28.12.09

20 Albums

First off, sorry for neglecting this blog as long as I have. I blame twitter; somehow it is a lot easier to write 140 characters of an idea down rather than write out a blog post. I'm going to attempt to rectify this.


While recently stalking someone on Facebook I noticed a neat note: pick 20 albums from your music library that are significant to you. So here is my attempt at this, with explanation for the crazy choices I have made:


Classical Music Start-up Kit - Various

This was my first introduction to 'secular' music as it were. And it was quite the introduction: 43 tracks covering classical music from its roots to modern times. I don't know exactly when I started listening to this, although I do know it was long before I had a computer.











Surround Sound - Various Artists

This introduced me to a lot of other styles besides classical music, although most of it's tracks are classical.


The Complete Works of Scott Joplin - Scott Joplin

My love of jazz definitely started with Scott Joplin. I'd put scans of the Scott Joplin LPs I have up, but I don't have a scanner large enough to scan them on. If I were to choose two albums that have influenced my tastes the most, it'd be this album and Classical Music Start-up.

Charlie Brown Christmas - Vince Guaraldi

Quite possibly one of the most popular jazz albums of all time, and definitely an influence on my tastes. 


Absolution - Muse



Black Holes and Revelations - Muse

One of my friends initially borrowed a CD-RW from me because I had burned him some downloads that he had wanted (back in the day before ubiquitous broadband...). He returned it with Absolution and Origin of Symmetry on it. This was my official introduction to modern 'secular' music, although hardly mainstream at the time. Also, the jazz and classical roots Muse draws on helped to synthesize, in my mind, modern music with my other musical tastes.













At this point, the list takes on a different sort of flavor. I have listed some of the influences of my taste; artists and albums that changed what the rest of this list is. At this point my tastes had mostly solidified and music became a case of finding new artists that fit somewhere within the framework I had built.


Aeneid Soundtrack - Various/Colton

This is not an album per-se; in fact, only 12 other people have a copy of it. One year in Advanced Literature in high school we studied the Aeneid. My friend Colton made a three disc mix-CD that followed the book's storyline. He filled it with tracks from artists ranging from AC/DC to The Who, covering important artists such as Howard Shore, Jimi Hendrix, Phil Collins, and Pink Floyd.


Nassau Coliseum - 1985-03-29 - The Grateful Dead
Madison Square Garden - 1991-09-16 - The Grateful Dead

These two 'albums' are really concert recordings, and introduced me to another genre: psychedelic rock/jam rock. While that is the generic genre The Grateful Dead's music belongs in, it really covers everything from country to jazz to rock to avant-garde classical. I spent a year or so listening to pretty much just Grateful Dead music; whether this was entirely beneficial I do not know.


Freedom - Michael W. Smith

This album intrigued me when I first heard it. Before this I was used to 'Christian' music being mostly about words with musical accompaniment or trying to fit into mainstream rock/pop. I was not particularly pleased with the musical qualities of either. This album changed that. It is a classical album with some jazz mixed in. The album is very united; I believe there to be some level of a story in the music.


Tesseract - Tesseract

I found this band quite by accident wandering around the web starting from, of all places, a Hack A Day article. Tesseract is a local prog-rock band in California that recorded this album in 1997 and then broke up a few years later. Their music encompasses classical elements as well as rock elements for a weird but interesting listen.


Lost Christmas Eve - Trans-Siberian Orchestra

This was the first Trans-Siberian Orchestra album I heard, and I immensely enjoyed it. It essentially makes the instruments found in a modern rock band members of a classical orchestra.


GratisJazz - Eternal Jazz Project

Eternal Jazz Project is a jazz band from Sweden. This is classic jazz at its best: keyboard, saxophone, guitar, bass. It's incredibly peaceful and good for those times when you have to do something frustrating (ahem, Pearson MySpanishLab...).  They recently released another album, Seasons, that I am looking forward to hearing.


E. Centre - 1998-11-02 - Phish

Again, not an album per se, but a concert recording. While Phish has many excellent live concerts, this one is definitely iconic of Phish's style. It includes everything from jazzy organ solos to techno-esque gooves to a cover of Dark Side of the Moon.


Letters to the Editor Volumes 1 and 2 - Andrew Osenga

I cheated a bit with this one, as it's technically two albums. I look at it more as two halves of a larger picture. These are another example of 'Christian' music done correctly: talented instrumentation and deep lyrics. The style is more folk-rock-esque; if I were making a tree of these artists Andrew Osenga would be somewhere along The Grateful Dead's branch.


Dark Side of the Moon - Pink Floyd

Although a cliche album to have on the list, Dark Side of the Moon unifies some of the weirder aspects of The Grateful Dead's music with the jazz and rock genres. As well, they create a unified album that, while not telling a story, conveys a consistent idea across the album.


The Wall - Pink Floyd

Opera converted into rock. There's more that I could say, but I'll just point out the impressive storyline told through this album.

(For those wondering where the words on the wall are, the original The Wall CDs had "Pink Floyd The Wall" written on the CD case itself. The liner just had a white brick wall on it.)


Dark Passion Play - Nightwish

Nightwish is a Symphonic Metal band. While the musical style itself falls something along the lines of Trans-Siberian Orchestra, I like to classify it as 'epic' music, that is, music that conveys an epic tale such as that of The Lord of the Rings.


Viva La Vida - Coldplay

This album bolstered my falling faith in mainstream music. Coldplay manages to create an album that not only appeals to a wide variety of people, but also brings a wide variety of musical styles to the table. Despite this, the album is remarkably unified, almost to the extent that Dark Side of the Moon is. Their '/' songs: Lovers in Japan/Reign of Love and Yes/Chinese Sleep Chant are particularly interesting because they combine two different styles of music while keeping a similar idea in both halves of the song.


A Momentary Lapse of Reason - Pink Floyd

This is one of Pink Floyd's lesser-well-known albums, but it is still an excellent piece of artistry. It is an example of a 'secular' piece of music that has very meaningful lyrics in some of the songs without sacrificing musical artistry, a mistake that much 'Christian' music makes.





Well, that turned out to be quite a bit more navel-gazing than I had expected when I started out. Hopefully it's of some use to someone, or at least worthy of discussion.

By the way, if you're wondering about the ''s around secular and Christian music, read this article by the perceptive and intelligent texanpuddleglum.

17.9.09

The Zune HD Interface

I have a blog. Yeah, that's right. You (one of my two readers) probably forgot that because I haven't written in forever. I blame Twitter.

Anyhow, I was watching this video about the Zune HD: http://ignco.de/176

I'm going to ignore the hardware and just look at the UI. I'm a sucker for a well-designed, beautiful, and functional UI. This is why I have a Mac and why I would buy a Pre if I had the money. Now, at this point, most of you who haven't watched the video are looking at me (so to speak) incredulously. Me, a guy who has a Mac and likes Palm actually wants a Microsoft product? Yeah. I do. Here's why.

The UI is excellent for what it is doing--playing music. It's not designed as an iPod Touch; it's more like a music player with web browsing thrown in. I don't think it will extend well to apps, but we'll see what happens when Microsoft gets there. In the meantime, let's look at the UI, not the featureset.

The design is very minimal, but functional. It's menu driven and all text based, which could be problematic; it would be nice to have some icons next to each item. That said, the UI does have a 'light' feeling to it. There are very few widgets and screen dividers, unlike--dare I say it--the iPhone interface. This lack of widgets makes the UI look a lot simpler; there's a lot less going on on the screen.

The dual-home-screen setup might be confusing to some people, but the key here is that it's optional. You can get to everything you need from the main menu; the second screen just gives you access to your recent and new items. However, that's a very nice feature; if you're browsing the web, you don't have to jump out of the web browser, jump through the Music UI, and pick out that album you just heard yesterday. You just click the home button twice and click on the album. Much faster and probably very handy; I'd definitely pin a few favorite albums that I listen to all the time and just use the Music menu option when I need something different.

Another interesting aspect of the UI is their use of cut-off icons and text. Notice the arrow in the top left corner of the Now Playing screen. It is too big to fit in the corner, so the edges of the circle are cut off. This happens in a few other places in the UI. This uses your imagination to draw in the part of the circle that's not there because you know it is a circle. By making you imagine things that are actually partly off-screen, it makes the screen seem bigger than it actually is.

The music UI is also worth noticing. Instead of being a--gasp--drab menu-based UI like the iPhone, it emphasizes album artwork and albums. This is almost a throwback to the days of LPs where artwork was actually important. I could easily see myself hooking this up to a TV and watching the art while I listened to an album. Also, playing a whole album is an option, encouraging people (or at least making it easier than the iPhone) to play a whole album.

So, shoot me, but if I could afford a new mp3 player, the Zune HD would be a consideration, especially considering that Apple botched the iPod Touch update (c'mon, no 16 gig Touch? Seriously?). The one big problem? No Mac software, so I'd have to use an XP virtual machine, which is ugly.

20.8.09

Power of Communication

So, this year I'm attending Missouri S&T (aka UMR). As part of their fresman opening week stuff, I had to pick a class. I ended up in The Power of Communication because it sounded less boring than the other choices that I qualified for. In that I was assigned to a team of four people. We took a trip to Meramec Springs and had to write a presentation and a blog about it. This is the blog:

http://poc09.wordpress.com/

(In case you're wondering, posting this gets me extra credit. And if you comment I get extra credit. So go comment on the blog.)

28.7.09

The Downfall In Education

An essay I wrote on education. The one-line summary? "We want to be happy, so we avoid quality education." How did I manage to write nine pages on that? Guess you'll have to read it.

[pdf] The Downfall in Education

20.7.09

The Trend Toward Mobile Computing

I was reading http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/20/technology/20cell.html?_r=1&partner=rss&emc=rss&pagewanted=all, which is an interesting article on Japan's cell phone market. While the point of the post was that Japan was ahead of us technically but unable to gain much marketshare outside of Japan, I realized that Japan might be a source for 'foreshadowing' of technology in the US.

In essence, the trend is toward increasingly mobile computing. This should not come as a surprise; it is a well-known fact that laptops are in higher demand than desktops nowadays. I think there are several elements of technology that are encouraging and will continue to encourage this trend:

First, obviously, are laptops. Aside from the drop in demand for desktops, netbooks are also helping the mobility trend. I find it interesting that we have hit a point where we actually demand slow computers that are small. It shows that, to some extent, we have reached a plateau in computing: we can now make computers that are faster than we need. Related to that is that we can now make them cheap enough that people will buy them just as a secondary or tertiary machine. And ultimately they're buying them because they're cheap and small, making it convenient for people to get on the Internet whenever and wherever they want.

Related to the increase in laptop and netbook sales is the growth of free public WiFi. It encourages people to bring their computers with them wherever they're going. People can now head out to a restaurant and, while they're eating, get on their computer and do stuff. As more and more cities consider implementing city-wide WiFi networks, it will most likely reach the point where you won't need a cell phone; you'll just need something like an iPod Touch and a service like Google Voice.

As well, the rise of cloud computing has helped the mobile trend. Peoples' data isn't stored on any one computer now; they can just log into their account on the internet and access all their documents, email, voicemails, and so on. They don't have to worry about syncing their data across computers and to PDAs and cell phones anymore; it's all handled transparently for them. Cloud computing makes netbooks and smartphones feasible to the average user.

Finally, the increase in the smartphone market is encouraging the mobile computing trend. Many people have pointed to the iPhone for opening up the smartphone market to average users instead of just businesses. With more and more phones coming with data contracts, it is becoming easier to depend on a cell phone for emails and web browsing. And with the speed increases in the mobile cell phone market--the average smartphone is approximately twice as fast as my first laptop--it is more and more feasible to use a cell phone as a small computer. To quote the article that sparked this post: "Many Japanese rely on their phones, not a PC, for Internet access." Smartphone manufacturers have and will continue to add features and power to their phones, resulting in something like a 'mini-netbook'. At one point in Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town, Cory Doctorow points out that many 'old' people think of computers in terms of laptops and desktops, while many teens increasingly use their cell phone as a computer.

Ultimately, for any business to 'keep up with the future', they will have to recognize this trend and innovate along it. I think that in the next few years we'll see a lot of advancements in the smartphone and portable computing areas.

12.7.09

Culture and Teens

The teens are important years in our kids. During their teens, kids develop into adults: they develop their own worldview. Over these ~6 years, they take what they have learned and are learning and synthesize it into a view that will shape their actions and attitudes for possibly the rest of their lives. Because of this, many parents, most notably conservative Christian parents, seek to 'shelter' their kids from the world, understandably. This does make sense: expose them to too much of the world and they take the views presented by the world as their own.

However, by the time that they are at most 16, it doesn't make sense anymore. At this point, most of the framework of their worldview should have been laid. They should have a fairly clear idea of what they believe and why they believe it. And so, at this point, parents need to be concerned about the other major factor in changing their child's worldview: college. At college, their kid (by now a young adult) gets to test their worldview against the 'real world'. They find out whether what they believe actually makes sense and holds water when they apply it. Unfortunately, too many college students think that their Christian-esqe worldview doesn't actually fit reality when they get out into it.

Parents can and should work to prevent this problem. Once their child has developed a fairly firm worldview, the parents have no reason to insist on only Christian music and G-rated movies. Instead, they should be open to exposing their kids to parts of the world--within reason. Their exposure needs to be tempered with strong teaching on worldview. Parents need to teach their kids about the worldview presented in the things they are exposed to.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying buy explicit rap music and R-rated movies. I am saying to pick out the important 'classics' of their day and age--the stuff that is going to have a near-universal impact on their generation. Teach them to analyze that for worldview. They need to understand what their friends are going to believe--and why they believe it.

And you are responsible to make sure that they do.

Is this going to take work? You bet. Is that a surprise? Kids are work. You didn't have kids just so you could have free slave labor, did you?

9.7.09

WolframAlpha, Bing, and Google

First off, sorry for not posting in over a month. I know a lot of you used to read this, and it's my fault entirely that I've left off posting. Hopefully within the next couple of months I'll be able to start posting regularly again. I'll explain what's been going on in a future post, hopefully.

I was reading http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.com/2009/07/wolfram-alpha-and-hubristic-user.html and it kicked off an interesting train of thought in my mind. A lot of people have been talking about Bing and WolframAlpha lately. I am a halfhearted Google fan; I like their services, but I kinda have to suppress my privacy paranoia to use them. That said, I use Gmail and Blogger and hopefully soon Google Voice (if they ever give me an invite...).

WolframAlpha piqued my interest when it came out. However, when I used it, I ran into the same problems as the guy describes: the tools are there, but it's hard to get WolframAlpha to guess which tool you need. I've tried to use it for a few searches, but ultimately ended up going to Google for my info--although what I needed could have been easily provided by WolframAlpha. And I've only wanted it once or twice in the few months that it's been out. Maybe that would change if I could actually see a list of the features it has and tell it exactly what I want it to do. But ultimately, it will not have as much usefulness to me as Google does, even though I'm a student, which is probably a large part of the target audience for WolframAlpha.

Same thing with Bing. Sure, it's nice to be able to look up celebrities or sports teams to find scores and pictures and news and whatnot, but in practice, how much do you actually do that? For me, most of my internet searching is for specific, detailed information--either research for a school paper, or information on computer issues like setting up e17 on Debian. I don't use Bing simply because I don't need or want those features. If I wanted to have a switching UI, I'd use Bing. But most of the time, I just want a plain full-text search.

Oh, and the times when I actually do want news or something? Google will most likely throw in a "News" hit section that will give me what I'm looking for. And if that's not what I'm looking for, I still have all the full-text search results which probably are what I'm looking for.

Ultimately, neither Bing nor WolframAlpha are useful to me. WolframAlpha because I can't get to the features I need easily and quickly, and Bing because I don't need what it gives me in addition to Google. Neither have given me a reason to use them over what I already have: Google.

1.6.09

It's not funny.


http://www.twloha.com/blog/postsecret-in-response-1

And, for posterity's' sake, the comments on Postsecret:

-----Email Message-----

The story of Renee and TWLOHA managed to find its way into my life when I most needed it. This story, movement, organization is truly beautiful and much like PostSecret, it gave me inspiration that no one person in my life could. Thanks.


-----Email Message-----

While on a trip with my team one of my teammates started spouting off about how pathetic cutters are. A few weeks later I told my coach how mad I was at him for it. She told me that she had felt the same way, because she had been a cutter herself. Then she told me that when she had told him off for it he showed her his cuts. I forgave him.

PS- Every time I think of cutting myself I write 'Love' where I want to cut. I can't tell you how much it helps.

14.5.09

The Pirate Bay Trial

I've been working on a paper for about three weeks now on The Pirate Bay trial, and finished it a few minutes ago. You can download it here. Sorry it's in PDF rather than posted at length on the blog, but I had to use Scribus to do some layout for it to get it to turn out nicely.

By the way, if you need a free publishing app, Scribus is extremely powerful and fairly easy to use. My only complaint is that it's ugly; the OSX version is a cobble of 10.4 Aqua, KDE, Swing, and custom widgets, which is not very appealing. But it's worth the ugliness.

26.4.09

I Wore Matt Bellamy's Pants!

This is what comes of me taking a shower when I'm sleep deprived:

"So, back when I was in high school, I heard about the Country Hoe-Down Square Dance of Awesomeness that was to be held in a fortnight.  So, I packed my bags and set off for the distant land wherein lay the location of said Dance.  After much toil and travail, I arrived at said location the day of said Dance.  Whereupon I realized that I was wearing The Sweatpants of Utter Geekness, which in case you did not realize, is a Bad Thing.  So, I was in much pain and distress over my situation, and I cried out in a loud voice, 'O curse me and my lack of the packing nature!  Where shall I find a suitable pair of pants to wear to said Dance tonight?  Woe is me, for I am a man who lacks style!'

"Thereafter I set off in a dour state of mind to find something to alleviate my situation.  As I wandered across the lands of aforementioned Dance, I didst come upon the Country deity Matt Bellamy.  (For those of you who deny that his music is country, listen to New Born.  That is pure country music, and if what you're hearing isn't country, your version is photoshopped.)  He greeted me, 'Welcome, child.  For you have traveled far in your journeys from distant lands to come to the Country Hoe-Down Square Dance of Awesomeness.'  I looked in awe and dropped to my knees and kissed his toe of awesomesauce.  He spake unto me, 'My child, is there anything thou needest?'  I answered and said, 'O Mr. Bellamy, I am in dire need of a pair of pants to wear this evening, for I only have The Sweatpants of Utter Geekness, and am ashamed of myself and am a reproach unto my kindred for wearing such an Abomination.'  He answered and said unto me, 'My child, you have not because you ask not.  Go now, and take this pair of my pants with you.'  Whereupon he handed me an extra pair of his pants.  I bowed and said, 'O Mr. Bellamy, I am forever indebted to you for the use of your pants this evening.  May you and your family be blessed for a thousand generations hereafter.' And he answered and said unto me, 'Go in peace, my child; your faith has made your pants well.'

"After this I rejoiced greatly in my heart and set about the process of putting on Matt Bellamy's pants instead of mine own Sweatpants of Utter Geekness.  I went to the aforementioned Dance that evening and brought glory unto myself and my kindred, for the pants I was wearing were great and magnificent."


N.B.
Thanks to Joe my Youth Pastor and Hannah from my youth group for providing the inspiration behind this story.  And the King James Bible; not sure how that got in there, but it did.  This was written in jest and not meant to mock anything or anyone; I mean, what were you expecting?

10.4.09

Internet Bandwith Caps

I just saw this article pop up in, of all places, the RSS header in Gmail:

http://blog.wired.com/business/2009/04/consumer-group.html

The thing that shocked me was that TWC charges $15 a month for ONE gig of data.  I just checked the handy bandwith counter in my dashboard--over the last six days, I personally have been responsible for 983 megs of downloads.  That's just six days from one computer.  I have a webserver which probably eats its fair share of bandwith, and there's three other people who browse the internet regularly at my house.  Admittedly, I do probably have the highest usage, but still, $15 is what we pay per month for internet right now.  I'd rather live with slower, all-you-can-eat style internet than faster, data-capped internet.  Because, believe me, one gig a month is not enough.

It would also be interesting to see if/how this limit would play into updates for critical software.  I could easily see people turning down a 300 meg service pack because that's a third of their monthly bandwith.  Or even updating their antivirus only once every couple of months.  Basically, this could widen the spread of virii due to fewer people keeping their machines up-to-date.

On another tangent, it's a great way for TWC to make money on overage charges.  Joe User isn't going to bother watching his data usage; and if he spends a lot of time watching YouTube and playing WOW online, he's going to eat that data up fast.  And voila, TWC nails him with a $2 per gig overage charge. 

All-in-all, this isn't going to make the internet any better.  In fact, it's probably going to hurt a lot worse. 

29.3.09

Paranoia Apocalypse

I don't think I've introduced another blog I started: Paranoia Apocalypse (which is an awesome name, IMHO).  I cover a lot of security stuff in detail--how it works and what it's good for.  You must put the feed for it in your RSS reader!

11.3.09

iPod Touch 2G Jailbroken

We've been able to jailbreak the iPod Touch 2G for a while now, but the jailbreak wouldn't stay if you rebooted the iPod.  Well, MuscleNerd et. al. have fixed that problem and released a jailbreak today.

Sadly, a company by the name of NitroKey apparently got ahold of a copy somehow (details are really sketchy here) and were selling it, thus forcing MuscleNerd's hand.  The Dev team had originally been planning to release it after the rumored iPhone 2,1 might be released in possibly June, with the hope that by keeping their method secret, Apple wouldn't fix it and therefore the Dev team would be saved a bunch of work. 

Right now you can grab the exploit from
http://www.ipodtouchfans.com/forums/showthread.php?t=155770
However, I can't help you stick it in the right spot...mostly because I only have a 1G Touch, so I haven't been paying much attention to redsn0w et. al. MuscleNerd is trying to get the Dev team to pull their act together and release a new version of the PwnageTool and QuickPwn soon.

I've written up a bit more detail about how the hack actually works at my blog on security, which I felt more fitting for the purpose.  Especially because we get into such wonderfully nerdy things as hex memory addresses...

3.3.09

My newly redesigned website

I've been working on this for a while, and finally finished enough to justify putting it online.

http://LinuxMercedes.homelinux.com

The only thing Javascript on the whole site is the invisible statcounter.

25.2.09

'Song' vs. 'Album'

I've noticed a trend in music: most people write songs that stand on their own.  An 'album' is just a collection of these songs on a CD that the artist thought good. 

This is one of the big differences between 'modern' music and 'old' music.  On many 'old' albums, certain songs just don't make sense unless they're heard in context.  Take, for example, Pink Floyd's Eclipse.  That song sounds ok-ish played by itself.  But when you play Dark Side of the Moon, it fits perfectly.  It's part of a story.  It used to be that an album was a story.  Now, it's not so much that way. 

Same way with jam bands--there are times when you have to hear three, four, five songs in a row to hear the story that the music is telling.  Each song may sound good, but when you play them connected together, there's something bigger than each song. 

I'm wondering what's changed that casued that.  I've got a couple of theories:

1) Radio hits: make one song that's a radio hit.  Ignore the album
2) iTunes: no longer do you have to buy the whole album.  Just pick your songs.
3) Could it be related to why songs are now about three minutes a piece?  Whereas a lot of 'old' songs are around 6-10.

What are your thoughts?

23.2.09

The #1 reason to use Firefox

It's not Internet Explorer.

This is also the #1 reason to use Safari, Opera, or Chrome. 

Why not use IE?  It's not standards compliant.  At all.  I've been doing some work on my personal webpage, and I'd be done with the layout by now if IE didn't exist.  When 3 out of 4 rendering engines render a page the same way, chances are the fourth one is doing something wrong. 

I don't really care if you use Firefox or Safari or Chrome or even Opera.  They're all trying to be standards compliant.  And doing a good job. 

What I care about is that you aren't using IE.  Because every person not using IE is another person that web developers don't have to worry about when they're sticking hacks into their CSS to get IE to render it right.  If you just switch from IE to something else, you'll be part of making a difference. 

The point being: do eveything you can to lessen IE's share of the browser market.  I'm waiting patiently for the day when the biggest question about my new website look is, "How bad does it look in IE?"

19.2.09

Build your own Segway

I so want to do this.  Anyone else open for a summer robotics project?  I figure it will be easier if we do multiple ones simultaneously. 

http://www.ohscope.com/

And it will be nifty if you're going to college on a large campus....

18.2.09

Be careful with big magnets

Dirk is a fellow who owns a few large neodynium magnets.  He had them out and thought they were a safe distance apart...

...except they weren't.  They ended up flying 20 inches through the air and crushing his right index finger. 

Be forewarned: the link has some pretty graphic pictures of what strong magnets can do.  Trust me, it's pretty gross.

http://www.magnetnerd.com/Neodymium%20Magnets/Dirks%20Accident.htm

13.2.09

Apple says Jailbreaking is illegal

Apple recently filed a claim at the patent office that said that it is illegal to jailbreak your iThing:

http://www.tuaw.com/2009/02/13/apple-says-jailbreaking-is-illegal/

They haven't offered a reason, but considering the pressure both from the App Store developers whose apps are being cracked and distributed to jailbroken iThings and AT&T who probably doesn't like the whole 'unlock' situation, it's pretty easy to guess why they're doing this.  The thing is, it's like arguing that Bittorent is wrong because you can pirate stuff over it.  Jailbreaking is simply a tool that can be used for both good and evil. 

Fortunately, it seems that the general consensus from the Mac community is that it would be next to impossible for Apple to begin taking legal action against the jailbreakers.  First, they're all working anonymously, and second, they're just distributing code that modifies Apple's firmware.  So Apple can't nail them for redistributing Apple-only firmware.  Also, it seems that Apple doesn't really want to pursue the issue, but needs to make some sort of gesture of goodwill to AT&T and the App Store devs. 

Here's hoping no one decides that this insane course of action should actually be followed.

10.2.09

Safenow.org

Warning: Do not drink beverages and read this site simultaneously. 

http://www.safenow.org/

8.2.09

Circular reasoning in this claim about speciation?

"For example, the closest living relatives of humans are the chimpanzees and the bonobos. We share 96-98% of our genome with chimpanzees, yet our most recent shared ancestor lived 5-7 million years ago. If it takes as much as 5 million years for that much change to accumulate, how can Ben expect to observe speciation in his lifetime?"

Taken from http://www.expelledexposed.com/index.php/contest/on-the-evidence-for-evolution

Is it just me, or is there some circular reasoning involved here?  I'll explain via a dialogue (ala Plato =]):

A: "Because we have not observed speciation, we cannot offer evidence for evolution."
B: "If, according to our predictions based on evolution, humans and apes did speciate from a common ancestor, and that ancestor lived 5-7 million years ago, then we could conclude that it takes about 5 million years to speciate.  Therefore, we would not expect to see speciation."

Maybe not.  Either way, it makes speciation a moot point in the debate, as both creationist and evolutionist views would not expect speciation. 

7.2.09

The not-so-recent trojan in iWork

I'm baffled by this headline: "BitTorrent copies of iWork '09 may contain nasty Trojan"

http://www.tuaw.com/2009/01/22/bittorrent-copies-of-iwork-09-may-contain-nasty-trojan/

What?  This is news?  To me, this sounds like "Software downloaded from porn sites may contain viruses".  It should be fairly obvious that the principle of caveat emptor doubly applies to black-market items.  Obvious enough that this doesn't make all the major news sites.

In addition, I didn't think that the major Mac demographic included a lot of torrenters.  Most Mac owners are rich enough that they can blow $80 on new software.  I do realize that there are exceptions (in fact, I am one of them), but I didn't realize that this was that popular. 

4.2.09

All operating systems stink...

....Mac OS just stinks less.  Which is why I think Apple's new slogan should be "Stink Different" =]

Aside from that, we've got two weeks until we have to ship the robot...so life will be really crazy now.  I've got 2000+ unread articles to catch up on...

And my last thought for the day: Stay away from myspanishlab.com.  It's interface is one of the worst interfaces ever.  And there's bugs, too.  I get way too stressed trying to do spanish homework...

24.1.09

The silence of the blog

Yes, I'm aware I have a blog.  Three, actually.  And one has next to nothing on it.  Yes, I'm aware that it's been an inordinately long time since I've posted anything.  Yes, I'm aware that I should probably change that.

But I'm too busy right now.  My life is pretty much school, work, and FIRST robotics in my spare time.  No time for blogging.  And this week is WCS's SIAW, which I've been asked to come back to lead the tech crew for.  That's an amazing honor, especially considering their typical policy on this. 

So, I'm not dead.  In fact, I've got a bunch of ideas running around in my head that are begging to be blogged about.  Some software stuff, some worldview stuff, and maybe a few other cool projects as well.  And, of course, FIRST Robotics and whatnot. 

But, right now I've got some code to write up. 

P.S. One thing: knockoff food companies have some of the most ridiculous product names ever.  Try ChipTastic cookies.  Or Cream Betweens.  And my all-time favorite: Mountain Holler Radical Citrus Thirst Blaster. 

9.1.09

"Free Inquiry" on "Separation of Church and State"

From the same page:

"Separation of church and state. The United States needs to adhere to the First Amendment. We call upon President Obama to rise above his campaign rhetoric on this issue and end public support for faith-based charities as a violation of the First Amendment."

I had no clue that this was that widespread of a misconception.  Anyone want to explain to me how supporting a 'faith-based charity' 'prohibits the free exercise of [religion]'?  I'd also like to see what organizations the government is supporting, and how they are doing that.  I suppose they have ground if they're supported in a tax law of some sort, although that's stretching the definition of 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion'. 

Unfortunately, most people just have a vague idea of what the First Amendment really says, and what it relates to.  And most of these vague ideas are influenced by people who are saying that 'separation of church and state' is in the Constitution.  If the blind lead the blind, will they not both fall into a ditch?

"Free Inquiry" on the religion of the US President

"Free Inquiry" is a publication by the Council for Secular Humanism.  I take the following excerpt from this webpage:

"The U.S. Constitution states that “no religious test shall ever be required” to hold “any office or public trust.” Yet surveys still show that a majority of Americans would not vote for an atheist candidate for president. Clearly there is more work to be done to realize a truly secular society."

What?  They are arguing that America is not secular enough--but why on earth did they need to put in that quote from the Constitution?  My first impression was that they were arguing that it is unconstitutional for the American people to elect a president based on his* religion.  It still seems to me that they are implying that. 

However, that argument is nonsensical.  The Constitution does not say what the American populace should use to determine their choice of a president.  It instead prevents presidential candidates from being legally disqualified based on religion.  Not that the American populace cannot or even should not chose a president based on religion.  That is not within the scope of the Constitution's power.

Maybe I'm just being picky or argumentative, but it does seem to me that if they weren't implying this, there would be no point in including the quote from the Constitution.  It just doesn't make sense. 

* Yes, I meant his.  Not his/hers.  Not h/i/er/s.  Those are superfluous and, besides, they're bad grammar. 

8.1.09

What is wrong with Microsoft's Live service

I signed up for Microsoft live to give me access to SkyDrive and to allow me to use MSN (because some people are that way...). 

But I decided to go ahead and set up my Live email account to be fetched from my Gmail account (which is a really nifty thing to do).  But, lo and behold, you can only use POP fetching on a Live *Plus* account.  Not a regular one.  So, I decided to have Live just forward my emails to my Gmail account.  However, apparently you can only forward emails to other Microsoft accounts, or custom domains. 

And this is what is wrong: there is no good reason for them to limit either of those.  I mean, name me one other free email account provider that doesn't allow you to use POP on your email.  Or forward your email to whomever you want.  Microsoft is intentionally crippling the Live service to make people want to pay for their Plus service, and to lock them into using other Microsoft accounts.  They want their business; but instead of giving them more business, most people are going to go look for something else that provides those features every email account has had for the last ten years for free. 

5.1.09

An amazing car audio player

I ran across this while browsing the net:

http://wps.com/projects/MP3-system/

This guy is amazing.  (Check out some of his other projects--they're pretty awesome as well.)  He has the idea behind a car audio player right.  No fancy buttons or anything; make something that does one thing, and does it well.  Well enough that you don't have to worry about looking to see what you're doing while you're driving.  The whole setup is worth looking at.