Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Skewering History (and Geek Wednesday)

Before we get to Geek Wednesday, click the graphic to hear Keith Olbermann delivering a history lesson for Condi. Of course, he could have applied this remedial pegagogy to nearly anyone in the Bush administration; they have all twisted facts, distorted history, and served us word salad with half-truth dressing and a garnish of lies. It is almost beyond imagination to think how these people can look themselves in the mirror every day. But that is the power of conditioned deceit: it becomes your identity. When that happens, then what everyone else around you may realize as the most blatant, moon-is-made-of-green-cheese delusion, is to you the most crystalline of truths. Many a grave has been packed with the mud of this simple habit of belief.


Geek Wednesday

And speaking of cheats, liars, and thieves, here's something from my inbox (click the graphic for a larger view). Now the look and feel of that html is perhaps enough to fool some people into thinking that it's genuine; but read it, and then you'll immediately understand that it has to be a scam. That Borat-style English is the giveaway; and indeed, I got confirmation from someone in Monster's security unit that this message is in fact a phishing scam. The moral: learn and practice your English grammar and spelling, kids—it will protect you and your PC from harm.

More to the point, you can't be a writer without understanding such things as grammar, spelling, and usage (nor should you be President, for that matter). Now since many of our readers are themselves writers (and there are several very good ones among you—I've seen your work), it may interest you to know that there is another player in the field of online word processing. If, like me, you used to write (and even do DTP) in WordPerfect 5.1 back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and WP 5.1 for DOS was the best software of its kind, you may want to check this one out: it's the Corel WordPerfect Lightning Beta. I just found out about it a half hour ago, but I'll be checking it out and updating this page with a review next week.

What else is happening in geekdom? Dell is listening to its customers and will be offering Linux packages on its desktops. So far, it appears Novell's SuSE Linux will be the OS of choice in this vein, since they have concluded their uneasy truce with the Redmond Leviathan. But look at this as a forward step along the path toward a truly open marketplace in tech. Granted, there are already excellent choices available in affordable computer hardware bundled with Linux (System76 offers great machines with Ubuntu Linux pre-installed); but the fact that the hardware megalith of IT is now smelling the grassroots must be considered a sign of progress.

Your Microsoft-Bashing Moment

Meanwhile, over in Redmond, the gang that can't boot straight is getting tangled in its own shoelaces again. They've added a "maybe pirate" classification to their paranoid screening system for unpaid copies of Windows. Remember when these people used to make software that strove for uniqueness and user-friendliness (I'm thinking mainly of Word and Excel)? Now they just slap new skins onto old products (IE, Office, and XP/Vista) and leave it to the marketers to convince us that it's new and revolutionary. Meanwhile, they piss away good resources on defending their monopoly and making Uncle Bill worth $60 billion rather than a mere $50B.

I was reminded of this recently when I thought I'd try out their 64-bit version of XP, which is available for download as a 120-day trial. I have a MacBook here which can run a 64-bit OS and Windows XP, so I thought it would be worth a try. I downloaded and burned the ISO file successfully, but Apple's Boot Camp didn't recognize it. Thinking that this was simply a problem with Apple's utility, I used the VM-Ware Fusion for Intel Mac, now in beta, to install XP. The VM-Ware utility did a nice job with the installation, though it was rather slower than an install of XP Home that I tried last month with Parallels. But it worked out fine, except for one thing: XP wouldn't recognize any of either VM-Ware's or Apple's XP drivers. So I couldn't even get online with it, even though I had both an Ethernet/cable hookup and an 802.11n wifi card on the machine. I puzzled over this for a while until I checked the Start menu to see what version of XP Pro had been installed. The puzzle was instantly solved: "Service Pack 1", it said—in spite of Microsoft's claim at the download site that it comes "complete with Service Pack 2."

Now you may ask, as I did, (a) why is MS lying? and (b) what are they doing offering an OS in a two-year old versioning format? But that's life with the big Redmond devil, I suppose. And get this: the first message on screen was a talk bubble telling me that "there are only 14 days left in your trial period—click here to register your copy of XP." What happened to my four month trial that was advertised on the website? I'll be damned if I know, but what that message told me is that it was time to wipe that installation off the MacBook right away.

Under the Apple Tree

I wish I could tell you how excited I was to see the iPhone ad at the Oscars show (it was nice to see Al Gore's movie win an award, though). And perhaps I should be concerned or upset about the shipping delay on iTV or Apple TV or whatever they call it. It's just two over-hyped products that aren't available and will be too expensive for what they deliver, anyway, once they're finally on the market.

But while we await the arrival of something from Apple that is worth the anticipation (OS X 10.5 Leopard may be out in March); I do have one positive note on an Apple software product. I downloaded the 802.11n driver upgrade last week (it cost me $2.16, and is available only for Intel Macs that have the n-card version of Airport in the hardware), and I found that it was well worth the two bucks. I used it for a few days and even tested it beside my daughter's iBook with its 802.11g Airport card. What a difference: the n's signal strength was uniformly solid, even where the g-level card faded; and the n-card delivered DSL-level connectivity nearly anyplace I took it. If you've recently bought an Intel Mac that is n-ready, you can't go wrong with this upgrade. Give Steve his two bucks and you'll be glad you did.

Inside the Web

As I finished my Webby Award reviewing for this year (the presentation show is in June), I realized that some of my favorite sites don't seem to make it into the light of nomination (sites are self-nominated for the Webby's, meaning you have to fork over a couple hundrerd bucks to be considered for an award—not that I'm complaining about that, it's what helps to pay me for reviewing them!).

So I thought I'd help fill in that gap by offering a site of the week mention here at Geek Wednesday. Our first choice is an excellent learning site for anyone, beginner, intermediate, or advanced, who wishes to become a better web geek. It's so good I've put a link to Patrick Griffiths' outstanding HTML Dog site onto my sidebar. This is a site you'll want to bookmark and spend some time with; you may also wish to pick up his book, which is widely available (I saw it in Barnes & Noble here in Brooklyn yesterday). I've been helped by Griffiths' smooth, thorough, and intelligent teachings on HTML and CSS, and I'm betting that you will too, if you have any interest in learning something new, improving your skills, or just getting occasional help with a thorny piece of online geekery.
HTML and CSS tutorials, references, and articles

So HTML Dog is our site of the week at Geek Wednesday. If you have any nominations to offer, just post them to the comments—no application fee will be necessary.

1 comment:

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