NanoPost: Phear RPV Tech

Jeff Frederick’s stellar IT background has brought the exciting world of ASP (c. 1996-2000) to the Republican Party of Virginia’s web site:  http://rpv.org/news.asp.  What could be next?  An Access backend?  By the way, when are they going to start the competitive bidding for those cool projects they’re working on? 🙂

NanoPost: Commanders On The Ground

It occurs to me that there is a serious flaw with politicians deferring to military commanders on the ground when it comes to Iraq:  It undermines the principle that the U.S. is a civilian government.  This isn’t Burma, after all.  Obviously you want military commanders leading military campaigns… but foreign policy?  Five years after the end of major combat operations?  (No, I still don’t believe the situation in Iraq is a “war.”)

NanoPost: John Kerry, Party Animal

John Kerry partying with college girls?  It’s hard to imagine a bigger buzzkill.  Anyway, the Boston Herald provides a somewhat less sensational version of the story, if you’re interested.  Best quote:

“No wonder everyone in the Massachusetts Republican Party was shocked by the photo – they’ve never had a candidate surrounded by supporters,” Wade said.

Secondarily:  Are Republicans so horrified to talk about John McCain that they’d rather re-fight the 2004 election?

Political Chess Overseas (updated)

Too Progressive gives us the scoop (actually just links to the YouTube where Andrea Mitchell gives us the scoop).  One of the meatiest nuggets that conservatives have found in Obama’s overseas junket to reinforce their “Hussein” fantasies is that he snubbed wounded troops !! in Germany.  I myself wondered why Obama’s campaign would do something so politically disasterous.  Funny story… Mitchell reports that the military told him he couldn’t visit.  This is where I begin to speculate of course, but obviously high-ranking military officials (undoubtedly Republican supporters) wanted to give him a political black eye on an otherwise pristine photo op tour.  Ah, politics.  The never-ending struggle to influence gullible bloggers voters.

UPDATE 7/26: The game continues… SWAC Girl tries to rebut using evidence from a story issued the day before Andrea Mitchell’s report on Morning Joe. That’s not very convincing to this observer.

UPDATE 7/27:  Now the McCain campaign is jumping into the fray with a new ad about this, undoubtedly because they saw how much traction the story was getting with conservatives.  For some weird reason, McCain thinks the accompanying ”facts” on his campaign web site give them a check mate.  Um, I’ll wait for the FactCheck writeup, thanks.

Also, conservative bloggers must have gotten a memo from McCain central because they’ve morphed their story from “he’s a troop-hating America-hater” to “he couldn’t bring cameras”… that at least is more believable, and fits in better with the “Obama is elitist” theme.

Personally, when I look at a situation like this, I try to deduce the truth by asking myself which side benefits politically.  (Because, clearly, everything about a campaign is geared around that.)  You’ve got to think that Obama’s image-conscious campaign staff is smart enough to know that cancelling a visit to see wounded troops – when a signifcant portion of the country (ie. more than zero) already believes your guy is a Muslim trying to infiltrate the White House — on an overseas trip where millions of reporters are covering every single microscopic detail of what you’re doing — is going to hurt bigtime.  So the idea that Obama would cancel a visit simply because he couldn’t bring cameras, while plausible in the sense that it fits with Obama’s rock star image and McCain’s general attack strategy, makes absolutely no sense from his campaign’s viewpoint.

Not that any of that matters… what matters is who gets their attack meme into the 2-second sound bites of drive time radio news that Joe America makes their voting decision from.  *rolls eyes*

UPDATE 7/28:  Sure enough, the Obama troop-hating incident was prominently featured on a WRVA news snippet this morning, so I guess Republicans won this round of mind control.  Mike Huckabee of all people got the last word, saying something to the effect that Obama’s explanation was “nonsense.”  I’m sure Huckabee went on to explain in great nuanced detail why that was so, but alas the radio did not play any more of the recording.  P.S. FactCheck chimed in on this today, and I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that Republicans will not be linking to it.

UPDATE 7/31:  McCain’s proxy George Allen was on Richmond’s Morning News with Jimmy Barrett this morning (audio here), and guess what he thought was the most memorable part of Obama’s overseas trip?  Yes, shockingly enough, it was Obama snubbing those wounded troops “because it wasn’t going to be a good photo-op.”  He has a down home folksy manner so I’m sure he’s more reliable than FactCheck.

NBC Loves Them Hurricanes

Does anyone else get the sense that NBC Nightly News for Dummies simply can’t wait to report on another hurricane destroying a U.S. city?  While they were spending approximately 20,000 hours reporting on The Long Road Back from Katrina, they must have put a lot of hurricane disaster reporting resources in place, because they sure are anxious to tell us about these things now.  This year, they’re building up fear and drama about hurricanes before they’re even hurricanes.

A while back, Brian Williams gave us a breathless report about Bertha’s potential for destruction (“it’s just gotten a lot stronger… a major storm with a well-defined eye…”) long before it was anywhere near the U.S. (followed a day later by a slightly exasperated admission that Bertha in fact would not cause any destruction at all).

A few nights ago we got a full report of dire warnings about Dolly, but not once did they mention it was barely even a Category 1 storm at the time.  One of the most memorable quotes in this story, from a terrified resident:  “We’re gonna have a lotta water comin’ down this way.”  Stay strong, brave soul.

Last night we saw the report about Dolly making landfall, where intrepid reporter-turned-voiceover-artist Don Teague actually said, “They expected Dolly to make landfall… but what they didn’t expect was this:  Ferocious winds.”  Um… hello?  Hurricane?  You know, the thing with the ferocious winds?  The best example of devastation they could get on tape was… a window breaking.  And it didn’t even happen on camera.

Nice work, guys.  Better luck next time.

NanoPost: Whiners

Phil Graham said we are “a nation of whiners.”  So, um, what’s the controversial part again?  Also:  Doesn’t the very fact that everyone was whining about his comment sort of confirm his observation?

July 2008 Buyer’s Guide

I recently helped my niece pick a laptop for college, which got me thinking that I should write an article containing all of my computer buying recommendations.

Why Buy A New Computer

If you already have a computer, you might be wondering why you should consider a new one.

The main reason is that newer software tends to require a newer computer to run effectively.  Also, some computer peripherals (printers, scanners, etc.) may require features found only on newer computers.  For example, if you buy a printer today it will almost certainly require a USB port, but some older computers don’t have USB ports.

Also, over time, computers running Windows tend to get slower as more and more software is installed.  (This can sometimes be resolved by reformatting your hard drive, but that is a lengthy technical process that is beyond the scope of this document.)

The bottom line is that if your computer is more than a couple of years old, it is probably time to buy something new.  It is a sad fact of the industry that most computers become obsolete in a few years.  Unless you are a computer expert, it is usually easier to buy a whole new system than to try to upgrade your old system.

Tom recommends:  Expect to buy a new computer every 2 years or so.

What To Buy

Operating System

First you need to decide on your operating system.

Windows.  Almost all modern computers found in stores come with Microsoft Windows Vista installed, so that is what I’ll focus on.  There are several confusing variations of Vista — you can’t go wrong with Vista Home Premium, which is the most popular configuration.

Note 1:  If you already have a computer running any previous version of Windows, you should expect a bit of a learning curve when you start using Vista.

Note 2:  There is a popular misconception that Windows Vista should be avoided.  Personally, I think many of the Vista detractors just didn’t want to go through the hassle of learning something new.  In any case, some computers still come with — and many computer experts and sales clerks still suggest buying — the older Microsoft Windows XP, but in my opinion you will be setting yourself up for more technical challenges if you choose XP over Vista.

Apple.  If you have a lot of money to spend, you may choose to buy an Apple system, but if you do, you’ll need to find another buyer’s guide because I’ve never owned an Apple.  I have nothing against them, but I consider Apples to be the Bose speakers of the computer world:  They are more expensive, and you don’t get much for the extra money except a vague sense of prestige.

Linux.  Linux is a popular alternative choice among computer experts, but unless you are an expert yourself (in which case you wouldn’t be reading this), or have the services of a full-time expert who can set up and maintain your computer for you, it’s best to avoid it.

Tom recommends:  Windows Vista Home Premium.

Desktop vs. Laptop

desktop Desktop computers (shown at right) are cheaper and have more “horsepower” than their laptop counterparts.  Expect to pay roughly twice as much for a laptop with the same performance as a desktop.

Remember you will need to buy a monitor to go with a desktop computer.  Most stores sell package deals, sometimes even including a printer, too.

If you’re familiar with mice, it can be frustrating to get used to a laptop trackpad.  Also, the keyboard layout on laptops is often subtley different than on full-size keyboards.

laptop Laptop Size.  Laptops come in three sizes:  14.1″, 15.4″, and 17″.  The choice of size is largely a matter of personal preference, but consider this:  14.1″ laptop screens are very small and require good eyes to see.  They are also a bit more expensive, and the keyboard is usually smaller and harder to use.  17″ laptops are obviously easier to see, but I find that they make the laptop too cumbersome to carry around, which defeats the purpose of getting a laptop in the first place.  I find 15.4″ laptops to be “just right.”

Laptop Brand.  Choosing a brand of laptop is a matter of personal taste.  The differences will be in the color and style of the case, the look and feel of the keyboard and trackpad, and the software the comes pre-installed.  There won’t be any technical differences under the hood.

Tom recommends:  I prefer the look and feel of HP laptops.

Desktop Monitors.  Most desktop LCD monitors are now widescreen.  I would suggest at least a 19″ widescreen monitor, depending on how much space you have on your desk.  Larger monitors are, of course, easier to see — but more expensive.  Be aware that the cheaper off-brand monitors can be noticeably lower in quality.

Tom recommends:  I have had good success with Samsung monitors.

Processor

Brand.  There are two different brands of processors in modern computers:  Intel and AMD.  Unless you are a computer expert, you will find no practical difference between the two.  It’s like selecting between a Panasonic television and a Sony television:  Both show you the same picture, so your selection is largely a matter of personal preference and/or brand loyalty.  Historically, AMD processors have been cheaper, but that’s not always the case anymore.

Tom recommends:  Lately I have been buying AMD processors.

Speed.  Processor speed is measured in GHz (gigahertz).  Consumer-priced processors today are typically “dual core” (meaning there are actually two processors running at the same time inside the chip) and run at around 1.8 to 2.0 GHz, which is a good speed most applications.  This is becoming such a common processor speed that it isn’t even mentioned anymore.  Typically only computer experts will require anything more advanced.

Tom recommends:  A 2.0 GHz processor.

Memory

Memory is measured in GB (gigabytes).  Not having enough memory can have a dramatic negative impact on your computer performance, so this is the one area you definitely don’t want to scrimp.  Modern computers typically come with 1 GB or more of memory, but I would suggest getting at least 2 GB of memory for Windows Vista.

Tom recommends:  Make sure you get 2 or even 3 GB to run Windows Vista.

Hard Drive

Size.  Hard drive storage is also measured in GB (gigabytes).  Modern hard drives come in two sizes:  Enormous (around 150 GB) and Unbelievably Enormous (250 GB or more).  Drives are so big now that I don’t even pay attention to the numbers anymore.  Unless you are planning to do a lot of intense video editing work on a major motion picture, it is unlikely that you’ll ever run out of hard drive space with 150 GB or more.

Speed.  When buying a laptop, you won’t have much choice about the hard drive speed.  But for desktop computers you should look for a 7200 RPM drive (as opposed to 5400 RPM) for better performance.

Tom recommends:  Any hard drive size 150 GB or more.

Graphics Card

Most modern graphics card should handle basic multimedia tasks like playing DVDs, Internet video and basic 3D rendering.  You should only be concerned about the performance of your graphics card if you are planning to play a lot of video games.  (If that is the case, you will probably do better with a desktop computer.  Selecting a proper graphics card for video game performance is beyond the scope of this guide, but the bottom line is that you’ll want to get the most expensive one you can afford, and you can expect this to consume the majority of your budget.)

Tom recommends:  When you are looking at computers running Windows Vista in a store, take a look at the Windows Experience Index in the System Control Panel (shown below).  I would suggest looking for a computer with a value of 3.0 or higher.

Windows Experience Index

Summary of Recommendations

  • Operating System:  Vista Home Premium.
  • Processor:  2.0 GHz.  It doesn’t matter if you pick Intel or AMD.
  • Memory:  2 GB or 3 GB.
  • Hard Drive:  Anything more than 150 GB will be sufficient.  7200 RPM if buying a desktop.
  • Graphics Card:  Usually doesn’t matter unless you want to play video games, in which case you’ll want the most expensive one you can afford.  Look for a minimum Windows Experience Index of 3.0.

That’s all for now.  Happy shopping!

Nader in Richmond and Charlottesville, July 12-13

There is a noticable lack of Third Party representation in the Virginia political blogosphere, so I’m making a point to pass along any relevant third party candidate news I come across.

According to a press release on Third Party Watch, Independent candidate for president Ralph Nader will be appearing in Richmond on July 12.

July 8, 2008
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Chris Driscoll, 202-360-3273, chris@votenader.org;
Local contact: John Wade, 804-432-1611

NADER TO HOLD RICHMOND, VA NEWS CONFERENCE AND CAMPAIGN RALLY, SAT., JULY 12

Ralph Nader will bring his Independent “Shift the Power” presidential campaign to Virginia, Saturday July 12. There will be a 12:30 p.m. news conference and a 1 p.m. Nader/Gonzalez campaign rally, both to be held at the Virginia Holocaust Museum, 2000 E. Cary St. Richmond, VA 23223. Suggested contribution: $10/$5 student.

Nader will also be appearing in Charlottesville the following day:

July 8, 2008
News Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Chris Driscoll, 202-360-3273, chris@votenader.org
Local Contact: Michael Green, 520-906-8661

NADER TO HOLD CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA NEWS CONFERENCE AND CAMPAIGN RALLY, SUNDAY, JULY 13

Ralph Nader will bring his Independent “Shift the Power” presidential campaign to Virginia, Sunday July 13. There will be a 1:30 p.m. news conference and a 2 p.m. Nader/Gonzalez campaign rally, both to be held at the Gravity Lounge, 103 South First Street, Charlottesville, Va. 22902. Suggested contribution: $10/$5 student.

Comical side note:  Do people really take time off from work to go to these rallies or are they supposed to be for the retired and unemployed only?