August 30, 2006
I can't use PDF as an embedded image format in either Writer (Word Processing) or Impress (Presentation) documents. That's bad, since I prefer PDF for such things, and a showstopper for me, especially with Presentations, (I'm one of the folks who use Entourage the most, then PowerPoint. Word's a distant third), and yes, i know about PNG, but that's really not the point. Office 2004 lets me use PDF. If Neo/OpenOffice want to compete on the Mac, they need to allow PDF as an embedded image format.
The second one that makes Impress useless is the lack of presenter tools. No clock, etc. Showing me the next slide is okay, but that's still FAR behind both Keynote and PowerPoint.
So OpenOffice is a nonstarter, which is good, since the UI is nothing to cheer about.
I'm very glad about competition, but if OpenOffice wants to really succeed, it has to be
better enough to make the "soft" costs of switching worthwhile. Right now, it's still at the "different" stage. (No, actually, the up front cost is minor beyond PR hackery. It's the costs of using it for months and years that I'm looking at.)
Close, but no cigar.Comments ()
August 29, 2006
Stop with the out of office messages
Dear random people on high traffic mailing lists.
I know that you've grown up knowing how special you are, and that you're unique in all the world. That your place in this universe is special. Probably your parents told you this, or another loved one.
They were wrong. You're not that special. There's billions of people on this planet. You're replaceable, and rather easily at that.
Speaking for the thousands of people on the various mailing lists I subscribe to:
We don't care if you're in the office or not. We don't care in English, we don't care in Spanish, we don't care in French, German, or Japanese. In fact, it's safe to say that there is not a language you can use that will make us care if you're in the office. We don't care why, nor do we care when you'll be back.
What we do care about, especially on lists for network administrators, is that you're incapable of correctly configuring an away message. We care that on a list which may get a couple hundred messages a day, you're spamming us with your self-centered incompetence.
So from us to you:
WE COULD GIVE A PAIR OF RANCID DINGO KIDNEYS ABOUT YOUR OFFICE STATUS!!!!
the victims of your incompetence
Technorati Tags: TEH STOOPUD| Comments ()
iChat Status Set 1.0.2
The only real change is that I moved back into Xcode/Studio to make it a Universal binary. Compressed size is about 92 K. It's just a nicer way to enter manual iChat statuses without the evergrowing list that iChat gives you.
get it here
August 25, 2006
Okay, who declared it "Stupid is good" day? (pt 1)
Every once in a while, you get to thinking that maybe you can get to the end of the month without someone making you want to go all Lewis Black on them. You think that just maybe, no one's going to say something so stupid that you seriously doubt your grip on reality.
Of course, this just has to get blown to shit.
So I'm reading Maryam Scoble's blog. (Yes, yes, her husband's a prat, but she's okay. A good writer, and pretty funny to boot.) And I see an article where she's talking about some fucking dumbass who says "Don't marry a career woman", and it's an article, not on "Stupid Redneck Monthly" or "Mullet and Wifebeater", but Forbes.
No way. No fucking way. This is just not possible. It's a joke. It must be a joke. Because no one who writes for a publication like Forbes can actually write about, much less believe that kind of stupidity.
Oh no, it's not a joke.
Fucking HAM. Who let Snooch on the computer?
You know it's going to be a rousing game of "I'M STUPIDER THAN YOUUUUU ARRRRRE" when the second paragraph contains this bit of...WTF?:
While everyone knows that marriage can be stressful, recent studies have found professional women are more likely to get divorced, more likely to cheat, less likely to have children, and, if they do have kids, they are more likely to be unhappy about it. A recent study in Social Forces, a research journal, found that women--even those with a "feminist" outlook--are happier when their husband is the primary breadwinner.
Okay, so I have to read this. Because statements like that without context are meaningless. You could substitute "cat" for "woman" in that statement, and have it be just as valid, namely, not at all. So a few paragraphs down, you get some meat. Rancid, diseased meat, but meat nonetheless. The kind of meat a hooker sees when she's blowing a hobo:
If a host of studies are to be believed, marrying these women is asking for trouble. If they quit their jobs and stay home with the kids, they will be unhappy (Journal of Marriage and Family, 2003). They will be unhappy if they make more money than you do (Social Forces, 2006). You will be unhappy if they make more money than you do (Journal of Marriage and Family, 2001). You will be more likely to fall ill (American Journal of Sociology). Even your house will be dirtier (Institute for Social Research).
This is just fucking stupid. Let's see...if you take someone with a successful career, and make them do something they don't want to do, they'll be unhappy. DEE-DEEDEE! No shit sherlock. If I yanked you out of your life and career and made you watch a rugrat for 18 years, you'd be pretty resentful too. Of course, I'm guessing in Michael Noer's (the author of this tripe) world, the idea of oh, PAID CHILDCARE doesn't happen. "You had the kid, you put your life on hold for two decades, I'm off with Bill for 2-for-1 highballs at the club, taa." Please. It's a kid, not a jail sentence. How about handling them more constructively than saying "LOOK! A PENIS! NOT MY PROBLEM!" As far as women being unhappy if they make more money than the man, well, I've seen it happen one time. But then, the guy wasn't making ANY money, so it's a bit different. Guys unhappy about their wives making more? Sure, if they're MORONS. Here's a tip...when a guy reveals he's that stupid and insecure, no kidding, she's gonna dump him. If she's smart, she'll kick him on the way out the door. Life's too short to stay married to an insecure ass. Me, and most men I know? We DREAM about our spouses and SO's making more money than us. It's our fucking dream man. "What's that honey? My salary is now a rounding error compared to yours? I LOVE you so much. Take me roughly from behind!" Rich women rule in the real world. In Noer's? Not so much. He's kinda dumb that way.
But it gets better still:
Why? Well, despite the fact that the link between work, women and divorce rates is complex and controversial, much of the reasoning is based on a lot of economic theory and a bit of common sense. In classic economics, a marriage is, at least in part, an exercise in labor specialization. Traditionally men have tended to do "market" or paid work outside the home and women have tended to do "non-market" or household work, including raising children. All of the work must get done by somebody, and this pairing, regardless of who is in the home and who is outside the home, accomplishes that goal. Nobel laureate Gary S. Becker argued that when the labor specialization in a marriage decreases--if, for example, both spouses have careers--the overall value of the marriage is lower for both partners because less of the total needed work is getting done, making life harder for both partners and divorce more likely. And, indeed, empirical studies have concluded just that.
Okay, get me a big fuckin' stick and a rabid weasel. Mikey and I need to chat. I'm not much for attendance, but the weasel insists. Look, this is just stupid. This is saying that if both people work, both are going to do less work around the house. Huh? What bunch of idiots did they study. The housework still gets done. It's just an expectation that both people will help. Mike's still in this "I am the king of my castle" shit. Well Mike, in the good old days, when you got a divorce, you paid her way through life until she remarried or died. You want to go back to the days of helpless spouses, be my guest, but you're an idiot if you do. The idea that a lack of "labor specialization" kills a marriage is not just dumb, but it makes no fucking sense. What, the fact that the guy does the dishes makes the marriage suck? What if he's better at cleaning? What if she's better at fixing the car, and he's a cooking fool? Should they settle for burnt food and a busted car just to make some fucking nimrod "expert" happy? In Mike's world, yes, yes you do. Because if you don't, then there's not the correct kind of "labor specialization".
Here's another quote from the article:
In 2004, John H. Johnson examined data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation and concluded that gender has a significant influence on the relationship between work hours and increases in the probability of divorce. Women's work hours consistently increase divorce, whereas increases in men's work hours often have no statistical effect.
As soon as you read "examined data", the spin alarms should go up. An overview of the study is here for you to read. It's a continuing study on the effects of poverty, focusing on welfare programs. So there's some good data for the effects of a career woman. I know that all the career women I've met live for "New Food Stamp Day". Why, they just lay some monster rubber in their BMWs to get there early, 'cause Food Stamp Day is the high point of their month. The study is a tracking of people living at the poverty level, and how various government programs and initiatives that affect them work. Think about that in the context of "Career Women are teh suck". Hell, don't take my word for it, here's the purpose of the study, from the SIPP site:
To collect source and amount of income, labor force information, program participation and eligibility data, and general demographic characteristics to measure the effectiveness of existing federal, state, and local programs; to estimate future costs and coverage for government programs, such as food stamps; and to provide improved statistics on the distribution of income and measures of economic well-being in the country.
This is a WELFARE study. Someone tell me how you can extrapolate the effect of successful college-educated career women, (this is Noer's stipulation) from a study on the effects of government programs on people in various welfare programs? Hell, look at the preferred uses of SIPP, it has nothing to do with anything Johnson OR Noer are babbling about. As well, oddly, Johnson seems to write a lot about how women's employment is FAR more detrimental to families than men's. Almost as if he had an ax to grind. But the sure sign of a weak source? Later in the same paragraph:
A few other studies, which have focused on employment (as opposed to working hours) have concluded that working outside the home actually increases marital stability, at least when the marriage is a happy one. But even in these studies, wives' employment does correlate positively to divorce rates, when the marriage is of "low marital quality."
So it ain't necessarily that women being employed makes you get divorced...unless your marriage sucks in the first place. Wow...more sucky marriages end in divorce. Thank GOD someone with a Ph.D pointed that out.
Here's a humdinger that says a lot about Noer, none of it good:
The other reason a career can hurt a marriage will be obvious to anyone who has seen their mate run off with a co-worker: When your spouse works outside the home, chances increase they'll meet someone they like more than you. "The work environment provides a host of potential partners," researcher Adrian J. Blow reported in the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, "and individuals frequently find themselves spending a great deal of time with these individuals."
Wait...so this doesn't happen to men? No man has ever had an affair with a female, (or male for that matter) co-worker? It's all just poor weak women who can't say no when confronted with a host of men, all exuding strange new testosterone? EXCUSE ME? You know it's funny, because I could swear that in my dating and having-sex experience, women have never had a problem saying "no". Maybe I just need to start dating the weak-willed bimbos that Noer surrounds himself with. Pathetic.
But then we get into the "not really saying what you want it to, unless you don't pay attention":
There's more: According to a wide-ranging review of the published literature, highly educated people are more likely to have had extra-marital sex (those with graduate degrees are 1.75 more likely to have cheated than those with high school diplomas.) Additionally, individuals who earn more than $30,000 a year are more likely to cheat.
Hmm. That doesn't say "highly educated women", it says "highly educated people". Last I checked, the set of "people" did in fact, completely include men as well as women. In fact, nothing in that paragraph specifies gender. But if you don't really pay attention, it seems to agree with Noer's dumb point. It's only when you apply some critical thinking that you realize he's spinning these statements to support his point. And insulting your intelligence, 'cause he's not doing it terribly well. 'Cause he's an idiot.
The next paragraph is another non-proof:
And if the cheating leads to divorce, you're really in trouble. Divorce has been positively correlated with higher rates of alcoholism, clinical depression and suicide. Other studies have associated divorce with increased rates of cancer, stroke, and sexually-transmitted disease. Plus divorce is financially devastating. According to one recent study on "Marriage and Divorce's Impact on Wealth," published in The Journal of Sociology, divorced people see their overall net worth drop an average of 77%
Again, this has nothing to do with Noer's point, but it's a nice strawman. The effects of divorce don't apply if you aren't divorced, and this is, theoretically, an article about why you shouldn't marry career women, not the effects your divorce will have on you. But it does raise a nice spectre of doooooooooom. If you're as stupid as Noer thinks you must be, that is.
His last two paragraphs wander off into some idiocy about the health benefits of marriage, which again, don't apply in his thesis. But, when you don't have a good point, or solid supporting evidence, you have to distract your readers somehow.
What Noer wants is what I call a remora. (Put that finger down, men are just as able to be remoras too.) He wants a woman who has no real life outside of him, no job, no career no money. That lets him be the big man, and have all the control, and all she does is cleave to him, and live off what he chooses to give her. Remora. Dude, if you're that insecure, then you deserve a Remora. The more you get, the better off those of us with a penis and some security in our self image, sexuality, and gender idea are.
This is just feces, and Forbes should be ashamed for publishing it. Not because it's anti-PC, but because it's crap. Forbes publishing crap is FAR more offensive than them publishing reactionary bullshit.
August 22, 2006
Stupid NTFS recovery tricks
Got an NTFS drive that won't mount under Windows, even in an external case. Find a Mac, (or any unix that has mount_ntfs) and try it there.
Mac OS X and mount_ntfs are pretty stupid about the Windows-specific details of NTFS that Windows cares about, and will often just mount an NTFS drive that Windows gives up on. It's read-only, but at least you can pull data from it before you nuke and pave it.
So, one of your best tools for "corrupted" NTFS drives just may be Mac OS X.
August 17, 2006
Love's pretty funny sometimes
You know, I read a lot, and from wildly varying sources on wildly varying topics. Relationships and how to keep them working is a popular topic in most popular literature.
What continues to astound me about this topic is how people get so twisted about showing someone they love them. Like it's hard. Like you have to do this continual train of ever more extravagant gestures or you aren't doing enough. The truth is, all you have to do is listen. My fiancée has been wanting a cat for a long time. She talks about it constantly. Not because she's the crazy cat lady, but well, she likes cats. As well, she wants someone to come home to besides a plant in the months, well, year before we get married.
Normally, this isn't a problem. Cats are easy. However, her apartment complex is being dumb, and charging like $400 for a pet deposit. Which for her, is just too much for that. To make it worse, her sister found her a great cat. Which she couldn't get. Until yesterday, when I got a back payment for some stuff. Not a huge amount of money, but enough to help her get a cat.
One of her co-workers said "He spoils you". Maybe I do. But I know that the happiness I heard in her voice when I told her, and the lack of sadness I hear because she's getting something she desperately wanted, even if it is "just a cat"...that's worth every penny right there. If you can't spend a little cash to make someone you love stupidly happy every so often, then why bother having money?
All I had to do was listen, and the way to make her smile was really clear. Didn't take diamonds. Didn't take fur coats. Didn't take BMWs or Benzes, or a vacation in the Bahamas. All it took was acting on what she'd been telling me. Not asking for, just talking about.
You want to show someone you love them? Just listen man. It really works wonders.
Technorati Tags: Relationships| Comments ()
Oh for pete's sake
God damn it. I don't mind being wrong in taking a potential threat seriously, which I was in this case. Completely. MMM...crow...it's what's for dinner. If I have to make a mistake, I'll make it on the side of caution, and take the heat for being wrong.
But shit like this? What's the point? Why hide it? Why not say "Look, there's an error with a third party driver, and it affects any computer that you use it with, regardless of OS"? You still have a good point. You still have done folks a service.
Instead, they worked real hard to make it look like an Apple driver error. Fuckers.
This, by the way, is why I never agreed with the trend of hiring crackers who break into your system. There's a trust issue there, and this just drove it home. But even worse, this kind of thing makes it doubly hard for someone who DOES find something legit to be taken seriously.
Not that it matters, but I did email one of the idiots and ask about details. Now I know why I didn't get a reply. I hope SecureWorks fires Maynor's ass for this bullshit, and with prejudice. No company needs that kind of mentality working for them.
August 16, 2006
Don't assume caches are unimportant
One reason why you shouldn't just blow away your ~/Library/Caches folder at the drop of a hat:
It's where all your spotlight data from Camino, Yojimbo, iCal, Entourage, Safari and Transmit live.
Yet another reason why blindly saying "Oh just let AppleJack delete your caches en masse" is perhaps not such a good idea
August 15, 2006
Talking with Sysadmins, a programmer's primer
So, in a rather spirited encounter with someone less than pleased with some things I've said here, (no, it wasn't surprising at all, but in a way, it was the highlight of the week), I was reminded, both by the encounter and some of my friends who witnessed it, that there still exists a rather fundamental communications gap between sysadmins and programmers. This leads to misunderstandings that are exacerbated by the paradox that in a conflict between a programmer and a sysadmin, both can be, simultaneously completely right and absolutely wrong. If you mix in various non-technical political issues, like marketing people who understand nothing but shrinking the time between them and their next Audi, well, it gets bad quickly. After this encounter, we all agreed that a "guide for talking to sysadmins" might not be a bad idea. This post is an attempt at that.
However, to have even a chance of improving communications, I'm going to delve into a bit of Communications 101, and deal with some facts that I see not a lot of people getting. First:
It is the receiver, not the communicator that determines the meaning of the message
Everyone, and I do mean everyone has had those moments where they say something, and the person they're talking to so completely misinterprets what was said as to make the speaker doubt their sanity for a moment. It's bad enough when you are dealing with fact to face communications, but in the case of textual mediums, like email, or say, this web site, it's far, far worse. We all like to think we're clear and explicit, but in fact, even the best of us are quite frequently relying on "Oh you know what I mean" to get the meaning across. If you want to know a primary reason behind my pedanticism and tendency to beat something into the ground, well, that's a huge part of it. When you are sending out a message, regardless of verbally or textually, think about how someone else could possibly take it. Look at the tone of it. Read it out loud. Are their loaded words in it, or words that could be taken in a different way than you intend? If the answer to that question even approaches yes, then find a different word.
Think about your audience, or the receiver. What's their background? If it's identical, or even similar to yours, then you can reasonably assume they'll see what you're saying the way you do. If their background or job is not the same or similar, then you need to put yourself in their head. If you can't, find someone with a similar background and talk to them about it. It can be a real eye opener. Please note that by similar, I don't mean, "He's a programmer, she's a sysadmin, they both work on computers, therefore they're similar". That would of course be incorrect. By similar, I mean, "He prefers Java, she prefers C#, they're similar". Remember, this is the computer business. We have religious wars about free text editors. We have religious wars about versions of the same text editor. You're probably better off assuming, unless you know the other person, that they have a background utterly different than yours. So you really do have to pay a lot of attention not just to the meaning of what you're saying as you see it, but all the ways that meaning can change or be perverted, and go with that. Perfect example: At the last Macworld Expo in New York, aka "Creative Pro", there was a sign with the word "Rimmer" on it. Me, and all the people I know at Macworld, to this day, can't remember what the hell they were selling. But we erupt in an orgy of "Beavis and Butt-Head" every time it comes up. I'm sure it was a fine product, but like George Carlin said about Kumquats, "I don't even buy them anymore, I just sit there laughing and they go to waste". (Note to marketing people...hire a smartass with a dirty mind. You'd be amazed at the problems you'll avoid.)
So we've established that it's the receiver that determines what the meaning of the message really is, but with that comes a corollary; well, two actually:
- It is the responsibility of the transmitter to ensure the proper level of clarity is present in the message
- In the lack of clear information, people will attach their own meanings to silence or create their own information to fill the void. Neither will be what you want them to be.
The second corollary is the trickier one. We would like to think that in a lack of clear information, that all assumption will be withheld until we get some word. That's not ever going to happen. The truth is, silence is not a lack of information. It's simply a lack of clear information. Make no mistake, silence speaks volumes. Again, if you decide to make your answer be one of silence, then any misapprehensions, incorrect assumptions, mistaken conclusions are your fault. For example, in my article about the problems with the Flip4Mac installer, I pointed out that I had reported the error around January, and that when I saw it again, 6-7 months later, that I took the absolute silence from Telestream to mean they had blown me off and weren't doing squat about it. As it turns out, there had been a lot of looking at it, but it was still left in the universal release. They have their reasons, which I still absolutely disagree with, although when they finally do change that behavior, I'll be a most happy scooter. But there was a bit of work done to deal with it. However, I didn't see any of that. I saw...nothing. Based on my experience, which is the only thing I can ever really go on, (just like everyone else. We're all trapped in our heads), I saw that as being blown off. Which is why my article on it was as harsh as it was. Note that I'm not apologizing for that harshness, nor shall I. Had there been any communication at all, the harshness would not have been there. I still would have disagreed, but I also would have not been blown off on what is a pretty damned serious problem from the sysadmin POV. By the way, this is evidently a Mac OS X 10.4 - only behavior. If you have Mac OS X 10.3 running, you shouldn't see it.
The point is, when all I was presented with was silence, well, truth be told, I more or less forgot about it. It was such a stunningly obvious problem, one an intern would spot, that I didn't think it would carry over. When I realized that silence was followed by the bug still being present, well, let's follow it from my version of the timeline:
- Report the bug
- Get standard boilerplate answer
- Bug still there
Silence is still information, only it's the worst kind. It's nebulous, and completely moldable by other related events. Even if you work at it, it's pretty hard to correctly interpret silence.
So let's review so far:
- The receiver determines the meaning
- Clarity is the responsibility of the transmitter
- If you don't provide a clear meaning, others will do that for you and it will probably be wrong
Sysadmins are pretty damned crazy
First off, we get yelled at. A lot. In fact, I think part of the interview for a sysadmin would, in a more realistic world, include some good yelling and whining. If you can't take it then, well, you shouldn't be one. So yelling at a sysadmin really doesn't affect us. We get yelled at for saying no, we get yelled at for saying yes, we get yelled at for everything. We're the cops of the computer world. Trust me, if you want to communicate with a sysadmin, don't yell. It's not that we get hurt, it's that we don't care, and we assume that if you're yelling at us, you're probably in some nimrod fuge, and we're just going to nod and smile, and ignore everything you say. Or, if we can, we'll yell back. We're quite good at yelling.
#$%& you Bill/Steve! is a favorite.
You want to get our attention? Be polite. Even be nice if you can. We see either so rarely that it gets our attention right away. A calm, well-worded email will always get my attention, because I don't usually see them. Even if you think the sysadmin in question is the biggest douche since the beginning of time, set that aside, and write them calmly. You get great results from this. If you don't get good results, or you're just too mad, meh, go ahead and yell. It's not like that will hurt our feelings. Just don't expect our response to be terribly nice. Sometimes we aren't nice people.
Secondly, we don't care if you like us. Oh sure, it's nice when it happens, but face it, we spend a lot of our time saying "no", and dude, even if we had a letter from the Almighty himself as to why we had to say "no", it won't matter. People hate us. It's what they do. So if you think that reminding us that our attitude isn't going to get us any friends will make us say anything other than "Oh good, it's working then", well, you're wrong. If we wanted people to like us, we wouldn't be sysadmins.
Actually, we're so inured to vituperation and hatred, that when presented with, well, niceness and professionalism, we don't really know how to react. A sincere "thank you" and maybe some doughnuts will make us love you with as much sincerity as our blackened, blasted hearts will allow.
So again: Abusing sysadmins? Not such a great tactic, will be met by apathy, amusement, sharing with our peers, or if we're in a mood, a lesson in just how abusive we can REALLY be. (Note to non-sysadmins: We're REAL good with the profanity. Unless you're (ex-)military, you're gonna lose with that.) Being nice, polite, dare I say, kind even? Great tactic. Astoundingly good. Really.
If you think of us as the lion in Aesop's fable about the Lion with the thorn in his paw, you're not far from wrong. Be the mouse, even if you hate it.
Secondly, we don't care how brilliant your code is. We don't care how you pushed programming ahead a hundred years, or how fast it is, or any of that. UI brilliance? Bah, save it for the fanboys. You know what we care about? Will your program make our lives suck more, or less. If it's the former, then well, we hate you. If it's the latter, you rule man.
Pro Tools is not a program we have historically loved. Mostly because it's written as if to make it as hard as possible to use in a lab situation. If sysadmins had a military force, the Pro Tools people would be free radicals over radioactive glass. Don't be Pro Tools.
Okay, okay, we don't really want to kill anyone. That would just make us support a new product, which would probably suck just as much.
But think about some things when you are writing your program, (and in a very real sense, when you write a program, you're talking to us via that code):
- For the love of god, don't make assumptions about your installer. They're probably going to be wrong. Talk to sysadmins who don't work for or with you. Find out about the vagaries of installing in a lab, in a corporate environment, in a higher ed environment. If you can't test, then ask for testers. We'll help you out. We tend to be assholes, but if we think we can help someone to not make our life suck, well, Booyah! Seriously, a badly written installer is just infuriating. One that does things that make it harder to use via Apple Remote Desktop or SSH make us want to find any other program but yours to use. When you're talking about installers, remember, less is more. Chances are, we're only ever going to double click install your work of art once. On our machine. Something that's popping dialogs, and borking the install with stupid questions, (by "Stupid", I mean "Any"), or any other behavior that hoses our ability to blast it on to 300 or 3000 machines at once will earn you our ire in great amounts. If you don't think this is a real issue, then please, install your software manually. 3000 times. While people are yelling at you about other random crap. Let me know how that works out for you. If you can't test the installer on a wide range of systems, ask for help. We would much rather spend time we don't have making our lives easier down the road than spend time we don't have dealing with crap that shouldn't be there. Oh yes, one other thing. Stop using VISE and InstallerMaker. They suck on the Mac if you're a sysadmin. If you must, i.e. gun at your head, whatever, then do one of two things: Create a way to remotely install your stuff, i.e. the "silent" install for Adobe CS 2, or create detailed log files so we can repackage your lame installer in something we can actually use, i.e. Microsoft updates. Don't just leave us with those nasty piles du feces, and expect us to be happy with them.
- That brings us to our second thing: Log files. I cannot tell you how annoying a program that either never writes to either system.log or console.log when something goes wrong is. "Infuriating" comes close. Look, with a lot of programs, well, for most programs, we don't have a really good way to tell what's going on. Oh sure, there're tools like lsof and fs_usage but that's from the outside looking in. Logs are what your application is seeing, and a program that makes good use of logs is a real help to a sysadmin. Remember, you're talking about a person or persons dealing with all sorts of setups, from the very basic to the hideously complex, and large numbers of computers. We see interaction issues you simply won't, because you can't duplicate our environment. When we start having problems, the logs are the first place we look, and if your application is unhappy, it better be writing logs. Logs make us happy. Configurable logs make us ecstatic, because that means we can adjust the log level according to need. This is A Good Thing. It tells us that you understand that we're going to see strange things that you won't, or even can't, and that you want to make sure we have good information from your application when things go sideways. Note that logs are critical for installation issues. Bad, or no logs show us hate. Good logs show us love. Don't you want to show us love?
- Thirdly, just because you think of it as a "server" doesn't make it one. To a sysadmin, a "server", at least in the software sense, is a pretty specific thing that meets a pretty clear set of criteria. The biggest one is no UI ever needed to run. Want to piss off a sysadmin, create a server and make us install a bunch of UI crud with it. Poweron Software, I'm so talking to you and your "must install menu bar widgets with Now Server" silliness. Just stop it, okay? Another way to annoy us? Make us be unable to administrator your server other than on the machine the server runs on. (Again, Now is a prime offender here.) Yes, we have VNC and Apple Remote Desktop, but using those through low-bandwidth VPN connections...um...sucks. We don't mind remote UIs, although for most server products, if you can use HTML/AJAX/etc, that's a better choice. We have enough applications as it is, and most server administrator applications don't really need a full on fat client. Give us a simple, lightweight, (in terms of connection and UI) way to administrate your server, and we'll love you. Even better, give us a way to plug your UI into other things like Nagios, and we'll love you even more. Can you feel the love? I know I can.
- If you're going to include an automatic software update check, please, please, PLEASE make it not grind the application to a halt when you're off the Internet, ESPECIALLY if it's an application with offline uses. (My favorite blog editor, Ecto, is rather annoying this way.) Yes, auto-updates can be handy. However, when they don't let us use the application until they time out, then they kind of suck. If it's just unavoidable, give us better notification than a beachball. Again, communication is key. Along with making autoupdate not suck, make sure it's easy to turn off, and make it stay turned off, i.e. via a plist. If we can select the port it uses, that makes us even happier. Happy sysadmins don't complain.
- Make your application scriptable, both via a proper AppleScript dictionary, and by using well-named standard UI widgets in your application. I don't care if you can't imagine why automation is important, there's someone, or a lot of someones out there who can. Adobe didn't think there was a need to script Photoshop until Cal Simone showed them just how wrong they were with Photoscripter. Now everything in CS Suite is scriptable. If you are a developer for Apple and your application isn't scriptable, I can guarantee you'll get lambasted. That's just inexcusable. Seriously, sysadmins deal with production environments as well as creative ones, and automation is critical to efficient production. It also means that more people will use your product. They may not use it the way you intended, but they'll use it. People using your product is good. Trust me here. (If nothing else, a good AppleScript dictionary is a heck of a way for you to test your own application yourself. Just ask the Microsoft Mac BU.)
However, sometimes things go sideways, or for reasons out of your control, you have to do things that are going to be viewed as "dumb" by the sysadmin community. This will then require you to actually talk to the sysadmin(s). Oh damn. First, we do feel your pain, and we are sysadmins. We get that we're not always easy to talk to. But there are some tips that can help you when talking, and more importantly listening to a sysadmin. (Credit where credit is due. The following is based on a really solid email from Dave "Puker" Pooser.)
- First and foremost—if I’m complaining about your product, that means I care about it. Really. It’s been years since I last complained about Quark Xpress, or Windows Media Player, or Internet Explorer, because anymore, I just don't care about them. If I’m complaining about a feature it’s because I want to use your product, but there's something that's making the experience less than thrilling. I may not mention the fact that I want to use your product – it may seem completely obvious to me, or I may be in a hurry, or my social skills may have taken off for a long weekend - but it’s still the case. If I tell you your installer sucks, it’s because I want to install your product. I am a customer or a prospective customer helping you make the sale to me. More importantly, I'm the person that's going to test your product before it is used by potentially thousands of customers. My delight, or lack thereof with your installer is a rather important data point in your sales figures. You should be nigh-ecstatic that I cared enough to kvetch.
- Second, I may be brusque and/or rude. In fact, I almost guarantee the brusque. All sysadmins are busy. Many are jerks. Some will be as brief as possible in a misguided effort to save you time, or most likely save themselves time. Whatever the situation, your response should be the same: I am trying to get you information to improve your product. Don’t get defensive or take offense. Think of it as an academic exercise; pretend you’re trying to parse a poorly-formatted block of text. Take
Your crappy installer is a security hole gaping wider than the Grand Canyonand read the meat of it:
I wish to report an escalation-of-privileges bug with your installer.It’s what I meant, and the rest is just frustration, lack of social skills and personality defects. For goodness’ sake, don’t try to flame back; I deal with hundreds of bitter and crusty old sysadmins on mailing lists. I can flame you to a tiny charcoal briquette, and I may lose interest in helping you improve your app. The first shouldn’t matter to you but the second is a problem. You don’t have to like me; I don’t have to like you - we can still collaborate on making your program better for my environment. As well, there's no better PR among sysadmins than "Dude, if you're having a problem with that application, email the devs. I did and they were really helpful in tweaking some things that were causing me problems and helping me find workarounds for the things they couldn't change." That's PR gold on a sysadmin list.
- Third, understand that my burning issues are often going to have no relation to the complaints of end users. If you have a FUBAR installation process, most users suffer through it once and then savor the coolness of Virtual Zamfir 3.02 for months. I may have to deal with getting it installed on 378 faculty machines and 800 lab computers. If you make it a gigantic pain in the rear, it won’t get installed, (or that install will be slow leaked to hell and gone) and you won’t get the fat purchase order that after 180 days and two threatened lawsuits finally gets turned into a check from the university’s Accounts Payable weenie. (Note: even if all we're talking about is the free version, it still counts. If the installation process sucks when it's free, do you think that I'm going to be excited to pay for that pain? Sysadmins may be maso, but we aren't that into paying for a beating.) Word to the wise: Drag-and-drop installers are best and .pkg are next-best; VISE is a pain for those of us who don’t own NetOctopus. Proprietary crap is just begging for deletion. On a similar note, write to ~/Library where possible instead of /Library, support your app in ~/Applications and /Network/Applications. (If you even THINK about making any changes to /System/Library please step around the corner and beat yourself to death with a warm haddock.) In the same vein make sure your product can be run by a standard (non-admin) user, and make sure it doesn’t break when multiple users share a computer. If you really want to make us happy, let your application be installed in ~/Applications when needed, and if it doesn't have to have an administrator password, don't ask for one, especially for home directory installs.
- Fourth, you want my abuse (see the first point); make it easy for me to get you feedback. Forums are not easy. I have to register; I have to remember a password; I have to remember to check up on that. I am already annoyed with some aspect of your product; don’t make me annoyed with you. Put an email link in the documentation, in the product’s help menu, and on your Web page. I should get an autoreply telling me my bug has been assigned a temporary tracking number, and then an email as you update the status. I should NOT get any other email from you to that address unless I provided it to your marketing weenies separately; if you spam me while I’m trying to help you I will quickly lose interest in helping you and your product in general. I'll also warn people that sending you email is a bad idea. I should hear back from you as soon as you reproduce the bug or as soon as you realize you can’t. Ignoring me will NOT make me go away; if you think I’m mistaken let me know. (Remember that whole "Silence speaks volumes thing? Yeah. See, it's true.) If I think I’ve found a security bug an you’re ignoring it, soon the world will hear that you don't care about security, and thanks to the magic of mailing lists and Google, it will propagate far faster than you think. Nobody wants that, especially you.
- Fifth; if it’s a bug, FIX IT. There are several wrong answers you can give:
That’s Apple’s bug.
That doesn’t happen if you upgrade to Mac OS X 10.4.q.
That doesn’t happen if you don’t install Security Update 2006-087
We don’t support network homes/remote installs/case-sensitive boot volumes/SMB home directories/220-volt power supplies/people who mispronounce the word ‘cache.’
enough to get away with that; you’re not. I’ll help you troubleshoot it within reason—while I’m busy, I also want your app to work—but you need to be willing to work with me.
- Sixth (extra bonus tip): proactively communicate. Look at http://www.schwieb.com/blog/2006/08/08/saying-goodbye-to-visual-basic/ for a great example of this. Instead of waiting and responding to each complaining Mac user; he’s addressing all of us with a wealth of technical detail. That is GREAT move. Sure, I’m still unhappy about the impending end of VB macros, and I may have bought my last copy of Office for a while—but I’m now angry at fate instead of at the Microsoft Mac BU, and that greatly improves their chances of selling me the next cool thing. It may be that technical issues prevent your app working for me in my environment; you still have the chance to leave me impressed with you instead of depressed by you. Even if the answer isn't one we like, it's still a clear, direct answer. We like that aspect, even if we hate the content. We're quite capable of living with that paradox. Again, this is how to turn failure into success. Sure, you told us "no". But you told us "no" in a straightforward, adult manner. You respected us, our knowledge and our concerns. We remember that. In fact, it leads to us defending you. When someone starts calling you high-handed or pompous, you get some voices going, "No way dude. Did you read his blog post? There's a host of technical reasons why they can't do that right now. RTFB man." Sysadmins have looooong memories. You really, REALLY want every entry in that database to be as happy as possible.
Holy crap, but that's long. Look, I'm not saying it's easy to talk to us, or even pleasant. But it is necessary, and since we are quite often, in a position to make your application's life suck, it behooves you to communicate with us effectively. it saves you a lot of headaches in the long run. Comments ()
August 4, 2006
How to make Acrobat 7 stop dinking with Office
Okay, so you've tried the sane, normal methods to get Acrobat 7 to stop putting the pretty much useless Print To File buttons it likes to install in Office, but they KEEP COMING BACK.
Or you really don't want to use the Acrobat plugin, because, oh, it kinda takes a dogs age to display a one page document.
Well, here's how you really make it stop, and you can do both at once.
Leave Office alone
Open up the Adobe Acrobat application bundle, and navigate to the MacOS folder.
Open up the AcroENUProSelfHeal.xml file in BBEdit, SubEthaEdit, or <text editor>
Look for this section:
Change the YES to NO and save.
To stop it from reinstalling the Safari plugin, in the same file, find the section with:
Again, change the YES to NO and save.
If it already installed the plugin in Safari, you have to pull the plugin out of /Library/Internet Plug-ins/ and the "Frameworks" directory out of the Safari bundle. But that should stop it from reinstalling it.
Doing this has been the only way I've gotten Acrobat to calm down about installing crap everywhere.
August 3, 2006
Even if you don't like it, it's still a problem
So thanks to a session at Black Hat, the MacMacs are all a-twitter over the fact that there's a serious hole in the wireless drivers on the MacBooks.
They even demoed how you can use the hole in the drivers, from Atheros, to crack into a Mac in about a minute.
The spinmeistering has come out. The MacMacs are losing their little damned minds over this, to which I say: "GET OVER IT"
Holy crap people, it's a vulnerability in a device driver. What, did you think those things were perfect? Or that Apple was? Note that it's not just Apple here. From Brian Krebs' article:
The main problem here is that device drivers are a funny mix of stuff put together by hardware and software developers, and these guys are often under the gun to produce the code that will power products that the manufacturer is often in a hurry to get to market.
What are the dangers of subverting a device driver?
Because the software that powers these wireless devices operates at such a fundamentally low level of the operating system, traditional system safeguards like firewalls and anti-virus software most likely will not stop the operating system from accepting a maliciously crafted network probe from an attacker seeking to exploit device driver-specific flaws. The result, said Maynor, is that a system using poorly designed device drivers is vulnerable to compromise just by doing what it was programmed to do.
This is nothing more than a vulnerability in a particular driver set used by Apple and other manufacturers:
While those device driver flaws are particular to the Macbook -- and presently not publicly disclosed -- Maynor said the two have found at least two similar flaws in device drivers for wireless cards either designed for or embedded in machines running the Windows OS. It's not just an Apple problem by a long shot.
But the vulnerability isn't what's making all the MacMacs cry though. This is:
Still, the presenters said they ultimately decided to run the demo against a Mac due to what Maynor called the "Mac user base aura of smugness on security."
"We're not picking specifically on Macs here, but if you watch those 'Get a Mac' commercials enough, it eventually makes you want to stab one of those users in the eye with a lit cigarette or something," Maynor said.
And the headline:
Hijacking a Macbook in 60 Seconds or Less
So now, because of this, it's an attack on the Mac's sterling security rep. It's a hack article, and folks are starting to imply that the vulnerability may not be legit. The fact that there's a real problem in the wireless drivers isn't worrying people. No, it's "THEY'RE BEING MEAN TO APPLE!!!111". THAT'S what's pissing people off.
Good fucking grief people, Mac users have been total smug assholes about being "invulnerable" to harm, (don't even TRY to tell me they haven't. I've heard far too many fanboys saying this. Deal.), and gee, what a shock, someone decided to tweak them on it while pointing out a real problem. Oh my stars and garters, why ever would someone do that. Get real here. It's a real problem, and it affects Macs as well as other systems.
Luckily, I have more faith in the maturity level at Apple than I do in the Mac community. I'm pretty sure they'll do what has to be done to patch it. I'm just as sure that MacMacs will apply the patch and say "See, there was no problem, it's been patched".
Three sure bets:
MacMacs ability to whine like a pack of overprivileged three year olds
Let me ask you this. Would you have rather found out about this the HARD way?
August 1, 2006
Corrupt Safari RSS databases
Okay, so I just had the decidedly unpleasant experience of having my Safari RSS feeds go INSANE. All kinds of corrupt data.
Errors like: Safari WARNING: Article id=3560's source_id has nonexistent source 250
Feeds showing the wrong data.
The answer turns out to be simple. Blow out the Safari RSS databases. But they aren't in ~/Library/Safari
They're in ~/Library/Syndication
Sigh. Guys, how about we move that folder into ~/Library/Safari?
Because finding the source of that error kinda sucks.
Fixing the stupidity of the Flip4Mac Installer
Yes, the new version of Flip4Mac is out, and along with new features, is an old bit of dumb.
Flip4Mac decided that once you install it, you simply MUST SEE THE FLIP4MAC FOLDER AND ALL THE COOLNESS WITHIN!!!!1111
Yes, Flip4Mac is a QuickTime player codec. It doesn't really have a lot to show you. Oooh...a plugin. Damn, that's a right purty plugin there boys. But wait, it gets better.
What happens when you say, dump this installer .mpkg on a bunch of machines at the login window via Apple Remote Desktop or some other tool?
Why, Flip4Mac helpfully creates, UNDER THE LOGIN WINDOW a full GUI root login. Finder and everything. Now, there are some applications that run in GUI mode behind the login window, Retrospect being the most well - known. That's kinda dumb too, but not AS dumb, because it is ONLY Retrospect running, and you have to authenticate to interact with Retrospect in that situation. Oh, and THE FINDER isn't running either. You quit Retrospect, you're at a standard login. Besides, at least Retrospect is, oh, DOING SOMETHING of more value than just saying "DADDYDADDYMOMMYMOMMYLOOKATME!!!111"
Yes, I emailed Flip4Mac. Their response was "Oh, we'll look into that". Yes, I've been in this business long enough to know what the polite form of an upraised middle finger is. I even emailed Apple, because it occurred to me that being able to run the Finder and have full local access WITHOUT A VALID LOGIN is...what's the phrase...oh yes: A VERY VERY BAD IDEA.
My back and forth with Apple was basically:
They shouldn't do that.
I agree, however, the fact that it's so easy to do this is a bad thing, and should be fixed.
They shouldn't do that.
We established that it's a dumb idea, however, letting two lines of shell:
open "$flip4MacFolder" create a root-level GUI login for any reason is really a bad idea.
They shouldn't do that.
After a while, even I get the hint. (Yes, I know, I probably pissed someone off. Well, when I get blown off after raising a serious issue, I don't really care if the people who blew me off don't like me. Blowing someone off like that is unprofessional. This all happened quite a long time ago, and since no one from either side is going to fix it, then I don't see a problem with pointing that out to the world at large. If it's not a real problem, then who cares who knows, right?)
The one bright side in the Flip4Mac stupidity is that it's real easy to fix. In the .mpkg, just comment out the
open "$flip4MacFolder" line in the postflight script. (According to BBEdit, it's line 32, the last line before the script exit statement, which is so helpfully hardcoded to
exit 0, so even with this hack, the script always exits cleanly.)
I'm sure the Flip4Mac marketing people think that opening a folder in the install is just the b0mbzz0r, but folks? When you have to remote install this on a few hundred or few thousand machines, and you discover that you have to forcibly reboot ALL of them to fix this little fuckup? It makes us want to find you at the WWDC and say unkind things to you. Loudly. Very unkind things. Maybe you should perhaps fix your installer, and avoid making us say unkind things?
When did "confusing" become a sales tactic?
Dear Microsoft Windows Team:
If you need to publish a MATRIX showing people what their upgrade options are, along with an upgrade advisor, and you have six versions of the same OS, some of which can only be purchased if you have specific license/purchase agreements...
Someone needs to stop dropping acid before they write marketing plans.
Here's an idea for Vista:
One version, with an intelligent installer that detects hardware and reacts appropriately. No hiding features because they don't have an Enterprise agreement, no crippling features because you want to give them the illusion of cheaper Windows.
One version. Think about it. How cool would this be?
What version of Vista should I get?
There's only one version, you can't get the wrong one.
What version of Vista will support my tablet?
The installer will detect your hardware, and install tablet-appropriate features.
I don't want to have to install everything, I want a limited version of Vista
Select "Custom Install" and only choose the options you want/need. By only having one version, our overhead is gutted, and we can pass that savings on to you in the form of the cheapest version of Windows in a decade.
I want to install certain features, even if I don't have the hardware now, because I'm planning on buying the hardware later
Go ahead and do so in "Custom install". Vista's smart enough to not enable those drivers/features until the appropriate hardware is available.
My god, why is something that should be made as mind-numbingly easy as possible, (BUYING PRODUCT), made as difficult as possible? The hardest part about buying Vista should be opening the damned box. Only Microsoft, a company in rather serious need of an unqualified win, would fuck up the most basic of customer relations this way.
Every single person who thought up and approved this six version stupidity should be fired and flung out of the building via giant slingshot, ala Dilbert/Chuck Jones.