August 30, 2006

Breakin’ The Law, Breakin’ The Law

Filed under: analog — mhoye @ 1:32 pm

I came across this list of 700 things Mr. Welch can no longer do during an RPG this morning, a great derivative of the 213 Things Skippy Is No Longer Allowed To Do In The U.S. Army, and it reminded me of something I’ve been meaning to write up for a while now.

Periodically, in waiting room coffee-table books or forwarded to you by those friends you haven’t correctly conditioned to not send you crap, you see lists of dumb or bizzare laws. You’ve seen them, I’m sure; they make the rounds among internet’s infirm and easily amused periodically, like influenza, and they say things like “In Arkansas, it’s illegal to ride your mule backwards while eating an ice-cream cone.” There’s no way to know if they’re even real, of course – there’s never any case numbers or specific citations on them so where, and really why, would you even bother to look them up?

But even if I’m willing to suspend that particular piece of disbelief, I still find that sort of thing disappointing. Not because it aspires to anything, but because it reads to me like a list of missed opportunities. I mean, I live in a fairly tolerant society, and laws take substantial time and effort to create. But despite that, somebody did something that was so egregious that it required the elected officials in their region to pass a law banning it, or banning some behaviour that led up to it. Something involving a mule, an ice-cream cone, and backing up.

Who is this rogue mule-driving ice-cream eater? What has he done to arouse the irritation of the city council, or the state? That’s a story, there. In the right hands, maybe even a good one. Instead, though, it’s some comic laundry list. One line item, check here if funny, and we’re off to the next topic.

My bias, of course, is misleading. There’s lots of places in the world where it’s trivially simple to get shortsighted, arbitrary and capricious laws passed, and no shortage of people in power willing to be just that shortsighted, arbitrary and capricious. Even so, assuming there’s any grain of truth to these things at all, there’s got to be some kind of decent anecdote to claims like “In Tulsa, Oklahoma, it is against the law to open a soda bottle without the supervision of a licensed engineer”, or “in Atlanta, it is illegal to tie your giraffe to a telephone pole.”

There’s got to be a few good Darwin Award candidates in there somewhere. And that’s what I think I’m missing; either some bizzare story of a common product misused to horrible consequence or something hilarious and macabre involving an escaped giraffe and a high-tension wire.

Anyway, if you see such a book, please direct me to it. And if you were looking for an idea for a book, there you go!

August 28, 2006

I Want A Big Toy

Filed under: digital — mhoye @ 1:57 pm

So. We’re moving, very soon, and as part of a possibly-misguided promise to my lovely and very, very patient wife, I am reducing my computer-ownership to one laptop and one desktop. Many of you I think will view even that as an excess and, frankly, screw you guys, I don’t want to hear it.

But as part of that purge, it’s time for me to get rid of my very heavy, much-abused and had-water-poured-on-it-by-Via-Rail laptop, an old ECS. Who, I hear you ask? Exactly.

In any case, I’m shopping for a laptop. And, dearest internet, I solicit your opinions.

Right now, I’m looking at a Lenovo N100 with a 2 gig RAM upgrade. About $1400 all in, where “in” includes a mail-in rebate, but nevertheless. I’ve read that the sound sucks, but sound-on-laptops is historically for the crazy and desperate only, so that’s no surprise. The big thing I’m looking for is: power management has to work. I am assured for that particular model that it does, but I’m a Linux user, so who knows?

Those of you who are going to tell me to get a Mac, know that I have a deep sympathy for your viewpoint. But a MacBook with 2 gigs of RAM and a 100 gig hard drive is between $600 and $900 more expensive, depending on the model. Which gets me a slightly faster processor, OSX, and a much smaller screen. And no chance at a docking station, and and and…

It also gives me a product from a company that will pull the carpet out from under you without telling you, something I would politely call unacceptable. So as pretty as Macs are, and they really are that, it’s a non-starter. For religious reasons, which I would have difficulty explaining to people who don’t already agree with me. Yes, I know what that makes me. Move along.

I’m wondering if anyone:

  • has heard anything about the Lenovos, for or against?
  • knows of some brand I should definitely look at, or definitely avoid?
  • thinks I should wait until the christmas-season sale glut?
  • thinks I should wait for Apple’s christmas-season offerings?
  • thinks I should look at something else completely?
  • thinks I should skip the whole thing?

Many thanks.

August 24, 2006

I Didn’t Spend Seven Years In Random Gibberish School So That I Could Be Called Mister Hoye

Filed under: digital — mhoye @ 9:40 am

So, I signed up to go to this conference, and when the signup sheet came up, Firefox wanted to autocomplete the “Title” part of the application form with the titles of entries from my weblog.

I wondered for a minute if I should decide that I want to be addressed as “I May Not Have Mentioned This Before, But I Am A Very Handsome Man Hoye”, “We Need You To Fill In Step Two Hoye” or “Random Gibberish Hoye”.

Random Gibberish Hoye, that’s what they call me.

August 23, 2006

It Has Twice As Many Screens

Filed under: digital — mhoye @ 12:56 pm

Partly because it’s a remarkable piece of technology and mostly because I’m weak, I am now the proud owner of a Nintendo DS-Lite. And I’ve got to say, holy crap; the DS-Lite is just a recklessly, irresponsibly awesome piece of portable fun.

Let’s review.

  • Touchscreen: hot. Totally natural gameplay after you’ve played with it for a few minutes.
  • The two screens: also hot. They’re both nice, bright and crisp, and put to very good use in the games I’ve tried.
  • Being able to play your old Gameboy games, with no problems at all: hot.
  • The wifi: way hot. People who sell DS games will probably also have a demo station set up, and you can download demo versions of games from within thirty feet or so of the store just by opening the thing up and clicking yes. And the Wii, when it’s released, will be able to do the same thing as the demo stations. The real killer is that a lot of games will actually let the device act the same way for multiplayer – one person has the cartridge, and your fellow players can join up to that game wirelessly, and without needing their own copy of the game. Which is so goddamned hot for a piece of inexpensive pocket-portable technology that it’s difficult to believe.
  • Close the lid to pause, resume exactly where you left off, seamlessly. Entirely expected, but nevertheless hot.
  • The DS is also going to be an accessory for the Wii in the same way that the GBA was accessible for the Gamecube: hook them up, and you get an entirely new game experience. Tres hot. Hotter still is the fact that you don’t need to “hook them up”, per-se; that’ll all happen wirelessly.
  • And, it’s worth saying, it’s going to do all of this for around half of the price of everything else in its space. It’s also worth saying that the feature-set we’re talking about here isn’t even on the horizon on any other system – the PSP doesn’t add any value to the PS2, and there isn’t an Xbox-related portable at all.

Verdict: awesome.

August 22, 2006


Filed under: analog — mhoye @ 2:01 pm

So, after receiving no less than four phone calls from Sony’s outsourced repair department here in Toronto reassuring me that Everything With The Camera Is Fine And We Can’t Find Anything Wrong, I went to pick up my camera, turned it on and tried formatting the memory card. Which is what was giving me the problem before. Which is what I’d asked them over the phone if they’d tried, repeatedly, which they assured me worked, blah blah blah. You know were this story is going; immediately, the same error. Error C 13:01, if you’re playing along at home.

It’s like my time has no value to them at all. Dear Sony: screw you guys.

They suggested that I replace the memory card, which I am ashamed to admit I ended up doing. That seems to work, but honestly, how do these people get paid at all?

August 15, 2006

Random Gibberish

Filed under: digital — mhoye @ 4:13 pm

A human body is a complex distributed system and my mouth, it recently occurred to me, regards my brain as damaged and routes around. A clear win for the throughput of my mouth, and a correct assessment, but the results are not always optimal. Nevertheless, quantity has a quality all its own.

In that spirit, and also because I do not have the brain to string more than a few topical sentences together at a time right now I am going to flit from topic to topic like a rabid butterfly, a creature you did not even believe possible until this very instant, and I’m going to start right now. If your brain is anything like mine, a state I know that, as you stare sleepless at the ceiling late at night, you both secretly desire and quietly fear, you might well find this a little entertaining.

Off we go!

  • I saw the rest of my wedding pictures yesterday – the teaser you have already seen, and the rest of them came out as well or better. With the possible exception of those photos where Mr. and Mrs. Richters are making the rest of the world look like chumps on the dance floor or my best men are just generally being more handsome than me, I couldn’t be happier. I was reluctant to say so until I saw the final proofs but by far, by far the most valuable investment of time and money that we put into this wedding went towards our photographer. I endorse, in the strongest possible terms.
  • If you’re a fan of the Daily Show you’ve already seen it, but this bit right here is some of the best knives-out political commentary I’ve seen in a long, long time.
  • The batteries that Dell is recalling, that apparently burst into flame periodically? Yeah, Sony made them. Ha ha, fuckers.
  • Want: A rollup patch for WinXP, good as of right now, that includes everything Microsoft has done to XP since Service Pack 2. Have: Fifty-five updates, many critical, requiring four reboots to fully install and leaving the system exposed while I’m working. Both tedious and onerous. I’m told that I have to roll my own, and I believe that, but I also think that there’s probably a few million people people in the world who’d benefit from that single patch being centrally and automatically available.
  • Technical note: in Windows XP, if you have N files in your recycle bin, it will take you N units of time to delete one file afterwards. So if your computer seems to hang up when you’re deleting something (for half an hour at a time, in one case I just recently came across) then that’s what’s happening. There’s no good technical reason for this, but if you don’t already know that happens it can be a difficult thing to diagnose.
  • Serious: “In fact, in
    almost all years
    , the total number of people worldwide who die at the hands of international terrorists anywhere in the
    world is not much more than the number who drown in
    bathtubs in the United States. Until 2001, far fewer Americans were killed in any grouping of years by all forms of international terrorism than were killed by lightning”. Perhaps our friends in the land of the free and home of the brave will consider living their lives as though they are both brave and free. Imagine that!

  • Fun: The Phantom Hourglass, Twilight Princess and I think I’m going to have to spend about four hundred dollars on Nintendo hardware in the next four months, but boy howdy is Link ever going to get abused. And, seriously, until Halo 3 comes out is there a good reason to own a 360?

I will return when I can brain properly, which I expect to be an indeterminate point in the far future, at some coffee-and-sleep-related event horizon.

August 7, 2006

The Sony Tax, Redux

Filed under: digital — mhoye @ 12:23 am

I was given a gift recently, a very nice gift by somebody who I am confident doesn’t read this, so let me tell you a little about it.

It’s a Sony DSC-M2, a very clever little flip-openy camera. It is,
I hear from the internets, supposed to take pretty good pictures,
and movies! It’s a Sony product, though, so of course, it’s got a
very shiny silver case and, well, in the spirit of doing one thing
and doing it well, Sony has made a camera that actually looks pretty
cool. Want to hear more? Well, it’s nothing I haven’t said before –
it’s all Sony Tax, all the time.

  • It’s got a brand new, nobody-else-uses-it memory format,
    of course. The Memory Stick Duo, so super-high-tech that it’s
    a whole half-centimeter smaller than an SD Card along only one
    axis. Of course, I don’t own an adapter for that. I had a perfectly
    functional one for Memory Stick Solos, but for the Duo I’d need an
    adapter for my adapter. So I can’t get at it unless it’s plugged
    into the camera, and my camera is plugged into my PC. This isn’t
    unexpected, because it’s Sony, but it’s exacerbated by the fact that:

  • It doesn’t even have a USB port on it. It has a docking
    station. So if I want to, you know, go anywhere with my
    camera, I’ve got to cart the entire docking station with me. Which
    has a USB port on it, but it won’t charge over that,
    either. It charges from:

  • A power adapter with a unique, never-seen-anywhere-else plug
    that as far as I can tell has been manufactured exclusively for
    this device. And the best part of that, bar none is that:

  • I can’t access the data on the camera and charge the battery
    at the same time. I have to reach over and flip the whole camera
    open on the dock to get the USB connection to work, and close
    it up again to charge it.

I mean, what the hell? I can buy fifty-dollar widgets built by
nobodies in some Taiwanese backwater that didn’t even exist last
year that are smarter than that. Dear Sony, what the hell are you
doing? Why?

Incidentally, this is why the whole HD-DVD versus Blu-Ray debate
was an easy one for me; Sony is on one side of that argument,
and Sony has never been on the right side of a format war.
Whenever they’ve got a the choice between doing their own thing and
making something that’s interoperable with the whole world, they’ll come out strong for whatever side screws their customers the hardest. Case closed.

Moving on, the less said about the interface the better. I mean,
it’s not at all obvious at first what, and I’m not kidding about
this at all, is and is not a button on the camera.

There’s clearly a very powerful person somebody in the Sony
executive heirarchy whose retarded nephew ended up in the design

There are three large buttons that all right-handed
people will agree are in the right place, but to use the rest of the
camera’s admittedly broad functionality you should keep an obedient
infant on your person at all times. You’ll need their tiny fingers
to get at the tiny buttons that have been sneezed all over the rest
of the camera. There are more than you first expect, I promise.

So awesome. And it only gets better; it hasn’t worked right since it crashed. That’s right, since my camera crashed after the first two dozen pictures I took. And even though it’s a Sony camera with a Sony memory stick in it, the staff at the Sony Store were the most unhelpful people I’ve dealt with in months. Doesn’t work? Sorry. You’ll have to ship it to our repair depot, which will despite our warranty cost you. Want to use it, say, today, for a friend’s wedding, you say? That’s just tough luck, I guess. Such tough luck, in fact, that they won’t even look you in the eye when they’re talking to you, and spend the time looking over your shoulder at the other shoppers while brushing you off.

Nothing says “I’m on commission” like ditching the customer service thing to look for more suckers. Thank you, Sony.

No, wait, not thank you; that other thing.

August 3, 2006


Filed under: analog — mhoye @ 1:18 pm

You know how when you call 911, they don’t send an arsonist and a burglar to your home? Crazy, I know, but it turns out that even if something is not strictly your fault, it can still be very much your responsibility.

Your problem, even!

August 1, 2006

We Need You To Fill In Step Two

Filed under: digital — mhoye @ 10:46 am

To whom it may concern:

The phrase “Emergent Properties” is, like the “Law Of Unintended Consequences”, a way of saying “we don’t know why that happened but, golly, would you look at that”. Except that get to sound very smart and clever while you’re saying it.

Please note that if you use “emergent properties” as an engineering principle rather than a demarcation of ignorance, you will be asked to demonstrate your work. Furthermore, you’re not fooling anybody.

Thank you.

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