On the Sorkonian theme

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That is, talking about Aaron Sorkin. Steve mentions that the West Wing wasn’t as good after Aaron left. I’d have to agree with that, and you can tell from the scripts that Aaron had left… The dialog wasn’t as clever, and the plot line became more about entrenched political positions and a failure to have a mandate than it was about hope and changing the world. Then again, the final season was pretty good as well — even if they did have to rewrite the ending.

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Mental note: don’t become a US permanent resident just in case

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To quote from this blog post (its a bit odd that its a PDF, but whatever):

… the new expatriate regime (Exit Tax
Provision) requires expatriates to recognise gain on their assets, and imposes a
new tax on gifts and bequests by expatriates to Americans, This new provision
(styled Section 877A) is an addition to (and not a replacement of) the current
expatriation tax rules of Section 877. Under the Exit Tax Provision, certain
individuals who renounce their U.S. citizenship or U.S. long-term residents
who relinquish their U.S. residence status (collectively covered expatriates)
must recognise gain, or otherwise be taxed, on all their assets on the date they
expatriate. In addition, gifts or bequests they make to U.S. citizens or residents
after expatriation will be subject to tax at onerous estate/gift tax rates.

In other words, if you’re a US resident and you leave the US permanently, then they deem all of your world wide assets sold, and then tax you on the gain. This includes retirement funds, as well as savings. Congress is proposing this as a way of funding tax relief for serving members of the US military.

Its not law yet, but still something I should pay attention to.

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Via M10000, video, and a Belkin wireless USB thing

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I’ve had a Via Eden M10000 literally lying around since soon after I moved to the US two years ago, and I finally decided that it was time for a full blown home workstation the other day, having got fed up with the small screen on my laptops. Sometimes I really miss my 30 inch monitor at work, and the 24 inch I am using at home is a much better substitute than a laptop screen.

Anyway, getting the machine working was surprisingly difficult given its a three or four year old design. The problems:

  • The PCI 802.11g wireless card didn’t work. In fact, the machine wouldn’t boot with it installed. I suspect this was a PCI version problem, as I have had pain with this card in the past.
  • The PCI 802.11b wireless card I tried next wasn’t much better. The connection would drop out randomly, and the machine would occasionally lock up. This was the card I used as my first access point about six years ago (using hostap), so perhaps its just old. It got swapped out as well.
  • The Belkin USB 802.11g thingie didn’t work reliably. It would stay connected to the network for five minutes before something went wrong. This made me annoyed, especially when it turns out this is because the latest release of Ubuntu (gutsy) installs an old version of the rt73usb driver, which is known not to work with this card. Following these instructions from the canonical wiki which tell you to install drivers from here fixed the problem. Its annoying that Ubuntu ships with known broken drivers though.
  • Next, video. The video card built into the mother board sucks. I’m running a t24 inch LCD at 1920×1200, and there was significant ghosting on the monitor. Additionally, I couldn’t run at 24 bit, I had to use 16 bit because the video card was running out of RAM bandwidth.
  • Not to worry, I installed a Matrox G450 I had lying around, and now the monitor works nicely as well, with no ghosting.
  • Finally, the whole thing is much louder than I expected from an Eden machine (there is a fan on the board, a fan in the case, and the hard disk). Then again, given I built the entire machine for $90, I can’t complain too much.
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