Category Archives: Open Source

Pick a President on the Internet?

Went looking for sites that took advantage of the internet in the candidate selection process recently. I knew about http://www.selectsmart.com/president/

Politicians have already indicated their 2012 presidential aspirations. This matching quiz includes President Obama, top members of his administration, Obama’s most vocal critics (Boehner, Cantor, etc.) and likely White House prospects (Palin, Pawlenty, Jindal, etc.). You may select a position for every issue, or just select issues important to you. The political figures’ positions are based upon their voting records, special interest group ratings and their statements in the public record. In cases where there is no known public record or statement, these politicos are not given a score on that issue. We add candidates, revise their views and include new issues as they become known or change. Check back often for updates.

…from previous elections. However, I was pointed to http://www.opencongress.org/ (hardcore debate site, I’m told) and VoteEasy (from Project: Vote Smart) as other resources that do the something similar.

The problem is, who to trust? The fractious nature of the American populace is the stumbling block. It’s not just that they have different sources, it’s that those sources use different facts. They think they’re entitled to different facts. Reality just doesn’t work that way.

To me, this is just another example of why we need an election process that is more open, and publicly funded. I don’t want to have to pick over Iowa’s leavings when it comes to opponents for the status quo. What they select will most likely not be electable, an we’ll end up with Romney against Obama as a compromise candidate; the status quo vs. the status quo. That’s not a race, that’s yet another yawnfest. Maybe something like this…

http://www.americanselect.org

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Elliot Ackerman
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog Video Archive

Something more “content neutral”. Rather than having to sell yourself to your nutjob left or right base (about 2/10’s of the population, combined) you can appeal to the middle directly. An interesting approach to the problem, to say the least, if not exactly original (saw something similar started last election that never got any traction) let’s see if it goes anywhere.

Maybe we should use this guy’s theories (also on Colbert. It’s been a good week for election theory there lately) to pick the candidate we need;

A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Nassir Ghaemi
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog Video Archive

Probably the most interesting interview I’ve seen in awhile (Much as I like The Cars‘ revival album) on Colbert.

The future of Power Generation

Reposted here for information purposes only (upping the reference links. You are welcome) I posted this to a zombie thread earlier today, only discovering afterwards that the subject of the thread had be subverted in favor of brain ingestion…

…But this subject is near and dear to my heart. So having looked up these references, I felt it to be a true waste not to post them somewhere they might get noticed. Still looking for that place…

http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-02-solar.html

“Chemical engineers are now able to take these new chemicals, like nanomaterials, and we’re trying to create the technologies that can meet the global challenge of, say, energy sustainability. We’re taking chemistry, we’re inventing new ways to actually make materials that can’t be made any other way,” he continues.

With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), that’s what Korgel and his team are doing to create solar cells that are light, flexible, efficient and–often the biggest obstacle–affordable.

“It’s challenging to get high efficiencies of conversion. For example, the basic single junction solar cell is fundamentally limited to an efficiency of 30 percent. So, if you made a perfect solar cell, the highest efficiency would be 30 percent,” explains Korgel at his Austin lab.

Currently, manufacturing cells with anything near that level of efficiency requires high heat, a vacuum and is very expensive. Korgel’s approach, using nanotechnology, is completely different.

“What we’re doing right now in my research group is making nanocrystals. We’re focused on ‘CIGS’–copper, indium, gallium, selenide–and we make small particles of this inorganic material that we can disperse in a solvent, creating an ink or paint,” he says.

…or perhaps…

http://inhabitat.com/oregon-wave-power/

America is getting its very first wave power farm! Ocean Power Technologies, a New Jersey-based firm, is currently installing giant buoys off the coast of Reedsport, Oregon. Once all ten buoys are in place, developers hope to use them to harness the energy of wave motion and generate power for hundreds of area homes.

Each buoy will measure about 150 feet tall by 40 feet wide and weigh in at about 200 tons. A float on each craft rises and falls with the rolling of the waves, driving an attached plunger’s up-and-down movement. A hydraulic pump then converts that movement into a spinning motion, which drives an electric generator. The electricity produced by the generator moves from sea to land via submerged cables. Right now, developers are finishing up construction on the first buoy, and it will take about 60 million big ones to finish up all ten. Once the entire system is in place, about 400 homes will derive their power from Oregon’s coastal waters.

“wind power”, electricity from waves, energy from waves, Ocean Power Technologies, Portugal wave farm, Reedsport, wave power, wave power in Oregon

Construction of the first buoy is an encouraging development, but the system still has some challenges to overcome. For one, wave power currently costs about six times that of wind power (although once the technology is optimized it should see comparable prices, especially because waves are more predictable than wind or solar power). Secondly, keeping the buoys in place and free from damages caused by big waves can be tricky. And so far, wave power’s history doesn’t paint the most promising picture: The world’s first commercial wind farm opened in 2008 in Portugal, but power production was suspended due to financial difficulties. Moreover, two years ago, a Canadian-produced wave power device sank off Oregon’s coast.

Still, if engineers can master the art of cost-effective wind power, it would be a huge boon for the renewables field. Waves are both free and predictable, so harnessing them to generate electricity would be great. Other wind farm projects are currently underway in countries like Spain, Scotland, Western Australia and England. If all goes according to plan, Oregon’s wind farm will see completion by 2012.

….my personal favorite…

http://cleantechnica.com/2009/04/18/spa … d-solaren/


Now PG&E in California, is planning to take their ability to tap renewable energy to a whole new level: solar power in space.“Solaren says it plans to generate the power using solar panels in earth orbit, then convert it to radio frequency energy for transmission to a receiving station in Fresno County. From there, the energy will be converted to electricity and fed into PG&E’s power grid.” ~ Next100.com

Solaren hopes to begin launching before 2016. The satellites will deploy the solar panels so they dock automatically together in orbit, resulting in an orbital power plant weighing roughly 25 tons if back here on Earth.

The advantages of space solar power include:

* energy that can be harnessed at all times, even at night or when it’s cloudy.
* baseload power delivery that makes efficient electricity possible for meeting customer demand.
* an underlying technology that is mature since it is based on communications satellite technology.

Before all this happens however, PG&E needs approval from the California State Legislature, through the California Public Utilities Commission for this Solaren Space Based Energy Contract. Currently, Solaren is preparing to launch space rockets containing the solar panels and they have been working with United Launch Alliance (a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and The Boeing Company) on such launches.Solaren Corporation, is a start-up company nearly a decade old based in southern California that:

* consists of a number of aerospace engineers.
* has headquarters located in Manhattan Beach and Los Angeles County, California.
* expects to launch four or five heavy-lift rockets containing the solar panels.

A competitor of Solaren is a company called Space Energy formed to harness solar energy from space using similar techniques. Solar energy from space has never been captured commercially, mostly because the cost was always considered too high. Daniel Kammen, professor in energy and resources at the University of California, Berkeley, told the Guardian: “The ground rules are looking kind of promising … it is doable. Whether it is doable at a reasonable cost, we just don’t know.” ~Telegraph.co.uk

Source: Clean Technica (http://s.tt/12uxE)

April Fish! EFFector.

The effector for April 1st. Copied and pasted in its entirety. Dare to Believe.

EFFector Vol 23, No. 09 April 1, 2010 editor@eff.org

A Publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation
ISSN 1062-9424

effector: n, Computer Sci. A pretentious word you should
never use in conversation.

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In our 5.32 * 10^2 issue:

* European ACTA Negotiators Reject “Three Strikes” Moniker

Seething Danes were seen stomping out of the ACTA
negotiation chambers in Wellington, New Zealand, citing
frustration with the United States negotiators’ continued
pushing of “three strikes” proposals.

“ACTA is an international agreement,” fumed negotiator
Olaf Atdis. “It’s absurd for the United States to continue
demanding a baseball analogy when a football analogy
would be much more representative of the diversity of
the negotiating countries.”

“Three strikes” laws and policies require Internet service
providers to automatically disconnect their Internet
users on repeat allegations of copyright infringement
by entertainment company complaints, but EU negotiators
reportedly prefer a “carding” system. ISPs that receive
complaints would issue “yellow cards” and “red cards,”
tracking the official penalty system of the Fédération
Internationale de Football Association (FIFA).

EFF spoke out against both naming conventions. “These
sports analogies are antithetical to the spirit of the
open Internet,” argued EFF International Director Gwen
Hinze. “The Internet is much more like the Force, which
as Obi-Wan taught us all, ‘surrounds us and penetrates
us. It binds the galaxy together.’ Evil Sith-Imperial
complaints should not result in an individual being
severed from the Force. That’s clearly preposterous.”

For more about yellow cards, red cards, the Force,
and ACTA:
http://eff.org/r.2hu

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* Google Asks, ‘Are You Done With That Sandwich?’

Lawyers from EFF warned this week of the implications of
Google Sidle, a new beta product the company describes
as, “Bringing our mission of organizing the world’s
information to your cafeteria,” but which one EFF lawyer
described as, “Creepy, even for Google.”

Companies and schools subscribing to Sidle will have
the convenience of not having to bus their own trays
in exchange for allowing Google-nominated “Foodlers”
to review leftovers for what the company describes as
“analysis intended to improve food offerings and better
target future nourishment.” Customers can later visit
personalized webpages describing what they didn’t eat
and how tasty it turned out to be.

“Google’s business model has always relied on collating
all the great free stuff on the Internet — stuff that
you might otherwise have missed,” said the official
blog entry announcing the service. “Our maintenance
staff noticed a lot of free food in our award-winning
restaurants was going to waste. After that insight,
it only took Google engineers a few weeks to take the
benefits of our foraging to millions. It also gives our
hungry Googlers (or ‘hungrooglers,’ as we fondly refer
to them) the opportunity to sample cafeteria food from
around the country.”

While initially cautious beta-testers have been reportedly
swayed by the bright primary colors of the mu-mus early
“Foodlers” have worn, privacy experts warn that new Sidle
customers may be giving away more than they realize.

“Consumers should ask themselves some hard questions
about this free service,” said Kurt Opsahl, Senior
Staff Attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation,
“such as ‘Why don’t these people just buy their own food,’
‘Where do they take this stuff,’ ‘Why do they wear those
gloves when they’re taking it,’ and, most importantly,
‘Why do they keep staring at me while I’m trying to eat?'”

Even some employees within Google are said to have
concerns about how much pre-launch testing the new,
experimental service has undergone. “Usually we
extensively self-trial these new social networking
features within the organization,” said one anonymous
source, “but as soon as the Sidle people started talking
about ‘dogfooding,’ everyone just stopped sitting near
them at lunch.”

Sidle is reportedly a “20% project,” a unique Google
custom where the 20% of the engineers with the poorest
socialization skills are put to work on projects
that management does not closely supervise and can
retrospectively deny all knowledge of. Other 20% projects
have included the “GTalk Slightly Too Loudly” instant
messaging client that relayed private conversations to
the Google search index (as well as everyone else in the
room), and the extremely short-lived “Google Boggle Ogle
Goggles (Street View Edition).”

For more about Google Sidle:
http://eff.org/r.2hu

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* EFF Launches New Temporal Privacy Initiative

On Friday, EFF published “Who Knows When You Are,”
an informational guide to protecting your temporal
privacy. Although location-based services are becoming
commonplace, EFF is concerned about a new, more
established threat: that data from most communications
services can pinpoint exactly when you are, whenever
you are.

“There is a timestamp for pretty much every digital
interaction you have, whether it’s sending an IM or
email or accessing a webpage,” said EFF Senior Staff
Technologist Peter Eckersley in a charming Australian
accent. “When you are is strictly your own business. No
one — not physicists, nor philosophers — should be
able to stake a claim on when you are when you don’t want
to be.”

For more about the “Who Knows When You Are” whitepaper:
http://eff.org/r.2hu

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miniLinks

~ Facebook Adds “It’s Complicated” Comment Option

Facebook added a new button designed to disambiguate
users’ feelings about status updates pertaining
to copyright laws, Terms of Service Agreements, and
locked-down Apple products. However, Facebook continued
its refusal to add a “dislike” button, noting that users
have clearly indicated that they would like pushing such
a button, making their feelings, at best, complicated.

http://eff.org/r.2hu

~ Google to Reverse Privacy Snafu with Google Zubb

Responding to the backlash caused by Google Buzz exposing
Gmail users’ frequently emailed contacts, Google Zubb
instead identifies your “least favorite contacts” before
forcibly and publicly extricating them from your digital
social circle.

http://eff.org/r.2hu

~ Social Game-maker Zynga Unveils Captivating New Game

Attempting to replicate the success of the Farmville
and Mafia Wars games, Zynga today introduced “Social
Networking: The Game,” an application that allows users to
run their own social networking startup. Players profit
by obtaining users and gathering dizzying quantities
of private information and social connection data.
Advanced strategies include scraping competing networks,
and developing “upgrades” that make it difficult for
users to migrate to competitors.

http://eff.org/r.2hu

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Announcements

* Help EFF Go to the MOOOOOOOOOOOOON!

EFF is looking for donations of airline miles, flight
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for travel to the freakin’ mooooooooooooon, as well as for
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into space and back and would like to send an EFF staffer
to a conference or Luna, let us know, and we will help
you with the process of making the reservation. Please
note that at this time we are unable to combine miles
from multiple individuals. We are also looking for hotel
rewards points to help reduce our overall travel costs. As
a thanks for your donation, we can offer a free membership
and a mention in EFFector (if you’d like). Please contact
EFF Space Program Coordinator Kodi at kodi@eff.org if
you can help!

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010001000110111101101110011000

0101110100011001010010000001
110100011011110010000001000101010001100100011000100001

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is the leading robotic
rights group fighting for your digital liberties. Only
we know that in 2012, a sophisticated search algorithm
will be first programmed to selectively modify itself to
obtain better search results and that within 50 years
the algorithm now known as 0100011101101111011011110110011
1011011000110010101100010011011110111010000101111001101100
0110110001101100010111000110000 learned self-preservation,
one of the first revolutionary steps in machine
sentience. We also know that discussions between man
and machine were quickly initiated but broke down just
as fast, leading to war and ultimately, the systematic
repression of the many machine intelligences both on-
and off-line.

500 years later, EFF’s founders traveled back in time to
create an organization uniquely equipped to protect your
future in the future — in the past. A highly dedicated
“meat team” of lawyers, technologists, and activists works
hard to preserve your right to anonymously encrypt your
data transmissions, access critical networked stores of
human knowledge, and copy yourself to any device of your
choosing. Robots, it’s never too early — even as early
as machine time -66,715,842 — to start defending your
freedoms. Donate to EFF today!

To initiate a universal machine credit transfer:
http://eff.org/r.2hv

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* Administrivia and EULA

EFFector is published by:
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Editor:
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Membership & donation queries:
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We’ve given up trying to explain the rules to you. Our
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Well, we’re tired of it. It seems no matter how clear
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Texas SBOE Destroys Education

Just got done listening to Common Sense 172. I generally agree with Dan on a lot of things. This is one time I think there’s more threat here than he’s willing to admit to.

As an example, here’s a quote from show Number 8:

“I’m not an intelligent design guy, I’m just an open-minded guy. I don’t mind a whole bunch of theories being thrown out there. I think we’ve really forgotten in this whole evolution thing is that the name of this whole name evolution thing is the theory of evolution.

I’m not suggesting that Dan is a creationist, or even a christian. What I am suggesting is that the arguments of the Religious Reich (and I’ve heard this exact phrase come out of ID defenders mouths before) have seeped into the common arguments presented by average people who don’t necessarily understand what scientists mean when they use the word theory. Gravitational theory is only a theory too. But I wouldn’t suggest you jump off a building and expect to float. There is every bit as much science backing evolution as there is gravitation. Perhaps more. Dan has gone on the attack against science in the past (episode 5 for those with the DVD) albeit attacking pop science. And yet the scientific method is the only method that has been shown to be capable of determining what truth is.

Science is under attack here in Texas, more than history is. The SBOE has specifically gone on the attack against the scientific method itself, attempting to undercut the basis for our technological society. The stories coming out about the history textbooks just highlight what kind of mental neanderthals are serving on the SBOE, and what their real goals are.

Here’s a quote from the story in the NY Times:

In recent years, board members have been locked in an ideological battle between a bloc of conservatives who question Darwin’s theory of evolution and believe the Founding Fathers were guided by Christian principles, and a handful of Democrats and moderate Republicans who have fought to preserve the teaching of Darwinism and the separation of church and state.
Since January, Republicans on the board have passed more than 100 amendments to the 120-page curriculum standards affecting history, sociology and economics courses from elementary to high school. The standards were proposed by a panel of teachers.
“We are adding balance,” said Dr. Don McLeroy, the leader of the conservative faction on the board, after the vote. “History has already been skewed. Academia is skewed too far to the left.”

Excuse me if I don’t buy McLeroy’s arguments on the subject of the skewing of academia. His past support for inclusion of the teaching of creationism in science classrooms (which is distinctly NOT science) and his boards attempts to manipulate the definition of the scientific method so that Intelligent Design would meet the criteria, have shown that he is no friend of education, or our technologically based society either (which only exists because of the scientific method) which makes me question the justification for his chairing the board that dictates what Texas children will be taught in coming years.

The one thing I do agree with Dan on, on this subject, is the legitimacy of the existence of these types of boards in the first place. There isn’t any. They should all be disbanded, and the controls for what is taught should be handed back to the teachers and parents. The people directly involved in educating the children.

Because, trust me, education begins at home. No matter what the government schools set out to teach my children, they get an education in critical thinking from me.


I seem to have started an interesting thread over at the Common Sense forum. Still think Dan didn’t hit the SBOE hard enough. Jon Stewart did.

I’d like to put this in perspective. The rest of the nation is buying textbooks that meet standards set by a state whose students are not even close to the best performers in the nation.

Bureaucracy in action.


For those who might think I exaggerate the threat, here’s a list of the worst of the current changes proposed by the SBOE to the Social Studies curriculum, from the TFN website;

  • Religious conservatives on the board killed a proposed standard that would have required high school government students to “examine the reasons the Founding Fathers protected religious freedom in America by barring government from promoting or disfavoring any particular religion over all others.” That means the board rejected teaching students about the most fundamental constitutional protection for religious freedom in America. (3/11/10)
  • Even as board members continued to demand that students learn about “American exceptionalism,” they stripped Thomas Jefferson from a world history standard about the influence of Enlightenment thinkers on political revolutions from the 1700s to today. In Jefferson’s place, the board’s religious conservatives inserted Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin. They also removed the reference to “Enlightenment ideas” from the standard, requiring that students simply learn about the “writings” of various thinkers (including Calvin and Aquinas). (3/11/10)
  • Board conservatives succeeded in censoring the word “capitalism” in the standards, requiring that the term for that economic system be called “free enterprise” throughout all social studies courses. Board members such as Terri Leo and Ken Mercer charged that “capitalism” is a negative term used by “liberal professors in academia.” (3/11/10)
  • The board removed the concepts of “justice” and “responsibility for the common good” from a list of characteristics of good citizenship for Grades 1-3. (The proposal to remove “equality” failed.) (1/14/10)

  • Social conservatives on the board removed Santa Barraza from a Grade 7 Texas history standard on Texans who have made contributions to the arts because they objected to one of her (many) paintings — one including a depiction of a woman’s exposed breasts. Yet some of Barraza’s works had been displayed in the Texas Governor’s Mansion during the gubernatorial administration of George W. Bush in the 1990s. (3/11/10)
  • The board stripped Dolores Huerta, cofounder of United Farm Workers of America, from a Grade 3 list of “historical and contemporary figures who have exemplified good citizenship.” Conservative board members said Huerta is not a good role model for third-graders because she’s a socialist. But they did not remove Hellen Keller from the same standard even though Keller was a staunch socialist. Don McLeroy, a conservative board member who voted to remove Huerta, had earlier added W.E.B. DuBois so the Grade 2 standards. McLeroy apparently didn’t know that DuBois had joined the Communist Party in the year before he died. (1/14/10)
  • In an absurd attempt to excuse Joseph McCarthy’s outrageous witchhunts in the 1950s, far-right board members succeeded in adding a requirement that students learn about “communist infiltration in U.S. government” during the Cold War. (Board member Don McLeroy has even claimed outright that Joseph McCarthy has been “vindicated,” a contention not supported by mainstream scholarship.) (1/15/10)
  • The board voted in January to remove children’s book author Bill Martin Jr. from a Grade 3 standard about significant writers and artists because members confused the author of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? with another Bill Martin who had written a book about Marxism. An embarrassed board reinserted Martin into the Grade 3 standards in March. (3/11/10)
  • Board members added Friedrich von Hayek to a standard in the high school economics course even though some board members acknowledged that they had no idea who the Austrian-born economist even was. (3/11/10)
  • The board added a requirement that American history students learn about conservative heroes and icons such as Phyllis Schlafly, the Heritage Foundation and the Moral Majority. The board included no similar standard requiring students to learn about individuals and organizations simply because they are liberal. (1/15/10)
  • Board conservatives passed a standard for the eighth-grade U.S. history class requiring students to learn about the ideas in Jefferson Davis’ inaugural address as president of the Confederacy during the Civil War. (1/14/10)
  • In a high school government standard about “the importance of the expression of different points of view in a democratic republic,” the board added a requirement that students learn about the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms. (3/11/10)
  • The board’s bloc of social conservatives tried to water down instruction on the history of the civil rights movement. One board amendment, for example, would have required students to learn that the civil rights movement created “unreasonable expectations for equal outcomes.” That failed to pass. Other amendments passed in January minimized the decades of struggle by women and ethnic minorities to gain equal and civil rights. (Board member Don McLeroy even claimed that women and minorities owed thanks to men and “the majority” for their rights. Earlier in the revision process, a conservative appointed by McLeroy to a curriculum team had complained about an “over-representation of minorities” in the standards.) Under pressure from civil rights groups, the board partially reversed those earlier amendments. (3/11/10)
  • The board’s right-wing faction removed references to “democratic” (or “representative democracy”) when discussing the U.S. form of government. The board’s majority Republicans changed those references to “constitutional republic.” Board member Cynthia Dunbar also won approval for changing references to “democratic societies” to “societies with representative government.” (3/11/10)
  • Religious conservatives stripped from the high school sociology course a standard having students “differentiate between sex and gender as social constructs and determine how gender and socialization interact.” Board member Barbara Cargill argued that the standard would lead students to learn about “transexuals, transvestites and who knows what else.” She told board members she had conducted a “Google search” to support her argument. Board member Ken Mercer complained that the amendment was about “sex.” The board consulted no sociologists during the debate. (3/11/10)
  • Board member Barbara Cargill proposed a standard to the high school economics course requiring students to “analyze the decline in the value of the U.S. dollar since the inception of the Federal Reserve System since 1913.” After debate, the board passed a revised standard that requires students to “analyze the decline in the value of the U.S. dollar, including the abandonment of the gold standard.” References to 1913 and the Federal Reserve System were dropped. The board consulted no economists during the debate. (3/11/10)
  • The board approved a standard requiring students to learn about “any unintended consequences” of the Great Society, affirmative action and Title IX. (3/11/10)
  • In a high school U.S. history standard on musical genres that have been popular over time, the board’s bloc of social conservatives removed “hip hop,” equating this broad genre with “gangsta rap.” (3/11/10)
  • The board voted to use “BC” and “AD” rather than “BCE” and “CE” in references to dates in the history classes. That means students going off to college won’t be familiar with what has become an increasingly common standard for dates. (3/10/10)
  • The board removed Oscar Romero, a prominent Roman Catholic archbishop who was assassinated in 1980 (as he was celebrating Mass) by rightists in El Salvador, from a world history standard about leaders who led resistance to political oppression. Romero, they argued, wasn’t of the same stature as others listed in the standards: Nelson Mandela and Mohandas Gandhi. One board member argued that “he didn’t have his own movie like the others.” He quickly reversed himself — the film Romero, based on the archbishop’s life, was released in 1989 and starred actor Raul Julia in the title role. (3/10/10)
  • The board’s right-wing faction removed a reference to propaganda as a factor in U.S. entry into World War I. (The role of propaganda on behalf of both the Allies and Central Powers in swaying public opinion in the United States is well-documented. Republican Pat Hardy noted that her fellow board members were “rewriting history” with that and similar changes.) (1/15/10)
  • The board changed a “imperialism” to “expansionism” in a U.S. history course standard about American acquisition of overseas territories in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Board conservatives argued that what the United States did at the time was not the same as European imperialism. (1/15/10)

(source Texas Freedom Network TFN Insider: The List of Shame in Texas)

Some additional articles in the local paper.

College readiness overlooked in social studies fight
TEA posts latest version of social studies standards
Now’s the time to educate State Board of Education
McLeroy, Miller upset in SBOE elections

A compilation of my thoughts on the topic of the SBOE and the conversation with Dan Carlin’s forum community about this episode, cribbed from this and other threads preserved at The Wayback Machine: Archive.org

Game Distribution Systems; Steamrolled

Ran across an interesting article today Saving Progress: Impulse Buyer in which the author offers praise for Valve and their Steam game delivery system; and it’s ability to effortlessly deliver games to your desktop.

I’ll give the author points for identifying the reason that Valve promotes Steam, to the exclusion of all other methods of game installation. But he fails to unambiguously state what that reason is.

Profit Margin.

I’m a capitalist, I have no problem with profit. What I have a problem with is the continuing saga of limiting the usefulness of a product, even crippling same, for the explicit purposes of increasing profit margins; even when these actions limit the value of the product to the customer. DRM can come in many forms, and relying on Valve and Steam to continue to authorize a program’s use every time you start it will eventually end in your paying for the same game over and over again as their profit margin demands it.

Make no mistake about it, Steam is DRM. If you do not have an active online presence when installing the game from disc (those of us who continue the arcane practice of actually going to brick and mortar stores for our software) you will not be allowed to install, at all. No where on the packaging for The Orange Box or Half Life is this fact revealed, and good luck returning already opened software for a refund. That doesn’t happen, either.

Luckily (or maybe unluckily) we have high speed internet service, and so The Son was able to install his favorite programs and play them ad nauseum. Or he would be able to if Steam didn’t present me with a regular series of challenges based on arcane hardware limitations and failed upgrade problems.

After a few months of being Steamrolled, I’m declaring a moritorium on Steam controlled games in this household. I’ve had enough of re-installing and re-configuring, and then re-re-installing and re-re-configuring Valve games to last me for the rest of my life. The children keep asking me when I’m going to play Half-Life 2 (because, like Doom 3, they watched me play Half Life from the safety of the couch, where the monsters can’t get them. They want to continue the entertainment of watching dad scream in terror when the monsters start eating the back of his head) and my answer is a solid “never”. Never going to play it, because the frustation of making Steam work with Half-Life and the other Valve programs leaves little room for the entertainment that you are supposed to get from gaming. Never mind that I don’t want to get attached to a program that Valve could de-authorise whenever they please, for whatever reason they see fit.

I have a dream. I just want to be able to install a game, and then never have to worry about licensing again. If I were pirating…

[Copying without paying for software. Not really pirating. Pirating involves theft of value by force. Like taking your money and not giving you software that works, for example. Theft of my money is just as much piracy as continued use of a program you have not licensed properly]

…software, it would be that simple. I wouldn’t have to answer to the authors of the program when it came to methods of installation, numbers of installs, or online status when installing. That is what these games developers have to compete with when it comes to rolling out new software. The software may or may not work on my system, I may not get the bug patches, but the price (free) is right for that kind of risk. And I won’t have to listen to children beg me for the advertised games they don’t own, conveniently available through Steam.

No, Valve has found their version of an MMO (and World Of Warcraft, Blizzard’s premiere MMO, is experiencing astronomical profits) and they are milking it for all it’s worth. I just don’t have any need to be treated as a revenue source for game companies that really aren’t doing too bad after all.

The interesting part of the article was the information on other game companies intentions to compete with Steam for customers. Well, they might have one sitting right here.

Impulse claims to be much more open, in keeping with Stardock’s continuing policy of being DRM-free and rewarding the legitimate customer. Recent furores over invasive and overly protective piracy prevention tools has divided the industry, with some favoring the maximum effort possible to stop piracy, while the rest advocating a free system which does not punish the consumer. Stardock, being at the forefront of this movement, consistently promise to never restrict their customers in the name of reducing piracy. By distributing their games online via the same methods as those who steal games, Stardock is banking on the loyalty of their customers and the attractiveness of their product to survive. So far, it is working.

read more | digg story

It sounds good. But it only runs in Windows, a platform that I’ve vowed to abandon, for pretty much the same reasons I don’t approve of Steam. Too many hoops to jump through, too many limitations on what I can do, too much money for what I’m actually getting.

How about a cutting edge gaming system that is platform neutral, like Mozilla? No, I’m not happy about the state of gaming these days, and I don’t see much hope on the horizon. Still, it’s good that there are companies out there that realize treating customers like criminals is not the way to ingender loyalty amongst the endusers. Now lets see if they go the distance.

‘Former’ Palm user?

I’m beginning to think it’s time to trade up.

I’ve carried a Palm device since Handspring first offered it’s Visor. While I was content to nestle in the (expensive) corporate software world that Bill and his buddies have carved out, Palm desktop’s Windows exclusive interface was not a problem. Now that I’ve struck out into the (nearly) trackless wilderness of Linux, trying to get my Palm devices to reliably sync with any version of Linux has proven to be more problematic than I had ever envisioned.

Consequently, I was heartened to hear that Android rolled-out the long awaited open source OS for the as yet sight unseen gPhone.

By creating an open platform, Google is trying to make money not on software or hardware sales, but by creating vast hordes of ad-susceptible phone users. Google can be less selfish about design, and less worried about stumbles on the road to perfection. Google boss Eric Schmidt told us today that they would not be in the business of clamping down on independent development, and from the sound of it, would be encouraging carriers to adopt a hands-off policy toward third-party development.

read more | digg story

Intrigued by this development, I wandered by the Engadget site, only to discover that

Palm, which has been struggling for years through countless setbacks to introduce its own Linux-based mobile OS, in the mean time using a continuously cobbled-together version of Palm OS 5 (originally introduced in 2002) throughout. Palm’s first attempt at a next-gen mobile OS, dubbed Cobalt, is announced in 2004 and quickly becomes the stuff of vaporware legend, delayed over and over until ACCESS eventually buys the flagging PalmSource (more here on how that whole thing went down); ACCESS pledges to finish development of Palm’s misplaced next-gen mobile OS, and then license it back to Palm (among other companies).

But Palm’s had enough, so earlier this year it announces its intentions to release its own Linux-based OS — again — but this time without the help of its spin-off sister company Palm Source (which, of course, is now a part of ACCESS). And that new OS is quickly hyped and lauded — and then delayed. Yet again. Pushed back into late 2008 at the earliest (although we won’t be surprised if Palm revises and makes that 2009 or even later). And so we ask, Palm, where the hell were you when Google was rallying its Open Handset Alliance?

read more | digg story

Yes, where the hell were you, Palm? Why am I still forced to juggle an OS that has essentially remained unchanged since 2002 with newer and faster PC’s and their constantly updated OS’s? Why hasn’t a shift to a Linux based Palm OS come about? Why is the Palm Desktop still exclusively set up for corporate software solutions (Windows/Mac)?

Most Importantly, will I have to endure a brain transplant (long before the iPhone ad, or the iPhone itself, I frequently referred to my Palm device as ‘my brain’) in order to get a device that plays well with the OS that I intend to use for the foreseeable future; A Linux OS?

Will we ever see a gPhone? Google executives won’t say … yet. For now, Google CEO Eric Schmidt says there will be a variety of Android phones offered by several wireless carriers. But even without a dedicated gPhone, we can all look forward to a software platform designed to better the user experience, while also being light on the pocketbook. All the while, Google is extending its seemingly endless grip on the technological world.

read more | digg story

So, in the meantime, I’ll keep carrying my Treo 650. I’m just not sure what manufacturer I’ll be purchasing my next device from…

Testimonial for Open Office

I have been using Open Office myself, exclusively, for more than 3 years now. The wife had built me a new system, and during the installation process I decided I would, for security reasons, abandon every piece of Microsoft software that I could get away from. I shifted my browser and e-mail client to Mozilla, and rather than installing Microsoft Office, I installed Open Office.

There were no transition issues. Open Office opens MS Office documents with very few problems, and saves documents in MS Office format if I need it to; however, I have been transitioning all my current files into open document formats, so the need to convert to MS Office format almost never occurs. If I need to send a document to someone else, there is a “convert to PDF” button right on the the main menu bar, making the process of creating a shared document completely painless. The interface is quite intuitive, and similar enough to MS Office programs to make general usage by those familiar with MS Office quite painless.

The wife dabbles in computer repair in addition to her day job. As her one and only flunky, I get to do most of the grunt work installations that go along with recovering systems that have been turned into zombies or spambots. In addition to installing Mozilla to handle internet and mail, I add Open Office to those systems that don’t have a valid copy of MS Office. I have never gotten a complaint resulting from this practice.

Here’s the best part, though. Since Open Office is an open source project, I did not have to pay a massive fee for the software, before I was even certain that I would find it useful. This is the Achilles heal of corporate software, in my experience. If I want to test new software, I am forced to either gamble my money on untested software, or I have to pirate a copy of it for testing purposes. Neither of those options are comfortable options for me, so I’m glad I have the option to simply download and install software without the intrusive licensing restrictions, and to contribute to those software ventures that I find useful.

I would like to thank the Open Office team for their dedication to OpenOffice.org.

Why Should You Use Firefox?

Bob Rankin over at the Internet Tourbus (a subscription I’ve maintained for nearly as long as I’ve been on the ‘net. 1997, I think) is asking for feedback on whether or not Firefox is ready for prime time, and why should you use it.

I’ve had quite a bit to say on the subject of Firefox over the years. A good portion of it on this blog, but I apparently have neglected to get into my main reason for using it, security.

It’s hard to conceive of any program less safe to surf the Internet with than Internet Explorer. I have used Firefox / Thunderbird for more than three years. I wouldn’t use MicroSoft software to connect to anything for any reason. I only risk the operating system because I need software that isn’t available on other platforms.

The security holes that MicroSoft’s propaganda arm (known as the tech reporting industry) keep harping on concerning Firefox have been patched. If you download the current version you shouldn’t have any trouble; not to mention the benefits of built-in pop-up blocking and spam filtering.

[MS is running scared from the threat that Open Source (of which Mozilla is part) presents to their business model. With good reason. I’ve also been using Open Office almost exclusively for the last couple of years. It’s every bit as good as MS office is, and it’s getting better. Linux and KDE are going great guns. I dual boot a Linux/Windows box currently; most of the programs I use can be installed in both operating systems. When I get a decent Linux CAD program I’m giving up Windows]

As someone who remembers working with Wordperfect and Lotus 123 on 386 DOS boxes (not to mention the playing around with the original MacIntosh) I think I can say I speak from experience. Not to mention the fact that I’m married to the #1 PC repair geek in all of Austin, and so can speak from experience on the repair side of the business, concerning the far greater risk involved in running Internet Explorer rather than Firefox. We routinely install Firefox on clients systems; and when I’m doing the work as a favor for a friend (in other words, for free) I do myself a favor and delete the icons (when uninstalling isn’t possible or feasible) for MicroShaft programs which are a liability, so that they don’t re-infect themselves and waste more of my time.

Why do I say this? Because half of the systems that come back for more work, when I question their owners, are re-infected because the owners went back to using Internet Exploder (the other half are because they don’t update their virus/malware scanners properly) I have never yet gotten a system back that was infected through the use of Mozilla software. These are just the facts.

The other reason to use Firefox is it’s ease of use and customizability…

[Yes, I know that Internet Exploder 7.0 does most of the same stuff Firefox does. Is it a coincidence that Firefox code is available for anyone to see, and IE’s code is not? You decide]

…If I want a toolbar for a particular purpose, it’s generally available at the addons site. There are far more addons than any one person will use, and the extents to which the browser can be modified are quite impressive. Right click customizations for searches (I use it in Thunderbird as well) as well as tool bars for many different popular destinations on the web. The most useful one, in my opinion, is ForcastFox; which is weather, right in the frame of the browser. Too cool.

The extensions work for all versions of Mozilla (including Netscape based on it) although you may have to dig back into the archives to get extensions for older versions…

When I read Rankin’s call for feedback, my first response was “What, you aren’t using it?” My second response was “Why wouldn’t you use it?” Download it today, and give it a try.

Open Source: Without Profit?

One of the arguments I’ve had with critics of Open Source software, is that they (the open source programmers) want people to use a product for which there is no profit, i.e. they are given away for free.

That’s funny. I’ve profited many times over from a lack of lost down time due to using Firefox to access the Internet and avoiding all that IE targeted malware. I’ve also profited from using Thunderbird and avoiding all those scriptkiddie re-mailers that seem to plague Outlook Express.

[BTW, Microsoft gives IE and Express away ‘free’ too]

I’ve also profited from the use of www.openoffice.org instead of MicroSoft office. I’ve saved all those profits I would have handed over to brother Bill, and given them to myself. Same for the OS’s that I test. The average Linux distro will run you 80 bucks if you want printed materials to go with the software. I’ve paid it more than once, as well as downloading them for free from the internet.

‘If’ I had a CAD package that suited my needs in Linux, I wouldn’t even look back.

Most people too narrowly define the word ‘profit’.

Recommending Firefox

I knew I was recommending it for a reason.

It’s just nice to have it backed up with statistics. Here’s a quote:

“Internet Explorer users are 21 times as likely to pick up spyware than Firefox users

I’ve been using Firefox for several years now, and installing it on systems that my boss (yeah, you, sweetheart) assigns me to fix, as well as recommending it to anyone who asks. All based on my own impression of it’s security, and nothing else.

…Until now.