From The Erbo Files
Tuesday, March 6, 2012


  • Seems that Facebook has been claiming that people's friends are playing games they're not actually playing. I've noticed this issue first-hand. Sabrina asked me why I was playing a specific game on Facebook; I checked, and I had blocked that game entirely. (I block most games on Facebook routinely. It's nothing personal.) I put it down to Facebook having more bugs than a bait store...but guys, you might just want to slip a user story into your next iteration for this.

  • More innovation from the Finns: they have an "Open Ministry" (Avoin ministeri√∂) Web site launching soon where anyone can propose a new law or initiative, and, if it's popular enough, the Parliament has to take it up. You'd expect this sort of thing in Finland, where Internet access is practically a way of life; in some respects, this is one of those "Oh, they're only doing this now?" moments.

  • And, while I was over on the Helsingin Sanomat Web site, I spotted the news item that Tarja Halonen has stepped down as President of Finland, ending a 12-year term. In the United States, Halonen is most noted for her resemblance to talk-show host Conan O'Brien; Conan has created political ads for her (getting mention on US news channels!) and even traveled to Finland (report in Finnish, from MTV3). I think everybody got a good laugh out of that. In the meantime, Halonen's record as President has been exemplary; I trust she will enjoy a well-deserved retirement.

  • For some perspective on why Finland is so awesome, this piece by Chris Byrne is a good overview. The cartoon is priceless, as is this advice: "Never drink with a Finn, unless you feel like getting in a friendly knife fight. No seriously, there will be a knife fight, or at the very least a rock or iceball fight, but it will be friendly. You'll only be cut up a little bit and then everyone will go back and drink some more...Unless you're a Russian in which case you'll end up wearing your testicles as earrings."

  • Why does everyone hate jury duty? Professor Bainbridge offers up a laundry list of reasons. Via Glenn Reynolds, who adds "I think it's a matter of respect, ultimately. The jury is supposed to be coequal with the judge, but they treat you like cattle instead." Ask Sabrina what she thinks about jury duty...and better not have anything else scheduled for awhile; a rant like hers takes time to fully appreciate.

  • Research is being conducted into the use of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to improve learning; if this writer's report is to be believed, what it does is help silence all those inner voices of self-doubt and let you get on with the business of learning. "What would a world look like in which we all wore little tDCS headbands that would keep us in a primed, confident state, free of all doubts and fears? Wouldn't you wear the shit out of that cap?" I think we all would. (Via JWZ, who refers to it as a "tasp." Slightly incorrect terminology, though; a Niven tasp stimulates the brain's pleasure centers wirelessly, from a distance. A closer term might be "droud," which is the device that wireheads use that regulates the current into their brains, also from Niven's work.)

  • Jon Evans, posting on TechCrunch, takes the knife to one of Extreme Programming's sacred cows: "Pair Programming Considered Harmful?" Some shops, like Pivotal Labs, live and breathe pair programming (as I learned at their session at Mile High Agile 2011); they likely won't think much of this article. However, the article suggests that developers are more productive when they enjoy privacy and freedom from interruption; Joel Spolsky and Fog Creek Software would agree heartily with this assessment. A mixture of both approaches is what Evans advocates; at IQNavigator, we kind of do this, employing pairing when it makes sense to do so and working solo when it doesn't. (The fact that our workstations are actually laptops, which can be undocked and taken elsewhere at need, helps facilitate this.)

  • Six words: "So...it has come to this."

  • Warning: Do not watch this video without having taken your blood pressure medicine first, and secure all firearms and heavy objects near the computer before playing. I'll just say this: "Nuke 'em till they glow, and shoot 'em in the dark. With bullets dipped in pig fat." (Via LCBrendan at Misha's place)

  • Here in Denver, we have a local traffic reporter named--I am not making this up, as Dave Barry says--"Amelia Earhart." And yes, she is a relative of the famous aviatrix. And she's a pilot herself, training to do what her famous relative attempted: fly around the world, in her Cirrus SR-22T. Here's her blog about the effort. Clear skies to you, ma'am!

  • Astrophysicist Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson was asked what the most astounding fact was that he could share about the Universe. In this video, he gives his answer: That the atoms of our bodies were once part of stars themselves, that while we are in the universe, the universe is also inside us. Of course, as a Babylon 5 fan, I already knew this: "I will tell you a great secret, Captain. Perhaps the greatest of all time. The molecules of your body are the same molecules that make up this station, and the nebula outside, that burn inside the stars themselves. We are starstuff, we are the universe, made manifest, trying to figure itself out." (Ambassador Delenn, episode "A Distant Star," season 2)

Monday, February 20, 2012


  • Apparently, not only has Google figured out how to bypass security settings in Safari, they've been able to do it in IE as well. Micro$oft has countered by publishing a "Tracking Protection List" that blocks all Google embeds. At least, in Internet Asploder. I'm inclined to respond by saying that anyone who's still using Internet Asploder deserves what they get...and, as a Chrome user, I'm not particularly worried.

  • Interesting factoid from ZeroHedge: by being perceived as hostile towards gun owners, President Obama has helped the firearms industry tremendously by driving record sales of guns and ammo. I'd almost be inclined to think Obama was pulling a Xanatos Gambit and is ready to claim credit for the "stimulus" to the gun industry...but he's probably not that smart.

  • A lengthy but informative piece here on the art of salary negotiation. Via Chris Byrne, who offers some pointers of his own to supplement that article. Sad but true fact: "We [engineers] overwhelmingly suck at it. We have turned sucking at it into a perverse badge of virtue." Sigh...he's right, especially since my own philosophy is closer to "Be thankful you have a job, shut up and do as you're told."

  • Valorna Edgeworth from Second Life and EVE pointed me to the things MakerBot Industries is doing. I'd read about some of their stuff on TechCrunch, this, for instance. This sort of technology will just become more pervasive; what happens, for instance, when it becomes affordable to have your own CNC milling machine in your garage? It almost is, now, if you buy a used one you can adapt to control via a standard PC...

  • And speaking of disruptive technologies, how about a DNA sequencer the size of a USB key? Expensive now, but just wait. The future is now, folks.

  • This Android tablet is available for $139 for a 7-inch model or $250 for a 10-inch model, runs ICS, does not have any bootloader locks or other obstructions, and comes with optional source code disk. Might be worth getting to hack around with. (Via TC)

  • If you haven't followed Ken White's "Anatomy of A Scam" at Popehat, it's worth a read. It's almost a HOWTO for investigating and reporting scammers, using Google, PACER, and court records searches. Suffice to say, the principal scammers in this tale look like they're in a world of hurt...

  • PandoDaily: Stop Trying to Make F-Commerce Happen. Seriously? "F-commerce" meaning "commerce via Facebook"? That's as bad as "m-commerce" meaning "commerce via mobile," maybe more so. Whoever thought to call it "F-commerce" should be F-slapped around. (FuckedCompany.com: Never forget!)

  • CBS, which now owns Paramount, is putting Star Trek: The Next Generation out on Blu-ray starting this year with Season 1. I just got the "teaser" disc with three restored episodes, and boy, do they look beautiful. Any TNG fan should have it, particularly as one of the remastered episodes is "The Inner Light" from Season 5, universally acknowledged as being one of the best TNG episodes ever, and one of four Star Trek episodes to win a Hugo. The only drawback is, the episodes were all filmed in 4:3 for the TV sets of the day, and so appear pillarboxed on a modern HD set. (JMS was thinking ahead when he filmed Babylon 5 in widescreen...)

 
 
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