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Week of 1 April 2002

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Monday, 1 April 2002

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8:30 - I haven't been paying much attention to the situation in Israel, but this morning I spent a few minutes reading about it in the morning paper and on CNN. There are plenty of people deploring the violence, of course, but it seems to me that they're all missing the point. Israel is being attacked by terrorists. What else do you call the suicide bombers who have slaughtered numerous Israelis over the past week? The US shouldn't be trying to mediate the situation. The US should be supporting Israel, which is our only real ally in the Middle East. The US should be telling Israel, "Do what you need to do. We'll support you, diplomatically, politically, and in every other way."

The UN says that Israel should withdraw from Palestinian territories. I say, screw the UN. The US should help Israel do whatever it needs to do to eradicate the bastards who are slaughtering Israeli citizens. If that means standing by while Israel expels all Palestinians and Arabs from Israeli territory, so be it. If that means using the veto in the UN Security Council to prevent any resolution against Israeli actions from being passed, so be it. If that means announcing that any attack upon Israel by Syria or other hostile neighbors will be regarded as an attack upon the US, so be it.

The US should make it clear that we don't like Arabs, that we recognize Islamic nations don't like the US, and that we don't care what Islamic nations think of the US. The US should make it clear to Saudi Arabia and other oil-producing countries that the US expects them to keep their mouths shut and the petroleum flowing. If they don't, it'd be easy enough for the US to dispose of the house of Saud and substitute a friendly puppet government. In fact, the US should probably do that anyway, just on general principles.

The US should make it clear that we support our allies and destroy our enemies. Israel is our ally. Arab nations are our enemies. It's time for the US to start acting accordingly.

It now being April 1st, it's time for me to start on taxes. I suppose I'll order TurboTax yet again. I despise Intuit, but I suppose I'm stuck with them.

11:40 - Someone recommended I get TaxCut instead of TurboTax. Fair enough. I went over to the TaxCut web site where I found that they have a federal edition that includes one free state edition "after rebate". Okay. But they also offer the products via download, which is the method I intended to use. So I click on the Buy icon for the federal version. It asks me to choose my delivery method, so I choose "download". It asks me to choose my state, so I choose North Carolina. And it presents the final invoice, which includes $20 for the "free" state edition. Huh?

According to the site, I have to send back the included coupon to get my $20 refunded. What coupon? This is a download. I'm going to download it from the TaxCut site itself, and I'll be paying them directly. Why does it not just show a $0 charge for the state edition, which I want to download with the federal edition?

Enough of this nonsense. Barbara and I will head for the mall tomorrow and pick up a copy of TurboTax Deluxe, along with a book that Pournelle suggested I read. TurboTax Deluxe also includes one free state version. I figure, best case, I'll be able just to download the North Carolina version from TurboTax. If worse comes to horrible, I have several friends who use TurboTax, and I can just get a copy of the North Carolina version from them.


Tuesday, 2 April 2002

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8:25 - The new edition of PC Hardware in a Nutshell is now available for pre-ordering from, Barnes & Noble , and presumably other on-line booksellers. O'Reilly decided to boost the list price from $29.95 to $39.95, and that makes me a bit nervous. In practice, the $10 price boost means the book will actually sell for about $7 more than the previous edition, which means we'll earn an additional $0.50 or $0.75 per copy sold. The big question, of course, is to what extent the higher price will damage sales volume.

Obviously, we're hoping the book will do well. If you plan to buy the book, please consider pre-ordering it now. A large number of pre-orders helps get the book started right. When distributors and bookstores see pre-orders coming in, they tend to increase their own pre-orders, which helps get copies of the book out on the store shelves. The more copies that are out there, the better.

Although I don't buy from because I don't like their business practices, I'm aware that many people are customers. If you are and want to order the book, it appears that has the best price on it of any vendor I've seen.

Barbara and I are off this morning to Barnes & Noble to pick up a copy of TurboTax Deluxe and a couple of books. When we return, I'm going to build herschel, my new primary Linux desktop system.

13:45 - Brian Bilbrey sent me an interesting link this morning. It's an article from The Times (of London), entitled "Spare us from any more Middle East peace plans ". Obviously, at least one British columnist has learned that "Peace in our time" is anything but. No one has ever gained anything from talking with gangsters or terrorists, nor by reasoning with them, and most certainly not by appeasing them. The answer to people like this is firepower. You don't talk with gangsters and terrorists. You kill them, preferably spectacularly. If I were the Israeli leaders, I'd have dropped an FAE on Arafat's compound by now. If it's bombs he likes, give him bombs.


Wednesday, 3 April 2002

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8:45 - I didn't get around to building herschel yesterday, although the case is open and waiting on the kitchen table. I did pick up a copy of TurboTax Deluxe at Best Buy. They printed out a rebate form and everything. I don't know if I'll even bother to send it in. Rebates are often just a ripoff. Manufacturers know that not many people will bother to send them in, and even those who do often forget that they've done so or are willing to believe that they forgot to include some required item or other or didn't meet the deadline. If rebates were real, they'd be applied at the point of purchase (or the manufacturer would simply reduce the price of the product). Overall, I'd guess that not more than 5% or 10% of eligible purchasers ever actually get the rebate. That means that Intuit's "$10" rebate on TurboTax Deluxe is in effect a $0.50 or $1.00 rebate.

I always tell people who are buying computer hardware to forget about any rebates and just assume they're going to end up paying the full price before the rebate. That's the way it usually ends up.

Perhaps I'll send this one in just to see what happens. I'll bet that Intuit "forgets" to send me my rebate check, or that they claim I've done something wrong or missed a deadline.


Thursday, 4 April 2002

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8:15 - I still didn't get around to building herschel yesterday, although I now have components spread all over the kitchen table. That way, Barbara will remind me soon that it's time to finish building herschel and get her kitchen table cleaned up.

It seems I am doomed to have multiple browsers installed on my systems. I now have Mozilla 0.9.9, which generally works, but which sometimes takes literally 30 seconds to start up (even with the stub resident in memory) and which frequently refuses to accept input in the URL entry box. This on several machines, so it's nothing about the computer that's causing the problem. Also, Mozilla sometimes refuses to display graphics and other page elements. For example, see this page and this page . On the first page, the center graphic is missing completely. On the second, the text in the menu box on the left is missing, although the links are active. Again, this happens on several machines, so it's not the machine causing the problem.

Then we have Opera 6.1, which I actually like best of all the browsers I use. The problem with Opera is that it frequently chokes on pages that have a vertical scroll bar. The scroll bar is there, but it does nothing. All I can see is the top of the page. I can't scroll down to read the rest of it. That happens often enough that I can't use Opera as my primary browser.

I really must get converted over to Linux, so that I can exchange these annoying bugs for a new set of annoying bugs.

Many people have emailed me to say that they've gotten rebate checks from numerous vendors without any problem, so perhaps I've just been unlucky. On the other hand, I've also gotten several emails describing various problems getting rebates, so it's not just me. The question, of course, is how much time, effort, and aggravation it's worth to get a small rebate. For a $10 rebate, having to fill out a short form and drop it in the mail is one thing. But some of the stuff that I've read about (and encountered myself) makes getting that $10 rebate check a Pyrrhic Victory.


Friday, 5 April 2002

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9:00 - I still haven't installed TurboTax or gotten started on the taxes. This weekend for sure. And I still have a case and other components for herschel (my new Linux desktop system) sitting on the kitchen table. I need to get that system built, if only to get it out of the way. I have web pages and whole web sites that need to be created. All of this on my increasingly large to-do list.

But I am going to take some time off this evening. Barbara and I are going to head up to Bullington to do some observing. The Clear Sky Clock says it's to be cloudless tonight, although the transparency isn't ideal. Still, we should be able to get some objects logged. Sunset is at 18:47 this evening, with nautical twilight at 19:43 and astronomical twilight at 20:15.


Saturday, 6 April 2002

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12:05 - We did go up to Bullington last night, arriving around 19:00. Paul and Mary were also up there, as was Bonnie, although Mary and Bonnie had to leave early. The weather was much warmer than forecast, dropping no lower than 45F or so during the course of the evening. There weren't any clouds, but the transparency was just average, particularly at 45 degrees and lower. Barbara and I did both manage to log quite a few Messier Objects for our AL project, including M1, M3, M40, M44, M52, M63, M78, M94, M101, M102, and M109. I also managed to log M41, M46, M47, M48, M50, M51, M81, M82, M93, M97, M106, and M108 myself, although Barbara didn't log those last night.

Barbara is running around all day today doing wedding-related errands. Her sister is getting married in two weeks, and Barbara is out with her today doing all sorts of things that guys never learn about. Apparently, one of them is learning how to help get her sister into her wedding gown, which is something I'd never thought about. If I'd ever thought about it, I'd probably have assumed that the bride simply put on a wedding gown like any other dress, but apparently it's more akin to a medieval knight preparing for battle, strapping on armor and having a squire assist with tightening straps and so on.

Barbara left early, and I managed to sleep in until almost 9:00 a.m. which is a record for me. The dogs were good, although they were all lying with their legs crossed when I woke up. I took them out to give them a chance to untank, read the paper and caught up on email, and then made my mom's breakfast. I may take it easy today and just read a few mysteries or something.

I do still have the kitchen table covered up with components for herschel , though, so perhaps I should do something about that. I did find that, believe it or not, I don't have any 7,200 RPM IDE drives available. So herschel is going to end up with a Seagate 15,000 RPM Cheetah.


Sunday, 7 April 2002

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9:00 - Daylight Saving Time. Ugh.

I installed TurboTax yesterday, after first turning off Norton Internet Security and NAV, as the TT release notes suggested. One of my readers warned me that installing TurboTax installs Internet Explorer 5.5 without so much as a by-your-leave, and so it does. How obnoxious. After I installed TurboTax, I went to the on-line menu to get the "free download" of the state edition. The free download costs $29.95.

I didn't want to send any more money to these people despite their promise to rebate the cost of the state download, so I decided to email one of my local friends whom I know uses TurboTax and ask him if he'd mind sending me a copy of the NC state program. Given that according to the box I'm entitled to a free download, I didn't feel that doing this was hoisting the Jolly Roger.

So, after turning NIS and NAV back on, I double-clicked the Outlook icon, and found that my system couldn't access my main PST file on the server. Nor, as it turned out, could my system access any network drive. My system was, in fact, completely isolated from the network of which it is a member. So I fired up NIS Personal Firewall configuration and immediately noticed that NIS Trusted Sites had no members. I had had the entire private C-block that I use locally in the NIS Trusted Sites zone, so something had obviously changed this. TT installation, perhaps? Or perhaps disabling NIS caused it to lose its mind. At any rate, I wasn't pleased.

This is the last year for TurboTax. Next year, I'll buy TaxCut or just do my taxes manually.

I'd better get started on the laundry. And herschel is still sitting in pieces on the kitchen table...


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