Wednesday, 31 December 2008

The First Annual Original Messenger Quotes Retrospective

I archive my instant messenger quotes on another blog, "Proverbial", and this year I thought I'd pick out a few of my favourites from the past twelve months and post them here for your enjoyment, with a little commentary. So here they are:
  • "Roses are red, brown if they die, coffee is bitter, and so am I."
    A cheery little heartbreak poem I wrote years ago.

  • "I'll name my daughter Orange so nobody can write a lame love poem to her."
    It seems like a solid plan to me.

  • "I wish I was a flower with a punk rocker in my hair."
    A misquote of Sandi Thom lyrics. Much more interesting this way.

  • "Double shotgun wedding."
    Participation is forced on both sides of the wedding, probably due to a parental conspiracy.

  • "Why is Giving 100% better than Doing My Best?"
    Mathematically, they should be equal, so why is one a winner's attitude and the other a whiner's?

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Feel free to go over the list yourself and mention any other quotes you like.
PPS - It did feel a bit arbitrary picking out five winners.

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Google web storage

I wonder why Picasa Web Albums has a policy of a single gigabyte for photos while GMail is up to about 7.5GB and counting ever upwards. I know Google sells extra online storage for photos, but they seem fine giving away ever more storage for GMail for free.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Perhaps it's because most people won't use all their email storage.
PPS - But photo storage would be used up quickly by most people.

Monday, 29 December 2008

Spam success would be self-defeating

If spammers get too successful at sending spam, they will fall victim to their own success. If we release the floodgates and let every single spam message through to our inboxes, everyone would very quickly stop using email entirely because it's just not worth it. That in turn makes the profitability of spam plummet, because so few people in the world are reading any email any more.

In addition, if there's that much spam going on, it would choke the entire internet, meaning that the network is not available for most people most of the time. This means less use of the network because it just doesn't provide the services it used to. Again, the profits from spam plummet because there are too few people online and too few of them are reading email.

We are marching inexorably to a place where legitimate users of the internet and email will be forced out by the choking pollution of spam, bringing down the network and changing the face of the world back again.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - In general, if your success means the end of the world, you're evil.
PPS - But that's a post for another day.

Friday, 26 December 2008

Friday Zombie Blogging - Call of Duty 5

Tim informs me that Call of Duty 5, after the "official" missions are over, finishes with a zombie stage. Wave after wave of nazi zombies attack the barricaded house where you are holed up and your job is to fight them off.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - That's usually the deal with zombies.
PPS - Unless you're a scientist, who usually aim for cures or started the whole thing in the first place.

Engrish gift bag

While shopping on Monday, Deb found this confusing gift bag:

The small print reads:
Always somewhere
Miss you
Where I laughing

My best guess at the proper translation would be:
Wherever I am
I miss you
When I'm laughing

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It's still a bit odd.
PPS - Perhaps it's losing something in the second translation.

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Merry Christmas

A very merry Christmas from me to you. I hope your day is filled with cheer, various acceptable gifts and way too much food, if that is your tradition. Otherwise, have a nice day and relax if you can.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Personally I'll be trying not to overeat at family lunch and dinner.
PPS - Fortunately, if I fail, I still have a week until I go back to work.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Kung fu massage

On Monday I went out with Deb and Rachel to get a Chinese massage. I was not quite prepared for how vigorous or occasionally painful it would turn out to be. I was concerned at some points that they were going to do further damage to my bruised rib. And the masseurs (who probably have a proper Chinese name unknown to me) were crazy kung fu strong. I guess it's because they do this all day. I had my neck, shoulders and back done, but could probably have done with just the neck and shoulders.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It's not something I'll get done regularly.
PPS - And I should check out other options, too.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

A Star Wars Dad Joke

Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker are standing by a lake, on opposite sides. Darth Vader is feeding the ducks, and sees Luke, all alone, across the lake. He calls out ...

"Luke, come to the duck side."

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Thankyou and goodnight.
PPS - This is actually an original Mokalus joke.

Monday, 22 December 2008

I have a bed

One month ago, our mattress was destroyed by a storm. On Saturday morning, we received our replacement and spent a good half hour just lying there appreciating having a soft bed. It's amazing how much you can appreciate something so simple after having to do without it for a month.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I actually had to adjust to having a soft place to sleep again.
PPS - The couch just doesn't compare.

Friday, 19 December 2008

My old laptop - too weak even to boot old Ubuntu

I thought I had hit upon a master stroke this week. My personal laptop at home is rather sluggish and a bit under-powered, even for things as simple as web browsing. It is also, it seems, too weak to boot the latest Ubuntu live discs. Since the really old version, Dapper Drake (released in 2006) is still under support for a little while longer, I thought I would burn that disc and see how it goes.

Alas, the little machine only has the energy to boot the live disc and not to actually install to the hard drive. The confusing thing is that Linux is supposed to be *easier* on hardware than Windows, but it seems Windows XP is the only thing that can actually boot on this machine, including the "low-power" version, Xubuntu. It is just barely possible that Xubuntu 6.06, if such a thing exists, would boot and install, but I'm not counting on it.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - The laptop is otherwise unused.
PPS - Linux would help bring it back to life.

Friday Zombie Blogging - Zombie gifts

If you're still struggling to get something special for a friend or family member, here are a few things you may want to consider (or avoid, as the case may be):

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Every Christmas needs something with a remote control.
PPS - As you get older, they just change from cars to home theatre components.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Consistent mental models and programming

A class of computer science students was given a programming quiz on the first day of their studies, before they were taught anything. I find it interesting that other programmers believed students who refused to answer the quiz would make the best programmers. The reasoning, apparently, is that those students have the sense to know that they do not know anything. I admit that humility of wisdom is highly prized by my people in our users.

But the highest performers in the subsequent years of the course were those who applied a consistent mental model (whether wrong or right) to the problems. Still others used inconsistent models to answer the questions, and these were expected by non-technical people to be the most successful programmers since they applied the most appropriate model for the situation. I may be unusual among programmers, but I did think the consistent ones would be best. The inconsistent ones would have to learn the same thing over and over, while those who simply refused to answer are more likely to be slack than humble. They were rebelling, not confused.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Another study suggests that consistency might not be the whole story.
PPS - It's rarely that simple.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Personal data tracking

After finding this post about daily personal statistical tracking, I'm thinking about expanding my personal data tracking. I currently track two things for personal purposes, and they're both exercise-related: when, how far and for how long I run and how many steps I take per day. One thing I want to know about is how much sleep I tend to get and the quality, so I think I'll start with that. I don't want it to get too onerous or intrusive, though, so I need to keep it simple.

I have previously thought that a custom software tool might be the way to go, since it can present the right fields for me to fill in, but I'm not sure I can be bothered setting it up.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Come to think of it, I also track what I spend on a day-by-day basis.
PPS - For work, I must track time spent by project, to fill in my weekly timesheet.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Egotism vs depression

In some ways I think egotism is the opposite of depression. When a depressed person encounters success, they minimise it, and they mentally inflate their failures until they loom so big they cannot be overcome. An egotist, on the other hand, artificially maximises their successes and ignores or explains away their failures to the point that their own involvement is hardly even remembered.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Of course there are many more aspects to it than this.
PPS - These parts just seemed to be interesting counterpoints to each other.

Monday, 15 December 2008

Caffeine vs naps

Apparently naps produce the best cognitive pickup for tiredness - better than caffeine or placebos. The silly thing, however, is that caffeine produces the highest self-perception of alertness. That is, someone who has had a coffee in the afternoon is more likely to say they feel awake and alert than someone who has had a nap, but they are likely to under-perform in cognitive tasks. Conversely, the napper would not assert that they are awake and alert, but would out-perform the caffeine recipient most of the time.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It's hard to be empirical about how tired people are.
PPS - At least as far as I know.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Friday Zombie Blogging - Left 4 Dead

Zero Punctuation reviews Left 4 Dead, cooperative zombie survival shooter, in the typical fast-talking, half-animated, scathing style.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I laughed.
PPS - Of course.

Hive mind resistance

If presented with the idea of fusing their minds into one global entity, I expect most people would pass. The loss of identity is enough, but on the whole, each individual tends to believe themselves to be of above average intelligence. If the worldwide pool of intelligence was divided evenly between everyone, then, most people expect they would be worse off. It's possible nobody else is thinking of it that way.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - And if we're all part of one mind, "my IQ" is a totally meaningless phrase.
PPS - Unless you mean it corporately.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

The snake on the car

Late last night I went outside to bring the car into the garage. Waiting there to greet me was a small snake on the bonnet of the car - about a finger thickness and maybe 70cm long.

After I tried to persuade the creature to move with a broom, he slithered into the engine compartment and out of view. Deb and I tried for a few more minutes to locate him, and even tried starting the car to scare him out, but he made no further appearance.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Rather than risk bringing the snake inside, I left the car on the driveway.
PPS - It seemed best that way for everyone, including the snake.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Peer-to-peer photo sharing

I think keeping family and friends up to date with photos is a very legitimate use of peer-to-peer technology. Say I have some photos and my Dad has some, and we want to keep off-site backups easily. We both install a P2P client on our machines and add each other as friends. Then we set the client to share our photo folders, tell it to keep them synchronised and away it goes, duplicating our photos across each others' machines, whether we live a few streets from each other or across the other side of the world. That's not the whole story, of course, and there are tweaks to make to the idea, such as bandwidth caps (only use 1GB per month for sync) and sharing only certain subfolders with certain people (my friends are not interested in family snaps from my childhood, but Dad is). Now I just need the software to do it.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - A website with adequate privacy settings and decent storage would work, though.
PPS - That's why this will probably never happen, or most people won't use it.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Tomboy for note-taking

I've started keeping some notes in a personal wiki program called Tomboy, with a few reservations.

First, while it runs cross-platform, Windows binaries are not distributed yet (at least not from the official site).

Second, the notes are stored in a database on the installed machine, and I want to take them with me everywhere.

Third, though Tomboy can synchronise notes to and from a "server" folder, the fact that I don't have (or want) a server online means that the synchronisation might be a bit more haphazard than it should be. When I merge files with my portable storage, my Tomboy notes may get mangled in the process, and I'd rather not have that.

Fourth and finally, Tomboy organises notes into Notebooks, rather than allowing free-form tagging. I would prefer a tagging approach.

All of that said, it's a neat program that does what it's designed for, even if that's not aligned perfectly with my needs. And it's still in development, so some of these issues might be ironed out yet.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I have not yet tried merging edits from two machines.
PPS - I'm apprehensive about that.

Monday, 8 December 2008

It's been a busy weekend

I've been going almost flat out or sleeping since Friday night. That evening we had a quick rehearsal for Sunday's play, then I had to rush off to join the wedding rehearsal dinner. At that point, I wasn't aware I was involved, but by the time the dinner was over I knew I was driving bridesmaids on the day.

Saturday morning was the wedding itself, where I tried to make myself as useful as possible. As mentioned above, I drove bridesmaids around, but also ended up moving chairs and holding a shade for the photographer. Saturday night was originally planned to be a dinner and games night, but Deb and I piked out and crashed. She slept very soundly after her bridesmaid's duties, but I had a very uncomfortable sleep.

Sunday morning was the final play rehearsal, followed by a tech meeting to figure out temporary computer arrangements for the church. In the evening, we finally performed the play (which seemed to be appreciated). Fortunately last night was a better sleep than Saturday.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - There are nine million bicycles in Beijing.
PPS - We heard that song a few times at the wedding.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Dr Horrible DVD region free

The Dr Horrible DVD has sorta-kinda pre-launched on Amazon, and here's the really weird part: it's region-free. Honestly, you could knock me down with a feather. Someone wants international audiences buying their discs? Unheard of! It's just so bizarre that I can't get over it.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - And it's only $10.
PPS - I guess that's because it's relatively short.

Friday Zombie Blogging - zombies vs unicorns

Authors Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier are editing a zombies vs unicorns story anthology. An odd juxtaposition, of course, but I still have some questions. Is it a collection of individual stories about either zombies OR unicorns, or are they trying to gather a collection of stories that all involve BOTH zombies and unicorns?

Mokalus of Borg

PS - If it's the latter, I imagine they will have some trouble.
PPS - Unless a lot of quality horror/fantasy writers suddenly come out of the woodwork.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Ads for in-car GPS maps

Apparently the primary business model with in-car GPS devices is to keep selling you updated maps. Then there's Google Maps, where they give away the equivalent data for free, though they include advertising. It sounds like a good idea to try and get an in-car GPS using free Google Maps data, but I suspect most map publishers would try a different approach.

A company attempting ad-supported maps for in-car GPS would probably get the idea, sooner or later, that the ads need to be spoken rather than visual. Otherwise the driver is likely to miss them, and the advertising dollars are wasted. Then advertisers who realise their spoken ads are being played to drivers who are navigating will submit them with phrases like "Turn left here for delicious Joe's Burgers!". Consumers, annoyed with the faux-directions, will stop using their navigator and bad-mouth the manufacturer (not to mention the advertisers) to everyone they know.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Ad-supported content never seems to go well for anyone involved.
PPS - Except Google, who keep the ads low-key and relevant.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Innovative games

I'm interested in alternative games - something that offers something different and innovative as opposed to the same old thing in a new package. If your game is yet another first person shooter, but you've added some sweet new lighting effects, cool weapons and "bullet time" gameplay ... pass. I played shooters already, and I'm done. And real-time strategy only holds slightly more appeal for me.

Today I heard on Slashdot about a game simulating the coordination of disaster relief, which sounds like a pretty cool twist on the RTS genre. And though Portal was pretty much an FPS built to experiment with an innovative game mechanism, it grabbed my imagination right away. So I suppose the lesson is that you don't need to create something truly groundbreaking on every front all at once, but you need to give something genuinely new, not just a new kind of weapon or a different story.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Spore also intrigued me, but I seem to be done with it now.
PPS - Maybe I'll play it more when I have more time.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Weather warnings by SMS

Deb and I don't watch much television, and we don't usually have the radio on during the day. We need another way to get severe weather warnings, and probably the most effective way would be via SMS. I don't expect the Bureau of Meteorology to set up an SMS weather alert system, but I could probably write something myself that gets the local weather warnings file, decides whether to warn me and forwards something to my phone via an email-to-SMS service.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Should be simple enough.
PPS - As long as the computer stays on and has a network connection.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Risk of serious injury

Sam is getting married this coming Saturday, so the boys naturally took on the traditional buck's party and went kart racing at Kingston Park Raceway. My trophy from the day is a bruised rib that I got in a semi-spectacular crash. Perhaps not that spectacular, but it felt pretty big at the time.

The bruise is on the right-hand side at the back. I'll try to describe the collision. Around a left-hand bend in the road, another kart had spun out and got stuck facing the wrong way. As I came in to take the turn, I saw the hazard, but did not have time to brake or steer far enough out of the way. My kart hit on the side so that I was thrown sideways in the seat. For 30 seconds or so I couldn't breathe and I had to sit out the rest of the race and the finals too.

It's still painful this morning, and I'm going to see the doctor.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - On the plus side, I got the photos that none of us would otherwise have taken.
PPS - The photo doesn't show the bruise particularly well.