What is this Facebook applications nonsense?

Over the past few days I’ve seen a plethora of really inane applications on my Facebook news feed. At this point, I primarily use the site for stalking other people, since I get any relevant status updates and private messages sent over to my cell phone.

Seriously, though, “Glitter Text”? “X Me”? These sorts of items encourage banal, MySpace-esque pages cluttered with about fifty extra boxes, causing extra page load time and bandwidth usage. If you don’t believe me about these particular items, check their comment pages out in the application directory. You’ll see the worst CAPS LOCK IS CRUISE CONTROL FOR COOL, nd txtspeak lyk dis offenders this side of NewsCorp’s abortion of a social portal.

(Keep in mind that the following screenshot is from “Honesty Box”, an application that specifically allows anonymous commenting on your profile.)

Honesty Box Comments

That’s by far not the worst of it. The “X Me” application, a utility that lets you supplement the standard “poke” action with custom text, immediately attracted people who thought adding ‘fuck’ would be just an EXCELLENT idea. Never mind the fact that your profile is public, says you’re 12 and go to middle school; “FUCK” would be just a great idea and hilarious.

Christ almighty.

People wonder why pedophiles are having an easier time of it these days.

What’s more, is when I go to block these applications from appearing, I get the message that “This will not prevent you from seeing application if other people have it installed.” What a pathetic cop-out; I don’t want your 96Kbps Fergie MP3’s even beginning to think about loading on my box.

Anyone with me on this?

Safari 3 and OS X Leopard, with some new hardware too

Apple’s huge WWDC was today, and the Steve Jobs speech, while devoid of any new hardware, was fairly interesting in that it heralded the announcements of two huge features for OS X 10.5.

A new Desktop was nice to see, considering Apple’s effectively had the same Desktop UI since OS X 10.0. The improvements to the Dock look pretty interesting, although I’m unsure if I like the “curved” Stacks feature so far.

The new Finder, though, is a welcome item. There are a few minor performance problems with the current iteration browsing network drives and navigating folders. Ideally this will be fixed with the new sidebar implementation.

I also had the chance to try out the Safari 3 beta on my PC today. The download size was decently small, and it seems to use a similar amount of RAM to Firefox. The page rendering speed, though, is like Apple claimed – blisteringly fast. Memory usage always seems to be a problem with several of the “OS X on Windows” applications, but as long as the program doesn’t persistently chew up more over time, I’d rather have snappy performance when the browser is the active window at the expense of some system resources.

Speaking of RAM, I’ve already hit the hardware limit for my MacBook of 2GB, and I’m eyeing the new Santa Rosa-based MacBook Pro systems because they can go up to 4GB. I’ve also hit the 2GB sweet spot for my main PC workstation, and while I’d love to go to 4GB and see what happens for performance, Windows is only going to allocate 3.5GB of that at most. My typical usage is generally under 1GB, but I haven’t been firing up Eclipse on my home system lately.

I also installed the newest iteration of the WRT54G (revision 8.0) since my existing WRT54GS v1.1 decided to drop a port. When Linksys routers lose a LAN port, generally it means that their time routing packets is over with. The new model has less onboard memory and apparently is less tolerant of third-party firmware, but the official stuff seems to do 90% of what I want. The LED blink rate is also slightly faster. I’ll have to run a few further tests with BitTorrent and some other network intensive applications and compare performance.

As a result of the new router, I’m going to try and get my FTP and HTTP servers up and running again. It’s useful to point people to e98.homeip.net/files in case there’s an image, MP3 file or ZIP archive needing to be transferred without incurring the wrath of MSN/Windows Live Messenger’s god-awful file transfer system.

I also intend to write a post sometime this week about my new consulting venture with Dave and Warren called EdgeLink Consulting. We’re just in the initial stages of setting things up, but basically it’ll give any computer repairs I do more of an official standing.

In any event, rebooting for Safari 3 on the Mac… why is this needed on the Mac and not on the PC?

Developers, developers

There’s been a lot of whinging and amateur-lawyering over the past few days (including a massive dupe on Slashdot), about a controversy surrounding an app called TestDriven.NET. As far as I understand the situation, the primary developer is currently in a whine-fest with some people from Microsoft about licensing for a Visual Studio 2005 Express add-in. Basically, you can’t extend Express without a mad UI hack, and according to Microsoft, said extensions violate Express Edition’s license.

This sort of patent, licensing or “you’re violating the product’s ethos” crap irks me in a different way. At work, I have nearly free reign to develop applications in whatever language I feel like. As long as it suits the business case, I could crank out Java, Python, VB6 – most of the existing stuff I’m updating is a combination of Visual Basic 2005 and VBA automation. I use all of the languages in VS2005, as well as some optional components (managing an SQL Server 2005 installation is somewhat interesting.)

As part of an organization, generally “getting a license” is preferred to snagging some copy of an application off BitTorrent. 😉 At IBM, the software requisition process could take a week or two to get rolling, unless your manager put a “please expedite this” note along with it. With the license, you’d have to renew it after a certain period of time – although I was probably subject to this more than most people, since I’d request six months for each term, and end up needing to extend that three times over the course of my time there. Aside from that, I can recall a certain internally licensed program had to be updated with a license file nearly every two weeks.

My current experiences have been the opposite. Most software is available on the public network share, and it’s an average time of one day between my request for a program and its receipt.

The crux of all this is that if I wanted Visual Studio 2005 Team Suite, SQL Server 2005, whatever the newest Exchange Server is, and any other ridiculously expensive application (for an individual, at least) and asked for it tomorrow, I’d likely have it by Friday. So why, instead of using Windows Server 2003, IIS 6.0 with ASP.NET 2.0, and Visual Studio Expression Web Designer, would I pick up a copy of Eclipse 3.2 with the PHP Development Tools extensions and crank away on my latest project with that?

Partially because I know PHP very well and am aware of its idiosyncracies and language features.

Partially because this Microsoft nonsense has left me wondering where the hell I stand using Express editions of their products.

Partially because Eclipse actively encourages UI extensions – in fact, you can’t even really consider Eclipse an IDE first of all, because it’s more of a Java UI framework.

Formal unit testing is not something I’ve done much of in my line of work. I’ve written and executed testcases, and contributed code/XML/documentation to fix deficiencies in said testcases. But when I move into needing formal testing, I don’t want to be beholden to someone’s mad licensing whims.

I’ve said my piece, in any event.

All about HD, Media Center and x264

Since the wonderful Xbox 360 will likely never have support for Matroska video containers, commonly known as “x264” files, I ended up building myself a Media Center PC that hooks up to the Sony KF-42E200A over a DVI to HDMI cable. Relevant statistics:

  • Core 2 Duo E4300, 1.8GHz per core
  • Asus P5B Socket 775 motherboard
  • 2GB DDR2-800 RAM
  • Spare Seagate SATA 7200.7 120GB drive
  • GeForce 7800 GT rescued from workstation
  • Media Center 2005 remote

If I had to do it over again, here’s what I’d change – which mostly would involve spending more money:

  • Go with a P5B-E motherboard, which has a better chipset than the P5B vanilla
  • Get at least an E6600 CPU for 1080p content (I might swap my desktop chip out)
  • Consider going with a newer SATA drive, but not necessarily a Raptor (Raptors are loud)
  • Instead of the 7800GT, go with a passively-cooled 8500GT or 8600GT, which offloads H.264 content decoding to the GPU. I’ve just bought an 8500GT that satisfies this condition, so we’ll see what happens when I swap things in.
  • Install a sound card that has native optical out ports – the motherboard has “HD Audio” and said optical out works, but I’m not sure if I’m getting all the quality I can.

HD is a beautiful thing to behold compared to standard definition. You definitely need at least a PC monitor or HDTV to appreciate it, but I watched Sin City today and it really benefits from the format. Facial features, zoomed shots, and high-quality action sequences are all a feast for the eyes. It won’t improve the quality of a subpar film, but it gives a significantly incremental bump to the marginal action flicks. You can really appreciate the film for the cinematic effects and techniques; American Psycho has some great scenes in which background events are much more noticeable.

When 300 comes out on whatever format it’s scheduled for, that’ll be a sight to behold.

As for software, that’s an interesting choice. I’ve found Vista’s Media Center to be a worthy piece of software, even though it’s only been installed for a few days. More on that in another post.

Been a while, huh?

At least not as long as Dave Lahn or Mister Seagray, though.

My traffic’s been up this month. I guess people are either reading this site, or a certain BecomeBot has been ruining my bandwidth.

I’ll have to put a few updates in, but I clearly had to check my statistics again. One of the wonderful search queries was “disabling efuses on xbox360”, and I had to laugh: once the eFuse is blown, it’s gone for good.

Search engine results

I’ve decided to take a look at my Webalizer statistics for the months of April and May to figure out what people are searching for. It also helps me tailor the content on this ugly green and beige page to what people might be interested in.

If you’ve got a question about something I’ve written, or want to know more details about a particular subject, leave a comment! I’ll get back to you as soon as I check my email, which, now that I have a Blackberry, is more frequent than ever.

ml-2010 errors: Sorry, can’t help you there. My Samsung ML-2010 has been working really well, even from a Windows box networked to OS X. You also may want to specify the error message that you’re receiving.

svchost cpu usage 99%: Sadly, there haven’t been many updates to this situation since I last updated the post on the matter. My solution is still to disable Microsoft Update from the Windows Update / Change settings / Disable Microsoft Update software page, since I haven’t seen much of a tangible benefit from systems using MU versus standard WU.

It’s more likely to cause problems than it solves, especially with respect to drivers. I wonder if they’ve fixed that issue with Dell boxes and GeForce2 cards that causes WU to deliver a 640×480-limited resolution… (the solution is to tell Windows Update to never install the faulty driver, and get the official nVidia one.)

because nothing can fly with this broken wing music lyrics: This one’s easy to recall – the post was about OMGLOLEMO music, and the specific artist is Story of the Year. The relevant song was Burning Years off the Page Avenue album – which I actually own a legal copy of (but somehow have misplaced it!)

Speaking of emo bands, here are just some of the top artists on my playlist of angst, which is also coincidentally called “4+ Stars”:

  • A Day to Remember (pretty much screamo, but the non-screaming parts have fairly good vocals, or at least pretty good Pro Tools work)
  • The Academy Is
  • Anberlin
  • Boys Like Girls (more mellowed sound)
  • Chiodos
  • Linkin Park (the new album is super power pop angst IMO)
  • Saosin
  • The Used (specifically the new promo track The Bird And The Worm)

I do indeed listen to other music, by the way. My latest artist of hilarity is Mims, whose concert posters a few friends and myself spotted in Toronto the other week. He’s clearly an absolute genius with “This Is Why I’m Hot” and continues his vocal prowess with “Like This.”

bus error: Yes, that’s the title of this weblog. It stems from several cryptic OS X error messages. What else do you want from me?

As an aside, “bus error php” and MySQL bus errors mean that you’ve seriously ruined something with your configuration, or your hardware is toasted. I’ve never seen these apps throw the standard POSIX error messages, and frankly, you should rethink your purpose if you’re getting that kind of nonsense out of those tools.

custom resolutions nvidia not available vista: Run XP. Vista is indeed pretty, but XP has not exhibited one of the many symptoms I experienced with Vista‘s installation. Like I’ve said, it’s fairly standard hardware for a new system: Asus P5B Deluxe board, eVGA GeForce 7800GT, Core 2 Duo E6600, 2GB of OCZ RAM… you’d think there’d be few issues with this sort of thing.

download convection font: Sure, you can find the Convection font right here.

driver for samsung ml2010 printer for windows: Oh, honestly. Learn to search and type in addresses: Samsung Product Downloads, type in the model number, and you’re golden.

driver vista viewsonic vx2025wm: Again! No Vista! Ruins lives!

is it safe to update a modified xbox 360: Safe? Depends how modified it is. Check Xbox-Scene for all your 360 modding needs, you filthy pirates.

kf42e200a: Good TV, I got it for $999 at Future Shop. Don’t pay any more if you can help it.

msdnaa vista number of installs: 2, then activation hell.

phpmyadmin futurepoint: Ooh, an interesting one! Look up the IP address of your server by running an “nslookup” command to your domain. Then, go to http:///MyAdmin/ and sign in with your MySQL credentials. You can also use the “nsxx-y.futurepoint.com” URL instead of the IP address, depending which nameserver you’re connected on.

All for now. Going to crash and think about proper normalized form database design, since it’s actually practical in my job.

On orientation and learning when to be quiet

As I was roused from my slumber this morning by the enraging tones of “Yakkety Sax”, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect this morning. In this case, I learned that being proactive when there’s free food being offered is a wise idea.

I arrived at RIM this morning, parked my bike, and grabbed a (sigh) legal form so that I could board a yellow bus. There were about 250 students in total at this morning’s presentation, and the venue of choice was Bingeman’s, where they’d rented out two ballrooms for the occasion.

As expected? Yes. Much information on intellectual property? For sure. Dire warnings to shut our mouths about company business? Got it.

I’m going to take that advice until I actually experience the workplace, and not just a Frosh Week-esque version of the cheerleading squad.

End and beginning of employment

Today was my last official day of employment as a Student On-Call for IBM. My About and Resume sections give most of the official details about my work there, but a more general overview would be that I worked from home in Waterloo for two terms of four months each – in Summer 2006 (May to August) and Winter 2007 (January to April). It’s an interesting experience and a great opportunity, but any longer than about four months consecutively and the work would probably have lost focus. It was really a huge relief to be able to get back into the office in September 2006 and get a decent eight hours of work done, without worrying about VPN connections and whether other people were going to be online to answer questions.

Tomorrow begins my orientation at Research in Motion. I’ve been hired for an eight month term as a Tools Developer for BIS (BlackBerry Internet Service), which will count for two co-op work credits. It’s great primarily because the company’s local, I can take another CS course up at the university while working, and it’s an excellent opportunity for a second year student.

I’m not necessarily looking forward to certain parts of the day, as they’re bound to be the typical corporate necessities that you definitely wouldn’t find in a smaller organization. What’s more, since it’s a group of students all starting tomorrow, the focus will be on making a large production and event out of the day. I’m glad it’s only one day dedicated to the process, since IBM’s Lab student orientation took the better part of three days to finish up.

For example, things I (and other students in the same position) can learn from a webpage, instead of a laborious presentation put on with much pomp and circumstance:

  • Workplace security. This was the largest part of IBM’s orientation process, and by far the most difficult to stay awake during. There’s an extremely heavy emphasis on what’s considered confidential information, which always ends up being defined as “anything that says it’s confidential, and even if it doesn’t, use your best judgement.” There are items called non-disclosure agreements, and they have to be signed, sealed and delivered before you can even step foot inside the campus. You get canned if you leak the information, and that’s a very heavy emphasis from both the school and the workplace.
  • IT security. Anyone in computer science or a related field is keenly aware of what can happen when you use weak passwords, insecure protocols, or don’t test your applications properly before deploying them. This should be listed under “common sense”. I’m not going to remember how many characters, digits, and symbols have to be used for your passphrases if you splash it up in PowerPoint; show me the restrictions when I go to manage passwords.
  • Email use above and beyond sending and receiving. IBM gets a bit of a pass on this one because they use Lotus Notes internally, which is a bit of a unique beast on its own. Notes also has concepts such as “replication” and flagging that aren’t necessarily part of Windows’ standard UI. Instead, go over the basics (how you log in, where you might find and change your user/pass combination, sending and receiving) and put the rest in an online demo. Chances are, your employees aren’t going to be working all eight hours that you have their attention during the day, and especially not at full capacity during the first week. Why not take a week with an intern, record some Flash demos of setting up more advanced items, then point new students to the Intranet address if they have any other questions?
  • Intranet addresses are another huge thing. Without revealing any confidential information, companies can have a confusing local network structure as it is, and there are often multiple Intranet sites to accomplish similar purposes. Don’t just flash up URLs in presentations and expect people to remember them, especially if they end in “.nsf”, followed by a question mark, followed by a ridiculously long series of characters. Give the root site, then the navigation path – people are more likely to remember a series of steps than a series of seemingly-random characters.

I’m also not necessarily impressed with my start time tomorrow: departure from the HR building at 7:45am, which means getting there earlier. The Toronto Lab had a huge population of people who would come in at, say, between 10am to noon on a regular basis – but then they’d stay late into the evening or work from home at early hours of the morning. I never had a scheduled meeting at IBM earlier than 8:30am, which was because the presenters had schedules such that the only time they could talk to students was at that time.

In this case, it’s probably best to think proactively, and get some sleep knowing that this event requires the commitment of changing my sleep pattern.

New Rogers speeds – about damn time

From BroadbandReports, crossposted to ev98:

New Rogers speed increases are finally here after new price increases. For those curious, I’m on the Extreme profile and am currently pulling 900-920K/s speeds (8MBit) downloading. There’s about 2K/s increase in my upload speed, but I’ve yet to perform any serious testing. Express users (standard high speed) are reporting about 7MBit down with a slight increase in upload speed.

Rogers’ site doesn’t have any updated information, as expected, but this is good news for now. The downside is that they’re probably going to start enforcing their caps of 60GB/100GB per month, which is unpleasant news for heavy users. We’ll see what happens in the next little while.

To activate the changes, unplug your cable modem for five seconds, then plug it back in. This lets the modem download the new speed profile. My IP address hasn’t changed from before the speed upgrade, for what it’s worth.

Samsung ML-2010, using Windows networking, from OS X

Setting up a Windows networked printer to function correctly in OS X is a process that I’d rather not deal with again. Here’s the way I eventually managed to accomplish it, with some information from Scott Hurring’s website.

The printer model in particular is the Samsung ML-2010, which can be had for about $70 after mail-in rebate at NCIX. Once you get the printer installed and sharing working in Windows XP, follow these steps:

  1. Install Print Services for UNIX from Control Panel / Add/Remove Programs / Windows Components / check “Other Network File and Print Services”. Contrary to Scott’s site, I was indeed prompted for my XP disc, since it’s not a default component included in CD-based installations. Make sure you have it handy.
  2. Download and install the latest drivers from Samsung’s site for OS X.
  3. Open Disk Utility and click New Image. Create a new image file on the desktop with read/write capabilities and 40MB of space.
  4. Install the Samsung printer drivers to the new disk image. This is so that you can actually locate the installation path.
  5. Open System Preferences / Print & Fax and click the Add button. Hold down Option (Alt) while clicking the More Printers button.
  6. In the Device box, select “Windows Printer via SAMBA.” Provide a device name of your choice.
  7. The Device URI should be a SAMBA path in the form smb://user:pass@Workgroup/Machine/Printer.
  8. In the Printer Model box, select “Other…”, browse to the disk image where you installed the Samsung drivers, and open Library/Printers/PPDs/Contents/Resources/en.lproj/Samsung ML-2010 Series.gz.
  9. Try printing something – great success.