Thursday, October 22, 2009

Absurdism in HTML

For various reasons, I've been thinking about absurdism lately. I'm especially fond of works such as Tom Stoppard's "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead", and Samuel Beckett's "Endgame" (both of which I happened to see at UMD many, many years ago ... maybe that has something to do with it). But of all the places you might find absurdism, I never expected to see it in HTML code.

Today, buried in the depths of JSP/HTML, I came across a "summary" attribute for a table that made me really stop and think. Now, the point of a "summary" attribute, is SUPPOSED to alert screen readers and other text-only display devices, and help describe the information contained in the table. This summary was strait forward, and absolutely absurd:

a simple table to hold our rows

Yep. Absolutely correct, yet absolutely useless information. Beautiful, in it's way.

Still, if you follow the semantics of the HTML document, what Adobe Dreamweaver does for the "title" element is a downright contradiction:

<title>Untitled Document</title>

Frankly, any software that writes HTML like this shouldn't be trusted.


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Making Music ... maybe

Oh, so many years ago, I got my first PC from my dad, including a program called "Electronics Workbench". My entire goal of this computer was to begin developing circuits for sound design, and experimental music. Well, rather than music, I ended up with a career in computers instead. And here I am today.

Despite how interesting I find computers, I still find that my first love is still music. But music, and the cost of musical instruments is not one of my family's priorities, so I have found little time to take more than a passive role listening to music (and then usually on the bus to & from work, or late at night when everyone else is asleep).

About a year ago, I discovered the Linux MultiMedia Studio (LMMS), a complete open-source sound/song editor. It includes a ton of samples, has several different oscillators and synthesizers for creating your own sounds, full two-way MIDI interface, and of course the ability to sample from other audio files.

Of course, it's quite a bit different than noodling on the piano, or strumming a guitar. It's a lot more like creating your own paint-by-numbers, and then telling the computer, "okay, paint!". So, since discovering this cool system, I've made sure it was installed on every one of my Linux machines ... but have yet to really sit down & give it a good honest try.

So, this morning, I was the first one awake, and sat down with the LMMS manual and walked through the initial tutorial, and tried some of the subsequent experiments. I do feel a lot more familiar with how it works now, and feel like I'm ready to start making some music. Now, I just have to have the discipline to TRY, rather than passively listening to music while playing solitaire or sudoku.

Time will tell ...

Thursday, June 04, 2009

NBA Finals Disappointment

For the past several weeks, ABC has been having problems with the sound not matching the video. I kept hoping that the problem would be fixed before the NBA Finals ...

No such luck! Tonight, the Spanish SAP is playing over the broadcast.

Now, I don't know if the problem is at ABC, or my local Charter Cable (Rosemount, MN). All I know is I was hoping to watch the NBA Finals ... but not knowing Spanish, I guess I'll find something else to do, and check ESPN's site from time to time.

Monday, April 27, 2009

More Charter Cable trouble

So once again, Charter cable is out. Or rather, all I get is a "One Moment Please" screen. This is starting to happen on a weekly basis now. What is really frustrating is there is no number you can call for support - they only have sales (and I don't see the point in upgrading when I can't get what I am paying (being robbed) for). It really makes me reevaluate why I am paying way too much for cable.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

How Novell is Killing SuSE Linux

I just can't hold back anymore. I've been running Linux a long, long time, and in the past five years, I have been working more and more with SuSE Linux. About five years ago (roughly), Novell acquired the rights to SuSE Linux in the United States. They created a set of custom distributions (SuSE Linux Enterprise Desktop, SuSE Linux Enterprise Server), but there plans beyond that have always been questionable. Personally, I am not sure if Novell is even sure which direction they are heading.

One of the first things they did was replace the functioning OpenSuSE mirror system with something of their own design - something that will fail with any large update. Each mirror "hides" behind - so the end user has no control over which mirror they are using (all up to Novell). This would not be so bad, but with almost every large update, there is always some piece of software missing. Frequently, this breaks the entire system. You cannot simply choose another mirror - you're pretty much dead in the water until someone updates that mirror (which you can only find out by keep trying the update again and again until it works).

Beyond their issues trying to keep their mirrors together, they seemed to forget the purpose of an operating system with the release of OpenSuSE 11.1. Now, most of the time with software, a "dot" release is an update, not a complete rework. Not so for Novell and SuSE! OpenSuSE 11.1 breaks more things than it fixes. In 11.0 sound worked, you had a configurable (and more secure) login manager, just to name my two biggest annoyances. My SuSE 11.0 played sound beautifully, PulseAudio worked well, and I had made this system a central part of my music system. That was over as soon as I upgraded to 11.1, where it seems like they pretty much threw sound out the window.

And then there's Novell's commercial offering. SLES and SLED 10 have held on to Java 1.4 well beyond it's end-of-life, and now SLES and SLED 11 are skipping right to Java 6. So, for all those apps certified for Java 5 (like, well, all of them), obviously SLES and SLED are not for you! Or, be prepared to maintain your own custom install of Java, separate from the system (and why are we paying for support?). Worse, their "support" forums actually suggest users mix their distributions - just combine OpenSuSE repositories with the SLED/SLES repositories in your list of update sites. Following this piece of advice will guarantee you break your system beyond repair!

Novell has made SuSE into a useless nightmare. All the predictions were true.

Go Ubuntu!!!

Saturday, April 04, 2009

A Nice Way to Spend a Saturday Afternoon

After a busy week of rescheduling training sessions - and altering my home schedule in the process - I got to spend a lazy Saturday morning with my wife (with just a little bit of housework).

We were just thinking about lunch when I saw I had a call from my sister ... also looking for lunch, and suggested we visit our favorite restaurant - the Mediterranean Cruise Cafe. How could we say "no"?

So we all met at the Cruise, Kitty & I, Clint, Lisa and baby Benjamin. It was surprisingly quiet, so we got lots of attention from our host Sammy. We ended up all getting their Luncheon Feast - which involves filling the table with so many plates of food it's all but overwhelming. We then spent the rest of the afternoon talking and eating. We found Benjamin likes pitas & hummus, as well as the lentil soup. It was a nice, relaxing afternoon with family (including "cousin" Sammy!).

No women with swords this time, though ...

Friday, March 27, 2009

Astra Cervus ex Machina? Really?!?

(For my TiVO friends, be very careful thinking about the title of this post ...)

One of my favorite shows came to an end last Friday night. It was a show I was reluctant to watch at first, but have come to believe that it was probably the best science fiction / soap opera ever produced for television.

I've read a lot of blogs from those who didn't like the ending ... many saying it went on too long after the climax. But I thought it was important to wrap up those storylines, and more importantly, tie in once again the themes of faith and miracles to the conclusion.

I was disappointed that one story thread didn't resolve - or maybe resolved a little too simplistically. I've heard rumors that there was more content written, but there just wasn't enough time to include it, so a quicker solution was had. Whether that's true or not, I have no idea. Yet despite my disappointment, the conclusion played in well with the over all themes of the show, and just added one more piece of hope and wonderment to an amazing show.

I hope the success of the show will inspire more studios to consider sci fi. I also hope that sci fi producers and writers will see what made Battlestar Galactica so successful, and emulate the storywrighting (and I mean wrighting) and commitment to production in future shows.