The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Monday, May 02, 2011

What's this red stuff here? … oh, it's catchup.

Yeah, it's been awhile. I just haven't felt like posting since … oh … it's been since early January.

Ahem.

Anyway.

Work at The Corporation has been a series of long periods of intense bordom punctuated by short bursts of sheer terror (in other words—“hurry up and wait!”) as we've been going through a testing phase (more on that later). Meanwhile, my current private “project du jour” is dealing with email. More specifically, working slowly towards indexing a rather large archive of email I've collected over the past fifteen years (and more on that later as well).

Also, Hoade and his lovely wife Ann survived the terrible tornadoe that ripped through Tuscaloosa a few days ago with nary a scratch. Their house, however, did not survive (much like large portions of Tuscaloosa didn't survive). He's also coming down to Lower Sheol to visit; his plans made a few days before he and Ann lost their house. The plans are still on and it'll be nice to see him again without falling into a cactus plant.


“He's one of the old gods! He demands sacrifice!”

Another day, another Mac OS-X automatic update.

I'm growing leary of Mac OS-X updates. I'm also growing leary of Apple in general. I'm not saying I refuse to use their products–heavens no! Chez Boca is slowly turning into Apple territory with one Mac mini, A Mac laptop, an iPad and two iPhones. The computers just work (and give it time Bunny—you'll get use to the interface, trust me).

But I get the feeling that doing anything a bit out of the ordinary is punished, for Steve Jobs is not a kind and loving god—he's one of the old gods! He demands sacrifice! His way, or no way.

The only change I've made to the system is to have syslogd forward its logs on the Mac to my Linux system (and to do that, I had to figure out how to edit /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.apple.syslogd.plist, which is a binary file, to add one command line option to syslogd when it starts) and the last time my Mac auto-updated (last month) it completely overwrote my changes and I lost an hour trying to remember how I initially set it up and troubleshoot why it wasn't working properly.

Thanks, Steve.

More troubling though, are some of the logs I'm seeing from the Mac. Such as:

fc00::3 | /usr/libexec/taskgated | user debug | May 02 15:48:15 | no
system signature for unsigned /Applications/Firefox.app[18605] 
(pardon the rather unorthodox output from my syslogd)

The only executables that are thus logged are those that I compiled, or have been downloaded off the Internet (like Firefox for instance). The man page for taskgated says this:

taskgated is a system daemon that implements a policy for the task_for_pid system service. When the kernel is asked for the task port of a process, and preliminary access control checks pass, it invokes this daemon (via launchd) to make the decision.

which doesn't reassure me all that much. Also, given the control that Apple exerts over the iPhone and iPad software ecosystem, how long until Apple starts tightening its grip over the software echosystem of the Mac?

Okay, I doubt they'll go so far as to remove the ability of third party applications from running on the Mac, but still … if I have to worry about every update reversing changes I've made to the system …

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

“Mammas, don't let your babies grow up to be Xanadu”

Too big to fail one more time? How about too ugly or redundant to succeed? The long-languishing, and design-challenged Xanadu project sparks such thoughts.

Rebranded “American Dream@Meadowlands,” Xanadu is highly visible, and abuts an ecological treasure. Perhaps I can offer a comparative context. The Twin Cities' Mall of America is another mammoth retail complex that Triple Five co-developed. It, too, received substantial public funding—mainly for such infrastructure as access roads and parking ramps. In 1993, it was the country's largest mall.

Via Impudence, The Era of Big Malls Is Over - Room for Debate - NYTimes.com

What is is about failure with projects named “Xanadu?”

There's Samuel Coleridge's poem, unfinished because he was interrupted by Dirk Gently, also known as the person from Porlock (okay, okay, the poem's actual name is “Kubla Khan”, but it's one of the most, if not the only, famous literary reference to Xanadu).

Then there were the Xanadu houses, all since gone.

There is (or was?) Ted Nelson's Project: Xanadu (named after the poem), the precusor to the World Wide Web and never fully realized (it being “six months from being done” for over thirty years).

And lest we forget the movie, which sucked. Big time. Enought for it to be Gene Kelly's last movie.

The verdict?

Don't name anything “Xanadu” if you want it to succeed.


“No matter where you go, there MyFaceSpaceBook is”

With the MyFaceSpaceBook “Like” button appearing all over the web, I realized that the intent wasn't just to indicate that I liked a page, but to track my web browsing habits. And it didn't matter if I was logged in or not, because any reference to MyFaceSpaceBook involved browser cookies and the sites I viewed when logged out of MyFaceSpaceBook could be reconciled with me when I logged back in.

So I started deleting any cookies dealing anything with MySpaceFaceBook before logging into the site, and again deleting them after logging out and closing the tab (that last step was important because I found out that MySpaceFaceBook captured the “tab-close” event and set a cookie).

It suddenly struck me the other day though, that I have a static IP address and that it doesn't matter if I delete the cookies or not, because MySpaceFaceBook could still reconcile any cookies sent to my IP address since it never changes.

Sigh.

No, not only do they know I visit Cracked (I never did care for Cracked the magazine, preferring Mad the magazine, but Cracked the website is miles ahead of Mad the website) but also Justin Bieber (not to be confused with Justin Beaver).

Um … that last site … with Justin Bieber … that's just to throw the MySpaceFaceBook tracking off.

No, really!

Ahem.

Anyway …

So, what's the point in trying to scrub cookies with MyFaceSpaceBook had me pretty much pegged by my IP anyway? Even if I didn't have a static IP address, it still wouldn't be that much of a shield, given that The Monopolistic Phone Company™ probably uses a small pool of addresses for my area anyway, and what with IP address geolocation, that would still give marketers valuable demographic information about my web viewing habits.


From the “Um … yeah” Department.

Oh, and speaking of viewing … habits somehow, the existence of this Velvet Store doesn't surprise me …

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

This kind of puts your boss into perspective …

… a few weeks later a guy broke into Frick's office and shot him in the neck. Twice. At this point Frick rose up (presumably laughing deeply while his wounds suddenly healed before the assassin's eyes) and fought back. The cops came and arrested the assassin, and Frick was back to work in a week. And by "back to work" we mean he quickly fired 2,500 workers, and halved the pay for the ones who were left.

The 6 Most Horrific Bosses of All Time | Cracked.com

And Henry Frick was only the fourth most horrific boss of all time. I mean, I thought my boss at Negiyo (it's been over ten years now) was psychotic—he got pissed at me because I came down with acute bronchitis and took a few days (okay, two weeks!) off. He dismissed the doctor's note I procurred, changed my schedule without informing me, and had scheduled my exit interview with HR, while telling me, in no uncertain terms, that he had full blown pneumonia for six weeeks and that never stopped him from coming into work every single XXXXXXXX day. I found out later that a few months before I started with Negiyo, he had a somewhat invasive heart procedure and was back to work the next day!

He also had a habit of logging into the computers systems at night and checking up on us third-shift workers (I'm not going to say he had no life, because who am I to cast that aspersion on someone, but he certainly took his job way too seriously, especially since the department itself was nothing more than an expanded version of Tom Smykowski's job (no, really! If tech support thought a server was down, they would call our department. We would ping the machine, and if it didn't respond, we could then call the Unix or Windows administrators and tell them a machine was down. Seriously! That was the job! Some well written scripts could have done our job. Such was life at Negiyo).

After reading that article, I realized that it wasn't as bad as it could have been. At least he didn't lock us in a burning down office.

(Just a warning—if you are anything like me, then viewing any page at Cracked.com will suck you into that abyss for easily a few hours. Just thought I should warn you.)

Friday, May 06, 2011

“A bird of arts and letters”

Dr. Fuchs's Donald was no ordinary comic creation. He was a bird of arts and letters, and many Germans credit him with having initiated them into the language of the literary classics. The German comics are peppered with fancy quotations. In one story Donald's nephews steal famous lines from Friedrich Schiller's play “William Tell”; Donald garbles a classic Schiller poem, “The Bell,” in another. Other lines are straight out of Goethe, Hölderlin and even Wagner (whose words are put in the mouth of a singing cat). The great books later sounded like old friends when readers encountered them at school. As the German Donald points out, “Reading is educational! We learn so much from the works of our poets and thinkers.”

But even the “adult” ducks end up sounding more colorful than they do in English. Fuchs applied alliteration liberally, as, for example, in Donald's bored lament on the beach in “Lifeguard Daze.” In the English comic, he says: “I'd do anything to break this monotony!” The über-gloomy German version: “How dull, dismal and deathly sad! I'd do anything to make something happen.”

Via Tim Carmody (filling in for Jason Kottke), Why Donald Duck is the Jerry Lewis of Germany - WSJ.com

I've heard that Donald Duck & Co. comic books were always more popular in Europe than here but I never quite understood why until this article. The dialog wasn't dumbed down, it was cranked up! And it outsold Superman.

Who'd a thunk it?


And now for you Calvin and Hobbes fans …

In the same article about duck comic books outselling Superman in Germany is a small reference to The Calvin and Hobbes Wiki, for all your Calvin and Hobbes trivia and minutiae.


Notes on a telephone conversation wherein one party learns a painful truth about spending other people's money

“Guess how much Office Depot wants for a 10′ cross-over cable?”

“Oh … maybe $20?”

“Try $26.99. That's insane! Home Depot sells them for around $7.00.”

“So why aren't you at Home Depot then?”

“They ran out.”

“Ah.”

“But $26.99! That's insane! I realize they have to make money, and while I can make my own it's more a convenience factor, but $27?”

“See, Office Depot expects you to buy the cables and expense it to a company, so you aren't spending your money, but Other People's Money™.”

“But $80 for a few cables?”

“Other People's Money™, man.”

Obligatory Picture

[Here I am, enjoying my vacaton in a rain forest.]

Obligatory Links

Obligatory Miscellaneous

You have my permission to link freely to any entry here. Go ahead, I won't bite. I promise.

The dates are the permanent links to that day's entries (or entry, if there is only one entry). The titles are the permanent links to that entry only. The format for the links are simple: Start with the base link for this site: http://boston.conman.org/, then add the date you are interested in, say 2000/08/01, so that would make the final URL:

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You can also specify the entire month by leaving off the day portion. You can even select an arbitrary portion of time.

You may also note subtle shading of the links and that's intentional: the “closer” the link is (relative to the page) the “brighter” it appears. It's an experiment in using color shading to denote the distance a link is from here. If you don't notice it, don't worry; it's not all that important.

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