On the Imprisonment of Electrons

One of my colleagues, an academic Velocity Spin Angular Momentum, has a tag line in her signature “No electrons were killed in the production of this email, but several were inconvenienced”. We have to expect humor like this from a feminist computer geek trapped teaching computers in a business college. 

I am reminded by it, however, that when we do things electronic, including saving emails, we are usually imprisoning electrons. Which led me to consider two matters in this regard.

The first, [Link] has to do with the relationship between updates and the recent WannaCry pogrom. I call it that because it was an organized execution of a social group. In this case, not Jews, or other religionists but, in a sense, atheists. 

Many of the aspects of computer geeks and nerds is that their attitude towards computers and matters computing has strong parallels to stupidstition and mythtrapping. They are a people set apart, exalted above the majority, and often disliked by that majority. As I have mentioned several times the difference seems to be that between a tool and a appliance.

The study bemoaned in the article talks about the faithful majority. It turns out what they are faithful to is not installing updates. IOW, their commitment to believing, no matter what, that their computer is an appliance and needs no maintenance, only replacement when it craps out.

All sorts of statistics are presented but they are not very convincing beyond some skillful artistic presentation. Apparently that minor difference is significant. Survival is once more razor thin. 

What bemused me about the survey is its bias. It is pro-appliance user. The attitude is that freedom from updates is something decreed by the deity. So their answer is the make updates unsensible. IOW, just sit back and let the deity take care of you. 

Very anti-vaccination, anti-soap, anti-knowledge, anti-freedom.

The bias extends to only including Winders users in their sample. This one is a bit smelly. The sample population is large enough that the probability of being comprised only of Winders users – no Apple, no Linux,,, – is vanishing small. Maybe not suddenly asphixiate when all the air in your room crowds into one corner but still so small as to prompt a special counsel.

And they all hate updating, to some degree. I understand that. I am almost always not thrilled by updates. The exception is when the previous update trashed something I need to use.  But I check for updates daily. Usually I let the update client in the OS do the checking but I don’t let it do automatic updating. Why? Because I have learned from experience that if X is updated and not Y at the same time, Z doesn’t work. So if X is in the update list and Y isn’t, the X update waits.

This is the situation in spades fro MegaHard. In the last twelve months they have released three (that I know of) system killing updates. They got fixed in a day or two (surprise! surprise!) but that didn’t help the pious who updated automatically and had to hire someone to bring their box back. 

Abandoning responsibility is a short road to loss of freedom. And maybe to gain of death. Think of updates as Listerine. Hate it, use it when it makes sense, and keep your teeth.

The second, [Link] is entitled “Ode to the Graphing Calculator.” It’s written by some tweener journalist who had to buy a “graphing” calculator in public schule. With lots of tears fro the pain and suffering of having to carry the thing and have to use it. Evidently finger enumeration is preferred.

I have scant sympathy except for knowing that what little chance this fellow had of learning any maths (and enjoying them) were vertically copulated (with mentally deteriorating STD) by the public schule system. Education by mandate is ineffective. And the public schules will never abandon it. 

So Tyson (“Chicken Man”) is right: “Good students learn in spite of bad teachers.” Or bad schule systems. 

I went through public schule in a different era. Parents held students and teachers responsible. And they were part of the process – regardless of whether the schule system wanted them to be or not. Fastest way to retire as a superintendent in those days was to get a dozen parents micturated. And the teachers were judged on how much the kids learned that the parents didn’t. None of this no science because we’re Conservative Reformed Shrub Druids. Kids were supposed to learn to analyze stuff for themselves. And make enlightened decisions. And standardized tests were a distraction, not a holy ritual. 

And we had no calculators. That’s an overstatement. The admin office had a tape adding machine. That was it. And from fifth grade on (ninth or tenth for most who did,) I had a slide rule. I got it as a Christmas holiday present from pushy parents (it was a fad that year) and I was precocious enough to learn how to use it on my own. Because my parents were at the taped adding machine level and wanted be to be more advanced. 

So I used a slide rule all through public schule. And all the way through college. And I drew graphs with graph paper and pencil and straight edge and French curve. I still do except I use a spreadsheet program. 

When I was a first year grad student the first battery powered portable (not fit in a pocket) calculators (four arithmetic operations) came into the marketplace. Only the rich kids had them; grad students didn’t have the coins. Food and rent and heat were higher priority. But we did have access to the schule’s Freiden calculators. No tape but you could crunch numbers and write them down preparatory to hand graphing,

About the same time, HP brought out their first portable nerd calculator, the HP-35. $375. That’s two months gross salary for a teaching assistant. So we still used slide rules.

When I was about to take my qualifying exams, HP brought out a third iteration, the HP-55. The Yankee Army of Occupation saw fit to issue me one for my work duties and allowed me to use it for other things not involving damage to the calculator like smashing nutmeats or loosening frozen machinery. I never used it in an exam. Why? Because it was too slow. Slide rule was faster. Risk avoidance. 

Years later I got a graphing calculator. Not a TI, which the author extols. Mostly because TI bought the standardize testing people. Not directly – baksheesh. That’s why the public schules adopted them instead of HP. That and the inability of the proletariat to learn how to use Reverse Polish Notation. That slowness of HP I mentioned? Still twice as fast as a TI because of RPN!

So no great love for TI. Lots of colleagues like. That’s fine. TI is like Unity to me. (See previous blot.) 

I never really learned to do graphs on a graphing calculator. Resolution too low. Only worked with nice functions. So when Lotus 1-2-3 came out I signed on immediately for “Instant Graphification.” I could mumble up numbers AND plot them. Pretty goodly. Especially if I had a laser printer. HP again. 

So I have no dog flesh in the graphing calculator thing. I prefer the number display. Got lots of calculators. One is a TI. Bought it to be able to converse with a colleague. 

HP isn’t as good as it used to be. My HP-35 (bought at a salvage sale) still works but the battery is goop and I have to stay withing reach of a wall. If it wasn’t an antique for my daughter to sell when I discorporate iot would be all I need except for vanity and whim. So I mostly use an HP-35S. And a couple of others. And despair of the demise of the calculator. The crap on my cellular telephone is not 90%, it’s 100%.

And I still think schule kids should have to learn to think and analyze and reason and decide. Not get tested on key pressing.

Another time I am glad to be ORF. And have a good calculator. And several good slide rules. And integral tables. 

So I may find the authors’ comments misplaced but not unattended. And bemoaned. 

Day of the Linux Spanner

Five Day. End of gym for the week. Accompanied by the unpleasant nattering that the gym will close One Day next for a holiday. Any excuse. Everybody else will go about their business, with an interruption to observe the reason, but otherwise the holiday is not an excuse for non-service.

This is what happens when one lives in the Old Confederacy, in a small town. The people generally think themselves exceptional when they are actually mediocre to defective and use any excuse to avoid effort. 

Reminds me of the latter days of the Roman Empire when chariot races and bread donatives were more important than effort. 

We have become addicted, at least in most places and of most people, to avoiding effort and productivity. No wonder jobs are scarce and disappearing. Robots are better workers and soon to be smarter as well. Makes me glad I am ORF so I don’t have to worry about the political oligarchs implementing the Irish Solution.

On which azimuth, I noted yesterday an article [Link] entitled “Why Linux has Failed on the Desktop.” I should warn the reader that the author of this article is a journalist and not a knowledgeable human.

The thesis is that Linux has failed on the desktop. That is intriguing and so I picked up the article to see what insight might be present.

There wasn’t much.

The article starts by blasting the propaganda of the Linux capitalists that this is “The Year of the Linux Desktop” repeatedly for several years. Somehow he fails to note who is saying this: people who sell Linux services. 

Then he makes a series of arguments that basically come down to: Linux is too difficult for all those folks who wait about for chariot races and bread.

The sad part is that much of his arguments against are actually arguments for the success of the Linux desktop. Specifically elitism, given that elitism is personal standards, productivity, creativity, and learning. In this regard the standards of contemporary journalism are marvelously upheld.

Yes, Linux is elitist. If competency is elitist. Yes, it helps to think like a “developer” to use Linux. It helps to think like a surgeon to do heart transplants. Or like a mechanic to fix motorcars. When I was growing up reading Popular Mechanics and Popular Science and they were full of do-it-yourself projects one of the currents was the need (and how) to think to do the project, be it carpentry or plumbing or soldering. 

The problem is not that you have to think like a computer geek to use a computer; the problem is that you don’t. That’s the difference between a tool and an appliance. And if you can make do with an appliance, well and good; you don’t have to think computer. But if you need a tool, you need to think like a tool user or you’ll end up needing someone who thinks like a physician. (Worse Case, admittedly.)

The people who want to make lots of money selling Linux are the only ones who give any credence to the “Year of the Linux Desktop” catch phrase as anything other than that. People who believe this are the same ones who eat daily at fast food troughs and think MalWart is a benevolent employer. Television before Thought. 

The people who actually use Linux, whether as server or desktop software, are worried about the quality of their tools, not the sound of the beep on their appliances. 

But I do have to worry about the folks who drink the koolaid and criticize the sippy cup.

Oram Sans Mens

Three Day. A bit strange, even for a Wodensday. Schule is obviously counting down to desessioning for the torrid term, loosening all manner of carpet cruds to suck up my share of bandwidth from the so-called Oneonta Telephone Company, a corporation who thinks that landline voice service is their core competency even though they lose 0.1 of subscribers each year. 

The scary part after attending aboard meeting some years ago was to discover that this is indeed the core competency of their directors and management. Shade of the Containment Era!

Anyway, the podcast, an episode of CBC’s “Quirks and Quarks” was entitled (What Scientists did on their Summer Vacation.” The title is the humorous part. First of all, all the scientists interviewed were women. Not that I have anything against women; my life depends on them, but they are hideously underrepresented in the sciences and to have only women on a podcast like this smacks a bit of genderism?

I also have to wonder if geographers are actually scientists? Even scuba diving geographers. 

Anyway, I motored to Nawth Alibam’s Shining City on the Hill in search of provisions and wisdom, obtaining both, the former from various stores and the latter from a colleague, Mass Magnetic Field. 

While I motored I listened to a CD I had recently purchased of pipe musics and highland throat mumbling. A good collection and I found myself cursing traffic idiots in a brogue. And reflecting that the greatness of the Scots is amply demonstrated by the bagpipes, a musical instrument that is easier played while walking than standing still. 

Then I reflected in whether that thought was racist of not? 

I shall not belabor my thoughts on “race” as a matter of rubbish, but the stereotyping denigration (which is NOT a racist word) is rubbish only in the sense of not having any merit or benefit. I realize that humans are programmed to delineate “Us” versus “Them”, but not outside our skulls and definitely not in action. 

For some reason, I was reminded of a family July 4th reunion the summer after I had finished being a Freshman. Flip flops were enjoying (?) their first (?) popularity and all of my girl (is that genderist?) cousins were wearing such. My grandmother commented something along the lines of “nothing says trailer trash like flip flops.” I recall their parents, at least half of which were the children of the woman speaking, looked horribly uncomfortable, apparently unsure of whether they should defend their offspring or defer to their parent. I was bemused, looking at my own feet, shod in Hush Puppy loafers horribly pitted over the toes almost to a hole on both shoes where acid had dropped in lab that year. The air tingled with that horrible agony just before super-cooled steam turns to crystaline ice with a wild crash as everyone froze and pretended to be deaf. Then the moment passed and a frustrated lemming urge to flee was suppressed until food was consumed. 

That was the last time I went to a summer reunion. 

And when I got back to Castellum SCP, I came into contact with an article [Link] entitled “RIP MP3 – the sound file that changed the world is declared dead.” Somehow this abomination of techno-journalistic babble put the whole matter into perspective. 

The thesis is that the organization who owns the patents on MP3 encoding announced that they would no longer license the use of the encoding. Lots of journalist who know how to write but not what to write have been announcing the demise of the MP3 file. 

(Sniggering laughter from the Nerd and Geek contingent. Blank ignorance from the Bog majority.)

What the Fraunhofer Institute meant was that they could no longer license MP3 encoding because their authority to do so had expired. Patents have a lifetime, unlike – apparently – copyright which seems to have been conscripted by greedy people wearing flip flops. 

In words of a different flavor, licensing of MP3 encoding is no longer necessary. It is now a resource of the species.

I suspect that part of this Bronson Beta grrrr brrrr was pandering to the people who make high end music players (those that do OGG or AAC but not MP3) and the makers of RAM. After all, journalists have to make money to survive because no one will willingly pay to read what they have written these days. (So they have difficulty purchasing new flip flops.)

The MP3 is not dead. It still has utility. For one thing something like five thousand new podcasts are generated every day on Tellus and almost all of them are available as MP3s. And a lot of music is still available as MP3s and will. Because there are lots of audio files – podcasts and not-classical music – that people don’t want the enormous, audio accurate files. If I’m listening to a podcast at the gym, surrounded by weight bouncers shouting visceral groans and crunching cement when they drop their weights and educationalists whose indoor voices are more suitable for a football game in a hurricane, I want enough quality to understand (maybe) what is said but not pay the RAM price I would pay for Beethoven from the Berliner. 

And it will likely stay that way. Despite what some knowledgeable journalists ominously foretell. 

But the intriguing question is what kind of Themism is discrimination against a file format? Fileism. Formism. Digitism? Noiseism?

Crocodile Tears

Seven Day. Week Out almost over. And I had to hawg’ tabs this morning.

Several of those tabs had to do with the WannaCry [Link] extortion that has preempted Nawth Korea from its implication of Nuclear War one (and last? Well, at least it would set back global climate change and make the deaths quicker.)

I have been reflecting on this and have come up with a few questions. 

How many annoyances equal a crime, that is, something that can be punished by the justicers? The related question is how many people have to be annoyed before the annoyance becomes a crime?

Why do things like this happen? Why do people let them happen?

The latter are simpler, maybe. Things like this happen because they can. There is a rule of Nature that if something can happen, it will. Human society is a bit more difficult in this regard. For example, we haven’t been hit with a movement for siblings to wed, mostly because of something called an incest aversion, but it can happen. Probably wouldn’t be any worse than the anti-vaxers. What difference is it if parents break their children by medical negligence or genetic negligence? The end result is much the same.

Similarly, WannaCry happened because the bits and pieces were available and for some reason greed is a survival asset. Not sure how that jibes with altruism, but since greed is so widespread I can’t imagine it not being biological in origin.

But why were the bits and pieces available? A bit of blame is being put on the NSA. That clearly is a waste of time and effort. Yes, some scapegoat may be retired early (and be rewarded with a greased job at some contractor,) but organizations have no scruples nor ethics. They talk about them a lot but that’s mostly to sell their product or otherwise help the organization. Simply put organizations don’t care about people beyond their own self-interest.

Over and above that, the NSA is under no obligation to share findings of its work that could be harmful to American citizens. Like this particular computer weakness. That warning isn’t part of its charter. So NSA isn’t going to tell people about the weakness.

Besides, MegaHard figured this one out on their own. My suspicion is that they likely figured it out before the NSA did. And then they kept mum about it. Why? Because that’s how big organizations operate. Do big food organizations tell you their product uses toxic chemicals as preservatives? Do cosmetic companies tell you their products have ingredients that cause cancer?

Organizations are different from people. People have to have some morals or they end up in jail. Why we have to treat organizations as pseudo-humans and don’t jail them for lack of morals is another example of how whacked out legal system is. And perhaps how biased against people?

One thing they have in common is stupidity. Organizations are stupid because they are fundamentally dependent on people. They are staffed with people, they are managed by people, and they generally depend on people for continued existence. Of course, this will be less obvious when AI comes to reasonable maturity. Then the organizations will be the real robot overlords. 

Of course, MegaHard released a security update two months ago to fix this weakness. (Well, maybe. After all, we have to take MegaHard’s word for it, don’t we?) And lots of people didn’t install the update. Heck, lots of folks are still running Winders XP, which is only supported with updates if its in an ATM machine. And the whole of the British National Health Service still runs XP. But that’s a case of organizational stupidity. And probably greed?

But when it comes to updates, MegaHard is its own enemy. The way it does updates, by trying to pre-empt the machine, is seriously nasty. It makes Winders the equivalent of Listerine – the taste and sting you hate twice a day – but without any inkling of benefit. And given MegaHard’s recent history of smoking boxes with updates, alienation and second thoughts are natural.

But a lot of problem with malware like this is simple not thinking. People get emails from strangers and they click links. Without doing any checking for authenticity. Or consideration of likely outcomes. It would be easy to say these are bogs and they refuse to think but that’s too simple. Geeks and nerds do stupid things too. They’re just more likely to learn from their mistakes. Not assured, just more likely. 

And there’s no reason those people have to use Winders. Other than stupidity and probably, laziness. And greed. They know about Apple and how expensive its computers are. And they have to use Winders at work because organizations are stupid too. And they don’t know about Linux but they’ve heard stories about it’s HARD and they are too insecure to try it. Despite the community making trying relatively easy. 

Incidentally, the guy who shut this whole thing down almost certainly speaks Linux. 

So the reason this sort of thing works is because of our consumerist love affair with stupidity as a life style.

A Mozillian Stupidity?

Six Day. No gym. The poltroons have some sort of prejudice against being open on week out. Evidently their management thinks no one does anything on week out but reproduce and imbibe. And, of course, repent for fornicating and drunkenness on the christianist sabbath. They are incapable of conceiving of any other form or religionist expression.

So it was with some concern that I came across an article [Link] entitled “Mozilla Relents, Thunderbird Can Stay.” The title refers to the origin of the concern that Mozilla had “fired” Thunderbird. Much as I hate to say it, this was more terrible than any other firing in recent history.

Happily, the community rallied about and Mozilla suddenly realized that they had overtaken the President’s Mansion and Congress as the propagator of Amerika’s Pain, Suffering, and Death. And then, instead of doing the right thing and done the mensch thing of begging the prodigal to return, they said that Thunderbird could return if it lived over the garage and paid its own electric bill.

And health insurance. With email as a prior condition.

Some stupidities are expected in the world. Red  Necks. Politicians. Bankers. But a software company? Who does Mozilla think it is? Fruit? 

As I recall, the announced rationale for the firing was that no one uses an email client any more. In the best tradition of such announcements, political and computer, it likely had to do with something else.

What Mozilla clearly didn’t expect was for large numbers of people to come back and declare them wrong. There are people who use Thunderbird. And gCal. And all the prevarications about other Mozilla products, they don’t do calendering worth Pasteurize Chicken Poop. 

Anyway, what this has brought to a head is the question: which is more important FireFox or ThunderBird? I suspect the answer is the latter. I only know of one clone of ThunderBird and several of FireFox. I can’t get the TB clone to work but I have two of the FB clones on this box. 

If someone came and made me an adamantine requirement that I quit either FB or TB I would not hesitate. TB would stay. 

Don’t get me wrong. TB is like Sir Winston Churchill’s statement about democracy. “ThunderBird is a horrible email client. But all the other are worse.”

Much Worse.

I know. I’ve tried a half dozen. Their average lifetime on my hard drive is measured in hours. At most. 

Perhaps Mozilla needs to ask itself which is their core competency: ThunderBird or FireFox? Or considering their apparent answer to this, perhaps they need to get themselves bought up by Sears or Macy’s? They certainly seem to be unable to comprehend their marketplace.

Where The Sun Shines

One of my colleagues, Magnetic Inductance Force, sent me a link to an article in the Guardian about how a Linux user trapped a Windows scammer and turned the blackguard in to the constabulary for a well deserved evisceration. 

I have to admit that I find much of retirement draining, mostly because of its strong correlation with OLD. It’s hard to do the things you want to when your aches-and-pains are disinclining you to activity and enjoyment. 

This article, however, is uplifting not only because of the heroic nature of trouncing the brigand but because one of the most genuine enjoyments of retirement has been being able to get shed of Winders and use Linux. 

Yes, there is Linux malware. Yes, there are threats to Linux. But they are fewer than for the other OS, their existence is freely publicized instead of being treated as if they were national secrets, and their alleviation or amelioration takes days instead of months. 

Yes, there is a higher overhead to learning and using Linux. And thus fewer use it. Part of that is fewer people intelligent enough to use the OS, which is vastly offset by their willingness to share and communicate, and part of it is that the software is Free in the sense of bringing responsibility. So those who will not stand for democracy should not try to use Linux. 

They will never taste the satisfaction of doing for themselves. But they can be content with whatever MegaHard tells and gives them. Rather like the Soviet era GUM department store – whatever they had they might sell you; whatever they didn’t have you couldn’t have either. So the only way to get blue jeans was to pay a Western tourist for their’s.

Linux is rather like those blue jeans. Except the only thing you have to pay is time and a bit of skull sweat.

Incidentally, in something on order 99% of instances, Linux clients are better than Winders clients. And the only cost is your time to learn how to use them.

 

Techno-Evangelism Failure

Seven Day. Nasty rain last evening; piddly rain this morning. Lower temperatures which I shall not criticize. I am ill inclined to embrace the heat of Alibam summer. 

Still in the mode of hawgin’ tabs and a rather odious one came to my attention yesterday [Link] entitled “A Window Into the Linux Desktop.” The title is at once a come-on and a nasty disappointment. It demonstrates at once the inherent independence of the Linux community and the stupidity that Linux advocates can exercise in promoting the OS.

The fellow that wrote this is patently a dinosaur of the DOS days of MegaHard, back when the only OS choices for a desk box were DOS and CPM (and whatever Amiga had.) His answer to the needs of a new convert to Linux is in essence a screen filling terminal. 

If that is what he wants, I do not gainsay his choice but I consider his offering this to potential adopters and “neubs” as evidence of mental defect. In both mine and the general experience the chief speed bump to such folk is not the GUI desktop but the command line. We are now into a second (third?) generation of Winders “users” (serfs?) and so the command line is as alien to them as thought is to a brick wall. Heck, I know Winders IT guys who use command line no more often than once a week and their achieved goal is usually that their users never use it. 

So offering potential adopters what amounts to nothing but an full screen command line is repellent and probably nauseating. Making people sick is not going to make then adopt the cause. 

There is a stubborn streak of insecurity in the Linux community that manifests itself in rabid evangelism of the OS. I succumb to it occasionally when my brain is engaged on real things but as soon as I can consider my actions the nonsense becomes recognized.

On a quantified basis of measurables there is no question that Linux is superior to Winders. Boot time, through put, internet utilization, … all show Linux superior to Winders. 

But people do not adopt an OS – at least among the Bogs – on rational grounds. They will only change when they are forced to or think the change their own. And evangelistic efforts are neither. 

A more effective path would be to recognize that people do not define their computer usage by the OS but by what they do. For nerds and many geeks, this is activity oriented; for bogs it is client oriented. So if one wants to espouse one OS over the other, one needs to demonstrate that it does activities or clients better. 

And let the user decide on his/her own adoption. It works for intelligent churches, why not for techno-religion?

I have said before that I still depend on Winders for one program. Linux has nothing to equal it. But for every other activity, I use Linux. Simply put the clients are equal or superior to those of Winders and my activity is improved thereby. 

We can’t expect Winders users to be this sentient and rational but we also can’t herd them like cats.