This is Epth Nation

Epth is a state of mind, not a place. Reading this will give you a virtual drivers license in that state, but you'll still need to be 21 to purchase alcohol. And you can't get any there anyway, so stop asking.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

I Might Just be Free

So here's the thing about Google Docs -- There's no way I would type anything sensitive or personal or even important on here, because of the vast network of Google bots (presumably) spying on everything. I mean, that's the only way they can make money on this cool stuff, right? Like I said, getting away from Microsoft has its price, and that price is currently an alliance with Google -- the company that's keeping a record of ip addresses and search terms "for a rainy day." Is this a battle of evil empires? I don't know.

All I do know is I now really don't need Microsoft for personal use anymore. (Business use? That's another story. I like my Blackberry that syncs up with my Exchange server, thank you very much. Not that it's my decision anyway). I reinstalled Ubuntu 6.06 on my laptop, and am using it right now to blog this. I cut-and-pasted that first paragraph from Google Docs, just to prove that I could. What do I need Word for? I can type my stories and witty internal banter in Docs, then save them to a proper format or post them on here. Unless Microsoft's going to be giving Word away for free, I don't really need it. And no, I don't think I'll miss Wingdings.

Ubuntu 6.06 has improved greatly over 5.10 in terms of ease-of-migration and ease-of-use. First of all, there's now something called EasyUbuntu, which automates a lot of the step-by-step acquisition of formats and multimedia programs. In two hours (although I had done it before and therefore had a pretty good idea of what to do) I was able to get Ubuntu to play Quicktime, Flash, WMV files, Realplayer files, standard MPGs, DivX/Xvid, DVD's, ITunes AAC files, and just about anything else I wanted it to. The point is, aside from the visual differences in the windows themselves, it looks and feel almost exactly like a WinXP machine. And it doesn't have the problems -- the viruses, the spyware, the start-up nonsense, the fricking Norton and McAffee slow-down conspiracy*, the Language Bar, the popups declaring your "system is at risk" because it thinks you need 10 software firewalls installed behind your router, etc. Plus, there's the beautiful "buttloads of free software" to install and try out, and the satisfaction of knowing that whatever ridiculous DRM or Activation Crapola Windows Vista rolls out there will not affect you in the least. You'll actually be able to use your computer for what you want without having to deal with the restrictions somebody in a big office thinks you should have. And remember, Ubuntu is free! You're paying for those restrictions Microsoft gives you. But hey, wingdings, right?

There are still problems with Linux, though -- wireless networking is an absolute beast, Windows Media licensed stuff (i.e., that you have to install a little "key" on your system to use) doesn't work, Open Office is still cumbersome and tortoise-like, free image-editing software for Linux is most certainly Not Photoimpact, and the best Linux GUI (KDE) is still virtually unusable for me because there's just something I'm not getting.

But by-and-large when I plug something in, the right thing happens. Could this be the time to switch? Should I write an "idiot's guide to Ubuntu" or something like that? Is my wife going to divorce me for being so nerdy?

One last note: I'm currently streaming my favorite radio station over the internet on Ubuntu. This puts the "fun" in functional. I can barely believe it.

*Since I have become a full-on computer tech, I now hate McAffee and Norton consumer-level products(Norton Corporate is better, but still takes up a bunch of resources). In fact, in my company we won't even do a computer service related to networking without uninstalling Norton SystemWorks or McAffee SystemCrap first.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Onion Sports Section is Out of Control

It's especially funny because I live in Dallas.

Gmail -- Elite E-Mail for the Masses

In the interest of full disclosure, I will tell you that I now have a G-mail account. That's right, I now allow advertisers to spy on the content of my e-mails and target ads at me accordingly. I'm so reverse naive right now I could reverse die. And this after all I've said about G-mail and the slippery slope it represents and how I want at least something in my life to be ad-free. You might think this makes me a loser, but I'm a loser for other reasons.

I got G-mail to test it out. My address: Now, I'm still not using it as a real e-mail address, because I'm not stupid. But I thought it would be fun to test out their new "cheap as free office" package, because I'm a nerd like that. If you do e-mail me, these are the words you're not allowed to use: terrorism, muslimism, dysfunction, steroids, Barbara Streisand. I'll let you know of any more banned words as I think of them.

Just launched: The beta, which features the "Writely" web word processor and Google Spreadsheets. For those of you keeping score at home, this means they now have a free competitor to Word, Excel, and Outlook. Microsoft has continually crushed free competition in the past with legal antitrust behavior (and the sad fact that most free office packages aren't well-advertised or any good), but this Google stuff is different. If it's relatively powerful and easy to use, I think young people like me (er...) might go for it. And that will cut into Microsoft's home market share.

Of course, real businesses will still want to use the highly-priced stuff, so Bill Gates probably isn't panicking yet. His Office package still sets the format standards for documents and spreadsheets, so MS Office will continue to generate licensing revenue, too. This is probably good, since it gives the average user something to hang his/her hat on. Standards are good, and easy, and these even happen to be functional.

As for Google's stuff, I (so far) like the calendar because it's a) Apple-level simplistic, and b) I can reach it from anywhere that has internet access. It's also share-able by multiple Google users, which I don't care about since I have no friends.

Writely also allows for collaboration on documents, which is pretty cool and probably has a bunch of elegant uses I can't think of right now. It's also simple (if you're familiar with Word, that is), and allows one to save one's documents in a variety of fun formats including .doc and .pdf. In that way, it's got a place in this world. Michael W. Smith must be so proud.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The NBA Fires Back

Remember two days ago when my cynicism took hold of me and I questioned the NBA Refs? Well, the NBA has decided to punish whiners on the court this year, and I take that decision as a direct shot at me. Well, if Rasheed can think it's all about him, I'm allowed to think it's all about me, right? Luckily, I can't be fined by them for my constitutionally protected speech. Here's the story, from the giant sports shill

I don't know how I feel about this. On the one hand, whining is a huge problem in the NBA. Every time a foul -- any foul -- is called, the offending player and usually several others on his team are rolling their eyes, throwing their hands up in disgust, shaking their heads, and in general acting like my 1st-graders in computer class when I tell them not to click on anything yet. This puts off most (non-whiny) fans and is generally bad for business. I can totally see why they want to police it better.

However, in the light of the Finals Debacle of 2006, the last thing the NBA needs is more ref-protection. Coaches and players already get fines for talking about the refs after the game; what this new rule does is effectively shut out every public means of expressing dissatisfaction that players and coaches have, from the time a foul is called until the end of time. This means that the NBA office thinks it should be the sole judge of referees, and that questioning them on this is not acceptable. Does that sound like the best course of action in a post-Salvatore world?

To put it bluntly, we need more public criticism of refs from people who know what's up, i.e., players and coaches. Normally, I would be against this, but the NBA has become a special case and cannot be trusted to fix referee problems. It's the classic case of "Who's policing the police?" Is squashing dissent ever a good idea in America? Isn't this league the one that's supposed to be "fan-tastic"? Yes, we don't like whiners -- but we also don't like refs deciding games.

This isn't over, NBA.

The rule has one positive, though: we'll be treated to the delicate dance of Rasheed Wallace trying to find a way to express displeasure without doing anything the refs can see.
I really can't wait.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Review: The Last 23 Minutes of Last Night's Studio 60

After seeing 23 whole minutes (minus commercials) of the critically acclaimed new series Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, I'm ready to pronounce judgement: meh. It's ok, but it has the same problem shows like Gilmour Girls have: all the characters are too clever (and talk too fast) to exist in real life. This is good for ratings, but it does nothing for me. I can't invest emotionally in these people, because they're not like the rest of us. I don't know people like this, and if I did, I wouldn't like them because they're too pithy all the time.

So the question remains out there like a bug in a steel sheath that cannot be zapped -- why do people continue to enjoy not just Studio 60, but all "too-clever" TV dramas? You've got House, CSI 1-3, L&O 1-4, Grey's Fricking Anatomy, Desperate Housewives, and even my beloved LOST dominating the ratings these days. Comedy is dead, and dramady is standing above it smoking gun in hand. I blame Ally McBeal. Do you realize that crap won an Emmy for Best Comedy? And now its progeny are all over the place, usually helmed by Aaron Sorkin. Funny has been replaced by cute.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm not saying a show like Studio 60 is horrible (especially compared with shows like, oh, Matt Houston from the 80's), I'm just saying it's got cutesy pink barriers to entry I just can't get past. On top of that, the show hates Christians, and by extension, me. So why would I want to watch that?

Last night the end of the show centered on a plagiarized joke that wound up making it into the show-within-a-show's fake SNL-style newscast. That sentence did make sense. Oh, and btw -- Studio 60 isn't a fictional SNL since SNL exists in its universe (as Amelie Gillette has pointed out so brilliantly many times on The Hater), which is probably why NBC allows it to exist on its network. Anyhoo, this plagiarism threw the whole network into a tizzy, and the show definitely had that ER-style "a bunch of hectic crazy crap is going down at once, but after tonight we're never going to talk about it again because the same thing happens every week" vibe going on. Matthew Perry eventually fixed it with a little help from bad acting Amanda Peet and the fact that it turned out to not be plagiarism after all. It left me a little disappointed, actually. I wanted to see that bald guy from Sex and the City or that other guy from She Spies get canned. In fact, I'm not going to watch this again without knowing that somebody's going to be fired from the show.

Now that's realism.

Monday, October 09, 2006

The Beginning of Basketball

Even though my NBA fandom is still pretty up-in-the-air after my realization that the refs pretty much decide who wins NBA championships, I am still slightly excited for basketball to begin. First, the good news: The Bucks went back to red and green! (picture to come, because I can't get blogger to post it right now -- grr). Trust me, this is a great move with potential championship implications, provided we don't face a team the NBA wants to win. Urrgh. I guess I'm still having problems with last year. But that's another topic for another day.

Guess what? Andrew Bogut, the Great Australio-Serbian Hope, is out 6-8 weeks after colliding his legs with the fleebiest player in the NBA, Steve Blake. This is a terrible sign.

Seriously, though -- Bennett Salvatore is still in the league? After the job he did in the finals last year? This is the kind of thing that makes one think the NBA is actually crooked, and corrupt, and totally rigged. If I did the equivalent of what Mr. Salvatore did at my job, I'd be fired. He willingly ignored all common sense and reason and called a foul he couldn't have possibly seen, and didn't exist. This probably cost the Mavericks the critical game 5 of that series. He should be gone because he's horrible. This should be a slam-dunk PR move, really. Don't they have PR in the NBA? Or are refs like college professors, with tenure and laws protecting them from removal? Why is he still an NBA ref? Don't they know that their integrity is at stake here? Are those morons right when they say that the NBA is no better than the WWE?

I don't know if I can sit through another NBA season and pretend that it means something. I may not be able to do it anymore. Sports needs integrity. Without integrity, sports results mean nothing. Think about that when Barry Bonds, Jason Roidambi, and Bennett Salvatore beat the rap.

A New Era Will Dawn...

...for This is Epth Nation.

I know I haven't updated in a while, but that's because something big is coming. In the meantime, I promise right now to post 6 days a week from now on, at least until I take a vacation in place that doesn't have a real computer.

That's 6 days a week.

I may have to get up earlier, and I may have a few more typos and/or incomplete thoughts, but dangit, this has to be done.

Preview: I'm working with a real live Irishman at Pizza Hut.