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Archive for the 'Politics' Category

Why we should un-bundle Windows

Posted in Geekery, Politics on October 8th, 2007

Con Zymaris posts a pretty well-reasoned treatise on why we need to take regulatory action and force manufacturers to stop bundling Windows with new computers.

For the most part, I heartily agree with him. Where I disagree, is his closing statement:

Question: How is it possible to provide for both consumers who demand Windows and also ensure a fair and open marketplace for competing platforms?

Answer:That’s the $64 billion question, isn’t it? Here’s how it can be done.

All hardware manufacturers should ship personal computers with no pre-installed operating system. They should include within the packaging of the computer a media copy of the then current Microsoft Windows recovery CD. They should also include a copy of one of the main Linux distributions which are freely-redistributable at no charge.

Upon unpacking the computer, the consumer must then make a choice of either:

1. loading Windows from the Windows recovery media, then using the brochure included with the recovery media to contact Microsoft and through some form of financial transaction, acquire a licence to use Windows, or

2. load the Linux operating system from the CD/DVD included, and use it as their computer operating system.

(Legal bits:Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of this document, provided this permission notice is preserved on all copies.)

I have two major problems with this statement:

1) The average computer user is not skilled enough to install an operating system. You’d like to think that they are, but having worked in both retail and corporate computer support, I can tell you truthfully that John and Jane Doe are clueless about the procedure, and more importantly don’t want to learn.

They can barely get through unpacking it and plugging all of the color-coded connectors in the right place. Once they’ve gotten that far they just want to be able to turn the thing on and have it work. Shit, have you ever looked at the installation manual for a Dell computer? It’s a glossy color poster with pictograms on it because that’s all the average user can manage.

2) Mr. Zymaris keeps referring to a Windows “restore CD”. A restore cd is typically a digital image of a hard drive that has had Windows installed on it and configured for a fresh user, then packaged into a nicely useful two- or three-click install procedure. And those three clicks are usually “Are you sure?” A Linux install CD, however, is packed with options and choices that John and Jane Doe won’t know the answers to.

If you really want to level the playing field, give them a restore CD for Windows and another one in a popular Linux flavor that has had equal care given to the configuration. Better yet, do what Dell has (grudgingly) done and offer either OS pre-installed. There is no reason the user should be forced to do the final install. Have you ever seen a car dealer that would sell you an upgraded stereo option – and then make you install it yourself?

On top of that, the manufacturer should provide the same level of support for both OSes. J&J D might be willing to give Linux a try if they knew they could call someone for help – and it needs to be real help too, not the typical “oh, you have installed unsupported software on your system so now I can’t help you” bullshit.

So what I would like to see is three options for configuring a computer on the manufacturer’s website: No OS, Windows, or Linux. That way you have the choice of rolling your own, taking the safe road, or taking the scenic route and seeing something new.

We will likely never see this happen though. At the retailer level such as Best Buy or CompUSA, it means they have to devote more shelf space to each individual product to showcase both factory-supported options, which will cause some griping and foot-dragging. At the manufacturer level, the same grumping will happen due to the increased training and staffing required to fully support a second option. Combine these two, and you have a lot of lobbying dollars going toward backing up Microsoft and maintaining the status quo.

If the un-bundling were to happen, you would not see a reduction in price for probably a couple of years as the manufacturers and retailers paid for the extra training and shelf space.

Just my two cents.

Kill the labels please.

Posted in Media, Politics on October 7th, 2007

This shit has gone too far. In the UK, the Performing Rights Society (which collects royalties for songwriters and performers) is suing a chain of auto shops for allowing their employees to play their radios loud enough that everyone around them can hear. They say this amounts to “public performance”, and is therefore a violation of copyright. The PRS is seeking £200,000 in damages.


Okay, now if we combine that with the RIAA’s claim that “making downloads available” (I.E., having music in a shared folder accessible by a P2P client) is just as bad as actively uploading / downloading music, then there is only one possible next step: the music labels will be banding together to sue anyone who owns a radio capable of outputting a signal to anything larger than a pair of earbud headphones.

Because, obviously, having speakers larger than earbud ‘phones means they could conceivably be turned up load enough for the neighbors or passers-by to hear, which is the equivalent of “making available”, so those people have “made available” their music for public performance. The same would go double for car-stereo owners equipped with amplifiers powerful enough to make the music heard beyond the confines of the car.

I hereby urge all musicians to use whatever means necessary to extricate yourself from any recording contracts you may have and use the technology available in the marketplace today to self-publish, because obviously the major labels are bent on completely alienating your entire fanbase. In years past, having a contract with a label was the only way to be heard; in this day and age, there’s no reason you couldn’t self-publish or deal directly with iTunes and other distribution points.

Ye. Fucking. Gods.


Posted in Geekery, Politics on May 11th, 2007

From Forbes

LONDON (Thomson Financial) – Microsoft Corp and Apple Inc could face a possible lawsuit for failing to include measures to control access to copyrighted material in products such as Vista OS, iTunes and the iPod, two companies have warned.

MRT and Bluebeat said the failure to use an available copyright protection solution contravenes the Digital Millennium Copyright Act…

So, if you follow their logic, the producer of the world’s safest automobile could conceivably sue anyone who isn’t driving their cars for public endangerment. Doctors and hospitals could sue bandage manufacturers for enabling the public to do without their services.

If the judge doesn’t just laugh them out of court, I will personally hunt him down so I can ask him to share whatever it is he’s on.

God’s Golden Gonads!

Posted in Politics on February 4th, 2007

What the FUCK is this world coming to? This is one of those stories that you just can’t make up:

‘Electric Slide’ on slippery DMCA slope | CNET

The inventor of the “Electric Slide,” an iconic dance created in 1976, is fighting back against what he believes are copyright violations and, more importantly, examples of bad dancing.

Okay, I am all for people being able to copyright their works of intellectual property (for a reasonable amount of time), but this goes too fucking far. Patenting a movement of the human body? 28 years after the fact?!? And then enforcing that patent because someone isn’t doing it quite right ?!!?

I’m sorry, but this is just too much. 28 years is just too long a gap between invention and patent. I could understand a gap of two years or so – plenty of time for you to do market assessments to discover if the cost of filing a patent will be worth the effort.

But 28?

Here’s a message for the folks at the Patent Office: you have the perfect opportunity here to show the world that you have a pair and shut this idiocy down. If the law prevents you from doing this, bury this shit in paperwork until it doesn’t.

Please. I’m beggin’ here.

ICANN, Net Neutrality and U.S. Control

Posted in Politics on July 16th, 2006

There’s been some hubbub lately over how well ICANN is running things and other interests. I honestly can’t pick one side or the other for these topics, so I’m asking you – what do you think?

Should the United States give up control of the Internet, and if so, who should take over?

This is a tough one for me. Since an American agency invented and deployed the initial Internet system before openning it up to the world, I think we should retain control of the higher functions and further development. This was all taxpayer money, so it basically belongs to all Americans who pay taxes. (Yes, I know this is a rather grandiose viewpoint, bear with me.)

Mostly, I am afraid that any organization formed to control the internet on a global scale is going to become way too much like the U.N. – basically useless due to internecine politics. Any new governing body would have to be a-political – which can’t be done.

Net Neutrality
I go back and forth so much over this one it’s a tennis match. It seems logical that telcos should be able to charge extra to heavy bandwidth users. On the other end, it gets swampy quick.

Case in point: when I was running high-speed data downtown, we once lost service for a whole week. Seems that on a Saturday morning, some nitwit punched through a fiber trunk with a backhoe. Now, that line was owned by Company A, which leased access to Company B, which sub-let it to Company C, which sub-sub-let to Company D.The physical problem took only a day to fix, but it took another day for each of the Companies in turn to verify the work completed. In this example setup, which company gets to actually charge for the faster bandwidth? Do all 4 companies get to charge? How will this affect the end-user?

Anyone have any insight?

…I.R.S. taketh away…

Posted in Life, Politics on March 8th, 2006

…then gives it back, and takes it again.

I got a note from the Oregon Dept. of Revenue a while back saying they were going to take money from my Fed return to repay back Oregon taxes – no surprise, I expected it. Sure enough, they nipped $401 and change. Cool, I don’t have to write any more checks to them.

Then I get a note on Friday that they were going to nip another $405 and change from my state return.


Monday, I figured out how the state gets away with all of their “miscalculations” – they take the phone connected to their 1-800 number off the hook during tax time. Either that, or they have pissed off about a million people, because I tried calling them over 15 times in two days, and never got anything but a busy signal between 8am and 6pm.

Today, I figured out what happened when I checked my mail. There is apparently some stupid rule someplace that says they can nick your Fed return, but if they later discover that you would still get a state refund, they give the original money back then nick the money from your state return. I got a check for the original $401+.

Some of you may have noticed the difference in the amounts. That would be the additional month of interest, since I technically had not paid those taxes, since they attached the Federal money unnecessarily.

Yeah, that’s what I said.

From the Bench: ID unconstitutional!

Posted in Politics on December 20th, 2005


HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (AP) — “Intelligent design” cannot be mentioned in biology classes in a Pennsylvania public school district, a federal judge said Tuesday, ruling in one of the biggest courtroom clashes on evolution since the 1925 Scopes trial.

Dover Area School Board members violated the Constitution when they ordered that its biology curriculum must include the notion that life on Earth was produced by an unidentified intelligent cause, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III said.

Several members repeatedly lied to cover their motives even while professing religious beliefs, he said.

That’s right, folks, the Judge caught the proponents of ID outright lying to him in an effort to prove their case any way they could. Here’s a hint: if you have to lie to change someone’s mind, then chances are you’re WRONG!

And don’t go off about how the Judge made a snap decision based on his own beliefs or something – the man sat down and wrote a 139-page dissertation on his legal opinion.

Bye-bye, thanks for playing.

Maybe we don’t need to Act quite so Patriotic

Posted in Politics on December 16th, 2005


WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate on Friday refused to reauthorize major portions of the USA Patriot Act after critics complained they infringed too much on Americans’ privacy and liberty, dealing a huge defeat to the Bush administration and Republican leaders.

This debate has been going back-and-forth for some time now, with fervent opinion from both sides. For example:

“The time for Democrats to stop standing in the way has come.” –White House press secretary Scott McClellan.

Funy, here’s what one of the Republican nay-sayers had to say:

“Those that would give up essential liberties in pursuit in a little temporary security deserve neither liberty nor security,” –Sen. John Sununu, R-New Hampshire

You tell ’em, Johnny!

You can fin a list of the dying provisions here.

Where have you been lately?

Posted in Politics on December 7th, 2005

There’s been alot of action lately on the topic of disappearing fuel-tax dollars as fuel-efficient vehicles become more prevalent, and what the government is going to do about it. Here’s the recap:

The State governments tax fuel sales, and put this money toward road maintenance. A sensible plan, since you can easily derive the average fuel-efficiency of the automobile, and tax per gallon accordingly. Sure, some cars are better than others, but all-in-all, every driver will pay their fair share for the public roads. But what happens when all the cars start getting better fuel economy? Fuel-tax dollars shrink, and soon there isn’t enough money to pave the roads. So what do you do?

Well, the obvious answer is to either monitor each vehicle’s mileage and charge individually or enact toll roads. Each have their problems.

Toll roads I have talked about before, but only as a method of reducing traffic. In this instance, every driver would be charged for crossing a certain stretch of road. These fees may even be based on a sliding scale, with rush-hour fees higher than off-hour fees. I can see the potential for alot of user uproar with this idea, as well as an infra-structural nightmare: cars being forced to stop at several points on their route, dragging traffic to a standstill. Rush-hour traffic is already a nightmare, and I can’t see this helping it any.

On the plus side of things, though, it maximizes privacy, especially if the toll can be paid with cash.

Monitoring mileage is a simple idea at first, until you remember that you can only charge for the miles driven in the state of residence. In a city like Portland, where Washington is only a few miles away, a significant portion of your driving may be done across state lines, and it would be illegal to tax you for them at the State level. The most-pushed solution idea at this time is to install a GPS tracking device into each vehicle, and monitor their mileage that way. Simple idea, yes?

Here’s why: privacy. If the GPS monitors your driving at all times, that means a detailed map of your travels can be put together to show where you’ve been – and all the talkers to this point have neglected any sort of plan to make those records private in any way.

Now, legally there is precedent that you can have no expectation of privacy while driving, and any eyewitness testimony or camera footage is admissable in a court of law without a warrant. By and large this isn’t an issue, since most folks don’t care where I’ve been. But what if I have some personal and perfectly legal reason to want to remain anonymous? Should any Tom, Dick or Harry have the ability to point a scanner at my car and get my car’s exact whereabouts for the past week? Should advertising executives be able to pull my car’s records to find out where I have been shopping?

A loud and resounding NO! fills the air.

So, we’re back to where we started – tax revenues will eventually dry up, leaving our roads in disrepair. I can’t see toll roads doing anything other than slowing traffic down, and I certainly don’t want anyone knowing exactly where I am or have been at any given moment. So what do we do?

Variation on a theme. Install the GPS units, but tie them to the odometer in such a fashion that they only count the miles while inside the State borders. It is very easy to define those borders into the software, and then the state gets to tax for the actual miles driven while I retain the fiction of privacy.

Another option is to simply move the taxes into the Federal realm, and have the money distributed on the basis of registered vehicles per state. To make it easier on the taxpayer, you still install an odometer monitor in each vehicle, but you license filling stations to read the meter. The driver merely has to stop in at the pumps once a month for their reading. The taxpayer would still pay the same taxes as now, just more formally.

As always, write your Rep and let them know how you feel.

Dover school board booted out

Posted in Politics on November 10th, 2005

From The Register:

All eight Dover, Pennsylvania school board members up for re-election have been booted out after introducing intelligent design to the science classroom. In their place are a number of those who campaigned against the policy.

Three cheers for Dover, PA!

To the commentor from the previous post, who says that nasty little annoyances like mosquitos, fleas and the fossil record are “a test of faith”:

Faith that keeps you going when everything is against you is a wonderful thing. I wholly applaud those whose personal faith in their God allows them to overcome odds and obstacles in their life.

Faith as an excuse for not using your brain or thinking for yourself is a crime against humanity. Just because the clergy are in the habit of referring to their constituents as a ‘flock’ does not mean you should be sheep! Cramming that faith down the gullet of children in a publicly-funded school curriculum is a clear viloation of the First Amendment to the Constitution’s Bill of Rights. To wit:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

You can argue that the school board is not Congress, or that ID is not favoring an establishment of religion due to the omission of the phrase “by God” in the official thesis. The truth of the matter is that ‘Intelligent Design’ is just the Creation story with some pretty makeup on. This is a subject that should not be taught in public schools. To satisfy your complaint that science teachers should teach that Darwinism is not the only theory, I propose that all science textbooks henceforth contain the following:

“Not everyone believes in the Darwin Theory of Evolution”

Science classes are where we go to learn science, not religion. I leave that to the qualified folks down at the local center of worship.