2011-vftgs

2011-12-01 Google Waves Goodbye

posted Dec 1, 2011, 12:12 PM by Boyce Crownover   [ updated Feb 9, 2012, 7:14 PM by Boyce Crownover ]

Google Wave was a revolutionary new product that would replace your instant messenger, email and collaborative software suites all at once. It was going to be awesome... but it never quite got the support I'd hoped it would.

What it could have done was handle your email, and communicate with all your instant messenger friends and manage your tasks and calendar. What it seemed to do instead was try to compete with them. Surprisingly (sarcasm) it didn't catch on. Shockingly enough if you tell people that they can replace the email and the instant messenger and the document management system they have with something new in their company (only?!) that will force everyone to learn something new, they don't jump at the opportunity.

Pity.

So Google is shutting the project down. But that doesn't mean it is really dead. You can check out Apache Wave or Walkaround (which runs on the Google App Engine) and see the versions of Wave that still live.

2011-06-09 11:32 Garbage google results

posted Jul 24, 2011, 6:30 PM by Boyce Crownover   [ updated Feb 9, 2012, 7:14 PM ]

I wanted to schedule a task to happen once a minute, and I needed to set up the schedule with a command line so I searched Google for schtask "once a minute" and clicked the first likely link. It took me to http://my.safariIGNORETHISbooksonline.c ... tically/55 which is obviously just a cut and paste of the help that you get anytime you type in schtasks at the command line.

This is a zit on the face of the internet. The actual company might have been interesting to me had I not experienced them this way but now I'm angry at Google for giving me a link to them and I'm angry about what they're doing to try to get traffic from Google.

I like the thought of thousands of digital books and I like the trial free subscription, but I hope they go out of business as quickly as possible because I loathe companies that lie in order to get customers.


Note that the link is deliberately not correct because I don't want a link from my site to them. I don't want any association between my site and theirs execpt to say how much they suck.

2011-06-01 23:03 Sagging pants, cleavage and tatoos - oh the humanity

posted Jul 24, 2011, 6:29 PM by Boyce Crownover   [ updated Feb 9, 2012, 7:14 PM ]

So Fort Worth public buses have a new policy they're enforcing: no more sagging pants.

It isn't a law, there are indecency laws that aren't infringed on by sagging pants, but they have a policy about shirts and shoes and now sagging pants. It seems that the common consensus is that it is a good thing since sagging pants are rude that the buses should be able to prohibit them.

I am of mixed emotions about this. I'm firmly for the right for an independent business to create and enforce a dress code, but I think there is a lot of public funding for public transportation and that makes it different in my mind. I believe that public policy should be determined by a public forum and I haven't seen any indication that is the case here.

It almost sounds like "if we the few people who have management of a public service don't like something, we have the right to operate on the public's behalf without the public's input to enforce our opinion of what is proper." Visible tattoos are considered by many to be offensive as are nose and eyebrow piercing. Weird hair is obviously offensive to many. I have trouble seeing why sagging jeans are the only thing that they should be allowed to ban if they can decide this one.

Several people have expressed disgust that they might be subjected to the sight of an uncovered rump. I must confess, I too prefer not to see such a sight but we have laws for indecency that cover that the same as we have laws that distinguish between cleavage and uncovered breasts. I find it hard to believe that a policy against women wearing tops that expose cleavage, bra straps or might possibly result in accidental breast exposure would find the same public support.

Lest you think I'm exaggerating, consider this proposed law (not Fort Worth):

"The proposed ordinance would also bar women from showing the strap of a thong beneath their pants. They would also be prohibited from wearing jogging bras in public or show a bra strap, Seagraves said." (source:http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,294269,00.html)

Really it boils down to a question not of what we consider rude or obscene, but who gets to make the rules. I think I'm okay with the legislative process handling the question when it comes to public funded organisations. I really don't think it is a stretch to imagine that the next rule could be against uncovered tattoos. We have such a policy where I work and I support the right of my workplace to determine that policy. Their business is their business. No sagging pants, no uncovered tattoos, no unconventional hair, no unconventional piercings: our policy and our business and my employers make the rules. I abide by them and support their right to make the rules.

Public transport is the business of the public and I'm a little concerned that the the process for public decisions was ignored in this case.

The courts can and are handling this question in other places:

http://www.totalcriminaldefense.com/new ... pants.aspx
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,294269,00.html
http://jjie.org/saggy-pants-ban-will-it ... iling/4030
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26759466/ns ... itutional/

Source: http://www.myfoxdfw.com/dpp/news/saggy- ... orth-buses

2011-04-12 00:59 Internet taxes - do they level the playing field?

posted Jul 24, 2011, 6:23 PM by Boyce Crownover   [ updated Feb 9, 2012, 7:13 PM ]

The playing field is level already, a state determines what its tax is on citizens of that state. There is a very basic principle here, the citizen is responsible for his own actions to his own government. If I sell something, I am responsible for my sales taxes. If I buy something, I am responsible for the use taxes. If this were passed, then I become responsible for collecting sales taxes owed to a government where I am not represented.

If I make a purchase from someone in another state and they are not subject to taxation by my state and the sale is still considered a taxable transaction by my state, it is called a use tax but must be paid by me. (This is often ignored, but NY, IL and CA are trying hard to make sure their citizens pay taxes on sales where the seller is not subject to their taxes.) I am represented in the government I pay the use tax to.

As a resident of IL, when I purchase a delivery truck from someone in NH, I should pay IL the appropriate use tax.

As a resident of NH, when I sell a delivery truck to someone in IL, why should I pay for the government of IL? I don't like the government of IL; I'm not represented by the government of IL; I choose not to live in IL. I certainly have no interest in collecting their taxes for them.

NH and AK don't seem to have many representatives suggesting that their citizens should have to collect taxes to pay to other states. My own (actual) state has a higher tax rate than IL but I don't think citizens of other states should help us collect our taxes. I'm not thrilled to pay my state's sales tax but I accept it without rancor. I far prefer it to paying my income taxes and can only imagine how much bile I would feel collecting taxes of IL, CA or NY where, as was said previously, they don't let me vote in their elections.

2011-04-10 10:53 Reluctant upgrade gives jello-like windows

posted Jul 24, 2011, 6:18 PM by Boyce Crownover   [ updated Feb 9, 2012, 7:13 PM ]

Originally posted as a facebook note.
I bought a computer just over three years and four months ago from a guy that was selling it on craigslist. It was a decent computer, just a couple years out of date and it had Windows Vista which I needed for the new job. It has had several monitors and a hard drive switched or added along the way, but it was pretty good. It started locking up on rare occasions about a year ago, and despite different graphic cards and lots of trouble shooting, I couldn't seem to solve the problem permanently. That combined with needing to get Windows 7 made me aware that it was time again to upgrade.

Naturally I did nothing.

I don't like to spend money on computer stuff. I have oodles of computer parts around the house, but I do have a few basic needs that only my main desktop can serve, even if I have to reboot more and more often as it locks up. Last week that machine died. When I say "died" I don't mean that it started freezing up, or that something went wrong when I tried to sign in, those things I take in stride or fix. I mean that that the all important beep that happens when you push the power button didn't happen any more.

If a computer doesn't do anything when you push the power button, often that means that you can replace the power supply. I might have one that would work, or I might buy one inexpensively. On the other hand, if it beeps, then something goes wrong, that's usually some part that can be replaced or software that can be reconfigured. I'm no stranger to replacing parts or reinstalling software right up to and including operating systems.

When the power button works, but the beep doesn't (POST for the techies) that is bad news. It means that something basic isn't working. Maybe you can get away with replacing one of the cards, or RAM or hard drive, but often it is the motherboard and that's pretty much what I consider the most basic part of the computer. I upgraded a motherboard once and that was enough to ensure I'd never try it again.

In other words, it was time to upgrade to a new computer, however much I preferred to procrastinate. Some parts could be salvaged of course, but the old desktop was enough out of date that most wouldn't. Plus, I needed to get Windows 7 to keep up with my work experience and that meant that it was time to buy a new one.

Today I got the parts working from the old machine where I could and got the system configured and I'm happily up and running, typing this in from my new machine. Some updates are still pending of course, but the important stuff is done.

With all that background in mind, I have learned a few things along the way which I'll share for your awe, amusement, disdain or skipping over as you see fit.

Windows 7 home doesn't do password security the way I am used to. At work of course, we have a domain and use Pro, which may account for the difference. I'm still somewhat shocked, yet pleased to discover the average home user doesn't need to know a password for daily use if they don't want to.

I also am using the 64bit bit version, which we don't use at work even when it is an option due to the software world being a little slow to catch up. Since I haven't been using it at work (I did try it when Windows 7 was still in the testing phases) there was a pleasant surprise waiting for me, Internet Explorer 9.

Now close friends will have heard me say bad things about Internet Explorer probably more often than I say bad things about Windows or Microsoft and they all test my patience on a daily basis. Why then would I be excited to try IE9? I've heard good things about it and I'm here to attest they're true. IE9 is the first browser from Microsoft that I actually can endorse. It represents the first time I've felt like Microsoft turned their massive resources toward giving the consumer rather than governing bodies and marketing partners what we really want: Fast, Simple and Safe.

Xmarks installed so I have all my favorite bookmarks, and LastPass installed so I have my saved passwords and would you believe it, I can stand to use IE as a regular part of my day without complaint for the first time EVER.

Of course I still downloaded and installed Firefox 4, my browser of preference, Chrome Beta, my second choice, and Opera since I really like to have options when I'm working with web stuff.

Right off the bat, I uninstalled everything that had Symantec's fingerprints on it since I've grown to distrust and dislike pretty much everything they do. I installed Microsoft Security Essentials as my anti-virus and set up the Windows firewall to my taste and with Windows 7, I am finding that my distaste for Microsoft products is slowly ebbing away.

Windows 7 is fast, fast, fast on this machine. Of course coming from Vista, it would seem fast and coming from a machine four or five years out of date to one with literally four times the memory and cores, not to mention switching from 32 to 64 bit in the process, it should seem that way. Still, I'm using the 32 bit version of Windows 7 at work and have been since well before it was available for sale, and this system impresses me.

So:
Hardware moved - check
Windows 7 configured - check
IE9 update applied (and other less interesting updates applied) - check
Symantec's Norton and other junk software removed - check
Good free antivirus (from MS!) installed and firewall configured - check
Software for work installed - check
System rescue CD created and recovery partition backed up to thumb drive - check

Naturally, this is where the good stuff starts, it is time for Linux. I briefly considered some other versions of Linux, but there is much to be said in favour of using a desktop that millions of other people have already ironed the bugs out of, plus it is really geared toward daily main desktop use.

The USB version didn't work for me, but that may be a problem with the thumb drive I have so Your Mileage May Vary.

I downloaded and created a Live Ubuntu CD and booted from it. It supported my dual monitor configuration without needing any special tweaking. That's a bit of a relief since I can, and have, made it work before when it wasn't, but having a point and click configuration is a time and frustration saver.

After testing it for a bit without installing anything (that's normal now, but I still find it cool as beans) I decided it was time to install. I had plenty of free space on my hard drive but needed to make some of it unused so that Ubuntu would have a place to live. I decided to give it 30 GB, which used to be huge but is now pretty minor. With a right-click on My Computer (aka just "Computer" in Windows 7) to choose Manage, I was able to access the hard drive controls and choose to shrink my partition. It worked immediately and intuitively, which I have to tell you is awesome compared to the days when I had to print out commands and hope for luck.

I rebooted into the Live CD and set my monitor preferences (it does mirrored screens by default) and add on Flash (which doesn't come with the CD) and started a video to pass the time. How cool is that, I can watch Penn and Teller on Veoh while installing an operating system?

During the install, I choose the expert options and made sure the install was going to the free space I'd set aside for Ubuntu. I just chucked everything in one base directory since I understand all the usefulness of partitioning and don't need it for this machine. Now came the tricksy bit.

I did NOT allow Ubuntu to set a boot manager in the Master Boot Record of the hard drive. Doing that gives you some nice booting menu options but means that you're replacing what comes naturally with the Windows installation and since I need to work with that stuff, my preference is to leave the Windows stuff with the default tools it came with. Instead, I installed the boot manager to the partition where I'd be installing the Ubuntu installation. This means that Ubuntu cannot start until you get the Windows bootloader configured to do it.

Windows Vista wouldn't replace your bootloader if you upgraded from XP but did use a different one if you installed it as a fresh install. Windows 7 comes with and pretty much demands that new bootloader. I have to be familiar and able to test working with it, which is why I didn't let Ubuntu do the easy set up in the first place.

The downside is that you need to make it do something that Microsoft doesn't really like to talk about: You need to make the Windows bootloader load Linux. To do this, you grab the section of the bootloader from the Linux install which is responsible for telling the computer what to put in memory and get started with. That works easily enough with the program dd, which you can get for Windows, but I already had handy with the Ubuntu Live CD, so while in the Live CD Ubuntu system, I browsed to the System part of the hard drive then I ran the commands:

sudo su -
mount
cd /media/SYSTEM
dd if=/dev/sda4 of=/ubuntu.bin bs=512 count=1


.. or at least I would have if I had gotten it right the first time. That series of commands does the following:

sudo su -
gives you a root console, which is to say complete authority to tell the computer what to do

mount
shows you what systems are active

cd /media/SYSTEM
from the previous command, I could see where the system part of the hard drive was available and move there

dd if=/dev/sda4 of=/ubuntu.bin bs=512 count=1
since I know where I installed Ubuntu, I grabbed the first 512 bytes of the system and created a file from it

Of course I had to look this stuff up online first, but the Internet is very cool about that stuff. Unfortunately, I started off by putting the ubuntu.bin file in the OS partition rather than the SYSTEM partition, but booting back into the Live CD and moving the file to where I should have put it was simple and corrected the error.

Once the file is in place, you go to an administrative console in Windows and use bcdedit, the new and hideously complicated boot manager tool for Windows 7. A half dozen commands later, Windows is set up to pause for three seconds during the booting process to give the menu option to select Windows or Ubuntu. I have it set to default to Windows but can easily switch that later and the three second pause is plenty if I prefer to boot Ubuntu at that particular time.

Once booting Ubuntu was working, I was off to update that system. Ubuntu makes this dead easy and with a couple clicks I was able to include extra software sources and update everything.

Let me repeat that last bit: update everything.

In Ubuntu (and most versions of Linux) you don't have to update your programs one by one and when you remember to check or when they remind you. Windows Updates will do a decent job of updating Windows, but you still have to update Microsoft Office, Libre Office, Adobe Flash, Adobe PDF reader, Adobe Acrobat, and whatever other software you have ONE BY ONE. Microsoft Update is slightly better, and they recommend it, but it still doesn't do anything but Microsoft.

With Ubuntu, you set your updating preferences and it updates everything that needs updating for you, no muss, no fuss. If you do something really odd, you can still need to do updating on a one by one basis, but you have to really work at it.

This to me is the greatest remaining problem with Microsoft Windows systems. It is nearly impossible to keep a herd of workstations current with all the needed security patches without the help of some special (non-microsoft) software. Linux has had this process solved for years and MS still hasn't got it together. I'm hopeful that Windows 8 will solve the problem, but not overly optimistic.

Finally with everything updating in the background, I got to play with the settings. Now that gives me an option to enable effects I've heard about but never had the opportunity to put on my own computer. When I move a window, it drags along like it is made of jello, wiggling and bouncing around like a friendly object. I didn't have to know anything special or do anything unusual, just check a box and I get nifty effects like that.

Now I need to install Opera and Chrome, add Xmarks and LastPass and I'll be completely back where I was, only with a faster and more beautiful machine than I've ever had before.

I'm kinda excited.

2011-03-05 00:59 Freedom means people are allowed to suck

posted Jul 24, 2011, 6:15 PM by Boyce Crownover   [ updated Feb 9, 2012, 7:13 PM ]

Many of us, and I include myself here, were appalled to find out that people are picketing funerals of our fallen military heros. These people suck.

As bad as they suck, the Supreme Court upheld their right to protest. It sounds like an assault on common decency, but there is more to it than you may have heard.

From a summary of the case: "The members of Westboro picketed 1,000 feet away from the church where the funeral was held in accordance with law enforcement directives. The protest took place on public land."

Not much of anybody wants to defend the actions of Westboro, but many of us defend the rights. Freedom of speech is about the rights of people to do things that other people don't like, be it common citizens, the military, or the government.

Personally, I find their actions loathsome and despicable to an extreme. I sincerely hope that they do break the law and are held accountable when they do so. I am glad however, that even the worst of us have rights.

2011-01-10 00:59 Computers For Dummies by Apple - a dire prediction

posted Jul 24, 2011, 6:12 PM by Boyce Crownover   [ updated Feb 9, 2012, 7:13 PM ]

The industrial revolution changed the amount of expertise an individual needed to produce a complex and reliable product to make end products generally less expensive and more reliable. It did so by moving specialization into ever smaller areas. The average user is tremendously unprepared to be an expert in every service they need their computer to provide. By pushing more and more of those services into the "cloud" the need for expertise by the end user is decreased. There are trade offs to be sure, but in the end most people are happy to relinquish control in favor of ease of use and reliability.

There has been a lot of speculation about what Apple is planning to do with its massive data centers and capital, so here's my guess:

1. Apple buys the "for dummies" rights
2. They set up a system to allow end user computer systems to be maintained in the "cloud"
3. They start selling Computers for Dummies (iComputers become known affectionately as Idiot's Computers)
4. Ubuntu, Chrome and Azure get pushed into or see the appeal in following the same business model
5. 2020 sees the lowest rate of computer virus* infection since the 1990s as 90% of home users don't install software on their computers

People will still click dancing bunnies but the problems created by PICNIC errors will decrease as users are protected from themselves. The hearty few who still run local software will be the elite and the truly dangerous. The elite few will make wise system management decisions and the truly dangerous will reboot to a trusted system every couple months.

Yes, I keep putting quotes around "cloud" because I don't think the term is solid yet and I think most of the time it is marketing jargon for "somebody else's problem."
computer virus* - viruses, trojans, malware, worms etc
I'm not saying that this is a good path for the IT industry, computer users or society as a whole. I am saying that something along these lines is likely inevitable. iPods, smart phones, tablet computers and e-readers are all steps in this direction and I foresee the trend continuing and even accelerating. Azure, Chrome OS and Ubuntu One are already making headway into moving services to the cloud, really it is hard to imagine cloud services becoming less common.

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