Daily Archives: June 28, 2009

Happy Birthday FreeDOS

DOS stands for Disk Operating System.

In the old days it was how you ran your PC. You booted up the computer and you had a prompt much like today’s Linux command line in appearance. If you typed “wp” at the command line, a text-based non-GUI version of WordPerfect would run. If you typed “dir” you’d get a list of files in the current subdirectory. If you typed “nc” you’d get norton commaner. Maybe. Can’t remember exactly. And if you typed something like “term” …. well, you were on the internet, checking your mail in pine and maybe mining data with gopher.

Then, one day, it became true that if you typed “win” that Windows 3.0 would run. Windows 3.0 would take over the screen and produce a very clunky GUI that would slow down your computer and limit access to its functionality.

And ever since then your computer has been screwed.

In 1994, Microsoft announced that DOS would be discontinued shortly. They lied. They discontinued it much later than they said they would. But no matter, a guy named James Hall who was using DOS very productively decided to make a new operating system called, originally, “PD-DOS” and later “FreeDOS”

I’m privileged to actually know James. He is an occasional commenter on this blog and he often sends me interesting things to post regarding Linux. He also helps me with the Klingon translations that I need done now and then.

Well, today is the fifteenth anniversary of James Hall’s efforts to preserve DOS by creating FreeDOS!!!

Today, James runs his version of freeDOS inside an emulator on his Linux machine. Personally, I think it would be fun to play around with it. I wonder if I can run an old copy of WordPerfect on it. WordPerfect 4.2 was …. perfect. Version 5.1 did add some important functionality but they ruined it with pulldown menus. If any of you could see the keyboard I’m typing on now, you’d know what I’m talking about.

Oh what the heck, you can see it. I’ve just gotta point my web cam the right direction and ….


There, so you can see the keys on the left side. These were used by WordPerfect to format text and stuff. I use them today to do HTML.

Anyway, Kudos to James Hall for making FreeDOS happen. Visit the FreeDOS web site here.

Sadly, James is now stepping aside as Benevolent Dictator of freeDOS.

Long Live freeDOS!

Questions about Missionaries

As you know, there has been quite a bit of discussion about missionaries in the Congo on this blog. This is the central post pointing to everything else, and at Minnesota Atheists you’ll find a link to today’s radio show on the topic.

It turns out that a number of calls and emails did come in to the station today but we were unable to get to them. Among the emails, there is this two parter from from Jason Thibeault:

I have a two part question for Greg Laden. In conversations on your blog related to the topic prior to this show, you mentioned that there are secular missions to many of these areas, the purposes for which are to provide the services that the religious missions provide, only omitting the proselytizing. You said at the time that you didn’t know much about them — have you managed to find out more about any existing missions since then?

When I look up “secular mission” on Google, I find stuff about missions where the word “secular” is used for some reason or another, and I find myself. This is not good.

Perhaps the secular “mission” right now is the UN, and in some cases USAID (but if you want that to work, you’ve got to contact your representatives in congress and push for critical evaluation and positive reform) and various NGO’s that are not religious. I think we need to do more research on this, and also, to make things happen.

Also, the thought of setting up such a mission without the backing of a church or religious institution seems particularly daunting. How do you figure one might go about putting together such a mission, if not supported by a religion or university; for instance what would it involve with regard to raising funds and establishing contacts in the countries in question? I’m not suggesting I’m going to do it personally, but hypothetically, if someone like me wanted to, is it possible?

I think the thing to do is to work directly with existing semi-autonomous developing communities. These things exist. I can’t advise specifically regarding the Congo at this time, but in South Africa, I’ve worked with communities that have an internal structure, are fitted to the existing governmental system, and work with secular NGO’s. An outside entity could hook up with some existing partnership such as that and provide grant money for specific, defined projects (this school or that goat farming operation or this water supply program or whatever).

Thanks for the questions, Jason.

Also, as long as water has come up, browse through this blog site for ideas as to how to get involved in that specific issue.

Poor and disadvantaged suffer greatly from poverty-caused neglected diseases

The best of last June


Triatoma infestans, Chagas vector
This is the conclusion of a report to be published in the June 2008 PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases journal. The report, by Peter Hotez of George Washington University and the Sabin Vaccine Institute, is a clear indictment of economic disparity in the United States. The bottom line: Many poor Americans are, effectively, living in a poorly managed third world country.
Continue reading Poor and disadvantaged suffer greatly from poverty-caused neglected diseases

How Birds Fly (book review)

previously reviewed

Birds: Nature’s Magnificent Flying Machines is a book by Caroline Arnold and illustrated by Patricia Wynne for, I’d say, Pre-Elementary School kids and first/second grade. This is a good book to read to a pre-literate kid. Then put it away for later when the first grade academic report on birds is due … it will be an excellent reference.

This is a well done and highly recommended book.

Continue reading How Birds Fly (book review)

The good book

Whenever I sat at Joseph and Mary’s dinner table, Mary showed a great deal of interest in my work. In between her frequent forays away from the dining room table to get this or that food item, or to issue instructions to a servant, or whatever, she would sit at the table across from me and ask questions.

“So, have you found anything interesting?” which is a standard question to which the answer was always “no” … we do not want to give people the idea that they should head out into the bush with a shovel. “So, what to the Pygmies think of your research.” And so on.

I remember that during our second dinner, the fourth or fifth question was this:

“So, since Radiocarbon dating has been proved to not work, how do we really know that the earth is billions of years old?”
Continue reading The good book

We are the World: New Philippines Prisoner M. Jackson Tribute

Prisoners, nuns, do the wave for Jacko:

I concur with BGF’s opinion on this.

Except I’ve got to add: When the nuns came out I kind of freaked. Also, as I’ve mentioned before, I totally missed the “we ae the world we are the Coke Commercial” event because I was in the jungle with the … starving and dying children that year. Everybody was humming this song when I got back but no one could remember why.