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Random ramblings of a random wolf
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27th-May-2011 08:17 pm - The other blog!
As you have probably guessed, my LiveJournal is fairly dusty right now.

For some time now, I've had another blog on my own web page: Wolf Head of Self-Repair. Hopefully, you find it as interesting as this journal was. I'm sort of slow to update anyway. Sorry for that.
Okay, some time ago, they blew up the Wikipedia article on Exaile. (One of the major Linux music players obviously needs no article.) Now, they've blown up the article on MyPaint.

The latter is an annoying case. No, admittedly there's no sources. Nominator says "we shouldn't have a consensus for deeming most FOSS as notable" - well, duh, maybe we should craft actual software notability criteria then, it seems to be AWOL at the moment, and it's a tad bit annoying that the software notability has to be judged solely through the common notability criteria (i.e. availability of outside coverage). But Exaile's case showed that even reviews in high-profile web sites shouldn't be trusted. The fact that Blender guys endorse MyPaint is obviously not important at all. What the hell can we trust these days, then? Do we need the third-party books nowadays?

We need the MyPaint article. Where's MyPaint's press coverage? Should I blame them for not publicising the project better?

And at the same time, we get more and more and more bullshit articles that no one even looks at. If the deletionists are winning, why the hell does the site have over 3 million articles? Why?

And an actual quote from the deletion discussion: "Thank god we don't have a bunch of "WP:IAR" hand wavers this time around and can delete this cleanly." Yeah, especially when everyone who values their sanity stays the hell away from AfD. I've been writing a webcomic about assassins lately, and haven't done that much research into the topic yet, but even I know that best way to murder someone in the night is to make sure no weird helpful people buzz around and stay concerned about wellbeing of others. With attitudes like this, it's easy to see why I don't follow AfD any more.

And let's not forget the whole recent deletion and deletion reviews discussions around Human disguise. Hundreds of kilobytes. Thousands of words. A few million bullets. No answers.

Here's an analogy that I posted on my user page today:

Sticking articles in AfD is like seeing a book being fed in a wood chipper. Very slowly. There's no point in trying to save the book from being destroyed once the process has already started because the damage has already been done. The rednecks with shotguns think it's hilarious to do this sort of stuff, and you don't want to annoy people with shotguns. With enough determination and hard work, those books can, theoretically, be rearranged back into coherent wholes if you salvage all pieces of paper. Ultimately, in this situation we can at least comfort ourselves that not everybody engages in this sort of hideous destructive behaviour. Far from it.

In summary: with each case like this, my faith in the workability of AfD decreases. We need some new process to replace it.

Articles get murdered in the night.

So yeah, I've probably snapped. I just can't defend our deletion processes any more. I'm not having a complete mental breakdown here.

I'm not blaming anyone here. I try not to call anyone names - the above comment about shotgun-wielding ignoramus psychopats is an obvious exaggeration and anyone who doesn't get that is an obvious n00b who has no idea about our consensus on humour.

I'm against these prevalent negative attitudes.

Simply put, I'm against the notion that producing hundreds of kilobytes of deletion and deletion review discussions is somehow helping the community to build an encyclopedia. We're pretending we're seeking consensus and acting toward the good of the website. We failed to realise that the site is growing too fast for AfD to handle.

I still somehow have faith in tomorrow. Somehow.

I just wonder why no one's fixing things.
I mean, I can't. I've got to go draw more stuff using the awesome graphics application that doesn't exist because some nascent philosopher figured out its existence is original research. Damn. Can't really argue with that.
Do I sound jaded again? Sorry...
30th-Jun-2009 04:29 pm - Don't fight the future, dammit!
Whoa, been a while since I posted anything here. Anyway, here's some rambling...

I've been trying to find an alternative word processor that would implement a rather crucial part of OpenDocument specs: OpenDocument metadata and templates. Or, since I don't know damn about the internals of OpenDocument, a rather crucial thing that the XML is supposed to guarantee: The word processor should not F*** With Stuff It Doesn't Know Damn About.

So far, I've tried opening .odt files in AbiWord and OS X TextEdit.app. Both open the test file I made in OpenOffice.org Writer just fine. Both save the file just fine. They sort of also retain the formatting. They certainly retain the text.

But they f*** up the document metadata. Both also lose the reference to the original template, making the formatting stick.

And AbiWord folks just whine and whine and whine that supporting OpenDocument is too difficult and we should instead use RTF.

Bloody hell. We just invented the next generation word processor interoperability format that's supposed to support more modern word processor features than RTF. Like metadata, styles and templates.

This is one of the problems I have with open source developers right now. Oh, hell, with all developers. The same thing went to, say, Processing - "Well, Java 5 sucks because JVM is such a big bloated piece of shit, so we'll stick with Java 1.4, blah blah blah".

People - don't fight the future.

The Future is OpenDocument. AbiWord is a nice little word processor, but because it doesn't implement OpenDocument properly, it's not usable for me. They can say OpenDocument is too difficult to implement all they want - I will keep looking for software that actually does implement OpenDocument just fine.

The same with Java 5, which might have sucked, but Java 6 is frigging awesome. Luckily, Java 6 remains compatible with dog-old releases. But the point is, unless you have a real reason to stick with Java 1.4, there's no reason not to use Java 6.

Well damn, I just wanted to stretch my fingers again.
I posted this as a reply to one comment on Amarok 2.0.2 release, where people were saying the Amarok team is under no obligation to react to any requests:

Of course such choices are up to the developers. But all too often, "Go code it yourself" means "I'm not discussing this feature request (or whatever) with any other developers, nor any other prospective developers"; it's incredibly arrogant and deluded to expect that everyone who wants the features are willing and able to implement them, but it is not so arrogant and deluded to expect that there's someone out there who can do that thing. Rejecting the ideas right off the bat results in a lot of wasted time because people didn't even know that some people want something done. This could happen: Someone brings up feature requests, nothing happens because the devs reject the idea; three years later, someone else comes up with a feature request, nothing happens either; three years still, someone thinks "why the hell this program doesn't have this feature when it'd obviously make the program much better, I'll go code it myself". Nine years, and hey presto, we've got functionality.

The lesson learned: Don't reject clearly feasible feature requests. It's better to have a 9-year-old open feature request ticket in your Bugzilla, than sixteen saying the exact same thing and all tagged WONTFIX. Gauge the popularity of the requests: if a feature request gets five bazillion Bugzilla votes, it might not be a good idea to put all energy in your new pet ideas.

I'm against "meritocracies" because allegedly clueless people can sometimes have good ideas too, and open source world is often exactly the kind of clueless meritocracy where good ideas are often rejected because they're presented by allegedly clueless people. And worse yet, these allegedly clueless people might be the people to code the new features, but for some reason, they just don't feel motivated for whatever reason. Meritocracies must be tempered by open mind, channels for communication, and lack of contempt for the populace at large.

Sure, I'd love to see (say) a frigging working ReplayGain in Amarok. I can program. But what makes people think I know anything about KDE? Or finer points on how the hell ReplayGain is actually supposed to work, for that matter? Capability ("Yeah, I know a little bit about C++ and can program myself out of the proverbial paper bag") doesn't automatically translate to expertise ("Yeah, I know stuff about Qt and KDE frameworks and can build Amarok from source if I need to") and motivation ("Yeah, I we need the ReplayGain") don't necessarily translate to actual work ("Let's build this").

That said, I'm definitely not against handing out {{sofixit}} advice as such. All I'm saying is that people should always be aware what needs to be done to improve the project. Currently, I have two projects sitting in github.com, and I'm not sure when or if I can improve them much, so pretty much everything will go in the "go code it yourself" category; yet, the project wikis are open and you can fork the projects easily to work on them, so feel free to document your requrements.
James Wagg rants on James Randi Educational Foundation about a website that provides free-of-charge psychic readings.

One thought immediately occurred to me: Wow, in the pre-Web era, the psychics charged an arm and leg for their services. Now, this service is clearly Web 1.0: Crazy idea, some venture capital, free service for the customers, and the folks are not-so-desperately looking for a way to make money.

A further thought, immediately afterwards: Wouldn't it be neat if there was a true Web 2.0 psychic website?

Web 2.0 has been so far a venture capitalist's nightmare: No one knows how the hell Twitter (for example) is going to turn profit, and the only people who keep their head above the water seem to be, uh, Google and Wikipedia. (And Wikipedia only because we seem to have have principles.) Thus, the fact that the psychic site would be a Web 2.0 site would immediately banish all thoughts that this site is there only for money. (The site still needs money, hence "Multi-Million" in the title of this post.)

And thanks to the crowdsourcing aspect of Web 2.0, we can break the hegemony of only having a single psychic on a single site! A Web 2.0 Psychic Service would be a truly open meeting place for people needing a psychic's help and psychics who are willing to provide the help.

Indeed, a Web 2.0 Psychic Service would evaporate a bunch of very serious issues that usually mar the reputations of the psychics. The service could be organised into tasks that anyone can contribute to, thus providing the best possible results for the person needing the help.

Thus it follows that there would be no need to limit the operations to merely ordinary people and psychics; other kinds of people could also provide valuable feedback in the cases in question. Some psychics had been foisting quack medicine as well; why not also let qualified medical personnel have their say? Some psychics are quick to attack their critics; why not let everyone discuss about things openly and freely?

Open mashuplet support would also provide easy access to the underlying Creative Commons-based data. Certain people have had occasional small problems tracking the track records of some psychics, but open data access would provide extremely fruitful bedrock for powerful, web-embeddable statistical analysis, that could also be syndicated in RSS/Atom format.

(Aww heck. I started this half-seriously and now I'm spouting nonsense again. I guess it's time for six hours of Halo or something.)
5th-Feb-2009 08:11 pm - "Real Men don't make backups..."
"Real Men don't make backups.  They upload it via ftp and let the world mirror it." - Linus Torvalds
I used to have quite a few weird bookmarks stored on the Ma.gnolia social bookmarking site. I rather liked the site technically; the site had a nice design and it let you license your public bookmarks under a Creative Commons licence of your choice (just Attribution for me!), and even backup your bookmarks.

The backup feature, obviously, struck me as a nice feature - I felt much safer in LiveJournal since it lets me back up stuff - but really, wouldn't it be nicer to let the site owners take care of the backups? I mean, a local backup is nice, but since I'm not moving the bookmarks anywhere, the need for backups is all a little bit theoretical, right?

...well, suffice to say, a while ago Ma.gnolia folks realised that a) the server was screwed and b) no one had noticed that the backup system doesn't actually work.

But the odd thing is this: As the people are furiously pulling their hair out and trying to restore whatever scraps of bookmarks they have around, no service has sprung up out there that would have made use of Creative Commons-licensed ma.gnolia bookmarks.

Which is a little bit weird. Social bookmark information doesn't sound like a terribly interesting information to share, but it sure as heck beats most of the Creative Commons-based microblogging drivel. (I'm saying this as an enthusiastic supporter of identi.ca. =) It's information that people have found actually useful, and spent time organising.

And even when it was useful information that was specifically licensed under CC, no one seems to have come forth and said "hey, we have backups of that stuff".

This is a weird world. Teh Intarnet nevar forgets, but if you specifically tell them to go ahead and make copies of your stuff, they go "huh?"...
UPDATE: The issue has been resolved, and as suspected below, it was a minor issue. The culprit was a messed-up KDE cache directory, which was buried somewhere somewhere underneath the underground /var/tmp or whatever. AT NO POINT did the program provide any helpful feedback on why the heck this folder was at fault. Still, most of my rant below stands: The KDE4 bugs seem quite aggravating.

First, apologies for an uncharacteristic rant. The following is a product of frustration and nothing more; I could have constructed a calm, rational, orderly piece of critique, but I'm starting to feel that there's absolutely no change in how the process works and the whole thing is starting to look pretty embarrassing. I really wish to apologise in advance. I'm usually not this angry. It's hopefully just caused by a small problem somewhere. I just have no bloody idea what problem and where.

Various KDE developers have lately been dismissing this kind of posts as trolls...  but let me say that I've tried to give a rational, calm feedback before. Now, I'm just aggravated. I can start to understand these "trolls"; what comes to usability, it's little snags that drive people crazy, and if you fail to understand that, you're in a world of hurt. Don't surprise the users negatively.

So apologies for aggravation. I'm trying to give honest critique here.


I love Amarok's features.

I especially love the public image and attitude shown by the developers. (So many cute wolves!)

However, I'm more and more disappointed with the stability of the application itself.

I was extremely happy when Amarok 2.0 brought in Phonon and we finally got back the gstreamer backend, something that had been missing in late 1.4 releases.

And when I ugraded to Amarok and Phonon 4.3.0, guess what I get? Broken Phonon gstreamer backend.


I'm starting to seriously get fed up with this. I've been using Amarok since 1.3 releases, and there's always been some minor breakage, several mysterious disappearances of the music library metadata, and temporary (or indefinite) disappearances of features.

Is it really that hard to have some sort of commitment to the feature set you have? We bloody well had gstreamer backend once. it was taken away. Now that it's been given us back, it's pretty horrible to take it away again. It's bloody cruel. (No doubt they'll withdraw the gstreamer support again - because no one uses it. Well, people might use it if it were stable in the first place, right?)
This argument isn't really about wanting gstreamer in particular. It's just that changing feature set confuses people. People want to rely on the particular features they have. 2.0's decision to cut some features temporarily was a good example of this: people don't want to adjust their usage patterns too much when they are used to having, for example, the stop-after-current-track thing.

Do we really need to worship the new features and leave stability aside? The notion that "x.0 is supposed to be unstable, just wait x.0.10 for a really stable one" is dreadful. My standard of stability is "if the version number is greater than 1.0 and it's specifically marketed as a stable version, it's supposed to be a goddamn stable version in that case". I can't remember the last time I've seen The GIMP crash, for example - the development branch has the crashy version if you expressly want it.

*sigh* I'm really unhappy about not having a bloody gstreamer backend, but I guess I'll just have to go back to the goddamn xine backend then. I just wish there was a GNOME music player project that put cute wolves everywhere. I really appreciate that in Amarok. I can forgive anything in Amarok if there's wolves out there, but that alone can't keep the rage down.
Back when I was a kid, I read about a poem by William Gibson, called "Agrippa", stored on a self-destroying floppy. You could read the thing once, and after that, the poem was gone. It wanted an original disc, a copy wouldn't do. Unbeatable and inevitable thing.

I have only vague memories of what I was thinking at the time. I've always been worried about data loss, actually; this age where we're living in now is making me very damn nervous, what with its shifting file formats, easily-corrupting storage media and greedy, selfish DRM schemes that put money before longevity. I'm not sure, but perhaps learning about this poem made me hate disappearance of digital information.

Yet, I was somehow not that worried about this particular poem. It was meant as a hacker challenge, and by golly, crax0r they did. When I poked my nose in some BBSes later on, I found a copy of the poem. When I got to the Internet, there it was, probably on some Gopher site or something. I can't remember.

Now, it's also on Gibson's own site.

The poem is, of course, about fading memories. And mine are definitely fading too, even if it wasn't really that long ago. And I never really read the whole thing - I knew the pirated versions would always be there. Okay, as far as art projects go, I guess this is pretty pompous and it doesn't have a really big message - but it's the kind of an art project I can identify with. It has taught me a lesson.

More importantly, it has left a legend to dwell in my head.

A legend of a weird self-eating diskette...

Later still, I found The Agrippa Files, which contains a surprising amount of documentation of what actually happened. In the light of the evidence, it seems to have been a high-brow concept that didn't really fly that well (Gibson wasn't impressed by the results and the publisher went bankrupt)... but still a quite curious thing, all things considered. The legend lived on, the realism started to set in. The site had weird scraps of Lisp code and all: what if someone had the actual floppy and dissected the actual program and see what it really did???

Well, now they have an actual floppy image up... as well as emulated run in video format and some covert video from a reading in 1992.

Well, culture's served an all that. It's all fitting and proper to have it out there after so many years of suspense.

Though my heart sank a little bit when I read how the computer forensic guys recovered the disk image.
...we inserted the diskette into an internal floppy drive on a desktop machine in the University of Maryland’s Digital Forensics Lab running a modified version of Debian Linux. Using the standard data definition “dd” application, we created a bit-level copy or image of the disk.
H-hold on. dd if=/dev/fd0 of=agrippa.dmg ??? That's all you've got to do to copy that stuff?

I mean, I'm just an everyday computer geek (incidentally also a Debian user), but even I have this level of technical know-how. dd(1) isn't rocket science.

Okay, the article goes on to say that re-written image didn't work on actual hardware, so maybe the copy protection did work to at least some extent, but the same image worked almost perfectly in an emulator. That's pretty weird. That's pretty perplexing.

This sort of stuff tends to shake my faith in the l33tness of the original implementors.

I could use some more of the shaking.

If anyone knows anything about Weird 1992 MacOS Software, please do completely demolish that program. I'm sure that now that the actual program is out there, it could - and should - be dissected to hell and back.
6th-Dec-2008 01:12 pm - Unix shell woes
Okay, I'm getting really scatterbrained.

Here I am, deeply concerned that the Rails developers will declare something obsolete and dead and buried while I'm not updating my stuff, and decide to finally fix my Rails app to use Rails 2.0 .html.erb file extensions rather than Rails 1.0 .rhtml.

Before I do the move properly, I decide to go experiment a little bit...

find app -name '*.rhtml' -exec echo `echo -ne '{}' | perl -pe 's/\.rhtml$/.html.erb/gi;'` \;

And guess what I get back? A list of files with .rhtml extension. NOT .html.erb.

In my n years of perl-fu, I have never seen something this simple blow up. I can't believe my frigging eyes. I replace '{}' with '{}.rhtml' and what do you know, I get a giant bunch of files with .rhtml.html.erb extension. Twiddling with the regex doesn't do a damn thing: .rhtml, Repeat the previous command with  > imgonnaopenthisshitwithgoddamnhexeditor.txt tacked in the end, and after doing as suggested, nothing is any more clearer.

How can I possibly fail at this???

...and after good 20 minutes I notice, oh, it's that goddamn it's-interpreting-that-{}-as-literal-except-when-it-isn't thing. Basically, echo -ne '{}' here somehow echoes, um, {} instead of the file name. Doesn't really matter if it's quoted or not, it somehow does it anyway. Perl somehow reads that in and the whole shell expression still manages to spit out the original file name somehow.

It's probably some part of a shell / find(1) weirdness that I haven't yet understood. Over 10 years and I still don't understand the subtleties of find -exec. *sigh*

So here's what actually works:

for i in `find app -name '*.rhtml'`; do git mv "$i" `echo -ne "$i" | perl -pe 's/\.rhtml$/.html.erb/gi;'`; done

Not as clever, but got the job done...
27th-Nov-2008 06:44 pm - Conservapedia or Wookieepedia?
I'm a latecomer to the party, but I have to say that RationalWiki rules. And before I got here, I paid zero attention to Conservapedia (my previous Conservapedia rant was based on material discovered through RW, by the way). Now that I'm following What Is Going On At Convervapedia, I'm seeing stuff that I find just... weird.

For comparison - how did I become a Wikipedia admin? Oh, random editing here, random tweaking there, speaking some sense here, comprehending Stuff, and another user proposed me for adminship. After the discussion was over, I was just magically sitting there with a trolley full of advanced janitorial tools and no clue where to go. The sky was the limit. I went and proved my worthiness by destroying useless garbage... all by my own... with only me responsible for what I did. So far, I've mostly done pretty harmless stuff - only a few user blocks based on more than ample evidence that someone's in dire need of cooling down.

So how does the stuff work at Conservapedia?

RationalWiki's description of this stuff as a conversation between a Sith Lord and an apprentice is pretty spot on.
"Permanent or 5-year blocks for vandals; short blocks measured in days for people who are counterproductive, as in the non-stop talkers." (Aschlafly)
Yes, that's right: counterproductivity is a bannable offense in Conservapedia. I get annoyed really fast if someone's calling me counterproductive without paying me to work, but that's just me.

Oh, my misunderstanding - actually counterproductivity is "non-stop talking". If there's anything I've learned in my career as a Wikipedia admin, it's that there's no such thing as too much communication. Lack of communication leads only to misunderstandings and ill will: If you can't tell what the heck the other people were trying to accomplish, it's probably up to anyone's interpretation. If I do something that requires an extended explanation, I'll give one, rather than remain a Faceless Bully Admin.

But this tour-de-force was what really silenced me:
"KonstantinL is a good candidate for a block. His user name is dubious and first edit smacks of an attempt at 'liberal humor.' Many of these cases are pathetic. If you don't block him, I will. A permanent block would be appropriate, though you could choose a shorter time if you think there might be something of value in this user." (Aschlafly)
"Well done, Rod. Your promotion is thoroughly deserved." (Bugler)
14:03, 25 November 2008 RodWeathers blocked KonstantinL with an expiry time of 5 years (account creation disabled) ‎ (Liberal vandalism)
"Great blocks!" (Aschlafly)
Why do I get the picture of "a local Hells Angels chief tells the hang-around to eat a dog alive"? This is so delightfully villainous in literary sense!

You know, speaking of Star Wars, I liked Anakin Skywalker's fall from grace. Being a good guy sometimes sucks, because villains are sometimes so awesome it hurts! How oh how did I end up with the good guys, and not the "blood and souls for Aschlafly" crowd?
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