Tuesday, 18-Oct-11 22:25
IT, what IT?

I no longer really know what my field is. Whenever people ask what I do, I just usually say something about being in the IT business, and wave my hands dismissively. But when I look at the answer myself, it is empty and hollow.

I read articles about the "IT business". They're filled with big words like ITIL and Cloud and SaaS. Yet they mean nothing to me, and whenever I try to read about them, my eyes glaze over and I wish I had something more interesting and easier to read - like Perl code written by a drunken monkey.

But yet, being the CTO in a hot startup means that by some definition I really must be in the IT business. However, it feels like I deal with far more mundane matters: I worry daily about open issues, answering to support questions, running unit tests, feature roadmapping beyond the next two weeks (with the product owner, of course), architecture design, license conditions, terms of service, developers, systems monitoring, capacity planning, functional test suites, deploying releases, continuous integration, paying service fees on time, talking to customers, making sure everyone knows what they're doing and where we're going (need to improve on this), learning a new language on the side, interviewing recruits, managing subcontracting, upgrading servers, DNS configuration, scalability, clustering, helping people through rough spots, documentation, coding rules, but most of all writing the actual code - in other words, Shit That Gets Things Done.

So when someone raves to me about how the cloud is going to change everything I usually just go "So? It's servers and data. You can either manage them yourself, or you can outsource them to some cloud provider. You make the calculation how much it costs to own, rent or cloudify your shit, factor in expansion costs and SW development and run with the one that produces a smaller number. No philosophy required."

On the other hand it is useful to put labels on stuff; it's so much easier to research on the internet if everyone agrees that a particular set of techniques is called "The Cloud", rather than everyone inventing their own name for it. However, it must be understood that these labels are only temporary and loose. Let the historians then give them proper labels once the full reach and impact of things are understood. Prior to that it's mostly about marketing, and desperate attempts of people dropping off the bandwagon to sound relevant again.

What matters is Getting Things Done. It's also useful to talk about How To Get Things Done, because it teaches others How Things Can Be Get Done, and henceforth More Things Get Done. It's far, far less useful to talk about What Does It Exactly Mean That Things Might Be Done In A Certain Way And Could We Have Another Meeting About The Impact Next Week Please?

(Here's a small idea to the Finnish IT press: write more about How To Get Things Done. You don't have to become a clone of the Make magazine, but write sometimes about companies and how they've approached certain problems, like recruiting or scalability or HR or even document change control. Help people to share the knowledge, 'cos we just don't have the time in the IT industry.)

Thursday, 13-Oct-11 16:23
Why payment isn't the killer app of NFC

I've been meaning to write this a long time, but not until now did I get some real pressure to do so.

NFC is one of those old technologies that's making a new comeback. Most of the transport in big, industrialized cities runs on NFC cards, made by a handful of companies. The payment industry is slowly moving to NFC as well, changing the cumbersome physical contact (which is always dirty or broken) into robust and durable wireless cards that you just wave at the reader.

The great thing about wireless is that you're no longer bound by the card sizes, and you can put the NFC payment chips anywhere that's big enough - a keyfob or a mobile phone for example - imagine how complicated it would be to figure out a standard for a physical connector on mobile phones that would work with every manufacturer - and still be fast and durable in use.

Mobile phones have a few other advantages as well as a payment instrument; they're connected and updateable, the NFC functionality can be turned off and be protected by a password, and you're actually far more unlikely to lose it than your wallet. (No, seriously; I'm told that it takes on the average about 2 hours to notice that your cell phone is gone, whereas wallets average around 23 hours. Unfortunately I don't have a reference to the study, so you have to take that with a grain of salt. Your mileage may of course vary; I'm pretty sure some of my readers keep losing their phone all the time and their wallet is always in place - but I claim it's because you need your phone so much more that you are actually noticing it's absence much more readily.)

There's also big money in the money business. So it's no big wonder that everyone is going apeshit on how NFC is going to transform payments and mobile technology and how it's a game-changing technology.

Sorry, but I don't really care.

Fundamentally, NFC payment and ticketing is a replacement business. Changing the underlying technology for credit cards is unlikely to make a person to consume and pay more as there's no fundamental reason why paying with a phone is easier or faster than with a plastic card. Yes, it may be more secure, but that's not usually a consideration for people. We're funny that way.

Then why is NFC being pushed for payments? Two reasons: it's a lot harder to copy a mobile phone than it's to copy a plastic card. It's not impossible by any means, but credit cards are essentially a risk management business. If a credit card company can save X billion a year simply by switching to a more secure technology to reduce fraud, even if it's not absolutely secure, it's obviously worth doing.

The second reason is that it introduces new players into the market: the mobile phone operators like to think they own the customer. So do the banks. So do the credit cards. You can't make an NFC payment system that works on phones without talking to the operators first, who'll want to take a small cut from every transaction. And this is all fine, but it's a very good reason for them to push the technology.

But herein lies the problem: if we have a replacement technology, and the amount of money in the system stays the same, then multiple players means less money for everyone.

What this all means is that NFC payments are a big boy's game. In order to get your payment application on the secure chip on the phone in any usable amounts, you need to have someone else's permission. Then it becomes a matter of agreements and deals and SLAs and revenue share and all that jazz that bigco's are very good at, but which takes a long time to happen.

So fundamentally, I don't believe that NFC payments and the whole secure game are at all interesting. It's just the same old stuff, hashed in a new way, split even more thinly among rich players. Even if Apple enters the payment game (and they're the only one with enough clout to ignore the operators and make their own payment system) it's still going to stay a closed ecosystem.

But what makes NFC really interesting is it's potential for creative hackery. Every NFC phone can also talk to other NFC phones, and every NFC phone will also carry a card writer, not just a card reader - and these are accessible by all developers. For many applications, you don't need banking/military grade security. You could even develop money transfer applications - imagine e.g direct BitCoin transfers from phone to phone; untraceable virtual money transactions. There's a disruptive business model right there. Skype for money, anyone?

Also, I'm really stoked to see what people will create when it becomes possible to annotate physical objects in a whole new way. Unlike 2D barcodes - which, while cheap, just don't look that nice in a lot of places - NFC tags can be embedded pretty much anywhere with only the faintest signal of their existence (this can obviously be a suspicious thing too). Also, NFC tags can be dynamic - their value can change over time (say you could have a tiny chip which measures temperature and moisture directly baked into your bathroom wall - just read it with your mobile phone whenever you're suspecting a problem.)

I'm not going to go and wave the big red security flag here. NFC has some advantages, which allows fairly secure systems to be built around it, though in quite a few cases security isn't really that important because of the short range imposed by physics. Eavesdropping on an NFC transaction can be done, but it's not trivial by any means (quite often the examples are very contrived, for example the infamous "exploding trash canister if you happen to hump it with your passport in your front pocket" -video). Security is still all about risk-management; as long as the possible gain is bigger than the cost, there's motivation for someone to break it, no matter how exquisite the security is. The practicality of the attack always needs to be factored in, and these days there's pretty much nothing easier to copy than the old magnetic stripes, which still are on the credit cards for legacy reasons. At least with an NFC phone you have to make a big effort...

Now that everyone and their cousin is rolling out NFC phones, the real power will be in the hands of the hackers. I don't think that the big guys can really innovate anything that's going to take people by the storm (except perhaps Apple, but the fact that they haven't done so yet shows that it's not easy for them either. They don't in general roll out new features unless there's a way to tie a user more tightly into the Apple ecosystem. Obviously this will be heralded as the greatest revolution of all times, but even then the real power will be in the fact that NFC phones will be available to masses.) Google is showing only weak usecases that remind me of the ideas that everyone else had around 2003 already; even if they've got NFC support in Android, their power will be in providing great development tools for startups (which they will subsequently acquire and integrate - or kill).

There's interesting potential for location-based gaming. For example, imagine a game of Shadow Cities where you can go for an item hunt, and by touching the item can get temporary superpowers. A sort of real-world capture-the-flag. The nature of NFC makes it easily embeddable in all sorts of narratives. Rovio is already shipping a version of Angry Birds, where you can unlock new fields by finding other players and asking them if they'd be willing to enable your fields by touching your phone - instant social component to a solo game. There's already an NFC-enabled geocache out there.

All in all, I'm pretty excited about NFC entering the consumer market right now. But not for the reasons that everyone else seems to be - I don't really care at all about NFC payment and ticketing. It's boring. It does not create new business. It's about big players shuffling money in a new way, that brings only incremental benefits to the consumer. The real power, the real innovation, and the real revolution will be in the NFC applications created by passionate people who wish to change the world.

Wednesday, 14-Sep-11 00:07
Saturn's moon from the Cassini

This was such a gorgeous image I just had to tag it. Hover on the image to see...

Thursday, 01-Sep-11 22:11
How to attract women in a geeky way

Since I was asked to tell this story, I might as well.

I - much like a lot of other men like Xena - The Warrior Princess TV series. I mean, gorgeous fantasy women hanging about in a beautiful country with some decent writing, parody and self-parody on top - it's the veritable geek recipe for fun.

So around in 1997 I picked up this Xena shirt to show my fandom. But unlike my other geeky shirts, which mostly attracted sneering, derisive recognition from snot-nosed, 200-pound computer programmer guys, and mystified but somewhat pitying looks from everyone else, this shirt gave me a whole different lot of recognition.

First off, someone wanted to buy the shirt off me at a rock concert in Finland. That, in itself, was already exceptional. But imagine my surprise, when it turned out to be a real chick magnet while traveling: it was not once or twice when someone of the female sex approached me, commented positively on my shirt and started to chat. Practically all of them were mothers with daughters; some single, some not.

Of course I queried them as to the reason why a geeky t-shirt might attract such attention, and here's one answer as close to as I remember it:

"Me and my daughter love to watch the show, because it portrays intelligent, strong and self-reliant women as the main characters. They're a great role model for a girl."

And come to think of it, there really aren't too many of those. I have a feeling this is one of the series I am going to rewatch with my children when they grow mature enough.

Monday, 29-Aug-11 23:57
Switched from Android to Symbian

Yeah, that does sound like a typo, doesn't it?

My trusty N900 died some time ago, and I was desperate to get a new phone with the same form factor - I really, really like having a QWERTY keyboard on a phone, even if it makes it a bit thicker and heavier. Going through the options at the time the only real option was HTC Desire Z, which is on paper a pretty nice Android phone. So I figured I jump on the Android bandwagon, and enjoy the awesomeness that's catching the world by wildfire.

Except that, well… here's a number of, um, things I've noticed with the phone.

First of all, the Android development environment is awesome. Very easy to pick up, and you can see from the amount of apps around that quite a few others do think so too. Unfortunately it also means that the quality isn't always that great, but I'd rather have an open ecosystem than the closed Apple model anyway. And I like the way that HTC has been upgrading the OS fairly aggressively. So that's all okay.

The nasty thing is that the phone came installed with TWO different appstores - one from Google and one from HTC. Being a newbie, I tried them both, but got honestly scared when I realized that a dice roller app from HTC's store required every single permission, including things like GPS location and phone access. It screamed "Trojan" - as the featured app of the manufacturer's own store. WTF?

Anyhoo, Android may be an ok operating system, but this crap is filled with design errors, and I have no idea whether I should blame Google or HTC for most of them. For example:

  • HTC Sense UI has an extremely short "long" press. It's so short that I often accidentally rearrange my homescreens when trying to reach for the top bar. My 8-month daughter was able to totally mess my home screens in about 20 seconds.
  • I've started the voice search accidentally more times than I can count. It's not a good idea to place it in a corner which is frequented by the palm of my hand.
  • Android's habit of killing software is pretty annoying - trying to copy stuff between apps that don't support the clipboard is nigh impossible without resorting to pen and paper.
  • The Finnish localization of the OS is dismally bad. But then I figured out why - apparently "there's no usability installed" on the OS. (Or that's what, translated loosely, the OS tells me.)
  • Sometimes, without any apparent reason whatsoever, the keyboard forgets about small umlaut characters. Which makes typing my mother tongue look like I've got the hiccups.
  • About 60-70% of the time, when I'm pulling the phone out of the pocket, it dismisses the call. This is due to the fact that on HTC Sense, you accept a call by swiping down, and dismiss it by swiping up. I keep my phone in my front pocket. Figure out the rest.
  • The phone paint on the back cover is already peeling off. I'm not misusing the phone any more than any of my previous ones, and none of them have ever had the same problems, including some really early Nokia prototypes that would otherwise fall apart if you just snarled at them.
  • The phone is just so full of crapware (sorry, I mean "value adding differentiation software") out of the box it's as if I had accidentally bought a Windows box: two mapping applications, three Twitter clients, a few Facebook apps, etc.
  • Using same button for call and end means that if your mate hangs up just before your finger twitches, you end up calling him back.
  • The built-in email apps (two! WHY TWO!?!) just don't work very well - you can't set up different fetch schedules for day and night, for example.
  • The browser is just crappy, and let's leave it at that. Yeah, it renders well, but the usability just doesn't cut it. (Granted, it's nowhere near as bad as Symbian's, but still - it could be so much better.)
  • I'm still completely unsure how I should search for a person to text him. It's as if I've got just a dozen really bad ways of doing it.
  • Google Maps is just useless when you really need it. Why does it require online access when you just want to search for a road next to you when you have downloaded the area map already?
  • Skype. When I receive a Skype call, my phone and my laptop ring. Fine. I respond on the laptop, and Skype on the phone keeps ringing. In fact, the only way I could get it to shut up was to forcibly reboot the phone.

I've got a dozen or so more irritations, but I think these are the major ones. I'm sure there are a lot of people out there who really like Android (they probably use Samsung's phones :-), and people tell me that I should install Cyanogenmod, which takes the experience much closer to vanilla Android, but… you know, I harbor this odd notion that phones should be usable out of the box without having to reinstall the operating system. Call me weird.

Adding differentiating software for Android is hard for a hardware vendor. You can't ditch Google's own software (GMail, Maps, Market), even if your own software - or software you buy - were better. You can innovate in some frontiers, but you're essentially fixing stuff that isn't broken, and you're not allowed to fix the stuff that is. In fact, I wouldn't wonder at all if some manufacturers just decided to fork Android at some point to get rid of excess Google-baggage.

Anyhoo, even if I did say that this never would happen, I'm back with Symbian. I got myself a Nokia E7, which is, especially with Symbian Anna, a pretty spiffy machine. Now, it's got it's own irritations (especially on the app development front), and my mind still boggles at the retardedness of the browser. Not shipping a first-class mobile browser at this day and age is simply inexcusable. The Maemo and Meego teams did it, why can't Symbian? (Rhetorical question, don't answer. I was there. I know. I still fume occasionally just thinking about it. If I had been given free reign over that topic, heads would've rolled many times.)

But Symbian works. And it'll keep me in business for the next few months or years, doing most of the things you would expect a smartphone to do, until the next suitable phone comes along. It might be Bada, it might be Android, it might be Windows Phone, or it might be something completely different. The mobile world still changes fast, and getting too hung up on strategies and which-ceo-said-what is just a good way of getting yourself a headache. Just get what you need and use it.

(Ironically, after a few weeks of Symbianness a once-in-30-years flash rain wet the E7, so it's in the shop and until it's fixed I'm back on dismissing calls accidentally on the Desire Z. Bah.)

Wednesday, 03-Aug-11 22:17
Comments on the blog please

Folks, the comment system here isn't that bad. People have been commenting my bookboxing entry on Facebook and also on other networks (some even personally to me, but that's totally fine). It's nice to have those comments, but come on - only me and my friends will ever get to see those comments. If I've written publically, comments should also be public, unless they're of personal nature.

But the point is, if you have a great idea that improves something I've written, there is no link between that comment and the idea unless you happen to be one of those few people who are my friends on Facebook and happen to glance at the stream in the brief time it's visible. And that bugs me - you wonderful idea should be here, next to mine. On Facebook, it's not indexable. It's ephemeral. It's empty. Your comments are more valuable than that.

You're breaking the web. Stop it. Please.

Thursday, 21-Jul-11 23:05
Bookboxing!

No, this is not the newest martial art craze. I just grew tired of the likes of Bookcrossing and Bookmooch, which require you to tiresomely and lovingly handcraft the data of each book onto a website separately, or put labels on them or track points or mail them or other things that people with a lot of time in their hands do.

It was all just too much work for me, so I'm introducing bookboxing!

Rules are simple:

  1. Get a box
  2. Put all books you want to recycle in the box
  3. Give the entire box to a friend
  4. Friend takes out books he wants, puts in books he wants to recycle
  5. Friend gives the entire box to someone else.

That's it. ;-)

(Optionally, you can introduce book expiry by using some mechanism you can think of so that people can get rid of the book once it's obvious nobody wants it. And yeah, there's nothing stopping people from selling those books. Think of this as the Creative Commons Attribution version of Bookcrossing ;-)

Update: Mikko S mentioned to me at Ropecon that they figured out a way to do book expiry: just put a piece of paper between the pages of every book in the box. When you see a book with three or more pieces of paper sticking out of it, you know that it's ripe for recycling via other means.

Sunday, 10-Jul-11 23:12
Saturn's children

Ever since I got the Kindle, I've started reading a lot more books. The Kindle store is just too handy, and the fact that you can just send yourself ten samples, read them through, and then just pick the one that looks most interesting, is really, really useful. However, there are still just too many books to read (and time is scarce), so I've started to simply go through all the Hugo/Nebula nominees of the years past. (I liked Ian McDonald's River of Gods, though it was a hard read.)

I just finished reading Charles Stross's Saturn's Children, a story of a sexbot designed to entertain humans, living in an universe where all the humans have died. It gets a lot weirder than that, but what I find really interesting is how the book is one of those rare books that really reads like an action movie. It's a pageturner in the Dan Brown sense, and even though it's a most unfashionable thing to say, I think that's a good thing.

I'm so expecting a summer movie out of this one. Robots, sex and conspiracies, with none of your average scifi philosophy about humanity and their relationships in the stars - how's that not interesting? We're all dead, we did it to ourselves, but we forgot to turn off the robots when we left. It's the summer action film of the scifi book variety :-)

Saturday, 18-Jun-11 14:44
The "you morons, it's just the 90s all over again" -rant

At the Berlin Music Hack Day, where also our Thinglink team was and working on some cool demos, one guy got this brilliant, though somewhat insane, idea of creating a pure Javascript-based MP3 player.

What slightly disappoints me is the Slashdot crowd reaction, where people wonder why someone would ever make such a thing when all you need to do in HTML5 is to go <audio src="foo.mp3"> to get your MP3's running. Also there's the usual crowd who says that Javascript can never be so efficient as C++ or that Silverlight is better for this anyway. It's as if the crowd got all middle-aged and grumpy. Which, I think, they did.

We who gained our skillset in the 80s and 90s created the PC-centric world. We wrote the software on the native hardware and created platforms and tools to do that. The PC is a general computing machine with inputs and outputs. Now, the new generation is growing their own skillset and tools for the browser-centric world. They're not there yet, but projects like JSMAD are a clear and loud call that they're getting there. The people who say that there's a HTML tag for audio don't realize that HTML is a DSL run by a committee. The browser design teams decide what kind of audio their browser can play, and it's a mess of politics and IPR and whatnot. Projects like JSMAD make it all irrelevant: the decision what to do becomes the website programmer's decision, not the browser designers.

The browser must become the platform. And if it's not possible to write an MP3 decoder (no matter how inefficient) on it, it's not a platform. This is why JSMAD is important: it's a very important milestone on making the browser as a fully capable platform.

I think that the fascination with Apps (iOS, Android, etc) is largely because the mobile platforms are great escape routes for all the old guys who have 1EE7 native programming skills and no longer don't have the time or inclination to learn new environments like Ruby or Python or NoSQL or Javascript. In a way, it's returning to the 90s: slow processors, not a lot of pixels on display, sloppy connectivity and porting to other platforms is nigh-impossible due to proprietary interfaces. iOS and Android just like Windows from 90s, so they're a safe, cozy place to be. But the same logic still applies on the mobile as it did on the PC: to reach a bigger audience and gain a faster development cycle to beat your competition, also the Apps will move to the Web. Competition will make sure of it, and once the mobile web tools get better, we'll start seeing the impact. The young generation will march in, armed with tools like jQuery and Yottaa and create the next web.

You see, the best business chain is always the one where the producer sells directly to the consumer. Often this is not possible, and you need intermediaries - in case of iOS, Apple takes care of the distribution and discoverability and grabs a share of the cake. Music industry - well, I'm not sure anyone knows how many intermediaries exist in these old media fortresses. The evolutionary pressure is however always towards direct producer-consumer relationships, because in that way the profit margins are the best for the producer. The Web can provide that, and hence it will win out in the end.

Saturday, 11-Jun-11 18:00
Things you can do with Skyr and absolutely should

No, this is not one of my scientific experiments. This is a dessert concocted by the wife, and it uses one of my favourite ingredients, skyr, as it's main component. The recipe is embedded in the image; if you want this on your blog, just grab the embed code and share.

I've never been a friend of quark, but skyr works really well for my palate. I've been a happy eater since it's became available in Finland a few months ago, and you no longer had to rely on friends smuggling it from Iceland.

Tuesday, 10-May-11 09:26
Good Morning. I think.

"WTF is this banana peel doing on the table?" goes my beautiful wife this morning.

"Oh crap, there was no bag in the trash bin, so I started to put it there and I forgot all about the peel in the end." I respond.

With some mumbling and grumbling, wife starts to dispose of the banana peel, though she decides to put in some paper on the bottom of the trash bin first (because of the moisture).

After a few minutes she goes: "WTF is this banana peel STILL doing on the table?"

We laugh. We're very, very, very tired these days. And tired means easily, way too easily, distracted.

Friday, 06-May-11 23:37
Embarrasing revelations

Just rewatched Coyote Ugly, a movie that probably doesn't include me in the target group. I say rewatched, because I saw it first ten years ago while I was still living in Australia. It brings back good memories, and for some odd reason, I find this movie quite charming (even if the charm is almost certainly coldly calculated) and enjoyable. It's clearly designed for the teenage girl (for the story) and is dosed heavily with scantily clad women (so that the boyfriends of the aforementioned teenagers would also pay for the ticket).

But I still like it.

Odd, how that works. Sometimes the strangest things become anchor points in life; points which allow you to ground yourself back into what you are and how you came to be. I'm now living the "busy years" of my life (kids'n'all that), and I do quite often feel lost in life, living for others more than myself. So I want to ground myself in not only the nice things, but also the silly, embarrassing - even strange or odd things of who I am.

My friend, Sanjay Khanna talks about "resilient people", and how they become people that are trusted by others upon times of great change. I find this a fascinating concept, though I am more interested in the process in how these people become resilient: Is it something that people are born with, or can it be learned? On occasion, I look at people like Steve Jobs as resilient persons - no matter how the computing industry changes, people buy Apple because they've learned to trust his taste. Or a great many politicians, who stay there no matter what. People flock to other people and stick with them, no matter what. It's interesting.

Okay, getting a bit rambly.

But really, what I've been slowly learning is that there's an interesting balance between grounding and fluttering around: you need the other to make sense of the other. Go one way too much, and you lose yourself. I can't explain it better than that, especially at fairly late on a Friday night.

Making sense of the quantum froth.

Wednesday, 04-May-11 22:52
Taking A Stand

I saw my colleague using one of these, and after a few days of humming and hawing I got one myself, and have been a happy camper since. This is an adjustable desk from Reoffice, which allows me to work both sitting and standing. This is simply awesome, since all my back aches (which weren't that bad yet, but would've probably become worse over time) seem to have gone altogether. I try to alternate between sitting and standing, but especially when I'm listening to music while coding standing seems so much better as I can move my feet. The end result though is a weird little dance you kinda have do when the hands can't leave the keyboard...

Of course, any back pains are now replaced with aching feet, but I think it's a good tradeoff :-)

(Image is Thinglinked, so just hover on it to get more info.)

Friday, 29-Apr-11 22:00
Digital lives longer than physical

I was interviewed last week. The interview was published in a Finnish paper-printed computer magazine (yes, there still apparently are those, though I have no idea who reads them), but they put an excerpt in their online edition.

Unfortunately, they extracted only the controversial and alarmist parts of the interview, and left out all the sane and calm parts. The reason why this bugs me is that it makes me look stupid, alarmist and like an attention-whore. (Well, if I am one, this is not the way I want to do it.)

Now, I fully understand the need to sell the print edition to fund the online edition and everyones wages. But unfortunately, in the current day and age, what really matters is online. Everyone I know and care about ever is going to read the online version only, and will form their opinions based on that text. Nobody gives a flying monkeys bollocks about the paper edition. Google does not index it, it can never go viral, and it's only seen by the subscriber base and a historian two hundred years in the future. In fact, by next week, most of the copies will be in recycling bins.

But Google and its hard drives remember. Most news and opinions in the IT industry have a useful lifetime of maybe two to five years, well within the average archival capability of online magazines and search engines. Maybe the paper edition will last a hundred years more, but frankly, I don't worry too much about what people will think of me a hundred years from now. I'm way more concerned as to what happens when someone googles me six months from now.

So contrary to the commonly held view: Electronic articles are more durable than paper already. Electronic news media have a bigger impact. In the end, durability of paper really only interests historians.

What of this? Pretty much nothing, really: I'll be a lot more hesitant in the future to give interviews to physical media. My opinion of this particular mag went down, and I'm a lot less likely to recommend them to anyone (though of course with this exception: read the article from the paper version, I sound a lot less like a dribbling idiot in it.) In the end it's just a minor magazine in a minor language on a minor topic and not likely to cause big harm to my online reputation. I'm not really even pissed at them, I just feel kinda sorry that they have to resort to such techniques to keep people buying their paper.

Just needed to rant about this tiny piece of enlightenment I had...

Update: The full article is online at http://www.tietoviikko.fi/taustat/article618081.ece. It's a good one, read that.

Sunday, 10-Apr-11 22:07
Practical Science

Who says my scientific experiments don't have practical applications? I just rebuilt this guy to keep my son company. You see, he has trouble falling asleep unless there is someone in sight...

Thursday, 31-Mar-11 13:29
Why is a classic a classic?

A lot has been said about the current quality of Aku Ankka, the Finnish Disney Magazine, but they still run total classics. The current issue had a Carl Barks story from 1947, in which Donald gets hired as a fireman, and chaos ensues. This is a special story for me, as it is one of my first clear memories: I sat on my mother's lap, and she read the story to me. I was too young for the alphabet to mean anything yet, but the pictures and the story made me laugh, and it kindled my love for stories.

Yesterday, my son sat in my lap while I read the story to him. And today, he insisted on taking it to bed so that he could "read" it before his daily nap. He's too young to grasp the meanings, but now he knows that there is something special in this story.

This is why classics are called classics: They reach across generations and generations, and they become a shared experience - a thing that binds generations together.

Wednesday, 02-Mar-11 10:41
Perustulo?

Mikko Honkonen laittoi Facebookkiin erinomaisen vuodatuksen siitä, millaista on työnhakijan elämä. Nyt se löytyy verkostakin, lainaan alla, mutta lukekaa koko juttu:

Miksi se on niin vaikeaa näiden "ei rahaa liian helpolla"-ihmisten ymmärtää, että se ei hirveästi helpota hankkiutumista työelämään, jos se peruselannon hankkiminen paperisotimalla vaatii yhtä isoja ponnisteluja kuin täysipäiväinen töissäkäynti.

Säästä jokainen kauppakuitti jonka saat, että voit todistaa ettei ole tullut hupuloitua rahoja "turhuuksiin", samoin kuin jokainen lasku minkä saat. Älä käytä senttiäkään rahaa mihinkään, mikä voidaan tulkita turhaksi, tästä kannattaa ottaa tarkkaan selvää mitkä asiat listalle kuuluvat. Ainakin Jyväskylässä sanomalehden tarjoustilaus on vuorovuosina laskettu turhakkeeksi ja vuorovuosina ei. Tiliotteet, parhaimmillaan viimeiseltä puolelta vuodelta, on myös hyvä pitää mukana jokaisessa toimistossa, että voit selvästi näyttää, kuinka persaukinen olet. Jokaisesta pitää myös ottaa kopiot, ja toimittaa sekä kelaan, että sossuun, varmuuden vuoksi.

Kun pelätään liikaa, että järjestelmää käytetään väärin, niin lopputuloksena on järjestelmä, joka toimii väärin.

Ihmiset muodostavat yhteisöjä. Yksi yhteisöjen peruspiirteistä on se, että liian innokkaat laitetaan kuriin ja liian heikkoja tuetaan. Se alkaa perheestä, jossa lapsille opetetaan, ettei asioita saa ottaa väkivalloin heikommiltaan. Se päätyy yhteiskuntaan, jossa liian innokkaita omaisuuden tavoittelijoita (esim. talousrikolliset) rangaistaan, ja jollain tapaa rikkinäisiä ihmisiä (vammaiset, köyhät, mielenterveydeltään järkkyneet, sairaat) tuetaan. Tässä ei pitäisi olla mitään epäselvää.

Mutta miksi helvetissä me pelkäämme väärinkäytöksiä niin paljon, että tuilla elävän jokaista kauppakuittiakin pitäisi syynätä? Miksi meillä on organisaatiollinen ihmisiä, joiden tehtävänä on miettiä, onko sanomalehti turhake, jota ilman voi elää? Eikö ihmisille voisi antaa itse ratkaisun avaimet käsiin, ja keskittyä sitten niihin, joilla oikeasti on päässä vikaa niin, etteivät he kerta kaikkiaan osaa käyttää rahaa? Ei köyhyys ole mitenkään välttämättä korvien välissä, kuten moni tuntuu luulevan, ja yhteiskuntana meidän pitäisi pitää huolta siitä, että tehdään se sieltä kuopan pohjalta nousu mahdollisimman helpoksi. Tuki ei ole tuki, jos se estää liikkumista. Yhteiskunnan tehtävä ei ole mikromanagoida ihmisten elämää, vaan antaa heille mahdollisuus menestyä tai mokata itse.

Olen ollut pitkään hieman kallellaan perustulon suuntaan, mutta tuo vuodatus kyllä taisi tipauttaa minut kokonaan sen puolelle. Vaikka siitä varmasti olisi myös negatiivisia vaikutuksia, ja varmasti joku käyttäisi sitä väärin - mutta ei tässä nykymenossakaan ole järjen hiventä. Perustulomalli itsessään kannustaisi jo työntekoon (=jokainen töissä vietetty päivä lisäisi käytettävissä olevia tuloja, toisin kuin nyt), mutta varmasti sinne voisi rakentaa myös toisenlaisia kannustimia, joilla voi pitää luuserit poissa sohvilta.

Monday, 28-Feb-11 23:59
Just playing with Thinglinks

CC BY-NC-SA, click to follow to source.

Just wondering if these could work in a narrative? You should get a slightly different story depending on the order in which you hover on those tags.

Sunday, 27-Feb-11 03:15
I'll probably regret this in the morning, but...

Just had to get this one out: http://www.ecyrd.com/timeismoney/. Sorry for the lack of visuals there. Not my thing.

I've sat in many meetings in my life, where ten highly paid professionals sit around the table and are debating a minute detail. Usually it's two or three people talking, with everyone else looking very bored, being deeply immersed in either Angry Birds or Outlook. This isn't a particularly good use of everyone's time, so the next time you end in a meeting like this, fire up the above link, and put it on a projector as a gentle reminder that people are not in the meeting just to enjoy chitchat.

(I know, I know, you can't really measure shit like this, and there are other considerations, yadda yadda, but still - time is money, and especially if you are a developer, your time is quite likely used better on other things. So keep the meetings lean and light.)

Wednesday, 23-Feb-11 23:53
Surface Detail

I just finished reading Surface Detail by Ian M. Banks. I used to be (and still am) a big fan of Culture, one of the few depictions of what a highly advanced society might be like. It's a techno-utopia, a place where mostly everyone is free in senses that we cannot even imagine - and a story of how an advanced society tends to brush corners with others, not-so-much advanced ones.

Unfortunately, while I love the world, occasionally it would be nice to have a story too. Just prior to this, I finished The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, and The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi, and I wouldn't have probably realized how crummy Banks' book was if it wasn't for these.

Whereas The Sparrow is a heartbreaking, gut-wrenching, gripping story about people, and The Quantum Thief is a verbal firework of a truly original world, Surface Detail is clearly revealed to be an adolescent fantasy with really big guns and magic technology, with a plotline that seems incidental to world-building. There's one good story in it, involving a character voluntarily trapped in Hell, but otherwise it just utterly fails to deliver anything else than, well, magic tech and big guns, and not even too much new stuff about Culture itself.

So yeah, I'm disappointed. I mean, it's still an okay read, and the teenage boy in me giggles at booms, but frankly... seen it. Hoping his next book has some depth.

(And in case you haven't yet read them, both The Sparrow and The Quantum Thief are worth reading. The latter though is only for a bit more advanced readers: I hated it (or to be precise, I hated myself for not understanding at all what was going on) for about the first quarter, then I just finished it in one go. It's awesome, but it's not the easiest book around.)

Wednesday, 23-Feb-11 00:39
Kylie

Went to see Kylie Minogue in concert, ten years after the Minb... sorry, the last concert. I remember standing with 3000 screaming teenage girls in a venue in Melbourne, Australia, and clearly thinking "OK, so maybe I'm not in the target group, but what the hey..."

Oddly enough, even though this evening was pretty much a gratuitous feast of rather well-formed male bodies, I didn't get the same feeling. Probably because everyone out there seemed to be my age or older.

There was an interesting oops - Kylie picked out one lucky person to get on stage and get a personally signed CD. Turns out that person was Russian, and, well, in Finland there are still some old grudges left, so that could've killed the mood. But the guy was so insanely happy about standing there, you couldn't but laugh with him, so it all went smoothly.

I like the new album, but I have to admit that I've got a special soft spot for "On A Night Like This". Brings me back so many good memories from a country far, far away...

(OK, so maybe this isn't the best blog entry out there, but it is a shameless attempt to get ranked higher for "Kylie Minogue's butt" - for which I was a top authority in the world for a couple of years, according to Google. Probably thanks to my extensive linking of the words "butt" and "kylie". :-)

Tuesday, 22-Feb-11 13:35
Suomen Parhaat Verkkosivut - juuri kun luulit, että niistä päästiin

Sain hetki sitten seuraavan sähköpostiviestin liittyen aiempiin kritiikkeihini Suomen Parhaat Verkkosivut -kilpailusta (täällä ja täällä):

Hei,

Nova Trotters Oy on tehnyt rikosilmoituksen ja tutkintapyynnön Nova
Trotters Oy:tä, Websiterace Oy:tä  ja Suomen Parhaat Verkkosivut
-kilpailua koskevista, valheellisista ja herjaavista
nettikirjoitteluista. Lisäksi harkitsemme joidenkin kirjoitusten
kohdalla haastetta ja korvausvaateita käräjäoikeuteen. Pyydämme, että
poistatte foorumiltanne/blogistanne kaikki asiaa koskevat kannanotot
välittömästi, niin emme vie asiaa eteenpäin kohdallanne.

ystävällisesti,

<asianajajan nimi poistettu, tekee vain työtään, ja kirje oli ihan kohtelias>

Veikkaan, että näitä on lähetelty monelle muullekin.

Anyhoo, en aio nyt toistaiseksi alkaa poistella täältä mitään, vaan katsotaan, miten tämä jatkuu. Mielestäni keskustelu oli kuitenkin ihan asiallista ja kohdistui elinkeinonharjoittajan julkiseen toimintaan, joten en koe, että tässä olisi nyt sen kummempaa ongelmaa.

(Pyydän, että pidätte kommenttinne juttuun asiallisella tasolla, mutta mainitkaa toki, jos teillekin on tämmöinen kirje tullut.)

Jeps, näitä sataa. Murossa on keskustelua. hpguru.net vastaa. Syrjän Anttikin sai kirjeen. Jockakin kommentoi. Ja Skrubu. Stara tarttuu aiheeseen. Ja Juho Makkonen. Ja Harto Pönkä. Katleena Kortesuolla on jo melko painavia sanoja.

Tietoviikon artikkelissa aiheesta mainitaan: "Rikosilmoituksia on tehty 18 ja ilmoituksia asiasta on lähetetty yhtä monta, kertoo Websiteracen toimitusjohtaja Soile Haanpää... Websiterace on kuitenkin toimitusjohtajansa mukaan pyrkinyt toimimaan rehellisesti ja lainmukaisesti."

Jännittävää. Silloin kun minä kirjoitin asiasta vuonna 2007, asialla oli "Coperdia" -niminen pulju. Miten muka olisi mahdollista, että firma voi loukkaantua siitä, mitä jostain toisesta, sittemmin konkurssiin menneestä firmasta, on aikoinaan kirjoitettu? Etenkin kun laki on melko yksikäsitteinen sen suhteen, että yritystä ei voi loukata. Tuntuu siltä, että tässä on nyt kyllä rautanaulat ja vellit sekaisin arvon firman edustajilta.

23.2: Tietokone noteeraa asian. Ja Google-haussa jo suurin osa etusivun linkeistä kertoo jo uhkailusta. Ei ehkä varmaan haluttu tavoite.

23.2 illalla: Jopa valtakunnan suurin päivälehti kirjoittaa asiasta. Ja lieneekö yllätys? Sillä jos yritykset voisivat uhkailemalla vaientaa liiketoimintaansa kohdistuvan arvostelun, lehdistön tutkiva journalismi kävisi mahdottomaksi, ja sananvapaus kapenisi maassamme järkyttävästi. Joten ei ihme, että tälläiset jutut nousevat valtakunnassa nopeasti ja korkealle. Epäilen, että tätä ei ehkä Nova Trottersilla varsinaisesti ajateltu, saati sitten odotettu, kun päättivät aloittaa rikosilmoitusaaltonsa.

Sunday, 13-Feb-11 14:15
What does the Nokia-Microsoft announcement mean?

I've been mulling over the Nokia-Microsoft announcement for a while to avoid a knee-jerk relation (that I did on Twitter) and here's my take. This is a fairly long post, but I've tried to take a larger view on the topic with lots of detail.

Symbian

Good riddance. Symbian's main problem was always the fact that nobody actually wanted to code for it. It was not built for developers, it was built to be understood by a very small core group of engineers, who would build a few apps on top of it, and that was all.

And I'm not talking about 3rd party developers here. When the system and the programming interfaces are complex, even developing the platform itself and the phone built-in apps costs more money, takes more time, and is more error-prone. Developer productivity is low. This is the reason why Nokia lagged behind in Symbian: it was just too complicated. Yes, technically the kernel is brilliant and power-efficient and fast. Unfortunately, nobody higher up was able to co-ordinate a rescue effort until the idea to buy Qt came along - which would've solved all these issues by increasing developer productivity significantly. Unfortunately it was too late.

Also the fact that Symbian was not fun meant that you would not have a skilled pool of enthusiasts to hire from. People coded for Symbian only because someone paid money for it - and that means that the best, brightest and most productive guys would go to work elsewhere. (Obviously there were exceptions. There always are. But over the years, the most appreciative comment I heard about Symbian from a programmer's point of view was "It's no worse than the others." That tells a lot.)

Windows Phone

Out of the different possibilities, Windows Phone is probably the best choice to adopt. It pains me to say this, but really, it is. Competing in the Android ecosystem with Nokia's overheads against all the Chinese manufacturers? No way. At least with Microsoft there's Microsoft's marketing, traditionally excellent developer tools and relations, and some very good technology and brands (like XBox).

Also, Nokia will probably have much better impact on Windows Phone development than they would for Android, considering that in short order, they will be shipping a massive majority of Windows smartphones. In the Windows ecosystem, they will be the giant.

Windows Phone is -- as S. Elop pointed out in his famous "burning platforms" -memo -- an act of desperation, and the best of the worst options. Now, nobody really likes it, as everyone would've liked to have seen Nokia build something really beautiful and awesome, but they didn't and couldn't, so there you go.

Meego

Meego's situation is interesting, and it's easy to read too much or too little into it. Microsoft hates everything GPL with burning passion, and Linux has been a sore point for them for years. I would not put it past them to hide a special clause in their contract that in exchange for lower Windows license prices, Nokia will stop any Linux development that may threaten them. (Though this is obviously pure guesswork, and nobody in their right mind would ever confirm such a thing.)

In this case, Nokia could not say that they will drop Meego straight away because of existing agreements with Intel and others. But the phrasing "research OS" essentially means "only a handful of people will do any serious work on it." Intel and some others may continue to use it, and it may become an interesting tablet OS at some point. Who knows. But I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for anything. It's no longer on Nokia's critical path for the future, and in fact is in direct conflict with the strategy of their most important partner, and resourcing will reflect that.

This will also have direct impact on Linux in general, since Nokia has been a fairly active contributor to the kernel (2.3% of all kernel contributions, whereas Google is only at 0.7%. Nokia has been contributing over three times more than Google - and Google is actually shipping an Linux-based operating system!).

HOWEVER, it may also be that Nokia's careful wording about Meego is designed not to piss off Microsoft. Every single other major mobile phone manufacturer has their own OS, and as Steve/Apple has many times pointed out, the only way to make a truly great customer experience is to control both the hardware and software. It is entirely possible that Nokia is planning to still roll out Meego as their premiere smartphone OS, and Windows Mobile is only an interim solution. However, it is no longer on the critical path to succeed, so they can afford to continue development in a smaller group that can hone it to perfection. This move gives Nokia time to rebuild their software engineering process by shedding out all of the old baggage - if they are brave enough. This is an opportunity for Nokia to reset themselves and really transform themselves into a proper software company, if they so choose.

Now, Nokia might've been desperate, but they are not stupid. Considering that mobile phone manufacturers have consistently failed to work with Microsoft, Nokia needs a plan B. Now they have a couple of years of time to execute it. If they do not, then it's obvious that they've thrown in the towel and are only waiting for Microsoft to buy them.

I think the way to figure out which way Nokia is going to go can be seen on how they treat Qt. If they choose to keep it, Meego is going to be the future. If they choose to let it wither and die (or sell it off), Meego will become just a curiosity. Qt is the key for Meego developer adoption, and the only way it could become a feasible smartphone platform. In my opinion there's no point to develop Meego just for the tablet market; it would be really hard when you couldn't leverage the same development effort as on the phone side.

At any rate, Meego will lose a number of good people, simply because they are fierce open source advocates who will not work for a company which has sided itself with the Evil Empire. I'm hoping that this is not going to be a large number.

S30 & S40

Not a whole lot will happen here. These guys (who are, by the way, really good at what they do, and totally underappreciated) will continue to ship Nokia's own operating systems and sell billions. Nobody in the tech industry will care because they're not shiny, but a massive amount of the world's population will continue to buy them and for the next billion, the mobile experience will be defined by them.

Even if Nokia is facing a lot of pressure on the low end too, I think that the fact that Nokia no longer has to worry about smartphone development means that they can now dedicate more resources to the feature platorms. Nokia's brand value is still good, the platform is very mature, and they don't have to pretend to keep any sort of backwards compatibility.

Ovi

The mobile industry is still going towards services. Or to be precise, internet services are going to mobile. Microsoft isn't very good in the service business (they're also geared towards shipping boxes), so Nokia will need something. My guess is that they will keep rebranding OEM services under Ovi (like Ovi Chat and Ovi Mail are now run by Yahoo), while concentrating on the few services that are doing well: Ovi Maps and Ovi Music Store, and the necessary infrastructure to run them. I don't think Ovi Store is going to go away as such: Nokia needs an S40 app store; there will still be a significant amount of Symbian devices out there which need a store; and Nokia has an extensive billing system already in place.

If you do, however, see talk about Bing Maps replacing Ovi Maps and Qt being sold, then you know that Microsoft and Nokia are heading for a merger. Or a buyout, which seems more likely at these stock prices.

Java & Oracle

There has probably been much teeth-gnashing and furious typing into Excel sheets at the Oracle boardroom: You see, even though nobody was really paying attention, with every single Symbian phone shipped a Java Runtime. So, in essence, Oracle will lose licensing money from the 100M Symbian phones that Nokia was shipping every year, and will lose the only smartphone platform which had their technology. To compensate, Oracle will need to tighten its screws on other Sun technology they have, possibly upping their effors against Google. Which can be a problem.

Qt

Qt guys are waving the good flag, saying that Qt is still going strong and that they're still hiring. As Symbian is being ramped down, there will be no new projects started for it - and all the old ones are using the native Symbian APIs anyway. There will be no Qt for Windows Phone, as it would compete against Microsoft directly. So Qt for mobile is only with Meego, and as I've said previously - the way that Nokia is going to treat Qt will reveal their intentions for Meego.

However, what is interesting is that Qt is the basis for KDE, which is the other major Linux desktop system. In fact, if Nokia guts Qt development, it will strike a very, very serious blow to Linux as a desktop environment. If Qt goes down, a lot of the Trolls will probably walk out and start a new company that will continue to develop Qt, but since copyrights stay with Nokia, this will be a tougher sell than previously. This would obviously please Microsoft.

If Nokia sells Qt, Google would be a good recipient. They would gain a valuable software asset (and many contributors to Webkit, which is the most important mobile browser engine right now), and could provide a ready-made development environment and tools for their desktop and Android OS. If their discussion with Oracle turns really sour over Java, then they may have to conjure up a good native environment, and Qt could be it. However, more likely the buyer would be either Intel (who would then have a solid continuation for Meego) or another embedded systems manufacturer.

NSN

I'm with Tomi Ahonen on this one - NSN will be sold sooner or later.

Working with Microsoft

I feel a bit sorry for the people who will stay at Nokia. Or to be precise, I feel sorry for their families. Microsoft's HQ is ten timezones away, and that means that teleconferences start at 6 pm for Finns. Or later.

Now, I kinda do like Microsoft's recent efforts. They've been surprisingly nice to people who jailbreak Phone 7, XBox and Kinect are cool, and even Microsoft Office X on my Mac is actually quite pleasurable. So these guys know how to build and ship software, so it'll be okay from that perspective.

But unfortunately, the Earth is spherical, and if Nokia's phone development stays in Finland, it (and the lives of those connected) will be seriously impacted by this. I would not be surprised if Nokia's main phone development were moved eventually to existing locations in the US, leaving only the corporate HQ here - and then it would not be a long time before it too would leave Finland.

Impact for Finland

Short term - this will be devastating to morale and job market once the reality starts sinking in. When Symbian goes, so do all the support functions (HR, WR, etc). And so will many people in the other companies that have been providing subcontracting for Nokia. The job market will be flooded with people with people who don't necessarily even know what it is to be unemployed, or have a skillset that's suitable only for obsolete technology.

Employers (with money) will of course rejoice, since they can now hire good people cheaply out of a large and highly educated pool. Expect average wages to go down. However, there aren't enough employers in Finland to suddenly hire all these people. Some will try entrepreneurship, but few will have the drive and the ideas to carry them anything further than what the separation package carries them. Certainly the best will be snatched by competitors, and everyone with a house loan (which is almost everyone) will seek a steady paycheck rather than take their chances. Most of these people weren't in Symbian because it was fun and exciting - they were there because the money was good. That attitude does not a good entrepreneur make.

With the elections just coming up, no politician is able to do anything other than issue stern statements, and I just don't trust that the Finnish government is capable of quick, decisive action on this. If they do something, it will have impact two years down the line, and while that will be great, the short-term impact of anything they do will be equivalent to handwaving. In fact, I am not even sure whether there is anything that could possibly be done by the government, other than plan for the reduction in tax income.

Finally

Of course, the impact might not be that great, depending on how much custom software Nokia will want to bundle with their new phones. They still need to differentiate, and be able to offer cool apps to counter the larger developer populations of iOS and Android. So there's still hope for good subcontractors and developers.

And, on the other hand, a lot of people will get a very long, paid summer vacation. So perhaps that'll make the country happier, overall :-)

(Phew, there you go. And that - I hope - is the last thing I say on the topic. Unless the great, unwashed masses of the internetz completely misunderstood me, and come flooding here to flame me. Just needed to get this stuff of my chest so that I can purge myself of all things mobile. I'm beginning to be really bored at it - the same way as I was bored at Amiga vs PC vs Mac so many years ago. Discussion about mobile operating systems damages your sanity; the interesting stuff is happening elsewhere now.)

Update: I just want to make it clear that I am not employed by Nokia. I used to be, but I left over nine months ago.

Thursday, 20-Jan-11 22:41
Listen to radio, crank up the bill for the owner

Here's a fascinating story I heard today. You know those hearing protectors with built-in FM radios? Nice things if you have to work in a noisy environment a lot, and many companies have been providing them their workers to make them happier.

Well, no more. The Finnish copyright collection society, Teosto, has apparently slapped some companies (such as ABB) with bills of up to "several thousands of" € for providing workers with these useful hearing protectors. So obviously that puts an end to the practice, and is making for some fairly unhappy workers who have to shell out their own money if they want to listen to radio while working from now on.

Now, being a lazy blogger, I can't be arsed to actually check the facts to this story, but there should be enough data here for someone to actually do the journalism bit and make a few phone calls. If anyone cares, that is. Let me know how it turns out so I can admit my idiocy here publically. But if true, I have to admit that this story goes right in the same basket as "Teosto collecting money from kindergartens from singing songs" and "Teosto collecting copyright levy on external hard drives" - not exactly a PR win.

Just remember: It might be considered public performance if you loan your radio to someone else, and you might owe arbitrary sums of money to Teosto. So it's best if you don't listen to radio anymore, unless it is owned by an enemy of yours, as you might be incurring big costs to the owner… ;-)

Saturday, 15-Jan-11 17:13
I'm handy now

Recently there was a Facebook meme doing the rounds, in which the person promised to craft items with their own hands to the five first commenters, provided that they do the same. It results in an interesting fan-out (sort of a reverse pyramid scheme), but I tend to steer away from participating in those kinds of memes.

First, I'm not particularly creative. I'm more of a ... practical person.

Second, I have a penchant for duct tape and it's power to fix or create anything.

See, it's almost as good as new!

Sunday, 26-Dec-10 10:57
Open Source Isn't When It Comes to Apple

OSX seems to be a great tool when it comes to software development: it's essentially an UNIX system which has however a good UI and great commercial support.

Unfortunately, Apple is also run by a control-freak who wants to make sure that once you sign up for the Apple ecosystem, you *will* sell your soul too.

Open Source is a great and awesome thing. With commercial software, you only get the binaries, not the source code. The source code allows you to tinker with the code, improve it, or find bugs. In the least the availability of the source code means that if the originator company goes bust, you can hire someone else to maintain it.

But the thing is - to turn the source code into a runnable binary, you need a compiler. Otherwise it's just source code. The problem here is that the only usable compiler is owned by Apple, and recently they've started to require you to sign an NDA with them if you want to download it. It's still available on the OSX install disks, so the situation isn't that bad - yet. But today I encountered this:

% sudo port install subversion-javahlbindings
--->  Computing dependencies for subversion-javahlbindings
--->  Fetching subversion-javahlbindings
Error: Target org.macports.fetch returned: 
********************
subversion-javahlbindings requires the Java for Mac OS X Developer Package from Apple.
Please download and install this package:
https://connect.apple.com/cgi-bin/WebObjects/MemberSite.woa/wa/getSoftware?bundleID=20719
********************

Yup. You need to sign an NDA with Apple if you want to use Subversion (OSS) with and IDE, like Eclipse (OSS). You know, like *most* Java developers do.

And this is true for all of the open source port projects for OSX - they all require the Apple compiler and Apple tools. Apple has the OSS community by their balls, and they ain't letting go. (And what's with the idiotic practice of refusing to distribute binaries, Fink and Port guys? And where's an usable gcc for OSX? And since XCode is still largely based on the GNU toolchain, is it even legal to require an NDA to download it?)

I'm starting to think it's time for me to ditch OSX completely, and move to a more open system, like Windows or Linux. What would be good replacements for Scrivener and Quicksilver?

Saturday, 18-Dec-10 21:45
Clean room theory

Living with kids can be messy. In fact, I'm typing this surrounded by nursing pillows, books, towels, random clothes, toy cars and some things I'm afraid to move because they might contain sentient life forms that used to be porridge.

However, I've come to believe that you can live in a mess, as long as you keep one room clean. There must be a place where you can go and forget about the mess - and it's really hard to forget if it's all around you. It just keeps nagging, and at least I find it hard to relax if I know that I should be doing something else.

So I try to keep the kitchen clean, no matter what. (Clean defined as "does not bother me", not as in "counted in particles per million") Sometimes I fail, and sometimes I can get a bit anal about it, but still: waking up before anyone else and enjoying the morning tea, watching snow drift down from the heavens unto the white trees... It's quite worth it.

Wednesday, 15-Dec-10 01:28
How did I become myself - the pub edition

I don't do these "fun tests" as often as I did, but this somehow struck a cord: In Facebook, there's this meme spreading about naming 15 important bars or pubs of your lifetime. So here's my list of 15 important ones. Since I'm not much of a pub-goer, it took a while to build the list, especially since I didn't want to include places I've been to only once.

  • Kleopatra, Lappeenranta (RIP) My first.
  • Willimies ("Wiltsu"), Lappeenranta. The center of the night life of my home town.
  • Hotelli Lappee, Lappeenranta. Final night before leaving home. Got a hug from a crush.
  • Janoinen Lohi, Helsinki. Neighbourhood bar for many years.
  • Kaisla, Helsinki. I always end up here.
  • One Pint Pub, Helsinki. The men's room hasn't had a lock as long as I can remember; yet I always go here too.
  • Amsterdam, Helsinki. Go. Lots of it.
  • Pikkulintu, Helsinki. Enjoyable moments with friends, games and beer.
  • Weeruska, Helsinki. The place for the inner circle of bloggers. Many memorable discussions.
  • Akkurat, Stockholm. STRONG. STRONG. VERY STRONG.
  • Caio, Oulu. Memories of having just fallen in love.
  • Keltsu, Espoo. University pub. Oh boy.
  • Top of Shinagawa, Shinagawa Prince Hotel, Tokyo. We built something great here. And the scenery is just breathtaking.
  • The Pancake Parlour, Bourke St, Melbourne. Not strictly a bar, but spent still a few evenings here.
  • Kaffibarinn, Reykjavik. Just love the barrenness of this place, mixed with some strong emotions.

Each one of these has changed my life in some degree - many of them have enhanced it, but some have also damaged it. There are also important places where I've been only once (or places whose names I can't recall), so I have to skip them - which is why there are no English or Scottish pubs on this list. If I could, I would list one memorable bar romp in Edinborough, but...

Friday, 10-Dec-10 22:36
Happy or not happy, that is the question

Finnish press is now touting a study that having kids makes you less happy than not having any. This debate originates an old study, published back in 2004 in Science, and as usual in science, been subject to some hefty debate. Some people are taking it really personally, which is interesting. When a scientific study says that on the average, people behave this way, the outliers pop up and tell the world that "Well, I never..." And then the choir goes "so much for science."

I'm finding this puzzling. I mean, I understand that people don't like it when someone comes in and tells you that you did the wrong choice by having your children, which do give a lot of joy and fun as well. But it's not the wrong choice, and it's totally a mistake to read the studies like that. There is nothing wrong in not trying to maximize your personal happiness, as there is nothing wrong in trying to maximize it either. For some, duty and honor are above all else. Others find other causes for their life. Some find none (which is sad, I think).

You see, I just don't buy that "well, you wouldn't serve your country in the army if it didn't give you a personal bliss" -line. If we were only hedonistic pleasure-seeking missiles, I don't think the humanity would ever have bothered to invent stuff much beyond the fire and farming.

To me the great problem with these articles isn't that they somehow break down the existing belief that having kids makes you insta-happy (a stupid notion: having to clean up poo isn't somehow magically more fun than not having to clean it up.) - it's the fact that people read them as if the pursuit of happiness was the most important thing, and they're somehow failing it. It's not, and you're not.

Parents of the world: you're keeping humanity alive. You're doing what defines life as we know it: procreation. That's something to be proud of, even if you have to waddle through lakes of pee to get there. And you will be sufficiently happy doing it. Some of you will enjoy it immensely, some of you won't. Duh.

And on that note, we at Team BUNT would like to present a new member of the human race. And yeah, I'm happy, really happy about it. For me, parenting is an experience. I'm not a thrill seeker, but doing things for the sake of doing things is what makes me tick, and this is one of those experiences that I know I would regret missing on my deathbed. :-)

P.S. There's a nice writeup on this topic at The New York Magazine as well. It e.g. talks about how strong welfare systems like in the Nordics actually makes parents a lot happier, as you have less to fret about.

P.P.S. And yeah, let's not overdo the procreation part anymore. Way too many people on this planet.

Tuesday, 23-Nov-10 15:39
Quote of the day

I am reading Yasunari Kawabata's book "The Master of Go" - the story of the ailing grandmaster Honinbō Shūsai's last game against the young Kitani Minoru - and the following quote struck me:

"If one chooses to look upon Go as valueless, then absolutely valueless it is; and if one chooses to look upon it as a thing of value, then a thing of absolute value it is."
-- Naoki Sanjūgo

How true this is for many things.

Thursday, 04-Nov-10 21:07
Todays Mythos Moment

The static image doesn't describe how this thing felt, seeing it slightly wobble and move, as if an appendage of some horrendous alien being.

Friday, 29-Oct-10 21:34
"Once upon a time..."

One of the somewhat unexpected side benefits of role playing games is that you learn to invent and tell a story real fast. Lately, I've found that this skill is rather useful when your kid starts expecting a bedtime story. Guessing that he might want to hear one every night for the next ten years or so, I need to look forward to maybe 3600 stories or so. Sounds like a lot, but I have a feeling that those years are going to pass sooner than I expect.

Of course, I can't use my arcane knowledge like Cthulhu Mythos to weave a story (yet...), but so far it's become a thing between us. He likes to hear me talk, and I like to tell a story. So it's working out ok, even though the stories are simple and somewhat repetitive. Though I have to admit that they sometimes surprise me too - I had no idea for example that this night's story was going to end up in a half-burned outhouse under a starry sky...

Stories are a fundamental way of transferring wisdom between generations. It's so fascinating to be a part of that continuum.

Monday, 25-Oct-10 21:53
Geeky Heaven

Sunday, 17-Oct-10 21:45
Homoilta yksinkertaistettuna

Keskustelu homoliitoista on nyt lähtenyt jotenkin raiteiltaan (tosin, niin aina tälläiset asiat tuppaavat lähtemään). Eroamistahti vain kiihtyy (tänään mennee rikki 5000 päivälähtijää), ja arkkipiispa on vihdoin saanut suustaan sanottua, että Päivi Räsäsen mielipiteet eivät ole kirkon mielipiteitä, ja että kyllä kirkko hyväksyy homot siinä missä muutkin, ja että kyllä kirkkoon mahtuu monia ääniä.

Hyvä näin. Mutta kun se ei ole se ongelma.

Ongelma on se, että kaksi miestä (tai naista) ei voi kävellä edes maistraattiin mennäkseen naimisiin ja saadakseen samat oikeudet yhteiskunnan edessä kuin mitä heteroparilla on. Uskonto määrittelee, ketkä saavat olla lain edessä tasa-arvoisia, ja se on yksiselitteisen väärin.

On ihan turha mussuttaa moniäänisyydestä ja hyväksyä homot ryhmähaleihin niin kauan kuin tilanne on se, että kirkolla on yksinoikeus määritellä se, mitä avioliitto tarkoittaa yhteiskunnassa.

Ongelmaan on toki yksinkertainen ratkaisu, sama kuin monessa muussakin länsimaisessa valtiossa: valtion tulee määritellä avioliitto tasa-arvoiseksi kumppanuussuhteeksi kahden (tai useamman) henkilön välillä. Kirkko voi pitää vihkimysoikeutensa ja suostua naittamaan vain osajoukkoa tästä keskenään. Mutta maistraatissa pitää ihmisten pystyä virallistamaan liittonsa niin, että heillä on samat oikeudet ja mahdollisuudet kuin kenellä tahansa muullakin. Mikään muu ei toteuta oikeutta. (Ei, rekisteröity parisuhde ei ole avioliitto; se on vain avioliiton kaltainen tuote joka ei anna samoja oikeuksia, vaikka toki hieman; vähän kuin jokin aromivahvenne.)

Suomen kansankirkolla on muutenkin vakava PR-kriisi: jos kenen tahansa satunnaisen KD-kansanedustajan mielipiteet koetaan edustavan kirkon kantaa, niin tiedotus ei pelaa oikein. Vaikuttaa siltä, että koko pulju on tyystin halvaantunut käsittelemään tilannetta: se ongelma syntyy, kun aletaan kulttuurirelativisteiksi ja hymistellään, että kaikki mielipiteet on oikeassa. Sitten kun pitäisi yhtäkkiä repäistä firman mielipide jostain, niin sitten sitä ei oikeastaan olekaan, ja joku vetää aina herneen nenäänsä oli joku mitä mieltä tahansa. Sitä niittää minkä kylvää, ja voi olla, että monelle "en mä kehtaa, mitä mun vanhempani sanois" -epäröitsijälle tämä koko keskustelu antaa kulttuurillisesti hyväksyttävän syyn lähteä kirkosta. Päivi Räsäsen mielipiteistä ei pidä moni, joten se on hyvä keppihevosperustelu, jos joutuu asiaa selittelemään.

Onko muuten mikään ihme, että ihmiset kaikkoavat niin helposti, kun mielipiteen ilmaiseminen eroamisella kestää viisi minuuttia, sen voi tehdä vaikka pikkutunneilla baarista palattua ja nettoaa ensi vuonna useamman satasen? Vaihtoehto olisi mennä seurakuntavaalien sivuille, klikkailla tuntemattomia ihmisiä, joista kerrotaan pelkkä ammatti, tehdä pirusti taustatyötä ja etsiä se homoliittomyönteinen kandidaatti, raahautua äänestyspaikalle, kirjoittaa numero, ja sitten toivoa, että ehkä 20 vuoden päästä kirkolliskokouksessa istuvia jääriä on tuoni harventanut niin paljon, että järjen ääni alkaa voittaa. Edes ennakkoääniä ei voi antaa postitse - saati sitten internetissä.

Tyhmäähän tässä on se, että hyvin toimiva kirkko olisi yhteiskunnalle hirveän arvokas asia. Jokaisella meistä on kuitenkin tarve jonkinasteiseen hengellisyyteen, ja se, että voi uskoa siihen, että on jotain parempaa olemassa, antaa monelle toivoa ja voimaa. Ei ole väärin uskoa, toivoa ja rakastaa. Siihen on vain sallittava samat mahdollisuudet kaikille suomalaisille.

Friday, 15-Oct-10 20:33
RCPT TO: root

Okay, so I'm geeky, but seeing my kitchen scale always makes me want to respond with "HELO localhost" and see if I could talk it into accepting a mail delivery.

(And a part of me wants to upgrade it so it would say EHLO... RFC 5321.)

Thursday, 14-Oct-10 15:57
Almost forgot

Happy faces right before putting the ink on the paper. Our small startup was able to raise 1M USD from Lifeline Ventures and Inventure. It was a fascinating process, and a reminder on how different life is outside the bigco.

But everything is looking cool, and we're excited.

(We're also hiring, so drop me a mail, if you're interested in joining - preferably with a CV.)

Thursday, 07-Oct-10 18:21
Mindtrekkin'

I'm in Tampere for the conference also known as Mindtrek. It's busy and it's nice to see familiar faces, some of whom I've only met virtually before; and some with whom I've worked before. Everything seems focused on mobile; lots of good discussion on Android, Apple and, of course, Nokia.

Though sometimes this virtual-mobile-thing gets a bit out of hand. I was approached by someone today who asked for my mobile number, twiddling with his phone. I started to give it, and then stopped:

"Hey, didn't I give you my card?"

A short look of confusion. Then:

"Oh, yeah. Forgot that that's why we exchange these cards."


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