Sun 29 December 2019
Thu 19 December 2019
The scientific method goes boing.
- Form a question.
- Observe evidence.
- Form hypotheses.
- Create experiments.
- Observe results.
- Compare hypotheses.
- Be critical.
The scientific method runs off the rails in step 2 and explodes into uncertainty in step 3. It turns out that observing evidence is rarely easy or straightforward: it’s a great big universe, and we’re all really puny. And “forming hypotheses” is synonymous with “make guesses” – potentially educated, informed guesses, but still a creative process that is likely to baffle AI for decades to come.
That brings us to today’s problem: why does Netflix hate me?
Wed 27 November 2019
Work asks that I bring home an Apple laptop so that I maintain some sort of fluency with the systems that the majority of our employees use. For the last while this has been a 2011 MacBook Pro with 20GB of RAM and an SSD. The keyboard finally sputtered its way to an unusable state (most of the modifier keys, shift/ctrl/alt/command/option/super/meta/hyper…) were unpredictably triggering or failing to trigger) and I asked for a replacement.
“Whatever has a functioning escape key, please.”
So they signed out a 2015 MacBookPro to me. It has 8GB of RAM (not upgradable) and an SSD (ditto).
Fri 08 November 2019
A lot of annoying irrelevant interview questions are Fermi questions. (Enrico Fermi was a famous nuclear physicist.) A Fermi question is one where there’s some real answer that you could get by carrying out an arduous and possibly ridiculous procedure, but making a good guess and showing your work will be just as good and be much less effort. Interviewers sometimes like to pose questions of this type “to see how you think”, but their actual motivation is a combination of finding out if you are reasonably numerate – and perhaps for the feeling of superiority they can derive from your failure.
Tue 05 November 2019
If you have a Linux system that was using systemd as its init system, and you changed it to something else, and now nearly everything is incredibly slow:
Remove libnss-systemd; check for and remove systemd options from
As you will no doubt recall, that config controls the methods that the system uses for various lookups. Most things are
files, which is to say the system should look in the appropriate config files.
hosts is usually files followed by DNS. If you have Kerberos or LDAP or some other networked signon system, this is where it would be configured.
Who knew that systemd wanted control of that, too? Not I.
Wed 30 October 2019
Suppose that you are sending out email to all of your customers, letting them know about a thing that you are sure they will want to know about. Then you decide to send it from a fake email address, one named “no reply” or similar. You have immediately eliminated a route for your customers to ask you questions about your thing.
What was the point of your announcement if not to generate interest in the thing? Don’t do that.
Send your announcement from an account that routes into your customer support ticket system (you do have one, right? if you have more than five customers, you need a ticketing system) and prepare your customer support staff with a list of answers to likely questions, and a way for them to contact the experts on the thing.
Every time you close a method of contact, you lose an opportunity to talk to your customers. If you don’t want to talk to your customers, maybe you shouldn’t be sending them email at all.
Tue 29 October 2019
Sun 06 October 2019
Centralized facilities are easier to manage. Centralized facilities are easier to control.
Distributed facilities are harder to manage, harder to control.
Centralized facilities need expensive, difficult redundancies to maintain function during a partial outage. Distributed facilities need coordination.
Centralized is cheaper than distributed if you don’t pay for the things that can make it reliable.
Tue 24 September 2019
I was chatting (via work’s internal chat system) to a coworker, answering a question when the CFO came in and got my attention. I swivelled my head and greeted her while finishing my response.
“Were you really typing just then?” she inquired.
“Yes, until I dropped my train of thought when you came in.”
I’m not a classical touch-typist; I mostly use six fingers or so, and I don’t really keep them over the home row – rather, I have two or three hand positions that I can feel properly, and that’s where I type from. My speed would probably be improved if I practiced proper touch-typing, but on the other hand, maybe I would lose my ability to type the arcane symbols of computer incantations that are not so common in the mainstream typing systems.
Do learn some form of typing; it’s ever so much more convenient for getting your thoughts out.
Tue 20 August 2019
Mon 19 August 2019
Do you have an X11 application that insists on using a font you hate?
Change that easily with fontconfig.
This syntax in your
.fonts.conf will change the response for one font into an answer from another:
<alias> <family>Gentium</family> <prefer> <family>Tex Gyre Pagella</family> </prefer> </alias>
Add as many stanzas as you like; then run
fc-cache and restart your application.
Fri 02 August 2019
Fri 12 July 2019
This is a reminder that spinning storage is still useful for large data dumps, media, backups, and other bulky things that you don’t need to change continuously.
But mostly, it’s cost-effective. The two current sweet spots for capacity/performance (assuming brand-name, non-sale, 7200RPM SATA3 3.5" disks) are at 4TB (about $75) and 10TB (about $270).
I also remind you that you want RAID for reliability, but it’s not backup by itself.
Tue 25 June 2019
Via Rick Thomas on the Debian Users mailing list:
In any case, the solution I came up with is
apt-get --purge install -y sysvinit-core dbus- glib-networking- libgtk-3-0- apt-get --purge autoremove
Note the trailing minus-signs on dbus- glib-networking- libgtk-3-0- These packages need to be deleted in the same pass as sysvinit-core …
Thu 30 May 2019
There is no such thing as an intuitive interface (to a computer). All interfaces are learned, To the extent that they re-use components and repeat behaviors already learned, some interfaces can be easier to learn.
Somebody quipped “The only intuitive interface is the nipple; after that it’s all learned.” It might have been Bruce Ediger. Doesn’t matter who it was: turns out that humans don’t have much of an intuition for nipples, either. Breastfeeding techniques need to be learned, too. It’s always easier to learn something that lots of other people around you are demonstrating regularly; you also know who to ask for help.