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31 August, 2008

McCain Makes A Hideous Mistake

I've mentioned before what an idiot presidential wannabe John McCain is. Well this week he rose to new heights of folly by choosing Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential running-mate.

What makes a man - even a man who can't think straight - choose a woman who is known as 'the barracuda' to help him run the country? Why, when America is reeling from the right wing fundamentalism of George Bush Jr., would he think that picking a tough-minded, right-wing ideologue would help him win the hearts and minds of the voters. This woman has a lifetime membership of the National Rifle Association for Heaven's sake! She likes shooting things - living things! She thinks it's fun to kill animals! (Not foetuses though - she's a rabid anti-abortionist, of course. But I imagine she approves of the death penalty so she won't mind killing grown-ups. She definitely thinks the Bush Administration is being to soft on polar bears by declaring them a protected species and would prefer the great hairy things not to be around eating fish and hanging out while her friends the oil companies ravage Alaska.)

Let's face it, McCain is no spring chicken. If anyone is dumb enough to vote for McCain, this woman could become President!

Can I make a plea to all my American readers: for your own sakes, don't vote McCain. Now that he has this Palin creature gnashing and slavering at his heels, his presidency could turn into something even worse than Bush's. And if you don't believe me, talk to anyone who was alive in the UK during the reign of Margaret Thatcher. It was a dark, dark time and I still shudder at the memory of it. Thatcher was a vicious thug in a skirt, a monster that wore lipstick. She crushed civil liberties wherever she found them. She trampled on democratic rights. She terrorised and politicised the civil service. She took the country to war. She was the worst Prime Minister ever to blight the British Isles.

Right-wing fundamentalist gun-loverRight-wing fundamentalist union-hater

Don't, please don't, put a woman like that in a position where she might become President of the USA. You will regret it.

30 August, 2008

Telstra Wastes Another Day of My Life

I see that Comcast, over in the States, has just put a cap on its broadband packages of 250 Gb/mo. SprintWireless, however, still has its service uncapped for $50/mo. This puts into grim perspective the awful day I had yesterday but to appreciate it, you'll need a bit of background.

I'm a Telstra NextG wireless broadband customer - by necessity - there are no other broadband suppliers in my area at all. Since the NextG service stared, 2 years or so ago, Testra has insisted that each customer has a separate account, a separate modem, and fixed the technology so that you could not use a router. This made the service hugely expensive. For a 1Gb/mo. download limit, Wifie and I paid $80 each (yes, each, plus $250 each for our modems). Then, a couple of weeks ago, Telstra announced that it would actually supply a router with the service so families could have a single account and share it - welcome to the 21st Century, Telstra!

Since Wifie and I also have a Telstra NextG mobile phone and a Telstra land-line (don't get me started on that!!) - as I said, Telstra is our only supplier out here - we decided that, with the router now available, we could bundle our services and save money. In fact, since we only needed one NextG broadband account, we could now get the absolute top-of-the-range package which has a 3Gb/mo download limit and costs a mere $109/mo.. So we ordered the router and set up the bundle. Rather than wire the house for ethernet, I also bought a wireless PCI card for my desktop machine (Wifie is a Mac user so already has bluetooth and WiFi as standard.)

Yesterday was the day when all the equipment arrived and we could plug it all together. (I won't dwell on Telstra's cock-up with the parcel delivery, or the online parts shop I first ordered the Wi-Fi card from which lied about the part's availability.)

It took seven hours work yesterday and another hour this morning to get it working. Now that may just be because we're both stupid (which we're not) or because we have non-standard equipment (which we don't) or because the network we were building is vastly complicated (which it isn't) or because I didn't have the necessary 25 years in the IT business needed to sort out the problems (oh, hang on a minute, I do have 25 years in the IT business).

The real reasons it took so long were:
  1. The Telstra router came with no instructions beyond saying you should follow the instructions in the software wizard on the accompanying CD. The wizard, of course, helps you cater with the simplest possible case then dumps you. Naturally, it has no trouble-shooting guidance for when things go wrong.
  2. Telstra's phone support covers only one computer attached to the router. To anyone except a marketing executive, this might seem ridiculous as the only point of having a router is to make a network consisting of multiple computers. Still, I suppose it saves Telstra money, so that's OK.
  3. The Telstra software was (as always) poorly designed and completely unhelpful. Still, it has nice graphics and zoomy logo things. As I ran through the set-up sequences over and over again, I couldn't help thinking that you can never have enough of seeing a company that is currently shafting you, advertise itself and its products over and over and over again, at the expense of your time and frayed nerves.
  4. The Telstra business systems that should have made all this easy, were a mess. (I spoke to four different branches of their software support group before I got the one that knew anything about doing an installation on a Macintosh - and I only got to them because I shouted at the poor guy in the third group and got him to take ownership of the problem of routing me to the right support group. Then it turned out that the sales group which set up our username and password had stuffed up and I had to be guided through a little secret technical magic to reprogram the router!)
  5. The fifth problem wasn't Telstra at all - which was a refreshing change. The software that came with my Chinese PCI card didn't work properly and came with no instructions whatsoever. Like all driver software, it is designed for propeller-headed geeks with nothing better to do than to learn hexadecimal codes and stick their noses close to hot chips. I tried the Wi-Fi card in three different PCI slots, reinstalling the driver each time I moved it, before I found one that it liked. Since I did most of this sitting on the floor, I had the additional joy of having my 4 month-old puppy, Bertie, slobbering excitedly in my ear and attempting to jump into the innards of my computer.
But that's all behind us now. The router works, our two computers are talking wirelessly to the Internet and all's well with the world.

Except that all we get for all this effort and stress is a low-speed broadband service with a 3Gb download limit. Gee, thanks, Telstra.

When is Comcast coming to Australia?

09 August, 2008

We don't play cricket with Zimbabwe because...?

Never mind that they throw dissidents in prison. Never mind that they routinely use torture and execution. Never mind the corruption, the oppression, the people who were thrown out of their homes to make way for Olympic venues. Let the games begin!

Of course we all know that China is a dictatorship. We all know that human rights there are allowed or disallowed at the whim of the ruling politicians. We all know that the oppressive regime in China sees the 2008 Olympic Games as a massive propaganda exercise to to give itself credibility and respect in the world's eyes and to bolster its progressive image at home.

But we will suspend our revulsion because sport is such a great way of bringing people together. It breaks down national boundaries, it does away with prejudice and it helps us join hands in peaceful pursuits. Whatever the cost of our tolerance is to oppressed people in China, whatever the value of our support is to the ruling party there (and the value in dollars alone is just staggering), we know in our hearts that engaging China in such global events will, in the long-run help to bring them into the fold, to integrate them with their neighbours (oops, almost mentioned Tibet) and to hasten the rise of democratic institutions in the biggest dictatorship the world has ever known.

After all, it worked so well with Hitler and the Third Reich back in 1936.

04 August, 2008

Atheists of the World, Unite!

Hey! Guess what I've found. An Atheist Blogroll.

Cool, eh? Now I can support a poor, oppressed minority - people who are not insane - by adding the blogroll to my blog. You'll find it down at the bottom on the left. To quote the blogroll's organiser;

The Atheist blogroll is a community building service provided free of charge to Atheist bloggers from around the world. If you would like to join, visit Mojoey at Deep Thoughts for more information.

At the time of writing, the atheist blogroll is a fairly new idea but has already accumulated about 750 names. The curious thing to me is that it has any names at all. Being an atheist is just being a normal, sane person. So why would anyone want to declare their normality? Well, because the crazy people number in the hundreds of millions - possibly billions - they're highly organised, extremely wealthy, vociferous, influential and powerful. (Scary, huh?) When one finds a few brave souls willing to stand up to all this organised madness and say, 'Yo! I at least am not one of the fruit-loop majority,' one just feels the need to offer them one's solidarity.

So, all you atheist bloggers out there, I want to see your names down on this blogroll. Your fellow sane people need your support - and, let's face it, come the next Inquisition, you might need theirs.

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