2006.03.29

At times

08.42.11 - Mark

I might be ignorant, foul mouthed, lazy, disengaged, overbearing, undercutting, overwhelming, abrasive, sporatic, outright stupid, anti-authoritative, shameless, opioniated, brazen,interupting, insulting, uncaring, elitist, short-tempered, standoffish, confrontational, or pigheaded at times, and I admit that.

However when your sorry pathetic self can't find a fault with me other than the fact that I didn't call you and let you know that I wouldn't be dragging my sick corpse-like body into class to sit in on some bullshit discussion when I've been effectivly leading your class for the last 3 months, don't prance around like a stupid little cartoon telling me that you'll "have to take points off" of your illdefined "critical thinking" project paper because I wasn't there to "participate in the discussion".

I am not an idiot, a child, or an irresponcible lunitic, and I refuse to be treated like one.

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2006.03.27

Add indeciviness liberally

15.15.35 - Mark

This thread on how to survive an upcoming interview with Steven Colbert is hilarious. Half of them get the idea that Colbert is a "professional idiot" (his own words from an NPR interview I heard a while back) while the rest think that this is a serious media deal and this interview will make or break his film career.

Granted, we're talking about some of the same people who actually liked the walmart movie, which was a lousy attempt at rallying socially, politically, and economically disconnceted (and generally uninterested) urban liberals around the exploitative evil which is walmart. I mean, its a good thing that it helps the urbanites realize that Walmart is a problem, but it doesn't really say anything new - certainlly not to people who have to deal with walmarts

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My Bad

09.27.57 - Mark

Late last week I had about a dozen junk posting find their way into my blog's database. They wern't comment spam, although at first glance they looked like it, with junk email addresses and the poorly spelled messages characteristic all spam seems to contain. What was a bit atypical was the spammer's address which was at my domain. It didn't hit me why this was until this morning when I had another one of these messages pop up.

I was being used to help sleezeballs in Latin America spam some poor fool's email account.

Ooops. My Bad.

The quick patch was a series of rules you need to meet before a comment is posted, and when I get around to it I'll probably put together some IP filters and email verification code as a basic spam filtering system, and then move it over to another "installation" of my blog software before spammers discover it in 3 months.

Other than the measures I can take, I kind of feel bad for the dozen or so people who have been spammed because of an exploited error in my code...

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2006.03.26

Leaving Mayberry

11.30.57 - Mark

Mount Airy is a good town. Boring as hell and ignorant at times, but over all its a good place for families. It rests in the Piedmont near the Blue ridge Mountains and the area surrounding Mount Airy is stunning, which I was reminded of while spending some time at Raven Knob yesterday.

It's also somewhat well known as the hometown of Andy Griffith and a recognized inspiration for Mayberry.

Ever since I moved here a few years ago being Mayberry has been a big deal for the town, since tourism has taken over as the main industry since the textiles moved out of the country. I can understand that, however a year or two ago the city brought in some economic consultants and after talking to various people in the community they came to the conclusion that while Mayberry was a good tourism launch pad , the city needed to divirisy its tourism appeal into "lifestyle tourism" focusing on simple living, outdoor activities, arts, crafts, music, etc. But for whatever reason this study hasn't been widely circulated in town.

Insted of pushing those other avenues, we have everyone and their dog trying to capatilize on Mayberry. Mayberry Square, Mayberry Motor Inn, Mayberry Courthouse, Opie's Candy Store, Snappy Lunch, Floyd's Barber Shop, Mayberry Auto, Aunt Bea's (resteraunt), Mayberry Weadding Chapel, Squad Car Tours, Wally's Service Station, the list goes on. Even the main website for the chamber of commerce is VisitMayberry.com. There's even a business called Mayberry Internet Auctions on the outskirts of town.

Rather than trying to move past Mayberry as the actors who stared in the show die off (the latest being Don Knotts about a month ago) we're seeing more and more business come in trying to cater to the Mayberry Sect, some successfully like Snappy Lunch and Floyd's, others not so much (Mayberry Pet Store), and when we disappoint fans, its major news, like a pair of fans from Georgia came to visit Snappy Lunch, only to discover its closed for renovations to bring it up to code. They might not get their desired meal, but they'll get into the local newspapers (I don't want to know how the paper discoverd that story).

It's all a bit disappointing, and I really want to see more people in the community try to move past Mayberry, because in 5 or 10 years, I don't think its going to be as successful as it is now.

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2006.03.24

Magnetic Attraction

20.35.06 - Mark

Earlier this week I got a shipment from think geek which contained a renewed supply of Bawls and the game of Polarity.

I love it, nearly as much as Fluxx which I have a known addiction to. (In the end Fluxx wins out because a deck of cards is more portable than 52 magnets and a heavy table)

The basic idea of Polarity is to influence magnetic fields on the playing field so that you can "float" magnets against each other's magnetic forces, while making it extremely hard for your opponent to do the same. Winning depends on making your opponent screw up by making two or more magnets touch in significant and often humorous ways.

It requires a seriously steady hand, a sharp mind and a perfectly flat, rock stable surface (stable surface not required if you don't care about keeping it overly-sensitive adult friendly)

Better add a good sene of humor to the requirements, you will loose when you're not supposed to. You're trying to control forces of nature here...

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2006.03.22

Take Note.

18.29.02 - Mark

There's a student/teacher debate over laptops at University of Memphis that's getting some national coverage. The interesting thing about it isn't that there are teacher who want to ban laptops in favor of pen and paper. I don't think that's quite as interesting as what laptops are demonstraiting a bit better than "traditional" methods of note taking, and that is students don't know how to take notes.

The offending teacher claims that laptop users are more concerned with transcribing than note taking. I'd say that's a legitimant concern (as is eye contact and other distractions associated with computers) However the problem isn't solved by demanding pen and paper notes, because most students will continue to make attempts at transcriptions.

Different classes require different learning styles. Some classes almost require word for word image for image notes which require pen and paper (Math comes to mind) others benifit from outliner notes and occassional google searches. Others still shouldn't have any notes of any shape or form.

There's some decent discussion on the topic over at slashdot

Too bad there's a breakdown in communication between most students and teachers. That's part of the reason I really like the unconfrence model for classrooms. Everyone gets to do their own thing

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Geekiness

10.39.39 - Mark

Before all of my MySQL frustrations yesterday, I was having a fairly good day. I was fairly comfortable during my ecommerce class where the fools left me in charge of teaching (as in actually semi-planned me as the discussion leader, not the me as in hijacking the lecture and attempting to push it towards the unconference model). I would have liked some warning that I would be leading two classes as opposed to one, but I survived.

I also picked up a new 512MB USB drive for $20 afer rebates. Its amazing how cheap the things are getting, I think I $30 for my first one and that was 128MB. This one is going to be used for storage and portable applications so I can free up my iPod shuffle for other things, like podcast recieving and listning.

I've ended up running a few hacks to get it working, until I get the iBook and regular iPod fixed this will work. For podcast fetching, I'm using Podcatcher on a stick, which runs on windows, linux and OS X, and I'm using iPod Shuffle Database Builder, which is also windows, linux, and OS X friendly, to rebuild the database after I run podcatcher (at least thats the theory, I'm waiting for the podcather to finish its run at the moment)

I might have been on the constant verge of information overload with all my RSS, podcast, and vidcast feeds, but its feeling good to get back to automating some of these tasks. Manual downloading sucks.

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2006.03.21

Stupid is...

17.59.25 - Mark

Complaining about MySQL subqueries not working in a version of MySQL that, well, doesn't support subqueries. That's what I get for not checking my version numbers sooner

Feeling slightly more awake and a whole lot stupider.

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Subconscious subqueries

17.24.03 - Mark

I'm drifting in and out of sleep as I'm trying to bang out this MySQL subqueries assignement with a copy of MySQL that refuses to accept subqueries. Its very annoying, and all I want to do right now is sprawl out on a flat surface (preferably soft and warm) and let the REM cycles take over. Too bad I can't, I know I'm pushing out crappy hacked together work, but I need to get this damned assignment done.

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2006.03.20

Mark Wiki

17.31.58 - Mark

I've known for a while that I needed to start moving my mess of local files onto the web - basically since I started using a Linux box in addition to my iBook and the computers at school, and that idea has become more ingrained in me since the great iBook crash.

Despite that personal tradigity, I'm getting a lot out of it - as among other things its been the swift kick in the ass I needed to start trying some of the very cool technologies out there, like the iPod Shuffle DB tool, Portable Firefox, and even Wikis.

Being able to email and network my files is one thing, but I finally bit the bullet and installed a copy of MediaWiki onto my server (same software as wikipedia). I've used various wikis before, but its amazing at how simple it is. I need to find and study some of the formatting commands for it, but I know enought that I can start adding info to the wiki. As I get more comforatble with it I might open it up to collaborate on various projects.

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Office Space Moments

09.21.41 - Mark

(I'm bored, and writing this ate up a good 20 minutes. It may or may not be fictionalized)

Right now I'm sitting in a very uncomfortable, bulk discount special office chair, propping my heavy eyelids open wide enough to stare at the flickering screen of the state purchased computer whose inhospitable Windows enviroment is barely allowing me to get work done in a horrible - but its the best I have - text editing application.

My mind is awake, at least more awake than my body feels. It's not paying attention to the task at hand, nor does it need to. Instead it is idleing in the background, watching, listining, waiting for this allocated block of boredom to end.

As I read over the lines of code I've written over the past few minutes, hours, days the buzzing of the fluorescent lights above me and the fans of the computers idiots left running over the weekend are assulting my ears.

The only other noise in the room comes from occasional outbursts from the two other drones sitting in the room, themselves banging away at some aspect of this project. When they choose to speek, its useless and undesirable chatter.

There's some talk related to this little project of ours, but most of the noise is small talk - weather and the like. One is boring me with news from some mundane confrence he attended last week.

The other is discussing his latest in a sting of get rich quick schemes, unlike some of his other plots, which might stand a chance of being executable, this one has all the thought and merit of a dot com's back of a napkin business plan. Come to think of it, that might be more than he has. As best as I can tell it's some sort of specialized web design group. He's excited because the group bought and installed a pre-designed website over the weekend. I try not to snicker at the irony.

I should be doing "work" right now, but its done. At least on this project. The code I've been staring out not only works, its superfluous. Some trivial little item that will more than likely go unnoticed except as some line item mentioned in the time sheets I have yet to fill out.

There's another project in the wings, but I don't have any of the materials I need to get started on it. It doesn't bug me and I won't be activally seeking it out. I'll just sit here, banging away at the keyboard, looking good and busy, a misserable little drone sitting in some uncomfortable office chair...

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Crazies on the interwebs

03.22.47 - Mark

The web is buzzing of the latest "Google is hurting my business" lawsuit. All of these are frivilious and I think the idea of "Search Engine Optimization" as part of your business model is pretty sad and pathetic. Maybe this is naive ideology speaking, but its better to treat your customers right and let them sing your praises (and naturally raising your ranking) than it is to try and con your way to the top. It takes some effort on my part not to snap at anyone who complains about their google rank to me (and it happens) Google is a private business, and to be honest one that seems to get sleezier and sleeizer every year. It is not a public service, and it is a mistake to try and treat it like one.

Most of these lawsuits (especially the one above) are making that mistake, which gets them nowhere and puts a silly burden on the court system. Even if some judge was technically illiterate enough to mistake google as a public utility, how do these slime ball companies propose google run its indexing service? The guy with the most lawyers wins? Maybe we fall back to the bad old days when the only way to get into a search engine was Paid Inclusion?

I don't think so, there's a reason those models failed (for the most part), well documented reasons.

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2006.03.17

Linux for Human Beings, Even Easier

20.44.48 - Mark

I really like Ubuntu Linux, I've used other linux distros like Fedora and Knompix, unfortunatly even Ubuntu's developers haven't made it easy enough for non-geeks to setup and use enought for it to be functional.

However today I accidentially came across this utility (for Ubuntu) that, while it still doesn't make it as easy as a Mac or Windows, makes it easy to take a default Ubuntu install and make it functional.

The tool is called Automatix, and it automates the process of adding extra applications, drivers, utilities, and codecs.

If you have to install a copy of Ubuntu for something other that a server, go out and get Automatix.

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2006.03.16

Dueling Platforms

09.01.30 - Mark

Someone has figured out how to duel boot a MacBookPro (I still think it's a silly name) with OS X and Windows XP. They also piecked up $14,000 for the work. link

If Apple releases a 12" Intel 'book of any variety before I fix my iBook, I'll be giving some serious thought into moving up to a new system rather than a repair.

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2006.03.14

Happy Pi Day

15.09.20 - Mark

Today, 3.14, is Pi Day

I'm off to find (and eat) pie and/or pineapple, and to decide if I want to watch Pi or not.

Its amazing how many geek holidays I've actually celebrated.

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2006.03.13

Hmmm...

23.58.43 - Mark

I think they're onto something with this study on how playing in the "wild" as a kid influences enviromental opinions as an adult

[via Boing Boing]

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To DIY, or not to DIY

20.18.38 - Mark

Its been over two weeks (wow) since my iBook decided to cease and desist, and I think I'm finally (read: maybe) getting around to making a decision about fixing it myself. The trackpads for the g4 iBooks seem to be standard, and I can get a new one of those for $25 on ebay, the problem becomes the motherboard. Its not the cost, which still seems to be in the area of $200 - $300 but rather the avalibility of the same model motherboard. There are very few 1GHz board on eBay, and the prices for the online stores are significantly higher. There are however, plenty of 1.2GHz boards and 1.33 GHz boards, which in all honesty would be a nice little pot of gold at the end of this screwed up little rainbow. The problem is that I'm finding it very hard to find out if those faster boards are compatible with the rest of my parts pile. It looks like they are the same shape, and I've seem some reports saying that they are compatible, but I'm also seeing sites say they're not. I kind of miss the old days, when it was easy to find out what boards were swapable and what wasn't

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Blogger/Blogspot - Underbelly of the internet

01.10.16 - Mark

Dave Slusher is the latest person to get inline about the evil of Blogger and Blogspot and how they've become a haven for splogs. (There were similar posts by Chris Pirillo and Mark Cuban last October)

When I moved off blogger/blogspot a few months ago, the splog thing was certainly a consideration. Who wants to be at a domain that is becoming well known for splogs and other online annoyances? (On that note how long before Google Page Creator is used for link farms?)

I ended up moving more for the lack of functionality, and the erratic server behaviour, but I wouldn't doubt it if I was told that both of those problems was because the Google Geeks still working on Blogger are spending all their time on putting out server fires than they are on improved functionality or solving the comment spam/splog problem.

In a way it's a shame, blogger is great for beginners and other low demand sites, as well as a small project communication tool (due to it user base size). However the things that make it great for new users also make it great for splogs, and considering that Google makes it extremely hard for users to move away from Blogger or otherwise keep control of their content that becomes a big problem, as noted by the number of good bloggers who are still using the service.

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2006.03.11

Congressional Misinformation

18.32.03 - Mark

I got a pretty little letter today, from one of the three congress critters who supposedly represent me (despite the fact that I didn't vote for any of them and they are all almost exact polar opposite of my political opinions). Of the three, Burr is my favorite. The busy politician he is, he makes sure to anwer each and every one of those political action emails I email his way with strait line republicrat bushit

The latest of these recripicated form letters, very thoroughly addressed to Mr. Mark Welker - Mount Airy High School (my home address) was on the subject of civil liberties and electronic surveillance. In this letter Mr. Burr tries to explain to me how need to allow these "new methods and approaches" surveillance because this administration has made it clear that such tools are needed. He also explained to me that we'll never hear of the successes of these programs.

I'm not sure where I want to start with the problems I have with this letter:

The fact that it skirts the fact that fails to address the unwarranted domestic surveillance carried out by government intellengence organizations whose juristiction only covers foreign powers - not domestic.

The not so subtle hints at blindly following the Bush Administration.

The fact that he cites September 11th, 2001 as reason enough to permit these searches - not once, but twice.

The fact that he's trying to reassure me that the government is working with enough accurate infomation to make well informed decisions about its intellengce activities.

BTW, I graduated from high school almost two years ago, I almost never mention it in conversation, and would never put it in my mailing address.

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2006.03.08

Spontaneous Combustion

11.09.29 - Mark

Firefox has blown up on me three times in the last fifteen minutes. It wouldn't be so bad if it was reproducable in anyway. I really need to just make an executive decision on iBook repair and get my 'book back.

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Through the looking glass

00.14.30 - Mark

I'm starting to bang away at the hardware hacker's recipie box idea, and as I start writing some scripts for it, it occurs to me at how complex the content management problem really is. Much more than this blog engine, where I know the sole user better than anyone else on earth and can design and code according to what's intuitive.

With this bulked up system, there are far more questions to ask and answer. How do we get the user to enter data correctly? What type of entry form is more user friendly - and whats the best way to impliment it? How do we error check all that information? How do we divide that information up? Where it is stored? Does that database scheme make sense? Will I reuse that code? How much, and what will change between calls?

Fun challenge, but it seems like I've fallen though a looking glass, and there's a pair of questions for every answer.

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2006.03.05

Anticlimax

04.03.56 - Mark

It still strikes me funny how everytime I wrap up a sizeable coding project, its completly anticlimatic. Maybe I've just watched Hackers, Swordfish and Antitrust a few too many times and the idea of a enmotionally charged end to a long code session is too ingrained in me for reality to make a dent in my delusions.

This isn't the Maker related project I mentioned a while back (which I'll probably start in the next day or two unless a better idea peesents itself), rather I'm dragging my Dad into online publishing, and its more fun for me to do everything from scratch than it is for me to go out install a copy of wordpress or some other prebuilt blog engine and then hack my way though the code of someone elses template.

Look for a link when there's actually some content on there, which shouldn't be too long, the first tings to go up will be some of the editorials and columns he's written (the dirty secret here is that I refuse to read the newspapers he's worked for, but still want to read his columns - the whole point of his website has been so I could get an RSS feed of his writings. If that costs me $8 a year for a domain name, I'm fine with it.)

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2006.03.03

Long time coming

19.25.48 - Mark

I've been wondering for several years how long it was going to take for my former high school to get around to complaining about blogs, turnes out several years. They're holding their first informational session about "the internet and your child" next week. Part of me abhors the idea of returning to that wretched stink hole, but another part of me wants to know how much misinformation they'll be feeding parents about the internet. This would be the same computer education department that tried to pass Hypercard off as Apple's less capable answer to Powerpoint. Sure...

The part of me that wants to be tortured wouldn't be doing it just to gain plesure from mass media induced ignorance, its been kicking around the idea of doing a new media workshop like several other communities around NC have done. I'm fairly sure there are a number of people in the area interested in blogging, audio and video podcasts, wikis, etc. it would be nice to shed some light on those subjects and help shave away some of the digital divide.

See, I don't hate all forms of education (just the overly organized I'm right you're wrong model)

Anyways My CDs are burned (I miss the ability to update my iPod with fresh podcasts) I'm going to go see if I can't collect my brother's boat anchor of a laptop from CompUSA.

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Freecycle

13.46.56 - Mark

I ment to post this yesterday, but I was too out of it to do much of anything yesterday afternoon. I'm on a couple of the local freecycle mailing lists. It's a neat idea, but like a lot of online activism things, its probably a lot better in major population centers. Reguardless, the local lists get a few hundred posts a month depending on any moderation or membership requirements.

Lots of the posts are bland, wanted or offers of bags of cloths and books and as pointless as coupons, and I could see how somepeople could get frustrated with the deluge of junk but occasioanlly some interesting items are posted. From scrap electronics to vehicles, to one "Wanted: The gift of life" (Stokes County NC Freecycle list)

I'm a 42 year old male with Diabetes and ( ESRD ) kidney failure. My kidneys haven't worked in over a year now & the surgeon tells me that I have about four years left. I need someone with type O blood to be tested as a possible match. If you don't know your blood type and are interested we can have it checked. There is no cost to you to be tested or to donate.

My father is past the age limit and brother had kidney stones,this is all the family I have but they can't help. A living donor is preferred over a cadaver because the success rate is much higer. PLEASE won't you give the gift of life?

Respond to: FLASH66N (at) YAHOO (dot) COM


It's not exactly inline with freecycle, as it's not exactly trying to keep something out of a landfill, but it is building a community. I find it neat how groups are always finding new ways to apply technology to better their circumstances, and even if that (and a handful of other posts) don't mesh with the national movement, it is still creating a network of digital neighbors.

Of course there's also that fact that I find it hard to believe that someone could get angry over someone trying to extend their life, since at least one peson gave the list-admin some flack over approving the kidney post.

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Spring Break

12.36.37 - Mark

I don't know that I'd call low 50s in the first week of March spring, but I'm now on break from school. I don't know that I'll be doing that much, other than code, but I know that I'm more than ready for a week off from school.

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2006.03.02

Tag, you're it

11.17.25 - Mark

I'm constitently getting into arguments with teachers about the validity of metadata and keywords in HTML (I think its bull) But I hold a better opinion of tagging because its got a finer resolution. Its the difference between telling someone to describe themselves in 5 words and telling someone to explain their political views in 5 words. It also doesn't hurt that there are search engines that are collecting information by tags, and that there are few if any search engines that put any weight into keywords and metadata.

Unfortunatly I'm the "student" and they're the "teachers" and we're all in one of the less technical parts of North Carolina so I usually get to be "wrong"

However it looks like the non blogging and Web 2.0 internet are starting to adopt tagging. Amazon has had it for a while, and now it looks like Slashdot is putting some tag functionality into its CMS. While the teachers might not read slashdot, amazon is a regular case study for us.


Maybe before I graduate they'll relize I haven't been talking out of my ass (entirely) for the last 2 years

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2006.03.01

Long way to go

15.33.38 - Mark

One benifit of having a borked Mac, a borked PC, and the most powerful system in the house using Linux, is that I'm getting a bit more proficient at using linux. Its a hell of a powerful OS, its clean, quick, and does most of what I need it to - if I bang on it with a hammer.

Every time I come back and give linux some serious use, I'm more and more impressed at what it does, and discover more and more what I love about the Mac OS, and even - dare I say it, Windows.

Macs and windows for the most part work. If I want to watch a movie I can open up nearly an media player and it plays. Under linux, it might play, it might not play, and if it does play it might not do so at the size I want it to, unless however, I go in as root with a command line editor, force half a dozen changes in some obscure config file that are no where to be found in the GUI, and then pray I didn't botch something while sacrficeing a goat to the voodoo gods so my changes actually work.

For music I've got three different applications that claim they support music transfers to iPods, and yet none of them have been able to do so and only one was able to read the contents of the iPod. Even just playing music on the box I'm rotating between three applications because they all suck. Misserable playlist management, one crashes when I skip tracks.

Now I'm learning how to deal with these problems, finding these config files, making those bug reports, etc. Your average user on the other hand...

Something for the geeks out there to think about before handing out those knompix and ubuntu discs like they were AOL CDs

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