Friday, April 28, 2006

Double your chances to win a million dollars

Western Union Million Dollar Giveaway

Send money through Western Union and get a chance to win a million dollars. You also get entered if you pick up money. If you send money to me I will give you my entry for picking it up. You get entered twice for every transfer you send me.

How sweet is that deal?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Say what? A look back at McNealy zingers

Say what? A look back at McNealy zingers: "Say what you like about Scott McNealy, but one adjective you'll never find attached to his name is shy. The Sun Microsystems co-founder has reveled in running his mouth, and the list of 'McNealy-isms' has become legendary within the tech industry. The following includes highlights from two decades' worth of his witticisms:"

They range from "huh?" ["A giant hair ball." (Microsoft's Windows and Windows NT)] to fall-down-funny ["Having Microsoft give us advice on open standards is like W.C. Fields giving moral advice to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir."]

Now that McNealy is stepping down I think Sun is going to, well, it's tempting to use one of the many solar analogies, but basically Sun will fall faster into marganlization than before. If they are lucky they can become something like IBM. If they are lucky.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Gas Prices Outpaced Only by the Rhetoric

Gas Prices Outpaced Only by the Rhetoric

I could go all off on this (I agree with it, just so you know) but it seems like to much work. There's so many more critical things happening in the world today than gas prices that are still relatively insignificant compared to just about anywhere else in the world.

The difficulty with documentation

I have found that understand things when given examples rather than prototype information on them. A perfect example is programming api's and such. I'll use the xfce api documentation to explain what I mean.

Picking something at random, let's look at the libxfce4panel reference manual. The second entry is listed as XfcePanelPlugin. The synopsis for it reads -

XfcePanelPlugin;
void (*XfcePanelPluginFunc) (XfcePanelPlugin *plugin);
const char* xfce_panel_plugin_get_name (XfcePanelPlugin *plugin);
const char* xfce_panel_plugin_get_id (XfcePanelPlugin *plugin);
const char* xfce_panel_plugin_get_display_name
(XfcePanelPlugin *plugin);
int xfce_panel_plugin_get_size (XfcePanelPlugin *plugin);
XfceScreenPosition xfce_panel_plugin_get_screen_position
(XfcePanelPlugin *plugin);
void xfce_panel_plugin_set_expand (XfcePanelPlugin *plugin,
gboolean expand);
gboolean xfce_panel_plugin_get_expand (XfcePanelPlugin *plugin);
GtkOrientation xfce_panel_plugin_get_orientation
(XfcePanelPlugin *plugin);
void xfce_panel_plugin_add_action_widget
(XfcePanelPlugin *plugin,
GtkWidget *widget);
void xfce_panel_plugin_menu_insert_item
(XfcePanelPlugin *plugin,
GtkMenuItem *item);
void xfce_panel_plugin_menu_show_about
(XfcePanelPlugin *plugin);
void xfce_panel_plugin_menu_show_configure
(XfcePanelPlugin *plugin);
void xfce_panel_plugin_block_menu (XfcePanelPlugin *plugin);
void xfce_panel_plugin_unblock_menu (XfcePanelPlugin *plugin);
void xfce_panel_plugin_register_menu (XfcePanelPlugin *plugin,
GtkMenu *menu);
char* xfce_panel_plugin_lookup_rc_file
(XfcePanelPlugin *plugin);
char* xfce_panel_plugin_save_location (XfcePanelPlugin *plugin,
gboolean create);

This shows the prototypes and casts and all that great mumbo-jumbo that you find in most programming reference manuals. This is pure gibberish to me. Not the specific XfcePanelPlugin content but the whole method of describing it that's used in every manual for every function in every language I've ever dealt with.

Maybe it's due to the fact that I have no formal education in programming (or anything else, for that matter as my career in Higher Education was less than stellar {20 credits accumulated in three semesters}). However, give me some example code and at least a verbal description of what it's supposed to do and I'm fine. It is also why I have so much trouble learning C/C++ and similar languages. I learned COBOL in a few weeks; shell in slightly less time; awk in two days; perl... well, no one really learns perl, you just get familiar enough with it to cause all kinds of damage.

I have learned and forgotten other similar languages over the years but I know that, given a little time, I can ramp myself back up in them just fine.

It reminds me of my old Fidonet days. When I was first looking to join I had to install a front end. The two major choices were FrontDoor and BinkleyTerm. FrontDoor was configured by a config program that used the familiar method of screens with text entry lines. Binkley was configured by one big config file with many examples in it. Needless to say I chose Binkley.

Anyway, the point is that, for me, the standard method of describing things for programming doesn't work. I believe I'm not the only one who finds this true. But I bet that most real hackers don't. Which is why this form of documentation endures.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Software as a service: The next big thing

Software as a service: The next big thing | InfoWorld | Analysis | 2006-03-20 | By Eric Knorr: "In a now legendary 1995 memo, Bill Gates raised the alarm that Microsoft (Profile, Products, Articles) was woefully unprepared for what he termed the “Internet Tidal Wave.” Fast forward 10 years to last October, and Gates blasts out another high-priority e-mail, this time warning of a coming “services wave” of applications available instantly over the Internet. “The next sea change is upon us,” he writes."

Ever notice how Bill Gates is always one step behind? This isn't a surprise, though. One of the interesting things about the development of technology1 is that companies which successfully start out leading/anticipating/defining the market will, as time continues, grow to such a state that they will be followers at best or left in the dust at worst. Only organizations with a monopoly on their market will be able to keep pace. For a while, at least. Eventually they either have to accept their roll as facilitators ranter than leaders or they die. The most prominent case-in-point is IBM but a strong example can be seen with Intel and how AMD has changed it.

But there's a relatively new force in the tech world that is showing itself to be unaffected by this phenomenon; FLOSS. Some might say that the free/open source revolution is still to young to make this observation. But in actuality, at almost 15 years of age, it is nearly three times as long as Microsoft's window of driving leadership. In fact, Microsoft has spent more time holding back the evolution of software (and hardware, for that matter) than it has of helping it evolve.

Now we are in the beginning of the SaaS wave ($DEITY how I hate technology acronyms). Bill Gates and Microsoft are jumping on just like they did with the Internet. So where are they in the Information Superhighway? They are a side road. And an unpaved dirt one at that. They tried to use their monopoly on the desktop to make MSIE the defacto standard for browser innovation. This backfired quite badly. Now if they add some new feature to it which "embraces and extends" the Standard they are seen as having a broken browser2. And browser conformity to the standards is how SaaS is going to grow. Once the infrastructure is in place and the application service technology is stable you will find more and more larger businesses employing pieces of SaaS in their business process. The main form will be internally built and run services, though. A large company like, for example, WallMart isn't going to pay money to Salesforce.com or Employease for their services. They will build their own service. And do you know what is going to be the one enabling technology that will allow them to do this? Yep, you guessed it. FLOSS.

1 This isn't limited to the tech world. Strange case-in-point is Dennis DeYoung's tenure in Styx.

2MSIE still has many things that are quite broken but the funny thing is that the next version isn't going to fix most of these errors.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Top 10 Windows XP Tips Of All Time - Yahoo! News

Top 10 Windows XP Tips Of All Time - Yahoo! News: "In order to make the waiting easier, we've decided to assemble the greatest tips in the history of
Windows XP. Here you'll find the tips that give you the most bang for your buck; that are most useful in terms of security, functionality, and PC performance; and that are just plain cool."

Tip #1 Remove Windows XP, Install Linux
Tip #2 See tip #1
Tip #3 See tip #2
[...]
Tip #10 See tip #9

And there you go. The best Windows XP tips anyone could ever have.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

NewsForge | Christian endorsement of Free Software increases

NewsForge | Christian endorsement of Free Software increases: "Last November I described the Free Software's Surprising Affinity with Catholic Doctrine. Since then, several important things happened, from feedback by Stallman and other Free SW users to the birth, or acceleration, of some projects specifically based on the concept that Christians have even more reasons than others to adopt Free Software."

Just in time for Easter. Now, I was born and raised Catholic, though I would now be considered a lapsed member. But regardless of what my religious belief's are I do know where this guy is coming from. He does bring up the question of whether technology and religion are mutually exclusive. I know most of the techies I have worked with are not what you'd call fanatically devoted to their religion (well, except for one; Herr Wolfgang Wasner). However, they weren't all atheists and agnostics either.

Some people attribute the idea that techies are non-religious because they are only concerned with the technology and "if it can't be explained by technology or science it isn't real." I have found this to be a very small minority of the tech community. Most, it seems to me, are just so preoccupied with the tech/science that they have little of the "fanatical zeal" left over for anything else. But is that really the case? Are religion and technology mutually exclusive?

I wonder...

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

A change of seen airy

I mentioned a little while ago that I was contemplating writing as a new career, or at least as something to do. Lately I've been giving it more serious thought. I know where to get the tools for writing, there's a plethora of Open Source writing apps/programs/utilities/tools. I can also get any help with the actual fundamental aspects of writing, should I need to. But what am I to write about?

I have previously only written short articles, editorials and interviews. Some 25 or 30 years ago I tried to write a Science Fiction short story but it was a complete disaster. Then again, it was 25 or 30 years ago. In high school I never did well in any of my English classes. This was due to my complete inability to spell English words and my illegible penmanship. (One teacher commented that my handwriting looked like hieroglyphics). Thus, the idea of using the language as a means of vocation had been completely unthinkable. Until recently. Technology has taken care of the spelling (you wouldn't believe the number of misspelled words in this post before the spell checker fixed them) and the legibility issues. Time has helped with the rest. I now have sufficient experience, knowledge and wisdom to express myself in a decent manor. I am now in a position of being capable of writing things that others find entertaining and informing. So what am I to write about?

That's the sixty-four thousand dollar question. They say you should write what you know. So what do I know? I know a niche of the technical world. I know my experiences (remembering them is another story). I am a fair interviewer. So what to write?

So far I've come up with a list consisting of -
  • Science Fiction
  • Fantasy
  • Technical: Manuals
  • Technical: Reviews
  • (Auto)Biographical
There's probably more things I could write about but I can't think of them off-hand. Anyone got any ideas?

Saturday, April 01, 2006

I hate moving

I have moved a lot in my lifetime. The first time I moved was before I was a year old. I've been across the Atlantic ocean 13 times (at least that's what I think, I'm not positive). During one period from the summer of 1980 till the summer of 1988 I moved 10 times. Back then it wasn't so bad. But now that I'm old and crippled it's really a major task that's very difficult to get completed. I'm lucky if I can do 15 or 20 minuted A DAY organizing & packing before my body leaves me useless. OC, it helps when the movers are relatively competent.

These geniuses showed up six-and-a-half hours late. By the time we got the house mostly packed, loaded, moved and unloaded it was already after 1:30. And they left a ton of boxes in the garage. They packed stuff haphazardly and with little or no markings on the boxes to tell what was in them. Hopefully we'll get everything moved out by next weekend so the cleaning people can come in and clean up. Then it'll be the long, tedious task of unpacking the boxes here. It's a little difficult for me because I am a pack rat. I hate to throw away anything. But there's no room in the place now so I'm chucking lots of stuff I would normally really want to keep. Even stuff that could be useful.

I do plan on organizing my books. I have a ton of computer books and most of them are in really good shape. Maybe I'll go through and selectively cull out the ones I really need and sell the rest on eBay or something. Or donate them to the library, if they still take book donations.

In a way it's good that my son is staying with his mother for the rest of the school year. This way I can get everything unpacked and setup so that when he's here and when he comes back it'll all be nice and finished. Maybe. Probably not, but you never know.

I have decided something, though. I am going to start making my "worldly possessions" fit into one or two medium sized boxes. Just my clothes and some minor stuff and I'm set. As for furniture, #uck it! I'll leave it wherever it is and get new stuff. Ok, maybe not that drastic, but I do want to make the whole packing/moving/unpacking thing as simple as possible.