July 2006

Tomorrow is the first of the “Dog Days” of summer. I never used to understand that expression. Now that I have two high-energy hounds (who really need to be exercised vigorously at least once a day in order to be pleasant house mates) I do. It means it’s too hot even for the dogs. With temperatures that stayed in the high 90s today until after sundown and forecasts into the triple digits for the rest of the week, it’s too hot for even the dogs. When we take them for walks or take them to the park to run around, being sensible creatures, they seek out a shady spot to relax.

If they lived in these temperatures, it might be just fine. Unfortunately, they live in a nicely climate controlled dogtownhouse. So after laying around soaking in the AC for a couple hours, they’re back to their usual energy levels. Sigh. Time to allow ball playing in the house :)

The web is rife with posts about MacBook and MacBook Pro annoyances. (No links given because the point of this post is to combat the echo chamber effect the ‘net is currently demonstrating.) There are things from the whine to heat to swollen batteries to bad sound. And I don’t doubt that one or several people has experienced each of these problems. Nor do I dispute their right to rant on the internet about such. That’s one of the things that I love about the near zero-cost soapbox provided by a globally interconnected network. But the complaints of a few seem very amplified these days. It seems that the people who link to experiences about these issues seem to be linking the same handfull of sites over and over again.

With that, I’d like to rave about my MBP. It’s fast as blazes. With a 2.0GHz core duo, it’s far and away the fastest laptop I have access to. It builds software much faster than most any machine I can currently get my hands on personally. The OS X on intel experience is fantastic. There’s no question, this is a real, first class Mac. I had one of the first generation Power PCs (the 7100 for those that remember such things). The transition is way better this time. PPC software, by and large, feels every bit as usable as it did on my PowerBook with a 1.3GHz G4. Quite a contrast to the 68k emulation that lagged a midrange 68030 in 1995. My Mac doesn’t wine. It does run a little hot. I can still use it on my lap when I’m on battery power, though, and it does not feel dramatically hotter than the P4m Thinkpads floating around the office. Sound is about what I’d expect from laptop speakers. And, since I added another 1GB DIMM, Parallels runs like a dream. My windows and linux installs zip right along, in windows on my Mac desktop.

This is not buying advice. My buying advice would be to wait if you’re currently happy with your machine. The intel-based Macs will only get better and better as more software goes Universal and the motherboards trend more toward Apple-developed innovations and away from reference designs. The next version of the OS will be even better, too. I took the plunge myself because I had given my PowerBook to Molly to replace an iMac that had recently begun to panic and my old Linux laptop was beginning to show hardware issues. I don’t regret it.

Oh, and buy AppleCare if you get one. It’s just good policy with laptops and their $900 screens :)

Delicious Monster is having a really cool sale on their flagship (only?) app, Delicious Library. It’s called the “gamblers’ sale”. For four weeks they progressively reduced the price of the app by $5 each week, valid only until some undisclosed number of copies sold. It certainly worked for me. At $40, I wasn’t sure the app was useful enough (for me) to buy. At $20 it was a no-brainer and I got a copy. These guys are really good, BTW. I almost felt it was worth the $20 just because of the level of craftsmanship that went into the tool. I guess that’s one rather bizarre thing about computers; I’ve never thought that a screwdriver, multimeter or similar was worthwhile even though it would see limited use just because it was such a nice tool.

In response to criticism from “I.T. Managers,” Microsoft has apparently removed the newest addition to their download site. Private folders was a nifty little utility users could download that would allow them to encrypt some of their private data such that other users of a system could not read it. Obviously, there’s nothing groundbreaking about this functionality. Free utilities that perform just as well abound; anyone who’d like to keep their data private has many options. The strange thing about this whole affair is that some “I.T. Managers” felt the need to gripe to Microsoft about the matter. Moreover, they were loud enough that Microsoft caved and removed the download!

I hate to knock hard-working I.T. folks. Managing a company’s systems is fraught with challenges. Sometimes it’s difficult just to keep the lights on. But any “I.T. Manager” who complained to Microsoft about this utility is surely not doing his or her job. Microsoft has provided I.T. departments with facilities to control who can and can’t install software for many years now. These facilities are actually pretty good in Windows XP, which is required for Private Folder. The fact is, if a user cannot be trusted not to expose your business to increased risk of data loss by installing and running this utility, that user should be prohibited from installing software on your systems and you should refuse to install this software on them. End of story. Any manager who allows this type of user to install software is neglecting to manage their infrastructure.

Before we got a DVR, I’d have told you I didn’t watch TV. I still don’t, really. But if it weren’t for the DVR, I’d never have caught two shows that have proven immensely interesting.

  • Hustle – It’s a collaboration betwen AMC and BBC about a group of con artists and how they pull their scams. This is easily some of the best non-sports TV you can find right now, but the schedule is so irregular I’d never catch it without the DVR. I’d say this is the only show I watch where I’m routinely caught by surprise at the end.
  • Mythbusters – It’s almost like science, but not quite. These guys experiment with urban folklore in a very entertaining way. My favorite test to date: Can foods containing poppy seeds really cause you to fail a drug test? They’ve also tested whether alcohol or cell phones diminish your driving skills more and whether there was really an epidemic of spontaneous combustion in 1930s-era farmers’ trousers.

Neither show comes on at a convenient time for me to watch, and I think I’d be sorry if I missed either. I seldom say that about television unless the Red Sox are involved.

Anyone who’s been paying attention has seen this coming for some time.

Now, I’ve never been opposed to reasonable police powers. If the cops can convince a judge that a warrant is justified, they should certainly be able to obtain the wiretaps they need to perform their duty. That’s not disturbing in the least. But coupled with stories of “designated free-speech areas” and people being arrested and/or harrassed for such things as t-shirts advocating peace, the notion that backdoors should be built into every piece of communications equipment gives me pause. In particular when the regulation requiring the backdoor includes provisions for activation without a warrant. I opposed this crap during the previous administration and opppose it now.

So my big question about the proposed regulation is: will my activities now be criminal? See, my needs aren’t served by the communications equipment on the mass market. I’m presently building my own communications equipment to service my requirements. My build includes:

Now, it’s a real safe bet that neither the crypto accelerator nor the firewall software will ever include the backdoor the feds mandate. Frankly, if they did, I’d write my own firewall and do my crypto in software I’ve personally audited for holes before I’d consider using them. It’s absolutely impossible to design a backdoor such that authorized police agencies can access it and no one else can. Any assertions to the contrary are over-optimistic, disingenuous or both.

Do they honestly plan to make the use or distribution of this correctly functioning equipment illegal? That sounds unthinkable to me, but apparently I’m an exception in this regard. I’m patriotic. I have no intention of doing anything harmful or illegal. But this really rubs me the wrong way. Am I the only one?

Just a few links that I want to remember for later:

Why google will be profitable

Why kids should never go unsupervised. (Thanks boingboing)

Personally, I think the guy called Zidane’s sister a slut.

This debate will never be settled.

calvin and hobbes 1995 July 07

This Calvin and Hobbes cartoon from July 7, 1995 seems to ring even truer these days.

With this, I’m jumping (reluctantly) into the world of weblogs. This is just a spot for ramblings that are purely my own and of little interest to people other than me or my close friends. And for most all of you who are close friends, you most likely wanted mollyandgeoff.com anyway. Most of the stuff here will be related to my views on computing, copyright and technology in general. You’ll probably see random political comments as well. The really fun stuff, like news about me and Molly and pictures of our hounds, will wind up on our web site. This will be boring. You’ve been warned.