Anthropomorphism

Do you talk about computers, software, or web sites as manifesting human-like behaviors? Personally, I have.

At work, we manage several machines who collectively provide the GeorgiaVIEW service. When a machine is completely unresponsive, then we refer to it as having died. When a machine stops a performance issue, we refer to it as happy. I call my car cranky when it fails to run well.

Besides, electronics and vehicles, are there other examples?

Tale of Defeating the Crazy Woman

Cross posted from Rants, Raves, and Rhetoric?

Babies are fascinated by me. When the two of us are in a room, they often find me the most interesting thing in the room. Usually, it is mutual.

So, a mutual friend of a friend, Mojan has a fantastic blog. The past year or so has been about being pregnant and most recently figuring out how to be a parent for the first time. Well, a crazy woman set up a ‘blog” which hotlinks images from Mojan’s blog and falsely represents the child in the photos. Ick. I offered to help with this identity theft issue.

Once upon a time, I was annoyed with people taking images from my last employer’s web site. Since I was the campus web designer, I created an image which said, “All your image are belong to VSU.” Also, as the web server administrator, I figured out how to defeat hotlinking with .htaccess by using mod_rewrite to give them my annoyance rather than their content. For the next couple days I watched the perpetrators try and figure out what was wrong. The hate mail I got was fantastic! I recommended Mojan do the same. When she agreed, I went researching to do what I did once upon a time. This is the .htaccess file I recommended she try.

# Basics
Options +FollowSymlinks
RewriteEngine On

# Condition is true for any host other yours
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^$
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http://(www\.)?mojansami\.com/ [nc]

# What to change gif, jpg, png to which target. In this case does not exist.
RewriteRule .*\.(gif|jpg|png)$ http://mojansami.com/images/stolenpic.jpg [nc]

My directions were not all that specific. So the next thing I know, her site is sporting an Internal Server Error. *headdesk* She used Dreamweaver to create the .htaccess file and upload it to her site. She reported the file she uploaded disappeared. Eventually, it did occur to me to look for the error.log and see what it said. The log complained about DOCTYPE in the .htaccess file in the home directory. A file which did not show in the FTP listing. So, replacing the bad .htaccess file with a blank one fixed the Internal Server Error.

The .htaccess file in the right place, of course, resolved the issue with the crazy woman hotlinking.

Nothing can fix the pain of another person committing identity theft against you or your loved ones. I really hope Mojan doesn’t become discouraged and abandon blogging entirely. Between moderation and authentication she might find a better balance.

Do you have any stories of online identity theft?

UPDATE 2010-MAR-06: She pulled down the blog. Facebook is safer from crazy people.

YouTube

Finally got over my YouTube issue….

Basically, the upload form said files were limited to 100MB. That’s like 1 minute for the default settings of my Canon Elph (640×480 @ 60 fps). So I end up not having to use longer videos I shot. Until I found Google Video had a downloadable tool to push larger than 100MB. Google doesn’t aggregate all my videos onto a single page. Nor can I import them to other sites. Arggh.

So I thought the free video editing might be the approach. I guess I need to go Linux or Mac to edit video. Windows Media Maker is solely a tool to place clips and transitions into a single video. WTF?

Finally I noticed last night “Upload files larger than 100MB or upload many files at once!” and clicked the button. Yay! I was able to push 12 videos all at once. So it was a non-intuitive interface which made Youtube seem unable to do it.

Check out the Nannie Interviews.

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Computer v Human Diagnosis

I just finished How Doctors Think yesterday.

First impression was doctors don't spend very much time thinking and gathering information to make a diagnosis. That impress struck a very negative chord with me as it sounds like in my profession of database and computer administration we spend hours picking apart the data we have to diagnose even minor sounding issues.

The better impression ought to be doctors spend very little time with a seemingly routine diagnosis. When confounded they spend more time doing analysis. They also have to deal with the patient's lack of patience.

In tier 3 support, we spend even less time with routine issues. "Try another web browser and call me in the morning." anyone? When we don't know this gives the "patient" something to do while we go investigate the real cause (looking at logs or stats). Unfortunately, our computer "patients" want resolutions in minutes or maybe hours. Few find taking a few years to heal a computer problem acceptable.
🙁

Read and post comments | Send to a friend

Computer v Human Diagnosis

I just finished How Doctors Think yesterday.

First impression was doctors don’t spend very much time thinking and gathering information to make a diagnosis. That impress struck a very negative chord with me as it sounds like in my profession of database and computer administration we spend hours picking apart the data we have to diagnose even minor sounding issues.

The better impression ought to be doctors spend very little time with a seemingly routine diagnosis. When confounded they spend more time doing analysis. They also have to deal with the patient’s lack of patience.

In tier 3 support, we spend even less time with routine issues. “Try another web browser and call me in the morning.” anyone? When we don’t know this gives the “patient” something to do while we go investigate the real cause (looking at logs or stats). Unfortunately, our computer “patients” want resolutions in minutes or maybe hours. Few find taking a few years to heal a computer problem acceptable.
🙁

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Are Books the Only Way to Learn?

Is the Internet really a bad invention? According to Doris Lessing, yes.

We are in a fragmenting culture, where our certainties of even a few decades ago are questioned and where it is common for young men and women, who have had years of education, to know nothing of the world, to have read nothing, knowing only some speciality or other, for instance, computers.

What has happened to us is an amazing invention – computers and the internet and TV. It is a revolution. This is not the first revolution the human race has dealt with. The printing revolution, which did not take place in a matter of a few decades, but took much longer, transformed our minds and ways of thinking. A foolhardy lot, we accepted it all, as we always do, never asked: “What is going to happen to us now, with this invention of print?” In the same way, we never thought to ask, “How will our lives, our way of thinking, be changed by the internet, which has seduced a whole generation with its inanities so that even quite reasonable people will confess that, once they are hooked, it is hard to cut free, and they may find a whole day has passed in blogging etc?”

Very recently, anyone even mildly educated would respect learning, education and our great store of literature. Of course we all know that when this happy state was with us, people would pretend to read, would pretend respect for learning. But it is on record that working men and women longed for books, evidenced by the founding of working-men’s libraries, institutes, and the colleges of the 18th and 19th centuries. Reading, books, used to be part of a general education. Older people, talking to young ones, must understand just how much of an education reading was, because the young ones know so much less.

We all know this sad story. But we do not know the end of it. We think of the old adage, “Reading maketh a full man” – reading makes a woman and a man full of information, of history, of all kinds of knowledge. A hunger for books

Certainly I understand the perspective. We take the astounding availability of knowledge for granted. Instead of stuffing our brains with more and more information, we are content to waste our time online. I think creating a love of life long learning should be the goal.

Books are great. I love to read. Reading is important, yes. I also love to talk to others about what I’ve been reading. The prevalence of books created the Intellectual Movement in which people published books to discuss ideas. Except for Divine knowledge, ideas are refined through challenging weaknesses or problems. The printing press made it easier for people to publish books and get these ideas to the masses so more can read them and respond by publishing their own books. The Internet and especially blogging has improved the response latency from day to years to minutes.

Collaborative philosophical inquiry helps kids at an early age. These skills serve them well even into high school. This strikes me as similar to how the Intellectual Movement worked. Should this be adopted more broadly, then maybe our kids won’t embarrass Doris?

Certification Courses

Today I received an email announcing new certification courses from Blackboard. Every administrator around our system did as well. We have a large body of certified trainers and administrators with multiple individuals at every campus who have been through the certification plus all the functional support have been through both training and admin certification.

I’m not a big fan of certifications as a way of determining what people know. I do think having so many people go through the certification has allowed us to use jargon consistently. Pre-cert, we’d have to waste time explaining what the jargon means. Post-cert, everyone seems to understand these terms. Sure, we are constantly expanding the terms used, but its nice to have a common basis.

Back to the email…. Here are the certifications mentioned in the email:

  • Blackboard Learning System™ GUI Administrator Certification
  • Blackboard Learning System™ Server Administrator Certification (NEW)
  • Campus Edition GUI Administrator Certification
  • Vista GUI Administrator Certification

The points of the message were, I think to announce the new “server administrator” certification and remind people about the existing ones. Initially I was interested because I thought it meant there is a new certification for Vista, whose license name is Blackboard Learning System™ – Vista Enterprise Edition (say that 3x fast), but no… Its just for Academic Suite.

I think Blackboard’s marketing department should do a better job of understanding which products their customers use. Highlighting to over 60 people here in Georgia they are offering cool things to the clients who were not spoils of the WebCT buy isn’t helping Blackboard.

tag: , Blackboard Inc, WebCT