Now I Remember Why I Gave Up on Linux

Tried installing Linux (EasyPeasy Linux, which is Ubuntu specifically for the Asus) on my Asus EEE PC Netbook, and everything works… except the one thing that’s most vital: the wireless. It connects, but can’t get enough signal quality to actually get out to the internet except once in a long while. I can’t roll back to XP (at least without a lot of work trying to create an install image on a usb stick, or buying a usb dvd drive, and yes I probably should have gone the extra mile to figure out how to set-up dual-boot instead), but it’s hard to move forward without wireless.

Reading the forum, there are people who’ve had the same problem with this particular wireless chipset on this model (Atheros AR242x) who’ve managed to fix it by installing earlier (madwifi) drivers instead of the ath5k_pci… but even though I’ve downloaded the driver source, oops, I don’t have the build-essentials package, and getting it without a net connection is a huge pain. I’m going to try going down to the basement tonight and seeing if I connecting directly to the router will let me get the package(s) I need to try the driver downgrade.

If not, I’ve got a friend who has a working version of the one-generation-prior distro on his one-generation-prior EEE PC, and we’re going to try getting the packages on his machine and transferring them, or if that doesn’t work, installing the distro he’s using (which we think has the drivers that work–at least for some people), or if that doesn’t work installing the Xandros distro that came with his PC that according to the forums has much more robust wireless drivers even though nobody much cares for the interface. At this point I could totally live with a less-than-ideal interface if I could have a working netbook again.

Posted in Software

Tiddlywiki Internals

Still wrestling with getting my head around coding stuff for Tiddlywiki… so there will probably be a handful of posts like this one, reminding me of the useful resources I’ve found.

Posted in Software

Javascript and UnitTesting

I’ve been getting back into Javascript coding recently, and as is my wont I immediately start looking around for a) a unit testing tool, and b) a toy project to fiddle around with where I don’t have deadline pressure and am free to try more cutting edge technologies than at work (where, for example, we’re still limping along on Java 1.4 and IE 6, because for a large corporation upgrading tens of thousands of workstations is a headache of Brobdingnagian proportions).

For the first, there’s jsUnit. Whenever I wonder whether my profession really is making progress, given that many of the complaints in The Mythical Man-Month could have been written yesterday instead of thirty years ago, I comfort myself with the fact that whatever language I start fiddling with I can count on there being an xUnit test framework just a Google search away. jsUnit appears to be a fairly straightforward port of jUnit, so it should be easy enough to get the hang of. I also see that it comes with a mini server app that’ll let you incorporate jsUnit tests into Ant scripts, which should be useful if I ever try to sell my workplace on using it.

For the second, I’m contemplating rewriting my Python table rolling program as a plug-in for TiddlyWiki, because that’s mostly what I’ve been using lately for campaign notes for my RPGs, and it already has all the javascript objects and methods I’d need for self-modifying an html page based on the results of rolling on the tables. The more I look at it, the more I admire TiddlyWiki’s simplicity and flexibility, and it’s inspired me to a new approach to defining random tables for games. Where before I had a fairly elaborate special-purpose XML mark-up language, now I’m planning on just using standard HTML (with maybe a few extra attrs). You want a list of options? Make an HTML list, then just use a TiddlyWiki macro to roll a random result from the list.

Posted in Games, Software

An Important Safety Tip

  • Who are the aggressive drivers?
    • Watch out for cars with bumper stickers.

      That’s the surprising conclusion of a recent study by Colorado State University social psychologist William Szlemko. Drivers of cars with bumper stickers, window decals, personalized license plates and other “territorial markers” not only get mad when someone cuts in their lane or is slow to respond to a changed traffic light, but they are far more likely than those who do not personalize their cars to use their vehicles to express rage — by honking, tailgating and other aggressive behavior.

I think this is interesting on several levels, particularly (if you click through and read the excerpt) that it doesn’t seem to matter at all what the substance of the personalization is merely the fact that it is personalized, and the more stickers the more aggressive.  Also that it’s not whether you get angry behind the wheel, but whether you act it out.  So stay the hell away from that car plastered with “Visualize World Peace”, “You Can’t Hug a Child With Nuclear Arms”, “Let’s Not Elect W in 2004, Either!”, “My Other Car is The Millenium Falcon” and such over every inch of the back.

It’s not clear whether removing stickers and other territorial markers from your car will make you a less aggressive driver…it could, after all, be that the type of person who is prone to territorially marking a car is the type of person who is aggressive behind the wheel (correlation doesn’t imply causation, and all that), but I can certainly envision a psychologically plausible mechanism by which choosing to treat your vehicle as an extension of your personal territory influences you to take “threats” to that territory more personally and get more angry.  In which case, you might be able to influence your future behavior and moods by deliberately choosing to downplay the personalization and emphasize the simple utility aspect: a car is just a box on wheels that takes you where you want to go.

Posted in General

Microsoft, sucking by design

  • PC World – Business Center: Vista Security Is Annoying by Design
    • Ars picked up this tidbit at the recent RSA 2008 security conference in San Francisco, where David Cross, Microsoft’s product unit manager for Windows security, discussed the company’s security directions post-Vista. “The reason we put UAC into the platform was to annoy users. I’m serious,” Cross is quoted as saying.

Microsoft reasons that by annoying the users every time a program requires rights that MS thinks it shouldn’t, users will put pressure on developers to fix those programs.  This ignores the fact that users will, rightly, blame Microsoft and not the particular program for this misfeature, and that if they get annoyed enough, they’ll turn off the security entirely.  Even if the user thought to complain to the vendors of the program, and the vendor jumped right on doing something about it, the lag between the time it first started annoying the user (i.e. as soon as it was installed on Vista) and when a patch would be available to fix the “problem” would encourage the user to just turn the damn security feature off.  And then, if you don’t want to be nagged incessantly to turn it back on, you also end up turning off that warning too–which requires telling the Security Control Panel not to warn you about anything.  If Microsoft didn’t have the arrogant, overbearing culture that they do, they’d have designed it the way ZoneLabs designed their popup warnings about programs trying to do things that might be dangerous: allow the user to white-list the particular program if they know it’s safe, but re-inquire if something has changed about the program (indicating it might have been tampered with by a virus or trojan), and if you didn’t care about a particular class of warning message, disable just that message.

Posted in Software

Hopefully, this will put the issue to rest

  • Language Log » Advice from numbers
    • So we can quantify Arnold’s surmise. In spoken English, even in fairly formal settings, hopefully is not ambiguous, because it’s essentially never used as a manner adverb. In written English non-fiction, the manner-adverbial use is well below 10%, and probably below 5% in most genres. In fiction, the manner-adverbial usage is common, but largely limited to a few stereotyped cases — hopeful quotatives, hopeful looks and hopeful gestures account for the great majority of examples.

Of course, it probably won’t. I notice that of the first page of Google hits, every one of them mentions the disfavor in which it’s held, though thankfully only two of them fully endorse that view. Unfortunately, those two include the only two that are obviously about style (”Hopefully or I Hope?“, and “Lynch- Guide to Grammar and Style“) the rest of the top hits being dictionaries.


Posted in Linguistics

How Dumb Is That?

Prompted by a query by one of my friends as to whether we tended to say “dumb as a bag of hammers”, “dumb as a box of hair”, or “dumb as a box of hammers” I did the following Googling on “Dumb as a X”:

  • Dumb as a * : 502,000
  • Bag of hammers: 30,700
  • Box of hair: 2,960
  • Box of hammers: 1,600
  • Box of Rocks: 36,600
  • Bag of Rocks: 843
  • Bag of Hamsters: 2
  • A Shed: 2
  • A Post: 33,900
  • A Stump: 35,500
  • A Rock: 64,000
  • A Brick: 36,300

“Dumb as an *”:21,100

  • Ox: 675
  • Oyster: 18,400
  • Elephant: 2,860
Posted in Languages

The World’s Cutest Little Wiki

I’ve started using this for all my personal note-taking projects; the ability to just copy a page and have a new wiki that you can carry around on a thumb drive is nifty^2.

Posted in Software

Language Myths

I got this a little while back, and while it was enjoyable enough, I found it a bit repetitive. If you know anything about linguistics (even as little as I know), there’s not a lot here that will be new to you…I’d guess that you’d be able to outline the main argument of each essay if not all the details just from the title. Possibly the most surprising thing to me was encountering a myth that I’d never even heard before, that “In Appalachia They Speak Like Shakespeare.”

Possibly the most eye-rolling bit is treating all black people regardless of time or geography as belonging to the same culture in “Black Children are Verbally Deprived” (so the oratorical traditions that gave rise to Kwame Nkrumah, Odumegwu Ojukwu, or Desmond Tutu, or even Frederick Douglass are somehow supposed to count as part of the culture of African-American inner-city children); it would have been better to stick to Jesse Jackson, Barbara Jordan, and Martin Luther King as examples of the richness of at least semi-current African-American oration. But, beyond the question of whether the examples are actually relevant, the structure of the argument is off. Nobody would accept that inner-city African-American children aren’t economically deprived just because they’ve come from a culture that’s given rise to the multi-millionaires Michael Jackson, Bill Cosby, Michael Jordan, Oprah Winfrey, and so forth. The rest of the essay goes on to do a much better job, but it’s a really weak opening.

I’d say my favorite essay was “English Spelling Is Kattastroffik.” I think it’s the juiciest, with the most concrete examples, and so probably the only one I would have referred back to later.

I passed this book along yesterday via Bookmooch, so even though I wasn’t blown away by it, I hope its new owner finds it informative and useful.

Posted in Books, Languages, Linguistics


I’ve joined Bookmooch, an interesting book-trading social site. You join, add books you’re willing to give away to your inventory, and when somebody else wants to “mooch” the book you mail it to them (you pay the postage). Doing so accumulates points that you can then use to mooch books off of others. Economically, it probably works out to your advantage…it costs about $2.13 to send most paperbacks anywhere in the US, but since you need a 2:1 ratio of books sent to books received, that’ll be about $4.50-$5.00 including packing materials. Oddly, you get 1 point per book mailed, plus additional fractional points just for listing books, and it only costs 1 point to mooch a book; the 2:1 rule is separate from the points accounting, so it seems like over time you’ll accumulate more points than you can possibly use unless you’re mooching books from overseas (which cost extra points).

So far, I have sent out about eight books, and haven’t mooched any myself since I haven’t really dug through what’s available or bothered to enter a wish-list of books I know I’d like to mooch if they were available. On the other hand, since I’m mostly doing this because I can’t stand the idea of throwing out books even if I’ll never read them again, but pretty much every other way of disposing of books has gotten to be too much of a hassle (local libraries won’t even take paperbacks any more, used bookstores cherry-pick one or two titles, etc), I’m not too concerned. Eventually I’m sure I’ll mooch something…or, you know, get tired of it.

Posted in Books