September 30, 2008

Trace Back To The Beginning

When testing, you always take a step back and look for the root cause of the problems you are facing. Is the performance problem I'm seeing caused my allocation patterns, memory load, the wrong algorithm being used, cache misses, extra shader passes where none should be, etc.?

It's also handy to go back and search for root causes for things outside of software. For example, the root causes for the current financial meltdown (easy credit) predate the current administration to the Clinton administration and banks combined pressuring Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to reduce their lending criteria. The reasoning seemed relatively sound but the execution wasn't, and the lack of oversight led to things crashing around our heads.

I'm all for bashing Bush...he's a horrible president, an inept commander-in-chief, and a pathetic excuse for a human being. But credit should go where credit is due.

September 26, 2008

Divorcing Yourself From The Past

There was a discussion today on the Shack based on my previous two blog posts. Specifically, the concern was that these two people are going to be marked for a long time by their crimes because the Internet doesn't forget.

It is a valid concern. While people have memories that fade, bits last for a long time.

My personal stance regarding the two individuals in question is that there are three ways that you can approach an embarassing situation from the past.

One, you can do nothing about it and let the memories fade. Search engines are driven by links, and the fewer recent links you have, the less likely that it will show up on top.

Two, you can incorporate it into your identity. Hell, I'm embarassed about several actions I took back in 2006 and before, but I own the decisions I made. I've incorporated them into who I am online and I take responsibility for my past. My boss knows both the good and the bad and knows from how I have handled the situations that I am a man of strong convictions and a fairly steady moral compass.

Three, you can fight back. Fighting works well when it is something that you didn't do, but not so well when it is something that you did. Take a look at Michael Crook. He was embarassed by an appearance on Hannity & Combes that resurfaced and he fought back using every tool available to him...and several that legally weren't like DMCA reports. The end result...further humiliation.

Internet humiliation is like a Chinese finger trap. The more you fight, the worse it gets. Flow with it or live with it.

Chris Hyman: Profane Whiny Warez Monkey

Just had a comment from Bruce Everiss on my previous post with another E-mail from another warez monkey that fell under the wrong end of the legal hammer...
From: Chris Hyman
To: bruce
Sent: Friday, September 26, 2008 5:05 PM
Subject: Remove my name you fucking bitch

Yeah, FUCK YOU Bruce you piece of shit. Remove my name "Chris Hyman" from your stupid ass fucking blog. Your blog is a piece of shit and you are one FUCKING UGLY OLD MAN!

FUCK YOU! GO TO HELL! I hope you die and burn in hell!

Oh, just letting you know I am getting my lawyer ready to sue you for copyright on my name. :) Prepare to be served and sued. Oh, and I will be getting damages from it. The money will start at $10,000. Who knows, I'll probably sue you for everything you got you fucking ugly ass.
Well, Chris, same comment applies. You did the crime, admitted to it, and are lucky that you are getting away with only having to pay the civil penalty.

And come on, threatening to sue someone in a different country for violating copyright on your name? First off, your name doesn't have a copyright on it. Second, he's posting information that is publicly available from a court case. Third, he's in the right. You did do the crime. Your actions, while they may not have directly affected him, do affect his industry as a whole.

You did wrong. You got busted for it. Man up and take it.

September 25, 2008

Shawn Guse: Whiny Warez Monkey

Some of you may have seen that Activision went after some pirates recently. Based on some follow-up comments from Activision's lawyers, my assumption is that these guys modded their consoles and created the original ISO rips of certain Activision products and/or created the original torrents used to distribute the rips. Mind you, that is my assumption and may not be fact.

That said, these guys have agreed to settlements that restrict their future behavior...and now at least one of them is trying to erase the evidence of his crime from the net.

Now, this is a civil settlement, but the settlement does contain an admission from Shawn Guse that he committed a crime.

Consider your name being linked to the crime a part of the punishment.

September 20, 2008

Review: "The Who's Tommy" (Dallas Theater Center)

Back in 1969, The Who released Tommy, a concept album which was an adaptation of the life of Meher Baba, a man who was later immortalized in the single Baba O'Riley.

By 1975, The Who were pretty much sick of Tommy, and when approached to do a film version, the band decided to just sell out and go with it so they could get some final cash from their work and be done with it (hence the reason they are seen as the backup band for Elton John in the film wearing suits made of pound notes).

By 1990, Pete Townshend had gotten over his angst and worked to create an official musical adaptation of the rock opera which gave rise to The Who's Tommy. With the addition of just a couple of dozen lines of dialogue and very minor changes to lyrics, they managed to transform the concept album into a musical filled with nuance and subtext and a compelling storyline.

When I heard that a regional production was going to start up, I was thrilled. I managed to see the original at the St. James Theater in New York back in 1994, and I had missed the previous travelling productions, so I was anxious to see it again. After looking at the promotional materials and seeing it was being promoted as the La Jolla production instead of one of the previous unauthorized iterations, I was stoked. I bought the best seats in the house (4th row center), we arrived at the theater on time and I was the first one through the door.

The stage was rather different than I expected. A pinball machine was mounted in the middle of a hole atop a raised stage. The band was in the middle of the stage, which looked like a gothic dock in the middle of a bombed out city. No mirror to be seen.

The Playbill showed an ethnically diverse cast, including an African-American Tommy. I was actually okay with that. The cast back in 1994 was extremely white-bread.

The play started with Captain Walker (now an American soldier) being taken hostage by a terrorist cell in Iraq. Again, I could see shifting the play from the U.K. to the U.S. and even shifting it to modern day. I thought the director was keeping it topical, but I was a little disappointed because I felt that England itself was really a character in the original production.

As time went on, I started to get worried. They cut dialogue, rearranged songs, and had senseless lyric rewrites. The reason the stage was raised was that they started to fill the bottom of it with water. I was confused...this wasn't the play they had marketed, but I figured they were trying to trim some time to keep from having to have an intermission and were just trying to make it work. Eyesight for the Blind changed from a pimp pushing his hooker to a Pentacostal preacher and his faith healer and the father and mother just handed their child over to the Acid Queen/hooker.

After Go to the Mirror! and a great performance of Smash the Mirror, Mrs. Walker threw Tommy into the water to "break the mirror." Tommy gets up, sings Sensation, has a pointless Sally Simpson exchange, forms a cult, puts everyone in sensory deprivation helmets and gets shot by The Man.

Now, I could see that the artistic director wanted to make a statement, but I could also tell he had no idea what statement he wanted to make. He tried so hard to make any statement that he essentially gutted the intent of the original work. He turned a story about redemption and forgiveness into a revenge tale that basically says that if a black person gets too uppity and reaches beyond his established station that they will be gunned down by The Establishment. That message was reinforced by the theater company representative in the after-show discussion.

The cast was extremely talented, the choreography was dead on, and there was definite energy from all involved. It just wasn't the Tommy that was promised and promoted.

September 15, 2008

Itinerary For September, October

Just as a heads-up, I'm not going to be available for much between now and October 1. I'm helping a former Ritual co-worker out with a project.

Also, I am going to be in Washington, D.C. from October 12 through October 17. If you are in the D.C. metroplex and want to do dinner some night during that period of time, let me know.

I'll also be in Los Angeles from October 25 through October 30 for PDC 2008.

September 11, 2008


Again, forgive any formatting anomalies. Typing this on my BlackBerry on my way into work.

I can now blame my wife, and tangentally Microsoft, for my hard drive failure. I should probably explain...

I bought Viva Pinata over the summer to give my granddaughter something she could play on my Xbox 360 while she was here. While she did enjoy it, it was my wife who got extremely infatuated with it. She has been playing it nearly non-stop for the last six weeks to the point where she has been shirking her responsibilities even more than usual.

One thing she has been doing is putting the laundry off until the last possible minute so she can squeeze in more playtime. She gets the laundry loads ready late at night and sets them by the door so they can be started in the morning. My computer is also by the door. I keep it there because it is cooler than the rest of the house and has great airflow. The clever ones out there know where this is going.

I had an MSDN download going last night so I left my machine on when I went to bed. When I got up this morning, my PC was off. Since I didn't have it set up to automatically shut down, I immediately got worried and restarted my computer to check for damage.

Everything looked fine, but the fans sounded like they were working overtime so I took a peek down at the tower.

Laundry from the overflowing laundry basket had blocked all of the fan ports. Within ten seconds of pulling the clothes away, the fan volume level returned to normal.

I am going to have to move my PC tonight to keep this from happening again. I am also going to have to stock up on non-perishable food. My wife bought Viva Pinata 2 and wants to start it telling what will fall through the cracks then.

September 10, 2008

Back to (Visual) Basics

One of the things I've been doing at work for the last twenty months is putting a constant stream of patches on an in-house member management system (MMS). The best way I can describe it is imagine living in a house made entirely out of paper towels. You spend a lot of time shoring up areas that have been stable in the past, you find tons of new leaks on a regular basis, and all in all it isn't an ideal situation.

That said, I have been able to make the best of things. I got a raise, promotion and an award from work for my work on the system to keep it afloat.

Fortunately we're getting ready to move over to a new MMS next year, however, and our new MMS is going to be 100% Visual Basic .NET, specifically Visual Basic 2008.

Now I've been working in C# for the last two years and making the shift from C# back to Visual Basic is causing a bit of a mental break, but in a good way. I find myself turning off most of the VB "helper" functionality and being more deliberate in my coding style. I'm finding that I'm making better code for the most part because of what I had to do in C#.

The sad thing is that there are still some issues with the new code as received. Just based on the security holes I found in my initial code review, I expect to be spending at least six to eight weeks sealing up some of these holes while we are doing our customization work, but I'd rather spend eight weeks doing it right than two years doing it piecemeal. Even so, I found eight SQL injection attacks in fifteen minutes...what the Hell?

After all, I like my job, but right now I have to be here. I'm pretty much the only one who knows the existing system inside and out and if I leave, the secession plan is pretty much to bring on a contractor, let him spend six weeks getting used to this system, and then proceed with what needs to be done.

My goal with this project is to get the system to the point where I don't have to be here. I want to be here because I want to be here.

It's a subtle difference, but extremely important to me.

September 5, 2008

Data Recovery Disaster

Forgive any formatting issues...I am writing this on my BlackBerry as I head into work.

Awhile back, I had a catastrophic system failure and lost a lot of data at home. Digital photos, my CD and DVD rips, source code...I lost a lot.

After that, I promised myself I wouldn't get burned again, so I bought myself a 500GB Western Digital MyBook and set it up as a backup drive. Every Thursday night as I would go to sleep, I would plug the drive in, start the backup, and it would be done by morning. Once a month, I would test the backup to ensure all was well.

This process had already saved me twice over the last year and so I was happy with it...until this morning.

I started the backup last night and when I woke up this morning, I noticed my computer was off. I turned it on and heard the clunk of death from my data drive, but my PC still booted. Booting made me feel better because that meant I just had to replace the drive and restore the backup.

I checked the backup logs and they said the backup completed prior to the power outage and I felt even happier.

I turned on the backup drive so I could quickly verify the backup before running to Fry's later...and there was no data on the drive.

A quick restore of the partition table and a reboot shows me a corrupted root directory.

Needless to say, I am not happy. I have most of the critical files backed up to DVD, but it sucks when your failsafe fails.