Archive for the ‘General Blather’ Category

Perpetual Paranoia

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

We live in a world of perpetual paranoia. Governments trade information about their citizens, companies trade control of markets, and individuals are left with nothing to trade but their souls. What will it take to get us out of this cycle?

We’d look to our leaders to help fix the problem but our leaders helped create the problems we face. Like a parent buying a child that shiny toy to stop them from throwing a fit our leaders create laws to shut us up. These laws tend to cause problems because like any tool, once it is in the shed you use it however you can. So, when our leaders passed laws allowing our protective agencies to trample the rights of terrorists so we would be protected they didn’t bother defining the term very well, in fact in many cases they didn’t bother restricting the rules to terrorists at all. This allowed various government agencies the ability to trample anyone’s rights in the name of ‘security’. To prevent them having to deal with cumbersome oversight we eliminated that and now here we are, in perpetual paranoia.

I’m writing this article in chrome, on windows 7. In know full well that my computer is likely compromised by at least hackers and more likely by people working for the government. I’m using windows because I enjoy playing games, I prefer to use Microsoft office and Visio to any free alternative software, and because Apple pissed me off, not that they’d be any better than windows.

I could use linux, hell I have linux installed on my computer, but I don’t use it. A typical linux user is more secure, but not secure. Most have never heard of aide/tripwire, fail2ban, or chkrootkit, most who have heard of them use them on servers, but not on desktops. I can’t blame them, I’d do the same. We are slaves to convenience. After struggling through work, home life, parties, Christmas, birthdays, fourth of July and the TSA to get from place to place we lack the energy for harder things, even if they are more right or better in some way.

So, what will it take to break the cycle? Effort, plain and simple. We can’t “write off” the things we learned this year and start new next year. If such a thing were possible every diet pill maker and personal trainer would be out of business. It will take hard work, sacrifice, and a willingness to change not only details of our lives but the way we perceive the world around us as well.

Good luck Terra Populi, you will need it.

Auto Code

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

I got asked today for maybe the 50th time the following question about my job: “Well, can’t someone else at the office do that for you today?” The normal answer is “No, not really.” At this point one of two things happens. If it is someone who understands what I do they say “Oh” and move on. For most people though they stare at me like I just told them I’m the only janitor in the entire building who knows how to empty the garbage on the second floor. The bins there are made of plastic you know.

The problem it seems is in describing what an independent developer does. So I offer this analogy for how I see independent development.

The Auto

When a car company wants to build a car they get a number of teams together. You have people working on look, feel, performance, the motor, body, paint, and electronics. There are analysts who look at what the goals of this new car should be. These different groups have team meetings, inter-team meetings etc. They design the car, run simulations and commit it to schematics which are sent off to a plant for fabrication. The plant looks at them and decides what parts to make in house and what parts to have fabricated in various parts fabrication plants. As this is a large company they have factories that can make door panels or steering wheels. The parts makers ship the parts to the assembly plant who puts them together to make a car. The car (a prototype at this point) is then sent off to the testing teams who report back to the design groups who tweak the designs and the process starts over until you have a great product.

The Code

How does this in any way relate to what an independent developer does? An independent developer goes through all of these steps. The glaring difference is there tend not to be teams of people involved. The developer may be working on one piece of the greater puzzle, say the drive train of your vehicle or maybe a communications protocol library, in which case they have some input from others on what it is expected to do but they are doing it alone. The planning phase of the project happens in the developers head. There are no schematics drawn up (or maybe there are if the developer works that way, I don’t so for the sake of this there aren’t any), there are no meetings with other developers on how their project should be constructed.

With no schematics the developer does the assembly/production themselves. They have to look at what parts are available on the market, if they are cost effective and meet their needs, and if so how long those parts would take to work into their design. Not all the parts are on the market, in fact most of them are not. Those that are will fit, if the core design is modified some to make them fit. Those that aren’t the developer has to build themselves. The developer picks up his hammer and saw and starts building the parts, by hand. They are not normal parts, they are custom built, to the schematic in the developers head. Often the tools required to build the parts aren’t even available and the developer builds those too. Instead of fabricating all the parts and then putting it together like a car the developer builds the parts onto the product as he goes. This saves the final assembly step of the car since once all the parts are built or obtained the end product is done. It also means there are often no spare parts or breadcrumb trails to try and figure out what the developer was doing if they aren’t there to explain it.

Now the developer tests. Instead of testing with the testing team who is familiar with the product goals the developer tests himself, or worse with the customer directly. In the case where the developer is building one part of a big project he builds an test product to simulate how the large project will use his part so he can test his part. He does these tests on his own. Ideally he can test them with the consumer to get feedback but that has its own set of problems. Any tweaks that need to be made the developer makes until the product is ready for handoff to either the larger project or the consumer.


So, why is it so hard for someone else to step into the shoes of an independent developer? If you are on the car team, and you are in the “obtaining parts/building the test car” part someone else can look at the schematics and work with the engineers in the fabrication company, assuming they know how to do that sort of thing. If you are in the planning phase someone else on your team has knowledge about the goals and how the team is going to meet those goals.

How would this work in an independent code project? There are no schematics for some other developer to pick up on, no team meetings to draw on for information.  In order to do it they have to first disassemble what is already built, look at each part, figure out what it does in the grand scheme of things and sometimes how it was built in the first place. If the project is still in planning the situation is worse. Anyone trying to fill the developer shoes would have to have knowledge about what was already planned and discussed. They would have to be familiar with all the info the developer gathered through the planning process to this point. Worse if the original developer is coming back they would have to know them and their development process well enough to not say something they shouldn’t. It is cliche at this point how often a salesman will sell something impossible. This doesn’t just happen to salesmen. Anyone unfamiliar with a product can claim it does or will do something it doesn’t or can’t.

Don’t misunderstand me. Any other properly trained individual can step into an independent developer’s shoes. It has happened many times. The problem is the time and effort involved in someone else doing it. If the original developer isn’t coming back it is probably worth it. If they are coming back by the time someone else figured out what needs to be done the original developer is probably back and has finished the task and 5 others.


Real life and Christmas

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

In the last few weeks I’ve had little time to devote to my side projects (like DartCalc, Character Sheet, Minecraft, Music and so on). Real life (read day job) has been consuming most of my creative energy. This is not a bad thing in any way. As many who know me have heard before I’m one of the lucky ones who works a job I love. It does mean that some things I wanted to get done by Christmas haven’t happened. DartCalc’s new version hasn’t made it. I haven’t finished a song in months. I haven’t gotten a rev1 of CloudBank out. I have learned a lot for my current day-job project, I’ve spent almost 80 hours on it in the last two weeks alone. That’s more steady work than I ever do, and it feels great.

In the middle of the real-life work I’ve been doing Gabe had a birthday (yay!). Christmas is almost here too. I am not ready for Christmas, then again I never am. I have lots of ideas of things I want to get for people, but I rarely get around to actually getting them. I either have the idea too late, or it requires some amount of time that I either don’t have or have devoted to something else. If it were really the thought that counts almost everyone I know would be ecstatic this time of year. Instead I’ll end up getting the normal collection of gifts I think are good enough, and maybe that one or two that really show I thought about it and made it happen.

Normally I would try to make excuses for this behavior. “I’ve been so busy I haven’t had time.” “I couldn’t afford it.” “I would have to have ordered it and I came up with it too late.” There are probably a hundred of these lame reasons why I don’t do the things I want to do every year. I’m sort of tired of making them and the only person who has ever seemed to care is me. So, instead of spending this holiday season feeling guilty for what I haven’t done yet again I will instead be happy for the things I have done.

Almost every time I go to the local grocery store I buy a bag for the food bank. I’ve given to various non-profits. I know what I am going to get my wife (she’s easy to buy for since she tells you what she wants). I know what I’m going to get for the other people on my list too, save one. So Mom, if you read this before Christmas, tell me what you want! I have holiday plans. I have a date with my wife on Saturday with a babysitter and everything. I’m not stressed out, even though I’m working harder this year that I normally do. I haven’t yet blew up at my children, or let the gloomy skys get me down. Of course, it does help that we’ve been hovering right around 32 degrees every day and have almost no snow. I don’t really need snow in the valley for Christmas anyway. This isn’t a big list, it isn’t an impressive list. It is a list of the things I am going to do this year. Oh ya, and I made a list of the things I’m going to do, instead of only dwelling on what I didn’t get done.

So with that I hope your holiday season is joyous, uneventful, and entertaining. As always, have fun.


On vampires and mirrors

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

I like vampire movies. Good ones, bad ones, smelly ones, doesn’t matter. I know most that are made are crap. Again, it doesn’t matter. I just like them. I don’t mind if they are cliche to the point that they fear crosses and don’t have reflections or if they are modernized to humanize/dehumanize them. I do get annoyed though when a lot of effort is made to create vampire society, humanistic in nature, and then the writers/directors/whatever feel it necessary to leave completely ridiculous cliches in.

The movie “Daybreakers” offers one of the best examples of this. An entire society, complete with corporate corruption, conspiracy, etc. The premis of the movie could easily have been that mankind was infected with a virus that made everyone allergic to water and they therefore cannot eat most foods or go out in the rain. It isn’t, they are vampires. Fine, no worries there. As I said, I like vampire movies. Why though, after establishing the ‘realistic’ reason for vampires to exist, do they not have reflections? What is the point of that? The sun reacts with them, fine, I can buy that.  However, after all the effort put into the film on behalf of making it a potential alternate reality why do something as stupid as making it so they cast no reflection? I can see them. That means they reflect light. The virus is unlikely to have made all light reflected off them polarized and at the same time somehow mutated all mirrors to also be polarized, but at the opposite angle.

So yes, this is a stupid thing to get my tail in a knot over on a thursday afternoon, but there it is.

Sandwiches and Decency

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

Today I got a sandwich at Worden’s. I like their sandwiches, great bread, and generally they are well made. When I got to the counter with my Pepsi and a cookie and my sandwich slip i got rung up at $2.89. I said “That can’t be right”. The gentlemen behind the counter was shocked that I’d bother to point out the mistake. Why? I got the sandwich. I was planning to eat it after all, why wouldn’t I pay for it?

The answer I fear is pretty clear. I could have gotten it for free. After all, it isn’t my fault the guy at the sandwich counter didn’t mark my sandwich on the little slip. I, as a normal person, should have taken advantage of that. Instead I said, no, I have a sandwich, turkey on wheat with seeds and olives. His response, “thank you for being so honest” saddens me. It shouldn’t be “so honest” to simply tell the truth and not intentionally rip off the corner grocery. It should be the normal thing to do.

New Website

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

The AGASupport website is now back on WordPress. Apple it seems wants to do away with the web hosting side of .Mac (soon to be the Cloud). With it I’m betting iWeb will be turned out to pasture. As I’ve been using iWeb for a few years to manage my site content I had to make some kind of migration off of it. It has been unwieldy to use for a while now and more than once I’ve had to restore the iWeb data after corrupting the multi-gig file it has become. So it is probably a good thing that it is going away.

So here it is, the new I hope all the broken links are fixed soon.