Archive for rants

Dummy load get’s a tune up and another test

Improvements and fine tuning

As mentioned in my last post on the dummy load, though I am very pleased with the results, there is always room for some fine tuning and improvement. Also, some parts needed to be bought. First off, here’s a revised version of the schematic:

dummy-load-v14_thumb
Read more

Software Sins

Okay software developers and companies, it’s time we have a talk about our relationship. For years now you have been abusing your users and just in case you aren’t aware of it, I will detail what you have done. If you’re smart, then you’ll take note and learn something. If not, well there are always more fish in the sea.

Assuming your user is stupid

Helpful UIs, tooltips, detailed documentations are hallmarks of well constructed and respected software. Dumbing down options, removing or automating advanced features, and wasting our time with flashy eye candy is assuming your user is a child. I am not a child, stop it.

Stealing Focus

I guarantee you, whatever I’m doing is more important than what you are doing, at all times. By several orders of magnitude. Do not steal my focus, don’t flip to the front, don’t you dare interrupt what I am doing. Sit there silently until I need you, and stay out of my way. Have something important to tell me? pop a notification, once. Otherwise, shut up.

Being “Helpful”

Or the “clippy”. This ties in with assuming users are stupid. Do not auto-complete me, you insult my language. Do not select more text then I am explicitly selecting. Do not do tasks that you think is associated to what I am actually doing. In fact, do not do anything, not a single thing I don’t tell you specifically to do. You are a tool for my use, nothing more.

Wasting resources

When i’m not using you, don’t do anything. No, you may not use my internet connection, thrash my hard drive with pointless reads and writes, or leave unnecessary open threads going. I paid for my processor, memory, and storage, you use them at my pleasure. Heaven help you if you have a useless daemon running. You have no right to do anything unless I tell you.

Bloaty and Buggy

Sure, new features drive sales, but buggy bloatware drives users spare. No, we don’t need a newer faster machine. We need you to stop adding useless crap, fix outstanding bugs, and optimize your code so it runs smoothly, properly, and quickly. Make your software the best by making it work.

Subscription models

Want to make us pay every month for your crapware? Why would I ever rely on a tool I have to pay for every month? I want to install the software, use it, and forget about it when i’m not and have it right handy for when I need it. No you may not deny me the right to use what i’ve already paid for, nor extort money from me every month for nothing. I buy you, I own you and fuck your EULA and profit margins.

Update pressure

Newer is not usually better. Updates break things, and introduce new bugs from your useless new features. Don’t force me to update, you will just force me onto your kinder competitor. I do not care how many new features you are offering, I only care that it does what i bought it for and does it properly.

Conclusions

Treat your user base with respect. Though many may be novices there are an equal amount of pros who want to seriously burn down your house for treating us like dirt. Make your software right, the first time, stay out of the way of us doing real work, and don’t piss us off. We are your bottom line, never forget it.

Updates suck ass

We’ve all been there. We get a notification “oh updates available, coo” and blindly allow it. Then BANG, something that worked this morning is new perma-broke. Every platform imaginable falls victim to it. Some is by accident, a big “whoops” by developers pushing features forward accidentally breaking other things in the process. Others, are by design.

My particular case today was a simple update of the Ubuntu system which runs my XBMC media pc. Figured that’s kinda safe. I ran it and suddenly XBMC wouldn’t open. What? Now it complains that it requires 3D acceleration. But but but, it has a bloody radeon card in it. It worked this morning! Bastard. So, after some poking I discover it has installed the newest Catalyst drivers which OBSOLETED the card in my girlfriend’s old laptop. Thanks.

Rather than leaving it alone in its WORKING state, it chose to overwrite it with some new garbage that doesn’t work. Thanks a bunch, douche.

In desperation I tried out the Gallium open source drivers and they did work. I was much relieved. A small, but thoroughly annoying problem is my frame rate seems to have been reduced by at least 50%. Choppy and horrid on something that I usually show off to other people not only as an example of Ubuntu’s prowess, but XBMC’s clear superiority in the field of media centre software.

Not wanting to leave it alone, I pursue the issue. Apparently, I can grab some legacy drivers, fantastic! Installed and it worked as before.

Here’s how, open the terminal and:

  • sudo apt-get remove –purge fglrx*
  • sudo reboot
  • sudo add-apt-repository ppa:makson96/fglrx
  • sudo apt-get update
  • sudo apt-get upgrade
  • sudo apt-get install fglrx-legacy
  • sudo reboot

With any luck, you should be restored to former usefulness as I was. If not, you can always revert by:

  • sudo apt-get install ppa-purge
  • sudo ppa-purge ppa:makson96/fglrx
  • sudo reboot

I probably missed the obvious method of rolling back the package (if that was possible, check first) but this worked a treat.

The moral of the story, which I DID know but in temporary insanity forgot, is: if it ‘aint broke don’t fix it. Or in this case, DON’T UPDATE EVER. It’s a sad case that manufacturers deliberately obsolete their products this way, it would have cost them nothing to leave the working driver in there. Thank christ I got it working again just in time for some movies tonight.

Everything in its proper place…

Or how not to clutter up a user’s hard drive with your crap

Just a quick post as I clean out my hard drive, something I usually don’t have time to do. Usually, it’s a straightforward if laborious process but I’m running into an old problem that has annoyed me for years. It seems that many developers like to store their application information somewhat at random. Back in the day, at least on mac, this was ok since there was no designated folder structure other than what the user wanted it to be. Apps were self contained and you could run it from anywhere, you could move stuff around generally without problem.

Enter OSX. Like, more than 10 years ago. Here’s where Apple switched to more of a Unix/Linux folder structure scheme and it has worked out brilliantly. I always know where to find things – provided the developers of apps I install follow the same bloody structure!

Too often I still find folders of application information, shared libraries, caches, save files etc. randomly strewn around my hard drive. If I move them to their proper place, chances are the app in question will no longer function, at least properly, because it cannot find what it needs. What a pain. So I have useless app folders cluttering up my documents folders, or in the worst case essential files tucked in directories that – by definition – are meant to hold temporary, sacrificial files.

While not exhaustive, treat this as an introductory guide in how not to mess up your user-base’s hard drives.

~/Documents

  • This is the user space for the user’s documents, it is not for saved preferences and profiles. This is where we store our stuff, not your stuff. Stop cluttering it! Worst offenders: Adobe, Microsoft, many many games
  • Many linux programs love to put their stuff in here putting a “.” before the file name making it invisible. Though I realize this is the norm for *nix systems, please don’t do it on OSX. It’s annoying when we can’t see files. Though I much prefer this to the above
  • Leave this folder alone, don’t put anything into it ever

~ (home)

  • This is the top level user directory. Never put anything in here. Ever!

~/Library/

  • Do not put anything in this directory. You will note that there are several specialized sub-folders for this purpose. Use them, don’t clutter the library folder top level

~/Library/Application Support/

  • You can put stuff in here.
  • This folder is used for things to support your application (duh), put shared libraries, help files, icons, sounds, plugins etc.
  • Save games, custom workspaces and layouts etc. are also acceptable
  • In debugging problems with applications, one of the routines is delete your folder in here, so make sure the application can re-generate it’s factory contents on launch if possible
  • This is not a good place for user preferences, profiles, caches and logs (see below)

~/Library/Caches/

  • This is the ideal place to store your application’s cache files.
  • If you have multiple ones, put them in a folder so as not to clutter it up
  • Name your folder with the proper convention, usually the reverse of your web address: e.g. com.companyname.appname
  • remember: this directory is sacrificial. deleting cache files (some or all of them) frequently solves stability and speed bugs which build up over time. Don’t put anything you intend to keep in here

~/Library/LaunchAgents

  • Put nothing in here, whatever it is, it’s not necessary to start it at login

~/Library/Logs/

  • Store your log files here so we can find them to read or remove them

~/Library/Preferences/

  • This is where you can store your user preferences files
  • If you have multiple files, put them in a folder
  • Use the standard naming convention: com.companyname.appname
  • It is acceptable to store saved layouts, customizations, workspaces etc. in here
  • Use the standard XML plist format for files so we can read them and adjust them if there is a problem
  • If you must store personal information, license keys or the like: encrypt them!

/ root directory

  • Store nothing here, ever. It is for the operating system and nothing you could ever make is that important that needs to be at the root directory level
  • Unless absolutely bleedingly necessary for program functionality (not including the shitty things you force us into), you have no right to install anything outside of the user space apart from your application binary in the applications folder

/Applications

  • This folder is for binaries of your application ONLY. Do not put user preferences, logs, and useless crap like readme files
  • shared libraries and auxilliary programs are ok provided you put everything nicely in a folder

/Library

  • A mirror of the user space Library with a few extra folders, same functionality, see above

Things to NOT do

  • Unless your program gives an option to install for all users of the machine, DO NOT install anything outside of the user space apart from the binary in the applications folder
  • Your program, unless it’s specific function requires it (not your selfish desire) you have NO NEED to run as admin (or *gasp* root)
  • Unless we specifically tell you to, you do not need to run at startup, at login, or run continually. Stay out of /Library/LaunchAgents /Library/LaunchDaemons and /Library/StartupItems, you are not welcome there

In conclusion

Following these simple guidelines is beneficial for both of us. You end up not cluttering up my hard drive or forcing me to spend hours looking for your files when I need them. You leave my documents’ space for my documents and allow for easy troubleshooting should something go awry with your program. The best key to user base loyalty is not to piss them off right? Work, be unobtrusive, don’t break things and you will be fine.

XBMC Youtube fixed, finally

Last night I thought I’d take a poke at trying to fix XBMC’s youtube plugin which has been broken for me since the summer. This was most annoying. I could still use youtube on it, but I’d have to search for videos I wanted rather than just pop into my favourites and play the damn thing. I’m quite sure I lost some hair fiddling with the script and trying various login techniques.

The root of the problem is, of course, Google. In their wisdom (read: folly), they decided to force users into G+ sideways which mucked up 3rd party attempts to use youtube in any useful way. Those who know me know I loathe social networking. I have zero desire to plaster my personal thoughts, feelings and actions across the internet especially in light of recent (though obvious) revelations that our information is not only posted, but permanently posted, used, abused, analyzed, and made to turn a profit while providing a handy information source for american spooks. Not my idea of a fun time. I will not digress into a lengthy political discussion, I refuse to waste my life.

Getting back to XBMC, one chappy posted near christmas on the open ticket I had on the YouTubeXBMC bug tracker. The entire thing can be found here. What came to light through the last post is the following:

  • it is now impossible to separate G+ from YouTube, Google has forced it down our throats
  • XBMC was logging in successfully, but it was looking for videos in the new channel created when G+ was created not the old channel as expected

The last part proved key. I was perplexed that it was logging in and finding nothing for favourites, subscriptions and history. It turns out I had two youtube channels now, one under my real name and the other being my old one. Though ostensibly connected to one another, they are separate and one could not point to, or exchange information with, the other. Annoying.

After fiddling for some time to get it to read from my old youtube account, I gave up (as probably Google intended) and just shifted everything over to the new account. Bang, it works. Finally.

The one catch here is as I mentioned above, two channels cannot exchange subscriptions and favourites. Bummer! Yes, I had to manually do it all over again. Some odd 100 faves and 30 subscriptions. Though modest by YouTube standards, it took some time and was tedious as hell. So now I’m my real name on youtube but that matters little since I only use it to save videos for playback on XBMC. I create none myself.

Really though, the kind of modifications Google is making lately are terrible. Apart from forcing us both to use our real names and G+ they have made the experience annoying. I’ve used handles to post comments since before the internet existed and I prefer it that way. I also have no use for the piece of garbage that G+ is. Hell, I have no interest in social networking at all. If I am forced to have a G+ account, I simply won’t use it and won’t give it any information. None of their business.

This is peanuts compared to what they’ve done to content creators, now they are having a hard time getting to their comments and analytics and it’s also messing with their monetization settings.Seriously – don’t stab yourself in the foot there. Remember these are the folks that make you money and make people want to use youtube. Don’t fuck with that.

In brief, Google you bungled this one, and I haven’t seen a single person out there who likes your “improvements”. Stop being evil and listen to your user base.

Keeping In-Sync

Flicker, flicker, everywhere!

No I’m not referring to the regrettable boy band, nor am I going to even touch the “cloud” as it were. This is about something much more solid, more hardware.

I remember the early days of personal computing, which (for me) was the 1980s when we had the option of a spinach-green or nuclear-orange command-line interface, or, if you were lucky, one of the primitive 256 colour machines, all of which used an electron gun shot at your eye.

Back then, owning a “flicker screen” was essential. Although the monitors were capable of refreshing in sync with mains power (60Hz), sadly the computers of the day were not and you could get all sorts of eyeball-bleeding from looking at the flickering moire-patterned mess. Remember the signs they used to put on computers “Use no longer than 15 minutes”?

Last night, finding myself alone, I sat myself down to watch a movie and have a quiet evening. To watch movies, I use my media pc (an old Acer laptop with Ubuntu + XBMC) and I just love it. Such convenience at never having to fiddle with discs and control my entertainment experience. It was working fine, or so I thought.

As I start to watch the film, an art film with lovely scenery, I notice something amiss. Some nightmare born out of the 80s. Not a flicker, quite. I notice just a subtle distortion. A flickery horizontal line that starts at the bottom of the screen and slowly winds its way up to the top, only to begin again at the bottom. That just doesn’t cut it, does it?

Setting aside my initial fears that the aging laptop simply couldn’t handle high-definition footage as panic-y, I spelunk into the settings to find out a problem.

My 80s experience saved the day: it was the vertical refresh rate being out of sync with the TV’s. This meant that the computer was refreshing the screen at a different rate than the display, causing this horizontal artifact that would progress up the screen. Much like when you used to see a computer monitor filmed on television and see it vertically dance, but more subtle, more digital.

To set it back, I simply turned on the “vertical blank sync” and the problem was solved, smooth watching again.

In a strange coincidence, with refresh rates much on my mind, there was an article posted on Slashdot today concerning the flickering of LED displays. What was neat about it is that it appears some people actually notice the flicker coming off of the latest generation displays – even though the refresh rate was in sync and fast enough for a human not to care about or notice.

The type of “flicker” is a completely unrelated issue than the type we were used to from CRTs.  In order to “dim” an LED, those of you in electronics will know that you don’t simply reduce the power to the LED, you have to flash it very fast, and the frequency of that flashing gives you the apparent brightness.

Unlike lightbulbs or CRT displays, which run on alternating current,  LEDs must run on direct current. This means it is either ON or OFF not anywhere in-between. To achieve a dimming effect, you modulate the DC current in a square wave (on-off-on-off-on-off) and set the frequency (duty cycle) to achieve the desired apparent brightness. This is called “Pulse-Width Modulation” or PWM.

I, personally, have only noticed this in my own electronics projects (using a 555 timer and a LED) or on my jailbroken iPod Touch which allows me to set the brightness lower than factory. I have never noticed this on a flatpanel television or on the purdy display of my Macbook Pro.

None of this is particularly interesting of itself. Quite a dry subject actually :) . What made it interesting was the aforementioned Slashdot post. Apparently a small minority can “see” this PWM flicker, and it’s driving them nuts causing eyestrain and nausea and call on the industry to fix this.

At least two comments posted on this article assert “it’s all in your head” and put it in the same category as people who wear tin-foil hats who put microwaves in the same category as gamma radiation.

One person struck a middle ground and perhaps suggested that the 60Hz flickering of the ambient fluorescent lighting is causing an interference pattern with the display refresh or this PWM dimming.

The question is: can you see it flicker? does it bother you? would you pay more money for a monitor that doesn’t do this? does anyone care?

I’m all for no flicker, but I’m damned if I can see it. Get rid of those stupid fluorescent lights first. Those DO bother me.

Edge Animate

I always try to follow up a negative, ball-slicing rant with something positive. Both for my own mental health and those mysterious ghost readers of my blog (which I probably don’t have anyway).

Adobe is usually one of my favourite companies to take a crap on. Sure, they often deserve it. Being so big and bloaty and annoyingly necessary. This time though, they’ve really done it.

I’m talking about Edge Animate.

Stop the world, you’ve finally done something GOOD and USEFUL. I’m surprised I’m saying that. Just saw a talk this morning at FITC  from Sarah Hunt from Adobe. Quite frankly, i’m impressed.

Get this – what if you could have flash-like animations without flash? What if you could animate something pretty damn cool without having to hand code every transition? What if there was a visual tool that marries javascript and css to produce these lovely animations?

There is: Adobe’s Edge Animate.

If you are familiar with Flash or After Effects, this will be a breeze. Hell, its better than dealing with Flash and its annoying tweening system. Make your vector animations using their keyframe editor, handily making automatic keyframes and transitions (formerly known as tweens for the former flash heads) . Then, you get to spit them out as a bunch of css and js files. That simple.

About time. Though I feel bile rising in my throat in grudging, I have to say: “thank you, Adobe”.

Application Abominations

I thought quickly rant off a few things I notice during my workday that not only have decreased my productivity, but also release an involuntary torrent of harsh language involving some developer’s butt and a sharpened stake. With splinters.

I am referring of course to application developers (or developer teams) who, instead of thinking outside the box, fall through the bottom because they didn’t tape it properly. Ok that metaphor didn’t quite fly, but we can’t all be perfect. I’m sober tonight so my wit is a little dull.

Back to my point.

If you are making an application, be it desktop, web or mobile, I would encourage, nay BEG you to please recognize these agonizing mistakes to avoid me coming after you with aforementioned splintery stake

10 Application UI design mistakes:

  1. Stealing focus – This is when some annoying little app thinks its okay to switch to the foreground to tell me something inane like “hey, I finally opened that document!” or “oh guess what? there’s an update”. No, I am afraid you aren’t the most important thing in the world to me, ever. Do not, I repeat DO NOT attempt to steal my focus. Half the time i’m typing something or doing something with precision that you utterly ruin by being a turd. You are like the cat that jumps on the keyboard, except not remotely cute or loveable. I can assure you, whatever I’m doing is more important to me than whatever you want, I hid you in the background for a reason.
  2. Updating every two days – You know who you are Flash Player. There’s a special hell, just for you. There is only one reason that an application should require frequent updating – if its an insecure piece of shit. In which case, why on earth would I use you? If this is not the case, why do I care what you are updating? why not collect all your feature enhancements and bug fixes into one big whopping update no more than quarterly? I am sure I am one amongst millions who, when they open a program, intent to USE it straight away rather than deal with updating. Half the time, updates break functionality anyway.
  3. Phoning home constantly – Though this has been taken to extremes lately with the massive Sim City shitstorm, you really would be surprised how every bloody program seems to just love phoning home.  Some do it to check for update, once every thirty seconds. Some do it to confirm their license every ten seconds. Some are doing God knows what and there’s no way of telling what sort of information it’s beaming back to God knows where to be used in “whatever way we feel like it” according to the license agreement. Here’s what I did: I installed a program called Little Snitch (not sure if there’s a windows counterpart, don’t really care either). What it does is act as a reverse firewall (technically, just a firewall but don’t spoil the analogy) allowing you to monitor and selectively block outgoing connections. Why does a friggin text editor have to phone home every five minutes? Block. Try installing it yourself and see just how many of your programs are attempting to send all sorts of crap over the internet. STOP IT. You are wasting my bandwidth, slowing my computer down, and hocking my private data. Fuck you.
  4. In-app purchases – though sometimes these are appropriate, say, game expansion packs, most of the time its just a way to try and syphon more money out of my wallet. They look so shiny and nice in the app store sure, looking like the proverbial Venusian vision of beauty coming out of the water, sunlight glinting off her perfect skin… I digress. It is being used too much these days to deliver crippled crapware for a price, then asking for more money just to get to its advertised functionality. Mobile app stores are rife with the stuff. Like the classic bait and switch, I am denied my buxom beauty and am delivered a toothless hairy hag and told I have to pay more to see the naughty bits. If I have to pay for a piece of software, and I find I will have to pay more for the bits I need, I will pass you by for the scum you are.
  5. Subscription based software – This is becoming more common, especially at professional grade levels (i’m looking at you again Adobe) and sheathed in the shiny, wooly package of being a “Cloud” application. Oooh! they used a buzzword! Basically, instead of buying something, and owning it in perpetuity, you get to pay for it every month or they will take it away from you. Probably when you need it most on a deadline. There is another name for this, its called a protection racket. Planned obsolescence wasn’t good enough for some, now they want to make a new standard of raping their customers on a monthly basis. I will not buy into this business model ever. Microsoft has tried to do it for years (and trying again with Office), so that should tell you how honourable that is.
  6. Non-standard UI elements – Some developers are so proud of their skills that they believe they are somehow better than the 30-odd years of proven experience OS vendors have in user interface design. Sure, if you are making an immersive game, go nuts! its your playground. Otherwise, I want to see a standard window, with close boxes I can find and using the system toolbox which is proven to work, rather than your glitchy and wholly unnecessary window and dialog manager you cooked up on peyote. Some even do evil things like switch the expected locations of “OK” and “Cancel” buttons to disastrous results. Seriously, Apple nailed UI, you cannot do better. Stick to making your app work.
  7. Inconsistent UI elements – Some companies release a suite of applications, and they decided, in their bureaucratic wisdom, to have a completely different development team making each app in the suite with zero communication between them. For programs designed to work in concert with one another, the user will frequently have several of them open at once and switch between them. You would therefore expect everything to be the same – the toolbars, windows, key commands, even the general logic around how the whole program works. Unfortunately, for anyone who has used the Creative Suite, we soon realize that this is far from true. If you are going to make a suite of apps, make them play together nicely. If you have the same function in your five apps, put them in the same damn menu, with the same key command. Hell, share the code and reduce the bloat while you are at it.
  8. Bloatware – Oh God, this has to be one of the worst. I have a relatively new machine: a year old MBP. I love her, she sings to me. She is also blindingly fast, so long as the programs I run aren’t coded by psychotic monkeys who, as expected from any caged animal, make nothing but a giant pile of shit that I have to clean off the walls. There is absolutely NO reason why any single application should take more than ten seconds to launch. There is also no reason (unless I’m doing motion graphics or video editing) that it has to hog two gigabytes of my memory. Nor should the installed size be any larger than 10GB. Like a narcissistic fat hog, it devours my system resorouces while other, far more important applications, go hungry and halt for lack of cpu time. Yes, you can skip installing the clip art, trust me I will not use it. There is only one reason that bloatware exists at all – crappy developers and their equally crappy managers who decide to skip cleaning and optimizing their code in favour of delivering a bunch of new features no one wants or would ever need.  Developers – make your apps lean and mean, not fat and gluttonous. As a bonus, they will work better and your user base won’t want to flay you alive.
  9. Rockin the single proc – Seriously, this is 2013. Why in the blue fuck are you slow as hell AND using only one processor? I have eight of them for a reason. Why should I have to wait for you to do a simple processing task because it never occurred to you to use more than one CPU? Shithead. In line with the points above – there is NO execuse why your app can’t run a crapton faster.
  10. Installing needless/annoying/damaging startup items/kernel extensions – This is a big beef of mine. Unless you are a hardware device driver, or if you have a real reason to be running all the time (almost never the case) DO NOT be a dick and assume I want bits of you loading at startup. Especially not bits named generically that take me a week to find like the dead mouse stinking up the apartment. 99.99% of applications do not need anything that loads at startup and most definitely do not require a (potentially destabilizing) kernel extension. Your updating yourself and phoning home (see above) are NOT valid reasons for doing this. If I want you to do anything, i will open you myself. Otherwise, stay the fuck out of my way.

There are more, but here we are at ten already. This means I am probably as bored as you are with the sound of my own voice. I’m sure many of you, my anonymous and silent readers, are nodding your heads and hrumphing your agreement at our shared experiences. Is there something you can do? Actually several.  Try these:

Don’t buy into it – Refuse to buy (as much as you can get away with) software that are guilty of the above. Why open yourself for financial fleecing only to install something that pisses you off? Better yet, look for leaner apps that can accomplish the same tasks. Never buy into it just because “everyone else did”.

Limit the damage – Watch for installer options and uncheck anything stupid/annoying/unnecessary. If not presented with an option, check installer logs or go hunting for bits you don’t want in there and remove them. Nine times out of ten, the app will still work fine and be much less annoying.

Trim the fat – In concert with the above, routinely check your login items, startup items, and kernel extensions folders (system and user level) for insidious vermin and remove them for a smooth computing experience.

Block the bullshit – kill processes that don’t need to be running, block their outgoing connections, turn off update checking, data collection, home phoning, caching – the lot. Apps are there to do what YOU want them to, and much like children, should not be left unattended. Preference panes can be a wealth of user definable options that you can disable to make your life less annoying. If the options aren’t there, check the preference files, you will probably find some “TRUE”s you can change to “FALSE”s.

Write the developer – Though it will probably fall on deaf ears since their customer support was outsourced to India, who in turn outsourced it to the United States, it still is valuable to cast your vote, especially when you gave them thousands of dollars.

Anyway, now I can relax with a drink, cheers!

Fax machines must die

A client recently offered to ‘fax’ something to me. Yikes. In his defence, he’s old school and wanted to send me the latest batch of changes to a visual product we are producing. We settled on the scan-and-email solution, which I prefer and has been the only proper way to do it since the year 2000.

The first fax machine, as we know it today, was made by Xerox in 1966 and could send a letter-sized document in blistering six minutes! Wikipedia has the whole sordid tale if you’re bored. Anyway, to the particularly beaurocratically obsessed office workers of that time, it must have seemed like a tech-filled wonderland future-world would soon blossom, where you still had to write your friggin letter out with a pen in handwriting no one can read especially after the mojo-wire mangles it and sends it to the recipient by sometime next month.

Or it could just have been the harbinger of a dystopian nightmare future played out in office scenarios around the globe featuring normally level-headed corporate drones who suddenly lose their cool and become violent animals when the damned thing malfunctions. We all saw that scene in Office Space so don’t tell me its not true.

Did you know a certain precursor to the fax machine was a German invention aptly named ein “Hellschreiber“? Serious, here it is:

The dreaded “Hellschreiber”

Fast forward to a few nights ago. I’m sleeping. For those who know me, I’m a light sleeper and really resent anything (or anyone) who disturbs my precious slumbers. So you can probably guess about how I feel about my cellphone going off at 3:19am. Of course I ignore it, and check the voicemail next day amid mumbled promises to break the legs of whomever called me. Great. I hear the tell-tale “beep….beep” of some douche trying to fax me.

That’s the worst. If some poor person calls me at three in the morning and merely has the wrong number, he’s going to feel bad about it. Especially after the hot dish of burning fuck I’m going to inject in his ear for doing so.

With a fax machine, there’s no human to beat up. Especially one coming from a blocked number. WTF. Isn’t that illegal or something? Why is someone trying to send a mysterious fax to my cellphone? If they had the caller ID programmed, I could call them back on their voice line and deliver the aforementioned burning dish.

The hell does not stop there. Pop quiz: what does a fax machine do if it cannot connect to another fax machine on the number its trying to dial? It calls back. THREE FUCKING TIMES.

So lets take this in stages for the unbelievably dim-witted. Here’s ten good reasons not to use fax machines. I’m not one to limit myself, so if you know of any I have forgotten, please feel free to add in the comments.

  1. They waste paper, a shit-ton. Especially in printing out those useless tx/rx reports that no one ever reads.
  2. They make annoying noises — beeps squaks and squeals, both when you are standing beside one, within earshot and trying to concentrate on something, and shouting at one through the phone to stop calling and hoping the douche who’s sending it can hear you through the crappy little speaker.
  3. The fax machine has no way of knowing its a voice line or a cell phone, and yes you are bloody well disturbing someone.
  4. No one ever cared about fax marketing. It moved to email once the Nigerian princes of the word caught up to 1995. People used to care about it back in the day though, for the exact amount of time it takes to curse it for wasting paper.
  5. It eats more documents than it sends or receives. Serious, why do they have the crappiest sheet feeders?
  6. Its always out of paper anyway (pilfered for the actually-useful laser printer doubtless) and probably has something like 12kb of memory — which doesn’t hold dick.
  7. It ties up an expensive phone line, sometimes helpfully answering it for you. When it does, the potentially large client on the other other end is greeted with “beep” instead of hello. He then hangs up the phone and NEVER calls you back
  8. A cheap piece of crap scanner you can buy from anywhere can scan your document at much higher resolution, in full colour, and in a tenth the time
  9. There is not a single place on this earth you cannot get to the internet somehow (there are satellites) unless you are at the Earth’s core or something, then you have other problems
  10. Scanner + email = something that not only completely replaces the fax machine, but is superior to it in every way imaginable (and is constantly improving, which the fax machine has not done in decades)

So you can see, any argument you could possibly have is completely invalid. You may try and post them in the comments below if you dare. I will use them (and you) for my amusement.

Don’t you dare give me that crap that starts “I’m a lawyer…” or realtor or government worker. The only reason you use the damn things is because there are a thousand other neanderthals out there who use insist on using it. It’s like crack or Microsoft Word — all pain and peer pressure. If everyone insisted on using scan-and-emailed document, no one would have any reservation about consigning the fax to whatever hell it came from.

World, stop using fax machines and let me have an uninterrupted nights sleep. Now, some catharsis: