Archive for November, 2001


busy as a freakin bee

Thursday, November 29th, 2001

Wacky week.

Cable company splits from @Home, screws up customer base during transition in a big way.

Visited my sister and her family an hour away on the weekend, forgot the camera there.

Learned that my tax return from April is FINALLY going to come through – woohoo! Where to spend it all, you ask? Within literally two hours of hearing this, the idler pulley broke on the family van, chewing the serpentine belt, lost steering, overheated engine. Tow, repair, etc. So much for the tax return.

Chico’s having a shindig in Santa Monica this weekend, so they’ve arranged flights for me on Friday, back on Monday. No sense in going to the pier while I’m there, the roller coaster’s nothing compared to my life this week.

Better get the camera for the wacky weekend – oops, it’s an hour drive to get that, but I have two commitments tomorrow on opposite sides of the planet and my wife needs the car for Jasmine’s Dr. appt. So I gotta rent a car.

It’s probably fixed by now, but Linux Today was Hax0r3d today. This is a pretty significant Linux site, root compromised. Whaddya wanna bet there’s not a peep about it in the press. Of course if some bogus open file share on a Microsoft server gets some files deleted it’s page one news.



Saturday, November 24th, 2001

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sweetness and light

Wednesday, November 21st, 2001

I’ve had a few things to blog about over the past week or so but I just can’t bring myself to launch into a weighty philosophical discussion, a tirade about corporate avarice, a whackload of dry technical dross, or some inane blather about inconsequential trivia.

Like as if you all hang on my every frickin word anyhow.

Frivolity. That’s what we need. Raw, unmitigated lightness of being. Now, just to find it somewhere….?


gonna pump you up

Thursday, November 15th, 2001

Pike has jumped into the (very polite) fray.

I think it’s great that we’re able to ‘blog philosophical’ while respecting each other’s views.

The Garden of Eden question raised by Pike reminds me of another ongoing discussion with Tim. Luckily, this gives me an opportunity to drag it out of the religious context and into the development (personal and programming) context.

I’ve been flabby for over a decade. It’s from lack of excercise. I eat right (although I’m reducing the volume), but I haven’t been calling upon my muscles to do any work, so they’ve become loose and aren’t there when I need them. I’m gonna have to work out to fix this.

I haven’t been doing much Perl lately. I found a need recently and I actually had to look up how to find how many elements there are in a hash (scalar keys %hash). If I had been excercising my Perl skills, it would have been right there in my brain.

I’ve had two clients this year end up owing me money. I had not planned for it. I’ve built up a buffer against this now.

We all had a remarkably shitty thing enter our lives a couple of months ago. We’re all stronger for having reassessed our lives, adjusted our perspective.

If our children are insulated from conflict, difficulties, danger, they will not develop the skills and immunities necessary to survive emotionally or physically.

Back to my point. One’s ethics and psyche will only build and then remain strong if excercised. Without the forbidden fruit, there would not have been an opportunity to learn from the ethical experience. I’ve gotta say again though that forever is a bit of a hard lesson.


two faces

Thursday, November 15th, 2001

I’ve been thinking a bit lately of how my opinion of Microsoft has evolved. I’ve narrowed it down to faces.

To me, Microsoft used to have a human face, or rather consist of many human faces, the developers who put their heart and soul into making their products and processes the best they could make them. Some of the smartest computer people around. People at all levels like Charles Simonyi, Steve McConnell, Steve Maguire, Joel Spolsky. People who got some amazing stuff done and can be proud of their accomplishments. Many of these kinds of people are still there, doing some fantastic work, living for the andrenalin of being a part of something good and creative. People who believe in what they do.

Over the last few years, I’ve felt that Microsoft’s human face has been obscured by the face of an aggressive offensive corporation,
take-no-prisoners marketers, lawyers and weasels. Advances in technology have been replaced with or tied to the delivery of advances in licencing or contractual obligation. The focus is no longer on attracting people with product quality but on rounding up consumers and steering them into the corral by gradually removing all paths of escape.

I can no longer hear a pitch of a new MS technology without wondering where the catch is, what the hook is, when the trap is gonna spring.

It’s a big shame, really, because the human faces are still there. I see them in the newsgroups, on blogs, in conversations. They’re thoughful, helpful, concerned about quality.


The shell game

Monday, November 12th, 2001

Dave Rothgery points out that MSDN has changed around its subscriptions quite a bit, inserting new levels and adjusting other ones. What used to be “Professional” is now “Operating Systems” and Professional now gets Visual Studio and Visual Foxpro (does anyone really use that?).

All well and good.

My renewal notice didn’t tell me that. Did I pitch out some marketing blather that came with my last MSDN shipment – I dunno, I’m no longer very discriminating about what I throw out before even looking at it since almost everything in my mailboxes, physical and virtual, is useless, absolutely insulting crap.

Take a look at my renewal notice – does it tell me what I need to know? Does it give me clear options other than those which extract more money out of me?

If you want my business, you gotta meet me more than halfway. Don’t accidentally forget to be clear that I have options that might suit me better and save me money.


Driver, I think this is my stop

Monday, November 12th, 2001

First, go read Scoble. Then come back here and read this.

I got my MSDN (Microsoft Developer Network) subscription renewal in the mail this week.

I subscribe to the Professional level of MSDN. Last year it cost me about $900CDN (600US) to renew. This year it’s over $1500CDN ($1033 US). That’s about a 70% increase in price. I can tell you that as an independent consultant in the internet industry, my revenue hasn’t increased by 70% in 2001.

What added value would I get this year over last? I don’t see any.

Last year I got either CD or DVD for the same price. This year it’s $120US more for the DVD version. Sure, they save on media and postage, but $120US? I don’t think so.

They recently sent me a notice saying Visual Interdev would now be “included” with the Professional subscription. I guess a 70% increase is what they mean by “included”.

Product releases. Well, I’ve already got a whole bunch of reasons for resisting the pull of XP. Here’s another one.

I’ve been seeing a lot about .NET development cross my bow. As a member of the ASP Aces group at, I’m constantly seeing how fantastic and useful ASP.NET is. I’ve got a number of great books about ASP.NET. I’m fascinated with all sorts of web-based RPC. You would think I was inhaling this stuff.

But I’m not.

The part of my time I allocate to personal development these days goes to familiarizing myself with alternatives to Microsoft’s technology. Linux, PHP, MySql, Apache, Tomcat, etc.

I remember when I was a civil servant in the late 90s. I could see the writing on the wall that most of the real hands-on technology work in the Ontario government was going to be outsourced within three years. I quit and became a consultant. When the time came, I didn’t want to be on the street with my union package looking for my first consulting gig, I wanted to be on the street with a solid three-year consulting resume. It worked out well for me.

When companies really see what licensing and product activation is coming to (and more to the point, license expiry and product deactivation) and the imminent ongoing costs that reliance on fee-per-use services portends, they will revolt against MS and stampede towards alternatives. When that day comes, I don’t want to be a one-trick pony locked in the wrong stable.

It’s not because MS has crappy technology. Ignoring their consumer products, I’m very happy with their NT/2000 technology and their .NET direction. I’m just not sure I wanna commit to it.

It’s because I believe MS is arrogant, conniving, monopolistic, an unfair player. I didn’t used to believe this. I was always one of their biggest proponents. I’ve been a huge promoter of their technologies and active in newsgroups and on BBSes since the mid-1980’s. I’ve been publicly ridiculed as an MS apologist by platform zealots. I’m actually nominated this year for their MVP program for my newsgroup support for Remote Scripting among other things.

Maybe I’m wrong – but it does it matter? – my perception of Microsoft is turning me right off them, so whether I’m right or not, they’re on the precipice of losing one of their most consistent cheerleaders.

I can certainly think of better places to spend my $1500 for now.


Rollin, rollin, rollin

Sunday, November 11th, 2001

Chris Ashley (no relation – perhaps we’re ‘blog brothers’) muses on the fleeting fame that washes over one when their blog is linked to by someone higher in the blog popularity tree, creating a temporary surge in their viewer base. Doc calls it blogrolling, a clever term directly derived from logrolling (political back-scratching).

It always settles back, but a little higher than the previous norm. I’ve seen this slingshot effect happen myself, when Dave linked to me when I was but a blogophyte. I’ve got many still-consistent visitors who initially came to me during that particular bulge in my logs.

This effect begets a sort of journeyman/apprentice mentoring scheme into which I’ve found myself naturally falling. Not only do I like getting linked to (although, as Tim pointed out last month, some humility and perspective is in order), I also derive a certain satisfaction from linking to others and helping to shine a light under their bushel. I’m looking forward to following Cam, for instance, who has just recently caught the bug.