Friday, November 13, 2009

Quote Of The Day: Perseverance

The past is indestructible. Sooner or later things turn up again. One of the things that turn up is a plan to destroy the past.
-- Attributed to Borges in Tango

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Quote Of The Day: Creativity

That's what you call an evolution: create a mess and then make it extinct.

-- Y.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Monday, October 19, 2009

I am writing you to let you know of this exciting opportunity

Here's a rhetorical question: how do I tell a recruiter that repeatedly sends solicitations to my work account (which is, by the way, unpublished) that he's an idiot, without offending him much?

Something tells me that the person violating the biggest recruiting no-no is too thick to listen to any arguments, so for now he goes to /dev/null. Alternative suggestions welcome.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Quote Of The Day: Express Delivery

Prayer is the best way to meet the Lord. Trespassing is faster.

-- here

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Android Market Updates: I Give Up

As far as I'm concerned, the main problem with Android Market is drowning in an ocean of shit.

The "default" Android Market is useless - you have to be actively looking for something in order to find it, and it has to be "top". Thus useful, but niche applications go unnoticed. There is no search. There is no feed., on the other hand, does provide a feed. Good luck using it, though. Daily volume is over a hundred items, you've missed a weekend - it's over 300, you've had a busy week - it's well over a thousand. Most of it is farts and sexy lady whatever, repeated every few hours (yes, developers have realized that you have to release a new version pretty much every day to stay on top avoid total oblivion).

I've been using the RSS Feed since the day it appeared, but today I'm calling it quits - the signal/noise ration has become loathsome, and I'd rather miss something useful than spend hundreds of non-renewable hours of my life sifting through junk that is flowing at ever increasing speed.

What I would ideally like to see (consider this a free idea) is an Android Market notification service that would allow me to
  • notify me of totally new applications only;
  • notify me of new releases of applications I've subscribed to;
  • allow to blacklist publishers, or, even better,
  • allow to blacklist anything based on regular expression patterns.

Then it can become more or less usable. Not before.

Quote Of The Day: Life

Life - the way it really is - is a battle not between good and bad, but between bad and worse

-- Joseph Brodsky

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Splendours and Miseries of Hotlinking

"Hotlinking is bad", we are told. "Hotlinking is the bandwidth theft", we are told. Vices and evils of hotlinking are described in gory details at The Source.

But wait a second... What if I want to promote someone's work, and that someone is someone I've never met, have no commercial interest vested into, nor desire to communicate with, it's just I like their work and think they deserve their fifteen minutes of fame?

Should I copy the picture to avoid stealing their bandwidth? Well, but copying is stealing, we are told.

Should I provide a plain hyperlink? But with the information density of today's Internet a link will most probably just go unnoticed.

So I'm just going to settle with the assumption that the bandwidth "stolen" is not actually stolen, but is, in fact, a fair price paid for the exposure the author gets. Provided the link is not disemboweled (as, say, and backlink is readily available - just like the image above.

Now go nudge this photographer and make him give you a chance to order his prints.

(Image Credit: Cullen :P)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Quote Of The Day: OOP

The problem with object-oriented languages is they’ve got all this implicit environment that they carry around with them. You wanted a banana but what you got was a gorilla holding the banana and the entire jungle.

-- Joe Armstrong

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Quote Of The Day: Dancing

You may be a king or a little street sweeper, but sooner or later you dance with the reaper!

-- Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Quote Of The Day: History

History is a constant race between the invention and catastrophe. Education helps but it's never enough. You also must run.

-- Frank Herbert, God Emperor of Dune

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Quote Of The Day: Cowardice

Most civilization is based on cowardice. It's so easy to civilize by teaching cowardice. You water down the standards which would lead to bravery. You restrain the will. You regulate the appetites. You fence in the horizons. You make a law for every movement. You deny the existence of chaos. You teach even the children to breathe slowly. You tame.

-- Frank Herbert, God Emperor of Dune

Friday, September 18, 2009

Little Big Annoyances

Everyone's got their idiosyncrasies.

Some people can't touch apricots and and peaches.
Some people don't tolerate a sound of scraping on the glass.
Some people can't drive stick.

My idiosyncrasy is the middle button in the browser. I want it to open a new tab, in the foreground.

And Google Chrome, otherwise a decent browser, can't seem to support this feature as of version 3.

Or is it just an advanced configuration option?

about:config doesn't work. OK.

Some research shows that it does support some others, though verification shows that it's a hit and miss (for some reason, not all keywords display anything other than an empty page - keep trying in new tabs). Other than that, nothing.

Moving on. More searching (details omitted as mundane). Nothing useful, except it seems that there are other people desperately trying to make Google add this option, to no avail.

Damn Google, is it that difficult? Every other browser has this option configurable, who died and gave you the right to decide that you know better how it is supposed to work? Yes, I know you can do it, but it requires two hands, and what if I don't have the other one?

Maybe if the head of usability testing team for Chrome had one arm, we'd get this feature faster?

PS: This is the only reason Chrome is not the default browser on my boxes.

UPDATE: Tried to get the Chrome Beta and what do you think? Lo and behold, time after time, browser, network proxy and fresh/upgrade tricks being used seemingly irrelevant, it downloads the Chrome (stable, v. instead. And, as usual with Google, the hood is welded shut and it'll take significant effort to figure out where the problem is. Screw it, I don't have that much time.

Back to Firefox.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

GIYF is not so F anymore

We old-timers used to think that GIYF stands for "Google is your friend".

Well, this started backfiring lately.

It used to be that a carefully crafted search criteria returned just the right result for the search.

But with advances in personalization this art has already become useless - whereas one person gets a completely relevant result set, the other gets absolute noise. And the more alien (out of pattern) the search is for the person conducting the search, the less useful it becomes.

Quote Of The Day: Expression

Ideas imbedded in a language require that particular language for expression.

-- Frank Herbert, God Emperor of Dune

PS: Yes, "imbedded" is the word used in the book. Don't ask me why.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Quote Of The Day: Certification

I'm certifiable, not certified. It just means my answers are from experience, not a book.

-- Internet lore

Afterthought: Nice play of words on the definition of "certifiable".

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Quote Of The Day: Reason

Never attempt to reason with people who know they are right.

-- Frank Herbert, God Emperor of Dune

Quote Of The Day: Administration

The difference between a good administrator and a bad one is about five heartbeats. Good administrators make immediate choices.

-- Frank Herbert, God Emperor of Dune

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Lessons Nobody Wants To Learn: Enterprise Upgrade Path

Quite often, I hear this argument that is supposed to be very convincing: "But our enterprise has millions of dollars invested in infrastructure X, it is our duty to protect it".

Give me a break.

Let me give you an example: In 1997, I've invested $2000 into a highly modern computer. It had the brand new Pentium MMX 233MHz CPU, whopping 32MB RAM, and incredibly large 2GB hard drive. It even had the SoundBlaster. Forget the fact that 12 years and countless generations of computers passed by since, I still must protect my investment and support and nurture the obsolete monstrosity with less computing power than a phone in my pocket?

What part of the message you still don't understand?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Quote Of The Day: Expert

My definition of an expert in any field is a person who knows enough about what's really going on to be scared.

-- P. J. Plauger

Sunday, August 9, 2009

And Tell Me Stereotyping Doesn't Work

Couple of weeks ago, third generation Mustang driving dude, tattooed, pierced, no shirt, rear-ends my car, gives me a smug smile, offers "Don't worry, this is what insurance is for, ha-ha-ha", and drives away.

So tell me, why am I not surprised to find out that the bastard is hiding from both my and his own insurance company, which, though puts him into a position of "guilty by default", makes me responsible for paying for the damages that he caused?

And don't you ever tell me stereotypes are wrong.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Quote Of The Day: Bore

A bore is a man who deprives you of solitude without providing you with company.

-- Gian Vincenzo Gravina

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Google Talk via SMS: Still Dead

Remember I've been fuming about how easy it to get Google Talk via SMS stuck with no way out?

Well, guess what, it's still stuck, five months later. All the recipients I've tried to communicate with failed to respond via SMS at some point, which rendered Talk to SMS channels dead, and there is nothing you can do about unblocking them. Zip. Nada. No block expiration. No "enable this contact to send SMS to my phone" setting.

A search on "must reply before you can send more messages" confirms that the issue is alive and well, with no resolution in sight.

Two trends are becoming more and more distinct:
  • Good luck getting prompt customer service from Google if they don't feel like it;
  • Applications that "almost work" (other prominent examples: late Latitude, less-than-dependable Android) are becoming the public face of Google.

Monday, August 3, 2009

About That Phantom Replacement...

Yes, the replacement they sent. The NeoPower 650 Blue.

Quality PSU, you say? I beg to differ.

Out of the box, the PSU fan made clicking noises. Day by day, it got louder and louder, until today, less than two months since it was installed, the clicking has become so loud, that it annoys the hell out of me even though there are 14 (yes, fourteen) other fans running next to it. Guess I will have to rip the fan out of the PSU and replace it with something more, ahem, quality.

But you might say - wait a second, you said you installed Corsair instead of that Phantom? That's right, I did.

This PSU, however, had to be installed a few days after it arrived to replace another Antec PSU that died right then - SmartPower 350.

Having read Scott's comments, I thought long and hard about whether I am being unfair. Well, I don't think so. Here's the list of all hardware that failed for me since 1997:
  • One no-name PSU that came with YY-0110 (catastrophic failure);
  • A couple of Maxtor 80G drives (catastrophic failure);
  • One or maybe two Netgear Gigabit Ethernet cards (works no higher than 100M now);
  • One eVGA videocard (GeForce 7800 GT) half-dead - apparently, bad soldering on memory chips, overheats easily but still usable;
  • All Antec PSUs.
No, I don't think I am unfair.

UPDATE (2009/08/08): Now it's also screeching.

UPDATE (2009/08/10): Now it seized completely. Good thing I have an array of other "quality" PSUs to rip the replacement fan out of.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Have You Ever Tried To Cancel X-Box Live?

Well, let me tell you, the process sucks.

When you try to cancel it from the console, you find that you can't. Interesting, they didn't have any problems with accepting you as a member from the console without "verifying the actual card holder information", but no, you can't leave without talking to the "retention specialist".

Then it turns out that you can not remove your credit card information from the console - they hold it hostage.

And God forbid you try to change the credit card holder name to something like "Not Authorized" - they will be "unable to verify the card holder information" if you do. Haven't tried waiting to see if they try to send you a bill for bouncing the payment with "Not Authorized" being the card holder name, don't have time for those games.

And you have to give them your Windows Live account information - yes, the same you've entered when you first bought the console and tried to use the Live service. Good luck remembering the password, or getting to it in time before the customer supports loses their patience and starts giving you the reference number so you could call back.

After all those hoops, you will have to convince the rep that yes, you are sane, and no, they can't have your reason for canceling the service, and no, there will be no living or dead relatives that would like to pick up the tab after you leave.

In other words, next time you see that lucrative "$1 for 1 month" membership offer, think hard if it's really worth about an hour of your time to cancel the service a month later. Oh, and keep in mind that they are not open 24/7, and they work in Eastern time zone.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Blatant Honesty - Not So Bad, After All

Visual Voicemail from T-Mobile, upon invocation, directs me to Nice try for the application that is supposed to be seamless - and that is right after the call to T-Mobile to make sure that no changes to my account are necessary (some concerns expressed here) and no further actions are necessary.


UDPATE: Version 1.0.5 clearly states: You do not have access to Visual Voicemail. Please upgrade your account. Upgrade? To what? I thought I had all the bells and whistles already?

Calling T-Mobile, again.

UPDATE 2: Rep said something about "legacy G1 plan", then sent me to G1 department that replaced my existing plan with "G1 data plan with visual voicemail" (explicitly stating that there is no price change, just the "new plan code for internal systems"). Promised activation time of about 2 hours, but SMS confirmation came in less than 5 minutes, and it works now.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Quote Of The Day: Wealth

The wealth is a tool of freedom. But the pursuit of wealth is the way to slavery.

-- Frank Herbert, God Emperor of Dune

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Quote Of The Day: Positioning

Never put another man in a corner where the only way out is over you.

-- here

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Quote Of The Day: Learning

...when you think you know something, that is the most perfect barrier against learning

-- Frank Herbert, God Emperor of Dune

Friday, July 10, 2009

Quote Of The Day: Attention Span

- Who wrote this code?
- When did he write it?
- What did he think then?
- Me
- Last week
- I have no idea

-- Royal Pingdom

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Chrome OS: But Will It Blend?

Google has introduced Chrome OS. That's all nice and good, but will it address one particular itch - will it play games?

Sure it it'll be useful even without that, but gaming is something that keeps alive Windows installations in countless homes of geeks that otherwise don't care about running Windows. Provide gaming APIs - put a possibly last nail into the Windows coffin.

Something tells me, though, that this is not going to happen, at least this time.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Android Market Trend: Greed

There was abundance of good Android applications on Android Market from the very beginning, when it was free. Then, paid applications showed up, and "Pro" and "Donate" apps started appearing.

Then, developers realized that the fact that there's been 250k downloads for the free app doesn't necessarily mean that there will be at least 10k downloads for the paid app, you're lucky if you get 10 - sometimes it's the user's greed, sometimes it's just the fact that the app is good enough as free, but doesn't withstand any criticism as paid, and paying for it is mostly a honor of recognition thing.

Then, the developers got greedy and started silently removing features from free applications and offering them only with paid versions thereof. Take into account the fact that you can't downgrade the application on Android (and I suspect that you can't even hold upgrading, Market does it for you automatically if you keep ignoring the notification long enough).

My prediction is that it's going to backfire, this way or that.

Yes, I know that it sucks that people are willing to take your work for free, but don't want to pay (I am a software engineer as well, remember?).

However, whereas more expensive objects' acquisition is decided upon the price and the merits, the price here is so low, it's immaterial in comparison with impression. And if you're pulling features out of your free stuff - not only you're not allowing new Android Market users to see the benefits of it, you're also creating the impression of racket. You're betraying my trust into you, and taking away what you already gave me.

You are not irreplaceable. Even if I was considering making a donation worth a few minutes of my time (longer to process the transaction than to earn it), I'm not considering it anymore. There will be others that will fill the gap created by you, and they will do it better than you and possibly cheaper than you, for they'll learn on your mistakes.

Play nice, will ya?

Screw The Hybrids

With bitter aftertaste, read a note about how Toyota is using patents to slow the growth of hybrid vehicles. Cursed the system for a bit, and then suddenly thought that I can confidently say "screw the hybrids" and not have the green people aim for my throat.

How come, you say? You, with your eight cylinder 4.4L gas guzzler (overstatement, but all right for the scope), how can you have your conscience clear?


Instead of engaging into dubious arguments about hybrid battery environmental impact, I just don't drive it, that's all. I have made a conscious decision and gone telecommuting, and now the monster is sitting quietly under the tent six days out of seven.

So I can enjoy my car while attracting the envy, hate and spite of "environmental activists", and at the same time be way more green than they claim to be, driving their always shiny hybrids around (shiny... Do you know how much water and chemicals get dumped to waste during a routine car wash?).

But that's the way it always works, right? There are those who actually do the work, and there are the vocal ones that get the credit for doing it...

Friday, July 3, 2009

Stop Fidgeting

One of mortal sins of Open Source (and probably to almost the same extent) developers is fidgeting. Your app is just fine, and the rest of the world is happy with it, except for a few small glitches. But you, the author, you're smarter than all of them, and you know how bad your application really is, and you're not happy with it, and you keep fidgeting.

And fidgeting.
And fidgeting.

Until you destroy your user base.

Previous prominent example was Amarok, which was almost perfect as of version 1.4. But no, they wanted to make it better, and made drastic changes in 2.0, which rendered it next to unusable.

Today's example is the Missed Call Android application, by The Pixels. During its early development, the user interface was changed literally a dozen times, if not more, then UI changes stopped, and application started getting mature - stability and predictability improved, UI has become polished without unnecessary changes. Good, I though, and bought it. Apparently, no good deed goes unpunished, for shortly thereafter the author has allowed several bugs to slip into the new version (in particular, very annoying one - when the missed call LED notification will stay on forever no matter what you do, short of disabling that particular service altogether - and even then some).

But today the reality has exceeded the worst expectations. Another UI redesign - and I honestly liked the old one better. That was the last straw that made me sit down and write this message. Apparently, I'm not the only one - read harsh comments on entries above, and see the application ratings go down.

So I'm thinking - what if we all get together and ask the author nicely to stop fidgeting and make it work, will [s]he listen?

Oh, and you, yes, you, the developer reading this: stop fidgeting and ask your users what they really want.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Quote Of The Day: Motivation

Men must want to do things out of their own innermost drive. People, not commercial organizations or chains of command, are what make great civilizations work. Every civilization depends upon the quality of individuals it produces. If you over-organize humans, over-legalize them, suppress their urge to greatness - they cannot work and their civilization collapses.

-- Frank Herbert, Children of Dune


Friday, June 12, 2009

Enterprise: Missing The Big Picture

Google is a glutton for punishment:
  • When will Books allow collapsing labels, just like GMail did?
  • When will Latitude merge back contacts that are already merged in Contacts, and why did they split them to begin with?
  • When will Books allow merging authors and titles, just like GMail merges contacts?
  • When will they allow labeling places in Maps?
  • When will they allow labeling events in Calendar?
  • When will they allow labeling products and vendors in Froogle?
  • When will they allow labeling search results in Search?
  • Just as Contacts grew out of GMail and Voice, will Labels grow out of GMail, Contacts and Books?
  • When will they remember the lessons of Smalltalk and allow meta-operations? For example, why can't I label labels?
  • When will Reader comments have the same level of markup as Blogger?
  • Speaking of which, when will Blogger comments have the same level of markup as Blogger blog entries?
  • When will YouTube allow promotion and elimination of search results just as Search does today?
Is your enterprise better, by the way?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Quote Of The Day: Government

Good government never depends upon laws, but upon personal qualities of those who govern. The machine of government is always subordinate to the will of those who administer that machinery. The most important element of government, therefore, is the method of choosing leaders.

-- Frank Herbert, Children of Dune

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

To Serve And Replace, or What Is Good Customer Support

Well, while the subject it still hot...

We all know, shit happens, things die. It's not "if", it's "when". So what do I, the customer, want from you, the manufacturer, when it gets to the customer service?

  • Be Immediate. I don't care if you can't afford to keep a 24/7 customer support line open. Otherwise, first of all, I will start to question your quality of service, then, my judgement in choosing your product. If you absolutely can't afford to keep the line - have a good automated system up.
  • Did I mention, Be Immediate? If my automated request for service falls into a black hole and I don't get any response, I get pissed. If I see HTTP 404, HTT 500 or Java stack traces or anything suchlike on your customers support site, I will get pissed even more. I will forgive those artifacts on your main site, but not on customer support site.
  • Be Transparent. In other words, Set Expectations. As long as you explain to me in plain terms what I need to do, and exactly what you will do, and how long it's going to take, and, most importantly, follow through exactly, I may be willing to overlook the fact that it was your product that had failed to begin with.
  • Be Fast. Not everybody has enough cash to throw around and buy a replacement immediately while you're taking your sweet time and move glacially. But it doesn't really matter - those who can afford to buy a replacement while waiting will hate you for making them spend extra, those who can't afford will hate you for making them wait and for lost opportunities. Both will bitch loudly.
  • Be Thorough. If you have to sneeze in order to make me happy, notify me about that in writing. And you bet your ass that I want to have the tracking number for that shipment you sent to me, 'cause not all of use live in neighborhoods where it is safe to leave a parcel on the porch. Even the carriers are not without fault sometimes.
  • Call Me, Don't Make Me Call You. Especially if you don't have 24/7 support line open. Most of us have jobs that don't allow to dedicate time on hold during your "normal working hours, 10AM to 2PM Wednesday through Thursday". If there is any movement on my case, no matter how insignificant, let me know so I can see you're working for me.
  • Don't Be Condescending. You don't know me. Assume I am a genius and know what I'm doing, until I irrefutably prove otherwise. If you treat me like a fool, I'm going to treat your product like crap that it is. And bitch loudly.
  • Don't Bullshit Me. If I catch you on a lie, you're dead meat. You may not keep records, but I do.
  • Know What You're Talking About. Along the same lines, if I catch you at not understanding your product as well as I do...
And, finally,
  • It's Not All About Money. It is about a spoiled gift (when it is DOA), or interruption of service, or lost profits (y'all know some people are telecommuting nowadays, right?), or lost opportunities ("damn, I have a job interview tomorrow, and all my preparation materials are locked up on a computer with a dead motherboard"), or missed deadlines ("<censored>! My coursework is toast, and it's due tomorrow!!!").
  • But wait, I lied, it is all about money. Go calculate how many of your products I have already bought in my life time, and then how many products I will not buy because of crappy customer service. And how many friends I will tell about my experiences with crappy customer service. And how many sales you will lose because of that.
So go and fix it already.

Antec Warranty: You've got to be kidding me

Remember, I was furious about dead Antec Phantom 500?

Finally, they did send up a replacement. They notified me about that a day after I, completely pissed, decided to bite the bullet and bought the replacement, Corsair CMPSU-750TX.

Another two weeks passed by, and finally the replacement from Antec came (by the way, I was never notified of a tracking number). The computer where Phantom died was operational again, so I was not in a hurry to open the box, and it was just laying in the corner.

Today, I've decided to clean up the shop and opened the box. And you won't believe what I've found inside.

Antec NeoPower 650 Blue.

I' missing something here. I've sent you a FANLESS PSU. You send me back one WITH A FAN. Could've had some common decency and told me upfront that you don't manufacture Phantoms any more, and can't send it back. I would've understood, or maybe would've asked for some sort of redemption - all in all, I've decided not to buy Antec PSUs any more. But no, you had to sneak up on me and make me exert extra efforts to call your RMA department (See Figure 1, also here) and figure out whether it was a mistake and Antec does have some spare Phantoms and they will fix it (provided I pay for shipping, both ways, of course), or I've just been had and now I'm stuck with this Blue <censored>.

I think I'm done with Antec for real this time. Not just the PSUs, everything.

UPDATE (2009/08/03): fail. Less than two months.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Wells Fargo Fraud Protective Latency Is Impressive

Bought an app for my Android, turned out that the vendor was in UK. Within LESS THAN A MINUTE I got an automated call from Wells Fargo fraud protection department, asking me whether I've initiated this transaction.

Wow. Not often I see this quality of service from our financial institutions.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Google Latitude: Late


Google Latitude is a service that allows to "see your friends' locations and status messages and share yours with them", according to their home page.

Well, let me see - people move pretty fast in this world. All right, I would be happy if there was about 30 minutes of delay - I understand that the infrastructure is complex, and Latitude is a loss leader, allowing Google to peddle location based services and gather massive statistics on us, mere mortals, in order to do that more efficiently.


But for Pete's sake, 20 hours is unacceptable. That's a good case. A bad case is a friend of mine that is being shown stuck in Nevada on May 10th, with no way out.


The worst part of it is that the worst behavior Latitude exhibits on the most touted mobile platform, the Android (Blackberries seem to be the most stable, WinMo just crash a lot). And even worse is that it seems to be a design feature.

Without being privy to implementation details, this is how it looks like from outside the black box upon a brief glance:
  • There is a entity that runs in background;
  • Whenever the memory gets tight, it gets booted out;
  • Bye-bye goes your Latitude presence;
  • Until the next time you run Maps.
Last time I checked, there was no way to make sure your class doesn't get evicted if there's a memory shortage.

Which means that Latitude users on Android are fundamentally <censored>.

As well as users on many other applications working as background services. Like I've said before, "almost working" seems to be the bane of the platform (which, by the way, makes me think that next Android phones will have significantly more memory than G1).

1.5 release didn't fix this. Let's see if 2.0 does.

For now, if your work depends on it, go with BlackBerry.

UPDATE (2009/06/14): There's been an update that is, among other things, supposed to fix this issue. Let's see how well it works.

UPDATE #2 (2009/06/14): Did I say "almost working" already? It is not clear yet how well the update timeliness is working. but one thing is absolutely certain: user pictures are randomly gone. First impression is that the only picture that stays on both receiving and sending end is the one the user has set for themselves, but if I have a picture assigned to the user, it will not show up. Guess another update is due soon.

UPDATE #3 (2009/09/18): Still nothing. Guess these problems are not on the "priority list", or are resolved in Android 1.6. Which is kind of moot, considering the fact that G1 may be unfit for new Android releases.

(Image credit: Mister Rad)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Cox Sux

I used to have weeks, if not months, of trouble-free service uptime from Cox. Was truly happy with it.

Recently, though, the quality of service has gone seriously downhill - now I am having downtimes several times a day, up to tens of minutes each time. There were two citywide downtimes for several hours in a row within last week.

Cox representatives are either diligently denying any liability ("Sir, we could send a technician to your house (the next available opening is, let me see, two days away), but you understand that if there is a problem with your home network, we'll have to charge you, oh, and would you like to buy a Cox assurance plan?"), or are totally unreachable ("All circuits are currently busy, please try your call another time").

My ability to work depends on having uninterrupted Internet service, so I am now seriously pissed and considering alternatives. Suggestions welcome.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

LCD Monitor Trends

  • 4:3 is going extinct;
  • 300 cd/m2 brightness is the mainstream;
  • 1000:1 contrast is the mainstream;
  • 1920x1080 (16:9) is rapidly gaining upon 1920x1200 (16:10), and you can get disproportionately better deals for monitors in 1920x1080 vs. 1920x1200. 1920x1200 seems to be pushed into the "elitist" market niche, priced accordingly;
  • resolutions higher than 1920x1200 seem to be treated as exotic, with either significantly less bang for the buck for 30" at 2560 x 1600, or higher pixel pitch for 23" at 2048 x 1152;
  • HDMI connector isn't quite making it out there yet;
  • At the same time, more than half of monitors declare themselves HDCP compatible.

Monday, May 25, 2009

A Special Place at The Ninth Circle of Hell...

...must be reserved for Lotus Notes developers that did not provide a way to change a font size.

It doesn't matter whether you have a cheapskate 14" laptop with 1024x768 screen, or a decent 24" 1920x1200 flat panel - either way, you're condemned to stare at those microscopic letters till your abused eyeballs pop out of sockets and roll down the table.

PS: And don't tell me that there are ways. The idiots specified dialog box and button sizes in pixels, with no regard to font size. This is what happens when I try to make the fonts readable on a big screen:

Large fonts in Lotus Notes

(photo by chrismar)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Quote Of The Day: Motivation

Don't try to race sheep.
Don't try to herd race horses.

-- How to Motivate Programmers

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Antec P183: Thanks, but No Thanks

Disclaimer: I don't have a physical case at my hands, this review is based on actual experience with Antec P182 case and SPCR review of P183. Hope you find it essential enough, though.


The case is apparently a bit bigger, which means that you would be able to fit big video cards with rear mounted power connectors together with hard drives in the middle cage - barely, though, judging by this picture (page six of the SPCR review).

The case is apparently better ventilated, especially at the front - though it is questionable how well a non-directional airflow dissipation will work.

The bottom fan had been moved from the middle of the case to the front of it - which will improve the airflow through hard drives installed in the bottom cage.

  • The bottom fan moved to the front will increase acoustic noise.
  • Bottom fan is now optional (read: you will ave to pay extra).
  • Hateful Tricool 120 fans. These will have to be ripped out and thrown away, for the level of noise they generate is unacceptable. Assuming the same Scythe SY1225SL12M are used, this, again, brings the price up to $200 - and again, you have better options in that price range.
  • Fan grills. Problems with them have gone unnoticed by original P182 SPCR review, and I was unlucky enough to discover them only after all the components wer installed. In this incarnation, though, the problems were so aggravated that it deserved a special note from SPCR (look for this picture) and read the comments. This means that before the components are installed, the fans have to be ripped out even if you decide to keep the stock Tricool fans, and something will have to be done to the grills to smooth the airflow.
  • Antec CP proprietary PSU form factor and mounts: given the fact that all Antec power supplies I've ever bought have already died, most just outside of the warranty period, and one barely within, and it still hasn't been replaced yet, I (my humble personal opinion) couldn't care less about their improved proprietary technology, no matter how good it sounds on paper. Simply can't afford to waste that much money and risk the life of equipment those PSUs feed.

Thanks, but no thanks.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Google Adding Contact Fields, Losing Touch

So all right, they've added fields to contacts. Cool! Let me go add some to mine.

All right, birthday, check.

Marriage anniversary, ... wait, what? "Anniversary"? Hmm, not so cool, but okay, check.
The day I won the Nobel Prize... what? "Other"?

Now tell me, how difficult was it to give me the ability to name my dates the way I like them? (and don't tell me that I should use "custom" for that, for it is not a date and can't be treated as such).

Since I'm ranting already anyway, tell me also how difficult was it to integrate contact dates with the calendar and provide an ability to add a notification, just the way the calendar does it? What's the point of adding a date if you can't act upon it?

And how difficult was it to provide an ability, when adding a person, to add a person that is already in the address book? With a hypertext link to that other person?

Tsk, tsk, tsk. Not the quality of application that can be expected of Google. Time to think about a backup plan.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

R.I.P.: Antec Phantom 500W "Fanless" Power Supply

2006/10/30 - 2009/04/30

I used to like Antec power supplies - they were cheap and hip and everyone was loving them.

Then, they started dying. I've lost count of all Antec power supplies that died on me, I believe it was all of them that I've ever had - about five. The last addition to the cemetery is the Phantom Fanless. It just failed to produce power next time I switched it on, and I don't really care why.

I will not be buying another Antec PSU, ever. PSU manufacturer of choice is, for now, Corsair. CMPSU-620HX works since 2007/04/08 (replaced dead Antec True Blue), CMPSU-750TX since 208/05/04 (new installation). I think I'll just get another 750TX as a replacement for this Phantom, to be on a safe side.

The jury is still out on other Antec products, but there's little to break, really...

UPDATE: Apparently, Phantom is backed by Antec's 3 year warranty. The fact that the phone line is only open 10:00 to 16:00 Pacific on weekdays doesn't make me too optimistic, though. Online support request submitted, let's see how fast and how good does it go. So far, not even an automated email confirmation.

UPDATE: Customer service is, ahem, schizophrenic. People (at least the rep I'm dealing with) are helpful and expedient. Support site, on the other side, is trigger happy, riddled with dead code and dead links, and if you do submit a form, you better follow through with a live rep, because you will not receive feedback by email (why is that, by the way?). Once you're assigned an RMA number, your ticket is closed, and you have no way of notifying Antec of, say, additional details, or, say, a tracking number.

Shipping this animal, by the way, costs arm and leg - about a quarter, if not a third, of the price of a new comparable PSU. Think twice before you ship - you're paying for it.

UPDATE: It's been a week and a day since Antec facility has received the dead PSU and signed off the UPS receipt. It's like it went to /dev/null - the only response that could be evoked from tech support is "RMA department will take 2-3 business days to process, and will issue the tracking number". Time to rough some feathers.

UPDATE: There doesn't seem to be a phone queue manager on Antec's RMA department. You are greeted with a lifeless and apathetic voice stating stating "Please leave us your name, email, phone number and RMA number, and we'll call you back". Hmm, did you know the word "gullible" is not in the dictionary? OK, after calling back quite a few times I get a live person. And guess what, I am being informed that the unit is "on a back order". And that they don't know when it is going to be available, and that they will have to call me back when they have the date.

Yeah, right.

Well, I guess it's time to buy a PSU - and guess what, it's not going to be an Antec.

UPDATE: You've got to be kidding me.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Does white G1 chip?

Yes, it does.

Two phones - black, purchased on October 23rd 2008, still without a single scratch, and white, purchased a month later, with same usage pattern, exhibiting extensive chipped areas around buttons and corners.

Not to even mention the fact that black one is the only one with the keyboard backlight actually visible...

Friday, April 3, 2009

Fedora 11, you say? Hmm...

Whereas Fedora 11 is about to be released, I still can't come around after a shock caused by degradation of usability from Fedora 9 to Fedora 10 (for me, that is). Pet peeves (just a few) -

  • Convoluted sound configuration that keeps Amarok, Firefox and everybody else race for the sound engine, making it unusable for some applications - and good luck figuring out which app causes what to happen;
  • Brain-dead Amarok 2.0 - yeah, I can appreciate the developers' desire to "go clean", but in the process they managed to kill practically all the functionality I cared about.
Sheesh, if F11 turns out even worse, I'm going back to F9.

Android: Hands-Free Wish Coming True?

Hands-free operation was a long standing item in G2 Wishlist. Apparently, there is sufficient momentum behind it, as Google announced the creation of Eyes-Free project - while not specifically for that purpose, but close enough to be practically usable.

Let's hope it wasn't an April 1st joke.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Two Androids, Five Months: Pain Points

Overall, the phone is decent enough. But there are a few things that drive us all up the wall:

  • Missed calls. You may call the phone that is next to you on the table, hear the rings, and then the voicemail prompt, and watch the phone do absolutely nothing. Missed call is not registered in the log, either. Never had this with any phone before, including two Blackberries.
  • Late IMs. Sometimes, it takes up and beyond 30 minutes to deliver an instant message.
  • Dropped IM Sessions. For no reason, without movement, the IM session gets terminated with "Lost connection to the server", no matter whether it is a WiFi or a Edge connection. Google, take a note - if I opened the IM session, I expect it to stay open no matter what happens to the rest of the world.
  • Spontaneous Reboots. Sometimes triggered by ToggleWifi and Toggle Settings on turning WiFi off, but I don't blame the apps - there must be a race condition in the Android API that is not quite covered - even the stock settings changer can reboot the phone. Sometimes the reboot is truly spontaneous - arbitrary actions cause it.
  • Ignored Custom Ring Tones. The correct ring tone will be used in about 50% of calls received. There is no statistically significant correlation with anything that may make the phone ignore the custom ringtone and use the default.
  • Dying Background Applications. Applications like Missed Call, while being very useful, cannot be relied upon - they die for no apparent reason (don't explain the intricacies of memory management to me, I know them and don't give a damn, fix the realtime scheduler).
  • Lack of Real Time Response. A phone is not a laptop, it must be instantaneous. Make it real time.
UPDATE: Corrected information about spontaneous reboots.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

UMA Is Not Dead Yet?

What? G2 is FCC certified with UMA? Dire predictions about death of UMA were wrong?

I'll be glad to eat my hat if that is the case. Still pondering about nuances of making profit on UMA, other than $10/mo surcharge on the plan plus feature appeal, stacked against the overhead of VOIP infrastructure and increased tension between the wireless carrier and Internet service providers.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Quote Of The Day: Applied Mechanics

Understeer is when you hit the wall with the front of the car and oversteer is when you hit the wall with the rear of the car. Horsepower is how fast you hit the wall and torque is how far you take the wall with you.

-- Internet Lore

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

If There Is One Lesson Android Market Taught Me...

...then it is: don't be a smart aleck and name your application in a way that conveys with cristal clarity what the hell it is doing. Preferrably in three words or less.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Google Voice: Speech To Text

This is the text people read:
Ash from Alaska's volcanos is like a rock fragment with jagged edges and has been used as an industrial abrasive. It can injure skin, eyes and breathing passages. The young, the elderly and people with respiratory problems are especially susceptible to ash-related health problems. Ash can also cause damage engines in planes, cars and other vehicles.
This is what comes out:

Person 1
hi from alaska's okay and i was like a rock right what do i get in his name is daniel this is mister briefings if you can just gave guys inbreeding past yeah how doing if you wish for tori problems are especially susceptible to actually and have a call i should also call us damage engine plane is part of the vehicles

Person 2
ask from the left because what can i was just like it looks like meant with jagged edges instead you since and so would please if you can't even just giving i've been passages the young and the elderly in people with respiratory problems are especially susceptible to actually good health problems ask can also call damage engine's complaints cost on the vehicle

Person 3
astra last call because he's like a role that fragments with jack at just and i have the new US and and also i believe it was you can injures scheme i live in within prances be on the elderly people et cetera problems that especially susceptible thatched related health problems ask and also called them with and in in planes cards and on vehicles

Person 4
hi asher moscow booking of the like a rock fragments jagged edges and has been used as and just real abrasive hey can interest in i've been reading process the young and i will be million people with respiratory problems are especially susceptible to actually to health problems has can also cause damage engine plane cars another vehicle
Two people out of four speak American English without accent, two others with noticeable, but different accents. Good luck figuring out which is which, though.

Verdict: Not quite usable yet, but let's see how soon they can get it straight.

UPDATE: Person 5:
Ash from Alaska. Look at those you'd like. It looks like Ben, there's a decade edges and and being used them and to that. Broza it can in your interest keen eyes and bracing I said the young. The else we can build interest for three problems are, especially suspect little to fashion related to sales trouble ask camp else okay. Those Savage, angin. In Plain cars and that we go.

Google Apps, Android and Corporate Customization, Take Two

Back in November 2008 I wrote that Google Apps are at the breaking point with Microsoft Exchange.

Looking back, seems that the analysis was correct. The same trend continues, Google Apps gain popularity, Microsoft Exchange loses it.

What is even more interesting, Google Apps is now at the breaking point with Lotus Notes:

This fight would be much more interesting to behold - from what I've seen, IBM and its Lotus Notes is rooted much more deeply than Microsoft and its Exchange ever was. Whereas Microsoft definitely had wider exposure, ot was shallow - Exchange doesn't scale well. Notes, on the other hand, scales better, has much deeper penetration, bigger clients and higher cost to exit. In addition, whereas Microsoft alienates customers on a daily basis, IBM has penetrated the customer base - it's a consulting company now, remember? This increases the cost of exit even more - it is very questionable who is going to be in bigger trouble if a contract with IBM is suddenly terminated.

Oh, this is going to be painful. Let me go get my popcorn.

Handcuff Notes: Analytics Beyond The Box

Just a few days ago i was pondering the problem mentioned further down, and now I read this: Analytics for GMail usage.

Well, it's interesting how the human mind works. It can comfortably work with notion of something there is one of. It takes heroic effort to think of two of the same. And it is almost unthinkable to make a transitjon and think of N.

So what was I thinking, again? Simple: when Analytics will offer the API that will no longer be tied up to web traffic, but literally anything, and how to implement that today, shoehorning the API available into measuring what's needed. Meta-analytics, if you wish.

Okay now. so they have transitioned from 1 to 2, let's see how long will it take them to transition all the way to N. I'm sure it won't take long, and I will be here to report - all in all, it happened before.

UPDATE: coming closer?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Google Talk via SMS Hits The IQ Barrier

A while ago Google introduced SMS Text Messaging for chat support.

For a while, it was good and well, but, apparently, either people started racking up text messaging bills or just were afraid of doing so, and SMS support got trimmed - the message length couldn't be arbitrary or close to it (as it was in the beginning), and the number of messages sent to the other party before the reply was necessary to continue dropped - eventually to one, or so it appears.

And then the denial of service came into effect. Consider the following scenario:
  1. You desperately need to reach someone;
  2. They're not online, or outside of data coverage area, so you can't IM them;
  3. You invoke the "switch to SMS" option and send them a message;
  4. SMS is not quite as user friendly for non-smart phones, and there may be situations where it is not practical (for example, you can easily read SMS while driving, but to send SMS is much more difficult than to make a voice call), so they either log in and IM you, or simply call you and take care of business;
  5. They conveniently forget (that is, assuming they ever knew) about the fact that they have to reply to you before you can send another message to them;
  6. You get stuck with a non-functional end of IM/SMS gateway - the counter doesn't expire, and if you try to "switch to SMS" a week or month later, the dreaded "X must reply before you can send more messages" error is still there.

Boom, you're dead.

Oh, and as soon as they remove your message they were supposed to reply to in order to reactivate your end of the SMS chat, everything is lost forever.

The only option left is to switch to the plain old SMS provided by your phone hardware - but that's much less convenient than using SMS gateway provided by Google (keyboard assisted, storable, searchable, etc.).

My guess is that expiring the switch counter in a reasonable amount of time would be fair enough.

Wonder how and when Google is going to address this.

T-Mobile G1 $100 off: Costco bait and switch

There was a persistent rumor that Costco is selling G1 for $79.99. Turns out, nope, it's the same $180 as it was before (see the comments for the original link).

I wonder
  • Whether it is the initiative of some overzealous T-Mobile reps at Costco (it's not quite Costco that sells mobile phones, the relation is not that clear);
  • Why Costco didn't say a peep about the fact that the actual price is going to be $100 more than advertized (false advertizing?)
  • Does this situation qualify as "bait and switch"?
  • How Costco is going to handle this PR disaster - I'm sure the Internet is about to explode in criticism in a few hours.
Nice try, shooting themselves in the foot.

Oh, and by the way, the $97.99 G1 from Amazon is apparently sold out.

UPDATE: There are price discrepancies. Sometimes it is $180, sometimes it is $129.99 for a new line and $169.99 for an upgrade.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

${mobile-device} + Squeezebox

Following the trail of ${mobile-device} + ${appliance}, it would be interesting to see what applications already exist for Squeezebox remote control. Hence, this is a sticky page that will be updated as I find more and more applications - with additional links to reviews of applications for hardware I have in my possession.


  • none found so far

  • none found so far

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Nature Keeps Coming With Better Idiots To Fight Concurrency


A friend of mine sent me a link to an article about Erlang style concurrency. Immediately MapReduce and Sawzall come to mind as smart paradigms intended to reduce (if only as a side effect) the complexity of concurrent programming to complexity of single threaded. And I almost start hoping that there'll be the next best thing since sliced bread which will make all the problems go away. But then, I look back at the code, more and more lines of which gets written every day, and chuckle. No way smart things can fix the situation, given into wrong hands (recent example: A340-600 ADAT accident).

So, what's the good that is supposed to come out of this rant? Very simple advice to make your life easier, if your IQ allows you to follow:
  • Fughet the deadlocks and race conditions, they may be the least of your worries in the sanitized world of J2EE containers (sure, take this with a grain of salt, but not too much salt, OK?).
  • Scope variables right. Not too wide, not too narrow. Using instance variables to hold request scope data is a recipe for thread safety violation and subsequent data loss and corruption. Reading configuration that doesn't change unless you redeploy the application within a loop is a recipe for a major performance impact.
  • Maintain thought over and consistent instantiation and object life cycle patterns.
Now, if you think this is way too simple and can't comprehend why something this trivial should even be explained (and feel like questioning my IQ) - well, feel free to donate something to, say, DZ to alleviate my mental pain and suffering from working with code like this on a day to day basis. Why, you ask? Well, I guess someone does need to do the dirty work...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Extreme Computing: Antec P-182 In Woodworking Workshop

A friend came over and, astonished, asked - "Can you run computers in a workshop?" Well, obviously, they did run in a workshop without dying, for a long time, so I said "yes", but the seed of doubt was planted.

So I decided to check, and the first picture below is the result (that's Lian-Li V-Cool PC-V1200B, having worked in the workshop for about two years). The second picture, for comparison, is somebody else's computer.

No Chip Fan

Well, about a year later I've decided to upgrade the memory in P-182, and used this opportunity to check the effect of dust again. Below are the pictures.

Antec P-182 and dust
Antec P-182 intake fan and dust

In other words, the condition of the case is more than satisfactory. The only contaminated surfaces are the fan blades, that's it.

Too bad I lost a chance to photograph the filters - dust has fallen off as I opened the cover. I am surprised with the efficiency of these washable filters - they gather, in fact, more dust than usual foam filters.

One more factor that contributes to low contamination is the airspeed - the Scythe SY1225SL12M fans used in combination with active speed control offered by Asus Striker II Formula motherboard provide very low airspeed while maintaining decent cooling, if needed. I'm sure that older case with higher speed fans would've been contaminated much more than this one.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Way They Think

A few years ago I've started working at a new place. Several days later, a guy (that I knew by then was driving E30 M3) approached me, and the following conversation followed:

- [him] I saw your car.
- [me] And?
- I looked inside.
- And?
- You drive a stick.
- And?
- Otherwise I would've had to stop talking to you.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Your Tax Dollars At Work

THIRTY FIVE new Justice Courts...

One opinion I've heard was that the simplest way to kill the camera program would be for every person receiving the ticket to actually show up in court - then, the burden put on the judicial system will be so high, the idiocy of it will become obvious.

This was over a year ago. Apparently, this is how much time the public and the government need to wake up and realize what they're doing.

And the other consideration is - well, you know, I would have preferred the police to have served and protected me instead of watching the safety of speed cameras at the same exact moment my car was being broken into... While I was paying for them to do so.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin Demo Review

PC gaming is not dead. However, significant efforts to make it dead are underway.

Project Origin demo sucks. Apparently, the game itself sucks too, judging by reviews at Amazon and Newegg.

First of all, it's a poor PC port of a console game. Excuse me, folks, but if I wanted to play a console game, I would've bought a console version of it.

It's not only the dialogues that are obviously built for a console, it's even the mouse behaviour (note, the menu doesn't even call it "mouse" any more, it's "aim" now. Move the mouse a bit too sharp even on the minimum "aim" sensitivity setting, and the game performs a dizzying spin, and you're no longer sure where the hell you're looking. Smells with motion control tuned for the console controller and reused for mouse - unacceptable.

What used to be scary is now simply annoying. Just like Doom 3, every time they jump from behind the corner you think "Damn, I knew they would be here!".

Save is gone, replaced by checkpoints now. I don't know how many checkpoints the actual game has, but the demo has one. And the end of the demo for me was... when I got stuck in a puddle next to the place where the sniper rifle is, unable to move. An attempt to "reload last save" popped me up right there, stuck. That was the end of it, 'cause the other option ("exit to menu") obliterated all the process made, and I'm not going to repeat this exercise in humility again. (update: the game also has one save slot - now, that is dumb, what exactly do you do if you get stuck like I did in the demo?)

Maybe I'll buy the game when it drops to $14.99, though probably not. And it is definitely not worth the price it's being offered for today.

Too bad, I was looking forward to it.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Quote Of The Day: Objects

Women, who had always regarded men as commitment objects and pre-med objects, became enraged that men regarded them as sex objects. Men were puzzled. They didn't know what else to regard as sex objects.

-- Fred Reed, Gelded Men And Sexless Women

Quote Of The Day: Fear

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

-- Litany Against Fear, Frank Herbert, Dune

Monday, February 23, 2009

Google Reader Evolution

Let's face it: when you're "sharing" an item in Google Reader, you're not simply "sharing" it. You're making a statement that the item you're sharing is either, you think, probably interesting to the people you're sharing it with, or, that you agree with the point made in the item being shared and want to make it known.

In both cases, one pieces that is currently missing is a feedback. It's quite possible that the people you've shared an item with would like to comment on the item, but alas, currently they have no way to do so (other than "re-share with comment", but that's pretty lame).

All right, suppose they provide this ability. It now links the person that shared the item with the person that commented on the item - but further down, would it be reasonable to propagate the comment to all people the item was originally shared to? What about privacy controls? What about comments and privacy controls on items that were re-shared further? When does the propagation stop, and how far back does it reach?

Non-trivial questions to answer, but I'm sure they will be answered this or that way pretty soon. Mark my words.

UPDATE: As of March 11 2009, Google Reader supports comments on shared items. Less than a month - that's stellar response time :)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Blackberry Curve Overheating & Battery Drain: Gone For Good

I see that a lot of traffic to this site is driven by search for "blackberry overheating" and "blackberry battery drain". Just to make things clear, let's state that
  • This problem seems to be gone for good, never seen since;
  • Doubt that it had anything to do with it, but timing was close to OS upgrade from 4.2 to
  • The fact that all third party software on the device (mostly Google stuff) was kept up to date may have played a role, too.
If you're still suffering from this problem, try upgrading the software and see if it helps. You're not going to regret it, either - functionality is noticeably better, though the device is now more sluggish than it was before. Alas, this is the price of progress.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Quote Of The Day

From Coding Horror: Are You An Expert?:
Being an expert isn't telling other people what you know. It's understanding what questions to ask, and flexibly applying your knowledge to the specific situation at hand. Being an expert means providing sensible, highly contextual direction.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Best Practices: Totally Useless

Favorite quotation from this article:
Throwing a book of rules at a terrible programmer just creates a terrible programmer with a bruise on their head where the book bounced off.
This is exactly what happened to me recently.

I was leading a project being executed by a team of cargo cult followers with copy'n'paste being the favorite technique. I've tried to nudge the developers gently into not doing certain things that were making my hair stand on end. Then, I was confronted with the statement saying that I'm being nitpicky, and need to make up my mind and "set expectations" (another beautiful corporatese term). Grudgingly, I put together the list, trimmed it down to a couple of dozen items, and passed it up. Lo and behold, it's been declared that they understand the futility of trimming down (because the "best practices" get lost in the process), and that they will take care of collecting "the words of wisdom".

Next thing I knew, the Holy Writ expanded to over two hundred commandments, and it was declared that the mental capacity of one can never be sufficient to hold that much knowledge.

And indeed, the behavior demonstrated by participants was alike to the way a sponge reacts when it is saturated: all extra water simply drips off, never penetrating the surface.


In this particular case, the only technique that actually worked was - vigilant activity monitoring (post commit, hence, post factum, unfortunately), combined with vigilant followup and correction enforcement (using terms of originally referenced article, "making sure you reach the unreachable"). After several months of this, the developers either finally started to comprehend what was required, or, possibly, got tired of redoing the same stuff fifty times and decided that it would be simpler for them to just follow the directions from the beginning rather than to try to be lazy and cut all corners possible.

The downside is that such an approach is bogging you down and forces to shift the attention to mundane things ("Never wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and the pig enjoys it"). However, given the situation when "you have to work with the team that you're given" (which is often the case in enterprise, especially now that extreme cost savings are in effect), this may be the only option left.

UPDATE: Fixed typo.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Every Joke Has A Part Of A Joke

Kids, get away from appliances, we're gonna reboot the house!

I wish I could take the credit for this phrase, but I can't. This was said by my friend and colleague Frank Jones. What makes it interesting is that he said in 1997, when the talks of home automation were rudimentary and sounded rather like jokes. In fact, it *was* intended to be a joke. Turned out to be a prophecy.

Jumping back to today - they're going to have App Store for cars. Whereas this idea is somewhat overdue already (just look at the progress of dedicated GPS devices and compare it with the clunky and stone age old GPS in your car, even if it is a few months old, and you'll see what I mean), it is indeed scary. Just take a look at the evolution of G1 software, which is in a perpetual beta house of dreams, and shudder.

I think that was a cue for Microsoft Car jokes to materialize.

Quote Of The Day: Knowledge

Too much knowledge never makes for simple decisions.

Friday, February 13, 2009

One difference between enterprises

  • Smart enterprises: spend efforts on creating automated tools supporting the process, so the human factor is alleviated, and the process is enforced.
  • Stupid enterprises: spend efforts on creating documentation on what processes to follow, so the human factor is confused the hell out of, and more effort is needed to create documentation to explain what the original documentation had in mind, ad nauseum.

Quote Of The Day: Time

The convoluted wording of legalisms grew up around the necessity to hide from ourselves the violence we intend toward each other. Between depriving a man of one hour from his life and depriving him of his life there exists only a difference of degree. You have done violence to him, consumed his energy. Elaborate euphemisms may conceal your intent to kill, but behind any use of power over another the ultimate assumption remains: "I feed on your energy".

Another One Bites The Dust, Almost: Contact Search

Items from the wishlist are coming true, one by one. This time, it is the search across all contact fields - already available in GMail, but not yet available on Android.

Android G1: One More Useless Application: Navigation

TeleNav launches GPS navigation for the G1.

I wonder:
  • Have they actually tried to use the G1 GPS hardware?
  • How do they deal with "out of coverage area" situation?
  • How do they plan to deal with hordes of unhappy buyers that will flock back to them, furious, and complain that the whole thing is too slow for anything other than walking down the glorious route, if at all?
  • For added bonus, have they already hired the liability litigation team, or it is hidden deep within the small print?
  • Is it possible to use external (USB or Bluetooth) GPS, powerful enough for real time navigation, with G1, or the driver doesn't yet exist?
In case the sarcasm doesn't penetrate, let me put it this way: I don't think G1 GPS hardware is fast or sensitive enough for this purpose. You're in for a rude awakening if you, even for a second, fall under a delusion that you can use G1 for real time navigation.

In addition, unless TeleNav manages to load the whole map onto your G1, you're in for a nasty surprise when the connectivity blacks out - and that happens more often than one may hope for.

Ask me how I know.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Android Hardware: Just A Bit Closer

Telefonica Dream

I don't think HTC's been reading my wishlist, but, hardware that is coming to Spain will have raised keys on the face.

Nice to know the hardware is evolving.

Pity they haven't done it in the first version.

Oh, by the way, while we're at that - keep in mind that keyboard backlight on white and brown bodies is barely visible (which makes it even worse in any lighting except very dark), whereas on black body it is sharp and distinct.

UPDATE: Yep, raised keys are here to stay, keyboard or not. I wish G1 had this key configuration.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Android G1 RC33 Aftermath

Let's see how RC33 stacks up against the original wishlist and pre-RC33 state:

  • Centralized application update notification: check;
  • No IM interruptions on joining/departing WiFi (somehow omitted in the original list): check;
  • Bonus: spam control in Android Market. Implementation is very strange, though - the comment marked as spam doesn't disappear, from the list, it is not marked in any way, and there is no ability to unmark a comment that was marked as spam by mistake;
  • Bonus: Latitude.
The rest is either not immediately noticeable, or of no interest to me.

Voice recognition still sucks.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Oh Gawd, Not This, Please

There is an idea in the air - send more spam to fight spam. And, lo and behold, the same day I get a message with a subject "From Hackers With Love", which begins with
With Valentine’s Day looming, don't be fooled by one of many online scams!

I don’t know about you but I’m not a big fan of Valentine’s. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been known to get romantic – but I much rather celebrate a day which is special for me and my partner than get caught up in the commercial hype , especially when there is no in between. On the 14th of February you are either in or you’re out.
and then goes on with a longish text about fraud protection, and concludes with
  1. Be wary of any e-mail received from an unknown sender and do not click on any links provided.
  2. Run up-to-date anti-virus and anti-spyware software with behavioural protection – such as Spyware Doctor with AntiVirus.
  3. Ensure your software is up-to-date and run Smart Updates regularly.
  4. Keep the programs running in the background at all times.
  5. Use common sense.

Yep. it's the Good Spam™.

Yeah, it's all good and nice, except for two things:
  • My mailbox already receives about 600 (yes, six hundred) spam mails a day, and that is after it's been rigorously checked with Google Apps engine;
  • New kind of spam does, in fact, not get caught by the spamtrap, because it is, in fact, a different kind of message;
So now not only I have to wade through the spam box (for, unfortunately, there are false positives, more often than I wish there were), but have to read each Good Spam™ message and figure out whether it is Good Spam™ or the usual spam. And I don't think I can afford to mark it as spam - for the reason above, the patterns are different and there is no guarantee that it will not skew the spam engine heuristics, and ALL my mail starts being sent to the spam folder.

I sincerely wish that we don't get into a situation where because of one idiot who tried to set his shoelaces on fire, all of us have to take off the shoes now...

Android G2 Wish List In Motion

Just before the "system update" happens, let's see how the software components listed in the original Android G2 Wish List evolved:

  • Battery life (not quite software, but not quite hardware replacement, either): there are persistent rumors that T-Mobile is sending out a battery upgrade. Unconfirmed;
  • "Escalating" volume setting for ringtones and alarms: Klaxon addresses that. It is a little bit sluggish to start and quirky at times (no 24 hour setting, 12/24 change is somewhat bizarre), but quite usable;
  • Centralized application update notification: there's aTrackDog. Despite some bitching and moaning, mostly works - and if you can't remember the exceptions, you should seek treatment;
  • Web access to Market - Cyrket is there for you.
Not bad, considering the fact that Google didn't lift a finger to make that happen.

Now let's wait a bit and see what update brings.

Google Is Cooking Android Update

Looking at today's Latitude announcement, then further to the Latitude download link, then further to the FAQ:
G1 users in the US will be receiving Maps v3.0 in a system update soon.
Something tells me "soon" is going to be soon, I don't remember them throwing words to the wind. Is it Cupcake or something else? Remains to be seen.

UPDATE: Nope, not Cupcake.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Just Say No: Torin Aluminum Racing Jack 1.5 Ton

Torin Aluminum Racing Jack 1.5 Ton

Two instances of this model were observed doing exactly the same thing: blowing the gasket when the lift height exceeds their design value.

You don't get a warning - it's just the next time you pump the handle to lift the car a bit more, it suddenly goes quite a bit down instead of a little bit up, and you see a puddle of oil on the floor under the jack.

Come on, even my old $19.95 Larin jack has the safety valve, for this price the thing must be tolerant to such a simple condition... Wonder if there was a bad batch, and whether Torin is going to issue a recall.

How To Know If Your Car Is A Classic Or A Junker

More here. While the distribution is quite different (Latvia???), notable is a complete absence of both in Africa (except South Africa) and Middle Asia - but that's rather a sign of absence of Internet rather than absence of these cars there.

By the way, for skeptics that would say that the trends actually reflect the need for repair - nope, they don't, the repair trend is different. Which, by the way, gives me an idea - I'll be looking at this trend to decide whether it is time to dump the junker, or it will live a bit longer.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Bigger Picture: When To Trust The Bank

The hilarious story of a lawyer suing Citibank for not stopping him from losing money in Nigerian Scam is making rounds on Internet. There are many articles covering the topic, but I'm going to link to the article at TechDirt, for it makes a point that has farther reaching consequences than others (that I've read, that is).

While it's easy to mock the lawyer for getting tricked, the basic version of the scam and this more sophisticated version both rely on a very unclear part concerning check processing. Most people assume that once a check "clears" it's confirmed as valid. That's not true.

There's much wider audience that is suffering from this vulnerability in the banking process. I am talking about eBay buyers and sellers.

Side thought - unless eBay is profiting from the uncertainty, they might want to lobby the remedy to this problem, because it is costing them zillions of potential users that are not currently using eBay for the fear of being scammed.

Another side thought is how much time will pass before there will be uproar about the conflict of interest between eBay and PayPal, for eBay does collect the fees regardless of whether the buyer or the seller thinks the whole transaction is fraudulent. You can see glimpses of it in Australia, where eBay tried to make PayPal the only available payment method.

Not to single eBay out, any payment mediator is in the same situation, not necessarily for this reason. Existing Internet retail practices allow for many unfavorable race conditions to exist that allow exploits.

Back to the original point - all these things happen because of absence of a strictly defined protocol that allows the end user, the consumer, to track what is happening, when and why. Such protocols are in place for every step of the way (it wouldn't be possible to conduct business otherwise), except the "last mile" to the actual consumer.

There's an interesting problem here - similar to the famous Zen koan: those who care, see the inadequacy. Those who don't see the inadequacy, don't care. As witnessed by another recent discussion on TechDirt, there are idiots out there, and no matter what safety guards will be installed, they will keep being scammed. They will either be unable to comprehend, or simply unaware, or careless.

But I want the protocol nevertheless.