Nostalgic Rumblings
The Ramblings of an Old Man




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3/29/2011


Security is an illusion…

Filed under: General — Charlie Summers @ 11:14 pm

This morning, I took my daughter to school because of a Grecian festival. Originally the plan was for me to carry some of her stuff into the building, requiring a stop at the office to sign in, but she changed her mind at the last minute and decided to enter through another door and carry it all herself. I carried the box to that door and started to hand it to her when a teacher came racing to the door, arms waving furiously, frantically exclaiming I needed to enter at the other door. I’m guessing this teacher doesn’t see much action at her post so when she does, she performs her duty with gusto…

Since I obviously had no intention of entering through any door, I declined, and unfortunately scoffed at her misguided idea that she was, “protecting [my] child” (I have always reacted badly to being challenged in an irrational manner). But that teacher’s goofy over-reaction to a mistaken assumption got me thinking hard today about how artificial her “security” really was, and by extension how much security we deal with every day is bogus and useless.

Let’s create two scenarios…the first a well-meaning parent who doesn’t know the rules. This parent attempts to enter without signing in at the office; the teacher gently and politely redirects this parent to the office (a much more reasonable method than this morning’s adrenaline-charged attack, in my opinion), the parent immediately complies, and all is right with the world.

In the second, someone is at the school to do harm…in this case, the teacher attempts to redirect the person to the office, but this miscreant brandishes a weapon, dispatches the teacher, and proceeds to, well, do harm. (Please remember we are the next-door neighbor to a district that had a devastatingly-identical attack occur some years ago which created this “policy” of “protection” in districts across the state.)

The inevitable takeaway from this is that the teacher’s stationing is irrelevant, and does nothing more than provide a false sense of security. Her role depends wholly on the willingness of the person attempting entry to, “do the right thing” - if that person wants to do otherwise, there is little or nothing the teacher can do about it. There is no security here, just an attempt by the school/district administration to pretend there is, and we parents dutifully go along with their delusion and convince ourselves there is some safety for our children other than that most people actually do want to, “do the right thing.” Heck, a hand-painted sign on the door would have exactly the same effect, simply depending upon the cooperation of the visitor. Worse, the time of someone who is paid to work with students is wasted, reduced to acting as an infrequent hall-monitor to grown-ups.

This lead me to ponder the bigger picture, and how much “security” in this society is false. I decided, unfortunately, almost all of it. We live in an unsafe world, and do a disservice to ourselves by this delusion that we can be “safe” by doing silly busy-work like frantically waving our arms to prevent entry by those who aren’t even interested in entering, or reaching into someone’s private area in an airport screening line. The gains are artificial, the security an illusion, the reaction knee-jerk.

No answers here, just observations. Maybe life isn’t meant to be “safe,” and maybe instead of deluding ourselves we should be honest and teach our children this simple truth. Or maybe we all need those little delusions just to get through the day. I don’t know the solution, but I’m pretty sure I know the problem…it’s us, and our ability to pretend simplistic actions have a prayer of doing us any good.

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3/14/2011


Off the Net until Wednesday…

Filed under: General — Charlie Summers @ 11:08 pm

As is my yearly habit, I’ll not be touching any computers tomorrow, the Ides of March. The Internet will just need to do without me for a day, while I read a book, watch an episode of Star Trek (haven’t yet decided which one), wander aimlessly around the house, and generally act pretty much like the cat does every day of the year.

Please try not to break things while I’m gone, thanks.

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3/9/2011


Pulitzer-winning columnist David Broder dies

Filed under: News, Radio Today — Charlie Summers @ 4:15 pm

From The Washington Post: David Broder dies; Pulitzer-winning Washington Post political columnist.

I, of course, came to depend on Mr. Broder’s weekly examination of politics on The Bob Edwards Show - I frequently referred to, “my favorite segment of my favorite show,” a not-to-be-missed start to my work week. Not being good with change, I never did quite get used to hearing him on Friday mornings, but I surely missed his presence the last few months, and always hoped for his return.

Obits are appearing all over the Web; the Washington Post’s Post Mortem contains statements from the Broder family and the White House. And I have on good authority tomorrow’s The Bob Edwards Show will re-play the October 4, 2010 full-hour interview with David Broder - check out producer Chad Campbell’s thoughts on that program. (If you’re not a subscriber to XM, you can hear the edited-for-time version of this interview from Bob Edwards Weekend - Part One and Part Two.)

Edit: The show has made available the entire Thursday broadcast of the show as a tribute to David Broder - you can listen or download.

With permission, for the last time here’s my favorite segment of my favorite show, but this one from the very first program, October 4, 2004 where Bob and David discuss the upcoming election between George W. Bush and John Kerry:

icon for podpress  David Broder, The First Guest of The Bob Edwards Show [7:20m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

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3/3/2011


Stuff No One Bothers to Tell You About Android

Filed under: General — Charlie Summers @ 3:10 pm

So I bought my first Android device the other day, a small 7″ “tablet” that was on sale at a local CVS. And yes, I understand the irony about my opinions about Google and the Android device, but so you know, the plan is, now that the device is rooted (that is, I control it the way I should without the hassle) and once the root filesystem can be made read/write, is to remove as much Google as possible from the device. (Hey, it’s still better than an iDevice that has big-brother-Steve telling me what I can and can’t run…) I really only bought it to learn the ins-and-outs of Android, but while it’s here I might as well use it for some other things as well like re-reading a certain unpublished manuscript.

Having the device for only few days, I’ve been spending most of that time searching the Web trying to figure out the simple stuff that would be obvious in a more user-friendly operating system (clearly Android wasn’t made for your benefit, but Google’s), and I am listing here in no particular order some of the stuff I had to track down. Hopefully this will save others the trouble of searching hither-and-yon just to get answers to some simple questions…

  • MAC Number
    It’s actually pretty easy to find once you know where to look; hit Menu (that funky lined icon in the upper-right), then Settings, then scroll the whole way down to “About Device,” then “Status.” It’s there. (Sheesh.)

  • Unmount microSD Card
    Back to Menu, then Settings, then “SD card & device storage,” and in there you’ll find, “Unmount SD card.”

  • Unmount USB Flash Drive
    Er…you can’t. Seriously. Smarter folks than I have suggested suspending the device and then removing the flash drive; to be completely safe, though, plan on shutting the thing down completely, removing the drive, then restarting the device.

  • Lock the Screen
    This may be device-specific, but on this tablet, tapping the Power button (that is the “real” button, not a screen widget) immediately blanks the screen and places the device into lock mode (Suspend, sorta…there are power issues with this device)…tap the screen and it immediately wakes, allowing a slide of the lock to unlock the device. A press-and-hold on the power button (again the “real” one) throws up a box allowing for Suspend, Power Off, or Cancel. It takes a while to boot from a hard power-off, though, so I’ve been avoiding it as much as possible.

  • Stop the Music!
    Ok, this is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen, but the music player in the thing doesn’t have a frelling “Stop” button. Seriously. You can pause it, but not stop it. If you’re playing music on a microSD card, unmounting it as described above will stop the music (!), but you’d think someone would have thought about a simple stop button. (You’d also think they’d have the sense not to force a music database update every time you change cards or sneeze, either, but nevermind that now.)

    Anyway, one reasonable albeit press-intensive way of stopping the player is to clear the playlist. While in the playback screen, tap the playlist button, then hit Menu, then Clear Playlist. You can also use ES Task Manager to kill the music player; inelegant, but rapidly effective…

    Might the guy who came up with the GUI on the music player please purchase a clue?

  • Rooting the Device
    “root” is historically the name given to the “Superuser” in un*x machines, so “rooting” an Android device means…um…basically getting what you paid for in the first place. Android devices, like iDevices, seem to think you’re a chucklehead who can’t possibly understand a tiny device enough to actually control it, so these things are shipped so that the company controls what you may and may not do with them. By “rooting,” one takes control of the device back. I mean, I’m the one who shelled out the bucks, shouldn’t I be able to do whatever I wish with it?

    As to how, it isn’t as hard as it sounds once you find the correct firmware image to use. Each device has a specific image, and using the wrong one causes Bad Things To Happen, so search carefully. Once you do, though, it’s as simple as getting the image file on the root (this time it means “top level,” although the similarity isn’t an accident) of the internal memory and disconnecting from the computer. Seriously, that’s all there is to it.

  • Specific to the CMP738a - What’s with USB Host?
    Everything I’ve read suggests you turn off USB Host mode before connecting the device to your computer. But USB Host mode should only work on the full-sized USB post, and you connect this device to your computer via the miniUSB connector on the other side of the miniHDMI jack. I’ve followed this so far, but it shouldn’t be necessary to turn off USB Host. (Although every time I connect to the computer, the device reports it’s shutting down USB storage. Again…huh?)

    And while I’m whining, why is it that Windows7 always wants to “fix” the internal “ROCK-CHIPS” memory space? I’m afraid to let it, for obvious reasons (don’t want Android to have issues with its own “drive”), but it’s frightening anyway that there’s a tussle between the two operating systems….

It’s kinda hard avoiding the Android Application Market (I intend to sideload everything since, as I’ve noted here more than once, I have no intention of giving Google any information about me whatsoever), but so far, so good. I’m keeping copies of the apps I download on the desk computer so that when (not if) the next version of the rooted OS is released (hopefully with a read/write main filesystem so I can start dumping the unnecessary Google apps taking up space) I can re-install without re-downloading. Titanium Backup is another option for backing up apps and data before an upgrade, once you’ve root’ed the device.

I’m also going to update this page as I learn more about the device…I’ll point to it with new blog posts, but will maintain all of the, “Why the devil isn’t this in the manual?” stuff right here.

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