Archive for the 'Rants' Category

Why open source software (FOSS) struggles for acceptance

I like open source stuff, for a variety of reasons. I like the philosophy behind it, and I like the idea of many eyes and many hands working together to create better things. While I do understand that there are situations where open source is not appropriate, such as with the proprietary things I work on in my day job, I also believe that there are many cases where open source is not only appropriate, but necessary.

Software is a case in point for open source. With open source software there is less likelihood that someone will slip a nefarious backdoor into an application, and the overall “attack surface” (as the security folks call it) is much smaller than with closed applications. Free open-source software (FOSS) also has the benefit of multiple eyes reviewing it, finding bugs, suggesting (or creating) improvements, and serving as inspiration for other projects. But there are two problems with open-source software that I believe will be fatal in the long run: The documentation sucks, and the attitude of some of the people who write FOSS does nothing to help the cause. I believe that these two things are closely related.

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Frustrating Development Tools

I have a complaint (well, to be honest, I have a lot, but I don’t trot them out all at the same time): Why do hardware and development tools vendors insist on using things like Windows .net? It annoys me to no end to have to resort to reading through KB articles from Microsoft just to get something as straightforward as a compiler up and running. It annoys me even more when I can’t get the software running even after jumping through hoops and hopping up and down on one foot while patting the top of my head. Does it really have to be this way?

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Dropbox Drops the Ball

I like use a secure file sharing service to move things around between myself, publishers, co-workers, and so¬† on. For years I’ve been using Dropbox and its directory syncing feature under Linux without any major hassles. I finally decided to pay them some money and get more storage space, and it was fine at first. But lately that all changed. Continue reading ‘Dropbox Drops the Ball’

Chinese CNC Tools

Maybe I’m spoiled, or just out of sync with things, but when I worked with professional CNC equipment (I worked on the control systems and servo amplifiers for big things like vertical mills, jig bores and huge lathes) the software was usually custom made for a particular machine type. If not, then it was some type of high-reliability real-time operating system or maybe a real-time OS for a minicomputer, like a PDP-11 or the IBM Series I machines.

But at the price some of the Chinese CNC tools are going for these days it would be nuts to expect them to come with custom control software. Instead, a lot of them come with Windows-based software, and some of that is of dubious heritage. As someone who likes to open the hood on things the poke around inside, Windows is a problem for me. I prefer to use Linux instead, but when the shiny new CNC tool that just arrived only comes with Windows software, then it’s time to start looking for alternative software. Continue reading ‘Chinese CNC Tools’

Failure to communicate

I know I should get over it, but I never cease to be amused/dismayed by the people who make comments about a book that don’t even relate to the book in question. Case in point: Someone commented that my recent book from O’Reilly, Practical Electronics: Components and Techniques, didn’t have the information that they wanted regarding “…an example of how to interface a simple serial circuit with a USB port and read data…”

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Little Buddy

An awesome little friend

Jordi the Sheltie passed away in 2008 at the ripe old age of 14. He was the most awesome dog I've ever known.