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User Journal

Journal Journal: Going to Prague 8

After a talk I gave in Bucharest last year, my name has apparently gotten on somebody's list of "speakers worth paying for". This fall I'll be going to Prague, invited by the same parent organization as last year. Unlike the trip to Bucharest, where I was traveling alone, I've managed to convince my wife to come along on this trip. Expensive, but it's a great time of life to do it, and when's the next time she's going to see Prague?

User Journal

Journal Journal: Achievement - 10 years? 3

I've been on Slashdot for more than 10 years, so I think this "Years Read" achievement is only backdated to when achievements came into being.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Get off my Lawn! 6

I feel old, guys. I feel like the old man sysadmin with the Unix Beard and suspenders (which I continually think of as a halloween costume, less and less ironically). My coworkers are all... what would have been slashdotters had they not found digg or reddit, or whatever it was.

These are "kids" who grew up with linux. (They're all 30.) But they don't have the base knowledge that I expect them to have. They only know bash. They mostly know Ubuntu and Red Hat, although the one 'sysadmin' type dude knows virtual machines with Xen, and seems to know what he's doing most of the time.

I figured I'd pick up python, because I ordered a raspberry pi, and it seems that's what all the cool kids are doing. (I get along fine with shell and perl for most of whatever it is I do around here.) The advice I got from one of my coworkers was that I should "uninstall the IDE." IDE? For python? Seriously? It's interpreted, you use a goddamned text editor. Apparently that's one of the 'tips' from "Learning Python the Hard Way." (I'm reading Programming Python on my nook, FWIW. And I'm already yelling at it, as the examples are how to create a database from your filesystem with pickle, because seriously, if you're managing peoples' salaries, you don't want your data in flat files, or necessarily in a readable format to your other employees. But that's my cross to bear.)

When I got home, I started ranting about that to the Benny. Frothing at the mouth kind of ranting like I used to be able to do. Who uses a goddamned IDE for an interpreted language!? There's no "I" for your "DE". When you're writing C, in a complex environment, sure. When you're writing Obj-C for your iPhone app of the year, fine. You have libraries, you have interdependencies, you have reasons to have a debugger and a compiler. Python is interpreted. There's no need for these things.

Goddamned kids these days. In my day, we had emacs and vi, and flamewars about both. There was no IDE for writing shell scripts. There was no IDE for perl. There wasn't even really decent tab completion! We used 'more' instead of 'less'. We knew how to pipe things to awk and grep. We used which instead of locate. And we liked it, damnit!

I'm running OpenNMS on Ubuntu at work, using vi (technically vim) to edit all the xml files and style files. I don't run KDE, Gnome, or any other desktop on the damned thing. It's a server, for pete's sake. Not that it's lacking RAM or CPU for me to run that, but because I'm old, and old-school. Some of my coworkers (and I use that word loosely, as I'm a department of one) run linux on the desktop ... not because all the tools are there and work, necessarily, but because our IT group doesn't know how to deal with linux, and they can get away with it.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Rumble in Romania 4

Had a great time with Stoolpigeon in Bucharest last Saturday. I was in town for some business, and he was able to come over from Budapest on an overnight sleeper train. We walked around the old part of the city; here in the 21st century, "old" is a complicated term. Without moving more than a couple of dozen steps, you can see a multi-layered kaleidoscope of old French-style rococo architecture, Soviet-era flat concrete, post-collapse plywood and corrugated steel, and glittering mylar/neon/LCD/stainless-steel-and-glass. Often, these layers of history appear right next door to each other, or even on the very same building.

The big sight-seeing event was the Palace of the Parliament, which is an astonishing monument to dictatorial egomania. It was built to house the executive branch, both chambers of the parliament and all of the federal courts under one roof, with the dictator-for-life living in palatial splendor in the vast penthouse suite overlooking the city. It was astonishing. Neither Stoolpigeon nor I could relate to the bigness of it, or to the profound Me Me Me-ness of needing to build the biggest building in the world, then make the longest street in the world and the grandest fountain in the world around it. How disappointed Nicolae CeauÈ(TM)escu must have been (posthumously) when several of the side sections of the building were dropped from the final design, leaving it with 2% less square footage than the Pentagon, and just a bit less volume than the Great Pyramid of Cheops and the space shuttle hanger at Cape Canaveral.

The best part of the day was talking with SP and getting a much better sense of how societies function and interact in Central & Eastern Europe, from antiquity through WW I, WW II, the Soviet Era and in the 21st century. The relationships among the countries there are confounded by the strategic ambitions of the larger powers: the US, USSR/Russia, the EU member states, and, presumably, Japan and China. Thoroughly fascinating discussion.

We had a great dinner at Caru Cu Bere (link to the restaurant's homepage). Talking, eating and drinking was a bit too much fun, as it made SP miss his train. For this, I apologize to SP, Mrs. SP and the little SPs, and return him to you late but lauded. If you're ever in Philadelphia, a round of cheesesteaks awaits.

Moral: if travel ever gives you a chance to do a physical get-together with online friends, do it. I have always been glad I did.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Checks and balances 1

I got two checks this week.

One was from Amazon KDP, for third quarter sales of a fiction anthology I wrote: $13.
The other was from a former employer, for continuing patent royalties of an chemical I helped invent: $97.

It's going to take a while (and a lot more book sales) for these to equal out.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Questions to be answered

ArsTechnica is reporting that:

US Sen. Al Franken today demanded answers from Carrier IQ about what kind of data its software for smartphones collects and how it is used and stored. Noting that Carrier IQ has been "accused of secretly logging location and private information of millions of smartphone users," Franken forwarded the company 11 questions, many of them with multiple parts, and asked for answers by Dec. 14. ... The senator strongly hints that he believes Carrier IQ has violated various federal laws.

"Does Carrier IQ believe that its actions comply with the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, including the federal wiretap statute (18 U.S.C. Â 2511 et seq.), the pen register statute (18 USC Â 3121 et seq.), and the Stored Communications Act (18 U.S.C. Â 2701 et seq.)?" Franken's letter asks. "Does Carrier IQ believe that its actions comply with the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (18 U.S.C. Â 1030)? Why?"

It is a disturbing thing to have a U.S. Senator contact you with a list of questions they want answered by some date certain. It's one thing when you hear talk about inquiries and investigations; it is an entirely different level of gut check when the letter is addressed to you personally.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Lego Robotics 2

The theme of the Lego Robotics competition this year is food safety. All it takes is a quick bit of Googling on "food safety", "technology", "processing", "awesome" and other obvious search terms to make me pop up to fore. In this morning's e.mail, I just got another request to serve as an expert adviser to a group of schoolkids. Given my soft spots for science, engineering and inquisitive kids, how can I say no?

User Journal

Journal Journal: Looking around the old place 2

Shadow Wrought's JE on saying goodbye to Slashdot made me want to post a JE about... something. Anything.

I'm reminded of how last year I finally made the decision not to renew my subscription to Scientific American. After almost twenty years, I stopped. The magazine had gotten too thin, too pretty, too political. For the last couple of years, I'd get each month's issue, flip through it, maybe read one or two articles, then chuck it. Pulling the plug on it meant turning the page and moving on, something that people in general are not especially good at.

Slashdot is like that. The stories on the front page are things I've already seen on DVICE or ArsTechnica. I never get involved in the discussions, and rarely read them, even when setting the filters extra high.

I've changed, Slashdot has changed. Time to accept that and move on.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Ending of 2010 1

It's been a strange year, one that has given me plenty of opportunities to change and grow as a person. The biggest surprise to me is how many times people have cited a good sense of humor as one of my chief attributes. Perhaps another surprise is that this comes as such a surprise to me.

2010 has been full of challenges, personal and professional. I've had successes and failures. I've also had successes that turned out to be mixed blessings or even failures and failures that turned out to be not so bad or even successes in disguise.

Why am I posting this here to Slashdot? Nostalgia, I suppose. My last JE here was in May; there's no way to know when my next one will be.

Goodbye 2010, hello 2011.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Ask Slashdot: Where's the bugtracker? 11

Where's the bug tracker for Slashdot? I'd like to be able to file bugs and feature requests.


  1. Link to posting journals is difficult to find. At one time, it was nearly impossible to click, because it was part of a page footer that retreated every time you got near it. (The page body was getting filled with more content as one got closer to the bottom.)
  2. List of all my old Journal Entries is difficult to find without already knowing the URL.
  3. Enable SSL by default
  4. Enable "Public Terminal" checkbox by default, or replace with a "Remember me" checkbox like everyone else has.
  5. For some reason, <ul></ul> doesn't work, and I had to switch these lists to <ol></ol>

Feature requests:

  1. Offer an explicit programmatic API for managing my user settings, so I can crosspost my blogs to my /. journal, and my 'microblog' statuses to my /. signature.
  2. Support conveniently tying my account to major single-sign-on providers who use OpenID and OAuth. Most places will allow me to click a nice, big icon to automate filling in the needed details.
  3. Support post convenience features most other social networking sites (hey, remember You were one of the first social networks on the market.) such as post-by-email, importing/exporting posts from/to some other popular sites/common APIs.

While some of the bugs have been fixed already, it'd have been a lot less grating if there was a good, visible way to report them and follow them as they got fixed.

User Journal

Journal Journal: I still can't believe I'm this old. 12

I've been 35 for almost a month now. I'm working at a place with linux-only guys, who think that the best solution is always free software. I feel like the old unix dude with the suspenders who still reads a.s.r. I feel ancient, as I've worked with big iron, or at least medium iron since my first job, and the guys who work in the IT department here are used to virtualization on intel platforms (so, machines considered big for their time, but not SPARCs or RISC machines).

Benny pestered me incessantly about what I wanted for my birthday. I couldn't figure it out; I was (and still kind of am) on the dark side right now, about a 4 on my personal 1-10 depression scale. It doesn't affect my ability to work, but it numbs and dulls my senses. Like I should've been elated to get the job I have now (which is almost perfect), but I wasn't. I couldn't express that level of joy. I'm still not quite there, but I'm digging out of it slowly but surely. Anyway, the day before my birthday, I figured out what it was I wanted. I wanted a guitar and lessons.

We headed to Guitar Center and I found a decent guitar, and we walked out with a guitar, case, book, picks, and an extra set of strings. I called up the music store in Castle Rock (which is where I work, 17 minutes from where we live, just north of Sedalia), and started lessons last week. I suck, but I'm sucking less at it every day. I practice until my fingers are tender, as many days as I can actually get the time, and I figure that has to be good enough.

I don't want to be the next Joni Mitchell, or even Lisa Loeb. I just want to make music, in the way I still take photos because I want people to see what I see in the world.

If anyone is looking for a 6-month gig in the Castle Rock, CO area, let me know. I'm looking for a mini-me, who can help me get the alarms in line. Someone who groks windows servers and javascript, who has a decent grasp of monitoring and alarming (snmp and nms experience would be nice, but not necessary.) I'm currently putting people through the "Chris test" by having my boss interview them first, and looking for specific skills later.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Hey, I found the "write in journal" link! 8

Hey, for anyone who still reads this. Rosetta Code's doing awesome, content-wise, and we're starting to implement Semantic MediaWiki. (To what end? Not sure. I've got a couple ideas, but I'm more an opportunist than a front-end planner.) I've also been shooting a bunch of photos and putting them up online--even photos that aren't cosplay, if you can imagine that. (Which you probably can; I doubt many who read this were following me on Flickr back when I went to Anime Weekend Atlanta for the first time in 2007. If you want to read what I'm really thinking, either follow me on Multiply, or see the same stuff over on LiveJournal--but get your adblock armor up; it's a scary place. I'm also on Twitter, if you really care. I'm a minimal participant, really.

If I show up as a fan for you here, I do read your journals; the My Amigos RSS feed is still useful.

Why this collection of links to me at other places? Easy; I know there are still some of you here who never showed up in those other places, and I miss the interactions. I'd post my blogs here, too, but Slashdot has relegated itself to an incredible degree of backwater status. I was lucky to find the "Write in Journal" link. I'm tempted to find some Perl script to have it suck in blog posts via RSS, and post them to Slashdot. (That's how I'm inducting my blog posts into Facebook, too.)

I miss what this place used to be. I miss the people this place used to have. I still see some of them on two or three other social networks, and some of the bonds there are tighter than they ever were here, but there's still a bunch of you missing.

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"We learn from history that we learn nothing from history." -- George Bernard Shaw