Is anyone else annoyed by Ubuntu 8.04?

I’ve been pretty underwhelmed by Ubuntu 8.04 – Hardy Heron. I upgraded from 7.10, which I was pretty happy with, and I’d kind of like to go back. I haven’t been getting crashes or freezes or anything like that, but it’s not more polished and stable than 7.10. Also, Firefox 3 Beta is annoying. A couple of the plugins I really like for Firefox 2 don’t work yet, and the new features aren’t cool enough to make it worth the upgrade for me. I also suspect some of my dissatisfaction is not 8.04’s fault – the lack of 64 bit Linux support in Adobe’s Flash is a huge pain. There are some websites that just don’t work without Flash (Some of them, like Google Analytics, are actually useful). And I can’t get Flash to work anymore. But it wasn’t working in 7.10, either. Anyway, I just downloaded and burned a live cd for Fedora 9, and I think I’m going to try it out. I don’t know if I’ll replace Ubuntu, but it’s worth a try. I can still be a smug Linux convert with Fedora. Maybe even smugger because Ubuntu is more mainstream than Fedora.

I hate computers

I booted up Windows today for the first time in a while. Firefox is not working in Ubuntu. I mean, it is, sort of, but it hangs constantly, and it’s driving me insane. I imagine I broke something, but it’s a little strange that it only seems to be a problem in Firefox.

I’m hoping it’s just a problem with Wubi running on this piece of junk computer. I want a new computer with a full Ubuntu install.

Update:  I booted back into Ubuntu and started up Open Office, which is notoriously resource-hungry, figuring that I could determine if it were simply a Firefox problem.  It’s not.  Open Office never opened.  I waited a few minutes and then killed it.  I think I need to find a career that doesn’t involve computers.  I seem to break every one I touch.

Sorry for the downtime

The main site,, and the site to submit your complaints,, have been down since this weekend.  Sorry about that.  My hosting company upgraded from Rails 1.1.6 to 1.2.3 and forgot to tell me.  Thanks to Mo for pointing it out.  No thanks to Dreamhost for not telling me.  Actually, they’re a pretty decent hosting company.  If anyone is looking for hosting, let me know, if I refer you I get money.

And the submission site is still down.  I don’t know why.  I’ll try and get that fixed ASAP.  And by ASAP, I mean when I get around to it.

I realized something today

This may be obvious, but it just occured to me this afternoon.  The wife and I were dropping her car off at my grandmother’s to avoid the wrath of DC parking officials who don’t like people who “forget” to register their car in the District when they move there.  We’re selling the car, so it doesn’t make sense to title it in DC.  Anyway, we stayed to chat, and the topic of talking on the phone with computers came up.  The phone had rung, and I answered it.  It was someone wanting me to take a survey.  I declined, since it would be rude to leave my wife and grandmother.

In any event, we talked a bit about talking on the phone with computers, and how voice recognition has come a long way, but that it’s often difficult to get a real person on the phone when you need one.

I realized why this irritates me so much.  First, it irritates me because, in the grand scheme of things, it’s just a mild annoyance, which means it’s more likely to get under my skin.  But the real reason it drives me up the wall is that anything a computer voice can do on the phone, I’ve probably already tried to do on the company’s website.  I don’t call my bank to check my balance or see the last three debits from my account.  I call because I have a weird question that a computer isn’t going to understand.

There should be special customer service lines for the technologically-adept.  I’m willing to promise (And actually mean it) that I’ve made every reasonable effort to solve my problem on your website before calling you.  In return, you promise to actually have a real person answer the phone when I call.  I’m willing to answer two questions to a computer for call routing purposes, but that’s all.  No series of menus that never seem to quite have the option I need.

I suspect that things will go this way.  As more and more people grow up with the internet, more and more people will turn to the computer before the phone.  And as websites get better, the number of people who need to actually call a company for customer service will go down.  Then it may make sense to have direct lines answered by people because the only problems that will actually be addressed by phone are the ones that really do require human intelligence.

Of course, that’ll probably happen right about the same time that we figure out real artificial intelligence, and that will change all of customer service.  But that could be cool, too.

OMG Turn off the internet!

WiFi Turns Internet Into Hideout for Criminals –

. . . an increasing number of criminals are taking advantage of the anonymity offered by the wireless signals to commit a raft of serious crimes — from identity theft to the sexual solicitation of children.

Never mind that this is an irresponsible, fear-mongering article that misses the point.  The problem with home wifi networks is not that they allow criminals to use them.  There will always be criminals online, and they will always use the anonymity of the internet to escape detection.  This is an unfortunate side effect, but we’re just going to have to figure out how to catch them some other way.

The problem with home wifi networks is that no one has created an interface that makes sense.  Microsoft and Apple haven’t done it.  Dell hasn’t done it.  Linksys and DLink haven’t done it.  I’m beginning to think that no one will.  I should be able to plug in a wireless router and set it up in five minutes.  After that setup, I should have a network that is as secure (or insecure) as I want.  I shouldn’t have to know what a MAC address is, or what ports I want open.  I shouldn’t have to know what type of encryption I want to use.  I’m a software engineer, and I spend all day on a computer, but setting up my wireless router is not a trivial task.  This is ridiculous.

And the problem is on the computer end, too.  I want to see a list of all the wireless networks in range.  I want to tell my computer not to ever connect to one with a low signal strength.  I should be able to customize all that.  And I should get error messages when I can’t connect.  It is absolutely infuriating to press the connect button, not be connected, and not have any feedback as to why.

I’ve had an open network for almost a year.  Do you know why?  Because every time I put a password on, either my PC can’t connect, or my wife’s iBook can’t connect.  If I mess with it for a week, I can usually get them both on.

Anyway, it’s ridiculous how hard it is to use and maintain a wireless network.