Oops! Something went sideways.

Looks like the styling got goofed up. Sorry about that, unless it's what you wanted. If this isn't what you were looking for, try force refreshing your page. You can do that by pressing Shift + F5, or holding Shift and clicking on the "reload" icon. (It's the weird circle arrow thing "⟳" just above this page, usually next to where it says https://blog.unitedheroes.net...)

isn't quite ashamed enough to present

jr conlin's ink stained banana

:: The Process of Process

For a while, there was a fad for software engineers to rebel against “Process”.

They hated the fact that there were rules and procedures for things and wanted the freedom to make code. They wanted to run free among the linkers and cuddle up to garbage collectors, i presume.

Yeah, i wasn’t one of those types.

You see, i also cook. i understand that a good meal generally doesn’t happen by wandering into the kitchen and seeing what happens. It involves thinking about what meals you’re going to eat up to a week ago when you’re making a grocery list. It involves setting up a clean workspace, making sure tools are ready, and performing the steps. Mind you, while there’s some “drudgery”, it’s not much, and hey, there’s meat, fire & knives, so that’s a bonus.

But yeah, one of the keys of good, actually fun, cooking is that “organization will set you free”. Having ingredients ready to go when you need them is amazing. Pinch dishes are cheap as hell and make your life so, so much better. (You can get dozens at the local Goodwill or Dollar Store for just a few bucks.)

So, yeah, it makes sense that you have some level of process for coding. You want to understand what you’re building, have the tools and tests set up, and then have check lists so you don’t forget something. Because if you don’t you ABSOLUTELY will forget something. Plus, having a checklist is one less thing to spend precious memory dealing with. Heck, pilots have lots of them, and frankly, they help them stay focused on, you know, flying.

Of course, no process is ever really finalized and all process is subject to review and updating. You should never have to fight a process, it should be smooth and nearly second nature. If a process doesn’t work, it should be changed.

Sorry, just spent some time creating some additional process in order to capture data that we were ignoring because we forgot to capture it.

Granted, getting folks to follow process is harder.

:: Trade Secrets

i like to come into work early. Occasionally, this means that i’m here when trade folk are doing repairs or otherwise making the workplace ready. It’s nice because it offers less distraction for both parties, normally.

This morning an apprentice and journeyman were inspecting some work on a segment of HVAC, and it was eye opening. The apprentice had come in the day before and done some work on a pump that was making noise, and asked the journeyman to stop by and inspect the work. The journeyman spotted a few problems, fixed an issue, and discussed things.

All the while the apprentice peppered the journeyman with questions like:
“Ok, so how did you spot that problem?”
“Was there a specific tool that could be used?”
“How would i get that tool?”
“Are there techniques that i can learn to help me spot that sort of thing?”

The journeyman gave him the answers without judgement in clear, straight-forward words. He noted that the problem was due to a confusing bit of wiring that had two similar colored links, with very different usage and admitted that it was an easy mistake to make. He offered a way to test, but noted that sometimes, “you make that mistake, so you have to come back, just make sure you schedule a follow up”.

The apprentice knew he didn’t understand, the journeyman knew he needed to teach. Even the extra stories told were all about the problem. They wrapped things up in about 10 minutes and left.

What i just witnessed was a properly done peer review/post-mortem along with a mentor program, and it made me realize something.

Computer science people absolutely suck at this.

Granted, CS has yet to become a proper trade. There’s no history of the sort of on-site training that actual tradesfolk have. In most cases, no company that is hiring an HVAC engineer or plumber will force that individual to sign an NDA requiring that they not plumb a different building the same way that they plumbed that particular building, nor am i aware of any IP restrictions on wiring a workspace, but the fundamentals should be the same. Honestly, there’s little reason why your mentor should work at the same place as you, or just be a single person. Peer reviews aren’t a pain in the ass, they’re opportunities to learn and teach, in both directions.

If you’re not critically evaluating your skills and tools every opportunity, are you really as certain that you have the best? Be proud of what you create, but be prouder of who you’ve helped. Likewise, be open to learning at every opportunity. If i was a “typical” computer nerd, i would have slapped on my headphones, lit up the laptop and tuned out the “distraction” of two workers dealing with some other problem.

And i would have missed learning something important.

:: Less Moore’s

There’s a possibly unwritten rule that tech professionals should replace their gear about every two years.

Hard drives (the spinny kind) are really only good for about 5 years, then they start to fail for various reasons. That’s an average based on general use, and i’ve found it to be true. Newer, solid state drives, probably ought to be replaced more often, but it really depends on how much info you write to them.

Likewise thanks to Moore’s Law, CPUs and graphics cards tend to get faster and more efficient with time. Well, generally, at least.

My home workstation is a 4 core 2.5GHz box with 12GB of memory, about 3TB of storage and dual monitors. It’s about 6 years old, and runs off a 250W power supply.

Recently, i spec’d out a replacement machine (which generally involves replacing everything) for about $2500 which was a 4 core 3.0GHz box with 16GB of memory. i’d move most of the storage over.

i’m not sure it’s worth upgrading.

For a significant cost, i’ll see a performance enhancement of about 17%. i’ll also have a box that uses more electricity (since the newer CPU and graphics cards will draw a lot more watts than my current rig does).

Yeah, so i won’t be able to play the latest 4K rendered shooter in near photo-realistic chicken blasting detail. i also don’t need a car that can do 200MPh at the Nuremberg ring, either.

i’m not quite sure i know how to feel about this. i may swap out the graphics card in my box, but that will probably come with replacing the monitors with something better than the pair of 21″ 1900×1200 i’ve got now, that i still need glasses to read. There’s really no reason to change them out.

Granted, i run linux at home because that’s what i generally tend to work in, and support for the newest, most lunatic graphics cards tends to be… iffy… at best. i suppose it’s a lovely way to keep me from building some insane rig so i can play Beat Hazard Ultra, but that’s my call.

Am i getting old or has the return on Moore’s Law not really kept pace?

Sigh. i should know myself better by now. Just dropped a wad on a bunch of components for a new system. Expect ranty build screed in a week or so.

:: Fuck it.

Right. So, the assholes have won.

Doesn’t matter where you are, because there’s a lot of assholes and they’ve managed to win. In many respects, i should be proud of them. They’ve worked long and hard to get to the top. They’ve been determined and focused and frankly, it’s paid off for them. So, yeah, now they get to do their happy dances and tell the rest of the world to “Suck it up, buttercup!”

They’re in charge.

Let’s be clear. The assholes didn’t win by fluke. It wasn’t just random chance. It was effort that was spent over the last 30 years or so. In the case of the US, this was an entire generation spent planning their win. This was a long game that started after Reagan (yeah, wasn’t a fan then, not a fan now). Still, while family farms failed and we held mega concerts to bail them out, and his cabinet introduced supply side economics that pretty much got the whole wealth inequity business off like a rocket, and we spent insane money on woo-woo defense projects, he was built up as a minor god.

Don’t get me wrong. i benefited from the Reagan years. My family was doing defense contracting in those years and Reagan basically paid for my college years and my parents retirement. But the way he ended the Cold War was to make Russia realize there was no way in hell they could out-spend us. Wonder why our debt is still insanely high? Hi, mister Reagan!

And this is where i point out that all the Gen X folk who’ve been so damn quiet fit rather nicely into that 30 year generation. Behold, the fruits of their labor. Behold the generation of helicopter parents that gave us the “Participation Trophies” we all derided. Behold the (confederate) flag wavin’, “i ain’t PC”, Reagan worshipers who have given us the Alt-Right. Behold the generation that found “Long Duk Dong” hi-larious.

So, instead of following more fantasies about how “we can correct this problem”, screw it. Look, these folks wanted to burn down “the system”. They’re not reasonable. They don’t think about long term consequences, only the concept of “winning”. They are 100% sure they’re being totally rational and justified in being horrible to other humans because They Won.

So, what can we expect? Well, presume unemployment will go up, particularly in media organizations. These include things like the Internet. If you’ve not already carved out your multi-billion dollar homestead on the digital frontier, expect that it’ll be shut down either by competition, regulation, or just relegated to the dustbin. “Fake News” will be anything that deviates from the declared narrative, so “independent” sites will get shut down fairly regularly.

Oh, yeah, don’t expect to be able to use Tor, Signal or VPNs. Those will be filtered by either Comcast or AT&T for any number of reasons. (i had originally said “Your ISP”, but yeah, who’s kidding anyone?) Why wouldn’t you want to use your daily Facebook Allowance, citizen?

Protesting? Yeah, that won’t really make a difference either. Nobody will notice because the assholes won’t talk about it or let anyone know. How much discussion was there about what happened in North Dakota? (And don’t even think that’s actually over and done, yet.) Heck, these are folks who think the Chinese have the right idea. You might feel good about yourself or even take some level of pride in the idea that you were arrested for “Standing Up”. When historians discover your actions in 75 years, i expect that they’ll probably note it.

Expect whatever money you have to go away. You’ll have income, and might even get a stipend, but then, so did the peasants, so at least there’s a precedent, but unless you’ve got a few tens of millions readily available, you’re not livin’ in the manor house. What income you have will be lost to inflation, health care, and the like.

Granted, now’s a pretty awful time to buy up beach real estate, but a fantastic time to sell it, but you already knew that.

Frankly, if you want to see what things are going to be like, just look to Poland.

So, what to do?

Well, for one, i plan on trying to continue to act much like i had. i’m nice to people mostly for selfish reasons. (i like to be around happy people.) “Weirdos” and “Freaks” are more interesting than assholes, so i’ll prefer and promote their company when possible. i’ll secure my information as best i can for the same reasons i’ve done it for years. i’ll generally pay cash for things, use bogus affiliate information, and reduce my footprint as much as possible. i’ll watch news from other countries because the assholes they suck up to are different than the assholes here.

i’ll use various forms of encryption for stuff i give a crap about, and anything really important gets put on paper, only. If i have something crucial to tell someone, i’ll make sure that i either tell them directly (face to face) or use a trusted agent. Like i’ve done for years. Turns out, there’s centuries of rules and protocol around real, paper documents that hasn’t reflected into digital ones. Plus, message encryption is pretty good.

i plan on having fun trying to find ways to turn the system on itself. Assholes have proven that they can be played like those wind-up monkeys with cymbals. Just need to find the right keys to let ’em go. Unsubstantiated rumor that aligns with most of their core beliefs with just enough subversion to cast doubt seems like a pretty good, well trod road. Bet it might be useful in the wrong hands.

i am absolutely not giving in to hope. Hope is a drug that keeps you from acting. No need to go full Nihilist, but it’s important to separate wishful thinking from reality. Best to plan for the worst and enjoy the delightful surprise the rare times you’re wrong. Know what does work? Anger. The driving desire to make people as miserable as they are intent to do to you. Frustrate them at every opportunity. Make them angry. Use that anger against themselves. Call ’em “Liberals” because they are about as far from real, honest Conservatism than you can unreasonably get. (They’re defending Russia and China? The birthplace of communism? Where Big Government is absolutely the rule? Shut up you liberal idiot.)

Best thing to do is be an asshole to assholes. Find ways to ruin their fun. Delight in pointing out when things go horribly wrong for them, because assholes don’t understand empathy, science or really anything other than reaction, so yeah, things are going to go horribly wrong. i have no interest in being “better than them” or “an example they can learn from”. i’ve been down that road. Doesn’t happen. When their crops fail or wells get poisoned, they need to just “Suck it up, Buttercup. Your side won.”

:: Tech Tips from My Family

i get it. i’m weird. i understand tech and how it is used and abused. i’m pretty much no longer “in touch” with the modern denizen of the digital frontier suburban sprawl complete with too many Starbucks, nothing but chain restaurants, and both a Walmart and Target across the street from each other. That digital domain.

i’m willing to believe that my long suffering wife, who’s been dealing with my special brand of paranoia for more than two decades, is also no longer “in touch”. She’s been corrupted and is no longer the perfect bellwether for the general population.

That’s why i appreciate watching my family over the holidays.

My father in law has multiple sheets of paper with various online accounts and one of three passwords scrawled on them. He carries those papers everywhere he brings his computer. Recently, he decided to create a document to hold the latest, corrected versions of his passwords.

Mind you, i showed him, repeatedly, how to get the browser to auto-complete passwords so he wouldn’t have to write those down. i showed him where he could go to see the list of all the accounts and passwords.

i printed out the password list, then secured the document with one of the three passwords he uses on all of those sites.

He couldn’t remember which one it was, so he was going to write it down.

i removed the password from the file.

He has horrible, albeit reasonably secure passwords. Telling him to use a password manager is useless. He doesn’t have the behaviors to even make that feasible, nor will he ever.

My sister-in-law pretty much lives on Facebook. i would be deeply astounded if she had any other app on her phone, including one to make calls or show the date. Facebook doesn’t need to create a phone, they already have millions of them.

These are people who don’t understand privacy or why it matters. They don’t understand security or even how to do it. i could tell my father in law that what he’s doing is the equivalent of putting a spare house key in a planter, but he does that too. i could tell my sister in law that facebook uses all of that information to sell her ads, if she didn’t talk about the great deals she got on stuff.

These are people who click and open anything that’s sent to them. They do all the stuff that gives me nightmares and see no problem. i’ve tried to talk to them earnestly and they, frankly, don’t care.

Kinda sad, but at this point, they’re not really welcome on my network. Much the same way that i think i might not be invited back if i used all the guest towels and flushed the entire roll of toilet paper in every bathroom. They get to use the “kiddie” network. The one that i put any untrusted device i don’t want getting access to my live network.

This is how an army of web cameras took out most of the internet. This is why there are vast botnets at the command of criminal organizations and why ransomware is a thing, and i harbor little if any hope that things will improve. We’re giving highly capable computers with open credentials to folks who proudly refuse to read the manual “quick start” guides.

The internet was built like how the freeway system was. There’s redundancy, and routing, but also there was a basic assumption that most folks would at least try to follow the rules. Yeah, that’s not happening. Instead we’ve wound up with something more akin to Mad Max where everyone is texting behind the wheel or fishing out a fry from the back seat.

And here i thought that political discussions were what would make me sad this year.

Blogs of note
personal Christopher Conlin USMC memoirs of hydrogen guy rhapsodic.org Henriette's Herbal Blog
geek ultramookie

Powered by WordPress
Hosted on Dreamhost.