Sunday, December 20, 2009

Mostly Tech Post

But first, a word from our sponsors:

Yes indeed; it's in the 20's this morning! I feel like Walter Matthau in Grumpy Old Men, except the snow storm that blasted the east coast missed us completely. Not a single flake. Woohoo!


I've been living with Win7 for a couple weeks now. There are a few glitches, but for the most part, I have seen no reason to change my initial impression: Best Windows Ever. If you have Vista, GET IT! If you have XP on a fairly new machine, GET IT! I know I should be all impressed with it because of the improvements under the hood to make it more stable and secure than either XP or Vista. But what I like most is that from what I can tell, Microsoft has pulled its Human Factors division out of the moth balls and put it front and center. This is the group that takes normal people off the street, sits them in front of a computer with a dude in a lab coat watching them taking notes of the problems they are having. And then the magic happens: the coders actually FIX THE PROBLEM! If most people look under the View menu for something that the coders thought should be under the Format menu, guess what code monkeys; MOVE IT! Or put it both places. That this has been done with 7 is so obvious, it sort of pisses you off when you realize it was something Microsoft could have done two versions ago. But that's what happens when code monkeys run the show: it logically belongs under the Format menu and YOU WILL COMPLY WITH MY WISHES!! (The best depiction of this attitude can be found on any episode of The Big Bang.)

Bottom line, it doesn't matter what could have been done, it has now been done. GET IT.

I've also had a few weeks inside Google's Chrome browser. There is a lot to like about it. There is a lot be annoyed with. Whether the like's outweigh the annoy's is going to be a personal choice. For the record, I'm typing this in Firefox. Chrome is fun, fast, lightweight. The minimal interface works well with web applications like Facebook where you want the browser to mostly disappear. But there are some serious defects. First, no plug-ins. This is being addressed as we speak, so this is in no way a deal-breaker, but it is jarring to load a web site and have the content obscured by ads, most of which you can't close and in fact if you accidentally drag your mouse over them, they try to take over (looking hard in your direction, Second, the text rendering sucks. I didn't notice this until I went back to Firefox. Web sites were suddenly easier to read at lower zoom levels. That's when I noticed that text in Chrome was fuzzy with colored fringing when zoomed in. Not good when you already have bad eyes. Related to this, zooming seems to break things. The map at the right showing the location of recent visitors stops working. Drop-down menus in Yahoo mail appear on the wrong side of the screen. The last major annoyance for me also relates to the zoom function: Chrome doesn't remember the zoom level on a web site. It doesn't sound like much, but it really gets to be a pain after a while. The whole point of Chrome is that you aren't supposed to notice it, and then here is this big, flashing neon sign screaming, "Feed me, Seymour!" every time you open a web site.

Reading that, you would think that the decision for me is a slam dunk. Well. Yesterday, I had iTunes running with the Visualizer at full screen. I noticed it kept hanging up. That seemed odd given I'm running a quad core with 4GB RAM. I killed Visualizer and saw my CPU pegged at 100%. That can be a sign someone is trying to kick down the door, so to speak and I had something try to sneak in through iTunes a couple days ago. I immediately bring up Task Manager to see what was going on. Firefox was using one entire core for itself. Combined with the two cores I donate to World Community Grid and the half-dozen other apps that were open, the computer was running flat out. So I start playing around with Firefox; enabling and disabling various add-ons, starting it, ending it, switching back and forth between Firefox and Chrome and just generally mucking about. Task manager tells the tale: Even with a dozen tabs open, Chrome never used more than a couple percent of the CPU. Hey Mozilla; guess what you guys need to do some serious work on? The difference seems to be that Chrome starts a new process for each tab that goes away when the tab is closed. Firefox is just one giant blob growing larger with every tab you open. That wouldn't be so bad, but Firefox is like government spending; a one-way ratchet that only increases consumption of memory and CPU until you shut it down and restart it.

So I'm seriously torn here. On the one hand, Firefox is like that really comfy shirt your wife is always trying to throw in the trash because of the huge pizza sauce stain on the front. I've used it for so long, it just feels right. On the other hand, Chrome is that flashy British sports car that is just flat-out fun. Right up until you try to take it to the grocery store and realize that a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread completely fills the trunk. I'll probably bounce back and forth, using Firefox for my heavy-duty web browsing, but have Chrome open with the stuff I leave up all day like Facebook and Twitter. That way, I can close Firefox when I'm doing other things, especially CPU-intensive stuff like full-screen video. And then just wait to see what happens with the next versions of Chrome and Firefox. If I had to bet, I'd say that unless the next version of Firefox really blows people's socks off, Chrome is going to eat their lunch.

Enough geek stuff. Time for some ranting. When you first see this article, you may think I'm going off on the climate thing again. But read it all. This should be disturbing to anyone. Call me paranoid, but the New World Order is here, and it's everything the tinfoil-hat crowd promised. At least there was some comic relief as the Gore Effect continues unabated. It has been said that those the gods would destroy they first make mad. Maybe this is the gods trying to drive Gore over the edge. One can always hope.

And in the "Big Corporations Run By Idiots" category, we have The North Face taking legal action against a college freshman for creating a parody clothing line called The South Butt. The result is the same as always, fame a fortune for the kid and the corporate lawyers come off looking like the complete douche bags that they are:
He [Winlemann, owner of The South Butt] started with an online business and then began selling them [clothing items] at Ladue Pharmacy in St. Louis. Ladue's owner now acts as Winkelmann's sales manager and makes a small salary based on commission.

Seeing the burgeoning company as a way to help his parents -- who had experienced some financial hardship in the weakened economy -- pay for his college tuition, Winkelmann went a step farther.

In 2007, The South Butt was incorporated with the state of Missouri, with the help of Winkelmann's stockbroker father....

He estimated selling up to 200 items in the past couple years, but now he has sold that much -- if not more -- in the past day or so. He's now rushing to fill back orders and get new inventory manufactured.

I feel sorry for the North Face public relations people who have to somehow spin this into anything other than the complete disaster that this is. If I ever become CEO of a company (giggle, snort), all the lawyers will wear body suits with a big target on the chest and the PR guys will all be armed with pellet guns. Strike a blow for common sense. Buy something at The South Butt.

Last but not least, I see Michigan has struck yet-another blow against property rights. One. More. Time. This is not, as the linked article stupidly suggests, a battle between the rights of smokers, vs. non-smokers. This is about property rights and the difference between public spaces owned by the government (such as parks) and private property open to the public (like bars, restaurants or hotels). If the government has no right to dictate your actions in your own home, they have no right to dictate how the owner of a hotel or bar runs his business. If you don't like being exposed to cigarette smoke, then by all means ban smoking from your home and only patronize businesses that do the same (which is a great many of them, something the article glosses right over). The funniest part of the whole thing is that the same people who are all for smoking bans would go apoplectic if the government passed a similar law banning, say, having more guests in your home than can be safely evacuated in a fire. Property rights are one of the foundational elements of our republic. I will repeat: this cannot end any way but badly.

I should probably wrap this up and try to get some other stuff done. I have a bunch of photos that I need to get uploaded to Flikr, some accounting, and about six jobs to send out resumes for. Enjoy the weekend!

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