Recently in Rant Category

6 Apart is Slipping

There is a new MovableType, 3.2. If you are running MT on Windows 2003, or plan to, stay away from the upgrade. In beta 3, 4, 5 continuing through the final release MT doesn't work on Windows 2003. It was mentioned in the User to User support, on the support boards, I submitted it via email but it never made it onto the Known Issues and nothing mentioned in the final release. Nothing in the "spiffy" new doc system or knowledge base.

Now that it is a final release and since I'm a paying personal user there is some offical support. First fix breaks things in a different way and required admin access to IIS.

The definate feeling is that there was little to no testing on Windows 2003. No attention paid to the user feedback during beta. Very disapointing experience. There were plans to purchase commercial liscense for work, not so sure anymore.

Update:

A week after the release, and after several days with no action or communication, SixApart finally had a solution that worked.

Then edit each of the mt*.cgi files adding this to the top of each (well, below the first "#!..." line):

use File::Basename;
use File::Spec;
use lib File::Spec->catdir(dirname($0), "lib");

After you add those lines, the CGIs should work properly.

Still no mention in the Known Issues. A very disapointing situation.

Now do I spend the time to run through the plugins that broke with the "no problem" release?

Delta Sucks

I have heard of this truly wonderful thing called "Frequent Flyer Miles" and the associated benefits. But have come to hold the belief that Delta considers me to be some third world pigmy not worthy of such benefits.

It all starts back in 1997. That was the year I got to visit London England with the family. Given we lived in the Greater Cincinnati Area Delta was the only realist flying option. International flight equals lots of miles so I signed up for the Frequent Flyer/SkyMiles, they seemed to be in the middle of changing the name back them.

Few years later in the spring of 2000 I'm flying from Seattle to Cincinnati after riding cross country with Delmar. So I choose Delta, use my SkyMiles card to get more of those great miles.

Skip ahead to last summer. Work is flying me to Greece, lots of miles! Maybe combined with my London and cross country fights I might have something worth using. When I get to the airport with my SkyMiles card they tell me they can't give me the miles for some unknown reason. Just keep my ticket stubs and deal with it after my trip.

When I returned to the States I tried through there website to check the account. There it says to call a different number than the normal one and only during normal business hours. After several attempts spend a hour on hold I give up.

Which brings me to now, today. In May there is an Alaskan cruise with the family. The flight is booked through the cruise company but for a nominal fee of $50 you can pick the airline. Time to get that SkyMiles account working.

Back to the website which has been totally revamped. Still can't use the account but just call this number. After trying several different ways through the automated system, none of which mention anything about getting a new pin, I get someone in India. After 30 minutes of trying to find the complete address they have for me, one of the 6 I have had in the past 8 years, he tells me he can't give me a pin and I can't use any of my old ticket stubs. Apparently they are only good for 6 months, first time anyone from Delta mentioned that. If I want to waste my time I could mail my complaint and maybe they will accept my Greece miles.

Delta Airlines Incorporated
Sky Miles Department 654
P.O. Box 20532
Atlanta, GA 30320-2532

But the guy from India seems like he is almost laughing at the idea of that getting me anywhere. Then he transfers me back into the same phone queue I spent an hour waiting in!

This time I get a woman in the south. After we go through the same routine she gives me a fax number, 404-773-1945, to handle things out of procedure. Says the fax folks are way behind and she doesn't know how long it will take but at least weeks. So I finally thinking of asking if they have any of my previous miles, nope. Seems that they expire miles after 3 years. Great, so all this effort and there is nothing there! Now I have never heard of this automatic expiration. She says it is on there website, but I couldn't find it following the directions. Actually can't really find anything useful on there website. /

Now should I even bother? I can maybe in weeks get my Greece miles, though both the Delta reps got as close to saying "not a chance in hell" as they could without saying it. I could just setup a new SkyMiles account for the Alaska miles, but if previous experience is any indication I will not be able to access them until after they expire them.

Kinda makes glad when I hear Delta bankruptcy news, though the government will bail them out.

War of the Worlds

War of the Worlds
Someone owes me $7 and 2 hours of my life. Went to see the Spielberg rendition of War of the Worlds last evening. There are some stunning visuals, unfortunately one of those great death ray effects don't cross the path of the main characters. Never, not once, in the entire movie did I care what would happen to them, other than there death which was not about to happen.

In the words of Comic Book Guy, "Worst Movie Ever!"

Excuse me while I cry

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Oh, my emotional state, sadness, depression, anger, disalusionment. My faith in the eternal goodness of man, that we are really great, is faltering. Seeing the popular vote leads me to one of two conclusions. The majority of voting Americans have either been dupped beyond there intelect or are comprised of some of the worst of humanity disguised in smiles. I am not sure which is worse. And I don't know which I fear worst or what I can do to change either.

Excuse me while I cry...

Doom 3

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I didn't do like many and rush out to pick up Doom 3 on tuesday but waited til last night :) Inital reaction on the graphics, "OH MY FSCK'N GOD! How did they do those awesome graphics" Inital reaction to game play, "OH MY FSCK'N GOD! How unplayable." Maybe it is my ever worsening eyesight combined with the kick ass realtime lighting and shading. Maybe it is my expectation for the rooms to have a function.

I'm hoping my experience changes the more I play the game but the expectations are kinda low. Though one good thing about the game play was to remind me how great the story and game play was in HalfLife. So how many more days til HalfLife2 comes out?

Dooom 3
Graphic Awesomeness 9/10
Game Play 6/10

Alton Brown on Supersize Me

If you are a FoodTV junkie like me you are probably familur with Alton Brown, star of Good Eats and color comentator for the Iron Chef American. Alton has some great stuff to say on Supersize Me,
We are fat and sick and dying because we have handed a basic, fundamental and intimate function of life over to corporations.
And me think that applies to so many other fundamental aspects of our lives that are not working well.

Warez and Shareware Developers

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Nick Bradbury, developer of TopStyle, HomeSite and FeedDemon, did a test to see how many were using warez'd versions of TopStyle or more acurately how many ran TopStyle once. Now the one big mosterously gigantic hole in his logic, how many first runers would have been actual purchasers? I'm sure that small developer software sales are lost, but I'm betting that the amount is actually much smaller than anyone would expect.

The same situation applies to movies and music online. Sure there is rampent downloading. But how many would have been a purchase absent of the downloading option? Again I'm betting much smaller than anyone would expect.

Eventually that situation will change. Sometime around when the current highschoolers are running things. Just like the American Factory Worker, digital content creators are going to lose those nice fat cushy margins. So you have a choice come up with a new buisness model for getting money into the hands of digital creators. Digital rights management and laws that don't mirror the reality of the users wishes just don't cut it.

Font Switch

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Switched my Phoenix/Firebird default fonts to the Bitstream Vera Fonts and damm what a joyous experience. Dare I say it almost feels Mac like, that certian something is subtelly different in a good way feeling.

Expatriot Observations

Russell has some observations on the U.S. after hos 1+ years spent on Spain. Lots of good things both good bad and indiferent, Cars big TV much cooler.

Succcess

What did predict economic success was a willingness to take risks. By contrast, the success-failure standards of most schools penalized risk takers.
From the book Whoever Makes the Most Mistakes Wins: The Paradox of Innovation, by Richard Farson and Ralph Keyes. Sounds like an intresting read.
[via
Tiger Cafe]

Apple Needs a Tablet

Late thursday night I caught Bill Gates being interviewed on a PBS station. Overall the interviewer, who I recognize as being one of the PBS regulars, pretty much was softballing it so the whole hour was pretty much a how great is Bill and Microsoft. The really intresting part of it all was the bits about the Tablet PC where Bill and the interview were both using Tablet PCs. Have to say it is pretty cool looking stuff, especially the Toshiba that was also a laptop.

But then the memory of Inkwell trickled into my fore brain and I began to wonder when Apple was going to do something with Inkwell and iBooks or PowerBooks. Well Apple I'm waiting stun us before Microsoft and the PC space bores another really intresting market.

Dell Will Sell Macs

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A little prediction. In the 1 - 2 year time frame Dell will start selling OS X, probably of the X86 variety.

Now for the the big answer, why?

Well the most recent trigger for the prediction was Dell selling iPods. If this venture is successful, and it should be the iPod is the best of bread MP3 players out there, it will provide encouragement for Apple and Dell to continue and expand their partership. Dell is also good for Apple in the volume and buisness world exposure sense.

Dell and Apple have very similar problems. Apple really needs to be able to expand into the Windows world. The tea leaves say switchers are more likely to be from the Unix/Linux crowd than the Windows crowd which makes sense until Apple is able to distribut via a Windows channel like Dell. From Dell's angle Microsoft is getting to be a big PITA, both in price and in strong armatude. Dell really needs some alternatives like their FreeDOS adventures. Apple could definately kill Microsoft on the OS liscense margins.

The big killers in the prediction is if Apple just refuses to have a second architecture due complexities of managing or fear of killing the main buisness, selling boxes. Microsoft could also kill the prediction by going vicious with liscensing, which will probably happen given the useless punishment from the anti-trust trial.

Regardless my prediction still stands. In a 1 - 2 year time frame, probably in 2004, Dell will start selling boxes with OS X on X86 hardware.

Longhorn, the next Windows, Screenshots

Finally had the patience to wait for the New Longhorn Screenshots that have been getting lots of mentioning on the web. In general the theme looks better than what XP has to offer, like the rounding of windows kinda like the default for RedHat 8.0. The new bar, other than the task bar, looks like a nice version of what unix desktops have been doing for years. I still don't like the way they are using the Start Button and all the ectra crap in file windows seems a waste. Actually if the extra crap in file windows was moved into some fixed point in say the new bar the usability might improve. Ironicly it looks like a cleaned up version of a unix desktop, and not all that OS X influenced like some are saying. All in all the screenshots give some of the less creative theme designers something to copy for the time being.

Cringely, anti MBA

The Case Against Professionalism, How We Have Managed Industry Almost to Death where Cringely goes off on not having founders, the engineers, run the companies they start. He has some good points, about the lack of research funding for short term profits, but misses a few as well.

First off engineer types that also have buisness knowledge would be a killer for running any tech company. But sadly the problem is that few engineers take the time to actually learn anything about buisness. Also the same applies to buisness folks that end up running tech companies, they really need some engineering/technical background.

Secondly the problem of long time research divisions being dropped to improve the bottom line is a problem but what is the causse? As one long time CEO, whose name I can't remember, said, "The problem in the world of public companies is that executive officers are not gready enough. The big time profits for share holders are in the long term plans." Until investors realise this fact they will continue to lose while there executive officers will win through artifical means.

Thirdly one situation that Cringely totaly misses on is that the engineers don't have to ever take VC funding and go public. Like SAS or ESRI they can continue to be the engineer executive of a company that they own and control.

Problem with RedHat

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Before you run away screaming, "Not another Anti-RedHat Rant!!" hold your horses and hang in there.

Most are based in some RedHat will be or is Microsoft. Or something about how they should be more like Debian. Or even sillier RedHat will make things more consistent by altering KDE to be more GNOME, consistency heaven forbid. I don't have a problem with any of the above, well maybe if they were more Debian but I digress.

The problem that I face is actually wanting to pay RedHat for the 8.0 but damm'd if they have made it way too confusing. See what I want is to buy some CDs for the initial installation and have access to the "up2date" functionality, think Debian apt-get or WindowsUpdate but for everything on the system, for the run of the 8.X Series or at least a year seems resonable. Now it seems like something like this product and service combo should cost something like $20 - $100(I'm in a generous mood). Now enters the problem how do I get that option, or something similar?

There is RedHat Linux 8.0 Professional, RedHat Linux 8.0 Personal and some mention of Red Hat Network Basic Service but as far as I can tell the only real difference between the Pro and Personal is $110 in price and 30 vs. 60 days access to "Red Hat Network Basic Service" but oh, wait. One can get a year of the Red Hat Network for $60. So for my high end of $100 I can get what I want, some CDs and up2date for a year.

So where is the rant if I found what I wanted, though it is maximum of my price range? Well it was way too complicated and confusing to figure something so simple out. Honestly if it wasn't for being so pissed and writing a rant I would have blown off RedHat and went over to Cheap*Bytes and picked up Debian CDs. Still might.

It just seems that the more RedHat gets it's act together the more find something else to screw up and that I guess is what I'm really ranting about.

Lack of a good book

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Went to a Barnes & Noble last night with the hope of finding a computer book for enjoyment reading, yea I know I'm weird that way. There was a big problem though, nothing there looked interesting. Well there was one exception, the 3 volume set of The Art of Computer Programming by Donald Kunth but didn't really want to pony up the $150 price right now. I think part of the problem is the preponderance of those 1,000 page tomes that really say very little, "Learn X in Y days", "The complete unabridged guide to absolutely everything and anything about Z", I hope you get the point.

Now this got me to thinking about what I am really looking for in a computer book. First I listed the "good" books and noticed a couple of things. The list was surprisingly short. Second that they seemed to fall into 3 categories Reference, Page Turners and Just Cool.

Reference Page Turners Just Cool References are the must haves, books that almost always end up next to the computer and in the book bag to take to work and have at home. In most cases the occasional reference is just as good, usually better, when online or digital than the print counterpart. Online allows for search ability, a must for good reference. Also online usually means more up to date. As a genre of computer books this one is probably dead unless one is lacking in a decent network connection.

Page Turners are the ones that are worth reading cover to cover again and again. These were more paradigm types of works. Something that changes the way one thinks about using a computer. There are definitely more of these than what I listed but if something is to change one's thinking it needs to be presented in a short mentally manageable format.

The Just Cool are just that, there were just not enough of these books, only one. The Panda books use of photos makes it something that even has life as a coffee table piece after the contents are no longer useful.

So what did I learn?

Well reference is dead. With the advent of the ambiguous network and great search tools print reference material only serves it's usefulness when one can't get access to the net. Very few thick books are anything but reference.

The thick books that are not reference generally have too much to say in too many words to really be useful. Maybe more Thin Books would be a start, who knows?

What started out pretty simple, no computer books for fozbaca, has gotten quite long. Time to get back to where I started.

Summary:
What I would really like to see is more thin books, something of the 200 pages or less. Drop the reference material. Something that is introducing new paradigms, methodologies and the like. Focus must be on the practical how this information is useful and worth wasting time on reading. Finally it should not be like a Unix Man page. Something that has a little life around and behind the words.

State of the Windows X86 PC

<mode="Rant">

I have attempted to give the Windows X86 PC industry a report card on key issues faced from watching my recently retired parents experience in buying an OEM PC this past summer. I expect their experience to be similar from stories I have heard.

Amount of standard RAM: F
Standard PC still ships below realistic system minimum needs, 128 MB RAM too low. System should boot out of the box without needing virtual ram.

Third party hardware suppliers: F
When attempting to make a simple stick of ram addition the wholesalers were entirely inadequate for any except the experienced PC hardware person. Actually they are pretty bad for the experienced.

OEM after purchases upgrades: F
I have never experienced such difficulties when trying to spend money, especially given the current economic conditions. It took 4 phone calls and once being transfered to a voice mail box of someone who no longer worked at the company to make a simple memory upgrade. At one point the sales person swore that memory didn't exist for the motherboard, even though the machine shipped with a stick of RAM.

Ready to run out of the box: F
System received had numerous patches and service packs that should have been applied at the OEM. There is no excuse for a system to need patches more than a week old. As a very poor alternative the OEM should ship a CDROM that contains all the patches, but this is a bad alternative.

OEM documentation: F
Wholly inadequate to useless. First what limited instructions were present were borderline useless for any but the experienced. Second most of the specs for existing hardware or replacement hardware were incorrect.

"Bundled" ISP: F
Currently almost all OEM PCs come with the free 6 months of AOL and/or MSN, probably as a tie-in service like DellNet with MSN. In either case the services require unnecessary information at initial account creation and attempted to trick the user into making purchases through deceptive placement of dialogues. After the accounts are created the attempt at branding whole confuses most users. Rather providing a clean gateway to the Internet and differentiate through quality and prices of the value adds they go so far as to obscure other providers of said services like search engines.

Overall Grade: F
For all the improvements in touted in the industry they still have not came close to requirements to really expect any but those required to participate in the computing revolution. I would not recommend a Windows X86 PC to any that have not already acquired substantial experience, say through work or school, or had a very definite and real need. Honestly for most a computer and related services are a waste of $1,000+.

</mode>

I'm looking for comments on this one for any and all. I deliberately kept Apple out of the rant due to lack of recent experience.

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