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Journal: M$ IS OUT TO GET YOU, Part.1 1

Journal by MC Negro
God Almighty, the Slashdot crowd has got to be the most obnoxiously paranoid demographic online. While SCO and Linux articles are frequently host to the paranoid rants typical of the Slashdot populous, it's the Microsoft, specifically, the Internet Explorer articles that always seem to draw the most obnoxious conspiracy theorists out of their parents' basement long enough to hack out a dissertation on the multifaceted attacks by "M$" to enslave your mind.

I made a brief attempt to combat this paranoia in this thread. Some of the responses puzzled me. It's as if people couldn't come to grips with the fact that Internet Explorer, in a controlled environment without an idiot behind the wheel is actually a viable choice for web browsing needs. My disdain for the stupidity that runs rampant on IE articles has grown so large that I no longer allow myself to post on those articles. However, today's article on Opera's dwindling marketshare birthed even more tin-foil gems. Since it is Sunday night and I write impending RPG projects best at 5 AM, allow me the privilege to give you a tour of the typical Slashdot anti-Microsoft/IE posts -

Article : Opera Facing Losses While Firefox Usage Grows
Highlight posts -

Deathanatos (811514)-

IE? Free? Since when? Just because it comes with the OS (which, might I add, you pay $$$ for) doesn't mean it's free. Furthermore, what about all the adware, spyware (and for some, viruses) that people have to clear off their harddrive? That takes time, and, "Time is money." And with all the time I've spent doing that with IE..., let's just say with IE, you won't have any "Free time"

More brain fecal -

McDutchie (151611)

Sorry, "included in the package" still does not mean "free" as long as the package costs money, no matter how much the Microsoft monopoly wants you to believe otherwise.

Leaping lounge lizards, Batman! It's Microsoft again! They want you to think that the browser that already comes bundled with the operating system you already paid for is free, in an effort to subvert your use of a free oper... oh, wait.

Seriously, folks. Do we now have to dispute the fact that IE is free by most anyone's standard definition of free? IE is available for Mac and UNIX, free of end-user cost. It does not come bundled with the operating system. Ok, nevermind that. We don't want to get our hands dirty with things like "fact" when we can let ignorance and tin-foil theorizing reign supreme! Say I have Windows 95 or NT 4. They don't come bundled with IE, and I may download them free of charge. I really fail to see what this guy's underlying point is. Because it happens to be bundled with versions of Microsoft's Windows operating system does not magically undo the free-ness of it's availability on other platforms. Or perhaps he's saying that by virtue of paying for the platform that IE will run on, you've vicariously paid for it.

Deathanatos takes a more arguable approach. He argues that it's his TIME that has been hit hard. While I don't understand how anyone could ever spend more than 15 minutes locking down a vanilla install to a reasonable security level, you could certainly argue that IE does cost time. The problem with this argument is that, since we're no longer arguing monetary amounts, you could just as easily argue that FireFox or Mozilla or Opera costs time as well. It's up for debate. FireFox requires time to download (or compile), install and tweak.

Article : IE Shines On Broken Code

judmarc (649183) -

It encourages web authors to make pages that don't work in other (standards-compliant) browsers. But even MS is getting a bit tired of this, because (1) there are now plenty of pages that don't work even with IE (I encounter them all the time at work), and (2) all the error correction code helps to keep IE bloated and slow.

This is what is amazing to me - the inconsistency. Do we hate IE because it's insecure, or do we hate IE because they make an effort to not crash on malformed HTML? Which is it?

My overall point is this - people need to get over the fact that Microsoft Internet Explorer is not the highly-concentrated evil beacon of baby-killing that most Slashdot users paint it out to be. Most of Slashdot can't even string together an argument that works on any level. Sadly, these attempted arguments get modded up as "Insightful" or "Informative" by ignorant mods who would rather spread more FUD than question the legitimacy of the assertion. Internet Explorer is a mediocre browser. It's slow, it's bland and it's very difficult to tweak and customize. Developing for it has many unfavorable aspects. It is not, however, a cleverly disguised evil.exe waiting merely for your clicking to recruit you for the army of Microsoft.


Journal: My peculiar love/hate relationship with my Mac 1

Journal by MC Negro
I have an iMac G4 workstation. It's one of the cute ones with the little swivel flat-panel monitors. I've been using Mac OS X, off and on, for about a year and a half and must say that I think that, if Apple would market it better, it has serious potential in the desktop market. For me, anyway. And that's all I'm concerned about.

First, allow me to tell you a bit about my computer preferences and experiences --
  • I use Windows XP/2000 Professional as my primary desktop. I dual-boot XP Pro and Linux on my laptop, and all the workstation at my college are Windows 2000 Professional. I've made several attempts at trying to migrate over purely to Linux but simply couldn't because a few apps and "gotchas" (ACPI, etc...) were just keeping me in Windows.
  • I prefer BSD-style UNIX. Maybe it's because I was introduced to UNIX with SunOS4, but I prefer BSD-style UNIX. My server runs a hand-tuned FreeBSD 5.2.1 distribution and acts as a Samba primary domain controller, an NIS+ domain authentication service and a file server (and my testing grounds for all my mod_perl stuff under Apache). Current uptime of 50 days :-)
  • I prefer a minimalist window environment. Whenever I'm in Linux or doing some admin work on my BSD server, I use Blackbox. I originally used KDE, but it just got too cluttered and too memory-hogging.
  • Work != play. One thing that I want to make clear is that what I want in a FreeBSD server or Linux slave is not really what I want in a desktop. I don't want to run Apache from my desktop, nor do I wish to hack up my X install to play 3-D games. I boot in to *NIX because I want to get work or code development done. I boot in to Windows to play a round of UT or Q3A, do web design, write papers or use Photoshop. So I'm not looking for the utopian "all-in-one" package.

That said, here's my interesting relationship with my Mac OS X workstation

What I like About OS X

  • Eye-Candy. Mac OS X has eye-candy in spades. From the genie effect to transparent windows, anti-aliasing and smooth-dock, this environment comes decked out with more eye-candy than you can shake a stick at. I know much of what is done in OS X can be done in KDE or GNOME with some themes, some X tweaking and some patches, but that's the thing - why would I want to invest that much time in eye-candy when I could get it out of the box in OS X?
  • BSD-style UNIX at its heart. I cannot tell you how much I enjoy this. There are some caveats, but it's mostly good. File structure and library path follows the traditional path of BSD-style UNIX, and utilities behave how they should. Again, this comes with some problems, but it's mostly good.
  • X11 + Quartz WM = LUV. One of my favorite features of OS X is its ability to integrate X11 applications in to the native environment. The Quartz WM blends the X11 applications in seemlessly, even applying the genie effect to the windows. I can now run GIMP alongside Dreamweaver without having to use an emulated environment or a half-ass port of the GTK+ framework to Mac OS X. It's really nice.
  • Commercial Acceptance. It's nice to run native versions of applications , like AIM, Office, Photoshop and Dreamweaver. It's also nice to have things well-integrated within the operating system without any hacks needed. I've never been able to get Java working with FireFox under FreeBSD or Linux, and I've only been able to get it working once under Mozilla. Java works out of the box in OS X, as does SMB networking.
  • Community Acceptance. Perl, GCC, X, MySQL, Apache all have been ported to OS X. Thanks to the Fink project, programs can now be fetched and compiled in a pseudo-APT-GET kind of way. At the moment, my Mac OS X is compiling a KDE application called 'Kaptain'. Dependencies are resolved ad-hoc. I can now run gAIM, XMMS and GIMP , compiled from source, on my iMac. Pretty cool :-)
  • Security. Speaks for itself. Mac virii are few and far between, and most services are turned off by default.

What I Dislike about OS X

  • Abstract Mouse. I hate the "Apple Pro" mouse. Well, initially I did, anyway. I've gotten use to hitting the control-key whenever I need to right-click, but it's still annoying. This is more of the "different for the sake of being different" bullshit that Apple seems to love so much. A single-clicker mouse has no visible advantages over its multi-click brethren, save for maybe catering to those who lost 9 fingers in the Vietnam war. I wouldn't even so much mind a single-clicker mouse if it had a middle wheel or button. I've grown accustomed to copying and pasting with this little button, and its absence is very noticable to me when I use OS X. And yes, I know third-party mice can be used, but that's not the point.
  • Mythical Tales of Hardware Compatibility. I'm sure everyone remembers when Apple paraded their "switched" ads a year or two back. The commercial was contingent on the presupposition that everyone believed Windows would instantly lapse in to a the computational equivalent of an epileptic seizure if you even thought about installing a new piece of hardware. Enter the iMac - A utopian environment where hardware will not only work out of the box, it will also make you coffee, raise your children and find a cure for AIDS (and look damn snappy in the process.) So with this commercial burned in to the crevices of my cerebral cortex, I decided to put it to the test, which is to say, use a generic piece of hardware. I have a D-Link DWL-120+ USB wireless LAN adapter. It works plug-and-play in Windows, *BSD and the various flavors of Linux I've used. I was really expecting this to just work out of the box. I plug it in to find not only does it not work, OS X doesn't even see it. No device listing whatsoever. This pisses me off, because Windows at least lets me know when hardware is connected, even if it can't configure it. So I go on the Internet, looking for answers. I find some drivers from the Darwin project and various other projects on the net. All must be compiled from source. Needless to say, none of them would ever get past the initial compilation phases. Even after dependencies being resolved, they still wouldn't compile. Apple touts that Mac OS X "just works". Well, certainly not in this regard. It couldn't even configure or even FIND one of the most generic pieces of hardware avalaible.
  • File Structure. While a great deal of the file structure is compliant with the BSD way of doing things, some things are just plain not. I don't really understand why Apple did things this way. It would be very easy to just sym link /User Applications to /usr/local/bin/ or /Users to /usr/home/, but instead you end up with this mish-mash filesystem.
  • Simple Things Made Diffictult Apples control-panel is severely lacking. If anything beyond basic changes are needed, you best look elsewhere. I prefer the more traditional approach of just editing config files, but I can't really do that in OS X, because certain config files have been moved or aren't there. It's very annoying.
  • No Clear Upgrade Path for Carbon Apps. Migrating older Mac applications with the carbonlib layer really doesn't do much in the way of upgrade path. Migrating a Win32-based application to the .NET framework is a fairly trivial task (relatively speaking) for a seasoned programmer, but migrating from carbonlib to cocoa can be quite daunting, depending on how large the application is. Hell, migrating ANYTHING to cocoa is a task. Just look at the OOo Aqua project if you need further proof (delayed till 2006, by the way).

Those are my primary concerns with Mac OS X, but they're mostly non-existent for the non-geek. I think OS X could go somewhere beyond the journalist's desk or the graphic-design artist's table if Apple could highlight more of these benefits to the average consumer.

Linux Business

Journal: Gentoo died on a cross for your sins.

Journal by MC Negro
As I was browsing /. the other day, I came across yet another article that inadvertently turned into a Gentoo Praise-a-thon. Like most topics of the same nature, every Gentoo nerd crawled out from the cave they live in to sing praises to the first,er,second,er,well, one of the somewhat-original source-based distribution known as Gentoo. In addition to listing the previously unknown merits of the operating system, they of course offered up the first born child they will never have to the high God of Gentoo.

Now don't get me wrong; I love Gentoo. I've survived several installations of it, and love certain aspects of the operating system. It's really the community that I hate. Well, I lied. I hate part of the operating system as well. For the sake of carpal tunnel advocacy, let's list both of them for a thorough review --

Gentoo : The Operating System

I have no problem agreeing that Gentoo has some mighty fine features. Having a fresh portage tree and a selection of bleeding-edge software at your finger-tips is enough to make any penguin-hugger die in a pool of his own saliva. I also like the fact that Gentoo consistently has releases for non-x86 platforms, whereas most distros put non-x86 releases on the back-burner. +1 brownie point.
But, unless you're a cave-dwelling renegade against society (and have thus become totally oblivious to the Gentoo community), you've no doubt heard about the touted "emerge" feature of Gentoo. What is "emerge"? Well, emerge is a cute little program that takes an argument for an application, fetches the application, fetches the dependencies and compiles and installs it for you. Nice, huh? This is one of the "big guns" that the Gentoo evangelists will use against you. As anyone with a lick of perception would've guess, the majority of those who use "emerge" as a chip for bargaining have been totally oblivious to other efforts in the same vein that have been around for a hell of a lot longer than Gentoo. To be specific, Debian was an OG in the "RESOLVE-DEPENDENCIES-WHILE-U-WAIT-(FREE CABLE)" wars, with their wonderful tool, APT. APT does essentially what emerge does, except it fetches binaries instead of source. It's also available for other distros as well, not just Debian. But, since a 2% native-code speed gain is essential for all the jobs that a Gentoo user's task list entails, I've often had my Gentoo friends explain to me the manifold benefits of emerge over apt-get, and then proceed to expound on how Gentoo was truly innovative in the fine art of fetching source and resolving dependencies. I recall another breed of UNIX doing this long before Gentoo ever did. And with that OS, I don't have to recompile or apply patches every 2 weeks to prevent gross security exploits.

Again, don't get me wrong -- I love Gentoo. I just don't think it's nearly as innovative or as great as its proponents claim it to be.

Compiling from source does not make you a hacker.

Gentoo is for Ricers satirized the Gentoo community perfectly with its "Watching shit scroll by for hours makes me a Linux expert overnight!" tagline. I've come to the following conclusion -- either Gentoo users are extremely lazy or they are extremely naive and misinformed. In the case of the latter, often they will act as though some sort of other-worldly guru status is attained through watching programs compile. There's nothing really magical about watching make's output, which is why it baffles me when Gentoo whores act as though they've achieved the status of Linux guru because they were baby-stepped through an installation and subsequently emerged all the applications they needed. No brownie points or +1 respect modifiers. Write your own kernel, then we'll talk.

The other possibility is that they're just plain lazy. What the Hell is so hard about typing "./configure; make; make install; make clean"? Is Googling for a package really that hard? Is installing from a bundled CD just too much? Bah, willing to wait 4 days for a system to compile but when it comes to 5 minutes of Googling, it's just too much.

Gentoo : The Community

I detest the Gentoo community. I've got 3 friends who are constantly shoving Gentoo down my throat. It seems as though Gentoo users have been brainwashed into thinking that it is their personal responsibility to share the gospel of Gentoo with the unwashed masses. Some might call them "evangelists" for Gentoo. I prefer to call them "whores" for Gentoo. If they're not hijacking every Linux topic to start yet another irrelevant conversation on how problem x would be resolved with a simple "emerge" under Gentoo, they're preaching to you how Gentoo died for your many sins of installing an RPM-based distro.

Fundamentally, the problem with the Gentoo user community lies in this -- the vast majority of them are either whores or arrogant, misinformed morons. The two are not mutually exclusive. Everytime I read on /. or other forums where some Gentoo whore preaches about the "optimisations", I cringe, both from the spelling error and the knowing that the person most likely has no idea what an "optimisation" is. He's simply been recruited to preach about how great it is. Never let things like facts get in the way of good zealotry.

Indeed, this seems to be a bit of a weakness in most Gentoo advocates -- They don't actually know what the benefits of compiling native code are. They just know it's good. To Hell with however marginal it might be, IF YOU DON'T COMPILE EVERYTHING FROM SOURCE, YOU ARE NOT USING YOUR SYSTEM'S RESOURCES TO THE FULLEST EXTENT AND THUS ARE DAMNED TO HELL!!!
I recall one occasion where a fellow computer-science major (first year) was condemning me to Hell for using an RPM-based distro, laying down the law with such compelling arguments as "Gentoo is hardcore" and "Gentoo is faster" and "Gentoo is optimized". The first two aren't worth stepping to, but when I probed him on what exactly "optimized" entailed, I was met with a blank stare. As someone who's had the severe misfortune of working with Intel x86 assembly, I knew what he meant by optimization, but he, quite obviously, didn't. Is this kind of thing sounding familiar? It reeks of the ".NET will save our sins" arguments of a couple years ago, at least to me. Rather ironic that our Gentoo brethren have adopted the arguing skills from the disciples of the evil, archenemy of our Penguin Liberator.

Closing Thoughs

Personally, if I'm in no hurry to get a Linux system up and running, I'll use Slackware. Slackware doesn't have that hokey feel to it, but still compiles near everything from source. I haven't messed with Slackware since v. 8, so it's probably changed a bit since then. If you're looking for a source-based distro with some good documentation, I'd point you in that general direction, although LinuxFromScratch is great too if you've got the time.

My current system setup consists of the following --
  • Laptop -- SuSE 9.0 Professional / Windows XP Professional. SuSE has been a great distro for me. It has all the geek tools that I want (GCC3, perl, plethora of libraries and lots of IDEs) and the necessary tools I need to play in my university's Windows-based domain (samba client, LDAP tools, etc...)
  • FreeBSD 5.2.1 NIS/Samba PDC server. :-)
  • RedHat 7.1 fileserver
  • And one of these days I'll have my Linux router built :-)

"In matters of principle, stand like a rock; in matters of taste, swim with the current." -- Thomas Jefferson