Older blog entries for mrorganic (starting at number 154)

My wife is one of those people to whom "Internet" and "the Web" are the same thing. She thinks e-mail somehow goes "over the web" to its destination. I'm not sure what that means beyond the fact that the web has completely taken over (and not to good effect) the average person's perception of the Internet. (Ironic, too, given that the most popular application is still e-mail and not web- browsing.)

AIM will probably succeed in killing IRC this year (if DDOS attacks don't do it first). FTP will continue to exist, but will shrink in popularity as Napster/Gnutella clones simplify the file-transfer process. USENET will go on -- if nothing else the horndogs will keep it going so they can download gigs of porn at no cost. SMTP/POP3 e-mail will likely give way to IMAP, but not quickly -- a few years hence, maybe. And the web itself will go on, getting ever more bloated and ever-tackier with each day that goes by.

I look to Gnutella -- and the follow-ons -- as the potential saviors of the internet. Peer-to-peer clients have potential we haven't even tapped yet (although we owe a great debt to Ray Ozzie, who invented Lotus Notes, from which nearly all P2P concepts spring). This may yet save the 'net from irrelevance.

I like projects like Freenet, too, because it assures the continued survival of *content*. Too much of what we see and read has been sanitized, bowdlerized, and lawyered into a bland, meaningless pap. Or, alternately, we have the most ridiculous Tabloid news imaginable -- flashy, glitzy, and trashy...but not really very relevant or interesting.

There are odd spots of comfort to be found on the web, though: Brill's Content is pretty consistently good, and Salon does a good job when they can keep their left-wing leanings under control. But these are the rare exceptions in a sea of muck.

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.

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