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Showing posts from 2006

Why I don't use Windows

In the world of computers, I've always loved trying new things and looking for better ways of doing things. This has led me down many roads; some better than others. I've learned that a person needs the right tool for the job and that the right tool for one may not be the right tool for another. This is especially true when it comes to computers.

I started getting involved with computers at a very young age (thanks Dad!) and, to this day, their uses and potential uses fascinate me. I remember when I was in high school and playing Wizardry on our old IBM PC with the green screen. I remember buying DOS 4.0 when it first came out. I remember purchasing my first computer, an IBM XT with a 10 MB hard drive and an EGA video card (that's means it could display 16 different colors!). That beast served me well my first year of college. It ran WordPerfect 5.1 and Civilization; what more could a college student want? Up until my second year or college, I think I was a pretty …

Satellite Radio

I am a technology junky. I admit it. I bought my first DVD player two months after they came out in the US (and spent about a year hoping I didn't buy a $600 CD player). I build computers for fun and I try to follow the new technologies coming out in that arena. However, for all of that, I also hate paying subscription fees. I canceled my cable because I thought paying for TV that I didn't really watch was a waste (my "rabbit ears" work just fine), I used a free dial-up account for internet because broadband was too expensive, I love the Tivo concept but can't bring myself to pay the subscription price. So it was quite a surprise to quite a few people when they found out that I do subscribe to satellite radio.

My road to satellite radio started out like any new technology, I saw an article about it and thought, "this is really cool!", followed by "if only it wasn't so expensive!". That's the way things stayed for a few years. Ev…

Political Issues: Healthcare

Healthcare has been a big issue for a while. It's frightening to see how much healthcare costs nowadays. I don't have some super plan to fix everything but I have a few ideas that may help.

1) Court reform for malpractice suits - Malpractice insurance pays out millions, if not billions, for punitive damages and I fear that many people think of it as winning the lottery. So, in order to make it more just, less prone to abuse, and less of a burden on all doctors (who have to pay the awards out of their malpractice insurance premiums), I would make a few changes.
A) Forbid punitive damages from being paid for by insurance. The whole point of punitive damages is to punish the perpetrator and is it really a punishment if insurance pays for it? This would have the effect of lowering insurance rates for doctors as well as making punitive damages an actual punishment.
B) Make punitive damages payable to the state and not the victim. This may not seem fair at first but the victi…

Political Issues: Iraq

Let me start by saying that I'm not a general and so speculating on strategy and deployment changes that would improve the situation in Iraq aren't going to be useful. However, I do have some suggestions for things that may help our troops on the ground.

The first thing I would do is have every soldier who is or may end up serving in Iraq start learning Arabic and Iraqi culture. Our troops' main mission is to keep the peace in Iraq. If they all had a better understanding of Iraqi culture as well as the ability to understand and communicate with Iraqis, I believe our troops would be better accepted, less likely to be attacked, and would be able to better deal with their day to day duties.

I would also try to do something economically. I heard that Iraq has around 60% unemployment. People who can't find jobs tend to get depressed and frustrated and depressed and frustrated people are easier for militias and terrorists to influence. Hard-working, happy people tend to …

Fantasy Congress

I found an interesting new online game the other day. It's called Fantasy Congress. It works like Fantasy Football or any other fantasy sports game. You simply draft a team of legislators (Senators and Congressmen) and you get points when your team submits bills, amends bills, and/or gets their bills signed into law. I tried it out and had a lot of fun.

The game follows the actual sessions of congress (the next one starts in January) so you don't know what's going to happen before it does (unless you call up your team members and ask them). It's fun that it creates a game out of congress but it's also educational in that you can see what really happens with legislation and you start to learn who is authoring it and how far it gets. It's a lot of fun and worth a look for anybody who wants to dabble.

So many things to do online...

Political Issues: Campaign Finance

It's time for businesses to get out of politics. Candidates, political parties, and political action committees should only be able to accept contributions from individuals. This means no corporate sponsorship of candidates, no political ads sponsored by businesses. I would even forbid groups from donating. No unions, church groups, clubs, etc. would be allowed to donate. The individual members should be allowed to freely donate but groups will be forbidden.

There are millions of dollars flowing into DC and who knows what kind of legislation it's buying. I think the Jack Abramoff scandal is the tip of the iceburg. The corruption needs to stop, but it won't until the money dries up. Businesses do not have the best interests of the country in mind. They need to get out of politics.

Update (Nov 2, 2006)

Another way which has been pretty effective in Arizona would be using a clean elections type financing model. The way it works in Arizona is that a candidate running un…

Political Issues: Illegal Immigration

I feel that the best way to discourage people from coming to the country illegally is to take away all of the benefits of hopping the border without permission.

1) Deny any government services (social security, medicaid, schools, etc) to non-citizens. If you are here illegally, you should not expect to get any help or support at taxpayer expense.

2) Strict enforcement of laws banning the employ of illegals. If a person is here unlawfully, they should not be able to find a job. There needs to be a quick and efficient way for employers to verify that a potential employee is legal (there is a social security database that employers can use to check social security numbers) so that they can easily prove they did due diligence. After that, the consequences should be pretty steep (large fines, loss of business license, maybe even prison)

On the other hand, I'm not at all against a guest worker policy. If the current illegals that really do want to work can come legally then great. Th…

Political Issues: Education

Education is a hard one to cover. Not being an educator (being a parent doesn't count in this instance), I don't have experience with the day to day things that may make a difference between a good education and a great one. However, on a broader level, I do have some ideas that I think would help.

1) Vouchers: I know that teachers unions, etc have tried to make that a dirty word but I believe that the money from taxpayers should follow the students. Parents should be able to pick any school and get the same funding for their child as they would if their child was in public school. The goes for public schools, private schools, charter schools, parochial schools, and any other schools. If we create a level playing field, then the best schools are going to get the students and the lesser schools will either have to improve or they will lose all of their funding. I think that competition will be a good thing for our kids.

2) Teacher Certifications: I feel that all teachers i…

Political Issues: Mass Transit

One of the largest causes of pollution in the Phoenix area is the amount of cars on the roads. Although expensive, the solution is REAL mass transit. What I mean is a commuter rail system that is fast and inexpensive. Our current bus system is way too slow. For example, it takes me between 30 and 50 minutes to drive to work (depending on traffic), but I rode the bus, it would take about 2 hours. Even if if was free I wouldn't take the bus. Commuter rail would probably drop the time down to 45 minutes to an hour. That would be worthwhile.

We could have a subway, and elevated train, or use existing track. The trick is for it to have it's own right of way (not have to wait for traffic). You could have a stop every mile or so with the buses fanning out from the rail stops. If the commuter rail hit malls and shopping centers as much as possible you would already have parking and the businesses would get a boost from the commuter traffic.

If we can pull half of the cars off …

Political Issues: Alternative Energy

I'm a nut for technology so it should be no surprise that I find fuel cells (hydrogen power) and other technologically advanced forms of alternative energy, fascinating. While it may seem a good idea to mandate their use, it's just not feasible right now. However, there are some practical things that can be done. If I were making energy policy for Arizona here are some of the things I would include.

1) Allow any vehicle that gets greater than 40 miles to the gallon (by EPA standards) to use the carpool/HOV lanes. This would encourage those buying cars to commute to get high mileage cars that, while not as stylish, can cut half an hour or more from their commute time.

2) End the policy that lets alternative fuel vehicles that can still run on gasoline use the carpool/HOV lanes. Most AFV cars and trucks that can use gas, do. That negates the environmental benefit and so their perks should be negated as well. I would make an exception for fleets that can prove they do not us…

Where I stand on political issues

Lately I've been doing a lot of research on different political candidates and examining where they stand on the issues. It's easy to get confused and mixed up because they all present good arguments to support their cases. So I thought I'd spend some time and outline how I feel about various issues. Some may be more local (to Arizona) while others more of a national concern but I think by writing out where I stand, I can more clearly see if a particular candidate fits with my views. I may also make changes to my position as new information comes out or as I find that my conclusions were not as correct as I may have hoped.

Election Predictions from electoral-vote.com

The web site electoral-vote.com shows its predictions on the upcoming election based on the most recent polls available. It should be interesting to see how the current scandals affect the poll numbers in the next few weeks (as well as the election itself).





Autism and the Geek

A little while ago I read a couple of articles on the similarities between the traits associated with Autism, and the traits that people associate with geeks. As I was reading the article, I started thinking about the perceived relationship between geeks and those that have Autism. Ultimately I decided to write about it in the hope that I can help to increase awareness of what Autism really is and how it affects people.

If you are not familiar with Autism, the Autism Society of America has some good resources that explain what Autism is and what causes it.

In short, Autism is a neurological disorder that affects the way a person perceives the world around them and the way they interact with others. It is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

For simplicity's sake, when I refer to Autism, I am including Asperger Syndrome which is commonly defined as a less severe, or higher functioning, form of Autism.

Some claim that geekiness is simply a hidden f…

Still Frustrated with the AZ Republican Party

I'm not sure if I feel better or more frustrated. I while ago I ranted that the Arizona Republican Party created an immigration law with an employer enforcement section that was a joke. Well, I spoke with both of my state representatives (who I like and respect) about what happened with that bill. I was informed that what started out as a good bill was amended into its worthless state in order for it to get passed at all. They also let me know that the main proponent of gutting the effectiveness out of the employer enforcement section was the chamber of commerce (I don't remember if it was the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, local chambers of commerce, or some combination).

I had always heard about the power of special interests but to see it first hand was kind of a shock. What is going on here? Where do the loyalties of our politicians lie? What is their stand on illegal immigration? They claim to be against it but will gut legislation aimed at stopping it because the ch…

Kidney Stones are Bad - Part 2

So I thought I would be fine in a couple of days, however, 5 days later, I'm still not fine. The percocet is taking away the pain but it also wipes me out and makes me pretty useless. So I went to my doctor who renewed my percocet prescription and referred me to an expert.

So I went to see the expert. He explained to me how kidney stones work and had me get X-rayed and come back. So I got the X-ray and came back and they scheduled me to get the stone zapped the next week.

By this time I was having good and bad days. It seems that while the kidney stone is moving, it causes immense pain. However, when it stops moving, the pain goes away. So I had a few days where I felt almost normal. By almost, I mean I felt normal except that I was toting around my percocet just in case the pain came back. I felt like a drug addict or something. The other thing was that I was afraid to go to work still. If the pain came back, I would have to take the percocet and if I did that I wouldn&#…

Kidney Stones are Bad

My advice to all that read this: Don't get a kidney stone! I have recently recovered from one and will freely admit that it was one of the most painful experiences of my life.

It started on a Monday with what I thought was some pretty intense back pain that lasted a couple of hours and then stopped. Well, I've got an office chair that doesn't offer much back support so I thought that was the problem. I tried switching chairs the next day and thought I was doing well until about noon when it hit me again.

This time it wasn't going away so I went to my wife's chiropracter to see if he could fix it. The pain was so bad that as I was driving to the chiropracter's office, I almost had to pull over on the freeway to throw up. However, I was able to make it to there and, after sitting in a massage chair for about 20 minutes and then having my back adjusted, I felt pretty good. So I figured I was all fixed up.

Wednesday was the day I probably won't ever be ab…

Frustrated with AZ Republican Party

Just so you know, I'm an Arizona Republican so this is a rant against my own party.

Recently the legislature passed a "comprehensive immigration reform" bill (HB2577). Governor Napolitano vetoed it. Of course the party faithful lined up to say how horrible and evil the governor is because she vetoed such a wonderful cure-all bill. Well, I got a little curious and actually went and read the governor's letter explaining why she vetoed the bill. While I disagreed with most of the reasons she gave, one of the reasons surprised me and actually got me to read the bill itself. What I found disturbed me.

As I've previously mentioned in my blogs about immigration, we are in a supply and demand cycle of illegal immigration. That is, as long as there is a demand for illegal workers, the supply will come. That's how capitalism works. Well, while HB2577 had a lot of good provisions for combating the supply of illegal immigrants, it actually seemed to protect the dem…

Microsoft and nonprofits

I've always had a dim view of Microsoft. While I think their software is pretty good (for desktops not servers), I don't like their politics. They have a long history of "ethically challenged" business decisions. They seem to have far more aptitude for dealing with competition by leveraging their monopoly on the PC or suing or buying out their competitors than by actually creating better products. This kind of business leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

They finally, with Windows XP SP 2, created an operating system that's stable and reasonably secure (if you take a lot of precautions) but it's taken a lot of pressure from Linux and Mac OS to get them to do anything. They are finally taking the web seriously but that's only because Firefox is eating their lunch. Even with all that, they are slow to respond, slow to innovate, and they seem more interested in locking in their customers than actually meeting their needs. On top of that, their software is …

The Immigration Issue: part 2

So how do we solve these problems? Well there are two schools of thought: Get all of the illegals out or make them legal. Most solutions boil down to one or the other or both. So which one is correct? Here are my thoughts on getting all of the illegals out:

Deport All Illegal Immigrants

This is the idea that the US House of Representatives seems to be favoring. The simplest plan is to build a wall at the border, get more border patrol agents, and pretty much seal off the border. Then, as a complimentary tactic, strictly enforce current laws about employing non-citizens.

Having a larger presence at the border and building a wall will slow down much of the border crossing but, by itself, it can't stop it. It's almost like sticking a band-aid on a corpse. People will find a way. The Berlin Wall had guards with machine guns, razor wire, and land mines but people still got over (granted not very many). This is why the real problem would need to be dealt with: demand.

In my pr…

The Immigration Issue: part 1

The immigration issue is big news, especially here in Arizona. Everybody has their ideas and opinions on what needs to be done. Some say we should build a wall while others think a guest worker policy will fix the problem. I think that we need to really understand the problem before we can fix it. This article will focus on exploring the problem. I'll attempt to offer some solutions in subsequent posts. Bear in mind that I'm not an expert but this is what my "common sense" has come up with.

Supply and Demand

The very heart of a capitalist society is the law of supply and demand. Simply put, where there is a demand, there will be a supply. In the US there is a demand for low wage labor. Whether it's on farms, in restaurants, in construction, in retail, in travel, or anywhere else, employers are looking to cut costs. This is not evil but business. If I can do business cheaper than company B down the street, more people will come to me and I'll make mor…

Changing from Xandros 3.02 to Suse 9.3 - My Linux Odyssey

Some people hop from one operating system to the next, always interested and excited about the next new thing. Others like to experiment for a while but, after finding the “right” OS, tend to stop looking around. Others won't change at all. In fact, they will fight change even if their current operating system locks up all the time, is difficult to use, and never seems to work right (OK, not all Windows systems are like that but you get my point). I am in the second group. Once I decided to try Linux, I spent a month or so trying out different flavors until I found the one I liked. So, for the last year or so, I have been a happy Xandros Linux user.

Then it happened. A few months ago, I was approved to replace my computer. Since HP is a supplier for work, I was able to get a nice Athlon 64 box without any hassle (very nice!). Not only that, but I was able to get it with Linux. Granted my only choice was Suse Linux 9.3 but it was nice not to pay the Windows tax and it did …

Review of Xandros Linux

This review was originally published by NewsForge. Here's my original.

About a year ago I installed Linux on my desktop at work. I am a database administrator for a PeopleSoft and Oracle shop and I spend a lot of my time remotely logged in to our servers. I decided to try Linux because I had become frustrated with Windows not being able to things like multiple desktops, forwarding the display of a remote server onto your box to run apps remotely, and connecting with SSH. Fortunately, my management is far more interested in having happy, productive employees than what operating system people use so they were willing to let me experiment. Today, with Xandros, I have a good solid desktop, and I don't worry about viruses, spyware, and adware.

I wanted an easy-to-use Linux distribution, something that "just works." I didn't want to spend my time tinkering or figuring out how to make my system work.

At work we have been migrating our Web servers and some of our other …

I love my car!

I finally got it. Ever since the PT Cruiser came out in 2001ish, I've wanted to get one. Of course new cars aren't cheap (even though the PT Cruiser IS relatively inexpensive, it's still not cheap) and I had a car that ran pretty well so it was hard to justify spending that much money because it "looks cool". However, I had decided that when my current vehicle, a 1991 Acura Integra, finally wore itself out, the PT Cruiser would be at the top of my list. However, with only 150,000 miles on it and it being an Acura, I figured I had a few years to prepare. I was wrong.

Starting last summer, my car started having issues. Little things would wear out/break that would be annoying to fix and, at least twice, required towing the car to our mechanic. It was bad enough that I enrolled in AAA which, at the rate I seemed to be going, would pay for itself rather quickly. Well it did and, as an aside, I was so impressed with AAA's service that I recommend them to anyone who…