Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Circle of hell?

I heard a media report yesterday of a pair of comments by the 2 top candidates for US president.

Bush reportedly said: "The world is a better place for having Hussein in a cell. My opponent thinks he should still be in power."

Reportedly, what Kerry actually said was "There should be a circle of hell reserved for Hussein."

This is rather enlightening in either of two interpretations. Taken one way, Bush thinks of Iraq as a circle of hell. This is quite lucid of him, or at least, of Bush's own experience now with Iraq since he "won the war."

Taken another way, Bush views being in power as a circle of hell. I prefer this interpretation, and I trust, or dearly hope, he'll lose his sense of service to country again soon. God knows he's done it before.

Apologies for any minor innacurracies in the quotes. I heard them on the radio, no doubt my memory is less than perfect, but I assert they are thematically as I heard them reported.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Codepages be damned

Re. yesterday's blog, ok, so this is worse than I thought. Or perhaps better, depending on the way you look at it.

I broke down and booted into Windoze to try to figure out what codepage to use on the mount command, and lo and behold, regedit claims Windoze to be using CP 437, which is what I'd configured as the default in the kernel. But mounting from kernel 2.6.8 still doesn't work either specifying no codepage on the command, or cp 437.

Possibility 1 appears to be charset, which is another parameter on the mount command line.

Possibility 2 appears to be that Windoze is lying about what codeset the fs is formatted to.

Possibility 3 appears to be the new code is merely broken. I think I'd prefer this one, because while I'd owe some apologies re my uncharatable thoughts and comments, it is at least a reasonable mistake.

I think my next step is simply to back out the patch and produce a kernel-2.6.8--. Or perhaps check later kernels to see if someone further tweaked this area (but then those kernels might not have the various debian changes already incorporated into this one).

But coming back to "what is a user to do", I've gotta say this whole thing has been like a guessing game in that there isn't an apparent way for me to derive the parameter I need, and instead I'm left to guess what is expected. Ideally the mount error message would say "No, the drive is formatted to cp666 you moron! Use that!"

You: Pick a number between one and 100.
Me: Um, 42?
You: No! Wrong! Screwed! ....... Guess again!
... ad nauseum.

And I'm nauseated.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Users' shoes

No fewer than three times over the past two days I've run into something utterly boneheaded from a usability standpoint.

Don't get me wrong, I largely agree with the decisions these developers had taken that led me my frustrations, but in each case the developers had solved the technical problem and left us poor users in the lurch.

Case in point, and not to pick on these folks specifically: Codepage handling in VFAT filesystem under linux in 2.6.8 kernel.

VFAT filesystems have codepages, and the codepage is apparently important to know how to (for example) translate upper-case to lower-case in filenames.  The mount command allows you to specific the codepage to use.

When I migrated to 2.6.8 kernel this morning, I was surprised to find that my mounts didn't work. Seems the default codepage now has to be specified as a real codepage number, and that if it doesn't match the reality of the partition then no mount will occur.  Prior kernels somehow worked without anything being specified. At least for me.

Now don't get me wrong, I understand something of why they made this change, and even agree. If you are  interested in the reasoning, see the description of the change in the 2.6.8 changelog (searching for NLS_DEFAULT should turn it up).

However, where these developers utterly failed is in not providing any comment on how to determine which codepage is in use on the drive!  I've spent an hour or so in Google, searched for codepage in /usr/src/linux/Documentation, and even found a list of windows codepages, tried several (this, by the way, is what I call BFMI or Brute Force Massive Ignorance), all to no avail.  The codepage is encoded in the filesystem somehow, tell me what the number is!  And if for some reason that is impossible, then provide some description of how to figure it out manually.

I don't appear to be the only person to express this frustration.

Usability, dudes. Yes, you got the right technical solution, but what are users supposed to do with it?

[Comments from my previous blog]

1. Leena left...
Tuesday, 16 January 2007 5:20 am
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2. glen martin left...
 Thursday, 1 March 2007 6:12 pm

You're kidding, right?

Thursday, September 9, 2004

Everyone is a manager

There's a joke that everyone in customer service at a bank is a VP.

Dan Steinberg wrote of trends to decreasing # IT workers and increasing proportion of managers.

One potential factor that I haven't heard anyone discuss is a change in focus from big projects to small. A feature of the dot-com era, we used to speak of "internet time". Time to market was everything. Now the bubble has burst, but the pendulum hasn't swung all the way back to "quality before timeliness" as a driver.

Why should this matter? One feature of the manager/worker interaction is the need for managers to help resolve issues, focus resources on problems, that sort of thing.

Before the internet, projects were typically larger, and mostly internal to the organisation. Large projects with lots of introspection have fewer unplanned issues, at least in my experience, so there is just less for a manager to do. A project comes up, some folks are assigned, by and large you can sit down with the engineers, get them moving in the right direction, and sit back for a spell. There is more people supervision than problem resolution being done by management.

By contrast, a dynamic environment with lots of small projects being formed and reformed, interesting and difficult questions come up more often. And the extension of these projects into the external (that is, outside the firewall) realm means that more of these issues are of potentially broad organisational import. And thus may require more management attention, more often. And so, more managers.

Note in all this, I've been using the word "manager" to mean "responsible person who can speak for the organisation". "Manager" is vague, which is part of the problem - we just don't have common language to differentiate between "people supervisor" and "responsible team-member". Or job titles. Hence the joke about banks and VPs. They have to be VPs because their word can come to bind the bank. Even if they supervise no-one.

Which leads some to imagine that there is a problem when the ratio of managers increases when such is a spurious result due more to language than to reality. Again, in my experience.

Saturday, September 4, 2004

Terrorists hate US freedom?

I don't believe it. Haven't believed it even once, despite the rhetorical political drivel one hears the press regurgitate.

If ever we lack indication that terrorists think more broadly, or wonder whether it might in fact be American foreign policy that they dislike, consider, for a moment, the date 9-11.

On 9-11-1973, an American supported military coup in Chile replaced an elected democracy with the military dictatorship of Pinochet.  Don't take my word for the American involvements:
U.S. involvement, specifically of Richard Nixon and Henry "Dr. Death" Kissinger, in the coup is staggering. In the documentary La Ultima Batalla de Allende (The Last Battle of Allende), Edward Korry, the U.S. ambassador to Chile from 1967-71, states that the CIA spent $2.7 million in the 1970 presidential election to sway the vote away from Allende, and Senate hearings in 1975 revealed that the CIA received $11 million to "destabilize" his administration. - article
One might also review this.

I don't believe for even a moment that the coincidence of dates is accidental.

Perhaps I have no sense of history to have missed this (I claim in defense being neither American nor Chilean), but I must admit to a certain surprise that in all the coverage of the more recent 9-11, the media haven't drawn more attention to this parallel, and apprently prefer the Administration's other excuses for conflict.

Even more, I cannot comprehend a mainstream media, or the American public that continues to believe said media, that parrots the Administration's excuses for renewed conflict. Despite that those behaviours clearly create more terrorists and division, not less. In fact, Bush's actions don't meet even his own administration's reports of their own goals:
Strategy links means to ends, designing tactics capable of achieving goals. ... [National Security Advisor Condoleezza] Rice says the Bush administration’s strategy rests on three pillars: First, thwarting terrorists and rogue regimes; second, harmonizing relations among the great powers; third, nurturing prosperity and democracy across the globe. But the effort to crush terrorists and destroy rogue regimes through preemption, hegemony, and unilateralism shatters great power harmony and diverts resources and attention from the development agenda. An effective strategy cannot be sustained when the methods employed to erect one pillar drastically undermine the others. - article
This kind of disconnect is what I've referred to in other contexts as the intelligence test of enlightened self interest. Goals that fail to meet or possibly meet ends ... well, Bush fails this test in spades. At least so far as professed goals of value to the American public. The desired ends of getting re-elected? Well, that is another story, isn't it?

Rice and common sense both compel me to believe that the only way to win the so-called war on terror -
Aside: what a joke that name is! That we're against something doesn't mean a war. Despite the fact that calling it a war makes this war time, and the elected leader a war-time president. So I suppose I'm waiting for the upcoming war on internet porn, followed by wars on littering and free speech.
- is to inspire fewer terrorists, not more, and that this is achieved not through killing the friends and family of borderline terrorists, but by taking away some of their major dissatisfactions with US foreign policy. I don't, after all, hear of terrorist attacks against Switzerland, despite the Swiss also having great freedoms.

Disclaimer: I am displaced, and disenfranchised. I didn't vote for or against Bush, and cannot vote in the upcoming US election, nor any other, American or otherwise. All the above is therefore less a political statement than a bemused social commentary in which I have neither personal nor political stake.

[Comments from my previous blog]

1. DID YOU KNOW left...
Sunday, 17 September 2006 9:38 am
on 9-11 germans,poland 1930,if not poland than one of those nations in europe. if you run a computer search on every major world problem since the 1600, the number 9-11 will show up many times. the old world order and the new world order,like to use this date. check to see how many major and minor wars,also who has been kill,removed from office, all the leaders in this world,this date will showup all through history.

I just about killed someone yesterday

Driving down Highway 101, in the car pool lane, at about 65, and changing lanes to the right after signalling, into a hole between two cars in that lane. After I started my lane change, a motorcycle passes me on my right between the lanes of traffic. Fast. If I was doing 60-65, he was easily clearing 75. I probably missed him by about 3 inches. If I had started my lane change even 2 seconds earlier, I wouldn't have missed him at all. Or perhaps more to the point, he wouldn't have missed me. I drive a honkin' big truck, it isn't as if he didn't see me. Or as if he might survive going under one of my wheels at highway speed.

Now, some may comment here that motorcycles shouldn't pass on the median or on the dotted line between lanes, but in fact this is legal. Legal when traffic is stopped, for the very simple reason that an air-cooled bike without a fan can't tolerate being stopped in traffic for very long. But here is California it seems that they will pass at any time, safe or not.

I hear of collisions involving motorcycles fairly frequently on the news, and I'm always sympathetic. I used to ride myself, for several years, summer and winter, in a frequently rainy climate. I have my collection of stories about bad car drivers that I barely escaped. Even bad municipal bus drivers that forced me to choose between dumping my bike and several less palatable options. So I have been truly sympathetic, as only one who has been there can be.

This particular occasion, I found myself worrying more at how I might have extracted my young children from the situation without them seeing the blood.

But this blog is really about and to that biker, not about me. If you're reading, thank you ever so much for leading me down this chain of thought, and taking away my well meant sympathy for rider victims of motorcycle collisions.

You jerk.