Ode to the Internet

I'm heading to Prague next week for the IETF. Things done online:

  • Plane reserved online

  • Conference registration handled online

  • Colleague requested a room change for us via e-mail

  • List of web pages for vegetarian restaurants e-mailed from a friend

  • Details about transport gotten from mailing list

I also need to find a hotel for the weekend after, and find the tourist things to do (and of course the good bars). Surely this will happen online.

None of this is weird or unusual or anything. I mean, come on.

But, I was just thinking about people who complain about how much time the Internet takes up. From my perspective, I'm glad I didn't have to go to a travel agent, register for a conference via fax, or call a Czech hotel; talk about a waste of time! And I don't even know where I would have looked for information about vegetarian restaurants in the bad old days (say 10 years ago).

I've said it before, I'll say it again. Damn I love the Internet!
  • Current Music

Rolling Rock

I'm not fussy about beer. I just like lots of it.

At our company All Hands' meeting, I learned that all of my colleagues... and Megan... are beer snobs. I got Rolling Rock, as a desperate attempt to get something that wasn't complete shit and yet wasn't too snooty.

Alas, everybody hates Rolling Rock. Junkies picking up half-smoked cigarette butts on the corner joke to each other about people desperate enough to drink it. If I mentioned Rolling Rock at US Immigration I would be learning about Allah from my cell mate at Guantanamo right now.

Fortunately easily solved by me drinking all of it. Mood: drunk.
  • Current Mood
    drunk drunk

Talking to Strangers I

One of my new years resolutions was "talk to strangers". I'm kind of shy, so I figured forcing myself to strike up conversations would be a Good Thingtm.

Anyway, yesterday I spent a few hours at Ikea. I was mentally prepared, so it wasn't too bad. ;)

Got a sandwich, an apple pie, and some coffee at the cafe there. Every time I go to the US I take a bunch of American change with me... for some reason I have a ton of it, and my idea is that I'll eventually whittle it away to nothing. So for the $8.72 I pulled out 72 cents (two quarters, a dime, and 12 pennies). I've also been trying to learn guitar. Megan doesn't use a pick, so I've been using my own, and I just happened to have it in my pocket with all this change.

Cashier: "Do you play guitar?"
Me: "No, I'm just learning."
Cashier: "It reminds me of my son. He used to carry a pick. He's in a band."
Me: "I've been staying with a friend, but she doesn't use a pick."
Cashier: "Yeah, my son't band just had a signing party for their first album."
Me: "Really? That is so cool!"

That is so cool. :)

Shopping for chairs in Lansing

I'm visiting Megan in Michigan right now.

We went shopping for a new computer chair for her yesterday. We ended up going to four or five stores, with no success. In most stores they didn't have floor models of all of their chairs. Plus, a lot of the chairs have leather, which is not so great for vegetarians. Overall, something about the strip-mall terrain, fluorescent lighting, despairing staff, and confusingly-varied-yet-strangely-identical stock didn't sit quite right.

I felt a bit like Dante on his guided tour of hell, except with Megan instead of Virgil, and partially crushed boxes instead of heretics trapped in flaming tombs. The poetry probably wasn't as good, but Megan is easier on the eyes than Virgil. I guess it's not so bad really, but I'm afraid I am missing the consumer gene.

The high point of the trip was when we got some spiced cider, and I thought the cinnamon stick was a cookie and bit into it. That wasn't so bad, although I am hoping that Megan will eventually stop reminding me of how stupid I am some day. Good cider though.
  • Current Mood
    pensive pensive

Do the Right Thing

One of our users complained because of the following warning:

kernel: process `named' is using obsolete setsockopt SO_BSDCOMPAT

The engineer who handled the ticket described the problem. Linux used to have some incompatible behavior on their UDP sockets. Long ago, they added a flag to tell the kernel to use compatible behavior, SO_BSDCOMPAT. In the 2.4 kernel, this became the default and the flag was no longer necessary. Starting with 2.6, the kernel warns about applications that use this flag; presumably with an eye to removing the flag.

The problem is that if you want a product that supports older kernels, you need to use the flag, but then users with the newer kernel get scary messages.

So the engineer decided that the appropriate answer was to add a question to the FAQ, complaining about the Linux kernel design decisions.

I suggested we add a compile time check, so users don't see the message.

The engineer retorted that sometimes people move binaries between different machines. This is true. I can imagine people who compile on a 2.4 or 2.6 box and run the binary on the old 2.2 machine creaking away in the corner.

So I suggested we use a run time check. In fact, I wrote the code (it wasn't hard - like 15 minutes of work).

The engineer went ahead and changed our software to include the runtime check... but he's not happy about it.

To me, the thing that matters is happy users. Users don't care who's fault it is that their system does weird things! They just want their stuff to work.

Engineers pointing fingers at each other and refusing to actually make things better is not got a good thing.

I think this ended up in a victory for the poor, downtrodden user. But why does it have to be so hard? :(

Technology woes

I upgraded the driver for my Hauppauge PVR-150, which also required a kernel upgrade. So everything is now the latest & greatest. I had to delete all my channels and re-add them. Even worse, the new driver doesn't lock onto the same frequencies as the old driver... previously I could use the frequency table that UPC publishes, but I had to tweak quite a few channels. The really bad part is that for some reason recording only works if I do it when watching TV... not when I schedule it.

Debugging now. :(

The other bit of technology pain is a friend's laptop, which had a bit of apple juice spilled on it. The screen no longer functions. I spent a bit of time disassembling the laptop yesterday. IBM is awesome... complete instructions on how to do it are online. Today I'll try to put it back together. I don't expect much luck, but you never know! :)