Archive for December, 2005

Woodworking Lessons 1: A matter of trust

Friday, December 2nd, 2005

I decided to start a little series based on the lessons I’m learning in woodworking. I’m a total newbie, but if I can help other newbies, hey, I’m all for it. So here’s the conclusion I’ve come to after doing just a couple of small projects: it’s all just a matter of trust.

It seems clear to me that the success achieved in a lot of things has something to do with decisions you make with regard to what you’re willing to take on faith. I’ve recently learned NOT to trust two things by experience: project plans, and sawmills.

Project plans are sometimes wrong from beginning to end, or they’re incomplete, leaving out key pieces of the puzzle. Don’t trust that everything is there – go over the project plan in detail before you find yourself in the middle of a project without a clue how to make the next (undocumented) step. Also, don’t trust that the way they’re showing you to do something is *the* way to do it – I had a heck of a time clamping up 15-degree angled sawhorse legs because I assumed the picture in the book was the way to do it. On my second saw horse leg I relied on my own logic to figure out a clamping system, and it took about 1/3 of the time and about 1/20th of the headache. A project plan is a blueprint, not a bible.

As for sawmills, I no longer trust them either. I had a board that was allegedly “ready for use” (it was smoothed on all 4 sides – aka ‘S4S’). I had to cut out what would become the side of a box. I drew three lines, and let the edge of the board be the fourth side. Bad move. When I went to make sure my cutting lines were perfectly square, I found they were a little out of wack, and the culprit turned out to be that the board wasn’t perfectly square. Check your boards before you measure and cut!

In general, you should probably question everything all the time anyway. Is your table saw blade *really* perpendicular to the table top? Just because it was 3 or 4 cuts ago is no guarantee that it is now. How about your splitter? Is it aligned? I’ve had some trouble with misaligned splitters and a full-length fence pushing boards back toward the blade and smoking up on me. Not nice.

Question it. It’ll save you time, headache, and waste.

All Linux Desktop Environments Suck…

Thursday, December 1st, 2005

….Some just look better doing it.

Honestly, I’m at the point where I don’t even care what desktop environment I use. I use fluxbox at work (mostly), KDE on one machine at home, and GNOME on my laptop. They all suck to some degree, so choice of desktop, if you plan on sticking to just one, depends on what’s important to you.

What I hate about KDE is that the eye-candy and integration has cost us end users a lot in terms of speed and stability, and in some cases has taken precedence over real usability. Applications do crash in KDE, and they lock up, and they can’t do some things that should really be no-brainers by now. KMail’s search functionality sucks, Konqueror, as supplied by about 4 of the most recent versions of various distributions, sucks so badly at rendering so many Yahoo-caliber pages that I can’t believe it ever made it out of testing. Using Konqueror for anything else is confusing for anyone using it for the first time because the icons it uses to represent certain things are completely unintuitive – it’s trying to do too much anyway. It now claims full ACID compliance, and I haven’t tried the 3.5 version, but I will, and I’ll have high hopes (again), and I’m prepared to have those hopes dashed (again). And that damned Kicker application – I’ve never made friends with that thing. But look! My menus are transparent!

What I hate about GNOME is that they seem to spend zero time concentrating on what end users want and 100% of their time focusing on the minutia of their back end integration. Nautilus is the worse than Konqueror as a generic file management interface. And what the heck is that…. *thing* that pops up when I insert a blank CD? Is that a CD burner? You’d never know it! “Create a folder”? What the heck does that mean? Oh! It’s Nautilus! Great, close that, then. Evolution’s handling of LDAP address lookups is absolutely unusable in its current state. Apparently it waits to get back your entire directory before it autocompletes the text or something, temporarily freezing the application in the process.

What I hate about Fluxbox is that there is *no* integration whatsoever, with anything, ever. Sure, it’s lightweight, but that’s because no two applications can talk to eachother. I had to stop using it at work recently when I realized that I’m never going to get into the habit of manually focusing a new window opened by an application. If you open Thunderbird under fluxbox, for example, and click “Write”, a compose window opens, and I move my hands to the keyboard to start typing. Problem is, that window doesn’t automatically get focused, so I’m typing random keys into the base window, which has no typing area, so the keys are being read as shortcuts, and some really weird stuff can happen when you do that. The slit? Well, if you say so. I’ve never made much use of it, so I just chalk it up as fluxbox’s method of justifying any statements made on their website about eye candy.

In the end, it should be noted that, while it’s true that I hate all desktop environments I’ve ever tried for one reason or another, I don’t hate any of them as much as I hate the Microsoft Windows desktop. The fact that they charge money for that is just insulting.