Monday, 26 November 2012

09:13 – Our overnight low was 31.0F (-0.6C), not much under freezing, but enough to make sure that any bugs that somehow survived the previous night froze to death unless they were deep underground.

A lot of people scoffed at my comment that Windows is on its way out. All you need to do to verify that that’s true is go look at some screenshots of Windows 8. This is not an OS intended for desktops and notebooks. Microsoft must be fully aware that the Windows franchise is nearing its end. They’re trying to reposition Windows as an OS for mobile devices as well as traditional PCs, kind of the “Windows Everywhere” redux. It’s not going to work any better this time than it did the last time. If Microsoft is smart, they’ll realize that Windows is the past. They need to get their real cash cows–Office and Outlook–ported to run on Linux, Chrome, Android, and all the other Linux-like OSs. They haven’t done that so far because they’re convinced that Windows and Office support each other. That’s true so far, but the big danger is that the world will leave both behind. What Microsoft should really be aiming at is corporations continuing to run Exchange Server as a backend for Outlook running everywhere. Trying to keep the OS business is likely to cost them both the OS and app business.

I thought November would be a very slow month for science kit sales, and so it’s turned out. Still, slow is relative. In November 2011, we shipped maybe half a dozen kits total. In November 2012, we’ll ship four or five times that number. Of course, we now have three different kits available, versus only one last year. Still, my master plan, such as it is, had us shipping twice as many kits in 2012 as in 2011, and twice as many kits in 2013 as in 2012. It doesn’t look like either of those goals will be difficult to meet. In fact, we’ve already far exceeded our goal for 2012. We plan to add at least two and possibly three new kits for 2013, which should help us make the 2013 goal.


100 thoughts on “Monday, 26 November 2012”

  1. I haven’t looked at it yet but I understand that you can switch to a windows 7 type desktop. They are not going to throw out millions of business customers. There is too much software that has to be replaced.

    Andy

  2. As lead scoffer, I will point out that this prediction has been made here before. Windows may indeed be dying, but it will take decades to even lie down, and decades more before it’s dead.

    And until then it has 70% market share.

    And I bet that would go up if they fired Ballmer…

  3. I understand that you can switch to a windows 7 type desktop

    Yes, you can. Does not look much different than current W7 except, and this is a biggie, there is no orb that contains all your programs. You have to start the apps from the metro desktop or manually place shortcuts on the W7 clone desktop.

    I have also found that there is no (or very little) interoperability between the metro apps and the regular apps. At least not that I have been able to do smoothly. Perhaps it is my ignorance of the OS and the changes. I just don’t have the time to spend multiple hours figuring it all out and then having to explain the tricks to others in the office.

    Office 13 which is has been designed to work on tablets is just butt ugly. The interface sucks for a desktop. It is flat, no dimension, boring, just butt ugly. Not something that I want on my desktop. I have dual monitors, lots of real estate. I don’t want a slimmed down interface but it seems with Office 2013 I have no choice.

    I have been using W8 for about 6 months and absolutely despise what MS has done. Because of my experience there are no plans to move beyond W7 at this point. W7 works and I see no compelling reason to change.

    The propeller heads at Microsoft have really puked on W8 and Office 2013.

  4. As lead scoffer, I will point out that this prediction has been made here before. Windows may indeed be dying, but it will take decades to even lie down, and decades more before it’s dead.

    I don’t think so. Once a real shift begins, it’ll snowball. If I were Microsoft, what’d scare me is that one day soon Google might roll out an exchange server killer that’d import everything off those expensive exchange servers, host it in encrypted form at Google, and allow it to be accessed by any authorized Android or Chrome client, including smartphones and tablets.

    And until then it has 70% market share.

    Sorry, Bill, but I simply don’t believe that. The total number of mobile devices is much greater than the total number of PCs. Even if you assume that Windows has 100% of the PC OS business, which it clearly doesn’t, that still puts Windows in a minority. How many iPhones and tablets did Apple sell last quarter? How many PCs were sold?

  5. MS is doing what Apple is doing with their OS. Trying to unify it on desktop, laptop and mobile devices. I like using gestures on Apple’s stuff, but it is a minor feature. At least Apple sells it’s OS in one flavor unlike MS’s bazillion versions of Windows. Also cheaper if you want to build a Hackintosh.

  6. If I can get my Windows 7 Ultimate box back up and running, swell; I ain’t moving to Windows 8. And if not, that’s fine, too, although I’d at least like to salvage some stuff off the hard drive if possible.

    Other than that, I am pretty much washing my hands of anything M$ now; ditto anything from the Apple monolith. All Linux all the time. And I will get by however I have to for household budget crap and the only game that I play now is Doom II which runs on Linux as Chocolate Doom. But I might look at some other Linux games that seem to be coming out; probably too much of a time-waster, though. Time groweth nasty, brutish and short.

  7. There have been rumors for years of a secret port of Windows to a Unix variant, but nothing has really surfaced. The argument against has always been the need for continuing support of legacy programs on the desktop, but since Win8 doesn’t support many legacy software packages anyway (??) that doesn’t seem particularly valid anymore.

    Me, I have to use Windows for consulting work – Access, Excel and VbScript. My old Vista laptop died last month and I am dithering between a new Win7 laptop or trying out a VM under OSX. Parallels and Fusion are the two big dogs in theVm world it seems.

    Right now I’m typing on a 2004 Sony laptop with Xp, built like a tank, but it could die any day.

    I note that the local Brick n’ Mortar stores, Best Buy, Staples and Walmart are all selling Win8, no Win7 stuff to be seen. It’s still available, and cheaper, online – but I like to touch stuff before I buy…

  8. Other than that, I am pretty much washing my hands of anything M$ now; ditto anything from the Apple monolith. All Linux all the time.

    I made that transition on 4 July 2004. The only exceptions I’ve made are for an astronomy book that required Windows to run the software I used to make star charts, and running Windows temporarily on systems we built for the PC book. Oh, yeah, my editor loaned me a Mac mini to check out iMovie, which utterly sucked compared to Cinelerra on Linux. Otherwise, it’s been 100% Linux and OSS apps.

  9. I am dithering between a new Win7 laptop or trying out a VM under OSX

    Win7 runs quite well under parallels on OSX. No issues that I have encountered. But I am not real happy with OSX. Had one OSX system lose all it’s files. Gone. Nothing to repair unless I spent a couple thousand dollars with a drive recovery company. Apple knew about the problem and said they had no plans to resolve because they did not know what was causing the problem.

    There have been other mysterious problems that have raised their ugly head. Apple has been of little help requiring resort to the WEB. Apple fanboys are as bad as Unix fanboys when there is a problem. I guess I am just too stupid to be running any of their OSes because I don’t know how to solve a problem. I should be able to, by the Linux camp, compile the kernel every couple of days using some cryptic combination of keyboard characters and a magical chant or two, and be able to do this in my sleep otherwise I am not qualified to run Linux. Apple has been known to tell me that there is no record of such a problem in their knowledge base so it must be an isolated incident therefore they are not going to record the problem in their knowledge base. (Wonderful way to keep problems out of the knowledge base.) And Microsoft spews their standard answer which is to reboot. A surprising solution posed by many software vendors using the Windows platform.

    No OS is perfect, never will be perfect. I prefer to use what works for my tasks. W7 works for my work machine developing web applications. W7 works for dealing with my photographs. W7 works for my accounting (Quicken) and taxes (Turbo Tax) and does it quite well. IPad works for being on the road reading email, checking bank account, reading web pages and watching movies on the plane. I have yet to find a use for W8 but I also do not have a W8 tablet and will not for several years.

    I did score a couple of Intel 180GB SSD Model 330 drives for $99 each over the weekend. Got two of them, one for a small notebook and one for my main system at home. Notebook boots really fast. Install in my desktop will wait until the Christmas break.

    http://www.microcenter.com/product/388571/330_25_120GB_SATA_6Gb-s_Internal_Solid_State_Drive_(SSD)

    Is the closest they still have. Mine were 180GB.

  10. I’ve had Linux machines around the house since 2000 but family needed Windows on other machines and the last Windows box standing is Mrs. OFD’s netbook, which she uses for work.

    I’ll probably use either GNUcash or a spreadsheet for our really basic budget and because our taxes are so screwed up now and different every freaking year, I am gonna do those by hand anyway, at least until we get to some kind of regular stable version, at which time I may just have someone else do them for us and to hell with it.

    We had us about three to four inches of white powder overnight and it was still coming down this morning as I rolled into the plantation thirty miles south. Northbound traffic was bollixed pretty good and bumper-to-bumper; it will be the reverse on my way home later, which works out swell for me.

    We are currently heating the house with a pellet stove and will be using the oil tank/heat as backup; we also have a woodstove out in our nice solid shed out back. However…the pellet stove, oil burner, and hot wottuh-heatuh all run off the Grid. As does our well pump.

    We are mulling various solutions for in case the Grid goes down for any length of time; solar panels on the roof, generators, etc. We would like to be able to power the pellet stove, fridge and freezer, and a couple of radios, one shortwave and one ham.

    I will happily entertain ideas from the wizards who populate this board.

  11. Oh, also wanna be able to pump wottuh from the well; and…nice score, Ray, on them SSDs. Sweet.

  12. The problem with solar panels is that you need a lot of deep cycle batteries and a large inverter to match peak demand with electricity production. My water well pump is a 240 volt circuit with a pair of 20 amp breakers. I have no idea if it is using 5 amps or 15 amps. However, that is a lot of load and you may need to be able to produce 5 kw of AC power. Since inverters are notoriously inefficient, you may need 7 or 8 kw of batteries. More if you need the batteries to produce that power level only partially charged.

    If your well pump can take DC power straight from the batteries, then forget all of the above.

    If the hot water heater is totally electric, that is a 10 to 12 kw load. More batteries and a freakin big inverter please.

  13. Forget the big water heater and convert to the under-sink models that have been popular in Europe for ages. Much more efficient than heating 100+ gallons to 160°F 24/7. I am seeing more and more of those small heaters in restrooms of commercial buildings in the US these days.

    I always did like the UK method of a big water holding tank in the attic and using gravity to feed water to everything below. That way, you can use a tiny, economical pump to send the water up to the tank slowly. I think that is disappearing—in England, at least—because they have been slowly increasing the city water pressure to US levels from their barely dripping pressures of bygone eras.

  14. My friend in telecom tells me that hurricane Emily took out a significant part of the US Internet backbone in the Northeast, and that is why the Internet (and likely this site) has been so slow recently. Although I know our host disagrees, this friend says the Internet backbone is currently very fragile, as it cannot possibly deliver the on-demand video now being consumed—much less the growth that is projected within the next few years. With many telecom companies essentially duplicating services, each investing in exactly the same equipment to provide services to a now fragmented telecom consumer market, Internet infrastructure hardware has been at the bottom of the list of priorities, and it is now buckling under the load, as Emily has demonstrated, my friend says. I have DSL, not cable, and speed diminishes to aggravatingly slow levels daily between about 9pm and midnight.

    What seems really slow to me is DNS resolution on all computers in the house.

  15. Re the SSD drives—I would be interested in hearing of any failures by those using them here. People on the Rivendell radio automation forum have basically abandoned SSD drives, because they fail after just a couple months in 24/7 production machines. That, and USB interfaces are being avoided, due to eventual USB lock-ups.

  16. I would be interested in hearing of any failures by those using them here

    We have been using one (Intel) here at work for about two years now with no issues. System is still working fast and it does stay on 24 hours a day. No activity though during the night and weekend hours except for the occasional ESET update.

    My son has had an SSD for almost three years, and OCZ branded model. It failed after 34 months. OCZ replaced the unit. The drive itself did not fail but the controller failed and it was a known issue.

    The OS must support the TRIM function to get the most use out of the drive. Intel provides software that will tell you how much life is left on the drive. There are a finite amount of write cycles for each memory cell. I am guessing there is some error mapping to extra memory locations and when those locations get used the life span is shown as diminished. You are not supposed to defrag the drives as it causes excessive wear and serves no useful purpose.

    I don’t know how Linux works with SDD but W7 is supposed to work quite nicely with SSD out of the box.

    Getting a reputable brand is crucial to getting a good drive. Part of the reason I went with the Intel version even though there was another drive of the same capacity for $10 less.

    I have been concerned about failures and have stuck with spinning disks. It was just time to take the plunge as the technology has matured quite a lot in the last couple of years. The boot time on my small netbook dropped to under 20 seconds when the boot time was about two minutes.

    If you don’t boot often and load programs a lot a SSD probably does not make a lot of sense. I want faster load times for programs, especially the photo editing and manipulation software.

  17. Regarding the OS wars—I think if one could get accurate figures on what is actually being sold, right now, our host is right: Windows is not even on the map. Even NAS equipment being sold to small offices and for home use in Berlin was exclusively Linux; same for the OS in modems and routers over there. M$ has not been able to get their claws into European manufacturers like they have elsewhere. As I noted a couple weeks ago: 6 years ago, I could get my Asus laptop delivered with no OS; that is not an option from authorized Asus dealers (at least in the US) today. It is your choice of M$ or M$—or if you do not like either of those, then M$. Some good that anti-trust suit did all those years ago.

  18. What seems really slow to me is DNS resolution on all computers in the house.

    Have you considered alternate DNS servers over what the ISP provides? I use OpenDNS at work and google DNS (at least I think it is google, don’t remember) at home. It was easy to configure the DNS in my routers so that every system would use the alternate DNS. Is it any faster than Comcast? I don’t know. I do know that I have not had any real issues with DNS resolution with either alternative.

  19. I wasn’t even considering infrastructure items, only computing devices that people interact with directly. If I added in routers, switches, VoIP terminal adapters, print servers, etc., Windows would drop to a really tiny fraction. But I’m counting only devices that people use interactively.

    Speaking of which, the ChromeBook just showed up. It’s charging now. Very nice little notebook. I decided to give it to Barbara as her only system. She can move it back and forth between the den and her office. The thing takes like 15 seconds to boot up, so battery life shouldn’t be an issue.

  20. I have not tried alternate DNS servers recently (since returning to the US). OpenDNS blocks pr0n sites, and while that is not a problem for my own computing, with 2 degreed librarians once in the family, I utterly oppose censorship of that kind, and will not voluntarily use a service that implements it.

    Will have to consult my telecom guy and see if I can get a list of reliable DNS servers from him.

  21. I was just reading an article that reports that there are over 670 million legal versions of Windows 7 installed. XP probably has near that number as well, so it would seem that Microsoft has close to 1 billion legal copies of Windows in userland. Most people are not upgrading their computers every other year like they do their smartphones and tablets. Microsoft still enjoys a large market share.

    An example at our house, two kids still at home, we all have Android phones but everyone also have both laptops and desktops running either XP or 7. I have both a Linux server (CentOS) and I run Suse 12 Linux on a desktop machine.

    My two eldest kids both in their lower 30’s have both computers and smartphones as do most of my teenage kids friends. While a lot of people around here have tablets and smartphones they also continue to use their Windows machines at home. I don’t see this changing anytime soon.

    Steve in sunny Colorado

  22. Well, I did not succeed in getting a new neighbor who is not a smoker. The previous occupant was a woman with a not-yet school age daughter. Turns out that she moved in with her new boyfriend (couple months after the ex moved out), and walked away from 2 years into a contract sale.

    New occupant is also a single woman, but at least she does not come out to the front porch to smoke, sending it directly to me.

    At the moment, they are putting Tyvek wrap all around that house, over the existing plastic siding. Probably something I should do, as my heating bill is already up over the average monthly air-conditioning charge. I still have the original wood siding on the house with no other insulation. Had hoped that insulating expense would be the new owner’s.

  23. Update
    I just realized that one isn’t suppose to mention Suse Linux on this board, else Bob turn that Remington 788 toward us (me?) 🙂

    Steve in Colorado
    (Remington 700BDL in 30-06 in my gun safe, owned since I was 14)

  24. Yeah, but that share of installed base is useless to M$’ future. It brings them no income, and they even give away the service packs. Only new sales count to the business side of M$. I know people who still run their Commodores and Amigas, but the company went bankrupt, was bought out, and the buyer then went bankrupt.

    Smaller format computing is the wave of the future, and M$ has stumbled many times in that area. Nothing going on now that makes me think they will do any better there in the future. As the saying goes, massive installed base is only an indication of past performance and is no guarantee of future results.

    The more I think of it, M$ is no longer the appropriate abbreviation for Microsoft.

  25. I read recently that Microsoft makes all their profit nowadays from Server and Office. The operating systems is a wash for them which I do not understand.

  26. Shit.

    One gambles. Will the Grid just go down for a few hours or a day or two or a week? Fine, we can get by pretty easily. Or will it go down for weeks and months at a time and then maybe permanently? If the latter, then we can probably forget about using juice at all, unless we can rebuild all the old mills and power plants up here that ran off rivers.

    So let’s figure on a full week or two, at most, that there will be no juice from the Grid; maybe a nice old-fashioned blizzard and ice storm that knocks out most of New England and upstate New York. Which is a more likely scenario right now than Apocalypse, a zombie invasion from Megalopolis, a major earthquake or a comet striking the Earth like a bullet hitting an apple.

    We wouldn’t then worry much about our fridge and freezer but would like to run the well, pellet stove, oil burner and hot water heater, plus a couple of radios. Screw the internet for a week.

  27. Well, if the grid is down for a week or more, the Internet will go also. Generator fuel supplies won’t even last a week at hospitals, and you know they will get fuel deliveries before the telecoms do.

    Look to Greece. They still have power; they still have phones; they still have Internet. What makes you think the US cannot make all that run in circumstances that are not as likely to be as bad as Greece?

  28. We always used to plan on getting the grid back together in Texas in three days. Central and West Texas used to be held together by three 345 KV transmission lines and we would lose 1 or 2 of those occasionally due to storm action. But Texas is its own grid and I have no idea what would be involved in getting the eastern grid back to together.

    What matters most in getting a grid back together would be the cause of failure. In your case, I would think that the most prevalent cause of failure would be an extended cold snap below zero. When the cooling lake inlets freeze over and under, the power plant is gone for the duration of the freeze. So, I would plan on two weeks down for the grid.

    The next greatest cause of grid failure is very high load or lack of fuel. Both of these correlate to each other and I would say down for a week, maybe less. It really depends on how much fuel you can rustle up. BTW, this is becoming a fairly serious problem for the future scenarios as the main fuel supply is converting from coal to natural gas. Natural gas is way more subject to interruptions due to compressor failures, etc. The EPA has mandated in the last 20 years that all natural gas compressors be electrical motor driven in the metropolitan areas but then those motors are the first to get curtailed. And most pipelines need compressors every 100 miles or so.

    The next cause of grid failure is electrical whiplash due to losing a significant part of the grid. I would say three days at most to get back unless that failure was in the transmission system due to a tornado following the transmission lines (been there done that).

  29. I meant, of course, the Grid as it applies to us up here; we get a bunch of our power from Quebec HydroElectric, a massively massive infrastructure way up north of us in the middle of freaking nowheresville. Fourteen or so years ago Quebec and our area around the north end of the Lake got hammered by a vicious ice storm that ranged diagonally across northern Vermont well into New Hampshuh. Power was gone in some places for up to two weeks, and driving north up through flat-as-a-pancake Quebec showed us a moonscape with all trees and many buildings flattened. Vast stands of birch trees up here and down in NH were also flattened.

    http://www.hydroquebec.com/residentiel/index.html

    Pardon mon Francais, mes amis!

    So we wanna keep warm and watered and well-fed during a week or two of bitter cold and snow and wind and shit like that. With no juice from les Quebecois.

  30. Gotta move south. I would go immediately to Tijuana North if only I could afford it. But we figured out several years ago that would be impossible on 2 SS incomes. Absolutely impossible on one.

  31. BTW, when you are planning on being off the grid for two weeks, make sure that your power equipment can be easily gotten to. And that you have the tools for maintaining it. For instance, if you get an inch of ice on those solar panels, will you need to remove the ice in order for them to generate power?

    Or if you have a generator, how will you store two weeks of fuel? I would plan on being out of fuel for the duration as it just becomes impossible to get more fuel for the duration of the emergency.

    BTW, it becomes very difficult to generate power for longer than a week without using commercial level equipment. Things get hot and melt down, things are too cold to start, wiring has shorts because you are constantly overloading the circuits by running the well pump and hot water heater together, etc. Commercial level equipment costs 10X but will serve you in the long run. I mean diesel instead of gasoline, natural gas instead of gasoline, propane instead of gasoline, 100% extra generation capacity over your anticipated demand, etc.

  32. Same applies to re-wiring a house. Tiny House is small, but has outgrown the 150 amp service my folks had installed when they retired here in 1994. Should have had at least 200 amp service or more installed.

    I suppose one day we will begin using less electricity, rather than more, but my folks forgot to consider central air, which really pushed to the limits of 150 amp service. And I am always needing more wall outlets than I have, even though my dad had double the code installed at the time.

  33. How big is tiny house? My 3,600 ft2 two story has 200 amp service with 6.5 tons of A/C. But the heating and water heating are natural gas.

    My 5,300 ft2 office building has 800 amp service with 7.0 tons of A/C. The heating is electric strip and it has an electric water heater. Plus the dual 20 amp breakers to the water well pump. And hundreds of outlets for all of our 15+ computers and stuff. And the 30 can lights that I have put 23 W fluorescent bulbs into. And the 12 outside lights that I put 13 W fluorescent bulbs into. We peaked at 19 kw of demand this summer (I know because they charged me for peak demand).

  34. Our state department are a bunch of clueless lazy clods. Lost my wife’s passport. The website for the state department clearly states “To replace your lost or stolen U.S. passport, submit Form DS-64 with completed Form DS-11 to an Acceptance Facility or Passport Agency.”

    Did that. But it turns out that submitting means you have to do it in person. You can renew a passport by mail, again “submit”, but you cannot replace a lost passport by using the mail. Of course you also have to provide them with your passport card which they will return. Why do they need the passport card?

    And the DS-64 that was submitted? That was also returned even though they want you to report the loss as soon as possible. I guess again that means you need to submit in person as the center in Atlanta won’t accept the DS-64.

    My wife also has to provide proof of citizenship via several options, one of which is a valid passport. What I don’t know is a passport card a valid passport for identification purposes to the department of state which issued the card. I doubt they know and will make it as inconvenient as possible.

    Cretins.

  35. I don’t know the exact square footage. Did once when we put it on the market, but I cannot find the paperwork for that at the moment. Being more familiar with meters than feet from the past 10 years, I would say it is no more than 120 m², which would be around 1300 ft². Our 3-story house in Boston was about 6,000 ft², and I never want that much space to take care of ever again.

    Air-conditioning here is 2.5 ton, but taxed greatly because the house has zero insulation. My biggest problem is the breaker panel for 150 amp service. Way too small. Have had to put in many of those double-breakers-in-one-slot since I have been in charge of maintaining the house. Kitchen had way too many items on too few breakers, and was constantly popping them. My folks put up with that and just went down to reset the breaker. I had things split up so nothing is overloaded anymore.

    My dad also had a generator installed in the garage, which took up even more of that panel’s buss space. I sold the generator after my mom passed, as I never remotely dreamed I would be living in the house. Problem at the time things were upgraded, is that if you installed a 200, 300, or 400 amp breaker panel, you were required by local code to have the corresponding service from the power company, and there was no way to get around that, except to wire the breaker panel twice—second time after the inspection, illegally. We probably seldom exceed 100 amps except when air is running and cooking is going on in the kitchen (all electric), but there is not enough breaker coverage on the busses in the panel for the reality of how the house is wired (like the 5 breakers for the kitchen alone—stove, dishwasher, fridge, and 2 circuits dividing 12 outlets for microwave, toaster oven, toaster, water cooker, etc., and actually a 6th breaker for the overhead lighting and hood exhaust fan). So I have probably 50 amps to spare, but a breaker panel that does not realistically have enough breakers to deal with the division of circuits.

  36. One never has enough breakers. I was encouraged when I bought this office building last year that the builder actually put in 20 amp circuits for all the wall sockets. That means 12 gauge wire instead of 14 gauge, a noticeable expense. But well worth it with all of our computers, multiple monitors, our 7 laser printers (2 of them color). And our 70″ lcd tv in the conference room for computer display, etc, etc, etc.

    Plus a couple of my employees get cold easily and have those little room heaters for either 750 watts or 1500 watts. I’ll bet those really make the meter spin.

  37. Did you know that you can get a passport at your local post office?

    You don’t get the passport, you get the passport application. It still has to be sent to a processing agency. The application can be filled out online and that is what I did. Followed the instructions and submitted the application to Atlanta. But apparently my mailing it is not submitting. You have to go to a local agency (PO, County Office) and have them rubber stamp the application and they submit the application.

  38. Never heard of a passport card. What is that?

    LOTS more requirements of birth certificates these days. My son just recently had to provide one for part-time work for a chain outfit that he had already been employed by when they were in Rapid City. I had to provide a birth certificate to get an Indiana driver’s license on return here from Germany—even though they had ALL of my former driver’s license information on record in their computer system (including scans of their historical documents) from when I got my very first driver’s license here in 1964 until I left the state in 1977, and the woman in the bureau office in Tiny Town knew both me and my family. They did not require a birth certificate when I got my very first license, but they do now. In Indiana, one cannot get a death certificate without a birth certificate. I have obtained several for everyone in my immediate family who is alive. Same goes for a marriage certificate. In Germany, they would not cremate Jeri until I produced a marriage certificate, which I had to go to extremes to get a copy of, while I was still in Berlin. And Social Security would not release her benefits to me until I produced a marriage certificate—even though their records indicated that we were married and the date and place of the marriage. Best to get multiple copies of both those documents at your leisure, instead of having to scramble when somebody says they need them before they can help you. And the way things are going, you will be asked for your “papers, please” much more often than in the past. Anybody old enough to remember when they inspected your car for agricultural reasons as you crossed state lines? That went away with the arrival of the Interstate system. As a kid, I remember being stopped by all the states surrounding Indiana. Only place we never got stopped was going into Chicago from Indiana. Man, they could never have handled that in a timely fashion. Indiana did stop you for inspection on returning, however.

    What is really crazy, is that a passport that has expired is no proof of identification at all. Suddenly, when it expires, you are no longer a real person—forget that you had to provide a birth certificate to get that passport in the first place. Nowadays, it is much easier to deal with passport issues in an Embassy abroad, than in the US itself!

  39. We’ll be asking for your papers when the south secedes from the Union to cross the mason-dixon line! I think that we will be taking a few more states with us this time also.

  40. Do not let your USA passport expire! If you do not have a USA passport, get one! The USA passport is rapidly becoming the USA identity card and is admissible to any federal or state agency for proof of identity.

  41. Never heard of a passport card. What is that?

    It is a small, credit card size, document that can be used for traveling to/from Canada, Mexico if traveling by auto or foot. Travel by plane or boat requires a full passport. The small card can be used in place of any photo ID when required, such as voting or boarding an airplane. I would rather carry that than the full passport. I refuse to show my drivers license. Confused them at the polling place when I presented that as an ID. They said it was not acceptable. I said guess again. They had to get a supervisor.

    Fortunately on our recent trip to Canada, where somewhere along the way my wife’s passport was lost, I had the card to get her in, and out of, Canada.

    If you are returning to the US the border folks can lookup your passport application and legally they have to let you back into the US without the passport. You also do not have to answer any questions when returning to the US. Where you have been, how long you have been gone, who you visited, etc. are all questions that you do not have to answer. Of course not answering the immigration will make certain you miss your connections and will make your life miserable. For 23 hours then they have to let you go.

    When I returned from Canada to the US the agent was polite, asked a couple of questions, and said welcome back. Unlike the loser in Philadelphia that asked why I was returning to the US to which I replied “I live here” and his response was “don’t get smart with me.” I then asked what answer he would like to the question. He just huffed and waved us through.

  42. Do not let your USA passport expire!

    Passports are good for 10 years. If your passport has expired, and was issued less than 15 years in the past, you can renew by mailing a renewal application, picture and the necessary fees. You don’t even need to go to the post office or other such center. I did that when my passport was 12 years old, two years past the expiration.

  43. How do you get the passport card? Sounds like something that we should all get in addition to our passports.

    BTW, I think that the USA passport will get harder and harder to get/keep as they tighten up document controls. I am wondering what the USA will look like with 30% unemployment and people screaming about illegal aliens taking jobs. The jobless volume will rise and the government will react negatively.

    My wife was born in Japan and has a USA birth certificate. We had to go through hell and high water to get that since the passport agency would not accept her USA Army birth certificate. And the Tokyo embassy burned down in the 1970s with all the Japanese born USA birth certificates so we could not get an original. Tom Delay, our US house rep at the time, filed all the paperwork and it still took a year and a half to get her a USA birth certificate. And that was before 9/11/2001. I cannot imagine what it would take today.

  44. Chuck wrote:

    “Re the SSD drives—I would be interested in hearing of any failures by those using them here. ”

    I had one fail on me a year or two back. IIRC it was less than a year old, I woke up one morning to a system that wouldn’t boot (I’d left it running overnight.) Took it too the builder, he said the drive was fine but too many sectors were marked as unusable. He fixed it, I described what happened in this forum and Bob said I needed to learn about a function called TRIM that does the sort of garbage collection that prevented the sort of problem I had.

    I’m not convinced the increase in performance is worth the cost. The PC with the problem was my main gaming machine and I wasn’t particularly aware of a performance improvement, although a fellow gamer with a SSD was very impressed with his.

    Ray, you mentioned some utilities and such to monitor this stuff. Could you provide some links please? The Wikipedia TRIM article wasn’t terribly helpful in this regard. Is TRIM related software tied strongly to the particular hardware?

  45. Steve in Colorado wrote:

    “I just realized that one isn’t suppose to mention Suse Linux on this board, else Bob turn that Remington 788 toward us (me?) :-)”

    Don’t worry, he’s been trying to hit Santa for a decade or more and keeps missing. I think he could stick the barrel in your chest and still miss. 🙂

  46. Hm Chuck, perhaps you should move to Australia. An expired Australian passport is still good for lots of things, and the weather here is nice. My passport is expired, but if I needed to travel overseas urgently I can get a new one in a small number of days.

    They inspected your car for “agricultural reasons”? I assume you mean they checked for fruit or veg that might host fruit fly. We have that between and within states in Australia. I’m not pulled over for an inspection very often though, and they only ask me to pop the boot (=trunk) and they take a quick look. There are inspection posts on many border crossings into South Australia but all they checked last time was if I was over the alcohol limit for driving.

    Many years ago a cow-orker had a small poster at work with the following words:

    “There’s no reason for it, it’s just our policy.”

    How very true.

  47. Lynn wrote:

    “My wife was born in Japan and has a USA birth certificate. We had to go through hell and high water to get that since the passport agency would not accept her USA Army birth certificate.”

    If she ran for POTUS as a liberal Democrat all her problems would go away… 🙂

  48. Don’t worry, he’s been trying to hit Santa for a decade or more and keeps missing. I think he could stick the barrel in your chest and still miss. 🙂

    Hey, I’ve never claimed to be a good shot. With my .45 ACP Colt Combat Commander, I can probably put 4 of 5 rounds into a stop-sign size target at 100 yards, but that’s about as good as I get. The 788 may shoot 1.5″ groups at 300 yards, but that was off a machine rest. If I were shooting manually, I’d probably shoot 3″ or 4″ groups at that range.

  49. Here in Vermont we have what is known as an “enhanced driver’s license,” and it has all kinds of gimcrack code on it that allows us to travel between countries in North America and all them nifty Pacific Trust Territory places on the other side of the globe. Like we would ever be going there. It serves in a hurry when crossing into O Kanada but coming back is usually some kind of PITA with arrogant and pissy U.S. cops/guards giving us shit for no particular reason, despite us being American citizens that do not fit ANY fucking profiles and me being a blah-blah-decorated-blah-blah vet of three U.S. wars. Sons of bitches. I have all I can do to keep from killing them with my bare hands; I may be nearly 60 but I’m still pretty large and pretty fast when I have to be. Our Canadian friends tell us it’s the opposite with them; they come here with no problemo but when returning THEY get the shit from their own bozos.

    I’ve also noticed Homeland Insecurity ass-hats as far south as a hundred miles from the Canadian border up here running checkpoints and eyeballing everybody. And we’ve seen some funny aircraft floating around in the sky and increase mil-spec vehicle activities on the highways lately. I don’t know who they think they’re kidding; our southern border has long been a total joke but its northern counterpart is totally wide open for more than 3,000 miles, the vast much of it being heavily forested. I can walk or canoe/kayak deep into O Kanada from a hundred feet from our front door without encountering anyone official. So I assume the reverse is also true.

  50. Ray@13:17, thanks for the note on parallels.

    I’m more or less OS agnostic. I have the XP laptop, the dead(ish) Vista laptop, the Mint desktop, the OSX laptop, a Kindle, an iPad2, and a room of various old systems (Win2k, win98, Redhat 6, etc) upstairs that just need to go to the dump. Under the hood they are all pretty mediocre.

    Have Laptop, Will Travel.

    Just upgraded to a newer Droid, as the old one died.

    RBT is probably right: in pure numbers – particularly if you include embedded and semi-embedded systems – the various Unix variants outnumber everything else in deployments.

  51. OFD, if, hypothetically, you were to have some lead time before going berserk and slaughtering a bunch of worthless shits on the dole — er, drawing a government salary — give me a heads up. I can be up there in three or four hours and, not to provide actionable details, I have an unbroken record of killing worthless shits who needed killing.

    Apropos nothing, in the past week I’ve spent days of my time — for no remuneration, of course — dealing with bullshit government forms and bullshit government people. No, these stupid shits aren’t “people”. They’re animatronic assholes. They’re a particularly anti-optimized form of artificial stupidity. And, if I had my way, they’d be pig food.

  52. I have a death certificate for Jeri, which is in German. No one in the US will accept it. The State Department issued a “Death Notice of a US Citizen Abroad”. TG it says in plain English, “this is a legal substitute in the US for a foreign death certificate and is to be observed the same as a US issued death certificate.” If I did not have that—with that wording,—my life would have been hell. Several times, I had to insist that various entities examine that clause very carefully, after they had refused to accept it OR the German death certificate.

    My maternal grandmother was born in Anderlecht, Belgium. At 18, she married my grandfather and came to the US as a war bride. She was quickly made a naturalized US citizen, as were many other European WWI brides.

    One side of the family is from Canada, and they are still very close, so there have been lots of visits over the years. During the 1980’s, after my Grandmother had lived here in the US for a good 50 years and my grandfather had passed, that side of the family was on their way back to the US. This was long before a passport was required to get back into the US from Canada, and nobody ever took one with them on the Canada visits. The US border people were really busy that day, and the only question they asked of the carload of relatives was, “Everybody here born in the US?”

    Well, of course, my grandmother was born in Anderlecht, but had not been there since she was 13—over 60 years prior,—because the war had been going on and their farm house, being on a hill, had been “appropriated” by the Allies because of its crucial view of the surrounding countryside (neither the house nor the farm was ever returned to them; it remained Belgian government property, where they later built various government office buildings that are still standing there today). My grandmother and a sister fled to France, where they worked in a gas mask factory for about 5 years, where she met my grandfather, who was stationed in France. So, really, the US had been her only home as an adult.

    Without the passport, that was the flag the border people needed, and they were detained for over 3 hours while all kinds of checks and phone calls were made (this was before computers). Actually, my grandmother was legally ordered to be under a kind of house detention. Made my uncle, whose father was Canadian, mad as hell, that they would do such a thing to a 70+ year-old woman who had lived practically her whole cognizant adult life as a US citizen. His father lived in the US as a Canadian all of his life, and was never denied any privilege because of that. But times sure have changed. Nothing ever came of the detention order; they heard nothing more about it, but it was never officially released.

    Now, “papers, please” is the rule of the day in the US for many facets of life. What American, 50 years ago, would have ever thunk it? In fact, those I knew detested such an idea as completely unAmerican. But here it is.

    I had a similar experience to Ray—IIRC it was in either Philly or Charlotte. I was not sufficiently subservient in answering many questions about why I lived in Germany, did I really tell him ALL the places I had been since I left the US (geez, we travelled a lot while living in Germany, and I could not possibly remember all the places we visited, some places only for an overnight hotel stay), but most importantly, ‘Why in the Hell was I back in the US?’ As a citizen, I need a reason? He wanted me to list the names, addresses, and phone numbers of everyone I would be visiting before returning to Germany. Geez! Not having brought our address book, I no alternative but to leave some names off the list. I suspect the day is coming where they will be able to check my actions against what I said, and throw me in jail for not telling the truth, just like Martha Stewart. Although I suspect my days of travelling outside the US are over.

  53. I would give ya a heads-up SteveF but U don’t need none of my troubles; you still got young kids at home; mine are grown and pretty big they own selves and kin take of they selves. I rarely leave Retroville for any reason and have no intentions at present of visiting any foreign territories. Mrs. OFD, MIL, et. al. routinely go back and forth to O Kanada but not me; I likes it real fine in my own little ‘hood.

    And that would be my advice to all and sundry who do not have a pressing need to travel anywhere; stay the hell home and take care of IT.

    I am really digging this Ubuntu 12.10 unit here; for those who gotta have M$ Office, you can run Orifice 2010 under PlayOnLinux, along with a host of games and other Windows apps. And Chrome is wicked fast on this.

  54. Now, “papers, please” is the rule of the day in the US for many facets of life.

    Except for voting in most of the US……..

  55. Hi Bob, you may need one of these .95 cal rifles for shooting down Santa this year. Don’t worry, I think that you will only need one shot as you will only get one shot:
    http://youtu.be/xohy9gWz7kk

    Only three were ever made. This was the lightest, the carbine version, weighing in at 50 lbs. It shoots a .95 caliber , 2,400 grain bullet at 2,100 fps using 240 grains of powder, which generates 25,400 f/lbs of muzzle energy and 277 f/lbs of recoil energy. Each round costs $40.

    My son maintains that this gun is illegal in the USA as it can be an anti-tank weapon.

  56. Wow, what a pile of posts for one day! I want to chime in on a couple of small points…

    SSDs – I’ve heard various horrible anecdotes, but I think that’s all they are: isolated anecdotes. Everyone here in Switzerland is moving to SSDs; certainly all newer laptops have them; no problems.

    From Slashdot comes the only cautionary note: An informal survey there indicates that SSDs often fail without warning. A hard-disk will usually throw the occasional bad sector, giving you fair warning of impending catastrophe. An SSD will work one day, and be stone dead the next: no “last chance” to rescue data that wasn’t backed up.

    – – – – –

    @Chuck: It’s worth doing some back-of-the-envelope calculations about insulation. Our house here was also totally uninsulated when we bought it (it was build in the 1930s). Deciding to insulate the attic was a no-brainer: short term payoff. Replacing the windows was basically a wash (payoff in 20 years); we did it for the increased comfort, because there are no more drafts. Insulating the walls isn’t worth the expense for us (technically uninsulated, but still 18″ thick), but your situation may be different.

    Another consideration on the windows: our ground-floor windows are now security glass (whatever you call it in English – the tempered stuff that is nearly unbreakable). That was only about 5% more expensive, and gives us a better feeling of security.

  57. OFD: Thanks for the tip on Ubuntu 12, PlayOnLinux, and MS Office. Various Office docs and databases are about the only reason I boot Windows and that’ll get me away from even that.

    Lynn McGuire: Your son is right. The .95 would be classified as a Destructive Device, not an ordinary rifle. 12.7 mm (aka .50) is a rifle and 20mm is a DD; I’m not sure exactly where the cut-off is.

  58. How do you get the passport card?

    Apply just as you would for a passport.

  59. Ray, you mentioned some utilities and such to monitor this stuff. Could you provide some links please?

    Intel has a toolkit for their drives. I cannot speak as to what other makers provide. I suspect you would have to go to their support websites to find such a utility. There may be a generic utility but I have no such knowledge of such a utility.

  60. The .95 would be classified as a Destructive Device, not an ordinary rifle. 12.7 mm (aka .50) is a rifle and 20mm is a DD; I’m not sure exactly where the cut-off is.

    The cut-off is at 50 caliber if the barrel is rifled, with some exceptions (e.g., blackpowder rifles > 50 caliber are not destructive devices). These items are not “illegal” to possess, but for just about any destructive device, automatic weapon, or suppressor, there’s a $200 transfer tax. A few devices are subject to only a $5 tax, but not many.

    I used to go to machine gun shoots at an old artillery testing range near Ft. Knox. A lot of people that had .55 Boyes anti-tank guns had rebarreled them for just that reason. The .50 BMG ammunition was not subject to transfer tax. The .55 Boyes ammo, in addition to being very expensive and hard to find, was subject to the tax.

    But what really flabbergasted me was the guy with the 20mm Solothurn anti-tank gun. Not only had he paid the $200 tax on the gun itself; every time he fired a round, that was $200 up in smoke because each round of ammo was subject to the tax, non-refundable.

    I remember when Military Armaments Corporation went out of business. They had a fire sale on MAC-10s and suppressors for $35 each. I’d have bought them at $70 for gun plus suppressor, but the transfer tax took that up to $470 for a MAC-10 with suppressor. They’re fun to play with, and for $70 I’d have bought a few just to have on hand, but they weren’t worth $470 each.

  61. As an old-time machine-gunner, they’re not much use unless mowing down hordes of Apocalyptic zombies (or NVA, Khmer Rouge and Pathet Lao cadres) either on the ground or from the air. For household self-defense nothing beats the shotgun/handgun combo, and maybe a decent AR/AK carbine like Rock River Arms’s new Delta Carbine for the occasional ruckus in the ‘hood. If we’re being assaulted by trained and experienced fire teams with crew-served weapons we’re screwed anyway. And I can’t picture too many instances of where we’d need long-range sniping capability just yet; for that I’d get a decently scoped .308 with the appropriate ammo. Remember that most shootings are pretty darn close-range.

    “…Deciding to insulate the attic was a no-brainer: short term payoff. Replacing the windows was basically a wash (payoff in 20 years); we did it for the increased comfort, because there are no more drafts. Insulating the walls isn’t worth the expense for us (technically uninsulated, but still 18″ thick), but your situation may be different.”

    We plan to do the attic and put security glass on new ground-floor windows; also looking into totally replacing the two ground-floor doors with steel doors and deadbolts; current setup is a joke, from circa 1830. Also window locks and internal and external shutters on the windows.

    But our first priorities this week are clearing out the back porch for a delivery of a ton or so of wood pellets and getting a professional electrician in here to do the kitchen outlets and take a look/estimate of the rest of the house for the spring.

  62. As an old-time machine-gunner, they’re not much use unless mowing down hordes of Apocalyptic zombies (or NVA, Khmer Rouge and Pathet Lao cadres) either on the ground or from the air. For household self-defense nothing beats the shotgun/handgun combo, and maybe a decent AR/AK carbine like Rock River Arms’s new Delta Carbine for the occasional ruckus in the ‘hood.

    I completely agree. As my late friend Mel Tappan commented, “Firepower is hitting what you aim at, not peppering the landscape with near misses.” And I remember Kenny Hackathorne’s take on the MAC-10. He said about the only thing it was good for is if you were going to have a gun fight in a telephone booth.

    A shotgun loaded with slugs and/or buck is a truly fearsome weapon. I used to know a guy who was a career burglar. Pretty nice guy, actually, other than that habit of his of breaking into people’s houses and stealing stuff. I remember him telling me that the sound most feared by burglars was that of a pump shotgun being racked and the sight no burglar ever wanted to see was a frightened woman pointing a gun at him.

  63. Mel and Kenny were 100% right; but what did the military and the cops do over and over since the 80s? Issue 9mm crunchentickers to one and all and adopt the spray-and-pray philosophy of gunfights, which we’ve seen the results of a few times by now, with rounds all over the landscape and “collateral damage” to others. And they not only kept the Mattel-Toy M-16 but continued to develop and expand its use. I note, however, they have kept the various descendants of the old Wehrmacht machine gun and that the combat Marines and spec ops guys (yeah, GUYS, no wimmen, ever) use .45 ACPs and .308s.

    The worst and scariest sight of all is a frightened and/or crazy woman pointing a loaded shotgun at you. Worse if it’s a double. And worser still if she’s been drinking and/or doping. I have had that, which luckily ended with no one hurt, thanks to my masterly use of calming-down rhetoric, and in one other situation a dude had a sawed-off double leveled at me across his driver’s side door/window as I approached from behind during a “routine” traffic stop. He came within a nanosecond of having his skull blown to pieces before letting it drop outside to the road. Ah, the good old days of small-town New England law enforcement…the days of revolvers and billy clubs…and saps…the lone patrolman (me) going to biker bar brawls, domestic disputes, car wrecks, armed robberies-in-progress…etc. Sometimes I can’t believe I did that shit, in my 20’s; left cop work at age 33.

    Wouldn’t do it now for all the money in the world and would never recommend it to kids now as a viable “career.” Soon enough, most of them will be outta work.

  64. Now that the days of massed charges are pretty much over, about the only advantage I see to automatic weapons is the psychological effect. Well, that and keeping the companies that make ammunition happy.

    I remember that during WWII the US Army produced a propaganda film to assure US soldiers that the German MG-42 was nothing to worry about. Yeah, right. They didn’t call it Hitler’s Buzzsaw for nothing. Depending on the bolt being used, it fired anything from 20 to 30 rounds a second, two or three times the cyclic rate of most MGs, including the M-60. I don’t blame US soldiers for being shit-scared of it. It would have scared me, too. It would have scared any sane person that came up against it. I’ve actually fired an MG-42, and just shooting it is a real experience. I can’t imagine being downrange of one.

  65. The Germans were master machine-gunning guys even back in the Great War; and by the time of the Good War had it down to a science. People who glamorize the Good War and how we kicked their asses, etc., etc. need to read the late Paul Fussell’s “Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War.” After that they need to take a good long hard look at the Red Army’s contributions on der Ostfront. When the Brits and us first went up against the Germans, we all had our asses thoroughly kicked, over and over again. But their high command knew the writing was on the wall when the U.S. weighed in, only a matter of time. And of course Yamamoto knew it even before that. We fixed him, though.

  66. also looking into totally replacing the two ground-floor doors with steel doors and deadbolts

    Remember, doors are only as strong as their door frames and the door frames are only as string as the wall they’re mounted too. Can’t tell you how many time I’ve seen a steel-clad door attached to a soft pine frame or a heavy steel door and steel door frame attached to exeterior wall that consists only of siding, insulation, and sheetrock. The door might be bulletproof, but, with the help of a good pry bar, I could come through the wall, roof, or a window in a matter of minutes.

  67. The door might be bulletproof, but, with the help of a good pry bar, I could come through the wall, roof, or a window in a matter of minutes.

    Yeah but will Zombies go through walls or windows ?

  68. I think I’ve read that zombies are slow in every sense of the word.

    As to the security glass, I was going to suggest polycarbonate sheets instead until I checked the price. A 4×8 foot sheet of quarter-inch Lexan costs more than $500. Geez. Of course, it will stop a bullet. I still have a couple sheets of the stuff downstairs. Maybe I should sell them on eBay.

  69. My cousin, Seanan McGuire, says that zombies are slow individually but grow smarter as they group together. Kind of a group mind kind of thing. Or so she writes under the name of Mira Grant:
    http://www.amazon.com/Feed-Newsflesh-Book-Mira-Grant/dp/0316081051/

    p.s. We are not really cousins, just same middle and last names.

    BTW, in “The Walking Dead”, zombies just press against any surface that they think prey is beyond. Usually that surface is a door that someone just ran through. Zombies really seem to have trouble with the concept of front door and back door.

  70. We stopped watching The Walking Dead because it’s not the kind of thing Barbara likes. At least she likes Reven8e. We’re about 2/3 of the way through series one, which is all Netflix streaming has so far. Knowing how much I like Emily VanCamp, Barbara asked me last night if I planned to watch it over and over while she was at the gym or on trips. I told her no, that I’d just keep watching Heartland.

  71. “Remember, doors are only as strong as their door frames and the door frames are only as string as the wall they’re mounted too. ”

    Good point. And the walls are solid brick. By the time we’re through, someone will need pry bars, sledge hammers, explosives, etc., to bust in here, which will cause quite a commotion in a small village. And if we’re home they’ll have to undertake that operation under sustained rifle, shotgun and handgun fire.

  72. I really like “The Walking Dead” but in the middle of season three, it is getting darker and darker. I am not sure if I can continue to watch it just due to the gore and heartache (loss of principal actors). Yes, I am watching this by myself as the wife long since declared TWD to be gross.

    I am passing on “Revenge” for now. Got too many other shows like “Evolution”, “Justified”, “Castle”, “Hawaii Five-O”, “Grey’s Anatomy” and “The Practice” going on. And watching Johnny Football give my Aggies a rare season of excellence.

  73. BTW, there is a very interesting graphic in
    http://semiaccurate.com/2012/11/27/microsofts-problems-another-data-point/
    that shows pc sales have dropped from 98% of the computer market to less than 50% in just the last five years. Amazing.

    BTW2, Intel is moving to solderable cpu chips only:
    http://semiaccurate.com/2012/11/26/intel-kills-off-the-desktop-pcs-go-with-it/
    This is another statement that the desktop market is condensing. We will see vast changes in the desktop market in the near future. Probably pricing jumps will come soon after HP or Dell throw in the towel.

  74. I liked “Justified,” and also kinda dig the theme musik, unusual for me; a mix of bluegrass and hip-hop. Perfect for the show. Good theme musik also for “Breaking Bad,” which I also liked. Right now I’m halfway or so through “Hell on Wheels,” and liking it pretty well. Just for laffs Mrs. OFD and I looked at the Netflix “Just for Kids” selection and damned if they didn’t have “Wallace and Gromit,” and some very nice natural world documentaries with stunning photography.

    I kind of like to stick with my desktop config; I want to go and sit and do something at the computer for a while and then leave it and go do something else. I don’t want a tablet, laptop, smartphone, netbook, whatever, hanging around my neck 7×24 and always being ON. As it is I work with the buggers all day and spend maybe an hour or two, tops, after I get home on one. We watch stuff on the media center maybe three or four times a week, tops, and this household still, by far, is into reading books, by the dozens every week. I am trying to get down to the late C.S. Lewis recommendation of ‘two or three old books for every new one,’ but easier said than done. An old book that is enroute here is the Lusiad, roughly contemporary with Cervantes and de Vere, an epic concerning the great Portuguese seafarer and explorer Vasco de Gama. I did work on the Commedia back in grad school over twenty years ago but found it a real chore wading through Purgatorio and Paradiso after Inferno, and struggling with medieval Italian and Latin throughout. The Lusiad looks like more fun.

    But now…back to Hell on Wheels…

  75. Regarding the Divine Comedy, I have a heretical view (pun intended). This is one of the works which is better read as Cliff’s Notes or as a modern retelling than in full translation. (I read and enjoyed and recommend Niven and Pournelle’s creatively-named Inferno.) Supposedly the experience of reading the original makes up much of the value of Dante’s work, but of course that is lost unless you can read the Italian of 800 years ago. The other value of the Comedia is Dante’s vision of the afterlife and commentary on the various crimes and virtues and hypocrisies of various people. That can be transmitted just fine in synopsis and excerpt.

    Disclaimer 1: I never finished Purgatorio and barely even started Paradisio. Inferno was a rough enough slog. Many people have said that the other two were even worse in terms of being drawn out and boring and my sampling confirmed that.

    Disclaimer 2: I don’t generally care for poetry, and certainly not epic-length poetry. And more especially not indifferent poetic translations into English. And I wasn’t about to learn Medieval Tuscan just so I could read Inferno in all its native glory.

  76. Yeah, I hear all that; I was working on an MA thesis involving Dante’s precursor ‘father’ Virgil as guide through Inferno and Purgatorio, borrowing a bit from Harold Bloom’s ‘anxiety of influence’ school of thought at the time. I actually delivered a paper on it in that 800-year-old Italian at Yale, on, of all days, April Fools Day, 1991, Yale being Bloom’s home for over half a century now.

    You are correct on Disclaimer 1 and as for Disclaimer 2, I am just the opposite: I dig the heroic, nationalistic epics from the last 3,000 years but also like sonnets, etc., etc. I knew jack-shit about poetry in the fall of 1980 as a still-young cop, but a professor of English and specialist in the Modernist poets (Yeats, Eliot, Pound, Williams, Moore, Frost, et. al.) taught me how to read it in pretty much one class period (with poems by Donne and Wallace Stevens, IIRC). I have been lost ever since. And am currently almost all the way through Bloom’s fat book on Genius.

    I will say only this: most poetry, if not all of it, good poetry, that is, is meant to be read aloud. And I would stay away from pretty much any college or university humanities department faculty who’ve been teaching it or are teaching it currently; they are professors of Resentment, by and large, and are not lovers of poetry but its destroyers. I’d also be remiss if I did not point out that most ‘great’ poets have been right-wingers, curiously like most science-fiction writers. And I mean REALLY right-wing.

  77. One of the very best SF writers of the current day is the Scottish atheist Iain M. Banks. He comes across as fairly left wing, not sure if he’s anarchist as well, but he portrays a society called The Culture that is utopian anarchist. He also wants independence for Scotland, I think I’d regret it if that happened.

  78. re Iain Banks, I read Consider Phlebas or whatever the earliest Culture book was. Um, do they get better? It wasn’t very good. I don’t know whether he’s yet another vastly over-rated author or if his skills improved with experience. And my leisure time is limited enough that I don’t want to use it, reading another meh novel when there are plenty of other things to read.

  79. I’ve never particularly liked Consider Phlebas, but I did get used to it, eventually. I hated Excession at first, but got used to it, then really liked it. I can recommend:

    The Player of Games (my all time favourite)

    Inversions

    Look to Windward (kinda sad, but excellent)

    and many others. My all time favourite author is still Frank Herbert (the Dune saga).

  80. BTW Bob, I know that you do not like the cringe but he agrees with you about MS:
    http://www.cringely.com/2012/10/28/steve-ballmers-dilemma/

    “If Microsoft can continue to pretend it is big while actually becoming small, they might end up in 2018 with a small residual product line sitting atop $100 billion in cash. Then Ballmer can hand that money to Warren Buffett or to Buffett’s successor and let them manage Microsoft as a mutual fund rather than a technology company.”

  81. Although I know our host disagrees, this friend says the Internet backbone is currently very fragile, as it cannot possibly deliver the on-demand video now being consumed—much less the growth that is projected within the next few years.

    I don’t know about other sources of streaming video, but Netflix doesn’t burden the internet backbone much at all. Their streaming is sourced relatively locally exactly so it does not have to use the backbone. This is a Good Thing since Netflix streaming is rather popular (as in “Netflix gobbles a third of peak Internet traffic in North America“).

  82. Yeah, I’d looked up the band that does it; I could only find the single mp3 file of that tune on Amazon; not as one track on any of their albums.

    Those women who like “Justified” probably dig: A: the suave gunfighter dude who is on the side of the angels, mostly. And B: a couple of strong female roles.

    Mrs. OFD won’t watch stuff that has too much (by her lights) violence in it. So that cuts out about 90% of the stuff I watch.

  83. My telecom friend says the locality issue is a red herring. His example is that the radio project (he is also the chief tech there) has only 16 miles to traverse from studio to transmitter. In fact, the path goes through 15 hops, to Chicago, Arizona, San Diego, and a different path through Des Moines back to complete the 16 miles. Now, at one time, the ISP at the transmitter used AT&T, as did the studio. At that time, the hop STILL went to Chicago and back, but did not go out to Arizona and California before returning. When that ISP changed backbone providers, a lot more of the backbone came into play to get a signal to traverse just 16 miles as the crow flies.

    Netflix may claim they have servers close to everyone, but that does not keep the signal from traversing halfway across the country to get to a destination just a few miles away.

  84. There are typically no packets traversing the backbone when you watch something on Netflix streaming. Netflix distributes the program material out to a bunch of caching servers, many of them located in major ISP data centers. When I watch an episode, it’s not normally being streamed from Netflix; it’s being streamed from a caching server within TWC’s network. And all of the big service providers have dedicated fiber links between and among each other.

  85. Chuck, I think it is a mistake to compare the sort of network support that radio project gets to what Netflix can accomplish. I don’t doubt the 15-hop-around-the-country-to-go-16 miles story but Netflix can afford to have those local servers connected directly to all the ISPs in the area, and choose the appropriate connection to use.

    As an aside, the web site about their Open Connect systems is interesting if you are into that sort of thing. The description of their hardware is something! 100TB in a custom 4U chassis, supplemented with 1TB of flash drives, with a low-power quad-core CPU and 32GB of memory.

  86. Dave the non-pacifict wrote:

    “Mrs. OFD won’t watch stuff that has too much (by her lights) violence in it. So that cuts out about 90% of the stuff I watch.”

    I’m on your side, I love shoot-’em-ups like Heat, The Outlaw Josey Wales, Pale Rider, all the Dirty Harry movies, and also martial arts flicks with Chuck Norris and Bruce Lee, amongst others.

  87. I am actually more of a pacifist than not. Would rather solve stuff without resort to lethal violence, but if lethal violence is called for, I’m your man. Thanks to beaucoups training and experience with Uncle Sugar and later Officer Friendly tours.

    Theme song for “Hell On Wheels” ain’t bad, either, and I see it is an original composition thang by some dude.

  88. OFD:

    Thanks for the recommendation of “Hell On Wheels.” I am really enjoying it.

    Robert

  89. Yeah, me, too; enough gunplay and explosions but some nice building of characters. Good job by Colm Meaney.

  90. I’ve had it with westerns. Except SF westerns like “Cowboys and Aliens”. That was cool.

    And that’s 100 posts for this day.

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