Monday, January 31, 2005

Intuit Up to Shadowy Business Practices

Well, I realize this is quite a few BoingBoing links lately. The humor is, I don't read BoingBoing, I've only seen these posts from other sources. In the case of this post regarding Intuit, and their recent tricks (I'm sorry, business practices) involving Quicken, that wildly popular personal finance software program, I originally saw it on Slashdot. Basically, Intuit has disabled the online features, such as downloading your bank statements, and paying your bills, in older version of Quicken. Now, as one poster on Slashdot, very inarticulately put it, these are functions that could/should be possible directly between the software and the bank, without using Intuit as a middleman for any reason. So, it's not like these old version are costing them money each time they use these particular features. (Or if they are, it's only because Intuit wants it that way, since it isn't necessary to achieve the desired functionality.) So, the only reason that comes to mind right away is that they want cash flow from upgrades. Then there's the newly added note about Intuit sticking up the financial institutions for huge fees to support the new software as well. They are doing this, partially by disabling support for their own file format. Sounds like a well planned 1-2 punch. Force the users to use the new software, then force the banks to support the new software, which all their users just recently switched to. And, since Moneydance costs money, I guess it's time to break out my Linux box and start learning GnuCash!

Sunday, January 30, 2005

My Destined Eye Color!

I likes this quiz. And the picture it comes with is pretty cool to. I always wanted to have blue anime hair as well. :) darkblueeyes
Your eye color is dark blue. You rely on your logic
solely, and may have more mature interests than
many of your friends and family your age. You
can sometimes also be interverted and lonely
from a lack of understanding with people, and
can be rather frustrated with some types of
folke. Some may describe you as cold and
distant, and you are honest with how you feel
about things.

What Color Eyes Should You Have? ( With Anime Pictures ^-^ )
brought to you by Quizilla

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Sysadmin.isSmart == false;

Here's a link to a story that makes me think. Short version: Step 1) Some Guy uses a non-mainstream browser to try and donate to a tsunami relief fund website run by BT (British Telecom). Step 2) Moronic Sysadmin mis-reads the access logs and decides it is a hacking attempt. Step 3) M. Sysadmin denies access to S. Guy, and reports the "attempted hacking" to the police. Step 4) Almost a month later, police bust in (SWAT style according to some sources) and arrest S. Guy! Observation 1) At least America isn't the only place in the world this could happen. That's not really a good thing, just a misery loves company type thing. Observation 2) Some might say the sysadmin was merely under-educated, or shouldn't be expected to know what such an ancient, text-only, browser like Lynx is. My responses follow: 1) He's getting paid for his technical knowledge, so I would expect familiarity with the logs. And, if he's worth his paycheck, I would demand better behavior in response to something he doesn't know. 2) Does he really call the police at every odd log entry? I mean seriously, boy crying wolf, not to mention technical inaptitude here. But, the reasons it makes me think have to do with a previous brush with Moronic Sysadmins. I was in high school, I had a friend majoring in CS at college. I visited him. At this college, the school's IT department and the CS division fought horribly, because the CS division believed (rightly) that IT was inept. Therefore, CS ran their own separate computer network, which ticked IT off greatly. Anyway, the wiring closet in this building was in the CS computer lab, across the hall from IT. One day, while I was visiting, IT left it unlocked. CS majors are more than just curious, they often actively seek out trouble. And knowing that the closet belonged to IT, I can guarantee somebody tried the knob at least once during every day. So, it was found to be unlocked. Someone got bored, and unplugged some cables. Fiber optic wires I believe, probably linking the rest of the campus to this building. IT eventually found out, and immediately decided that the door's lock must have been picked. (It couldn't have been left unlocked of course.) They then proceeded to pull the access log from the CS lab's door's electronic lock, since the event happened after normal hours, so someone with access had to have opened the lab. They also managed to read the logs wrong, decided the event happened about a day before (or after, I'm not sure) it actually did, and thus looked at the wrong time from the access logs, and tried to implicate the wrong student. In the end, CS found out what happened, and told IT, we know be we won't tell you, we will handle it internally. IT forever held a grudge against who they thought did it, and the feud continued. So, why can inept people get and keep jobs when there are plenty of genuinely good computer people out there without a job? (This isn't a personal rant, I've got a good job, and it isn't doing IT or CS type work.) Of course, this question broadens to almost any type of job. Where do PHBs (Pointy Haired Bosses, it's a Dilbert thing!) come from? Oh well, that's enough ranting and reminiscing outta me.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Wall Drug

As if going there wasn't enough, you can now visit Wall Drug online! Explanation: My parents told me about Wall Drug as I was growing up. It's a place, fairly well advertised as you get near it. Apparently it has (or had, don't know if they are still there) teaser signs, telling you how far to Wall Drug, starting hundreds of miles away. And then, once you see a couple signs, you inevitably start seeing bumper stickers proclaiming that they have stopped at Wall Drug. And, eventually, you want to say that you too have been to the great place that must be Wall Drug! After all, it's advertised so far away, and it has famous ice water! And it must be good for so many people to put the bumper sticker on their car! And you begin to get excited as the miles left to Wall Drug start to fall in number! And soon, you can't wait, because it's only a few miles left! And, finally, eventually, thankfully, you arrive at Wall Drug! And you find . . . a store. And not much else. Sure, it's not your everyday gas station or Wal-mart, but it's not exactly a genuine tourist attraction either. And the water, well it's cold, but nothing special. And before you go, you grab a bumper sticker proclaiming that you too have been to Wall Drug. After all, if you got tricked into it, then so should someone else. Right? Seriously, I'm not bashing Wall Drug. It's a great example of creative advertising/marketing, and built up expectations not quite being fulfilled. And, honestly, I'm not really sure if I too have been to Wall Drug. If I have been, I was too young to remember it well. It is however a fond childhood memory, hearing my parents talk about it, and compare other tourist traps we ended up at with it. I enjoyed the trips our family took together when I was younger, and hope to share similar experiences with my family some day. Edit: Well, apparently the signs used to be everywhere in the US and other countries as well. Don't just take my word for it!

Monday, January 17, 2005

Explanations

I took a little heat for mentioning that I was considering getting a second job, specifically for mentioning it along with the fact that my wife didn't know about it yet. So, I figured I'd explain briefly. I wasn't attempting to hide anything from her. After all, she is aware of the existence of this blog, so I must assume she may read anything I write. The only reason I hadn't mentioned it to her was simple, follow-through. I have quite a few ideas. Some of which are even worthy of some serious consideration. However, very very few of them ever live to see the light of day, and even fewer reach completion. So, I learned a long time ago that I tend to get excited about my new idea, and mention it to somebody, and then move on, either abandoning it altogether, or post-poning it indefinitely. Then, at some point they ask me about it, fully expecting me to have finished it, and I have to admit I've basically forgotten about it. And so, through these experiences, I have learned to only speak of my ideas after I've begun implementing them, unless absolutely necessary to get feedback from people beforehand. I still eat my words frequently, but not nearly as often as I almost tell someone, then decide to wait and see what I do first. So, while I don't mind mentioning here that I am considering an idea, I prefer not to mention it to her until I've already written the letter and gotten the addresses to send it to. Besides, we might be able to make it without my getting a second job. My wife did have to quit hers though. So, we are going through some rough times. But, I have faith that we will make it through.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Copyleft Commies

As seen on Boing Boing over a week ago, Bill Gates practically called anyone looking to reform property rights or patents and copyrights, a communist. Yes, the dreaded C word, Communists! Now, I won't go into why this was a slander, or why it's a travesty to reduce this to an insult to be used when name calling. No, I'll talk about what I find funny in the matter, the geek reaction. If you are walking down the street, and suddenly call someone a commie, what do you think they would do? Well, it appears if they are a geek, they would react with, "That's a great idea, let me whip up some graphics. Here, wanna buy a T-shirt with a Commie logo on it?" T-shirts for sell, with copyleft commie logos, here and here.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Bittersweet Moments

Well, an out of date website (blog or otherwise) tends to be an un-interesting website. So, with that in mind, I'll torture you with one of those totally personal entries that not even your family members will want to read.
Finding out we were pregnant again was my bittersweet moment. We have a daughter already, and she is, of course, the light of my life. She brings joy into our household daily, and makes me curse the necessity of going to work, and not seeing her grow up. But then, anybody with children knows what I'm talking about already. However, finding out that another child is on the way made us stop and think. First we wondered if it was too soon. After all, our first daughter will only be 18 months when this baby is born. Family tended to heavily voice their opinion that it was too soon. However, friends were on both sides of the issue, with some advising to have all our children as close together as possible. This, however, is obviously a moot point because the baby is already on the way. (Train ... left ... station ... blah, you get the point!) No, my main cause for concern was money. When our daughter was born,we were both working crap jobs. (For the same company, no less.) And, because of timing and minor pregnancy complications, we had to pay the deductible twice. Or, more accurately, we are still trying to pay off those bills. Shortly after finding out we were pregnant the first time, we were told by a nurse, who helped people fill out government paperwork, that we made too much to qualify for any government assistance, so we never applied. Later, we found out that we would in fact have been eligible for Medicaid, and it would have paid it all, but by then it was too late. As things stand now, we've moved more than 5 times in the last two years. I now have my first good job. My wife has a crappy job, and is actively looking for a better one, with no luck. We now know we make too much for any government assistance, as we just went rounds with a caseworker about this. (If things keep up, there may be a rant coming up about the incompetence we have dealt with there!) So, right now, ends are meeting, barely. We both get paid weekly, and most weeks we have less than $5 in the bank on Friday, before we deposit our paychecks. We make enough to get by, on paper. However, neither of us have any experience at truly budgeting, or living on one. So, now that we have another baby coming up, I need to get insurance coverage for my family through my job. (Didn't have it before because we were on Medicaid through this month, residual from the period we weren't working. We don't want to be taking tax money to live, it's actually rather embarrassing to my pride, however, at the time it was the only way to put food on the table.) So, that's about $300 per month out of my check, plus a $2000 deductible come delivery time. Just the monthly premium will stop the ends from meeting, and I have no idea where the deductible will be coming from. In addition to that, my wife's job has begun cutting back her hours, and will probably keep whittling away at them. And, as you can see from that bank balance I quoted, we need every penny she was making to begin with. So, we are looking at scenarios. She doesn't know it yet, but I'm toying with the idea of a part-time second job. Maybe at a small computer shop, or the local cyber cafe thingy. (Hey, I'm a nerd, it's what I know best.) We are talking about dropping cable, cell phones, and yes, blasphemy, internet access. We don't see many movies these days anyway, because our daughter won't sit through them. And television sucks all our time away without giving anything back. So, that's the bitter in my bittersweet. But, I don't think I'd change it if I could. I've found life throws difficult things your way, but that in the end, if you respond properly, good things can, and will, come out of it. That's how I met my wife. But, that's another long boring (for you) entry.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Alton Brown Goodness!

Alton Brown is coming to Austin on January 30 at 3:00 PM at Book People! Who is Alton Brown? The coolest chef on the Food Network, that's who! He is unconventional in style and tons of fun to watch. And, most importantly, he explains the science behind cooking, thus taking the voodoo out of it. (Don't believe that people consider cooking to be part magic, or at the very least, luck? Ask how to get a souffle or divinity to come out every time and see what type of answers you get!) He also produces the show himself, reportedly even doing all the edits in each episode. Obviously, I'm looking forward to this! Just look at the pictures from the last time he was there. Definitely better than your average booksigning, no? Now, I just gotta grab some copies of his books to get signed, and talk my wife into letting me go!

Monday, January 03, 2005

Dating Games

Fear of this type of situation would be among the reasons that no force on earth could have forced me onto a blind date, back when I was eligible. I'm not sure if it would be better or worse is she meant it. Thankfully, I'm married, and dating is no longer something I have to worry about. (Of course, being a reclusive geek, I never had to worry about it much!)

Gotta Get My Stuff Done

Wow, I've definately had days like this! I kept waiting for him to say, so I drew this drawing to explain why I didn't get my stuff done!
Great little animation, and I'm not sure what the style is, with how you kinda see the hand drawing it, sometimes. Interesting effect, in my opinion. Now, I gotta get my sleeping done, my wife commands it!

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Like I'll need it!

Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog. I'm new to the blogging world, but I hear having trackback capability is a good thing, and I heard Haloscan was one place to get it for a Blogger/Blogspot site. However, it appears I have to take their comment system to get the trackback functionality. Time, and your feedback, will determine if it stays or goes.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Light!

And thus, un-announced, un-noticed, and largely un-needed, YAUB (Yet Another Useless Blog) is born into this world. This will be the new home for what was previously Project Darlence, which was another never-visited web-site I once created, which is now completely outdated. It will also be the resting place for several ideas which have existed only in my head up until now. And, if I get really bored (and sadistic!), possible photos of my children. [Evil Grin] --Madasi