Archives For July 2016

Clown Prince Trump

I am a former Republican. I was born and raised in a Republican household in Atlanta, Ga. While I was growing up “Firing Line,” staring William F. Buckley, would play on our TV every Sunday via the local PBS station. When I was old enough to vote in 1972 I voted for Richard Nixon. I voted for Gerald Ford in 1976, and Ronald Reagan in 1980. It was during Reagan’s first term that I realized what a horrible mistake I’d made voting for Reagan in particular and the Republican party in general. George Carlin produced an incitefully funny and incredibly true monologue from that period (1988) called “The Truth About Republicans.” That’s were I wound up in my view of Republicans and the GOP due to the Reagan administration, and nothing has changed my attitude since.

That doesn’t mean I’ve become an automatic Democrat. I consider myself an Independent, and my politics slightly left of center. Unfortunately Florida is rigged such that you can’t register as an Independent. You belong to a party whether you want to or not, and so I’m an officially registered Democrat because I consider the Democratic party less odious than the Republican party. Fortunately in the general election I can cross party lines as needed to vote based on merit. That’s going to be tough this year because

  1. I have no great love for Hillary;
  2. If I vote either Green or Libertarian, I help dilute the vote enough that Trump just might win the election;
  3. Which means that if I can’t stand Trump and can barely stand Hillary, then the only logical choice for me is to hold my nose while voting Hillary to keep Trump out of the White House.

After watching the Republican National Convention and four days of unabridged hucksterism (along with racism and general social depravity) I’m still stunned that the person absolutely least capable to lead a nation of nearly 400 million was selected as the Republican presidential candidate for the 2016 election.

In hindsight Trump is the product of nearly five decades of deliberate intellectual evisceration of the Republican party by a very select few of very rich conservative donors who are still seeking revenge for what happened to Nixon. They molded the party, and in the process attracted a base, that has absolutely no critical thinking skills, and who are easily swayed by racism, isolationism, and anything that caters to their entitlement mentality; the Republican base feels they’re entitled due to their age and whiteness and false sense of superiority. They wanted a party that was totally controllable, that wouldn’t ask the important embarrassing questions, and after decades of hard work that’s exactly what they got. Then Trump came along, recognized what had been created, and took it all away from them like candy from a bunch of babies.

Trump may be a failure at business, but he has an innate genius for sussing out what it is that will con the week minded such as what passes for a Republican these days. It’s that power that he’s used to win the nomination. It didn’t matter if the “regular” Republicans didn’t show up to the RNC, nor Trump win all their endorsements; the Republican base stopped listening and caring about Rubio, the Bushes, and Cruz years ago. What happened at the RNC this past week just formalized the split that will finally kill the Republican party as it has come to be known by. All we have to do as democracy is find some way to survive the results, and if at all possible, find a way to repair the civic damage that’s been done over the past five decades.

 

windows 10 build 14393

July 22, 2016

Windows10VersionIt’s no secret I’ve been spending a considerable amount of time working only with my MacBook Pro. The tools I want and need are available on that platform, and I like the way Mac OS X works and looks. When I’m not working on the MBP I’m working with Linux, either with the old Samsung notebook and Ubuntu, or via virtual machine guests hosted on VirtualBox under OS X. The only time I even power on my Windows 10 notebook is to pick up the security updates that Microsoft continues to release. I am grateful for those updates.

And then one day I finally decided to become part of Microsoft’s Windows Insider Program. I put this notebook on what Microsoft refers to as the “slow ring” for early releases. I get early releases that are as stable as possible, and on a slow release cadence; hence the name. Tonight build 14393 was downloaded and installed on this system. This should be the final early release before the official Anniversary release.

Nothing horrible has happened. If anything, the overall Windows 10 system is fast and stable. The look and feel of the desktop has been changed in subtle ways so that it’s now noticeably different from what this Samsung notebook was originally sold with, Window 8 Pro. I played a bit with some of the applications, one of which is Edge, the browser replacement for Internet Explorer. I must admit I like the way it operates. I reminds me a lot of Vivaldi. I installed the Adblock Plus browser extension to turn off the incredibly intrusive and annoying ads from Wired and Ars Technica.

I also decided to see how compliant it was, so I visited the Google Dart web page and brought up DartPad, the browser-based editor and execution test tool.
edge_dartpad

From what I can tell there is absolutely no difference between how DartPad works with Edge or any other browser under Windows 10 (Vivaldi, Chrome, and Firefox). It just works. Oh, and I’ve enable the dark theme, just like I’ve enabled every other application’s dark theme if it has one. Not only did I run this sample Dart example, but I wrote this entry with Edge. I’m thinking maybe that Edge is a pretty good browser. Windows 10 is certainly being refined into something different than Windows 8. Please note I liked Windows 8 quite a bit and had no issues using it. I was not happy when Windows began to “regress” back towards Windows 7 and earlier. I was very unhappy with Windows 8.1. But Windows 10 might not be so bad.

Still, I’m distrustful of Microsoft; because of that mistrust I’m still on the long path away from Windows, only using it when I have to, or when I want to try something out, like this little test. For the most part it sits powered off in its bag until I pull it out to check for security patches and updates. But for people who are still committed to the Windows platform I believe that Windows 10 Anniversary edition, which is to be released in August, will be a very good release.

six weeks

July 17, 2016

Six weeks. That’s how long it’s been since the Pulse shootings killed 49 (fifty if you include the shooter himself). A lot has been published and continues to be published, a lot of second guessing is now taking place. All the police and media have left. That means Orange Avenue passing by Pulse is open again. All the impromptu memorials around the area have been cleaned up. Good thing I photographed the important parts when I did.

Pulse is still closed, surrounded by a chain link fence. Memorial flowers and DIY signage are all over the fence facing Orange. There are still people coming by to stand and look, some paying their respects, some just silently standing there. It’s eerily quiet, devoid of conversation, just the sound of passing traffic.





I didn’t lose anything there, I didn’t know anyone who was killed in that place. But the event has left me unalterably changed. There was absolutely no reason for what happened in Orlando, just like there’s no reason for the continuing media and political circus. As bad as I might feel, it has to pale to insignificance what the survivors and those left behind have to be feeling right now.

Screen Shot 2016-07-16 at 11.59.36 AM

Oracle released VirtualBox 5.1 last week, and today I downloaded the latest bits and updated my VB installation on my MBP. Right now the MBP is running with OS X Version 10.11.5 (I’ve resisted the urge to install the Sierra beta). I also updated the extensions package as well as the guest additions ISO.

Once VB 5.1 installed, I updated all my existing VM’s guest additions without incident. So far I have Mint 18 (seen above), Fedora 24, CentOS 6, Ubuntu 16.04, and Kali. Kali doesn’t have the guest additions as I want as pristine an environment as possible with those tools.

But this version of VB isn’t without problems.

  1. I can’t seen to install the guest additions in CentOS 7 (based on RHEL 7). I don’t know why but the tools can’t find the kernel headers, even though I installed the full gcc and kernel-devel packages. I suppose I could have dug around and found out why it can’t find the kernel headers, but I have four other working Linux distributions with additions, and I just didn’t feel like putting in the effort. Lazy, I guess.
  2. I tried to install PC-BSD. Initial live media boot and installation went swimmingly. Trying to run after the install (with the MATE, the KDE, desktops) resulted in a panic. After two attempts I gave up. If I need a BSD-like OS I have Mac OS X. And if I want Unix-like, well, I have all these systems around the house, including Arch running on three Raspberry Pi 3s. I have no shortage of OS playgrounds.

Other Software

I decided to try out Microsoft’s Visual Studio Code editor in the Mint VM. I’ve played with it a bit on Windows 10, Ubuntu 16, and my MBP, all directly on hardware and all without incident. But trying to install and run it on my Mint 18 VM didn’t work out so well.

Screen Shot 2016-07-16 at 11.51.43 AM

Screen Shot 2016-07-16 at 11.52.06 AM

I would have loved to have worked with the editor in the Mint 18 VM, but it looks like it’s not to be. I don’t know why the editor has a corrupted interface, but it’s totally unusable in this particular setting. I still have vi and gedit as a consolation.

Upshot

One of the big claims with VM 5.1 is performance improvements. I use it now on my Windows 10 notebook in place of VMware, and on my MBP, and I’ve never thought it was slow. VMs seem to boot rather quickly, and the VMs operate efficiently once up and running. I’m quite happy with the way everything works.

After what I wrote about abandoning Oracle’s Java, and why, you might think my use of VB is a bit hypocritical, and you’d be right; it is. Unfortunately, I’ve found nothing that works as well, especially VMware. And I need a virtualization tool that works on my multiple notebooks, with as many different Linux distributions, as possible. VMware keeps getting worse and worse in that regard. I certainly don’t mind paying for a good software package, and I almost broke down and bought a commercial copy of VMware, but the free player has been so plagued with issues that it’s turned me off buying a license (or licenses, one for Mac and one for Windows). I’ve better things to do with my time than trying to get everything initially working.

I would have liked for PC-BSD to have worked (finally). But it didn’t and I refuse to go forum diving for old and/or cryptic information. Considering the definition of insanity, some might consider my continued attempts at getting FreeBSD/PC-BSD up and running in a VM (which I will do before committing hardware). Fortunately, I wasted no more than about 15 minutes before calling off the latest PC-BSD installation experiment.

no more java

July 14, 2016

no-java
I have been a Java user and promoter since its initial release in 1995. I’ve lived through, and worked around, all the issues that’ve cropped up over the years, especially during the dismal period around Java 6, before Sun was purchased by Oracle. Since then Java 7, and now Java 8, have been released to address limitations, advance the language and try to fix security issues.

But no more. I have uninstalled Java on every computer and every VM I own. I don’t intend to write another line of Java, and I will walk away from any Java programming opportunity.

There’s a lot of reasons for me to take this stand, but the two that finally pushed me to do something are a security issue and Oracle itself. Let’s talk first about Oracle.

Oracle bought Sun and all its assets in 2010. Those assets included Java and a number of open source projects, such as Open Office and MySQL. Oracle’s stewardship of both was so bad that both were forked into LibreOffice and MariaDB, respectively. Fortunately, or unfortunately, Oracle managed to put just enough time, money, and energy into maintaining Java that it continued on to Java 7 and Java 8, with Java 9 just over the horizon. On the surface Oracle sounds like a responsible steward for Java.

But Oracle isn’t a responsible steward. Oracle doesn’t care about the language and its evolution as an open platform, only how much money it can make from the language itself. They underscored this with the multi-year lawsuit against Google over Google’s use of Java API’s in Android. I’m not fan of Android, but I appreciate how Google has prevailed against Oracle’s repeated lawsuits and appeals. They should have because Oracle’s suite is all about Oracle’s greed. If it were just a fight between two tech titans then it wouldn’t be that big a problem. Unfortunately for us all the problem with the entire legal process those two have been embroiled in is the disastrous decision issued on May 9, 2014, where the Federal Circuit found that the Java APIs are copyrightable. This is a blow to the very foundation of software innovation, and all because Oracle wanted a multi-billion payday out of Google for Google’s successful implementation of Java within Android. As software developers and innovators, we are now all at risk, and I will not work with a language or a vendor that has created that incredible risk. All that time and money Oracle poured into suing Google would have been far better served enhancing Java. But Google won’t do that because, as Ars Technica recently wrote, Java “isn’t currently printing money,” or enough to satisfy their overarching corporate greed.

The second reason is security related. Java, along with Flash, has been a cesspool of security vulnerabilities for years, vulnerabilities that Oracle has rather capriciously decided to fix (or not). On July 4th Heimdal posted a security alert about a Java-based zero-day exploit called Adwind that installed a RAT on any platform (Windows, Linux, OSX, and Android) that runs Java. That was the tipping point for me.

This exploit, along with Oracle’s behavior towards Java in general and Google in particular, convinced me to walk away from Java. That means: remove Java off of everything I own and to never write another line of Java. I will neither use nor purchase any Java-based tools either. No actoins to support Java.

From now on it’s any language but Java.