Archive for category Things that are Busted

Some observations about the news

I think it’s important to keep in mind that $$$-based journalism tends to have built-in mechanisms for all kinds of censorship. This is useful when considering not just what we are reading, but how and why it managed to get in front of our eyes. The following list, while not complete, serves to highlight some of the filtering going on:

  • The advertisers extend yea/nay force directly to the owner / publisher / board with $$$
  • The owner / publisher / board extends yea/nay force downwards to the editors and reporters
  • The editors extend yea/nay force downward to the reporters and the stories
  • The reporters extend yea/nay force to the choice of stories
  • The editors apply tone force to the stories
  • The reporters apply tone force to the stories
  • The reader’s reactions apply force upwards and this will slowly but strongly moderate the tone of the stories as the nature of the audience makes itself clear to the journalistic enterprise.
  • In some enterprises, the political correctness of a story will affect selection and tone
  • In other enterprises, backing agendas will affect selection and tone
  • The nature of the story – for example, “if it bleeds, it leads” can force other stories out, because drama=$$$ and there’s only X amount of time/energy to cover this or that, and advertisers primarily pay for eyes, and journalism, unfortunately, almost always devolves to a $$$-counting undertaking.

Long story short, the news that reaches us may not be the news that is most important to us, the coverage that highlights the details we should really know, or even remotely even-handed. All those pressures and factors are there almost all of the time, in almost all of the news.

On top of this, we may harbor various biases that are based on misinformation, social indoctrination (the long resistance to LGBT is one example of a source of this, as is the so-called “drug war”), and dogma from from various sources.

IMHO, much thinking is called for. My observation is that there isn’t nearly enough thinking being done by many. :/

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OSX Sierra crash recovery

Well, that was unpleasant.

Without any warning, my Mac Pro began failing to redraw web pages. Presuming that Safari had become unstable, I commanded a reboot.

The reboot process got to 1/2 progress bar, then the machine shut down. Repeated several attempts, same results. Not just Safari then.

Time to recover. First I slapped a new HD in there, then used CMD-R (hold while powering up, keep holding until you get a dialog) to initiate recovery using the First Aid application from the original drive. The drive checked out okay as far as file integrity, but apparently (hopefully) the OS had developed some damaged boot settings. So. Time to recover to a new drive. I have a time machine backup on a different drive, but as it looked like the original drive was okay according to the tests the disk utility made on it, I decided to try to recover right from there. So off I went, installing OS X 10.12.6 on the new HD.

The dialog initially told me that 5 minutes were remaining. That stayed up for an hour without any visible changes in the progress bar. So I opened the log window (it’s in the Window menu of the first aid window) and saw that the progress value was at about .02%; 1% is complete (trust me, it’s not 100 as you would expect. .5% is halfway done.) It was changing, but very slowly. So I knew I had quite a wait ahead of me.

Twelve hours later, the install finally put up the OS X setup dialog. The progress bar dutifully moved from 5 minutes to 4, 3, 2, 1 and zero (Over 12 hours!?!?) as the percentage indicated in the install log window climbed towards 1%. I mean, come on. Really? I know Apple’s been lagging behind on software quality, but… really? This was over a 30 Mb DSL connection, btw. I can (maybe) understand the trickle rate of the download (Apple’s so poor they can’t afford a good connection, as all know) but the 5 minute indication… that’s just pitiful, shows a serious lack of QC.

Anyway… the recovery went well enough, if glacially, that the machine can be rebooted now, and it looks like most things are intact (not everything… recent file lists are clear, for instance) so I guess my griping can’t legitimately rise above some discontented mumbling.

It was a very unpleasant experience, though. If you have to reinstall Sierra, be aware that you can expect the dialog to bald-faced lie about the install time, and I suggest you open the log from the Window menu so you can see what actual progress is being made.

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Kenwood and Yaesu, where are you?

ICOM’s IC-7300, r8500, IC-7610 and the currently upcoming IC-9700 are making huge impacts on AROs everywhere. This is no surprise to those of us familiar with SDR technology; older analog methods simply cannot offer the kinds of performance advantages a good SDR design can.

However, one thing these radios from ICOM have in common are some poor design choices; spectrum span choices are crippled compared to a center/demodulator tuning scheme; spectrums and waterfall displays that are insufficiently adjustable; noise blankers in the least useful portion of the signal path; insufficient “knobbiness”, so that the user interface of the radio is a great deal more clumsy than it actually needs to be.

The opportunity for Kenwood and Yaesu is clear: there’s an opening here to step in and knock ICOM off the hill they climbed up on.

Imagine a stand-alone SDR transceiver where:

  • You could conveniently place the spectrum/waterfall anywhere
  • You could adjust the amplitude/level of the waterfall and spectrum separately
  • The noise blanker reduced the noise on the display as well as in the audio
  • The display was capable of high resolution output to a monitor
  • Transmit pre-distortion provided very high quality TX
  • Important controls were given their own front panel placement
  • Full mouse/trackball integration was standard
  • Broadband IQ output was available for external use
  • Multiband EQ and compression / limiting for TX audio was provided

These are just some of the obvious places where ICOM’s radios, thus far, have fallen woefully short.

Yaesu? Kenwood? Where art thou?

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2009 Mac Pro with DVI and HDMI displays – restart problems

So I bought a new (old) Mac Pro; late 2009, 12/24 core, 64GB, NVIDIA GeForce GT 120 512 MB. It’s running macOS 10.12.3 Sierra. I hooked up one monitor to the HDMI port, and one to the DVI port. Seemed to work fine.

Until I rebooted the machine.

Then it refused to show the mouse pointer (Apple magic mouse), although It would warn of the mouse’s disconnect and reconnect if I powered the mouse up and down. Likewise, there was no response to the keyboard. It just sat there showing login options for me and a guest; it wouldn’t respond to anything at all I did with mouse or keyboard.

After trying power downs, pulling the plug for a while, pounding on the keyboard, powering the mouse up and down, I finally thought to pull a connection to a monitor. Specifically, the DVI-connected monitor. Immediately the mouse pointer showed up, and I was able to log in.

Up to this point, I had the machine set up so that the HDMI monitor was on the left, and was my home (boot screen) monitor. That’s the one you drag the menu bar to in the Prefs / Displays panel. But I noticed when the machine booted, it showed up on the DVI monitor first, then the HDMI monitor, and then it locked up.

So, still booted up after all this screwing around, I swapped monitor cables, then set the DVI monitor to be the home monitor, as the left monitor was now my DVI-connected monitor instead of my HDMI-connected monitor.

Now the machine restarts cleanly, or at least, it has a few times in a row.

So if you’re having this kind of problem, after the login screen shows, try pulling one or the other or both of the monitor cables to see if it will unlock the mess. And make sure the DVI monitor is your home monitor once you get things running again.

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On Civil Disobedience

Today, the Guardian published remarks by Michael Hayden, former director of the US National Security Agency, with regard to Edward Snowden’s actions in revealing our government’s immoral actions against its own citizens. Here’s what Hayden said:

If Snowden really claims that his actions amounted to genuine civil disobedience, he should go to some English language bookstore in Moscow and get a copy of Henry David Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience. Thoreau points out clearly that civil disobedience gets its moral authority by the willingness to suffer the penalties from disobeying a law, even if you think that law is unjust.

Here’s the problem with the whole “it’s the law and must be obeyed or suffered” paradigm:

The law said slavery was okay and provided for punishment for trying to escape slavery. The law said repressing women’s right to vote was okay, and provided punishment for women who tried to vote. The law said informed, consensual personal choice of sexuality was not okay, and punished people for such choices in the bedroom and elsewhere.

First, none of those things are actually okay. Those laws were (and remain) immoral and wrong; and more to the point, anyone who charged anyone under those laws was immoral and wrong, anyone who advocated punishment under those laws was immoral and wrong, and of course, anyone who applied punishment under those laws was immoral and wrong.

Second, with regard to Henry David Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience, which (essentially) says that the moral authority for civil disobedience comes only from being willing to suffer the slings and arrows of an unjust law’s unjust punishment, not only no, but hell no.

The moral authority for civil disobedience comes directly and inevitably from the fact that the law is morally wrong.

There is no moral authority in advocating, creating, obeying or enforcing a law that is wrong, nor in simply declaring “it’s the law.” Only moral failure.

For instance, when you make a law that says (or supports the idea that) involuntary slavery is ok, there is nothing that can make that law moral. There is nothing that can make obeying that law moral. There is nothing that can make disobeying that law immoral. The only moral path available to you is to outright disobey the law. Anything else is immoral.

If you want the law to have moral authority, the only way you can achieve that is to create moral laws.

Our central problem in this regard is that our politicians and a very large number of the people they have appointed are, in fact, immoral individuals acting contrary to the interest of the public at large and every individual they are supposed to be working in service of. Not to mention breakers of the oaths they took that give them the moral right to hold the offices they sit. They don’t deserve to be supported in any such undertaking. They deserve to be kicked in the shin. Hard.

Now, yes, it is true that in fighting immoral government acts, you may indeed suffer at its hands. That is the core nature of immorality; it does others wrong. But that is a far cry from any legitimacy for the conception that says you should so suffer. Thoreau was flat-out wrong. So is Hayden, acting as an echo chamber for Thoreau. And just so we’re perfectly clear on the issue of the day: Snowden was, and remains, right.

If you would like to take away a money quote about law that is moral in its characterization of law, rather than the sophist nonsense Thoreau was (and Hayden is) peddling, I’m delighted to oblige (emphasis within the quote mine):

…in so far as [law] deviates from right reason it is called an unjust law; in such case it is no law at all, but rather a species of violence.

Thomas Aquinas

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Good Idea, Bad Idea

If the country wants to infringe on the citizen’s right — not just the citizens who have been perfect, but also citizens who have done wrong — to keep and carry arms, then we should amend the constitution. As it stands now, an accurate reading of the second amendment clearly forbids infringement by the government on the citizen’s right to keep and carry. Yes, sophist (and often ridiculous) reasoning has resulted in a wide variety of constitutionally unauthorized legislation along the lines many are suggesting, but again, as these laws are in fact unauthorized, there is no salient reason — outside of fear of unauthorized, coercive violence on the part of the government — for any citizen to respect them, much less obey them.

I am not — repeat, not — in favor of the second amendment as it stands today. But I am even less in favor of allowing or encouraging the government to ignore the constitution under any circumstances. That has led directly to torture; complete inversion of the commerce clause; surveillance, search and seizure without a warrant or even probable cause; repression of speech; direct government support and fostering of religion; ex post facto law; de facto double jeopardy; the taking of land for commercial purposes; and much, much more along the same lines.
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aa_counter.py — pre- and post-increment and decrement in python

Screen shot 2015-05-24 at 3.36.42 PMI like Python. A lot. But it has its limits, and short of forking a new version of Python for myself, sometimes it is just best to implement some kind of work-around. In this case, for pre- and post increment and decrement operations on counters, which Python regrettably lacks.
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Let’s talk about on-hold music

If your company uses, or is considering using, on-hold music, please… just stop. Immediately. If for no other reason than that the digital compression now almost universally employed by the telecommunications companies for cellphones dependably turns what was — or what may have been, it’s often debatable — actual music at the time when it was recorded into a phase-shifted, reduced information nightmare of excruciating abuse for the listener.

Which you are probably exacerbating by feeding into your phone system at too high a volume. But don’t reach for any knobs or sliders; you absolutely cannot fix this by changing the volume or the equalization. It is a fundamental and unavoidable problem inherent to the communications systems between your facilities and the customer.

Having on-hold music enabled makes music haters hate it more, and hate you for inflicting this horror upon them; and it makes music lovers hate you for being responsible for doing such miserable things to the music. The people who made the music are likely driven into deep depression if they happen to hear their work so abused.

There’s also the fact that no matter what on-hold music you have chosen, people’s tastes differ enormously, and so you are guaranteed to cause every single caller who doesn’t share your particular on-hold choice to grind their teeth and start out even more annoyed than they were in the first place.

To put it simply, on-hold music makes everyone hate you.

So please. Don’t enable on-hold music, or if already enabled, turn it off.

While I’m at it, try having an actual human being answer your phones. You’d be amazed what a positive first (and follow-on) impression that leaves. As opposed to…

 

Please listen carefully, as our menu options have changed.

Press one if you’d like to be driven insane by something that might have been on-hold music before it was turned into horrific, distorted mush on its way to your phone.

Press two if you’d like to listen to another menu full of options that have nothing to do with why you called.

Press three if you would like to be summarily disconnected after a random (but generally quite lengthy) interval while waiting for “the next available representative.”

Press four if you would like us to kill your cellphone battery with an indefinite hold, regularly punctuated by wholly false assurances that “we really care about you and will be with you soon.”

Press five if you’d like to be directed to our website. Please be aware that our website is only partly functional and was designed by poorly paid foreigners who have neither language skills appropriate to the regions we sell our products in, or any understanding that websites should only take action, such as drop menus or pop up windows, when people actually click on buttons and links clearly intended to initiate such action.

Pulse seis si desea escuchar a estos menús en mal hablado español.

Press eight to give us your credit card information so we can charge you for sitting on hold waiting for “premium support” from our script-reading, non-technical employees.

Press zero to hear these options again. Thank you for calling StupidCorp, and we look forward to taking your money and under-serving you in the future. Remember: StupidCorp. We were the ones that drove you to regular doses of Wellbutrin. Now you can up your dose!

…all with underlying noise that makes (what used to be) music seem as if it had been pushed through an outhouse. From deep below. Backwards.