Loads of stuffs

So between February and now, the period of time which will be known as the big lazy, is now over.

*golf clap*

A lot has happened. I went to Las Vegas for EMC World 2014. Came back. Have loads of new gadgets and things to talk about. I’ll list a few just to get started:

  • An Amazon Kindle Paperwhite 2 e-book reader
  • E-books in general
  • Some notes and observations about my work laptop (a Lenovo Thinkpad T440s)
  • Gameboy DS Lite
  • GoPro Hero 3 White Edition
  • Some book reviews
  • Observations on airline travel (again)

And I’ll post pics of the TV mount, which is this model, for those interested.

EDIT: Also a curious observation. The four latest posts that I’ve made, have all happened on the 14th.

History repeating

This Syria bullshit? It’s bullshit right?

“Obama asks Congress to approve attacks!”. Based on what, I ask? Oh, we don’t need to worry about that. Russia is fuming, because they feel they are being shat on. And I believe they are. IF, and that’s a very strong if, the US has the proof they ‘need’ to attack Syria, why not show it? Why not just bring out a fancy paper, signed and stamped, and have the non-partisan scientists who did the tests show them to the world?

The only feasible reason I can think of is, that the proof does not exist. It’s not on film either. All I’ve seen (and I’ve not seen everything), shows bodies (mostly women and children for maximum impact),  people with watery eyes, people throwing up. People handling the deceased with nothing but a surgical mask and some latex gloves. Not that I’ve ever been exposed to chemical agents, but, the fact that the lethal dose for sarin in humans, is in the tens of milligrams, suggests that handling bodies or affected people would not be very healthy. 70mg is not a whole hell of a lot (some sources say micrograms, but that seems to be incorrect). Now, it seems someone caught on to this, and is now saying that the photographers taking the video/pictures of the supposed victims have also since expired. I haven’t seen any conclusive proof.

Tear gas I have tried out, in the army. It was a 10% diluted solution (or less, depending on who you ask), and the symptoms were pretty nasty even in such amounts. Tearing, snot from every conceivable orifice, gagging, constricted breathing. Now amp that up to full ‘military grade’ tear gas, and I wouldn’t want to see the effects. I bet it can even be lethal to small children, old people, and say, people with chronic respiratory illness.

So the tests that were carried out by the UN were done in a country, and by chemists/doctors who are from countries that are not a part of the UN Security council. It just so happens protocol dictates one of thsse countries is Finland. The personel have signed NDA’s, so they can’t say when, what, how and why. I can understand this. The UN will show the results when they are in. Or will they? Will the US? What will Russia do to demand these results, and what will they do if they are denied them?

Oh shit. Clam down. I mean calm. Take off the tin foil! Maybe it’ll all turn out alright. There’s probably a real reason why the US needs to fire rockets and drop bombs on Syria. After all, they are probably a threat to their freedom. Or something.

Why are dollars euros?

Why must I pay 4,99€ for a pile of bits that Americans pay $4,99 for? I’m just saying. Why is it that I have to pay more for a product that doesn’t have to cross any borders, or be subject to any taxes or customs fees? The bits do cross a border, yes, but we’re not yet at the point where there are really actual borders on the web. And I hope (thoughI fear) that we will never get to such a point. Imagine the number of hops that your packets take. Then imagine paying taxes or fees to each of those hops, the countries they are in. Yeah.

I can’t understand why the dollar, which is worth less due to immensely complicated global financial reasons, is suddenly worth as much as our euro. Two arbitrary currencies, the values of which are determined and controlled by various factions, companies, governments, trade, politics and a number of other factors, are suddenly worth exactly the same. Except they are not.  If I were to go to a currency exchange, and buy the sum of $4,99 from the nice lady at the counter, I would pay less than 4,99€ *with* exchange fees.

This doesn’t compute. I may be a stupid individual, but someone, somewhere, is making money, and it sure as shit isn’t me. If the game is made in the states, the people making the game are making american dollars, and spending them on american goods, bought from american companies, fueling their cars with american fuel etc. etc. ad nauseum. I do the same here, only, I didn’t make the game. I’m just trying to buy it. Why should the differences in income vs. expenses between countries affect each other in this matter? His cost of making the game doesn’t go up just because some nobody Finn buys it. (baring stuff like bringing the game to a new market and associated costs; even shipping doesn’t count with digital delivery)

I can’t for the life of me grasp this. From my perspective, a game that is made in a cheaper (from my perspective) country, is suddenly more expensive for me? Shouldn’t the more valuable euro work to my benefit?

Now, I don’t honestly know whether Steam charges game developers more money to make their game available in all markets. I honestly don’t. I haven’t seen a prompt like “this game isn’t available in your region”. I  have seen that on other distribution platforms, such as offers on say GameFly. YouTube. I don’t understand those either, but at least they are apparent and clear to me. In Steam, maybe those differences in region are hidden from my view, and I can live in happy bliss. A happy happy bliss until I see a game or piece of content posted somewhere for a dollar sum, and then have it fart in my face and turn the dollar-sign to the euro-sign. Magic!

The inspiration to this post was Indie Game: The Movie – Special Edition. I bought the DLC for 4,99€, where as americans pay $4,99. Which, with today’s exchange rate is ~3,80€. I can get a cup of coffee with the difference. Not from a Starbucks, though.

I do however recommend you go out and buy the DLC/Movie anyway. I’m watching the content right now, and it looks awesome! Oh, and you can get it on Steam.

Immoral hiring practices

This isn’t related to me particularly, but I wanted to discuss it briefly. There are companies probably everywhere, that have immoral hiring practices. Ta-da, who would have guessed, right? What I want to focus on is hiring people for jobs that they know 9 out of 10 people will quit within any arbitrary short period of time. Say a month or two. Most of these jobs are telemarketing jobs. When they call people up, the HR person, or the person pretending to be the HR person, will tell you about how glad they are to hear about you, and how wonderful the job is going to be. “Please come in for an interview so we can discuss your employment closer!”. You go in. You get a pre-packaged, clearly falsified image of the job, the company and the HR-person. In actuality, you’ll have to work your ass off, earning your tiny salary, and doing it in an immoral way. The HR person knows that the job sucks, that you will have to bend rules and maybe even lie to get your job done, calling people and tricking them into signing up for whatever. Many of these companies have a reputation online, as long as you look around for a bit. Some of them are even on ‘Kuningaskuluttaja’ (Equivalent to maybe the.. Consumerist in the US?), some even several times. They are there because people have compained that they have ordered things from the company without even knowing it, or sometimes, they claim, without even getting a phone call.

What kind of an HR person works for such a company, knowing that the persons you hire this week will probably not be here a month from now? How long can you do it “just for the money”? I mean I can understand just doing a job and not caring for the consequences for a while, just to get  by. But imagine hiring people for a living, and talking trash to do it. Day in and day out. How long could you do it? How profitable can it even be? Hire 1000 people per year, and out of those, less than 2 % actually stay with the company for any meaningful amount of time. I’m just pulling these numbers out of my ass, but they’re probably pretty close. Sure, you don’t pay these people a lot, so even if they leave the next week, no biggie. Some of these companies have to operate at the very brink of illegality, getting notes from the ‘Consumerist’ every now and then, being plastered all over forums and news papers.

And still, people keep applying for those jobs. Still people pick up the phone and end up ordering or signing up for something, even though they clearly said “no”.

06

And here are some pics from 2006. Yet another apartment. It would seem that I moved pretty much every year. Not so much lately.

A smooth 3×17″ setup. Though, one screen was for my OpenBSD box, and two for my main desktop. I was running Xubuntu back then it would seem. I also seem to remember trying Gentoo for a few months around that time, but i don’t think i have any pictorial evidence to support my claims. The cactus on the left there sadly passed away last month after years of malnurishment and bad care.

Here we have my iBook G4 (also taken in 2006) that i had back in college, as well as my Nokia E60. I liked that phone. Man it was built to fucking last, and it had Symbian S60 on it. What you see there is my right hand, the iBook, and the phone during some lecture. The phone, if i recall, was running some S60 IRC-client, so i could uh.. multitask? Something inane like that, but it felt cool at time time. A lot of us had Apple laptops back then. Some had Sony’s.

There’s one last apartment of my own that I don’t seem to find any pictures of. My first place after I moved away from my parents in ’05.  Then of course, I’m going to raid my parent’s old photo albums to try and find pictures of my *really* old workstations from the 90’s. That ought to be fun!

Deeper and deeper

..into the mists of history. Here’s my workstation in 2009, a different apartment again.

 

Some explanations may be in order. No, not all systems were hooked up at the time. But most were in some use or another at some point in time. Either for practicing something, a lab or something, or just in storage before it went to some new owner. On the printer on the left, the Canon Mp500 (which was a good piece of work despite not working in Linux), is a disassembled X-box 360. The first one i owned, which broke, and was out of warranty, so naturally, i had to take it apart.

Those speakers i got from M, and were really fucking good, except they broke down a bit after this picture was taken (i think?). The white box under the desk was my OpenBSD box, which still exists (though in a different piece of hardware, and with a later version of OpenBSD). I still have that Keytronic KT-2000 on the left there, and it’s a superb keyboard to this day. The chair sucked dicks, and was discarded later, when i was able to get an old office chair from the company i worked for at the time.

Contributions

I wrote down a hazy line one evening in notepad and then saved it. It says: “open source contribution if you are not a programmer?”. I think I’ve pontificated on this issue in the past as well, but let’s see what thoughts I have on it now.

I’ve done very minor contributions, because I’m not a programmer. More on this later. What I’ve done includes mostly submitting bug-reports, the odd translation effort here and there, and some documentation (mostly the latter). I’ve always like documenting stuff, because I know how much it can suck to use a program that has little to no documentation. I’ve worked in customer service, and in the help desk, so I think I have some kind of idea of what the end user wants to read in regards to documentation. Of course, this isn’t based on decades of working with people, but some years.

This question gets tossed around a lot. “How can I help? I couldn’t program my way out of a paper bag!”. I’ve taken a few programming courses in my life, trust me. From basic, perl and php to c++ and assembly. But I don’t like it. I’m not good at it, which is probably a product of the former statement. If you don’t like something, it’s generally very hard to get a grasp of the subject. The closest thing I’ll do to programming is writing shell scripts, or modifying some existing perl or python script to suit my needs. I can read source and kind of understand what is happening. Kind of like how i know Spanish. I can get the topic of the conversation or the sentence, but god help me if I have to produce anything more than “Una cerveza, por favor”. As a kid, I remember me and a friend worked on a role playing game in BASIC. It worked pretty well and we had implemented buying and selling items, gambling and even combat. But then my friend, who later went on to become a whiz kid of mathematics or whatever, suggested we take up a more advanced language and port the game over to that. At this point my interest dwindled and the thing kind of died out.

But I digress. Back to the question: How can I help? The four main answers that usually get spit out are:

  • Help new users by tutoring them
  • Document something that needs it
  • Translate a program
  • Report bugs whenever you see them

Helping new users should be second nature to all geeks. We all start out somewhere. B used to say, “Senior guys don’t fuck with you, they teach you”. Paraphrased. Your mileage will vary, as most people are not so friendly towards the budding geek. Some are outright hostile, telling people with seemingly stupid or simple questions to piss off. This is a major problem in free software and open source in my opinion. Personally, I love explaining how something works, as soon as I understand it myself. It’s a few minutes out of your life (as long as you remember your “No, I won’t fix your computer” t-shirt), and can set someone off on a lifelong hobby or career.

Documentation. Now this usually splits people down the middle. Sometimes literally. From my experiences, most people hate it. It’s that arduous task that someone has to do after a project is completed, because no one thought of doing it as they went along. Documentation, I am afraid to say, is usually of utter shit quality; hard to read, badly structured and written for someone like the writer (as opposed to a new user). Gurus will rarely look at documentation anyway, except when smoke starts rising, so why not gear it toward the new user instead?

Translation. This I’ve personally found out is pretty fun. If you’re adept at a language, and most of us have at least one primary language that they actually know, why not share it? Some projects make translation easier than others. They give you a file or files and you translate the different bits that are designated, like pieces of the UI, menus etc. Though, not everyone has a knack for language, and the result ends up as a horrible mess. But at least it’s a start. Usually better than google translate, anyway.

Reporting bugs. This is a mixed bag. Some programs make it very easy to report bugs. This is key. If reporting bugs is a fucking hassle, nobody will ever bother, except for the developers, and they rarely see all of the weird issues that the actual users do. If you’ve ever done help desk duties or tech support, you know that sometimes the end users can create such a mess inside a program, I doubt any automated testing or developers poking around would have found. They should be the ones doing testing. But since they are not as savy as you, the developer, you need to meet them in the middle. If a crash happens, and it’s fairly controlled, give the user an option to automagically collect relevant data about the software, the plaform it’s running on etc, and then send it off, along with a brief description of what you were doing. Some are really good at this, like Firefox. Some are notoriously bad.

Also, a bane in any bug reporting system is usually duplicates. New users have no idea that there could possibly be someone else with the same issue, and the end result is 50 reports on the same issue. And then you have devs and community managers running round telling people to “search first and then report”. If this isn’t easy, nobody will bother. Granted, usually someone will either point the user in the right direction, or even merge the issues. Sometimes, all they get are some hasty quips and a closed bug report. Improving these systems, in my opinion, should be a priority. Make the system look up key words from already posted bugs, and then try to match those up with what the user is writing. If we find similarities, suggest courses of action, or give clear, simple instructions on how to proceed with uncertainties.

Users also neglect to report key issues, and instead the reports are usually “I was typing and all of a sudden everything went black, please fix it!!!!11”. The solution might be user education, but also, automated data gathering, and clearer instructions on what to include and in what kind of format.

Of course, none of these issues will fix people that simply neglect every bit of documentation, information and guidelines. But it’s a start.

In closing, not everyone is a programmer. I remember back in college, a lot of courses centered on programming. And I felt desperate. Is this all IT is? Programming in different languages? The school seemed to think so. Some pushed through. Most didn’t. I think out of some 40 odd students in my class, less than 10 graduated.

And eventually, I found what i was looking for: A job in IT that isn’t programming. And here I am, installing server clusters for programmers to use as platforms. Who’da thunk it? It isn’t all just programming!

 

Upcoming stuff

That photo i posted two posts back? Yeah, i was thinking: I’m gonna go through all of the old photos i have, and that are at my parents place, and scan/copy every photo that has a picture of my former computers and / or workstations. Then post them here, with a description if i can remember. I remember i do have some photo’s of my 286, or 386 from the early 90’s, and then possibly later on as well. And if not the PC’s, then some pics of my NES in action 🙂

So that’s upcoming.

It’s been a long time

…since i last wrote on here. I guess i can pretend i was busy. That might be true?

First things first. My grandfather passed away on the morning of the 13th last month. He was 91. I ofcourse, attended the funeral, and I was a pallbearer. It was a short and beautiful event, though sad. Crazily enough, it was the first funeral i’ve attended. And i’m close to 30 years old. I guess they’ll become more common as i get older …

Ok, sad subjects aside, and onwards. I finished my mega-reading project, “REAMDE” by Neal Stephenson. I’m probably going to spoil some, so if you wish to be unspoilt, move to the nexst paragraph. The book was a whopping 1100 pages or so, and possibly the longest book i’ve ever read (i’m not even sure my 60’s paperback edition of Lord of the Rings is longer?). The book starts off as a rivetting drama, but in the end decays to cheap thrills and action, in my humble opinion. The characters are well built, and some are downright likable. The main plot sounds interesting: chinese gold-miners strike back with a virus that extorts people to give away their virtual money, which is then converted to real life currency. The book centers around the maker of the game, and his family. The events are kicked off when some russian gangsters have their money stolen by the chinese goldminers,, and go on a revenge-binge. Sounds cool? I thought so too. But the last few hundred pages lose sight of thise entirely, and even the game is pretty much forgotten. Instead, we’re wrapped in this cat and mouse game that is played between Islamic terrorists, and a bunch of more or less innocent people caught in their wake, somewhere in Brittish Columbia.

I’m not sure what I’ll read next. I considered The Hunger Games, but then, everyone is reading that, plus it might be a kids book like Harry Potter, so I’m not so sure I want to risk it. Plus it’s three parts or whatever? Another series i considered was Game of Thrones. I’ve seen season one, and reading anymore will most certainly spoil the rest of the show for me. Then again, people usually say you should read the book before you see the film. I don’t know. I’ve considered Kevin Mitnick’s autobiography “Ghost In the Wires”, but i haven’t gotten around to ordering that yet.

Cabin-season is beginning. We’re heading out this easter weekend. We had massive storm damage during december, so there’s a lot of stuff to work on once we get there. We bought a new chainsaw so we can start working on cleaning the lot. We’ll have enough firewood to last us, honestly, a decade. I’m really looking forward to going there. I’ve missed the place, i’ve missed the projects, the nature. Which is a stark contrast to what i do for a living: sitting in front of a computer 8-14 hours every day. But i love that too, don’t get me wrong.

I was raging over some random blog, where a chick is describing how a bar used to be different in the “good old days”. And then i remember this chick is 22 years old. Now, i don’t know how young she was when she used to hang out in that bar in the “good old days”, but uh.. *grinding of gears*

Augh. Well, the weekend went well. It was slightly cold, but not too cold to do things. We were cleaning up the yard from that storm i wrote about. There’s so much crap everywhere it’s not even funny. Warmed up the sauna for the first time this season, which was fun. We had to break the ice, literally, with an iron pike or whatever it’s called. Still had about 7 -10 cm’s of ice there, so it’ll be a good month  or so before we get rid of the ice entirely. Usually it’s on the first of may, at the latest.

We should go watch Iron  Sky at some point here. I had the opportunity to see it as part of some.. uh.. half-day-seminar/excuse to see the movie for free, but i passed for some reason. Probably because i want to see it with H. On this topic, i was reading some crackpot’s blog about how Iron  Sky is actually a propaganda-film to prepare humanity for the eventual coming of our uh.. heavenly benefactor space-alien types. Oh and they oppose communism and represent the same values as the aryans. Great! …

 

 

A picture of my setup (sans the actual computer) from December 2003. Funny how times change.