Thursday, May 20, 2010


I had an interesting insight into the way my mind works tonight.

A cave cricket got into my mother's house this evening. You know, those fairly creepy crickets that scare the daylights out of most people because of their resemblance to spiders. However, cave crickets don't bother me at all, and I'm quite the arachnophobe. Ask any of my friends or family who have seen me climbing onto tables and counters and screaming as a spider approaches me. I really wish I was exaggerating.

I examined this cave cricket, let's call him Gary, for some time, and I took the opportunity to compare him to my deepest nightmares to see what exactly it was that kept my mind from freaking out at his spider-like countenance as opposed to an actual spider. To start with, I've know for some time that the number of legs doesn't matter. Scorpions also have eight legs, and they've never bothered me.

The first thing I noticed was that I could clearly see Gary's eyes, which led me to the realization that it freaks me out that I can't see spiders' eyes without getting close to them. You can tell which way I spider is looking by the build of its body, but you can't see any eyes! It's absolutely terrifying. I'm no psychologist, but my theory is that my brain is more ready and willing to anthropomorphize something with a clear face. Spiders, lacking a clear face, are therefore alien and lie too far on the wrong side of the uncanny valley.

Secondly, I gained a good bit of insight by watching Gary move. When he hopped about in a cricket-like manner, everything was fine and dandy. But for the brief period of time that he crawled in a rather more spider-like fashion, my brain started raising red flags, and I felt myself beginning to freak out. It would seem that I'm fine with hopping and scuttling and running and crawling, but as soon as I see that freakish, sinuous, undulating crawl with which spiders typically move, it bugs me. Pun intended, I'm sorry. And, come to think of it, jumping spiders have never bothered me as much as their crawling kin.

It's possible that there are more things about spiders which freak me out, but for now, I feel comfortable that I've narrowed the main reasons down to the two above. I suspect the lack of a clear face is something that bothers most people, but it's possible the fear of their movement is a more unique response. Maybe my brain has just learned to associate that sort of movement with spiders, and thus reacts as though there were a spider present, even when not.

Fun times! Knowledge is power, and maybe as I continue to figure my brain out, I can get more use out of it.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Windows 7 - A Rant

Windows 7 has really been getting on my nerves. There are things going on with it that shouldn't be going on with it, especially since you have to pay so much for it. And disclaimer, I do have a degree in computer science, so I know a good bit of what I'm talking about.

My current computing setup is triple. I have a relatively modern desktop running Windows 7, a six year old laptop running Debian stable, and a five year old iMac G5 running Mac OS 10.5.

Allow me to post the basic specs of my desktop and laptop to make the sins of Windows 7 more apparent.

Desktop, "Randgriz"
CPU: AMD Athlon 64 x2 3000+
RAM: 1.5GB generic
Secondary Storage: 420 GB across two SATA 3.0 Gb/s drives
OS: Windows 7 Professional, cost, free (courtesy of the university)

Laptop, "Finney"
CPU: Intel Celeron M 1.6 GHz
RAM: 1.5GB generic
Secondary Storage: 80 GB IDE drive
OS: Debian GNU/Linux Stable, cost, free (courtesy of the open source movement)
Window Manager/Desktop Environment: Windowmaker/GNUStep

Note that the laptop is clearly inferior in every way, shape, and form. I'm going to skip the petty little differences in user interface, bash vs. PowerShell, et cetera, and get to the real meat and potatoes of what's inexcusable.

Technical Issues
Occasionally I make the mistake of trying to use Windows 7 the way I use GNU/Linux. With Finney, I find myself able to run dozens of programs, both GUI and command line, simultaneously without any noticeable performance hit. Sure, my little system resources monitor will go a bit crazy, but the system is still perfectly usable. Typically, I'm running Firefox (Iceweasel, actually) with several tabs open, mpd (music player daemon) with MPDCon, a system resources dockapp, emacs, gnus, and maybe nethack or Dwarf Fortress under wine.

In Windows 7, god help me if I try to run more than two applications simultaneously. I wish I were joking. It takes upwards of 30 seconds to launch an application in the first place, and if I have more than about three windows open, I'm screwed. The system approaches complete unresponsivity. And if I want to install a program, well, I might as well go make a sandwich, because I won't be using the computer for half an hour.

Granted, Windows has always had admittedly bad resource management. Windows can't schedule IO worth a crap. Any and all significant hard drive access will slow most Windows systems noticeably, but this is absolutely ridiculous. This leads me to the conclusion that Windows 7 somehow manages to have even unbelievably crappier resource management than any operating system I have ever used ever. And I've used more operating systems than most people can name.

Second major technical issue, crappy drivers. So, sitting inside Randgriz is an almost brand new Linksys 802.11 b/g wireless card that is completely useless. Because Windows refuses to acknowledge that it even exists. It worked just fine when I booted Linux on Randgriz. Randgriz outputs video through HDMI to my HDTV. I have never had a problem with video. But the sound craps out frequently. It would seem that about once an hour, Windows 7 forgets that the video card is also a sound card. So I have to reach behind the TV, unplug the HDMI cable, replug the HDMI cable, and suddenly sound works again! What. The. Fbadword. That should never happen in any conceivable universe.

General Evility
Microsoft is a pretty evil company. Seriously. The entry for "Unethical Business Practices" in the encyclopedia should read, "See Microsoft." As if that wasn't bad enough, they're a huge supporter of software patents, the single biggest stifler of innovation in the modern era. But I digress.

I have Windows 7 Professional. Professional. And I like to play around with languages. It's a hobby of mine. But I can't change the system language on Randgriz unless I upgrade to Windows 7 Ultimate. And even then only a measly 35 languages, unlike the dozens and dozens available on any standard Linux distribution.

Artificial feature restriction is nothing short of unethical, especially when it forces people to upgrade to the most expensive version of a tiered program for something that should be a standard feature across the board.

And that's not even going into DRM, security issues, et cetera.

I'm typing this on Finney. My duck is telling me that I'm using about a third of my RAM and hovering around 70% CPU usage with spikes up to 100%. I haven't even noticed. I'm contemplating switching the entire system to Esperanto just because I can.

I hate Windows 7 so hard right now. Thanks for reading.