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2006-11-28

The Windows Shutdown crapfest

Here's an amazing explanation of why Longhorn/Vista took so long to reach market and why it's going to be a dud. An entire team of people working for a full year to code the shutdown menu. Sheesh.

2006-11-23

Free, AntiVirus for Windows, Free

Individual Windows users concerned with cost have multiple choices for free anti-virus software. All of these publishers want to impress you with how good their systems are, to encourage you to buy their products or services, but that seems a reasonable trade IMHO. Reviews of some of these may be found here and there.

AOL Active Virus Shield (requires you accept spamvertising, which can later be turned off).

avast!

Avira PE

AVG anti-virus and anti-spyware

ClamWin

Comodo

Antidote SuperLite (scanning only)

2006-11-20

Geek Numbers

This is a GizmoNumber sticker. The small sticker was placed on hard drives, iMacs and other gear stolen from FreeGeek. The larger sticker below was on complete computer systems (e.g., laptops, iMac, white boxen, et al.)


2006-11-19

FreeGeek RipOff

Update: Watch for a small, about-inch-square white paper label with a ballpoint-ink hand-written six digit number, on possibly stolen objects. (Picture at the next blog post; click here to see.) That number, which IIRC was in the 3xxxxx range, is the GizmoNumber, used for internal QC and other purposes. There may also be a larger sticker, vertical layout, a form with tickboxes and such, which stolen things may also have.

FreeGeek.Org is the the website for a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation in Portland, Oregon, which is dedicated to spreading the Open Source ethos.

Portland's a great place for Open Source; O'Reilly recognized that when they held OSCON (the Open Source CONvention) here this summer and in years past.

Many, many volunteers help make FreeGeek work by recycling corporate cast-off and personally donated computers; receiving, evaluating, reassembling, loading Ubuntu/Kubuntu/Xbuntu on the machines (many of which were OK mechanically, but had Windows so badly corrupted the machine would no longer boot). Rehabilitated machines are donated to schools, non-profits, and sold in the FreeGeek store to generate cash to keep the lights on; a desktop is also given to the volunteers after they've built six complete machines.

The FreeGeek meme is even cloning itself, as volunteers in other cities worldwide are copying and creating FreeGeeks of their own.

Sadly, FreeGeek Portland has been robbed of its most valuable assets, the laptops and specialty hardware often most needed by the community organizations it donates those rehabilitated systems to. A thief broke in to the warehouse and stole very valuable equipment, many, many systems.

Here's the news from FreeGeek:

Hello, fine people. I'm writing with sad news. Last night, Free Geek, Portland's groovy technology non-profit, sustained its most major break in to date. The majority of the items stolen were laptops, a few hard drives, and LCD screens. Many doors were smashed in forcibly in the process. While our laptop program is becoming a major source of income for us, it also is a great source of needed hardware for local non-profits. This income is now gone, and local do-gooders will have to go without our free source of laptops for a few months.

So we're making a call out to the community to help us stop these thieves and prevent this from happening again. If you're offered a laptop with Ubuntu Linux installed on it in the next couple of months, give us a call at 503-232-9350. Used LCD screens, while harder to pin down as originating at Free Geek, might raise an eyebrow as well.

Thanks for your help!


(Ed. note: Also hard drives with gizmo numbers (op cit.) on them, and some iMacs, too.)

I've also established email (click on the title of this post to open an e-mail window) to receive questions about it... which will be autoforwarded to FreeGeek.

Update 2: And, BoingBoing picked this up, after I spoke to Cory Doctorow, while he was visiting for Orycon.

2006-11-02

Documentary on Diebold E-voting Errors

Slashdot reports on an HBO documentary showing large-scale e-voting problems with Diebold systems. One Slashdotter noted:
Regarding Diebold's claims, although the article is a little short on facts, for instance, following this section, "According to Byrd's letter, inaccuracies in the film include the assertion that Diebold, whose election systems unit is based in Allen, Texas, tabulated more than 40 percent of the votes cast in the 2000 presidential election." ... "

...it's probably safe to assume if HBO isn't backing down, and does air the documentary, that this is largely smokescreen on the part of Diebold to try and convince the public that HBO is just an extension of the "liberal media" lying to them.

Furthermore, the article is short on explanation, but I don't think this is just a crass comment, "It appears that the film Diebold is responding to is not the film HBO is airing." ..but rather that HBO's spokesman is actually suggesting they are responding to this film, VoterGate [imdb.com], and not Hacking Democracy , whose UK working title is listed as "VoterGate" and whose tagline says, "Computers count America's votes in secret. 'Votergate' hacks the votes."

2006-11-01

National Energy Dependence

A recent New Yorker article notes a puzzling stance by the Bush Administration against energy independence, more than once. For the wonks among you, here's an explanation of the original issue:

A distribution transformer, much, say, like an elevator, is easy to ignore until it malfunctions. Its unromantic job, in most cases, is to take the high-voltage current transmitted over the grid and convert it—or step it down—to the lower-voltage current that emerges from a wall socket. There are an estimated three million distribution transformers in operation in the United States, and virtually all the electricity produced in the country—some four trillion kilowatt hours per year—passes through at least one of them en route from the plant where it was generated to the heating element in your toaster. Along the way, some energy is inevitably lost, and even though proportionately these losses are small, when you’re talking about four trillion kilowatt hours they quickly add up.

Last month, more than fourteen years after Congress mandated transformer standards, the Bush Administration finally got around to proposing them. (The original deadline was missed during the Clinton Administration.) To prepare the proposal, the Department of Energy assessed six possible levels of efficiency, ranging from the highest, known in bureaucratese as Trial Standard Level 6, to the lowest, Trial Standard Level 1. According to the department’s figures, the ideal balance between the up-front costs and the long-term gains was achieved at Level 4. Nevertheless, the department turned around and recommended a much lower transformer standard, Level 2. The decision obviously makes no sense on environmental grounds—in effect, the department is proposing to squander some twelve billion kilowatt hours per year, or roughly enough electricity to power all the households in Iowa—and also no sense on financial ones: the D.O.E.’s own analysis shows that the net cost of the lower standard will actually be higher over the life of the average transformer, which is estimated to be thirty years. The proposal leaves "billions in savings just sitting on the table," is how Steven Nadel, the executive director of the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, put it to the Christian Science Monitor.


Energy dependence seems to be a priority, where it shouldn't.