Friday, March 28, 2008

New Kinds of Crazy

How do you feel about being extorted to prop up the music industry?

(Time) Warner's plan would have consumers pay an additional fee—maybe $5 a month—bundled into their monthly internet-access bill in exchange for the right to freely download, upload, copy, and share music without restrictions.

Griffin says those fees could create a pool as large as $20 billion annually to pay artists and copyright holders. Eventually, advertising could subsidize the entire system, so that users who don't want to receive ads could pay the fee, and those who don't mind advertising wouldn't pay a dime.

"Ideally, music will feel free," says Griffin. "Even if you pay a flat fee for it, at the moment you use it there are no financial considerations. It's already been paid for."

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

What In The ... ?

Two (somewhat) great tastes that can not possibly taste great together. Lead singer of Stryper, Michael Sweet is to perform vocal duties for (can't believe I'm typing this) Boston on an upcoming summer tour.

The image

Enjoy this moment of anti-Zen.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Blast From the Past

Here is my first .Net project, compiled against the .Net 1.1 framework. It's an applet that forgoes those ridiculous translation wheels you used when you bought one of the original Dungeons & Dragons games back in the day (is that Wednesday?). You know, the ones where you lined up characters from Elven and Dwarfic alphabets to get a codeword which you entered into the game.

It covers Hillsfar, Pools of Radiance, and Curse of the Azure Bond and weighs in at a whopping 80k. Click below to download it and all the source code.

I think the nerd quotient on this post is somewhere around 9.8.

[ ] 252k

Where's The Heat?

The latest article from NPR on the lack of evidence for global warming (I did not insert the phrase "man made" in front of that) is an interesting read, including the backwards slant from the writer.

What's more interesting is to read the response of the diggers on it. I had though of digg nation as decidedly left, but I'll have to give that a rethink.

Because He Won't Toot His Own Horn

Scott has started a new blog with an emphasis on PhotoShop, design and such.

When I get a free moment I'm inserting a stick of dynamite into this blog to freshen it up a bit. You know, for the benefit of the google bot that runs through here every day.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Quick USB Eject

This little utility allows you to perform safe-ejects on USB drives quickly. It has command line options if you're old school. And it's free.

As my brother used to say, nifty thrifty, dollar fifty.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

On the issue of licenses for illegal immigrants

I read this blog entry a short while ago. It talks about issuing driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. More specifically, it tries to dismiss arguments against granting these licenses.

Now, I took a couple of years of debate and logic in high school, so I feel pretty well equipped to respond to some of this guy's comments. Mostly because, no matter what side of the issue you fall, you can't ignore stupidity.

Shall we begin?
Many people say that allowing illegal aliens to obtain state driver's licenses helps them and encourages them to remain illegally in this country.
Yes, I am among them. This point is not refuted anywhere in his post, but it's the opening line. And for the life of me, I can't figure out how this is not true.

Removing the 8 million-15 million illegal immigrants from these databases would only make law enforcement harder.
Pardon? They are not currently in any database. How, then, can they be removed?

They will use fake IDs, buy real IDs from crooked DMV employees - as several of the 9/11 terrorists did - forge "breeder documents" to get real IDs (another 9/11 terrorist trick), or resort to identity theft.
So... if we make it legal for these folks to get real IDs, does anyone think they'll just take the easy route and give real information to the government? But your examples are all of people who intended to commit a crime from the start. Do I really need to spell this one out? Ok, I will... if they intend to use the IDs to facilitate a crime, why should you believe they will give information that will in any way be useful to law enforcement?

Of course, even an attempt to deny licenses to illegal immigrants puts DMV clerks in the impossible position of verifying immigration status.
Um... they don't do it now, except for 'proof' of residency. And that proof is usually a bill that says someone paid some amount to a utility for a given address. So, how is it different now if an illegal immigrant from Mexico steals a bill from someone's mail box, waltzes into the DMV and writes his name down as Frau Tanjorgenstein, PhD? Do you think the DMV agent will give them the squinty eye until they confess? Hardly.

Even more legal immigrants will be mistakenly denied licenses, resulting in lawsuits and additional government expense.
That's just retarded. Legal immigrants are not currently denied, and they don't have to prove citizenship. What you are suggesting is that we would all have to prove US citizenship from this point forward if we choose not to allow illegal immigrants to have driver's licenses.

Some states have considered a tiered license system, one that explicitly lists immigration status on the licenses. Of course, this won't work either. Illegal immigrants are far more likely to take their chances being caught than admit their immigration status to the DMV.
You mean like they do now? So, if we issue licenses, and they get pulled over for a traffic violation, and we find out they are here illegally, what have we gained? Think they will pay their insurance premiums? Hmm??

We are all safer if everyone in society trusts and respects law enforcement.
ROLLING ON THE FLOOR LAUGHING MY FUCKING ASS OFF. Oh, was I supposed to use the abbreviation there? And people call Bush a fascist. Being a libertarian, I much prefer "We are all safer if everyone in society behaves themselves." But that implies personal responsibility, and that CLEARLY can not happen. Moron.

And finally, denying driver's licenses to illegal immigrants will not protect us from terrorism.
Who the hell said it would? We currently do not allow illegal immigrants to have driver's licenses (yet many get them illegally). On the contrary, allowing everyone to have access to driver's licenses floods the system with bogus information. Licenses are not about protection, but control.

Contrary to popular belief, a driver's license is not required to board a plane. You can use any government-issued photo ID, including a foreign passport. And if you're willing to undergo secondary screening, you can board a plane without an ID at all. This is probably how anybody on the "no fly" list gets around these days.
Um... Honestly, I've never tried to get on a plane without my ID. But don't you think that someone on a "no fly" list would go get fake credentials to avoid having their mug searched during the secondary screening? Because the "screening" process when you check in, ass hat, is to glance at the name on the card and the ticket. And even that doesn't always happen. Frankly, I bet with $100 on eBay, I could buy a card printer and be good as gold.

Look, the whole topic is stupid. Giving licenses to illegal aliens won't curb crime, won't help enforcement, and instead creates a burdensome overhead on the legal system. These folks won't pay insurance, and are just as likely to run if they are involved in a vehicle accident because they will fear being deported. IDs can only benefit illegal aliens because it allows them to buy alcohol or get on a plane.

And it sure as hell won't make them safe drivers. Check the drunk driving rates in New Mexico, and then check the arrests against citizenship. Driving without a license is a lesser crime than drunk driving, so that charge is typically dismissed. Drunk driving is not prosecuted on illegal aliens in any meaningful way - they are just driven to the border. Please clarify how giving them licenses would make the roads safer?

What you are promoting, then, is simply to take away their illegal status. And then that opens a whole new can of worms. Open borders? Right... I certainly don't want those sneaky Canadians coming down to steal my cheese.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Another Web-based Office Goody

You can now do some rudimentary PDF editing with PDF Hammer.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Baseball Team Names

An interesting read on the origin of the various team names in major league baseball.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Huh, How About That

It seems that Google Docs now has a publish to blog functionality, including the option to update a previous blog post when you republish the document (which I was kvetching about earlier).

In Google Docs there is a publish tab on the right hand side of the screen:

The downside here is if you have multiple blogs -- you have to change the blog settings each time. Otherwise, cool.

With all the good stuff going into Google Docs, I wonder if it's going to be possible to ditch MS Office all together in the not-too-distant future.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Your Music, Anywhere

I don't listen to the radio anymore, but I can't conceive of paying a monthly fee to listen to music over the air, even if it is digital quality and more or less commercial free. What I've been telling folks for awhile, though, is that eventually everybody is going to have some sort of home media server where they will be able to access their movies/music from anywhere over the air. Host the files on your own server, then access them through an intermediary service.

Little did I know that I was already late with that prediction. Enter nuTsie, which hooks into your iTunes and makes your playlists available over the cloud -- either through your web browser or on your mobile phone (if supported and loaded with their client software).

Sweet. Now I just need a data plan on my mobile phone.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

A Couple Meager Requests

Dear Google,

My life would be more complete if you would satisfy the following wishes.
  1. Strike through formatting in GMail.
  2. Super and sub scripts would be nice, too.
  3. If you can't do either of those, let me edit the html at least.
  4. A non-clunky way to do inline images when composing in GMail.
  5. A way to label blog posts when they are emailed in to blogger. For instance, adding [tech, nerdville] to the beginning or end (I'm not choosy) of the subject line of this email would add those two labels to the post.
  6. A way to edit existing posts from email without going through that web 1.73 interface you have going on in blogger. You'll have to use your Jedi powers on that one. Maybe the whole bracket notation from the prior suggestion can be expanded to a full fledged notation system. Post a blog via email, get an email confirmation with the post ID, and then when you want to edit an existing post you reference the post ID. For instance, [id=12345, labels=tech,nerdville].


P.S.: I'm trying to dump another piece of software, Windows Live Writer, which I actually like. It's just one less thing installed on the computer if you can get blog posting via email done in an elegant way.

P.P.S.: I'm part of the command line generation. The less clicking around with the mouse and the more use of the keyboard, the better.

Going For Broke

I mentioned earlier today that I'm importing my email from Exchange to GMail (more specifically my GMail account on Google Apps) and that I had already moved my pertinent calendar information to Google Calendar.

This week I also decided to switch from Trillian to Meebo. I love Trillian. It has a nice, tight interface that hasn't changed in years and allows you to talk on all the major networks. The pro version is affordable and gives you extra functionality, such as using plugins. Plugins range from email notifiers to a Skype controller.

Meebo I also love. The interface is also nice and tight, and it also talks to all the major networks. And it runs in your browser. Firewall managers who aren't paying attention may block access to the chat network when you use a regular chat client, but they probably aren't on to Meebo. Yet.

If you switch from a desktop client to Meebo just make sure you copy over your Jabber or GoogleTalk contacts manually as those don't seem to be stored on the server. And if you are using your Google Apps account on GoogleTalk, you'll have to do a little DNS fiddling to get it to work right on Meebo.

GMail and GCal allow me to ditch Outlook, the kitchen sink of PIMs and black hole of system performance. Meebo allows me to ditch Trillian, which although nice and tidy is somewhat obnoxious with system resources. All hail the new operating system known as Firefox.

What's Wrong With This Picture?

The image

This is a photo used in a Sports Illustrated article on dunking. Hint: The guy sitting down probably has no need of a hat.

Google Calendar To Outlook

I've been contemplating my next cell phone as my plan is coming up in May. Never in my lifetime did I think I would live to see my second cell phone contract expire.

I'm currently using a Treo 650 and have been using it to sync with my Outlook, which is hooked up to an Exchange server. The sync works great, but I've grown increasingly weary with the overbearing footprint of Outlook. I also don't understand how it can be so mind boggle-ing slow when trying to find stuff. I've installed Google desktop search just to search for email because it finds things so much faster.

Anyhow, I've toyed with the idea in the past of strictly using GMail for email and GCal for my calendaring. The problem with doing that is the synchronization of the contacts and calendar from Outlook, which has been a deal breaker for me. With my cell phone contract coming up I've been considering using a lighter weight phone with Internet access and just grabbing contact and calendar information from "the cloud" without having to go through the process of sync.

So this week I've been transferring my email from my Exchange server up to GMail (up to 1.4 GB as of this writing), and have also transferred all my future and recurring calendar events to GCal. Then this morning I'm greeted with this new blog post from Google.

Necessity being the mother of invention and all that. Hopefully they'll figure out a solution to sync'ing contacts in the not-too-distant future. If so, I'll have the option of sticking with a PDA phone when my contract comes up in May.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

My New Speaker Wire Product


Because apparently you really can't tell the difference between this and mega-mondo-monster cables.

Of course the article isn't scientific, but it would have been interesting to see the looks on the faces of those golden-ear'd guys.

Scott, care to chime in?


Via: The Consumerist

And Now, a Rant Before Bedtime

I skinned my knee pretty good tonight on the astro turf where I play indoor soccer, and I'm just waiting for the MRSA to eat clean through my leg.

But that isn't my rant. I typically have a little extra energy on sports nights and do a little mindless surfing sometimes into the early morning, versus the mindless surfing I do the rest of the day. I have my 20 year high school reunion on my mind, so I've been checking out a bit and tonight,

What an utter abomination both are. To think that these sites were both established well before facebook but still look like the product of a high school Frontpage computer science project. They are both dreadful to use.

And to top it all off, to see any information on any of your former mates besides the letters constituting their name you have to pony up for an account. This is to view information that they put in themselves. Bizarre. No quid pro quo at all. is bad in that you absolutely can not see any information on a person unless you buy their premium account, while lets you see a little bit of the profile information, but if you edit your profile and try to put in your email address or other links in areas that are free to access, they strip it out with claims wanting to maintain the quality of content on their site.

Is it me or does something smell?

I'm not a facebook homer (I actually lurk around more on LinkedIn) and generally don't understand the whole social networking thing (maybe I grew out of it 15 years ago with IRC and USENET), but facebook offers a whole lot more for a whole lot less1 than these sham "find your high school sweetheart" sites. They just appear to be the defaults to turn to when you come up on your graduation anniversaries.

That's all. Oh, there is this in the event that you are hungry.


[1] Thank you, Wal-Mart, for enhancing my vocabulary.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Our Taxes, Explained

This was a pass-around email, and I'm including the attribution at the bottom although I don't know if that's where it really came from or not.

Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to $100.

If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:

The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.
The fifth would pay $1.
The sixth would pay $3.
The seventh would pay $7.
The eighth would pay $12.
The ninth would pay $18.
The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.

So, that's what they decided to do. The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve.

"Since you are all such good customers", he said, "I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by $20." Drinks for the ten now cost just $80. The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes so the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free.

But what about the other six men - the paying customers? How could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his "fair share?"

They realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer. So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.

And so:

The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings).
The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33%savings).
The seventh now pay $5 instead of $7 (28%savings).
The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings).
The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% savings).
The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings).

Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to drink for free. But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings.

"I only got a dollar out of the $20," declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man, "but he got $10!"

"Yeah, that's right," exclaimed the fifth man. "I only saved a dollar, too. It's unfair that he got ten times more than I!"

"That's true!!" shouted the seventh man. "Why should he get $10 back when I got only two? The wealthy get all the breaks!"

"Wait a minute," yelled the first four men in unison. "We didn't get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!"

The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up. The next night the tenth man didn't show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn't have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!

And that, boys and girls, journalists and college professors, is how our tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. In fact, they might start drinking overseas where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.

David R. Kamerschen, Ph.D.
Professor of Economics, University of Georgia