Functional Entropy

Chaos breeds order, sort of.

Possum Act, My Best Act

I’m kind of back. The following things happened in the recent past that have left me spinning my wheels on doing any sort of writing that isn’t the cliched and tortured journal writing:

  1.  My wife and I split up. We’re still friends and we still share 50% custody of the boy (who is 9 now for those playing along at home) but it’s permanent due to the unforgivably weird stuff that happened over the course of this past summer. I’m in an apartment now and I’m relatively happy.  After nearly 20 years of being a couple I’m figuring out how the world works again. Some of this is incredibly tedious but for the most part it’s like I discovered what I genuinely like and enjoy again and have a bit of space and time to explore those things.
  2. Living as a renter has been an adjustment after 10+ years of owning homes. I’m making it sound much worse than it actually is because I’m a big baby and also because I generally dislike people and now I live with bunch of them in a building. I’m aware of how terrifically lame that sounds and is. My crucifixion is at dawn. I’ve already started on the nails.
  3.  After a incredibly long period of being generally unhappy and without real direction (see number one in this list), I finally went to see a therapist about my depression. I’m not dealing with it pharmaceutically but I feel like I have things more under control than I have in a long time. I had to work through a lot of stuff from my childhood and although this work is unfinished and will remain so until my finances are in drastically better shape than they are now, I feel like I can see a path forward out of the murk. That said, my depression was relatively mild but long term and persistent so I’m relieved and kind of a wuss in one greyish snowball. Go figure.
  4. The state of the US is the worst that it has ever been. We need to figure this out for the sake of the world around us and to salvage what remains of the United States’ reputation of being an oasis of freedom and opportunity. It’s a snake oil salesman’s show right now.

Anyway, that’s where I’m at. What the hell are you up to?

Tech Interviewing Is Generally The Worst Thing In The World

I don’t know how many of you have interviewed at either a bootstrapping startup or a large company lately, but either is godawful. Seriously, maybe I’m just getting old. I do remember having interviews earlier in my career that didn’t devolve into an e-peen measuring session followed by a methodology-is-my-dumb-religion pissing match and I miss that less antagonistic and pointless exercise on a white board atmosphere. I’ve walked away from offers because the interview process was so awful and fragmented. This article is a fine summary of that entire culture of tedium that started with the heavyweights and has now trickled down to the smaller companies. I’m glad that other people are recognizing this formalized and misguided misery and working to rid the industry of it.

I just started a new job a few weeks ago at a startup and I’m very happy with it. I’m planning on staying for as long as it’s feasible for me to do the work I’m skilled at and happy. I do dread the next time I have to look for work, though.

A Short Dirt Nap

Given the generalized decline of blogging as opposed to typing words into a social networking commodity leading to disinterest (excepting robots; Hello robots!) and my current immersion in a new job that actually requires me to, you know, think while I’m there and do fairly extensive planning, evaluation, and implementation, I haven’t had much time or interest for this. Not dead and only sleeping and all of those things. I’ll be posting some greatest hits of the crap that I’m working in the next few days.

It’s Getting To The Point Where I’m Going To Need A 3 Month Rotation On Phone Upgrades

Ack. Damn it. I really didn't need to find out about the Robin phone and I really shouldn't be even thinking about it now when my Nexus 6 isn't quite paid off yet. I've been exclusive with the Nexus line since the Galaxy Nexus and, for the most part, I've been much happier than I was with the iPhone (used it from the initial release until the 4 until I wanted to do things with my phone that Apple didn't want me to and had a phone too recent to jailbreak) and the reason for this is that I'm willing to take responsibility for my own stupidity. There are the sort of safety guards around the vanilla version of Android that keep the totally inept from wreaking havoc unless they do some research and take the same express lane to what they want as I did. That said, I doubt that the vast majority of all thumbs Android users are rolling on any of the Nexus devices.

All of that (over)said, the Robin definitely has a lot of appeal for me. I appreciate the 100G of storage (go to CNet and read the comment section full of hilarious freakouts over mobile data plans and security of any cloud platform released or not while OneDrive, released and maintained by Microsoft )the security software giant is good enough for them ), the option to move old, untouched data to the cloud automagically, and the covered by warranty no matter what you do (software anyway). The only real hesitation that I really have is whether or not they're going to be able to keep up with updates. I imagine this would be simplified by only having a single model and having a small initial group of users, but it also puts a little bit of fear into me. I like being as close to current as I can (albeit with my provider as the roadblock in between) without reading two layers of excuses why updates are being deployed quicker.

Then again, there's a Nexus event in SF coming up and I'm sure I'll be just as susceptible to the buy now, think later bug as I have been in the past. Oh, yeah, and here's the Robin Kickstarter campaign which is already fully funded. Good stuff.

The Redundant Name Is Redundant

I don’t geek out about monospace fonts very often (there’s supposed to be some humor there, but I can’t remember the tag for it), but Hack is completely awesome and solves a whole bunch of problems I typically have with the system monospace defaults in nearly any environment. The zero/capital ‘O’ problem has always frustrated me and actually caused me to change the language highlighting if I’m working with a bunch of third party libraries that annoyingly insist on using uppercase o’s. It also solves the lowercase ‘l’ and 1 problem. The other cool part is that it’s actually set up purposefully to be easily tinkered with and altered so if something is annoying, you can just fix it yourself.

It doesn’t make a bunch of sense until you actually try it. Luckily, there’s already an AUR package for it so it took me about 45 seconds to get it installed and set up for Gedit and I’ve been happily editing old scripts with little regard for highlighting hackery for the past couple days.

Then Maybe The Disembodied Free Market God You Worship Will Like You

It’s been another quiet period for me, but only here. Life/work/parenting is its usual relentless dash to daily exhaustion and very little of that needs written documentation. The only thing that’s really caught my attention and that I’ve deemed necessary to pass along off my desk (read: my browser history) is some of the product of the rest of the world (I’m excluding everyone who lived in San Francisco prior to 1995 because you’re right in the middle of all the brand new capitalism effluvia and don’t need me to tell you about any of it, especially third hand) realizing that the new technology cultural runoff is just as repellent as the Wall St runoff. Given the moribundity of the first tech bubble which was annoying enough to make me leave SF forever in 1998 (and the SF I left doesn’t exist any more so, ha ha, guess I’m staying) and really started the process of removing all that was actually interesting and unique about the city and substituting the early stages of one of William Gibson’s dystopian cyberpunk cities in its wake. I think that city has finally reached its final tipping point wherein it will no longer be able to make fun of Los Angeles for being douchey when so much is available locally.

You can first bask in the utterly unironic unpacking of all the ways that being absurdly privileged isolates you from the necessities that other people have no choice about facing and wonder how it is that people can become so disconnected with the things that most people are required to (either by income level or by access to the resources required to use the cool tools) just plain do regardless of how busy they feel or whatever. I’ve worked in technology for longer than Rob Rhinehart has been able to legally drive a car and I still do my own laundry and don’t just discard my clothing when I deem it no longer useful to me. Rhinehart doesn’t even live in the Bay Area, but the weirdness and insulation from human culture is there in noticeable amounts. Shit, if you read between the bro-trepreneur phrasings, the guy isn’t a monster by any means in what he’d eventually like to do, but is apparently living a life of minimalist excess by having everyone else do his dirty work.

The thing is, beneath the I discard my cheaply made Chinese garments (that are transported her efficiently because then you’re not paying more for freight than the contents of your shipping container are actually worth) after wearing them a couple of times and then other people can wear them. Is this technology insta-millionaire trickle down economics? Fuck if I know because other than what he’s written that’s available online and what I’ve read from other sources, I have no idea what kind of human he is or what kind of background he comes from. I’ve had a very difficult time not seeing everything through the lens of growing up in trailer parks and having to worry about where food and clothing was coming from and from that point of view, it all seems pretty fucking entitled.

The Most Important Piece Of Progress In Our New Product Is Making Sure Your Own Inattention Is To Blame For Its Defects

Yesterday I mentioned that I’m hoping to drag my feet on deploying Windows 10 at work and I doubt anyone else in even the most vaguely technical role will argue with me. Ultimately, it’s going to be some executive who sees it running on a display laptop at Best Buy or something and I’ll be forced to tip the first of many dominoes in a succession of many bad decisions and then white knuckle it through the days leading up to the first fix patches. Since it’s technically out in the wild over the next few days and I’ve generally found that the least technically adept with the majority of their crucial files saved to the desktop are the quickest to hit the shiny, candy-like ‘upgrade’ button.

I hadn’t really studied up on the WiFi Sense feature in Windows 10 and now that I have I can see a whole bunch of potential problems with it. My workplace has the most basic wireless setup I’ve ever seen and, because it’s ultimately so useless, it really doesn’t have much traffic. It’s internet only and is protected by a fucking WEP key that is crackable in about 15 minutes. That said, you’d get a slow unreliable internet connection and nothing else. You’d need a VPN client and it’s difficult enough to get our VPN appliance to poop out a compatible client much less valid credentials. So, in our workplace, WiFi Sense would almost make sense since an outdoor only experience that randomly disconnects would not provide much of value to an intruder and isn’t stable enough to commit any heinous acts while connected to it. It’s useless, but a safe (from the business perspective) useless.

At home, I’m a bit twitchier about wireless security. There it’s WPA or nothing and I don’t hand out my password to anyone; I go over to their device and type it in for them which I think is more polite than shouting an amalgam of symbols, case shifted letters, and numbers across the room. I think of myself as fairly sane and the reason that I like to keep connections from the outside world to a minimum is that I don’t like to have police my internal network if I can avoid it. I do password protect all of my own devices with a PIN at minimum and I’ve gone through periods of only allowing a double handful of MAC addresses to join the faster AP that actually hands out 802.11ac connections. Those, in a perfect world, can grab 450 MB/s and I’d like to keep fucked up machines off a pipe that wide since I’m ultimately responsible for what they do while I’m hosting. One thing I’m not doing is appending _optout to the end of my SSID because bearing the onus for poor design at my own expense (and god it makes my network look stupid) isn’t something I want to do. I’ve yet to have to deal with this because none of my friends did more than toe dipping into the Windows phone and 10 isn’t really out there yet. I’m going to be right back to typing in passwords again and making sure that the ‘Share with my contacts with compromised machines so my SSID and password can make its way around the world’ button is never checked. Ugh.

Things That Happened And Didn’t

It’s been busy time for me lately and my mind has also been focused on things that are really terribly interesting to talk about here since they involve people you don’t know, inside jokes, and other things that are likely more well received on Facebook or something. Unless you’d be interested in hearing about a camping trip where we brought a whole carload of stuff that unfortunately did not include the tent we intended to sleep in. Oscar was understandably furious with all parties involved in the tent debacle.

I flaked on finishing this post for a week so there are some links that need to be dumped here as well so I’ve just added them as list items. Creating a new post would probably work better than just smashing them together. Embrace my word salad. Or don’t.


  1. New amp. Because I am a fool with (a little bit of) money and I’ve been unhappy with my Hovercraft for reasons that are too tedious to explain here but boil down to unreliability, I ordered a new head. For me, research for this sort of purchase which also dictates what amp I’m going to be playing for a bunch of years or go through the incredibly annoying process of selling an amp and then buying another. The process isn’t as much irritating as it is nerve wracking especially since you’ve basically got to depend on YouTube demos and people’s (obviously) subjective opinion to get an idea of what you’re buying actually sounds like. So, I picked the Science Decolonizer after hearing one setup in exactly the same way and reading up on other folks’ experiences with his amps. It roars like the world is coming to an end and also cleans up very nicely which is exactly the kind of versatility I desperately want. The deal sealer is that Alex is insanely quick to respond to questions, really knows his stuff, and actually tried to downsell me on a feature that he thought might not be particularly useful to me. I’m hoping, with a pile of evidence to back this up, that this amp will keep me happy for another decade without blowing up or melting down.
  2. Job blase. I’ve basically been doing the same job with a few differing variables for the last ten years with a few dabbling jaunts into system administration. Desktop support is still in my job title, but I get paid a lot more and am generally less susceptible to drive bys and ‘I don’t understand how this Excel feature works’ harassment. In general, I’m not overloaded and most of the stuff that I’m asked to do, even the larger project work, is pretty easy to figure out. I’m just bored and the boredom is making me lazy which makes the work seem like work again. I can understand how anyone reading this would fail to feel any empathy at all with this situation and the awareness of that and my own stupid entitlement fills me with even more ennui. I’m bored at work just like every other person in the United States. Wah.
  3. Unsurprisingly Debian dropped Sparc support. I’m sad not because I have any hardware that has that architecture involved in it, but because those old Sun workstations were so much more exciting than anything on the market these days. Given the market superiority of thoroughly bland Apple product, I don’t know what people would make of pre-Oracle Sun hardware now.
  4. As much as my income is tied to my efficiency at unfucking outrageously broken Windows laptops and servers, I’m thinking that [the Microsoft supplied tool to hide Windows 10 from Windows Update] is going to get packaged up and rolled out over the next couple of days. I’ve suffered through far too many day one upgrades at user discretion and I can’t say that I’m particularly excited about that happening again. I don’t think Windows 10 is going to be a complete pass at my workplace which I have absolutely no feelings about. I tried to install a beta release in a Virtualbox environment and it would never finish installing. No big deal.

This Pretty Graveyard Used To Be An Ugly Battlefield

If you’re at all a fan of being able to read good old words on the web that aren’t encapsulated in a piece of Minion clipart or in the subtitles of a muted video on Facebook then Hossein Derakhshan’s article about how the web has changed while he was imprisoned for six years is crucial reading. It’s something most of us who were cognizant of the popularity of blogging in terms of influence and relevance only a few years ago should try to see, albeit sympathetically, through the eyes of someone who was jailed because of what he wrote about on his own blog as well as his role in connecting other Iranian bloggers and championing blogging in that country.

I’ve been more demotivated about writing anything for web consumption than saddened by the changes in how and what folks consume via the interwebs, but I can see how stunning that might be after six years. The difference is frighteningly stark. Facebook wasn’t the first walled garden on the open web (and here I’m talking about post-AOL sort of web where you were outside a near-literal walled garden; keyword:fish-in-a-barrel) and at some point in the future it will likely cede at least part of that monopoly to a competing service that probably doesn’t exist yet. That said, the mall approach (remember how much fun we all made of the services that constructed little town interfaces to represent ‘net resources?) or the app store approach to the web seems to keep many folks happy or at least distracted. Derakhshan has an excellent central point; people generally just like things and then move on to the next thing without further participating in the discussion. I’ve noticed on my own FB threads that people will not read any of the text responses but will often like some funny graphic or answer it with another premade graphic.

I miss the old web a ton which is one of the reasons that I rolled this site out. I didn’t want to try to resurrect the decaying corpse of Team Murder and wanted to start off on something new that didn’t even benefit from whatever residual audience TM had left over. I still see feed readers hitting that site regularly despite that being a somewhat quaint idea these days. I have the option to ship posts off to FB, but I don’t. I tend to be wordy and people that prefer FB as their vehicle of online communication (scare italics added for my own amusement) don’t seem to have much patience for words. Lately, and this may be a more certain sign of my age than any of the other breadcrumbs in the trail, it seems like Facebook serves mainly as a way to find out which among my friends has recently died. I think I like words better. This site, this experiment of sorts is fun to write but it is read almost exclusively by robots.

You Were Okay Until You Kept Being So Terrible That Everyone Went Away

Firefox has seemed adrift for at least a couple of years now. I stopped using it a while ago (back in the really bad memory leak days) because Opera was actually working a lot better for me. This likely dates how long it's been since I last regularly used FF. I like it when it was Phoenix and for the first half dozen releases until they started focusing completely on the Windows user. The crazy memory leaks which had more to do with Flash than anything else made me flee pretty quickly after watching idle tabs blaze through multiple gigabytes of RAM in only a couple of hours. They raised a lot of money from enthusiastic users and developers and mostly blew it in terms of making a browser that worked well for anyone other than web developers. I'm sure there's much more to that story, but I'm actually not that interested any more.

What is interesting to me is the integration of Pocket directly into the browser instead of as an offered add on. I only became aware of this after jvoisin posted an angry screed about what a fucked up decision this is and started digging a little further into it. I'm not a fan of proprietary software being baked into free software and so are a bunch of Firefox users who are also (understandably) upset about Mozilla violating their own manifesto. The response from Mozilla feels dismissive and, while it attempts to address some of the licensing dilution:

All the code related to this integration within Firefox is open source and Pocket has licensed all the Firefox integration code under the MPLv2 license. On top of that, Pocket asked Mozilla for input on how to improve their policy, based on early comments from Mozillians. After that discussion, Pocket updated their privacy policy in early May to explain more precisely how they handle data. You can read Pocket’s privacy policy here.

it doesn't address bundling non-essential and commercial software into the core of the project which makes it impossible to completely remove. Hilariously, you could always install an extension to disable all the crap, but I feel like Firefox has permanently removed itself from consideration as a trustworthy browser. Given FF's decline in usage (3% across all of my domains) I'm not sure anything will change.

This Makes Me Absurdly Happy

The only bummer is that it’s All Star Break.


Things Should Have A Where

I haven't been a steady follower of Jeffrey Zeldman over the years because I find most of the thinking behind web design and design in general to be uninteresting. That said when he's talking about something relevant to me more often than not that thing is leaving the park and denting an unlucky hood in the parking lot. He did it again this time:

I could solve the problem myself in a second, with the click of a checkbox, if only Apple weren’t committed to chasing a future where nobody needs to know anything about how their computer works—and, as a result, some of us have no clue what to do when the computer doesn’t work quite right.

I also despise things that hide their storage hierarchy from me in an attention to simplify my user experience. Despise is probably too shallow a term for the amount of wrath that it evokes in me when I cannot put something in a place and later come back to find it in that place. I don't like flipping through a bunch of screens or advanced searching for things when I know damn well where I put them. The abolition of user accessible absolute locations in software is one of the things I find myself too often trying to hack around. I should not be hacking around this. Really. I should not be attempting to navigate soup in the name of user experience.

Some Things I Like Right Now

  1. The Awl. The Awl is what I secretly want all writing on the internet to resemble. It seems totally undiluted and like no one is counting down their words to make sure it fits into an allocated space that it was written to occupy. I'm fairly old in terms of internet age so I remember when there was a lot more of this kind of writing to be found via Netscape 4 and I'm not just talking about GeoCities or whatever. comes to mind immediately. Writing that isn't broken into bullet points is soothing after reading so many quizzes and vague statements uttered entirely in memes. This may or not be writing for the graybeards, but I'm enjoying the shit out of it.
  2. Fresh News. Fresh News has been a constant in my bookmarks (ha ha, there's an app for that now) since the early 2000's without any huge change in format or freemium strapons. They did add a bunch of feeds so my visits over the years actually increased rather than dropped off. It loads quickly and just shares the good news friends. More things should work this way; do a single job well for a number of different sources. Unfortunately, everyone starts this way to some degree then gets the idea that they need to lardbomb everything to create more mass appeal. I dislike mass appeal especially when it fails on both sides of the equation. FN does and did it right. Thanks.
  3. Kingdom of Loathing. Years ago when I first encountered KoL I thought it was hilarious and delivered all the right jabs to all the right companies/games. The other super cool part that others never quite seem to get is that games should also be fun to actually play (actually better when the goofiness is incorporated directly into the gameplay) even when it's played entirely in the browser and uses stick figures for all of its graphics. It's silly without being stupid (this is another goal that should be taught at entrepreneur finishing school as well) and continuously expands. They accept donations, but don't demand them by withholding anything vital from the game itself.
  4. These vegan veggie burgers I keep buying from Target. I have no idea what the actual brand name is so no link action, but throw these on the grill and they may or may not fool any of my omnivore friends. My decidedly non-vegan kid will gladly eat one of these and that's a good thing because a vegan is in charge of the grill. At the Target near my house they store these things in the refrigerated section where you'd normally look for salad in a bag. I have no idea how they'd work with a paleo diet or a gluten-free diet mainly because one of those things is stupid and the other is hypochondria. You can pick which is which.

If Only They Could Beat You Over The Head With Knowledge Until It Infiltrated Your Head Via The Bloody Wounds They Inflicted

I think I can be safely included in the remove laptops from the classroom bunch. I’m not one hundred percent on whether this should be laptops/tablets/etc in general or just ones that are connected to the internet. I think there is some room between those two for compromise. This is especially true for the likes of me since I type a helluva lot faster without fatigue than I could ever hope to scrawl on paper and, unlike the lose this notebook and all of your notes are gone single point of failure of paper notes, I can keep the product of that note taking in a dozen handier places than a disposable notepad and readily use those notes in other works without hinging that usage around transcription from one format to another. After college, I hardly ever write by hand any more mainly because I have little need to and the likelihood that I’m going to lose whatever scrap of paper I’ve written that important thing on. That’s an aside.

I do think that encouraging full desk occupancy of a device that is used by a large majority as a tool for socializing is problematic at very best. I like the idea of removing wireless access from classroom settings outright because that removes convenience of distraction from a tool that could, you know, just be a tool. Given the amount of real, actual data and mental work that has been expended thinking about this situation, you’d think people would calmly accept that perhaps perpetually internet connected devices should be left out of the classroom. Sigh, my expectations are clearly too high on the interwebs. The comments, oh god, the comments.

I may be speaking here as someone impacted by age (I’m 43 which is dinosaur to most of the pesky, meddling kids I’m speaking of) and by parenthood (I have a nearly seven year old), but I’m guessing that with some applied effort even people as unpracticed at writing inken words on paper (from dead trees!) as I am could take notes and read back over them later under the threat of failing a test otherwise. Although I am not an educator by profession, I would venture that the process of participating in higher education (even as a paying customer! with real money!one) you should expect to put your mind into spaces that aren’t already intimately familiar and work through those challenges. I’m sure you’re really awesome at that flight simulator, but I don’t think we’re going to give you a pilot’s license right now.

This Is Probably Overdue

Reddit has always been at least a bit of a shitshow. Even when it was the saner alternative to Digg, it always had a it’s okay, we’re all libertarians in here posturing in written policy that, to be honest, kept me from being active in the community at all. I cannot say that I predicted the most recent meltdown and exodus of people who were actually contributing useful things but it seemed inevitable given that the motto-worthy freedom of speech of Reddit seemed to cater exclusively to the most loathesome variants possible. I’m guessing that the commercialization of Reddit made matters worse. The strategy post-acquisition seems to be pretty stupid as well.

It’s difficult to even venture a guess about whether this will actually spell the end for Reddit or not. Folks with excess amounts of money not wanting their money associated with Reddit is a bit more simple of speculate on, though. I wish that all of the career trolls even those who are more offensive than actually harmful would just keep hanging out and trying to offend one another, but we all know that will never be the case. For most of the sociopaths that have nothing to do but grief other people endlessly, without someone to react to the horrible crap they post, it’s kind of pointless. I guess that’s the idea behind correctional facilities in a sense. Maybe there’ll be a weight room?

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