Disgust at the Hypocrisy of the Administration

I’ve tried not to post too much political drivel here lately, but this one really pegged my buttons.
Apparently the Bush administration, in true show of how religion, opinion, and personal agenda is affecting state policy, has announced they will intervene in the Terry Schiavo case.
Ignoring the fact that all the courts, all the doctors, and the state legislature of Florida has sided with the legal guardian (the woman’s husband), the Bush administration has decided they will intervene and pass emergency legislation against the wills of the husband, the courts, and the doctors in this case.
What bothers me the most about this is that it flies in the face of all that the Republican party is supposed to believe in. The rights of states to manage and legislate their own issues. The rights of an family to pursue their lives without intervention by the Federal regime, etc. Toss all that out the window. Bush feels that he knows better than the courts, the husband, and the doctors, and will force this woman, who everyone -but- the parents agrees is basically dead, to continue breathing and twitching in a horrible mockery of life.
The woman has died. Her collapse and later heart attack has destroyed most of her brain. The husband is not some ‘money grubbing relative looking to slurp up the insurance’ – in fact the husband has publically stated :

Raising the issue of a possible conflict of interest is the fact that Michael Schiavo stands to inherit the remainder of Terri’s malpractice settlement upon her death. Michael Schiavo has publicly responded to this charge by claiming that, of the original $1,050,000 awarded in the malpractice suit, less than $50,000 is left, the rest having been spent under a judge’s supervision on medical care for Terri and the ongoing legal battle. He has also stated that, if he does receive this money, he will donate it to charity.

So the only thing we can interpret from the administration is yet another attempt to foist Bush’s skewed morals on a country, regardless of law, public commentary, or even consistency within the their own party.

What’s wrong with a moving target release mechanism?

Recently, Slashdot posted an article</a discussing some grumbling in the Debian community that the release cycle for the platform should be quicker.
Debian's system is split into several releases – stable, testing, unstable, etc. The 'stable' 'release' hasn't been snapshotted as a 'release' in several years, and therefore is running some fairly out of date applications.
However, the 'testing' release is what I consider a 'rolling' version. It has no specific snapshot of the platform and applications that folks need to upgrad e 'to' or 'from'. I've
installed Debian testing on the last 2 laptops I’ve worked with, over the last 14 months, and even though the actual packages and environment that went into each differed, and even though there was no ‘release’ I was installing from, everything worked great, and was completely up to date.
My point here is “why does there have to be a release schedule”? Why can’t a platform track the current versions of applications, and use normal update mechanisms to make sure new versions and updates are synced into place?
I will, btw, accept there are a times a total clean cut from scratch may be necessary. Major kernel revisions may be one such (though ‘testing’ is distributed with a 2.4.x kernel, and installing a 2.6.x kernel was a matter of just apt-getting the appropriate files – and they are still maintained and updated via apt).
This is actually one my biggest beefs with Redhat and the spinoff Fedora projects. They are still stuck in a ‘cut and release’ model, when what they should do is distribute a simple baseline, and then the users net-update against the baseline up to the current version, much as the Debian Network Installer does now.

Snapshot of a coder’s brain while working…

Setting: headphones on, listening to Radio Paradise. The entire office is now empty, boss has left with a ‘lock up’ tossed back over his shoulder.
Said programmer is locked in a deep conversation with ‘hunter’, the laptop, which is at the moment doing many things, one of which is attempting to run a small program that asks the local webserver for a simple answer. P is the programmer, H is the anthropomorphized (only slightly) answers from the program.
P “Connect”
H “Error”
P “Connect”
H “Error!”
P “Why is that showing a null?”
H “Error.”
P “But you should have gotten an answer.”
H “Error.”
P “Well, what was in the response?”
H “null”
P “What? But you should have thrown an error.”
H “”
P “Owait, you were calling a servlet on a webserver. what was the HTTP response code?”
H “404”
P “Ah… HAH!”
H “Error.”
Such is the mental processes after 10 hours of Java hacking. Liberal delivery of nummy food to said programmer has been scheduled.

Dayblogging Ubercon – Day 3

Phew. End of the event.
I had all sorts of connectivity problems with the wireless network in the hotel, so I wasn’t able to keep the postings nearly as up to date as I had planned. It was doubly troubling because we used the wireless services for credit card processing as well. Not good.
I really believe that hotels are rapidly getting more and more out of touch with reality. This is a mediocre hotel in not the most scenic area (Secaucus, NJ). I’d gotten used to dealing with some of the insanity hotels try to pull by working with the Arisia folks, but the Park Plaza is a far ritzier, far -larger- hotel than the Crowne Plaza. Unfortunately, hotels seems to be in the mindset that the reason they’re not makign enough money off services is that they’re not charging enough. So, charge more!
We’ve seen this with $4.00 hot dogs and $35 continental breakfasts, but now it’s escalated to $150 per day per computer, per room! wireless internet access. This is only in the function rooms (such as the ballroom etc) – the room access, on a hardwire connection, is $9.95 for a week of access.
The hotel then decided that serving lunch to everyone in the lobby would be a good idea. At $3.00 for a bagel (cold), and $3.50 for a mediocre soda, they were suprised when folks would actually walk across the street and get a muffin and soda for $1.50.
If their rates were something tolerable, they’d do a heck of a lot of business, but I guess they dont’ just think that way. I expect the next thing they’ll do is make their corkage rules even more fascist, and dictate you can have no food in the hotel other than what they serve. (We were regularly getting bagfulls of Wendy’s cheeseburgers, because the cheeseburgers the hotel were offering were $4.00 and terrible).
Ah well, the event otherwise has gone well. The LAN was managed by NJLP (New Jersey Lan Party), who did a great job. Much Unreal Tournament, Warcraft, Half-Life Counterstrike, and some other new bits. I’m still a fan of the UT2004 Onslaught, which is a team oriented game involving huge outdoor settings and outstanding vehicles. The balance between all the potential weapons, vehicles, and locations is excellent.
I did play a little Warcraft III as well (played Frozen Throne) – that’s a mighty nice game, I’m apparently behind the curve, still considering Neverwinter Nights and Red Alert 2 as the ‘top games i need to play more’.
I think it’s time to get Cedega running on the laptop. Since I got OpenGL running at speed on ‘hunter’, I can consider doing some decent gaming.
The board games got me intrigued again too. I’ve heard good things about Carracasonne, and of course the venerable Settlers of Catan – both of which I’ve never played (really!). I also saw an updated version of Risk (like, ‘Risk 2150’ or something like that). Looks fairly post-apocalyptic but similar bent. Global armies, yaddayadda.
I’m pretty toasty, the car is all packed up, and I’m just doing some gaming before hitting the road heading for my clients site in Pennington. I’ll be there for 3-4 days working on my Java project, expect more geeky yammerings as the week moves on.

Dayblogging Ubercon – Day 1

Today we start our bi-annual Ubercon event. We’re up to Ubercon V, so I guess we’re an institution now, eh? We’re just getting ready to go start setup, reg opens at 2:30, and I have some small code changes and database updates to complete, so we’re off to see the.. er… hotel event manager.
I’ll try and post some updates as things go along. So far, I set up all the equipment and tested it last night, things are working fine. This was, unfortunately, before 4 of the new Gateway terminals fell off the shelf I was working on. They seem okay, nothing rattling around, but I was not in the mood for powering up my terminals at midnight to watch them smoke, so I just quietly went to bed.
Off to breakfast and setup!
Update – 4:15pm
Aaaaaaaaaand, we’re off.
Reg is open, and folks are flowing through okay. We have 4 Gateway terminals running, and 3 kiosk terminals, plus one badge printer. Equipment lossage has been limited to One (1) Gateway DOA, one bad keyboard, and One (1) I-Opener dying. We have another Gateway that’s prone to sporadic reboots, so that gets a little annoying. I need to keep the active ‘operator’ terminals at 4 – 3 just backlogs too easily.
We have a slightly different arrangement with the helpdesk this time. We ran a cable up to the helpdesk / ops desk area, and there’s a clued operator at the terminal there. If folks have problems at Reg, we can send them along to the help desk (about 50′ away), and they can fix / research / find out hte problem. They can also send a badge print request to the main printer, which is close enough that the folks don’t mind coming back over to pick up the badge. There’s never a backlog at the printer itself, so it’s really just a walkup.
I have some pictures, I’ll try and post them during the next lull.

Mmm, GL Rendering

Gosh, what a difference. I’ve been wanting to do more game playing on my Linux laptop, but I’ve been stymied with trying to get the video system in it up to par. Today I went over the last roadblocks.

For the truly geeky, I have DRM working on the Radeon Mobility 9000 chipset in my IBM T40. The only tidbits I can have for folks who are trying to do this are:

  1. Have the Radeon kernel module installed
  2. Make sure you’re NOT running at 1600×1200. You don’t have enough memory to run GL in that. Running on the native 1400×1050 is fine.
  3. Make sure you have a Mode 0666 line in your XF86Config file for the DRI module:
    31 Section "DRI"
    32   Mode  0666
    33 EndSection
  4. Watch your /var/log/XFree86.0.log file for any warnings.

Once that was all set, and ‘glxinfo | grep -i direct’ showed me ‘Direct rendering: yes’, I ran glxgears. WHOAH! 865 or so frames per second (before I got this running, I was getting about 180. A slight performance increase, to say the least)

One of the motivations for this was to take a look at “Jake2” – a full Java port of the Quake2 engine. As advertised, I just needed the binary download, plus the Quake2 demo data files (see the webpage on how to get them), and voila! It just worked!

Go go gadget Java!

Anyway, now that it’s all working, I’m looking for more GL games to play. I’ve played Tuxracer, bzFlag, CannonSmash, and Neverball (MAN that’s a weird game). I jsut downloaded Flightgear, I’ll let you know.

Any other recommendations?

Turnkey Home PBX System

This is so cool. We have a PBX here at Homeport, but it’s a very old hybrid digital/analog system that works ‘okay’, but the handsets are rapidly falling apart, and it really just needs to be trashed.
I’ve been watching The Asterisk Project for quite a while – it being an opensource linux based PBX system, but haven’t jumped into trying it because the rampup / investment in hardware process was more than I was ready to deal with.
Now someone’s put together Asterisk@Home, a pre-packaged bootable CD that will install Asterisk for you, and do all the basic configuration, including setting up the web interface and everything.
Tempting… tempting…
(This was pointed out from an article on slashdot

Ubercon – March 11-13th!

One of the fun things about my business is I get to go to cool conventions.
One of my oldest customers is UberCon, a gaming convention held twice a year in the Meadowlands, NJ. A weekend long gaming experience, they have board games, RPG, LARP, and LAN events running all weekend, 24×7. Everything from walk-up fragfests in Unreal through sanctioned Munchkin tournaments.
I’ll be there all weekend, running registration and doing all sorts of fun things with badges and badge printers and terminals and stuff. Plenty of time for gaming and socializing, so why not cmon down!

Slowly I learn… Step by step…

I’m learning again. I mean, really learning stuff. Working with the folks down in NJ and learning things that I really want to learn. Things that not only make it easier for me to represent my ideas to my temporary employers, but also make me more marketable and give me a broader base.
In the last 2 weeks, I’ve increased my knowledge on the following topics a hundred fold:
J2EE, JSP, Hibernate, EJB, Object Persistence in Databases, Rich clients, DotNet, Eclipse, JBoss, WebSphere, Ant, Servlets, RMI, JNI, JMS, SOAP, WSDL, and general XML concepts.
Man this is cool

Teacher lashes out at student for not standing for the national anthem

A Brick Township teacher lashed out at a student who wouldn’t stand for the national anthem. The teachers rant was caught in a cell phone video. The result? The student was suspended for 10 days, and the school is considering banning all cell phones from the school. The teacher has had no reprimand, and the school is considering pressing charges against the student.

Jay’s friend who was in the class at the time, Corey, says that their teacher had been strict in the past in demanding that students stand for the national anthem and pledge of allegiance. That’s why they brought in a camera – to expose the teacher in case he did anything again. “The teacher and school principals wanted him (Mantel) to press charges against us…they tried to blame it on us like it was premeditated, like we did it just to get him on tape, which is false. We knew he was gonna go nuts because he frequently used to” said Corey.

Link to the story, complete with video.

Update: – The full article at the Independent Media Center of Philadelphia has many more details. The commentary section is particularly interesting.

Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy Adventure

Well here’s something convenient. Not only is it a cool lead in for the upcoming Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy movie, and not only is it a flash game that runs fine on Linux and Mac machines, but it’s nifty keano too!

This is an updated version of the original 1984 Infocom text adventure based around Douglas Adam’s excellent 5-book trilogy (though in fact when the game was written, I believe only the first 3 books of the trilogy had been completed).

Normally I’m not particularly thrilled about having to ‘flash up’ a text game to make it more modern, but in this case it’s done quite well, with a pleasant interface that doesn’t get in the way of the gameplay, as well as some interesting ‘views’ reminiscent of the graphics used in the TV series, coupled with the original ‘graphic adventure’ concept (still images with an interactive story line) that came out of the old text adventure games.

I haven’t gotten too far into the game yet, but so far it looks good. Do you remember how to get the babel fish?

Try the game on the BBC’s website.