Windows 7 - II

Just as I suspected, the problem I was having with the "touchpoint" area of the keyboard (the 'mouse' on the laptop) was entirely due to a missing hardware driver. I went to www.synaptics.com, downloaded the Vista driver and it has behaved itself very well since.

I am also developing the opinion that Windows 7 is one fast operating system. It reaches a usable state from a cold boot very quickly (I have yet to remember to time it) and every action is fast - from opening an application to loading my CD collection into iTunes.

The only issue I have encountered so far is an application appearing to hang when there is another application window open - in this case, it was the operating system asking me if I wanted to choose the action to take for the music CD I just inserted. Instead of iTunes grabbing that CD and taking off, I had to close applications one at a time until I came upon that window. Since it has happened only once, I can't yet call it a problem, but it will bear watching.


So Long, Ubuntu - Hello, Windows 7

My brief foray into Linux has now ended. I decided that I am not interested in an operating system that makes me work that hard to get things to work - entering a string of commands in a terminal window (to enable the sound hardware), reinstalling the operating system *twice* because it didn't like the hardware (I think) and trying to find an application to play music that didn't require me to either put up with an application that would crash just because I wanted to create a playlist, or trying out a string of applications that didn't really meet my need.

If I had wanted to tinker this much with an operating system, Ubuntu (or any Linux variant) would have been perfect.

I have since installed the RC of Windows 7. It installed in less than 30 minutes and every step of the way since has been rocket-fast. I like what I have seen so far, with one tiny exception: it seems that my touchpad is very touchy. So much so that I have to pay close attention or I will find myself typing where the mouse pointer is, instead of the cursor. That's quite a small price to pay, I think. It might even make me a better typist. :)

I have Thunderbird, Firefox, iTunes and OpenOffice already loaded. I am going to take a different approach to iTunes this time around. I am going to load only those CD's that I really want in my database (instead of all ~600 of them) and I am going to have iTunes keep everything in the MP3 format. After all, that's the format my Garmin needs. Why have multiple file formats for the same data?


Liberal Viewpoints That Worry Me: I

As you can probably tell from earlier posts, I lean quite a bit to the right politically, socially and even theologically. I realize my viewpoint is not always correct and sometimes there isn't even a "right" or "wrong" viewpoint.

I was having a conversation with a young friend from work recently about how those on both extreme ends of the spectrum seem to cause the most trouble. As an aside, he mentioned that George W. Bush would likely be regarded as one of the worst presidents to ever serve in the position. When I countered that history always takes some time to make that determination and that history's judgment of war-time presidents is always more toward the middle of the pack in terms of good vs. bad, he replied, "Bush was no war-time president."

At that point, I smiled and told him that it was probably best for our working relationship that we not continue the dialog any further.

I believe that the official toll of casualties for the 9/11 attacks stands at 2,973. By comparison:
  • Pearl Harbor: 2,117 casualties
  • The War of 1812: 2, 260 casualties
  • The Revolutionary War: 4,435 casualties
Therefore, we have to go back to the war for our independence from Britain to see American casualties on American soil by an another invading (or occupying) nation to see casualties greater than those we saw on September 11, 2001.

One can argue that George W. Bush was a good president or a bad president. One can argue that he was competent or not. One can argue that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were morally reprehensible or morally supportable. One can argue many things, but one cannot argue that George W. Bush was not a war-time president, just as one cannot argue that Eisenhower, Kennedy, L. Johnson, Nixon and Ford were not war-time presidents. Obama is a war-time president.

The war-time status of a president is not dependent upon an opinion of the validity of the war, the "rightness" of the war nor how the war effort is going. The war-time status of a president is solely dependent upon whether or not the country sees itself in a war-time footing against the other entity.

(I would have used the word country up to the point where Al-Qaida attacked.)

My concern with my young, liberal friend's assessment is not his disagreement with Bush. It is that he has been convinced by other liberals that we were not and are not at war against Al-Qaida nor the Iraqi insurgents.

Of what else have they convinced themselves to the point where facts and truth matter not at all?


Coffee - Good, Bad and Ugly: II

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the extremely bad coffee I have experienced - almost universally - in hotels in this country over the past 25+ years. Yesterday, I was driving from St. Louis to home (about 7 hours in transit) and I wanted a cup of coffee to help me get through the fatigue.

I stopped at a rest area just across the Illinois border from Missouri and took a chance on the vending machine's coffee. Yeah, I know, I would normally be better off eating dirt. This was quite a sophisticated machine. Between varieties, strengths, sizes, flavors and options, I could have selected from between more than 150 different steaming fluids.

I selected the most "robust," extra-strong, large cup size. It arrived very hot, I placed the cover on top, returned to my truck and drove off. 15 minutes later, it was cool enough to attempt a sip while moving. I took that sip, contemplated it, took another and raised my eyebrows.

The coffee was drinkable. It was not as strongly flavored as I prefer nor am used to, but it was smooth and, at the risk of repeating myself, drinkable. Hotels around the country should take note - if a roadside rest area's vending machine can produce a good (yup, I said it) cup of coffee, there is no reason that any hotel can provide a drinkable cup of joe to every room in its location or chain.

My thanks go out to the Illinois Department of Transportation.


LA Progressive Suggests Fox News Advertiser Boycott

In the interest of not being labeled a fear-monger or fomenting any sort of ill will with those whose sensibilities are to the left of mine (it's funny how disagreeing with the left gets one labeled a fear-monger, when disagreeing with the right is patriotic... *sigh*), I include the below without comment, save my curiosity of where the comments go when they are posted (it's not obvious) and whether my comment will make it to public view.


(I sure hope I can figure out how to activate a link with the blog software. In the meantime, just copy and paste.)

[Edited: August 22, 2009 1319 CDT]
I just went back to the LA Progressive site. So far - a week after my response was 'posted' - there are no responses posted.

Perhaps they received only negative responses and decided none of them were suitable for publication?

tsk, tsk....


Logos Bible Giveaway

Logos Bible Software is celebrating the launch of their new online Bible by giving away 72 ultra-premium print Bibles at a rate of 12 per month for six months. The Bible giveaway is being held at Bible.Logos.com and you can get up to five different entries each month! After you enter, be sure to check out Logos and see how it can revolutionize your Bible study.

Ubuntu - Bonus Finding

I discovered a Linux-based Bible study environment based on the Sword Project (http://www.crosswire.org/sword/index.jsp), with the BibleTime application (http://www.bibletime.info/). So far, it seems to be on a par with my favorite Bible study environment for Windows - e-Sword (http://www.e-sword.net/) - in terms of usability, though it can't yet match e-Sword for the range and number of resources available. However, there are enough resources to keep me busy so I can continue my Bible studies when I travel without thinking I have to take a ton of books with me.

I also wanted to try Xiphos (http://xiphos.org/), but the download link returns an error. I'll see if they respond to my query.


Sailing the Ubuntu Sea

I finally finished converting my music files. It looks like some tracks may not have come through the conversion process, but I think I am going to re-check what has been loaded into the database anyway. It took a most of this afternoon (and I may have to manually kill and restart a process at each reboot, at least for now), but I finally have music playing through Rhythmbox (an iTunes-like application).

Installing the printer was easy - I think that was aided by the fact that it has a dedicated IP address all its own. Now I just have to replace the black toner cartridge.

So, what do we have at this point?
  • Browser: Firefox v3.0.13 and all extensions
  • E-Mail: Thunderbird v2.0.0.22 and all extensions
  • Office Suite: OpenOffice.org v3.0.1 - includes spreadsheet and word processor
  • Music Organization & Playback: Rhythmbox v0.12.0
  • Printing: Xerox 6110 color laser printer
What remains? Music composition software: There are a couple currently in the running:
  • GNU Denemo
  • MuseScore
  • NtEd
Once I have that last piece in place, I'll have the full system running.


Ubuntu & Thunderbird

... it turns out the only problem was that I had to shut down and restart the computer. After that, Thunderbird has performed flawlessly - all my extensions are working and mail is coming in and out. Excellent.

I am in the process of converting my large (>5,100 songs) iTunes database to the OGG format so I can play the music from my Ubuntu box. From there, I will convert albums and songs to MP3 on an as-needed basis, since that format is the only thing the Garmin understands.

Next, I'll be searching for an application like Finale or Sibelius that will allow me to create and play back original music scores.

And I'm off....

The replacement hard drive arrived yesterday and I loaded Ubuntu last night. Fired up Thunderbird and Firefox after migrating my user profiles and almost all is well. My only problem is that Thunderbird isn't able to connect with any e-mail servers.

Troubleshooting, here we come.


Coffee - Good, Bad and Ugly

I will admit it - I am a bit of a coffee snob.

I prefer my coffee brewed from dark-roasted beans I have ground fresh for the current pot. (I will admit that I currently get my dark-roast already ground, but that's because Carol gets her espresso in bean form and until I get my own grinder, I get the ground.) I prefer my coffee brewed very strong - I once described it as strong enough that a spoon will stand up straight. Hyperbole, I know. I also drink my coffee black - I rarely (perhaps 1 out of every 1,000 cups) add milk or sugar. I am known to add a bit of Sprecher's Root Beer syrup from time to time - don't knock it until you've tried it. I was skeptical, but that flavoring has made it into regular weekend rotation in my coffee cup.

I have been drinking coffee ever since I was about 15 and on a deer-hunting trip with my dad and Roger Kane. We had forgotten to pack hot cocoa mix (neither Dad nor Roger drank cocoa) and I had to make do with coffee. I learned I love the stuff.

I have traveled on business somewhere between occasionally and "road warrior" over the past 22 years. Since I rarely begin my day without a cup of coffee, I initially saw the existence of in-room coffee makers as a real boon. No more having to find the local equivalent of (earlier) McDonald's (which still makes a decent cup) or (later) Starbucks to get my morning infusion.

However, in-room coffee in any hotel or motel in the world has to be the worst beverage ever concocted. I say "concocted," because nothing this foul ever happens by accident.

This assessment is not borne of a couple of trips to the other side of the state and an occasional stay in a Motel 6. I'd say I have a fair sample to draw upon. The unfortunate conclusion of my research is that the problem (and the only way you would not see it as a problem is if you do not drink coffee) is widespread to the point where, if it were a virus, we would call it a true pandemic.

Why can't the people in charge of providing coffee and makers to the world's hotel rooms taste-test their own products? Almost all of the stuff I have tried would have to be significantly improved just to reach a rating of "vile."

As I sit in my room this evening at the Doubletree Westport in St. Louis, I look at the Wolfgang Puck coffee maker I tried this morning. Ol' Wolfie should know the bad brew being foisted upon us in his name. Bitter, watered-down and lifeless are the most printable adjectives I can think of. I'm not sure the tools I have at my disposal would be enough to attempt to correct the problem.

I even brought my own coffee maker and coffee so that I could have a decent cup in the morning. I started doing that a few years ago when I drive to a remote location (ever try getting a coffee maker through baggage check? I haven't.). Even the commercial stuff in most business offices locations is drinkable. It's good, strong and decent. Worth $5 a cup? Not even Starbucks, Caribou or any of their ilk produce coffee that good - heck, I'm not sure coffee that good exists anywhere in the world. No, the office stuff is usually a cup of regular joe - just the way I like it.

OK, except the work situation in which I found myself many years ago where there were two factions - weak coffee vs. strong coffee. The weak coffee proponents could never figure out (even after reams of data and even a few bar charts) that one could take strong coffee and make it weaker by adding some hot water. A coffee americano in barrista-speak. No, I always had to guard the coffee I had brewed, lest someone from the other team casually pour it down the sink instead of just watering it down to the point where they wanted it. Ever try to make weak coffee stronger by removing water? While one can remove the water, the act of boiling already-brewed coffee releases some pretty unpalatable chemical compounds into the solution, making a weak, bitter liquid more bitter and interesting only if you have the right chemistry lab in which to study the results.

The hotel stuff barely qualifies as a beverage (implying it can be safely consumed), let alone a decent cup of coffee.

I have reached the point where I will complain about this every time I check out of a hotel - to remind them that ignoring such an important touch to the point where the output is vile is far worse than not providing it at all... which some hotels have begun doing.

So, tomorrow when I check out, I am going to complain. Will it do me any good? (I'll be back in twelve days for another visit.) Unlikely.

But maybe, just maybe, someone else down the line is going to benefit from my speaking up and letting them know that you can't wrap poo in gold foil and call it precious.