Monday, October 31, 2011

Things that make me happy

Now I know it's kind of a big 180 to do a post like this, what with all Nev's work of making this a blog about stuff we complain about. Think of it as a belated birthday present. (Just a quick note before you watch the two videos linked below, they have some naughty language which may be NSFW.)
  • Google Plus: Nevyn sent me the invite, and even though he's decided to drop out (this is the part where you can harangue him into rejoining) I have really enjoyed using my account. The benefits of Google Plus are: It's not facebook. Okay so that's really the main one. I don't really follow that many people on it yet, but the ones I do usually offer a better quality of postings than what you would find on fb. Also, no games requests thus far.
  • My Drunk Kitchen
    I think it should be obvious why this is a favourite. In fact, it's a proven mathematical formula: Candy + Alcohol = Awesomeness
  • The Waikato Times: So in my other web-based shenanigans I have a tumblr account called Bad News Puns and the Waikato Times seems to consistently provide the best material. See fine examples here, here and here. Please, never, ever change Waikato Times.
  • Kenny Rogers Jackass: Confession time. When I was a kid I unironically LOVED Kenny Rogers. I had a double-cassette (kids: This is what we had to use before MP3s) of his greatest hits which I made my parents play whenever we went on long car journeys. As an adult, looking back, I think most of the appeal had much to do with the fact that he looked like Santa. Anyway I have since found these clips on YouTube:
    Now this isn't the Kenny I loved as a child, but it's the one I adore as an adult.
These are just some of the things that brighten up my day (and boy have I needed it). What makes you smile?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Propaganda in New Zealand

One of the big things that the Labour party started and which National seem to have down to a fine art form is the amount of propaganda in the media.

I was in Auckland City yesterday and happened to see a small sea of tents in Aotea Square. The protest is still going. What protest you may ask? I remember seeing it on TV3 News. They were reporting that NZ's peaceful example of a worldwide protest was peaceful and ending "tomorrow". I'm sure that was more than a week ago. It's still going.... Doing a search of the TV3 News website shows a few opinion pieces telling us why we should all think that it's a half arsed protest. I'm of course talking about "Occupy Aotearoa".

So it's not finished, it's supposedly half arsed and yet there are still people in Aotea Square. I see this as a movement away from the "let's just trust the government is acting in our best interests" and more a move towards "Hey! We're still here! You remember us? The people you're supposed to be representing...".

A few months ago there was a protest around the "filesharing" act (by the way, this page is essentially a file that I've just shared with you... We ALL share files...). Anyway, the protest got next to no coverage.

And you have to wonder why. Protests traditionally have made great stories. "People are unhappy and shouting about it!". Instead we get a "There were a couple of hippy's in town today. They've since been moved on". Where is our outlet for dissent? Why are the thinkers now being marginalised? And if media was all about money, then wouldn't they want to jump on these stories?

Labour, back in Helen Clark's day, got a bill passed around filming embarrassing moments in parliament. It turns out politicians can't make decisions if they're worried someone's going to film them picking their ears/noses/other orifices.

National keep threatening (and acting on) shutting down state owned media - TVNZ 7 is receiving no more funding next year despite being the smartest channel on our screens and National Radio have been threatened numerous times. The current government have also essentially lent MediaWorks a lot of money for their radio spectrum licensing. Add to this that RadioLive (owned by MediaWorks) had John Keys do an hour show.

What is this all about? When's the last time you saw Phil Goff, Metiria Turei or Russel Norman get any decent air time? I can understand Phil Goff not getting airtime - he's forgettable. Russel Norman was part of the Mt Albert By-Election (National have fielded Melissa Lee again which just makes me think that they're not really fighting for the seat at all) but did little more than put up some boards. From what I've seen of Metiria Turei - she's one smart cookie with grounding in a very practical place. But those are just my impressions. Surely the media (especially the news) is about representing the stories out there, not colouring them to the current government's ends.

I'm at a loss as to how to end this post. Do we protest? Isn't that a bit like a tree falling in the woods? Do we boycott? Would any of you give up one of the few channels of news in protest? Any ideas you may have would be well appreciated....

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Year

I just realised! I've now had this blog for a year!

A year of ranting and inviting a couple of others to post to it. It's been over a year since I started out on the Manaiakalani project. A year of growing (hopefully).

So yeah... a year. And some of you are still reading... weird.

The Death of Confidence

I spent a great deal of my childhood isolated. I couldn't speak the same language the people around me were speaking. When my sister's were learning to speak English, I was learning to speak. Once speaking English I could never get the accent right for Indian languages and gave up when I'd get mocked for my accent.

So the start of my life was not understanding those around me unless they chose to communicate with me. Add to that the fact that I'm Indian and racism as a youth was terrible and you've got me not really fitting in anywhere.

Fast forward to today. I hate it when I say something to someone and suddenly they turn around and whisper to someone else. It's that same feeling again. I'm alone. I realised what annoyed me so much about something someone asked me to. It wasn't that it was racist (If you can't have a laugh....), but more that it would've been put me on stage doing something on my own. Singled out. In front of a crowd.

One of the girls who was flirting with me at Ulearn said something along these same sorts of lines.

"There's nothing quite like being in amongst a group of people to make you feel so utterly and completely alone."

And that's what it was that had me freaking out at the Ulearn dinner. I hate crowds. This in itself isn't all that significant though. I mean, as a youth, I attended a Big Day Out and was about as comfortable as you could be in a mosh pit.

What I really hate is feeling alone in crowds. And what had me feeling alone? A bunch of small things. Hell - the perception of small things. The feeling that I wasn't included in things. For a great deal of the time I was nothing more than a passenger. Kind of a "we have a spare seat" thing going on. To some people's credit, they did try. There were the condescending people who came up and asked me about something nerd like after I'd introduced myself as a professional geek. Play along. Drink. Smoke. Drink some more. Rinse and repeat. There were even a few apologies - they didn't seem to realise that I was being completely overlooked. A pink bow tie only because the other guys had brought their own. The lack of a pink flower. It was weird though. There was a moment where it stopped - I was included again after a coffee on my own, and lunch on my own (this was the day after the dinner). This almost tangible change. Or... the perception of a shift in attitude. I'm still trying to figure this out.

Anyway, so today I'm feeling... a loss of confidence. I'm small doing what I need to do. This probably isn't a good time to be giving up smoking... I think delicate is going to be the word of the day.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Being a Better Person

Ulearn was one of the few places where I actually genuinely wanted to stop smoking. Of course, this was rendered ineffectual by my having to do a 5 minute presentation (it kind of went okay only I missed my opportunity to talk about open source software - not the fact that it's open source but the fact that it allows us to own our software and make it work the way we want it to work).

After that was a great big dinner. I hate crowds. Never been comfortable with them. And every now and again I end up in a cold sweat that has me just freaking out. Heart thumping in throat as my desperately try to keep it together. Rocking backwards and forwards is a real possibility. Crying also. So at the dinner I found myself outside often, smoking. And while inside, I was drinking something chronic.

There, funnily enough, is some benefit to smoking. The breathing done when smoking is much the same as the techniques taught to handle anxiety for example. One of my big things has always been that it takes you away from what you're doing and allows you to solve problems. i.e. I quite often find answers to programming problems when outside, cigarette in one hand, print out in the other, pacing furiously.

After a cigarette someone had called me stinky. The evening after, the same again only much more ... effectual this time around. I found myself outside after everyone had gone to bed, smoking, pondering on it.

This, to me, is the best argument against smoking. Everyone has to die. But you don't have to live your life being embarrassed by the smell of smoke.

When I expressed this idea to someone, rather than take the win, they argued that you don't have die early. Take the win people. Given that there is very little dignity in death, what does it matter?

But it kind of does matter. To the people around you.

So I've got this obsession with being a good person. I think I'm a pretty good person. But part of me always wants to be better.

When I've offended someone I tend to agonise over what I did wrong. I've always wondered as to the dynamics in relationships. Most guys I know, when splitting with a partner, sit around trying to figure out what they did wrong and how they could have done better. This is a far cry from the woman on sitcoms who sit around with their girlfriends burning anything that reminds them of the guy and results in hot firemen turning up to their home. Think depressed guys crying into a whiskey vs. women at a club downing shots in a party like atmosphere. Same thing really.

I do tend to see the flaws more than the positives. This is for a very practical reason. If it's working well, there's no need to focus on it. It's the negatives, the things that need fixing, that need attention.

Of course, this does seem to be a result of how I was brought up. A lack of positive reinforcement. We know positive reinforcement is a good thing. It's good for things like self esteem (which I've established, I have very little if any).

So how could I be a better person? By starting to see the positives. By quitting smoking. By not blaming others when I'm feeling detached. By being more communicative.

So this afternoon I figure I'm going to go and buy myself some nicotine patches. Attempt to not be quite so stinky. Thanks those at Ulearn who made me feel... self-conscious enough to stop.

Oh - and "Go the All Blacks!"

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Streaming Woes

I'm sitting here watching the rugby world cup final. Sure, I'm not normally a rugby fan. But then, I'm not such a nerd that I haven't figured out the rules.

Unfortunately, I'm at school. I didn't bother trying to figure out how to stream the sky decoder out to the TV's and so I'm watching it via a live stream on the Internet.

Who would've thought that after all this time, and all that investment into the technology, that it would be so utter crap. Low resolution, with loads of stutters (the video, not the sound). The first couple of streams I tried failed after a little while. The first one cut out during the national anthem. Not happy.

France's first try came about in a rather unpleasant slide show. I'd yell and shout only my 'puter's microphone isn't working anyway. If I yell and curse and no one is around to hear it, have I really yelled? I guess that's what this blog is for....

Anyway... Flash. It's rubbish. The user experience is compromised in favour of security. Why can't we have it cached for a few seconds in order to avoid that stuttery badness? Because content companies don't want you to have the opportunity to be able to save that cached data.

I remember back in the mid-nineties the big craze was high definition content being delivered over the Internet. (There's a few more crazes that I keep hearing are going to happen - things like RFID tags in all of your groceries!). This hasn't happened. Instead of going to the local DVD shop you could just view it online. Internet TV's have now come about! (In 1994, a subsidiary of Acorn Computers called Online Media sought to capitalise on the projected Video on Demand market with a range of set top boxes that turned your TV into an "Internet TV").

So the technology isn't a new idea. We've probably had the technology for a good long while now. We've had load balancing for a long time. Pretty good video compression. Delivery mechanisms. But it's all for naught.

Instead we have Flash, and the up and coming Silverlight.

Let's look at Silverlight for a second. It just can't succeed. There is only one way I can see it happening. If they were to concentrate their efforts into moonlight, the open source plugin, they might actually win out over Flash.

Flash is a closed technology that leaves a sour taste in most people's mouths. The plugin often fails on Linux machines, or, if not failing, is inconvenient. It doesn't integrate at all well with Linux's sound system. The way that most distributions have found to get around the license conditions - by not actually packaging it but rather, packaging a script to download it from Adobe - is known to fail frequently. What's more, it's not offered on Apple's iOS platforms.

If either Silverlight or Flash were to become open source, support on all platforms could be done in a transparent manner and would ultimately result in more support for more platforms with less cost. And some of those smart cookies in the FLOSS world could even integrate some level of caching for Videos! Imagine it. A streaming experience that didn't suck!

And hey - who knows! People might actually stop pirating quite so much if the content they wanted wasn't hindered in stupid ways. i.e. TV on demand that didn't feel like watching TV through a pin hole camera.

Oh the possibilities...

Saturday, October 22, 2011

One More Month

There's only one more month. Just one more...

Back in June I did this one paragraph in a post which had taken me ages to get right - down to a paragraph and not so whingy. It was a subject that I could have ranted and raved about at great length and had me horribly upset. Anyway, I'm finding myself saying "just one more month".

The problem is, all of this is just leading up to exactly the same mistakes being made.

At Ulearn I was surprised when I was being flirted with. It happened several times. Being surprised... not so great (I really do need to figure out that whole self-esteem thing). However, given how I have been feeling of late (essentially homeless), a bit of an ego boost.

But is it really? My ego hasn't really been feeling that much more validated. Is this "one more month" stopping me from enjoying the flirting? And for what? A thunderous lack of communication?

Define frustrated.

Thinking on - I seem to be spending my life waiting. Waiting for the new job to kick in so that I can afford to change the "homeless" situation. Waiting to resolve a simple "maybe" - and that's just to see if someone wants to hang out (I really hate the word "maybe"). Waiting to see what happens. Waiting, waiting, waiting...

Oi! Gym Going People!

I find it really hard to take people who go to the gym seriously.

Think about it for a second. You go to the gym to get fit.

Why are you unfit? There's a really good chance you drive around everywhere right? So you pay for a car, petrol, maintenance on the car (tyres, oil etc.) and find you have to pay $30 odd ($1560 a year) a week to keep fit.

What if you were to leave the car in the garage every now and again? Go and walk amongst people. Carry something heavy home. Enjoy the neighbourhood.

If you really must go the gym..... walk to it. It's a warm up in a very real way.

Friday, October 21, 2011

When Security Goes Wrong

I was at a conference (Ulearn) this week. A couple of things struck me while I was there.

For starters, someone sat there telling me that they were starting with security with a project. I can't help but think this is completely backwards. Security's important, sure. But then, what are you trying to build? Work out the specifications.

Does it actually have to be used? Who are your intended audience? What sacrifices are you willing to make for security?

Let's face it. It's very hard to do security without effecting the end user experience. Normally you're expecting something from users - think Captchas. Those annoying images that quite often you can't read terribly well. Or you're dealing with speed issues such as what happens when a password has been encrypted several times. SSL certificates are good - for the most part - but when things go even slightly wrong, you've effected the user experience again. Suddenly their web browser is telling them that they can't trust that site.

Security is a necessary evil. But it's also a sacrifice to other things. This is a classic engineering problem. You have to ask yourself how that security is going to effect the usage. Whether users will look for ways around it. Think Internet filtering. If you've blocked something that your users really want to use - such as social media - your users will start working against such security. Are you actually achieving anything with your security?

And this kind of leads into something I was trying to explain in my five minute talk at Ulearn. Take the nerd out of the equation for a second. Examine your computer system (this could be school or business) and ask yourself, does it work the way YOU (or your users) want it to work? And when I say You, I really mean it. I know this probably sounds harsh, but stop letting the nerds dictate the way you work. They're not doing you any favours. If they can't make it work the way you want it to work, then start looking at other solutions and vendors. What other industry dictates to you what you want?

In this way, Open Source software becomes an answer. If you've got the source code, you can change it. Stop working in spreadsheets and word processing documents and start thinking about how it could be better. If you were to design it, what would it look like?

In other words, own it.

Monday, October 3, 2011


I come back with another awesome title. Sorry ;D ...

I recently had to think up a random number. To be more precise, a random-looking integer with about 2 digits. And that's when the troubles began.

  • Any digit from 0 to 9 is way too common. (0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 are out of the picture)
  • Primes are overrated. (11, 13, 17, 19, 23, 29, 31, 37, 41, 43, 47, 53, 59, 61, 67, 71, 73, 79, 83, 89, 97)
  • Perfect squares are annoying. (16, 25, 36, 49, 64, 81)
  • So are powers of two. (32)
  • And anything divisible by three you can overly easily spot by adding digits. (12, 15, 18, 21, 24, 27, 30, 33, 39, 42, 45, 48, 51, 54, 57, 60, 63, 66, 69, 72, 75, 78, 84, 87, 90, 93, 96, 99)
  • So can you with zeros and fives. (10, 20, 35, 40, 50, 55, 65, 70, 80, 85, 95)
  • Doubles are plain offensive. (22, 44, 77, 88)
  • Due to several works of fiction I will not mention, anything with a abundance of 7 will go through the trap. (37, 74, 76, 97)
 That leaves me with 14, 26, 28, 34, 38, 46, 52, 58, 62, 68, 82, 86, 92, 94, 98. But these are all even numbers. Goodness me. Ah, but -- I missed one: 91. There ya go, one perfectly random number. Yay!

Oh, wait...