Who is Carol Foyler?
My girlfriend stumbled upon a news item on the web edition of a local newspaper here in Iceland ... a very strange item.
The piece says that an organization called The Media Watchdog Group has critized the American TV networks for not focusing enough attention on the death of Anna Nicole Smith. That instead of providing constant coverage of the story, they sometimes took a few seconds to report on Iraq. The whole piece has very satirical overtones, and it was immediately obvious on reading it that something was fishy about it. It reads like something out of The Onion, but there it is, presented as an actual, serious piece of news on a respectable news site.
A bit of research (i.e. googling) revealed some interesting facets. First off, there is apparently no organization in the US called The Media Watchdog Group. Various organization, most notably FAIR, have been called media watchdog groups, but no orginization offically carries this name. More interestingly, a lady named Carol Foyler was quoted as a spokesperson for this apparently fictional organization. On googling her name, a great number of 'news items', most of them obviously fake and satirical, are revealed, where someone called Carol Foyler is quoted as a 'spokesperson' for this and that group. With further probing, we found that the source of the story that started our quest has to be The Borowitz Report, a satirical news site run by a guy called Andy Borowitz. Apparently, a running gag of his is to quote 'Carol Foyler'.
Now the big question is: Haven't journalists heard of googling? The worst thing is that the Icelandic news item is obviously translated word for word from The Borowitz report, or, more likely, some other source that picked it up, one that's not so blatantly fake. No, that's the second worst thing. The real worst thing is that they don't even cite a source for this bit of 'news'.
I came to Linux relatively late. It is now only around 3 years ago that I decided to give it a try. There are a number of reasons why I didn't do it earlier. I was living with my parents and thus shared a machine with the rest of the family; I was into gaming and thus 'needed' Windows, etc. Well, better late than never I guess.
At this point in my life I had amassed a little bit of money to play with, so I bought a laptop specifically to install Linux on - and this was no easy task. Well, getting a laptop was easy; it was not getting Windows that was damned hard. Supplier after supplier that I talked to absolutely rejected the possibility of selling a 'clean' machine. To me, this is something that should be a simple matter. Why would the customer be denied the right of just buying a complete system without an OS pre-installed? This is one of the annoying little things that show the absolute iron grip that Microsoft has on the entire market. Not just software, but hardware too.
Anyway, this is something that has been discussed to death on Slashdot and is no news to anyone. I finally managed to find a friendly little store that not only sold 'clean' computers, but also allowed you to choose Linux preinstalled too. I decided to get a clean one, as I wanted to try the full experience of installing Linux from scratch. The distro I went for was Ubuntu, as a former co-worker who was heavily into Linux recommended it. The installation went rather smoothly, but there were some issues. The laptop used an Intel Centrino chipset, and getting things to work was a bit of, well, work. Drivers for the wireless card had to be obtained and installed, and I had to get and installed something called 915resolution to patch the BIOS so I could use 1280x800 resolution. It worked out in the end, but it took some time, and I heavily doubt that a person with average computer skills could have done it without assistance.
I liked Ubuntu and used it for a few months. It fulfilled all my needs - web browsing, hobbyist programming, word processing, etc. All that was lacking were high-end games, but luckily I was losing interest in gaming at this point, and when I moved into my own apartment I took only my Linux laptop and was happy with it. Then disaster struck, as tends to happen. The hard drive failed, and I had no backup. No great harm done - I had no really critical data on it. This time around, I had gained some knowledge and inside into the world of Linux, and decided to give Fedora Core a go. Since that distro offered the choice of Gnome or KDE, I chose KDE for comparison. I must say that I was soon absolutely blown away by how much better I liked KDE. This could be just a personal preference, but I consider KDE to be much better than Gnome. However, I'm no fanatic - and it's also good that there's a choice, and that the design of Linux allows you to use whatever windowing system you prefer.
After having used FC for quite a while, I began to run into troubles. I don't know if it was because I had been running it so long, and upgraded twice via yum, but there were ... instabilities. The worst thing was that I could never get any BitTorrent client working properly. Azureus would just stop transferring after a while and had to be restarted. KTorrent would mysteriously leech all bandwidth to itself - not even ping would work when KTorrent was running, but only sometimes. Quite annoying stuff. These quibbles, along with the emergence of Kubuntu, started to tempt me into switching again. The downside was that I (still) didn't have any backup facilities. I decided to change that. I bought an old Dell workstation cheaply, installed CentOS on it (without any problems whatsoever), connected it to my router, and voila, I had a local server. With this, I could backup my data and install Kubuntu. This time around things were at their smoothest yet; everything ran perfectly out of the box, except I still had to use 915resolution. Luckily, I didn't even have to hunt it down this time - it was right there in the package system.
Now I'm a happy pseudo-veteran of Linux using Kubuntu on my personal laptop and CentOS on a server (that still has a lot of unused potential, I guess).
I've come a long way.
I must say that I was greatly impressed, both by the man's ideas and his presentation of those ideas. He is obviously a man who thinks things thoroughly, spending a great deal of time on building his opinions on sound logical foundations. On top of that, he is a man of principles - he has basic philosophies of life, and does not compromise them for any reason.
I am fascinated by the community-minded aspects of the whole Free Software philosophy. No wonder Steve Ballmer and his lackeys have compared it with communism. Although that's surely a ridiculous and typically simian comparison, it does have a slight grain of truth to it - Free Sofware is about building communities and contributing to society as opposed to making a profit through divisionism and monopoly.
Also, Stallman's analysis of the software patent situation was, as far as I could tell, spot on. If I thought software patents were a bad idea before hearing Stallman lecture on them, I am totally won over now. Broad-ranging software patents on algorithms or some vague ideas are harmful to software development in general. It is the software itself as a whole that has a value, not the various ideas that it uses. Stallman likened the current situation to a 18. century Europe where composers could get patents on general musical ideas, thus stagnating the whole music scene.
Well, Stallman said it all better than I can. Maybe I should just finish with a link to the fine fellow's page.
It was bound to happen. I have been banned from AC posting a few times before, but this is the first time I have been banned from logged in posting.
Now, I have only one question. How, exactly, is 'excessive bad posting' defined? In my case, for instance, I never post 'badly' while logged in. This leaves the AC posts. These have been, in my opinion, few. I admit that I have sometimes posted AC attempts at first posts ... I mean, who hasn't? Then there is the odd sarcastic, mocking reply to a stupid comment which I'm too ashamed to leave in my user record.
I haven't been keeping an exact record of the number of these posts, but they are certainly not 'excessive'. Not by a long shot. Anyway, it's not like every single one of them has been modded down . Some of them have actually been modded up (This being the latest example thereof).
In short, I'm dumbfounded. These banning tactics are annoying and weird. What am I supposed to do ... stop posting anything that has even the remotest chance of being modded down?
UPDATE: Now that I think about it, it occurs to me that this ban might well be the result of me posting many comments that are moderated as Funny. Since this gives no Karma, and these comments are often moderated up and down before settling on their final score, perhaps the 'net value' of my moderations is negative, and this somehow triggers a ban. If this is true, then this is yet another reason for the Slashcoders to seriously reconsider the policy of not giving Karma for Funny moderations, which is in my view quite a ridiculous policy anyway. I know for a fact that it has led to a single post ruining the Karma of more than one user here.
Anyway, I'm just rambling here. I wish they would just come out and say what exactly triggered the ban ... I have sent a mail requesting this information. I can only hope I get a reply.
'Article text' AC comments
Sheez, the AC 'Article Text' troll strikes yet again. And with good results (comment at +5, Informative at the moment). What is it with moderators? Why on Earth would anyone bother to mod something up that they haven't read?
I am still a newbie here on slashdot, so I don't have moderation rights (and getting a little tired of waiting for them :P). But if I did, I would certainly only mod up stuff that I have actually read. Especially AC stuff, which is quite often troll stuff like this.
Oh well, back to bashing my head against the wall then I suppose ...
The Thin Line Between Funny And Offtopic
Alright - I must be new here, but here goes:
The distinction between comments that get modded as Funny and those that get modded as Offtopic seems to be indistinct at times.
Given the fact that most, if not all comments that are meant to be funny are more or less not exactly on topic, this seems strange. Anyway, to me, a comment is only offtopic if it has nothing at all to do with the story. Humorous comments at least poke fun about something concerning the story. I have even seen successful 'funny' comments that simply choose to make fun of a previous comment while completely deviating from the topic of the story. I have also seen (and *ahem* posted) comments in this vein that have been modded down as Offtopic.
I am not quite why some of these comments go up while others go down. This is one of the great Slashdot mysteries. I think the most likely theory, however, is that people tend to Offopic-mod 'funny' comments that they don't think are that funny. If this is so, I find this inexplicable for a couple of reasons.
The first one is that this is a waste of mod points, in my view. If you don't think something is funny, you should leave it untouched, unless it is somehow offensive or definitely completely Offtopic. You shouldn't waste mod points going after these comments. Are they really that unfunny that they should be resigned to the bottom of the thread?
The second objection is that being modded Offtopic causes the author to lose Karma, which is obviously bad (duh). Couple this with the fact that being modded Funny does NOT give the author any Karma, this basically, well, sucks. This makes people less inclined to post humorous, wacky comments, and can even make people nervous about doing so. I think that something could and should be done about this.
Well, just my two cents worth of gripe ...