This is the website of Abulsme Noibatno Itramne (also known as Sam Minter). Posts here are rare these days. For current stuff, follow me on Mastodon



Ubuntu LiveCD

A couple of days ago Brandy’s Dell laptop crashed and crashed hard. When it tried to boot just a blank black screen. All the diagnostics you could get to from the BIOS said everything was fine though. But when you tried to boot into Windows… nothing at all. And because it was a budget Dell laptop, no Windows restore/install disks either.

And of course there was no recent backup of her stuff. So the fear was the drive was completely dead and all her stuff would be gone.

This of course happened to Brandy in the middle of the night and she woke me up because she was distraught. After the usual things failed, I decided to try booting from an Ubuntu Live CD. I spent the next three hours or so downloading the ISO image and then burning it to CD.

Then I pop it in the drive, hit F12 while booting to get the menu letting me boot from the CD, and zoom… the disk whirs a bit and up comes Ubuntu just fine. Not only did it pop up right away into a desktop where I could easily find all the things I was looking for, but it automatically mounted the hard drive… which turned out to appear to be completely perfect… all of Brandy’s data was there. Then I easily found in a couple clicks that I could mount the drive in my iMac through ssh right there in the GUI and have it pop up nice and easily. (I of course immediately started copying all the relevant data files “just in case”.)

All the file manipulation was just there. Firefox was just there. It was all clear and pretty simple to use out of the box with no messing around with the config. Well… one exception… I couldn’t get the built in wireless card to work out of the box, or even after searching online for instructions on how to get her specific wireless card to work with Ubuntu. So the laptop needed to be plugged into a wired connection for the networking to work. Which kind of sucks on a laptop. But still… it beat my expectations.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d probably get frustrated pretty quickly if I tried to use Ubuntu as my primary OS… it ain’t no Mac OS X. But having not tried Ubuntu before, I was impressed by how far the effort to make a usable (for a non geek) desktop Linux has come compared to all my prior Linux exposures (including regularly at work). Pretty good.

Of course, the next day when Brandy called Dell tech support they led her through a series of steps to try to fix the machine, and only resulted in making the hard drive (which had been fine before) completely unmountable from Ubuntu, while still not making it able to boot into Windows. So they mailed her a set of restore disks that will put the laptop back to the exact state it came from the factory in. (Theoretically… well, except for the missing keys on the keyboard that Roscoe broke off… a software update won’t fix that.) The disks arrived in yesterday’s mail, but she is supposed to wait until they call her to touch it… even though I’m sure she could pop the first disk in, follow the instructions and be fine… but they have to walk her through it. Whatever.

I’m just glad I backed up all her data before she called Dell tech support. Bleh.

And I was impressed with Ubuntu. I’ll have to explore it a bit more.

(And yes, I’m partially just making this post right now because I found a small bug in my email notification thingy mentioned in the last post and want to see if the tweaks I made in the last hour or so fixed it.)

New Post Notifications

For years whenever I’ve made new posts on this blog I’ve sent out an email to the current Email Top Ten to let them know about the new post. That has always been a manual process for me. I’ve finally taken the time to automate it. So now when I make a post it will automatically generate those emails for me. Woo.

(Well, that is true as long as I post in the “normal” way. If I pre-publish so that a post will automatically get posted at a time in the future I have it set to just send an email to me. Same if I post something but for some reason mark it as “Closed”. Also, if I ever get the blogger API thing working again so I can post from a blogging app on my phone, it won’t send the email then either, although I think I now know how to add that… if only that functionality would work at all any more. It hasn’t since a MySQL update a few months ago.)

Anyway, I’ve been wanting to do this for awhile and finally did. Go me.

Now, I only need to catch up on my counting for the email top ten so that the current list of people emailed isn’t the email addresses who won it in October 2004… two of which are now invalid and always bounce. Oops.

One more note of interest… this is the first time in quite some time I’ve made a second post in a single day. I’d been sticking to the “one post a day” thing, but maybe I’ll switch that to “at least one post a day”. Of course, regardless it is only a matter of time until I get busy one day and miss a day entirely again. But that will be OK.

iPhone Sighting

It finally happened. Yesterday at work I saw an iPhone. It was only for a couple of seconds, as someone half pulled it out of his pocket to check something and quickly put it back. I did not see it in full use, it was only a glance, but it was long enough to verify it was indeed an iPhone.

So, my milestones so far:

  • 2007 Jun 29 22:00 UTC: iPhone goes on Sale
  • 2007 Jun 30 02:42 UTC: (4 hours 42 minutes later) I see my first iPhone bag in person
  • 2007 Jul 9 11:35 UTC: (10 days, 13 hours, 35 minutes later) I get my first email sent from an iPhone
  • 2007 Jul 25 17:33 UTC: (26 days, 19 hours, 33 minutes later) I glimpse my first iPhone in person

This is a lot slower than I expected. I figured for sure I would have seen one in the first week. Instead it took almost 27 days. And that was just a brief glance.

This is of course only for viewing it “in the wild”. If I’d seen them at the Apple store or something that wouldn’t count. But I haven’t been to one since it launched anyway, so it all turns out the same.

One other note about the email I got from an iPhone. I *got* it on the 9th… but it was SENT on the 4th… not sure if that says something about mail on the iPhone, or something else entirely, most likely the second, but just wanted to point out that delta.

OK, see, a non-political post. Hope you all enjoyed it.

Now I am being called to dinner.

Gonzo Speaks

I was going to lay off the politics and switch to something else, but I couldn’t let this go. Alberto Gonzales testified again yesterday. And he made a complete mess of things yet again. Can this man dig his hole any deeper? As usual, TPM Muckraker had the wall to wall coverage. Here are quick links to all the relevant stories:

Whew. That’s a lot. I wasn’t able to actually listen to the hearings yesterday (work and all), but these summaries get the gist of it and there are video clips of the best parts. Even the Republicans are getting increasingly upset at Gonzo, and he seems to insist on continuing to lie directly to their faces. The Senators are getting more and more fed up. The question is, will they actually do anything about it? And if so, will enough cross the aisle to be able to make it stick?

Paul Yes Votes

On this weekend’s podcast, Ivan asked me to name some things that Ron Paul actually voted “yes” on in congress. Since he is only known for voting “no” I said I had no idea without doing some research. Feeling obligated to follow up, here are the 10 most recent things Ron Paul voted “Yes” to in the House. (My source is here.) Note that the first couple directly contradict something I said in the podcast. Oops.

  1. 2007 Jul 23 – Vote 689: H RES 519: Honoring the Life and Accomplishments of Tom Lea on the 100th Anniversary of His Birth
  2. 2007 Jul 23 – Vote 688: H RES 553: Mourning the Passing of Lady Bird Johnson
  3. 2007 Jul 23 – Vote 687: H R 404: Federal Customer Service Enhancement Act (To require the establishment of customer service standards for Federal agencies.)
  4. 2007 Jul 19 – Vote 672: H R 3043 – Davis of Kentucky Amendment (An amendment to prohibit funds to be used to pay a bonus or other performance-based cash award to any employee of the Social Security Administration or the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services who holds a position to which such employee was appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, or a Senior Executive Service position.)
  5. 2007 Jul 18 – Vote 668: H R 3043 – Flake of Arizona Amendment 15 (An amendment numbered 15 printed in the Congressional Record to prohibit the use of funds for the American Ballet Theatre, New York, New York, for educational activities.)
  6. 2007 Jul 18 – Vote 666: H R 3043 – Barton of Texas Amendment (An amendment to strike the proviso on page 36, beginning at line 5 which states that within the amounts provided for part A of title XXVI of the Public Health Service Act, funds are included to ensure that the amount of any funding provided under such part to a metropolitan area for the program year beginning in 2007 is not reduced by an amount that is more than 8.4 percent, and the amount of any funding provided under subpart II of such part to a transitional area is not reduced by an amount that is more than 13.4 percent, relative to the amount of the total funding provided under such part to the metropolitan area or transitional area, respectively, for the program year beginning in fiscal year 2006.)
  7. 2007 Jul 18 – Vote 665: H R 3043 – Dingell of Michigan Amendment (An amendment to prohibit the use of funds be used to pay the basic pay of any individual serving as Deputy Commissioner of Social Security, Social Security Administration, whose appointment to such position has not been confirmed by a vote of the Senate pursuant to section 702(b)(1) of the Social Security Act. )
  8. 2007 Jul 18 – Vote 662: H R 3043 – Lamborn of Colorado Amendment (An amendment numbered 56 printed in the Congressional Record to strike line 7 and all that follows through the comma on page 104, line 12. )
  9. 2007 Jul 18 – Vote 661: H R 3043 – Shadegg of Arizona Amendment No. 55 (An amendment numbered 17 printed in the Congressional Record reduce appropriations for the Corporation for National and Community Service. )
  10. 2007 Jul 18 – Vote 660: H R 3043 – Price of Georgia Amendment (An amendment numbered 65 printed in the Congressional Record to reduce funding for the Student Financial Assistance account by $64,987,000. )

So that’s actually 10 yes votes in under a week.

The full total of Ron Paul votes in the last 7 full days (2007 Jul 17 to 2007 Jul 23) is:

  • 28 – Yes
  • 15 – No
  • 14 – Not Voting

That gives a 26% no record, 35% if you don’t count the times he didn’t vote… but still not a 95% no record as I stated in the podcast… at least in the last week of votes. Oops again.

In my defense though, looking at the 10 listed above, you can see that even the Yes votes look like they are amendments which are actually against things. So even when voting yes, he is voting against something. But I guess that is always true in a way, so I’ll just shut up now.

Well, maybe not quite yet. One more set of stats from this last set of votes. Not counting the times he did not vote:

  • 18 votes – Voted agreeing with Repub position against Dems
  • 13 votes – Voted agreeing with position supported by both parties
  • 9 votes – Voted opposite from position supported by both parties
  • 3 votes – Voted agreeing with Dem position against Repubs

Interesting I guess. Note though that if you look at the list of “Important Votes” from Project Vote Smart instead of just the last week of all votes, you see a much larger percentage of “No” votes.

Curmudgeon’s Corner: Planes and Politics

I’m going to start using the Episode title in the blog post title rather than the date. In any case, this is our 8th Curmudgeon’s Corner of 2007. This time we did much better from a technical perspective, and you won’t hurt your ears listening.

One quick note: Ivan gave me a heads up that he will be out of town and unavailable next weekend, so if anybody wants to volunteer to co-host, let me know. I record Sundays at 16 UTC (That’s Noon Eastern, 9 AM Pacific) although the time can be a bit flexible. All that is required (I believe) is an AIM compatible IM client that can do audio chat and a willingness to spend half an hour or so talking about current news or tech related issues. If you are interested, please let me know. If not, next week will be another Sam monologue.

Anyway, this week Ivan and Sam talk about:

  • Garage Band
  • The Plane Crash in Brazil
  • Sam’s Breathing
  • The Subpoena Fight
  • The Bar for Impeachment
  • Ron Paul
  • Ivan’s Candidate

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I Like Paul

It should be no suprise to anybody who has followed me or my blog for awhile… for instance this post from February this year, but I am liking Ron Paul more and more as the campaign continues and I see more of him. Sure he has some views I disagree with, but so do all the candidates, and the percentage I disagree with seems by far the smallest with Paul.

The New York Times has a detailed profile (free login may be required) in this weekend’s magazine:

The Antiwar, Anti-Abortion, Anti-Drug-Enforcement-Administration, Anti-Medicare Candidacy of Dr. Ron Paul
(Chirstopher Caldwell, New York Times)

Paul represents a different Republican Party from the one that Iraq, deficits and corruption have soured the country on. In late June, despite a life of antitax agitation and churchgoing, he was excluded from a Republican forum sponsored by Iowa antitax and Christian groups. His school of Republicanism, which had its last serious national airing in the Goldwater campaign of 1964, stands for a certain idea of the Constitution — the idea that much of the power asserted by modern presidents has been usurped from Congress, and that much of the power asserted by Congress has been usurped from the states. Though Paul acknowledges flaws in both the Constitution (it included slavery) and the Bill of Rights (it doesn’t go far enough), he still thinks a comprehensive array of positions can be drawn from them: Against gun control. For the sovereignty of states. And against foreign-policy adventures. Paul was the Libertarian Party’s presidential candidate in 1988. But his is a less exuberant libertarianism than you find, say, in the pages of Reason magazine.

(via Andrew Sullivan)

He has no chance of winning the Republican nomination of course. That is unfortunate, but true. Despite all the hoopla on the Internet, his support remains solidly in the single digits amongst potential Republican Primary voters (see down in the “others” section). But I still like him.

My normal view toward primaries is that I am not a member of any party, because I dislike them all equally, and a Primary is the time for a party to choose its candidate, and therefore out of principal I do not participate in primaries even if the state I am in allows one to do so without registering with a particular party. I am now seriously considering the possibility of voting in the Republican primaries when they come along, just so I can vote for Ron Paul.

As the time gets closer, I may even decide to donate something (small) to his campaign.

Would I put up a poster in my window or on my lawn? Nahhh… that would be going too far.

Depending on who the major candidates are in November 2008 though, I might consider voting for Paul anyway, even if I have to write him in. If he runs as a third party (Lib or otherwise) after he loses the Republican nomination, I’d be thrilled, and would almost certainly vote for him.

I just signed up for his mailing list on his website. He better send me real stuff and not spam stuff though, or I’m out! :-)

Executive Power

Looking back, it has been a while since I posted something news related, but earlier today I was reading the following article:

Broader Privilege Claimed In Firings
(Dan Eggen and Amy Goldstein, Washington Post)

Bush administration officials unveiled a bold new assertion of executive authority yesterday in the dispute over the firing of nine U.S. attorneys, saying that the Justice Department will never be allowed to pursue contempt charges initiated by Congress against White House officials once the president has invoked executive privilege.

The position presents serious legal and political obstacles for congressional Democrats, who have begun laying the groundwork for contempt proceedings against current and former White House officials in order to pry loose information about the dismissals.

Under federal law, a statutory contempt citation by the House or Senate must be submitted to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, “whose duty it shall be to bring the matter before the grand jury for its action.”

But administration officials argued yesterday that Congress has no power to force a U.S. attorney to pursue contempt charges in cases, such as the prosecutor firings, in which the president has declared that testimony or documents are protected from release by executive privilege.

(via The Volokh Conspiracy)

The Dems of course are outraged as usual, but will do nothing because they don’t have enough votes to make anything stick. But what leaves me baffled with this and a lot of the overreaches by this administration… all along, but ESPECIALLY in the last couple of years or so… is that congressional Republicans are still just saying “Oh, OK”. Because this sort of issue goes beyond the specifics of the issue at hand today, but goes to basic organizational principles of the government, separation of powers, and checks and balances.

OK, fine, you’re a die hard Republican and agree with the President on this specific issue today and think that the congressional investigations are just partisan harassment. Fine. Consider that point granted. In future years however, be it in 2009 or in another 4, 8, 16, or 32 years, there will be an administration that you oppose that has done something you believe may be against the law. Perhaps even in a way more serious than the issues at stake today. Do you REALLY want to set the precedent that any president can essentially say “No” to almost any congressional investigation of his or her staff?

If Hillary wins, several years later after it becomes clear that her staff is also full of corrupt slimeballs who have been pushing the limits of the law and may well have stepped over the line (as I’m sure will happen pretty much no matter who wins, because it seems like that is one Washington constant one can count on), do we really want there to be no way to investigate that when she claims privilege?

This same argument applies to ALL the places where there has been expansion of Executive power and reduction in the power of Congress or the courts. The President decides who is going to be able to declared an “unlawful enemy combatant” and therefore has essentially no rights? Really? OK, you like this when the President is W. Would you really like this power to be in the hands of President Kucinich? (OK, so we know THAT is not going to happen, but you get the point.)

Fundamentally, it is critical that when making decisions about who gets to decide things, in what way are they decided, and how such decisions can be revisited… that the decision about the PROCESS is made independently of any considerations of the specific issue at hand, and the specific political balance of the day. If you make decisions about the limits of executive power, about what can be appealed and what can’t be, about what issues should be decided at the federal level, which at the state level, and which at the local level, about how laws should be enforced after they are passed, about what can be decided by the courts and what needs to be legislated, about what level of discretion prosecutors should have… etc. If you make any of these decisions based on what is the easiest way to get the policies you support in place TODAY, then you are almost guaranteed to be screwing YOURSELF in the future when the tides of power shift.

When you give power to an entity, you should NEVER be thinking about how that power will be wielded in the hands of your friends. You should be thinking about how that power will be wielded in the hands of your enemies. If you are not happy with that thought, then it should not be the way things should be organized now either.

Congressional Republicans should be just as outraged as the Democrats if W stonewalls against a Congressional investigation. Even if they disagree with the investigation itself. Because regardless of the issue at hand, this sets horrible precedents for the future if allowed to stand. Can Congress serve as an effective balance to the power of the president or not. Do you REALLY want a President with almost unlimited power and a Congress which means nothing?

There should be a long and hard think before something like that is allowed to stand. And your position on the particular rights or wrongs of this specific Congress, and this specific President, should be absolutely irrelevant to the decision. If not… regardless of where you stand on today’s issues… you are putting the future in danger.


We just got back from leaving Cynthia at the airport. Within the next few minutes her plane should be taking off to take her back home to the east coast. It was great to have her here for a week. I’d taken the whole week (and a day) off work, so we had time to do a lot of things together. It was a fun time and I miss her already. I wish we’d been able to keep her longer.

She’s my favoritist sister ever. :-)

DVD: Roswell: Season One: Disk One

Earlier today the four of us finished up watching the first disk of the first season of Roswell. Cynthia had never seen it before, I’ve seen sporadic episodes as had Amy, and Brandy is a big fan. It is not the DVD I would have chosen, but Cynthia is here she gets to choose. And it fits into my “DVDs we own but I have not watched yet” category. So all is OK. (Although I really should have been watching a Doctor Who this time around.)

Anyway, as is typical for this type of show I guess, the DVD had four episodes:

“Pilot”: Introduces the concept of the alien kids in hiding at Roswell and puts them in peril by almost revealing their secret.

“The Morning After”: Um… I don’t remember much about this one. And I just watched it a couple days ago. Oops. Ah yes. They go breaking into the Sheriff’s office.

“Monsters”: Maria is scared of the aliens, but protects them in the end.

“Leaving Normal”: A grandmother dies, and Liz breaks up with the one guy, presumably so she can be with the other guy.

Anyway, it is a fun little series. So far from the first four I’m only at the “it is kind of cute” mode and not at the “I must watch all three seasons right away!”. But I’ll probably watch more at some point. After all, Brandy liked it so much she actually went to a Roswell convention at one point. Or so I hear.