Thursday, September 30, 2004

House Votes to End Handgun Ban in D.C.

This annoys me on many different levels. First, as a parent, I'm annoyed that Congress proposes making handguns (and semi-automatic weapons!) more available in my city. Second, as a DC resident, I'm annoyed that Congress still has the right to overturn local laws in DC and we don't even have voting representation. Lastly, as somebody who would like to see Congress actually doing meaningful work, I'm annoyed that the leadership in the House is putting effort into something they know won't pass in the Senate. As written in the article from the NY Times1:
With the November elections approaching, Republican leaders in the House have scheduled a series of votes on hot-button social issues that they hope will force Democrats into a difficult position at the polls, particularly in areas where support for gun rights is strong. On Thursday, lawmakers are expected to take up a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage; last week, they passed a bill that would prohibit the federal courts from hearing challenges to the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance.
1Registration required, or borrow one from BugMeNot or see the article from Yahoo which doesn't require registration.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Article on arch

This one is strictly for the techies out there. has an interview with the creator of the GNU arch revision control system. In it he discusses what's wrong with CVS and subversion and why he feels arch is better. One salient point for me is his comment on the end result of some of CVS's faults:
Ultimately, most users seem to wind up using CVS in the most simple-minded way: as a hub via which multiple programmers can all hack on a single tree. They don't get much more out of it than that. That's fine, but that's like 10% of the version control problem. That people are using CVS that way suggests that the shortcomings of the tool are limiting how programmers organize their projects.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Pong - the real world version

Once again in the category of "I wish I had that sort of free time", Engadget points me at a Pongmechanik -- Pong implemented using all mechanical parts. Unlike the tablet-pc-in-a-boombox posted recently, at least this one shows some enterprising student(s) learning how electrical components like telephone relays work.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Wish I was this idle

Another case of somebody with too much spare time, this person has embedded a tablet PC in a boom box

Thursday, September 09, 2004

[title not posted by hblogger]

I've downloaded the trial version of hblogger - a blogging tool for PalmOS. [Posted with hblogger 2.0]
It's ok, but I'm not terribly impressed. I had to add the title of this post after the fact. Additionally, while I can save drafts on my handheld, it doesn't allow me to post them to blogger as drafts -- I often rework my posts a few times before I actually make it public. I've got two or three in the queue now.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Joel on Social Interface Design

Joel, of "Joel on Software", has a new article about usability -- or not just about usability, but about "social interface design". I think it boils down to a couple main points: (1) usability of the interface is important, but not super critical if you have a truly compelling product, (2) the way to make a compelling product is by gauging and tuning the way that it will help people interact with it and with each other. He gives an example of the latter in discussing how to handle a user who posts inappropriate material to a forum:
So a good social interface designer might say, let's not display an error message. Let's just pretend that the post about Viagra was accepted. Show it to the original poster, so he feels smug and moves on to the next inappropriate discussion group. But don't show it to anyone else.
This is similar to an idea Philip Greenspun had about how to handle troublesome users. If you simply ban them, they just re-register with a different name. Better, he suggested, was to throw some intentional delays into any request made by them. In the end, the user thinks there's a problem with the site because it's so slow and doesn't catch on that the mediocre performance is custom tailored. (I would give a reference to this, but I heard him describe it in a talk and it doesn't seem to be in written form on his site.)