Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Women in Tech Adverstising - a rebuttal

So, there has been some that have argued vehemently against the advertising policies of GoDaddy, and its ilk.  (See https://twitter.com/bdha/status/211210555577466881 for example of the complaints.)

I have a different point of view.  What about sites that always picture a beautiful woman on a headset for their representation of tech support?  Should we also boycott them?  Would you prefer a site with an ugly person answering the phone?  After all, it's a phone or text chat, so it shouldn't matter at all what the person looks like, right?

Conversely, what about all the sites that use men in their advertising?

My hosting provider, bluehost.com, uses both.  Take a look.  Does the pretty blonde in glasses have anything to do with domain names or web hosting?  Of course not.  The guy wearing the headset for the tech support line isn't exactly hideous either, if you swing that way.  Are you likely to talk to this guy if you call?  Probably not -- he's probably just another model.

GoDaddy uses Danica Patrick as their spokesperson.  She's admittedly beautiful, a professional athlete (she drives race cars), and probably makes a fair bit of money endorsing GoDaddy.  Some of the ads she has been in have admittedly been a little tongue in cheek in their appeal to a mostly male clientele, but I think it would be a stretch to say that GoDaddy is using sex to sell domain services.

It would be an even further stretch to say Danica is being exploited by GoDaddy.

(Note that there may be other reasons to avoid doing business with GoDaddy or its CEO, but I am only referring to the use of Danica Patrick, a female spokesperson, and women in advertising in general.)

Would the people who claim that this is somehow evil objectification of women complain as loudly if the spokesperson were a good looking baseball star?  Is this objectification of men, or of male sports stars?  What if the ad somehow appeals more strongly to women, or to gay men?

What if the site featured an animal spokesperson prominently?  Say an orangutan?  (Perhaps with computer animation. :-)  Would this be considered animal exploitation?

I submit to you, dear reader, that each one of these cases are basically the same.  We use humans, animals, or whatever, to provide a human element and appeal in a product being sold.  Sure, it would be nice if the site instead featured some kind of graphic that demonstrated its technical superiority, but come on -- we're talking about a domain registrar, which is about as boring as tech gets.  I can hardly blame GoDaddy for trying to liven up their site and generate some enthusiasm.

In fact, even in the more extreme cases, such as the use of bikini-clad booth babes, I submit that folks who think objectification like this is somehow exploitative are misunderstanding.  These women are very rarely without many choices and options.  Usually by the time we see them, its when they are in a job that they have worked hard to get -- maintaining a perfect figure can be a full-time job, after all.

If folks like author of the aforementioned tweet had their way, they would deny these women the opportunity to earn a living showing off their own accomplishments.  Isn't that even more exploitative?  In fact, in the extreme case, you could consider the more repressive societies of the middle east?  Is this the social ideal to which we should aspire?  Where the only part of woman we see in advertising is a burqa?

(Note that in the case of the site using bikini-clad booth-babes, my gut response is to question what the company is not showing -- their product.  So while the babes may catch my eye, they have yet to draw me to a booth I would not otherwise have visited for the products featured.  Actually, at one former employer a female colleague -- also quite beautiful, but quite knowledgeable -- is aware that she is often mistaken as a booth babe, and regularly uses this to her advantage; customers get surprised somehow when the beautiful woman knows more about the technology than most other men do.)

As for me, I welcome the diversity of our society, and the appreciation of the human form.  If some people are able to use this to humanize their marketing approach, good for them!  Let's face it, I'd rather look at beautiful faces online than ugly ones.

Far better, IMO, for those who would fight against this spend their energies worrying about the women who are truly exploited or repressed -- in the fundamentalist muslim societies of the middle east, in the brothels, and human slave trade.  Don't feel sorry for the woman who is able to make a nice living for herself displaying the body she has worked hard to get and to maintain, and that she is proud of.

And yes, for the record, I usually like Carl's Jr. commercials too.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Ivy Bridge Motherboards -- Don't *Really* Exist!

So, if you're like me, and you've been shopping for a new system lately because you're last one is dying or dead, you might see some fancy looking Intel E3-1200v2 Xeon systems.  (Why Xeon?  Because ECC memory is a good thing.  I attribute some of my difficulty with my last system to using non-ECC memory.  Because its not ECC, I don't really know whether the problem was in RAM or CPU, but I digress...)

Great, so you pick out a E3-1240v2 Ivy Bridge CPU, and then you look for a System Board.

I found the Supermicro X9SCA-F-O.  Looks like a sweet board.  The spec claims support for the E3-1200v2 cpus, and 1600MHz RAM.  It has a separate IPMI LAN support, as well.  Sweet!  (Look closer though....)

So, package arrives from NewEgg, and you're ready to go.

Assemble the kit.... if you're a software guy like me this might take a couple of hours.

Power it on.

Beep!  Beep!  Beep!  Beep!

WTF does that mean!?  Google "4 beeps supermicro".

Oh, "Unsupported processor."  Further reading....

The system needs a BIOS update (to v2.0) in this case.  Seems reasonable.

Download the instructions....

"Step 1. First, boot the motherboard with an E3-1200 series (not E3-1200 V2)
processor..."

WTF!?!  A new E3-1200 (that's Sandy Bridge mind you, still fairly recent stuff) processor is going to cost me like 200 bucks, minimum.  And I can't return it after I buy it except to exchange it with a different CPU.  But I already have the E3-1240v2.

Anyone want to buy a very lightly used E3-1220 from me?  It looks like I'll be purchasing one tomorrow. Ultimately, I can't afford not to burn the $200, because I simply don't have the time to keep screwing around this stuff.  I've burned the better part of today trying to wrangle hardware.  (Hmmm.... where's a Systems Engineer when you need one?)  Conversely, anyone got one lying around they want to give, loan, or sell really cheap?

Shame on you Supermicro.  There are at least several things you could have done better here:

1. Make it much clearer that if buying a unit, it should include a legacy CPU first.  (I.e. that Ivy Bridge support is only for people upgrading CPUs and not building new systems.)

2. Have a separate SKU for systems that have the requisite BIOS changes.  Even if the silk-screen on the board is the same (and it shouldn't be, because the silk screening indicates only 1066 and 1333 MHz RAM supported, although the BIOS enables 1600 MHz), having the separate SKU lets buyers make sure they have the bits needed.

3. Work with retailers to ensure that existing stock is returned and upgraded as soon as possible.

4. Offer an expedited RMA process for people like me who are screwed in the meantime.  (To be fair, I've not called supermicro yet, but Googling tells me people have not had good luck with this option yet.  The only solution that has worked for people is to get their own 2nd processor.)

5. Technically, this board has an IPMI unit on it.  I think that means it has a separate microprocessor. Why can't I update the BIOS using that?  That would eliminate the need to buy a second CPU, at least for those of us with IPMI enabled gear.

Lessons for me:

1. Its probably worth a couple hundred bucks to let someone else put together the system for me.  I'm a driver guy -- futzing around with actual bits of silicon and cabling, its not my forte.

2. There's a reason it's called the bleeding edge.  I think I got cut with it today.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Why I *hate* external dependencies!

So, I've been trying to setup a system that can build illumos-gate.  Because my old system had a memory DIMM fault, and isn't usable anymore.

I thought, hmm... let me try something other than OpenIndiana.

Big mistake.

Only OpenIndiana seems able to build vanilla illumos-gate right now.

Why?  Because of external dependencies!  I tried building on OmniOS.  The stopper there -- Python 2.4!  On SmartOS, the dependency is IPS itself.  It seems only OpenIndiana is suitable for building stock illumos-gate.

The problem is that our build is inherently very sensitive to the build environment.  It makes life incredibly unpleasant if you try to build on any system that is not configured exactly as we specified.

This, IMO, is an unacceptable situation.

I will speak loudly against any attempt to make changes that introduce further external dependencies.  The fact that some already exist is no excuse.  Every external dependency makes working on the tree more painful.  If you're thinking of a change that would move something out of tree, but add a build-server dependency, think again!  

These dependencies are a serious barrier for contribution.

We (illumos) should take a page from NetBSD, who have successfully arranged that their environment is self contained to the point that they don't care about their build server at all -- all it needs to be able to do is bootstrap gcc and run automake/autoconf.  There is something very elegant about this.

Expect to see me on yet another crusade to kill dependencies on external runtimes, be it Python, Perl, or whatever.   Our tree should, IMO, be as "stand-alone" as possible.

If that means you have to write C, so be it.  Grow up and get a real compiler dude.  I know languages like Python and Perl are attractive because they have a lower barrier to learn -- but depending on them -- and far worse -- depending on *specific* versions of them -- is toxic for anyone else who wants to work on the code in a different environment.   (This has nothing to do with your language of your choice, but everything to do with the pain and suffering your language choice creates for anyone who just wants to do "make install".)