Thursday, January 17, 2013

Unburdening

For the last couple of years, I've been running a bit of software called Secunia Personal Software Inspector (PSI). What this thing claims to do is keep a list of all the current software on your PC and alert you any time there is a newer version available. At first it worked great. According to the initial scan, I had several programs that were out of date. I updated those, turned on their auto-update option and, "Ta da!!!" A score of 100%. Things went along OK until PSI started nagging me about Open Office being out of date. When I went into Open Office, auto update was on. I told it to go check for the latest version. It tells me I have the latest version. I went to the Open Office web site. Ahhhhhh. The front page had an announcement that anyone who wanted to mess with the latest beta version could download it. I'm not sure how PSI updates version numbers in its database, but if it scrapes them from the main page of of the software vendor, I could see how PSI got confused.

That problem eventually resolved itself and things went back to normal for several months. Sometimes PSI would flag a problem, but I found if I just let it be, an auto update would pop up and make PSI all warm and fuzzy again. Then one bright, sunny Florida day, I get a big pop-up from PSI doing the whole, "Warning, warning Will Robinson!" thing on my screen. Suddenly, I have three things out of date: Adobe Reader, Java, and Windows XML blah blah somethin' somethin'. OK, Adobe Reader is the easy one; download and install the latest version, then go into each browser and update the Adobe Reader add-on, shut everything down, reboot, rerun the scan. No joy. Hmmm. Then I remember that Chrome has its own sort-of built-in Reader. Maybe there is a lag between Adobe release and getting a new version of Chrome with the latest version built in.

OK, ignore Adobe. On to Microsoft. I click on PSI's link to Microsoft update. I end up on some page about ten layers down inside the Microsoft.com domain going on about some update to XP. Screw that. Lets try Java. The problem there is just what am I supposed to be updating? Java SE? Java JRE? Java BunnyFuFu? Then there is the Java versioning system where monstrosities like Java BunnyFuFu version 1.6/6.2/3.7.11.34 is considered a perfectly rational way to number software versions. After wasting close to an hour, I decided to hell with it. I'd just live with three out-of-date programs. At some point, an auto update would shut PSI up.

It wasn't to be. In the last five months, I've installed at least a dozen updates to Adobe Reader, three different species of Java,  Windows, Chrome. None have made PSI any happier. Then this morning, PSI went into nuclear meltdown mode. I decided that's it, I'm either cleaning this mess up, or I dump PSI off a cliff. After a half hour of digging around, installing, rebooting, rinse-and-repeat, I was able to get all the new programs and Adobe Reader off the list. I knew there were major updates to Java thanks to some hacker figuring out a way to use it to take over people's lives. Another round of digging, installing, rebooting, rinsing-and-repeating, and, "Voila!" I was down to just one thing left...

[Insert Dramatic Chipmunk here]

This Windows XML thing. PSI swore up and down that this was a serious threat to my PC. Fine. I clicked the link to Windows Update again and this time was taken to my PC's Windows Update application. Progress of a sort. I had no important updates waiting, but there were four optional updates. None said anything about XML, but a couple were just mass updates. Maybe what I needed was buried in one of those. Installed everything, rebooted, rescanned and...

Secunia PSI now listed six different versions of Windows XML with version numbers running from 3.n to 6.n. According to PSI, 4.n was the current version.

Enough. Secunia PSI is buh-bye.

While messing about with that, I noticed that IE was opening up to some search engine I'd never heard of. I didn't write it down like I should have mostly because I was in fire-and-sword mode by this time. My default search engine was supposed to be Google, but when I went into IE's search engine management, the only ones available were Bing and this Miss Clarol or whatever it was called. Tell IE to "install" Google, make that the default, delete the other two and reboot IE. Back to the search engine from hell, and the only search engines available are Bing and Crapsearch. I go into Uninstall Programs slashing and burning everything that starts with the letter C. There were at least five programs installed that were all linked together. Then off to the registry for more mahem. Reboot the computer, start up IE and another ta da.

Now I was really in a mood. When the dust settled (think crazed massage robot on WALL-E taking out the cruise ship's entire security force and you're getting close), the list of installed programs was about half as long as when I started. Nothing like a good purge. And the PC is humming along nicely again.

A few news items that caught my eye:

A man in Sandy Hook helped a group of six kids who had just watched their teacher get shot, and a school bus driver leading them away from the school. His reward? Being constantly harassed by tinfoil-hat douche bags. He has been overwhelmed by e-mail, mail and phone calls accusing him of working for the government in a staged shooting. I have no idea what these ass clowns think they're accomplishing. If anyone is working for Obama to eliminate gun rights, they are.

The basketball coach at some fancy prep school in California has been disciplining players by making them stand for hours with their feet and hands zip-tied together and clothespins on their nipples. Barney Fife from the local PD is quick to assure us that the nipple thing was probably not sexual, just sadistic. Me thinks Barney needs to type "sado-masochism" into Google and learn the two are not mutually exclusive. Anyway, what I want to know is, did it work? Do zip-ties and nipple pinching produce superior basketball players? That is the purpose of school, after all. That whole learning thing is so Paleo. What we want from our schools is a steady stream of gladiators... er.... athletes to fill up all 74 ESPN channels with never-ending sports for our entertainment. Right? Right?!?

Then we have more nipple play over at the Manhattan Soccer Club right on the club's logo. Unfortunately, the article doesn't address whether this makes better soccer players, and instead talks about the flue and why players are no longer allowed to high five or do the handshake thing with the other team at the end of the game. Two thoughts: If the flu is so bad that a high five could result in a players death, then maybe soccer season should just be canceled. And what good does banning high-fives do when you simultaneously encourage players to manipulate each others' mammaries?

And finally we have a college hoop star involved in a bar fight. He and a teammate walk into a bar, drunk douche bag takes a swing at hoop star, teammate knocks out DDB with a single punch to the head. Then hoop star displays his amazing lack of judgement, as well as deep confusion regarding which sport he plays, by attempting to kick a field goal with now-unconscious DDB's head. In keeping with the news media's inability to get to the bottom of the story, the important question is never asked: Did hoop star's high school coach force him to wear clothespins on his nipples? Is nipple-pinching like steroids? A little can give you a real edge, but too much makes you grow a Neanderthalish beetle-brow and go on rampages? Inquiring minds want to know....

On the home front, we continue to putter around doing repairs, cleaning and yard work, as long as it costs little or no money. The one thing we did purchase is a clothesline (no clothespins though). It's in the middle of the floor still in the box. Given the current pace of work, it should be up early spring 2017. I should probably take some pictures of the stuff we're doing, but now I'm too busy researching the history of nipple-pinching as an athletic training tool. So far, I've found references going back to the Greek marathon runners.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Merry New Year!

Well, it's 2013, which means every check we send out for the next several months will have the incorrect year on it. It's also time to clean out the Past Reading list. We missed our goal of collectively reading 100 books every year by a mere 3 books. Still not bad when you consider that this was not only another moving year, but a 2-month-renovation-to-the-new-digs year as well. Still, I feel like a slacker whenever we miss that goal.

Speaking of renovations, we're still plugging away at making this place more livable. We spent most of New Year's Day rearranging the shed, throwing stuff out, moving stuff from the trailer to the shed, etc. We made a bit more room for ourselves and much more room in the shed. The bikes are still outside under bike covers, but I'm not giving up on the idea of them living in the shed along with all the paraphernalia like lights, saddlebags, etc. That would clean out a full shelf in our bedroom. I'm sure it would be quickly filled up again with stuff lurking somewhere hidden, but progress is progress. And we finally unloaded the electric hot water heater that's been sitting unused in the back of the Florida room since early July, although we got less than a third what we paid for it. All I cared about was getting the thing out of my house and out of my life. We're currently short on cash thanks to our $5,000 dental bill, but I still have an entire to-do list that involves nothing but sweat to get done. Those to-do's should be kicked out over the next month or so, but a lot of that depends on....

I'm still hustling for some place to park my carcass for tax season. I'll be spending time today and tomorrow following up on the strongest lead so far. Their process is something like twenty steps long, and these are the last three steps, so I should know something by the end of the week. I have a couple other strong leads here in town, but I can almost guarantee I wouldn't be making near the money I will be if Plan A pans out.

I'm still waiting for the official word on the last-minute "fiscal cliff" deal. From what I've been able to piece together so far is that anyone making less than $50,000 will have slightly less money in their pocket, those making between $50,000 and $400,000 may or may not see a bit more of their gross earnings in 2013, and those making over $400,000 will be paying a great deal more. In theory, of course. I'm sure their tax attorneys are busy looking for tax strategies to nullify any tax increases on their clients. Meanwhile, the real questions, like how one-third of the country working for shrinking wages are supposed to support the other two-thirds in the manner to which they have become accustomed, got another kick down the road.

The New Year is supposed to be a time for predictions and resolutions. I'll start with the easiest: resolutions. We don't have any other than surviving another year without ending up living in a dumpster behind Denny's or murdering the Bitch Who Lives Next Door. (That last one is still up in the air depending on if we can figure out a way to not get caught.)

As far as predictions, I expect America's slow, downward spiral to continue. The Fed will continue to shovel $80 billion a month into the to-big-to-fail (TBTF) banks, barely offsetting the currency that is disappearing from debt deflation. Jon Corzine will continue wandering around free, as will all the rest of the TBTF banksters that in a country with any respect for the rule of law would be cellmates of Bernie Madoff. We will continue to lie about becoming energy independent even as the production of shale oil goes into decline due to rapid depletion and the bursting of the investment bubble around it. Natural gas prices will continue to tick up towards the $8-per-unit needed to pay for production as current shale gas wells continue to go into decline and the burned investors make raising more capital for new ones difficult. The increase in natural gas prices will also cause electricity to become more expensive. (56% of electricity in Florida is generated with natural gas, more than double what is generated with coal and five times what is generated with nuclear.) Our "leaders" in government and finance will continue to insist that what they've been doing for the last five years will solve all our problems if we keep on doing what hasn't worked while we screw our eyes shut, click our heels three times while saying "There's no place like home!"

Merry 2013.