Sean Reiser

Hi I'm Seán Reiser, this is my Personal Blog

“A person is what they think about all day long”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

My Night at J&R

Stopped by J & R this evening to pick up a new camera lens for my Digital Rebel and while wandering through the computer department I ran into a near encounter of what Rob Rosenberger calls "False Authority Syndrome". A sales man was selling a young lady a new hard drive. She told him that she currently had 100 Gigs of data. That was all the information she gave him. His response was, "Good we have an internal 200 Gig drive on sale. Backups are important, because hard drives fail. You can partition this into 2 100 Gig partitions and backup the data onto the other partition so if the drive fails you have another copy. Installation is simple..". Are you as flabbergasted as I am? OK, lets break this down and count the things that are wrong with that statement: 1) You have just sold someone who couldn't pick out her own hard drive an internal, which requires that she has to crack her case, do the install. Additionally you never verified whether she had SATA or EIDE. A desktop or a laptop? Once she's done with the installing the hardware you're expecting to figure out how to partition a drive, an option that's well hidden in the depths of the WIndows XP computer management.. 2) If she follows his advice and partitions the drive, considering the over head for partitions tabels, the filesystem, and "hard drive math", best case scenario she would have filled the partition. As the 100 Gigs of data was a guess (really, who has such 100 Gigs of data, and not 99 Gigs or 101 Gigs), odds are she will not have enough disk space for her files. 3) He gave her no instructions on how to do the backup. 4) The backup is on the same machine. If something goes wrong with the computer she'll need to go ahead and pull that drive out and mount in another machine if she wants to get here data back. 5) The backup is in the same location so when the place burns down she losses both her original and her backup. and my favorite (you knew it was coming) 6) THE BACKUP IS ON THE SAME GORAM HARD DRIVE SO WHEN THE "DRIVE FAILS" YOU'LL LOOSE BOTH THE ORIGINAL AND THE BACKUP. Yes this may protect against accidental erasure and corruption, if you realize it quick enough before the next backup is done (let's face it, with that partition scheme, there's no room for any sort of archive). But almost every drive problem I've had has been hardware based (drive controlers, Head crash, etc). So, being the helpful human I am, I try to insert myself into the conversation. "Excuse me, I don't think that's the best thing I've heard.. You'll probably run out of room really fast if you make 2 100 Gig partitions. Having the original and backup in the same place isn't the wisest thing I've heard. Oh, BTW, how handy are you with a screwdriver?". His response was "Don't listen to this guy, if he was really knew this stuff he'd be working here. I'm a J&R senior sales person, what's his qualifications?". All I said was "a Masters Degree in Computer Science from Columbia University". I was proud that I didn't ask him how that made him more qualified then a Petco Pet Food Stacker. She put down the drive and said she needed to think about it. In my past life, I did some home technical support and often wondered where people got some of their hair brained ideas about technology and how things work. As I've gotten older I've found plenty of stories like this and now know. I wonder how many people are using the J&R senior sales man backup method and if there are enough smart geeks out there to save them for J&R dweebs.

Microsoft gets it ... why doesn't anyone else or Why I stopped giving out pirated copies of MS-Office and learned to embrace openoffice.org

Well, beat them up enough and they begin to get it. Today on salon.com I read this article on MS's backing down on the piracy battle in China. It points out the MS has finally realized what I have known for a while pirating MS software increases MS market share. Yes, if you want to help MS take over the world and dumb down the population go out there are spread around their stuff. If you are trying to undermind MS well there's another way to go. Create better alternatives. MS losing a license fee hurts them in the short term. Eventually that user will upgrade to an MS solution because they've been enabled by the process. MS losing a customer to a better solution, well, that's another story. A user who jumps from office to openoffice.org becomes educated and empowers the user. They learn about open source and standards. They learn that the computer revolution does not involve talking paperclips.

Of course the RIAA proved that not everyone gets it. They are releasing anti-piracy ads featuring such icons as Brittney Spears. I can hear it now "Piracy is wrong.... if you don't buy my songs I won't be able to afford bigger breasts" (she turned 18 now I'm allowed to notice them now). In the ad she is supposed to be comparing downloading a song to stealing a CD. A closer analogy, IMHO would be to compare it to taping copying it to tape or better yet taping it off the radio (which is how those of us who had pre-MP3/OGG adolesence distributed songs around).

What the RIAA has failes to understand is that sharing music is the best way for folks to try music in other genres. For example although I grew a child of the 80's. Hair metal and 70's rock were my favorite genres of music. A friend once handed me a tape with some New Age music from Manheim Steamroller, which was as far from what I was listening to as could be. You know what. I liked the music. Guess what else... I bought some CDs of theirs. And I've also bought some CDs of other artists in the genre that I never would've bought. Guess what there are at least 50 CDs in my collection that can be attributed to my being give a tape to check out. So I'll yell if for all the RIAAers out there sharing music increases sales it does not decrease them. 

New uses for a palm pilot  or  I wonder if a site hosted on this will hold up to slashdotting

Came across this gem of a piece of software the other day. I've asked several folks it they can come up with a use for it. No solid answers yet (if you can figure it out email me). My main question is "Why in the name of all that is holy would someone invest the time to do this?" I don't except "because it's there" or "because you can"... no human being could ever find this useful. This may be my shit but why write software that no one is going to use? Doesn't make sense to me.

Maybe it's me but there's little wow factor in something this is nether sexy nor productive. "I have a web server that runs on a Palm Pilot... sure it can only his 1 user hitting it at a time. Sure I the server can only handle less than 8 Meg of web page.... But it's on a Palm Pilot, man". Now I am a huge Palm fan. I worship at the shrine of Hawkins. I've owned more Palm OS devices than I care to admit and have written several pieces of software for the beast. But it is a fact that the purpose of the device is to give you a window to your PC. I say this to make you understand that I appreciate the platform for it's strengths and weaknesses. As has been said by Hawkins the Palm (Pilot) was designed as a "window to your PC". A way to take your data with you. A way to create simple and not so simple documents. Sure there are now extensions for word processing, spreadsheets, presentation documents. But running a server is insane in my humble opinion.

Davep an old acquaintance from the Clipper (the language, not the chip) community once said in a usenet post:

One final point. More than once I've seen someone ask the question "why bother?" or "where is the need?" in regard to the reason for THE PROJECT. We can only answer those questions with another question:

When did programming cease to be fun?

I now have the answer to that question. When what I code will never be used beaches it's flawed from the initial design