Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Bushonomics: My Five Year Plan (and Geek Wednesday)

Boy, are you folks ever in for a treat today. You see, I've got this great new accountant that I hired for the upcoming tax season, you know. Southern guy, Yale-educated, smooth as the silver ink on a brand new $20 bill. He spent just a few minutes listening to my financial situation, took note of my considerable problems with both old and new debt, and came up with a foolproof plan to get me out and way ahead in just a few years.

Check this out, you'll probably learn something: he says if I can remain unemployed as I am now, while spending around 15 percent more than I have recently (he suggested I put most of it into wild vacations in foreign lands), and even go on a few lavish sprees with some well-heeled friends (I'll be footing the bill for those, but my accountant says it'll all come back to me eventually, like a hurricane windfall), give up sending the kids to college and make a firm commitment to living without health insurance or any other kind of insurance, for that matter—guess what—I can be debt-free and in the pink financially as early as 2010, definitely by 2012. My kids will be sent to special private schools where he says they'll get an education that will beat anything even the Ivy League could offer—said he wished this plan had been around before he went to Yale. He calls it "God's Five Year Plan" and says it's guaranteed to work. He added that he won't be around to see me make it to my economic promised land, because he's kind of riding into his own sunset in a couple of years, since he started his plan earlier than me; but he assured me that if I ever had any questions, all I had to do would be to look back at the little book he gave me with all the detail in writing, and I'd be set straight right away.

Best of all, I don't have to read the whole book at all: just the four-point plan on the first page, which has everything I'll need to know right there:

1. Spend more.
2. Give away your money to the richest guy in town. Use all your credit cards if you have to, to make it the biggest donation that you can make for him. He'll know what to do with it.
3. Don't get sick, and keep your kids at home.
4. Have faith.


Beginning today, we are honoring The Occupation Project, the ongoing work of the Voices for Creative Nonviolence. These are the people who are going to help lead this nation out of its current darkness. Check out their blog and note carefully how they put sanity and justice above partisanship: yes, they worked McCain's office, but also Obama's and Hillary's. It is time the Democrats got more of this message, that they are not immune from criticism because they won some elections 3 months ago. In fact, the time to put the pressure on them has never been more immediate than it is now. So whether you're a rock star or a slick lady with a Lotto slogan, you need to be relentlessly reminded of one great American's words from over 150 years ago (check the sidebar to the right for complete texts):

I ask for, not at once no government, but at once a better government. Let every man make known what kind of government would command his respect, and that will be one step toward obtaining it...Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience, then? I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward.

Or, to put it another way: we should be humans first, and Democrats afterward.


Geek Wednesday

It's getting pretty messy in the tech corporate pig pen—I mean there's more mud-slinging and ankle breaking going on than you'd expect to hear at the Scooter Libby gang-pluck (thanks again, Molly). It's all as regular a string of fumbles and malapropisms as the first half of the Super Bowl or a Bush-Biden debate. Let's try and round it up:

  • Uncle Bill's feelings were hurt, about a year after those pesky Apple ads featuring sleek Mac vs. portly PC debuted. Here's part of what he had to say:

    "I don't know why [Apple is] acting like it's superior," the Microsoft boss told Newsweek. "Does honesty matter in these things, or if you're really cool, that means you get to be a lying person whenever you feel like it?"

  • Well, this week we found out what Bill was really spouting over, and it's a page out of his own book, which is why it's got to hurt twice as bad.

  • For Apple has suddenly revealed that it somehow forgot to upgrade iTunes to be compatible with Vista, even after it pointed out back in August that Vista was plagiarizing Apple design for its new OS. They say they were just too damned busy making peace with the Beatles. In fact, the Cupertino gang is urging poor PC users to beware: not only will iTunes not play with Vista, iPods may be corrupted by it.

  • Now, would you say that Apple is using its virtual monopoly on the music player market to kind of leverage (that is, break ankles) on poor little old MS? Is it possible that the Fruit Boys are scared enough to lay a smokescreen out in front of Vista while the last lines of Leopard are being written and tested? Could Apple be strapping on the same brass knuckles that Uncle Bill has used innumerable times in the past, with IE, antivirus software, WMP, xbox, and more? Has the sweet little fruity innovator from the Garage Band turned into a hairy and fanged corporate goon?

    These guys are just like the Republicans in Washington: when they start talking like tear-stained, hard-done-by little swallowtails caught in the cathouse, with pushed-out lower lips muttering about honesty, then you just know the closet's bursting with skeletons and the septic tank's backing up fit to explode. This is a time for the rest of us to nuke some popcorn, hang plenty of flypaper, and watch the shit fly. The should be more fun than Prince's guitar hard-on at the SB halftime show.


    Geekdom 101: Gimping Out a PC

    While the monoliths of the West duke it out, maybe some of us might be spending our time looking into Linux on the PC. As we've pointed out before, Linux is charging hard on the enterprise side (thanks largely to SuSE, Red Hat and Larry Ellison); and it's inching along on the consumer side as well, mostly spurred by the burgeoning popularity of Ubuntu. I've been working more and more on my Linux partition on the Wintel box here at home, and while it has a ways to go to catch up with the likes of Mac OS X for usability, compatibility, and cool, it sure shows a world of promise.

    First off, it runs great on fairly meager hardware. I have it going just fine on a 5-year old Gateway 1.4GHz P4 with 640MB of RAM. I have Firefox, Opera, Konqueror, and Thunderbird Mail installed and working to handle online chores; Google Picasa for photo and image management; Open Office for word processing and spreadsheets; and the remarkable GIMP graphics editor for beating Photoshop at its own game. If you've got an old or slow PC or can only afford the $100 it takes to buy a used Dell P3 on eBay, then Linux is your OS; and once you get used to it, you may never look back.

    So let's say you're like most people, though: you've got a PC that's been around a while, it runs XP or Win2k passably, but you'd like a little variety in your geek life, but can't afford the bucks for Apple hardware or the new MS software ($300 for your average version of Vista; $400 for the "new" Office 2007—and Uncle Bill's whining that no one can afford Apple's Intel machines).

    Go to Ubuntu's site and take your pick: you can freely order a cd version of the "Dapper Drake" (6.06, the late-model version), or you can cheaply ($10) buy a dvd or cd of "Edgy Eft" (6.10, the brand new release of Ubuntu Linux). If you have a broadband connection, you can of course download either and get started immediately.

    If you go the download route, what you'll have next is an ISO file which you'll need to copy to a disk. Ubuntu sagely recommends that you first verify the download's patency by running an MD5 checksum on it. The instructions for that are here. However, if you download from an official Ubuntu mirror and are working on an uncorrupted, uninfected copy of XP or Win2k, then you'll probably be able to skip this step.

    Next, you need to actually burn the ISO image onto a cd. For that, you need a utility that does such a job. Ubuntu recommends the Infrarecorder application, which can be quickly downloaded here. If you're doing this in Windows, as is most likely, simply download the top file in the list at that page, the 32-bit windows file.

    Once you've run the install on Infrarecorder, you'll have an icon for it on your desktop. Stick a blank cd in your PC, wait for Windows to recognize it's there (if it prompts you with any helpful hints, tell it to shut up and go away), and then open the icon for Infrarecorder. There, select Actions from the menu and "Burn Image" from the drop-down. Select your ISO file from its location (probably the desktop), and click "Open" then "OK". Soon you'll have a live Ubuntu Linux cd.

    Once that's done, it's time to get it up and running. We'll pick up that thread next time, but if you'd like to race ahead and get going fast, here's a nice guide with pictures and screenshots to help you along through the partitioning and installation process. The tricky part that remains is a partitioning of your hard drive that leaves your Windows installation intact and available. My experience with the Ubuntu partitioning utility has been positive; that said, anything can and will happen if you're not prepared. If you're running Windows in particular without a backup plan or system in place, you're walking a razor's edge barefoot every day. So if you need to start there, begin with an investigation of Win-tel backup systems, and return to this Linux idea another day.

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