January 29, 2005

Device Manager

Filed under: digital — mhoye @ 1:35 pm

I finally bought a DVD player, catapulting myself once again into the late 20th century. It took me a while, but with some information from Ben I finally found a model I could live with. I tried to buy a Sony, but no, sadly, it was not to be.

Devices in my home fall into exactly one of two categories. They are:

  1. Computers, and
  2. Everything else.

The critical difference between widgets that are computers and those that aren’t is the interface. The computer has a keyboard, does a bunch of complicated things, and I have to push a bunch of buttons on that keyboard in a special order to make the complicated things happen. The appliances have buttons on them that say what happens when you push them, and when you push those buttons, that thing happens.

If the the thing written on the button doesn’t happen when you push it, and happen immediately, every time, regardless of what else is going on, then that appliance is broken. Full stop. The thing is, if you’re not careful you might buy something that’s actually broken in the box it shipped in.

At some point, people who make movies decided that they should be able to control when, where and how you watch them. If you’re unlucky, you’ve already found out that Disney is in on it – on compliant players, some DVDs won’t let you fast-forward through their previews. On every player that it’s legal to sell in the U.S., you can’t copy your DVDs to VHS, or watch movies from other parts of the world. In fact, some people think you shouldn’t be allowed to fast forward at all, ever.

As far as I’m concerned this means that every DVD player made for U.S. consumers is designed and shipped broken.

If you’re in the U.S., you’re basically hosed in this regard; your legislators have been bought, and consequently no economic levers exist that will allow you to express your dismay. Competing alternatives to “my home appliance is pissing me off” are simply not allowed to exist in your market. But I’m not in the U.S., so I have a choice. And as a result, I’ve had to go with a DVD player from some pokey Korean outfit I’ve never heard of. But let me tell you what it does:

  • It doesn’t respect region codes,
  • It doesn’t respect Macrovision encoding,
  • It doesn’t respect no-fastforward codes,
  • It plays every media-on-round-shiny-thing format under the sun and, most importantly,
  • When I push a button, it shuts the fuck up and does what I tell it to do.

Right away, every time.

I want devices that make my life easier and let me do more, and you want to sell me devices that do less that VCRs did twenty years ago, cost more, and are a hassle to use?

Sorry, no. None of my money for you.

To whom it may concern, if you think that a business model based on bought legislation and complacent consumers will just keep working, good luck with that. But I will do whatever I want with my home entertainment, whenever I want. I will move it, watch it, wherever and however I feel like, because once I buy it, it’s mine. I have two full-length movies on my key ring right now, and you won’t ever be able to stop that from happening. And you think I will allow you to force me to sit through crappy previews?

Two words for that: bitch, please.

January 23, 2005

Lazyweb Pseudoscience Research Department

Filed under: analog — mhoye @ 7:18 pm

Chinese is a tonal language, which means that unlike English, the same syllable can mean several different things depending on inflection – for example, depending on your intonation the syllable “mah” can mean mother, horse, fire truck, hemp, spider web, calamitous intergalactic apocalypse or bacon. I might be wrong about a few of those, but in keeping with the spirit of modern journalism I’m content to substitute actual research with just making stuff up. If somebody out there would like to pay me to shill their policies, the circle would be complete.

Getting back to where we were, this occurred to me today: in North America, among native English speakers at least, tone-deafness is relatively common and perfect pitch is rare,something that’s apparently not true for tonal-language native speakers. On the other hand, we do have this thing called dyslexia; a syndrome which results in people unable to read or write for reasons that (as I understand the state of the science) aren’t currently obvious or soluble.

Now, my question is this: do cultures with tonal languages have some kind of dyslexia-comparable affliction for people who are genuinely, thoroughly tone-deaf? An affliction like, say, verbal dyspraxia, of somebody who cannot be taught to speak a tonal language properly?

(For which one line of research might be “teach this person a simpler, atonal language”?)

I really don’t know; I don’t even know where to start looking. I just thought that it was an interesting-if-random inquiry that I’d share with you. If any of my four or five regular readers have some insight into this, I’d be glad to hear about it.

January 18, 2005

Lies, Damned Lies and Ballistics

Filed under: digital — mhoye @ 11:03 pm

So, yo, let me tell you about an interesting confluence of workarounds and fuckups that congealed on my bench today.

There’s these 200-Gig Maxtor hard drives, you see, that are jumpered like this: no jumpers means master-only, a jumper in one place means “master with slave present” and a jumper in another place means “slave”. Pretty straightforward, you’d think, except for the fact that every other hard drive I’ve seen in the last ten years does it differently, basically no-jumper=master, one-jumper=slave and a different jumper means cable select, which nobody sane ever uses, ever.

So there’s these 200-Gig Maxtor drives, yo, and they’re subtly different than every other drive I’ve handled, but when you plug them in set to master-only and slave, rather than the correct master+slave and slave, everything works fine. WinXP boots up correctly, from the right drive, sees the other and gives it a drive letter.

But here’s the thing: in this same setup, Norton Ghost, which is (this is going to be extremely relevant shortly) supposed to be a god-damned, fucking backup utility, looks at that same setup and tells you a single crucial and outright lie. Not just a little white “nice suit”, “I like your new haircut”, “your kids are cute” thing; a duplicitous “WMDs-all-over”, “We’ll-be-welcomed-as-liberators”, “I-hold-in-my-hands-a-paper” imposture. Specifically, it will lie to you about the source and destination of your drive-to-drive backup, you goddamned pustulant pigfucker, and get them precisely, 100% incorrect, and I spent the last part of my work day backing up two hundred gigabytes of empty space onto the drive of a specialised machine that took an awful lot of work to get right.

I left work a little early today, so that I didn’t start hitting sensitive electromechanical thingies with office furniture. Tomorrow is going to be a long day. I bet it’s going to be one of those days that all the voices in my head have Tourettes.

January 12, 2005

Poisoning The Well

Filed under: digital — mhoye @ 2:20 pm

I look at my referrer logs now and then, because it’s kind of neat to find out that new people are linking to you. I’m about ready to give up; I’ve been playing whack-a-mole with automated systems that fake their referrers and link to frequently-nonexistent sites pushing antidepressants, gambling and every cock-hardening pill on the market, and basically shitting all over what was a neat, useful thing once upon a time.

I don’t understand what business model could possibly make this insidious wankery profitable but here we are, so let me elaborate my feelings on the subject: if you work in internet advertising, or advertising in general, I’d really appreciate it if you could go home, spend a few hours in an alcoholic haze contemplating what you’ve become and then put a gun in your mouth and pull the trigger. It would really be best for everybody if you did. OK, thanks, bye.

Below the fold, you’ll find the latest version of my .htaccess file, which I’ve been growing steadily for weeks.


January 6, 2005


Filed under: digital — mhoye @ 11:22 am

The CIBC continues to tap rich new veins in their ongoing comedy goldmine.

Key paragraph:

“A lot of people on the Street are going to have a few sleepless nights, going through loads of e-mail to delete them when they hear about this case,” said Don Johnston, a technology and privacy specialist at Toronto law firm Aird & Berlis. “But what is so terrifying to people is that they can’t really delete their e-mails. They could be stored in any number of places.”

By which they mean, of course, that a lot of people on the Street are going to wonder if the unprofessional, irresponsible or treasonous things they said through a system they don’t clearly understand, that their employer owns outright and pays very smart people to run might possibly come back to haunt them.

Gee, you think?

As an admin I don’t care if you’re reading Metafilter over your coffee break, blowing off some steam with a flash game while you’re on the phone or occasionally e-mailing your great-aunt during office hours, and if it makes your life a little bit easier while you’re doing your job,good on ya. I don’t care and if you’re doing your job nobody ever will. But if you don’t think that every last one or zero that crosses every single wire on your entire corporate network can be logged and archived, you’ve got a big ugly ol’ other thing coming.

One place I worked for way back kept snapshots of people’s personal folders once they found anything inappropriate (read: pr0n) in them, not because they weren’t doing their jobs and not because they were going to get fired, but so that if management felt like arbitrarily firing them in the future, they always had a trump card around to deal with wrongful dismissal lawsuits. As far as I know those snapshots were never deleted.

Which is all to say, when you’re using work machines, you should act like you’re at work.

Sleep tight.

January 1, 2005

Brand New Day

Filed under: analog — mhoye @ 11:31 pm

Forgive me, whatever audience I might have left; I have been remiss in my blogging but you know how this works: the more time you spend actually doing things the less time you have to tell people about it. And things have been pretty hectic lately.

I am engaged now, to Arlene Chan. She is beautiful, frighteningly smart and gifted along more axes than I can number, and she has agreed to spend the rest of her life with me. Her part in this I can only explain as love because it not a rational decision; I think she was a fool to agree and this leaves me deeply reassured. I am confident that she could do better.

For my own part the pathology is straightforward, simple: when I am with her I am at ease, relaxed. I am not angry, if you can believe that. When she smiles my spirits are lifted, and when she cries it destroys me. I hold her and the dark vicious things that shamble easily out of my subconcious stay in the shadows, the cold reflexes that are so hard to keep leashed don’t offer up so much as a twitch. When I am with her, I don’t want to hurt anybody. I am used to being alone, and I still miss her when she’s not there. And boy, does she ever look good in a cocktail dress.

She worries about whether I’m happy, and some part of me that I am not proud of just laughs and laughs and mutters, what a sucker; she could garotte me with my own entrails and I would sit there and smile, happy to have her hands on me, to smell her skin. And she worries about making me happy.

She is kind and smart and gentle and driven and beautiful, she is so much the opposite of me that I might as well be made of anti-particles, and yet somehow here we are. And yes, I am happy. You’re damn right I’m happy.

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