The rantings of a beautiful mind

On life, society, and computer technology.

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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

I live in the Fortress of Solitude. I drive the Silver Beast. My obsession is justice. I used to be a Windows software developer. I retired in 2000 when my stock options helped me achieve financial security.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

How to Get Started with Linux, Part II

When you've installed SUSE Linux, your PC is not quite complete. A number of proprietary programs and components, such as Java, Macromedia Flash, Windows Media support, and DVD playback, are missing. This is because proprietary software is not compatible with the Open Source philosophy and GPL license. DVD playback and DVD ripping, in particular, may be in violation of certain countries' copyright laws. For example, the United States has the damn annoying Digital Millennium Copyright Act or DMCA, which restricts people's fair use rights with respect to copyrighted materials. (Help fight for your fair use rights by going here.)

However, as an individual, you may install these programs at your own discretion. You assume the responsibility for any possible violations. I, for one, am not afraid to do so. Why should these ass-lickers tell **me** what I may or may not do with my own computer?! Let them come after me if they're so inclined. I can't believe that anyone would go to the trouble of going after small fish like me.

So, here's what you do to install the extra software needed for things like DVD and MP3 playback, playing RealMedia, and so on...

You will be using the "Software Management" component of YaST, the Control Center for SUSE Linux, to install the extra software. But before you do this, you need to point YaST to the correct software repositories. This is not as scary as it might sound.

First, startup YaST and open the "Installation Source" component. Click the "Enable or Disable" button in order to prevent YaST from referencing your installation CDs. Then click on the "Add" button, select "HTTP..." and enter

into the Server Name field. Click OK.

Again, click on the "Add" button, select "HTTP..." and enter

into the Server Name field. Click OK. Do the same for:

Once you're done, you need to turn off "Refresh" for each of the above software sources. You do this by selecting each software source line and clicking on the "Refresh On or Off" button. When you're finished, click on "Finish."

There, you're ready to begin installing your extra software.

Installing Thunderbird
If you like Firefox, then you will like Thunderbird. Thunderbird is one of the best email programs available. While Kmail is a perfectly adequate email client, why not use a superior program?

To install Thunderbird, go back to YaST and open the "Software Management" component. Starting Software Management will cause it to read package information off the Internet. This will take some time, so be patient.

Once it's done, search for "MozillaThunderbird" in the Search field. You will find two search results. Check off "MozillaThunderbird" only.

Installing Java
Java may be needed for visiting some websites. To install it, open Software Management again. Search for "sun" and check off the following search results:
  • java-1_5_0-sun
  • java-1_5_0-sun-alsa
  • java-1_5_0-sun-jdbc
  • java-1_5_0-sun-plugin

Installing Multimedia Add-ons
Open Software Management again. Search for "w32codec-all" and check off the search result.

Then search for "flash" and check off the search result. Accept the license agreement.

Then search for "realplayer" and check off the search result "RealPlayer."

Search for "mplayer" and check off the search result "MPlayer."

Search for "kaffeine-mozilla" and check off the search result.

Click Accept, click Continue at the pop-up dialogue, and then eventually click Finish to return to YaST.

Installing DVD Playback
To play DVDs, you will need to install the DVD decoding program. You will find it here.

Use Firefox to download this file - it will be saved in the Home Folder of "My Computer" on your desktop. Click on the libdvdcss2-1.2.9-1.i386.rpm file and then click on "Install Package with YaST." Enter your root password and the installation will begin.

You're almost done! The last thing you need to do is modify the video player to play DVDs. From YaST, open Software Management again and search for "xine." Right-click on the blue-coloured package and select "Update" from the drop-down menu. Click Accept, Continue, and Finish.

And you're done! You will find all of the above explained in more detail here, if you need further help. So now your SUSE Linux PC is ready to:

  • Play DVD movies
  • Play MP3
  • Play Windows Media
  • Play RealMedia
  • Visit Flash-enabled websites
  • Visit Java-enabled websites


Friday, January 27, 2006

Mactel Sweeps the World!!!

Now that Apple has switched from PowerPC processors to Intel processors, we can look forward to lower cost, more energy efficient and faster Mac products. Affectionately known as "Mactels" (an amalgam of "Mac" and "Intel"), these new computers promise to be even more competitive with Wintel PCs. Let's look at what Dell has to offer against the mighty iMac.

As of January 30, 2006 in Canada...

Dell Dimension 9150
20" Widescreen LCD display
256 MB NVIDIA GeForce 6800 graphics
2.8 GHz dual-core Pentium D
1 GB 667 MHz memory
250 GB hard disk
16x Double Layer DVD burner
Separate DVD-ROM drive
Logitech Fusion webcam
Wireless network (but no Bluetooth)
Windows XP Professional

Apple iMac
20” Widescreen LCD display
256 MB ATI Radeon X1600 graphics
2.0 GHz Core Duo
1 GB 667 MHz memory
250 GB hard disk
8x Double Layer DVD burner
Built-in iSight webcam
Wireless networking, including Bluetooth

It’s important to note that with the Intel Core Duo processor (which is a mobile technology), the iMac consumes much less power and runs much cooler than the Dell PC. And according to, the iMac is quite a bit faster than the Dell. The X1600 graphics is also superior to the GeForce 6800.

The only thing in Dell’s favour is their better optical drive capabilities. And for this, they charge $37 more than the iMac.

There has never been a better time to switch to the Apple Mac. Forget Windows, it sucks camel piss. (In case you’re interested, we may expect the new Mactels to run Windows natively someday. <groan> It’s largely a matter of working around the firmware issue.)

Thursday, January 26, 2006

How to Get Started with Linux, Part I

As much as I adore and promote Apple’s Mac computers as an alternative to Windows and Microsoft, I don’t want to ignore Linux and Open Source. Linux is a very economical way to have a safe, secure and reliable computing platform. It needn’t be a painful experience, despite the fact that Linux is somewhat less polished than Windows. I shall demonstrate how approachable Linux is in this series of posts...

I have chosen to use the Open Source edition of SUSE Linux 10 from Novell for this demonstration. SUSE Linux is my favourite distribution. It is well-supported and highly regarded; it is one of the top three distributions in the world and it will be around for a long, long time. (You may select a distribution that more closely matches your requirements by taking this terrific “Linux Distribution Chooser Quiz”: .)

The first thing you want to do is install Linux on your Windows PC. You may or may not wish to keep your existing Windows installation. If you choose to keep it, Linux will make room for itself on your hard disk by shrinking the Windows disk partition; then you can dual-boot between the two platforms.

You can download the SUSE Linux installation CDs (known as ISO images) from here and burn them to CD-R. Or you can purchase the CDs for a nominal charge from

Before you begin installing Linux, you should understand your local area network and Internet setup. If you are directly connected to the Internet through a cable or DSL modem, then you have no further networking concerns. But if you are behind a router, which is between you and the cable modem, then you need to take note of your IP address, as well as other networking information. This, in fact, is my situation at home. So I note that my static IP address (I have not used DHCP to assign me a dynamic IP address) is and my hostname is “IRONMAN.” The gateway address is and the name server (also known as DNS server) is

So now you are ready to proceed with installation. (Most steps will require you to click on “Next” to proceed to the next step.)

Step 1: Insert the first installation CD into the machine and reboot. At the boot menu, select “Installation.” A couple of minutes later takes you to Step 2.

Step 2: Select your national language (French, Spanish, German, etc.). The default is English.

Step 3: Check your CD media. This step is optional. I have confidence in the integrity of the ISO downloads (verified with md5sum) and the resulting CD-Rs – skipping this step saved me about 15 minutes.

Step 4: Agree to the License Agreement.

Step 5: If you arrive at the “Installation Mode” page, select “New Installation.” This page only appears if you have a previous Linux installation on your hard disk.

Step 6: Select your country and time zone.

Step 7: Select your preferred desktop environment. You have the choice of KDE or GNOME. I personally prefer KDE.

Step 8: Review your “Installation Settings.” If you have a previous Windows installation on your PC, its disk partition will be shrunken to make room for Linux. Windows and Linux will co-exist on your computer and you will be able to boot into either platform.

If you don’t wish to keep Windows, you can recover the disk space occupied by Windows for Linux’s use. To do this, perform the following steps:

  1. Click on “Partitioning.”
  2. Select “Create Custom Partition Setup.”
  3. At the “Hard disk” page, select “1: 1. IDE,...” (assuming you have only one hard drive)
  4. Click on “Use entire hard disk.”

Step 9: Click on “Accept,” followed by “Install” and you’re off and running! You will be prompted for each successive CD in the 5-CD set. This step takes about half an hour.

Once the system is installed, you need to configure it for your own use...

Step 10: Enter the password for the “root” user (aka the “system administrator” account).

Step 11: You’ve arrived at the “Network Configuration” page. If you have a local area network, i.e., you have a router between you and your cable modem, then you need to apply the information you took note of prior to installation, as mentioned above. Click on “Network Interfaces” and edit your particular network card's profile. In my case, I entered my “Static Address.” I entered my “Host Name” and “Name Server.” Under “Routing,” I entered the Gateway Address.

Step 12: Test Connection to the Internet and run the Online Update program. Here, we update the operating system software with the latest revisions available. This will take some time – be patient. As you proceed, install the “kernel patch.” You will see a cautionary note about the LILO boot loader – don’t worry about it.

When you’re all finished, the system will reboot.

Step 13: Create a new local user account. Choose the “Local” User Authentication Method. Enter your new user information (username and password).

Step 14: After skipping over the Release Notes, you will come upon the “Hardware Configuration” page. You may wish to select your desired screen resolution (the default is 1024x768). I selected 1280x1024 (to fit my 21” monitor) by clicking on the screen resolution field under Graphics Card and Monitor.

When you proceed after this step, your computer will start up in your preferred desktop environment – in my case, that’s KDE. And you’re done!

(A pop-up will eventually ask you if you wish to activate the SUSEWatcher services. Just say yes. Similar to automatic Windows Update, this will allow you to keep your Linux installation up-to-date.)

Now, that wasn’t painful, was it? Certainly, it’s no more complicated than installing Windows.

Here is a set of screenshots during the installation process that should make you feel much more comfortable. More verbose and detailed descriptions of the installation process can be found here and here, if you need further help.

As is, this basic installation provides many of the key applications you want. You can surf the Web with either Firefox or Konqueror. You can access your email with Kmail. You have OpenOffice, which is comparable to MS Office. You can play your audio CDs.

Next time, we’ll talk about adding some special multimedia capabilities to your Linux installation...

Monday, January 23, 2006

In Praise of Television, Part II

Some people complain that television is a very passive and sedentary activity. They say that the brain is more active during sleep than during television viewing. That may be true, but there is one irrefutable fact: Television is no more passive and sedentary than many other forms of entertainment such as movies, live theatre, concerts, operas, ballets, sporting events, etc., where you just sit and watch. In fact, there is no logical difference between television and most of the innumerable entertainment options that are available in our society. And yet, no one suggests that there should be limits on how many concerts and films and sporting events you should attend. Would an opera lover, for example, be lambasted as much as a television viewer?

There are two kinds of entertainment: passive and active (or spectatorial and participatory). You can either watch or perform in order to entertain yourself. Most people prefer to watch because it is easy and convenient, and, let's face it, most people are lazy!

And while we're on the subject of operas and ballets and films, I should like to point out that television is also a genuine art form with much merit. Television is a unique medium within which to express ideas and present stories that would not translate well to other media. When television is done well, it is truly magnificent, and when it is done poorly, it is positively wretched. People should be more discriminating in their viewing choices. (I am disgusted with reality TV, soap operas, most sitcoms, and game shows.)

As with any other human activity, television should not be abused. People should not overindulge. In moderation, it is a perfectly acceptable and often high quality form of entertainment. For this reason, I find the 20 odd hours I spend each week with my television highly rewarding.

Friday, January 20, 2006

In Praise of Television, Part I

A dear friend of mine has been duelling with me over the subject of television. I’d like to present my case and defend my honour. My intellectual integrity has been besmirched. En garde!

I enjoy television. I watch a lot of it (a rough estimate would be about 65,000 hours over my lifetime, or just over 7 whole years!). I’ve heard all the arguments against television, that it “brainwashes” you, that it distorts your worldview, that it damages your brain and your intellect, that it robs you of a life well-lived. Well, for all the countless hours that I’ve spent in front of the “boob toob,” it doesn’t seem to have ruined my life. I’ve had a successful career as a software programmer, I’ve amassed a tidy retirement nest egg, I am a happy bachelor, I am surrounded by good friends, I enjoy writing and debating and blogging and generally exercising my “damaged intellect.”

Is my life perfect? No. Show me a perfect life so that I can feel envious.

I’ve had my ups and downs but no one can deny that, on the whole, I’ve had a pretty damn good life! So what is everyone going on about with my television “addiction?”

Belief Systems
I’ve been told that the time I spend watching TV can be better utilized in other ways. I’m sure that’s true, but what does “better” mean? Should I be reading more? Should I be raising a family? Should I travel? Should I do volunteer work?

Every individual has his own idea or beliefs about how to live life. There is no one “correct” way. There is no judgment that can be made about one way being “better” than another. Who’s to say that my lifestyle is less deserving of respect than someone else’s? Exactly how should I live my life? What it all comes down to is a difference in belief systems.

Conflicting belief systems can be a really nasty thing. They lead to wars, both religious and political. They sever human relationships. And they are seldom resolvable because most beliefs are not backed by logic or reason.

“Lifestyle” is one of those belief systems for which there can be no satisfactory explanation. You live according to how you feel and what you believe and that’s that. People who criticize a particular lifestyle are terribly judgmental and this is a direct consequence of holding on too tightly to their belief systems.

Television Widows
My dear friend asked me, What if I find a woman who is unable to live with my television “lifestyle?” The answer is very simple: that woman is not right for me. The “right” woman is the one who can accept my lifestyle without question. I’ve been told that such a woman does not exist. I beg to differ. Can anyone tell me with a straight face that out of 3 billion women on this planet, I can’t find ONE who would be happy to live with my television lifestyle?

In actuality, the issue is not really about television. It’s about time allocation. How much time do you allocate to the various activities and priorities in your life? Do you make time for precious relationships – with your spouse and your children, with your friends and loved ones? And just as importantly, do you make enough time? This last question is tricky. What is “enough?”

This is a common problem with marriages today. It’s not only about television but about ANY activity that takes away too much time from a marital relationship...

Sports Widows
Sports is a classic example. Around the world, millions of men are wedded to their favourite sports such as football, baseball, hockey, etc. Their wives are constantly complaining about the time they spend watching these sports (and sometimes playing – golf comes to mind). How is this different from my television lifestyle?

It is also very common for men (and women) to be so involved in their jobs or careers that they make very little time for relationships. Naked ambition is the culprit here. They are so invested in their occupational identity that they cannot separate their lives from their livelihood. At least I don’t suffer from this ailment.

The fact is, I don’t watch television to the exclusion of all else in my life. I’ve had many other interests and activities and I’ve tried many things such as aikido, chess, writing, karate, bicycling, piano, skiing, running, rock climbing, cooking, reading, archery, swimming, traveling, psychotherapy. Yes, I’ve lived a very sheltered existence!

Damaged Intellect
Has watching too much TV dulled my intellect? It doesn’t seem so. I feel more creative and more intellectually combative than at any other time of my life. I will match my intellect against anyone and debate them to the floor.

My years of blogging have sharpened my communication and analytical skills. I’ve won my fair share of online debates. Mentally, I am in a very good place.

Has my life been ruined by television? You tell me...

I am happy.

My mind is sharp.

I am in good physical condition.

I look forward to the next twenty years of my life.

Today my worldview is well-balanced. I see life with great clarity. I am brimming with hope and excitement. Do I need to bemoan my poor existence?

So please excuse me while I return to my favourite television show...

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Best Film of the Year

I have not been a responsible movie reviewer this year. I’ve not actually seen very many films (I dunno why). Consequently, I didn’t feel it was right to give my traditional year-end Top Ten list.

However, with the Golden Globes the other night, I feel compelled to rant a little bit... Their winners this year are a major disappointment, especially for Best Picture, because I believe there are so many other excellent choices. Of the movies that I did see, here are the one’s that I feel were the BEST:

  • Sin City
  • Cinderella Man
  • Batman Begins
  • Crash
  • War of the Worlds
  • The 40-Year-Old Virgin
  • The Constant Gardener
  • A History of Violence
  • Water
  • Syriana

There, that’s my Top 10 List for 2005.

My pick for Best Film of the Year? It’s a tough one. It’s either The Constant Gardener or A History of Violence. Hmmm, lessee...

Okay, I’ve decided... The Constant Gardener is the Best Picture of 2005.

So much for Brokeback Mountain...

Best Television Series

Screw Desperate Housewives. Topple Commander In Chief. Let Grey’s Anatomy die on the operating table.

Lost won Best Television Series. I guess it deserved to win, but I think there were other EXCELLENT choices:

  • Prison Break
  • House
  • Battlestar Galactica
  • Criminal Minds

These are all jaw-droppingly great programs.

(Other good series that I follow are: Surface, CSI: Miami, NCIS, My Name Is Earl, Numb3rs and 24.)

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Murtha on 60 Minutes

Link to 60 Minutes

"Our troops have become the primary target of the insurgency. They are united against U.S. forces, and we have become a catalyst for violence."

The Iraqis do not want a U.S. puppet democracy. They view the American presence as an occupation. So get the hell out of there and let them determine their own future...

"I think the political people who give him advice will say to him [Bush], 'You don’t want a Democratic congress. You want to keep the Republican majority. And the only way you’re gonna keep it, is by reducing substantially the troops in Iraq.'”

Mr. Bush said, "The terrorists regard Iraq as the central front in their war against humanity. If they’re not stopped, the terrorists will be able to advance their agenda to develop weapons of mass destruction, to destroy Israel, to intimidate Europe, and to break our will and blackmail our government into isolation. I’m going to make you this commitment. This is not going to happen on my watch."

"He’s trying to fight this war with rhetoric," Murtha responds. "Iraq is not where the center of terrorism is. So when he says we’re fighting terrorism over there, we’re inciting terrorism over there. We’re encouraging terror. We’re destabilizing the area by being over there ‘cause we’re the targets. He said before there’s weapons of mass destruction. He said there’s an al Qaeda connection. There’s many things he said turned out not to be true. So why would I believe him..."

You shouldn't. Bush is a liar. Iraq is not about terrorism - it's all about OIL. And GREED.

But President Bush believes U.S. troops can stop a civil war and implies that John Murtha is a defeatist.

Of course Bush says that U.S. troops can stop a civil war - he's an idiot. What else would you expect an idiot to say?

Monday, January 16, 2006

Cringely's 2006 Predictions

7) Microsoft still sucks at security and users suffer for it. My best guess is they are planning on putting all this new technology in the "next" operating system, which seems to be yet another year behind schedule. The important question the world will soon be asking -- "Do we need another Windows operating system?" In 2006, Windows XP gets another service pack and/or facelift. Nothing more.

I think this is a good bet. Microsoft are tripping all over themselves trying to put back all that they took out before – they know that Vista can’t compete with the likes of OS X “Leopard” on the basis of some cosmetic changes.

10) Embedded devices will hurt Media Center PC sales, which will continue to be pitiful.

Windows Media Center is not selling well?! Quel surpris! Who’d want to use Windows as their home entertainment media hub??

13) Google WON'T go head-to-head with Microsoft for a desktop operating system or a cheap PC.

I hope Cringely is wrong on this one. A “Google PC” could hurt Microsoft in a big way. I've done far worse than kill you. I've hurt you. And I wish to go on hurting you. I shall leave you as you left me--as you left her--marooned, for all eternity, in the center of a dead planet: buried alive.

- Khan Noonian Singh in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Friday, January 13, 2006

Favourite Marriage Quotes

"My wife and I were happy for twenty years. Then we met."
Rodney Dangerfield

"Ah, yes, divorce... from the Latin word meaning to rip out a man's genitals through his wallet."
Robin Williams

"In my house I'm the boss, my wife is just the decision maker."
Woody Allen

"Marriage is like a bank account. You put it in, you take it out, you lose interest."
Professor Irwin Corey

"There's only one way to have a happy marriage and as soon as I learn what it is I'll get married again."
Clint Eastwood

"I don't think I'll get married again. I'll just find a woman I don't like and give her a house."
Lewis Grizzard

"The secret of a happy marriage remains a secret."
Henry Youngman

"Eighty percent of married men cheat in America. The rest cheat in Europe."
Jackie Mason

"Never marry for money. Ye'll borrow it cheaper."
Scottish Proverb

"In olden times, sacrifices were made at the altar, a practice that still continues."
Helen Rowland

"Marriage is like pi - natural, irrational, and very important."
Lisa Hoffman

"Some people ask the secret of our long marriage. We take time to go to a restaurant two times a week. A little candlelight, dinner, soft music and dancing. She goes Tuesdays, I go Fridays."
Henry Youngman

"The longest sentence you can form with two words is: I do."
HL Mencken

"I never knew what real happiness was until I got married, and by then it was too late."
Max Kaufman

"Bigamy is having one wife too many. Monogamy is the same."
Oscar Wilde

"Dammit sir, it's your duty to get married. You can't be always living for pleasure."
Oscar Wilde

"The only time my wife and I had a simultaneous orgasm was when the judge signed the divorce papers."
Woody Allen

"Terrorism? I don't give a fuck: I've been married 2 years."
Sam Kinison

"Marriage is the only evil that men pray for."
Greek Proverb

"If variety is the spice of life, marriage is the big can of leftover Spam."
Johnny Carson

"In California, there's a 6-month waiting period for filing for divorce, but only a 15-day waiting period for buying a handgun. It's nice to know the government is giving us advice on how to work out our problems.
Matt Sullivan

"Marriage is like a fortress under siege. Those outside are desperate to get in, and those inside are desperate to get out."

"The three rings of marriage are the engagement ring, the wedding ring, and the suffering."

"Life’s a bitch, then you marry one."

"To love is to suffer. To avoid suffering one must not love. But then one suffers from not loving. Therefore to love is to suffer, not to love is to suffer. To suffer is to suffer. To be happy is to love. To be happy then is to suffer. But suffering makes one unhappy. Therefore, to be unhappy one must love, or love to suffer, or suffer from too much happiness. I hope you're getting this down."
Woody Allen in Love and Death

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

For hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee

It is clear that I am now totally consumed with hatred. Every time I think about Microsoft and Windows, I can taste the bile in my throat. I can’t read an article about Microsoft without slipping into paroxysms of rage. I desperately need help.

I am so obsessed, if I were the slightest bit unhinged I’d make the Seattle Times headline as “the Redmond Bomber.”

I’m starting to get the shakes as thoughts of destroying Windows permeate every nook and cranny of my consciousness. What is happening to me?!!

I shall attack Microsoft at every turn. I shall rip apart Windows at every opportunity. I shall not relent in the slightest. Nothing shall stand in the way of my all-consuming hate. I am acid and venom. I am pandemic. I ride a pale horse and Hades follows close behind.

To the last I grapple with thee; from hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee.

- Herman Melville's Moby Dick

Saturday, January 07, 2006

New PC Alternatives

Oooh, this is exciting!! Also, check out the Koobox website -

Maybe I can start a similar business here in Canada, but the market may be too small to make it viable.,1895,1907974,00.asp

This is almost as exciting. A Google PC – what a fantastic idea!

What’s not clear is what kind of operating system this Google PC will run. Is it some variant of Linux?

I dunno about you but I think if the rumours are true, then Micro$oft must be pissing in their pants. The Google PC could seriously cut into Windows and Office sales, which are the Beast of Redmond’s bread and butter. Can we spell s-c-h-a-d-e-n-f-r-e-u-d-e, boys and girls?

These news stories have made my day...

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Windows Vista: Why That Dog Don't Hunt

The next version of Windows, known as Windows Vista, is expected to be released later this year. It will have a revamped graphical user interface which will be VERY DEMANDING in terms of 3D graphics performance. A friend of mine who's an expert industry insider told me:

One thing to consider is that both Apple and Microsoft are moving towards a true 3D UI (I think Windows Vista is such a beast, not sure about Apple's latest UI) so the 3D performance of your graphics ASIC will start to matter for basic desktop functions. Both ATI and Nvidia are mapping out future chips where the 2D hardware is dropped entirely since 2D can be quite correctly considered simply a subset of 3D operations, but we then gain all the advantages of the features that have been put in 3D cores over the past several years, such as shaders. The new UIs seem to be geared towards that end (e.g., translucent windows that you can warp, etc.).

Which is precisely why the uptake of Windows Vista when it comes out later this year (**if** it comes out later this year!) will be the worst yet of any Windows version. New PCs will have Vista preloaded but who’s going to upgrade their older machine to Vista with its excessive new graphical requirements? Who’s going to buy a new video card just for Vista?

Yes, I know, you can force Vista to use the “classical” Windows interface, but then you lose the biggest draw of this new Operating System. Why even bother with Vista, then?? (The other big draw of Vista is Micro$oft’s promise of greater security. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha – oooh, my sides are hurting!! If any of you believe that Vista will be secure, stand on your head and piss into a pencil holder...or raise your hand.)

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Belief Systems

I came across this passage the other day and I thought it was a brilliant dissertation on the subject of belief systems. It not only applies to relationships, but in my humble opinion it applies to all of life and to all of our dealings with the universe...

It is sad, but not surprising, that Ted was unable to make the changes that would enable him to stay, and grow, in this relationship. His ideas about the roles that he and his fiancée should play were part of his belief system, a gospel about how the world is and how people should act, a catechism that had been drummed into him all his life.

In some ways, our belief systems perform a valuable service, for they temper our instinctual nature. Animals live pretty much in a stimulus/response environment, with fixed reactions and adaptations to life, doing the bidding of the old brain. Our clever cerebral cortex enables us to be more discriminating in our responses. And the way we temper the mindless reactions of the old brain is to develop a set of beliefs. Beliefs offer order and stability in a chaotic world. By conceptualizing our repeated experiences into a codified canon that is fixed and stable and logical, we can say, “This is the way my mother behaves when...,” “If I do this, then that will happen...,” “This is how a family acts when someone is sick...,” “Men don’t like it when....” Our pattern-forming brain enables us to digest blizzards of stimuli and to formulate what we feel are proper and effective responses, so that we are not at the mercy of our primitive instinct to fight or flee, and don’t have to start from square one to figure out how to react to every little byte of input.

But we get tripped up by our belief systems. They begin to function in us as instincts do in animals, becoming fixed and unyielding. We develop models about how to act, what to do, how people are – and the models, rather than each discrete experience, become the reality. Unfortunately, studies show that the more troubled and dysfunctional our family, the more we need belief systems to protect us from chaos, to assuage our fear, to cope. The daily stress and unpredictability of living with an absent or abusive father, an alcoholic or withdrawn mother, can be tolerated only by creating a system of beliefs within which to make some sense of their unloving behavior. The bottom line about the brain, says Robert Ornstein in The Healing Brain, is that it yearns for stability, especially if we are in a volatile, fragile environment. The brain needs to be able to make predictions, and fears the unknown – which is what unpredictable behavior is – so it codifies and ritualizes its experience in order to make sense.

But however useful beliefs are in a stressful environment, their rigidity has to be tempered if we are to be able to find, and function in, relationships. If, from your experience and what society tells you, it becomes part of your canon of belief that all a man cares about is sex, that all family members shout at one another, that the best response to criticism is to keep quiet, that women care most about how much money you make, or that you have bad luck with men, you will find it hard to distinguish on a case-by-case basis and will react according to what you believe rather than the actuality. Richard Pryor tells a story about his wife coming home and finding him in bed with another woman. “Who are you going to believe?” he challenges her. “Me, or your lyin’ eyes?” This is what belief systems do.

Every second of our lives, we create our reality with our thoughts and behaviors, but we cannot change our beliefs at will. We cannot think our way out of pain, cannot override our instinctual reactions. We must become aware of the price we pay for our rigid thinking, and we must experience the pain of holding on to our old beliefs. As a single, part of your preparation for the journey of relationship is to uncover the world you carry around in your head; if it is not the world you want, you have to take the responsibility for changing it. But to fully change your beliefs, you need new experience that contradicts the old, and changes those beliefs naturally over time. This experience is what a conscious relationship provides.

- Keeping the Love You Find

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Apple Wins Again!

Someone close to me is considering buying the ThinkPad Z60m as a multimedia desktop replacement. It’s interesting to compare this notebook to the Apple equivalent (both are widescreen)...

Lenovo ThinkPad Z60m
15” LCD
1.86 GHz Pentium M
1 GB memory
80 GB hard disk (5400 rpm)
8x DVD burner
ATI Mobility Radeon X600 w/128 MB
Wireless networking, including Bluetooth
Height: 1.47”
Weight: 6.8 lbs

Apple 15” PowerBook G4
1.67 GHz PowerPC G4
1 GB memory
100 GB hard disk (5400 rpm)
8x DVD burner
ATI Mobility Radeon 9700 graphics w/128 MB
Wireless networking, including Bluetooth
Height: 1.1”
Weight: 5.9 lbs

Gee, the PowerBook is THINNER, LIGHTER, and CHEAPER than the ThinkPad!! It has a bigger hard drive and its battery life is up to 5.5 hours. Never mind that the PowerBook is a far sexier machine, too.

The only downside is that it’s slightly slower than the ThinkPad, but for the $500 difference, I’ll take slightly slower, thank you very much...

Monday, January 02, 2006

The Toronto Boxing Day Killing

Spider Jones was a boy with a dream — to become a radio man, a deejay. Born poor in the black section of Windsor, Ontario, his mother filled the home with gospel music and hope. The young Charles Jones was out-going, friendly, optimistic.

Then he was hit by racism.

In school, racist attacks became an everyday occurrence. His confidence evaporated and his self-esteem plummeted.

At first he didn’t fight back. He became withdrawn. But then he became angry. Finally, when the attacks didn’t stop, he exploded and attacked his tormentors. For this Charles was moved into a class for slow learners: the Ding Dong Class. At age fourteen he gave up on the system. He dropped out and left school behind for good … or so he thought.

He began roaming the streets with gangs. For twenty years Spider lived on the streets with a gun and a blade in his pocket. He brawled, he robbed, and he was on an all-too-familiar dead-end course. He spent much time in jail.

But the dream he had shoved aside refused to die.

Then something miraculous happened.

He met Jackie Robinson, the woman who would save his life and become his anchor and his wife of more than thirty years. With her encouragement, and at age thirty-five, Spider Jones went back to college. After five years of night school and menial days jobs, he finally found success when he began his radio career. Out of the Darkness charts that gritty and determined rise from street punk to radio personality and inspirational speaker.

Spider Jones currently hosts his own radio show, The Spider Jones Show, on Canada’s number one AM station, CFRB in Toronto. He also hosts a syndicated boxing show and is one of Canada’s most sought-after motivational speakers.


Where do punks and thugs come from?

What should we do with them?

How can we prevent kids from turning into punks and thugs?

And ask yourself this question: If you and your spouse were not around to look after your kids, what would prevent them from turning into thugs?

Spider Jones was very fortunate. Most of these young people are not.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

What do I look like? Posted by Picasa