Older blog entries for mrorganic (starting at number 153)

It's interesting to note the way the web went from being a *technology* to being a *media*. (Right about the time the web stopped being very interesting....) I remember when the first NCSA Mosaic browser came out -- we were all so excited about it and thought of all the cool ways it would contribute to content sharing, cooperation, and research. More than a decade later, and the web has turned into a large, expensive billboard.

It shouldn't surprise me, I guess. The corporatization of the web was probably inevitable.

This is one of the reasons I still hang out on USENET a lot, though. Sure, it's raucous and has a lousy signal-to- noise level, but it involves *content* (if you ignore the endless rivers of spam, that is). There are some groups that are consistently entertaining and have pedigrees going back more than a decade (like talk.origins).

I hope that the peer-to-peer stuff -- like Gnutella -- will give rise to a new breed of internet content, unfettered by the failings of the web browser. The internet is pretty moribund now, and is likely to remain that way until something changes.

6 Feb 2001 (updated 6 Feb 2001 at 21:46 UTC) »

Afternoon update:

Finally figured out a really tough bug on the client-side of our three-tier app. For a wonder, it worked the first time I tried the fix.

Java sucks. Badly. Not so much in design (the language itself is okay), but in implementation -- the whole JVM idea is a piece of shit. I refuse to use a language that steals upwards of 64MB to run "Hello, world!". The GUI is so slow that sometimes you can *see* controls being drawn. Granted, some of this is due to poor programming, but I think that ultimately Java loses as a UI langauge. (And for server-side stuff there's always Python....)

I can't really understand what has made otherwise-sane people flock to the Java banner, but I hope the madness passes soon.


Work Stuff:

A bureaucracy's first imperative is to perpetuate its own existence. A bureacracy interprets inertia as safety.


I had another floppy drive croak on me last night. I must have offended some floppy-drive god at some point in my life because I've had three our four drives barf on me in less than five years. It's no big deal, I guess (they're cheap enough to replace), but it bugs me. I'd kiss off the damned 1.44" floppy altogether and rely on the zip drive, but in the Linux world it's still critical to have a bootdisk lying around in case of a disaster.

I did some writing last night -- mainly catching up on familial correspondence, but I also worked on an essay about the security vs. liberty thing. Hopefully I can say something fresh or at least different; if not I'll route the essay to /dev/null and get on with my programming projects.

Well, I followed up: I got KDE up and running on my Debian box and worked through some small QT programs. (As an aside, compiling KDE from sources really sucks and takes forever on my 500MHz Celeron. I should have expended the effort and found packaged binaries.) The upshot: some things I like a lot about KDE, but overall I prefer GNOME. (KNode, however, is about the best newsreader I have come across and handles binaries much better than Pan does.)

That said, I do find programming in QT to be pretty pleasant. I'm still not too fond of the signal/slot weirdness, but it works, and once you get the conceptual picture of what it does, it's pretty straightforward.

As I was fooling around on my box, I also tried several MPEG-viewers. Xine seems to be the best one going, but even it had lots of hiccups and crashed a lot. Video is one area where Linux *really* falls down. (Not surprising since so much video technology is hidden behind patents.) I do expect Xine to get much better over time.

2 Feb 2001 (updated 2 Feb 2001 at 16:26 UTC) »

10:30AM Update:

The U.S. continues its descent into the abyss of stupidity:


Sometimes I think chimps could run our institutions better than we do. Grrrr.....


Friday at last.

It's cold here today. I mean like 20 below zero Fahrenheit cold! Man was not meant to live this far north, I'm convinced. I pray for summer. However, this weather will give me some incentive to stay indoors and do some hacking this weekend.

I've been having a long discussion via e-mail with a friend of mine who is an ardent QT/KDE developer. Boiled down, his question was: "If you want to program in C++, why are you hesitating to develop using QT?"

Previously, my answer was, "Because QT isn't Free." But since TrollTech is now issuing QT (for X Windows, anyhow) under the GPL, that argument really isn't valid anymore. "I don't much care for the signal/slot weirdness," I say. But then callbacks aren't all that great either. And I must confess that the standard look'n'feel of QT is way better than GTK+, IMO.

So ultimately I started feeling a bit foolish. Here's this excellent C++ toolkit, which is Free (in both libre and gratis senses) and well-supported.

Realizing that I was acting rather stupidly, I decided then and there to give QT/KDE more of a fair shot. So this weekend I'll delve into the tutorials and HOWTO's and see if I come out any happier than when I went in. One thing I will say right off: KDevelop beats the pants off any equivalent GNOME IDE I've seen so far, even at this early (and rather unstable) stage of the game.

I wrote an OSOpinion piece some time back which was critical of KDE (particularly the fact that they eschewed CORBA for a home-rolled solution), but as my friend pointed out, many of my concerns have been addressed.

Who knows? I may yet find C++-happiness in Linux!

All that said, I'm still anxiously awaiting GNOME 1.4/GTK+ 2.0. There's a whole slew of interesting stuff coming down the pipe, along with a *major* clean-up of the API. (I'll be happy if they can just stop the annoying flicker on screen redraws!)

Work Stuff:

I'm just grinding away on a few different projects. It's not fun but it pays the bills. The "Inside ATL" book by Shepherd and King is pretty good; good enough to get me started, anyhow. I still think that forty bucks for a softcover technical book is highway robbery, but I'm old- fashioned enough to want a real *book* rather than a website or PDF file.


At some point over the next few days I'll be upgrading to the 2.4 kernel on my linux boxen. From what I've heard, the rewritten networking stuff is much faster, and there's a load of other improvements like USB support.

I'm thinking of using libglade for my UI work rather than coding GUI stuff directly. There's bound to be a speed- hit, but that will be offset by the increased maintainability. I need to hit libglade's website and grab the docs. Much reading to do!

My wife and I watched the Super Bowl yesterday, and it was one of the most inept and boring performances I can remember. My decision to ignore pro football this year has been vindicated.

I saw on slashdot that VistaSource, the owner of ApplixWare, may be going down the tubes. I liked ApplixWare (when I could keep it from crashing), but it's apparent that selling software at a profit for the Linux market is still not viable for most players. I anticipate a day not too far off when even MS is going to have problems selling Office -- if (say) StarOffice is good enough, there'll be no reason to pay for the MS product. The whole .NET project stinks of "well, Windows is no longer a cash-cow, so we need another way to bleed money out of our installed base".

I updated my base Debian install against the Progeny archives, and everything seemed to go fine. I'm running XFree 4.0.2 with no problems so far.

After some travail, I have Debian reinstalled on my box. With some trepidation, I elected to update against Woody. Everything seems to have gone well, but I had to pull down XFree 4.0.2 from XFree's site -- Woody still only has 3.3.6 as the standard install.

Enough futzing around with BeOS: it's neat, I wish it had more of a future, but I need to get back to my Linux stuff. So I scrubbed BeOS off the drive last night and reinstated Debian (although I'll probably apt-get Progeny later on so I can get a more up-to-date distro with glibc2.2 and XFree 4.0).

I've had several people suggest good C++ toolkits to me: QT (natch), but also JX, wxWindows, and a few others I can't remember. I've grown fonder of QT after using it a bit, and JX seems to have a lot going for it. wxWindows leaves me cold; it seems too MFC-ish for me (BEGIN_MESSAGE_MAP() and so on). However, it wraps GTK+ and is much more mature than GTKMM at this point.


I see that Florida has found a 13-year-old guilty of first- degree murder in the so-called "wrestling murder". Things like this give rise to a jumble of emotions: on one hand, I am aghast that we actually are considering putting a 13- year-old child in jail for life (even given the horrible thing he did), but on the other hand I am shocked at the brutality and cruelty that boy showed to the girl he killed. In the end I believe that we simply cannot jail a child for life. We would lose whatever soul we have were we to do such thing. It would be tantamount to admitting that we have no idea how to fix a society that is obviously very broken.

The aftermath of the Columbine massacre was the same: pundits try to find blame in violent video games or movies, or in the disintegration of the traditional family. We blame inattentive parents or lax gun laws. We blame an out- of-control media that sells consumerism and sex to kids. We look everywhere but within.

We are the adults who are supposed to be teaching these children, guiding them, and showing them the difference between right and wrong. We are supposed to be making them feel valued and needed in a world that all too often seems hostile. So why do children today feel more alone and more cut-off than ever before?

The failure is ours, not theirs.

Work Stuff:

Found an interesting bug in my middle-tier component. Well, actually it's not a bug; it was a behavior that all of a sudden the users decided they didn't like anymore and wanted removed. However, this particular behavior is pretty central to the object and consequently it will take some time to retool the software.


I spent a lot of money recently on new furniture. The good thing is that our house now looks a bit more like a home instead of an empty space where my wife and I store our stuff. The bad thing is that a new laptop is still a ways off in my future. Sigh.

I'll probably end up donating my old Mac to a school or charity somewhere in town (assuming they'll even take it). I may even check the homeless shelters -- surely they could use a computer? I don't want to stick it in a closet because it still works fine, but I also don't want it cluttering up my computer room once I get a new machine to replace it.

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