dannyman.toldme.com


Letters to The Man, Technology, Testimonials

Flickr Makes Me Want to Cry

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2013/05/21/flickr-makes-me-want-to-cry/

I really really loved the Flickr interface and the new thing they rolled out today makes me feel like I have been punched in the gut. I added my voice to the torrent of objections in the forums at http://www.flickr.com/help/forum/en-us/72157633547442506/

A test view of a plugin I once wrote to view Flickr photos on a WordPress site.

A test view of a plugin I wrote to view Flickr photos on a WordPress site.

Wow. It is hard even to add a post here.

I loved the old interface. I also loved that when you added new layout options to the old interface, they were OPTIONS that users could turn on or off.

I like that you could browse photos with annotations, click on a photo for a larger view, look over the metadata, &c . . . then click through the photostream or set.

Back when I joined in 2005 I was wary that Yahoo! might eventually do something stupid to what was really a very nice, well-designed interface for managing photos. My main assurance is that there would still be an API . . . I guess I will have to brush off the old API . . .

Really, you should give users the option to use the interface they like. This feels like instead of sitting down with users, seeing how they use the site, figuring out how to make it work better, you brought in some jackass designer who sighed that the site looks oh-so-2005, and decided to replace it with a mashup of Google Image Search (which is a terrible UI, by the way) and the Facebook header image (which wastes space at the top of screens which are getting shorter and wider but at least looks kind of neat.)

Please respect your existing users, many of us who have been paying you real, cash money for years now, and give us at least the option to enjoy the user interface we loved about your site.

Thanks,
-danny

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About Me, News and Reaction, Technical, Technology

With Google, You Can Not Trust the Cloud

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2013/03/21/with-google-you-can-not-trust-the-cloud/

Mike Loukides strikes a chord:

How can I contemplate moving everything to the cloud, especially Google’s cloud, if services are going to flicker in and out of existence at the whim of Google’s management? That’s a non-starter. Google has scrapped services in the past, and though I’ve been sympathetic with the people who complained about the cancellation, they’ve been services that haven’t reached critical mass. You can’t say that about Google Reader. And if they’re willing to scrap Google Reader, why not Google Docs?

An excellent point.

I recall the first time I adopted a “cloud” service for my technology. It was Flickr. I had managed my photos with my own scripts for years. Others had installed Gallery, which always struck me as limited and ugly. Flickr was new at the time, and I really liked the aesthetic. But, upload all my photos there? They had just been bought by Yahoo. How long is Yahoo going to support the service? I still keep local archives of my photos, but I have thousands of photos shared on Flickr, and how do I know that all those captions, comments, geotags, annotations, sets and collections, that all that data might not one day go down with the slowly sinking-ship that is Yahoo?

What reassured me was the Flickr API. Worst case, I should be able to write a script to pull all that data to a local place somewhere and later reconstruct my online photo archive. If Flickr were going down, someone else would probably write that script better than I could. It is a grim thought, but at least when Flickr dies, there is an exit strategy.

That is one reason why I can sort of trust Google. They’re pretty good about supporting APIs. They’re killing Reader? That’s dumb. But in an instant, Feedly was able to take over my subscriptions from Google for me, and I just had to spend a few minutes learning a somewhat different interface.

It would be nice, though, if, when software was retired, especially cloud software, that it could be open sourced and available for the die-hard users to keep it running on their own servers somewhere. Admittedly, cloud services especially are vulnerable to further external dependencies . . .

You would think, though, that it shouldn’t take much effort on Google’s part to announce that a service has been retired, but they’ll keep it running indefinitely, at least until some point where the vast majority of the users had wandered on to more compelling alternatives. They still keep the Usenet archive around.

And, yes, I rely on DocsDrive. This killing Reader fiasco sounds like an advertising ploy for Microsoft. I rely on DocsDrive, but maybe Excel is a more trustworthy option for the long term . . . ?

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Technical, Technology

2013-02-27, Indeed!

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2013/02/27/2013-02-27-indeed/

Okay, I just have to say, Amen, XKCD and ISO!

The correct way to write dates is: 2013-02-27 ...

If you are naming files on a computer, please use this format. The beauty is that if you list files in “alphabetical order” then these dates get listed in chronological order, because as far as a computer is concerned, the “0″ comes before “1″ and so forth. (And a year is more significant than a month is more significant than a day of the month . . .)

It is important to have that leading zero! Why? Because we have more than 10 months! Allow me to demonstrate:

0-11:32 djh@noneedto ~$ (echo "2013-02-27" && echo "2013-12-27") | sort
2013-02-27
2013-12-27
0-11:32 djh@noneedto ~$ (echo "2013-2-27" && echo "2013-12-27") | sort
2013-12-27
2013-2-27

If you are interacting with strftime() then what you want to remember is %F!

0-11:38 djh@noneedto ~$ date +%Y-%m-%d
2013-02-27
0-11:38 djh@noneedto ~$ date +%F
2013-02-27
0-11:38 djh@noneedto ~$ date +%Y%m%d%H%M # I sometimes use this for file timestamps but dont tell Randall Monroe
201302271138

For my photographs, I have a directory hierarchy of %Y/%m-%B:

0-11:43 djh@noneedto Photographs$ find . -type d | sort | tail
./2012/08-August/Costa_Rica/Santa_Teresa
./2012/08-August/Costa_Rica/Ziplines
./2012/09-September
./2012/09-September/Sonogram
./2012/10-October
./2012/11-November
./2012/12-December
./2013
./2013/01-January
./2013/02-February

This gives me the human convenience of seeing the month name on my folders, but the computer sorts those folders in chronological order.

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About Me, Biography, News and Reaction, Technical, Technology

Yahoo Mandates 19th Century Commuting

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2013/02/25/yahoo-mandates-19th-century-commuting/

I have been excited to see what might come of Yahoo! with Marissa Meyers at the helm. I am really glad to see that, after years of stagnation, Flickr has been improving. Free food and smartphones for employees? Sounds swell. But the buzz now is that there shall be no more remote work. The only way to be productive is to come to the office and feel the buzz and bounce ideas off coworkers.

I am happy to point out that, while we don’t get free smartphones or free food, my employer does issue remote employees with a hardware VPN device that provides corporate wifi, and a videophone. And we are hiring.

In my experience as a non-management technical professional, there is some virtue both to working from home, and to working at the office. The office presents great opportunities for collaboration: working through ideas and solving problems. Working from home, for some people, provides an excellent space to focus on getting some work done without interruption. You can get more hours of productive work when your commute is shortened to a walk across the dining room, and when there’s no pressure to quit at a certain time to appease the demands of the train schedule or traffic.

For some people, there’s no place like the office . . . some people can do better work from home, some people do not. Managers and executives, the bulk of whose work is meeting with others to make collaborative decisions . . . it seems that they may take several meetings from home and when they get to the office they feel uncomfortable that the busy hum of productive creative energy isn’t located there. I believe that managers who can structure the working and communication practices of their teams to effectively collaborate and track work progress without requiring a physical presence have an advantage over those who can not.

I live near the office and frequently collaborate with my manager, so most days I make the trip in. Sometimes when I need to focus on a project, or work with a remote time zone, I’ll commute to the home office. I have been with Cisco for over five years, now. I spent one of those years in New York, and my tenure here would have been much shorter without the flexibility to telecommute.

David Fullerton makes a good case for effective remote work.

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Politics, Presidential Decrees, Technology, Testimonials

Presidential Decree #6: Intellectual Commons Restoration

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2013/02/19/presidential-decree-6-intellectual-commons-restoration/

In an age where innovation and creative thinking move ever faster, it is sick and demented that we have extended copyright periods to over a century. It is shame for the current generation and those of the twentieth century that the intellectual commons ended in 1923.

The gradual seizure of the intellectual commons.  CC: Wikipedia

The gradual seizure of the intellectual commons. CC: Wikipedia

The United States hereby withdraws from International Copyright Treaties, especially the Berne Convention. The substance and spirit of the Copyright Law of 1790 shall be restored. All intellectual property rights must be recorded by the government. Software copyright protection requires a copy of source code for software to be stored in escrow with the government. Exclusive rights are conferred to the author for 14 years, plus an option to extend rights for 14 years if the author is alive at that time.

A Copyright Will Protect You From Pirates!  CC: WikiPedia

A Copyright Will Protect You From Pirates! CC: Wikipedia

All other works are Public Domain. Upon expiration of software copyright protections, the government will publish the source code.

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Technical, Technology, Testimonials

SAQ: Is a DSL Modem Actually a Modem?

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2013/02/19/saq-is-a-dsl-modem-actually-a-modem/

This question came to mind the other day. “DSL modem” sounds dumb, because as any geek over the age of 30 knows, a “modem” is a device with MODulates and DEmodulates a digital signal over an analog network. Thus a “Digital Subscriber Line” has no need for modulating and demodulating.

modem and phone

THIS is a modem!
CC: BryanAlexander

Except, DSL is actually an overlay on the analog telephone network. So, wait . . . what?

Wikipedia wastes its time on a pointless distinction:

“The term DSL modem is technically used to describe a modem which connects to a single computer, through a USB port or is installed in a computer PCI slot. The more common DSL router which combines the function of a DSL modem and a home router, is a standalone device which can be connected to multiple computers …”

Yeah, really helpful. But as geeks know, you need to check the Wikipedia talk page:

The usage “DSL Modem” is not erroneous. A DSL modem does indeed perform modulation and demodulation. It uses either Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM) or Phase Shift Keying (PSK) modulation. Multiple modulated subcarriers are then combined into an OFDM stream. The distinction between this type of modem and a traditional one is that the traditional one modulates audio frequency signals whereas the DSL modem is upconverted to an RF band. But they both perform modulation and demodulation. The digital signals are not sent as baseband digital signals.

I do not know what all those words mean, but I read that as “a DSL modem is still a modem. It modulates and demodulates a digital signal into the RF band of a telephone line.”

I made my own contribution to Wikipedia’s Talk page:

The distinction between whether your “DSL modem” connects via USB, ethernet, wireless, or provides NAT, sounds like a spurious distinction to me. I interpret and interchange “DSL modem” and “DSL router” as “the network device that bridges your local computing resources to your network service provider.”

But if I have learned anything about nomenclature disputes on Wikipedia, it is that they are not worth the effort.

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News and Reaction, Technical, Technology

Our Future: Autonomous Cars and Transit

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2013/01/04/our-future-autonomous-cars-and-transit/

My opinion, one of many, as left in a comment:

The current Google Car can operate on city streets autonomously, but it needs someone doing the backend work of getting all the streets mapped out perfectly, figuring out exactly where the lanes are. Then in order to do a truly autonomous taxi service, you’ll want a two-way video linkup for the dispatcher to pilot the car if it gets stuck in some situation like the fire department blocking the street, or to monitor security.

For that reason, the current livery model works really well: a small, local company will service its fleet and its IT needs. The biggest expense, the driver, will be eliminated. This will serve an evolutionary role of a taxi service within a limited service area. This will be mostly shopping trips for car-less people, and “last mile” services to transit connection points, like Taxis serve now. The evolution comes with lower cost: short-haul, off-peak commuter needs, more “last mile” transit service where an autotaxi will be faster and more convenient than the local bus service, but also cheap.

What happens next? “Roaming” agreements among carriers sharing a common technology platform. The service areas of the autotaxi companies grow larger: your local autotaxi can drop you off on a shopping trip to a regional big-box store two towns over and the local autotaxi there can bring you back cheap. Expanded mobility, less reliance on transit.

This doesn’t mean the end of transit. Individual automobiles still require more energy and infrastructure to operate. The autotaxi will dominate short trips, but especially at peak demand, we will need to rely on higher-capacity transit backbones.

The biggest driver of the need for peak-period transit handoff is the capacity limitations of the autotaxi carriers. You simply can not carry everyone, but you want to be a part of the picture. So, yeah, the service gets you from your house to the transit hub, maybe work out relationships with local transit agencies so thaty “last mile” can be served by auto-taxi as a part of the transit fare itself.

The other limitation is for longer-range travel, even a fully autonomous rubber-on-pavement highway system will not be able to match the speed of rail-based or air travel. The autotaxi might drive you fifty miles to the high-speed train station, but then you’ll board the bullet train for LA which will be faster and charge a lower fare.

Anyway, the roaming evolution will mean that we go from local taxi service to regional airport shuttle service, and this will be great for those who live some distance from a long-haul transportation hub who want to make it to/from the airport, &c.

I think autonomous cars are a very reasonable evolution on human-piloted cars, which were a very reasonable evolution on horse-drawn carriages. In the twentieth century we evolved from horses to humans, and in the twenty-first we will evolve even more seamlessly from human to computer.

Our streets didn’t change much from the carriage to the automobile era. They’re wider and too dangerous for people to walk in. I doubt the streets will change much in the autonomous era, except they’ll narrow again and it will be safe to walk, bike, and play in them again.

My other prediction is that the autotaxi will make getting around so convenient, that car ownership will continue to decline. You will see a winners-and-losers scenario in the auto industry: the losers will realize too late just how badly they are in trouble. They will try to spread Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt as to the safety and wisdom of reliance on autonomous vehicles, just as they try to sell some. The winners will have identified the coming trend and geared their business to serving the needs of autonomous fleet operators, and to those niche consumers for whom autonomous vehicles are not appropriate, or who just love driving their own car. Other winners will include pedestrians, cyclists, the young, the elderly, people with disabilities, suburbanites, night life, and very likely the environment.

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Technical, Technology

Amazon Hack: Reverse Showrooming

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2012/11/12/amazon-hack-reverse-showrooming/

Modern retailers have a challenge we have come to call “showrooming” where a consumer visits the local store to try out a product, then they go and order the product off Amazon.com or another retailer for less money. Some retailers will do online price matching, which is reasonable because even though that lowers their margin, they still get the sale, and can upsell you a few accessories. I saved a few dollars this way while buying a TV from Fry’s.

However, I was just browsing Amazon.com for a resin adirondack chair, where I saw:

Twenty six bucks!? Sounds good . . . not eligible for Prime, so let’s check the shipping . . .

Whiskey . . . Tango . . . Foxtrot . . . $192 shipping you say?!! Something is fishy here . . .

So, I surf on over to True Value’s web site, where the chairs are $20, and they’ll ship to the local store.

Which makes me wonder if this is a case of “reverse showrooming” . . . I go to Amazon.com because I can probably find what I am looking for, then I am led to a local retailer to save money. Very clever . . .

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Letters to The Man, Technology, Testimonials

Advice to Hotels

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2012/10/30/free-internet-duh/

From a survey I just filled out regarding a business trip to London:

Internet access … kept dropping packets, and I had to keep logging in to it via iPass. Don’t gouge customers, just let them on. This is seriously trivial, low-hanging fruit, which can make all the difference in the world esp for an international business traveler avoiding mobile roaming charges.

I would without hesitation stay at a more mediocre hotel that could deliver hassle-free, reliable Internet service, and the hassle-free starts with avoiding the damn tariff screen and just letting your guests on … guests who will appreciate this no-nonsense convenience far more than whether the staff have been properly trained to smile, &c.

I gotta say … we seem to “get this” in America … I’ve stayed at plenty of budget motels which offered complimentary, hassle-free, reliable Internet access. Though, I don’t recall having the same pleasure at a hotel in New York, where you could get free Internet in the lobby, but had to pay for it upstairs in your room.

For many of us, network access is kind of like tap water: we take it for granted that it should just flow, and not require one to jump through hoops to pay an additional $20/day. If there’s a business hotel chain that has figured this out, let me know, because my loyalty would be easily won.

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Linux, Sundry, Technical, Technology, Testimonials

Smoothing Out Fonts on kubuntu-desktop

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2012/09/13/make-kubuntu-kde-fonts-pretty/

So, I really like Ubuntu. Its Linux and it just mostly works. Except when they try to force everyone into some experimental new desktop environment. That is pretty awful, but I’m happy again now that I switched to kubuntu-desktop. (apt-get install kubuntu-desktop)

Kubuntu is Ubuntu with a nicely set-up KDE environment. They try to get you to use their own home-grown web browser, and the file manager takes some getting used to, but you can pretty quickly get under the hood, set up all your little window manager preferences, and get back to jamming. (Focus Follows Mouse in my house!)

The only thing that was missing is the fonts were rendering . . . not as pretty as regular Ubuntu. Kubuntu is set up to use the Ubuntu font, but in KDE things render kind of pixelly looking, like I was still in the 90s. A bit of searching and they seem to look nicer:

System Settings > Application Appearance > Fonts
Use anti-aliasing: Enabled
Configure…
Use sub-pixel rendering: RGB
Hinting style: Slight

Now things feel a little more 21st century.

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Technology, Testimonials

Review: Stratford Diner by Dan B.

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2012/07/27/dramatic-yelp-review/

I hope to see more of these . . .

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About Me, News and Reaction, Technology

Facebook Hijacked the Internet’s Email

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2012/06/26/facebook-hijack-mail/

NPR has a nice piece on the whole Facebook-hijacking-your-mail brouhaha:

We asked Facebook to explain, and got a statement reminding us that the company announced back in April that it would update addresses “to make them consistent across our site.”

Of course, the Internet follows up with comments like “I don’t see what the big deal is, I’m glad they changed my email address for me because I use Facebook all the time anyway.” So, I post my own explanation:

The problem is that Facebook has effectively hijacked email for some people.

The problem is that many people have turned off notifications, and they do not check their Facebook every day. A further problem is Facebook quietly files messages in its spam folder, where you’ll never find them.

That’s not a problem if you do not use Facebook to exchange private messages with your friends … until your friends’ smartphones sync with Facebook and your email address comes up as something@facebook.com and instead of sending email to your primary email address, your friends start to send messages into a spam-filtered black hole which removes file attachments and you never know to even check on Facebook did they try to send you a message.

Quietly changing everyone’s email to forward to Facebook is a dirtbag move. It may suit your needs but it disrupts the needs of many others.

-danny

Please do this: IF you use Facebook, AND you use email, UPDATE your profile so that when we look up your email on Facebook, the correct address is displayed.

Furthermore: if you want to send me email, my address, as it has been for the past decade, is dannyman@toldme.com. If you want to sign me up for a bunch of nasty spam that I will never read, go ahead and put in dannymantm@facebook.com.

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Technology

Recruiters: What is in a Name?

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2012/06/22/cybercoders-really-wtf/

An e-mail recently sent regarding a job opportunity:

Good luck filling the position. If you don’t mind some unsolicited recruiting advice … I ignore job spam and and otherwise deride messages from CyberCoders for the following reasons:
1) They spam me with regularity.
2) CyberCoders is a horrible horrible name some fifth grader cooked up in 1995. Seriously? Cyber? Orange on purple web design with tiny fonts? Coders? Even if I were a FT programmer I still don’t think I could take “Cyber Coders” with a straight face.

When I see a job posting come from CyberCoders I assume the company in question is at best a few clues short and more likely doesn’t understand tech employees or what they want, and it is likely not a place I would ever want to work.

For your sake, hopefully my own view is just an abnormally harsh minority opinion not widely held by your target audience.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

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Religion, Technology

The End IS Near!!

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2012/06/10/daves-galaxy-reset/

Folks clamoring for the Mayan Apocalypse this year can take some solace in a note I received this morning:

Greetings

I’ve been making some changes to the game that
pretty much require a reset, I apologize for the
inconvenience, I don’t like to disrupt the game
in such an extreme way, but it will make things
much better, I think.

The 2 biggest changes are that I’m adding Nebulae
to the galaxy, and changing the combat system to
work better statistically.

If you have a question or a concern, or wish to
tell me off, send an email to xxxxxx@gmail.com,
I’m always willing to listen to concerns.

The last turn will run the morning of June 23rd,
and the new galaxy will be built on the 24th.

Have Fun!
–Dave

Depending on how you look at this: everybody wins!

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About Me, Technology, Testimonials

Dear Companies: Knock it Off, Please!

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2012/06/02/dont-force-tv-commercials-on-captive-audience/

E-mail feedback to esurance:

I flew Delta airlines yesterday. When the planes take off, after the safety video, the captive audience of passengers is subjected to a handful of television commercials. Personally, I take offense at being subjected to television commercials: I avoid gas stations and airlines that subject me to commercials. I don’t subscribe to cable TV, but pay to stream shows commercial-free online.

Yesterday one of the television commercials that was forced upon me was from esurance. Hey! I PAID for this insult! My desire to use esurance as my auto insurance provider was greatly diminished upon being forced to watch a television commercial.

As people continue to leave the commercial television system, cultural tolerance for commercial interruptions will decrease. This complaint is the tip of an iceberg that is growing before you. Please reconsider this practice of forcing your television commercials upon captive audiences before you alienate even more customers.

Thanks,
-danny

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