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Week of 25 April 2005

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Monday, 25 April 2005
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10:15 - I watched this weekend while our friend Paul Jones built a PC for his father, which he'll deliver the next time he visits home. Paul ordered the components from NewEgg on Monday to make sure they'd be ready to go over the weekend. We used an Antec 2650BQE case, Intel D865GLC motherboard, Celeron processor, 512 MB of Crucial memory, a Seagate S-ATA hard drive, and an NEC ND3520A DVD burner. It's a very nice system that's likely to keep his dad happy for a long time to come.

Paul specifically mentioned when we first talked about building a system for his dad that he wanted to run Xandros to help insulate his dad from malware and other nasties. I had a subdirectory in my downloads directory named "Xandros 3.0 OCE", and planned to burn a CD Saturday morning before I went over to supervise the build. When I checked, I found that the only file in that directory was an ISO of an early beta of X3OCE. Oops. I needed to grab X3OCE quickly, because I was due over at their house at 13:00.

So I fired up BitTorrent and told it to go get X3OCE using the torrent posted on the Xandros web site. For the first couple of minutes, I was worried. For the first minute, my BitTorrent client just sat there doing nothing. It finally located a host that was sharing X3OCE and started the transfer, but the next minute or so it was telling me the transfer would take nearly two days to complete. Fortunately, I let it keep trying, because shortly after that it started transferring X3OCE quickly. Download throughput peaked at more than 300 KB/s, and the 450 MB zip file of the ISO finished downloading in about 45 minutes. Being a socially responsible kind of guy, I left BitTorrent up for another hour or so to allow other people to suck down X3OCE from my host.

The system build went very smoothly. It was Paul's first build, although he'd watched Mary build their own system back in November. Paul claims to be all thumbs when it comes to mechanical stuff, but he's exaggerating. He got the box assembled and ready to fire up in 90 minutes or so. We carried it upstairs to their office and plugged it in in place of their own system.

Xandros 3 OCE installed flawlessly. The OCE version isn't lacking much compared to the commercial versions. The only thing that mattered from Paul's dad's point of view was the crippled support for CD writing and the lack of DVD writing. We solved that easily enough by installing K3b, which I prefer to Xandros's native burning support anyway.

X3OCE comes with Firefox and Thunderbird rather than the Mozilla Suite. Although I much prefer the latter, the lightweight versions are actually probably better for Paul's dad anyway, so we left them installed. To keep remote support simple, I decided to set up an email account for Paul's dad on one of my domains, so that he'd use his broadband provider (which he hasn't yet signed up for) only for IP connectivity. We configured Thunderbird to pop from that account and to use it for SMTP as well. That way, if Paul's dad has mail problems, I'll have things under my control. The last thing we wanted was for Paul's dad, who's a newbie computer user, to be talking to some broadband provider that doesn't support Linux.

We then did a bunch of minor configuration stuff, such as installing Adblock and Flashblock, configuring xine to play commercial DVD videos, and so on. At that point, we declared the system ready to go. Paul is going to run it for a while to burn it in before he hauls it to his dad's house and sets it up.

Over the years, Jerry Pournelle has frequently commented that Linux "wasn't ready for Aunt Minnie." He recently changed his mind, and declared Xandros ready for Aunt Minnie, but I'd go further than that. Xandros is the only OS I know of that I'd consider to be ready for Aunt Minnie.

In my considered opinion, Windows isn't ready for Aunt Minnie. Windows cannot be made adequately secure if it is to be connected to broadband and managed by a non-expert user. Sure, it helps to do things like install AV software, a malware scanner, and a router/firewall, not to mention installing Mozilla/Firefox/Thunderbird in place of IE/Outlook/Outook Express. But even if you do all of those things, how certain are you that if you return in six months six weeks six days the system won't be infected with a bunch of malware?

Most of the people who read this journal can run Windows safely, certainly, but they are exceptionally competent and experienced when it comes to dealing with security. Put it this way: if I set up 100 Xandros systems for inexperienced users and then returned six months later, I'd be surprised if even one of those systems was infected with anything; if I did the same with Windows, I'd be surprised if even one of the systems wasn't infected.


Tuesday, 26 April 2005
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09:34 - I installed Windows XP on a system yesterday, which is now the only system in the house running Windows. I need a Windows box to run some Windows-only software, including a couple of astronomy programs and DVDshrink. It's a pretty minimal system--the AMD system I built for the budget PC article--but it's enough to do what I need to do. It'll rip DVDs slowly, but that's a batch process anyway, so it doesn't matter much. (Actually, DVD ripping will be even slower than usual until I replace the CD writer with a DVD drive.)

I ran into one interesting problem. The system had Xandros 3 installed on it. When I inserted a CD-R copy of Windows XP and rebooted, XP Setup got only as far as the first, "examining your system", step, and then displayed a blank screen. I figured the CD-R copy of the XP distribution disc was bad, so I went off in search of an original XP disc. When I booted with that, the same thing happened. At that point, I figured I must have gotten a bad original XP disc and that I'd made the CD-R copy from it. So I went off in search of another XP disc and booted it. Same thing. Hmmm.

Obviously, Xandros 3 wasn't going to let XP setup run. So I fired up DBAN and used it to nuke the hard drive. Once I'd done that, XP installed normally. Once installation completed, I visited the Windows Update site and told it to have its way with the system. Ironically, after it had finished updating XP, I was no longer able to connect to the Windows Update site, although I could still connect to other web sites.

Once I replace the optical drive and perhaps install a larger hard drive, I may activate this installation of XP, just to see what happens. I have a bunch of valid XP installation keys--I've never activated any XP installation before--but all of them date from the original release of XP, three years ago or whenever, when Microsoft sent me a bunch of XP CDs and extra keys. I don't even know if the old keys will still work.

This from John Ricketson.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: UDF and AV SW
Date:    Tue, 26 Apr 2005 05:09:49 -0700
To:      Robert Bruce Thompson



As you may or may not know, most (not all) UDF (Uniform Data Format (a true misnomer) burning SW is totally incompatible with most (not all) AV SW. BIG problem - as I want, and need, both on BIG-A BOX. My backup method of choice is 4.7GB DVD/RW discs. I find them convenient and inexpensive for my backup scheme.

Why UDF as opposed to any other DVD burning SW, such as Nero? Because once UDF formatted, they behave like a floppy disk: removable, transportable, erasable, and rewritable, without having to fire up inscrutable and tedious general purpose DVD SW. So long as the UDF SW is on the system, you can use them like a floppy, handled by your file wrangler of choice (I use Windows File Manager winfile.exe). If I want an exact duplicate of my D: drive, I put the UDF DVD copy of D: in its cup holder and close it. As soon as it mounts, I then click on D: and Q: drives to expand them, and tile the panes vertically, thus:

I then delete the contents of Q:, and drag&drop D: to Q: I settle in to read while the copy takes place. Tedious, because it will NOT run in the background. Nothing else can happen until the Copy is completed or cancelled. Then on to the next drive & UDF DVD copy, etc. Labor intensive if done all at once but it pays off bigtime.

With my various tinkering, trying, and testing assorted SW to make life a little easier, I frequently break my main W2K-0 OS install on D:. That is no longer a problem merely a nuisance. Last night I broke W2K-0 to the point it would not load anything but an error message whining about something or other. NP. I rebooted BIG-A BOX and selected my secondary vestigial W2K-1 on E:. During the boot, it fixed whatever W2K-0 was whining about, and W2K-0 booted up perfectly on the next try. Had it not - NP. I would simply have put the recent copy of D: in the cup holder, deleted D:’s contents, and replaced it from the D_COPY UDF DVD. It works I have done this. Now a BSOD or Blackout is no longer a problem merely a nuisance. Good backuping is the key to peace of mind.

For about the past six months I have been testing and playing with various UDF and AV SW. Tedious, and very disappointing, for the most part. The various SW packages I tried (I did NOT try anything from Symantec or Snortin’ Norton, due to past experience with their SW) were in the main user-hostile and opaque. I tried, among others, McAffee. It was too complex and inefficient, and required a true Geek’s familiarity with all 65,000 Ports and their use and configuration. Beyond me, admittedly. Then I tried Panda Platinum AV/Firewall on their free trial basis, and bought it the next day. Very easy to use and configure. Done once, you can forget about it. It works silently in the background and keeps your Box clean. First time I ran a scan with it, it found _35_ instances of malware that the others I had attempted had missed. Panda killed the goblins on BIG-A BOX. Subsequent daily scans (~20 minutes for the 400,000+ files on BIG-A BOX and worth every second of it) have come up clean. Panda is evidently doing its job quite well. OK I had my AV/Firewall. Now to contend with UDF SW.

I ran a Google on “UDF DVD software” and came up with many many entries. For the most part they were incompatible with /any/ AV apps. In the process, I investigated B’s CLiP6.0. It specifically states it can’t live with McAffee (and probably some others). I know from my use of it that it cohabits happily with Panda AV. I bought it and set it up. Worked perfectly, first time out of the (virtual) box. It works exactly as advertised. Best of all it is a one-trick pony: all it does is UDF I don't have to pay through the nose for unwanted bells & whistles (as in Nero). However, if desired, BHA Corp. has a wide variety of modules (sold separately) to mix & match for even the most demanding Audio/Video enthusiasts. If they work as well as B’sCLiP6, they can’t be beaten. HIGHLY recommended.

Now as to the “Uniform Data Format” misnomer: There is a UDF ISO standard as there was for SCSI when it first came out. At the time, SCSI vendors hewed to the standard and added enough proprietary standards that compatibility was a big issue, until Adaptec came into the picture and, by its superiority became the de facto SCSI standard. SCSI vendors either hewed to the Adaptec standard or went out of business - or both. Same thing is happening with UDF today. All the vendors want their proprietary version to prevail. POINT: Do not presume that you can take any UDF-formatted disc and have it readable by any other than the UDF SW that formatted it. Sad  but true. One day this will happen but not yet.

Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments, or share this information with others. “Knowledge wants to be Free!” - as in beer <BG>



I'm not sure why you care about UDF. I do much the same as you do for backup, but rather than messing with packet writing and UDF, I simply burn a DVD copy of selected directories and files. The resulting DVD is readable by any system with a DVD drive, whether or not it has a UDF reader installed. Why introduce another layer of complexity and possible incompatibility?


Wednesday, 27 April 2005
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09:38 - More from John Ricketson. In case you're wondering why I'm spending so much time and effort on this issue, it's because I think it's important. Most people, including many of my readers, don't back up their data adequately. Too many times, I've seen the catastrophes that occur when people ignore the need for proper backups. I'm a zealot on this topic. I backup and archive my stuff very frequently, and doing that has saved my butt more than once.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: UDF and AV SW
Date:    Tue, 26 Apr 2005 10:28:10 -0700
To:      Robert Bruce Thompson

1 - Recoverability. I want to be able to recover the data when necessary without jumping through unnecessary hoops to do it, or having the files corrupted by the process. One software backup app I used - think it was one of Nero's versions - copied back the data exactly - except the Read Only bit had been set on every file and directory returned. PITA.

2 - Cost. The DVDs can be used over & over.

3 - If I /added/ a layer of complexity by using B'sCLiP6 - once - to format the DVDs - I at the same time /removed / the layer of complexity required by DVD-writing SW such as Nero, Roxi-O, et al. Once formatted, I never have to take the time to burn the DVD again, nor fire up the DVD SW to recover the files - simply copy the files. I came out ahead on that, IMO.



I think we're talking at cross purposes here. I'm not suggesting you use a "backup" application to back up your data to DVD. I'm suggesting you burn a DVD+RW (the + formats are safer for data than the - formats) that contains copies of your files in directly readable form. In other words, instead of using drag-'n-drop packet-writing, I'm suggesting you burn your files to DVD in batch mode.

The only advantage packet writing gives you is that you can use the optical disc interactively, e.g., dragging and dropping files to it, deleting files from it, and so on. Against that, packet writing has several disadvantages, including:

o the need to have a UDF reader installed on any system that is to read the disc (i.e., the disc is not natively readable)
o reduced storage capacity because the UDF overhead consumes significant space on the disc
o much slower write performance
o lower disc reliability because packet writing overuses some areas of the disc and underuses others

I back up my working data set every morning, seven days a week, to a DVD+RW disc, simply by burning a copy of my working directories to a DVD+RW disc. The Monday through Saturday discs are daily discs. On Sundays, I back up to Sunday 1 through Sunday 5 weekly discs.

With a 4X DVD+RW drive, it takes at most 15 minutes to write the disc, assuming that the amount of data is sufficient to fill the disc or nearly so, and proportionately less time when the data directory is less full. I keep my working data directories no larger than will fit on one disc. Older data is swept to a "holding directory", and backed up to DVD only when material is added periodically to that directory. When the "holding" area becomes too large to fit on one DVD, I sweep the holding area data to my main archive directory and burn a new set of archive DVDs.

The daily backups and holding backups are done to DVD+RW discs and the archive backups to DVD+R discs. The DVD+RW discs are good for at least 1,000 writes, but I plan to use them for at most a couple years before replacing the discs, which will limit them to about 100 writes for daily backup discs and many fewer writes for holding discs. I haven't even bothered to date the discs as to first use, because the march of technology will take care of that part automatically. Two years from now, I'll be using faster drives and faster discs.

I formerly used tape backup, but I abandoned that a year or so ago for several reasons. The primary reason was speed. Any affordable tape drive is simply too slow for my needs. With writable DVD, I get realworld throughput of 15GB to 20GB/hour, many times the speed of affordable tape drives. In return for that speed, I give up some reliability. Writable DVD is several orders of magnitude less reliable than tape in terms of unrecoverable bit error rate. But that doesn't matter to me, because massive redundancy trumps tape's higher reliability. If a particular file is unreable from a given disc, I can always get it from another disc.

Backing up to disc has several other advantages, not least of which is that the discs are easily readable in any system with a DVD drive. I keep my backup and archive discs in standard cordura CD/DVD carrying cases, and I take my backups along when I leave the house, even for a few hours for things like an astronomy observing session. If someone broke in and stole all our computers, the short-term impact would be minimal as long as I had my DVD backups with me. I could be up and running again in no time. If my backups were still on DDS4 tapes, it might take a bit longer to get back up to speed.

11:08 - I got email the other day from a guy who said he liked it better back in the days when I was still using and bitching about Windows. He feels like a laggard, he says, because "it seems like everyone else is abandoning Windows and I'm still stuck with it." Which got me to thinking about the position Windows users who are would-be Linux converts find themselves in.

Microsoft software is crap. Everyone knows it, including Microsoft. Windows is crap. Internet Explorer is crap. And, boy, is Outlook ever crap. They're not only crap, they're unfixable crap, short of complete re-writes, which isn't gonna happen. Microsoft is the Little Piggie who built his house from straw, and that's come back to haunt Microsoft and its users. All Microsoft can do is continue to apply bandaid fixes and release updated versions with ever more bells and whistles, hoping that no one will notice that dressed-up, patched-up crap is still crap. And, as the world's leading crap purveyor, Microsoft has no choice but to continue pushing their crap.

So anyone who uses Microsoft Crap must be a complete idiot, right? Wrong, obviously, but unfortunately that's a common perception that originates from both directions. We all know about the Linux zealots, the "Windoze" crowd, who seem constantly to do their best to belittle people who are still using Microsoft Crap. These are the kind of people who'd toss an anchor to a drowning man. On the flipside are the Microsoft Crap users themselves, many of whom realize that they're using crap software. They'd prefer to be using something better, but simply can't make the change. Their "must-have" application isn't available yet for Linux, or they're simply bound by inertia. After all, it's easier to continue using what you know, bad as it may be, rather than make a jump to a whole new way of doing things.

I can empathize with those people, because I was one of them for several years. Starting around 2000, I knew I'd eventually need to make the jump. I couldn't do that immediately, not because I wasn't ready, but because Linux wasn't ready. A lot of people exhorted me to make the move immediately, telling me that I had to take Linux on its own terms, not expect Linux to change to suit my own desires. I knew that was wrong, so I waited. The wait paid off about a year ago. When Barbara and I visited our friends the Bilbreys over Memorial Day, Brian showed me Xandros Linux. Within a month, I'd converted all my main systems to Xandros, and I've never looked back. July 4th 2004 was Independence Day for me in more ways than one. On July 4th, I shut down my last primary Windows system and began using Xandros almost exclusively.

And it was Linux gurus like Brian Bilbrey and Greg Lincoln who paved the way for me. Neither of them was ever even slightly judgmental about my continuing use of Windows. Neither of them ever implied that I was stupid for using Microsoft Crap. Both of them offered help and suggestions when I asked, but neither ever tried to push me. And, as a result, I am now a happy casual Linux user.

I say "casual" because I'm no Linux expert, nor do I ever intend to become one. I use Linux as a tool to get my work done. I have no interest in learning all about it. In fact, I know very little more about Linux now than I did a year ago. I use Xandros Linux in the same way that most people use Windows, as an appliance that gets the job done. I don't spend any time to speak of at the command line, and all of the Linux configuration files and other exotica are pretty much mysteries to me.

But that's the point. I don't want to know about this stuff. I want it to just work, and with Xandros that's what happens. As just one small example, consider connecting a Linux box to shared resources on a Windows network. Every other distribution I tried, without exception, made it a struggle to do that. I could make it happen, certainly, but doing so involved editing Samba client and server configuration files, editing fstab, and so on. With Xandros, I simply connect the Linux box to the network, and Xandros File Manager displays the shared Windows resources. It's as easy or easier to connect to a shared volume or printer from a Xandros client as it is from a Windows client. Literally. And the converse is also true. If I want to make a drive on a Xandros box available as a Windows share to Windows clients, it's a simple matter of right-clicking on the drive to be shared and choosing Windows Sharing. This is what desktop Linux should be.

Xandros isn't perfect, of course. No software ever is. But it comes closer than any other desktop operating system I've ever used, and, as Jerry Pournelle says, it's Good Enough.


Thursday, 28 April 2005
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08:30 - I remember years ago seeing a cartoon, by Gahan Wilson, I think. It showed two police officers standing next to a table that had an old-fashioned manual meat grinder bolted to it. Under the meat grinder was a large pile of ground meat, and hanging from the crank of the meat grinder was a human hand and arm. The caption was, "Most determined case of suicide I've ever seen."

Which reminded me of myself yesterday. If I'd been a surgeon yesterday, all my patients would have died. Heck, if I'd been a dermatologist, all my patients would have died. Okay, let's be honest. If I'd been an accountant, all my patients would have died. Although there is no history of insanity in my family, I am periodically overtaken by bouts of temporary lunacy. Yesterday was one of those days.

I'd planned to upgrade Barbara's and my main systems to Xandros 3 once the Business Edition ships next month. I was debating with myself what to do about mail. Mozilla has deprecated Mozilla Suite, and Thunderbird is simply inadequate for any but casual use. I didn't much like Evolution in its 1.x releases, but I'd heard that Evolution 2.0 was greatly improved. Also, I've always missed the integrated PIM functions of Outlook, which Evolution provides, so I decided it was time to take another look at Evolution.

It was there that insanity reared its ugly head. Alas, Xandros doesn't yet offer Evolution 2.0 in its repository. So I decided to go get Evolution 2.0 from a Debian Testing repository and install it on my main system. Foot, meet bullet. (Note that none of this has anything to do with the Aunt Minnie issue; Aunt Minnie would have no idea how to do what I did, let alone actually do it. Xandros makes it very hard to destroy your own system, but I was able to subvert their protections and destroy my system anyway.) I could have "pinned" the important stuff in Xandros to prevent it from being overwritten and broken, but I didn't bother to do that.

Instead, I located Evolution 2.0 in the third-party repository and told Xandros Networks to install it for me. The first warning sign I ignored was the list of packages to be installed/updated. There were 50 or 60 of them, including many that I had no idea what they did and some that I knew I really didn't want changed. One of them, for example, was the Mozilla Suite. The Mozilla Suite? Why the hell would Evolution need to update the Mozilla Suite? I continued despite all this, and XN merrily installed the update. After the installation, Xandros would still boot and run, but Evolution refused to start and Mozilla (browser and mail) was borked. Oh, shit.

I ended up doing an upgrade installation of Xandros 3 Deluxe, which more or less worked. I then copied my Mozilla Profile information from the backup DVD I'd made that morning. Mozilla Browser was back to the way it had been, but Mozilla Mail refused to work. Rats. So I eventually blew away the contents of the hard drive and did a Xandros 3 Deluxe installation from scratch. That worked, but still being temporarily insane I again installed Evolution 2. This time, Evolution 2 fired up normally. Feature-wise, it looks good. It has the one major feature that was missing from Evolution 1.x, spam filtering, and the PIM functions look good. It supports hot-synching a Palm, which Barbara needs to do.

The only problem was that Evolution 2 was ugly, and I mean UGLY. I know that's not its normal appearance, because I've seen Evolution 1.x on Xandros, and it's very pretty. I'd guess the problem is that Evolution 2 hadn't been tweaked for Xandros and was using crappy looking fonts. But it was too ugly to live, so I decided to get rid of it and return temporarily to using Mozilla Mail until Xandros releases an official version of Evolution 2.

Since I didn't have much time invested in this installation of Xandros 3 Deluxe, I decided it made sense to start fresh, so I blew away the contents of the hard drive and did another fresh install of Xandros 3. Our three primary data stores--directories named usr, holding, and archive--reside on adelie, Barbara's Xandros 2 box. The backups of those directories--usrback, holdingback, and archiveback--reside on my box. So I recreated those directories on my new Xandros 3 box and copied usr and holding from adelie to usrback and holdingback on hypatia, my box. Those directories are only about 4 GB each, so they copied pretty quickly.

About that time, we were due to leave to meet a friend for dinner, so I started archive on adelie copying to archiveback on hypatia. The archive directory is massive, so I expected it to take quite a while to copy. Sure enough, we started it at about 17:40 and left to meet our friend for dinner. When we returned home about 19:40, the copy was about 95% complete, with a few minutes remaining. I watched that finish up, and decided to bag working on computers for the day.

I suppose the upside is that I'm now running Xandros 3 on my main system. And no data was lost nor any animals harmed during the upgrade.


Friday, 29 April 2005
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09:17 - The Deep Impact mission concludes on 4 July 2005 at about 0600 UT when the penetrator strikes Comet 1 Tempel. When that happens, Comet 1 Tempel will flare, possibly by many magnitudes, and may become a (barely) naked-eye object. It will almost certainly become clearly visible with a binocular.

For us in Eastern North America, Comet 1 Tempel will set just before the impact, but it will be well placed for those farther west. For those in Los Angeles and San Francisco, for example, Comet 1 Tempel will be at about 25° elevation. If Comet 1 Tempel is above the horizon at your location, you may actually be able to see the impact as a sudden, dramatic brightening of the comet. Even those of us who won't be able to view the actual impact aren't out of luck, though. The temporary brightening caused by the impact is likely to persist for at least days and possibly weeks.

Fortunately, Comet 1 Tempel will be easy to locate, even for those who have little experience with the night sky. For several days before and after impact, Comet 1 Tempel will be located very close to the bright star Spica in the constellation Virgo. The star map below shows how to locate Spica. Begin by locating the Big Dipper. Follow the curve of the handle to "arc to Arcturus", a very bright star in the constellation Boötes (pronounced boe-ote'-eez). Then continue on that curve to "spike to Spica". (Although Spica is very bright, there's something even brighter nearby. Jupiter blazes away to the right and slightly below Spica.)

Deep Impact star map

I'll post more detailed instructions for viewing the impact closer to the time it will occur. It will be worth your time to get out your binocular (or visit a scheduled viewing at a local astronomy club) to see this event. Not because it will be visually impressive. It won't. But because we did this. Humans did this.

My primary system is back up and running Xandros 3. Everything is fixed, and in a lot of ways it's better than it was before. The old system had Xandros 2.5 with Crossover Office installed. I had Microsoft Office 2000 installed on it, along with IrfanView and several other Windows applications. Those were a crutch I used during the transition. I don't need them any more, so I didn't bother to install them. I haven't even bothered to install K3b. I used Xandros File Manager yesterday to burn my daily backup to DVD, and it worked fine.

In retrospect, since I was rebuilding my system from the ground up, I probably should have done it on the Pentium 4/570 box that I planned to make my new primary system. But I'll probably just wait for the release of Xandros 3 Business Edition next month and do another rebuild then. At that point, I can strip this Aria system with the Pentium 4/3.2 down to bare metal and turn it into a Windows machine for screen shots, DVD ripping, astronomy software, and so on.

13:15 - Geez. I couldn't figure out why my network was acting hinky. My primary system, hypatia, could see only one other system on the network, kepler. Barbara's main system, adelie, could see only one other system, also kepler. But adelie couldn't see hypatia, and hypatia couldn't see adelie. Except that I have shares defined on hypatia that point to adelie, and those shares were working properly. To make a long story short, there were two systems on the network named kepler. Duh. I renamed one of the kepler systems to newton, rebooted all of the systems, and everything now works properly.

I see that John Dvorak has discovered Skype. He's about 30,000,000 users late. Skype, says Dvorak, is the best thing since sliced bread, although he does note that some people dislike its closed nature. No kidding.

People sometimes ask me why I don't use Skype. I've had a Skype account for a year or more, but I simply refuse to make any investment in using it. Skype is everything I despise in software. It's closed source and uses totally proprietary data formats and protocols. And it's from the same folks who wrote Kazaa, the posterchild for scumware. I don't trust them, and I don't trust Skype.

Fortunately, there are indications that there are already talented people hard at work reverse engineering the proprietary Skype protocols, so I expect we'll have an open-source Skype client available before long. And that client is likely to have a lot of features that the current "free" Skype client doesn't offer. Now that Skype has a critical mass of users, I keep expecting them to to introduce a pay-for "Skype Pro" client with support for features like voicemail, call-forwarding, time-of-day restrictions, and so on. Perhaps the OSS client will pre-empt that.

I don't object to Skype making money on the service, but let them make it on their Skype-In and Skype-Out services, not by keeping the core protocols secret.


Saturday, 30 April 2005
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09:22 - It turns out that Jennifer Wilbanks is a poor excuse for a human being. Unfortunately, I suspect little or nothing will or can be done to punish her. She filed no false police report nor committed any other crime. She simply walked away from her wedding, being too cowardly to call a halt to it. The fact that she did everything possible to make her voluntary disappearance appear to be an abduction probably isn't provable or actionable, unfortunately.

And so the police and others wasted countless man-hours and dollars looking for a woman who had disappeared voluntarily. As far as I know, none of those who searched for her were injured or killed, but it might have happened. And the next time a woman disappears under similar circumstances the police will be that much less likely to treat the disappearance as a possible abduction. Way to go, Jennifer. Your self-centered behavior has made things a bit worse for all of us. But at least you've revealed yourself for the spoiled bitch that you are.


Sunday, 1 May 2005
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