Jeff Duntemann's Contrapositive Diary Rotating Header Image

March 24th, 2008:

Odd Lots

  • I've had a difficult week here; new dental problems have arisen, culminating in an unplanned root canal this past Thursday, followed almost immediately by a much-delayed flight from Denver to Chicago for an Easter visit, where they happened to be having a blizzard. (The earliest Easter since 1913 corresponded with a lingering winter across the Midwest.) Tooth troubles continue, so if my posts have been (and continue to be) a little sparse, that's most of the reason.
  • Our early Easter this year caused some people to ask how the date of Easter is calculated. Well, it's not pretty. At least next year it happens in April, whew.
  • Here's a nice article describing a problem that is by no means recent: The split between people in the Catholic Church who can worship with a light heart, and people who invariably equate reverence with grimness . This has been an issue at least since Pope Pius IX lost the Papal States in the mid-1800s, after which the Papacy became obsessed with its authority and lost any ability to laugh at itself or anything else. (Pope John XXIII bucked the trend, but we didn't have him anywhere near long enough to make a permanent difference.) Roman Catholicism needs a sense of humor far more than it needs a Pope, but this may be one of those things that won't be solved within my own lifetime.
  • In keeping with its long history of contempt for the consumer (which, in all fairness, is rife in Japan) Sony attempted to charge purchasers of its laptops $49 not to install a crippling load of crapware on the machines. Apparently they've taken so much flak for it that they recently dropped the fee. What I find boggling is that they willingly cripple their own machines by selling huge numbers of crapware slots, which makes you wonder how much money they make in the crapware business. We may be heading down the same path here for laptops that printers have followed, in which the printer is a thin, shabby thing sold for very little that makes money for its parent company by consuming artificially expensive ink/toner cartridges.
  • It seems that I've been hearing a great deal within my own circle of contacts about people who try to help nontechnical folks (often parents) make Vista work with existing peripherals and software. The script goes like this: Nontechnical person brings home a new Vista PC or laptop from Best Buy and tries to install older software or connect it to various external hardware devices. Install fails; system aborts in various weird ways; technical person tries to fix (or simply understand) the failure, to no avail. Moral here: Do not use Vista. Everything that isn't needless window dressing is there for Microsoft's or Big Media's benefit, not yours. (Reread the venerable Vista Failure Log if you haven't read it for awhile.) You can still order PCs from vendors like Dell with XP preinstalled. Do it while you still can. And failing that, start researching Ubuntu/Kubuntu.
  • Speaking of failure, WiMax (which we have seemingly been waiting for since the last ice sheets retreated) may be a failure because it's lousy technology. The wireless DOCSIS technology mentioned in the linked article as a solution has been around for some years and doesn't have a much better reputation. We may in fact be asking too much of low-power microwave broadband systems—fixed point-to-point broadband is totally at the mercy of topography and even vegetation—and I keep coming back to the conviction that some sort of “roof-hopper” mesh network may be the best path to follow. People are doing this in some areas; why it isn't seen as a more general solution puzzles me.