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Journal Journal: What to do with OOXML files?

I just received my first OOXML file. I can't open it because I have not shelled out for Office 2007 -- and I had no plans to. OpenOffice is unable to open it and from what I've seen, the import filter is still a ways off.

I replied with a quick note to the sender that I can't open the file, but I'm not sure how my response will be met. After all, the sender paid good money for his shiny new Office 2007, and is not likely to downgrade nor to bother with saving in "inferior" formats. I'd like to put it to the community then: how do you plan to deal with the coming onslaught of OOXML files?

User Journal

Journal Journal: Hack the vote

I've been thinking about this a lot lately, and I've come to the conclusion that the best thing that could happen tomorrow is if the vote does get hacked. In a very obvious, blatant way. I don't care which way it goes -- all Republicrats or all Democans, it really makes no difference. But it needs to be a spectacular, in-your-face failure of the electronic infrastructure Diebold and friends have shoved down our throats for the last 6+ years, and the lax polling and vote counting procedures we've endured for decades. Voting needs to be open and verifiable, and there are lots of ways to do it. Here's one.

I hope a tremendous failure at the polls will piss off John and Jane Q. Public enough to demand real change and real accountability at all levels: federal, state, and local. Or maybe it won't. I hope it's not truly too late.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Evil Empire Redux

OK, so I think I've found a compromise I can live with. I became a beta tester for VMWare and found that their latest release candidate of WS 5.5 works marvelously under FC4, my current Linux distro. When it's fully released, I will definitely be sending them a check for licenses on both my desktop and my laptop.

I bought copies of XP Pro and Visio 2003 Pro off eBay for a decent price, sellers said they were from a defunct company that never used them. They appear to be authentic, and I have no reason to suspect otherwise. Either way, I figure at least I'm not *directly* supporting the Evil Empire.

I proceeded to install XP Pro in a virtual machine, and then ran Windows Update (good grief, how many fricken' times do I have to reboot??). Finally I installed Visio. I now have Windows in its own rubber room where it can't hose up my computer, and using shared host folders I can move data in and out of it easily. The VM is plenty fast enough for what I'm doing, though I don't think I'd want to try to run a FPS game in it (fortunately, there are some pretty good ones that run in Linux: My latest discovery is America's Army, and they have a native Linux client available for free download).

Anyway, my problem is solved for the time being, but I still feel kinda dirty touching Windows again.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Save me from the Evil Empire! 1

There are certain things in my line of work that are much easier to do under Windows. Nevertheless, for the last 5 years I've been a staunch Linux user and supporter, to the point where I've gone for several months at a time without running anything Microsoft on my hardware. I haven't bought any Microsoft software outright since before the year 2000, and though I realize that I'm just a drop in the ocean, I get a certain satisfaction from not supporting that business. I really want to continue to thumb my nose at the Evil Empire. I really, really do. However...

I need to start using Visio. Dia is barely a substitute, and will probably never be as robust. The time I waste clunking around in Dia is worth far more than the cost of a software license or three. I understand that Visio 2000 *might* run under Wine, but Wine has proved to me time and again that it can only run notepad reliably. Besides, I really need to read and write the latest Visio document format, Visio 2003, and there's not even a mention of that version in the Wine App DB or on CrossOver Office's website.

So now I'm thinking about Windows running Visio inside VMware on Linux. In keeping with my desire to not buy anything Microsoft if at all possible, I'm eying the laptop I purchased from my former boss. It has XP Pro already installed on it, along with Office and Visio 2003. Naturally, I shrank the Windows partition and dual-booted it with Fedora Core 4 as soon as I brought it home back in March. I want to convert that old Windows partition into a VMware image, but it's proving more technically difficult than I expected.

It seems I have four options:
1. Forget about it for a while and continue to use Dia instead.
2. Buy new copies of XP Pro and Visio 2003 so I can install them in a fresh VMware image.
3. Continue banging my head trying to convert the laptop physical image into a VMware one.
4. Run XP as the host OS on the laptop and install Linux as a VMware image.

Of these, number 4 is by far the least appealing. I spent a lot of time getting my laptop fully working with FC4 (yes, EVERYTHING, including wireless, bluetooth, suspend to memory, and hibernate to disk), and I truly believe it is more secure than Windows can ever be. I'm being upstaged by others who use Visio to make diagrams, so 1 is only an option for a limited time before there's real damage to my career. That leaves 2 and 3, and though I feel that I am morally entitled to continue using the licenses I already paid for when I bought the laptop, option 3 is a very deep rat hole which has already used up an entire Sunday.

I'm about to break down and buy new copies of XP Pro and Visio 2003, but I really don't want to. I'd love to hear any other suggestions about how I might approach this.

Journal Journal: Slashdot is rotting my mind

I've clearly been reading too many posts around here lately. I just caught myself mentally correcting a sentence with a comparison using the word "than", and somehow my mind thought it should have read "then"! What's next, "it's" to convey possession? Or god help me, ridiculous spelled with an E??? I'm afraid. Very afraid.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Changed my sig again

I came across a real gem while reading ESR's Cathedral and Bazaar last night. Here's the whole paragraph:

One thing many people think the traditional mode buys you is somebody to hold legally liable and potentially recover compensation from if the project goes wrong. But this is an illusion; most software licenses are written to disclaim even warranty of merchantability, let alone performance--and cases of successful recovery for software nonperformance are vanishingly rare. Even if they were common, feeling comforted by having somebody to sue would be missing the point. You didn't want to be in a lawsuit; you wanted working software.

In order to get it to fit into the sig field I had to paraphrase -- "Having somebody to sue is missing the point. You don't want a lawsuit; you want working software. -- ESR (paraphrased)" -- but I think it still hits the nail on the head.

I still believe the mod/karma system is broken, but the grim truth is that it probably won't change. Meanwhile, I think I'd rather evangelize the open source movement than grouse about something I have no control over.

User Journal

Journal Journal: What happened to my mod points?

Several weeks ago I changed my sig to "Mod/Karma system is broken. Make me a friend and I'll mod up your posts." Ever since then, I haven't received a single allotment of mod points (I was at one time getting them every week or so). Coincidence? Maybe.

But seriously, the system is broken. The time limit on mod points encourages busy moderators to throw their points at just about anything they can, knowing that if they don't use them up they'll be less likely to get more. The karma burn people get from being repeatedly modded up and down (consider what happens with the Funny mod) is just plain stupid.

As for my new sig, I'm keeping it. If I get mod points again, I'll be doing exactly what it says -- within reason. Basically I'll be scanning all my fans' and friends' comments first for potential up-mods. This means that as a fan or friend you get special consideration before everyone else, but it also means that if you're being a jackass you might get a down-mod. If I have any points left after that, I'll apply them to the general public.

At least this method doesn't just throw mod points at the first screen or two of comments on an article, leaving deeper comments untouched. At most, it might encourage the Slashdot programmers to rethink the system, especially if the idea catches on.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Lazy Moderators

I've all but given up on submitting stories; I've been rejected more times than I can count as an AC, and every story I've submitted as myself has also been rejected. Anyway, I think the topic submitting today is too important to just go into the bitbucket, so I'm posting it here also:

So I'm looking at Will Humanoid Robots Take All the Jobs by 2050?, and I see that the first 7 posts have all been moderated to +5. None of these posts are that insightful, informative, or funny, but I have a pretty good idea as to why they got modded up that high.

Under the current system, when mod points are handed out, the moderator gets 3 days to "use them or lose them". Furthermore, if the moderator doesn't use up his points, his chance of getting another allotment is decreased. Add to that the risk of getting negative karma for modding negatively, and it's pretty easy to see why the first several posts that are even remotely on topic always get modded up to ridiculous scores.

Some possible solutions that came to me are:

1. Eliminate the criterion that shuts off the flow of mod points to those who don't use them up. People go on vacation, or get busy with other things in life, and don't always have the time to apply their mod point allotments. Why penalize them for this?

2. Only the most extreme cases of abuse should result in penalties for modding negatively. Maybe this is already so, but the moderator community needs to be reassured that they won't get penalized when they mod down something that's been modded too high.

3. Create some sort of incentive for deep moderation. Perhaps mod points applied to posts deeper than the first 50 would only subtract half a point from the moderator's allotment.

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