Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Baffling post error

My wife was working on her windows based PC when suddenly it started making what she described as a weird beeping.  She shut it down and tried to restart, but the beeping was constant at boot, so she powered it off and left it for me.

Having recently tinkered with this PC (added an SSD and upgrade the RAM) I was familiar with the insides.  I immediately reseated the RAM, reset the CMOS.  Power on, same constant beeping.

I looked up the post codes and the closest was 4-4-4, which is cache error, but this seems much faster than any post code I had heard before.  So I turned it on, and let it keep booting -- and it actually did boot!  Kept beeping though.

To make a long story short, I finally figured out there was a key stuck down on the keyboard.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

The Militia is not the People

The original text:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

My reading:

There are two sets of citizens discussed in the Second Amendment.
One group is the set of ALL citizens, named "the People."

The other set is those who bear arms in the service of the government.  This includes armed police officers, National Guardsmen, Sheriffs, FBI agents etc.  They are named "the militia."  It seems crystal clear to me that the militia and the people are two different groups. When the Constitution is written there are no public police forces -- policing is usually a soldiers job.  

2A states that that in order for a State to be secure in it's freedom, the militia cannot be out of control -- they must be regulated.  The only check (regulation) on the militia is to make sure that the People have the ability to confront the militia.  They can of course do this through laws -- but since the militia is charged with enforcing the laws, to whom can the People turn when the militia is breaking the laws?

The people must be able to defend themselves against the militia with force and confront the militia with force.  And since the militia is armed by definition, to ensure the People can perform this regulatory function, the right of the People  to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Windows 10 Download Folder Blues

Like most people I leave my browsers download folder to the default "Downloads" on Windows 10.

I have on occasion had an issue where I download something and then want to upload it somewhere else right away, but when I browse to my Downloads folder Windows Explorer does not show me the contents of the directory,  Instead it says "Working on it."

This time it frustrated me enough I decided to fix the problem.  It turns out the reason what it that Windows 10 optimizes folders for certain types of data.  In my case (and probably yours too) my Download folder was set to type "Pictures."  What this means to Windows aside from "be slow" I don't know.  I assume there is a thumbnail generation process, indexing and other things that are technical but would add value to a folder filled with pictures.

But I don't need to wait for that, and as an engineer, I download a ton of stuff that are not pictures.  And you probably do too -- music, games, apps, documents, pdfs....  And Windows 10 already comes with a premade optimized folder for Documents, Pictures, Music and Videos.  So why should your Downloads folder be slow to access?

There is a simple fix.

Open up Windows explorer by pressing Windows-E
Right click on you "Downloads" folder on the left and choose "Properties"
Go to the "Customize Tab" and under "Optimize Folder" chose "General Items"

What are the consequences for this in terms of seeing thumbnails?  Probably significant -- but I would suggest that if you want to see thumbnails put your pictures in a folder that is optimized for pictures.  Likewise I notice that there are optimizations for Documents, Music and Videos.  And Windows 10 by default provides folders for all of those sort of things.  I suspect putting things in their right place will help you with searching you media as well as other things.

So the best practice imho is to download things and then if you intend to keep them, move them into folders for that type of content, and leave your Download optimized for general content.

Monday, October 12, 2015

October is Cyber Security Month

The President has declared October as Cybersecurity month.  It's not a bad idea -- just like you change the batteries in your smoke detectors once a year, maybe you should review your electronic vulbnerabilities?

My top ten security tips:

1) Change your passwords.  You've had them too long, you use the same password in too many places.  Somewhere someone has hacked a site that has your username and password in plain text.  Now they are getting ready to try that username/password somewhere else.  Beat them to the punch.

2) Use a safe browser.  That means anything that's not Internet Explorer.  I prefer chrome.

3) Use 2 step verification for your email account.  If your email doesn't provide 2 step authentication consider switching.

4) Get a free credit report and review it.  You are entitled to one free report a year.  BE VERY CAREFUL!  There are man scam sites that offer free credit reports.  Go through the site I linked to, which is maintained by the US Government.

5) Upgrade your home wifi to WPA2

6) Phone security:
  1. Lock your phone with a password 
  2. install Lookout on it so you can find it if it's gone, 
  3. make sure you have a remote wipe capability

7) (Windows only) Install a good anti-virus/malware.

8) Review your last two sets of credit card bills and actually look at them and validate each transaction.  It's common for hackers take out a small amount once to verify that they actually have a valid card, and then sell the verified number to an actual thief.

9) (expert level)Move to a secure chat client like BBM or Wickr.  Stop texting and using Facebook messenger, Google hangouts, AIM etc.

10 (expert level) use a PGP (pretty Good Protection) client like Mailvelope to start encrypting your email

Friday, September 11, 2015

I know I have a problem

The other day I was opening a packet of ketchup and on one side it said "open here."  I said aloud "You're not the boss of me!" and opened the packet from the other end, which worked just fine.

It is not in me to submit to authority.  I will HAPPILY put my shoulder to the wheel to help anyone do almost anything.  But if you tell me I HAVE to do something?  I'm going to at best resent it, and at worst try to make it obvious that compelling me makes us enemies.  If you try to harness me, I will spit the bit.

I'm different.  I mean we're all different, but I am *different.*  I grew up playing Dungeons and Dragons.  I competed in soccer and lacrosse as a young man, not football or baseball.  I had a Bar Mitzvah.  I spent a year studying in Europe.  I can get my face slapped in several languages.   "In toto nusquam corpore menda fuit."  I love football, action flicks, science fiction and musical theater.  I have an appreciation of art, cars, science, literature -- pretty much anything that involves the esoteric.

I'm proud to let my freak flag fly.   Of course you probably already knew all this.  Why do I bring it up today?

Because today is 9/11.

And as much as I bitch about this, that and the other thing, I am grateful to live in the United States.  Any other country would have locked me up by now.  I love our land.  But I understand that we are engaged in a conflict.

The strongest weapon we have in this conflict is our culture. It trends, like I do, towards rebellion.  We are in fact a nation birthed in rebellion and it remains central to our character.  If the arc of history tends towards tolerance, we Americans have been outside of the standard deviation, but almost always the indicators of the curve.  For a society to become more tolerant, it needs behavior different from the norm to tolerate.  And here we lead the world.

I recognize that what happened on 9/11/01 was an attempt to change that.  When photos of Britney Spears' bare midriff started showing up in authoritarian homes, the abstract threat of American tolerance and permissiveness was brought home to tyrants everywhere.  When movies like "The Last Temptation of Christ" showed how willing we were to attack our own culture -- tyrants realized we were inspiring other to attack THEIR culture.  Every time America criticized itself or lead itself to reform -- tyrants noticed.  And as the internet age dawned our trend of rebellion and of tolerance of rebellion started to really spread.

And in September, at the beginning of the new century one tyrant struck back.

I wanted to do something.  I was too old for military service.  I thought perhaps I could join the FBI or an intelligence service.  In the end I stayed in my job, and became more involved in civics.

And today, 14 years later, I think I'm helping...though it's often a pain in the ass.  I hate politics and the political process.  But I could not hate politics so much I did not love my country more.  I have the liberty to be Dan, and I love that.

So on this solemn day I wish us all peace of mind and health of body and I wish us all the wisdom to recognize that we are all minorities of one.  When we practice tolerance anywhere we make our own lives more free.  When we seek to restrict other's liberty -- even with the best of intentions -- we eventually limit our own.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015


Doh Svedanyah Lyeto (Poet's note -- to be read aloud) Charge your glasses and toast the summer 'Fifteen
Gone much too quickly, as if never been.
Yet hints of it linger to buoy the keen
As Autumn approaches and changes the scene.

I have counted days passing, while sat at the shore
I have slept in the sunshine and woke wanting more
I pondered the Pleiades and wondered "What for?"
I will not leave summer, like the party's last boor.

I secure the lee line and make everything fast
The fisherman throwing the redemptive cast.
And though I deny it, the truth outs at last
Fewer days lie ahead than exist in my past

The dripping faucet gets the plumber
Behind the beat the lazy drummer
The silent rock grows ever dumber
A muted witness to the last of summer.

Our youth is betrayed by our bodies last treason
So put down your labor and come join with me son Time marches on without rhyme or reason
I mourn the passing of more than the season

Friday, June 19, 2015

On South Carolina, violence, power, and a flag.

Today is Juneteenth, and on the heels of a racially motivated massacre, we are forced to ask ourselves once again -- when can we end this violence?  When shall we know peace with our brothers?  When will we achieve the dream that we all judge each other by the content of our character?  How can we end the hate?

The traditional thinking is that prior to the civil war, the North was enlightened and the South was filled with bigots.  Of course the truth is never so absolute.  We know that Thomas Jefferson was in fact a slave owner.  We know that he also wrote the following passage, that was later removed from the Declaration of Independence:

He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither.  This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the Christian King of Great Britain.  Determined to keep open a market where Men should be bought & sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or restrain this execrable commerce.  And that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people on whom he has obtruded them: thus paying off former crimes committed again the Liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another. -
See more at: http://www.blackpast.org/primary/declaration-independence-and-debate-over-slavery#sthash.qhLieB7x.dpuf

Jefferson later in life blamed the removal of the passage on Delegates from Georgia and South Carolina, but also on Northern Delegates who profited from the slave trade.  The famous Triangle Trade depended on Yankee ships as much as it did southern slave markets.  This debate is famously depicted in the Musical 1776 (which if I think every American should see), though they cut the critical song from the movie.

And the song:

So what?

Well, one of the things you hear people railing about is how the South Carolina flag is still contains Confederate Battle flag, which is widely (though falsely) believed to be the flag of the Confederacy.  In most southern states the Rebel Battle Flag has been removed from the state flag. It's been taken because those states viewed their past connection with slavery to be shameful

But the northern states should not be exempted from that opinion.

The first recorded New England slave voyage sailed from the city of Boston, Massachusetts in 1644. By the 1670s, Massachusetts traders were regularly carrying slaves between Africa and the Caribbean. Rhode Islanders entered the trade in about 1700. By the middle of the eighteenth century, upwards of twenty ships per year sailed for Africa from the tiny colony, most of them from the city of Newport. Two-thirds of Rhode Island’s fleet was engaged in the slave trade...By the 1760s, the Rhode Island city of Newport alone boasted nearly two dozen distilleries, transforming Caribbean molasses into rum.  This reading is excerpted from A Forgotten History: The Slave Trade and Slavery in NewEngland. Copyright - Choices Program, Watson Institute for International Studies, Brown University. All rights reserved.
And in fact protection for the slave trade was written into the US Constitution in Article 1 Section 9 of the United States Constitution.

The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.
So why don't we ask for a new flag for the state of Rhode Island, which profited so much from slavery? New Jersey's state flag was created when New Jersey was still a slave state.  Should they be ashamed of their slaver past?   Texas was a slave state, but no one has asked Texas to change it's flag.

But doesn't the Confederate Battle flag stands for slavery?

The First Confederate Flag aka the Stars and Bars
The Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia
Not intentionally. As I pointed out, Texas was a slave state and never incorporated the Confederate Battle Flag. Virginia and Maryland too never had anything about the Confederacy in their state flags.. Georgia's current flag (that over 70% of the voters approved of in a recent election) includes 13 stars in a circle to commemorate the Confederacy.

But Rednecks use the Confederate Battle flag as a rallying symbol? And the Klan displays it prominently at their rallies?

Yup. And that has tainted it forever in my opinion.

Is there anything in southern culture worth celebrating?

I think so. I'm biased having grown up in Texas, but ask people from Florida or Alabama or Virginia, and regardless of race, religion or gender -- they'll tell you the same thing. But saying the flag has become a symbol of hate doesn't end Southern Culture.

So what should happen to the South Carolina flag?

If it were my decision, I'd take it down and replace it with a Palmetto.  Yet as much as I dislike the flag, I wouldn't tell anyone that I thought they had to take it down.  Me telling them what to do would be an exercise of power.  And power is what kills.

Tolerance is me tolerating you doing stuff that I don't agree with.  I don't agree with displaying the Rebel Battle flag, and certainly not as the official flag of a state!  I don't agree that the flag is just a symbol of Southern Culture.  I agree with most people, that the flag is now and forever associated with the Peculiar Institution, and as such it is a symbol of the worst in our nation's history.

And while we may mull over the nuances of the motivations behind the tragedy in Charleston, the one thing we know is that the shooter was an intolerant person.  If we taught more tolerance in our society, we would have less tragedy.  Too often people think that they do not have to stand for things that offend them, and they are within their rights to use the power of government to set things right.

We set too many examples of people being able to use power to force others to live the way they see fit.   The power of government is available to some.  The power of wealth is available to others.  Some use legal power to get their way.  And to some desperate few, power comes from violence.

When we use power to suppress the liberty of others, we set an example.  Most parents no longer spank their children, because we've come to realize that the only thing a child learns from being spanked is that violence is an acceptable way to solve problems.  And that it's ok to wield power to end disputes.

So why do we continue to spank our society with trivial laws that we must use power to enforce.  Mandatory recycling.  Laws against gambling.  The War on Drugs.   The Affordable Care Act.  All examples of using power to forbid or require people to behave in a certain way, because some majority once thought their way was best.

When we use the power of government in this way -- to suppress the liberty of people -- we make a society that covets power.  We teach people that acquiring power and using power against others is the proper way to resolve disputes.

Where does a mass murderer come from?  A place of evil surely.  And a place of intolerance.  Imagine if we lived in a culture of "live and let live," where we actively taught people that they were required to learn to live with each other.  Imagine a society where your recourse to being unhappy with your neighbor was not to use power to resolve your dispute, but to accept your differences.

One evil man in Charleston could not accept differences and he tried to resolve them with the only power he perceived to be at his disposal.  Was he a racist?  Yes.  Was he intolerant?  Yes.  And he was terrible.

I don't want to practice intolerance.

I don't want that to be the legacy of this tragedy.

So I tell you South Carolina I find that flag offensive.  I view it as a symbol of the worst of the South, and when I see it flown it taints every thought I have about the best of the South.  When you fly that flag you are doing so deliberately to cause pain and suffering to others because you don't care.  When you fly that flag you reveal yourselves to be ignorant of the realities of our shared history.  And when you fly that flag you tacitly support the idea that there is a place for racism.

So I ask you South Carolina -- please change your flag.  But I'm not telling you.  I want to persuade you -- but I don't want to use force against you.  I want to live by the non-aggression policy and will live my life to the ideal that it is never ok to use force against another person, except in self defense.

And I hope that in living a life to that standard, I can do a small bit to reduce the violence and lust for power in our society today.

I wish us all peace.