Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Napster made me buy my guitar

Last night during a marathon guitar lesson I and the instructor had a short discussion about Napster and downloading songs off the internet. I had mentioned that I downloaded many of the songs that we are learning of iTunes, but got tired of paying $1 a piece for them so I grabbed a bunch from bittorrent (for instructional use only, I promise not to enjoy them). While on the subject I said "I guess I'm in this class because of Napster".

You see, a long time ago, on a workstation far far away I used to run gnapster (a Linux client) to get songs to listen to while working (this is back in the pre-corperate Napster hay-day). One December day, as Christmas approached I did a simple napster search for "Christams" and a Dave Matthews song "Christmas Song" came up. It was off the "Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds Live at Luther College" CD. I was really intrigued by the unique Matthews sound so I downloaded a few more Dave Matthews songs. Cool stuff.

Later I purchased the full CD (yeah, I do that, it was actually 2 CDs). Its an awesome collection of music and I highly recommend people jump out and buy. After listening to Dave and Tim I got this creeping notion that I too could play guitar. It was a slow festering sort of idea that laid dormant for several years. During that time I purchased more guitar oriented music. I added more James Taylor, John Denver (and old favorite, his "Wilderness Concern" rules) and Paul Simon to my music collection. Last year I finally asked for a guitar for my birthday.

My guitar arrived almost a year ago. I then went about buying song books, how-to DVDs, picks, capos and paying for lessons. Its started to amount to a large amount of money and I'm starting to eye electric guitars in the music store. It can only get worse.

Last night I purchased a CD recorded by my guitar instructor's band. Had I not been in his lessons I would never have bought this CD because I wouldn't have known about it.

Long story short--the evil Napster, a technology which was supposed to destroy music sales and kill the industry sold a CD last night....and a guitar...and a pile of song books...a couple of learning guitar DVDs...24 weeks of guitar lessons...

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Hot Race for Texas Govenor

I can't wait to cast my vote for Carol Keeton (ne Rylander, ne McClellan) Strayhorn. Yes, her father was the famous UT professor. I can't see any reason NOT to vote for her. She's clearly an open minded moderate. GO CAROL!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Universal Healthcare in San Fran

San Francisco looks to be attempting to implement universal healthcare for its citizens. I certainly have mixed feelings about universal healthcare. From a human perspective it certainly would be nice. I used to be quite the proponent for socializing healthcare until I realized that too many people don't play fair to make it work. After all the stories I hear from my sister about abuses of free access to emergency rooms I find it hard to believe that people will make the effort to allow a system of free healthcare to work. (The healthcare industry faces a large number of supply problems without artifically inflating demand.)

San Francisco has further muddied the waters. Their coverage is only for those without private health insurance. So, I wonder, for what reason should I maintain a health insurance plan if I live in SF? If I'm an employer, not only do I pay for my personal health insurance, but I'm to contriubte $1.60/employee hour to the system. Furthermore, what's the tax rate going to be for the citizens to support the estimated $200 million/year budget. Yikes.

I do like that the plan isn't free. Even if you live under the poverty line you'd be expected to pay a $3/month premium. Anyone making under $40K would have to pony up $35 a month. There is a huge difference between free and affordable. There should also be a sliding scale of copays (the article mentions such, but doesn't elaborate). A visit to a doctor or hospital should come with some cost.

If nothing else I'll be interested to see how this plays out. SF could serve as a testbed for the country. I also await the numerous law suits that will arise from the fact that SF will not cover people who work in SF, but don't live there.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Alison Hazel Lundstedt

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Linux vs. Windows...again

I don't think you can put 5 geeks in one place without a Linux vs. Windows fight erupting. Each side has its fanboyz and neither side is very accepting. I use Linux for any serious computer work I have to do and if I could I'd uninstall Windows and never think of it again, however I use my computer to play games. Thus I have to have Windows on board and that's fine for what it is. Here's my latest take on the Linux vs. Windows debate.

I just bought a new PC for home, a suped up machine perfect for gaming. It has an AMD x2, lots of ram and two nvidia video cards SLI'd together. Whenever I get a new machine its reopens my eyes as to how bad Microsoft Windows really is.

Installation trouble: I often hear that Linux is very hard to install and not for the feint of heart. Well, Microsoft Windows is no panacea either. I started the XP SP2 install and it proceeds along nicely until it gets to 'detecting devices' there's a long pause and then the process continues where upon it asks for my XP SP2 cd. “But the CD is in the drive”, I exclaim. To no avail, Windows won't listen to reason. So I cancel the request for media and the install continues. It seems that the 'detect devices' method is making my DVD drive go missing (the eject button won't even respond). Eventually XP comes up, but it looks....odd. No rounded corners, no pretty background of verdant fields, no opera's all missing. Hmm. “Well that's fine.” I mumble to the cat.

Hardware Issues: “Hey, where's the sound?” I often hear that Linux doesn't support some hardware. Well the truth is Windows doesn't support ANY hardware, hardware vendors support Windows. Now that my crippled system is alive its a DaVinci Code-esque hunt for driver disks. Install sound card drivers. Reboot. Install wireless network card drivers. Reboot. Install display drivers. Reboot. The 'install after the install' takes more time than the OS install. Nevermind that there is no word processor installed, no modern web browser installed, no safe email client installed. Nothing. It does come bundled with that cool application 'calculator' (which probably has floating point round off errors lurking).

Ok, fine. So the machine now has sound, video and network. Time to install a game. Put in Quake4. The installer dies. That's weird. Try install Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter (came free with the video cards). The installer dies. Weird x2. Install Oblivion. IT WORKS! Looks awesome. Plays great. Yay.

So what's wrong with the other games? Well, I'm glad you asked. The abortive installations didn't get everything installed correctly. It seems that XP is missing a great deal of stuff. I can't install it correctly since the installation process drops the DVD drive as a matter of course, checking for devices. Eventually I had to copy the whole XP disk to my harddrive (after another abortive install, taking another hour of my life I won't get back soon) and install windows from the harddrive. (I'll bet I've broken some kind of DRM law in doing so.) Then I had to do the 'install after the install'...AGAIN.

My SuSE linux install went off without a hitch. It detected my soundcard, video card and wireless network card during install. There was no 'install after the install' session. Heck my favorite web browser (firefox) and email client (Evolution) were installed by default. As were a news reader, an office suite, an image editor, a compiler suite, an instant messenger, a calculator, a nifty drum machine (great for helping learn guitar)...need I go on?

Why do people think Windows is so great? A) They don't see the cost. Since it comes pre-installed they don't see the $100+ they paid for it. B) Its easy to install since they didn't have to install it. C) Hardware and software vendors support it well since its the only choice for them to be viable in the industry.

The only 'virtue' that Windows brings to the table is that it has a monopoly on home market. Without the gaming industry and unfair OEM contracts it has with PC makers, Windows would be dead and gone.

No I don't think Linux is for everyone, but neither is Windows, but its what we are forced to use.

The Tax Man Cometh

I got my property re-evaluations yesterday for Lancaster County. My property evaluation went up 107%. (The county assessor was on the radio yesterday and he said "I don't do percentages", I can only assume that's because he can't do the math in his head.) He found the whole thing funny.

This is the second time they've upped my evaluations. Since I bought the house in '99 my evaluation has gone up 300%. The first time they did it I had an escrow account that suffered an underrun, so I had to pay hundreds of dollars in fees.

The average evaluation increase across the county was 17%.

I'm mad as hell, but I'll have to just take it because that's the system. The fact you can't fight city hall has never been more true. There is a method by which you can protest, but the assessor gave a veiled threat implying that if you protest, they may well further increase the evaluation.

I guess I should count my lucky stars that they don't want to put in a resort on my property. If they did they'd just eminent domain my ass out.