The next time anyone tells me how much easier it is to install Windows
than Linux, I'll just laugh. I spent hours this weekend rebuilding the
notebook computer that belongs to Jasmine, the daughter of one of our
neighbors. What a godawful mess. I suppose it does me good to
experience this once in a great while, just to remind me why I swore
off using Microsoft software.
Jasmine just turned 13 and is starting 8th grade. That's stressful
enough without changing the software she's used to using, or I would
have blown away Windows XP and installed Xandros Linux for her.
Actually, I ended up making her notebook dual-boot, and encouraging her
to use Linux whenever possible. I also installed Firefox, Thunderbird,
and OpenOffice.org for her, and will encourage her to use those instead
of the Microsoft products.
What I may do is put a desktop computer running Xandros in her bedroom
and encourage her to play with it until she gets comfortable working
with Linux. Pournelle is forever saying that Linux isn't ready for Aunt
Minnie. I think he's full of it. I think Windows isn't ready for Aunt
Jasmine's at school right now, and I'm in the process of
re-reinstalling Windows XP Home for her. It occurs to me that she
mentioned that she uses AOL mail and that her system originally had an
AOL client on it. Does anyone know if AOL mail can be accessed by
Thunderbird? I seem to remember that AOL mail used to be odd, and
couldn't be read by a POP client. Also, Jasmine uses instant messaging.
Which IM client should I install?
I returned Jasmine's notebook yesterday when she got home from school.
I ended up just setting up Windows XP for her, with the student version
of Office 2003. Xandros is also installed, but "hidden" from her for
the time being. The last thing that kid needs at the moment is
something new to learn.
I question the sanity of our school system officials. A 13-year-old
girl shouldn't have to do what Jasmine is doing. She gets up at 5:00
a.m. to shower, dress, grab a quick bite, and head out to meet her
school bus at 5:45. When she gets home from school, she immediately
starts on her homework, which she works on straight through with only a
short break for dinner until 10:00 or 11:00 p.m. most nights, and
sometimes until midnight. Then it's to bed for a few hours sleep and
the same thing all over again, five days a week. She also has
gymnastics three evenings a week, which she isn't willing to give up.
Her weekends aren't free, either. She has projects to do for school.
This just isn't right. School requirements are leaving her no time
to be a kid. They're also leaving her no time to sleep. A 13-year-old
girl needs at least nine hours of sleep a night. She gets five or
six, seven if she's lucky. Jasmine was working on her science homework
when I arrived yesterday. I tried to help her with it, but it was clear
that she was dead on her feet. She wasn't tracking what I was saying.
The kid was exhausted, as I would have been if I'd risen at 5:00 a.m.,
worked hard all day, and knew that I faced several more hours of hard
work before I could sleep.
All of this is the predictable and predicted result of the No Child
Left Behind Act. Schools are no longer interested in
helping children to learn. They can't afford to be. The federal
carrot and stick means that schools now teach children to score as high
as possible on standardized tests, which is a very different thing from
real learning. A school is supposed to be a log, with a teacher sitting
on one end and a student on the other.
I've kind of taken on Jasmine as my "pay-forward" project. I intend to
do what I can to help her, just as adults helped me when I was her age.
I'm not sure yet exactly what I can do, but I intend to do whatever I
From: Jan Swijsen <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: Robert Bruce Thompson <email@example.com>
Date: Sun, 27 Aug 2006 22:06:05 -0800 (Mon, 02:06 EDT)
French expeditionary force is well equipped with white flags.
Nope they don't have them, but they did the next best thing, they painted all their equipment white.
That just won't be the same as the French troops waving their
traditional battle flag, a pure white chicken on a pure white
Wednesday, 30 August 2006
My great-uncle made and lost several fortunes. He became a
multi-millionaire by selling short just before the Great Stock Market
Crash in 1929 (and, unfortunately, lost that, his final fortune, by
investing heavily in the early years of passenger aviation). I'm
beginning to wonder if I should follow his short-selling example.
Compared to Mozilla Mail, Evolution has very poor local spam filtering.
I keep getting these spams touting stocks I've never heard of.
Obviously, these spams are a pump-and-dump scheme. The spammers
make their money by buying the stock or an option on it, using spam to
tout the hell out of it, selling as the price peaks, and letting
all the suckers take the bath. So, I wonder what would happen if I take
a short position in the stock each time I receive one of these spams.
Every time I get one of these spams, I could simply short 100,000
shares or whatever, and then cash in a couple days later. Unlike the
spammers, I'd be doing nothing immoral or illegal.
When I mentioned to Barbara that Jasmine was too exhausted Monday
afternoon to go to gymnastics practice, Barbara said that going to
gymnastics might be the best thing for her. After a long, exhausting
day, Barbara often goes to the gym, which she says re-energizes her.
Sure enough, the same thing happened with Jasmine. I was at Kim's
house yesterday, looking at her computer. She said that Jasmine perked
up as soon as they got to gymnastics practice, and started bouncing
around like the Energizer Bunny. Jasmine even told Kim that she wanted
to start volleyball, which requires attending practice every day after
school. Kim told Jasmine that going to gymnastics practice three days a
week and volleyball practice five days a week was simply too much.
When Jasmine got home from school yesterday, she was like a different
kid. Monday afternoon, she looked completely wiped out. Yesterday
afternoon, she was perky. But she's still not getting enough sleep.
Thanks to everyone who sent me advice by email or on the messageboard.
I'm going to take that advice. The consensus seems to be that the best
thing I could do to help Jasmine right now is to teach her some basic
computer skills that she may not have already mastered. For example,
like most kids, her idea of a web search is to type a word into Google.
I'll teach her how to search properly, how to narrow searches, how to
evaluate the reliability of web sources, the best sources to use, and
I'll also teach her how to use her word processor properly. Not just
the mechanics of it, but using it as a content creation tool. Right
now, when Jasmine needs to write something, she writes it out longhand
and then types it into the word processor. I'll teach her how to use
the word processor to capture ideas, outline, reorganize, revise, and
I also intend to teach Jasmine how to think, which apparently schools
no longer teach. She needs to understand the basics of deductive logic
and inductive logic, categorical syllogisms, and basic logic errors
such as post hoc ergo propter hoc. I can't believe that our schools
aren't teaching students these fundamental tools. I was taught basic
logic in elementary school, and symbolic logic in junior high school.
- SJVN posted an interesting article yesterday, Results from the 2006 Desktop Linux Survey - Part 1. In the article, he sings the praises of Frindows, and predicts it will soon challenge the dominance of Ubuntu. I'm not so sure.
I thought Jasmine needed a Linux desktop system, so I decided to give
her my current den system. I blew away the contents of the hard drive,
installed Xandros 4 on it, and got things set up for her. I then pulled
it out from under my end table and took it into the kitchen to clean it
up, suck out the dust dinosaurs, and so on. That meant I needed a
replacement system for the den, so I moved the mainstream system we'd
built for the book into the den. That system is a BTX box with a fast
Pentium D processor, 2 GB of RAM, and two SATA hard drives.
While I was doing all that, I had Bittorrent downloading the Frindows ISO.
I burned the ISO to a CD, stuck it in the drive of my new den system,
and fired it up. I got a boot menu and told the system to go ahead and
install. The Frindows splash screen appeared, with a progress bar. The
progress bar got to about 25% complete and hung. I let it sit there for
half an hour or so, but it never moved again.
I thought perhaps the CD itself was bad, so I burned and verified
another copy of the ISO, after checking the MD5 sum. The second CD was
perfect, but the same thing happened when I tried to install it. The
progress bar got to about 25% and then hung. I wasn't impressed by
So I popped in the Ubuntu 6.06 LTS CD and fired it up. There had been
some discussion recently about the relative times required to install
Windows XP and Ubuntu, so I decided to time it this go round. The
initial Ubuntu install took about 10 minutes. I say "about" because we
were having thunderstorms last night, and just after I started the
install Barbara announced that we had a gap in the storms and it was
time to walk the dogs. We were gone only a few minutes, but when we got
back the install had completed.
The next step was to update Ubuntu to current. I clicked on the update
link and found that there were about 170 updates available, totaling
just under 200 MB. Downloading those updates took six minutes, with
another 12 minutes required to install them, for a total of 18 minutes,
with only one reboot required after the whole process completed. None
of it required any action from me, other than starting the process and
entering my password. The equivalent procedures for updating Windows XP
took between three and four hours, with (I'm guessing) 15 reboots. And
with Windows XP, I had to sit there the entire time because the process
unpredictably required input from me.
In terms of time and effort involved to install and update the OS,
Windows XP and Linux aren't even close. Linux is far, far easier and
Thanks to Greg Lincoln, who just upgrade the software running the
Daynotes forums to the latest version. This is part of our effort to
fight back against the forum spammers who are making my life miserable.
There were a few early glitches during the upgrade, but Greg has fixed
most of them. If you notice any problems, please post in the forums or
via PM to let us know about them.
I just set up a LInux box for Jasmine. Here's what's weird. She gets
her email via webmail on AOL. I rebuilt her notebook, which is running
Windows XP, and installed Firefox for her. She's able to get her email
on it without any problems. But on the desktop system running Xandros
4, also with Firefox, when I attempt to log in to AOL's webmail page,
enabled. They *are* enabled, so apparently there's something about
Firefox running on Linux that AOL doesn't like. Any suggestions would
It's raining here, but we've had only a couple inches in the last two
days. We're on the far western edge of the expected heavy rains from
Hurricane Ernestine, so I suspect we'll get at most some moderately
heavy rains and a bit of wind from the storm.
Barbara has had a very difficult last couple of weeks at work, and is
looking forward to the holiday weekend. Neither of us plans to do any
work. We'll lie around and read or watch some DVDs and chat with some
friends who are visiting. I could use a few days of down time as well.
Our editor at O'Reilly emailed me last night to say that the last of
the book has been handed over to production, so it's out of our hands
until we get the galley proofs. The holiday weekend seems a good
opportunity for both of us to take a break.
Saturday, 2 September
1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 by Robert Bruce