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Journal Journal: Ask a subset of /.: IT reality check 11

I need a technical reality check here.

I am currently under direction to set up some interation with a service that provides automated appointment reminders by phone. The information I'm to share with these people is HIPAA-protected information.

The setup process has been rocky: first the technician I'm working on didn't seem to understand the difference between FTP and SFTP, then he - after giving me my login information to their SFTP server by phone - did me the courtesy of e-mailing the password to me. Great.

So today I'm getting into their management interface website for the first time. It's IE-only, but whatever. It needs an ActiveX control to display properly. Okay, fine. The ActiveX auto-downloader doesn't work, so the technician directs me to a downladable EXE that installs the necessary components. My hackles go up, but it's a secure site so I fetch it. I ran the thing and it's unsigned, but again it came from a https site and that's not so uncommon, so I continue.

But the damn thing is trying to change some DLLs and/or OCX files in use by my Practice Management application... something far more critical than this reminder service. And what the hell is a website doing messing with DLL and OCX files, anyway?

So questions:

When's the last time y'all interacted with a website that requires messing around on the DLL/OCX level of your windows system?

I do not trust these people. Every It instinct I have tells me that if I use this service, I am going to end up reading abbout my own HIPAA data loss in the paper. Am I just being too paranoid, or does it seem like there's really something wrong here?


Journal Journal: Ask a subset of /.: VMWare and iSCSI enclosures

Any volunteers to have their brains picked about VMWare deployments and/or iSCSI disk enclosures?

Looking to move to iSCSI network storage, something in the neighborhood of 1.5TB of RAID 5. (Max of 3TB within five years.) EqualLogic looks good to me, except that Dell just bought them, sigh. Anyone know anything awful about them? Anything wonderful about someone else?

After that, I'll be looking to roll all my servers - including an MSSQL 2003 server and some applications on it - up into VMWare. Anyone have some lessons learned they'd like to share?

It's funny.  Laugh.

Journal Journal: The things we do for Science 4

"Professor Gert Holstege and colleagues asked 13 heterosexual couples aged 19-49 to take part in an experiment. One half of the couple was asked to lie down, with their head inside a scanner, while their partner stimulated them manually to achieve orgasm. To aid the mood, the room lighting was dimmed and all noise distractions shut out. The couples then switched positions and the experiment was repeated. [...] The women were also asked to fake an orgasm so that these scan results could be compared with those taken during genuine orgasms. There were obvious differences. Professor Holstege said: 'Women can imitate orgasm quite well.'" More at the BBC.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Holiday Traditions...? 2

It has just come to my attention that something I thought was a US-wide tradition maybe isn't. Who else out there gives out chocolate-covered cherries for Washington's Birthday?


Journal Journal: A nice thing about Slashdot 10

One nice thing about Slashdot is that - so far as I know - user accounts are not subject to being administratively banned. I had taken that liberty for granted.

Recently, I am sad to say, I have come to appreciate* that as a truly excellent feature of this site. I hope I will not take it for granted again.

[*: No, I'm not going to elaborate; it's not my story to tell. Besides, there's a long and distinguished tradition of /. journal entries that only make sense to people who already know WTF happened. It seems to be my turn to uphold it.]

User Journal

Journal Journal: Ask the subset of Writers 6

A friend of mine* is starting to write again after a loooong hiatus. She's looking for a place to post her writings online, and is considering MySpace.**

Anyone have any suggestions for writer-focused sites or online writing circles?

[*: No really.]
[**: And Multiply, but she's leaning MySpace.]


Journal Journal: Ruh-roh.

When the local paper carried a story about some folks being arrested for public indecency, I didn't spare it a glance. That's not really news I can use, thanks.

But some folks at work read it, and one of them pointed out that one of the fellas pictured is a former co-worker of ours. Even that wouldn't be any sort of big deal at all to me, had his mugshot not shown him wearing one of our company t-shirts... with our logo prominently displayed.


I guess it's a right handy thing that we recently changed our logo, and he was wearing the old one.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Terrorist on trial!

A spokesman for Pontius Pilate informed the Jerusalem News that the accused threatened to overthrow the government and replace it with his own kingdom. "We took a strong stand, because the threat was both broad and deep," said Marcus Spartacus, from Pilate's office. "The sedition laws are clear and will be enforced vigorously."

Well, not really. Or not lately, anyway. It's a lovely bit of wordsmithing from Groklaw all the same. PJ wasn't talking about terrorists, just SCO and their press relations. But it's a great example of the importance of knowing the bias of an information source.

United States

Journal Journal: Defense supplemental 4

U.S. Army leaders warned members of Congress that, unless the 2007 supplemental spending bill is passed, the service is heading toward financial crisis.

Without the supplemental, "it will be dire straights for the Army," Gen. Richard Cody, U.S. Army vice chief of staff, said at an April 17 hearing of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee. [...]

"I am also frustrated we don't get our appropriations on time," Cody told lawmakers. "Our troops deserve better. We're throttle-back, and the last place we want to scale back is Afghanistan and Iraq." [...]

The $124 billion 2007 emergency supplemental bill is currently stalled by a disagreement between Congress and the White House. The Democrat-controlled Congress has attached a troop withdrawal deadline for U.S. forces fighting in Iraq to the legislation, a measure President George W. Bush has said he will veto.

It's a crisis. If the Democratic Congress doesn't appropriate some more money for the war - doesn't give the President a bill he can sign - then by June the DoD will run out of money with which to continue the war. Here's the Democratic party failing the troops, just like so many people expected they would.

But... there's something odd. Didn't the last, Republican-controlled Congress pass a budget for fiscal year 2007? By, gum, they did:

In Congress' last week in session, the House and Senate passed a final version of the fiscal 2007 Defense Appropriations bill, totaling $436.5 billion, according to the conference report.

The bill, which sets spending limits for the military, includes a $70 billion bridge fund for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Bridge fund? Oh, right. This war is not on the budget. It's being paid for thorough a series of supplemental appropriations. Of course, the President, not wanting to leave the troops at the mercy of Congressional politics, he must have asked for enough for a whole year of warfighting, right?

* Provides $439.3 billion for the Department of Defense's base budget--a 7-percent increase over 2006 and a 48-percent increase over 2001--to maintain a high level of military readiness, develop and procure new weapon systems to ensure U.S. battlefield superiority, and support our servicemembers and their families;
* Requests $50 billion in 2007 bridge funding to support the military's Global War on Terror efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq into 2007; [...]

Wait... what?

Gosh, it looks like that Republican Congress gave the President even more money to fight the war than he asked for... 140% of his request.

So why is it that the warfighters are almost out of money? Why do we have this crisis? Didn't someone see this expense coming? Why didn't anyone ask that money for the war be placed in the regular DoD budget? Didn't anyone complain about the off-budget method of financing the war?

How about the New York Times, May 8 2006:

President George W. Bush is trying to score unearned points for fiscal rectitude by railing against the Senate's outsize $109 billion supplemental spending package, which includes money for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as hurricane relief. But the real scandal is Bush's own preference for financing much of the cost of the Iraq war outside the normal budget process. That is convenient for the administration, which does not have to count the money when it is pretending to balance the budget. But Iraq is not some kind of unexpected emergency, like Hurricane Katrina. It is a highly predictable cost, now amounting to about $100 billion a year, or just under 20 percent of total military spending.

How about John Kerry in 2004:

Despite all we are asking of the men and women in uniform, the bill we now debate appropriates $87 billion simply by increasing the Federal deficit. It asks no sacrifice of anybody in the United States today who can afford it. This is an off-budget, deficit-spending free ride.

Heck, even the BBC got in on it:

The Bush administration has chosen to finance the war by off-budget emergency supplemental appropriations, rather than include Iraq spending in the budget sent to Congress.

It was only after the war began, on 25 March 2003, that President Bush asked for $75bn extra to pay for the initial costs of the war.

And it was more than six months later before the next supplemental appropriation, for another $87bn, was made.

That has reduced the political flack over appropriations for the war - and has also meant that the war spending does not formally count as part of the budget deficit in the future.

And that deficit is predicted to exceed $500bn this year.

According to economics professor William Nordhaus of Yale University, these costs are "a significant burden on the federal budget, another straw on the camel's back".

"The major problem is the Bush administration's unwillingness to face up to the need to finance any of the additional costs, whether the war in Iraq, homeland security, or most important of all the new Medicare provisions," he says.

"Like a teenager who gets further in debt on a credit card, the Bush administration is racking up costs that will have to be paid in the future in higher taxes or lower government programs.

"The fiscal irresponsibility is really awesome."

You know what, Mr. President? I don't want to hear about what you're willing to sign any more. You got us into this mess. And by mess I don't mean the war... I mean the shoddy and, to be blunt, the deceptive way you have chosen to ask for funds for this war. There's a funding crisis now not because the Democrats are recalcitrant, but because you chose to finance the war using off-budget supplemental spending requests. If we were talking about a supplemental just for the surge, that'd be one thing - the surge was not really expected. But you're financing the whole damn war this way, and in the main the costs for this war have been reasonably predictable.

You're the one who has made the funding for this war more of a political football. If you'd budgeted for this war properly, honestly, there would be money to pay through October already... and you could have got it from a Congress controlled by your own party.

You screwed up, Mr. President, and now your screwup has placed your ability to run the war as you please at the mercy of an unfriendly Congress. It's your own damn fault, so stop whining.

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