Netflix

I just have to ask: what on Earth do other Netflix users do to scratch up their disks so much? Use them to test sandpaper? My DVD player often has trouble with Netflix disks, particularly with TV-series disks (getting through the first season of “24″ took more than 24 restarts due to media errors). When I take them out and flip them over to see if there’s some gunk that can readily be dislodged, I’m often amazed at the density of scratches. Netflix needs to start keeping track of disks’ condition, and charging people for egregious misuse, to protect the sanity of their other customers.

More Tweaks

I had to fix a bunch of stuff related to the WordPress 1.5 upgrade. The layout looked OK in Firefox but terrible in Internet Explorer, and it didn’t validate properly either. After getting ~150 bogus comments, I reinstated the comment-password code. While I was at it I also reinstated the code to prevent impersonation of registered users. Maybe I should submit a patch for that, because it must happen occasionally on other people’s blogs and a simple patch could save people some significant grief.

C++ Optimization

Pete Isensee has written a great set of optimization tips for C++ programmers. It’s well worth checking out, even for people working in specialties other than Pete’s own.

Super Frog

Here’s a bit of text that not many people get to see in its proper context:

Excellent work, mighty frog one! You obtained
your lawful place of the stars, at the side of the
ancient ruler of the Zuma. In the future, as for me,
you are known as our sibling. I will call you
brother, and we control the outer space together!
It is joyous news! Now we are to the dance!

That fractured language is from the final screen of Zuma Deluxe, which is the most addictive game I’ve seen. My brother Kevin got me into it over a year ago, and it has taken this long to complete the final challenge. It’s not that I play all the time, of course. I do have a few other things to occupy my time – like family life, work, online writing/discussion here and elsewhere, reading, etc. It still took a lot of practice, though, and finishing such a difficult game does feel like an accomplishment. Maybe I’ll provide some tips for other people who’ve been hooked.

Connections

As many of you – especially those I work with – might have noticed, I don’t write much here about stuff that’s directly related to my job. Usually I frame my anecdotes in terms of a generic techie workplace, without specifying whether the reference is to Revivio or to some other job ten years ago. That’s mostly just caution. When I joined (we were Mariko then, and my paychecks still showed an even earlier company name) we were in stealth mode, and I didn’t want to reveal anything that might be of use to competitors. Even now that we’re “out” it’s still safer not to risk getting in trouble for inadvertently revealing something the higher-ups would prefer not be widely known…as though posting anything here will make it widely known. Ha. I know what my traffic levels are. They’re not bad for a purely personal blog, with no pretensions of competing with professional journalists or pundits, but in the broader scheme of things I’m not even a drop in the bucket. So, with the stage thus set, I’m going to break a bit with tradition and talk a bit more specifically about work.

One of the things that’s unpleasant about working in the computer industry is the turnover rates. You work with people, you get to know them, become friends with them in a way…and then they leave. Sometimes you run into those people at a later job, or at some sort of social gathering, or when you get called for a reference, and other times you simply never see them agains. Maintaining contacts is a social skill, and this is not an industry known for the social skills of its denizens. I’m certainly no exception. I’m probably worse than most at maintaining correspondence (I keep meaning to write a letter to let my father know about his granddaughter – how pathetic is that?) and I’ve changed jobs a bit more than the average. As a result there are hundreds of people I’ve known but no longer know. Maybe a few of them are disappointed, maybe a few more are glad, and most probably just understand that’s the way of the tech world. Whether departures are voluntary, involuntary, or somewhere in between, that’s just what happens.

I’ve lost some friends from Revivio like this recently. A couple of them are people I’ve worked with through three jobs, through two different paths. One I’ve worked with for almost ten years. He has hired me, promoted me, fought many battles by my side, and even fought a couple against me. I know that a couple of people who are gone have absorbed a couple of other body blows in their lives lately, and maybe they had come to think of Revivio as a community where they could either could either escape or find support (or maybe not). I hate knowing that now they don’t have that, and that reaching out to them will now be a little harder than simply running into them in the halls or making chit-chat before a meeting. Even more, I hate knowing that my own history of even trying is an awful one. Maybe having mentioned this publicly will give me a bit of incentive to try a bit harder.

Kevin, and Patricia, and Steve, and you others, if you read this, I want you to know that I and others miss you. Please drop me a line with contact info so we can reach each other. I wish you all the best of luck. If there’s anything I can do for any of you – yes, even you, Diane – let me know. Also, to any of my other friends out there from further back, if you know of openings for some talented techies, you let me know too. The idea of me acting as a headhunter will seem laughable to all of you, I’m sure, but I might as well try to do what I can to help people make those all-important connections.

Supreme Court: Grokster

If you thought Kelo was fun, just wait until you try Grokster. In this one, with Souter writing for the (unanimous) court, the developers of a peer-to-peer file sharing network were found guilty of contributory copyright infringement. This is a very scary change for those who write code in this area. The previous standard, often referred to as Sony or Betamax, dates from the early days of VCRs and basically held that if a device had a “substantial non-infringing use” then its developers could not be considered liable for copyright infringement by its users. That’s all gone now.

Supreme Court: Kelo

Recently, in Kelo v. New London, the Supreme Court rules that a local government may seize property and turn it over to developers, under the theory that doing so will increase their tax base and therefore provide a public benefit. This has been a controversial decision, revealing splits across different ideological lines than the usual left/right, but in general it seems that my fellow liberals are more inclined than others to accept the decision. I disagree.

WordPress Upgrade

You’ve probably noticed, if you’re awake, that the appearance of the site has changed a bit. I’ve been meaning to upgrade WordPress to version 1.5 for a while, and there have been some recent security issues with older versions that have spurred me to get a round tuit. Over the next while I’ll be tweaking the layout and adding back some of the custom features that I had added to the older version. All of the content and basic functionality should be the same as before, though.