Sep 05

GPS

I saw something on Hacker News that Google Maps in the new version (that I haven’t yet seen rolled out to me) had removed the ability to extract the exact GPS coordinate for a point.

What in the hell. It was so stupid that I couldn’t believe the rumor.

And it turns out that it is true.

It also turns out that a lot of other features are being removed, too, like the ability to have multi-destination routing and the ability to see which streets have Street View.

I use the ability to find GPS coordinates on Google Maps all the time. It is very important for a project I am working on. I have used it at least 5,000 times in the past year.

Have we really come to the point that we just remove all features because it makes it simpler for those who cannot find the Start menu? Apparently so.

Sep 05

Dogs

I grew up in an area with many feral dogs roaming about who would attack your ass if they got the chance, so I  hate how so many Americans let their dogs roam free and approach people aggressively.

Someone is going to get a nasty surprise when I shank a dog that decides to run up to me. I have been close to that several times, and have been nearly bitten by someone’s mangy-ass mutt once. I literally had my knife open in my pocket and was about to stab it when it backed off. Perhaps it sensed something in my scent or that I was not afraid of it, but I was nearly ready to kill it.

Why dogs are treated like they are in the US, as if they are people, I have no idea.

Inspired by this comment.

Sep 04

Next quarter is all that matters

What we do to workers in this country is disgusting. I had some first-hand experience with that today.

A little after lunch, I went to get my hair cut at my usual place.

I know everyone who works there, I think, and I was idly chatting with the guy who frequently gives me a cut. He asked me if I’d gone on vacation anywhere for the summer. I said we hadn’t, but that my partner and I were planning something for around November.

Then I asked him if he’d done anything or gone anywhere for the summer.

He said, “No, I couldn’t because corporate took away all of our paid vacation days.”

I said that was terrible – and meant it, I was getting angry – and then asked if he could still take days off without pay if he really had to.

He said, “No, this is a small shop with only four people so if I go on vacation then my co-workers can’t keep up.”

So no paid vacation, and de facto can’t take one because it would make his co-workers’ lives much harder.

Nice trap that I imagine is being set up in many places as corporations cut benefits and staff.

The above should be illegal but isn’t. The U.S. has by far fewer worker protections and legally-mandated benefits than any developed nation and even fewer than many developing ones.

I bet the executives who took away my barber’s vacation days still have all of theirs, and now probably bigger bonuses, too.

This situation can go on for a while, and will probably get worse, but history shows that these sort of kleptocrats most often eventually end up having very violent ends. I don’t condone that, but they are only bringing it on themselves by being complete metastasizing sociopathic scum.

Sep 04

Five things MBAs should understand about IT

These are five things IT executives should understand about IT but do not. Of course I am referring to the many IT executives who somehow come to reign over an IT department but who have only an MBA or similar and thus have no IT experience at all. This means they are completely incompetent and shouldn’t even be assistant dumpster manager, but they have an MBA so believe they know everything as that’s what those who dispensed their worthless degree have beaten into their heads.

The five:

1) When we give estimates that are vague, it is because there is no way to tell in advance how long a project will take.

It’s helpful to examine why this is. Often people in my field are attempting to do something that no one has done before, even if a very similar project has been done by many people or companies. And it only takes one problem or unexpected incident or failure for a project to go from taking two hours to two weeks. I’ve seen it happen many times, and it’s mostly unavoidable.

No configuration or setup is the same, and neither is the software or hidden “gotchas” behind it all. So when I say, “This might take a day or a month. I’ll know when I start,” I’m not being lazy or trying to make your life hard. If the environment is worse than I thought, or a vendor really screws something up, or a million other factors, very few of which can be foreseen in advance, it is just going to take longer. This isn’t stamping out widgets in Widget Factory, Inc.

Yes, it is possible to be better at estimating time. However, this just cannot be made exact as the tasks that we in IT do are complicated, unpredictable and require deep knowledge and are innately difficult. To make an analogy with the physical world what I do sometimes is akin to walking across a tightrope above the Grand Canyon while playing a violin and cooking a four-course meal. Yes, sometimes it really is that hard. And the hardest-to-estimate projects are tautologically nearly always that difficult and daunting. Try to give me any sort of meaningful estimate on that. Hint: You can’t.

2) Assigning me two major full-time projects at once doesn’t mean they get done faster, it just means that both get done poorly and more slowly.

Many times in my IT career I’ve been assigned two very-difficult project that run concurrently and step all over one another. Yes, I do raise it as an issue at the time and either I’m told to make it work or that there is no choice.

I speculate this is because IT people are seen as both wizardly and lazy, which is contradictory but is however what I have noticed.

The last time this happened to me was with two projects where I at one point was running between two different rooms trying to figure out what two different vendors were doing and how to assist them, and also trying to learn as much as I could about two extremely complicated products and how to administer them.

In the end, I ended up learning almost nothing and had to pick it all up myself later. The person who had assigned these two simultaneous projects to me was annoyed that I hadn’t learned all that I needed to support both properly, but as I explained to her it was because jogging back and forth between two rooms full of vendors ever five minutes for two weeks straight doesn’t lead to much learning.

3) The speed of light is immutable and there are no “tricks” to get around this.

This seems crazy, but it has some up so many times in my career that I have to include it.

When businesses interconnect offices, managers think that increasing the internet bandwidth of sites will make it appear that even offices 3,000 miles apart feel like the servers are in the same place. Unfortunately, the speed of light and routing in routers means that there will always be latency. (Actually, electrons through copper move at about 80% of the speed of light.)

Various techniques like caching and compression can mitigate some of this, but latency when accessing remote resources is absolutely unavoidable.

I once had a boss ask me like a three-year old over and over again, “But why? But why?” when I explained that no matter how large a pipe we bought, accessing resources 6,000 miles away would always be noticeably slower than accessing resources over the sub-millisecond gigabit link to a server right in the office.

4) Vendors will sell you the world, but deliver a micrometeorite.

MBAs and their ilk seem to believe and trust vendors and their sales staff inordinately. My conjecture is that this is perhaps because the salespeople from tech companies are more similar to the MBA types, and also more social, so they jell better than IT people and salespeople do.

One incident I am thinking of in particular – though it has happened many times – is when a salesperson was spouting absolute inane nonsense so much so that I laughed in his face in the sales meeting and said, “I don’t believe that at all.”

Post-meeting, I was chided for doing so, and informed that the MBA-type from my company in the room had liked that vendor by far the best and we would be choosing them and their product with no other options possible.

This no surprise turned out to be a complete and expensive failure and we abandoned the product soon thereafter, for the very reason that I laughed about during the meeting.

5) IT people are not “computer janitors.”

And that’s not to cast aspersions on janitors at all. The world would be much worse without them.

However, I and most people in IT have multiple certifications, frequently do this in our off time as well (I personally have been doing more than “consumer-level” IT tasks since I was around eight years old.), and spend many hours and much money learning more all the time.

Unlike with an MBA, if you stop learning in IT for a year, you are then very far behind your peers.

And frequently in IT to understand what we need to achieve on a project, we must learn the intimate details of business processes that the MBA doesn’t even understand.

Nothing like explaining how the business works in detail to an MBA who is supposed to be the “expert.” I have had to do this numerous times.

My point is that IT people are professionals who often know arcane details of both the business and the undergirding of what runs it far better than the dropped-in MBA does. We aren’t computer janitors who know nothing else. Most of us have done many other jobs in our lives (For instance, me: Photojournalist, US Army paratrooper, editor, proofreader, night shift production manager.)

I am sure that the MBAs who this is aimed at could write a similar article about IT, but having worked outside of IT and then in IT, I think that IT is far more misunderstood and mistrusted than other areas of business. I’m not completely sure why this is, but I believe it is because IT can’t easily be pigeonholed into “worthless peon” by MBAs.

This is because IT departments have a lot of power, do very complex tasks most MBAs can’t understand, are seen as an unaccountable cost center, and are a threat to MBA power that can’t be easily ignored or pushed aside.

Sep 04

Science and its misuses

I love science. I try to base my woldview on facts rather than myth and supposition, at least as much as any human can.

However, I absolutely abhor “science” like this, that takes something that I and many other people experience and insist that it doesn’t exist.

If even one person experiences what they term the “Uncanny Valley,” then it exists. End of story. Having seen many movies where the CGI made me say, “That is some creepy-ass not-human looking abomination that should be killed with fire,” I can assure you that the Uncanny Valley does in fact exist for me and apparently for millions of other people, too.

I absolutely cannot watch this movie for instance because every moment it makes me want to bust out grenades and AK-47s and destroy every horrifying pseudo-human on the screen.

This reminds of similar bad pseudoscience done in the past that attempted to show various things like that black people are innately inferior or that animals do not feel pain. Not to the extreme or seriousness, of course, but on the same spectrum.

Sep 03

Why I hate crap interfaces and the Firefox developers

I’ve been working on a large project lately that is but a precursor to the even-larger project we’ll be doing in about another five months.

This sub-project involves a lot of researching on the internet and a whole lot of data entry.

For this sub-project, I’ve customized my browser extensively to make certain tasks easier and quicker. In the new Firefox way of doing things many of the customizations would be very hard or impossible.

I’ve spent around a month of my free time in equivalent 9-5 labor on this sub-project, say 240 hours. I estimate conservatively that the project-specific browser customizations I’ve done have saved me around 40 hours, or nearly a full week of 9-5 labor.

This is why I rage at the Firefox developers in their attempts to turn the browser into a Fisher Price newbs-only playtime browser.

That’s forty hours of my life I would’ve wasted if they had it their way. So fuck them. That’s how they are making my life worse, or are attempting to.

Sep 01

Int

In the intellectual realm my favorite moment, and one of my favorite things in life in general, is thinking of something I’ve never thought of before that seems true or is true.

Not understanding it, necessarily. That might come later, or never. But thinking it. It’s better I admit if I think of it myself, but one human can only do so much and in reality that’s not very much. So most of the time this new insight is inserted into my brain from an external source.

That happened just a moment ago when I saw that someone came up with a far more plausible explanation than I’d ever seen before of why TV now is in its belle epoque.

Sep 01

Fast

The decline of fast food.

Agreed, if you got it fresh (not under a heat lamp), fast food twenty or thirty years ago was much better quality.

Now all that matters is cost cutting, and anything that saves a fraction of a cent is done. Hard to believe I know, but it wasn’t always this way.

Aug 30

Kravatation

Krav Maga was the hand-to-hand combat technique I learned in the 82nd.

I spent nearly two years training on that, twice a week. It’s incredibly effective and I enjoyed it a great deal.

I usually don’t mention it to anyone because it causes all kinds of stupid ideas to form in people’s heads.

Krav Maga is great for overriding the human natural instinct to fight fair. Humans don’t naturally try to irreparably damage one another in hand-to-hand combat. Going for the head and the ribcage with a fist is not terribly effective, but that’s what untrained people tend to do. Hell, it’s what I did when I was bold and fearless but not that well-trained. It’s why I have two scars on my ring finger and pinky from punching some kid in the teeth (who had tried to make me eat a piece of paper).

Krav Maga is also great for women to learn as 99.9% of people attacking you will have no training. Size does matter, no doubt. In equally-trained opponents, the larger person wins 90% of the time. That’s just life.

However, I watched one of my 5’ 3” 140-pound female Krav Maga instructors absolutely destroy 200 pound military men who were giving it everything they had to take her down but who had no training. She was fast, relentless and incredibly strong.

Eventually, after two years of training, a few of them managed to sort-of win a fight with her (I never did).

That’s what training can do.

Krav uses short, powerful strikes and is like applied karate (which is mostly ornamental and not useful in a no-holds-barred fight). It doesn’t guarantee that you’ll win a fight if you are attacked unexpectedly, but it does a heck of a lot to even up the odds.

As anyone sane knows, the real use of Krav and any fighting technique shouldn’t be to punish your opponent or to kill them, but to disable and incapacitate them enough for you to get away.

I wish every woman got the chance to learn some Krav, but I also wish we didn’t live in a world where that wish made any sort of sense.

Aug 30

Windows nein

This is terrible news.

As for Windows 10, WZOR says it will be a cloud OS.

NOPE. Fucking double nope.

Looks like I will be stuck on Windows 7 until it is completely unusable, as the interface apocalypse that all other OSes have become makes them unsuitable for anyone who does more than look at LOLcats and click on the “Like” button through the drool slavered all over their keyboards.

I will sooner give up my computer and all internet access altogether than use a cloud OS. Truly.