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User Journal

Journal Journal: "Extinct" Ivory-Billed Woodpecker Rediscovered

Today is a day that I hope to always remember. Today I heard that scientists have confirmed the sighting of an Ivory-Billed Woodpecker in eastern Arkansas. My wife was the first to tell me this morning about a segment on NPR about the discovery. I then did a Google news search for the story and found articles from The Washington Post and CNN, among others. Later, I checked the NPR site and found links to the announcement at the Science website, including a link to the PDF file of the article, and website.

For those of you who don't know, the Ivory-Billed woodpecker is one of the largest woodpeckers in the world, and was thought to have been extinct for over sixty years. Over the past decades, there have been reported, yet confirmed, sightings of the Ivory-Billed. The Ivory-Billed Woodpecker has become the symbol of the struggle to preserve nature and endangered and threatened species. Now, the confirmation that the Ivory-Billed is indeed still alive is a ray of hope that the environmental mistakes of the past can, with dedication and hard work, can be slowly turned back. Of course, this doesn't help species already lost to us, like the Carolina Parakeet, or the Passenger Pigeon, there is hope for others threatened birds, like the California Condor, the Peregrine Falcon, and the Whooping Crane.

I know this nothing tech related, but it is still very exciting and gives one hope for the future.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Quality vs. Quantity

I will be the first to admit it: I hate Windows. I hate Windows more than, well, let's just say nothing else comes close in my hatred for Windows. It's not just that it's a product of a company that has used rather ruthless and questionable tactics to achieve its position or the ubiquitousness of Windows. It simply comes down to a matter of quality, not quantity.

Granted, Windows does a good job at various things, but there are flaws, glaring flaws, that have tarnished Microsoft's flagship product. Viruses, worms, spyware, buffer overflows, hackers. All these security holes make Windows look more like a block of Swiss cheese than an operating system. Granted, a lot of problems can be solved by having users not use administrator by default. And running an anti-virus program will help snuff out viruses and worms. And a good firewall will keep hackers at bay. But therein lies the problem: all these third party software programs to secure an operating system that has a history of being insecure. Add to this mix the fact that Microsoft is now only releasing updates once a month, and even then, some patches are months behind the first known exploit. This is not what I look for in a product.

Even so, Microsoft holds domination over the operating system market. The fact is, most users have only used Windows and do not know the options available to them. Much like Ford and the Model T.

The Model T has been credited with putting a car in the garages of average working Americans. They were inexpensive and everywhere. That's not to say they were the best available, just the most popular. Today, we use the Model T as a reference to something that is slow and/or outdated. That's not to say that the Model T was a mistake, but rather it outlived its usefulness.

Likewise, I feel that Windows, as it currently stands, has outlived its usefulness. Sure, it got computers into the hands of the average person (for better or worse), but, like the Model T, it has failed to change with the times. Case in point, viruses used to spread primarily through shared floppy disks. Now, just plugging a Windows computer into the Internet exposes to it to viruses that don't require the user to do anything. Worst of all, there are now viruses that will turn a PC into a spam zombie. Now getting a virus is bad enough, and spam is a nightmare that would scare even Freddy Kruger, but to combine the two causes not only problems for the users and unsuspecting spam victims, it also impacts everyone else by chewing up bandwidth on the Internet. The more I think about it, the Model T analogy should be replaced with the Edsel.

Don't get me wrong, I still use Windows, but only because I am forced to in my work environment. However, a revolution is coming. With Linux becoming more popular, including the soon to be released Debian Sarge, and Apple's new Mini Mac, users now have more choices. All they lack is the opportunity and the leadership.

Opportunity in the sense that not only are these choices are easily and readily available, they are also affordable. But that is not enough to draw the masses away from Windows and into a more secure environment. There must be leadership. Not just one person standing up and saying "Take up arms and defend yourself from the evils that plague you", but rather a grassroot effort, one person at a time. It may not sound like much, but you take a penny and double it; then double that; and double that; and so on and so on. Before long, you have a million dollars.

And that is how Windows will be defeated by Linux and OS X. It will take the combined effort of Linux and OS X users to stop fighting amongst themselves and with each other and instead focus on educating the populace about the alternatives they have. Many Windows users say that the games they want to play are simply not available for Linux or OS X. But if the number of Linux and OS X users grow large enough, publishers will not only take notice, but program for those platforms. In fact, it is already starting to happen.

The battlelines are drawn and powerful forces are rallying. What is truly amazing is not just the numbers of companies, but who the players are: IBM, HP, Novell, Oracle, Intel, AMD, NVIDIA, ATI, Id software, and more. These are not mere privates, these are generals. But it will be the privates, corporals, and sergeants who will take the fight to the field. If history has taught us anything, it's that all empires eventually fall.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Service, pride and knowledge

They also serve who only stand and wait. -- John Milton

Recently, someone commented that I was "the dumbest system administrator" he had known. Well, that may be true and I take no offense in that statement. Or, it may be simply just a bad set of circumstances. See, I was not a Computer Science or Electronic Engineering major in college; I majored in English and received my Master's degree in Library and Information Sciences. I am a librarian by profession. It just so happens that I have a passion for computers, too. I have never, and will never, make claims at being the best at anything (best qualified out of a small, select group, maybe).

As a librarian, I have to take into consideration the needs of the users and balance that with the resources I have available to me. Resources like knowledge and skill grow with time, while others, like money, either remain the same or shrink. And working for a small university, money more often than not shrinks. One thing I am good at is forecasting possible problems and identifying solutions. Again, not the best, but good within reason. Example, I knew that putting out printers for the public to use without some sort of management system was just begging for headaches that Excedrin would not touch. I also knew that the cost of free printing would drain the coffers dry faster than Dracula after a thrity-day fast. Well, I got half my wish; we have a networked print management system in place and chaos has been mostly avoided. However, the powers that be (i.e., someone with more titles in front of his name than I have) decided not to charge users for printing. Talk about clueless pointy hairs.

With shrinking budgets and limited staff ("I am an IT of one" should be my t-shirt), finding inexpensive and/or creative solutions to problems becomes an asset. Couple this with a natural tendency to be cheap, err, frugal and a curiosity about the latest technology, and you have me: your friendly neighborhood geek. Despite the low budget, pitiful salary, isolation from the major technology meccas, and an overall lack of respect (professional or otherwise) from users, I still love my job.

Am I crazy? That goes without question, but no more crazy than writing a program and giving it away to people free of charge. After all, not everyone is out to screw others (though we may in turn get screwed). I see every obstacle as a challenge; every error a lesson learned. Not very hubristic for a sysadmin to say, but than again, we are all humbled in the presence of our superiors. I know that I stil have much to learn and the moment I stop will be a split second before I die. I also know that in order to fulfill my life's mission, I need to pass on what I have learned to others so that they may benefit as well.

User Journal

Journal Journal: The World is Too Much With Us

This is my first journal entry and I have no idea who is even going to bother to read this. Ironically, I'm writing this entry just before going on a weeklong vacation to Sequoia National Park with my fiancée. The fact I'll be spending days on end away from technology (not even a cell phone) is reason to pause and reflect where we are in life.

I admit, I enjoy technology, otherwise why would I be working as an Automation Librarian? But, I do have boundries in place. I am probably one of the few remaining people in American who refuses to own a cell phone. I don't even have a computer at home. My fiancée, however, has both. The closest things I have to a computer are my Palm Pilot and my Playstation. And I like it that way. I spend forty hours a week working with computers, printers, software, and networks, not to mention trying to keep up with the changing technologies, that I need to seperate my work life from my personal life.

To that end, I have my Harley (yes, I actually own a Harley, not just a t-shirt,) which is my magic carpet ride from the chaos that is the real world and into a Zen-like state of just being. And now, with my new fiancée, I am exploring a whole new world of peace and solitude: hiking and backpacking. I'm dusting off my skills in compass and map reading, slinging on a backpack, and going out to see sights that few people ever see in their lifetime. It's also a journey to me.

I am a self-proclaimed geek. Always have been. But that doesn't preclude me from also enjoying the peace and serenity of the outdoors. It is my way of putting things into perspective and seeking a higher state of being.

I close now with William Wordsworth's poem, from which this journal entry is named.

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon,
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.---Great God! I'd rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathéd horn.

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Whom computers would destroy, they must first drive mad.