... indistinguishable from magic
effing the ineffable since 1977


Recent Posts


Dear Google


It's nice that you've revamped Gmail's UI. The redesign is slick and addresses several of my complaints about the way things used to work. It seems snappier too.

However, it'd be nice if all of this didn't come at the expense of reliability. I use Chat in Gmail an awful lot, even more than I use it for mail, perhaps. In the older version this was as reliable as it could possibly be given the inherent limitations of running inside a browser. If I lost connection, switched my VPN on or off, hibernated and unhibernated my computer, or generally screwed around with stuff, it never seemed to miss a beat.

In the new UI, what I've encountered so far:

  • It NEVER recovers after hibernate. Anything I type or receive after hibernating is invisible to me until I reload Gmail from scratch.
  • Frequently I'll get something from a chat as an offline message, twenty minutes or more after it was originally sent. With no indication whatsoever to myself or the person I'm talking to that a message was lost in the first place. And without me ever having gone offline, or appeared so to the other party.
  • The deal-breaker for me was, in the middle of a conversation, several messages in a row simply disappearing into thin air - as if the person I was talking to hadn't said anything at all. But still showing as present and active through the whole of it.
  • Thanks for giving me the choice to switch back to the old UI - but it'd be nicer yet if you actually honored my choice! Every time I visit Gmail it switches me back to the new version until I can revert it again.

I really wanted to like the newer version. But you need to make it work right first! And in the meantime, don't keep trying to force my hand. I made the choice to switch back for a reason; do you REALLY think that pushing me forward again every time I load the page is going to do anything but annoy me?


The good, the bad and the Gutsy, redux


I'd been using Gutsy for a few weeks and continued to have problems with it. My experience was so unlike everything I was reading from other Gutsy users - and there were so few reports of similar bugs that I could find in Ubuntu's bug tracking system - that I started to believe I must have hardware problems. This became all the more plausible when I realized that my CPU fan had stopped working a while back - although replacing it didn't help matters.

Once the crashes started to be consistently several times per day, I decided that this was no longer tolerable and asked my boss if a new computer could be spared. He found one that had been lying around, and today I did a clean Gutsy install on it.

WOW. It's like having a new computer. Exactly like that, in fact :) The computer I had before, I suspect, was very underpowered in the CPU department (Pentium III, although I never found out the speed) and had a Savage graphics card which seems to be entirely unaccelerated. The one I have now is hardly brand-spanking-new but it's definitely a step up - a 64 bit AMD processor and an nvidia graphics card of some sort that's considered "nvidia-legacy". I had some hopes that by installing the proprietary driver (yeah yeah I know :( ) I'd be able to get desktop effects enabled, but apparently not. Still, on the old machine everything from clicking buttons to typing in gmail was sluggish. Long web pages would take forever to load, as if I was on dialup. Now, everything seems to happen immediately, no lag.

So I take back all the criticism I had of Gutsy (although I reserve the right to re-criticize if I discover new issues after using it for more than a few hours :) ). There are a few niggles still - sound doesn't work in rdesktop, no matter what I do. I had to google for a workaround to the fact that installing the proprietary nvidia driver locked me down to 800x600. And we'll see if performance is still good after I get all my music off the old computer's hard drive, because Rhythmbox seemed to be one of the most consistent "machine-killer apps" on the old box. (My quirky choice of gtk theme might not have helped, either. I'll pay $25 for someone to take the old marblegtk GTK1 pixmap theme and turn it into a nicely optimized GTK2 theme, whatever that means[1]. Just getting it to work is easy, but I'm sure it's not ideal for best performance in the GTK2 world).

Anyway. Point is - loving the Gutsy experience now. And getting new hardware is awesome!

[1] I really mean that, but to qualify, you'll have to explain to me what it actually entails so that I can see the difference at a code or .gtkrc level, and understand what's changed and why. Because "hey look, it's faster!" applies to everything on my desktop right now :)


O noes, somebody I don't like did something I agree with!


I'm not sure what the psychology behind this is, but it seems to be a fairly common reaction. I noticed it today on MJ Ray's blog where - as far as I can tell - he's upset that the Conservative party, whom he doesn't support, are advocating Co-ops, which he does support. (I know that's an oversimplification of mjr's position, but hopefully it's not an outright misrepresentation of it. UPDATE: Ok, yes, I did have his position wrong - see the comments).

I can only presume that it's the same thing that ensures that every time Microsoft does something pro Open Source / Free Software, there'll be a furious post on Groklaw about it.

Or why people who for years have hated the way the MPAA and RIAA treat their creative talent are now annoyed that the Writers Guild of America is standing up to them, because the WGA is a union and unions are baaaad.

I suspect that the temptation to react this way is similar to the temptation to flip the bozo bit on people. Instead of deciding that the person is an idiot and therefore can't possibly have anything useful to contribute - and so can be ignored - we decide that the person (or group) is evil and anything they do must be outright harmful and must be opposed.

In reality not even a single person is ever completely useless or completely "evil"; everyone will at some point have an idea that's worth considering or an opinion you agree with. And that goes double if there's more than one person involved - any large organization, in particular, will probably have some subgroups that you agree with more often than not. Recognize when you have common ground even with people you normally disagree with. That's a vindication of your ideas, not something to be upset about, surely?