Blog. And sometimes just whinging.
Your desert pleasure barge ain’t truly pimped until you add some barge flaps. Show how hard you party and your love for space princesses, plus keep the dust from gettin’ all up in your grill while you entertain the peeps and maybe eliminate some pesky do-gooders.
I started thinking about this around November 6th, 2012. You can make the connection, I think. And then today I read Ashley Miller’s story of how she lost her father… to racism. So I put all the words into some sort of order, and here they are.
Elegy for a Racist
“I ain’t apologizing. That’s just the way I was raised.”
“That’s an excuse, not a justification.”
So you’re a racist in 21st century America. Welcome to the fringes. Oh, no, you didn’t realize did you. You thought you were still mainstream, salt of the Earth, true blue. Perhaps you’ve surrounded yourself with others like yourself and that helps your maintain the illusion. Or, at the very least, you’ve cowed those around you with your bile and wrath and so they won’t challenge you or call you out. But the truth is that the society you live in doesn’t accept you as rational, as educated, as ‘normal’. And it doesn’t care to hear your arguments contrariwise. No, sir or ma’am, you are a minority. You are an ‘other’. The society were you fit in has grown and matured. It has left you behind. You and that hateful lump of smoldering coal that simmers in your heart.
You’re unwanted. You are an artifact of an age, time and place that no longer exists. The words you once loved to use as weapons now so listened for that even muttering one under your breath is a risk you rarely take outside the walls of your home. And you will sit there, festering and growing colder and harder as you begin to feel the isolation of being an outsider. And not so long from now, you will become a fossil — Bigotus Americanus. And people will look upon you with new eyes, eyes not clouded by the hate you’ve kept burning and tried to pass down to your kith and in. And they will wonder how you lasted as long as you did.
Yes, surely a few of you will survive long into humanity’s twilight. Your kind are always around, lurking. But no longer in the numbers you once enjoyed, comfortable in the rocking chair of self-satisfaction and privilege you once lazed in. You are now, and they will future be, pariahs. They will be secret outcasts who dare not speak their mind lest they be tossed out of humanity’s warmth. Hiding as you and your kind have made others hide.
But you, you original sinner, you will be long gone.
Update 2: Nope. Now they’re saying she’s ‘lost’ TWO modems and has to pay for both of them. So, basically, if they can’t properly document the whereabouts of their equipment, it must be your fault.
High-speed internet suggestions in the Atlanta area?
Update: The @ComcastCares Twitter people are offering to look into this for my friend. Presumably pre-truck roll. Before it was just (paraphrased) ‘Sorry. Let us know if you have any questions after the truck comes to your house [for no apparent reason and then leaves again none the wiser].’
BTW, I like the whole @ComcastCares on Twitter thing. It’s actually helped me at least once with a d.u.m.b. situation. But don’t fool yourself that this was some brilliant idea on Comcast’s part. A guy who used to work there named Frank Eliason took it upon himself to start it and then showed the company that it worked. To their credit Comcast let him create a small team to do this sort of online triage, but they were, and presumably still are, just a small hand trying to steer a large gun away from continually shooting the foot of the Comcast giant.
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH
Friends may have heard me whinge about something like this before in person. OK, I realize that doesn’t narrow it down. But bear with me. I’ve never jotted down my thoughts online about this issue and it really bugs me. No, this is not election-related. I’m not up in arms about Honey Boo Boo’s poll numbers or who names a child ‘Saxby Chambliss’ or some such shite. It’s Comcast.
Comcast just seems to want to waste not just your time, but gas and man-hours on trivialities. And they just don’t seem to either A) give two shits about it or B) realize that they’re just wasting gas (and my money) and ERMAGERD STOP BERNIN ALL TEH GASS! This seems to be institutionalized waste, too. She says from her First World perch on her couch in front of her giant-ass TV plugged into #*&^%@^& Comcast cable.
Roll a truck. Roll a truck. Roll a truck. Is there a union inside Comcast that we don’t know about that says “When in slightest doubt, roll a truck. If a tree falls in the woods, roll a freakin’ truck!” And we, undoubtedly, pay for this waste via our exorbitant cable bills. I don’t know about you, but my cable bill is ludicrous for what I get. OK, back up. Actually, I do know about several of you, including the friend who just this week asked me how she can best get rid of Comcast because she feels like she’s being fleeced like a whale in Vegas. But for me it’s a monopoly. I literally have no choice if I want cable TV (and by cable I mean HBO, AMC and ‘all that other stuff’). It’s Comcast or it’s nothing for me.
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY. IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.
So what prompted me to write this screed and in the sentence after this one compare Comcast to the dystopian bass-ackwards grinding dumb machine that is The Party in Orwell’s 1984? Well, a friend is currently dealing with some Comcast INGSOC. You see, she’s just realized that The Party… errrr, I mean Comcast… or Xfinity… or whatever their name is… is still charging her for her old cable modem. She asked for her a service disconnect when she moved, a tech came and did so and took the equipment away as is their duty. However the cable modem, which is now marked as inactive on her account, is still on her monthly bill. The undisputed part is that it’s clearly not the cable modem that’s currently in use, there’s no question of that. Each unit has a unique ID called a MAC address that Comcast can easily view. So they know what unit is online. If for no other reason than that once upon a time another truck came and installed a different cable modem at her current residence on a completely different order which they have in their system.
1) A disconnect order is somewhere on file at Comcast that her services was disconnected and the tech closed that order, but with no notation that anything was wrong and the modem was not found. And since equipment retrieval is S.O.P. for the disconnection order, the assumption has to be that the device was picked up. Otherwise, the tech would/should have noted that the modem was missing.
2) The service at her current residence is using a Comcast modem that they are fully aware is not the modem in question and was connected on a completely different order, also somewhere on file.
3) The obvious conclusion is that the old modem was picked up along with the other equipment during the disconnect order and someone dropped the ball in removing it from her bill. Obvious to the the Proles, that is.
4) This means they need to roll a truck. Because for every little thing that a billing person is not capable of typing into CES… a truck must roll, a tech must be paid and gas must be burned and… Wait. WTF?
Yes. To sort this out, Comcast’s Ministry of Truth is not looking at the previous disconnect order, using logic to extrapolate the clear error on their part (FYI, Comcast, the tech works for you – their screwups are your screwups) and saying, “Ah. The only logical conclusion is that we screwed up. A tech came out on xx/xx/xx when you moved and disconnected your service and, if the modem had been missing, the tech should have noted this. They did not. Sorry for the confusion, Miss, here’s your refund.”
No, instead of that, their brand of DoubleThink, let’s call it XfinityThink, means they need to roll a truck to have a tech… look at a thing that is not there and declare “It’s not there”.
Yes, that was a long run-on sentence above, but you read it correctly. A tech will show up, stare at the cable modem that they already know is not the one in question, not see it transmogrify into a completely different cable modem that they have no way of knowing where it is and say “OK.” Then get back in a truck and burn some more gas.
Instead of a human with decision-making abilities looking at this situation and saying “That’s a complete waste of time, money and gas, old bean. And it is pointless as, for all we know, even if she had the modem, which seems logically unlikely and would still be our fault for not properly maintaining record of, she could have delivered it in offering to Cthulhu for shinier hair and whiter whites, for all we know. A tech going to her house is not going to change anything other than our gas consumption. And waste her time.”
I mean, seriously, is this tech going to show up and ask to search her house for the missing modem like some TV Cable Cop? CSI: Xfinity? Today’s episode: “Don’t go to work, we need to come look at a modem that’s not there.” A modem that’s probably an old DOCSIS 2 unit anyway that they would just toss in a landfill. But if they can continue to charge you for it — but waste twice the value in gas and tech time — hey, whatever. No. That would be logical. So that’s not the plan. Bad is good, brother. Smart is stupid.
A thing that is Not There is more Not There once we’ve not seen it being Not There with our eyes.
Personally, I can think of at least four instances in recent years where I’ve had a truck sent to my house for completely trivial things that someone could have done over the phone. And every time I wondered “How much did that just cost? And don’t they realize what a waste of money it is? And… how much am I paying for it, ultimately?”
Or do virtual monopolies care about such things like burning crap-tons of petrol? My friends who live in the area of town where there’s actual competition and therefore lower prices can stop laughing and shut the hell up. Or tell me where I need to move so I can get RCN.
Comcast… you are a big stupid beast.
// August 9th, 2012 // Comments Off // Represent
Granted, it was forged in a… well, a forge. OK, technically a kiln.
But this is still pretty cool. MY friend Amy Davis Roth (Surly-Ramics.com) makes awesome ceramic jewelry, some of which I’ve bought and received as presents over the years. Well, someone* recently had a house fire and look what survived.
Yes, the kiln probably burns hotter than a house fire, but it’s a different sort of thermal event. So it’s still amazing to me that this thing came out like it did. You can buy your own from Amy’s website Surly-Ramics.
*I don’t know who they are, I just have the pic and the story.
// November 27th, 2011 // Comments Off // tech
I’ve been working on a robot for a while. Well, a specific robot. I’ve tinkered with some others prior to and along the way. But for this particular bot, I started fiddling with servos and controllers for an arm last winter and since then I’ve bought a bunch of micro-controllers and itsy bitsy computers to fiddle with too. The results of all that fiddling have been sort of percolating in my head and has recently, in long bursts of work, been spat out into this, the Tiny Walking Eye. I never intended to do a pre-design, per se, and I’ve let all the ideas sort of clump together so that I knew roughly what I wanted to build, just not exactly how I’d build it. I built an eye. Then and arm. Then… I built all that you see below in a couple of long, late nights. Given that I ‘made it up as I went’, I’m fairly pleased with the aesthetics of, so far, it as well. Nobody wants an ugly robot.
OK, it’s not actually tiny, it’s about 22 inches high at the top of the video camera. And it doesn’t walk, it has 4 drive wheels in a differential (‘tank’) steering configuration. And the eye is a camera. But my friend Christopher (who I also do a podcast with) and I were making Venture Brothers jokes and I got fixated on “Giant Walking Eye” and so TWE was christened.
The chassis is a Dagu 4WD Wild Thumper bot chassis (ordered from Pololu) which I’ve extended a few inches. In hindsight, the 6WD chassis would have been better. Maybe for TWE2. The shell is foam PVC sheeting which is easy to cut for someone who lives in an apartment and doesn’t want to annoy her neighbors (more than she does already). Also, it’s very light and I need to keep everything that sits on the chassis under about 10 pounds. The chassis undercarriage has a power distro box with motor controllers, an emergency cut-off switch and two 7.2v batteries in parallel for the motors.
There’s a Mars Rover-esque platform that sits on a revolving turret on the chassis. On top of that is the brain box which also houses the front-facing arm. The arm is also made from .157 PVC and is powered by tandem servos (one reversed so that they lift in concert) for shoulder and elbow. The two large-scale shoulder servos are Hi-Tecs and the two in the elbow are some crazy Chinese servos I found on Amazon which have huge amounts of torque and metal gearing. The elbow will do most of the work by itself and the should is only needed when the arm needs to be extended. The wrist ends with a gripper which I bought from Parallax or RobotShop or somewhere. I’ll be using Phidgets or Pololu controllers for the servos (depending on which ‘network’ I end up using – more below).
The white PVC and angled cuts give it a sort of 70s sensibility and I’m OK with that. Plus, you should note that there’s nothing on the side yet and there will be. There’s only one ultrasound range finder right now, but I’ll be putting 5 more on (one on each angled corner and on in the rear) as well as some other goodies on the side. And in the rear will be a little boot to put the secondary batteries in (two 6v totaling ~ 9Ah for the processors and controllers).
Up top there’s a camera which pans and tilts and immediately behind that is a 7″ LCD display. The display will be hooked into the core micro-controller (probably a Parallax Propellor board) which may or may not also be hooked to an ultra-small PC (a Gumstix Fire or a Genesi Efica – both of which I’m playing with). This all depends on how I want the robot to be controlled. Without the PC, I’d be making it completely autonomous (maybe an Xbee for remote control or logging). With the PC, I’d be able to store and execute more complex code and also tie back via Wi-Fi to another computer where I could assume manual control if desired. I haven’t decided. Maybe I’ll try to make it do both. It all comes down to software and batteries.
Additionally, I need to decide how this will all be connected. Depending on which controllers and computers end up in side, it will either be primarily USB, Ethernet or a mixture of I²C and USB. I’ve mocked up both and there are benefits to each. We’ll see. USB is winning at the moment given that all the controllers already inside have USB ports and everything else could be wired to the micro-controller (which also has USB).
Then, I need to figure out how it recharges itself. That’ll involve building a charging circuit for the various battery systems and a station it can find on its own (probably using RFID triangulation).
ANYway… that’s the state of TWE. In case you were wondering. Which you totally were. Hope you enjoyed. Cuz… everybody needs a robot. For… ‘reconnaissance applications’.
What Am I Pissed Off About re: Mozilla/Firefox?
EDIT: I’m very grateful to Mozilla for listening and eventually creating the ESR track for both Firefox and Thunderbird. This ( http://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/organizations/ ) effectively fixes all the below for us.
EDIT 12/2/11: heh… Looks like I’m not alone in my thoughts. Comments at Slashdot on Firefox losing market share [image].
Mozilla is fighting an invisible battle against Google Chrome. They’ve implemented a ‘me too’ rapid release cycle for Firefox (and therefore also Thunderbird since they have [again artificially] tied their cycles together) in answer to Google’s rapid release cycle.
And the poop started hitting the fan. Not only was the public confused (“OMG! My browser’s really old! I only have 3.6 and they’re already up to 6! Was I asleep for a year?”) but enterprise IT folks were not amused. We can’t afford to have a browser we just deployed be declared un-supported mere weeks later. Similar remarks here: http://mike.kaply.com/2011/06/23/understanding-the-corporate-impact/
Yes, there is a working group that was put together after Mozilla finally admitted that enterprise IT had a valid point ( http://www.readwriteweb.com/hack/2011/08/mozilla-chair-acknowledges-ent.php )… in August 2011 after the release of version 6… two more major releases have come out since then. But right now there’s just an ESR proposal and… that’s where we stand. In the meantime, time continues to go forward at the same pace and we’re still dealing with actually using the browser. We esentially had ESR, then Mozilla took it away to go tilt at a windmill called Chrome. Now we wait while people talk about ESR… or we don’t wait and we move on.
We want to love you, Firefox! Why won’t you let us love you!??
The browser we’d fought for, the browser that finally took away share from IE, the browser that worked across platform and became popular enough for sites to start to say “OK, we support Firefox too.” That browser’s maker has seemingly turned into a parody of Microsoft trying to keep up with [Apple/Google/etc. and yes, even Mozilla] when they’d clumsily announces after the fact “Oh, yeah, we’re gonna do that too!” Now I have users who used to complain maybe about a website complaining about the browser.
So now, no more stable release followed by a cycle of improvements and bug fixes (all the while being supported because the ordinal number up front hasn’t changed and won’t change until the next release goes stable and comes out of beta). Now it’s release, release, release and pray to bob the bug fixed in 5 doesn’t show up again in the ‘all new super hot off the press’ 8.
And, most importantly, this all loses sight of how the browser wars ended. They ended with Firefox the moral and spiritual victor on one solid principal: Build a better browser and people will use it. Goliath IE was slain (or at leads severely maimed and forced to also get better) by one simple principal: Build a better browser and people will use it. Did I mention “Build a better browser and people will use it”? Not “OMGZ googlez has bilt a browzer and they’s gonna take all our search eyeballs moneys! Run around in circles!!!”
Now Firefox is so effing scared that they’ll lose that sweet Google search eyeballs cash that they’re all but making it a self-fulfilling prophecy in their panic. ( http://www.conceivablytech.com/9419/business/browser-market-share-forecast-update-firefox-losses-accelerate ) Why? Because Google planted that idea in their head when they released Chrome and now Mozilla’s management can’t see past it. It’s like a bug in their brain that’s making them crazy. (“This is Ceit Alpha V!”) They are so fixated on the forest they don’t see the trees catching fire. But the truth is that Google will keep paying out that cash as long as Firefox brings in eyeballs. That is, unless Mozilla gets so panic’d they start acting like headless chickens and _manage to drive all its customers away_!
Which is exactly what I think might be happening. Hell, I’M using Chrome now because I just can’t take it any more (and Safari is in the crapper too as far as I’m concerned – so I don’t have much choice… in a world that used to be all about choice).
Now, my team is forced to sit down and talk about “What browser do we support officially if/when Firefox doesn’t get back on track. Also, we’re screwed email client-wise if Thunderbird ends up under the bus for no good reason.” My server guy… my poor staunch advocate for open source and non-big brothery software is forced to admit that we might have to consider Chrome! He wants to love you, Firefox! Hell, he does love you. But his love is wavering. So what exactly is wrong? Sheesh, where to begin. And, honestly, I’ll forget something. It’s all become a blurry laundry list of complaints from minor annoyances to show-stopping bugs (Stack space errors?? Really?? In 2011?). But, quickly and anecdotally, go google this:
Those people? They’re not switching to Chrome because Chrome is sexy or amazing… largely you’ll see them saying that they are leaving Firefox because of Firefox’s problems or short-comings, not Chrome’s features. OK, on to my gripes as an enterprise (education, actually, but we work the same and expect the same) IT shop.
* Instability. We’ve gone from a stable Firefox (sure, it had its quirks, but stable enough for us to say “we support Firefox” and be able to stand by it) to having to say “well, if you’re having problems in Firefox, you may have to use Safari/IE for that”. And then bracing for the next release 6 weeks later. (In all honesty, we’re just leaving most people on 3.6.x)
* Page rendering and slowness. This has forced us to downgrade some users who just can’t deal with it to 3.6.x And we’re clearly not alone: http://www.zdnet.com/blog/hardware/firefox-36-is-mozillas-windows-xp/16098?tag=rbxccnbzd1
And, tellingly, you’ll still find a link to 3.6.24 on Mozilla’s download site. Even they, tacitly admit there’s still a reason for it to be there:
* Let’s talk about slowness. How can it be that Chrome got faster and Firefox got slower? ZDnet sure thinks so. Compare these two Kraken scores:
You’re killing yourself, Mozilla. No excuses, no waffling. You. Are. Killing. Yourself.
* New weirdness depending on if you’re on 6 or 7 or 8. Profiles being trashed, bookmarks reverting or disappearing… What works in 7 might not work in 8. What was fixed in 7 from 6 seems to once again affect 8. And boy is it RAM hungry. But it was i/o hungry before, so that’s probably a step forward for users with networked hime directories… Submit crash report, submit crash report, submit crash report.
* The artificial rapid release cycle creating browser instability is also unnecessarily affecting Thunderbird. For us, Thunderbird 8 is unusable. It _simply does not work for some users_. Add an IMAP account with lots of folders and mail and it crashes at startup. Get someone with less mail and it’s fine (but Lightning may or may not work). Submit crash report, submit crash report, submit crash report.
* The rapid release cycle also tends to break plugin/add-ons, often for no other reason than the fact that this version, which isn’t much different, starts with a different number. We even saw Thunderbird run into this day of release when we rushed to test it. In my case, instead of bringing Lightning with it, it disabled the already-installed lightning add-on and then refused to upgrade (Lightning will be upgraded on next restart -> restart -> Lightning will be upgraded on next restart -> removed lightning manually -> install lightning -> Lightning is not compatible with this version (WTF?) -> clear everything out -> install, go to add-ons, aha! Lightning link in featured add-ons -> install Lightning -> Lightning will be installed on next restart -> restart Lightning will be upgraded on next restart… give up.) That’s… crazy. This is Mozilla we’re talking about…
Dammit… we were pinning our hopes on integrating Lightning into our environment to stem the tide of requests for Outlook for those who just wanted calendaring of some sort. Now we have a 1.0 release of Lightning for a version of Thunderbird we can’t even deploy. ARGH! Because of Firefox chasing the Chrome around like a big dumb puppy chasing a car. (“It must want to eat my food! GRR! Chase!”)
I think Mozilla has lost their minds. Please. Please. Go find your minds and put them back in before you lose all that you’ve worked and fought so hard for (and we’ve supported so strongly) because you got a little scared by some actual competition. This coming from someone who wants you to succeed. Who’s begging you to succeed. I’m your fan. Your cheerleader. And now I’m about to break up with you because… you won’t let me love you!
Additional reading from way back at version 5 (oh, wait, that wasn’t that long ago…)