Maxims, rules of thumb and other observations on human cognition and sociocultural affectations

This will be added to on an irregular basis...
  • What is said to humans directly is received with skepticism and considered with dubiousness while that which is heard in passing, especially that which most conforms to their mentality or prejudices, is readily believed.
  • Humans have a certain cognitive latency between exposure to new information or experiences and the ability to think dispassionately and intellectually about it.
  • Humans have a certain cognitive spectrum starting with the moment of exposure to new information or experiences and ending with some point at which the thing is effectively "in the past" for them.
  • This cognitive spectrum is linked to the emotional process often referred to as shock, anger, denial and acceptance.
  • The more and faster information or experiences are presented to people and the closer the quarters and the lesser the distance between people, the more their early reactions in the passionate emotional stage are reflected back to them in the manner of responses to those reactions from others in light of those responses.
  • The more outrages which are suffered without sufficient time to allow emotional bleed-off, the farther the bar for subsequent reaction and outrage are pushed, and the more further events must progress before reaction and outrage.
  • It is possible for serious detriments to eventually sit below this threshold for long enough for their damaging effects to build and multiply until their entire society undergoes some reactive convulsion.
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Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Java on Fedora made quicker than figuring it out yourself...

Beginner Linux user? Problems getting Java to work with Firefox on Fedora? Of course. I feel your pain. My drive is littered with RPMs and tarballs in testament to the frustration. Fear not, for there is a solution.

Pay no attention to the results of Google and your own intuition about changing about:config and so forth. No need to curse Fedora when Sun's idiotically packaged *.rpm.bin download causes it to refuse to work because it wants a file name change. Sure, you could open a terminal and just sh *.rpm.bin but why tear your nails out trying to make Firefox look at the Java that was just installed?

Dag Wieers, the one and only stop you need to make Java work right.

Choose the big j2re package you need and install as root. Then install the matching "mozilla" package right after. Suddenly, I can get VNC to work inside Firefox again.

Brings back the old manual plugin configuration days when Netscape 3 wasn't even a gleam in anyone's eye. Of course back then, the raw visceral promise of the web made it worth your while to struggle with it until the coders were finally leashed in by the more reasonable people of the world and made to write proper intelligent installer applications. Not so now when Windows XP apps install with a couple clicks and they either do what Microsoft says should be done or they don't work at all. One standard to rule them all and in the darkness of closed source bind them.

Okay, so maybe you don't need open source because you really don't want to know all about the gory details of C and don't plan on trying to con some hapless coder friend into doing something with the source to make you happy. It's just nice for those of us who do. However, I suspect we probably wouldn't care a whole lot, at least not as much as we do, if the installers in Linux land worked as well as a modern Installshield installer does.

Scratch that. I know we wouldn't. We will just have to wait until the sensible and reasonable people whip and leash the technologists into making sense with Linux that way they did with Windows. After all, we only waited almost ten years out from Windows 3.11 to reach Windows XP. We can wait as long, right?

Do I hear crickets?

I therefore once again suggest we call the next great Linux installer initiative the WTF? installer in honor of the reaction of all the poor befuddled beginners convinced by geek friends to use it by conning them into looking at Windows XP as if it was DOS. Nothing could be further from the truth, but as long as FUD rules the day and the Linux camp does nothing to make it easy to use at all times from installation to de-installation and everything in between, they will be shooting themselves in the crotch and doing the platform and their credulous friends a grave disservice.

Sort of like massively hyping a band that could have been good but sucked and once you blow first impressions, you're fighting an uphill battle in a hurricane to get back the momentum you idiotically squandered.

Linux is doing that right now.

Editor's Note: The following recommendations were made by the spellchecker. I leave the detection of irony to you.

Actual Suggested
RPMs --> raping
tarballs --> travails
Google --> googol
hyping --> hoping

Personally, in my mind, make install ---> make yourself insane...

Tuesday, April 19, 2005


Should we just get it over with, kill CSS, and release CFS 1.0? Cascade Failure Sheets would be more honest naming...

For that matter, maybe releasing CRS would be a good idea as well. It's not as though so many coders can remember anything. Wasn't that one of the points of high level interpreted languages in the first place?

Could the explosion of hacker theme books at your local Borders have any connection with the explosion of script kiddies and increase in the percentage of same who are getting better? Nah, of course not...

Does the fact that Linux distributions costing $70+, boxed with CDs and manuals are selling when they could be downloaded for free on the Internet illustrate the continuing lack of "getting it" on the part of a good portion of the Internet using public?

Was the leaving of the letter M out of BSD an accident or purposeful because it was felt to be implied?

Is someone trying to tell me something when rather than being advised to use a Linux based utility, I am directed to buy Partition Magic instead?

It would seem to me that there are certain requirements for every job and that one very important unwritten one in IT book design is skill with unintentional humor in choosing titles. It isn't just the Dummies and Complete Idiot books that have this tendency, either.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Unix-Hater's Handbook

It occurred to me that I might mention this, however irrelevant the mention.

By checking out Daniel Weise's old site of which only pieces remain since he left Microsoft, you can still download a copy of his work with Simson Garfinkel and Steve Strassmann which pretty clearly lays out a buttload of reasons to not just hate or loathe Unix, but the people who continue to purvey it as well.

More to the point, it is an excellent bit of bait to the blind zealots of Unix who in almost every review of this book, come back with rejoinders and dismissals so clearly illustrative of everything the book lays out. A book which takes Unix to task for its tool-set (bag of hammers) mentality (among other things) cannot be countered obviously with the glib jibe that such has been fixed with some other tool. The biggest tools in Unix seem to be many of its own users.

Myself, not being a Unix zealot but rather a realist, I most certainly do hate Unix and the people who continue standing in the way of the two inevitable choices of outcome: death or resurrection anew. No, Linux is not resurrection anew for all the fluff and eye candy of the latest Mepis disc. BSD even less so. In fact, the entirety of Unix might as well be referred to as OS/BDSM. If your critical systems run Unix you are in Bondage. You're forced to a Discipline of whimsical masters and mistresses not much more sane than those who sired Freddy Krueger. Sadism and Masochism are self explanatory for the love-hate relationship you share with a viral organic morass born of thousands of arrogant nobodies and a few supremely arrogant somebodies who all pretend to follow some standard while at the same time rewriting it as they think it really should be.

Death is the easy to understand first alternative and the easiest to give when emotions run high. Of course, when you realize the alternative is Microsoft Windows with its myriad bugs and total lack of interest in not shipping them in the first place or nothing, you have to consider something else.

Resurrection is the other solution and I mean the classical reforging into a new body, pure and unbroken; the current course in Linux of combining vampiric resurrection with your mother-in-law's sister's application of make-up by spackling trowel is obviously a faux solution.

A simple to understand picture would be to compare Windows for Workgroups 3.11 and Windows XP Professional. The former is what Unix still is under the fluff and eye candy of your favorite Linux distro and The latter is what Unix should be and we all very well know it.

Knowing it and actually achieving it through conscious effort are two different things as we can see from the path of progression from WfW3.11 to WinXPPro. However, Microsoft was obviously more about making that effort than simply wandering there haphazardly as the Unix crowd is presently doing.

If I had to offer an analogy, I'd say the state of Unix is presently right about the level of DOS and Windows for Workgroups 3.11 prior to Windows 95 being more than a brain fart: underlying OS and GUI are still totally separate and kludged, neither one is being improved upon by the exact same people and those who are working don't seem to talk to each other, and they don't work right out of the box the way you want except in a very small number of cases and require far more effort to make them work than you want to expend.

"Why can't it just work?"

What work means is of course variable in meaning but when it comes to end-users of software, it means the way they expect. If you can't produce something that even makes a farcical attempt at it, you shouldn't be even in software programming. If you do make a farcical attempt and stop there thinking it is "good enough" then you aren't any better than the majority of abandonware writers and pop musicians. A vast undertaking with half-vast ideas is fine at the start when you can be forgiven for not knowing in advance for certain what a folly you were pursuing (Edsel), fanaticism to refuse to acknowledge it and buy your own horseshit (Linux), minor idiocy to avoid acknowledging it openly but only in private (Microsoft, Bill Clinton), and maturity for working seriously to make good with a real and true rationale even if you are ultimately wrong (no one in IT that I am aware of which tells you something about maturity in IT). Silent slinking away from the disaster doesn't count.

As I said, the post is probably apocryphal in the minds of anyone firmly embedded in the anti-Microsoft world of Unix. This all just came to mind reading up on some ideas of the book in the Linux camp and reinforces my belief that they just don't get it in the way that comedian Jeff Dunham's Peanut would show with his trademark hand over the head swipe with the sound of a passing race car. Mmrrrrrrrroooooowwwww...