Monthly Archives: June 2007

New Laptop Set-up: Prepare for Battle Against HP, MS and Yahoo!

Once again Microsoft has pissed me off. That’s no shock on its own, but they had help this time from an unexpected accomplice: Yahoo.

Usually, I like Yahoo. I’ve liked Yahoo for a while and have been a long-time customer, both as a user of free stuff and as a paying customer. So far everything has worked out well, and I have maintained that Yahoo was an improvement on the web, though their general internetness is a little shallow (nice messaging server access, nothing else that isn’t “web”, which I regard as extremely lacking in vision).

Now it seems that the war between Microsoft and Yahoo over the web is over, and since MSN/evil-restrictive-empire-of-toadies-and-affiliates has driven business away, Yahoo has become the dominant web portal. This opened up space for a new player, which turned out to be Google, which is sad in a way, since Lycos or Excite or AltaVista could have been really cool. Google has some scary visions of how the future “should” be which invade my privacy. I’m afraid Google will eventually abuse their position — probably on accident at first — thinking they have some higher calling to preserve freedom or love or something silly like that and end up becoming the thought police as a result. Considering that life (and us with it) is just a collection of anti-entropic bubbles, control of information at some level becomes control over life. And that’s not even science fiction.

So on to my story. I bought a new computer the other day, an HP dv6000 laptop. It looks cool, has an AMD 64×2 Turion II in it and some other nifty little things, and its way cheap. I brought it home. I started it up and Vista took over.

Ouch.

Vista sucks. Everything on it bothers the crap out of you until you register things with Big Brother. HP has a “Welcome to HP” screen which would not allow me to access my new system until I told HP all my dirty inner secrets, has a way over-loaded “maintenance” center that makes everything else (including me) wait on it, and generally drove me nuts (and drove me to kill all processes running, and delete and uninstall everything labeled hp_*).

I once everything that betrayed by privacy or annoyed me was dead, I decided to access my wireless router and see how well that would work out. Good news, I can download at well over 3 full real megs per second across the wireless network, bad news, Vista has a lot of annoying little crashes. Vista itself never quite died all the way, but Internet Explorer sure did — a lot — including the first time I tried to run it. So tried different messaging systems, Symantec Antivirus and the Windows Updater that is supposed to update my system to save it from annoying crashes. Again, through it all, Vista itself never quite crashed all the way — but once my system finally was updated I had to make it crash (i.e. reboot) to make the updates take effect. Yes, that’s right, Windows still cannot perform a kernel thread transition or dynamic service restarts in 2007. Didn’t Erlang have the ability to update code in place in the 80’s?

I rebooted. It took forever first to shutdown, and then forever to start up again. I mean forever. Over 10 minutes to shutdown is just ridiculous. Since I had so much time I started thinking about the small print on the screen that said something to the effect of “Your system may become unresponsive during this period. If so, you will need to restart the system.” This sounds an awful lot like a customer-friendly way of saying “we expect this process will probably crash”.

This annoyed me. When it started up (finally) I checked the system stats. As I suspected, everything runs clunky because I have only 512mb of RAM (which shouldn’t cause this sort of behavior, though) and the big kicker — the version of VIsta that MS allows to be pre-installed by vendors is only 32 bit and single-core! Why would you sell such a crap setup? Single-core 32-bit is a far cry from dual-core 64-bit, particularly the single-core business. I could find no apparent motive for this stupid configuration, either — there isn’t even a “pay us more to make your computer actually work” icon anywhere (don’t laugh, it a ploy Microsoft has used with select OEMs in the past).

I tried to install WoW also, because I suck at life, and it runs slower than molasses. Screw this.

So that brings me to my final attempt to bring sanity to the world (and the way I found I could download over 3 real megs per second if there is no bottleneck in the way). I downloaded the DVD image for the new Fedora Core 7 release in a few minutes and installed that over Vista because it sucked.

Everything works just fine out and the system humms along at a ridiculous processing pace. I still need more RAM to do things I like such as large image manipulation or really big compiling, but overall its a massive improvement. And WoW runs just fine under WINE, though that’s not exactly a method I would recommend to anyone who is going to be the main tank for an endgame guild — not that I’ve experienced any problems at all, but I’ll have to play this way a bit more before I’m confident that WoW won’t crash under any circumstances.

Where does Yahoo fall in here? They left evidence of their new (and still semi-secret) pact with MS all over my browser. I had a Yahoo toolbar annoyingly preinstalled on my IE. I also had a pre-installed Symantec toolbar that shows status buttons all the time, along with a few other toolbars I never wanted — actually, about the top 1/3 of Internet Explorer was goddam toolbars, not content I was trying to read! All that crap and still no mouse gestures that I’m addicted to from using Opera. Mouse gestures isn’t a Yahoo problem, of course, but while I’m bitching about IE, its worth mentioning that they have the gall to bring up a huge new “Welcome to tabbed browsing” window that fills the whole screen the first time you open a new tab up. Thanks, jackass, I already knew what tabbed browsing was, been using it for years on good browsers (read as “anything not IE”) and I see through the attempt here to claim that as a Microsoft idea.

This was a relentlessly irritating experience. That’s just sad — setting up my new HP laptop forced me to work against the combined powers of HP, MS and Yahoo. I thought the point was to make the customer happy, not ready to kill. Thank goodness there are better alternatives like Fedora that can make it all worthwhile in the end. By the way, HP did a good job on the hardware, even if their software is a big sweaty dump.

Support for the Iraq Campaign

Watch out, everyone… “Republican support for the war is slipping” says this article. This means, of course, that two senators have decided that having the war move to America instead of stay in Iraq is a good idea.

Whenever I run farther than a half-marathon I start telling myself that walking sounds a lot better than running. It sounds like a great idea at the time, until I realize how crap I will feel at the end when I’m last place… so I keep running and step it up a notch to silence the rebellious dissent within my mind.

Stopping the war in Iraq for the reasons listed is preposterous at best and dangerous at worst, and with terrorists, I always assume the worst. They propose that the solution is to turn things over to the Iraqi Army and “its neighbors” and they will keep the bad guys busy so we can live peacefully in our sector of the world. Which neighbors are we talking about? Surely not Syria or Iran, I would hope. Not Saudi, a kingdom run by detached, elitist “royal” families who support us up front because they desperately need us to buy their dinosaur grease but who must pander to their bronze-age inhabitants who still (fervently) believe in a flat-world religion and wire money in support of our enemies. Jordan maybe? Jordan has enough problems of its own keeping bad guys from operating inside its own space, and has internal moral qualms about even doing that much to stop terrorism. Turkey? Maybe, sorta… depending on how their ongoing politico-social evolution turns out. But trust them to be the honest broker in the Kurdish situation? I think not… and on the flip side, trust the Kurds with anything Turkish? If the region were capable of maintaining its equilibrium then it would have found it long ago and we wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place.

This is a region of people whose basic logical assumption by which every other aspect of reality is postulated is that America is the embodiment of evil and all things not Muslim must be conquered, murdered or subjugated (and taxed under Islamic law) for there to be peace on Earth. This attitude extends to the various competing sects of Islam as well, so if the whole world were subjugated already, there would be plenty of fighting left to go around as every sect must fundamentally define the other sects as “false believers” who must be killed (subjugation for false believers is not allowable by the Koran or the Hadiths, let’s remember, for they are worse than non-believers by their own account). So once every sect but yours is dead and the whole world conquered and murdered or subjugated, then we can have peace… provided that no groups splintered from yours somewhere along the way and granted that nobody within your group accidentally draws any attention to concrete contradictions within your cult’s magic book (like provably false things, like the shape of the Earth or nature of the stars, for example).

The above situation does not describe a peace that I can accept. These are also not allies that make acceptable promises for this reason. I have had nice Muslim LBG’s working for me plenty of times, but I and they both know that in a few years things could turn ugly between us because just as I was using them to do a job, they are using me to survive because at the moment I was the biggest dog on the block.

Dog-eat-dog, that’s the way it goes. Let’s remain the biggest.

Points on Environmentalism

Best Engrish I could find in Hiroshima. Bad picture quality, though.

Environmentalists still like ramming their heads against brick walls.

Lately environmentalist stories and short-sighted “green” ideas have been blooming on the internet faster than Chinese algae. Christian Science Monitor hit the nail on the head about carbon emissions today with this article, and then went completely the other way with a mainstream-friendly article (one can only wonder if the editor felt it necessary to post a self-rebuttal after being frank about environmental issues). The former is the only one I’ve seen that addresses the problem with power plants. It does not offer any solutions, however, as is typical in journalism.

Short-sighted and unrealistic environmentalist ideas bother me on a deep level. Let me take you on a bullet-point journey to organize why… or at least cut down on my ramblingness:

  • The environment is important, regardless which one you are talking about (I, for one, don’t stop at this planet when contemplating our habitat).
  • Broadly speaking, all other animals adapt to their environments. Humans have gotten ahead by finding ways of adapting the surrounding environment to suit our needs. We need not be ashamed of this natural ability of ours (self-loathing is self-defeating). And we should also consciously admit that this is indeed a natural phenomenon.
  • We have an influence on the environment, but we do not know to what degree despite the claims of certain knowledge by many trusted sources (Al Gore’s co-stars and anyone driving a Prius in Hollywood as a statement (as opposed to those who do it to save money or because they like the car itself)).
  • The environmental/green lobby is generally left-wing, anti-corporate and somewhat anti-American/West/Successful Nation. This is strange in itself, as the 1st World center-to-right nations (yes, in the big scheme of things France is more center than left when compared to, say, the DPRK) are the only ones contemplating environmental issues with any seriousness and allow their populace to mouth off against them; try that in the lovely republics of China or even heavy-polluter India.
  • Being left-wing, the general environmental lobby does not understand and does not want to understand the economic forces that guide the majority of decisions that drives lives and nations, and thereby the impact humanity has on the Earth.
  • Most environmental proposals are ridiculous for their lack of practicability, and are blown off immediately by engineers, industry investors and governments. Any that gain media attention (like Gore’s piece) suddenly become the big talk because it is politically incorrect to deny any environmentalist ideas the privilege of being both technically ridiculous and ridiculously vacuous. Being nice sounding does not, however, change the fact that most environmentalists’ ideas are preposterous and tend to, in the end, be far more energy wasteful than the current status-quo (consider this article).
  • Humanity will always need more and more energy.
  • Cars are not the devil. Neither are power plants. But electric cars powered by power plants that burn coal are far more wasteful than cars that burn regular old gasoline. The difference is that you can choose to not see the smog produced at a distant locale when you look through your shiny new rose-tinted windshield (cars from any number of movie award ceremonies? or how about giving technology innovation awards away to ideas everyone has already had for a long time… like an electric car?)
  • Humanity, as a whole, will not allow itself to self-destruct (though several constituent societies appear to actively seek destruction).
  • The world of humans is driven by need. This need is commoditized and expressed in economic systems, whether we like that idea or not. In the end no matter which way the flag waves this has always and forever made businessmen powerful, whether they were bankers, investors, traders (or in the case of suppressed, State controlled economies) the King Himself. This is true whether we’re talking about the gloriously disastrous socio-economic experiment that was the USSR, ancient Carthage or modern day USA.
  • Convincing consumers the benefits of eco-ventures is not practical or effective. Convincing the businessmen who will profit or lose by these ideas is far more important. All the sweet love and genius of human harmony will not make any money; only having something someone else needs will. Something someone else needs is not to be confused with something someone else wants. Need, whether perceived or real, drives economies; personal desires fueled by popular fads merely nudge economies in fantastically disastrous directions for short periods of time.

Environmentalist thinkers will never arrive at a sound alternative to our energy needs that are cheaper than what we have now. Their own dogma precludes this because their approach to marketing their ideas will always miss the mark, even if one of them comes up with a great idea. Businessmen with the capital and know-how required to manifest new ideas will be interested only concepts like “cheap power” and “sellable power” not “clean power”. They need something that can sell at a profit, not something that will bust them financially and maybe earn a tip of the hat in some tiny info box on a children’s textbook page long after they are dead.

Society will never band together to buy expensive, restrictive-use power.  The key here is “good” power all being restricted in some way, or “bad” power requiring some element of restriction to render it “good”. This makes “good” power expensive and “bad” power cheap. Which forces a quirky singularity in environmentalist economic planning: an ideal environmentalist economy is possible only for societies with the resources to afford it, making the only societies capable of “good” behavior a very small, elite, club. This makes those societies a power elite if they take the environmental crusade a step further by making environmental policy into rules, and enforce those rules the only way possible (with violence). Thought creating an elite class would not be the intent at the outset, maintenance of elite status will always become a goal of its own later on (the universal rule underlying this is “capacity drives intent” — memorize that).

Alert readers may have noticed that the situation described above applies to any technology that gives one society (or set of societies) an advantage over others. Technology, and indeed evolution itself, always tends toward monopoly, and monopoly always tends towards instability, and instability is ultimately the only reliable monopoly breaker. (Yes, this is depressing and ugly if you think about it carefully.)