May 06, 2003

DDE Hell

If you've ever tried to use DDE to communicate with an application, you might recall how tedious it can be to setup. It doesn't help that Microsoft keeps changing the way it works. It also doesn't help that the company that makes the software I'm trying to communicate with keeps changing their interface as well. This basically leaves me with some OS/Software combinations that work and some that don't.

The sad part is that many times, I have no choice because Microsoft won't solve the issues that Excel has with graphing large amounts of data. If you're not aware, Excel has a limitation of 255 columns of data. When you're dealing with over 3000 points with thousands of curves, this presents a problem.

The good news for me is that I've got tens of thousands of dollars to fix and update our software over the next year or so. I may have to stick with DDE, but at least I can update my interfaces to it.

Posted by queue at 07:45 PM | Comments (0) | Category: Rant

April 23, 2003

Hating Microsoft Dept.

I'm getting so sick of Microsoft Visual C++ and their bug laden libraries and components. It amazes me how often I will follow help files to the letter even copying samples directly out of the help and the code flat out won't work. Other times, the help won't even mention dependancies or setup functions that must be initialized before using the function or component you're reading about.

Unfortunately, I know exactly why Microsoft is doing this. Don't get me wrong, I don't believe that people at Microsoft sit around figuring out ways to screw their users. Rather, I believe they don't dedicate enough resources to making some products work properly and keep the documentation up to date. Microsoft is not interested in making their C++ products top notch. If they did, it would be competing directly with Visual Basic and/or Visual C#.

Microsoft has invested a lot of money in getting people to use languages they can control. That's why when they got sued over their modifying Java, they began dumping all Java support and gearing toward C#. Honestly, this makes a lot of sense business wise, but it's exclusionary and monopolistic. I still feel the best thing a court could do to even the odds is to force Microsoft to keep their documentation complete and up to date. If they did this, any developer could compete with Microsoft on any level.

Posted by queue at 09:08 PM | Comments (0) | Category: Rant

April 21, 2003

Polly Want A Hacker?

Why can't the mainstream media get it straight? There's a huge difference between a true hacker and the little known term, cracker. Here is an excerpt I found that really nails down what the term means. If you want to see more definitions or the links to some of the other terms, check out the source here.

hacker

n. [originally, someone who makes furniture with an
axe] 1. A person who enjoys exploring the details of programmable
systems and how to stretch their capabilities, as opposed to most
users, who prefer to learn only the minimum necessary. 2. One who
programs enthusiastically (even obsessively) or who enjoys
programming rather than just theorizing about programming. 3. A
person capable of appreciating hack value. 4. A person who is
good at programming quickly. 5. An expert at a particular program,
or one who frequently does work using it or on it; as in `a Unix
hacker'. (Definitions 1 through 5 are correlated, and people who
fit them congregate.) 6. An expert or enthusiast of any kind. One
might be an astronomy hacker, for example. 7. One who enjoys the
intellectual challenge of creatively overcoming or circumventing
limitations. 8. [deprecated] A malicious meddler who tries to
discover sensitive information by poking around. Hence `password
hacker', `network hacker'. The correct term for this sense is
cracker.

The term `hacker' also tends to connote membership in the global
community defined by the net (see the network and Internet
address). For discussion of some of the basics of this culture,
see the How To Become A Hacker
(http://www.tuxedo.org/~esr/faqs/hacker-howto.html) FAQ. It also
implies that the person described is seen to subscribe to some
version of the hacker ethic (see hacker ethic).

It is better to be described as a hacker by others than to describe
oneself that way. Hackers consider themselves something of an
elite (a meritocracy based on ability), though one to which new
members are gladly welcome. There is thus a certain ego
satisfaction to be had in identifying yourself as a hacker (but if
you claim to be one and are not, you'll quickly be labeled bogus).
See also wannabee.

This term seems to have been first adopted as a badge in the 1960s
by the hacker culture surrounding TMRC and the MIT AI Lab. We have
a report that it was used in a sense close to this entry's by teenage
radio hams and electronics tinkerers in the mid-1950s.

Source: Jargon File 4.2.0

Posted by queue at 09:01 PM | Comments (0) | Category: Rant

April 14, 2003

Blame Game

Here we go again. My boss gets an e-mail today blaming our software for their system not working. This time, we were ready for them. Our response included 4 points.

1) They've been reporting hardware problems with their system for months. These problems have already been proven to be hardware, not software.

2) Our guy upgraded their software a couple of weeks ago and went through a full test with them to verify the system was working properly.

3) This exact software used on another customer's system worked perfectly for one of their trials.

4) I got a call last week from the customer with a "software problem" which I was able to solve in about 30 minutes on the phone. The customer had simply made a mistake in setting up the system.

It will be interesting to watch them back-peddle and attempt to "clarify" their statements. I'm finding that the more this happens, the funnier it seems each time it happens. Thus, I'll just laugh the whole thing off and watch them squirm when their boss sees it's their fault, not ours.

Posted by queue at 05:21 PM | Comments (0) | Category: Rant

April 08, 2003

Ripoff Air, The Only Way To Fly

I've been looking at ticket prices the past few days trying to find a good time to take a vacation. Today, I was able to determine several interesting things about how to operate an airline.

First, always offer good deals on the weekend, and then raise prices first thing on Monday. That way, when a person sees a good deal, then asks their boss for the time off, they go back to buy the tickets and have little choice but to buy them at the higher price for fear the prices will continue to go up.

Second, offer different prices to each travel agency, including your own website. What this accomplishes is you keep a person guessing about where they should go for the best price. Inevitably, they stick with one or two sites and end up paying a higher average price for their tickets over time.

Third, overbook all your flights, and then offer 1/3 of the cost of the ticket as compensation for getting bumped. This compensation is only good towards purchasing a new ticket, must be used by a certain time, and has limitations that force you into higher priced tickets. Book the bumped passengers onto the very next flight, and then bump different passengers from that flight, repeating the cycle. By doing this, you don't have to offer overnight compensation and thus keep shifting the problem without really losing any money.

Forth, never feed the passengers. Schedule flights to fall between meal times. If the flight is long enough that it must include a meal time, justify not having food by having "snacks". Snacks should never include more than a bag of pretzels and two drinks. Flights with no food service give only one drink, and the can should never be given to the passenger.

Fifth, lower the weight limit of "standard" baggage so that a fairly large percentage of your business travelers will have to pay an additional cargo fee. Also, lower the number of bags allowed as carry-on items so that more baggage will have to be checked, and thus, generate extra baggage fees.

Sixth, claim that you can't afford to operate your airline and thus you must raise ticket prices even though ticket income on most of your flights is less than cargo income. This allows you to receive monetary assistance from the government and get an extra boost in income from the passengers. You won't have to worry about competition from other airlines because all other airlines will follow your lead. If the public complains too much, all airlines can lower their ticket prices and receive additional funds from the government.

Seventh, make all airline miles expire in an unreasonable amount of time. This way, your award payouts are at a minimum except for the heavily traveling business persons. Business travelers are great source of income if you keep them always using your airline. The best way to do this is offer them an obscene amount of benefits through air miles so that they would be fools to not fly with you.

Eighth, if all else fails, claim bankruptcy. You can then either receive a bailout from the government, or your chain will be bought by some larger chain. Either way, you and all your high level employees will have been receiving large incomes, bonuses, and benefits which can be carried over to some other airline where you can start the process all over again.

But hey, we don't have to fly right? Let's see, there's always car, train, or bus.

Posted by queue at 09:41 PM | Comments (0) | Category: Rant

April 04, 2003

Legislating Morality

It just floors me that there are people out there willing to keep laws on the books that have no basis in reality. Take for instance this story coming from no other than Bismarck, North Dakota. How can people justify this abuse of our justice system?

It's like these "blue laws" that are so popular in the south. One of my biggest pet peeves with living in Tennessee for a while was that from Midnight to Noon on Sunday, the only stores that were open were some gas stations and about 5% of the restaurants. As if I'm going to go to a Sunday church service just because the stores are closed.

Nothing would make me happier than to see the Supreme Court rule that all these blue laws have to be removed. It would have to save tons of money in the long run by not having to legislate that crap.

Posted by queue at 07:02 PM | Comments (0) | Category: Rant

Time Of The Bark

What is it with people who don't take care of their animals? Last night, like most nights, I woke up several times to the sound of my neighbor’s dog barking. As far as I can tell, this dog starts barking when the sun goes down and doesn't stop until the sun comes up, every night! Luckily, I live on enough land and the neighbor is far enough away that the dog barking doesn't really wake me up. I just usually hear him when I do wake up.

Then there's another neighbor who lets their dogs roam. These dogs love to come over to my house and take a dump in the driveway. And these are large dogs. One is some sort of German Shephard mix. Let me tell you, he leaves a very large pile. This same neighbor has a dog that we suspect killed one of our chickens. We never found the remains, but there were enough feathers and other bits to know what happened and we know their dogs come over and bug our chickens. We have a pen for them, but apparently, one got so scared, she was able to fly over the 6 foot fence.

Then there are the neighborhood cats. They like our yard because we're "bird friendly", meaning we put out lots of feeders, plants, bird houses, etc. to attract birds to our yard. Luckily, we only have a problem with the cats ever few months and only for a few days at a time, but it's rather annoying. I can't tell you how many times I've seen these poor cats lying dead on the road after a car hits them.

Please people; take care of your animals!

Posted by queue at 06:50 AM | Comments (0) | Category: Rant

April 02, 2003

How To Bilk Your Readers

If you read PC Magazine, you may be accustomed to going to their online library to download utilities. These utilities are written by various people, some who work for PC Magazine, some who are just readers who submit a tool. Recently, PC Magazine has decided to charge a subscription fee to access their online library. Where the hell do they get off charging for that? It's ridiculous. I pay a magazine subscription which should cover most, if not all of their expenses. Advertising is supposed to cover the rest. This is pure out bilking. If I didn't enjoy the magazine so much, and if there were actually any other real choice for providing the information they provide, I'd boycott them. But alas, like the rest of the sheep in this world, I will just go elsewhere for my downloads and utilities.

Posted by queue at 12:50 PM | Comments (0) | Category: Rant

March 24, 2003

Select-A-Memory

It never ceases to amaze me how you can hand something to someone and a few months later, they'll deny ever having seen it. I had a person today who, when I found it in her area, she denied that she put it there. Never mind this area is under lock and key. And they guy who gave it to her to hold on to still won't admit that he gave it to her!

It's no wonder we have to sign material in and out in the government. That way we know who's head to roll when we find a hard drive behind a copy machine!

Posted by queue at 12:28 PM | Comments (0) | Category: Rant

March 19, 2003

Shocking Mistake

The other day, I got a new UPS for my office. When I plugged it in, a little light came on that said there was a wiring problem with the electrical outlet I plugged it into. So I and one of the engineers started testing sockets. My power is shared between two other cubicles and it turns out that the contracted electricians swapped hot (the wire that carries the current) and neutral (similar to the ground). Most equipment will operate this way, but it increases the risk of electrical shock due to improper grounding.

I think what bothers me the most about this whole situation is that it is not uncommon for licensed electricians to make this error. One coworker told me his entire house was wired wrong. He had to rewire every outlet. All it takes is a small $5-$10 device that you plug into each outlet and it will tell you if the outlet is wired properly. If I caught a contractor not checking his work, I'd fire him/her in a heartbeat.

Posted by queue at 07:02 PM | Comments (0) | Category: Rant

March 18, 2003

Door Ding Schmucks

Why doesn't anyone have respect for other people's property? I didn't expect my new car to stay perfect forever, but it just really burns me when people slam their car doors into mine. I purposefully park further out just to avoid the park-and-dashers, and yet, there's the ding in my door. I guess there are advantages to driving old beaters.

Posted by queue at 08:34 PM | Comments (1) | Category: Rant

March 16, 2003

Pop Goes The Window

I am getting thoroughly sick of pop-ups, pop-unders, spam, etc. I mean, I can deal with banners on a web page, even some of the annoying ones. And spam, well, you'd have to read my rant on that. Even the pop-ups at least are straight forward as long as they're not overused. But pop-unders are the most despicable method of advertising out there.

Take Excite for instance. Those bastards have totally resorted to pop-unders. Sometimes they come up right away, sometimes they come up while you're just sitting there reading the page, and other times they pop-under when you leave Excite. The only reason I haven't stopped using them is because most of the other good portal sites are no better.

What I really want to know is, does it do any good? Are people really stupid enough to fall for this kind of advertising? I'm afraid the answer to that is, yes. If they pop-up their ad for 5 million viewers and only 1 in 1000 click the link, that's 5000 customers they drummed up for very little effort, and virtually no cost.

You might say that I could just get an ad-killer. I've tried a few of those. Unfortunately, they tend to kill legitimate clicks that I make to start java applets and so forth. I'm lazy, I don't like to setup all the acceptable sites. But my disgust for this crap advertising may soon outweigh my laziness. Stay tuned.

Posted by queue at 11:18 AM | Comments (1) | Category: Rant

February 26, 2003

One Finger Pointed At Me, Three Pointed At You

I'm getting real sick of the finger pointing that goes around in my organization.  When things go wrong, everyone blames everyone else.  I was reading the latest report from one of our guys who took a system to the field and he was pretty much blasting the system.  Now I'm the first to admit that our system needs improvements, but most of the stuff I was reading was just plain out wrong.  Our system just doesn't work the way he was describing.

One of these days, I'm just going to let loose and tell these guys off and show their bosses what a bunch of lazy you-know-whats they really are.  The sad part is, this kind of thing happens no matter where you work.  I guess it's just a fact of life I'll have to learn to accept.

Posted by queue at 08:56 PM | Comments (1) | Category: Rant

February 25, 2003

Those Cheapskate Airlines

What is it with airlines cutting back on everything these days.  I have taken eight flights with three different carriers in the past two weeks and have not had a single meal on any flight. They're also purposefully overbooking flights a lot more these days.  I saw very few empty seats and nearly every flight was preceded by a request for volunteers to wait for the next flight.

I am learning which airlines to keep my business with, and which airports are the best to fly through.

Posted by queue at 09:05 PM | Comments (0) | Category: Rant

February 15, 2003

An Accident Waiting To Happen

Has anyone noticed that drivers are paying less attention to the road these days?  I was leaving a restaurant the other day and just as I was getting into my car, I witnessed a near accident on the road.  The driver, not paying attention, on wet roads, slammed on the breaks and nearly smashed into a stopped car.  When I was younger, I did something similar to that... twice.  I believe I've learned from my past mistakes and I've not even had a ticket in 5 years.

I feel that the root cause of inattention on the road as well as aggressive driving habits begins with the lack of education, even with those who take drivers education.  We need to require a strict course in driving that should be taught in school right along with all the other high school subjects.  We also need stricter driving tests, and require retesting every so many years.  It would also help if cops would concentrate more on aggressive and poor driving rather than just set up speed traps.  All they accomplish right now is causing everyone to slow down until the cop is out of sight, then it's right back up to speed.

Posted by queue at 09:11 PM | Comments (0) | Category: Rant

February 03, 2003

TV Half-Season

What is it with these TV series seasons ending half way through the season?  Is it pure laziness that keeps them from producing enough shows for a whole season or is it the fear that the show may be a flop and they want to keep the money spent to a minimum?  Of course the reality shows such as Survivor have a bit more of an excuse since they produce the number of shows to match the number of days or sets of days. What makes it annoying is that the stations that carry the shows give you no indication when a season will begin or end.  Even the web sites tend to be tight-lipped about the details.  *sigh*

Posted by queue at 09:16 PM | Comments (0) | Category: Rant

January 31, 2003

Internet Spam Provider (ISP)

I have to add my thoughts to my brother's rant about spam on D.T.P. By Lee. I agree whole heartedly that ISPs need to be providing anti-spam services. I already pay for the storage of the e-mail. How hard would it be to add a small filter to the e-mail server to handle authorization lists? The nice part is, once the rejection lists were going, they'd save storage space for e-mail. Seems like the cost-benefits would be tremendous.

My brother did make one mistake. There are a few ISPs providing anti-spam services. Unfortunately, the only prominent provider offering the service, as far as I know, is MSN. Sorry, I'm not going to pay ~$22 per month for dial-up access. I can't even get my cable ISP to setup FrontPage extensions on the web server, let alone install any kind of anti-spam service.

Posted by queue at 08:36 PM | Comments (1) | Category: Rant

January 30, 2003

Government Or Supplier Waste

Speaking of overcharging, in the time I've spent working for the government, I am astounded at how much suppliers try to overcharge the government for things. Many companies won't list prices on their web sites. I find those are the companies that will quote excessive prices for their products and I'm sure it's because they know it's a government quote. I'm convinced that the problem of government waste is not so much the government, but the suppliers who feel they can overcharge and get away with it. I've taken to laughing in the face of sales people when they try to overcharge. It's amazing how well that can actually work to get the price to a more reasonable level sometimes.

Posted by queue at 08:55 PM | Comments (0) | Category: Rant

Shipping And Handling (Sucker Tax)

I had a rude awakening today. I tried to order some mounting kits from ProVantage at work today. Twenty of these kits only cost about $50. This company had the gall to try and charge me $100 for UPS Ground shipping. And these are not large kits. I would have thought $20 would have been a little excessive. Needless to say I won't be ordering from that company... ever.

Posted by queue at 08:53 PM | Comments (0) | Category: Rant

Even Microsoft Deserves A Second Chance

Through the assistance of a salesman, I was able to get some resolution to my volume licensing problems with Microsoft. Basically, it forces me to purchase the box copies first, then buy the Software Assurance for those copies, then buy a single disk set through the SA program that doesn't have the activation code. At least that way, I'm getting full value for the money. It still bugs me that I have to purchase their 2 year agreement to do it.

Posted by queue at 08:50 PM | Comments (0) | Category: Rant

January 28, 2003

Microsoft's Micro-Intelligent Policies

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a Microsoft Basher. In fact, I quite like some of their products. But my latest run in with their Volume License policies are really beginning to piss me off.

As many people are starting to realize, Microsoft's latest scheme is to force customers into upgrading every couple of years to ensure continued profits without actually providing quality upgrades. Right now, you can still purchase boxed licenses that are yours for the using as long as you like (assuming you don't install it on more than one machine).

So what happens when you try to purchase Windows XP Professional volume licenses to get the discount? First, you have to purchase no less than 5 copies. Fair enough. Second, forget full versions. You can only purchase the upgrade version. WHAT?! I'm building computers from scratch and I can't buy full versions at volume discount?

This little brainchild is aimed at forcing you to purchase at full price until such time as you're ready to upgrade the software on your machine. But wait, don't the machines typically die before the OS outlives it's usefulness? Get it? Before you know it, we'll be offered a "per-person" license that is good on any machine you go to. The catch? You won't "purchase" your license, you'll "lease" it, as a service.

Think I'm crazy? This is not news. Just take a look at the .NET initiative. This whole technology is aimed at providing software as a service.

Posted by queue at 09:10 PM | Comments (0) | Category: Rant

January 27, 2003

SPAM This

Speaking of laws, when is the government going to get off of their collective asses and pass some decent anti-spam laws?  It's nice and all that most ISPs will delete accounts used by spammers, but in the end, it is doing absolutely no good.  We need to go after the companies that enlist these spammers.

SPAM is on the rise with estimates of 36% of e-mail traffic being SPAM.  Let's put this in perspective.  Your ISP has costs associated with storing e-mail, computers to handle the internet traffic, and per byte costs for sending and receiving internet traffic.  Somewhere in the range of 1/3 of these costs are being forced on the ISP by spammers.  You know the ISPs are not going to eat these costs.  Many ISPs have already started charging more.  That's right.  You, the consumer, will end up paying.

Posted by queue at 09:44 PM | Comments (0) | Category: Rant

It's Not My Fault

What is it with this trend that's only getting worse?  Nobody takes responsibility for anything anymore.  Americans in particular are getting sue happy.  It HAS to be someone else's fault. It can only be an act of God (or common sense) that led U.S. District Court Judge Robert Sweet to throw out the lawsuit against McDonalds for making people fat.  I feel that if we do not overhaul our justice system soon, we are going to do ourselves in with frivolous lawsuits.

Posted by queue at 09:42 PM | Comments (0) | Category: Rant