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User Journal

Journal Journal: in which i am a noob all over again 17

I haven't posted a journal here in almost three years, because I couldn't find the button to start a new entry. ...yeah, it turns out that it's at the bottom of the page.

So... hi, Slashdot. I used to be really active here, but now I mostly lurk and read. I've missed you.

User Journal

Journal Journal: a return which is long overdue (plus achievements!) 17

I've lurked at /. without posting for ages, mostly because I just don't have the time to interact like I used to.

But I've been clicking through the old RSS feed more and more lately, and when I saw the PAX Plague thread today, I came over to comment, since I'm kind of affected by the whole damn thing. I thought I'd take a look around since I haven't been here in awhile, and I saw that there are freaking ACHIEVEMENTS associated with our accounts. It's silly, and I'm sure it's been here forever, but I thought it was awesome and I was delighted when I read it.

I didn't realize how much I missed Slashdot until I spent some time here today, and I bet that anyone who joined in the last 2 years doesn't even give a shit about my stupid comments or anything, but it felt good to come back here, and feel safely among my people again.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Announcing the release of my new book 22

This feels like a mega-spam entry, and I'm very self conscious about posting it, but I'm excited about this and I wanted to share . . .

I just published my third book, The Happiest Days of Our Lives. I mention it here because it's all about growing up in the 70s, and coming of age in the 80s as part of the D&D/BBS/video game/Star Wars figures generation, and I think a lot of Slashdot readers will relate to the stories in it.

I published a few of the stories on my blog, including Blue Light Special. It's about the greatest challenge a ten year-old could face in 1982: save his allowance, or buy Star Wars figures?

After our corduroy pants and collared shirts and Trapper Keepers and economy packs of pencils and wide-ruled paper were piled up in our cart, our mom took our three year-old sister with her to the make-up department to get shampoo and whatever moms buy in the make-up department, and my brother and I were allowed to go to the toy department.

"Can I spend my allowance?" I said.

"If that's what you want to do," my mom said, another entry in a long string of unsuccessful passive/aggressive attempts to encourage me to save my money for . . . things you save money for, I guess. It was a concept that was entirely alien to me at nine years old.

"Keep an eye on Jeremy," she said.

"Okay," I said. As long as Jeremy stood right at my side and didn't bother me while I shopped, and as long as he didn't want to look at anything of his own, it wouldn't be a problem.

I held my brother's hand as we tried to walk, but ended up running, across the store, past a flashing blue light special, to the toy department. Once there, we wove our way past the bicycles and board games until we got to the best aisle in the world: the one with the Star Wars figures.

I'm really proud of this book, and the initial feedback on it has been overwhelmingly positive. I've been reluctant to mention it here, because of the spam issue, but I honestly do think my stories will appeal to Slashdotters.

After the disaster with O'Reilly on Just A Geek, I've decided to try this one entirely on my own, so I'm responsible for the publicity, the marketing, the shipping, and . . . well, everything. If this one fails, it will be because of me, not because a marketing department insisted on marketing it as something it's not.

Of course, I hope I can claim the same responsibility if (when?) it finds its audience . . . which would be awesome.


Journal Journal: i need a new computer - advice? 29

Simple tasks like switching between Firefox and Thunderbird are driving the load on my machine up over 4, and if I'm trying to run Amarok at the same time, it drives it up to 8. In fact, my machine frequently climbs up into the 7-9 range, bringing my apps to a crawl and frustrating the hell out of me.

So I've decided it's time to buy a new computer. I'm going to replace my aging Sony Vaio desktop machine (which runs Linux) with something newer that has more RAM, a faster processor, and a bigger hard drive.

The thing is, I'm not entirely sure where to start looking. A quick walk through Circuit City a month or so ago lead me to believe I can get a rather "big" computer for as low as five hundred bucks, which further leads me to believe that if I were to buy something online, I can get a huge pile of RAM, a fast processor, and a big honkin' hard drive for even less.

I run Kubuntu, and use KDE as my desktop (though I occasionally switch to Gnome when I get bored) and I mostly use Firefox, Thunderbird,, Amarok, and run PokerStars in wine. I'm looking for something that can do all of that without slowing my machine to a crawl.

Anyone have any suggestions on where to start looking?

Edit: I don't think I have the patience to build my own machine out of individual parts. I also don't have any real loyalty to any particular company or architecture. New Egg has lots of machines with AMD processors, and though I've always had Intel processors because more things seemed to run on x86, that's not as much of an issue as it once was, right?


Journal Journal: Oil Industry-sponsored FUD at Slashdot? 12

I am absolutely stunned that Slashdot's editors would give credibility to a completely false story, pushed by a paid industry PR professional. As Rugrat said,

The "article" is not an article, but a press release written by an employee of a public affairs company.

"Tom Harris is mechanical engineer and Ottawa Director of High Park Group, a public affairs and public policy company."

For a website that spends so much time and energy combating FUD from Microsoft, and the MPAA and RIAA, it is baffling that FUD that was paid for and is pushed by the oil industry would make the front page here.

Come on, Slashdot. You can do better.


Journal Journal: So, About Dapper . . . 24

For the last year or so, I've been happily using Debian, with a mixture of sources so I was stable, but current, just like nearly everyone who uses Debian.

Then I tried to upgrade or something insane like that, using aptitude, and the whole thing went tits up on me. No amount of cussing, kicking things, or actual tinkering with the software could save my machine.

I thought about asking for some advice in the Debian forums, or on one of the lists, until I ran out of fingers in my entire family tree to count the times someone said some variant of, "Shut up, noob! Your stoopid and not leet leik I am! Go back to Winblows! Ha! HA! HA!!!1"

Yeah. Guess I'm not venturing into those waters, so I figured I'd just have to grab my network install CD and start over (luckily, I set up /home on its own partition a long time ago, so if I fuck something up really bad, I don't lose all my porn very important data.

The day I planned to reinstall Debian, I read that Dapper Drake had been released, and everyone loved it so much, they totally wanted to marry it. A friend of mine, who is wise in the ways of science and the air speed velocity of unladen swallows has also been singing the praises of Ubuntu for a long, long time, so I grabbed a Live CD to see what all the fuss was about.

Holy shit. What an awesome bit of work it is! It's the first Linux distro to find every single bit of hardware on my old Sony Vaio desktop machine, including all the USB ports. It looked great, too, and was the most "Mac-like" Linux I've ever used.

I realize that a lot of you are mocking me right now, but listen for a second: I'm not interested in hacking on my kernel to make sure something is detected during boot, or modifying all sorts of settings in a text editor just so I can make the damn thing find my camera . . . and don't get me started about CUPS. I love technology, and I love and fully believe in "free" as in speech, and I'm grateful for free as in beer. But also really into "works," as in just does. And on my machine here, Dapper Drake just works, and it's awesome. This is the Linux distro that I can take to my parents, and to my friends who are drowning in a sea of FUD, and convince them that they don't really have to be part of the Borg if they don't want to.

And ultimately, I believe that has to be our goal if we're going to convince people to give Linux a real, serious try as an alternative to Windows. We need to be able to tell them, with confidence, "Put this CD in your machine, and give it a try. I think you'll like it, because it just works."

User Journal

Journal Journal: I got my mac!

Hooray! A year and two months after my last journal entry, in which I noted my desire for a mac, I finally purchased one. A brand new 12" PowerBook is now at home on my coffee table, waiting for me to play more with it. :) I'm excited - can't wait to start using Xcode and AppleScript. :)

User Journal

Journal Journal: You have to be kidding me... 5

Bush to lead inquiry into Katrina

George didn't have time to help deal with the problem itself as it happened, he was too busy holidaying (day one) and fundraising for the Republican Party (day two), but now that it's all blown up in his face he's "going to find out over time what went right and what went wrong."

Here's what went wrong George: YOU did.
Your presidency has been one joke after another and now you've managed to top it all by sitting on your ass whilst your people died. Sure, other things went wrong too, but YOU are the President of the United States of America, YOU are the one in the White House (well, you are when you can be bothered to show up for work), and it's YOU who should be saying "the buck stops here".

Of course you don't want to "play the blame game", because you know that YOU are very much to blame. It's the failings of YOU as an individual (it's called "leadership", George) and YOUR administration that has cost thousands of lives that need not have been lost.

Yes, there are other people who have failed the citizens of New Orleans, of Louisiana in general and its neighbouring states, but it is YOU who is ultimately responsible. Yes, some death was unavoidable, but YOU were asleep at the wheel despite all the warnings and it's YOU whose hands are covered in blood. It's YOU who are a disgrace to your office, your country, and, ultimately, your people.

Compassionate conservative? Try showing some compassion then, and I don't mean just for the cameras.

To anyone who thinks I'm being too harsh on the man, well, on his watch he has:

1. Sat around in a classroom whilst his nation was clearly under attack;
2. Attacked a sovereign state and started what's (under international law) an illegal war on what proved to be patently false info, and reduced it to near anarchy; and
3. Failed to act for days when faced with the worst natural disaster to ever hit the US (something I bet he wouldn't have done if the state concerned was Texas, or if this was an election year).

Sorry, but to me that's three strikes. As far as I'm concerned, you should be out George (well, as far as I'm concerned, you should have been out a long time ago) and if you had any real honour you would have tendered your resignation already (and so would a great many of your disgraceful administration).

I'm sure some revisionist historians will paint a pretty picture of you, George, and talk of the "great" President George W. Bush, but I'm sure many more will agree with me: you are, without a doubt, the worst President ever.

You played, while other people paid. With their lives.


Journal Journal: play poker for a good cause on sunday july 17th 6

(Cross-posted to WWdN)

The final table of the 2005 World Series of Poker started at 4pm yesterday afternoon, and wasn't finished until just after 7am today. I'm not sure, but I think that's a record. I'd call Pauly to be sure, but something tells me he's crashed out until at least Sunday.

Two qualifiers from PokerStars made the final table, and one guy, who qualified using free play points, made it to the final two tables, finished in 13th place, and won $400,000. Not bad for a freeroll!

Speaking of Pauly and PokerStars, we're doing a charity tournament on Sunday in memory of Pauly's friend Charlie Tuttle:

Charlie is from Clarksville, Tennessee and he's a twenty-six year old music enthusiast who loves hanging out and playing poker with his friends. Charlie was dealt a bad hand in life when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer, which he has been battling this past year. A couple of weekends ago, he was hospitalized because two tumors in his chest pressed up against his lungs, causing him breathing problems. I don't have to tell you how serious his condition was.

Felicia Lee, who is fighting her own battle with cancer, knows several top professional poker players, so she got several of her friends to call Charlie: John Juanda, Marcel Luske, Max Pescatori, and Barry Greenstein to name a few. In fact, when Barry Greenstein won his bracelet in the $1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha event, he dedicated it to Charlie.

As Pauly wrote:

Situations like this one make you reassess what's really important in life. Las Vegas is a city built on greed. Poker is a game that often attracts some of the lowest forms of life. However, in the past two weeks, there has been a small group of professional poker players who have earned my respect and admiration. Amidst all the darkness and debauchery, I have caught a few glimpses of the bright side of humanity. The hearts of some of the biggest sharks in Las Vegas are filled with compassion.

Thank you, Charlie, for inspiring us all. We'll never forget you.

Charlie passed away on June 22 and his friends have organized a charity poker tournament this Sunday at PokerStars. It's going to be a lot of fun, and I hope to see lots of WWdN readers there.


18:00 EDT (15:00 CDT)
Buy-in is $20 — all of it goes to charity.
"WPBT Charlie Tournament" under Tourneys -> Private tab in the lobby

The Internet

Journal Journal: a little help? 28

I'm sure this is just begging for vandalism (unless those douchebags have grown up and finally kissed a girl) . . . but there is an error on my Wikipedia page that needs to be corrected. I'd do it myself, but that's against Wikipedia editing policy.

I am not in Brother Bear. Willie Wheaton, Wil Wheaton, Jr., and Reginald Maudling (Mrs.) are all not me. I've tried to get this taken off imdb, but someone (well-intentioned, I'm sure) keeps putting it back, and Wikipedia editors (also well-intentioned) are putting Brother Bear back up . . . so we're in an infinite improbability loop, and my towel is getting dirty.

Would someone please correct that, and cite this journal entry so it doesn't get corrected back?

Lord of the Rings

Journal Journal: King for a day... 4

Just imagine you were King for the day. What would you do? What wrongs would you try to put right? What ills would you seek to cure? How would you change the world around you for the better?

I ask this on the eve of the second US Presidential candidate debate. Bush and Kerry are seeking election to the ultimate throne of power, and one of them will eventually be King for four years - 1461 days - so I'll be watching tonight to see their duel of words.

The President of the United States is as close as anyone has been to being ruler of the planet. He- and it's always a he, and he's always a white christian - has the power to affect every living person on the face of the Earth, be it a schoolkid in downtown Detroit or an African tribeswoman on the edge of the Sahara. He has more power and more influence on the world than Caesar, than Alexander the Great, than Ghengis Khan, than any of the Holy Roman Emperors, than Napoleon, than Hitler, than Stalin.

Fortunately, such power isn't anyone's to take. It must be given, and it must be given democratically. So, to those of you who can vote in this election and who haven't made up their minds as to who to vote for, I say this: watch the debate, and the subsequent one, and pick the candidate who you believe will do the most to put wrongs right, the most to cure ills and the most to make the world a better place.

The Matrix

Journal Journal: Am I letting life pass me by? 3

Am I letting life pass me by? Have I not made the most of my youth or my opportunities?

(Warning: If at anytime you're feeling bored with what's below, or - ironically - just plain lazy, then console yourself in knowing that following six paragraphs are loosely summed up by my parting sentence. Read on or skip them: it's your decision.)

I ask these rhetorical questions here because I seem to ask myself them with alarming frequency. I've squandered a lot of opportunities through apathy, ignorance and laziness, and I've had a lot more stolen from me as a result of what was at one point a life-threatening illness.

Striking whilst the iron is hot hasn't ever exactly been my forte, thanks to the one-two combination of indolence and sheer bad luck. But I'd like to change that, and I'd like to start changing it now. Yet looking at the past and reliving it is a burden that I can't seem to shake: the ethereal emotional baggage of living with the knowledge of what might have been and what should have been is as much of an obstacle as anything more material. What holds me back is as much mental fortitude as it is physical strength.

When I started writing journal entries I said that I wasn't going to write anything of a personal nature in them, but I guess that that self-imposed rule has, to some extent, now gone out of the window. So, I ask you - well, I ask all two of you that are bothering to read these words that, even as I type them, sound like drivel - just what do you do to get back into the saddle when you feel that life's tossed you out of it?

How do you motivate and empower yourself to achieve your goals when you feel that motivation and empowerment themselves have deserted you? How do you get the will to pick yourself up off the ground when life seems to continually knock you to the ground and then repeatedly kick you when you're down there?

What started this introspection-cum-appeal, was reading a BBC News article about the death of funk singer Rick James, and the sudden death of a close relative, both from heart attacks. The two men had nothing in common (definitely not nine kinds of drugs in their system), apart from the rather salient fact that they both lived life to the full, which is more than anyone would be able to say of me if I were to drop down dead today.

I'm not suicidal or anywhere close to it, but I do want to emulate these men, at least in their full appreciation for life up until their dying breaths. I feel like a runner, in a desperate race against the clock, falling at every hurdle, retarded by life's maybes and should-have-beens, and I want to feel like a runner in full stride and with an open road ahead of him.

What it boils down to is that I want to be Forrest Gump. I really do.

United States

Journal Journal: I see that Bush wants less US reliance on oil imports... 2

I see that Bush wants less US reliance on oil imports: "To create jobs, we will make our country less dependent on foreign sources of energy", he said in his recent speech at the 2004 Republican Party convention.

So then, Dubya, when exactly do you plan on announcing that Iraq has become the 51st state? You sure have created enough American jobs there (especially for your oil industry friends at Halliburton, etc), and we all know that Iraq has the world's second largest oil reserves. So I guess adding Iraq to the Union is just a formality now.

After all, once Iraq's part of the family, Iraqi oil won't be imported, will it? It'll just be domestically produced, just like the oil from Texas. Finally, after all those fruitless years with Harken*, Dubya will be able to say he's struck oil!

So, expect the official announcement any day now. I wonder what the Iraqi state bird will be?

(*Fruitless for most Harken stock holders, but not for Dubya, who violated SEC rules by failing to publicly report his sale of Harken stock before it plummeted from $3 to $1 after disasterous losses. But, hey, when your Daddy's the President you can do what you damn like. Remember, rules are for little people.)


Journal Journal: When you see moderation like this happening... 5

When you see moderation like this happening, then you know that someone is abusing the moderation system for his or her own nefarious reasons.

Let me elaborate.

A few days ago, I posted this comment to a frontpage story. The story summary was completely inaccurate because it twice mentioned ZDNet when the actual culprit was Ziff-Davis media, which is now a totally unrelated company with totally seperate ownership.

Now, it doesn't take a genius (not that I'm claiming to be one) to realise that when you accuse someone of doing something that they didn't do then you're screwing up. And it doesn't take a genius to realise that when you do that sort of thing in public then you're slandering them (if it's speech) or libelling them (if it's in print). Furthermore, it doesn't take a genius to realise that if you're slandering or libelling someone then that someone might take legal action to both clear his or her good name and gain some form of compensation for the potential damage done.

Slander and libel laws are good things. They protect the truth. If someone goes around town accusing you of being a rapist when you're not then slander and libel laws are on your side, there to help you stop the accuser of spreading malicious lies that will sully your good name and potentially get you physically (and emotionally) hurt. Slander and libel laws mean that when you say or print something then you better be prepared to back up what you say, even if what you're saying has been told to you by someone else: heck, especially when what you're saying has been told to you by someone else.

And, when it comes to slander and libel, you need to realise that a retraction or apology isn't enough. If the person accusing you of rape later retracts his lies and apologises then that doesn't undo all the damage: there's still going to be people out there who think that you must have done something bad, because "there's no smoke without fire", and you're still going to be living in paranoia for a long time, looking over your shoulder and jumping at shadows in fear of someone out to beat your head to a bloody pulp.

So, even when someone admits that they got it wrong, the damage has still been done and can't be totally undone.

Unfortunately, on Slashdot, this kind of casual treatment of truth and libel is an everyday occurance. (Show me the stories from any one day as they were originally posted and I'll show you a bunch of holes and mistruths to stop a herd of charging elephants dead in their tracks.) One of these days, that profligate attitude towards the truth will have the editors hoisted by their own petard. Or, to put it less eloquently, printing bullshit is gonna get the editors in real deep shit someday.

Anyhow, I've digressed. This jounal entry is meant to be another editorial abuse: moderation.

My comment, unsurprisingly, had two types of people replying to it. The first type are those that have something constructive to say, and whose comments enrich the debate. These people, although CmdrTaco repeatedly fails to acknowledge it, are the ones that have made Slashdot: without their insightful, informative, interesting and/or funny comments (add whatever other adjectives you see fit), Slashdot would just be a very bad news aggregation site more notable for being plagued by duped, faked, outdated, inaccurate and/or badly written stories. Without them, Slashdot would wither and die.

The second type of people are those that have nothing constructive to add to the debate. We all know what I mean by that so I won't expand on that comment beyond adding that I don't think they make a positive contribution to the Slashdot experience.

Anyway, let's get back on track. (Again.) Moderation abuse.

The first reply to my initial comment, by srwalter (39999) was off-topic. No ifs or buts, it was just simply off-topic, because it had nothing to do with the story being discussed. And obviously, having been dragged off-topic, my reply to it was off-topic too. But, which of these two do you think got moderated as such?

Well, within a couple of hours of my reply it had been moderated as off-topic. Twice. Yet the post that originally strayed off-topic and all other posts under that thread were unmoderated. The original offending off-topic post was still at +2 but my reply had gone from +2 to -1. In effect, my post had been deliberately buried by someone who didn't want it to be easily visible and read.

Who that "someone" is I'll leave to your own imagination. By the way, did I mention that the editors have unlimited moderation points, and can do what they want to a comment? The potential for abuse is shocking, isn't it?

Anyhow, in the last day or two srwalter's comment has been moderated as a troll, probably by someone who saw it after I posted an entry in one of FortKnox's JE's about the new site that we're hoping to build. But this isn't about trolls being moderated as trolls. It's about truths being surpressed.

I find it ironic that, having posted my original comment to alert people (including the Slashdot editors) to the true facts, the truth about many Slashdot regulars wanting away and actually putting together an alternative site is too much for some people to handle.

To the person (or people) that surpressed my comment, I say this: the very fact that you try to deny the existance of things that you find threatening shows that you can't be trusted not to abuse your powers and responsibilities. It also shows that you're scared.

Face facts. You can try to bury the truth but you can't change it.

The Media

Journal Journal: President tells the real truth in speech... 2

As reported by BBC News

President gaffes in terror speech

In his latest gaffe, President George W Bush has appeared to suggest that his administration is forever thinking up ways of harming the US and its people.

"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful - and so are we," the US president told a high-level meeting of Pentagon officials.

"They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people - and neither do we."

His comments came during a signing ceremony for a $417bn defence bill.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said that Mr Bush's mistakes should reassure rather than alarm.

"Even the most straightforward and plain-spoken people mis-speak," he told the Associated Press.

"The American people know this president speaks with clarity and conviction, and the terrorists know by his actions he means it."

'Liked for his flaws'

According to Jacob Weisberg, who has made it his job to catalogue the gaffes commonly known as "Bushisms", even when Mr Bush trips over his words he does not always fall flat on his face.

"I don't think it does him any harm, because people who are appalled by the way he speaks tend not to like him for other reasons," he told the BBC's World Today programme.

Indeed, he says, his flawed public performances should not be misunderstimated - to borrow a "Bushism" - as they actually strengthen his bond with ordinary people.

"I think his inarticulacy is part of it, people identify with his problem. You know, its hard to speak in public - one makes mistakes, it can be embarrassing. And this bonds him to people."

Well, he was honest about the fact that him and his administration "never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people", wasn't he?

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