jlm-blog
~jlm

13-Mar-2010

Urban peafowl sighting

Filed under: animals, biking, so. cal — jlm @ 13:11

I was just biking along Hill, by the PCC lots, and there braving traffic was a peacock and peahen. Bright blue necks, long (furled) train on the cock, quite the surprising sight, traffic stopped for the spectacle of them crossing the street.

7-Mar-2010

Prisoners’ dilemma and web advertising

Filed under: web — jlm @ 19:20

I use AdBlock Plus; I installed it after certain weight loss ads featuring ugly caricatured jiggling fat bellies started appearing all over the web, making browsing disgusting. Many people find that web ads make their browsing experience unpleasant in various ways, so adoption of AdBlock Plus and other blockers have been increasing significantly recently. This in turn has web publishers worried, because they see all these visitors showing up on their sites with the ad blockers, so they’re not getting the ad revenue they planned on, and that means more red ink on their balance sheets. (See this current Ars Technia article.) But when I turn ABP off, the web becomes intolerably hostile: Sites are slower, and when they do load they’re full of flashing ads and I get ad copy playing over my speakers and popping up over the text I came to the page to read. So now visitors are fed up, they block all that crap, and publishers can’t make their ad money, they shut down, visitors have no where to go, and everybody loses.

What happened? It was supposed to be visitors get “free” content because the publishers are ad supported, and this worked for a while. But this relies on the implicit social compact that visitors don’t block ads, which has as its unstated counterpart that publishers don’t make their ads so intrusive that visitors get annoyed by them. So I think we have a situation similar to a prisoners’ dilemma: visitors can defect by blocking ads, improving their own browsing experience but denying publishers their ad revenue; publishers can defect by showing intrusive ads, bringing in more revenue but destroying the visitors’ browsing experience. (It’s not quite a PD, because the payoffs are the same when the visitors defect regardless of whether the publishers do.) It seems to me that the publishers defected first, coveting the additional money from the worse ads, and we’re now seeing a tit-for-tat from the visitors, fueled by annoyance at the publishers’ defection.

And my experiment of turning ABP off shows that the publishers are still defecting, and defecting “harder” than before. Whatever your position on the morality of browsing with ads blocked, I think we’re going to see more visitors turning to blocking as long as intrusive ads are ubiquitous in web publishing. If the publishers go back to simple ads, which don’t move and flash and pop-over and piss users off, then publishers won’t see new internet users installing ad blockers, and us existing ad block users will be more inclined to turn our blockers off. But we’re going to continue defecting as long as the publishers are.

The Ars Technia article is titled “Why Ad Blocking is devastating to the sites you love”, but from the other side it could be called “Why intrusive advertising is destroying your users’ tolerance for your business model”. The publishers defected long before the visitors did, and turned a deaf ear to user complaints, and so I’m unsympathetic to cries from them that we’re now defecting too. Publishers have been pissing in the pool for years, and now they’re surprised users are putting on full-body wet-suits? Blame us ad-blockers all you like, but until you look in the mirror and make the web tolerable to surf without an ad blocker, the situation won’t get better for either of us.

4-Mar-2010

twitcode: automatic AFS Kerberos ticket renewals

Filed under: programming — jlm @ 17:29

If you’re a user of AFS with Kerberos, you’ve no doubt been annoyed at your ticket expiring and having to run aklog to get a new one. You may have tried to script running aklog automatically periodically, but been stymied that aklog won’t refresh an about-to-expire ticket. So, you have to scrape the output of klist for the expiration time and wait until then — easy enough. So simple that my script to do so, nicely indented and with declared integer variables for now and then weighed in at a paltry 353 bytes.

So, I figured if I inlined everything, I could fit it in a twitter post. And lo, it does:

while sleep $((`date -d "$(klist -5 | tail -1 | awk '{ print $3 " " $4 }')" +%s` - `date +%s`)); do aklog; done

That’s 112 characters, including unnecessary spaces for readability and the trailing newline, leaving plenty of room for extras you might think up.

Now, if only I could fit all this commentary in a twitter post…

16-Feb-2010

Dire time for webcomics?

Filed under: web — jlm @ 13:06

This recession has been bad news all around, with many businesses shuddering their stores and swathes of jobs lost. I’ve noticed several webcomics I’ve been following for a long time have recently shut down too. Bruno the Bandit announced its effective cessation mid-story. Angband: Tales from the Pit had an ending storyline for its wrap up. User Friendly has gone into repeats. Homestar Runner has quietly stopped updating. There’s a constant rise and fall in this “industry”, low entrance costs means competition is heavy, but I’m sad to see long-time players bow out in succession.

16-Nov-2009

Update on the Arroyo

Filed under: biking, so. cal — jlm @ 11:26

I rode the Arroyo path again today. This time the stream was lower, and a lot clearer, but not yet back to its normal level of transparency. The “stream of sludge” was pretty worrying for a while.

13-Nov-2009

What’s wrong with the Arroyo Seco?

Filed under: so. cal — jlm @ 13:32

Today the Arroyo Seco stream was dirtier than I’ve ever seen it. The water was fairly high, a little more than yesterday, but while yesterday the water was clear, today it was nearly black with sludge.
What happened? The radio news had the answer — there’d been some mudslides upstream, which apparently dumped tons of silt into the stream.

11-Nov-2009

AT&T, no phone to home

Filed under: networking — jlm @ 14:36

So, a little before 8:50 this morning, all my connections hung. Fire up mtr, and it doesn’t reach the first hop. I pick up the phone, and there’s no dial tone! I futz around for a while, but by 9:00 there’s still no phone service. I go outside and down the ¼ block to the AT&T switchbox, and there’s an AT&T truck there and a tech messing around with it. I ask him if he’s fixing the outage, and he says no, he’s measuring the noise on the wires. I say I lost my service 10 min. ago, and after getting my phone number he confirms that he pulled my wires along with a bunch of others then. With me standing around, he measures my line next and reconnects it.

WTF? How is it that this is a company which is synonymous with reliability in its reputation? A deliberate, unannounced outage, not during off-peak, and for much longer than need be just because it’s easier to pull all the wires, measure, then reattach than to do them one by one? And I was very lucky this time — last time I lost my phone it took them two days to send a tech out to confirm that the last tech to mess with the switchbox had screwed up my wiring and fix it.

11-Oct-2009

Angeles Crest still closed

Filed under: so. cal — jlm @ 09:03

A friend told me he’d gone hiking around Angeles Crest.
“I thought it was still closed.” “Nope!”

Sure ’nuff, I check the CalTrans and CHP websites, and they show Hwy. 2 as having no closures. This morning I get my camera and hiking gear to tour the devistation.

Sure ’nuff, when I get to the National Forest entrance, the road is closed.
I’m going to have to ask him about it…

4-Oct-2009

Floating point exception after upgrading libgcc1 (PCLinuxOS) (fix)

Filed under: linux — jlm @ 22:34

I was just upgrading my packages, like I do every so often. This time ’round the package update list was:
bash bluez-utils dkms-ndiswrapper e2fsprogs grub grub-doc libgcc1 losetup
ndiswrapper pclinuxos-release update-notifier

Went ahead, it installed cleanly, but afterwards I was getting floating point exceptions from some programs. ldd shows libgcc_s as a likely culprit, what with the just-done upgrade including
libgcc1-4.4.1-1pclos2010.i586 ############################## [100%]

Play around with apt-get, to see if I can get an older version from apt — uh oh, apt-get says floating point exception when invoked. Grab a Mandriva RPM from the net, give it to rpm — rpm dies with floating point exception. No problem, I’ll install the files by hand, just extract them with rpm2cpio — which hits a floating point exception.

Finally, I wise up, scp libgcc1_s.so.1 from a Debian system.
cd /lib
sudo mkdir brokengcc1
sudo mv libgcc_s* brokengcc1
sudo cp /tmp/libgcc_s.so.1 .
sudo chmod 0755 libgcc_s.so.1

And everything is working again, at least enough to tide me over until PCLinuxOS fixes the libgcc1 package. If anyone else is stuck by this, the libgcc I used is here.

That’s one way to ensure a language never goes mainstream

Filed under: programming — jlm @ 09:09

Quick quiz: How do you find the arguments to your scheme program?
  a) argv
  b) *argv*
  c) command-line
  d) program-arguments

Answer? It depends on if you’re using Guile, SCM, umb-scheme, or mzscheme! That’s right, it’s impossible to write a scheme program that takes arguments and is portable across implementations. Winnar.


Update: In 2013, option (c) was standardized.

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