The Night Watch (Programmer Humor)

Ran across this article/story recently (it’s a PDF link) and had to share some of the more entertaining little excerpts from it – though you might need to be a programmer/sysadmin in order to appreciate the humor in some of these…

Systems people discover bugs by waking up and discovering that their first-born children are missing and “ETIMEDOUT” has been written in blood on the wall.

This is a sorrow that lingers, because a 2 byte read is the only thing that both Republicans and Democrats agree is wrong.

When it’s 3 A.M., and you’ve been debugging for 12 hours, and you encounter a virtual static friend protected volatile templated function pointer, you want to go into hibernation and awake as a werewolf and then find the people who wrote the C++ standard and bring ruin to the things that they love.

One time I tried to create a list<map<int>>, and my syntax errors caused the dead to walk among the living. Such things are clearly unfortunate.

Honestly I can never get enough of good programmer humor like this.

I Love Living in the Future

We are living in the future, and it is awesome!

Sometimes I have to just stop and be amazed at the things we can do these days – things that would have seemed like futuristic science fiction when I was a kid (or even when I was in college).

For example, just this weekend I was doing some cleaning around the house (cleaning up the bunnies area) and I wanted to have some relaxing, chillout music on while I worked.

For me, the easiest way to accomplish this was to boot up my netbook, hook it into my livingroom stereo (via the same cable I use to hook up my iPod), and just play some streaming music from Shoutcast (the Digitally Imported Chillout Dreams stream, to be exact).

So that is exactly what I did.

netbook + wifi + streaming radio + home stereo = awesome

Simple, easy, and straightforward – and it doesn’t take a whole bunch of complicated steps to get going, nor does it take very long (just long enough for my netbook to boot up – which is pretty fast – and to load the radio stream).

It is just amazing to me that this little computer can sit there, pulling music literally from thin air. And of course, the fact that streaming Internet radio gives me an almost unlimited library of music to pull from doesn’t hurt, either.

Now, while this was pretty darned cool, it did make me think of something that was… not so cool.

I have a Windows Media Center Extender right there, just to the right of the Wii in the picture. And the whole point of the Media Center Extender is to do exactly this sort of thing. So why wasn’t I using it?

Well, the short answer is because it’s too slow, too hard, and it doesn’t work with the streaming radio stations I like. The Media Center Extender takes a long time to boot up (longer than my netbook), the interface is slow and clunky, the remote control is awful, trying to enter text is an exercise in frustration, and getting streaming radio to work on it is… well let’s just say “not easy” and leave it at that. You need to add special add-ins to the Media Center PC (not the Extender), which of course must be downloaded, installed, set up in advance, etc. In the end, it’s just not worth the effort.

(In it’s defense, I don’t think the Media Center Extender was ever meant to work with streaming radio from the Internet – it was meant to stream music from a local Media Center PC instead… but really, if it can do that, it should be able to do both. But I digress…)

Anyway, despite the failings of the Windows Media Center Extender, listening to streaming music in my home while I clean is pretty darned neat.

The future is pretty awesome. I love living in the future!

Don’t Be a Slave to Technology

Despite being a huge computer geek, I am not a slave to technology – and I would say in today’s world it is increasingly important NOT to be a slave to technology… despite the fact that an increasing number of people are.

It might come as a surprise to some people to hear me say that I am not a slave to technology – after all, I’m a self-described “computer geek.” You’d think, therefore, that I walk around with an iPhone or Blackberry (or both!) strapped to my chest at all times, checking email and looking up information on-line everywhere I go.

However, you couldn’t be farther from the truth.

While it’s true that I am a major computer geek, and I would love to have (say) a nice little netbook for looking up information, sending email, writing blog posts, etc., the fact of the matter is that it’s because I’m a computer geek that I’m not a slave to technology.

Because I’m confident about it, I don’t allow it to control me – I control it.

For example, I know many people with mobile email who are, quite frankly, addicted to it (think: crackberry). They’re always checking email – all the time – no matter where they are. Even if I had a mobile email device (which I don’t), I wouldn’t be checking email all the time. As it is, I don’t check email often, even when I’m at my computer. I’m confident enough with the technology to know that I don’t need to answer every single email at the moment it comes in – that I don’t need to be “on-line” all the time. I control the technology – I use it when I want to, not the other way around.

Another example is when the power goes out – for people who are slaves to technology, to computers, the Internet, email, Twitter, social networking, what have you, the power going out is like having their “fix” cut off – they don’t know what to do. Without email, chat, or whatever, they’re lost. They’re so badly enslaved that they don’t know what to do when they are “freed” from it, for whatever reason.

As for me, even though I spend my entire day at the computer (and often much of the evening, too), writing code, answering emails, being online, writing blog posts like this one and so on – when the power goes out, I just shrug, grab a book from my bookshelf, and go read. Or, if it’s dark, I’ll go for a drive, or a walk, or just plain go to bed.

I control the technology around me – it doesn’t control me.

For many people today, the opposite is true. It’s worth it to sit and really take a look at yourself and see whether you are one of those people – whether you’re a slave to technology. Even in today’s connected world, it’s important to be able to just leave it all behind sometimes, to just “let go.” It’s the difference between being controlled and being in control.

Bluetooth and the Motorola V3 RAZR

I’ve had a Motorola V3 RAZR phone for a while now, and being the geek that I am, I’ve always been interested in the more technical aspects of the phone, such as file transfers, Bluetooth connectivity, and custom-made ring tones (not the ones you buy, but the ones you can make yourself).

I’ve always known that this phone supports that sort of stuff, but it’s been hard to find information on it. For instance, it turns out that although you can find the USB cable needed to hook the phone up to your computer, you cannot transfer pictures, movies, music, or contacts to/from the phone without special software from Motorola (the “Motorola Phone Tools” suite or some such nonsense). And of course, that software is not available for free – you have to buy it (along with the cable) from Motorola.

I got a chance to check out that software once, but it seemed awfully buggy – the program would hang at times when accessing the phone, and you’d have to reboot the entire computer to get the connection to work again. It just seemed like a half-complete piece of software – something that needed a bit more polish (and a whole lot of QA testing) before releasing it for sale. (If it was a free download I could possibly excuse the poor performance.) So needless to say, I never forked out the cash for that program (or the cable), and therefore was never able to do some neat things with my phone.

Now, not too long ago I finally picked up a Bluetooth dongle for my PC. I had intended to just use it as a way to get more use out of my Bluetooth headset – using it for both my cell phone and my Internet telephony on my computer. Although that did work (mostly – the connection was full of static at times), I discovered something called “OBEX File Transfer,” which is apparently a way of connecting with Bluetooth-enabled phones.

Much to my surprise, it worked surprisingly well! Better, in fact, than Motorola’s own phone software! I could now transfer the pictures I’d taken on my phone to my computer in a few seconds, and upload short MP3 files to my phone to use as ring tones. After looking around a bit more, I even discovered that I could send contact items directly to my phone – neat!

So, long story short, it turns out that if you want to connect to a Motorola V3 RAZR phone (and probably the entire RAZR line, but the V3 is all I have), use Bluetooth, not USB.

Go figure!

I’m Sorry, but Windows Vista still seems too slow

I was downloading a file in Windows Vista today – I would say it was a “medium-sized” file that took no time at all on my super-fast cable modem connection to download.

However, once it was done, this popped up:

Calculating Time Remaining

This new dialog took longer to calculate the time remaining to copy the file from whatever insane temp folder Internet Explorer had used to its actual user-selected destination than it did to download the original file (which was not that small).

I just don’t understand why this takes so long! It literally took less time to download the file from the Internet than it did to put it in its final destination. Shouldn’t the reverse be true?

Yet another reason why I am not upgrading to Vista. With any luck, by the time I’m forced to upgrade, Microsoft will have come out with Vista’s successor – which I hope will be, y’know, better than its predecessor (unlike Vista itself).