March 26, 2009
So I guess we're not as bad as Dan Savage talking about sounding. Angry Mac Bastards on iTunes!| Comments ()
March 24, 2009
First Angry Mac Bastards podcast is up
Don't want to hear shit about audio quality or whatever. It's the first one. We'll get it better over time.Comments ()
March 20, 2009
***THEY FIXED IT*** So we can leave them alone...well, for that anyway.
Microsoft figured out how to get Office to work in the Layer 2 hardware on a NIC!
No, really, check it out: Resources for Microsoft Office 2008 for MAC.
Truly, Microsoft has won the genius race, and I think we should all leave comments to congratulate them on what is truly the most amazing feat in software development history. Truly, giants do walk among us.| Comments ()
March 16, 2009
Why I hate computers
Well, at least ANOTHER REASON
Unreliable software is SO helpful to creating a workflow.| Comments ()
March 9, 2009
somewhere, someone is crying.| Comments ()
A minor correction:
Second, is the notion that a border-check is "voluntary" and not coerced. It's ridiculous to say that someone "voluntarily surrendered their rights" when they were asked - however nicely - by a man with a gun at a border crossing. I've had this happen to me, returning to the US from abroad: you're forced to wait in line (I waited 2 hours!) and told you can't use your cell phone or leave, then you're asked "is this your bag? may I examine it?" It sounds as if in this case the suspect was crossing the border in an automobile but it's the same scenario: wait in line, wait in line, and the man with the gun starts asking you questions. You have to answer them, and agree to any search, or you can turn around and go back.
I had a chance to talk with a border crossing guard at DragonCon last year, and one of the things she said was: "If you're a U.S. citizen, we cannot lock you out of the country". They can make it tedious and really annoying, but they can't lock you out.
She pointed out some other interesting tidbits. For one, they're not searching every laptop. This isn't a matter of being nice or fair, it's that they don't have the time or the people on any level to do so. They, like a lot of Law Enforcement, are pretty much going to key off your behavior. If you're being calm, cool and polite, they'll tend to reflect that. If they ask you to let them look at your laptop, you have the right to say no. Now, they can detain you and get a warrant. But, they can't lock you out of the country, and even in this post-9/11 world, they still have to pay some attention to the law.
Since this is what this woman does for a living, I'll grant her authoritative status, at least up to her pay grade. Note also, she's with Border Patrol, not TSA Airport Security. Different groups.
Finally, on the whole, "I hide my truecrypt partition, they won't know it's there", um, while they may not set the physical trucrypt partition in a drive list, it doesn't take much to figure out that if you have a 500GB drive, and you add up all the visible partitions, and you have 100GB not accounted for, something is missing. Really, it's not that hard to spot a hidden partition of any real size.| Comments ()
March 8, 2009
Dear Mailing List Dipshits
If I don't know you, if you're not a friend or even an acquaintance...you don't actually matter enough for me to be hurt or not hurt by you. So the whole "Ha! I'll show you!" thing? Not going to work. Really.
This announcement is a public service of the real world.| Comments ()
March 5, 2009
About being in the Air Force
I found this recently, cleaned it up a bit for posting:
This started as a book dedication, but I had too much to say here to fit into something that small. I served in the United States Air Force from Halloween, 1986 to April, 1993. (Anyone who wonders why I remember the exact day I started basic training, yet can only remember the month of my discharge never was in the military. There are certain moments that are burned into your mind forever, and the night I stepped off the bus at Lackland Air Force Base is certainly one of mine.) For almost all of that time, from October of 1986 to 1993, I was stationed at Grand Forks AFB, as a B-1B/B-2A Defensive Avionics/Communication/Navigation Technician, with a final AFSC, (Air Force Specialty Code) of 45773C. I only worked on B-1Bs, which, if it isn't the most maligned aircraft to ever fly for the USAF, is definitely in the top three.
I tend to refer to my time there in vagaries, as much of what I went through is unexplainable to those who weren't there, for a number of reasons. Most of these center around an inability to explain things to career civilians. In a society of instant riches and dotcom stock options, and leaving companies at the drop of a hat, my time with the B-1B, and the reverence I still have for this period of my life is weird in the extreme. So I slough it off as my "sentence in <expletive adjective of choice> North Dakota.
But, in a sense, this is wrong, and a degradation of something that made me a lot of what I am today. If I am thought of as professional, or dedicated to something beyond just my job or my family, then I owe almost all of that to the Air Force, and more specifically, the folks I served with, the men and women of the 319th OMS and the 46th BS. These people were the living embodiment of what it means to be professional. To devote 100% to doing the job right, not for financial reward, or recognition, but because, that's how you do things. The right way. Some would say that the fact that if we didn't do things the right way, then four people died. That's part of it. It's one hell of a sobering fact, that knowlege that if you don't do things correctly, people die. You don't get that much in the civilian world, and that's probably a good thing. Most folks can't handle it, lord knows there were nights I wasn't sure if I could.
It was more than that though. To be professional, to do the job, then go home, that was what we were there for. The Air Force is unique among the US armed services. For the most part, it is the officer corp that risk their lives in combat. The enlisted force stays (sometimes well) out of the way of danger, (in the case of strategic bombers, thousands of miles out of the way.), while the officers strap themselves into fragile shells and go into combat. There is little of the kind of shared risk you seen in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. This is not to say that the Air Force enlisted corps do not face danger. We work with explosives, fuel, and other things that will kill you just as quick as a bullet or a SAM. In fact, the first dorm I lived in at Grand Forks was named after someone who reminded me of that fact. Rise Hall, was named for Robin Rise, who was working on a B-52 at Grand Forks when a spark in an empty fuel tank caused a fire, and explosion. A number of people died that day, none of them combat personnel. According to rumor, Robin made it down the crew ladder, and had started to turn to run, when the plane exploded/collapsed, the details were never clear. I don't know if this was true, and I always hoped it wasn't. I find more comfort in thinking that Robin, and the rest of the ground crew died quickly, never knowing what happened, rather than to think that she had seen the sunshine, and life beyond it, only to have that snatched away.
So, in dangerous situations, in numbing cold, high winds, torrential rains, and blistering heat we worked. We fixed planes so that they could fly better than any other damn B-1B base in SAC. We flew during the day, and in the wee hours of the morning. We read the base paper, and laughed cruelly at the regular letter from dependant spouses complaining about the noise B-1Bs make when they take off at 3am. The standard reply was, "Well, this is an Air Force Base". We also sneered at our compatriots in TAC, as they were forever limited to fixing little bitty planes, and had such wimpy things like quiet hours, when they weren't allowed to fly, because they might wake up the neighbors. We were in SAC by god, and if we needed to do engine runs at 4am, then that's when we did it, and everyone else could just deal with it. I still remember sitting in a little ground tug, during a 4am engine run at Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama City Florida. All of a sudden, this car screeches up next to me, and a Chief Master Sergeant gets out, madder than a wet cat, and starts screaming at me, asking me if me, and any of the other fucking idiots in that fucking plane had any fucking clue as to what in the hell time it fucking was. When I replied that we indeed were quite aware of the time, as we were in our 17th hour of an 8 hour shift, he then proceeded to ask me if I had ever heard of quiet hours. I stared at him, and in total sincereity replied, "Oh. Well, we're in SAC sir, we don't have quiet hours." He just looked at me, and asked me where I could find the head maniac on this little detail.
This is not to say that we were a big happy family. In fact, there were quite a few people whom, to this day, probably still hate me enough to where if I was on fire, they wouldn't cross the street to put me out, as that would be a waste of time and urine. Trust me, in a lot of these cases, the feeling was mutual. Working midnight shift on a flight line, in North Dakota weather, is not for the thin-skinned. We had a mean sense of humor, and it veered into the cruel. God help you if you did something stupid, as you would never hear the end of it. (Note, by never, I mean just that. I still hear about dumb stuff I did even today, and some of this happend over 20 years ago. And no, you don't need to know details.) It was utterly sophmoric and cruel, and we lived for it. To have someone give us an opening, it was like piranas on a bloody cow. This is also where I truly learned how to use profanity. I worked with people who used profanity like Michaelangelo used clay. (Lest the feminists start inhaling with shock, the DaVinci of expletives, the Picasso of profanity on the B-1B was a woman. Mary, I learned much from you.) We also lived to torment day shift, whom, as any mid-shifter, in any profession well knows, wouldn't know real work if it bit them on the ass. The best example of this was Friday donughts.
Every Friday, the first person in on days would bring in doughnuts. As soon as that person left the room, or sometimes turned their backs, we would fall on the doughnuts like ravenous wolves, leaving only crumbs. This really annoyed day shift, as they looked at us, (and rightly so sometimes), as a cruel pack of cavepeople, unfit for decent company. In one case, we discovered that a particularly loathed Senior Master Sergeant simply adored Boston Cream - filled doughnuts, and would regularly issue very stern warnings that under no circumstances were we to eat all the cream - filled doughnuts. Of course, guess what? One of the women in my shop, who couldn't stand those things, (her term for them I won't repeat here. It would be too coarse for civilian ears, and you military folks have already figured it out.), would, if no one else would eat it, shove the entire thing in her mouth, and somehow force it down, in a number of cases, right in front of this Senior Master Sergeant, who was at least smart enough not to discipline someone for eating his doughnut.
On another occasion, we discoverd that someone on days had a complete phobia about snakes. This person then made one too many cracks about the level of breeding that we midshifters had. For the next year, until he was assigned away from the base, he was bombarded with rubber snakes. We hid them everywhere. If we could have hid one in the toilet, we would have. Finally, just to show that we would happily turn this cruelty on each other as well as other shifts...
We had a lot of people who chewed tobacco. To avoid carpeting the ground with the gloriously disgusting byproduct of that habit, the chewers would use empty soda cans as spittoons. Further, to help the non-chewers avoid accidentally taking a big ol' slurp of old tobacco spit, it was a custom to tear off the pull tabs of spit cans. (This didn't completely stop that particular mistake from happening. I watched a number of people grab the wrong can, and then make that beeline for the nearest toilet. It was really funny if it didn't happen to you. Actually, it did happen to me once, and once I got done puking, it was still pretty funny.)
Well, we had a person on mids, who had, to our mind, weasled on the shift from days, where he really belonged. So, one of us, an dedicated chewer came up with a fun way to make this person properly atone for being such a dumbass. Whenever this dumbass would make the mistake of turning away from his soda can, Brad, my roommate at the time, and best man at my marriage to Melissa, would reach over and yank the tab off the can. Dumbass would turn back, or come back to his can, and get, quite understandably perturbed at what he thought had happened, and say many unkind things to Brad, then shove the can at him, telling him that he could have it, and where he should put it. Brad would then reply, "Thanks for the Pepsi, dumbass", and commence to drinking his free soda. Now, had this happened once or twice, it would have been funny. But this went on for months, and into years. And of course, because Dumbass knew that there was a real chance that there was a nasty brown goober floating in his Pepsi, he could never risk calling the bluff. Definitely cruel, and funnier than hell.
The funny thing was, our personal opinions didn't matter. We didn't have to like each other, we just had to work with each other. Socializing, or not socializing was up to us, and personal animosity was left outside the flightline. We were professionals, and that meant that the person next to you could be the biggest prick on the planet, but as long as they knew their job, it didn't matter. The worst cut, the one that really hurt was never personal, it was to be thought of as someone who couldn't do their job. It was to be relegated to day shift, because on swing and midshift, you either knew your stuff, or you were off the shift. Period. There was an intense pride on being on 'the shifts that did the work.' We were thought of as rude & crude, which we were, and then some. but when you needed to get 8 planes ready in 16 hours for a morning MITO, it was swings and mids that had those planes flying.
Lest the reader confuse aircraft maintenance with the genteel sort of electronics maintenance you see in the civilian world, let me illustrate the difference. To replace most of our boxes required us swapping them vertically. They hung there, held to the plane by two fasteners, and a rat's nest of cables. Most of these boxes around a hundred pounds each. So in one night, when we had to get eight planes ready, you had two DAS teams on each plane, working our way around the plane. Each team was made up of three people, two lifting, one fastening and doing cable work. The lifters had to be of nearly equal height, so that we could get the box in without braining ourselves. So, in this night, the teams did about 3-5 boxes per plane. That's 300-500 pounds that went straight up in the air. We then had to test the things, and move on to the next plane. This was not the most uncommon occurence. Grand Forks was the best wing in the B-1B fleet, and we flew the hours to prove it.
Professionalism. That was our mantra, our code. We lived by it and for it. I learned more about it from the people I worked with, and how we did things, then I would ever learn in any class. The folks I worked around, and with set a standard of professionalism, that was impossibly high. And yet, we met it, consistantly. I still try to live up to that standard. In a sense, it is who I am, and what I am, and what I am about, and almost all of it was learned while fixing the B-1B.
The B-1B. I have to say a few words about it. It was, and probably still is, the most slammed and hated plane the Air Force has fielded in a long time. The criticism was crap. The B-1B is a beautiful piece of aircraft, and ours kicked ass. From Red Flag to any other exercise, the B-1B, and Grand Forks in particular, were a sight to behold. Hauling ass, low level, and jamming every damn thing in sight. I loved that plane, and I still love that plane. It's a cantankerous piece of crap on the ground, but in the air, it flies rings around anything else. And when it lit up those four huge engines in full augment, with sixty foot flames shooting off behind them, and leaped into the sky, it was a sight to behold. (Especially when flying out of TAC bases. Fighter runways are a little narrower than the B-1B normally used, so it would occaisionally light the grass on either side of the runway on fire as it took off. That.Fucking.Rocked.) It is a noisy damn plane too. I don't mean the high pitched wussy whine of F-16s, or other baby planes. I mean the B-1B had a roar like the coming of doom. This thing threw off so much sound that the sound waves would hit the supporting wires on telephone and light poles hard enough to make them ping like they were being hit by hammers. A B-1B takeoff sounded like the Battle of Hoth. You don't get that from many other planes.
In the end, I was, and am proud, intensely proud of my time on the B-1B. It has given me memories i could never get anywhere else. Including this last one. We would, on a rotating basis, pull weekend duty, which was usually working Saturday, and hanging by the phone on Sunday. Well, I was working the Saturday the day that President Bush (Sr.) ordered the strategic bomber fleet off of nuclear alert. We saw, for the first time, B-1Bs taxing off of the alert pad under their own power. This meant something, as normal procedure was to tow them to and from the pad. I guess, (and NO, I really DON'T know the exact reason why, and couldn't tell you if I did.) this was to avoid any confusion over why the bombers were coming off the pad. Regardless, this was the day, the exact moment when the Cold War truly ended, and I was standing not two hundred yards from it. I will remember the exact color of the sky, and the people next to me, and what we said on my deathbed I think. The world had just changed, and I got to watch it happen in person. You don't get to see that happen in a dotcom. New Media Douchebags don't see the world change, not like that.
Grand Forks AFB is not what it was when I left. The base was closed a few years back, and if I read things right, it came back as a USAFR/ANG Tanker Base. I had been out of the service for a few years when it happened. Not a day goes by that I don't think about that plane, and those people. I would not trade one single second of my time under, and in that plane, freezing, sweating, and sometimes bleeding, drenched in coolanol, and other such things, to get the job done, for any amount of money or power. My friends, and the other folks I worked with are at other bases, on other planes, or civilians like myself. But for a brief moment in time, we were together, and we were the best.| Comments ()
Okay, since some folks said I should have one up in the Angry Mac Bastards post, there is now a PayPal "Donate" button, right below the digital.forest logo. If you feel moved by...I have no idea what or why, you can send me money, which I will gratefully accept, with many thanks, and apply towards my bandwidth bills.
If this site were to ever be self-suffcient in that manner, it would exceed my wildest dreams for it.| Comments ()
One minor thing
Before I start, yes, I could file a bug on this, but it's not something critical for me...
However, what I would really like to see in iChat buddy lists is a search field. My main list has something like 40-70 people in it throughout the day, and my work Jabber/Bonjour lists are 2-3x as bad.
I'd love to be able to start typing a name or chat nick and have that person highlighted, on or offline.| Comments ()
March 4, 2009
Angry Mac Bastards
Okay, so I just bought angrymacbastards.com.
Because the Mac community needs me, The Angry Drunk and Peter Cohen frothing with rage at the stupid we see out there. In audio. No one needs to actually SEE that shit.
however, bandwidth, like everything else ain't free. So, any ideas for sponsors?
Because it has to be said: This will be a profanity-laden scouring of stupidity created by people and companies. Being a sponsor won't give you a bye. In fact, you may get yelled at more, because we're stupid like that, and you're an easy target, we know who you are.
But we have a domain name, and we have a lot of anger, and a grasp of issues and profanity that is <rhino>AWESOME!</rhino>
So who's got balls and money?| Comments ()
March 1, 2009
On the Author's Guild Brou-ha-ha
While most folks would probably not wish to disagree with Neil Gaiman, or even mildly disagree with Wil Wheaton, (seriously, I met Wil Wheaton once while Shawn King suckered him into playing a "Shock the shit out of you" game at Macworld, and both him and Neil are so relentlessly nice, that you want to give them both hugs and hot cocoa.)
However, in this case, I kind of have to, (Neil more than Wil), and really, with most people who think that the TTS (Text-To-Speech), issue the Author's Guild raised is stupid, and that TTS will never even come close to the kind of performance you can get from human-read audio books. Luckily, both Neil and Wil are intelligent in their opinions, so unlike disagreeing with Enderle, the whole thing can be quite mellow and civilized.
There are a few problems with the "TTS is harmless" issue, the major one being that the Author's Guild was mind-bogglingly stupid in how they brought this up. They came out of the gate in an alarmist fashion, 5 years too early. They created, by being alarmist, and honestly, stupid, a shit-ton of noise about this that is helping no one. However, they were completely correct to bring this issue up now. The thing is, the main argument against treating TTS like audiobook rights is based on the (currently) correct fact that mainstream TTS sucks. It still sounds like a drunken swede, and it hasn't gotten much better since the Talking Moose days, at least not in mainstream usage.
However...mainstream. Face it right now, who are the mainstream users for TTS? The visually impaired and teenagers goofing with the drunken swede saying "cocksucker". The latter group wants things to suck, the hur-hur-hur factor is much higher. The former group...well, face it folks, at least in this country, the attitude's been "Hey, be glad you got shitty screen readers and braille, much less good voices." Face it, when it comes to things like helping the handicapped, "barely good enough" has been the standard, and that sucks.
However, that's not to say that no one is doing research, and that it isn't getting better, albeit slowly. Check out some of the work here from IBM, AT&T, and the Festival Online Demo, from the Centre for Speech Technology Research at the University of Edinburgh.
If all you're used to is what you get on your Mac, the stuff from IBM and the Festival Demo will be rather eye-opening. That brings us to the central problem with the "TTS is harmless" argument: It's based on the theory that mainstream TTS is state of the art, and that it will be years and years and years before this stuff gets better enough to be good enough. Well, state of the art is a damned site better than mainstream now, to where it is almost "good enough", and if someone, say a major publishing house threw a ton of money at the various research projects, state of the art could get to "good enough" really fast, and maybe a darned sight better than "good enough" a lot faster than people think.
"TTS is harmless" is betting against human ingenuity and technology improvements, and as someone who predates the home computer revolution by ten years, and has seen the insane pace of improvements in this area, um....that's a very bad idea. If you're in the San Jose Computer Museum some time, see if they still have the Atari 800 there. In the early 80s, just over 25 years ago, that 48K of RAM was the tits, along with slow floppy drives, etc. Compare that to the current state of the art in desktop computers. Now, take a look at what the state of the art was in 2003 and compare it to now.
That shit moves fast people. Betting that TTS will suck for years to come? Sucker bet. Seriously. Now, will it be able to completely replace humans, especially trained actors anytime soon? No. But here's the thing: it doesn't have to.
This is the other problem with "TTS is harmless". People are trying to pose the argument that TTS would have to be capable of human-level performance to be a viable commercial replacement for audio books. That dear readers, is ignoring the world around us. Face it, we will not only accept "good enough" we will pay for it in spades.
Does anyone think the initial version of the iTunes Music Store was giving you the same quality as you got on CD? No. No one did. In fact, some folks said that 128Kbps audio would be a real problem for iTMS, as it was so bad.
Turns out, it was "good enough" and a bit more. Listen to that IBM "expressive" demo a few times. It's not perfect, but it's not a dead flat monotone either. It's really close to "good enough" if it isn't there already. Throw some money and interest at that, and it will hit "good enough" and quickly.
Then what happens?
Okay, who here, especially anyone who's dealt with publishing houses before, thinks that they're a charity?
Right. Now, pretend you run a publishing house, and you realize that with just a slight improvement, TTS can hit "good enough" for the vast majority of your books. You could easily charge say, two bucks to make a given e-book "TTS allowed" or some better branding. "ULTRA SPEECH!™" Whatever. Now, that's less than say, Audible charges for their fine, human-read books that are of far higher quality. But, who makes money with Audible and other audiobooks?
The publishing house.
The people reading it.
That's a lot of people taking their cut of that $7.50 per unit, and you have to negotiate audiobook contracts, which means it takes longer for it to be profitable...what a pain in the ass. Now, with "ULTRA SPEECH!™", there's only two dollars involved, but who makes that money?
The publishing house.
Hmm...100% of a little or <smaller percent> of slightly more. No lawyers. No rights negotiation. And, if you're really smart, you work it so that the people who create the tech you're using have an exclusive license with you for say...two years? For two years, you get to decide who uses "ULTRA SPEECH!™" Amazon wants to put it in the Kindle? They have to pay you per unit. Now, you're making money off the Kindle and it doesn't matter if anyone ever listens to an "ULTRA SPEECH!™" book. Because for two years, you make that licensing fee. At the end of that period, oh sure, you're not exclusive. But, you have a head start, you have the main brand, and face it, unless you get greedy or someone comes up with something way better that makes it worth the effort to reprogram the silicon, you'll probably collect that "ULTRA SPEECH!™" license for a long time. All those other publishing houses? They have to scramble and find non-infringing TTS tech that's as good as, or close to as good as "ULTRA SPEECH!™", and they're behind you from the start, and their tech won't be on every Kindle sold for the next two years. Sucks to be them.
That's a lot of money, and it's allll yours. All you have to do, right now, is "support the people who agree that the Author's Guild is being stupid". Then quietly work to make a lot of money. Because face it, at least in the United States, we will jump for "good enough" if it's cheap and convenient. If we cared about high-quality and all the rest, Wal*Mart would be a hick convenience store in bumfuck Arkansas. So you have all your books supporting "ULTRA SPEECH!™", and you jack up the cost for audiobook companies to be able to have humans read this stuff. "Real" audiobooks become boutique items, and sure, everyone makes more money per unit, but the customer has to pay more, so they are making a little more money off a lot fewer sales. Big win for the publishing house, and they'd be stupid not to seriously consider this, at least from a fiscal POV. Like it or not, the fiscal POV is a valid, albeit cold-hearted way to look at things. Especially in a shit economy.
So yeah...I think the Author's Guild was dead on to bring this up now, (even if they are going about it as stupidly as possible), and I think the authors who are dismissing this issue might want to do some research on it. I do agree with Neil's point that reading aloud to an audience should not be considered the same as an audiobook, but I think that it is far better to perhaps jump the gun a bit, and deal with the details of this now, rather than pulling a RIAA, ignoring it, and then bringing out the lawyers in a panic because you just realized that technology has passed you by. Playing catch-up always sucks.| Comments ()