Monthly Archives: March 2006

Soldiers screwed again!

So the shrub administration initially decides to send over an inadequate number of troops to invade Iraq. Then they neglected to supply most of the troops with adequate body armor, and with unarmored humvees. As a result for the last three years they have been killed and seriously wounded at a steady pace by road-side bombs and rocket propelled grenades because they don’t have enough protection. Since this became known early on, families and friends of soldiers have been raising money to buy and ship body armor to the soldiers. Now the US Army in it’s infinite wisdom has declared that soldiers won’t be allowed to use their privately bought body armor any more. From a piece I just spotted on

“We’re very concerned that people are spending their hard-earned money on something that doesn’t provide the level of protection that the Army requires people to wear. So they’re, frankly, wasting their money on substandard stuff,” said Col. Thomas Spoehr, director of materiel for the Army.

Well Duh! If the fucking army was properly equipping troops in the first place this wouldn’t even be an issue. Why has Don Rumsfeld not been fired yet? If any regular working class person did such a poor job as this asshole they would have been canned years ago. This is ridiculous. Republicans make a lot of noise about supporting the troops but when push comes to shove they spend the money to enrich their buddies in Houston and Alaska and Wyoming instead of equipping the troops for the job that the bozo in chief has ordered them to do. Republicans are hypocrites and liars and they should all be booted out of office.

Danko Jones

Sometime last summer I first stumbled across a band called Danko Jones. They are trio from Toronto. I don’t remember which podcast I first heard them on, but it was probably The Rock and Roll Geek Show. At any rate I loved what I heard, and I checked out their site at I downloaded a couple of tracks directly off their site, and then found more of their music at These guys have kind of garage-rock punk sound and they have a new album coming out in May. This week I heard the first new track from Sleep is the Enemy on Accident Hash and also on the Daily Source Code. First Date is hot. It’s got a great hook and just rocks. I already bought this and the other 2 non-album tracks that emusic has up. One these b-sides is a pumped-up cover of the Elvis Costello song Pump It Up. If you like good rock, go check these guys out.

Newsvine 2

I recently started using It’s a new news site that includes a lot of reader interactivity. You can clip articles for later reading, vote up good articles so they move up the rankings on the front page, comment on stories, submit stories and even write your own stories and columns. Stories are tagged and you can added tags and authors to your watchlist. The watchlist page becomes your own personalized newspage. By adjusting the watched items you can create a news page that is customized to your interests and trusted sources. Newsvine is still relatively new and requires an invite to register. If you are interested and want an invite, just leave a comment and I will e-mail you one. Don’t forget you have to register to comment so I will already have your e-mail in the system. You don’t need to put your address in the comment so it doesn’t get harvested by spambots.

Eagle’s Nest

Last night on I spotted an item about a camera watching a wild bald eagle’s nest. A digital video camera is pointed at an eagles nest on Hornby Island near Vancouver, British Columbia. The feed from the camera is being streamed during daylight hours. The live view of the bald eagle tending her 2 eggs is just an amazing sight. From time to time she gets up and moves around and you can see the eggs. Very cool.

What a deal

So this morning I look at the auto pages of the local papers and it is all about huge layoffs of engineers at General Motors, anywhere from at few hundred to a couple of thousand at the Warren, MI Tech Center. So what pops in my e-mail this afternoon? A message from a head-hunter who saw my resume on about a job opportunity at GM. Needless to say, since I have a family to support and and mortgage to pay, I decided to humbly decline the offer. Too bad because in another time and place it might have been an interesting opportunity.

fun site to check out

One of my fellow cubicle dwellers here just pointed me to a fun site 20Q where you play 20 questions against an internet based neural network. The system adapts based on the responses people give to the questions it asks. The system asked some very interesting questions. I was thinking of a cashew and it asked the following questions before getting to the right answer

Q27. I am guessing that it is a cashew (nut)?
Right, Wrong, Close
26. Is it a root vegetable? No.
25. I guessed that it was an almond? Wrong.
24. Does it open? No.
23. Is it used in Oriental cooking? Yes.
22. I guessed that it was a hazelnut? Wrong.
21. Do you make pie from it? Maybe.
20. I guessed that it was a macadamia nut? Wrong.
19. Is it a source of energy? Yes.
18. Can you add it to a salad? Yes.
17. Does it make noise? No.
16. Can you jump on it? No.
15. Does it smell sweet? No.
14. Does it come from the ground? No.
13. Are there many different sorts of it? No.
12. Does it taste good with butter? Irrelevant.
11. Is it crunchy? Yes.
Does it come from trees? Unknown.
10. Does it grow over time? Yes.
9. Does it taste sweet? Yes.
8. Is it a type of fruit? No.
7. Is it yellow? Yes.
6. Can you talk on it? No.
5. Can it be used in a pie? Maybe.
4. Is it normally planted in gardens? No.
3. Does it have anything to do with salad? No.
2. Is it green or black? No.
1. It is classified as Vegetable.

Go check it out, it’s fun.

Podcasting Guide

Apple has put up a nice introductory guide to podcasting on their site. The guide is geared toward new podcast listeners. If you are not already listening to podcasts this is a good place to start. The one difference I would recommend is the directory. The apple guide discusses how to get to the itunes podcast directory. As much as I like itunes in general, the itunes podcast directory sucks. Apperently, Apple only has a few people maintaining their directory and they are focusing on shows put out by big mainstream media companies like Disney and Clear Channel. Most of these shows suck. Finding good podcasts, especially independently produced podcasts like most of the ones I have written about here, is really hard in the itunes directory if you don’t already know the name of the podcast. If you want to find new podcasts start at some place like podcast alley. You can browse and search for podcasts, read reviews, and rate shows. Podcast alley has almost 17,000 shows listed now. There are also a bunch of other directories like Podcast Pickle,, and

Using DRM more expensive than losses it’s supposed to prevent?

In case you haven’t heard, last week Sony officially announced a six month delay in the launch of the Playstation 3. Who cares you might ask? Well as far as the game console itself is concerned I don’t because I have no intention of buying one. However, from another perspective this case demonstrates again that the cost of trying to protect content with Digital Restrictions Management (DRM, and that is what it is regardless of the fact that the manufacturers call it digital rights management) may actually be greater than the privacy losses it is supposed to prevent. One of the most touted features of the PS3 is that it is equipped with a Blu-Ray drive, one of the two new competing but completely incompatible high-definition dvd formats (think VHS vs Beta for the digital age). I am not going to get into the whole HD-DVD BluRay fiasco in this post, other than to say that both new formats have been repeatedly delayed by disagreements over many factors including the DRM schemes to be used on the disks. When Sony made their announcement last week they stated the delay in finalizing the drm standard for Blu-Ray disks as the main reason for the delay. Sony said that the introductory price of the PS3 would be about 50,000 Yen in Japan (about $425US). They also expect to sell about one million units a month. So a six month delay means 6 million lost sales at that price amounts 20 over $2.5 billion in lost revenues. Game console makers also get a significant royalty from the game publishers (about $10-15 per game copy) for every copy of a game sold. Add to that all the extra revenue (and huge profit margins) on all the accessories like extra controllers, multi-taps, etc. Sony is looking at somewhere between $3-4 billion in lost revenues just from the 6 month delay. When you consider that this November will be a full year after the introduction of the XBOX 360, the real losses are probably closer to twice that much.

So Sony is willing to sacrifice somewhere between $3 and $7 billion in sales just so they can implement a stronger DRM system. Interestingly, the actual number of game sales lost due to piracy is actually very small because playing copied games on a PS2 requires actually physically modifying the console. The number of people actually willing to do this modification, is likely in the thousands at most, with the potential lost sales actually in the low millions of dollars, several orders of magnitude less than what the drm system is costing them.

Sony is shooting themselves in the head to avoid a purse-snatcher. Real Smart!

More Free Music

The 2006 South by Southwest Festival has been going on in Austin, TX this week. Over 1300 bands have been playing at clubs around the sity all week, along with various conference sessions. For the second year the organizers have mad available free songs from many of the bands including all kinds of styles. There are over 900 mp3 files included all absolutely free of charge. The downloads are available via bittorrent (an amazing technology). If you don’t already have a bittorrent client, go grab a copy of azureus, and then grab the 2 torrent files here and here. Just a warning, these two downloads will get you over 3.5 GB of music, so make sure you have some space available before you start. Azureus is great because it is written in java so it works great on windows, macs and linux.

Yet another reason to avoid anything with DRM

I spotted an interesting article today via Boingboing. If you have a digital audio player such as an ipod or other mp3 player, and you listen to music that has been copy protected, your battery life can be drastically reduced. When music stores add drm to a song they encrypt it with a digital key. In order for a device to reproduce the music it must first decrypt the file and then play it. Every digital audio player has a microprocessor embedded in it, the device is basically a small computer. The process of decrypting is actually very processor intensive. The harder a processor is working, the more power it is using. If you are listening to a song purchased from iTunes, Napster, Rhapsody, Sony, or any of the other stores that sell copy protected music. In an article over on CNET they discovered from testing various music players, that devices playing songs encoded with Microsoft’s WMA 10 drm they lost up to 25% of battery life compared to playing un-protected mp3 files. Apple uses a different drm scheme called Fairplay on there AAC music files. Only ipods can play these files and are optimized for them. Compared to straight mp3 the ipods had about 8% less battery life.

How do you avoid this extra battery drain? Don’t give your money to music stores that sell copy protected files. There are plenty of stores that sell unprotected mp3 files (usually at higher bit rates too) like, and Of course you probably won’t find the likes of Britney Spears and other current top 40 hits at those stores, but I personally consider that to be a positive. Go check out these stores. Browse around and listen to the samples. Discover some new music. Support the artists (because itunes and other drm stores sure don’t). You also get the benefit of being able to play these mp3 files on any device rather than being locked into a specific brand.