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Quote of the Day
Apr 30th, 2010 by Ken Hagler

For both par­ties: I know what you’re think­ing. “Are the Amer­i­can peo­ple real­ly so stu­pid and blind­ed by par­ti­san­ship that they won’t real­ize we were mak­ing pre­cise­ly the oppo­site argu­ments just four years ago?” The answer is: Yes! Yes they are!

Radley Balko

Bad documentation writing
Apr 29th, 2010 by Ken Hagler

From the VMware Work­sta­tion man­u­al:

Use vir­tu­al machi­nes or sys­tem images cre­at­ed with prod­ucts from oth­er com­pa­nies such as Nor­ton, Syman­tec, and Stor­age­Craft.

Some­one isn’t very good at check­ing their facts. I do have to won­der how some­one man­ages to find out that Syman­tec has a sys­tem imag­ing pro­duct with­out know­ing that Nor­ton is a Syman­tec brand name. You’d think the logo on the box or web site would be a clue.

Portico revisited
Apr 28th, 2010 by Ken Hagler

Apple Acquires Siri.

Tim­o­thy Hay:

Apple Inc. has acquired Siri Inc. just a few months after the
start-up’s voice-activated personal-assistant pro­gram launched
in the App Store, an investor in San Jose-based Siri told
Ven­tureWire.

[Dar­ing Fire­ball]

I down­load­ed the Siri app on my iPad, and it reminds me a lot of the long-dead “Por­ti­co” ser­vice from Gen­er­al Mag­ic. How­ev­er, I think an app that runs on a hand­held device is con­sid­er­ably more use­ful than the phone-based Por­ti­co.

Silly Hollywood cliché
Apr 23rd, 2010 by Ken Hagler

Peo­ple who make movies and TV shows seem to think that hand­held radios will work through any amount of stone, dirt, or met­al, and with no more than min­i­mal inter­fer­ence. You’d think that at some point they’d have noticed that their cell phones don’t work in cer­tain con­di­tions.

Indian vs. US copyright law
Apr 22nd, 2010 by Ken Hagler

India's copyright proposals are un-American (and that's bad). India has long been one of the few countries on the US Special 301 "Priority Watch List" (PDF) as one of the world's top offenders when it comes to piracy and copyright infringement. While the inclusion of Canada (yes, Canada) on this list has always seem patently bizarre to us, the case for India is more easily made.

Here's how bad it is: "The piracy rate for music in the online space is estimated at 99%... India was among the top 10 countries in the world for illegal filesharing (P2P) activities... In one case, pamphlets were being distributed with the morning newspaper offering pirated software and referring readers to the website www.cd75dvd150.20m.com to place orders... It is estimated that India's cable companies declare only 20% of their subscribers and that the piracy level in this market is at 80% with significant losses... The sale of high-risk trade books at traffic junctions in New Delhi appears to be a lesson; last year it was at epidemic proportions." [Ars Technica]

Clearly the cultural approach to works of art is different in India than it is in the United States. In the United States, copyright law exists "to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." What this means in concrete terms is that US copyright law is bought and paid for in its entirety by a very large corporation to ensure that a man who died in 1966 is motivated to continue working.

We can tell how successful those US copyright laws have been at fulfilling their stated purpose by the fact that India has been producing more films per year than the US since the 1970s.

How to make your manual really long
Apr 20th, 2010 by Ken Hagler

From the VMware Work­sta­tion man­u­al:

Work­sta­tion sup­ports vir­tu­al machi­nes with 64‐bit guest oper­at­ing sys­tems only on host machi­nes that have one of the sup­port­ed 64‐bit proces­sors. When you pow­er on a vir­tu­al machine with a 64‐bit guest oper­at­ing sys­tem, Work­sta­tion per­forms an inter­nal check. If the host CPU is not a sup­port­ed 64‐bit proces­sor, you can­not pow­er on the vir­tu­al machine.

[snip four lines]

Work­sta­tion sup­ports vir­tu­al machi­nes with 64‐bit guest oper­at­ing sys­tems only on host machi­nes that have one of the sup­port­ed 64‐bit proces­sors. When you pow­er on a vir­tu­al machine with a 64‐bit guest oper­at­ing sys­tem, Work­sta­tion per­forms an inter­nal check. If the host CPU is not a sup­port­ed 64‐bit proces­sor, you can­not pow­er on the vir­tu­al machine.

I guess some­body was get­ting paid by the page.

More lives destroyed by the government
Apr 19th, 2010 by Ken Hagler

Cold and Cru­el in Sono­ma Coun­ty.

The Nation­al Cen­ter on Les­bian Rights points to a civil rights suit 77-year-old Clay Greene has filed again­st Sono­ma Coun­ty, Cal­i­for­nia. Accord­ing to the suit, when Harold, Greene’s part­ner of 20 years, fell ill, the coun­ty refused to let Greene vis­it him in the hos­pi­tal, despite the couple’s metic­u­lous efforts to name one anoth­er in their wills, pow­ers of attor­ney, and med­ical direc­tive doc­u­ments. The coun­ty then went to court to argue that the local gov­ern­ment should be given con­trol of Harold’s finances, which for 20 years had also been Greene’s. (The coun­ty referred to Greene as a “room­mate.”)

Despite an unfa­vor­able rul­ing, the coun­ty appar­ent­ly auc­tioned off the couple’s assets any­way. Accord­ing to the law­suit, the coun­ty then ter­mi­nat­ed the couple’s lease, removed Greene from his home, and con­fined him to a nurs­ing home again­st his will. Greene’s part­ner died three months lat­er. The two weren’t allowed to meet dur­ing that three months. Greene has since been released from the nurs­ing home, but says he has noth­ing left. The coun­ty took every­thing he has.

This of course is only one half of a law­suit. But unless the claims that Greene and his part­ner had all their legal work in order are false—and that seems like some­thing that would be too easy to prove for Greene’s attor­ney to have exaggerated—Sonoma County’s actions here are unspeak­ably cru­el.

The county’s treat­ment of Greene and his part­ner is being por­trayed in the blo­gos­phere as anti-gay big­otry, and that may well be true. But it also may be just anoth­er exam­ple of gov­ern­ment abus­ing the elder­ly to get its hands on their stuff.

[The Agi­ta­tor]

I don’t think it’s nec­es­sar­i­ly one or the oth­er. Anti-gay big­otry may well have helped the gov­ern­ment decide who exact­ly to attack, in much the same way that cops have his­tor­i­cal­ly pre­ferred to per­se­cute peo­ple with brown skin.

Nothing really changes in Washington
Apr 17th, 2010 by Ken Hagler

Abuse of Pow­er Gets a Pass, Report­ing It Gets Jail Time.

Here’s Glenn Green­wald on the Oba­ma administration’s pros­e­cu­tion of NSA whistle­blow­er Thomas Drake, and it’s out­ra­geous tri­umphal­ism after win­ning an indict­ment.

As Green­wald writes, it’s now clear that Obama’s “Look For­ward, Not Back­ward” phi­los­o­phy applies only to high-ranking Bush admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials who abused their pow­er and posi­tion. The peo­ple who risked their careers and free­dom to come for­ward to report on those abus­es won’t be get­ting the same con­sid­er­a­tion. Or put anoth­er way: If you break the law to expand the pow­er of gov­ern­ment at the expense of the peo­ple, you get a pass. But if you break the law to make gov­ern­ment more trans­par­ent and account­able, expect them to throw the book at you.

[The Agi­ta­tor]

Anoth­er exam­ple of how noth­ing has changed, regard­less of who occu­pies the White House.

More government atrocities
Apr 13th, 2010 by Ken Hagler

The Grey­hound Sta­tion Gulag. New Orleans res­i­dent Abdul­rah­man Zeitoun was with three friends in the liv­ing room when the loot­ers came. Like most of the armed crim­i­nal gangs afflict­ing the city in Katrina’s wake, the maraud­ers who con­front­ed Mr. Zeitoun wore government-issued cos­tumes.

Before the day’s end, the Syrian-born U.S. cit­i­zen — who had spent days pad­dling through the flood­ed streets in a canoe, ren­der­ing what aid he could to peo­ple trapped in their ruined homes — would be con­fined in a makeshift deten­tion camp mod­eled after the noto­ri­ous facil­i­ty in Guan­tanamo Bay, Cuba.

No for­mal crim­i­nal charges were filed again­st Zeitoun. When he protest­ed the denial of his due process rights and rudi­men­ta­ry decen­cies of liv­ing, he was told by the guards that he was under the juris­dic­tion of FEMA (the Fed­er­al Emer­gen­cy Man­age­ment Agen­cy) — which meant that he was some­body else’s prob­lem.

[…]

Always the pro­ce­dure was the same,” nar­rates Eggers, “a pris­on­er would be removed from his cage and dragged to the ground near­by, in full view of the rest of the pris­on­ers. His hands and feet would be tied, and then, some­times with a guard’s knee on his back, he would be sprayed direct­ly in the face” with pep­per spray. “If the pris­on­er protest­ed,” con­tin­ues Eggers, “the knee would dig deep­er into his back. The spray­ing would con­tin­ue until his spir­it was bro­ken. Then he would be doused with [a] buck­et and returned to his cage.”

The­se rit­u­al acts of sadism, Eggers observes, were “born of a com­bi­na­tion of oppor­tu­ni­ty, cru­el­ty, ambiva­lence, and sport.” They were intend­ed to tor­ment the oth­er pris­on­ers, most of whom — like Zeitoun — were made nau­seous with sup­pressed rage by the spec­ta­cle of help­less men being tor­tured.

The vic­tims includ­ed one dis­turbed man with the intel­lec­tu­al and emo­tion­al capac­i­ty of a child who was “pun­ished” because he dis­played the irre­press­ible symp­toms of men­tal ill­ness.

Under any nor­mal cir­cum­stances [Zeitoun] would have leapt to the defense of a man vic­tim­ized as that man had been,” observes Eggers. “But that he had to watch, help­less, know­ing how depraved it was — this was pun­ish­ment for the oth­ers, too. It dimin­ished the human­i­ty of them all.”

[…]

At the slight­est excuse those who pre­sume to rule us will treat us exact­ly as Abdul­rah­man Zeitoun was treat­ed. Before being kid­napped and impris­oned by the gov­ern­ment, Zeitoun nev­er sus­pect­ed that a poten­tial gulag was lurk­ing inside the local Grey­hound sta­tion. He sees the world much dif­fer­ent­ly now, as should we all. [Pro Lib­er­tate]

Shocking news: employees work harder than slaves!
Apr 10th, 2010 by Ken Hagler

Should Kids Be Bribed To Do Well In School?. theodp writes “Har­vard econ­o­mist Roland Fry­er Jr. did some­thing edu­ca­tion researchers almost nev­er do: he ran a ran­dom­ized exper­i­ment in hun­dreds of class­rooms in Chicago, Dal­las, Wash­ing­ton and New York to help answer a con­tro­ver­sial ques­tion: Should Kids Be Bribed to Do Well in School? He used most­ly pri­vate mon­ey to pay 18,000 kids a total of $6.3 mil­lion and brought in a team of researchers to help him ana­lyze the effects. He got death threats, but he car­ried on. His find­ings? If incen­tives are designed wise­ly, it appears, pay­ments can indeed boost kids’ per­for­mance as much as or more than many oth­er reforms you’ve heard about before — and for a frac­tion of the cost.”

[Slash­dot]

I should think that it would be obvi­ous that paid employ­ees will always per­form bet­ter than unpaid slave labor­ers. But then, I sup­pose it’s not obvi­ous to peo­ple whose knowl­edge of his­to­ry comes from the pub­lic schools.

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