antipaucity

fighting the lack of good ideas

oh vista, vista, whyfore art thou vista?

I’ve been playing with Windows Vista Beta 2 recently on my home computer, and my overall impression is pretty blah. I must agree with many other reviews I’ve read that it’s really XP SP3. The eye candy is nice (taken from Apple and the OSS world), but nothing worth upgrading over. The new Start menu is better laid out, but again – not worth upgrading for. User management is a bit better, and the side bar is a spiffy feature – but you can already get that for free with either Google Desktop or Konfabulator.

I kinda feel sorry for the engineers at Microsoft who’ve poured millions of man hours and years of effort individually into this new edition of Windows – there’s no compelling reason for anyone I know to buy it.

When you factor in the minimum system requirements (and you lose a lot of eye candy if you go with the minimums) – 1.5G CPU, 512M RAM, 64M video card, 16G free drive space – the system is hogging all the basic resources of any new computer. Budget-minded consumers who snag Dell’s latest weekend special won’t have enough oomph to run Vista. XP Pro runs fine on a system with 256M RAM and a 1G CPU (I should know – one of my home boxes is such a beast). I do not see any reason why this “upgrade” has to be such a resource hog.

Sure, power users, gamers, and businesses will buy machines that can run Vista well – but Vista is going to be sucking the life out of those systems so those self-same buyers will end up needing even beefier hardware to get the “most” from their computing experience.

It’s sad when I can install any other desktop OS (distros of Linux with heavy or light window managers, XP Pro, OS X, Zeta, etc) on a system with 256M or 512M of RAM and expect it to run acceptably – along with all the apps I need to use – but Microsoft has to push its customers into machines formerly relegated to true heavy users (gamers, developers, etc).

Maybe some miracle will happen in the next several months and Vista won’t demand so many resources – but I’m not holding out for one.

a kinder, gentler HRT

As much fun as it would be to be a part of the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team, what I’m thinking about now is a Hurricane Response Team.

Any church, charitable group, or even a business that wanted to engender some positive community goodwill could assemble a disaster team – volunteers and equipment that could be deployed to damaged areas easily, and self-sufficiently.

I envision such a group having a cargo van and a personnel van. Inside the cargo van could be stowed a gas grill, food, camp stoves, propane tanks, chain saws, wrecking bars, work gloves, and other ancillary safety equipment and tools. A 15 passenger van can comfortably accommodate 10-12 people, their extra clothes, beverages, a couple spare fuel cans, and personal items.

What else am I missing?

bounce

No, not the fabric softener. The church I grew up in in Albany NY (Albany Baptist) has been trying to move out of their old building for several years, and finally got a sale on their current facilities to be able to buy a new building. However, before they could move, they had to have their closing on the old building.

It had been waiting in semi-limbo for a couple weeks, but a week ago Saturday the officers got a call saying that the buyers wanted to close the following Thursday, the 8th.

I decided Monday evening that I was going to head to Albany for the last prayer meeting in the old building. It’s the only reason I went up, and I knew it was going to be a very long, tiring trip. Fortunately, a couple friends, one of whom grew up in Albany the first half of her life, were able to come along to help split the driving.

Last Tuesday a little before 7p, we left Mebane and started driving. Got into Cohoes a little after 7a Wednesday morning, crashed for a bit, then popped around the capital district for a few hours before heading to church that night. After the service, we hung around for a while to say hi and visit for a couple hours with folks we know there, then got back in the car and headed south.

Unfortunately, we had a bit of a hiccup going south and lost about 1.5 hours of travel time due to my not giving full enough directions to my friend driving while I took a nap, but we made it back to Mebane safe (and tired) Thursday afternoon.

All told, we were gone for 46 hours, and spent all but 16 of those hours in the car (either sleeping at a rest stop or driving).

While not the most ambitious bounce trip I’ve ever pulled off, it was still fun. If you know me, and would like to know more about the trip, feel free to leave a message in the comments.

cirque du randall’s island

On Friday, 26 May, my parents, sister, and I descended onto Randall’s Island from the Triborough Bridge to see Cirque du Soleil’s Corteo production.

We’ve enjoyed watching Cirque du Soleil’s productions for years on TV, but had never had a good opportunity to see them in person. CdS is a circus in the European tradition rather than the American one, so there are no animals – just clowns and acrobatics. The entire show is actually a story set to music and gymnastics rather than a spectacle of just noise and juggling atop elephants.

One of the cool things about the Corteo production was that it was done ‘in the round’, so the audience sat all around the stage, and the show is viewed from every side. It was also done in a tent – which I will be the first to admit I didn’t know was done anymore.

Being in a tent in New York City with a few hundred other people on Memorial Day weekend wouldn’t normally sound like an enjoyable experience, but apparently tent design and contruction has improved since the early days of PT Barnum: Cirque du Soleil’s tent has an integral HVAC system attached to it made from the same material with a slew of holes punched-out. It is quite effective – enough so that just sitting still under the vents could make a body chilly.

Tickets may seem a bit pricey (ours were ~$50 each), but it is well worth it. They’ll be in NYC until the 25th of June, and have other tour dates listed on their web site. I strongly recommend getting out to see the show if you can.

virtually speaking

I’ve gotten very interested in virtualization technology recently. There’s a high probability I will be working with VMware this summer, and several of my websites (including this one) run on a virtual private server provided by Tektonic, running CentOS 3 through Virtuozzo.

Virtualization is a fascinating concept. Instead of needing gobs of physical servers, by running operating systems through a virtualization layer, several servers can be run off one physical piece of hardware. With several options available – including Xen, VMware, Virtuozzo, User-Mode Linux, Virtual Server – deciding on a particular route is difficult at best. Depending on your budget, actual server OS requirements, and available physical hardware, all of the above may end up being viable options.

Because several guest operating systems will be running inside or on top of the host virtualizer, underlying hardware generally has to be pretty hefty. However, some of the available virtualization options will allow as many as 100 guest operating environments – so installing just a few high-end servers can replace potentially dozens or hundreds of pieces of hardware.

Solutions such as the new edition of VMware ESX Server are actually smart enough to automatically shift virtual instances from one piece of physical hardware to another based on server load, or in the event of hardware problems.

User-Mode Linux, aka UML, is actually Linux ported to run on an abstract hardware standard implemented in Linux – so it’s Linux ported to run on itself. Now that hurts to think about.

As I get more personal experience with virtualization technology, I’m sure I’ll be writing more about it.

on open-source

I am a huge fan of FLOSS: free/libre open-source software. My website runs on CentOS Linux, one of my home machines runs Kubuntu (you Gnome users are lost), I use emacs (down you vi fiends!), Anti-Vir, Crimson Editor, Firefox, Apache, PHP, BitTorrent, Python, WordPress, and so many more I can’t count them all.

I have often thought about how/whether I can contribute to these projects. The ones I use are all worthy of support, and I suspect many more would be if they got some momentum behind them. And I don’t have the time, skill, desire, or energy to try to pitch-in on bug fixes, feature adds, porting, or any of the other thousand and one things these projects ask for.

I contribute by linking back to those projects. I tell my friends and family about them, and try to get them to use them and spread the love, so to speak. On a few projects I have contributed to their donations page. And I contribute to those projects by releasing libraries of my own.

Code I’ve written, mostly in the forms of low-level data structures and little utility functions, may not be very sexy, or even ever get used, but I put it out there for folks to grab.

I love the determination and drive shown by those pushing forward on FLOSS projects, and I wish I could contribute more. Maybe some day I’ll be able to, but for now, thanks for your efforts.

do not attack iran – and see what happens

The International Herald Tribune had an editorial recently on Iran and the current United States’ administration’s use of preemptive strikes. [original story]

In general, I would say that it is wrong to start wars. However, the IHT article seems to go along well with the post I wrote about nuclear proliferation and the dangers of totalitarian rulers. Or rather, it goes directly against what I said. All of the reasons to not execute a preemptive strike against Iran’s nuclear capability, and its alliance with terrorists, are old and tired.

The author is apparently unfamiliar with US law. Zbigniew Brzezinski writes, “if undertaken without formal Congressional declaration, it would be unconstitutional and merit the impeachment of the President.” It is an established fact that periods of armed conflict under a set number of days, or directly tied to iminent threats are not covered under US law regarding the declaration of War on the part of Congress. He also writes, “if undertaken without the sanction of the UN Security Council either alone by the United States or in complicity with Israel, it would stamp the perpetrator(s) as an international outlaw(s).” This is not relevant. The United States does not answer to the United Nations, it answers to its own laws and treaties it has signed. If the United Nations will not undertake to follow its own rules, member states may, can, should, and will.

The United States, along with many allied countries, invaded Iraq to depose Saddam Hussein. Whether or not they found any weapons of mass destruction is irrelevant for the time being – Saddam had consistently defied international bodies, and the US merely stood up for what the UN claimed to promote.

Those in power have a responsibility to do good for their people – and for those others whom they can. When a leader, whether it is Adolf Hitler, or Slobodan Milosovic, or Saddam Hussein, oppresses his own people to the point of killing them merely becase they displease him, he is no longer fit to rule.

The IHT article goes on to list volatility in the energy market, international dislike, increased terror acts, and increased muslim fundamentalism as potential problems to such an act. Iran’s potential to ‘hand over the bomb’ to a terrorist group is not in doubt. And that terrorist wouldn’t likely use it on them. They would be far more likely to use it on a prominent target in the west.

In an ideal scenario, Iran would capitulate to economic sanctions, and diplomatic avenues. But we live in a far from ideal world.

Is the United States perfect? By no means. Neither is any other country. However as a nation, we have been blessed with power, influence, and backbone. I don’t want it to come to the point of needing to make a strike against Iran to hold them accountable for atrocities they are and have been complicit with. But if no one else will take a stand, I pray we do.