Sunday, March 30, 2014

I'm a Linux Evangelist

The idea of converting someone from Windows to Linux turns me on so much that I will practically do the work for free.

Well, not quite. But I charge very little. Someone called me up reporting a malware infection in their Windows computer, and they couldn't find their Windows installation disk. When that happens, rather than suggest that they call Microsoft or pay $75 - $100 for a new disk, I suggest switching over to Linux.

My reasoning is that first and foremost, Linux is safer. It is a secure operating system. Period. It is absolutely ideal for beginners and those who know nothing about technology. By setting someone up with Linux, I know they are much safer from the threat of malware infections, for which they have already demonstrated a vulnerability. To set them up with Windows again would simply be negligent, as though I didn't care what happened to them after collecting my fee. This is exactly what most techs do.

I certainly have an evangelical thread in my personality. I'm a Linux evangelist. I want to grow the Linux community. I want to bring in non-technical people, folks who have strengths in other areas. They should be using Linux. They should not be using Windows unless they really need it for a specific application.

My only concern is whether to suggest Xubuntu or SolydX. My personal preference leans toward SolydX, because Xubuntu 13.10 has seemed just a little bit flaky, and I really don't like the two-panel approach. I've also found that Xubuntu seems slow when it shouldn't feel slow, and reviews I've read have indicted the distro for bloat. Finally, SolydX offers the latest versions of applications, whereas Xubuntu offers applications from Granny's cupboard--a little on the stale side. For my own purposes, I prefer SolydX.

However, my personal preference does not mean that I think SolydX is right for everybody.

Xubuntu sends the user a regular stream of security updates, which I think might be reassuring to a beginner.  About once a week, I install updates on my Xubuntu rigs. Perhaps it is a placebo effect, but people are used to regular Windows updates, and I think the more similarity to Windows, the better. It is reassuring for an end user to think that their computer is getting help from a trusted outside source, that good programmers are looking after their computer and fixing things they may not even be aware need fixing. SolydX on the other hand only sends updates every three months. A new user might reasonably assume that the operating system is not being updated at all and that something is wrong.

I think that SolydX expects a little more technical competence on the part of the end user. Sometimes, when unexpected problems arise, it may be necessary to enter commands in the old-fashioned way. I'm used to that, but not everyone is, nor should I assume they want to learn. Xubuntu is nicely dumbed-down. It is designed with simplicity in mind, from the installation to the Software Manager and the automatic updates. The more conservative approach to application updates might actually be a good thing where beginners are concerned. Living on the cutting edge does, after all, invite the possibility of getting cut. I also love Xubuntu's close relation to Ubuntu. Canonical is a well-funded corporation with marketing muscle and certainly the largest footprint in the entire Linux community. One can't simply dismiss these advantages, because they are tremendous. A curious person could search Google and find tons of articles in the media, dating back many years, about Ubuntu and its cousin, Xubuntu. Such a person can also find a very well-populated user community. All this is very reassuring, particularly to someone new to Linux. For these reasons, with technical neophytes, I choose Xubuntu.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Everyone is Beautiful

Everyone is beautiful in their own way. One of the great secrets to establishing good relations with others is to be receptive to all of their positive traits, which encompass appearance, personality, character and intellect. Observing and remarking upon these positive traits is a surefire way to win points.

Those who are closed to other people, who do not offer eye contact, who do not listen and do not observe others carefully and are not receptive to others, such individuals cannot hope to enjoy good relations with many people. It is necessary to learn the names of other people. It is necessary to pay attention, to observe, to mark the words and gestures of others. At great cost, certain individuals fail to do these things.

Few people offer allowances for those with poor social skills. I am one of the more tolerant people. I perceive when someone seems rude only due to lack of social skills. They may not mean any harm. They just don't know how or don't have the aptitude to do what is required.

There was a young man in one of my classes who was despised by the other students and the teacher. His thoughts were always racing along. His impulses seemed so important to him that he would speak up continually throughout every class. I suppose he thought that by sharing his thoughts, he was being good and helpful. Perhaps he thought that the teacher and the other students would think more of him. In reality, no one else shared his high evaluation of his thoughts. They rather felt that he was wasting time and basking in attention just like a little child. He talked too much and did not perceive the lack of interest in his audience. He lacked social intelligence.

Toward the end of the class, some students made their ugly feelings clear to him in a rather abrupt, one might even say cruel, manner. I am not sure whether that was the right thing to do. I disapproved of what they said. I am glad I wasn't the one to do it. I remained uninvolved.

I am reminded of my own behavior many years ago in sixth through eighth grade. Was I very different from him? No. The truth is that I was similar. I would raise my hand to speak up in class and say things just because I was bored and wanted to redirect the lecture to subjects that interested me. Sometimes I wanted to say something funny to make people laugh. More often, I just wanted to show off my knowledge. I had an excellent memory for any academic subject. I loved history, science, and language.

Some of my classmates and teachers appreciated my input, but some didn't. On the whole, I was unpopular. I was perceived for what I was--a show-off. Those students who had difficulty with school did not appreciate being made to feel inadequate. In this way, I made enemies among classmates I scarcely knew. I was often surprised by the vehemency of their animosity, much like the young man I have described above. I am sure he did not see his classmate's collective revenge coming. I saw it coming, because I have been where he was. All too well, I know how the general run of people behave when they encounter behavior they dislike.

Many unpleasant experiences, many painful episodes passed before I changed. My teen years were incredibly painful, just nothing but a series of losses--social, academic, and psychological. All my plans were ruined. All my friends, best friends too, turned their back on me. My family almost turned its back on me. I was alone. I was broken.

I did change, and thank goodness for that. It remains a mystery to me exactly how I evolved from what I was then to what I am today. I think that I was broken by trauma and severe depression. For years, I walked in darkness. I saw light in the darkness, even in the darkness, and by that light, I rebuilt myself. I rebuilt myself into something different, something new, something better than I was before.

When I see someone who reminds me of what I was before, I cannot despise him or join the other students when they mock him. I have a sense of deja vu.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Dog Over Human?

That so many people campaigned for the life of a vicious dog that mauled a child shows how twisted "animal lovers" can be. They do not place a proper value on human life. They have an unhealthy obsession with their pets. One imagines posh misanthropic recluses with nothing better to do with their time but idealize animals at the expense of members of their own species. It seems to me that self-hate is at work here, because the animal lovers think that humans aren't important enough to merit extraordinary legal remedies against animals.

Humans are more important than animals by a factor of about a hundred to one!

I love my cats, but I would never dream of letting them harm any one. Fortunately, they are not inclined or even capable of doing so. They would be more likely to rub against someone's leg than to use their claws or fangs. However, if my cat became vicious and did maul a human being, then of course it would have to be put to death in a swift and painless manner, and although I would be distressed, I would not stand in the way of justice.

In my day, dogs were put to death pretty much immediately after they bit anyone for any reason. They were decapitated, and the head was examined to determine whether the dog had rabies. This policy offers a strong incentive to dog owners to act in a responsible manner and control their animal in order to protect it from running afoul of the community. Dog owners who let their big, mean dogs run amok among their neighbors are anti-social and irresponsible and should not own any pets at all. Their "pet license" should be revoked.

Goodwill or the Salvation Army? Both Stink.

A lady in the local Salvation Army told me today that she only shops at S.A. because it is a real non-profit, whereas Goodwill is for-profit.

She was mistaken. Both Goodwill and the Salvation Army are non-profits. However, I would not call her a liar, either, because there seems to be some shenanigans going on at Goodwill. And here's another article about the problems with Goodwill. Disabled people are paid less than minimum wage, even as low as $1.40 an hour, whereas the top executives make many hundreds of thousands of dollars. I think that stinks. Goodwill just sounds plain rotten. Greedwill is more like it. Donating to Greedwill is just like giving money to the rich. "Thanks, sucker, we'll be sure to use your donation to help pay for a new Rolls-Royce."

The Salvation Army, meanwhile, seems to be a pack of raving homophobes, full of hate against the gays. This is made clear by a number of articles in the media, cases where the Salvation Army has gone very far out of its way in order to offend the LGBT community, and also by my own personal experience.

I went into a local Salvation Army store today and purchased about $80 worth of items, but merely happened to mention that I had bought something for my "significant other," and a female clerk, who looked like a very unhappy, repressed lesbian, gave me a nasty look, her lips contorted in what I can only describe as a snarl.

However, her retarded coworker was a nice lady who cheerfully gave me exact change and wished me a good day. My conclusion is that I would much rather deal with a retarded person than with a homophobe of normal intelligence. The first you can possibly trust, while with the other, I would want to keep my eyes upon them at all times. I have never encountered discrimination or hostility from any retarded worker in retail stores. They have been cheerful, good workers, and if I were ever to become a manager, I'd be interested in hiring them. At the proper full wage, not sub-minimum, of course.

It seems strange to me that these charities have been sidetracked from their actual mission into some rather questionable practices and policies. I think that if I ever have anything I want to donate, I will either give it to a friend or leave it on the street for either the garbage collectors or one of these people that cruise around looking for castoffs. I'm going to steer clear of both Goodwill and the Salvation Army.

Does So-and-So Like Me?

There's no fool like an old fool. Old people like to imagine that young people have the hots for them. They can't see themselves unless they look in the mirror, and when they look in the mirror, they put a spin on what they see. Perhaps they see themselves as they were twenty or thirty years ago.

As a general rule of thumb, I think that young people are attracted to young people, and old people are attracted to young people, and the main exception to this would be where an old person has enough money to make it worth one's while to feign blindness to physical appearance.

Recently, an older friend of mine has fallen in love with a fellow in his twenties. His heart is twisted in knots and his self-inflicted torture is painful to watch, in part because I've been there myself.

If one has to wonder whether another person is attracted to them, the correct answer is probably No. Certainly the safest answer is No.

One of the supreme humiliations is to woo and be rejected out of hand. It is painful to endure a powerful, all-consuming infatuation, as I indeed have, only to discover that all of one's feelings and all of one's plans are regarded by another as being without any value whatsoever. The offer of love, the offer of support, one's hand in marriage and one's whole life may be rejected simply by hanging up a phone or with a terse email as cold as ice.

I am not a great judge of other people's feelings. I'm not that bad, but rate my skills at people-reading as merely average at best. I no longer trust my intuition about whether people are attracted to me. I am very suspicious of wishful thinking and the failure to detect deception.

Sometimes, when I was much younger and more attractive, of course, people feigned attraction to me for their own ends. A lesbian struggling with her orientation, pretending to be bisexual, was one example. I was useful to let her think she was being "good" as judged by the values of her Catholic parents, and useful besides as an attractive mate to flaunt around her girlfriends and make them jealous. I remember her friends, because she introduced me to so many of them, just brief meetings to ensure they got their eyes on me and would tell everyone they knew about her and me together.

People often feign attraction or interest because they enjoy the flattery of another person. They feel better about themselves for being loved by another, even if the love represents something that they could never reciprocate.

A lesbian is a lesbian in part because of sex, but mostly because they prefer to love a woman and not a man. There is the physical factor, but the emotional factor is more important.  As for me, friendships with women have never endured for any period of time. I have never experienced a close friendship with a woman that lasted more than a month. Other than my mother and grandmother, there has never been a woman I would feel comfortable calling on the phone just to chat. I do not know why this is, but I think it is a strong indicator that a gay relationship is what's right for me. With women, everything just seems wrong. I have more difficulty reading women than I do reading men. By contrast, men are easy, whether straight or gay. I can predict what they are thinking with much greater accuracy. Perhaps that is why I prefer the company of men.

My father has a problem with reading people that has only grown more severe with age. He deludes himself into thinking that various women are secretly attracted to him. His imagination engages, and he composes elaborate theories that have no basis in reality. The consequences are humiliating and sometimes dangerous.

For my part, I intend to avoid such foolishness, but if an age arrives at which my mind is no longer capable of resisting the siren call of delusion, then I hope I will have enough wit and resolve to end my life with some semblance of order and decorum and salvage some dignity. One of the great tragedies of our civilization is that old people are expected to simply go on, long after their wits have left them, on and on until such time as natural death occurs. Death is not compassionate. Nor is Death prompt. Rather, Death toys with his victims like a cat, letting them suffer and inflict misery and confusion upon their loved ones and their communities.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Desire for Harmony

I read an article on Al-Jazeera today about the sentencing to death of Muslim Brotherhood members. The sentence seems excessive, harsh, and arbitrary, given that mass numbers of defendants were sentenced en masse. I disapprove of the sarcastic comments some Europeans left on the article. I'm no fan of Islam, but I can imagine being a Muslim and I can imagine believing that the Muslim Brotherhood was right about everything. Growing up and living in a certain environment, one absorbs philosophy and ideas and opinions naturally, much like a plant absorbs the contents of the air, water and earth in which it grows. Are the defendants bad people? Possibly, but possibly not. I doubt that the trial determined their morality one way or the other. Possibly some were guilty of the crimes they were charged with, but were all?

It's a pity that some kind of accommodation can't be worked out between the various factions of Egyptian society. The central problem is that certain factions, such as the Muslim Brotherhood or the military, want to control everyone and force their will on others. If they could give a little and adopt a "live-and-let-live" approach, accepting that people are different, then I think Egypt could experience progress.

In the U.S., accommodations have been worked out between Catholics and Protestants, Southerners and Northerners, blacks and whites, Jews and Christians, men and women, straights and gays, and the list goes on and on. That is why we have peace in the U.S., and our problems tend to be less in severity than in Egypt.

I think that the ideal long-term solution is a republic styled in the Western way, with toleration for all, including women, gays, and secular philosophy or other religions, and freedom of speech. However, if most Egyptians do not support that, or if powerful factions oppose it, then the status quo is likely to remain for quite some time to come, possibly hundreds or even thousands or tens of thousands of years. At some point, one stops reading about Egypt and stops being interested in the news coming from Egypt. I am just glad I do not live in Egypt, and I would never think about visiting.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Right-Wingers Expose Themselves

The right-wingers expose themselves in online comments found in news articles such as this one, laying naked their black hearts and small minds.

Good. It is good when evil reveals itself for what it is.

Jimmy Carter was a good President, one that did not violate the law, one that spoke the truth and had a real conscience. In these respects, he differs from many of our other Presidents. The reason that right-wingers dislike him is because he is good, and they are evil. They do not have a conscience, and believe that goodness equates to stupidity and weakness, and that evil equates to intelligence and strength.

Strengths and Deficiencies

I have reached an age that I know my strengths and weaknesses. The weaknesses that cause the most annoyance are lack of physical stamina and arthritis and its symptoms, joint and back pain. For the last week, every night when I'm in bed, I can feel the joints of my fingers warm, throbbing and aching. It worries me because I suspect that they are changing from what they are now to the claw-like fingers that other arthritis sufferers in my family have had. I don't know what to do about it other than eat well, avoid alcohol like the plague, limit any stress to the finger joints, and consume Ibuprofen whenever the pain is bad. All that will probably be insufficient to ward off the effects of arthritis.

I wish there was a cure for arthritis, but it seems that world leaders have other priorities than scientific and medical research. I wonder whether there is anyone in the U.S. that really thinks the trillions we blew on Viet Nam and then recently Iraq and Afghanistan was money well-spent, when that money could have upgraded our knowledge of medicine and disease not just for us, here in America, but for our entire species.

My strengths are my analytical nature, sensitivity to the feelings of others, politeness, customer service, punctuality, and kindness to others.

I'm not the kindest person I know, but I am hesitant to cause anyone any sort of discomfort or unease and am willing to help strangers out if the cost to me is small. Lending someone I don't know $5 is out of my range, though. I'm suspicious of undue demands and wary of getting involved with people I don't know well. Helping someone with money may or may not actually help them. If they are going to use the money to buy alcohol, then it is a harm. I never give money to beggars, and the notion of begging seems strange and dishonorable to me. If I were hard up, then I would feel obligated to offer a service in exchange for money.

Empathy is very helpful, because it smooths social interactions and makes the working environment productive and efficient. I am very pleased that I have learned to pick up on subtle social cues that I used to miss when I was a teenager. I can read body language and know enough not to take other people's words at face value. Tone of voice and expression convey more information than choice of words.

Politeness is underrated by many otherwise good people. I used to cut fool with people when I was a teenager. Humor is all well and good, but the trouble with wit is that laughs are short-lived, but memories of words linger long after they are spoken. Sometimes people brood over what is spoken in jest. Why? Because there is much truth passed off as humor. The reason things are funny is often because there is a grain of bald, unvarnished truth in an utterance. Wit tends to exaggerate, however, and there lies the possibility of trampling on another person's feelings. I have learned to restrain wit. Only with close, intimate friends should wit be used and even then with caution. What people really admire and appreciate is someone who reflects a positive image of themselves. People don't ever want to have their shortcomings pointed out. They may laugh, but they will remember the slight. Even if they know about the shortcoming, it is better to pretend as though one is completely unaware of it.

An analytical nature is extremely important because we live in a complicated, ever-changing world. There are many complicated choices, and sometimes it is crucial to pick the right one and avoid traps and pitfalls. Unfortunately, many people lack an analytical nature. The leaders that they elect to represent them are, therefore, salesmen, not engineers. That is why our leaders have made many foolish and costly decisions that have retarded economic and scientific progress. An analytical mind will say, "OK, wait, slow down. Let's not get emotional. Let's not decide in haste based upon fear or greed. Let's examine all of the possibilities here. Let's dig up all the details. Let's compare and contrast each of the available choices. Let's make a decision only when we have thought everything through with cold, calculating, precise and well-informed intellect." The thing about me is that I love details. I want to know all the gory facts. My brain is hungry for useful information and useful knowledge. This has proven very helpful to me in many situations.

Punctuality is a reflection of my desire to remain calm and in control. I feel anxiety when the possibility arises of disappointing others. Being on-time or early is an easy way to establish a positive impression. To me, it is worth half an hour or even more of my time to eliminate any possibility of being late.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Putin and Pinocchio

The Washington Post, my favorite U.S. newspaper, has a good article analyzing Putin's recent speech justifying his theft of the Crimea.

When Foul Seems Fair, Beware

When evil-doers employ words and forms that match their souls, be thankful. It is a small mercy. They have not guile. They are weak.

When foul seems fair, like Sauron in exile among elves and men, assuming the guise of virtue, then there is danger, for that is a crafty foe.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

What's Wrong with Wireless

Wireless is insecure by design. That's why I don't do wireless. If you use a wireless network, keyboard, or mouse, then a hacker can intercept that communication. Your implicit intention is to broadcast your computer activity to the entire world.

I've never understood why people will pay a premium for wireless keyboards or mice when extension cables are dirt cheap. Wireless keyboards and mice are inferior in every respect to their wired cousins. Wireless input devices are not only insecure, but require batteries, which is a huge hassle compared to hassle-free wired input devices.

I've also never understood the appeal of wireless networking for indoor use. I can understand using wireless when outdoors or in the car. I just don't get using wireless in a home or business. It is both slower and insecure.

Many of my neighbors use wireless. I know because my laptop picks up their home networks. I don't hack them. But someone with less morality could certainly attempt to hack them and at the very least use and abuse their internet bandwidth for his own purposes. I fault the local ISP's for promoting wireless internet services for their own convenience, merely because their technicians don't want to crawl around in the crawlspace.

Running ethernet cable under the house only takes an hour at most. A man has to have a powerful case of the Lazybones to prefer wireless. By doing so, he will have a slower and less secure network.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Gun Nuts

I have been following the case of Oscar "The Pistol" Pistorius and am surprised by his documented obsession with firearms. What kind of ego is on this guy that he feels his life is so precious that he has to carry a loaded firearm around at all times just on the very, very slight possibility that someone might engage him in a gun fight? Is he holding the secret to nuclear fusion in his head? I think he has an empty head.

I do not understand the logic behind shooting at a closed door without knowing who is behind that door. If a man is going to shoot, he had better damn well know what he is shooting at. Otherwise, he is guilty of premeditated murder, case closed, no need for trial. He is either crazy as a loon, in which case he needs to be in a secure facility for the remainder of his natural life, or else he is evil, in which case the same is true. I really think the trial is a bit of a farce. I am not interested in any further evidence other than the central fact that he shot at a closed door.

The odds of needing a firearm to fend off attack are quite minimal. I hear a lot about citizen gun owners engaging violent criminals and getting shot, even killed. The unfortunate reality is that violent criminals are often better at violence than law-abiding civilians. For one thing, violent criminals don't care. They don't care whether they get shot. That's why they are violent criminals. They are willing to take extreme chances and risk death. They are often young, agile, strong, and experienced with firearms. The odds are they will win a gunfight, all other factors being equal.

I think it is better to go ahead and take the small chance of getting gunned down than to carry a gun around and possibly become responsible for what that gun can do if it is improperly used or gets into the wrong hands. Some people are just too eager to flirt with death. Death comes soon enough. No need to hurry things along!

It seems to me the wrong sort of people gravitate toward firearms. When someone tells me they carry loaded guns around, nine times out of ten, they look like the type of person that is going to shoot someone by accident because they are foolish, have limited social skills or problems with anger management and emotional maturity. Nervous, small, angry, immature men who feel weak and inadequate carry loaded guns. I think it is a penis replacement.

Law enforcement in this day and age is extremely effective. Let the cops handle the killers! They are better shots, have better weapons and tactics, work effectively as a team, and are well-trained to handle the rough stuff. There is no one that can stand against the modern police force of countries like the United States. I don't care how tough a criminal may think he is, he can and will be brought down. I am not trained to do it and prefer to leave the garbage disposal to the professionals.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


Of the two chief negative emotions, anger and sadness, anger presents the most risk to heart health because of its intensity. Sadness is something that can fade after a nap, or if not, then it may be amenable to medication, such as chocolate. Anger tends to come on quickly and cause the release of adrenal hormones, with the elevation of heart rate and blood pressure.

Upon reflection, I do not think there are many things worth getting angry over. However, the fast pace of modern life, with its endless complexity and injustices great and small, leaves many people vulnerable to anger. Those who are angry tend to infect others with the same emotion, perpetuating a cycle of anger throughout society.

Society is divided into tribes that bicker and find fault with one another. Male vs. female is common, followed by old vs. young, straight vs. gay, white vs. black, religious vs. secular, or conservative vs. liberal. One must continually lower expectations, because beings that present a rational and high-minded front to the world may prove to be tribal animals, quick to judge others for the slightest pretence.

I recognize my own propensity to anger as being similar to that of my father's. I call this beast "Sgt. Silly," imagining a red-faced drill sergeant yelling at fresh recruits for some petty, insignificant infraction.

On the whole, anger has seldom been really useful, but more often been harmful. The harm is not always defined by actions or words but rather the insidious effects on internal organs, such as the heart, because anger acts like a potent toxin. Recovery from anger is slow, and the effects appear to be long-lasting.

Anger is best indulged by the rich and powerful, who can effect real change in the world when motivated by anger. I think that happens from time to time. Certainly those who donate millions of dollars to various causes, political or social or charitable, are not always motivated by mere greed. Sometimes they are angry, or concerned, or enthusiastic. Whatever their emotional motivation, they wish to change the world.
For the poor, anger is typically only harmful to the bearer, because with few exceptions, the poor can do little or nothing to change the world in a useful, meaningful way.

One of the reasons that I have used marijuana from time to time is to find liberation from anger and anxiety. Marijuana seems effective to that end. I am not sure it is possible to be angry while high. Marijuana bestows forgetfulness, a blessed decaying of the memories of past injustices, of which every life must have a record. Yet marijuana dulls the intellect, and for that reason, for the time being, I follow the path of abstinence, because I need all my wits about me, every iota of intelligence. I look forward to a time in the future when I can sit down again beside the old tree and watch the stars.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Want Faster Internet? Move to Uruguay.

The Week has an article on why U.S. internet is so slow. Basically, the right-wingers in Congress hamstrung the country as they always do, all in the name of less government and more "freedom." Enjoy your freedom today while people in other countries access the Internet at 3-5x the speed that you do.

I don't believe that most people in Congress really understand or care about what is going on in this country. The Republicans in particular only care about making money in the short-term for themselves through various scams and deals. They don't understand computers, science, or morality. Twenty years ago, I used to think that Republicans could manage the economy fairly well, but they can't even do that. When we had a Republican President and Republican majorities in Congress, the economy sank down into a long-lasting recession because of their incompetence. The Republicans can do nothing well. They have no ideas that are worth anything, and at some level, they know it. All they do is obstruct the other side from getting anything done. Meanwhile, the nation's power and wealth dwindle away.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Turn Off AT&T's Voice Mail Indicator Light

I told the technician I didn't want AT&T's voice mail service when he installed U-verse. Nevertheless, all my phones started blinking with the voice mail message indicator after he installed U-verse.

To get around this particular AT&T annoyance, call 1-888-288-8893, go to setup, and turn off the voicemail message indicator. This is just another bullying attempt by AT&T to try to pressure their customers into buying more unnecessary and inferior AT&T services.

I Use IP Chicken

I like the above service for determining the local IP address. Clean, fast, and simple, with a privacy policy I can understand. There are many competitors, but IP Chicken does IP-checkin' (chicken) the way it should be done.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

How to Configure Your Mail Reader When Switching from DSL to AT&T U-Verse

One of these days I'm going to pop a gasket. With me, the odds are higher due to Mitral Valve Prolapse and lack of medical insurance. Those with MVP can just drop dead any old time according to Wikipedia's wisdom. Well, I just hope it's later rather than sooner. If my blog stops having updates, then my readers can put two and two together. Even from beyond the grave, I will ensure that my blog remains a spam-free zone due to my security settings.

The latest irritant to elevate my blood pressure was AT&T technical support. I recently switched from DSL to U-verse. When I tried to check my AT&T email via the popular Thunderbird mail reader, I received an error message that indicated something was wrong with AT&T's mail server. I waited a couple of hours and tried again and got the same error. I called AT&T and spent about half an hour on the phone with a friendly guy who assured me that my new account was provisioning and all would be fine by the morning. Great, I said.

Trouble was, AT&T's guy lied. Through his teeth. Just outright lied. He had no idea what he was talking about. The following morning, I still got an error message, and twelve hours later, ditto. I called AT&T tech support again and got someone who sounded like she had been smoking weed and swigging tequila. She was giggling and talking to other people in the background, and the background noise was very intense, with people talking in Spanish and English, so much so that she did not hear half the things I said. I had to repeat every other sentence. In addition to this, the line went mute, cutting her or me off sporadically. She asked if she could call me back, and I said yes, but that didn't help. The same problem persisted throughout the call. We were talking on my landline, incidentally. The problem was certainly not on my end, because I have talked to other people on the same phone without any issue. My connection was completely wired, not in any way wireless. Her connection had the problem.

Between bouts of silence and background noise, she reminded me that AT&T does not support Thunderbird. Over the years, I have received the same scripted line every single time I call AT&T asking for help configuring my mail reader. AT&T gives short shrift to mail readers. Why do they hate mail readers? Well, let's think about that, shall we? It is in AT&T's interest to herd people through their web portal, isn't it? That way, their customers are exposed to all kinds of advertising.

Whatever. I'm not the type of guy to take "No" for an answer, not when I pay over a hundred dollars a month for the service. My mail reader was working yesterday, and after their guy installed U-verse, it stopped working. I had changed nothing on my end. I knew it was their fault and anyone with intelligence would know that too.

She asked if she could take control of my computer, and I said no, because I run Linux and I'm not sure how to grant that kind of access and don't want to, either, because I'm absolutely certain it would not help. Then she wanted me to reboot my computer, and at that point I went over the edge, because rebooting is something a tech tells people when he doesn't know anything. I started ranting about AT&T's contractual obligations, and then she muted me again. So I hung up. Clearly she knew nothing and was not going to help.

I called back, chose a different option on their phone menu, hoping to contact someone different, and got a tech rep that sounded nicer. She was in a different office, a quiet one. I guessed the water bong hadn't made the rounds at her office. There was no background noise, and she didn't sound like she was high. She wasn't giggling at obscene jokes her co-workers were sending in the office. She actually walked me through Thunderbird's set-up, but everything she told me about the configuration was already set. After all, the mail reader had been working perfectly prior to the switch to U-verse. Although she was nice, her advice was useless.
Here's the bottom line after about two hours of aggravation with AT&T's tech support. No configuration changes need to be made to the Thunderbird mail reader. Nothing needs to be done to the mail reader at all. The only reason the techs suggest that is because they don't know what they are talking about.

Thunderbird is a highly intuitive mail reader developed by Mozilla, the same company that develops Firefox. Thunderbird configures itself automatically. There is no need for the end user to input anything other than email address and password. There is little chance of an incorrect configuration. AT&T technical support does not know what time of day it is. It is aggravating to call up technical support and listen to pushy drunks that don't know anything other than what their script tells them. I have to teach them their job, because they do not know anything about computers. Meanwhile, I can't access my email.

There is only one thing a customer needs to do to fix the mail reader after the switch from DSL to U-verse. Log in via the web browser. Period. Yahoo has a serious bug or else an intentional, selfish annoyance (take your pick). The end user is required to log in via the web browser once in order to use the mail reader, even if he has been using the mail reader for years via DSL.

AT&T and Yahoo don't like mail readers. They wish to discourage their use, because mail readers do not add to their bottom line. They make the mail reader difficult to use because they want to push more of their crap products via the web site. They wasted two hours of my time with this nonsense for no other reason.

The mail reader still reports an error indicating a problem with their internal service when I first load Thunderbird. I have to press OK to accept the message, then click "Check Mail" to check mail again. This is because AT&T does not configure the U-verse mail server properly. I suppose they never will fix it, because they very nearly have a monopoly in my location. They treat their customers like dirt because they can get away with it.

Judgement Day

At the end, I emerged from darkness and stood before the watchers of the world. 

I said, "I gave what I was given. I did what could be done."

Among the watchers, truth prevails. Everything is known.

The light consumed what I was before. 


Recombination and regeneration.

There have been others. 
There are others. 
Before the breaking of the world, there will be others.

The wheel spins
and so it goes.

I thought about Judgement Day as I woke up this morning. I do feel a general sense of satisfaction over my life. I've avoided some bad things and chosen some good things. I sidestepped many of the snares and pitfalls of this world. I found what was good and helped it along to the limited extent that my abilities permitted.

Judgement Day means different things to different people. Upon reflection, my dream could occur to a saint, an ordinary person or even a suicide bomber. People have such different ideas about God. Who is right? That is one of the problems with religion. It is possible to adapt the same meme to different uses.

I think that hearing so much and so often about God from so many unpleasant people turned me off from religion. They inoculated me against religion. My intellectual immune system eliminated the weak germs of door-to-door proselytizers and televangelists. I developed adaptable and effective antibodies and am now immune to all strains of religion.

I reuse the material acquired early in life and spin it into positive things rather than throw it away. I retain certain feelings about divine retribution, divine oversight of the world and even divine intervention. Because I like people and want to understand them, I continually absorb a certain amount of the beliefs of my friends and relatives. Until I open myself to another person's thoughts, they remain "other." I have to step inside their mind. I have to look around and see what there is to see through their eyes. Once I drink of their thoughts, then they become understandable, predictable and a warmth and intimacy may develop.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Apple Shareholder's Meeting

I was impressed by a story about an Apple CEO who apparently cares about more than just the bottom line or ROI (Return on Investment). He demonstrates enlightened selfishness. Some people will never understand, not in a million years, why a business should do the right thing even when it costs more money. They look at spreadsheets and count up numbers and think about money. I think it is better to look at people and think about people. We are human beings. We are not machines.

If people get the impression that Apple is good, that matters when they're thinking about making a technology purchase. They may be willing to pay a little extra for an Apple product. Goodwill cancels out buyer's regret. Goodwill makes excellent starting points for conversations about Apple.
techlorebyigor is my personal journal for ideas & opinions