Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Cautionary Note on the ASUS E35M1-M

I flamed the ASUS E35M1-M yesterday in an online forum, but then had second thoughts and deleted my post, because I just don't feel enough certainty to flame, especially when I am unable to find any claims online to back up my own. After all, it is possible that I had two defective motherboards. Defects do happen. And besides, what do I know? I know how to build systems, but my knowledge of hardware is not deep. I could be mistaken, and I don't like slinging mud at one of the few low-energy offerings for desktops besides Intel's Atom.

But here is my hypothesis, to those who are interested, and somehow I do not think I will be the only one.

I have three ASUS E35M1-M motherboards installed in desktop systems, and they have eaten a USB stick containing the OpenElec install, which I referred to an earlier post, as well as a name-brand keyboard and mouse. By "eaten" I mean these devices are no longer operable, will not interact with any of my other computers, are dead, no lights come on, and they are not detected by the BIOS. The cause of their demise was plugging and unplugging these devices into various USB ports on the ASUS E35M1-M. The reason I am suspicious is that three devices is an awful lot to die in the span of twenty-four hours for a small household like mine, and these young devices had been operating without any problems before. The BIOS version on each of the motherboards was 1502, and I notice that ASUS has in September of 2012 released two BIOS updates, with 1602 being said to "improve system stability and improve USB compatibility." Again, I'm not completely sure of what happened, but I do think the motherboard is the most likely culprit here. Stupid ASUS forced me to use USB ports because they only included one lousy PS/2 port. I have PS/2 mice and keyboards, but no, they demand their customers use a USB port, to save a couple pennies on the manufacture of a $199 board.

Needless to mention, I am upgrading all of my BIOSes to 1602 this morning. The ASUS E35M1-M boasts of the new UEFI BIOS, but I did not know how to get either Windows or Linux to install with it. Meanwhile, the manufacturer apparently hadn't worked all the bugs out yet, and so I got the disadvantages without the benefits. I can't recommend this motherboard anymore, but does it matter? AMD discontinued the E-350 chip, so the motherboard has been orphaned.

I think my next motherboard is going to be an Intel motherboard running an Intel chip. Post a Comment
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Monday, October 29, 2012

Linux Mint 13 & OpenElec 2.0 & Windows 7

I've been engulfed in a whirlwind of Operating System (OS) storms of late that all began one night when I attempted to install a refurbished 2.5tb hard drive I had snagged for $100. Little did I suspect that Windows XP would throw a major hissy fit over the drive exceeding the arbitrary 2tb maximum decreed by Microsoft. Windows XP was impossible, there was a mathematical boundary based on sectors and MS-DOS and 32-bit, so said all the divines that I consulted.

I probed around the cyber underground and finally found what seemed like a suitable bootleg Windows 7, but it wouldn't handle the large drive either, nothin' doin'. The cracker clown had deleted the EFI boot driver, you see, which is required for Windows to recognize the drive properly. I assume that the EFI driver had been deleted so as not to interfere with the cracker's key-logging, virus and trojan horse programs, because Avast flagged three of the files in the bootleg as being Potentially Unwanted Programs, which is bad news, a headache I don't need. I probed a bit and found that some of the instructions were written in Russian, and that was all I needed to know quite frankly.

Long story short, I wound up returning to an old flame of mine, where OSes are concerned that is, an OS that I have flirted with in the past though our love was never consummated by an actual desktop install. No, we had only experimented together, fumbling under the sheets in a hotel room, this OS and me, and now she was a few years older and wiser, updated and better in every way, and to my surprise, this time we managed to pull it off and have a baby together.

Linux Mint, "Maya", is the lady I'm talking about, my latest excursion into the wild lands beyond the Windows continent. After a mind-boggling ordeal I have finally taught myself enough rudiments to get by in the not-quite-so-friendly-as-media-pundits-would-have-it Linux world. Pundits say Linux Mint is the friendliest flavor of Linux around, and they're probably right about that, but Linux itself is not quite so friendly as Windows XP, not quite as easy to get things done, and I found a number of glitches and hard-to-understand points even in 2012. I think part of the problem is that Linux developers preach to the chorus, the already converted, the sophisticated technorati who make up the Linux userbase, rather than designing with non-techie novices in mind, as Microsoft does.

The biggest problem with Linux as I see it is also considered among the biggest virtues by the Linux establishment so to speak. What I'm talking about is security, which seems to be spelled with a capital "S" and put in bold and underlined everywhere these days. I understand the necessity for some users. But I'm just a weed growing on the side of a rock in the Atlantic Ocean, and I'm not quite as concerned about Chinese spies hacking into my computer. Maybe I should be, I don't know, but so far I have not suffered undue consequences, at least that I'm aware of, from my supposedly "unsafe" habit of leaving my Windows XP computers without pervasive password protection. All right, throw rocks at me and call me a dinosaur, but that's the way I see it. I think it is ridiculous to have to type in a password every few minutes to get things done in the operating system. I counted one day when I was shifting files around and modifying configuration files, and I must have entered my password a dozen times. A password is required to do just about anything besides sneeze and cough. The usual retort from Linux fans is that this makes the OS secure from nefarious Internet hackers. Yes, but I love my Windows XP that lets me get things done in the blink of an eye without typing in the same password over and over. I think somebody needs to give thought to devising a method of security that does not involve constant password input. The truth is that nine out of ten users are going to write that password down on a piece of paper and tape it above their keyboard. How secure is that computer, again? I think the big danger is that it will become secure from the user, not that somebody will burglarize my house and slip a virus into the works, although that is a disturbing thought, and I guess I have rebutted my own argument here.

On a regular basis, Linux Mint 13 Mate 64-bit forgets the screen resolution, which means that it boots up at a resolution of 1600 x 1200, so that the letter "a" looks like a tiny dot on my 800x600 monitor. I have to rely upon memory to find the ATI Catalyst Configuration Manager in the menu, and it is not easy, because I cannot read the text. When I click on the Configuration Manager, the resolution resets itself without explanation. This problem seems to be intermittent without rhyme or reason, sometimes arising and sometimes not. Also on a daily basis, Linux Mint forgets the network permissions for shared folders, which means that I have to set the permissions manually, which requires entering my password from 10 to 20 times. I am now thinking that the price of Windows 7 would be cheap at $10,000, based upon my experience with Linux.

Second problem I had with Linux Mint is that the screensaver kicked in every time I tried to watch a video, and that was funny the first three times it happened, but after that I lost my appreciation of the humor. It took me about three hours to sort that problem out, and the solution isn't really perfect either, but I suspect my hardware configuration is to blame, of which more is to be said.

Third problem is the fault of AMD, I suppose. The ATI video driver for Linux seems to be defective or inadequate from what I have read in the forums. Too many users report that they have a better experience watching videos on Windows 7 than in Linux. I had to tweak and massage and dial down the settings in VLC Player for hours before I was able to play most video files right, and that doesn't count the number of hours I spent getting the sound to output to all of my speakers. There was a steep learning curve, but then again can I say that there wasn't one in Windows XP? I cannot. Windows XP can also be a bear to a beginner. Perhaps I've forgotten some of the banana peels Windows XP dropped on the floor for me to slip on back in the days when I was a Windows novice.

Despite these problems, for the moment I am enduring Linux Mint, because I have this faint hope that once you get past the initial learning curve, you're on easy street, and I've already paid my dues, which amounted to about forty hours glued to the computer experimenting and reading tutorials, many of them outdated, mistaken or partly true. It takes a lot of reading to learn a little bit about Linux, because most sources on the Internet just divulge a tiny secret here or there, almost never the whole enchilada, but one can't look a gift horse in the mouth, because they certainly aren't getting paid to teach me anything, nor have I yet paid for Linux Mint. To find an answer to a question, typically I have to read six or seven articles. Part of the reason is that the OS keeps changing, each new release bringing a tiny incremental improvement.

I think it would be logical for all the distros to merge and all the developers to join as a team to focus on a single distro, one Ring to Rule Them All and In the Darkness Bind Them, you see. In chess, I have learned that in order to win one must focus firepower upon a single point. Again and again this is the path to victory, and so it is in other areas. Focus is the key. When developers are scattered about in different houses reinventing the wheel or spinning their wheels, then of course the player with the focused firepower, that is to say Microsoft, carries the day. But this is obvious.

The payoff for me is that Linux is free, which really matters to me, not because I need to save a hundred bucks, but because it gives me the convenience and flexibility of being able to install an OS on any computer at any time for any reason. That matters when one supports a network of computers, as I do, and occasionally makes builds or upgrades for friends. I seldom keep a motherboard for over five years, but am always on the move where hardware is concerned. No longer do I have to fret about whether Windows is going to work or not, whether I have to buy another license or worry about viruses in a bootleg copy.

Also, Linux handles drives that are greater than 2tb without too much difficulty. I was only able to partition my drive with MBR, which only supports partitions < 2 tb, despite having a UEFI Bios that supports GPT and thus > 2 tb partitions. Linux only gave me the option of slicing my drive up into different partitions, each less than 2tb, rather than having one big partition, which is what I wanted, although I recognize the utility of having a small partition of 60gb or so for the /boot partition.

Linux can do many of the same things that Windows does, it just takes a little extra elbow grease sometimes, and I've got plenty of elbow grease at the moment. I do think it is true that Linux is more secure, although I've taken big chances by connecting to unauthenticated repositories in an attempt to fix some of the problems I encountered.

The Community in Linux appealed to me, and I'm afraid I became so enthusiastic at first that I was just gushing, sharing my little novice insights and observations, until I realized I was talking to myself. At any rate, enthusiasm has its uses, and it fueled my learning. Who cares what strangers think of my lightly-informed postings? I am but one of a crowd of Linux novices and am sure the Linux gurus will ignore igor. I'm a tiny little pipsqueak among the multitude.

For the record, if one is determined to learn the rudiments of Linux, and only if that is so, I do recommend Linux Mint 13 "Mate" 64-bit. Hopefully, you will not have a network, do not plan to watch any videos, do not play any sound files, and do not have a drive over 2tb, and do not have an ATI graphics processor, and if these things are so, you will have less difficulty with Linux Mint than I did. The reason I encountered some of my hassles was due to this odd desire to do something other than enter passwords and troubleshoot random problems all day. It's just a quirk of mine, I'm sure.

Right at the moment, I'm a little burned out after my self-imposed "boot camp," when I was spending just about every waking hour studying and experimenting. Why do we programmers do that to ourselves? It is some kind of sickness. Balance, that's what a body needs. I get tunnel vision sometimes, want to know everything, do everything, fix everything. Oh well, that's just me, I like to be fast, efficient, correct. But now I have everything sorted, I think. I'll probably regain my enthusiasm later.

I tried Open Elec 2.0, oh did I try! I really wanted it to work, because the developers had kindly produced a version specifically for my processor, an E-350 AMD APU. What more could one ask for? It was as though they had made it just for me.

Open Elec proved a waste of time. In the first place installing it absolutely requires a USB stick, and I did not fully realize that until too late. There is no way around that requirement, as far as I can tell, and that was a huge problem for me, because I only had 1 USB stick on hand, and when I attempted to make an install drive for Open Elec, my motherboard fried it, I mean it is junk now, and I threw it in the trash can. I don't know how or why that happened, but the USB stick was a cheap freebie from NewEgg, so there you go.

Next I tried making an install drive out of an actual hard drive, trying to fool Open Elec into thinking the hard drive was a USB drive, but that didn't work either, Open Elec was too smart and refused to cooperate with my nefarious plan. Bad igor! Trying to install OpenElec without a USB stick!

Burning a CD was out of the question, didn't work. Finally I resorted to attempting to make an install drive out of one of my MP3 players, which I recognized after some reflection, is actually nothing more than a glorified USB stick, with an earphone jack and a primitive interface. This was my last-ditch try, and I tried this twice, but it didn't work either, and I don't know why. When I tried to boot, it got a little ways and then halted with a numeric error, which I researched and could not find any information about.

So after five hours of researching and experimenting and hoping and a dead USB stick, I came up with exactly nothing in my attempt to try OpenElec. The developers have a nice web site though, and I can only wish I had their design skills. I like the cool blue, smooth fonts. They are just too cool for school. But I noticed that the comment features on the web site seem disabled. It is impossible to leave any discussion on the wiki and it is impossible to leave comments on the blog, and I think I have surmised the reason why and it is not ultimately a technical reason, although an error is reported. I don't think the developers want to hear from people like me that are having problems, because I think they know full well that their version 2.0 is actually more like 0.2 beta-ware, not quite ready for prime time yet. Enabling comments would likely bring on an avalanche of "how do I's" and "can you help..." and they're not getting paid for anything as far as I can see and have better things to do then spin their wheels assisting the clueless. I think their payday is going to come from preinstalled systems and from business clients. The most an end-user like me can do is help them test out their beta-ware and for that purpose, they are glad to share an .iso, if I have the know-how and the hardware to deal with it, because if I can pull off an install then it is likely I can supply them with valuable feedback rather than clueless novice feedback.

Windows 7 is the OS my brother swears by and with good reason I am sure. He doesn't know about Linux, but is open-minded about it, just as I am. He is dead-set against Windows XP, though. He has been campaigning for me to abandon Windows XP and accept the inevitable, and after a series of debates over the past two years, I plan to accept his proposed Christmas gift of Win 7 Professional 64-bit, because I need to know Windows 7 in order to remain proficient as a techie. I do realize that and I hate being perceived as a dinosaur, even if I am with my useless COBOL and BASIC and Batch knowledge. I'm an unemployed, unemployable dinosaur, a loser that chose the wrong programming languages and paid the price, and some people, like my Father, think I'm lazy because I don't have a computer job, and that point of view irritates me, because I'm anything but lazy. All computer programmers have jobs according to this point of view. I don't expect to persuade critics of the sobering facts in the marketplace. Unless they have been out there looking for computer jobs, they do not know what they are talking about, but are basing their opinions on the marketplace during the boom time, the Clinton years, before the Bush calamity. Some people refuse to update their opinions, but remain frozen in time, living in a different era.

Right now I feel that Linux will succumb to format c: in the near future. I doubt it will be of use to my friends or family due to the steep learning curve when attempting to do even the most mundane and ordinary computer task, such as access a file over a network. The thing is, it is possible to do everything in Windows via graphical user interface, one that is highly refined, consistent, relatively bug-free, and very well documented in numerous web sites including Microsoft's. With Linux, even with the elegant Linux Mint, it remains necessary to resort to the command-line interface in order to do much of anything in regards to OS tasks. I cannot imagine asking my non-techie friends to learn all of the things that I learned through dozens of hours of experimentation and research. So for the masses I believe Windows will remain the OS of choice, and now I have a better understanding of why this is so, although I do wish things were different and I do hope things are different some day.Post a Comment
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Thursday, October 25, 2012

On Being Disinherited

I received a note card from my Father a few days ago. I knew it was going to be bad because his envelopes are usually long and thick, and this was thin and in a small envelope. Inside was a little 3" x 5" blue-lined notecard of the style he likes to use, handwritten.

22 Oct 2012 (M)

By once again insulting me by hanging up on me when I was trying to give you badly needed constructive criticism, you have ensured that I never will communicate with you again. In life as in my will, I am through with you. --Dad. Ω.
I found this to be profoundly depressing but not surprising. Long ago I had foreseen being disinherited and I suspect my brother will be disinherited too. I am collateral damage, because he is currently at war with Mother, and having not allied myself explicitly to him, I am one of the enemy, the disloyal.

He refers to our last phone conversation. How foolish it was of me to attempt communication through a medium that has an indefinite duration. A written letter can be set aside and at any rate has a finite number of pages. With the telephone, one cannot terminate the call until my Father has finished saying everything that is on his mind. He will go on for hours and hours. He never fatigues of talking. I remember once when I was a boy, he was driving me somewhere far away. I fell asleep while he was talking and woke up an hour later, and he was still talking. He had never noticed that I fell asleep. He never had the knack of paying any heed to his audience.

We began talking at about 23:00 and at 1:55 I said I was tired. He had spent the time complaining about my brother and my Mother, their evil ways, while I had listened and sometimes tried to explain to him their points of view, which I well understand. But I was tired after three hours talking on the phone. I had worked a twelve hour shift earlier that day. He is retired and stays up all night reading, brooding. At the time we were not arguing, but just when I said I needed to go, he brought up a new subject that displeased him and expected me to argue about it. He said that in my letter, mailed three weeks ago, which he had not replied to, there was a sentence that called into question the dignity of his father, deceased. I had asked whether a prominent politician, our cousin, had used his considerable influence to get my grandfather a job with the Civil Service. I had only asked whether this were so. I did not think this was insulting, but reasonable since it seems to have been a fairly common practice particularly in the past. It is well-known, to use an example, that Abraham Lincoln appointed friends and allies as postmasters, customs officials and judges. I did not see such speculation as insulting, and said so, but Father was determined to have his rage, because that is what keeps him going in his long hours brooding alone over perceived slights. He said it was Mother that put that idea into my head, evil Mother. I said no, Mother never talked about his father, which is true. So this is why I believe that I am a pawn in a larger battle.

I do not think I was ever important to my Father, only ever just a pawn between him and his wife, though at a tender age, something more, a surrogate. Now it is easy for him to discard me because I never mattered, was just an object. It makes me want to publish a book about him. I am not sure it is worth the effort however. If he lived to see it, he would feed off of the drama, with his love of anger and righteousness. Drama is what he likes. All his life was a battle with imaginary foes, just an arid desert where he plods along in his plate mail armor, shield and sword in hand, sweating and stumbling and cursing and swinging at djinn that are not there. Also it is likely he will be gone long before I am, and I am the one that must carry the name after he has passed. There is a certain freedom and privilege that comes with great age, the certain knowledge of imminent death rendering one immune to all risks. To cap it all, I always expected him to award his legacy to the last woman that whispers sweet flattery into his ear. He always placed the women he liked upon a pedestal, they were saints and goddesses, and he was their hero who knew what was best for them. The woman he currently places in this position is the girlfriend of my brother, who has no difficulty in saying whatever will soothe and please and coax and manipulate. She speaks to his loneliness and also his desire, something no grown man can do.

I've never been exceptional at social engineering. I assume that people are reasonable and fair-minded and speak to them as though this were so, or with the hope that this could become so with sufficient persuasion, but in the case of my father this is no longer so, and maybe it never was so to begin with. I have often wished I had more patience and interest and eagerness for cultivating others for my own advantage, as I see highly socially skilled women do, but then again with my genetics, I am doing about the best I can. When one considers what I came from and where I came from, it is remarkable what I have accomplished.

I do not know what do in response to the note card of my disinheritance, but I feel the best response is no response. My sense of justice wants to write a book, but that sense is so often wrong it seems to me. I want revenge, fairness, what's right, but maybe that is just my Father's blood in me and is not worthy. It may be that he was wicked or weak, two terms that seem sometimes the same thing, really. But I don't see that any of it matters or that anyone cares besides me. Sometimes I care, but sometimes I don't, sometimes I find the story dreadful and boring. There are things that can't be changed, that could only have been corrected long ago, but now are moot, gone, expired. One must live in the present and not the past. And so on and so forth. These are my thoughts now. Perhaps they will remain steadfast. I do think he is testing me, but perhaps I will be equal to the test. For now I choose silence.Post a Comment
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

I Voted Early and I Voted for Barack Obama

I never like to wait until the last minute to vote, because navigating through a long line of voters is no fun, although I'd do it if I had to in order to vote. Fortunately even my red state does support early voting--with voter ID required.

I voted for Barack Obama and any and all Democrats that were on the ticket. In cases where the only candidates were a Libertarian and a Republican, I voted for the Libertarian. I did vote for one Republican in a race where there were only four Republicans to choose from, no Democrats or Libertarians. He is an acquaintance of mine, and I feel that he is honest and good. Some people are Republican for reasons of pragmatism, family or friends, rather than anti-abortionism, Social Darwinism, homophobia, racism and xenophobia.

My vote for Barack Obama will not make any difference to the Electoral College result in my state, but I wanted it recorded at any rate. I believe the Electoral College is undemocratic in states where the Electors are appointed according to an "all or zero" mechanism, meaning whichever candidate gets the majority, gets all the Electors. This mechanism thwarts the will of the people. If in my state, forty-nine per cent of the people vote for Barack Obama, then forty-nine per cent of the people support him--not zero per cent as reflected by the Electoral College. My vote provides a tiny bit more evidence that this is so.

I did not vote for anybody from the Green Party because that would have truly been a wasted vote under our present system. Voting for Obama, at least there is a small chance he might actually carry the state.

I feel that Obama is more intelligent and mature and is wiser and kinder than Mitt Romney. Obama admits when he is mistaken, which is a rare quality in a politician, but reflects intellectual honesty. Obama is interested in finding the best way to achieve the optimal goal for the country as a whole and is not bound to any particular ideology, which frustrates some of his supporters. If one looks at results, the outcome of Obama's Presidency has been good for working people, as many people are now and will be covered under health insurance than were before him. (Mitt Romney will take health insurance away from people. He said so.) I counter liberal criticism of Obama with the observation that Obama is a pragmatist and can do only so much with a Republican Congress, and a Democratic Party that is middle-of-the-road, not liberal. Conservative criticism of Obama is so ridiculous that it does not deserve a moment's consideration. Birth certificate--radical negro--Islam--communism--socialism--yeah, whatever. The Republicans use lies to enlist the dim-witted into their ranks.

I have the sense that Mitt Romney is selfish and accustomed to dealing with ordinary working people with coldness and cruelty, as observed by his tenure at Bain Capital. Mitt Romney is loyal to his fellow rich and no one else. If one isn't rich, then one isn't Mitt Romney's people. I could not conceive of Mitt Romney ever for a moment considering the welfare of working people before doing whatever he calculated would bring him the most personal gain. He has never worked a day in his life, but made his fortune by preying like a vulture upon the ailing U.S. manufacturing sector, assisting in the transfer of jobs from the U.S. to China, which will cost our nation far into the future. The only curb on his speech is his calculation of the political costs, but much slips out that reveals his nature, and it is selfish, narrow and limited to self-promotion and self-enrichment and self-glorification, and much of what he says reflects his own delusions about himself and has little basis in reality. Mitt Romney does not know Mitt Romney, has never met him.

So that is why my vote is for Barack Obama.Post a Comment
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Another Way to Make Money

Of course, another way to make money is to save money. Maybe it is the computer programmer in me, always seeking greater efficiency, but I have become rather good at saving money over the years, although I made some mistakes along the way. My biggest mistake was buying a 46" Plasma television soon after it become available. I paid a whopping $1500, and the darn thing only has 800x600 resolution, which annoys me every time I watch Windows XP boot up. Today you can buy a 50" plasma with at least 1024x768 resolution for under $500. So clearly, enthusiasm has gotten the best of me where technology is concerned.

I made what I imagine to be wise purchases lately, replacing all of the motherboards and cpu's in my network for reasons that would have seemed strange to me a decade ago. My new motherboards and cpu's are not any faster. In fact, they are slower in most cases. Their chief virtue is low energy consumption. To put it in other words, they cost me less money. I know what I am talking about because I tested each of my computers with Kill-a-Watt, which has a .2w margin of error. Prior to the upgrade, my computers drained between 45 to 65 watts apiece, which may seem already low, but it is not low enough, so says Igor, when you are talking about a computer that stays on for eight, twelve, twenty-four hours a day. That wattage adds up over time and results in real monetary losses and for what? What purpose is being served by consuming excess electricity? Am I able to do more because the computer uses more power? No, not at all. The reality today is that more power does not mean a faster computer, not when one uses only the Internet browser and apps with similar modest requirements.

I have measured each of my computers after their latest upgrade. Their top power draw, including everything in the computer, is now just 24 to 28 watts apiece--much better, cutting electrical consumption by half or more. The next time I upgrade them, it will only be to cut their power consumption yet again. I would just like to add that motherboard and cpu are only part of the equation. The power supply is critical. Anyone using a ps that is not rated 80-plus or better is wasting money. I recommend Seasonic, although it annoys me that their stuff is manufactured in China, but everything is manufactured in China these days. How I would like to see "Made in America" stickers again!

The second benefit of my new computers is aesthetic. I like to exert control over sounds, colors and other sensory input (there is a fan in my room for a reason). My new computer is quieter. Not silent, but close. I think that is a good thing. The only noise producer in each of my computers is the little power supply fan. The cpu does not require a fan at all. A heat sink dissipates what little heat is generated by the cpu, and in combination with the power supply fan and generous case ventilation seems sufficient to maintain stability at around 50C.

I can tell you what I do with my old computer parts. No, I don't throw them in the garbage or donate them to Goodwill. I sell them on E-bay. In this way I recycle with maximum efficiency and offset the cost of my upgrade. My buyers tend to be happy, because most buyers just want the seller to be honest and reliable and are thrilled to find that this is the case. I never, ever lie in an auction, and I always allow returns. It is better to be painfully honest, and I will "tell it like it is" and get less money for something, than to ever, ever deceive. That is what the successful Ebay seller knows. In many cases I have gotten enough money to render my upgrade free or close to free. I don't know why, but the after-market for computer parts on Ebay is to the seller's advantage and has been for at least five years and I don't see this changing anytime soon. Therefore an easy way to make money for anyone that knows something about computer hardware is to upgrade downgrade their computers or at least their computers' electrical requirements. The savings will come every month in the form of a reduced utility bill, and the old parts can be sold on Ebay, because apparently not everyone has gotten the memo yet about energy efficiency.

Now wouldn't it be wonderful if we could sell old body parts on Ebay and replace them with new ones!Post a Comment
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Sunday, October 14, 2012

How to Customize Google News

news.google.com is my preferred source of news every morning. I customized Google News to have a black background with white text, first of all, by using Panos' Black Google Style in conjunction with the Stylish add-on for Firefox. If you haven't visited userstyles.org yet, you really should, because it rescues the Internet from clueless geeks.

On Google News, I filter out propaganda by clicking on the Settings button and adjusting the desired frequency from various news sources, as you can observe below.

Disingenuous news sources have a frequency of zero, meaning they should never appear on my Google News page. That would include the so-called Post-Christian. Xinhua is nothing more than soft-peddled and poorly written propaganda to make the Chinese tyranny look moderate. Fox News is the propaganda arm of the Republican Party. The only people who like Fox News are Republicans and Jon Stewart of the Daily Show. I think Jon would run out of material if Fox News ever found a conscience.

I like most of all the Guardian and the Washington Post, but read many others and am open to new sources, as long as they aren't right-wing propaganda machines.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Social Media Buttons

Social Media Buttons? Check.

Blogspot's native support of social media buttons does not work, so I found an alternative solution and customized it for my blog. I prefer the buttons to reside in my author and comment box, rather than in the post itself. I cut Twitter's button, because it takes up more real estate than it is worth. Not a big fan of Twitter. I saw no need for Pinterest, since I post few images. I'm not as visually-oriented as some, and my interest in photography has always been minimal. What I like, for better or worse, is working with words, and I say "or worse" because the zeitgeist favors visual presentation over verbal by about a million to one.

The implementation here is buggy at present, because each post shows the same stats beside the AddThis and Facebook buttons.

Update: I adjusted the buttons to remove the stats. Facebook's Like button insists upon displaying stats, no matter if they are accurate or not. There is no way to turn the stats off. Facebook is saying in effect, "my way or the highway." I solved that problem by deleting the Facebook Like button. I don't know why Facebook has to be pushy. Given the choice of "my way or the highway," I tend to choose the highway.

The Telephone

Choice of communication medium is important. Some people really flourish on the telephone, and I find that good telephone manner indicates good manner in person as well. Others prefer email or text. Still others prefer letters, even handwritten letters, which may blow the mind of folks today, but they haven't met my father. Eighty-plus, he never used a computer and never will. He likes a good letter and also likes to talk on the phone. Phone calls and letters are therapeutic for him.Post a Comment
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


I think the bravest guy on television has to be Jon Stewart. He's incredibly fearless. He's what I always wished the other guys in TV News would be like, except he's even better than anything I would have imagined. He communicates with humor in a way that really appeals to many people. He doesn't even have great material, but I just like watching him. I prefer watching a guy smiling and laughing, like Stewart, rather than getting uptight and upset like the guys on Fox News. They seem to have problems with anger management and are always making much ado about nothing. Fox panders to the middle-age rage that some guys experience. It's a biological thing, seems to me. If one just watches Fox all the time then I have to wonder about the judgment, whether such a person is gullible. I thought Glenn Beck was a bit abnormal. Jon Stewart essentially stopped Beck's career with a satire that hit home somewhere in Fox News Headquarters. I think the chief executives over there got a load of Stewart's satire and took a closer look at Beck and were taken aBeck.Post a Comment
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32


Being humbled by adversity can be an asset to the proud. Many mistakes are made due to pride. Accept, savor and learn from the minor setback, the harmless defeat, which reduces the overreaching of the ego, the striving to be that which one is not.

The fact of a mistake is not an indictment against the self, but an indictment against the human nature, which tends toward error due to its limitations in reasoning. I have yet to meet the person whose every act follows the dictates of reason. Human beings are deeply irrational and subject to whims, fancies, delusions. The best we can hope for is to follow the dictates of reason in at least some areas, preferably important ones, as much as possible.

Sometimes even friends and family fail to provide the right advice and guidance. They may offer advice that is well-suited to themselves only, not tailored to the individual. Very often the nature of an individual being given advice is not considered at all. People tend to have a "one size fits all" view of human nature, which is mistaken. Is not every human being different, an individual, or do we all share the same mind? I believe that we have different minds while we are alive. We feel separated in our individual egos, with our own limitations and weaknesses, and perfect union with the whole will not be achieved until death, when we become one with the earth, the water, the air. Therefore advice should be carefully tailored to an individual if it is to be worth anything. The people that can offer good and wise counsel are few and precious, and such people should be treasured.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32

Monday, October 8, 2012

Way to Go

This is the way to go, unfettered by machines and nurses and doctors, just letting nature take its course at the very end of life when all of the bodily systems are shutting down.Post a Comment
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32

Sunday, October 7, 2012


My styles invert the background and foreground of a few of my favorite sites. The Firefox/Chrome add-on, Stylish, is required.Post a Comment
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32

Health Care

I read an article today about the eternally rising costs of health care in old age. I've seen people who are very old, unwell, suffering and dependent upon others, and I am not sure I want to be sustained in such a dependent and vulnerable state. Of course one wants to live as long as possible, because life is sweet, but as with anything there comes a point of diminishing returns, and the difficulty lies in recognizing that point--neither too soon nor too late. When I drink life to the dregs, I'll tip the cup over, if I'm able.Post a Comment
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32

My Disqualification from Public Office

I guess I'm disqualified to run for public office because I play Dungeon Crawl.

I'm tickled that a middle-aged candidate is a level 68 orc rogue that likes killing things in her fantasy world.
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by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32

I Do Feel Sorry for Republicans

Republicans have money and power, but the downside is they have to deal with nuts in their own party. A recent case in point was a G.O.P. state senator in Arkansas who said slavery was beneficial and another who wants to deport all the Muslims. (I guess he might be considered a liberal by some Republicans, because he doesn't talk about deporting gays.) Now, many other Republicans disavowed these inflammatory statements and want nothing to do with them, which is to their credit. I am amused and a little horrified that people in power think such things in 2012, even after all of our education and culture and refinement and instant access to information in the modern age, but I am glad they are saying them because it is better that such thoughts come out into the open where they are exposed for public consumption.

In Georgia not long ago, a Republican state senator said he wanted to cane marijuana users, I imagine in addition to, rather than instead of, ten years' imprisonment and severing the fingers and gouging out the eyes. There certainly is a lunatic fringe in the Republican party that has let their hostility and resentment and anger get away with them. They seem driven by negative forces of darkness that lead them into hatred and violent thoughts directed towards others. The irony is that the very thing these conservative Republicans despise so much, marijuana, might be the best medicine for their souls to put them back in touch with the Mother.

Getting back to the Arkansas state senator who said slavery was okay, I would just like to add that I've heard that line before, but always from white people, never from black people. I don't think white folk should presume to know (or even if they presume, they should never say) what was good for another people, especially when it comes to an institution with horrible tortures and misery and abuse and death. I mean, one could argue starvation was good for Ireland and that would be equally offensive to the Irish, besides being heartless. Such thoughts lead one into error and are symptoms of erroneous thinking, of a lack of compassion to be specific.

It may be that black folks are pleased to live in North America today rather than in the coastal region of Western Africa, but it does not follow that they would ever feel good about slavery, which caused so many needless deaths and suffering. Anyone who has studied history knows that a large portion of the slaves died on the voyage from Africa to the New World due to the abominable conditions below deck. The slavers were cruel, lazy and stupid and simply accepted losses as part of their business expense because they were business criminals. I am proud that my father supported civil rights and helped blacks when and where he could in the times past when help was needed. For my part I do not see blacks as blacks but as people, and I know that each person is different, that skin color is superficial, and that inside is a unique personality and identity.
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by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Scalia's Inconsistency: Marijuana

I read a blurb about U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's "textualist" interpretation of the Constitution, which he says makes it easy for him to vote against gays and women. The problem is that he is inconsistent. Abortion, gay rights--sure, Scalia, we know your reasoning, "textualism." What about marijuana prohibition? Antonin Scalia, unlike some of his conservative colleagues on the bench, has consistently voted in favor of the government harassing, arresting and prosecuting marijuana users and manufacturers. But the Constitution was written on marijuana, and many of the signers were themselves farmers and users of marijuana, and there were no laws against marijuana for over 100 years. It looks to me like Scalia is picking and choosing the laws to which he will apply his "textualist" interpretation. Perhaps "textualism" is a synonym for "homophobia." The bottom line is that if gay rights and abortion rights are nixed, then by the same logic so is Prohibition, or else Scalia's not telling the whole truth about his philosophy as a jurist.
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by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32

Friday, October 5, 2012

Mitral Valve Prolapse

MVP in this instance stands for Most Vulnerable Player, or Mitral Valve Prolapse, a leaky heart valve, which is what my doctor said a while back after auscultating my chest and hearing a funny little sound. I intend to auscultate my own chest and double-check the Doc. I've been too busy or negligent or egoless or fearless to give much thought to MVP, which tends to be symptomless in most people, but lately I've been working very long hours on occasion and have noticed that after about nine hours or so, especially if I'm on my feet and interacting with people, my stamina drops like a stone and I get the feeling like I'm walking dead. Sometimes I get so tired, the world turns gray and quiet, things seem sketchy and unreal, like a dream and not a pleasant one. I don't like the feeling, and it doesn't seem like normal tiredness. I wonder whether there is a counter-measure I could take after eight hours, like popping an aspirin or drinking something with caffeine.

Suggestions from the online medical community are pretty pedestrian it seems to me. I haven't seen many recommendations on the web other than "aerobic exercise," which is recommended for everybody anyway, and the unusual "antibiotics prior to dental procedures," which I have no intention of doing because I hate antibiotics and think they are over-prescribed as it is. I consumed far too many antibiotics as a boy and it didn't do me any good and probably a fair amount of harm. I'd rather get the bacterial infection in most cases unless there is a serious threat. I never took antibiotics prior to dental procedures before, and I had plenty of dental procedures creating a mouth full of metal, but I'm still alive and sharing my opinions with the world, aren't I? Unless the MVP has done me in and I'm in blogger-Hell typing forever. Just kidding, MVP isn't supposed to be serious.

I read some of the characteristics of MVP sufferers, and they nailed me in several areas, so even without a electrocardiogram or whatever is supposed to be the definitive test, which I can't afford, I'm persuaded of the Doc's diagnosis. MVP isn't supposed to be a big deal for most people, only correlated with fatigue or headaches and only in some cases. The prognosis on most medical sites seems vague and optimistic, probably to get patients off the Doc's back, because there is so much that is unknown. "You'll be okay, just shut-up and don't bug me about it, because I don't know much more than you do," seems to be the line. I get it.

My Doc didn't seem concerned about it, telling me plenty of folks live a long time with MVP, but then again it isn't anything good or beneficial. A leaky heart valve, it seems pretty clear, means reduced efficiency at circulation, and that means less oxygen for Mr. Brain, hence "greater risk for stroke," and less oxygen to all bodily tissues. I mean, the ideal is a super-efficient heart with valves that do not leak. So doctors can say MVP is symptomless, but that just means human beings are not detecting unusual sensations, or if detecting them, are dismissing them or not connecting them to MVP or not reporting them to their primary care provider. I guess I can check my O2 saturation next chance I get alone with the machine. Sure, it may not be a big deal, but may just translate to a tiny reduction in efficiency, which would also suggest that one can compensate for it by exercising or diet--perhaps. I suppose time will tell, won't it, but that's true for everyone.
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by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32

The Circle

My belief about existence can be summarized by an ancient symbol, a circle, which is echoed in the shape of our planet, our Sun, our Moon, and of our constituent atoms, and the most powerful locomotive tool, the wheel. The circle is the only geometric shape in which every point on the border is equidistant to the center. I suppose I could go on if I knew more geometry.

The circle implies the cycle, which has no end and no beginning, and that is how I view my own existence and others and all things in the Universe, all of which is united into a whole rather than being separate and distinct. In reality, we and all things are one. The separation is an illusion suggested by our animal nature which has needs and desires and an ego. Inanimate objects such as rocks do not feel the separation from the one, because they do not feel at all nor think. They do not have an ego. When we become inanimate, we will be like rocks, like water, like air.

Illusions are not without benefits. It may be that certain illusions are helpful for life, for survival, for well-being and happiness. Otherwise, what purpose would illusion serve? To see ultimate reality without filters could be distressing or even impossible for the human mind, which only evolved to handle a narrow set of parameters on Earth. One does what one can, what one needs to do. To say that certain concepts are illusions is not to imply they are useless and should be discarded, but only to point out that we are laboring under misconceptions that may not be well-suited to all questions, all situations.

What is death? Death is destruction of the ego, of our individual identity. When the ego is gone, then we rejoin the one, then there is no separation at all. Dead people have become soil and served as nitrogen-fuel for new crops, which were eaten by new generations of animals such as us. One day, the Universe will die, but that is not an end, or at least I don't think so, because I believe that the cycle we observe in a small scale on our planet is repeated at the larger scale of the Universe, and that all things will be renewed.

I believe that just as many things in our environment can be abstracted into formulae, so can all things in the Universe, and that reality could be very much like an enormous mass of computer code. Every human being can be defined by a mass of code with many variables. Remember that code can account for randomness, uncertainty, reactivity and evolution and unpredictability. There is no limit to things that can be defined by code. I have explained this idea to people who do not program, and they do not accept the theory because they see computers as being very limited, while the world is complex. But if a computer can beat a human being at the complicated game of chess, and if code is what allows it to do so, then it is easy for a chessplayer and a computer programmer such as myself to imagine a more advanced type of code that defines and controls everything in the Universe as well as the Universe itself.

God is not necessary, because in the beginning was the word, and the word was made flesh (John 1:1). Code can code itself. Although I want to explain the reasons for code and understand why everything is and how it all works, I always reach a mental block of some kind. I am frustrated because I cannot explain further. My mind aches trying to think beyond these things. I do not think I am capable of understanding anymore than what I have written here or at least not yet. My mental powers are limited, while the Universe is complicated, so I have to be humble and remain content with just understanding a little bit about a few simple things. To understand more would require a bigger, faster brain.

Could I be mistaken in my ideas? Possibly, but I don't think I'm making any wild leaps away from what we already know based upon scientific observations. Science has reduced many forces in nature to mathematical certainties and probabilities, so it seems reasonable to believe that it will continue to do so and that the code behind all things will gradually emerge as a result. I like to monitor the steady drip of scientific research, although it is disappointing to see results that are inconclusive, contradictory with earlier results, or based upon shaky premises. The human race advances slowly, step by step, but at least there is the sense of advancement in many areas, such as technology and most areas of knowledge.
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by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

What Should I Put on My 403 Page?

Your 403 page (Forbidden) should be reserved for bad actors trying to hack your web site or spambots. I suggest sending them to harvester hells around the web, as in the code below. Any spambot that goes to those places may absorb bogus email addresses, get identified by honeypots, or waste time spinning their wheels.
The above is a harsh message to display to humans, so you had better be sure that it is not possible for an innocent user to accidentally trigger the 403 page. I soften the text for most of my web sites and make it civil, because there is a chance that some kind of unforeseen event could trigger a 403. However, if your web site has received a lot of hacker abuse in the past, then this wad of sputum may very well be what you want. I composed the message after one of my sites got hacked, an event which also caused me to devote many hours to learning about web site security.Post a Comment
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32
techlorebyigor is my personal journal for ideas & opinions