Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Odds and ends

ongoing � Mac Mini for Mom: Tim Bray converts his mother from Windows 98 to a Mac Mini and discovers what works and what doesn't for a Macintosh novice. I'm also thinking of getting off the Windows treadmill. Keeping antivirus software and spyware eradicators up to date and making sure I'm patched regularly is getting to be a drag. I personally prefer Linux, and the kids don't seem to have any problems using it for homework and their Web-based games, but I'm hoping the Mac's more polished interface and, crucially, the availability of Microsoft Office will make the transition easier for my wife (who I've never seen voluntarily use Linux). What's keeping me from making the jump sooner is that I don't want to add a fourth computer in the house. The Mac will replace Windows -- it certainly won't replace Linux -- and that's a big jump.

But Is There Intelligent Spaghetti Out There?: The New York Times notices the newest religion on the block -- Pastafarianism. This a brilliant way to combat efforts to mandate the teaching of "alternate" theories of creation in science classes. I don't have a problem with teaching kids Intelligent Design or even straight Creationism, just don't do it in science class. It isn't science.

Hollywood, Microsoft align on new Windows: CNET's News.com writes about how Microsoft is adding new digital rights management in the next version of Windows, locking down literally everything to please the film studios and record companies. History seems to be repeating itself in the computer industry. I remember when word processors, spreadsheets and games came with "copy protection." Some companies went as far as requiring users to install a dongle on the back of their computers before their applications would run. Users ran away, in droves, and turned to software that wasn't such a pain in the ass to use -- shareware and, ironically, Microsoft's products, such as Word. Cory Doctorow gives Microsoft a tongue-lashing over the plans.

And, while I'm on the subject, here's another good essay on why digital rights management is an unworkable idea (via Tim Bray's site again).

Inequality and Risk: Paul Graham takes apart the apparently laudable goal of reducing economic inequality. What happens if you try to narrow the differences between rich and poor? He argues that we're aiming at the wrong problem.

Leonardo da Vinci: Qualities of a Genius and How to Think Productively: "These strategies are common to the thinking styles of creative geniuses in science, art, and industry throughout history."

A War to Be Proud Of: Christopher Hitchens finds the Iraq war to be a glass half-full, rather than half empty.

On the same subject, Andrew F. Krepinevich Jr. argues in Foreign Affairs that the U.S. has to adopt a better counterinsurgency strategy. His approach, borrowed from the British in Malaysia, sounds like it could work -- in 10 years, with two or three times the current troop level.

Neat software:
- Partition Logic: a free equivalent of Partition Magic and Norton Ghost. It still seems pretty limited, however.
- Stellarium Astronomy Software: Easy to use software for finding stars and planets.
- Real-time HTML Editor: Play around with HTML on the top of the screen and see how it looks, immediately, in the bottom.