Bill Eccles: February 2009 Archives

Couldn't Have Said It Better Myself

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Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama

Find Cool Stuff in Your VCR!

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OMG! PWNies!

Now there’s an understatement. The article is here.

Best quote from the article:

“The taxing aspect of this is worse than Robin Hood,” said economist Peter Morici, a University of Maryland professor. “[Obama]’s resurrecting class warfare for political gain.”

“We have learned from hard experience that big government only begets big government and high unemployment,” he said. “We have 1970s’ solutions for new-age problems, and it’s just not going to work. People are going to be happy to get some free healthcare for a while, then it’s all going to end in tears.”

I’m not surprised. While other, more mature candidates for President were learning from history, our current president was in high school. Or in law school, where they teach you all kinds of good stuff about economics, right? Or maybe he was organizing in his community… You can really learn about economic history by doing that.

It seem that 52.9% of Americans decided to ignore Obama’s economic ignorance even as they were voting for the leader who will take us through the economic morass that we knew was coming.

Safari 4 Beta: Wow.

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I have been using Safari 4 Beta for all of five minutes now and I’m about to explode because my brain simply can’t wrap itself around the speed and usability improvements that I’m seeing.

First, the speed: I use Google Reader a lot and it is noticeably snappier. A web app that I’m designing is also considerably more responsive as the JavaScript engine (“Nitro…” I liked SquirrelFish better…) is far faster than the last version.

Second, the usability: I don’t know if it’s because Apple buggered up the JavaScript engine to handle the “javascript:NewWindow” function or not, but the Canon USA website I found incredibly frustrating to use last night is now usable. Wow.

Also, that I can tell, Safari now handles self-signed certificates (and remembering to allow them) correctly. What a blessing that one is, especially as I am developing my web app on my own server with my self-signed certificate. Whew!

And the integration of lightning-fast (and I do mean lightning fast) Google suggestions into the search bar is absolutely outstanding.

Now, a gripe or two:

The blue progress bar that filled in across the URL bar as the page loaded was very nice, and I miss it.

The grid display of most popular sites is really cool, as is the Coverflow view. But why no keyboard navigation? And why is there no way to access these views in the… View menu, or with a keyboard shortcut? The only way I can find to get at them is with a click in the Bookmark Bar on the grid icon. That strikes me as oddly exclusive of keyboard users.

More later as I discover things…

The Orbiting Carbon Observatory didn’t make it into orbit, becoming, for a moment, space junk and then, more permanently, litter.

It failed, as the press releases say, but if you look at the various videos (here’s one), you’ll not find the words “accident” or “failure.”

Nope. Too obvious. Instead, NASA used their Roget’s and came up with “contingency.” Yes, a valid choice of word, but, really, NASA, you’re scientists and engineers, people who are fond of calling BULLSH*T when listening to politicians obfuscate their misdeeds. Admit failure to the cameras and let’s dispense with the politician’s tactics.

If only…

Dilbert.com

A lot has been said about the decision to remove Hulu from Boxee. Boxee is a program that can be put onto an AppleTV (and some computer platforms) for the purpose of playing media other than what Apple had in mind on the AppleTV. Hulu is a service designed to stream mostly-unobtrusive-commercial-supported video to computers. So it should come as no surprise that the Big Media conglomerates have requested that Boxee remove Hulu.

And that’s because Big Media makes a lot of money from licensing its content to cable providers. For example, one estimate says that Time Warner pays Viacom $300 million per year in licensing fees.—and that’s just one of the major cable providers! Since the AppleTV/Boxee/Hulu combo is designed to put Hulu content straight onto the TV, it is an effective enough (albeit not perfect) competitor to cable, enough so that Big Media is worried—rightly so—that it may eat into their profits from the cable providers.

“But Bill,” you say, “there aren’t enough ATV/B/H users out there to make a difference! And besides, Hulu is supported by ad revenue so that the content providers get paid!”

“Perhaps not at the moment,” I say, and, “True.” But:

Since there aren’t so many ATV/B/H users out there, it’s the right time for Big Media to stop something they perceive might be a problem in the future, when more users would scream all that much louder and become a serious pain in their side. And more difficult to defeat in the court of public perception.

And:

Don’t forget that the content providers get paid whether or not you watch your cable-provided content. They only get paid by Hulu when you watch Hulu. Guess which one nets more money?

Boxed Separator.gif

When it was just laptops and desktop PCs expected to play back Hulu content, Media was happy because it was not a source of direct competition. But ATV/B/H is a serious threat, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see that Hulu never shows up in a supported capacity on any other platform, either. Not until Hulu starts paying per subscriber instead of per viewer, and I’m pretty sure snow shovels would be found in Hell first.

Ooops.

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After updating my MacOS X Server 10.5.6 with Security Update 2009-001, I rebooted and noticed that everything had gone to hell in the proverbial handbasket. Perl is updated to version 5.8.8 (with some local patches! Whee!) and—long story short—it seems that some modules just don’t like that.

Short story, longer:

This is what was appearing in the logs, over and over and over again:

Feb 12 19:02:00 shr-g5 org.amavis.amavisd[600]: ERROR: MISSING REQUIRED BASIC MODULES:
Feb 12 19:02:00 shr-g5 org.amavis.amavisd[600]:   Compress::Zlib
Feb 12 19:02:00 shr-g5 org.amavis.amavisd[600]: BEGIN failed--compilation aborted at /usr/bin/amavisd line 166.
Feb 12 19:02:00 shr-g5 com.apple.launchd[1] (org.amavis.amavisd[600]): Exited with exit code: 255
Feb 12 19:02:00 shr-g5 com.apple.launchd[1] (org.amavis.amavisd): Throttling respawn: Will start in 10 seconds

And if you Google the error, you’ll come up with nothing related to MacOS X Server. Crap.

Well, let’s try reinstalling ZLib.

And if you do that, you end up with a mess of error messages. Sorry! Try again!

But if you look at some old stuff and ignore the fact that this is a Mac, such as this reference to the same error, but on a Linux (eww!) distro, you’ll discover that the real error is not ZLib, but it might be something called Scalar::Util. (Well, it truly won’t load, but because Scalar::Util won’t work and ZLib depends on it.)

So, you figure you’ll just follow the advice of the post and reinstall Scalar::Util.

admin$ sudo perl -MCPAN -e shell
Password:
CPAN: File::HomeDir loaded ok (v0.82)

cpan shell -- CPAN exploration and modules installation (v1.9205)
ReadLine support enabled

cpan[1]> install Scalar::Util                                                                                                                                     
CPAN: Storable loaded ok (v2.15)
Going to read /Users/admin/.cpan/Metadata
  Database was generated on Thu, 12 Feb 2009 18:26:51 GMT
Scalar::Util is up to date (1.19).

cpan[2]>

Crap. Crappity, crappity, CRAP!

Asking CPAN shell for help is useless. So… Google again!

The missing link here is the word force.

All you have to do is

cpan[2]> force install Scalar::Util

and that fixes Scalar::Util so that ZLib can load so that amavisd can load, too. The errors go away, amavisd loads, and the best thing you can do at this point is restart your server to see if your system log comes up clean(ish).

Update

I filed my first-ever bug report! (How exciting!) It’s bug 6584649 in case you want to follow it.

Another Update

I’m running a PowerMac Dual 2GHz G5. That makes a difference in the architecture of things. Maybe things are all hunky-dory in Intel-land?

MacOS X Server Security Update 2009-001 appears to be PHP neutral.

Through not-so-rigorous testing (i.e., comparing the results of “php -i” before and after the upgrade), I have determined that the latest Security Update appears to change nothing in my PHP installation. Your mileage may vary.

However, it may seriously screw up your mail server.

Some scientists at Georgia Tech have managed to harness hamsters’ energy with nanowires.

Nanowires can be woven, can’t they?

Into, say, jackets?

I’m guessing that my employer will take this research to the inevitable next step and get us all jackets, purportedly for “safety” or “environmental” or “ergonomic” reasons, of course.

Article here.

Remind me why I need all of those keyboard buttons again? Seems to me the last book I bought didn’t have any kind of keyboard at all, and yet it was perfectly readable.

Strange…

Article here.

While Tognazzini’s points are valid, it’s essential to note that he doesn’t quite get Apple’s business model, which is sell the platform, not the software.

If you doubt it, simply Google “apple is a hardware company” and you’ll see that I’m not alone in my recollection/supposition/conclusion.

The Macintosh is a platform. The iPhone is a platform. The iPod is a platform. And in each case, they happen to sell content that makes that platform more attractive, but they make their real money on the platform.

iPhoto? Great for the beginner, but Tog’s right: Photoshop for the big stuff. iMovie? Good for the kids and producing a Sunday-afternoon DVD. Go get Final Cut Pro for the “real thing.” Weather on the iPhone? Forget it for anything more than a good idea of what the weather is going to be like tomorrow. iTunes? Well, there’s a whole ‘nother story…

To summarize:

Apple’s not in the business of selling the dope. They’re in the business of selling the addiction.

According to this article, yet another Obama-nominated candidate is being grilled because of tax avoidance questions and will likely withdraw her nomination, if she follows the pattern of other recent candidates.

Now, let’s put things into perspective here: in most cases, if you screwed up your taxes and the IRS figures it out, you generally have to pay the IRS the back taxes, plus penalties, plus interest. No big deal, right?

But if you screwed up and got caught with cocaine, you’d serve jail time. Up to seven years. And maybe even get fined up to $500,000.

So which is more severe? Cocaine use or tax irregularities?

Doesn’t matter what you think: Congress and 53% of the American public seem to agree. A cocaine-using President is OK, a tax-evading public servant is not.

Does this make sense to anybody? Anybody at all?