Friday, February 23, 2007

Warning: May blow your mind

Links for today

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Row, row, row


One of the things I used to like about my job was how the walls were decorated with amateur art, much of it created by employees. When I needed a break, I would take a long walk from piece to piece, occasionally finding something that really reached me. One day a while back I was walking to my cube and noticed that the paintings in my area (the entire second floor) were all being taken down. I asked if we were getting new ones, but it turned out we were getting something else. Billboard-sized promotional posters with soldiers and weapons and satellites, all larger than life, with catch phrases to convey the company's strengths.

The posters were not just huge, but they protruded about three or four inches from the wall. And it turned out they had so many of these that they put the extra ones _inside_ our closed area (which previously had no art). Our aisles are not even big enough for two people to pass without one turning, and this did not help.

So this was obviously done because we have customers in our area sometimes and we want to convey a professional image. The effect on me has been the constant reminder that my job is to increase the efficiency with which we take lives. No matter the reasons, this is not something I'm comfortable with.

The posters are still causing claustrophobia in our closed area (a closed area is a large secured room -- ours is most of the second floor -- that is approved by the DoD for various classified work). They have taken down a few in the halls outside my area, and art is beginning to reappear.

But anyway, I've been checking out the new art downstairs since I can't relax in the halls upstairs. One of our employees is very talented in landscape, which I enjoy. My current favorite is a watercolor of a rowboat partially docked on a wooded river or lake bed. I don't know the names of colors, but I love looking at this painting. Some days, like yesterday, my eyes are drawn to the water, which perfectly reflects the overhanging trees, the distant mountains, the setting sun. Other days, like today, I can only stare at the row boat. It's dark, and its composition seems to shift more than the water's.

If I liked to contemplate art at home, I'd buy it.

Returning The Favor

For a long time I've been a consumer of free software, thought-provoking blogs, and of course Wikipedia. What has kept me from contributing back on a regular basis? Anyway, I'm trying to rectify that. It's been going well and I'm feeling really good:
  • Tomboy work is very rewarding. Whether I'm hacking on the new portable-tomboy branch, trying to fix last minute bugs before the upcoming release, or contributing to Bugzilla/IRC/etc, I feel like I'm doing something that matters to me and to other people. I don't know why I took such a long hiatus from working on it.
  • I'm trying to be more proactive on the various mailing lists I'm subscribed to. It's nice to be able to answer questions about products like MonoDevelop.
  • Sometimes I even comment on blogs I read from planet gnome, etc.
  • If I see a problem in a Wikipedia article I'm reading, I fucking fix it. Seriously, it only takes a couple of minutes. Wikipedia doesn't work if people don't interact with it, and I'm so tired of just taking.
So I'm trying to be a better citizen in this free culture that I claim to support. I really hope I can keep it up. It's fun and it makes me feel good. A nice departure from my job ;-)

I Was Just Trying To Help

It was me. I put up the sign in the first stall of the men's restroom that says "Nobody's Perfect. If you're standing up, please lift the seat." And you know what? It worked! I stopped seeing pee all over the toilet seat! Imagine that! Then recently we had a bunch of customers in for some sort of thingy, and I went to use the restroom and noticed my sign was gone.

Then I looked down and noticed there was pee on the seat.

Oh well, at least I had a few months of not having to clean up old man pee.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007


Bugs and Superstars

Robin Williams came to me in a dream last night to tell me that he disagreed with the approach taken in my patch for Tomboy bug 404739. He said he didn't like unpredictable UIs that can change on you without warning. I think he was advocating disabling the "Import Sticky Notes" option instead of completely removing it (this only happens when a user has no sticky notes).

I'm still not sure how I feel about it. But if you've never ever used the Sticky Notes applet, and you're using Tomboy, what are the chances that you'll ever try Sticky Notes? In which case having the "Import Sticky Notes" option at all is a confusing waste of space. And if you do decide to try Sticky Notes, the next time you start Tomboy, the Import option will be there. Mr. Williams compared it to those irritating Microsoft Office menus that by default only show common or recently used options, but with all due respect to The Mork, I don't think the situations are the same at all.

Silly Distros, the Sticky Notes applet is for old bearded hackers who can install it on their own

I'd like to be able to remove the plugin entirely, but distros are still shipping the Sticky Notes applet even though it's no longer a default part of GNOME. I don't like when distros ship both Sticky Notes and Tomboy; it's like the old days when everyone shipped 5 IMers and 4 web browsers. As a hypothetical new Ubuntu user just discovering applets, how do I choose between two identical-looking notes applets?

The description for "Tomboy Notes" is "Simple and easy to use note-taking". For "Sticky Notes" it is "Create, view, and manage sticky notes on the desktop". Yes, they're both good apps. Yes, they represent two very different ways of managing notes. But to 80% of users they are the exact same thing. So distros, pick one for your default install, and offer the other in your package repsitory. Why is this so hard?

In Other News, Visio Sucks

That is all.