Saturday, August 09, 2014

Why I Returned to my Galaxy S3

Back in January, I was due for a phone upgrade. I was a Windows Mobile user way back, and had my fill of the platform. Although there were a lot of developers creating great applications for the platform, Windows Mobile itself was unstable and unreliable. The Samsung Epix was my last straw, to the point where I sold a few things and begged money from my dad to get an iPhone 3G, which I paid full price for as I was out of cycle for an upgrade.

I had a total of 3 iPhones. Then I got a Galaxy S3 last year.

Late last year, a coworker got a Nokia phone with Windows Phone 8 on it. He was happy with it. I thought it would be a good time to return to the Windows platform, which integrates well with Windows 8.1 on PCs and tablets.

And it truly does. Microsoft FINALLY put out a good phone OS. I got the developer preview of Windows Phone 8.1, which I'm still running on that phone.

However, it's less than ideal. While the platform itself is well built and stable, the script is now flipped. Instead of Windows Mobile which absolutely sucked but had good developer support, I find Windows Phone to be great but has poor developer support.

Unfortunately, in this day and age, it's the apps that make the platform. Your phone itself can have the best, most stable operating system around, but without apps, it's limited.

I call Windows "The Forgotten Platform". Developers have largely forgotten it. Some, such as Web IS, refuse to develop for it entirely. Their Pocket Informant was my favorite app on Windows Mobile. Not going to happen for Windows Phone. Similar for MyLifeOrganized and Nozbe.

I use Waze heavily. Waze has not had an update in over 6 months. Amazon released a Kindle app for Windows Phone, but it sucks. You can't highlight or make notes in books, and while it can retrieve your place from the server, it won't save your place back to the server. The same problem exists in Kindle for Windows 8, which likewise hasn't been updated since October of 2013. Meanwhile, Kindle for iOS and Android have had multiple updates and is a joy to use on both platforms.

I'm also a heavy podcast user, but there is not a single useable podcast app for Windows Phone 8. I did find a free one that offered variable playback speed, but it can't import. The native podcast app suffers from the same problem, and is limited to its own catalog, which doesn't have more than half of the podcasts I listen to. Even when I enter the URL manually, it can't find it because it only looks in its own catalog. Since I got the Windows Phone back in January, I've had to keep my Galaxy S3 around just to listen to podcasts.

Additionally, the phone I chose, a Nokia 920, has a horrible battery life. I'm forced to run in Battery Saver mode all the time unless I want my phone to be dead in under 3 hours. This limits operation.

So yesterday, I swapped my SIM card back into my Galaxy S3. Now I only have to carry one phone with me.

One strong positive to the Windows Phone is it integrates well with Microsoft Sync in my car. It will read my texts to me while I'm driving. However, the voice recognition flat out sucks, so I can't dictate responses like I could on the Galaxy.

I'll probably get one of the new iPhones when they come out later this year. I'm running the Yosemite beta on my MacBook Pro, and iOS 8 is supposed to integrate well on it.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Serenity Prayer You Know Is New Age Bullshit

While I was in the Navy, I took part in a 4 week program that included some counseling and other "self-esteem" activities. It got me off the ship for 4 weeks.

While there, I learned a concept most of us have heard called "The Serenity Prayer":
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

I also learned an addition which I incorporated myself:

And the apathy to not give a shit.

I used to listen to Mark Passio's podcast. It's generally informative, but he gets very repetitive and argumentative on some topics. I eventually got tired of his militant tirades in favor of vegetarianism. I also have to evaluate how I spent my time with my podcasts, and the time spent on Passio's for the value I got lost out. Whenever Passio produces some exceptional content, Richard Grove usually puts it into his "Peace Revolution" podcast.

One such exceptional piece was Passio's presentation "New Age Bullshit And the Suppression of the Sacred Masculine." In exchange for seven hours of your time (totally worth it) you can watch the presentation here:


This is where I was introduced to the original serenity prayer, before it was dumbed down and pussified. "The courage to change the things I can" sounds really weak, doesn't it?

The original (cited by Passio) is:


God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.

The courage to change the things which should be changed, I think, is a much better attitude about life. Far too many of us use the excuse "well, I can't change that, so I'll just have to accept it." This perspective absolves you of that excuse. If it should be changed, then get it changed.

Apparently, I'm A Neoreactionary

On many of the manosphere blogs I follow, I've kept hearing a term called "neoreactionary". Some of these guys consider themselves part of that movement. I once tried to read an explanation of it, but couldn't get through before giving up.

Free Northerner explains it pretty well:

The reason conservatism is wrong is not because there is anything inherently wrong with conservatism, it is because modern conservatives have not yet realized there is nothing left to conserve. They have not yet realized that they have lost. It is over, it is done.
In fact, the conservatives have been so roundly defeated that the best of them are conserving liberalism thinking it to be conservatism.(The worst of them no longer even try to conserve liberalism).

So I guess I can now consider myself part of that movement. I've never been a modern liberal (I'm more of a classical liberal- the root word actually means "book" and "free" in Latin.) I stopped thinking of myself as a conservative years ago, though I still identify with a few of them. Lately I've considered myself a libertarian/anarchist. Not an anarchist in the destructive sense, I firmly believe in the non-aggression principle, but in the sense of what the Greek words mean "an" (without) and "archy" (rulers). An anarchist in the sense I consider myself is somebody who wishes to live without rulers. I don't believe I need some slick, marketing created politician to make me feel "safe". I'm capable of leading myself.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Dalrock: Commitment Issues

Dalrock put up a new post about commitment issues. He analyzes some of the popular forms of women's entertainment and claims about how "sometimes you just feel like blowing up your marriage."

This kind of obsession in all forms of women’s entertainment is now so common that no one notices it.  Our denial is so strong that we overlook what the divorce data makes abundantly clear.  Women (in general) have serious issues with commitment, to a far greater degree than men (in general) do.  Were we to acknowledge this we could save millions of children the pain of growing up with their fathers expelled from the home.  Sooner or later we are bound to adjust the narrative to reflect reality.  The sooner we do so the better for all involved.  It isn’t just men and children who suffer because this pathology is openly encouraged in our culture, but women themselves.  Nurturing these obsessive and destructive fantasies is no more healthy or empowering for a woman than a flask of bourbon is to an alcoholic.

His post reflects something I wrote a year ago, where I speculated that the claim "men won't commit" is psychological projection on the part of women, who initiate the majority of divorces and broken families.

And I should add, during the final year or two of my former bad marriage, I saw the book "Eat, Pray, Love" in the house.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Who Is In Charge? You Or Your Tech?

One thing I've never quite understood is how people feel ruled by their gadgets. When I used to read Tim Challies, I came across something (might have been in one of his books) about how his family had to take a weeklong vacation to a cabin in the woods to get away from their phones and laptops. One of his blog posts was about that kind of topic; about how they had to leave their phones in another room during dinner so they wouldn't be interrupted.

I got into a discussion with people in one of his comment threads. I accused people facetiously of having to bury their phones in the yard during family time, and commented that when I don't want to be bothered by my phone, I just shut it off. Somebody said I must be a better man than they are. That's probably true, but it doesn't answer my question: why don't you just shut the F'ing phone off when it gets out of hand?

I had another discussion at work this week in a similar vein. As much dislike as I have for the BlackBerry platform, I find the devices useful and convenient at times, especially when I'm not in the office and can't connect my non-wifi having work laptop to VPN.

In two years on my job I've asked a few times about getting a BlackBerry. One time I commented that I don't rate one. My supervisor said "That's not true, but if I got you one then I'd have to get one for the rest of the team." Oh, great. I'm 40 years old with a college degree, military experience, decades of professional experience and a solid track record of getting things done, but I can't have a BlackBerry because then all the other children would want one. Yeah, the Baby Boomers have sure created an effective and productive workplace.

So when I commented to coworkers about this, I got the usual "Why would you want that? I don't want one. I don't want to be ruled by it!" When I asked "Then why not just shut it off when you don't want to be bothered by it? That's what I've always done." I got a blank look.

What prompted this rant is a new Michael Hyatt post, "3 Reasons To Keep Your Laptop Closed This Weekend". No doubt, this will be a huge hit with his audience, which isn't the same audience as when I started reading his blog in 2004. But it's an audience that makes him money, so good for him.

Look, life is about balance. We have some really cool tech today. Much of it is useful to us. It enables us to get a lot done, and get some relaxation too.

The key is not to forget who is in charge. My finance is working this weekend, so I'll probably spend part of the morning on my MacBook Pro. I'm about done with email, so I'll go to Feedly to catch up on blog posts. Then I'll probably shut the lid for a while, and read a book on my Kindle. Then I'll most likely go to my Roku to watch some Netflix. I'm currently working my way through Star Trek: TNG. And if at any point I get tired of it, I'll put it down and walk away and do something else.

Enjoy your tech. Get as much as you want or need. But never forget who is ultimately in charge. Don't let it rule your life. Create some balance. If you don't, you'll just enable bloggers to keep creating softball crap content about burying your phone in the yard during dinner so you don't get interrupted.

Although I guess if softball crap content is where the money is, maybe I should head in that direction. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Projection and Preferences

It amazes me when people assume I want what they want. Case in point: lately, I've been toying with the idea of moving to Michigan. I have some good friends there in Grand Rapids. My finance and I went to visit them last month. We enjoyed it a lot. The cost of living is much lower, there's plenty to do, and traffic and congestion are almost non-existent compared to northern Virginia. Grand Rapids is also "Beer City, USA", which is a great fit for my love of hand crafted beer.

Don't get me wrong, I like Virginia. I very much prefer it to New Jersey, a place I will never live again. I've gotten several job offers and contacts about jobs back in New Jersey, but I refuse to live there again. New Jersey and I are not compatible. I might consider doing work for a company in New Jersey if I can telework from a better place to live.

Virginia is far from perfect. The cost of living is very high. Traffic often comes to a complete stop. Commutes are off-the-charts terrible. I currently live about 55 miles from work, a journey that can take an hour in the absolute best of conditions, and 2 hours in normal conditions. Fortunately, I haven't encountered the occasional 4 hour commute, but I have had a few 3 hour commutes.

There is a lot to do in Virginia too, but most of it is a pain in the ass to get to or get home from. All it takes is one accident on I-95, and you might as well be 1000 miles from home.

Virginia is the same swamp climate as the south part of New Jersey. It gets very hot and humid.

Some people hate the idea of red states. In my case, blue states are off my list. I have no plans to ever again live in states like New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, The People's Republic of California, Tax-achussettes, and so on. It's not just political inclination, high taxes,  and unreasonable gun laws though. I'm not living in Tornado Alley either. It makes no sense to me to live in a place where your house can be destroyed at any moment.

Anyway, when I mention to people that I'm looking at a possible move to Michigan, they do one of two things.

1) They equate the entire state of Michigan with the city of Detroit, no doubt the premier shithole/failed leftist experiment on the continent. I have made this same mistake myself, but through research and actually visiting the state, I find that Detroit is a fairly isolated experience, much like Camden is in New Jersey. Camden and Detroit often compete for the top spot on the Number 1 Shithole list.

2) The tell me "You don't want the cold Michigan winters!" That's exactly where they're wrong. I do. I love the cold. I like snow. It's the heat I don't want. I don't like the 100 degree humid days Virginia gets.

So I usually tell people "No, you don't want the cold Michigan winters. I do. I also want the mild summers."

I don't get why people project their own preferences onto me. When people complain to me about the cold winters in Michigan, I usually want to say "Please, tell me more about this wonderful place!"

Friday, July 04, 2014

Non-Technical People Should Not Be Allowed To Work In IT

I've been saying for years "I can't wait for all the Baby Boomers to die off or retire so we can actually get some work done."

I don't know what it's like to be an IT Professional in other industries, but from people I've talked to, it's pretty much the same everywhere.  Aaron Cleary's writing about his work in the banking industry sounds exactly like what I deal with working in IT in my industry.

Like many other people in my generation (Gen-X), my career has been hampered by those in the Baby Boom generation. We have these old people who are afraid of change who won't get out of the way so we can move up. Many of them are inherently corrupt, lazy, or incompetent. Those with little IT experience (or interest) have worked their way into IT management, then hooked their equally incompetent friends up with jobs in IT management. Those who actually have some IT experience are "old Unix guys" who can't or won't adapt to a modern Windows environment. If they do, they're still stuck in the WinXP days.

Windows XP


Case in point: around 2008, Microsoft announced it would end support for Windows XP in 2013. In 2011, they extended this to 2014. That date came and went. Even with 6 years notice, there are still systems running with Windows XP. The United States Navy (an employer I have worked for in varying capacities over the years), was absolutely shocked when XP support ended. 6 years is simply not enough time for the Baby Boomers running the Navy's IT to plan for, research, STIG, and upgrade to a newer Windows Operating system. So the Navy got a contract with Microsoft to extend XP support yet another year.

But I'm not just picking on the Navy. Many hospitals and doctor's offices are still using XP. Like the Navy, they bought a shitload of applications that were literally hardcoded to work only on Windows XP. The developers of these applications are either out of business, or staffed by the same incompetent Baby Boomers and simply cannot create or modify these applications to work in a newer operating system.

Even though we're now on Windows 7, there is no "roadmap" for how we'll deal with 7's end of life. None. They seem to plan to let the road run out and scramble to catch up or hope they can cut a deal with Microsoft to ensure support past end of life. Windows 8 has been out for a while, and Windows 9 is due to come out next year. I doubt Microsoft will be stupid enough to leave an operating system in service as long as they did for XP.

Telework


This is another topic that annoys me to no end. Despite the fact that I have the technology and discipline to work pretty much anywhere in the world at any time of day, I'm stuck in a heuristic where "you're not working unless your ass is in a chair at a physical spot in space and time where I can see you."

The ONLY thing I can do while I'm physically in the office that I can't elsewhere is bullshit with my colleagues. And have lunch together. But thanks to the proliferation of cubicles and open plan offices, when I'm at the office, it's much harder to concentrate. There's a lot of activity and noise. I've taken to keeping a set of earplugs at my desk so that when I'm on a conference call, so I can cut the distractions coming into my other ear out and actually hear what is being said.

I sit next to a supervisor with 6 needy employees who are hovering around all day long. I personally like most of them, but it is very hard to work when 3 or 4 of them need attention and direction. There are few offices which only go to the politically connected Baby Boomers, and there's only one conference room for the entire organization, so this is the only option we have.

Conference Calls


We have the technology to run meetings through our computers. We have that Adobe conference software (whatever it's called) that allows voice and video. But Baby Boomers aren't comfortable with that, so every time we have a meeting, we have to get teleconference lines. We still use the Adobe software for Power Point, but we also need phones.

Outdated Browser and no Wi-fi


Our work laptops don't have Wi-fi. At my last job, I had a telework laptop with a wi-fi chipset. But not on my current job. There is no intention of providing a wi-fi chip. They remove them when the laptop is delivered. When I telework, I have to put my work laptop in the bedroom next to the router. Alternately, I have another router I can plug into. I share the Internet connection from another Windows laptop to the router and plug the work laptop into the router. That way, I can use my work laptop for work specific stuff, and sit right next to my MacBook Pro that solves another problem, namely, IE8.

My organization still uses IE8. Period. There are no other options. At least it's a step up from IE7, which was had just a year and a half ago. The lazy, incompetent Baby Boomers who run our Cybersecurity (used to be Information Assurance, but now everybody wants to be a "cyber-warrior") won't go to the trouble to research what it will take to STIG a newer version of IE. I know, another problem is a lot of the internal web applications we use are also not compliant with a more current browser. Again, the idiot lazy Baby Boomers. When we went from IE7 to IE8, there was no end of trouble getting web applications to work.

Whenever I bring this up, I'm told "everything you need works". Yeah, it's not just that. Hardly anything works on IE8 anymore. Gmail, Netvibes, etc. don't support it anymore. Some sites won't work entirely.

When Google Reader shut down last year (I am still willing to trade gmail to get Google Reader back), I started looking at alternatives. I had to go with one that still worked on IE8 and wasn't blocked. I settled on Netvibes. Netvibes has developed an unforgivable refresh. I'll be in the middle of a post, and the page refreshes. I'm going to switch to Feedly, but it doesn't work on IE8.

Workforce


We recently had a "Town Hall" for IT people in our organization. I presented our network unification plan at that town hall. Another speaker got up to give his presentation. He addressed workforce. He said "I don't think we have the right workforce." I mumbled "No shit" under my breath. He also said he wants to be able to attract people from Stanford and MIT. I talked to him later and said "You'll never be able to." See, in my industry, they bring in these bright young minds, who take a look at our setup and leave immediately. They discover we're still running Windows XP and Windows 7, Office 2010, Internet Explorer 8. They discover that many of the great collaboration tools they want to use are blocked. We block Evernote. We block Google Docs. We block Prezi. We still allow Gmail and Facebook, but performance on those are drastically hindered on IE8. And so these bright young minds say "to hell with this" and leave.

They also find out that telework, while officially encouraged in organizational policy, isn't unofficially encouraged. Most Baby Boomer managers are not comfortable with it. You might get one day a week, or telework is situational, like during snowstorms.

A lot of our management is incompetent. I can sometimes accomplish work on my personal systems, which I will do when I telework. But our Outlook Web Access isn't configured to support anything newer than IE8. I can't read signed messages on my personal system. I have to take my work laptop out of the bag, connect to a router, connect VPN, and use Outlook whenever I get a signed or encrypted message. I asked the manage in charge of this "when can we expect OWA to be compliant with newer versions of IE?" and he gave me a blank look. He didn't understand what I was talking about. And this is supposed to be his job.

I was so looking forward to the Exchange 2010 upgrade, but they botched it so bad, I want to go back to OWA on Exchange 2003. At least I could read signed messages on IE11.

Gen Y


In addition to the Baby Boomers, I almost laugh at Gen Y. The few tools the Baby Boomers have approved, Gen Y hates and mostly refuses to use. We have a clunky Jabber client that works OK. Most of my Gen Y team refuses to use it. They'd rather use Gchat (blocked) or Facebook Messenger (not blocked, but bogs my work laptop down dramatically). So I have both a Baby Boomer boss and a team of late 20's/early 30's people who refuse to use Jabber.

Conclusion


We need to get Baby Boomers out of IT so we can get some work done. But they're not going anywhere. I'll probably retire before they do.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

The EPA Has A "Phantom Shitter"

Glad this isn't isolated to the military. Apparently, the EPA has a problem with somebody crapping in the hallway.

Sounds like the only hire the highest calibre of people...

In the Navy, this was called a "Phantom Shitter".  Some low forms of life would leave a present in strange places, like the shower, for other people to clean up. The only time I cheered a Phantom Shitter was when the dump was left on the Wardroom table (where the officers ate). I figure that took balls. And it wasn't my job to clean it up.

Children, Mothers, and Choices

We hear a lot about the epidemic of single mothers and fatherless children in Western society. If you want to get truly terrified for these children, watch some of the ways their mothers interact with them.

For instance, watch a mother give her child a choice. I've seen this play out many times, including with the mother of my children.

The following scenario could be either an ice cream flavor or a PS3 game. Doesn't matter. It always follows the same script:

Mother: You get to choose! Do you want this one, or that one?
Child: I want that one!
Mother: Are you sure? You don't want this one?
Child: No, I want that one.
Mother: But don't you think you should get this one?
Child: No, I want that one.
Mother: I think you should get this one. Why don't you just get this one?

At this point, I want to (and have on a few occasions), butted in:

Me: Holy crap, woman! You gave him a choice. Let him make it. If you already have your mind made up, just get him what you want him to have and stop playing this stupid game! How do you expect him to grow up to make his own decisions when you won't let him?

I'm not sure why they do this. I know some (perhaps many) women are control freaks. The kindest explanation I can think of it maybe she knows (or thinks she knows) what's best for her child. I've mostly seen this with boys. I don't know if women do the same thing with little girls.

Still, when you give a choice, just let the child make the choice.

My response to that same scenario is:

Me: Which one do you want?
Child: That one.
Me: OK.

Later:
Child: I don't like this. I should have gotten the other one.
Me: Well, you made a choice. You have to live with it.

On another subject, some children tend to treat every choice as a life altering decision. Yesterday, after work, I drove from Arlington, VA to south New Jersey to get my boys for a few days. I got home late. I drove slightly longer than my workday. But it's the only way to spend time with them.

On the way back through Maryland, we all started to get thirsty. (I was kind of dumb thinking I could make an 8+ hour drive starting out in over 100 degree temperatures with nothing to drink in the car). So I got off the highway to find a gas station. My oldest, Joshua, was taking a long time. He kept bouncing back and forth between the sodas and juices. I finally told him "Just get something, Joshua. It's not a life-altering decision. You're not going to look back in 30 years and say 'I got the wrong drink at Exxon, and it ruined my life'". They laughed. Then I gave him 10 seconds to either choose a drink or go without. That worked.

Facebook Manipulated Your News Feed To Screw With Your Emotions

I've seen this a few times lately in some email subscriptions I have. Facebook conducted an experiment where they manipulated people's news feeds to see what effect it had on their emotions.

I guess they showed either mostly (or all) positive or negative posts and monitored the user's posts to see if the user responded emotionally.

The part that makes me laugh is this:

Even the Facebook data scientist who led the study is now questioning its value: “In hindsight, the research benefits of the paper may not have justified all of this anxiety,” Adam Kramer wrote on his Facebook page.” (HT Wall Street Journal.) Kramer also wrote: “The experiment in question was run in early 2012, and we have come a long way since then.”

Hah! Total bust.

If it creeps you out, remember, you did agree to their terms of service (so did I).  Remember, if you're given a service for free, you're not the customer. You're the product.

I was probably active on Facebook during that period. I always set my feed to "most recent", and I was going through the roller coaster of a dying bad marriage. So I have no idea if it affected me. I was mostly negative during that time anyway.