Saturday, May 15, 2010

It's been a long time coming!

It’s been a long time coming. I’ve wanted to do it for years, but have finally gotten around to it. I’ve left Blogger and set up my own Wordpress site on my own dedicated server. I’ve already migrated all the content, and am getting things up and running. If you’ve been a long time subscriber, you’re going to need to update your bookmarks and RSS feeds to pick up the new content. Just go to to use the new blog.

Goodbye Blogger, Hello Wordpress!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Humanity can roll over and die!

Mankind can eat large quantities of fecal matter, then roll over and die. I am officially done with people. I see no need for them anymore. I have moved on. There are no decent people anymore, no kindness, no courtesy, and certainly no good samaritans.
Yesterday, I travelled from Panama to Atlanta. I didn't have anyone in Atlanta to pick me up, so I planned to take the train as far north as it would go, then the bus as far as it went. And since the northernmost bus stop was at a mall, I was confident I'd be able to find a taxi to get the rest of the way. No such luck.
Based on memory, I thought I didn't have far to go. I've driven the distance hundreds of times, and although I've never paid much attention to the exact distance, I thought it to be just a couple miles, 5 miles at most. It wasn't a hot day either, especially considering I live in Panama, just a few hundred miles north of the equator, where it's always hot. Since I had no way to call anyone, I convinced myself I should just walk the rest of the way. Needless to say, I underestimated both the distance and the sun.
I walked 9.3 miles in the midday sun wearing a black polo shirt, jeans, and shoes that although comfortable, are obviously not meant for walking long distances. I was carrying a backpack and lugging a 50 pound suitcase, fortunately a roller-board rig. As with any walk, I started out Ok. An hour or so later, not so much. All told, it took me around 3 and a half hours to reach my destination. Most of that distance I went with no fluids. I finally passed a gas station about a mile from the house and downed 4 quarts of gatorade to replenish.
This brings me to why humanity sucks. During my three and a half hour walk, hundreds, if not thousands of cars passed me by. It was obvious to anyone looking at me that I was in a serious hurt. I was not dressed for exercise, I was not on a residential road, and nobody in their right mind could have thought I was pulling a suitcase for fun. I certainly didn't look like a crazed axe murderer, with a clean shave and recent haircut. Yet not one person had the decency to roll down their window and ask if I could use a lift. Even the motorcycle cop standing on the side of the road clocking speeders completely ignored me as I limped past him.
Of course, humanity in general has lost its decency, so screw humanity, but one thing in particular really bugged me about this. Atlanta is right square in the middle of the bible belt. There are churches everywhere (I passed at least 4). People here plaster fish, bible verses, and "What would Jesus do?" stickers all over their cars. I'll tell you what Jesus would have done. He would have stopped and offered me a ride! So where were all the good Christian soldiers yesterday? Was yesterday some sort of day off from doing unto others I didn't know about?
So roll over and die humanity, and especially all you so-called religious hypocrites who claim to be so pious yet live the same pitiful, withdrawn, uninvolved, uncaring, inhuman existence as the rest of the infidels! You did your religion proud yesterday!

Monday, April 05, 2010

An apology of sorts

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you may have noticed that I didn't have the kindest of words for Catholics on Friday. In fact, I was downright nasty at times. I have received some negative feedback from a few people, so I thought I would offer an apology of sorts to those who might have been offended.
To be clear, I do NOT retract anything I said. I always speak my mind and heart, without shame and without filters. Anything I said, I stand by. To retract it would be to deny my own voice, feelings, and thoughts, and I refuse to do so. I will however offer an explanation and clarification.
I am not anti-God. I actually do believe in God, although probably not in the same way as most of you. What I am is anti-religion. I believe that religion has done more harm throughout the history of mankind than good. In some form or another, religion has been at the heart of most of the worlds bloodiest wars, and the focus of the worlds darkest times. The Christians were behind the Crusades, which resulted in the massacre of millions of muslims, jews, and pagans over a span of 200 years. The muslims are behind our current "holy" war, targeted at the western world. Despicable things have been done "in God's name" for thousands of years, and I can't bring myself to believe that God would condone any of it, so I simply reject religion as a whole on the grounds that religion offers nothing more than humanity's flawed interpretation of their beliefs, and the human desire to push those beliefs on those around them.
That's not to say that religion is entirely bad, either. The Catholic church has easily done as much good as harm by bringing education to the worlds poorest places. Religion is also a great way to teach ethics and morality to the ignorant masses. It teaches a reward and punishment system that nobody can escape from. If you're good and follow the rules, you will be rewarded with an afterlife of pure bliss in heaven. If you're bad and break the rules, you will be punished with an afterlife of suffering in hell. But it's these very rules that inspired my rants this past Friday.
I consider myself an educated person, and enlightened by the understanding that ethics and morality are an important cornerstone in a modern society. Without them, we have lawlessness, violence, crime, and chaos. We can not survive as a society without these things, and I do my best to live life as a moral person. Religion offers an easy way to teach morality, as it can easily be extended into the home and neighborhood. But religion requires ceremonies, and stories, and dogma, and doctrines that are specific to that religion. They set the different religions apart from each other and provide an interpretation of morality that sometimes conflict with the interpretations of others. These conflicts are how wars get started.
These conflicts should be avoided, yet many religions have taken a different approach to resolving them. They prefer to eliminate the competition. They instill their own doctrines in the laws of the land. They indoctrinate an entire people by making their rules law. Those people who aren't afraid of the hell taught by that religion must still follow the rules of that religion or risk punishment in the form of prison. I strongly disagree with this practice of combining church and state. It is wholly unacceptable to me. And I was the victim of this practice this past Friday. Unfortunately for my Catholic friends and families, it is their religion who has installed its doctrine in Panamanian law, and so it was that I struck out at Catholicism as a whole.
Good Friday is an entirely Christian holiday. And I respect it. I even appreciate the fact that thanks to this Christian holiday, I was given a day off from my regular work routine. I had planned to enjoy my day off by taking a case of beer out on the lake and spending a quiet afternoon fishing. I didn't want to bother anyone. But my plans were ruined when I learned that the police were stopping all cars going towards the interior and checking for alcohol. The were not checking to see if the driver was intoxicated, but whether there was any alcohol at all in the car. In Panama, on Good Friday, thanks to Catholic doctrine, it is illegal to consume alcohol, and the Panamanian government enforces this doctrine in part by prohibiting the citizenry from transporting alcoholic beverages, under the assumption that it will be consumed at some point. Have no doubt. I was fully intending to break Panamanian law and drink on Good Friday. But I planned to do it in a way that would not bother anyone. However, since I could not go to the lake to fish and drink quietly, I was forced to choose between fishing and drinking. I chose to lash out at my persecutors by breaking their doctrine as much as possible, and I went on a bender. I got absolutely hammered, and I did it in the most obnoxious way I could without getting arrested -- by posting all of my ravings on Twitter and Facebook for the world to read.
And on Saturday I paid for it with a monstrous hangover. A religious person might call it a punishment from God. I personally don't think so, but I got my anger out of my system, and I feel better for having done it. As far as I'm concerned, the punishment was worth the crime.
So I end this letter with a brief comment to those of my friends and family who felt personally offended by my Friday ravings. Do not take any of my comments as a personal attack. I respect your beliefs. It would have been nice, however, if your beliefs hadn't affected my rights and caused me to feel like a victim.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Developers should charge extra for Internet Explorer support

First of all, I'm not a web developer by trade. I work all day long with systems which will happily deliver content to any web browser. How that content looks on any given browser is not my problem. However, I do occasionally have to support the developers of that content, and I've learned an important lesson: Internet Explorer is a terrible browser. It's not just an ok browser, a mediocre browser, or even a bad browser. It's a terrible browser. I'm not going to get into the whys and hows of it. Suffice it to say that when developing complex, rich web experiences, it takes significant extra effort to support Internet Explorer and its various idiosyncrasies.

It's not just IE6. Everyone knows that IE6 has nearly no proper CSS support and a pitiful Javascript engine. Thankfully, IE6 is very rapidly losing market share. Not long ago, one in four individuals on the Internet was using IE6. Today, some statistics services put that number at about one in ten. There's still a lot of them out there, but thankfully there is a downward trend.

IE7 and IE8 are also problematic for developers. I'm working with a client right now who is suffering because IE8 has a habit of aggressively cacheing AJAX, which is raking havoc on his application which just underwent a major shift in its directory structure. On every browser except IE, the redirections we put in place at the server level were picked up and the application continued working normally. But this developer is now jumping through hoops and working very hard to figure out how to get IE8 to pick up the new directory structure and work as well as the rest of the browsers. Regrettably, as a non-developer, I can only sit back and watch and toss out the occasional "have you tried this", or "is it possible to do that" remark. Two heads are better than one even when the second is only worth half of the first.

So now I get to the real point of my post. Why are we even still developing for IE? It's as plain as day to me that Microsoft has no real interest in producing a top notch browser. They've had 15 years since the release of IE 1.0 to figure it out. The one complaint that I have heard from developers which has lasted the entire 15 years is that Microsoft would rather invent standards than follow them. And since Internet Explorer won the first browser war when IE4 replaced Netscape Navigator as the dominant browser in 1998, the standard response to those developer complaints has been that the dominant player gets to set the rules. If IE is the dominant browser, then it IS the standard. The rest of the browsers must become compatible with sites that support IE, not the other way around.

But we're in a new browser war now. And this time, IE is not winning. For the first time in 12 years, the Internet Explorer family of browsers has less than 50% of the market share, and it's trending steadily downward. What this means is that while one in every two visitors to most websites is using Internet Explorer, the other visitor is using something else. One in three visitors is using Firefox, and roughly one in ten is using Safari, Chrome, or Opera. All four of these "other" browsers support open web standards. IE7 and IE8 claim to, but still haven't fully adopted them, and still try to set their own. Generally speaking, if you develop a web application with adherence to the standards, you can expect Firefox, Safari, Chrome, and Opera to work well. You cannot expect the same of Internet Explorer. Some tweaking will be involved in making sure IE works like the rest.

I think that developers have more control over the browser war than they give themselves credit for. Developers create the applications, and must choose between developing for Internet Explorer and then making sure the other browsers work, or developing for the standards and then making sure Internet Explorer works. When Internet Explorer was the dominant browser, the decision was easy. Now that there are more users on standards compliant browsers than on IE I've noticed a growing trend of developing to the standards and tweaking for IE. I think that trend will only accelerate, as Microsoft starts to realize that it must adapt in order to survive.

Developers can further accelerate the trend by making it hard for businesses to fight back. Freelancers will have an easier time of it, but small "professional services" shops will also be able to contribute. By simply charging more for "IE support", developers can push businesses into publishing standards based sites. This will have a snowball effect on the browser war. First, more and more sites will become standards compliant, with no special efforts being made to support IE. IE6 will be the first browser to suffer. It's already on the the way out, but as more sites drop support, it will go away much faster. IE7 and IE8 have better standards support. They will last awhile longer, but neither can compete with Firefox, Safari, Chrome, or Opera on performance and stability with standards compliant sites. IE is already steadily losing market share, but if developers stop propping it up with compatibility tweaks, users will abandon it in droves. The faster users abandon IE, the faster it will lose market share. As IE loses market share, fewer applications will be developed with IE compatibility tweaks. And thus begins the end. Microsoft will have two options: drop IE altogether, or start fully supporting the same standards as the rest of the industry.

So developers, go ahead and raise your prices. Get the message out that IE support comes at a premium. Start making a difference and help the world win the browser war.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Time to give up on Haiti?

Maybe this is too soon to be considered politically correct, and maybe you can call me a heartless bastard, but I find myself wondering if it wouldn't make more sense to stop sending money to help rebuild Haiti and instead get the UN member nations to collectively offer a Get Out of Haiti Free card to all Haitians. There's only 9M of them, and if spread out throughout the world, they wouldn't create too much of an economic impact on any host countries.

Haiti has been stripped of its natural resources, now has practically no exports, and it's only significant industry is manufacture using imported parts. The country is over-crowded, and its citizens live in abject poverty. Why would anyone want to waste their money rebuilding it, if it's not going to change anything for the people living there? The best thing anyone can do for Haiti is to abandon it and give nature time to restore some of its original beauty.