Lars Wirzenius: Rant, 2005


Monday, August 15, 2005

Rant: Two bits

"Two bits" is 25 cents, not 2 cents. See Wikipedia for the full story.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Rant: Hard disk diagnostics utilities

If anyone who reads this has a contact with Samsung, or any other hard disk manufacturer, would they please forward the following message to them. I tried to send feedback directly to Samsung, but they do their best to make it difficult: their web pages are a maze (and want to pop up a new window for every other link), they hide e-mail addresses (and those that I found were badly documented), and they strongly prefer me to use web forms. The web forms are country specific: I couldn't use the English language one without an address in the USA. The Finnish one wanted me to specify information Samsung has no right to ask, and they default the "yes I want to be spammed by Samsung" checkbox to "yes", which is in bad taste and against official privacy recommendations. In other words, they're trying to trick people into allowing Samsung to send them advertisments. In other words, they're untrustworthy scum.

Anyway, the message I'd like hard disk manufacturers to get: NOT EVERYONE USES WINDOWS! FLOPPY DRIVES HAVE DISAPPEARED!


Every time I need a hard disk diagnostic utility from a manufacturer, I find out that they distribute it only as a Windows executable that extracts files from itself and creates a bootable floppy. Newsflash: I don't have Windows, at all, on any machine, and I don't have a floppy drive in any of my newer machines.

Floppy drives are fragile devices that I don't need for anything else than hard disk diagnostic utilities. They are, in fact, an unnecessary expense.

Requiring Windows and floppies is PLAIN STUPID.

A CD image would be more generally useful, these days. Every self-respecting Windows CD burning software can burn them. Of course, providing the floppy stuff in addition would be good.

Extra hint: using freedos or something else that doesn't require paying royalties to Microsoft would be a way to save some money. That money could then be channeled into making web pages that don't suck.

Thanks. I'm feeling better now.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Rant: "As we all know"

I hate the phrase "as we all know". Usually, we don't all know. The phrase just reveals that the speaker or writer thinks everyone is exactly like them, and I prefer to not have my naive assumption of their appreciation of diversity shattered unnecessarily.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Rant: WYSIWYG word processing

I had a need to produce a nice-looking shortish, simple text document (a business plan draft). I thought this would be a good time to experiment with what WYSIWYG word processing looks like with modern free tools: Abiword and I wrote the draft (five pages, a few titles, some bullet point lists, mostly just plain text) in Abiword, and exported a PDF. Result: although paragraphs were nicely justified on-screen, in the PDF they were quite badly mangled, with a rather ragged right margin and weird inch-wide spaces in the middle of lines.

I then exported the document as RTF and opened that in Result: fonts were wrong, with boldface for everything except bullet point lists, and the titles were the same size as the text. Margins were all too heck. Nothing really bad, and fixable with a little bit of effort, but not what I would expect from a smooth system. I don't know if the fault is Abiword, OO.o, or the RTF format, but I thought this level of simple stuff should work already, given all the hype going on.

I continue to be underwhelmed.

I'd put up the files so people could use them for debugging, but, well, they're meant to be confidential.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Rant: Man dates

The New York Times has recently had an article on man dates (hopefully that link will work for you).

Simply defined a man date is two heterosexual men socializing without the crutch of business or sports. It is two guys meeting for the kind of outing a straight man might reasonably arrange with a woman. Dining together across a table without the aid of a television is a man date; eating at a bar is not. Taking a walk in the park together is a man date; going for a jog is not. Attending the movie "Friday Night Lights" is a man date, but going to see the Jets play is definitely not.

Not unsurprisingly, this seems to be a controversial issue for American men.

The concern about being perceived as gay is one of the major complications of socializing one on one, many straight men acknowledge. [- - -] Mr. Kim, 28, who is now married, was flustered in part because he saw someone he knew at the Italian restaurant. "I was kind of worried that word might get out," he said. "This is weird, and now there is a witness maybe."

I find this level of homophobia really funny. It is ridiculous to be so afraid of being thought homosexual that you won't have dinner with a friend in a nice restaurant. It is ludicrous to think that two men having dinner together must be gay. It seems it isn't just dinners, either. Anything two men do together that isn't about business or sports is a "man date", and people will think they are gay.

Isn't it time for the US culture to grow up, stop fearing people who aren't strictly stereotypically mainstream?

On the other hand, this will give me a further dimension to appreciate US entertainment: I can start looking for further silly clues about homophobia.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Rant: Evil equipment

Printers are evil. Partly they are evil because they are complicated electromechanical devices that break or malfunction whenever you are in a hurry. Mostly they are evil because all the software that exists to use printers sucks.

Here is what I want to see when it comes to using printers: I plug a printer to the USB port of my laptop, and then I tell whatever application I'm using to print and the printer spits out paper with whathever I wanted to have printed. If the printer is on the network, and not directly attached to my laptop, then I should be offered an descriptive list of printers from which to choose the one I like.

I don't want to configure a printer queue. I don't want to tell the software how many dots per inch my printer can print. I most certainly don't want to have to figure out which version of which driver to use. Any question more complicated than "is this the printer you want?", with a picture of the printer, is too much.

Now, I'm not sure this can all be completely achieved. I can dream, though. Certainly things have become easier than they used to be, I haven't had to manually touch printcap in a couple of years, but we're still a long way away from Nirvana.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Rant: Phone books - just say no

The main phone company in Helsinki, the one that publishes the phone book (there are a couple of competitors now), has decided to distribute it to every household in the area. In former days, it was only distributed to households that had a landline from them, but since they essentially had a monopoly, that included everyone with a phone. Mobile phones changed that. These days, many people have only a mobile phone and no landline at allt; I'm one of these people. I have never used the phone book much, and have not regretted not having it since I gave up my landline. I rarely need to find a phone number and when I do, the Internet works fine. So I wouldn't accept the phone book when the distributors rang my door bell. This rather surprised the distributors, but they got the message in the end.

On the whole, I rather think the phone book needs to go away. It is published only once per year, which means that a fair amount of its data goes out of date before the next one appears. Since the same data can already be found via Internet services or the (old!) number information service (via voice calls or SMS), making books of several kilograms per household in the greater Helsinki area is a real waste of natural resources.

The phone book is a relic. Its proper place is the museum.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Rant: The media industry is disgusting

A museum guard tells a little girl that learning to draw by making sketches based on paintings in a museum is a copyright violation: story at (via Joi Ito, who got it from others). Obviously, the guard was wrong, and the museum has said as much.

I think this is the result of the media industry making too strong claims about what copyright means, and what the law says. For example, pretty much all DVDs sold in Finland say that any copying at all is illegal, when it is explicitly not. The copyright law here allows copying for personal use and we pay for it in the form of a "cassette tax" levied on empty casettes, CDs and DVDs. The movie industry even tried to have a campaign here implying that bringing a camera into a movie theater is illegal. They wanted us to watch each other in case we do anything suspicious. Quite disgusting.

This insistence on making stronger claims than the law is probably part of the campaign to strengthen the powers of copyright owners. It is beginning to worry me (rather than just annoy me).