Fri 21 July 2017

Great question” means “I have a prepared answer.”

Good question” means “I have an ambivalent answer.”

Interesting question” means “That’s controversial, and I may not want to commit.”

What an interesting question”, though, means “I didn’t expect to be asked that and I have no idea.”

you cannot outsource your core competency

Thu 13 July 2017

Let’s suppose you have a really good idea for a business.

Not just “we’re going to be an easy-to-use centralized middleman for a previously unorganized and possibly unrecognized market” which has been done enough times that half of your success will be in getting customers to recognize you …

a general solution to a general problem

Mon 10 July 2017

We have a general problem in this country, and I think we could use a general solution to solve it.

Health care, Internet carriers (and the wired and wireless telecom which is a smaller part of it), electrical and water utilities, banks - possibly others — should not be for-profit corporations. They …

recently read

Sat 08 July 2017

  • The Last Good Man, Linda Nagata
  • In Evil Times, Melinda Snodgrass
  • The Scorpion Rules; The Swan Riders, Erin Bow
  • Kris Longknife: Emissary, Mike Shepherd
  • Kangaroo Too, Curtis Chen
  • Final Girls, Mira Grant
  • Down Among the Sticks and Bones, Seanan McGuire
  • Nothing Left to Lose, Dan Wells
  • To Fire Called, Nathan …

civic failure modes

Sat 24 June 2017

Suppose that you are unhappy with the way that one of your vendors does business. You are not a dominant customer; that is, you don’t account for so much of their sales that they are willing to change their policies for you. This is the normal situation.

Welcome to …

the one true method of email handling

Mon 12 June 2017

People are overwhelmed with email.

In response, they declare email bankruptcy — that means that they arbitrarily delete their inboxes and hope the problem will magically fix itself — or adopt strange methodologies.

Here is the one true method of dealing with email. It works. It requires some setup. It requires some …

towards a sustainable software policy

Sun 11 June 2017


  • A policy is an organization’s stated objectives and methods for accomplishing a goal.

  • Sustainable means a model of a system that easily fits into a person’s head and can be used as an accurate prediction of how another person accomplished a goal.

So a sustainable software policy …

mutt pattern for threads containing new messages

Mon 22 May 2017

I was about to ask the mutt-users mailing list a question, when it occurred to me that I should really google it first. Indeed, my question had been answered about 3 years previously. And it’s really useful.

  # .n : limit to only threads with New messages
  macro index .n "l …

quoting myself

Sat 20 May 2017

Non-fiction” is an assertion of hope, not a statement of accuracy.

monocultures are efficient and fragile

Mon 15 May 2017

In farming, monoculture is the practice of raising a single crop over and over again. You can figure out exactly what fertilizers it needs, how much water, and predict your yield accurately, year after year.

Then, one year, a blight or a virus or a bacterium or a weevil comes …

philosophy as expressed in an MP3 player

Wed 10 May 2017

I have a Sansa Clip+. It’s an MP3 player. Remember those?

Physically, it is about the size of a matchbox. Not the tiny model cars, which were always too big for their namesakes, but the actual give-away advertising matchboxes, made of sturdy cardboard with a friction strip on one …

unix philosophy

Tue 04 April 2017

The essence of the UNIX philosophy is not “make small utilities that can be fitted together with pipes” but to assume that at any moment, a user might decide to be a developer or a sysadmin and should have the tools to do that.

The problems of UNIX generally come …

a 2 line bash prompt

Sun 02 April 2017

Back in the DOS era of personal computing, the default prompt was the letter name of the current drive, followed by a colon and a >. So A:> or C:> if you were wealthy enough to afford a hard disk. DOS really had only one shell for a great many years …

nobody wants backups

Mon 13 March 2017

Nobody wants backups. Everybody wants restores.

The questions are:

  • what sort of disaster are you trying to recover from

  • how often do you expect each to happen

  • how much time are you willing to take recovering

  • how much are you willing to spend

Let’s take a few common scenarios …

still not interested in cybercoders

Thu 09 March 2017

You might recall way back when I wrote not interested in cybercoders. That was not quite a year ago.

It appears that cybercoders hasn’t got the message, though. When it became clear to me that three of their recruiters were all going to try spamming me at once, I …

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