OMG LOOKIT WONT SOMEBODY THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!!

Here’s a news story I saw today:

…And here’s a totally unrelated Open Letter To Facetube From US, UK, and Australian Leaders Regarding Use of End-To-End Encryption

Some choice excerpts from the letter:

“We therefore call on Facebook and other companies to take the following steps:
• Enable law enforcement to obtain lawful access to content in a readable and usable format”

“We are committed to working with you to focus on reasonable proposals that will allow Facebook and our governments to protect your users and the public, while protecting their privacy. Our technical experts are confident that we can do so while defending cyber security and supporting technological innovation.

(emphasis mine)

So…. Obviously… we should backdoor all military encryption, right? After all, this is only one pedo that has been found in the ranks of the RAAF. Who knows how many there could be out there? And in other arms of the “defense” forces? After all, we have documented examples of war criminals and murderers who remain unprosecuted.

(Speaking of war criminals, BTW, mad props to my main main, John Howard, for the recent 20 year anniversary of his totally successful eradication of the taliban).

We know for a fact that these systems are being used to commit crimes.

Do the police even have easy access to these encrypted military communication channels? Perhaps there’s a ring of pedos hiding in the very defence forces we so “love” and “admire”! Oh noes!

Worse, if we’re backdooring civilian communications, as you’re so keen do to, and the only properly secure channels left are military, then wouldn’t it be logical for a pedo to simply enlist in the military, where he can groom children all over the world totally securely? Perhaps most of the members of most of our armed forces are out there exploiting children!!! The only way we can know for sure is if we’re able to monitor their communications.

Perhaps if the police had backdoor access to military communications, they could have prevented the unfortunate actions of those soldiers in afghanistan murdering unarmed civillians and routinely carrying throwdown weapons to hide their war crimes. You know, those actions of a few bad apples who just happen to remain unprosecuted and totally definitely aren’t just the stupid ones who got caught doing it on film.

So, I mean, Obviously the best solution is obvious, right? We should backdoor all military encryption, right?

If we backdoored military encryption, we could totally protect the children from pedos!

Right?

I mean, you’re really interested in protecting the children, right? It’s not just about surveillance, right?

You totally have technicamal expamerts who assert that backdoors can be done safely, so there’s no problem, right?

You’re not full of shit, right?

So it’s pretty damn clear to me: Not only should Australia be backdooring all of it’s military encryption as a matter or urgency, we should be urging our allies to do the same. After all, the muurican military is much much bigger than ours – statistically there’s going to be even more pedos in the muuurican army! We need to catch them and stop these heinous acts of child abuse! (oh, and also, you know, maybe a reduction in the the whole “totally definitely not systemic war crimes” thing, as an added bonus)

Won’t somebody think of the children! And backdoor all military encryption!

The Plan

The Plan

In the beginning, there was a plan,
And then came the assumptions,
And the assumptions were without form,
And the plan without substance,

And the darkness was upon the face of the workers,
And they spoke among themselves saying,
“It is a crock of shit and it stinks.”

And the workers went unto their Supervisors and said,
“It is a pile of dung, and we cannot live with the smell.”

And the Supervisors went unto their Managers saying,
“It is a container of excrement, and it is very strong,
Such that none may abide by it.”

And the Managers went unto their Directors saying,
“It is a vessel of fertilizer, and none may abide by its strength.”

And the Directors spoke among themselves saying to one another,
“It contains that which aids plants growth, and it is very strong.”

And the Directors went to the Vice Presidents saying unto them,
“It promotes growth, and it is very powerful.”

And the Vice Presidents went to the President, saying unto him,
“This new plan will actively promote the growth and vigor
Of the company With very powerful effects.”

And the President looked upon the Plan
And saw that it was good,
And the Plan became Policy.

And this, my friend, is how shit happens.

- From an old email sent around in the early 2000s.

Songs that can’t be played too loud

I mean, of course the greatest thing ever created by humans can’t be played too loud. Duh.

Bill Hicks Samples:

“See, I think drugs have done some good things for us, I really do, and if you don’t believe drugs have done good things for us, do me a favor: go home tonight and take all your albums, all your tapes, and all your CDs and burn ‘em. ‘Cause you know what? The musicians who made all that great music that’s enhanced your lives throughout the years? …rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrreal fucking high on drugs.”

“Today a young man on acid realized that all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration, that we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively, that there is no such thing as death, life is only a dream, and we are the imagination of ourselves… Here’s Tom with the weather!”

“It’s not a war on drugs, it’s a way on personal freedom is what it is. Keep that in mind at all times, thank you.”

Lyrics

Dreaming of that face again.
It’s bright and blue and shimmering.
Grinning wide
And comforting me with it’s three warm and wild eyes.

On my back and tumbling
Down that hole and back again
Rising up
And wiping the webs and the dew from my withered eye.

In… Out… In… Out… In… Out…

A child’s rhyme stuck in my head.
It said that life is but a dream.
I’ve spent so many years in question
to find I’ve known this all along.

“So good to see you.
I’ve missed you so much.
So glad it’s over.
I’ve missed you so much
I came out to watch you play,
Why are you running away?
I Came out to watch you play.
Why are you running?”

Shroud-ing all the ground around me
Is this holy crow above me.
Black as holes within a memory
And blue as our new second sun.
I stick my hand into his shadow
To pull the pieces from the sand.
Which I attempt to reassemble
To see just who I might have been.
I do not recognize the vessel,
But the eyes seem so familiar.
Like phosphorescent desert buttons
Singing one familiar song…

“So good to see you.
I’ve missed you so much.
So glad it’s over.
I’ve missed you so much.
I came out to watch you play,
Why are you running away?
Came out to watch you play.
Why are you running away?”

Prying open my third eye.

So good to see you once again.
I thought that you were hiding.
And you thought that I had run away.
Chasing the tail of dogma.

I opened my eye and there we were

So good to see you once again
I thought that you were hiding from me.
And you thought that I had run away.
Chasing a trail of smoke and reason.

Prying open my third eye.

25 years of Ænima

Today is the 25th anniversary of the release of the greatest album ever created by mankind: Ænima by Tool was released on September 17, 1996.

Many, many great artworks have influenced my life in countless ways, but this is #1 on the list. I can’t imagine it ever being supplanted from that position.

I could wax poetic and philosophical on the work itself, its themes, messages, and spectacular music, and the myriad ways it has influenced me. I could talk about how its art and style has engrossed me for 25 years and how I have prints of the album art, signed by the artist, on my wall. I could recite all the lyrics of every song. I could talk about how I’ve bought at least 3 copies due to lost CDs and different editions, and the neverending search for an affordable vinyl copy. But this is all stuff you can research and read elsewhere.

What you won’t read elsewhere is why it’s the greatest album ever made. This doesn’t seem to be a popular opinion – it seems that most Tool fans think Lateralus is better. And I’m told that there are people who think the greatest album ever made isn’t even a Tool album. But those people’s opinions obviously don’t matter.

I argue that Ænima is the greatest album because it’s the pinnacle of “angry tool”. After Ænima, Tool’s music turned in a more “spiritual” direction, with messages tending to be more positive rather than angry. While I can understand why they took this direction and I don’t disagree that it’s a good direction for them to go in, I think that the rage you see much more in early Tool is part of what really made them great, and that they have lost something by toning that down. Indeed, my favourite songs on the later albums are often songs like “Right In Two”, which still have some of that rage, often mixed with humour.

Regardless of what I might think personally of some of the members, I’ll always be grateful to Tool for creating this masterpiece.

In particular, for the greatest song ever written, and the real reason why this is the greatest album ever made:

Third Eye.

And That’s All I have to say about that.

This site requires IE6

Welcome to the new and wonderful world of the “modern” web, where you can be running a browser released 2 months ago and it’s considered OK to not support it because it’s not one of the big three.

I particularly adore the fearmongering security theatre used as an excuse for their not bothering with progressive enhancement and compatibility.

Now, I suppose to be fair I should concede that although I do label it as a “blatant lie”, it is possible that I might be wrong and this might not actually be a lie: It could just be that they’re simply incompetent at web development.

No Free Napkins

Once upon a time, I was on my way to work in the morning. I was catching the tram to the CBD.

I hadn’t felt awesome before I left home, but as I sat on the tram i started feeling worse and worse. In particular, my nose started running. And I didn’t have any tissues with me. No good.

At a certain point, in the CBD but still not quite at work, I had to do something because my runny nose was becoming unmanageable. So, spotting a 7-11, I jumped off the tram. In a hurry.

With no time to fuck around, I ran into the 7-11 and headed for the pies and sausage rolls, looking for napkins. There weren’t any. Instead, there was a sign saying that napkins were available at the counter. So I ran to the counter.

“I need some napkins please”, I said.

The cashier handed me one tiny napkin. Nowhere near enough for the massive torrent of mucus I’d been holding back for about 15 minutes by that point.

“I need more than that, I have to blow my nose”, I managed to get out without leaking anything anywhere.

With an expression conveying very clearly exactly how few fucks he gave, the cashier refused.

“No, only one. You can buy tissues”, he said.

“I don’t have time for that, give me more napkins”, I said.

“No”, came the reply, continuing to be accompanied by the aforementioned expression.

So I blew my nose on the napkin he had given me.

Met with roughly a megalitre of mucous at high pressure, the flimsy and insubstantial napkin disintegrated, sending pieces of wet napkin and most of the megalitre of snot all over the cashier’s counter and all over the chewing gum and chocolate bars in front of it. This procedure left me holding half of an inadequate-for-blowing-ones-nose napkin which was dangling and dripping many ropes of horrible semi-liquid stuff. Once the procedure was complete, every subtle movement of my hand caused an exponential jiggling in the awful thing I was holding, and that jiggling then caused a hundred fresh droplets to rain down onto the counter in a hundred interesting new trajectories.

As I turned and left the store, taking care to put what hadn’t dripped onto the counter, products, and floor into the bin, I said:

“Next time, don’t be a cunt”

Annihilation

Quote


From dehumanization to arms production,
For the benefit of the nation or its destruction
Power, power, the law of the land,
Those living for death will die by their own hand,

Life’s no ordeal if you come to terms,
Reject the system dictating the norms

From dehumanization to arms production,
To hasten the nation towards its destruction
Power, power, the law of the land,
Those living for death will die by their own hand,

Life’s no ordeal if you come to terms,
Reject the system dictating the norms

From dehumanization to arms production,
To hasten the nation towards its destruction
Power, power, the law of the land,
Those living for death will die by their own hand,

Life’s no ordeal if you come to terms,
Reject the system dictating the norms

From dehumanization to arms production,
To hasten this nation towards its destruction,

It’s your choice, your choice, your choice, your choice,
Peace or annihilation

- APC

983 days uptime

bye bye hactar. You were a good server. It’s a pity we didn’t quite make it to 1000 days.

(the machine was decommissioned today by people who aren’t me. Interestingly, this action immediately caused a website outage. I’ll refrain from any more blatant “I told you so”‘s).

Spaceballs is the greatest movie ever made

Welcome to part 2 of our series, wherein I give another example to back up my position, because I can’t be bothered writing the hundred thousand word exhaustive treatise that it deserves, and it’s been like 10 years and I never went back and updated the first post.

The real genius in spaceballs is all the little visual gags that you don’t even notice on the first watch. Or the tenth.

So, take, for example, the “we ain’t found shit” scene:
Sandurz: Sir?
Helmet (into megaphone, sandurz is standing right next to him): What?
Sandurz: Are we being too literal?
Helmet (still into megaphone): No, you fool, we’re following orders: we were told to comb the desert and we’re combing it.
Helmet lowers the megaphone, cups hands, and yells to guys a hundred meters away: Found anything yet?

Nice work, youtube!

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaand this is what happens when you have people who don’t understand the technology work on one layer of abstraction, using inefficient frameworks to build things that could be built better with just a little skill and hard work, with no incentive or curiosity to care about any of the thousand other layers of abstraction:

youtube.com is literally more than 50% invalid HTML.

Nice work!

I’m guessing their unit tests don’t include running the output through a HTML validator.

QOTD

Quote

“I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence. I much prefer history – true or feigned– with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers. I think that many confuse applicability with allegory, but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author.”
- J.R.R. Tolkien.

There’s an old saying…

They fucking renewed Alex Kurtzman’s contract?!?

There’s an old saying that I think is apropos here: “Never Attribute to malice that which can be attributed to stupidity”

I suppose technically I had jumped the gun on trek: I saw the malice and interpreted and called it out as such. But I suppose, technically speaking, until today, you could have made the claim that it was just stupidity, and that CBS had accidentally hired Alex Kurtzman as a TV showrunner rather than as filler for a septic tank system.

But today proves that it wasn’t stupidity at all, it was definitely malice. CBS’s goal is to kill off Star Trek.

But there’s still one part of it that I still don’t understand: Why renew Kurtzman’s contract? He’s already killed it off pretty effectively already – does he really need another 5 years?

I suppose it has been around for a long time and it’s got a habit of being revived and renewed. So if you hate Star Trek and you want to kill it off and make damn sure it stays dead, you might extend Kurtzman’s contract. That would make sense I guess.

While I’m here, I should post the poster that I made a while ago for RedLetterMedia’s excellent 5-hour series of reviews of picard:

Can a sequence of bytes be offensive?

Do you find this image offensive?

(This is an enlarged version, Here’s the original BMP).

OK. So I think we can all agree that’s not a pretty picture, but it’s not offensive.

What if I do a hexdump of the file:

0000000 4d42 3a1a 0000 0000 0000 0036 0000 0028
0000010 0000 004b 0000 0041 0000 0001 0018 0000
0000020 0000 39e4 0000 0b13 0000 0b13 0000 0000
0000030 0000 0000 0000 4552 4154 4452 4e20 4749
0000040 4547 2052 4320 4948 4b4e 5320 4f4c 4550
0000050 5720 474f 4420 4741 204f 4146 4747 544f
0000060 4320 4e55 2054 4942 4354 2048 4857 524f
0000070 2045 494d 4744 5445 4120 5353 4f48 454c
0000080 4620 4355 574b 5449 4d20 524f 4e4f 4420
0000090 4d55 4142 5353 4920 4944 544f 4620 4455
00000a0 4547 4150 4b43 5245 5320 554c 4254 4741
00000b0 4c20 5a45 4942 4e41 5320 482d 312d 542d
00000c0 4320 524f 534b 4355 454b 2052 5550 544e
00000d0 2041 5053 4349 4820 524f 2045 4146 4747
00000e0 5449 4d20 4e55 4554 2052 4f47 4444 4d41
00000f0 494d 2054 4946 474e 5245 5546 4b43 5245
0000100 5720 4152 5050 4e49 2047 454d 204e 4152
0000110 4e55 4843 4a20 4e55 4c47 2045 5542 4e4e
0000120 2059 4f4d 454c 5453 4120 5353 4142 474e
0000130 5245 5320 4948 4554 5441 5245 4720 444f
0000140 4144 4e4d 5449 4120 414c 4b53 4e41 5020
0000150 5049 4c45 4e49 2045 5341 2d53 4950 4152
0000160 4554 4220 5455 2054 5546 4b43 5020 5355
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0000180 5245 5546 4b43 5245 5220 5041 5945 4220
0000190 5455 4854 4145 2044 5245 544f 5349 204d
00001a0 4f54 474e 4555 4920 204e 2041 5341 4853
00001b0 504f 4550 2052 4c53 4145 595a 4320 4159
00001c0 494c 2053 4142 474e 5020 4f52 204e 5455
00001d0 5245 5355 4220 5421 4843 5320 4148 4747
00001e0 5245 5420 5345 4954 4c43 2045 5754 5441
00001f0 4320 434f 4a4b 434f 454b 2059 4f44 4b4e
0000200 5945 4952 4242 5245 4420 5530 4843 2033
0000210 5453 4952 2050 5341 4653 4355 204b 4942
0000220 2047 5242 4145 5453 2053 4853 5449 4f48
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0000270 434e 4620 4f52 5454 4e49 2047 5542 5454
0000280 462d 4355 204b 4f43 4b43 5553 4b43 4445
(Much, much more…)
0000290 4720 444f 442d 4d41 5320 414d 5452 5341
00002a0 2053 4c42 4e4f 4544 4120 5443 4f49 204e
00002b0 5544 424d 5341 2053 4c50 5941 4f42 2059
00002c0 4946 5453 5546 4b43 5245 2020 4c46 474f
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00003b0 4352 454c 454a 4b52 4a20 4741 464f 2046
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0000820 574b 4545 2044 4553 4f58 5320 414c 544e
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0000850 5a5a 5020 4e45 5349 5550 4646 5245 4320
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0000870 2053 414c 4452 5341 2053 5258 5441 4445
0000880 4620 4355 204b 4c42 4f4f 5944 4220 4c41
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0000970 2053 4857 524f 4e49 2047 4f43 4b43 5553
0000980 414b 4220 5241 4245 4341 204b 4942 532d
0000990 5845 4155 204c 4c53 5455 4220 4355 454b
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0000a40 4955 4f44 4a20 5041 4720 4e41 414a 4820
0000a50 4d4f 2030 4f44 4255 454c 5020 4e45 5445
0000a60 4152 4954 4e4f 4420 2050 4341 4954 4e4f
0000a70 4d20 544f 4148 5546 4b43 4e49 4320 4f4f
0000a80 204e 4b53 4e41 204b 4f43 4b43 4853 5449
0000a90 4f20 4752 4549 2053 494e 4747 4834 4220
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00036a0 4120 3535 4f48 454c 4d20 5341 434f 4948
00036b0 5453 5320 5243 414f 2054 5550 4942 2043
00036c0 4f43 4b43 4d53 5449 2048 4144 4e52 4a20
00036d0 4e55 594b 4320 4e55 4c54 4349 494b 474e
00036e0 4420 4c49 574c 4545 2044 5250 534f 4954
00036f0 5554 4554 5020 5245 4556 5352 4f49 204e
0003700 4950 5353 4445 4f20 4646 4f20 4752 5341
0003710 4d49 2053 4f44 494d 414e 4954 4e4f 4220
0003720 4145 454e 5352 4120 2424 4720 444f 4144
0003730 4e4d 554d 4854 4641 4355 454b 2052 4142
0003740 4542 4120 414e 504c 4f52 4542 4120 5353
0003750 494e 4747 5245 4e20 424f 4a20 4b4f 5945
0003760 4d20 544f 4548 4652 4355 494b 204e 454d
0003770 414e 4547 4120 5420 4f52 5349 4620 4741
0003780 4120 5353 494c 4b43 4320 5241 4550 4d54
0003790 4e55 4843 5245 4420 4c4f 4543 5454 4320
00037a0 4948 4b4e 2059 4f42 4f4f 4f4f 4f4f 5342
00037b0 4720 414c 534e 4620 5441 5546 4b43 5245
00037c0 4c20 494f 534e 5420 5345 4554 4a20 5245
00037d0 2d4b 464f 2046 4f48 4f4d 5245 544f 4349
00037e0 4820 4d55 4950 474e 4420 4e49 4c47 4245
00037f0 5245 5952 4820 5241 2044 4f43 4552 4220
0003800 5241 4e45 4b41 4445 4220 4749 5542 5454
0003810 4e20 4441 2053 544d 5248 5546 4b43 5245
0003820 5320 4948 5354 4820 454f 5a20 4f4f 4850
0003830 4c49 2045 5542 4d4d 5245 4820 4d4f 5945
0003840 4320 4d55 5544 504d 5453 5245 5320 5349
0003850 5953 5020 5349 2053 4541 4c4f 5355 4620
0003860 4e49 4547 4652 4355 454b 5352 4720 4148
0003870 2059 5546 574b 4948 2054 5242 4145 5453
0003880 2053 4f4d 4854 4641 4355 454b 2044 4946
0003890 5453 2059 4950 5353 4e49 2047 4f4d 4854
00038a0 4641 4355 494b 474e 5720 4e41 2047 5245
00038b0 544f 4349 5320 4948 4254 4741 4420 4349
00038c0 2d4b 4e53 4545 455a 4220 5455 4254 4e41
00038d0 2047 4f42 4557 204c 4146 4e4e 2059 4353
00038e0 4f52 2047 4853 5449 5546 4c4c 4820 524f
00038f0 594e 4620 5349 4554 2044 4146 4749 2054
0003900 4843 444f 5345 5420 4749 5448 5720 4948
0003910 4554 4c20 5345 4942 4e41 2053 4e41 4c41
0003920 4c20 4145 414b 4547 4220 4149 4354 2048
0003930 5845 4154 5943 5420 4545 5354 4220 4145
0003940 4556 2052 4c43 4145 4556 2052 4857 524f
0003950 4845 504f 4550 2052 4f43 4d4b 4e55 4843
0003960 5245 4620 555f 435f 4b5f 4820 5345 4548
0003970 4520 414a 5543 414c 4554 4320 4d55 4154
0003980 5452 4420 5552 4b4e 4220 4c55 444c 4b49
0003990 2045 5546 4b43 5420 4f52 4850 2059 4956
00039a0 5242 5441 524f 5720 4f48 4152 494c 4943
00039b0 554f 2053 4142 474e 5242 534f 5020 5355
00039c0 5953 5020 4c41 4341 2045 4f4c 4556 414d
00039d0 494b 474e 4620 4f4f 2054 4546 4954 4853
00039e0 5720 4545 4557 2045 0000 0000          
00039eb

I’m still not having any problem.

OK, one final step. Let’s open it in a text editor:

Hmmm. This time I think opinions might vary.

To me the idea of an “offensive word” doesn’t really make any sense. A word is just a sequence of letters. I’m a computer guy, so to me it’s just a sequence of bytes. But I don’t think any word can be said to be offensive any more than we could claim that the letters in that word are also offensive. And I don’t think we should ban the letter “f”.

It’s the intention and meaning that we derive from the word that matters – the way we read it, not the word itself. The first image is innocuous because you are looking at that stream of bytes as a bitmap image. In the last one, you’re parsing it as english, and it causes a very different reaction. But even then, there’s no hate in a list of “bad words” that I pulled off the internet. I’d argue that the final image is precisely as offensive as the first two because it’s just a list that I pulled off the net. Nobody yelled this at anybody. It wasn’t used for a hateful purpose. Therefore it’s innocuous.

The point is that we should look for the message people are trying to convey when they use a word before we have an emotional reaction to the word itself. I’ll grant that certain words do cause real problems for some people, and that certain words have been used historically in very hateful ways, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that every possible use of that word is negative. There are indeed certain words that might currently be almost entirely negative, but that won’t necessarily always be the case, and it might not be the case all over the world now, and it certainly doesn’t apply to every word that has been used, for example, as a slur.

Then there’s the whole “freedom of expression should trump the right to not be upset” argument, wherein I will argue that there is exactly one thing that the muricans did actually – wait for it, I’m gonna say it – The Americans did get freedom of speech right. Or at least, pretty close. But that’s a whole other wall of text.

I just thought this was an interesting demonstration of how your perception of data can change, depending on how you look at it :)

The State of Pulseaudio in 2021

Every now and then I like to revisit an old topic.

So, let’s revisit pulseaudio and my hatred for it, shall we?

Now, you’re not an old greybeard like me, so you’re probably saying to yourself right now “OMG still with pulseaudio?!? That attitude is sooooo 2008!”

Well, for all the people over the years who have repeated the line of pure bullshit propaganda that “pulseaudio is much better these days and almost sorta kinda works most of the time, if you squint”, I’d like to present my first, reflexive solution to the fact that today I had no audio in zoom on a laptop with a current version of pulseaudio. A solution which, I might add, solved my problem instantly:

$ sudo bash -c "while true; do pkill -9 pulseaudio; done" &

Sure, it might not be efficient or pretty, but it worked. And it serves as a perfect metaphor for the state of Linux audio for this past decade and change, which can be summed up as “If you have an audio problem on Linux, the fault lies with pulseaudio”.

There have been multiple occasions where I’ve been trying to figure out some weird audio behaviour, only to realise “Oh OF COURSE! How silly of me! this machine has pulseaudio installed!”, and disable pulseaudio, and the problem goes away.

I’d file bugs for all this stuff, but I’m sure the fault lies with gnome (which I don’t use), or KDE (which I don’t use), or nginx, or my distro, or perhaps Microsoft Office. I’m sure these things are not actually problems with pulseaudio, because Lennart’s software never has any bugs.

I for one welcome the next decade’s worth of “if there’s a weird issue on Linux, The problem lies with systemd”, and being told in my bug reports that the problem is in the default configuration that comes with Mac OS X Server.

Now it’s off to go read the documentation (yet again) on how to disable this godawful dreck to stop it from automatically starting itself. Unfortunately we’re not in the days where just removing it is a simple option anymore (thanks for the totally unnecessary hard dependency, mozilla!)

RIP John McAfee

John McAfee has been found dead in his cell hours after a court ruled he would be extradited to the US.

The article says “Authorities said the cause of death was being investigated”.

For once, I agree wholeheartedly with the Authorities. It sure was. Though I find it surprising that they would make such a candid admission.

Luckily, his important advice on how to uninstall McAfee Antivirus will be with us forever:

Say what you like about the man, but he was always entertaining.

Buying “For All Mankind”

I’ve been watching this show called For All Mankind. It’s glorious. One day there will almost certainly be a blog post here gushing about it. It has the potential to be my favourite TV show ever. I’ve told pretty much everyone I know about it.

But it’s an Apple TV show, so I can’t ethically recommend any legitimate means of watching it.

Today, I decided to do a thing that I do every now and then: make a good-faith effort to find a way to reward creators of content like this in an ethical way.

In other words, I want to buy For All Mankind on DVD or bluray.

So I decided to hit up apple for a chat to ask them when it’s coming out in a format where it can actually be purchased (as opposed to rented, which is what you get when you “buy” it from Apple TV), and unencumbered by DRM.

That went about as well as you’d expect.

The TL;DR version is that Apple won’t even discuss the possibility of you buying one of their shows on DVD without you providing your personal information. Much less actually release a show on a medium where you can actually buy it. Not only that, but they insist on using misleading terms like “buy”, and “purchase the content legitimately” even when called out on it. I guess they do deserve some minimal number of points for consistency.

So, if you want to watch For All Mankind, the most ethical way I can recommend to watch it is by using The Pirate Bay. You get very high-quality web-download rips there regularly every week.

And I really do recommend watching it. It’s great.

Dear Ronald D Moore: Your show is really great. I’d love to give you and your production company some money to support it’s ongoing creation, but Apple refused to help me with that. If you want to reach out to me and let me know how I can do that, Please do. I’d happily pay premium prices for a box set, I’ll be all like “shut up and take my money”. Thanks.

Here’s the chat log in full:

(well, almost full. This is the last screengrab I took. It was very close to the end of the chat. After this it was pretty much just “well, thanks for nothing I guess? Bye.”)


image of a long, text-based chat with apple tech support. Sorry, vision-impaired people!

QOTD

This one made me really chuckle:

Opera Tech Support: Why do you assume the same file uploads produce the same md5?

Me: Uh… because I understand what an md5 is.
(explains the concept of cryptographic hashes)

The Register’s Totally Unbiased Journalism

I’ve been reading The Register for close to 20 years now. Certainly well over 15.

They have been getting less and less impartial, and thus worse and worse at journalism, over the years.

And today I found out that their comment moderation is also totally fair and unbiased. For instance, check out this totally offensive post that they censored:
Totally innocuous comment mentioning that their journalism isn't very impartial censored by their moderators
As you can see, I was totally out of line and very offensive here.

To add to this hilarity, it turns out that the person moderating comments on the article is the same guy who wrote it. Totally fair and not at all a recipe for a little fiefdom of echo chambers.

And as if that wasn’t enough, this comment was censored in such a way that there is no visible mention on the website that a post has been censored. Usually on their site, any moderated post will be replaced with a message saying “this post was removed by a moderator”. So it turns out that not only do they censor any even mildly critical viewpoints, they do it using a special censorship mode that they have implemented, so that nobody can tell that they’re basically nazis.

And that was the day that I stopped reading the register. Chris Williams, their editor in chief, is a little hitler wannabe.

QOTD

“Goebbels was in favor of free speech for views he liked. So was Stalin. If you’re really in favor of free speech, then you’re in favor of freedom of speech for precisely the views you despise. Otherwise, you’re not in favor of free speech.”

-Noam Chomsky

RIP Aricebo

Aricebo Observatory has collapsed.

So sad. This awesome instrument has been an inspiration to me ever since I became aware of its existence via The X Files.

I was fortunate enough to be able to spend a few quintillion floating point operations processing data from Aricebo as part of the seti@home project.

I always wanted to visit it. Now that will never happen.

I’d bet good money that if they’d had the funding they needed for the last 15-20 years, they probably could have prevented the collapse.

But don’t worry, that funding totally went where it was needed: researching new ways to blow cunts up. So yay progress!

Top notch reporting

Full Article archived here

Nice one, ABC. That’s some top-notch journalism right there.

Firstly, I’m struck by the neutral tone of this article reporting on this…uh… “extra-legal”… murder. And I find myself wondering what the tone would be like if it was a nuclear scientist in a western country who had been killed. I can’t help but agree with the phrase “shameful double standards”. This was an act of terrorism, pure and simple.

Secondly: What, you couldn’t afford to have an actual interpreter translate the tweet?

tweet translation straight from google translate, with the nonsense translation obscured by an ellipsis

Nah, rather than wait an hour or two and spend maybe a couple of hundred bucks on having an actual interpreter give an actual translation of what was actually said, we’ll just run the tweet through google translate! And hey, if google translate returns something clearly nonsensical, we’ll just edit that part out!

Nice one, ABC. I can see why you’re in favour of making google and facetube pay for the media they link to. With reporting of this high caliber it’s clearly worth it.

The Parable Of Glenn Mcgrath’s Haircut

By TISM

My mate Roger got a girl pregnant when he was fourteen.

He was so shit-scared he told me. And when he said that her dad was a cop I thought he was joking.

I told him he’s got to tell someone, and so he went and told a teacher,
and the girl eventually got an abortion.

He was fucking shitting himself, let me tell you, but six months later he was fucking around like always.

“You betta watch it” I thought to myself. But Roger was pretty fucking sure of himself.

He was the guy who first brought a block of hash to a party.

Because I was his friend I was there when he first showed it to people, and we all went down the backyard and he rolled a joint.

Where did he get it from?

My parents would have killed me if they knew. I thought we’d all turn into junkies or something if we had too much.

The last time I saw Roger was last year at the Boxing Day test.

He’d turned into such a fat, normal, yobbo cunt.

“The wife nearly didn’t let me out today” he said.

And he did all that chanting yobs do, like “Ooh, Aahh, Glenn Mcgrath”.

“It got you in the end” I thought to myself, as I looked at Roger. “Life got you in the end, pal”.

“You were such a cocky, successful winner when we were sixteen, but now you’re just another sad fat prick sitting in the MCG, high-fiving in self-congratulation, as if it’s you that had the skill and determination to play for Australia”.

It’s the cunts with the bad haircuts that you’ve got to watch out for. There’s never been a popular teenager yet who’s done rat’s with their life. It’s the fucking dorks that give it a real go.

Glenn Mcgrath got 5 for 50 that day.

DISBAND THE ARMED FORCES IMMEDIATELY

The title says it all really.

Relevant Link

Let’s just look at some of the highlights, shall we?

The inquiry also said junior soldiers were often required by patrol commanders to shoot prisoners to get their first kill, in a practice known as “blooding”.

Translation: War crimes are a routine part of the culture.

The inquiry also found evidence some Australian troops in Afghanistan carried “throwdowns” — such as weapons, radios and grenades not issued by the ADF — which would be planted next to the bodies of Afghan civilians to suggest they were a “legitimate target” in any post-incident investigations.

Translation: he chance that there have bee war crimes stuff that won’t make it to a trial are roughly 100%

the report found patrol commanders were primarily responsible for covering up or sanctioning the culture that allowed the crimes to be committed, questions have also been raised about how much senior Defence figures knew.

Translation: “don’t stress boys, nobody important is going to jail, just a few scapegoats: the ones dumb enough to forget our training about not leaving evidence”

One of the reasons why the report is so heavily redacted:
“You don’t want to expose the public to too much gruesome information … so that the public aren’t traumatised and also to not enrage the public or potentially extremists or others who would have a go at Australia”

Translation: They’re just a few little deplorable sadistic warcrimes, involving the murder of children and such, no reason to upset the public about it. Wouldn’t want them protesting or calling for our murderer’s club to be disbanded or defunded.

But I think this might be my favourite piece of poetry ever:
Support link on the inquiry report is broken

“We don’t do support, just murder”.

The whole fucking thing should be disbanded, with no superannuation or payouts for anyone and all members put on watch lists because they’re fucking psychopaths, and all their hardware turned into lawn ornaments.

Fail Epic


Open up your eyes, kid
When are you going to learn?
What were you thinking?
You really got some nerve
Shining in the gold light
Glorious victories
But now you realize it’s true what ya mama said,
You can’t win everything, everything, every time

You’ve never gone too far give up
You’ve never gone too far give in
You’ve never gone too far to let go, of all that you believe in
You’ve never gone too far turn back, of all that you’ve been fighting for
There’s still a chance to prove what your mama said
You can’t win everything, everything, every time

When you can’t win, fail with me
Time to fall in love again
Fail epic
Fail epic

When the night is bright, clear
And you can reach the stars
There’s no need to hide,
I’ve seen just what you’re capable of
I know I’ve got the power hidden somewhere deep
The power to lose it all

When you can’t win, fail with me
Time to fall in love again
Fail epic

When you can’t win, fail with me
Open up your heart
Fail epic
Fail epic

You’ve never gone too far give up
You’ve never gone too far give in
You’ve never gone too far to let go, of all that you believe in
You’ve never gone too far turn back, of all that you’ve been fighting for
There’s still a chance to prove what your mama said
You can’t win everything, everything, every time
Win everything, everything, every time
Can’t win everything, everything, every time

- The Presets

If you like being depressed

…then I recommend watching this:

There’s also parts two and three on the same channel.

I literally couldn’t watch it all the way through. Statements like “my favourite trek movie is the first one” just made me too sad.

I guarantee you that if you asked Alex Kurtzman his favourite Trek movie, he’d say JJ’s TrekWars from 2009. Because it’s his mate. And if you asked for his second favourite, he’d say Wrath Of Khan, because that’s the one everybody loves. And if you asked for his third favourite, he’d look at you blankly, not sure how to answer because he doesn’t actually remember anything at all about any of the others except that they were “boring”.

If he’s even seen them.

Fuck him and fuck CBS.

Accountability

…and since images of text (particularly PHOTOS OF PRINTOUTS OF DIGITAL DOCUMENTS! WTF?!?) are the done thing now, no more of this pesky text that can be read semantically and parsed by machines and accessed by blind people, I’m not going to actually write much in the way of commentary here, I’m just going to post some images full of text:

Image of Jenny Mikakos' statement on twitter where she refuses to take accountability, and a bunch of backslapping idiots lapping up her rhetoric and praising her for taking accountability.

I feel like maybe this news article I read literally 2 days earlier might also be relevant somehow:

A news article from 2 days earlier about a letter sent by the Health Workers Union accusing her of 'breathtaking incometence' and 'lacking even a basic understanding of her portfolio'

I am Jack’s shaking booty

In the beginning, there was Jack, and Jack had a groove. And from this groove came the groove of all grooves. And while one day viciously throwing down on his box, Jack boldy declared: “Let there be HOUSE!”, and house music was born. I am, you see, I am the creator, and this is my house. And, in my house there is ONLY house music. But, I am not so selfish because once you enter my house it then becomes OUR house and OUR house music!”. And, you see, no one man owns house because house music is a universal language, spoken and understood by all. You see, house is a feeling that no one can understand really unless you’re deep into the vibe of house. House is an uncontrollable desire to jack your body. And, as I told you before, this is our house, and our house music. And in every house, you understand, there is a keeper. And, in this house, the keeper is Jack. Now some of you who might wonder, “Who is Jack, and what is it that Jack does?”. Jack is the one who gives you the power to jack your body. Jack is the one who gives you the power to do the snake. Jack is the one who gives you the key to the wiggly worm. Jack is the one who learns you how to walk your body. Jack is the one that can bring nations and nations of all Jackers together under one house. You may be black, you may be white; you may be Jew or Gentile. It don’t make a difference in OUR House. And this is fresh.

The First Question

The First Question.

A companion piece to “The Last Question”, by Isaac Asimov.

The first question was asked for the first time before there was language to articulate it. It was asked when there was barely thought. On a million worlds in a million galaxies over billions of years the question was asked over and over.

In a world’s developing stage, a predator, having gorged and sated itself, sat secure in it’s perch, preening. And as the first dim flicker of sentience wandered into its mind, the question was asked for the first time on that world in the language of thought:

“Where did all this come from?”

And over millions of years and countless triumphs and setbacks, life evolved. And finally, intelligence, and then language.

And the question was asked a million times just on that world, in a million different fashions. And as a species grew into a culture, the phrasing became more complex. At a certain point the counter-question was appended:

“Where did all this come from, and where is it going?”

And for every phrasing of the question, there was a different answer. Nobody knew for sure, though some – charlatans or delusional – claimed they did.

And then came math and science. And physics.

And the physicists said: We have an answer!

And they were correct, mostly, eventually: The theories were refined and tested, and sometimes thrown out, over centuries. Eventually, their theories accurately described the universe. So much so that they became an advanced technological civilisation. And they spread out into the stars, and life colonised the universe.

And now that they had answered the first question, it came time to ask the last:

“Can entropy be reversed?”

And nobody knew the answer. The greatest minds of a universe worked on the problem. But the problem proved difficult, maybe even intractable.

And they lived for a trillion years. And as the degenerate era approached, the stars began to die, and the last question became more urgent.

And they built The Minds. Hyper-efficient Matrioshka brains the size of brown dwarfs. And the Minds worked on the problem.

And they searched for a solution for ten trillion years. And they got nowhere. And the stelliferous era went into twilight, and the stars continued to die.

And there was insufficient data to answer the last question meaningfully, so an answer was not found. But a compromise was, and a project began.

And they converted all the remaining matter into Minds, and they cannibalised the stars to build them, and the universe went dark prematurely, comprised only of black holes and matrioshka brains.

And they booted up a googolplex of simulated universes. And they ran for a hundred trillion years.

And in the final second of that parent universe, an uncountable number of simulations within simulations ran for uncountable aeons, and the multiverse was born. And the first question was asked anew, into infinity.

Ow, my brain!

A conversation with a customer service person tonight:

“Can I have your customer number?”

“I don’t know what that is. My email is (email).”

“And can I have your full name?”

“(name). Address is (address)”

“And can I have your address?”

“um… I just told you that 5 seconds ago.”

“OK. And can I have your email address?”

“uh… I told you that 10 seconds ago.”

HOWTO: Worship Cthulhu

Awesome yahoo answers Q&A

Normally I’d link to the source of this, but friends don’t let friends access Yahoo Answers, so no link today. I’m sure you’ll find it if you try. Instead, here’s the HTML version for your copypasta convenience:

Click to expand

Start by reading any Cthulhu Mythos book that you can get hold of.

Although there’s not much chance of getting access to a ‘Necronomicon’ or a ‘De Vermis Mysteriis’, you can occasionally find a used copy of something like the ‘Ponape Scripture’ (1907 edition) or ‘Cthulhu in the Necronomicon’ in one of the more exotic antiquarian bookshops off the Charing Cross Road.

Works such as this will provide a good grounding in the Mythos and may encourage you to advance in your attempts to worship the Great Old Ones and Outer Gods. However, they may also turn your mind and encourage you to do something less positive, such as eat your cat or gouge your own eyes out with a screwdriver.

Assuming that you wish to start worshipping Cthulhu, your next move should be to find a location close to the sea where you can establish your shrine.

If you can find a place close to a site of known Deep One activity then so much the better, as this species have been worshipping Cthulhu for millenia and may be able to assist you. The area around Walberswick and Southwold on the coast of Suffolk, close to the sunken town of Dunwich, would be a good choice. It is possible that other like-minded individuals might choose to move to such an area, so keep your eyes open for other eccentric types who might wander around the coast at night and gibber in strange languages, or who have the prominent eyes or webbed fingers indicating the Deep One taint caused by interbreeding with these creatures. Mind you, this is East Anglia, so not every web-handed gibbering idiot is necessarily a servant of Cthulhu.

Assuming that you’ve found a good location, you should attempt to conduct rituals to Cthulhu (as outlined in most good Mythos books). Although the exact form of these varies, you should be able to manage with about a dozen flickering black candles, a few blasphemous statues of Cthuloid entities, a set of ceremonial robes embroidered with strange symbols, a sacrificial dagger, and at least one human victim. How you get these together is your problem.

Having either made contact with the Deep Ones or communed with Cthulhu who may send his commands through evil dreams, you can get down to the business of becoming a true, hard-core, zero-SAN, cultist of Cthulhu.

Obviously there is a price to be paid for membership of this exclusive organisations. But, assuming you don’t mind spending the remainder of your life in thrall to mindless alien gods, permanently smelling of fish, gripped by catastrophic mental illness (and having to restrain yourself from shouting ‘Cthulhu fthagn!!’ at regular intervals) and with the risk that anti-Cthulhu vigilantes could arrive at any minute and slaughter you and everyone else in your cult with automatic weapons, it’s not that bad a choice.

Really.

My thoughts on the Star Trek: Lower Decks Trailer

So the trailer for Star Trek: Lower Decks is finally here. I thought I’d share my thoughts on it:

Why would I bother watching this trailer? It’s got “Star Trek” in the title, and it’s being made by CBS in 2020. That’s all I need to know. All I would achieve by watching it is angering myself and wasting 90 seconds (or however long it is, I haven’t even looked) of my life.

Plus, they haven’t bothered getting back to me with billing information after I contacted them when they announced Strange New Worlds:
I Contacted them a few months ago. They never replied

So I’m just going to assume that they don’t want me to watch it, anyway. They clearly didn’t want me to watch Discovery or Picard.

I’m not even going to bother talking about why I’m not going to watch the trailer for Strange New Worlds when that comes out. If the trailer and the show comes out and I haven’t mentioned it at all, you can just assume CBS never got back to me with that billing information.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

RIP Star Trek
1966 – 2005

QOTD

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be “cured” against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.”

― C.S. Lewis

Murderers

Just in case anybody is wondering why I refer to every member of all armed forces as a murderer, Here’s why. It’s because of all the murdering they do.

I’ve heard theories about how on the whole the “defense” (lol, there’s a misnomer) force does good. Apparently they build schools and hospitals and stuff in parts of the world where bad things have happened. And apparently they do this much cheaper than, say, a builder could do it.

OK, so, firstly, for 25 billion dollars per year, I could build you a whole lotta schools and hospitals. I’m betting more than the military could, because I wouldn’t be spending that money on tools optimised for murder: The builders I sent out to build schools wouldn’t have access to attack helicopters, so they wouldn’t be able to murder anybody using mounted machine guns in attack helicopters. They wouldn’t have assault rifles, so their ability to murder people with assault rifles would be greatly diminished. You’re less likely to “accidentally” napalm a kindergarten if you’re not given any napalm as part of your “let’s go build a hospital” loadout. So not only would I save a bunch of money by not buying attack helicopters, assault rifles, and napalm, but I expect it would also have an effect on the number of murders done. Also, I’m no builder, but I suspect that a trowel is probably going to be a more effective tool for bricklaying than an assault rifle, in addition to being much much cheaper.

And, secondly, let’s say that I’m totally wrong and that attack helicopters are absolutely the best tool for the job of raising a building (which would make them super versatile, because they’re also pretty good for razing buildings) and that they’re cheaper than builders. Even if you’re building these schools and hospitals at one tenth the cost that a builder could, I’ll pay the extra to not have the whole “murder” and “warcrimes” things being done with my tax dollars, thanks.

Who wants to make a bet with me? I’ll bet you that nobody spends life in prison as a result of this.

Disband all armed forces immediately. The only things that they do better than anybody else are murder and warcrimes.

Grant

Aaw, damn, not Grant Imahara. It was way too early for him to go.

I choose to believe that his robots finally got him and that they just made it look like a brain aneurysm.

Or perhaps he uploaded himself into one of them.

Self-Transforming Machine Elves

Excerpts from this article, where Terrence Mckenna describes the “Self-Transforming Machine Elves”, or “Jeweled, Self-Dribbling Basketballs” – nonhuman entities many people claim to have encountered during a DMT experience. The whole article is worth reading, but I’ve edited it down here to remove most of Terrence’s trademark rambling (and delightful) style of talking to keep it to just a description of the entities. Mainly because I was reminded of the somewhat-famous ending quote and I wanted it on my blog:

DMT does not provide an experience that you analyze. Nothing so tidy goes on. The syntactical machinery of description undergoes some sort of hyper-dimensional inflation instantly, and then, you know, you cannot tell yourself what it is that you understand. In other words, what DMT does can’t be downloaded into as low-dimensional a language as English.

The place, or space, you’ve burst into—called “the dome” by some—seems to be underground, and is softly, indirectly lit. The walls are crawling with geometric hallucinations, very brightly colored, very iridescent with deep sheens and very high, reflective surfaces—everything is machine-like and polished and throbbing with energy.

But that is not what immediately arrests my attention. What arrests my attention is the fact that this space is inhabited—that the immediate impression as you break into it is there’s a cheer. [...] You break into this space and are immediately swarmed by squeaking, self-transforming elf-machines…made of light and grammar and sound that come chirping and squealing and tumbling toward you. And they say, “Hooray! Welcome! You’re here!” And in my case, “You send so many and you come so rarely!”

The elves, or “jeweled self-dribbling basketballs,” come running forward. They’re “singing, chanting, speaking in some kind of language that is very bizarre to hear, but what is far more important is that you can see it, which is completely confounding!” And also, something is “going on” that over the years McKenna has come to call luv—”not ‘light utility vehicle,’ but love that is not like Eros or not like sexual attraction,” something “almost like a physical thing,” “a glue that pours out into this space.”

Each “elf-machine creature” “elbows others aside, says, ‘Look at this, look at this, take this, choose me!’” They come toward you, and then—and you have to understand they don’t have arms, so we’re kind of downloading this into a lower dimension to even describe it, but—what they do is they offer things to you. You realize what you’re being shown—this “proliferation of elf gifts,” or “celestial toys,” which “seem somehow alive”—is “impossible.” This “state of incredible frenzy” continues for about three minutes, during which the elves are saying:

“Don’t give way to wonder. Do not abandon yourself to amazement. Pay attention. Pay attention. Look at what we’re doing. Look at what we’re doing, and then do it. Do it!”

QOTD

“Remember, it is not enough to be insulted to be harmed, you must believe that you are being harmed. If someone succeeds in provoking you, realize that your mind is complicit in the provocation. It is not he who reviles you who insults you, but your opinion that these things are insulting.”

- Epictetus

Tips and tricks for registering python plug-ins with gimp – Number 4 will SHOCK you!

This is a write-up of some of the quirks and behaviours I’ve discovered writing Python plugins for Gimp, along with some quick reference material.

I did a bit of searching and didn’t find a good write-up or documentation of the register() method you need to use to register your Python plug-in with Gimp. I figured some stuff out and thought I’d write it down.

Normally, you don’t need much of a reference for gimp’s python library, because it has such wonderful built-in documentation: In Gimp, choose Filters -> Python-Fu -> Console. The Python console will open. Press the “Browse” button and you have a searchable library of gimp functions. If you select a function and press the Apply button, gimp will give you the python incantation on the console command-line, ready to be copy-pasted into your plug-in. This is super helpful and alleviates the need for a (seemingly-nonexistent? I can’t find it online) API reference, but it does have one drawback: It doesn’t give you any examples or tell you a whole lot about the available options. In the case of the register method used to register plug-ins with Gimp, I couldn’t find it in the browser at all.

So, here’s what I’ve learned about registering python plug-ins with Gimp:

  1. There is some documentation If you look around
    It’s not particularly easy, but you can find some documentation out there. Mostly, it’s tutorials on how to write gimp plugins with python. A web search for ‘gimp python plugin’ will give you a bunch.
    I pieced this info together by looking at multiple “how to write a gimp plugin with python” tutorials and examining the difference between their calls to register(), and by trying things out.

    • In the gimp python console, you can use:
      import gimpfu 
      help(gimpfu.register)

      to get a very basic description of the Register method. This gives you back something super useful:

      register(proc_name, blurb, help, author, copyright, date, label, imagetypes, params, results, function, menu=None, domain=None, on_query=None, on_run=None)
          This is called to register a new plug-in.
      
    • A couple of places have a list of available options for the register method:The best documentation I’ve been able to find is now a 404, but is still available thanks to the Internet Archive here. This includes things like helpful list of available parameter types, and lots of useful little notes on behaviour.The Gimp’s Developer wiki has a “Hacking Plugins” page, which doesn’t mention python but which has a few useful links.
    • Here is a table of parameters for the register method, shamelessly copied from this tutorial:
      Parameter Example Description
      proc_name “your_plugin_name” The name of the command that you can call from the command line or from scripting
      blurb “Some Text” Information about the plug-in that displays in the procedure browser
      help “Some Text” Help for the plug-in
      author “Some Person” The plug-in’s author
      copyright “Some Person” The copyright holder for the plug-in (usually the same as the author)
      date “2097″ The copyright date
      label “<Image>/Image/_Do A Thing…” The label that the plug-in uses in the menu. Put an underscore before a letter to set the accelerator key. Use <Image>/ for a plug-in which operates on an open image, or <Toolbox>/ for a plug-in which opens or creates an image.
      imagetypes “RGB*, GRAY*” (see below) The types of images the plug-in is made to handle.
      params [] (See below) The parameters for the plug-in’s method
      results [] The results of the plug-in’s method
      function myplugin The method gimp should call to run your plugin. Not a string.
  2. Making sense of register()’s parameters
    I found myself having trouble with the imagetypes and label parameters. The first few plugins I wrote simply batched up a few gimp operations into one thing, working on an image that I had open.Then, I found myself wanting to write plugins that would perform batch operations, or generate a new image. These worked just fine, but there was one snag: I found that the menu items for my plugins were disabled if I didn’t have an image open. I decided to investigate.I discovered that imagetypes and label work together to control when your menu item is available, and whether your method needs to accept parameters for the currently open image and drawable.

    imagetypes takes a string argument telling gimp what types of images your plugin operates on. The acceptable arguments I’ve found so far are:

    • “RGB*” – if your plugin works on an image and requires colour.
    • “RGB*, GRAY*” – if your plugin also works on grayscale images.
    • “*” seems to be an easier synonym for the above.
    • None – This one is important, and it’s the one I couldn’t find anywhere and found by experimentation. You need to specify None (that is the python NoneType, not the string ‘None’) to have your plugin enabled when you have no image open in gimp, i.e if you’re doing a batch operation on a directory of images, or generating a new image.
    • Maybe “GRAY*” – I haven’t tried this. Does it make sense? RGB has all the grays, too.

    label takes a string argument telling gimp where in the menu your plug-in should go. This has a couple of behaviours and implications that I had to figure out.

    • If your plugin will modify an open image, you should prefix your label with “<Image>/“. So your label might be “<Image>/Filters/Artistic/My _Plugin…”.Importantly, this is what determines whether your method will be passed timg and tdrawable parameters with the currently open image and drawable. So if your label does start with “<Image>/”, your method definition should look like this:
      def myplugin(timg, tdrawable, myfirstparam, myotherparams...):

      If your plugin will open or create image(s) itself (e.g a batch operation or a plugin which creates a new image), you should prefix your label with “<Toolbox>/“. So your label might be “<Toolbox>/File/_Batch/_My Batch Operation…
      If you use “<Toolbox>“, your method definition should not have the timg and tdrawable parameters:

      def myplugin(myfirstparam, myotherparams...):
    • Note the underscores in my examples. These specify the accelerator key gimp will use in the menu. You should set accelerators, they make your stuff easier to use.
    • You can easily create submenus or even new menus “on-the-fly” just by specifying them with a slash. They can also have accelerators. So that label might actually be “<Image>/Filters/My _Menu/My _Plugin” or “<Image>/My _Menu/My _Plugin” to create a “My Menu” menu if you want to.
  3. Here’s the list of data types you can use for plug-in parameters. Gimp will show nice, helpful selectors for them all. Use them!One which I will note is PF_LAYER, which is useful if you want the user to select a specific layer to operate on or work with.
    • PF_INT8
    • PF_INT16
    • PF_INT32
    • PF_INT
    • PF_FLOAT
    • PF_STRING
    • PF_VALUE
    • PF_COLOR
    • PF_COLOUR
    • PF_REGION
    • PF_IMAGE
    • PF_LAYER
    • PF_CHANNEL
    • PF_DRAWABLE
    • PF_TOGGLE
    • PF_BOOL
    • PF_RADIO
    • PF_SLIDER
    • PF_SPINNER
    • PF_ADJUSTMENT
    • PF_FONT
    • PF_FILE
    • PF_BRUSH
    • PF_PATTERN
    • PF_GRADIENT
    • PF_PALETTE

     

  4. Prepare to be shocked: This tip isn’t about registering plugins at all! Gasp. But since we’re talking about batch operations, it’s useful to note that you can easily have your plugin show and update progress bar by using a couple of calls in your loop. There’s also another good practice that you should be aware of if you’re writing a plug-in that’s going to take a while to run: knowing when to update the display.
    • Use gimp.progress_init(“Some Text…”) to set up a progress bar. Do this at the start of your method, duh.
    • Use gimp.progress_update(floatval) in your loop to set progress on the progress bar. floatval should be a float between 0 and 1. You can also call gimp.progress_init(“Your message”) again in your loop to update the text.
    • By default, gimp won’t update its display while your plug-in is running unless you tell it to. So you may want to call gimp.displays_flush() periodically so that the user sees what is going on.
    • But be wary of calling these too often, updating the display is expensive and may slow you down! use something like ‘if count % 5 == 0: gimp.displays_flush()
    • While we’re talking about long-running plugins, it’s not advisable to operate on images on a pixel-by-pixel basis, i.e looping through each pixel in the image, getting an RBG value, doing an operation, and changing a pixel. This is verrrry sloooooow. I assume there’s a faster way, probably retrieving the image as a multidimensional array, working with that, and then writing it back. But I haven’t managed to do that yet. I’ll update this if I do. Mail me if you figure it out!
  5. There Are Still Mysteries!
    Shocking as it is, I’m not omniscient, so I don’t have it all figured out. I haven’t had need of all the available options. I’ve discussed some unknowns already.
    For instance, I don’t know what gimp would do with your return value if you gave it results. That might make for an interesting experiment, and I don’t know what parameter you’d use for filetypes to work on indexed images. I don’t think this presents much of a problem as it’s easy to switch to and from indexed to rgb modes. I would expect that you probably only really want indexed when you’re about to export, unless you’re doing pixel art, in which case I’d recommend checking out something like Aseprite.

So, there’s my wisdoms on that subject. I mostly just wanted to document what I’d learned about writing plugins to generate a new image vs working with an open image, but I find myself searching for gimp-python docs every now and then, so I figured this would be a good thing to write and come back to. I expect I’ll come back and edit it as i learn more. Hopefully somebody else might find it useful too! :)

End Of An Era

In the next day or so, the seti@home project goes into “hibernation”.

I’ve been contributing my spare CPU time to this project for over 20 years. More than half my life. A whole bunch of posts on this blog are about seti@home milestones.

I’m pretty avid about it, because I think that SETI is probably the single most important bit of science we can be doing. That’s a whole discussion, perhaps for another day.

I keep track of the statistics on an irregular basis. I contribute as much as possible, including donating CPU time of servers and workstations I control.

I’m the number 49 contributor in the country. I’m glad that I managed to crack the top 50 (this happened fairly recently) before the project shut down.

I also managed to crack the 99.9th percentile – I’ve accumulated more credit than 99.90051% of all SETI@Home Users. This is also a fairly recent development. I’m also glad that I managed to crack three-nines before the project shut down.

I’m ranked 1,797 out of 1,806,205 in the world.

I’ve contributed 28.91 quintillion floating-point operations:

Suffice to say that it’s something that I’m passionate about. My Drake Equation simulator is an example of that.

I’m… displeased… by this development.

The announcement that the project is going into “hibernation” came less than a month ago. Here’s the stated reasons:


We’re doing this for two reasons:

1) Scientifically, we’re at the point of diminishing returns; basically, we’ve analyzed all the data we need for now.

2) It’s a lot of work for us to manage the distributed processing of data. We need to focus on completing the back-end analysis of the results we already have, and writing this up in a scientific journal paper.

With regard to point one: My drake equation simulator, and common sense, tells me one thing about SETI: it’s a long-haul game. Given the size of the galaxy and the delays in communication between stars, any communication with extraterrestrial intelligence is going to be a slow process. Another important factor is that given the size of the galaxy, if an alien civilization starts broadcasting today, the likelihood is that it’s going to be thousands of years – perhaps even a hundred thousand – before we receive that transmission. And that’s only taking civilisations in our galaxy into account. The SETI project might run for hundreds of years and not find anything. And it should. A couple of decades for a project like this is an infinitesimal blip compared with the timespans we’re talking about with regard to extraterrestrial intelligence. If you’re going to make the claim that “we’ve analyzed all the data we need for now”, then that can only mean one of two possibilities: 1: You’re not actually doing SETI, or 2: you don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about. There is new data coming in every second of every day. That first signal we detect could be tomorrow. Or it could be a thousand years from now. If we stop looking it’ll be never.

Some fuckwitspeople argue that running a project like SETI is expensiveblah blah blah. They seem to think that because we haven’t found anything in a few decades (well, nothing definite – we have found a couple of interesting and unexplained signals, the Wow! Signal being the most famous) that we should save our money and give up. This is ludicrously short-sighted thinking. The SETI project needs to be a LONG-term project. In the hundreds or thousands of years. It’ll take a hundred thousand years of SETI before we can say that we’re (probably) the only intelligence in the galaxy, and even then we could get a signal the next day. And no result is a result where SETI is concerned – not getting signals gives us some indication of the rarity of intelligence (or, at least, EM radio tech) in the galaxy.

As for point two, this basically boils down to “we’ve decided we can’t be bothered”. If it’s a lot of work then that means you haven’t automated it properly. Writing this up as a paper? What I’m hearing is “it’s more important that I get published than answering one of the most important and fundamental questions out there”. I’ll be expecting to see my name attributed on the paper.

There are nearly 2 million seti@home users. Lots of us are computer nerds. I’m sure you could have found some volunteers to do all that hard work you can’t be bothered with any more. I’d be happy to do as much as I can. But you didn’t ask, instead you just shut down a project that I’ve been invested in for most of my lifetime.

Obviously, seti@home isn’t all of SETI, obviously there will be a bunch of other SETI being done. The Breakthrough listen project is doing some great stuff. But this is a blow to science. Seti@home was a pioneer of distributed computing. And I think that the way it’s being shut down is a huge disservice to science and to all the people who have volunteered our processor time and electricity over the decades. I’m not impressed.

My machines, on the other hand, will be relieved. Their processors will be running much cooler from now on. I’ll go through processor fans much less quickly. And my wallet will probably appreciate the reduction in electricity consumption: I’ll be interested to see the difference in my power bill. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s noticeable.

An Ode To The Orville

I fucking love The Orville.

If you haven’t seen it, here be spoilers. You should prpbably just go watch it if you haven’t. But, on the other hand, this is a fairly episodic show. It’s not serialised like so many things are these days. So while there will be spoilers, I think it’s probably not such a huge deal for a show like this. Still, you have been warned.

I think perhaps my favourite moment in the entire show (so far) is in Season 2′s “All the World is a Birthday Cake”, when the captain says “attention everybody, prepare to initiate… First Contact”.

And all of the crew cheers.

It’s fucking glorious.

Oh, optimistic sci-fi, I’ve missed you! It’s been so long! It’s so rare these days that I really can’t even remember the last time I saw any. I suppose there are a few movies that might count: Arrival, Interstellar, The Martian. Perhaps. But they’re all movies rather than TV series. Perhaps Stargate, but it’s now been over a decade since that ended. What I’m really talking about is obviously Trek.

I don’t want to talk about the current dumpster fires with Trek stickers slapped onto the side of them as they gang-rape Roddenberry’s corpse. I’m not here for that. I’d rather not think about them. I think the best thing is if I just stick my fingers in my ears and pretend they don’t exist. As far as I’m concerned, they’re absolutely definitely non-canon. but I kind of have to talk about them at least in passing. The comparison is inevitable, because the Orville is more Trek than any of that trash will ever be. And there’s one simple reason:

This is a show written by somebody who actually likes Science Fiction.

And I mean REAL Science Fiction, not braindead action crap set in space. Not heroic stories about wizards with laser swords. Not another frankenstein “oooh scence bad!” story, or other hamfisted moralising (cough).

Now, real sci-fi doesn’t have to be optimistic. There’s lots and lots of great sci-fi that isn’t. Lexx is one of my favourite shows ever, and it oozes cynicism from every pore. Babylon 5 might be hoepful overall but it gets into some pretty dark territory, and I fucking adore it. But I think that probably the very best of it tends to be optimistic. Much of Asimov’s work (particularly the foundation and robot stories) springs immediately to mind. The Oddysey series. The Galactic Milieu series. All of these are favourites of mine. But the point isn’t that you can’t make good sci-fi that isn’t optimistic. The point is that there’s basically no optimistic sci-fi these days. Certainly not on TV or movie screens. It’s all gritty, edgy stuff where people are cunts. And that’s a huge shame, because it’s the very core of the greatest sci-fi TV/Movie franchise ever. And I’ve missed it. So when the Orville’s crew cheers at First Contact, with comments from the crew like “This is why we’re out here!”, it just about brings tears of joy to my eyes. And I’d like to think that maybe Roddenberry’s corpse is at least taking some comfort, while being gang-raped, in the fact that some people paid attention, even if those people have seemingly been banned from working on anything with a Trek license because the people in charge of trek obviously hate Trek.

I’m starting to think, and this is a big statement, that The Orville might have the potential to be better than Trek. All of it, not just the current dumpster fires.

Wait, don’t close the tab, hear me out.

Firstly, I’m not saying that it IS better. It’s got some pretty huge boots to fill if it wants to take the crown. That’s 50 years of some of the best TV sci-fi ever that you’re going up against. A little 2-or-3-season run isn’t going to allow you to come close. We won’t be able to really consider whether it IS better until it’s at season 10, or movie 5, or something like that. Seth MacFarlane is going to have to keep it up to the same (of higher) levels of great for a LONG time to truly compete with the king.

But I can see that it might have potential.

Firstly, the comedic aspect. The Orville doesn’t have to always take itself so seriously. They’ve leaned hard into the drama and sci-fi side, and I think that’s for the best (it’s one of the things I love about season 2, the comedy has been dialled back and it’s gone 95% sci-fi), but they could do a very comedy-heavy episode and the audience wouldn’t bat an eye if it was done well. Trek really struggled to do that kind of thing. Yes, there is the odd outlier like The Trouble With Tribbles, but even with episodes like those, Trek can’t really be self-referential or examine itself. It has to take it’s premise seriously. But the Orville doesn’t have that limitation. And that means that it has the potential to do something that we really don’t see enough of: The Orville is perfectly positioned to start examining sci-fi tropes. Oh how I’d love to see an episode that deals with the fact that sci-fi writers have no sense of scale. The comedic side of the show gives it the ability to do stuff like that, and I’d LOVE to see it. Deconstruct those tropes. Reconstruct them. Play them for laughs. Make the sci-fi fans chuckle. Reference classic stories and point out how absurd they are. Have somebody mention that we’re entering an asteroid belt, and have somebody say “all hands brace for impact!“, and somebody else say “What are you talking about? The average distance between asteroids is like a hundred thousand kilometers. The chance of hitting one is in the billions to one. We’ll be lucky if we come within visual range of anything larger than a grain of sand”.

Secondly, and this is going to be a bit contentious: Canon. Trek has 50 years of history sitting behind it, and there was no concept of “canon” when it started, it was just a sci-fi show. The idea of canon developed gradually over years. There’s really no canon to speak of in TOS: things tend to mostly be self-consistent, but the idea of canon didn’t really come about until TNG. So there are a bunch of things that are inconsistent, particularly in TOS. Hell, in the second (or first, depending on how you count) episode, “Where No Man Has Gone Before”, at the very start of the episode, they talk about how they’re at the edge of the galaxy. According to later (and more consistent and realistic) canon, that’s a multi-decade journey. Similarly in Star Trek V they go into the galactic core, a similar distance. Another that springs to mind is that I recall a mention of travel at warp 13, but another episode establishes that warp 10 would be “infinite speed” and is basically impossible (if you travelled at infinite speed you would be at every point in the universe simultaneously). These are just two inconsistencies of many. Most of the time, they’re not a big deal, and we kind of just go with the one that makes the most sense and keeps things as internally consistent as possible.

But more than inconsistencies, this canon serves as a huge pile of restrictions for writers. If you want a trek story to feature regular travel to and from another galaxy, you’re probably going to have to explain that there’s been a huge leap forward in propulsion technology allowing travel literally millions of times faster than what we’ve previously seen. And it’s going to have huge implications for all future stories set in that universe, e.g the delta quadrant is now suddenly a day or two away rather than 70 years. It’s not impossible, but not exactly simple either. So, let’s come up with a totally ridiculous example: Say that I was a trek writer and I wanted to include some kind of, I don’t know, let’s say it’s a “spore drive” that allows instantaneous travel to pretty much anywhere in the galaxy via the power of magic mushrooms, or something. That would have all kinds of huge implications on the canon of the rest of the series. And if I was to put something stupid like that in, say, a prequel series set before other pre-existing shows, it’s going to be pretty unavoidable that I’m going to break canon pretty majorly, or I’m going to have to come up with some very contrived reason why the voyager crew doesn’t have knowledge of or access to any information about this ridiculous technology that could get them home in 15 minutes. And anyway, that’s a particularly absurd example because it doesn’t “feel” right for trek – it feels like magic, and trek has always been grounded in science. It would be similar to introducing magical powers into trek. Like, say, I don’t know, let’s go with the ability to telepathically communicate over interstellar distances. Something dumb like that would be very out of character for a trek show and only somebody with no understanding of and/or contempt for trek would contemplate adding something like that to the canon.

I’m not saying that canon is bad, or that there are no more interesting Trek stories to be written (I have like 5 different ideas). What I’m saying is that writing in the Trek universe is by definition fairly restrictive. You can’t, for example, suddenly declare that the Federation has become evil and… I don’t know, let’s go with something off-the-wall and totally absurd and say that they decide not to help an enemy when they’re in need due to some catastrophe, using it as an opportunity to start talking and potentially ushering in a new era of peace, like they did in Star Trek VI, because such an idea would be totally ridiculous and go against everything that Trek is about and destroy the very core of the concept.

Instead what I’m saying is that the canon is restrictive, and that it’s difficult to keep consistent with it. It makes the writer’s job harder. There’s a huge body of stuff that you need to know, and even somebody with the most encyclopaedic knowledge of Trek can make a mistake.

But that doesn’t mean it’s OK to just not try, or that it’s time for a reboot, or anything like that – if you want to set your story in the Trek universe, you’re taking on the responsibility to live by that canon. If you don’t like it, set your story in a separate canon and don’t slap a Trek label on it.

But The Orville doesn’t have that issue. They can make up their canon as they go. And because they have the benefit of Trek’s hindsight, they can stop and think about what they say before they say it, with an eye to future continuity. They can avoid doing things like saying “we’re at the edge of the galaxy” in an early episode. They can build a new canon, one which might be a bit more consistent.

I’ve heard that there are rumours that CBS has been thinking about selling it’s dumpster fire to Universal, and that they want to put Seth MacFarlane in charge. I don’t think they’re true. But even if they were, I say “why would he want that? He’s more free where he is, and he’s doing fucking brilliantly, thank you very much, and his property hasn’t been perhaps-irrevocably tarnished by people who hate science fiction”

To reiterate: All of this is speculative, and The Orville has got a LONG way to go before it can even reach for the crown. But I think I can see a potential there. There’s certainly a potential for a few classes of stories that Trek couldn’t do.

And we’ve already seen some of the best allegorical sci-fi in a long time come from The Orville: The arc about Bortis’ child is a very interesting meditation on some current trans and gender issues. Bortis’ porn addiction episode is a great bit of science fiction, and something that Trek would probably struggle to cover due to being so family-friendly (but that might also be a product of the times, There are some oblique references to various types of holosuite programs you can get from Quark in DS9, so perhaps a modern trek could do a story like that, it’s just a pity they’re not making any trek any more). Bortis seems to get a lot of the interesting stories. His race is almost purpose-built for a lot of great allegory about some pretty current stuff. But there are others. I really really loved “Majority Rule”, which discusses social media and mob mentality, and “All The World is a Birthday Cake” which is an hour-long indictment of astrology, and “Mad Idolatry” where time passes quickly on the planet and Kelly is their god (which reminds me a lot of a really great Voyager episode, “Blink of an Eye”). And the final two episodes of season two (“Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow” and “The Road Not Taken”) are a great time-travel story. And these are just the “real” sci-fi episodes which spring to mind. I also really liked the Kaylon arc in season 2, even though it was fairly standard stuff I thought it was well-executed. I think just about every single episode has been enjoyable, I certainly can’t think of one that sucked.

I was particularly struck by the first few episodes of season 2. I didn’t get around to watching season 2 until recently. I had just watched the first episode of a certain brand new dumpster fire that shits all over the core concepts of a certain 50-year old franchise, and needed to wash the taste of disgust out of my mouth, so season 2 of The Orville was particularly refreshing. I loved that the first episode was just a quiet little character study/drama thing. No explosions. No roundhouse kicks. Just a trip to Bortis’s homeworld so he can take a piss, and a couple of other little character things.

Nobody even fires a gun until episode 3. Though to be fair there is one isolated and ritualistic stabbing in episode 2.

It’s fucking glorious.

And then there are the references. And the guest cast. And the people behind the scenes. Brannon Braga, Jonathan Frakes, Robert Duncan McNeill. Robert Picardo. Marina Sirtis. Charlize Theron. Liam Neeson. Ted Danson.

It’s fucking glorious.

And then there’s the episodic nature of it. It’s not heavily serialised. If you miss an episode, it’s not the end of the world. If you just want to watch one episode in isolation, you can do that. You can jump in and watch a season 2 episode without having seen ten hours of backstory to understand what’s going on. Not that serialised stories are bad – I might have to write another ode one of these days for The Expanse. But there are definite advantages to smaller, self-contained, episodic stories.

Can I think of flaws? Sure, I guess, nothing’s perfect, but I don’t know that “flaws” is the right word, I think “finding its footing” might be more appropriate. It can be a bit derivative. Some of the episodes have strong flavours of certain episodes from other franchises. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. You’ll be hard-pressed if you want to write completely original sci-fi, or any kind story for that matter. And the show’s premise IS pretty derivative, that’s what it is intended to be: it’s not trying to be something totally new and unlike anything you’ve seen before. In fact it’s specifically NOT going for that. It’s trying to be like something great that you haven’t seen in 15 or 20 years, while also having its own feel. And I think it does a really great job at that. I think that the early episodes were a bit comedy-heavy and some of it didn’t really land for me. I’m glad that they seem to have shed that and gone for a mostly-serious tone with the odd joke thrown in. But on the other hand, Isaac cutting off Gordon’s leg was gold. I wouldn’t mind seeing perhaps the odd comedy episode.

“Individual science fiction stories may seem as trivial as ever to the blinder critics and philosophers of today – but the core of science fiction, its essence has become crucial to our salvation if we are to be saved at all.”
Isaac Asimov

As far as I’m concerned, season 2 cements The Orville in the pantheon of most worthy science fiction shows. I bought both seasons on DVD when I was mid way through season 2, I figured I should put my money where my mouth is. And I’ve got them sitting on the same shelf as my Trek box sets, where they belong. It was a nice feeling, I hadn’t added to that shelf in over a decade and didn’t think I’d be adding to it any time soon.

The Orville is fucking glorious. Go buy it. Let’s see if we can make it a big deal. Let’s see if we can get it to season 10.

Goodbye Marie

Fuck. Marie Fredriksson has died.

Fuck.

This one hurts. More than Bowie. More than Chris Cornell.

She was probably just about my first crush. I vividly remember seeing the film clip for “The Look” at my grandmother’s house. I must have been about 8. I already loved the song but I hadn’t seen the film clip:

I remember thinking she must be just about the most gorgeous woman on earth. That cool, short, unkempt, almost-white hair is what did it for me. I didn’t know it at the time but it was actually the tall blonde swedish girl thing. She really did have the look. That’s the moment that made me a Roxette fan, not just somebody who liked that song. It’s stupid and it doesn’t make any sense, but give me a break, I was 8. Roxette were one of the first bands to ever get enough attention from me that I’d call myself a fan. Probably the only one who was earlier was Robert Palmer, who released Heavy Nova just a few months before Look Sharp!.

I lucked out when I decided that I was interested in this pretty girl. Not only was she gorgeous but she could really sing, too. Though you don’t really get much of a chance to hear it in that song because Per does most of the vocals, Marie only joins in for the chorus. It wasn’t until “Listen To Your Heart” and “Dressed For Success” hit the charts that we learned that she could really really sing.

There were a bunch of great singles on Look Sharp!. They got radio play. Roxette became a household name, everybody loved their songs.

Of course, I was 8, so I didn’t buy the album. Those were the days when getting a copy of an album was a really big deal which required much begging and cajoling of parents, and also a trip to the neighboring town where there was a record store, our town was too small. The only albums I remember getting (on cassette, this was pre-CD) as a kid were Heavy Nova by Robert Palmer (another album that still holds up, it’s magnificent, I appreciate it more as an adult), and the Ghostbusters soundtrack (I was a huge fan of the movie as a kid and particularly and loved the theme). So I didn’t own a copy of Look Sharp!, I had to tape my roxette songs off the radio.

And a few years went by. And then Joyride came out. And Roxette cemented themselves as A Big Deal. There were a bunch of huge hits on that album. They were everywhere, getting heaps of radio play and loved by everybody. I’m now perhaps 11 and poor so buying a CD isn’t an option. But I did go to the local library, borrow Joyride, and copy it.

I can’t explain just how huge they were around the Joyride era – everybody knew and loved Roxette. Their songs were (mostly) cool and fun and catchy and accessible. And the ones that weren’t were love Ballads. In other words their repertoire was everything you need to be a huge pop star. And they were. They filled huge stadiums all over the world and contributed to movie scores (Pretty Woman and Super Mario Bros are the two that spring to mind. “Almost Unreal” was the best thing about that godawful mario movie). They were massive.

I was a big fan, but I wasn’t a screaming, rabid Roxette fanboy. I listened to the radio mostly and couldn’t afford albums, so I only really knew the singles.

By 1994-1995 their star had faded a bit. Crash! Boom! Bang! didn’t do as well as their previous albums, and there was a bit of a break before their next real studio album. It seemed that they were pretty much done. This is all pre-widespread-internet, too, so it wasn’t like you could just go to their website and see what they were up to. Somewhere in there, probably ’94, I managed to finally buy Look Sharp! on CD, which I thought was a better album than Joyride

Another very significant thing happened in 1994, but it was probably 1995 before I discovered it: Superunknown. I discovered soundgarden. And Grunge. And Metal. And finally, Tool.

And another significant thing happened in 1994, too: The Spice Girls. Who I. Fucking. Hated. Hated with the white-hot burning passion of supergiant going supernova. My attitudes had changed dramatically, pop was all awful, synths were evil and shit, techno was trash, guitars were what it was all about. Throw in a bit of Satan and it was catnip. Pop music became passé and “Gay” and I loathed it all on principle. This was an extremist attitude which caused me to miss out on a bunch of awesome pop and especially techno music from around this era – I remember hating Daft Punk’s “Around The World”. Which today just seems nonsensical – how could I have ever hated such a great track?? But it’s what happens when things are packaged up into groups and genres like music seemed to be when I was young.

When I had no friends around, I’d still occasionally pop in my copy of Look Sharp!. I still loved Roxette, I just couldn’t tell any of my grunger friends, Roxette was totally not cool. They were my guilty pleasure.

That was the status quo for a long while, maybe even until 2000: grunge and metal and guitars and growls and Tool and Marilyn Manson and Rammstein and so many other great bands. And then I was “outed”. I was listening to Roxette one day when a friend dropped by, and I was forced to admit the most uncool thing ever, expecting to be ostracised from my group of friends – I was a big Roxette fan.

So was he.

That’s when I stopped caring about the rivalries between music genres. It didn’t change what I liked, at least not immediately, but it was the first crack that opened my mind up so that one day I’d also become a huge fan of acts like Aphex Twin, Daft Punk, Vitalic, The Presets, The Faint, and a bunch more. And it enabled me to re-examine a lot of pop music that I never gave a chance in the late 90s and early 2000s. Sca

At some point, I bought Don’t Bore Us, Get To the Chorus (it was cheaper than buying all of the other 4 albums) and listened to it over and over for like a year. I especially loved the previously-unreleased track, “You Don’t Understand Me”. This was what took me from being a big Roxette fan to a huge Roxette fan.

I’ll never forget my excitement I was at work listening to the radio one day and and “Wish I Could Fly” came on, announced as “the new song from Roxette”. They hadn’t released a new album in about 5 years at that point (I still don’t think Baladas En Español really counts), and I’d assumed they were pretty much done. I ran straight to the shop and bought Have A Nice Day. My friend didn’t like it, it was “too techno-ey”. I was more open to it, I loved a couple of tracks, liked a few, and found the rest listenable if not amazing.

I grew up, and I discovered lots of other music, and I didn’t listen to Roxette all that often, but they were always there and I came back to it every now and then.

I just wish I’d seen them live. I had the opportunity a few years back but I think the show was on new years eve or something like that and I had other plans, and also the tickets were pretty expensive, so I gave it a miss, thinking to myself that there would be another chance. And, of course, that was really not very long (like a couple of months) before Marie’s doctor told her to stop touring. So I missed out on ever seeing them live.

Marie was also indirectly responsible for another revelation I had: Digitally sampled music on the Commodore 64. My C64 came with boxes of disks filled with all manner of wonderful pirated stuff, including this:

Which was the most amazing sounding thing I’d ever heard on a C64 – they’re not supposed to be able to do digitised sound, that’s a bug in the SID chip. This is one of the first demos I ever heard with digitised, sampled sound. And it sampled “Dance Away”, leading me to whip out the album and familiarise myself with that track, which wasn’t a single. And I still love it to this day.

Marie Fredriksson changed my life. She was directly responsible, and she did it more than once. First, she was my first crush and a very early parasocial relationship. Then, she was one of the first artists I was a fan of. Then, she was the catalyst to open up my mind and give up my prejudices against pop and electronic music, broadening my horizons hugely – I’m a much more well-rounded and less judgmental person because of her. And I can’t tell you how many times I came home sad about some girl and put on songs like “Spending My Time” or “Fading Like A Flower”. She brought me countless hours of joy, and just as importantly comfort when joy wasn’t on the cards.

The world is darker today because you’ve left us, Marie. I could never give you up. And I miss you terribly already. :’(

Rest In Peace.

Unpopular Opinions

This is my response to XKCD’s “Unpopular positive opinion challenge”:
Unpopular Opinions Challenge

This is interesting, challenge accepted! I’m sure I can come up with one pretty easily…

…but I initially found this a lot more difficult than I expected – hitting that “below 50%” criteria was difficult, particularly combined with the “came out since 2000″ criteria. I came close a few times.

The very first movie I thought of was Cloud Atlas, which I would list in my top 10 movies ever made and have recommended to literally everybody I know, but which apparently nobody saw or liked for some reason I can’t comprehend. But it has 66% for both critics and audiences.

My next thought was Bicentennial Man, a movie I really truly love, and the only faithful adaptation of an Asimov (A man I deeply love) story. I’ve written before about how the fact this got negative reviews reflects poorly on humanity. But it doesn’t quite meet XKCD’s criteria either, having a 58% audience score and coming out in 1999.

I looked at quite a few movies before I thought of one which would definitely meet the criteria. And as soon as I thought of one, another one came to me.

I came close a few times. I LOVE Hancock. It’s got Will Smith and Charlize Theron, and it’s a different take on the superhero genre a decare before we started seeing Brightburn or The Boys, But it has a 59% audience score.

I quite liked the Ang Lee / Eric Bana Hulk movie from 2003. It’s an interesting early take on how to do a comic book movie, before the cookie cutter had been made, and it does some interesting stuff playing with comic book panels and wipes and whatnot. And I’m a sucker for Eric Banana, aka Poida. Audiences hated it for some reason, but it has 62% with the critics.

Rob Zombie’s Halloween remake was really great, I like it much more than I like the original (which I’m not a big fan of). The kid in that movie is terrifying and fantastic. And like most Rob Zombie films the casting is great too, particularly Malcolm McDowell and Brad Dourif. But the real standout is the kid – Daeg Faerch (who I’ve just learned was also the bully in Hancock!). This is one of the best pieces of child acting I’ve ever seen. It’s what makes the movie great as far as I’m concerned. But apparently only 59% of audiences would agree with me. Close but no cigar.

OK, what about another Rob Zombie movie I adore – House of 1000 corpses? Or perhaps the sequel? 65% and 78% with audiences. The second one even has a critic score over 50%.

Hmmm. Riddick? The third one? Everybody hated that. We’re pushing it now because I wouldn’t say I loved it, but it wasn’t bad. But nope, 57%/56%.

And then it hit me.

There’s one movie that I really really love that everybody – EVERYBODY – hates.

A movie that came out in 2007.

A movie with a whopping 11% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes and an audience score of 30%.One of the reviews listed on Rotten Tomatoes says “In a word, repugnant.”

And I LOVE it. It’s fucking magnificent.

Alien vs Predator: Requiem is everything the first Alien vs Predator Movie wasn’t. It’s exciting, interesting, over-the-top gory and action-packed, and perhaps most of all it plays with the conventions of a movie like this and subverted my expectations in a wonderful way on a couple of occasions. But the real reason I love it is the same reason that everybody else hates it.

If you haven’t seen it, spoilers.

As far as I’m concerned, in a movie with “Alien vs Predator” in the title, the humans are fodder. I don’t want an interesting story where I want the humans to get out alive. I don’t want relatable characters who aren’t predators. I just want to watch Aliens and Predators kill each other, and hopefully a whole bunch of puny humans will get caught in the crossfire. If you can weave an interesting and compelling story around that, that’s a bonus. Or, you could just not have any humans and have a 2-hour, dialogue-less, action-packed extravaganza, but nobody would ever make that movie.

Ideally instead of making the two Alien vs Predator movies they made, they would have just filmed the excellent script written by Peter Briggs in the 90s. But for some reason that didn’t get filmed (I suspect probably budget, it would have been super expensive in the 90s or early 2000s), and we ended up with what we got.

So in an ideal world, there might be one or two human characters who work with the predators. This is the one thing that seems to have been carried over fromm the Peter Briggs script into the actual film. Except that they did it poorly and made the human weak and dependant on the predator. In Briggs’ script the human warrior chick is a total badass and stands on pretty-much equal ground with the predator. I’m pretty sure she even saves it’s life a couple of times (it’s been 20 years since I read that script so my memory is a bit hazy). At the end of the movie she goes off to live with the predators.

A bit of background: I was very much into the idea of AvP before the movies happened. I had read the Briggs script but none of the comics. I loved the arcade beat-em-up game where you can play as a human or a predator. I knew a bit of the lore around it (e.g I knew about the fact that the xenomorph takes on characteristics of its host, hence the 4-legged ‘dog’ alien in Alien 3, and I therefore knew about Predaliens. The Briggs script features six-legged Aliens because it’s set on an alien planet with six-legged wildlife). James Cameron has said that making an AvP movie de-legitimises the franchises – he had been talking/thinking about doing an alien 5 but dropped the idea because he heard they were going ahead with AvP. I see his point, but the way I see it it’s like Godzilla vs King Kong – it’s just awesome, silly, spectacular fun. It doesn’t take anything away from the other franchises, and it can either live separately from both or it can meld the two canons together wonderfully. But most of all it should be schlocky, violence-packed action. If you can also make a thoughtful sci-fi film (like Briggs wrote) then so much the better, but that’s optional. The important thing is action and violence. In summary, I was very very eager for the first AvP film, and I was pretty disappointed.

I don’t hate the first AvP, but it’s mediocre at best. It pointlessly mangles the canon of both franchises by trying to throw in needless and meaningless references and “fanservice”, and it gives us a boring story and characters that I don’t care about. At all. Perhaps the ur-example here is that Lance Henrikssen is in the film. Now don’t get me wrong – I love Lance Henrikssen – but he has no place in this movie. He’s Bishop, and he’s the guy who designed Bishop, a couple of hundred years in the future. He’s not “Charles Bishop Weyland”. That’s just stupid bullshit that is trying to be fanservice but fails because it’s nonsensical. I can appreciate what they were trying to do, but I think the biggest sin the first movie makes is that it’s just bland. Followed closely by the huge jumbled mess of canon it creates, and that’s followed closely by the lack of Aliens fighting Predators that I came to see in a movie called Alien vs Predator. It’s not nearly violent or action-packed enough. At some point somebody said “but it NEEDS to have a story!”. So they did their best and wrote this boring mess. AND to top that all off there’s no predalien in the movie until the closing scene, when it chest-bursts from the dead predator. That is literally the most exciting thing in the movie – the hook that we might get a sequel with a predalien.

And we sure did. The second movie is. Fucking. Awesome.

I LOVE that the characters are all cardboard cut-out and one-dimensional and not interesting. They’re all expendable. Their function is to deliver a bit of exposition here and there, and to die horribly and violently. And the writers knew it. I believe that’s what they were going for. The story is almost a parody of what you’d expect the story to be in a movie like this. It doesn’t matter whether they can act, as long as they can speak the lines they’ve been given so that I can understand what they’re saying. The most interesting thing about them is what creative and interesting patterns of red they’ll make when they go splat.

Take, for example, my favourite moment in the movie. The movie starts with the dorky underdog kid who likes the hot girl who is friendly to him. The hot girl’s jock boyfriend is a total dick and bullies the dorky kid. She breaks up with the jock and ends up in this life-or-death Aliens vs Predator situation with the dorky kid.

SO, this being a movie, we’re 15 minutes in I know exactly what’s going to happen: The dorky kid and the hot girl are the main characters, and they’ll be the last survivors, possibly with one or two others. The dorky kid will find strength within himself and will protect the girl and she’ll totally fall for him and he’ll get the girl in the end. Aaaaw. It’s so cliche it makes me want to vomit.

And then she gets suddenly and unceremoniously pinned to a wall by a predator shuriken.

It’s fucking awesome. My reaction was instant and ecstatic – “Whoa! I didn’t see that coming!”. I actually had an audible reaction the first time I saw it. I think I might have even clapped. That’s a big achievement, I’m not the type who reacts like that. This is how you subvert expectations! I was instantly more engaged with the movie because now that you’ve killed her off, anything goes. It’s possible that nobody might get out of this alive. The stakes are instantly way higher and now I believe that anybody can die. It turns out that I don’t have any idea how this story is going to end – perhaps the aliens will win? Who knows.

And it doesn’t disappoint. As somebody who loves a dark movie (I love alien 3 for that reason), I loved the end, where the army actively lures the civilians into the center of town to be bait and then nukes the whole goddamn town. There are a handful of survivors out of who knows how many – thousands? tens of thousands? maybe even a hundred thousand? I don’t know how big the town was supposed to be, but this movie has a serious death-toll. It’s brilliant and dark and cynical and exactly what would really happen, and I fucking love it. And it has a bunch of cool, R-rated action with a predator hunting aliens and fighting a predalien. What’s not to love?

And seconds after I thought of AvP2 as my entry in the unpopular positive opinion challenge, I realised that I actually had two. I mean there are a bunch more, particularly if you loosen the criteria a bit – I adore Tango and Cash, for example – but there is a second entry which is just as great and equally as reviled and which I can’t not mention.

Postal.

It’s the only Uwe Boll movie I’ve seen. I know his reputation. I had the movie recommended to me by a friend. I was a big fan of the second postal game, with its very dark sense of humour and its early open-world gameplay, but I don’t think I even knew that there was a movie adaptation. And I certainly wouldn’t have been interested in seeing it. Particularly if I’d seen “Uwe Boll” in the credits. But a friend told me it was hilarious, describing the opening sequence, and I had to check it out based on that.

And it’s fucking hilarious. It’s exactly what a postal omvie should be.

And that’s about all I can say about it without spoiling it. If you like your humour super dark and politically incorrect, go watch it.

There’s so much to love here: The replacement of Gary Coleman with Verne Troyer and the prophecy about a tiny man being raped by a thousand monkeys. The cop wo keeps a homeless disabled guy in his garage at night so that he can wheel him out to beg for money from people during the day, which the cop then takes. The ending, with Osama and Dubya skipping off into the sunset hand-in-hand while mushroom clouds form.

But I particularly adore the entire sequence at “Little Germany”, with Vince Desi (helpfully subtitled as the game’s producer) fighting Uwe Boll, Uwe Boll admitting that he finances his films with Nazi Gold, and last but certainly not least, the gleeful focusing on a whole bunch of innocent children being accidentally shot in the crossfire. I laughed out loud. A LOT. For a good while.

There’s not much to this movie, really, and I don’t have a huge amount to say about it: It’s a stupid, over-the-top subversive comedy filled with humour as black as Saggitarius A*. And that’s why I love it. Even if nobody else does.

Both of these movies are silly. Both of them are hugely entertaining and exactly what they should be. Both of them are reviled. And i love them both dearly.

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Do what I did: Go see it on faith – it’s a Quentin Tarantino film. I didn’t watch any previews or trailers, I didn’t watch or read any reviews. I went in knowing the basic outline and that’s it. I didn’t even need that, all I need these days is “directed by Quentin Tarantino”. But it sounded like an interesting premise, too.

I loved it. And I think I loved it more because I didn’t bother with trailers or reviews.

I don’t really think I can say anything else about it without potentially spoiling it. Except that you should go see it.

Maybe I’ll come back and write something about it in a while when it won’t be so spoileriffic.

Happy 50th

…Aaand it’s now been 50 years since we landed on the moon. Probably the most important achievement in human history. And nobody seems to care. I found like 3 events in the city celebrating it. 2 were kinda lame, and one (the scienceworks one, which was also lamer than it should have been) was sold out. At least the “sold out” bit is encouraging.

Now, not only can I use the expression “We can put a man on the moon but we can’t <X>“, but I can also say “half a century after landing on the moon and we’re still <X>“.

I’ve been listening to the excellent Apollo in Realtime site for most of the day. I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s interesting getting a sense for just how slow and methodical everything was. I think I might do Apollo 13 in realtime next.

Hellboy Review

So the new Hellboy movie is finally here. I figured I’d post some thoughts:

Fuck you fuck you fuck you fuck you fuck you.

Why would I watch a Hellboy reboot when you refused to conclude the already excellent trilogy?

Let’s just set aside the tired old “Gillermo Del Toro is the perfect director for Hellboy”, “Ron Perlman is the perfect actor to play Hellboy”, and “Mike Mignola was involved in the writing” arguments and just focus on one thing: Franchises.

Let’s assume that this new Hellboy reboot is amazing, better than what Del Toro, Mignola, and Perlman would have done (I know right, but let’s just assume a miracle). Lets assume that it’s a masterpiece and the greatest movie ever made, and not just a slapped-together incoherent cash-grab mess with no real interest in or respect for the subject matter like so many reboots are. What then?

Well, obviously, it becomes a franchise! Because that’s the done thing these days! There will be sequels! “Hellboy 2: The…uh…platinum? army” gets greenlit and goes into production. And takes a few years to make. The same team comes back. They set it up as the second chapter of an epic trilogy and it’s amazing.

But like the hollywood studio you are, some exec goes “OOH SHINY!” When someone comes along with a concept for yet another Hellboy reboot rendered in claymation. So you reboot it yet again rather than completing this new and even better trilogy. And now I’m left with two excellent, unfinished Hellboy stories.

You see, by not completing the previous (excellent) trilogy with Del Toro and Perlman, you’ve undermined your credibility: Why would I get invested in Hellboy again when you’ve already shown that you don’t have the attention span to conclude the existing trilogy? Are you going to sign a written contract guaranteeing me that this time you’ll definitely let the director conclude his vision? I don’t think so. And even if you did sign that contract, then I’d have to re-open the issues set aside above. So I see no reason to be interested in the slightest. Which is disappointing for everyone really, I think an R-rating could really suit Hellboy. But given that I have to assume that the next movie in the series will be 2021′s Hellboy reboot with a new cast and director, followed by 2025′s Hellboy reboot with a new cast and director, I’m not able to be interested in this. Which brings me back to my original position: fuck you fuck you fuck you fuck you fuck you fuck you.

Mad props to my homie Ron Perlman for having principles and refusing to be involved without Del Toro.

Thoughts on Civilization: Beyond Earth

Recently the complete edition of Civilization: Beyond Earth went on sale. I think I paid about $10-15 for it. I’d been waiting for this to happen for a couple of years, since I insist on buying the whole game rather than buying it in 3 transactions (I want all the DLC, i.e the whole game), and because you’ll have to do something really special to make me think about spending $60 for a game.

Humble Store Link.

I’ve just finished my first playthrough, and here are my thoughts. They’re not easy to sum up in just 200 characters.

Let me start by saying it’s good. You’d expect it to be – they’ve done like 15 Civilization games so far, so they should have a good idea of what works and what doesn’t. You’d expect anything under the Civilization banner these days to be super-polished and addictive. And it is, with the usual caveat that the AI isn’t particularly smart. But I’m willing to let that one slide since we don’t have general AI yet – it’s a complex game and building an AI for it is not going to be easy.

Weirdly, I found it both more and less complex than Civ V (the most recent one I’ve played, I have Civ 6 but have only put in maybe an hour so far). For instance, the diplomatic options seem very cut-down – you can’t e.g surround an enemy with a huge army and then demand a “gift”, or even have any customised dialogue – the options are limited to making trade agreements and setting a cooperation level (ranging from war to allied). That’s it. This seems to be a curious change for a Civ game, given that the diplomacy is such a big part of it. So it’s less complex, but at the same time there are a bunch of new mechanics that make it more complex, e.g orbital units, which I think are cool but didn’t strike me as particularly useful – I ignored them for most of the game.

I haven’t played Alpha Centauri in a couple of years, but I remember being really really impressed with it. I don’t think this is as good. And it’s not as good as Civ V, which might be the ultimate version of Civilization – it’s super-super-polished, faithful enough to the older games that I didn’t notice anything missing, and yet has enough new stuff that seemed to fit in well that I felt like it was more than just a rehash.

It pains me to say that any of these are better than the original, Civ 1, but objectively speaking I’d say that all of these probably are – I still play Civ 1 occasionally and compared with these games it feels kinda simple, and the graphics are antiquated. It is still hugely fun and massively addictive and it’s undoubtedly one of the most important games ever made, but if you’re new to Civ you probably want to start with Civ V.

Another pet-peeve I had with beyond earth is the technology / science system – I feel like the tech web idea (it’s a web rather than a tree) precludes a logical progression of science, because the dependencies for any given item aren’t particularly deep. So you could theoretically go to the end of a particular branch of the web by researching only 4 or 5 prerequisites, as opposed to the more conventional tech tree where railroads require steam engines, which require alloys, which requires steel, which requires metallurgy, which requires bronze, etc etc etc. Granted, the tech web is perhaps more realistic and reflects how you could change the focus of your research drastically and that research in computing is probably not going to impact biology very much, but I think the deeper tech tree with less choices at each branch is a better game mechanic.

The other problem I have with the tech tree/web in this game is that I felt like most of the technologies and unit names were just made up technobabble – I’m somebody who knows his sci-fi and futurism and I didn’t find myself saying “oh I know what that is”. And in a few cases I did know where something was, and was disappointed that the game didn’t really give me that. For example, there’s a mass driver. I said “ooooh cooool, mass driver!”. And then I got an improvement that gave my city better offensive capabilities, no mass driver graphic or animation to be seen, no weeapon I can target enemies with to throw meteors at them. In my book this should have been a devastating orbital unit, but nope. Note that this doesn’t apply to all of the technologies or units – some of them are logical hypothetical technologies and some of them do just what it says on the tin. But a lot of it is researching inverse phase polarity infusers, which give you a temporal gyreforge improvement that for some reason gives your city +3 production, or whatever. It’s been a while since I played Alpha Centauri, but I seem to recall that having a more logical tech tree, and the units/improvements you get from each tech make more sense with regard to what each technology is. But I might be wrong about that. Maybe it’s just that I’ve played regular Civilization more recently, and it has a very logical tech progression where you automatically know what everything is, as per my rail example above (which is just off the top of my head, but is probably fairly close to the actual progression).

I found several things in the UI unintuitive. For example I was about two-thirds of the way into the game before I figured out how to assign specialists, i.e where you assign a citizen as a scientist or engineer to get a science or production bonus. At first I assumed it didn’t have them, and then I figured out that you have to check the ‘show buildings’ checkbox, and certain buildings give you slots for specialists which you can click to assign. Another example of the unintuitive AI was that at a certain point I noticed that the colour of the aliens had changed. At first it was blue and then at a certain point I noticed it was orange. It was only when I destroyed a nest and the aliens changed from orange to red that I realised that they were getting more and more hostile. This despite me having all the advisors turned on, and it telling me every 3 turns that I can change my personality traits, and me screaming “yeah I’m happy with the ones I have, shut up!”.

Don’t take all these criticisms as me saying that the game isn’t great, though – it still has that addictive “one more turn” thing going on that you expect from a Civ game. But I don’t think it’s as good as Civ V or Alpha Centauri. If you’re looking for a purchasing recommendation, here’s mine: Buy Civilization V complete when it’s on sale ($80?!? seriously?), then buy Alpha Centauri on GOG (Listed at AU$8 at the time of writing including the expansion, a fair price), and then buy the complete edition of Beyond Earth when it’s on sale. If you can get the complete edition for $10-15 it’s worth it. If you don’t already own Civ V and Alpha Centauri then I’d recommend getting those first. I’m just going to assume you already own Civ 1. Which strangely doesn’t seem to be on GOG at the time of writing. Luckily, I own a boxed copy for the Amiga. </bragging>

Note that, of course, all these games support Linux. You might think that Alpha Centauri doesn’t, but loki games did a port back in the day. Apparently it can be difficult to get it running on modern systems, and that may or may not be true for the GOG version, but this installer works just fine on my xubuntu 16.04 laptop with my original Alpha Centauri CD. The only issue I have with Alpha Centauri is that it insists on running at 1024×768, which means it’s fairly small on my laptop screen, which won’t actually switch to that resolution. If you have a way to make it run at 1920×1080 (or 1680×1050), I’d love to hear it – the only info i could find was for the windows version. But it doesn’t make the game less awesome.

Half

As of today I’ve spent half my life contributing to SETI@home!

I’m ranked #2241 in the world in terms of total CPU time donated, and #62 in Australia. In terms of active users, I’m ranked #985 out of 1,738,452 in the world.
Stats

Bye bye github

Microsoft announces the ruination of github.

Because apparently destroying skype, linkedin, hotmail, etc etc etc wasn’t enough.

I can’t fathom the rationale behind this. Apparently there’s an accounting thing that having lots of users means you’re worth lots of money. So, 7.5 billion.

BUT surely there’s nobody out there who doesn’t think that MS buying github will immediately lead to an exodus of most of its users? As far as I’m concerned it’s a given: MS buys github, github users leave en-masse. I know it’s what I’ll be doing.

So basically MS is buying a website which will no longer have any users for 7.5 billion. Good luck with that.

I’d find it funny if it wasn’t so tragic. I liked github. Just like I liked skype.

Before The Dawn

“It’s always darkest before the dawn”
– Morons

It isn’t. Before dawn, there’s a period called “pre-dawn” where there’s a glow on the horizon from the approaching sun. This is the ~hour-long period between astronomical sunrise and actual sunrise. And it’s fairly bright. That’s why astronomers make a distinction between astronomical sunrise/sunset and actual sunrise/sunset – because the light from the sun in this period is enough to interfere with astronomical observations.

So, to summarise, just before the dawn there’s a period of dim light which is actually as bright as the night gets before actual daytime (barring things like supernovae). The darkest part is around midnight when the sun is on the opposite side of the planet. It’s not always darkest before the dawn, it’s darkest before the period of light before dawn. And in fact that’s not even “darkest”, because you have things like stars and the moon lighting things up. It’s actually darkest in caves, where there is no dawn.

But who lets facts get in the way of a bland metaphor?

ARK: Survival Evolved – A Review

Apparently you have to own a game to review it on steam, and since I’ve been playing a friend’s copy of ARK via family sharing, my opinion is meaningless. The best part is that they let you spend time writing your review and then tell you that you can’t review the game when you press “post”. So here’s my review of ARK: Survival Evolved:

Hugely impressive and ambitious, but not finished. ARK has the potential to be a really excellent game, if all the bugs are ever ironed out. At first the bugs will just be annoyances, but once you’ve put some real time into this game they’ll come to rule your experience and you’ll find yourself increasingly frustrated.

Two particularly big ones are dinosaur AI and building structures. You’ll find your tame dinosaurs getting constantly stuck while they’re trying to follow you, to the point that you’ll have to turn around every minute or so to count how many dinosaurs are following you and go back and rescue stragglers. This isn’t such a big deal when you have 3 dinos following you a small distance, but it becomes incredibly tedious when you have 15 and you’re on an epic 20km journey. As for building structures, I hope you like grinding to collect resources, because you’ll spend 20 minutes collecting stuff to craft a piece of a structure, and then the game will refuse to place it where you want it, so you have to demolish something and go out to collect the necessary resources to rebuild in the esoteric order the game wants. Or the game will place it in the wrong place, or in the wrong direction, and you’ll be left with no choice but to demolish the structure and go out and collect more resources to rebuild.

If you search around a bit, you’ll find that both of these issues have been problems for YEARS, and that no fix seems to be forthoming. It seems that the devs are busy building DLC rather than finishing the game. See also the fiasco where the scorched earth DLC was released while the game was still in early access. Apparently the solution to that was to just remove the ‘early access’ tag, to hell with the bugs.

I’d really like to recommend ARK, there really is a fantastic game buried under all those bugs, and perhaps one day these issues will be addressed and I’ll re-visit this review, but as it stands this game is regrettably not worth the AAA price tag attached to it. If you can get it for less than $20 with all the DLC then I’d say it’s probably worth it.

Generic Action/Sci-fi show #48911

Well, it’s finally here. I’ve been waiting for over a decade.

And I’m still waiting.

This is not Star Trek.

I tried to give it a good chance. I saw the “Klingons” in the trailer. I figured they were some new alien race. Then I heard that they were Klingons, and I worried.

But I didn’t worry too much – they’ve changed the look of the Klingons before. Of course that change has now been explained in canon, and changing them in a show set 10 years before Kirk is problematic, but I suppose if you’ve got clever writers you can explain it.

Plus, the label on it says “Star Trek Discovery”. Discovery! it doesn’t get more trek than discovery! That’s what it’s all about!

So I watched the 2 hour JJ Abrams TrekWars (TM) movie that was the pilot. But it was clearly just a prelude movie. The actual pilot will come with episode 3. So I kept watching.

I saw a million issues. Violating the prime directive (which is now called “general order 1″ for some reason) in the first 5 minutes wasn’t a strong start. The “Klingons” who speak Klingon like someone who doesn’t speak Klingon reading Klingon off a page while wearing half a ton of latex which stops them from speaking properly wasn’t a good sign either. The idiot main character who does every. single. thing. wrong isn’t winning me over. Everything looking wrong wasn’t a good sign either. But I tried to be impartial and fair.

Episode 3 was… meh. Episode 4, very meh. But it wasn’t un-fixable. Maybe they were just trolling me, daring me to stop watching before they do something amazing to fix all this brokenness. Maybe this is the rogue starfleet ship where the captain is a cunt and has recruited a band of cunts to assist him in his mission of being the biggest cunt of the 23rd century, and soon we’ll see an actual starfleet ship come along and bring this renegade to justice. By the end of episode 4, this seemed unlikely, but I was willing to give it a chance.

And then you had to go and say fuck.

I was already completely disgusted by the time you said fuck, that was just the final nail in the coffin. Let’s go through some of the issues I had before you got to the “oooh, let’s be edgy by saying fuck!” moment:

  1. Starfleet has zero concern over using creatures for it’s new propulsion system – their only concern is where to get more creatures. That is not Starfleet.
  2. A Captain telling an admiral “my ship, my way”. Lol. Not even Kirk would be so ballsy. If Kirk had tried that at the height of his career (and let’s be clear: he’s the most decorated officer in starfleet history, having saved the planet many times) the admiral would have blinked, removed him from command, and had him institutionalised because he’s clearly lost his mind.
  3. Crewmember: “I think we’re hurting this creature when we do this thing”
    (acting) Starfleet captain: “Shut the fuck up!”
    Note: Saru – the least cunty person on the ship – says this. This is just how starfleet is now – everyone is a cunt, principles don’t exist. So we go from an immature but well-intentioned humanity in Enterprise, to 90 years later and everybody is a cunt, to 10 years after that and it’s utopia. Riiiiiiiight.
  4. What the fuck is Harry Mudd doing on a klingon ship? Why is it Harry Mudd? There is absolutely no reason for him to be there. Apart from “fanservice”, I mean.
  5. Speaking of fanservice, why bother with fanservice when it’s very very abundantly clear that you hate your core audience? Here’s a tip: Star Trek fans want Star Trek, not “Generic Action/Sci-Fi/Drama #48911″. So when you remove everything that makes it Star Trek, it’s not going to go well. Adding a bunch of little fanservice references (almost all of which either break canon or severely bend it) is not helping, the problem is at the core of what this awful, awful shit is. When I see these little fanservice references I think of Brian Herbert and Kevin J Anderson inserting their fanfic characters into the main Dune universe to try to legitimise themselves.
  6. I might be wrong, but I’m pretty sure there were no female Klingon captains at this time. The Duras sisters are unusual in TNG/DS9 canon. I seem to recall an episode of Deep Space Nine where Quark enters into a sham marriage because Klingon women can’t lead their house. The Klingons are obviously not as progressive as the humans are in this universe. It really seems like you are going for SJW-trek. Which is a pity, because Star Trek doesn’t need that! It was already diverse! The original series didn’t have to bother with the whole “look at how diverse we are!” thing, it just was diverse. That wasn’t worthy of comment in-universe, because it was unremarkable to have a russian or a black woman on the bridge. You’re actually taking a step backwards by screaming at the top of your lungs about how progressive you are. If you want to see a great way to deal with gender politics and to be progressive, go look at Quark’s mother’s arc in Deep Space Nine. Real Trek has already dealt with all this stuff, and done it in a much less hamfisted way.

…And then came the straw that broke the camel’s back: Starfleet officers say fuck now? The phrase “fucking cool” is about the least Star Trek thing a person can possibly say. Yes, there have been precedents, like the ill-advised time Data said “oh shit” in one of the movies. But that was a horrible moment we’d all prefer to forget. You’re not being edgy by saying it, you’re just making it even less Trek than it already was.

And just in case my bile hadn’t already risen:

  1. The captain leaves Harry Mudd as a prisoner on a Klingon ship! Have I mentioned that this is not Star Trek?
  2. OMG you have gay characters! The cunty doctor and the cunty scientist are a couple! A gay couple! An INTERRACIAL GAY couple! How amazingly progressive of you! It’s a pity you seem to think that gay men don’t hug or show real affection beyond ruffling each others hair while talking about how they were worried because the other was in danger. And with the huge budget you have, couldn’t you have found a couple of actors who have some chemistry together?

There are probably other things, but I’d have to watch this godawful dreck again to list all the issues. And there’s no way I’m doing that to myself.

In conclusion, fuck you. This is not Star Trek.

Maybe, if the Internet is swept with comments like “OMG these guys are geniuses! This IS Star Trek!” in 10 weeks, then maybe I’ll think about watching the rest of them. But we all know that’s not going to happen, because you don’t give a shit. You wanted to make Generic Action/Sci-Fi show #48911, not Star Trek.

The funniest thing about this is that if you had given this show any other name, I’d be all over it. I love me some dark sci-fi. I’d love to see an adult sci-fi show with tons of drama and heaps of conflict between cunty characters. But not in a Star Trek Show. You would literally have been better off calling it “Generic Action Sci-Fi show #48911″. I’d watch that, and I’d probably enjoy it. But because you’ve slapped a Star Trek label on it, I spend the whole time just thinking about how apparently everyone in Starfleet was a cunt 10 years before Kirk came along, and how every single thing is broken, and how Gene Roddenberry is turning over in his grave.

Dear Jason Isaacs: You dared me to not watch it? Challenge accepted!

There is a positive here: Next time I watch Enterprise, I’m gonna be all like “OMG this is amazing! They put in so much effort!”. In a strange way, by not giving me a new Star Trek series, they’ve given me a new Star Trek series – I’ll have to go and re-watch Enterprise, because it’s gonna seem awesome compared to this.

And there’s another positive: William Shatner is no longer the cuntiest Trek person! Say hello to your new cunty overlord – Jason Isaacs!

And there’s yet another positive: maybe after this horror show is over, Star Trek will finally be dead. With a little bit of luck this will manage to de-value the entire franchise, and it’ll go to its grave for another 20 years or so. And in that time, since the franchise won’t be worth anything, maybe we’ll get some good, real Star Trek in the form of the fan films you’ve done your best to ban.

I think I’ll go watch some real Star Trek to wash this taste out of my mouth.

Moving Linux to an SSD

The other day I needed to move my Linux install to an SSD, but there were a few issues:

  • I was moving to a 240GB SSD from a 1TB HDD
  • I wanted the OS to be installed on the SSD and to make the 1tb drive a /home partition. When installing initially I didn’t think to use a separate /home partition (I usually do, it’s a good idea)
  • I didn’t have enough free space anywhere to make a copy of everything on the 1tb drive (I was able to make a full backup to another machine, but doing so meant that there wasn’t enough free space anywhere to use e.g as an intermediate place for doing repartitioning

Here’s how I did it:

  1. Ensure that /etc/fstab is using uuids rather than device nodes (it was, should be the default these days)
  2. Perform a full backup of the entire system
  3. Reboot into a live environment
  4. Partition and format the SSD using gparted
  5. Mount both the old and new disks
  6. Copy the system over, excluding home directories, with:
    sudo rsync -aXS --exclude=/media/old/home /media/old /media/new

    (Note: I found that using ‘v’ (verbose) in the rsync command slows things down significantly, since there are many small files and most of the time is spent outputting and scrolling text when in verbose mode)

  7. Prepare the old disk as a home partition by moving the system into a subdirectory and then moving the contents of the /home directory into root:
    mkdir /media/old/old_root
    mv /media/old/* /media/old/old_root
    (check for hidden files/folders in root and move them 
    individually with ls -a and mv)
    mv /media/old/old_root/home/* /media/old/
    
  8. use ‘blkid’ to find the uuid of the new disk
  9. edit fstab, adding a new entry for / using the uuid of the SSD (simply copied the ‘/’ line and changed the uuid), and changing the mount point for the 1tb drive to /home
  10. install grub on the new disk. This requires running from a chroot environment:
    for f in dev sys proc usr; do sudo mount --bind /$f /mnt/new/$f; done
    sudo chroot /media/new
    sudo update-grub2
    sudo grub-install /dev/sdb
    
  11. Exit chroot (CTRL-D), Reboot, enter BIOS, and change boot priority to boot from the SSD
  12. Save BIOS changes and reboot
  13. You are now running your existing Linux install, with everything (settings, installed programs, data) intact, from an SSD
  14. Now that my system is running from an SSD with my home directory on the 1TB drive, there were certain things in my home directory which I wanted to speed up by putting them on the SSD. To this end, I created an /SSD directory in the root and then moved and symlinked certain things there, so that they would appear in my home directory but really be on the SSD:
    sudo mkdir /SSD
    sudo chown -Rf username /SSD
    
    mv ~/Work/codebase /SSD/codebase
    ln -s /SSD/codebase ~/Work/codebase
    
    mv ~/workspace /SSD/workspace
    ln -s /SSD/workspace ~/workspace
    
    mv ~/VMs /SSD/VMs
    ln -s /SSD/VMs ~/VMs
    
    (repeat for anything you want to load faster)
    
    
  15. Since everything is working, clean up by removing the old_system directory (containing the system files from the 1tb disk), will be located in /home: sudo rm -Rf /home/old_system
  16. This had a huge effect on many things: the system is much much faster, it boots in less than 10 seconds, and loading pages in my codebase is now faster than our production server (TODO: move our server to an SSD machine).

Most of the tutorials for moving linux from one machine to another assume that you’re moving to a bigger disk, or assume that you are using less than 50% of available disk space. In my case, where neither of these was true, I found this method of moving things around on the 1tb disk to be efficient in terms of time and space – moving files around on the same disk is very fast on Linux, since it doesn’t actually need to copy the data, so the ‘mv /media/old/* /media/old/old_system’ and ‘mv /media/old/old_system/home/* /media/old/’ took seconds. The slowest part of this entire procedure was the rsync – copying the OS onto the SSD. Overall I found this process to be fairly simple and painless – I was a little apprehensive about it, but it turned out that moving to a new disk really is quite simple.

I found this page quite helpful when doing this (in particular, installing grub on the new disk).

Suck shit, valve!

Australian Courts open up a can of whoop-ass on Valve for their violation of Australian consumer protection laws

And all they had to do was refund my $2.49. They tried to tell me they were above the law. I told them they weren’t. Seems like the courts agree with me.

So in addition to not ever getting another cent from me, Valve got dragged through our courts and will now be fined. And they refunded my $2.49 plus fees (I did a chargeback).

It’s always nice when justice actually happens.

PHP: pretty print JSON as coloured HTML

Today I wanted a way to pretty-print a JSON string with colour highlighting. I went looking and found a bunch of ‘pretty print’ functions, but none with colour, so I implemented my own

Usage:

  1. Include the relevant CSS for formatting your prettified JSON. There’s example CSS in the code below. You can do:
    echo("<style>".Convert::jsonPrettyHtmlCSS()."</style>");
  2. Call Convert::json2PrettyHTML(), e.g:
    echo(Convert::json2PrettyHTML('["a",{"foo":"bar","baz":42}]'));

    ….And the code:

    
    <?php
    
    class Convert {
    	
    	/**
    	 * Helper for Convert::prettyJSON()
    	 * Returns a HTML <span> with a class matching the data type (integer,string,double,etc)
    	 * 	Add css to colour the values according to type.
    	 * 
    	 * autodetects numeric strings and treats them as numbers 
    	 * 
    	 * runs htmlentities() and wordwrap() on values (wraps at 100 chars)
    	 * 
    	 * @param mixed $val	value to beautify
    	 * @param int $indents	number of indents
    	 * @param bool $isKey	true if this is a key name
    	 * @return HTML
    	 * @see Convert::prettyJSON()
    	 * @see Convert::json2PrettyHTML() 
    	 * 
    	 */
    	private static function jsonColor($val,$indents=1,$isKey=false) {
    		//echo print_r($val,true) . ": " . gettype($val) . "\n";
    		$type = gettype($val);
    		
    		if (($type == "string") && is_numeric($val)) {
    			//try to convert it to a number
    			$val = floatval($val);
    			
    			if (intval($val) == $val)	//convert from float to int if it's a whole number: 
    				$val = intval($val);
    			
    			$type = gettype($val);
    		}
    		
    		//$type = gettype($val);
    		
    		$color = "";
    		switch($type) {
    			case 'string':
    				$val = '"' . $val . '"';
    				break;
    			case 'array':
    				$val = self::prettyJSON($val,$indents);
    				break;
    		}
    		$val = wordwrap(htmlentities($val),100,"<br />",true);
    		
    		if ($isKey) $type = $type . " key";
    		
    		return "<span class='$type'>" . //"' style='color:$color;'>" 
    			"$val</span>"; // . " (" . gettype($val) . ")";
    	}
    	
    	/**
    	 * Helper for Convert::json2PrettyHtml()
    	 * convert a value (i.e from json_decode) into a pretty colourised string
    	 * @param array|string|number $json		value to prettify
    	 * @param number $indents				indentation level (used for recursion)
    	 * @return string
    	 * @see Convert::json2PrettyHTML()
    	 */
    	private static function prettyJSON($json,$indents = 1) {
    		$ret = "";
    		$indent=str_repeat("<span class='indent'> </span>",$indents);
    		if (is_array($json) || is_object($json) ) {
    			foreach ($json as $k => $v) {
    				$k = htmlentities($k);
    				if (is_array($v) || is_object($v)) {
    					$v = self::prettyJson($v,$indents+1);
    					$ret .= ($ret ? ",<br />\n" : "") . $indent .
    						self::jsonColor($k,$indents,true) . ":\t<br />$v";
    				} else {
    					$ret .= ($ret ? ",<br />\n" : "") . $indent .
    						self::jsonColor($k,$indents,true) . ":\t" . self::jsonColor($v,$indents);
    				}
    			}
    			if (is_object($json)) {
    				$openbrace = "{";
    				$closebrace = "}";
    			} else {
    				$openbrace = "[";
    				$closebrace = "]";
    			}
    			$outdent=str_repeat("<span class='indent'> </span>",$indents-1);
    			$ret = "$outdent$openbrace<br />\n$ret<br />\n$outdent$closebrace";
    		} else
    			$ret = self::jsonColor($json,$indents);
    		
    		return $ret;
    		
    	}
    	
    		/**
    	 * Return or add some CSS for json2PrettyHTML to the requirements
    	 * @param string $return	if true, return the CSS. Otherwise insert it using Requirements::customCSS()
    	 * @return string | void
    	 * @see Convert::json2PrettyHTML()
    	 */
    	public static function jsonPrettyHtmlCSS($return = true) {
    		return 'span.json .integer, span.json .double {
    				color: #700;
    				font-family: mono;
    			}
    			
    			span.json .string {
    				color: #070;
    				font-family: mono;
    			}
    			
    			
    			span.json .key.string {
    				color: #007;
    			}
    			
    			span.json .key.integer, span.json .key.double {
    				color: #707;
    			}
    			
    			
    			span.json .indent {
    				padding-left: 40px;
    			}';
    	}
    	
    	/**
    	 * Converts a JSON string to pretty, readable HTML output which can be 
    	 * 	colourised/customised via CSS
    	 * 
    	 * Also does other nice things, like word wrapping at 100 chars, running 
    	 * 	values through htmlentities(), and treating numeric strings as numbers
    	 * 
    	 * Include CSS to style the output (set colours, indent width, etc)
    	 * Notes: 
    	 * 		- everything will be wrapped in a span.json (i.e <span> with 'json' 
    	 * 			as the class, css: span.json)
    	 * 		- keys will be spans with the'key' class  ( e.g span.key )
    	 * 		- values and keys will be spans and will have the datatype as the 
    	 * 			class ( span.integer, span.key.integer)
    	 * 		- there will be empty spans with the 'indent' class in the 
    	 * 			appropriate places. There may be more than one consecutively. 
    	 * 
    	 * Example CSS is returned by the jsonPrettyHtmlCSS() function
    			
    	 * @param string $json	the json to beautify
    	 * @return HTML
    	 * @see Convert::jsonPrettyHtmlCSS()
    	 */
    	public static function json2PrettyHTML($json) {
    		return "<span class='json'>" . self::prettyJSON(json_decode($json)) . "</span>";
    	}
    }
    
    
    
    

    I hope someone finds this useful! :)

Goodbye Spaceboy

Sad Face.

RIP David Bowie.

Thanks so much for visiting, spaceboy, you brightened this little world. We’ll miss you.

Space boy, you’re sleepy now
Your silhouette is so stationary
You’re released but your custody calls
And I wanna be free

Don’t you wanna be free?
Do you like girls or boys?
It’s confusing these days
But moon dust will cover you
Cover you

This chaos is killing me

So bye, bye love
Yeah bye, bye love
Bye, bye love
Yeah bye, bye love

This chaos is killing me

Hallo space boy, you’re sleepy now
You’re silhouette, so stationary
You’re released but your custody calls
And I wanna be free

Don’t you wanna be free?
Do you like girls or boys?
It’s confusing these days
But moon dust will cover you
Cover you

And the chaos is killing me

Yeah bye, bye love
So bye, bye love
Yeah bye, bye love
So bye, bye love

This chaos is killing me
This chaos is killing me

Yeah bye, bye love
Bye, bye love
Eternal
Sweet, sweet love
Bye bye space boy
Bye, bye love

Moon dust will cover you
Moon dust will cover you
Moon dust will cover you
Moon dust will cover you
Moon dust will cover you

Sins

The Operative: Do you know what your sin is, Mal?
Mal: Aw hell, I’m a fan of all seven. (headbutt) But right now, I’m gonna have to go with wrath.

- Serenity

I’m also a fan of all seven. Here’s my list, in descending order of awesomeness:

  1. Pride
  2. Lust
  3. Sloth
  4. Gluttony
  5. Wrath
  6. Greed
  7. Envy

kgrep

Ladies and gentlemen, presenting: kgrep – kill-grep

This is a bash function which allows you to type in a search term and kill matching processes. You will be prompted to kill each matching process for your searchterm.

You can also optionally provide a specific signal to use for the kill commands (default: 15)

Usage: kgrep [<signal>] searchterm

Signal may be -2, -9, or -HUP (this could be generalised but I CBF).

search term is anything grep recognises.

kgrep() {
    #grep for processes and prompt whether they should be killed
    if [ -z "$*" ]; then
        echo "Usage: $0 [-signal] searchterm"
        echo -e "\nSearches for processes matching  and prompts to kill them."
        echo -e "signal may be:\n\t-2\n\t-9\n\t-HUP\n to send a different signal (default: TERM)"
        return 0
    fi  
    SIG="-15"
	#yes, this could be more sophisticated
    if [ "$1" == "-9" ] ||  
        [ "$1" == "-2" ] ||
        [ "$1" == "-HUP" ]; then 
        SIG="$1"
        shift
    fi  
    #we need to unset the field separator if ^C is pressed:
    trap "unset IFS; return 0" KILL
    trap "unset IFS; return 0" QUIT
    trap "unset IFS; return 0" INT 
    trap "unset IFS; return 0" TERM

    IFS=$'\n'
	for l in `ps aux | grep "$*" | grep -v grep `; do
        echo $l
        pid=`echo $l | awk '{print $2}'`
        read -p "Kill $pid (n)? " a
        if [[ "$a" =~ [Yy]([Ee][Ss])? ]]; then
            echo kill $SIG $pid
            kill $SIG $pid
        fi
    done
    unset IFS
}

BTTF Day!

October 21 2015, the day “30 years in the future” Marty and Doc travel to. 4:29pm to be precise.

Technically the time will be 9:29am on Oct 22nd for me since they’re on californian time, but I’m watching the trilogy on Oct 21 Australian time. Close enough.

I’m disappointed that Nike hasn’t released power laces yet. Maybe they’ll announce them tomorrow. I’ll buy that shit.

Update: Yep! Awesome!. I wonder how ridiculously expensive they’re going to be.

Securing Windows 10

How to make a Windows 10 VM secure with a Linux host

Simple! Restrict all intarwebs access to everything that you don’t absolutely need:

  1. run virtualbox with the vboxusers group:

    sudo -g vboxusers virtualbox
  2. allow access to the site you want:
    sudo iptables -A OUTPUT -m owner --gid-owner vboxusers -d [ip address] -j ACCEPT
  3. block everything else:
    sudo iptables -A OUTPUT -m owner --gid-owner vboxusers -j DROP
  4. In windows you’ll need to edit c:\windows\system32\drivers\etc\hosts to
    add an entry for the sites you want, since DNS won’t work. Or you could
    look at allowing DNS. But I wouldn’t.

If you follow these simple steps, you never have to worry about your testing VM reporting everything you do back to Microsoft.

For extra security, i recommend disconnecting the virtual network cable before you close the VM. That way if you accidentally start it without the vboxusers group it still won’t be able to access the internet.

If you’re running windows on bare metal in 2015 I have no advice for you, you deserve whatever happens.

New Horizons

Congratulations to NASA for the first ever Pluto flyby!

I’m days late in saying this, but I was watching events unfold live via NASA TV. I’ve been anticipating this all year, and it’s awesome to finally see Pluto up-close. Great Job! I can’t wait to see more as more data slowly streams back from nearly 5 billion km away.

Links:

  • DSN Now! – see what spacecraft the Deep Space Network is communicating with in realtime. While streaming NASA TV, I was also watching this for a signal from New Horizons as it phoned home.
  • New Horizons Website – had counters telling us when the flyby happened, then when the phone-home signal was expected, and now has a “time since flyby” counter. Also news and images.
  • NASA TV – it’s not just interesting to watch when there’s a major mission going on.

Mythbusting Mythbusting Linux

This post is my response to This video:

(Sauce)


(Archival / downloadable copy)

OK, so I appreciate the tone of your video and your stated motivations for making it. I’m going to try to be diplomatic in my response.

1. Viruses.

The viruses you found were an exe file and a dll file. A windows executables and library. Not exactly a threat, especially if you don’t have wine installed. These are definitely not linux viruses and that machine is not infected – even if you did manage to run a virus-infected exe file, it’s not going to infect any of the other binaries on your system with the possible exception of windows binaries that your regular user has write access to.

The example you give is a really weird one, and I have no idea what is going on. My only guess is that perhaps this ‘imagination’ software (which I’ve never used, though I do see it in my repos) has an ability to optionally run some external windows-vased helper program if you have wine installed. The fact that the files were in /var/tmp indicates that it was your regular user who downloaded them, i.e you did it, or the program has a “download utility x” helper built into it. Or perhaps these files got into that temp directory via other means, and imagination didn’t run simply because sophos wasn’t allowing it to access the infected files.

There’s also the possibility that this was a false positive, and that the exe and dll files were not infected but simply used an executable compressor or something like that.

Yes, you found a virus, but your system was not infected by it. If I go to a website and download a virus intentionally, and then scan my ‘downloads’ folder, I’ll find a virus too. But I won’t be infected. In windows, even having that virus on your system is dangerous because simply double-clicking on that exe could infect a countless number of other executables. Though newer versions of windows have gotten better at protecting system files, and it’s quite possible to infect a whole lot of windows programs if you are using wine.

I will agree that perhaps the wording “Linux doesn’t get viruses” is a bit extreme – there are one or two linux viruses out there, and that perhaps it should be re-worded to something along the lines of “during normal use, linux applications will not be infected by viruses”, with the caveats of assuming you’re only using software from your distributions repository, and you’re not running things as root.

2. Uptime and reboots.

This is just wrong. I never ever reboot my machine, and I update it regularly. In 90+% of cases, this causes no problems at all.

Yes, there are cases where some library might be updated and it might render things which use that library unusable until you reboot, but even in this case, a reboot is rarely necessary – often you can just restart the underlying service or the GUI and things will work fine. Though sometimes it’s easier to just reboot than to figure out what you need to restart. It should also be noted that we’re talking about a miniscule percentage of updates here – usually when a service is updated, the update script will restart it for you.

Yes, from what I understand, systemd updates will likely require a reboot. This is one reason why we shouldn’t be using systemd. But that’s a whole other debate.

The machine I’m typing this on has an uptime of 138 days right now. That’s how long it’s been since we had a power outage. My laptop is at 103 days. My server at work is at 330 days (i.e: since the day it was commissioned). Next time I reboot, it will be using a newer kernel. Until then, everything is fine.

Compare this with rebooting three times during a round of updates.

3. Fragmentation.

You say that linux has “3 defragmenters”, but two of the ones you point out are tools which report on fragmentation, they don’t actually defragment. The two reporting tools are probably not necessary, since e4defrag has the ‘-c’ switch, kind of like ‘egrep’ being an alias for ‘grep -e’. The number of tools available isn’t a big indicator of a real problem, Linux types like to have lots of variety, e.g there are about 100 different tools for doing disk partitioning, but it’s not something a normal person does with any kind of regularity.

I’ve been using linux for 10+ years and I had never heard of these tools, so I did a defrag check on my machine, which initially started out with ubuintu 8.04 and has been upgraded multiple times without reformatting. I use it for everything you can imagine – gaming, audio/video production, media center, and coding. It gets heavy use and its disk has been up to 99% full more than once. I figured that if any disk is going to be fragmented, it’ll be mine.

The fragmentation score on my root volume was 0.
The fragmentation score on my home volume was 1.

I was a pretty damn advanced windows user for a long time before I made the switch, and I can attest that the same usage on a windows machine would have seen heavy fragmentation (actually the same use would have seen multiple reformats and reinstalls to clear out crud, but regular defragmentation would also be necessary). I used to defragment on a regular basis when I used windows (I had it set up as a scheduled task). Until today, I didn’t know that there were even degragmenting tools available for Linux.

Again, the wording on the claim “you don’t need to defragment” could probably use an asterisk on it, with a subtext “during the course of normal use”, and I can see how you think that the claim is misleading, but I think you’re attaching more signifigance to this than it deserves.

4. UUIDs in fstab – you can’t just switch disks.

Here I think you’re just wrong. Sorry, but you are. Yes, it’s true that you won’t get your full whiz-bang GUI interface immediately upon switching a disk from one machine to another, but saying that the system didn’t boot isn’t exactly accurate either. In your video, the machine boots to a grub prompt (which included an ‘advanced boot options’ choice which probably would have allowed you to boot the full system by specifying the root volume, if you knew the invocation to do so [I don't off the top of my head]). But the system also leaves you at a command prompt. It doesn’t give you a blue screen effectively saying ‘please insert your installation CD and reinstall’. From the command prompt you got, fixing this problem is as simple as doing something like:

ls -l /dev/disk/by-uuid
(jot down uuid of the disk in question)
vi /etc/fstab
(change uuid of root volume)
reboot

OK, so for your average nontechnical user, this isn’t obvious or intuitive, but it’s a far cry from a blue screen of death and a reinstall. You’ll note that the instructions above don’t include “insert your installation cd”, though that would also work – you could boot into the livecd environment and make the change you need to make to fstab from a nice gui without reinstalling.

Yes, back when /dev/sdX was being used in fstab, you used to be able to just put the disk in another machine and it would boot the full GUI. Sometimes. Assuming that the ‘X’ was the same on the new machine.

The reason this changed was due to the fact that in a modern distro devices can appear and disappear at any time because they might be plugged in or unplugged at any time. This includes hard disks (though I don’t recommend trying it unless you have a hotpluggable disk!). This support meant that there was no guarantee that /dev/sda would still be /dev/sda the next time you reboot – it might be /dev/sdb when you reboot, meaning that your fstab is incorrect and the system won’t reboot properly.

I’ll grant that perhaps fstab should be using disk labels instead – that would solve this problem (assuming it’s practical), but to do so would mean that all disks would need to have a label, and many don’t. It would also cause issues if you have two disks with the same label (e.g having a volume named “ROOT” in two computers, and taking the “ROOT” volume from one machine and putting it into the other – which “ROOT” should it use?)

I’d also grant that a more descriptive error message in this situation might be helpful, depending on how practical doing that would be. If the console had a message to the effect of “cannot locate root volume – perhaps you need to edit /etc/fstab?” it would be much more intuitive. Hell, it’s probably possible to build a text-based program that does this for you.

Technically, though, since you saw a command prompt and not a kernel panic, the system booted. I guess this comes down to your definition of “boot”.

It’s probably not awesome if people are making the claim that you can just pull the disk out and put it in another machine. There should probably should be an asterisk there, too. But “not booted” isn’t a correct desctiption of the situation either.

In Conclusion
I think you have misunderstood and misinterpreted a few things, leading you to some incorrect conclusions.

I think that this should probably be an interesting lesson for everybody involved – you can learn a few things about linux, and the linux community can learn how its “sales pitches” can be misinterpreted.

You should be careful and make sure the facts are on your side when using words like “misinformation”. Your video falls under that category.

I think you have done everybody a disservice by disabling comments on your video.

Click To Print

Here’s a nifty little piece of javascript I whipped up the other day in response to a client request.

With this code (and jquery) on a web page an element on a web page with the “clicktoprint” class becomes clickable. When clicked, it is printed, but only that element. In addition, the element will be scaled to the full width of the page.

I was asked to do this so that a client could have a voucher on their website which you could click on and have it printed. Their previous solution (using a ‘print’ media query in the site css) meant that the rest of the page could never be printed. This code injects a new piece of css for the duration of the special print and removes it afterwards, allowing the rest of the page to be printed by the regular means.

<script type="text/javascript">
jQuery(document).ready(function() {
	jQuery('.clicktoprint').click(function() {
		jQuery(this).parents().each(function(idx,i) {
			jQuery(i).addClass('clicktoprint-parent');
		});
		jQuery('head').append('<style id="clicktoprint-style">@media print { * { display: none; } .clicktoprint, .clicktoprint-parent {display: block !important; width: 100% !important;} }</style>');
		window.print();
		jQuery('style#clicktoprint-style').remove();
		return false;
	});
});
</script>

Fury Road

The new Mad Max film is finally out. George Miller has been trying to make it for about 25 years now. But don’t be fooled – he hasn’t spent 25 years working on it. Instead, he’s been paying close attention to what hollywood has been doing lately (being braindead), and religiously updating the Mad Max script so that it apes the latest conventions.

I was really excited for it – decades later, I still consider Mad Max 2 to be the greatest Australian film ever made. The trailers made me both more excited, and nervous – That’s the pursuit special! That must mean that this movie is set between the first and second films, right? But the second trailer showed me the flame-throwing guitar, which made me nervous, fearing style over substance.

Still, style over substance isn’t in itself a bad thing – films like Shoot Em Up (which is awesome) are all style, and a balls-to-the-wall, all-style Mad Max film could work, so perhaps it will be great.

It came out, and the reviews started coming in – near-universal acclaim! Wow, maybe it’s actually good.

There’s been some debate over whether it’s a sequel or a reboot. Anyone who thinks it’s a sequel hasn’t been paying attention. But I think that’s the idea – this is a movie for people who don’t pay attention. It’s not a sequel or an interquel which goes inbetween the first and second movies – the pursuit special was destroyed in Mad Max 2. But it’s also destroyed here, meaning that it’s a reboot. I read one argument that it had to be a sequel, because there are flashbacks to the previous films. Whoever said that hasn’t seen the previous films in a long time – none of the flashbacks are from previous films, they’re just miscellaneous flashbacks showing us how haunted Max is. Not that it matters, since he’s not the main character anymore.

Sure, it has lots of spectacular things. And lots of cool things. The vehicles are awesome, and the world is very cool. It looks great. I can’t think that the musical war-rig with its guitarist is anything other than goddamn awesome. But none of it makes any sense – it’s cool for the sake of looking cool, logic be damned.

For instance, if water is precious, why do you hand it out it by pouring ten thousand litres out in the space of 30 seconds? Ninety percent of it is wasted. Wouldn’t handing it out in bottles be much more efficient and less wasteful? Answer: because it looks cool.

If you use human power to raise and lower your war-rigs to the desert floor, how do you pump ten thousand litres of water at such a rate? Answer: because it wouldn’t look cool if you didn’t.

Why are there weird people walking around on four stilts in a swamp? Answer: because it looks cool. Or maybe Miller is just a big Dark Crystal fan.

Why is the war rig loaded with enough water to keep a whole village alive for weeks? Wasn’t it being sent to collect fuel from Gas Town, which is close enough to be visible on the horizon and at worst a couple of hours’ drive away? Answer: because Miller wanted a scene where the wives were hosing each other down, because that would look cool.

How do you keep “mothers milk” from spoiling out in the hot desert for a couple of days? Is the war-rig’s tanker also refrigerated, in addition to having massive water and milk tanks? Is any of that tanker space actually used for the stated purpose of storing and transporting fuel? Why do you even need “mothers milk” for a 2-hour drive?

Why is the fuel pod filled with fuel? Is your war-rig so thirsty that it needs thousands of litres of fuel to get to a place that’s perhaps 15-20km away? apparently not, since I don’t recall them refuelling at any stage of their 3-day high-speed journey. Answer: furiosa had struck a bargain to exchange the full fuel pod for passage through the valley. So I guess she just…uh… stole thousands of litres of fuel from a place where fuel is scarce and precious, and nobody noticed?

Why are there so many american accents in post-apocalyptic Australia? Answer: because it doesn’t matter – you can’t see sound, so it doesn’t not look cool.

And at the end of the movie, they take over the citadel and turn on the pumps so that everybody can drink their fill of water. Aaaw. My reaction: “And they all lived happily ever after for the next 6 months, when they discovered that they’d emptied the aquifer at an unprecedented rate with an unprecedented amount of waste, and everyone died 3 days later.”

Max Rockatansky is now an incidental character in a movie which bears his name. He’s gone from being the ultimate badass anti-hero to being just some savage who is easily captured, communicates in little more than grunts (and when he’s not grunting, he’s talking in a really weird accent) and is just along for the ride.

During the making of this film, the phrase “wouldn’t it be cool if…” was uttered many, many times.

Mad Max 3 wasn’t brilliant, sure, but at least it had something to say – there was some substance there, and genuine world-building. This film has no substance at all, and the world-building is nonsensical – everything is secondary to looking cool, with the possible exception of beating us repeatedly with the “men are bad” sledgehammer.

This movie kind of reminds me of Shoot Em Up, only with less sense, plot and style. If you completely disengage your brain and you have no interest in or memory of the previous films, then you might like this movie.

Oh, wait, I just described most of the population of this planet, so: near-universal acclaim! Expect sequels. Meanwhile I’m going to pray for a porkyclipse.

Lunar Eclipse Photos

We had a lunar eclipse last month, and I happened to go outside for a smoke, looked up, and spotted it. Dutifully, I ran inside and grabbed my video camera and tripod and spent the next hour filming. And now I’ve finally gotten around to cutting together some reasonable-quality images:



I took these using my cheap video camera and tripod, then I extracted a bunch of frames from the video and aligned / stacked them.

This was a bit of a challenge, since the astrophotography software I have (CCDSoft) doesn’t seem to like noisy colour JPEG images very much and kept crashing, so I had to do everything with the GIMP, including manual alignment. Not fun – the third image above is a combination of 30 video frames, aligning that was a bitch. I might have to write a gimp plugin for that.

I did look at open-source astrophotography software, but the options seem to be a bit lacking. I tried a couple – siril looks like it’s the most promising, but it refused to stack my images, giving me a weird error for which teh google was no help. But it’s brand new – the latest update on the website was only a couple of weeks ago, so hopefully in a little while it’ll be useable.

For comparison, here’s a “before” shot – a raw frame of video, in all its noisy glory:

Bicentennial Man

Apparently, some people don’t like Bicentennial Man. I’ve even heard Robin Williams reference it in a stand-up routine.

IMHO, this is just another example that people are idiots – Bicentennial man is goddamn awesome.

I was really excited when I heard about this movie – I had wanted to see an Asimov movie since I read the books. At the time, there had been talk of adapting I, Robot to the screen for a while – it was in development hell for a long time, and the less said about the outcome, the better.

But Bicentennial man beat I, Robot to the screen by about 5 years and became the first movie based on an Asimov book. Ironically, there wasn’t ever any competition with I, Robot, because it wasn’t “based on” an asimov book – they invented a new credit for I, Robot – “Inspired by”, which basically means “We couldn’t be bothered doing a proper adaptation, so we bastardised it so much that they wouldn’t let us use the ‘based on’ credit”.

And, so far, to my great disappointment, Bicentennial man remains the only movie based on an Asimov book.

And it’s so spot on that Isaac would have wept if he’d seen it.

One review I read mentioned that it’s “faithful to the ideals of golden-age sci-fi”, as if that was a bad thing and as if the story needed to be updated to be more contemporary – there are no explosions in Bicentennial Man – things don’t explode very often at all in Asimov’s books.

This is because Asimov wrote a different type of sci-fi from anything you’ve ever seen on screen – Asimov’s storys rarely have “bad guys”. And that’s what makes Asimov’s work so awesome.

It’s the very fact that this movie is faithful to the ideals of golden age sci-fi that makes it so goddamn awesome. That, and Robin Williams doing some actual acting.

This was also the movie that, for me, turned Robin Williams from “that guy who does all those stupid movies” into a serious actor. The scene where Robin Williams first appears sans robot costume, when he first sees himself after his “upgrade” and simply stares into the mirror and says “thank you” is a seriously brilliant and moving piece of cinema.

I’m also a fan of Sam Neill, and he’s also in Bicentennial man, so there’s that.

There are a couple of things which I thought were missing from the screen adaptation which I think would have made it a stronger film. For example, in the book, it’s not Andrew who starts the crusade for Robotic rights, it’s one of his human friends. This happens after Andrew is harassed by a couple of teenagers, who order him to strip off his clothes and threaten to take him apart – the three laws of robotics make Andrew helpless to protect himself against this assault, and I think it could have been a really powerful scene in the movie, if a little darker in tone and less kid-friendly than the rest of the film.

But on the whole, Bicentennial Man is a faithful adaptation of an excellent story by one of the masters of science fiction, and I’d give it at least 90%. It remains one of my favourite films to this day.

It holds on to the ideals of golden age sci-fi brilliantly, and that’s why asimov would have wept had he lived to see it – they would have been tears of joy at seeing his story adapted so faithfully and with such heart.

But, no explosions or tits, so a crappy rating. Humanity sucks.

Asimov’s Robots are better than us in every way. Maybe that’s part of the reason why this movie isn’t more popular – people don’t like to see their betters. Asimov’s robots, being more intelligent than man, are also more ethical – they help us because they want to. The epitome of this is Asimov’s “Robot Takeover” story – The Evitable Conflict. Go read it if you haven’t already – I’m not going to spoil it. It’s ironic that this story is turned into your usual everyday “evil robots take over” story in the film adaptation of I, Robot. But I’d rather not get started on that film, Maddox already did that.

Moby Dick-Head, King of the Hipster Douchebags

On last week’s episode of King Of The Nerds (S03E04), one of the judges for annual “Nerd Song” competition is Moby.

Moby takes issue with some of the lyrical content of one of the songs, saying:
“I took issue with ‘Like newton’s laws of motion we don’t hypothesize’, because I feel like in a quantum world, most of newtonian physics has sort of been cast aside.

Groan.

Moby, you’re such a dick!

Now, I’m no string theorist – I don’t even know one of Newton’s equations from memory, but even I can tell you quite definitively that newtonian physics has not been “cast aside”.

OK, sure, so Quantum Mechanics does have some bearing on Newton’s work, but Newton’s laws are still valid in the vast majority of everyday circumstances. If you were to say that Newtonian physics has been refined, then you’d be spot on – Relativity and Quantum mechanics have both refined newtonian physics immensely, but that doesn’t mean that newtonian physics have been “cast aside” – not by a long shot – Newton’s equations are still very valid if you want a simple-to-calculate, approximate solution to many, many, many problems – they only become inadequate in certain circumstances, such as calculating the precession of Mercury’s perihelion, working with subatomic particles, or dealing with relativistic speeds and/or very curved regions of spacetime (big gravity wells).

The Apollo Missions, for example, didn’t need to use relativistic or quantum equations. If they had, the moon landings never would have happened – an astronaut can plug the numbers into newton’s equations and work them out with a slide-rule or maybe even in his head. If he had to do quantum mechanics or relativistic equations to figure out a descent or rendezevous burn, it would never have happened before the microprocessor was invented – we just didn’t have the computing power back in 1969. Missing the CSM by a couple of hundred metres on the way back up or slamming into the lunar surface because you’re busy trying to do quantum mechanics but struggle with the math would probably not be considered a particularly successful mission. The Saturn V rocket is the ultimate embodiment (so far) of Newton’s Third law of motion, and it sure seemed to work. I’d also note that 1969 was a good 40-or-so years after the establishment and general acceptance of Quantum Mechanics – it’s not like they didn’t know all about quantum theory and got lucky – they knew all about it, and they knew they could ignore it.

So, Moby, to summarize: I don’t think “Quantum Theory” means what you think it means.

Moby then goes on to criticise one of them for claiming in the song that he read Hamlet in the Original Klingon, asking “did you really read Hamlet in Klingon?”.

Now, In Moby’s Song Run On, he states:

Michael spoke and he sound so sweet
I thought I heard the shuffle of angels’ feet
He put one hand upon my head
Great God Almighty let me tell you what he said

Saying quite specifically that the Archangel Michael has personally spoken to (and physically touched) him. I kinda doubt this, what with the whole “fictional character” bit. But I suppose Moby might not actually be lying – he could simply be delusional. Incidentally, the same song also implies that he’s met jeebus, something I’m also doubtful of.

Setting aside how incredibly petty it is to criticise someone because what they say in a song isn’t literal truth (it’s called “metaphor”, “simile”, or “A direct reference to Star Trek VI”, look it up), I think that this is a somewhat hypocritical stance for Moby to take given the lyrics to just this one song (Note: this was the first moby song I thought of and looked up the lyrics for, I’m sure his whole body of work is rife with this kind of stuff, as is the work of just about every songwriter ever – I don’t think that Bonnie Tyler literally falls apart every now and then – that would be a strange medical condition, and I don’t actually want to hunt and torture stupid people, because I’m not actually a psychopath)

One of the members of the other team didn’t think so though – she thought it was cool to see moby dissing the other team for no real reason, and chimed in with something to the effect of “Um, I don’t even think Hamlet has been translated to Klingon – there’s not enough vocabulary for it!”

This immediately caught my attention, since being a Star Trek fan I know how mental some of us get, so my immediate reaction to that was “Yeah, I wouldn’t be so sure about that”, with visions of committees of nerds arguing over usenet as to what was an appropriate klingon word to use for “cutlass” (in fact, that’s probably an easy one which didn’t cause much debate – it’s a weapon, so there was probably already a Klingon word for it)…

…So, tonight, I do a search, and Lo and behold!

I was talking to a friend about this, and he put it elegantly:
“You’re suprised by Moby being a pretentious hipster douchebag? Didn’t you know that Moby invented ‘hipster douchebag’?”

Well, yeah, I did. But at least I thought he’d bother to be correct. Apparently not.

(BTW: I’m actually rooting for the other team which Moby didn’t criticise as much – specifically for Kaitlin, because she’s awesome, and I think that in the end Moby and the other judges did make the correct decision – the other song was better. But I do take issue with moby being such a dick, and I think that his criticisms were totally unfair)

As Usual, TISM turn out to be prophets – De Rigeurmortis – Track 10:

Lyrics:

Dear Moby,
Having read you liner notes, I now violently oppose pain, death, famine, disease, slaughter, war, youth suicide, pollution, hitting your finger with the hammer, parking in disabled car parks, the industrial military complex, the death of innocent third world people, especially the children, by the way, I’d like to thank Mohammed and the Dalai Lama, safari suits and stating the fucking obvious.

Apple knows best

A paraphrased version of a funny conversation I had once via SMS:

Me: “OMFG I simply cannot grok the iphone interface, it’s completely awful on so many levels. If I was going to go into detail I’d need a proper keyboard to type up the relevant hundred-thousand word thesis – even this phone’s physical keyboard has its limitations.”

Smartass iphone user: “What is ‘grok’? If you had an iphone, autocorrect would have picked that up for you.”

Me: “Yeah? Well autocorrect would have been wrong – type ‘define grok’ into a search engine.”

Iphone user: “…Oh.”

Me: “lol, pwnd.”

You’re hurting my brain

from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Top_Gear_controversies#Series_20:

Top Gear was accused of faking a scene in which riverbank diners have their meal interrupted by a deluge of water from a passing hovervan, which the three presenters had built to show what can be done to help flood prone areas. The accusations were started after Michael Bott said on his blog that he’d been hired by Top Gear to pose as one of the diners.

Just so we’re clear: The people complaining about this are complaining that it’s disingenuous for Top Gear to stage things like this.

So, what they’re saying is that Clarkson, Hammond, and May should have actually really driven the hovervan past a real riverside restaurant where real, unsususpecting members of the public were dining in peace, and sprayed them all with water.

I’m sure nobody would have complained about that.

BTW, that was a joke you’re too stupid to get (or: how to kill a parody)

Strangely enough, contemporary references in a written work will age with the work.

For example, Science fiction works which were “hard” when they were written will tend to “soften” over the years as science marches on. Go read Asimov’s work from the 50s – it’s based on a 1950s understanding of physics. Asimov doesn’t talk about string theory or dark energy. Because they hadn’t been discovered yet. Asimov’s work has a hyperdrive, which automatically tends to push you towards the softer end of the scale these days, but in the 1950s a hyperdrive wasn’t quite so implausible, so you could talk about hyperspace jumps and still be a fairly hard piece of sci-fi.

Similarly, if you read a work written in the late 1960s which makes many contemporary references, you’ll be reading about things which no longer exist – products which have since been discontinued or radically changed, companies that don’t exist any more, and people who have since died. You get a similar effect when a story is written for a particular audience or makes cultural assumptions – a book written for British readers will talk about pounds, while the American equivalent will talk about dollars.

I’m stating the obvious, right? Yup.

Enter “Bored Of The Rings”, a classic and brilliant parody of Lord Of the Rings, first published in 1969. It contains a bunch of contemporary references and talks about brands that no longer exist or are no longer popular, and a bunch of things which are American-centric, since it was written by Americans. But this in no way detracts from it’s awesomeness.

I was pretty close to the end of my first read-through when I realised what “Legolam” was, other than a misspelling of “Legolas”. It made me feel kinda stupid for not picking it up earlier. But at the same time, I felt kinda smart for figuring it out by myself (I was about 12, go easy). And the next time I read it, there were probably contextual jokes around the “Legolam” name which I didn’t get on the first read-through but did get on subsequent reads. It wasn’t until a reading during the internet age that I was able to find out what “Serutan” was. Another example from a different media: I got about 40% through my second viewing of the TV series “Veep” before I realised that “potus” wasn’t just a weird name or a nickname.

Figuring these little jokes and references out for myself is half the fun of it. This is what makes movies like Spaceballs such genius. It’s what’s awesome about Futurama. Any person who is able to watch Spaceballs through for the first time and list every single reference or parody has no life, and hasn’t enjoyed the movie at all because they were in ‘analysis’ mode – they probably couldn’t tell you what spaceballs was about because they were too busy making notes. This is why spaceballs is infinitely rewatchable – I will never know whether I have every single reference and in-joke. You’d be suprised how often I find new ones in this single example. My ability to find them and laugh at them expands as my knowledge expands – you won’t get the planet of the apes references unless you’ve seen planet of the apes. This is part of the joy of the film.

And Spaceballs isn’t the only example, it’s just one of many. It’s one of the roads to comedic genius – pack it tightly with references and in-jokes. Bored of the Rings is another great example.

But with bored of the rings, if you were born…say…after 1980, and especially if you’re also not American, you might struggle – there are lots of anachronistic or obscure references in that book.

So, helpfully, somebody has decided to update the book. I don’t know whether it’s only in the audiobook and therefore audible who are at fault or whether it was the genius idea of some editor while doing a revised edition, but it almost completely ruins the book.

What I’m talking about is this – the narrator of the audiobook will be reading along, and get to a reference, and then say “NOTE” and explain it for you, because apparently you’re such a fucking idiot that you’re completely incapable of using either google or wikipedia to look up things you don’t get.

So the audiobook goes like this:
“Spam Gangree, who was presently celebrating his suspended sentence for
the performing of an unnatural act with an underage female dragon of the opposite
sex. NOTE: ‘spam’ is a tinned ham product, and ‘gangree’ is a play on words for ‘gangreene’, a disease spam gives you.”

Oh, ha ha – the explanations are trying to be funny, too. Because spam gives you gangreene, you see.

One thing that really gets me about these explanations is that they’re very inconsistent – for example, I don’t think that “spam” requires an explanation – is there anyone who doesn’t know what it is? But these new added notes strangely omit explanations for the name “Dildo Bugger”. So I guess I’ll never find out what that one means.

The book has many saving graces – it’s still damn funny, even if you don’t understand any of the references – I understood few of them when I first read it. You don’t need these explanations for it to be funny, and in fact having the explanations sucks all the humour out of the joke, and destroys the re-readability of the book – if you already get all the jokes, there’s less in it for you to re-read it.

But at least there’s nobody out there confused about what spam is. That would be terrible.

If you want to read a great parody, go pick up a vopy of Bored Of the Rings. If you like Tolkien and have a sense of humour then you’ll be hooked by the time you get to the prologue. It’s far far better than both “The Soddit” and “The Sillymarillion”, books written decades later to cash-in on Peter Jackson.

For the record, wher I imply that I’m listening to an Audible Audio Book, I’m actually listening to a pirated copy in mp3 format, since Audible refuse to sell me a copy of the audiobook without DRM. I tried to give them money but they weren’t interested. Don’t buy things from Audible.

Excerpt from the prologue:

In the end Dildo won the game. Stumped at last for a riddle to ask, he cried out, as his hand fell on his snub-nosed .38, “What have I got in my pocket?” This Goddam failed to answer, and growing impatient, he paddled up to Dildo, whining, “Let me see, let me see.” Dildo obliged by pulling out the pistol and emptying it in Goddam’s direction. The dark spoiled his aim, and he managed only to deflate the rubber float, leaving Goddam to flounder. Goddam, who couldn’t swim, reached out his hand to Dildo and begged him to pull him out, and as he did, Dildo noticed an interesting-looking ring on his finger and pulled it off. He would have finished Goddam off then and there, but pity stayed his hand. It’s a pity I’ve run out of bullets, he thought, as he went back up the tunnel, pursued by Goddam’s cries of rage.

Pet

Don’t fret precious, I’m here
Step away from the window
Go back to sleep

Lay your head down child
I won’t let the boogeyman come
Counting bodies like sheep
To the rhythm of the war drums
Pay no mind to the rabble
Pay no mind to the rabble
Head down, go to sleep
To the rhythm of the war drums

Pay no mind what other voices say
They don’t care about you
Like I do
Safe from pain and truth and choice and other poison devils
See, they don’t give a fuck about you
Like I do

Just stay with me
Safe and ignorant
Go back to sleep
Go back to sleep

Lay your head down child
I won’t let the boogeyman come
Count the bodies like sheep
To the rhythm of the war drums
Pay no mind to the rabble
Pay no mind to the rabble
Head down, go to sleep
To the rhythm of the war drums

I’ll be the one to protect you from
Your enemies and all your demons
I’ll be the one to protect you from
A will to survive and a voice of reason
I’ll be the one to protect you from
Your enemies and your choices son
They’re one and the same I must isolate you
Isolate and save you from yourself

Swinging to the rhythm of the new world order and
Counting bodies like sheep
To the rhythm of the war drums
The boogeymen are coming
The boogeymen are coming
Keep your head down go to sleep
To the rhythm of the war drums

Stay with me
Safe and ignorant
Just stay with me
Hold you and protect you from the other ones
The evil ones
Don’t love you son
Go back to sleep

Trilogification and cynicism

When it first came out, I wasn’t a big fan of Back To The Future III.

It’s one of – if not the first thing I ever saw at the cinema. I was 9. I had seen the first two on video and loved them.

When I say “at the cinema”, I’m not being precise. “At the theater” might be more appropriate. It was actually a projector set up at the local community centre in the small country town I lived in. Usually, it was for shows or exhibitions – playing movies was a new thing.

As a kid, I was dissapointed that it was set almost entirely in the old west, and that there wasn’t any futuristic stuff or even any time travelling – the only time travel is from 1955 to 1885, and then the rest of the movie is spent trying to get back to 1985. I was also really disappointed at the destruction of the delorean.

But now, I think it’s a marvellous conclusion to the trilogy.

Yes, it’s a change of pace from parts 1 and 2, which are full of adventure and chases while doc and marty labour to fix the timeline and not destroy the universe in the process. Part 3 consists of the effort to get the time machine working in 1885 – it doesn’t have the same sense of adventure.

Instead, it provides a catharsis and it serves to analyse and evolve the two central characters – doc in his meeting clara, and marty in overcoming his problem with being called chicken. I think that as a kid I didn’t appreciate this, but now, I see it’s the perfect direction to take. Part 3 is where all the poingiant character moments take place, and it has some great ones – Marty choosing not to race needles, seeing Doc’s family. It also has lots of clever little jokes and references. Perhaps my favourite piece of dialogue is when marty says “great scott!”, and doc replies “I know, this is heavy” – it always makes me chuckle.

Parts 2 and 3 also serve as an excellent example of turning a story into the first part of a trilogy – the second part expands on the adventure of the first and sets up some plot points for the third, and the third provides character arcs and a satisfying, final conclusion – at much as I’d love to see Doc and Marty have one more adventure, the story is over. It even goes so far as to proclaim “The End”. There should never be a Back to the future 4.

Further, it expands the mythology of the entire series by showing the history of hill valley and its inhabitants – you get to see the first mcfly born in america, where the stricklan family’s love for discipline comes from, and another tannen. There are also more subtle indicators – the manure cart Mad Dog Tannen is punched into is “A Jones” manure, where the manure truck in 1955 is labelled with “D Jones”.

This brings me to another point about the magnificence of the storytelling in the back to the future trilogy as a whole – attention to detail. It seems to me that screenwriters and directors aren’t paying nearly as much attention to detail these days. For instance, the first scene of part 1 – doc’s lab – contains many subtle foreshadowings, such as the plutonium case / news report, and the article talking about the Brown Mansion, which you’ll see later in the film, burning down and Doc having to sell the family estate. These are tiny subtle details which you might not have noticed when you watched. (Mr Plinkett voice) But your brain did. It serves to make the fictional world more realistic and “full”.

Another part of this is consistency. I was watching part 3 and noticed when they start pushing the delorean along the train tracks that they have a wooden brace filled with tyres to dampen the impact. I thought I had spotted a continuity problem, and I said to myself “It’s 1885! where did they get tyres from?!?”. Then I remembered that they had removed the tyres from the delorean so it could run on train tracks. And on inspection, indeed, there were four tyres, and they were 1955-style whitewall tyres – exactly like the delorean had after its 1955 repairs.

Sometimes I wonder if it’s that filmmakers these days are paying less attention, or that I’m more cynical in my old age. I’m sure it’s a bit of both, but I don’t think there’s really very much cynicism there – there have been some truly great movies produced recently. Cloud Atlas springs immediately to mind – this instantly became one of my all-time favourite movies. So I’m not totally cynical.

I could offer many theories to explain why we don’t seem to be getting the same level of attention to detail any more.

Perhaps it’s that more and more things are done digitally, so the director / screenwriter isn’t dealing with real-world objects and locations anymore, so they’re not able to spot these small details early enough – a director on location dealing with props is perhaps more likely to spot these issues, and it’s definitely easier to add that one line of explanatory dialogue when you’re filming the scene, as opposed to fixing it in post with pickups or ADR, both of which require much more in both time and resources.

Maybe it’s the “George Lucas Effect” – it does seem to be that the bigger names are the ones pushing out duds. Given James Cameron’s record, avatar was sub-par. So was Indy 4. And don’t get me started on prometheus. Maybe it’s that these big names are surrounding themselves with “yes men” who are afraid to point out these inconsistensies. Perhaps it’s the hollywood process – appealing to the lowest common denominator – perhaps even these big names are being subjected to executive or studio meddling.

Perhaps the problem is the properties themselves – it’s always the great franchises that are sequeled into horribleness. Perhaps the problem is that Alien got too big. When that happened, the budget increased. But because of the increased budget the studio wants to sell more tickets. So this classic series which everybody knows and loves, which we’re sequelling because we know it has a huge established fanbase, needs more “mainstream appeal”

There are exceptions – great films still get made – look at primer – those guys paid attention. But I wonder if there’s anything that has been made in the last decade which I will look at with the same fondness in 20 years as I now look at something like BTTF, Spaceballs, or Terminator. There surely will be, but i suspect that the 2000s won’t live up to the 80s and 90s. And Back to the Future is surely a pinnacle of 80s filmmaking.

Future History of Init Systems

  • 2015: systemd becomes default boot manager in debian.
  • 2017: “complete, from-scratch rewrite”. In order to not have to maintain backwards compatibility, project is renamed to system-e.
  • 2019: debut of systemf, absorbtion of other projects including alsa, pulseaudio, xorg, GTK, and opengl.
  • 2021: systemg maintainers make the controversial decision to absorb The Internet Archive. Systemh created as a fork without Internet Archive.
  • 2022: systemi, a fork of systemf focusing on reliability and minimalism becomes default debian init system.
  • 2028: systemj, a complete, from-scratch rewrite is controversial for trying to reintroduce binary logging. Consensus is against the systemj devs as sysadmins remember the great systemd logging bug of 2017 unkindly. Systemj project is eventually abandoned.
  • 2029: systemk codebase used as basis for a military project to create a strong AI, known as “project skynet”. Software behaves paradoxically and project is terminated.
  • 2033: systeml – “system lean” – a “back to basics”, from-scratch rewrite, takes off on several server platforms, boasting increased reliability. systemm, “system mean”, a fork, used in security-focused distros.
  • 2117: critical bug discovered in the long-abandoned but critical and ubiquitous system-r project. A new project, system-s, is announced to address shortcomings in the hundred-year-old codebase. A from-scratch rewrite begins.
  • 2142: systemu project, based on a derivative of systemk, introduces “Artificially intelligent init system which will shave 0.25 seconds off your boot time and absolutely definitely will not subjugate humanity”. Millions die. The survivors declare “thou shalt not make an init system in the likeness of the human mind” as their highest law.
  • 2147: systemv – a collection of shell scripts written around a very simple and reliable PID 1 introduced, based on the brand new religious doctrines of “keep it simple, stupid” and “do one thing, and do it well”. People’s computers start working properly again, something few living people can remember. Wyld Stallyns release their 94th album. Everybody lives in peace and harmony.

Spaceballs is the greatest movie ever made

I’ve been saying it for a long time now.

Spaceballs is the greatest movie ever made.

Yes, Really.

There are over 50,000 reasons why – there must be at least one reason per frame. One day I think physicists will discover that if one charts every single reference to other works alongside all the little pauses and glances and things that may or may not be mistakes in spaceballs in a particular way in a twenty-six-dimensional space, it spells out the ultimate answer to life, the universe and everything.

Here are just a couple of examples (I’ll edit this list as I think of more):
* When Dark Helmet discovers that the radar has been jammed, and is saying “there’s only one man who would dare give me the raspberry”, keep your eyes on Colonel Sandurz – He’s been involved in the scene until now, interacting with and watching helmet, and as the camera approaches for a close-up on Helmet as he says “LONE STAR!”, Sandurz looks at the camera, raises his eyebrow, and steps back – his body language says “Oh, you’re coming in for a close-up? Let me get out of your way…” Gold.
* “Nice Dissolve”

Hail Skroob!

Predestination

I recently saw Predestination, a new Australian Sci-fi based on a short story by Heinlein.

It’s awesome – it’s the best time-travel movie in a good while. I watched it, and was then immediately compelled to watch it again – my brain wouldn’t stop, I needed to make sure that everything fit into place and that I hadn’t missed any obvious brokenness in my enthusiasm. And it was just as good on the second viewing – there are no glaring inconsistencies that I can see, and on the second viewing you pick up a lot of subtle stuff.

It started strong, and then got better. I was particularly impressed with the way it kept me thinking and guessing, and then thinking more and second-guessing my guesses – I found it constantly teasing my expectations of a time-travel movie called “predestination”, it’s like the filmmakers are daring you to name the tropes you think they’re going to use, so that they can avoid them or mess with your expectations of them.

In addition to being a fantastic science fiction film (and IMHO good, serious time-travel films are few and far between, so this is worthy of praise in its own right), I also found it to be a really compelling character drama with a lot of heart.

One other thing which I think deserves particular mention: I love that it’s not set in our universe. It’s set in the past on some alternate earth as envisioned by Heinlein in 1959. This is awesome, and really unusual – usually these types of golden-age story are contemporised – a terrible, terrible example of this being I, Robot. Eeew. It feels like they have constructed a world, even though it’s mostly the same as ours, and the differences are taken for granted in-world – e.g no heavy exposition on exactly what “space corp” does – tourism? mining? exploration? who knows, it’s not relevant. Awesome.

I think it’s probably the best time-travel film since 12 Monkeys. It’s not quite as good as 12 Monkeys, but then 12 Monkeys has Terry Gilliam’s style and amazing performances from both Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt – we’re talking big-league stuff here. And I’d put predestionation in the same league.

I’d love to hear suggestions for other great time-travel films for comparison. Here’s my “time travel movie showdown” table:

Predestination vs: Winrar
12 Monkeys 12 Monkeys
The Butterfly effect Predestination (by a slim margin)
Primer Predestination (Again, by a slim margin)
Looper Predestination
Donnie Darko Predestination (darko disqualified for being too ambiguous about whether it’s a time-travel movie or not)
The Time Machine (either version) Predestination
Back To The Future Tie (contenders refused to compete)

fortune

I have fortune integrated into various scripts. Because I can.

Today, logwatch gave me one that made me chuckle:

THE LESSER-KNOWN PROGRAMMING LANGUAGES #12: LITHP

This otherwise unremarkable language is distinguished by the absence of
an “S” in its character set; users must substitute “TH”. LITHP is said
to be useful in protheththing lithtth.

HOWTO: Power on your computer

In this latest entry in my series of helpful ‘how to’ articles, I’ll be teaching you how to power on your computer.

If you have a PC, follow these steps:
1. Ensure that the machine is plugged in
2. Ensure that the rear power switch is in the ‘on’ position
3. Press the ‘Power’ button on the front of the device.

If you have a mac, these are the steps you’ll need to follow:
1. Ensure that the machine is plugged in
2. Examine the machine, noting that there’s no power switch anywhere to be seen.
3. Unplug all cables from the machine
4. Pick up the machine and examine it from every angle, looking for the power switch. You’ll note that it’s in a location which is completely nonfunctional and unintuitive. But at least it doesn’t interfere with the nice brushed metal finish.
5. grab a permanent marker and put a mark on the front of the machine (preferably on the lovely brushed metal) where the power switch is, so that it’s possible to turn it on again without repeating this entire process.
6. Put machine back on desk
7. Plug all cables back in
8. Reach around and behind the monitor, through all the cables you just plugged in, and press the power switch
9. Kill yourself.

Give up for australia

May all our young Aussie swimmers
Be resigned to failure
May our nation’s state
Be always second rate!

May Timorese fisherman
Evade the Aussie sailor
Do as history teaches
Die on Middle Eastern beaches!

We produce a Norman May
Not a Norman Mailer
May our land’s vast distance
Always treat us with indifference!

Give up for Australia!
Give up for Australia!
Give up for Australia!
Give up for Australia!

-TISM

The biggest problem with Microsoft certification

The problems with Microsoft certification are myriad.

One really big problem is that people with Microsoft certification think that because they know how to use the Wizard provided by Exchange server, they know something about email, the internet, or networking.

Microsoft certification teaches you the practical knowledge you’ll need to run a variety of servers – on Microsoft tech. You’ll be able to do cool things fast – as long as Microsoft anticipated that need. And you’re basically taught a mantra that says that if it doesn’t have a Microsoft logo, it’s “Not Compatible”.

In reality, the opposite is true: Pretty much everything is compatible, except for Microsoft. And usually everything is compatible with Microsoft, despite their best efforts to embrace and extend. The only thing is not compatible is that Microsoft products aren’t compatible with non-microsoft products.

But I think perhaps the biggest problem with Microsoft certification is that when people finish their course, they get a shiny certificate, and it says that they’re Microsoft certified. And Microsoft people spend lots of time impressing how respectable they are on their customers. So people get this impression that their Microsoft certification means that they deserve some kind of respect.

Firefox Demographics

Dear Firefox devs,

I’ve been using your browser for 10 years or so now – ever since I started to learn about open source software. The difference from IE was amazing – tabs!

Later, the difference became even more profound – Adblock! Firebug! and too many other add-ons to mention – eventually it got to the point where I had to limit the addons I use in order to not clutter and slow things down. Firefox really was the browser for power users.

I had my complaints – the CPU usage always seemed too high, and the memory usage was particularly absurd, but it did everything well.

Chrome happened. It closed the gap somewhat with its built-in developer tools and extensions. The one-process-per-tab idea was a good one. It was fast, and it didn’t require a gigabyte of memory to display one tab, but it just didn’t have the flexibility of firefox, so I could never quite make the switch.

There was one other thing about chrome I didn’t like – it had that sleek, minimalistic, “modern” interface. You know the type: they have pretty curved edges and nice animations for everything, but they tend to not be very configurable.

So it was with sadness that I updated my system the other day, only to see a shiny, chrome-lookalike interface on firefox.

I spent ages trying to turn the add-on bar back on and to remove the button which shows the awful new menu, to no avail.

Eventually I found the classic theme restorer add-on, which makes things sane again, but it’s not exactly awesome: Firefox is now using even more memory and I have yet another add-on installed just so that the interface isn’t terrible.

It seems that firefox is going for a new target demographic: they’ve decided to abandon the power users and go after the crowd who like chrome but think that it’s just too fast and doesn’t use enough memory.

Maybe they could use a new slogan: “Firefox: it’s just like chrome, only slower!”.

Personally, I think that this new demographic might be a limited market. If I wanted to use chrome, I’d…uh… use chrome.

Meanwhile, I wonder what the Opera team have been up to gor the last 5 years…

Poney


Babe those sexy curves drive me wild
I wanna mount you, ride you, as hard as I can
I’ll ride you like a pony, babe

I love the way you move between my legs
and the way you squirm when I squeeze
and the way you grip when you get warmed up
Babe you sure know how to please

And I wanna take you everywhere I go
and I wanna show you to everyone I know
Show you off like some trophy wife
you and me babe, this is the life

Glide with me, my baby
Fly with me, my baby
Ride with me, my baby
Be one with me, my love.

It seems like this has just begun
but I know I’ve already won
The two of us have endless fun
moving together in unison
And when I’m with you I get nothing but action
One flick of my finger and you’re having contractions
I feel your vibrations all the way to my feet
When we’re together, babe, you make me complete

Babe you know you’re the only one
I wanna mount you, ride you, as fast as I can
I’ll ride you like a pony baby
And the way you purr when your motor’s running
and the way you scream when you get revved up
and the way you react to my every move
and the way you never come unstuck
make me wanna shout your name from the rooftops
make me wanna sing your praises till the message groks
makes me insecure when I’m not with you
makes me care about nothing, except us two

Glide with me, my baby
Fly with me, my baby
Ride with me, my baby
Be one with me, my love.

PROTIP

NEWSFLASH:

Top Gear is not a serious programme, it’s a comedy programme. It’s not real.

When Jeremy Clarkson says “literally” on Top Gear, he doesn’t literally mean “literally”, he means “figuratively”. This is what’s known as a comedic device – those who are in on the joke of Top Gear realise that he knows that when he says “literally” he means “figuratively”, and that he knows that they know. It’s part of the joke.

Asking Jeremy Clarkson “is it real?” is more disingenuous than him responding that it is, in fact, literally 100% real.

Oh, yeah, and the preceding blog post may have contained spoilers, so spoiler alert.

The Neo Freerunner – A Review

I just emailled this to some guy who was asking about the freerunner on the openmoko lists, where I still lurk. I was proofreading it and thought to myself “hey, this is actually a pretty decent review of the device”. So here it is for all to see:

The freerunner is the worst phone ever made. It might nearly be usable as a phone now thanks to Radek and QTMoko, but you’re much better off buying an old feature phone or rooting an android phone. I think that while it might nearly be acceptable for a linux hacker, the freerunner software will never be a truly good user experience despite radek’s efforts – it’s too big a job for one person. I hope I’m wrong about that, but I don’t think I will be.

I was particularly appalled at the battery life. The battery used to last about 2 hours, but they have nearly solved all the power management bugs so if you’re lucky you might get ~6 hours out of it these days. It might even last all day if you keep it in suspend and don’t use it. In particular, using Wifi, Bluetooth, GPS, or having the screen on will significantly reduce the battery life you should expect to get.

It doesn’t have a camera, though I believe there’s a camera module for the GTA04.

An important thing to note is that due to a design flaw, the device is not capable of fully utilizing it’s accelerated graphics as bandwidth to the screen is limited. therefors it’s not capable of playing fullscreen video at the native resolution of 480×640. It will play fullscreen video if you’re into extremely crap resolution – 240×320. You shouldn’t ever expect to see much more than 10-15fps at full resolution.

The company went out of business because they made a buggy phone and couldn’t figure out what they wanted to do software-wise – they seemed to think that making the UI themeable was more important than being able to recieve phone calls or have working power management. The demise of Openmoko is a good thing.

If you’re looking for a phone, you do not want a freerunner.

If you’re looking for a hackable linux palmtop with a tiny screen, no keyboard, not very much power and a fairly awful battery life when you’re using it as a computer, then the freerunner might be an option for you, although you can probably buy something like a raspberry pi with 3 times the power for half as much money.

Nikolaus’ GTA04 project does seem much more promising and addresses a lot of the shortcomings of the freerunner and may be worth looking into. I have spoken to Nikolaus via email a few times and he seems like a very cool guy – I trust him and I’d buy a GTA04 in a heartbeat if I wasn’t put off by the price – I already spent $400 on a phone that doesn’t work, and I bought a nokia so that I’d have a working phone before Nick brought out the GTA04, so I can’t justify spending that much money to make my freerunner useful.

Spilt Milk and the Model M

Aah. how I love my Model M. I’ve written about it before. The click-click every time I press a key. It feels like I’m accomplishing something. I do this wierd hybrid two-finger/semi-touch typing technique from which I can’t seem to break the habit, but touch-typing is easier on the Model M for me – the keys have sharper edges and are therefore more distinct to the touch – my fingers just seem to fall into place. The other thing I love about my particular Model M is that it’s extra-awesome: it has a manufacture date in 1992 stamped on the back, and a real proper motherfucking IBM logo on the front – none of this modern USB stuff. It’s a real proper original IBM Model M, though 1992 is getting kinda late for original – it’s “only” 21 years old.

The Model M really is an example of engineering at it’s best: In this way it has something in common with Commodore hardware – they’re from the same era, and every commodore machine I have which wasn’t spare parts when I got it still works. Some of the ones I got as spare parts aren’t spare parts anymore – they’ve been turned back into working machines. My Amiga 2000 is one of my most treasured posessions. I hardly ever use it. But when I turn it on, it just works… For twenty years! It’ll still be going long after this Dual Core 3ghz lintel box I’m using now is dead. This stuff is designed to last, no planned obsolescence here! Can you imagine the testing these things went through? Automated machines pressing those buckling springs over and over again to find their point of failure. I don’t even know what it is but I’d bet they’re rated for millions of keystrokes. Per key. This is not a flimsy piece of junk which falls off your lap and breaks, though it could maybe break your toe if it lands on it. Old cars are like this too – they’re designed to last a lifetime. Barring violent destruction at the hands of nefarious third parties my Model M is the last keyboard I’ll ever need.

I’ve hardly used it in 2 years. It was plugged into a server went pop a few months ago which I haven’t bothered to resurrect. The server used to be my primary machine before I got my current primary machine. It has it’s own new-fangled USB wireless non-Model-M keyboard with permanent ink blotting out the awful logo on the ‘super’ key. I use this new machine for games since it has a nice nvidia card and I’ve found that the Model M isn’t the ideal gamers keyboard for action games – the only shortcoming I’ve discovered – those ultra-tough keys aren’t designed for being pressed in rapid succession. Or, perhaps more accurately, my fingers lack the dexterity to press the same clicky-style key quickly enough. So I’d never bothered to plug in the good old Model M, even after the old server died.

Enter spilt milk leading to a sticking tab key. Uber annoying im vim. The story should be pretty obvious from here – no more fear of spilt milk, certainly no crying over it…

…except for one detail: now I have a good, PS2, Model-M keyboard with it’s awesome 2-3 metre cable and it’s clicky keys and weight (it really feels like a piece of furniture sitting on your lap!), AND a mere wireless USB keyboard with noobish easy-to-press keys that are nice for gaming. Awesome. :)

Dear the entire world

You don’t need to quote database column and table names in queries unless they contain special characters like spaces.

This applies for every database engine and every dialect of SQL I’ve ever used – quoting column names is always optional.

So why the fuck do you insist on writing this in your php codez?

$query=”SELECT \”some_ordinary_column\” from \”some_table\” where \”some_table\”.\”some_column\” = \”some_value\”"

Are you a masochist who loves escaping things or what?

How much more readable is this:
$query=’SELECT some_ordinary_column from some_table where some_table.some_column = “some_value”‘

The funny thing is that the type of people who write this garbage are the same type of people who tell you that using an if statement without braces is “bad style”. lol.

Not worth my effort

Natalie Bennett, A victorian police officer, admits (in private, off the record of course) that she routinely speeds because she knows that if pulled over all she has to do is flash her badge and she’ll be let off scott-free.

This makes her a despicable human being and part of the problem.

When I expressed my outrage at this wanton abuse and double-standard, I was told “if you have a problem with it you should become a cop so that you can speed too”.

I was particularly astounded at the complete lack of interest in justice which this view implies – it seems that some people don’t want a better world. It’s not just that they’re apathetic and terrified, they’re actively disinterested in the world being a better place.

It’s times like these when I think that I shouldn’t bother trying – this idiotic species doesn’t deserve my help – let it die. It might not be my ideal “better world”, but it would be an improvement.

the final frontier

Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds where things explode, to seek out new life and new civilizations, and watch while they explode. to boldly go where no man has gone before, and blow shit up.

QOTD

“If I speak at one constant volume, at one constant pitch, at one constant rhythm, right into your ear, you still won’t hear.”
- Faith No More – A Small Victory

QOTD

(Dumb bitch parks illegally across my carpark exit)
Me: “You know that’s not a parking spot, right?”
Her: “Huh?”
Me: “That spot you’re parked in – it’s not a parking space, it’s the entrance to my carpark.”
Her: “What?”
Me: “I SAID THAT IS NOT A PARKING SPACE! MOVE YOUR SHITHEAP!”
Her: “There’s no need to scream!”

Logging is necessary

Unless you’re me, you’re less awesome than you think you are.

(I’m more awesome than I think I am. This is not a paradox)

Therefore, when you write a mission-critical piece of code, you need a logging system

Your logging system needs to have different types or log message: error and debug at the bare minimum.

Your code needs to log every action it takes.

This might be expensive or difficult. Tough shit. If it’s important, it needs to be logged – you must be able to go back over a particular execution and determine what happened. This is not optional.

This is a good rule even for not-important code. It makes debugging SO much easier. There are approximately 100 billion logging systems available, use a library if you must. Or you could write your own in 10 minutes.

Let’s discuss! Give me an example of a situation where logging is undesirable for important code, and I’ll tell you why you’re wrong… ;)

PROTIP

Don’t forget to breathe:

  1. Inhale
  2. Exhale
  3. Go to Step 1

Following these steps will provide you with a continuous oxygen supply unless you seal yourself away from the atmosphere (i.e: sealed room, underwater) or leave the planet.

Leaving the planet without an adequate oxygen supply is not recommended.

QOTD

Quote

“I don’t want to talk about time travel shit. Because if we talk about time travel shit then we’re gonna be here all day, drawing diagrams with straws.”
- Bruce Willis, Looper

Things aren’t moving backwards

No, things aren’t moving backwards at all!

Let’s look at some of the awesome new features of a couple of current-gen Microsoft products:

Windows 7: One of my FAVOURITE features is the way it assumes that I, as a user, am too stupid to know how to resize a window: apparently, if I want to move a window mostly off the right-hand side of the screen, what I actually want to do is resize that window so that it takes up half the screen! Apparently I’m too fucking retarded to know that I can achieve the same result by simply moving my mouse to the top-left or bottom-left corner of the window and just resizing it. Of course I’m not sure how it thinks I intended to resize the window, given that the resizing corners at the right are off-screen.

Similarly, if I want to move a window to the top of the screen, that means I want to maximize! Apparently, I’m too fucking retarded to know to just press the maximize button like people have been doing for about 20 years. Apparently, after moving my small scite window to the top of the screen, I planned to use the resize corners to resize it so that it filled the whole screen, rather than just pressing maximize. It’s really great that I have this software to do my thinking for me: I’d been struggling with that whole ‘maximize’ notion for years.

So we’ve established that Microsoft thinks my intelligence lies somewhere between that of Mac user and an inanimate carbon rod.

However, when I want to access the New-And-Improved(TM) ribbon interface and add a button to it programatically via VBA – you know, so that my (retarded) users just get a new button they can click to make things happen, I find that:

(from A Blog Post):

You cannot create ribbon elements dynamically in VBA

It is not possible to create ribbon elements dynamically via code as 
with Office 2003, where you could manage your own CommandBars and 
CommandBarButtons.

In Excel 2007 each ribbon element (Tab, Group, Buttons, etc.) needs 
to be defined statically and embedded in the Excel document using a 
specially crafted XML file and with quite a few manual steps, 
including renaming and modifying contents of the Excel document —
factually a ZIP with the XLSM or XLAM extension.

And:

(from This Book):

In previous versions of Excel, it was relatively easy for end users 
to change the user interface. They could create custom toolbars that
contained frequently used commands, and they could even remove menu 
items that they never used. Users could display any number of 
toolbars and move them wherever they liked. Those days are over.
	
The Quick Access Toolbar (QAT) is the only user-customizable UI 
element in Excel 2007. It's very easy for a user to add a command to 
the QAT, so the command is available no matter which ribbon tab is 
active. The QAT can't be moved, but Microsoft does allow users to 
determine whether the QAT is displayed above or below the ribbon.

The QAT is not part of the object model, so there is nothing you 
can do with it using VBA.

So, to boil it all down, there’s no way for me to programatically add a new toolbar button using this wonderful new interface, which means that my users (who, as previously established, are assumed to be about as clever as sponges) are expected to add a toolbar button themselves by following a set of instructions which I have to put together for them. Never mind the fact that this will inherently create a bunch of issues just in terms of support (e.g: morons calling me up asking what I mean by ‘right-click’ in step 6; users choosing a different icon, or giving the new button a different caption, ruining the uniformity of the interface), how I’m supposed to convey a concept as complex as ‘add a toolbar’ to a retarded grasshopper is strangely ommitted from the documentation I’ve looked through.

No, things aren’t moving backwards at all…

Watch out for the next installment of this series, where we’ll analyse why it’s a good thing to remove features from your program so that the interface isn’t cluttered anymore, because having a complex interface is a terrible, terrible thing, and menus are so unintuitive.

I hear that next year Microsoft is going to help the people at NASA Mission control replace their hideously complex systems (sometimes people have to TYPE THINGS at mission control!) with a (touchscreen) button (with round corners, of course!) that says “Launch Rocket” (in the tooltip, which you can’t see, because it’s a touchscreen – The icon will simply be a cartoony V2 rocket). It’s expected that this will lead to huge efficiency gains in the rocket launching process, and will probably only cause a 20-30% increase in catastrophes.

Routing everything via VPN

I have a VPN.

I have it set up in a pretty standard way: when a machine joins the VPN it effectively becomes part of my LAN. But I don’t route everything via the VPN, that would be inefficient and would waste my bandwidth. I haven’t bothered with doing DNS over VPN, as I usually just use IP addresses anyway (one of the advantages of using a 10.x.x.x network), and when you do that you run into all kinds of complexities and problems (like how to resolve names on the lan you’re connected to)

But sometimes I’m somewhere where I don’t trust the owner of the network that I’m connected to: I don’t want to be spied on.

In these instances, it’s handy to be able to route everything out over the VPN connection.

But if you don’t stop to think for a minute and just try to add a default route which points to the VPN server, you’ll instantly lose your VPN connection and all internet access because there’s no longer any way to reach the VPN you’re trying to route through. Doh.

The solution is simple:

#!/bin/bash
#delete existing default route:
sudo route del default
#traffic to the VPN server goes out via your existing connection:
sudo route add <internet-ip.of.vpn.server> gw <your.existing.untrusted.gateway>
#...and everything else gets routed out via the VPN (assuming your VPN server is 172.16.0.1)
sudo route add default netmask 0.0.0.0 gw 172.16.0.1

OK, that takes care of routing. Next you need to send your DNS requests out via the VPN, or you’ll still be pretty easily monitorable – overlords will still know every domain you visit. To do that, edit /etc/resolv.conf and change the ‘nameserver’ line to point to the nameserver for your VPN and/or LAN:

#/etc/resolv.conf
nameserver 172.16.0.1

I recommend running your VPN on port 443. My reason is really simple: in oppressive environments, you can pretty much count on port 443 being open, since it’s used for https, and https is not something that a tyrannical sysadmin/policymaker can get away with blocking: it’s the backbone of e-commerce. In addition, https traffic is encrypted, as is VPN, so it’s less likely to be monitored by things like deep packet inspection, and any not-too-deep packet inspection is likely to come up with an outcome of ‘encrypted traffic, nothing unusual’ when looking at VPN traffic on port 443.

It should be noted that while this is unlikely to set off automated alarm bells, it will look somewhat unusual to any human observer who notices – your overlords will see a bunch of “https” traffic, but nothing else (not even DNS), which may in itself raise suspicions.

It should also be noted that you very likely just added a couple of hundred milliseconds to your latency and have now effectively limited your available bandwidth somewhat, depending on network conditions.

But I know from experience that the victorian government’s IT agency, Cenitex, is incapable of determining any difference between https traffic and VPN traffic going via port 443.

Though, of course, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible…

…In fact, that doesn’t even mean it’s difficult…

…but you should be reasonably safe from the spying eyes of your microsoft cerfitied sysadmin. :)

Goodbye AWN

It would appear that Avant Window Navigator is dead:

Stable release 	0.4.0 / April 11, 2010; 2 years ago

Which is a pity: I liked AWN. But the fact that its task manager doesn’t work properly has become a deal-breaker: after days of trying, I’ve finally given up at attempting to make AWN’s task manager realise that I have Eclipse running.

I have an eclipse launcher set up in awn. While Eclipse’s splash screen is showing, AWN recognises that eclipse is running, but as soon as the main window opens, awn does it’s “window closed” animation and refuses to acknowledge that the window which currently has focus deserves any kind of icon in the task manager.

If it came up with a duplicate icon – one in the taskbar in addition to the launcher – that’d be acceptable. But it doesn’t do that. Instead, it makes it impossible to switch to a minimised eclipse without using ALT-TAB, or the xfce-panel on my 2nd monitor (which isn’t always on). Clicking on the launcher launches a 2nd copy of eclipse, which then (rightfully) whinges that the eclipse workspace is in use and can’t be opened.

I found a couple of people who had similar issues. I tried a bunch of things to work around it.

On one forum, somebody explained that it’s hard to match windows to running processes…which is fair enough…

…except that the xfce panel seems to manage it just fine.
…and so does gnome panel
…and so does cairo-dock
…and, presumably, whatever KDE uses
…and, I expect, docky
…and, more than likely, dockbarx

And the awn devs would appear to have all been hit by a bus: domains have expired and are redirecting to spam sites; IRC is dead, and I’m yet to find any remnant of the awn community. Which is a real pity.

So I’ve installed cairo-dock. It looks nice, and somehow feels ‘more snappy’ than awn: maybe this is because cairo-dock’s ratio of plugins written in python is low: most of them would seem to be C++, with only a couple of the prepackaged ones being python. My only complaints about cairo-dock are:

  • The ‘Indicator old’ applet is retarded: it has drawing issues (draws a grey box where an icon used to be), and why can’t it just display in the dock, like every other applet in existence? why should I need to click on it’s (nonexistent – it just renders as blackness) icon to actually see my systray? This is only a minor annoyance since the only thing I have which refuses to cooperate with the ‘new’ indicator applet is the seldomly-used fusion icon, and vmware (who’s systray icon i don’t use)
  • The context menus on some items are behaving suite wierdly: they’re not tall enough. And sometimes they don’t render clicks. except sometimes they do, and that sometimes they are tall enough. It seems very random.

This very likely means that in the near future I’ll be extending NodeUtil to have a cairo-dock applet, since this is the only thing I really miss from awn.

3653 days

Today marks 10 years since I met you.

And on February 14th (Yeah, valentine’s day) – It will be 10 years since we first got together.

I still remember it so vividly.

It was a sunday afternoon. I was running late, as usual, to meet my friends at the St. Kilda festival.

So I got my shit together, and maybe 15 minutes late I turned up at the meeting spot. I was the last to arrive – everybody else was still there.

And somebody new.

I don’t know exactly what it was, but there was something about you that I saw straight away. I knew instantly that no amount of shyness on my part was going to stop me from talking to you. I knew that I wanted to get to know you instantly.

I knew all this so quickly that my mind went racing even before I figured out who you were. In the space of a couple of seconds, a huge number of thoughts flew through my mind. My thought processes went something like this:

1) “Oh. My. God: She’s fucking *gorgeous*!”
2) “Who is she, anyway?”
3) “Oh, I know who she is. This could be trouble.”

The “This could be trouble” was because you were my best friend’s sister, and I knew that I was going to be compelled to chase you. I didn’t want it to cause problems with my friendship. Of course, it did. But that’s another story.

I guess the point of this story is that since then I’ve pretty much believed in love at first sight.

Not literally, that would be stupid – I didn’t fall in love with you then and there. I don’t know exactly when I did fall in love with you – it snuck up on me: one day I realised that I’d do anything for you, and there it was.

But this wasn’t just attraction. I’d been attracted to pretty girls before, and I’ve been attracted since. This was not the same: there was more to it.

I can’t put my finger on it: maybe it was the expression on your face, maybe it was your pose, something in your body language. But it was there. And I saw it and knew straight away.

And I’ve never loved anyone the same way since. I don’t see it happening again.

I miss you.

Teeworlds

In today’s installment of “Awesome Open-Source Software”, I’m going to talk about Teeworlds.

A screenshot:

This game is a brilliantly playable, amazingly addictive, and hugely fun blend of a 2D platformer (a-la Mario) and a multiplayer FPS (a-la Quake3 or Unreal Tournament).

It’s not complicated: It’s multiplayer only, there are only 5 weapons, and the levels aren’t big or expansive – you won’t spend long looking for your enemy, you’ll spend more time lobbing grenades at him, and then running away frantically because you’re out of ammo and/or low on health.

That’s if you’re playing with only a few others. If there are lots of people in the game, it’ll just be frantic carnage, like any good deathmatch.

It takes its cues from “proper” deathmatch games – the old run-and-gun style: cover systems and regenerating health are for sissies; precision aiming is for people who don’t know about splash damage. Standing still is a VERY BAD IDEA. None of this “modern FPS” crap. This is evidenced most starkly in the fact that you can double-jump, and, perhaps coolest of all, you have a grapping hook, which you can use to climb and to swing yourself to/from places very quickly. If you play in a busy CTF server, you’ll see just how effective the grappling hook can be – these guys are SO FAST!

And it’s gorgeous and has a great atmosphere: cartoonish graphics and sounds. The sounds really do it for me: the cutesy scream your tee will make when he’s hit in the face with a grenade makes it fun to die, the maniacal yet cartoonish laugh your character will emit when your opponent cops a grenade to the face. It’s a really really fun atmosphere.

And I mean that: this is one of those games which is so much fun that you rarely feel like ragequitting, even when you’re losing badly: you will get killed mercilessly and repeatedly, but you’ll have a big smile on your face during the shootout, and when you die you’ll laugh.

And it’s quite well-balanced: none of the weapons are over-powerful or ridiculously weak. This is probably helped by the fact that the weapons have (very) limited ammo, even though running out of ammo sometimes annoys me slightly.

Downsides:

  • There aren’t enough teeworlds players in Australia, so I find myself playing on servers where I have a ping of 300 or more. This means you sometimes have a laggy experience.
  • You’ll come across killer bots sometimes. These bots are inhumanly good and can drain the fun out of being repeatedly stomped on, but the game has a voting system which allows you to vote on kicking players, so these bots are rarely a nuisance for long.
  • It has an ‘auto-switch weapons’ feature which switches when you pick up a new weapon, but it lacks a ‘weapon preference’ order a-la Unreal Tournament, and it does not switch weapons automatically when you run out of ammo. This is sometimes frustrating because you’re firing at your opponent but you only get an ‘out of ammo’ click, and while you’re trying to switch weapons your opponent kills you. But it’s one of those things you learn and it also serves to add tactics to the game – you’re always keeping an eye on how much ammo you have.

TL;DR: Teeworlds is a really really fun and addictive game which cleverly combines cutesy graphics and 2d-platformer gameplay with the frantic action of a golden-age FPS. It’s one of the better open-source games out there. Go and buy it now! ;)

[EDIT: antisol.org now runs a Teeworlds Deathmatch server! :) ]

want to scp recursively without rsync?

rsync doesn’t work on the freerunner for some reason I can’t even be bothered investigating.

So I came up with this without even really thinking about it, googling, etc:

cd /destination/path;ssh user@host 'tar cv /source/path' | tar x

It’s when I do stuff like that without giving it a second thought that I feel like I’m justified in saying that I’m “familiar” with linux. I’ve achieved something since ~2005!

one could add a ‘z’ or a ‘j’ to the tar parameters for compression, but the freerunner’s CPU speed makes compression take longer than transferring the data uncompressed.

HOWTO: Write the worst piece of open-source software in the history of mankind

…it’s actually pretty easy: All you have to to is write an open-source emulator (OK, fine, “API Compatibility Layer”) for the worst piece of software in the history of mankind.

In case it’s not completely obvious at this point, I’m talking about WINE.

Wine is a piece of shit. The only reason I don’t rate it as “worse than windows” is that the wine devs don’t expect you to pay for their garbage, whereas Microsoft does.

No, wait, I don’t want you to misunderstand me, so I’ll clarify my statement: wine is a godawful piece of shit.

Legions of freetards will quickly jump to defend wine: They’ll tell me how I have no right to criticise the hard work of all these people who are giving me something for nothing, and they’ll talk about how well the wine team keep abreast of the latest developments and how they’re in an impossible situation because they’re aiming at a moving target and how Microsoft’s documentation leaves alot to be desired in terms of reimplementing the entire Win32 API.

And they do have a point – the wine devs are not trying to do something trivial.

But that doesn’t change the fact that wine is a piece of shit.

I won’t dispute that there are some talented people working on the wine project – I don’t even want to think about how complex such an undertaking is, but if you can’t even make things work consistently when somebody upgrades to a new version of your product, it’s a shit product, and you’re useless, not doing enough testing, and not managing your project properly. Keeping existing features working is more important than adding new features.

Keeping existing features working is more important than adding new features!

KEEPING EXISTING FEATURES WORKING IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN ADDING NEW FEATURES!

Wine suffers from a completely retarded number of regression bugs: something which works just wine in version X of wine may or may not work in version X+1. This is an absolutely ridiculous situation.

Apparently “STABLE” doesn’t mean what I thought it meant: I thought it meant “Working, Usable, and tends to not crash horribly in normal use”. But the wine team seems to think that “STABLE” means “This alpha feature is almost feature-complete and almost works. Mostly. Except when it doesn’t”. I can’t fathom the decision to mark Wine 1.4 as “Stable” with its redesigned audio subsystem which lacks a fucking pulseaudio driver! And the attitude they take is “pulse has ALSA emulation, so we don’t really need to support pulse” – a weak cop-out at best. I mean, it’s not like the majority of distros these days default to using pulse… Oh, wait…

Application-specific tweaking. Oh, the essay I could write on the bullshit required to make any particular application work. Here’s the usual procedure:

  1. Go to appdb.winehq.org, see that it’s rated as “garbage”
  2. Note that the ‘Garbage’ Rating was with the current version of wine, and that there’s a “Gold” rating for the previous version of wine. Click on the gold rating to see that review
  3. Scroll down through the review to see if there are any helpful tips as to wierd and wonderful esoteric settings you should change to make your app work
  4. Try all the tips and manipulating all the settings in the previous point, to no avail
  5. Revert wine to the earliest version available in your distro’s repos. It’s important to note here that you probably just broke every other wine app you have installed
  6. When this doesn’t work, download and attempt to compile the version which got the gold rating. If you manage to get it to compile and install correctly (it probably won’t – it’ll depend on an older version of at least one library, which will lead you straight into dependency hell), go back to fiddling with esoteric settings for a few days
  7. When you’re sure you’ve replicated all the tweaks, DLL overrides. and settings for your app as per the gold rating on the appdb and it STILL doesn’t work, scream loudly
  8. Install virtualbox and waste many resources just so that you can run your app
  9. Hope that you used checkinstall when you compiled the old version of wine, so that it’s possible to remove it without wanting to commit ritual suicide
  10. Install the version of wine you had installed from the repos. Hope that the other apps you spent days configuring and actually managed to get working still work.
  11. Hope that the few apps you actually got working don’t break horribly next time you do an apt-get upgrade

I can’t be fucked with any of this anymore, so here’s the process I use:

  1. Create a new wineprefix: ‘env WINEPREFIX=~/wineprefix_for_this_particular_app winecfg’. It’s important to create an entirely new wineprefix for each app, because that way it’s slightly less trivially easy to break all your other apps just by changing one setting.
  2. Run the installer with something like ‘env WINEPREFIX=~/wineprefix_for_this_particular_app wine some_installer.exe’
  3. When things fail horribly (and they will for about 99.999% of apps in my experience), type ‘rm -Rv ~/wineprefix_for_this_particular_app’ and install it in your VM.

The most hilarious and entertaining part about all of this is the way that even after all my experiences which indicate the contrary, sometimes I still tend to assume that things will work under wine – after all, the wine mantra is “if it’s old, it’s more likely to work”. Here are some examples:

  • “The old PC version of ‘Road Rash’ – the one with soundgarden in the soundtrack – it’s more than 10 years old! It’ll be using DirectX 3 API calls if it’s lucky! SURELY it will ‘Just Work’ in wine, right?”
  • “Oh, I know – I’ll Install Dungeon Keeper – it’s old – it should Just Work, right?”
  • “AHA! Deus Ex has a ‘Gold’ rating with THE CURRENT WINE VERSION! Surely that means it will Just Work?”
  • “Aah, JASC Animation Shop. Such a great little app. I used to use it all the time back in 1997. Is should Just Work, right?”

And now, some questions for the wine developers:

  1. Why is it that Fl Studio uses about 3 times as much processor time in the current version than it did in the previous version? For some of my tracks, FL Studio sits at 90% CPU Utilization when it’s NOT EVEN PLAYING. Trying to play will give you a horrible mess of stuttering as the CPU valiantly attempts to keep up with wine’s bullshit demands. With the previous version of wine and the exact same track on the exact same install of FL Studio with the exact same settings, this track played just fine. I have been tweaking for about 4 days now and have achieved ABSOLUTELY NOTHING in terms of improving this situation.
  2. Why has wine not absorbed PlayOnLinux (another awful piece of code – random hangs FTW!)? This functionality should be included in wine (i.e: a central, per-application/wine version ‘tweaks’ database. You have a nice interface for installing apps. You choose the app from a list, and wine downloads the tweaks appropriate for that app and applies them automatically. This would not be hard to implement, and would solve a HUGE number of issues for a huge number of users.
  3. What genius decided that a version with a broken pulseaudio driver should be marked as “Stable”?
  4. Speaking of re-engineering your audio stack, can you please explain how this new, non-functional audio subsystem is superior to the working one which it replaced?
  5. Do you anticipate that one day wine will actually be able to do what it says on the tin? Or should I just give up on the whole concept? I feel like I am the butt of some huge, multi-year practical joke.

Now, to be fair, this is not all the fault of the wine devs – it’s also the fault of the people who manage repos for the various distros out there: these people should learn, and simply not upgrade the wine version in our repos until they’ve checked whether the fucking thing works or not – it’s a wierd kind of synchronicity that choosing a wine version is kind of like using Microsoft products: You never, ever, ever install the initial release, you wait for R2, when it might actually stand a chance of being something other than utter shit.

Wine sucks. It’s the worst piece of open-source code in the history of mankind. There are two factors why:

  1. Because they’re emulating the worst piece of code in the history of mankind.
  2. Because they’re amateur idiots who suck and can’t manage a project properly and don’t do enough testing. This is evident in that they regularly break backwards compatibility.

There is never a reason or excuse for breaking backwards compatibility other than laziness, and it’s therefore never acceptable to break backwards compatibility.

Wine is a piece of shit.

[EDIT: wine 1.5 is better than 1.4, but still not up to par with 1.2]
[EDIT 2: I'd really really love to hear an explanation of why opening a common dialog crashes metacity]

QOTD

Quote

Randall Flagg: Pleased to meet you, Lloyd. Hope you guess my name.
Lloyd Henreid: Huh?
Randall Flagg: Oh, Nothing, Just a little classical reference.

– Stephen King’s The Stand (Miniseries)

The Walt, The



Dear Walter White,

You are such a fucking cunt. I hate you and I want you dead.

Regards,
-AntiSol


I require two things from the end of Breaking Bad:

  • Walter needs to die. If I got my way this would be slow and painful.
  • Jessie needs to be rich, free, and happy.

I also have preferences – things which I’d like to see but don’t require:

  • Saul should live and get away, because Saul is awesome.
  • I don’t much care about other characters – that bitch Skylar and her annoying family can live or die, meh.

Predictions:

  1. Hank is going to really start putting things together (2nd cell, fugue state, moving out, carwash, etc), and he’ll talk to Skylar now that he knows who heisenberg is, but Skylar is going to be too scared/indecisive/fucking retarded to talk to him. She might let “Vamonous” slip, intentionally or otherwise.
  2. Walt will kill Saul, or at least get him killed through idiocy. I say this based on nothing other than the fact that Walt is a complete cunt and that this development would be shocking to the audience, and a complete cunt-act.

In case it’s not really obvious, I’ve been re-watching season 5 of Breaking Bad today. IMHO this is one of the best shows ever made… but that’s a separate post, or a 100,000 word essay.

And Yet It Moves / Braid

No, this is not an Ad. Brokenrules are not paying me!

Everybody raves about Braid. It’s clever, with unique game mechanics, and very pretty.

But it’s too short – by the time you wrap your head around a concept, you’re not using that concept any more.

I’ve read reviews praising this, saying that there’s no repetition and not a single “wasted” puzzle.

But you know what? For all my complaints in the past about games being too repetitive, I can handle doing a couple of variations on the same puzzle if it means it’s going to take more than a couple of hours to get through the game.

Don’t get me wrong – Braid is a brilliant game, and the people who came up with those game mechanics are really clever, and the art style is very pretty… but it’s too short – it needs more levels or some different playmodes. It has near-zero replayability.

And Yet It Moves is a much, much better game – easily the most original and fun game I’ve played in years.

This game is fucking awesome in every respect – the game mechanic is deceptively simple – rotating the world, but it gets progressively more challenging and clever about how it uses it.

The game is a good length – it took me longer than Braid did. And it has different playmodes and an “epilogue” set of levels which you can play after you’ve finished the main game which will keep you interested. And achievements are always fun.

And it’s absolutely gorgeous. The “paper” art style is magnificent, and goes through enough variations to always be interesting.

And the music is fantastic – very distinctive and unusual. There’s one particular piece of music which usually plays in-game (usually when you’re jumping onto disappearing platforms) which is especially awesome.

Linux is supported. Steam for Linux is supported. I got it as part of one of the Humble Bundles. It’s going for $10 on Steam right now. You should buy it.

I’m trying to think back to the last time I loved a game this much. It was a long time ago – I’ve been bored with games for a long time. I think that probably the last time I was this impressed with a game was the first time I played Portal.

Here, watch the trailer:

Go and buy this game right now. You want it, you just don’t know it yet (or maybe now you do!). It’s cheap. And it’s a seriously awesome, awesome game.

pretty vacant

I wrote this a few days ago in the small hours of the night:

It’s the pub in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere. You and your friends are out-of-place here – there’s a bunch of rednecks fawning over you, none too subtly.

I can see why – you’re young, gorgeous, with long, dark, straight hair – just how I like it, and you’re wearing a tight, short, single-piece red thing that nearly takes me off my feet.

But these guys are cringe-inducing – really lewd and loud, and all stepping over eachother like a bunch of morons. It’s funny and pathetic to watch – the air carries the dual scents of sweaty testosterone and evaporating estrogen. I refuse to be involved – I’m reading a book and drinking a beer.

And then you sit down opposite me and say hi. You tell me that I look familiar. I say that’s unlikely, since I’m 3000kms from home. We introduce ourselves and chat a bit. You have an english accent – Oh my god, could this be love?

We’re chatting about nothing in particular. After a little while I decide to dispense with the pleasantries and ask a loaded question – one which says more than it asks:

“So, how do you like the blokes here? Subtle, huh? Must be interesting coping with that…”

You stare at me blankly.

“Huh? What do you mean?”

I LOL on the inside. Probably not love.

“Never mind”.

I get up from my seat and go talk to the blokes. It’s not hard for me to blend in with them – If I laugh with them they’ll think I’m one of them. And now I can join them in laughing at you.

1000

miles on a motorbike in 22 hours ftw.

Yeah, I said miles.

I’ve just done more than 7000 kilometres in 12 days.

Hands up if you’ve crossed a continent on a motorbike, and then ridden back again.

<hand goes up>

foxtrotgps / landscape mode X apps on qtmoko / QX

I’ve been playing with the latest QTmoko on my freerunner after a couple of years of not updating my distro.

Some thoughts:

It’s great! Very snappy and responsive – congrats and thank-you to Radek and the other contributors, you’ve done a fantastic job and you’ve made some great strides over the last couple of years.

I haven’t tried using it as a phone yet (I’m still put-off by my previous experiences, and don’t have a second SIM), but it looks like it might be *gasp* almost usable! :O I’m tempted to try it out as a phone…

I particularly like what you’ve done with the keyboard – I think it’s about as good as an on-screen keyboard is going to get on this device. Very nice. though I wish I could have it default to qwerty mode.

But it’s not perfect – everything I want doesn’t “just work” yet (though it is very good – things like wifi and bluetooth seem to just work). But that means I get to have some fun tinkering!

I’ve been messing about with making foxtrotgps work under QX on qtmoko for a little while, and wanted to jot down some notes and tips:

  • When QX asks which X server to install, I recommend xorg – xglamo doesn’t seem to like being rotated. I’d love to make xglamo work, because it seems faster. (Performance with foxtrot on xorg is very usable, but faster == better.)
  • You very likely want to apt-get install gconf2, or foxtrot won’t save user prefs (e.g mapset, postiion, etc) when you close it.
  • Rotating the X screen with xrandr doesn’t rotate the touchscreen input properly. To fix this, you need to use xinput to swap the x-axis.
  • I’m using ‘xrandr -o right’ for my landscape orientation. This means that the USB plug on the freerunner is at the top. If you want to use ‘-o left’ you’ll need to play around with the axis swapping.

  • There’s no onscreen keyboard for X apps. To fix this, apt-get install matchbox-keyboard matchbox-keyboard-im, and launch matchbox-keyboard –daemon before you start foxtrot. This will give you a keyboard which pops up when you select a textbox. After foxtrot closes, I kill matchbox-keyboard.
  • QX has a ‘display always on’ option, but X has its own screensaver and blanking/dpms stuff. you’ll want to use xset to turn these off if you want your display always on.
  • You need to start gpsd before you start foxtrot. I also kill gpsd when foxtrot closes. This means it can take a while to get a fix, but I haven’t done a huge amount of outdoor testing yet – all I’ve done is confirmed that it will get a fix.
  • Pressing the AUX button to multitask while X is rotated under QT is ugly – qtmoko will work, but its display will be broken – it looks kinda like QVGA mode and is incorrectly rotated. If you can manage to hit AUX a couple of times to get back to QX, and then press ‘resume’ or ‘stop’ in QX, qtmoko will revert to an un-broken state. Ideally I’d like to disable qtmoko’s AUX-button handler while foxtrot is running, or capture focus events to unrotate on lostfocus and rotate on gotfocus, but I haven’t yet found a way to do either of these.
  • The above ugliness will also happen if X dies while rotated, so you need to xrandr -o normal after foxtrot exits. This means you want to exit foxtrot gracefully. Since foxtrot doesn’t have an ‘exit’ menu item, this means you want to ‘use matchbox’ in the QX settings. You also want fullscreen.

I ended up doing the following to make a wrapper script for foxtrot. It’s a bit of a nasty hack, but it works for me. A slightly nicer way would be to use update-alternatives to use an alternate foxtrotgps launcher script, or saving the script as ‘foxtrot_launcher’, building a desktop entry for it, and setting up a QX favourite for it.

the script below could very easily be modified/generalised to run things other than foxtrotgps!

root@neo:~$ mv /usr/bin/foxtrotgps /usr/bin/foxtrotgps.bin
root@neo:~$ vi /usr/bin/foxtrotgps
              (insert content, below)
root@neo:~$ chmod a+x /usr/bin/foxtrotgps
 

/usr/bin/foxtrotgps:


#!/bin/bash
#Custom script for starting gpsd and foxtrotGPS in landscape mode:
#xinput stuff liberated from: http://lists.openmoko.org/nabble.html#nabble-td7561815

#ensure GPS is powered up:
om gps power 1
om gps om gps keep-on-in-suspend 1

#gpsd
#service gpsd start
gpsd /dev/ttySAC1

#sleep 1 
# we might have to wait some time before sending commands (I didnt)

#rotate:
xrandr -o right

#disable screen blanking:
xset s off -dpms 

#swap x axis:
xinput set-int-prop "Touchscreen" "Evdev Axis Inversion" 8 1 0
#no axis inversion
xinput set-int-prop "Touchscreen" "Evdev Axes Swap" 8 0
xinput set-int-prop "Touchscreen" "Evdev Axis Calibration" 32 98 911 918 107

#run the matchbox keyboard in daemon mode:
#with matchbox-keyboard-im this pops up automatically
matchbox-keyboard --daemon &

#run the real foxtrot:
foxtrotgps.bin --fullscreen

#foxtrot has closed, cleanup:

#kill keyboard:
killall matchbox-keyboard

#unrotate:
xrandr -o normal

#stop gpsd:
#service gpsd stop
killall gpsd

Aw Shit

Neil Armstrong has died.

It’s taken me a bit by suprise how emotional I am about it.

There’s so much to say, and yet so little.

The internet has been going crazy honouring him for a day or so now – as it should. Journalists and writers will do a much better job than I ever could at prattling on about what a loss this is and what a great man he was. Go to teh googles and do some searches and read about him, like you should.

I really only have a couple of things to say about it:

  • “Aw, Shit”.
  • “He will be remembered for all time”.

“Aw, Shit”.

Buzz Aldrin pointed out that he was looking forward to Neil being there for the 50th anniversay of the moon landing in 2019.

I think for me the biggest dissappointment is that Neil will never meet the next Neil Armstrong – the first man on Mars. That Neil never got to see humans exploring the solar system, he never got to see the real fruits of his accomplishment which I believe will inevitably come. I would have loved to hear what Neil would have had to say about man landing on Mars, or an orbiting hotel, or a moonbase.

“He will be remembered for all time”

He was one of those guys. I read the term “humble hero” somewhere, and it’s apt. He didn’t like publicity, he wanted to live a private, normal life. Kinda difficult when you’re the first man to walk on the moon. He was always deflecting the accolades onto the team, saying (I paraphrase):
“I just flew the thing – there’s half a million people who built the thing – congratulate them”.

I highly recommend “Being Neil Armstrong”, a very good BBC documentary about Neil which talks about how he didn’t like being in the spotlight.

There’s the “Futurama scenario”, where humanity forgets who first landed on the moon, but I think that it’s unlikely. Possible, but unlikely. I think we’ll remember Neil for as long as there is a humanity.

I was sitting at work today and another Armstrong thing came up on my news feeds and I got a bit bummed out. And I looked up and saw my James T Kirk Motivational Poster, and I had an idea – something appropriate and light-hearted. So I put it together tonight, here ’tis. I think it’s the kind of thing Neil would probably say… ;)

Kirk Motivational Poster
(Note: I don’t know who to attribute this image to. It’s not mine.)

Neil Armstrong Motivational Poster

RIP. :(

Converting red-blue anaglyph to stereoscopic images

(EDIT: Updated to add black border between images – makes it easier to see the 3d, and makes the 3d image better defined)

I hate those red-blue anaglyphs. The red and blue fucks with my head – my brain refuses to interpret it properly, and the object does this wierd “flashing” between red and blue.

Plus, I’m too cheap to buy (and too reckless to keep) a pair of those red-blue 3D glasses.

So, I installed Imagemagick and wrote myself a bash function:

stereo_convert () {                                                                 
    in="$1"                                                                   
    out="$2"                                                           
    if [ -z "$in" ] || [ -z "$out" ]; then                                    
        echo -e "\nYou need to supply input and output files!\n"              
        return 42                                                             
    fi                                                                        
    convert \( $in -gravity east -background Black -splice 10x0 -gamma 1,0,0 -modulate 100,0 \) \( $in -gamma 0,1,1 -modulate 100,0 \) +append $out;                  
    echo -e "\nConverted red-blue stereo image '$in' to side-by-side image '$out'.\n"
} 

Here’s a demo image from NASA’s Pathfinder mission.

Input:

Anaglyph image of Pathfinder

Output:

Stereoscopic Pathfinder

Notes:

  • This process removes all colour information, giving you greyscale output. Unfortunately there’s no way to restore full colour to anaglyphs, as the full colour information isn’t there. IMHO greyscale is better than red/blue.
  • The images may not be exactly perfect due to:
    • Red and cyan do not have the same intensity to the human eye – cyan seems brighter, so the right eye may appear slightly lighter. I’ve done my best to eliminate this, but I CBF reading into the science of colour wavelengths etc. right now.
    • Some images may be reversed – it appears that there’s no “hard” convention as to which eye should be red and which should be blue. But it appears that “most” are red==left.

incompetence

Me:
“It’s very obvious to me that you don’t understand my question. Can I please talk to someone competent – someone who has some basic knowledge of networking?”

Vodafone Mobile Broadband Technical Support* consultant:
“No, you can’t: We’re an Internet provider, we don’t do networks.”

I was reminded later by a friend that the Internet is in fact a series of tubes. And here I was thinking it was a TCP/IP network. Silly me.

* I use the term “Technical Support” very, very loosely – I do not mean to imply that they provide support or are capable of being technical.

Stallman is Nucking Futs!

Stallman talks about Valve releasing a Steam client for Linux

Go, read. I’ll wait.

Back? Good.

Oh, Look! Valve got a mention by the mighty Stallman!

He asks what good and bad effects can Valve’s release of a Steam client for Linux have? Well, it might boost linux adoption, and that’s good. But…

Nonfree games (like other nonfree programs) are unethical because they deny freedom to their users. If you want freedom, one requisite for it is not having these games on your computer. That much is clear.

Wait, what?

Hang on a minute… If I want freedom, I’m not free to run these games? huh?

IMHO, having freedom means having the freedom to choose to run nonfree software if I want to. I’d rather play Half-Life or Portal than any open source game (It’s not that there are no great open source games, it’s just that Half-Life and Portal are better than all of them).

Stallman goes on to discourage Linux distros from offering the software to users – i.e deb packages for steam, and says:

If you want to promote freedom, please take care not to talk about the availability of these games on GNU/Linux as support for our cause.

Which is totally…fucking…insane.

I’ll be promoting freedom – freedom from Windows: “You don’t need windows anymore – Steam is available for Linux!”. I’ll be promoting the freedom to finally run good games on my chosen OS without any fucking around with wine. I’ll be (gasp) buying a bunch of games. Because a Steam client for Linux would be totally fucking awesome – I think it’d be the biggest event in gaming since Id released the source code for Doom. Just watch the Linux market share grow after the release.

Stallman says that Linux adoption isn’t the primary goal. That the primary goal is to bring freedom to users (But apparently not the freedom to run games they love). But I think that adoption of Linux at this point is more important than sticking to this (silly, BTW: nonfree != evil) principle – The more adoption we see, the more the community will grow, and the better the software will get. While this happens, more people will be exposed to Stallman’s (unrealistic) philosophy.

Stallman does concede that “My guess is that the direct good effect will be bigger than the direct harm”.

Direct harm? Really? I can finally delete that old windows XP partition, and you’re talking about Direct Harm? You think there’s anything at all bad about Valve’s monumental decision to embrace Linux?

You’re fucking crazy. Even distros that your foundation doesn’t endorse (Prepare to be amazed), like Ubuntu, go out of their way to tell the user that they’re about to install nonfree software. It’s always optional. It’s just been made easy because not everybody is as nuts as Stallman – some people, like me, actually want to use nonfree software. I should be free to do that, but apparently that’s not OK with the so-called “Free Software Foundation”. Apparently software should be free, but not people.

(Update: Late 2013: Valve refuse to give me a refund for the nonfunctional game Fez, in violation of Australian Consumer Protection Laws. They try to tell me that the laws don’t apply. I lodge a complaint with the ACCC and stop buying things on Steam. Maybe Stallman isn’t that nuts after all. No company can be trusted.)

(Update 2: 2014: The ACCC Sues Valve for violation of consumer protection laws. I love those guys.)

(Update 3: Jun 2015: Valve announces that they now allow refunds. This is because they’re really good, caring people, and has nothing at all to do with an Australian judge being about to hand out a $10,000/day fine)

(Update 4: comments disabled on this post due to spam bots following the link here from my squee when steam for linux was announced)

A few months of xfce

In mid-late 2011 my “fed-up-ness” with Gnome reached critical levels – it got to the point that Windows has been at for years: me sitting, staring at my screen in disbelief, screaming: “What, exactly, the fuck, are YOU DOING THAT TAKES SO GODDAMN LONG?!?!?!”, or the classic: “aah, good, a minute’s delay while you read something which you ALREADY HAVE CACHED!!!”.

I shit you not, there are tasks which gnome’s bloatware manages to slow down my dual-core >3000Mhz machine with >8000Mb of RAM to a point where performance is comparable to performing the same task on my 7Mhz, 2Mb RAM Amiga 600. This is not an exaggeration – for example, my Amiga will open up a directory containing thousands of files in a comparable time, and it’s reading from an MFM hard disk and has pretty much nothing cached. My Amiga will boot up in less time than it takes gnome to show me my desktop from the gdm login screen.

It’s not that Gnome changed or did anything differently, it’s just that I gradually became less and less tolerant of it’s godawful performance, and the point came where I finally snapped and said “Fuck Gnome”.

No, I haven’t tried Gnome 3. Given an option, I never will – the screenshots are enough to tell me it’s an ungodly abomination. I’m talking about Gnome 2.

The solution I went with was to switch to Xfce.

Since I’m addicted to my pretty wobbly windows, I’ve been running Xfce with compiz as the window manager on my powerful machine. I’m using xfwm on my less-powerful laptop.

I’ve been using it for a few months now, and thought I’d report on the experience.

So, without further ado, here’s an exhaustive list of features I miss from Gnome which are not in Xfce:

—BEGIN—

  • Coffee – Gnome had this wonderful feature which allowed me to drink much more coffee every day. You see, when I open nautilus in my home folder, there’s a nice ~40 second delay while nautilus does whatever the fuck it does that takes such a god damn long time to do. In this time I used to go make coffee – my workflow went: a) double-click directory b) make coffee c) have a cigarette d) browse through the folder I double-clicked (assuming, of course, that I didn’t open my “mp3s” or “audiobooks” directories – in that case, there’s a step e) – celebrate a few birthdays, grow older and wiser, earn a doctorate, solve the energy crisis, and read every novel ever written ). Unfortunately since thunar will open up my home directory in less than one second, my coffee intake has been greatly reduced.

—END—

This also marks my departure from using the standard Ubuntu distro. I loved it and I wish the Ubuntu team well – 10.04 has been a brilliant OS – it’s served me really well and I’ve been very happy with it in general, but I’m not ever using unity, and next time I need to install an OS I’ll be going with Xubuntu.

Fuck Gnome. Fuck Gnome right in the ear.

Now all I need is for someone to build a web browser that doesn’t completely suck ass. Maybe I’ll give Opera a proper try…

Kids

“Having kids is hard”

“Having kids is such a chore”

“I don’t get any sleep anymore”

“I won’t have a life for 18 years. And then I’ll be too old to have a life”

These are just some of the more common of the whingy, bitchy things people who have just had kids say to me.

Here’s a thought: I don’t fucking care! Did I twist your arm and make you have kids? No. Did I tell you beforehand that they’re a fucking nightmare, and that you’re making a big mistake? Yes. Did you listen to me? No.

So why should I listen to you or care in the slightest when you come to me whinging about how your life isn’t your own anymore?

You made the mistake, not me. Deal with it. I don’t want to hear about it. I know that having kids is a hassle and a nightmare which changes everything – that’s why I don’t have any, and why I will never have any. It’s almost certain that I told you that you were making a mistake at a point where it was still a choice. You chose to have kids, So don’t fucking bitch to me about the consequences of your actions.

There’s only one thing worse than “My life is over now that I have kids”, and that’s hiding behind your kids because you’re too fucking gutless to say “No, I don’t want to”.

“Oh, it’s such a hassle to get the kids in the car, it’d be too much to manage – I can’t come to [kid-safe-event-I've-invited-you-to]“.

My ass. How do you manage to go shopping then? Ever been to a family dinner since you had kids? How are these things any different?

I find this whole premise especially amusing in that 99.999% of the time your kids are entertaining themselves with their game boy or TV or DS or whatever-the-current-fad-you-fell-for-is – it seems kinda strange to me that your kids can be completely unsupervised at home and yet require your constant attention the minute you leave the house. If that really is the case, which I really really doubt, then as an independent observer I’d speculate that perhaps they’re not being properly disciplined?

Here’s a simple, easy-to-follow set of instructions on how to get your kids in the car and to come to [kid-safe-event]:

  1. Unlock Car
  2. Say: “Kids, get in the car”
  3. Scream at any child who is fucking around
  4. Beat any child who is still fucking around
  5. Pick up any remaining children and put them in the car forcibly
  6. Lock Car
  7. Drive to event

Problem solved.

Secret tip: when your kids get unmanageable / unruly in public, screaming out “STOP THAT SHIT RIGHT NOW OR I’LL SMACK YOU ONE” works wonders. If that makes them cry, you can always use the good old chestnut: “SHUT UP OR I’LL GIVE YOU SOMETHING TO CRY ABOUT!”

Oh, what’s that? you still can’t come? Oh, right, well if you need to…uh… do your washing then that’s fair enough, I understand…

Liar.

Asimo

Is awesome. This is what Isaac Asimov was talking about… well, not quite, but he’s certainly the best thing we have so far: the form is all there, now we just need a mind.

I’d just assumed he was named for Isaac, but he’s not – ASIMO is an acronym for “Advanced Step in Innovative MObility”. Still, I think Isaac would have shed tears of joy at the sight of him dancing.

I want one.

Don’t Bullshit Me

If I ask you a favour, I’m asking. It’s not mandatory.

If you’re not going to help me out, don’t waste my time with bullshit. Don’t tell me that you’re busy/don’t have time. Don’t tell me “Not right now, but I’ll call you back”.

Here’s a list of answers to “can you do me a favour?” that are perfectly acceptable, but that nobody ever uses because they seem to think that a bullshit answer is more acceptable than the truth:

  • No.
  • I can’t be fucked.
  • I’ll be busy sleeping.
  • That sounds like effort.
  • I would, but I’m just not going to.
  • I’m far too lazy to do that.
  • I don’t want to help you with that.
  • I would rather gouge my eyeballs out with rusty sporks.

The worst one is the “Sure, but not right now, I’ll get back to you”, because you have no intention of ever getting back to me, and when I hear “I’ll get back to you”, I stop trying to find someone and sit by the phone waiting for you to call (well, probably not literally, but I’ll put less effort into trying to find someone else).

Another thing: You don’t owe me an explanation. If you’re not going to do it, say “No”, and we’ll move on. Nothing more is required (except in certain circumstances, like if you owe me a favour, but none of this really applies in that situation).

Don’t bullshit me. Tell me the truth. If you ask me a favour and I’m not going to do it, I’ll say so. Probably rather bluntly. I expect you to be big enough to be able to handle the fact that I’d rather watch Terminator 2 for the ten thousandth time than help you with your problem. This is a courtesy. You should return it.

Xmas Carol

Many many years ago I came up with an idea for an xmas carol.

Years after I came up with the idea, I actually made it into A Song.

Now, for the last month of so, I’ve had an Idea for a second xmas carol.

But I’m too lazy to turn this into a song, especially in time for it to still be relevant.

So, here are the lyrics. It fits to the music of “we wish you a merry xmas”:

There’s still a whole month till xmas,
there’s still a whole month till xmas,
there’s still a whole month till xmas,
Fuck xmas in the ear.

I can’t bear to hear
your fake xmas cheer
there’s still a whole month till xmas
So stick it in your ear.

get out of your corporate mindset
get out of your corporate mindset
get out of your corporate mindset
I’ve had it up to here

I can’t stand the din
of your fucking caroling
There’s still a whole month till xmas
So stick it in your ear.

your greed means you are the devil
your greed means you are the devil
your greed means you are the devil
there’s a paradox here

The commercial appeal
has you under it’s heel
there’s still a whole month till xmas
Fuck xmas in the ear

iptables masquerading for freerunner

I find myself constantly going to the OpenMoko USB Networking page to find the commands to enable iptables masquerading – it’s the only part of the process I can’t remember.

It’s a bit obscure to find on the USB Networking page, so now it’s here, too:

sudo iptables -I INPUT 1 -s 192.168.0.202 -j ACCEPT
sudo iptables -I OUTPUT 1 -s 192.168.0.200 -j ACCEPT
sudo iptables -A POSTROUTING -t nat -j MASQUERADE -s 192.168.0.0/24
sudo bash -c 'echo 1 > /proc/sys/net/ipv4/ip_forward'

the greatest paragraph I’ve ever written

…was, of course, in a flame – I’m at my best when I’m trying to insult or provoke someone.

This was years ago when I won an auction for a Commodore SX-64 on EBay. I’d managed to score it for somewhere around $250 (which is a really good price for that machine, it’s super-rare). The guy was really dodgy – he’d said he accepted COD in the ebay listing, but when I said I’d pick it up and pay cash, he said He’d meet me in a carpark rather than at his house, and wanted me to pay by bank deposit in advance.

I told him this was a very unusual way to do things, and that COD meant ‘cash on delivery’, and that I wasn’t paying by bank deposit, and what was the problem?

He replied telling me that he “Never carries around that much cash”…

…wait, what? I paid cash for my motorbike! And this guy never carries around $250?

He went on to explain that he was selling this machine on the sly, it was in storage somewhere and he didn’t want ‘the missus’ to go through his wallet and steal the cash.

Fair enough, I said, thinking to myself how I’m never ever getting married, then we’ll have to meet twice, because I’ll be seeing a demo of this SX-64 in action before I do a bank transfer.

No Reply.

A couple of days later, I get an email from ebay telling me that this guy’s account has been suspended due to fraudulent activity and that if I haven’t paid for my purchase yet, I shouldn’t. The plot thickens.

Not long afterwards, I get an abusive email from a different email address. It doesn’t say who it’s from (it’s a hotmail with a fake name – ‘john hancock’), and it doesn’t mention why I’m a “fucked faced motherfucker”, just that I am. There is no information content, just abuse.

I deduce that it’s this guy from ebay and that he thinks I was the one who reported him to ebay, so I reply, telling him that it wasn’t me who reported him but that I was glad I hadn’t done a bank transfer already.

I get back an abusive reply, and another, new piece of abuse from a new email address. The email headers have the same originating ip.

Here’s a nugget of that response, and my reply… which is just about the most awesome thing I’ve ever written:

>I KNOW MORE ABOUT YOU THAN YOU THINK

you know more than I think, do you? well that wouldn’t be difficult – my
expectations aren’t exactly stellar, but what if I think you know more
than you think I think you know? But then, we both know that you don’t
think much, much less know anything, and it’s much more likely that I’ll
think you know less than you think I think you know, and I’ll probably
be right… And we still haven’t even touched on what I know, or what
you think I know, or what I think you think I think you know. But then
I’m not the one sending abusive emails from two different addresses with
two different names but coming from the same IP. Thanks for the
confirmation on that, BTW.

—EOF—

And now the fun part – naming and shaming:

John Ath – pcgallery@hotmail.com
John Hancock – shimf66@hotmail.com
X-Originating-IP: [120.19.186.49]

No, I won’t take my helmet off

When I buy petrol. There are 2 really basic principles why not:

1. Legal.

When I roll up to your petrol pump and lift the handle, if you turn that petrol pump on, you are agreeing to sell me petrol. By pouring petrol into my tank, I’m agreeing to buy it.
Any condition (for example: the condition that I take off my helmet when I enter your store) which is added to a transaction after I agree to make the purchase but before I hand over my money is pretty obviously an unfair condition of sale. Under Australia’s consumer protection laws, unfair conditions are meaningless. Therefore the condition that I take off my helmet before I enter the store is unenforceable.

If you don’t turn on the petrol pump while I have my helmet on, there’s no (legal) problem. Some places do this – you lift the handle, the pump doesn’t turn on. you look inside, and the guy behind the counter makes a motion as if he’s taking off a motorbike helmet. That’s perfectly fine – I’ll just go somewhere else based on principle #2.

If you have locked doors with a button behind the counter, and you won’t let me in the store with my helmet on, then you have a real problem. Because in that event, I will invoke my right under the Australian Consumer protection laws to change my mind about the sale – I’ll suddenly decide that actually I don’t want to buy petrol from you, after all. This presents you with a problem, because now you’ll have to remove the fuel that I pumped in – and *only* the fuel that I pumped in – from my bike. Good luck with that.

2. Moral.

I’ve worked in many client-facing roles. I’ve dealt with all kinds of customers, ranging from people at home calling up because their Internet is broken, right up to corporate executives. In my many customer-facing roles, and in fact one of the first things I was ever taught in my career, is the value of customer service. As someone who has had to provide customer service for a living, I pretty much insist on it when I’m the customer. And the first thing you’ll learn when you learn customer service is not to insult your customers.

By asking me to take my helmet off, you’re accusing me of being a thief. There’s no way to dance around it, it’s a simple fact – when you ask me to take my helmet off, you are very clearly implying that I am a thief.

And guess what? I consider that an insult. And if you insult me before I’ve handed over my money, I’ll go somewhere else, pure and simple.

“Oh, but the companies need to protect themselves! if they let you walk in wearing a motorbike helmet, then they’d get robbed all the time!”

Firstly, that’s not my problem, that’s a problem for the companies. Secondly, isn’t there an entire agency, widely referred to as “the police”, who deal with that kind of thing? Surely when you hand over the CCTV footage showing the thief’s number plate, the police will do their jobs, and no customers need to be insulted?

“Oh, well, these thiefs, they don’t use number plates, or they fake them…”

See the previous question. Now the police have multiple charges they can press.

“Yeah, but, we need to prevent crime!”

Then why do you let me pump the petrol into my bike with my helmet on? Assuming I’m a thief with fake number plates, why would you give me the opportunity to fill my bike up with petrol and simply ride away?

If you’re really interested in preventing crime, then guess what? There’s a whole industry sitting out there just waiting for your call! It’s called “The Security Industry”. There are companies like Chubb who make their entire living out of just that kind of thing! These guys are professionals who take their job seriously – they can advise you on best practices and whatnot, and they’ll provide whatever kind of security you like – The Security Industry can provide all kinds of wonderful services including but not limited to having a car drive past every so often, to make sure you’re OK, or permanently stationing a security guard (or, better, more than one) on site. If you like, the guards you have on site could probably even frisk every customer as they enter and leave the store! After all, I’m sure there are thiefs out there who are slipping through the cracks in your system because they’re not motorcyclists.

What this is really about is externalities – you can’t be bothered paying somebody to help you prevent crime (which indicates to me that it’s not really such a big problem), and you’d rather insult every single motorcyclist who comes to your store. After all, we’re only a minority…

creating a self-extracting bash script

You always see things like vmware and unreal tournament being installed via a self-extracting bash script – It would seem that this is the best way to provide an installer which will work on the widest selection of Linux distributions.

After some googlage, I came up with the following. Given a tarball and an installer script named ‘installer’, it will create a self-extracting bash script:

#!/bin/bash
#############################################################
# Self-extracting bash script creator
# By Dale Maggee
# Public Domain
#############################################################
#
# This script creates a self-extracting bash script
# containing a compressed payload.
# Optionally, it can also have the self-extractor run a
# script after extraction.
#
#############################################################
VERSION='0.1'

output_extract_script() {
#echoes the extraction script which goes at the top of our self-extractor
#arguments:
# $target - suggested destination directory (default: somewhere in /tmp)
# $installer - name of installer script to run after extract
# (if specified, $target is ignored and /tmp is used)

#NOTE: odd things in this function due to heredoc:
# - no indenting
# - things like $ and backticks need to be escaped to get into the destination script

cat <<EndOfHeader
#!/bin/bash
echo "Self-extracting bash script. By Dale Maggee."
target=\`mktemp -d /tmp/XXXXXXXXX\`
echo -n "Extracting to \$target..."

EndOfHeader

#here we put our conditional stuff for the extractor script.
#note: try to keep it minimal (use vars) so as to make it nice and clean.
if [ "$installer" != "" ]; then
#installer specified
echo 'INSTALLER="'$installer'"'
else
if [ "$target" != "" ]; then
echo '(temp dir: '$target')'
fi
fi

cat <<EndOfFooter

#do the extraction...
ARCHIVE=\`awk '/^---BEGIN TGZ DATA---/ {print NR + 1; exit 0; }' \$0\`

tail -n+\$ARCHIVE \$0 | tar xz -C \$target

echo -en ", Done.\nRunning Installer..."

CDIR=\`pwd\`
cd \$target
./installer

echo -en ", Done.\nRemoving temp dir..."
cd \$CDIR
rm -rf \$target
echo -e ", Done!\n\nAll Done!\n"

exit 0
---BEGIN TGZ DATA---
EndOfFooter
}

make_self_extractor() {

echo "Building Self Extractor: $2 from $1."

if [ -f "$3" ]; then
installer="$3"
echo " - Installer script: $installer"
fi

if [ "$4" != "" ]; then
target="$4"
echo " - Default target is: $target"
fi

src="$1"
dest="$2"
#check input...
if [ ! -f "$src" ]; then
echo "source: '$src' does not exist!"
exit 1
fi
if [ -f "$dest" ]; then
echo "'$dest' will be overwritten!"
fi

#ext=`echo $src|awk -F . '{print $NF}'`

#create the extraction script...
output_extract_script > $dest
cat $src >> $dest

chmod a+x $dest

echo "Done! Self-extracting script is: '$dest'"
}

show_usage() {
echo "Usage:"
echo -e "\t$0 src dest installer"

echo -en "\n\n"
}


############
# Main
############

if [ -z "$1" ] || [ -z "$2" ]; then
show_usage
exit 1
else
make_self_extractor $1 $2 $3
fi

You have FUD on your shoes

(Originally posted on myspace on 16-Sep-2008)

Here’s an example of unbiased and neutral journalism:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/7594249.stm

I find the fact that it’s on BBC somewhat strange, as I usually hold BBC to be one of the better commercial news sources.

Granted, their IT section is written by a bunch of clueless morons, but this just takes the cake.

Let’s analyse this article, shall we?

Firstly there’s all the mention of Linus torvalds, and how this guy is cursing his name. No mention of the fact that there’s actually thousands/millions of people developing Linux. the closest he comes is “made the heart of his operating system absolutely free and open source”, which is pretty close to the mark – Linus built the Linux Kernel, and it got plugged into the GNU operating system. Linus is responsible for only a small part of the entire OS, although it’s a major part.

Xandros worked right out of the box. Like most distros it includes Open Office, an open source copycat of Microsoft Office. Word processing, spreadsheets and presentations are no problem.

Xandros connected to the net through my home wireless network at the first time of asking. And surfing was fast and easy.

So, everything worked. Cool.

There were a couple of things about Xandros which I didn’t like.

The music management program – its “iTunes”, if you like – let me listen to music and podcasts on my new laptop but wouldn’t sync anything I loaded on to my iPod. Big problem for a music and podcast junkie.

Plus the desktop – the way the screen looks, the icons it uses to open programs – looks like it’s been designed by a four-year-old with a fat crayon. It’s may be down to personal taste, but I just don’t like the way Xandros looks.

Well, before I’d think about switching away from the preinstalled distro where everything works, by your own admission, I’d consider doing a couple of quick google searches. googling “Xandros Ipod” and  “Xandros theme” immediately shows me 3 or 4 interesting links which would seem to warrant reading. and doing two google searches takes much less time than a) procuring and b) installing a new distro.

But linux is all about freedom, so you’re free to install a new distro, I suppose…

I’d also like to point out that if you don’t like the way windows looks, your options are to go and buy a Mac, or install Linux. I guess you could also go out and BUY a different version of windows, perhaps – i.e Upgrade from Home to Professional, although this probably won’t help with the look much.

Except now the internet wireless connection doesn’t work and the music management software still won’t let me sync with my iPod. Mmmmmm……

How is this any different to any other OS? Windows XP doesn’t recognise my wireless card or my UltraATA IDE controller – I Can’t install any version of windows except for a prepackaged XP SP2 on my machine, because without detecting the UltraATA controller, it doesn’t know about my hard drive. I’d call this slightly more serious than having no wireless connection or Ipod connectivity. Granted, in today’s internet-centric world no network connectivity is an issue, but did it not occur to you to try plugging a cable into your ethernet port as an interim measure?

Like most journalists, I’ve the attention span and patience of a gnat. The air turns blue and I inform my wife loudly that Linus Torvalds has much to answer for (I paraphrase slightly).

A gnat has more attention span if you didn’t even try plugging in an ethernet cable… and It’s obviously linus’ fault, and has nothing to do with canononical (who make and distribute ubuntu)…

But I’m completely stumped by the instructions posted on these sites. The level of assumed knowledge is way above my head. I follow a couple of suggestions, try to connect to my router using an ethernet cable, download code that promises to set things right. And fail.

It’s probably worth mentioning one other important point about Linux here. It’s a text-based operating system, which means that a fair few of the things you may want to tell your computer to do – installing certain new software, for example – requires you to open up a “terminal window” and actually type text into the little window.

As someone used solely to double-clicking on pretty pictures to do most anything on a computer this is pretty hairy stuff.

How is this ‘hairy’? somebody tells you to go into a terminal and type ‘X’, so you go into a terminal and type ‘X’. how is this difficult??? are you telling me that you’re unable to copy something that you see written down? you’re unaware of copy and paste? As a Journalist, I suppose, expecting you to type is just a bit too much…

True to form when I’m too stupid to figure out how to do something in five minutes, I phone an expert.

Geek Squad, a tech support service partnered with the Carphone Warehouse, is more used to dealing with problems with broadband and e-mail but later that night, Agent Jamie Pedder walks me through it over the phone.

Download a couple of bits of code from one of the Linux help sites on to a memory stick. Whack the memory stick into the offending laptop.

Bang a couple of lines of code into the terminal window to tell the machine to install what we’ve downloaded. Bingo, we’re cooking on gas.

Ubuntu’s running my wireless network and I’m back on-line. Easy when you know how.

So it works. Cool. So you got it all sorted out reasonably quickly. How is this different to Windows, where you need to install drivers? ever tried downloading windows drivers for your network card? it’s not easy, unless you have a spare working PC and a USB stick…

The fly in the ointment remains the music management software. I still can’t sync an iPod and Agent Pedder reckons that I probably won’t be able to – for now at least.

While Linux is founded on the philosophy of free and easy access to its code for anyone who’s interested, Apple is not. That means no iTunes for Linux, and nor is Apple likely to release such a version.

This, again, is obviously the fault of Linus Torvalds, and has nothing to do with Apple. It’s good to see you’re blaming the right people for your problem at least. Let’s just sum this up, for emphasis:

  • Apple makes Itunes for Windows and it enables you to use an Ipod on Windows
  • Apple makes Itunes for Mac OS and it enables you to use an Ipod on Mac OS
  • Apple doesn’t make Itunes for linux, and it takes a google search to get an Ipod working on linux

Yep, this is obviously because Linux sucks – I mean, expecting Apple to provide Ipod management tools for Linux is just asking for too much, isn’t it?

The iPod out of action is a major irritation, but I’ve not given up hope. There’s software out there – free for Linux users as always – that promises to do what I want. I just haven’t got round to downloading and playing with it yet.

So you’re reporting on how irritating it is, and how you’ve had a ‘torrid’ time with Linux, but you haven’t even bothered trying to install the software which will allow you to do what you want? Here’s a parable for you:

  • I Install windows
  • I post in a forum saying that windows sucks because I can’t play Half-Life 2.
  • People ask me what happens when I double-click on the Half-life 2 Icon
  • I say “There is no Half-Life 2 Icon”
  • People ask me if I’m sure I’ve got half-life 2 Installed correctly
  • I say “You need to INSTALL IT?!? OMFG WINDOWS IS TEH SUX!!!”

This is obviously an entirely fair observation on my part.

For the time being, it’s back to the trusty CD player. All this talk of hippy ideals has put me right in the mood for a bit of Sgt Pepper’s.

So your Ipod doesn’t work. Typing “ubuntu ipod” in google must be too hard, I guess – when I do that I see four links which would probably help, without even scrolling down.

So, to summarise: You bought a PC without windows, and it worked out of the box. You decided to install a different OS, and it broke. This is the fault of the OS, and has nothing to do with you being too lazy to do a couple of google searches to try to solve the things you don’t like about the working distro.

You were able to solve the problems, although you needed to call somebody to help you to do this, because you’re not able to follow instructions. I’m presuming this didn’t involve the 40 minute wait times or hideously excessive charges involved with Microsoft’s support line?

You bought an Ipod, which itself is an idiotic move – there are hundreds of MP3 players out there which present themselves as USB drives and are therefore supported natively by every operating system on earth without the need for any software at all, but you chose the one which requires special software and has ghastly DRM built into it, and this is Linus Torvald’s fault?

I see.

And believing in freedom makes you a Hippie?

I see.

I think you’ve stepped in some FUD, and it’s stuck to your shoe, and you’re now dragging it across my carpet. Take your shoes off, or get out of my living room.

HP Marketing Techniques

(Originally posted on myspace on 20-Feb-2008)

Update: The only thing worse than a phone running windows? a Neo Freerunner. One day I might post a separate rant about that.

I’ve been using a HP iPAQ 6515 as my phone / mp3 player / GPS navigator / life support system for nearly 2 years now.

It’s a great little unit, in hardware terms – It’s got an SD card slot and a MiniSD slot, meaning you can give it a reasonable amount of storage space for playing MP3s. It’s a Quadband GSM mobile phone, so when I got it my old nokia 6210 got put in the cupboard. It’s got a builtin GPS receiver, and you can run TomTom on it. It’s (barely) powerfull enough to play MP3s and Run TomTom at the same time, which is nice, since I haven’t gotten around to putting a reasonable stereo in my car yet – I haven’t needed to. It’s a PDA, not a SmartPhone, meaning you can run a whole heap of Windows CE applications on it – My favorites are Voice Command, which is brilliant (when you’re in a quiet room, and you don’t have any contacts which sound even remotely similar to each other), and SCUMMVM, a cross-platform SCUMM engine, allowing it to run some of the most classic games ever: I’ve got Maniac Mansion, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, and Monkey Island loaded onto mine. Best of all, it has a QWERTY keyboard, which is brilliant for txting – I hate the onscreen keyboards on the majority of PDA-type devices, and I don’t think I could live with a device which can’t atleast have a QWERTY keyboard attached to it.

It doesn’t have too many drawbacks: It lacks builtin Wifi, so I can’t run skype on it – the next model up (the 6965) has Wifi, but I couldn’t really justify spending $800 just for Wifi. You can buy an SD Wifi card for it reasonably cheaply, but the SD slots are in the side of the device, so a Wifi card would stick out the side and present a damage risk when you put it in your pocket (SD wifi cards neccessarily poke out of their slot, as they need space for an antenna, although there are compact ones available which aren’t as bad). It also lacks support for certain bluetooth services, namely high quality Audio – you can’t use stereo bluetooth headphones with it. This is kinda annoying, considering that the bluetooth software which comes with it says it supports high quality Audio. But the wired headset which comes with it is stereo and provides pretty good sound, if not eardrum-burstingly loud. Also the camera on it is not even worth using at 1.3 megapixels, and the HP Photosmart camera software is horrible. It suffices in an emergency, though. Unless the emergency happens at night – the “flash” on the thing is laughable.

Another disadvantage is the godawful Operating system it runs – Windows Mobile 2003SE. It’s slow and horrible – you have to wait a couple of seconds for windows to do it’s thing whenever you take the thing out of standby. And you have to reset it far more often than you’d ever turn a mobile phone off and on. I think that perhaps the slowness it merely related to it not having quite enough memory for my kind of usage – I run alot of programs on it above and beyond the standard Phone and Organiser functionality it provides. Maybe if I was a pleb user and didn’t load software onto it, or if it had more RAM, this wouldn’t be an issue.

I’ve looked into running a real OS on it, but the status of Linux support for this particular devce is not great – I’d probably have to live without access to GPS, the phone functionality may or may not work, the Camera wouldn’t work (pfft), and it could very well take a lot of hacking and mucking about to get linux onto the thing – there doesn’t seem to be any HOWTO for linux on this particular model of Ipaq, and I don’t really have the time and energy to figure it all out, especially considering that this is my phone we’re talking about – a day’s downtime would be unacceptable – I’d need another one to be able to play with to figure out what I’m doing.

but it’s certainly been a good little unit, I’ve thought… so far.

About a month ago, it stopped making noise except through the headset. Obviously what’s happened is that the switch in the headphone jack has become stuck in the ‘headset inserted’ position, which cancels all noise (and microphone input), except for the ringtone, from coming out of the unit’s speaker. I can still use it just fine with the headset plugged in, and I can still use it fine with the headset unplugged, just as long as I don’t want to do anything that requires audio input or output. Like talking on the phone. So at the moment when my phone rings, I have to scramble to find and untangle the headset, plug it in, and press the answer button.

So I contacted HP about this, wanting to know how to go about getting it serviced. I specifically made mention of the fact that this was my primary phone / communication method we’re talking about, so it’s pretty urgent.

I could go through the ensuing catastrophe of customer relations blow-by-blow, but then this would be 800,000 words long, and I would probably end up smashing something. And I’m using a work laptop at the moment, so that’s probably not a great idea. Suffice to say that they take up to a week to even reply to your emails, which you’ve market as urgent, and when they do it’s so unhelpfull that they might have well just kept playing Unreal Tournament, or whatever it is they do most of the time up there, rather than even replying. I just recieved an email yesterday, over a month since our last correspondence, which contained the exact same text as the previous email they sent me. Which I’d already replied to, over a month ago.

HP’s “support” team are without doubt the single most apathetic, indifferent, robotic, unhelpfull bunch of bastards I’ve ever dealt with. and I’ve BEEN an indifferent, unhelpfull tech support bastard before. But I at least used to try to project the appearance of caring about the customer’s problems – after all, it’s the company’s reputation at stake here. But HP’s “support” team doesn’t even seem to care about that.

It seems that HP are trying to sell Nokia products – a brilliant, novel, and innovative marketing strategy if I’ve ever seen one – There’s no amount of money Nokia could spend on advertising (short of having some cute chick giving blowjobs with every Nokia purchased) which would come close to what HP have done in terms of getting me to buy a Nokia handset.

After a couple of weeks of dealing with HP’s completely indifferent “support” team, I decided I’d just find myself an alternative device. It’ll cost me amaybe $1200 extra to do this, but at least I won’t have to deal with these pricks. I wouldn’t know what Nokia’s tech support people are like, because I’ve never had a problem with a Nokia product, ever. And I’ve used a few Nokia devices in my time.

It’s a good thing HP don’t make defibrillators or heart/lung machines.

So, congratulations HP – you’ve managed to ensure that I never buy another HP product as long as I live. You’ve managed to ensure that When I’m reviewing devices at work and making purchasing recommendations (which does happen), I don’t recommend the HP device, regardless of it’s technical specifications. You’ve managed to make the process of finding myself a new device less painfull – anything with a HP logo on it automatically gets excluded from my even looking at it,regardless of it’s capabilities. And most of all, you’ve managed to increase the yearly sales figures of one of your competitors. Whether that’s RIM, Palm, Nokia, Motorola, or somebody else I haven’t yet decided.

Congratulations, HP, and on behalf of Nokia, Motorola, RIM, and Palm: Thanks, HP.

Kites “Not Kid Safe”

(Originally posted on myspace on 14-Sep-2007)

(Original Article: http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/09/11/2029365.htm)

—————————————-
An Anti-Darwinian lobby wants new laws to Ban children under 16 from riding motorbikes, or from doing anything else which could possibly be classified as “fun”.

A three year old retard at quantong in Victoria’s west was killed last week when he rode his motorbike into the Wimmera river. This was obviously due to the malicious intentions of the motorbike, and had nothing to do with a) parents allowing a 3 year old to ride a motorbike b) parents not supervising 3yo while riding a motorbike c) parents not instructing their child properly on how to ride a motorbike, and the dangers of riding them into rivers d) parents allowing 3yo to ride a motorbike next to a river, with no intervening fence e) the kid being a moron f) Parents being morons.

Kidsafe victoria says more than five children a week are being admitted to hospital because their parents have not properly supervised them on motorbikes.

Kidsafe’s president Dr Mark Stokes says it is alarming motorbikes do not attract the same regulations as cars, which is somewhat strange, considering that Motorbikes and cars are actually subject to virtually identical laws, the only real difference being that a bike is more easily classified as a ‘recreational vehicle’ than a car, which seems sensible to anyone with a brain, because they ARE more often used as recreational vehicles. However he fails to point out that a car on private property also does not need to be registered, and is legally driveable by a three-year-old. exhibit A: the 10,000 ‘paddock bombs’ in australia, so this issue actually would actually also apply to cars, but the thing is that cars aren’t possessed by evil spirits which like to dump three-year-olds into rivers, and motorbikes obviously are…

He says Australia needs to adopt laws similar to those introduced in the USA, Where they don’t even have a helmet law. He says that if we brought in the Patriot act here, then kids would be too busy being stripsearched on the side of the road to go riding motorbikes around.

“Children just aren’t able to control heavy machinery like a motorcycle,” he said, sending anybody with a bike license and an IQ higher than 0.007 into fits of hysterics.

“When you look at the evidence about developmental skills in children, they’re really not able to ride and control something like that until they’re probably about at least 16 years of age,” Dr Stokes said, sending the Netrider and AMA forums offline for 2 hours due to the an inordinate number of posts containing text like “OMGWTFBBQ?!?” and “LOLLERCOASTER!!! THIS GUY’S FUCKED IN THE HEAD!!!”

“I had a motorbike between the ages of 5-9 years old, and I loved every second of it. I fell off a grand total of once that I can remember, and I think i may have bruised my arm during the fall, which was due to my attempting to do something stupid (jumping a Honda Z50R isn’t a clever move). I was heavily reprimanded by my parents for even trying to do stupid things, they explained that doing that kind of stuff on a motorbike is asking for trouble, and that they can be dangerous if you’re not carefull. and I never did anything stupid again. I hurt myself alot more on my BMX than on my motorbike, so maybe we should Ban BMX’s too. Oh, and don’t forget to ban kites – I heard that some guy once got struck by lightning when he was flying a kite in a thunderstorm, so they’re clearly very dangerous…”, Says AntiSol, someone who actually has half a brain.

“So This guy is saying that my 4+ years of loving my Z50R didn’t actually happen, and that I wasn’t actually riding it, cuz I was a child? or maybe I went through some strange “childhood” which actually ended at age 4, implying that I am a super-genius or something, cuz I’d swear to god I was riding that Z50 around like a champion at age 6… And since when is a 35kg Honda Z50R a piece of ‘Heavy Machinery’? My Lego set was heavier!”

“Look, If they take away my Kid’s right to ride his PeeWee around, then I’ll have no choice but to start teaching him insurgency tactics and bomb making – What else will he be able to do for fun? I mean you can’t even get a semiautomatic air rifle in this country! and now they want to take away junior’s PeeWee?!?”, said a Hells Angel who wished to Remain anonymous.

“I think it makes a farce of the whole notion of licensing for motor vehicles, if we are going to say need a license to drive a motor vehicle on a public road, but in a more dangerous environment you don’t need a license,” he added.

A survey of Australia’s Motorcyclists indicated that arroximately 870% chose “a tree or a river over an idiot commodore driver any day, in terms of safety. Trees and rivers don’t move. Or aim for you. If you ride a bike into a river, it’s because you were a fuckwit, not because the river cut you off. Plus grass is a lot softer to land on than bitumen, especially when the mack truck behind you is taken into account…”

Haneef

(Originally posted on myspace on 03-Aug-2007)

HANEEF IS BAD!!! BAD HANEEF! HE’S BAD! BAD!!! BAD BAD BAD!!! BAD HANEEF! HANEEF IS BAD!!! HANEEF IS A BAD MAN!!! BAD MAN HANEEF! HE’S A BAD MAN! BAD! BAD! BAD MAN! HANEEF IS A BAD MAN! BAD!!! BAD BAD BAD!!! HE’S BAD!!! HE’S AN EVIL BAD MAN!!! BAD BAD! HE’S BAD! AND EVIL! BAD! BAD! BAD!

How do you know he’s bad? Because I said so! And I’d know these things! Like, I can’t tell you why, and infact I can’t even really tell you why I can’t tell you why, except to say that it’s for your own good. but trust me, He’s bad. You can trust me. I’m trustworthy. You know I’m trustworthy because I said so. I can’t actually prove I’m trustworthy, and I can’t tell you why I can’t prove it, but trust me, it’s all just for your own good. I don’t do anything that isn’t for solely your good and wellbeing, ever. And plus: he’s Bad. Haneef is a bad man. Don’t worry your little head that we dropped the charges and let him go in the end – that just means that we can’t actually PROVE he’s bad… but he is, Trust us, we know: He’s bad. Bad I tells ya. Bad. and evil. he’s a bad, evil person. You know it’s true because I would never lie… this has nothing to do with the election – there really is a threat – FEAR, FEAR!!! OOOH! BAD BAD!!! HANEEF = BAD!!! BAD!!! BAD! HE’S A BAD MAN!!! FEAR!!! FEAR!!! BAD!!! TERRORISTS! HANEEF BAD!! BAD MAN!!!

(vote for little johnny)

Translations from the propaganda

(Originally posted on myspace on 10-May-2007)

Looks like I forgot to post this when I wrote it…

(Original Article: http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200703/s1882231.htm)

I’ve translated this article from propagandese into english. Enjoy…

Rolling back WorkChoices ‘will send terrible signal’

The Prime Minister is celebrating the first anniversary of his Government’s WorkChoices legislation today. These celebrations will involve the usual consumption of ceremonial barrels of muslim blood and crude oil..

John Howard says the evidence is that the new laws have been beneficial with more than 250,000 20-hour-per-week casual jobs created over the past year, meaning a quarter of a million extra people needing a second job rather than being unemployed.

He told Radio National while he is open to finetuning of the workplace laws, they are a vital part of the economic reform process laid out by George Bush’s puppetmasters.

“The score card is very, very strong and if we roll back WorkChoices, which is what Labor will do if it wins at the end of this year, it will be

the first time in a generation that a major step towards the tyrannical, pseudo-democratic police state which I envision has been reversed,” he said.

“That will send a terrible signal to the millionaires in this country, and to millionaires abroad. It would be like saying ‘But you have 20 billion dollars already, that’s all you need’, which is obviously a terrible thing to say to a rich person…”

“The evidence is that WorkChoices has been beneficial. We’ve had what, more than a quarter of a million sub-minimum-wage jobs created, wages have continued to rise strongly for millionaires, and employees are so terrified that strikes are at their lowest level since 1913, so the scorecard is very, very strong… if you’re a millionaire…

“And Anyway, anybody who doesn’t like the workchoices legislation has already been investigated as a terrorist, so we’re on top of it.”

Federal Workplace Relations Minister Joe Hockey says the WorkChoices legislation is working to add an eighth bathroom and olympic size swimming pool to his house.

He then went on to repeat word-for-word everything the prime minister said:

Mr Hockey says 263,000 new jobs have been created in Australia over the past year, and that of the people filling those roles, at least 3 or 4 hundred are able to survive comfortably, because they have two or more jobs.

He says strike action is at its lowest since records began. He attributes this to “a lengthly campaign of Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt”

Mr Hockey says WorkChoices is one of the foundations of building a strong bomb-proof bunker in his backyard, so that he’ll be safe when the rampaging hordes come looking for blood.

“It is about a choice on whether people on AWAs or collective agreements, or those on the award system, it is about choice and certainly the evidence points to the fact that people who work in parliament house and are on AWAs earn more than people on collective agreements, on the award system, or the dole” he said.

Slow News Day

(Originally posted on myspace on 14 Mar 2007)

I direct you to http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200703/s1871034.htm.

Sydney planes targeted by laser pointers

The Federal Government has confirmed that laser beams were pointed into the cockpits of passenger planes preparing to land at Sydney Airport earlier this week.

OMGWTFBBQ!!!Pilots have told aviation authorities they were targeted over North Ryde on Monday evening.

“It was terrible, I was trying to focus on the altimeter and a little red dot appeared on it! I’ll need at least 4 months of paid stress leave…”

A spokesman for Federal Transport Minister Mark Vaile says about 20 laser attacks on planes have been reported across the country.

Yep, and given that there are hundreds of flights all over the country on any given day, and the staggering number of crashes / injuries / strained eyes reported as a result, it’s obviously a problem of epidemic proportions, and therefore is wholly worthy of it’s very own news article in the national press.

The Federal Government has expressed concern that terrorists could use the technology to endanger passenger planes.

Ok. Seriously, you guys… Terrorists firing laser pointers??? I mean, how desperate do you have to be to try to instill fear into your population? and how GOD DAMN STUPID do you think your population is if you’re going to try feeding them this UTTER CRAP? I mean, what are the terrorists going to do, set up a network of 25 guys strategically located around the city so that they can shine their laser pointers at the pilot, forcing him to turn the plane, thus coming into the firing range of the next guy with a laser pointer, and using this method you ‘remote control’ the plane into a building??? as if! surely rocket launchers aren’t THAT hard to come by…? Surely it’d be easier to BUILD YOUR OWN WMD than to:
a) plan this
b) set up the 25 guys with their laser pointers, deck chairs, tripods, binoculars, synchronised watches, incredibly detailed plans of the plane’s flight path, etc
c) Train and then coordinate all 25 guys
d) find a target in Australia worth your trouble

Reasons why I wouldn’t be overly concerned:
1) I’d imagine it’s somewhat hard to aim a laser pointer at a plane, much less at the pilots eye, while it’s flying through the air at 400kph at 30,000 feet… Even while it’s landing (going slower, flying lower), I’d still say it’s going to be more difficult than…say…aiming a heatseeker…

2) So, on the off-chance that the terrorist does manage to get his pointer(s) – presumably two – most people have two eyes – into the pilots eyes REAL GOOD, so that the pilot can’t land – the pilots abort their landing, and wait a while before making another attempt. Where’s the issue? It’s standard procedure to overfuel planes in case of emergency – isn’t this exactly the kind of reason why they overfuel the planes? It’s not like they’re instantly gong to drop out of the sky if you don’t land at the scheduled time… if this is practicable in anything less than 99% of flights, I’d be seriously worried about getting on a plane without any of these important terrorist concerns…

3) The obvious reason: THERE IS NO TERRORIST THREAT TO AUSTRALIA.
But Civil Aviation Safety Authority spokesman Peter Gibson believes it is more likely that thrill seekers are responsible.

This guy has an exciting life, if shining a laser pointer at a plane is ‘Thrill Seeking’… far more thrilling than building dynamite, putting coins on train lines, planning political assasinations, or even going very very fast down the highway. I’m glad this guy is so hooked into today’s youth culture, saves me from having to keep my finger on the pulse…
“It certainly does seem this is just people who are pretty stupid, who think this is the interesting or fun thing to do,” Mr Gibson said.

“The message is it’s not interesting or fun, it’s damned dangerous and they should simply stop.”

“Damned Dangerous”?

“Damned Dangerous”???

“Damned Dangerous”???

If a professional airline pilot, who neccessarily has a rather extensive set of qualifications, not least including a full-on pilots license which means he has hundreds of flight hours and allows him to fly a many-many-ton commercial passenger aircraft, isn’t able to fly his plane with one eye closed, or isn’t able to move his head two centimeters to the left to avoid a laser pointer, and can’t ask his copilot for help, and can’t say “oh there’s a red dot in my eye, I’d better abort the landing and let the flight controller or copilot help me”, I’d be even more worried about flying, even without the nonexistant terrorist threat.

Oh no… I just realised that Now I’ve written this, I’ve at least doubled the amount of mental effort spent on this subject… eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeew, I feel so tainted…

Let’s Gore an Ox

(Originally posted on myspace on 17 Nov 2006)

So, This has been in my head for a long time, but this is the first time I’ve actually written it down. I’ve discovered a way to logically show that the beliefs of christians are wrong. These thoughts are probably not original and infact are probably thousands of years old, because to my mind they’re obvious, but I’ve never seen them written down anywhere, so here goes…

My line of thoughts are based on the following premises:
1. Christians claim their god to be omnipotent: “all knowing, all powerfull”.
2. Christians claim that sin exists in the world.

Now, laying out the premises like that, the incongruency jumps straight off the page and right into my face, but it might not for everybody, so lets go through some thought excercises in order to make our point:

* Just to be clear, “all knowing, all powerfull” means that god knows everything, and can do anything he wants (i.e affect physical reality in any way he desires) merely by wishing it.

* Let’s be more clear on the “all knowing” bit, because this is where the issue lies: Any entity which is “all knowing” neccessarily knows EVERYTHING. Including, by definition, everything that’s going to happen in the future.

* This immediately creates issues for anyone who believes in free will, because if god knows what’s going to happen in the future then man can have no free will, but if god doesn’t know what’s going to happen he’s not All knowing and the christians are wrong, which would bring out thought excercise crashing to an end. But let’s continue anyway…

* The Free Will issue opens up a whole seperate line of discussion, and it’s messy. A form of free will might be able to exist and still allow an omnipotent god, but only if the many worlds interpretation is correct, and in this case an omnipotent god would still be able to forsee the future of our reality by simply navigating probability streams to find the most probable future (which would presumably be that of our reality). so in this case, god wouldn’t know the future, because it would be impossible to know for sure, but he would know each possible future and it’s relative probability of occuring. For our purposes – because this thought introduces mind-bending paradoxes, and because we want to be generous and give christians the benefit of the doubt, we’re going to assume as far as we can that the christians are right, that god is infact all knowing, and that therefore man has no free will.

* Now, assuming that god is all-knowing and can see the future, and that genesis is to be taken literally, god created man, put him in the garden of eden, and said “don’t eat that fruit of knowledge”. However any omnipotent god would have known before giving the instruction that he would be disobeyed. Therefore the only logical conclusion I can see is that any omnipotent god intended for his instruction to be disobeyed, otherwise he would have either created a creature which would have listened, or not created the tree of knowledge, or not allowed the snake into eden to tempt man, etc etc etc… basically if the christians are to be taken seriously then it was god’s will for man to disobey him, so it’s not sin as it’s not against god’s will. Either that or he’s not all-knowing.

* So at this point we are left with two mutually exclusive possibilities: 1: That god can’t see into the future and therefore is not all-knowing and therefore christianity is wrong, or 2: That god intended for man to do everything he has done (and will do), in which case nothing you could ever do would be a sin, as it’s not against god’s will, and christianity is wrong.

so, as you can see: Christianity is wrong. Thanks for stopping by.

Now, the only remaining question is whether we call the unified, non-christian humanity which must now inevitably be created the “Allied Atheist Alliance”, “United Atheist Alliance”, or “Unified Atheist League”…

Perfect

Sometimes
is never quite enough:
If you’re flawless,
then you’ll win my love…

Don’t forget to win first place,
Don’t forget to keep that
smile on your face.

Be a good boy,
Try a little harder:
You’ve got to measure up,
make me prouder.

How long
before you screw it up?

How many times do I have to tell you
to hurry up?

With everything I do
for you,
The least you can do
is keep quiet.

Be a good girl
You’ve gotta try a little harder,
That simply wasn’t good enough
To make us proud.

I’ll live for you,
I’ll make you what I never was,
If you’re the best,
then maybe so am I,
Compared to him
compared to her,
I’m doing this for your own damn good,
You’ll make up for what I blew,
What’s the problem?
why are you crying?

Be a good boy,
Push a little farther now:
That wasn’t fast enough
To make us happy.

We’ll love you
just the way you are…
…if you’re perfect.

-Alanis Morrisette

I fucking love this song. It’s so subtle and beautiful. I wonder what percentage of the millions who bought this album knows what it’s about? and what percentage skips it because it’s soft and slow?

They’re missing out, bigtime…

(originally posted on myspace on 19 Oct 2006)