Another plug for f.lux

http://stereopsis.com/flux/

Everyone I know who has tried this program loves it. It is small and free. It adjusts your computer’s display so that it’s not blasting your eyes at night. When you try it, things will look a little weird at first. Then, you’ll turn it off after a while and scream OH GOD NO and turn it back on, because you got used to having relaxed and happy eyes while computing in the evening.

There’s a linux version now as well.

Attention wordpress users

If you use the Bad Behavior antispam plugin, and your WP install just locked out you and your friends and your load balancer itself, it’s because of this:

http://www.bad-behavior.ioerror.us/2007/12/06/bad-behavior-2011/

Area Bad Behavior Software Shows Bad Behavior.

Upgrade or face doom.

¬°Huevos!

There’s a sweet little desktop app for OSX called Huevos.

It’s tiny and free, and it’s a search helper. You pick a search site, type in your search, and your browser of choice fires up and searches. I recommend it!

You can drop in your own searches, so I took out the ones I didn’t need and put in somei new ones. In case anyone is interested, my new ones were:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/s?index=blended&field-keywords=%@

Blinkx: http://www.blinkx.com/videos/%@

Google Video: http://video.google.com/videosearch?q=%@&sitesearch=

IMDB: http://imdb.com/find?s=all&q=%@&x=0&y=0

Powells: http://www.powells.com/s?kw=%@&x=0&y=0

Dear Lazyweb: Pastebin software?

I use paste bin software like pastebin.ca or nopaste.ch a lot. I can’t find one to use always because they blow up a lot, or use nonstandard ports, or change their interfaces a lot. This is understandable because who really wants to run a free service like this?

Therefore I’m after a simple open source pastebin implementation, so I can host it myself and not worry about this any more. Sadly I can’t find anything, and it must exist somewhere. Searching Sourceforge has so far given me 32498023423 results that don’t mean anything, because their search engine is kind of weak.

Suggestions? Not as in “use this web site” suggestions but as in “use this software.”

Two bizarre events which require explanation

  1. A few weeks ago, I reported a software bug to Bank of America. Their alert system was properly notifying me when my credit card was used overseas, but the amounts in the alert email were multiplied by 100. This caused a seizure the first time, but after I got it, I called them. A nice smart person said she’d forward it to Engineering. Last week the bug was fixed.
  2. Today, my T-Mobile Sidekick decided it was a brick instead of a phone, and refused either to see my SIM card or to see the network. I called up T-Mobile. “Joe” answered on the second ring and told me I needed Sidekick Tech Support. I punched in my phone number and hung up. Five minutes later they called, and the nice smart tech walked me through resetting my radio firmware. In a total of 15 minutes the phone was totally fixed.

Why nobody ever reports anything to anyone, anywhere

If you’re a consumer, in which category I include ordinary members of organizations, citizens, enlisted men in the service etc., there is no point in telling the organization about a problem.

Try telling the call center at your telephone company about a problem with the phone’s software. Try telling the sad vest-wearing people at the megastore that the paint cans are all leaking. Experiment by pointing out a hugely embarrassing typo in the ads for your bank. It’s almost always pointless. Some combination of corporate hostility, personal resentment from the underling you encounter, “policies,” and the complete inability of “first line customer service” to communicate with functional parts of the organization occurs.

There are exceptions. 911, for example; they’re always glad to hear about an oil slick on the freeway or the smell of natural gas, or even the leaky paint can. Individuals who run small stores or one-person open source software projects are generally grateful and responsive to help. Journalists, when you contact them directly, like to fix errors and typos.

My example today is LJ. Once, there was a community of some kind for reporting problems, followed by a bugzilla installation, followed now by an RT installation. RT is a great piece of software. I reported on Sept. 22 that a good chunk of my comment emails were blank. No one took the bug and there were no replies; the problem continued. On november 30 someone categorized the bug but did not take it or assign it. Today I added some helpful information. It’s dead. A useful and necessary feature is totally broken, but submitting this information as an ordinary user is totally pointless.

I wonder what the minimum size is for an organization so that consumers are sealed off from any attempt to provide useful feedback from the bottom up? With big companies it appears to be a point of pride now that the call center droids and email answerers are forbidden to communicate with anyone. And even with a well-intentioned application of bug tracking software, it’s just ennui reporting anything.

Dear Mr. President: I am not a crank

Years ago I preserved and posted a thoroughly insane HOWTO for PostgreSQL. The author, a very earnest madman, begins talking about the philosophy of open source software and goes straight down the rabbit hole into discussions of quantum physics and the nature of matter.

Today I received this message from the mailing list for open source software I use on my Mac. The writer begins with what could be an interesting analogy between the problems of the pharmaceutical industry and those of the software and media industry, and then another rabbit hole appears and down he goes. Soon he’s telling the mailing list about his cholesterol level, discussing the possible merits of tannins in tobacco leaves, his own career and CV, and the benefits of Calorie Restriction for longevity. There’s a dab of left-wing politics in there too.

The sad part is that he has a really good point about openness of information and its value for science and free societies. And he’s smart and well-educated. But wow, does he write like a bus crazy or what?

screed

THE FUTURE LIES AHEAD

One of our internal webservers at the office blew up. It’s an intricate and bizarre hack on a little-used platform, and we’re terrified of it dying because our knowledge of the internals is bad. I was pretty sad about it, and especially so because I had to fix it.

A careful search of the internet found a mailing list thread in which many, many other people had the same problem, all starting after 2006-05-12.

The thread starts here: http://www.mail-archive.com/aolserver@listserv.aol.com/msg09812.html

What turned out to be the problem? All these systems failed at the same time, exactly one billion seconds before the 32-bit Unix epoch ends in 2038. The timeouts set for database threads caused the software to look ahead, gasp in horror and died.

Ladies and gentlemen I’m in a select club of the first victims of the Year 2038 Bug.

My job is weird.