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Why Acer's new Android desktops are a game-changer

This year at CES, Acer is introducing two new desktops – yes, you read that correctly, desktops – running the wildly successful variant of Linux known as Android. They're cleverly positioning these exactly as I've been predicting for a long time: as monitors. They're monitors with video inputs that the luddites can connect to a computer running Windows 8, complete with touchscreen input. But they also have a full Android stack available, which will operate independently with no external computer attached.

Why is this relevant?

At the current price point set by Acer, it isn't. However, we should hope to expect that this will become the norm for all new monitors, just like televisions now include “Smart TV” features. Mass production of SoC (system on a chip) components will make it a no-brainer for even cheap monitors.

Now imagine your typical Windows luddite, trying to get something done on their old-fashioned desktop computer, when Windows does what it always does: it fails. If our luddite has technical knowledge, he may be faced with setting aside his work or research or whatever, and spending the next couple of hours repairing or reinstalling Windows. If our luddite is a nontechnical consumer, he will have to stop and wait for someone to come and help – or, possibly, spending money at the local computer shop having Windows fixed again.

But wait! Our luddite suddenly remembers that there is another computer built into the monitor. He unplugs the mini-tower and boots into Android. He's back on the Internet and he has a working computer again. The day is saved! After a few days, he begins to realize that he doesn't need the Windows hassle, and stuffs the mini-tower up into the attic, never to be seen again. Our newly minted non-luddite is now a happy Linux desktop user. He doesn't ever have to worry about viruses, spyware, lost data, or being regularly gouged for money by Microsoft.

This, my friends, is the Network Computing vision of the mid 1990's. Thanks to mobile data, ubiquitous Internet connectivity, and excellent Linux client operating systems like Android, it is rapidly becoming a reality. Windows has no place in the post-PC era, and Android desktops are accelerating the pace of adoption.



Posted by IGnatius T Foobar on Sat Jan 04 2014 15:42:33 EST
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I hate clarinets. And here's why.

When asked the simple question:

Which instruments do you play, Ig? 


I gave the answer...

Recorder (C and F), flute, guitar, keyboards, and a bit of teh drums. And I have a three octave vocal range. 


But I couldn't just stop there.  Not when I was given the chance, like Dr. Heinz Doofenschmirtz, to tell another emotionally scarring backstory.

As is the case with every child receiving a public school education in the People's Socialist Communist Republic of New York, I played the recorder in third grade. It's just a standard part of the music curriculum for that year, and I loved it. 

Fourth grade came along and I was told that the instrumental music program was available to us and I could select an instrument and play in the band too. Naturally I said that I wanted to continue playing the recorder. And of course I was told that the recorder was not a band instrument and I would have to select something else. 

And here's where it all went wrong. Mr. Salingo, the instrumental music teacher at the school, confidently told me that if I liked playing the recorder, I would like playing the clarinet. 


I hated playing it, I hated practicing, to the point where I would deliberately break the reeds to prematurely end practice sessions ... at one point I started making tape recordings of myself practicing so I could play them back the next day behind a closed door, which worked great until my stupid bitch sister ratted me out. 

So, one must ask, why did Mr. Salingo offer me a painful clarinet experience when he knew that a concert flute plays in the same key as a recorder, in the same register as a recorder, with almost exactly the same fingerings as a recorder? The only answer I can imagine is that he had it in his mind that the flute is a "girl's instrument." So I played the clarinet for a year and gave up on it, and missed out on what would have been some very cool band experiences in high school. 

My stupid bitch sister, when she reached fourth grade, played the flute for a year, and gave up on it because band was just not her thing. But for some reason, the instrument found its way into our attic instead of back to the school or rental place or wherever it came from. 

In college I picked up the recorder again and played with some very cool people in an ensemble. It was a lot of fun. We played in on-campus events and around the community as well. The instructor for the group was Professor Charles Scanzello, one of an extremely small number of people I can truly call mentors. He was scatter brained and disorganized, but he poured his love for music and community into everything he did. He was the one who encouraged me to pick up the F fingerings, which enabled me to play sopranino and alto recorders. 

All this time, most of my friends were band people, mainly because my best friend was/is a guy who stuck with the band program and he was also the one through whom I met most of my other friends. I had longed to play in the band all that time. So one day I remembered hearing at one point that the fingerings for a C recorder and a concert flute were almost identical, and I remembered that my stupid bitch sister's old flute was still in the attic. That summer I went home and taught myself how to play the flute. 

The next fall I returned to campus and joined the marching band. And yes, I was the only male flutist in the band. Imagine that: just me, and a bunch of cute co-eds. And they were all my type. In fact, I ended up marrying one of them. So it's an emotionally scarring backstory, but one that eventually has a happy ending.  I do hope that Mr. Salingo is retired by now and not foisting his agenda on another generation of children.  To this day, however, I hate clarinets.  I hate everything about them.

Posted by IGnatius T Foobar on Wed Dec 11 2013 14:49:02 EST
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I admit it.  I'm into schadenfreude.  I know it's not a psychologically or spiritually healthy pleasure, but having spent my entire childhood (and several major episodes during my adulthood) being abused by bullies, I can't help but take delight when the "karma's a bitch" equation completes itself and misfortune lands upon the head of someone who so richly deserves it.


Over at Uncensored we had a "recurring villain" who would show up from time to time and derail every thread he could wedge his keyboard into.  He went by the screen name "Curly Surmudgeon" and was pretty extreme about everything.  He'd frequently claim that anyone who isn't a militant atheist like him is clinically insane.  He'd force rather bizarre political views down everyone's throats and say very rude and disturbing things about anyone who tried to steer the discussion back on course.  He was a tinfoil hatted lunatic who ran OpenBSD.  When he was asked to leave he screamed about censorship.  Insults flew in every direction, and when someone randomly called him a pedophile he suddenly came completely unhinged and started threatening to sue everyone involved for defamation of character.

A few years later we have just discovered that, as a matter of public record, he actually is a pedophile, having been arrested on some pretty serious child pornography charges.   I think that pretty much slams the door shut on any possible libel or slander lawsuits.  Couldn't have happened to a nicer person.  :)

There are limits to my schadenfreude, though.  Despite the delight of imagining his tinfoil-hatted head exploding after having a government-issued tracking device strapped to his ankle, I hope and pray that this incident will truly convict him and get him thinking, reflecting, etc. and eventually repent before he has to stand before the God that he spent his entire life trash-talking.


There's another bit of schadenfreude in my life right now, and it will culminate in a delightful celebration early next year.

As many of you know, I am a nerd.  I like computers, I hate sports.  I can play four instruments but I despise popular culture.  I'd rather have a chess board in front of me than a dance floor.  I can name all the characters on the original Star Trek but I could count the number of reality show characters whose names I know on one hand -- even if you cut my fingers off.

So it's no surprise that my childhood was pretty miserable.  I was unpopular, I was un-cool, I didn't get invited to parties, and I seldom had more than a handful of people I could truly call my friends.  My sister, on the other hand ... was a cheerleader.  She was popular and trendy and cool and had lots of friends.  We have always been opposites in every way; if we didn't have a Sebastian-and-Viola resemblance to each other I would really doubt that we were even really related.  But she was my sister, and she could be the one person who could give me some street cred, right?  The one person who could socially prop me up?

Nope.  Instead of helping me out, she made it worse.  She distanced herself from me as much as possible, assuming that I would be toxic to her reputation.  "Oh he's a total loser," she'd tell everyone.

Fast forward a few decades.  I now have a gorgeous wife, beautiful children, a nice house in the quiet suburbs, and a successful career.  What's she up to?  Well, let's just say that she still likes to "party like it's 1999."  In other words, she still acts like a 25 year old, hanging out with her friends and consuming way too much alcohol.  She doesn't have the things she really wants: a family and a meaningful career.  So it is no small pleasure for me to count down to her 40th birthday early next year. 

Turning 40, no husband, no kids.  Karma's a bitch, bitch.

Posted by IGnatius T Foobar on Thu Nov 28 2013 18:54:23 EST
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We're aaaaaaaaaall connecteddd...
It was probably 1983 or so when New York Telephone (now Verizon) upgraded our exchange from electromechanical switching to an AT&T 5ESS.  I clearly remember the day when I finished dialing a friend's number and didn't hear that satisfying "ka-CHUNK" indicating that you had successfully dropped a trunk line and the call was on its way.  I also remember shortly after that, using touch-tone on our line even though "we didn't have that service."

Adding touch-tone to a line served by mechanical switch required modifications that really did cost telco money.  On an electronic switch it was just an intrinsic part of the system, but for several years they tried to get away with continuing to charge extra for it.  I used tone dial on my modem and when telco tried to slap us with the fee we told them, "nope, not paying for it, shut the service off."  I knew they didn't have the ability to do that, so they simply took the fee off the bill.

That was a generation ago, when my dad was skeptical that I could even make a touch tone dialer work, and even more skeptical when he brought in the phone bill and I told him we can easily refuse to pay for tone service.  Today, my kids wouldn't know how to use a rotary phone if they saw one (Wes would probably figure it out, he's into that kind of stuff) but it's fun to think about how the dialing isn't even decoded by a switch at the telco, but rather by a 612A ONT in the basement that terminates the analog leg and sends the call out digitally over fiber optic cable between my home and the central office.   And long distance is billed at a flat monthly rate -- who'd have ever thought?

Posted by IGnatius T Foobar on Mon Nov 18 2013 07:48:55 EST
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John Calvin and his spiritual elitism

Ok folks, a few words here about a little thing called respect. Respect is not something to which everyone is entitled regardless of their behavior. Furthermore, things like age, position, status, etc. do not make someone worthy of respect. Respect is earned. If you go through life lying, cheating, and abusing people as if you were some sort of gangster, I don't care where it's gotten you in life: you don't deserve respect, you deserve all the scorn that is heaped upon you from all directions.

A couple of days ago I heaped a big pile of scathing criticism upon a prominent public figure. I consider this particular public figure to be so completely devoid of propriety that I often call into question whether he is even human. To my surprise, I became the target of a personal attack by a 'helpful' friend who suggested that I have fallen out of favor with God because of this display.

(Go ahead and do your double-take now, I'll wait...)

I happen to know that this person enthusiastically subscribes to the theology of spiritual elitism known as Calvinism. After taking a little time to become more familiar with this theology, I realize that it would have been really entertaining if I'd been around to see God bitch-slap John Calvin and say 'Dude, wtf is this bullshit you've been telling everyone about me?' If you're a Christian and/or have even a passing familiarity with the Bible, you know that salvation is by grace, not by our own good works, and that none of us is righteous enough to save ourselves. Calvinism does an end run around the Bible by making the claim that God's grace is not available to everyone -- it's only available to a select few, and the Calvinists then attempt to manipulate your behavior by suggesting that how you behave is an indicator as to whether you are one of those select few.

(Go ahead, check your Bible; yes, you're right, it doesn't say that anywhere.)

Calvinism suggests that a new birth is by God who chooses to select certain people. It says that Man does not have a free will by which he is able to come to Christ for salvation. Now although Almighty God is omniponent and knows whether or not each of us will ultimately repent, Calvinism suggests that it's already been decided for each of us. This goes against most of what the Bible teaches us about repentance; for example, in Acts 17:30 God "commands all people everywhere to repent." And in 2 Peter 3:9 we learn that God is "not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." Perhaps more importantly, Acts 16:31 promises that if you "believe in the Lord Jesus ... you will be saved." It does not say to believe after you are saved.

Guess who 'the elect' are in Calvinism? You guessed it: other Calvinists. This kind of spiritual elitism is exactly the reason so many people are turned off by what someone once called 'pushy religionists'. Believe what we do, act like we do, worship exactly the same way we do, otherwise you're going to burn in Hell!

I'm here to tell you that God's grace is available to everyone. And I'm also here to tell you that God loves you even if John Calvin doesn't. He also loves you even if I don't (which is good -- I'd be a terrible God because there are a lot of people who really piss me off). One of my big mantras is 'meet people where they are, not where you want them to be.' This means that you need to be compassionate, not judgmental.

Posted by IGnatius T Foobar on Tue Dec 28 2010 18:52:00 EST
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