May 10, 2006

What he said

I've shied away from posting about the whole Minutemen/Mexico bruhaha because others have covered in great detail. However, I couldn't resist posting Neal Boortz's take on it:

There were reports yesterday that our government is telling the Mexican government where the Minutemen are gathering to monitor illegal crossings of our border. Our government denies it. So .. whom to believe?

OK .. a little cogitation here.

The charge made by reporter Sara Carter is that the U.S. Border Patrol is telling the Mexican government where the Minutemen are staging their vigils. The Border Patrol says it isn't so.

Now you tell me ... what branch of our government oversees the U.S. Border Patrol? Now remember, there are only four branches of the government in Washington. Can you name them? Well ... if you're fresh from your experience at government education, probably not. But they are the Executive Branch, the Legislative Branch, the Judicial Branch and the Lobbyist Branch. Now, of these four branches, which is the only branch that has shown no inclination to do anything about the thousands of invaders who are crashing our border with Mexico? Well, actually there are two. It's not the Legislative Branch. Both houses of Congress are currently discussing proposals to shut down the borders. It's not the Judicial Branch. They merely interpret and enforce the laws set forth by the other branches. What does that leave? The Lobbyist Branch and the Executive Branch. The Lobbyist Branch is busy working for those businesses in this country who benefit from the Mexican invasion. The problem is, the Lobbyist Branch has no operational control over the Border Patrol. That leaves the Executive Branch. Clearly George Bush, who runs the Executive Branch, has shown absolutely no inclination whatsoever to take even the smallest step to stop this massive invasion of the American homeland, and it's George Bush who exercises the executive control over the policies and activities of the Border Patrol. So ... what do you think? Here we have a president with no interest in stopping the invasion, and we have a Border Patrol under his control that is reported to be handing information to the Mexican government regarding the locations of the Minutemen operations? Draw your own conclusions.

The next question is why? Why would our government tell the Mexican government where the Minutemen are? Well, we know that the Mexican government is complicit in the invasion. Mexicans are openly encouraged by the Mexican government to cross the border into the US so that they can get higher-paying jobs and send money back to Mexico. Right now that money totals about $20 billion a year. Now if the Mexican government knew just where the Minutemen were, they could either hold back the invaders in those areas, or send them to areas where the Minutemen aren't. Simply put -- if we have people in our own government who are giving the enemy the locations of our border defense forces, there could only be one reason --- to enable the invasion.

Unless it can be proven that GWB had no knowledge about, and did not grant approval for, this crap, it's time to start impeachment proceedings.

I guess that it's a sign of the End Times when I'm in agreement with the Kosmonauts. It's the whole broken, fucked up, asshat clock thing.

Update: John Derbyshire puts it rather succinctly:

This thing about our govt. colluding with Narcistan — sorry, I mean Mexico — to keep the flow of illegal immigrants coming, is the last straw. Either our govt. is criminally incompetent, or else it is maliciously hostile to ordinary American citizens. Or both.

I kept my mouth pretty well shut when the splendid whack-'em'upside-the-head assault on Iraq turned into a ludicrous and apologetic "nation-building" exercise. I bellyached in a restrained fashion at the Harriet Miers farce. I kept my grumbling over Medicaid, the budget bloat, and border security at a decently low volume. This one, though, I can't take.

I can't think of a single thing to say in favor of the national Republican party, its senators, representatives, governors, and administration. I can't think of a single reason why, right now, I should vote for any of them.

I could never vote for the liberal mob; but if a conservative third party comes up between now and 2008, they'll have my full attention — likely my money and my vote, too. We are on the last page of Animal Farm here; I can no longer tell the men from the pigs.

Oink, oink baby.

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May 09, 2006

Moving on to a new OS

I mentioned in the past that moving from Windows to Linux needn't be so painful. However, I'll admit to having been pretty sketchy when it comes to details. Doug Roberts goes where I haven't in this article. Excerpt:

With the hype around Windows Vista about to reach ear piercing decibel levels when Beta2 is released for testing and evaluation, discerning computer users will no doubt be evaluating what upgrade path they want to take from Windows XP.

XP has been a fairly good ride, and a long one. Make that a very long one. In many respects, this powerful general purpose OS has served its time reasonably well, although some would say it has over-served its time. During its five-year-plus reign, a lot of changes have taken place in the operating system landscape.

Year after year, XP has faced an onslaught of security breaches and vulnerabilities. Apple's OS X, on the cutting edge of OS technology, will naturally draw comparisons with Vista. And lately, Linux has been nipping at XP's heels for a place on the desktop. From commercial Linux distributions like SUSE and Red Hat, to community based distros with strange sounding names like Ubuntu, Mepis, and Kanotix, these Linux OSes are challenging XP both on the security front and in terms of functionality. And, did I mention, they are free!

During the many months that I've been using Linux, I've seen my Debian install mature quite rapidly. I've seen a lot of rough edges polished off and features added as I continued to update my system, which started life as a Knoppix Live CD. I've seen the software applications gain in sophistication, too. In fact, it's not a stretch to say that there are many areas where Linux has not only matched, but has exceeded, Windows XP. In short, I like it.

Does this mean I'm going to try to convince you to abandon Windows XP? No. I still use it, and would feel like a hypocrite if I told you to do something I have not done myself. I'm dual booting and will be for the foreseeable future, as I have things in Windows I need to do from time to time. I just don't use it online very much. :-)

I'll tell you up front, you may have to give up certain favorite Windows software applications if you start using Linux a lot. The strength of Windows rests, in large part, on some of the really great applications that run on it. It's hard for people to be torn away from old favorites that are as comfortable as old shoes. In my case, it's WordPerfect -- it's hard to say goodbye to it.

But, if you switch to Linux, you are also saying goodbye to constantly running Spyware and Antivirus programs, and never-ending hurried malware updates. You are saying goodbye to Windows licensing fees. You are saying goodbye to disk defragmenters! (Linux's superior journaling file system makes them unnecessary.) You are saying goodbye to reboots after OS updates and software installs. Unlike Windows, Linux does not require these reboots. Finally, you are saying goodbye to OS system crashes. You have to work really hard to make Linux crash. Has that got your attention? Oh, and did I mention Linux is costs less? The community-based distros are even free! :-) I did mention that, right?

The GUI environment

Yes, Linux does have a history of being a command line OS. But, that is ancient history at this point. Yes, you can still do a lot in a command console, but it's rarely necessary anymore for desktop users.

For Linux to ever have a chance to move from servers to desktops, it needed a GUI interface like Windows has. One of the best ones is KDE, which I use. It's a richly featured GUI that easily rivals Windows XP. Eye candy is nice up to a point, but I like my desktop to have some function, not just be pretty, so I actually have a lot of KDE's eye candy turned off -- like bouncing icons when programs launch. :-) Bouncing icons? C'mon! I do have my desktop icons set to turn a bright green when my mouse slides over them, though. Green as in "go."

Speaking of eye candy, I suppose you've heard about the new Windows Vista's glass effects. Have you seen the screenshots? Vista will probably get the award for the world's prettiest OS! But, if you switch to Debian with KDE, you can also get some nice "glass" effects, and without having to upgrade to a newer high-end video card that Vista would require. For example, on my system, the task bar on the bottom of the screen is configured to be about 90 percent clear, letting my photo of Red Rock Canyon show through (see screenshot, below). You can even use a slider to vary the clarity or opaqueness. Menus are also translucent, so that you can see what's underneath them.



What about running Windows apps?

At this point, you may be thinking that while Linux does have a lot of desktop software, you have certain Windows software apps that you just can't be weaned off of. I understand; I'm in the same boat. As I said before, in my case it's WordPerfect. That's the reason I keep dual-booting.

But, let's say you really want to use Microsoft Word. Here, you're in luck! You can run Word and lots more Windows software in Linux. How?

On my Debian install, I added a commercial package called CrossOver Office, to run Word. CrossOver Office uses a technology called Wine, which intercepts Windows commands and translates them on the fly into corresponding Linux commands. The result is that Word runs just the same way as it does on Windows, and with no perceived speed difference.

CrossOver Office also lets me run quite a nice variety of Windows games, as well as Windows Media Player 6.4, which pops up when I click on my favorite Bluegrass Internet radio station. It also runs Adobe PDF Reader 5.0, along with all Windows versions of Firefox! The list of Windows software that CrossOver Office lets you run is so extensive that you should be sure to check if it will run a specific Windows software package in Linux.

But, the most amazing news is that I can run Adobe Photoshop 7 my favorite photo software via CrossOver Office. PS7 does the heavy lifting for my photo editing. Now, I realize PS7 may be more than what a lot of people need. Is there a good photo editor/browser out there for the rest of us? Yes, it's called XnView, and it's available in both Windows and Linux formats. Most of my every day photo editing tasks get assigned to XnView, a fast browser/editor.

Lots of good information. As I've mentioned before, give the Live CD versions of Linux a try before you make the leap. Knoppix is a great place to start, but you need to find the one that's right for you.

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Free computer books

For a limited time, In Pictures will allow you to download copies of their textbooks. The books use more images than words to help teach you the how-tos of many different software applications and operating system. Here are the available downloads:

computer basics

Windows XP
Mac OS X Tiger
Linspire Five-O

Palm Devices

microsoft office

Access 2003
Excel 2003
PowerPoint 2003
Word 2003
Publisher 2003

Base 2.0
Calc 2.0
Impress 2.0
Writer 2.0

web layout

Dreamweaver 8
FrontPage 2003

web graphics

Photoshop CS2
Fireworks 8
Photoshop Elements 4.0

web programming

MySQL Basics
PHP Basics
PERL Basics

Check them out if you're so inclined.

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May 08, 2006

Post of the day

I can usually count on Ace to provide me with the latest in dick and fart jokes. He takes a somewhat different tack today. Excerpt:

Some people actually chose to become, as Slate dubbed them, "shark apolgists." In a territorial dispute between sharks, which wanted to eat people, and human swimmers, who wanted to not be eaten, some biologists and environmentalists actually argued in favor of the sharks' "right" to chow down on 11-year-old boys. After all-- it's their territory. They have to eat too, right?

It was a sickening example of the Moral Vanity of Objectivity being taken to the next level -- not only are Americans not to be favored over non-Americans, but now human beings (and children, too!) are not even to be favored over non-human, non-sentinent aquatic predators.

Hey-- let's just take the fact that we're human, and have, of course, an "irrational bias" in favor of humanity, out of the equation. Viewed in "objective" terms, in which we don't favor humans just because we're humans -- viewing things as if we were space aliens, in other words, and space aliens who further don't favor the sentient over non-sentient -- there is no special objective reason to favor human children over sharks, right?

Liberals and leftists are forever patting themselves on the back for removing their natural affinities from the moral equation -- or at least pretending to -- and they praise themselves so highly for this habit that they scarcely realize what they are urging is not a "higher morality," but a moral obscenity.

If you are so far gone that you cannot privilege human beings over a goddamned shark, for crying out loud-- congratulations. You have, in moral terms, more or less removed yourself from the human race. Almost every other human being would favor you over an unthinking shark; but you do not return the favor, even out of respect for an implied compact (you favor me over the sharks, so, in return, I will favor you, even if I don't really agree with the principle behind that "humanocentric" favoritism).

And yes: If you cannot privilege your fellow Americans over non-Americans in your moral calculus -- even knowing you receive the benefit of that favoritism from the vast majority of your fellow Americans, who would of course save an American's life over a foreigner's, if they had to choose, and all other considerations being equal -- then you've effectively removed yourself from true citizenship and community with your fellow Americans.

But don't question their patriotism. They hate when you do that.

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It's a good idea

But it's not a new one. has a story about people pre-paying for gasoline to try and head off higher future prices. If prices go down, you're stuck with having paid high prices. For the record, Priceline did this first; it was a pretty good program. However, Priceline decided to burn through all of its capital quickly, leaving lots of unhappy former customers.

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May 07, 2006

Business as usual

VW Bug is in the news! Check out the this amazing photo.

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May 05, 2006

A little history

Many people believe that Cinco de Mayo is the date that Mexicans celebrate their independence from mother Spain. Like most other commonly accepted "truths", this one is false. For the record, Mexico gained independence in 1821. Cinco de Mayo celebrates something else entirely. Excerpt:

France invaded at the gulf coast of Mexico along the state of Veracruz (see map) and began to march toward Mexico City, a distance today of less than 600 miles. Although American President Abraham Lincoln was sympathetic to Mexico's cause, and for which he is honored in Mexico, the U.S. was involved in its own Civil War at the time and was unable to provide any direct assistance.

Marching on toward Mexico City, the French army encountered strong resistance at the Mexican forts of Loreto and Guadalupe. Lead by Mexican General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin, a small, poorly armed militia estimated at 4,500 men were able to stop and defeat a well outfitted French army of 6,500 soldiers, which stopped the invasion of the country. The victory was a glorious moment for Mexican patriots, which at the time helped to develop a needed sense of national unity, and is the cause for the historical date's celebration.

"The holiday of Cinco De Mayo, The 5th Of May, commemorates the victory of the Mexican militia over the French army at The Battle Of Puebla in 1862."

Add Mexicans to the seemingly endless supply of people able to defeat the French in battle. Included in this list are the Quadruple Amputee Girls Elementary School, the Paralytic School for the Blind and pretty much any local Cub Scout troop. Den mothers are prohibited because the French invariably wet themselves when confronted with opponents standing over 4 feet in height, weighing more than 50 pounds, or possessing the bodily strength of your average two-year old.

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Someone needs a thicker skin

Ben and Jerry's ice cream is pretty tasty stuff. I'm especially fond of a new a flavor that they make, Black and Tan. Any beer drinker in the US worth his/her salt is familiar with the Guinness/Bass combo beverage. As with anything these days, someone took offense. What's worse, in my opinion, is that Ben and Jerry's apologized. Excerpt:

Ice cream makers Ben & Jerry's have apologized for causing offence by calling a new flavor "Black & Tan" -- the nickname of a notoriously violent British militia that operated during Ireland's war of independence.

The ice cream, available only in the United States, is based on an ale and stout drink of the same name.

"Any reference on our part to the British Army unit was absolutely unintentional and no ill-will was ever intended," said a Ben & Jerry's spokesman.

"Ben & Jerry's was built on the philosophies of peace and love," he added.

The Black and Tans, so-called because of their two-tone uniforms, were recruited in the early 1920s to bolster the ranks of the police force in Ireland as anti-British sentiment grew.

They quickly gained a reputation for brutality and mention of the militia still arouses strong feelings in Ireland.

"I can't believe that Ben & Jerry's would be so insensitive to call an ice cream such a name and to launch it as a celebration of Irishness ... it's an insult!" wrote one blogger on

Someone in Ireland got the vapors because a US ice cream manufacturer made an unintentional reference to some obscure group of British thugs. Holy crap, I can't believe that share some (distant)blood with these people.

Hat tip to the Real Beer Page blog.

Posted by: Physics Geek at 11:22 AM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
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May 04, 2006

Mr. Lucas, I do not believe never means what you think it means

Really, did anyone believe Lucas' bluster about never releasing the original versions of Star Wars et al on DVD? After all, there's a huge market for them and huge markets mean huge money for the douchebag responsible for Episodes I, II and III. However, I'm gonna pre-order my copies as soon as humanly possible.

Why are you looking at me like that?

Update: I jumped over to Michele's place as soon as I heard. As I expected, she's doing body shots of tequila off of her life-sized Bobba Fett doll in celebration. Something anyway. Money quote, to be repeated around the geek globe: Fuck yea.

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A 33-year old man married a 104-year old woman. Excerpt:

A 33-year-old man in northern Malaysia has married a 104-year-old woman, saying mutual respect and friendship had turned to love, a news report said Tuesday.

Sounds like a May-1865 romance. Hey, I wonder how the groom's gonna like the wedding night? Probably like an old wallet. Leathery & dry with the possibility of a velcro-like strip. ::shudder::

And here's a photo of the happy couple, hidden below the fold. more...

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Thought for the day

" Have you ever imagined a world with no hypothetical situations?"

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Bite me, GOP

I receive several mass mailings from our GOP leaders every week, begging for more of my hard-earned money. Usually, I douse the letter in gasoline, set fire to it and dance around in my underwear screaming "How you like me now, beeyotch?!". However, Sacred Cow Burgers has convinced me that I should actually donate something, and that something is this:


Link via Michelle Malkin.

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Drink, don't drive

A slogan that I can get behind:

drink dont drive.jpg

Update: Looks like VW beat me to it this time. Our email forwarding friends must be very similar.

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May 03, 2006

Sign up

Your personal information is just that: personal. No one should post your private information on the web. The dickheads who thought that it was just fine and dandy to post Michelle Malkin's home address/Google maps/etc. should be flogged, painted in honey and then tied down to an anthill. After that, we can start with the actual punishment. Sound harsh? You betcha. Even if you don't agree with my suggested solution, you probably agree with the whole privacy premise thing. If so, go here to sign the Online Integrity petition.

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Going offline

I've written in the past about using alternative energy sources. If you're truly interested in becoming even less reliant on your local utility, or if you're thinking about building a get-away-from-it-all house, then you might be interested in the information contained in this article at Backwoods Home. Excerpt:

Typical electrical loads

People tend to think that a small house will require less electricity than a large house, so a cabin would use even less. However, if we omit space heating and cooling, we will usually find about the same number of kitchen appliances, the same clothes washer and dryer, the same audio/video equipment, and the same mix of smaller devices like phone chargers and computer games. Although a larger home will certainly require more lighting, this does not necessarily mean they all are operating during a typical day. In other words, it’s not how many square feet in your home or cabin that matters, it’s the amount of electrical devices you plan to operate and for how long that determines your power requirements.

Replacing all incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps is mandatory for off-grid systems. These lamps are now available in many different styles.

Let’s review your absolute minimum power requirements, assuming you do intend to have a few creature comforts. For anything less than the following list you may as well just pitch a tent!

First, you will need at least one light fixture in each room, and one fixture at any exterior door or deck. A 15-watt compact fluorescent ceiling fixture or table lamp should do just fine for most rooms, but you will want more lighting in the kitchen and dining areas. A really basic small cabin lighting system usually consists of 12-volt DC lighting fixtures typically sold for the RV and boating industry, powered from a 12-volt deep-discharge marine battery. However, low-cost DC to AC inverters are becoming so reliable and efficient that you could utilize normal 120-volt AC wiring and appliances, which are usually less expensive than specialized DC devices and are available in more varieties.

Selecting your kitchen appliances requires more effort since they usually consume much more power than light fixtures. First, you will want to avoid anything that includes an electric heating element. This means that toaster ovens, electric hot plates, electric hot water heaters, electric space heaters, electric drip coffee makers, and electric kitchen ranges are out. A small microwave oven is acceptable since they usually only operate a few minutes per cooking task, which is not a major drain for most back-up power systems. Actual battery and inverter sizing recommendations will be addressed in Part II of this article.

Lots more useful information to be found. There will be a Part II article in the very near future. Stay tuned.

Posted by: Physics Geek at 07:19 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
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Hip, hip, hooray!

I've so busy that I failed to notice that April 25 was Susie's 3rd blogiversary. Stop by and wish her well. If you already have, do it again. NOW!

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Revving up Firefox

There are some websites that I visit where Firefox does not work, which forces me to open IE. That might be a thing of the past. Excerpt:

Even die-hard Firefox fans often surf with an Internet Explorer window open, just for those holdout sites that require IE to function. IE Tab is a Firefox extension that makes it a little easier to reduce your IE dependency: It lets you open a Firefox browser tab that runs sites intended for IE.

To download IE Tab, you must visit the page and install the extension directly into the Firefox browser. After restarting Firefox, you'll see a new entry for IE Tab Options in the Tools menu. It opens a dialog box that lets you list the Web pages to open with an IE rendering engine--but in a Firefox tab. When you next open those pages in Firefox, in most cases they'll behave as if you'd opened them with IE. It's not perfect--for instance, I had trouble making some forms work properly--but IE Tab does obviate the need for an always-open Internet Explorer window.

If this extension looks familiar, that's probably because it's based on IE View, which opens a separate IE window from Firefox. The main difference is that IE Tab does so entirely within Firefox, instead of opening a separate window.

IE Tab is free of charge. Its Taiwanese developers, who go by the names PCMan and yuoo2K, don't provide a method for accepting direct donations. If you'd like to encourage this project by sending money to someone involved, consider donating to the Mozdev Community Organization.

You'll find other cool stuff in the article. Check it out.

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May 02, 2006

We can only hope

So Jennifer Love Hewitt might pose nude for Playboy, huh?

Although Hewitt, 26, has a hit with CBS's Ghost Whisperer, she still wants a film career and doesn't feel she's getting the right scripts. "She always gets offered a cute little sidekick role," another friend says. "She told me that maybe a sexy magazine layout with her showing her assets might give her a little edgier image and she might be considered for a femme fatale role. She knows she can pull it off, but she thinks casting directors aren't so sure."

I'm voting for edgier, but that's just me. See below the fold for a couple of reasons. more...

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May 01, 2006

Dain bramage

Ever visit a site frequently only to discover that oops, you'd never actually added it to your blogroll?

Why am I the only who experiences this phenomenon? Inquiring minds want to know. In any event, I've rectified the situation and added Stop the ACLU to my blogroll.

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Easing the transition from Windows to Linux

I know that some of you are ready to make the leap from Bill Gates' creation to some version of Linux. There are probably at least two things holding you back:

  • Inability to run Windows-based applications on a Linux platform
  • Inability to migrate -sometimes- years of data from your current Windows environment

While I've made mention of WINE in the past as a solution to the first problem, I've had no real answer to the second. Until now:

Versora announced April 27 the release of its Progression Desktop for Turbolinux, a migration tool that helps users to transfer files and settings from their Windows system to a Linux system. Progression Desktop for Turbolinux moves critical data, application settings, email, calendar entries, contact lists, desktop settings and directory structures via a "Click-Next-Next-Finished" interface, according to Versora.
"People don't want to recreate their files and settings or risk losing them altogether -- it's one of the most common reasons people are hesitant to switch from Windows to desktop Linux," added Versora CEO Mike Sheffey. "Versora's Progression Desktop makes the migration process easy and provides immediate value to those making the move to Turbolinux."

How it works

Information from Windows XP programs, such as Microsoft Outlook, are moved to the equivalent Linux application (such as Mozilla's Thunderbird or Evolution), Versora said. Similarly, the tool will migrate a user's settings from Internet Explorer to the Firefox Internet browser, Microsoft Word files to, and Instant Messenger buddy lists to the Linux IM client Gaim. A full list of migration applications and their Linux equivalents is available here.

To accomplish the transition, Progression Desktop provides software that runs on both the source (Windows) and destination (Linux) systems. Once the Versora software is installed on Windows, it walks the user through simple steps to create the migration file (called a .pnp, or "Platform Neutral Package"). Once the Versora software is loaded on Turbolinux and the migration file is saved, the files and settings are automatically integrated in the corresponding programs, which are selected by the user.

So, what are you waiting for? This might be a good time to finally give Linux a chance.

Update: On a somewhat related topic, there's a new book out that provides some useful information: Linux Annoyances for Geeks. If you've ever been stuck trying to recover a lost root password, then this book is for you.

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