Tuesday, 31 October 2006

Vending iced coffee

I spent a few months in a different office at a tiny desk in a corridor. The main point is that I was buying iced coffee from the vending machine, and they were almost always out of it. I think that was my doing for the most part. I kept hoping they'd stock up with more than three new bottles when they restock tech came by. The week before I left, they'd changed the standard contents of the machine, placing *four* iced coffees there. Good times.
By contrast, the vend-o-matic here contains about nine Ice Breaks and usually three each of Breaka 500mL iced coffee and Breaka Lite.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I'm trying to cut down.
PPS - Each 500mL Ice Break contains nearly 30 grams of sugar.

Monday, 30 October 2006


Many of our troubles come from duplication of information and the actions we must go through to do this. We have information in our heads that we must get into the computer for use there, then we have that same information printed out on notices and posters. Speaking to another human is just an attempt to duplicate information from one storage mechanism (a brain) to another. Posting signs is another example of this, with the difference being the intended audience and the medium.

If all humans were networked in a global mind, then there is no need to duplicate information between brains, as we all have access to each other's thoughts and knowledge. It goes beyond that, however, into the elimination of the individual. We become one beast with one mind. Communication is meaningless when it is complete, because complete communication is identity. Two objects that know all of one another are two parts of a larger object. If you and I share one mind, why would we talk?

Mokalus of Borg

PS - There may be a higher philosophical principle working here.
PPS - But for a Monday, this hurts my head.

Sunday, 29 October 2006

The Sunday Mok - Balance in Motion

Sunday - After the morning church service, I cleaned up the yard while Deb vacuumed my car interior. I cooked dinner and ran the computer for the evening church service, then Deb and I went to her place and chatted for a while, since nobody was going to the Coffee Club.
Monday - I spent the whole week writing identity management code at work. In the evening, I had dinner at Deb's, then bible study at Michelle's. We're studying Paul's letter to the Philippians.
Tuesday - I skipped karate in the evening for a meeting. That will make it a three week break if I go back this week. I'll have some catching up to do.
Wednesday - I had dinner at Deb's again, then following the after-dinner conversation, Deb and I watched DVDs and chatted.
Thursday - Family dinner at Dad & Beth's tonight. They'll be flying out to the United Arab Emirates this week so that Dad can help design a marina. Deb and I watched more DVDs after we got home.
Friday - I bought food for youth group supper and dropped it off, then had to leave again because my blue card hasn't come through yet. Deb and I watched Take the Lead, which was okay. We chatted some more afterwards.
Saturday - I slept about an hour past my alarm and had to rush to the church to babysit during the Marriage Course. I don't know if I did very well, because Caleb ran back to his parents about five times. I slept when I got home, then watched Super Size Me. I got a little more out of it this second time, but not much. I played City of Heroes for a while and Deb played The Sims 2 on my laptop. We went bowling with Murrae and Tracey in the evening, followed by more games.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - We both stayed up too late.
PPS - I have to stop doing that.

Friday, 27 October 2006

Virtual Ubuntu

Yesterday I installed not one but two virtual Ubuntu Linux machines, one at work and one at home. Unfortunately, the one at work wants to download and install 200MB of patches right away, which is a bit much. It won't go unnoticed, is what I'm saying.

For a geek, I'm very late onto the Linux bandwagon. I'm not sure why that might be, but with something as easy as Ubuntu to set up, and VMWare Player to let me do so without potentially obliterating Windows, well, there are no excuses anymore.

I'm aware it's a different environment, so it's going to take some learning. I'll have to figure out how my regular daily activities (at home: games, TV and internet) will work. I did find an article on running City of Heroes in Linux that should be interesting reading. But while I'm running Linux only virtually, that would be an experiment only.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - If things go horribly wrong, I'll let you know.
PPS - The bonus of virtual machines in that case: delete the file and you're all cleaned up.

Friday Zombie Blogging

Zombie-themed hot sauce, complete with coffin.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Via Boing Boing.
PPS - I'm guessing that you'd have to pick your dinner guests specially for such an item.

Thursday, 26 October 2006

Social Drinker

Meg, cat-in-residence at casa de Borg, has a water bowl of her very own. She ignores it completely and prefers to drink from unwashed dishes, the bathroom basin and sometimes she even licks the collected droplets from the floor of the shower. Her motivation is unclear, but it does seem that her preference for company outweighs her preference for water. Or maybe water is tastier with a hint of soap. I guess we'll be in the dark until she learns to speak and decides to explain to us.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - In the meantime, I'm just letting her be.
PPS - It usually seems like the best policy.

Wednesday, 25 October 2006

Virtual Mess

To me, one of the primary selling points of a virtual or robotic pet would be the zero poop angle. It's a simple fact that robots don't need to poop. Any robot or simulation that does poop has, in my opinion, been either poorly or maliciously designed. Apparently, Nintendogs takes the viewpoint that pooping = realism, and should therefore be included in the set of programmed behaviours. I guess that's fun for some people.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I do not own a DS or Nintendogs.
PPS - For the other programmers out there, yes, I know that should be "pooping == realism".

Tuesday, 24 October 2006

Copy Stop

A significantly long time ago, technology-wise, Weird Al Yankovic included a copy warning on a video cassette stating that it had been protected with "Patented Copy StopTM technology". Among its claimed effects was the loss of function of your player and recorder, fading of household furniture, the death of pets and global weather disturbances. It was all a joke, of course, but Al proved to be a bit of a prophet in that sense. If a system exactly like Copy Stop existed, you know it would have been deployed by now, and you know someone would have tried to circumvent it, probably killing us all in the process. That's humanity for you.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I don't often mean to be cynical.
PPS - The warning has been transcribed here.

Monday, 23 October 2006


I'm well aware that my view of the world could be described as "skewed". For instance, the Internet Explorer 7 installer said something along the lines of "To install Microsoft Internet Explorer 7 you must validate your Windows installation. Click here to validate." In my mind, this translated to "You are a dirty rotten thief! To dispute this claim, please click this button." That's the problem with all DRM and call-home procedures on our PCs these days. They assume the worst, and treat everyone as guilty until they prove themselves innocent.

I don't think it is in your best interests for Microsoft to call you a thief and make you prove them wrong. The problem is that it's by far the easier path for them. If they tried to gather information about who was pirating Windows and go after them, they'd be spending their own time and money doing so. If they just accuse everyone, they're spending your time.

Individually it wouldn't be that much - say, two minutes. Multiply that over a company of 2000 employees and we have 66 hours wasted just proving to Microsoft that the company is legit. Across a user base of 100 million people, it's 380 years of lost time.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - That's non-stop, not just working hours.
PPS - Crazy, isn't it?

Sunday, 22 October 2006

The Sunday Mok - The crack that split the city in half

Sunday - After the morning church service, I went grocery shopping with Deb. I showed her The Sims 2 and I did some yard work. In the evening, we went to see the Watoto Children's Choir, and I highly recommend them.
Monday - Work. Some bug hunting, some timesheets work. I had dinner at Deb's before bible study which wasn't really a study. Mostly we discussed the minister's recent trip to China.
Tuesday - I got a solid task to focus on at work, which was good. Traffic in the afternoon was awful. A group of us walked past the congestion to catch a different bus home. In the evening, Deb and I played games side by side, her on The Sims 2 and me on City of Heroes. This was only possible because Anthony was away, so his machine was available.
Wednesday - I had dinner at Deb's, then we played the original Sims together for a little while. I left early because I was starting to feel sick.
Thursday - I was pretty hungry all day, which I believe was due to sickness. Deb came over for dinner and we played our games side by side again until Anthony got home. I tried to have an early night.
Friday - I caught an extra-early bus in the hopes of beating the morning rush. No such luck. I had dinner with Deb then helped her prepare for the Marriage Course breakfast on Saturday.
Saturday - I spent the morning watching recorded TV and also ran one quick City of Heroes mission. I spent the afternoon at Deb's doing basically nothing. We did watch Final Fantasy in the evening.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Traffic has generally been worse inbound to the city than outbound.
PPS - The problem on-ramps could be closed for the next six weeks.

Friday, 20 October 2006

Internet Explorer 7

Internet Explorer 7 has been officially released. It looks pretty slick. The problem is that behind the scenes, we have some bugs carried over from version 6. This was done knowingly because of Microsoft's near-monopoly on the browser market (though their share is slipping). The reasoning went like this: IE6 has some annoying bugs, and website makers created their sites to work around the bugs. That created the situation where the IE6 bugs became the de-facto standards of the web in place of the actual standards. Now IE7 has come along and, in order to work with the horrors left behind on the web by the bugs of its predecessor, IE7 must replicate those same bugs. And that is how Microsoft enshrined broken software as standard practice.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - The IE7 installation called me a thief, so I quit.
PPS - I looked at it on a co-worker's PC.

Friday Zombie Blogging

Zombie Prom, a now-regular costume formal where you can get dressed up and look like you're dead at the same time.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Come to think of it, zombies are often in formal wear.
PPS - It comes from being buried in it.

Thursday, 19 October 2006

Messenger name changer

I change my Messenger Live name every day. It's just one of those things I do. The problem is that it's tedious, so I wrote a script for the Messenger Plus plugin, based largely on someone else's work, that changes my name when I sign in. It also keeps track of the last day it did so, because sometimes I get signed out accidentally, and I only want to use up one name per day.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It's in a working state now.
PPS - If I can take it further without just copying more code from the other script, I might release it publicly.

Wednesday, 18 October 2006

For the sake of a 2m crack

Because a few streets and bridges are closed around Brisbane this week (engineers discovered a crack in a bridge ramp) traffic is disrupted. The inner city will be described by the media using words like "chaos". Personally it took me an hour and a half to get home yesterday afternoon.

The first reaction people have is that we're glad they take our safety seriously enough to investigate this fully. The second reaction, which kicks in just after they get in their cars, is that this whole situation could be avoided with some putty.

I didn't hear the city council take this chance to promote public transport, but I did hear that transit lanes are being opened to all traffic. The early bus was crowded this morning, so some people must have had the right idea. It got me in here at a decent time.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I'm not sure if I'll be walking past the congestion this evening.
PPS - It seemed like a pretty good idea yesterday.

Tuesday, 17 October 2006

Package tracking

Some time ago, I ordered a t-shirt from ZeStuff with the longest and cheapest shipping option available. The site says that there is no tracking available for packages shipped this way, and that I choose that option at my own risk.

Now, RFID tags are just about everywhere these days, and people are always looking for new ways to use them. For that reason, I doubt I'm the first one to think of this. We could put RFID tags in postage stamps and use them to track ordinary letters everywhere. Even if this kind of tracked postage cost an extra 20c for the tag, I'd be all for it. I'd be especially interested if they could tell me where my t-shirt is.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Data processing and storage would be the biggest costs.
PPS - Yeah, this seems to be old news.

Monday, 16 October 2006


I just saw Jess' post about Netflix throttling and thought I'd check out the Quickflix terms and conditions for a similar clause. Among the rest, I found this bit:
We reserve the right to terminate or restrict your use of Quickflix Services, without notice, for any or no reason whatsoever.

So, basically, they've reserved the right to cancel my account for no reason at all. If the mood strikes a slightly disgruntled employee, he/she could just cancel half of the accounts and, according to the terms, would have nothing to explain to the customers.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - The discussion with his/her boss would be something else entirely, I imagine.
PPS - I expect the clause is worded that way so they don't have to explain the reasons.

The End of the World ... of Warcraft

I finally saw the recent South Park episode "Make love, not Warcraft" last night (during time I should have been sleeping, naughty me). Not being a player myself, I can't say for sure whether they accurately captured the atmosphere of the game, nor could I point out which bits were custom animation, but I did find it amusing. It's worth the time.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Now if only my preferred MMORPG could get this kind of coverage.
PPS - All City of Heroes has is a couple of comics, as far as I know.

Sunday, 15 October 2006

The Sunday Mok - Birthday sing-off

Sunday - I was on bulletin handout at church in the morning, then had lunch at Deb's followed by DVDs until about 16:00. Back at home, I raked, mowed and pruned in the front yard for an hour. I sang and did a bible reading in the evening church service.
Monday - I worked most of the week on the performance appraisal database, trying to finish off the last bugs and features. I had dinner at Deb's, followed by chatting and DVDs.
Tuesday - Karate in the evening was a slightly harder leg workout than I've been used to recently. That was good. I went to dinner at Dad & Beth's and found out when I got there that it was my step-sister Wendy's birthday on Monday.
Wednesday - I tried to catch an early bus to work, but missed it by two minutes and had to wait for my regular one anyway. I had dinner at Deb's with another guest from church.
Thursday - I caught the early bus to work to make up time I expected to lose on Friday to a long group lunch. The usual family dinner was off because Dad & Beth are away, so Deb and I made chicken enchiladas here and watched DVDs.
Friday - I foolishly let my Blue Card expire, so I wasn't able to attend youth group. I got my application form in that evening and dropped off some things at the church for the other leaders before spending the night watching DVDs with Deb.
Saturday - I went for a jog in the morning, then watched recorded TV until 10:00. I let Deb trim my hair again, then we went out shopping for a birthday gift for Murrae and settled on EyeToy Play 3. We had dinner at Sizzler, then hung out at Erin's.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - There were three birthday dinners simultaneously at Sizzler.
PPS - At least, there were three singing.

Friday, 13 October 2006

Friday Zombie Blogging

Michael Jackson's Thriller, India-style.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Bollywood never stops giving.
PPS - Even if you want it to.

Guidelines for dealing with journalists

What to do if you are approached by a journalist:
1. Stay calm. Raising your voice will only excite the journalist, and may attract others nearby.
2. Stay still. Running from a journalist typically results not in a clean getaway, but in a sensationalist spot on 60 Minutes.
3. Divert their attention. Attempt to direct the journalist to their designated feeding area gently but firmly.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - This entry inspired by a company email.
PPS - It is probably more amusing to me than you.

Thursday, 12 October 2006

The magical book debt

Erin gave me a magical book for my birthday, then I used up the magic. I tried to return the favour by giving the book back, but that's when we found out that the magic was gone. I owe erin one magic book and I'm not sure where to begin.
I've never been shopping for grimoires or other mystical texts, but I'm guessing there's not usually a sign on the door of the shop. My hope is that by standing at a crossroads, clicking my heels together and spinning three times anti-clockwise I'll be transported to the Shadowlands where magical books are as common as birds in the sky and singing turnips.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Hopefully the magic will survive the journey back.
PPS - Well, I've got to try.

Wednesday, 11 October 2006

One perfect copy

The RIAA and MPAA are fighting to make digital music and movies (ie CDs and DVDs) impossible to copy because, as they see it, one perfect copy destroys all sales for that work. The problem with the argument is that every work on CD or DVD out there has been copied, and people are still buying them. If one perfect copy destroyed all sales, the entire music and movie industry would be gone by now, because no money would be coming in.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Just a thought.
PPS - I still think piracy is wrong, but it's not hurting as much as they'd have you believe.

Tuesday, 10 October 2006

The Curators

Our post-industrial world was run by curators of public opinion. Newspaper editors, television executives, record producers, fashion consultants and more. With the global communications network, those jobs are being made obsolete daily. When it's almost free to put content online, we don't need someone to vet the decision for us beforehand. There's no appreciable risk to manage, and so these managers of risk for other people's money are going to disappear unless they find a way to redefine their role.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Typically former curators find their way as popular bloggers.
PPS - So it's not all bad.

Monday, 9 October 2006

Extend and enhance

I suppose the big disadvantage of web-based applications is the inability or difficulty of creating plug-ins for adapting or enhancing the functionality. For some desktop applications, that's a big plus. The only way for the average developer to extend or enhance a web application is if there is a provided application programming interface, but that is both rare and far removed from the desktop version of the plug-in architecture.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Of course, with tools like GreaseMonkey it's possible to modify or extend web applications.
PPS - But it's not easy, not reliable, and usually against the terms of service.

Sunday, 8 October 2006

The Sunday Mok - 15 Hours Late

Sunday - I was on bulletin handout again at Ashgrove Baptist, on an emotional upswing after Saturday's reuinion. I took a nap in the afternoon, as well as doing some house chores, then ran the computer for the evening church service.
Monday - The whole week at work felt rather unproductive. Dad brought curry and rice for dinner, then I had a meeting to discuss the upcoming term for youth group. I played City of Heroes for about 90 minutes afterwards.
Tuesday - Karate in the evening included all the regular kicks, punches and blocks, plus combinations and kata. After dinner I went to Deb's to hang out and chat.
Wednesday - There happened to be lots of leftovers from a catered meeting at lunchtime, so we all ate pretty well. I had dinner at Deb's (a kind of improvised Mexican lasagne) then watched DVDs.
Thursday - I left the office early, at 17:00, which has become common for me recently. It just makes me feel like I've got a few extra minutes in the week. Family dinner at Dad & Beth's followed by DVDs.
Friday - We had a section lunch at a local bar & grill, and I think that's going to become traditional for Fridays. Also traditional will be one person picking up the entire tab. In the evening was the Alpha celebration dinner. I left with two thirds of a banana cake and 1.5 litres of custard.
Saturday - I got up early to help cater for the Marriage Course running at the church. In the afternoon I took Deb and Mia to Indooroopilly for shopping. I had dinner at home and spent the evening playing City of Heroes. The banana cake started to go bad, so Anthony and I finished it off.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Sorry this post is about 15 hours later than usual.
PPS - I can't imagine it affected anyone's lives too greatly, but I felt I should apologise anyway.

Friday, 6 October 2006

The future is made of plastic and holograms

You know that bit in Back to the Future Part 2 where Marty's girlfriend Jennifer sees her future wedding photo? She exclaims: "I get married in the Chapel O' Love?" I never could tell if she's excited or horrified. I'd more confidently guess "horrified", because very few girls would dream of a Las Vegas wedding.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Also, she wasn't smiling.
PPS - But the tone of her voice still leaves me guessing.

Friday Zombie Blogging

Apparently, dying is no longer the career limiting move it once was. A dead woman was elected to office in Budapest, presumably because she'd do a better job than a living politician.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I don't think I'd like living in a country run by zombies.
PPS - For one thing, the currency would be brains.

Thursday, 5 October 2006

The Goatee Dimension

I'm fascinated by role reversal worlds, like interchanging good and evil or male and female. They're very useful philosophical tools to understand the nature of things in our own situation. For example, how are events like births, deaths and weddings treated in a world where evil is exalted and good is frowned upon? What would the celebrations be like when men finally got the vote? How would our history books look if Adelle Hitler had waged a terrible peace across Europe?

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I've been known to blame wrongs (tongue in cheek) on my evil twin.
PPS - I do wonder what he'd be like.

Wednesday, 4 October 2006

Putting the "Grand" in "DARPA Grand Challenge"

The next DARPA Grand Challenge is currently being prepared, and the teams have been chosen. Whereas before the robotic vehicles had to navigate a desert course without any human intervention at all, now they have to navigate busy city streets, obey traffic laws at all times and park themselves at the end.

That's a pretty big jump, to my mind. I'll be very impressed if any team actually completes the course this year (or even next year). I also wonder how busy these "busy city streets" will be.

When systems like this are better drivers than humans and cheap enough to be installed as standard, I expect we'll see the cost of owning an actual driver's licence go through the roof.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Because then you'll be one of the meat-sack maniacs ruining the streets for all the robots.
PPS - The human drivers, however, will not just disappear.

Tuesday, 3 October 2006

Anti-speeding legislation and device combo

Here's how it goes: you get caught speeding once, and we install a speed limiter in your car, set to the default highway speed of your state. If you get caught again, we check the limiter. If it's been tampered with or removed, your licence is cancelled immediately. Otherwise, we crank the limiter down another 10kph. If you're caught speeding too many times, you'll only really be able to drive on suburban streets at the limit (because highway driving will be too slow).

Of course this does nothing to prevent people from (a) speeding in the first place or (b) speeding in other cars. In all, I'd say it has more problems than benefits, but it's interesting to think about.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - There were a few hoons doing the rounds in the local streets last night.
PPS - And me without my caltrops.

Monday, 2 October 2006

It's light red

We've had a discussion recently about what exact colour is one of my highlighters here at work. Brad and Ross say it's pink, while I maintain it's red (riveting stuff, I know). The problem is this: am I slightly colourblind (red-pink would be the only classification possible) or are we just a bunch of guys with different colour vocabularies?

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I know it's not a deep red or fire-engine red.
PPS - Maybe it's flourescent red.

Sunday, 1 October 2006

The Sunday Mok - By your powers combined

Sunday - After church in the morning, five of us (Anthony, Dad, Beth, Deb and me) piled into one car to go and have lunch with my Aunt Margaret and Uncle Handley. We also managed to catch up with two of my cousins, Tim and Jenny, while we were there.
Monday - I was dealing with caffeine withdrawal for most of the working week, so everything seemed extra-tiring. I did some grocery shopping after work before dinner at Deb's and a night of DVDs.
Tuesday - I got a ride to work and home again most days in the week, thanks to an available parking space. I skipped karate in the evening to rest and play City of Heroes.
Wednesday - I actually tried to take a very short nap at lunchtime, and sort of dozed for about five minutes. It only helped a little. Dinner at Deb's, but I left pretty early after that.
Thursday - I picked up my glasses on the way home, then had dinner at Dad & Beth's with Deb, Anthony, David and Dean. We watched some DVDs after dinner with me wearing my glasses. I think they helped.
Friday - I read a very interesting article on how Google manages software projects. Boss David took the section out for lunch at the reasonably close restaurant Super Bowl. Deb and I had dinner at a local Indian cafe.
Saturday - The 10-year high school reunion. It was really good seeing so many people again and catching up. I managed to remember most faces and slightly fewer names. I made sure to get contact details from Leon, Blake and Ian before I left.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I find it difficult to remember my glasses.
PPS - I'll get used to it.