Category Archives: Opinion

Responding to search terms

Got a few good search terms to respond to again, so here goes:

twiki install centos 5.1: Don’t do it unless you know what you’re getting into. I had a bad security experience likely caused by Twiki, and I’ve seen a lot of people reporting similar experiences that they are convinced was Twiki’s fault. At the very least, google “twiki security” before you do it. The codebase is much too large for a single person to audit it in a reasonable amount of time. If you need a good Wiki in general, give Moin a try. Consider using a Wiki hosting service, where someone else has to worry about the security of the underlying machine. Or just don’t use a Wiki at all — unless you truly want what a Wiki in specific has to offer.

iphone unofficial toolchain easiest way: There is no easy way. There is drudge’s way that I point to in another entry, but aside from that I didn’t find any way that was at all easy. binutils can be convinced to generate (possibly-working) tools for arm-apple-darwin fairly easily, but I think GCC is a bit trickier. Don’t try to do it on your own unless you want to spend a lot of time making the tools work rather than using them.

do peanuts have gluten?: Nope, peanuts don’t have gluten in them. They may have gluten on them, though — it depends on how they’ve been processed or flavoured. When in doubt, read the label and assume that “spices” includes something gluten-based. I’ve seen some with and some without gluten, so have a look around.

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Responses to search queries

Something I enjoy doing every now and then is looking through the search terms that bring people to my site or my blog. Many are rather mundane, but there are always a few that are interesting. Here are my responses to a couple of them.

hiveminder windows mobile 6: I just got a new mobile with Windows Mobile 6 Professional on it, so I was actually able to try this out. I haven’t tried anything too fancy, but it seems to work just fine, so long as you are using the Hiveminder mobile interface. I haven’t tried the desktop interface on my mobile yet, and probably won’t.

opera 8.65 is too expensive: No, it’s not. It’s a very well-designed browser, and USD25 is a pretty good deal for software on most mobile platforms. I tested the software for over a week before I bought it and made sure it did all of the things that I wanted it to do. I ran into very few problems, which is another thing that sets it apart from much other mobile software — I seem to have a knack for killing pieces of software others have no problem with. I’ve been using Opera for months on my mobile with very few hiccups.

If you’re really dead-set on the opinion that Opera isn’t worth the money, simply use the browser that came with your device for a while longer. It won’t take that long to convince yourself. The only stock mobile browser that I have found to be worth its weight in gold is Safari as shipped on the iPod Touch (and presumably the iPhone), but even that has the price of the mobile device attached to it.

Finally, if you’re absolutely sure that a USD25 browser is a travesty, write your own. That’ll show ’em.

Birds and photographers

Today was great. We managed to get out of the house and go to Piper Spit in Burnaby Lake. The weather was beautiful, which has the unfortunate effect of bringing everyone out of the woodwork. In most places this isn’t a huge deal, but the reality of small spaces with lots of people isn’t much fun when everyone has a camera.

There were a couple of photographers down there today who had Canon 1Ds and huge lenses set up down on the mud, off the pedestrian area. I find this behaviour annoying, not only because it makes other people think the behaviour is okay, but because you can tell a lot about a photographer by how they interact with the environment where they’re shooting.

A lot of people have heard me say that I love photography, but hate photographers. This isn’t to say that I am annoyed by every other person who picks up a camera. Rather, I can’t stand photographers who are entirely money-driven and don’t care about the environment they shoot in or those things that live in it.

Sure, the occasional photographer trampling the mud when the water is low won’t hurt much. The problem is that if people see one person doing it, they tend to think it’s okay for them to do it, too. I made mention of this to the photographers and pointed out a kid who had decided to go down there, and got a couple of lame excuses. They said it was the only kid they’d seen do that in four hours, but that isn’t really the point — one kid feeding the birds does little damage, but three kids running about trying to pick up goslings is dangerous for both goslings and the kids.

In the end I engaged one of the photographers in conversation, made my point, let him say his thing, and left. I was unconvinced by his argument, as I’m sure he was unconvinced by mine. I think that following a set of ethical field practices is a must, but I can certainly understand that it gets in the way of shooting for money. Oh well — it certainly wasn’t the first time I’d encountered parasitic photographers (street photographers are among the worst offenders, and I live in a city with lots of them), and it definitely won’t be the last.

Experimentation

Patrick Logan wrote a particularly good blog entry on experimentation.

His view matches my own — experimentation is good, and it’s something I used to do a lot more of when there were fewer books, websites, blogs, and frameworks to rely on. Since those have come about I’ve spent more time looking things up than I have working through them. There are good and bad points, obviously.

On the good side are the quick solutions or at least quick head starts on a solution that can be found from the huge number of resources. My job values TTR (Time To Resolution) above almost all else, and the great oracle Google can be trusted to help point the way. It’s also easy to figure out which of the many solutions is most likely to work. Simply seeing how many times it’s repeated and by who can tell a lot.

On the bad side, I have felt increasingly disconnected from my coding, even to the point of avoiding it altogether for a while. There wasn’t a lot of joy there any more. Ruby on Rails says to do a job this way, Django says to do it another. People stop coding, start drinking the framework kool-aid (and not just web application frameworks, either), and start bitching each other out and trying to claim superiority because their favourite framework/library/methodology is obviously the “one true way”.

This experience has led me almost full-circle. I jumped on the “modern programming” bandwagon, got filled to the brim with other peoples’ opinions of how things should be done, avoided doing much at all because some huge percentage of what was going on in a lot of communities was nothing more than advocacy, and then turned my back on those communities and their frameworks and opinions and started coding for myself again.

Sure, people writing code for a living can get pushed into believing that there is no excuse for experimentation or learning through experience when the quick and easy answer will do 80% of what you want 90% of the time. My guess is that if you look at two teams of programmers, one of each mindset (experimentation vs. copy-and-paste from their favourite code resource or going by the (cook)book) you would find that the copy-and-pasters will finish a task first, but the experimenters will do better work.

Of course, that’s just my opinion. I’m willing to discuss it, but I’m not willing to argue it. I’d rather be coding.