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Journal: Iraqis angry with America in streets, Rumsfeld confused

Journal by melonman

A few days after the 'we saved a country in three weeks and everyone loves us for it' euphoria, reality is starting to set in. See here for example:

Hundreds of Iraqis have been demonstrating in the centre of Baghdad demanding urgent action to combat the wave of lawlessness that has swept the city.

British academics are arguing that the UK and the US are in breach of the Geneva Convention by not assuring the maintenance of law and order (you may remember that the US administration was very concerned about this convention a week ago).

And it is patently obvious that Rumsfeld just doesn't get it:

"Free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things," he told reporters.

"I don't think there is anyone in those pictures or any human being who does not prefer to be free and recognise that you have passed through a transition period like this and accept it as part of the price of getting from a repressed regime to freedom."

There is more to freedom than regime change. Death or major mutilation because you happen to be eating in a restaurant where Saddam Hussein wasn't is not freedom. Watching your baby die because the incubator has been looted from the hospital is not freedom. Yes, most Iraqis are pleased that Saddam's regime has gone, but unless the coalition can deliver law and order, food and water, electricity and infrastructure in the next few days, that joy will turn to bitterness, and they will conclude that the Bush Party is no more to be trusted than the Baath Party.

And the Rumsfeld-Bush line of "it's your country, have fun running it, goodbye and see you at the superbowl" is guaranteed to create the worst case scenario. You can't remove the entire civil service from a country, along with a lot of the infrastructure, and then walk away. That's why it's against the Geneva Convention.

Out of interest, is Fox showing any of this in the States, or is it still Marines crossing bridges and those few no-longer celebrating Iraqis of a week ago?

Red Hat Software

Journal: Cybercafe goes to Redhat 8

Journal by melonman

This week was network upgrade time. We reformatted our server that had been running RH7.3 and installed RH8. In the process, we also changed browsers and office suite.

It all went a lot more smoothly than last time, mainly I think because we knew what the potential problems were this time around, and we were serving customers within 3 working hours of putting in the CDs.

Things I like about the new setup:

  • RH8 looks a lot nicer than any other version of Linux I have seen. I guess it looks more like Windows, but then that doesn't upset our customers too much.
  • We found the rpm for getting embedded Acroread within Gecko browsers, which is going to save us a lot of messing around.
  • We upgraded from ccmsn to amsn, which seems to work somewhat better and look a lot more like the M$ version
  • We now have a browser running in French.
  • We finally set up a system to clean up user accounts after each login, which means no more porn on the desktop and no more saved passwords (or, once, credit card details)
  • Java 1.4.1 seems to work a lot better than whatever I had before, especially for chat clients.

Things I am less impressed with:

  • Phoenix, which I generally find to be wonderful, blows up consistently on the French Yellow Pages site, which meant I ended up installing Galeon instead.
  • Galeon seems to seg fault if people click more than once on the icon bar icon, which of course all Windows users do
  • Open Office seems to die permanently if you double click, and the only solution I have found is to delete the .openoffice directory, which is not exactly convenient. I'm going to write a short wrapper script to detect double clicks...
  • The cp command doesn't seem to work as advertised in man!!! Force doesn't, and it doesn't seem to copy dot files. I ended up writing my own copy routine in Perl...

Still, on balance, I think we have a better system than we had before, and the punters seem to like it, which is what pays the bills :-)

Spam

Journal: Why I hate pop-ups more than spam

Journal by melonman

So there I am typing away, and suddenly my server starts grinding to a halt. I trace the problem to client account 3, I have a look at his terminal, and, 4 windows behind the one he is looking at, there is a pop-up ad with some wonderful javascript-enabled animated gif thingey whirring away in the background. The trouble is that this ie enough to pretty well saturate the local network and tie up the server.

On the other hand, deleting spams takes me a few seconds a day. If it became a problem I would set up a filter, but, for the moment, it just isn't worth it.

Why don't I block pop-ups? Because a lot of sites used by my clients use them for legitimate purposes. The AOL site is a classic (and annoying) example. In a cybercafe, the last thing you want is to have to teach your clients to reconfigure the system. Some people will never get it, and the ones that do will promptly reconfigure everything else Because They Can.

So I'm all for making pop-up ads illegal, and sending the spam merchants a Christmas card...

User Journal

Journal: My first fan

Journal by melonman

At last it happened! Well, it would have been nice to have my first fan before my first freak, but such is life.

Wish I knew what all this friend and foes stuff was about though. As far as I can tell, the main way you make friends on /. is to violently disagree with someone for a while. Very odd. But probably ressuring. It's nice that people can disagree without feeling the need to blow each other up.

User Journal

Journal: Cyber displacement activity

Journal by melonman

Mentioned my slashdot habit to the wife. Big mistake. I keep telling her that this is important research, keeping up to date with issues of burning importance, but she insists I'm frittering my day away. That's women for you...

Of course what I'm really frittering my day away doing is

  • replying to emails that don't really need answers
  • Reorganising my filing system
  • Reorganising my email folders
  • Setting up filters to reorganise my email folders
  • Trying to work out where all my email has been filed by the filters

And so on. Which is not actually wasted time at all, it's an investment for the future. Honest.

The Internet

Journal: What is it about chat anyway?

Journal by melonman

I suppose I would stand more chance of fixing my webchat problems if I ever used any of these sites myself. I've tried, I really have, but I always seem to end up watching 74 illiterate 13 year-olds having a swearing contest.

Well, I did spend a few hours on the ltsp chat line once. Didn't manage to solve my problem, but I helped a couple of people who understood ltsp even less than I did to get started. Which made me feel very good about myself. Until I realised that it was 3:30am and I had to go to work the following day....

Maybe this chat thing works better if you meet up with people you already know. But for the people who would fall into this category in my case, swapping emails seems to work. Sure, the answers take a bit more time to arrive, but at least there is some hope of the content of the messages making sense.

Or maybe I'm just too old. My parents persist in writing emails that look like letters. Maybe I'm trying to use chat as email.

Or maybe chat just sucks and my clients haven't noticed yet :-)

Linux

Journal: Why do my browsers keep dying?

Journal by melonman

Good day in the cybercafe. All ten ltsp terminals at work, including 2 copies of Star Office and 4 java chat sessions. 85% CPU usage. Whatever that means, but the result was that everything was slooooow. Maybe I'll see if Father Xmas can get me a new CPU.

Rather less sanguine about the fact that java chat sessions are so flakey. I really don't get it, as

  • Some days everything works fine, other days the sessions fall over every 32 minutes
  • Sites seem to go through phases of not working. Yahoo went through a not working phase for a week a while back, fine now. Caramail is the most popular, and the most random
  • In the case of Caramail (very popular French site, only works with NS4), I can have one user for whom it works like a dream sitting next to another user for whom it won't work at all, or freezes every 4 mouseclicks.

The customers have all sorts of theories about which machines work the best, but since they disagree about which machines to go for I'm not convinced. Our one disked terminal does seem better, sometimes. It's not the famous mozilla flash problem: fixed it with crossover plugins. Seems to get worse when the machine is busier, or is the machine busy because of all the dead and decaying java?

Still, I guess life would be dull if our computers were as deterministic as they are supposed to be...

"Irrationality is the square root of all evil" -- Douglas Hofstadter

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