Sunday, December 31, 2006

12 Angry Men

Nate at work recently recommended the movie 12 Angry Men. Em and I recently watched it on the free movies section of Comcast On Demand. Other than the opening and closing scenes the movie takes place entirely in a jury deliberation room. The story line involves a jury that must decide whether or not an 18 year old is guilty of murder. The group is made up of a diverse cross section of society and personal histories. As the group struggles to come to a verdict the individuals tackle lots of issues including personal bias, what is beyond a reasonable doubt, and the place in society for those who are likely to cause it problems.

The movie left me with a few observations that afford further thought. If juries really think about/discuss cases put in front of them it should be hard to be sure beyond reasonable doubt that someone is guilty. Can our legal system operate if it is this hard to convict someone? even if it can’t operate, how much are we as a society willing to give up before we convict an innocent person?
One of the more interesting topics touched on during the discussions was that the young man may have been doomed to commit a heinous crime during his life because of his upbringing. One juror pushes farther and states that because he is doomed to this fate he and those who were not Nurtured properly in their youth should just be locked up before committing any crime. This statement scared me quite a bit as researchers have a profiling computer program that assigns a murder score to an individual that indicates how likely they are to murder. This program may be used by law enforcement initially in probation risk assessment, but I suspect will creep into other aspects of law enforcement as well, possibly becoming a thoughtcrime like detection system. In a similar vein the UK is looking at legislation that will allow the detaining of those who fail to pass minimum mental health standards (Nature, previous was Nurture). I don’t think that the society that we know and enjoy can exist if these ideas are promugulated and basic liberties are attacked.

In short, watch the move.

Continuous play for Podcasts on Ipod

I just spent a while trying to figure out how to get multiple podcasts to play sequentially on my Ipod without kicking back out to the main menu. I found lots of people with this same problem but no solution. This behavior is caused by the random setting on the Ipod being enabled. If the Ipod is set to random song or random album then only one podcast will be played and then it will return to the main menu. If random is set to off then if you put the podcasts in a playlist or smart playlist it will play them one after another with no intervention.

Friday, December 29, 2006

House hunting again

Since the Gemcraft home fell through Em and I get to start house hunting again. Em contacted our realtor already and she has a tone of houses that look like they will be good options at closer to reasonable prices. Lucky for us the market is now much more of a buyers market. Having the Gemcraft deal fall through is turning out to be a good thing.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Gemcraft Homes — Avoid!

Em and I have been trying to work with Gemcraft Homes for the last several months to get a townhouse in Perryville, MD built. This has been nothing but painful! We encountered multiple major issues while dealing with them.

The first issue is they were estimating $17,000 in closing costs (using their preferred mortgage company). Given that we had received estimates on similar loans of $4000 closing costs this threw up a red flag. The only thing I can figure is that they are getting a kick back from the mortgage company for requiring the use of that company in order to get the good price on upgrades. We required that they drop the price of the home several thousand dollars before we continued with the contract. They played around trying to avoid it but eventually gave in. On the way home from contract signing I saw a special on CNN Money about closing cost scandals. From this point I felt that Gemcraft is not trustworthy.

Next they changed the window well model from the one that they had shown us at the contract signing, a nice terraced thing that allows lots of light and some plants, for a standard ugly aluminum window well. When we brought this to their attention they tried to tell us that the new one was ‘better’, so they were within the guidelines of the contract.

The real killer is that they have a line in the contract that says that the closing date is up to the sole discretion of the builder. We live over 2000 miles away from the home site. Knowing this they scheduled the walk through for the day after Christmas! That means we would have to fly on Christmas day to meet their schedule! When asked about changing this to the first week in January they said it would cost us over $4,000 in penalties to do so!

Instead of trying to make things right, they just offered to send us back our earnest money and call off the contract. That isn’t what we want, but Gemcraft is not willing to hold good to their own contract and be reasonable about closing dates. This has allowed them to build the property using our credit reference for the last several months, now they are ditching us and going to turn around and sell the property for the increased price over what we had paid. In hindsight, I should have stuck to my initial feeling that something is wrong with this company and that we should not be doing business with them.

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Em’s Tree in SLTrib

Em and her Grandma put together a tree for the Festival of Trees in memory of her cousin Chase who died of Cancer last year. They were selected by the Festival to have a story written about their tree by the SL Tribune. Pictures of the tree are available here


As a few of you may know, Em is pregnant, her Due date is June 22nd 2007 :) We went into for our first appointment last week and have some ultrasound pictures from the visit. Kinda scary, another little Josh running around ;) Em has been having some severe morning (and daytime, and nighttime) sickness. Other than that everything looks good!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Google Everything

After fighting various email client/address book/calender programs for the past few years and being rather frustrated with them I’ve been looking for a good app for quite a while. I recently started mucking with google docs and have found it to be incredibly usable for being a web based app. This success pushed me over the edge and I decided to do Google everything. I’ve moved all my personal email to a gmail account, which was quite easy, I just added a forwarding rule to my local mail server and added that account as a send alias. Getting work’s email to go to Google was a little tricker. At work they are running Groupwise, which doesn’t provide an easy method to redirect email to a different account. I ended up using fetchmail to pull the mail off the Groupwise server and forward it to the local account that gets forwarded to gmail. I’ll post an update in a few weeks with how well Google everything is going.

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Quote on planning

"Planning is often just a weakness forced on those who delegate.” — Paul Graham

It is interesting that planning in and of itself produces nothing of inherent value, and really just uses up potentially useful time. If you can keep a particular effort down to a small group of people no time will need to be spent planning.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Contrary to popular belief, windows does follow the UNIX programming guideline (which is to do one thing and do it well). The one thing that it does and does well is BSOD.

Monday, July 3, 2006

New server

The site is now hosted on a real server at a real data center, instead of some old and failing hardware that lives under my desk. I’ve been looking on and off over the last few years for a virtual server hosting provider that will give full root access and control over a virtual server. I finally found one and jumped at the chance to use it. I am currently hosting with vpslink. They have great prices, much newer hardware than what I was runing on, and let me run debian, yay!

Friday, June 30, 2006

Itunes and DRM

I recently recieved a marketing email from apple touting the wonders of itunes 6, trying to entice me as an itunes5 user to make the upgrade. Untill I can use the media I purchase on the devices I use every day I have no desire to upgrade. My response.


“Along with all those wonderful features I get completely unusable music and videos. I can’t play it on my linux only laptop (cant use a mac laptop because it only has one mouse button, and windows is just flat out unusable for both stability and ui).

“What if I want to play my music on something other than an IPod in 10 years? Woops, can’t do that either. Integrate my playlists with a mythTV box, nada. I know you like your vendor lock in that the encryption provides, but I like choice and as soon as that goes away so does my business, which i believe currently is $500 to $600 in song downloads alone. I have spent most of my life listening to the radio and being happy with the price/performance, I imagine I can go back if I have to.

“I really do like the ITunes store, being able to download music legally has opened a new world to me, but I won’t purchase media that I can’t exercise my fair use rights with. Thank you for your work in producing some wonderful products and I hope to see the day when I can use those products in ways that may not have been envisioned by the creators.

“The mark of a great and lasting product is to have it used in many unique and exciting ways that the inventor never conceived.”


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Grandma Joan Married

My grandma just got married to Hans. It was a simple service held at my aunts house. Hans was born in Switzerland, just moved from Canada, and is a retired pilot. I have a few Pics up here.

Monday, June 19, 2006

ATV crash

Two Saturdays ago (June 10th) Em decided to drive a 4wheeler off the side of the mountain. She was going up a slippery hill and the ATV hit a stump which threw her off into the bushes and the ATV then followed her, rolling over her and eventually ending up in a tree. Thankfully she walked away with only a cracked rib a crack in her thumb. The ATV didn’t seem to be phased, though it did take 6 hours to pull it back on to the trail (thanks Travis and Jamie!). Some Pics of the wreck. I’ll let her tell you the full story.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Deb vs RPM

I’ve been using Debian for years on all my work and personal machines and building RPMs for work for years. I finally put together my first major Debian packages (open-mpi). Having build RPMs for years they are almost second nature to me, but I was pleased to find out how easy it is to build a ’simple’ debian package using dh_make (debhelper). I had my first package (modules) up on no time. It was as easy as building a simple RPM package.

Next came openmpi, where I wanted to provide profle and debug packages as well as the standard libraries. I was cast head long into a huge pile of scripts and dh_* binaries that I had no idea how to use! It took quite a while but I got though it (mostly) unscathed.

Now that I know how enough of the Debian packaging system I am can say that it is probably too complex for the common case. Multiple ways to start packages out, different standards revisions, etc. Though I am quite pleased with how easy it can be to produce a simple package yet how flexible the build system can be when needed.

Compared to RPM: Pros, Don’t have to learn yet another scripting language (rpm macros) to use the build system, just standard shell and make scripts do it; Data is stored in multiple files instead of one huge file; overall the Debian build system seems more powerful. Cons: Too many files that don’t exist in the default setup are useful, Too many different standards versions (if using this standard program foo behaves this way, else it behaves a different way). Overall building complex debs is about as hard as building complex RPMS, and to someone who knows what they are doing building a simple deb may be even easier than a simple rpm.

Friday, June 9, 2006

Xoftspy - nothing more than a scam?

Last night I tried to clean a computer overrun by spyware using Xoftspy from paretologic based on a recommendation from what I though was a blog, though I suspect it was a planted marketing site. After installing the tool it scanned (too quickly? 20ish times faster than adaware) and reported a number of hits but would not clean the computer without first paying the registration fee ($60!?!?!). Others have come to similar conclusions, though the company has supposedly turned clean I’m not sure I believe it. If you want to check the validity of a spyware removal product might I suggest checking this list of false anti-spyware utilities.

Thursday, June 8, 2006

Women and shoes

“Why does she have so many shoes?”, “She already has a closet full of shoes, why does she need more?” Have you ever asked yourself these questions before? I have.
My sister-in-law recently enlightened me with the logic behind the love of shoes. It all stems from the feet having some unique qualities: they don’t change much over time and a foot is a foot is a foot.

Unlike other clothing articles a cute shoe warn today will still be cute in the future, the foot doesn’t change enough to make the shoe become uncute. Next, I suspect that to most people one foot isn’t that much different from another foot (who spends much time looking at feet anyway?), thus a cute shoe warn by person A will also be cute when warn by person B.

Mystery solved ;)

Thursday, June 1, 2006

Training classes

I just taught a fairly successful system training class at LANL. The interesting thing about this class is lacked preparation of other classes I have taught in the past, just a course outline posted to a wiki page (I couldn’t bring any computers in with me) and a single system diagram. Other than that I was able to get discussions going about interesting system topics and let the class go, watching this is a lot of fun. Other classes I have taught have had a few weeks to a few days worth of preparation (slides) and seem to be generally boring. Though I can’t rule out that this group of ’students’ were just exceptionally interested. What makes a training class good, students? content? method that content is presented? presenter?

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Schneier essay on the Value of Privacy

Bruce Schneier has a very interesting article about why privacy is inherently good, and not worth giving up for increased security (most of which is just perceived and not real security anyway). The Value of Privacy