Archive for the 'Rants' Category

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Oh, you wanted that Toasted?

This morning at work (as on many Fridays) Art over in SysAdmin brought in goodies – Einstein Bros. bagels and cream cheese. Now, I absolutely loves me some poppy seed bagels that have been toasted a little crunchy on the outside (toasted sesame seed is a nice second place choice). We have a decent, wide mouth toaster in the pantry, but it’s a bit slow.

So I grab a poppy bagel, slice, drop in the toaster, depress the lever, and head back to my desk. My office is like 10 steps from the pantry, and that toaster is slow. I figure I’ll spend the 2 or 3 minutes it’ll need looking up some info someone asked me for while I was grabbing the bagel.

A couple minutes go by, and I return. My bagel hasn’t popped up yet, so I peek down inside. It doesn’t look toasty, even a little. There’s no heat coming out of the toaster. I look down at the little toastyness-adjustment dial, and it’s set all the way to the left. On most toasters, this is minimum toastyness. But on our WonderToaster, all the way to the left is beyond minimum… it’s actually labeled “Off”.

This device is a TOASTER. You push the lever down when you want something toasted! The basic design hasn’t changed in like a hundred years. In what possible scenario did some white-lab-coat frocked Poindexter (or his pointy-haired boss) imagine I would place my bread-or-breadlike-product into the toaster, depress the big lever, thus lowering my bread-or-breadlike-product into the bowels of the machine, and yet NOT want it to get toasted?

This is a perfect example of over-engineering. Listen up people- a job is finished when you solve the problem. Once I can choose a level of toastyness and initiate toasting, your job is done. “Off” is not a level of toastyness. Its an un-feature. It makes your product less useful. Stop doing that.

SpamWars: The Spampire Strikes Back

So here I was, idly checking my Bloglines feeds and lamenting the fact that I had nothing to blog about tonight. Silly rabbit, be careful what you wish for. Poing! New Mail. No, wait… 6 new e-mails in the 5 minutes since the last automatic check. That never happens. Must be comment spam on the ol’ blog.

Indeed. Not only that, but all of the spam comments showed up in my inbox as new comments, not spam attempts. This means my anti-spam measures have failed. Several months ago, I suffered a severe spam onslaught, which lead to my disabling comments for three weeks. When my comment system returned, I had implemented several changes to help stop the spam. I even kept the details to myself to slow the spammers from catching on. Looks like they’ve caught on.

My countermeasures included rejecting all items without a referrer, and changing the default value in a hidden comment form field used by the Blosxom writeback plugin. Nice try. Tonight’s spammer is much more sophisticated. Each post came from a separate IP address. Referrer is present and correct, and the User Agent string looks innocuous, although I’d bet it’s a bot. The posts came in groups of three, and for each group of three I can see a single IP address GETing the original post plus other pages (archive links, etc); however the two “sniffer” IPs are different.

These little weasels deserve all seven levels of Dante’s Inferno and a couple of new ones I just thought up. For now, I’ve shut off comments. Looks like I’ll be setting up the blosxom port of the MT blacklist very soon. Sorry for the inconvenience, feel free to email me in the interim. Unless you are a spammer… you may feel free to (Extremely violent and anatomically questionable recommendation censored).

W vs. Q

Who was the slackwit who decided the keystroke for Close Window (or Close Tab) should be right next to the keystroke for Quit application? In most OS X applications, Cmd-W closes the current window. In Firefox, it closes the current tab if multiple tabs are open; it closes the window if only one tab is open. In nearly all OS X applications (Including Firefox), Cmd-Q quits the application. In an app such as Firefox, where there’s no need to save anything, Cmd-Q quits without confirmation… Even though Firefox prompts me to confirm if I try to click the “Close Window” button with multiple tabs open, it just accepts the keystroke without batting an eye.

I Knew I Was Right – But I Was Wrong

UPDATE: See the end of the post for a retraction. The original post remains for posterity.

Even though I swore off CompUSA several months ago, today I almost caved in. In the end, they just proved me right. You can’t trust them.

I was browsing the sales ads in today’s newspaper, looking for a large harddrive cheap to put in my TiVo. Circuit City had a 160GB Western Digital for $109 after rebate (plus a $20 gift card), but curiousity made me check CompUSA. They had the same drive for $59 after (multiple) rebates. Being that I didn’t see the ad until late in the afternoon, I figured going to the store was probably pointless… they never have much stock on these kinds of offers; they just want to get you into the store. I’ve been bitten many times.

This evening, I decided to see if I could get the rebates if I purchase the drive from their website. I’ve read the webpage and both rebate forms, and I can’t really tell. It all implies that you must purchase from the store in order to get the rebate. Of course, the rebates are only good for drives purchased this week, and only from CompUSA. Tempted, I decided to use the “check availability” feature. Naturally, all 5 stores within 50 miles of me had already sold out. But then I looked a little closer:

Product (un)availability

The highlighted section tells the story: “availability information is up-to-date as of 4/18/2004 3:40:41 AM”. That was before the store even opened on the day the ad broke.

UPDATE: Never let it be said that I can’t admit a mistake. When I posted this Sunday night, I believed that all 5 CompUSA stores in my area were sold out of this promotional item before the promotion even began. On Monday evening, it occurred to me that I should recheck in the interest of fairness. Sure enough, on Monday all 5 stores showed the drive in stock, “as of 4/19/2004 03:36:41 AM”. I can only conclude that they held the items until the sale promotion began, before putting them into stock. To appologize to CompUSA for jumping to an incorrect conclusion, I went today to purchase a drive. They still had it in stock.

Define “Now”

To the folks at EOS Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers:

How do you define the word “Now”? Let me use it in context for you: “Now Available.”

Over the last few years, I have made it a personal policy not to read books in an unfinished series. Thanks to authors such as Robert Jordan and Terry Goodkind, I despair of growing interested in a series of books, only to learn that the series will not be complete until long after I am in the grave. In fact, I am beginning to actively seek out books published as stand-alone volumes or trilogies, to avoid being tied up in never-ending series.

Recently, I purchased The Magicians’ Guild at a mall-based bookseller. Not having the convenience of Internet research, I checked the inside-front-cover, and learned that this is book 1 of The Black Magician Trilogy. I made my decision to buy this book based on the words “Now Available” printed directly above pictures of the covers of volumes 2 and 3 in this trilogy.

Imagine my shock and dismay upon searching for these books on It appears that Volume 2, The Novice, will not be published until April 27, 2004. It also appears that Volume 3, The High Lord, will not be published until September 1, 2004. Willing to give the benefit of the doubt, I have consulted my calendar. As today is April 15, 2004, it would appear that neither of these books are “Now Available”, unless you define “now” to mean “sometime in the future”. How would you define “Truth in advertising?”

When I purchase books in the future, I will be very careful to read not the inside front cover, but instead the back of the title page. To avoid any further deceptive marketing, I will be checking to confirm that the name HarperCollins is nowhere to be found.