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Wii

Journal: Sorry, Wii Are Not Available 5

Journal by jZnat

Nintendo Wii came out a week ago, and boy was it a hot seller! Amazon says they sold out in less than a minute on its launch, and they still haven't gotten any more Wiis. Nintendo reported that they sold every single one of their launch Wiis{{fact}}, yet they are producing tonnes more than Sony is producing Playstation 3's.

So, it's a week after launch, and everybody who desperately wanted a Wii has one, right? That's what I thought until I tried to get a Wii. Everywhere is sold out. What the fuck. Some stores (notably Worst Buy) haven't even ordered another shipment since launch, yet their customer service centres are telling callers that they're getting Wiis on [insert shipment day here]. A local Target store had received about 20 Wiis for this morning, but they sold out faster than Metallica. The only local Game Crazy hasn't even finished supplying its pre-orders of Wiis let alone begun to supply with off-the-shelf Wiis. Any store you can imagine has already sold out of Wiis, and if they received any today, they sold out before the store even opened (apparently, some people are willing to wait outside starting at 5:00 in -10 C weather just to get one, but I'm not that insane).

What gives? I thought Nintendo was pumping out Wiis faster than a male teenager pumping--er, you know where I'm going with that one. What happened? This officially makes Nintendo the third of three companies to successfully not meet demand on its next-gen console launch, yet they continue to market the hell out of it when you couldn't even acquire one if you desired to. I've almost considered just buying an Xbox 360 along with Gears of War if I can't find a Wii. Nintendo, don't make me give my money to Microsoft! Halo 3 isn't even out yet!

So, to answer one of the old polls on GameFAQs, Now that they're all out, which console do you think had the best launch?: None of them did! Not Microsoft; not Sony; not Nintendo. None of them successfully met demand. Of course, Nintendo is probably having the best of them since they're producing the most, and they're making the most money on each console (which is also a positive number mind you) during launch; this doesn't mean they're doing any good, though.

Am I just sore that I couldn't find a Wii? Pretty much.

Slashdot.org

Journal: More fun with Slashdot tags.

Journal by jZnat

Back in September, I posted the revised story from RFK Jr., Was the 2004 Election Stolen? Surprisingly, it was accepted as a front-page article, and not surprisingly, it got a lot of attention. In fact, in its top 3 tags, it remains the top story for each: yes, no, flamebait. It also ranks pretty high under troll, one of the tags reserved for John C. Dvorak (don't forget idiot, the other alias for Dvorak).

Some interesting tags (well, not really) include fud, notfud (people still don't know how to use the !fud syntax), yes, no, maybe, idiot(s), troll, flamebait, moron, stupid, boobies, (omg)ponies, chairs/chairthrowing, duh, netcraftconfirmsit (a recent one), finally/abouttime, good, bad, haha, holyshit, itsatrap, kidsthesedays, lame (not LAME), noshit, obvious, ohshit, ohsnap, pwned, sharks (accompanies most stories that mention lasers), wtf, yeahright, and yay. On a related note, the top tags for del.icio.us, for example, contain none of those tags; they're actually useful! Oh my!

Microsoft

Journal: It's official: Slashdot talks about Microsoft too much. 1

Journal by jZnat

I just went through my tags, and I have noticed that the tag with the most stories is currently "microsoft". Now, I haven't been completely diligent in tagging everything since tags first appeared, but I've done pretty well with the stories I've bothered to tag. I haven't tagged all Windows, Vista, and Zune stories as Microsoft, but I've gotten a lot of them. As a matter of fact, there seems to be more Zune stories than iPod stories in each of their respective times of initial launch. I don't get it. Although, if you go check out Digg, I'm sure you'll find five Apple or Ubuntu stories for every Microsoft story, so I guess things even out in the long run.

Perhaps our unquenchable hatred for Microsoft fuels the need for a constant torrent of Microsoft stories in which we can all have a jab at Microsoft? Of course, this leads to Microsoft astroturfing, and even more annoying, Microsoft astroturfing with mod powers.

Some people accuse the Slashdot editors of posting stories that are likely to get the most ad impressions and thus get the most amount of money, but somehow I doubt that as I'd assume the editors get a fixed income from OSTG and thus are unaffected by ad revenue for the most part. I'm sure they like to see discussions take place (this is one of the best aspects of Slashdot), but I do believe that they don't do it just to get ad impressions. Besides, Slashdotters are the sort of people who ignore ads or use ad-blocking programs anyhow, so I doubt getting that many more comments is going to increase their ad revenue by all that much.

Slashdot.org

Journal: What's with the random tip bar now?

Journal by jZnat

Slashdot journal entries can be automatically submitted as stories

That's great, I know! I did it once and got over 1000 comments as a matter of fact, so no need to remind me. This isn't documented in the FAQ (then again, the FAQ is quite dated in some aspects), so I'm going to assume it's something new being tried starting today-ish. If Slashdot can gather a large database of tips, this might be interesting (like the random quotes on the bottom of the page typically are).

Republicans

Journal: Was the 2004 election stolen? 1425

Journal by jZnat

Rolling Stone has an article which delves into the statistical improbability that Bush won the 2004 election based on statistically accurate exit polls as well as massive amounts of evidence that support a Republican-sponsored election fraud across the country, particularly in Ohio. The GOP used several tactics in its fraudulent campaign including ballot-stuffing, denying Democrat voters their right to vote, denying newly registered voters (particularly of urban and minority precinct) their voting privileges via illegal mailings known as caging lists, inane voter registration requirements (including the requirement of using 80 pound, unwaxed, white paper, even if the registration was given in person to a registration office), preventing thousands of voters from receiving provisional ballots, under-providing Democrat-majority precincts with voting machines thus creating enormous queues of voters, many of which were denied their right to vote due to time constraints, faulty machines (particularly from Diebold) that skewed results in the GOP's favour, mostly unnoticed ballot-stuffing and fraud in rural areas, and a pre-fixed recount (initiated by the Greens and Libertarians to no avail) that supported their fraudulent results.

Programming

Journal: THAT many people use WebSVN!?

Journal by jZnat

WebSVN, a Subversion repository viewer written in PHP, is quite popular on the internets. When I came aboard as the only other developer for it, I was completely unaware at the vast amount of people using it. Then again, Wikipedia doesn't have an article about it, so who knows how popular it really is without searching on-line?

Of course, I knew Debian/Ubuntu had a package for it (it's sort of how I found out about it), but Debian has a package for everything, so I wasn't surprised. Now that it's been a few months since 2.0rc1 was originally released, I'm starting to wonder why Tim (the lead developer) hasn't released a final 2.0 version yet. I basically just branched off my rc's and continued work toward 2.1 (or more likely, 3.0), but a 2.0 release has yet to be made. Gentoo apparently has a 2.0rc1 testing ebuild, so that's nice to see; however, I do recall making some sort of semi-official rc2 build (well, the 2.0 branch is currently tagged as 2.0rc3 according to include/version.inc, so an rc2 had to happen sometime), so what gives with that?

Maybe I should get ready to release WebSVN 2.0 myself. I'll need to get a press release ready (and posted on Slashdot of course), and maybe I should make sure Tigris can withold a slashdotting. Any release-critical bugs should be squashed before sending it out the door of course.

Here's hoping that millions upgrade their WebSVN 1.61 (usually that version) installations to 2.0 soon after its release!

KDE

Journal: KNemo no good for laptops?

Journal by jZnat

KNemo, a play on KNetworkmoitor, is a useful little applet that tracks your network interfaces and whatnot in your system tray (or whatever it's called). I have finally found out, however, that it is currently unsuitable for laptops as it constantly polls the network devices via ifconfig and other utilities every second, so that eats up CPU pretty fast and thus also causes kded to eat up CPU like there's no tomorrow. Sure, this would be negligible on a slightly modern desktop machine, but it takes a noticeable toll on a laptop's CPU and subsequently its battery life. For now, I would recommend avoiding it on laptops if you already have it installed.

Media

Journal: Why aren't there good DVD ripping programs out there?

Journal by jZnat

Let's take a look at the CDDA market of ripping utilities. The whole process is blatantly easy to do nowadays thanks to a wide selection of programs that can copy and transcode CDDA along with metadata taken from an online CDDB such as freedb.org. Period.

The situation is far from that quality when it comes to DVDs. Most movies are divided into "chapters", and according to the inserts, most chapters are given names. The Matroska audio/video/textual/everything container format has full support for the chapter concept, including multiple audio and subtitle channels, and basically anything you can do when authoring a DVD. Thusly, it should be braindead simple to rip a DVD, transcode from the space-consuming MPEG-2 video codec into the superior MPEG-4 Part 2 [ISO/IEC 14496-2] or Part 10 [ISO/IEC 14496-10, H.264] video codec (or even an alternative such as Theora), optionally transcode to a smaller audio codec such as Vorbis, LAME VBR MP3 [ISO/IEC 11172-3], or even MPEG-4 Part 3 [ISO/IEC 14496-3] AAC, rip the subtitles into a textual format (e.g. OpenSub's SRT), fetch the chapter information and other metadata from an online database of movies and other DVD contents (similar to an IMDB and FreeDB combination), and mux it all together into a nice Matroska file complete with all the information from the DVD you wanted.

So, what has prevented this sort of simplistic beauty from being written? My guess is the legality of breaking CSS content protection (although DVD Jon did win the DeCSS case on the basis of freedom of speech) which appears on most MPAA DVDs in order to rip a movie to disc is a line that nobody wants to cross (although linking to VideoLAN's libdvdcss is common in DVD viewing and ripping applications, so using libdvdcss isn't required for non-CSS DVDs anyhow). Maybe the fact that many people are helplessly depending on Microsoft's ancient AVI audio/video container format which contains no support for any of the aforementioned goodies found on DVDs is preventing anyone from going through the effort of using a relatively new (yet completely open and proven) audio/video/etc. container format. Maybe nobody wants to rip their movies and TV shows into a digital library for easy access and usage.

Whatever the reason is that we don't have such a program in either the free software world or even the proprietary software world, I'm calling bullshit on it. I think it's time someone (even if it has to be me) created this killer app for organising your video library.

KDE

Journal: Searching for the best KDE distro - part 1

Journal by jZnat

I'll admit that I've only been using GNU/Linux for about a year and a half now, but I have tried out a few different popular distributions so far. It took me a while to realise it, but I eventually realised that KDE is ultimately the best desktop environment presently. However, GNOME appears to be more popular when it comes to distro support of it (Red Hat, Ubuntu, and Gentoo come to mind), so it seems to be more difficult to find a well-done KDE distro.

I will be testing and writing mini reviews for several distros that support KDE in the hopes that I find the best KDE distro available. So far, I have used and installed Kubuntu, Debian, and openSUSE.

Debian - Sid

Debian is a solid distro, no doubt, but for desktop use, we really need to try using Debian Sid. The problem with Sid, of course, is that it literally is unstable and will break eventually. Then again, the more breakage you deal with, the better you become at Linux administration, so this could be a "feature" as well. Debian seems to have better support for up to date KDE than it does GNOME (or at least it did for a long time while Sid was stuck with GNOME 2.10 while GNOME 2.12 had been out for a while), but that may have been due to the fact that KDE releases have dramatically slowed down while KDE4 is developed. Debian has excellent package management, especially when it comes to breaking up the monolithic KDE packages (e.g. kdebase, kdenetwork, kdegames) into individual programs and libraries. I could go on and on about how much better dpkg and apt are than rpm and yum/yast/whatever, but that isn't the goal of this review. Now although Sid supports the latest and greatest stable releases of KDE, it doesn't do a whole lot of its own custom work other than proper packaging and occasional patches. Debian is good if you like vanilla KDE. Hell, if you like the old KDE releases, Debian stable might be good for you, too.

Kubuntu - Breezy, Dapper

A Debian derivative, Kubuntu is the KDE-centric part of Ubuntu. Kubuntu's goal is to be the best KDE distro available, and they sure do a good job at it. Kubuntu adds in a few of its own new KDE packages (such as KDE System Settings, a Mac OS X-like system preferences interface, replaces KControl, the KDE Control Centre), and it offers pretty up to date KDE as well. The difference, however, is that although Kubuntu is quite up to date when it comes to packages, it does not suffer the instabilities of Debian Sid. During Ubuntu/Kubuntu/Xubuntu/Edubuntu/Jubuntu/etcubuntu development, Ubuntu gets most of its package updates straight from Debian Sid, although it sometimes will test something (e.g. Xorg 7.0, the modular X11) before Sid gets it. Kubuntu is a solid KDE distro, and it is my favourite so far. Don't forget that you get the pure awesomeness of apt as well as a few pretty interfaces for it (Adept is the default GUI apt program).

openSUSE - 10.1

OpenSUSE is the "community edition" of Novell's SuSE Linux distribution, and many praise it as the best KDE distro available. However, I would have to disagree. SuSE aims at being the most simple and easy to use Linux distro available, and that apparently translates to "make it as similar to Microsoft Windows as possible without the viruses/infections/spyware/trojans/adware (V/I/S/T/A)". I'm completely serious; the entire installation is done in a Qt environment, and the default desktop even contains a "My Computer" icon (although it goes to sysinfo:/ in Konqueror which is much cooler and more useful than Windows' "My Computer"). The package updater (which is based on rpm, mind you, an annoyance in itself) even looks and works like Windows Update. Since SuSE is an rpm-based distro, it is much more cumbersome to upgrade the entire distro without burning the new ISO(s) again. With that in mind, many packages are also frozen in the stable release, but you still get security updates for 2 years after the next version is released. I'd only recommend this distro if you seriously like the Windows interface. Although, SuSE does come with a lot of packages on the install CDs/DVD, but Debian and Kubuntu have like 20000 packages anyways. SuSE is certainly a bit more "n00b-friendly" than Kubuntu (which is definitely saying something considering how easy Ubuntu and Kubuntu are to use); I'd even call it your "grandmother's Linux distro", but I hate that comparison as my grandmother uses OpenBSD 3.9 (not even I can install that without buying the CD).

What Else?

I plan on trying out FreeBSD, Gentoo, Fedora, OpenSolaris, and possibly some other major Linux, BSD, and *nix distros to see how well KDE is done. However, at this point, I'd recommend Kubuntu if you want a KDE/GNU/Linux distro. Who knows, maybe a BSD will turn out having better support?

Slashdot.org

Journal: The joy of Slashdot Tags 1

Journal by jZnat

Now that Slashdot's Tags [Beta] has been in use for a couple months, I'd like to review its success so far. Tags are only available to subscribers (and random others apparently), but I'd assume it will become a standard feature sometime in the future.

To those not in with Web 2.0 yet, tagging is essentially a community-driven effort to categorise websites, articles, links, etc., into simple words known as tags. The craze appears to have become popular due to del.icio.us social bookmarking, but I may be wrong; who cares. Anyhow, Slashdot, in some odd attempt to support Ajax and Web 2.0, has begun to incorporate new Ajaxy and Web 2.0-esque features such as the aforementioned article tagging system, bookmarks, an Ajax configurable sections selector (click the Sections link on the left bar; you'll see what I mean), and an indefinite amount of future beta Web 2.0 goodness. Being a strict web developer myself, I tend to look at nonsensical Ajax and many other aspects of Web 2.0 in a very negative manner. However, I let it slide when it comes to Slashdot because I can still browse it without JavaScript if I wish to do so, and the tags system tends to produce humourous results.

What's enjoyable about tags? Some common trends I've noticed include tagging articles as "whocares" (sometimes followed up with an "icare" tag), "boring", "evil", "stupid", "dupe", "typo", "troll", "slashvertisement", and a few other easily identifiable words that help weed out articles one might not want to read. Of course, this also helps weed out the need to post "OMFG DUPE!!1" or "FUXING TYOPS!!1" comments, thus allowing people like myself to continue browsing Slashdot at +1 (alert the internets!!) without worrying about excess crap.

So, with the social tagging extraordinaire accomplished, what will Slashdot do next in the name of Web 2.01? Who knows but those who bother to participate in the Slash mailing lists (check the sf.net project).

Yahoo!

Journal: Yahoo SBC users can now switch to Firefox and rejoice!

Journal by jZnat

Just a few days ago, I visited a friend's house to help out with his computer woes and to play some videogames. His family is cursed with Yahoo SBC DSL, and thusly was not only infected with spyware as a typical Windows box is, but was also infected with the pile of shit web browser poseur that comes with it. The browser tries to mimic tabbed browsing and all sorts of Web 2.oh sort of magic, but it's painfully obvious that they just developed some sort of hack on top of Internet Explorer.

Now, the weird thing about this web browser is that it doesn't follow Internet Explorer's typical method of saving private items such as bookmarks. A quick Google search didn't find anything helpful regarding this, so I'll divulge what I've figured out. I was eventually able to find his bookmarks in a file called personal.xml, somewhere deep in the bowels of his %APPDATA% directory (check the directories with the name "Yahoo" or "SBC" in them).

So, now we found the bookmarks, right? Well, Internet Explorer normally uses its “Favorites” system, so Firefox knows how to import that with ease, right? But as we all know, “Favorites” are saved in directories with .url files inside (I'm assuming, correct me if I'm wrong), so what's the deal with personal.xml ? Well, Yahoo, being the weirdoes they are, went and created their own XML format for bookmarks when a perfectly good format already exists from Python.

Of course, the good thing about XML is that it can be transformed via XSLT, so I have created (and released to the public domain) an XSLT stylesheet that can transform the Yahoo bookmarks format to XBEL. XBEL can be imported or used by most web browsers these days, so you shouldn't have any issues with that. I plan on creating a version that creates the Netscape bookmark format for backwards compatibility, but since that it basically some butchered form of HTML, it might be slightly more difficult to create an actual XSLT for it.

If anyone wishes to make a web interface for this, please let me know that you did as well so that I don't do it redundantly.

Communications

Journal: Why would you use MS Word to make online posts or comments? 1

Journal by jZnat

The <textarea> box was invented for a reason, people! No matter how formatted you make your content in Word, you're going to end up with near-plaintext in the end anyhow. There is no need to be using an outside editor for your fucking posts and replies, even if you're using it to spell-check. There are several extensions and programs in general that add that functionality to web forms, so your excuse of having bad spelling and/or grammar doesn't fly when it comes to that.

What annoys me most is that you'll see writing symbols such as “these” – or even things like that. You see, in cases where it comes to "proper" quotations (i.e. you don't want to use the neutral quotation characters like I just did), there is the <q> tag. Your angled quotation marks are prepended and appended to the <q> tag's contents. Another misconception is that apostrophes are supposed to be an angled single quotation mark; they're not. Use the damn &apos; HTML entity if you want to get semantic about, or just use ' as it's the proper character.

Edit: the “proper” Unicode characters to be used are U+2018/U+2019 for single quotes and U+201C/U+201D for double quotes. Usage of the grave accent (`) could probably be replaced with U+2018 as well as the acute accent (U+00B4) with U+2019.

Why do I complain about the usage of these characters? Well, that requires an understanding of character sets and the difference between ISO-8859-* character sets and UTF character sets. Unicode so brilliantly decided that the character codes between 128 and 255 should be reserved for some unknown usage (translated: the damn question mark with a black box around it most of the time, or an empty box in other font families). However, crap character sets such as windows-1252 (CP1252), in the probable effort to keep a character code to 8 bits instead of the 16+ bits used by UTF-8, use those codes for many of these aforementioned characters. For example, the ellipsis is U+2026 (html entity would be &#8230;), but most people know it as "Alt+0133" (which would be html entity &#133;). If that were to be a Unicode character, it'd be U+0085. However, with a quick reference to the Unicode character sets, U+0085 is the "control" character: an unprintable character with semantic meaning of some sorts.

So, why does this matter in the least? As I pointed out, Unicode and windows-1252 are incompatible with each other in about half of the latter's specifications. The Unicode solution I've seen when it comes to windows-* is a simple $data =~ s/[\x80-\xFF]/?/g;, and frankly, it annoys the piss out of me. I use the UTF-8 character set by default as the rest of my operating system works that way (even URIs work via UTF-8 regardless of the site's actual character set[s] used), but this quickly turns to annoyance when sites such as, you guessed it, these forums, don't define the character set used in its content. Even with something as hacked together as vBulletin can be easily editted nearly anywhere to add the line "header('Content-Type: text/html; charset=windows-1252');" to avoid confusion when renderring the page. In fact, one can easily add in a <meta /> tag like "<meta http-equiv='Content-Type' content='text/html; charset=windows-1252' />" to the <head>ers, so availability of programming languages is not an issue. In XML, it's as simple as adding the "encoding='utf-8'" attribute to the <?xml version='1.0'?> shebang.

In short, there are two things everyone should do.

  1. DON'T use Microsoft Word or any word processing programs to write any internet content. It has auto-corrections that will turn common characters such as ", ', ..., -, et al., into a windows-1252 equivalent, so when you copy/paste it into a web form, you're also chancing whether or not the web developer will:
  2. DO specify a page's character set. If you're too lazy to actual convert/store user-submitted data into a character set such as UTF-8, then specify your character set as windows-1252 as it's up there in the top three character sets in use (US-ASCII, the entire ISO-8859 family + incompatible derivatives, Unicode/UTF-8). Otherwise, you'll also need to add the accept-charset="charset" attribute to your <form>s as well as the "Content-Type: text/html; charset=charset" header. Due mainly to the fact that web browsers seem to submit everything in windows-1252 by default regardless of the page's character set, you'll need to add in that attribute to your <form>s. If you have output buffering (or equivalent) enabled, you can simply rewrite all instances of the <form> tag to include the accept-charset attribute to save yourself the time of manually editting all forms if you have them hard-coded in the first place.

This was originally posted here (Something Awful archives account required).

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