually keyed cables that go in above your head after shoulder pressing a hundred pounds and holding it up for a minute or so. Now, do that 3-4 times. At random times, someone walks up and sprays you with cooling oil. For extra points, when you're done, take out your contacts after realizing that not even Lava soap will get that crap out of your skin.
There were other things that added to the weirdness. PRP, Personal Responsibility/Readiness Program. Basically, it was a program that applied if you worked around things that could carry those other things that make the big mushroom clouds. If you went to the hospital and got put on major painkillers, you were off PRP, and were essentially useless at work. But in the special PRP section of the records area were these signs that were designed to remind you of the seriousness of PRP. If you don't wake up in a cold sweat thinking about PRP, YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND THE PROGRAM!. For almost 6 years, every time anyone from the Bomber maintenance side saw that sign, we all said the same thing:
We don't have a fuckin' clue
I guess if you worked in a missile silo it was different, but to us, we fixed planes. That's all. We really didn't think of ourselves as "warriors" in spite of the nigh-constant PR from SAC about it. "Warriors of the North" we were called. Bullshit, we fixed planes. Had the hordes of the evil commies swarmed out of Canada, we would have only gotten ornery if they had kept us from the beer. (Considering the hordes of assholes that came out of Winnipeg all the time, had the Soviets nuked that city until it glowed, we might have given them a medal. Canadians as a rule are very cool. Winnipeggians, as a rule, are rude, donkey ball-sucking cocknockers).
So we'd look at the missile side of the base and think "damn, you're like, in the military 'n' shit". I mean, we all were, but we were too busy working to really get all military about it. However, you work midnight shift on a flightline, especially one with an almost two hundred degree difference between July and January, and well, you get...warped. Your sense of humor gets really warped. Crueler. For example...one night, we're sitting in a trailer, waiting for some support equipment, and Ritchie was with us. Ritchie was a dweeb. Bad acne, crackly voice, you name it. Couldn't get laid at Myrtle Beach during spring break. No, really, we tried. In a situation where we had a room full of hot drunk women who were on the prowl, he never talked to any of them. Oy. But it was a few of us, including Ritchie and Bill. Bill was a good - looking kid, and a bit of a dick. Bill liked to fuck with Ritchie. A lot. Okay, we all did. But Bill decided to fall asleep. Ritchie gets up, walks over, sticks his ass damned near on Bill's face, and farts. Not a normal fart. This thing lasted forever. It lasted so long that he had to pause. It sounded like he was shitting himself. But he soldiered on until he was done. It fucking REEKED. But no one left this very small, unventilated, now very FOUL - smelling trailer. Because we knew that Bill was going to wake up. And he did, gagging and coughing, and we were almost pissing ourselves we were laughing so hard. There are very few places where that would be that funny at what, for anyone else would be noon at the office. But in that place, that was high comedy. Duct-taping people and throwing them in the snow.
Chewing tobacco. It was everywhere. So were spit cans. I can't describe the inside of a spit can. I can tell you what it tastes like, albeit unintentionally. It's disgusting, in a way that defines the word. So the rule was, you ripped the tab off the spit can, that way mistakes weren't made. So there's this guy, Lee. Lee's an idiot. About fucking useless for work. Balding, buying Rogaine, (when this shit was expensive, and prescription only), then dousing his head in peroxide to bleach his very blonde, thinning hair even more. Because he wanted to look like a "surfer dude".
IN NORTH DAKOTA. North Dakota is of course, well known for surfing.
So we found out that Lee was not only worthless, but gullible. Lee whines his way onto mids. We didn't like this...mids was for working, days was for dumbasses like Lee. So my roommate hits on a fun game. It went like this:
- Wait for Lee to buy a soda and sit down
- Wait for Lee to leave his soda can untended
- Reach over and pull the tab off of Lee's can
- Lee whines like the little bitch he was
- Free sodas, score!
Final story...Rich was an interesting camper. (Rich, not Ritchie, keep it straight.) So Rich gets a microwave burrito, and soaks that bastard in taco sauce. It looked disgusting, or as I told him, "Holy shit Rich, that looks like a fucking used tampon!". Rich gets a little green, and says, "You fucker, here, you eat this, I gotta puke" He puked. We realized we had a line on free food forever. He'd get food we wanted, we'd say "Look, Rich's eating another used tampon!" "You fuckers" Score! Rich wasn't as stupid as Lee, he eventually started throwing it away, which ruined the fun.
This was standard fare for years. So when Kayla talks about "Bet you won't" or "Let's throw rocks at each other's dicks and Kayla's tits", well, I get that. I totally understand how in that situation, you're going to eventually realize that hitting Bill in the dick with a rock is some pretty funny shit. It's never not funny either.
But I'm not sure if civilians will ever get a lot of what she's talking about. Because they're not in the club. Hell, I've never been, and never will be in her part of the club. But I was in the building at least. So if you're a civilian, and you read about some of that silliness, if it doesn't make any sense to you, ask a friend who has a military background. They may not be able to explain it to you, but they'll understand it at least.| Comments ()
It's about bloody time!
IDG World Expo today announced the appointment of Mac industry veteran Paul Kent as Vice President. In this expanded role, Kent will be responsible for the overall growth and management of Macworld Conference & Expo. Kent has spent the past eight years as the Conference Chairperson where he managed all the educational and training content of Macworld’s conference program. "Paul’s passion for Apple products, his longstanding relationship with Macworld and his proven record as an event professional make him uniquely qualified for this leadership role. We are delighted to have Paul on board," said Dick Blouin, president, U.S., IDG World Expo in the announcement.
I've known and worked with Paul since 1999, and gone to the conferences he's lead or produced since 1995 or so, and this is one of, if not the smartest thing that IDG has done for Macworld since Charlie Greco left during the squabble about moving Macworld from New York back to Boston. Paul has run some of the best conferences in the industry throughout the years, and working with him as a presenter has always been not just professional but fun too. There's never been any doubt of who was running things, but he always listens, (or does a damned fine job of faking it ;-), and gives people enough rope to either hang themselves, or swing up to the next level. He's also consistent in his help towards the latter.
Paul's never been one to hold back if he thought a presentation was not up to par, but he also has, at least in my experience, made sure to tell you when he thought you'd done a good job too. That's one that a lot of people miss, and with Paul, it never smacked of just doing it to get it out of the way. Positive, constructive feedback, especially in the face of some of the rather withering criticism that you can get from a session is something that takes a person from being a little nervous about their first time to wanting to present regularly, and have fun doing it. I know that a not - insignificant part of my reasons for enjoying the work of creating a presentation for Macworld has been the chance to once again work with Paul and his equally talented staff over the years. (Doris, Kate, and all the rest, past and present, you guys have all made the non-presenting parts of the conferences FAR less sucky than they could have been.)
I know in my case, my first Expo as a presenter was New York, 1999, and I ended up with three sessions. This was evidently a lot for a first time person. Paul was really cool about making sure the newbies were taken care of, and checking for incipient stage fright. (No, I had none. Please, me in front of a room full of people listening to me ramble on? Are you kidding? Dude, that's better than Catherine Zeta-Jones bearing crack!) But needed or not, it's nice to get that kind of personal touch from the guy at the top. The only thing now is that since Paul is going to be running the whole show, he's going to need someone to become the new "Paul Kent" for the conference track. I'm not worried, he'll pick someone good, he's picked good people for over a decade now.
IDG has desperately needed someone like Paul running Macworld Conference and Expo, and they made the best choice possible. Good luck dude, and we'll be watching the new grey hair with amusement.| Comments ()
December 19, 2005
So based on my own experiences on my SmartPhone, I'm going to stick with a flexible partial feed. That is, i'm not going to arbitrarily limit it to n-lines or what have you. If it's a short post, like this one, then I'll just let the whole thing go. If it's long, then I'll put the first couple paragraphs in, or enough to give you the general idea of the article, so you, the reader, can decide if it's worth the effort to read the rest.
The truth is, I'm really verbose, and I really don't like being forced to download a long post that I don't know if I even want to read because of an inflexible decision. I'm also not about to try and rig up multiple feeds so that every possible preference can be spoon - fed to their liking. A choice of any kind means you kill off an alternative, and that's what I'm doing. I'm going with flexible partial feeds. If that's not acceptable, well, okay, sorry about that.| Comments ()
December 15, 2005
More information on the Office 12 XML formats
Brian Jones of the Windows Office team, aka "The guy that knows everything about the Office 12 XML formats" just posted some Q&A about the Office 12 XML formats on his blog. I really encourage anyone supporting MS Office on Macs or Windows to go read this blog, it has a lot of useful information from a guy who knows.
One of the questions posted is why didn't MS use ODF. I'll not repeat the answers here, they're perfunctory but immaterial. Why are they immaterial? Because as long as Ballmer and Gates are still running Microsoft, the chances of Office using OpenDocument, (aka ODF) as its default format are about the same as Janice Dickinson renouncing plastic surgery and cattiness. There's not even going to be, (unless something changes big time) a "Save As ODF" or an "Export To ODF" option in Office 12 unless it comes from third party. If OASIS, (which Microsoft is a member of) came out with a version of ODF that had ever feature Microsoft says they need, there still would be no chance in hell that Ballmer or Gates would allow it to be adopted. (Note, in this article, I'm going to refer to them as BallmerGates. Mostly because I'm lazy, but also because in a very real sense, those two men ARE Microsoft, good and bad. That company is their love child, they are the ones setting the tone and running the show. EVERYTHING good and bad about Microsoft is done under their leadership. The buck stops there.)
This has nothing to do with technical issues and everything to do with BallmerGate's near irrationaly fear / hatred of all things not Windows. (The Mac BU would seem to counter this, but the truth is, the Mac BU is a tiny part of Microsoft, a cash cow, and a very strange thing in the Microsoft Org Chart. I'm not complaining mind you, the Mac BU does Office, Entourage, Messenger, and Virtual PC with a team that's smaller than just the Outlook team alone. They are the best example of what Microsoft can do when you don't have BallmerGates' issues mucking up your day, and in my opinion, the fact that they do so much with so little shows that they are indeed the biggest repository of brilliance in Microsoft.) So far, Microsoft, while doing a lot of talk about interoperability in a heterogenous environment, has yet to release a lot of usable product in that area. They also, while talking, seem to have a rather odd obsession with not working with things that help extend their products into markets that they dare not go in to. Like Mono.
There is, at any level, no sense in Microsoft's treatment of the Mono project. Considering its reason for being:
Mono provides the necessary software to develop and run .NET client and server applications on Linux, Solaris, Mac OS X, Windows, and Unix. Sponsored by Novell, the Mono open source project has an active and enthusiastic contributing community and is positioned to become the leading choice for development of Linux applications.
Okay, Microsoft should be jumping for joy at this. I mean, .Net everywhere! How wonderful, how amazing, how well Microsoft ignores it. Microsoft's answer would be "Well, we have Rotor under the Shared Source Initiative". However, it's pretty obvious that Mono is not only a lot more than Rotor, but it's getting a lot more active development. Rotor is still only talking about being refreshed for Mac OS X 10.2, and was, from the date on the download page, last updated in 2002. Mono just dropped a major update in mid - November of 2005. Obviously Mono is doing the real work with .Net on !Windows. But other than very discrete support from Microsoft folks in their spare time, they get no real support. Miguel de Icaza couldn't even get a BOF at the Microsoft PDC in the event hall, even though Mono is a major movement in .Net.
But at the moment, (and I'll say into the future too, until I see released code that changes this), Microsoft's only interest in other environments is eradicating their existence from the planet. No, I don't particularly care about various PR releases that say different. I can do a PR release that grants me the power of flight and X-Ray vision, however, the reality will be quite different. No, Vista promises are meaningless too. Sorry, but any tolerance the IT world had for Microsoft promises evaporated long ago, much like many of their "We'll play nice with others from now on" claims. These days, unless you can buy it now, it's fantasy. Look at the Linux group that Bill Hilf was running, (I can't remember if he's left it for his new gig yet.) That group is not there so Microsoft can learn how to better interoperate with Linux and other Open Systems, and anyone who thinks so is living a fantasy life. That group is there to feed BallmerGates intelligence on weaknesses and holes in Linux and other Open Systems so that BallmerGates can go out and use that info in Microsoft's stupid war against Linux. In BallmerGates world, there's no sharing, no integration. It's all or nothing, and you can bet they aren't on the "nothing" side of things.
So, instead of seeing Mono as a way to extend .Net, (which has become a really spiffy idea AND implementation), BallmerGates sees it as competition to Windows. They see every instance of Mono as a lost Windows license, instead of seeing it as a way to make using Windows in a heterogeneous environment less of a punishment. Make no mistake, right now, Microsoft punishes you for not being 100% Windows. It's not always in your face, but, in a "being nibbled to death by baby ducks" sense, they punish you constantly. So in the Microsoft "OMGTHEY'REOUTTOGETME" view pushed by BallmerGates, Mono is the enemy instead of the reality, which is that Mono best friend .Net has. The more success Mono has, the more success .Net has. That's a win for Microsoft, no way around it. They need .Net everywhere, not everywhere on Windows. There are shops that will never.ever.ever.run.Windows. Microsoft has no chance of pushing WINDOWSWINDOWSWINDOWS on these places. But Mono? with all its (L)GPL goodness, and source code aplenty? That has a real chance of getting in there.
Right now, if you want Windows, you have to take both barrels, at least on the server end. There's not much in the way of Windows servers that don't force Active Directory on you. Now, Active Directory's not bad, in fact, I rather love Active Directory. But, if you already have a Directory Service that is working, you don't need two. Mono allows you to use .Net without being forced onto Windows. It also means that places that would never consider Microsoft technology get a reasonably free, painless, Windows-free way to work with Microsoft tech.
If Microsoft were to throw some money and engineering help at Mono, let them sit at the adult's table so to speak, then it would be a PR win in an area that they, on their best day, have only lost a little ground in. It would help make up for the recent Windows Media debacle, (I'd talk about what a debacle Windows Media is when you take it cross-platform, but that's another article, and I try to cut down on profanity during the holidays). It would be an action, a real example of "walking the walk" that they could point to and say, "We're helping Mono, because we think .Net is SO good, that it should run excellently on everything, Windows or not, and become what Java should have been." Sure it's hyperbole, but so what? It would still be a real, public commitment of resources to an Open Source project that is doing real good for them without their help.
But it won't happen. BallmerGates is too insecure, too greedy, and too immature to allow it. That's a shame too. If Microsoft wasn't run by a couple of insecure, teenage jock egos, and allowed to work with other platforms in a meaningful way, well, you can't predict what would happen, but it would be stuff that no one at any one entity would be able to match.| Comments ()
December 14, 2005
Tonight, 14 Dec. 2005 on Your Mac Life: Dick Dale!
Listen, he's cool
The latest iteration of Macworld Expo Press Pass Drama
Well, once again, IDG is pissing off the Mac web with its requirements for getting a press pass. This seems to happen every couple years, and it's usually the same thing every time as well. <website> doesn't get a press pass, and they're angry about it, and soon everyone is angsty, and predicting the end of Macworld Expo over it. I first noticed this on Robert Scoble's blog, in his article titled
It's also not because Scott criticized Macworld Expo Boston. One outfit I work with, Your Mac Life did that in 2004, and rather roundly too. Shawn was pretty blunt about it. YML still got press badges. So the whole
If you criticize IDG, you don't get press badges paranoia is kind of not the case.
While I hate to poke a hole in his, or anyone else's ego, it's probably not personal. It's most likely the most impersonal thing you've ever seen. The truth is, this year, getting press badges to Macworld is a royal pain in the keister. I can understand why IDG tightened things up. I may not agree with all of it, but I understand it. But first, let's take a look at the new requirements, available at: http://www.macworldexpo.com/live/20/media//mediareg
Reading that page, there's one line that stands out immediately:
IDG World Expo and Macworld Conference & Expo reserve the right to refuse media badges, without cause, during the pre-registration as well as on-site media registration. Please be advised that due to high demand, media badges are limited in number. Only commercial news outlets will be issued media badges. (emphasis mine)
That's the second or third paragraph on the page, and right there, it's a notice that press badges are not going to be handed out to you because you ask for one. Even if you ask nicely. Okay, that sucks for some. I'll be the first to admit that this site is hardly a commercial news outlet. In fact, I'm so sure it isn't that once I read the requirements, I didn't even ask for one based on this site. Let's look at how IDG defines a "commercial news outlet".
A commercial news outlet:
- Has a paid subscriber base or is advertising sponsored
- Publishes original news content at least once per week by employed staff
- Contains original news content above and beyond links, forums, troubleshooting tips and reader/viewer contributions
- Does not violate copyright regulations (e.g., illegal software downloads)
Okay, I can think of literally hundreds of sites that are excluded by this, including mine. I run Google ads, some Apple ads, but that's a pretty weak way to meet the first bullet. On the second? Dear god, I haven't published once a week since I wrote for MacWeek.com. The third bullet I probably hit pretty well, I don't do forums, and I am the sole contributor of original content on this site. On the fourth, well, I don't have the bandwidth, much less the desire to be a warez site.
If I upped my writing schedule, and maybe got another advertiser, I might qualify. But since I have other outlets I write for that easily qualify, why even push it?
If you look at the credential requirements, while they're a bit of a pain, (In my case, the kind folks at Datamation had to dig up letterhead, which they, like a lot of companies that have a heavy web publishing presence, don't use much.) I think that perhaps managing editor contact information would be a better idea, or allowing for electronic confirmation of a freelancer's status. Letterhead's not some evil, impossible, "only rich people can do this" requirement, but it's tedious, and for a company that may do all its work via the Internet, something they don't really have handy.
However, what does a media badge get you? Well, you get a crack at being in the room for the keynote ahead of the general public. The VIPs are ahead of you, and so are a lot of other people. Even with a press badge, I've had to do the overflow room a few times. I got the same information, I just wasn't in the same room with "The Steve". Meh, as long as I have live access, I'm fine, and the overflow rooms are quieter. Well, there's more kvetching about not being in the room with Steve, but having been in the same room for keynotes, with a few exceptions, since 1999, it's not that cool.
A media badge gets you free wireless from the press room. Folks, if you can't find free wireless in San Francisco at Macworld, you probably aren't even looking a little. There's so much free RF, I'm surprised my fillings don't glow. Besides, the bandwidth out of the Moscone is ALWAYS saturated, so it's not even all that reliable. Free and not reliable is not a great convenience.
A media badge gets you access to the press room. Again, this is not as cool as you think. It's a room waaaay in the back, with some printers, a fax machine, and some ethernet ports. It has coffee, (free), and usually some kind of danish-y style food for free. The free food can be a big thing, but if you're expecting a feast, not happening.
That's pretty much a list of benefits. Unless you're part of the Mossberg/Pogue/Ihnatko/Levitus/King pantheon, you're not going to get automatic invites to parties and free stuff. But you never needed a press badge for that. All you ever needed was some business cards, a professional, mature manner, and the ability to ask good questions. As I said once in an article for RandomMaccess on an earlier iteration of this drama about a press badge:
It doesn't get you on the show floor early, you need an exhibitor badge for that. It doesn't grant you admission to all the conferences and workshops. About the only thing it really will do is get you five minutes of being taken seriously by a vendor you don't know. But then you're on your own. If you're a clown, it won't de-clown you.
True, a press badge will get you admission to some conferences, but unless you're doing a detailed story on specific conferences, the value of that is dubious. As well, it's not a free ride to all of them. You can get into a few conferences with it, but it's not a replacement for one of the uber-badges. If you want to be taken seriously as a part of the press, the badge won't do a lot for you. YOU will do that for you, or not. If I can get taken seriously while wearing BIG YELLOW HIGHTOPS, a black leather trench coat, an ugly hawaiian shirt, and glacier glasses, anyone can.
So yeah, IDG is cracking down on press badge availability, and people are getting excluded. Even if you write for a "commercial media outlet", like Datamation, you still have to jump through the hoops. (Okay, do I seriously think that anyone is hassling Pogue or Mossberg about press credentials? No. Not even slightly. But they're...well, Pogue and Mossberg. They're at the top of the heap, and when you're at the top, you get better treatment. I wouldn't mind being in that position, but since I'm not, I get treated differently. Such is life, accept and move on.) I think that IDG may have gone a little overboard, and if I get a chance to chat with them about it, I'll give them some feedback that I hope will help. They may not use it, but I've not had problems getting them to at least listen, when approached correctly.
It's just a press badge, it's not a Golden Ticket. If you don't get one, it doesn't mean you suck. But if you scream like a teenager who's been grounded, I can almost guarantee that you may find yourself having a hard time getting one next time, even if the rules are changed.| Comments ()
Quick Thoughts on the Mac OS Menubar
So, as most of you may have surmised over the years, (god, I've had this site for years...I'm old), I support both Macs and Wintel/Lintel boxes in my 'real' work. There's one thing about supporting Windows users that I've seen that always strikes me as odd, or at least different..window management. Windows users, at least the ones I support, and I'm talking about with remarkable consistency too, nearly 100%, maximize all their windows. (The only exception to this I've seen are my fellow sysadmins.)
This trend holds across screen sizes and machine speeds. Trying to get to any desktop real estate is a case of minimizeminimizeminimizeminimize. After a while, I started asking why. The answer was, by and large, "it makes using the menus easier". This was fascinating to me, since, having seen the Mac/Windows wars for years, the Menu Bar has been a rather constant flashpoint, and Windows advocates have argued rather passionately about why the Mac Menu Bar is just horrid UI, and utterly inconvenient.
But from my (VERY) limited and (obviously) unscientifically valid study, it seems that while the static location of the Mac Menu Bar may irk Windows users, the ability to always know where your menus ARE is a good idea. Now, I'm not a consistency fanatic. I don't think that everything should be thrown away for consistency's sake. But it is a valuable idea to use when designing a UI, or a network. (For example, I still don't think the Apple Menu in OS 9 was the magnificent thing that so many long-time Mac users do. For one, it all - too easily created conflicting views of your system, especially if you had your entire hard drive in it, a little inconsistency that "OS 9 had the perfect spatial Finder" people like to forget. I used it because I had no real choice, but I found that I hated how overloaded it got, and, after awhile, what a pain in the keister it could become.)
But, when you are talking about a UI element that is used constantly throughout the day, being able to always know its location, (even if the individual elements may differ slightly), and having it be in a location where you cannot miss it, (it's rather impossible, on a Mac to miss the Menu Bar. Missing the menus in Windows is a lot easier, especially for new users), does not suck. It allows using the features of the OS to become more unconscious, and lets the OS fade into the background, which is the ultimate goal for an OS, in my opinion: To gradually become forgotten. This is another reason why I personally don't hack up my system. Doing so forces me to think more about the OS as a thing unto itself, and I hate that.
Things like the Menu Bar show that Apple's ability to tell its customers "no" has a real benefit. I guarantee you that Apple probably gets thousands upon thousands of feedback requests for Windows-style, per-window menu bars in the OS. If you believe the customer is always right, then Apple should have implemented this long ago. However, as anyone who works with the general public in a service or support fashion can tell you, the customer is not always right. They're the customer, but they're not always right. They're often wrong, and frequently, quite insistent about being wrong. They may not know they're wrong, but they are.
As the Mac OS X Menu Bar shows, sometimes, not doing what the customer wants is the better idea.| Comments ()
December 9, 2005
Well, that wasn't so bad
I'm basically done now. There's some minor font/spacing tweaks to be made, and I have to figure out why my sidebar graphic just stops, but other than that it went much easier than I thought it would.
Love that MT import / export functionality. Made it much easier| Comments ()
December 8, 2005
Text wrapping and word breaks
You know, if Firefox 1.5 dealt with max-width and word-wrap correctly, when presented with an unbroken line of text, like Safari does, that wouldn't suck.
Oh yeah, IE 6 even deals with it nicer than Firefox. Although watching what IE 6 does to PNGs with transparency is fun. Of course, I don't really care if IE likes it, as long as I'm like, all standards compliant 'n' stuff, if IE doesn't like it, it can pound sand.
But now that i've grokked absolute positioning, and some fun with z-indexes, i'm getting really good results. I'm using a 12" powerbook as the screen size parameters, 1024x768, and that should still allow me a lot of space for content. This may take a LOT less time than I thought it would.| Comments ()
December 7, 2005
Redesign note #1
So as i go along with the site redesign, I realize something...
I want CSS to be easier to use. I really want InDesign for CSS. (GoLive in CS2 may provide that, I dunno, all I have is CS 1). Right now, it's still far too manual, and tedious. There's no reason why this stuff should require me to know or care about as much CSS innards as I'm having to. Don't get me wrong, i LIKE it, but i'm not enjoying it. I want drag, drop, POOF, COLUMN!
Oh yeah, so the redesign is going to simplify things. I'm going to have a wider text area, because that's what the site is for, reading. I have to agree with Maddox, a three - inch wide text column blows ass, esp. if the fonts are like 6pts. I'm doing it all with CSS, no tables. Oh, if IE can't handle it, I don't care. If it works in FireFox, it's good. Since I'm not getting too jiggy, Safari should have no problem at all. The site is all going to be on one page, and I'll just use categories. I don't necessarily like that, but MT's site management blows, and if I want just one RSS feed, (which i REALLY WANT), then I have to do this. This won't mean I'll update at Scoblean speed or frequency, but it should be easier.
I'm also going to make sure that it's readable on handhelds, since I use my PPC-6600 more and more as i have it.
I do have a question, and please, don't answer just on principle. Knowing my verbosity, would full - text RSS feeds be better, or exerpts. Along those lines, should I have the full article text just there, or the standard "first n lines on the main page, click more if you want to read the whole thing? I don't care either way, but if anyone has any decent arguments for or against, let me know.| Comments ()
December 5, 2005
Why I hate haxies
Let's get this out of the way first, I hate them all. I understand why people use them, I understand why people may even, (in extremely small numbers) truly need them. But as a support person, I hate them. It's not just Unsanity's APE - enabled spawn. I pretty much hate all of them. Because they make my life suck, and always have, regardless of OS.
Let's start with a casting call of other opinions in this, in something vaguely resembling order:
For the most part, the whole DB/Rich Siegel thing can be distilled thusly:
DB likes Haxies and dislikes Bare Bones' haxie warning dialog. (The former is a legitimate opinion, the latter is right. Rich, the dialog blows monkey turds as written)
Rich dislikes haxies, and disagrees with DB's comments on how Bare Bones deals with them. (Both opinions, and legitimate, regardless of if you agree)
The problem I have with haxies cannot be truly appreciated unless you've ever had to ask someone over the phone,
Have you done anything to your system recently, like installing new software or utilities? (For more fun, make sure you're in Massachusetts, and they're in a dialup-only hotel in Malaysia)
You always know what the answer will be:
NO. Even if they're registering WindowShade while they're talking to you. So you've got to go through remote troubleshooting hell. Now, remote troubleshooting sucks anyway. As anyone in IT knows, two identical computers...aren't, not really. One will work fine, the other won't. There's always minor variations that cause issues. Hardware, OS, other software, it's always something. So IT people are fanatical about configuration control. If we're talking about desktops, or an environment like a lot of .edu institutions, where you just re-image everything daily, this is simple. But when you start talking about things like laptops, or corner office denizens, well, your ability to control slips away. Especially if it's a corner office denizen with a laptop. In that case, I recommend Jack Daniel's, or frozen vodka. (
anyone who says alcohol can't make problems go away never worked in IS).
For IT, it's a struggle of hardware vs. software vs. environment vs. entropy, aka, "stuff just breaks". So when we realize that Glorious Leader has every haxie known to humans on their system, we get annoyed. We can't do anything about it, (Glorious Leader, remember?), but now we have a near - infinite number of possible variables to deal with. You can't troubleshoot infinite numbers variables. It's impossible, and that's what things like APE are: Infinite numbers of variables to every bug. So every time there's a problem with an APE - infected machine, (yeah, that is how I think of APE...an infection. It's bright and shiny and pretty, so it's like Catherine Zeta-Jones naked and willing with a video camera for proof, but telling you she's got the herp. You want to play, but do you want the risk?), we have to go through the "Okay, now let's temporarily uninstall all vestiges of <haxie/addon/whathaveyou>, reboot, and see if the problem repeats".
It sucks no matter what happens. If the problem repeats, it sucks because the presence of the haxie, (I'm using "haxie" as a generic term here, ala "aspirin", not as a sole, specific reference to Unsanity software. When you see "haxie", assume I mean all this crap), added extra steps to the call...removing the haxie, and the eventual reinstall of the haxie. (They NEVER let you close the call until the haxie has been reinstalled, as if your presence killed all haxie - installing brain cells) If the problem does go away, it sucks, because rarely will "don't run that haxie" work as a solution. They want to stick the fork in your eye, they just don't want it to ever hurt. So now you have to figure out which magical combination of applications and haxie settings will allow things to function "correctly".
When you work in support, no matter what, haxies suck. What is even worse is the "Well, we help find hidden bugs" line that so many haxie developers and defenders use. Here's the human side of that...If the bug never happens, the bug doesn't exist. It may be there, but it's not real to the HU-MON. A non-computer related example of what I mean. In 1978, my dad was run over by a car. I mean, literally. The wheels broke his lower right leg in four places, compound fracture mind you, the muffler hanger peeled back his right biceps neat as you please, skull fracture, cracked ribs etc. He was a mess. Spent many, many months in the hospital. After he came home, he was looking at the accident report and hospital write-ups, and saw that he had also fractured his pelvis. Since no one had TOLD him this, he was a bit miffed. When he called his doctor about it, the doc said,
Tom, you were confined to a bed for three months, and in the hospital for what, six? You know what we do for a busted pelvis? We confine you to a bed until it heals. That was happening, and in the grand scheme of things, what would you knowing have meant with your other injuries? Nothing. It was meaningless for your treatment, and honestly, with all your other real problems, we just forgot to tell you.
I understand to programmers that a bug is a bug is a bug, and even if it's never seen by users, it's still a bug. But to most everyone else, unless it causes problems, it's not a bug. I don't care if it's there for the entire life-span of the programs use, if the user doesn't see it, there's no bug, aka,
what the eye don't see, the chef gets away with. So telling me that a haxie is doing me a favor by helping to find bugs is sophistry from the human POV. From that POV, the haxie is a bug - causing pain in the keister is what it is, and I'm not alone in this opinion. Unsanity in particular had a bad habit of refusing to tell its users where things were installed, because "That would only confuse them, and we're not doing anything wrong anyway", even though they were (with good reason), installing things in /System/Library/. (Yes, that's a quote, no I'm not naming names within Unsanity, and I still have the email exchange, it was fascinating, and a reason why I don't use Unsanity software. I hope they don't still do that, because it was as arrogant as anything they accuse anyone else of.)
So yes, Bare Bones really needs to rewrite that dialog, because aside from how the message it's sending could be taken, it's just too damned wordy. I don't like to read dialogs that long, and I read faster than everyone. But the idea of "We need you to uninstall the software that's diddling with our application so that we can narrow down the possible causes of the problem better" is neither unreasonable or arrogant. It's just good triage. What the haxie developers need to do is realize that they are always going to be viewed as the first cause of a problem, and instead of telling the world "It's not our fault!", accept the consequences of the use of their tool, and stop perennially trying to prove it's not their fault, because from the human side, if it doesn't work with the haxie, and it does work without the haxie, it's the haxie's fault, and I can tell you how any sane support person will fix the problem. (They should in fact, take some extra steps to further troubleshoot once the user's machine is happy again, but the first priority is to make the problem go away. If yanking the haxie does that, and makes it stay away, then that's the smart fix.)
But yeah, I really, really hate haxies, because in the end, they make work suck, and if they do that, they're bad.
Disclaimer...I've used exactly one in OS X for any amount of time: TypeIt4Me, and I had stopped using it for a long time because it was a buggy pain in the ass. Lately it's not, so I use it, and I do have a need for it, because not using it would make getting work done a lot harder. However, the second I don't need it, it's gone. But I don't expect application developers to ensure that they have no problems with TypeIt4Me. TypeIt4Me bears first response duties in the "Do no harm" line of thought.| Comments ()
I know things have been more silent than usual, but i'm working on a redesign.
The current setup is just too cumbersome, even for its advantages, and it just doesn't allow me to do certain things. So, i'm working on something to fix that, and hopefully make it less ooooooooOOOOGLY.
But still legible.
I'm also going to work on getting some code in here so that anyone viewing it on a mobile device, like, oh, I don't know...ME for example, has a better time of it.| Comments ()