The Fun and Frustration of Operating Systems

I've played around with different computer operating systems over the years, although for the last few years, I hadn't done much with them.  So recently I dug out my old multi-boot computer with five different operating systems on it and decided to make sure everything worked.  It did.  The computer has Partition Commander, with System Commander Personal Edition, to help me manage the partitions and booting. This computer has the following operating systems on it:

  • MS-DOS 6.22/Windows For Workgroups 3.11
  • Windows 98 (2nd Edition)
  • FreeBSD 4.11
  • Mandrake Linux
  • BeOS 5 Professional

Or rather, it did have those until I started messing around with it.  I upgraded its memory, and somehow I messed up my Win98 installation--it wouldn't boot.  Alas, the computer also has some problems with it, such as not working with the cd-rom drive, and I'll be darned if I know what the problem is.  I tried switching out drives, and while the new drive was recognized by the system, I couldn't get the os's to actually read cd's in the drive.  So reinstalling from CD seemed to be out of the question.

However, I remembered that I had copied a Win98SE installation disc onto a Fat32 extended partition on the hard drive, I just had to get to it so that it could be started.   I found an old Win98 boot floppy disk, used Partition Commander to hide the DOS/Win311 partition, and was able to boot up on the floppy and start the Windows 98 installation.  Except that this was the upgrade version of Win98, not the OEM version.  The installation couldn't find a previous version of Windows because of the hidden partition, and wouldn't let me install Win98.  So, I went back and copied the Windows 3.11 files onto the newly created FAT32 partition, then rebooted with the floppy and started the installation.  Success!  This time it recognized the Windows for Workgroups 3.11 files, even though I couldn't possibly have run it on a FAT 32 partition.

So Windows 98 was fixed, but I really was wanting to install Windows 2000, as I wanted Win2K's better USB handling.  USB works in Windows 98, but you still have to have a driver for your USB device for it to work.  So I copied my Win2k OEM edition to an accessible FAT32 partition.  Then I had an idea: why not keep Windows 98 and install Windows 2000 as a separate OS on the computer?  Alas, Partition Commander informed me that I had too many primary partitions, and couldn't install another OS on a primary partition.  So, I went ahead and installed Win2K over Win98.  Except that I had to do a clean install, because it didn't like a couple of things I had installed on Win98, and then it tried to install it over the smaller DOS partition, until I told it to use the same partition Win98 was on.  Finally, I had Windows 2000 installed over Windows 98.

But full of success, I couldn't leave well enough alone.  I've long thought of installing BeOS on another computer, but my BeOS 5 Pro cd was messed up, and I cannot install or re-install from the cd.  But I thought that I might be able to install BeOS onto another disk from my working installation of BeOS, and I decided to try it to make sure it works.

My multi-boot computer has two hard drives in it, one is 30 gigs and the other is 60 gigs.  So I figured that I would try installing BeOS onto the other hard drive.  I used Partition Commander to make sure I had a clear, roomy partition to install it on, then booted into BeOS and went to work.  I initialized the partition as a BFS partition, then ran the Installer to install my current BeOS installation onto the new partition.  The installation worked fine, and I soon had a second installation of BeOS on the computer.  Except that I chose the wrong partition and installed BeOS over my FreeBSD installation!  Argh.

So now, the computer has this installed:

  • MS-DOS 6.22/Windows For Workgroups 3.11
  • Windows 2000
  • BeOS 5
  • Mandrake Linux
  • BeOS 5

So, being the determined and stubborn person I am, I've been trying to reinstall FreeBSD.  I had downloaded a later version--this time 7.4--to install, but I still can't get the cd-rom drive to work, so I've been trying to figure out how to get around that problem. The install files are also on a FAT32 partition, but for some reason I can't seem to start the installation from there, even when I booted up on a PicoBSD floppy disk.  So I made the FreeBSD 7.4 boot floppies from images, and booted up with them.  It works up to a point, but then when probing the computer for devices, it seems to just hang, and not go any further.

So now, I need to figure out why the installation won't continue, or find another way to reinstall it on this older, messed up computer.  Perhaps I can start the installation from Mandrake Linux?  Anyway, fun stuff!  ;-)


The November Election - Disenfranchised and Disgusted

No, I haven't written anything political this year.  Why should I bother?  I would just be repeating my comments from the last election cycle.  Perhaps I should have said something.  Ron Paul ran for president again this time, and did seem to do better this time around.  The Republican Party didn't merely ignore him this time, but went out of their way to actively snub and exclude him.  Naturally, he still didn't get the Republican nomination, so I cannot vote for him in the general election, but I got to vote for him in the Republican primary, and I think a lot more people heard about him and his libertarian-oriented ideas, including the problems with our foreign policy and the economy.  A healthy understanding of the economic basics, especially Austrian economics, can only be good.

Nonetheless, just like in 2008, my only presidential options are going to be the Democrat and Republican nominees, Obama and Romney, and neither one of them makes me thrilled to be an American, much less give me any good reason to vote for one of them.  Their differences are minimal, and we should all be disgusted that, as voters, we have been given so few choices on the ballot.  How can anybody claim we're truly free, when we are not free to choose the candidate of our choice? Where's the diversity, the plurality, the democracy that the United States is supposed to have?

I would vote for any third candidate on the ballot, just out of protest, although my preferred choice is the Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson.  Unfortunately, I don't think any third party or independent candidates made it on Oklahoma's ballot this year, just like last time.  So I am truly disenfranchised by our electoral system, even though I have the alleged "right" to vote.  Oklahoma's ballot doesn't allow for write-ins, either.  So all I can really do is vote in lower races but not for president, and hope that my undervote will be counted and noticed.

So I haven't bothered to write anything political this year.  I could have.  I could have really gotten upset trying to explain to people just how unfree we truly are.  I could have talked till I was blue in the face, gotten my blood pressure up and had a heart attack.  But many people would continue to mistakenly think that they are free, and that I'm just some cranky nut not worth worrying about.

Instead, I'll just take advantage of the relative freedom that I do have, and live my life as best I can, and hope enough people somewhere get the message and figure out something effective to do about our sorry state of affairs, because I'm not really sure what I can or should do about it. Living my own life is hard enough.

So come election day, why bother? Why should I have to vote in order to have the 'right' to complain, when I am not allowed to vote for the candidate(s) of my choice?  How can I possibly be represented in the system without candidates who actually represent my positions?  The electoral system is rigged in the most basic and fundamental way, and you have to be pretty blind not to see it.


Coffee, Tea, or Soda Pop?

I've never been a coffee drinker.  About the only way I can really stand it is by adding a LOT of creamer and sugar, and I figured if I have to do that to make it drinkable, then I'm not really drinking coffee.  Of course, cappuccino and some other modern coffee-based drinks do have a lot of sugar and flavoring, so I'm usually okay with those, although I still haven't made them a regular habit.

Instead I'm a big iced tea drinker.  My mother always had us drink iced tea at meals when I was growing up, and so that habit really stuck with me.  But I prefer iced tea, as I've never been much of a fan of hot tea. Naturally, as I got older, I had to learn how to make my own iced tea. My mother would put the tea-bags in the pitcher, add hot water, and let them brew that way, before adding more water to fill up the pitcher.  I had trouble doing it her way, and ended up breaking a few glass pitchers.

Instead, I developed the habit of using a 1-quart pot to heat the water, and then when the water starts boiling, I turned off the heat and added the tea bags to the pot.  Then I let it sit.  For a long time, until the liquid has cooled.  Only then do I half-fill a pitcher with water, then add the brewed tea, and then add more water to top off the pitcher.  Of course, I put sugar in first, and then the water, then tea.  In that sense, at least, I'm a Southern boy--gotta have my sweet tea!  And the way I make it, it's pretty strong.

I generally use Cain's, a brand produced here in Oklahoma. I've used other brands, but there really does seem to be a difference, even though I know they all use orange or orange pekoe tea (the common "black tea"). Not only does Cain's taste better to me, it's also generally cheaper than the other brands.

Of course, as a fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation, I was curious about how Earl Grey tea tasted.  Earl Grey is basically just black tea with oil of bergamot added to it for a citrus-y flavor.  Again, I wasn't too fond of hot tea, but I found out that Earl Grey makes an excellent iced tea!  Of course, they don't make quart-sized bags of Earl Grey tea, only those small, one-cup bags.  You can use 5 or 6 of the small bags to make up a two-quart pitcher of Earl Grey tea, but I came up with a more cost-effective solution.  I'll use 2 quart-size bags of my regular Cain's tea, and I'll add two of the small bags of the Earl Grey tea.  Not only does this give it that Earl Grey flavor, but it also makes the tea a little stronger, which is fine by me. The tea you can get at restaurants just can't compare to what I make at home.

Soda pop, on the other hand, is a different issue. Of course, as a kid, I really liked the sweet stuff, even if we had tea at dinner.  No doubt soda pop contributed greatly to my dental problems, especially when you consider that I usually got free soda pop when I worked at fast food places in my younger days.  I have since given up drinking soda pop on a regular basis, but the damage is already done.

For my part of the Cola War debate, I preferred Coca-Cola to Pepsi.  Better than Coke, though, is Royal Crown Cola (RC), which I like best of all.  When we were teens, my sister and I did our own blind taste test, and both agreed that, among Pepsi, Coke, RC, and Jolt Cola, RC was the best-tasting. As an adult, though, I've found that I usually prefer a bit more sophisticated flavor, so now, when I do drink soda pop, I'll usually go for Dr. Pepper, if it's available.

I keep referring to them as "soda pop" so that most people will know what I'm talking about.  Personally, I grew up thinking of them as "soft drinks", not as soda, pop, or soda pop. However, most people aren't really familiar with the term 'soft drink'.  Here's an interesting link on the Great Soda vs. Pop controversy.  Isn't that an impressive looking map?  ;-)


ManyBooks - Free ebooks

If you like free ebooks, you probably already know about Project Gutenberg, and maybe a few other places where you can find them.  Like PG, ManyBooks.net offers free, public domain books and stories.  However, the ManyBooks site offers a few additional improvements that PG doesn't have.

Like PG, you can search by author or title.  However, ManyBooks also has their books sorted by genre, so you can focus on the particular types of stories you want to read, even if you're not familiar with the author or title.  Crawling through the genre listings is a great way to discover new authors and titles that you may be interested in.

Furthermore, ManyBooks offers additional "meta-information", including a short description of the book, an excerpt from the book, and the Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease scale, which gives you a relative idea of how easy it is to read the book.  Readers can also add their own reviews of the book, so you can know what other people think, or give your own feedback on it.

They also offer the book in over 2 dozens formats, from plain text to epub, or even as an audiobook, if such a version is available.

Last, but not least, if you create an account with ManyBooks, you can create your own "bookshelves" or lists of books.  You can create multiple bookshelves and name them whatever you want.  This allows you to keep track of books you want to read, or have read, or just to make books easier to find instead of having to search for them again. 

And, of course, it's all free, although they appreciate donations to keep the site running.  Check it out.


Sufficiently Justified Belief

This is a rewrite of an article that I had on my personal web site, which is now long gone. 

At some point, philosophers came up with a general formula for knowledge, called Justified True Belief.  K = JTB.  In essence, they said that one has knowledge IFF (If and only if) one has a belief that is justified and true.  Then Edmund Gettier came along and showed that it was possible to have a justified true belief that was not, in fact knowledge.  I didn't care much for his own examples, although I guess they worked well enough for his purpose.  Instead, let us consider this story/joke:

Two college students were passing through a campus building when they spotted their philosophy professor in an office.  They stopped to talk to him.  Noticing all the shelves in the office lined with books, one student says, "Wow, you sure do have a lot of books." 
The professor replied, "Yes, I do have a lot of books, but these aren't my books.  This is Professor Jones' office, not mine, and I'm just waiting for him to return so I can talk to him."

Gettier's point was that the students had good justification for thinking that their professor had a lot of books, and the professor confirmed for them that he did indeed have a lot of books.  However, since the books they saw really belonged to Professor Jones, and not their professor, they didn't really "know" that their professor had a lot of books.

Gettier has a point, but it seems to hinge on what one means by "justified", and could be modified to repair the fault.  If, for example, the students had verified if the office was their professor's, or that the books were his, then they would be properly justified in their  belief that he has a lot of books.  In fact, they are properly justified in their belief when he tells them that he does have a lot of books, for how else would they have known the truth of their belief?

And this brings me to my own point.  Gettier's problem presents difficulties about the justification for a belief.  However, a more formidable objection presents itself to me about the Truth component of JTB.  Suppose we have a justification for a belief.  JTB requires us to have a belief that is both justified and true in order to have knowledge.  Okay, how is it possible to know the truth of a belief independently of our justification for the belief? 

As far as I can tell, it's impossible.  Any information we have about a belief is always part of our justification for the belief, and more importantly, we have no way of knowing anything about a belief except for what justification we have for the belief.  There is no mystical insight into truth, nor can we peek at the answers in the back of the book.  We only think we know something through our justification for it, and for no other reasons.

In our example above, the students found out that their belief was true because the professor told them.  Yet his telling them becomes part of their justification for their belief, along with the general idea that professors tend to have a lot of books and that professors tend to be truthful and not tell lies.  However, if they wanted more justification, they could go to his office and verify how many books he has. 

Since the truth of a belief is unknowable independent of our justification for it, the Truth component of JTB becomes either useless or redundant to the justification component.

Instead, we are reduced to saying that knowledge is merely a justified belief, and in order to get around Gettier's problems, we could require it to be a sufficiently justified belief, or SJB.  Of course, how much justification is sufficient is a much more difficult question, and I don't really have a good answer for that.  All I know for sure is that JTB = K is a flawed formula, and must be scrapped or modified.


Two Immediate Weight Loss Tricks

In the course of trying to lose some weight, I've been weighing myself rather frequently, sometimes more than once a day.  I've discovered two tricks that result in almost immediate or overnight weight loss.

1) Weigh yourself on the scale with your clothes on.  Take off all your clothes.  Weigh yourself again while nude.  Presto! You've immediately lost the weight of your clothing, which should be good for a pound or two.

2) Weigh yourself at night, before you go to bed.  Then weigh yourself first thing in the morning, when you wake up.  Again, you should see a couple of pounds weight loss, although unlike the first trick, I can't adequately explain why it happens--I just know that it does.

Okay, so neither of these results in actual, dietary, permanent weight loss, and if you were hoping for a weight loss miracle, you're probably a little upset with me.  However, I did say that they were tricks, and I meant that in the truest sense of the word. 

The reality is that there is no magic trick or miracle to weight loss.  I had previously blogged about a low-carbohydrate diet, but after more experience, I suspect that there is some other factor at work when you cut down on carbs, and it is not a guarantee of weight loss.

However, my 'tricks' above do illustrate a couple of important points if you are trying to track your weight while on a diet.  One, always wear the same amount of clothes (preferably little or none) so that clothing doesn't affect your net weight difference, and two, always weigh yourself at the same time every day, or at least, only compare weights done at the same time every day.

Following both of these tips helps ensure that you are seeing your actual net gain or loss, and not the results of some other factor.  Stick with a healthy diet and exercise plan, be consistent, and have some patience. Slow and steady will win this race.


What's wrong with the Global Climate models

David Evans has written an excellent article over at the Ludwig von Mises site about global warming and the problem with the climate models used.

The Skeptic's Case

Fortunately the climate models got all their major predictions wrong. Why? Every serious skeptical scientist has been consistently saying essentially the same thing for over 20 years, yet most people have never heard the message. Here it is, put simply enough for any lay reader willing to pay attention.

Essentially he's saying that there's no conflict or disagreement about the direct effect of CO2 in the atmosphere.  The problem lies with how the climate models treat the system feedback.

This is just a quick post to refer people to that article.  Seriously, it is well worth reading.

My take on it, besides the point about the feedbacks, is that yes, global warming is occurring, but no, humans are not contributing a large or significant part in it.  Instead, this is a natural cycle of warming that is occurring, and it will not occur as fast or increase as much as even the more conservative warming models estimate.

All of which indicates that there is little we can do about it, but it will be slow and gradual enough to allow for humans to adapt to it without catastrophic incident or disaster.

So rest easy.  We'll have plenty of time to complain about the weather for many years to come.


Cooking Made Easy: A Simple Stew/Soup

Down to your last few dollars, but still days away from payday?  Or maybe you just want something tasty and easy to make?

When I think of stew, I generally think of a hearty mixture of diced roast beef, potatoes, carrots, and stewed tomatoes, and who knows what else they put in stew?  But really, stew is mainly just a soup of meat and vegetables.  And I would rather not spend a lot of time washing and dicing potatoes and carrots and stuff.

Instead of doing all that work, do this instead.  Get out your crockpot or slow cooker.  Open up cans of green beans, peas, corn, and sliced carrots and throw them all in together.  Heat.  Bam!  Instant vegetable stew.

Of course, that's just the starter.  There's much you can do to add to this or to change it up.  Add canned mushrooms to the mix.  I usually add some chopped onion to it (yellow onion of course.  It's cheaper than white or purple onions). Maybe you want to add some fresh or frozen vegetables to the mix, like broccoli or squash.  Go ahead--most vegetables will mix okay.  Okra, califlower, asparagus, canned spinach?  Most beans are okay, too, although I would be careful about adding too many beans, as I think it takes away from the stew-like character of the mix.

Sure, fresh or frozen vegetables are probably healthier than canned vegetables, but then it wouldn't be so cheap and easy to make, would it?

I usually like to add Cavender's Greek Seasoning to it, but then I add Cavender's Greek Seasoning to almost everything I cook.  I love it.  However, you can add your own favorite seasoning mix, or just keep it simple with pepper and maybe some garlic powder.  No need to add salt, since most canned vegetables already have salt.  Or spice it up with red pepper and chili powder. 

Besides the Greek seasoning, another "secret ingredient" I like to use is vinegar.  A little vinegar will give foods a tangy, somewhat sweet taste (without adding sugar!).  I use vinegar in my chili, pizza sauce, and, of course, in my stew.

Of course, you can leave this just as a vegetable stew, or you can add some kind of meat.  Leftovers, like roast beef or chicken, are always good.  Sliced hot dogs or cooked hamburger if you're cheap or on a tight budget. I like using ground turkey, as it's usually a little cheaper than hamburger. Shrimp and sausage (along with okra) if you want to do something a little more Cajun or more like jambalaya.

I also usually add some flour or corn starch to it to thicken it up, once it's gotten hot.  I just don't really care for thin or watery soups.  Bisquik or pancake mix will work in a pinch, if you don't have plain flour or corn starch.  How much you add depends upon how much liquid you have, and how thick you want it to be.

You can also add some rice or pasta of some kind if you like, but like the beans, I think too much changes the character of it. 

To give you an example of what you can do, let me tell you what I put in it when I made it today:

a can of green beans
a can of corn
a can of peas
a can of sliced carrots
a can of mushrooms
a can of chicken broth
a can of chicken noodle soup
a can of cream of chicken soup
a can of cream of mushroom soup
a slice of onion, chopped
some roasted red pepper, chopped
some black pepper
some garlic powder
some Cavender's Greek Seasoning
some White Wine vinegar
some corn starch
some grated parmesan cheese

I thought that the cream of mushroom and cream of chicken soups would be enough to thicken it up, but with all the water from the canned veggies, broth, and the condensation from the slow cooking process, it was still pretty thin, so I added the corn starch to thicken it up more.

In any case, it came out delicious and tasty once again!  The best thing to do is to always have a few cans of vegetables in the cupboard, so that when you're desperate or lazy, you'll have the basics ready, and can then add whatever else you may have handy.