Democratization of Choice? Can’t Think of a Catchy Title

– By Gitabushi

We are in a very weird time, politically speaking.

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Leftist Spokesmodel is Not Amused by my Unwillingness to Pay for her Birth Control

The Left is moving farther and farther Left. They seem to feel encouraged by their victories in matters like Same Sex Marriage, Govt-funded health care and successful use of the Overton Window to protect their preferred politicians.

At the same time, the Right has had a series of victories that, in the United States at least, leaves conservatives with control of the Supreme Court, the Presidency both halves of Congress, 33 Governorships, and a majority of the state legislatures.  I’ve seen it said that Democrats lost more than 1000 seats during Obama’s terms, if you include state positions.

From another perspective, however, Democrats have won more overall votes than Republicans in the US, it just hasn’t translated into victories because of the way their votes are concentrated in urban areas.

There have been conservative victories in individual gun rights, conservative victories in religious liberty; we’re making some progress in dismantling the Democrat money machine, appear to be ramping up to defund Planned Parenthood (striking a blow for human rights of the most vulnerable), and widespread vote fraud is finally getting attention. (There was no proof of vote fraud previously because Democrat officials had successfully prevented us from looking).

Simultaneously, there is a great realignment, as Democrats doubled down on identity politics, driving moderates into voting GOP, no matter how reluctantly.

The thing is, there’s something else at work here.

Information explosion.

Amazon could not have been successful 30 years ago.  It was impossible to gather the information and present it in a way that people could make informed choices.

Just as the internet and computing power have gathered information and enabled algorithms to help people make better choices in their purchases, these same elements will also enable individuals to make better choices in the government they want.

This, more than anything, will destroy all the Leftist politics that rise from Marxism.

Marxism and its descendants, like Communism, socialism, Progressivism, Feminism, etc., are all predicated on one-size-fits-all governing, with choices given to you by an all-powerful, all-knowing government.  But these isms always fail, too, because a central government can’t do as well as individuals making choices that work bets for them.

However, many aspects of life were easier to implement via government.  I’m sure there are many examples, but right now I’m thinking specifically of education.

With credentialing, standards, infrastructure, payroll, etc., it was just easier to let govt handle education, providing school systems that served local geographic areas.  Economy of scale made it work poorly, but still work.

Vouchers have the potential to cause an education revolution, however.

But linking education dollars to the student rather than to their local school, it opens up the possibility of all sorts of schools opening up in competition to the govt school. It was never cost effective to have more than one school in a small town of 2500 people with, say, 240 in the high school.

With vouchers, though, it becomes cost-effective to have 12 schools of 20 students each, all competing to be the best school so that parents will want their students to attend. Of course, it wouldn’t break down that way.  The most popular school would probably grow (why not capture more of the voucher money?), while less popular schools would probably specialize to try to retain what they could of the voucher income.  So maybe one 100-student school for average students, a military school for discipline problems, a 40-student college prep school offering only AP courses and requiring a test to get in, and two or three Vo-Tech schools focusing on different practical skills for those who least suited for college.

It would have been impossible to organize, staff, and fund this much diversity in a small town before, dealing with all the accreditation and public school dollars.  But the internet and computing power will allow us to Amazonize education, letting parents (or the students themselves) choose the best way to spend their education voucher dollars.

Sure, there will be mistakes, and failures, and bad choices.  Some kids will be worse off in this sort of system. But despite our best efforts and high ideals, students are already being failed and left behind by our current education system. Throwing more money at the current system hasn’t helped…it just sucks up money to no effect. The biggest advantage of the Voucher system will be the innate incentive for schools to fix problems and minimize damage to the students.

Vouchers provide economic incentive and economic freedom to experiment and innovate.

And this will happen in other areas, too. Expect the information revolution to come to Health Care soon. And energy consumption.  Why can’t we have a nationwide grid that allows me to buy energy from Wyoming if they can provide it to me cheaper?  Sure, the power plant in Wyoming can’t push the electrons that far, but energy is somewhat fungible….we should be able to make power companies source-agnostic, and buying electricity should eventually be as competitive as your cellphone service.

The Left is going to collapse. It’s going to be interesting to see what takes its place for the people that *want* to give up their liberty in exchange for security and/or preferential treatment.

I built a pie

I’ve wanted to build something with Raspberry Pi for a while now. But I never really came across any projects that interested me, and/or I didn’t want to solder stuff. But then Nintendo flipped everyone off with NES Classic Edition, and word is that SNES Classic Edition is now in the works. I’m not holding my breath that supply will be able to meet demand this time.

So F it – I’ll make my own! But better!

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I knew the Pi would be a relatively simple and straightforward little gadget to assemble, but dang. It was literally just a few pieces to fit and sometimes snap together.

Look at those cute little heat sinks.

I was surprised by how small this thing is. Fits in the palm of your hand.

So that was easy. Reformatting the microSD card (using the nifty little USB adapter provided in the kit) and loading up an image with the Retropie OS was really the hardest part of “building” it, mostly because there were several steps and a few little utilities to download.

 

The main hurdle was my display, actually. Damn Insignia TV was overscanning and cutting off the border of the Retropie’s display, and apparently this model has no fit-to-screen or overscan setting to toggle.

So I had to dig into the OS’s config file and play around with the overscan properties – lucky that’s an option! It was a little tricky when the text was cut off at the edge of the screen, but eventually got it sorted. Woot!

Now all that’s left is to load up some roms! Legally, I can only download and play games that I already own. But if I were to download the entire SNES, NES, and Sega libraries and do some sorting, and then select titles from other consoles like Dreamcast, PS, N64, and maybe some arcade games…well, I imagine that would be the most time-consuming piece of this project.

Anyway, it always feels nice to successfully build something. F you, Nintendo.

l

-Bushi

bushi

Java(Script) and Twine

Has it been over a week since I posted anything? Geez. Well, last week I was suffering some food poisoning (though I did manage to get my Castalia House piece up!), and together with wedding planning, something had to give. I beg your indulgence!

Before my bout, I’d decided to take another shot at something I’ve only thus far barely even touched upon – programming. Because I need another project I don’t have time for. Over the years I’ve picked up bits and pieces of almost inconsequential coding experience – a smattering of HTML at computer camp as a kid, a pinch of Visual Basic in high school, a couple dozen chapters of Learn Python the Hard Way.

It’s always been a dream of mine to make a video game, though I’ve never had the fire required to give up my other hobbies in pursuit of that goal. There have been RPG Maker attempts that were quickly aborted after scope got too out-of-hand and frustration grew.

Not too long ago, I told a software developer friend of mine that I’ve been thinking of trying once more to learn a programming language. One of my issues in the past was that I never really had a solid goal, or concrete projects to keep me interested. I got bored with writing Python scripts that merely asked users for their favorite color or spit out the cube of 9. Perhaps if I were to go into this with the goal of writing some very simple games or programs?

Anyway, my friend listened to me babble about my situation and asked me if I’d heard of Twine, which he suggested might be a good starting point for me if I just wanted to make a game. Simply explained, Twine is an open-source tool that seems best-purposed for creating text-based “non-linear” stories and games.

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It publishes to HTML files, so it’s fairly easy to quickly create something and share it. Though Twine does have its own syntax, it also supports HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. You can use conditionals and variables and media files, too. So depending on how deep you want to go, it seems there’s a lot you can do with it.

So far I’ve created two very simple “games” that I was planning to design as smaller elements of a larger game I’d like to make. One is a variation of the game Nim. The other is a riddle game.

I did encounter some frustration with the limits of the native Twine syntax and had to do a lot of debugging, which prompted me to explore JavaScript. I think knowing JS would give me a lot more flexibility in my coding.

I’m not quite sure if or when I’ll proceed with my Twine project, but I would like to continue studying JavaScript. Even if my game is still far off, the coding knowledge and experience can only help me as an IT guy. If I do pump out anything fun, though, I’ll have to host it somewhere and share it with y’all.

That’s about it for now; I started playing Undertale the other day, which I’ve heard is a pretty fast one to get through. Excellent game so far. I’m trudging through Eyes of the Overworld, which pains me to say, for I love Jack Vance. But Cugel is just such a d-bag. I’ve got the first Lensman book on the side, and I’m hoping to get to Larry Niven’s Neutron Star and ERB’s At the Earth’s Core before long.

Ah, if only there were more time!

-Bushi

bushi

The four most important troubleshooting steps

I know I’ve mentioned the IT Crowd once or twice here. If you’re into British comedy and/or you work in IT, you may want to check it out on Netflix. If not, I guess you can bugger off, wot.

So I’ve been working in the industry for about a year now, and I’ve learned much. I’ve found, though, that the cliches are true. We have relatively good users at my organization, but my palm and face have yet remained acquainted. While we do run into some head-scratchers, there are calls that can be addressed by one of the following:

1. Turn it off and on again. Yup, this is a big one. When in doubt, ask the user to restart their machine and tell them you’ll be over shortly. Often they’ll call or email you back to say the restart seems to have fixed the problem (or you’ll swing by and everything is now working fine).

2.  Make sure it’s plugged in. I have yet to encounter a monitor that’s gone bad. Usually a connector has come lose or gotten unplugged somehow. Sometimes you’ll even get a power cord that’s been accidentally unplugged (mistaken for another device?) or jostled by the cleaning lady.

3. Is it turned on? This can happen with printers or other devices that may be set to sleep without anyone’s knowledge. I hadn’t run into this “dilemma” with a PC until this week, but it does happen. User complained of her monitor not working, saying “No signal.” I figured it was a loose or unplugged monitor cable, but when I got to her office it turns out her computer wasn’t turned on!

4. Be gracious and humble. We like to grouse about user error (PEBCAK and all that), but this is why we’re paid the big bucks. Well, some of us. I work with a lot of folk who are more educated and in many cases probably much more intelligent (or at least more wizened) than I am. Not all of them are “computer people” or know a lot about tech, just as I don’t really know much about medicine or family law. A lot of the time when you run into one of the issues listed above, the user will be embarrassed, and there’s no need to rub it in. Either smile and tell them it was no problem and happens all the time, or nod sagely and wonder aloud if the cleaner may have accidentally knocked out the cord. And be thankful that it was an issue easily remedied!

 

-Bushi

bushi

 

PC joy and pain

Men like to build and create. I’ve never been profoundly interested in or skilled at carpentry or stonework or automobile mechanics or, uh, spacklecraft. I do like to cook, but I’ve never constructed any kind of pastry.

I also do a little bit of gardening (mostly herbs), but I have kind of a brown thumb. Plants under my care have probably a 50-50 shot of surviving.

My creative tendency has been most manifest in my PC building efforts. The first time I built a computer, I made some unfortunate mistakes that wound up costing me. But when I got the thing working, man. Such a feeling of satisfaction – making something that not everyone can, and then putting it to good, honest use.

This second time I fared better on the front end, but over the past two or three weeks I’ve been getting a string of game crashes and blue screens of death. These kinds of setbacks can be profoundly disappointing and frustrating; computers are complex machines with all kinds of moving parts. You can look at dump files and event logs and errors messages, and sometimes you’ll be able to quickly or luckily diagnose the problem.

Often, however, the root cause of your troubles is elusive. Is it a driver? Bad RAM? Corrupted system files? Faulty PSU/not enough juice? Hard Disc error? Apps that just don’t want to cooperate with your operating system?

At least I’ve discovered a number of useful diagnostic utilities and system tools. System File Checker, Driver Verifier, Windows Memory Diagnostics, and Memtest86+ in particular strike me as good tools for any IT Guy or Gal to be aware of.

I also can’t overstate the importance of taking the time to check manufacturer websites for updated drivers, and becoming familiar with the Device Manager. I thought I had updated everything, but over the weekend I found that I had an old ethernet driver. Yesterday I checked out the support webpage for my motherboard and found that I was way behind on my BIOS version. That was a little more tricky to update, but relatively painless.

I haven’t been able to pinpoint any bad hardware so far, though I was suspicious of the RAM and the SSHD for a while. After I updated my BIOS yesterday I played the Witcher 2 for a few hours and didn’t get any BSOD or game crashes, so that’s a good sign. Fingers crossed I’ve stumbled upon the solution to my woes. Having a gaming machine that won’t run games is the absolute pits.

On Monday I couldn’t run Heroes of the Storm for more than a couple minutes without crashing to desktop, and I was branded with my very first “leaver” status. I’m apprehensive, but tonight I’ll give it a go and see if the BIOS update did it. Can an outdated BIOS cause other drivers to crash programs (my HOTS crash event log entry seemed to indicate a GPU driver-related incident)? I guess I’ll find out.

-Bushi

bushi

Troubleshooting: Errant Mouse

Alternate title: How many IT guys does it take to fix a mouse?

Things have been quiet here because I’ve been hustling at work. Normally the morning hours before I clock in are prime for busting out some nerdy blog materials, but this month we’ve been rolling out Windows 10 ahead of the free upgrade cutoff at the end of July. So I’ve been starting work an hour earlier and can’t bring myself to come into the office at 7:00 to write. Alas and alack, but tis only temporary, my friends.

An interesting thing happened yesterday morning – a user’s mouse decided to stop working. Now this happens on occasion, and normally unplugging the usb connector and replugging it into another port will do prompt the machine to come to its senses. This time, though, it just wasn’t doing it.

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I tried another Microsoft mouse (our standard) and same thing. I’d get the little sound effect indicating the device was detected, and the underside LED would light up for a few seconds. But then it would go dark and the computer would continue to ignore the mouse’s presence.

Standard restart didn’t help. Device manager showed that the mouse driver was showing an error and also was being placed under “Other Devices” for some reason.

As I was juggling some upgrades with a limited timeframe, I escalated it to my boss and jumped back and forth between moving along the Windows 10 stuff and looking over his shoulder.

The mouse and keyboard software that he downloaded from Microsoft didn’t do the trick. Remoting into the affected system did allow for us to use mouse functionality, though, so didn’t have to navigate everything with the keyboard.

Eventually we ran to the server room and rummaged up an old Logitech trackball mouse we had leftover from a former left-handed user. It worked.

We tried a handful of other tactics to troubleshoot the regular mouse. Uninstalling the driver and letting it reinstall didn’t work. Nor did prompting the system to update the driver.

Eventually my colleague got in and took a look. He tried manually changing the driver from one of the Microsoft ones to the generic “HID – compliant mouse” driver. Presto.

Capture

We then rotated the mouse to each USB port to associate them all with this driver. Not too glamorous, but seems to have gotten the job done for now.

Curious that the Microsoft mouse driver should be erroring out randomly. Perhaps a Windows update-related failure? If future issues arise or if we return to this sometime, perhaps I’ll try copying some healthy drivers from another machine to see if this was a case of corrupted files or some such.

-Bushi

bushi