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User Journal

Journal: This is not my America. 3

Journal by laughingcoyote

I will say this in short, because the incident speaks for itself.

This does not happen in my America. Those who did this are criminals. They need to go to prison and never get out.

And for anyone who disagrees? I'm sorry, but you're guilty too. Anyone who would tolerate or defend the torture of anyone, but especially a totally innocent man, needs a nice tight cell too.

Windows

Journal: My Windows experience 3

Journal by laughingcoyote

With a friend, I agreed to use Windows for six months on my new laptop. He swore up and down that by the time I was done I'd have found it so easy to use I'd never want to switch back to Linux again. What I found, though, is that while Windows has its advantages, it sure offers a lot of difficulty to the average user. We also agreed that I wouldn't ask him any questions, to better simulate the experience of a novice user to Windows.

Let's start with installation. I got the Windows CD through an "academic" program at my school. It took them several days to burn the CD and get me an "install key" though. When I asked them if I could just download and burn the CD myself, they just looked at me funny and told me they weren't allowed to tell me. They must just be worried about too much bandwidth being used on the distribution mirrors or something.

Well anyway, they eventually got me the CD, with an "install key". When I asked them if it was really a good idea to have someone else generate your initial crypto key, they looked at me funny again and told me it was to prevent "piracy." Now what a crypto key has to do with boats, I don't know. I'm not taking my laptop on boats, knowing my luck it'd get splashed! But they were quite convinced of this.

Well, now I had my CD, so I popped it in to install. There was already a "home" edition of Windows on the laptop, but they told me the "Pro" edition through the school's program was better. When I asked why you couldn't just upgrade through the regular repository, they had no idea what I was talking about. I decided not to press the issue and just upgrade from the CD.

Well, anyway, turns out the "upgrade" from CD formats the entire drive! While I didn't mind too much, this would sure be a nasty shock to a user that had important data on it! They really should encourage people to use a repository upgrade instead. I couldn't find a word on how to do this, even after several Google queries. Someone really needs to get to writing better documentation for novice users, I think.

Well, anyway. I got partway through the install process and was asked for my "key." I put it in, but apparently they'd given me the wrong one! I was told to call a phone number. Now really, why they couldn't just have you generate a new key at the time is beyond me, especially since it took me halfway to forever to input the long code into the phone system, and another half hour or so on hold. I was then transferred to a guy I could hardly understand. His English was alright, but really, they'd do better directing you to an IRC channel-accents don't matter there!

Anyway, as I learned to understand this guy, he kept asking me if my copy was "retail" or "OEM". I told him that my school had burned my copy for me. He then kept asking me the same question, and telling me that burning a copy was "illegal"-or that's what it sounded like. I finally read him the paper I'd been given from my school, and at that point he seemed to change his mind. He gave me a second code to put in, which finally allowed me to complete the install. Now, granted, I'm quite familiar with computers, but this would really have been a significant frustration to the novice user.

Well, after that the install seemed to go through alright, and I removed the installation CD and rebooted. I noted with some dismay that I had not been prompted to create a password, and wondered if the system would do so after the reboot. However, after the reboot, I was let right in without a password! Later on, I came to find out that this "passwordless" user is the default! I certainly would be hesitant to keep any important files on such a system with such a basic flaw in its security model.

Well, of course this was unacceptable, so the first thing I did was attempt to open a shell. I first looked under "accessories"-nothing. I then used ctrl-alt-F6 to attempt to switch to a virtual console-and again, no result. I tried "system," and every menu on the system, but was just unable to find a shell altogether.

Well, eventually, after some Google searching, it turns out you must hit the "run" button and type in "cmd" to open a shell. Now that's a bit arcane, but that's not the worst of it! Turns out, the default shell does almost exactly nothing! After trying "passwd", "password", and several other variants, I did some more Googling in search of the correct command. Turns out it's not even possible to set your password from the shell! (I was wondering at this time how a remote SSH user would possibly manage, but it turns out it's not even possible to log in remotely to a shell via SSH!) Well, anyway, I finally found the "control panel", and managed to get the password set.

I noticed at this time my user was set as a "computer administrator"-this seemed quite odd. After yet more Google searching, it turns out that not only does Windows create a passwordless account upon install, but this account has root privileges! Not only that, but any further accounts created have, by default, root access as well! Do you really think the average user, setting up a child's account, for example, would have the sense to downgrade that user's privileges? It may seem a little thing, but it's this type of reason why Windows is simply not ready for the average user's desktop.

Finally, I had absolutely NO luck figuring out how to use the Windows repository. No amount of Googling could get me the answer, and on the Windows forums I posted on the users seemed not even to know what I was talking about. Generally, you have to go out on the Internet, and find -every- program you wish to download! Really, Linux solved this problem years ago!

Well, I figured I'd set up a way to log in remotely, though I was a little leery of this given the seeming lack of security. I did find a way to do this, called "remote desktop"-though one must log into a graphical environment. However, this type of login has a serious bug-a remote login kicks any other user offline! And if the local user logs back in, the remote user is similarly kicked. I quickly gave up on this, there's no telling what other bugs might be present in such an obviously flawed application.

So, overall, while I did enjoy some of the Windows games, and it was a different experience-overall, I'm sure glad to be installing my nice familiar Linux environment, as the six months are up today. Maybe in five or ten years Windows can be overhauled to be ready for the desktop, but right now? It's not even close.

United States

Journal: Yet another fundamentalist tactic 8

Journal by laughingcoyote

Our favorite fundamentalists are at it again! This time, they're trying to push through a bill called the Public Expression of Religion Act. This bill, if passed, would prohibit plaintiffs in cases of even blatant violations of church and state separation from being reimbursed their attorney's fees.

I've included a sample letter, which I already sent to my Congressman on the issue. It also outlines exactly why I object to the bill. Please feel free to use, modify, or do whatever you like with it.

Dear Rep. ________,

I am writing to you to urge you to vote against the Public Expression of Religion Act.

While the Act purports to end a "chilling effect" on public officials' expression of religion, this is untrue. No public official has ever been successfully sued for attending church or promoting religion on their own time.

On the other hand, public officials are barred from either promoting or prohibiting religion in the course of their public duties. This prohibition does not come from a "chilling effect" of litigation, but from their duty to uphold the Constitutional principle of separation of church and state.

In many cases, it is difficult for the victims of religious discrimination to show actual damages. In this case, the recovery of attorneys' fees allows them to still be able to bring a suit in these cases.

Even when this happens, attorneys' fees are only awarded to the plaintiff when they are correct-when the rules, laws, and Constitution really were being violated! This is entirely right and proper.

The "threat" of a successful lawsuit against any government entity over an unlawful religious display can be avoided with one very simple tactic: Follow the rules in the first place.

User Journal

Journal: Constrained Writing Exercise 3

Journal by laughingcoyote

Constrained writing exercise, as conceived by ShadowWrought.

This should be a fun and quick exercise. What follows below are ten words randomly generated, you must them all in your work, though not necessarily in the order in which they are listed (though you do get bonus points if you do;-). The limits on the writing is simple:

  • For prose, no more than 5 paragraphs.

  • For poetry, no more than 20 lines.

  • For a play, TV script, or screenplay, no more than a single brief scene.

And the words are...

  1. Spacecraft
  2. Parasite
  3. Refugee
  4. Volcano
  5. Boiler
  6. Generator
  7. Jam
  8. Photograph
  9. Boxer
  10. Onion

My submission follows in a comment.

The Almighty Buck

Journal: Anarchocapitalism debate 2

Journal by laughingcoyote

I recently got into a very interesting debate with a self-styled "anarchocapitalist". I've read von Mises' works, and to me, they seem so full of inconsistency, supposition, and half-baked ideas so as to be totally unrealistic. But what do you think? Can anyone out there coherently defend this philosophy? Does anyone else agree with me? I put this here rather then linking directly so as not to spam up a public discussion with offtopic posts (well, more then has happened, anyway.) Your thoughts?

User Journal

Journal: Coining a phrase: "Net Nixon"

Journal by Takeel

I'd like to try to coin a phrase. I figure that Slashdot might be a good place to do it, since my comment here will be timestamped by a third party.

A "net Nixon" is someone who logs/records all of their Internet communications.

Example: "John is a complete net Nixon. He has IRC and AIM logs going back to 1995."

Security

Journal: On responsible disclosure... 1

Journal by singularity

A C|Net article, as referenced on Macintouch:

At the heart of the issue is the software industry push for "responsible" disclosure, which calls on researchers to delay the announcement of security holes so that manufacturers have time to patch them. That way, people who use flawed products are protected from attack, the argument goes. But the approach also has benefits for software makers, a security expert pointed out.

"As long as the public doesn't know the flaws are there, why spend the money to fix them quickly?" said Bruce Schneier, chief technology officer at Counterpane Internet Security, a network monitoring company. "Only full disclosure keeps the vendors honest."

Hey - I have a solution! Who not simply say "Our policy is to release the details of the hole exactly one month after notifying the company."?

Mr. Schneier is correct - only full disclosure will keep the vendors honest. I do not see how giving a set time before releasing the exploit causes problems with this.

Now, I will say it is very possible that the article was written to have these two somewhat unrelated paragraphs next to each other. One seems to be talking about an embargo for a while after notifying the company, and the Counterpane quote seems to be talking about justifying releasing the information at all.

User Journal

Journal: Wouldn't it be nice... 1

Journal by singularity

So there was a huge disaster in the countries surrounding the Indian Ocean. Tens of thousands of people, if not hundreds of thousands of people, died and will die due to a natural disaster.

People are giving millions of dollars to organizations like the Red Cross and Doctors without Borders. I applaud these efforts. The President of the United States, has enlisted two former Presidents, George Bush and Bill Clinton, to help raise money for the relief efforts.

It would make so much sense if there was a very organized body that would collect money from everyone and then make informed decisions of what to do with the money. This organization would collect money from everyone and then donate it to worthy organizations, and do worthy things with the money. In fact, it would be even better if the collections were done straight from everyone's paychecks. Better yet, make it pre-tax. We could do it based on how much money you made each year, so poor people would not be expected to donate as much as a wealthy person.

As citizens we would feel good even if we did not donate to the Red Cross. We could honestly say "I gave at work, through my paycheck." The donations would be made on behalf of all Americans, and would show that we, as a nation, cared. It would show that we had the foresight to put aside money and people to deal with things on a city, state, and country-wide basis. We would share, as a country, the wealth that we had produced.

We could nominate and choose people who we think would be responsible for that money and make intelligent decisions on what to do with it. They would impose good budgetary practices so they would not take too much, but make sure they had enough to make a very generous donation when something like the tsunami hit. They would not waste the money, and only use it in very necessary times.

If we had such an organization, George W. Bush would not have to ask for private contributions. He would not have to enlist two former Presidents to raise money for private organizations to help. He would just have to turn to this national organization and ask that we send enough money to the countries in their time of most need...

That would be nice...

User Journal

Journal: Dancin' Outlaw Lives!

Journal by singularity

I got this email today:

For those of you who have heard rumors that the Dancin' Outlaw passed away, I have an update. Jesco White continues to live in Boone County, West Virginia. I just got off of the phone with my brother, a big Jesco fan. He is on his way to D.C. for the week. While traveling through West Virginia, he had a wild hair to find Jesco--and did. He called just after he left the trailer. Keith got the sheriff to take him up to Jesco's holler. Keith just walked up to the door, knocked and waited. Jesco answered the door and invited him in. They spent 30 minutes or so talking, catching up on the family, etc. He got his picture made with him and left with an autographed DVD of both Dancin' Outlaw parts I and II.

Jesco is off drugs now, but he does have an affection toward Sharpie markers. :) Norma Jean is in a home in Charleston but visits on the weekends. The Miracle Woman has moved to Minnesota and is living with one of her kids out there. She did recently break her arm. As you may have heard, Dorcey kilt himself a while back--the pain of his father's death was too much for him. Mamie is still in Boone County but had to be in court today.

Jesco kept asking Keith if he had a guitar with him. He didn't sing or dance for them but Keith feels strongly he would have if they had asked. It's a shame he didn't pack the guitar. :)

Unfortunately, Jesco does not receive any of the profits from the sell of his movies. His trailer burned and the one he is living in now doesn't have running water.

I need to get back to work, but I thought you might enjoy the update. Take care!
Nellie

Anyone who has not seen this is invited over to my apartment, at any time, to watch it. It is one of the best things in the world. I am going to see if my parents will buy it for me. If not I am going to pony up the $60 for the DVD.

Amazon wants $130 for the DVD! One DVD, with about 1.5 hours of content.

User Journal

Journal: On apples and oranges...

Journal by singularity

So I saw an advertisement for Dell, and they were advertising for their Dell Pocket DJ. During the commercial, they say "twice the capacity of the leading manufacturer."

I flip open the Dell catalog that came in the mail today, and they actually refer to the Apple iPod by name. The catalog also says that it "holds more than twice as many songs as the iPod mini." However, the Pocket DJ is only 5GB.

And then comes the fine print.

Comparison between Dell's song count at 64Kps WMA encoding based on 4 minute/avg per song and Apple's published claims also based on 4 minute/avg per song, as of 10/7/04

(Also available on Dell's page)

Of course, according to the iPod Spec page:

Capacity based on 4 minutes per song and 128-Kbps AAC encoding.

I think this comes dangerously close to false advertising.

User Journal

Journal: Cornell Debate...

Journal by singularity

Some immediate impressions from watching the Cornell third-party debate.

1) Michael Peroutka, of the Constitution Party, speaks first. From the little I have heard of the Constitution Party, Mr. Peroutka's introductory comments are about what I expected. He sounds like a minister running for President. Very religious platform.

2) David Cobb, of the Green Party gives his opening next. Mr. Cobb appears much as I have thought of the Green Party - very anti-big business, pro-environment, and appealing to a more "alternative" segment of the population.

3) Walt Brown, of the Socialist Party USA. An entertaining fellow. Rambling, a bit, though. His introduction is mainly a biographical one.

4) Michael Badnarik, of the Libertarian Party. Mr. Badnarik gives a brief introduction to the Libertarian Party, and then goes on to explain why you should vote third-party.

All in all the candidates answer the questions in a much more straight-forward manner than either Bush or Kerry. In part this can be attributed to sometimes a much more simplistic view on the issues. This can also be attributed to their much more radical solutions to problems. While Bush and Kerry argue over fine points of a solution, the third party candidates can offer a much more "simple", more radical solution.

Some other notes:
- I do not know how many times Cobb uses the term "fat cats". And calls the system "sexist, and racist."
- I do not know how many times Brown gets cut off.
- I do not know how many times Brown mentions some famous historical American who he calls a socialist.
- I suppose I should not be too surprised that the Constitution Party and the Libertarian Party agree on so much.
- Cobb actually uses "Listen, ya'll" at least once.

In general, I found Peroutka to be somewhat of a religious radical. Cobb was pretty good, but I do disagree with a lot of his ideas. Brown seemed like a nice enough man, but did not seem very Presidential. He tended to ramble on, and was more caught up in history and anecdotes than in actual answers to issues. Badnarik seemed the most Presidential of the four, and seemed by far the most articulate (although Cobb was pretty close behind).

I would highly recommend everyone watch it.

Staff meeting in the conference room in 3 minutes.

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