A Linux Person’s Windows 8 Upgrade and Inadvertent Install Experience

The first night Microsoft released Windows 8 I bought a copy. What the hell, I thought – they’re only charging $30-some dollars for the upgrade. I don’t use Windows very much, mostly just for gaming. I’m a long-time Linux person and an advocate of free software.

My main workstation computer has several operating systems installed on it, one of which was Windows 7. It has 3 monitors, 3 hard drives, and 2 solid state drives. The 2 SSD drives were the first two drives in hardware order – that is, a C: drive and a D: drive in Windows terms. Both of them have Linux distributions installed on them, using an encrypted filesystem, so Windows can’t see the partitions. The 3 hard drives are next in the hardware line, each being partitioned with a Windows partition, and other partitions for Linux in various states of RAID and LVM and encryption.

I was actually surprised that Windows 7 would boot, not being on the first drive in the system. But it did. And this new Windows 8 was supposed to be the easiest thing to install ever, so I was fairly confident it could handle upgrading Windows 7 to Windows 8 using the same drive layout it already was.

I booted into Windows 7 and then went to the Microsoft website, where I ran the utility that looks at your system to verify it can be upgraded to Windows 8. The utility ran without a hitch and was happy with my system. It then asked if I wanted to purchase, download and install Windows 8 right now, on the spot. Sure, I said! What a new and amazing thing for Microsoft customers to finally be able to do. Recently it was a new and amazing thing for Apple customers, upgrading OSX. But we Linux users are completely used to this – in fact, online upgrades have been standard practice for Linux users for many years.

Before the download I had to enter into several lengthy legal agreements, but here it was! A single executable file. When I launched it, it did all kinds of thinking and verifying on the system before deciding my system was fine for the install, and then it took off. The first thing it wanted to do was uninstall my virus software and then reboot. After then, it chugged away for a good half hour or so, getting all the way through the percentage install bar, and then thinking for a few minutes with its whirly balls telling me my system will be rebooted in just a few minutes – then suddenly, that loud horn chorus denoting failure detonated from the speakers as a red X dialogue came up saying my install had failed. All I could do was click “OK”.

Thankfully, it left my Windows 7 installation in tact, only without virus protection, so I was still able to use it. I decided to reboot and try the install again. Wait, wait, wait…. then after it was completely installed once again, and telling me we were about to reboot into it, the install failed again.

Well, that was a waste of $30-some dollars, I thought! I imagined myself trying to explain to some robotic, generic, procedure-minded Microsoft tech on the phone the layout of my system. I can already here them saying, we don’t support Linux. Well, you don’t support the bloody chop saw and hammer drill in the garage either, do you, but what does that have to do with your damned product upgrade failing? And getting nowhere, until I removed all Linux….  …

Fat chance. Then I remembered Microsoft gave me the option to create an install media using a USB thumb drive, to perform the Windows 8 upgrade. Worth a shot. So I chose when running the install again to create an install media on the thumb drive, which took a strangely large amount of time. After it was finished, I rebooted and forced the system to boot from the thumb drive. Happily I saw a menu that gave me two options – I could upgrade my system or I could install a pristine Windows 8, but loose all my programs and settings.

Of course, I chose the upgrade. For two reasons. First, I don’t want to re-install the programs I use, and re-do all the settings. And second, I purchased a Windows 8 upgrade, and I know what hellish torment Microsoft will happily put any customer through when dealing with licensing and install particulars. Sure, it says it will do a fresh install, but if I do one, it will pretend to do things for a long while and then tell me it can’t because it’s only an upgrade license. Or, if I’m luckier, it might install, but will instead torture me until I pay out more money or spend hours on the phone with them trying to get license keys worked out.

So yes, I chose upgrade instead of install. And instead of trying to upgrade, it told me to reboot the computer back into Windows 7 again and run the installer from there, like I already had twice. So I did. Because I needed to feel pain at this point. And it failed again.

One last stab in the dark, I thought, because it really would be nice to bludgeon myself until I die in a bloody pulp. I booted into one of the Linux installs on an SSD and saved away elsewhere any files I needed. Then I rebooted to the Windows 8 thumb drive installer again, and told it to perform a fresh install on the first drive of the system, which was an SSD. Now this Microsoft could handle! What a clever Microsoft. What a good Windows.

Anyway. The installer finished successfully this time and I rebooted into a fresh, clean, completely pristine Windows 8 environment. Well, first I had to tell Microsoft my email address. And home address. And phone number. And my first dog’s name. You think I’m joking, don’t you? I’m not. They want it all now. They want you to use their “cloud” services. And giving them all your information is for your own protection. At least that’s what Mitt Romney wants us to think…

But you know what? After all the trouble I have a nice little Windows 8 workstation that I can, and have, re-installed many games into. And they work great. It’s not so difficult if you’re using Steam and Origin. Both Steam and Origin work well in Windows 8, as do each of the games I’ve tried.

The funny thing is, Windows 8 reminds me a great deal of Gnome 3 in Linux, and to a slightly lesser degree, Unity. Gnome 3 is far more sensible and intuitive, though. I honestly believe that any Windows user would have a much easier time moving to Gnome 3 than they would to Windows 8. And you know what? Linux is way easier to install and get going – if you go with something like Ubuntu. And it’s free!

I’ll be spending a good deal of time for a few weeks in Windows 8, getting used to it and giving it a chance. I do like it. But there is a great gravitational force built into it, to move everyone deeply into Microsoft – never to return to the light of day. I think they might be past their monopoly fears – and they’re using every trick in the book to lock people in. I mean, for the love of all that’s holy, how can you still have problems implementing simple IMAP correctly Microsoft? We don’t all want to use Exchange Server and your sync methodologies. Oh, I see, it’s not that you’re stupid and can’t figure out how to do IMAP correctly after a decade or more, it’s that you want it rickety so that people will get frustrated enough to pay to be chained to you.

Poor Apple people. They’re so dazzled by plastic trinkets that they don’t even realize they’ve gone so far down a dark one-way rabbit hole of their own. But I digress.

Yes! I like Windows 8. It will play my video games nicely I’m sure. And I like that horrific Adobe Flash works well in it, too. In Linux, maximizing Flash videos is always a pain, because it shoots off to some other monitor, and doesn’t stay full screen often when you click on other windows. Yes, full-screen Flash and games. That’s what Windows is to me. Everything else about using and computer, the tools, and the software, I like far better in Linux.

So there you have it – my Windows 8 upgrade and inadvertent install experience. Oh yeah, it is pretty, too. I think Ubuntu is prettier. Both I think are prettier than OSX now.

Why I’m Voting Third Party (and O.K.)

This election year I’m confronted with a compelling ethical choice. On the one hand, I cannot vote to re-elect President Obama because he has chosen to execute American citizens without any charges and without any trial. He has also pursued the prosecution of government whistle-blowers with inordinate zeal, creating a chilling climate for anyone who might consider bringing to light wrongs committed by our government. On the other hand, his competitive adversary, Mitt Romney offers no indication he would act more ethically and every indication he would act even more unethically, in even more areas.

Right now the United States has a two-party system. Despite any rhetoric, the differences between these two parties are negligible. Both use the collective might of the United States primarily to service financial interests, even financial interests that do not benefit the American people. That’s it.

As a minor aside, which inexplicably polarizes and paralyzes the American people, one party makes overtures to use our collective might for the immediate and tangible benefit of Americans, while the other party makes overtures to undo any power government wields over Americans. Both are perpetually unfulfilled promises. However, the ideological division it generates amongst the people insures the perpetuation of that two-party system.

I’ve never heard anyone entirely happy with their political party choice. People on both sides have considered voting for a different party that more closely represents their views. But they never do; myself included. You see, as the thinking goes, if you vote for the party you really want to, then you are throwing your vote away – effectively giving away the election to the party you hate. In other words, if you do not vote for one of the two parties, you are, in essence, voting for your opposite party.

I’ve even used that flawed logic on others, when I found out they intended to vote for a third party candidate. You’re just throwing your vote away! The other party will win because of your short-sightedness!

But I was wrong. Well, mostly wrong. I was wrong because they were not being short-sighted. They were, in fact, being rather long-sighted. They were voting their conscience and their convictions despite the two-party monopoly. They were lessening its power and grip over us all by ceasing to believe in it, and ceasing to feed it. I was also wrong because the only way to throw your vote away is by not voting.

Those people brave enough to vote for third party candidates are actually doing more with their vote than anyone voting for either a Democratic or Republican candidate. In a real sense it is one of the most profoundly revolutionary steps an American can take. And both parties know it. This is why they spend enormous sums of money and invest a considerable amount of manpower to keep third-party candidates off local ballots. It is a worthy investment of time researching what third party candidates must go through simply to survive staying on a ballot in one state.

I’m proud of those Americans brave enough and with enough fortitude to see the struggle through – to offer us all a real choice of candidates. I’m also proud of those Americans brave enough to vote with their conscience, not settling for a stick figure wrapped in glitz, spewing out platitudes like a high-priced prime time advertisement.

To be sure, any transition away from the two-party system will be a difficult one. It’s far more likely Democrats will allow their conscience to prevail than Republicans – potentially resulting in a long, desolate decline in what little remains, of humanity in government.

But perhaps not. Perhaps Republicans will take upon themselves that rebel spirit they claim to embody, like the tea-party terrorists of Boston harbor so long ago – and vote for someone they truly believe in, who is a real, honest American representative and not just some corporate/religious puppet. Stranger things have happened.

I know that I am done with the two parties now. Completely finished. Even though all other candidates are forced into silence and obscurity, I will actively hunt them down, and I will listen to them. I will get to know them; our own real people who are crazy and brave enough to stand outside in the open, saying, there is another way. I’m going to listen. And if I like them, I will vote for them. Because that’s my vote. And I am not going to throw it away.

Republicans, Listen – Unless You Are Very Rich Already

This will be yours, we promise

This is a flim flam man alert, brought to you by the letter “C” for “care”. Demand to know which taxes and why, when and how!

The Republican benefit to the American people, based upon the words of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, rests primarily in the promise of an economic boon for all. This benefit, they claim, will happen because tax cuts will create more jobs. More jobs will be created because business owners can afford to hire more people with any money not paid to the government, or can afford to buy more things from other companies, who, in turn, can use that money to hire more people instead of giving it to the government.

This notion appeals to our common sense and there is even some truth to it. We like simple, believable things. But as we know, common sense is rarely the whole picture.

The claim that Mitt Romney and company repeatedly make is that the majority of people are employed by “small businesses” and these “small businesses” are taxed as the individual who owns those small businesses; most likely a sole proprietorship or a simple Limited Liability Corporation. The misleading part of this argument is that federal taxes are assessed on your profit, not your expenses. You write off all of the money you have paid to employees, along with other valid expenses, and then you are taxed on that amount.

As such, changing this owner’s tax rate does nothing to help him hire more people – he can hire as many as he has income enough to hire, and not pay any taxes on the amount of money he has passed on to his employees. Even if his tax rate were 80% he could still hire as many people as he had gross income to cover, and only be taxed on the amount he personally had left over after he paid them.

So lowering this guy’s tax rate does nothing to help him hire more people, unless you believe that with his personal business profit he took for himself, he would choose to hire someone else for the company, instead of using the company to hire that person. And he would be very stupid to do this, because he already lost some of his profit to taxes – so why not just do it as a company expense before taxes? Of course, if he had enough profit he might want to hire a full-time maid or cook, and that couldn’t be expensed to the business. And in that case, perhaps there is some very minor economic benefit.

But the benefit is, most certainly, minor. When one has a good deal of extra personal money beyond the business, you only spend so much on personal things, putting that money into the economy. Most people will invest this money into stocks or bonds, taking advantage of even more tax breaks, making that money work for themselves.

This is where Mitt Romney’s smoke and mirrors are doing their best work. When Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan talk about cutting taxes, they are not talking about which types of taxes and why it might matter. When you buy stock, you are basically buying a chunk of a company, hoping that company’s value will rise. Well, some people use Wall Street trickery to hope the value decreases instead, but that’s another subject. If you buy enough of that company’s stock, you effectively own that company.

Now, when you buy a company’s stock and hold onto it, you might decide to sell it later for cash. Depending on what people are willing to pay, you might be able to sell your stock shares for more money than you originally paid for them. This money you made – this income – is called capital gains, and it is taxed at a different rate than people’s normal income tax. It is, in fact, taxed at a much lower rate. Right now, it’s 15%.

So if you decide you are going to buy Boeing, for example, and purchase 10,000 shares at $70/share, it will cost you $700,000. Let’s say a year passes, and Boeing’s value has gone up to $80/share, and you decide to sell all 10,000 shares for $80, meaning you get $800,000. That means that you have just made a capital gain of $100,000. You didn’t have to hire anyone to do it, either. You didn’t have to create a single new job. You just made $100,000 and you get taxed at 15%. If you were to make that same $100,000 by working for wages, you would have paid significantly more money.

This is the main way that people with money make more money. They do nothing whatsoever but ride the waves in the changing values of companies. There are companies out there, like Bain Capital, who purchase controlling shares in companies and subsequently do various things to that company to either increase that company’s value, or strip it down in order to help further other interests they might have elsewhere. You don’t give one whit about job creation. You can only care about increasing money for your own investors. Any impact on people can only be seen in terms of money, and if you make more money for your investors by destroying a thousand jobs, that’s what you do.

And the money you’re making for your investors is capital gains, taxed at that very low rate. This is the rate that Mitt Romney is most worried about. Honestly, the income tax on rich people doesn’t matter at all – it could really be 100% and it wouldn’t make any difference because most rich people aren’t being paid normal wages – they’re being paid capital gains at the 15% rate. Dividends count as income, though, which is a good thing – but very few companies even pay dividends any more.

Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan and the Republican party leadership don’t really care at all about income taxes on rich people. I honestly don’t think they care about income taxes on the middle class or poor either, other than they might be able to buy more things. What they do care about is the capital gains tax rate. They want it kept as low as possible because that’s how people with money make most of their money. It’s rich people income. And it’s the lowest tax rate we have.

Remember this when you’re hearing all the obsession on lowering taxes. Lowering taxes is good, especially for people with not a lot of money. But keeping capital gains taxes so low is doing nothing good at all. Now it might, if that vast amount of money was ever spent on things in the economy. But it’s not. It’s only used to buy and sell ownership in companies. It has to be, right? I mean, it’s the lowest tax rate, right? But it doesn’t help the economy. In fact it is the very essence of, if you want to make money, you have to have money first.

What escapes most Republicans, and indeed most people, is that companies – the management and the employees – are the ones doing the hard work, generating value and creating jobs. The people making capital gains are simply harvesting that hard work. Why not siphon out some of that “free money” and put it to work on such things as building our schools into cathedrals, elevating our next generation to levels unimagined? Why not channel that money into even more help in to private sector, who is just starting to reach out into space? Why not channel some of that money into making sure everyone can see a doctor?

It would certainly be a better place to live, here in these United States, using some of that money for our betterment as a whole, rather than giving only the wealthiest amongst us the lowest tax rates of all people, and even with that, allowing them to hide much of it off-shore. How does this demonstrate caring about anything but themselves? How can anyone believe we’re all better off that way?

A Personal Reaction to the First Presidential Debate of 2012

The first of three Presidential debates occurred last night. I set them to record from an over-the-air broadcast by my local Public Broadcasting System channel. Oh, I get NBC, ABC and CBS channels too, as well as CW, Fox, Ion and a small plethora of odd others, several of whom were also carrying the debate. But there’s something more honest, less phony, or dare I say, more trustworthy about listening to news and debates without the backdrop of Coke commercials, wise financial institution sales pitches, and being instructed which car would bring me the most happiness.

It’s early morning for me right now at 1:10pm. I’m awake with just over 6 hours of very restful sleep. This essay is in a small deviation in my morning routine which starts with the brewing of coffee. I then sit down at a computer and examine the day’s effect on my stock portfolios. Currently, I’m very pleased with the National Bank of Greece. I bought it when everyone was saying it would collapse. But it’s one of the oldest financial institutions in the world, and Greek people are more than a little impressive. And I trust the Europeans to do what’s best for their people, in the end. They’re a smart bunch, broadly educated, aware of history – and this brings wisdom.

To be fair, I also bought Bank of America stock, when it tumbled to the floor in value, abandoned by all the other financial institutions. I think they wanted it dead. But it came back, started to rise a great deal, and on the late April crest, I sold my interest, only to buy it back, and more, in a few weeks after the first great swell had past. It’s now back to its late April value again. And you know what? I’ll be an Bank of America owner for the long haul now.

I have to tell you, my favorite ownership is a company called Orbital Sciences. I mean, it’s space! I can’t own Space-X because it’s privately held, and Orbital Sciences has far more experience than Space-X anyway. They’ll both be shuttling cargo to and from the International Space Station, and Orbital Sciences works on a great deal more.

Oh, right, the Presidential debate. Well, first, you should know I’m not a Democrat. Nor am I a Republican. I’m not a Libertarian or a Socialist either. I’ve been accused of being each of them. I’m not exactly impressed by group thinking, like a herd of so much cattle. Nor am I impressed by rebellious thinking, simply for the sake of being different. Intelligence is what matters. Informed intelligence. And even greater than that, wisdom. Wisdom never clings to a set of beliefs. Wisdom is always open, fluid, and bound upon its best course toward Truth.

This morning I have purposefully avoided reading anything about the debates. I do not want anything I write here to be influenced by other people’s interpretations, or any organization’s agenda. I want my reaction to be as purely my own as it can be.

I was surprised by President Obama’s largely passive stance last night. I was not surprised by Mitt Romney’s aggressive one. As the CEO of a large, multinational organization, particularly one dealing in venture capital where you buy and sell businesses, you can expect firmly rooted and well-contrived stances. You can expect to see a position taken, pushed through and sold. That’s what he does. And he does it well.

Anyone who has ever dealt with the personalities who own and run large companies has a good insight into the professional character of Mitt Romney. Once you decide what you want, you gather your resources, you strategize a main plan of attack with a few minor contingencies, then plant your feet firmly and ram your agenda through.

The question I was left with after watching the debate was, what is Mitt Romney’s agenda, other than to become the next President of the United States? The only hard facts he used were numbers used to attack President Obama, while providing no substantial alternative of his own – and some of the numbers he used were used deceptively and manipulatively, such as the amount of money taken out of Medicare by President Obama (which Mitt Romney would never do, he claims).

I understand the tactics. This was pure sales. And aggressive sales at that. I even respect it, to a degree. The thing is, when you’re a business man, and you’re doing aggressive sales, there is always something in it for you. You’re not selling solely for the benefit of the people buying. And it comes down to, with Mitt Romney, will it be a win-win scenario, with all American people included?

I would like to believe so. That man could sell a lot, and get a lot done. But I’m not at all convinced it would be for the best. Beyond the sales tactics, I heard no details. And I don’t buy hardware without first looking over the technical specifications.

The thing is, I might well be better off financially under Mitt Romney – particularly if he keeps capital gains taxes low. But the thing is, I know that this country’s wealth is completely jammed up in just a few pockets. It needs to be shaken loose to get the economy flowing again. This is the only way the economy can start flowing again, unless you go printing more money, which I’m sure neither candidate considers a good idea. Lowering taxes on rich people does nothing except make them happier.

I am not happy with President Obama. Financially, I’m doing great. The corporate sector of America is making record profits since he came to office. I am not happy with President Obama because he is using automated drones to bomb people in other countries. He is prosecuting government whistle-blowers worse than anyone else. He has killed American citizens abroad without any trial or even charges. And he’s pushing for expanded domestic surveillance. Even though all of this was done by, and started by his predecessors, I cannot vote for him and retain a clear conscience. I strongly doubt Mitt Romney would be better and suspect he would be worse, considering his sabre-rattling and obscene increase in our tax dollars feeding the military-industrial complex. Interestingly, even though Mitt Romney wants to increase military spending, he wants to decrease the Veterans Administration. That’s pretty telling – care about the military machine, but not really so much about the troops.

I have little doubt that Mitt Romney really is just planning another hit-and-run like Dick Cheney. With the wars, during the Bush term, you can watch Halliburton stock rise up to new heights starting, pretty much, on the day Dick took office. It continued rising all through Cheney’s term, even while nearly all other stocks tanked during the resulting financial crisis and Great Recession. And then, Halliburton leaves the United States, relocating its headquarters to an Arabic country in the Middle East.

The hard truth is, you small little business owners and cutesy property owners, who think you know business, and who believe people like that – other business people – will look out for your best interest… Well, maybe you don’t know business as well as you think you do. They will look out for themselves, and their own, well before anyone else.

Mitt Romney’s business is taking over an organization and harvesting it for its money and/or assets. That’s what he does. I have no reason to believe he has any different intentions with the United States itself. His presentation was long on tactic, short on substance. It was obviously well-planned and polished, and aggressively rammed through.

You can see this most poignantly in the candidates’ closing remarks, where Mitt Romney looks at the camera like the perfectly-oiled sales machines and methodically ticks off the attack points, with the couple vague promises about something he’ll do. In contrast, President Obama forms his words and thoughts on the spot, which made him appear a little stammering in comparison to such polish.

The interesting thing is, I’m not sure that isn’t a good thing. The American people have been sold so many things. We know the lingo, the sure postures, and true believability of vacuous words. We know when we’re being sold something, as opposed to seeing someone struggle to do something. Unfortunately, one is simply less effective while the other can be dangerous.

I will not vote for Mitt Romney. He looked at the moderator of the debate and told him he would put him out of a job. Jim Lehrer is one of the most respected, and one of the last, of the old school newsmen left. He reeks of integrity, through and through. Because of public funding, Mr. Lehrer is free of commercial concerns, allowing his journalism to remain as unbiased as possible. To my mind, this is where Mitt Romney fails, in a way so profound and substantial, that there is no doubt about his incompetence as a leader of the United States, or any nation on this Earth: Mitt Romney does not realize that Truth is colored by money.

Actually, I think Mitt Romney does know that truth is colored by money, and he relies on it. Just like good science, good journalism cannot have strings attached to the money sources. When you rely on other people for money – other people with their own agendas – it’s in your best interest to make those people happy. This can quickly color truth, in science and journalism (and just about anything else) – and it does. If we are to progress as a species any further, our concerns cannot be just financial. Truth must always come before finance – because without Truth, we’re at the mercy of those who control what we can know to be true. Mitt Romney is either too stupid to know this, or he is too eager to exploit it. Either way, this is the critical flaw for me.

I don’t want to see another hit-and-run raid performed on the United States. This has been Mitt Romney’s business for quite some time. For as much as Republicans say they are financially conservative, they’re the ones I swear are trying to bankrupt the government. What’s happened to them? I really doubt I’ll be voting for President Obama, either. He has not lived up to his promises, and has offered no detailed explanation why. His administration is also behaving unethically. I believe Mitt Romney’s administration would behave even more unethically.

Left with a choice between to the two, I would have to choose President Obama. However, despite what money buys you as truth, there are more than two political parties. And right now, am voting for neither one of them.