A slightly surreal rant.

Some days I end up having discussions in various places on the internet where someone has come looking for help with the devkitPro toolchains. Usually I take a few minutes, maybe even half an hour & help someone solve a problem and they’re usually happy with the end result. Sometimes I even get a donation shortly afterwards.

Other days things get a little weird. I was attempting to explain some of this to my partner (who doesn’t code) the other night and I came up with a story that might help make the point a little.

Imagine, if you will, walking out your front door one morning where you encounter your neighbour who has a large tabby cat sitting on his window sill tied to a piece of string. He brandishes an electrc razor at the cat, who makes his fur all spiky, hisses and screeches at your neighbour then leaps up and claws his face drawing blood.

“What on earth are you doing?” you enquire?

“I’m cleaning my windows” says your neighbour.

“What? You can’t clean windows like that!?”

“Sure you can. Look, when he leaps up to claw me with all that spiky fur he brushes against the window and all the dirt comes off” explains your neighbour.

“But”, you say, “This would be so much easier with a bucket of water and a squeegee”.

“That sounds a bit complicated. I’ve never used those before and I don’t own either of those things anyway”

“There’s a shop down the road that sells them, you could have them in half an hour and I could show you how to use them if you like”

“Well, that’s kind of you but I don’t really have time to go to the shops and learn how to use a bucket and a squeegee. It’s taken me all morning to do these windows and I’m nearly done now, then I have to go to the hospital and get some of these cuts stitched up.”

While you’re considering a response to this, another neigbour turns up. “Hi Jeff” he says, brightly. “Cleaning the windows again I see. That cat has made a right mess of you today”

“Yes” says Jeff, “I really should do something about his claws”

“Maybe you could get a domestic long hair instead of that tabby. You could get him declawed at that vet in town and a long hair might have  a better temperament”

“You’re absolutely right” says Jeff, and he takes the cat back inside then heads off into town to see if he can buy a domestic long hair somewhere”

“Why did you do that George?” you say to your other neighbour, “He’d be much better off with a bucket and a squeegee”

“Maybe”, says George, “but he enjoys cleaning his windows with a cat so much”

A few days later, you’re reading the local newspaper and you discover an article Jeff has got published. It’s entitled “How to choose the best cat to clean windows”.

Please join me in supporting the Open Rights Group

To all my internet friends.

You may know that I am a supporter of ORG , the Open Rights Group, which aims to promote and preserve rights on the internet and provide sensible information to politicians, parliament and journalists about technology. ORG relies on its supporters and we’re having a recruitment drive to fund a Legal Officer to allow ORG to intervene in legal cases.

If you are concerned why people are being arrested for being foolish on Twitter, or worried about the Government’s plans to ‘spy’ on the whole internet, these are typical of the areas where ORG is fighting for your rights. You can find out more at the campaign page, or grab me online in one of the many IRC channels I hang around in if you want to chat to about what ORG does and why I’m a supporter.

You’ll get a free copy of Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross’s new book – the Rapture of the Nerds. Cory and Charles are both ORG supporters and so is Neil Gaiman: here’s why. Your support will really make a difference. The target is 300 new supporters to fund a full-time Legal Officer. Please be one of them!

If you join me in supporting ORG (it’s only £5 a month) using this link then I’m in with a chance of winning a Raspberry Pi or a MaKey MaKey:

https://www.edirectdebit.com/openrightsgroup/?ref=Dave_Murphy

I’d really like you to join, because this stuff is going to affect our digital life for years to come.

A quality argument

I found an article in Micro Mart issue 1124 by Craig Grannell incredibly amusing, not least because I find myself being heckled on a regular basis for being a Mac “fan boi”.

Everyone knows Macs are a huge rip-off. Most tech websites say this is the case, so it must be true. And then there are all those owners of dirt cheap PCs yelling from the rooftops about what complete idiots Mac owners are for being brainless enough to spend more money on a computer than they strictly need to.

At what point did computing become about low-end willy waving and dirt cheap commodity? It’s odd when you think about it because, in other areas of technology – smart phones, cars televisions, stereos, people generally buy the best they can afford. You don’t find too many people mooching around an Audi showroom and finding themselves being heckled by a mob of Renault owners yelling “You idiot! My car cost half as much as that one!”

Craig goes on to talk about the industrial design, keen developer community and the integration of OS with hardware that makes Macs worth a little more. Yes ok, peripherals can be a bit pricey if you buy them from Apple but isn’t that always the case with goods that get branded with quality and luxury?

As a cross platform developer I work with OSX, Windows and Linux pretty much every day – OSX is by far my favourite OS to work with. To me it seems to combine the best bits of Windows and Linux with few of the drawbacks of either. There’s the consistent GUI that you get with most windows applications that for some reason seems sadly lacking in Linux combined with the powerful command line of bash and a unix based system just a click away – let’s face it DOS just doesn’t cut it in that department.

A beginning

Firstly, happy new year and welcome to 2010. Still no sign of Moonbase Alpha or monoliths orbiting Jupiter but Virgin Galactic seem to be gearing up for relatively cheap commercial space flights. Interesting times are definitely afoot.

Over the last few years I’ve made several abortive attempts to maintain a blog but something always seems to get in the way so this year I’ve decided to make more of an effort – a new year’s resolution I suppose, not that I subscribe to such things. My writings here will be primarily technology focused with some social commentary and politics thrown in for good measure. Quite a lot will probably be about programming and electronics projects related to devkitPro – my attempt to make game console programming much more accessible to people outside the games industry.

If there’s anything in particular you’d like to see me write about then do please feel free to comment here.