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Week of 20 September 2004

Latest Update: Saturday, 25 September 2004 12:41 -0400


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Monday, 20 September 2004

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{Five Years Ago Today]


08:00 - It's a bit difficult to concentrate with all this hammering. Half a dozen guys are up there now ripping off our old roof. Mr. Tesh tells me that the shingles will be here by 8:30 and they should be completely finished by about 13:00. The dogs are taking it surprisingly well. They barked when the trucks showed up, of course, and again when they heard people walking around on the roof, but now they're just behaving as though nothing unusual is going on.

Over the weekend, one of our neighbors suggested that we have them install a plastic sheeting product that I forget the name of that's designed to prevent damage from ice damming. When the roofers showed up this morning, I asked him about that. He said they'd install it if we wanted it, but it'd cost $400 or so additional.

I asked him if it was worth it. He said, "Nope. We don't install it on our own roofs." He said it may be worth having up north, but down here it's a waste of money. Actually, it may be a waste of money anyway. He said they'd met some roofers from Wisconsin and of course got to talking about the differences between installing roofs in Wisconsin versus North Carolina. The Wisconsin guys said they installed the plastic barrier sheet routinely, but that it doesn't work very well. Without the sheeting, water forces its way between the shingles and sheathing and rots the sheathing from the top down. With the sheathing, water forces itself between the fascia board and the sheathing, and rots the sheathing from underneath. So we told him not to bother installing it.


More work today on the articles I'm writing for O'Reilly, tentatively titled Building the Perfect Bleeding-Edge PC. This one will be a screamer. A Socket 775 Pentium 4 560 (3.6 GHz), DDR2 memory, a pair of NCQ S-ATA Seagate hard drives, S-ATA 12X Plextor DVD burner, nVIDIA GeForce 6800 GT, etc. etc. This will eventually become my primary office system.



10:18 - Saturday, Barbara helped her sister and brother-in-law move a bunch of stuff they had in storage. They were also having some problems with their PC, so Barbara hauled it back here for me to work on.

Their Roadrunner service was down when I installed Xandros for them the preceding weekend, so I wasn't able to get their mail functioning. I set it up "blind" and when they tried to use it they were getting error messages about "unable to write to mailbox". A permissions problem, obviously. When I got it over here, the problem was obvious immediately. The mailbox directory and files were owned by root. When I'd copied over their existing mail from the CD I'd burned from their Windows hard drive, I'd done so as root and forgotten to change owner. (In my defense, Mozilla Mail opened fine; the problem didn't occur until mail was actually POPped and Mozilla attempted to write the new mail to the mailbox.)

So I got that fixed, installed the OS updates I'd been unable to get to with the cable modem down, and so on. Yesterday afternoon Barbara and I hauled their system back to their house and set it up. Frances mentioned that they weren't able to print, either, so I took a look at that problem. They have a Brother MFC-4800 combo laser printer and fax machine. When I set up the printer, Xandros listed many Brother models, including several MFC-**** models, but not the MFC-4800. I picked the nearest model, which I think was the MFC-6550. As it turned out, that was the wrong guess.

So I went over to the Brother web page, where I found lots of information about using their printers under Linux. They had a Linux lpr driver for the MFC-4800, so I installed lpr and then the MFC-4800 driver. No joy. I then did what I should have done first, a Google search for the terms MFC-4800 and Xandros. There were three hits, the first of which was exactly what I needed. Someone had an MFC-4800 printer and told me exactly what I needed to do to get it working under Xandros. The solution was simple enough. Tell Xandros the printer was an MFC-8300. Sure enough, that worked perfectly. The really odd thing was the origin of that helpful page. It was written by my friend Brian Bilbrey. I didn't know until I saw that page that Brian owned a Brother MFC-4800.

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Tuesday, 21 September 2004

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{Five Years Ago Today]


10:40 - We have a new roof. They started about 0700 and finished up by 1430. There were half a dozen guys on the crew, and they worked steadily except for a short lunch break. The roof looks good. I'm glad we decided to have them install the GAF Timberline architectural shingles. The insurance wouldn't pay for the upgraded shingles, which cost about $600 more than standard shingles, but the better shingles are a lot heavier and stiffer. Having a new roof means one less thing to worry about. The joys of home ownership.



PJ over at Groklaw is thinking about getting a new computer. She's been using a Dell system, and looked to Dell first for her new system. But then she learned that Dell is Linux-hostile, and so decided to take her business elsewhere. I suggested that she buy a system from a local white-box builder or build her own. The latter appeals to her, probably for the same reason that Linux appeals to her. It's nice to be in control of one's own destiny.



I see that Dan Rather has apologized, as though that's sufficient. If CBS News expects to regain any credibility at all, they need to fire Rather immediately. But that's not enough. They also need to fire every executive who signed off on running that story, as well as the head of CBS News. That'd be a start.

The sole focus on the culpability of CBS News puzzles me. This is much more than just an irresponsible news story. This is a criminal attempt to influence the outcome of a presidential election. I regard it as being as serious as stuffing ballot boxes. More so, in fact, because the scope of that type of election fraud is usually very limited, whereas this was in effect an attempt to steal a national election.

I think the FBI needs to initiate a criminal investigation. At this point, it seems possible, even likely, that the Kerry campaign may be linked directly to the attempted fraud via Mr. Cleland. There needs to be a formal investigation to determine whether the Kerry campaign was behind this attempted fraud, and if so who was involved and how deeply.

The Kerry campaign clearly hoped these forged documents would take the focus off the Swift Boat Veterans and shift it to Mr. Bush. We need to know if the Kerry campaign actively participated in the fraud or merely watched from the sidelines.



11:52 - Boy, do I hate Windows XP. It's insufferable. It reminds me of a pestilential little kid, always popping up useless notices and intruding where it's not wanted. I mean, notifying me that I don't have AV software installed is understandable, but does it really need to do it several times a day (and this on a system I don't use all day long, but only infrequently)?

And many of the notifications are truly gratuitous. For example, it just popped up a notice that it had found a couple of Wi-Fi APs. As though I would care. And it does that repeatedly as well. I finally logged onto both of the APs it had found, neither of which is secured. One belongs to our neighbor behind us and I'm not sure who owns the other one. But I connected to each momentarily and then disconnected, hoping that after I did that Windows would realize that I knew about the APs. No joy. It still pops up a message frequently to tell me about these APs it's noticed.

And then there's the truly gratuitous notice it pops up to tell me that it's hidden some of the apps in the system tray. Duh. I never asked Windows to hide them, and I certainly don't want it interrupting my work to tell me that it's hidden them. Geez.

But the really annoying one is the message telling me I haven't registered Windows XP and have only X days left. That one makes my blood boil. I have a legal copy of Windows XP installed, and I don't want to register it. Where's the option for "This is a legal copy and I don't want to register it, so never bother me again"? I refuse to activate Windows XP under any circumstances. I've never done it, and I never will.

I'd planned to dedicate a system as a Windows XP test-bed for taking screen shots and so on, but I've changed my mind. Instead, I'm going to set that system up as dual-boot, running Xandros Linux as the primary OS. I'm sure there's an app available for Linux that'll allow me to make an image of the XP partition. I'll simply image XP and restore it as necessary when the 60-day limit approaches.

Boy, do I hate Windows XP.



14:33 - Does anyone know what companies make cordless phones that use standard AA or AAA rechargeable NiMH cells rather than proprietary battery packs? I've begun to think that cordless phone makers must make most of their profits on selling replacement batteries. What other reason could there be for (a) using proprietary battery packs rather than standard AA or AAA cells, and (b) providing battery packs that use NiCd cells, which die quickly, rather than NiMH cells, which actually work for 100 to 1,000 recharges.

The battery pack in our Panasonic cordless phone died some time ago, and I've never gotten around to replacing it. Barbara checked the prices at one local store or another, and found that a replacement battery pack cost almost as much as a new cordless phone. I want a cordless phone that (a) uses loose AA or AAA NiMH cells, and (b) operates in the 900 MHz or 5 GHz band (the 2.4 GHz models use the same ISM band as 802.11* wireless components, and interfere terribly with them.)

Ideally, I'd like a cordless phone that I could just stick on the charger base for routine recharging, but one that would allow me easily to swap in a replacement set of charged AA or AAA NiMH cells when I didn't have time to let the phone charge on the base. Surely such a cordless phone should be easy to find. In fact, they should all be that way. But a quick perusal on-line didn't show me any such models, at least simple, inexpensive models, which is what I'm looking for. I did find some AT&T models that used loose AA cells, but they were feature-laden, expensive 5 GHz models. All I need is an inexpensive, simple 900 MHz phone, with no bells or whistles. Well, come to think of it, maybe one bell.

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Wednesday, 22 September 2004

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{Five Years Ago Today]


09:21 - Microsoft can't figure out why no one is installing XP SP2, according to this article. They'd expected 100 million downloads by now, but there've been only a fifth that number. Corporations are apparently staying away from SP in droves, treating it like a version upgrade rather than a simple service pack. And for good reason. SP2 breaks a lot of stuff. If you're responsible for 100, 1,000, or 10,000 desktop systems, the last thing you want is to break all of them, or even a significant percentage.

Microsoft is learning a hard lesson here. Security has to be designed-in. It can't be added on. Their goal is clearly to have 100% of XP installations running SP2 eventually. My guess is they'll be very lucky if ultimately even 50% of XP installations are patched.

Of course, there's one huge fix that Microsoft could have included in SP2 but didn't. That one upgrade would have fixed about 90% of the security holes in Windows XP, both current and potential. All they needed to do was bundle the Mozilla or Firefox browser and have SP2 setup make it the default browser. They could have even skinned it to make it look like IE, and provided an IE-like desktop icon. They could have, but they're so committed to the fundamentally flawed IE and ActiveX that they didn't.

Windows is unfixable. Even Microsoft has admitted that. And here's Gartner's take on it.

"We've all been part of the biggest beta test the world has ever known -- Windows. Microsoft will not solve all of the security problems, no matter what the richest man in the world says," said Gartner vice president Victor Wheatman in a keynote speech at Gartner's IT Security Summit on Monday."

Interestingly, the article lead misses the point. It says,

"Gartner vice president Victor Wheatman publicly attacked Microsoft's approach to security, saying companies should not expect the software giant to entirely secure their networks"

Mr. Wheatman wasn't talking about Microsoft securing these companies' networks. He said that Windows is fundamentally broken. And that fact is one of the two primary reasons I decided to migrate away from Windows, the other being that I'm tired of Microsoft acting solely in its own interests and against the interests of its customers.

Sure, there's some pain involved in migrating, and certainly the cheese in Microsoft's trap can be pretty tempting. But in the long run the pain will be less for those who migrate to Linux and other OSS now, or at least begin now to distance themselves from Microsoft. Even something as simple as replacing IE as the default browser with Mozilla or Firefox is a huge step in the right direction. Replacing Microsoft Outlook or Outlook Express as your mail client with Mozilla Mail or Thunderbird is another significant move in the right direction, even if you continue using Outlook in PIM-only mode.

Just doing those two upgrades eliminates probably 90% or more of the risk. Barbara and I ran Mozilla as our browser and mail client for more than a year before we migrated to Linux. During that year, we had no real concerns about viruses/Trojans/worms or other exploits. We continued to run AVG antivirus and the Spybot Search & Destroy adware scanner on general principles, but that wasn't really necessary. In conjunction with a good firewall and without IE and/or Outlook as an entry point, the plague of exploits against Microsoft applications had no way to infect our systems.

The next step is to replace Microsoft Office with OpenOffice.org, which eliminates still more potential exploits. Eventually, you'll probably decide to migrate to Linux, and when you do you'll find that it's really not that much of a change. You'll still be using the same primary applications--Mozilla and OOo--and things won't look much different, particularly if you choose a newbie-friendly, MIcrosoft-like distro like Xandros.

But the time to start is now.



11:58 - Someone sent me this sad tale about the danger of depending on RAID for backup. I'm not entirely sure what Yafro is, but it appears to be some sort of social-networking site frequented mostly by young people who post pictures of themselves and exchange comments. From the description of the problem, it sounds like the site was using some sort of RAID 0+1 array and someone accidentally turned off the "+1" part. They had a hard drive crash and lost their entire database of images. They're going to pay a hard drive recovery firm $20,000 to try to recover their data, but it looks to me as though they've probably lost a full six weeks' worth of images. If Yafro were a business, there's a good chance they'd be out of business as a result of this loss.

The moral here is that RAID is not a panacea for protecting your data. RAID can protect against drive failure, period. It doesn't protect against someone screwing up, a file being corrupted or deleted accidentally, a catastrophic loss from fire or theft, or any of the many other bad things that can happen to your data. Whatever you do, don't depend on RAID as the only measure to protect your data. Back up your data to tape, optical discs, or a removable hard drive. Not having a true backup courts disaster.


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Thursday, 23 September 2004

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{Five Years Ago Today]


09:07 - I'll build the project system today and tomorrow for the articles I'm writing for O'Reilly. It'll dual-boot Xandros and Windows and end up eventually as my primary office desktop system. With a Pentium 4 560, 1 GB of DDR2 memory, an nVIDIA 6800 GT video adapter, a pair of Seagate NCQ hard drives, and a Plextor PX-712SA SATA DVD burner, it should be enough to keep me warm this winter.



Some people think I'm too hard on Windows and too easy on Linux. Well, I'm upset with my Xandros box at the moment, although it's probably not fair to blame Xandros for the problem.

When I connected my UMAX Astra 3400U scanner to the Xandros box and installed Kooka, everything just worked. For a while, anyway. The other day, I needed to scan some documents, and the scanner wasn't recognized. Nothing had changed that I know about. I'd installed and removed software in the interim, certainly, but nothing to do with the scanner. Now, when I fire up Kooka, the scanner isn't recognized. The system itself sees the scanner as being attached to the USB port, but the scanning software refuses to recognize that there's a scanner present.

The first thing I did was uninstall Kooka and then re-install it. No joy. So I uninstalled it again, went through the directory structure to find everything related to Kooka or scanning, and deleted the files and directories. I then re-installed Kooka. Same problem. It fires up, but doesn't recognize there's a scanner present.

So I went over to the Xandros forums and checked every thread I could find about scanners, Kooka, SANE, and so on. I tried everything they suggest. No joy. I tried installing other scanning software. Lphoto, from Linspire, installed fine but when I ran it nothing happened. I just got an hourglass and eventually the process died. I uninstalled that and cleaned up what it had left. I installed the trial version of VueScan. When I fire it up, it tells me "No scanner was found attached to your computer".

I have done everything I can think of. Someone mentioned adding my account to the scanner group. I did that with no effect. Someone else suggested running the scanner software as root. I did that, and it still can't find a scanner. This is driving me insane.

As I said, it's probably unfair to blame this problem on Xandros. I've had similar problems routinely under Windows. I have bought several scanners over the years, from various makers. Not a one of them has been anything but trouble. Heck, several years ago I paid $400 for an HP ScanJet 6200C, and I never did get it working at all, literally. I even tried connecting that scanner to the Xandros box. Sure enough, it showed up in Control Center->Hardware Information->USB Devices, but none of the scanning software would recognize it either.

I don't understand what is so bloody difficult about making a scanner work. I've had problems with scanners under every operating system from Windows 3.11 to XP and under several versions of Linux. It seems to me that supporting scanners should be relatively easy, but I've yet to find any combination of OS and scanner that just works as it should. I'd be a lot less frustrated if the Astra 3400U had just not worked at all from the beginning. Then I could write off the problem to my ignorance or the scanner not being supported. But for it to work initially with zero effort and then for no apparent reason stop working entirely is very frustrating.



09:25 - I just sent the following message to Subscribers.

Sample code to exploit the JPEG security hole in Windows and Windows applications is now loose in the wild, so we can expect a flood of exploits within the next few days.

This is a critical flaw that enables malefactors to take ownership of vulnerable systems. To be victimized you need only visit a web page that has a malicious JPEG image embedded. All recent versions of Windows except XP with SP2 applied are vulnerable, as are many Microsoft applications.

For more details, visit

 <http://www.microsoft.com/security/bulletins/200409_jpeg.mspx>

Once again, I advise you to discontinue using Internet Explorer as your default browser. Install Mozilla or Firefox and use it for browsing except for sites like Windows Update that absolutely require IE.



12:30 - I got the scanner working under Xandros. I stripped all the scanner stuff I'd installed, and then went back and installed SANE along with the supporting libraries and utilities. I then ran sane-find-scanner, which reported the following:

found USB scanner (vendor=0x1606, product=0x0060) at /dev/usb/scanner0
found USB scanner (vendor=0x1606 [UMAX], product=0x0060 [USB SCANNER]) at libusb:003:005
  # Your USB scanner was (probably) detected. It may or may not be supported by
  # SANE. Try scanimage -L and read the backend's manpage.

I fired up xsane, which still told me it couldn't find a scanner. So I edited /etc/sane.d/plustek.conf to add the following lines:

[usb] 0x1606 0x0060
device /dev/usbscanner

Bingo. It works. I am happy with Xandros again.



13:17 - My friend Ron Morse just posted this over on the messageboard, and I thought I'd respond in detail here rather than there.

I share your frustration regarding scanners under Linux.  Obviously, the ubergeeks who develop and maintain Linux don't care much about scanning.

Actually, I find Linux a lot better for scanner support than Windows. I've had a decade of frustration with various scanners under Windows. Should Linux have done things better? Sure. When I installed SANE, running sane-find-scanner located my scanner, by name, model, and the port it was connected to. The plustek.conf file had a default entry that should have simply used the UMAX 3400U scanner, but didn't for some reason. The solution was to go in and make the scanner make/model specific in plustek.conf. That's all it took, and now the scanner functions perfectly.

Also, it's not just the major functions of the scanner that work. The minor stuff works, too. Such as being able to set warm-up time (15 seconds by default, which I left as is), lamp-off idle time (300 seconds, which I also left as is), and whether or not to turn off the lamp when I exit xsane. All of that works, exactly as expected. In Windows, none of it worked reliably, ever, with any scanner I used or any version of Windows. HP even had a TSR/system-tray applet (lamp-off.exe or something similar) and that never worked reliably.

I don't think it's fair to say the Linuxen don't care about scanning. SANE is a massive project, with support for the vast majority of scanner models. There are numerous front-ends, many of which are quite powerful and fully-featured. There are also simpler front ends for those who just want basic functions. Many of them are free, but there is also the commercial VueScan application, which by all accounts is superb.

I have an HP 4570c, one of the best selling models HP ever made, and there is no Linux support through either HP or SANE.  And in the case of this particular model (and the companion 5570) HP says there won't be.  Ever.

At least I know what the problem is in my case. Still, I'm a little tired of hearing that I can go and obtain knowledge and then write my own driver so that I not only have working equipment but something I can share with he community, too!. It's way of FOSS...like it or go away!

Well, you can blame HP for that. As I've said repeatedly, I'll no longer buy any HP product, and their policy about drivers--not just Linux but Windows as well--is a large part of the reason for that. Looking at the SANE supported scanners list, it seems to me that they've done an excellent job of supporting just about any mainstream scanner that they can possibly support. The exceptions, like the HP 4570c, aren't supported because the manufacturers won't provide the necessary information to allow the SANE folks to write the drivers. You can bet that if HP provided the data needed to write drivers, SANE would support the HP 4750c, probably by next week.

Will they support any scanner that's ever been made? I'm sure not. They have to make resource-allocation decisions just as we all do. But the SANE folks have gone to extraordinary lengths to support as many popular scanners as they can, and not just ones they own personally. They've tried to make SANE generally useful, and I think we owe them a vote of thanks for that.


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Friday, 24 September 2004

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{Five Years Ago Today]


10:00 - When I needed a Windows XP machine to do some screen shots, I temporarily installed another system in the den, put XP on it, and shot the screen captures. This image is from a week or so ago, when I had Al and Frances's HP Pavilion PC (far left) over here to configure Xandros and troubleshoot some problems. The middle machine is my temporary Windows XP box, in an Antec Super LANBoy case, and the machine on the right is my permanent--as much as machines around here are ever "permanent"--Xandros den system, in an Antec Sonata case. (Looking at this image reminds me that I need to get some little square Tux penguin logos to affix to the empty squares on the Antec cases.)

Den PCs

Last night, I'd about had it with Windows XP. I really dislike using it, and found myself longing for Xandros. When I installed XP on the aluminum box, I'd told it to take the entire hard drive. Being an original XP distribution disk without SP1, it used only 128 GB of the 160 GB drive, but that's another story. I'd never installed Xandros dual-boot, so I decided to give it a try.

I stuck the Xandros 2.5 disc in the DVD drive, and up popped a message telling me to click OK and reboot the system to install Xandros. I did that, and everything worked flawlessly. Xandros detected the XP installation and asked me how I wanted to handle the partitioning. By default, Xandros offered to shrink the NTFS partition and take half the space for itself. I told it to go ahead. It warned me that the resizing process might take several hours, especially if the NTFS partition was badly fragmented. As it turned out, with a relatively fresh XP installation, resizing took only a few minutes. When resizing was complete, Xandros installed itself normally and installed a boot manager. Now, when I boot the system, the Xandros splash screen appears, with "Windows XP" as option #4.

I don't know for sure about others, but I suspect we all go through a similar process when we change something significant. For example, when I stopped using Outlook and IE and started using Mozilla for browsing and email, I went through something like the following:
  1. I HATE THIS
  2. I hate this
  3. I don't much like this
  4. I can live with this, but I sure miss the old stuff
  5. This isn't too bad
  6. I kind of like this
  7. I really like this
  8. How did I ever put up with that old crap
With Mozilla, as I recall, I got past steps 1 through 3 in a day, steps 4 through 6 in less than a week, and up to step 8 within a couple weeks. What was remarkable about migrating to Xandros is that I never experienced steps 1 through 6 at all. I started immediately at step 7, and got to step 8 within a couple of days.

What's interesting about Windows XP is that for me the sequence starts in the middle and works backward. Every time I install XP, I start using it around step 4. Before long, I'm down to step 3, and inevitably something happens, like a pop-up prompt to activate, that drops me to step 2, and then eventually to step 1. None of this happens with Windows 2000, incidentally.

Since I need Windows XP to do screen shots for the books, I'm condemned to running it on at least one system. It's unclear to me how the 60-day activation countdown works. It may be that Setup generates a polynomial key that embeds the first-run date/time. If that's the case, imaging the XP partition and restoring it periodically won't help me avoid the 60-day deadline. It may be that I can set the PC clock/calendar back a year or so, install XP, and have a year-and-60-days left to run it, although I'd be surprised if that worked. Or it may be that I can simply reset the clock/calendar on the existing installation to a date within the 60-day window. If worse comes to worst, I can simply reinstall XP fresh a couple of times to keep a working system available for screenshots. But the mere fact that I even have to think about this is enough reason for me never to use XP for a production system.

In fact, I'm going to blow away my Windows 2000 installation on the PVR system and install Linux with MythPC. Before long, the only production systems I'll have running Windows are my Windows 2000 notebook system and perhaps a Windows partition for gaming on my primary system.



13:58 - There are a lot of people who read this page every day but never read the messageboard. That's a shame, because a lot of interesting discussion goes on over there. For example, the following exchange begins with Roy Harvey quoting something I'd written that my father told me when I was small.

Quote (Roy Harvey @ Sep. 24 2004,11:16)

"Honest people, he said, assume that everyone else is also honest. Dishonest people assume that everyone else is also dishonest."

Nice saying.   8-)

Then again, when you think about it, it says that both honest and dishonest people are demonstrably stupid.

No, not stupid, but merely with a certain certain filter on how they look at other people. Honest people certainly know that there are dishonest people in the world, and vice versa, but there's a strong human need to believe that most people are pretty much like you. Or, turning it on its head, that you're pretty much normal. If you're honest, you therefore assume that's "normal", and that most other people are pretty honest. Conversely, if you're dishonest, you assume that's normal and most other people are also pretty dishonest.

Also note that people have built-in moral compasses. They're not born with them, but they learn as children the concepts of right and wrong, and they tend to follow their own compasses regardless of what the law says. That's why most people ignore speed limits unless there's a good chance of getting caught.

That's also why people knock off copies of CDs or software and give them to their friends. As illegal as that may (or may not) be, the vast majority of people don't perceive it as wrong. And when the law and people's perceptions differ so widely, the law is in trouble.

Ask yourself this. Would you go into a store and shoplift an audio CD or a software package? No, I thought not. But would you knock off a copy of an audio CD or software package? Yep, I thought so.

The reason is that the first is theft, which the vast majority of us believe is wrong. You've deprived the store of a tangible object, and they have to take a monetary loss on it. In the second case, you haven't stolen anything. The store still has its CD and hasn't taken any monetary loss. Neither has anyone else. You have infringed copyright, which is a much squishier concept.

Here's what my moral compass says: it's wrong to shoplift the CD; it's okay to knock off a copy of it and give it to a friend; it's not okay to start making large numbers of duplicates and sell them for profit. In other words, I have no problem at all with non-commercial copyright infringement. That also means I think the original Napster and other peer sharing arrangements are fine, as long as no money changes hands.

And, with the possible exception of the last item (which does follow logically from the others), I think the vast majority of people agree with me completely.

People who disagree are mostly hypocrites and liars. Whenever I encounter someone who maintains that non-commercial copyright infringement is wrong (as opposed to illegal), I always ask him two questions: (a) have you ever copied anything and given it to a friend, and (b) have you ever accepted a copy from a friend? Every once in a great while someone answers "no" to both questions, in which case I assume he's either a liar or a candidate for sainthood. But nearly everyone has given or accepted copies from time to time, and that in my mind makes them hypocrites if they take a stand against non-commercial copying.



Of course, honesty does have its limits. I encountered that when I was talking to the State Farm corporate guy up in Charlottesville, Virginia about a claim for our roof. I expected him to tell me to get two or three quotes for having the roof replaced and that they'd pay the lowest of the quotes less our deductible.

He said they didn't do things that way anymore. Instead, they determine how much they'll pay based on the size of the roof and the prevailing rates in the local area. He said they'd pay about $3,300 total. I asked if that included the reduction for our deductible, and he said it did; that they figured the actual cost to replace the roof would be about $3,550, so they'd pay that less our $250 deductible.

As it happened, we'd just gotten a statement that detailed our insurance coverage, and I was sure it said we had a $500 deductible. So I told the guy I thought our deductible was $500 rather than $250. He looked at his screen again, and said, "No. It's $250." I told him that I'd just gotten a statement that said our deductible was $500. He said, "Let me check again," and put me on hold for a couple minutes. He came back and said, "Nope. Your deductible is $250. You must have been looking at some other number on the statement."

Numbers are my friends, and I don't usually make mistakes with them. That's an understatement. In fact, the last time I made a mistake with a number was, I think, in 1969. But the State Farm guy seemed so sure that I went and looked again. Sure enough, the statement says our deductible is $500.

So, I suppose if I were Abe-Lincoln-honest, I'd walk miles to return the extra penny, or at least send them a copy of our statement with the deductible number highlighted. But I tried, more than once, to call their attention to their error in our favor, and they insisted I was wrong. So I let it drop.

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Saturday, 25 September 2004

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12:41 - Barbara left this morning on a bus tour to Vermont with her parents. Actually, she left last night, to stay overnight at her parents' house because they had to leave about 4:45 a.m. to drive over to Randleman, North Carolina, where the bus departed at 6:00 a.m. this morning.

She left me with lots of deli food and frozen dinners, so I should be okay until she returns on Thursday night. She counted the dogs before she left, so I'll have to remember to give them food and water while she's gone.



I like to coin at least one or two new words a year. Eventually, one of them may end up in the OED. Actually, one already has. Back in the mid-80's, I was the person who coined the term "coaster" for a CD that was ruined during burning. I was watching my friend John Mikol burn his first CD. The CD burner cost something like $25,000, and each blank CD cost $50. As I watched his first attempt to burn a CD fail, I said to John, "Way to go, John. You just made a $50 coaster." I used the same term on the USENET, back when I was still using various bang (UUCP) addresses, and the term later became common. So I'm claiming it.

At any rate, it occurred to me that we need a new word to describe the process of migrating from legacy Windows operating systems to modern operating systems like Linux. Defenestration, after the Latin fenestra for window, is defined as the act of throwing someone or something out a window, so I came up with the following:

fenestrajection: The act of throwing Windows out.

I just did a Google search to verify that the word is original:

Your search - fenestrajection - did not match any documents.
No pages were found containing "fenestrajection".

Let's see how long it take to hit Google, how many sites pick it up, and how many hits it eventually provides.

And now I'd better get to work. I have a system to build and some fenestrajection to do.

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Sunday, 26 September 2004

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