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Comments

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Sometimes It's OK To Steal My Games

Sylver Dragon Re:Your morals are not my morals (438 comments)

Yay, Moral Relativism! So while we're agreeing to disagree, we'll just have to agree to disagree that it is wrong for me to drop by, tie you up, skull fuck you in both eye sockets and take all of your possessions. After all, I see nothing wrong with me doing any of that to you, so it's OK and we'll just agree to disagree.

And this would be why no sane society bases itself on Moral Relativism, it sounds fun right up until someone with weapons and organizational skills realizes that he can set himself up as a dictator, and does so. And then the anarchist utopia ends and we get Somalia. Paradoxically, in order for a free society to function you have to have good laws which don't leave things open to such ridiculous interpretation. While some of the lines are pretty easy to draw, I think we can all agree that skull fucking someone is not OK, others are going to be a little tougher. Unsurprisingly, in those gray areas people tend to disagree. At this point, the best solution for deciding those gray areas, which we have come up with, is to have democratically elected representatives argue it out and make a final rule. And, in order to keep our society out of the hell of anarchy, we all go along with it and work though the system to change things we don't like. I think I'll have to agree with Mr. Churchill on this one, "Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."

So which one sounds better to you?
A society based on rules which keeps everyone mostly free but brings overwhelming force to bear to maintain an acceptable standard
Or
Anarchy and the possibility of a random guy dropping by to skull fuck you

I'm gonna stick with my laws, even if they are screwed up from time to time. At least I have the option to change them without a gunfight.

more than 3 years ago
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Volcanic Ash Heading Towards North America

Sylver Dragon Re:bankers take on the grounded flights (338 comments)

Dear UK, You should trust our files implicitly, but here's the hash anyway:
76D08CAB8B28C5F447D47519454F0D94

Yours sincerely,
The Netherlands

more than 4 years ago
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Challenge To US Government Over Seized Laptops

Sylver Dragon Re:Border crossing and the fourth (246 comments)

The Constitution puts limits on the actions of the government. Not 'the actions of the government within the borders of the admitted states.'

Just to nitpick, but it really is important because of the context. The Constitution does not place limits on the actions of the government. The US Constitution grants the government powers. The problem is that a number of people were worried that the government would work to grow those powers in an unbounded way and so they insisted on the Bill of Rights as an check on that behavior. The counter argument to the Bill of Rights was that it would eventually be turned around and used as an exhaustive list of the rights of the people and the limits of government power. The fact that many people today now believe that this is the case, and will state that "The Constitution puts limits on the actions of the government" shows that the detractors of the Bill of Rights were right. Technically, it was because of these fears that the Ninth and Tenth Amendments were added; however, FDR managed to murder the Ninth and the Tenth sort of withered away during the twentieth century.

Still, based on the (probably vain) hope that we might breath some life back into the Tenth, I tend to pick at this issue:
The US Constitution does not limit the power of US Government, it grants powers to the US Government. The US Government does not have any power not specifically granted to it by the US Constitution.

more than 4 years ago
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Challenge To US Government Over Seized Laptops

Sylver Dragon Re:Border crossing and the fourth (246 comments)

Ya, about that. The US average for solving murder cases is floating at about 60% [1] I'm not sure what is for theft, but given that fewer resources are brought to bear for a theft than a murder, I'm gonna guess that it's as bad or worse.

more than 4 years ago
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I am a bastard but not a uber-nerd

Sylver Dragon Question (4 comments)

A few quick questions:
1. What are you going to use this monitor for?
Your second monitor listed is a TV with a tuner which is adding to the cost. If you never plan to have this thing hooked up to a TV feed, it makes no sense to pay for the tuner.

2. Do you need/want speakers built into the monitor?
If you already have a nice sound system, having speakers in the monitor is an extra cost which can be avoided.

3. How comfortable are you with BenQ and RankArena as brands?
I realize that I could be accused of snobbery here; but, I tend to be very picky on brands, mostly because I've had too many problems with brands I don't know. That said, BenQ is a brand I can take or leave. I've not had any bad experiences with it, and I have heard a few good reports from people who's opinions I trust. RankArena is completely new to me.

more than 4 years ago
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Best Filesystem For External Back-Up Drives?

Sylver Dragon Re:The solution.. (484 comments)

Doh! I meant to put RAID 1 and screwed it up.

more than 4 years ago
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Best Filesystem For External Back-Up Drives?

Sylver Dragon Re:The solution.. (484 comments)

Was gonna say the same thing. Get a cheap NAS, put the two drives in it, go with RAID 0.
The D-Link DNS-321 is $120 from Newegg. It runs Linux and can handle all your Web/FTP/Samba needs.

more than 4 years ago
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Has a Decade of .NET Delivered On Microsoft's Promises?

Sylver Dragon Re:Java too complex (558 comments)

Spend some more time with it to learn the aliases; and try hitting <Tab> every once in a while, it's kinda like having intellisense at the command line. As a system admin, I love powershell and am using it constantly. Granted, it does help that I'm on Exchange 2007 and we have a few Server 2008 boxes deployed. Also, what rabbit994 said is spot on for it's best usage, scripting. Sure, this is largely just MS copying the *nix shell, but it works well and having the .NET API exposed for scripting and command lines is very nice. Like rabbit994, I end up having to add chunks of users all at once (I'm in a University environment) each with a mailbox, a user folder, a web folder and an FTP folder; create the distribution group and security group for the new batch of students, add all of the students to said groups, add those groups to our higher level groups; oh, and while I'm at it make sure that all of the ACL's are correct for each of the student's folders. And, just for the fun of it, I like to keep each batch of students in their own OU in Active Directory, it makes applying group specific GPO's easier. It shouldn't be a big surprise that as a manual process this takes anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes per student. With powershell, I run a script on my laptop which consumes a CSV file of student names and a command line parameter for the group number and within seconds all of that is done for all of the students.

As for it not being on any system I sit down on, that does suck. However, what did you expect MS to do make it a critical patch for all systems? On the other hand, we'll eventually get to that point anyway. Powershell is bundled with Windows 7 and Server 2008. While some folks may hang on to XP until they die, most of us (especially businesses) will upgrade and this problem will simply disappear.

more than 4 years ago
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PhD Candidate Talks About the Physics of Space Battles

Sylver Dragon Re:Not much surprising (361 comments)

Also on the nuke idea, why limit the choice between kinetic and nuclear weapons to either/or? Take the same type of tech we are currently using for the BLU-116 Bunker Buster bomb, add engines, an optic guidance system and replace the chemical explosive warhead with a nuclear warhead. Scale as needed. It would make the lake of an atmosphere outside the ship a plus.

Sure, I would expect counter measures on large scale warships, but we have that now and weapons like this can still get through and hit their target, why do we expect that to change?

more than 4 years ago
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Angry AT&T Customers May Disrupt Service

Sylver Dragon Re:Should be (572 comments)

That's another one of the things which I think could help our current situation in the US for a number of markets. Disallow vertical integration in communications. For example, if you are providing communications services you cannot own the network and vice versa; nor can one parent company hold one of each. This would include phone, internet and TV. AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, etc. would be broken up into different companies. One would be a network provider which just sells access to the network and the other would be the service provider who buys access to the network and resells it to the customers. The network companies would then become similar to other public utilities which are private companies given exclusive monopolies in a region in exchange for government oversight.

more than 4 years ago
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Angry AT&T Customers May Disrupt Service

Sylver Dragon Re:Should be (572 comments)

The spectrum is auctioned off the highest bidder. For a few billion dollars the entrenched interests can just gobble it all up regardless of whether or not they need it or intend to deploy on it.

This has always been one of my biggest complaints about the FCC's wireless spectrum auctions. There really needs to be a use requirement attached to the sale. For example, anytime a company/individual purchases a chunk of spectrum, there are required to put it to use. If they don't utilize it or under-utilize* it it gets taken back from them (no refunds) and then re-auctioned.

* - Under utilization would cover buying a chunk of spectrum which can carry far more information on it than a company does regularly. In which case, that chunk should be stripped from them and a less valuable one given for their current use. This is to avoid the purchase of a valuable chunk and then using it to send control messages or the like to avoid it appearing unused.

more than 4 years ago
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Angry AT&T Customers May Disrupt Service

Sylver Dragon Re:I read this as (572 comments)

You realise other networks are likely to follow suit?

I doubt it, it only takes one carrier to realize that they can pickup a ton of customers by offering an unlimited plan. They will simply need to figure out the price point at which it works for them financially, and get ready to deal with being crushed under the rush of customers. Take a look back to '96 when AOL became one of the first ISP's to offer unlimited plans. It was a disaster for a short bit, but drove sales like mad. In short order the other ISP's followed suit. And while several have threatened to go back to a per minute charge, it has never happened and it is never going to happen. The first ISP to do it will see their customers desert them in droves. Even if all of the ISP's out there get together and decide that they will all go to a per minute charge, it just becomes one huge game of chicken with the first one to break the trust winning the top market position.

The genie is out of the bottle on unlimited data plans. AT&T was happy to help remove the stopper, they are just pissing and moaning now because they didn't expect such high user demand and it's expensive to play catch-up. While having the iPhone as an exclusive device might keep a few customers, if they follow through on this threat, it's still going to kill their wireless division.

more than 4 years ago
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Is Console Gaming Dying?

Sylver Dragon Re:it's not dying (496 comments)

Yes, but fortunately, it's dying.

more than 4 years ago
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Is Console Gaming Dying?

Sylver Dragon Re:No (496 comments)

Well if this story is to be believed then while Microsoft showed a 14% decline in year over year revenue for Q3 2009, the Entertainment and Devices Division (Xbox and Zune) showed roughly a doubling of profit from $159 million to $312 million. So, while we may never know if MS has recouped all of the money they sunk into getting into the console market, it looks like they are making money on it now; even with having to carry the albatross that is the Zune.

more than 4 years ago
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Is Console Gaming Dying?

Sylver Dragon Re:Yes (496 comments)

I think it has less to do with what phase you are in in life than what types of games you play.
While I do play both console games and PC games, the choice is usually dictated by what type of game I am buying. If I am looking for a Prince of Persia or God of War type game, I buy it on the console. Since I won't really need fine control with lots of buttons, the console works out great and the ability to just drop in the disc and play is nice. For FPS or other games where I want a fine level of control and a good array of buttons, give me a PC. For example, look at the progression of the Rainbow Six games. By the second game of the series, I had an amazing amount of control over my character. The third game simply added to that. When the fourth game was announced as a console only game, I and many other fans started whining. Unfortunately, UbiSoft decided to give us what we asked for and ported Rainbow Six: Lockdown over to the PC. The controls felt like a dumbed down version Doom. And the actual game play wasn't much better. The series went from a tactical shooter to a yet another run and gun fest.

As for the hassle of keeping a gaming PC running, it's really not that hard. Yes, I have seen my fair share of games which lock up or refuse to run, but they aren't that common. And the trade off is usually a community around a good game making maps and mods. Yes, paid for downloadable content can be nice, but the stuff some of the modders do can be as good as, and sometimes even better than, the original game which gives me a lot more bang for the buck.

more than 4 years ago
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Secret Copyright Treaty Timeline Shows Global DMCA

Sylver Dragon Re:Emailgate (184 comments)

The health care fiasco is in a defense appropriations bill.

I thought the health care fiasco was in the Health Care Fiasco bill which we've been hearing so much about in the news. Got any actual citations on health care stuff being pushed into the defense appropriations bill? Or is this just more Limbaugh/Beck bullshit?

Have you seen the latest on the Antarctic data adjustments? The data from 63 temp sensors was "homoginized" by simply discarding the data from 62 of them and replacing those 62 with the data from the sensor with the fastest warming, producing a rate of change 8 times what might be reasonable. Persumably the hot sensor is near Mt Erebus (Antarctica's active volcano). You can "prove" anything you want if you lie about the data.

Actually no, I haven't seen this, link please? I tried googling for it and apparently either my skills are lacking or an actual source for this is.

more than 4 years ago
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Secret Copyright Treaty Timeline Shows Global DMCA

Sylver Dragon Re:Emailgate (184 comments)

I'd take that bet, I'm figuring that it'll get attached to the defense spending bill which is still waiting to be passed for this year (or next year's, if it takes that long). The Republicans are going to fight anything which comes out of Copenhagen which isn't an obvious hand-out to the oil companies. On the other hand, they won't fight a defense spending bill even if it had a "we're going to kill babies and stick them on spikes" rider in it.

more than 4 years ago
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Return of the Internet

Sylver Dragon Re:Bloody hell (2 comments)

Agreed, you can get a decent one for $20 or less at retail, even splurging and buying one which does RJ-11 as well is not going to break the bank. I have to believe that AT&T could easily negotiate a better price for the volume. And it would avoid comments like mine. Still, maybe they are just counting on no one noticing. If it wasn't for the fact that I have made more network cables than I care to admit, I might not have known that it was wrong.

more than 4 years ago
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Malware Found Hidden In Screensaver On Gnome-Look

Sylver Dragon Re:Not more safe (611 comments)

1. Anna Kornikova naked? Links plz.

Sure, just make sure to run this as an administrator...link

2. Vista's UAC was a good idea, but they botched it badly. I can say this with some authority since I have been a long time Vista user.

Ya, I won't argue that it was way too needy. And I am glad that Windows 7 toned it down quite a bit. Still, it was a starting point and a good example of how people react to this sort of thing.

more than 4 years ago

Submissions

Sylver Dragon hasn't submitted any stories.

Journals

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Tea, Earl Grey, Hot.

Sylver Dragon Sylver Dragon writes  |  more than 4 years ago I got myself involved in a discussion on Fark over replicators and ended up trying to consider them from a practical point of view. I did the math on trying to make matter from energy and managed to convince myself that the idea is just insane. It was the first time I had ever done it and I thought it was interesting enough that I would come back here and share.

Ok, so to start with take the equation from Special Relativity which we all know and love:
E=mc^2

Now, for the moment, I am going to assume that Captain Picard's cup of tea is really big. It's a 1 kilogram cup of tea. We can chop this down later, but this makes the math easier. Also, it doesn't matter all that much.
Next, we will use 300,000,000 m/s as the value for the speed of light. I know this technically wrong, but it's close enough and makes the math less messy. Again, feel free to go back and do this with 299,792,458 m/s you'll find that it's close enough.
So:
E=mc^2
E=1 Kg * (300,000,000 m/s)^2
E=1 Kg * 90,000,000,000,000,000 m^2/s^2
E= 90,000,000,000,000,000 Kg*m^2 / s^s

Ok, the reason I choose kilograms, meters and seconds for the units is that 1 Kg*m^2/s^ = 1 Joule, a well known unit of energy. So:
E=90,000,000,000,000,000 J
Now, this is a big number, but what does it mean? We can jump over to Wikipedia (yes, I know, wikipedia bad.) and get the energy equivalent of TNT, a unit which people seem to deal with better. Well, the energy equivalent of 1 Megaton of TNT is 4.184 * 10^15 J. So, stick this in our formula:
E=90,000,000,000,000,000 J / 4,184,000,000,000,000 J/Mt
E=~21.5Mt
This means that, for every kilogram you need to replicate, you need the energy equivalent to a large thermonuclear bomb. For comparison sake, the largest device ever detonated was the Tsar Bomba at 50Mt. So, if the Captain goes off his rocker and decides to get a whole pot of tea at once, the engine room is going to need to generate more energy than the largest nuclear device we have detonated to date. And not turn into a huge fireball in space in the process.

Now, this doesn't mean that it's impossible; but, trying to generate and contain that amount of energy, and do it in a reasonable time scale, just seems a bit ridiculous. The better part is trying to create safe failure modes. Let's go with the Star Trek idea of anti-matter. So, you dump half a kilogram of anti-protons in one side of your reactor and half a kilogram of protons in the other. And, because this reactor was built by the lowest bidder, with substandard welding, and poor maintenance, the reaction vessel fails. So, how do you plan a failure mode for a 21Mt explosion in a cracked reaction vessel? Again, not an impossible problem, but this seems like an awful lot of work for a cup of tea.

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Layfette, we are here!

Sylver Dragon Sylver Dragon writes  |  more than 4 years ago I'm not sure if someone from AT&T is readin my Journal, or if the AT&T rep Kim went yet another mile for us; but, on Friday, our services jumped to the correct settings. We now have HBO as planned and are at the Elite internet level as planned. So far, we're happy. We now have a DVR in the living room and bed room (big plus). While it would have been nice for the guide to self-limit to only the channels we have a subscription to, I understand why they don't. However, the box provides the ability to go in and manually trim the guide list to only what I want to see. So, all of the non-subscription channels are now gone, as are all of the religious, shopping and non-English channels, at least on one box. I haven't done the other yet, and I'm hoping to find a way to just transfer the settings, but I'll be ok if I can't.

The Internet connection itself seems to be stable, and the wireless router which is provided with the service doesn't seem half bad, so we've gone to just using it and not having the extra DLink router on the network.

Picture quality has been good, and the On Demand service has been good (at least for the HBO/Showtime stuff, haven't tried paying for anything yet). The DVR boxes are nice and responsive, though I'm still getting used to the remote control layout.

So far, the only complaints we would level against the AT&T setup is that the DVR boxes don't have a clock on them and that little green LED on the front of the box is damn bright at night in the bed room. Though we can easily work around both problems. Put a clock where we can see it a for the first and use a piece of opaque tape for the other.

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Return of the Internet

Sylver Dragon Sylver Dragon writes  |  more than 4 years ago Well, true to their word, the tech to install our AT&T UVerse service was at our apartment yesterday right around noon. I was in the middle of a lunch meeting with Dell and Microsoft (actually a pretty good one too), so my wife was there for the install and kept me updated via text messages. Unfortunately for the tech, our apartment was not well setup for UVerse (amazingly enough, I never felt it necessary to run Cat 5 to my TV), so it was necessary for him to make a few cable runs.

Now, I will give the guy credit, he did a clean job of it. He had to bring a cable through one wall, and he used an existing phone plate in the wall to hide one side of it and kept the other side fairly neat. In the other wall he needed to go through he was able to simply go through an existing plate on each side. In the living room, after coming through the wall, he needed to get to the opposite side of the room; his solution (and the one I would have gone back and done anyway) was to tack the wire along the base board, follow the jam up and around the sliding glass door, and go back down and around the base board the rest of the way. In all very clean.

Despite the cleanliness of the cable runs, the ends the tech put on the cables are crap. While I may not be the best cabler in the world, I can at least put an RJ-45 end on a Cat 5 cable which doesn't have the actual pairs hanging out. In his defense, my wife said that he did not have a crimping tool (apparently the company doesn't provide one), and did the whole job with a pair of scissors. That being the case, it's probably a small miracle that it all works to begin with. I just wish I had known (or been there) at the time. I have a crimping tool, and would have been happy to let him use it or just do it myself, since I'll now want to go back and do it anyway. Oh well, if I had to choose between redoing the run or redoing the ends, I'll redo the ends.

With one evening of testing, so far the service is good, if not what I ordered. Amazingly enough, after everything I went through to get the service ordered, it appears that we ended up not quite where we had planned to be at the beginning of all this. However, given the road to this point, I'm happy to have what we have and I figure I can sort the rest out. On the TV itself, we had planned to get the U300 package and add HBO. Well, we have the U300 package, but no HBO. The internet service was supposed to be the Elite level (6mbps/2mbps) and we landed at the Pro (3mbbs/1mbps). Though testing at DSL Reports confirms that we are getting near the maximum on our line, which is very nice.

Still, at this point I can get my porn and that's what the internet is for, right?

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It's dead Jim!

Sylver Dragon Sylver Dragon writes  |  more than 4 years ago My wife just texted to say that the internet is down at home. I think I may actually see a light at the end of the tunnel, though I wish whoever is blowing that whistle would stop.

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UVerse the continuing saga

Sylver Dragon Sylver Dragon writes  |  more than 4 years ago In my last long winded rant, I had this line towards the end:
My current DSL service is still working; but, that should go away soon, I hope.
Really, it's there, just skip the boring crap in the middle and you'll see it.
Well, it turns out that my hope was in vain. It's been a week (granted Thanksgiving week, so I'm willing to let it slide a bit) and we still have internet service from our old ISP. So, I finally decided that it was time to check up on it and find out what the hangup is. I went on the DSLExtreme website and looked at my account status, which is still 'Active'. I then looked at my service ticket history (ya, they really have the full thing back to 2003 when I signed up, kinda cool) and the Cancellation ticket was marked 'Closed'.

Now, as Degrees pointed out service departments want tickets closed. And as tqft added they will do anything short of murdering the customer to do it (and I'm not sure I'd put that past some departments..which reminds me, where's my shovel? I need that in my server room.) So, I shouldn't have been too surprised about the way it worked out; but then, I once had this crazy idea that ticket tracking is a useful tool for moving an issue through the resolution process, not just another useless metric to figure out whom to fire. I guess I really do just suck at management.

Anyway...I called up DSLExtreme's customer support and got a nice, if sleepy sounding rep who 'checked into it' for me. I guess the way their system works is that as soon as the cancellation is sent though to the 'cancellation system' (which I think may be a round container marked 'Rubbermaid') the ticket is closed. A bit more 'checking' (which I think involved 'uncompressing files' from the Rubbermaid brand 'cancellation system') and he gave me an uninstall date of 12/2. He also said I should receive an email soon with that uninstall date. I thanked him, and hung up. Less than an hour later, I receive an email from them stating that my 'Cancellation Date' is 11/23 (the day I put in the order). I guess the rep ran the 'fuck, he actually means it' app to continue the process.

So, this morning, my cell phone starts vibrating on my desk and I did like any sane person at work does and ignored it. It's a personal cell, not a work cell, and I do occasionally feel guilty about taking personal calls on work time. Besides, I didn't recognize the number which usually results in someone testing me to see if I have learned Spanish yet; while it's on my 'to do, eventually' list, I am still stuck with just two languages: English and bad English. Once I finally hit a good point to take a bit of a break, I checked my messages and Lo and Behold! It's the nice rep from AT&T calling to say that she had checked on my current internet service and they had given her the shut-off date of 12/2 and that she would put the order through once the line is clear. Damn, I guess if you go around the departmental phone merry-go-round a couple of times they start to get serious about customer service, major kudos to Kim at AT&T's Sales department. I must admit, the cynic in me had written off her promise to keep up on it, some days it's very nice to be wrong.

So, once more into the breach...er, holding pattern. With luck I should be without internet at home come Wednesday and the internet will be down one semi-anonymous asshole for a while.

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Getting bundled up

Sylver Dragon Sylver Dragon writes  |  more than 4 years ago Well, thanks to johndiii I once again have a sane interface for my journal entries and can get back to ranting about normal stuff. Thank you.

So, as for the AT&T switch I had originally planned to post about....
About two and a half years ago my wife and I (yes, there really is a woman who puts up with me) moved to a nice little apartment and discovered that the confluence of geography and orbital mechanics sometimes sucks. In other words, we had been getting our TV service through Dish Network and were happy enough with them that we want to keep them after the move; however, our apartment is North facing and because the best place to put a satellite in orbit to provide the greatest coverage puts it in the Southern sky for us, we couldn't get a signal. After much grumbling, we settled on Time Warner cable as our best option (actually the only, but that does mean that they are at the top of the list).

Right from the get go we had problems; but, TV is mandatory (so sayeth the wife, and as Bill Engval so wisely noted: the one with the boobies has the power) so we put up with Time Warner. The first problem was minor enough, we planned to get a DVR in both the living room and the bed room, and they told us up front that the two would not be able to talk. If we recorded a program in one place, that was where we had to watch it. Really guys? In our old apartment Dish had us working with one box with two tuners, and I could watch my recorded programs either downstairs in the living room or upstairs in the bedroom. And we had that for three years, don't you think you should catch up? No. Ok then, sorry I asked.

The second problem wasn't really Time Warner's fault, but I feel like blaming them anyway. The cable going into our bedroom apparently sucks. In fact the line loss is so bad that we would not be able to put a digital receiver in that room and could only have the standard analog TV channels back there. Grumble, grumble, well not much to do about it, so down to a one box system we go. I guess that makes the "DVR's can't talk" problem kinda moot.

The third problem is really an outgrowth of the second problem. It seems that when we went down to one digital receiver, no one bothered to tell billing, and they were happily charging us for two DVR's. Now, I will admit some culpability here. I wasn't checking the bill as closely as I should, and we went for quite a while paying for both boxes. This carried on until my wife and I were going over our finances one day and I actually bothered to read through the entire cable bill and noticed that it listed two boxes.

I'm going to stop with the problems for a moment and give Time Warner some deserved kudos. Their customer service was actually really good each time we needed it. While I did spend a bit of time on hold, that is going to happen. The folks I talked to were understandable. no heavily accented, "hallo, my name is Steve". Ya, pull the other one, it's got bells attached. They actually seemed to know the product and were nice and helpful. In every case, my problem either got fixed or I went away from the conversation understanding why it was that I couldn't do something. Also, when I did let them know about the over billing, they credited my account for it and we didn't have to pay anything for our service for several months. So, overall customer service gets an 'A'.

Alright, back to problems. The next problem we faced was a bad DVR box. It just flat would not talk to the On Demand system, which included the HBO On Demand which comes with the HBO subscription. Everything else seemed to work, but On Demand was a no-go. After a couple calls trying to fix the box, Time Warner finally declared it dead and setup an exchange for us, that was a little bumpy, but got done.

Problem number whatever number we're on, has to do with the DVR function: It blows, and not in a good way. My wife and I each have a few programs we watch regularly, and for each we have setup a series recording which is only supposed to record new episodes (at least that's what the settings say). Now, I don't know how the box figures out what is a new episode and what isn't, I assume that it is some sort of flag which gets set either by Time Warner or the station itself. But, whoever is doing it is either drunk or stupid. The system does an OK job of knowing when a new episode is new; however, the system also figures that a bunch of reruns are also new. Now, this wouldn't be too much of a problem, we have plenty of hard drive space, but we only have two tuners. And we've ended up with quite a few actually new episodes of shows not being recorder because the system was recording a not new rerun, but it wanted to record it anyway. And the false positives happen at least once a day. This is actually the biggest problem we have with Time Warner, if this wasn't a constant thorn in our TV viewing habits, we probably wouldn't be looking to get rid of them.

The last problem is once again a hardware problem. Pretty much ever since we had Time Warner, the box has a habit of occasionally locking up for a few seconds. For example, we will be paging through the channel guide (which is a horrid mess) and the box will stop responding to commands. We hit the page down button and nothing. So, figuring that the signal didn't cross the three feet, or we didn't hit the button hard enough, we try again; and again nothing. Of course, a third try must be the charm so... no that doesn't work either. Then, as if by magic (or a buffer getting flushed) all three commands get executed on the box and the guide zips down three pages. The other place this crops up is when trying to fast forward during recorded programs. Hit the fast forward once, and it starts going, hit it again and nothing, try it again and nothing again. shout at the TV, "Fuck, stop, stop you goddamn thing!" Because shouting at inanimate objects helps. Hit the play button, so that when the buffer finally flushes we at least get to a stable state. And then watch as the commands finally clear and we're now half way into the next segment of the program and I need to rewind to get back to where we want to be. It's minor, but it's damned annoying every time and it happens frequently.

So, lately, we've started to notice that AT&T is inundating our area with advertisements for Uverse. And, we decided that we might as well give them a try. After all, the only reason we chose Time Warner was that they were the only option, which isn't exactly a good reason to stay with them. So, go on the website and start pricing packages. After a little while, we figure out that we can bundle our TV, phone and internet service under one umbrella and save a little bit of money (though the web interface doesn't have an option for a static IP address, and I like having one so that I can have a server with a domain name to use as my playground. Yes, I know about DynDNS, and I know that DHCP addresses tend to be stable; but it's a hassle and I'm willing to pay to not have to deal with it.

Since the web interface didn't have the static IP option, I figure I'll just give AT&T a call and sign up over the phone. Now, maybe I'm out of touch, but I would think that a company which is trying to penetrate a new market (AT&T is fairly new to the TV market in our area) would make it as easy as possible to sign up for service with them in as many ways as possible; but, finding a phone number on that site was like searching for a needle in a haystack. I did finally find it, but it took some doing. Not a great way to start out, but whatever, onward.

So, call sales, talk to the rep and get the bundle I want configured. Even with the static IP it is still an overall savings, so that's good. So, I ask the question, "do I need to cancel my current DSL service?" And the rep asks me if it is through AT&T or another ISP. Well, it's through DSLExtreme, so it's third party. I figured that I would have to go deal with the cancellation myself, but, "no" says the rep, "we can take care if it. We'll just have to have you talk to an agent to get authorization for us to cancel it." I'm skeptical, but it's been a few years since I changed my DSL service, so I figure I am just out of touch. The rep then goes on to say that we should not have any downtime and that I would be contacted in a couple of days to schedule the install. Great, hang up, all happy. A few minutes latter the rep calls back with a very official sounding man on the phone to get my authorization to cancel my old DSL service. Yes, yes, kill it, ok, good thanks, bye.

A few days passed, and no call. I started the process on a Monday, and when it gets to Friday I finally figure it's time to find out what is going on. So, call AT&T. I get a sales rep who kindly tells me that I have to talk to dispatch to get my install scheduled, and she'll transfer me. At dispatch, I talk to a very helpful gentleman who gives me my account number (something which I didn't have at that point) and tells me that the order is stuck in sales and I'll have to talk to the sales back office (SBO) to get it cleared before he can schedule the install. Boing! Over to SBO I go. After a while on hold, I finally get to talk to a guy at SBO who is so kind as to inform me that my order is "Pending" and that I need to cancel my current DSL service before it can go through. Um, but the rep said... oh fuck it, I knew I shouldn't have trusted him. Right, so I cancel and call you guys back, right? Yup. Good. Thank you.

This being the start of a weekend, my wife asked me to hold off canceling the DSL until Monday. So, on Monday, hop on DSLExtreme's website, go through the cancel process, and call AT&T to let them know and figure out what's next. I get a fairly nice, though hard to understand lady who informs me that there is no order on my account. Erm, no order, what about the one I placed last week. Oh, that was canceled. Canceled, really, ok so what do I need to do to get it going again. Well sir, you need to submit a new order. If you'll hold on I'll get you over to sales...

Now, I view myself as a patient man. I may swear up a storm internally, and I may then post that storm here in my journal. But, when dealing with people on the phone or face to face, I stay calm and professional, I usually just get quieter. You gain nothing by pissing off the one person in the world who has the power to help you. Of course, I don't deal well with stupid, and this whole process really seemed to be a case of stupid. Had my wife not been there to convince me to go through with it, I would have just canceled the whole thing and told the sales rep that if this is how they treat a potential customer, I don't want to know how they are going to treat me once they have my money. But again, the holder of the boobies has the power; so, I ground my teeth and waited for the sales rep to come on.

The sales rep turned out to be a higher level rep, I missed the exact title, but she actually made enough money to be able to make decisions. After explaining what had occurred to her, in detail, with names (yes, I keep notes when I do this type of thing); she became very apologetic and threw in a few freebies to thank me for putting up with what had happened; so, that at least was something. She also explained to me that yes, she really couldn't put the order though until my current DSL service was gone. That's fine, I'd put in the cancel order, it's now just a waiting game until DSLExtreme unhooks my curcuit. The rep even went so far as to promise to keep checking on it herself and put the order though as requested as soon as the line cleared, and that she would then contact me to schedule the install.

So, that's where it is now. My current DSL service is still working; but, that should go away soon, I hope. And we'll see if the rep follows though and really does initiate the order by herself (though if I notice that the current DSL service is gone, I may just call in anyway).

Sigh, all of this just to hopefully get a DVR in the bedroom which understands the difference between a new episode and a rerun.

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Can I just write in my fucking journal?

Sylver Dragon Sylver Dragon writes  |  more than 4 years ago Just got my first dose of the new Journal interface. WTF, over?
Ok, I know, change is good. Accept change. Wait, no, fuck you! Change which breaks a working interface just for the sake of change is bad.

So, first problem first, why is the "Write in Journal" button hidden away from view down at the bottom of the page? Seriously, I almost couldn't find the damn thing. If I just opened the page for my journal, I probably did so to either read a previous entry; or, more likely, to write in it. Why isn't there a nice convenient "I want to write in my journal because that's what a fucking journal is for" button up at the top? Ok, so it looks like that little panel at the bottom is supposed to float at the bottom of my browser window, and not be hiding at the very bottom of the page. Sorry guys, your shit's broke, and it stinks. Call me crazy, but when you're designing an interface, it's important to keep in mind that most romanized languages work top to bottom and left to right, which means most speakers of those languages (like English, the primary language this site works in) will expect a layout in that same vein. So, put the important things near the top and left. They seemed to understand this well enough to put the main menus on the top and left sides of the page; so, why is such an important button now hidden at the bottom?

Ok, so I did find the "Write in Journal" button, otherwise I wouldn't be abusing you with cursing and vitriol. And I get this new interface with greyed out text which I guess is supposed to help me figure things out. The subject line seems obvious enough. But what the hell do they mean by "describe your scoop here". Scoop? I'm writing in my journal not submitting a story. Of course, I do realize that I can publish this as a story, if I want to, but I don't think that may people really care about what I have to say. Also, why such a small box? When I start ranting, I like to have a lot of space to cuss up a storm in. And if that is the description of my "scoop" (of rasins maybe?), where does my actual entry go? I guess I'm just dumb, but at first it seemed like that box was supposed to be the summary box. It was small, after all, and was supposed to be a description of my "scoop" and not the actual "scoop" itself, despite my really only wanting to write in my journal, not go scooping shit.

Alright, so I did figure out that the "describe your scoop" box is where I am supposed to actually write my journal entry (yes, I've scooped you all on my own random thoughts! Don't you feel bad?), or at least that is what I am guessing; if I'm wrong I'll have to do some editing in the real "this is where you actually type the journal entry, sucker!" box. So, I start typing figuring that, either this little box is going to get bigger or I'm going to end up including a few lines about only having three lines to type in despite having a large web page full of fuck all. And what do you know, the little box that couldn't auto-magically grows. So, I am happily ranting along, and where did my text go? I know I just finished typing a hate filled sentence fragment with spelling and grammar errors. Why does it seem like it went off the end and I'm not seeing shit? Ok, maybe my cursor jumped, who knows. So, type the same poorly formed sentence with a few more curse words, because they add flavor, and the little box expands and there's my previous sentence fragment. Once again, this shit is broke and stinks. It turns out that the whatever system is being used to figure out when to grow the box if fucked up and by the time I am typing this sentence I am just about completing a line before the box grows so that I can see what the fuck it is I am typing. I expect that by the end of this I'm going to be typing blind which is going to make editing really suck. Oh, and by the way, where is my fucking scroll bar? You mean to tell me that the only way I can go up and down in the box is with the keyboard? What is this some "let's be retro?" change? I've had a mouse on my computer since the 90's, get with the fucking program! Yes, vim is cool with its keyboard commands to jump around in text, this isn't vim.

As for tagging my journal entry. Ok, that's close enough to the old system. I used to be able to select the topic from a drop down and that was that. I guess this nice for indexing. So, let's see, this post is obviously not news, so lets delete that tag and...fuck, no "delete news" Ok, we'll change it to "not news" after all, my ranting is not news. And, why do I still have a "News" tag? OK, maybe we'll just add a tag in the text box. So, type in "change is bad" and um, now what? An "Add Tag" button would be nice. Alright, well considering the "we hate the mouse" fuck up that is the "scoop" box, let's give the keyboard a go...<Enter> Ah ha! I have, um, three new tags, the fuck, over? Yes, my post now has an "is" tag (along with a "change" and and a "bad" tag. Back to the 90's again are we? Yes, Clinton gave us, "it depends on what your definition if 'is' is." And, it didn't work for him then, why am I getting an "is" tag now? Fuck it, I now have an "is" tag and despite the fact that it looks like I could delete it, it's there and I'm keeping it. Fuck you indexing engine, deal with it.

And now, I guess it's time to preview this rant. This ought to be interesting. <Ctrl>-A, <Ctrl>-C, paste into Notepad just to ensure that I got the whole thing since I can't see my entire post at once in the little scoop box which couldn't. Lest I end up losing this insightful, hateful, pointless post to some random fuck up of the new system.

Well, at least the preview seems to work the way it's expected to. And to think, I originally came on here to post a non-vitriolic journal entry to document my upcoming switch over to AT&T's UVerse, but this new journal system was so bad that it got derailed like a Metrolink train with a texting conductor. Thank you, Slashdot crew, you've just about given me the final push to sign up for Facebook and leave this deteriorating site behind.

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They really said, "no"?

Sylver Dragon Sylver Dragon writes  |  more than 4 years ago Was over on Fark and ran into an article about the amendment Senator Al Franken proposed to the House Appropriations bill. Now, as intended by the article, I had an inital WTF moment. Why did 30 Senators feel it necessary to oppose this amendment.

As one might expect, I was skeptical of the claim that this amendment was all about preventing rape cover-ups. After all, 30 Senators voting against it seems to indicate that the amendment doesn't contain what the title says it does. So, go over and read the text myself:

On page 245, between lines 8 and 9, insert the following: Sec. 8104. (a) None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used for any existing or new Federal contract if the contractor or a subcontractor at any tier requires that an employee or independent contractor, as a condition of employment, sign a contract that mandates that the employee or independent contractor performing work under the contract or subcontract resolve through arbitration any claim under title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or any tort related to or arising out of sexual assault or harassment, including assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment, or negligent hiring, supervision, or retention.

That's is, that's the amendment in its entirety. No dodgy language, no hidden "And we're going to give everyone with a 'q' in their name 1 million dollars". Nada. It really looks like it does do what the title says, which is defund any contract with a mandatory arbitration clause which tries to include the type of thing KBR is trying to force under it. Sure, it's gonna fuck with Halliburton, KBR and probably a few other contractors which they get their employment contracts sorted, so what? Overall, great job Senator Franken.

For the 30 Senators who voted 'no', WTF, over?

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Yahoo Maps Fails It

Sylver Dragon Sylver Dragon writes  |  more than 4 years ago For the most part, I use Google Maps whenever I need to find something or get directions (hell, I have the mobile app on my phone; which has it's own problems, but I digress). But, for some reason, when I was trying to use it today it was giving me fits. It might just be that NoScript is eating something, I just don't care enough to troubleshoot it at the moment. So, I figured, I'll give Yahoo! Maps a try. So, type: maps.yahoo.com hit <Enter> and sure enough, a nice map. Type my current address in the search, and...wait, where did my map go? Ok, search results as a list, with the map as an option. OoooooK, whatever.

Click the map, and I'm back to where I think I should be. Now, search for 'mexican food' since that is what I want. And, dammit, where did my map go? Alright, click on a search result, and up pops a map for a mexican food resturant near my home, WTF? I distinctly remember having the map centered where I am at, why did this thing jump to my home? Yes, I have my address in Yahoo!'s service for other stuff, and I am technically logged in; however, I had the map where I wanted to search. Look at the screen, ooohhh, there's another unobtrusive search box for 'search for a business', over on the left. The big, yellow "Search" box and button at the top, which seems designed to attract my attention and is in a logical spot for a search box doesn't do a spatial search.

Right, fine, do the "business" search. And get some hits in my current area. Click on one on the list on the left side, the map moves smoothly to the selection, expands a pop-up of the item on the map with info and a few useful links like "driving directions". Cool, mouse over to the...wait, where'd the pop-up go? Click on the item on the left, move the mouse over to the pop-up...Fuck! Ok, click on the actual number on the map, and now I can click "driving directions".

Congratulations Yahoo! Maps, you worked so well that I just had to piss into the wind (read:post on Slashdot) about it.

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Checking screenshots

Sylver Dragon Sylver Dragon writes  |  more than 4 years ago Every once in a while, I try to do something with Powershell that I've either not figured out before, or have forgotten how to do. So, I hit Google and start searching. Today, I was trying to modify a registry value, and had forgotten how to do it. So, hit Google and start searching. I came up with this great site. If the author runs across this post, thank you very much, you helped me along my way to a useful script.

While reading the post, I looked at Figure 16.3. On the left hand side you will see "TestKey" highlighted. Just below that, you will see a key named "ThriXXX". If you are curious what this is, google it, just not at work.

Ok, I look at porn. Obviously, the person who created this screenshot looks at porn. I'm willing to bet that even you, dear reader, look at porn. That's not an issue. But, if you are going to be putting a reasonably professional posting online, you might want to sanitize things a bit before you post it.

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Oh Shit! <Alt>+F4 <Alt>+F4 <Alt>+F4

Sylver Dragon Sylver Dragon writes  |  about 5 years ago This past Thursday I was once again reminded of the dangers of browsing on the internet and typing in a domain name you think is right. At my work we have a couple of machines which the students are allowed to use (in addition to their laptops) so that they can access some software which we only have one or two licenses for. On this particular day, one of the students was using this system for part of her project and had run into a problem: when the computer was setup Python was installed but PythonWin was not. No problem, I'll just add it for her and be on my way.

It just happened to be that while she was asking me about it one of her fellow students walked up and they started talking about the software she was using, and the second student wanted to see it so she stuck around as well. Please note that, at this point I have two female students chit-chating next to me and watching while I get PythonWin installed. While this shouldn't be a problem, it will become obvious why this was one shortly.

I figure that the quickest thing to do is pop out on the web, download PythonWin and install it. So, open Internet Explorer, and type python.com into the address bar (Do NOT do this at work!). Now, with the wonderfully fast connection we have, within a second I begin to see adds for porn. I let out a reflexive, "oh, shit!" and started hitting <Alt>+F4 as fast as my fingers would move. At this point, the two students behind me give me confused looks. I quickly apologize, which they initially didn't understand. It would seem that my mind picked up on what was going on, and reacted fast enough, that they hadn't seen anything. Thank goodness both of them were able to understand and laugh it off; but, I still think I lost a few days off my life from that.

So, lesson learned, unless I am damn sure of the address I am going to, JFGI.

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Watching the radar

Sylver Dragon Sylver Dragon writes  |  more than 5 years ago A little while back I wrote about two different bills working their way through their State's legislatures. Specifically, Montana Bill HB246 and California Bill AB390. In both cases, I like what the bills are trying to accomplish, though on the whole, I think both bills are doomed. Even still, sometimes a failure can make enough noise to accomplish something positive in the long run. So, today I had a touch of time and decided to see what the status of each was.

  • Montana HB246 - Current status: Transmitted to Governer. Simply put, the Montana House and Senate have passed the bill. It is interesting that the requirement for the State Attorney General (AG) to fight this one out in court, as soon as someone notifies the AG that the person intends to make such a firearm, was stripped. But I don't see that as a completely destructive change. I expect that we will simply see some company and/or individual with deep pockets start the fight on this one themselves, and will likely be better equipped to win the fight. Also of note is that the final bill has wording in it to avoid fighting both the control of explosives and the control of fully automatic weapons. I suspect that this was done to try and pander to the US Supreme Court's recent decision which invalidated the DC handgun ban, but engaged in legal gymnastics to not invalidate the federal ban on fully automatic weapons, at the same time. Also, to narrow the scope of the bill to a single issue, to make the fight easier.
  • California AB390 - Current Status: Probably dead. The author Tom Ammiano requested that the hearing for the bill in the Public Safety and Health committee be canceled. Not being privy to the how exactly things work with these committees, I can only assume that he is either reworking the wording before the committee gets the bill, or he's simply given up on it. Either way, I suspect that this bill will now simply die in ignominy. Too bad too, it might have given the US Attorney General, Eric Holden, a way to stop the DEA from raiding marijuana dispensaries. But, only time will tell. Government usually moves at a rather slow pace, which is good, it usually prevents us from engaging in ill conceived, knee jerk reactions.

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No bag, please

Sylver Dragon Sylver Dragon writes  |  more than 5 years ago Bit of a lighter note today. I have a habit, which I think is a good one, of trying to stop store clerks from putting a single item in a bag. It's simple enough, at least in my mind, if I am only buying one or two small items, they already have plenty of packaging on them, why do I need them then placed into a plastic bag? Especially for a single item, it doesn't change the number of hands required to carry the item. It isn't going to make the item that much easier to carry. Why in the world do I need a plastic bag to hold an item which is probably already in one of those nigh impregnable plastic shells? Why create the extra trash?

Is this habit peculiar to me, or do other people out there do this as well?

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I guess there is some Change I can Believe in

Sylver Dragon Sylver Dragon writes  |  more than 5 years ago Just a quick one this time. If you saw may last journal entry you may have seen something about marijuana in California. Well, it would appear that the Obama Administration is looking to change how the Federal Government deals with the issue of medical marijuana; by, of all the crazy things, letting the States decide. Damn, now if he would just leave my hunting^Wassault rifle alone, I might really start liking the guy.

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California, at it again

Sylver Dragon Sylver Dragon writes  |  more than 5 years ago It looks like the California Legislature is at it again, and about damn time. As I wrote in my previous journal entry, I tend to believe that the Federal Government is allowed far to much power over intrastate commerce by the expansions of the Interstate Commerce Clause which happened in the early 20th Century. The War on Drugs is a good example of this.

Back in 1996, the voters of California passed Proposition 215. The idea was that we would allow those medical patients who could benefit from marijuana use to grow, own and consume it. Of course, with the War on Drugs still in full swing, and Federal Laws which criminalized the growing and possession of marijuana, and with the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, this Proposition was unlikely to have any real effect. Granted, there has been some leeway given to those with medical prescriptions, but let's be honest, this has been abused. The real goal is to reach a point where marijuana is treated like alcohol; regulated but legal.

Now, one of the things which came out of this was an important case which went before the US Supreme Court. This case Gonzales V. Riach essentially allowed Federal enforcement of the Federal drug laws, despite the California law. It was in this case that Justice Thomas wrote:

If the Federal Government can regulate growing a half-dozen cannabis plants for personal consumption...then Congress' Article I powers...have no meaningful limits.
And

If the majority is to be taken seriously, the Federal Government may now regulate quilting bees, clothes drives, and potluck suppers throughout the 50 States. This makes a mockery of Madison's assurance to the people of New York that the "powers delegated" to the Federal Government are "few and defined", while those of the States are "numerous and indefinite."

Which, when you really sit down and think about it is true. By declaring a Federal plan to control any item, from drugs to guns to wheat, they can then invalidate any sort of State independence. There is no such thing as State's Rights with regard to commerce within its own borders. Really, if taken to its logical extreme, we may as well abolish the States and simply do everything at the Federal level. Yes, I am sure that there are plenty of people in the US who would be all for this idea, I'm not. I like to have as much government power within shooting distance as possible. The closer to the actual people a government is, the more power it should have, as distance increases power should decrease.

There's two reasons for my desire to have governmental power distributed as such. First, it makes it much harder to concentrate power into the hands of a few. Yes, a powerful local government may be able to wreck a lot of havoc on a local population, but that is easy enough to escape, and if bad enough can be resisted. As I said, I like to have the people in power be within shooting distance. Obviously, one hopes that their government never gets bad enough that it becomes necessary, but if it does, it's nice to not have to travel several hundred or thousand miles to put a bullet in them. The other part of this is that, if power is so decentralized, it becomes hard to effectively direct it. Trying to convert such a decentralized setup to a tyrannical system would mean trying to setup something akin to Feudalism. Its possible, but its going to be much harder than a power grab against an already centralized seat of power.

The second reason that I favor a decentralized system of power is that a local government can react better to local issues. For example, consider housing codes. In California, having housing codes which prevent houses falling over in the average 6.0 earthquake is important. It's an interesting (if morbid) exercise to watch such an earthquake move around the Rim of Fire. There will be a 6.0 or so earthquake in the Philippines and thousands will die. Shortly after a similar quake will go off in Mexico and thousands will die. Some time later a similar earthquake will happen in California and we might lose a few dishes. The difference is the housing codes. However, the folks in Florida have no need for such codes, they need houses which will withstand flooding and hurricanes. Were they to build in earthquake protections, it would raise the cost of building for no real gain. Similarly, there is no need for houses to deal with hurricanes in California, and the cost of such changes would be nonsensical.

A central government just doesn't need to have the strong control over daily life of its citizens. It doesn't provide anything which cannot be better handled at a more local level. What the Federal Government needs to be is essentially a meta-government, a government of governments. The Federal Government exists to ensure that the State Governments are not acting in such as way as to imperil the rights of the people, and to provide for national defense. The State Governments exist to ensure that the local governments are not imperiling the rights of the people. And, at the lowest level the local governments are the ones providing for the actual laws which affect the people and their day to day lives.

So, what does all this have to do with the current California Bill? Well, it's another attempt to setup a showdown on State's Rights vs. Federal Powers; and ultimately, the scope of the Interstate Commerce Clause. This is a good thing, in my opinion. Our federal government has been growing, and as the Bush Administration showed us, it is starting to act more like the government of Soviet East Germany than a free county. It's time we realized that having a powerful central government is dangerous to our freedom and stuffed it back into its little box of being just a meta-government. This means that the War on Drugs has to die. Much like Prohibition before it, the War on Drugs needs to be brought to an end and the sale and manufacture of drugs needs to be regulated at a local level.

Do I think this Bill has a hope in hell? Nope. It will probably pass the California State Legislature, the Governator might even sign it. But, it's going to go up the chain of courts, pass through the Ninth Circuit and end up before the Supreme Court where it will die a horrible death. Still, we need to keep making noise like this. Change doesn't happen all at once, it happens slowly. You have to keep beating on the walls for a long time before they finally fall.

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Fun under the Big Sky

Sylver Dragon Sylver Dragon writes  |  more than 5 years ago In case you didn't know, I'm a supporter of Gun Rights and a proponent of expanded State's Rights. The former seems to be gaining traction in the US, while the latter is still a bit of a joke. At the very least, gun ownership seems to be surging these days. I guess that's one type of Change I Can Believe In.

That said, it looks like the Montana State House is trying to setup a showdown on State's Rights vs. Federal Powers by directly challenging the right of the Federal Government to regulate intrastate commerce with regards to firearms (pay particular attention to the word intrastate). Over the registration requirement for firearms manufactured wholly in, and for sale an use in Montana.

Assuming that the Montana State Senate passes the bill as well, which I'm guessing is likely; and that the governor signs it, again, I think this is likely; we may well see a court battle over the reach of the Interstate Commerce Clause come from it.

Directly from HB246: Upon written notification to the Montana attorney general by a Montana citizen of intent to manufacture a firearm...the attorney general shall seek a declaratory judgment from the federal district court for the district of Montana that [sections 1 through 7] are consistent with the United States constitution.

So, basically, as soon as a Montana resident writes to the Montana State Attorney General saying, "I want to manufacture a firearm wholly in Montana for use and sale exclusively in Montana. And I do not want to register it with the Federal Government." The state's Attorney General is required to start a court case seeking a declaratory judgment that this action is legal, or at least, Constitutional. If there isn't already a letter drafted like this, I have no doubt that plenty will be drafted and sent within seconds of this bill passing.

Now, as to where it goes from there is anybody's guess. I'm going to assume that the folks behind this bill did their homework and that the current Attorney General of Montana (AG from here on) supports this bill, otherwise it's ultimately a counter-productive move. All it would take is for the current AG to give a less than whole-hearted attempt in court and this bill would be quickly gutted.

I think one can assume that this would quickly hit the Ninth Circuit and that is a questionable prospect at best. The Ninth Circuit has not, in the past, been a friend of gun owners. However, they have been a friend of the State's Rights idea. So, which way would they go, you got me. Honestly though, whichever why it goes, I suspect that it will be appealed to the US Supreme Court.

At the SCOUTS level, it gets interesting. We know, from the recent DC v. Heller decision that the majority of the SCOUTS support the individual view of gun rights. However, if we go back a bit to Gonzales v. Raich we also have support for the expanded Interstate Commerce Clause which has been around since FDR tried packing the Supreme Court.

Just to guess, here's what I see (a Yes means they would support HB246 a No means they would not):
Roberts - Was in the Majority on Heller, was not around for Gonzales. I'm guessing he might support HB246 but I'm not sure. From what I read, I think he'd be a Yes.

Stevens - In the Majority on Gonzales; in the Dissent on Heller. I think he's a pretty clear No for HB246.

Scalia - Concurred with the Majority on Gonzales, and in effect agreed with the expanded Interstate Commerce Clause. He was in the Majority on Heller. I suspect he will pretty much re-write his Gonzales decision for HB246, so he's a No.

Kennedy - In the Majority on Gonzales, in the Majority on Heller. Bit of a crap shoot on him. He's a Regan appointee, and seems to support State's Rights. For the time being, I think he'd end up being a Yes on HB246.

Souter - In the Majority on Gonzales, in the Dissent on Heller. Unless he suddenly becomes a conservative again, I think he's a No.

Thomas - Dissented on Gonzales, was in the Majority on Heller. Given his Dissent on Gonzales revolved around the expanded Commerce Clause "have no meaningful limits". I think he's a Yes.

Ginsburg - In the Majority on Gonzales, In the Dissent on Heller. Again, a safe No, I think.

Breyer - In the Majority on Gonzales, Dissented on Heller. Another safe No.

Alito - Not involved in Gonzales, in the Majority on Heller. He wrote an opinion in United States v. Rybar which would seem to put him in the Yes side.

So, to tally it up, I have:
Yes - Roberts, Kennedy, Thomas and Alito
No - Stevens, Scalia, Souter, Ginsburg, Breyer

Not exactly a hopeful outlook, but I still think this would be a fun showdown. I think the hope on the Yes side would be that either Souter has a sudden bout of conservatism, or that Scalia decides that this case is closer to United States v. Lopez and ignores his decision in Gonzales. Either way, it could be fun to see the national conversation about this one.

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Merry whatever!

Sylver Dragon Sylver Dragon writes  |  more than 5 years ago Well, here we are, another December and another Winter Solstice/Hanukkah/Satunalia/Christmas/Kwanzaa/Made up party day!

I'm not much for religion, but I like a good excuse to get together and have fun. So, whatever reason you pick, I hope you enjoy it.

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Why must tablet PC's suck?

Sylver Dragon Sylver Dragon writes  |  more than 5 years ago In my role as a system manager, I have the enviable job of picking out new systems for people. Obviously, I work with the person who is going to use the system to come up with a good system for them, and balance it against the directives for IT from the greater University.

In the past couple of years, we have seen a shift in our area towards the touch interface. We have one Notebook/Tablet convertible, and everyone loves it. Since our primary application is ESRI's ArcGIS, we actually can make good use of the tablet interface. The users here have used touch based PDA's in the past for ArcPad, with great success. We have also used the one tablet we have for data collection, and it worked out great.

Now, as anyone who has used Arc may have realized by now, trying to shoehorn ArcInfo Desktop onto a notebook is a fun exercise in and of itself. When we look to buy a notebook, we expect that we'll start off around $3k, and go from there. That's fine, that's the cost of doing business for us. But the tablet makers seem dead set on telling us to go fuck ourselves.

For those who don't deal with Arc, as a basic idea of what it is and requires, it's essentially a CAD type application with georeferenced data. All of the lines on a map, all of the polygons, and points will have a latitude and longitude, to as high of level of accuracy as the equipment will allow. From there you can perform all kinds of analysis and manipulation on that data, and the intersection of data and so on. It's pretty damn cool. If you've used some of the advanced features of Google Maps, you've actually seen the smallest tip of the iceberg.

Like AutoCAD, the graphics cards we go for are the workstation level graphics cards (usually NVidia Quadro). Fortunately, we can get those in notebook systems. We also eat memory like a database application. We start at 4GB of memory, and a 64-bit OS, and go from there. Again, this isn't a problem with notebooks. On the CPU side, we usually get a good, multi-core, CPU with the best clock speed possible, without going nuts. Sure, we could get a 3GHz quad core processor, but the performance gains don't quite justify the cost. Also, one of the joys of ArcDesktop is that it is a single threaded application, so the multi-core CPU is mostly about allowing the user to start a process, and then do other stuff.

So, I can get a notebook with all of this, no problem. So, the next question I ask is, can I get a notebook/tablet convertible like this? And for some reason, the answer keeps coming up negative. All of the offerings I seem to find are small screen, integrated shit graphics cards, tiny and slow hard drives, memory starved, low voltage CPU, crap.

WTF, over? Would it really be all that hard to take one of those higher end notebooks and slap the touch interface on it? Yes, it's going to be a brick. Yes, it's going to eat batteries like starving cannibal in a nursery. So what? I'll deal with that, just give me a convertible with enough power to actually boot into Windows Vista.

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This is a place holder

Sylver Dragon Sylver Dragon writes  |  more than 5 years ago This is a place holder, it is only a place holder. If this had been a real post, it would have been filled with profanity and controversy.

This post has been created because I was tired of looking at the out of date title of my last post. We now return you to your regularly scheduled slashdot, thank you.

Beep, Beep, Beep

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