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Journal Journal: The End of Ubuntu 4

I have just upgraded my machine from Ubuntu 11.04 to 11.10 and everything is broken.


It began with Unity. The horror. If there's a way of finding the main menu, I wasn't able to discover it. Menu bars have entirely disappeared from applications, to be replaced with the mac "menu on top" paradigm, a.k.a. one of the main reasons I've never used a Mac since 1994. You can't even log out of the bloody interface, let alone tweak it. Even the fonts are terrible.

It took me about 15 minutes to figure out how to get rid of Unity and replace it with Gnome 3 and I can't say there's really much of a difference in terms of usability. All of my default Gnome 2 desktop settings have been blown out of the water. Completely. My panels and taskbars and lauchers are either deleted or are all over the place. Even if I wanted to change them back, everything is basically uncustomisable as far as I can tell. You can't move objects around in the taskbars. Yes that's right. You can't move objects around in the taskbars.

Is this what a desktop is supposed to feel like?

I feel like my computer window has been turned into a walled garden, like that on an iDink, which I am permitted to carress and fawn over, but have disallowed from making my own in any way. Will I have to download some kind of "App" from the "Ubuntu App Store" to gain back basic functionality? Do I have to dive into arcane settings and ppa just to get back the system which I had and liked only a few hours ago? Do I have to give up and choose Gnome 3, or move to XFCE, or move everything to the shell, or basically waste the next two weeks getting back what I had?

If that's the price of Ubuntu (and it is) then I am leaving.

Ubuntu and Gnome died the moment they allowed the UI designers to take over. The art students, the inveiglers, the smooth talkers, the wild eyed dreamers, the "visionaries", the people who didn't care what they were doing as long as it made them feel talented and superior. These are the people who have designed unusable,confusing systems and interfaces that delete years of carefully customised menus and discourage serious use of computers.

And as for the "boring" people, the programmers, the testers, the package maintainers, the people who listen to the community, those who put real thought and concern for users into their themes and interfaces, the people who don't go to conferences, who communicate with users directly via forum and newsgroup, who sit at their desks working to make distros better, often for no reward at all; what of them? Are they in charge in this brave new work? No. They are cast down and out, by a brigade of bullshitters too busy bopping on their iPods and blogging than in doing useful work.

If you let the wrong people into an organisation or a community, they can destroy it. Ubuntu and Gnome shows that this can happen to distros and open source projects just as easily and quickly as it has happened in the many industrys, countrys, and economies throughout the word. The destroyers will fail upwards, the blazing heat of their incompetence scortching all new pastures dry. The rest of us will be left behind to pick up the pieces and start again. In 5 years time, Ubuntu may be back on the path to being usable again, but I can't wait that long.

I'm thinking of starting off with Mint.

PC Games (Games)

Journal Journal: NAT is the Fucking Devil 3

I need a place to have a full on rant about this. My Slashdot Journal is as good as any.

Is it so much to ask, that in 2009, the video game industry as a whole would have figured some way around the problem of home routers and getting devices behind them to communicate with devices behind other home routers. Yes, I know, it's not a trivial issue. WAN/LAN IPs, DNS, End to end connectivity, Ports, TCP, UDP, protocols and connections, planes trains and automobiles. Yes, it's not an easy thing to accomplish.

But you've had ten fucking years!!! Or as near as makes no difference.

How many times have I had to reset, reconfigure and reinstall routers? How many times have I had to click through those infuriating HTML configuration pages, one form at a time, in an effort to add, port by port, protocol by protocol, game by game, each and every little irritating requirement just to get the fucking game I bought to play online like Mechwarrior 2 did flawlessly back in 1997!?!?!?!?

I've cracked. I admit it. The final straw was this latest gem from Team Fortress 2, a game I don't even play(I basically manage the router for 5 people). I had to set up port forwarding and QoS (Whatever the fuck that is) just to let the gods damned game to play properly.

  • UDP 27000 to 27015 inclusive (Game client traffic)
  • UDP 27015 to 27030 inclusive (Typically Matchmaking and HLTV)
  • TCP 27020 to 27050 inclusive (Steam downloads)
  • TCP 27015 (SRCDS Rcon port)

61 ports. Sixty One ports. And that's just for the forwarding, never mind the QoS malarky. Yeah, Fuck you too Valve. And want to know the best part? It's a server based game!! Why in fuck's name do I need to do any of this?! Oh give me lag any day of the week.

But to be fair, it's not just Value. Far, far from it. It's not even PC developers, each mandating their own custom crafted set of ports and protocols to enable online play behind a router. No, consoles too have gotten in on the game. Take these gems required for the Playstation Network.

  • TCP Ports: 80, 443, 5223
  • UDP Ports: 3478, 3479, 3658

TCP port 80. Otherwise known as the HTTP port. Great. And what's this? TCP 443. You mean the HTTPS port. Great choice guys. Yeah, thanks for that. I'll forward those right away.

Come on Microsoft. You've been computing specialists for over 30 years. What's needed to run Xbox live behind a router?

  • TCP Ports: 80, 53, 3074
  • UDP Ports: 88, 53, 3074

Great classy. I lover that overlap with PSN on the Port 80 thing. Can't have them hogging HTTP entirely, especially since you control the DNS ports now. Awesome. Complete clusterfuck. Why doesn't one of you mandate port 22 altogether, so my entire network will be totally inaccessible from outside for anyone not using a game's console.

Oh well, I guess at least with consoles you only have to forward one set of ports for all games right... right?

In order to play GTA IV via the PS3 network you will need to open the following ports on your router:

  • UDP ports: 6672, 28900
  • TCP ports: 8000-8001, 27900, 28900

AAAAGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!! LEAVE ME ALONE!!!! I'm not a network administrator! I don't have any certs from Cisco!! No! I can't use IPTABLES!! How would I get Linux onto the router in the first place?! What do you want?! Blood?!?! I just want to play games!!!

And don't talk to me about UPnP! Just don't. As far as I can tell, the Useless, Painful 'n Pointless protocol's only meaningful function is to establish connections between devices which confirm UPnP is available, but then don't work anyway. I've never once managed to get a single game to work using it. It has never worked and it will never work. Most companies don't even mention it. They skip straight to port forwarding, gleefully rolling off their own in house list of obnoxious ports.

You know what this is like? It's like every video game publisher and company is trying to stake it's claim to ranges of ports and protocols. By insisting on their own original, capricious and dogmatic set of connection requirements, it's as though Sony, Microsoft, EA, Valve and all the rest are trying to enforce by fiat what would normally require an RFC to be made official. Namely, the assignment of a port. Companies are literally carving out their own space on what is supposed to be a no ownership zone. And trust those armchair experts at Wikipedia, to stick these turf claims in a Registered Ports List. "Oh but, the unregisted ones are in blue OMF". FUCK YOU! There are only 65000 ports, which is too few to risk being lost to this bullshit.

So that's why I think this NAT business hasn't been resolved. Moving the video game industry to a solid standard whereby games automatically established connections(and hang the technical difficulties), would mean that companies would have to give up their little slice of that very relatively small pie of 65000 port numbers. These are corporations we're talking about, and giving up something that big, that central to the functioning of the entire internet, even if it's just a squatters claim, is not a step any of them are willing to take.

So, in my opinion, we're going to be stuck with this NAT port forwarding bullshit for quite some time yet. I fully expect more and more games to lay claim to ever larger pastures of unsettled port space, and continue to do so until the whole spectrum is so fully overloaded that people's routers or patience simply snap under the strain. Mine certainly has.

Mercifully, my ISP seems to allow PPPoE over a router, which thankfully the PS3 and Xbox360 both support. True, it exposes them to the elements in a way having them behind a router would not, but I really don't care any more. NAT is the fucking devil, and I've had enough of having my crank yanked as a pawn in this port squatting farce, so it's a WAN IP for me.

At least until all the IPv4 address run out and I have to set up all this shit again of IPv6 addresses.

PlayStation (Games)

Journal Journal: The Trouble with PC Ports 1

I wrote a journal entry two years back. I had recently bought Oblivion and had spent 10 hours try to get it to simply run, and the post basically outlined how PC games require far too much effort from the user to simply run, let alone become playable. This post can be regarded as a followup.

I ended up liking Oblivion, so much so that I bought the Game of the Year edition for the PS3. The graphics were a lot better, and there were no control issues or installation worries. Then I ran into the, effectively show stopping, PS3 Vampire Cure Bug, after probably 50+ hours of play. Bethesda apparently have no intention of ever patching or fixing this bug. I can safely say that if I had know that this bug was present, I would never have bough the game.

As I see it, PC game makers like Bethesda, simply are not going to make it in the current generation of games. Show stopping bugs with no official efferot to patch them might be acceptable in PC gaming, but console gaming has historically had a much higher standard when it comes to major bugs and glitches. Even in the days of the PS2, if a game crashed, it was quite a shock, and a major black mark on your opinion of the game. Show stopping bugs with no workaround, are to my memory completely unheard of.

Say what you will, but up until effectively two years ago, the first version of your console game was going to be the last. Companies had no recourse whatsoever apart from a total recall if they needed to change so much as one bit in the game binary. Under those conditions, a very high level of quality was sought and in fact was achieved in the vast majority of cases. Console gamers have spent the last 20+ years playing games that largely did not crash, did not glitch(obtusely), and did not have show stopping bugs. PC gamers have spent the last 20+ years trying, and failing, to get games not to do any of these things.

My point is that console gamers have come to expect a certain level of quality and professionalism, and console game makers have responded accordingly. PC gamers have come to expect patches, hotfixes and workarounds, and PC game makers have become complacent when it comes to errors, and contemptuous towards their users. This does not bode well for "establishment" PC game makers trying to break into the console market. I believe they are, one by one, doomed to fail in this regard.

Unreal Tournament 3 crashes all over the place on PS3. Oblivion:GOTY has character which when spoken to display "I HAVE NO GREETING" default errors. Call of Duty 4's level and art design is aesthetically appalling. The best titles PC gaming has to offer typically end up a second or third rate titles when it comes to console gaming. A lot of this has to do with control schemes. RTS titles and games like the Sims are fundamentally unsuited to a console controller. But it also has to do with the overall quality of PC titles which when compared to console titles, simply don't meet the grade.

It works both ways. Titles among the best that console gaming has to offer typically do not fare well when ported to PCs. Final Fantasy VII, Metal Gear Solid 2, Halo. However, this is likely due to control and framerate issues, and with PC gamepads becoming more common(Xbox 360 pad plug and play in Windows), and graphics cards improving, these issues alleviated somewhat.

However, PC games makers have a much larger step to overcome if they want to break the console market. They need to overcome a culture of complacency. A culture that allows games to be released that will not work without a patch. The culture that allows a game to be shipped with known bugs still present. The culture that thinks graphics improvement means simply increasing texture rates and bloom and has no time for aesthetic design. The culture that essentially holds technical metrics in awe and game players in contempt. It is a culture driven in large part by the backing of PC hardware manufacturers and not the feedback of gamers.

I was looking forward to Fallout 3. But I will no longer be buying it when it arrives. I have been burned quite badly by Bethesda already, and I have no reason to believe that they will change their ways. It's a similar situation with many PC gamer companies. They are steeped in a culture that simply will not work in the console world. I expect many to simply stop releasing console ports in the years ahead, as it becomes clear that console gamers will not tolerate half finished or unsupported products.

There's something to be said for PC gaming. But professionalism among PC game makers is not it.

PC Games (Games)

Journal Journal: The Trouble With PC Games 5

I just bought my first PC game in a long time. Oblivion. So far I've been at this for about five hours and I still haven't managed to actually get around to playing the game. No sir. First you must troubleshoot. Now I remember why I stopped buying PC titles.

The First issue on install was the graphics. My card is an older Nvidia 5200, which to be fair, did have 256MB of RAM. After much questing, I eventually discovered that I needed to change a shader setting in an ini file to get things to run anywhere near smoothly. An ini file!! I was under the impression that those days were long behind the PC gaming sector. Clearly not.

The major difficulty turned out to be with my joypad. Oblivion, by default, is set to use the diabolically carpal tunnel inducing control scheme known as "The Keyboard and Mouse". I would use the handy and ergonomic dual analog joypad I have, but Oblivion flat out refuses to detect the last of the four available axes, blowing that idea out of the water. And no matter which way I tweak the setting, the game simply will not become playable without that fourth axis.

After over eight years away, I return to find that PC game creators still expect me to use the keyboard to move about. What's worse, they now expect me to use WASD instead of the arrow keys. Who came up with that bright idea? W is not directly above S you know.

Never mind the fact that before I even installed the game needed an obscene 4.6GB of hard disc space!! Going on the last "first person" type PC game I purchaced, MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries, which took up 65MB of space in 1997, that corresponds to a space requirement inflation rate of about 60% per year. Take that, Moore's Law. Well, the hard disc equivalent at any rate.

I suppose I should thank Bethesda, the creators of Oblivion. I had been considering upgrading my current PC to avail of what the PC industry might offer me, now that the console market is in a slump. Now, having spent 60 on the best game the PC sector has to offer, I can say with confidence I won't be buying a gaming rig anytime soon.

I'm still going to try and play Oblivion. It seems a student of the old school western RPG. Lots of dungeons, item and quests to keep you busy. I will not be "comfortable" playing it, hunched as I shall be, hands splayed out over two devices, one paticularly ill suited to its task; rather than reclined comfortably in a nice soft chair with controller neatly in my hands. Alas.

The moral of this story, is that the more things change, the more they stay the same. I missed you too PC gaming... you cantankerous old bastard.

Update: After a few hours of research, I managed to get the game to run very reasonably throughout the first dungeon. Everything was fine, including the control scheme, and I ironed out a few minor bugs on the way. It was al looking quite good. Very good in fact.

However, once I reached the overworld, things quickly took a turn for the worse. It looked terrible, crashed continuously and I have neither the time nor the inclination to basically debug Bethesda's beta software. So Oblivion is going to stay on the shelf for a few years. Maybe when I next upgrade my main rig, the game will be playable. Until then, I'm not wasting my time with what is essentially a buggy Xbox360 port.

My advise to anyone considering purchasing the game is to leave this one to stew for a year or two, because it's not finished.

Journal Journal: New Slashdot CSS Font Size 3

The new Slashdot CSS redesign is here. I suppose we can all learn to live with it. I've got some misgivings about the contrast, but I imagine I'll get used to it. The font has also changed to sans, but I guess I'll get used to that too.

There is one thing, however, that really is bugging me. And it isn't just a trivial gripe. It's the new font size. In short, it's too small. What's worse, horror of horrors, this change has been applied to the comments section.

My eyesight's not the best, and I imagine most slashdotters have less than 20/20 vision. I run at 1024x768 resolution normally, and it's my understanding that many people run even higher than this. I can only presume that the main site's text would be around 3mm tall on a 17'' monitor at 1280x1024. I can't see that this is a good thing for the eyes.

I don't agree with the view that "smaller looks better", when it comes to text, or indeed, any UI at all. I blame winamp for the recent trend towards ever smaller font and button sizes, but I digress.

The most important thing about any redesign is keeping the site useable. In the case of Slashdot, most users are simply reading text, sometimes writing. in this regard, the redesign has slipped up,(not failed, just slipped up) in that reading has now been made harder by the smaller text. This isn't a small issue, it's a big one.

Reasons for the slip up? Perhaps CmdrTaco sits too close to the screen? Perhaps he's got a 22'' monitor? Perhaps he has better eyesight than most of us. Regardless, this is a serious issue, and needs to be addressed.


Journal Journal: Moving To KDE 5

It's time. I've moved to KDE.

The long list of grievances I've suffered uder GNOME is simply too long to recount, here or anywhere. The last straw was, in the end, nautilus' removal of an address bar, and so I could not type in, for instance, smb://, anywhere.

And before anyone tries to point out that there really was an address bar there somewhere if I'd just typed ctrl-/ or something, I simply don't care anymore.

KDE is looking good already. Quite frankly, Konsole alone is enough of a reason to make the switch. The system is responsive and options and customisation are where I expect them to be, and do what I expect them to do. I'm not too fond of the lack of history in the CPU monitor applet, but sacrafices must be made I suppose.

In the end though, it was not KDE that lured me away. It was Gnome's beligerance that forced me to find better pastures. Simply put, it's a disaster I don't care to try and live with, or fix. I'm aware of KDE's issues with TrollTech, and it does bother me, but frankly in my opinion, Gnome are abusing the FOSS movements goodwill towards their GPL'ed status.

Gnome isn't going to change, so I am instead.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Dupes on Slashdot

A second dupe by ScuttleMonkey in less than 48 hours.

Story 1: Original) Dupe)
Story 2: Original) Dupe)

To rub salt into the wound, the second dupe poster deliberately did so, as is evident from his "anti-slash" style site. This guy is probably a playfull kind of troll. But I don't critisise his actions. I applaud them.

Exposure of corruption is an applaudable act, and incompetance is the worst form of corruption. Anything done to expose the steadily growing incompetance of the Slashdot editorial team is good in my book.

I could post an entire rant about the whole Slashdot editorial system, but instead, I'll just ask one question. One question to the Slashdot editors. Only one. Yes or No. Not a difficult one, not a hidden trap. I won't follow up on it. I'm not going to harp on it. I'm not going to challenge any answers you give. I won't even respond to them. Just one question.


Does ScuttleMonkey read the Slashdot Front Page?

That's it. Yes or no. If any of the Slashdot editors ever read this, or hear of it, it would be nice to get an answer. That's all I'm asking for. Nothing more.

Yes, or No?


Journal Journal: The Nuclear Question

Nuclear energy is getting a lot of press lately. Most of it good. It was inevitable given the rising price of oil, that nuclear proponents would finally have their place in the sun. Here's some of my thoughts on this issue, for anyone who might give a fiddlers for the opinions of one lone maths freak.

The main reason nuclear energy is being pushed so much lately is because of the rising price of oil. Nuclear proponents are now being listened to by those looking around for alternate sources of energy. It actually has very little to do with the safety, cost and/or enviornmental impact issues. The nuclear situation hasn't changed a whole lot in the last five years, or inded the last fifty.

The arguments for nuclear energy are in fact, exactly the same ones that were put forward in the fifties. Namely a cheaper, cleaner, more efficient form of energy. There is a large degree of truth to all these arguments, and possibly more so now than when nuclear reactors were first proposed.

So the big question here is, if nuclear power is so great, then why haven't we switched to it in the meantime?

The most important reason for the lack of switch is, or rather was, cheap oil. Oil burning generators were quite simply too cheap to pass up. But now, with the rising cost of oil, this has changed.

Another reason for our relative lack of nuclear plants is essentially their bad public reputation, not all of which is unjustified. The reasons for this bad rep are varied.

First, is the connection in the public mind between nuclear reactors and nuclear bombs. This connection is made ever more concrete with TV shows and movies having plotlines where reactors are essentially turned into nuclear bombs by terrorists and the like.

But hollywood fantasy aside, this link in the public mind is justified to a some degree. The radioactive byproducts of commerical nuclear reactors are in fact key components in nuclear armaments; plutonium being the chief amoung these. With an increase in nuclear reactors, there will be an inevitable increase in the raw material for nuclear weapons so to speak. And so with the proliferation of nuclear power, it is not beyond reason to conjecture nuclear weapons proliferation as well.

The second reason for public mistrust of nuclear power is the radiation factor. Radiation and radiation poisioning are unknown factors for most of the human population. Again this situation is not helped by hollywood dramatisations of the effects of radiation. In some cases, outright fantasy scenarios of nuclear "fallout" involving mutated monsters roaming a desertified landscape prey on the public mind.

Still, again there is some justification in the public being cautious on this issue. Radioactive substances are dangerous substance and should not be treated lightly. Some might argue that this is no more so the case with radiation than with other harmful chemical and biological substances. However, unlike most chemical and biological agents, radioactive substances have an irritatingly long "half life", which increases significantly the duration of any contamination by comparision to a chemical spill.

If we take the recent Harbin Benzene spill in China as an example. This chemical spill has affected millions and caused considerable enviormental damage; fish kills etc. However, to a greater or lesser extent, most of the benzene will wash away or break down into less harmful chemicals. But could the same be said of the spill contained radioactive material?

Radioactive material dumped within the watershed of a major river like the Mississippi or the Rhine is something the public should be wary of. To a greater or lesser degree than a chemical spill, or indeed, the dumping of fumes into the atmosphere? Time will tell on this one.

Arguably the biggest reason for public skepticism for nuclear power is the track record of the nuclear industry. Chernobyl was, and remains, the biggest argument against nuclear energy. 300,000 people were displaced, a city and its hinterland was essentially written off of the books, and the on going medical and social problems currently affect millions. No accident at an oil or gas plant, no matter how severe, can come close to the level of destruction wrought by Chernobyl. The Harbin benzene spill, despite its severity, pales in comparision. Harbin is not a write off.

On a more day to day basis, the nuclear industry does have numerous blemishes. Three Mile Island being the most infamous. More serious and ongoing is a somewhat cavalier attitude towards the radioativity, with highly radioative cooling ponds existing outside many reactors, as well as incidents at Sellafield, where actual material was simply dumped into the ponds, and close to 30kg of plutonium have literally gone missing. The nuclear industry is run by human beings, who, for whatever reason, do not always run things as they should be run.

Still, it seems unfair to tarnish the entire industry with one brush. The majority of nuclear plants seem to have been run without incident. But as the amount of nuclear plansts increases, and if regulations become lax to accommidate them, any leaks or loose ends in the industry's procedures will become more apparent. The industry has a chance to grow now, but it may end up shooting itself in the foot if things go awry.

The last reason for public mistrust involves the disposal of nuclear material. And this is arguably the biggest of all the headaches associated with nuclear energy. Techniques may have improved, and the argument against the polluting nature of coal and oil fumes are put forward, but essentially the solution to nuclear waste material is to throw it in a big concrete lined hole and hope it will go away. The industry likes to think otherwise, as all polluters do, the coal and oil burners, the garbage disposal companies etc.. .

To be sure these disposal drums may be sophisticated, but the public still misturst the whole business. It is the low tech back end to the illustriously high tech nuclear industry. The wonders of nuclear energy, almost mystical in their abilities to the public, are brought back down to earth by the images of drums of material being dumped into a pit, to sit there for a hundred years not to become non-radioactive, but only "as" radioactive as natural uranium. Joe public might not know the ins and outs of radioactive decay, but he knows dumping when he sees it.

But again is this an issue? Especially compared to oil and coal etc... ? It certainly will be if these disposal drums are not constructed to the highest standards. Again, a leaking drum in the water supply of a major city would be a disaster. Arguably more so from a public relations rather than a health perspective. Not that health effects might not be significant. As nuclear power increases, and waste material increases, the nuclear industry would do best to go out of its way to ensure that dumping remains shiny clean nuclear's dirty little secret, otherwise the whole industry will be set back all over again.

Nuclear power has benefits, but it has some drawbacks as well, like most things. Unfortunately, some of the drawbacks of nuclear power are very serious indeed, and it will take real and sustained efforts to ensure that nuclear remains safe as well as cheap. My biggest worry is that cheap will win the day, and the only driver of safety and professionalism in the nuclear industry, like in any other, will be a serious accident or disaster. It is a sad fact that people must often be killed before industry is made to take things seriously.

Journal Journal: Slashdot Up For A Facelift?

Looks like the Slashdot eds are toying with the idea of giving the old place a lick of paint and a brush up. Frequently reloading the Slashdot homepage will bring up the following

Horror!! Changing the Slashdot Slogan(TM)!! Such blasphemy will not go unpunished! Then again when you've run with the same slogan for eight years...? Oh well, I guess we're overdue for the apocalypse anyway. This would also help explain my ever decreasing estimation on Deathclock.

Slogan change aside, I'd just like to say that the watermark circuitboard scheme will NOT work as a face background not matter how much you tweak it. Face backgrounds should be plain. In the title maybe, but for the love of God don't condenm the world's tech head population to a lifetime of squinting painfully at headlines. Even though most of the clever ones have switched to RSS feeds by now. It's the comfy chair for them! With TWO coffees at eleven!!

It's funny.  Laugh.

Journal Journal: Valve, Microsoft and Whale Meat

There's yet another discussion about Half-Life 2 and Steam going on. Some might wonder why so many slashdotters defend Valve, yet would scream blue murder if Microsoft ever tried anything remotely like Steam.

Two reasons I think.
One, the games section is populated by windows pc gamers, more so that regular tech heads. Most of these are young and innocent when it comes to IP issues. Kind of like a missing link between regular users and frequent slashdotters. Anyway, these gamers do love their games and the companies that make them and will brook no critisisms of them. They're also more likely to be confused by comments slamming windows XP, as they still regard it as "Way cool! I have a computer with XP!"

Two, Steam gives you Half-Life 2 which is a very popular video game. An MS scheme along the same lines would just give you Windows. Not so popular. People will support one and not the other simply because Steam gives them something they really want. I'm sure if Half-Life 2 was awful, no-one would support steam. It's kind of like people who've eaten whale meat, at special restauraunts.(Before you burn my house down, I haven't) Anyway, these people, having tasted the whales flesh are much more open to the idea of hunting whales than other. Well, I know of at least one person who was dead set against hunting whales, a big conservationist. He went abroad, sniffed a whale meat stand, took a bite, and now he's softened up to the whole idea. Apparently it tastes like beef, go figure. The point is, slashdotters hated Steam, then they tasted Half-Life 2, and now they're alright with the whole idea of Valve licencing a video game. We're all just animals underneath it all!

My 2 cents.

The Gimp

Journal Journal: The Linux Desktop Approaches. Millions Flee in Terror. 2

I've just spent the last TEN HOURS trying to draw THREE simple images of circles, rectangles, lines and one or two pasted in images. TEN HOURS I've spent swearing, cursing and damning the eyes of whoever decided that "Hey the GIMP is GREAT!!!! Let's thrown everything else out the window!!!!" GENIUS!!!! BLOODY GENIUS!!! ARRRGGGGHHHH!!!!!!!! ...ahem...

As I was saying. The GIMP sucks for making images. Here's why from
"The GIMP is the GNU Image Manipulation Program. It is a freely distributed piece of software for such tasks as photo retouching, image composition and image authoring. It works on many operating systems, in many languages."

The GIMP is designed for editing images! It is completely useless at creating them! Yet in Fedora what Image Creation Utilities are available by default. Why the GIMP of course! You've also got KPaint v0.6. The danm thing doen't even have a fill tool for christs sake! And let's not forget XFig. Why move into the modern era when you can play arounf with vector graphics for hours. Vector Graphics?!?! WTF?!?! Xpaint people!! Hello!!

Once again Redhat play right into the hands of the naysayers. Newbie Linux users starts fedora. Newbie user hates browsing around in spatial mode. Newbie user can't watch movies. Newbie user can't play CDs. Newbie user can't play MP3's! Newbie users can't even scribble around in a simple mspaint type app!! Newbie user cant update system! Do redhat actually care if they attract new users or not?

The general newbie user will walk away from fedora thinking, "Linux is useless". And you know what? They'll be right. If distros continue with this idiotic structuring the Linux desktop will never get anywhere. You don't attract more linux users with the lastest sendmail or ssh versions. Users don't go, ohhh and ahhh, just because bash now supports 64 bit Unicode languages!!

Users want an easy to use, simple system with good apps! They don't give a shit about security. You supposed to do that! They don't need the GIMP! they need Xpaint. They don't need Rhytmbox! they need a working CD player! They don't need spatial browsing!! That sucks ass!!

Linux's future, like most things, depends on getting new people, paticularly young people to support it. New users will only venture into a system if it is friendly to them in the beginning. Newbies will not put up with complicated apps and having to configure /etc/yum.conf to get anything to work, and they shouldn't have to.
Windows will be dominant for the next 40 years! At least! Why? Because millions of kids grew up using windows! They started with solitare, played with paint, worked up to net browsing and went on from there. Legions of users who got good at computer by starting from the simple basics and working up from there. But on most distros, there are no simple basics! You've thrown straigt into the deep end, and guess what? Most newbies sink, or thrash their way back to XP. Why is it that the entire Linux community seems to think that everything is perfectly user friendly right now. Whatever I need to do I can get done using bash and perl scripts. Why just watch me sudo right now

I remember my first forays into Linux. I almost gave up right there. It's as if the Linux community is suffering from some collective brain damage when it comes to UI. We don't need it. We have bash. Meanwhile millions, nay billions, run screaming from the Linux Desktop paradigm. Don't make it easy to use unless you really really have to!

What was I ranting about again? Oh yeah the GIMP. Take my advice friend. Get yourself some of that #yum -y install xpaint. And for any newbie user, who would quite rightly be perplexed by that last one. It means log in as the root user(computer administrator), run the yum program(a software updater application) telling it to answer yes to all questions when installing xpaint(a graphics program very like paint on windows).

You see that's what people need to say to newbies. Not Just edit /etc/runinit.4/ to point to /dev/hdb2 on boot. That is not helpful. We should _never_ have to say that to a new linux user. The fact that we do should be the biggest indicator of all that something is wrong with the linux desktop.

I'm going home to draw up those picture on a windows computer. I don't have right to the university computers and xpaint won't compile. I'll be amoung the great unwashed, uninstalling spyware if any of the people who designed Fedora would dare to retort. Good day to you sir!

User Journal

Journal Journal: I feel Ill 4

I just read this slashdot story about how users across the globe are simply accepting spyware on their computers. As one poster puts it this kind of "clueless luserdom" is rampant on the net. I've got at least one friend who thinks like this. He just doesn't care if bearshare is spyware or not. He just wants to use it.

I used to think he was an exception, but after reading the story and reflecting on expierience, I realise that we are the exceptions. Most people will willingly, nay, gladly sell their privacy for a simple malware music sharer or cd ripper. Maybe we're all just paranoid? Maybe people should just accept eWallet,, spyware, adware, malware and of course Jay Patel and his legions of data mining spiderbots.

This thought depresses me more than any recent story I can think of. I mean, is the human race just destined to live in blissful ignorence. Are we just preprogrammed to fall for the pretty smilies of that small cunning few. Are most people really just sheep that blindly follow orders. I want to believe that people are otherwise. I want to know that people are individuals, capable of drawing their own conclusions and seeing past rosy curtains to the truth behind. Stories like this put a dent in my faith.

I don't believe all this acceptance of spyware will be without consequence. I believe people who knowingly accept spyware will come to regret their decision. They already suffer financially by having to buy a new PC every two years. But I feel that a larger problem lies in store for them. I don't mean this in a patronising way. I mean that I think a lot of bad things are going to happen to people who don't deserve it beacause of an uninformed choice they made. Global dictatorship, or just more junk mail? I don't know. But I refuse to belive that their are no consequences for so much personal data in the hands of private companies.

XBox (Games)

Journal Journal: Halo 2: Hype Evolved

"Halo 2 is going to be the biggest game ever!!! It's already got more preorders than San Andreas did!!!"

Thus was I greeted when I arrived into the computer room this morning. And thus Have I been greeted, on and off, every half hour or so, for the last week, and to a lesser extent, the last three years.

Yes that's right folks. Halo 2 is out and if you, like me, cannot recognise that it is The Greatest Game Ever Made(TM) without ever having played it, then you clearly lose on a new level. If you have not yet been awed into submission by the earth-shattering demos, you must be banished forevermore from the lands of the faithful. And if you dare suggest that any other work of mortal hands is even half that of Halo 2's option screen, you will be flamed even unto the very gates of hell itself, to languish Haloless there for all eternity.

OK First off, I don't own an Xbox. My first heresy, is complete.
Second, my favorite FPS, was Red Faction. My blasphemies are boundless.
Third, I'm not going to buy Halo 2. The magnitude of my sins, is unprecedented in all the annals of scripture. But I digress.

I repeat, Halo 2 is out. And with it comes Hype and Marketing, the likes of which, ye have never seen. As I said, I've been stopped on numerous occasions over the last week by madly grinning Halo 2 evangelists, gleefully telling me cheery facts, proving that Halo 2 is the second coming... of Halo. Everyone has been going, on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on about Halo 2. Websites, magazines, ads, newspapers, blogs, phones, reps. Its guerrilla marketing site ILOVEBEES, featured four times on slashdot. And that's just the bloody marketing campaign. It's already been voted the second greatest game of all time, after only one day! Hell! It even featured on the news last night!

Q: What's the reason for all this?
A: "OMG OMF!!111 h410 2 15 50 gr34t!!1111 U L00Z3R!!11"

No, no I think not.

Q: What's the reason for all this?
A: Patriotism. or to be more specific Console Patriotism.

"L00Z3R!!1111 Ur ju5t 54d!!!111"

Remember all the hype surrounding Halo? Remember all the tales of online play and enemies so smart they just couldn't be beaten? Remember how people went out and paid $500 for a Xbox, just to play one game? Remember the reviews?
And after all that, people now complain about the repetitiveness of the single player campaign, the lacking marine(and enemy) AI, and the absence of Xbox live play.
I played Halo. I was a cracking good game. But it did NOT deserve the hype that surrounded it and it did not deserve the after party criticism it received once the initial hype wore off.(Only to be replaced by anticipation of Halo 2) People complained about the two weapon system(which was good). People complained about the speed. People complained about the lack of Bots(legit). People complained about the difficulty(clearly never played on legendary). People even complained about the coop mode because the second player did not appear in the cut scenes?! WTF?! Remember the complaining. I'll get back to it later.
And so Halo 2 is upon us, promising to fix everything that was wrong with Halo, refine and redefine the FPS genre, bring net generation graphics to this generation of consoles, and deliver the greatest game experience of your life. And the fans will start the whole thing up again. Why?

Console Patriotism.

The reason Halo was hyped so much had nothing to do with the game. It had everything to do with Xbox fans desire to prove to themselves and everyone else, that the Xbox was the No1 Console, with all the No1 games, and that the Dreamcast,GameCube and PS2 could bite it dust.
Now this console patriotism is nothing new. Remember the whole Sonic and Mario thing, between sega and nintendo. Remember how all the kids used to shout down the other console owners and proclaim how much superior their own console was? Remember that? this is exactly what happened with Halo, and it's happening right now with Halo 2.
The current hype is not being driven by Bungie, MicroSoft, ILOVEBEES or anyone else, though they are steering it. The current hype is being generated by console patriotism. Console gamers have made an emotional purchase in buying one console over the other, and they will seek to justify that purchase to themselves and everyone else. Everybody's done it, at some stage. You just
have to get through enough consoles to overcome it completely,(like me :E) Halo 2 is the biggest example, but remember Fable, KOTOR? They were hyped too, but more on that later.
Is there an acid test for all this? Or is it all OMF BS? A little from column A, a little from column B! But seriously, think about this for a sec. When the next Halo 2 fan boy start waffling on about covenant troops that can do high school maths try this test. Tell him you preferred Fable, or KOTOR or some other big shot Xbox game. He'll scoff, or maybe agree that that was a good game. Now tell him you preferred San Andreas. Any results?
The Xboxers hate the PS2. Just like the Mega Drivers and SNESers hated each others consoles. It's even worse of the Xboxers though, because the PS2 is so far ahead, despite the Xboxes clear technological superiority. And GTA:SA, one of the PS2's best, and released right before Halo 2, makes the bile rise in their throat. Bring it up at a Halo 2 convention, or a forum, and watch the flames fly. Not that it doesn't work in reverse as well. PS2ers hate the Xbox because it is so superior. And they loath the fact that Halo 2 got more hype than GTA,(so I suppose the Haloers can be happy about that at least).

They all however, have missed the point.
Console Patriotism only leads to disillusionment

Console Patriotism is just like regular patriotism. It's irrational, dogmatic and blinds people to the truth. Usually this truth is that they're being conned. And of course it will lead to disappointment.

Halo,Fable,KOTOR, even GTA:SA by now. All were hyped to the max. Now they are all fantastic games, but that hasn't stopped people complaining about them, usually very vehemently. I've played GTA:SA. Anyone who complains about it is a twat. I've played Fable. Anyone who complains about it is an idiot. I've played KOTOR, anyone who complains about it will be killed by Star Wars fans for being heretical. Not that the games were perfect mind. But they were miles ahead of the usually junk that clutters game store shelves and no one complains about. In fact people usually give mediocre game more credit than they deserve. that's emotional purchase again.
It's inevitable. If you took part in hyping a game, believing the dogma that this game was going to be the greatest experience of your life, transcending normal human existence, then, when you at last take it home and find it was just software running on a processor in response to your input, you'll feel more than just let down. You'll feel bitter,cheated, betrayed. You'll grow to dislike, or even hate the game, as some have done to these great titles. Already (H2 day +1) people are complaining about Halo 2's ending, mip mapping and multiplayer. I haven't played it yet, but I know it will be a cracker of a game, well above these petty criticisms.
What I'm getting at here, is that Hyping and Console Patriotism, in the long run, are doing damage to the game industry.
How many people bought an Xbox just for Halo, only to become disillusioned and sell the thing, for a loss, at a later date. The same thing has happened for years, and the more it goes on, the more over hyped games people buy, the less they will buy in the future.
Halo 2 happens to be one of the worst example so far(no it won't live up to the hype, nothing could), but there are many other example on every console, and there will be more for years to come. My greatest worry is that companies will use the example of Halo 2 to try the same thing with titles of only half the caliber. Where will the good games go then?

I hope you've read this little treastie before you played Halo 2. If so, remember. Halo 2 is a FPS. A damn good one. Enjoy it for that, not for the fantasy created in chatrooms and peoples minds. And if you've come here, disappointed after playing what was supposed to be the greatest game of your life, go back and play it again. It's still a great game, you just missed that because you were looking for something that wasn't there.


Journal Journal: My Chat With A Mass Mailer

Here's an old email exchange I had with one of the mass mailers in the university. He sent out an ad to all students about a room for rent. This is common practice in my university and none of the mass mailers seem to think there is anything wrong with it. This is paticularly annoying now that is available to advertise rooms for rent at modest cost. I'm posting this here so I can link to it in an Ask Slashdot story I'm submitting.

Perhaps my replys were a little curt, but I was really irked by the amount of mails of this nature I've been recieving. The guys replys were pretty bemusing.

Note: I've censored most of the name of persons involved. I'm vindictive, but I'm not about to go posting raw mail address onto the web. The list of student names is present, but I don't think a list of names very descriptive, I could be wrong. And sorry about the 'backwards' format too.

Well on with the show


From: ***@***.***.*** [mailto:***@***.***.***]
Sent: 11 February 2004 15:08
To: [ObsessiveMathsFreak]@***.***.***
Subject: RE:

I fyou were interested in the house you reply if not you delete it, I
thought that would have been quite obvious, clearly it wasn't don't
replyin to this email!!!
Original Message:
From: [ObsessiveMathsFreak]
Date: Tue, 27 Jan 2004 21:06:40 -0000
To: ***@***.***.***
Subject: RE:

So why did you send me the original email. You included me in your send
list. You expected a reply.

> -----Original Message-----
> From ********
> Sent: Saturday, January 24, 2004 12:11 PM
> To: [ObsessiveMathsFreak]
> Subject: re:
> Did you not understand my last email? i don't want to hear from you,
> your opinion is very unimportant to me, leave me alone you maggot
> -----Original Message-----
> From: [ObsessiveMathsFreak]
> Sent: 22 January 2004 09:16
> To: *********
> Subject: RE:
> Then don't send me any more mass emails. They are very annoying.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: *********
> Sent: 19 January 2004 21:01
> To: [ObsessiveMathsFreak]
> Subject: RE:
> Could you stop harassing me please. I really don't
> appreciate this kind of email.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: [ObsessiveMathsFreak]
> Sent: 19 January 2004 09:21
> To: **********
> Subject: RE:
> I've reported you to the itd department for
> sending mass unsolisited emails
> -----Original Message-----
> From: *********
> Sent: 17 January 2004 11:04
> To: [OMF Note: Lots of names. ~1600 I'd say, but this was just the R-N's]
> Subject:
> ALL MOD CONS; washer and dryer,cable T.V (fully
> paid), refuse fully paid, front and back door, transparent windows,
> kettle( complete with lead)and this legend . Tank.jpg >>
> CONTACT: (***) (*******); (***) ******* [OMF note: both mobile numbers]
> OR
> Reply to this E-mail


Data Storage

Journal Journal: Metadata Will Not A Good Filesystem Make

With WinFS closing in upon us and GNOMEs recent move to spatial browsing, it seems that the whole world is going to be moving towards a SQL search based filesystem, in which we use queries to locate our files and where deep nested floders will be a thing of the past. Using metadata on files, we will be quickly and easily be able to find the ones we want amid the heaps of data that now resides on our hard drives. Or will we?

First off what are the reasons behind the switch? Isn't our current filesystem good enough as is? Apparently not according to this OS news article, in which the author argues... I have seen, over and over again, that novice users ... don't get the concept of a file hierarchy. ... 80-90% of the computer users do not need more than 5-7 folders where they put their documents .

I think this is a valid point, if the figues are a little exaggerated. Most new home users will typically not know where to place files initially, or how to navigate a filesystem. They may well be confused by directories and trees, up and back buttons.Novices will also have to face the real issue of simply where to place their files. Microsoft, to their credit, have attempted to solve this problem by giving users the 'My Data' and 'My Pictures' type folders. Open by default by various programs, it gives users the options of simply saving their files to a predestined folder. However it runs into difficulty when hundreds, if not thousands, of files reside in only one folder. The user is now overwhelmed bu the sheer amount of data presented to them.
So what are we to do? Is the current storage ethos all wrong? How can we better cater to novice users? Is a metadata/spatial/query based filesystem the answer?

A filesystem is, at its most basic level, a method for storing files. To do so it must supply answers to a users two questions:
1)Where are my files?
2)Where do I put my files?

Microsoft and others have proposed a query based filesystem running on metadata. Metadata can certainly be very powerful, as Google has shown us. But our computer disc drives are not the web. Files typically do not reference other files. They are self contained, at the lowest level. Google relies on the fact that web pages link to one another. Files don't.
But at least with a query based filesystem, novice users can simply click save and not worry about filesystems or where exactly the file has gone. Also, once saved users can call back the file with a simple query. This would seem to solve both questions in one fell swoop. But does it.

The analogy often used with WinFS and other query filesystems, is that of a user saving pictures and then retrieving them. This example is probobly used as this is exactly who the system is catered towards, a home users saving their pictures, videos and some documents. Such a user will typically not have a huge volume of data, and even if they do they can use previews to see the data they want.
But what about the serious users? The accountant will multiple excel sheets, the programmers with hundreds of source files, the secretary will thousands of word documents. Even the pre-teen with half a dozen games might run into trouble with this system. Why? It has to so with Question One. Where are my files?

Take everone favourite computer relative, Aunt Tillie. How will Aunt Tillie use WinFS. Most likley she will just type in 'pictures' or 'photos' into her query. Perhaps with a 'last august' as well. She will find her pictures from her last august holidays and be happy. When she takes here christmas pictures, she will just save them and will type in 'my christmas pictures' and will find them. Novice bliss.

What about Joe? Joe's an accountant who's just bought a new computer at work with Longhorn. He has upwards of 1000 excel sheets with customers data. How will his query be structured? 'Report for sales to Toyota in august'. Dozens of files could sping up, all with exactly the simlar title. Ones from previous year, gross sales, sales returns, files linking to that file. The file he wants may not show up as some other accountant worked on and saved it just last week.

What about Max? Max is a programmer with hundreds of source, config, init and version files. How will his query be structured? 'Main.c for database project'. Every main.c on the computer could show up, along with every source file on the database project. He may be left to search through quite a lot of files.

Query filesystem proponents will argue that Joe and Max's problems stem from their bad metadata, or that their queries are not detailed enough. But whose job is it to properly form this metadata? The program will most likely fail in this regard as most of the metatags, author,type,size,name will be quite similar. So are Joe and Max expected to fill in metadata? Are they expected to go to the trouble of typing in more detailed queeries for data they may be unsure about anyway? Last august or september? Is this easier or harder than creating a depp nested folder structure, as Joe and Max have been doing for years?

In short a query/metadata based filesystem assumes that the user does not know where their files are. This might be true for novices, but is certainly not for anyone who has uses a computer regularly.

Query filesystems will make things easier for messy users but harder for tidy users? Is this right? Metadata will be hugely usful, and there is no reason not to incorperate it into our existing filesystems. But to abandon directories and deep nested files as some would argue will be a road doomed to overloaded failure.

Such is the cocky, uninformed, ignorent and luddite tone of my first journal entry anyway. Please comment if you agree or disagree, or indeed if you have read this at all.

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Yes, we will be going to OSI, Mars, and Pluto, but not necessarily in that order. -- Jeffrey Honig