Archive for September, 2005

Current affairs

Tim Dunlop on new Australian anti-terror laws (allowing for things like detaining a person for fourteen days without charge, entering premises and seizing property without a warrant, etc):

So there it is, the voguing session is over but the voguing continues. We have, as Peter Beattie put it, “draconian but necessary” new laws, and while the draconian bit is obvious, no-one has seen fit to explain why these new laws are necessary beyond saying things like the threat is unprecedented (not true) or that Britain does it (evidence against the effectiveness of such laws).

Getting away from this kind of crap seems like a good reason to look forward to the move to NZ, which while not devoid of political FUD at least isn’t compelled to foster a state of cognitive dissonance about why such dangers might be present in the first place (the Australian government refuses to acknowledge any link between our involvement in Iraq and the likelihood of a terrorist attack on our soil).

A prize quote from our much-beloved-statesman-like-bla-bla-bla prime minister, John Winston Howard:

We have to be careful of automatic sunset clauses when we don’t know exactly when the threat against which we are legislating is going to end.

Yes, watch out for those clauses which protect the public from knee-jerk policy making. Maybe the sneaky terrorists will pretend to go away, lulling us into a false sense of security, and then, just when we repeal the draconian laws… BAM!

Now that I think of it, I can’t help imagining that when they come up for review in ten years the laws will be retained, regardless of the level of terrorist activity. If bad shit is happening, we will of course keep them because, you know, bad shit is happening! But if everything’s hunky-dory with everyone feeling safe as houses, we’ll still keep them, because maybe they’re what’s kept us safe…?

iPod: The Hankering

I must buy an ipod nano...

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Update: In case you missed it the first time around, be sure to check out this brilliant ipod sketch from the end of 2004…

Creative Juices

I must think of an idea...

Other people’s images

The animated gifs on b3ta are almost always fantastic, often making me laugh out loud. You can probably see why this one in particular appeals to me– as well as to Damien Katz, whose post I got it from.

Click here to see more anims from the same guy (the illinois enema bandit)…

Meanwhile, I’ve also been screwing with the look of intepid again, trying to work out why I can’t come up with a nice design that doesn’t look too much like a million other blogs. Of course, every tweak I make takes me back toward the fixed width + artfully blended header image look– maybe I’m just not original enough.

Interesting to note that I just looked up the original source image for my new header and realized it’s by Philip Greenspun, a legendary computer science guy (I found it via google images), so that’s kind of like a coincidence, eh? I’ll add a permanent credit if I decide to keep it…

Actual Numbers

Preparing for my big move/change has inspired me to share some statistics which perhaps normally I wouldn’t be so forthcoming about, namely: how many people have downloaded my software?

The following table shows the top downloads from both www.jujusoft.com and drivey.com since July 2003. Some of the numbers are impressive, others are quite lame. Many files listed here have not been available for some time, eg the sample ebooks– I would have added the individual timespans for each file, but such information is very tedious to extract.

File

Downloads

Notes

Drivey 0.13 73,785 the slashdotted version
Drivey 0.15 7,595 post-slashdot, cleaned up a bit (no audio)
Drivey 0.12 2,728 pre-slashdot
JujuTool 1.06 530 schizophrenic little tool, dodgy but useful
JujuEdit 1.43 454 text/binary editor
Drivey 0.02 406
Drivey 0.10 256
JujuEdit 1.42 253
Drivey 0.11 247
scrnplay.zip 191 screenplay template for MS word
ps_plugs.zip 184 grid rendering plugin for Photoshop 6+
JujuEdit 1.31 172 last year’s version
BookReader 0.98 161 eBook reader (see here for download)
jujucalc.exe 160 terrible calculator
The Time Machine 143 e-book (as self-contained exe)
elibrary 1.1 97 not available
The War of the Worlds 87 e-book
Dorian Gray 71 e-book
Treasure Island 66 e-book
elibrary 1.08 63
Huck Finn 61 e-book
BookReader 0.97 61
Tom Sawyer 60 e-book
Wizard of Oz 55 e-book
jujuedit 1.41 48
jujuedit 1.301 44
BookReader 0.96 44
george_demo.zip 40 old demo featuring early software 3d tinkering

Note that the “serious” applications are somewhat dwarfed in popularity by Drivey, even before the slashdotting. After three years online [!] JujuEdit is only just now starting to increase its numbers, largely due to a couple of recent mentions on tech sites (see here and here ). Since I use JujuEdit all the time it will definitely survive regardless of the numbers, although updates will probably be minor [nothing new there].

Now that I really look at this table, the numbers for BookReader are so low I’m wondering if there’s some sort of error with my reading of the server logs– people ask about it a lot since version 0.98 expired, so I ended up modifying the exe to never expire and posting it here. I do want to get one more version out, with less confusing interface and UTF-8 support, but it may be some time before that actually appears.

Set it free…?

Several people have asked me why I don’t open source [GPL, etc] my projects, especially if I’m not going to have the time to work on them. It’s something I’ve tried to consider, but to be blunt the idea just doesn’t thrill me– and since once it’s done you can’t take it back I would want to be pretty damn certain before taking that course. In fact, the only reason I’m considering it at all is because people occasionally hassle me to do so, but if I were to do it then surely that would invite more people to hassle me, with questions about the code itself…?

NB I strongly support the notion of free system level code [code that defines the platform or environment] but where applications are concerned... not so much. If anyone wants to change my mind about this, a good place to start would be to point out some real world examples of open source applications which have successfully made the transition from proprietary code, and maybe I'll think more about it.

Quirky indeed

is an animated kids show which airs daily in Australia on ABC TV. From the production company’s website: “Molly’s Gang follows the bizarre adventures of a quirky group of alien characters from the Planet Gallyfrip.”

Pictured here is the alien known as Gavin. This particular image was photographed directly off the screen, since it seems near impossible to find a decent picture of him online. Gavin does at least get a mention on this page:

“This friendly series is always bright and busy and little details catch the eye, like the way the film makers have given Phobo a cute Teddy Bear to carry around, and there’s Gavin’s preference for sliding down their tree house chute headfirst.”

A quick online search for others who may have also found the shape of Gavin’s head to be reminiscent of a man’s part¹ turned up nothing– surely it’s not just me…?

On a related note: I was disappointed to learn that my long-standing belief regarding rude character names² featured in the classic Captain Pugwash is merely an urban legend.

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1. Penis

2. Master Bates, Seaman Stains and Roger the Cabin Boy

Certain Changes

Well, what started as a very bad day turned into quite a decent one, due to the fact that I finally came to an arrangement with regard to certain unpaid taxes. This has been such a load on my mind; vaguely lurking in the background for the last few years and finally surfacing in a recent letter from the taxation office. Yikes, I thought, and so filed my returns… and then it all got so much worse.

Compound interest is an ugly, ugly thing when you’re at the wrong end of it.

B = P × (1 + r)n

But at least I finally knew the damage; things could only get better… or so I thought. In fact they got worse still, because it turns out not only did the tax office want an amazingly huge sum of money; they wanted it right away– all of it!

Anyway, long story short, after a few unhappy phone calls [and restless nights, including a particularly nasty dream about having my organs harvested in lieu of payment] this morning I finally talked to someone who understood my position well enough to agree to a provisional payment plan, which at least gives me breathing space and the option to apply for private finance as my situation changes.

And speaking of my situation– it is indeed changing ;)

Again, until I’ve properly started my new job I don’t want to jinx it by revealing too many details; suffice it to say that it is in an area both familiar and challenging, and it is also in another country [although not so far from here– only a three hour flight].

I know it probably sounds strange, but I’m kinda looking forward to not being my own boss for a change, because to date I clearly suck at it. While certainly this new arrangement will mean a lot less time working on my own software, it will also mean a lot less time spent not working on my own software, if you know what I mean.

And I get paid!

Revolting the Stars

An interstellar space plane carries unsuspecting galactic citizens to their complicated doom, 75 million years ago [artist's impression]. Read more about evil tyrant vast and impractical crimes at Wikipedia…

nano

I’ve never owned an iPod, and the is the nicest looking one yet, so maybe the time has come…

I’m boring me!

Still haven’t quite got back into my blogging groove since the upgrade– Writing too much about blogging for a start. Also I’m in the middle of some big changes/plans, so there’s a lot on my mind right now. As things are finalized I will write more about it, but for now I will just say it might involve a new job! But I will tell more in coming weeks…

Another reason I’ve not much to say is that the New Orleans thing has depressed the hell out of me… reminding me of that old saying about civilization being “three meals away from barbarism” [also anarchy, revolution, etc ].

Tags don’t totally suck

I mostly agree with Darren Barefoot that Technorati Tags are a Lousy Kludge, being no substitute for that almost mythical context-sensitive search we’ve been waiting for so long. are too reminiscent of the old META KEYWORD element, which was used, abused, then abandoned for having become utterly worthless.

That said, there is at least one way in which tags are useful in my opinion, and that is for enabling localized ad hoc categorization, as opposed to defining and maintaining a taxonomy of all things. I am considering replacing the category system recently implemented on my own blog with a more laissez-faire system using tags, just for my own use. This way there would be no risk of abuse, since it would be only my blog indexing my tags.

Of course I could simply implement a category-on-demand feature– so that each entry names as many categories as seems appropriate, with any that don’t already exist being created automatically. Such a system would be close to what I want, but still I think the tag philosophy has an advantage in that a tag cannot exist without at least one entry to use it, so tags aren’t just created on demand, they exist on demand– it’s a small distinction, but for people like me who tend to get stuck in a loop deciding which box to put things in I think it’s kind of liberating.

NB: I wrote this entry a few days ago then forgot to post it– I see now that a lot of this stuff is already covered in the comments on the original article. Note also that the idea that anyone wouldn’t recognize the origin of the phrase “ is making me feel old…

New Orleans, OMFG

On the day struck I was going to post an aerial photo of the Louisiana Superdome and make some glib comment wishing the people inside good luck, and had even considered referring to it jokingly as the Thunderdome. I’m kind of glad I didn’t now, since I had no idea it could get as bad as it sounds. People like to think that a crisis can bring out the best in them, but from here I see only fear and desperation, exacerbated by delays in logistical support from the world’s greatest military-industrial complex.

In theory the US has been planning for the possibility of surprise city-wide attacks from ter’rists, and yet the response in New Orleans to what is essentially the predictable outcome of a known contingency appears shockingly inadequate. Seriously, how secure can anyone feel right now…?

NB: Rory is the only blogger I’ve seen so far who has the cajones to crack wise about the disaster right now: Katrina – The Kover Up