Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Al La Carte TV?

I’ve made the decision to cancel my cable TV service because there are too many ads which are too loud, there’s too much paid programming, I can’t select specific channels (a la carte cable) and what I have is very poor variety and quality entertainment—even from over 100 channels!
It seems that an hour of television can carry about twenty minutes of commercials. Add all those Paid Programming sessions and I’m paying $75 a month to essentially have ads thrown at me. Considering that cable providers interject local ads, I figure that they must be making more than the oil companies.
I plan to make better use of my time and if I want to watch the News, a movie or a documentary, there are plenty of Internet videos to choose from. I’ve noticed that there are a lot of web sites providing World-wide streaming of TV and Radio stations. However, I’m not comfortable with sites that charge a one-time fee as I’ve noticed that they don’t list any channels.
C-Span, Fox News, BBC and ITV all have a decent amount of news clips.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Global Warming?

I received a call the other day from someone doing a survey on behalf of our local city council, regarding "Global Warming". I don’t usually accept cold calls of any type, but this subject rather intrigued me. One of the first questions was, "What do you think about Global Warming?" Like most of the questions, it was clearly slanted towards a narrow chain of thought that suggested global warming is a reality, the city should become "green", and this survey was going to prove it one way or another (or garner enough support to implement a "green strategy").
I consider that I’m reasonably rational, even though I have my emotional moments (due to a loaded natal 4th house, mainly covered by the astrological sign of Scorpio—hence my handle here). However, the idea that a local governing body wants to act on global warming when the jury is still out on whether the current events are really man-made or due to natural phenomena, such as a cyclic trend, a number of volcanic eruptions or some other action, is premature, at the very least.
Don’t get me wrong here; I’m a very strong environmentalist, who puts his money where his mouth is. My astrological profile suggests an emphasis with making things more efficient and I’ve spent many years working with alternative power such as small wind turbines, solar power and other energy saving activities—all in my spare time. I ride an electric bike and share a Prius.
I’ve spent countless hours working with LED lights, electronic control circuits and motion sensing devices; my outside Christmas tree has been lit for many years with LED’s run by solar powered batteries. I even have an electric golf cart, which I’ve converted to manually switch from 36-volts (running) to 12-volts for charging and powering house lights. The cart, which has a high-powered solar panel on top, connects to a 12-volt line that runs the length of the house.
I’m probably the only person in the immediate locality who does not turn onthe air-conditioner. Instead, I use a large fan to extract the heat from the attic, and I’m working on ways to make this self-powered. I could probably write a book on the number of projects and things I do to reduce my carbon footprint.
With such a background, you might be wondering why I’m seemingly against this push to place global warming at the top of everyone’s agenda. Simply put, it is because this is the wrong reason. Pollution and unnecessary waste should be our top priority; we should be using energy wisely. Energy has only recently become, financially and politically, a noticeable problem. For years, only the industrialized nations were using what seemed to be an infinitely available resource. With so many nations like China and India increasing their need for energy, not only has pollution increased globally, but the increased demand has sent the price of oil and certain other commodities skyrocketing.
Therefore, we all need to be more efficient with energy, not because of some recent catch phrase that is being used for political purposes, but because it’s the right thing to do.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

A Windows PC Replacement

As a veteran of PC operating system that goes back to 1981, I’ve always used Microsoft operating systems (after the demise of CPM). Even though I’ve dabbled with software code, I’m more of a user, spending a lot of time with various applications.

I’m the kind of person who likes to have some control of my environment, and with PC’s it’s changing both look and feel as well as configuring it to accommodate the style I’m used to.

With the advent of Windows XP and now Vista, I’m going to abandon Microsoft simply because the direction they seem to be taking is akin to the Macintosh environment. This is the environment for simple users where the operating system is tightly structured and customization is extremely difficult. For the limited changes that can be made, the familiar steps have vanished in favor of having to make intensive research to figure it out (if at all).

I first got a clue when Microsoft updated it’s office product from the ’97 version, with the hiding of certain menu items, and using those ridiculous added arrows. For a power user like myself, I get quickly frustrated if I have to use additional mouse clicks that are really not necessary.

Even though I have several PC’s, I do have Windows 98, XP, and (uh!) Vista. I’ve recently been doing a lot of Audio processing, and unfortunately, MP3 players like the Zen series requires XP. However, I’m drawing the line at Vista, it’s the worst Operating System since Windows ME (and please don’t start me of that OS). Vista is so bloated that most of the code must have been written in Basic, and the notion that this OS alone must have a minimum of 2G bytes of RAM and a high end system is ridiculous at this point.

I just love my Windows 98 environment, I keep regular backups and if I have to change the system, it’s a breeze to port over and change all the drivers. I just go into safe mode and delete all the devices in the Device Manager, then after a reboot, the system loads all the new drivers.

I’m not really interested in security, as I have hardware and software firewalls, an Anti-virus that does not run in the background (I manually check things). This together with the ability to restore myWin98 system in minutes, carry out a full defrag in seconds, boot up and shut down much faster than later Windows OS’s with faster processors will keep me going with this OS for years.

However, I do have to keep up with the times if I’m going to be able to keep up with the ways things are going on the web I have to have a system that will accommodate the changes that continue to occur. After some research about what to do, I decided to use a Linux based system that has a Windows98-like desktop. I was quite excited to find out that Kubuntu is one such system.

I made a Ghost of my Win98 system from the drive first as I reformatted the disk. I decided to use the partitioning and formatting feature of Kubuntu's install routine to prepare the drive. I manually set up the following partitions and space:

Partition  Format  Size  Type           Name
1          FAT32   20GB  Primary Active System
2          Ext3    4GB   Primary        SWAP
3          Ext3    56GB  Primary        EXT3

I aborted the installation, rebooted and placed my backup of Win98 onto the Fat32 partition and checked it was OK.

I then installed Kubuntu 7.04 Feisty Fawn onto the drive, and it took me a while to figure out I had to keep the Fat32 drives listed otherwise Kubuntu does not recognize them (unless one knows how to mount them). I rebooted and ran the updates. Because I wanted maximum flexibility, I also installed the Ubuntu Desktop. This gave me the Synaptic Package Manager, Evolution E-Mail and a few other packages I wanted. I'm amazed with the variety of packages that are available and so easy to install, such as an Office suite, Audacity and Fontforge.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Saturn/Mars Double Whammy transit squares

I'm experiencing transit Mars Square my natal Saturn, and a transit Saturn Square my natal Mars. What's the significance of this?

First of all and in general, if Saturn in the natal chart is under stress, you're going to feel more of an effect than someone who does not have their natal Saturn under stress. However, if you've overcome the particular lesson(s) of having a stressed natal Saturn, then this period could be like any other day.

The usual effect of this transit square can be an indication of ambitions not being fulfilled. It may also indicate that the balance between a desire for success and personal growth is slanted too much towards ambition and material security. Many of these restrictions are usually imposed on you by men or authority figures.

Another effect can indicate a period in which obligations may be forced upon you by others. If some form of hardship or ill health occurs, one must try to understand what the Lord of Karma (Saturn) is informing you. Maybe you are holding in too much stress regarding other people's approach to life?

While I can say that this double whammy of a transit has not been too bad, I can say that I've had to call the police 5 times in just 4 days and this may not have much to do with this transit per se, as transit Uranus square my natal Moon may be more of a factor in my being more impatient than usual.

I made 3 calls during one night when some 80 odd teenagers descended to a house in the next block and created all sorts of mayhem such as driving too fast, playing loud music and when a fight erupted, one youth started to take it out on the neighbors mailboxes, kicking them over and breaking them.

I live in a very low-crime city, and neighborhood, so this event was rather unusual. The other events were due to unnecessary noise, which the police finally dealt with.

So I'm obviously still holding in too much stress regarding other people's approach to life which brings me back to the double whammy transit. My hiatus hernia is giving me a lot of pain of late. If you don't know what a hiatus hernia is, it is in my case a birth defect, which allows the gullet to remain open and contents of the stomach to flow freely back up. Even though this was operated on in my early 20's to close it, it has re-opened and the combination of scar tissue has made it extremely painful at times and inoperable.

I'm going to have to work harder at resolving this issue of other people's approach to life, but it's so hard when other's selfishly violate your personal space with their vehicle bass booming music, or their gas powered engine that roars up the street at full throttle, I just wish more people would embrace a higher level of social consciousness.