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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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