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Journal Journal: Going out of business?

Well, after six years, it looks like my employer is on the verge of going out of business. Even if we survive, it's not a place I'd like to work anymore.

It's been a terrific learning experience. It's allowed me to break into the world of RF engineering. I've had a lot of good management experience. And it's been generally a good place to work.

I've got financial incentives to stay on until the bitter end, which puts me in the perverse position of hoping that the place dies sooner rather than later. I'm honor bound to do the best job I can, but I can't say that my heart's really in it.

It's kind of a "take stock" moment right now - I've got a great family, a house with a reasonable mortgage, and a lot of good prospects in the area. I've been dreaming about a shorter commute, bonuses (we've had none for a while now), perhaps stock options that are worth something.

It will be sad, though, to see the products and designs I've worked on so hard for the last few years disappear.

User Journal

Journal Journal: INS Absurdity 1

My three daughters were born in China, so this story of gross incompetence and arrogance strikes close to home:

Sandi Sheldon and her husband traveled to China to adopt their daughter Hannah. After finalizing the adoption, her husband was hospitalized, and then died of complications related to his diabetes. This is a horrible situation, to be sure, but is made even worse by the fact that the US consulate in Guangzhou is now refusing to issue her daughter an entry visa for the US. The consulate insists that she must submit new visa paperwork, and says that they cannot make any guarantees that the visa for her new daughter (which was already approved once) will actually be approved again.

More details available here.

The family is asking for assistance in the matter - a call to Sandi's representatives in the House and Senate. Many times, in situations like this, the only thing that results in any real activity to resolve the issue is pressure from an elected official. If your a US citizen, and you have the time to read up on the story, please take a few minutes more to contact Sandi's representatives and your own representatives to let them know you expect to see this issue resolved quickly.

User Journal

Journal Journal: I2C is a pain in the ass

I just added a new device to the I2C bus on my system. It always takes an hour to figure out the damn address on the thing. You set it up, it doesn't work, and if you are inexperienced you hook up the oscilloscope. I've finally learned to go back and reread the datasheet, where on page 673 they mention, "oh by the way" that the device in the MSOP package has a different address then the SOT package. Then does the configuration software bit shift the address to the left by 1 to make room for the write bit, or does it just OR it on the end?

Arghh... at least I finally got the damn thing working this time before I pulled out the scope.

Education

Journal Journal: Technical books for Vanuatu

Via the Geek Etiquette blog, I came across a link to a request for donations of "gently pre-loved technical books" to help the he local IT users group of Vanuatu build a lending library. The island nation of Vanuatu is, as the request states, "a bloody long way from anywhere", and technical books are hard to find.

Over the past few months, I've been eying my shelves, and thinking that it was time to cull the herd anyways. I usually end up taking a box or two down to the local library; in that case, one or two books may make it onto the shelves, while the rest end up occupying space until the next used-book sale fund raiser. While I don't begrudge the library my modest contribution, this time around I think I'll ship my "pre-loved" technical books off to someone who will really appreciate them.

Update: More detailed information can be found on the Technical Books For Vanuatu wiki page at Infotrope.

Slashback

Journal Journal: Timster's Law

The Laws of Slashdot #21 - proposal of Timster's Law:

In every argument about the iPod, someone will eventually resort to bringing up a product that is not available, either because it was discontinued or hasn't been released.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Retiring from Slashdot: The long, slow death

1. Why Anonymous Mods suck

Any user on Slashdot is invited to moderate after a while, so long as their Karma remains positive. Moderation is great when its used wisely and I've no hassle being modded down when deserved. Trouble is, every man and their dog is doing it now, and there is no accountability. Take this post. Someone modded it as a "Troll" shortly after I posted it, and hardly anyone else got to see it:

Post on Bioshock Installs a Rootkit (SONY get away with what hackers are jailed for doing)

Increasingly we're seeing dumber and dumber mods come on board: Jokes are marked "Offtopic" by the humor-impaired. If someone doesn't agree with you, you'll get modded a "flamebait" or "troll". They don't justify this. You don't even know who they are, and there's no appeal process. New moderators are supposed to read the moderator guidelines, but from the number of dumb mods it's clear they don't.

There is something called Meta-moderate which is *supposed* to be a check for this, but Meta-moderate isn't easy or even interesting work: You have to guess the context: it's long, slow (and ineffective). I don't know the numbers, but I'm guessing most mods are never meta-moderated. The best time to meta-moderate is immediately after the dumb mod is posted because that's when everyone sees it. Instead it gets "archived" in a historic meta-moderate queue which no one ever looks at.

The above post, which others noted was an unfair mod, is still sitting at 0=Troll a week after which suggests to me: Meta-moderate is a warm, fuzzy feeling that doesn't happen.

2. The Firehose Sucks

To submit a story to Slashot takes 20-30 minutes. You have to write it, get the links, work on the wording, check and post. That's a fair chunk out of your day. But this all goes limp when it reaches the firehose. To be published, you have to get a lot of votes very quickly (within the hour). Post at the wrong time of day, and your submission disappears off the front page (which is usually filled with spam submissions anyway).

And for the wonderful democracy that Firehose is, what do we get? Interesting stories get ignored, for stuff that is recycled, the same story posted with a slightly different headline a few days later, increasingly dumb stuff like the recent story that Verizon diggers cut a power cable. ("Big deal!") Slashdot has become so much like Digg you might as well cut out the middle man and read Digg anyway.

Firehose is just laziness. Slashdot's editors seem to think that a few thousand people looking at brief story synopses for a few seconds and pressing 'up' or 'down' will give better quality then one of them giving the story a good hard read. Slashdot only posts a dozen or so stories a day, so I'll call this plain laziness.

3. A Bad Place to Work

Does any editors even come in to the Slashdot office any more? Slashdot is a nice experiment in a user-run board. Great. Write an academic paper on what you have achieved. What Slashdot isn't any longer is a good place to get news you can use.

So farewell, Slashdotters. Good luck for the future. Nothing personal. In your time, you were a class act, and I think you'll still be around for some time yet. I'll still skim your front page every morning, but my days of submitting stories, writing comments, moderating, meta-moderating and firehosing are over. This is too much like thankless work, and so I Resign. She's all yours.

============================================================================================
Slashdot Story of August 24, 2007:
BioShock Installs a Rootkit

"Sony (the owner of SecureROM copy protection) is still up to its old tricks. One would think that they would have learned their lesson after the music CD DRM fiasco, which cost them millions. However, they have now started infesting PC gaming with their invasive DRM. Facts have surfaced that show that the recently released PC game BioShock installs a rootkit, which embeds itself into Explorer, as part of its SecureROM copy-protection scheme. Not only that, but just installing the demo infects your system with the rootkit. This begs the question: Since when did demos need copy protection?"

========================================
One Law for the Rich, one for the poor
(Score:0, Troll)
by BillGatesLoveChild (1046184) on Saturday August 25, @12:13PM (#20350411)
Case 1
* FOX doesn't pay their taxes. "Don't worry about it" says Congress. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/special_report/1999/02/ 99/e-cyclopedia/302366.stm [bbc.co.uk] http://www.vision.net.au/~apaterson/politics/econo mist_murdoch.htm [vision.net.au] Presidential Candidates eagerly take handouts from FOX http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070802/ap_on_el_pr/ed wards_news_corp [yahoo.com]
* Guy videos FOX's Simpson movie. Goes to Jail. http://www.smh.com.au/news/web/simpsons-filmed-on- mobile/2007/08/17/1186857730452.html [smh.com.au]

Case 2
* SONY regularly cracks the security on customer's computers. No prosecution.
* Some guy does it. 21 months jail. http://www.sophos.com/pressoffice/news/articles/20 05/05/va_threatkrew2.html [sophos.com]
* Congress decide life jail for hackers would be better: http://www.wired.com/politics/law/news/2002/02/507 08 [wired.com]

Case 3
* Disney Wants the law changed. Law gets changed. http://writ.news.findlaw.com/commentary/20020305_s prigman.html [findlaw.com] http://dir.salon.com/story/tech/feature/2002/02/21 /web_copyright/index.html [salon.com]
* What's Congress done for you lately? Health Insurance? Told their own kids to enlist?

Says Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "There is a growing trend for hacking gangs to break into innocent people's computers to spy, to steal, and to cause damage. This sentence sends out a strong message to other hackers that infecting others with Trojan horses and other malware is not acceptable." So Justice Department: You going to do anything about this, or are you corporate shills too?

User Journal

Journal Journal: A bad portent... 3

From: Askew@hollywoodsportsbook.com

Subject: OBTW

Msg: *All software!

even (W.indows

Vist.ta and Adobe(S3) 87% off goto:

(www.usa010.com)

I just received the above spam text message on my cell phone. This is the first spam text message I've received.

I called my service provider (the service provider formerly known as Cingular). First, I got them to rebate me $0.15 for the text message, which I did to both set a precendent and get my complaint into the system. I then asked about options for dealing with it if it becomes an issue.

At this point, my only choice is to deactivate my text messaging capability. TSPFKA Cingular has no way to filter text messages coming in. Now, I'm a very casual user of text messaging, but I do get updates from the city in case of terrorist attack or a hostage situation at my kid's school. Also, in times of marginal coverage/low battery/everyone calling because of terrorist attack/etc, it's the only thing that will go through. (I live in Washington DC, so I feel it's prudent to be prepared).

After I got my $0.15 refund, I got myself kicked up to a supervisor. I explained how text messages are an important part of my service, how if my cell phone spam goes the way of my email I'm looking at hundreds of dollars a month to pay for receiving spam, and so on. I recognize there's nothing the guy could do at the moment, but I wanted to get the complaint into the system.

I wonder where this will end up.

UPDATE: on 9/4/07, I received a second email spam of the stock pump and dump variety. I called Cingular for my $0.15 credit.

User Journal

Journal Journal: People who don't comment the top of their source files

indicating what the purpose of the code in the file is, piss me off.

That is all.

(Seriously, NONE of these files have ANY indication of what they are. They are named OK I guess, but it still is annoying not ever being 100% sure of what some code's purpose in life is...)

User Journal

Journal Journal: Just finished HP7 - no spoilers here

I just finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. My 8 year old finished it on Monday, which was 60 hours after it was released.

It was a great book, all of the loose ends were tied up. Some of the things I had guessed after book six turned out to be true, which is satisfying on many levels.

But really, I'm relieved. I've had my Slashdot filter set to screen out all comments rated less than 1 to avoid spoilers. I've minimized my looking at message boards. I heard there were a lot of spoilers on YouTube, including a video of somewith a bullhorn walking up and down a line of people waiting to buy the book, shouting out spoilers. What kind of person would want to ruin the book for a 10 year old?

User Journal

Journal Journal: Long-Awaited-Update 14

Those of you that were here oh, two and a half years ago, that are still reading this, should know that I'm alive, that Shimmin and I went through counseling for a year over a year ago and that I thought he was better but he wasn't. So he was violent one last time on Saturday and something in me broke and I asked him to move out. He did so on Thursday. I'm calling this a temporary separation, but I really don't know what it is.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Great moments in programming stupidity 3

I am taking this Programming Competitions Preparations class. The problems are all horribly unrealistic and not represenative of Software Engineering at all, but then again, they are not really meant to be.

Problems are solved in a two hour period in a team, typically of 3-5 students.

Well, my team realized that today's problem could be easily solved if we plotted points on a grid.

Hmm, lets see now. The largest a coordinate can be is 40,000. Ok simple, declare a 40,000 X 40,000 array of booleans.

Oh, too large for the stack, ok, declare it on the heap.

Umm, hey why is this taking so long.

Wait, what is 40k * 40k again? Oh crap.

Just for laughs, open up Task Manager and hit "Run", watch the VM usage go up to 1.90GB. Hey, look, I can see principles from my Operating Systems class in action! Awesome!

Hey, wait, did Windows just swap everything out to disk? Wow, everything is taking awhile to get back in order.

So, who here can quickly implement a sparse matrix?

To be fair, such stupidities only occure because there is a hard time limit. Normally I would never hard code in an array of anything near that size. Indeed, I do not know of any students here who would ever hard code in an array and say "That should be enough".

User Journal

Journal Journal: My latest nifty (and cute!!) web2.0 project 1

A simple implementation of tags!

I'd link to it, but it is on a non-routable box, I should have it up on a routable machine tomorrow[1].

Using Ruby this time. I now have a distain for Ruby, mostly because finding resources about it online is almost impossible. :(

I didn't use, just straight eruby (most often implemented as mod_ruby) with the CGI module used to get form data.

Oh, how Ruby handles file upload in forms is the most immensely stupid thing I have seen in awhile, and a damn good argument AGAINST dynamic typing. The type returned DEPENDS on the size of the data that was uploaded. ...

Data set is populated from CuteOverload. :-D

[1] I was about to paste in the local host address when the duh factor hit me.

User Journal

Journal Journal: AJAXian Canvas, Python, and Web 2.0 goodness 4

Ever had to find your way around a huge college campus? How about ever been late for a class or meeting on a regular?

AJAX to the rescue!

WWU Route Finder is a proof of concept of an AJAX map using Canvas and Python. Click two buildings, and the Python back end, accessed using XMLHTTPRequest of course, shows you the shortest path between your start and destination.

The biggest advantage is that the Python back end can access a highly optimized Graphing library and potentially support real time processing of hundreds of thousands of nodes, taking advantage of the server hardware and not relying upon the performance of a browser's Javascript engine.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Paypal delays + cool tech toys 3

Paypal just took over a week to send a payment.

Mailing a check takes less time.

W-T-F.

Isn't Paypal supposed to be almost instant? Is that not the very PURPOSE of Paypal?

Oh, in other news, I saw the most awesome digital camera on eBay (Not what I used Paypal for though :( ).

3 megapixel (plastic lens, probably resolves to 1.2 if your lucky :) ), MP3 player, e-book reader, voice recorder, and digital camcorder.

512k of memory built in. :-p fits 2GB SD cards, hmm, for all that stuff, should have dual SD card slots, heh.

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