Month: July 2008

Superhumans on the Rise – Orson Scott Card and Ayn Rand

Really, this should be a review of my latest read, Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Shadow. After thinking about it for a while, though, I realized any review would be meaningless if it didn’t look at things from a broader perspective. I changed the scope, changed the title, and you know the background.

Over the years, I’ve met plenty people that were fervent enthusiasts, passionate about Orson Scott Card’s novels or Ayn Rand’s own ones. Oddly enough, there was little of the typical polarization that usually goes hand in hand with passionate fervor. Instead, the majority of people I spoke with remembered both or either writer as an also ran.

I started looking at patterns that fit both writers, started reading their books, and couldn’t come up with much. Now that I read Ender’s Shadow, I finally have a theory about the whole thing, a way to reconcile two radically different writers with their at times eerily similar audience.

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Linux and the Polar F6 Heart Rate Monitor

Well, if this is not a telling example of how things are progressing in the world of open source… I recently bought a heart rate monitor, since I realized there was something wrong with the calories burnt displayed on exercise equipment. Never one to leave out a geeky detail, I ran to the closest sports equipment store (in my case Sports Basement) and checked out the latest gear.

My geek heart was pounding for the latest and greatest, of course: the Garmin Forerunner 405 was beckoning, a GPS-enabled masterwork that seemed just made for my nerdy self. It had everything you’d want from an exercise watch, and I had already used the Forerunner 201 to great satisfaction in my cycling days.

After a little deliberation, I decided that I really just needed a heart rate monitor, not a full exercise computer. I wasn’t going to use GPS any time soon, and even if I wanted to, I would have probably used the GPS in my cell phone, the BlackBerry 8830. There is software for that one (BBTracker) that records GPS data, and that’s all you need for real.

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Making Inkscape Do Nice Things

The more I am using software for the KDE system, the more I like it. I mean that literally: very powerful applications that can do pretty much everything you would need from them, but they are inscrutable and unless you spend a ton of time with them, you won’t get much benefit at all.

KDE is not alone there. I guess the single most needlessly inscrutable application ever written by mankind is Blender, a monstrosity from a user interface perspective that looks like it is a sysadmin tool written for glitz effects and pretty pics. The novice that handles Blender (= me) is utterly lost at first and it’s quite impossible to tell what to do and how.

There are tons of open source applications that behave the same way. A real shame, since many of them would be wonderful if there just had been a little more care to detail and usability. But having dealt with software developers for decades, I know that it’s usually a stern fiat that makes us do what’s right for users, not our own inclination.

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