Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Facebook, Enough is Enough!

From my YouTube:

You all told me to fight the good fight so please, contact Facebook! No more accounts disabled because of mass flagging or automatic deletions! Facebook must send out a proper warning, state why the account will be and/or has been disabled, and give users a chance to get them back. This isn't just an issue with Facebook, but they're among the worst offenders. We must not tolerate it! It's our  information that we entrust them with, and they must be held responsible.

How to contact Facebook:

Facebook, Inc.
471 Emerson St.
Palo Alto, CA 94301-1605 United States

Phone: (650) 543-4800
Fax: (650) 543-4801

Facebook, Inc.
200 Paul Avenue,
San Francisco, CA 94124

Phone: (415) 467-2300

Also check out: The Ultimate Consumerist Guide To Fighting Back (Revised Edition)

Sunday, July 26, 2009 Beta 2 Launches!

I mentioned PlayDeb, from the GetDeb guys, as being something to be really excited about with the upcoming release of Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala. I just checked out the site and their new beta is finally up and running! They currently are only serving Jaunty (which is fine since Karmic is only in alpha) but Karmic support is sure to come.

The new site was designed by the Nexuiz Nijnaz, players of the great cross-platform FLOSS game, Nexuiz. I am a bit disappointed seeing copyright retained on the site instead of using a free culture friendly license like the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license, but it looks like this is just what both the Nexuiz and GetDeb guys do on all their websites and i certainly won't make a big deal about that. The website is wonderful, and they've done a great job. The "Updates" page lists all the available games and allows you to filter them by genre, and install them by simply clicking on an apt:// link.

Each game has a description and screenshot, and many even have videos attached! You can register to rate and comment on games, and if you like PlayDeb, i encourage you to use the donate button on their "About Us" page.

In related news: The Ubuntu Gaming Team just had our first meeting which was very successful and i'll be posting all the details soon!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Groups to actually become useful on YouTube?

YouTube has had groups for a while, but they're pretty much closed off from the rest of the site and completely useless. There isn't even a way to search through them! Their new channel design layout has two modules that i've noticed: one called "Groups", and the other called "User uploads". When i select one of them, the other one is automatically removed, and neither one seems to actually add or remove anything from my channel page. I'm not sure why they can't both be enabled at the same time since "Groups" and "User uploads" hardly sound like they would be conflicting, but this does suggest that YouTube is actually working on becoming even more social and making groups useful. Does anybody actually have either of these enabled and showing up on their channel pages? 

Three Free Google Voice Invites!

From my YouTube:

Adding onto my YouTube contest, i have three Google Voice (formerly GrandCentral) invitations to give away! One will go to the winner of the contest along with the NVIDIA 8800 GT video card and the other two will go to the first contest entrees that ask.

Friday, July 24, 2009

This is how all help desks should function!

In an interesting discussion that took place recently on the Ubuntu Developer Discussion list about the scalability of communication channels for Ubuntu, this anecdote came up which i thought was worth sharing. First, part of an email from Andrew Sayers, citing two articles by Joel Spolsky, discussed a more effective way of dealing with issues that come up.
This suggests a solution I've pulled together from a couple of Joel on Software articles: when someone comes to you with a problem, first fix the presenting problem, then fix the second-order problem that caused it, then the third-order problem, and so on back to the original source.  Although this significantly increases the amount of work per issue, it's more than offset by the reduction in the number of issues. 
Of course, this is a better way to approach all of the problems in the world today, although perhaps starting with the source might be more appropriate in many circumstances. As in Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog (i couldn't resist), when Billy tells Penny in response to her requesting signatures for a homeless shelter, "You're treating a symptom". Onno Benschop posted this response about his experience applying this revolutionary philosophy to managing a help desk for 5,000 seats.
This approach speaks to me in many ways. As the manager of an IT help-desk for 5000 seats in the mid-90's I instigated a regimen where user problems were fixed by users. The way that worked is that the IT professionals were discouraged to just "click and fix" a problem, they had to explain to the user what caused the issue, how they got themselves into the problem, and how to dig themselves out. 
This met with lots of opposition. 
  • Users were upset that phone calls took longer than "click and fix".   
  • Management was upset that call queues were escalating and that number of resolutions processed were declining. 
  • Helpdesk staff felt unloved because they couldn't just be a hero and fix the problem.
It has been said that I'm a stubborn person and I persisted. After 3 months, something really interesting started happening. The number of calls to the help-desk started declining. Initially management thought it was because users were so fed up waiting that they stopped calling us. Further investigation indicated that users were having less problems. They were more confident, more knowledgeable and more able to help themselves. 
Yes, that's it. This shouldn't be incredibly revelatory or anything, but i hope that this kind of practice spreads. Fixing issues at a more fundamental level and creating competent users/customers just tickles me. Seriously, why can't people stop being so lazy and do things right? It pays off dammit! 

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I am capitalized and You are not?

As some of you may have noticed, i tend to leave my i's lowercase instead of using proper capitalization. This is not, as some of you may have assumed, because i never learned to capitalize my i's, but it is actually a habit i had to work to develop. Yes, i used to diligently capitalize my i's, so when i decided to start being rebellious against the English language it was actually hard for me to remember to not capitalize my i's. Now, it's grown on me entirely. To me, it feels and looks more natural, but let me explain why i started doing this.

I simply questioned why we capitalize our i's, and not our you's (yes, as in the word "you", not the letter). Originally, i's were just capitalized for practical reasons, none of which make any sense anymore, and now, there is no logical reason, grammatical or otherwise, for doing so. Of course, English is riddled with irregularities as all natural languages are, so why did i choose to ignore this particular rule?

In addition to the above, English is the only language that does this, and i have to wonder if it may have an effect on the English-speaking world. I sympathize with journalist Sydney J. Harris' sentiment that "It's odd, and a little unsettling, to reflect upon the fact that English is the only major language in which "I" is capitalized; in many other languages "You" is capitalized and the "i" is lower case". It seems a bit self-righteous, doesn't it? Leaving myself lowercase and capitalizing You has been humbling.

For these reasons, i choose to no longer capitalize my i's, and i'll start capitalizing my You's. I challenge You to do the same as an experiment. Then again, if you want to learn a language that is completely logical, there's always lojban. I'll leave you with this fun little poem:

Lets face it. English is a stupid language.

There is no egg in the eggplant
No ham in the hamburger
And neither pine nor apple in the pineapple.
English muffins were not invented in England
French fries were not invented in France.

We sometimes take English for granted,
But if we examine its paradoxes we find that:
Quicksand takes you down slowly
Boxing rings are square
And a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

If writers write, how come fingers don't fing.
If the plural of tooth is teeth
Shouldn't the plural of phone booth be phone beeth
If the teacher taught,
Why didn't the preacher praught.

If a vegetarian eats vegetables
What the heck does a humanitarian eat!?
Why do people recite at a play
Yet play at a recital?
Park on driveways and
Drive on parkways
How can the weather be as hot as hell on one day
And as cold as hell on another

You have to marvel at the unique lunacy
Of a language where a house can burn up as
It burns down
And in which you fill in a form
By filling it out
And a bell is only heard once it goes!

English was invented by people, not computers
And it reflects the creativity of the human race
(Which of course isn't a race at all)

That is why:
When the stars are out they are visible
But when the lights are out they are invisible
And why it is that when I wind up my watch
It starts
But when I wind up this poem
It ends.

P.S. If quizzes are quizzical, then what are tests?

Empathy is now in Karmic

As of today, the seeds have been switched, and Empathy, the awesome Telepathy IM client withsupport for both audio and video chat, geolocation, Adium themes, and collaboration via Tubes, is now included in the Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala daily LiveCDs. Let's get testing!

Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala current LiveCD running in Sun VirtualBox with Empathy open

My New Domain

So i decided it was time to take a step up from blogspot, and i registered a domain for myself to use. Although my blogging platform is still Blogger, the blog is now at

I'm also now using a new FeedBurner feed so my FeedCount is reset to zero and those ~100 people that are subscribed to the old one should update their readers! 

Saturday, July 11, 2009

What kind of bug is this!?

So, i've been using a sort of messed up install of Ubuntu because i was testing the Jaunty alpha way back when, and never did a clean install once the final version came out. I get some weird bugs every once in a while, but they're minor so i tolerate them (although i will be sure to do a clean install for every new release from now on). I'm never sure if a bug i encounter is an actual bug, or just a side effect of upgrading from an alpha. One of these strange bugs is that, very rarely, when i'm browsing in Midori, although it did happen once in Firefox, a black bar, a few lines of text thick and the width of a web page, will appear. It goes away when i scroll so that the bar is out of view and then scroll back, or if i minimize and restore the window. Anyways, one time, something a little stranger happened...

That's clearly the cutout of a giant star. The black bar was a box covering the entire page except for this huge star. What the hell is that doing there? That screenshot isn't perfect since i clicked something before capturing it which made some blocks go back to normal, but the huge star is still clearly visible. Is this something other webkit-gtk users have experienced and how the hell could that star have gotten there? 

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Doesn't Independence Day Deserve More? A call to arms

Happy 4th of July, America. When was the last time that actually meant anything real?

Forgive me if i feel strongly about this, but it seems us Americans are only good at complaining, blaming others, and consuming. I am aware that many of us are patriotic Americans who take pride in their country, but how many of us actually do our part to make it better? We all consume irresponsibly, complain about the state of things, and blame "them" for all of our problems. Democrats and Republicans blame each other, but i'm an Independent, and although my views are very Left (Liberal) Libertarian, i put the blame on all of us, the citizens. Our apathy and inaction is what maintains the status quo. We as a nation have the potential to be so much greater than we are, and no single issue is as sad as the total of all that wasted potential. It seems we won't rise to action until things are bad enough that we can't tolerate it anymore. I, for one, refuse to conform to this mentality.

I will do everything in my power to make a difference because as Bill Clinton stated so eloquently at the funeral of Coretta Scott King, "the difficulty of success does not relieve one of the obligation to try". Those words have ever since resonated with me, and regardless of how you feel about Clinton, i hope they will do the same for you. People always argue that nobody cares, but this hyperbole needs to disappear. If everyone has the mindset that they can't influence change, then true change will never come. If most people are not going to take action, does that mean that nobody should? No, because the right thing to do is not what most people actually do, but what everyone should do. "Nobody cares" is a shameful denial of all the grassroots progress that has been made. "Nobody cares" is a pathetic excuse to shirk one's collective social responsibilities. "Nobody cares" is a weak will that ignores the efforts of all those who do care. We all have an obligation to do something, so for those of us who are already active, we should encourage others to care as well.

I propose that we don't just use July 4th as a day to spend time with family, grill some barbecue, and watch fireworks come nightfall, but that we give the day some true justice and do something meaningful with it. The Fourth of July should be a day on which we not only celebrate our independence, but also exercise it: embrace the principles that this country was founded on by putting our freedom of speech into action. This should be a day where we give back to our country, care about it, and help shape it. Democracy is participatory; it depends on us.

Today, as we're celebrating, let's reflect on the rights we take for granted, the ones that give us reason to celebrate the founding of our country. Think hard on your responsibility to be a part of this country that is your home. The greatness of this nation is in its limitless potential. When the next Independence Day comes around, let's act to protect and fulfill the purpose of those rights. We can gather together in every major city to rally for the causes we care most about, no matter what they are or what side we take, and grow stronger together. Join your favorite organization(s) in holding up signs, handing out informational materials, and simply discussing your views and ideas with others. Or create your own materials and head out on your own or with friends. By sharing knowledge and opinions, even conflicting views, we can reverse the dividing polarization that has separated and pulled us apart and we will reunite our states. Doesn't Independence Day deserve something like this?

I know this idea may sound crazy, even hopeless, but I know that it can make a difference-- that it should make a difference. We need this, an annual day of action to reaffirm our independence, to bring us together around all of our disagreements, to take control of our own country. What better day than the anniversary of our Declaration of Independence? Imagine it: the entire country coming together not just to celebrate its past, but also to improve its future; thousands of people in the streets connecting with others and sharing information on the causes that matter to them; activism on a scale we've never seen before; real change in the hands of the people; us taking genuine ownership of our own country. This is the perfect way to commemorate this day and honor the value behind it. Plus, we can still enjoy the fireworks come nightfall. Consider this a call to arms. Let's transform our Independence Day, together! Who's with me?

If you support the idea, please repost it somewhere else and start organizing! Post to (micro)blogs, forums, YouTube, flyers on the streets, or anywhere else. Contact any organizations or groups you care about and get them involved. So far, all i have is the Facebook event from which the idea originated. We should get this to go viral or something. If you have any ideas or suggestions on making this a more successful effort, please post in the comments. 

Friday, July 03, 2009

YouTube Contest! Free NVIDIA e-GeForce 8800 GT

From my YouTube:

Hey everyone, I'm having a YouTube contest to give away an NVIDIA e-GeForce 8800 GT graphics card that i bought for $180 last year, for free! The contest is for the best informative, promotional, or awareness video for anything i like or might be interested in. So, you can pretty much do anything you want but some good topics include: Free Culture, Polyamory, Lojban, Atheism, Ubuntu, Anarchism, Creative Commons, Free Software and Open Source, etc, etc.

I'd like to get new people involved with the YouTube community so if this ends up being your first upload then bonus points to you! Also, uploading to The Internet Archive and The Video Bay (if it's functional yet) is a plus but completely optional. The only rules are:
  1. You must be subscribed to my YouTube channel and following my blog
  2. Your video must be licensed under a CC-BY-SA license or freer like Kopimi and
  3. The video must be created for this contest so no old videos.

Don't worry about camera quality, being super-creative, or having fancy special video effects because those things are nice but you really don't need them to make a good video. I'll be judging based more on the content of the video than any of those things so really use whatever you have whether it's a digital camera, crappy old webcam, or camera phone. I'm aiming for 50 video responses so you'll have a one in fifty chance of winning! The deadline will be August 3rd or until i get 50 responses, whichever one comes later. So, that's it. Start making videos! Good luck, and I look forward to seeing them! 

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

GMail Voice and Video Chat coming soon to Linux users

Looks like GMail Voice and Video Chat will soon be available to all of us Linux users out there! From the end of this update on version 1.0.10 of the software: 
Lastly, thanks to everyone who has written in asking about support for Linux. We've had to rewrite a key piece of technology, so this has taken some time. However, the results will be worth the wait.
Of course, you could just use a real IM client like Empathy to get audio and video chatting over GTalk and Jabber now.