June 16, 2006

Looking for a good deal on a laptop?

Check out this link at Fat Wallet. Excerpt:

OD is having the 3-day technology sale events from 6/15 - 6/17. I noticed that they have the Compaq Presario V2615US for sale at $680 (in store price) after $80 instant saving. On top of that,they have a $200 OD MIR and $30 Manufacturer MIR. So the math will be $680 - $200 MIR - $30 MIR = $450 AR. Very hot price.

Specs below:
Presario Notebook computer with Mobile AMD Sempron processor 3000+ with PowerNow technology
512MB memory
60GB hard drive
Burn & Play DVDs & CDs
Integrated 802.11g wireless LAN networkability

You can make it a better deal if you order online and select in store pickup (delivery price is $760, and pickup price is $680). Then you will be able to use the $30 OFF coupon (01534523 .

Very cool deal. Now I might wipe the PC and install Linux instead of using the pre-installed Windows OS, but that's just me.

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Beer column

Are you familiar with Bruce Cameron? He's the guy who wrote 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter, which, in turn, became a sitcom. Anyway, he's been writing columns for a lot of years now and I just stumbled across the one where Bruce decides to take up a new hobby: brewing beer. I've reprinted it in its entirety here, along with the link to Bruce Cameron's website.

Ale's Well That Ends Well

Copyright 2001 W. Bruce Cameron http://www.wbrucecameron.com/

Believing that maybe it would help my relationship with my 12-year-old son if
we had a common hobby, I bought him a beer-making kit. My wife seemed to think that the situation called for female incredulity.

"You got your son a BEER-making kit?" she demands. "Are you out of your mind?"

"Hey, you were the one who said we needed to do more things together," I point out.

"So you picked drinking beer," she scoffs.

"Of course not. He'll only make it. I'LL be the one drinking it,"I respond. I hold my hands up in a representation of harmonious balance in the universe.

She fixes me with a scorching look that I recognize from early in our marriage, when I tried to train her to bring me snacks during football games,
but I will not be deterred. "It's very scientific," I declare. "Fermentation. Carbonation."


My son is even less enthusiastic. "It smells bad; you DRINK this stuff?" he sniffs, stirring the batch of malt and hops.

"Yes, but not until there is alcohol in it," I explain with fatherly wisdom.

"Alcohol is a by-product of fermentation," he quotes, looking through the little handbook. He squints at me. "You'll be drinking yeast pee."

"Real men don't read directions," I advise.

When we're finished, my home brew sits tightly sealed in a plastic keg.

"This is the pressure valve," I lecture my son. "The yeast builds up carbon dioxide, which escapes out the valve; otherwise there would be an explosion that would level houses in a four-block area."

I'm hoping this will excite him, but he's been reading the manual again. "Carbon dioxide is another waste by-product," he intones.


"In other words, yeast farts."

For three days, the mixture sits implacably inside the plastic vessel, as exciting as a bucket of paint. Concerned, I sneak in a little more sugar to get the yeast motivated. "You're not supposed to do that, Dad," my son warns.

The next day, the yeast have suddenly sprung to life, bubbling and hissing as
they busily produce waste products. Impatient, I pull on the little tap, pouring an ounce of muddy liquid into a glass and taking a sip.

"Does it taste like beer?" my son asks anxiously.

"Maybe beer that's already been through somebody," I respond ruefully.

That night my son prods me awake. "Dad, the beer is calling you."

My wife gives me a frown, as this is exactly the excuse I give her whenever I
meet my buddies at the sports bar. "What do you mean?"I ask him.

He shrugs. "You sort of need to come hear it. It's making noises."

My wife puts her hand on my arm. "Could it be dangerous?" she inquires anxiously.

I laugh. "Of course not. How could beer be dangerous? Beer Is Our Friend."

I follow my son out into the kitchen and, at his urging, put my ear to the plastic keg. He's right: There is some sort of creaking noise emitting from the seams around the edge of the thing. Through the thick, dark plastic, I can see that the yeast has rioted, filling the vessel with foam.

"Maybe you put in too much sugar," he worries. "Should I start calling people
in a four-block area?"

"Nonsense. More sugar just means a higher alcohol content. How could that be bad?" But his question has drawn my attention to the filter, which should be allowing yeast farts to escape. Instead, it looks locked in place, a little button that should be bobbing up and down.

I reach out a finger.

"Dad " my son starts to say.

The moment I pry at the valve it fires straight up like a bullet, the little button gone in an instant. The entire contents of the keg follow half a second later, a thick spray of foam coating everything in the kitchen. I don't even have time to blink and it is over, except that a steady rain of gooey sludge comes down on my head from the ceiling.

Tilting my jaw, I'm able to catch a few drops in my mouth. My wife bursts into the kitchen and stares at me, shocked.

"Not bad," I tell her, licking my lips.

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June 15, 2006

3-D web browsing?

I dunno. It looks kind of cool, but I'm still not sold on how this will revolutionize my browsing experience. Excerpt:

What ever happened to the virtual reality, 3D world of the web? Back in the late 90s, all the hype was about VRML—Virtual Reality Markup Language—which would turn the web into an immersive environment that you'd maneuver around to get to the information you wanted. We're here to tell you that the reports of the 3D web's death are greatly exaggerated. As evidence, we present three 3D browsers that will use that graphics card for something other than gaming: 3B, Browse3D, and SphereXPlorer.

As further proof that the 3D web isn't dead, an XML format called X3D—a free run-time architecture that can "represent and communicate 3D scenes and objects using XML"— is starting to take hold. You can find more info about it from The Web3D Consortium which is very active in its efforts to add one more dimension to the web as we know it. There's even a mobile browser for X3D, so that you could, for example, navigate around a city you're visiting on your handheld PC.

And of course, as with everything to do with PCs these days, there's the Vista factor. Vista's DirectX 10 will change the landscape for 3D browsers. The Windows Presentation Foundation (formerly codenamed "Avalon") and XAML (eXtensible Application Markup Language) will allow 3D apps such as browsers to be programmed more easily than ever. For more on the Windows presentation foundation and its relationship with DirectX, check out Windows Presentation Foundation (Avalon) FAQ.

While X3D and Vista technologies may be the future of the 3D web, today we'll tackle a more modest goal—evaluating browsers that use some aspect of 3D right here and now. In a future article, we'll look at some VRML and X3D browser plug-ins that let you do cool things like enter virtual chat worlds such as 3D Planets. Meanwhile, join us in doing what you do all the time—browse the web—but this time in three glorious dimensions.

I think that I could save a lot of money by putting my monitor on an oscillating platform, first moving towards me and then moving away from me. Bingo, 3-D on the cheap, with no CPU slowdown. Sure, my eyes will likely give out soon, but I think that the blinding headaches will kill me first, so no biggy.

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June 14, 2006

Around the horn

It's been a long time since I actually created one of these link extravaganzas. So let's get to it.

Michele Catalano has new digs and celebrates that fact with the 100 Greatest Punk Songs. No Waitresses, but they weren't really punk, but rather pathetic.

Gerard republished his 2003 Memorial Day post, which is so good that I haven't the words to describe it.

Be afraid. Very afraid.

Rosemary just lost her street cred with the uber-liberal feminist crowd. And that's a good thing.

Truer words have never been spoken.

What is the scent women find most attractive? Musk? Pheromones? Eau de Cologne? In fact, it is none of these. The smell that really gets them hot is the smell of CASH!

Al Gore versus Tim Blair: the results are predictable. Heck, my 3-year old son could take Weirdest Al in a battle of wits. At least my son realizes his limitations.

Misha posts a sad tale about Europe's Air-Boo-Hoo-Hoo problems. Mheh. Schadenfreude: it's not just for breakfast anymore.

Ann Coulter seems to enjoy throwing verbal bombs too much, in my opinion. Each over-the-top phrase must seemingly be beaten by an even more extreme string of words, which is why things like "enjoying their husbands' deaths" pop out of her mouth once in a while. While I agree that her point was completely correct, I have to say that her choice of words nauseated me. There was no good reason to put it that way, other than to jack up sales of her latest book, which is apparently working like a charm. Regardless, she's usually an entertaining interview and, for reasons that can only be explained by a pact with Satan, John Hawkins managed to score his !third! interview with Ann.

After moving into a new house 5 years ago, I "lost" my cat. Since it was a new neighborhood, I was horrified to think what might have happened. I ran around the block, first on foot and then in my car. Eventually, I gave up and went back inside. It turns out that my cat had lost herself in the wall behind the bathroon. Unbeknownst to me, a vent cover had fallen off and she'd gone exploring, leaving no trail of breadcrumbs to alleviate my worry. John Cole just had a similar experience. I'm glad that his ended well, too.

Annika continues what may well be the oddest cartoon series I have ever seen. And yes, I've read all of them up to this point.

Season's Greetings over at Cold Fury. I guess that the Kosmonauts got lumps of coal this year. Again. :-)

Graumagus, Graumagus: saying the things most of us want to say, but can't.

Harvey offers up some good advice from Robert Heinlein.

Do you think that you're old? Steve provides a simple audio test for you. Now go fail, old fart.

Jon Henke eliminates this year's deficit. Now if he can just get Congress to play along...

Kim du Toit trains his sights on how the UN plans to run your life. If none it bothers you, you are definitely in need of medication.

More Ann Coulter from Patterico, who joins me in the small group of conservatives who actually think that Coulter's comments were so far over the line that she couldn't even see the line. To paraphrase Joey Tribiani:" The line is a dot to Ann."

Moxie links to a pretty poignant tale. Check it out.

Russell Wardlow has hit on a get rich quick scheme, which is sure to be a hit at Berkeley.

At the Cotillion, Cassandra lists 30 things that you might not know about the lovely ladies posting there.

Eesh. I'd like to post more, but I think that I'm done for the evening. I have final examinations to grade. So, you know, ugh.

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The list

Last week, Kate posted her list(you know the one) and asked for ours in return. I've answered this question several times over the years and my answers haven't changed much. Anyway, here's what I posted at Kate's Place:

1) Angelina Jolie- I have the hots for her since Hackers, or whatever the heck it was called.

2) Lucy Lawless/Renee O’Connor/Hudson Leick- Yes, I’m claiming a Xenaverse exemption. It’s my fantasy after all.

3) Jennifer Love Hewitt- I was kind of glad when she turned 18 so that I didn’t feel dirty watching her anymore.

4) Heather Locklear- ‘Nuff said.

5) Jennifer Connelly- One of the most beautiful women on the planet. Period.

Someone asked me if my wife wouldn’t mind if Jennifer Connelly, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Lucy Lawless showed up for a 4-way with me. I told her that my wife would be more upset that I’d actually gone insane and was experiencing hallucinations.

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June 13, 2006

I am not Sulu

Apparently, no one else is either, including George Takei. Steve has an excellent review of what appears to be an execrable exercise in vanity by a bit player from a three year scifi series that went off the air almost 40 years ago. In other words, Who? Excerpt:

After that, he starts talking about his acting career. While I liked the historical information about Tinseltown in the Fifties and Sixties, I was disturbed to see how seriously Takei took himself and his talent. He threw away a perfectly good career in architecture because acting "called" him. That would be great, if this were the autobiography of Gary Oldman or Laurence Olivier, but George Takei is a really bad actor. Generally I root for people who follow their dreams, but in this case, I wondered what was going through his head.

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On everyone's wish list

If, that is, they're still living in their mom's basement at the age of 50. I present to you the Transparent Toaster.


I'm curious: is it really that hard for people to make toast without burning it?

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June 12, 2006

Open source penguin

So to speak, of course. Excerpt:

Welcome to the free-penguin project page. This project provides 'executables' that enable you to make your own soft-toy Linux® penguin. To put it straight: You can find sewing patterns and a community to sew your own soft toy or stuffed Linux® Tux penguin here. To help Google finding this, once again: You can find sewing patterns and community to sew your own soft toy or stuffed Linux® Tux penguin here. All downloads come under GPL (GNU General Public License).


The starting point of this project was the question: "Why is it that on the one hand in the Linux® world all code of software is freely available and on the other hand the code to compile a soft toy penguin is still not open source?" This project will try to publish code that will enable people to sew soft toy penguins themselves provided they meet certain hardware requirements.

Hardware Requirements:

First research efforts have shown that at least a needle, a long thread, black and white plushy fabric as well as yellow textile are necessary. Other assets that might be needful are thimbles, more thread and scissors. Warning: Before you start, make sure that you know what you are doing. Doing things on a trial-and-error basis in the fields we are dealing with here can do a lot of harm.

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We're from Microsoft and we're here to help you

Oh really? Pull the other dear: it's got bells on it. Excerpt:

Who wouldn't trust a company that hid built-in spyware on every Windows-based PC in the land?

It turns out that Microsoft's Genuine Advantage anti-piracy program is also keeping daily tabs on Windows users. Who knew?

Well, until a few days ago, nobody outside of Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Wash., knew.

According to an Associated Press report, David Lazar, director of the WGA (Windows Genuine Advantage) program, Microsoft was doing this as "kind of a safety switch."

A safety switch?

Because, Microsoft told 'top Microsoft reporter in the known-world' Mary Jo Foley that "if Notifications went amok on Microsoft's side, Microsoft wanted a way to terminate the program quickly."

Amok? On Microsoft's side?

Help me out. I'm a little confused here. Microsoft wants my Windows PC to phone home everyday so that if Notifications went 'amok' on their servers, it would turn my local Notifications component off?
I don't mean to be paranoid, but when someone tells me that, oh, by the way, they've been checking on my XP and Windows 2000 PCs every day since July 2005 when Microsoft made WGA mandatory or you couldn't download patches, I get a little concerned.

Still, it's not like Microsoft would actually collect more information and then use it against such competitors as Firefox would they?

Oh wait, come to think of it, didn't Microsoft once cause Windows to produce fake error messages if a user was running DR-DOS instead of MS-DOS?
[Editor's note: DR-DOS was the best DOS on the market at the time]

While they never admitted to it, they did finally end up paying Caldera Systems, one of the ancestors of today's SCO, approximately $60 million to make the resulting lawsuit go away.
Here's the point. For over a year, Microsoft has planted a program on every modern Windows-powered PC that reported home every day. They don't have an intelligent reason, never mind a good one, for this move. And, they never told anyone that they were doing this.

I guess it must do a darn good job of hiding itself from firewalls and network monitoring tools too since we've only now found out this daily checkup call after tens of millions of PCs have been phoning in for almost a year.

Maybe you can trust your computer, your livelihood, your home finances, your kids' games, everything you do online, to a company that would do that, but you can count me out.

I've been using Linux for my main desktop for years, and it's revelations like this one that makes me damn glad that I do.

I really don't have anything else to add except this: Ubuntu's latest release is very, very cool. Pretty damned user friendly, too.

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June 09, 2006

You know that you're having a bad day when...

You fall headfirst into a septic tank and open your mouth to scream for help. Or you could simply be a conservative wading through the detritus clogging up the KosCon.

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June 08, 2006

Carputer: an idea whose time should never come

Unfortunately, it's already upon us.

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June 07, 2006

Not that I'm advocating this, mind...

But it is kind of cool the lengths some people will go to so as to avoid government intrusion.

"Get your government ID here! Extra cheap. Smoking! Non-smoking... who are we kidding? No one is allowed to smoke anymore. Get your ID here!"

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June 06, 2006

Battle of the sexes

Recycled, sure, but it's still funny.

Husband and wife are getting all snugly in bed. The passion is heating up. But then the wife stops and says "I don't feel like it, I just want you to hold me."

The husband says "WHAT??"

The wife explains that he must not be in tune with her emotional needs as a Woman.

The husband realizes that nothing is going to happen tonight and he might as well deal with it. So the next day the husband takes her shopping at a big dept. store. He walks around and has her try on three very expensive outfits. And then tells his wife. We'll take all three of them. Then goes over and gets matching shoes worth $200 each. And then goes to the Jewelry Dept. and gets a set of diamond earrings. The wife is so excited (she thinks her husband
has flipped out, but she does not care). She goes for the tennis bracelet. The husband says "but you don't even play tennis, but OK if you like it then lets get it."

The wife is jumping up and down so excited she cannot even believe what is going on. She says "I am ready to go, lets go to the cash register."

The husband says," no - no - no, honey we're not going to buy all this stuff."

The wife's face goes blank.

"No honey - I just want you to HOLD this stuff for a while."

Her face gets really red and she is about to explode and then the Husband says, "You must not be in tune with my financial needs as a Man!!!"

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I've waited patiently for some actual facts to appear in the Duke lacrosse case. Statements by the DA and/or Jesse Jackson/Al Sharpton do not qualify as such. Apparently, plenty of facts have been unearthed. Unfortunately for the DA, they do not support his publicly stated position.

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Beginner's guide to Linux?

Yahoo! has a pretty solid article today about people who are thinking about making the switch from Windows to Linux. It's worth reading in its entirety, but I'll excerpt some of it to give you a flavor:

Love it, hate it, heard lots about it, but still don't have enough of a handle to form a firm opinion? Then we must be talking about Linux, the open-source operating system that's alluring because it's heavy duty and it's free. Simultaneously, it's intimidating to newbies because it's typically more difficult to install and configure than Windows.

However, now is an opportune time to get past those concerns. Interest in Linux is expected to spike throughout the year, thanks to Microsoft's delay of its consumer version of Windows Vista. The hang-up could cast a pall on the year-end PC sales season. Perhaps that's one reason the mainstream media is discovering this "revolution" in software that's nearly 15 years old.

So if you've ever planned on giving the open-source operating system a whirl, but, like the Georgia bride-to-be, got cold feet at the last minute, we've ferreted out six useful facts that'll ease your path when you decide to take the plunge.

1) How many versions of Linux are there?

Lots. At least 350, according to the list maintained by the enthusiast site DistroWatch.com. The site skews toward smaller distributions, with current flavor of the month Ubuntu listed as the most popular among the site's readers. Ubuntu has gained traction recently, garnering an endorsement from Sun Microsystems chief executive Jonathan Schwartz.

Ubuntu also appears to be gaining legitimacy via heavy grass-roots support. User-spawned Web resources include a blog devoted to the distro, a quick-start guide for dummies and a more advanced (how to install anything!) manual. (However, as What PC? points out, despite its funky name, Ubuntu is not noticeably simpler to get going than any other implementation of the OS.)

Ubuntu has a great back story: Its development was funded by South African Internet entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth as an outgrowth of his efforts to offer improved educational opportunities to his nation's young people.

Another distribution much in demand is SUSE, available for free under the OpenSUSE.org program sponsored by Novell or in a for-pay version that comes with end-user support from Novell.

Originally developed by German vendor SUSE Linux, the software has been heavily marketed to enterprise users ever since SUSE was acquired by Novell in 2004. Since that time, Novell has positioned itself as the main alternative to Red Hat, which is widely considered to be the leader in the enterprise Linux market. (In that regard, Novell CEO Jack Messman predicts that his company will emerge as one of the two dominant corporate suppliers of Linux, alongside Red Hat, as the market for paid open-source shakes out over the next two to five years.)

Other popular distros include Mandriva, Debian, and Fedora. (The latter is a free offering spun out of Red Hat. Don't forget Slackware, Knoppix, Gentoo, Mepis, and others too numerous to mention.)

For those disinclined to deal with challenging installs, the easiest path may be Linspire. The eponymous company was founded by billionaire Michael Robertson, who made his money with the early Internet download service MP3.com. Robertson has positioned Linspire as consumer-friendly Windows alternative that costs a lot less -- it's $50 -- and is bundled with many drivers and a bunch of applications.


6) You've given me lots of facts, but not much advice. How do I get started?

One pain free way to go (OK, it'll set you back $16, plus shipping) is by reading Test Driving Linux. The book, by David Brickner, includes a CD that allows you to boot Linux on a Windows computer without destroying the Windows install. On the downside, the book's Linux is, like the title says, a "test drive" that runs only off the CD; it won't permanently install the OS to your hard drive. (A further caveat is the CD is a bit fussy; it won't run if you can't get your PC to boot first from the CD drive. It didn't like my old Compaq desktop, for reasons unexplained, but it ran like a champ on an HP Pavilion laptop.)

If you're ready to give Linux a more permanent whirl, go back to Question 1, above, or to this list of distros. (The Wikipedia offers a "Which distro is right for you?" quiz.)

Worthwhile article to give you a jumpstart into the Linux world.

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June 05, 2006

No dick and fart jokes today

Crikey. First, Jeff Goldstein stops with the daily Martha Stewart prison diay entries. To be fair, she is no longer in prison and continued postings in that vein might be construed as a mental disorder. Anyway, Jeff now posts thoughtful, eloquent dissertations, quietly ripping his shrieking lefty opponents to shreds. So I hopped over to Ace's site for the best in potty humor. And now he's posting thought-provoking editorials. Where's a guy supposed to go for entertaining shit?

Actually, I'm bullshitting you. I enjoy well-reasoned posts, as opposed to feces flinging that I typically find on most lefty sites. That's probably the reason that I avoid most blogs of that type. I like reading posts written by thoughtful liberals, if for no other reason than said posts force me to examine my own opinions. Unfortunately, the number of reasonable liberals seems to diminish every day.

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What he said

From Vox:

UPDATE - Podhoretz the Younger does not disappoint with the eminently predictable reaction to Noonan's column:

In my book, Can She Be Stopped?, I specifically warn Republicans and conservatives about the temptation to listen to the "siren song of schism" — the notion that they would be better off casting a protest or third-party vote in 2008. Such a vote, no matter how principled it might seem, would have only one result, and that is to elect Hillary Clinton. It is a default vote for Hillary Clinton....

If people cannot stomach voting Republican and need to cast a protest vote, that is their right. But nobody should be under any illusions about what it means. It means Democratic rule.

Which differs from the current rule in precisely what regards? Ignoring the Constitution 90 percent of the time instead of 75 percent? Signing up for 100 percent of globalist decrees instead of 85 percent of them? Invading and occupying countries without oil instead of countries with oil?

Better an open enemy that faces you than the false friend who stabs you in the back.

I'm beginning to think that it's time to resurrect the Howard the Duck campaign.

Posted by: Physics Geek at 09:50 AM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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We're back

Thank you for your patience.

I was on vacation with my family up in the mountains. No computers, no news and no blogs. As much as I enjoy this blog, and all of you readers and commenters, I've gotta say that I enjoyed the peace and quiet. A lot. Now it's back to my daily demented postings.

I followed one of Harvey's blog rules and didn't mention that I'd be gone. Amazingly, my traffic didn't really diminish, even though I didn't post anything for 2 weeks. That's probably an indication of something, but I'm loathe to admit the implication there.

Posted by: Physics Geek at 06:18 AM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
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