Compare and Contrast


What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

Patrick Henry, March 23, 1775

Our civil liberties are worthless if we are dead! If you are dead and pushing up daisies, if you’re sucking dirt inside a casket, do you know what your civil liberties are worth? Zilch, zero, nada. You aren’t even here!

Rush Limbaugh, December 19, 2005

Update: The Rush Limbaugh link did not require a password a few hours ago. Now it does.

Me? A Democrat?

First, let me a aplogize to my not-so-many readers for the gaps in posting. I was busy during the holidays, and have been on the road much of the time since then. I will try to do better.

I have been a Republican all of my voting life — for over 30 years — even being an alternate delegate to a state convention back when I had the energy and wasn’t embarrassed to wear the funny clothes.

I was a Republican for a number of reasons, but the most important is the place of the individual in party philosophy. The fundamental dialectic, as far as I am concerned, has been between a communalist ideology that places the individual as a subject of a protective and controlling State, and an individualist ideology that places high value on individual liberty and freedom in the belief that the “invisible hand” of collective self-interest and unhampered social conscience will achieve greater things.

Unfortunately, within the context of the “war on terror,” it is becoming increasingly clear that the Republican Party is abandoning this value of individual freedom in the name of security. The increasing surveillance and intrusiveness of the government into the lives of the people is strongly reminiscent of the surveillance that occurred before and during the Nixon Adminstration. The government complains bitterly about the limits on surveillance placed upon it in the 1970s; it ignores *why* those limits were put in place. The abuse of power is a hallmark of the executive branch; this has been true since the first big guy with a club started lording it over the rest of the clan.

The Republican Party, taking its lead from the Administration, has taken the position that the people of the United States must abandon it’s privacy and civil liberties in order to achieve security. That has not been true in the previous 200 years of US history, and it is not true now. Quite the contrary. The egregious breaches of public trust in the name of security committed by the government in times of stress have almost universally been shown to be not only unnecessary, but self-defeating. It was true in the Civil War. It was true in World War II. It was true during the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. It was true during the Vietnam War. It is true today.

The Democratic Party, oddly enough, is becoming positioned as the party of civil liberties and personal privacy. It is a nontraditional position for that party, and I don’t think they’ll do it well, but it’s better than nothing.

Oh, sure, the Republicans are *also* abandoning the rest of the things that made being a Republican meaningful — limited government, limited spending, individual liberty, freedom of speech, economic freedom. The party of free markets has put itself at the serivice of anticompetitive benefits for major industries. The party of individual freedom wants to place every act of its citizens under federal scrutiny. It is building a wall around the nation to keep out the very people that give us the vitality that protects us from the malaise of Europe.

But most importantly, the Republicans have cast the debate in terms of a fundamental incompatibility between individual liberty and security. In times of crisis, that can sway a lot of people, but it is a false argument. And in the long run, the Republican Party will suffer for it. I won’t flog the famous Ben Franklin quote about liberty and security, but it is as true now as it was 230 years ago; those who argue that technology changes it are simply wrong. I think it’s sad that we are abandoning his truism on his 300th birthday.

If the 2006 and 2008 elections become one of security versus liberty and privacy, liberty and privacy will win.

I, for one, no longer consider myself a Republican. I’m not a Democrat yet, but the days of party line voting are over.

Microsoft strikes again


This time, it’s against Verizon customers. Verizon customers who upgrade their handsets to use it’s new music purchasing system will find that they have been blocked from playing mp3 music altogether. Microsoft demanded that Verizon customers only be allowed to play Microsoft formatted music, and that all other formats be disallowed.

Always good to put the customer first, I say. Glad Verizon and Microsoft agree.

Here’s the story (hat tip boing boing).

On different messages from the Spirit

Over at Blogotional, John notes some reservations he has with folk who think they have direct revelation. He writes

The are a couple of serious problems I have with this “God told me” approach. The first is that it smacks of legalism. Christ came to transform us so that we made decisions in line with His will, not so that He dictated every decision — that was the problem He had with the Jewish authority.

The other is the utterly coersive nature of the approach. It stifles arguement completely. Imagine a church ruling board meeting. The pastor arrives and declares that God told him to expand the building 300%. Now, the rest of us on the board look at the budget and recent income and decide we couldn’t possibly support the loan. Now what do we do? “Excuse me pastor, but I’m guessing that was the buritto you had for lunch talking, not the Lord”

This has come before in a usenet group I used to post to. How, it was asked, could two people be listening to the Spirit and each hear a different answer to the same question?

The first answer is that, of course, sometimes the answer is situational. There are some basic rules about being a Christian that do not change, but they are very basic. Most of the problems in life are not with what goals or orientation a Christian should have, but instead with how to implement it. Sometimes the choice is among all good options, and sometimes it is among all bad options. A “Sophie’s choice” is a “Sophie’s choice” whether one is a Christian or not. And, in fact, one of the big problems of fundamentalists is trying to figure out which ex cathedra statements by Paul are situational and which are global. For instance, some people believe that the command that women cover their heads a global one. Others believe that Paul was simply concerned that the women at the Church of Ephesus not be mistaken for temple prostitutes. There’s a big difference between “woman should always cover their heads” and “try not to look like a whore.” There is nothing inherent in the teachings of God that gives a good reason that women should always cover their heads; there is a fair amount that suggests that Christians should be a little hesitant of supporting and mimicking prostitutes.

Second, there is no obligation that the Spirit provide the same guidance to everyone even in the same situation. Perhaps it is the tension and/or compromise between two different approaches that is the desired result. In the example that John gives, let’s say that the Spirit really wants an increase of 50%, but the pastor simply is not really open to the voice of the Spirit — we all see through a glass darkly, and his or her glass is smudged with ambition. The Spirit is saying 50%, but the flesh hears 300%. Maybe the Spirit knows this and directs a Deacon to lowball. With prayerful compromise, an adequate solution may be reached.

I keep thinking about Moses and Pharoah. Moses was told by God to take his people out of Egypt. Pharoah was led by God to stop him (it was, after all, *God* who hardened his heart). The result was a drama that God dictated by directing both sides.

None of us know, really, what God’s plan is in the broad sense. All we can do is try to find out what His plan is for us as individuals right now. The message of the Spirit is infallible. Our ability to hear it is not. That is a criticism of how in tune we are with the Spirit, not a statement that we should stop listening altogether.

Pagan Christmas?


One of the favorite arguments by the anti-Christmas folk, both the secularists and the ultraconservative, is that Christmas is “really” a pagan holiday. The neopagans I know particularly like it. Of course it ignores the fact that if a group decides to choose a date to celebrate something, whether or not someone else also celebrates something does not detract from its significance to that group or to those associated with that group. The “it’s really a pagan holiday and you Christians shouldn’t be celebrating the birth of Christ” canard is really a distractor for the more general antichristian agenda of removing recognition of Christian faith from public discourse altogether.

But it turns out that a bit of historical effort shows that even this canard is not based on fact. The “pagan origin” argument of Christianity has traditionally been a tool of anticlerics who have ignored the real history. In fact, the Aurelian establishment of the Roman festival of the “Birth of the Unconquered Sun” co-opted the already established Christmas celebration, not the other way around.

For an historical account of the establishment of the date, see this article by William Tighe. See also this article, which notes that Hippolytus of Rome also provided an earlier determination of the date.

Hat tip to Get Religion and, again, Jollyblogger.

Code Purple — The Compaq/HP Booby Trap

UPDATE N+1: For those who don’t want to read all the now very numerous comments, it seems that comment #128 is one of the more popular fixes for Vista/Win7, though many of the other excellent variants listed also work. My advice? Switch to linux, of course…

UPDATE N+2:  Wow.  It’s been six years.  I’ve pretty much stopped blogging (got caught up with life things), and about the only reason I keep this blog going is for a couple of technical posts, this being one of them.  Thanks, HP, for keeping this blog alive with your Code Purple BS!  In any case, this seems to still be a problem even with new versions of Windows.  I don’t know if it’s worth reading my original post — the commenters have all the solutions now., and the comments are of much greater value than the post.  Thanks to all the commenters!

On with the original post…

God blessed us all again this year with the presence of family over the Christmas holiday, but the joy was tempered by some annoyance. My brother-in-law brought his desktop computer down for me to work on. In addition to upgrading some hardware, he complained that the machine had slowed down, was acting funny, etc. Of course he was running Windows XP.

Swapping out the hardware was easy. The damage left by untold viruses/malware was a bit more difficult. I told him that I could try to clean things up as much as I could, but the only way to make sure that he was clean would be to restore the system from scratch. I told him there was always a little effort involved in restoring a system — mostly from having to reinstall all the software he had put on — but it was probably the best way to go. He agreed.

So, I created the restore disks (HP and Compaq computers apparently do not ship with restore disks on board, but instead have a separate partition from which the user must burn the disks). I did a full restore, reformatting the hard drive and reinstalling Windows XP. Everything went like clockwork…

Until I rebooted the machine. Then I got an error that there was a “Configuration error” and that I should call “Customer Care” with “Error Code Purple.” T that point, I could only power off the machine.

What in the world was “Error Code Purple,” I wondered. A quick search on the net revealed that this was a booby trap placed in HP and Compaq computers in which a “tattoo” or numerical signature of the motherboard and hardware configuration is created at the factory and encoded into the restore disks on a particular computer. When you re-install your system, it checks to make sure the system has not been modified. If you have modified your system, the “tattoo” generated by the checking program will be different than the original, and the system will not boot.

In order to fix this, you have to send in your computer to Compaq, or take it so some place like CompUSA or BestBuy where they will modify the “tattoo” so you can run your software on your computer again — until the next time you upgrade memory or swap a card or DVD player.

For a fee, of course.

I will post a couple of fixes for this below. But first — I have to vent. I cannot believe that a company would pull such an anti-consumer action as to booby trap its machines so that you can’t reinstall the OS after changing the hardware configuration unless you pay them a fee. One forum on the net said HP wanted to charge him over a hundred bucks for the privilege. This is obscene.

The funny thing is that I originally assumed it was some stupid thing with Windows XP. I have long been used to finding out idiotic anti-consumer “features” in Windows XP — which is why I run Linux on all of my boxes. I am flabbergasted that a company would decide that Windows is not anti-consumer enough, so they needed to make things even less convenient.

People should not buy HP or Compaq products as long as this policy is in place. This is inexcusable. And it ate up most of an afternoon that I should have been spending with family rather than trying to hack my way into a box before the family left.

So, here’s a couple of fixes for you folk who are burdened with an HP or Compaq computer and end up having to reinstall the OS after making a hardware change.

The underlying problem is that there is a .bat file that calls a python script to check the tattoo upon boot up. If you remove that call, then there is no check and the machine boots up just fine.

The file is:


UPDATE: A reader whose comments were deleted in my server crash noted that the file should really be:


(e.g. switch CheckConfig with ConfigCheck)

UPDATE2: A reader (see comment #23 by Nitrazepam) has found a similar solution for Vista, where the offending passages seem to be in the C:\hp\bin\CheckDMI folder. I don’t run Windows on any of my boxes — I stumbled on this thing working on my brother-in-law’s box when it broke — I don’t have any idea about changes associated with Vista. Thanks, Nitrazepam!!!

UPDATE2.5:  See also comment 104.  A couple of people seem to have found this to be even easier.  Thanks, Red Dragon!

UPDATE3: Reader Chris Smiddy (comment 128) suggests an even easer fix for Vista. I don’t run Vista on any of my boxes, so I can’t test it, but it seems too easy not to try… Thanks, Chris!!!

UPDATE4: Claudio (comment 130) notes that this is a “hidden” directory and/or file, so you have to be showing hidden stuff if you are using a Windoze recovery disk.

The solution is to get a boot disk that will allow you to edit the hard drive and clear that file. I just deleted everything in cfgchk.bat and left an empty file with that name.A Windows solution was provided by “Alecstar” at The discussion can also be seen on the usenet newsgroup alt.comp.hardware.pc-homebuilt. It is to either get the commercial Windows Preinstallation Evironment, a minimal bootable OS that allows you to run from CD (which, of course, Microsoft will not sell to mere consumers), or make one using BartPE. This will allow you to edit the hard drive directly. Go to the cfgchk.bat file, edit it, save the empty file, and reboot.

I have never been able to successfully build a BartPE disk, mostly because the Windows disks I have never seem to be compatible with the ones BartPE requires — I have too old a version, the wrong service pack, etc. It’s too much of a hassle for me, but if you are a Windows person, go for it.

A much simpler (for me) Linux solution is to get a bootable mini-distro that has Captive-NTFS (which allows writing to NTFS disks) on it, and edit the file that way. Sources on the net wrote that Knoppix had Captive-NTFS in its Utilities, but when I downloaded the most recent stable Knoppix, it was not there. Instead, there was a note that there was an experimental NTFS writable system on the DVD, which I didn’t have time to download. Instead, I found a *wonderful* boot disk called the “Ultimate Boot Disk.” It comes in two forms — Basic and Full. The “Full” version contains a stripped down Knoppix with Captive-NTFS that allowed me to easily access the hard drive and empty cfgchk.bat. NOTE — SEE UPDATE BELOW.

UPDATE6: Captive-NTFS is no longer maintained, and is probably unnecessary. Just about all of the newer distros I’ve looked at can read and write to NTFS drives. LINUX advances on. I know that both SUSE and Mandriva distros do well at reading and writing to NTFS drives, and I assume (but haven’t tested) Ubuntu. So any of the live distros of these should work, such as Mandriva One.

UPDATE7: See Jill’s comment #98 — there have now been a couple folk who have followed her directions using the Ultimate Boot CD. Thanks, Jill!

UPDATE 8:  “helpful” in comment 166 has a solution without a bootable disk, but with an intact recovery partition (for Vista, I presume).  Thanks, “helpful”!

So that’s it — download a boot disk, edit the file, and reboot.

And, as Alecstar noted, never buy a Compaq or HP box again.