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UPDATE 1/6/08: As of this morning, the article has been updated to include an amusing disclaimer/apology. Also, item #5 has been changed to read as follows (changed portion in bold):

5. Clean out your computer

Photos, videos, music and unneeded applications — and the files that you download to install them — can also slow down and clutter up your computer.

Go to the place where you store these items on your computer, and choose the view them by “details.” or “list,” if you are on a Mac.

Then click on “Size” to sort your items by how big they are. Try to delete as many large files as you can. If you are unsure about deleting a file, looking at the “Date Modified” field to see the last time you used that file may help you decide.

Another piece of clutter that you can remove are installer .exe files used to install programs from the Internet such as iTunes or Firefox . Once you have downloaded the installer .exe and you’ve installed the program, there’s no need to hang on to that file. The equivalents on a Mac are .dmg files downloaded to install programs.

I still think it’s bad advice for a general audience publication. It’s also amusing that the “disclaimer” doesn’t mention that the last paragraph of item #5 has been completely changed. But I printed a copy before it was updated.

(Original post follows):

Today’s Orlando Sentinel website has a “tech advice column” written by some USDA Certified Douchebag Moron with the tech expertise of a green bean.

Why am I being so harsh? Well, the article has lots of fodder, but it’s item #5 that caused this article to get greenlighted on Fark.com:

5. Clean out your computer

Photos, videos, music and unneeded applications — and the files that you download to install them — can also slow down and clutter up your computer.

Go to the place where you store these items on your computer, and choose the view them by “details.” or “list,” if you are on a Mac.

Then click on “Size” to sort your items by how big they are. Try to delete as many large files are you can. If you are unsure about deleting a file, looking at the “Date Modified” field to see the last time you used that file may help you decide.

The same thing goes for .exe files, which are the files you download to install a program. Once you have a program installed, there’s no need to hang on to the .exe file that you used to install it. The equivalents on a Mac are .dmg files.

Lemme just get this out of the way real quick:

Do Not Delete .exe Files From Your PC

There, that’s better. Now, some of you are mentally adding caveats to this, such as “Unless you know what you’re doing” and “Without making sure they are not needed”. Sure, those caveats are good. But the fundamental advice that people should not delete files from their computer unless they know what they’re doing is something that is only heard by people who don’t need to hear it.

Even my mother knows better than this. I read her the relevant bit, and she gave me a horrified look and said “But aren’t .exe files the programs on the computer?” Yes. Yes they are. Deleting setup packs (installation programs) from your PC is something you can do to clean up a bit, but 1) not all .exe programs are setup packs, and 2) not all setup packs are .exe files. Setup packs are sometimes just .zip files that contain an .exe that installs the program.

Earlier today I emailed Horowitz (he was dumb kind enough to include his email at the end of the article) about this:

Dear Mr. Horowitz,

This advice is not good:

“The same thing goes for .exe files, which are the files you download to install a program. Once you have a program installed, there’s no need to hang on to the .exe file that you used to install it.”

At the risk of being rude, you IDIOT! Don’t tell people to delete .exe files! That’s the file extension for ANY and ALL executable program files on a PC, including the installed programs. If people go through their computers and delete every .exe they see, their PC will become an instant brick and they will have to have the entire hard drive reformatted, and may lose irreplaceable personal data. You can’t fix something like that once it’s done, because of the deep interconnection between program ancillary files and their executables.

Are you supposed to be some kind of computer expert? You’re not in any position to be giving people computer advice in a newspaper column if you say something this irresponsible and honestly don’t know any better. God help you if people follow your advice to the letter. You might find yourself being sued pretty soon.

anne haight
California

I realize that Horowitz is talking specifically about setup packs, but the way his advice is worded is very poor and nonspecific. Most casual PC users don’t even know where their download folder is, and should not be encouraged to go digging through their file directory looking for .exes and deleting them willy-nilly. People who read newspapers for tech advice are not going to understand the distinction between installers and the .exes that are required for their computer to function normally.

In any case, this is a surprisingly complex and out-of-place piece of advice in an article that includes such items as “1. Install Firefox” and “3. Get a USB flash drive”. Item #2, “Buy your domain name” is, frankly, silly. I can’t imagine that it would be necessary at all. I own 2 domains and have never seen the need to own a domain comprised of my name. Furthermore, people names are not unique. If you have two guys named Kyle Gordon Haight who want their domain, who wins? Can one sue the other? As I said, a silly piece of advice.

Item #1 on the list is actually good advice, although not for the reasons the writer cites:

1. Download the Firefox Web browser

Mozilla’s Firefox Web browser is easier and more useful than Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. It’s built on an open-source platform so there are thousands of third party applications or “extensions” that you can download to enhance your surfing experience, such as an application that controls music or a pop-up blocker. Different Web pages are displayed as “tabs” instead of multiple windows and if your computer crashes while you have several tabs open, the next time you restart Firefox, it gives you the option to restore the Web pages you had up when your computer crashed. The newest versions of Internet Explorer also have tabbed browsing, but I find Firefox to be a faster browser, especially on an old computer.

MSIE has supported tabbed browsing since the first version of MSIE 7. Granted, that’s relatively recently, but MSIE is pretty good at updating itself and I find it unlikely that anyone is still using a really old version of MSIE. The claim that Firefox is “faster” is simply not true these days. More pertinent is that Firefox does not use ActiveX and thus does not have a lot of the malware and spyware vulnerabilities that MSIE has. Also, MSIE actually comes with spyware in it, called Alexa. Firefox does not. I happen to find Firefox more flexible, because of the extensions and plug-ins available for it. It does a better job of blocking popups, ads, and browser hijacking.

The comments section on the Orlando Sentinel’s site under the article is fabulous. Horowitz should be fired outright for even suggesting something so irresponsible, no matter how carefully worded, in a newspaper column. I can’t wait for the carnage that is going to result.

Okay, I admit that by even talking about this, I’m probably contributing to what I think is a publicity stunt rather than a serious lawsuit. But on the off chance that the women in question really is this naive…

NEW YORK — A model who says she has worked hard to maintain a wholesome image has filed a $5 million lawsuit complaining that a jewelry company’s video advertisement in which she writhes and moans looks pornographic.

The 37-year-old woman claims in her lawsuit that she did not “consent to or authorize the use of her likeness, picture, image or name to simulate a female having an orgasm or otherwise experiencing sexual pleasure.”

So okay. Just for amusement’s sake, here’s the commercial itself. It’s not obscene, but I’m still marking it NSFW:

Now that you’ve seen that, I’ll draw your attention back to this part of the article:

The plaintiff, who is a married graduate student in elementary education, “has worked hard to project a wholesome image and has been extremely careful to avoid doing any work in the industry that would cheapen or tarnish her reputation,” the lawsuit states.

It seems to me that this woman can’t possibly have been tricked into this. It’s not like the director did some creative editing of otherwise innocuous footage. She had to know perfectly well during shooting that what she was being asked to do is fake an orgasm. And if, by some stretch of the imagination, she really didn’t comprehend that at the time, what exactly WAS she pretending to do?

Inquiring minds want to know. Anyway, the commercial is tacky and unimaginative from a consumer point of view. Family Guy did it better:

I still can’t believe they got away with airing that on prime time television.

So apparently some genius decided to take a Checker Cab to a BB&T branch in Knoxville yesterday, rob the bank, and then make his cunning getaway in a bright yellow taxi. Naturally, this plan didn’t go so well:

At 1:23 p.m. [the robbery occurred at 1:16 p.m.], police had the cab driver stopped along Clinton Highway near the intersection with Treemont Drive. The suspect was arrested without incident, DeBusk said and the money from the bank was recovered.

So the guy got away with the money for a grand total of 7 minutes before being arrested. Talk about a truckload of fail.

Objectivists are familiar with BB&T. The Chairman and CEO, John A. Allison, is known to be a fan of Ayn Rand’s work and the Objectivist philosophy. These values are reflected in the bank’s philosophy and methods of doing business. BB&T has many branches in the southeast United States, and it’s well-known in Tennessee. Knoxville has been dealing with a series of bank robberies lately, mostly of BB&T branches, but the police don’t think this particular suspect is connected to that string of robberies.

Moral of the story is: There’s bad karma in robbing an Objectivist bank. The irony is that Objectivists don’t believe in karma, or mysticism in any form. I, however, do (I disagree with Rand’s definition of the term “mysticism”), so I’m amused.

RIAA has, for a while now, been suing people who illegally download various media like songs and movies. They have managed to make it illegal for someone to copy a DVD, even if the copy is for their own use. The concept of “personal use” with CDs, however, has enjoyed (and rightly so) protection from such prosecution. Until now:

In legal documents in its federal case against Jeffrey Howell, a Scottsdale, Ariz., man who kept a collection of about 2,000 music recordings on his personal computer, the industry maintains that it is illegal for someone who has legally purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer.

The industry’s lawyer in the case, Ira Schwartz, argues in a brief filed earlier this month that the MP3 files Howell made on his computer from legally bought CDs are “unauthorized copies” of copyrighted recordings.

Seriously? Seriously?

Jeffrey Howell, bless his soul, has decided he isn’t going to just write the RIAA a check to make this go away. He’s fighting back in court. (FYI, for simplicity’s sake, I will use the term “MP3” to refer generically to any digital music media format. I know that MP3 is a specific format and that there are others.)

This is completely fucking ridiculous. My husband, Kyle, has an MP3 player. If the RIAA has its way, he could go to jail for ripping an MP3 from a music CD that we legally own and which he intends to keep for himself and only use himself. He would have to buy another copy of the song in MP3 format (presumably from Amazon’s MP3 download service, or something like Napster). We’re not talking about sharing the copy with a friend, or playing it on a podcast, or some other stupid shit. RIAA wants to make personal use illegal.

Is RIAA just determined to hasten its own demise? Of course, some people are just unclear on the entire concept of private property and copyright:

In a Los Angeles Times poll, 69 percent of teenagers surveyed said they thought it was legal to copy a CD they own and give it to a friend.

Those people are just retards. Giving someone a copy of your CD is illegal. That’s simple theft, because the other person is getting a free copy of something that’s copyrighted. The result is 2 people who have their own copies and only 1 was paid for.

But on the issue of RIAA’s general obsolescence, the WaPo article makes a good point:

The RIAA’s legal crusade against its customers is a classic example of an old media company clinging to a business model that has collapsed. Four years of a failed strategy has only “created a whole market of people who specifically look to buy independent goods so as not to deal with the big record companies,” [New York lawyer Ray] Beckerman says. “Every problem they’re trying to solve is worse now than when they started.”

Yes. I have, in fact, started to resort to buying old, used CDs and shopping at places like CDBaby.com (which deals in music labels and artists that are not beholden to RIAA, and so buying their stuff doesn’t enrich RIAA and the CDs don’t contain all that digital media protection bullshit). CD Baby also has the marvelous features of being able to search for music by type, by mood, and will show you similar music based on a selection.

CD “protection” is nothing more than an annoyance for me. I have an 11-year-old CD player on my home stereo, and a 14-year-old one in my car. Neither device will play some of the newest CDs I own, because the CD’s encryption doesn’t recognize them as “approved devices” (which really means: we think you’re trying to play this CD on your computer and we won’t allow that), and that’s just stupid. I have a legal CD and a legal device. I should be able to listen to it. For that matter, my computer is also a legal device. I used to listen to my music CDs on my computer. For the most part, I can’t anymore, if the CD is relatively new.

It may come as a surprise to some people that I have never, in my entire life, illegally downloaded a song or movie onto my computer. I do not possess any pirated music. In fact, I’ve never even ripped a CD that I own onto my computer (although that may change soon now that I’ve figured out how to get my PSP to play MP3s). Even if I want to buy MP3s already made from someplace like Amazon, not everything is available in MP3 format. Many artists’ recording labels have not authorized MP3 releases of their songs. Artists like Madonna, Michael Jackson, Journey, Hall & Oates — that stuff isn’t available even if you want to buy an MP3 of it.

So how exactly are we supposed to get a “legal” MP3 of something that the label won’t release? The obvious answer is that we don’t. The RIAA is trying to hold onto its old business model, in defiance of obvious trends to the contrary and the massive market demand for MP3 music. People aren’t going to carry tons of CDs around with them anymore. It’s not necessary. And if we can’t “legally” obtain an MP3 of “Thriller”, we’re going to “illegally” rip it from the CD we legally own.

Count on it.

“It’s not difficult to be offensive when there are so many people trying to be offended.”

-KOOLmike (Fark.com)

On June 14, 2007, a mobile-phone salesman named Paul Potts won the 2007 competition on “Britain’s Got Talent”, a UK show that may be likened to “America’s Got Talent” or “American Idol” (all three shows are attributable to Simon Cowell).

While shows like this often provide what might be considered “flash in the pan” talents, some of whom win purely on audience appeal rather than any actual ability, Potts has earned his place. Below is his finalist performance on the show. He won, among other things, the privilege of performing before the Queen.

What does he sing? Opera.

There may yet be hope for civilization. Simon Cowell, when interviewed about Paul, said that it had always been his vision that the show would one day give wide exposure to someone who was otherwise ordinary, with an ordinary job, who had a remarkable, undiscovered talent.

Of course, Paul is not entirely untrained. He did take voice lessons in Italy, at his own expense (as a hobby). He has also performed without pay in various amateur venues. But as horrible auditions on “American Idol” prove, all the voice lessons in the world can’t help someone who has no gift.

I’m reassured by Paul’s win. His appeal was not only to the judges (Simon Cowell, who is notoriously blunt in his assessments, declared Paul’s first audition in Cardiff to be “absolutely fantastic”), but to the general public of Britain, who declared him the best of the contestants this year.

The first audition in Cardiff, (above) is worth a look, too. Not only is his performance astounding for an amateur, but the way the whole tone of the theater changes is unmistakable. His presence, his voice, electrifies the room. Anyone who likes this guy needs to check out some of the great masters like Pavarotti. There is a great art in music beyond the realm of MTV and ClearChannel.

I’ll be buying his CD.

So my mother bought a roasting chicken for us to have for supper. This chicken was labeled “all natural”, which should have been a clue. My mother split the chicken in half (butterflied it) to make it cook faster and more evenly, and put the chicken in the oven for about 2 hours based on its size.

When it came out of the oven, it was basically inedible. It wasn’t even close to being cooked through. The skin was the consistency of leather — you literally couldn’t chew it. WTF.

Okay, so dinner was kind of a write-off as far as the chicken went (luckily the rice turned out yummy, and we had just received a box of fresh pears from my in-laws). My mother put the chicken back in the oven too cook it some more.

And more.

And more.

Finally it came out done, as you see above. That bird was in the oven for a total of four and a half hours before it was done enough to be eaten. Here’s the kicker: it was a roasting chicken. It was specifically intended to be easy to cook and tender when done. Classic. My mother pithily commented “This bird must be 20 years old.”

There’s a reason chickens we eat have been specially bred and pumped full of vitamins, hormones, and other goodies. There’s a reason they’re kept in a barn and not allowed to run freely all over the place. It makes them fat, tender, and tasty.

Whether the problem lay with the chicken being “all natural”, or whether it was just an unusually tough specimen, is unknown. But personally I’ll stick with the kind that hippies say will kill me slowly. Life’s too short to eat (or not eat, as the case may be) a tough, rubbery chicken.

Today I saw this in the parking lot of West Town Mall in Knoxville, TN:

minivan.jpg

It’s creative, I’ll give them that. Sure beats the wreath-zip-tied-to-the-grill.

Usually when people make fun of Southerners, I’m the first to defend them. As a native Tennessean transplanted into Silicon Valley, California, I feel obliged to stand up for my fellow Southerners whenever people make fun of hicks and rednecks (not that hicks and rednecks don’t exist — we make fun of them, too).

homedepot.jpg

But I saw this today, and just had to take a picture. I’m staying with my parents in Tennessee for a month, and we went out to Home Depot today in Lenoir City. Anyone in the area can visit the store and verify for themselves that this picture is real. Even worse, there are 2 such handwritten signs on the store, one at each doorway, and they both have this error. Points for consistency I guess.

From the “Wait, what?” department, today comes this. Fox News summarizes it nicely:


A British woman who had an abortion 10 years ago and was later sterilized did so because she believes pregnancy is bad for the environment, the London Daily Mail reported Sunday.

Toni Vernelli, 35, hopes her actions would ensure her carbon footprint would be kept to a minimum, the Mail reported. The environmental advocate also sees having children as an egotistical act.

“Having children is selfish. It’s all about maintaining your genetic line at the expense of the planet,” Vernelli told the Mail, adding she believes bringing new life into the world only adds to the problem.

Another person unclear on the concept. Having children is “about maintaining your genetic line at the expense of the planet”? Huh? The entire ultimate purpose of human reproduction is survival. In the full Daily Mail version of the article, she is quoted:


“Every person who is born uses more food, more water, more land, more fossil fuels, more trees and produces more rubbish, more pollution, more greenhouse gases, and adds to the problem of over-population.”

This sounds to me like Vernelli is against the entire concept of human reproduction, rather than simply making a personal decision to not have one more child in a world she views as over-populated. That means Vernelli is basically advocating the suicide of the human race for the “benefit of the planet”.

While that may sound completely insane (it is), this is not the first time I’ve heard of environmentalist nutcases state the opinion that humanity in general is a plague upon the Earth, and that the Earth would be better off without us. They seek to restore the Earth to some kind of pristine, human-less state. I’m always bemused by this idea, since the mental image I get is of the Earth, without people, going about its business of nothing in particular, with no one around to enjoy or appreciate it.

Also, the logical endpoint of such a belief is to commit suicide. These people don’t seem too receptive to that idea, or there wouldn’t be any of them around.

The assertion that the Earth is over-populated is also ridiculous. One only needs to look at a space-view of the Earth at night to see how barren human civilization really is on this planet. Perhaps such people are referring to the capacity of human civilization to feed itself. Even in that case, they are wrong. We have the ability to feed many times the people currently alive on the Earth. The problem is not one of food production, but of transportation logistics. Specifically, that the people most in need of the food are in countries run by tyrannical governments that actively prevent their people from getting it. Artificial famine is a tool of dictatorships to control the populace. People who are starving don’t riot or stage revolutions.

It’s also disingenuous of Vernelli to assert that her lack of a child somehow helps any perceived lack of resources. She lives in the UK. That country doesn’t have a problem feeding and providing for its population. One more person isn’t a strain. In fact, the fertility rate in the UK for 2006 was 1.84 children per female. That is below the level needed to replace the population, and while that rate has been growing in recent years, it is still very low. The UK needs all the kids it can get.

Okay, so Vernelli is crazy. That much is apparent. It’s one thing to become a vegetarian based on a shallow and flawed understanding of facts and logical thinking. But to abort a child? To have oneself sterilized? These are significant, dangerous surgical procedures. She underwent these operations on the basis of political beliefs that are not only false, but easily disproven with about 15 minutes of research.

Conclusion: she didn’t want to know the truth. She wanted to believe what she believes, and she will avoid acknowledging any evidence to the contrary. People like this think that wishing something will make it real; that reality can be shaped at a whim and that it is somehow different for everyone. To act with regard to something that is not so will lead only to death and disaster.