Pipe output to the clipboard in Windows

Besides all the changes to the GUI that happened post-Windows XP, they also made one useful change to the command prompt. When you run a command, it’s now possible to pipe output to the clipboard.

If you’re like me and write a lot of documentation, or you just take a lot of notes while doing computer maintenance, it’s a big boon.

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Lenovo and IBM look back at IBM’s PC exit

The Register reports that Lenovo is gloating over its purchase of IBM’s PC division and its turnaround efforts, while IBM doesn’t regret pulling out, at all, even going so far as to call the PC dead. Who’s right?

Lenovo. Though IBM was right to get out–but the PC is only as dead as the television. Old media doesn’t go away quickly. Radio was supposed to make newspapers go away, and it’s only now, 90 years later, that newsprint is hurting. The old stuff adapts and evolves and finds new uses. Some people argue that if newspapers were managed better, they wouldn’t be hurting, but that’s a different issue. Let’s talk IBM PCs.
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Dark ages of security, or golden age of hacking?

Earlier this week, Rob O’Hara argued that hackers, in spite of the publicity they get, aren’t necessarily sophisticated at all.

Details of the Citigroup hack prove it.
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Just say no to black boxes

When the PS3 was released, one of its advertised features was that you could install Linux on it and use it as a Linux computer. I doubt many people did it, but it was a useful feature for those who did.

Sony later took that ability away in a firmware update. You could choose not to install that later firmware, but then you gave up other capabilities.

Now, some enthusiasts have figured out various ways to get that capability back, and Sony is so thrilled about that, they’re suing.

Sony is in the wrong.
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How to turn around an automaker

So if you’re a CEO of one of the Big Three automakers, you have to fly a private plane, as corporate policy, for safety reasons.

Congress suggested they save money by flying first class, or plane-pool at the very least.I guess the problem with flying first class is that they might run into some angry shareholders. And maybe one or more of those angry shareholders would recognize them and beat the snot out of them?

But that raises another question. Speaking as someone who lost a lot of money in Ford stock (but back in 2000 or so, so don’t cry too hard for me), how many of those shareholders would have enough money left to fly first class? The angry mob would have to be sitting in coach, right?

But seriously. There’s a lot wrong with the three domestic automakers and cutting the corporate jets isn’t going to fix the problem, at least not alone. But let me tell you a story.

In the mid 1990s, I was briefly the treasurer of a student organization while I was in college. My organization had a serious cashflow problem. At midyear, I estimated the remaining expenses for the year based on bills from the first half, and came to the conclusion that we were spending more money per member than we were taking in.

I made this startling discovery by dividing the amount of money we were spending by the number of members we had. It was a bigger number than the amount of money we charged to be a member of the group.

Sure, it’s sixth-grade math, but someone had to do it.

The problem was that I faced a room full of good-ol’-boy, stubborn German Lutherans, some of whom had difficulty doing sixth grade math, and I just couldn’t convince them what we needed to start charging more.

I couldn’t balance the budget by cutting things, but I figured being $100 short at the end of each month was better than being $200 short. And I knew it would get my point across. So I started slashing line items like the stingy Scottish miser I am (and was). Cable TV? Gone. Telephone service? Gone. But most importantly, everything related to parties and beer got cut. That sure got the good ol’ boys’ attention. After all, the only thing more important to a German Lutheran than stodgy hymnals and poorly maintained pipe organs is beer.

When I refused to sign any checks related in any way to the annual Super Bowl party, I got the changes I needed in the budget. They got a slightly cut-down party, and I got the bank account balance back up above zero. This was a compromise, because I wanted to have a surplus at the end of the year. You know, just in case anything broke sometime and needed to be fixed or replaced.

Sometimes you make cuts in the budget not because it’ll balance the budget, but because it sends a message.

If I were the CEO of an auto company, I’d get the rules changed so I could fly in commercial aircraft. I might even go so far as to fly coach. And I’d get rid of those planes.

I’d also get rid of the executive cafeteria. Bob Lutz argued in one of his books that the executive cafeteria isn’t just a perk, it’s a great place to get work done. The problem is the message it sends. I’m not an auto executive, but somehow I manage to get my fair share of work done over a microwaved lunch from Costco that I bring from home every day and eat at my desk.

Incidentally, my boss eats lunch at his desk too.

I don’t need to eat gourmet food provided by the company behind locked doors in a lavish room to be productive. And if you do, you’re not creative enough.

I’d go even further than that, though. I read that Rick Wagoner made $14 million last year. A $14 million salary suggests that you’re the executive of a successful and growing company. Rick Wagoner is not. Time for another story.

In 1997, there was a struggling computer company in Cupertino, California. This struggling company merged with another struggling company, one that specialized in trying to sell underperforming, overstyled computers that ran Unix. I say trying because nobody was buying.

It wasn’t long before the CEO of the struggling company departed, and the erstwhile CEO of the company he bought became interim CEO.

The interim CEO gave himself a base salary of $1. One lousy dollar. The bulk of his compensation came in bonuses and stock options. I don’t know exactly what his motivation was, but it tied his yearly compensation to performance.

It worked. Prior to his taking the helm, pundits had the company on a deathwatch. I don’t have to tell you how the company is doing today or how it got there. All I have to tell you is the name of the company was Apple, and the executive was Steve Jobs.

I don’t know if Apple would have turned around if Steve Jobs had taken a more traditional compensation package. But it’s safe to say that Jobs is highly motivated. And while I personally don’t care much for the products his company makes, he’s obviously successful.

Taking a page or two from Apple’s book seems like a good move for car companies, starting with executive compensation. How Apple manages to remain highly profitable and successful with a market share of around 10 percent would also be a good case study for U.S. automakers, since it’s clear they’re going to have to live with a smaller market share than they’ve been used to having, at least for a time.

Turning the Big Three around isn’t going to be an easy process, and it’s going to take a lot more than a $25 billion loan from the government to get it done. A true turnaround is going to require a change of culture, lots of shared sacrifice, and the motivation to think long term, far beyond the next quarterly report.

Changing things like corporate jets and corporate cafeterias won’t balance the budget, but it’ll help in the shared sacrifice and changing the corporate culture.

And in the long run, maybe some of those perks can come back some day. I don’t know this for certain, but I’d be willing to bet Steve Jobs doesn’t eat lunch at his desk.

Insulate your hot water pipes

Want an easy $10 project that will save you $30 a year for the life of your home while also giving a noticeable quality of life improvement? Insulate your hot water pipes.

Here’s a Department of Energy writeup on how to do it. Or you can follow along with me.

What you need are pre-formed foam insulation tubes that match your pipe diameter, duct tape, and wire ties. The insulation costs around $1-$1.50 in six-foot lengths at Lowe’s right now. It’s a little more expensive everywhere else. When I went to Lowe’s to get mine, they were on an endcap in the plumbing area. So I guess all the cool kids are doing it right now.

Installation is dead simple. Split the seam, snap it onto the pipe, seal up the seam with a length of duct tape, and put a zip tie on each end, and then in the middle as needed (9-24 inches apart). If you need multiple pieces of tube, tape the seams between adjacent pieces.

Start about 3-6 inches above the flue hood on gas heaters, or all the way to the surface on electric. Insulate all the rest of the exposed pipe in your basement or utility closet. The first three feet is the most critical, but the more you can get, the better. Also insulate the cold water pipe, starting from a few inches from the hood and going up 3-6 feet. The reason is because some heat can escape up the cold water pipe too, and insulating it can recapture some of it.

For tricky bends, you can cut some notches in the tube to make it flex around them better, or just use straights and cut filler pieces from some scrap, then secure them with tape.

I was able to insulate the run from my heater to the bathrooms in about an hour. The long run to the kitchen will take longer, because there are some tricky obstacles along the way. Suffice it to say the previous homeowner didn’t take possible insulation of that pipe into consideration when he positioned some things.

It’s worth doing the best you can, even if you can’t insulate everything. Insulating the three feet of pipe going into and coming out of the tank takes minutes and requires about a dollar’s worth of material, while giving significant benefit.

And besides the savings, you’ll get hot water faster at your faucets and shower heads faster.

Actual savings will vary based on your energy rates and the efficiency of your heater. But doing little things like this adds up.

More energy saving ideas

I’ve done a number of other things to help me save energy over the years. Most are pretty inexpensive. I installed thermal blinds and thermal curtains. Then I insulated my electrical outlets and added child safety plates. Of course I use LED bulbs.

My electric usage dropped 19 percent in 2011, so these things work.

Being more interested in growth than being Lutheran? Hardly.

On Monday, a group of protesters gathered outside the Vatican, er, 1333 S. Kirkwood Road.

Their complaint: Issues, Etc., a popular radio show on the LCMS’s unpopular talk radio station, got cancelled without warning, and the host and producer were fired.

I know from personal experience that this is how the LCMS does things. About this time of year, people come into work like any other day, and they lose their jobs. The next day, everyone else comes in and finds out a bunch of people are gone. Sometimes there’s an announcement, and if everyone takes it like a man there might even be a little fare-thee-well with cake and punch and a picture for the internal newsletter, but it’s just as likely there’ll be nothing but a few whispers.

Several years ago it happened to me. It still bugs me a lot, since I moved 120 miles, made a less-than-lateral move, and worked for far less than fair market value for those people.

So I feel for The Rev. Wilken and Jeff Schwarz. I’ve been there. And I really hope they find stable employment very soon.

I happen to know David Strand, the LCMS employee quoted in the article. In fact, if my phone rang and I saw it was him on my caller ID, I’d probably pick up. There are maybe a dozen people who work at The Vatican that I can say that for. I spent a fair amount of time with him and I trust him. I also know in the past that his department has been ravaged with cuts. It seems like pretty much every time the LCMS loses money (which they’re very good at doing), his department takes the bullet. So when he throws the monetary figures out there, my inclination is to believe him.

So while I sympathize with those who lost their jobs, and while I’m very disappointed in how it was handled (but not surprised), I very much take issue with what one of the protesters said: “They’d [the LCMS leadership in Kirkwood] like to be more in the mainstream of American evangelicalism as opposed to distinctly Lutheran.”

I’m not sure what Bible the so-called confessional Lutherans read, but my Bible doesn’t say, “Wait, therefore, for 15th-century Germans to come to you, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” It says to go–don’t wait, GO!–to all people, all nations, and baptize them.

The church I attend takes that seriously. And we attract an interesting mix of people. A lot of people are lapsed Lutherans, like I was. But we also attract a very large number of lapsed Catholics. We also have a small but vocal group who have, shall I say, some Calvinistic sympathies.

Our church looks more like a library or a community center than a German cathedral, and we don’t have a pipe organ and we put–gasp!–Bibles where other Lutheran churches put those horrible blue hymnals. I’ve had people tell me it doesn’t look or feel like a Lutheran church. But the theology that our pastor preaches is extremely Lutheran. The confession and absolution of sins is as Lutheran as it comes–the difference slaps me in the face any time I go to a non-Lutheran church–and in fact, if anything I hear more references to things like sola scriptura, grace alone and faith alone than I did in more mainline Lutheran churches.

And that’s good, because that’s what the people God brings us need to hear more than anything else. Isn’t that what God wants us to do? Heal the hurting? What could be more healing than the message of God’s grace?

We Lutherans have a near monopoly on perhaps the most potent force in the entire universe. I don’t think anybody understands grace as much as we do, and certainly nobody else has studied it like we have, because perhaps nobody in history needed it more than Martin Luther did. But all too often, we just sit on it. Or we bury it in tradition that people don’t understand.

The church I attend does a few things that draw people in, the upbeat, modern music being the most noticeable thing. But I don’t think that’s what keeps people there. Lots of churches have good praise bands. Lots of churches have eloquent pastors. But not a lot of churches have that plus the Lutheran doctrine.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. My church is one of the few Lutheran churches that’s growing, but that’s not necessarily a comfortable place. Growing is painful, and it’s expensive. It’s been a while since I was the one counting attendance, but I believe we can fit about 700 people in our sanctuary comfortably, and sometimes we have to squeeze a lot more than that in there. On Christmas and Easter we have to go to extreme measures to fit everyone in. Some people end up watching the service on closed-circuit TV in another room. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than turning people away.

Our life really would be a lot easier if more churches would make their services a bit more friendly for people who didn’t necessarily grow up in the old German Lutheran tradition. Play a new song occasionally. Preach practical sermons that people can use to apply to their lives, rather than sermons that sound like seminary lectures. Look at the problems we face in life every day and tell people what the Bible has to say about that, and make sure there’s a good helping of grace in the middle and at the end. The word will get out, and people will come. And then maybe my church’s buildings will last 10 or even 15 years before we outgrow them, instead of seven.

I think my church goes beyond what most of the current administration finds comfortable. I occasionally spot some higher-ups in attendance. I don’t know if that’s a sign of approval or if they’re keeping an eye on us. I do know they wish more churches would try an approach like ours, however.

I got a good healthy dose of decision-based evangelical theology this weekend, and it reminded me of how I ended up at this church. CBS News did a special called God’s Boot Camp. That movement is real, and in college it found me. It finally caught me a few months after I graduated. At least it got me in church when I hadn’t been going at all, which I think pretty much everyone would agree is a good thing. But the gospel they preached was very works-based. For a time it was really nice, because I’d never seen a church like this one before, but eventually I realized the burden was literally destroying me.

I found an evangelical-minded Lutheran church that knew what a guitar was, had a pastor who knew how to apply the Bible to daily life and preach a sermon about it, but most importantly, that pastor and his church knew what grace was, and all of a sudden, it was like all was right with the world.

I have a question for the Lutherans who are reading (both of you). Those people are out there. They will find your children. Given a choice between guitars and pipe organ on Sunday morning, your children probably will pick the guitars, unless you’ve somehow managed to spawn a teenager who prefers Lawrence Welk to MTV. So which gospel do you want them to hear? Works, or grace?

I want my son to hear about grace every Sunday. And I couldn’t care less what the rest of the church service looks like as long as the pastor’s definition of grace is something along the lines of “God’s riches at Christ’s expense.”

Speaking of expense, I also have one more request, although I’m pretty sure it will fall on deaf ears. I worked nearly seven years at 1333 and other LCMS office buildings, and I saw a lot of waste–waste that wouldn’t be tolerated in the corporate world (I know, because I’ve worked in the private sector too). By and large, the money that flows to 1333 flows there via the offering plate every Sunday morning. Please remember that it’s offering money that funds everything there, and in some cases it comes from people who really don’t have a lot to give. With that in mind, please use it wisely, carefully, and honestly.

The waste I saw wouldn’t have been enough to make a difference in Issues, Etc. being on the air. But it’s a symptom of a large but solvable problem. If the LCMS had addressed this problem seven years ago when layoffs and huge cuts became an annual event, then it’s entirely possible that Issues, Etc. would be on the air, I would be working at 1333, I wouldn’t be writing my offering check in such a way as to minimize the amount of money going to 1333 to be wasted, and none of this talk would be happening.

Good night.

What net neutrality means and why it\’s a good thing

This week, John C. Dvorak makes a good argument in favor of net neutrality.

I’m going to take it from a different angle. I am a conservative. While I rarely vote a straight Republican ticket, I am registered as a Republican. Republicans generally are against net neutrality.

They are wrong. I will assume it’s from a lack of understanding rather than bad intentions, but in this case, wrong is wrong. I’ll explain why. Read more

Getting domesticated (or at least more handy)

I go back to work tomorrow. I wish I could take at least another day or two off, but something came up and they need me Monday.

I spent some time tackling little projects around the house. Watching This Old House for the last six months or so is paying off.The day we brought my son home, I had a project waiting for me. A wind storm had ripped one of the gutters almost completely off the house. It was hanging by a thread on one end, and the other end had twisted itself around a vent over the kitchen. Nice. The vent probably kept the gutter from completely coming off.

I asked a friend from church to help me with it, because there wasn’t really any way one person could do it all at once–especially when that person is me. While I’m perfectly comfortable straightening metal, drilling pilot holes, and screwing it into place, I’d rather fill out tax forms than climb on the roof. Fortunately, with help we got it done in about 30 minutes.

When the weather finally gets nicer, I’ll drive some screws into the other gutters. For now they’re hanging on OK, but I doubt they’ll last another year without some intervention.

I also fixed a leak in the bathroom sink. I fixed it a few months ago with a bunch of PVC pipe repair kits, but the local Sears Hardware didn’t carry exactly the combination of parts I needed to reach from one end to the other. I ended up needing to mate two threaded pipes in the middle. My temporary fix was to put a smaller piece of pipe inside the two. Most of the time it worked, but sometimes it leaked.

I managed to find a threaded connector at Home Depot that fit, but it was galvanized steel and weighed way too much. There was no way these PVC pipes would support that weight. I settled for a female adapter. It screws into the threaded pipe on the bottom, and I rely on a press fit to for the top. I could secure it with some PVC glue, but first I’ll see if friction and gravity do their jobs. PVC glue isn’t something I want around the house with a little one roaming around.

Finally, I have some loose kitchen tiles. I found the original adhesive in the garage this morning. When I pulled one of the tiles, I could see why the adhesive failed: It’s the wrong kind of adhesive for the subfloor I have. So I picked up a combination adhesive/grout and we’ll see how it does. I’m not sure if one substance can do two jobs well, but theoretically I only need a little, and I’d rather buy a little of one thing than a little of two things. And I don’t see how it could be any worse than the original stuff.

I ended up paying about $10 for a quart of the adhesive/grout, $3 for a trowel, and another $3 for the tool for applying the grout. That’s not too bad. I should need a chisel, but with the original grout crumbling, I think I can get by without it. Good thing, because I couldn’t find one at Home Depot.

I’ve never laid tile before, but I’ve seen it done several times now on This Old House, so at least I know what the proper technique looks like. I don’t really know what I’m doing, but neither did whoever put this stuff down.

Once I get this project out of the way, the house will be a little bit nicer and a little bit safer. And I’ll have a little more experience.

Net neutrality has little to do with censorship but it\’s a good idea anyway

Pearl Jam came out in favor of net neutrality after AT&T censored a broadcast a performance they did in Chicago last Sunday. I guess AT&T didn’t like Pearl Jam’s anti-Bush message.

I don’t know if Pearl Jam’s sudden embrace of net neutrality is out of ignorance, or if it’s retaliation. It doesn’t really matter because it should help bring some more awareness to the issue.Here’s the issue with net neutrality, in a nutshell. AT&T wants to charge companies like Amazon, eBay, and Google when people like you and me access their web pages. And if the companies don’t pay, AT&T will make the web sites slower. The idea is that if one company doesn’t pay the fees but a competitor does, AT&T customers will probably opt to use the faster services.

Proponents say AT&T built the infrastructure, so they have the right to charge whoever uses it.

There are two problems with that logic.

They’re already paying to use it.

When a company decides to go online, they buy an Internet connection. That connection might be owned by AT&T, or it might be owned by some other provider. It isn’t cheap. While a 1.5-megabit cable modem connection might cost a consumer $30, a commercial-grade 1.5-megabit T1 connection will cost more on the order of $500 a month. A company like Google needs a lot more than one of these connections. Google most likely is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions, every month for the privilege of being on the Internet.

Without content, an Internet connection has no value.

AT&T knows nothing about how online services work, because they haven’t been in the business long. Twenty years ago, if you wanted to go online, you didn’t use the Internet unless you were a college student. You subscribed to a service like AOL or Compuserve or Prodigy, who sent you a disk and a local phone number that you called with your modem, and then when you wanted to go online, you connected to their service. It had e-mail and forums and downloads and news, kind of like the Internet does today, but it was smaller. You could interact with other subscribers but that was pretty much it. E-mail was limited, for the most part, to other members of the same service.

Compuserve was the biggest and most expensive service, but it survived because it had the most features. AOL and Prodigy survived because they were easy to use. GEnie, a competing service operated by General Electric, survived primarily because it was cheaper than the others. Each had a niche. In these cases, the company providing access also provided the content. It was a closed system.

The Internet is an open system. AT&T isn’t providing all of the content. AT&T is my Internet provider, and I never touch any of their content, except when my credit card expires and I get a new one and I have to go to att.com to update my account with the new expiration date for my automatic bill-pay.

If it weren’t for the companies like eBay and Amazon and Google, nobody would want an Internet connection in the first place, because without those providers, an Internet connection is pretty much useless. The only reason the Internet took off in the first place was because companies like AOL and CompuServe couldn’t offer services that were as good as what Google and Amazon and eBay.

That’s why AOL went from a blue-chip stock to a drag on Time-Warner’s share price in less than a decade.

People buy Internet connections so they can use Google and Amazon and eBay. Very few people care about the mostly sterile content AT&T puts on the Internet. I’m sure some people enjoy watching concerts in the AT&T blue room, but I’ve never heard of anyone watching anything there. But I hear every day about what someone bought or sold on eBay, or a story that showed up on Google News or CNN.com, or a book someone bought on Amazon.

And when they use e-mail, people increasingly are using e-mail from Google or Yahoo or Microsoft instead of the one from their Internet provider. That way they can read their mail anywhere, and they can keep their e-mail address even if they move or change Internet providers. So Internet providers aren’t even the primary source of the most basic services anymore.

If anything, AT&T should be paying the companies that produce the content. Not the other way around.

AT&T isn’t selling content. It’s selling a pipe that content travels to. Lest AT&T get a big head, all AT&T has to offer is plumbing.

So what does this have to do with censorship?

Net neutrality has very little to do with censorship. I suppose someone with contrarian views operating a blog on a shoestring who can’t afford to pay for both an Internet connection and the privilege of running in AT&T’s fast lane is a victim of a form of censorship. Or if Google doesn’t pay to be in the fast lane but Yahoo does, then in a way Google is being censored in favor of Yahoo.

But if AT&T chooses to drop the audio out of a Pearl Jam concert, net neutrality isn’t going to stop that. In that case, AT&T is the provider, not just the company providing the plumbing.

But net neutrality is a good thing because without it, what’s going to happen is higher prices for the things you buy on Amazon and eBay, and less content on news sites because the news providers can’t afford as many writers because now they’re having to pay AT&T and every other company that sells digital plumbing. You get less, so that Randall Stephenson gets a higher salary and a more attractive stock options.

Stephenson made $14.6 million last year, before he got promoted to CEO.

I don’t think you and I need to make any more sacrifices in order to give this fat cat a bigger raise.

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