Unix and Linux Help, Resources and information for Unix/Linux, Mac OS X. Articles on blogging, web site mechanics, and self employment. Mostly techy, Unix/Linux related, but we don't really try to stay tightly focused. If you've never been here before, there's a lot to explore.
Has someone responded to something you wrote or commented on?
Latest Reader Comments Fri Jun 10 21:54:51 2011
I may close this site down soon. I'm not adding anything, and I'm not sure that I will./Misc/aplawrence-app.html copyright and reprint notice
Our local computer club provides free help to people in the community. Recently they sent out an email saying this:
I have now helped 6 people with a virus that has been infecting iPads. The message appears on the iPad screen stating that your software has crashed and you need to call Microsoft to repair it. The number to call is 1-855-720-2636. People who have called the number were told that they would have to pay $130.00 to get rid of it.The message stays on the screen and you can't get rid of it. This has affected iPhones as well. If you have this problem call me and I'll help you get rid of it For FREE.
To my surprise, I later got this from the author of the warning:
I know it's not a virus, you know it's not a virus but it has been my experience that most people do not understand what Java Script Hijack means therefore I keep it very simple for them.
Keeping it "simple" causes very wrong impressions of what this is and what it can do. It also can cause stupid rumors to spread: "Oh, don't buy an iPad - they have viruses!".
I also don't think we should be deciding what people can or cannot understand. I agree that some of the people who seek help from that club are not capable of following even simple instructions or are too lazy to want to. But that's not the case for all and it's also true that assuming incompetence creates incompetence.
I've always taken the tack of explaining things like this fully (or at least providing a link to somewhere that explains) and then politely offering to provide direct assistance if needed. I think that's the best way to do it./Opinion/not-a-virus.html copyright and reprint notice
Younger readers may not know that until the 1990's, software could not be patented. I'm of the opinion that it should have remained that way.
There has been some recent pushback and it is certainly possible that court opinions will change, but really we need to reexamine the patent system in general. I think it often does more harm than good. I'm not saying we should abandon it entirely, but I do think that overly broad patents should not only be denied, but be punishable as they hinder commerce. I also think that the length of patents should vary with the industry. Perhaps tech patents for consumer goods should have a shorter lifetime than miracle drugs or vice versa and both should be shorter than they are now.
As to patenting genes and GMO products, I think that's both ridiculous and dangerous. For example, a recent decision denied a gene patent because genes are "products of nature". Well, what isn't? An improved light bulb works because of the physics of its materials - where's the true difference and where do you draw the line?
We need change./Opinion/patent-reform.html copyright and reprint notice
We are transferring an old Unix app and get Terminal types not recognized. Exact message is 'tput: unknown terminal "WYSE50"'. Using man and other applications will say "WARNING: terminal is not fully functional"
Well, for starters, it is unusual to see TERM in upper case. In standard TERMINFO, it would be wyse50 and vt100, not caps. But you might not be using standard TERMINFO. For example, many old Cobol apps used their own terminal databases and a login script set it to point at a database somewhere other than in /user/lib. So if setting to "wyse50" and so on doesn't help entirely, that could be why - the database being pointed at may not exist. Also see my article on Termcap and Terminfo./Forum/terminal-not-recognized.html copyright and reprint notice
Our cash drawer connected to a serially connected Wyse terminal stopped working. I made some changes in the device configurator and wondering if there's a way to restore those.
Any serial cash drawer should work. It's certainly possible that the cash drawer serial port has gone bad or the cable has broken or the AUX port on the Wyse is dead. You should test each of these by swapping this drawer with a working drawer to isolate the problem.
If it's not hardware, the software is wrong. You need to send the transparent print codes followed by the code for the drawer. The TERM variable has to be set correctly to match the emulation the terminal is using. See the debugging section of my article on transparent print as that's likely the problem if nothing else changed./Forum/cash-drawer-not-working.html copyright and reprint notice
I was never a fan of my public library. When I was young, I found the books in my own home to be all I usually needed. Of course not everyone has a home chock full of books and reference materials, so I was very lucky to have that.
When I was older, I found that the library still did not meet my needs. First, the technical books I wanted were seldom available. I might be able to request them from a larger library, but that took time. I also had to return the books and with most of these, I wanted them available longer. So my books came from bookstores, physical at first but later from the Internet. Again, of course I had the money to do that and not everyone does.
Because of that "not everyone does", I absolutely support my tax dollars supporting libraries. However..
Most library activity is entertainment, not research, not knowledge. It's still difficult, even with SAILS, to find good technical books. Romance novels, detective stories, sure, hundreds of those. But the tech side is weak at best.
So my question is this: would the general public support libraries if all that entertainment went away? I don't think they would, because most people don't really care about anything else. They'll SAY that they think their library is a valuable resource, but I think that's mostly lip service./Opinion/value-of-libraries.html copyright and reprint notice
In 2011, a bunch of the new "chip and pin" credit cards were stolen. The thieves physically modified the cards circuitry to accept any pin as valid, thereby letting them rack up almost $700,000 in fraudulent transactions.
Don't panic, because this particular hack method has already been blocked. But do think about how this was done: it was micro surgery on the cards innards. That's scary, because this particular modification was (relatively) simple and unsophisticated. What might the next one be?
It's obvious that anything physically accessible has a potential hackability. So how can we ever be secure?
Well, suppose your credit card number wasn't a number at all but was biometrics derived from your person. Suppose further that what you owe and what you own wasn't stored at a bank somewhere, but was stored in your biometrics - that is, you are your own bank account. That's somewhat possible now, though there's no way for you to control it - you wouldn't know if someone hacked you to steal your assets. But that might change eventually.
And then someone will find a way to hack that./Security/chip-pin-credit-crads-hacked.html copyright and reprint notice
Brace yourself: We may be headed towards a world dominated by a handful of tech corporations vying with each other to develop the best AI prediction algorithm.
That's from "Microsoft Bing Predicts and the future of gambling" at ExtremeTech. That article discusses how Microsoft Bing correctly picked winners for week one of the NFL season. That's groundbreaking, but the stuff about computer trading has been going on for some time now. People are still arguing as to whether it has caused market crashes, but there's no doubt that the best software with the quickest Internet connections has great advantages over anyone else.
A lone wolf day trader probably isn't going to do well against that. Without access to a firehose of data and the software to analyze it, he or she won't be able to compete at the same level.
I'm not sure what that means for the rest of us./Employment/stock-trading.html copyright and reprint notice
How can I carry forward unused money in Mint? Mint doesn't let you carry Income forward.
Any other Mint accounts can carry forward money you don't spend, but there is nothing to carry truly unused and unbudgeted income.
One solution is to create a "Carried" account and adjust it whatever "Left Over" shows on the Budgets tab. Have that account start each month with anything left in it. From now on, anytime you need to change that amount because of extra income or a new budget category, do it by adding a transaction manually to draw from or add to that account. Or just put anything extra directly into that account. This should then always show "extra" money.
However, should you enter deficit spending, this becomes less useful and more confusing.
You can just go by the Net Income Over Time in Trends. Over a long enough period, this does show if you are gaining or losing money, but when your income is variable, it also can be confusing./Forum/carry-foward-mint.html copyright and reprint notice
I use Apple computers, tablets and phones. I have long been disdainful of Microsoft and its incredibly crappy operating systems, so this is going to be a surprising comment: I do not hate Windows 10.
I will quickly add that I'd still rather have a Mac and I honestly think that you would too if you gave it half a chance, but I have to admit that if you do go the Windows 10 route, you aren't doing anything horrible. You'll probably like it. Unlike every previous version of Windows I have had the displeasure to experience, Windows 10 is quite decent.
I upgraded and existing Windows 8 machine that had previously been Windows 7 running in Parallels Desktop on my iMac. I say "running" with tongue slightly in cheek because I rarely fired it up except when I needed to figure out why some friend or customer was having problems with their own system. The virtual machine was always somewhat slow and that only increased my frustration levels, so I avoided it other than for those reasons.
This week I let Microsoft convert me to Windows 10. My expectations were low because I have been prejudiced by years of junk from the fine folks at Redmond. I didn't pay attention to how long the upgrade process took, but I do know it was shorter than I expected.
After it was complete, I logged in with trepidation, expecting not to be able to find anything. I was prepared to Google and be highly annoyed.. but I was not. The system was crisp and clean and I had no trouble finding anything. I was particularly impressed by how responsive it was, even though hampered by running in a virtual machine. That usually guarantees substantial performance degradation, but I honestly did not notice any.
So there it is. I do not hate Windows 10 and I am as surprised as you are./Opinion/I-donot-hate-windows_10.html copyright and reprint notice
This is an inexpensive ($199.00) "security" web cam for your home. I put that in quotes because it's something that might function as that, but really is more suited to remote monitoring. However, because it records and stores 24 hours worth of video that you can review, you could possibly catch someone walking toward the camera before they picked it up and stole it.
That clip would be available to you from an iPhone or iPad app and clips can captured and emailed or posted to social media like Facebook.
If all you need is a picture, you can stop the playback and snap a screenshot. That's where this came from.
The camera has a rechargeable battery that supposedly lasts for twelve hours, so you could easily take it away from its charging base and temporarily put it somewhere that doesn't have nearby power. They didn't scrimp on the charger cord, by the way: it's a 10 foot USB cable. I tried it uncoupling it twice and found that it barely lasted 4 hours. By the way, I measured its power consumption and found it should use less than $2.00 just sitting there.
The "Day Brief" (not visible in the picture) is everything that has happened since midnight squeezed into a 30 second video. You cannot slow it down, but you can stop it. You don't need to slow it down because you can go back in time with the regular clips anyway.
Note that it is not the past twenty four hours. It's since midnight, so if you tap that at five past midnight, you'll see five minutes compressed into thirty seconds. You can still go back in time through the clips; those don't reset at midnight. But those aren't necessarily 24 hours either: the camera selects "interesting" segments from your day. According to the website, it learns what's interesting. I assumed that might mean that hours of me sitting at my computer typing would be removed, but it's more than that. For example, the camera caught me doing pushups. I actually did 30, but if I go back to that time slot, it shows me doing twelve - it filters out repetitive movement as well as non-movement.
Initially, the camera did not record sound. A reset and firmware upgrade fixed that.
Swipe right to see more controls for the camera. It's not completely clear what all of those controls actually do and (so far) there is no on-line manual to refer to. I'm sure that will change soon also.
First at top left is "Power save" on/off. I've found nothing that fully explains that yet; will update when I do. Next is the 180 rotate I mentioned above - I'm really confused by that one. It does rotate the lense, though I don't see the value. When it is sitting upright, rotating only seems to point it at the ceiling. Mounting it sideways seems to just turn the picture sideways - I don't get it.
That's so you can mount it on the ceiling!
That cloud icon with the down arrow is for updating firmware. Next to that is on/off, which obviously doesn't turn off wi-fi, just the camera recording.
The speaker icon turns the speaker on and off, but the microphone button has three settings and it's not clear to me what the other two do.
They adjust the sensitivity.
The moon turns night vision on and off. I tested night vision; it works well. The icon to its right turns the LED activity indicator off. When on, it flashes if someone is watching.
The "Add/remove camera" button (bottom left plus and minus in camera icons) is what it sounds like. You could have one of these in every location in your house. I'd like to have another one at our vacation home.
Activating the Alerts (the bell shaped icon) sends you IOS alerts when it detects activity. That could be very helpful or very annoying, though I found that even when I am at home and doing things that the camera sees, it doesn't alert constantly. When we went out for six hours, leaving the house empty, it did sent an "Activity detected" alert the moment I opened the door to walk back in. However, when reviewing the recordings the next morning, I was very surprised to see that it did not actually record me entering. That seems odd, but it has not happened again: it has always caught me coming in.
Finally there is People. That lets you change your password, logout and redirect to the support site./Security/circle-camera.html copyright and reprint notice
How do you unblock IP’s in the firewall? Our California Warehouse VPN got locked out. Log says "Maximal amount of unsuccessful authentication attempts reached, IP address is blocked."
This happens because of a setting you probably forgot all about. It's particularly easy to forget if you aren't authenticating through a domain controller, because it's in that section of your control configuration.
It also says nothing about VPN's, so you are forgiven if you did not think to look here. Ordinarily, blocking goes away after five minutes, but if your VPN connection kept trying with a bad password, it will get locked out again and again.
Fix the password or add that address to a "Never Block" group./Forum/Maximal-authentication-attempts.html copyright and reprint notice
I was having a business conversation with a young woman recently. During our talk, she looked at her watch several times. As she was leading our discussion at that point, I ignored that, but as things wound down toward the end and she checked yet again, I thought perhaps I might be holding her up. Not wishing to be that boring old man, I just put the question to her directly, asking if she had somewhere she needed to be.
She laughed. "Oh, no, just checking text messages", she explained. Oh, duh, yes, I had noticed that she was wearing an Apple Watch, but I hadn't yet had enough experience of people with those to break the life long assumption that she was checking the time.
I mentioned this to my wife later and she immediately said "That's rude". I understand why my wife would say that, but I'm not sure she's right. If the young woman had instead laid her cell phone on the table and had glanced at it during our talk, I wouldn't have thought it rude. I would have realized she was just quickly checking to make sure the texts were not important. Of course I'd be helped by the fact that I'd see and perhaps even hear those texts arrive; I don't know when an Apple Watch has tickled someone's wrist.
But it is a reasonable question: is it rude to check texts during a business oriented conversation? I don't think that it is, but I find myself hesitating because I'm not sure that I would do that myself. But then again, the power dynamic of most such conversations I have has me on the weaker side: I'm usually talking to a customer, so I should be concentrating on them. Were I interviewing an employee, I might feel more comfortable glancing at texts and other notifiers./apple-watch-text-notifiers.html copyright and reprint notice
Pardon me while I brag a little bit.
Well, no, not really brag. Honestly, I'm just astonished to find my Unix and Linux Troubleshooting E-Book listed among the "best sellers" in not one, but two Amazon categories. Ok, in fairness it barely makes the cutoff in Books>Computers & Technology>Operating Systems>Unix, but it's on page two of Kindle Store>Kindle eBooks>Computers & Technology>Operating Systems>Unix and that surprises me.
OK, it's not exactly like it was Books>Computers & Technology>Operating Systems>Linux, but even there it is not all that far from the magic 100 mark. This book is much more popular than I thought.
I guess I shouldn't be too surprised as Amazon has been sending me money all these years and it's not like any of those are very crowded categories, but still: it's a best seller and I'm going to stick that little feather in my cap and call attention to it.
If you don't mind spending a whopping $2.99 for what one reviewer called "Whimsical, entertaining, yet informative", you could even help me drive it higher!/Linux/amazon-best-seller.html copyright and reprint notice
Can I use my iPhone hands free in my car without bluetooth? I don't want to buy another gadget.
Yes, but with a few annoyances.
Siri can place a call for you, so that's easy. If you have enabled "Hey Sir" (find that in Settings->General->Siri", you'll need to have your phone plugged into a charger, but calling is easy.
You want speaker on and Siri can do that. For example, I'd say "Hey Siri, call my wife at home using speaker". If you'd rather not add "using speaker", you can set your phone to always use the speaker Settings->General->Accessibility->Call Audio Routing.
Answering the phone is harder if you don't want to take your eyes off the road. I wish I could say "Hey Siri, answer the phone" but at least right now, I can't. Fumbling is as apt to hang up rather than answer, so that's no good.
If you still have the earphones that came in the box, you could use those and just tap on the volume control to answer. I have no idea where my earphones are and I wouldn't wear them while driving anyway, so that leaves VoiceOver.
Enable that in Settings->General->Accessibility->VoiceOver. That lets you answer by double-tapping the screen with two fingers. Assuming you can avoid the cancel button, that might work, but VoiceOver also turns on a bunch of other things you may not like.
I don't like any of those, so I either use the Bluetooth built into my GPS or just let it go to voicemail.
Someone suggested putting a piece of tape where that green button appears to let you feel for it. I might just try that./Forum/handsfree-iphone.html copyright and reprint notice
Let me first say that if you were just starting with QB Online and not converting existing data, you'd probably be happy. I'll quickly add that I am not unhappy; it's just that the switch did have some rough spots.
We have used Quickbooks for years. I haven't been entirely happy with it, but I've never found the time to write my own system and that's the only way I could get everything I want. So for fifteen years or so, Quickbooks has been "good enough". It's done the job, but always left me grumpy.
Part of that grumpiness was cost. If you upgrade regularly and maintain support, it's actually less expensive to use the cloud version (which includes support in the monthly fee). It's also more convenient as I can now do basic functions from anywhere with my iPhone and iPad. Ahh, but getting used to it is something else all together. Figuring out how to reconcile how it wants to do things against how we want them done can be a challenge.
For example, invoicing. What I prefer to do is print invoices to a PDF file and then send an email cover letter with the PDF as an attachment. What QBO wants to do is store the invoice in the cloud and send the customer a link to it. I don't mind that - in fact, it's better because they can pay by credit card or bank transfer directly from that link. But I do not like that the email comes from Quickbooks. I'd rather it came from me.
Fixing that is easy enough. Quickbooks pulls email addresses from customer info, but allows that to be edited. I select and copy those addresses so that I can temporarily replace them with my own. I have QBO send the invoice to me and then I put back the correct customer emails. I now have the correct link in that email which I can put in my own email to my customer. It would be easier if I could just get the links directly from QBO, but this works.
Handling bank and credit card accounts is also very different, though as it turns out, much easier. QBO grabs transactions from those accounts online and brings them in for approval. You simply need to accept them into Quickbooks, which is a very quick process, especially after it learns what accounts are typical for specific transactions. If it's already in QBO, for example a check that you entered, the bank transaction will match what you've already done and you simply accept the match. The end result of all this is that when it's time to reconcile, almost all the work is already done for you. Reconciling took me all of fifteen seconds when I first did it!
There is some clumsiness to QBO - it's not a fully polished product. However, it saves me time and money so it's "good enough" for me./Employment/converting-to-qbonline.html copyright and reprint notice
So Microsoft has now introduced a laptop. I wonder how Dell et al. feel about that? But never mind slapping your distribution chain in the face, what's this nonsense about luring us away from Apple?
Let's pretend for one silly minute that Windows actually was competitive with Mac OS X. It is not, of course, but let's pretend that I could actually do my daily work with the same ease that I can now on my Mac. Let's further pretend that the Surface Book was half the price of a Macbook (it isn't) and was as carefully crafted and would last twice as long. Yeah, I know: utter nonsense, but go along with me.
So, with all that going for Microsoft, would I be "lured"? No, I would not, because I'm lazy and set in my ways. That's the same reason very few Microsoft users will give up Windows even if they are smart enough to see the better world offered by Apple. It's a pain to switch; you have to learn new stuff and unlearn new habits. It would take a lot to convince many people to do that.
Microsoft is staggering along, weaving this way and that. It might survive, but that won't happen by trying to compete with Apple and Google in hardware or OS software. Microsoft's day in those areas is done./Opinion/surface-book-not-apple-killer.html copyright and reprint notice
The link below advances the idea that doctors and lawyers may lose their jobs to AI before many other professions.
Doctors and lawyers are much easier to automate than street sweepers. In fact, one of the big successes of machine learning is that you can take a simple algorithm, give it a database of patient records and it learns to diagnose diabetes or breast cancer better than people who have spent years in Med school.
At first that shocked me. After all, don't the words "brilliant" and "doctor" juxtapose often? How many times have you heard "brain surgery" used as an example of intelligence? To a lesser extent, lawyers - at least the highly succesful ones - get similar treatment.
Yet isn't surgery just dexterity combined with knowledge? Isn't medical diagnosis mostly a matter of having a prodigious memory? The same could be said for legal work.
We are already starting to see some of that in both fields. Paralegals are being replaced by computers and computer surgery is already becoming common. It's happening.
However, I think that neglects the political component. The minimum wage worker who loses their job to AI has little political power. Doctors and lawyers are quite a different class. I am quite certain that neither will allow their livelihoods to be taken over by AI. They'll fight politically by enacting legislation that ensures their jobs - they aren't going to end up unemployed.
Your thoughts?/Employment/effects-of-ai.html copyright and reprint notice
Why should I trust The Cloud? There is no cloud, it's just a computer that's located somewhere else!
Well, technically that "just a computer" part may not be true. For example, if you are using a service like Gmail or Office 365, it's not just one computer that provides the service. Your data is mirrored to other computers and they might be located on the other side of the world from each other. That's true for many web sites, too, even very small ones.
Also, those computers are usually far more protected from mishap than anything you own. They'll have redundant internet access, generators for backup power and be physically protected too.
But, yeah, I get it: you don't like letting go. You'd rather have local control. I feel the same way, but in today's world, you are either going to use the cloud to some extent or be content with lesser performance and capability. That's reality./Forum/trusting-the-cloud.html copyright and reprint notice
Why doesn't rcp work for root? I get Permission Denied even though it works with other users?
Before I answer that, I'd like to first suggest that you forget about rcp and use scp. Unless the system you are using is too old to support ssh and scp, you really should not use rcp.
So my answers assume you cannot. The first thing to understand is that root has special rules. One is that you must use a .rhosts file in root's HOME directory. It must be owned by root and must be 0600 perms.
Be sure that root's HOME is where you think it is!
You also need to realize that any system names you put in .rhosts have to match what the system sees. Check by pinging the ip of the other site.
Another requirement is that root be allowed to login remotely. That may require an entry in /etc/securetty on some systems and you may also need to allow it in Selinux if that is enabled.
Obviously any firewalls in the way need to allow this and the rsh service has to be started or enabled in whatever functions as the super daemon on your system. As I'm assuming you are using something too old for ssh, that's probably /etc/inetd.conf or an /etc/xinetd.d file./Forum/rcp_root.html copyright and reprint notice
Is there a way to get Ethernet from Wireless? My landlord gives me free wireless but I need to plug my Vonage phone into Ethernet
Technically, what you want is a bridge. However, if you stop by Best Buy or wherever and tell them that you need to bridge wireless to Ethernet, you probably will just confuse them.
Instead, tell them you want a wireless repeater with an Ethernet port on it. They will understand that.
If you are Googling, searching for either Wireless to Ethernet Bridge or Wireless Repeater will find the right stuff. There's no need to spend a lot of money unless you are in a corporate environment. For home use, you can go cheap.
Then, of course, you have to set it up. Conceptually that's just a matter of getting this new device talking to your existing wireless network. That should be easy, but some of these things seem to go out of their way to be confusing. If you keep in mind the end result, you may have an easier time. What you will be doing is giving this new box its own SSID and getting it connected to your wireless. Then plug in your cable and it is done./Forum/Ethernet-from-wireless.html copyright and reprint notice
Is it possible to have two email accounts on the same Outlook? One of our users needs to periodically check another's account.
With or without Kerio, yes, it's possible, though if it were me, I'd just forward one to the other, leaving the original. You could create an Outlook rule to store those messages in a different folder if you like.
If you really want two accounts, there are two ways to do it. One is simply to create another profile and switch to that when you want to use the other account. The other way lets you add multiple accounts to a single profile. That requires Outlook 2010 and Kerio 8.3 or newer and manual configuration of the additional accounts. Kerio has a KB article that covers all that./Forum/two-outlook-accounts.html copyright and reprint notice
How can I prevent logins? I need a way to disable logins from the root user account without being at the server console itself.
Many modern Unix/Linux systems respect the /etc/nologin file. Simply login as root and do "touch /etc/nologin". This restricts logins to root only. When you want to allow users again, "rm /etc/nologin".
Many systems also allow you to add text to /etc/nologin. When users attempt to login, they see that text.
$ ssh [email protected] Logins currently not allowed. Check back in an hour or so, thanks.
Older systems like SCO Unix don't have that. For these systems, you need to add code to /etc/profile. For example, you could add this:
IAM=`who am i | cut -d" " -f1` [ -f /etc/nologin ] && [ $IAM ] && [ $IAM != "root" ] && exit 0
The danger here is that you mistype that code - you could easily lock yourself out forever. I recommend not exiting the editor until you have tested thoroughly.
But what about users already logged in? That code doesn't affect them at all.
That can be trickier. You can write scripts to loop through logged in users and kill them off. A more drastic but easy solution is to "touch /etc/login" and then do a shutdown and reboot./Forum/prevent-logins.html copyright and reprint notice
I walked out of my poker game a few months ago and have not been back - well, stormed out would be more accurate. I was angry and loud as I left. What caused my eruption was another player's insistence that poor people are lazy folk who don't try hard enough to succeed.
Why did that make me so angry? Part of it was how he said it: "po' people", imitating a Southern accent he doesn't posses naturally. He repeated that several times, making me angrier each time. He mixed in a few references to Obama, making it plain to me that racism underlay at least part of this. That certainly contributed to my anger.
But most of it is that such attitudes are just plain stupid.
It would easy for me to have the same attitude. I began my adult life as a high school dropout with a crummy job. But, through hard work and a lot of luck, we ended up living very comfortably in the top 5% of U.S. income for a good part of our life. It would be easy for me to sneer at those who live from paycheck to paycheck and struggle to make ends meet. I made it, why couldn't they?
It's because I benefitted from privilege. It's because I'm smart and it's easy for me to understand things that befuddle others. It's because I've been lucky and healthy. It's because I worked hard, yes, but that's probably the least of it: plenty of people work hard and do not succeed.
There's a cartoon I linked to below that explains some of that. It doesn't tell the whole story, though. It graphically explains the benefits that come from not being born poor, but it misses other things. People can get sick or have congenital problems that affect their ability to work. Not everybody is smart enough to have a good paying job.
Adding to all that is plain old dumb luck. Most of us experience some good and some bad luck, but some people get more than their share of one or the other. Yes, yes, sometimes we do make our own luck and I know that as well as anyone, but there are things we simply cannot control. While privilege and talent can buffer a lot of bad luck, it doesn't take much of it to destroy the hopes and dreams of those starting on the bottom.
For example, I made a business mistake once that put me $100,000 in debt. I recovered, but do you think a minimum wage earner could? My wife's working career was cut short by illness, decreasing our expected retirement funds greatly. We survived that too, but what if we both had been sick or injured by accident? What if I had more ordinary intelligence? What if my mistake had been greater?
Our children were healthy and bright, What if it had been otherwise? How much of our income would have been sucked away by that? Suppose I or my wife had died or we had divorced? Would we still have been so well off?
Sometimes people do well for part of their life but then become unemployable because of illness or because their skills have become irrelevant and unneeded. Some are lucky enough to be at or near retirement age when that happens, but others are not. Some folks worked hard all their lives and expected the promise of a pension to fund their retirement, but became poor when others decided not to keep that promise.
Most poor people are struggling against the tide. I detest those who think that their own success was from their own will alone and that anyone should be able to rise out of poverty./Opinion/po-folk.html copyright and reprint notice
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