Quick Roundup 191

Monday, May 14, 2007

Happy (Belated) Mother's Day!

My mother, who once gave me a tee shirt similar to the one pictured at right, will find the belated mention of Mother's Day on my blog amusing.

In my defense, I did wish her a happy Mother's Day on time over the phone, but she can still claim the moral high ground as she was traveling and so was the one who placed the phone call!

On a more serious note, I wish a happy Mother's Day to her and any other mothers who happen by. On the subject, I highly recommend Joe Kellard's tribute to his late mother, Rita.

In one very important respect, his mother reminds me of both of my parents: She gave her son room to grow up as a unique individual. In Rita's words, "Be your own person."

As someone who is planning to have children in the not so distant future, I look with awe on anyone who successfully walks the tightrope of doing enough to prepare a child for adulthood, while also pulling back enough to allow that child to become his own person.

This is not a task to be underestimated.

Thank you again, Mom!

Fort Dix Hero: "[I]s that being racist?"

The man who called an Islamofascist training video to the attention of authorities hesitated from doing so thanks to the fact that the left has, over decades (1) perverted the meaning of the word "racist" to mean "one who judges another person, period", and (2) made it easy to sue "racists" on "civil rights" grounds. Riehl World View quotes the New York Post:

When the teen and another employee went into a back room and began the conversion of the tape, they saw a group of bearded men wearing "fundamentalist attire" and shooting "big, f-ing guns," the teen later told co-workers.

Throughout the 90-minute-long tape, above the booming gunfire at a Pennsylvania target range, the jihadists could be heard screaming "God is great!"

The two employees "freaked out," their co-worker recalled.

At first, the teenage clerk didn't know what to do, his pal said.

"Dude, I just saw some really weird s-," he frantically told his co-worker. "I don't know what to do. Should I call someone or is that being racist?"

The fellow employee tried to calm his friend and told him that if what he saw terrified him so much, he should tell the police.

The teen first consulted with a manager before making the 911 call.

FBI agents got a copy of the tape from Circuit City, and went to the teen's house and interviewed him at length. [Riehl's bold]
The goal of the civil rights movement has long ago moved from the morally proper one of securing equal government protection for the rights of all individuals to simply institutionalizing improper government favors for groups other than those who allegedly benefited from Jim Crow Laws. This example shows just how close we came -- thanks to the widespread moral uncertainty and fear of prosecution such efforts have created -- to seeing American soldiers massacred on our own soil.

It is exactly this result that is being pursued by the Islamofascist Six as they attempt to sue the individual passengers of US Airways. As I said yesterday, "Anyone who thinks that American Moslems are friends of freedom simply because we haven't seen British-style domestic terrorism from them so far is sadly mistaken."

Cartman's Three Squares

This news story from north of the border reminded me of the South Park episode in which Eric Cartman fakes mental retardation in order to compete in the Special Olympics, only to come in last in every event and win the Spirit Award, which he sees as an indignation.
A Vancouver man was sentenced Friday to 13 months in prison for pretending to be mentally retarded in order to claim disability benefits.

Pete J. Costello, 28, pleaded guilty in February to conspiracy to defraud the government and to Social Security fraud. He began receiving disability benefits when he was 8. He was ordered to repay the $59,226 he has received since turning 18.

Costello, who cannot read or write, dictated a letter to his public defender that was submitted to the judge before sentencing and filed in court.

"I know that it was wrong to 'act like a child' in the Social Security office when that is not how I really am," the letter said. "I feel very bad about this and want to do everything I can to pay this money back."

Costello's mother, Rosie Costello, 46, who also pleaded guilty, is to be sentenced Thursday for coaching her son and daughter to feign mental retardation. Authorities have not found the daughter.

Pete Costello continued to fake retardation into his mid-20s -- picking at his face, slouching and appearing uncommunicative in meetings with Social Security officials.

The scheme came to light last year after he got a traffic ticket in Vancouver, then was videotaped acting normally when he contested the ticket in court. [bold added]
Even if support for the disabled were where it belongs, in private hands, there would sometimes be cases of fraud like this, although I would suspect that there would be fewer. Furthermore, the social security system itself would not be funded via mandatory Ponzi scheme.

I don't know the details of how Canadian social security is funded, but the ultimate irony here is that Costello may have found, behind bars, a more financially sound way to feed at the public trough!

One final note as an aside: I somehow never noticed when watching that episode of South Park that Cartman's tee shirt had the face of the Kool-Aid pitcher on it! What a riot!

Mighty Jokes from Little Acorns Grow

(Or something like that....)

Mike N unearths a blog on letters sent home from school to parents of celebrities when they were children and points out this gem on Harry Reid (D-NV):
We're afraid we must ban Harry from all school sporting events. Every time one of our teams falls behind, he starts yelling, "It's over! The game is lost!" It really is harming the morale of our players. I hope we can count on your cooperation.
He has just returned from a rather busy week, so stop by there and take a look around, if you haven't in awhile.

Somehow, this comes as no surprise.

Tom Rowland discusses some problems he has encountered with Windows Vista, which the Inspector aptly calls "a near doppleganger of OS 9".

I use Linux and my wife currently uses software that has to run on Windows. When it's time to replace her computers, Windows on a virtual machine under Linux or on a Mac is the way we'll go.

We recently had a hard disk crash on a Dell Laptop, which dual-boots into Linux or Windows XP. I had no troubles restoring the Linux side, but despite reinstalling XP twice (in case I missed software or drivers), I still haven't figured out why it can't network any more unless I disable our wireless router's encryption.

As a commenter on Noodle Food recently put it:
[F]or whatever reason, Windows machines need a lot of tweaking, [continuously], and they often are set up to hide things from you if you don't know the proper dead-chicken-wave to find it--and in fact most people have no idea a setting even exists. (Hiding file extensions by default is one egregious example.) It is as if they were deliberately trying to create a market for Windows Gurus and ensure that they would be necessary just to keep a machine running.
I agree. By contrast, if I have a problem on Linux, I have good documentation at my disposal, as well as email lists where I can post questions for when I am really stumped. I once had a guy from Iceland tell me over email exactly what my problem was and how to fix it within fifteen minutes of posting my problem. I didn't have to get onto the phone or pay anyone anything. And it worked.

Microsoft can run its business any way it sees fit, but I do not like being treated like an idiot and having things hidden from me. Their way of making things "easy" for customers seems to go way beyond them taking the load off inexperienced users and into undercutting the ability of more advanced ones to fix simple things, which undercuts their self-confidence so they remain dependent on scribe-like "experts".

Dark Humor at the UN

Andrew Dalton notices that the United Nations has picked Zimbabwe, which recently confiscated farms from white landowners and suffers from hyperinflation, to be in charge of "sustainable economic development".

Well, I guess if your definition of "sustainable economic development" includes a vast culling of the species Homo sapiens, you'd be hard-pressed to make a better choice.

Funniest Headline Ever

If anything is funnier than an NPR listener pronouncing anything that seems like it might be Spanish with an affected Castilian accent, it's a copy editor who proofs with such an accent: "Royals To Get A Taste Of Angels' Colon". (HT: Hannes Hacker and Radley Balko)

-- CAV


: Added a clarification and fixed two typos.
5-15-07: Corrected an attribution.


Jennifer Snow said...

RE: problems with Windows . . .

I'm a diehard PC gamer and have been for a long time but I'm becoming increasingly disenchanted with Windows myself. (WHY does my computer game crash every 45 minutes?! WHY WHY WHY?!?!) I may just have to get a TV and a console for games and get a Linux machine or a Mac the next time I upgrade. Who knows, maybe I'll be able to run my games on a Linux machine, anyway.

Gus Van Horn said...

I am not a gamer, but a couple of things I can think of off the top of my head will be relevant.

(1) If the games you want to play require binaries to be installed on your computer, have they been ported to Linux? I would suspect that most have not as Linux has, perhaps as much "market share" as Macintosh.

(2) You probably could still run them on a Linux box (or a Mac) through a virtual machine, like any other software. This will, I am almost certain, come at the cost of slower performance since the virtual machine would represent an extra layer of computational overhead.

Again, I am not a gamer and I haven't used a virtual machine in a few years, so the technology may be better now. However, since it seems that gamers are always getting the cutting edge in computer technology, particularly in processor speed and graphics capability, I would suspect that they would notice reduced performance on a VM more than most other types of users.

I probably sound like an OS missionary here some times, but the fact is, what OS you use will sometimes be disctated by what you want to do. As far as I know, Windows is best for gaming and will be for the foreseeable future.

Sid said...


1. I do believe that Linux has more market share than OS X, but I'm not sure.

2. Games don't run on a virtual machine right now. Virtual machines don't support accelerated graphics, which are a must for current games.

I'll, as usual, disagree on your conclusion about Vista. About the numerous "Vista sucks" articles: computing, like any other science, isn't done by consensus.

Jennifer, there can be a hundred reasons for computer games crashing in 45 minutes -- overheating? A file corrupted? Driver problems caused games to crash back in Windows 98. This happens extremely rarely in XP, and to a slightly larger extent in Vista while manufacturers update drivers (significantly reduced in the newer ones).

The one time I had a problem, it WAS due to overheating.

Gus Van Horn said...


You make some good points on why else a computer might crash -- besides attempting to operate it with Windows. :-)

Regarding your "computing isn't done by consensus" remark, though. Given that Windows has over 90% market share, I'd be reluctant to wave that cudgel.

On a more serious note, my objections to Windows aren't based on what everyone else thinks, but upon my personal needs and preferences. Among those preferences is having an OS that does not seem to be deliberately designed to keep me in the dark about how it operates.

Until I such a time as Microsoft releases a version of Windows that shows evidence (via comments from people whose opinions I respect and from my own user experience) of becoming more accessible "under the hood" to users like me, I won't be wasting any more time or money on its products than the absolute bare minimum.

But if you like Windows, don't let me rain on your parade. Such is the beauty of the free market.


David, The Machine said...

For Linux, there is the Cedega project, which is an effort to port the Windows DirectX graphics and sound framework to Linux.

It is pretty much spot on, but it has to play “catch up” with the major game releases. The main snag to having a seamless transition between Windows and Linux (for gamers, anyways), is driver support for the graphics cards that these games need.

I know it’s the graphics companies’ prerogative as to how cooperative they are with hobbyist programmers who are willing to write drivers for their hardware for free—and they don’t cooperate. But they are very good at coming out with buggy black-box drivers of their own, and due to the current direct hardware access model that X Windows uses (which is less secure than Windows! surprise!), it leave the user open to actual security problems. Go look up the NVidia X Windows driver fiasco that took place back in November for an example.

Gus Van Horn said...


That's interesting news on Cedega. I am sure Jenn will appreciate knowing about it.

Thanks for pointing that out.


Sid said...

You make some good points on why else a computer might crash -- besides attempting to operate it with Windows. :-)

Sure, but these days it's not very probable.

Regarding your "computing isn't done by consensus" remark, though. Given that Windows has over 90% market share, I'd be reluctant to wave that cudgel.

I mentioned that because the whole thing reminds me of another scientific area that is driven by consensus -- "climate change".

But if you like Windows, don't let me rain on your parade. Such is the beauty of the free market.

However, nobody lives in a vacuum. Since Linux has such a small market share, as David pointed out, manufacturers aren't really cooperative with Linux drivers. In that sense, my decision to use Windows does have an impact on you.

Don't get me wrong -- I have no obligation to use Linux for your sake. I'm just pointing out that it does affect you.

If you think that I use Windows exclusively, think again. :)

Hint: I have 5 operating systems installed on this computer, of which 4 are in use. I do use Vista most often, though.

Gus Van Horn said...

Hmmm. I was never really under the impression that you use only one OS, although I find your love of Windows personally mind-boggling. (e.g., I use FVWM rather than a desktop, fer Chrissake!)

I don't know why you're bringing up the "consensus" thing at all. I am merely noting the complaints of other Windows users. Part of this is simply due to how common Windows is, but part is due to various problems (e.g., viruses) that arise due to how it is designed. I happen to enjoy not having to pay a "virus tax" because I don't use Windows. (Although, to be fair, I think there are open source antivirus programs out there.)

As for your effect on me as part of the MS user base, that is minimal. Typically, only a few cutting-edge proprietary components are unsupported, and for a short time until someone comes up with a driver. Given that I feel no need to be the first on the block for new technology, I basically never notice. In ten years of using Linux (which is now easier to install than Windows), I have had to replace two unsupported video cards, encountered a screwy printer it couldn't talk to (and that needed special, and extremely annoying software to run on Windows), and had one very esoteric SCSI device that Linux couldn't "see" at work -- so I saved a computer someone else was going to surplus, and installed Windows on what became a dedicated machine for the task that needed the weird SCSI device.

Other Linux users are very good at keeping web sites up to date concerning what works or doesn't work, and how well. I usually just check one of these, as I did before buying a computer off a gamer a few weeks ago to replace my ancient, Pentium II workhorse.

In some matters of optional values, and computing is, in some aspects, one of them, some people declare their opinions with missionary zeal. If any aspect of the "OS Wars" resembles the "consensus" that is global warming (mass) hysteria, it is this.

So, I say again. If Windows floats your boat, use it. It sinks mine, so I don't.

Tom Rowland said...

I said on the blog that I had been relatively happy with 98SE. I am not sophiticated user, so it took your mention of "things running in the background" to think that is the problem with the old Dell that is running it. In an effort to clean up the hard drive, taking out the old to make room for the new, I have evidently created less space. Now that I know where to look, I'll see what happens.

My problem with Vista is with the way in which it s release was not preceded by extensive education and notification of third-party vendors, a problem that echoes your comments about having to depend on experts.

Gus Van Horn said...

Oh yeah. It's been so long since I used Microsoft's wares that much that I forgot about stuff like that....

Inspector said...

Hey Gus thanks for linking up!

Check out the comments over my way - it looks like there is some hope yet (as I thought there would be). XP was like this, too, before it got patched up.

As I said, though, as a gamer there just is no other way to go than Windows. If you want to be absolutely sure that you have maximum compatibility, then using the OS with 90% market share simply makes sense.

Of course, if you use only a handful of applications that you know will work, then things like Mac and Linux can work for you. Just try not to get too smug about it. Because you should only be so proud of the fact that you get no viruses because nobody cares to write them for your redheaded stepchild of an OS.


Gus Van Horn said...

Cute, but I've heard that last line before!

Actually, Linux and Mac are both superior by design to Windows (at least through XP) insofar as susceptibility to viruses.

For example, here's what you'd have to do to damage something on your computer (besides your own account) with the sort of email virus so common on Windows:

"[D]ue to the strong separation between normal users and the privileged root user, our Linux user would have to be running as root to really do any damage to the system. He could damage his /home directory, but that's about it. So the above steps now become the following: read, save, become root, give executable permissions, run. The more steps, the less likely a virus infection becomes, and certainly the less likely a catastrophically spreading virus becomes. And since Linux users are taught from the get-go to never run as root, and since Mac OS X doesn't even allow users to use the root account unless they first enable the option, it's obvious the likelihood of email-driven viruses and worms lessens on those platforms."

Sid said...

He could damage his /home directory, but that's about it.

Excellent. And he can't do any more on Vista either, without allowing the action (admin) or entering a password (standard user). The recent cursor exploit was witness to this.

Inspector said...

Eh, that's a user error, Gus. A good network admin will make sure that the most access regular users are given is "Power User," where the "Administrator" is equivalent to root in Linux/Unix. A smart user will not use Administrator for everyday activity any more than they would use root.

Gus Van Horn said...

Y'all are missing my point: Of course it's a user error to operate as Administrator, which is like root. This example is from an article on email security, and on what you would have to do (i.e., commit a series of really stupid mistakes) to get a virus from an email attachment, something which I understand is quite easy under Windows, especially since many emails involve HTML formatted attachments, which will open under the notoriously insecure Internet Explorer.

Inspector said...

"the notoriously insecure Internet Explorer"

Pffft. What kind of mook uses that pile.



Have I offended every computer user with an axe to grind yet? Maybe I shouldn't post before going to bed...


I didn't get what you meant there, Gus, until I... um, read the article you linked to. Yeah. Sorry 'bout that.

I don't play favorites; I really don't. If you want me to rant against Windows, I will give you its biggest offense in my mind: it's first offense - back when they decided that programs would no longer be self-contained within their own directories. That everything had to be fused with their super-special-oh-so-important monolithic, impenetrable cluster-[censored] of a mistake they call the "registry." Want to move a program? Used to be you would copy the directory. Now, you either re-install or pore over Lovecraftian tomes searching for every single file and registry line that referenced it. And then give up and reinstall.

Spyware that embeds itself deeper than an Alabama deer tick into said registry is just the chickens coming home to roost.

...and that's the OS that I like. Don't get me started on Macs.

Gus Van Horn said...

Ugh. Throwing in mention of HTML attachments on my part was sloppy and muddies the issue anyway. Automatically running email attachments is one really stupid thing.

And yes, the Registry! I'd blissfully forgotten that Windows is designed with that inessential hydrogen bomb of a failure point (and method of confusing most customers)!

Back to your question: "What kind of mook uses that pile?"

Anyone who uses Windows -- since Microsoft, in a feat of association by nonessentials a schizophrenic would be pressed to match -- has integrated its browser into so many aspects of how one interacts with the OS.

Need to browse a directory? You're using IE -- unless you manage to find (or remember the DOS name for) the command prompt. Need to look troubleshoot some hardware? The control panel is viewed through IE. As far as I know, you can't do those things with Firefox.

But anyway, I'm getting tired of arguing about OSes. It's your computer and your data. Use Windows if you want. I'll stick with Linux.

Sid said...

One final comment... pleeeease?

Need to browse a directory? You're using IE -- unless you manage to find (or remember the DOS name for) the command prompt. Need to look troubleshoot some hardware? The control panel is viewed through IE.

Not any more in Vista. They've locked down pretty much everything.

Gus Van Horn said...

OK. Does "locked down" mean you don't have to browse with IE -- or that IE is (chortle) secure in Vista?

Sid said...

Both. Yes, you don't have to use IE, and yes, IE is more secure in Vista -- more secure than Firefox (gasp).

The recent ANI exploit caused full system access in Firefox in Windows, yet was heavily restricted in IE.

Gus Van Horn said...

OK. If your experience so far is correct, time will bear it out. Then, when Microsoft can match the prices I pay and give me the flexibility I want, I'll give them a look.