May 05, 2005

The Secret to Safe Computing

The American Warmonger has an informative post about a new virus threat. He also provides a handy link to an online security test. I ran the test and confirmed what I already knew. I've got the best virus protection there is. Apple OS X
Safe1 Safe2

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 02:03 PM | No Comments | Add Comment

May 03, 2005

In Which I Poke a Hole in the Facade

I wondered if I should play this straight or just go on maintaining the facade that I really don't know what goes on under the hood. The truth is I know more than I want to. Of course given that an ability to figure out the tool and make it work are a large part of the success in my career to date. In fact my technical facility with the MAC served as the bridge between a degree in journalism and a career in design.

So today I am pleased that I sorted out a whole bowl of alphabet soup.

My company has a VPN. A Virtual Private Network. In theory it allows you to connect to the network and have access to all of its resources just as if you were sitting in your office. Our VPN works really well for all of the PC people. Since I am the only Mac person in the company authorized to access the VPN, my troubles have not been a high priority down at the help desk.

Actually at one time the VPN worked. Then they upgraded the VPN and we upgraded OSX to the next great wild cat version and the thing stopped working. No one understood why. I could connect to the VPN but could get nowhere on the network.

Then we added some more acronyms. We took a system rotating out of use and set up as an FRS (Font Reserve Server). We did this so instead of 13 designers with 13 separate font libraries we could have one shared library. We put the FRS in the network closet but we didn't have a monitor and I had no desire to spend time in the closet administering the thing so we set it up with ARD (Apple Remote Desktop). ARD allows me to control the FRS remotely i.e. from my desk instead of in the closet. The link from my system to the FRS is set up with the IP address, not through regular network services. So I decided to run a little test. I connected to the VPN and launched ARD and was able to connect to the FRS.

Aha! The problem is DNS. (Domain Name Server). For those who don't know the DNS is a server that links those easier to remember server names to those harder to remember IP addresses. Somehow the VPN and OSX weren't getting along with the DNS.

So the obvious solution (which I must confess someone else told me) (but I'm sure I could have worked it out eventually) was to edit the host file. All I needed to was “hardwire” the IP address to the domain name and I could resolve network resources without using the DNS. But its not as simple as it sounds. First you have to get into the Utilities Folder and launch the NetInfo Manager. You need the NetInfo Manager to enable the Root User. The Root User is the be all and end all of system access. It can do things the system won't even let you do in an Administrator Account. This is why you have to go through a few hoops to get to be a Root User. A Root User who doesn't know what they are doing can cause themselves a world of grief.

Anyway, Root User enabled I set out in search of folder called /etc. A pretty easy task with the file search in OSX. I found and updated the host file. Easy.

So I connected to the VPN an then to the file server then to the email server and paused to savor the victory. I forgot to bring home the IP address for the printer. Now I can VPN and ARD the Frs without having to worry about the problem of OSX VPN and DNS.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 06:29 PM | Comments (5) | Add Comment

The Price Of Bush's Open Border Poicies

Ronald Castelanos, an illegal alien from Guatemala, has been arrested for the brutal rape and murder of a woman in New City, NJ. Based on the forged California drivers license he had earlier been identified as Douglas Herrera.

UPDATE: The New York Times covers the story under the headline

Killing Leaves Suburbanites Wary of Immigrant Workers
The Times quotes Guatemalan contractor Pablo Sandoval.
Mr. Sandoval said he feared that the backlash would not go away any time soon.

“People don't feel safe these days,” he said. “There aren't any white people who are going to feel safe now. I don't blame them. My wife feels the same way.”

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 03:35 PM | No Comments | Add Comment

Because He Wants To Know

I got another survey in the mail from Bill Frist. Since he went to all of the trouble to ask the least I can do is answer. The biggest challenge is that in a number of multiple choice questions they combine certain issues in a way that makes it impossible for me to give an answer.

1. Please rank in order of importance (1-7) the issues you would like President Bush and the Republican Party to focus on this year.
Values Issues - 0
National and Homeland Security - 1
Economic Growth, Job Creation, & Federal Budget - 3 (note: only for the budget. Get the gov out of the way and let the economy do the rest.)
Litigation reform - 6
Social Security and Healthcare (again separate issues) - 5
Education - 7
Energy Policy and environment - 2
Other - Judicial nominations 4
Part 2 Values Issues
2. Do you support federal funding for research on a limited number of embryonic stem cell lines.
No. Let private industry develop whatever value there is in the research. In fact end the federal domination of science all together.
3. Should we ban human cloning for experimental purposes even if there might be some promise of future treatments?
No. Please stop trying to regulate every aspect of science and knowledge.
4. Should congress continue to pursue a Constitutional amendment to protect marriage as the union of a man and a woman?
If it amuses them why not. In the end it will never pass and it will keep them from screwing up things that matter even more than they already have.

Part 3. National and Homeland Security

5. Do you believe the United States should aggressively pursue Al Qaeda?
What kind of stupid question is this. No I think we should buy them all ice cream and cookies and send them flowers. Personally I don't have much objection to dropping a load of really big bombs anywhere there is even the slightest rumor of them hiding out.
6. Should the United States hold accountable those nations and groups that support or shelter Al Qaueda?
Allow me to quote myself, “What kind of stupid question is this. No I think we should buy them all ice cream and cookies and send them flowers. Personally I don't have much objection to dropping a load of really big bombs anywhere there is even the slightest rumor of them hiding out.”
7. Should the United States continue its current approach to dealing with the threats posed by Iran and North Korea's nuclear programs?
Sure, letting the Europeans and the U.N. handle it has been working out so well for us. I'm more inclined to think that we are reaching the point where we a little cowboy unilateralism.
8. Do you believe the federal government should strengthen the Patriot Act?
Not necessarily. There are parts that no doubt need tweeking, but do tread lightly please.
9. Should the United States accelerate the training of Iraqi security forces no matter what the cost?
No. Rushing to a complete hand-over would be a mistake. It is far better to do it carefully and get it right.
10. Should the United States do everything in its power to stop proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, Ballistic,. Missiles and related materials?
Everything in our power is quite a lot and I hope it would not come to that. On the other hand, I do think we need to do a little more than rely on a treaty negotiated by ruthless dictator and Jimmy Carter.
11. Should the United States continue its first ever deployment of Ballistic Missile defenses top protect the homeland?
Lets see. Do we try to stop incoming missiles or go back to teaching duck and cover? Not only should we deploy missile defense, we should be doing it faster.

Economic Growth, Job Creation & Federal Budget

12. Should we make the tax cuts that have helped fuel our economic recovery permanent?
Are you really asking me if I want to go back to paying higher taxes? Make them permanent and make them bigger.
13. Do you believe making the tax code fairer and simpler will help sustain economic growth?
Yes, unless you happen to make your living as a tax accountant.
14. Do you feel the government has spent too much and lacked fiscal discipline over the past four years?
No. The government has spent too much and shown no fiscal discipline for at least 40 years. The last four have certainly been no different.
15. Do you favor the elimination of the estate tax?
I favor the reduction or elimination of any tax that can be reduced or eliminated.
16. Do you favor the further reduction of the capital gains tax?
I'm bored of copy and past so just see number 15 above.
17. Should we reduce spending for programs like farm price supports, Veterans benefits, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, etc. to balance the federal budget?
Don't cut Veteran's benefits - anything else is fair game.
18. Should we reduce spending for programs like education, research, FBI, Coast Guard, Customs Service, Housing and Transportation to balance the budget?
Now this an odd mix. If I didn't know better I'd say they were trying to rig the question. Are they counting on support to for law enforcement and the coast guard to get a no answer they can use to justify their spending in the other areas, or are they hoping to use a no on on the social spending as weapon to go after the FBI?
19. Should we increase federal taxes to balance the budget?
And I quote “ I favor the reduction or elimination of any tax that can be reduced or eliminated.
20. Should we have some combination of all of the above to balance the budget?
No. cut the budget - eliminate pork barrel spending - cut taxes.
21. Should we establish a constitutional amendment for a balanced budget?
It's a nice idea but they would find a way around it and the Supreme Court would uphold it. They do whatever they want and they never seem to have too much of a concern about the Constitution getting in the way.

Part 5. Litigation Reform

22. Do you favor medical liability reform to help reduce health costs and improve patient's access to affordable health care?
Yes and no. I favor restoring some sense of justice to the process. But I favor this because that;s the way it should be. If medical care gets less expensive in the process then good for all of us.
23. Do you believe class action lawsuits drive up the cost of consumer products?
I don't consider it a matter of belief I consider it a matter of fact.

Part 6. Social Security and Healthcare

24. Should we reform Social Security by raising the official retirement age - which will increase to 67 under current law?
Yes, but only as a package with private accounts. Raise the age for anyone with a private accounts.
25. Should we reform Social Security by raising the early retirement age - currently 62?
I don't mind this, unless you are retiring for health reasons your likely retiring because you can.
26. Should we reduce Social Security benefits to make Social Security solvent?
No. Promises were made to people who have paid into the system their entire lives. Those promises should be honored.
27. Should we raise taxes to maintain Social Security benefits?
No. Find the money elsehwere.
28. Do you favor allowing individuals to voluntarily invest part of their Social Security payroll tax into private investment accounts?
Yes. It's a good first step toward eliminating Social Security all together.
29. Do you favor legalizing the importation of lower-cost prescription drugs from Canada and other countries?
No. This is nothing more than a back door attempt to create back door price controls by hammering the domestic pharmaceutical companies with artificially low prices from socialized medicine countries.
30. Should the government aggressively find solutions to provide affordable health coverage for the more than 40 million uninsured Americans?
Yes. As long as those solutions are comprised of deregulation of insurance, medicine and effective tort reform.
31. Do you believe we are spending enough to combat domestic and global HIV/AIDS?
The days of constant sky is falling headlines of a domestic AIDS pandemic seem to have passed so I have to assume we've managed to do something right.

Part 7. Education

32. Do you believe the $70 billion the federal government currently spends on education is enough?
YES. Enough already. I can't seem to help but notice that if you track the increase in the federal role in education and the amount of federal dollars spent, it will match pretty well the decline in educational quality.
33. Should teachers be paid bonuses based on student performance?
That sounds reasonable enough.
34. Should tenure be eliminated?
35. Do you believe in teacher testing to ensure we have quality educators?
It really can't hurt.

Part 8. Energy Policy and Environment

36. Should we re-negotiate the Kyoto Treaty?
No. Burn it and release the exhaust into the atmosphere.
37. Should we increase funding for our National Parks?
No. Raise user fees.
38. Should we be more aggressive on environmental issues?
Yes. More aggressive in separating the truth from environmentalist bluster. More aggressive in making sound decision based on facts not hype.
39. Do you favor increasing the federal gasoline tax to discourage consumption?
Let's see. Fuel consumption represents economic activity. People drive mostly to go other places to either earn money or spend money. Do I favor discouraging that? I don't think so.
40. Do you favor more stringent gas mileage requirements on SUVs.
No. BEcause if you can't afford the gas, don't by the biggest SUV on the market. Let the market deal with it. Eventually the price of gas will force manufacturers to improve efficiency because no one will be able to afford operating an SUV.
41. Do you favor increasing federal spending on research into renewable energy resources such as wind and solar and hydrogen fuels?
I think the government should develop a standard for a hydrogen powered car then promise a 10 year federal fleet contract to the manufacturer who meets it first. Then stand back and let the people who are going to make a profit make it happen.

Part 9. Campaign 2005-06

42. Do you agree that strengthening our Republican Majority in the U.S. Senate is critical to passing President Bush's agenda and fighting for America's future?
Given the Republican's apparent inability to do much with the majority they already have I'm sort of not seeing the point in making it much bigger.
43. Do you believe that the Republican Party's investment at the grassroots level is key to strengthening our Senate Majority from Democratic filibustering?
I do. But given the leadership's failure to act I don't think you do. I suspect a lot of voters don't think the Republican's were given a majority in the Senate in order to have Harry Reid run the show.
44. Will you support the NRSC's efforts to help President Bush move his agenda forward for a freer, safer and more prosperous future America?
I cannot support the effort of the NRSC to date because so far there seems to be very little effort being made. When you decide to stop kissing up to Reid and company, I will support you.

Part 10. Support Reply.
This is the part of the survey where Bill Frist asks me to give him money to prop up his lack of leadership in the Senate. I think I'll lift this response from Captain's Quarters: Not. One. Dime.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 03:36 AM | Comments (2) | Add Comment

May 02, 2005

Global Warming Throughout the Ages

CNN has a story out today on the historical role of climate change. While the story itself pokes some fairly significant holes in the so called “scientific consensus” that increases in the burning of fossil fuels is the primary cause of global warming, CNN chose to go with a typical scare headline

Climate change could have drastic consequences.
I would have gone with something like “Current Warming Not Without Historical Precedent.” But if that seemed too pendantic, I would suggest “Global Warming Not Caused by SUVs.”

Here's a big chunk of the beginning of the story to back up my headline:

Climate change was first proposed as a consequence of human activity in 1895. A Swedish chemist theorized that burning fossil fuels like coal might emit enough carbon dioxide to warm the planet. But natural climate variation, caused by fluctuations in the Earth's orbit and other natural cycles, wasn't thought to occur on a time scale perceptible to humans -- until recently.

Climate scientists now say warming and cooling events during the past 10,000 years brought about significant swings in rainfall and temperature in remarkably short periods. The climate record -- stretching back more than 750,000 years -- can be read in the sediments and ice layers from Asia to Greenland. These records, carefully analyzed by scientists, reveal a mercurial climate.

Periodic ice ages going back 10,000 years show extreme temperature swings, exceeding 6 degrees Celsius within 50 years in some cases, said Richard Sommerville, meteorologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Six degrees in 50 years is a pretty big swing. Too bad for the current scare mongers this happened long before the industrial revolution. It seems to me though that if we have clear records of sometimes rapid climate change well outside the influence of man's industrial activity, then perhaps we ought to think at least twice before slamming breaks on industry through politically motivated U.N. sponsored treaties.
By contrast, human-induced climate change is thought to have raised global temperatures just 0.6 degrees Celsius during the past 150 years. The United Nations predicts the next century could bring temperature increases as high as 5.8 degrees Celsius (10.4 F).
Historically, the U.N.'s 5.8 degree prediction is not out of line. It's happened before and in less than a century. Of course the U.N. isn't basing this prediction on any natural phenomena. No this time the temperature increase is the fault of man's industrial activity, and primarily U.S. industrial activity.

And amazingly, the article isn't done poking holes in Kyoto hysteria:

Today, scientists are improving predictions and narrowing down some parameters of climate change with new technology.

But no one can say with certainty what the future will bring. The inherent complexity of the climate system means computer models will likely give scientist a broad range of temperature possibilities only.

“The problem is that we don't understand how the climate system works well enough to understand where the thresholds might be,” said Woody Hickcox, senior lecturer in environmental studies at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. “But we're racing towards them, if they're there.”

I guess Woody Hickox didn't get his official scientific consensus talking points memo.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 01:51 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment

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