- I sense increasing
desperation from Microsoft about the
prospects of Vista, FKA "Longhorn". Uncyclopedia has leaked an early
draft of a Vista ad.
I showed this to our Border Collies, Duncan and Malcolm. Both showed
their fangs, abandoned Windows, and migrated to Linux. (Their
first choice of distro was Yellow Dog Linux, but they wanted
stick with AMD/Intel processors, so I convinced
them to try Xandros, AKA Black & White Dog Linux.)
As to Vista/Longhorn, I and many others got into the habit of calling
vaporware "Shorthorn". Given the gutted feature list, which now appears
to be finalized, it would be more accurate to call it "No Horn". Except
that sounds like part of the description for a junker of a used car,
which, come to think about it, isn't far from the truth.
For all intents and purposes, No Horn has become little more than a
service pack for XP, albeit one that Microsoft expects us
for. None of the important features announced years ago by Microsoft
actually made it
into No Horn. WinFS was dropped entirely, and Indigo/Avalon are
pale shadows of what they were to have been. Of the few even minorly
significant features that are to ship with No Horn, most will be
available to XP users via Microsoft Update. The only significant new
features, such as more restrictive DRM, are ones that no one
in his right mind wants.
Putting on my hats as a corporate buyer and a home user, I examined the
list of new "features" in No Horn, and couldn't find even one that was
even mildly interesting. When one considers that probably fewer than 1%
of existing computers will be able to run No Horn with its new 3D video
features fully enabled, that begs the question of who exactly Microsoft
expects to buy No Horn. Microsoft will sell a lot of copies on new
machines and via forced upgrades, of course, but I can't imagine that
about 0.1% of the user base would voluntarily install No Horn
unless it were a free update. And maybe not even then.
So Microsoft has been forced to try to sell No Horn on the basis of,
get this, increased
security. I might have choked
reading that, except that I'm used to
Microsoft's shell game when it comes to security. Each "new" release is
touted as the most secure Windows ever, and each time that release
turns out to be as insecure or more so than the preceding release. I
see no reason to expect anything different from No Horn.
The emperor has no clothes. Never has had, never will. More and more
people are coming to realize that.
- Ruh-roh. Something is wrong with this test I just took.
Actually, I'm well-known for being meek, mild, gentle, shy, unassuming,
and unassertive. Any of my friends would tell you that. Or else.
| You Are Wind
Strong and overpowering
A force to be reckoned with, no one dares cross you
You have the power to change everything around you
You are best known for: your wrath
Your dominant state: commanding
- Well, I received a total of only 13 discs from Netflix in
January, five discs fewer than their worst-ever previous month. It
seems that Netflix has decided to throttle me mercilessly. On a
three-out-at-a-time plan, I don't consider 13 discs to be even remotely
close to the "unlimited rentals" that Netflix claimed and still claims
in their advertising. In fact, that's about half the number of discs
that Netflix should have delivered if in fact they were using their
best efforts to deliver discs.
We'll see how they do next month. If they don't improve substantially,
I'll drop them and join Blockbuster Online.
The den system hung Sunday night. One instant, everything was fine, and
the next it was locked up tight. I turned off the system, figuring it
was the power supply, memory, or overheating, and left it off until
yesterday after dinner. When I turned it back on, it worked normally
for a few minutes and then locked up tight again.
I run this system with the top and side panels off. It's an Antec Aria
SFF case with a 3.4 GHz Prescott-core Pentium 4 in it, and that's
turned out to be too much heat load. At first, I didn't suspect
overheating. The CPU fan was running loudly enough to be easily
audible, but it wasn't screaming. In the past, when I was still running
with the cover on, that CPU fan had gotten up to 5,800 RPM, which
sounded like the proverbial Banshee.
I restarted it and ran BIOS setup. The cause of the
problem immediately became obvious. For some reason, the CPU fan was
running at only 2,900 RPM, and that never changed through all my
testing. But the temperatures were outrageous.
In the few seconds it took me to start BIOS setup and change to
hardware monitoring section, the CPU temperature had already reached
40° C from a cold start. As I watched it over the next ten or
fifteen minutes, it continued to creep upward until it reached 72°
C. This is at idle, mind you. The Zone 1 temperature stabilized at
48° C, and Zone 2 at 58° C. No wonder the thing had been
locking up on me. Those temperatures are 25° C to 30° C too
I grabbed the 6" table fan that I sometimes use as a field-expedient
CPU cooling fan from my workroom and set it up blowing into the
side of the Aria case next to the CPU. Within a minute or two, the Zone
1 and Zone 2 temperatures had dropped to 25° C, but the processor
was still running at 69° C. I kept watching for several more
minutes, and the CPU temperature stabilized after ten minutes or so
at 58° C.
The system isn't easily accessible. It sits at the back of a corner
table near the wall, with a sofa on one side of the table and a love
seat on the other. Obviously, the CPU heatsink wasn't doing its job, so
I kind of balanced
myself and leaned over the top of the monitor to look into the case.
The CPU fan had quite a bit of dust on it. I couldn't see down into the
heatsink itself very well, but it appeared to be clogged with dust.
Time for the Dust-Off and Formula 409.
I wish I could install a better
CPU cooler to replace the stock Intel unit, but there's simply no room
in the Aria case for an oversized cooler. As it is, there's less than
half an inch clearance between the top of the CPU fan and the bottom of
the power supply, and the power supply obstructs about half the surface
of the CPU fan.
- Arrrghhh. Yet another of my friends is flirting
with the dark side. Yes, it's true. Brian "Mr. Linux" Bilbrey has
purchased and installed a, gasp, Mac Mini.
Now, I understand Brian's motivations. In fact, if I didn't write about
PC hardware, I might have been tempted myself to migrate from Windows
to OS X instead of Linux. But I hope I would have avoided the
temptation and switched to Linux anyway. It's not that OS X isn't a
good operating system. It is, worlds better than Windows and superior
to Linux in some respects.
No, my problem with OS X is that it's non-free, and I don't mean that
in the whacko Richard M. Stallman sense. Stallman tortures the English
language when he describes the GPL, one of the most restrictive
licenses imaginable, as "free". Public domain is free. The BSD license
is free. The GPL is about as non-free as I can imagine.
I mean "free" in the sense that Linux is non-proprietary, not under the
control of one company with agenda of its own. I mean "free" in the
sense that Linux allows me to have absolute control of my own computer
and my own data. I mean "free" in the sense that Linux doesn't lock me
in to one particular vendor.
It's true that I run Xandros and that Xandros is a "proprietary" or
"commercial" version of Linux. That doesn't matter, though. If it
became necessary, I could migrate away from Xandros to another Linux
distro in a heartbeat, and without looking back. If I commit to
Windows, I'm also committing to Microsoft locking me into their
products and their policies. If I commit to OS X, I'm committing to
Apple locking me into their products and their policies. I don't want
that. I want choice. And I most certainly don't want the obnoxious DRM
with which Windows and OS X are laden.
Ironically, I received this message this morning from Roland Dobbins,
another of my friends who's moved to OS X.
This article, and the Boing Boing article it links to, talks about how
Microsoft is using its DRM as a club to marginalize smaller PC
OEMs and home-built PCs. And, although Microsoft has a justifiably
horrible reputation for supporting DRM, Apple is as bad or worse, but
in subtler ways.
Wendy Grossman wrote an article for
The Inquirer a couple weeks ago, in which she presents a "Digital
Rights Manifesto". She ended the article by asking, "How's that for a
start?" I replied that it was a terrible start, because the whole point
of her manifesto was to make DRM palatable to a wide audience, which is
exactly the wrong approach.
Simply put, the central question of DRM is who should have control of
your computer and the data stored on it. If you think you should be in
control of your own computer and data, then you must recognize DRM
as the enemy. If you support any form of DRM, including such "benign"
forms as those Apple uses for iTunes, then you are ceding control of
your computer and your data to corporations and governments.
That's something I'll never do, which is why I'll stick with Linux no
matter how tempting OS X may be.
- I've received howls of outrage from Mac OS X fans.
Just to set the record straight, I object to Microsoft Windows on
numerous grounds, including its proprietary nature, its gross
inferiority technically, and the policies and practices of Microsoft,
especially including its support for DRM. I object to Apple OS X
because of its proprietary nature and because Apple supports DRM.
Although I've never used OS X, and never intend to do so, many of my
friends whose opinions I respect do use it. They tell me that OS X is,
in a technical sense, comparable to Linux in terms of stability,
security, and so on. That's not surprising, because OS X is based on an
OSS BSD kernel and system utilities, on top of which Apple runs its
mature, elegant, proprietary GUI. And, as Roland Dobbins points out, OS
X itself is not infested with DRM as Windows is.
But Apple as a corporation supports DRM and, by attempting to make DRM
palatable, does all of us a disservice. Accordingly, I would no more
use or recommend Apple products than I would products from Microsoft or
Sony. (I grudgingly make an exception for Microsoft keyboards and mice
because I would be doing my readers a disservice if I ignored them.)
Corporations in general regard all of us simply as wallets, from whom
their goal is to extract as much money as possible, and DRM is simply
the latest tool in their arsenal. I believe in the free market, and I
am willing to pay for value received. But I certainly do object to
corporations that attempt to latch onto us like leeches and suck us
dry. These corporations are attempting to co-opt technology to serve
their nefarious ends. They're no longer willing to accept a one-time
payment in return for providing a product or service. Instead, they
want to lock us into providing them with a continuing revenue stream.
And they certainly can't be accused of failing to think big. These
corporations long ago realized that, if they were to achieve their
goals, they had to control us and our computers. So they've implemented
DRM. But that by itself was insufficient, because in a free market DRM
fails miserably. No one in his right mind accepts DRM if
alternatives exist. So the corporations had to remove that option.
They've attempted to do that by buying politicians and judges, by
buying laws like the atrocity that is the DMCA, and by attempting to
force new market standards like Blu-Ray and HD-DVD. Their goal is
eventually to have complete control of our televisions, our computers,
and our wallets.
We can fight back on several fronts. We can protest to our
congresscritters, and let them know we'll fight to drive them out of
office if they support DRM. We can boycott companies that support DRM.
There's no need to fund Microsoft or Apple when Linux is a viable
alternative. There's no need to fund RIAA companies when there's so
much good music available from individual artists, Magnatune, and other
sources that respect the free market. There's no need to pay Apple to
download music tracks when you can rip them from CD and store them in
.MP3, .OGG, or another unencumbered format.
Apple has fallen a long way from their rip, mix, and burn days. They
had the right idea, then, and it's the right idea now. Support the
artists, sure. They're the creators. If you rip a CD, send the artists
$5 with Paypal or whatever. If you rip the Serenity DVD, send Joss
Whedon $5 with Paypal. But don't fund the corporations that are
attempting to control us.
- Netflix is really, REALLY, REALLY
starting to annoy me. They started throttling me big time as of the
first of the month this month. They're using every trick in their
arsenal, from delaying shipping discs for a day or two, delaying
acknowledgment of returned discs for a day or two, shipping me discs
from San Jose or Minneapolis instead of from Greensboro, and so on. In
the last three weeks, they've delayed every disc by at least two days
using one or another of their methods.
My first month with Netflix established a reasonable expectation for
what Netflix meant when it promised "unlimited rentals" and "one-day
turnaround". They sent me 25 discs that month. Last month, they really
started to throttle the hell out of me, sending me only 13 discs total
for the month, which was five discs fewer than the worst preceding
month, and little more than half the number of discs they sent me the
I wonder what would happen if I disputed my credit card bill, claiming
that Netflix simply isn't delivering what it promised. Actually, I
wonder why the FTC hasn't stepped in.
- Hmmmm. I told Barbara Wednesday evening that I wanted to order
StarBlast telescope. She reacted as I expected: "What do we need
with yet another telescope?"
Short answer, the StarBlast is an RFT (rich-field telescope), which
basically means it shows a wide swath of sky in the eyepiece. With a
low-power eyepiece, the StarBlast can show a true field of view of
3.9°, which translates to three times as much sky as our
10" Dob at its widest. I look at the StarBlast as an alternative to a
giant binocular, which is expensive and requires an expensive, heavy,
mount. With 4.5" of aperture, the StarBlast gathers much more light
than any mainstream giant binocular, and the Dob-like base means it's
extremely stable. At only $170, it's a steal.
Orion markets this as a kid's scope, but the truth is that there are
probably at least as many of them used by experienced adult
astronomers. The scope comes with two throw-away eyepieces, Orion
Explorer II Kellners. We'll use it with much better eyepieces. It'll be
interesting to use a $170 telescope with an eyepiece that costs twice
I also needed a $10.00 adapter plate from Orion, to let me mount our
8X50 straight-through optical finder on our 90mm refractor. So I called
Orion to order the
adapter plate, and on the spur of the moment I decided to just order
the StarBlast as well. Uh-oh. Orion sent me an email invoice, so I did
a couple of creative edits before I showed it to Barbara:
Order #999999 Order Date: 02/02/06
ROBERT B THOMPSON
4231 WITHEROW RD
WINSTON SALEM NC 27106
Same address as Sold To
Ship Via: Fed Ex Home Delivery
Product Total: $ 179.90
Sales Tax: None
Stk # Quan Description Price Avail
09814 1 StarBlast Astro Telescope 0.00 In Stock
07215 1 Finder Scope Dovetail Base SCT 179.90 In Stock
Shipping Charge: 19.95
I tried it on with Barbara soon after she arrived home.
"Look, dear. I ordered that adapter plate for only $179.90, and they threw in a free StarBlast telescope!"
Didn't work. Didn't really expect it to. Oh, well.
1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 by Robert Bruce