Saturday, 12 April 2008

QOTD - Saturday April 12th

Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.

"Would it still offend you if I questioned someone else's beliefs instead?"

There is a program, very famous, on Unix-related systems called "fortune". You run it at a terminal (command line) and it outputs a cookie drawn at random from its collection. For example:

"Anything cut to length will be too short"


What is tolerance? -- it is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed

of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly -- that
is the first law of nature.
-- Voltaire

I would point you to the home page of fortune, but I can't find it. I'm not even sure it's even got one any more - it may have been around for so long that it gets maintained by whoever has a spare moment, and code gets passed around by email like they did it in the bad old days when men where men and penguins still hadn't been made anybody's mascot.

Here's the thing: There's an "offensive" collection of quotes which will only be used if you explicitly tell fortune to do so. And it contains things like:

There once was a man from Sydney

Who could put it up to her kidney.

But the man from Quebec

Put it up to her neck;

He had a big one, now didn't he?

And a million more dirty limericks and risque jokes. And it also contains things like this:

"Crude absurdities, trivial nonsense, and sublime truths

are equally potent in readying people for self-sacrifice
if they are accepted as the sole, eternal truth."
[Eric Hoffer, _The True Believer_, 1951, section 57]


"It is the true believer's ability to "shut his eyes and stop his ears"

to the facts that do not deserve to be either seen or heard which is the
source of his unequaled fortitude and constancy. He cannot be frightened
by danger nor disheartened by obstacle nor baffled by contradictions
because he denies their existence."
[Eric Hoffer, "The True Believer," response to

Martin Luther's faithful shutting-out of
contrary evidence, in Table Talk, Number 1687]

In the immortal words of a short Spanish waiter: Que?

A philosophical religious comment from 1687AD is in the
offensive collection? I checked the source files, the actual cookies, and, after de-encoding them (they are still text files, but they've been rot13'd - google it - for a reason which escapes me) confirmed that not only was this quote there, but that there are cookie files called "religion" and "atheism".

Now wait one goddamn cotton-picking minute.

There are no files in the normal set called "religion" or "atheism". So does the mere fact of making quotes about religion or non-religion count as offensive, now? Yes, there are quotes included which are intended to be offensive. But there is also an awful lot of plain, simple, philosophy or theology - if you think that they're different - and I am scratching my head about the standards which see this:

"Most people's religion is what they want to believe, not what they
do believe. And very few of them stop to examine its foundations."

[Luther Burbank quoted by Edgar Waite, also in "2000 Years

of Disbelief, Famous People with the Courage to Doubt",
by James A. Haught, Prometheus Books, 1996]

Or even this absurdity:

"I got enough guilt to start my own religion"
[Tori Amos]

classified as
offensive. For fuck's sake, what century are we living in? The whole concepts of tolerance, open debate and humour seem to be disappearing to wherever the Americans put Habeas Corpus. I'd blame them for this, as well, but it's just too easy and probably not entirely deserved.

Until people learn that there is a difference between saying "I cannot accept that female circumcision is morally acceptable" and "The religion that condones female circumcision must be expunged from the fact of the earth", I shall be found in the bomb shelter with a collection of Lenny Bruce tapes.

Friday, 11 April 2008

Here are my mistakes, that you may learn from them

When printing photos, remove all unused sheets of photo paper from your printer. This saves you forgetting that you haven't, and printing out seven pages of a mobile phone bill on very expensive paper that doesn't take text very well anyway.

You could probably hear me swearing next door.

Incompetence meets rudeness and begats excressence

An update on this post, wherein I complained about Samsung's incomplete, unfinished operating system and inaccurate manual.

You might like to skim it first.

I have found out that it is even worse than I first thought.

With persistent optimism, I went back to trying to pipe music through the headset, driven more by stubbornness than by hope.

Also because I had an idea, but had not previously tried it because, well, they couldn't really be that incompetent, could they?

Yes, it turns out, they could. The idea was that maybe music files on the removable memory card were handled differently to music files in the phone. So I found the single solitary file kept on the phone's internal memory - Dance of the Knights from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet, which I use as my ringtone - and played it and, what do you know: The bluetooth menu items magically appeared!

For the love of Golgotha, what possible reason could there be for refusing to let you play music through a wireless headset (wired earpieces work fine, but with a proprietary connector you're stuck with Samsung's earpieces, which suck) when it's on the removable memory card, a card of up to 4GB or above for micro-SD smaller than my thumbnail, and leave you stuck with anything you can squeeze onto the frankly rather pathetic 24MB internal memory (and I had to go hunting for that figure - I couldn't actually find it on any of the packaging or materials that came with the phone)?

Oh but wait, there's more!

Having found the "Play via bluetooth" menu item, I had to try it. And...

Nope, still broken, incomplete, incompetent and abusive to customers.

The phone, already paired with the BlueAnt Interphone, went searching. And found nothing. And said "Can't find a stereo headset. Try again?"

Oh, for fuck's sake. You demand a stereo headset when a perfectly good mono one is available? I am bereft of any possible explanation beyond the most cynical: Forced upgrades. I can't even imagine how incompetence or short-sightedness can lead to a refusal on the part of this handset to send music through a mono headset and refuse to even recognise that headset's existence.

I am baffled as to what the intended market for the SGH-A701 ever was. It's not business - the address book isn't powerful enough. It's not people who want to replace a separate iPod - the music player is too basic, and you can forget wireless headsets. It's not people who want to replace a camera - it doesn't have a flash, and it's reasonable at best.

So we have to return to the fact that this, along with a Motorola, was the first offering of HSDPA - NextG in Telstra speak (which is scarier even than Newspeak) - in Australia. And yet the built-in browser is so basic and crude that it makes a mockery of the richness of content, and the access to full websites, that high-speed mobile broadband promises.

So we're left with fashion victims or people who don't know any better and, with considerable cringing and self-recrimination, I put myself in that second category, my previous phone having decided to spontaneously and catastrophically fail and leave me insufficient time for research.

Which, of course, only makes my hatred at Samsung all the worse. Most of th
ese problems, and problems with java as well, would be fixed in firmware updates by any decent company. But Samsung never released a firmware update for the A701 - they upgraded it to the faster HSDPA A711 instead, and left everyone who had bought generation 1 out in the cold. Nokia came out with the N95 8GB and the N98 and seventeen other phones, and are still releasing firmware updates for the original N95.

I say again: Samsung, you suck.

How to tell that other road-users really don't care about knowing what's going on

When their wing mirror is folded in against the body of the car.

You can only hope that they're using the central mirror, but it's hard to believe.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Beautiful comedy courtesy of Internet Exploder

Its existence? Comedic, yes, but no, not what I was referring to.

I just fired up IE on the laptop for the first time... well... not quite ever, but almost, to see if Windows Update would do anything more than the automatic bit. And while loading, there was a little warning icon that said "Phishing filter is checking this website".

What really disappoints me is that it didn't find anything to complain about.

Not bad, just broken.

My current thoughts about Samsung can be read here, as well as other posts. But I'm afraid that, yes, I've got another gripe.

For a while now I've been intending to get my girlfriend and I a pair of BlueAnt Interphone bluetooth motorcycle intercom headsets - they're really small and neat and they can do bike-to-bike communication at 150m. Yay BlueAnt.

However, I haven't. Yet. However, a friend who has been spending hand over fist on motorbike kit because he's making a documentary and will get it back in tax has bought two, and leant us one while he heads off to Kakadu via Alice Springs with more cameras than colleagues.

And I attached it to my helmet, and paired it with my phone, and found that I could make or receive calls through the phone, and the answer button on the unit worked, and then tried playing MP3s through the headset off the phone. Which didn't work.

I tried several things, and then found the phone's manual. Which told me that there would be menu items in the media player for "Send sound to bluetooth" and "Play via bluetooth."

Actually, no, there aren't. I mean it. I could not get those menu items, and so today when I saw the expedition off in Toowoomba and rode back alone (somebody was recovering from the prevoius night's hangover and didn't come) I was not listening to music. Because Samsung
fucked up.

This is not a missing feature, it's a break. When the manual documents and details functionality that does not actually exist, there is something
wrong, not something that they weren't bright, considerate or far-sighted enough to not do in the first place. This is a bug. Samsung, I used to like you. Now you suck.

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