journal for 2003-02-20

this is pathetic

Why am I not writing anything anymore? mdxi had an interesting question for himself, on the same subject:

Why don’t I write interesting things anymore?

For a while, I was in the habit of writing nearly every night. I need to find another ritual to tie that to. Maybe if I forced myself to write an entry while brushing my teeth. All I need is a toothpasteproof keyboard!

plumcake mark II

Woo! Gloria likes her new computer.

Her primary workstation has, up until now, been plumcake. Plumcake was a K6-2/533, which you’d think would be fine. Unfortunately, it only had 64MB of RAM and was picky about memory. Unfortunatley, it used 8MB of that for video. Unfortunately, it was a Compaq Presario. It was, all in all, quite unfortunate.

I picked up a Shuttle SS40, a Duron 1200, and a quarter gig of RAM in secret. The case is really really slick. I considered something like it for humptydumpty, but I finally went with something more beefy. Still, they match! Today, I took plumcake-I in to work under the pretext of “reinstalling stuff to make it faster or something” and brought home the basically completed plumcake-II.

[[o s:ii-on_desk.jpg c:”plumcake mark II” l:”/images/hardware/plumcake”

Getting it to work was a bitch! It seemed to boot without problems yesterday, but it stopped after the BIOS splash crap. I figured that made sense, since it had no boot media. Well, today when I installed the hard and optical drives, it just didn’t work. It’d show BIOS then die, or show a cursor and then die, or just do nothing. I was getting really worked up, I tried a whole mess of different configurations, and finally resorted to tech support— who would not be in for hours. I checked Shuttle’s web page, but it was b0rked. Finally, I found a deep link to a page offering “support,” which consisted of crappy FAQs and PDFs of the Engrish user manuals. One link, though, suggested I look at Deja News, which made me realize that there’s a USENET group for Shuttle mainboards. Five minutes there had the answer!

The SS40 has this k-nifty “heat pipe” thinger that conducts heat from the CPU and heat sink out to the exhaust fan. It’s weird and cool. Unfortunately, it’s not a perfectly right angle, which means that it can pull the processor out of alignment. I’d screwed it in nice and tight, which put enough pressure on the CPU to cause it to randomly (and quickly) fail during use. I loosened the screws, and everything Just Worked. I really liked putting this machine together. The form factor is slick, and it’s just cute. I really think it was the Right Choice for Gloria. I’m, like, pretty stoked about the whole experience.

recent retail experience

So, a few annoying retail experiences:

TigerDirect, from whom I bought the Shuttle SS40, uses IIS, and their site keeps freaking falling down. It was hard to order, but I got through it because of their decent price. Then, their emails are all inline HTML. SpamAssassin marked them as spam, and I almost missed them. Then, their shipment notification was three or four days late and contained no tracking number. Then, their web site referred me to my email for the tracking number.

How do e-businesses get so messed up? Isn’t their goal to prevent me from needing to call them?

Brick and mortar stores haven’t proven much better. I tried to buy some CDs for Gloria for Valentine’s Day, last week. I like to support local businesses, so I went to Play It Again, where I had to wait while the boss was on the phone. See, he was using the line they use for credit card verifications. I waited for about ten minutes while the clerk apologized—but didn’t go tell the manager that someone was waiting. Finally, I left. I was so irked! I don’t know if it was more upsetting that the manager was wasting my time or that the clerk wasn’t eager to get my sale through.

Then there was the clerk at the Moravian store who’s just, well, weird. I could cope with that. She did forage through random drawers to find the misplaced copy of Urinetown, which, by the way, is good.


Man, we got some serious snow. I think it must’ve been at least two feet in about thirty-six hours. Gloria and I stayed home from work for two days, did some shovelling, and mostly relaxed. I got some good pictures of the whole event. (I’m really getting Gloria’s money’s worth from this camera!) The snow was annoying, but also fun. The ice that we’ve had the past two days hasn’t been as much fun. I fell down going to work today. Fortunately, I fell on the very very bottom of the scary metal stairs going off the Fayhe. I dropped plumcake-I, and damaged (possibly fatally) its DVD-ROM drive. Fortunately, the parts I needed to salvage survived. Even better, I survived too.

We’re expecting a lot of rain, possibly freezing, this weekend. I hope it melts the snow, and I hope it doesn’t lead to mass flooding and havok and bad things. Trevor’s supposed to move, soon, and the snow and rain do not bode well.


I built a new server today and yesterday, which is good because it frees my workstation to be just a workstation. I keep lots of crap off of my workstation, and (more urgently) I can reformat it and get rid of the dozens of not-quite-uninstallable applications. Oh, the ways I hate what Microsoft has brought forth upon the world!

The boss is all hot for me to run XP, but can provide no clear reason that it’s better beyond, “It does stuff better.” I ascribe this to the will-to-upgrade that proprietary software vendors work to instill in their consumers. Upgrades have a cost, even if the cost is not monetary. If the benefits don’t outweight the cost, why upgrade? Proprietary software has done a lot of work in making the ability to upgrade later the benefit of upgrading now. That is, by upgrading now you ensure that you have an upgrade path later. This is nothing more than planned obsolescence, and consumers should not stand for it.

The thing I dread more than the prospect of using WinXP on a daily basis (since, after all, Win2k already curdles my blood) is the prospect of continuing to develop projects on IIS. IIS has to be the shittiest HTTP server I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot of shitty HTTP servers. It just can’t do anything, it’s very difficult to extend, it’s poorly documented, and it’s just awkward. I played with Apache 2.0 on Win32 a little, recently, and it has come a long way! It really felt like it belonged in Win32; it wasn’t at all like the early 1.x series’ awkward port. Even late 1.3 Apache had been alright, but this was slick. It took me five minute to get SSPI auth working. Slick!


Working in this proprietary development environment continues to depress me. I’m getting edgy and a little bitter, I think. I’d like to think that, were I working on the interesting (and useful!) technologies that are around now, I’d be building my skills quite a bit faster than I am presently. Of course, it would probably help if I took the time to build some real skeleton pieces of framework for development. Then again, given the amount of time that needs to be spent solving normally trivial problems, who has time to be proactive?

I learned, today, that Win2K has no built-in equivalent of “netstat -pln”; I’m reminded of Bones crying, “I’m working with stone knives and bear skins!” I feel like my potential is rotting away.

Of course, it would be more depressing to find work in a GNU-based office and find out that I’m not capable of learning the things I want to learn. Still, I’d rather fail at interesting things than fail (or, really, succeed) at pointless crap.

I need a drink!


Work on my IntroComp entry progresses well. I feel like I’m mostly down to fine-tuning, except for one NPC that requires some minor implementation. I feel challenged, now, to plan for the whole game. I got some playtesting help from maga on the IF talker, and he all but challenged me to really deliver on my extremely boastful claim that this game will be “An Interactive Theodicy.” I’m hoping to be able to do so. If nothing else, this is an excuse to reread some C.S. Lewis.

I’d also like to get some more work done on Mars, if only to play around with something that is ambitious in required code rather than in required prose. Also, I just want to get those robots working!

I got Gloria to play some I-0 yesterday, and I think she liked it, although we were both stuck in it for a while. Maybe I can find more fun games like that and slowly hook her in! Muahaha, etc.

I think that’s all I have to say, for now. Note to self: wouldn’t it be easier to say these things a little bit at a time? I must strive to write an entry every day!

Written on February 20, 2003