Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Giving Chrome Another Chance

Back in February, I reported my intention to try Chrome as a replacement for Firefox. A week later, although most parts of the experiment went well, I reported that Chrome was useless for printing in Australia (or anywhere that uses A4 paper).

That was a blow, but I hoped that Google—despite their complete contempt for bug reports from their users—might one day rectify this issue. Naturally, when they did fix it, they did not announce that in any place that was useful to me and so I discovered the fix by accident. If I was cynical, I might even think they had fixed it by accident. But I won’t go there.

At any rate, now that Chrome appears to be able to do almost all the things I need, I’m going to drop Firefox again and see if I can manage with just Chrome. That’s where I’ll find out if “almost all” might really be “all”—if Chrome can manage with 12 windows and 180 tabs open, which is what I currently have going on this desktop. In fact, if it’s at least only half as clunky and slow as Firefox, that will be wonderful.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Coles Puts Customers Last

For ages now, all the Coles supermarkets I use have had a nice simple EFT setup. While the cashier is scanning your purchases, you could swipe your loyalty card if you had one and you could swipe your credit/debit card and select your account. At the end, you could quickly enter your PIN, wait a few seconds for the receipt to be printed and be on your way.

Today, the local Coles introduced a new "improved" system that finally took into account the chip on your debit/credit card. And, at the same time removed the little bit of streamlining that everybody has become accustomed to. You can no longer do anything with the card reader until the cashier has finished, and you can't swipe your loyalty card at all—that difficult task is now reserved to the cashier. So you wait, then you insert your card, then you wait until the machine is ready, then you select your account and wait a bit more. Finally, you get to enter your PIN. This all adds a noticeable delay to the checkout process.

Coles, it's not an improvement at all and there's just no excuse for it.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Gmail Spam Detection Is Good Enough

In the past 30 days, Gmail has successfully tagged 8712 spams with a mere handful of false positives (which have now been flagged) and only three false negatives. I'm happy that this is good enough for me—as of now I will no longer review the spam folder.

If you email me and get no response at all and think you should have got a response, this may be a result of your message being flagged as spam. In that case, feel free to follow the advice in the Contact tab of this blog.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Is Oracle the new SCO?

I avoided Java for many years, partly because I thought it was a failure in language design and partly because I found Sun's tight control disconcerting. I avoided Solaris because of Sun's tight control and because there were plenty of satisfactory alternatives.

When OpenSolaris appeared, I began to experiment with it. It still felt risky, but operating systems are much easier to change than the languages you use to create software with, so the risks seemed acceptable. When Sun made moves to open Java up, I began to consider using it or, more likely, other languages that built on the JVM.

Then Sun fell in a hole and I put things on hold. I had some hopes for a takeover by IBM, based on my belief that that they might continue the Sun stuff of interest in a way I could live with. That might have been unduly optimistic, but is now irrelevant. IBM went away and Oracle stepped in. Oracle is not a company I have ever admired in any way and it is run by a man I find even less admirable than Bill Gates. But many analysts, who claimed to have better sources of information than I have, seemed to think that Oracle would probably continue with OpenSolaris and would certainly nurture Java.

Now it appears that OpenSolaris is dead. And Larry Ellison has decided to tackle Google over Java. I have no idea how that will unfold. I do know that Google have the money to withstand a legal challenge. I'd like to see Oracle do a SCO and collapse under the legal mess, although I fear that they might survive. I am certainly going to avoid OpenSolaris and Java for the next few months or years. I'm also starting to think about alternatives to OpenOffice. I'd love big Oracle customers to announce that they are going to walk away from Oracle because they can't rely on Oracle's ability to survive.

At least database technology is pretty much a solved problem and alternatives to Oracle exist and others can be created. So it will be possible for people to drop the Oracle database money pit. Getting everybody to walk away from their Java investments will be much harder, but I'd like to see people considering that too. At least I have nothing to lose, having no investment in either Java or Oracle. But I will be cheering for anybody who helps to cut the ground from under Oracle.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Why I will vote for the Greens

I've voted Labor all my life, not because I like their colours or the dress sense of their leaders, but because their policies have been generally in accord with my own principles. I've never voted for the two big conservative parties because their policies have been (and remain) focussed towards meeting goals that I believe to be unethical.

And, until now, I have never voted for a minor party—mostly because their policies are either single-issue or unethical (or both). However, the continuing drift of Labor to the right and the abandonment of policies that are of fundamental importance (the environment; the treatment of women, minorities and refugees; the education and health systems, to name several) has made me look harder at the alternatives.

In the past, I was not impressed by the narrow focus of the Greens or by their lack of real policies beyond their principal focus. And I have been unimpressed by some of their preferences decisions. But they have come of age at a time when the major parties have descended into irrelevance. The Greens now have real and ethical policies on most of what I see as the important issues of 2010.

Obviously, the election on 21 August will return us a government controlled by one of the two major parties. But now seems like the right time to tell them something about how people really feel. So, if you think the Greens are right about at least some of the important issues, do what I'm going to do—put them first in both houses of parliament and then give your second preference to the major party of your choice. If you're lucky enough to find the Greens' preference allocation meets your needs, then vote above the line. Otherwise, do what I do and take the time to number every box below the line. It's not hard and we only get to do it once every three years. Seems like a small price to pay to put pressure on whoever is the government to start doing the right thing.

LCA 2011 — Call for Papers extended to 14 August

BRISBANE, Australia – Sunday 15 August 2010 – Good news everyone! Due to a large number of requests, the deadline for the LCA2011 call for papers has been extended for an extra week.  They will now close on Saturday, 14 August 2010.  Unfortunately, no further extensions can be granted after this date.

The organising committee is pleased with both the quantity and quality of proposals that have been submitted to date and are still accepting proposals for

  • Papers
  • Tutorials
  • Miniconfs
  • Posters

Please read the Information on Presentations page before submitting your proposal, to give yourself the best chance of being accepted.

Call for Papers Deadline is now: Saturday, 14 August 2010