My name is Tom. Thanks for stopping by! I’m a veteran software developer in Richmond, Virginia. I have a fondness for writing, and this is one place where I do that. This blog mainly focuses on my life, technology, and current events. All of my opinions are entirely my own. Enjoy your stay!
April 16, 2013
I happened to be off work yesterday, and found out about the Boston attacks on Twitter, and got all of my information about it from Twitter. I didn’t turn on a television, I didn’t turn on a radio, I didn’t even go to CNN.com or any other web site or RSS feed. Everything I heard came from Twitter status updates.
This morning, I started the NBC Nightly News audio podcast as I often do in the mornings. Of course, the Boston attacks led the news, thankfully bumping North Korea and whatever other random unimportant nonsense they usually talk about out of the spotlight.
Even over the opening theme music, you could hear people screaming in the background. There was a tagline “Terror in Boston” or something like that after the date. Brian said a few hyperbolic words. Then they proceeded to play what I assume was video of the explosions happening, but of course all I heard was a boom (repeated many times) followed by thousands of screaming people. It sounded exactly like that unnerving scene in Titanic after the ship sank and everyone was drowning in the water. I turned off the podcast before the first reporter got far into their story.
It was interesting to compare my reactions based on the way the news was delivered. My reaction to the news on Twitter was something like, “That’s awful, I hope everyone’s okay.” My reaction to the audio podcast was something like, “This is a disgusting exploitation of a tragedy that happened to occur on live video and I have no desire to support this.” I learned absolutely nothing new from the little bit of the podcast I heard. I got all of the information that was available from Twitter in a handful of 140-character tweets within an hour of the event: Two homemade bombs were set off at the finish-line of the Boston Marathon and there were a lot of casualties. As I write this, it’s noon on Tuesday, and I still don’t see much more than idle speculation in the regular media.
So I guess it’s true that Twitter is better at delivering relevant news in an efficient manner. And television news is so appallingly sensationalistic that it’s impossible to feel any connection to the news it reports.
April 6, 2013
So I was entering an event into my Android calendar, which reminded me of something about Android that really annoys me. In what world is it easy to enter a month and day using these stupid radial spin dials that you have to flick through?
It reminds me of every kitchen timer you see now. You only get “up” and “down” buttons to enter a time. You never see timers with a keypad anymore, because some bean counter won’t let their manufacturer put 10 buttons on a device when you can get away with 2.
Does that linear model really have to extend to the Android calendar too? It doesn’t cost anything extra to put a keypad with buttons labeled 0-9 on a screen! Imagine a world where you can enter a date into a calendar app by going *taptaptap* and done! instead of *flick* *flick* *flick* *flick* *flick* damn overshot it *flick* *flick* damn missed again *flick* damn didn’t register my flick *flick* okay month entered, now for the day…
This daily hubbub about North Korea is getting kind of ridiculous. Is there really nothing else to sensationalize in the world? No circus trials? No elections? Nothing?
News media seems to think that war from North Korea is inevitable, if one is to believe the continually-escalating scary reports we’ve been subjected to of the escalations happening there.
In this NBC News story they say, “North Korea’s standing military, according to the best U.S. and U.N. intelligence assessments, is the fourth largest in the world, at 1.1 million members.” I’m assuming this is supposed to scare us into thinking they could actually do some serious damage in an invasion. We’re to imagine wave after wave of men pouring over hills, screaming, shooting, blowing up everything in their path, perhaps like going “over the top” in a World War I charge.
I’m not a military expert, but I’m pretty sure wars aren’t fought that way any more. In fact I could easily imagine a U.S. commander looking at a field full of charging men with rifles and cackling gleefully about calling in airstrikes to wipe out the entire enemy army all in one afternoon.
I think nowadays the men in an army mostly serve to operate the vehicles and machinery of war. And given North Korea’s desperate poorness, I doubt they have much of that. If they do, it’s all old hardware, and we saw (twice) how Sadaam fared with old military hardware against a modern military.
Speaking of which, does anyone else remember similar statements about Iraq’s military before the Gulf War? I’d swear I remember we were told they had a frightening million-man army back then, too. Let’s just say it didn’t really work out for them.
This is another followup on my search for a news reader. I want to like Feedly. I really do. But I just can’t get a grip on this interface. It seems like something completely random happens whenever I hit buttons I think should do predictable things. It’s usually when I click on the > button, which I think is going to show me the next page of fresh items to read, after I have marked the current page as read. Sometimes it does that. Other times it takes me to one random feed from which it’s hard to get away. Other times it does nothing. Other times it goes to an empty front page with items on the side. There’s too much confusion! Up is white! Black is down!
This is a followup on my last post about news readers.
Google+ sucks as a news aggregator. It only shows you maybe one in ten stories from each news source. I don’t know if that’s a feature of Google+ itself or the fact that people don’t post much on Google+. But it’s like this: You’re following ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, Fox, a dozen tech news sites, and then you go look at your Home feed after an hour, and there’s maybe one or two or three posts to look at. That’s messed up. There should be like a hundred posts from all those sites.
I’m looking at Netvibes right now. My initial hit is, “Wow, this is a neat idea, but slow and poorly implemented.” I like the idea of building a “front page” that has Twitter and RSS on the same screen. But the UX feels so … 5 years ago.
Maybe this is another case where I just need to build my own reader. Of course I don’t have the time to do that. Anyone want to write it for me? :)
March 23, 2013
I’m not sure I get the point of Google Keep. Why is this a different app from Google Drive? You can already create notes in Google Drive by creating a document. Why do I need a different app to create the same notes? It syncs with Google Drive, but why isn’t it IN Google Drive? I thought Google was finished putting out apps that overpaid 20-somethings dreamed up while they were high. :) Does anyone have a use for this thing?
March 15, 2013
Several recent events have prompted me to examine my news consuming process. Mainly, Google is shutting down Google Reader, which is one of the main things I read every day. Also, I was troubled that I completely missed two fairly major news events from the past week: 1) I only barely found out about the Daylight Savings change before it took effect, and 2) I had no idea that we finished electing a new pope.
All of that tells me it’s time to work on my news reader.
I consume basically two “kinds” of news sources. The first is a typical Stream of Headlines, which I glance at all throughout the day to see if anything catches my interest. These are the kinds of items I would most likely share with others or make a comment on.
The second source is a more leisurely flow of articles from sites that I know I’m going to want to read everything they say. These are most likely to be individual blogs that perhaps only update once a day or once a week, so I think of it as a Daily Update, and usually the only way I can see them is to physically go to their site or grab an RSS feed.
I suppose you could call Twitter a third source.
I think I will need a different reader for each of those sources. So I’m testing out a few options.
I put Flipboard on my iPad, and I have to say it rocks for browsing headlines and Twitter. Unfortunately it’s entirely worthless to me when I’m work, since my iPad remains at home during that time, and as far as I know, there isn’t a web version. (Flipboard on my Android phone rocks quite a bit less. It’s very slow updating, so I probably won’t use it much.)
I’m trying Feedly, but so far I’m not sold on the Chrome version.
For the River of Headlines, I’m going to try using Google+, because most of that river consists of major media brands that are on every social media platform. I could probably use Facebook as well, but that doesn’t sit right with me.Another downside of Google Reader shutting down is the inevitable loss of Google Listen, which is their Android podcatcher app.
March 11, 2013
I stumbled onto a blog called Tech at Night hosted by RedState. That’s right, you heard me, it’s a tech blog – let that sink in – by the hyper-partisan right-wing blog RedState.
Talk about a gold mine of writing material.
The first post I saw from this blog came up in my Flipboard news and had the innocuously non-inflammatory title of As usual, Republicans are right and Democrats have an alternate agenda in the Senate. Of course, how could you not read something with that title from something called Tech at Night. The very first paragraph made my jaw drop.
“A lot of conservatives seem to be getting behind a Hatch-Rubio bill to increase immigration for skilled individuals. No wonder Harry Reid wants to block it for partisan reasons. Have to put politics over anything else. Can’t let Republicans do a good thing.”
What the what?! I can’t make sense of this. Conservatives championing an increase in immigration? Did I read that right? Conservatives want to increase the immigration of skilled individuals? Is this really a conservative position or did he just make this up to get to a punchline about Harry Reid?
Because it sounds like the pro-America, we-did-it-all-on-our-own party position is that Americans are too dumb to work in our tech startups, so we better get more skilled people from other countries in here quick! You know, before America falls behind in tech.
Hey I have an idea. How about put something in our educational system about all this new-fangled high tech stuff.
“Jay Rockefeller is talking about workforce standards in the context of cybersecurity legislation. Talk about using any excuse to grow government. At least guys like John Thune recognize the need for the government and private business to work together against foreign Internet threats.”
There are no links there so I have no idea who these people are or anything about workforce standards. But let’s talk about the government and private business working together against foreign Internet threats. I have some experience with federal government IT departments, and I don’t think it’s going to be so much “working together” as it will be “doing what the contractor says.” Because the current crop of IT workers in government have barely advanced beyond COBOL. Maybe after the glut of IT retirements hits it will be different. (Of course, then there won’t be any government workers in IT, because really, what college graduate is going to take a government position in IT? Guess that’s when we’ll need all the foreign workers.)
“Here’s the right position on Pandora: not yet more regulation, but deregulation of music licensing. Time we ended irrelevant regulations based in an era when terrestrial radio was king, regulations hearkening back before 8 track, before cassettes, CDs, iPods, and Sirius.”
I’m not really sure what “irrelevant regulations” he is referring to or what “deregulation of music licensing” means in this context, but following the chain of links leads to this staggering display of ignorance on a blog ironically called Reason.com: ”Pandora streams Metallica whether the band likes it or not—something that should give pause to Republicans who believe copyright protects property rights.” Um. Metallica probably doesn’t own their sound recordings, because record companies almost always own those. I agree that copyright needs some work, but Republicans, you guys should refrain from charging ahead with any new copyright laws until you learn some basics about how the existing system works, otherwise you’ll probably come up with something that screws over smaller artists.
“Remember when two of the top wireless competitors merging was supposed to be the worst thing in the world? I guess the Obamanauts changed their minds on T-Mobile/MetroPCS. Or maybe it was about sticking it to AT&T all along, since AT&T is hated by the Net Neuties.”
Wait, wait. This guy is saying that the previously shut-down merger of AT&T and Sprint (2nd and 3rd largest) is comparable to the potential merger of T-Mobile and MetroPCS (4th and 400th-ish largest)? A merger with epic thundering ramifications to consumers everywhere is the same as one that is barely a blip on anyone’s radar? I just want to make sure I read that right. And really? We’re supposed to feel sorry for poor underdog AT&T because that merger didn’t go through? My heart bleeds for their suffering.
And… “Net Neuties?” Really? I can’t wait to see what this guy writes about net neutrality. I mean because why wouldn’t we want large corporations controlling the Internet? What could possibly go wrong there? *cough* usage limits on unlimited service *cough*
“No, phone SIM unlocking isn’t rightfully about DMCA issues or circumvention of copyright, but it is about people trying to evade their contractual obligations when buying a subsidized phone. To regulate this would be unfair.”
Hold on, he might have a point on this one. I can understand carriers not wanting to unlock a phone until the contract is over. The contract is outrageously rapacious, but you still signed it. If you want a phone that you can move to any carrier whenever you want, get an unsubsidized phone. (Assuming they’re not trying to lock in those phones.)
March 1, 2013
Looks like sequestration is a go.
Right-leaning media and Bob Woodward have been quick to point out that the sequestration is Obama’s fault, and everyone hates him (again) for orchestrating this destruction of the country. But here’s something I don’t get. Why aren’t Republicans glad about this? They’re supposed to be the party that cuts spending and reduces government, right? Shouldn’t they be congratulating Obama on a job well done?
I guess that wouldn’t fly in today’s political climate. Erick Erickson, for example, lays the blame for the sequestration squarely at Obama’s feet, yet somehow manages to say that cutting budgets is both a great thing and a bad thing at the same time. It’s awesome to cut budgets, apparently, but only some budgets, and definitely not any budgets that Obama proposed.
February 23, 2013
I while back I saw that the USPS is going to stop Saturday delivery. It doesn’t say when it will stop, but I think that’s awesome. Now they just need to work on stopping mail delivery Monday through Friday, too.
Because I personally have no reason to receive paper mail anymore. I barely even look at what comes out of my mailbox before dropping it into a recycle bag. I think it would be awesome if I could opt-out of mail service entirely. If someone needs to send me a document, they can send an email. If they need to send me a package, they can UPS or Fedex it.