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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?

Nothing is more admirable than the fortitude with which millionaires tolerate the disadvantages of their wealth. -- Nero Wolfe

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