Bill Gates Goes Up In My Esteem (Like He Cares)

His trip to sucked simply put and he documented his grief in intricate detail and with obvious anger. The interviewer showed Gates the email and asked if he remembered it?

I’ve never been a big Bill Gates fan. You have to be ruthless to be a corporate titan. I just read a well thought out story about him. My mind is changed.

In 2008 with Gates leaving daily life at Microsoft Todd Bishop of the Seattle Post Intelligencer was granted an interview. To prepare he read through Bill Gates’ emails made public after a trial.

In one Gates complained loudly about his experience on The site was slow and confusing. He never accomplished his objective.

Gates sounded like a real user–you or me. His trip to sucked simply put and he documented his grief in intricate detail and with obvious anger.

The interviewer showed Gates the email and asked if he remembered it?

‘”What do you think I do all day? Sending an e-mail like that, that is my job. That’s what it’s all about. We’re here to make things better.”

That’s a better Bill Gates than I expected.

Corporate Kvetching

Pardon me for being a little skeptical, but I am. I’m not denying it’s tough to find educated people, and I’ll get to that in a moment, but Mr. Stephenson leaves out an important part of the equation.

The president of AT&T, the telephone giant that was SBC… was Cingular… was SNET… was speaking a few days ago, and he was upset.

As Reuters reported:

“We’re having trouble finding the numbers that we need with the skills that are required to do these jobs,” AT&T Chief Executive Randall Stephenson told a business group in San Antonio, where the company’s headquarters is located.

So far, only around 1,400 jobs have been returned to the United States of 5,000, a target it set in 2006, the company said, adding that it maintains the target.

Pardon me for being a little skeptical, but I am. I’m not denying it’s tough to find educated people, and I’ll get to that in a moment, but Mr. Stephenson leaves out an important part of the equation.

Isn’t this what he meant to say: “We’re having trouble finding the numbers that we need with the skills that are required to do these jobs at the salary we’re willing to pay.?

That’s a question asked yearly when H-1B visas are debated. H-1B is the ‘permission’ required by high tech companies to bring in foreign workers to perform highly skilled jobs.

Bill Gates was talking about this last week and is quoted on

“We live in an economy that depends on the ability of innovative companies to attract and retain the very best talent, regardless of nationality or citizenship,” Gates said. “Unfortunately, the U.S. immigration system makes attracting and retaining high-skilled immigrants exceptionally challenging.”

The thing is, opponents of H-1B visas say, Microsoft and other companies aren’t paying “high-skilled” worker wages. H-1B rules do require that workers are paid the prevailing wage for their job.

Matloff said H-1B workers in the IT industry are “almost always programming of some sorts.”

“It could be a programmer, it could be a software engineer, it could be a system analyst,” Matloff said.

But Matloff and other H-1B critics contend there is no shortage of American workers for those jobs. H-1B workers, they say, just come cheaper and younger.

Quite honestly, is this any different than the complaints raised by farmers, looking to bring in migrant workers? They always say there aren’t enough US workers for these jobs. But is agricultural work more difficult or distasteful than construction or pumping septic systems. People do those jobs, even under difficult conditions.

Is the question finding workers or finding workers at what they’re willing to pay? Is that the fault of the business or the worker? Should American businesses pit Americans against foreigners when it comes to wages?

Back to what AT&T’s Stephenson and Bill Gates said about the state of American education. I couldn’t agree more.

Our high schools and colleges have become more like trade schools than institutions of higher learning. Where is the broad foundation which used to make up a high school or college education?

We live in an era where creative thought is required for more and more jobs. But is that creative thought being nurtured? Are we really well served by our education system?

Down Eleven Pounds

If you invent the dietetic pretzel, you will be as rich as Bill Gates and Warren Buffet combined. I will kiss you on the lips.

My diet continues. So far, so good. I’m down 11 pounds. Yesterday I was down 12.

You shouldn’t look every day – right? How can you not?

When I last dieted, Dr. Steve looked at my blood numbers and said, “No more Atkins.”

Actually, he hinted at it. I picked up the hint. He said he was glad I did.

This diet is very different for me, in that I’m not being 100% strict. I have had cake. I have had pasta. Just less than I would have had before.

Mostly, I’ve made healthier choices… and avoided pretzels. I love pretzels. That’s the most difficult part.

If you invent the dietetic pretzel, you will be as rich as Bill Gates and Warren Buffet combined. I will kiss you on the lips.

Nowadays, instead of getting the “Chicken Caesar Wrap” at dinner, I’ll get the “Veggie Wrap.” No potatoes or fries, it’s grilled vegetables there too. Mayo is replaced by mustard. I’ve developed a taste for salmon. I’m losing weight a few hundred calories at a time.

My biggest change happens when I get home from work. There’s a whole lot less grazing, and (as I mentioned) no pretzels. I do eat a lot of fruit.

These are simple things. They are working.

I have dieting and weight theories. They aren’t based on ‘real’ science, but they make sense to me.

For instance, I don’t think I could go below 160 pounds and still be healthy. I have found 200 pounds is much too much weight. So, there’s a 40 pound range to ‘play’ in.

With that in mind, I’ve lost about a quarter of this ‘optional’ weight. I’d like to lose another 12-13 pounds, bring me into the mid-170s. As a grown-up, that seems to me to be my ideal weight.

Of course, the best part for me is seeing the results. It’s easy to see how much better my clothes fit. I’ll never become a swimsuit model.

When I was in my twenties, home cooking was Hydrox Cookies and Coca Cola. I had daily lunch at Burger King – Whopper, minus onions and mayonnaise, and a chocolate shake. I never put on an ounce.

Age is cruel. You metabolism changes and hair grows in all sorts of strange places.

Health aside, I’ve got too much invested in clothes to be heavy.

Was Broken – Is Fixed

This is a problem totally related to internet Explorer 6. Damn you Bill Gates.

I got a call from my daughter earlier today. This website was broken. The center column was overlying the main text on the left. I couldn’t replicate it at home!

Marla in Pennsylvania, David in Arizona and Jebbediah in Springfield (really… well, really on Springfield, not really on Jebbediah) had the same affliction.

This is a problem totally related to internet Explorer 6. Damn you Bill Gates. Most of you are using Internet Explorer 7 or Firefox (my choice), thankfully.

I have fixed it… though I’m not totally sure how.

Please let me know if any of the site doesn’t work. As was the case today, I can’t always see what you see.

Silly Bill Gates

I want to write to Bill Gates. This has nothing to do with Microsoft.

Recently, Gates was in Ottawa, Canada&#185. As Reuters reports, He was asked about his children and their use of computers.

“She could spend two or three hours a day on this Viva Pinata, because it’s kind of engaging and fun.”

Gates said he and his wife Melinda decided to set a limit of 45 minutes a day of total screen time for games and an hour a day on weekends, plus what time she needs for homework.

“Up to some age, to be determined, it’s very appropriate for a parent to get a sense of what they’re seeing out there and be able to have conversations about it,” he said.

“My son said, ‘Am I going to have limits like this my whole life?’, and I said, ‘No, when you move away you can set your own screen limits’,” Gates recounted, to audience laughter.”

Bill Gates, you’re so silly. Sure, you’re the richest man in the world, but controlling your children… C’mon Bill, no one’s got that much pull!

I am told, when Steffie was very small, I claimed I’d never say “no” to her. I’d find a way to discuss and explain. I don’t remember saying that, though I don’t deny it.

What was I smoking?

You see Bill, the problem is we teach them to speak. We teach them to reason. They hear us dispute others in our conversations. Somehow, they feel they should have a free mind and free will.

I know, it sounded awfully heavy handed to me too. Why should a 9 or 13 or 19 year old child have any input when I make a decision? And yet, over time, they wear you out. They push and push and push some more until, finally, you are powerless to stop them.

Bill, it’s going to be tougher in your situation, because you’re surrounded by an army of sycophants who only know yes. They will be outweighed by your children who will only know “no.” Unfortunately, Children can’t be fired or outsourced to Bangalore.

Here’s my biggest revelation as a parent. You can’t teach experience! Your child will have to do everything you know is wrong or foolish or against their own best interests, just the way you did. From time-to-time, you will just have to sit back and watch them screw up.

I know you’re still a little naive. I’ve heard you talk about the incredible stability and security of the Windows platform. Fixing children is much more difficult. And this time, you’ve got to do it in “version 1.0”.

&#185 – When I first visited Ottawa in the late 70s, my friend Howard drove by the US Embassy and said, “That’s where the landlord lives.”

Enough Is Enough

I make a good living. It’s not enough.

I watch actors in the movies. They already have fortunes beyond my wildest dreams. Still, they’re acting for cash. What they have is not enough.

Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Sumner Redstone… these guys are working? Why? Obviously, whatever they’ve got, it’s not enough.

The exception to this universal mindset is Craig Newmark. He is Craig of is to the worst thing to ever happen to classified advertising… at least that’s how folks in the newspaper business feels. All those lovely little ads selling everything in your daily paper – they’re free on Craigslist&#185! It’s tough to compete with free.

From Reuters:

“Who needs the money? We don’t really care,” Craig Newmark said in an interview at the Picnic ’06 Cross Media Week conference here.

“If you’re living comfortably, what’s the point of having more?” Newmark said

Craig, you’re killing me. Can’t material wealth be an end unto itself?

“We both know some people who own more than a billion (dollars) and they’re not any the happier. They also need bodyguards,” he said.

Being privately held, no one knows what Craigslist’s revenue is. Even with the few categories that are monetized (a word I’m positive Craig doesn’t use), there’s more than enough cash for its 22 employees. Craig, who could easily be a millionaire many times over, still works on the site.

Seriously speaking, how can you fault him? He is a man of principles who decided not to sell out. There are far too few of those left.

But Craig, you really are giving the rest of us a bad name.

&#185 – There are some minor exceptions. Craigslist charges in certain categories in certain cities, but only enough to keep people from listing and relisting to keep atop the pile.

Microsoft – Activation And Bad Music On Hold

Once the main computer’s case was buttoned up, I booted and that’s when I got Microsoft’s message. Because of my changes this looks like a new computer. To them, it seems like this machine’s copy of Windows XP has been activated too many times.

I am currently upset. I am upset while listening to bad, guitar laden, non-descript instrumentals on the Microsoft Activation Hotline.

It is now five minutes since the first guitar was strummed.

Here’s the backstory. Now that my new computer is working, it’s time to really optimize it.

A warning message has flashed each time I booted. I was using the wrong cable on one of the disk drives. I would be slowed, not stopped. The DVD writer was old, but I had a faster one in my backup machine. Why not swap?

These are simple things to do. It’s almost like unplugging one TV and plugging in another.

I moved the computers from their place, wedged between my desk and file cabinet. You could call the mess of wires back there a rats’ nest, but that would be unfair to rats!

It’s amazing how many formerly used cables there were back there. It’s a job I should have done 10 years ago – and it hasn’t gotten prettier.

As I lifted cables and wires, there were dust bunnies the size of real bunnies.

Still on hold. I’m getting a gun to shoot a random guitarist. This is beyond painful.

Anyway, I cleaned, straightened and reinstalled. Helaine asked if I’d be throwing some of the old cables out?

Please! These are cables. Where I come from, you sacrifice to the cousin level before you ditch cables. There has to be a place in the attic for them to lie in state.

Once the main computer’s case was buttoned up, I booted and that’s when I got Microsoft’s message. Because of my changes this looks like a new computer. To them, it seems like this machine’s copy of Windows XP has been activated too many times.

They won’t let me reactivate over the Internet, that would be too simple. And, if I don’t do this, and then wait too long, my computer will be frozen like a Popsicle.

It would be one thing if this was a bootlegged copy of XP. This is legit. I am holding the packaging in my hand – see?

It’s approaching a half hour and that guy is still strumming. There hasn’t been one voice nor any hint I might have misdialed. Maybe instead of Microsoft I’ve gotten hold of the non-descript guitarist hotline? No way to know.

Even worse, it’s a short piece that keeps repeating… and repeating… and repeating.

If this were work, it would be on my speakerphone. Here at home it means phone firmly between chin and shoulder. I am tethered in place and can accomplish nothing.

A few minutes ago, a call came for Helaine. I answered it, but didn’t take more than 5 seconds, telling her Helaine would call back. Hey – you only get one shot. I don’t want to go to the back of the line.

I want to know if Bill Gates waits this long? Actually, at this moment, I just want Bill Gates!

Addenum – After around an hour, I was getting suspicious this might end up my life’s work. We have another phone, and I called on that line. It wasn’t more than a few minutes (after hearing the same guitar music) before I was speaking to a woman with an Indian accent.

After swearing on my parents that this copy of XP is only in one machine, I was allowed to activate it.

Now, who gives me back the hour I lost?

Steffie Finds Photos

It’s good to be a college student. Well, it wasn’t good when I was a college student, but it’s obviously good now.

No sooner did Steffie return from our Pacific cruise than she was on a plane (actually two) heading to Florida. Though she just told me on the phone it was “overcast,” it’s also currently 70&#176. I’ll save my pity.

Do I have to tell you how glad I am she enjoys spending time with my folks? I think she appreciates their company on two levels. First, of course, it’s just them. Second, she enjoys being an observer in their “seniors on steroids” life.

Even as a baby, she enjoyed observing. We used to joke how she’d sit in the back seat of the car, becoming part of the seat, so she could listen to adult conversations unnoticed.

My parents live a very active life in a community with a full social calendar and lots of facilities.

The thing seniors do, which I envy most, is their ability to be totally non-judgmental. It is as if everyone in their complex is living life as karaoke, and everyone else is applauding each song.

If you live there and want to learn to use a computer… even though you’re 70, maybe 80 years into life and have never touched one – hooray for you! And if you want to be a computer teacher – boom – you’re Bill Gates.

No one judges. Only your desire and effort is applauded. My dad becomes Mr. Tech Support for Banyon Springs! The condo complexes newspaper writes about him.

Back to Steffie. I get too carried away with peripheral thoughts.

Last night, as she sat with my parents, my cellphone rang – not with calls, but text messages and photos. Steffie was going through old pictures and snapping shots of the most interesting ones.

First came this photo of me as an infant. My mother said people would stop her to say I looked like the Gerber baby. Probably not, but it was nice to say.

When I showed this to a few people at work, the first two (without pausing a beat) said my hair looked the same. That’s weird, isn’t it?

The second one is more interesting, only because I remember a lot about it.

It was probably 1970 and I was living 15 or so miles from where my parents live now, in West Palm Beach. A friend of a friend introduced me to a photographer. He seemed much older then, so maybe he was in his late 20s or 30s.

He had developed a technique in developing photos. In many ways it looks like the mosaic filtering Photoshop (and other photo software) perform. Back then, this was nothing less than an amazing technique – and if there were others who could perform it, there was little way to know.

I thought the picture made me look too sullen, but others liked it, so I sent it along to my folks (back then, living in Flushing, NY). I can’t believe they saved it all these years, especially considering the limited space they had in that tiny Flushing apartment.

When it was taken, I never imagined a child of mine would see it and maybe get some insight into her father. In fact, I would have never suspected having a child was in my future.

There are so many reasons I’m glad Steffie is spending time with my folks. Sharing photos is just one.

Happy Birthday Harold – Hope You Can Join Us

Next week is a milestone for my dad. He will be 80. This is not a number to take lightly.

I’ve asked him in the past to contrast his age with his expectations of what that age was going to be like. He couldn’t. Long ago he passed any age he had expected to see.

This is not to say my father thought he’d be gone by now. It’s just no one thinks of what life will be like at 80… until you’re late into your 79th year.

I think I speak for him when I say, these are the best times of his life. He and my mom live a wonderful life in Florida. Their condo complex is socially active, which suits them fine.

My mom has become more active in governing the condo complex, something I never would have expected. My dad has become a computer maven to his fellow senior citizens who see him as a latter day Bill Gates.

So, what do you do for an 80th birthday? My folks thought it would be fun to take Helaine and me, along with my sister Trudi and brother-in-law Jeff, to Las Vegas for a family oriented celebration. My cousins Michael and Melissa will be joining us.

What says happy birthday more than Las Vegas?

My folks don’t gamble, but they are great explorers. Vegas has so much to explore. We plan on seeing some excellent shows, taking in the sights and eating as if cholesterol hadn’t been discovered. I will also attempt to play poker 23 hours a day or until I can no longer afford Steffie’s college tuition.

My folks are due to leave Florida Tuesday. Well, they are now. I suppose it’s all Hurricane Wilma dependent.

If you look at the tracking maps, the current projections bring Wilma right over their place. It’s not a reassuring outlook. The one saving grace is, Wilma won’t be a particularly strong hurricane by then.

Earlier today I asked if they would call the airline, AirTran, and see if they could move their flight. Lots of other airlines were accommodating passengers in this manner. not AirTran… or at least not in a way that was meaningful.

Fixing My Computer Until It Doesn’t Work

Last night, while sitting at the computer, I opened up TweakUI, a program that allows mere mortals to fool with the Windows user interface. Somehow, over time, my computer had started demanding I sign on every time I powered it up. I wanted that to stop.

I had forgotten about TweakUI until my friend Peter Mokover reminded me. There’s no reason for that last sentence other than the gratuitous mention of his name. At one time Peter was ‘the man.’

TweakUI allowed me to turn off the sign on procedure and even eliminate the names that appeared for signing on… well, not quite.

This morning, when I turned on the computer, up came the log on screen (that I thought I had turned off). It came without any names to sign on! That part, unfortunately worked.

The cure, thankfully, wasn’t too difficult. Windows does have a facility to roll back the clock and reset the computer as it was before I made these changes (going in through Safe Mode).

I still have to log in.

Damn you Bill Gates!

Reading Slashdot

I like to read Slashdot. It’s one of my top two websites.

For the uninitiated, (no www necessary – thanks) is where geeks go for geeky news. If someone has built a monorail in their backyard, perfected stovetop fusion, or said anything good about Linux (or bad about Microsoft), it can be found on Slashdot – “News for Nerds. Stuff that matters.”

There are no Slashdot reporters. This is a site that aggregates from other sites, much as Matt Drudge does. Everything that’s posted is submitted by one of the zillions of readers.

Because of the site’s dedicated readers, smaller sites that get mentioned get overloaded with the aptly named “Slashdot effect.” It is funny to see an interesting post and then note comments, only moments later, proclaiming the linked site as unreachable!

I like reading Slashdot, and I like submitting articles. It’s good to help steer the nerd news agenda.. It’s also a good way to get this website a little free publicity, as they list the URL or email address of those who submit stories.

I’m sure my Slashdot posts had something to do with my rise in the Google rankings. Slashdot is a 9 or 10 in Google’s page rankings. So being mentioned there is very important.

If you’re interested in what interests me, here’s my list of Slashdot submissions – some accepted, some rejected. You’ll notice there’s one pending, a story about burning audio CD’s at concerts.

2004-05-03 17:02:03 Take Home The Concert on CD (articles,media) (pending)

2004-04-28 18:00:25 Sweet News for Open Office Suite (articles,software) (rejected)

2004-04-28 07:34:19 Outsourcing Doesn’t Always Pay (articles,tech) (rejected)

2004-04-25 18:03:14 Linux/Unix computers hacking target (articles,linux) (rejected)

2004-04-06 00:44:51 My personal Linux frustration (askslashdot,linux)(rejected)

2004-03-01 05:06:14 Fighting Piracy is Bad for Business – Honest! (articles,media) (rejected)

2004-02-23 03:38:55 How Geeks REALLY Use High School Gyms! (articles,tech) (rejected)

2004-02-15 02:15:35 I’m Watching Those Who Watch Me (articles,internet) (rejected)

2004-02-08 22:39:48 Microsoft search (askslashdot,microsoft) (rejected)

2004-01-19 23:08:31 Commercials come to the net (after this word) (articles,media) (accepted)

2003-12-06 23:09:58 Perfect Weather on the Net (science,science) (accepted)

2003-11-23 20:27:55 Synthesized Singers (articles,music) (accepted)

2003-11-19 22:37:35 Bill Gates and the Nightclub Video (articles,windows) (rejected)

2003-11-03 01:58:19 Is this the future of TV? (developers,tv) (rejected)

2003-10-29 08:10:39 Fire photos – amateurs as the new chroniclers (articles,media) (rejected)

2003-10-24 07:17:56 Here Comes the Sun(spots) – they’re huge (radio,science) (rejected)

2003-10-24 04:37:54 AOL tweaking users computers… and not telling (articles,spam) (accepted)

2003-10-02 06:41:07 Experience one hour in only thirty minutes (articles,games) (accepted)

2003-09-25 03:12:13 Do geeks really need planes to fly? (articles,hardware) (rejected)

2003-08-20 18:38:39 If you know… how can you stop it? (askslashdot,tech) (rejected)

Blogger’s note: McD points out, all my accepted Slashdot submissions can actually be seen in context by clicking here.

Someone, Please Explain This To Me

Helaine and I are Phillies fans. With the baseball season starting soon (it’s already started for the Yankees and Devil Rays – in Tokyo) I set out to buy the Major League Baseball online package. This is something we’ve done in the past.

You plunk down your money and get a subscription – either the radio play-by-play to all the games of one team, all the teams, or a video package. The amazing thing is watching or listening on your PC. The quality is quite good.

There are all sorts of pricing arrangements. If you go to the Major League Baseball website, the advertised price is $14.95 per month, or $79.95 for the season, for video (and not all games are available as video), or $19.95 per month and $99.95 per season for radio and TV.

So far, so good. MLB has the rights, and they can charge what they wish.

At the bottom of the page, next to a small MSN logo, is this text: “MSN Premium subscribers get All Access with your subscription.”

I went to MSN’s website, and here’s what I found there: “All new or existing MSN Premium members receive All Access, which includes MLB.TV and Gameday Audio.” The price, $9.95 per month, with three months free!

This doesn’t make any sense to me, but I signed up anyway.

Quite honestly, I wouldn’t sign up for MSN if they gave it away free. There is some software in the deal and better access to some of Microsoft’s services, but nothing I really want.

I guess if I were a marketing major, or Bill Gates, a lightbulb would turn on above my head and the reason for this pricing arrangement would become crystal clear. I am neither… obviously.

Searching’s Not Easy

Recently, there’s been a lot of talk about search engines – sites like Google and Yahoo and Alta Vista. Yahoo, which used Google’s search engine, has now switched to another supplier. Microsoft says they’re going to go into competition with Google. This is not as easy as it seems.

First, an admission. I like Google. While the other search engines were becoming more portal-like, and more commercial, Google was keeping true to its purpose. Searches on Google seemed, to me at least, to hit the mark more often.

As tough as it is to believe, Google is the little guy! Yes, they will soon be going public for billions of dollars (no joke) they are pipsqueaks compared to Microsoft. Heck, their first day valuation will probably even fall short of Bill Gates alone.

Here’s the part I don’t understand. If these others are going to try and unseat Google, don’t they have to search just as thoroughly?

My website’s software provides an easy view of the spiders that crawl through. The chart below this text shows January 2004’s activity from the search engines. There is Google and there is everyone else. No one else even comes close.

And, imagine how large their database must be when they’re looking at 85+ mb of my stuff!

Slashdot – The Geek I Am

I love It’s the website with the slogan: “News for Nerds. Stuff that matters.”&#135 There’s lots of attitude… maybe too much attitude at times. There’s certainly a lot of Bill Gates – bad; RIAA – bad; Big Government – bad; Linux – good.

Linus Torvalds, the Linux founder and gatekeeper, is worshiped with the ferver normally reserved Britney Spears or (until this past week) Michael Jackson.

To my friends and relatives I am a computer expert; the guy who’s called upon to provide tech support. On slashdot I’m way below the median in tech knowledge… way below.

What makes slashdot so interesting, and what is difficult to figure out when you look at the site, is that each subject gets about the same amount of space for easily accessible comments (with a little effort, everything is there). It is the vote or moderation of members that decides what stays and what is shuffled off to the back shelves.

So, as subjects get more comments, it is more likely that they will be interesting on-topic comments, and the off topic stuff and flamebait will disappear. It’s pretty ingenious and only works because of the huge size of slashdot’s audience.

In fact, when small websites mentioned on slashdot get swamped with browsers, it’s called being slashdotted.

Though moderation is the major arbiter of whether your comments stay or go, there is also the matter of “karma.” Karma is given based on how your previous postings were moderated, and whether you’ve submitted articles (usually just links to articles published elsewhere) that were added to slashdot itself.

Here’s how I’ve done:

2002-09-18 18:18:54 NYTimes endorses Open Source and Linux. Yes, endo (articles,news) (rejected)

2003-01-22 04:38:06 Earthquake data (articles,news) (accepted)

2003-08-20 18:38:39 If you know… how can you stop it? (askslashdot,tech) (rejected)

2003-09-25 03:12:13 Do geeks really need planes to fly? (articles,hardware) (rejected)

2003-10-02 06:41:07 Experience one hour in only thirty minutes (articles,games) (accepted)

2003-10-24 04:37:54 AOL tweaking users computers… and not telling (articles,spam) (accepted)

2003-10-24 07:17:56 Here Comes the Sun(spots) – they’re huge (radio,science) (rejected)

2003-10-29 08:10:39 Fire photos – amateurs as the new chroniclers (articles,media) (rejected)

2003-11-03 01:58:19 Is this the future of TV? (developers,tv) (rejected)

2003-11-19 22:37:35 Bill Gates and the Nightclub Video (articles,windows) (rejected)

2003-11-23 20:27:55 Synthesized Singers (articles,music) (accepted)

That’s 4 accepted of 11 received. I would complain, but to quote slashdot, “Note: grousing about rejected submissions is Offtopic and usually gets moderated that way. It happens, don’t take it personally.”

&#135 – Why Nerds is spelled with a capital “N” is beyond me. It’s not a proper noun, it should be “n.”

The Geek In Me Speaks

Here’s a major surprise – I love computers. I find them fascinating and am always tempted to learn what I can and expand the envelope, if possible.

It’s possible this goes back to my first experience with computers, in high school in 1967. Somehow, we had two computers at school. Actually, we had one – an IBM 360 (I think) which was booted by flipping switches in the proper order and ‘fed’ with punch cards or paper tape.

What seemed like our second computer was a Model 34 Teletype, somehow connected by phone line to a computer at a local college. I played Wumpus, Golf and Horse Racing. Everything came out as printed text on that very slow teletypewriter.

In 1978 I got a Radio Shack TRS-80. Later, I got a Commodore 64 and then a series of PCs, culminating in the homebuilt Athlon XP 1600+ machine I’m composing this on.

I like being on the ‘bleeding’ edge, so I’ve kept an old computer handy and loaded Linux as the operating system. Depending on whom you believe, Linux will soon roust Windows as the operating system of choice, sending Bill Gates and the Evil Empire to the poorhouse… or it is an ill conceived idea promulgated by geeks who can’t really see who the final user will be (I saw Walter Mossberg say this yesterday on CNBC) and don’t care to design in ease of use.

I want the first choice to be true but I’m scared it’s the second. That’s not a totally fatal situation, but it certainly means Linux isn’t quite ready for prime time.

My latest install attempts (and they’re ongoing as I type this) will bear this out.

With a new, five year old, laptop (Dell D300XT), an extra hard drive for it and a great deal of curiosity, I set out to make the laptop run Linux. Since this is an extra hard drive, I should be able to swap drives and go back and forth from Windows to Linux without one affecting the other.

Since Red Hat has decided to get out of the consumer desktop end of Linux, I decided to try a new distribution. As I understand it, all Linux versions share certain core components but differ in the other programs that come in the distribution. Suse seemed like a good idea. I had read about it. It has its fans… why not?

The recommended way to install Suse seems to be by installing a small subset of Linux (in my case burning a CD-R) and then using FTP (file transfer protocol) to pluck everything else directly off a server and right onto my hard drive.

If there are detailed… or even sparse… instructions for doing this, I couldn’t find them! The Suse installer started asking questions I had no answer for within the first few seconds of the install. There was no help button to press; nowhere to go. Using Google I was able to get some answers, but every time I’d solve one problem, another would spring up in its place.

Next I went to Debian; another respected distribution. They had a few network install suggestions, but all led to boot disks that were wrong or unavailable.

Finally, I went to Red Hat’s ‘cousin’ Fedora. There’s some sort of incestuous relationship here. I’m not sure what it is, but I think in some way Fedora is part of Red Hat.

I began the installation from 3 CD’s I had downloaded overnight a few days ago. A Linux distribution, even from a cable modem, requires hours and hours of downloading and then burning of bootable ISO CD’s.

Fedora seemed to understand what my system was all about (though it looked like the installation was taking place at 800×600 resolution on my 1024×768 laptop screen). It asked what kind of system I wanted loaded and when I chose ‘desktop’, the loading began.

I’m not sure how long it was… probably around an hour… when Fedora just stopped. A screen, telling me there were four minutes left, stared at me. No motion from the hard drive. No motion from the CD. Nada.

After a while I got tired of waiting and rebooted the system. What I had was nothing. The system wouldn’t boot. Linux wasn’t installed. I have just started the process again.

Maybe I didn’t have enough patience. Maybe the computer was doing some sort of Klingon Mind Meld and didn’t want to be disturbed? How should I know?

Even if this installation is fully successful, my job won’t be done. I’ll need to figure out how to enable my wireless network card, a printer hooked to my router and configure all sorts of computing minutiae, like email parameters.

Right now, it looks like the install will continue long after I’ve gone to bed. Maybe this will give the machine a chance to decide it wants to work this time.