Hilf is right about one thing

The community if abuzz about Hilf's provocative comments. Let's be realistic, comments like "The Free Software movement is dead" are solely designed to get headlines. Nothing more, nothing less, and anyone who quotes it back to you as a way of making a point isn't worth talking to. Too bad I initially read the headline as "MILF says free software is dead".

But he is right on one point: Apache, MySQL and PHP are the "Visual Basic of open source." Yep, it's just as easy to write buggy, shit code with a toy database behind it as with VB and Jet. Perhaps the only difference is that unlike with VB, you probably don't have work around so many bugs in the actual programming environment.

The Tourist Engineer is back

My OpenGuide site, The Tourist Engineer is finally working again. Thanks to Kake for prodding and fixing the database format. That made all the difference!

The site is a tourist guide for geeks, looking at architectural marvels, giant infrastructure, geeky historical sites and the like.

I'll continue maintaining this site, but I'm also thinking of starting an Open Guide to Sydney, in the mould of London and Boston. These are open Wiki guides to cities, and when they work well they're absolutely brilliant. Sydney doesn't have much in the way of free, open guides to things. Most seem to be search-engine-harvesting "guides" with plain listings and no real opinion. There's nothing as good as the ever amazing Beer In The Evening. I think we need to harness some of this user-generated goodness for Sydney.

In the meantime, please check out The Tourist Engineer and feel free to jump in and add new sites.

When prototypes attack

Here's a tip for newbies. When someone asks you to knock up a "quick prototype", be very very afraid. Your "quick prototype" could well end up as a production system. And guess who's gonna be supporting it?

I made the mistake of writing some dodgy Javascript to mock up some functionality we wanted to get built. Only ever intended as a demonstration, and completely unmaintainable. It's just come back from the umpteenth iteration through the lawyers and everyone else putting in their two bob, and I feel sick every time I see it.

I should have known this would happen when my boss started referring to it as an "application". ARGH!

Geek-only on Planet Linux Australia

Hmmm, looks like whoever runs Planet Linux Australia decided to only grab my geek category after my What's appropriate on the Planets? post. That kinda misses the point, but it's their decision really.

The main thing I had to say there was that the thing I like about the Planets is the irrelevant stuff, the non-geeky stuff. It might mean you have to skip over the odd student talking about his assignments, posts about someone's non-geek interests, seriously weird shit and hearing about the birth of children to people you've never met, but that's great. You learn a lot about these people, not just one-dimensional geekdom.

Or does Linux Australia only want one-dimensional geekdom?

Organizing geek stuff

Someone recommended those shoe rack hanging things for keeping geek bits and bobs. I bought one last week and just spent some time putting all my shit in it. I can now see my desk! Brilliant idea.

Geek gadget organizer, a shoe rack

Everything is clearly visible and accessible. You can organize things, like all soldering/electronics stuff in one shelf; regularly-used tools in one shelf, random shit in little drawers. Love it!

Now just to organerize the stack of crap sitting next to it on the left there. Anyone wanna buy a Newton 2000?

What's appropriate on the Planets?

My blog is syndicated on quite a few Planets:

During my recent exchange with Erik de Castro Lopo about Fred Nile and racism, I got a few emails from people asking us to "take it off the Planets". Janet probably put it best, and her comments were typical:

Might be worth thinking about having the full on religious debates on a
different blog than the linux planet, its a pretty sad thread to read
through for a group building collaboration and community.

Now I'm all for civility, and despise the scumbags who've got Kathy Sierra fearing for her life. If you read through the exchange with Erik, I think you'll find it was completely civil. In this world, we're allowed to disagree. In fact, it's incredibly important to collaboration and community. So I really don't see any problem with our discussion. Spirited, but polite, discussion and disagreement is a sign of a healthy community.

The next issue is the content. We were talking politics, and specifically state politics. I suspect this might be of little interest to readers of Planet GLLUG, Planet Linode and much of Planet Linux Australia's readers. But the thing about Planets is they're not discriminating. They take the feed and shove it up online.

I think this is actually a strength. It would be entirely possible to limit the feed Planets take to specific topics, for example by taking the geek category from my blog. It would make the Planets more efficient, perhaps, and certainly more focussed, but I think would also take away a lot of their joy.

I really enjoy learning more about the people I deal with on technical issues, experiencing them as full human beings rather than just geeks. I love hearing their opinions on random subjects, learning of their hobbies, their family life. It's great to see pictures of their lovers, dogs, kids, weddings, parties, friends and travels. It's what makes Planets great.

So I will continue to talk about whatever the hell I like on my blog. It's my blog and I'll crap on about beer and politics if I want to. If you don't like that, you might want to skip the Planets and subscribe directly to peoples' individual blogs, or at least those that focus narrowly on geekery. I think you'll miss out on something wonderful if you do, though.

Smug is...

When some warns you about the latest Windows virus and opening a particular type of email and you don't run that buggy heap of crap.

Apparently there's some new virus out for Windows/Outlook. If you run Windows, at the very least stop using Outlook. A good alternative is Thunderbird. An even better option is to use Gmail so you can read your email anywhere.

New tuner and anyone got a crappy AGP video card?

I slotted a new tuner card into my MythTV backend last night. This time it was a KWorld "Dual Hybrid" from Dick Smith Powerhouse. Once again it's an SAA7134-based card, so it Just Works. Nice to have two cards in there.

I spent some time trying to get one of the analogue tuners to work. They work well for vision but I can't seem to get the audio to work, whether I use saa7134-osss or saa7134-alsa. My reading of the various wikis suggest you don't need to route the audio through the supplied cable into your soundcard, and the card is turning up as an ALSA/OSS device:

arecord -l
**** List of CAPTURE Hardware Devices ****
card 0: I82801BAICH2 [Intel 82801BA-ICH2], device 0: Intel ICH [Intel
  Subdevices: 1/1
  Subdevice #0: subdevice #0
card 0: I82801BAICH2 [Intel 82801BA-ICH2], device 1: Intel ICH - MIC ADC [Intel 82801BA-ICH2 - MIC ADC]
  Subdevices: 1/1
  Subdevice #0: subdevice #0
card 1: SAA7134 [SAA7134], device 0: SAA7134 PCM [SAA7134 PCM]
  Subdevices: 1/1
  Subdevice #0: subdevice #0
card 2: SAA7134_1 [SAA7134], device 0: SAA7134 PCM [SAA7134 PCM]
  Subdevices: 1/1
  Subdevice #0: subdevice #0

Also, does anyone have a crappy, low-end and, importantly, thin AGP video card? The one in there at the moment (a very high-end IBM GXT6000P) takes up the AGP slot and two PCI slots! I'd be willing to swap for the GXT6000P (though you'll need AGP Pro, I think) or a few beers to anyone who has a cheapo card. The machine doesn't need a video card but it's always handy when something goes wrong.