Crystal Meth is easier to buy than cold medicine

November 30, 2005 at 06:14 PM | categories: liberty rants | View Comments

I read today that Vicks has changed the formula of NyQuil to no longer contain pseudoephedrine, a nasal decongestent ingredient. According to Vick's pseudoephedrine FAQ: "There are reports that some people are using this drug to make an illegal substance called methamphetamine." NyQuil still has the same name but is now a whole lot less effective.

States all across the country are restricting the sale of products containing pseudoephedrine. The Texas State Board of Pharmacy has a notice of the new rules regarding its sale. Included in those rules are the following:

  • You now have to show your drivers licence to prove you are at least 16 years of age before purchasing any product containing the chemical.
  • You have to sign your name in a log book.
  • The pharmacy must record the exact quantity (in grams) you purchase and make sure that you don't purchase more than two items containing the chemical at the same time.

Not even alchohol is as hard to buy as Tylenol Cold and Flu, which, unlike NyQuil, still contains pseudoephedrine. Certainly Crystal Meth, which this new legislation is trying to stop the production of, is now even easier to buy than cold medicine containg pseudoephedrine.

But nowhere is there a requirement for obtaining a prescription before purchasing drugs containing the chemical. This is a wholly new form of restriction and surveillance imposed by the Police State.

This could get absurd real quick. I could make napalm out of gasoline. I could die from drinking antifreeze. I could burn my hand on the stove. None of these items are stored in glass cases nor tracked to each individual buyer. Are these items also soon to become regulated, or is there really some ulterior motive here? Hilary Clinton seems to want to require prescriptions even for simple vitamins. Is the government going to tell us when we can and can't help our own selves when we get sick? Of course they will. That's what will give the State control. If they can create a large enough epidemic, or even the perception of one, then the state can finally impose martial law, including curfews and travel restrictions, forcing people to renew their faith in the SYSTEM because the SYSTEM will be the only one left who will have the ability to decongest your nose.

Welcome to the Police State folks.

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Why I hate Creative Commons

November 27, 2005 at 10:39 PM | categories: uncategorized | View Comments

Did I get your attention? No, Creative Commons is not evil, and I don't actually hate them.

First of all, let me clarify my position. I fully support anyone licencing anything they create in whatever manner they choose. I don't care whether they charge $1 Million and require that I only use the work while jumping on one foot. I won't agree to that particular licence (and therefore I won't aquire the privilege of using the work), but I fully support that persons right to licence it that way. They should also be just as free to give all their rights away and release something to the public domain. Or, they should be able to do anything that's in the middle of those two extremes. That's just the way a free society should opperate.

The problem I have is this: I've had people recommend to me in the past to release some of my work in a "Creative Commons license". What the hell does that even mean!? Just take a look for yourself on their Licences page.

Here they are, all THIRTEEN of the current Creative Commons licences (there are other, albeit deprecated licences too):

So, it really is utterly meaningless to suggest to someone that they consider a Creative Commons licence. Every Licence is different. On the contrary, when I suggest to someone to use the GPL for releasing software. There is no ambiguity. Even if that person has no idea what the GPL is about, if they search Google for "GPL" ... they are only going to find one license. Actually, I just lied. There is another reference to the GPL on the first couple of hits on google. It's the Creative Commons GNU GPL. Yes.. I know it's the same thing. But it sure sounds like it's different. Adding "Creative Commons" to the front of the GNU GPL and adding some cute little logo for it make it sound like it is a derivitive licence, when in fact it's not. Granted, if someone who has never heard of the GPL before finds it through Creative Commons, that's great! On the other hand, it could also be very confusing for that person.

It seems to me that although Creative Commons has good intentions for proliferating free exchange, as evidenced by their outline of Baseline Rights and Restrictions, the end result is that they are really just poplularizing the idea of licencing in general. I know some bloggers that release under the Creative Commons just so they can slap another button on their site. If you currently have something covered by a Creative Commons licence, I am not asking you to revoke that licence for future work, I would just urge you to think about your reasons for the particular licence you chose to release under.

In the end it's not really Creative Commons fault. It's the user's fault. Stop recommending that I use a "Creative Commons" licence. If you feel that a particular licence is a good one, let me know, and tell me why, I'll listen to you, and possibly even agree. But they are not all the same and they don't all reach the same goal. There is literally an entire political spectrum covered by the many Creative Commons licences.

Creative Commons truley is great for a number of reasons. I don't want to have to write a fully legal licence for something. I have neither the time nor the knowledge. Creative Commons gives me an easy repository to go to find licences that I would possibly agree with. That's really the proper perspective to take with them. They are a repository of various licences, not a pillar of enlightened thinking. I may choose to use a Creative Commons licence in the future, but I won't be adding a cute little button to my site. Buttons are for telling people "Hey, these are things I BELIEVE in and you should too!" ... Creative Commons is just not something that one can believe in.

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Gentoo Linux on new HP dv8000z

November 27, 2005 at 07:16 PM | categories: linux | View Comments

My employer was kind enough to buy me a new laptop last week. It's a brand new HP dv8000z. I struggled over the Thanksgiving holiday to install Linux on it. This laptop is VERY new. It wasn't even on HP's website a couple of days prior to when it was ordered. Now, if you've ever installed Linux on brand new hardware (and a laptop at that), you'll know that it can be quite challenging. So, as I wasn't able to find anyone else that detailed how to install Linux on this new laptop, I thought I would chronicle my successes (and failures) thus far.

My first attempt to install anything on it was Kubuntu 5.10 'Breezy.' It got all the way through the installation and it came up to a KDM login screen at the full monitor resolution. You can't beat that! However as soon as I entered my username and password the system was locked hard. I rebooted into console mode and did a 'startx' .. resulting in a very similar lockup. I messed around with the Xorg.conf file for a while but I finally gave up.

Ubuntu is one of my favorite distros. Everytime I have installed it, it Just Works. This is the first time I've seen it malfunction so horribly. On my desktop machine I run Gentoo (athlon XP). I promised myself that I would only run Gentoo on one machine (hey my time is money and Gentoo requires a lot of it compared to Ubuntu). However I started to think 'Okay.. this laptop is brand new.. bleeding edge... what else is bleeding edge? Well that's Gentoo..' So I started with a stage 3 tarball for amd64 (2005.1-r1) and got a minimal console-only installation before I left for my parents house for Thanksgiving.


I am running gentoo-sources-2.6.14-r3. Many people have emailed me who are having problems with 2.6.15 versioned kernels. I have not done any testing of it myself. However, judging by the number of emails I've been receiving on this topic, there does seem to be an issue. I would suggest using gentoo-sources-2.6.14-r5 (as r3 isn't in portage any longer). One user has reported success with hardened-sources-2.6.14-r3 as well. My .config file for 2.6.14-r3 is below in the Miscellenious section.


After installing Xorg 6.8.2-r4 I tried running 'xorg -configure' ... this was pretty bad: it configured everything but it only detected the graphics as a VGA card at 640x480 and 8bit color. I had compiled my kernel (2.6.12) with all the radeon support I could find, so I thought I would try to force the 'radeon' module. X just exited saying 'no device found.' So it seemed to me that the Xorg driver knows nothing about my Radeon 200M. I found that I hadn't installed the latest Xorg (6.8.2-r6).. so I upgraded. Same deal. I also found I hadn't installed the latest kernel (2.6.14). So I did that. I installed the official (closed source) ati drivers fglrx and played around with that for a while. This seemed to do something. The screen went black but didn't do anything after that. The hard drive LED was blinking though so it seemed as if X was actually starting up GNOME. Disabling direct rendering fixed that problem. So, now I have Xorg running with full 2d acceleration at 1680x1050 resolution but no 3d acceleration (glx is still enabled, but it runs with Mesa. glxgears runs at about 400fps). So it's probably an issue that will get resolved as ATI releases new drivers, or Xorg or the kernel gets upgraded. I'm moderately pleased for the time being.

Here is my Xorg.conf (No 3D, Look below for one with 3d acceleration)

UPDATE 01/11/05: I just got DRI working! In the BIOS set "UMA+Sideport" and 128M of shared video memory in the video preferences, and then uncomment the "Load 'dri'" in xorg.conf (line 74 in mine) (Thanks Levent!). glxgears now runs at 1264.600 FPS, which is a good improvement!

Here is my Xorg.conf with 3d acceleration

Graphics part2: External VGA

This laptop has an external VGA port on it. This allows you to do several things utilizing two displays. I don't really have a use for Xinerama as I normally use two computers connected with Synergy instead, although this laptop will do Xinerama just fine.

What I did want to be able do though was to take my laptop into my living room and hook it up to my television (which has VGA input) and watch some movies that are on the laptop's hard drive. The problem is this: In order to display movies at decent frame rates, video players use a feature of the video card called an overlay. On the ATI Radeon Xpress 200M, they do not support overlay on the secondary display. So although I was able to get the laptop to display on my TV fairly easily, if you try to play a video, all you'll see is a big blue screen. If you turn off the overlay feature completely, then video plays, but is very choppy.

The solution is to make the external VGA port the primary display instead of the secondary one. This can be accomplished by editing your xorg.conf file. This is the relevant change:

Change from this:
Option "DesktopSetup"               "(null)"
Option "DesktopSetup"             "0x00000001"

What that will do is when you start X it will turn off the laptop's LCD and initialize the external monitor as the primary display, this time with the overlay feature enabled.

I connect my laptop to a Viewsonic N3250w HDTV. It has a native resolution of 1360x768 which the Radeon 200M will happily display.

Here is my Xorg.conf optimized for the N3250w

I then have two files in /etc/X11. 1) my xorg.conf which is my normal setup just using the laptop's LCD. 2) my xorg.TV.conf which I use to display on my television.

I don't use a display manager so I normally use 'startx' to start X-windows. To display on the TV, I instead type 'startx -- -config xorg.TV.conf'


The wireless card in this laptop is the Broadcom BCM4318. This works with ndiswrapper. You need to download the 64 bit windows driver for this to work. I lost the link where I downloaded this, but here is a local copy

Just do the following:
tar xfvj Broadcom-BCM4318-64bit-windows-driver.tar.bz2 
cd Broadcom-BCM4318-64bit-windows-driver
emerge ndiswrapper
ndiswrapper -i BCMWL5.INF
modprobe ndiswrapper

Synaptics Touchpad

Although, the touchpad kinda works, it really freaks out occasionally. The movement is always fine, but clicking on things sometimes takes multiple times to get right or quits working completely. I'm using an external mouse now exclusively which works fine. I really should attempt to get this working properly as it's a pain when I don't have a mouse handy.

This appears to be working just fine. However it's configured right now as a generic PS2 mouse. This means that the scroll area of the mouse is still not working, which might be nice to have work. There is a Synaptics driver that I should look into at some point. I'm not terribly motivated to do so because I almost always plug in an external mouse anyway.


This Just Worked. The laptop has an ATI IXP AC'97 sound card. I enabled the ATI IXP chipset in the ALSA section of the kernel configuration. That was about all there was to it.


It took a while but this laptop is starting to really shape up. Here are some of the best things about this laptop:

  • 17" screen (1680x1050 resolution). I can bring up 4 non-overlapping terminals on the screen and still have room left over. Bliss!
  • Room for TWO 120 GB hard drives. I have 80GB in there right now with a 100GB on the way.
  • a full keyboard including a number pad!
  • AMD Turion64 2.2Ghz processor. This was pretty powerful.. In hindsight I could have easily done a stage1 tarball on this thing in not too much more time.

If anyone out there is configuring Linux on this laptop and is either having problems or has found a solution to one of my problems, go ahead and make a comment on this article (or email me if you prefer). I'll do the best I can to assist (or be gracious)!


My 2.6.14 Kernel configuation

The output of lspci and my /proc/cpuinfo

My make.conf

Here's some screenshots (click the image for the gallery):

dv8000z GNOME 1 dv8000z GNOME 2
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Python! TurboGears!

November 18, 2005 at 12:20 AM | categories: python, cool stuff | View Comments

Python! TurboGears!

I have to to tell this story backwards so bear with me.

Yesterday, I watched something that was surprising, amazing, and inspiring all at the same time. It was a video of the making of an entire Wiki, from scratch, in only 20 minutes. Mind you this video was produced by a developer that intimately knows his development environment, but it was nonetheless amazing to just sit and watch the thing evolve in front of me and not get bored in the process of watching it. The video introduces a brand new web application framework called TurboGears.

I guess I'm a bit behind on the times, because I thought plain, vanilla, PHP was pretty cool stuff. It's what I've almost always used for developing web-apps, in both commercial environments and on my own personal time. I had heard of Zope before but until recently had never really considered it much more than an alternative on par with PHP. Enter Ruby on Rails. Until earlier this year, I didn't even know what Ruby was let alone what an MVC was. Ruby on Rails (RoR) is essentially the next big thing, a higher abstraction, in developing web applications. Everyone, everyone but me that is, has been talking about Ruby on Rails... but somehow it completely slipped me by.

Go back a little further in history..

In August, I stumbled on a very unique website called the Python Challenge. It is a site with a series of progressive riddles for (python) programmers. To summarize, it is very addicting. If you haven't tried it, go there right now (warning: if you're at work right now, you might not get back to it today). If you are a programmer (of any skill level) or just happen to like a good puzzle, this web site will challenge you for hours and days and even weeks. I started dreaming of these problems and possible solutions. The Python Challenge litterally tought me how to program Python in about one week. This is in part due to Python being a simplistic (yet oh so powerful), highly abstracted (that means you don't need to know much about computers folks!), well designed language. This is also due to the fact that the Python Challenge seems to cover almost all of the Python Standard Library. Instead of reading through a Python book from front to cover, the Challenge forces you to read certain portions of the documentation in order to solve the puzzle at hand. Then the next puzzle does the same thing for a different part of the documentation. By the time you've gone through ten or so of these puzzles you'll realize that you've read things that you probably never would have read without the motivation, or possibly you just would have skimmed over it without realizing it's significance. But since you were essentially forced into reading it and actually put it to use, you realize it was worthwhile after all and will know to use it again when the opportunity arises. I have since tried to incorporate as much Python into my work and my studies as possible and have found it very rewarding. Suffice it to say, I love Python!

Now, this probably sounds pretty non-coherent by now, if not totally unrelated to the first part of this post, but trust me, I told you all this for a reason. Shortly after reading about Ruby on Rails, and realizing the magnitude of it, while at the same time not relishing the thought of learning Ruby, I googled for "Python on Rails" and came across TurboGears. Now I found something I could really get excited about: a next-generation model for designing and implementing web applications that for all intents and purposes seems just as powerful as Ruby on Rails and just so happens to also be in a language that really excites me. I haven't gotten very far in doing anything with it yet (school and work is a little overwhelming right now) but before seeing these two things together I had almost deemed web development boring.. I never would have thought that it could be this fun again!

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Yet another reason why I don't use Microsoft products

November 10, 2005 at 06:22 PM | categories: stupidity | View Comments

I have many reasons why I don't use Microsoft products, let alone non-free software in general, but I just found another.. This is just dumb: Microsoft to incorporate VoIP (Voice over IP) in the next version of Office

Come on... this is an office suite for gods sake... not an entire Operating System. Bloat is one thing, I use Emacs for crying out loud... but not even Emacs has VoIP! The people have made a great 2.0 release.. it's funny, sometimes you don't even have to have new development to get better software... you can just wait for Microsoft to do something stupid and the alternatives get better by default!

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