Monday, April 28, 2008

*Finally* Galaxy!

So, I know my rants have been less ranty lately.  I assure you, that is likely to change as I have to work every night this week (in addition to my normal daily schedule).  But, I feel it is only fair that when I bash my soccer team of choice (which truth be told, is more abou geographic convenience than anything else... but I do love Landon Donovan, so that helps), for sucking donkey butt, that I also acknowledge their accomplishments.  This weekend was such an accomplishment.

To begin with, I have a cascade of background information, to get you caught up on why this weekend especially was a big deal.  The people in charge of marketing MLS have decided that the best way to get people to come out to see games is to come up with as many rivalries as possible.  If one team's colors are primary, and another is secondary, you've got a rivalry.  One team is from The East coast and one the west, another rivalry!  Here in LA we have two teams, the Galaxy, and Chivas USA, and you guessed it, a rivalry.  Both teams share the same stadium, so when they play each other, while one team is technically home, and the other away, for all intents and purposes, its a double home game.  This clash is called the "Honda Superclasico" (how's *that* for marketing gone awry?), and it happens a couple times per year.

Secondly, I should take a moment to explain why I do not like Chivas.  It's not that they are a bad team (quite the opposite in fact, despite having a girls name, Sacha Kljestan is really good, and Ante Razov is a staple of my MLS fantasy team's strikers), its not that they're the "bad guys" or even "the other guys" in a local rivalry.  It is plain and simply, Chivas fans.  Or more accurately, the way *some* Chivas fans behave during the game.  I'm all for getting rowdy, celebrating, booing, telling the ref where he can or cannot stick his whistle/card/flag.  What I am not about, is physically interfering with the game.  I have seen countless Chivas games where stuff is thrown at the opposing team's players during the game, especially the goalkeeper.  Bottles, cans, streamers... just about anything they can get their hands on, they'll happily toss on out there.  As such, I do not like it when these people's actions are rewarded.

So, now that you have some background on the derby, (spoiler alert), the Galaxy soundly demolished Chivas this weekend.  As I have mentioned before, scoring one or two goals per game is quite a feat in soccer.  The galaxy managed to score five.  Thats right, cinco.  Chivas mustered 2 (once of which was actually really nice, way to go Sacha).  At one point, when it was 4:2, the announcer makes a comment about how the "Galaxy have strapped Chivas to the whipping post, and they're going to town.  As you can see in the highlights, my boy Landon gets a hat trick.

I won't continue to bore you with any more in depth analysis of what should or shouldn't have happened, I'll just leave it at this: way to go Galaxy, you're winning back my faith in your ability to compete, and my faith in the staying power of MLS and soccer in America and that makes me a happy footy fan.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

I am *so* lazy

Normally I use this space as a place to vent about how much whatever the thing I'm annoyed about whatever particular sucks. I am also super lazy, so when someone else goes on about something that I may at some point in the future gone on about, I figure, hey, typing is hard. Not to mention all the thinking that precedes typing (do you have any kind of idea what kind of crazy neurological pipeline is required just to get your fingers to type a single letter, let alone an entire word, sentence, paragraph or novella (as my posts lately seem to be). It's making me tired just thinking about thinking about thinking about writing this. So.. wait.. where was I? Oh, right. I love girl scout cookies, they are amazing. Especially thin mints, when you put them in the freezer, oh man, I wish I had some right now... Err, wait, I mean, fortuitously for you my one loyal reader (thanks mom!), my good friend Nathanael has a nice piece up about ye olde tymes of blogging, before we even knew we were blogging. Because I like to keep things family friendly around here, I feel obligated to warn you, that Nate is either addressing an audience of female dogs (silly Nate, dogs don't even have the phalangeal phalanxes required to type on a keyboard and thus access el internetos), or more likely, because Nate has a foul mouth, I'd rate his post PG.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Standards?! We don't need no stinking standards!

Ok, so, I admit that I am not the neatest of people. In fact, my desk at work generally looks like a filing cabinet exploded all over it. However, even this level of messiness does not preclude me from getting the holy rage when people refuse to follow standards for no good reason (or even worse, for selfish, self serving, reasons).

I am not picking on anything in particular here, at least not yet, I just mean in general. How hard is it to just adhere to the generally accepted best way of doing something? I'm all for marching to the beat of your own drum, but that's not what we're talking about here. Standards are there for a reason: because many people working together yet independently need a baseline to reference, a constant that they can expect to be true, no matter what. Take for instance, the Internet. Have you ever wondered why a page looks different depending on which browser you're using to view it? Thats because the people who made the browsers didn't follow standards (and one is worse than the rest). This makes the job of a web designer maddening. They have to check it in 3 or 4 of the most popular browsers, the entire time praying that everything works reasonably well in all of them. When something doesn't, then its back to the drawing board, spending hours researching why it's not working correctly in one particular browser. Then, once you figure out why, you have to fix it and hope that it still looks how you want it to.

These gripes extend to just about every facet of life... the workplace, television, word processing... just about anywhere you can imagine. Ever wonder why you can't type up something in Word 2007 and have it open correctly in Word 2003? I'm not even talking about a competing product from a different company, or even a different product suite from the same company. The same product, from the same company, just one version higher. If I have a document written in one, I have to install a separate, standalone product, to open it in the other.

The madness doesn't just apply to the upper side of society either. Even in the seedy underbelly of the internets, we find people who just can't seem to follow the standard. Folks who get copies of movies and distribute them freely on the internet are governed by a set of rules that all releases must adhere to. But even they, with their reputations on the line, can't seem to be able to follow the standards, often cutting corners with the hope that no one will notice. Hypothetically, this would make life very difficult for people attempting to obtain such a thing. Not that I condone it, but just saying: the sloppiness is everywhere.

There is however, a silver lining to this cloud of shame. There are some good examples of standards that are followed, and it makes life better for everyone. Music files for instance. If I have a file that is a standard MP3, then I can rest assured that it is going to play on any device capable of playing mp3's (refer to my previous post about software activation if you are confusing DRM laden music with plain ol' MP3's). CD's used to be a good example, but at risk of digressing back into my DRM rant, just take my word for it that even those are no longer safe. How sad is it, that you have to read the fine print on the back of a CD to ensure that it is going to play in your cd player.

Finally, for those pundits of mine who will claim that it's not hurting anyone, and they should be able to behave in any way they see fit, I offer the following: Imagine a ruler that claims to be a foot, but is in fact only 11 inches. Imagine an infant thermometer that is +/- 2 degrees. Imagine a car that gets forty rods to the hogs head while traveling at somewhere between 55 and 104 MPH, depending on which speedometer you read.

Come on people, just follow the standard. It's there for a reason! Not to mention it's easier and cheaper for you, because someone else has already done the hard work of engineering it. All you have to do is follow the directions. Even 4 year olds with E-Z bake ovens can do that.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Software, Activate!

So, to get those of you who ended up here accidentally while googling for something that is likely completely unrelated all caught up, I work with technology. Often times my job entails installing, managing, and supporting various pieces of software. It doesn't sound so bad, and truth be told it wouldn't be, except that I swear companies are bent on making life difficult for those of us who make using their software bearable for the average user. I could go into a laundry list of things that give me the rage about various pieces of software (and if you'd like to hear it, by all means let me know in the comments. I would love nothing more than to rant about things people actually care about), but, in this particular case I am focusing my laser beam of hatred at "anti-piracy measures", specifically "software activation", with a bit of spillover into DRM.

So, as a quick history lesson, a few years ago (around the turn of the millennium actually) some big name software vendors decided that in order to protect their software from the dreaded pirates, their best course of action was to inconvenience their paying customers. Truth be told, I don't know if their plan all along was to annoy their legitimate customers in an effort to "raise piracy awareness", or if it was just another retarded move businesses like to make to stroke their egos as they try to prove that customers will like what they tell them to like, but either way, well, you get the idea. Essentially the way this activation works, is that a combination of a few factors, usually your unique serial number and the hardware in your computer (size of your hard drive, amount of RAM, what cards are placed where on your motherboard, etc) generate a unique "installation ID". This ID is then sent to the product manufacturer and stored in their activation database. This supposedly ensures that you are not installing the same piece of software with the same license key on multiple machines. So thats activation in a nutshell.

Now, I should stop for a moment and note that I am all for businesses making money on the software they create. As such I am equally for people paying for the software they use. This isn't meant to be some rant about how I'm all upset because I can't pirate X or Y piece of software. In fact, I will argue that all this activation crap actually makes pirating software more appealing... but now I'm getting ahead of myself.

So, the problem comes when I get a new computer, or even just replace a part in my old computer (new hard drive, add more RAM), and I want to start using this piece of software on my new computer/configuration instead. When I uninstall a piece of software from my old computer, and then install it on my new one, guess what? Thats right, new hardware, same serial number. I must be trying to pirate it. Instantly, I am assumed to be a criminal. Guilty until proven innocent. So now, I have to call said company, explain to them that I got a new computer, etc. I not only have to prove to them that I am not guilty, but I have to get their permission to continue using the software that I own. Now, a lot of pundits will stop me there and say that I don't actually own the software, but I own a license to it, and that license is revocable, subject to the companies terms, blah blah blah. HONKEY. I say that when I pay money for something, one of my inalienable rights as a human being is to be able to use it fairly without the immediate assumption that I am a criminal.

So, back to my earlier argument that this actually encourages piracy. It is so much easier to install a "cracked" version of said program, that bypasses all this activation crap. When I want to install it on my new computer. I do just that. No cold lifeless robotic fingers pointing at me with accusations of theft. No praying that I didn't forget to "un-activate" my previous copy before I formatted the hard drive and donated it to charity. No need to install constant updates to the activation system, many of which now outright spy on what you do with your computer. No hassle whatsoever.

Businesses need to learn what I have coined as the 95/5 rule (or sometimes known as 'The Lowhanging Fruit Rule"). It is a very simple rule, and it goes like this. Do what you have to, to stop 95% of the population, but leave the other 5% be. I assure you, they are going to find a way around it. So when you go after them with your giant mallet, you are not only wasting tons of money and resources, which you then pass along to your legitimate customers in the price, but you are making your software infinitely more frustrating to use for those 95% of legitimate users, who are now paying extra for the privilege. All the while, the 5% of people you're trying to stop are not only still using it, but they're having a much better experience than everyone else, because they aren't dealing with your "anti piracy" crap.

As I mentioned at the start, this applies to all anti-piracy measures. DRM anyone? How annoying is it that if you want to put a song on your iPod, you have to do it from an "activated" computer, and you can only activate so many. Its far far easier to just get music (or tv shows, or movies) without the DRM. Because then you don't have to worry about it.

The bottom line here is this: invasive anti-piracy measures like software activation, DRM on movies and music, etc not only does not stop piracy, but actually makes it more appealing. Perhaps businesses will one day finally understand the words of our favorite princess of a galaxy far far away: "The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers."

Monday, April 14, 2008

Freaking Galaxy! Take 2


That is all I could mutter as I sat and stared in disbelief at the TV screen. Somehow LA managed to lose 3-2 to Toronto FC, arguably the worst team in MLS. This game should have ended 3-0, 4-0, or at worst 4-1 in favor of LA.

Unfortunately, the galaxy have a couple of major problems on their hands. They come crashing out of the gate and dominate for the first 20 minutes, but then somewhere around the 21st minute, everyone except for Donovan and (it pains me to say it) Beckham, seem to just stop playing. The more I think about it, its no wonder we keep losing. We're essentially playing 2 on 11, with 9 muppets setup as all but stationary roadblacks for the last 70ish minutes. The kind of pressure these guys are putting on Lando and Becks takes it toll for sure. As you watch the highlights you'll see that Donovan misses 2 total gimme goals. Donovan *never* misses those things.

In the end, I don't even mind that they lost. I mean, of course I want them to win, but that's water under the bridge at this point. My main concern is much further reaching: I fear for the future of professional soccer in the US. As I have mentioned before, this is the team who spent more than the GDP of most countries getting one of the most recognized soccer names in the world to play for them. They now charge twice as much as every other team in the league for the privilege of coming to see them, presumably in order to pay that huge salary. But they still can't win, even against one of the worst teams in the league. If they don't get it together, this could be the start of a snowball effect that causes the death of this renaissance of American soccer.

Don't believe me? Lets go on a journey to the hypothetical future. Beckham will continue to get paid his $160,000 per game (no joke, that's what he makes just for showing up. Don't even get me started on endorsements, profit sharing, and so on). AEG (the evil Germany company who own's the galaxy) will be smarting from all the money they are losing because no one wants to pay 80$ per ticket (plus another 20 for parking) to see the Beckham and Donovan not able to do anything because their team sucks. No one else will be willing to risk bringing in big name players, or we'll end up with second rate has-bins like Blanco, because obviously, 1 or 2 good players is not enough to carry an entire team. And finally, soccer will be relegated back to the minor leagues of US sports, and all the naysayers will gloat "We told you so". Then, just to show just how far the ripple effect goes, American players will not be developing as well, catching the eyes of foreign clubs, and getting the experience necessary to continue the US National team's dominance of the CONCACAF region.

For better or worse, because of Beckham, the Galaxy are under tremendous pressure to perform. Everyone is watching them, and they will be the yardstick by which professional soccer in America is measured. If they succeed, the league should succeed with them, but if they fail (which they seem all to good at) they could take the joy of watching and participating in professional soccer away from millions of people.

Come on Galaxy, I know you have it in you. You won 2 MLS cups without Beckham! No one likes sequels, especially me, so I assure you the last thing I want is to have to write a "Freaking Galaxy! Take 3: The suck rolls on".

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Freaking Dell!

So, in what appears to be the continuation of a series about how horrible business is becoming in the good old US of A, I present the following for your consideration.

Please feel free to spend a minute reading the linked page above. I will wait. While I do so, I will amuse myself with this picture of a monkey listening to an iPod.

Hah! Man, monkeys are hilarious!

Ok, so back to the issue at hand. In a nutshell, for those of you like me who don't much care for reading, seems a customer had a problem with their Dell no longer charging the battery. Because businesses don't make money replacing things for free on warranty, the tech on the phone suggested he try plugging in a working adapter into the computer to ensure the problem was in fact the adapter. When this worked, the tech then wanted, just to be sure, verify that the other adapter was in fact bad. They asked the customer to plug the presumed fault adapter into their other Dell laptop. The customer said they did not want to do this as plugging a faulty power adapter into a machine that is no longer under warranty is not the smartest idea, but the tech insisted the only way they could send the customer a replacement power adapter (15$ part by the way) was to do this last verification. You can guess where this is going. Zap, the perfectly fine computer is now dead. So Dell, seemingly, tries to make things right, however this is where things just get... wrong.

After about an hour on the phone with the tech, the customer managed to talk them into replacing the newly dead laptop. Doesn't seem like it should have taken longer than 15 seconds to sort that one out, but hey, at least they came to the right conclusion eventually.

So Dell says they are going to send him a *new* laptop, to replace the one they killed. Well, when the "new" one arrives, it is anything but new. I think it is best described in the customers own words:

"I open the case, and the instruction manual is bent out of shape, and I start to worry. I reach the bottom of the box, pull out the laptop, and first thing I see is the top is covered in scratches. Some people may say that I should be happy since I was getting a newer model laptop to replace an old laptop with no warranty. My old laptop, however, was in great condition. When I opened up the new laptop, I saw the screen was scratched and dirty, and the keyboard was covered in debris. Wait, not debris....what is that? HAIRS!? Not just any hairs - these could only be described as pubes."

Thats right. Pubic Hair. What the heck?! First of all, this is supposed to be a new machine. Secondly, how in the world does something like that get sent out, even if its a refurb or something?

How can you miss that?! What is this world coming to, that such blatant traces of a persons nether regions come free with every laptop you buy!

For shame Dell, for shame. Maybe it's time for Dell to "shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders"

Friday, April 4, 2008

Old Friend, New Writer

Hey everyone. I am going to take a break from complaining for a minute to introduce you to my friend Josh. Josh is going to be writing here from time to time, so don't freak out if you see a name other than "Kevin" as the author. I assure you, we have not been hacked, but in fact everything is going according to plan.

He has an amazing grasp of the English vernacular, so if you do plan on reading his posts, I'd recommend bookmarking I've been using this product for a whole year, and I am *still* excited.

In conclusion, just because there is nothing girly about a horse, and there is nothing girly about a horn, it doesn't make it OK for a 14 year old high school boy to have pictures of unicorns in his locker. Not that I know from experience.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

It's not *my* fault!

How many times have you heard that exclaimed? Probably quite a few in your lifetime. Well, now lets take it one step further. How often do you hear "It's not *my* fault, it's *your* fault!". Probably fewer times, but I would wager you've still heard it at least once or twice. Well today, as the coup de grâce, I give you the following. I was told, by a business whom I pay money to for their "services", that a problem they very obviously caused was not only "not their fault", but was in fact mine. Why you ask? Because I did not pay them enough for them to have set things up properly to begin with, obviously!

What the heck?! What are you, the RIAA? Lashing out at your customers because you can't admit to making a mistake? I'm OK with someone talking about me when I'm on hold, mute, or just behind my back in general. You want to call me an idiot? Fine, that is your prerogative, but let me tell you what you do not do. You do not lie about what happened and then blame your customers, to their face, for a problem you very obviously caused. I suppose tomorrow the phone company is going to sue me because I don't make enough long distance calls, or the power company is going to blame me for a nationwide blackout because I plugged in my toaster (by the way, I have an awesome toaster, its this cool retro silver thing, with a bagel setting and a nice easy to clean crumb catcher... just sayin').

I literally cannot find the words to describe how this made me feel. *You* broke something. This caused me, your customer, to have to scramble to apologize to my customers. And then you have the gall to proclaim that this is in some way *my* fault. How dare you sir! This offends my sensibilities, my sense of human decency, and business 101 community college professors everywhere. This is something you just do not do.

Thanks goodness we live in a free market society, so I can take my money somewhere else. Maybe one day businesses (and lets be honest here, people in general) will realize that blaming, suing, mistreating, and all around crapping on their customers is not an acceptable, nor profitable way to behave in decent society. Or maybe that is the root of the problem. That we don't live in decent society. Either way, until that day, I have accepted that my only choice is to find the least abusive businesses and give them my money. But it still, what the heck!?

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Irregardless, it's not a word!

For those of you who know me well, you know that one of my biggest pet peeves is when people use the word "irregardless". Let me tell you right now, it's an abomination of a word and should not be used under any circumstances in any day or age. It's a walking contradiction. Don't believe me? Lets examine it a little bit closer.

It is a combination of two words, "irrespective" (–adjective without regard to something else, esp. something specified; ignoring or discounting), and "regardless" (-adjective having or showing no regard; heedless; unmindful (often fol. by of)). Both of which contain a negative prefix and suffix respectively (ir- meaning "not" and -less meaning "without"). So when you blend these words together, you have a double negative. Not without regard. Thats not not wrong!

I get that idioms are an accepted part of language, and I can even understand a mutated idiom (such as "all the sudden", which is a phonetically hurried "all of a sudden"). I will even accept that language is just a form of expression, and if you make a sound and people know what you mean, then mission accomplished. But that still doesn't make it right! If I were to write "do u want 2 go 2 dinner 2nite @ 6?", sure you'd understand what I meant, but it doesn't make me sound like less of an idiot.

I submit that language is about more than just communicating what you mean. If all we had to do was communicate in a basic raw form, then it would be accepted to just scream until someone gave you what you wanted (think baby here). But it isn't. We're educated, civilized (mostly) people. By allowing the adoption of blatantly incorrect words, we're letting the idiocracy (thanks Mike Judge) win. Language is a beautiful, eloquent, gift, and it makes me shake my head to hear anyone so unwilling to use it as such.

So please, just say no to irregardless. Irregardless of what people may think, its just wrong.