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Journal: Fucked Up Fables: Six Soldiers Of Fortune

Journal by Moraelin
(With apologies to the brothes Grimm.)

There was once a man who was a Jack-of-all-trades; he had served in the war, and had been brave and bold, but at the end of it he was sent about his business, with three farthings and his discharge.

"I am not going to stand this," said he; "wait till I find the right man to help me, and the king shall give me all the treasures of his kingdom before he has done with me."

Then, full of wrath he went along the road and came to a huntsman who was kneeling on one knee and taking careful aim with his musket.

"Huntsman," said the leader, "what are you aiming at?"

"Two miles from here," answered he, "there sits a fly on the bough of an oak-tree, I mean to put a bullet into its left eye."

"Oh, come along with me," said the leader; "the two of us together can stand against the world."

The huntsman was quite willing to go with him, and so they went on till they came to a man standing on one leg, and the other had been taken off and was lying near him.

"You seem to have got a handy way of resting yourself," said the leader to the man.

"I am a runner," answered he, "and in order to keep myself from going too fast I have taken off a leg, for when I run with both, I go faster than a bird can fly."

"Oh, go with me," cried the leader, "three of us together may well stand against the world."

And to make the long story short, he went and gathered a few more companions, each with a grander claim to some super-ability than the others.

Meanwhile, the old king had tried to persuade his daughter to marry the young and respected son of a duke, for he had no sons and was thinking that the future duke might once make a good king too. Unfortunately the young princess had read a few books too many, and was fond of imagining herself as quite the real Amazon. She demanded of her father that if any man is to win her hand, he must best her in a contest of speed, endurance and military skill, like some ancient queen was said to have chosen her husband. And any man entering the contest must be willing to bet his very life on the outcome.

Now the king was fairly open minded for that age, and more than willing to admit that some women could make fine warriors. His people were still remembering the fierce shieldmaidens of the northmen, for example. But his daughter had always been a sickly bookworm, always short of breath, and also a little on the chubby side. The thought of her besting a trained knight was too much.

Wisely, the king said he'll go to his room to think about it, and laughed himself nearly to death into the pillow.

Still, he figured out that it's simpler than arguing with his daughter. So he agreed to send the town cryer to proclaim the decision. Secretly, he also sent a runner to the duke, urging him to send his son with the swiftest horse to enter the contest he cannot possibly lose.

Unfortunately for the duke's son, the ex-mercenary and his merry band were just entering to city as the cryer proclaimed the news. Thinking that with the help of his marvelous companions he cannot lose, he went straight to the king and asked to be tested against the princess.

The king was taken aback by the audacity of a common man to ask to marry a princess, but he realized that his announcement hadn't actually mentioned any restrictions. Fancying himself a man of great honesty and honour, the king agreed to keep his word and let him try, and sent for the princess to decide the test. She chose a race to a far away well, and the first who would make it back with a pitcher full of water would win.

"Easier than I expected," thought our ex-mercenary. "My runner will surely best any man or woman in the land." And asking for a little time to prepare, he went and asked his man with a detachable leg to dress in his clothes and run the race in his stead.

So the court gathered to watch, and at the blow of a horn the two competitors were off... much to the amusement of everyone present. The princess was soon panting and tripping over her long skirt, and making very poor progress. Unfortunately, her opponent was making even poorer progress, limping and cursing and dragging a leg behind him.

By evening, the race was over, with the princess handing her father the pitcher a good ten minutes before her opponent.

The ex-mercenary was aghast, He went to the man with the detachable leg and started screaming at him, "What was that all about?! What did you think you were doing?! Why didn't you run faster than a bird, like you said you would?!"

"Dude, " said the other man to his defense, "I thought you were kidding and I answered in kind. Haven't you seen a wooden leg before? I lost my real leg to a cannonball at the siege of Altdorf."

The conversation would have continued longer, but a squad of the king's guards showed up and took our depressed ex-mercenary to the king.

"Son, " said the king, "I figure you've lost fair and square, and it's only fair that you keep your end of the bargain. You have until morning to make your peace with God, assisted by the castle's priest. But since I like your courage, you shall not hang like a common rogue. You shall be beheaded at dawn, by sword, like a knight or noble would."

"No, father, wait!" intervened the princess who, truth be told, was starting to find the man more handsome than the groom her father had chosen for her. "This man has shown great valour in taking the challenge. Should we not give him a second chance?"

The king rolled that thought around in his head for a bit, then spoke, "That is very chivalrous of you, my daughter, and it would hardly be befitting me to stand in the way of such chivalry. Fine. Choose your next challenge, then, and tomorrow he shall face you again for his life."

This time the princess chose a contest of archery. Our hero politely inquired if he may use a gun, saying that it was a more familiar weapon to him. The princess agreed. With that, the king called the meeting over, and asked the guards to lead the man and his companions to a guest room in the palace.

So this time the ex-mercenary asked his hunter companion to dress like him and go in his stead the next day.

The next day, two large targets were set at a hundred paces away. The two contestants were given a dozen arrows and respectively a dozen bullets, and told to start shooting.

Again the princess did rather poorly, only now occuring to her that reading about ancient Scythian archer women didn't actually count as archery training. Only half of her arrows hit the target at all, and none of them went even close to the bullseye.

Unfortunately our hero's sharpshooter did even worse, with barely two of his shots even touching the target. As the court jester remarked, he did at least get one bull's eye. He actually shot the eye of a bull across the road to the right, dropping him dead on the spot. But since it wasn't on his target, it didn't count.

Again, our ex-mercenary was shocked and he went to berate his huntsman, "What in the Lord's name was that all about?! Didn't you say you could hit a fly in the eye from two miles away?! How could you miss a five foot wide target at a hundred paces?! I could have shot a higher score myself than you and that tomboy put together!!"

"To be honest, " the hunter answered, staring at his own shoes, "that was a joke, and it never occured to me that anyone would take it seriously. I mean, really," he continued as he showed his gun, "this is a smoothbore musket. You said you were in the army, for crying out loud. Two miles? It can't even shoot a ball past two hundred paces. Even at one hundred, as my old captain used to say, the only way to hit a man is if you aimed at another man."

And as the guards were taking him first to the king, and then to the place of his execution, it occured to our hero that maybe he should have tested his employees instead of simply believing any wild claim.

User Journal

Journal: Fucked Up Fables: The Ass In The Lion Skin

Journal by Moraelin

One day an Ass put on a Lion's skin and proceeded to amuse himself by taking a stroll through the woods, trying to scare all animals he encountered. He brayed at a Wolf in what he thought to be a good enough imitation of a lion's roar, and the Wolf ran away into the bush. He did the same to a Monkey, and the monkey too ran up into a tree. The Ass was proud of himself. At long last he saw a Fox, and proceeded to do his best imitation of a lion's roar at him too.

The Fox however was a lot less than impressed, and answered, "Ho ho ho, if it isn't an ass trying to look important. Congratulations, though, I almost took you seriously until you opened your mouth."

Not minding the Ass's dejected looks much, the Fox continued, "But seriously, don't you have something else to do or someone else to bother? I've worked 60 hours this week so far, and it's only Friday _morning_, and, frankly, I have neither the time nor the mood to entertain you guys." And the Fox trotted along, ignoring the Ass.

The Ass was now depressed and he went to the side to munch on some leaves, and he started drawing doodles in the dirt with a hoof to pass the time and take his mind off the brutal rejection he had just received. He ate and he doodled, but somehow he just couldn't take his mind off it.

Suddenly he heard a voice nearby, "Ah, finally someone with some fashion sense. I was starting to think it's a lost cause..." As the startled Ass rose his eyes, he saw an impressively tall Lion in front of him, eyeing him and his doodles in the dirt.

"I'm toast," thought the Ass, "there's no way a Lion would mistake me for the real thing."

So, in desperation, the Ass started to bray at him. "Syyynergy!" He brayed. "Leverage! TCO! Customer-centric! Industry best-practices!"

"Ah, " brayed the new 'Lion' right back, in the best donkey language, "so you speak management too. This day is looking brighter already. Between you and me, the other candidates are a joke. Have you seen what they wear to an interview? By the way, you _are_ here about the job opening, right?"

"Huh? What job?," replied the bewildered Ass.

"Well, to keep the story short," brayed the 'Lion', "I used to be the manager of this forest clearing, but they promoted me, so now I have to find a replacement. And Tim here," said the 'Lion' pointing to yet another Ass dressed in a lion skin, "is our HR representative. He'll help me pick a good candidate. I guess you haven't sent in a CV either, since you're not here for the interview, but I guess we could bend the rules a bit if you want to take part anyway."

"Uh, ok..." answered the Ass, still not entirely sure what he's walked into.

"I see you brought a sample of your work too," continued the 'Lion', pointing a hoof at the doodles in the dirt. "Nice flowchart. What is it of?"

"Oh, that," grinned the Ass, "nothing in particular. I was just thinking of food, mostly."

"And you drew a good hundred square metres of flowchart just about that? I'm impressed. Reminds me of some of my best work: the corporate regulation and flowchart of how to piss. Admittedly, it was mostly to annoy the Wolf, but I digress. Well, I can't make a definitive commitment yet, so this is strictly off record and non-binding, but I think your chances are good. We'll call you later if we decide to hire you."

User Journal

Journal: Nintendo Announces DSi and Wii storage solution

Journal by AKAImBatman

Earlier this morning, Nintendo made several major announcements in a press conference in Japan. Ranging from a new Nintendo DS to a Wii storage solution. Nintendo's first announcement was a brand-new handheld in the Nintendo DS line of consoles. This revision of the DS brand will be a significant break from the previous DS Lite console. It will be named "Nintendo DSi". (Nintendo DS-Eye, get it?) Nintendo also announced a solution to the Wii storage problem. Unfortunately, it sounds like players will be able to download to their SD Card, but not actually play games directly from the card.

Firehose Link: http://slashdot.org/firehose.pl?op=view&id=1225579

(Still trying to figure out if the firehose does anything.)

User Journal

Journal: The Fanboy Bullshit Form

Journal by Moraelin

In the interest of fanboys and zealots everywhere, and to spare them the minimal thinking effort, I propose the following form. All the options are genuine from genuine posts encountered on the Internet in the last decade. The wording may not be the original, but the spirit hasn't been altered at all.

You are a liar, and the feature/bug (cross out the one that doesn't apply) you talk about doesn't even exist, because:
 
[] I haven't personally seen it happen, therefore it doesn't exist.
[] It only happens once every 1-2 hours on my computer. (But that won't stop me from both it doesn't exist.)
[] ... and even that is my fault. (But that won't stop me from pretending that I'm an expert on what to do on your computer.)
[] Nobody told me about it.
[] It only seems to happen to a couple (of hundreds) of whiners.
[] "Everyone" knows it's not true.
[] "Everyone" knows it can't be true for programs made by _______________ (insert company.)
[] I once worked as Level 1 tech support at an ISP, and had to deal with your kind of idiots every day.
 
You're only claiming that because you're:
 
[] paid by _______________ (insert same, or competitor company) to post that
[] brainwashed by __________________ (insert same, or competitor company)
[] not elite enough to like the right stuff, let me tell you what your tastes should be.
[] a liar.
[] a troll.
[] in denial.
[] against innovation.
[] having mental problems that you confuse for having different tastes than I do.
[] too stupid to use a computer.
 
The problems you encountered -- and which I still claim that it doesn't exist -- are your own damned fault, and can be solved by:
 
[] defragging your computer. (Race conditions and crashes just appear out of nowhere, if you forget to defrag your computer.)
[] activating AA in your drivers. (AA solves rendering artefacts. Broken graphics and glitches are called artefacts too. You do the maths.)
[] buying a new quad-core triple-SLI compressor-cooled overclocked computer. (What do you mean your config matches the recommended specs? If you don't have a computer that cost $5000, you shouldn't be playing games at all.)
[] replacing your motherboard with a compatible one.
[] turning off your firewall and/or antivirus.
[] rebooting your computer. (As any Level 1 tech support guy knows, that's the miracle cure for everything.)
[] learning to play the damned game. (Yes, falling through the ground is just because you're a noob.)
[] stopping being so lame as to do or like other things in a game than I do.
[] saving every 5 minutes in a different slot.
[] using the cheats / external trainer programs. (Hey, it's already playable with that cheat, so stop asking to fix the game.)
[] stopping posting about it! If people find out that the game sucks, there won't be enough players to make mods that fix it!
[] introspection and realizing that only your mental problems and personality deffects prevent you from seeing things exactly my way.
[] packing your computer in the original carton, taking it back to the shop, and telling them that you're too fucking stupid to own a computer.
 
I am an authoritative source on the subject because:
 
[] I have used the program for few minutes.
[] ... on a friend's computer.
[] I have installed it on a computer.
[] Although I haven't yet, I plan to use the program in the future.
[] ... and I have a good feeling about it.
[] I have read about it in another thread.
[] A couple of people have aggreed with me before.
[] I know that _______________ (insert company) would never do that.
[] My user id is lower.
[] I have a gazillion of level 70 characters! On every server!
[] I was in the beta! (But somehow it's just not recorded anywhere.)
[] I could pwn your sorry ass in the game.
[] I could beat you up IRL.
[] My dad probably makes more money than yours.
[] I once worked as Level 1 tech-support for an ISP, and that makes me the expert on all software, hardware and users.
 
Furthermore, I'd like to state that:
 
[] you're a liar.
[] you're a noob.
[] I'm going to mod you down in other threads for disaggreeing with me.
[] someone should mod you down in this thread too, for disaggreeing with me.
[] you'll only have the right to criticize it, when you can make a better program.
[] if you don't like it, fix it yourself.
[] you're too damn impatient. It will rule after they patch it and/or people make mods that fix it.
[] it's people like you who are the problem with society today.
[] you're living proof of what's wrong with education today.
[] we need a goddamn IQ test before letting idiots like you use a computer.
[] you mis-spelled "math" as "maths", therefore you're stupid and uneducated, and nobody should listen to your opinion.
[] I don't even understand what your problem is. Learn to write more than a paragraph, noob.
[] nobody has time to read a whole page about where the bug happens. If you can't say it in 1 sentence or less, it's not worth reading.
[] people should just respect and listen to us who've earned our expertise in Level 1 tech support.

User Journal

Journal: Fucked-Up Fables: Aesop and the Bread Basket

Journal by Moraelin

There was once a slave born in Phrygia in Asia Minor, named Aesop. He wasn't particularly handsome or strong, but he had a particularly remarkable wit. One day, when the caravan and its slaves were leaving for Ephesus, the slave driver divided the burdens into rather unequal shares, and let each slave pick his. Aesop picked the heaviest burden of them all, a large bread basket, about twice as heavy as anything else there. The other slaves called him a fool for it, but Aesop knew that he'd have the last laugh. For, you see, the bread was used to feed the slaves and by the end of the very first day, Aesop had nothing to carry except an empty basket.

He was pretty proud of its wit.

On the third day, the team leader... err... slave driver called a meeting and announced that the caravan owner wasn't satisfied with their progress, and they'd be late in reaching their goal (Ephesus) at this rate. So the tasks would have to be re-evaluated, to match each team member's strengths.

Aesop was given half of Wally's share, who was already limping under the load of four papyrus scrolls, about half a pound each, with prayers for the Temple of Aphrodite in Ephesus. So two of them were dumped into Aesop's empty basket. "Well, that's still not too bad," thought Aesop.

The next day, a couple more slaves complained that they can't keep up the pace, and Aesop got half of their share too. One more day, and he was back to his original load. When trying to complain to the slave driver, Aesop was reminded that he's already shown off his strength, and it's only normal to use each resource to its fullest. As a consolation, he was also given a few canned motivational slogans, like "There's no I in team", which only managed to insult Aesop's intellect.

By the end of the week, Aesop was not just tired, but also hungry. All the energy for carrying that heavy basket had to come from somewhere, and he was already at the limit of his body's reserves. Aesop went to ask the slave driver for a raise in his rations, but was told he should be thankful to still have this job.

"We could use slaves from India instead of you!," he was told, "They carry twice the load for half the rations."

"So what are you going to do, then? Free me?"

"Well, no," said the slave driver, "you're still a slave, you still have to work for your bread one way or another. And you've signed a non-compete clause, so you're not going to work for a caravan any time soon. But we could sell you to a tin mine or to an asbestos weaving shop. I hear they have a life expectancy shorter than a mouse in the temple of Bastet in Bubastis."

Aesop doubted that anyone can carry twice the load for half the rations, but went back to hauling the basket. By the time they reached Ephesus, Aesop was looking disturbingly like a walking skeleton, but they made it in time. The caravan owner and the slave driver gave themselves a bonus for the good job, while the slaves were told again that they should be happy to still have their jobs. Still, they had the rest of the day off.

By the start of the next day, the caravan was assembled to leave again for the next town, this time a nearby town. While the others got their loads, Aesop was taken aside and told the good news that for his performance on this project, he's getting a raise of half a slice of bread a day. Then he was given a large empty sack and a shovel and told to fill it with sand. That would be his load for this trip.

"You've got to be kidding!" said Aesop, "Do they really need sand over there?"

"Well, no, not really," answered the slave driver, "See, they're on a beach anyway. But we'll only make the big trip to Ephesus again next year, and I have to somehow justify keeping the team until then. Otherwise the corporate rules say I'd have to get rid of you here, and get someone else next year. So we'll have to make up some work, so you can still get paid. Well, or at least fed."

Aesop rolled that around a bit in his head, but somehow "at least I get fed" failed to reduce the sting of the fact that he was doing something purely useless and fake.

"Can I at least fill it with leaves or grass, then? I mean, it's not like anyone actually needs the sand."

"I'd love to let you do that," shrugged the slave driver, "but, see, we're paid by the kilo. Plus, I couldn't justify keeping someone with your abilities around, if you'd actually have less workload than someone cheaper."

A couple of years go by like that, and Aesop is starting to look pretty muscular by now, if rather thin. He's even up to two extra slices of bread per day, which isn't bad by slave standards. Or wouldn't be if the workload hadn't doubled in the meantime too.

The team is assembling in Ephesus to pick their burdens, and Aesop is already reaching for his usual shovel and the two empty sacks. As I was saying, the load had increased in the meantime. As he's picking the shovel up, the slave driver approaches Aesop. He's accompanied by two hoplites from the caravan's guard.

"I'm sorry, Aesop, but I'm affraid I'll have to let you go. Sorry. Rest assured it's nothing personal, it's just business."

"You mean, as in, go free?" a broad hopeful grin widens on Aesop's face.

"Well, no," the slave driver shakes his head, "you're still a slave, you still have to work for your bread, and we still have a duty to make the most money out of you one way or another. But we sold you to some guys from Etruria who needed a gladiator. When they saw your muscles, it was an easy sell. Said something about needing a match for some slave from Gaul called 'The Ripper.' Our security people here will accompany you out."

"But... why?" stutters a shocked Aesop. "Have I not been your best slave? Have I not hauled loads that nobody except a mule or Hercules himself could have hauled?"

"Try to understand, Aesop, it really is just business." answers the slave driver. "You also eat more than any other slave, and we have a fiduciary duty to make money for the shareholders. It adds up, and the market is tough. We don't make as much per transport. Management has already promised to reduce costs by firing the most expensive personnel and replace them with cheaper slaves from India. Which reminds me, before you leave, show that new Indian guy where you usually get sand from."

User Journal

Journal: Random dose of MS hate - IIS wtf

Journal by soliptic

So, I'm trying to serve some flash movies.

Pretty simple task in 2008, surely?

Well, get this... because IE is a festering hunk of shit that simply doesnt work, you can't just add a simple <object>, but you have to monkey around with nested <object> tags instead - just because MS simply cant write software that works.

So far, so predictable. I don't do anything in this web dev game without assuming that 2 minutes work will sort Ff/Safari/Opera/Konq/etc, but making it work in IE as well will give me a day of pain.

But THEN guess what?

If you're unlucky enough to have a Windows hosting environment, you cant do that either, because... er... MS simply cant write software that works.

IIS claims you cant embed object tags. ASP error 0139. erm. excuse me?

For one thing: yes you can, GO READ THE FUCKING RFC YOU CRETINS.

For another thing: what earthly reason does IIS have for checking my DOM validity anyway? You are a webserver not a bloody validator, everything outside ASP tags is just a stream of text to you, and I expect you to serve whatever bloody characters are in that stream, not pick and choose which arrangements of characters are acceptable to you.

Or at least if you are going to be fussy about what tags i can and cant nest, READ THE FUCKING RFC and complain when I do something that is ACTUALLY forbidden, not something explicitly possible by design.

Fortunately, their software is sufficiently shit that you can bypass this "error-checking" rather easily with empty ASP tags.

So to recap:

  • You can't do what you should be able to do, because their client software sucks donkey cock
  • You can't do the workaround for their donkey-cock-sucking client software, because their server software sucks donkey cock and stops you
  • You can work around the donkey-cock-sucking server software stopping your workaround, because their server software sucks donkey cock

Glad we've got that cleared up.

Dear Microsoft, you UTTERLY FAIL at every single aspect of internet related technology I have ever come across. Here's a friendly hint on how to make your software suck less donkey cock: READ THE FUCKING RFCs.

Jesus fucking wept.

User Journal

Journal: WiiCade Open Sources Flash API

Journal by AKAImBatman

Slashdot doesn't seem to get much news about Wii Homebrewing, so I thought I'd throw out an article on the latest updates to the popular Wii Web Gaming site WiiCade.

According to GoNintendo, they have released a new version of their Wii Remote API under a combination of the GPL and LGPL licenses. To sweeten the pot, this new version offers cool new features like IR-Based Motion Sensing, 4 player support, control over zooming, and partial Nunchuk support.

To celebrate, WiiCade released 5 new games that use these features. These games are Icy's Droplet Gathering Adventure, Space Shooting Mania, Asteroid Falldown, Bumper Car Madness, and Catch a Falling Star. It looks like someone has already released another game called WiiCade Snake. And for you Bush lovers/haters out there, they also have a Make Your Own Bush Speech "game". If you're into that sort of amusement, that is.

I personally recommend Bumper Car Madness. It's a rather crazy and fun arcade game that has you competing to see who can get the most tokens. It offers three control schemes, two which allow you to steer by twisting the remote, one which follows the cursor. It's tons of fun, especially with friends.

It looks like they also got a new look to go with the upgrade. Decide for yourselves if it's better or not. I like it, though. :-)

User Journal

Journal: Interesting Misconception 4

Journal by AKAImBatman

Today's lesson on taking things out of context. Here's a post I made today:

How is Science any different from groupthink? Scientists are no where near as impartial as they claim to be. The only checks and balances in place are reviews by scientific peers!

Think about it.

Shocked yet? Frightened at how I could possibly say such a thing? Clamoring for the mods to continue my fall to oblivion? I even got this response from an AC:

You're usually more level headed than this. I think you're just being silly.

Interesting thing, though. No one read the context. Here's the post I was replying to:

How are they different from groupthink? or the political bias at times that persists in Wikipedia?

Their top level admins are no where near as impartial as they claim to be. Obvious subjects to avoid on Wikipedia are those which are based on religious, political, or environmental, concerns. People have taken "maintaining" those types of entries to ridiculous levels that whole pages of discussion exist behind the page where the various factions bitch at each other. The best way to see the bias is to watch what they require to have accredited links and what they do not, let alone what sites they consider credible sources for disputed information.

While it has much useful information there are just certain subjects to avoid

Now let's re-read my text in context:

How are they different from groupthink? or the political bias at times that persists in Wikipedia?

Their top level admins are no where near as impartial as they claim to be.

How is Science any different from groupthink? Scientists are no where near as impartial as they claim to be. The only checks and balances in place are reviews by scientific peers!

See it? Still want my head on a platter?

An interesting experience.

Editorial

Journal: iPhone: Why So Negative? 4

Journal by AKAImBatman

I just got back from reading the Chicago Tribune's various stories on the iPhone. The reviews were very positive, if not a bit reserved. Sales may have topped 500,000 units. And sales have been so good that the AT&T activation servers have been overloaded. All in all, a very good launch for the iPhone. Not perfect mind you, but nothing ever is.

So imagine my surprise when I checked Slashdot this morning to find that the only story on the launch is Activation Problems in iPhone Paradise. No mention of the 500,000 unit estimate. Nor is there mention of the strongly positive reaction by the market. The only thing discussed is the activation problems, which are blown incredibly out of proportion. From the "long-wait-short-celebration" department tag, to a link to an engadget poll that won't let you see the results unless you vote (There's no "I don't have an iPhone option?" WTH?), all the way to using a random blog of one guy's experience as the basis for what all ~500,000 users (estimated) are experiencing.

Maybe it's just me, but this has gone way too far.

Slashdot is a place where intelligent people tend to hang out to converse. Because these people know a lot, they easily become jaded. I know that I personally have struggled a great deal with becoming unintentionally negative. And it's not necessarily the problem of dealing with people who know less. That's a reasonable excuse for tech support reps, but it doesn't hold up for professionals. In fact, I often find that I can become so indoctrinated in a certain way of thinking (because I know quite a bit about it) that anything that seems to violate that doctrine must be wrong.

Of course, this is a very dangerous trap. There are always clever ways around problems without violating the laws of physics. In fact, the solution presented often solves the problem in a very unique way that requires a dramatic shift in thinking.

For example, hydrogen cars are often criticized for requiring grid power to generate the hydrogen. Thus many discount the option because it "doesn't provide an alternative fuel source". Which is true, but it misses the point. Hydrogen provides a shift in the way that our infrastructure works. Rather than having millions of inefficient, dirty, smog-inducing, portable combustion engines on the road, we could generate all the power from relatively clean and efficient sources like Nuclear power plants then distribute that power to a "vehicle grid" using hydrogen as the storage and transmission device. From that perspective, hydrogen suddenly becomes a lot more appealing. (Without diving into the logistics issues of converting fueling stations, of course.)

Thus I can't help but wonder, is Slashdot getting too negative for its own good? I've been noticing a sharp increase in stories that are either overblown or outright inaccurate. From PopCap Distressed Over 'CopyCat' Games (the original interview states that PopCap is distinctly unaffected by clones), to W3C Bars Public From Public Conference (the newsie apparently couldn't understand English), to Judge Orders TorrentSpy to Turn Over RAM (Judge ordered web logging to be turned on), I'm beginning to wonder if the general status of the Slashdot users and editors isn't taking a turn for the worse. I'm seeing fewer and fewer stories with a positive slant. Those that do have a positive slant are either overblown claims (which results in a negative reaction) or misreported claims (which results in the same negative reaction, except that all of Slashdot is barking up the wrong tree).

While I understand that much of the confusion and negativity is pouring out of the press, it's important to keep a cool head on our shoulders and think critically about every piece of information we see. While I don't directly blame the Slashdot editors or the readers, I do think that all of us can make a contribution toward positive reenforcement on Slashdot. We readers can do two things:

1. Try to make sure that the stories we submit are correctly stated and reflect the true issue at hand.

2. Keep our replies civil. It's so easy for all of us (myself included) to get mad at the other guy thinking he doesn't know what he's talking about. Yet sometimes he actually does. So please be gentle when correcting each other. You'd be amazed at the smart people you'll develop a rapport with!

For the editors, I can offer one major suggestion: Apply critical thinking before smacking that "Approve" button. I know you guys see an absolutely incredible number of submissions day in and day out. The catch is finding the submissions that are worth posting to the front page of Slashdot. As of late it seems like submissions are being chosen more for their yellow (read: inaccurate) headline rather than their substantiveness as news. So please be considerate when choosing submissions.

Thank you all for listening! :-)

User Journal

Journal: Did you open your eyes? 34

Journal by AKAImBatman

In a recent post on the topic of altruism being hardwired into the human brain, I challenged others to think about the theological implications of this. As the article suggested, many people jump to the conclusion that science is disproving the existence of a higher being. I used the exact opposite extreme to point out how silly that is.

Here it is again, but this time with the bolding reversed:

I figured it would be fun to respond with a similarly goofy argument:

It seems to me that if man is hardwired with an sense of altruism and a desire to believe in a super-being, there can be no other answer to this question than the existence of a Creator.

The question is, how many of you got the message? How many of you jumped to disprove a statement that did not need to be disproven in the first place?

Slashdot is composed of some of the smartest people in the world. Yet sometimes the smartest people can close their minds. The truth is that science does not prove or disprove religion. It cannot do that as it only concerns itself with the universe at hand.

Faith-based religion is not science. Let's not treat it as such. But science is not faith-based religion. Let's not make the mistake of mistreating it, either.

User Journal

Journal: How I Slashdotted Google 15

Journal by AKAImBatman

It's not every day that you get someone from Google showing up to check on the spreadsheet you shared out using the Google Documents site. But that's exactly what happened after I posted such a spreadsheet in a Slashdot comment and accidentally created an impromptu chat room.

Someone over on Google must have been curious about all those server spikes, because a viewer with the address of google@google.com showed up shortly after the user traffic peaked. In fact, I had never expected that the discussion feature of the spreadsheet would attract so much attention. I figured that people would simply look at the sheet and discuss it on Slashdot. Perhaps even make a copy, modify it, and share it out.

So what could I do when the Google lurker was noticed? Quickly yank the spreadsheet from the public eye? Close my account and hope Google never traces it back to me? No, I went for hollering out an apology for the Slashdotting over the aforementioned discussion feature. This must have satisfied the lurker, because he then exited the sheet without saying so much as a word.

Then again last night, the sheet received a chat from a person with the gmail name of "google". The message was simply, "A chat room through the spreadsheet discussion? Who would have thought?"

While there's no concrete proof that these users were indeed from Google, it does seems likely given how Google tends to control its name inside its own system. Thus I have to wonder, will there be any repercussions from this? Will Slashdoters regularly create impromptu chat rooms with spreadsheets? Will Google use this as an example of how well their collaboration features work? Or will the whole thing simply blow over?

Who knows? But I can say that this little spreadsheet gone haywire was a fun experiment. And if we want to keep Google on its toes, we can always do it again!

Editorial

Journal: A Day Without Mono is like a Day Without a Bullet in my Head 7

Journal by AKAImBatman

I have to admit, I think I owe Miguel de Icaza an apology. When we last butt heads, I believe I accused him of choosing .NET over the existing Java projects out of a case of "Not Invented Here" syndrome. And after the Silverlight announcement (which he wants to name fad-da daw'), I was even starting to buy into the idea that he might be a blind Microsoft follower.

But after spending a few days with Mono, I have changed my mind. It is quite obvious to anyone using the platform that the Mono team is not in bed with Microsoft. In fact, it would seem that the Mono team is explicitly trying to warn you away from .NET technology. Otherwise, why would they make it SO GODDAMN HARD TO DEVELOP FOR?

Excuse my outburst, but I'm just about at my wits end. Allow me to explain.

The whole thing started when I was working on a side project that required ASP.NET. As much as I might want to get around this requirement, it was non-negotiable. So, I looked into Mono and found that they had a special development server capable of running ASP.NET pages. I thought, "Great! Now I can develop on my Mac on the go!"

So I downloaded the Mono for OS X package and installed it. It compiled the requisite "Hello World" program with no issues. (Though it spat out Hello.exe for a binary. WTF?) The XSP server also ran a simple ASP.NET page without any problems. Great! Now all I needed was some documentation.

Before I get to that part, however, let me take a moment and address Microsoft documentation. I've heard plenty of programmers beam about how wonderful Microsoft documentation is, and how they absolutely love Microsoft documentation. If they had it their way, every program would have Microsoft documentation. Personally, I've always wondered what these people are smoking.

My experience has been that Microsoft documentation is poorly organized, lacking in detail, designed to run you around in circles, and packaged in a proprietary format that makes it non-portable and generally quite useless. The only positives to Microsoft documentation is that their docs are very pretty to look at and there is a LOT of it. (Which is what happens when you try to document every possible use rather than how to use the technology.)

Back to my story. Here I am thinking that I will simply download an HTML class reference and be about my business. After all, I'm an experienced programmer. Just tell me the library calls and I'll be good to go.

A quick check of the official Mono site produced the necessary HTML documentation. But only online. Nowhere could I find a download that I could take with me. The more I looked, the more I realized that the Mono folks want you to use a GTK# MonoDoc Browser. Oooook....

MonoDoc browser is (unsurprisingly) not shipped with the Mac OS X Mono package. So I went and downloaded the only package available: The sources. Of course, the MonoDoc browser requires GTK#, so I download those sources as well. It's all cross-platform code, so it should be easy to compile, right? *sigh*

When I untarred the source archives, what do I find? Something incredibly simple and reliable like ANT? Nope. The same old configure/make scripts that have been giving me nightmares for the last decade or so. No problem. I can do this. It's CLR code, so it MUST be a simple compile, right?

First thing that happens is that the configure script can't find Mono. Wait, what? How can it not find mono? It's in the path! After some checking around, I find that the build script is using pkg-config and pkg-config doesn't know about mono. Ok, so I create a mono.pc file in the /usr/lib/pkgconfig directory. Still can't find it. I move the mono.pc to /usr/local/lib/pkgconfig. Still can't find it. I set the PKG_CONFIG_PATH to the folder containing mono.pc. STILL CAN'T FIND IT!

As you can imagine, my blood pressure is getting dangerously high at this point.

I go back to the configure scripts to see if I can simply route around the check. No, it's pretty integral. But I do manage to find that the pkg-config it's pulling is an older version in /sw/bin. Mono apparently installed its own copy in /usr/bin. Ok, I can see that. So I switch the path around (making certain it's exported to the environment) so that /usr/bin will get checked first. It still finds the older copy. I struggle with it a bit more. It still finds the old copy. Finally, I rename the older pkg-config to pkg-config.old.

Eureka! It finds mono! Just to fail on GTK+!

Wait... what?

According to the configure script I don't have GTK+ or Pango. Yet I know they're both installed because of a few other OSS apps I compiled a while back. Finally, I give up. This is a dead end that's already sapped too many hours of my time. The craptacular Linux build process bests me again.

Let's try another tack, shall we? The mono package contained a pre-compiled (thank God) tool called monodocs2html.exe. All I need to do is feed the documentation sources into the tool, and voila! Instant HTML docs! Or so I hoped.

Unfortunately, I couldn't make heads or tails of the process. The documentation on generating documentation seems nice and all, but is a bit difficult to understand without some experience with the platform. And since I can't get any documentation on how to use the platform, I'm kind of stuck with a catch-22 there.

In theory, I just point the tool at the "assembled" documentation and it works. In practice, it keeps telling me that I need index.xml. Yet there's no index.xml anywhere in the lib/monodoc/sources directory. Not even inside the Mono.zip file. Rats, foiled again!

At this point I've resigned myself to wearing the ball and chain of an ethernet cable. After all, why would anyone possibly want to take HTML documentation on the go? Not that I've been too impressed in the online docs themselves. In Java, you tend to document API methods as you go. But with Mono, they separate out the docs from the sources, ensuring that no one ever documents anything! Documentation is handled entirely by online volunteers in a Wiki-like fashion, leading to a great deal of the library being documented with "Documentation for this section has not yet been entered."

So here I am now. My laptop useless in the face of such incredible resistance to using Mono. My blood pressure at all time highs. My patience long ago exhausted. For an instant, Google gives me hope that someone else has shared their generated docs! Yet it's nothing more than an apparition of a carrot dangling in the air as if to mock me.

I really do owe Miguel an apology. His team has been making wonderful strides in ensuring that the platform is completely inaccessible to new users. Thanks, man! We always knew you were secretly anti-Microsoft.

User Journal

Journal: BT Business Broadband is probably the worst ISP in the UK 1

Journal by soliptic

If you want internet that actually works, do not ever consider BT Business Broadband.

With previous ISPs I have had ('consumer' services), I've been used to it stopping working occasionally. That's OK. It only happened once every 2 or 3 months, and rebooting the router would tend to fix it straightaway. Besides, I was living out in a rural area, so I would cut them some slack as the exchange probably wasn't very modern, and I was probably approaching the max distance from the exchange at which ADSL works.

BT Business Broadband is a whole different ballgame. I'm now smack in the middle of London, but for the past year or so, on average roughly once a week, it stops working for no apparent reason. Rebooting the router generally does nothing - it'll be down for anything from 10 minute to a few hours, and there's nothing to do except wait.

Today, it's just been down for about three hours, after which it sort of started working. "Sort of", because they intercept every web page I tried to visit and redirected me to this message:

You have been connected to this page due to one of the following reasons. You must now shut down your browser and Internet applications before attempting to reconnect.

1. The BTWholesale access circuit to your Service Provider is currently down. Your service should be resumed soon...

Excuse me? The BT "Wholesale" circuit to my provider? No, you inept bunch of cretins, you ARE my "service" provider, at least given the world's most flexible definition of "service".

Then I noticed something strange. Accessing sites by IP address worked fine. (Last year I went through a period where it would fail to work pretty much every day, and I've bookmarked google by IP, as a means of testing if the problem was DNS or actual connectivity). So I switch my primary DNS server to a non-BT server, and oh look - everything actually works fine!!

What the f***? You're telling me that when your DNS server breaks, you just sit there not working at all for three hours, then displaying the world's most useless and inaccurate error page, instead of just SWITCHING TO A SECOND F***ING DNS SERVER? You're BT for god's sake, surely the biggest networking company in the country, and you've only got one DNS server!? Or what!?

Meh, I don't know; I'm no expert on this. Maybe my diagnosis is completely incorrect. All I do know is that BT Business Broadband is an ABSOLUTE JOKE and on no account should you ever even consider paying for it. The reliability would be piss-poor if this was advertised as a consumer/home service - as it's pitched (and priced) as a business service it simply defies belief. Fortunately, I don't pay for it (my flatmate's employers do), but I know next month when I move flat and have to pay for an ISP, I will be choosing anybody but BT.

User Journal

Journal: New mix (ambient/idm/downtempo)

Journal by soliptic
If anyone is into ambient/idm/dub/downtempo stuff, I thought I'd alert you to a series of free mixes I've done. I just uploaded the newest one the other day.

Example artists: Sasha, Burial, Aphex Twin, Ott, Tipper, Solar Fields, DJ Krush, Leftfield, Shpongle...
User Journal

Journal: The Commodore 64, now on OSNews! 2

Journal by AKAImBatman

It looks like my most recent article has made it to the front page of OSNews. As usual, the comments got off to a rocky start with the requisite grouch making half-baked arguments. Other than the political sub-thread he started, the comments have otherwise been very positive.

All in all, I think the coverage is kind of cool. Wouldn't you agree? :)

Edit: Almost forgot! One poster was kind enough to provide a link to this little hack. (And I do mean *little*!) Smitty, I think that one is for you? ;)

The universe does not have laws -- it has habits, and habits can be broken.

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