Archive for November, 2003



Friday, November 28th, 2003

Bumming around today, I may go see Bad Santa. In the meantime, here’s some random stuff I’ve been looking at:

The History of English Gardens
How Macintosh Rendezvous Works
Bush’s Secret Trip to Iraq
Strong Bad’s Thanksgiving Email (check out the easter egg at Shanamanamanamanamana)
Republic of samaBlog

Otherwise, I’ve decided to do a more thorough analysis of each of the candidates for President and their positions as stated on their websites. I’ll start with the frontrunner and move backwards, in case anybody else drops out. We’ll start with Matt’s favorite governator, Howard Dean.

Ok, until I feel like computing again, adios.


Happy Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 27th, 2003



Bush is Nixon

Wednesday, November 26th, 2003

Cal Thomas is right here:

The just concluded (thankfully) Congress is an embarrassment to itself and everyone who favors smaller government. This Republican Congress, in addition to increasing spending on entitlements and expanding big government – like the Democrats they once criticized – also dished out $95 billion in tax breaks and pork-barrel projects.

Rush Limbaugh yesterday, likened GWB to Nixon, saying that his tough on foreign policy but lite on economic policy stances were reminiscent of Richard Nixon, who grew big government by unleashing the EPA, OSHA, and wage and price controls on us. I never imagined that after Reagan, I’d ever really see another new big government program started again. But it’s happened, and we have the Republicans to thank for it.

A few months ago, and mere moments ago, ladies and gentlemen, I said that President Bush, who I think is a great man, by the way, and I’m very much supportive of his war on terror and the things that he is being forced to focus on now, but I said that he is following Reagan’s footsteps when it comes to foreign policy and there’s no question about that, but he’s following Richard Nixon’s footsteps on domestic policy. I know Bush has cut taxes. But he’s done nothing to stem the growth of government. The Republicans, in fact, are responsible for this latest rash of spending.

If this is the sort of governance that Republicans give us, then what’s the point in voting for them???

In fact, this marks the way for Dean’s opening. I’ll comment more on the Democrat’s primaries later, but assume for the moment that Dean wins. In a Dean Bush race, the Deanies will turn out and vote for him no matter what. That’s because his entire platform to date has basically been an ad hominem against Bush. And that argument won’t go away.

But here’s where Dean will make an orthogonal shift. Dean will come out and say that while he’s aware that some of the protesters are against war per se, he is not. He will point out that he publicly supported the first Gulf War, and he will give further reassurance that he will not pull out of Iraq prematurely, now that we’re already in there. But he will say that going into Iraq was a distraction against the real war on terror, which needs to be fought, and taken directly to Iran and Saudi Arabia.

And this is where Bush will find himself vulnerable. What happens in the minds of the Republican voter, when he looks at the disaster that one party rule has wrought, knowing that “compassionate conservative” means complete spendthriftedness and capitulation on every major domestic issue save taxes? What happens when conservatives are openly pining for the good old days of gridlock, with a Democrat president and a Republican congress? Bruce Bartlett writes:

Bill Clinton told the nation, “The era of big government is over.” If so, it sure didn’t last very long. Today, the era of big government is back with a vengeance, ushered in by a massive new prescription drug entitlement, a pork-laden energy bill of grotesque proportions and a trade war with China. What few people, including myself, ever thought would happen was that this new era of big government would be implemented by Republicans controlling both Congress and the White House. It makes me long for the good old days of gridlock…

This is not surprising, given that Wall Street has long favored gridlock. Indeed, a number of economic conservatives suggested in 2000 that the best electoral outcome for growth and the stock market would be Al Gore as president with Republicans continuing to control Congress. As financial columnist Daniel Kadlec wrote: “The Dow has fared best when one party has controlled the White House and the other has controlled Congress, the optimum formula being a Democratic president and a Republican Congress. That combo has produced Dow gains, excluding dividends, of 10.7 percent a year.”

Mark my words. I predict that Dean will in fact make an orthogonal foreign policy shift once he has the nomination. Further, his die hard followers won’t care. And Republican voters, who believe deep in their hearts that a Republican congress will be more conservative, and yes, pass more conservative legislation with a Democrat in the White House than they ever will with a capitulating Nixon clone in the White House, may just sit out this election or worse yet, vote for Dean to (ironically) ensure that no more big government programs get passed into law.

I may be wrong, but I haven’t been wrong about any of my election predictions so far.

Read Cal Thomas here.
Read Rush Limbaugh here (he puts it best).
Read Bruce Bartlett here.


Dead Whales

Tuesday, November 25th, 2003

You may have seen on Drudge the news story about dead whales washing up on the Australian coast. It reminded me of this old story about blowing up a beached whale with dynamite.

Basically, it was Oregon in the 1970’s, and nobody knew what to do with the whale carcass. So they decided to blow it up. The page that tells the story is here, but you can watch the video here, in all its glory. I won’t tell you how it ended, except to say that they decided they’d never dispose of a whale carcass that way again.


Grip Art

Tuesday, November 25th, 2003

My friend wanted me to announce that his Australian Aunt Jenny has opened a new web store, selling her own brand of jewelry.

Grip Art

They’re kind of wierd looking spikey things, but they’re soft rubber. Check them out, just in time for Christmas.


iTunes DRM To Be Hacked

Tuesday, November 25th, 2003

This was inevitable:

Late last week, programmer Jon Johansen posted a small program called QTFairUse to his Web site, with little in the way of instruction and even less explanation. But during the next few days, it became clear that the program served as a demonstration of how to evade, if not exactly break, the anticopying technology wrapped around the songs sold by Apple in its iTunes store.

Johansen’s software isn’t for technology novices. In its current form, it requires several complicated steps to create a working program from source code, and it doesn’t create a working song file that can be immediately or simply played from a digital music program like Winamp or Microsoft’s Windows Media Player.

You know, it’d be much easier if the music companies would just lower the price of music to the point that people lost the economic incentive to file share. But that won’t happen anytime soon.

Hey, anyone want to buy the music library and start a new record company?

Anyway, read about the hack here.


iPod’s Dirty Secret

Monday, November 24th, 2003

The new iPod from Apple has a dirty secret. Watch this short movie to learn what it is:

iPod’s Dirty Secret


A New Kind Of Computing Company

Monday, November 24th, 2003

A bunch of things relating to technology issues have been running through my head as of late, and I need to get them out.

I had a friend over a weekend ago, and he and I regularly discuss politics and technology issues. And he pointed out to me that even though I have a static IP address, I am not allowed to host the samaBlog from my own home. This is due solely to the contract that I have with my cable company. He further pointed out that bandwidth from using file sharing programs can far exceed that from hosting a simple website, yet I have to pay $100/year roughly to some server farm for them to host my site.

That’s stupid.

But it gets worse. Combine that with the Palladium initiave that Microsoft is spearheading. For those unfamiliar, let me explain what this is. Palladium is Misrosoft’s “trusted computing” initiave. It requires a unique identifier be placed in every chipset made for Windows to run. Microsoft then checks licensing for everything you have on that machine, starting with its own products but possibly extending to every piece of content on your machine, including music, movies, even letters. Because authorship can now be traced to a particular user who was licensed to use a particular machine, even Word and Excel documents can be licensed and accessed only by specific people.

Now let’s take this one step further. Take blogs for example. You want to cut and paste an excerpt of something someone else wrote on your blog. But your Palladium enabled computer recognizes that the content you’re trying to copy isn’t yours, and you don’t have permission. Go one step further, and figure that your hosting company’s computer refuses to allow you to publish because what you’re writing is anti-Microsoft, might be slanderous, whatever the reason. This is what happens when DRM (Digital RIghts Management) has run amock.

Some might even fantasise that document registries could, based on signature comparison and heuristic examination of document contents, even refuse to grant a certificate for a suspicious document unless the publisher provided proof it did not violate copyright or laws regarding its content. But that would constitute prior restraint on publication, which is unthinkable in a free society.

This, then, is the digital imprimatur; the right to publish as, in olden times, was granted by church or state. A document’s certificate, its imprimatur, identifies the person (individual or legal entity) responsible for its publication, provides a signature which permits verifying its contents have not been corrupted or subsequently modified, and identifies the document registry which granted the imprimatur and which, on demand, will validate it and confirm that it has not been revoked. Trusted Computing systems and the Secure Internet will perform these functions automatically and transparently; to a user browsing the Web, everything will look and feel precisely as it does today.

The Digital Imprimatur by John Walker is perhaps one of the most important essays on the subject. It’s rather longish, but is a must read for any and all technophiles out there.

While Walker is concerned with the freedom of speech issues that the Digital Imprimatur brings, I am more generally concerned with the state of computing itself. I work off of Windows 2000, professional edition. I will likely never upgrade. I use the version of Windows Media Player that came with the OS, because the terms on later versions are restrictive, and the software itself generates too much overhead with no discernable value to me. But what’s more is that Win 2K requires no activation with Misrosoft, no profiling of my mahcine in a giant database somewhere. When Palladium comes around, these antiquated machines will seem valuable for the freedom they afford to the end user. Read Bob Cringely’s take on that here.

But in thinking about my machine, it’s not just the licensing terms that have been bothering me. It’s the whole damned enterprise. From the ground up, every enterprise is designed to run in a client/server relationship. And it’s bullshit. There’s nothing I’m doing here that should preclude me from interacting directly with other people. I have a damned cable modem! What else do I need?

Do I need a phone? Evidently not. Tony pointed us to Skype, which is an online P2P phone system that works great (I’ve downloaded it and can be found under the name “samaBlog” if you want to talk to me). My question is, why doesn’t my computer just come with this? Why doesn’t it just enable file sharing from the get-go? I have a cable tv box in my living room. Do I need it? It’s another damn special purpose machine that wastes bandwidth. Why not enable P2P streaming video as a distribution method instead? It’d be a hell of a lot cheaper for everyone involved, yet nobody to my knowledge is working on it.

The problem, I think, is inherent in the way the machine was architected. We’ve been upgrading according to Moore’s Law for so long now that we’ve lost sight of what we’re trying to do with our machines. What do I need in my house? Is it one mega-fat Pentium processor with a huge honking hard drive, or is it a computer with several smaller, parallel processors and several smaller hard drives configured as a RAID? In an office, does every person need to access files from a central server that needs to be backed up regularly, or should files be distributed in redundant bits and pieces across every computer in the network, so if one machine goes down, nothing is lost? Should teh samaBlog be hosted by one computer at an ISP, or should it be hosted in bits and pieces by everyone in my blogroll, in a form of trusted file sharing where everyone hosts everyone else’s blog in bits and pieces, ensuring that it never goes down for maintenance or anything?

What’s needed here, is a whole new kind of computer. One built from the ground up to cluster, to have redundancy, to be a P2P machine with grid computing capabilities. I want a machine with several motherboards, several hard drives, the ability to be plugged into another machine and have the two act as one right away. And I want it to be able to handle all sorts of P2P services with other machines across the Internet. I want to pay only for a broadband connection, but I want my machine to be able to subscribe to all sorts of services through the P2P network, including telephone service, file sharing, streaming video and audio, web hosting, you name it. AND I want it to replace all my other machines in my house, including a videogame machine, Tivo or equivalent, cable box, telephone switch, answering machine, etc. AND I want it to be able to last, so when the processors get faster, and hard drives get cheaper, etc, the machine doesn’t go away. It just becomes the #2 machine, networked in with the newer P2P box, working for it on my local grid. That’s what I want, and I want it yesterday.

There are a few technological developments that might make this possible. First is all the supercomputers being built out of old gray boxes, running a verison of clustered Linux. The Beowulf Project is one such attempt. Cringely has also written about Hive Computing, which is building an operating system that may just do the trick. Finally, some guys at MIT are building a wireless grid in Cambridge, that is also a step in the right direction.

But think about what else this means. By removing the client-server model and replacing it with a machine and OS built from the ground up to be P2P, there’d be no more digital imprimatur. Everyone shares as they like, and that’s the way it should be.

Sounds to me like we need a whole new kind of computing company. Who’s with me?



Friday, November 21st, 2003

Second, on my Christmas Wishlist:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A little tropical fish that glows fluorescent red will be the first genetically engineered pet, a Texas-based company said on Friday.

The zebra fish were originally developed to detect environmental toxins, but Alan Blake and colleagues at Yorktown Technologies, L.P. licensed them to sell as pets…

The fish, sold under the trademarked name GloFish, carry a similar gene taken from a sea coral that makes it glow all the time… The fish, developed at the National University of Singapore by researcher Zhiyuan Gong, are also available as pets in Taiwan, the company said. They will sell for about $5 apiece at pet stores in January.

I’ll put them in little jars all over my house and use them for romantic mood lighting, instead of candles. Think the chicks will like that?

Read the full story here.



Friday, November 21st, 2003

Create your own SouthPark Character.

Fun little Flash distraction, basically. I made this goth girl with a machine gun. Unfortunately, they don’t let you do anything as creative as a giant talking taco that craps ice cream. But it’s still fun.