Monday, 22 November 2004
[Monday] [Tuesday] [Wednesday]
[Friday] [Saturday] [Sunday]
- Short week this week. I'll spend today and tomorrow working
like mad to try to get a bit ahead of schedule, because we'll spend the
rest of the week visiting with friends over Thanksgiving. (Burglars:
please see the snake
warning from yesterday).
I've been planning out the coming year, and it's not a pretty sight.
I'm pretty much booked solid now well into 2006. Of course, I like to
be busy, so that's a Good Thing.
I have all sorts of stuff on the way in for the next edition of PC Hardware in a Nutshell. One of
the things I need to do is clear the decks for that new stuff by
getting rid of some of the old stuff. At times I think the easiest
thing would be to haul it all down to an automobile crusher and have
them turn it into a small cube of compressed PC parts. On the other
hand, a lot of it is still new enough to be useful, so I'll do the
responsible thing and spend some time I don't really have to clean it
up, clean the data off, and donate it to Senior Services.
I'm also reorganizing my office so that I have an area (and a primary
computer) dedicated to each of my major projects. That may sound like
conspicuous consumption, but the fact is that it's easier for me if I
can have all of the books and other material associated with a project
in one place. That way, when I switch from one project to another, I
have everything I need in one place instead of having to put stuff away
and pull other stuff out.
I'm trying to streamline my work processes as well, to increase the
amount of work I can turn out per unit time. We'll see how that goes.
Tuesday, 23 November 2004
[Monday] [Tuesday] [Wednesday]
[Thursday] [Friday] [Saturday]
[Sunday] [Next Week]
- If I were serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, these are the guys I'd want
watching my back. The name of the organization, Adopt a Sniper, may
strike you as a bit odd, but these folks do as much as anyone and more
than most to keep our soldiers in combat zones alive and healthy.
Unfortunately, our snipers don't get everything they need as military
issue. As snipers, they need specialized equipment and supplies that
aren't standard quartermaster issue. Some of it they buy themselves,
paying for it out of their own pockets, but not everything they need is
available overseas or affordable to someone on a military paycheck.
Adopt a Sniper was set up to fill these unmet needs. It's an official
501(c)3 organization, so any contribution you make is tax-deductible.
I'd seen this organization mentioned on a couple of sites. I'd intended
to contribute then, but I let that ball drop. This afternoon I was
reading Paul Robichaux's site.
Paul is a Marine and an all-around good guy, and he announced that he
was planning to donate to Adopt a Sniper. How could I do less? So I
clicked on the Donate link and found that they accept PayPal. I've just
sent them a contribution, and I encourage you to do the same.
Wednesday, 24 November 2004
[Wednesday] [Thursday] [Friday]
[Sunday] [Next Week]
Years Ago Today]
- It is said that one should never watch sausage or laws being
made. To that, I propose we add a third category. We don't need to
watch wars being fought. I think the military should ban all newspeople
from war zones except those U.S. reporters who have been carefully
vetted. Any story filed and any video used with a story should be
subject to approval by censors. Any reporter who attempts to get around
these rules should be subject to summary military justice, up to and
including death by firing squad.
What of the Bill of Rights, you ask? Well, as anyone who reads these
pages knows, I am a rabid proponent of the Bill of Rights and a strict
constructionist. However, those Rights apply only to U.S. citizens
within the U.S. The military is not and should not be under any
obligation to give the press free reign in overseas combat areas. The
military should tightly control access to such areas. Any foreign or
unapproved U.S. news crew caught in a combat zone should be summarily
shot for spying.
I haven't watched any of the coverage of the Marine who shot in
self-defense and has been crucified by the news. I didn't need to. I
knew from reading the descriptions from CNN and other outrages
so-called news sources that that Marine had acted properly. I'd have
done exactly what he did. So would any sane person. But the news
sources are playing it for all it's worth as some sort of "war crime".
It all started with Viet Nam, which was the first war to be broadcast
live into our living rooms. And it's no coincidence that the U.S.
abandoned its Vietnamese allies and ran with its tail between its legs.
If you watched the news back then--I did--you'd have thought the Tet
Offensive was a massive win for the Communists, when in fact it was an
The U.S. was winning in Viet Nam. When the North Vietnamese first
attempted a massive invasion, they got their heads handed to them,
almost literally. The second time they came down in waves, they'd have
been slaughtered again had not a Democratic Congress withdrawn all
support almost literally overnight. Television news was the reason. The
Democrats couldn't stand the political heat, so they sold out,
abandoning our allies. It was a shameful moment. And television news
was the reason.
The same happened in Gulf War I and now in Gulf War II. The television
news crews are there watching everything and twisting what they see and
hear to reflect unfavorably on our men and women who are risking their
lives in battle against an enemy. Trivialities like the Al Graib prison
mess are blown out of proportion by the television news, in the process
giving aid and comfort to our enemies. The television news portrays a
Marine doing his job as some kind of war criminal.
I've had enough. It's time to ban news crews from war zones. If people
want to know what's happening, let them watch reports produced by
military reporters and video filmed by military camera crews. If the
television news wants gory film to lure viewers, let them run footage
of terrorists beheading civilians. Now that's a war crime.
25 November 2004
[Wednesday] [Thursday] [Friday]
[Sunday] [Next Week]
- Happy Thanksgiving to my US readers. We had cinnamon buns
straight from the oven this morning, so I've already overeaten. I think
I'll go lie around like a beached whale for a while.
26 November 2004
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- I keep thinking about calendar rationalization. We have
another opportunity coming up in 2007. That's plenty of time to fix all
the world's software and other systems if we start now. Think of it as
a Y2K project, but with a real purpose. 2007 could be the first year in
which we have thirteen months--January, February, March, April, May,
June, July, August, Thompson, September, October, November, and
December--each with 28 days. That's 364 days, so we'd have an
intercalendary day between 31 December 2007 and 1 January 2008. That
day would have no name, no number, and not belong to any week or month.
Here's what the calendar would look like every month.
Think of the advantages. Right now, if someone asked you what day of
week 17 August 2032 falls on, you'd probably have to think for a
moment. With my proposed new calendar system, you'd know immediately
that 17 August 2032 would be a Wednesday. There would be huge
advantages for banking, finance, manufacturing, and any other human
endeavor that runs on a schedule.
While we're at it, we might think about moving Luna just a bit closer,
to put it on a 28.00000-day orbit.
27 November 2004
[Saturday] [Sunday] [Next
and Marcia Bilbrey
left about 9:30 this morning to drive home to Bowie, Maryland, after
spending most of the week with us. We all had a very relaxing time,
including the four dogs. Even Malcolm behaved pretty well after the
first couple of days.
Barbara and Marcia did girl stuff, like shopping and hitting the craft
fair. Brian and I watched Buffy and Blackadder and did guy stuff, like
refettling my network and visiting Paul Jones' and Mary Chervenak's
home to figure out what we needed to do to get wireless set up for them
on their Roadrunner connection.
Doing that is a bit more complex than one might expect because Mary
works from home and has a virtual private network running over her
company-supplied Roadrunner broadband connection. Mary's company
doesn't have any problem with her using the broadband connection
outside work hours for personal use but they do of course want to make
sure that company data remains secure.
Our Prime Directive going in was, "First, do no harm." We had to make
sure that putting a wireless router between the cable modem and the
Cisco VPN adapter wouldn't screw up the VPN. So we carried over my
D-Link DI-624 wireless router to test it. Brian unplugged Mary's
docking station from the cable modem. He then connected and configured
the DI-624 and then connected Mary's docking station to one of the
100BaseT LAN ports on the wireless router. Everything worked normally
without requiring any special configuration to support VPN-passthrough,
so we unplugged the router and put everything back as it had been. Once
Paul and Mary get their own DI-624, I'll get them set up to share their
broadband connection securely.
Once we finished there, we came back to our house and installed the
D-Link wireless router in place of meepmeep,
an AMD Duron system running Mandrake Linux and iptables that's been our
border router for a year or two. Brian runs Xandros Linux, which
doesn't yet support 802.11g and WPA, on his notebook, so we temporarily
set up the wireless router to use WEP. I'll get that reconfigured for
802.11g and WPA as soon as Xandros supports those standards. Meanwhile,
the radio will be turned off.
One of the nice things about using the wireless router instead of the
Linux box is that with the router it's easier to open up ports for
specific purposes. While Brian was here, I wanted to make sure we got
things set up so that I could use BitTorrent. My
long-range plans involve dropping our cable TV service and standard
telephone service and switching everything over to IP-based services
accessed via broadband.
Of course, broadband is an order of magnitude less reliable than
traditional services like analog dialtone, so switching over to VoIP
and similar broadband services will mean I'll need to set up an
802.11*-based peering arrangement with others in our neighborhood. If
we have Roadrunner, one of our neighbors has xDSL from the phone
company, and still another has broadband over power line service, we
can set things up so that we all have access to broadband service as
long as any one of us has a working broadband connection. That'll go a
long way toward smoothing out short-term service failures by any one
(or two) of the providers.
Once I get that set up, we can drop our analog telephone service and
sign up with a VoIP provider like Vonage. Prices for VoIP service are
dropping already, and are likely to get even lower in the
not-too-distant future. Within the next couple of years, I expect VoIP
prices to stabilize somewhere in the $10/month range for unlimited
local and long-distance service. Broadband service should also get
cheaper, particularly as broadband over power lines is deployed. The
power companies will be formidable competitors to the cable and
telephone companies, particularly since the power companies' motivation
is not so much to make money on broadband service itself as to have
direct connections to the electricity meters, which allows them to
dispense with meter readers, and, more importantly, allows them to
institute rates that vary by time of day and the amount of load on
As all of this comes to pass, I can see television via BitTorrent
becoming a major issue. Right now, the emphasis is on file sharing via
P2P networks of music and movies. I think that traffic will eventually
be dwarfed by file sharing of television programs. And that brings up
some interesting legal questions. Right now, there are many things that
are unquestionable legal:
1. I can watch a television program over-the-air or by cable or
satellite service if I've paid for those services.
2. I can record a television program on my VCR or PVR/DVR and watch it
a day later or five years later.
3. If I've recorded a television program, I can give the tape or disc
to a friend, who is legally entitled to watch it.
So, that brings up some interesting questions. Barbara enjoys watching Left Wing. We can watch it now via
cable TV. Even if we didn't subscribe to cable TV, we can watch it
over-the-air. We can record it to tape or disc and watch it later. If
we happen to be away on Wednesday evening and forget to set up to
record the program, we can legally get a tape or disc of it from a
friend who's recorded it and watch that tape or disc.
So, what if instead of using traditional recording means, such as disc
or tape, we instead choose to download Left Wing via BitTorrent? How is
that different--morally, ethically, or legally--from recording it
ourselves or getting a recording from a friend? The answer, of course,
is that it isn't different at all. We're entitled to watch the program.
They did, after all, broadcast it.
But I predict that as BitTorrent continues to grow--it is already
responsible for more Internet traffic than the web, email, or other P2P
services--the reaction of the television networks will make what the
RIAA and MPAA have been doing look tame. I expect there to be attempts
to legislate BitTorrent out of existence. That'll be tough, because one
of the yardsticks (at least for now) is that a technology is legal if
it has "substantial non-infringing uses", which BitTorrent indisputably
If the networks were smart, which they're not, they'd go with the flow
instead of trying to hold back the tide. Cable companies, satellite
companies, and local television stations are all middlemen that stand
between the networks and their customers. If the networks were smart,
they'd see direct delivery as an opportunity to eliminate or greatly
reduce the middlemen's share of the pie rather than as a threat.
If the networks should have learned one thing from the popularity of
VCRs, TiVo's, video stores, NetFlix, and similar things, it is that
people want to watch what they want to watch when they want to watch
it. In other words, the whole concept of broadcasting is obsolete, and
maintaining a huge and costly infrastructure to support that broadcast
mechanism is senseless. Instead, the networks and other content
distributors should be focusing on direct delivery.
Want the latest episode of Left Wing?
That'll be $0.50, please. You want an episode from the first season?
Fine, we discount our backlist to $0.25 per episode. Or how about the
entire first season, which is on special this week? You can download
all 22 episodes for only $3.99. No DRM. No commercials. We earn our
money from our customers, period.
You can even send a copy to your friends if you want to. We're not
stopping you by legal or technical means, but there's really no point
to doing that. It's easier and faster to download it from the local
server at your ISP. An episode only costs $0.25 or $0.50, after all. In
fact, there's not much point to storing it locally. It'll cost you more
than that in disk space or a blank DVD, not to mention the hassles of
storing everything and finding what you want when you want it. If you
want to watch something again, it's easier just to pay for it again. In
fact, we have an all-you-can-eat plan. For just $10/month, you can
download as much of our backlist as you want, as often as you want. And
signing up for that plan also gets you discounts on current episodes,
new movies, and sporting and other current events.
Geez, these people are morons. They're trying desperately to sell
buggywhips long after the automobile has made horses obsolete.
Barbara went to get her Saturnalia Tree, and is now running around now
unpacking boxes full of Saturnalia
ornaments and setting them up in the library.
one you probably won't hear about on the Microsoft Get
the FUD page. The UK Department for Work and Pensions planned to
upgrade their 100,000 desktop PCs from Windows 2000 to Windows XP.
Before deploying the upgrade to all of the department's desktop
systems, the sysadmins wisely chose to do a test roll-out. They decided
to test the deployment on seven systems.
Unfortunately, it seems the Microsoft deployment software went berserk.
When the smoke cleared, the Microsoft "upgrade" had killed 80,000
systems, none of which were any longer running Windows 2000 and none of
which had been "upgraded" to Windows XP. Eighty thousand dead systems.
What are the chances that Microsoft will include the costs of this
catastrophe the next time they trot out their bogus TCO figures? The
words snowball and hell come to mind.
I am tempted to do a real TCO study, factoring in issues that Microsoft
always conveniently forgets to include. Things like the very real and
very high cost of dealing with viruses, Trojans, worms, and other
malware, both in terms of prevention and in terms of dealing with the
inevitable infections. Things like the unscalability of Windows Server
from an administration point of view. Microsoft always claims that
Windows admins cost less than Linux admins. They may even be right,
although I doubt it nowadays. But what they never mention is that a
competent Linux admin can administer many, many more servers than an
equally competent Windows admin.
28 November 2004
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Thompson. All Rights Reserved.