Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Hello Engineer/Dr/Teacher/Mr Bob!

There is an interesting formality in Afgahnistan which used to throw me for a bit of a loop. The use of “Engineer” and “Teacher” (‘oo-staht’ in Dari), and I believe a few other things, as titles. In the west we of course call someone Doctor So-&-So if they are PhDs/MDs here you do the same but you also call someone Engineer or Teacher So-&-So if they are engineers or teachers, interesting.


Another interesting detail is you are considered a teacher if you have 14 years of schooling (more like going to the 14th grade than going and getting a 2 year technical degree), of course those teaching in school are also “Oostahts”. Some people are called engineer (or call themselves) Engineer even if they don’t have an engineering degree which was kind of strange. I know at least one Afghan who this seems to irk in that he does have a 4 year engineering degree (and I can attest that he is one of the most competent Afghans in my organization) so when others, who do not have engineering degrees are called “Engineer” I can sometimes see him flinch.


How to fight Guerillas?

Guerilla warfare has always irritated me, even though it helped my country defeat the British over 200 years ago.


It irritates me because it mixes civilians with fighters but of course its brilliant in that when the opposing side kills civilians (probably by accident either while trying to kill fighters or because they are unsure if the civilians are helping the fighters) and killing civilians helps the fighters gain support, they aren’t seen as brining the fight home, the victims just see the opposing force shooting at them.


Despite the effectiveness of guerilla warfare it still strikes me as cowardly. I actually have more sympathy for car bombings against military than I do hiding out in some village and encouraging air strikes from the other side.


Another point is the whimpyness of much of NATO in combat. I have heard from Afghans that many of the Europeans are *much* less willing to fight in close proximity and tend towards air strikes (which kill much more indiscriminately). This bites in two ways, one it of course kills indiscriminately but also most afghans don’t see the troops and even if they do it is just assumed that they are from the US so any botchups made are instantly blamed on the US (*not* that the US hasn’t made its fair share of mistakes but I don’t think it is responsible for as many civilian deaths though I can’t back that up).


Computer Protection Bloat

I just recently finished my yearly evaluation of antispyware, firewalls, and antivirus programs and switched to different antivirus and anti-spyware programs (the firewall still rated pretty high). Since the programs tend to change in effectiveness (for example, back in the day Norton antivirus was a hoss at finding/nuking viruses; now it tends to fall behind some other antivirus programs) almost every 6 months but since I am lazy I don’t bother researching them except every year. The best free (non-cracked since I try to avoid that stuff nowadays) antivirus seems to be antivir and best (free) antispyware seems to be SpywareTerminator, and Comodo is still one of the better firewalls out there or so I have concluded after reading the reviews, forums, etc.


My main grip is bloat. Three programs (six processes) take up over 85mb of memory on my computer now I do have a gigabyte of memory (which doesn’t go as it used to) but it still feels like bloat. I didn’t start to use antivirus/spyware software until about two years ago, I believe I am savvy enough to identify viruses via email on flash drives etc (looking for strange hidden files, executable attachments etc) but its gotten over my head and especially where I work now (where they have no sense of computer security and are the USB flash drive happiest people I have ever seen) this security is really needed.


What actually prompted me to post this was that I had also been looking for a functional IM client that was small and efficient and I came across Miranda, after seeing that and other programs like utorrent I have come to the conclusion that there are a lot of lazy programmers out there (ironically all the security software I use is produced by companies were as Miranda and utorrent are open source community efforts) that could make their code a lot more streamlined and stable.


Oh well.