Wednesday, December 31, 2008

HARDWARE: The New/Updated Computer Part 1

This was actually supposed to be published Christmas Day as a sort of gift to the two or three readers who do read this blog. Like a lot of other things lately, I didn't do it right. So this is a two-post day at this blog and will serve as a parting gift for 2008. I am going to be back in 2009. I finally quit the insane attempt to have a major re-write done in six months of my main (2 million lines plus) application and now am targeting a more reasonable late winter target date. That, hopefully, takes the pressure off and lets me rant and rave here a little bit.

Naturally, this entry will be a little bit long, so I have broken it up into two parts. The first part is the Hardware entry you are reading now. What follows a little (or a lot) lower is the huge software part of what goes into setting up a good Windows system on a minimum of dollars. In fact, I'm only going to recommend a pair of for-pay programs!

Before going down the hardware path of your choosing, make sure you download the latest versions of the software listed in the software section and have them available on disks, drives or memory sticks to install on your new/updated system. Do that now, while you are thinking about it. Then come back here.

Done? Now onto this entry, which is, sort of, all about the hardware.

IF you are simply upgrading your system or doing a spring/fall overhaul, you should absolutely start the process by doing two things. BACK UP YOUR SYSTEM! And then, back up your drivers. And if you have any doubts, do it again, with different kinds of software or storage medium. I cannot emphasize just how important backups are for the inevitable little disasters that changing hardware seems to entail. I've been down to my fourth level of backup twice this year. Paranoia is your friend.

On the other hand, you MIGHT be buying an all new computer. You'll still need those backups to move data over from the old system, so even new hardware doesn't offer you avoidance of the need for a backup.

IF you buy a new system, it's likely that it will come with some flavour of Vista. There ARE versions of Vista Pro that are not horrible on name-brand equipment that Vista has been specifically attuned to. Any version of Home Vista is bad. Any non-brand name software will likely be a nightmare of mismatched drivers. And Vista is just generally a gigantic pain in the posterior to run on the best of its days. And today, tomorrow and any date in the near future qualifies as not being one of those days. Get your hands on a copy of XP Professional. Smilin' Steve Ballmer and the profit-happy folks at Microsoft will happily sell you a copy of XP along with that copy of Vista (Fully one-third of all new Vista purchases are accompanied by a copy of XP, to 'upgrade' the system back to XP. Steve's smiles are all about soaking the customer for twice the operating system price to get one workable system). Otherwise, finding a copy of XP might be a tad difficult. Have an expert friend do the looking, if you don't have a legal copy lying around.

Now here's the extra trick that my following free software suggestions will allow you to indulge in. Unless you know what you are doing, get that same local expert friend to set up Windows for you, as per instructions you'll provide from what's detailed below. (Expert friends can be plied with liquor, food or even a smile to do it cheaper for you than The Geek Squad or somesuch organization).

Buy as much system as you can, either as a new purchase or when upgrading. Get two gigs of memory, preferably three. Best bang for your hardware buck you can buy. Hard drives ceased being small years ago. You are talking about 500 gigs to 640 gigs being somewhat standard. A terabyte (megs, gigs, .... tees?) is certainly within the realm of reason. What you are going to do with the machine dictates quality of video and sound. Games players will max out there, business people needing a glorified typewriter and web-browser can spare the change. Get a good 20+ inch LCD monitor. Keyboard and mouse/trackball are personal preference items. Get a rewriteable DVD drive of some quality. Get a router to connect to the internet through the cable modem or (shudder) telephone modem. It's a great layer of protection and lets you hook in your other computers. And lastly, for a hundred bucks you can get a 500-gig external hard drive for backing up. And don't forget 20 bucks or so to get a thumbdrive aka memory stick. They are the new floppies.

Patrick makes my computers and always gives me the box the motherboard came in as a one-stop repository of everything needed to actually set up the computer. There's a few extra left-over cables and assorted nuts and screws. Plenty of manuals. AND EVERY DISK POSSIBLY CONNECTED to the computer. At least a copy of. And this box does NOT get stored down in the pantry in that space around the corner from where the drawer opens up. The place bits and pieces of Jimmy Hoffa might be buried in because nobody ever, ever looks in there. No, the box has to have as prominent position in your computer 'office' as say the ashes of a loved one in some ugly urn does. When needed, it's needed bad. You might not get a motherboard box to serve the purpose, but you'll have to find an alternative. The keyboard box, long and awkward as all get out, can serve in a pinch. But there HAS to be a box of solutions handy.

When starting up a system, I set it up so that the Windows partition remains as free of installed programs as I can make it. I don't succeed completely, but it's a work in progress. Windows gets installed on C: and the size of the partition is obviously dependent on the size of your local hard drive. For me, storage ceased to be a real determining factor a few years back. So, assuming size is no object, alot between 35 and 50 Gigs for C:. The rest goes into logical drive D:. (There are reasons for making more than one partition in the 'all the rest' area, but you'll know if you need to do that better than I.

The idea is then to subsequently install everything into \APPS residing on Drive D:. That means choosing custom in every install and choosing to change the default install to D:\APPS\WHATEVER. There will be, however, times where you get no say. It's rude and crude, but true. Some programmers think they know better. (By the way, all of my commercial apps get their own install folders ON drive C:, but that only goes to show you, you should beware over-bearing programmers and their install routines!)

Why do I set up this multi-partition scheme during the install phase? C: drives tend to get mulched in a variety of ways. Sometimes, a key file is over top of a bad spot on the hard drive. Sometimes, files get deleted accidentally. And sometimes nasty software turns the computer unbootable. By having a small, easily backed up partition, you WILL make backups. And solving the issues outlined earlier in this paragraph, restoring a backup makes all kinds of hand-wringing attempts to recover from disaster a minor inconvenience. Plus, you don't have to re-install all of your programs and reset their settings. I can back up C: on my computer inside of 20 minutes. Restore is just as quick. And I sleep easily at night.

Need more? By controlling where programs are installed, you deny bad virus writers automatic access to your software to infect. Not that you want to get a virus, but if a new one is out and about and lands on your drive, it's going to get lonely looking for stuff on C: to infect. If you let your temp folders run amok, it's nice having ALL of that empty space on C: to fill. Nothing like trying to write a DVD and then finding out you don't have the space for the temp files it needs to create the disk image. Mind you, you WILL be doing something about those temp files. For that, see the software entry on Crap Cleaner.

Lastly, if there is a lot of crapware installed on your system, spend a few minutes UNINSTALLING most of it. Especially the short trial anti-virus that comes with most systems. Only now are you ready for the install process to actually start.

SOFTWARE: The New/Updated Computer Part 2

There is an order to my madness. Each of the steps I follow below helps build towards the system I want to use. I try to time the steps to provide security as I need it, but functionality is the mantra all the way

The first thing I do is install a better, smarter file manager than Windows Explorer. My preference continues to be the kissin' cousins Powerdesk and ExplorerPlus. Currently, I prefer the ExplorerPlus incarnation of the version 6.x of each product. You MIGHT be able to buy it at FindMysoft, but the last publisher of the program I am aware of, Novotix, no longer deals with the program. PowerDesk, however is out with a version 7 and it's the only one that will work comfortably with Vista, if you should be so incredibly unfortunate as to have to work with that operating system. The problem with either of Powerdesk or ExplorerPlus is that they cost money. If you are looking for a free alternative, I recommend Ultra Explorer. In addition to the more refined window interface that the listed alternatives possess, I also recommend adding Q-Dir, which looks like an old-fashioned DOS file manager. It's lean and quick and if you are going to be mostly moving files about, rather than looking and working with them, than Q-Dir does its job very well. Finally, I add 7-Zip to make sure all my programs, even Windows Explorer, are well-equipped to handle most of the compressed files they might run across. It's so much easier to use than perpetually answering that WinZip nag screen (hint, hint).

A great little tweak out there is to list all drives with their letters first. Trust me, as you accumulate local, logical, network and USB drives, having those letters first is a godsend. Here's a reg file you can save and then merge with your registry to acheive the letteer-first appearance. By the way, this, and many others tweaks, can be found at:

Next up, you have to protect yourself against the incipient creeps that stalk the internet and might have infected files on your system. Ergo, we install the ZoneAlarm firewall, Avast! anti-virus, Crap Cleaner and then Spyware Blaster and Spybot-Search and Destroy to form the basis of our shield. Yes, Vista has things in it that does part of the same jobs as these programs. No, Vista's protection is not an answer, being awkward to use and too tempting to turn off to remake the user experience bearable. ZoneAlarm in its version 8 has gotten around most of the issues that forced me to abandon it recently. Avast has succeeded AVG by staying within itself and remaining an anti-virus program rather than a do-it-all wannabe. Crap Cleaner cleans out the garbage and regular running against the registry will reduce bloat and slowing down. And the latter two programs, when combined, actually do a fairly good job of preventing the worst and most persistent of the scumware. NOTE: All of these programs are free for home use, as will be most of the rest of the utilities described below. And no, they are NOT as good as the best of the commercial utilities. But they will do 97 per cent of what you need them to do.

By the way, now that you have active on-going protection installed, make sure none of Windows' native versions are getting in the way. Deactivate them through Control Panel. After that, schedule a weekly run through the programs to check the computer for something that might have gotten through before the latest updates.

I then install pdfRedirect and make that PDF print-to-file printer my default printer. The reason I do this is simple. Occasionally, I get tired and hit the print button in some program that just starts shooting out paper like I'm made of money. It's a lot easier to occasionally have to change the target printer, than run out of paper. Murphy's Law means you'd run out of paper on Sunday, with a report due first thing Monday. This is a fact. And, since we need a PDF reader, I install Foxit Reader, which is leaner and quicker than the defacto standard, Adobe Reader. Adobe's made good strides with v9 of their free reader and it wouldn't hurt to install both. But make Foxit your default reader.

Next, I install Gadwin PrintScreen, which controls saving areas of the screen to the clipboard, a file or the printer (or all three at the same time!). Lately, I have been adding FastStone Capture 5.3 (later versions are NOT free for home use. Googling the file will take you to a place like Software Informer that will let you download the last free version.), in order to do some modification of the screen captures. I set Gadwin to use the PrintScreen key, FastStone to use Ctrl-PrintScreen. That should be easy to remember.

I follow up the print screen programs with two more items for the systray in the lower right. I want to know what the temperature of my computer is, to better anticipate problems like a fan stopping, stopping my computer. By installing SpeedFan, I can monitor the regular temperature of the computer, even if I'm sitting a few feet away. If you notice the temperature has zoomed 10-15 degrees since you started up, you don't have to wait for inconsistent results to start occurring on your computer. You will KNOW something is up that requires immediate attention. Usually, it's a failed fan. Trust me on this one, it's better to be informed than deal after the fact. I also take this moment to install TClockEx that puts a date, calendar AND the time down in my clock area. Saves having to have some space and resources-hogging widget on my desktop to tell me the date and time. I used to include the memory used counter in TClockEx, but having 4 gigs of the stuff in my computer now sort of makes that number irrelevant. By the way, the string I use for TClockEx in the settings dialog is " ddd d MMM yy '<=>' h:mm:ss tt ". Note the leading and trailing spaces.

Not being a hardware tech, I find the easiest way to get a decent set of info about the innards of the computer is to run BGinfo from the Systernals Suite of programs. This creates a desktop picture that has all the info I usually need quickly, when talking to Patrick, my hardware guy, over the phone. I then use Gadwin print Screen to save the information to a picture file. Easy! Setting up BGInfo to run every time you start your computer and update your desktop is quite easy. NOTE: I use plain backgrounds, which save on resources and make reading icon titles REAL, REAL, REALLY EASY! Those of you who insist on ornate picture backgrounds and go blind hunting for the shortcut they need on the desktop, can use BGInfo as the excuse to stop the madness!!

TweakUI XP is the last of these free utilities that good guys from the Microsoft employee pool donated to the public through its PowerToys program. Going through the settings in TweakUI lets you set a fair bit of stuff that you'd be required to hunt and change in a dozen places otherwise. Not the least of which is auto logon, if you are going to be the only user of the computer you are on, and don't fear housemates dabbling on your computer in your absence.

We're getting down to the finer details of the install. The Same Systernals Suite also boasts Process Explorer, AutoRuns and Rootkit Revealer. All get added to my desktop for those times when you have to look deeper at what's going on behind the scenes of your computer. I pair AutoRuns with the easier-to-use Startup Control Panel by Mike Lin. The internal tools are almost completed with the hard-to-find TaskMan+ (Google it. I found a downloadable version are Wareseeker), a replacement with slightly better petigree than Microsoft's Task Manager. Mind you, if you think Task Manager will kill all the recalcitrant programs, you are wrong. So, make sure you add Unlocker, which saves opening and closing your file manager to delete the occasionally locked file.

, from the greatest name of any website ever ( is a utility that eliminates the archaic CapsLock key from causing havoc. I know some data entry people keep CapsLock turned on, all the time. I'm doing my best to have them all fired. Data and text is hard to READ WHEN EVERYTHING IS IN CAPS. THAT'S THE TRUTH!!! Getting rid of the Capslock key would be one of the signs computers are becoming more useable again.

Stickies is a computerized on-screen version of 3M notes. And by on-screen, I mean pixels, NOT gummy-residue leaving real life stickies. Once you get used to using them, you'll save a bundle not buying bundles of the real-life Stick-it Notes. You can find more organized, better programs than Stickies, but it's a great free starting point. Of course, if a little text editing and saving is really in order, there's no reason not to get a better notepad to do the work. Current preferred superior? MetaPad.

So, we can look at compressed files, PDFs and text files. Pictures? Irfanview is the program of choice. Easy to use and to print from, it also does basic manipulation. If the picture is moving or the file is making sound, then by all means be sure to have KLite Mega Codec installed, with its outstanding Windows Media Player Classic as the viewer/listener. Waaaaay better than that creepy spying Windows Media Player installed on your computer. It doesn't come with the psychadelic lava lamp while the music is playing, but I bet you won't miss it. As a fallback, VLC is a solid lightweight bet to play any files MPC balks at.

Recuva is a file recovery utility from the same folks as Crap Cleaner and it gives you added chances at getting things back that the recycle bin seems to have recycled. It won't work all of the time. But short of hiring the guys the military hires to go spelunking on supposedly erased disks, this is your best shot.

Everybody needs a good password program to store all the passwords into one safe place hidden by one password. I like Password Safe. Easy to use, very secure and can be moved from one computer to the next. It will suggest passwords and the ones it suggests are REAL GOOD PASSWORDS.

Of course you are making backups. I think Drive Snapshot's the best actual backup program out there, but it costs money. Not much money and WAAAAAAY worth the money, but it's not free. Having tried it, I see no reason NOT to spend the money. End of discussion. For internal backups that you can set and forget, you can't go wrong with Karen's Replicator. I use it here nightly to make various backups and it's saved my bacon as recently as three months ago when I managed to foul up three backups, but had a fourth waiting and lowering my blood pressure. Recommended very hightly. And while you're backing up, consider doing a regular defragment of your hard-drive. I waffle between jkDefrag and 10Bit Smart Defrag, both of which are very nice for this purpose.

Moving onto accessing the internet (finally), install Firefox, rather than use that security sinkhole Internet Explorer. Add in the NoScript add-on for Firefox, and you're as protected as you're going to be in the morass that is the internet these days. For email, I use Firefox's companion program Thunderbird. I used to prefer Eudora because of Eudora's separation of email and attachments. That was preferable when the default action of anti-virus programs was to delete the whole inbox when dealing with Thunderbird or horribly insecure Outlook and its variants. Now Thunderbird has the same capabilities. Get the Lightning add-in for Thunderbird and there's nothing Outlook and the ilk have to offer but headaches and security issues. For dealing with people who insist on sending you Outlook emails infested with winmail.dat files, you can use Bruno Marotta's Winmail Reader. The .dat format is Microsoft's proprietary compressed file format for attachments. It's a default setting and one you should ask Outlook-using friends (a question ... should friends let friends USE Outlook?) to change.

One last backup program. MozBackup will backup Firefox, Thunderbird and Lightning and that's a good thing.

Grab a copy of Crossloop to let your expert friend take over your machine remotely when the need arrives. It's ultra-secure, incredibly easy to set up and run, and means you can have help immediately, without forcing your friend to get dressed and come over to where you are.

Finally, I then do the Autopatcher download routine. You unzip the file you just downloaded, which creates APup and later, Autopatcher. First, you run APUP to get all the updates downloaded from Microsoft and elsewhere TO your local drive. Then run Autopatcher itself to make all the updates and changes. Autopatcher will, by default, get what you NEED updated, and leave the rest of the stuff (Windows Media Player 11 anyone?) off your computer. Run APUP/Autopatcher once a month, usually on the weekend after Microsoft's Update Tuesday, which is the second one every month. And YES, this means I don't run Windows Update. No telling when it might just decide it doesn't like my local machine's setup, after I changed a hard drive or two. Not worth the hassle to let them hassle me with that Genuine Disadvantage program.

The computer still needs stuff like Open Office, games and other necessities of computer life. But it's a good starting point. And any good starting point needs saving. Hook up the external drive, run Drive Snapshot and tell it to backup the C: AND D: onto the external drive. Will take you about a half-hour on average. When it's finished, THAT'S when you can start adding the fun and frivolity stuff to the computer.

There you have it, a computer devoid of wasted dollars on software, ready for whatever productivity, fun or games software you ARE going to pay for and throw at it.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

MISC: The Time of Giving and Receiving is Upon Us

I got my first Christmas gifts today. And, while technically I handed out presents to my parents weeks ago, I couldn't let them arrive, drop off gaily-wrapped bags and then depart. Soooo, they got my hand-made cards inside of a big ho-ho-ho box, the cards having gas cards to pay for the fuel that brought them to my door. And then back to theirs.

Luckily, the tree was up and decorated last weekend, as my child labour force came through with their usual great job. The mob, which has gained and lost several members over the years, was (left to right) A.J., Angela and her friend Megan this year. We started the day off by getting the yearly ornaments for each of them. Must say Megan stepped up in her first year at the Tree-Raising Ceremony with the best of the bunch. Lunch and a movie followed, as I paid for the hard work they were about to indulge in. Then, artifical tree assembled, the ornaments from each past year were hauled out and placed on the tree, year by year, youngest to oldest. Hand-made ornaments, long bright stringy things (no lights) and tinsel were all added. At the conclusion, I placed the angel atop the tree, my one contribution to the effort.

It only took five tries to get the angel in place, which is close to my best effort ever. And it's certainly better than 2006 when I fell off a chair and came close to braining myself on the corner of a wall. Broke the chair, lost the button on my pants and vowed to find a different way to get the angel up on top. I'll leave it your imagination how a 5-8 guy with short arms gets an angel up on top of a 7-foot tree, but I do.

An ominous sign for the future was the difficulty Angela had extricating herself from the back of the tree. My way of thinking is that we decorate the parts of the tree people INSIDE the house can see. The back NEVER gets exposed. But Angela is phobic about leaving the branches on the back unexpanded. She gets back there and makes it look as beautiful as it can be. In the past, she was small enough to drop to the floor and crawl out under the tree's lowest branches. She's a growing girl and found trying to tango around the tree, rather than underneath, was her only option. I'm betting next year she has to give in and let the back of the tree stay all folded up.

This year, from whatever vantage point, the tree looked fantastic as usual.

I often joke that the work the kids put into the tree is slave labour, but they're the ones that keep deciding to raise the tree each year. I've been more than willing to settle into my Scrooge dotage and let the time pass. But the kids, often prevented from working on their own trees at home, seem to delight in setting up their own artistic vision here, free from worry about spoiling their parents' artistic visions. I'm sure their parents would let them do it now, since they've become 'responsible' teenagers. But I get credit for letting pre-teens go wild back in the day. So they work on MY tree exclusively.

Normally, I wait until about a week before the big day before getting the tree up. But circumstances being what they were, I had a tough time finding a hole in the kids' busy social calendar. As a result, the tree's going to be up for the better part of a month and a half. It's usually late January before I find the next hole in their schedule to take it down. Well, that's wrong. I don't even put in the tree-topping effort on the way down. It's ALL the kids, all the way for that one.

Now that it's up and looking pretty, the only complaint I have about having a tree in the living room is it's looming presence in the dark. Once a year (this past Wednesday, for those of you keeping track), I stumble down the stairs in the dark for a late night snack or just to get the paper out of the door. I know the shadows of my house inside and out. But sometimes, I forget we just changed those shadows and I'll have a little conniption when I quickly glance to my left and see a large blob of shadowy blackness. The quick realization of the fright's cause never sits well.

Being afraid of shadows is NOT a good thing when you live alone.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

SPORTS: Bosh Bashin' ... It's Catching On

My old email-pard, Frank Cook, is going to get an eyeful of Toronto troubles when his Indiana Pacers come to town to tangle with the Raptors in what has to be a totally unpredictable contest.

The reason it's NOT predictable is because currently Chris Bosh is slumping ... and taking the playoff aspirant Raptors with him. Without Bosh playing at near MVP-levels, as he did the first month of the season, the paper-thin local NBA squad is possibly not even the favourite in tonight's heralded Return of the Little Engine ... and Rasho.

A month ago, this game would have strictly been novelty value. How badly will TJ Ford get booed. How madly with Rasho Nesterovic cheered. The game would be a foregone conclusion. Bosh was as bad a beast as there was in the East. The ex-Pacer, Jermaine O'Neal was rounding into his old bad-ass self. Five straight double-doubles, if few finishes. He was maybe another month from turning in 40-minute efforts, instead of flagging in crunch time. There was the niggling off-on performance schedule of Andrea Bargnani, but being at home and on an even game, the stars foretold of a good game. Yep, it was going to be all about squelching Ford and saying good-bye.

But an unfunny thing happened on the way to tonight's game. O'Neal got hurt, followed by the most dreaded gut blow the Raptors could take, an injury to Jose Calderon, the anti-Ford. Both were back quickly. Too quickly. And neither came back at anything like the levels they WERE playing at or COULD play. And that cost Sam Mitchell his job. In the absence of two thirds of the team's talent triangle, the rest of the squad rallied with all the enthusiasm of Fred Weiss watching Vince Carter approach for take-off. Not the most skilled coach in terms of strategy, Mitchell had always had player's effort as his sop to the deficiency. They quit. He got fired. Turns out, they are still looking like quitters three games into Jay Triano's tenure as head man. An agonizing loss to Portland is the only saving grace from a five-game streak where the rest of the losses were all hammer jobs.

And the truth of the matter might be that the man taking the air out of the room might very well be Chris Bosh. Bosh has been ... ordinary and less-than-ordinary throughout December. It's been suggested he might be battling some ailment or maybe the flu. But for two weeks, the man who soldiered on even in the absence of O'Neal and Calderon, has been absent. He's decided he's become a three-point shooting star (he's not). He's played a LOT of Ole defence and his double-doubles of late have been of the cheapest variety possible. He's shown intolerance for the inadequacies of his teammates, recalling the worst days of the West Coast Smirk. In general, he's playing a lot like the way the last Toronto superstar did on his way to the Jersey shore.

Nerves rubbed raw by the jobbing Toronto fans took at the hands of Vince Carter, there's a muttering minority who want to deal Bosh before he demands a trade, or walks 18 months hence on his own. They claim to have seen this act before and they don't like it. They don't like that Bargnani, seemingly ascendent as a defender AND as an offensive weapon just three weeks ago, has followed his leader into the mire of ineffectiveness. They wonder if Mitchell might have been an innocent bystander of Bosh's problems, rather than the presumed cause of it. Worst of all, they don't like that the Toronto team they banked on to overcome the Maple Leaf woes in town, was getting tonged worst that the previously advertised as hopeless puck squad.

To them I say, "Chill out!"

Methinks the Pacers and the ex content will be a tonic for Toronto's troubles. A single win won't solve everything, but I got the feeling it will be the start of emerging from a string of games the Raptors, even a playoff ready team, would have had trouble winning much more than a game or two anyways. The trick is to stop the momentum of the slide. And I think Indiana will provide that very thing.

Bosh has publicly supported Triano but you have to believe he was hurting for his bud, Sam. The brain cramps regularly on display by the likes of Jamario Moon, Will Solomon and ... let's face it ... the grumbly O'Neal, surely must have gotten to him. O'Neal has expected superstar treatment from the refs and hasn't gotten it. He's glowered and glared to not much good effect. He's been pretty much of a black hole with less than stellar results. And the, "I'll be back to my old ways in a month or two," has passed from promising to historically inacurrate. So, Bosh has some issues with teammates and all.

And I don't think he's healthy. He's being outjumped AND occasionally beaten down the floor by folks who have no business racing him. He's NOT ready to lead the league in minutes played. He's tough and wiry and all. But he's wearing down now, after less than two months, because he followed up a busy summer by playing too much under Mitchell's win-now or I might get fired game plan. Prescient that. (Any surprise the other early season minutes-played leader, Stephen Jackson of Golden State, is now out with a long-term injury?)

But the difference between Bosh and Carter is that he has a spine and a heart. Although, it's not as big a heart or as stiff a spine as James, Bryant or Garnett's. He's NOT looking for a way out. Sitting out the fourth quarter (and a fair bit of the third) last night will have Bosh in a foul mood for tonight's contest. That should be bad for Ford et al.

I could be wrong, but I think it's time to quit the Bosh Bashin' and climb back on the bandwagon with those of us who treasure the Texan's sublime talents. Besides, I'll be too busy booing Ford to have anything left for heaping on Bosh.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

COMPUTERS: Sometimes, Idiot I Am

The big switch from Nuklon to Popeye as the main programming computer happens today, (that would be Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2008 for those reading sometime NOT Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2008). It's happening in the middle of the biggest sustained programming work I've had in years. Doing so is certifiably insane. Which makes me wonder ...


Leaving aside the decision to switch computers mid-to-late project, there's the date I 'picked.' The second Tuesday of the month. Better known on the internet as SLOW COMPUTING DAY. Also AKA Microsoft Patch Tuesday.

I wanted to do one last system update for both Popeye and Nuklon before swapping. I don't use the Microsoft software for doing this. I prefer the external Autopatcher process from I trust the fine folks at Autopatcher to protect me from downloading Microsoft updates that aren't really in my best interest to update. (Windows Media Player 11 comes to mind). However, running APUP.exe tonight was a lesson in futility. No wonder. EVERYBODY east of the International Date Line are logged into Microsoft this very moment, downloading whatever 'gifts' Microsoft has to offer. And they are taking up a LOT of bandwidth.

This must be the world wide web equivalent of the Don Valley Parkway or Santa Monica Freeway at rush hour. Getting nowhere fast.

Sooooo, I thought I'd log into Codegear (makers of my preferred programming language, Delphi), and see if I could download any of the seminar videos from last week's CodeRage III Conference, the one I wanted to go to about ten sessions and wound up seeing two and a half. Of course, a LOT of other programmers, especially in Europe, didn't see any. So they are all logged in right this moment downloading ALL the seminar videos. Trying to sneak in now and get the half-dozen I want, forces me to ask myself a question.

Am I an IDIOT?!?!?!

Okay, so no updates and no videos. I can clean up a little to make transitioning from one computer to other a little easier for my tech guy, Patrick. Since the normal mode here is piles-a-plenty, certain to make Patrick piqued, this is actually productive work. What ISN'T productive, is the decision to switch keyboards on Nuklon, just as it's moving off to the document computer position. I make the switch with minimal effort. That's a lie. There's lots of effort, since the keyboard connector has to go through two (technically three) adapters before being plugged into the computer. When I reboot the computer, of COURSE the new keyboard doesn't work. Which makes me wonder anew?

How BIG of an IDIOT am I?!?!?

What's that you say? "Check the connectors." First thing I did, thank you very much. Well, except for the one connector connecting my whole Rube Goldberg adapter contraption TO the computer. Got pulled out when I was pulling cables through holes. AAAAARGH!!!!

It's apparent that tonight is a total waste of time for me. So I'm turning in early, turning out the lights and hope today will get better. Of such things is hope built on. But I'm fooling myself. The car's going in for repair. The recycling bins put out Sunday await my decision to brave the snow to get them back inside. There's more snow coming, JUST because I need to leave the cave.

Get the feeling that just getting out of bed in five or six hours will the final proof that an idiot, I am?

I do.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

MISC: Are YOU Confused?

You voted Conservative in the election and your party ended up with more seats in the House of Commons than any other. As far as you are concerned, the Conservatives won and the Liberals et al just have to suck it up. But now, the dastardly left has united and is on the precipice of booting the Conservatives out of power, just because Stephen Harper wanted to exercise his political muscle a bit and move Canada further towards a one-party state.

Do YOU think this is undemocratic? Do you think the people of Canada voted Stephen Harper in as Prime Minister and most certainly voted against Stephane Dion as the PM?

Are you a #$@*&#^$# MORON?

The majority of Canadian representatives elected did NOT, and would not, want Stephen Harper to be Prime Minister. The DEMOCRATIC principle would be for the MAJORITY of representatives of the citizens of Canada to name the prime minister of their choice. And that happens, apparently, to be Dion. Apparently, the political parties of Canada prefer not to be marginalized (or even to be strangled financially into oblivion) by a theocrat WITHOUT the support of the majority of Canada. Imagine that. Rather than let Canada be turned into a one-party state, they got together to stop the would-be emperor before his plan could become reality.

Harper called an election that is still not clearly to have been legal. He cheated beforehand, running ads that skated around the law that limits in-campaign advertising. HE knew he wasn't going to obey the law HE came up with to prevent just such snap elections during predatory times. Then, like the American Idol he worships, he took his lack of a consensus and started to rule like he had a super-majority. First step, stomp out the Greens and make life REAL difficult for the squabbling Liberals and down-on-unionized luck New Democrats.

But, like in so many other areas, Harper misguessed the level of opposition. Instead of stamping them out, he dug out their backbones. Of such mistakes are history books written. With that single act of pure avarice and power-grabbing, Harper will have written his own epitaph. Couldn't happen to a better would-be tyrant.

As for this being undemocratic, only idiots imagine majority votes being not so. As for the coalition subverting the will of the Canadian public, it's a fatuous statement by desperate hacks clinging to the power they never had.

Minority governments work due to discourse and consensus. Harper got used to forcing that consensus and assumed the public thrashing Dion took would allow him even more leeway. So, rather than even attempt dialog, he preemptorily ordered further one-sided law-making. Let them eat crap! But kick a dog long enough and they bite back. Hard.

The MAJORITY of the elected representatives of the people conducted their discourse and came to a consensus. OUT with Harper and let that be a lesson to any that might follow in his steps.

Is this good for Canada? I have no idea. I did vote for one of the parties in the coalition. My representative is in the coalition. And I like the ideas already put forth by the coalition WAAAAAY better than the ideas thus far espoused by Harper and his lackeys. Will they work better in these troubled times? I can't tell. But I believe they have a better chance.

A better plan. The ouster of a martinet. A lesson to future generations of politicians. There's a LOT to like about a coalition government returning the rule to the majority of Canada.

Hope that clears up the confusion, you members of the minority Conversative party.