Friday, December 29, 2006

Druckz Wors

A former cop plans to market a video demonstrating how to fool drug officers.

New anti-meth law snags first innocent victim. Many more will follow in this guy's shoes. Criminal intent need not be necessary. Eventually sanity will return, but it will take a long time.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Laura Veirs

Laura Veirs posted a new video for her song Secret Someones off her latest album, Year of Meteors, one of my favorites of 2006. Here it is:

Monday, December 25, 2006


James Brown.

WFMU's Beware of the Blog says
Here is Douglas Wolk's James Brown Christmas Special from exactly five years ago - six straight hours of classic, rare, insane and magnificent recordings of the Godfather and his funk revue - guaranteed to include stuff you've never heard before.
Check out their streaming real audio feed. The effect of James Brown on popular music cannot be underestimated. From The Residents:

To Snoop Dogg:

But nothing tops the man himself:

Friday, December 22, 2006

Testing out a new antivirus

I bit the bullet and decided to try an antivirus other than Norton AV. From the Symantec site, I downloaded a program that they claimed would remove all of Norton's products from my machine. This lightweight program ran for several minutes and I got comforting messages such as "cleaning registry". All seemed good when it was done. No desktop icons. Nothing in Add/Remove. No processes seemed to be running. I did a reboot and Systemworks seemed to be gone.

Next, I installed NOD32. After poking around on the web, I found recommendations for 4 programs. In the free category, Avast and AVG seemed to be favored. In the pay category, Kaspersky 6 and NOD32 seemed to be favored. Looking at various test results around the web, the pay ones outperformed the free ones (though some people seemed to disagree, but couldn't name their test result sites). Kaspersky rated slightly higher on more test sites and had a faster scanning time, BUT - and this was an issue for me - it seemed to have a fair amount of compatibility problems with other programs (something I think the Firefox programmers are running into these days - it's hard to predict the operating environment of a program which makes debugging a challenge). Given that and the fact that NOD32 seemed only of slightly lesser quality (some tests rated it higher than Kaspersky), I decided to give NOD32 a go.

I downloaded the trial program (before removing Norton) and installed it (after removing Norton). The install went easy. The major complaint about NOD32 is that it's interface isn't user friendly. Really, I've been haunting PCs and the web long enough to think that the interface isn't that hard either. In fact, the I used the custom install, answered a bunch of questions, and it went pretty well. I did some reading on a forum regarding the settings (a primer for setting it up, if you will) and it seemed pretty straight forward to me. It does offer a lot of flexibility and it would probably confuse novices. I even set up a scheduled deep scan (once a week, like I did with Norton) using command line triggers for options to run.

One minor disconcerting issue was that Zone Alarm does not recognize the NOD32 antivirus. After reading about it online, I found out that ZA only recognizes Symantec, MacAfee, and TrustEZ products for antivirus. None of the choices I had narrowed down to would have performed differently in ZA than NOD32.

Results: Deep scans took as long as one from Norton AV. This can translate into an hour or more on my hard drive. That's a long time. The good news is that NOD32 seemed to take up less system resources when performing that scan, so I was able to access other programs more easily and run them while the process was occurring. To give you an idea, I could do the same with Norton, but it would take a much longer time to open email or navigate the web.

Updates for NOD32 were easy, but the initial updates took a longish time. I guess this improves once a license is purchased (they provide faster update servers and automatic updates to subscribers).

It was easy to set up NOD32 to work with Internet Download Manager to scan my downloaded files. Individual file scans are easy to implement and take about as long as Norton. NOD32 does scan the memory each time it scans new files in order to see if the downloaded file has begun infiltrating the PC surreptitiously. That's a nice comfort. It also scans for rootkits, like the Sony debacle from last year, which Norton did not do.

Finally, and this was nice to see, during the initial deep scan, NOD32 found several suspicious files - trojans - that were on my PC. The good news is that in 2 cases, the files were already found by other programs (Ad-Aware, Spybot) and quarantined. NOD32 merely found them in the archived, quarantined harmless state. In one instance, however, it found an infected Word document (trojan, again) in my Thunderbird email as well as backups of that email. I was able to delete those using the program and clean the PC. Norton NEVER found those files and it was set to the most paranoid settings, including scanning archive files. So, while it may have taken as long to scan as Norton, NOD32 seemed to outperform Norton AV and used fewer system resources.

Also noted during that first deep scan: Norton's removal program DID NOT remove everything. In fact, it left files and folders in the Program files section of my PC. Sure, they weren't loaded anymore and weren't registered anymore, but they were still taking up disk space.

As you can imagine from the tone of my report, I'm leaning towards switching to NOD32. My main concern about switching were some of the utilities that I'd be losing with Systemworks. As it turns out, though, I've already replaced a few of them. I use Acronis True Image for backups (better than Ghost), Acronis Disk Director for partition analysis and disk management (equivalent and surpasses Partition Magic), and Diskeeper for defragging (surpasses Speedisk). The people who make Diskeeper also make Undelete (equivalent for Norton's protected recycle bin) and I found a free undelete program. At this point, I think I'm finally saying goodbye to Norton. They've become too large, too bloated for my tastes. I can see the advantages for some people to keep their products: easy interface, decent quality. But, the Sony rootkit debacle soured me, the system resource hog soured me, the removal hooks turned me off, and the fact that, like a bad OS it kept getting larger and larger with nominal benefits and not remaining on top in quality...well, I'm ready to move on.

Watch out Zone Alarm - you may be next...and your subscription is up in 47 days.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Gulf Coast still a mess

I rarely do a thing like this, but it is a worthy cause. Over a year since hurricane Katrina hit the U.S., we still have a LOT of people suffering in the areas affected. Politicians made the photo-op trips and offered comforting speeches, but ultimately provided little more in the way of assistance. State and federal officials continue to fall short of the efforts needed to provide food, clothes, shelter, and health care to our citizens. As the second Christmas since the hurricane struck ashore comes upon us, Nicole Brodeur of the Seattle Times and Pastor Patrinell Wright of the Total Experience Gospel Choir and the Oneness Christian Center remind us of how we need to step in when governments fail:

Last year, the area was "inundated" with toys. This year, when Ringdahl called Toys for Tots, looking for something for 150 kids the camp serves, the news was hard: There was only one toy.

"We have a long road ahead of us," Ringdahl said.

I recount all this for Wright, who listens, then turns to me.

"We need a truck," she said. "We need a truck, some toys, some clothing and some money to fill it. I have a driver."

I know better than to argue. So with time pressing against us, we're giving it all we've got.

So I'm begging. If you'd like to donate a toy or a check made out to Wright's nonprofit group, Seattle Artists, you can drop it by the Oneness Christian Center, 2716 E. Cherry St. in Seattle, starting at 10 a.m. today.

Wright will see to it that your help gets there. And if you stay for the 11 a.m. service, she will lift your spirit like she did for all she met in the South.

Please, give what you can to the charity of your choice.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The three disgraces

Britney, Lindsay, and Paris. Based on Botticelli's "The Three Graces".

More art mixed with pop culture here.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Christian Right Propaganda Posters

More here. My favorite above.

For information about the veracity of the claim above, see this article and note that Senator Leahy, as many Democrats have done when such issues arise, doesn't discuss dismantling the program, but merely demanding oversight. Similar programs have cropped up in the past and whenever they do, Democrats demand oversight, Bush balks, then the program is renamed and/or moved to another division. Reminder that this is but one example of many such Democratic complicities. Others include RFID in passports, passport requirements for the Canadian border, lack of challenges to Presidential signature notes on bills, particularly those that mention torture of prisoners, passage of the first Patriot Act, and many more.

Quiet lately

Sorry for all of the silence lately. The co-signer came home with a cold last week. Eventually, I got it and between struggling in to work and being sick, I didn't want to move for 5 days. I finally began feeling better on Tuesday and I tried publishing something to the blog. However, Blogger Beta is having one of it's problems. I'm not the only one to experience it either.

Blogger beta is having difficulties publishing photos. In my case, I'm getting no error message. I see network traffic going on in the upload mode via my router. The screen changes to the "You must sign in before proceeding screen" and then loops back to the upload photo screen with none of my previous data contained in it. No error and no results. I cannot upload with Picasa (latest version) either. This new problem crept in some time last week.

Right now, all one gets from the Google Help Group for Blogger is the standard (unhelpful) replies: try a different browser (same results in IE7 and FF2), try clearing your cache, cookies, and/or history (do that each time I close FF2 and did it in IE). And no one can explain the problem with Picasa which shows me the upload bar which then goes away with no results.

All and all, very frustrating. So, there's my long winded explanation. This is my last day off until the 24th. Hard to say how much blogging time I'll have in the next week, but I'll try to get back here more often.

In the meantime, read the Fight the Goodfight Ministries site and learn about the evils of rock and roll. Read their screed about Madonna and check their other exposes. Yep, they are nuts.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Weak dollar

The Bush Administration has championed a weak dollar since it took power. This was one of his typical knee jerk reactions to be against anything Bill Clinton stood for. We now stand on a potential economic precipice and there's nary a discussion in the U.S. media about it. Instead, we turn to the UK's Independent Online. As the Independent notes, Brits are enjoying a strong advantage with the pound equating to almost $2 U.S. However, there are troubling issues:

But the fact is that the sharp rise in the pound - up 14 per cent against the dollar this year - is not a vote of approval for the UK economy but a damning verdict on the outlook of the world's largest economy by experts in the financial markets.

The dollar has been falling for much of this year but has taken a nosedive in the past few weeks, losing 4 per cent against the euro in the past month alone.

Experts have been warning that the US and the dollar have been living on borrowed time. Non-stop spending by US households has delivered a record trade and current account deficits. The dollar has held up because overseas investors, especially the Chinese and other Asians governments are keen to buy dollar assets.

But recent comments by the Chinese central bank about the need to move into other currencies helped trigger the start of the dollar's recent slump a week ago. Private investors have also be keen to buy into US Inc but the prospect of further falls in the dollar could encourage them to cash in their chips now, pushing the dollar down further and creating a vicious cycle.

In its most recent forecast the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned that if that happened there would be a "disorderly unwinding" that would see a rapid fall in the dollar, volatile movements in the financial markets and a "significant hit" to the world economy. A weak dollar would put up the prices of imports, discouraging Americans from spending. It would ALSO drive up inflation and force the US Federal Reserve to raise interest rates. That could transform its stagnant housing market into a financial disaster zone. A consumer-led recession would hit those countries that have done well by selling to Americans.

According to the old adage, if the US sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold; if the US succumbs to a cold then the rest of the world will get the flu.

Yesterday stock markets fell across the world as fears of a US slowdown stoked worries over the economic outlook.

While on Wall Street the Dow Jones index was down 40 points or 0.35 per cent, stock markets in Germany, France and Spain were all down more than 1 per cent and in London the FTSE 100 dropped 0.5 per cent

"The strong sterling will strengthen the headwinds for the UK economy as UK exporters take a direct hit and the consumer spending, the main driver of the UK economy, will come under further pressure," said Ted Scott, a UK equities fund manager at F&C.

The IMF yesterday declined to comment further. However after five years of issuing warnings over the dollar and the global imbalances, the IMF is taking action. It has launched multilateral talks to allow big players such as the US and China to talk frankly in private about the possible ways to reduce these imbalances without triggering the market reaction they dread.