Nag, Nag, Nag

One of the software trends I’ve hated the most of the past decade or so is nagging. From the standpoint of the user, popping up a message to suggest or demand the user do something is the last resort. In my mind, it’s a flagrant violation of the law of least astonishment… basically, don’t do things that surprise the user.  Popping stuff on screen is at odds with that… it distracts the user from what he or she is doing… which is, basically, the entire point of having a computer. Getting whatever the user wants to do done.

I usually associate nagging with commercial software. I remember the first time I started Window XP: wihin a minute of first logging in, I got popups reminding me to register Windows… along with taking a tour of windows, and eliminating unused icons from my desktop (WTF… will you give me a second to go see what is actually on the friggin desktop before suggesting I blow it away?). Recently, I had to go in and decrapify my father-in-law’s Dell that had come installed with tons of foistware that was nagging him about buying it, installing updates, and the like.

I usually expect open source software to not make these sorts of stupid decisions. However, today I ran into the worst case of nagging I have seen in quite a while thanks to Firefox. I left Ubuntu udate a bunch of software this morning, including Firefox.. and here’s what showed up at the top of the browser window:

How stupid is it to have an informational message with a close button on it, which closes the message for the grand total of a few seconds? If it’s so important to constantly nag me to restart the browser, then don’t put the button there!

Also notice that the message pushes the entire page down… so if it decides to pop up just as I click a link, the stupid message will push a different link under my pointer. That’s what I call freakin’ astonishing!

Two-Fisted Tales of Spam Fighting

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been flooded with spam comments—up to 100 per day.  While 100% of it is caught by WordPress’s more-or-less standard Akismet anti-spam plugin, it still ends up in a spam queue that I have to go through and clean on a daily basis.

Most blog maintainers probably just clear their spam queue and move on. Not me, though. Spammers annoy the hell out of me the same way many home owners get pissed at someone tossing beer bottles or candy wrappers into their yard. Yeah, it takes a few seconds to clean up, but the fact that you have to do so because of someone else’s assholery really gets under your skin. If I had an easy avenue to do so, I’d file complaints about these tools to the hosting services hosting the sites they are flogging. The ones I do bother tracking down are, unlike your average penis-pill and “russian girls waiting scam date you” site, seem to actually be hosted in the US or some other place that might be responsive to spam complaints. If someone is looking for a coding project for a WordPress plugin, make one that will let you send off a report of comment spam to the site’s ISP.

Anyhow, I set out to make it as hard as possible for spammers to dump their trash in our back yard. And apparently, for the moment, I seem to have won. It’s still early, but our spam queue has been clean for the last two days. Hopefully there’s no collateral damage (err… more so that there was already, see after the jump). If you see anything weird on the site, post a comment or send a message via the comment form (especially if I managed to break commenting).

How I managed my (Pyhrric?) victory after the jump.

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Hi Folks. Well, the site’s a mess, due to a recent WordPress update breaking a plugin. At the moment, all of the sub-sites will show you all of the Wetmachine posts, not just ones from a single author. I’m working on a permanent fix that will mean we won’t be relying on a plugin for something so basic in the sit, but that will require a lot of work behind the scenes, and there will likely be a lot of problems to fix with that approach. Please stay tuned…

Attention Kurzweil Singularity Overmind Nanomachine Google

Well, when the business pages of the The New York Times are full of stories about transhumanism and Ray Kurzweil’s visions of our futures inside the Singularity, that means, I suppose, either that the world is finally ready to embrace my novels (which are full of singularity (“overmind”) stuff, not to mention nanomachines, lampoons of transhumanism, and vaguely Kurweillish techno-utopian evil villains ) or that my time has come and gone without my even noticing it (I guess I shoulda had a television so I could watch “Fringe”, sigh). I suppose if I ever were to get this site fixed I could find out if people were still interested in buying books from me. Note to self: get off ass, dammit!

In other news (which I found via the Kurzweil AI net), the military is working on some “local overmind” (“augmented reality”) technology, not unlike that used by The Eternals in the great Jack Kirby comic books of the late 70’s — of which I have a nearly complete set someplace, in proper comic-book bags. Wonder if it’s worth anything?

1. “In addition, groups of Eternals, as few as three at a time, can initiate a transformation into a gestalt being called the Uni-Mind, a vastly powerful psionic entity that contains the totality of the powers and abilities of all the beings that comprise it.” — Wikipedia

We’re Back

Hi Folks! The last few days have been busy around here, as we have moved to a new blog system. That involved a lot of data conversion, various kludges and hacks, late nights, caffeine consumption, and a bit of patchwork to get things up and running. It also required a last-minute emergency move to a new web hosting system, as our old web server wasn’t up to the task of running our new blog software.

There’s still more change to come, but the basic setup is complete, and most of the kinks ironed out.

After the jump. more details including a list of some new features.

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Going to court against the mini-robots

If John Sundman and John Grisham were to collaborate, this court case (which is summarized here) would be the main feature. A man, faced with an evil chemical spewing tree-climbing army of mini-robots, runs to his fax machine and files a lawsuit to save humanity. It’s sorta like The Terminator meets Erin Brockovich.

Hmm… wait, forget I said that… anyone have a phone number for someone in Hollywood? I do believe I have a movie idea to pitch…