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BLOGical Thoughts Archive

July 2003

Thursday, July 31, 2003

Most modern-day telephone handsets may look nice, but hold them to your ear for 1/2 hour or an hour, and you will see how uncomfortable they are.

I have been using a telephone headset, instead of a handset, at home and at work for a long time now. Last night the headset at home broke. Not the headset itself, but the strap that holds the thing onto your head. I will be buying a new headset today, since I had to endure the torture of using the regular handset last night. Modern designers should be subjected to their own designs before they are released on an unsuspecting public.


I picked up my new Lindows Mobile PC last night, and used it a bit. I will be writing a review of the thing and will post it here.


Well, things are going very well now. The RIAA is about to be sued by Pac Bell for its piracy campaign, and SCO executives are being accused of profiteering. Turnabout is fair play, isn't it?

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

I'm getting tired of complaining about the RIAA, MPAA and SCO, so I won't do that today. How about DARPA instead?

DARPA are the wonderful folks who came up with idea of the Total Awareness Agency, a sort of super Big Brother that would be designed to 'identify potential terrorists by compiling a detailed electronic dossier on millions of Americans'. And this helps protect us from terrorists how?

The TIA was the brain-child of John Poindexter, that convicted-felon of the Iran-Contra era who was rehired by Bush senior and re-rehired by baby Bush. When will they learn that this guy is more dangerous than the guys on the other side?

Now ex-con Poindexter has come up with a doozy - a terrorist futures market. He calls it the Policy Analysis Market, and its purpose is to be an online futures trading market where speculators could bet on the probabilities of terrorist attacks, assassinations and coups. Luckily, someone in government has come to their senses and cancelled this hair-brained scheme, too. It was due to go online October 1st!


My new Lindows Mobile PC should be is here today. I just got a call from UPS. All I have to do is go down and pick it up.As you may be able to tell, I can hardly wait. It will be nice to have a machine I can plug my camera's compact flash card into, as well as my USB Flash drive.


I worked on getting Samba running correctly yesterday. No success. I will have to run the Samba test program to see if the configuration is correctly set up. If Samba works as well for me as NFS is, I will be a happy camper


"Er, Tom, I hate to be the one to point this out, but your fix list is starting to resemble a feature list. You must be human or something."

-- Larry Wall

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

I have been trying to burn another Ogg Vorbis CDROM for a couple of days. I use a Linux program called K3B to do that, but it has been giving me fits. It says there is no CDROM in the drive, when I know there is. I'm not sure how I can get this to work, but I need to be able to cut CDROMs.

I haven't gotten Samba working on my server yet, but I will be trying again today. I think it's the password stuff that is the problem. At this point, I am actually reading the manual to get it to work.


I have finished one of the programs necessary to implement the Big City Bikes web site. Given a motorcycle brand, this program looks in the /bikes directory and creates a list of all the bikes with that brand name. Pretty clever, but the next program will be even more clever. And all because the customer doesn't want to learn HTML.


New RIAA Head - The RIAA has announced their new head shill, to replace Hillary Rosen. He is Mitch Bainwol, head of the Bainwol Group, a high-powered Republican lobby organization. He is also the former chief of staff for U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. Makes perfect sense. You don't need anyone in that slot who knows anything about the recording industry. You just need someone who can work the political system to get what you want.

RIAA redefines their problem - Have you noticed how the RIAA uses such emotionally-charged words as 'pirate', 'theft' and 'steal' to describe the copying of copyrighted information on the Internet? They are lying, but they use those words because they have more emotional impact than the real description, which is 'possible infringement of copyright'. To steal something, you have to deprive the person of the item you are stealing. That's a totally inaccurate description of what's happening, since the person still has their original recording.

Why do I say 'possible' infringement? Our legal system has established certain fair-use rights for copyrighted material. These fair-use rights describe circumstances where it is perfectly legal to allow one to make a copy of a copyrighted work. The RIAA would like all those fair-use rights to be thrown out the window, since it interferes with their grand plan to control all media.

Guilty Until Proven Innocent - The RIAA has twisted the legal system so they can now charge you with a crime without having proof that you commited a crime. Basically, they and the courts now say you are guilty, and you must prove your innocence. What a wonderful country we now live in.


"Those who give up essential liberty for a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

-- Ben Franklin

Monday, July 28, 2003

I have finished the layout of the web pages for Big City Bikes. I have told the owners they must unpark the domain, so I can start loading up their web site. They also need to provide me with page copy, so I can populate the pages.

The motorcycle pages themselves will be written and installed as jpeg and text files by the owners. They won't have to know anything about HTML. I am writing two CGI programs to take care of that. One program will look at the text file directory and create a web page containing a list of motorcycles for a particular brand. This will be based on the directory contents. The second program will read the selected file and merge it and a picture with a page template to create a dynamic web page for the motorcycle.

The first line of the text file will be the title of the web page, so it will contain something like '2001 BMW KT1200LT'. Two other special lines can appear anyplace in the file. One will be the name of the image to display and the other will be the price of the motorcycle. They will be specially formatted by the program, of course.

These little Perl programs are sure a lot of fun to build. They are also very satisfying, as they produce tangible visual results.


"If you want to see useful Perl examples, we can certainly arrange to have comp.lang.misc flooded with them, but I don't think that would help the advance of civilization."

-- Larry Wall

Friday, July 25, 2003

I guess all you have to do to have things happen is post information about them on the Internet. iDot called last night and told me they would be shipping my Lindows Mobile PC today. After I complained about them not doing that yesterday morning!

But it also works the other way, too. Both the pickup and the station wagon I was looking at in Rathdrum are gone now, after I posted something about them yesterday morning. Bummer.


Too much news about SCO to even sort it out. Some highlights: SCO may make the White House a target for their next nastygram. It seems that the White House web staff are particularly fond of open source software. They are using both Linux and the Apache web server.

If I thought that SCO were hypocritical extortionists before, it is now proved they are. They use Linux for their web site!


The Inquirer has a nice article reviewing the new LindowsOS 4.0. I will be seeing for myself whether all he says in the article is true, when my Mobile PC shows up.


"If builders built buildings the way programmers wrote programs, then the first woodpecker that came along would destroy civilization."

-- Gerald Weinberg

Thursday, July 24, 2003

The order for my Lindows Mobile PC is still 'pending'. It has been 9 working days since I ordered it. I'm starting to get upset. I really want to start using it, so I won't be chained to my desk.

I discovered this morning that the Lindows version of Linux will automatically mount devices such as Flash drives. I have failed to get that working under SuSE Linux so I am looking forward to using the Lindows Mobile PC. I will be able to take it on camping trips because I have also ordered a car adapter for it. But they have to ship it sometime soon.


I am looking around for a classy tow vehicle I can restore and use to tow my teardrop trailer. I have seen two in Rathdrum the last few weeks. The first is a 1948 Chevy flatbed pickup, possibly a 1 ton. It runs, but it is in pretty rough shape.

The second vehicle is a 1952 Pontiac Woody station wagon. It looks great, still has the wood trim inside. It has an 8-cylinder engine and an automatic transmission, which is not on my list of favorite things. I'm not sure if it runs - I'm going to find out more about it today.

It's amazing how many old cars and trucks are floating around, if you just open your eyes and look. In the last few weeks, I have also seen old flatbed work trucks from the '40s and a 1940s-era Chevy sedan and Ford pickup. All of them have never seen the eyes of a restorer.


"Watson's Law: The reliability of machinery is inversely proportional to the number and significance of any persons watching it."

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

It's been too hot here to do anything useful. It was 106 in Coeur d'Alene last night (4:30) when I went through there on the way home. Someone should turn down the thermostat, or at least start the sprinkler system.

I will be working on Big City Bikes web pages when I can do any work. I just need some starting ideas, any at all. I need a way to allow them to update their pages without knowing any html. I have some thoughts on that, but no real firm ideas.


If you belong to an organization that is thinking of succumbing to SCO's protection-racket attempts to extort money from Linux users, please read the "SCO Licensing Just Say No" wiki and keep in mind the quotes below from SCO's Chief Extortionist Officer, Darl McBride.


"Contracts are what you use against partners."

"Getting something for nothing just doesn't add up."

-- Darl McBride, CEO of SCO

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

I have finished ripping the CDs for my first Ogg Vorbis CDROM. I have also done the CDROM. I ended up with 20 albums on the CDROM. I probably could have put one more on it, but I didn't want to push the limit. 687mb is close enough for me.

Anyway, that takes care of 10,000 Maniacs, Abba, AC/DC, Aerosmith and part of The Alan Parsons Project.


Well, SCO has really done it now. They are claiming that their Unix code is in the Linux kernel, and if you take that code away from the 2.4 kernel, you are left with the 2.2 kernel. Isn't there such a thing as a libel law anymore?

They have publicly announced this so-called claim, and have 'generously' introduced a 'Unixware' license that can protect Linux users against piracy claims. How magnanimous of the slimeballs! If that so-called license costs anything over $0, it's too much.

Their claims are somewhat suspicious, as a Caldera (now called SCO) employee made major contributions to the 2.4 and 2.5 kernel. So if there is any SCO code in the kernel, it could have been put there by SCO itself!


I have blocked all users coming from RIAA and MPAA-related addresses from reading this web site. If you are using an RIAA or MPAA-related IP address to try accessing this site, that's tough for you. Get a clue and go to work for someone who actually produces something useful, instead of leeching off others.

Monday, July 21, 2003

I have started to rip the CDs in my music library. I intend put them on CDROM in Ogg Vorbis format, so I can carry around more music than I usually do (fair use, RIAA - remember that?) I estimate I can get my entire music collection onto about 67 CDROMs. I spent hours ripping and still haven't done enough to fill one CDROM.


There used to be a Godfather's Pizza restaurant on the corner of 4th St. and Appleway Ave. in Coeur d'Alene. It went out of business over a year ago. The building was vacant for a long time after that.

A new restaurant has moved into the old Godfather's Pizza building. It's called Los Sanchez and it serves very good Mexican food.

I have been to Los Sanchez 3 times in the last month or so, and have tried three different dishes each time. The food is all very good. There is a wide choice of entrees served with rice, beans and homemade tortilla chips. They have a salsa bar, which boasts 6 different kinds of salsa. I have found a mix of the two kinds of mild salsa to be outstanding on a taco salad. You can also order the food as takeout.

I really recommend this place if you like Mexican dishes and happen to be in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. It ranks right up there with Orlando's in Hayden for good food.

Friday, July 18, 2003

Entertainment industry stooges and real-life congressmen John Conyers (D., Mich) and Howard Berman (D., Calif) have introduced yet another stupid bill on behalf of the RIAA nazis. This one makes it a felony to download even one copyrighted song. None of these people have a clue how to make big bucks by letting songs be downloaded. Their mantra is "It's ours and you MUST pay for it - multiple times if we can get away with it. And it should be legal for us to perform illegal acts to get you for performing illegal acts."

Ask any recording artist who is not a mega-star - what did any of your royalty checks look like? They will tell you they never get anything from the recording companies. They make their money by doing appearances. All that money the RIAA says that pirates are taking out of the mouths of artists is really being taken out of the Mercedes-Benzes of the recording industry executives. Shouldn't there be a law against lying like that to the music-consuming public?


Even though he was a Democrat, Harry S. Truman espoused a philosophy that is in very, very short supply these days: "The buck stops here".

Given recent events, it seems George W. Bush espouses the country's prevailing philosophy: "I don't even know what a buck is. It never got close to me, much less stopped here."

This attitude of "whatever happens to me, it's someone else's fault" is ruining our country. It's too bad most parents of my generation listened to Dr. Spock and never taught their children to take responsibility for their own actions. And now my generation is abdicating their responsibilities, too. I guess they've learned it's easy to pick up some real good pocket change by blaming someone else for something that they did themselves.

Sorry, rant mode is now off.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

A third former-Microsoft employee has been accused of reselling Microsoft software they picked up from the company store. Specifically, she got free copies of SQL Server and then resold them. Microsoft says she did this to the tune of $6 million. SQL Server retails for $500. This implies one of the following scenarios

  1. She ordered 12,000 copies (12k x $500 = $6m) of the program and resold them. In that case, what kind of dim-bulbs does Microsoft have working in their store? They didn't notice this?
  2. Microsoft slightly exaggerated the value of SQL Server, like they did with the last case ($17m / 5436 programs = $3127.30 per program). If we use those numbers, she got 1,919 programs from the store. The dim-bulb comment applies here, too.
  3. She got 100 packages from the store ($6m / 100 = $60k per program) and Microsoft is really lying out of its ass.

So which is it, Microsoft? Your exaggerated estimate of the worth of your software means nothing (especially when you give it away under the right circumstances). How many software packages did she get from the store? Why did your store think that a single person could actually use that many copies of one piece of software?


Joel Spolsky complains about Munich, Germany's decision to use Linux over Windows. His comments amount to a whine about how the world is no longer chosing to lock itself into proprietary software and is instead chosing open source software. This is far from the norm for Joel's columns. Get over it, Joel.

I see now that Joel has joined the Dark Side. His further comments indicate his disdain for Linux and the thousands of programmers who have put their free time into making Linux better and much more stable than Windows. I speak of this after suffering yet another Blue Screen of Death on my company workstation (WinNT), while my home computer (Linux) just keeps on tickin'.


"Psychotics are consistently inconsistent. The essence of sanity is to be inconsistently inconsistent."

-- Larry Wall

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

I have been installing new versions of Linux on my main box for well over a year now, without wiping out the home directory (/home is a separate partition on the hard disk). About 5 weeks ago, I decided it was time to clean up my home directory. I figured the easiest way to do that was

  1. Create a temporary directory
  2. Copy all files except 'dot' files from my mburton home directory to the new directory
  3. Remove my mburton user account
  4. Remove the mburton home directory
  5. Recreate the mburton account, which recreates the home directory
  6. Copy the files from the temporary directory to the home directory
  7. Delete the temporary directory (gotta keep things clean, you know)

I performed all those steps and everything went as planned. However, when I went to shut down the account manager, I noticed that it looked like I hadn't created the mburton account. So, like an idiot, I re-recreated it. And the account manager wiped out the mburton home directory and created a new one. I lost all the email and work in that directory.

The only great loss were some of the emails. I have backups of everything else. So I got into Evolution, my email program and set it up to receive and send email for my multiple email accounts again. When I did that, I screwed up the receive information for the Blogical Thoughts account. It looked like it was working, but I wasn't getting any messages.

I have figured out what I did wrong and have corrected it. So for those of you who have sent me messages over the last five weeks and received no reply, I apologize. You now have a reply.

Moral:

  1. Always make backups before making major changes.
  2. Keep the backups until you are absolutely sure you no longer need them, then keep them for a little while longer.


"It must be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to manage, than the creation of a new system. For the initiator has the enmity of all who would profit by the preservation of the old institutions and merely lukewarm defenders in those who would gain by the new ones."

-- Machiavelli

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

I just read that Opinder Bawa, SCO's Senior Vice President of Engineering and Global Services, is bailing from SCO at the end of July. He has already sold all his stock and stock options. He will continue to advise the company through August. Read the last paragraph of the Inquirer article, as it echoes my sentiments exactly.


Yesterday's quote elicited a really hot comment from one of my ultra-conservative workmates. For a start, he thought the quote was attacking conservatives by equating them to nazis. He was wrong. I meant that to be a comment about government in general. Maybe he's so touchy because the quote hits the nail on the head when it comes to the current Administration.


"Things are more like they are now than they ever were before."

-- Dwight D. Eisenhower

Monday, July 14, 2003

I am working on web pages for a new web site called Big City Bikes. That is a new site connected with Beaudry Motorsports, whose web pages I also create. I'm not sure I have enough information to actually do these pages, though. It's tough when someone tells you they want something new, but they don't tell you what the something new's content should be.


I am getting a Linux notebook computer. I'm tired of depending on outdated hardware with buggy, proprietary operating systems. My new machine will be a sub-notebook computer which I can recharge from my car or camping trailer. It has the following:

Note that there is no built-in floppy drive or CDROM. This keeps the total computer size and weight way down. All this functionality for $799 or $777, depending on the web dealer.

I will be able to use the Compact Flash slot to interface to my PDA, my Wi-Fi card or my camera. I will be able to use the PCMCIA slot for a modem or for my portable CDROM drive. I will be able to use the USB ports with my pen drive. And I will be able to plug it into my LAN without having to unplug anything else. This machine solves a lot of portability problems for me.


"But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a parliament or a communist dictatorship ... That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

- Nazi Reichsmarshall Hermann Goering

Friday, July 11, 2003

The second annual North Idaho Linux User Group picnic is tomorrow. It seems like Rod always manages to pick the hottest day of the year to have a picnic in his treeless backyard. But it's a nice opportunity to schmooze.

Other than the picnic, I see my weekend filled with endless chores and web pages. For the web pages, I will be picking up a design from /\^/\ Open Source Web Design. They have some very nice layouts there. They are CSS-centric, which is what I always go for nowadays.


Slow news day today. Can you believe there is no action from any of the 'A's - RIAA, MPAA, BSA, etc.? They should at least be trying to get someone thrown in jail using illegal actions or something.

There is also no real news from SCO. Shouldn't they be upping their damage claim from IBM to 4 billion because IBM is using their idea for making toilet paper from old computer listings?

Even though no one has done anything stupid today, they are still being talked about for their past stupidities. There is an article about the RIAA that illustrates their basic problem - namely, if you want to remain in business, alienating all your customers isn't the way to do it.


"There is a correlation between the creative and the screwball. So we must suffer the screwball gladly."

-- Kingman Brewster

Thursday, July 10, 2003

Well, the RIAA is doing it again. They are bringing suit against PureTunes.com, a music website. Two things wrong with this idotic move: 1) PureTunes.com is a spanish-based web site, and are not subject to U.S. laws; and 2) PureTunes.com has apparently been out of business since about a week after they opened. The RIAA has decided they are the absolute world dictator of music, and will let nothing get in the way of their jihad.

Meanwhile, music lovers have finally gotten serious about protesting the RIAA's storm-trooper tactics and have begun boycotting the recording companies that are members of the RIAA. I've been doing this for several years - I only purchase music from independent companies or directly from artists. I urge you to do the same.


HP has quietly introduced a desktop computer that comes equipped with Mandrake Linux 9.1 or, for $50 more, Windows XP. This is the first time a major manufacturer has publicly announced the availability of Linux on one of its desktop machines.


"It makes sense to me. But then, I'm the guy that originally proposed it."

-- Larry Wall

Wednesday, July 9, 2003

I have posted the pictures from my 4th of July holiday over in Carnation, WA. Except for the problem with my truck, I had a very good time. Teardrop people are unfailingly generous, friendly and polite. Nice change from the usual in this weary old world.


I will be working on the web pages for an new web site for the rest of the week. I will post any previews here. Stay tuned for details...


I've been thinking of slogans that better describe my least favorite software company. here are some ideas:

Microsoft - Magnificent marketing, mediocre software.

Microsoft - We know better than you what you want to do today.

Customers? We're Microsoft - we don't have to care.

We're Microsoft - do it our way or don't do it.

And for those programmers out there:

Do you have a good software idea? Publish it and Microsoft will embrace it, extend it and claim it as its own proprietary idea. Think of all the fame (and no money) you will gain!

Tuesday, July 8, 2003

I got home from my July 4th vacation last night. That was a day late. I had problems with my truck and couldn't get it fixed until Monday. All of Western Washington (except Napa Auto Parts) was on vacation over the weekend!

The engine temperature sensor went out on my truck. The computer was reading that the engine was cold, so it upped the idle and fed more gas to the engine. The result was 10 miles to the gallon and a truck that ran like it was only firing on 5 of 6 cylinders. I never would have been able to make it back over Snoqualmie Pass if I had tried to go home before fixing the problem. And it would have cost me at least twice as much in gas.


I had a good time at Ken Masden's 4th of July Teardrop Trailer celebration near Carnation, WA. We went to the Caranation Car Show and stayed for the 4th of July parade. We ran around in Ken's numerous old cars. We went to Snohomish and Snoqualmie Falls. We had a potluck and a dutch oven cook-off. And we camped in a nice area with nice people.

I am in the process of building a web page for the pictures I took on this trip. I will post them as soon as I am done.

Wednesday, July 2, 2003

I put up the seven pictures I took last weekend down by Avery, Idaho. I had a nice relaxing time. As you can see, I have a water fixation. <G> Comes from being raised in the Mojave Desert.


No updates on this site until next Monday. Vacation waits for no man.


"Did you hear that the neo-nazi airport security guards arrested a math professor? They caught him with a protractor, compass, calculator and other weapons of math instruction."

Tuesday, July 1, 2003

I picked up a Coleman Extreme 36 quart cooler last night, along with some Blue Ice. The cooler is capable of keeping ice frozen for up to 5 days. That should work way better than the poor pathetic 15 year old cooler I am currently using.

I'm glad I hadn't started the storage box for the teardrop trailer. The box to hold this new cooler will be 29" x 16" x 16". The old cooler is 26" x 18" x 18". Not a good fit.


I got this month's issue of Linux Format magazine. The enclosed DVD has some very interesting stuff on it, including a new Linux distro called Morphix. Morphix is based on Knoppix, and it allows you to choose a configuration based on your needs - heavy, light, Gnome, KDE, games, etc. It looks interesting. I will have to make CDROMs for Morphix from the DVD, so I can share it with others.


"We Americans, we're a simple people... but piss us off, and we'll bomb your cities."

-- Robin Williams, Good Morning Vietnam