Friday, July 17th 2009

Feminism fail
posted @ 5:21 pm in [ Tech ]

I know, I haven’t posted in a long time. Blog fail too.

I’ve been somewhat active with LinuxChix. About a year ago, someone posted this to the mailing list:

Quotes from the bloggers attending the BlogHer conference reiterated that feeling that female bloggers don’t believe they are taken as seriously as male bloggers.

Ya think?!

Apparently they aren’t taken seriously by the NYTimes either because everyone knows that the first place you go for serious technology news is the Fashion and Style section. (!?!)

At the time, I was very upset about this, to the point where I actually wrote an angry email to the New York Times editor. Of course it went unanswered, and I thought perhaps it was because they get so much email from readers that they don’t bother.

While cruising around the Internet recently, I found a more likely answer:


I bet the media is willing to take this conference seriously as long as the little ladies are willing.

Wednesday, July 16th 2008

The Tech of Personality
posted @ 9:51 am in [ Tech ]

I’m a Reddit fan. I also like Digg, but my circa-1996 Internet brain likes a clean, uncluttered interface. Today on Reddit, I found this gem. Any tech news day is a good one when one highly respected member of the community calls an entire group a bunch of “masturbating monkeys.”

Ok, maybe my circa-1996 Internet brain is also 12 years old for being amused by the slur, but aside from the amusement I’m getting from the imagery, there’s also the shock that’s emanating throughout the Internet from this.

Linux makes everyone get a little bit of a warm fuzzy inside. It’s free, and thousands of independent tinkerers and hackers around the world have put their minds to it, tearing it apart and putting it back together. It’s just so…hippie and happy! So of course the man behind it all, the one who still works tirelessly to make sure the kernel is as perfect as can be, he must be a nice guy, right?

Wrong. Linus Torvalds is a brilliant man. I definitely admire him, as he should be, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a nice person. The man himself has expressed befuddlement when people expect him to be a nice person. Anyone who has followed the kernel lists for any amount of time has seen Torvalds lose his cool any number of times.

So what? Let he without flame cast the first snark.

Open source figures are routinely getting in the news for bad behavior. Last year, Ulrich Drepper decided he needed to get paid to fix a bug in an open source project. Or explain himself. Then there’s Dan Bernstein, who while never being one to win the chipper award, is a brilliant member of the community. He pointed out a BIND vulnerability back in 2001 which was handily ignored until Dan Kaminsky recently brought it back up along with a proof of concept.

Then there’s Hans Reiser. ‘Nuff said.

If you put anyone on a pedestal, they just have further to fall when they do. These are people who don’t always have a legion of PR and legal staff to shield the world from their day to day realities (read: Jobs and Gates). Their reputations as smart, competent programmers has already been established, and fuck you if you can’t handle it.

There is another side to that coin, of course. It can make developing within that sphere difficult. When you’re working in a paid team, you either work together and make the project happen or you’ll get canned. However, if you’re working on an open source project and it has to play nice with other open source programs, dealing with prima donnas can present a challenge that can be disheartening when focusing on writing good code is the ideal. Dealing with multiple personalities is part of working in the open source community. Thankfully, there are helpful people in the community, and I gather that is a big part of why it works so well.

I still don’t understand the shock. It’s like we’ve elevated certain people who code to celebrity status, and that’s just odd to me. It’s like walking into the local grocery store one day and seeing a picture of Paul Graham in a compromising position with Lindsey Lohan on the cover of the Enquirer. To me, the “ZOMG” nature of these stories is more shocking than the statements themselves.

It is possible to admire Linux and other open source projects along with their creators and not expect them to be the sort of person you’d want to share a beer with (although I’d still want to have a beer with Linus). Just sit back and enjoy the product.

Friday, July 11th 2008

Apple Epic Fail
posted @ 10:50 am in [ Tech ]

I began the day excited. A new iPhone 2.0 update! My baby will be like new again with exciting new applications! Shiny!

Step 1: Update iTunes.

Step 2: Attach iPhone.

Step 3: Watch update download and install.

Step 4: Let it restart your iPhone to factory defaults.

Step 5: New protocol has iPhone need to contact iTunes before it can restore all of your settings, as well as your phone number, to your iPhone.

Step 6: Watch iTunes servers scream for mercy because everyone is trying to do the same thing.

Step 7: Cry as you realize your phone can only make emergency calls. Effectively bricked.

Step 8: Find iPhone developers and beat the snot out of them.

Another Machead friend of mine is telling me to try repeatedly, as he had the same issue and he eventually was able to reach the activation servers.

But the developer in me is asking WHY would you have existing iPhone owners re-activate their phones? They’ve been building up buzz on this for months, didn’t they forsee this clusterfuck? This just strikes me as abject stupidity.

I’m somewhat tempted to sell this thing now since it has been wiped of all my details, except it’s a truly useful thing when developer brain fartery isn’t getting in the way.

Monday, May 5th 2008

The obligatory…
posted @ 7:23 am in [ Tech ]

I found an article giving a short history of Japan’s home tech evolution and how it differs with ours. It’s a fascinating article, and it is giving me a remarkable sense of perspective about my time with Sony back in the early 90s.

Back then, I was the webmaster for the Sony ERA group – Entertainment Robot America. It was the department that marketed the AIBO for the United States. What made the marketing bit so difficult is that all AIBO-related products were conceived in Japan, a much different market than the United States.

In Japan, the brains behind AIBO had a hard time understanding the community in the United States that had formed that loved to hack AIBO. We had an SDK probably only because we had one employee that acted as a technical liaison between the United States and Japan. But it became very messy when one AIBO hacker started releasing software that Americans wanted before Sony could get around to it – software that allowed the user to control AIBO from a computer, and see what it could see through its camera.

It makes sense now why we had to fight Japan on so many issues – while we had no problem conceptualizing things like controlling AIBO from a computer, they were probably left scratching their heads about why anyone would want to do that.

In the end, the death knell for AIBO wasn’t just that divide, but also that the majority of Americans didn’t “get” robots (there was also our very small budget, and it always surprises me when I meet people who don’t know that such an advanced robot was available for purchase). When I was roped into a sales event, the big question was “why don’t I just buy a dog?” (the answer I wanted to proffer was “because a robot doesn’t have vet bills, or need food, or poop on your floor – you dolt”), or “will it fetch a beer for me?” There was a small hardcore community who understood the product, and were beyond happy to have something like that to hack.

In Japan, the average consumer didn’t have the hacker mentality, but for many people there who live in very small apartments, a dog is not practical. This is also the homeland of the Tamagotchi – so the idea of virtual pets was already seeded and blooming. Add on a high cost of living, where younger people live with their parents for a much longer period of time, and you have a larger population with much more disposable income. So while people in America were confused with the $1500 price tag, kids in Japan were excited over owning a little robot pet.

The final axe came after 9/11, when the economy dived, particularly the tech sector. Our target demographic was out of work, and very shortly so was I. I keep getting pieces of the puzzle of what exactly happened during that time period, and the historical and cultural backgrounds that fed into that frenzy. I also keep wishing that we had hung on somehow, because I think if AIBO were released today it would be much more popular than it had been back then…

Well, I do still have three AIBOs sitting around here…

Friday, May 2nd 2008

Things I’ve learned so far
posted @ 7:23 am in [ Tech ]

I really need to keep an eye on the comments for this blog. A poor soul wrote a lengthy and thoughtful comment awhile back and I didn’t catch it until today. Many things catching up with me.

Including, unfortunately, my laptop.

I’m attending BarCampSD this weekend, and I feel like I’m going to a dance in a shoddy old dress my mom tried to mend with safety pins. My laptop is a very old iBook G4. It still works, sure, but the safety pins are showing.

Horde of stickers notwithstanding, opening and running applications has become very slow, almost embarrassingly so. I upgraded the memory to 1.2 GB during the first six months of ownership (and I think that’s the max I can stuff in here), but I think the processor might be getting the works down. Maybe I should lay a bit more story out.

About three years ago, I started working for DreamHost. I was more comfortable in Linux than in most environments, but I had a Windows machine at home because doing stuff like synching my Creative MP3 player, at the time, probably would have involved reading extensive documentation and lots of hackery on my part. I don’t mind doing that sort of thing at work, or perhaps if I feel like doing that sort of thing as a hobby, but I have nightmares about needing to do a quick computer operation before heading off to work only to have the entire thing explode. Three years ago, Linux was quite not as polished as it is now. So, lovely for a server environment, not so much for quick home computing.

At the time, I didn’t like the idea of Apple computers either. Back in 1997, I had done some intranet work for a big pharmaceutical company in Illinois. They were all Apple-based computers, but were rapidly moving to PC because at the time, Apple was being headed up by someone who was not Steve Jobs, and things were imploding for them rapidly. I had to work on a Mac, and I hated it. The OS was cute, but it crashed several times a day because I had the audacity to run PC applications that had been kludged to run on a Mac OS. When your tool gets in the way of getting work done that badly, it gives you a serious complex against the machine.

Fast forward many years. I get the job at DreamHost, and I boggle that so many people who I consider to be competent admins are actually using Mac OSX. Ok, I’d heard from other people in my field that things were different, that Jobs had come back and shown everyone the light. However, I had done some site testing on an old Mac during my ICANN days (I had that colorful fishbowl thing sitting on my desk), but I hadn’t been terribly impressed. Then again, I hadn’t played with it that much, my own internal prejudices got in the way.

Then, finally, my desktop Windows system at home died. For a normal person, this isn’t a disaster. For me, I recreated a scene from E.R., screaming as I tried to resuscitate the dead metal. My job includes having to do oncalls from home, constantly monitoring the health of many many machines. Without a computer, well, it’s like I’ve lost a limb.

Thankfully, one of my co-workers had bought a brand new laptop and loaned me his old one – an old silver Powerbook. However, at the time, it was probably performing at the level my iBook is at now. He loaned it to me one weekend when I needed it for oncall.

One weekend convinced me. I suddenly knew why so many people tolerated Steve Jobs being a great big asshole. The guy is a freaking genius. An evil genius, maybe, but wow. What an OS! So sleek and sexy! And I can get to a damn terminal without downloading a clunky application!

So I bought my beloved iBook – at a cost brand new that I don’t think Mac laptops will ever see again in those trendy Apple stores.

I kept telling my mom about it – the woman who a short time ago was thrilled about having installed an application by herself on a PC for the first time. Finally last year she switched, and I think she’s an even bigger fangirl than I am.

Last week, another co-worker of mine made the switch. He was very surprising because he hated Mac even more than I did three years ago. Then one day he tells me he has a new Macbook, and I went over to his office to point and laugh. As it turns out, he had been surprised by the changes too.

Ok, this post was going to be a bit of a reminisce about the times my laptop and I have spent together, but it’s turned into something else. Who am I to argue with whatever comes out of my caffeine-deprived skull at this hour of the morning?

So, the question remains – why not buy a new laptop? Right now I have the cash to just go buy whatever Macbook I want but…that money is reserved. I’ve got a pretty big party in Las Vegas in August, and I think my fiance would kill me immediately as I stepped in the door. Hm. Macbook or wedding…