Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The End of America?

We are living in strange times. As the most successful, most free, most productive country in the world, you would think the citizens and government of the United States of America would cherish and protect and nurture such a treasure, but we are steadily, systematically, and irrevocably dismantling this country, and everything upon which it was founded at an alarming rate.

We have turned immigration from wellspring of creativity and drive, spurring the greatest successes experienced in American history to a program of importing an overwhelmingly large population that is disinterested, if not wholly contemptuous of everything that sets America apart from, and above, every other nation in history.

There's nothing special about the newest immigrants. The vast majority of them are like all immigrants to our great Republic, just looking for a better lives for themselves and their families, but our country is being run by people who simply hate themselves and hate America. The people running our country are completely ignorant, or worse, completely disregarding of what it takes to properly nurture the "Grand Experiment" created by a group of men, each more wise than every single person in the entire Federal Government. The people running our government are happy (or oblivious) to squandering the greatest natural resource in history, the American people, by allowing their dilution and corruption, through abandonment of the rule of law, a complete abdication of proper education and abandonment of the wisdom of the likes of Moses, Aristotle, and Washington for the mores of Croesus, Bacchus and Eros.

Our officials don't want to "force" our values on immigrants (values that made the United States singular in the history of the world as the greatest political expression of liberty and the dignity of man, values that nurtured the greatest source of technological and economic innovations in history) and are doing everything they can to accommodate these immigrants and require nothing of them. And of course, if you simply give something to someone without requiring anything of them, it is human nature will that they usually hold it, and the giver in contempt. After all, what kind of chump country would do something so stupid as let itself be overrun and dismantled from within? Of course, this translates eventually into arrogance and open hatred, and that is what the immigrants are learning: The United States government is a complete sucker, and suckers deserve to be taken for everything you can beg, borrow or steal. After all, these immigrants are only valued as a new underclass to be exploited for cheap labor and easily swayed votes, not as enriching and contributing members of the traditional American "melting pot".

The darkest days of our country, and perhaps its end as something unique in history, are coming closer and closer. Our elections are becoming pointless choices between increasingly indistinguishably dismal and pandering shysters. Our latest Presidential election hinged on a bizarre and obscene cult of personality demonstrating a total lack of reflection, of critical thinking in a blind rush to elect someone different (how wasn't important) from our previous leader, who in many ways earned his historically low approval rating. Corporations are running riot over our laws and rights. Congress is nothing but the proverbial "parliament of whores" and officially has only single-digit approval ratings, despite being elected in to fix the rampant (but hardly unprecedented) corruption of recent years. The irony is that there are 10%-15% of the population that are simply too stupid and ignorant to realize Congress could possibly do something wrong and even a lot of those idiots realize Congress is nothing but a great big ripe slice of FAIL. Our populace is grotesquely ignorant of our history, and indeed the history of Western civilization, and are becoming increasingly misinformed and illiterate thanks to an education system designed by socialists to produce mindless factory workers suitable for the 19th century not the 21st. Campaigning by our national candidates is nothing but naked bribery and appeals to our most base emotions. People are more and more buying into the false promises of socialism and even Marxism, due in large part to collective amnesia of ravages of humanity these utterly failed philosophies have wrought in the past 150 years.

There are a few principled politicians, but they are far outweighed by those whose principles have been sold out to money, to power, to perversion, to literally every moral, intellectual and philosophical bankruptcy in these modern times. Our elected representatives exhibit every kind of corruption and depravity known to man. They themselves are largely ignorant, incompetent and capable only of gaming the system to their own gain or the gain of their moneyed benefactors, and pay only lip service to any proper notions of governance or even civilization.

It has been said that democracy will only work until it occurs to the electorate to simply vote themselves the largess of the state, and indeed we are in that time. The current bailouts elicit equal reactions of incredulousness and disgust as our leaders preach, against all logic, that the only way to get ourselves out of the hole we have dug ourselves into is to keep digging down.

So it's not the immigrants who have really changed. It's the country. America is rapidly heading in a direction and towards a point where it will no longer merit its unique distinction as the greatest country in history.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Liberal Judges, So Stupid They're Smart

So it seems that Supreme Court, or the liberal half of it, has ruled that you can't execute someone for raping a child, based on some goofy notion that most people don't think that crime rises to the punishment. Frankly, even though I'm opposed to capital punishment, for a number of reasons, one of which is not that there's no moral justification for it, abusing a child this way would put someone at the top of the list of people needing a one-way trip to Slabville. From everything I've heard and read, and the story of Jeffrey Dahmer is a perfect example, even convicts have a special contempt for people who hurt children this way.

So the end result is that the Supreme Court has ruled that clean, painless execution is too good for these people. Rather they would lock them up for life (presumably that long, although who knows these days) where the rest of the prisoners will simply mete out more appropriate justice with a shank in the back, saving all the millions of dollars and decades usually wasted on appeals.

Thanks, Supreme Court, for reminding us that hardened killers have a stronger moral center than liberal judges.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Becoming Microsoft free...

Well, having run Linux on and off on my main machine (which has been a laptop since about 2003) and having run Linux on my desktop machines for several years, I've decided to switch back to Ubuntu on my primary machine, Pigmeyer, an HP Pavilion dv2000 which shipped with Vista, that unlike Gertrude, the low-end, but decent Gateway I bought Provazolezec, could actually run it at a usable, if not snappy, speed. However, after a couple months of utter annoyance and frustration at having to change so many ways of doing things to accomodate Vista's arbitrary and caprious restrictions I finally broke down and bought another XP license (Microsoft wins again by selling two licenses for one computer). Migrating from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95 was never that kind of hassle. Migrating to NT 3.51 a couple months later when I realized how worthless 95 was wasn't a hassle. Nor was migrating to NT 4, 2000 or XP, but Vista was just an unending stream of little annoyances, frustrations and plain old pains-in-the-butt. The camel-breaking straw came when I needed to reboot after a single update and it took 7 minutes for Vista to start up. 7 minutes while I had to sit there like a moron, waiting to log on to an online session with friends. I don't think I've ever seen a computer take so long to start up.

I'd run Ubuntu before on this machine, but having a 64-bit AMD processor, I'd installed the 64-bit version of the OS. Unfortunately, certain pieces of software don't work too well on the 64-bit version (yes, I'm talking to you, Adobe). Wireless, which has always been a bit of an issue with Linux was also a real problem for me, thanks in large part to the manufacturers who insist on keeping their drivers closed-source for reasons that benefit no one, especially them. I also had a lot of trouble with Java, but I don't know if that's because of using the 64-bit version of the OS, or because everything having to do with Java is like working with a Soviet-style bureaucracy. I can't imagine why anyone would want to develop under such a grotesquely byzantine platform. At the AOL developer's conference I attended while working there, I attended a presentation on some of the allegedly neat Java stuff they were doing, and why it's so easy and fun to get things done with Java. I went into the presentation rather optimistically only to be totally and utterly turned off by anything to do with Java (except ant... which seems like a really cool make tool). Most of the presentation consisted of the insane amount of hoops they needed to jump through just to get everything configured correctly, and we're not talking configuration scripts here. We're talking using some kind of hideous-looking IDE (including the long and tedious story of finding just the right version of the IDE that was actually compatible with the libraries and tools they wanted to use), with an utterly ridiculous string of cookbook "drag-and-drop" procedures needed to get everything set up correctly. "Write-once-run-everywhere" is clearly a joke from all my experience with Java. I've seen Java software that won't even run unless you had the exact same version of the JRE that it's expecting. Who knows what you're supposed to do if you're already running something newer, which at the time I was? And of course, after 10 years, it would be nice to see a Java program (besides Azureus) that doesn't look like XWindows circa 1994 (i.e., butt-ugly and primitive).

Ironically, I've found that one of the things Microsoft used to excel at is something almost everyone now does better than they: playing videos. The Windows Media Player, which spent about 6 years getting nothing but bigger, uglier and harder to use now utterly fails at so many video formats that it's not even worth having any more. On Windows, using Media Player Classic is the only way to watch movies without getting that useless "Codec not found" error (that doesn't tell you which one it needs), and a message asking if WMP should look for a codec. Has that ever actually worked? I've been using Windows Media Player since it first came out and I've never seen it actually find a codec it was missing. I suspect it only looks for Microsoft stuff, which is almost certainly already installed on any Windows system. The fact that it can't play MPEG-2 out of the box is beyond ridiculous. Or at least it wouldn't for me, and there's no point in trying to "fix" WMP since it's confusing and frustrating (and seldom worth the effort) to do and MPC "just works" right out of the box... including QuickTime and Real with the "Alternative" packages. (Why, oh, why does Real still exist? They are possibly the only company that hates their customers more than Microsoft and are far more incompetent.)

Anyhow, I noticed recently that Windows XP is showing little thumbnails of videos in Explorer, a very nice new feature (that KDE has had forever under Linux) which seems to have been part of SP3, because it only showed up recently. However, shortly afterwards, I started finding that Explorer (possibly the buggiest mainstream application in the history of software for 13 years running, no wait, that would be Word on the Mac, or possibly IE5, or IE6...) started crashing every time it would try to show a thumbnail of H.264-encoded movies. I only found this out by loading it into the debugger because all you would see is a crash dialog for "Explorer" and clicking on anything would restart Explorer, even though Explorer itself would continue working just fine, except you had this System Modal dialog box you couldn't get rid of. It turns out what was crashing was an ActiveX control that had something to do with H.264, according to its name. Smooth move, Microsoft. I wonder if that could even be fixed without reinstalling the OS.

Anyhow, I knew that the only way to eliminate this ridiculous problem would be to either use an Explorer replacement (practically anything is better) or just give up saddling myself with the stink of Microsoft's hatred and failure and just move over to Linux again, now knowing that sticking to a 32-bit distro would make life a lot easier.

Now of course, lots of people will point out correctly that Linux has its own shares of hassles, and I'm not going to deny it. There are plenty of pains, problems and utter stupidities in the Linux world, too. But given that most open-source software is developed not by one of the largest, richest and most powerful companies in the world with ten figures of capital and tens of thousands of employees to throw at any problem, but rather by small groups of dedicated people who are interested in making software that works and is useful, as opposed to locking users in a software prison. Also, when you have a weird problem under Linux, you can almost always find the exact solution you need with Google. The software discussion forums and documentation for various Open Source software are almost always 10 times more useful and informative than anything Microsoft provides.

Microsoft's utter arrogance and contempt for users by releasing Vista, after 5 years of development, long before it should have seen the light of day, and then prematurely killing XP, even though there is still a huge demand for it is a primary reason why I don't want to do business with them. Microsoft's biggest competitor for XP for years was Windows 2000, and the biggest competitor for Vista has always been XP. Being true to their monopolistic nature, since they can't, or won't, compete with XP (or anything else) on quality and performance, they will simply kill the competition. Fortunately for them, they don't even need to break the law to do it this time (for a change). Of course, customer demand and satisfaction never enter the equation. Watcha gonna do? Buy a MAC?! HAW HAW HAW! (I would recommend it. Macs are quite good.)

Meanwhile, Windows 7 is being hyped (albeit a lot less hyperbolically than Longhorn-cum-Vista was) and is now set to be released in 2010. Since every advanced feature Vista was supposed to contain was removed before it was released, and the only improvements were more ham-fisted security improvements (basically either disabling things, or making the user responsible for every tiny security decision, not so much to put more control in his hands, but to shift the blame), Vista offers nothing over XP except perhaps minor usability improvements and a bunch of meaningless (and ugly, IMO) eye candy. All this at a massive performance hit. I think the biggest reason for Vista's whole existence is to set the stage for ever more arbitrary and capricious control over what the users can and cannot do with their computers. Microsoft knew Vista was a total boat anchor, but since they have completely given up on competing on features, performance and usability, they have to devote all their energies into locking users in to their vicious cycle of upgrades and further restrict their ability to consider alternatives by their heinous refusal to open their document standards (ironically by releasing said standards which are so hideously and deliberately complex and equivocal that Microsoft themselves cannot implement them correctly or consistently) and interoperating with other systems by rarely implementing any standards without compatibility-breaking "extensions".

Regardless of the quality of Microsoft software, and I've consistently said that XP was overall a decent product, it's getting harder and harder to justify dealing with a company, however tangentially, that has never played fair, and is increasingly being forced, by sheer inertia, to rely exclusively on unfair practices to maintain its very existence.

And besides, Linux is really cool.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Microsoft Just Needs to Die

No, I am not going to write another piece describing the train wreck that is Vista. This is about an experience I had with Internet Explorer. The current pre-release version of Firefox I'm using was giving me trouble on ebay.com, and I had launched Internet Explorer 7 so I could make some adjustments to some bids I've been watching.

Some time later, I wanted to look up codes for my RCA programmable remote because at some point it "forgot" its settings and I needed to program it. I have a PDF copy of the instruction manual, but I needed the list of codes to use with it, so I went to an open browser window, not realizing (or caring) that it was IE rather than Firefox.

I typed "rca rcr860 instructions" into the search query box, and picked the third link on the MSN search results which said "RCA UNIVERSAL REMOTE CODES". The next thing I know, my browser was pointed at "pornotube20008.com" trying (unsuccessfully, thank God) to play videos, and I couldn't even close the window because I was being deluged with message boxes telling me my computer was infected and that "Microsoft" suggests I install some kind of virus protection and that I needed to click to install the software, etc, etc. This was probably all Javascript code trying to get me to let it install botnet software. I literally couldn't make the message boxes go away so I could close the tab. I had to kill the whole browser to get rid of that stuff, and I was half afraid my computer had been compromised. A subsequent virus check showed everything was clean, no thanks to Microsoft.

So this is the vaunted IE7 that I've been hearing so much about. I've been using Firefox since it was called Phoenix, around version 0.4, which was about 4 or 5 years ago. I spend a lot of time browsing and I explore all kinds of interesting stuff, and in all those years I have never seen anything like what I saw doing a simple search and clicking one link on Internet Explorer. I never got hijacked to a porn site, and I never had to kill the browser because some website was abusing it so badly. This is what Microsoft has to show for the last 6 years or so of browser development? I was utterly astonished that anything like that was even possible with IE any more. I would have given Microsoft far more credit than that until reality showed me that in Microsoft-land, it's still 1998. Between Firefox, AdBlock Plus, NoScript and FlashBlock, I had literally forgotten that that kind of garbage could even happen any more.

It is my honest opinion that Microsoft literally has nothing to contribute to the software industry and the Internet as a whole. They are hopelessly behind the curve in software development, and falling further behind daily. They are drowning in their own corruption, far more beholden to maintaining their illicit monopoly through deceit, extortion and any other means, illegal or not, to avoid having to fairly compete in a market they can no longer dominate through quality and superior product... if they ever could.

After seeing a perfectly nice low-end Gateway laptop reduced to the slowest computer I've used in over 20 years (and that counts my floppy-based Amiga 500), because it was shipped with Vista installed, only to perform very reasonably when I "upgraded" it to XP, and seeing my own high end machine take 7 minutes to boot Vista after installing a single Microsoft update... read that again... seven minutes... I'm convinced that Microsoft simply has nothing constructive to offer the world. It was sad to see Explorer, after 13 years is still the buggiest piece of mainstream software on the planet. It was pathetic to get blue screens from a Microsoft OS installed by the OEM on hardware provided by the OEM, something I've never seen with XP. It was utterly insane having to navigate multiple security warnings just to rename an icon on the desktop! The sooner that horrible company and its belligerent, arrogant, chair-throwing President are removed from the world of software the better. I do still run XP on my laptop simply because of the Windows software I want to be able to run (PSP9, Multi-edit, which don't work in WINE, and a few games), but I run Ubuntu on my desktop machine and server, and will probably put Ubuntu back on my lappy as well just to be rid of the stench of failure on my hardware and in my life. Linux is not without its problems, but comparing Linux to Windows is like comparing Google, the company, with the old Soviet government.

I look forward to the day that the talent and skill of the engineers at Microsoft can be freed from the shackles of their destructively dysfunctional management and can begin to contribute to society again. Microsoft is falling further behind Open Source Software and Apple with every passing day, and the sooner we can shovel that corpulent, putrescent carcass off of the beach of the Ocean of Innovation, the better technology in our lives will be.

They say that you should never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by incompetence, and I had always exercised that maxim in my judgement of Microsoft, after all they have done some things pretty well over the years. However, I no longer find that incompetence adequately explains the state of Microsoft's software. What I see in 2008 can only be explained by malice.

p.s. That garbage link did not show up on the first several pages of a Google search for the exact same terms. It seems MSN search is as horrible and useless as Internet Explorer.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Happy Birthday, Miss QT

Happy Birthday, Miss QT, wherever you are.

Love, Spectral Visionary

For those of you who don't know, which would be everyone in the world minus 2, Miss QT was a college friend of mine whom I'd met because she called herself "Miss QT" on her Vax account at Virginia Tech. Most people used their real names, of course, but some of us used different names. It turns out she chose that name so her printouts would be put in the "Q" bin, which was otherwise empty, instead of the "L" bin, which was always stuffed with printouts. I was originally "Spectral Visionary" and used a couple of other names, but eventually settled on "Concept Junkie", a name that I can't take the credit for making up, but have been using for over 20 years now.

Dear Fat Fingers,

Here's to sine waves in the snow and Hawaiian pizza, watching the Lipizzaners but missing "Brazil".

Modron B Prime

Anyhow, the story goes that I IM'ed Miss QT (using VMS send, the 1980's equivalent of IM) and asked "G, R U really a QT?". I wish I had her exact response, because it was a classic, but it was something to the effect of, "If I said no, you'd think I was being too modest, and if I said yes, you'd think I was full of myself."

Eventually we met in person in class in Norris 236 and we became good friends. Anyhow, I've kept up with some of my college friends, but I've lost track of Miss QT. When we lived in Alexandria, she lived nearby and we visited several times, and she even became friends with my darling Provazolezec, but eventually her husband's career in the Navy took them to far off places. I always remembered that her birthday was exactly 3 weeks before mine.

Do you remember when I tricked you into thinking I was shutting down the Vax?

I'd found a script that mimicked the Vax shutdown sequence, so wrote a wrapper around it that I could use to pretend I was logging on as an admin and shutting down the computer, which if it were real, would have shut out dozens of people from doing their work. Miss QT was quite panicked when she fell for my little joke and I imagine the other folks in the lab were looking at us wondering what was going on.

Akiro would love to wish Eigen a Happy Birthday and many returns, and will celebrate by listening to music with many whining guitars.

p.s. Blind Bill says "Hi!"

Sunday, January 06, 2008


Sometimes an Internet meme rolls around that is silly, pointless and even stupid, but I still think it's neat. These days it's LOLcats. There are a number of disparate influences behind this phenomenon, but it amounts to this: Captioning pictures of cats in a childish, misspelled style, often about the acquisition of "cheezbrgrs".

The canonical example is a very cute kitten that looks very sad with the caption, "I made you a cookie... but I eated it." This fad has become big enough to merit mentions in "legitimate" media, and has now reached the logical zenith of all such fads.

I don't know why these amuse me, but they do. Here are a couple I contributed on a site with tons of amusing examples:

funny pictures

funny pictures

And of course, it's not limited to cats:

funny pictures

In fact, there's a whole sub-meme about walruses and buckets. It's a strange world. Go figure.

And yes, I looked it up later and now realize a skink is actually a kind of lizard.