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I Hate Linux

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Animal Activists: Last Hippy Standing

Yesterday was a friend of mines birthday (Sonja) and for her party, we went to the Shrine Circus.

Out front, were our friends the animal rights activists, or as we liked to call them, dirty smelly hippies. Before going in, we were all joking around about them, and pondering if the 6 of the people I was with, all wearing leather jackets should go outside and counter protest "We love cows! Wear em! Eat em! Milk em. We love cows!" (I know, it's not too catchy, but then the dirty smelly hippies weren't even chanting, just standing with signs).

On their website, Peta says (aka the primary dirty smelly hippy organization):
PETA believes that animals have rights and deserve to have their best interests taken into consideration, regardless of whether they are useful to humans. Like you, they are capable of suffering and have an interest in leading their own lives; therefore, they are not ours to use-for food, clothing, entertainment, experimentation, or any other reason.


From this, I gather that they are not only against circus animals... but also zoos and any sort of private ownership. They seem to believe that animals should be returned to the wild and their natural environments and be free of human interference.

Sounds nice in theory... but what about humans? Humans are by their nature hunter/gatherers, this whole concept of supermarkets, advanced medicine, cars, bikes, even herbicides are pretty modern... if the animal rights activist are all for returning animals to their natural habitat... maybe those activists should do the same thing themselves.

I propose the new hit television show "Animal Activists: Last Hippy Standing".

Unlike many, I refused to watch the show Survivor (or any of it's spawn), from its very concept it seemed fake, challenges and being voted off... what does that have to do with survival? On Animal Activists: Last Hippy Standing, a group of dirty smelly hippy animal rights activists and strand them on a tropical island with only their wits (a laughable idea I know), an artificially populated island full of non native predators and prey (the humans wont be native to they island, so why let them be at the top of the food chain?), and plenty of remotely controlled cameras to get every minute of it on film.

The dirty smelly hippy group would be completely on their own on the island, the only way they would be permitted to leave is if they die, are seriously injured, or renounce their dirty smelly hippy beliefs and can successfully kill and eat an animal on their own for nourishment, not sport.

A nice idea I know... somehow I doubt that we could ever get such a group together, despite how popular such a show would be, hell, it'd be the first 'reality' television show I'd ever watch.

Despite our best efforts to ignore the dirty smelly hippy problem, they just keep going and going and going, thinking that they will be successful in achieving their agendas. One would think that they would take the hint that the vast majority of contemporary societies disagree with their beliefs and methods. Sure, we all want to be nice to animals, but the folks over at Peta and others like them are just extremist zealots who often fail to recognize that virtually all animals you find in a persons home, at a zoo or at the circus have far better lives than they would in the wild with 3 square meals a day, medical car and people appreciating their contributions.

I apologize to any hippies who I may have offended by associating Peta with them.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Men, Woman, and Parking Spaces

We've all heard the line: "(Men|Woman) are like parking spaces. All the good ones are taken, and the rest are handicapped." Personally, I've always taken this statement as an admission of laziness.

Why? The whole concept of 'one true love' is flawed as it assumes that there is only one other person in the world that one is capable of loving, ever. The fact that people do in fact meet, fall in love and often stay together for a lifetime says that such people are either incredibly lucky, or that they just happened to find someone of the type they could love (and vice versa).

I'm more likely to go with the latter as the former requires the belief in such improbable events occurring so often that some higher order would need to exist to facilitate it... which I just don't buy.

How does this relate to parking spots? Just about everyone wants the spot right next to the handicapped ones, as best as can be. Just like most want to marry a super model or other perfect person. Neither unfortunately are very likely.

Granted, relationships are a bit more complex. Finding that special someone is not as easy as finding a safe place for your car to reside for 15 minutes while you are inside, you are instead looking for someone to have a (hopefully) lifelong relationship with.

In such relationship, just like a parking space, ultimately the goal is to have/get one, period. After all, it is rare that you end up with the best in any endeavor. No, I'm not saying that in dating one should 'settle' for whoever is available. Relationships tend to have more qualities than parking spaces that often change forming an ultimately desirable or undesirable final product, think of it this way... relationships, unlike parking spots traditionally grow and get better with time and that often is forgotten.

All too often with parking spots, people only see proximity to the door as the deciding factor. Yes, they are desirable for enabling you to get in and out quickly... but at what cost? How many times might you have to circle to find it? With so many people parked close, what are the chances your doors are going to get dinged?

Ask yourself this... you could spend extended period trying to find the best possible space, but what is so wrong with getting a space that is a bit further from the door, and (gasp) getting a bit of walking in?

In a way men and woman are like parking spaces, in that the majority of the 'good' ones are either taken, unavailable or otherwise undesirable... only if you define 'good' as next door to you, mind-bogglingly attractive (physically and/or mentally), and very wealthy, and that 'handicapped' is anyone who is not 'good'... but those are pretty unrealistic standards.

Again, I'm not saying one should 'settle', I'm saying that one should have a more clear idea of what they want and be realistic about it. If everyone wants the same thing, and the object/person of desire is a scarce thing, one has little chance of achieving it and one would be better served by spending their time on finding that person or parking space that makes them happy and that they wouldn't mind (or preferably enjoy)spending time with(person)/in(parking space).

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

God damn Alpine... I mean Pioneer!

After getting dinked around by OnlineCarStereo.com (they don't seem to think it important to inform a customer that an item is not only not in stock, but that they don't know when more will be in), I discovered that my local Best Buy had a pair of Pioneer CD-IB100's so I picked up one of them last night after work.

Arriving home an hour later I stopped by Chad's house to get his assistance as I know little (see nothing) about car audio installation. After quickly getting off my center console covers, we got to installing the unit and attaching it to my desk.

My original concern with the IB100 was that it suck less than the Alpine product... Chad and I were shocked to find... that the Pioneer solution actually sucked more!

I wish to apologize for the frequent use of the word 'suck' to describe both products, but after much thinking and digging through a thesaurus... it remained the best word to describe both products.

The speed of the interface was awful, you'd choose to go to the next track, and often it would take a moment for it to decide to do so. Simply scrolling through my collection of play lists too was painful. When we did have it playing, the normal (8 character only) display would read "iPodXXXX" where XXXX was the current time through the song notice the lack of a standard style ':' ? ). With some work, you could get it to display the track name or the artist or album... but touching anything else would have it return back to the iPodXXXX format.

I had unfortunately given up hope quite early as I saw the amazing problems we were having with simply choosing a song to play or even setting it to randomly shuffle... what did it in for Chad, was that after much fighting and consulting of the manual, that the pause button on the front of my deck did nothing at all. No pause, no other menu... not even a beep, nothing.

Twice now I have been horribly disappointed by products designed to make it easy to use your iPod in your car, and I dont think there will be much else to make me happy, Kenwood will be releasing something soon... but I do not have a Kenwood deck. BMW also has a nice looking system... but it requires a 2005 BMW. I also learned recently that Monster is releasing their own iPod adapter, called the iCruze which costs a little more than what the Alpine and Pioneer units cost... combined.

As sad as it sounds... my current solution seems to work much better than the others. On the back of my DEH-P760MP deck, I have an AUX in cable which converts a pair of RCA cables into an IPBUS one. Attached to that is a 6 foot long mini stereo to RCA cable (from Monster no less) which is in turn plugged into the line out on my Belkin iPod car charger. To listen to tunes, I simply plug my iPod to the car charger, hit play and make sure my deck is on and using the AUX input. It's that easy! Of course... the whole reason I got that deck was to be able to more seamlessly integrate my iPod into my car stereo, while my current solution is good... I think it can be better.

With the recent news of my local Ultimate Electronics closing and the impending sales... I was thinking it would be a good time to add an amp and subwoofer, unfortunately, my increasing desire for better iPod integration may delay that.

I have decided to start project HatztekPC for which I will build a mini PC for use in my car for controlling and playback of music from my iPod. Current plans call for it to be based around a VIA EPIA MII running around 1.2 GHz. Most likely I will use Windows XP running iTunes for direct interfacing with the iPod as well as a few custom apps for controlling it.

The motherboard in question also has a PCMCIA slot, perfect for a wifi card, and with an antenna and a GPS, would become an instant war driving setup. But why stop there? Later with the addition of a higher quality (VGA vs the intended 2x20 character display), some navigation software would be great. Also would be interesting I think to log location and velocity while active... just so long as you don't tell the cop who pulled you over about it.

The possibilities of such a unit are endless, provided it doesn't break down quickly. The 7200 RPM HD I expect will not like bumping down the road while running (although it wont be used for much more than booting (I could have gone with something cheaper and slower, but the warranties on them weren't as good)).

Another concern is temperature. South Dakota like many places gets extremely cold in the winter. I am forced to wonder how an off the shelf HD will react to spending the night at -20 only to be spun up and asked to boot with no warming up time. Using CompactFlash card for my boot volume would alleviate this issue, however the cost of said flash as well as the limitations (not being able to write/erase as often as a HD) put that idea on old for now.

All necessary parts have been ordered (Mobo, ram, hd, dc-dc psu, lcd, controller, etc) so construction will begin as soon as it starts to arrive. In the mean time... time to refine my iTunes controlling C# code to not need a standard UI.

Hearing my plans though, Chad was not too impressed. He feels that my time and money would be better spent on something that will massage me while on the road. Maybe there is time for both, we shall see.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Other browsers under NT4

Not too long ago, I talked about some of the issues one runs into when one tries to put a more modern web browser onto a Windows NT4 machine. Recently I began to wonder if similar issues would be encountered with other, non IE browsers.

FireFox, being quite popular (while not quite my cup of tea) was an obvious first choice, my destination for such an upgrade? GetFireFox.com of course! Unfortunately... the server does not successfully redirect the client to the proper page, instead displaying a server test page.



A quick Google search for FireFox gives us the page that GetFireFox.com usually redirects to.



Unfortunately, once again, the server cannot handle the request from IE2.



Not being deterred, I again tried to go through the main Mozilla page and browse through it's projects...



which again runs into a common error:



At this point... I gave up as the traditional means of upgrading to FireFox failed from IE2. The only options it looks like would be either DLing a FireFox installer on another machine, or finding an installer on a more compatible web server.

My second attempt at upgrading, was to get Opera working, www.opera.com seeming to be a good first step. Amazingly, Opera's main page looked pretty nice under IE2, far better that most other pages I had seen.



With the download link nice and obvious, I proceeded to an ugly, but functional download screen.



With a quick decision on what to do with the incoming file, the download proceeded, oh how I do not miss downloading this way.



And a quick installation later, Opera was up and running without a problem (except for the obvious ads, but then I am a cheap bastard).



Although I never tried, I would expect that with Opera running one would be able to get their browser of choice up and running via the traditional means by now having a modern web browser running.

While not overly important, all of this does raise the question of how low the bar should be set when it comes to upgrading older systems? There still remains large numbers of NT4 machines, many of which are probably not running the latest web browser (not that most of these NT4 machines need a web browser).

Saturday, April 09, 2005

God bless the 2nd amendment

In the fall of 03, a buddy of mine's Guard unit was called up and destined for Iraq. During many good byes, I asked him to bring me back a... souvenir, an AK-47, he said he'd try, but unfortunately was not able to (not a big surprise).

Midway through his deployment we decided that when he got back, wed both go in to buy a pair of AK's so as to reduce some costs. Last month, I ran up to Brookings to buy them. To my horror though, I found that the local shooting range was not yet open for the year.

Lucky for me, today that changed.

While I was out buying some rings so that I could attach my scope to my new weaver mount, I ran by the range to see if it was open, sure enough, it would be so until 5. So I gave Mr. Dosch a call and we agreed to meet up there around 2:30 ish.

I got there a bit before him and setup, including safety glasses and ear plugs. When he arrived, I took out the ear plugs and greeted him. After a bit of a chat with the range master, we got to shooting.

Immediately I began to notice a horrible ringing in my ear after each shot, it didn't take long before I realized what an idiot I was... I forgot to put my ear plugs back in.

So now this evening, I've got a slight ringing and discomfort in my right ear. I deserve it I know. I must say though, those AK's are very loud... and fun. I'm still working on getting my scope properly sighted at 100 yards. Its not easy trying to sight a rifle on a bench with a 30 round banana clip sticking out the bottom.

I do hope to be able to use it this fall for some deer hunting. Its a fine rifle, just as soon as you stick enough oil in it... which makes me wonder... given the amount of oil needed to keep one of those things running smooth...I am forced to wonder why the rifle has done so well over the years as it seems like a rather... burdensome requirement for use. Oh well, gotta do what you've got to do.

It should be noted that the previously mentioned Mr. Abbott is horrified by the fact that I own any firearms... and is beginning to think that it would not be a good idea for the Republicans to explicitly limit my ability to own them.

NationMaster... Scam?

At the request of the honorable Mr Abbott (aka The Experience), who has completely capitulated in the copbuyitaphobia wars has asked me to briefly discuss a scam that he was a victim of.

To quote Mr Abbott:

I request that Emir Hat's Ever Victorious Armies assist the good peasants of tdaxp in a just quest


It seems that he was scammed by NationMaster. A while back, he signed up for a time, and finding no use for the service canceled it... only to be billed several more times. Not to mention some issues in getting refunds for said charges.

Not unlike the scam AOL perpetrates IMO. They make it insanely easy to join... but very very difficult to cancel. Sure, you can write them a letter asking them to terminate your account... but who has the time for that? Instead, you call their 800 number and wait on hold for 30 min to speak with one of the 14 persons who can assist you. Of course...when you do try to cancel, they spend a great deal of time trying to talk you out of it, often by making you feel guilty about it. If I had to guess... Id say they hire Catholic Priests for this job, after all...who knows more about guilt than Catholics?

You realize that by terminating your account, everyone who you've ever talked to on AOL will think less of you and curse your name until the day you die.


Don't you love us anymore?


If you do cancel... you will never be able to talk to ANYONE online again... EVER!


If you have the stalwartness to endure the cancellation representative (aka Priest), they will finally agree to terminate your account... ending with that there is a chance that your account might be billed one last time, and if that happens you should just call them and they will reverse the charge.

Of course, having gone though all of that, if you did find a 19.95 charge on your credit card courtesy of AOL for an unused month of service... what are the chances you would want to go through being on hold again for another 30 min?

Add to that the countless persons who give up on trying to cancel their account. Either because they cannot handle the 30 min hold times, or the banter and guilt trips on how bad it is to cancel, end up just writing off the 20 a month they loose to AOL.

It would be nice if AOL were to make closing an account just as easy as it is to open one... but then that wouldn't make them as money in this dishonest and rather scammy way.

Same goes for NationMaster it seems. I will admit I do not have any documentation or conclusive proof of what Mr Abbott claims against them, but knowing him and the fact that he does not get angry with companies very easily or without good cause...I do believe him on this.

By that, it seems that NationMaster is a scam artists in their own way. Such a shame that they don't spend the extra time to ensure accounts are canceled and not rebill... which should NEVER happen when you deal with electronic billing. It is not too hard to be able to have a cancellation action remove the billing information or at least set a flag that said account should not be billed again unless there are regular, non standard charges.

AOL doesn't do this, nor it seems does NationMaster.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Well Known

Some say... I have an ego. True? I dunno, it's not something I am going to talk about today, instead, something that happened the other day that boosted my ego greatly.

My company is doing some interviewing for software interns for the summer and we have had a number of people come in for interviews as well as some of our people going out to schools to do so.

Yesterday, one of my managers asked, "Brendan, why is it every person I interview from DSU knows you?"

Apparently, last year while interviewing at DSU (where I got my undergrad) he interviewed about a dozen people and asked each if they knew me, sure enough, all said they did. This year the same has been occurring, of the 3 interviews he has conducted so far, all interviewees knew me. So he began to wonder why this was still the case even though I havent been at DSU in more than a year, he would have thought that I would become less known over time.

I dont think he bought my answer of because "I'm just that kind of cool and happening guy." It might have something to do with standing 6 foot 4 and being an overall big guy... I tend to be hard to miss, not that its stopped me from being hit by a couple of cars.

Friday, April 01, 2005

My first Linux experience

Long ago I found a copy of Slackware and thought it would be fun to give a try. Having heard the problems a friend had (something about unknowingly having it install over his Windows partition), I ended up installing it to a second hard drive and kept my Windows drive in the next room... just in case.

The installation went smooth enough (despite requiring several attempts to get things right), and when done I was greeted with a prompt, not knowing what to do I began to type.

dir

Hum, nothing.

help

Still no.

login

Nope

logon

Grrr.

This went on for about 15 min (including several reboots), me playing guessing games, not having any clue as to how to get past this prompt.. What prompt you ask? The login prompt of course, and not being familiar with Linux or Unix systems at the time, I didn't know what 'root' was or how to login as it.

Pathetic I know.

I ended up having to do a low level format of the HD in order to get Linux off of it (regular formats just weren't working (mostly due to partitions not being normally readable anymore)).

I will grant you that this experience, caused by my own ignorance ended up being the first thing to sour me on Linux for a time and helped to keep me away from it for a few years until a friend was showed me how cool (his word) Coral Linux was, but that is another story.