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It Will Be Fine!

The Martian book cover. Art By: Eric White. Art Director: Christopher Brand. Story

Book Review: The Martian

This book is great!

You mean you want more of a review than that? So demanding.

The book is great BECAUSE it’s about a sarcastic jerk!

Still not enough? Fine, nerds.

The book is great BECAUSE it’s about a sarcastic jerk stuck on Mars trying to stay alive using math, and chemistry! Pirate-ninjas!

I picked up this book because I saw several members of The Incomparable discussing it on Twitter. (Always blame Jason Snell.) They reviewed it on their podcast. Turns out, they also liked it, but mostly talked about how they could read it in an afternoon because they’re so good at reading. Showoffs!

Apparently, the author wrote it, and released it, as a serial story. This explains a lot of times when he referenced what he had done in a previous chapter. I didn’t understand the constant need to recap things as I was reading it. Remember when I said I didn’t understand the need to constantly recap things? Because I said it.

The other thing, that Scott McNulty points out, is that there really aren’t any characters in this story. You mostly read it for the humor the protagonist conveys in his log entries. It isn’t super realistic because he doesn’t really seem as stressed out as he ought to. The way the other characters in the novel are introduced is also a little strange and I attribute this to it’s serial origins. Recap: Remember when I said it was a serial story?

I still thoroughly enjoyed it, and whole-heartedly recommend it. The only part where you might want to give up is right at the beginning of the book where our intrepid protagonist goes in to math problem after math problem. You seriously have never read this much math in a novel in your life. It’s like a textbook. The math dies down, thankfully, so just skim it if your eyes start to cross.

Remember when I recommended The Martian to you?

Spoilers

My favorite part of the book starts when he goes to get Pathfinder. As an audience, we’re seeing his journey through NASA’s eyes and we aren’t sure if he’s gone nuts and he’s already driving to the Ares IV MAV. It was a good way to build tension. The reverse is true when he does finally go to the Ares IV MAV, and we can see through NASA’s eyes the problem that he doesn’t know anything about: The dust storm. These were both high points of the book, in my opinion.

Another thing, that might be controversial, is when he was dumb enough to break the source of communication that he had put all that time and energy in to. This was actually a good thing, because it made it Mark’s journey, again, instead of NASA just telling him what to do, which was less dramatic.

I thought we could have done with a few things going well though. Seriously, everything was going wrong. Everything. You’d turn a page (scroll) and something benign would be his death, and then he’d be fine again. Since I knew that there was little chance of Mark dying once we got to a certain point in the book, those problems were tiring to read. They were certainly imaginative though.

The rhythm of the chapters is that they largely end on an optimistic note, and the subsequent chapter starts on a negative note about the thing he was just optimistic about. It’s cute. I made reference to it the other day in my post, Adventures in Server Administration.

In the non-spoiler section I mentioned that Scott McNulty had complained about the characters not really being characters. Everyone on the podcast, and myself, essentially agreed that the NASA people were cardboard cutouts, the people on the Ares III were (at best) unrealistic tropes and stereotypes, and that Mark was basically just the author, Andy Weir. I think it’s fine, because Andy is probably a really funny guy, in real life. The worst person in the book was German Guy. I call him German Guy, because that is all he amounts to. At one point, Mark even cracks a joke about what a stereotype German Guy is because he wants to have sausage for breakfast. It’s fine to hang-a-lantern on it, to make a joke out of something like that, but German Guy never broke the mould in any other way, and he was supposed to central to the story, not a one-off joke.

The same goes for the quiet, meek computer scientist that lacks confidence in herself. She had several moments in the book geared towards her, more so than some of the other crew, like Martinez or Lewis, and that time was spent on how meek she was. Really a lot more could have been done with her.

I liked Annie, the public relations rep for NASA, because she was foul-mouthed, and sarcastic, in a charming way. Unfortunately, she also didn’t develop.

Mindy Park, the satcom tech, developed but she just got sarcastic. Her humor started to resemble Mark’s (the author’s). There’s more to humor than sarcasm, as much as it PAINS me to say it. Even if the characters were not going to develop much I would have liked it if they had some variation between one another. You know, other than being German.

The other thing that bothered me was Lewis. It was great that she was a female commander, and she was a very fine commander. The author went to great lengths to make her competent, even in a situation where a member of her crew was stranded. I did not like her infatuation with 70’s TV and disco music. It rang hollow. Even though Andy tried to make it a funny laugh, it seemed like something that didn’t ring true for her. It was important to not have to invent the media that Mark would have to watch, and listen to, from whole cloth — to ground the story in media we know — but this odd. It was like reading a book written by someone that grew up watching syndicated 70’s TV in the 80’s and 90’s. That’s not necessarily a problem, but we don’t even syndicate that stuff now, and Lewis isn’t a super-old person. She’d more likely be watching syndicated TV from the 90’s and 2000’s. That a huge nit that I’m picking here, but it was something that irked me over and over because so many references were made to her music and TV show collection through the course of the book.

Even with the flaws in the novel, I couldn’t put it down once it got going. It’s an action-movie book. It has a lot of thought, of course, in the science of the book, so many might find the comparison to a thoughtless action-movie unfair, but some of those characters are too thin to say that this is a art-house book. That’s fine!

2014-04-05 13:08:00

Category: text


chaos

UPDATE: This one is pretty depressing. I wanted to put it below the line as they say. It is still important. I just don’t know if I even want to look at it all the time in the feed.

I write this stuff for myself (greatly optimized to give myself page views for myself). That includes issues that aren’t funny, or simple. A few days ago, I made a post about how Brendan Eich would have a long tenure, and that the best thing we could do was to use the time to discuss why his views were not good views.

The opposite has happened.

In the time since then, OKCupid issued a targeted open letter which further agitated things, Brendan Eich did several damage control interviews, and then he tendered his resignation yesterday. I really did not anticipate a single one of those things.

In the wreckage of yesterday, people are upset and troubled. There is backlash about the backlash now. Recriminations about gay people. Laments for Brendan. It is a total cluster. Sadness and anger permeate everything.

We still need to talk.

  1. Some people wanted Brendan to resign, whether he apologized, or not.
  2. Some people wanted him to issue a public apology, and retain his position.
  3. Some people wanted him keep his position because his personal views should not matter. (Oddly enough: a lot of straight white guys. Hmm.)
  4. Some people just want to watch the world burn.

I can’t say anything about the people spreading hate in number four, they seem to be hurt by something else in their lives. I do want to talk about the other three.

Wanting Brendan to resign is complicated. His views are not good views, and he was terrible at empathizing with others he would need support from. He gave money to an organization that made these ads. That is not a parody account, those really played in California. I really got to see people on TV say things to stir up fear in people. The ones that hurt the most are the ones asking voters to think of the bad things that will happen to their children at school. After the passage of Prop 8, non-violent, peaceful, permitted marches were organized where people could come together and walk down closed-off streets with picket signs (I know, because I was there). Media coverage of those marches made Yes on 8 very uncomfortable, they were victims. Brendan does not regret supporting that campaign. It is very sad, to me, that he doesn’t see how hard it is to shrug it off. It is like saying you’re sorry someone got their feelings hurt.

In all fairness, let us not forget that it was very popular to be “for the definition of traditional marriage” in 2008’s political climate. People can change; “evolve”.

He should not have been considered for the position unless he had changed his views of his own accord. That was a failure of Mozilla’s search for a CEO. He was asked to be CEO, he didn’t petition for it. Brendan never said who asked him, but whomever it was made a huge mistake. Chief Executive Officer is not a purely technical position, it is mostly a social one. Social on every level, from personal meetings, to keynote speaking, to interviews as a representative of the whole company. Given the social demands of the position it is difficult to recommend someone that does not regret supporting Prop 8 for the role.

Seperate calls for resignation from his resignation for a second. Anyone can call for a person to resign, literally nothing prevents a person from doing this. It is a way to express your disagreement with someone. People call for Tim Cook to resign, Howard Schulz to resign – it happens. That does not mean the person must resign. It is not the inevitable conclusion. It is important to react well to these calls for resignation. To assess if it is relevant, and if so: are there things that can be changed to quell that opposition. Brendan handled the calls for his resignation poorly. At the start, he had the company’s backing, and the backing of many employees. In a matter of days, he managed to turn more people against him. That is not how you handle a call for resignation. There were a plurality of people that would have been satisfied with an apology at the outset. He doesn’t want to apologize —this is also very un-CEO-like. It isn’t damning, in and of itself, but by the time he conducted damage control interviews with CNet, and The Guardian, he was hurting his own position. They are truly bizarre interviews with poor reasoning (the Indonesia parts, and using inclusive to mean including people that exclude) that only highlight the ways in which he was a poor choice for CEO.

Instead of rally support for the Mozilla he did the opposite.

No one made him resign. He resigned. He had power to do great things, to bring people together, and he could not execute.

This was a crisis they knew about before he had the job. As a CEO, you don’t usually get the chance to be out-in-front of something. If this was a crisis about someone else at the organization, would he have been able to communicate effectively and take appropriate action?

This angers many people that feel like he was unjustly persecuted for things outside work. That we all need to look only at what he does in the office. What someone does outside the office, and in the past, is generally not important enough to bring up because it so rarely conflicts with the job. Like I said, social. If a hypothetical Mozilla CEO had supported foundations that advertised against race, or gender, or lobbied for Jim Crow laws in his time outside the office then should that support go without comment? It was outside the office, and they promised it wouldn’t affect corporate policy. Do you feel the same? “Same-sex marriage is different.” Is it so different that a blind eye should be turned towards Brendan? I am not convinced. It is easier to think of same-sex marriage as a nice-to-have thing that some people don’t really need. It is still dehumanizing, and painful.

Where does the line get drawn for employees? Do they need to have spotless lives outside the office? There’s no answer to that. Obviously, when cries came for Eich to be removed as CTO, nothing happened. Does that mean anything? Not really. Should all Prop 8 supporters be fired, and exhiled? No, of course not. Should they be the CEO of a company that stands for equality and fair treatment? Maybe not. People can change, and they are changing. Fear is our biggest enemy; fear of “others” and what they will do.

Hampton Catlin, the head of Rarebit that pulled out of the Firefox store, even called this outcome sad. He had met, in person, with Brendan days ago over coffee to discuss, as humans, how he was hurt. How his relationship had been jeopardized because he could not marry his non-US-citizen husband. These are not two CEO-monsters slinging press releases, these were both humans interacting. Hampton was unable to persuade Brendan. Yesterday, Hampton was slammed on Twitter by people wanting to verbally abuse him for forcing Brendan to resign. A bizarre target for their ire. They bare no good will to talk about it over coffee, just to inflict pain because, from their point of view, Hampton destroyed Brendan. This is not some Obi Wan vs. Darth Vader story, no matter which role you assign to which CEO.

Brendan self-destructed in his role as CEO, but I hope he can find peace for himself. Until he can see through the eyes of others, I doubt he will. As for us, we lost the chance at a conversation about the harm anti-same-sex marriage legislation causes, and we’ve moved on to recriminations over a resignation of a poorly-selected CEO.

:-(

2014-04-04 12:12:00

Category: text


The Libertarian Police Department

via

jkottke:

Tom O’Donnell imagines how the police would function in a totally libertarian society.

I was shooting heroin and reading “The Fountainhead” in the front seat of my privately owned police cruiser when a call came in. I put a quarter in the radio to activate it. It was the chief.

“Bad news,…

2014-04-03 22:36:26

Category: link


Adventures in Server Administration

While I was on vacation last week, I saw Marco Arment publish very thoughtful posts on the importance of relying on yourself for hosting services and content. That using many of the services, and platforms, out there can quickly wind up with large fees the developers are paying for relatively simple needs. There was also a side to it concerning proprietary services offered by these companies requiring custom code that basically locks you in to their service since you don’t want to have to rewrite all that custom code.

Newsflash: I am not a developer.

Breaking: I am interested in hosting my own “content”.

Exclusive: I decided to give it a whirl, as Marco suggested.

Besides, since the goal is to basically host this (gesticulates around the screen) stuff on a server, then the risk is super low. I mean, what does something like this really need any way? I would be satisfied serving static files.

My previous adventures in webhosting didn’t go well because I either pick a service where I have no options (I host my resume and demo reel site on Dynadot’s super-thrifty-guy plan), or I pick something where I have tons of options and no help (Nearly Free Speech). NFS had a huge learning curve because it comes set up in a very specific way, and uses BSD. Which doesn’t sound like a big deal, until you realize you (I) can’t even figure out how to install shit on the server.

I went with the inexpensive $5/mo. plan on DigitalOcean (referral link) that Marco had mentioned. It was easy to set up the VPS droplet. Populating it with exactly the data I want and securing it isn’t super seamless. (What do you mean I can’t just do everything in root?!)

I also tried their preconfigured LAMP stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP). Then I realized that was stupid because I don’t know anything about three of the things in the list. What I needed was Python, because I have a pretty decent understanding of Python through the work I’ve done[1].

So, using my new friend, SSH, I made a directory for the files, dumped the files over SFTP with Transmit, and then said, “I’m sure there’s a web server in the Python standard library.”

Spoiler Alert: There is a web server in the python standard library!

Spoiler Alert: The one in the standard library is not so great!

My first project, was to roll out (troll out?) prompt.photos, as a joke site. That would be simple, right? I’m serving 1 4KB html document I wrote by hand, with 4 PNG files. What could go wrong?

Things Went Wrong!

The server crashed the second Stephen Hackett linked to it on 512pixels.net. I got simultaneous DMs on Twitter from Myke and Stephen. ARGGH! File a bug report guys, sheesh! I’m a pro web admin!

I simply restarted SimpleHTTPServer through ssh and it kept churning without an error (I kept checking on it). I went to sleep, and woke up at 3 AM. Sure enough, SimpleHTTPServer had SimpleSHITtheBed at 1 AM. I put it back up and then started looking on StackOverflow for a more permanent solution. SimpleHTTPServer module obviously wasn’t going to work. It wasn’t even a matter of configuring it differently.

Turns out, that looking in to Apache and Nginx serving static files at 1 AM is a headache inducing thing. Obviously, those two are the most vetted. Node.js fans LOVE their little node servers. Unfortunately, I must have done something wrong with my Node installation (both on my Mac with Homebrew and on the droplet). I nixed (get it?) that idea and went back to Python. I knew the interpreter was there, and that I had installed pip, so I theoretically had a wealth of well-tested packages I could download.

I went with Twisted. Now, if you know what I know (low barrier to entry), then you know that Twisted is a super-powerful, asynchronous, Python server (and other things). I had dismissed it precisely because I thought it would be like setting up Apache. (I basically didn’t want to edit any text files by hand last night).

Turns out, Twisted is insanely easy to deploy. You point it at a path to use as root, you run it as a daemon, and it does its thing. Compare this to Apache. Not only was it as simple to use as SimpleHTTPServer, but it was also faster, and (most importantly) it has not shit the bed. I will want to investigate another solution for serving multiple named domains from this host (since I’m not paying $5 for eternity to host a joke).

This is a tremendously helpful learning experience for me because I want to migrate (vogues your browser window) this whole thing off of Tumblr.

I had picked something easy, Tumblr, just to start writing and stop fretting over fiddly-bits. Just like SimpleHTTPServer, I wanted something that wasn’t fully featured so I wouldn’t go crazy. I sabotaged myself because Tumblr is borking my RSS feed now.

I contacted Tumblr support, and after the person told me all my posts were in my RSS feed, I convinced him they were not. He’s going to pass on my desire for a working RSS feed, but they have no plans to help me.

That’s cute! TOTES ADORBS, BRO!

Before someone helpfully points out that Tumblr is free, so I shouldn’t complain, I’d like to point out that it is advertising supported, I pay for it in eyeballs. I’ll also point out that it will be trivial to get off of their service now. I’ve said it before, but when they started getting all Yahoo(!) up in my biz, I was going to move. Hell, I’ll fucking scrape pages out of here with BeautifulSoup if I have to (I don’t have to). Pelican even has Tumblr export now.

I find this process enriching. Empowering, even.

I’m going to go all web-me-point-oh on this place. You hear me, Sid?


  1. Most graphics software used to have proprietary scripting languages. That was impractical for the software vendors to maintain, and for the users to learn new scripting languages for each package. In the 2000’s, vendors all switched over to embedding Python, Lua, or TCL (pronounced TiCkLe). This is why I have a decent understanding of Python 2.7.  ↩

2014-04-03 11:37:39

Category: text


OKCupid asks users to boycott Firefox because of CEO's gay rights stance

via

Uh. This wasn’t exactly what I had in mind in my previous post. This increases the conversation, but it can really antagonize people by getting in the way of what they are doing. That doesn’t really put someone in the mood to be receptive.

A for intent, D for execution.

2014-03-31 14:55:00

Category: link


Conversations and Consequences

peroty:

New Post: Conversations and Consequences

This all started, as many things do, with a tweet.

Oh no! Someone has a different opinion than me! He ought not have a job for that! http://t.co/JU9DQR7EvZ— J.D. Bentley (@jdbentley) March 31, 2014

It’s something I’ve thought a lot about but neglected to dip my toe into the pond on, partly because my own thoughts were still half-baked. I wanted to avoid a knee-jerk reaction.

Commentary tracks to…

View On WordPress

Thoughtful post from Carl about why people get so riled-up about CEO’s, and their opinions. (I’m treating his reply to J.D.’s post separately from J.D.’s post.) People do reflect on the company, but a company needs to be very careful about selectively enforcing what does and does not reflect well on the company. This is why most companies don’t want employees to have personal blogs, or use social networking sites. You may, or may not, offend someone, and that offended person may speak against the company. Also, they could get in to a sweet flame war on Reddit, or whatever, and that would go well for EVERYONE.

I most certainly do not agree with Brendan Eich’s views. (That goes for gay marriage, and for JavaScript.) I honestly did not know who he was until his Prop 8 donation was first made public. (For historical reference, B.E. never said anything about same-sex marriage until his donation was outed in the published donations that followed Prop 8’s passage.)

Brendan’s views are damaging in a way that is different from from a very vocal opponent. He’s quiet about them, he doesn’t bring them up in public, and he’s very unapologetic about them. He, like many with anti-same-sex marriage views, doesn’t want to debate the issue, instead he wants to defend himself by saying he is allowed to have this opinion. He is one of the people that divorces (heh) marriage from acceptance. That is hardly extreme, profanity-laiden rhetoric. That gets it a pass by most people because, Some might say, “Hey, he’s just against the marriage part. He can think that.” That’s what makes it insidious. It’s very subtle, on the surface, but its consequences are extensive.

Unfortunately, Mozilla defended him, and kept him on, and he stayed CTO. Most people forgot about him, and his views, until his promotion to CEO. Then people were resigning, petitioning for the CEO to resign, etc. Where was this hubbub when he was CTO? Oh right, it died down about a month after everyone saw his donation. He was CTO at a technology company, that’s hardly a first tier employee, and promotion was always a possibility. Bren-bren’s promotion to CEO is unacceptable, but leaving him as CEO was totes acceptable?

Obviously, like Carl said, there are shades of gray here. Very uncomfortable shades of gray. What earns someone ire? We’re definitely not all in agreement so we do need to discuss it.

Unfortunately, just as before, this conversation will soon fizzle and he’ll keep being exactly how he is, and probably maintain his position as CEO for a decent chunk of time.

That might sound incredibly cynical (Cynicism, from little ol’ me? No!) but I consider it to be optimistic. These seismic spikes in conversation slowly move public perception of these issues. Much like tectonic plates creep along, and then shudder, violently. Something changes, people react with big, bombastic conversations about it, and then it dies back down. Sure, Eich will be CEO for however long he will be CEO, but think of the impact something like this can have on people that generally don’t put much thought in to same-sex marriage. It’s not a sustained reaction, but very recent history has shown that things are changing.

2014-03-31 14:20:33

Category: text


CMD Space #89: Opportunity Knocks

via

caseyliss:

My good friend Myke asked me to join him on his astoundingly good interview show, CMD+Space1. Since I had been on the show once before, Myke took a different approach this time, and we had more of a conversation than an interview.

As with my forthcoming talk at CocoaConf DC, this episode may come across as one humongous humblebrag. Hopefully, it will be seen as what it’s intended–two guys opening up about where they are in their careers, and how they got there.


  1. Which should be properly spelled as “⌘+Space”. 

Casey and Myke are so refreshingly earnest, in general, but especially in this episode. Their talk isn’t a brag of any sort. This is a genuine, and thoughtful, discussion about how the little interactions they made got the ball rolling for – dare I say it? – their internet faaaaaame. Nice guys doing nice things, and having it work out, is something any one can listen to.

Also: Casey trolling Myke 👍

2014-03-27 06:35:49

Category: link


You Get Nothing

I have never backed a single campaign on Kickstarter. Not a one. I have considered the campaigns that produce a book, digital download, or other package of art, writing, or music. I will never consider backing software, or hardware.

Someone can buy the company. People forget this. They forget why Kickstarter tries to stay away from funding companies. A corporate entity will make that Rift, or that Pebble. By participating in that Kickstarter, you are giving them money to make a thing for you to buy. You are founding that company without any equity in it, other than a handy set of monogrammed emotional-baggage.

Oculus can sell to Facebook for money, and there isn’t a thing Kickstarter backers get in return. Nor should those backers feel like they are owed anything. They did not buy a share of the company. They have no say in the company’s independence.

This is very loosely analogous with a writer, a musician, or an artist fulfilling their campaign and then becoming a corporate stooge. Backers have no say in that. Even the Veronica Mars campaign got crap because of the format of the movie. Was that part of the deal? Did they deceive people? No. Ask. Get it in writing. Don’t just assume you are all part of a hippy-dippy love fest and things will unfold along the romantic lines you have sketched in your head.

If backers don’t like this sort of thing, then backers need to change campaigns. It is not credible for them to bemoan these things after the fact. They do not own them.

This kind of thinking is preposterous:

Facebook could buy an awful lot of goodwill for the cost of 3 engineers by refunding the 9500 Oculus Kickstarter backers their $2.5 million.

Anil Dash

I snarked today that Mark Zuckerberg bought Oculus because people loved it and he was hoping that would make people love him. That’s not how it works, of course. I kid. Marky Z. is very serious about growing his company and I don’t think he is remotely concerned about people loving him. Mark is only concerned with legacy.

2014-03-25 22:44:29

Category: text


What Part of This Mess is 'Creative'?

Preamble of Loathing

I want to be fair to Adobe. I want to, but I’m not. When I think of using their products, viscous, boiling rage fills my being. To narrow, and focus my rage in a single stream of piercing detestation: The stuff they do that is NOT the application is the problem.

Updating Updates for Updaters

I’d like to think that the farce perpetuated by these application updating applications is intentional comedy, but I doubt humor was the intent. Every application Adobe makes has another application that updates it. Flash has an updater. Creative Cloud is the updater for all the Adobe creative applications. Creative Cloud has its own updater. The best are those cascading updates that start with one updater needing to run before the next. They’re so much fun, why wouldn’t you want to click things and enter your system password over and over? It’s SO easy!

In an era where applications can be seamlessly updated in the background, this is incredibly backwards. This reeks of the kind of corproate fiefdom where someone is charged with writing the updater, and then it just gets protected, that role enshrined. You can’t have an app without an updating app!

They check for updates whenever they want. They don’t tell you any order in which they need to be installed. They are written with Adobe’s proprietary codebase so you can’t copy and paste error messages from dialog boxes. Remember Adobe AIR? The write-once, run-anywhere mess that they gave up on? In undeath, it still manages to exhibit all of the drawbacks that made people avoid it. Seriously, load the Console and look at all the font errors! Why are there font errors?!

A cardinal sin of these updating applications is stealing focus. It is not the most important application running on your system. You start the updater, and you go do some other work, and BLAM0! Here’s a window over everything! You wanted that, right?! This is the most important thing in your life, isn’t it?! Not an error dialog, not a failure code, just “HEY, LOOK AT ME! KEEP TYPING WHATEVER YOU WERE TYPING SO I CAN BEEP AT YOU!”

Installation failed. Error U44M1P7.

What does that even mean? Adobe’s application doesn’t say. You can search the internet and you’ll get a help page from them that says: “The U44M1P7 error means that the update didn’t install.”

If I was writing an app, and I gave it an error code, it would be human-readable. Sure, it’s great to have a code in case there is ambiguity, but the explanation of the code needs to be there. If I were writing an application where help docs have been written about what this error code means, I would include that text, or at the very least link to it. I would not want someone to go search the internet for the error code they can’t copy and paste out of the dialog window.

Especially not when the error message means:

The U44M1P7 error indicates nothing more than that the update wasn’t applied.

Step 1: Identify a problem exists. Step 2: Grant remote access.

Theoretically part of my monthly bill goes towards providing me with support and service. Unfortunately, I received no satisfaction at all from this service. You get in to the chat, and they check that everything’s in order with your account. They ask if you’re having the problem you said you’re having, and then you get put in touch with a specialist. The specialist asks if you’re having the problem you said you’re having, and he doesn’t mention anything about what the error code means. He asks you to download and install the patch manually with a URL that doesn’t format to a link in their chat system, because why make any of this easy? Download, install, and same error. He says he wants to gain remote access to my computer so we can look at this together.

I have an aversion to remote access. I am sure that Adobe support staff have fantastic training (confidence instilled by the repeated question about what my problem was) but I don’t generally consider remote access to my system to be Step 2 in a debugging process.

Instead, I found the help docs for the error that suggest uninstalling and reinstalling the application completely. I’d rather do that myself since I’m 99% sure that was going to be his next suggestion.

Sprawl

You may not realize this, but Adobe puts crap EVERYWHERE when they install things. So much crap is there that you get to run an uninstaller application included in the application’s folder. Let me break that down for you: On a Mac, in OS X 10.9, in 2014, Adobe has shipped a product with files all over the place, application-specific folders, and application-specific uninstalling applications. There is no drag-to-the-trash. I know that there are files all over the computer that those drag-to-the-trash apps leave behind as well, and it’s theoretically helpful that Adobe removes all the other stuff, but there’s so much stuff, and the uninstaller is written so poorly, that it takes 10 minutes to completely run the uninstall for 1 application. Drag to trash > 10 minute progress bar.

I’ve successfully installed it again (which involves downloading the application from scratch, gigabytes of it.) It runs, Creative Cloud is happy. Everything is right with the world! It’s just hours of my “creative” time.

Until next time. Until my menubar is invaded by a numeric badge for updating updating applications.

2014-03-19 14:02:51

Category: text


UGH, CGI!

Yes, I know, everything would be so much better if it was all hand-drawn and there were puppets, and miniatures, and all that jazz. Except it wouldn’t be. Those things existed before, they still exist in some capacity now. They are fantastic tools, and mediums, for telling stories or for making spectacles come to life — except when they don’t work. Go pick your favorite movie, or television show, that used “real” artistry, not that “fake” CGI stuff. Watch it with a critical eye. Not a “Special Edition” or some remastered, augmented version. Go dig up the imperfect experience you would have witnessed before.

Watch the ghost train in Ghostbusters II float (“doesn’t track”) with the train tracks. It’s an optical effect. Watch it slide through Winston with no real reaction. Watch the guys get sucked in to the slime river and bob around. These were the best effects you could witness at the time, and though they are imperfect, we remember them as being perfect because our mind likes to edit and improve what we see on screen.

Watch a 2D animated movie from before computers contributed to them (you’re really looking at things before Disney’s Beauty and the Beast). You’ll see things that pop, edges that sizzle, and feet that slide on the “floor” — but it’s all charmingly handmade and adorable.

Now go watch a modern CGI movie, one of the ones that has won an Oscar, for example. You’ll see imperfections, but instead of being charmed by the flaws you’ll feel cheated. You’ll wish they had drawn it, or used puppets. This isn’t adorable.

I argue that it has nothing to do with the medium. If you’re willing to overlook flaws in one, why not the other? Are you just making an assumption that the act of using a computer has made what you’re seeing in to some soulless monstrosity? Why? Humans made all those things in the computer. They animated those things by clicking, and tweaking, very similar to what they would do when posing a stop-motion armature. Some studios even have tools that allow 2D shapes to be drawn for the 3D data to conform to. Why do you think the act of using a computer makes it inhuman?

This stigma is silly and dumb. CGI, computers, 3D, none of this is why you don’t like the movie. None of this is why you should feel cheated. You’re just as cheated with rubber-moulded prosthetics, and thick-black optical matte edges.

Watching all the knee-jerk reactions come out about The Peanuts movie made me sad for this very reason. They went through an enormous amount of effort to produce something unique. If you don’t believe me, watch that trailer again. (Oh? What’s that? You didn’t watch it? You saw a promo still and said something about it? You’re totes adorbs, go watch the trailer.) Compare it to the trailers for recent CGI movies from Dreamworks, Disney, Sony, other BlueSky projects… Write down the specific thing you’re critical of and it will be the goofy, 1960’s pop culture reference to Kubrik’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. That has nothing to do with computers. I can assure you that someone could do precisely what is in that trailer on hand-painted cels, and you’d still think it was a bad trailer.

Stop using “computers” as an easy-out for critical thought.

Oh, but it’s a cash grab? That’s why you object? Well, I have some rather unfortunate news for you, The Peanuts have been licensed for all sorts of things in the past. Life insurance, toys (the toys were even in dreaded three-dimensions!), cars, theme parks — even the animated specials had product placement inside of them. No, really. Don’t give me this “it’s sacred” nonsense. You are ascribing some kind of purity to it that never existed.

Does any of this mean the movie will be bad? No, stop whinging about your ruined childhood. Your youthful memories have been leveraged for money since before you knew what the word “licensing” meant.

Go deeper. Think harder. I could write a Python webapp that sent out a tweet condemning a movie every time a trailer for a movie was released because it used CGI and it would be just as incisive as the human commentary I’ve been reading on that trailer. Wouldn’t you like to sound smarter than a programmed response?

2014-03-18 17:46:16

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