Getting Off Microsoft
Mar 26, 2004

This page has strategies for reducing your dependence on Microsoft. I'd like to submit that that page is really way too complex. Like any other massive company, it's better not to think of it as a monolithic entity but a tight coalition of many entities. Microsoft makes significant money in only two divisions, Windows and Office. It is no coincidence that the things that bother people most are how they handle Windows and Office.

I say, go ahead and treat Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office as seperate from Microsoft Everything Else. You want to free yourself from Microsoft? Lose your depedence on Windows and Office. It's that "simple", by which I mean a lot of the other stuff for individuals on that page is unnecessary, pointless, and ineffectual. You're not harming anyone buying a Microsoft Mouse; they don't have a monopoly, harmful or otherwise, there and haven't for a while. In general, their input devices have been high quality, perfectly standard, and even sometimes genuinely innovative. (I don't think they truly invented anything new but they did manage to make some older innovations economically viable, which is itself a significant accomplishment.)

Doesn't mean you have to abandon Windows or Office, either, just become independent of them. Download OpenOffice, and use it sometimes instead of Office . Try to install a Linux partition on your hard drive in addition to Windows and try to learn it, or buy a Mac.

The point is not so much to "punish" Microsoft as to make sure they can't force you to give them money, a position everyone ought to be able to understand. Considering the amount of money at stake, even for an individual, it's good to invest a little in keeping your independence, especially from a convicted monopolist with a proven history of shady dealings, harsh licenses, and strong-arm tactics. Becoming independent of Office is particularly easy; less then hour download over a broadband connection and you'll find 80-100% of your Office needs can be met elsewhere (depending on how you use Office). Considering the price of Office, vs. the price of the competition (and I don't just mean "free"; it's been over a decade since any competing office suite like WordPerfect or Lotus was able to charge even $100 for a full version while Office was safely in the "multiple hundred" range), it's too easy to not do it.

Oh, and you're still using Internet Explorer, for the love of Pete download Mozilla (or one of the varients like FireFox) right now, even if you're on dialup, hie thee hence to the "Privacy and Security" sections of the prefs panel, and start shutting off pop-ups and gratuitous image animations. There is also a Mozilla plug-in that blocks out Flash animations unless you click on them to play them; just click on that link in Mozilla and restart Mozilla. This is an even easier no-brainer then Office!

NY Times: U.S. Will Give Cold Fusion Second Look, After 15 Years
Mar 25, 2004
Cold fusion, briefly hailed as the silver-bullet solution to the world's energy problems and since discarded to the same bin of quackery as paranormal phenomena and perpetual motion machines, will soon get a new hearing from Washington.

Despite being pushed to the fringes of physics, cold fusion has continued to be worked on by a small group of scientists, and they say their figures unambiguously verify the original report, that energy can be generated simply by running an electrical current through a jar of water.

Something about the cold fusion thing has struck me as not quite ringing completely of quackery. Perhaps it was that the cold fusion counter-argument that the effect depends on microscopic qualities of the catalysts that the discovers found accidentally, and those who attempted to repeat the experiment never matched didn't seemed to be adequately answered, in my mind, and it seemed a plausible, if unlikely, claim. Cold fusion was dismissed so quickly and so publically, I guess I wouldn't be surprised if it turns out it was more emotional then rational.

I hope this time, it gets a fair and scientific hearing. Let the Universe decide the truth of the cold fusion claims, not a panel of scientists. If they can't back their claims up to the Energy Department now, then I'll feel fairly justified in deciding that cold fusion is indeed almost certainly bunk.

Mar 24, 2004

I just discovered Pink Floyd.

Yeah, I'm behind the times. (My tastes have crept out in both directions from the late 1950s/early 1960s over the years; in the past I just recently got into pre-Equal Temperament (Bach) music, and I just got into the late 70's/early 80's apparently. Disco really impeded my 70s exploration, but I've discovered there was more to 70s pop then disco and disco wannabes. Sometime around 2025 I should catch up to, and subsequently pass, the present.)

Shine on, you crazy diamond.

"Distractions" post on Iron Lute
Mar 24, 2004
Iron Lute

Dotan Dimet has some comments on Iron Lute, which I think contains some misunderstandings about Iron Lute that mostly stem from the developer-centric view of Iron Lute y'all have seen so far. I posted a comment containing some follow-up on his post, and I replicate it here for posterity and RSS readers. Note it contains links to some of the actual code which I posted to provide evidence of how hard it will be to provide bi-directional text support in Iron Lute, so if you want to see some of my actual code, now's your chance. Comment I posted follows:

Read the rest (1167 words)

The UN and the Community of Democracies
Mar 24, 2004

Since 1996, a handful of foreign-policy wonks have been kicking around the idea of a "democracy caucus" at the U.N. Two administrations, first Bill Clinton's and then George W. Bush's, took quiet but significant steps in that direction. Now, according to Bush administration officials, the concept will be test-flown at the six-week meeting of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights that began on Monday in Geneva.

I am one of those people who is very down on the United Nations in its current form, believing it to be worse then useless. I think it is worse then useless because along with being nearly useless, without only some humanitarian programs to its credit, it seems to be impeding the creation of some group that wouldn't be so useless.

Perhaps the creation of this Community of Democracies within the UN would change that. I also, along with the author of the article, believe that if this gets off the ground, it will rapidly overshadow the UN as we currently know it, even if it never formally leaves to become its own entity. This body would have a fresh opportunity to show me it is not all talk and no action. I'm skeptical as always, but willing.

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