So Much for the Fresh Paint Jun 17 2013
I decided not to replace the CMS I'm using on the blog for the time being; for one thing, I don't actually have any real complaints about it in its current state, and for another, I haven't found anything that's measurably better for my purposes than what I'm currently running.
So, Mingus stays :)
I Object Jun 08 2013
The United States government is openly spying on its own citizens by recording millions of phone call records daily and directly accessing the private data of all customers of major corporations like Apple, Google, Microsoft (and Skype, now owned by Microsoft), Yahoo, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL and others via "PRISM," a program developed and operated by the National Security Agency (or NSA).
Making matters worse, the government is invoking its state secrets privilege to prevent any judicial oversight or litigation whatsoever over this egregious breach of the public trust, all in the name of "national security." Astonishingly, this comes only one day after the Obama administration claimed the PRISM program had "congressional oversight and judicial oversight".
I'm at a loss here. I genuinely don't know how to respond to this as an American citizen. My own government has betrayed me and all my fellow citizens, is openly discussing what it's doing, is proud of its efforts, is insistent on furthering those efforts and is doing all it can to eliminate any kind of oversight, disclosure or liability for its actions. It is denying its own citizens the right to challenge these actions or even to fully understand them.
Right now the only appropriate reaction I can think of is to denounce and condemn these actions, to speak out and heap shame upon my government for behaving this way. More action than this is needed, but for now, I offer this statement. I'm sure it'll make somebody laugh. I just hope posting this doesn't provoke a "visit from the spooks." But what the hell ... we're all "on the list" now anyway.
Voice of Dissent
The United States government claims that in order to protect me, one of its citizens, from the dangers of "terrorism" it has become necessary to spy on me, my family, my friends, my colleagues, my neighbors and my fellow citizens both domestically and around the world. It claims that it has the legal right to do this, and it has actually been doing this for years. It openly boasts of the continued expansion of its spying efforts. It claims that it cannot be challenged on this in its own courts, because doing so would require divulging "state secrets" that could somehow endanger my safety and security if they were made known to the public.
I reject these claims and condemn these actions by the United States government. I believe:
- it is wrong for a government to spy on its own citizens.
- it is wrong for a government to grant itself the power to spy on its own citizens.
- it is wrong for a government to spy on its neighbors, allies, partners and even enemies.
- it is wrong for a government to refuse to permit judicial oversight of these actions.
- it is wrong for a government to protect itself from accountability by hiding its unlawful actions behind a "state secrets" claim.
- the United States government has violated the United States Constitution by subverting the checks and balances and the freedom of the press established therein, by ignoring the will of the people, by acting in secret, by prosecuting whistleblowers, by refusing to be held accountable in court and by shielding itself from criticism by invoking a manufactured "state secrets privilege" that was never granted to it by Congress or by the American people.
As such, I make these declarations:
- I do not need to be spied upon in order to be protected from harm; the social contract already provides for that
- My safety and security is not improved by my government spying on me, my family, my friends, my colleagues, my neighbors or my fellow citizens throughout the nation
- My government is breaking its own laws by conducting these actions
- My government is violating my rights to liberty, privacy and due process by conducting these actions in secret
- My government is violating my right to seek a redress of grievances by refusing to submit to its own courts for judicial oversight
- My government is endangering my life and threatening the national security by including foreign nations and their citizens in its spying actions, potentially angering and provoking responses from the entire world outside the United States
- I fear my government because of these actions
- I am embarrassed to be an American citizen because of these actions.
Therefore, I, a citizen of the United States of America, do hereby demand that the United States government immediately:
- discontinue its domestic spying programs
- publicly disclose all such programs, including the names of the individuals and corporations responsible for advocating, proposing, designing, approving, authorizing, funding, implenting, operating, defending or supporting them, and/or protecting them from public scrutiny
- destroy all evidence, information and data gathered, collected, generated or amassed by these programs
- dismantle the infrastructure built to support these programs unless they can be converted to use for a public good with appropriate public scrunity and judicial oversight
- return all revenue generated from liquidating or converting such infrastructure back to the American taxpayers
- discontinue the prosecution of any accused or suspected "whistleblowers" and pardon all persons currently imprisoned for whistleblowing regarding these programs or any related subject
- inform each citizen (individually) who has been the subject of spying by any of these programs as to the nature and extent of such spying, how to recover and retrieve all information gathered about them by these programs and ensure that the government's copies of that information have been satisfactorily destroyed
- voluntarily disqualify, exclude, withdraw or retract any tainted evidence being used in a criminal proceeding against any person (whether a citizen or not) that was "tainted" by being discovered, generated, gathered or collected by these programs
- voluntarily dismiss any and all charges laid against any person (whether a citizen or not) that cannot be satisfactorily proven in the absence of any such tainted evidence
- subject itself to judicial review and criminal investigation by a neutral third party (i.e. an international investigative body or commission)
- subject itself (as an entity) and those persons publicly disclosed as being willing participants, supporters, advocates., etc. of these programs to the public scrutiny and attentions of the International Criminal Court (at The Hague)
- subject itself to domestic judicial review
- implement and support special elections to replace all impeached and/or removed government officials (including appointees that are not normally chosen via election), subject to independent third party oversight by an international team
- permit and support the criminal prosecution of all individuals and corporations responsible for these programs (as described above)
- permit any person (whether a citizen or not) that was spied upon by these programs to bring suit against it and its accomplices in Federal Court
- strike all laws enacted in support of these programs, including the retroactive revocation of all immunities granted to individual and corporate accomplices in exchange for cooperation with these programs
- restore America's honor and reputation on the world stage by publicly acknowledging the folly of these spying programs, apologizing to its citizens and its neighbors for its actions and making appropriate reparations to all those it has harmed with its actions
Finally, on behalf of the citizens of the United States of America, I sincerely apologize for the misdeeds of our government and humbly beg the world's forgiveness and support as we struggle to right these wrongs done in our name, but without our support or consent. We did not sanction these actions by our government, but we will hold it accountable for them.
While all content on willfe.com is released under a Creative Commons license, I hereby explicitly grant permission for anyone to duplicate, republish or mirror this statement provided 1) I am credited as its author, 2) it is not being used for commercial gain.
Shameless Plug While I Fool With the Plumbing May 21 2013
It's time for an upgrade of all the moving parts that make willfe.com work, so while I'm mucking around behind the scenes over the next little while, have a look at my Youtube channel where I've been quite prolific in recent weeks with more X3: Albion Prelude videos. You can subscribe to me there on YouTube, and you can also subscribe to my Twitch.TV livestream channel if you'd like to see my livestreaming efforts (with dual commentary featuring AimDK and myself).
A Post a Day Keeps Good Content Away Sep 28 2012
Naturally my efforts to post "something" once a day yielded little fruit -- made it three days before the run stopped. Heh. A new record! :)
There's still plenty going on, just nothing new/amazing/shiny to announce just yet. My latest attempt to record an X3 episode turned out pretty damned dull after 6 minutes of doing practically nothing. The challenge was finding a ship that could carry (and fire) the esoteric weapon I was going to start fetching in a silly way, and during the video I just couldn't find any. As it turns out, there's only three ships in the entire game that can carry them, and in my estimation they were all very boring. But I've thought of a different way to spin it, so that it might still actually be funny (at least a little), so I'll try that out this weekend. It's still going to be a silly endeavor though.
Actual APIs for Stuff?
In other news, I've been pleasantly surprised lately to see Google spitting out some actual APIs for their newer and shinier offerings, like the Google Play Android API, the Google Drive SDK (which should finally result in a real, mountable filesystem driver for Google Drive, at least in Linux) and even the Google Tasks API.
I've been wanting to play around with various services the company offers in the "cloud computing" space lately anyway. Much as the phrase "cloud computing" has become a practically meaningless buzzword, the fact remains Google is one of the few players in the space that actually have some meat on the bone in terms of offerings: like Amazon, they eat their own dog food and made sure their infrastructure was usable and reliable internally for their own purposes before scaling it up and loosing it on the world at large :)
As always, I'm unsure what I'd actually do with any of it though, so this becomes one of those backburner projects that is unlikely to get much attention. There's plenty of "practical" stuff left to accomplish before I jump into new toys again.
You've probably noticed I've posted more frequently lately than usual (once a day instead of once every month or two), and undoubtedly if you noticed that you've noticed the title of each post leads with "Brain Dump." Maybe you're wondering "what the hell?" I'll admit I probably am, too.
I figured I might as well try to squeeze something out of my brain into written form onto this blog once a day, just to try to stimulate the "muse" a bit. Maybe get something interesting out here and there while I'm at it. We'll see.
In other (completely unrelated) news, I'm going to have a stab tonight at recording another video for my X3: Albion Prelude Humble Merchant Guide series. Let's see if I can actually construct something interesting or if it ends up being another "cutting room floor" victim. Only time will tell.
Brain Dump: Monty at the Office, Graphviz Magic Sep 19 2012
My always-supportive coworkers suggested I bring Monty to work with me instead of having to deal with wasting nearly an hour each day driving to/from work to give him his regular feedings (now happening once every 3.5 hours). I figured I'd give it a shot. To my pleasant surprise, he took to it quite well and made himself comfortable quickly this morning in my office.
I'm sure the folks next door (a different group/company we don't really interact with much) didn't expect to see a cat stroll into their office (Monty briefly went exploring before I realized I needed to keep my door shut to contain him a bit), but that's just one of the many exciting benefits of working at a college-attached small business incubator.
Apart from feeding (and monitoring) the cat today, I spent some quality time with the Markdown and Smartypants processors as well as Graphviz, trying (with some success) to document (both visually and in prose) a very complex problem we're working on solving for a client. I continue to be astonished at how flexible Graphviz actually is and at the incredible visual quality of its output. It's making me look good, and I always feel like it's cheating a little bit to use tools like this to produce good looking documentation.
Now, the hope of course is that the content of that documentation matches the quality of its typesetting and visualizations. Heh.
Brain Dump: Monty Checkup, Hybrid Disks Sep 18 2012
Today was Monty's first checkup appointment after having his feeding tube inserted for manual feeding to treat his fatty liver disease; the doctor wants his feeding schedule changed -- more frequent feedings, with less food per feeding, and unfortunately this means adjusting to an every-four-hours schedule (including my waking up at midnight and four A.M. to feed him each night as well). He's still got some jaundice, but his weight's holding and his wound (from the feeding tube) is clean and redressed. He'll be coming to work with me from now on (until his convalescence is finished) so I can feed him during the day without blowing an hour each day driving to/from work. We'll see how he adjusts to that.
In other news, the SSD/platter hybrid 750GB disk I ordered for my laptop finally arrived today. I'm officially impressed with Clonezilla, which successfully cloned the original 750GB disk in its entirety to the new one, adjusted partitions to match the new geometry and even made sure the boot loader still worked. On the first attempt, it all worked. Naturally Windows had to do its stupid
chkdsk nonsense as always, but it still came up fine after that, and Linux had no problems at all -- it just cranked right up.
Performance wise, the system definitely boots faster now, and the disk itself certainly performs at least as fast as the one it replaces. It definitely feels faster both during startup and when cranking applications up (on both Linux and Windows), so either this is some rose-tinted glass syndrome at play or the device really is working its magic. I'll post more about performance gains (real or imagined :)) as I make further observations.
Back in Action Sep 16 2012
Apologies for the brief outage, folks; I've switched hosts for the site and because of short notice by my former hosting provider, the outage itself was unavoidable (well, that combined with my general laziness and Real LifeTM concerns cropping up at the same time). Things should be back up and running now, though. Hopefully I'll also be posting more frequently/regularly now, but we'll have to see how that actually pans out, eh?
Book Promotion for the Little Guy Sep 04 2012
A friend of mine just founded Black, White and Read Tours with two of her friends to offer up various book promotion services (along with editing, etc.) for independent authors, and I figured I'd give it a quick mention here. She's definitely a book hound, does her own fair share of writing and is enthusiastic and competent. I figure if history's taught us anything, it's that talented enthusiasts do a better job at this sort of thing than expensive agents working for big publishing houses.
Good luck getting things rolling!
Fixing the American Healthcare System Jun 09 2012
There's no easy answer to this one. There are three essential problems that make this a major challenge for the nation to tackle. I'll order them from "well, duh" to "borderline conspiracy theory" in political terms to serve as a gentle introduction to these ideas.
First -- and this one should be painfully obvious -- there's a great deal of greed in the system, ranging from individual practitioners and departments to healthcare organizations and insurance companies. Combining for-profit motives with healthcare has now been proven (convincingly) not to work; when a hospital's primary motivation is profit, your health can only come second. This leads to inappropriately early discharges (to free up a bed for a potentially more-profitable patient), excessive testing, hyper-inflated prices for common supplies (eight dollars for an off-brand adhesive bandage, anyone?), and too many different people getting involved than is strictly necessary, introducing more "billers" to the situation.
Insurance companies, motivated solely by profit and with no interest whatsoever in the health of their customers, are in the business of paying less in benefits than the fees they collect for those benefits. This is an automatic, built-in conflict of interest -- your health insurance company is not interested in treating your illnesses and curing your diseases (unless not doing so will make subsequent treatment more expensive and they're unable to cancel your policy -- though they're getting quite good at canceling people's policies now); they're interested in paying for your annual physical (to make sure nothing expensive is getting ready to flare up) and paying for just enough treatments to keep you quiet and paying.
The profit motive, so firmly engrained in the culture of healthcare in the States, is the first major problem that must be tackled. There are alternatives that, like in so many other industries, would better reward the actual practitioners and other healthcare providers (doctors, nurses, office and hospital staff, etc.) and yield better results (healthier people, fewer misdiagnoses, and cheaper overall services). One drastic alternative is to prevent hospitals from being owned or operated by for-profit businesses (and require existing ones to be spun off as non-profits). Naturally hospitals need money to operate, but profits from operations should be directly reinvested into the hospital -- repairs, expansions, improved equipment, raises for personnel (not just at the top), research and outreach efforts.
Another alternative is implementing single-payer healthcare, similar to what was originally incorporated into the so-called "ObamaCare" healthcare reform bill that was subsequently gutted by Congress so it could be passed in any form at all. While the UK's National Health Service is commonly trotted out by opponents as an example of just how bad single-payer systems can get, but counterexamples like Canada's and Australia's Medicare and Taiwan's National Health Insurance clearly demonstrate that it can work very effectively. With a single pool of funds available, regardless of the method of delivery of healthcare, billing fraud, greed, and similar money-wasting problems can largely be headed off. I'm not naive enough to suggest that a government-run fund would be any less susceptible to corruption and laundering than a privately-held one; another non-profit organization (such as a trust, with careful regulation and close, public scrutiny) would be the best option for something like this.
The second problem is related to the first -- hyper-inflated costs for healthcare, along with distorted billing practices and other issues involved in actually collecting payments for services rendered. It's widely understood that in America, a visit to an emergency room (with a real, life-threatening emergency) without health insurance can essentially bankrupt the patient if they're not sitting on a big nest egg (to the tune of $50k or more). Even including the fact that hospitals will commonly reduce a patient's bill by up to 80% when they're paying cash (another symptom of our broken existing health insurance system), health services are bloody expensive today.
Some of this is unavoidable -- doctors study for a long time to earn their credentials, as do nurses and other technicians. Equipment isn't cheap, and building hospitals isn't either. However, healthcare isn't something that's necessarily "optional" -- some people do inflict their own ailments upon themselves (smokers tend to get lung cancer, alcoholics tend to have liver problems, etc.), but many people do not. Problems emerge because our bodies are imperfect, creaky and spongy things that are brittle and bruise easily.
Part of the solution to the hyper-inflation problem is eliminating the first problem I discussed -- the profit motive in healthcare causes hospitals to bill as much as they possibly can, while it also compels insurance providers to pay as little as they can, sometimes to the point of refusing to pay at all (leaving the patient holding the bag with less negotiating power than if he'd just paid cash). The other part of the solution is harder -- convincing society as a whole that healthcare is something we should all contribute to, knowing full well that each of us contributing may not ever get the same dollar amount of benefit back from that system. The reward for willingly contributing to it is that if we do encounter some nasty health problem, we'll know it'll be paid for. In other words, we act cooperatively and pool our resources to create a healthcare system that will treat everyone. Again, this yields a healthier society overall, decreasing costs (because problems can be detected more quickly, treated effectively with no fear of exploding costs causing a bankruptcy, and funding goes where it's needed instead of being funneled through siphoning middlemen).
The third, most "conspiracy theory style" problem I want to bring up is the fact that in many cases, treating a patient's symptoms (with drugs or other therapies) is more lucrative for the supplier or practitioner than actually curing the underlying disease. This is illustrated perfectly by the current patent situation in the US -- drugs are patented as they emerge from the research and trial phases, and even if they effectively treat symptoms impressively, they tend not to actually cure diseases. Patented drugs cannot be made available in generic form, and so the manufacturer is free to set the price for each treatment as high as they wish, going far beyond recouping research & development costs and diving straight into profit territory. This very frequently results in some patients paying $1,000 or more per month for their medication regimen, which is outlandish and simply unacceptable.
Greed is, of course, at the root of this problem too, and the good news is the solution is relatively straightforward. We need more public funding of medical research efforts, instead of leaving it to private corporations to do all the work. This isn't meant to suggest that private corporations don't produce innovative, effective and impressive therapies, but their motive for doing so isn't to see people healed and cured; it's to keep profits rolling in. I disagree with the traditional notion held by the private pharmaceutical and medical industries that profits aren't to be found in actually curing people. There's new people all the time, with new ailments, and there will always be demand for healthcare services even if they always aim for cures versus profits.
Encouraging public funding of medical research yields immediate results: government isn't meant to be a for-profit institution either, so the expected "net gain" from a research effort isn't profit, but practical and effective therapies for varying ailments. If a university research lab produces a cure for HIV/AIDS after five years of hard work and $100 million spent, the benefit should be obvious: a lethal disease that eventually kills all who are infected with no known cure is suddenly curable. Millions of lives could then be saved by a treatment that's made publicly available, inexpensively, as a direct result of public funding. It's true that not all of those saved lives will end up being productive themselves, but the majority will, and the net gain for society in saving millions of its own ranks should be painfully obvious.
To wrap this up, I suppose the best summary is simply this: healthcare is too privatized right now, the companies involved in it are sickeningly greedy, and we waste more money than we spend effectively treating symptoms, curing diseases and researching new therapies. My suggestions can be summarized quickly as well -- yank the profit motive out of the system as much as possible by converting hospitals to non-profits, convert the existing payments system to a single-payer one with a publicly-held trust managing the resource pool, and fund more public medical research at universities and hospitals to get medical progress out of the hands of private businesses that exploit the patent system for more profits instead of acting in the public's best interests.
Sigh ... I know. "Good luck achieving any of this." Nobody ever said the fixes would be easy :)
Unborn zygotes everywhere today celebrated (however the clumps of cells can actually celebrate) the news that Kansas Governor Sam Brownback signed into law today a ban on "requiring" any pharmacist or doctor to administer or prescribe any medication that they believe might result in the termination of a pregnancy. Women's rights activists in the state are probably wondering when the next round of witch trials are going to get ramped up this season.
All the hyperbole and nonsense of the anti-choice debate manages to come crushing down on this latest trend of silliness -- otherwise qualified, supposedly competent pharmacists choosing not to dispense medicines that are prescribed to their customers because it violates their morals. That choice in itself isn't the problem -- it's the expectation that seems to flow from it that those who make it will be "protected" from repercussions. In the state of Kansas, of course, that expectation has now been made real.
I'm still a fan of letting the market settle problems like this, though. Let uncooperative busybody pharmacists refuse business and turn away customers. There are plenty of much friendlier and less judgmental, nosy and presumptuous pharmacies (and pharmacists) all over the place who will cheerfully accept the new business. It seems like this is one of those problems that will take care of itself naturally sooner rather than later.
Just imagine the "list of non-compliant pharmacies" web sites or discussion threads that'll get started once people start comparing notes...
I Can't Be the Only One May 16 2012
Tomorrow I face the not-so-pleasant task of translating all the nice, shiny front-end configuration work I've done in the past year on our Cherokee server at work into the more standard, "banal" Apache style, as performance with Cherokee in HTTPS (SSL) requests has been depressingly poor.
I'm frustrated with this, though, simply because I can't find any references at all to Cherokee's support (or lack thereof) of "SSL session caching," a feature which, when enabled in Apache, suddenly made a test copy of an app we use daily fly like a bat out of hell (and that's on an Amazon EC2 "micro" instance!). Apache was just as slow as Cherokee in handling SSL-based requests right up until I flipped that session caching switch. Suddenly the "performance hit" was gone -- the first request still took a second or two, but after that things were nice and snappy.
Does anyone out there have any ideas on whether Cherokee even supports this kind of session caching? If it can, how does one actually convince it to do so? I'd rather not spend the bulk of my morning writing
Update: I never did find a fix for this, so I switched everything to Apache. It's all bloody fast now. At least now I can rest easy knowing the internal apps I worked on for the company over the past two years actually are as fast as I thought they should be :)
Money Where Your Mouth Is Apr 02 2012
I plan to write more on this subject later this week, but for now I wanted to briefly share an idea I've been kicking around in my head for awhile.
With goons like the MPAA and RIAA now colluding with American internet service providers to threaten "escalating action" against individuals merely accused of infringing on copyright, it's time for all of us (this includes you) to do more than simply boycott these companies and their products.
What we need to start doing, in addition to refusing to pay these companies a dime, is to support artists, authors, designers, publishers and other companies who do the right thing. I bought Trine 2 and The Witcher 2 today to support two game publishers because they use no Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) on these games (plus, Trine 2 now has a Linux client).
To best cut out the MPAA/RIAA middlemen, we need a two-fanged attack: eliminating their cash flow is the first step, but providing a financially stable and suitable environment for the actual creative people who make all the things we enjoy to thrive is the more vital second step. Killing the middlemen who serve as a barely-functional life support mechanism for our modern day artisans will only kill them off too unless we provide something better.
So vote with your wallets, folks -- don't just do it by putting the wallets away, do it by doing business with good people visibly so the bad ones can see you doing it.
Comments Fixed, and Some Thanks Mar 29 2012
The issue with comments is fixed (turned out to be nothing related to Disqus, which was behaving normally), but the unfortunate side effect is that since things were misconfigured, a couple of comments are now attached to the wrong URL for the site and I can't seem to move them within Disqus' admin panel. In short, they're lost :)
So I wanted to thank Nicole for commenting to offer support and encouragement for my presentation (which went really well, incidentally), and I also wanted to thank SeedM8 for commenting about how to find where their servers are located (I did ultimately decide to stick with SeedM8 for my seedbox anyway, as they are suitably offshore, which satisfied the last lingering requirement I had).
So, er, yeah, comments are working again! This time I won't misplace any :)
Disqus Comments Temporarily Broken Mar 20 2012
I've just noticed there's a template goof of some sort on this Mingus installation, so Disqus thinks every link on the site is the same conversation (whoops). I'm working on fixing it, so standby. Should only be goofed up for another couple of days at most. Sorry about any nuisance this might cause. Contact me at email@example.com for urgent issues regarding the site.
In what can only be described as much a surprise to me as it must be to anyone else, a paper I co-authored earlier this year was reviewed and accepted for publication by the Simulation Interoperability Standards Organization and I've been invited to present the paper next week at the 2012 Spring Simulation Interoperability Workshop in Orlando, Florida (I'm on page 93 of the agenda -- click the blue "Agenda" button to view it).
The paper, An Innovative Approach to Processing and Converting Environmental Data, focuses on tackling some of the challenges we've encountered while working with data sets that indirectly relate to (or work with) SEDRIS. It would never have been possible for a paper like this to be written without the stupendous amounts of support, encouragement and hard work by everyone on the SEDRIS core team, including my colleagues (part coworkers and part friends :)) at the office here in Orlando.
I'll be presenting it Tuesday as per the schedule shown on the agenda. Wish me luck!
Trains are Still Pretty Cool Mar 08 2012
Right now I'm sitting in the "cafe car" of an Amtrak train, heading north (from my Orlando stomping grounds) towards Washington D.C. for a nice vacation with my lovely girlfriend. It's 1:10am as I type out this sentence. The car is silent, and has been for about the last hour; except for the train's on-duty conductor and the engineer actually driving it, most everyone is asleep now. There's the occasional little flicker of activity as someone passes through the car or one of the other two people parked here wake up or toss & turn, but otherwise things are strangely peaceful and serene.
I'm taking full advantage of my Nexus S (running the latest CyanogenMod Ice Cream Sandwich nightly build) and its cheerful willingness to share its cellular data connection with my laptop via Wi-fi), doing things that just five years ago would have been considered impossible, or at least impractical. I've installed a bunch of add-ons into Visual Studio 2010 to make it less monstrous, updated the Qt SDK, downloaded the Boost C++ libraries, sqlite3, and a few other nuggets in their entirety, and transferred nearly 2GB of audio files from my NAS at home (naturally I forgot to load them onto my laptop before we left for the station!).
What's nicest about a trip like this is I get to actually enjoy the journey getting to D.C. (and back) because I'm not driving. While I was happy with how fast I managed to drive across the country to visit my parents last year (40 hours, driving straight through), I'm grateful for the opportunity to have a good 17 hours straight of "moving from point A to point B" without having to be at the helm myself, deal with the imbeciles running the TSA, fight my own nerves in a cramped airplane seat, or cope with the grim realities of an extended bus journey. There are plenty of restrooms, lots of room to get up and walk around for a stretch, comfortable seating wherever I go, and since we're firmly planted on the ground my irritating and irrational fear of flying isn't bothering me non-stop throughout the trip. It's just so nice to have someone else do the driving for once.
The accommodations are just great. The food for sale is, of course, low quality and ridiculously overpriced, but there are 120V electric outlets at every single seat, the chairs are huge (with arm and foot rests, reclining backs, leg supports, and adjustable trays. Cellular reception has been very hit-or-miss, but there have been plenty of pockets of good connectivity, and quite a few times along the way I've actually gotten better network performance than I do back in Orlando.
I've been banging out a bunch of C++ code for a project idea I've had brewing in my head for a few weeks now, and it's amazing how productive I can be just by parking myself in the cafe car with my laptop and going nuts with the compiler. I'm writing what I hope will be a cross-platform, unintrusive and flexible generic file tagging utility, with no dependencies on specific filesystem features and enough configurability to let users either stash all tag information in a centralized database file or place them as human-readable plain text files in either every directory where at least one file (or the directory itself) has a tag assigned or in key "base" directories (implying that both recursive tagging and "one text file lists tags for all files/directories near it" will be supported).
I'm trying my level best to use "best practices" for this thing; the tagging mechanism itself is being plopped into a standalone library that uses only the C++ STL and a couple Boost libraries, but that requires nothing special when simply being linked against (i.e. the header file for the library doesn't reference Boost or sqlite3 at all). I've put in lots of flexibility in terms of how the various functions can be called (if you care about specific failures in batch operations, you can pass in an extra vector that will be updated to list all failed items, but if you don't, things still work and behave sanely) and I think I've got a decent API for the thing put together already. I'll find out for sure whether it's a good interface or not when it comes time to start writing the actual GUI and command-line frontends for the thing, probably later this morning once I finish the library's functionality.
The nice thing about this train ride so far is that I can finally devote some good amounts of time to projects like this. At home, there's usually so much going on and/or more "pressing" matters to tend to that I can't sit down and give myself a few hours straight to play with this sort of thing. I'll probably get more code written in the next few hours than I normally would in a month of at-home "hobby time."
I'm this happy and we haven't even arrived in Washington, D.C. yet, where I'm quite eager about the very large number of free/cheap things that actually look/sound interesting there. I'm particularly anxious to check out the National Zoo, and of course all the various Smithsonian Institute facilities scattered around the capital. The Library of Congress is on my "fingers crossed hope I get to go see it" list too, and I'm sure once we arrive there'll be so much more cool stuff that pops up unexpectedly that we'll actually have to scramble to see it all.
Oh, and did I mention trains still kick ass? :)
Looking for a Good Seedbox Mar 02 2012
After using SeedM8 for quite awhile, I decided to look around for other offerings (not because of any dissatisfaction with SeedM8, mind you, just curiosity and maybe an overzealous hope of reducing my monthly outlay a bit) to see what else was out there. A disappointing stint with Seed.st (whose rTorrent configuration doesn't appear to have DHT enabled, so no magnet links ever worked -- pretty useless for my needs) ended quickly, so I'm on the hunt for a new seedbox. What I need:
Unmetered up/down bandwidth
It doesn't matter much how fast that bandwidth actually is, so long as it's better than American "consumer-grade" broadband, e.g. at least 100mbit up/down or better; what matters most is that it's unmetered and truly unlimited (SeedM8 did this very well with its M.50 (and higher) slots)
There's no better BitTorrent client, period. Sorry, Windows users, but this is yet another instance where Unix beats Windows hands down.
Note: I don't care all that much about whether ruTorrent (the de-facto standard web UI for rTorrent) is available, but if it is, being able to install plugins unfettered is preferable (again, SeedM8 did this well).
Magnet link support
Technically speaking, Seed.st supported magnet links, but they never actually connected to anything or managed to fetch the actual .torrent files they pointed to. This was presumably because DHT wasn't enabled, but I couldn't verify this as there's no way to check.
I don't want/need root, of course, but it's certainly handy to have "raw" access to my account's files (both torrented data and config/hosted files). Again, SeedM8 provided this. Seed.st did not.
I haven't actually used this much just yet, but given the current climate in America (with the MAFIAA effectively driving the government's behavior concerning "intellectual property") it's becoming clear that it'd be a good idea to start using one.
This is another spot where SeedM8 did well.
You're probably wondering at this point "why not just stay with SeedM8 since they were so perfect?" The answer is simple -- their domain name ends in .com, and while their whois information is a "DomainsByProxy.com"-guarded one, the provided address is an American one. This concerns me for two reasons.
First, the .com domain could easily be seized by the American government, essentially on a whim, solely based on accusations from MAFIAA organizations or agents, disrupting my access to the services provided. Second, there's no way for me to determine whether the seedbox itself is located outside America or not, or whether the company providing it to me is located outside America.
I can't in good conscience make use of American-based hosting services of any kind, including the .com, .net, and .org domains I currently hold (but will be letting expire this year after the near-disaster of SOPA) given the United States government's generally hostile attitude towards net neutrality, free speech online, and even basic internet connectivity and technology in recent years, so I worry about using SeedM8 without confirmation that they're an offshore operation that just happens to use a domain in a US-controlled TLD.
So, any ideas/suggestions, folks?
Recently I bought two of these little guys and have been spending some quality time getting them set up and running. In fact I do them a disservice, as "getting them up and running" is a matter of sticking a bootable USB flash drive in them, installing an OS, and rebooting.
These little machines are quite simply the best "bitty boxes" I've ever had the pleasure of working with. They're absolutely tiny (you could hold a stack of them in one hand), they're surprisingly fast (dual-core AMD E-350 CPUs running at 1.6GHz, and can handle up to 4GB of RAM), and they just work.
I slapped a 32GB SSD in each of them for "holy crap that's fast" performance, and installed XBMCbuntu on them both to make them into media centers that can play absolutely anything I've thrown at them and that happen to be running a stable, bloody useful Linux distribution underneath.
At $170 for the barebones kit, these things can be outfitted for less than $250 if you forego the SSD, or $300 if you don't, and you've got yourself a miniature beast that fits in the palm of your hand -- 802.11n WiFi and gigabit wired ethernet, 6 USB ports (two of them 3.0, four of them 2.0), HDMI and DVI outputs, a 5-in-1 card reader, audio in/out ports, and a warm fuzzy feeling as you marvel at how fast something so small can be. Oh, and they come with a VESA mount to let you bolt the suckers to the back of an LCD monitor quickly and easily too. Plus a driver DVD that actually contains useful drivers.
Linux is always the better option anyway (for myriad reasons, from its low cost and freedom to its technical superiority to its competition), but these things even run Windows admirably. Ubuntu supports all the hardware in these things out of the box, including the Radeon HD 6310 integrated video (you won't be gaming much on these, but that's about all they won't do).
They're just neat. You should buy one. Because owning neat stuff can make you smile. :)
P.S.: I feel compelled to point out I was not compensated by Foxconn (the manufacturer) or Newegg (the vendor I linked to) for this post. I really do just like the little buggers enough to gush about 'em.
The Windows Bootloader is a Steaming Pile Feb 03 2012
...of llama excrement. I have never before worked with such an insanely idiotic, badly designed, horribly broken, desperately fragile piece of software, and I've worked with LILO before.
Pray to whatever god(s) you worship if your root disk starts throwing SMART errors signaling it's taking a turn for the worse, because when you get to work actually swapping disks out, you're signing up for a road trip through a valley of insanity populated by insane Microsoft Windows developers and guarded by their demented friends in the marketing department.
Only Microsoft could devise such a devilishly incompetent boot loader mechanism, one so brittle that its own tools, designed to repair the miserable thing, mind you, routinely have to reboot the affected system several times before getting things "right." Only Microsoft could develop and sell an operating system whose boot loader, so very trivial to break even on a good day, can somehow convince it that a fully licensed installation is actually pirated.
... my Ubuntu installation remains unharmed ...
Rant completed. Carry on.