Rant

My political conspiracy theory

I do my best to avoid politics on this site because it’ll always piss someone off. I don’t like the bible-thumping direction the republican party has taken over the past decade or two, and I can’t stand the democrats demands that we give up personal freedoms to save the children.

I’m gonna talk about politics today because I’ve noticed something happening that’s so surreal I had to say something. I’ll use the names Candidate A, B, etc to represent the players in this little scenario.

After watching how the Michigan and Florida democratic primaries went down, I started to wonder if maybe there was an underlying conspiracy to guarantee those delegates to a certain candidate. Imagine the following scenario:

  1. Candidate A has supporters in a position of power that helps move the state’s primary forward on the primary schedule against party rules.
  2. Candidate A has connections in The Party that disqualifies the state and have it’s delegates stripped in punishment.
  3. Candidates make a pact not to campaign in the state. All act ashamed of the State’s behavior.
  4. Candidates B,C,D, and E remove themselves from the ballot in deference to party rules, while Candidate A leaves their name on the ballot.
  5. Candidate A gets the lion share of votes in the state since they’re not only the only one on the ballot, but any votes for names not on the ballot (B,C,D,E) are thrown out.
  6. After everything is said and done, Candidate A petitions for the state’s delegates to be reinstated, essentially saying “the citizens shouldn’t be punished for the actions of their leadership”.
  7. Candidate A’s connections in The Party change their minds and decide to reinstate the delegates, essentially handing over the delegates to Candidate A with no competition.
  8. The delegates handed over to Candidate A is enough to give them enough to get the nomination for the party.

We’ve seen everything except the last two steps. The sane thing would be for the democratic party to have a “redo” on their election and make it fair for all candidates. Anything less will be bad news.

I am curious to see how this turns out- I think that if this does play out like I’ve outlined and the American public figures it out, there’s a good chance the resulting disillusionment will result in a republican president.

Why I would buy an XBox360 before a PS3

So those of you who know me, I’ve never really been a fan of Microsoft- so much so that I refused to buy an XBox on general principal. I’ve not really been a fan of Sony, either, but I still own and loved a PS2. So why the change on this new generation of consoles? Well, Sony has pissed me off quite a bit recently. The following is a list of reasons why I won’t be buying a PS3:

Sony: The Company

  • Sony is part of the RIAA- I disagree with their extortion tactics in general.
  • Sony is part of the MPAA- same as with the RIAA.
  • Rootkit CDs – remember when sony rootkitted all of their customers who bought certain CDs? They brought the word rootkit to the general public.
  • Continuously pushed DRM – Sony has been a big proponent of DRM. While pretty much all large tech companies have at some point (Apple, Microsoft, Google), it gives me one more reason to dislike them.
  • Sony Cameras use a proprietary usb cable format- I have a lot of regular interchangable usb-to-miniusb cables and only one for my sony camera. The camera is great, but it’s a pain in the ass to connect to. Hopefully they’ll change that in the future, if not already.

PS3 Specific

  • 10 year lifespan -Sony says that the PS3 should last 10 years, while the 360 will only last 5- here’s the thing to keep in mind:
    • Lifespan- How many high end pieces of technology do you have that are 10 years old? Mine are usually replaced or straight up die in that time. How about computers? Ten years ago, you were using a 300mhz processor with 64 meg of ram (if you were lucky). Still using that as your primary PC?
    • Warranty- I’d rather pay $400 every five years than $800 every ten because of the warranty- you’ll have more coverage if you were to get the machines more often.
    • Processing power- the xbox 720 that comes out in five years will be cheaper and much more powerful
  • Cell processor- it’s so powerful that it’s frustratingly difficult to program for (from what I’ve heard). That means games will be difficult to write and not use the full power of the cell proc. That’ll still be the case when the xbox 720 comes out 5 years later with as powerful of a processor that’s simple to develop for. Now, if you’re a production house, which would you rather produce games for?
  • patented “locking a game to a specific console” – Whether or not they implement it, it sort of frightens me that they might go that way. I’m sure 5 years down the road when they have their userbase, a simple firmware upgrade could implement this, then they could require all new games be require that the firmware be installed whether it uses it or not. From there, movies, games, whatever could be controlled by this, and since Sony owns the Blu-ray format, they can require that anyone who wants to sell in that format use the locking system. It honestly scares me a bit. Since Sony patented this, at least I know microsoft won’t do it.
  • Price – we can’t forget price. I’ve had my Wii ($250) for half a year. Will the PS3($600) be 2.5 times more fun? Are the games 2.5 times better? Are there 2.5 times as many games for this? I can pick up the newest xbox 360 elite for under $500. Will the PS3 be more fun than my Wii and a 360 combined?
  • And while I dislike Microsoft, I have more faith in their system than the PS3. The battle isn’t over, but it’s not looking good for Sony.

Supporting Standards vs. Supporting all Testcases

So I’ve been working on a side app that connects to remote servers. While writing validation code for inputs, I came across an interesting dilemma. I’d like to validate an address input to be valid- be it a hostname, domainname, or ip address. Unfortunately it’s not as simple as it sounds.

According to the domain name RFC, section 3.5 domain names must start with a letter, end with a letter or number, and can have letters, numbers or hyphens in between. When you add in periods to separate it out it’s messy, but workable.

But not everyone follows the RFC- take fifth/third bank for example- I’m not sure how they got away with it, but it doesn’t really follow this (historically I think 3com is the one to blame).

So that leaves me with two choices: follow the standard, or allow for the outliers. It’s doubtful anyone will be using my app to manage 53.com’s ldap server, and less likely that 53.com IS an ldap server. It is however possible that some one out there has either named or inherited a server named 3app6ldp02.foo.internal.

So do I support the guy? Should I care? should I even bother validating the address?

Review: Legend of the Dragon

Summary: Horrible- do not buy.

Jackie was planning on being out of town this weekend, so I asked her to rent a random Wii game for me while she was gone. She came back with Legend of the Dragon- looking at the cover it appeared to be some sort of RPG, and she knew I liked those so she picked it up.

Once I fired it up, I found the fatal flaw of this plan. For starters, this was a 3D cell-shaded fighting game similar to Virtua Fighter- between battles you move around this board finding temples to fight at. Well, “move around” isn’t the right phrase… imagine a board with 20 randomly placed points and lines connecting randomly between them… now hide all of the dots except the one you’re at and show the connecting lines leading off in that direction… you can move as much as you want, until you find a temple or some random guy hiding in the woods, then you go back into fight mode.

Anyways I should mention the plot. You start off by selecting one of three characters who is a martial artist that has mastered the way of the dragon (I chose young cocky guy rather than young whiney girl- the 3rd person wasn’t actually selectable I don’t think). Along comes this zodiac lord right as you finish your training and he takes over the world or something. Before you can take him on you must visit all of the zodiac temples and learn their secrets- ironic since neither the book nor the intro/storyline bits teach you how to fight or how the controls work.

Now, I haven’t even gotten to the best part. The Wii is known for bringing a new level of interactivity to the gaming industry with it’s motion sensitive controllers- the only time this is really used is when an opponent randomly changes into a costume and blasts you with a laser beam or some crazy shit like that- then it tells you to shake the controllers to “blast back”. other special moves the opponent uses require you to do a series of movements- I don’t know what those movements are, or how to do them, I just guess that it has something to do with the motion sensitivity since the analog stick and arrow keys don’t have any effect. I tried flailing with the controls as well, but to no avail. So to sum it up, the controls really suck. Probably the worst use of the wii controllers I’ve seen yet.

Speaking of special moves, I couldn’t figure out how to activate them- nothing in-game mentioned it, I even consulted the manual, but no joy. Fortunately the combo system was simple enough- they only gave you two attacks- punch and kick. combos consisted of AA, AB, ABA, etc. the booklet even mentioned AAA->AA, although I’m not quire sure what that meant, I presume it’s pretty awesome.

My third or 4th battle in, I had already established that the jump and kick fighting tactic along with the crouch and kick style of crap-fu were the most powerful in the game- I simply cornered the opponent and then jumpkicked them to death. Little did I know “the fat guy” would shake all that up- you see, he can only be hurt with combo attacks, and since he moves around, you have to time your “AA” or “AAA” combo attack so that the last hit hit him- if you hit him with the first attack, he bounce away from the second. fortunately there was no 60 second time limit like the previous battles, so 10 minutes later I finally killed him.

And what was my reward for defeating the slow moving, slow swinging fatguy who they called the pig master? I GOT TO PLAY AS HIM! First I fought myself and said “ok, I can see what they’re doing here- it sorta makes sense.” After that battle, I was fighting people I had previously fought and thought to myself “well, this is annoying, but I guess it’s to get you used to fighting as someone else.”

It wasn’t until I fought the second or 3rd random person I’d never fought before as fatguy that I got pissed off. I’d been playing fatguy for twice as long as I’d been playing young cocky guy- how long was this shit gonna go on? I just used the jump and kick move, only now it was the “jump and bellyflop”. After a while I just gave up and tried to quit- it warned me, “if you quit now, you will have to start this mission over again.” wondering wtf it meant, I quit, and found myself standing outside fatguys place ready to fight him for the first time. This is when I turned off the Wii.

And this marks the first game for the Wii that I actively did not like. Don’t buy this, don’t rent this, just ignore it and maybe it’ll go away. Ugh, normally I’d proofread an article like this, but I really don’t even want to go back and remember it. The only reason I’m writing this review is so I don’t have to repeat it.

Blast from the Past: Letter about a professor.

This letter was written in 2002-2003 to an interim head of the CS department about a class I had just taken. To protect the guilty parties, I’ve removed their name and replaced it with a Tomato. it’s somehow fitting.
———————
After talking to Chris S., I found out that you were interested in what “really” happened in Professor Tomato’s compiler class. I feel that I should share my story with you. I should start off by saying that I was really looking forward to this class and actually worked my schedule to accommodate it.

The first surprise was that we wouldn’t be writing or working on a compiler. We were only documenting Professor Tomatoes. We never spoke of other compilers, only his- which was not only written in java, but also produced SPIM code (if I recall correctly). There didn’t seem to be much practical use to his compiler.

This wouldn’t have been so bad if it wasn’t for the fact that his compiler seldom worked. Even when it did work, it was flaky at best, and only produced a few lines of color coded text. All of his code was hard-coded to only work in a windows environment, meaning that if we wanted to test the code in the EOS lab, we had to search through his entire file structure to find where he had hard-coded “c:\\my documents\\” and change it so it would run in the labs.
We confronted him about this problem, and he shrugged it off, basically telling us that he would fix it(he never did).

The class was broken into 3 groups, each with subteams. I was on the documentation subteam. My impression was that I was to document his code and explain to the rest of my team what it did. It became obvious that this wouldn’t be possible. Professor Tomato began introducing new version of his code on a weekly(and sometimes nightly) basis. It became impossible for me to remember to change hard-coded windows file paths AND transfer my documentation into each new release of his code. It should be mentioned that most releases were not properly numbered, so it became impossible to tell which version of his code was the most recent. He also like to release his code on the R: drive in the windows lab, which meant someone had to walk over to the Manitou lab, wait for an open computer, download/email the file to someone in the EOS lab then walk back. It was very frustrating that he couldn’t use blackboard or his home drive on the Linux machines. After the third release, I decided that it wasn’t worth the effort anymore.

It was not uncommon for over half of the students to skip his 8am class. I admit I was not there on several occasions. It became very difficult to get motivated in the morning when you knew you were going to a class where you would learn nothing. I think most of us felt this way.

About midway through the semester, the 8am class decided they had had enough and got into a debate with him about explaining his code.
We wanted him to tell us how a compiler worked, and he refused, telling us we would learn a piece at a time until he was ready to bring it all together. One student in particular led the revolt- David S. David is a brilliant guy, but not the most friendly person. After spending 35 minutes talking Professor Tomato in a circle, David became disgusted and never returned. I don’t know if he just never came back, or if he dropped the class. I doubt it would have had much effect on his grade.
I heard that the other section of his class were not as friendly.

A bit later, after the confrontation, Professor Tomato seemed a little different. Apparently he had rethought how he was teaching the class, and had talked to a friend of his (a professor at the University of Madison, Lacrosse, which he referenced at least once a class). He decided that we had the mental capacity of cabbage and proceeded to simplify how he was simplifying things. In order to do this, he spent about two weeks talking about his childhood experiences on a farm and drawing parallels between farming equipment and compiler terms that we still didn’t understand. It should be noted that most of the students in that class grew up in cities and towns, and never really worked on a farm, so the farming parallels were lost on us.
Included in this farming lecture was an entire day devoted to how his father built a barn, and how clever his father was because of the way he built it. I’m actually shaking in disgust as I recall this. There are times for stories (like your “thanks, Santa” story about the bank), but this just made no sense.

Some people suggested that Professor Tomato had a nervous breakdown after both of his classes confronted him. I tend to agree with this theory.

Grading
Grading was as much of a disgrace as his lectures- if you showed up to class on days when he took attendance, he would give you 5 points. When he assigned homework, it was given a due date, and due “when ever you felt like finishing it.” On his midterm, I received a 21.6/30, which was an A-, as did most of the class.

I’m not really sure how to describe the final. It was in two parts: a 77 question, take-home final that we could work together in groups on, and another opinion-based review of the class that was guaranteed full credit.
After examining the 77 question section of the final, it was BLINDING OBVIOUS that none of us had learned anything in the class. Professor Tomato was confronted. I don’t know what happened when he was confronted, but those who did were apparently outraged. The next class period he had announced that he had posted the answers on blackboard, and that he had color coated the answers one color, and wanted us to turn it in in the same format, except the answers had to be another color. It was a joke. finally, the last day of class before finals, he announced that we didn’t even have to turn in part A of the test, only the opinion based part. He also informed us that everyone would get a passing grade and that no one would get lower than what they got on the midterm.
Like a fool, I spoke my mind in the most constructive way I could. I did not use profanity, I did not call him names. I explained to him exactly what I felt about the class, and how he could improve it.

When grades were posted on blackboard, I saw that my honest, constructive criticism was met with a 16/25 grade for the final.

Several of us talked about it, and we began to notice that the people who gave him a pat on the back did MUCH better on Section B that those who spoke our minds. Several people have confronted him on the situation, and he happily offered to help remedy the problem. He then ignored their subsequent emails. Professor L. [the head of the department] was also contacted by students from what I recall was basically responded with a “what do you want me to do?” At this point no one expected much from the class.

This is pretty much all I remember of the class. I can tell you that I feel cheated. I feel cheated because I paid good money for that class. I received nothing. I also received a poor grade for speaking out. There is very little grand valley can do to repay me for this lost time. Had I known this class was a waste, and had it been optional, I could have taken Calculus 2 that semester and graduated in April. As it stands now, I must take Calc 2 over the summer. I’m not bitter that I have to take calculus, I’m bitter because I could have gotten that class out of the way, but instead spent money on a class where I learned nothing.

I apologize for being blunt, but I feel that you may actually be able to do something about this. Talk to other professors, ask them what they heard. There are some classes that feel so comfortable with their professors that they talk about their other classes. I believe Professor W. and Professor P. have heard stories about this class. I’m sure others will as well.

If nothing else, I’m sure they’ve heard Professor Tomato’s saying that will haunt all of his students- “if you look at automaton closely….you see…a ‘tomato’.”

What makes freeBSD feel old?

This is a list of all the things that make it feel old. I started this while working at a place that ran a lot of FreeBSD machines. I never got around to finishing it because we started implementing linux boxes, but I think the complaints are still valid. The real shame is that I only wrote down 6 out of about 100 different things. Mostly it’s trivial stuff, but trivial stuff should be the easiest to fix- the FreeBSD people had a real fear of painting barns (take that as you will).

  • No Color during the install. none at all. even getting syntax highlighting in vim was a pain. Perhaps I’m just recalling the FreeBSD 3.1 installations they had, but it seemed a mess.
  • The ASCII art in the install menu. It gives the feel of a 1988 BBS. It didn’t help that there was a keyboard driver bug in 6.0 or 6.1 that prevented me from actually selecting anything at the menu.
  • Speaking of the install, I think out of the 30 or so installs I attempted, only 1 or 2 were even remotely close to trouble-free. I tried the easy, medium and advanced installs- perhaps it was just the box I was installing, or maybe bsd just hates me for calling it names.
  • The partitioning tool makes cfdisk look futuristic. Does FreeBSD actually listing my 200 Gig hd by block ranges? Let me just say, that’s WAY better than giving info in a useful unit.
  • network cards all have different device names- it seems a mess to have 4 Nics and have bge0, sf0, anxl0, and an0. It’s a bad example, but I guess it’s because I prefer the uniformity of eth0, eth1, eth2 in linux (which can be arranged by setting parameters in /etc/modprobe.d/options).
  • rc.conf always seemed to be the most cryptic thing ever- not that it was hard to read, you just never knew what you could put in there. Whenever I asked around for any way to tell what options were available for a given package to add them into rc.conf, the answer always turned to “well download the source and check.” I’m not sure if that was [several] someone’s idea of a joke, but it really made me dislike it. compare that to emerge -v package in gentoo, which lists all of the compile option in an easy to read format.

Protected: How Michigan can Leverage Open Source

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Good Guy or Bad Guy?

So I was in a Gamestop yesterday buying an extra nunchuck for the Wii (I plan on getting Wii Play which comes with a remote), and I overheard this conversation:

[GSEmployee] Ma’am, you do realize that Call of Duty 3 is Rated T?
[Lady] I don’t know, is that appropriate for a 13 year old boy? Is it violent?

as a side note here, this lady was completely clueless that call of duty was a WAR gam, about WAR, where you SHOOT people. Now, I don’t play the Xbox 360, and haven’t really ever seen Call of Duty, but I could figure out from the pictures PICTURE OF A GUY SHOOTING A GUN ON THE FRONT OF THE BOX STANDING IN FRONT OF A WARZONE that yeah, maybe it was a little violent.

[GSEmployee] Well, you have a chainsaw on the end of your gun that you can use to slice open the enemy and you’ll see their entrail rendered in 3d.
[Lady] Is that bad?

…I shit you not, she said that. That’s where I broke in. I wanted her not to get it at this point simply because she’s stupid enough to be shocked when she sees the kid playing it 3 months later that it has blood and then sue the store or something retarded.

[me] Excuse me ma’am, to help you put it in context, think of it as an R rated movie.
(side note, a PG-13 movie would be a better comparison, but she probably wouldn’t comprehend.)

[lady] I don’t know- is that bad? some [r-rated] movies are different…

At this point I’m flustered because she’s just NOT getting it. either she doesn’t want her son exposed to this kind of violence, or she does, but she doesn’t appear to have the mental capacity to infer what a violent R rated movie would be, so I come up with the best example as I can on the spot.

[me] Think of it like this- would you let your son watch The Predator?

[lady] well I wouldn’t even watch that….

(Then get a fucking clue!)

[lady] So it’s violent?

(I give up)

[me] Yes [turning to the kid to apologize] Sorry bud, [turning to the clerk] I hate to bust you guys on a sale, but yeah, the game is probably too violent.

[GSEmployee] hey, that’s cool- I’d rather not have it sold than deal with mad parents

[lady] ok Georgie, lets not get Call of Duty, ok?… [acting excited] how about Open Season instead instead!

The son, the GSEmployee and myself all hang our heads in defeat of this clueless mom who pretty much proved she had no idea what her 13 year old son liked or wanted.

My parents were pretty good about video games, and as I raise Ian, I’m gonna try to put in that extra effort to pay attention to what my son likes. Growing up as a gamer and dealing with the stigma has had an effect on me, and I don’t want to end up like this clueless idiot lady.

I wrecked the car.

Whoops. This happened after work on Tuesday. Jackie was at home.

I was on a small service drive that T’d into a 4.5 lane road that was fairly busy. looked left, saw a car with it’s right turn signal on in the right lane. looked right, say a red light. looked left, saw the car with the blinker slowing down as if to turn down the road I was on. looked right, saw the red light turn green, meaning I had about 10 seconds to react. I had been at this intersection for about 3 cycles of that light, and saw this as my oppertunity. as I pulled out, the lady with the turn signal showed me that she actually was meaning to go straight. She sheared off the front of the car from the front of the front tire foreward- bumper, lights, hood, etc. radiator and engine were intact.

Cops gave me a ticket for failing to yield, but I’m gonna try and fight it since she had on her turn signal and failed to add that to her report. The witness on the scene saw the turn signal, but said it was because she was changing from left to right lanes and then just left it on.

So the car has $10k worth of damage because the frame is bent. They’re probably going to total it. I got away with just a sprained wrist.

Oh well, at least we’ll get a new car out of it (probably).

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