Functional Entropy

Chaos breeds order, sort of.

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Tired Guy Dumps Links

I spent most of the last week solo parenting and decided that most of what I'd written during the course of the week (and didn't post) was primarily garbage. Sleep deprivation isn't the inspirational force of nature that it used to be for me so most of what came out was gibberish. The kid likes to delay bedtime as late as possible and wake up the moment that sunlight pierces the horizon. I think he runs on some alternative power source that I don't understand. I'm going to dump some links instead:

I'm unsure of my confidence in Ubuntu's new package management scheme. If they're truly going to break with the Debian repos, then I'm a little less concerned. I have a feeling that this is part of a Canonical marketing push to make Ubuntu a little more appealing for virtualization. Since I don't have to touch Ubuntu anything on a regular basis I'll probably have to fire up a VM of my own in order to check it out once it's post-dog food. A lot of the promises made are insanely difficult to actually deliver, but smaller updates and atomic installations/removals do sound pretty good.

Even though I've been off the iOS crackpipe for a 4+ years now, I agree that Safari as the only browser choice for iOS devices is myopic as all get out and needs to change. Safari is a perfectly fine default for simple web tasks as it's still pretty snappy performance-wise, but is a little long in the tooth for sites dependent on more modern features. I used Safari the first day it was released and I wasn't a huge fan then, but at least it was a viable option to the dreaded IE5 on the Apple platform and was under active development. Marooning users on a platform that is coasting along seems like a bad idea.

Unsurprisingly, there was a shitstorm on Reddit which is reaching 4chan levels of obnoxious. Ah, well, it was (bad) fun while it lasted. The clue here is that while making the elimination of harassment a priority is a good goal, firing one of the people who make the site attractive to those outside the neckbeard majority is a bad thing. I imagine the trolls will soldier on until Reddit becomes completely worthless. Godspeed or something.

The X Means X Me Out Of This Bullshit Meeting

I’ve only had one gig that required supporting Windows Vista and that was limited to a single machine. As a result of that, I largely ignored the interface changes between XP and Vista. I knew the names of most of the msc’s and cpl’s that I would need doing day-to-day support and administration so I just ignored most of the horrible GUI “eye candy” and coasted along like nothing had changed. I’ve been lucky enough to completely ignore the 8 series of Windows so I have no idea what horrors/surprises are hidden there. I’d much prefer to keep my optimism and sanity intact so I don’t spelunk in places that I don’t need to.

Today, I needed to setup an executive video conference. They were reluctant to use the Chrome Box which, you know, just works so was out of the question. After years of using LifeSize and appliances similar to the Chrome Box, I dread it when people want to connect directly to projectors with VGA cables and use an actual telephone for audio. Whatever, dudes. The really obvious downside to all of this is unless you permanent change the power settings in Windows, someone has to sort of use the computer while it’s projecting lest Group Policy insist the machine fall into a fugue state after disuse for 15 minutes. Today, I discovered the motherfucking Mobility Center which is accessible from Windows Key-X. That ‘X’ means I’m pressing the key combo, setting the machine into Presentation mode so it doesn’t nod out when someone is viewing a presentation, and bugging out. The number of times that I’ve praised a Windows feature in the past decade is very small, but this is one of them. Despite being relatively hidden, this is good stuff.

Sometimes It Isn’t Actually Magical Until You Notice The Absence Of Effort

I’d noticed the Google Photos right click trick but hadn’t thought about what it actually meant in terms of usability. It’s an amazing product and might be on of the best products that Google has made publically available. Go read the article for the technical analysis of how this feature works because it will be much more entertaining than my summary would.

It’s probably worth noting that I didn’t find this feature magical when I first used it to mail an animation from Photos to my wife. That’s the way web applications should work: within our expectations of how something should behave regardless of whether the intended recipient of the share has an account to our particular walled garden. Here’s an animation of Oscar shovelling cotton candy into his face, not because it’s particularly important to anyone outside my family, but because it’s stupidly easy.

Any Port In The Storm?

Some of my friends no longer have any excuses about being left out of group conversations because they don’t/won’t have Facebook accounts or have deleted them in response to the various privacy/whatever concerns over the years. Facebook Messenger (at least in a handful of countries) doesn’t require a FB account anymore which is awesome. It does, however, use your phone number to sort you from the myriad grandparents looking for pictures of their grandchildren. I’m just happy to have a ready alternative to SMS which is rapidly becoming a status-laden shit show of unreliability as messages get wrapped in proprietary fluff instead of just being, you know, a text.

My Left Hand Doesn’t Know What My Right Hand Is Doing But I Am Infinitely Familiar With The Details Of Your Dinner Conversation

Certain divisions or business units or frat houses or whatever they're calling the various product departments at Google these days are an utter shitshow. While I understand the handiness of being able to activate voice search on your phone (I do this pretty consistently on my Nexus 6 because I hate the interface for typed search on my phone), I do not understand why this would be so invisibly integrated into the desktop version of Chrome.

People are freaking the fuck out about this and it's not just pundits who are annoyed either. It's one thing to smell blood in the water from the Debian/Chromium debacle and try to jump on a hot story or whatever, but it's another entirely to have users of your software (which drives your revenue to some degree, no?) distrust a non-user configurable option in your software which should be aimed at mobile users anyway. Why hasn't this been addressed even as a reply to the question posed on the user forums or a public statement? Better yet, since my preferences are shared between a couple of phones and browsers on a bunch of different platforms, why not make a per-device preference for even enabling this feature if it isn't a phone? Grrrr.

Companies I Wish I Could Hate To Death

The amount of ire that I've reserved for Lexmark over the years was only bolstered by this idiotic attempt to limit other companies from refilling their spent toner cartridges by using patent restrictions. Good lord. Slapping a sticker on a product intended (or maybe demanded) for single use and discarded is a pretty ineffectual way to do anything other than piss people off or, in other cases, cause decades of confusion. I guess when you're terrible then crazy terrible is the next logical stop.

Slow Days Mean Plotting To Spend Every Last Penny

I’ve had kind of slack day at work which means I’ve spent a lot of time looking at other jobs (this is a long story best reserved for another post given that I’ve only been working here for about 6 weeks) and guitar crap. I have an almost seasonal obsession with getting some new gear and investigating differences between different makes and configurations of components. I play loud and distorted music (Glass Hits was my old band, for reference and you can listen to everything we ever recorded there) that usually places premium on some degree of discord and I personally love rhythmic/atonal stuff. What that means is that I can’t/don’t/won’t buy crap off the shelves at Guitar Center and most of the better known boutique amps just aren’t crazy sounding enough for me.

A Little Bit of Boring History (Maybe)

For about 14 years I played various guitars (mainly a single pickup Gibson Challenger and a P90 equipped Les Paul) through a Sovtek MIG 100h which is devastatingly loud and tone-wise bugs the shit out of people who wear t-shirts with guitar company logos on them. After four bands and a lot of years, I decided that I was tired of just being brutally loud and over-gainy (if that term makes absolutely no sense to you then should give this YouTube clip a listen as it’s a fairly good example of the kind of distortion the amp is capable of) and the inevitable ire of sound guys who want quiet amp output to run everything through the PA (sigh).

I’ve since moved on to a different kind of monstrosity: a Hovercraft Falcon. It sounds a lot more like a tube amp and a lot less like a threshing machine running over a tractor. Some days I like that, other days I miss the hissy grinding of the Sovtek. I bought it about a year ago for $800 (which is crazy cheap for something that didn’t come out of a massive operation that can produce things in quantity) and it does some things much better than the Sovtek does and doesn’t sound quite as clinical either. The entire concept of Hovercraft is a genuinely great idea; soup up the leftovers and castoffs and make them into something greater than the sum of all of the parts. The unfortunate part is that there are just too many knobs and switches. When confronted by things to twiddle with I tend to that more than actually using it to amplify my guitar.

The truly terrible part is that I’ve decided that I really need a Science Decolonizer which is roughly twice as much as I’ve ever paid for an amp. They are beautiful looking and what I’ve heard of them live (rather than compressed audio from YouTube or something) sound insanely good. I’d probably opt for the KT88 version which adds additional cost. Urgh. Fridays are completely full of daydreaming ways to spend all of my money present and future.

Infinite Bandwidth and Escape From Bass

Next week I'm upgrading my home service to gigabit which not only makes me feel like I'm auditioning to be a Jetson, but also removes all bandwidth caps (yay!) that CenturyLink is infamous for. There really isn't a point having a relatively huge pipe if you can only take cautious sips from it. The speed increase will likely be the final determining factor in whether or not I'll renew on my MLB TV subscription for next season. The application complains about insufficient bandwidth for HD video despite having a largely unused (at least while I'm watching baseball) 100/60 connection. If I get the same crap when I've upgraded to gigabit, I'll just route around the damage. I hate it when I try to pay for things, find the paid service unusable, and have to break laws in order to get what I've paid for. Obviously it's very easy to do and I have no ethical qualms about getting what I've already paid them for; it's the extra effort needed to work around their arbitrary limitations. I may actually be done after 5 plus years of crappiness and blackouts.

On the opposite side of the same issue, it looks like Sprint is finally giving in to the notion that when you utilize unlimited data as part of your sales pitch, people expect to able to use it for something useful. Being throttled while trying to use Google Maps might actually be frustrating enough to hold up a temporary insanity defense during a murder trial.

Unrelated to any of the above but something I find interesting: Subwoofers are garbage for anything other than stuff pumped out of a laptop. I don't generally give two shits about people who go on tour with a laptop so I (and by extension the bands I play in) avoid places that depend on sub bass as part of their sound system.

Bad Money After Bad

I’ve been impatiently waiting (for several days even) for someone to actually file a net neutrality complaint and I didn’t have to wait long at all. I’m no legal expert, but I am very curious to see what sort of precedent is set here and how it will influence decisions made on future complaints. I assume that the FCC is completely corrupt and influenced by the deep pockets who own the contracts. I’m more worried about the head of the FCC’s attitude towards complaints more than anything:

In fact, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in March that he looked forward to getting a net neutrality complaint just so that he can shoot it down. Why? To defuse his critics’ biggest argument: That net neutrality will lead to the direct regulation of prices charged by companies such as Time Warner Cable.

Okay, so that quote is from the Washington Post article, but the piece they’re referencing sounds more like:

Wheeler says he hopes somebody files that kind of a complaint — which has not been raised in the 22 years the FCC had a similar authority over rural wireless carriers. “There will be a process that will look at that and develop a record that would make it very clear that the FCC is not in the consumer rate regulation business,” he says.

I have no idea whose strings are being pulled, but I’m definitely going to keep following this closely.

The Demon In The Data Center

In the panel that represents today in the comic book version of my life , there would be a particularly loathsome looking demon. He would be drawn much like an early Jack Chick (I was going to link the Jack Chick tracts site there, but I ended up spending like $25 on an assortment of tracts after going there. Urgh.) villain: all scaley, slime covered, and with WSUS emblazoned across his chest in picnic table metal letters. His dialog bubble: You thought you'd seen the last of me, but I knew you'd come crawling back in the end. Haw! Haw! Haw! Haw!

WSUS is awful.

Two Great Tastes

Irony free Gmail:

We’d REALLY Like To Sell You Something Like Right Now

Wow. If you’ve ever wanted to succinctly give me reason to lose all interest at investigating the services you might sell me then just play a loud doorbell sound twenty seconds after I’ve arrived on your site and pop up this:

I was actually moving my mouse towards the grid that displays your available plans but after that I close the fucking tab and move on.

Because All Of The Clients Are Terrible

I’ve pretty much settled for using Draft for generating posts for this site. After spending a long time horking around with dedicated clients on the various platforms I live on (Windows 7 has been added back into the mix due to my new job and that I haven’t worn down the wills of everyone around me to just let me administer Windows networks from Linux machines as I have seemingly done since the days before time was recorded), I wanted something simple that I could peck away at, resume later, and post directly to WordPress without dealing with terrible web forms. I despise feeling like I’m typing into a form that will eventually take down the browser and every cruddy word I’ve committed to it. Draft is comfortable to work in and feels more like a distraction-free editor that handles the various webby things I need to do very well and posts directly to WP with very little interaction on my part. It’s free to try out and presumably twiddle around with forever, but I ponied up the cost of membership for a year because I pay more money for less utilized things frequently enough.

Hotels Are Purgatory Between What You’re Supposed To Be Off Doing and Home

I've never travelled very well. As predisposed to chaos as I often am, I need the pull of the familiar and some of the pull of routine (too much gets to be, uh, too much for me) to build some structure into my life. I think that the cycle of comfort versus duties at home is what actually keeps me sane. Whenever I've had to travel for work I end up in one sort of mania or another. During one work trip to San Francisco all I did outside of working hours was return to the hotel room and sleep. I ended up sleeping something like 13 hours a day for three days. It was not restorative in the least. I've, for better or worse, established a lot of home routines some of which are dependent on my kid (he rolls out of bed ready for something big to happen) and some on me since unless I've gotta be somewhere and for something major I'm a homebody. On another business trip, again to SF a place that I lived a long time ago and doesn't exist any more, I read like three novels in a couple of days. I think it works best for me to fill empty spans of time with things that I would normally do at home only without interruption. I read a lot. I watch a lot of baseball. I don't sleep much more than a bare minimum other than miraculous recovery Saturday mornings, but by the time I've reached Saturday getting more than five hours of sleep is no longer optional.

Travelling, as long as I'm doing it minimally and have some extra time to enjoy silence and crazily starched sheets, is something that I can typically look forward to or at least approach with a minimum of dread. The idea of being in perpetual travel mode just freaks me out. I did find it somewhat validating that many of the strategies I use for reigning in the chaos of my life at home are similar to the ones that the author of the above piece found useful as well. Getting shoved out of the house and forced to deal with a world that isn't tailored well for me (it's 1am, I'm hungry and vegan: oh shit) makes the 'anchors' of home seem less constraining once I've returned and remind that without the structure I would be less likely to become a hotel room insomniac and more likely to fall into something deeper and darker.

The Week Is Crashing and Burning

I’ve had the kind of week (and it even started this way) that’s made me nervously eye the door the entire time. I’ve been looking forward to getting the fuck out of here for more than 15 hours for far too long. I’d like to say that people are stupidly and continually breaking things that I have to fix, but I’m reacting to the situation as poorly as they are thinking about it. This means that I need to exit as soon as humanly possible and drink many beers.

One of my least favorite things that happened this week: At my work we have our QA people and developers bang on different versions (I think this mostly concerns the version of Windows server they expect the customer to run the application on) of the application we make on VMWare instances. This is handy because it’s super easy to just roll back to snapshots when something goes horrifically wrong or when you’re finished with a set of tasks. The only problem with this process is that we leave it to the individuals to snapshot their machines. As is always the case, most folks don’t have their heads solidly around what it takes to put a server into a stable state before freezing it in carbonite or whatever. There are some funky snapshots attached to instances and also some really old snapshots hanging around as the only non-fucked up version of the server. Unfortunately, when restoring something that was created more than two or so weeks before and is attached to an Active Directory domain, Windows often freaks out and you end up with the dreaded failed trust relationship error. They get the lecture about hanging on to old snapshots and I massage AD until it reluctantly lets the errant machine back on. After I’ve done this, I watch the exact same user restoring the exact same old snapshot over the top of what I’ve just done. Head desk head desk head desk. That has been the overall theme of this past week.

Some other stuff:

Mistakes like this $13k mistake are a good reminder to assume the worst when you’re automating anything. I know it’s cool to just hack together a microservice and let ‘er rip (it’s micro – how bad could it possibly be?), but thirteen gram is, to me, a lot of hardware I don’t get to buy. I like new hardware.

What to do when your employer shorts you a paycheck. This is good stuff to know especially given the abundance of shitty startups with too much venture capital at the outset so they can overpay you ever so slightly until the outside money dries up and they completely fuck you over. This gives me a little bit of deja vu.

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