It's heresy, I know.
I've used Windows for a while, usually grudgingly, and I'll admit: I've been a hater. I won't bore you with a laundry list of objections I've had over the years. "The triumph of marketing over technology," sums up my feelings.
After sticking with Windows XP's bubble gum look and feel (it puts a whole new spin on "gooey interface") I finally made the jump to Windows 7, after skipping the over-hyped and under-performing Vista, and thought it was....not bad.
Being an IT geek I of course had to try out the new Windows 8 prereleases, featuring the new Metro Interface.
I thought: this sucks.
But a funny thing happened. I picked up a copy of Windows 8 on the cheap (for a while you could snag a legit copy from Microsoft for $15 if you knew how to game the system) and installed it on a new Zotac ZBOX microcomputer that doubles as a video server.
There are several add-ons one can install that bring back the Start Menu, allowing you avoid the Metro interface, if you choose. I'm using a freebie called StartMenu8 but there are others, both free and purchasable.
Lo and behold - once you can deal with Windows 8 without Metro, it's not all that bad. I'd be willing to bet that in some future Service Pack, Microsoft quietly introduces a feature that allows people to toggle the old-style Start Menu on or off.
Curiously enough, IObit, makers of StartMenu8, also make a free product called WinMetro, that emulates/enables the Metro interface for Windows 7, Vista and Windows XP. ...It's a funny old world.
Since hooking my ZBOX to my television to stream stuff, I've found Metro actually makes a reasonably good 10 foot interface. All you have to do is install an air mouse server on the PC and an air mouse app on your iPhone or Android device. Logitech has a free version of server and app for iPhone, as does WifiMouse (for iPhone and Android).
Once I managed to avoid Metro, I found Windows 8 to be a pretty good product. The Window Manager is clean, and ditches the curves of Vista/Win7 in favor of a more squared off, less transparent look. A lot of the underlying system tools like Task Manager and the copy utility are redesigned to give more information. There is a feature called Storage Spaces (which I have not actually used) that sounds like a repackaging of the old Windows Home Server Drive Extender, that allows combining smaller drives to pooled and/or redundant storage.
Just to give time to the other side, the Free Software Foundation is running a media campaign called UpgradeFromWindows8.com, to promote free operating systems like Linux. While I love Linux (I'm running Ubuntu on my main studio box), I gotta say, Windows 8 is the least awful version of Windows I've used in a while - once it's been tweaked.
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
It's heresy, I know.
Monday, February 11, 2013
In a delicious bit of irony (at least from where I sit) the Internet is teaching Ron Paul a thing or two about free enterprise in the Net Economy.
It seems a collection of his fans registered the domain "RonPaul.com" a while back and have amassed quite a mailing list through it: 170,000+ email addresses.
Ron Paul now wants to buy it, but considers their asking price much too high. They generously offered him "RonPaul.org" for free, but he wants the .com version.
Such is the nature of supply and demand, Dr. Paul.
Refusing the free offer of RonPaul.org, and unwilling to pony up the $250,000 the current holders are asking for RonPaul.com, the libertarian icon is filing his case with the United Nations World Intellectual Property Organization, demanding the current holders turn over *both* domains to him.
This is, of course, the very same U.N. he was referring to in 1998, when he said: The choice is very clear: we either follow the Constitution or submit to UN global governance. American national sovereignty cannot survive if we allow our domestic laws to be crafted by an international body.
Not surprisingly, this has not gone down well in some circles.
I, on the other hand, am loving it.
Wednesday, January 02, 2013
Sunday, December 23, 2012
In the wake of the Newtown shootings, people are struggling to come up with ways to prevent future tragedies involving mass murders by gun-toting crazies.
Some are calling for renewing the ban on military-type assault weapons and high capacity ammo magazines of the type used to gun down the victims at Sandy Hook elementary school. The previous ban was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994, and expired in 2004. Previous efforts to renew the ban have never gotten out of committee.
Others have suggested that instead of banning weapons, a hefty tax be placed on certain types of ammunition. After all, without bullets, a gun is about as useful as a length of pipe in a fight. Back in 1994, Daniel Patrick Moynihan introduced a bill to impose a 10,000% tax on hollow point ammo, saying, "Guns don't kill people, bullets do." Earlier in the year, Chicago discussed imposing a 5 cent per bullet "violence tax," which ended up going nowhere.
Still others have said what is needed it a requirement that all gun owners have a gun liability insurance policy; and you'd need to show you had coverage before buying a weapon. Forbes magazine (hardly a leftist publication) points out cars owners are required to show proof of coverage as well as people applying for a mortgage - why not gun owners? The thought is that insurance companies have the actuarial expertise to know who is a high risk owner and who isn't and would set rates accordingly.
Right after the shootings, the National Rifle Association, usually a dependably shrill voice, said they would, out of respect for the victims, refrain from making an immediate statement, and instead offer a "meaningful contribution" to the national debate.
A week later, their "meaningful contribution" turn out to be -SURPRISE!- a call for more guns in schools.
This is like saying the way to solve drunk driving deaths is by doing away with open container laws. While we're at it, let's start selling cigarettes to kindergarteners to cut down on lung cancer deaths.
Just how many gun-carrying government employees does Wayne LaPierre think are needed at each school? And how does he propose this be paid for? Higher taxes? Or will we just sack more teachers to pay these guards and jam a few more kids in already overcrowded classrooms?
Hypervocal pointed out the Onion posted a fake news story that pretty much nailed it: "NRA Sets 1,000 Killed In School Shooting As Amount It Would Take For Them To Reconsider Much Of Anything." I don't know whether to laugh or cry.
Least you forget, the NRA is essentially the lobbying arm of the gun manufacturers, and putting more armed guards will, of course, mean more sales and higher profits for the merchants of death.
Columbine High School had armed guards. And we all know how much that helped. No - I'm afraid this is more security theater, designed to distract us from the politically tough decisions that need to be made until the thought of dead children fades from the headlines.
The NRA once again proves itself to be the functional equivalent of a wife-beater; they profess they love America but there's always a reason the violence they begat isn't their responsibility -- and is always the fault of someone or something else.
The Dallas Morning News reported surges in sales of high powered weapons at local area gun shops in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings, as people stockpiled more weapons in anticipation of some sort of sales ban. In the face of such paranoia, is it any wonder we can't get laws in place to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill?
If you think we need more guns rather than less in our society, look in the mirror: you are the problem.
Saturday, December 22, 2012
Now that the initial wave of shock and horror over the shootings at Sandy Hook has worn off, the national debate has again started about gun control, and to a less degree, mental health issues. Discussions about both are long overdue.
After every recent shooting, the first reaction of the gun-lovers is...to buy more guns, because they fear "the government" is going to make it impossible to get guns. Am I the only one who sees this as closely related to the behavior pattern of people who are hoarders?
I'm tired of hearing some say that this happened because of some amorphous "Evil" in the world that humankind is powerless to overcome. If there's Evil afoot, it's what Hannah Arendt, writing about the Nazis, call the banality of evil: "normalizing the unthinkable." Such as accepting the idea that the man or woman on the street needs to own military-style semi-automatic assault weapons with huge magazines of ammo.
There have been quite a few unbelievably loathsome statements by the pro-gun crowd. Just to hit some of the highlights:
Mike Huckabee, whose statement on Fox News that "we've systematically removed God from our schools. Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage?" has to be one of the ugliest, most offensive things uttered by a member of the religious right. And folks, that takes in a lot of competition. He's blamed the victims for their own horrific deaths, and painted a picture of God as some kind of drunken jealous, vengeful child abuser. What a vile, hateful human being.
Gun Owners of America executive director Larry Pratt, who, two days after the murders of 20 children and 6 adults, said, "Gun control supporters have the blood of little children on their hands. Federal and state laws combined to ensure that no teacher, no administrator, no adult had a gun at the Newtown school where the children were murdered." This is the same guy who said people need guns to "control the government." In 1992, Pratt shared the stage with Neo-Nazis and Christian Identity groups, and has also been accused of speaking before white supremacist and militia groups. And we are supposed to feel safer with this lunatic and his followers carrying guns?
Though not in the same class as Huckabee and Pratt, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) gave it his best shot: fantasizing that "I wish to God [Sandy Hook principal Dawn Hoschsprung] had an m-4 in her office, locked up so when she heard gunfire, she pulls it out…and takes [the gunman] out and takes his head off before he can kill those precious kids."
The NRA at least had the decency to wait a week before their CEO Wayne LaPierre came out and delivered a statement that called on Congress to "appropriate everything that is necessary to put armed police officers in every single school in this nation."
Let's pretend for just a moment that the NRA actually was serious about their proposal instead of just putting out some complete piece of bullshit (because they had to say something) and see just what it would entail.
How many entrances/exits does the average school have? Think of all those fire doors. And how many police guards would be posted at each of them? One? Two?
What sort of weaponry will they be issued, and body armor? Remember - they are supposed to be keeping out crazy people with assault weapons.
Let's say, for the sake of argument, that the average school has a 10 points of entrance/egress, and that each of these has 2 guards. That means 20 guards per school, multiplied by however many schools in the school district. Fort Worth Independent School District has over 125 schools (primary, middle and high), which would mean an additional 2,500 employees.
And what assurance do we have that posting guards would deter would-be psycho-killers? As one person pointed out last week, banks have guards, but they still get held up.
We have to admit this is just another example of security theater - something designed to make us think we or our loved ones are safer, but without doing a damned thing.
Now - the final question: who is going to pay for all of this?
Is this an unfunded mandate the individual schools must pay for? Schools already have a hard enough time paying teachers and for "luxuries" such as art and music. Do we (dare I utter the words) raise taxes? And given the stereotypical NRA member (conservative) - what are they going to say when asked to pony up tax money to guard the schools? This is the same crowd that bitches like crazy about the TSA screening you at the airport.
Or do we just enact reasonable, responsible gun control?
All of the solutions the gun crowd are pushing boil down to: fight gun violence with more guns. That's like saying the way to fight childhood obesity is to eat more cheeseburgers.
The National Rifle Association used to have a bumper sticker that said, "I’ll give you my gun when you take it from my cold, dead hands."
Have it your way.
That's sounding like a better and better idea these days.
Saturday, December 08, 2012
The other day I awoke to the news that pianist Dave Brubeck had passed away at age 91, one day short of his birthday, December 6. To say he was a jazz giant is only to illustrate the weakness of the written word, compared to his chosen language, music.
I first got turned onto him as a twenty-something who had grown bored with his dorm roon collection of rock and roll. KERA (local public radio station) at the time played classical during the day, and jazz at night. My first purchase was a double LP called The Dave Brubeck Quartet at Carnegie Hall. To say it knocked my socks off is to further illustrate the weakness of the written word.
He was born in the San Francisco Bay area. After graduating from the College of the Pacific (where his inability to read music created a bit of a scandal), he was drafted and served in George Patton's Third Army. While in the army he formed one of the army's first multi-racial bands. It was then that he first met his long-time collaborator, Paul Desmond.
After leaving the armed services, he formed and performed with a number of ensembles, but it was his quartet, formed in 1951, that he was best known for: Brubeck on piano, Desmond on tenor sax, Joe Morello on drums, and Eugene Wright on bass. This was the quartet that released the album "Time Out," which featured the ground-breaking original, "Take Five," arguably one of Brubeck's signature pieces.
Brubeck and the Quartet was known for playing in complex time signatures (Take 5 was written in 5/4, and that was one of the easy ones) and polytonal improvisation - which is a fancy way of saying they played in multiple keys simultaneously.
He disbanded the quartet in 1967, and turned his attention to composing longer pieces, many, such as The Light in the Wilderness, which dealt with spiritual themes. He eventually joined the Catholic church in 1980.
He received numerous accolades and honors, including the "Benjamin Franklin Award for Public Diplomacy," presented by Condollezza Rice in 2008, for offering an American "vision of hope, opportunity and freedom" through his music; honorary Doctor of Music degrees from the Berklee College of Music and George Washington University, to name but a few.
Family was important to him. Five of his six children went on to be musicians and joined him often in concert or on recordings. In keeping with the spirit of the holidays, here's a clip of him from 1996 performing "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," on the Today Show with sons Chris on electric bass and Dan on drums.
Thursday, November 22, 2012
Thanksgiving 2012 is remarkable for a number of reasons.
Officially it falls on the 4th Thursday of November, which is usually the last Thursday as well, but because of how the calendar played out this year, we have another Thursday in November which falls after Thanksgiving. If you use Black Friday as the start of the Christmas Shopping, it means an extra week of Ho-Ho-Holiday sales for merchants, for which they are surely thankful this year.
Speaking of Black Friday, I'll leave that again to the more intrepid - I have no desire to go out and mix it up with bargain-crazed shoppers. It used to be this annual Orgasm of Consumerism started at 5 AM or so, Friday morning, but it has steadily crept forward, first to Midnight, and now, in some cases to 8 PM Thanksgiving day.
To which I say, shame on you Merchants. And shame on you, Shoppers, since without your enthusiastic support, this inexcusable practice would not happening.
This year is also notable for the fact that Thanksgiving falls on the anniversary of John F Kennedy's assassination - the 49th, as I recall. This monumental tragedy took place two and a half months after my family moved from Fort Worth to the Chicago suburbs. This is one of the reason I lost my Texas accent so quickly.
I'm thankful I survived another year, still employed. I'm thankful the 2012 elections are over, and I'm still on speaking terms with numerous friends and family members.
I'm thankful this year my youngest son is back in Texas, where he's finishing his degree at Texas State University, after starting at George Mason University. It's a better all-around experience - he's living with old friends, can drive home anytime he wants to, and generally finds the environment much more to his taste. Despite its proximity to Washington, DC, he found the whole Virginia experience a lot more Southern than he'd anticipated. Appearances to the contrary, Texas is not southern; at least not when you are as close to Austin as he is. Oh, and Texas in-state tuition is a lot cheaper.
I'm thankful my parents, who will be coming over for dinner today, are still healthy.
I'm thankful the wife and I had a chance to share Canadian Thanksgiving with our oldest son in Toronto, since he won't be able to join us down here this year for American Thanksgiving (or Christmas, it turns out). We spent four days with him, and had a wonderful visit. Thanksgiving Day we took him and a friend to a restaurant where they had turkey and dressing as their special that day. Even though he won't be joining us this year, we're planning to do a Facetime call once the rest of the family gathers.
I'm thankful for friends, old and new, both in person and on-line. The internet is an amazing place.
Here's hoping you have plenty to be thankful for this year. My best to you and all your loved ones.
Saturday, November 17, 2012
I confess, I'm ready to be done with the 2012 election. I'd feel this way regardless of the outcome.
Unfortunately, conservatives can't quite let go. The recriminations and finger-pointing are in full swing - amusing but eventually tiresome.
Latest members of the Sore Loser Club are restauranteurs John Schnatter, CEO of Papa John's Pizza, and Zane Tankel, who owns 40 or so Applebee's Restaurants in the metro New York City area. Both are incensed that Mitt Romney's loss means ObamaCare is no longer going to be dismantled.
Tankel has announced he'll start firing employees and stop building restaurants. Of course, he's a franchisee, so it remains to be seen if parent company Applebee's will fill the gap with other franchise holders. Applebee's International president, Mike Archer, said Tankel's remarks, "were not the views or opinions of either Applebee's or other franchisees, although we respect his right to speak freely as an American." He went on to add that Applebee's and its franchisees "recognize that affordable health care is a critically important issue facing our country."
Elsewhere, Papa John's John Schnatter has announced ObamaCare will end up adding a whopping 14 cents to the cost of every pizza! Caleb Melby of Forbes did his own math and put the figure at more like 4 cents a pizza, then pointed out that Papa John's announced earlier this fall that it was going to give away 2 million pizzas. The biggest beneficiary of this kerfluffle? Small locally owned pizza shops, and customers, who now have a disincentive to eat sauce-covered cardboard.
Not to be outdone, John Metz, a Florida franchisee of late-night drunkard fave Denny's stated he would be forced to add an "ObamaCare surcharge," to his menu prices, as well as cut employee hours so as to make them ineligible for insurance coverage. Parent company Denny's was quick to issue a statement that, "while we respect the decision of an independent business owner to speak out on this topic, these statements do not capture the respect by Denny's, the Denny's Franchisee Association or our franchise community at large for our hardworking employees or for our valued customers."
Jon Stewart did an insightful riff on all this the other night, perfectly demonstrating the dickishness of these and other whiny bozos. Not to be overlooked: Stewart pointing out that if we'd gone with a single provider plan (i.e. the Canadian model), these jack-legs wouldn't have to provide benefits at all.
You think, having seen the stink that arose after Chik-fil-A COO Dan Cathay's ruminations about same-sex marriage, these clowns would know enough to keep their mouths shut, no matter how backwards their opinions were.