Thursday, November 25, 2010

Technology I'm Thankful for.

Being that it's once again Thanksgiving day - I thought I'd remark on the tech that has made my life better this year.

Number one has to be my Droid.  I've had it for a year now and I have to say that it is definitely the tech that has changed / made my life better on a daily basis.  From allowing me to keep in near constant contact with my distant sons to making me absolutely addicted to instant information at a level I never thought possible.  Oh and Angry Birds too...

Second is my Xbox.  Being that I generally avoid anything Microsoft like the plague (writing this via one of my Ubuntu systems) - I have to give M$ big love on the Xbox.  Great games, Netflix (can't wait for Hulu), DVD player, and the ability to play games and talk with my sons from across the country.

Third - begrudgingly goes again to Facebook.  Even with it's privacy issues - stupid games -and censorship.  Done correctly it allows you to re-connect with old pals and keep up with current friends and yes - even family. 

Third - Ubuntu.  Best-OS-Evar!  Better than Windows and OSX combined! (see my previous review)

A special mention this year goes to Skype.  Thanks to Skype and my droid I had the weird experience of a conversation from the back of a car with a friend in Australia very early on new year's morning.  I troubleshot a problem on another friend's pc (via screen sharing) and most recently made possible a visit for my hospitalized mother from her grandsons that are half a continent away.  Very, Very awesome.

That's it.  As a tech blogger of sorts on this day set aside for giving thanks.  Thanks to all of the people that make these technologies possible.  You rock!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

No. Your Government would never lie to you...

In a nutshell:

1) TSA puts in porno scanners and punishes you for opting out by "grabbing your junk".
2) US citizens that don't like this (i.e. everyone with an IQ above 85) protest with an "Opt out" day.
3) TSA just quietly turns off the machines and passes everyone through so they can say there weren't any opt outs and lines moved like normal...  Move along nothing to see here.

Can't wait to see what the news media reports since they have been quoting 4 month old surveys in their stories so far.

Posted via email from ninjahippie's (pre) posterous

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Porno Scanners

I think most people - and certainly the media are missing the larger point about the "porno scanners" and "grope searches".  Unless you are a pilot, steward(es) or very frequent flyer the radiation risk isn't really that high.  I'd also include children and expectant mothers in the list that should never be asked to go through the scanners just to be safe...

The real issue is civil rights.  Specifically the 4th amendment:
  The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and Warrants shall not be issued, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
They can scan me - with a warrant.  They can pat me down - with a third party as a witness.  That's my line. Don't cross it.

Rights must be protected.  It's our job as citizens to do that.  If you believe in this country and it's constitution then draw the line and protect your rights.  Start by refusing this illegal intrusion into your privacy.   To borrow / paraphrase from the protectors of our second amendment rights - they can have my privacy when they pry it from my cold dead fingers!

In my opinion, so far, the terrorists have been allowed to win.  We as a country have lain down and allowed our freedoms to be trampled.  Not only do we allow the TSA to grope our daughters and grandmothers.  We accost photographers and other artists.  We allow our own government to tap our personal communications and even allow our leaders to torture.  Mr. Bin Laden won't attack again - he doesn't need to.  He won.  In fact he predicted this:

“I tell you, freedom and human rights in America are doomed. The U.S. government will lead the American people in and the West in general into an unbearable hell and a choking life.” - Osama Bin Laden

 Think that says it all.  Get involved.  Boycott flying this thanksgiving and refuse the porno scanners.  Tell your congressmen your opinion and suport any legislation to remove these dreadful intrusions to our rights.

Enough is enough.

Image via Boing Boing

Friday, November 12, 2010

OMG! I'm in Hell!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Dog Walk Green Musings

Walking the dog tonight I was taken aback by the number of homes with piles of plastic bags full of fall yard waste.  The yards looked nice and neat (the bags not withstanding) but...

My city like most offers yard waste composting.  Very nice use of the yard waste and the landfill isn't filled with leaves and plastic.   Where I live, to take advantage of composting you have to haul the yard waste to the landfill yourself.  With that in mind it's pretty understandable that some folks would not take advantage of this service.   Even here in redneck Wyoming where everyone - even grandma - has a big frickin truck (and a shotgun).

Whats better is so simply logical that you will probably facepalm when you hear it.  I first read it when I purchased a house with a HUGE yard.  I have an acre of grass and trees...  At that moment I panicked a little and purchased a lawn tractor and a book on lawn care.

The two things in that book that stuck with me the most - cut the lawn as long as possible and leave the clippings.  I'd spent my whole lawn mowing life dumping clippings into those black plastic bags and always thought mulching was for some far away places where it actually rains.  Then I realized - that's what the city does in all the parks and what all the large lawns (including golf courses) do.  (with the exception of the greens)

I've been living here for more than a dozen years now and I constantly - well often anyway - get asked how I have such a green lawn - and I almost never fertilize.

The "secret"?  Leaving the clippings (mulch).  It keeps moisture in the lawn so you water less.  You are also not removing (throwing away) biomass (fertilizer and other soil nutrients).  You want green?  Stop killing the grass and throwing away all the good stuff.

The same holds true of fall leaves.  The trees worked hard all year to pull stuff up from the soil and store it in the leaves.  Now you are putting it in plastic and filling the local dump with all the goods from YOUR soil.  If you want rich dark soil and healthy trees - stop throwing it away.

You don't even need to do any fancy composting.  Just rake it up around the base of the trees.  Even better if you can run the leaves through a mulcher first to start the breakdown process.  If you have it - cover the leaves with pine straw and you will even make your mowing easier because weeds and grass won't grow around the base of the trees.   By late spring the leaves will be black, wet, and well on their way be being the best soil you've ever seen.

You will most certainly end up with piles bigger than you want to leave around the trees.  The rest of the leaves - just go over them with a mulching lawn mower and just forget that fall fertilizer you were going to put on.

See how simple it is to go green - and save yourself work and money too.  I guess that's a green geek tip.

The Goon:

Atheists Don't have no Songs:

Monday, November 08, 2010

Nice to see the TSA (totally stupid administration?) is not letting us down:

Now they have banned toner and ink cartridges from aircraft.  No I'm not kidding.  Wish I was.

Posted via email from ninjahippie's (pre) posterous

"BP Spill Probe: No Sign Money Put Before Safety" - What this says to me:

"BP Spill Probe: No Sign Money Put Before Safety" - What this says to me: Deep water drilling is too crazy dangerous to even consider!

From the article: "the spill commission said that challenges in drilling the well, which led to the worst offshore oil spill ever, are common in the oil industry."

No shit! Well then lets stop doing it!

Via: Wall Street Journal

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Ubuntu 10.10 review

Going on 3 weeks with the new Ubuntu release and I have to say that I'm in love. In one of my previous tweets I mentioned that using Maverick is almost as satisfying as Android. Says it all.

I guess that's the difference for me with operating systems. Windows always feels like a compromise. Yes I can get work done but it's always a struggle. Nothing in windows comes easy. Examples: If I need a program to do something it takes research on software and then time to locate and actually risking money to find out if the program will work for me. The same with Mac. On Ubuntu – especially with the new Software Center I just do a search. Read the description and click install to try the program. If it doesn't work I just un-install. No risk, and instant gratification.

I've done that many times over the last 2.5 weeks. The amazing thing is that I have only once or twice found that the program didn't do what I expected. The quality of software in the Software Center is amazing – even for the normally higher quality of open source.

Second example: It just works. Over and over I find that I need to do a specific task – pull up the included program and, well, it just works. No muss, no fuss. In many cases better than the specific commercially developed windows program. On leaving for a recent trip I decided to equip my laptop with software to work remotely – just in case the shit hit the fan back at the office. I installed the first VPN client that caught my eye (Shrew) from the software center and it worked the first time. It in fact does things better than any of the commercially available solutions I've found (like allowing you to set your DNS to an internal server while the tunnel is active).

My company uses Novell's GroupWise email, calendar and instant messenger and Avaya's PBX and voice mail. Evolution pulls together my personal Google mail / calendar / contacts seamlessly with Groupwise email, calendar and contacts and my Avaya voice mail. Something I cannot do at all on Windows. Period. No matter how much software I purchase.

I did run into one snag. There is a bug getting the standard Empathy IM client to work with GroupWise Messenger. It's a simple bug that will almost certainly be solved in a future release and was simply solved in my case by installing Pidgin from the software center. All of my instant messaging is tied together and amazingly Pidgin – even though it's not the default IM app (why) – is still integrated with the “me menu” - looks and works great.

Installing Linphone even lets me connect with our SIP server and have an extension on our office telephone system. And thanks to the much improved UI I was able to install a very specific and vertical firewall administration app under Wine without indecent. Wine used to be a nightmare of tweakerdom. Not any more.

All of this with the beauty of the Ubuntu improved Gnome based interface giving me 4 workspaces, my calendar/appointments, network status, IM, social network, email, and even current weather. Out of the box with no tweaks, downloads or software to buy. I also don't have to give up memory and processor (and money) to run anti-virus and anti-spyware software.

I did replace the default panel with Docky. Yes it seems a little Apple-ish but I think its one of the things that they got right in their UI. This is another thing to love about Ubuntu. I can make the desktop work the way I want it to. Out of the box without purchasing anything. Take that Apple and Microsoft.

Performance: In a nutshell – kicks butt. My laptop boots cold in 38 seconds. Something that took almost 8 min. with XP and almost 11 with windows 7.

Granted most of this is available with any Linux distro out there. What makes Ubuntu special?

Several things. First the time that was spent for 10.4 in shaving down the boot time. Wow! Effort well spent! Second – the Software Center. This goes way beyond a simple package manager. Admittedly this has been getting simpler in Linux in general the last few years but Ubuntu has taken the time to take it to a new level and do it right. Getting software is as simple as the app store on Android or the iPhone.

The installer is brilliant and the ability to do in place upgrades (I did from 10.4 to 10.10) is really convenient and something that Microsoft seems to have forgotten with Windows 7. In fact on the system that had XP previously installed, Ubuntu actually pulled over my documents and settings from windows.

Lastly – it's simply beautiful. Even in comparison to OSX. Yes it's really that polished and nice. 10.10 came complete with nice touches like it's own font. The integration of software into Gnome – like the “me menu” is fantastic and makes the admittedly pretty Windows 7 interface seem clunky.

Where I used to somewhat struggle making Linux desktops work in a windows world I've found that Ubuntu 10.4 and 10.10 make fitting into today's business world less of a task than running windows itself and the advantages of being able to integrate disparate systems AND work with my *nix AND windows based hosts, networks and servers incredibly satisfying.

In my opinion Ubuntu is the first Linux desktop that has not only met but exceeded both Windows and OSX in almost every category. It sets the bar very high and is way ahead of the other distros in the areas of polish and integration. So far that I don't think any other community has the resources to catch up. That is the real secret behind Ubuntu. It's developer and user community is hands down the strongest out there.

Downsides – as I've said in previous posts. Lack of continuity of major applications. When your users love and invest time in data and configuration of things, they have made a choice. Time to put your resources behind those projects and not just jump to the latest widget out there. Kudos to continued support of previous apps however. I was pleasantly surprised that even though Pidgin stopped being the default IM app in 10.4 that it was still so tightly integrated with the “me menu”.

The other downsides are those common to any Linux. Lack of drivers for newer hardware and lax support by some software vendors. The most visible example being the lack of hardware acceleration in Adobe Flash and the lack of support by game authors. This is rapidly changing however.

Even if you are a die hard Windows or Mac user. It's time. Make the move. Ubuntu will not only save you money and allow you to extend the life of older hardware – you will find the experience to be something you have been searching for. The experience that has been promised for years is finally in your grasp. A computer that is fast, simple, cheap, and above all satisfying.

Download and install here:
Or buy shiny and new here:

Friday, November 05, 2010

EPIC has filed a lawsuit to suspend the deployment of body scanners at US airports.


On my last two trips it's gotten increasingly hard to avoid these demon spawn machines.  For example - in late August at DIA there was one.  You could avoid it by choosing any of the other security lines.  As of last week they now have at least two of the beasts and funnel 4 full lines through them.  It looks like they are making room for two more which could in therory handle all of the remaining queues, so that you wont be able to avoid them by carefully choosing what line you stand in.

Add to that the following: Beginning on Oct 31 the TSA has been instructed to "enhance" it's pat down searches for anyone refusing the scanner.  Basically make you regret not appearing naked on a screen somewhere...

Posted via email from ninjahippie's (pre) posterous

Tuesday, November 02, 2010