* Posts by AWeirdoNamedPhil

25 publicly visible posts • joined 5 Dec 2008

Normal Human Being™ reviews the iPad


Your analogy machine is broken

The analogy is NOT to an outside privvy and a tin bath in the yard.

The analogy is between a modern American Standard toilet and the original flush toilets built by John Crapper in the 1800's. Crapper's toilets had an elevated water reservoir and flushing was done by pulling a chain, but otherwise they worked EXACTLY the same as a modern toilet. They had the same exact kind of seat as well. They even SOUNDED the same.

Once society perfected the toilet, that's how toilets were made from that point onward. The toilet problem was solved, and society moved on to solve new problems.

Note that indoor baths haven't changed much over the centuries either. They're still usually made of porcelain covered steel, they still usually have the same shape and they still have faucets that supply hot and cold water.

Interesting note: The best, most expensive bathtubs are designed to look EXACTLY like the claw-footed soaking tubs of the late 1800's.

But congratulations for missing my point entirely. Let me restate it.

If you want to access the web, do programming, or word processing, or any of the other things we generally do with a computer, the cheapest netbook available will do these things BETTER and MORE CONVENIENTLY than your silly iPad. The WIMP interface is superior to Apple's silly finger movements; it's more precise and effective by far. Good luck doing something as simple as typing an email! Or chatting in IRC (Oh, wait, the iPad doesn't DO that, does it?). Your graphical keyboard doesn't offer ANY tactile stimulation to help you type. You'll be lucky to do 5 words a minute. I can do 80 wpm on my Netbook. I can type faster than I can TALK.

Keyboards FTW.

And it's highly disingenious for you to formulate such a long list of devices. The iPad cannot perform the tasks of even half of your list. It's not magic, man. It's just a silly little tablet PC.

Oh, and using a single-tasking operating system? In 2010? Party like it's 1989! No flash support, no Java support... Seriously, what GOOD is it? It's just a toy for people who don't know what to spend their money on.

Do as you wish, but admitting to yourself that it's a trinket is the first step to achieving enlightenment. Say it with me: "It's just a toy... You bought it because it was Teh Shiny."

Admit it! You'll feel better!


Well, A/C, actually I just spent 900 bucks on a PC upgrade...

...So it's not that I can't AFFORD an iPad, it's just that I can't figure out why I should bother.

Incidentally, for 900 bucks, I just bought two computer cases (one to transfer my old motherboard in to use as a security system controller), two upgraded power supplies, eight gig of ram for my new primary computer, motherboard, parts, disk, etc, etc.

It's like this. I spend my money on machines that enhance my capabilities. My new PC, with its 500 or 600 GB of disk, its eight GB of ram, its NVidia accelerated graphics, and its many media adapters lets me build virtually any sort of software or website I might wish to. It's not just a tool; it's an entire machinist's shop.

I have a cute little netbook I bought for 300 bucks a while ago. It has a full-featured Java development system on it, along with database support and a bunch of other hackery stuff I put in. It's running the Ubuntu netbook remix, configured to show a normal Linux desktop. I can do anything I like on that little thing; it's got a GB of ram and plenty of disk too.

What can you do on your iPad that I can't do on my netbook or PC? Anything? I thought not.

And as for the future, people have been proclaiming the death of WIMP (Windows, icons, mouse, pointer) for decades. Nothing better has ever been invented, and nothing better will ever likely BE invented. It's already perfect.

Think about it. Have knives changed in the past 10,000 years? Materials have changed, and the shape, but overall, conceptually, has the concept of "knife" really changed?

How about roof shingles? Or your toilet? Or your sink? What about shoes? And hats? Styles come and go, but your basic hat does the same thing it always did.

Once something is good enough, people stick with it forever.


The iPad has absolutely no point. It's a toy.

I think it's just a toy for rich people who don't have anything better to do with their money.

Think about it.

If I want to do some actual work, I'll use a PC, laptop, or netbook. They're optimized for that sort of thing.

If I want to use the web, I'll use a PC if I'm at home (while sitting in my comfy office chair), or a netbook if I'm out and about. My netbook can connect via WiFi or Ethernet, and if I want to use a cell network, there's a plug in adapter for that.

If I want to access media, my PC and Netbook have clients for all media types. ALL of them, including Flash Video. The iPad is rather limited in that regard.

If I want to read a book, I can do so on my PC or Netbook, but I happen to have a Sony Reader at home, which has a convenient USB interface for transferring files as well as a slot for an SD card (also good for transferring and storing files). My Sony Reader's battery lasts a WEEK. It's light and comfortable, and doesn't cause iStrain (ha ha) because it's got an e-ink display.

The iPad isn't very good at anything. In every arena, competing tools are better suited to the task. Cheaper, too.

I don't understand why anyone would buy one of these.

Unless they're rich and have money burning a hole in their pocket.

Red Hat Enterprise clone poised to 'die'


You know what's funny?

I love it. Nobody knows WHAT happened to the guy, but all these creeps are assuming, with no information whatsoever, that he's doing some kind of weirdo embezzling thing.

It's all ridiculous. Maybe the poor guy just fell down his basement stairs. How about actually LOOKING for him, instead of trying his mobile phone and email once or twice and freaking out like a bunch of pansy bed-wetters?

People are idiots. With friends like these, who'd need an enema?

Microsoft kills Visual Studio's Oracle data connection


Aaaaaand THIS is why Oracle developers prefer Java.

How can an IDE/tools/OS vendor like Microsoft kill off something as absolutely CENTRAL to application development as a database driver? Let's put this in perspective by using a car analogy. Pretend I'm a car manufacturer and that you've just heard me say this:

"We have decided to halt all in-house production of wheel rims and tires, because we simply cannot match the quality of rims and tires you can get at a number of third-party sites.

In this economic downturn, you can understand that we have to save money on our manufacturing processes, and this is only one of several measures we're taking.

From now on, when you order vehicles from us, please supply your own copy of a set of wheels and tires, sourced from one of a number of third party vendors that are available. Of course you will have to bolt your wheels and tires onto the vehicle yourself, since we are no longer going to be involved in the wheel and tire process.

Of course, if you have already purchased a set of our wheels and tires, we won't be able to replace them for you, but we might let you use the air nozzle out in the parking lot.

Thank you for your support."

Now, honestly... What would you do? You'd buy someone else's car, right?

It's time to move to Java. No database driver issues THERE...

Sun and Oracle: End of a beautiful dream


Sun does not own NetBeans, and Neither does Oracle

Say it with me, and remember: NetBeans was made open source, and is governed by the "NetBeans Community" -- Sun is the project SPONSOR, but NOT the project OWNER. Oracle can't do diddly squat about NetBeans (and probably wouldn't want to anyway).

If Oracle doesn't want to fund NetBeans, that's fine. Someone else will. Even if nobody does, there will still be forks, and other companies will pick up the slack and offer their own branded versions. Hell, even if that DOESN'T happen, as long as we have the source code we can recompile it for any platform that exists in the future. NetBeans is relatively agnostic about Java versions, as long as you have a working JDK you can direct NetBeans at.

What are you all so worried about? Oracle might as well try to kill the wind. This goes equally for any other open source project Sun had its fingers in. That's the whole POINT of open source.

Oh, and by the way, this goes out to any Eclipse fanboys who happen to be wandering by: Oracle has it's own IDE, JDeveloper, which is better than Eclipse and almost as good as NetBeans. Oracle is NOT going to support Eclipse over JDeveloper. Maybe you should kiss Eclipse goodbye!

Almost everything good related to Java is OPEN SOURCE, and has already been GPL'ed. If Oracle wanted to make it proprietary, they arrived late to the party and the hostess has already gotten drunk and shacked up with hackers.

You can't unring a bell.

Worm breeds botnet from home routers, modems


@Wortel -- nope, chum, mine's the older one...

...WITHOUT the html-serving capabilities. Just DOCSYS for me, thanks. I believe it's the 5101. Your troubleshooting is limited to looking at the blinkenlights and unplugging the modem to restart it when it (rarely) runs into trouble.

I guess sometimes less is more! Mine's never given me any real trouble, although it has crashed rarely (malformed TCP packets perhaps? -- who knew?). I unplug it and replug it and go on my merry way, so I'm not too worried about that one.

The web interface you're describing is on the 5120, which is the high-end model. There's an even higher end model, the 5121, which has VOIP.

I can't claim wisdom here, though; I just got the one the store had on hand (pure luck in other words). Now that I know (thanks, btw) that the higher end models have "amusing features" I'll stick to the low-end. Cheaper, anyway.


Here's what I do at home

Keeping in mind that I'm a weirdo, after all, and somewhat paranoid...

1. I replaced the crap cablemodem my ISP issued with an aftermarket Motorola that was much nicer. It has a button on top; you push the button, and the cablemodem disconnects from the network. You push it again, and you're back online. It's a marvelous feature. When I'm not actually sitting in front of the computer, I take the cablemodem offline.

2. Behind the cablemodem, I have a D-Link 4-port ethernet router with NAT firewall. It was about $75. I changed the passwords of the user accounts to random alphanumeric strings and I configured two new firewall rules called "paranoia1" and "paranoia2". The first one drops all incoming TCP packets that aren't part of an established/related connection. The second one drops all IP packets in the same way. It's been a while, but I'm pretty sure I turned off remote administration. Also whenever the logs fill up the space on the device, I have it email them to me so I have a permanent record. I download them to disk when I check email.

3. On my PC, I run Ubuntu and I've configured the local firewall to disallow everything incoming unless it's part of an established/related connection. The Ubuntu firewall is called "UFW", for "Uncomplicated Firewall" and the GUI for it is called "GUFW"... It's really just iptables with a frontend, though. It seems to work pretty well. I have NMAP and I check my PC's open ports periodically, just in case someone's managed to do something weird. No issues yet though.

I wonder... Maybe I should double-check my cablemodem? I don't THINK it has a remote administration facility... I'll find out tonight.

Republican e-chief exits, denounces 'blog-flogging simpletons'

Paris Hilton

If Obama is a socialist...

Then sign me up, comrade! It sure beats the Mussolini/Fascist act the Bush Comedy Troupe has been putting on for eight years.

I've said it to the AC and I'll say it again. Everyone with an education hates the republicans now. The best thing they can do for the country is issue a press release apologizing for their past activities, remove themselves from the political stage, and cede their funding to charities like the American Negro College Fund and Greenpeace in penance.

They don't deserve to manage a hot dog cart, much less a political party. And why hasn't Rush Limbaugh keeled over yet? He must weigh four hundred pounds. He was on drugs. He spends all his time screaming and hollering. What did he do, sell his soul to Satan or something?

Maybe he's animatronic. If so, can we hack him to sing "I'm just a pretty little girl, and I like pop tarts!" in falsetto? Maybe THAT'LL wean the rednecks off his brand of nonsense talk radio...


Note of explanation for the AC I disagreed with

The reason I say your explanation fails is this:

Computer science, although technically science, is really more of a branch of applied mathematics so the crazy religious nuts in the GOP haven't noticed it (and wouldn't know what to do with it if they did). Their attack on science hasn't affected comp.sci.

They're after the biologists and geologists, mostly. It's fun to watch a bunch of biologists and geologists, who are usually pacifists, kicking the tar out of annoying religious 'tards in court. They should make it a sporting event, I think.

Anyway... Yeah, it had no effect on the programmer supply. Their problem is that programmers HATE them, it's got nothing to do with their silly religious crusade.


The short supply of professionals is easy to explain.

Most information technology professionals I know here in the U.S. are either greens, libertarians, democrats, or independent. Republicans are almost nonexistent among the rank and file. Usually it's just the managers who vote GOP, and everyone thinks they're nuts for doing so.

Also, there's a real stigma among educated people (including in particular technologists) against siding with any aspect of the Republican party or their worldview. Siding with them is like wearing a skin-head shirt to a diversity celebration. So, they're not going to be able to find many Americans willing to "help" them. Many would rather be unemployed.

The GOP can't even count on foreign consultants; after all, they're the party who:

* spent eight years torturing, imprisoning, and bombing the crap out of various foreign governments and people;

* Changed all the rules for travel so they could steal foreigner's laptops at border crossings, and detain (and ship to Syria for torture) any non-U.S. citizen they want;

* Stripped U.S. citizens of as many civil liberties as possible while pretending that no one else had any civil liberties at ALL;

* Took a slash and burn approach to science education, pushing Christianity as the One True Faith (that'll go over REAL big with Hindus, Buddhists, and Islamics, i.e. nearly the entire consultant population in Asia!).

They're basically hosed, and deservedly so. They're like the guy who got drunk at New Year's, picked a fight with every other male guest and vomited on the host, then caused the cops to raid the party and got hauled off in cuffs. You know -- the guy you don't invite anywhere, ever again.

For the AC, there are plenty of programmers here in the U.S. and more graduate every year. You're just mindlessly parroting GOP and corporate propaganda, which was meant to excuse offshoring and outsourcing. Here are your tickets to the Failboat; enjoy your cruise.

The Sun shines out of certified Java programmers


@Niall -- one gotcha to worry about with that...

If you want your code to be portable, you shouldn't build in any dependencies that could gum up the works for your users. I don't mean only making sure your file separators aren't windows-specific (as Boris mentioned), I mean making sure all of the following are true:

1) Your "code level" in your project preferences is set to a baseline that will work with your entire user population -- in my agency I've standardized on J2SE 1.5 because many of our users will have Macs and many of those are older models with an older OS/X (1.5 standard, no 1.6 available). You also have to make sure you've got a J2SE 1.5 JDK installed, and set it as the preferred compiler for your project or when users try to run your app older JREs will reject the libraries in your JAR file (they won't match the expected versions, although I don't remember the actual error text).

2) You make sure you don't use anything that was introduced after your targeted JDK was released. For example, in NetBeans, I can't use the beautiful new Free Design layout, I have to go old school. I don't mind, it's a project requirement. Anyway, Nimbus would be great for a techie audience, because they're probably bleeding edge with respect to JDK/JRE, but if you have to support the general public, you should stick to 1.5.

The best way to ensure #2 is to use the J2SE reference pages for your targeted JRE when you're working with code. Assume that if it's not in the reference pages, it's not available to that project.

Thanks to backward compatibility, people who DO use modern JREs will be able to work with your software without difficulties.

It's all about setting a baseline, you know?

Paris Hilton

@AC -- The GUI is your friend

I work for a large state government in the U.S. and I've been using NetBeans to write a pretty complicated desktop application (financial reporting, mostly) that we'll roll out later this year. Java's a really nice choice for doing desktop software, and NetBeans takes care of all the Swing plumbing for you. You still have to know how to write the code for your event handlers, database interfaces, PDF generation, etc... But if you can't do that, you're not a java programmer, right?

I don't do applets (shudder) but for desktop software, Java's great. As long as you're careful about your memory use, it won't even beat up your PC that much. I don't even worry about "write once, test everywhere" because testing is kind of fun. You run it on some crappy old PCs, some macs, some modern laptops, try to make it break... It's amusing and you can have some popcorn while you try to break your app with wonky inputs.

As far as certification goes, I'm divided on the issue. First of all, it won't affect my job in the slightest. Nobody in government cares about how many pieces of paper you have; you're interviewed by a team including the lead developers, some managers and usually a system admin, and if you can't satisfy them you don't get hired. Anything that makes them nervous or suspicious disqualifies you instantly.

That aside, studying for the programmer test could improve your skills. It seems as though they ask some pretty arcane questions, so you'd have to make a pretty thorough study of how the system works to pass. More knowledge of the guts of the system can't be a BAD thing.

When it comes to the later certs, though, aren't they really pushing a development philosophy? That stuff changes with the wind in IT circles. All you'd be proving is that you're up on the latest fads (web services in this case).

Amazon unveils Kindle 2.0

Jobs Horns

@andy -- Oh ye of little imagination

Andy, Andy, Andy... You sadden me.

If I want to read books, I'll buy them on paperback. If I want to read e-books, I'll download them from Gutenberg or some other free site, convert them to RTF, format them a little, and stick them on my old Sony reader. Books, alone, are no reason to buy a Kindle.

But this device has POTENTIAL! And when a developer's kit for e-ink technology costs $1500.00 (not counting the rest of the kit and work required to build a functional device), being able to get a complete, functional device for $400 that already has a built-in development platform (if somewhat hidden from view) is pretty cool!

This is a wonderful world we live in, where every comp.sci student grew up watching MacGyver, and every device will be extended to do things it wasn't meant to do. Everyone's an inventor these days, don't you know.

I am SO getting one of these...

P.S. You sound kind of curmudgeonly. Are "those damn kids" still on your lawn?


@Thomas -- True, BUT...

If you know about the page flipping issue, you'd design your app to work mostly in the background, only updating the display when something interesting happens. For example, you could do some kind of mashup with Google maps that shows you types of businesses YOU find interesting, instead of the plain old "restaurants near you" thing Kindle currently offers.

You could write an app that lets you maintain a rating list for places you've visited, for instance.

You could write a P2P app that checks in with a server and maintains communication with your friends, letting you play with the flash mob concept.

You could store all your technical notes in some Kindle-friendly format, and write a search tool for your own stuff, targeted at your job so you can whip through some drop-down boxes and find information you're interested in.

There are all KINDS of crazy things you could do with one of these. IF, that is, the thing is programmable enough.

But now I'm thinking.. Apparently all the native apps on Kindle run on Java! So if you got a console, you could probably invoke the runtime and run your own full-blown apps, with them being rendered with Kindle's built-in widgets. IF, that is, you can get the widget libraries, which are probably in the downloadable source code...

I'm telling you, this thing might be really really neat.

My only concern is, if I fork out a bunch of money for it, I don't want to void the warranty or piss off Amazon. But I don't want to be limited to JavaScript, either.

It's a conundrum.


Ah... But what can you do with it?

Can you replace the on-board OS with Ubuntu? Can you turn it into a mobile tablet?

What a lovely little mobile THIS would be! With a FOUR DAY RUN TIME!!!

I wonder how they initially load the O/S... There's probably some hidden connector that lets you flash the system ROM. I wonder! Time to Google!



Update after a few minutes of googling about

So, I found this guy's blog (igorsk.blogspot.com) and he has a several part series on digging around in the Linux that already runs on the kindle. I don't dare read his posts at work; they'll likely get websensed. But when I get home, I'm digging in.

It looks like he's gotten a console to run, at the very least, and checked the boot logs. Apparently, although the Linux that's built into the Kindle is hard to get to, you CAN get to it.

Pretty interesting stuff. If I could get a kindle to act like a regular, multipurpose computer, that'd be pretty cool I think. Hmm... If it has Perl or Java installed, and I can bring up a console, I can do text-based apps. As far as GUi apps go, if it'll let you run web pages and applets off an SD card, you can write in Java and JavaScript, although you'd have to figure out how to save to the SD card so you could keep your work for later.

If I stick to using browser-based apps, I might not even break the warranty. I wonder if doing text-mode stuff in the console would annoy Amazon? Browser-based stuff might be ok with them, but consoles might make 'em nervous...

I wonder how much you can get away with here? The four day run time just blows me away... The idea of having a portable that runs for FOUR DAYS is just tantalizing.

I think I'm going to pursue this.


Sigh... Now I'm depressed.

Looks like the built-in browser is VERY minimal and offers no plugin support, no Flash, no Java, no nothing. Meh.

Also, I've read their TOS and it looks like we programmers need to be careful what we write. Amazon is very persnickety about changes to the Kindle. They seem to be mostly worried about people pirating content, so this probably won't be a problem for most programmers, who just want to tinker around and maybe do little location-based apps (since it's wireless and all).

It seems to me that all you have available is JavaScript and CSS if you want to write your own stuff (without breaking the warranty, getting yelled at, etc). I suppose you COULD write web pages with embedded JavaScript, and put together simple apps that way without annoying Amazon. And of course you could write server-side apps on your own websites that the kindle could work with, so it's not a total loss.

Ok, I might still get one.

Firefox 3.0.6 fixes yet another JavaScript bug


Get rid of the "Awful New Address Bar"

It's not that bad... Here's how you make your address bar act like one:

1. type "about.config" in the address bar (ha! have at you!) and hit enter. Click through the scary message. You can trust your uncle Phil... In the filter, put "URL" and search. Look for the word "urlbar" in the main window... There are several settings, two of which are useful.

2. set browser.urlbar.MatchOnlyTyped to "true".

3. set browser.urlbar.maxRichResults to "0".

4. restart your browser.

POOF! Your url bar is back to normal.

Heh... It's about time I was able to post something useful here!!! Now I'm going for a brewski.


Absolutely Fabulous ups sticks to LA


I'm an American -- and I used to watch AbFab all the time.

We're not "parochial". Most of us get the BBC channel and watch the original British shows. Also we can pick up the DVD collections of most British shows in our local bookstores.

Many Americans enjoy British comedy immensely. The nice thing about British comedy is, it doesn't treat us like imbeciles. It allows us to actually enjoy a smart punchline, or an irreverent, smart-ass worldview.

American television comedy, on the other hand, is written for the lowest common denominator -- the mouth breathers who get angry when you use "big words" around them. The punch lines are stupid, the situations are inane, and only rarely is any intelligence injected into a show.

Oh, we have a couple of shows that aren't bad. South Park for example, and the Simpsons, which is written by Harvard grads. But most of it is crap.

For some inconceivable reason, the American version of The Office was actually good, but I think that was a fluke. Maybe the executives weren't paying attention, and the writers saw an opportunity?

If they remake AbFab here, I want to think it'll be good, like The Office, but deep down I have a gnawing fear that the suits have caught on, learning from The Office, and will have some new way of forcing the writers to dumb the material down.

Maybe not, but...

C dominated 2008's open-source project nursery

Thumb Up

I think you need C and something like Java...

I don't think it's an either/or type of thing.

For building user-facing software, you'd obviously pick Java because of its GUI libraries and ease of development. You can use Java for most day to day programming and be very happy and content.

For building system-level stuff, and high performance stuff, you'd pick C. You might even use C to write some native libraries called by your Java code. It's as fast as assembler, but easier to work with, and you can use inline assembler with it, so that's cool.

If you really want to get nutty, you can write some code in C, halfway compile it with GCC and get assembly language code, edit and tweak the assembly language code until you're happy, and do your final build.

Don't be a "one book man".

Don't be a guy with a hammer always looking for nails.

Mix and match! It's pret a porter!

Danish SWAT team surrounds PlayStation shoot-'em-up


When I was a kid...

I had a rich friend whose father bought him and his brother some theatrical-quality prop guns to play with. I think they were called "blowback guns" or something; they fired some type of blank ammo for use in theatrical plays and whatnot.

So these two knuckleheads start chasing each other around a Dunkin' Doughnuts in New Jersey, blasting away at each other. Everyone inside panics, thinking it's some kind of bank robbery type thing (this was back before gangs were the Big Thing).

The police are of course called. My friend happens to notice an entire line of patrol cars sneaking up on the Dunkin' Doughnuts, and the guys hide the toy guns in the back of his beat-up car.

The cops were NOT amused. They confiscated all the "guns", arrested the two guys, made their parents bail them out, and fined them, I think for something like criminal stupidity and wasting police resources (whatever they actually called it).

He never saw the "guns" again, but he got a good story out of it.

Librarians redubbed 'audience development officers'


They must not cut down on librarians!!!

Good GOD, man... Don't you realize you're trampling on my favorite porn fantasy???

If there are no more librarians, whatever will I fantasize about? Bookstore clerks???

What a sad day in Western Civilization...

Tell Santa to bring more assault rifles


@Rick... bravo. Very well said.

That was possibly one of the best posts in this whole forum.


Sticking to food for now...

I'll take a Sam Adams and a bowl of chili or lentil soup over the shepherd's pie and "bitters" (god that stuff's nasty, like drinking old engine oil). Nice stuff. The guys steamed up about "American Beer" are probably thinking of budweiser or pabst blue ribbon. Heh heh heh...

I'm surprised to see that my earlier troll is still wandering around, causing trouble. They don't die easy, do they? At least it's getting some -- apparently it's run into a female British troll and they're procreating. I wonder what their kids will look like?

Ha ha... I wonder if I should say something inflammatory and wind up Mike some more? Looks like his spring is about ready to pop out of the gear case and hit someone in the eye.

Oh, I can't resist. (ahem)

@Mike: During WWII, we ALLOWED Japan to attack us so we would be provided with an excuse to enter the European theater and save your bland-food-eating, tea-swilling, ugly cardigan-wearing butts. If it weren't for us, you wouldn't be wearing an anorak when you go trainspotting, you'd be wearing a schwere Mantel. Now, run along and have some bratwurst... OH! I meant Shepherd's Pie!