El regreso de la diva, la potra, la caballota......

1 observations
KATE BUSH has announced details of her new album.

The singer will release the double-LP ’Aerial’ on November 7.

The record will mark the eccentric performer’s first since 1993’s ’The Red Shoes’.

’Aerial’ will be preceded by the single ’King Of The Mountain’ on October 24.

No live dates have been announced, though Bush has only toured once during her career, in 1979.


Esta fue la artista que Tory Amos shamelessly ripped off despues de su intento fallido ser una estrella del meeeeeeeeetaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaal en Y Kan't Tory Read.

De la discografia de la Bush recomiendo "The Dreaming" y "Hounds of Love". Para los paramecios con ADD ella fue la que originalmente canto "Don't Give Up" con Peter Gabriel en "So".

Ches I like her very much.

How Linux Could Overthrow Microsoft

0 observations
How Linux Could Overthrow Microsoft

Opinion: Five reasons NOT to use Linux

0 observations
Opinion: Five reasons NOT to use Linux
Aug. 29, 2005

I love Linux. I use it on my servers, I use it on my desktops, and I use it on my entertainment center, where it powers my HDTV TiVo and my D-Link DSM-320 media player, which turns my network into a media library with terabytes of storage. Heck, I even run Linux on my Linksys WRT54G Wi-Fi access points, which hook the whole shebang together.

But, Linux isn't for everyone. Seriously. Here are my top five reasons why you shouldn't move to Linux . . .

Reason number one: Linux is too complicated

Even with the KDE and GNOME graphical windowing interfaces, it's possible -- not likely, but possible -- that you'll need to use a command line now and again, or edit a configuration file.

Compare that with Windows where, it's possible -- not likely, but possible -- that you'll need to use a command line now and again, or edit the Windows registry, where, as they like to tell you, one wrong move could destroy your system forever.

Reason number two: Linux is a pain to set up

It's true. After all, with modern Linuxes like Xandros Desktop or SimplyMEPIS, you need to put in a CD or DVD, press the enter button, give your computer a name, and enter a password for the administrator account.

Gosh, that's hard.

On the other hand, with Windows, all you have to do is put in a CD or DVD, do all the above, and then immediately download all the available patches. After all, Symantec has found that an unpatched Windows PC connected to the Internet will last only a few hours before being compromised.

Unpatched Linux systems? Oh, they last months, but what's the fun of that?

Reason number three: Linux doesn't have enough applications

Really now. I mean, most Linux systems only come with secure Web browsers, like Firefox; e-mail clients, like Evolution; IM clients, like GAIM; office suites, like OpenOffice.org 2.0; Web page editors, like Nvu; and on, and on, and...

Microsoft, on the other hand, gives you Internet Explorer and Outlook Express, the most popular Web browser and e-mail client around -- even though they do have a few little, teeny-weeny problems. Of course, Windows also has an IM-client, Windows Messenger, which, come to think of it, has also had some problems.

And, Microsoft also has Microsoft Office, which -- oh wait, you don't get that with the operating system, do you? You also don't get a Web page editor either, do you?

Well, still, with Windows you get so many more choices of software, don't you? Like Lotus 1-2... oh really? I didn't know that. Or, WordPerfect... oh, pretty much dead too.

Still, so long as you want to run Microsoft programs at Microsoft prices, Windows is the operating system for you!

Reason number 4: Linux isn't secure

If Microsoft says so, it has to be true! So what, if you can scarcely go a week without reading about yet another major Windows security problem in our sister publication, eWEEK.com's security section! Who would you rather believe -- Microsoft, or your own eyes?

Reason number 5: Linux is more expensive

Are you calling Microsoft a liar? Those nasty Linux companies, like Red Hat or Novell/SUSE charge you a fee for support. Others, like Linspire sell you the product. How dare they, when you can download free, fully-functional versions of almost all the Linux distributions.

Your computer, on the other hand, almost certainly came with Windows pre-installed! For free!

Oh wait, it's not free? Windows' actually makes up a large percentage of your PC's price?

Hmmm. Well, still, it's already on there, and it has everything you need.

Right? Of course, right!

Except, of course, you might still want to buy an anti-viral program (Norton Anti-Virus: $40), anti-spyware software (McAfee Anti-Spyware: $25); and a full-featured firewall (Zone Alarm Pro: $35). But, hey, who needs those when you have a secure operating system like Windows!

And so...

When you really think about it, you can see why there are lots of reasons not to use Linux.

There just aren't any good ones.

--Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

:: Interviews : MEPIS: the miniature monster of Morgantown, West Virginia

0 observations
An Warren Woodford the founder of MEPIS Linux distro. A good read.

Independent Online Edition > Health Medical : app6

0 observations
El cafe como bebida natural? Eso dicen aqui.

Business 2.0 - Magazine Article - Printable Version - Free Wi-Fi? Get Ready for GoogleNet.

0 observations
Business 2.0 - Magazine Article - Printable Version - Free Wi-Fi? Get Ready for GoogleNet.

Xtreme Defense

0 observations
Xtreme Defense: "Xtreme Defense
Lightning guns, heat rays, weapons that can make you hear the voice of God. This is what happens when the war on terror meets the entrepreneurial spirit

By Sharon Weinberger

Sunday, August 28, 2005; Page W18

'This is very clandestine,' Pete Bitar whispered, as his red Dodge Caravan idled in the parking lot of a Burger King near Fort Belvoir. 'They called last week, and they wanted delivery this week.'

It did feel a little clandestine, if a bit unlikely. Yet there, in the Burger King parking lot, a small transaction in America's war on terror was about to take place. In the minivan were Bitar, the president and founder of Xtreme Alternative Defense Systems (XADS), Edward Fry, the company's research coordinator, and George Gibbs, of Marine Corps Systems Command, who two years ago plucked Bitar's obscure company out of its paper existence and provided it with more than half a million dollars in Pentagon funding.

They were waiting for Superman.

Bitar had battled start-up disappointments and even ridicule -- not to mention January cold and Beltway rush-hour traffic -- to seal his first Pentagon deal. The procurement order had gone through so quickly that the Indiana-based Bitar, who was in town for a conference, agreed to make his final delivery at the Burger King to avoid the hassle of getting onto the Virginia Army base.

Bitar flipped open a case containing his first sale: the 'dazzler,' one in a line of about a half-dozen 'nonlethal' weapons that XADS is marketing to the military. It looked like an executive pen: slick, green and flecked with gold. But the pen was really a green laser designed to disorient and temporarily blind an enemy. Sale price: $1,100 apiece.

It looked, to use one of Bitar's favorite phrases, really cool.

Bitar glanced up. 'There's Superman.'

Sure enough, a broad-shouldered man materialized in front of the Caravan. He was wearing a leather jacket embroidered with the familiar 'S' emblem and a matching tie.

Superman stuck out his hand and introduced himself: Shane Gilmore. Pentagon folks seem especially fond of quirky nicknames and are not above cultivating that mystique. Asked about the Kryptonian symbols, he'd say only, 'I'm Superman.' But today he wasn't saving the world, just trying to protect it as part of an Army task force buying equipment for troops in Iraq. They had placed an order for 13 of Bitar's dazzlers. Supercharged versions of commercial laser pointers, dazzlers are the lowest-tech of Bitar's weapons, and they're not what initially caught the Pentagon's eye. Rather, it was his concept for a gun that could shoot bolts of artificial lightning to paralyze, but not kill, an enemy, like a 'Star Trek' phaser set on stun.

After handing over the goods, Bitar explained his unusual entry into the high-tech weapons market as he headed into Arlington for dinner. The lightning gun began, literally, as a daydream when Bitar was running a Styrofoam recycling business in the early 1990s. Watching the machinery that cut up the used material, he noticed sparks shooting into the air. He began to wonder, at first idly and then more intensely, if there was a way to extend the sparks' range.

But he had no engineering or technical expertise, and his speculation went nowhere.

A decade later, Bitar was no closer to becoming an experimental weapons entrepreneur. But he did have a new business, founded largely to fund an 'extreme' hobby of his, powered paragliding. The idea was to turn enthusiasts of the sport -- who strap motors to their backs, take off running, then yank open a parachute -- into flying billboards. He called it XADS -- for 'Xtreme Ads,' as in advertising."

SignOnSanDiego.com > News > Business -- 5 indicted in spyware e-mail case

0 observations
SignOnSanDiego.com > News > Business -- 5 indicted in spyware e-mail case: "Jealous lovers could monitor recipients; ex-S.D. man sought
By Onell R. Soto

August 27, 2005

The spyware program was designed for private detectives, authorities said, but it really took off when it was marketed to jealous lovers.

'Catch a cheating lover,' the San Diego company's Web site boasted. 'Send them an e-Greeting card!'

The cards, Lover Spy promised, deployed software to track everything that unsuspecting recipients did on their computers. About 1,000 people signed up before the FBI shut the company down in October 2003.

One Laguna Beach man targeted his former girlfriend. A Long Beach woman went after her ex-fiance. An Irvine man wanted to know more about his estranged sister. And a Pennsylvania woman wanted to check out whether her boyfriend was cheating on her.

Federal prosecutors announced computer hacking indictments yesterday against all four and against Carlos Enrique Perez Melara, the 25-year-old former San Diego man who prosecutors say created the software they used.

Perez, a native of El Salvador, probably is in the Los Angeles area, said Stewart Roberts, the second highest-ranking agent at the San Diego FBI office.

Crime Stoppers has offered a $1,000 reward.

Perez is charged with 35 crimes, each of which carries a potential five-year prison sentence if he is convicted.

Spyware is one of the fastest-growing examples of malicious software, a computer security expert said.

It is designed to track what computer users do.

Some types – the fastest-growing segment – use such information to select which pop-up ads users see when using the Internet.

However, other software can be used by identity thieves to get account numbers and passwords, said David Cole, director of Symantec Security Response, part of the company that produces the Norton anti-virus software.

More than half the malicious software submitted to his company by suspicious users and computer security professionals is designed to aid identity theft, he said.

'We're seeing more spyware,' he said.

The FBI has not found any instances of identity theft linked to the Lover Spy software. The agency has notified all 2,000 victims via e-mail.

One of the victims of the program said yesterday she was shocked by the invasion of her privacy.

'I didn't know it was on my computer until the FBI contacted me,' she said.

The resident of a small town in central Pennsylvania said she didn't want her name used because her privacy had been breached enough by the woman who was spying on her.

'She contacted me because she thought that I was dating her boyfriend, but it wasn't true,' she said. 'I had never met him. I didn't know who he was.'

She said she was sympathetic with the suspicious girlfriend and struck up a friendly e-mail relationship.

'She sent me a greeting card on the Internet through my e-mail and that's how she got into my computer,' she said. 'She had access to everything.'

She said she regularly updated her anti-virus software and checked for malicious programs, but none of those measures detected the program when her computer was infected.

Such programs have since been updated to catch the Lover Spy software, which tracked Internet use, e-mail and everything typed on infected computers and could be used to turn on cameras hooked up to the personal computers, said the FBI's Roberts.

Employers and parents use similar surveillance software on computers they own to keep track of their workers and children, he said.

Perez advertised the $89 software on a Web site and through unsolicited e-mail.

The software was deployed on computers around the world, which would send information to Perez's customers and to him at his downtown San Diego apartment, prosecutor Mitch Dembin said.

'People were spying on others simply to learn what they were doing,' he said.

The FBI began investigating after getting a tip from someone who got e-mail spam from the company. Perez was present when agents raided his apartment and took his computers Oct. 10, 2003, but has since disappeared, Roberts said."

I am such a promo whore

0 observations
More luvly art for the gig on thee 3rd......

Sabado 3 de Septiembre @ Nuestro Ambiente

0 observations

Can you say w00t?

The Mekano Set

2 observations
Straight outta Brighton, UK here's The Mekano Set. Check 'em out.

Comunidades de PulsoRock.com - Rese?a Psiconautas y Razorsun @ Communion

0 observations
Comunidades de PulsoRock.com - Rese?a Psiconautas y Razorsun @ Communion: "Rese?a Psiconautas y Razorsun @ Communion
Strike 1: Larga fila para entrar. Pero puej. Mejor, hicieron plata esa noche.
Strike 2: No happy hour. Pero los tragos estaban cargaditos.
Strike 3: El sonido no ayudo a las bandas para nada

Psiconautas toco un set bastante largo pero cool. Lamentablemente tenian los teclados altisimos y casi no se escuchaba la voz, pero ellos tenian telepatia entre ellos asi que estaban sonando ponchados dentro de las circunstancias. Como dijo To?o tocando a lo guerrillero.

Se nota que Razorsun trajo a su gente y eso porque los estaban aplaudiendo mucho. Ellos quieren ser Evanescence pero el problema es que la cantante no tiene la garganta de Amy, las guitarras estaban tan altas y a veces desafinadas que no se escuchaban ni ella ni la tecladista. Eso si, el batero le mete muy bien a la cosa. Props to him. Pero en verdad imaginense a Yanina (Objetivo Fama) de frontwoman de Evanescence con el toque rockero macondiano (VAYA MI GENTE!!!!!!!!!!! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) y pues tienen una idea de lo que es Razorsun. A la cantante le auguro un brillante futuro cantando merengue y bachata en fiestas patronales y cafetines. Y puej, Alejandra no toca teclados en Razorsun pero la que tienen de tecladista esta trinkable. En fin, Razorsun es otro caso mas de PERO LA CANTANTE ESTA BUENA......o algo

Wilie Wanker y el Carlos se botaron como DJ's pero por favor para la proxima vez mejor sonido PLIS!

Ah y por supuesto no podian faltar los gay crackho dancers pero puej todo cool. Eso y el bartender de abajo que le grito a un ignaro EL UNICO HAPPY HOUR QUE TENGO ES DE LECHE me hicieron la noche.

Gracias y buenos dias!"

Blogthings - Your French Name Is...

0 observations
Your French Name Is

Vachel Ratelle

That is so...........French! :D
Courtesy of she-who-won't-allow-to-be-named. O algo.

TIME.com: The Invasion Of The Chinese -- Sep. 05, 2005 -- Page 1

0 observations
TIME.com: The Invasion Of The Chinese -- Sep. 05, 2005 -- Page 1

Macleans.ca | Top Stories | Locked-out CBC employees creating Internet broadcasts to stay on the air

0 observations
Locked-out CBC employees creating Internet broadcasts to stay on the air


HALIFAX (CP) - Locked-out CBC Radio staff have started producing Internet-based audio broadcasts to fill the void left by the labour dispute at Canada's public broadcaster.

And union members say the growing collection of recorded programs - digital audio files known as podcasts - represent a small taste of what CBC listeners can expect if the lockout of the Crown corporation's 5,500 employees drags on.

Last weekend, staff from Fredericton's Information Morning radio program launched one of the first, staff-produced podcasts in the country.

Podcasts are typically recorded as MP3 audio files, which are designed to be played on desktop computers and portable audio players, such as Apple's IPod.

Offered to listeners via a website set up by members of the Canada Media Guild, the seven-minute digital file features interviews and stories about the lockout.

"Our listeners know us through the radio, so we had to communicate with them in an audio format," said Jacques Poitras, a CBC reporter who wrote the script for the podcast and appeared as a guest representing the union.

More podcasts quickly followed in cities across Canada.

"I guess that's what happens when you get 5,500 creative people with nothing to do," said Poitras.

The Fredericton production was also broadcast on the local university radio station. Similar broadcasts have been broadcast from university stations in Calgary, Vancouver and Ottawa.

The CBC locked out its employees in English Canada on Aug. 15 after the two sides failed to reach a tentative agreement after 15 months of negotiations. There have been no formal talks since then and none are planned.

At issue is the broadcaster's desire to create a more flexible workforce by hiring more contract and part-time employees. But the Canadian Media Guild said such a move threatens job security for full-time staff and limits opportunities for future employees.

Since the CBC lockout began, station managers have been putting together scaled-down programming that includes brief newscasts.

The official CBC website currently features a handful of news stories and includes a link to a site explaining the CBC's position in the lockout.

"They're using the CBC brand to communicate one side of the dispute, and we're using a union-labelled brand to communicate the union side of the dispute," said Poitras.

CBC spokesman Jason MacDonald said it's no surprise the journalists are creating content during the lockout, but added that the podcasts won't help end the dispute.

"From our perspective, the focus right now needs to be on bargaining," said MacDonald. "Anything that's not related to that is just a diversion away from the real problem, which is the need to get an agreement in place."

While staff in some cities plan new podcasts of their own, plans are in the works for a national news website produced by locked-out CBC employees.

Meanwhile, the crew that normally produces of the noon-hour radio call-in show based in Halifax planned to stage an in-person version of the show at a local farmers' market on Saturday.

Union spokesman Keith Maskell said from Toronto the locked out workers started the websites, podcasts and on-stage productions on their own. But he said the union will support the sites while negotiators look to end the lockout.

On the web: www.cbcunplugged.com

Zone-MR Central Server - [entry]

0 observations
Zone-MR Central Server - [entry]: "Last Saturday, MoDaCo (the world's largest smartphone community) held a get-together for their forum members. Unfortunately the positive community spirit was soured by an individual who decided to steal one of the charity raffle prizes - a C550 mobile phone.

On Monday, Paul O'Brien (MoDaCo founder) contacted me with information on the stolen phone's IMEI number. I operate the SPV-Developers community which offers the free online SPV-Services unlock tool for this type of phone. It seemed likely that the thief would attempt to remove the SIMLock using this service in order to switch the phone to a non-UK network - bypassing the UK's IMEI blacklist which renders stolen phones useless.

Initially it seemed like there was little I could do to help. The SPV-Services server was not programmed to log the IMEI numbers of it's users. It seemed like a dead end, until I remembered something. When a user unlocks their phone, our server keeps a backup of the phone's first flash block (kept for a few days, in case the changes need to be reversed). This block contains 64kB of RSA-encrypted data such as the phone's SIMLock state, Carrier ID, and other concealed information - it seemed likely the IMEI would be buried within it. Shortly my suspicion was confirmed - after decrypting the block, the IMEI can be found inside (albeit scrambled with a simple transposition).

I started writing a short script - which would check each backup in turn to see if it originated from the stolen phone. After 30 minutes of writing, testing, and running the script - we had a match! The stolen phone had been unlocked. The creation timestamp on the backup file gave us an exact time - August 21, 2005, 10:18:32 PM.

The next step was cross-referencing this information with our web server logs. When a user uses our software to unlock their phone the software uploads the encrypted block to our server, which sends back a list of modifications which need to be made in order to remove the SIMLock. As we knew the exact time when this happened, we could find the corresponding web server entry :

2005-08-21 22:18:32 POST /services/simlock_2.php -

Bingo! I passed this IP address back to Paul who cross-referenced it with Modaco's database. From this, he was able to identify the guilty member. A quick lookup confirmed that the IP was used by the account 'Cocky' - a member which had attended the get-together. The event registrations contained the name of our theif, and his mobile number. The next day, Cocky (AKA K. P.) received a short phone call:

Paul: Hi, this is Paul from MoDaCo.
Cocky: Er, Hi.
Paul: You have something of mine, and I want it back.

Not surprisingly, Paul could hear the faint sound of the guy crapping himself at the other end of the line. The phone was returned, via special delivery, the following day. Moral of the story - even if you're enough of a cunt to steal from a charity raffle, don't be fucktarded enough to steal a phone from a community of phone experts."

Wooo! Knoppix-STD rawks!

0 observations
Knoppix-STD is the shiznit for administrative toolkits. Instead of waiting for the OSI stiff to come over and solve some problems, I just take my Knoppix-STD CD and work on the problem. The forum is *very* helpful and will give you additional information you might need to help you on your tasks.

Google - the new Microsoft? | The Register

0 observations

KESQ NewsChannel 3 Palm Springs, CA: Resident finds missing music producer in creek

0 observations
KESQ NewsChannel 3 Palm Springs, CA: Resident finds missing music producer in creek: "LOS ANGELES A Grammy-nominated music producer who vanished under odd circumstances six days ago has been found.
A Topanga Canyon resident contacted authorities today after spotting a naked man sitting in a backyard creek and washing his jeans.

Authorities say Christian Julian Irwin was found around 4-30 this afternoon. He agreed to go with police two hours later after authorities located his sister to calm him.

The Sheriff's Department says Irwin told authorities he was afraid he was being chased by Nigerians who had contacted him in an Internet scam.

He was taken to a hospital for examination.

The 48-year-old Irwin has produced recordings for Carly Simon and David Bowie. Authorities began looking for him on Sunday after he made a panicked phone call to a friend, saying he was being pursued by people with dogs.

The backyard where he was found was about a quarter-mile from where he made the call.

The Sheriff's Department says there's no evidence he was being chased."

ABC News: Small-Town USA May Offer Solution to Outsourcing

0 observations
Small-Town USA May Offer Solution to Outsourcing
Company Redeploys Workers to Rural Towns Instead of Sending Jobs Overseas

SEBEKA, Minn., Aug. 25, 2005 — The rural town of Sebeka, population 710, is not exactly Silicon Valley. It's hardly the place computer programmer Dave La Reau expected to find employment.

La Reau, who had been job hunting for years, answered a help wanted ad from CrossUSA — one of a half dozen companies actively recruiting workers to small towns in at least eight states.

He traded his suburban home for a 7-acre farm at a fraction of the price. But La Reau is making half of what he earned in Chicago — before outsourcing put his small company out of business.

"I'm hooked up to the computer in Baltimore," La Reau said while working. "I've got the same screen they have."

Sebeka is 14 miles from the closest traffic light, hours from the nearest Starbucks coffee shop and a far cry from the Chicago suburb he left.

"There is no traffic," said technical consultant Clayton Seal, who also works in Sebeka. "Anytime, day or night, you can cross Main Street — almost don't have to look 'cause there's nobody there."

Seal also lost his job to outsourcing.

Farm Country Competing With Foreign Countries

The workers are part of a growing backlash against the thousands of white-collar jobs sent offshore to places such as India.

High-speed computer lines now make it possible for farm country to compete with foreign countries.

"We speak the language and we understand the business issues," said Nick Debronsky, chief executive officer of CrossUSA.

Debronsky's work force of 25 both in Sebeka and North Dakota maintains computer mainframes around the country. He expects to hire another 75 workers by December.

Debronsky said the town's isolation will help guarantee workers will stick around.

"There's no other work within two, three hundred miles," Debronsky said with a smile.

Analysts predict there will be more companies moving their high-tech operations to rural areas, as they reconsider the costs and the risks of doing business overseas.

"We may be seeing the renaissance of small-town America," said former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, "because if they are wired up, they can actually generate a lot of new jobs."

That is exactly what Carrie Ann Milbradt is hoping. The CrossUSA programmer is also Sebeka's mayor.

"This is a start, and I think Sebeka will grow with it. We might get a traffic light," she said.

Lattes may not be far behind.

ABC News' Barbara Pinto filed this report for "World News Tonight."

LXer: 10 Days as a Linux User: A GNU Perspective on things - The Rebuttle

0 observations
LXer: 10 Days as a Linux User: A GNU Perspective on things - The Rebuttle

I think it's rebuttal, but hey, I might be wrong.

GM will launch self-driving car in 2008 - Engadget - www.engadget.com

0 observations
GM will launch self-driving car in 2008 - Engadget - www.engadget.com

Ok, but when am I gonna get my GODDAMN FLYING CAR?!?!??!?

Music thing: Sweet Jesus! It's the midiGun

0 observations
Music thing: Sweet Jesus! It's the midiGun

Man Vanishes After Frantic Call to Friend - Los Angeles Times

1 observations
Man Vanishes After Frantic Call to Friend
# Police search Topanga Canyon for clues to the fate of the music producer who told his former partner that people were after him.

By Jill Leovy, Times Staff Writer

Search parties combed the dry hills of Topanga Canyon on Wednesday looking for a music producer whose mysterious flight from his home three days earlier might have been connected to a common Internet scam, according to friends and relatives.

In a frantic phone call before his disappearance, Christian Julian Irwin, 48, pleaded for help, telling a friend he was being chased down a ravine by people who he believed might kill him, police said. The call, about 3:45 a.m. Sunday, was his last; no one is known to have heard from him since. Investigators have few clues besides Irwin's glasses, found halfway down the hill behind his house, where it is believed that they fell as he ran.

Irwin's friends and relatives say his pursuers may be linked to con artists who had entangled him in a so-called Nigerian Internet scam.

These are common e-mail swindles that often involve appeals for advance money to help transfer large sums out of Nigeria. The victim is promised a share of the supposed fortune in exchange for his or her help. Irwin reportedly told a friend months ago that he feared such scam artists might be after him.

Sheriff's Sgt. Bill Marsh, one of the detectives on the Irwin case, said that, so far, the Internet scam story was only a theory. He said police had yet to identify any suspects.

But Irwin's friends and relatives clung Wednesday to whatever information they could after what they said was a baffling turn in the life of an athletic and outgoing man.

Nearly a dozen relatives, including several siblings, have arrived from out of town to aid in the search, hoping that Irwin may still be found alive. They joined deputies searching the brushy canyon — where Irwin is thought to have disappeared — several miles up the road from the ocean.

One of seven children of a former New Jersey state assemblyman, now deceased, Irwin grew up in Mountainside, N.J., and attended Syracuse University in New York, said his stepmother, Louise Irwin, who was waiting on a dusty pull-off along Topanga Canyon Boulevard as searchers moved down the canyon. He moved to the Los Angeles area about eight years ago, she said.

According to Irwin's online resume, he has worked with such musicians as David Bowie, David Crosby, Art Garfunkel and Carly Simon. The resume says his production enterprises have been nominated for three Grammy Awards, but that could not be confirmed by a Grammy spokeswoman.

Irwin has also scored music for television and radio commercials, according to his resume, and run a Topanga-based recording studio called Treefort.

Several months ago, Irwin told his friend and former business partner Fortunato Procopio, 47, that he had been unwittingly drawn into a Nigerian Internet fraud and had been threatened by the con artists, Procopio said.

"I told him it was clearly a scam — don't be silly," Procopio said Wednesday. But Irwin later received a mysterious $50,000 check, friends and relatives said, and became increasingly concerned. Procopio and some relatives offered few details, saying police had asked them not to discuss specifics of the case.

On Sunday morning, Procopio said, he was awakened in his Venice home by a phone call that was picked up by his answering machine. When he played the recording, he heard Irwin asking for help. Irwin said he was in hiding and someone was in close pursuit.

Procopio said he tried calling Irwin on his cellphone but couldn't reach him. Concerned, he said, he and his girlfriend began driving up Pacific Coast Highway toward Irwin's home in Topanga.

On the way, Procopio's cellphone rang. It was Irwin, Procopio said, telling him that he had been chased from his house down a ravine in back by people and possibly dogs. He told Procopio he was barefoot, having lost his shoes, and feared for his life, the friend said.

Procopio added that Irwin connected his pursuers to the Internet scam, but did not elaborate. "He was on the run, in the woods and very afraid," Procopio said.

The friend said he told Irwin he was coming to pick him up, and "we would put on our flashers so he could see us on the road." Irwin agreed, but "was afraid to reveal himself until he saw us," Procopio said.

"He was really, really afraid," Procopio added. "He believed these guys were close behind him, and whoever it was, if they caught him, they would kill him."

After a second cellphone call, in which Irwin said he was running downstream along Topanga Creek, Procopio didn't hear from him again.

Irwin's brother-in-law, John Riolo of Carlsbad, said sheriff's dogs tracked Irwin's scent from his home, down the ravine to a propane shop on Topanga Canyon Boulevard where he is believed to have first phoned Procopio. The dogs then tracked the scent across the street and into the small canyon below. A short distance along the canyon creek, they lost the trail.

Irwin is described as 6 feet 2 and 190 pounds with graying brown hair and blue eyes. He is believed to have been wearing a red and blue shirt and bluejeans.

Relatives described him as a likable, compassionate man who was closely bound to friends and family and was in good physical shape, favoring organic food and tennis.

They were struggling to understand the bizarre circumstances surrounding his disappearance, which seem at odds with his life and character. "He is a great brother-in-law, just a real well-mannered, stable … mature kind of guy," Riolo said.

"It doesn't make any sense to me," Procopio said. "It's so hard to imagine how things would have escalated to this from this Internet thing."

Summer Fading, Hollywood Sees Fizzle - New York Times

0 observations
Summer Fading, Hollywood Sees Fizzle - New York Times
Published: August 24, 2005

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 23 - With the last of the summer blockbusters fading from the multiplex, Hollywood's box office slump has hardened into a reality that is setting the movie industry on edge. The drop in ticket sales from last summer to this summer, the most important moviegoing season, is projected to be 9 percent by Labor Day, and the drop in attendance is expected to be even deeper, 11.5 percent, according to Exhibitor Relations, which tracks the box office.

Multiples theories for the decline abound: a failure of studio marketing, the rising price of gas, the lure of alternate entertainment, even the prevalence of commercials and pesky cellphones inside once-sacrosanct theaters. But many movie executives and industry experts are beginning to conclude that something more fundamental is at work: Too many Hollywood movies these days, they say, just are not good enough.

"Part of this is the fact that the movies may not have lived up to the expectations of the audience, not just in this year, but in years prior," said Michael Lynton, chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, which had some flops this summer, including the science fiction action movie "Stealth" and the romantic comedy "Bewitched." "Audiences have gotten smart to the marketing, and they can smell the good ones from the bad ones at a distance."

Even Robert Shaye, the studio leader behind "The Wedding Crashers," one of the summer's runaway hits, shares the worry about the industry's ability to connect with audiences. "I believe it's a cumulative thing, a seismic evolution of people's habits," said Mr. Shaye, chairman of New Line Cinema.

In previous years, he said, "you could still count on enough people to come whether you failed at entertaining them or not, out of habit, or boredom, or a desire to get out of the house. You had a little bit of backstop."

With competition from video games, hundreds of television channels and DVD's, that's no longer the case, he said. The problem, these studio leaders and other industry experts seemed to say, was not only that a steady diet of formulaic plots, too-familiar special-effects vehicles and remakes of television shows has, over time, left the average moviegoer hungry for better entertainment.

Marc Shmuger, vice chairman of Universal, said Hollywood has been too focused on short-term box office payoff and not focused enough on what he called "the most elemental factor of all" - the satisfaction of the moviegoing experience.

"It wasn't like the last crop of summer movies were that much better than this summer," said Mr. Shmuger, whose studio's recent releases included the success "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" and several disappointments, including "Cinderella Man," "The Perfect Man" and "Kicking and Screaming." "This summer has been as deadening as it has been exciting, and there's a cumulative wearing down effect. We're beginning to witness the results of that. People are just beginning to wake up that what used to pass as summer excitement isn't that exciting, or that entertaining. This is vividly clear in terms of the other choices that consumers have."

The blockbuster hits of last summer, including "Spider-Man 2," "Shrek 2" and "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban," performed more or less on the same level as this year's hits, including "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith," "Batman Begins" and "War of the Worlds." But too many big-budget movies, including "The Island" and "Stealth," flopped entirely, while other films, from "Bad News Bears" to "Herbie: Fully Loaded" to "The Great Raid," were disappointing.

The box office numbers have led to intense, broad-ranging conversations across Hollywood about the implications. Many studios have commissioned market research to investigate the causes of moviegoing behavior - or the lack thereof. At New Line, executives have been talking about the "sameness of everything" on movie schedules, one executive said. At 20th Century Fox this week, a half-dozen top executives held an impromptu brainstorming session at the commissary with a reporter, debating the effects of gas prices and marketing missteps.

Tom Rothman, co-chairman of 20th Century Fox, was one of the few to see no negative trend in the current numbers. "Everybody keeps saying it's the worst of times; it seems fine to me," said Mr. Rothman, whose studio has had some big-budget successes this summer, with "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" and "The Fantastic Four." He noted, for example, that the advent of DVD's has expanded the overall revenues of the movie industry. "For us the business is healthy, but it requires management," Mr. Rothman said.

Just about everywhere else, though, the concern is palpable - and understandable, not only because of the performance of this summer's movies, but also because a decline is discernible over time: overall movie attendance, a figure not affected by inflation, has slid to below where it stood in mid-August 2001. DVD sales, while still robust, are no longer rising exponentially, and some analysts say that a poor box office performance this summer will lead to poor DVD sales this winter.

With billions of dollars at stake, nerves are growing understandably frayed. Last week, John Fithian, the president of the National Association of Theatre Owners, accused Robert A. Iger , the incoming chief executive of Walt Disney, of leveling a "death threat" at theater owners for having suggested that the lesson to be drawn from the slump is that moviegoers want films to be accessible in theaters and on DVD simultaneously.

"The structure of the industry is sound," said Mr. Fithian, who believes in maintaining a distance between the theatrical release and the DVD. "We just need a few more good movies."

Mr. Iger had observed that studios ignored consumers at their peril. "We can't allow tradition to stand in the way of where the consumer can go, or wants to go," he told analysts this month, warning that "the music industry learned this the hard way."

Mr. Iger's conclusion - that consumers want the choice of seeing movies in their homes at the same time as in the theater - is being reached by others in the industry as well. But it remains contentious, resisted not only by the owners of theater chains. Mr. Lynton of Sony was adamant that the theatrical experience should be protected, while Mr. Shaye said he was still "on the fence" on the subject.

Warren Lieberfarb, a former Warner Brothers executive who was a main advocate of the DVD in the early 90's, warned that going to the movies had become too expensive over all, given the excellent quality of home theater. "It's not just the DVD. It's not just the DVD window," he said. "It's the flat-panel television and the sound system, with the DVD option, that has radically changed the quality of the in-home experience. The home theater has arrived." As a result, he said, "you have to change the business model of the movie business."

With the task so large, and so very complex, Hollywood is still grappling with how to broach solutions.

Mr. Lynton said he would focus on making "only movies we hope will be really good." At Fox, executives said they are looking to limit marketing costs. At Universal, Mr. Shmuger said he intends to reassert "time and care and passion" in movie production. Some of his own summer movies, he conceded, should never have been made.

He declined to name them.
0 observations
For the record, Pat Roberson is an idiot. What a lovely example for christians everywhere. Meanwhile Bush is so deluded he doesn't have the balls to talk to Cindy Sheehan. Two wastes of sperm and eggs. Oh well.

BBC NEWS | Magazine | The struggle over science

0 observations
The struggle over science
By Harold Evans

In his weekly opinion column, Harold Evans considers rising concern in the US over the Bush administration's hostility to science.

I used to get mad at the way it was left to America to bring to full fruition fine achievements by Britain's scientists, inventors and engineers. Take Alexander Fleming's penicillin, Frank Whittle's jet engine, Alan Turing's computer and Robert Watson Watt's radar.

All these breakthroughs found their fullest exploitation in the United States. Indeed, they all contributed to America's pre-eminence in science-based manufacturing and services.

Think of the personal computer and wonder drugs, of the jumbo jetliner, video games and the pacemaker, the laser that counts your groceries and the laser, or the global positioning satellite, that tells you to turn left at the roundabout.

That is why there is furious bewilderment here in the universities and the higher levels of business at the chilly indifference - not to say hostility - of the Bush White House to science. Actually, I've seen a movie like this once before and I know how it ends.

When I was a science reporter in Britain in the 50s, it was a thrill to visit the centre of government research, the National Physical Laboratory at Teddington, Middlesex. It was hallowed ground.

I was in the lab where Watson Watt did his breakthrough work on radar in time for the Royal Air Force to find the Luftwaffe in the invisible skies and win the Battle of Britain.

I stood in awe before that much-photographed early computer - the wall-length monster called ACE - designed in 1945 by the wartime code-breaker, Alan Turing. It was then the fastest in the world, spewing out instant answers to reams of calculations I was allowed to feed into its innards.


You would have thought that the National Physical Laboratory would be the darling of every British Government. Not so. I was invited to visit at that time because they were concerned the government did not fully appreciate that science in peace was as vital as science in war.

The researchers were doing what they could on a tiny budget and even that was about to be cut. Not just in the government, but in business and society, there was a general indifference to science and scientific education that seems odd today.

The consequence of that inertia in government and lethargy in business was that the US came to dominate the computer industry, despite all the brilliant work of Turing at Manchester University and others at Ferranti.

Young Americans are opting for better paid law and medicine over science and engineering and visa restrictions on bright foreign students further dilute the talent pool

The question now tormenting Americans - who don't have a natural aptitude for worry - is whether the same writing is on the wall for them. Vinton Cerf is one who thinks it is, and he is no ordinary hand-wringer.

He's the mathematician who is often referred to as the "father of the internet". From 1972 to 1986, he was one of the key people in the US Defense Department who made it possible for distant and different computers to exchange packets of information - and that's the foundation of the internet on top of which rides the world wide web today.

Nothing daunted, he is now working on the protocols for planet to planet communication. In short, he knows whereof he speaks. And Cerf has just emitted a cry of pain.

The Bush administration does not take kindly to anyone who has drawn a federal dollar being critical - and being critical moreover in the businessman's' bible, the Wall street Journal.

Talent pool

So it is brave of Cerf to risk future disfavour and inveigh against "the stewards of our national destiny" for cutting money from key areas of research in its 2006 budget. That's a recipe, says Cerf, for "irrelevance and decline."

The president's science adviser, John Marburger, concedes that the budget is "pretty close to flat" but stoutly maintains "we are not going backwards", pointing to an extra $733 million for research and development (R&D) funding.

In fact, this is the first time in a decade that federal funding has failed to keep pace with inflation. And in the entrails of the complex budget - no one should go there alone - you find there is indeed less money in real terms for what's called basic research and less for Cerf's area of particular concern, computer science.

Funding university research for that has been falling through the first Bush term and is now about half what it was in 2001.

All told, anyway, America now ranks sixth in the world in the percentage of its wealth it spends on R&D. Yet the downward trend isn't solely the result of the parsimony of "the hick in the White House", as one motor mouth put it.

It is largely a reflection of rising educational standards around the world, so it's a comparative decline. In real terms, no single country can even come close to matching the US in the total scientific investment by government, corporations and foundations.

So what is there to worry about? Well, there are some facts Americans find hard to swallow after decades of striding the frontiers of science. Fewer of the Nobel prizes go to American scientists, down to about half from a peak in the 90s. Papers from Americans occupied 61% of published research in 1983, now the total is just under 29%.

'Freedom of inquiry'

It may not get better soon since a higher proportion of young Americans are opting for better paid law and medicine over science and engineering and visa restrictions on bright foreign students further dilute the talent pool. "The rest of the world is catching up," says John E. Jankowski, a senior analyst at the National Science Foundation.

Since some of these trends have been developing on the watch of presidents from Reagan onwards, I sought a science policy health check from luminaries in the field.

Professor Neal Lane at Rice University was the science adviser reporting directly to President Clinton, but as a former director of the National Science Foundation he cannot be dismissed as partisan.

Like others I spoke with, he is less concerned with the international league tables and the familiar salami processes of the budget, than the well-documented readiness of the Bush administration to manipulate and suppress scientific findings - manifestly to appease industrial interests and religious constituencies.

This is not just on global warming and stem cells, currently in the news, but on a whole range of issues - lead and mercury poisoning in children, women's health, birth control, safety standards for drinking water, forest management, air pollution and on and on.

"It's disturbing," Professor Lane told me. "This is the first time to the best of my knowledge through successive Republican and Democratic administrations, that the issue of scientific integrity has reared its head."

Of similar mind is Russell Train, an administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under Republican Presidents Nixon and Ford. He says: "How radically we have moved away from regulation based on professional analysis of scientific data ...to regulation controlled by the White House and driven by political considerations."

The White House denies such accusations and says it makes decisions based on the best available science.

But these two speak for what is now a considerable body of alarmed and angry scientists. For more than a year, the nationally well-regarded Union of Concerned Scientists - a non-partisan body - has been receiving hundreds of signatures backing the Union's call for regulatory and legislative action to restore scientific integrity to policy making. To date no fewer than 7,600 scientists have signed, including 49 Nobel Laureates.

Perhaps another voice should be added to the clamour. "Science relies on freedom of inquiry, and one of the hallmarks of that freedom is objectivity - government relies on the impartial perspective of science for guidance..." Those are the words of President Bush in 1990 - George Herbert Walker, the father - not the son.

Is Open Source for You? - Yahoo! News

1 observations
Is Open Source for You? - Yahoo! News: "Is Open Source for You?

Exclusive from: Ziff-Davis
Wed Aug 17, 6:59 PM ET

Tim Gnatek - ExtremeTech

Millions of people are turning to free and open-source software for personal productivity and play. But is it the right move for you? There are many advantages to taking the open road, as well as a few danger signs to be aware of first.

Open Source Benefits

Don't ignore a good deal. Not only is the software free, there are no licensing fees to pay, making open source particularly attractive to cost-conscious businesses. At that price, testing the waters of open source is approachable for anyone.

Join a community. Being part of the open-source movement ties you into a legion of developers and users who share a common interest and an enthusiasm for enhancing the program's performance.

Be safe, secure and see-through. Because there are so many people working on the program, and bugs can be handled right away, you can expect fixes and new releases faster than with commercial applications. And because the source code is public, security measures in the software can be easily verified and, when necessary, improved.

Customize your programs. If you know enough about programming, you can dip into the available source code and build your own software add-ons to make programs do exactly what you want. If playing with a program language makes you feel as comfortable as a medical intern dealing with a cadaver for the first time, users with great ideas can offer suggestions to developers.

Open Source Shortcomings

Less selection. While there are thousands of open-source programs available, commercial software still outnumbers them by far. While there are representative programs for many common types of software, there's hardly the richness of availability that commercial programs have – especially when it comes to video games and productivity titles.

Not ready for prime time. Many developers release immature programs to take advantage of willing helpers in the open-source community. Users can expect to come across some operating problems. People can fix the bugs themselves, or refer to earlier, more stable versions that may lack more recent tweaks, but have been checked out and tested longer.

Programs can be difficult to use. In many cases, open-source software is by programmers for programmers, and lacks the gentle learning curve or support that you would find with commercial titles. As open-source programs advance and mature, however, they are becoming friendlier for novices to get into, and have better-designed tutorials and help options.

A price for freedom. Sure, the programs are free, but it still may cost a little if you have problems getting programs up and running. Open-source licensing doesn't prevent companies from selling enhanced packages of free software, or making a business out of offering support. Sun, for example, sells a packaged version of OpenOffice called StarOffice for $79.95, which comes with a manual and technical help."

The Open-Source PC - Yahoo! News

0 observations
The Open-Source PC - Yahoo! News

The Open-Source PC

Exclusive from: Ziff-Davis
Wed Aug 17, 7:25 PM ET

Tim Gnatek - ExtremeTech

Open-source software is booming; SourceForge.net lists more than 104,000 active projects on its Web site alone. With all the selection, why bother with commercial software at all? You might miss out on the latest popular titles, but there are plenty of open-source applications that can handle most computing essentials.

Don't worry if you're not ready to switch to an open-source operating system before dabbling in the software; though the process may be easier than you think, the programs on our open-source PC list all offer versions for Windows or
Macintosh systems as well as for
Linux and other open source-based systems.

Productivity suite: OpenOffice, likely the most successful open-source productivity pack and an attractive choice next to the costly Microsoft Office, comes with a word processor, spreadsheet, drawing program and Web page editor.

Anti-virus: ClamWin is among the most developed of the relatively slim options for open-source security programs. While the project has received some criticism over its scanning ability and the difficulty it has had drawing qualified developers, it does provide a measure of defense against many malware programs.

Web browser: Open source took a leap into the mainstream in 1998, when Netscape decided to release source code for its browser. The Mozilla Firefox browser, which rose from Netscape's ashes, enjoys success and a PCMag.com Editors' Choice Award thanks to its simple installation, many extensions and superior security.

E-mail client: What Firefox has done for Web browsing, Mozilla Thunderbird promises to do for e-mail, earning very good marks for its ability to custom-handle messages and filter junk mail, though online help may be lacking.

Educational programs: Celestia, a real-time, 3-D space simulation, is a free planetarium for the PC. Though Celestia is a complete program in itself, the many extensions available allow you to add further detail to the universe, by inserting additional elements like galaxies, asteroids and fictional spacecraft from your favorite sci-fi flicks.

Multimedia: Audacity, an open-source audio editor, gets the job done as a simple tool for recording streaming audio.

Open Source for All - Yahoo! News

0 observations
Open Source for All

Exclusive from: Ziff-Davis
Wed Aug 17, 5:33 PM ET

Tim Gnatek - ExtremeTech

In computing's early days, programmers would share their work between one another in the spirit of creativity and innovation, passing source codes among colleagues for new perspectives on tough programming challenges.

Then technology became big business, and the practice was pushed into the underground, as companies looking to protect their products replaced the ideals of the age with secrecy, non-disclosure agreements, and intellectual property lawyers.

Never fear, counterculture types. You can still liberate the code, and experience many other perks, by becoming part of the open-source movement.

With the steadily increasing number of open-source applications on the Web, there are more projects than ever to check out, covering nearly every imaginable application: from word processors and e-mail applications to media players and video games.

And although the yeoman's work on these developments does come from computer programmers, everyday users will still find that they can contribute to open-source software while taking advantage of these inexpensive alternatives to traditional, commercial software packages.

What is open source?

Programs that are open source generally have three things in common. Most notably, they're free. But so are many other kinds of software out there – like shareware, freeware and adware.

What further sets open-source programs aside from their budget-priced brothers is that their underlying source code is also free and open for others to examine, modify and update. Instead of hoarding the secrets of the programming innards, like commercial software, open-source programs encourage others to tweak the programs, fix bugs, and add features – essentially, they are invited to become part of the development team.

Open-source software can also be distributed freely: Copy it, give it to friends, even package and sell it if you like, as long as you continue to provide others the ability to do the same in accordance with the terms set by the Open Source Initiative, a nonprofit group that maintains the open-source standard.

Who's using open source?

Users of open source are constantly growing in number, as it becomes a more popular option for budget-minded operators, including nonprofit organizations like Greenpeace as well as many international governments. In Brazil, for example, cities like Recife and Amparo have encouraged the use of open source and limited proprietary programs like MS Office.

Berlin, Germany and Florence, Italy both encourage city groups to use open-source software as often as possible, and in France, the Federal Agency for Technologies of Information and Communication in Administration promotes free and open-source standards around the nation.

At one time, open source held the reputation of "developers only" software, as only those with engineering degrees could learn to use the programs without in-depth documentation and help. But as the programs have continued to develop in further iterations, they have become considerably friendlier to use, even for the inexperienced but adventurous end user.

Why try open source?

The more people with access to the source code, the better it will work; or, according to what Eric S. Raymond (The Cathedral & the Bazaar ) called Linus' Law after
Linux creator
Linus Torvalds, "With enough eyes, all bugs are shallow."

Because finding bugs is a key part of the development process, proponents argue that open source results in a superior product, because more people are looking for errors and new software tweaks can be released as needed.

Proponents also contend that open source is more secure than proprietary programs because having source code accessible makes for transparent programs: Users can look into the software's innards and know exactly how their personal information is protected.

There are warm and fuzzy benefits as well. Open source brings users into a development community working together for a common goal: the best product possible. Submitting bug reports and suggesting improvements are things that the average user can do to better the software product.

What kinds of software are available?

There are many categories of open-source software, from back-end networking tools to personal productivity, games and file-sharing applications. What's more, a great many have expanded to embrace commercial operating systems like Windows and Mac OS as well as community-developed ones like Linux, making it even easier for newbies to tread open waters.

Among the most popular open source programs are those that can stand in for the kingpins of commercial applications and run on multiple operating systems.

Because of the pervasiveness of Microsoft Office at home and work, and the fact that the professional version can fetch over $300, its open-source competitor, OpenOffice, is an understandably popular alternative. OpenOffice comes with a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation program, Web page editor and drawing tool for inserting graphs and graphics into documents. Since last reviewed by PCMag.com, the program has gone through several more iterations; the latest stable release is version 1.1.4.

The GIMP editor is a robust image manipulation program that can replace proprietary programs like Photoshop as well as any associations with Pulp Fiction. GIMP stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program; you can think of it as the open-source Photoshop. The program lets users paint, touch up photos, create animations and much more, with advanced tools and an ever-increasing number of plug-ins that add new filters and special effects to your image work.

Although Mozilla's Firefox may get the lion's share of attention, the group's e-mail offering, Thunderbird, has met with an equal amount of acclaim, and the slick package comes equipped with many features, like HTML and POP account support, spam filters and e-mail encryption and other security tools. With an add-on calendar program and easy importing of contacts from Outlook, Thunderbird makes a respectable substitute for the Microsoft product.

For a quick and easy way to get a sample pack of such free and open-source software, try the free OpenCD. Version 3.0, released in July, bundles 16 programs in a single download, including the above programs, along with games, multimedia applications and other tools. All work with Microsoft Windows, allowing users to experiment with the programs without making it necessary to first convert their computers to an open-source operating system like Linux. And if downloading the package proves too difficult, OpenCD sells the suite on a disk for $5.

Where can I find more programs?

One good place to look for software is SourceForge, which claims to be the largest development and download repository for open-source programs. The site lists more than 100,000 registered projects and boasts 1.1 million users, making it a great place to start searching for programs or looking for support. Other sites, like Freshmeat.net, also host program downloads, updates and information dedicated to the open-source community.

Where will it end?

Open-source concepts are beginning to extend beyond the bounds of software and into to other arenas as well. Wikis, for instance, permit open, community-based editing of information on the Web, while Creative Commons licenses offers a wide range of copyright options to authors and artists that often mirror the free, collaborative ethic of open-source software.

Such licenses have even gone on to inspire projects like OpenCola and OpenBeer, which share their secret formulas with the world as long as other makers share their recipes and credit the original work.

Should it end up on your computer, too? Open source software is great in concept, and there are a few notable programs that closely rival their commercial counterparts. The great majority, however, are works in progress.

For those who want simplicity and reliability, commercial packages may be your best bet – at least for day-to-day work. But if you're willing to experiment a little, and put up with some technical challenges, there is a wealth of programming - for free - in the open source community.

Tim Gnatek is a freelance journalist. He also writes about technology for the New York Times, and has covered science and innovation for news outlets like PBS FRONTLINE/World and The San Francisco Chronicle.

Dr Moog is dead - NME.COM

0 observations

DR ROBERT MOOG, the synthesiser pioneer, has died at the age of 71.

He passed away at his North Carolina home yesterday (August 21) four months after being diagnosed with brain cancer.

Born in the Queens district of New York, Moog?s instruments were made famous by bands such as The Beatles and The Doors.

Moog built his first instrument ? a Theremin ? at the age of 14. The electronic device can be heard on The Beach Boys? classic ?Good Vibrations?.

He made the MiniMoog in 1964, which was described as ?the first compact, easy-to-use synthesiser? and later won the Polar Prize - Sweden?s ?music Nobel Prize - in 2001.

A message on his official website moogmusic.com said: ?Bob was warm and outgoing. He enjoyed meeting people from all over the world. He especially appreciated what Ileana (his wife) referred to as ?the magical connection? between music-makers and their instruments.?

No public memorial is planned, though friends and fans can express their sympathies at caringbridge.com/visit/bobmoog.

Moog?s family has also established The Bob Moog Foundation dedicated to the advancement of electronic music in his memory.

Many of the late pioneer?s long-time collaborators including musicians, engineers and educators such as David Borden, John Eaton, Wendy Carlos and Rick Wakeman have agreed to sit on its executive board.

Moog had received both radiation treatment and chemotherapy to help combat his brain disease. He is survived by his wife Ileana and five children.

Indie record labels seeing gold | CNET News.com

7 observations
Indie record labels seeing gold | CNET News.com

The Net is the Independent Artist's Radio

0 observations
The Net is the independent artist's radio

"Murder Simulators" East/West || kuro5hin.org

0 observations
"Murder Simulators" East/West || kuro5hin.orgSome people take their gaming habits far too fucking seriously.

The "Zero Tolerance" Approach to Fighting in Schools || kuro5hin.org

0 observations
The "Zero Tolerance" Approach to Fighting in Schools || kuro5hin.org

Moving 8000 People 10 Kilometres || kuro5hin.org

0 observations
Moving 8000 People 10 Kilometres || kuro5hin.org

The Future Is Locked || kuro5hin.org

0 observations
The Future Is Locked || kuro5hin.org

The Observer | Focus | Death in Stockwell: the unanswered questions

0 observations
Death in Stockwell: the unanswered questions

He wasn't wearing a heavy jacket. He used his card to get into the station. He didn't vault the barrier. And now police say there are no CCTV pictures to reveal the truth. So why did plainclothes officers shoot young Jean Charles de Menezes seven times in the head, thinking he posed a terror threat? Special report by Tony Thompson, and Tom Phillips in Brazil.

Tony Thompson and Tom Phillips in Brazil
Sunday August 14, 2005
The Observer

When armed police surrounded the home of Muktar Said-Ibrahim in London's north Kensington earlier this month and ordered him outside, the 27-year-old had only one question: 'How do I know you're not going to shoot me like that guy at Stockwell tube station?' As a suspect in the failed bombings of 21 July, he was perhaps right to be nervous.

A week earlier a Brazilian electrician called Jean Charles de Menezes had been shot and killed by armed police less than 24 hours after the attempted bomb attacks. Everyone was nervous. What would the police do next?

Now an Observer investigation has raised fresh questions about the death of de Menezes, whose killing is being investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. The Observer has discovered that a key element of the investigation will be scrutiny of a delay in calling an armed team to arrest de Menezes, which meant he had already entered the station by the time the officers arrived.

That delay was crucial. If the police thought de Menezes was dangerous - perhaps a bomber - the fact that he was already in the station would have heightened tension and increased the chances of something going wrong.

Evidence of this hold-up should have been provided by CCTV footage from dozens of cameras covering the Stockwell ticket hall, escalators, platforms and train carriages.

However, police now say most of the cameras were not working. Yet pictures are available of a bombing suspect leaving another station nearby, and after the 7 July attacks tube boses could have been expected to make extra efforts to see that all their cameras were in action.

The questions are mounting. Initial claims that de Menezes was targeted because he was wearing a bulky coat, refused to stop when challenged and then vaulted the ticket barriers have all turned out to be false. He was wearing a denim jacket, used a standard Oyster electronic card to get into the station and simply walked towards the platform unchallenged.

It has also been suggested that officers did not identify themselves properly before shooting de Menezes seven times in the head.

In the absence of CCTV footage the inquiry will have to rely on the testimony of eyewitnesses, though many of those who claim to have seen the incident have provided contradictory accounts of what happened.

The inquiry comes as the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, announced an expansion of his firearms unit to cope with the new terrorist threat.

Despite the death of de Menezes and the charging of two firearms officers with murder in connection with the case of Harry Stanley, shot dead when officers believed the table leg he was carrying was a shotgun, Blair believes there will be no shortage of volunteers for firearms duty, insisting the officers feel 'very well supported' by the force.

He insists the shoot-to-kill policy is the 'least worst' way of tackling suicide bombers and refuses to rule out other innocent people being shot in similar circumstances. 'I am not certain the tactic we have is the right tactic, but it is the best we have found so far.'

Known to his friends as Jem, Jean Charles was one of two children of Maria and Matozinho de Menezes, a farming couple in Gonzaga, a village 800 kilometres (nearly 500 miles) north-east of Sao Paulo.

His parents live in a tiny two-bedroom bungalow at the end of a dirt road. Most people living in the area eke out a living from mining or agriculture. As a child, de Menezes wanted to be a cattle rancher but became fascinated with electronics and left the farm at 14 to study and live with his uncle in São Paulo.

'My son was such an intelligent boy, ever since he was born,' says Jean's mother 'Dona' Maria Otoni de Menezes, sobbing. 'He battled, he worked hard. All he wanted to do was work, to support his family. We are a poor family. We hardly have anything. As he grew up he used to say: "Don't worry, mum. I'm going to help you. Have faith in God".'

Dona Maria remembers Jean the trabalhador [worker]. The only complaint he ever had, said Dona Maria, was about money. 'He earned a pittance. Jean used to say the only way to earn more was to go overseas.'

Gonzaga is at the centre of a mostly illegal migration boom from Latin America's largest country to the United States and Europe. The young de Menezes planned to follow the example of his cousin, Reuben, who lives in a new three-bedroom house, paid for with the money he earned as a landscape gardener in Massachusetts for five years. He arrived in the US on a tourism visa and stayed until the immigration authorities eventually caught and deported him.

Jean de Menezes too wanted to go to the US but was unable to get permission. Instead he flew to London in 2002 as a tourist and then obtained a student visa to remain until June 2003.

Living with his cousins, Vivien and Patricia, in a red-brick block of flats in Tulse Hill, south London, Jean took a four-month course in English in nearby Norbury, achieving near-fluency. He soon found work as an electrician and as a kitchen porter. He regularly sent money to his parents and phoned them three times a week.

He spent what little spare time he had either with his cousins, his girlfriend Andrina or at the Guanabara, a Brazilian club in Holborn.

'I remember he phoned me once [from London] and he sounded so happy,' says Dona Maria. '"Mum I'm working honestly," he said. "Everything that I buy I pay for."' His father, Matozinho, nods in agreement. 'He said England was a beleza [beauty].'

When de Menezes returned to Gonzaga last summer he told friends and family that he planned to stay in London for a further three years so that he could earn enough money to fulfil his dream of buying a cattle ranch. After that he would return to Brazil permanently.

Back in London his student visa expired. He had no intention yet of returning to Brazil, where the average salary of £50 per month would prevent him achieving his dream of owning a ranch. Instead, he did what many illegal immigrants do and turned to the black market.

'It's like knowing who to go to in order to buy drugs or pirate DVDs,' says Dani, a Brazilian student living in north London. 'It is a very close community and everyone knows the people to go to if you need help with your visa.' De Menezes did what he needed to: he 'shaded' the rules.

For de Menezes life in London was for the most part uneventful. He had been stopped by a police a few times as part of routine stop and search inquiries, once having his bag examined by officers outside Brixton tube station.

On each occasion the police had asked him to stop and he did so. However, on each occasion the officers concerned were in full uniform.

Two weeks before he was killed, de Menezes had been attacked by a gang of white youths, seemingly at random. According to friends this experience left him shaken and nervous.

Like all Londoners, Jean was also affected by the bomb blasts. While the capital bounced back relatively quickly after the first attack, the second wave - despite failing to produce any casualties - generated a higher level of fear. Jean told friends he was so worried about using the tube he was considering buying a motorbike to get around the capital.

The day after the attempted bombings on 21 July, tensions in London were particularly high. Police had rapidly issued CCTV footage of four suspects and made public appeals for information about them.

Hundreds of hours of CCTV were made available and sifted through in record time in order to release images to the public. CCTV footage had also proved crucial in identifying the suspects in the 7 July attacks. The Observer can reveal that police even found footage from train carriages showing the bombers at the moment of detonation.

After 21 July officers also examined information found within the unexploded device recovered from the top deck of the No 26 bus in Hackney. The Observer understands that, although information within the bag pointed to an address in Tulse Hill, it was not clear whether it had been placed there as a red herring or whether it was the address of one of the bombers.

The address was the same block of nine flats, spread over three stories, where de Menezes lived with his cousins. By that same evening, the block was under close surveillance by a specialist, unarmed police team.

Wary of the experience of officers in Madrid who, having tracked down bombers to an apartment block, burst in just as the terrorists blew themselves up, killing one policeman in the process, detectives began a race against time to obtain information about the layout of the block in an attempt to ascertain exactly where the bombers were likely to be. They then began drawing up a plan to assault the block.

At around 10am that Friday morning, officers watching the address saw a man, de Menezes, emerge from the communal entrance. He had received a phone call earlier asking him to fix a fire alarm at a property in Kilburn, north London. But the police thought they might, just, have someone important in their sights.

De Menezes was followed for five minutes as he walked to a bus stop, He then boarded a No 2 bus, along with several plainclothes officers who, again, were unarmed. The officers hoped de Menezes might lead them to some of the men pictured on the CCTV stills.

At some point de Menezes phoned a colleague saying he would be arriving late because tube services were disrupted as a result of the previous day's incidents. It is not clear whether members of the surveillance team heard this conversation. De Menezes was on the bus for a further 15 minutes until he reached Stockwell station.

The surveillance team were under strict instructions not to allow de Menezes to board a train and a rapid decision was made to arrest him using armed officers, a procedure known as a 'hard stop'. But because the officers in the surveillance team had no weapons, they had to change places with officers from SO19, the Metropolitan Police firearms unit.

By the time the armed officers arrived, De Menezes was already inside, using his Oyster card to enter the station and casually walking down the escalator towards the platform.

The number of armed officers in the Metropolitan Police had been increased last January in response to a potential terrorist threat as part of a revaluation of resources following 11 September. At the same time a number of officers were given specific training on how to deal with suicide bombers. The training was based on the experience of police and military units in countries such as Israel and Sri Lanka where similar attacks are common.

By studying footage of attacks and even interviewing failed bombers, senior Met officers drew up a list of 'precursor signals' that generally occur shortly before detonation of a device. Most have not been made public but include the potential bomber looking 'detached' from his or her surroundings and becoming introspective.

In such situations new guidance suggested the officers shoot the suspect in the head rather than the torso as the latter would not stop a detonation and might even ignite the explosive.

Officers are also warned that potential bombers will detonate at the slightest inkling that they have been identified. This means they will not identify themselves until absolutely necessary.

One witness, Chris Wells, 28, a company manager, said he saw about 20 police officers, some armed, rushing into the station before a man jumped over the barriers with police giving chase.

In fact, by the time the armed officers arrived de Menezes was already heading down towards the train. It now seems certain that the man seen vaulting the barrier was one of the armed officers in hot pursuit. Another witness interviewed by the inquiry puts officers on the train before the shooting, glancing around the carriage and apparently searching for their suspect.

Once they were underground the officers were out of radio contact with colleagues and in a race against time to find de Menezes. When they did, the decision on what to do could not be referred to a senior officer. It was theirs alone.

In Israel, security forces try to isolate suicide bombers from the public so that, even if they do detonate their bombs, the human damage is minimal. But from the moment de Menezes entered the station, his fate was sealed.

Another witness, Mark Whitby, told of hearing people shouting, 'Get down, get own,' and then seeing de Menezes run onto the train 'looking like a cornered fox'. Three plainclothes police followed, one holding a black automatic pistol. De Menezes was tripped, pushed to the floor of the carriage and shot in the head seven times.

No one knows what went through the young man's mind in the last moments of his life. Having been attacked just weeks earlier, he may have believed the casually dressed white men chasing him were part of the same gang. He may have been thinking of the experience of his cousin who was caught by immigration officers in America and deported before he had the chance to finish saving for his dream home. Now de Menenzes is dead and no one will ever know.

The sun was sinking behind the mountains when the news of Jean Charles' death arrived in Corrego dos Ratos, on a Saturday afternoon. Jean's father Matosinho Otoni de Menezes, at 66 a scrawny slip of a man, had begun worrying earlier that day when he saw on the television news that a Brazilian had been killed in London.

When the mayor's car pulled into the narrow earth drive that leads up to the farmhouse, Matozinho immediately thought the worst.

'I already knew what he was going to say,' he recalls. 'I said to him: "It's fatal, isn't it?" He said: "Yes, it's about your son. He's been murdered."

'We lost our heads,' Matozinho says. 'We did not know what to do. They'd brought medical team with them since they knew we would be sick at the news. I asked the mayor if he was sure, but he didn't even need to reply. I could see it in his face.'

For the rest of the week in Gonzaga, in reality little more than a large village with a population of 5,500, appalled residents were busy plastering walls with placards bemoaning 'British brutality' and 'terrorism'. They made themselves busy, decorating Gonzaga's streets as a tribute to Jean with yellow and green crepe paper, using decorations left over from a recent carnival.

At dawn the following Thursday, a procession of cars drove 90 kilometres (56 miles) to Governador Valadares airport. Hundreds of mourners had gathered to see the arrival home of Jean's body, draping themselves over the thin perimeter fence to get a better view of the incoming Brazilian air force plane.

At 10.28am the plane shuddered down onto the runway and motored gently towards the crowds. Five minutes later, when a simply plywood coffin emerged from the back of the green plane, a stunned hush descended on the crowd.

'It was an execution - nothing more, nothing less,' Jean's cousin, Rubens de Menezes, says bluntly. 'I don't know what will happen to Dona Maria. What can you say to a mother who loses her son like this?'

If he was such a potential danger to the public why was de Menezes allowed to enter Stockwell tube station?

Police have already admitted that the officers who followed de Menezes from his home in Tulse Hill were not the same officers who fired the fatal shots. The surveillance team was unarmed and had to call in an armed unit to arrest de Menezes. The delay meant that de Menezes was already inside the tube station when the armed officers arrived. Should they not have been called earlier and attempted to apprehend him outside the station?

Did commanding officers give the order to shoot or was the decision taken 'on the ground'?

Although individual officers are allowed to use their weapons in order to protect their own lives or those of others, permission to deploy arms is usually obtained in advance. When de Menezes went underground the armed officers would have been out of radio contact with their superiors. It has since been reported that the first their commander knew of the shooting was a radio message declaring 'man down'. Why did the police radios not work in the station when British Transport Police are able to communicate underground? Did the lack of communication add to the tension?

Why is there no CCTV footage?

Cameras at Stockwell tube should have provided footage of the ticket halls, the escalators and the platforms. Most modern tube carriages also have cameras inside. Yet police say none of the cameras at Stockwell was working at the time of the shooting. This is despite London being on high alert and tube bosses being only too well aware of the importance of maintaining CCTV systems.

Why was the decision made to shoot?

Initial statements from the police said that de Menezes's 'clothing and actions' led to suspicions that he may have been concealing a bomb. Initial eyewitness reports suggested that he had been wearing a thickly padded jacket, despite the hot weather. One eyewitness even reporting seeing wires protruding from a padded belt. It has since emerged that de Menezes wore a normal denim jacket and that his electrician's belt had been left with a friend the night before.

Boing Boing: HOWTO request your TSA record

0 observations
HOWTO request your TSA record
Yesterday, I blogged about the Alaskans who are suing the TSA for refusing the comply with the Privacy Act while testing the Secure Flight air passenger profiling system.

If you fly, you could be among the 100 million passengers whose info the TSA has illegally collected from commercial sources. Ann Harrison has posted a step-by-step guide for exercising your rights to request the TSA's records under the Privacy Act:

In direct violation of the Privacy Act, TSA has collected over 100 million records from commercial data providers to test Secure Flight. If your records are contained in this database, you have a right to obtain them. What would happen if thousands of people requested their TSA travel records every day?

You can request your travel and commercial records under the Privacy Act, but you better do it before TSA destroys the information. TSA spokeswoman Deirdre O’Sullivan told Wired News that the TSA has only destroyed some passenger name records (PNR) from airlines and travel agents, but not information TSA gathered from commercial data bases. You can request both your PNR and commercial data with a Privacy Act request.

Link (Thanks, Ann!)

Update: Ann clarifies: "I should note that 100 million individual commercial data records does not necessarily translate into 100 million passengers. As explained on the blog, TSA gave 42,000 passenger names to their data contractor who expanded the list to 200,000 names by using name variations. Then that data was compared to the 100 million illegally obtained travel records. But honestly, we don't have a clue how many names are really in that database. It's only an educated guess."

Flickr Magazine Cover Maker

0 observations

Flexbeta - 10 Days as a Linux User: A GNU Perspective on things - Page 1 - Introduction

0 observations
Flexbeta - 10 Days as a Linux User: A GNU Perspective on things - Page 1 - Introduction

Newbie Adventures in Knoppix and Fedora - GROKLAW

0 observations
Newbie Adventures in Knoppix and Fedora
Saturday, August 20 2005 @ 09:06 PM EDT

I get a lot of email asking me how to get started in GNU/Linux. I usually suggest trying Knoppix out first. What is Knoppix?

KNOPPIX is a bootable CD or DVD with a collection of GNU/Linux software, automatic hardware detection, and support for many graphics cards, sound cards, SCSI and USB devices and other peripherals. KNOPPIX can be used as a productive Linux desktop, educational CD, rescue system, or adapted and used as a platform for commercial software product demos. It is not necessary to install anything on a hard disk. Due to on-the-fly decompression, the CD can have up to 2 GB of executable software installed on it. (over 8 GB on the DVD "Maxi" edition).

By the way, as many of you will know the Knoppix Live DVD is now available. Yum. Here's everything you get.

For all of you who are maybe thinking about trying GNU/Linux or Knoppix yourself, I thought I'd say an encouraging word. It's nowhere near as hard as you may have heard. Here are two newbies, both women, one a mom and one a grandmother, and they both managed to function just fine when they decided to give it a whirl.

A site called linux-noob.com asked the mom, who isn't particularly computer knowledgeable, to try out Fedora (installed for her), and she explains exactly what she tried (GAIM, Gimp, her digital camera, etc.) and if something didn't immediately work, how she solved it, with some help from the linux-noob.com forum participants. She points to their how-to helping her set up mplayer, for example, and here's their "How to read your NTFS partitions in 5 minutes or less". I'm sure we can guess whose fault it probably is that it is somewhat complex to set it up to run Windows Media files in Linux. Even with the few things that caused her some preliminary issues, she solved everything and then she fell in love. It's fun to read a complete newbie enjoy Fedora.

The grandmother is our own brooker, who decided to try to save a relative's files on an ailing XP computer using a Knoppix CD.

She had read on Groklaw about how wonderful I think Knoppix, the CD, is and how you can rescue files on an ailing Windows computer with it, and so she tried it on a friend's computer to save a few Word files, and then when her niece found herself with a Windows computer that wouldn't boot at all, cram full of urgently important files, brooker just plunged in, and without any help at all, not even documentation, she successfully saved most of the files. She didn't try to fix the Windows side instead of saving the files, which is what I would have looked at first, myself. Because she decided to save files and did it by trial and error, it naturally took longer than if she'd had a friend show her, and she definitely took the long way around, but I thought it was so interesting to see that trial and error actually works for a newbie to Knoppix, I asked her to tell us what happened, the detailed version. Some of you will no doubt be willing to share with her some better ways, and that's fine.

I'll let her tell you the rest of her adventure. And keep in mind she is new to GNU/Linux, not just to Knoppix, although certainly above-average competent in the Windows environment. I guess Windows users simply must learn a few things to stay afloat at all, or have a designated tech support family member to help. It's not like you can just call up Microsoft for free and ask them how to access your files when your computer won't boot any more.

She just plunged in, but for those who prefer at least a star to guide them in Knoppix, there are books. Here's one in English. There are books in German and Japanese too, on how to use Knoppix. You can use Knoppix without installing it, just live from the CD or DVD, or you can install it on your computer, and brooker did both. Here's a NTFS FAQ from the Linux-NTFS Project. Here's what they are about:

A free (GPL) NTFS write support is currently under development. Experimental-oriented developers may find the corresponding tools and instructions for accessing rw-mounts of NTFS-Partitions, on the DVD (use at your own risk).

Here's some documentation.

Remember as you read brooker's account that she took the scenic route. With a book, nothing would take you three days. And with a friend to ask questions, things she couldn't figure out would have been doable. But I find it encouraging to know that even with nobody available to walk her through it, with a little persistence, using her Windows skills, she was able to rescue almost all files from Windows using Knoppix. The next time you are faced with such a problem, perhaps you can try Knoppix too.


A Knewbie's Knoppix Rescue Adventure,

~ by brooker
First things first...

Who am I?

I'm a decidedly ordinary person, certainly no tech guru, not a programmer, or a scientist, nor particularly well-educated.

I am an artist/illustrator and work from my home studio, full time, and have been doing this type of work for almost 35 years, but have only been using the computer as a drawing and design tool since '94. (I still keep my old pens & ink, colored pencils, t-squares and triangles handy though!)

Most of my work is for publishers of educational materials for grades K-12. The most used programs on my computer -- in fact, just about the only major programs installed on my computer -- are Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign for book layouts, and an old version of Quark, though I avoid Quark unless absolutely forced to use it.

I am an older woman (yes, a grandmother many times over), and I have deadlines that I must meet without fail. Excuses like "Windows ate my last assignment" are not acceptable when the publisher has printing deadlines of their own to meet. It's a good way to lose a contract job, which is why it was very important to me, early on, to learn how to take care of my computer systems and maintain as secure, stable and dependable work tools as possible.

Wrestling Windows into submission was NEVER easy. It was a process of many years, during which I killed many a system by experimenting (mostly trying to fix them after a crash). These days I maintain an uneasy truce with Windows, and my main system has now run steadily for 3 years without problems. I can tell that it's beginning to slow down a bit though, and constant vigilance is still required to stay on top of things.

Over the years my family and friends began to call and ask for help for their own computer problems. It's always been a labor of love for me to help them whenever I could. My son always showed tremendous patience with me whenever I'd call him for help, so it only seems right to pass that help on. Doing so also helped me to learn more and gain a little confidence with my own computers. Scary as it might seem to more tech-savvy folks, among my small circle of family and friends, I am the Tech Support Lady, not because I particularly know all that much, but because they know I'll do my best to help out, and to teach them whatever I learn without making them feel badly about making mistakes, which is why I always keep my eyes peeled for utilities and tools that can help make fixing ailing Windows systems faster and easier.

When I heard about Knoppix, I had to try it.

My Computers

I have 3 computers in the house, but the one I love and work with the most was given to me by my youngest son. He airbrushed pretty blue flames on the case, so I have to admit to being sentimental about keeping it running. The motherboard is an ABIT VP6, with dual PIII processors, 1GB RAM, and a rather elderly D-Link network card. It was a couple of years old when I inherited it, and I've used it for almost 5 years now. At one point its capacitors began to leak and needed to be sent off for repair, but that has been the only down time this computer has ever had. It is a dependable and much beloved work horse, and I'm rather proud of it.

The case cover isn't on it any more (I didn't want to chance scratching the wonderful paint job), and I've attached a mishmash of hard drives to it, in fact 2 are hanging outside of the case right now, braced on small cardboard boxes covered with anti-static bags, easy to unplug and swap with another, if necessary. I have the whole thing resting on the floor (not inside a desk enclosure), on a piece of wooden shelving with plastic "sliders" under it, so I can easily move it out to swap hardware when needed. This is the computer that I use to plug other people's hard drives in to to rescue files and run anti-virus on them. It only has one CD-burner on it.

I might add here that my ability to gracefully climb under my computer desk to "swap parts" has diminished considerably over the last few years (along with my enthusiasm for doing so). I can still manage it, but not without a few groans and crackles from knees and elbows.

All 3 computers in my house share a cable modem through a Netgear router. There are shared folders on all systems, and two external storage drives are connected by USB and mapped for easy access from the other computers. It's not a fancy setup, but it works. I try to keep things simple because I am not particularly knowledgeable about technical things and don't always have the time to figure them out. My main interest is doing work using my computer, not working on the computer itself.

I had helped save a couple of files (Word docs) off of a friend's ailing Windows computer, using Knoppix 3.8 on her computer, a system much newer than any of mine. That first experience doing a "for real" file rescue was a snap. Once Knoppix had booted up and opened to display the desktop, it showed icons of the two hard drives that were available.

In Windows, whenever I can't think of what to do next, I just try right-clicking on things to see what sort of menu choices I get. I found that it works in Knoppix too.

I right-clicked on each of those drive icons and found a nice menu. One thing I have learned from my adventures with Linux is that drives need to be "mounted" in order for them to be accessible. In the right-click menu the option to "mount" or "unmount" makes that task very easy to do. Opening a mounted drive only requires one click on the icon, or select "Open" from that same right-click menu. Pretty easy stuff.

The files that needed to be retrieved were all Word docs, and by clicking on the drive icon, navigating to and opening the folder where the Word docs were, I was able to copy and paste them into a disk in the floppy drive. Piece of cake.

The Big Files Rescue Operation Begins

I had another opportunity to use Knoppix recently when my niece was scheduled to bring her computer for me to look at.

My niece had called about her newest computer having "problems", and she said she would be bringing it over a few days later. Now I figured it'd be fun, just like my first trial run. Actually, it WAS kind of fun, and lots of things were easy, but it was not at all like my first file rescue using Knoppix. In part, it was because my computer is so old, I think, and mostly because it was a much larger project, saving everything on the computer, some files too big for a floppy.

My niece's computer is a Shuttle, with a Maxtor 250GB hard drive, 512MB RAM, and a Siluro FX5200 graphics card. I believe the network and sound cards are integrated into the motherboard.

I started on Saturday, and on Tuesday there were notes scattered from here (my studio room) to the kitchen (where the ailing computer is set up on my "island" counter). This time the rescue was not so simple, it was a long and wearying task. My niece's computer was completely unbootable. When I pulled her hard drive out and plugged it into my own computer, Windows wouldn't even recognize it, just popped up error boxes.

However, Knoppix not only recognized the drive, it let me access her files as well.

When Knoppix had the contents of her hard drive displayed on the screen, I asked which files she needed to save. She then began to point to folders that, added together, made up around 320MB. These files weren't just Word & Excel files (though there were plenty of those), they were AutoCad files (she works for an architect,so a great many of those files were .dwgs), client project files (she also does custom work for a remodelling company), images from job sites (about 200 of them), and her entire past portfolio of personal artwork. And she hadn't backed any of them up.

She had recently finished moving ALL of her archived portfolio of design and past client project files off of several zip disks, using her old external zip drive, onto her Shuttle. She had been in the process of organizing them for burning on CDs when her computer crashed. Her computer is a daily work tool for her, like mine is for me, so I understood her distress when it crashed and hoped to be able to help.

Getting Started

We set the Shuttle up in my kitchen and turned it on. As she had described earlier, it booted to the point of starting to load Windows then went to a blue screen and would go no further, not even in Safe mode.

I inserted the Knoppix Live CD into the CD drawer and restarted. We watched as Knoppix began listing the parts on her computer (I'm sorry not to be better at terminology), and it opened onto a screen that offered a choice of exiting entirely, or continuing to load into Knoppix. By hitting return (or "enter"), the desktop began to load.

Knoppix always opens a browser window first thing (Konquerer), which I closed. The desktop then displays a cheerful group of icons along the taskbar at the bottom of the screen. Rolling the cursor over just about anything in Knoppix will bring up small descriptions, so getting a basic idea of what those taskbar icons do is pretty easy.

Icons for all the drives that Knoppix "sees" are displayed right on the desktop.

From my previous experiments with the Knoppix Live CD, I knew where to find the "Home" directory from the taskbar (it's the house icon), and how to access the hard drives that are displayed as icons on the desktop (just click on 'em; remember to "mount" them first).

Because Knoppix displays the contents of a hard drive in the same way that Windows does, it was easy to navigate to the folder that my niece wanted rescued. I opened it and asked her to show me which files she needed. That's when she hesitantly confessed that she hadn't backed up any of her time sheets and other Word and Excel docs in over a week, and explained the fact that her entire portfolio of past projects and artwork was in there too (from those old zip disks), plus several folders full of photo files taken at job sites (.jpgs and .pngs).

All together there were 320MB worth of Auto-Cad, Excel, Word, .jpg, .png, Quicken, and TurboTax files. Many were not backed up anywhere.

Because her Shuttle doesn't have a floppy drive, and neither of us have USB thumb drives, I knew I would have to plug that hard drive into my own computer, which I did.

Once the Shuttle's hard drive was connected as a slave to my computer, I restarted into Windows hoping I could just run my anti-virus through that drive and then grab that huge block of files and transfer them directly to another drive. I've done that before many times on ailing windows drives. However, this time Windows wouldn't even recognize that drive at all. It popped up error boxes (I didn't write the Windows error messages down, but do remember that they contained exclamation points and discouraging words like "unreadable disk" & "I/O problems"). Windows couldn't even read the drive enough to do a scandisk, and my AV couldn't recognize the drive to run a virus check on it.

I was afraid to mess with it too much in Windows, so I put the Knoppix CD in the CD drawer and restarted my computer. I have learned that using Knoppix from CD does not touch or alter the hard drive at all, so I felt safer using it on that sick hard drive. All of the drives on my computer were listed as icons, and though I did get a few errors at first when I tried to open that damaged drive again, I kept trying and it did finally do it.

My first goal was to get a copy of those folders into the Knoppix "Home" directory where I could work with them away from the ailing hard drive. I didn't move all of them at once, because I knew that running Knoppix from CD means that there is only a limited amount of memory to work within. I'm afraid I only minimally understand how that works (magic, maybe? :o), but I did feel that it would be wisest to do things in smaller workable chunks. I asked her to prioritize those files and tell me which ones to go for first. I stressed that, not knowing how close that drive might be to total failure, there were no guarantees that I could save them all, if any.

I don't think she really understood my pessimism, but did point to some folders that she felt were most urgent to save, about 129MB worth...and then she left for work.

Planning a course of action

Left to myself to think the project through and (I hoped) to come up with a solution that didn't involve using the floppy drive, I began looking through the various bundled programs in Knoppix and found K3b for CD burning. I ran the program and could see that it recognized my Lite-on CD burner...which was where the Knoppix Live CD was sitting at the time.

Now, I know this will likely sound dumb to others, but I remembered once when I had installed an upgrade to one of my Adobe programs from CD, during the authorization process, when the installer asked where to find the previous version for the upgrade, if it couldn't find the "prev install" folder on the hard drive it instructed the user to insert the original CD in the drive instead, and even says that it's ok to take the upgrade CD out and replace it with the original CD if necessary. Which I remember doing, and the Adobe installation and authentication process continued just fine, though to go beyond that stage it did require the upgrade installation CD to be reinserted.

I don't know if I explained that very well, but basically I wondered if Knoppix could actually let me replace the Knoppix Live CD with a blank CD for a short time, and let me burn those files. (Hey, nothing ventured, nothing gained :o)

It didn't work, but I learned something by trying and didn't despair. I just decided to install a second CD burner on my computer. Piece of Cake. I didn't think it would take but a few minutes to do.

Now, over the years I've acquired a variety of rag-tag computer parts, and in my cupboard there were several orphaned, slightly dusty CD drives lined up like books on the shelf. I had no idea if any of them actually worked, so I piled them up beside my computer desk and picked one to try. Two hours later, I had a Lite-on DVDR-W installed and recognized by Knoppix (I had pulled it out of my niece's Shuttle).

*My CD installation adventures during those two hours would make quite a humorous tale (with bits of slapstick that Laural and Hardy might appreciate), but it's best left to another time. I'll just note here that the knees and elbows were now groaning and crackling quite emphatically.

Because I had shut my computer down to install the CDburner, I had to once again boot into Knoppix, open the ailing hard drive (it still took several tries before it opened), and copy those folders back to the Knoppix "Home" directory.

I opened K3b again and was pretty excited to see the second burner listed for me to select, so I proceeded to give it a try. I navigated to the "Home" directory and dragged those folders into the Data Project window and hit the "Burn" icon with great anticipation.

Everything looked like it would work, but very shortly into the process an error box popped up. I am sorry to say that I didn't write it down. I am not a good multitasker and tend to get too absorbed in things...I'm also a little forgetful. Sorry.

The next idea was to try to move those files to another drive on my computer. My first choice was an external USB storage drive. However, when I tried copying and pasting a file to that drive, I got an error message that said: "Could not write to /mnt/uba1/archway.dwg"

I right-clicked on the desktop icon for that USB drive, and found an option to change the read/write permissions. So, thinking that might be a solution, I chose that. A dialog box popped up that asked "Make partition/dev/uba1 writable?" (I checked, "Yes")

I was asked to confirm: "Do you really want to change partition/dev/uba1 to be writable?" I chose "Yes" again, and it only took a second or two for that change to be made and confirmed.

I tried once more to copy/paste a file to that USB drive. That's when a rather disconcerting warning message popped up:

X Error

Warning: "The partition/dev/uba1 is of type NTFS! Writing to this file system can cause data loss. You can try using the captive-ntfs driver (see Knoppix utility menu), or only do write operations manually & expect to have to reinstall the file system afterwards. This dialog won't do this risky thing for you, and will quit now without changing anything."

Quite polite and to the point, and I felt that it was best not to argue. I also appreciated a program that would not do anything risky for me. Feeling that I might be getting in over my head if I tried to mess with file systems, I decided to look for something that was more within my newbie abilities.

That's when I decided to just install Knoppix to a hard drive. Then I could set up my own passwords and give myself "root" authority. I felt it was very likely that I could burn a CD from an installed Knoppix.

So, I installed it. I had a short little video tutorial on installing Knoppix from a website called irongeek. I ran that tutorial on another computer (which is basically a storage computer on the other desk in my office that I use as a juke box to play music while I work...it has a CD burner, but no floppy drive).

Because I didn't want to inadvertently mess up anything on my other drives during the Knoppix install, I unplugged all of them and pulled a spare little 20GB drive from my spare parts cupboard and plugged it in. The Knoppix installation was a breeze, not one single problem, and within 30 minutes I was booted into Knoppix for real. How fun!

Unfortunately, the ailing Windows drive wasn't accessible from within the installed Knoppix. I don't know why, or what made the difference, but no matter what I tried, Knoppix just wouldn't open that drive anymore. I was heartbroken and very upset, afraid that I might have somehow caused the drive to fail entirely.

At this point, there were thunderstorms brewing outside, so I powered everything down and quit for the night.

Day 2

Around noon the following day, I decided to try the Live CD once more, just to see if it might read that hard drive one more time. It took a few attempts and I almost gave up, but it DID open at last.

After moving a chunk of those files into the Home directory again, I began digging through them to see what I was dealing with. It was becoming clearer to me that I might not have many more chances to save anything from that Windows drive, so I considered just seeing how much I could get transferred by using the floppy drive, if it came to that.

The bad news was that many of the folders were full of other folders, which were full of zipped files, which were full of more folders with more zipped files.

The good news was that when I unzipped them using a little utility that comes bundled in Knoppix called Ark, most of the individual files were of a size that would fit on a floppy disk. I was extremely impressed with Ark, it made the job of unzipping and organizing the files into floppy-sized chunks a breeze. It literally runs rings around WinZip.

My next task was to see if any of my old floppies were even still good. I hadn't used them in ages. I actually found about 30 of them in a box. So, the file transferring task began.

The only other computer I have with a floppy drive, is a little-used, rather elderly machine (without a CDburner) located at the other end of the house. It is connected to my network though, and has a shared folder. I spent the rest of the day copying files to floppies and carrying them to the other room, feeding them into the old computer's shared folder, then coming back to fill up some more. I had to stop once again for thunderstorms (and food and sleep), and called my niece with the good news that I had about 2/3 of her files saved. She was glad to hear it, but asked if I could, please, keep trying to save the rest.

There was one folder in particular that I was afraid would be too much to save...and of course, that was the very one she wanted the most. I didn't have the heart to say no, or to stop trying.

Day 3

I held my breath the next morning as I fired up the Knoppix CD once more. It took several tries, but Knoppix is a trooper and opened the drive again, and I started the process of filling floppies again.

When I got to the image folder there were over 200 images. Many were too large to fit on a floppy. So, I opened The Gimp image editor and saved them as .jpgs, which brought up a slider allowing me to reduce the file size. It reduced the quality a bit as well, but at least the image was saved.

By afternoon a friend pitched in to help me with the transfers, as I filled floppies, he fed them into the other computer, while I filled more. It helped a lot.

By 7:30PM that evening, Knoppix, a couple of floppy drives, and 30 blank floppy disks had helped save 308MB of files. I immediately ran a virus scan and then transferred the whole thing to a computer with a CD burner and burned it all on CD.

By 8:00PM I had both the DVD drive and the sickly Maxtor drive back in the Shuttle with the Maxtor analysis utility running, and my own computer put back to normal. The little 20GB drive with Knoppix installed was unplugged (I'm still a little shy about trying a dual boot setup with Windows). Then I had to get back to my job for a while.

It was a long and wearying few days, but I was proud that with a lot of patience and that little Knoppix CD, I managed to recover 309 MB of files.

There were some very frustrating moments. I could see those files and open them, and saving them to floppy was easy, but because there were so MANY I really didn't want to have to break them down and save them one floppy at a time. I've since found information about burning CDs here: http://www-128.ibm.com/developerworks/linux/library/l-cdburn.html .

With all the files saved (and checked over with my anti-virus program) I was free to try to get that Windows system repaired and running, but it was not repairable. It was (as the Munchkins declared of the squashed witch in the Wizard of Oz) "not merely dead, but truly, most sincerely dead".

Lessons Learned

Looking back I have to laugh, because it was a little like a crew of teeny-tiny tug boats rescuing the cargo off of a big wallowing tanker. Transferring files onto and off of floppies was such a slow process -- waiting for the little floppy drives to stop ticktickticking each time was a serious lesson in patience.

That should be the end of the story, but there is a little follow up. I wrote to PJ and told her the experiences I'd had with my niece's Shuttle, and she asked if I could try again to burn a CD, maybe be more specific with the steps I took, and suggested that I not do anything to that ailing hard drive yet, because maybe some readers might know how to save the rest of the files from it.

So, this morning I plugged the 20GB drive with Knoppix installed back in to my computer, also pulled that DVD-RW drive back out of the Shuttle and added it back into my computer, and booted into Knoppix.

In the installed Knoppix, I opened K3b again and was given a "writer Speed Verification" box. The speed for my older Lite-on is 40x and the default setting was correct. Both Lite-ons were listed, and the blank CD was acknowledged, but the DVD-RW drive was greyed out.

I picked some random files off of one of my hard drives and pasted them into the Home directory, and then dragged them into the Data Project window in K3b and hit the "Burn" icon. That CD was burned in the blink of an eye! It was SO easy that it made me laugh. I loved it.

I'm rather proud of saving those files off that drive even though I apparently did it the hardest way possible. I'll likely look back on this weekend someday and laugh at my muddling efforts. I still have much to learn about GNU/Linux.

What are my conclusions about using Knoppix, or any GNU/Linux software as a newbie? Is it too hard for ordinary users to figure out?

Well, I USED to believe that, mostly because I had read it so often. I don't know about anyone else, but I can't think of one single skill in this world that doesn't require at least a little bit of patience and effort to learn.

I used to think that, for longtime Windows users like me, using GNU/Linux would feel like visiting an alien planet. But it's not that way at all, especially not in the newer versions. To me, it's been more like visiting a new friend's house. The furniture and floor plan might be different from yours in your home, and there might be different pictures on the walls, but the things that matter are basically the same. For instance, the faucets still work like faucets, the toilet flushes like any other, the refrigerator door takes no time to figure out, and there's no problem understanding which room is the kitchen and which is a bedroom.

It would not take long to wander down hallways and open a few doors (with the host's kind permission, of course) to learn your way around the main areas of a new house. Knoppix is very much like that. A great many things work in standard ways. It's not at all scary to explore, in fact exploring seems to be encouraged, and it doesn't take long to feel at home with Knoppix. I liked seeing at one point during the boot process, that the word "Welcome" is displayed in several different languages. It's a nice touch.

There is definitely some learning needed to do more complex things with Knoppix, but anyone that thinks the basics might be hard to learn will be pleasantly surprised to find how very easy it is. Personally, I honestly wouldn't want an OS that I couldn't grow with.

If you think about it, most people just learn a few basic things with Windows programs and don't mess with more complex things. It's easy to keep to simple things in Knoppix as well.

Was I disappointed that some things didn't work for me as I hoped on my first attempt? No. The bottom line is that an ordinary newbie user just managed to save 309MB of files, using a variety of tools on Knoppix, like Arc, Gimp, OpenOffice (I used OO to turn several documents into PDFs), and even though I was not able to successfully burn CDs while using Knoppix Live from CD, the K3b software worked like a charm in my installed version of Knoppix.

I attempted a rescue that happened to be a bit larger and more complex than I was prepared for, but that was not the fault of Knoppix. When I used it the first time to save just a couple of files, it worked perfectly. In fact, when all else failed, Knoppix just worked. When I booted into my Knoppix installation the last time, I was able to relax and explore a little. It is just plain nice!

Are there things about Knoppix that are too complex for newbies? Sure, but there are also a HUGE amount of things that are not only friendly to users, but LOTS easier to use than the Windows equivalent.

Also, my old computer runs SO fast when running the installed Knoppix that I am floored! And, the very nicest part of all is that I can now burn LOTS of Knoppix Live CDs and give them away! In fact, I've done quite a bit of that.

I have known for a long time now that I never would upgrade my Win2K systems to any newer Windows versions. I also want to help my family and friends get off of the Windows treadmill. I am more confident now than ever before that GNU/Linux is the way to go.

I've wanted to learn how to install a GNU/Linux system for a very long time, but whenever I'd read articles or posts on forums that stated that Linux was still too complex and "not ready for grandma yet", I always felt discouraged, sure that it would be too difficult for me to learn. I really was a little afraid of it.

Then it occurred to me that all of those posts and articles over the years that kept me discouraged might have been intended to do just that. Fear is the first part of FUD, after all, and I fell for it. Hmmmph. Hanging out for a little while each day at Groklaw -- one of the FUD-Bustingest websites around -- has helped a lot to dispel the fear factor.

I've been impressed and happily surprised at how much fun it has been to use and learn Knoppix and other Linux software. Even with my systems that have a lot of old hardware (which would be all of them), I've been amazed at how much is recognized immediately when I experiment with installing different operating systems. So far I like SuSE the best, but I still have a few hardware issues to work out with it. I have Mandriva on one spare hard drive, and it was pretty easy to install, and now I have Knoppix on another. I'm still running Windows 2KPro on my main system, but I I am slowly whittling away at the need to have it at all.

So if you think it's too hard for you, think again, and give Knoppix a whirl, ideally before you need to use it as a rescue vehicle. If I can do it, anyone can. And that's the truth.