I Now Officially Have One More Item To Distract Me From Safe Driving

RoadTripAfter soliciting your advice, poring over oodles of online reviews, product descriptions, etc. I decided to acquire the Griffin RoadTrip FM Transmitter and Auto Charger (well, technically, it’s a birthday present from my lovely wife. Thanks hon!). It arrived yesterday and thus I’ve had a small amount of time to get acquainted with it.
Amazon had it for a relative steal at ~$54 (most stores seem to want $80-90 for it) and the reviews were largely positive. My total impressions will have to wait, as I’ve only used it in the car on my commute this morning, but one very nice feature of the device is the fact that the FM transmitter module is completely detachable. The kit comes with a combined USB/stereo cable that allows you to hook the transmitter up to any computer with an audio-out jack and a USB slot (placed reasonably close together, of course) to broadcast the sound from the computer to any nearby radios. I tested this out for a bit using my MacBook Pro and our home theater last night and the audio was impressively clear – I detected very little artifacting or signal loss.
Now I can finally quit endangering myself and others by listening to TWiT on my headphones. *grin*

Now THERE’S A Good Security “Fix”

Microsoft announced a rather serious flaw with their Word product today which apparently affects every version of Word from 2000 through the most recent releases, Macintosh versions and Word Viewer included. There is no known patch, nor is there a work-around and none of the big anti-virus companies have a fix or even a virus signature yet. Microsoft’s solution (and here I’m paraphrasing their bizspeak): don’t use Word until we fix it. My solution? Well, it’s rather simple – OpenOffice.
Bwahahahahah. Tell me again, how is a worldwide computing monoculture a good thing?

I’ve Got A One Word Answer To Nielsen: “Eyephones”

Nielsen (the TV/web/whatever ratings company) recently conducted a study regarding the use of iPods for video viewing and, well, the results are about what one would expect: less than 16% of iPod owners had ever used their device to watch any sort of video content and less than 1% of the total use time of iPods is devoted to such a task. The Ars Technica piece linked to above lists several speculative reasons for the low adoption rates, the vast majority of which boil down to this: people don’t want to watch video content on a rinky-dink little 2-3″ screen. (That’s inches, if you happen to be the front man for a mock British rock band looking to recreate Stonehenge on stage.) This is so blindingly obvious to me that I find myself wondering why Nielsen would even bother to waste good money on figuring it out.
Portable video use will remain in single percentage digits until someone figures out a non-intrusive way to virtualize a display (the Sony Glasstron does not count as “non-intrusive”). We have speakers for our ears (earphones) that allow youngsters to acquire acute tinnitus rather rapidly; miniature speakers that, due to their proximity to our ears, simulate full-sized speakers and deliver an experience similar to listening to a stereo at home. What we need are miniaturized screens that can deliver the same to our eyes, “eyephones”, if you will.
This will never occur, of course, since most people’s ability to navigate a city street is unimpeded by the presence of iPod earbuds blaring the Killers’ latest songs, while their ability to do so with a simulated 53″ TV floating mere inches from their eyes would most definitely be impeded. So, if anyone has any bright ideas, I’m willing to bet that a lot of electronics manufacturers would just love to hear ’em. You’d make a mint.

Firefox 2: It’s The Little Things That Count

I’ve been using the Mac version of Firefox 2.0 on my Mac Pro at work for the last few days and I have to say that it’s a pretty nice package. It remembers your session if your browser happens to crash, meaning that you won’t lose all those hard-fought tabs if FF should crap out on you. It seems to be generally faster, which is nice.
Spell check 1
But nicest of all is the integrated spell-checker. Now, forum posts, blog posts and yes, even work-related stuff benefits from an immediate “your spelling sucks”-type feedback mechanism.
Spell Check 2
Expect the quality of my posts to skyrocket, baby! I know y’all only come here for the spelling and grammar. Philistines.

Hooray For Grindings!

Apologies for the lack of site updates as of late. Work has been dogging me and is unlikely to quit doing so until midway through this month. To make life even more fun, my MacBook Pro has begun making a very disconcerting grinding noise. I’m working under the assumption that it’s the fan making the horrendous noise, but I’m not going to risk anything and power it up before I can take it to a Mac service depot. Which means I’ll be lugging the gigantor HP laptop home for the time being, I guess. Which ALSO means I’ll be stuck running Windows. Gah.

Dell: We’ll Sell You Ugly Servers, Unless You Pay Us Not To

Dell used to pride themselves on shipping, if not “pretty” servers, then at least non-ugly ones. They’re well-known for their steely-grey faceplates which over the years have served well to obscure the patent ugliness of multiple drive bays, optical disk bays, power buttons and other assorted server miscellania. We recently ordered a couple of PowerEdge 2950s from them at work and, when making the selections on-line, I was presented with the following nice-not-ugly picture of the server:
Dell bezel
All went well in the ordering process. However, I failed to notice the following option when placing our order:
Dell servers - bezel option.
Our servers arrived and I was quite startled to find that, instead of a pleasantly disarming gray, our servers are now displaying two rows of ungainly disk bays and what seems like miles of ugly matte black finish. Gah.
Ugly Dell
(NOTE: That’s not my server room, nor did I snap that picture, nor is that a 2950 [I think]. It looks very similar, but not quite identical to, the 2950; picture pulled from here.)
I know that someone in Dell probably thought “Hey, amortize a potential $10 savings across the thousands and thousands of servers we sell and that’s some serious cost-savings!”, but the net effect is that they’ve made their $7,000 server seem cheap, home-brewed, unprofessional and just plain homely. They’re willing to sink their excellent visual rep in the corporate data center for a $10 piece of plastic. Heads should roll!

Entertaining Geek Neologisms

I was talking to one of our engineers yesterday (let’s just call him “A.”) about a certain senior engineer (let’s just call him “C.”) when A. revealed a very funny set of circumstances surrounding C. revealed by a third engineer (let’s call him “D.”).
C. is a programmer from Ye Olde Schoole – until recently, he coded in `ed`, telnetted to a Solaris 7 box to compile and code up until we disabled the last one and continues to read his email using `mail`. He does not play well with others and has a near-allergic reaction to source control programs such as CVS, Subversion, SCCS, RCS, etc. His preferred method of revision control is to:

  1. GZip all source files.
  2. Tar all gzipped files into a single .tar*
  3. Name the resultant .tar according to his versioning scheme
  4. Dump the .tar into a directory named after the particular project or code module

*Yes, I know this is an inversion. When asked why he didn’t use the preferred method of first tar’ing the files and then gzipping the resulting .tar, C. declared that older versions of Windows incorrectly handle/rename files with dual extensions (turning a .tar.gz into a .tar, for instance). When asked why he didn’t simply label the files with the acceptable alternative “.tgz”, developed specifically for just such circumstances, C. maintained his ignorance of such an alternative.
A. and D. were discussing a current project and the possible reuse of some older code when D. mentioned that he had remembered C. composing something that might be useful to the project at hand and thus felt compelled to “get down into the ‘tar pits'” to look for that which he sought. “Tar pits” (named for the endless directories filled with endless .tar files, any one of which could contain the desired, nay, prized! information in question) – haw! What an excellent coinage of phrase!

Ahhh, Geek Humor

Saw this one on the digg wires and thought it was too good to pass up posting: How to Shoot Yourself in the Foot in Any Programming Language:

You shoot yourself in the foot.
You accidentally create a dozen clones of yourself and shoot them all in the foot. Providing emergency medical assistance is impossible since you can’t tell which are bitwise copies and which are just pointing at others and saying, “That’s me, over there.”
After importing java.awt.right.foot.* and java.awt.gun.right.hand.*, and writing the classes and methods of those classes needed, you’ve forgotten what the [heck] you’re doing.
Your foot is ready to be shot in roughly five minutes, but you just can’t find anywhere to shoot it.
You shoot yourself in the foot with a gun made with pieces from 300 other guns.
Find a gun, it falls apart. Put it back together, it falls apart again. You try using the .GUN Framework, it falls apart. You stab yourself in the foot instead.
SELECT @ammo:=bullet FROM gun WHERE trigger = ‘PULLED’;
INSERT INTO leg (foot) VALUES (@ammo);
You shoot yourself in the foot, but nobody can understand how you did it. Six months later, neither can you.

There are dozens more, make sure to read the whole thing (and this list, where many of the jokes seemed to have come from in the first place, as well). And, my favorite commenter contribution from the above blog post has to be:

“Done, but with errors on the foot” – “Expected ‘)’”