Monthly Archives: February 2009

Lucky Seven

While I am clearly a geek, I am also something of a techno-luddite. I am reluctant to run out and buy the latest-and-greatest gadget that the magazines are hawking. Windows XP did not find a place on any of my machines until 2008; I was perfectly happy with the much under-rated Windows 2000. Actually they are very similar, as evidenced by their version numbers – Windows 2000 is Version 5.0, XP is 5.1. Turn off the “dancing Baloney” in XP and it looks and feels like Windows 2000. Apparently I am in good company – Steve Gibson had a similar reluctance to upgrade from 2000 to XP that he has only recently overcome.

When it comes to hardware, I am also retrograde – I still use a Palm Tungsten T3, which does everything I need. To upgrade to a later model I would have to give up the voice recorder, the collapsible form-factor and hardware compatibility with chargers, cradles and keyboards. I would rather buy another T3.

My iPod is a Gen5.5, even though the Gen 6, was out at the time. Even though the newer version was slimmer and had a better battery, There were a couple of things I preferred about the earlier version. Oh, and it was $60 cheaper…

There are several reasons for this; I prefer to use tried-and-tested solutions, and the bleeding edge is an expensive place to be. Oh, and eBay is a wonderful way to cash in on someone else’s mistakes…

This does not mean that I am averse to the latest technology – just that I don’t always trust it. Throughout 2006 I was playing with a beta-test version of Microsoft’s “next big thing”, Windows Vista, on what was then the fastest machine in the house (“Apollo”, a 2.4GHz Athlon). The verdict: Horribly slow; I uninstalled it before Vista hit the streets.

This suspicion was confirmed when I bought a laptop for my wife. It had Vista factory-installed on it. I played with it for an hour or so, then I blew Vista away and installed XP. Now it flies.

So when Microsoft announced that they were working on the next version of Windows – currently named Windows 7 – I was prepared to be underwhelmed. However, the reviews seemed to be good. So I grabbed a copy of the Beta test version (which expired in August) and installed it on two different machines (the machine that I had tested Vista on two years ago, and “Zeus”, the new “speed king” that I recently purchased).

Installation was surprisingly quick, and boot times were impressive. The new OS has the same look and feel as Vista, but is far snappier. MS have put some work into this, and it shows – the bloated feel of Vista is gone, and Windows pop and move with the same alacrity that I was used to with XP.

Verdict: Me likey. I’ll stick with XP for now, go to 7 when it comes out, and just say “Hasta La Vista” to Vista.

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No whining please!

For most of the past eight years I have listened to Democrats whining.

Ever since George W. Bush won the 2000 election (or more specifically, Bill Clinton lost it for Al Gore), I’ve been hearing variations-on-a-theme of “Bush stole the election” (no he didn’t – not one of those infamous recounts went Gore’s way).

Over the next four years I got sick of hearing the “Gore-got-more-votes-than-Bush-in-2000” chorus (true, but irrelevant – this is not a democracy, it is a Republic). Besides, Nixon got more votes than Kennedy in 1960. Where is the outrage about that one? Ah yes, your guy won that one…

GWB did not so much win in 2004 so much as Kerry lost. He had a plan, but nobody I know was able to find it. Similarly, it is my considered opinion that the Republicans lost in 2008 because McCain could not prove that he was not George W. Bush.

Eight years of Democrat moaning is at an end; they have the House, the Senate and the White House… so anything that happens from here on out is their fault..!

And so to my Republican friends, I beseech you, please do not descend to the moaning and griping that we have suffered these past eight years. You voted, your guy lost. It happens sometimes. It is not the end of the world, and there may even be some good to come out of this.

But please, no whining.

Black History Month

I recently received a corporate e-mail informing me that February is “Black History Month” I have no problem with this, but two questions quickly scurried up to the front of my mind and began banging on the door.

  • When is “White History Month”? Yes, I am just kidding, but if there was one, someone would cry “racism”. Why would one be racist and not the other? Why are there “Black Leaders” and not “White Leaders”?
  • Why does Black History Month fall on the shortest month of the year? To those who seek racism under every rock and behind every tree this must be like a red rag to a bull. Where’s the outrage?

I have been a victim of racism, so I am not trying to stir up a hornets’ nest. Amid the sarcasm I am trying to make a point. We need to start thinking of ourselves as Americans first, and as black/white/yellow/whatever a distant second, if at all.

And that, as Forrest Gump would say, is all I have to say about that.

Now reading: What’s Wrong with the World, by G. K. Chesterton

Bad. News.

I don’t watch much TV.

During the week I hardly watch it at all; I let the TiVo do the work and catch up on the weekends.

I’m not showing off about it, that’s just who I am.

I also watch very little news, and I tend to shy away from current affairs/Political Programming, they either bore me or make me angry. Life is too short, and my time too precious to volunteer to be bored or angered.

Although I spend too much time on the Internet, I generally do not seek out “news” websites. For one thing, trips to such sites invariably turn to clickfests, jumping from one story to another. For another, I tend to leave no wiser than when I arrived. In spite of this, I have never been accused of being ill-informed. I wonder why that is?

A major part of it is media bias; there are many stories, for instance, that do not make it to the U.S. Media (for example, in the First Gulf War, A pair or US Air Force A-10 Warthogs opened fire on a clearly marked British Convoy, killing eight British soldiers — more than the Iraqis did in the entire conflict. The story made headlines in the UK, but does not seem to have been reported here), so for “fair and balanced” reporting I tend to gravitate to the BBC or to use multiple sources to minimize editorial bias.

Nor is the reportage complete; the stock market drop in the wake of September 11th is well documented, but the fact that those losses were reversed within two months is not so well-known. More recently, when the Dow dropped 800 points in one day the media was rife with tales of doom-and-gloom, but when the Dow rose 900 points over the following two days no reversals, apologies or retractions were forthcoming from the aforementioned doom-sayers; it was not even mentioned, as far as I can tell.

The sad fact is that bad news sells, while inconveniently good news is swept quietly under the carpet. Even worse, bad news can ecome a self-fulfilling prophecy.

As if that was not enough, too much of our so-called news is factually incorrect; over the past six months we have been told that this country is in a recession so often that most people have accepted it as fact. Unfortunately for them, the word “recession” has a definition — two consecutive quarters of negative growth — but that did not prevent the talking heads from reporting a recession when there wasn’t one. Irresponsible reporting such is this is dangerous, and can lead to self-fulfilling prophecies. It is infuriating that I should have to correct incorrect opinions shaped by people who should know better.

The sad fact, if you will pardon the pun, is that I find most of the news depressing. And in many cases the wibble-to-fact ratio is too high to be useful. It is enough to make me wonder if there is a correlation between consumption of large amounts of news and Depression.

Speaking of depression, some corners of the media are comparing the current situation with the Great Depression. I’d like to see them interview a survivor of the Great Depression. I suspect that those folks, who have survived massively high unemployment and large-scale near-starvation, would look at our “calamity” and smile sardonically at our well-fed attempts at comparison. Are times hard? Sure, but much of that is a consequence of reaping what we sow – and we need hope far more than a never-ending diet of bad news.