- Another $55 billion down the drain, most of which came from
the pockets of US taxpayers. The G8 nations announced they're writing
off massive "loans" they made to poor nations, most of those in Africa.
Bizarrely, they're spinning this as a success rather than the miserable
failure it is. Incredibly, they're talking about this massive default
as an opportunity to lend more money to countries that have never paid
back earlier "loans" and have no prospect of paying back any future
This needs to be called what it is: a massive transfer of wealth from
the pockets of American taxpayers to hellhole countries and third-world
dictators. There never has been and never will be any justification for
the US government to distribute foreign aid of any sort. If they have
the money to do that, they should be reducing the tax burden on the US
taxpayer, not sending our wealth overseas. Nor does the US government
have any business participating in the International Monetary Fund, the
World Bank, the UN, and other organizations whose primary reason for
existing is to loot the US taxpayer for the benefit of other countries.
US politicians are supposed to act in the interests of US citizens in
general and US taxpayers in particular. Period. As I prepare to write
yet another large check for estimated taxes, it enrages me to know that
a significant percentage of the amount I'm forced to send to the US
Treasury will be wasted on foreign aid and similar giveaways to other
countries. How about keeping that money at home? The Social Security
trust fund is going bankrupt, and our politicians are sending billions
to Africa. Jesus.
Thanks to everyone who requested a review copy of Astronomy Hacks. I've sent the
names and addresses of everyone who responded to O'Reilly. I don't know
how many review copies they plan to send out, but my guess is that
those who registered for a review copy have a better than 50-50 shot at
If you do receive a copy, please read it and post a review of it at
your earliest opportunity. Amazon.com is the most important place to
post your review, although you're of course free to post it on the
Barnes & Noble site and other on-line review sites.
- Okay. I don't usually print press releases and similar
announcements, but this time it's only fair that I do so, since I've
been beta-testing Xandros 3 since last fall and have been recommending
it for a year now.
Today and Save Up to 70% off on Xandros Business 3!
miss out, Upgrade to Xandros Desktop OS - Business Edition 3.0 today
and save up to 70% off the retail price of $129.95.
wait? Give your business an advantage today!
The new and enhanced features of Xandros Desktop Business Edition 3.0
including improved wireless network support and Xandros Anti-Virus (US
$24.95 MSRP) and Firewall Wizard offer the most compatible and
easy-to-use Windows alternative ever!!
To upgrade now, use one of the Click To Buy links below*.
*The discounted price
will be applied at the end of the checkout process, before order
confirmation. Prices do not include shipping and handling. All prices
in US dollars.
New and existing
Xandros Networks Premium
Members receive an additional
off. Contact Customer
Service to get personal upgrade
discount coupon, including upgrades
from older versions and trade-ups for
version 3 Standard & Deluxe.
are pleased to announce the availability of Xandros Desktop OS Business
Edition - Version 3. As always, we have listened to your requests and
have added features you’ve asked for - including the latest
wireless and networking capabilities - to bring you the best desktop
Version 3 of the Xandros Business Desktop is compatible with the latest
Windows 2003 Server Service Pack 1, providing a secure, stable
alternative to costly Windows desktops. It provides seamless sharing of
Windows network resources with domain authentication support for
Windows 2000 and Windows 2003 servers, logon scripts, and group policy
profiles. Other enterprise-class features include:
large Windows networks
- Seamless Microsoft
- Latest wireless
network card support including Intel Centrino, 802.11g speed with WPA
Click-N-Connect wireless network AP (Access Point) finder
- Thin clients and
- SMP and
of Both Worlds
Xandros Business Desktop offers a complete desktop
experience including Firefox web browsing, Thunderbird e-mailing, Skype
Internet calling, and the Star Office suite. Loaded with security
features - including Xandros Anti-Virus, the Xandros Firewall Wizard,
encrypted home folders, and secure access to virtual private networks -
you can finally say goodbye to the frustration related to Windows
Xandros Desktop can be installed either standalone or alongside Windows
to create a dual-boot “Best of both worlds” machine
using and migrating to Linux from Windows a simple and natural
what beta testers had to say
about V3 Business:
put Xandros Business Edition on my office, home and laptop computers,
not because I'm anti-Microsoft or anti-any other Operating System ...
but because it's BETTER than any OS I've seen to date." -- Alton Jones,
Administrator, Starpoint Communications, Inc.
team at Xandros has created several wizards, but the most notable is
the Ndiswrapper wizard which will make connecting wirelessly easier
than any other distribution available." -- Eric Strawn,
Attorney at Law
easily within an existing Server 2003 AD environment without dedicated
support people has always been a stopper for other Linux distributions.
... Windows days on the desktop are numbered. Microsoft should be
afraid, very afraid, of what Xandros has to offer." -- Ray T
has put out a solid operating system that should give Windows a true
run for their money. ... I can not tell you how much time is
by not constantly having to update Windows with security
etc." -- Matt Stein,
Orange County, California
the exception of one or two systems that we keep around to run our few
remaining Windows-only legacy applications, we've converted our entire
business to Xandros, and have no regrets. If you want a top-notch Linux
distribution to replace Windows on your desktop, look no further than
Xandros Desktop 3.0 Business Edition." -- Robert Bruce Thompson,
Hardware in a Nutshell & Building the Perfect PC
desktop computing from the Xandros Team!
can turn off future mailings by logging in to https://shop.xandros.com/login.php,
selecting My Account, selecting Notifications and disabling
This from Jim Cooley:
Prescott over-heating problem solved
Date: Fri, 10
Jun 2005 08:24:14 -0400
ought to do it.
Heh. That beats my record, which was 17 fans in a PC Power &
Cooling full-tower case.
Xandros BE vs Deluxe 3 SP-2
Date: Thu, 9
Jun 2005 21:41:29 -0600
Ronal B Morse USN
playing with SP-2 and the 2.6.11 kernel update for Xandros Desktop
Deluxe for a couple of days. The experience was OK, not perfect,
not debilitating. A little aggravating at times.
At any rate,
finally got around to paying for and installing BE3.02 tonight. The BE
package is screwed together much tighter than the SP-2 package. I had
none of the niggling little glitches Well worth the upgrade price
(in my case $59 going from 3.0 Deluxe > BE) just to avoid the hassle
of installing SP-2 and the kernel update.
make we want to send them money just to encourage their efforts.
Yeah, me too, although of course with me being a computer journalist
*and* a beta tester they send me everything for free.
I have the same impression of X3D/SP2 versus X3BE. There are some very
minor glitches in the former, but the latter seems rock-solid. I'm
running X3D/SP2 on my primary system and my den system, and have X3BE
running on Barbara's primary system and a couple of other systems. I
much prefer X3BE.
Original Message --------
Subject: More thanks
Date: Mon, 13 Jun 2005 07:23:03 -0400
Been waiting on Xandros BE 3.0 since you mentioned. Ordered.
Then in a few short paragraphs, you explain more about what I need to
know thank hours of searching Xandros' web site. A tribute to
your expertise and succinctness. That is why I read every word,
every day of your posts. I (we) depend on your table
scraps. I (we) trust what you say.
Installed kmail, and quite happy with it. Thanks again.
Thanks for the kind words.
- Astronomy Hacks hits
the warehouse tomorrow, so we should have an early copy Thursday or
I spent some time last weekend ripping CDs and DVDs, and
learned some interesting things.
First, more than a few of Barbara's CDs aren't CD-DA audio CDs at all.
bastard hybrid of an audio CD with a data CD. The publishers claim that
the data portion enhances our experience, but what they really mean, of
course, is that it prevents us from copying the CD, or so they fondly
hope. Well, screw them. Barbara wants MP3s of her CDs to carry on her
MuVo MP3 player to the gym, and I'm not going to let them get in my way.
I have zero respect for the RIAA and the big music companies. I might
have had some respect for them--not much, but some--if they'd admit
what they're doing instead of sanctimoniously claiming to be enhancing
our "experience". Why can't they say something like, "We think our
customers are all a bunch of thieves, and the reason this data session
is on this disc is because in our inept way we're trying to prevent
people too stupid to figure out how to get around it from copying our
At any rate, something's happened to the GNOME grip app I had been
using to rip audio CDs. It used to rip and encode an entire CD to MP3,
using LAME, at about the maximum DAE rate the drive supported. It was
always a bit strange, because grip wouldn't do two CDs in a row unless
I exited the application completely and restarted it for the second CD.
Then it started leaving a zombie process after ripping one CD. I tried
to use Xandros Process Manager to kill the zombie process, but it
refused to die. So I went out to command line and killed it dead, using
the "die, Die, DIE, and this time I really mean it" command. After
that, grip would load again and start to work, but die part of the way
through a CD. Ultimately, I ended up having to reboot the system
between CDs, which is ridiculous.
But it got worse. On my new primary desktop system, I've yet to succeed
in ripping a full CD before grip dies on me. Even a reboot doesn't
solve the problem. The same is true on two other systems I've tried it
on. I'm forced to conclude that grip and Xandros 3 just don't play nice
So, I decided the simplest solution might be just to use the ripping
feature integrated into Xandros File Manager. Sure enough, that works
fine. Click on the CD, highlight the audio tracks, and copy/paste them
to the directory where I want the MP3s. Up pops a dialog, asking what
format I want to use and how to name the ripped files. I accept the
defaults, which are MP3 and to use the track name rather than the track
number. Xandros rips and encodes the audio tracks to 128 Kb/s MP3s. (I
can't find a way to specify bit rate, but 128 Kb/s MP3s are fine with
Barbara for use in her portable MP3 player at the gym.)
Ordinarily, the ripping and encoding process takes only a few minutes
per CD. About every fifth or tenth CD, I run into one that for some
reason rips and encodes a lot slower, as much as five or eight times
slower. I'm not sure what causes that, and I haven't tested to see if
it's reproducible by CD. It may be there's something about particular
CDs that makes them difficult, or perhaps the slow ones are just dirty.
But then I run into CDs that aren't CD-Audio discs at all. When I call
them up in Xandros File Manager, instead of seeing the list of audio
tracks, I see readme.html, executable files, and so on. These are
hybrid CDs, which include a data session. The manufacturers have no
right to represent and sell them as audio CDs, because they're not.
There's no way to rip them with Xandros, but grip and all of the other
ripping apps I've used simply ignore the data session. Which means I
have to get another ripper working if I want to rip all of Barbara's
CDs for her.
The other thing that surprised me was just how little music is on some
CDs. CDs were originally designed to contain 74 minutes of music, and
most albums contained at least an hour. I noticed when I was ripping
Barbara's copy of a Jackson Browne CD that it didn't have many tracks,
and the tracks weren't very long. Sure enough, when I added it up, it
came to about 34 minutes of music. Talk about a rip-off! They could
easily have fit twice as much music on that disc. And I'll bet the
short disc wasn't much if any cheaper than a disc filled closer to
That's an idea that Proctor and Gamble would love. Use the same size
package, but include only half as much product. I don't think they'd
get away with that, and the music companies shouldn't be allowed to,
The good news is that I think I've learned to rip and burn DVDs
reliably. The problems I had burning DVD dupes had nothing to do with
the ripping and everything to do with the burning. DVDshrink was doing its job
perfectly all along. The problems arose when I attempted to burn the
rips to disc.
Oddly, there's no problem burning DVD+RW discs at 4X. The problem comes
in burning DVD+R discs at anything faster than 2.4X. Anything burned at
4X or faster simply won't play reliably, at least in our cheap-o $36
CyberHome DVD player. That's true regardless of disc quality or burner
quality. I tried numerous burns at 4X, 8X, 12X, and 16X, using Plextor
drives and top-quality media, and all of them had at least some
artifacts, if indeed they'd load and play at all. Typically, the
problems became more severe later into the disc.
There are only a few, very large files that need to be copied for a
DVD-Video, so in theory burning on-the-fly should work about as well as
burning from an ISO image. But based on my testing, burning my daily
backups from an ISO image is much more reliable, so I decided to use an
ISO image for burning the DVD-Video discs as well. So far, they've all
worked perfectly. Perhaps I'll try burning an ISO image at 4X or higher
just to see what happens. Not that it really matters. I can set a disc
to burning just before dinner, and come back after dinner and walking
the dogs to find a completed disc.
When I installed KMail for Barbara, I was faced with a choice I didn't
fully understand. KMail allows each mail folder to be set up as "mbox"
or "maildir". The program defaults to and recommends maildir, claiming
it is more robust, although admitting that it is slower on some
systems. The help isn't very helpful.
The mbox format is a standard format that creates one file to contain
all of the messages in a folder. Mozilla Mail uses mbox, as do many
other Linux and Windows mail clients. The maildir format creates a
physical directory for each mail folder, and stores the messages as
individual files within that directory. Although I can see that keeping
messages as individual files might have some real advantages, I was
concerned about filesystem overhead when copying and backing up our
mail. I probably have 50,000 or more messages in my current folders, to
say nothing of my archive folders. I receive hundreds of new messages
per day. Having one file per message seems a bit excessive.
So I did what I usually do when I'm unsure of myself. I asked the
experts. I emailed Brian Bilbrey and Greg Lincoln to see if they had
any advice for me. The exchange follows:
I'm setting up
Kontact (with KMail) for Barbara, and I'm offered the choice between
mbox and maildir format for each folder I create. The KMail docs, such
as they are, say that maildir is used by default and that it is more
"robust" than mbox.
The choice between
mbox and maildir is per folder. Right now, I have Barbara set up using
the default maildir, but I can move her to mbox simply by creating new
folders configured to use mbox and moving her messages to the mbox
folders. I am seriously considering doing that for ease of back up.
It's a lot easier to back up one mbox file than literally thousands of
individual message files in a maildir folder.
So, my question is
this. Is there any really good reason to use maildir rather than mbox
format on a desktop system? I'm assuming that since both are open
formats there's no advantage either way in terms of how easy it'll be
to migrate Barbara's mail at some future time if I move her from KMail
to something else. I'm more concerned about robustness and reliability.
Thanks for any
advice you can offer.
Greg was first off the mark:
mbox versus maildir
Date: Sun, 12
Jun 2005 10:21:50 -0400
used mbox for just the same reason you'd like to. I also found that it
performed better, at least in Kmail, when I had lots and lots of mail
in a folder. (Thunderbird/Mozilla was always much much faster for me
with searches and loading a large folder of mail)
had any problem with reliability using either format.
But then Brian weighed in with this:
mbox versus maildir
Date: Sun, 12
Jun 2005 12:36:42 -0400
Ah, I love an
opportunity like this...
Just to be
maildir. Individual messages, one per file. Easy to process with
scripts, easy to back up just new messages (think rsync). No humoungous
files (Marcia has several large (50M+) mbox files, even though she's
fanatical about sorting mail. With mboxes at work, we have a few
multi-gig (in a single mbox) users.
This link was
There are a
number of performance-related claims about mbox == better than maildir,
nothing I've experienced. My major interest is this: If I suffer a
filesystem problem, I can lose one big file with many messages in it,
or one little file, with one message in.
searching a maildir with grep - isolates the message you want!
I use maildir
on an imap server running on the local home server to save messages. I
have NO direct local mail storage on any machine that I use as a
client. So, using tbird, I have:
Orb: IMAP on
NFR: IMAP on
TEST: IMAP on
workstation I use (desktop, laptop) I simply configure to look to the
IMAP server(s) I need access to. My read mail is read from everywhere.
I've got scripts backing up the mailstores on all those servers, and I
file personal stuff permanently on vroomfondel (off of zidane).
back up one file than thousands? You write a script. You run the script
with cron. What's to be harder?
Thanks to both of
leave Barbara's mail as maildir for now, but I may change it to mbox
later. Brian, the reason it's easier to backup mbox is that it's one
big file rather than thousands of little ones. It's much quicker to
write the one file to DVD than to write a ton of small ones. Of course,
I've started using K3b to write an ISO first rather than do an
on-the-fly copy, so that speeds things up a bit. Still, it takes a
while to do the disk-to-disk copy that I use for ad hoc backups during
- My readers keep me on my toes...
Date: Wed, 15
Jun 2005 08:08:05 -0400
No comment in
your website about the Michael Jackson verdict?
Sorry, but I have no idea what you're talking about. Is he the one that
showed his nipple at the World Series?
Doing some research, I learned that Michael Jackson is a formerly
popular musician who was apparently charged by a malicious prosecutor
with molesting children. No evidence to speak of. Tons of reasonable
doubt. A waste of everyone's time and money, most particularly Mr.
It used to be that district attorneys prosecuted cases when they were
convinced that the defendant had committed the crime, and that they
could prove that he had done so. When both conditions were true,
district attorneys generally were successful in prosecuting the
accused. Nowadays, it seems, district attorneys prosecute cases when
they are convinced that they have some hope of gaining a conviction,
whether or not they actually believe the defendant to be guilty,
particularly if that defendant is well-known. We've seen this in
several high-profile cases recently, including the abomination that was
Scott Peterson's conviction and the trial of a basketball player whose
name escapes me for rape.
So, O. J. Simpson was almost certainly guilty, but was acquitted.
Robert Blake was almost certainly guilty, but was acquitted. Scott
Peterson was almost certainly innocent, but was convicted. And the
basketball player shouldn't even have been charged, but at least those
charges were dropped, albeit after costing the basketball player and
the county government a ton of money.
It seems to me that district attorneys in question should be dismissed
for incompetence in the first two cases and should be subject to being
prosecuted themselves for engaging in malicious prosecution in the
latter two cases.
O'Reilly sent me some early sample copies of Astronomy Hacks. It's very pretty,
and it should be in the bookstores by the end of the month.
As to review copies, O'Reilly tells me that everyone whom they select
to receive a review copy should receive it by the end of the month.
Their policy, except for recognized members of the press, is to send
review copies directly only to individual reviewers in the US and
Canada. The one exception to that is that they'll send review copies in
bulk to their British subsidiary, which will in turn send review copies
to UK reviewers.
I have no idea how many copies they plan to send out, or which of the
people who submitted requests will receive them. It's better for me
that O'Reilly makes those decisions. That way, people aren't angry at
me if they don't get a review copy. But the feeling I got was that most
if not all of those who requested a review copy will receive one, at
least if they're in the US, Canada, or the UK. Requests for review
copies are now closed and being processed, so please don't send in any
- Microsoft has released another
bunch of patches. I'm tired of Microsoft spinning the severity
ratings to make severe flaws sound minor, so I've developed my own
severity classes, as follows:
|A vulnerability whose exploitation could allow the
propagation of an Internet worm without user action.
vulnerability whose exploitation could result in compromise of the
confidentiality, integrity, or availability of users data, or of the
integrity or availability of processing resources.
is mitigated to a significant degree by factors such as default
configuration, auditing, or difficulty of exploitation.
|A vulnerability whose exploitation is extremely difficult, or
whose impact is minimal.
I think most people will agree that my severity ratings are closer to
reality than Microsoft's. Keep in mind that even an exploit that
Microsoft assigns its lowest severity rating may allow a malefactor to
"own" your computer, which most people would consider a pretty
important security hole. On that basis, of the ten
patches that Microsoft released yesterday, three are Catastrophic,
three are Disastrous, and four are Critical.
If you're still running Windows, you should definitely apply these
patches. Better still, consider applying this comprehensive patch.
Speaking of which, I did a quick check of my web stats the other day. A
year ago, ignoring search engines and similar bots, about 10% of my
traffic originated from Linux clients, and 50% from Mozilla or Firefox.
Now, about 20% of my traffic originates from Linux clients, and 70%
from Mozilla or Firefox. My web sites aren't representative of the
entire population, of course, but even so these are pretty impressive
numbers. Linux definitely has its foot in the door among the people who
matter most. Where my readers lead, others eventually follow.
- Barbara has not been feeling well. She'd been plagued by sinus
problems and a sore throat, and finally decided to do something about
it Tuesday night. She didn't want to go to the doctor, so she asked me
to prescribe for her. I didn't know much about the local drug
resistance of the organisms that cause sinusitis and pharyngitis, so I
started her Tuesday night on 500mg of oral amoxicillin tid, intending
to maintain that for 10 to 14 days if it worked.
If amoxicillin was going to work at all, it should have knocked down
the infection noticeably overnight. Wednesday morning, Barbara still
wasn't feeling much better. In particular, her throat was still sore,
which told me that her pharyngitis was probably resistant to
amoxicillin, so I shifted her to 500mg bid of Ceftin, which is a
second-generation cephalosporin. That's twice the recommended dose for
sinusitis and pharyngitis, but acute sinusitis is nothing to mess
around with, particularly since Barbara is subject to sinus infections.
The Ceftin knocked down the infection by that afternoon, so I'll keep
her on it for 10 to 14 days, although I may back the dose down to 250mg
bid after a few days.
More on Microsoft's bug fixes:
Date: Wed, 15
Jun 2005 22:08:12 -0800
I think the
first two categories should be swapped.
I would call
"A vulnerability whose exploitation could allow the propagation of an
Internet worm without user action." critical/disastrous.
While I rate
"A vulnerability whose exploitation could result in compromise of the
confidentiality, integrity, or availability of users data, or of the
integrity or availability of processing resources. " as catastrophic
worm or other nasty stuff is bad but I think the compromise of user
data is the worst thing that can happen to a box.
compare the first one to a car slowly driving trough your street with
an installation blaring out Britney Spears music at 200db. Very
annoying, maybe cracking a few windows here and there and driving
people and pets nuts. But once past everything is OK again.
one is like someone breaking in into your house and moving stuff
around. Even if nothing gets stolen or broken you'll never feel safe
But each of Microsoft's categories incorporates the risk from less
Their most severe category, which Microsoft labels "critical" and I
label "catastrophic", enables a malefactor to compromise a machine
without the user taking any action at all. A machine that suffers a
catastrophic bug can be "owned" simply by having it connected to the
Their second category, which they call only "important" but I call
"disastrous" requires that the user take some action, but that required
action may be as trivial as visiting a web page.
To extend your house analogy, here's how I'd define Microsoft's
|Microsoft forgot to lock the door.
|Microsoft forgot to close the door.
|Microsoft forgot to install a door.
|Microsoft forgot to install walls.
- The end of an era.
Back when I was a teenager, black and white printing was mainstream. I
also did color printing, of slides and negatives, but that was
expensive, fussy, and it took as much as an hour to process one print.
My friends and I shot a lot of Tri-X, Plus-X, and Panatomic-X film in
everything from 35mm to 11X14 formats, and printed to Velox, for
contact prints, or Kodabromide for enlargements. I knew that color
would eventually become more popular than black & white, but
looking at the great works by Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, and others,
it never occurred to me that black & white would ever disappear.
To me, color was something you used for family snapshots and wedding
pictures. Serious photography was done in black & white, preferably
with a large-format view or field camera. And gelatin-silver prints
were the standard. I experimented a great deal with alternative
printing processes, including albumen-silver, carbro, dye-transfer,
platinotype, palladiotype, and so on, and I admired the beauty of those
processes. But gelatin-silver was the standard. And now it's
I'm already hard at work on a new book. We don't have a title for it
yet. It's similar to Building the
Perfect PC, but oriented toward upgrades and repairs rather than
building new. It'll be about the same page count and trim size as BtPP,
and will also be four-color. The goal is to have the manuscript 100%
complete by 17 October, and in the stores late this year or very early
next. We think the market for such a book, selling at the same price as
BtPP and also in full color, is probably even larger than the market
for BtPP. Time will tell.
As usual, I'll be posting draft chapters for my subscribers and
soliciting their comments and suggestions.
1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 by Robert Bruce Thompson. All