Archive for November, 2009

Dear Federal Aviation Administration, WTH

Dear Federal Aviation Administration;

The other day, I was blogging about the pointless waste of money that some federal agencies are incurring by sending out mail at full first-class postage rates, rather than the discounted pre-sort rate that would save roughly $0.08 per piece of mail. I don’t know how much mail the federal government sends in a year, but I figure eight cents per piece is a pretty hefty chunk of change.

Let’s ignore that for now. You’re doing something quite ridiculously more wasteful.
Read the rest of this entry »

Published in: 'D' for 'Dumb', General | on November 10th, 2009 | Comments Off on Dear Federal Aviation Administration, WTH

Howto: Linux on Compact Flash Cards

Earlier this year, I replaced my Linux desktop machine – which was a dual 500MHz Pentium II with 1GB RAM and a pair of SCSI drives on a RAID card – with a newer, more powerful 1.8GHz Mini-ITX machine in a tiny little case. It’s faster, it’s smaller, it’s quieter, and it uses a lot less energy – what’s not to like?

Well, for me, the fact that the case only has room for a single 2.5″ hard drive. I got spoiled by having RAID – and, arguably, I’d been spoiled by having some pretty nice 7200RPM SCSI drives, and I really wanted two drives in the new machine, as well. What was I to do?

Easy: Compact Flash cards on IDE adapters, that’s what.

I wasn’t trying to make a poor man’s SSD – I just wanted something that would fit where a laptop hard drive was supposed to go.

The results were absolutely abysmal. Completely unacceptable – we’re talking 170MHz SPARCStation territory here, while running KDE under Debian. Even dropping from software RAID to just using bare CF cards didn’t help matters significantly. Nor did spending extra on really “high-speed” compact flash cards, either.

I should have just used a regular old hard drive, but I persisted, in large part to prove it could be done – and learn how, along the way.

Several months of testing, fighting, and researching later, I’ve got the low-down on how to do Linux on Compact Flash with as few headaches as possible – and some of the recommendations might really surprise you.
Read the rest of this entry »

Published in: Geekiness, General | on November 9th, 2009 | 6 Comments »

Kwik Hits

A couple random observations from a surprisingly busy week here in sunny Saint Paul:

Last night, I managed to find time to watch that Pixar animated film Up. It was a decent movie, don’t get me wrong – but I found the advertising, playing it up as a comedy, pretty deceptive, and am left wondering: how on earth is this a kid’s movie? I mean, did it escape everyone’s attention that the protagonist winds up killing his childhood hero at the end of the movie? And does so with no apparent remorse or other emotional response? Wholesome comedic entertainment for the anklebiters? I don’t think so…

A group called the Minnesota Ultra High Speed Broadband Task Force – how’s that for an unwieldy name? – have announced the need for 10Mbps residential broadband throughout the state by 2015. Apparently, this is a “social and economic necessity”, according to these people. Now, I can understand the desire to put Minnesota on par with parts of Europe, but it seems a fantastically and retardedly expensive bit of lobbying, to me. Get people stable 1.5Mbps – 3Mbps connections, and a robust network backbone that can fully support those speeds, and the world will build technological tools that support those transfer speeds. Teleworkers and telecommuters don’t need freaking high-definition 10Mbps video-conferencing, you know…
Read the rest of this entry »

Published in: Geekiness, General | on November 6th, 2009 | Comments Off on Kwik Hits

Does Time = Demand?

I don’t have a degree, or any formal experience, in marketing, though I’ve spent some time in the publishing industry. So, you know, maybe there’s something I’m not getting here, but lately I’ve been seeing a lot of assertions from publishers that the longer you keep people waiting for a product, the greater the demand for it, and that doesn’t seem quite right to me.

The idea as I understand it is that if you’re publishing a series – let’s say a trilogy, just to be arbitrary – at one-year intervals, which is pretty normal, and you’re dissatisfied with the sales of volume two, you can delay volume three by a few to several months and magically “increase demand” (i.e. sales) for the same.

Now, I suspect that’s kind of true, in a way – you’re going to make the people who already want that book and are already anticipating buying it, want it even more badly, because you’re making them wait longer for it. But just postponing something doesn’t automatically generate more sales and new would-be consumers out of thin air, does it?
Read the rest of this entry »

Published in: General | on November 5th, 2009 | Comments Off on Does Time = Demand?

бы?трые удары

For your entertainment, some quick tidbits of (dubious) news you probably missed, courtesy of various Russian news websites / propaganda organs:

Last week, a river in Moscow caught on fire, which was something I thought only happened in Chicago Cleveland;

There are still no real details about what went on, but it appears the M/V Arctic Sea, the hijacked Russian freighter from this summer, will return to sea this week after the completion of the Russian “investigation”.

Pravda, never ones to pull punches with their headlines, tell you everything you need to know about the state of Moscow – Pyongyang relations with North Korea Starts Acting Like Dying Vermin. Maybe that sounds a bit nicer in Russian?

Also from Pravda, my go-to source for hard-hitting journalism: Thirteen Terribly Weird Facts About Women. My favorite? “After taking a bath, a woman grabs a towel and makes a turban on her head from it, at least for one minute. The reasons of such a weird Oriental ritual are unknown.”

And last but not least, some tips from Ria Novosti on how to transform your car into an armoured fortress in a handful of easy steps. I’m not sure Q would approve, but I think it’s fairly cool.

(Babelfish tells me “бы?трые удары”, the title of this post, is Russian for “quick hits”. With my luck, it’s probably something more along the lines of “speedy beatings”, or “rapid popular music singles”. Gods bless computerized mis-translation.)

Published in: General | on November 3rd, 2009 | 3 Comments »