Archive for January, 2008

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.