May 30, 2007

Books in the queue

I've been spending a great deal of time on airplanes and trains, and as a result I've been burning my way through a stack of paperbacks. Here are some of the recent highlights. I finally scratched an itch that has been waiting to be addressed and read my way through Kage Baker's The Company series, starting with In The Garden of Iden. If you're not familiar with it, I'll just tell you it's a lovely mix of historical fiction and sci-fi. Imagine, if you will, that at some point in the future, a corporation invents immortality, but can't market it because it involves extensive cyborging and has to be performed at a very young age - so extensive that rich parents, as the only ones who can afford it, wouldn't want their children so modified. Then imagine that this same company manages to invent time travel into the past - where you can't change recorded history, but which leaves all manner of loopholes for tweaking things which weren't written down. And then imagine that the next day, all kinds of famously lost and priceless artifacts start mysteriously turning up in trusts, behind wallpaper, under floorboards - all in places owned by the company. Who's doing it? Why, the rescued children from ancient times, whom the Company have been saving from death throughout history and turning into immortals, of course - why muck around in the roughing-it past when you can just make servants to do it for you...?

Also finally started settling down to some serious work on Terry Pratchett's excellently funny Discworld stuff. I'd read Eric some years ago, along with a one or two others, but I just chewed my way through Going Postal, Small Gods, Monstrous Regiment and Guards! Guards! with much snickering. I look forward with much anticipation to the many Discworld books that lie in wait for me on bookstore shelves, sharpening their pages in preparation.

I was also forced to re-buy a Miles Vorkosigan book, because Baen Book still has one or two of the 'collection omnibus' editions to release in e-book format, at having just re-read the series, there was this awful hole in the middle, so I had to buy Memory again, couldn't resist.

Let's see, what else? I read and enjoyed some cyberpunkish stuff by a Joel Shepherd, named the 'Cassandra Kresnov Novels' (Crossover, Breakaway). There appears to be a third, Killswitch, in the offing for November. Karen Traviss will probably be dropping another in the City of Pearl series on us any month now. William Gibson will drop Spook Country, fictional high-energy event, sometime midsummer; Richard K. Morgan (author of the excellent Takeshi Kovacs novels and the twisted Market Forces) will have something for us late summer as well.

In the meantime, I am making slow but forward progress on writing something of my own, which is looking heartbreakingly derivative of a couple of my own favorite books, but ah well, what can you do. I make no claims of competence in that area.

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May 22, 2007

Give a lowlife celebrity, he's still a lowlife.

So dog-fighting should be winked at if famous football players are found doing it (and it's a felony) because non-famous people do it too? The football players should be let off because non-football players aren't prosecuted despite the fact that "everybody knows they do it?"

In other words, "I got no responsibility to be an example, and all you pay me for is to perform on the field, and how I conduct myself is none of your business despite the fact that I'm being paid to be a public figure."

Yeah, right.

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May 21, 2007

May 19, 2007

Hotel internet

What is it about hotels and bandwidth? I have had to stay in something like nine different business-class or resort hotels in the past few months. All have boasted 'high speed internet access!' Only one of them has actually had a working network solution in the room when I arrived.

This is not rocket science, people. I'm not complaining about the damn rape-me-for-a-day's charges authorization portals, either. Those are par for the course. I mean I show up, flip open the laptop and (if specified) jack it in to the indicated port with CAT-5 which I've learned to always have with me, or hunt for the specified SSID on 802.11 if not.

Never works.

At the hotel I'm currently at, a golf resort in northern VA near Dulles, there's a wartlike box that comes out the side of the TV cabinet and extends over the edge of the desk. It contains two power outlets and a data jack, and the room cordless phone rests on top. Okay. Plugging into the data jack produced no result. Calling the three different extensions at the hotel that kept referring me to the others produced no result - no link. Finally, in frustration, I opened the TV cabinet and traced cables. Sure enough, there's a standard DSL modem buried underneath the gear, and its output is wired via a built-in CAT-5 to the jack on the wart.

Yank the output and plug my own patch cable directly into the modem? Works.

Oh, until I left the room and came back. Then I didn't have internet service. Couldn't figure out why, I'd authorized the full day charges, until I checked the modem again. It was depowered. This was interesting, since its power adapter was completely hidden behind the TV cabinet, so I couldn't have kicked it or anything. The TV itself was still working.

After ten minutes of bitching, I turned on all the room lights. Yep. They plugged it into a fucking lamp circuit back there.

Other hotels claim wireless, but of course there's only one bar of signal on most of the floor. A couple memorable examples of national chain hotels turned out, on judicious examination of their network when I could get to the wireless net but no further, to have the entire wing of the hotel connected through a single fucking consumer router (a Netgear in one case, and a familiar Linksys in another). In one case, the router was crashed, and the front desk kept adamantly insisting that the network was fine because they could see the SSID. In the second, I managed to reboot the router, which brought service back - for about ten minutes. Then it went away again. Some examination showed that they were routing their damn conference facility through the same device, and it was promptly running out of either DHCP or NAT entries (it would run out of one or the other, depending on what was being run and how many users were online). I got used to logging into it, cycling it, and then nabbing a DHCP entry and opening up three SSH sessions and leaving the machine up so as to ensure there would be resources if I wanted to use them later.

Oh, yeah, in the latter case, they hadn't changed the default manufacturer password. They just were using a different IP range (on the same wireless net!) for 'management.'


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May 15, 2007

Comey testifies.

Damn. I mean, damn.

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May 13, 2007

This makes me so glad I left.

I'm not a developer. I don't code. It could be argued, convincingly, that I in fact contributed nothing at all to the Ximian production of Linux software during my years working there (although I will state firmly and for the record that I'm not in sales, thanks).

I greeted the news of the Microsoft-Novell patent agreement with trepidation and annoyance. I refrained from blogging about it, because I didn't have enough information about either the agreement itself or the issues being bandied about and didn't consider my opinion should be put forth under a Novell/Ximian username.

I don't work there anymore.

I don't, and didn't, know specifically the business pressures under which Novell and its executives were operating when they negotiated that agreement. I do, however, consider the agreement itself to be a gross betrayal of statements made to the Linux community and those working within it by Novell spokespersons at prior times. The agreement legitimates (in my wholly uninformed opinion) Microsoft's position of Linux and F/OSS patent infringement on its software. Perhaps not in a legally liable manner - that, I'm sure, will be argued vociferously by many people in the years to come - but certainly in a cravenly wink-aside manner. Novell took a payoff, and sold out everyone else in The Prisoner's Dilemma in order to try to achieve some stock bumps for a new management team which had (at the time) ridden to power on promises to achieve some upwards mobility in the stock price.

They haven't really succeeded. Guess what's coming next? Layoffs, probably. I don't know, myself, not working there the past few months. But that's the typical pattern. Hovsepian had some great quote about the 'two levers' that one can use to achieve profitability when he took over. I think one involved raising profits, and the other cutting costs, and then he mumbled on about careful juggling of those two levers and then platitudes about perhaps finding a 'third lever.'

Well, that 'third lever' was revealed to be massive payouts from Microsoft for selling everybody else out. The 'second lever' - layoffs - is traditional. The 'first lever' is a joke, because the BIG SECRET is that it's not at all under his control. It waggles around at the behest of the market, and the market has been telling his company for years that its software sucks.

Why am I suddenly so bitter? Because, as many of us predicted quite accurately at the time - some loudly and publicly, some amongst ourselves into our beers, Novell defecting at the Prisoner's Dilemma has consequences for everyone else. Nasty ones. The pact they were so proud of has, in fact, turned out to be the wedge that seems to have given Ballmer, Smith and their legion of non-productive monopolists the self-confidence to ramp down the DEFCON level on their self-centered game of IP armageddon.

I don't agree with (or even like) many, many people on both sides of this so-called war. I hate extremists of all sorts, to the point of being one myself on the subject. I find extreme polarization to be dangerous, limiting, and frankly, fucking tedious. Most of the 'big names' involved in this little spat seem to fall squarely in that realm. Those that don't, some of whom are some of the smartest people I have read or listened to, are doomed to try to save what they can from the debacle when the buttons are pushed and the lawyers start billing in earnest.

All because of some true scumbags. Not because they're greedy; that's their job. No; because they're so convinced they and their methodology are right, and that the side effects are somebody else's problem, that they're willing to ride the situation down into flames and blame it on the other guys and claim they were just 'doing their jobs for their stockholders' while furtively cashing in options before it gets truly fucked.

Disclaimer: I own some Novell options. Not because I want to, but because Novell, before I planned to leave, suspended all conversion of its options and hasn't unblocked trading yet.

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May 1, 2007

You've got to be kidding me.

Loyalty Day? We're in the middle of a storm of revelations about how dangerous loyalty can be, especially when it's shown, utilized, or co-opted by this President's administration. Loyalty is one of those words that sounds wonderfully unifying until you start asking hard questions - and Mr. President, I'm sorry, but this nation is more about asking hard questions than demonstrating the sort of 'loyalty' that you seem to hold dear. Incompetent and/or corrupt appointees remain in their posts, their very presence damaging the principles this nation's founding claimed to espouse, due to a triumph of 'loyalty' over 'sense.'

There's this place called the 'reality-based community.' You might try visiting.

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