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User Journal

Journal: in which i am a noob all over again 17

Journal by CleverNickName

I haven't posted a journal here in almost three years, because I couldn't find the button to start a new entry. ...yeah, it turns out that it's at the bottom of the page.

So... hi, Slashdot. I used to be really active here, but now I mostly lurk and read. I've missed you.

User Journal

Journal: Your feedback wanted on the Slashdot Discussion System 5

Journal by wowbagger

Well, perhaps there is hope for Slashdot. Or perhaps it is just my blood sugar being low, as dinner is still cooking.

I received the following email:

Subject: Your feedback wanted on the Slashdot Discussion System
Date: Mon, 1 Nov 2010 17:13:46 -0400 (11/01/2010 04:13:46 PM)

Greetings Slashdot Discussion User,

We'd like your feedback on the Slashdot Discussion system.

Recently we performed a test moving many users who had chosen the
Classic Discussion System over to our newer Discussion2 system.
During the process we took note of which users switched their pref
back to the Classic Discussion System, and noticed you were among
those users.

You've shown your preference for the Classic Discussion System, but we
want to know *why* you prefer it, and *what* you prefer about it.

We'd like you to let us know:
    * What you don't like, doesn't work, is confusing, or missing from
    * What can we improve on Discussion2 to make it more usable for you?
    * What are your main reasons for preferring the Classic Discussion System?
    * What features of Classic Discussion make it easier for you to
read, moderate, and participate in discussions?

You can give us your feedback by replying to this email, or sending a
message to

Thanks for all your contributions on Slashdot. We look forward to
your feedback, and using it to make Slashdot better for you, and all
your fellow commenters, readers, and moderators.

-- The Slashdot Team

To which I replied:

On Mon, 2010-11-01 at 17:13 -0400, wrote:
    * What you don't like
> Being REQUIRED to use Javascript
, doesn't work
> Pretty much the whole thing, if you turn off Javascript.
, is confusing, or missing from
> Discussion2.
> A graceful fallback to operating without Javascript.
    * What are your main reasons for preferring the Classic Discussion System?
> That I don't have to run arbitrary code from the Internet to use it. Javascript is a Turing complete language, so this idea that it can be made "safe" is just another way of saying "Hey, I've solved the Halting Problem!".

    * What features of Classic Discussion make it easier for you to
> read,
> Again, that Javascript isn't sucking down all my machine
> Ha! As if I CAN ever moderate! I had not seen mod points in two years when I finally decided to not waste my time on metamoderation or moderation.
> and participate in discussions
Of course, writing comments, especially in a Journal Entry, is almost impossible with classic, as you have still made everything almost completely dependent upon Javascript. I am sure you will be able to track down the last little bit of usability without Javascript and eliminate it, however.

User Journal

Journal: Answering questions the smart way 3

Journal by wowbagger
In How to ask questions the Smart Way", Eric Raymond provides guidelines about asking questions in a manner that will get you the most reasonable answers. However, I think there needs to be a companion piece, "Answering Questions the Smart Way". Here's a start - I'd like feedback.

So, you are a participant on an online forum, and somebody has asked a question. You want to answer it, but before you click Reply, take a moment to think about answering the question The Smart Way.

First of all, are you really about to answer the question? If somebody asks "Where can I find some water?", saying "There's beer in the fridge" isn't answering the question they asked. It may be answering the question "Where is there something to drink?", but that's not what was asked.
Now, it may be legitimate to ask for more detail - "what do you need water for? Are you thirsty? Is it for irrigation? Is something on fire?" - but only if the question is unclear. A clear question deserves a clear answer (with possibly a request for more detail):
"Where can I find some water?"
"There's a faucet over there - why do you need water?"
Then if the person says "Because I'm thirsty", you can mention the beer. If they say "Because my cat is on fire", well, the beer probably wasn't the right answer.

Second, is your answer helpful?
If somebody asks "How do I keep my hard disk cool when it's 50C where I am using it?", then "Go someplace cooler" isn't helpful. You don't know why he's working someplace so hot, so take it as a precondition that he has to work there. Saying "Don't use it where it's so hot - that voids the warranty" isn't answering the question asked in a way that is useful.

Third, if you are going to answer "RTFM" - you might actually take a moment to supply a link to where the Fine Manual is - perhaps even point out a chapter or page that addresses the issue. Likewise, "Search the F'n Web" isn't as helpful as adding a quick link with the right search terms. And if you are too busy to be bothered with doing that, then you are too busy to answer the question, so let somebody else do it.

Fourth, saying "Everybody always asks that" or "That question comes up everytime $THING is mentioned" isn't answering the question. Try saying "This is a common issue, look at this URL for info". Oh, there is no URL you can give? Then perhaps this is a question that deserves a FAQ somewhere?

It's OK to point somebody at How to ask questions the Smart Way" if they need it, but ultimately, they asked a question because, curiously enough, they would like to know the answer to their question . It's only Smart to actually provide it.
User Journal

Journal: Either airlines are stupid, or they are crafty... 4

Journal by wowbagger

First, read
this story.

It's about an airline seat called the "SkyRider", which is designed to cram a passenger into only 23 inches, being demonstrated at an airline industry conference.

There's this wonderful quote in the article:

The airline industry had nearly recovered from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks when the recession hit in 2007, dramatically cutting demand, particularly among business travelers who began flying less, booking economy-class seats and staying in cheaper hotels.

Hmm. The recession could be the cause, or perhaps the cause is that most people don't find flying enjoyable, and that in many cases flying isn't any faster than driving? I was talking with a co-worker from another facility, who was in Wichita for a meeting. He had to fly back to Columbus, OH, and it would take him 10 hours to do so. Look at this map.
Google is pretty conservative about its time estimates, and THEY have it being 14 hours to drive. Now, you might argue that, given 14 hours driving vs. 4 hours flying and a 6 hour layover, flying would be preferable. But consider how much bull you have to put up with flying. Consider that driving, you can stop in KC for BBQ, stop in St. Louis at the Arch, and that you WON'T have your trip canceled mid-way because of weather.

Now the suppliers for the airlines are suggesting I make the whole trip damn near standing, crammed in like a sardine. And they wonder why people don't want to fly.

So, either:
1) the suppliers are stupid, the airlines are not stupid, and this will go nowhere.
2) The suppliers are stupid, the airlines are stupid, they will adopt this, and then wonder why their brand-new "densified" planes are empty.
3) The airlines are smart, and are getting this sort of thing shown so they can say "See, we *care* about you, and we didn't adopt this, because we know you have a choice, and we want you to want to fly with us."

I just don't know which is true.

User Journal

Journal: Oh, BURN: "Slashdot Struggles to Remain Relevant in The Social Web" 9

Journal by wowbagger

From the New York Times: Slashdot Struggles to Remain Relevant in The Social Web

Oh, feel the BURN!

One wonders when this will hit the front page, if at all.

Of course, I don't give a rat's pink rectal tissue about "social media" (see previous JE) - but the rising irrelevance of Slashdot (again, previous JE and discussion) *is* a fact. /. could fix this, were they to fix moderation, start actually editing the stories, and get back to the older story mix the original /crew had.

And if I had wings and a rocket up my ass I could fly.

User Journal

Journal: What is it with everybody offering insurance? 10

Journal by wowbagger

What is it with every entity with which I have any form of business relationship with wanting to offer me <voice type="Annoying TV announcer"> A really great deal on [home|car|life] insurance - save HUNDREDS OF $$$$!!!!! </voice>

NRA, AAA, IEEE, ARRL, all 3 of my credit cards, my credit union - heck, I think even my cell provider has offered me insurance at one point!

I do wish these businesses would realize I want ONE THING from them - whatever line of business they are in - and THAT'S IT. I don't want them "sharing" my data with a "business partner"! If I want to evaluate other insurance options I will do so - until then SHADDUP!

And of course, there is the tangentially related "Oh, you need OUR credit card!" - NO I DON'T. I have three cards already, thank you - and each of them has a limit higher than many people earn in a year (not that I carry a balance or approach those limits, of course).

Then there is the wonderfulness the cards I do have, and every month sending me an envelope labeled "IMPORTANT ACCOUNT DOCUMENTS" (read: STEAL THIS!) that are nothing but a bunch of "checks" - "Go ahead, CONSUME! BUY STUFF! USE THESE! ignore the cash advance fee". Guys, I have a perfectly good checkbook with checks in it - in fact, since I pay almost everything electronically, I have PLENTY of checks with which to buy things; checks that DON'T cost me interest the instant I sign them.

I am getting so tired of every damn business trying to screw that last extra dollar out of me, that one additional "revenue stream". I am doing business with you, how about you focus on that, hmm?

(and the final rant: it's getting to the point where about the only time I feel like posting on /. is here, due to the mod-bombing, bullshit, and stupidity on the main pages.)

User Journal

Journal: Gidions, LDS - so what science books are in hotels? 12

Journal by wowbagger

Over the years, I've done a lot of traveling, and stayed in many hotels, from hole-in-the-wall to posh^2. Most hotel rooms will have a copy of the Bible, put there by the Gideons. Many will also have a book of Mormon, put there by the Church of Latter Day Saints. But I have *never* seen any sort of book of science and reason.

Now, I would fight to the death to support the right of the Gideons and the Mormons to put these books in the rooms - they are spending their own time and money, they are not obligating the hotel to do anything, it's free speech and it's a good thing.

But I wonder about a couple of things:
1) Why is there no organization putting a book of science out there? With all the modern-day aggressive-in-your-face atheists out there, you'd think they'd be organizing something like this.
2) Assuming such an organization occurred, what book would they put out there?

User Journal

Journal: DailyKos defending the 2nd Amendment!!?! When did I enter BizzaroWorld? 5

Journal by wowbagger

In this posting on DailyKos they make the very blunt point that Liberals SHOULD be supportive of the Second Amendment. Of course, back home in my world, that is about as likely as tom cats volunteering for neutering.

I will say this: while I usually disagree with much of what DailyKos publishes, I have respected, and do respect the fact that they are quite open about their biases and beliefs - I'd far rather deal with somebody I *know* has a bias than somebody who tries to bullshit me about being "fair". And their recent handling of the polling scandal was refreshing - too many entities (on BOTH the radical right and the radical left!) would have whipped out the old Dustbuster and started sweeping that under the rug at the first opportunity.

So, on this day off, in celebration and remembrance of our hard-won freedoms in this country, I salute you, DailyKos - while I may disagree with much of what you say, I shall fight to the death if needed to protect your right to say it - and I am glad you (or at least some of you) feel the same!.

User Journal

Journal: Prostitution versus Politics 1

Journal by panda

While writing this comment I was struck again by the strangeness of politics being legal and prostitution being illegal in most of the U.S.A.

When you think about it, the transaction between a prostitute and the customer is typically fair and honest. Both parties know pretty much what they are going to get. The prostitute gets X amount of dollars, and the customers gets Y amount of sex. With the exception of pimping, no one is forcing either party into the transaction. Both are free to say no and to walk away. (In principle, they are, and in reality, too. The trouble is that most people have swallowed the whole victim of circumstances mentality that they're now too chickenshit to stand up for themselves in the most basic ways.)

The transaction between a prosti..., sorry, politician and a large donor is much the same, except that the donor gets a less solid guarantee that the prosti..., sorry again, politician will do the utmost to ensure that the customer's, sorry, donor's desires are fulfilled in the law. This pretty much resembles the transaction between prostitute and customer with the exception that the prositician can easily take the money from the customer and not fulfill any of the customer's expectations, thus essentially committing fraud (and if it were a truly commercial transaction, it would be fraud and politicians would be sued and quite often).

The transaction between a prostitician and the voters is even less honorable and even more closely resembles fraud. The politician will make vague promises. The politician will present a certain public image. The politician will claim to fight for the people (who are analogous to the customer above), when the politician has already made other promises that quite possibly run counter to the interests of the very people whose votes are needed to get elected. The politician in this case lies, or at best, obfuscates the real agenda behind the drive to office. Once elected, the promises of the campaign are no longer required and the prostitician can get down to the business of satisfying the client's, err, donor's desires.

So, tell me again, why prostitution is illegal and political campaign contributions aren't? Free speech? Really? You believe that garbage about money being speech? This is about commerce, plain and simple, about exchanging money for getting service that you want.

Aside: Has it really been nearly four years since I felt compelled to write something in here?

User Journal

Journal: 2nd Amendement: it means what it says, and it applies to the states too 10

Journal by wowbagger

In all the typical /. foo-foo-rah over Bilski, they have completely ignored the fact that the Supreme Court also ruled in the McDonald vs. Chicago issue, and have ruled that, curiously enough, the Second Amendment also applies to the states and the local governments, and that amazingly enough, "The Rights Of the People to Keep and Bear Arms Shall Not Be Infringed" - not by the Feds, not by the States, not by the local governments.

Expect many liberals to explode.

Expect many Fourth Of July celebrations!

User Journal

Journal: Givafuconium 3

Journal by wowbagger

Givafuconium - a rare material, which is used by the human brain to scavenge and remove bullshit from external sources. As givafuconium is depleted, the subject becomes increasingly agitated and irritable. There are only a few methods to restore normal levels, such as vacation time, however, with proper management (removal of sources of depletion) a normal human can survive for months without external replenishment.

Givafuconium also decays naturally, and over time an individual's ability to store it is reduced - explaining the YKGOML ("You Kids! Get Off My Lawn!") syndrome.

Unfortunately, of late I have a few cow-orkers who have been seriously depleting my stores of givafuconium, and with the upcoming elections here in the US, I fear my supply may be too low.

User Journal

Journal: The idiocy begins. 1

Journal by wowbagger

I really wish somebody would drive into Rob's head the idea that "An April Fool's Joke SHALL be FUNNY."

The way /. keeps screwing themselves up every 1 April, you would think that Rob's idea of a good real-world prank would be to slash you tires and fill your car with expanding urethane foam. The fact that it makes your car unusable is irrelevant - it's funny innit?

Oh well, time to start my yearly "Ignore /. for a day"....

User Journal

Journal: UML and Enterprise Architect job in Wichita

Journal by wowbagger

If anybody cares and has the skills, my employer is looking for people with Unified Modeling Language (UML) experience (experience with Enterprise Architect a plus) for our Wichita, KS division. This is a long-term job - FYI, I've been here for coming up on 20 years this April.

On the off chance that anybody reading my JEs is interested or knows anybody interested, let me know.

User Journal

Journal: Submission: Exporting a display to an MPEG stream? on 0 4

Journal by wowbagger

Per my usual, since I have had a temporary lapse of judgement and attempted to submit a story to /., I will post it here, as I doubt it would otherwise see the light of day:

  wowbagger writes "Has anybody ever heard of a VNC-like tool that, instead of exporting to Microsoft Remote Desktop Protocol or VNC, exports the display to a UPnP hosted MPEG stream?

With the rising number of set top boxes/TV sets/media players that can play MPEG content from a UPnP server, a program that could scrape a display, convert it to an MPEG stream, and send it via UPnP to those devices could allow many existing devices to act as a remote display. Yes, exporting via MPEG wouldn't be as "good" as via a protocol designed for such a purpose, but unless and until you see all these devices coming with a VNC or RDP client, that option is not open.

Even better would be a program that acted like vncserver in that it would create a virtual display that persisted even when no client was connected, so that an otherwise headless server could be viewed via a set top box."

BTW - am I the only one who thinks the UI on /. has gone from bad to worse? Pretty much unusable without Javascript, who's brilliant idea was it to put the "Write in journal" at the BOTTOM of the page, etc.

User Journal

Journal: Spys have forgotten what business they are in.... 1

Journal by wowbagger

I have a saying, paraphrasing The Man With No Name: "when a business forgets what business it is in, that business is a dead business."

For example, Polaroid made their money on instant photography - that was their business. They forgot that, and got the idea they were in the self-developing film business, and so chose to ignore the digital photography business, because it wasn't self-developing film. Kodak moved in, and look where Polariod is now.

Likewise, the various intelligence gathering agencies - the NSA, the CIA, the FBI - were in the business of "Protecting America". However, they have lost sight of that, and now believe they are in the "intelligence gathering" business. And just like a miser who just amasses wealth for wealth's sake, and lives in a hovel and eats beanie-weenies, they have lost sight of the idea that the reason we gather information is so we can use it!

Instead, the spooks are so busy "gathering information" that they never share it, nor act on it - "My God man, if we act on this information, we might compromise our assets! We might not be able to gather any more information! No, we will just protect our assets, kept this information secret, and see what happens."

Yes, if the spooks have some double-aught sooper sekret spy stuff that lets them read the bad guys' brains, and they read that a guy is planning on flinging some poo at an embassy, and revealing the intel will compromise the secrecy of their brain scanner, they SHOULD site on the information - flinging poo is not worth losing that intel asset. But there is a world of difference between flinging poo and flinging PETN guys! - screw the secrecy of your "asset" and DO YOUR DAMN JOB!


And I, for one, DON'T want to see what happens if you should go out of business!

"Life sucks, but it's better than the alternative." -- Peter da Silva