Idiot Conservatives

So what are we to take away from this?
Finley emerged from a Conservative caucus meeting to blast as "straight out of academic fantasyland" a proposal by Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff for a 360-hour minimum work requirement for employment insurance benefits.

"Mr. Ignatieff is going to have to come forward with specific, detailed, financially responsible ideas that won't raise taxes for Canadians who can least afford it at this point in time," Finley told reporters.
Well, how about:
  • Conservatives think unfairness is the way to go; and
  • governments who turn "small deficit" into a "more than" $50 billion deficit while reducing taxes don't have any "fiscal responsibility" credibility left.
The Liberals and Conservatives appear to be in a race to see who can screw things up the deepest in as little time as possible. This makes me long for the days when they just insisted that everything the other guy wanted was wrong but carried on ignoring each other anyways.


RIP Tilley Hat

Turns out there might be a right way and a wrong way to wash a Tilley hat.

Washing was overdue -- the hat would freeze solid outdoors in winter, and was sticky and nasty when it got wet in the rain.

Thing is, even after the trip through the washing machine, it was still sticky.

The hat's roots are in Alaska, on the cruise that Jenn and I took for our honeymoon. Considering there were probably less than sixty days in the ensuing eight years and ten months that I did not wear the hat, I don't think I can claim that I didn't get my money's worth out of it.

Time to go looking for another one! Maybe I'll try getting Tilley to honour the lifetime warranty on the dead one first.


Engineering (May 2008)

The Mars Phoenix lander on final approach, captured by the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter:

Look at the zoom on this page. You can see the heat shield still attached, the full parachute, even the tether lines.

BA says it best:
Think on this, and think on it carefully: you are seeing a manmade object falling gracefully and with intent to the surface of an alien world, as seen by another manmade object already circling that world, both of them acting robotically, and both of them hundreds of million of kilometers away.
Now _that's_ engineering.

Update: APOD for 30 May has Phoenix's descent in a wider context.

I still think this is one of the most significant engineering photographs ever taken.



The LRO has imaged the Apollo landing sites. The Apollo 14 site is especially impressive:

Now that's cool.


Tell me the problem, not the solution

One of my customer companies is a startup. As a startup, they've currently got a CEO who is also CEO of a bunch of other companies. So this guy regularly jets around North America guiding his companies.

He's acquired a phone solution which is some kind of VoIP tied to his laptop. So where ever he happens to be, he can use the same phone, the same phone number and the same kind of calling plan.

The problem is he got it without talking to at least one of his IT people (ie, me). Which is a problem.

Yesterday he lands, and almost immediately I start getting a stream of email from one of his co-workers complaining about how this phone thing doesn't work. The phones depend on some sequential ports being available for them to use, so they want these ports set up for a bunch of IPs. However, we can't plug ports on the firewall directly to multiple internal IPs.

I get the name of the vendor out of them, and go off to their web site. There's no links to self-help. Only an invitation to describe your problem and indicate which customer of theirs you are. So I email back to them, sorry I can't help, open a ticket and tell them you have a blah-blah firewall and need help getting it set up.

Well a day later I get slightly more threatening email from them. They've decided they want some external consultant "who has experience with the blah-blah firewall" This doesn't put me in a much better frame of mind, because while this guy may know his stuff, he certainly doesn't understand all the "why"s that led to the firewall being configured the way it is.

As an almost off-hand comment, the email suggests I look at this link describing how to make a baby linksys router work. While the document in question was useless, I did see how to make the URL to their knowledge base; looking through THERE eventually nets me a document describing how this VoIP thing also depends on ports 10xxx and above.

And I happen to know that ports 10001 through 10009 are already in use. Which makes solving the problem a political issue, not a technical one.

This meant that the root cause was that the VoIP solution depended on fixed resources which happened to already be in use at our site.

So, what is there to take away from this?
  • If you are a user, describe the problem. Send links to any documentation, if you have it, up front. Don't just describe what you think the solution should be.
  • If you are a solutions vendor, make your documentation reachable from the main page (or a click or two beyond that) so that when poor IT people get dumped with your product having a problem, they have a fighting chance to get it sorted themselves. This means you as a vendor DON'T have to get it sorted.
  • And if possible, be flexible about what network resources you are going to use. Don't insist on fixed resources (like ports) if you don't have to.


CRTC Should Stay Out Of My Network

Canadians support reasonable Web traffic shaping: poll
Most Canadians support the idea of Internet traffic management as long as all users are treated fairly, a new poll suggests.
Now I'm not an ISP or anything like that. I do have a hand in running a small network that services multiple companies in the same building, along with some light hosting.

My position is: it is my job to provide a certain standard of service to my customers, and I don't want the CRTC saying that I can't use specific technology to stop behavior which is detrimental to my customers.

It's my network. I should be permitted to let, or deny, packets through at my sole discretion. Should my customers disagree with my discretion, then they are quite free to take their business somewhere else.

So in the case of the "big" ISPs like Bell and Rogers, my support is for the big guy.


May: No New Crazies Required, Canada Has The Greens

Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party Of Canada, says there is no need for a "Pirate Party" in Canada, because the Greens are already in favor of copyright reform.

She gets a little wheezy walking around there. One would think that not having to run the country or even come to Ottawa she might get herself into a little better shape... or at least do a better job of controlling the pace at which they are walking during the interview.