March 29, 2004
Give me a break: a review
My first book review. “Give Me a Break : How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats, and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media…” by John Stossel
I realize that I’ve been less than consistent about book reviews. The problem stems from the fact that its more enjoyable to read a new book than to review an old book. Consider this my first book review. I have just finished reading John Stossel’s new book “Give me a Break.” I can honestly say that it is without a doubt the best political analysis book by a news commentator I have ever read. The Left has tried to portray Stossel (and his book) as a Conservative corporate sellout; and the Right has tried to portray him (and his book) as a Secular leftist nut. The truth is neither. John Stossel is a Libertarian in the truest sense of the word, and this book reflects those ideas.
Over the course of this fairly short book Mr. Stossel talks about his early years in news broadcasting, his move to network television, and his conversion from a consumer reporters to a philosophically consistent libertarian. He succinctly extrapolates his frustration with most Liberal media as well as the corporate bought Conservative establishment, and pushes basic Jeffersonian freedoms. Stossel’s writing style, though not as strong as his broadcast style, is good enough to easily convey his opinions with only a couple analytical weaknesses in the book as a whole. Each opinion is supported by the kind of example one would come to expect from an investigative reporter. Stossel has one of the strongest grasps of economics I have ever seen from a broadcast personality. That economic understanding shines throughout the book (the Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman himself praises Stossel’s economic understanding.)
Even if you disagree with Stossel’s conclusions it is hard to ignore the arguments he make in “Give me a Break.” I would strongly encourage anyone who wants a “mainstream” understanding of libertarianism to read this book. It, more than any book I have read in recent memory, summarizes my personal beliefs (and our founding fathers beliefs) in the way government should work.
March 26, 2004
Amusing little email a co-worker sent me. Thought I might be fun for a Friday.
Corporate Lesson 1:
Share critical information pertaining to Credit and Risk
A man is getting into the shower just as his wife is finishing up her
shower when the doorbell rings. After a few seconds of arguing over
which one should go and answer the doorbell, the wife gives up, quickly
wraps herself up in a towel and runs downstairs. When she opens the
door, there stands Bob, the next door neighbor.
Before she says a word, Bob says, “I’ll give you $800 to drop that towel
that you have on.”
After thinking for a moment, the woman drops her towel and stands naked
in front of Bob. After a few seconds, Bob hands her 800 dollars and
leaves. Confused, but excited about her good fortune, the woman wraps
back up in the towel and goes back upstairs.
When she gets back to the bathroom, her husband asks from the shower,
“Who was that?”
“It was Bob the next door neighbor,” she replies.
“Great!” the husband says, “Did he say anything about the $800 he owes
Moral of the story: If you share critical information pertaining to
credit and risk in a timely fashion with your stockholders, you may be
in a position to prevent avoidable exposure.
Corporate Lesson 2:
Always be well informed
A priest was driving along and saw a nun on the side of the road. He
stopped and offered her a lift which she accepted. She got in and
crossed her legs, forcing her gown to open and reveal a lovely leg. The
priest had a look and nearly had an accident. After controlling the car,
he stealthily slid his hand up her leg. The nun looked at him and
immediately said,”Father, remember Psalm 129?”
The priest was flustered and apologized profusely. He forced himself to
remove his hand. Changing gear, he let his hand slide up her leg again.
The nun once again said, “Father, remember Psalm 129?”
Once again the priest apologized “Sorry sister but the flesh is weak.”
Arriving at the convent, the nun got out gave him a meaningful glance
and went on her way. On his arrival at the church, the priest rushed to
retrieve a Bible and looked up Psalm 129. It said, “Go forth and seek.
Further on, you will find glory.”
Moral of the story: Always be well informed in your job, or you might
miss a great opportunity.
Corporate Lesson 3:
Respect leadership hierarchy wisely
A sales rep, an administration clerk and the manager are walking to
lunch when they find an antique oil lamp. They rub it and a Genie comes
out in a puff of smoke. The Genie says, “I usually only grant three
wishes, so I’ll give each of you just one.”
“Me first! Me first!” says the admin clerk. “I want to be in the
Bahamas, driving a speed boat, without a care in the world.” Poof! She’s
In astonishment, “Me next! Me next!” says the sales rep. “I want to be
in Hawaii, relaxing on the beach with my personal masseuse, an endless
supply of pina coladas and the love of my life.” Poof! He’s gone.
“OK, you’re up,” the Genie says to the manager. The manager says, “I
want those two back in the office after lunch.”
Moral of the story: Always let your boss have the first say.
Corporate Lesson 4:
Know your position in the corporate structure
A crow was sitting on a tree, doing nothing all day. A small rabbit saw
the crow, and asked him, “Can I also sit like you and do nothing all day
The crow answered: “Sure, why not.”
So, the rabbit sat on the ground below the crow, and rested. All of a
sudden a fox appeared, jumped on the rabbit and ate it.
Moral of the story: To be sitting and doing nothing, you must be sitting
very, very high up.
Corporate Lesson 5:
A turkey was chatting with a bull. “I would love to be able to get to
the top of that tree,” sighed the turkey, but I haven’t got the energy.
“Well, why don’t you nibble on some of my droppings?” replied the bull.
“They’re packed with nutrients.”
The turkey pecked at a lump of dung and found that it actually gave him
enough strength to reach the lowest branch of the tree. The next day,
after eating some more dung, he reached the second branch. Finally after
a fourth night, there he was proudly perched at the top of the tree.
Soon he was promptly spotted by a farmer, who shot him out of the tree.
Moral of the story: Bullshit might get you to the top, but it won’t keep
March 25, 2004
Thurday Security and More
Phrack.org is a security website thats fairly popular out on the web. Their old editions are wonderful for learning all kinds of security tricks, computer hacking, and lock picking. While on the subject of security I found this publication on the dangers and limitation of IMAP security.
Finally a good resource my instructor pointed me to rootvg. Its kinda a mainframe thing but if you check out the “AIX compared (UX, Linux, …)” section you get a great rundown of different *nix setups. Useful for Linux people who wonder how to setup other Unix’ies.
March 24, 2004
KDE faux pas
Found a link on the kde developers website on most common mistakes when developing in KDE. Great article for anyone interested in Linux/QT/KDE development.
March 21, 2004
This time of year I am planting the seedlings for my herb garden. A little over a year ago my mother-in-law introduced me to home grown herbs. I then became addicted to fresh Rosemary (like I didn’t have enough problems already.) The other herbs I have planted are to give me some fresh spices for my hot-sauce recipes. Its probably a natural extension of my wilderness survival days at Boy Scout Camp, but thats getting a little too Freudian for me. This year I am planting Lemon Balm, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, Basil, Parsley (Simon and Garfunkel would be proud) and Cilantro.
March 18, 2004
Nice tutorial on getting Samba and SWAT working on Fedora Core 1. Too bad they don’t cover RPMing them. Samba already works on Fedora Core 1 but SWAT would make a very nice addition.
March 17, 2004
OpenGroupWare is a groupware server that uses open standards for communication (LDAP, WebDAV, XML-RPC.) This means that its perfect for using with mulitple clients on multiple platforms. Currently working Clients are Mozilla address, Outlook, Evolution, and Kontact. It has a built-in web interface for use also. It looks like the Exchange replacement of the future may very well be Kontact and OpenGroupWare.
Kolab is the KDE groupware server designed for kontact. Kontact can be used with OpenGroupware, Kolab, Exchange, support in development for eGroupWare, phpGroupWare.
Article from flexbeta.net with a quick walk-through of setting-up a Fedora Linux box and some of the tools found in Fedora for everyday computer tasks. Looks like a nice template for a how-to Fedora manual.
Tools of Security
Found a outstanding article on setting up Chkrootkit, Portsentry, and Logcheck. Chkrootkit is a popular root kit checker (a tool for gaining root access to system.) Portsentry watches unused ports for inappropriate activity, and Logcheck monitors your logs looking for suspicious activity. For those of you not familiar with *nix OSes, these are common tools to protect your system for specific focused attacks. Because *nix doesn’t generally get viruses their is generally not a need for anti-virus software; but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a great number of tools for protecting your system.
March 11, 2004
Random Gripe of the Day
Humanity has an unfortunate propensity to mistake its own shortcomings for those of society and the world. It, therefore, pursues in exuberance to change the world; because its more comfortable than changing itself.
March 7, 2004
There and Back
Well its official. Peter Jackson is planning on doing “The Hobbit”, the prequel to the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Check out the story here. Yes my friends, God is good!
March 6, 2004
A Plumbers Story
Few epics in history have the passion and drama of that of the lives of Mario and Luigi, aka The Mario Brothers. Don’t believe me? Check outMario Brothers: Part I and see the previously untold story.
Think you have a solution to spam? Check out spamsolutions. Its an online spam solution form with pre-selectable failure options. My favorite is
Armies of worm riddled broadband-connected Windows boxes
Ghosts of the Past
short introduction is a Russian woman’s on-line journal of her trips through Chernobyl. Her English is broken but the content generally speaks for itself.
March 5, 2004
Version Control Part 2
Just a quick addition the the previous article. Here is a great rant by Larry McVoy on the Linux Kernel Mailing list talking about the pure difficulty of developing a distributed version control system (aka: dcvs). Larry is the founder of BitMover, the company that makes BitKeeper (aka: BK). One sentence that really stands out to me is his explanation of how to perceive a dcvs:
controlled user level file system with no limits on any of the file system
events which may happened in parallel. Now put the changes back together,
correctly, no matter how much parallelism there has been.
BitKeeper is possibly the best revision control system ever created (unfortunately it costs money that I don’t have.) Larry started BitKeeper to help out Linus’s work on the Linux kernel. There are many people who really don’t like BK because it is not under a GPL license. Its so good at revision control that its worth it anyway to Linus because of the time it saves him (its not unusual to have Linus merge 3000+ pushes a day into the mainline kernel.) Linux kernel developers get to use BK for free.
I have recently been looking very seriously at the issued of software version control. This is probably the least interesting topic on the face of the earth to anyone but developers, but if you are a software developer, your version control system is almost more important to you than your computer. I currently use CVS at home and at work. Like most CVS users I am starting to see how it could be improved. Reality is that the only serious advantage of CVS is that it works… and it works with just about anything. There are literally hundreds of scripts, programs, UI’s, and toolkits that work with CVS.
Here is feature comparison between ten or so of the most popular version control systems. Another article on CVS and its two main successors can be found here. One of the biggest debates concerning version control is the use of distributed vs centralized models. Diagnosing svn is an article by Tom Lord, one of the gnuArch developers (a distributed version control system.) Un-diagnosing svn is a response to the previous article by Greg Hudson, one of the Subversion developers (a centralized version control system.)
I am still working out an opinion and making a decision on which version control system I will be moving too in the future. At this junction I am leaning toward gnuArch. I don’t generally like the BSD license (which is what Subversion is distributed under) and it doesn’t seem like more than a minor improvement over CVS. In addition Subversion feels “overweight” for what it does and really lacks the simplicity of design that is common of Unix type applications.