Category Archives: complaint

hey, virtualbox – don’t be retarded

Ran across this error recently in an Ubuntu guest on my VirtualBox install: VBoxClient: (seamless): failed to start, Stage: Setting guest IRQ filter mask Error: VERR_INTERNAL_ERROR

Gee, isn’t that a useful message.

Fortunately, there was a forums.virtualbox thread on just this error.

The upshot is that this error is actually caused because of a failure during the initial install of the VirtualBox Guest Additions.

In the middle of what looks like, at quick glance, a successful GA installation, is this nugget: Please install the gcc make perl packages from your distribution.

The GA installer can’t compile kernel modules without a compiler.

And that makes sense.

What doesn’t make sense is that this error is even possible to get! The GA installer must run as root (or via sudo).

If those package are missing, the installer should stop what it’s doing, ask the user if they want to install these packages (because without them the GA installer won’t install everything), and then when the user invariably answers “yes” (because – duh! – why wouldn’t they want this to work?), go run an apt -y install gcc make perl.

But is that what Oracle in their infinite wisdom decide to do?

No. They decided it’s better to just quietly report in the middle of a bunch of success statements that “oh, by the way – couldn’t actually do what you wanted, but if you don’t notice, you’re going to spend hours on Google trying to figure it out”.

Morons.

It realy isn’t that hard to make human-friendly error messages … nor to even try to pre-solve the error condition you found!

on ads

My colleague Sheila wrote a great, short piece on LinkedIn about ads recently.

And this is what I commented:

I held off for years in installing ad blockers/reducers.

But I have finally had to cave – been running Flash in “ask-only” mode for months now, and just added a couple blocker/reducer extensions to Chrome recently (in addition to the ones on my iPhone for Safari).

I like supporting a site as much as the next guy (I even run a few highly unobtrusive ones on my sites) – but I agree: when I cann’t tell whether it’s your content or an ad, or even get through all the popovers, splashes, etc, I’m leaving and not coming back

I hate the idea of ad blockers/reducers. But it is coming to such a point where you can’t read much of what is on the web because of the inundation of ads.

And mailing list offers. Oh my goodness the mailing list offers. Sadly, the only way to block those seems to be to disable javascript … which then also breaks lots of sites I need it to work on – and whitelisting becomes problematic with something like javascript, since it’s usefully ubiquitous (in addition to being uselessly ubiquitous).

For Safari on iOS 9, I have three blocker/reducer apps installed (they’re free, too: AdBlock Pro, AdBlock Plus, & Refine (App Store links)). It’d be nice if they worked for Firefox, Opera Mini, and Chrome, too – but alas they do not (yet).

Also run two blocking/reducing extensions in Chrome (my primary web browser) on my desktop – Adblock Plus & AdBlock).

Shame the web has come to this. Schneier’s written about it recently. As has Brad Jones & Phil Barrett.

Wired and Forbes even go so far as to tell you you’re running an ad blocker and ask to be whitelisted or pay a subscription.

Forbes’ message:

Hi again. Looks like you’re still using an ad blocker. Please turn it off in order to continue into Forbes’ ad-light experience.

And from Wired:

Here’s The Thing With Ad Blockers
We get it: Ads aren’t what you’re here for. But ads help us keep the lights on.
So, add us to your ad blocker’s whitelist or pay $1 per week for an ad-free version of WIRED. Either way, you are supporting our journalism. We’d really appreciate it.

If you’re detecting my adblocker, maybe instead of telling me you won’t do anything until I whitelist you (or subscribe), you think about the problem with ads first.

Just a thought.

sap bapis and hp oo

Couple quick notes:

  • SAP is not designed for automated / programmatic access – their “BAPI”, or binary application programming interface, requires additional licensing beyond just the product to use
    • I made the naive assumption that a “BAPI” was like a WSDL – and it is, but it’s proprietary, not open (and it’s binary, not plaintext XML)
  • HP Operations Orchestration requires an additional, ie not out-of-the-box, content pack and wizard to import SAP BAPIs to make operations

That said, the power of OO can be brought to bear with SAP and imported BAPIs – with the following gotchas:

  • You can only have one BAPI call in a given flow
  • If you want to call more than one BAPI for a given task, you need to have them split into their own subflows, and call the subflows

Hopefully you won’t need to know this. But if you do, I’m happy to save you some of the headaches I have experienced interoperating with SAP & OO.

please reply at top

There is a constant war over top-repliers, bottom-repliers, and inline-repliers.

If you’re replying to an email, reply at the top. Unless there is some overarching need to reply inline (hint – it is very very rare).

Bottom-replying makes me have to reread all the crap that has been left from previous messages before I get to what you wrote – what a phenomenal waste of time*!

Just reply at the top. Like every sane person does.

Please.


*Yes, you should also trim whatever you don’t need when you reply – but that’s another story.

charge for carry-on luggage

Airlines over the past several years have begun charging for all kinds of things that used to be “free” (they weren’t ever “free”, they just hid the cost in your ticket price).

One of the worst offenders to this list of fees, though, is the inane charge for your first checked bag whereas carry-on baggage is free. Southwest doesn’t charge for your first two checked bags – and other airlines won’t if you have status or book your flight with their branded credit card – which is the model all airlines should use. But they need to add charging for anything for than your FAA-recognized “personal item”.

Why? Because finding overhead bin space for bulky carry-on bags is what slows most boardings to a crawl. And it is what makes most travelers most frustrated when getting on the plane – not in the first or second boarding groups? They’re going to check your bag(s) for you anyway because all the bin space is taken. (Add-in the ridiculous seat pitch, and you can hardly put anything but a small backpack or purse down by your feet anyway.)

My solution: give the first (and maybe second) checked bags away for free. But charge heavily for carry-on baggage that is more than a personal item (ie your laptop case or purse). (I’d allow an exception for items purchased in-airport from the duty-free shops – they can be carried-on free, too.) By “heavily”, I mean at least $50.

And I would eliminate that crazy practice of gate-checking your bag when getting onto a commuter flight: just check the bag and don’t bottleneck the jetway getting on and off for the rest of us who weren’t as narcissistic as to think bringing our roll-aboards onboard was a good idea.

With the TSA  suggesting everyone arrive at least 2 hours before their flight, there is no reason you wouldn’t have time to check your bags. And with the hassle of trying to navigate a crowded terminal dragging your wheelie duffel behind you, everyone should love the idea of just getting it at baggage claim.

“But what about lost bags?” I hear you ask. Lost and misdirected baggage happens. But it’s pretty rare. It’s something that has happened to me the sum total of 3 times in my flying life (the last 18 years, several of which included flying frequently for work). And of those 3 instances, only 1 ended up with the bag going to the wrong airport – each of the other two ended up with the bag arriving before I did.

Frontier Airlines gets it right (almost – on the carry-on aspect they do, but they still charge for checked bags). Mash Southwest’s checked policy with Frontier’s charging for carry-ons, and you would have a worlds-better flight experience.

The other major benefit to this plan: your time going through TSA will be shorter – the fewer bags that have to be scanned, the less time it will take to get through.

who wants an “all-star team” anyway?

A friend sent me this job listing recently, and I see it suffers from a wrong-headed (though well-intentioned) institutional fixation that hiring managers seem to have: that of wanting an “all-star team”.

“we are building an all-star team”

Sigh. This mentality is promoted by smart, successful people like Joel Spolsky:

“You’re going to see three types of people in your interviews. At one end of the scale, there are the unwashed masses, lacking even the most basic skills for this job. They are easy to ferret out and eliminate, often just by asking two or three quick questions. At the other extreme you’ve got your brilliant superstars who write lisp compilers for fun, in a weekend, in Assembler for the Nintendo DS. And in the middle, you have a large number of “maybes” who seem like they might just be able to contribute something. The trick is telling the difference between the superstars and the maybes, because the secret is that you don’t want to hire any of the maybes. Ever.”

What’s wrong with the premise? Easy – just watch any sports all-star game: they all, each and every one, stink. Why? There is rarely ever such a thing as an “all-star team”. Stars, by definition, are individuals.

Sure – you have the anomalies: the 1927 Yankees, for example. That one magical time when all the stars aligned, the wind blew in the right direction, the grass bent just so, and everyone did exactly what they needed to do every time. They had 6 future Hall-of-Famers on the roster – names you know (and some you don’t): Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Earle Combs, Herb Pencock, Waite Hoyt, Tony Lazzeri. They won 110 games and only lost 44 (it was before the 162 game season).

But even the 1927 Yankees didn’t win every year. Just the next year they still won, but lost a player from tuberculosis. And the next year they only won 88 games.

In 1927, Lou Gehrig batted .375. In 1929 it was only .300.

In 1927 Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs. In 1929 only 46.

What happened? Other teams learned to adapt, the rosters changed, the weather was different, the grass grew differently … in short: the “magic” wasn’t a formula – it was just magic.

In baseball, the All-Star Game is ostensibly a show for the fans (though, given the shortness of each players’ appearance in the game, and how managers might be inclined to less-heavily (or more-heavily) use players from their own teams, you wonder how much of a “show” it really is). A bunch of excellent baseball players who normally play against each other are brought together for a few hours to play with each other… and then go back to being opponents two days later.

I saw this at Opsware: they had a hiring philosophy that you should “never hire someone dumber than yourself” (if you were an interviewer). Theoretically, this should have lead to a corporate environment of smart people. And it did – mostly (I’ll leave-out some of the less-than-stellar hires Opsware made while I was there). But it also lead to having a roomful of smart people – ones who weren’t necessarily really “smart” when it came to talking to other people .. a distinct problem. (Take a look at this Quora entry on things smart people do that are dumb.)

Smart people sitting in a room and solving ideas tend to lead to the architecture astronaut view of the world. (Ironically, the same Joel who only wants to hire the best-of-the-best also realizes that super smart people will tend to get so enamored of their own ideas that they’ll craft little silos where they can sit and happily yammer-on about their pet interest.)

I’ve had the privilege of working with some scary-smart people. And I’ve had the horror of working with some scary-smart people.

Sadly, it is far more often the case that the super smart people I’ve known and worked with have been horrors and not privileges.

We all want to work in the best environments we can – we want good benefits, interesting work, quality family time, great coworkers, awesome bosses … We all like to think that the folks we work with are amazingly brilliant – among the best in their fields. But what is the statistical likelihood of that? Pretty small.

If IQ were the only guide for potential success, you’d think that everyone would want to gravitate towards places that have masses of high-IQ folks. Like Mensa. Like we think Google must be. Or like Dave Eggers’ fictional company The Circle.

But IQ isn’t the only determinant of success – we can see that clearly with some of our most famous politicians, business leaders, cultural influences, etc.

Putting a bunch of smart (or athletic or fast or whatever other term/factor you want to use to quantify “all-star”) folks together in one room to become a team isn’t really realistic. What makes a good team is complex – there’s shared vision, good interpersonal skills, knowing whom to contact for what, and more. It’s not merely having a bunch of people who are “the best” at what they do. It’s having people who can be [close to] “the best” together.