Older blog entries for ahosey (starting at number 40)

Web logs are all the rage now, but I'm going for a more disciplined style of writing on my web pages. I'm trying to use these editorials/rants/funny stories to improve my writing. When I was young I thought I would be a journalist or a novelist or some kind of arsty-fartsy writer, before I got hooked back into computers. Now I'd like to get back some of those writing skills.

A sample of the most recent post:

The Beatles were blamed for Charles Manson. AC/DC was blamed for Richard Ramirez, Catcher in the Rye was considered generally subversive, etc. And in my generation, Quake is blamed for Columbine and Flight Simulator is blamed for the World Trade Center strike.

My Head Hurts

I suppose, in regards to this post, I should mention that I finally got my iBook a couple months ago. It is not tangerine and it is not shaped like a gumdrop. It is white and rectangular, somewhat like a chiclet. And I am very impressed by it.

No disrespect to the hard working Sleepycat fellows, but I really wish Sleepycat/Berkeley DB would provide a higher level API for simple database operations. I'm glad the fine grained API is there, but another API above that, with a reasonable set of default flags for simple synchronized open/get/put/close operations, would really help. As it is I'm about ready to can the whole thing and just install a mysqld for the job. It would be smashing the bug with a big hammer, but I'd get done faster!

The subtly shifting changes in the API with each release get me too. I suspect that is a symptom of lacking a more abstract API, it would be easier to keep that API consistent and let the changes occur underneath that.

Can someone explain what the advantages of SOAP are supposed to be? If they want to invent another RPC mechanism, that's cool, since none of the ones we have seem to be too popular. But what's the point of doing it over HTTP? The handshake/tear-down overhead of HTTP is so much that I don't see how one can get expect to get good response time on interactive applications.

My wife, bless her, surprised me by buying the Namco Museum for the Gameboy Advanced. This includes my favorite arcade game of all time, Galaga. But I'm disappointed in the conversion. The game play, graphics, and sound are a totally faithful reproduction. But instead of keeping the scores at the top and the extra ships at the bottom, they've given up the entire righthand quarter of the screen to displaying that information. That means the game play is smooshed into the remaining 3/4ths of the already small GBA screen, and it's so tiny - the individual shots are almost invisible.

I think the motivation might have been to preserve the aspect ratio of the original game screen. But dammit, who's doing QA and playtesting on this stuff? Did not one person get a chance to say "dudes, that's unplayable" at any point in the process?

On the plus side, the conversion of Dig Dug is quite good.

I always wanted a copy of Robotech, and now I have it. I rule!

hacker: Since when did we live in a world where we chop the heads off of innocent people, because the government in another country isn't listening to the demands of a rebel guerilla group?

Since... well, forever. Pick up a history book covering any tumultous time and place in the world.

I'm not saying that makes it okay - just the opposite. Until more people realize that these things happen a lot, have happened, and continue to happen, they'll never stop.

As for destroying Sabaya, it's not as straightforward as you make it sound. The Abu Sayyaf is not a regular army or a regular political group - there are no central points to attack. The Philippine jungle is very large and nasty nasty nasty. Anyone with some jungle savvy who doesn't want to be found, probably won't be found. Think USA vs. Viet Nam, or USSR vs. Afganistan. Guerilla tactics are scary and effective - that's why there have always been guerillas down thru history.

So what, should everyone just give up? Of course not. But sending a bunch of soldiers to wander the jungle isn't going to do it either. The situation is much more complicated than that.

I'm very disappointed with the look of the new iBook. I'll probably still get one, but I liked the gumdrop look of the older models. I want a laptop that says "fuck all you matte-black ThinkPad carrying NT-using stuffed shirts. I'm having fun with my computer and I'm still smarter than you."

I think Apple sold out in order to have to greater market appeal to the abovementioned stuffed shirts.

Maybe they'll bring back tangerine. That would be some redemption.

jlf and I just had an interesting conversation. We were talking about the parallels people often try to draw between electrical engineering and software engineering. i.e. there is the notion that EEs can take a packaged IC off of a shelf and just use it, knowing the inputs and knowing the outputs. The parallel idea in software is often discussed as "reusable software." Related to that, I remember Rob Pike saying something about how 80-90% of the work he did on Plan9 was just "compatibility" stuff - POSIX, TCP, etc. So... what if we were all able to download a POSIX library and just use it in our work, a la pulling an IC off a shelf?

The language <=> language problem is not a big issue, it's been solved many times many ways. (One) problem with the idea not often discussed is that software, and software engineers, have to deal with all the different hardware architectures and operating system platforms out there. This is where the software engineering <=> electrical engineering analogy breaks down. Imagine you're an EE and the laws of physics are slightly different every time you start a new job. Now those pre-packaged ICs are less useful, yeah? That's the difficultly facing the issue of reusable software. Ultimately any piece of software has to run on some piece of hardware. There are plenty of POSIX-compatibility libraries out there, but in order to be used they all have to run on an appropriate hardware/OS platform. That's why there are so many of those libraries!

So what's to be done? Right now, and I really stress the "right now," the great leveller we have is the network. So imagine there was a big machine out there on the Internet which exported the entire POSIX API via some form of RPC. Now anyone on any platform in any language really would have access to a reusable POSIX implementation... Erm, provided their computer is attached to the network. For that reason (and others) POSIX via RPC is not really a serious solution, but I wanted to throw out that example in the search for truly reusable software.

Just to be clear, my ranting about Red Carpet was a happy rant. I really like it. I found a couple nits to pick, of course, which I will probably put in the bug tracker as suggestions.

dan, schoen, and cdent have been making interesting and I think insightful comments about the stock market and some business practices the world seems to take as given. I think the relentless push for growth and expansion by corporations is ultimately driven by the stock market. The corporations have to point to continued growth in order to keep their shareholders happy and keep their market cap up. Why isn't it enough to just meet payroll and put just a little extra in the bank? A few months ago I read in Business Week that the big telcos are starting to get nervous because their shareholders are selling. Why are the shareholders selling? Because these big telcos are posting profits of $5 billion instead of $10 billion. Not revenue, profit. And that's not enough. No kidding!

I haven't yet worked for a public company and I hope I am never in a position where I have to. I feel kind of guilty about holding a 401k but that's a more complicated issue. I want to have a retirement fund, I don't want to be a burden on my children. But in order to keep pace with inflation money must be "invested" and any time money is "invested" in any fashion it is eventually reaching someone who is expected to provide "return on investment." Which is fine, the privately-held company where I work is the same principle - they give us paychecks and we as a group are expected to create revenue which meets or hopefully exceeds expenses. The problem I have with the stock market is an issue of scale. It seems that among publicly-held companies "return on investment" has finally evolved to mean "astronomical profits achieved by draconian means." I'd rather my money not be a part of that.

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