Category Archives: Rant

Surviving in the Desert

Being in the wilderness as I have, as a canoe trip leader, helps you adapt to uncomfortable situations. Recently, I was put into a less than desirable situation, programming in Windows. I thought it would be a good idea to learn how to survive on the dark side. I started with a stock Windows XP install, with all the fancy development tools, Visual Studio, WinDDK, sample code for Win32 programming, and a (relatively) open mind. As I started using it, the following became major annoyances:

  • The command line (cmd.exe) is horrible, not full screen, the history is bad, and it’s just plain ugly.
  • Visual Studio is a waste of space, it doesn’t even provide the ability to compile a file. That alone made me get rid of it.
  • The lack of multiple desktops make screen real estate very limited. Even with a sizable screen (27″) is makes looking up references a pain

So, to fix some of these woes, I did away with Visual Studio, edited the console preferences to take up much of the screen, and installed emacs, I then wrote some batch scripts which I put in the PATH to enable me to just type emacs foo.c, and ls instead of dir.

Now, I finally have a system that I can work with, it’s not great, but I’ll survive. Unforntunatly, developing on Windows is much like trying to glue a dead weasel onto a balloon — non-sensical and smelly. From my short exposure to the Windows system, I’ve found the following lacking:

  • The kernel memory layout
  • The poorly documented API
  • Lots of caps, and non-standard types, it’s like programming in old HTML.
  • The verbose and utterly convoluted device communications (IRPs?)
  • Complete lack of modularity (if my driver segmentation faults, I get a BSOD)

To sum it up, while it’s been an informative foray into the world of Windows, I think I’ll stick to slightly more sane and open operating systems.

Peace and chow,


Dying Gracefully

Dear Software Industry,

In this world, there is only a few hard and fast rules, of those, I’m going to talk about the impermanence and flux inherent of life and death. Sometimes it’s time for things to be laid to rest, and move on to bigger and better things, still keeping memories of that which came before. When I finally have reach my end-of-life period, and am no longer supported, I’d like to think that I’ll be able to accept it, and move on peacefully, hopefully leaving the world a better place than I found it. I would also like to think that everyone out there has a similar goal: to live for what they believe in, and move on when the time comes, leaving a good mark on the world.

Alas, there are a number of things that don’t follow this benevolent rule that I call ‘Dying Gracefully’: software and DRM restriction systems. While I’m not going to delve into the legally convoluted cesspit of DRM, I think it should be mentioned as the internet and the digital platform for content delivery starts on the next generation, that we respect our forebears and let them rest in peace, free to be shared by all. There are more and more stories in the news about subscription media services shutting down and leaving their customers with unusable music, force to buy the music over again, or resort to illegal DRM removal techniques. The same goes for software that is still perfectly functional, but unattainable because it’s been killed by its parent company, or the company no longer exists.

Should we not give our software the same honor of leaving a good impact on the world by releasing it as open-source when its developers no longer care to support it, giving it both a second chance at life after death, and a chance to be used by anyone and everyone. It leaves a sour taste in my mouth when I think of the consumers who got cheated out of their music because a corporation decided not to support the DRM system any longer. Would it be the end of the world to release the DRM keys to unlock the songs entombed forever by the shackles of DRM when you have no intention of using those keys to profit?

As a member of this capitalist society, I understand that open-source isn’t always the answer (though I wish it were), but I fail to see the logic in burying your old creations, never to be used, but ensuring no one else can either. This idea of “I don’t want this, but I don’t want you to have it either” reminds me of the petty arguments that toddlers have with toys; is this what our software industry has reduced itself to, a bunch of squabbling three year-olds?

Perhaps being a young lad, I fail to see the reasoning of burying your dead in a locked cemetery, where no one can see the tombstone, and remember what they gave to the world. Call me an ignorant philistine if you disagree, but I fail to see the logic (which is what software is) in this silly and petty act.


Jacob Torrey

OIT: Omitting Intelligent Technology

As many of you may or may not know, recently Clarkson’s Office of Information Technology (OIT) implemented a firewall that blocks all incoming traffic to most machines. Being a Linux junkie, I have a number of machines in my dorm that act as servers of many types, from web servers for my projects and web development server, SVN/DARCS repositories for my code, a number of OSP servlets that I’ve been testing and having to connect to distant OSP instanced to test latency. However, OIT seems to want to stop me from being able to experiment and play around with networking and servers. Perhaps there is a psychological flaw for all IT administrators that makes them all be control freaks. I emailed OIT to have my servers removed from the firewall 2 weeks ago, and heard no reply. I re-emailed on Monday, and finally I heard back, that I need to fill out this form (for each machine), and get it signed by a professor before they will unblock me.

I find this absurd, do we now need professor’s permission to use our computers? Is OIT going to implement a list of acceptable websites we can visit? Do we need an academic reason to think certain thoughts? I find this completely off par with Clarkson’s condoning of partying, however, we need a professor’s consent to open a port on our computer to the outside world?

I hope that OIT will rethink their firewall policies, and see how it affects students. Also, when they make network wide changes, they should notify the students, and also update their website which still shows that only a few ports are being filtered.

Peace and no packets,


$400 for a Haircut?! What a Deal!

Yes, I remember the day well, when it came to light that John Edwards’ campaign spent $400 on a haircut, and the scandal that ensued. Well, it seems it’s time for the republicans to have a taste of their own medicine, after spending almost $150,000 dressing up and putting lipstick on their pit bull. The campaign finance reports that the RNC spent an amazing $4,716.49 on hair styling and make up for Palin during the month of September. I don’t care how much you pamper your pit bull, there is no way that only a coat of lipstick separates it from Palin.

Seems like they are trying too hard to make her pretty, and should spend more time making her better educated on the issues and how to run a country.


Peace and Chow,


Sorry, This is Not ‘That Kind of Blog’

A few days ago, I received an email from IBM mainframe global PR team, which was starting a grass-roots PR campaign using bloggers to announce IBM mainframe related news. They didn’t specify much about their program, only asking for a URL to my blog, which I responded with. The other day, I received another email from them, with a post I should put on my blog, extolling the virtues of IBM mainframes and their educational programs. Needless to say, I was rather disgusted that IBM wanted to use my blog (which doesn’t get much traffic anyways) to get free publicity. The point of blogging in my opinion is to diseminate as many varied opinions as possible to provide readers with as much choice as possible. Using the blogosphere to market their mainframes is an abuse of the bloggers, and is an attempt to bend the independant voices of internet users around the world to corporate America’s will.

Obviously I will not be posting their pre-written PR statement, and I urge all bloggers who have thoughtlessly posted IBMs statements to rethink why they are blogging and perhaps add their own opinion to the fray.

Peace and chow,