It's Just this Little Chromium Switch Here

Weblogging and commentary by Chip Rosenthal

Changeling, The Wrestler

Sometimes the ending makes a movie. Sometimes it breaks it. I recently saw one of each kind.

Changeling (2008) stars Angelina Jolie as a mom in desperate search of a child. I watched a "for your consideration" screener. The movie is so long (141 minutes) that it's split across two discs.

I watched the first disc one night, and went to bed thinking this was something very, very special. Jolie did a superb job, and I was completely sold and intrigued by the improbable premise. At times it seemed almost like an M. Night Shyamalan story (the good kind, back before he became a self-referential joke) shot with the economical sensibilities and gritty reality of a Clint Eastwood movie (which it is).

Then, on a later night, I watched the second disc. The story ended with a suspenseful and exciting courtroom scene. The movie, unfortunately, continued on for another half hour. That really undid all that had been created before.

Digital TV: It's Almost Too Late

DTV conversion box coupon program logoYou may have heard that over-the-air television broadcast is converting to digital transmission on February 17, 2009. Even though that's still over two months away, if you don't act right away, like this very weekend, you may find out you are too late.

Here's what's happening: analog over-the-air television broadcasts will cease on February 17, 2009. Digital broadcasts are happening right now, and will be the only form of broadcast TV available after that time. If you depend on over-the-air broadcasts (which means you receive TV from a rooftop or rabbit ears antenna), then you need to be digital capable on that date. New televisions are required by law to have a digital tuner. Old televisions can continue to be used with an add-on digital converter box. They cost about $60 and are widely available. Each household can request up to two $40 discount coupons that can be applied to the purchase of qualified converter boxes.

Linux: Harmful and Illegal

An article is currently circulating the blogosphere about an irate Austin middle school teacher. The teacher, first name Karen, is incensed at a student for showing classmates how to get Linux software for free. She's even more angry at the person who provided Linux to the student. She wrote, in a letter of complaint:

At this point, I am not sure what you are doing is legal. No software is free and spreading that misconception is harmful. These children look up to adults for guidance and discipline. I will research this as time allows and I want to assure you, if you are doing anything illegal, I will pursue charges as the law allows.

This is all laughably uninformed, except I'm not laughing.

I'm concerned that most people are responding by amping up an even greater level of outrage, and that doesn't seem to be a helpful way to move this forward.

Twitter, Without all the Suck (continued)

Twitter "fail whale" graphicYesterday, I started a discussion of things I don't like about Twitter. I pointed out that lack of message prioritization in the client was a problem. I also noted that since Twitter has an API, that should be easy to fix, and I wouldn't be surprised if somebody already has.

The problem I want to talk about today is tougher to fix, and the fix basically entails throwing it away and starting over.

The term "microblogging" has been invented to describe what Twitter does. I strenuously object to that name. That which makes blogging so excellent and so important is exactly what's lacking in Twitter.

Blogging is a decentralized, user-hosted service. Anybody can host a blog—or designate a service to host it for them. Anybody can access and read blogs using a standard protocol suite. It's an open, distributed environment.

Twitter, Without all the Suck

Twitter "fail whale" graphicMy initial impression of Twitter was unfavorable. It struck me then as a bad implementation of multicast IM. Maybe I should learn to trust my initial judgments.

(The term "multicast" means a single message is transmitted to multiple receivers. Most Internet applications, such as conventional IM, are unicast applications: they transmit to a single receiver.)

I remember when Twitter became a big, smash hit at the 2007 South by Southwest Interactive festival. I resisted joining for a long time. Early this year, I finally gave in.

I'm burned out on social networks. You invest all this time and effort into building your network, and six months later it's like living in the cavern of an abandoned ant colony. What a waste of time.

Developer Cookies

Fortune cookies the software developer received:

The inflection point of knowledge comes when you switch from the user manual to the API reference.

Just because everybody loves unit testing doesn't mean it gets done.

If you say "no" a lot, then there is a problem either with your attitude or your users.

Certification is not a substitute for wisdom.

Any web-based application in which business logic approaches zero may be implemented as a blog.

The corollary to the above is that every "build a web app in 15 minutes" demo will be to construct a blog.

Holidailies: I Can Haz Credit for Code?

Holidailies 2008 badgeHo, ho, it's time again for Holidailies.

I couldn't leave well enough alone, so we've rolled out a completely new site infrastructure. The design is very similar to previous years (albeit with the annual logo and color changes), but what's underneath is completely different.

The previous Holidailies sites have been custom PHP implementations. This year, I built a whole new site around the CakePHP framework.

It's been a lot of work, maybe 400-500% that which I anticipated. In other words, it's right on par for a successful software project. (The bad software projects are even worse.)

You Can Blog (Tonight)

The People-Powered Media [un]Workshop is tomorrow. It's an all day event, for people who create media, as well as people who support community media. It follows the unconference format, in that the organizers don't prepare the sessions in advance. Any attendee can choose to offer a session, and everybody else votes with their feet.

I plan to offer a tutorial session called You Can Blog (Tonight). The idea is to present blogging for people who haven't done it and aren't quite sure where to start.

I suppose conventional wisdom is that blogging is old hat, and everybody knows how to do it. My concern is that once you assume that, stagnation will set in.

A lot of people observe the ebb and flow of blogs and declare that blogging is dying. I disagree: it's a sign of health—just so long as you don't lose that flow part. So I think it's important to continue to make blogging approachable for people who may have something to say.

Bonnie and Clyde and Zack and Miri and Bruce

Saw three movies last week. I recommend them all.

Last Sunday, we saw "My Name is Bruce" with star and director Bruce Campbell in attendance. We were lucky to get tickets; the show sold out in five minutes. The movie was silly and fun, with homages to everything from "Evil Dead" to the Three Stooges.

Linux Network Problems with RTL8111C

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Today, I tried to setup a new server using an ECS A780VM-M2 Motherboard. It takes an AMD AM2/AM2+ socket processor. It uses the AMD 780V "business class" chipset, which mostly means basic functionality and unspectacular graphics; ideal for a Linux server.

I was trying to install the Debian Etch (stable) Linux kernel and ran into a major snag: the network doesn't work. That's because the version of the r8169 Ethernet driver currently included in the Debian Etch (stable) kernel (version 2.6.18-5) doesn't support the Realtek RTL8111C Ethernet chip on the motherboard.

There are several workarounds, neither pretty.