Thursday, 28 May 2015

I missed a spot

Yesterday may have been the first weekday in years that I've not posted here. I'm not going to go back and check how long it's been, though. I think, sometimes, in the past, I've even back-dated a post just so that it still looks like I've been diligent. This time, though, I think I'll just leave it.

I've been sick, on and off for the past two weeks or so, and this has been a major disruption to my normal routines, including blogging. The details of my sickness are disgusting, so I won't share. The secondary effects are lots of sleeping and staying home from work. I really hope, this time, I can recover properly and put it behind me.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I also haven't been writing or reading much.
PPS - At home, I gravitate more towards YouTube and other internet activities or television.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Could anything replace Linux?

At this point, could some other open-source operating system topple Linux off its perch as the dominant open-source OS? There are others around, but they'd have to match Linux's stability, functionality and support levels before they'd be seen as a significant contender. That would mean attracting the same number of dedicated developers, and that's unlikely, in my opinion. All the developers who would be working on some other open-source operating system are already either working on Linux or on their own pet project. Those pet projects, lacking the developer effort and organisation of Linux, will move more slowly and will therefore feel like they're being left behind by all flavours of Linux, not to mention Windows and OS X as well.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It takes a lot of effort to make a modern OS.
PPS - And in software, effort means time and people, which in turn usually means money.

Monday, 25 May 2015

On this day in the future

On this day in the future:

2084: The Olympic organising committee votes to allow traditional pole dancing as part of the female gymnastics program. Lobbying for male pole dancing inclusion begins immediately.
2123: The majestic Cadbury Creme Pigeon, source of all Cadbury Creme Eggs, is declared extinct. The last specimen goes on display at the Cadbury Natural History Museum in New Atlantis.
2191: A motorcycle with a horse's brain, called Grey Matter, wins the Melbourne Cup in 58 seconds. Muddy conditions the following year prevent Grey Matter from retaining the cup.
2208: After lengthy discussions between the Australian and New Zealand governments, The Commonwealth of Australia finally accepts statehood in New Zealand.
2253: Arnold Schwarzeneggar's brain dies at the age of 306. A stand-in brain is hired to complete filming of his 267th movie.
2288: Brazil successfully enters an ape in the Olympics for wrestling. Broadcasts are stopped mere seconds into the ape's first bout for undisclosed reasons.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I wrote these all at different times, for different reasons.
PPS - There's more about the sports and brains than I remembered until I put them together.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Removal of software features

Software sometimes faces the removal of features as it goes on in life. This is especially true of large, complex software with lots of users. Maintaining features through upgrades costs time and effort in development and support. Sometimes the justification is made that this or that feature or option is being removed and replaced with a permanent setting based on how many people don't use it, or the way most people keep the setting. This stands to upset as few people as possible.

The problem is that it does upset some people, and if you have thousands or tens of thousands of users, you're going to be upsetting a large number of people, however small the percentage is. That can get lost in the analysis. If "only" 35% of your users sort oldest-first, but the majority keep their lists sorted in the default newest-first order, you may be tempted to set the sorting option to newest-first permanently. However, if you have 100,000 users, you're about to cause problems for 35,000 of them. Some will adapt. Some will leave for software that still does what they want. Are you willing to risk those 35,000 users for the sake of not maintaining a sort option?

Mokalus of Borg

PS - For me, a lot of my software has an audience of one.
PPS - And when it doesn't, removal of features is not up to me.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

One-way content sharing

I'd like to know when and how the "roach motel" business model for online service providers will fall down again. Well, I say "again" because I think it's similar to the Compuserve and AOL "walled garden" business models of the early web. Those companies aimed to provide everything their users could ever want or need in curated collections, but the Weird Wild Web outdid them and they collapsed. These days, companies like Facebook, Google, Apple and Microsoft are all vying to be the only service provider you need, but in a different way. Now they provide search, calendars, personal posts, email, maps (or some significant subset) and all their APIs are aimed at getting content in, but not letting it out. Google demonstrated their commitment to this model recently by shutting off external RSS feeds of each user's YouTube subscriptions, forcing tech-savvy users like me to go directly to YouTube instead of keeping up to date on my subscriptions via my feed reader. Content checks in, but it doesn't check out.

Can this business model succeed where the walled gardens failed? I don't know, but I kind of hope not. The one-way sieve operating here is strong, and it's difficult to disrupt. You can start yourself as a tiny content provider, but as long as the big players can suck in your content, they get all the same benefits without needing to change. If you don't allow them to pull you in somehow, then you wither and die because they are the gatekeepers of online attention now.

The only bump in the road I can see is if they start disrupting each other. If Facebook users want to start sharing content from there to Google+ for some reason, and they can't, and this problem grows larger, then Facebook has to cave to user demand, but this would just lead to them being swallowed up by Google, in my opinion. They need to defend this border or they die.

So I guess I don't have an answer. The only remaining idea is that these giants of the internet get too big to keep growing and break apart on their own, like some kind of Google Civil War. Perhaps a generation from now, when their founders are gone and the core ideals rotted from the inside, there will be a breakaway group that forms a new company, large enough to compete but small enough to react to the web we will have 20 years from now.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Whatever that will look like.
PPS - If I knew that, I'd be rich already.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Fallibility

Nobody can do no wrong. Your heroes are fallible human beings who make mistakes, overlook things, and sometimes hold problematic opinions. They tell lies, they dislike some things you love, they love some things you hate. They say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing. They get into accidents, sweep things under the rug, would rather not discuss certain topics. They run out of energy, get sick, get injured. Sometimes their bodies don't work properly, sometimes their minds don't work quite right. They forget, they remember incorrectly and they will occasionally deceive themselves.

It's easy to forget, when you only interact with them one-way, from their public persona and appearances to your perception and mental image of them, but if you weren't familiar with their work, you could sit next to them on the bus and never know how much they mean to the world.

They are people, and people are fragile, complex, emotional, intellectual beings with faults and failures as big as their strengths and successes. Try to remember that.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - You probably won't remember it all the time.
PPS - I certainly don't.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Does my ideal job even exist?

When I think of the kind of job I would like to do in my 40s or even closer to retirement, I still think of software, fiction and acting. As always, however, I tend to picture a job that doesn't involve any of the things I dislike doing, or that fill me with a sense of dread and disgust. Those would be any sales and marketing activities, and, if I'm being honest, management and leadership, too. I don't want to be a leader. I've never wanted that. And if my mental self-image ever overlaps with smarmy, greasy, sharks-in-suits salespeople (which is obviously a caricature or stereotype) then I'll be very disappointed with my life.

I know everyone has to do things they don't want to, but every now and then, you come across a person who, with a huge smile, says she is exactly where she wants to be and, if they stopped paying her tomorrow, she'd still be doing this job. That's the kind of job I want. Is there a place for me like that? If not, I'll happily take the financial freedom to just retire.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - As would plenty of other people, I'm sure.
PPS - But I asked first, so there.