Sunday, March 30, 2008

Hackers target Facebook apps | Surveillance State - CNET Blogs

"Just a few months after this blog brought you exclusive news of privacy problems in Facebook's application system, we are now already seeing the consequences of Facebook's decision to pass the buck on on application security and privacy. Facebook shares user data with a large number of third-party application developers (without user consent), who then leave the data open to hackers due to nonexistent security and privacy protections. We at Surveillance State would be lying if we said we didn't see this coming."

Friday, March 28, 2008

Why Old Technologies Are Still Kicking - New York Times

"IN 1991, Stewart Alsop, the editor of InfoWorld and a thoughtful observer of industry trends, predicted that the last mainframe computer would be unplugged by 1996. Last month, I.B.M. introduced the latest version of its mainframe, the aged yet remarkably resilient warhorse of computing."

NVIDIA's Drivers Caused 28.8% Of Vista Crashes In 2007

As posted on Slashdot:

28.8% of Vista's crashes over a period in 2007 were due to faulty NVIDIA drivers. The information comes out of the 158 pages of Microsoft emails that were handed over at the request of a judge in the Vista-capable lawsuit. NVIDIA has already faced a class-action lawsuit over the drivers.

Here is a link from Microsoft's Technet about changes to driver handling pre and post NT 4.0.

A Slashdotter complained that this is just more blaiming Microsfot for everything, but depending on what version of "blame Microsoft" you are responding to the complaint may or may not be legitimate.

Windows NT 3.51 may have been the most stable version of Windows in history. I think it was the one on which Microsoft spent the most time and money on testing and on a fairly massive scale went out and helped hardware and driver people with their testing (providing labs with a large variety of configurations etc.). They were trying to solidify the Windows base within businesses, and convince businesses that Windows was no longer a toy (i.e. gaming) operating system only. The goal, among other things was to get people off of OS/2, older versions of Windows (93 and WFW).

The program was a great success. Not only did large parts of the federal government switch, I even made the switch on my home machines. Unless you were a gamer (in which case you would have still been running 95 or then 98) you could have experienced a relatively un-bloated and crash-free Windows experience. It was the last time I tried running Windows for days on end without regular restorative reboots.

As the link states:

"In Windows NT 4.0, drivers were moved into kernel mode to improve performance. However, when a kernel-mode driver fails, it can crash an entire system, whereas the failure of a user-mode driver causes only the current process to crash."

In point of fact, video drivers could "fail" prior to 4.0 and only cause minor screen corruption or glitches, or in fact be asymptomatic. After 4.0 though, the same failure might cause a system crash, or might cause other programs to appear to crash, or might cause disk I/O buffers to contain garbage that would subsequently be written out to disk and cause crashes hours later, not to mention you wondering why your spreadsheets were deteriorating over time.

I don't remember Microsoft going out and asking video vendors if they thought this was all a good idea. In fact the element of surprise was very important to MS for some reason on the 4.0 announcement... no pre-announcement of features being added or removed as there were for years leading up to Vista. They certainly didn't ask me. I left the meeting telling my colleagues that this was nuts. And I don't think they gave either vendors or users much time to adjust to the changes as I went from thinking that Windows had finally arrived to wishing I had stayed with OS/2.

From what I read, MS no longer does the extensive testing they did for 3.51, and in fact they make driver and hardware makers pay them for any help they get in order to be "certified". Having won the game of becoming THE business operating system, MS said "screw you" to the partners that helped them get there. Typical.

MS engineers bragged about being geniuses during the 4.0 product roll-out for moving drivers to kernel space, but the move was necessary due to GUI bloat that was added for that release. Subsequent bloat of that nature has made each subsequent version of Windows seem less snappy and take up more memory, and no doubt the next product roll-out after 4.0 (at which point I had stopped attending) I'm sure the MS engineers bragged about being geniuses for moving drivers back into user-mode for reliability reasons. Both moves might have cause significant adjustments to be made by driver makers on short notice depending, for example, on whether they were relying on memory protection and changing the nature of their context switches.

If you don't blame Microsoft for some of these driver problems you either work there, or haven't been paying attention for long enough.

Think Progress » Blog Archive » EXCLUSIVE: McCain’s Foreign Affairs Speech Plagiarizes 1996 Address By Adm. Timothy Ziemer (UPDATED)

Think Progress » Blog Archive » EXCLUSIVE: McCain’s Foreign Affairs Speech Plagiarizes 1996 Address By Adm. Timothy Ziemer (UPDATED): "EXCLUSIVE: McCain’s Foreign Affairs Speech Plagiarizes 1996 Address By Adm. Timothy Ziemer (UPDATED)»

UPDATE: It appears that Ziemer’s speech may have been plagiarized from McCain. According to the McCain campaign, the senator used these lines before Ziemer — in 1995. We regret the error.

UPDATE: As a blog that strives to maintain credibility and transparency, we would like to explain our mistake. When we were alerted to the tip that Adm. Ziemer gave a similar speech in 1996, we searched LexisNexis and McCain’s campaign site for whether the senator used the disputed phrases before that time. We did not find anything. After we published the post, the McCain campaign contacted us and pointed to a speech given by the senator in 1995, which appears on McCain’s Senate site. As soon as we were alerted to the error, we rushed to publish a correction. Once again, we regret the error."

Of course the truly amazing thing is that a liberal source would actually do a retraction and not at least bury it in a footnote in fine print on page 28.

They obviously need to be sent back to indoctrination classes.

But in the mean time, congratulations on seeking and finding the truth, or at least not running away when it finds you.

Link came from *HERE*.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Linux gains new architecture support

"Dozens of network-attached storage (NAS) servers and other consumer appliances are about to gain mainline kernel and Debian GNU/Linux support. The 2.6.25 kernel, currently in the final stages of testing, will support Marvell's Feroceon micro-architecture and 'Orion' SoCs, with Debian support close behind, sources say."

Jim McDermott: "We Don't Mind Being Used" by Saddam Hussein

"Thompson and McDermott would have us believe that they visited a sworn enemy of the United States -- one who had tried to assassinate a former president and declared that the 'Mother of all Battles' had never ended -- without doing even the most basic research about who was funding their trip? That's hard to believe. And Bonior, who was from Michigan and had taken money from al Khafaji before, had no idea that he was backed by Saddam Hussein? When I spent a week reporting in Michigan for a story on Iraqi exiles, virtually every Iraqi I spoke to told me about al Khafaji and his dirty money. Is is possible that nobody ever mentioned this to Bonior, who recently chaired John Edwards' presidential campaign, before he traveled to Iraq with al Khafaji? Again, hard to believe."

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Long Defeat - New York Times

"For nearly 20 years, she has been encased in the apparatus of political celebrity. Look at her schedule as first lady and ever since. Think of the thousands of staged events, the tens of thousands of times she has pretended to be delighted to see someone she doesn’t know, the hundreds of thousands times she has recited empty clich├ęs and exhortatory banalities, the millions of photos she has posed for in which she is supposed to appear empathetic or tough, the billions of politically opportune half-truths that have bounced around her head."

The Tonya Harding Option

"The Tonya Harding Option -- the first time I've heard it put that way.

It implies that Clinton is so set on ensuring that Obama doesn't get the nomination, not only is she willing to take extra-ruthless steps, but in the end neither she nor Obama win the gold."

NIH researcher loses laptop with data on 2,500 patients

"The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute has strengthened its data protection policies and enforcement of those policies in the wake of the theft of a laptop computer containing unencrypted information on about 2,500 patients enrolled in a clinical research project."

The 10 Most Historically Inaccurate Movies

"2001: A Space Odyssey
According to this film, in year 2001 we would have had manned voyages to Jupiter, a battle of wits with a sentient computer, and a quantum leap in human evolution. Instead we got the Mir Space Station falling from the sky, Windows XP, and Freddy Got Fingered. Apparently the lesson here is that sometimes it's better when the movies get the facts all wrong."

Monday, March 24, 2008 Brad DeLong on trade and wages

"Berkeley econ professor -- and non-conservative"

Doesn't that fall into the category of tautology?

Anyway, the rest of the article is more hand wringing about China vs the US economy, displaying the typical cornerstone of liberal thought that it is either them or us. Either the Chinese or the western world, either the rich or the poor, either the east coast or the west cost. Winner and losers, and we of big heart all want to do our part to save the losers, even, heaven-forbid, if they are us!

Of course I'm not all that optimistic either, but it has more to do with the kids we are raising than our past business practices or trade regulations.

Original page where Brad Delongs readers tell him that everything he said was wrong.

This guy worked for the White House? I was almost afraid to look and see which one. Please, not eight more years of that!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Australian WiMAX pioneer trashes technology as "miserable failure" | CommsDay

Australia’s first WiMAX operator, Hervey Bay’s Buzz Broadband, has closed its network, with the CEO labeling the technology as a “disaster” that “failed miserably.”

They don't call it "bleeding edge" for nothing.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

I, Cringely . War of the Worlds | PBS

"Here, buried in my sixth paragraph, is the most important nugget: we've reached the point in our (disparate) cultural adaptation to computing and communication technology that the younger technical generations are so empowered they are impatient and ready to jettison institutions most of the rest of us tend to think of as essential, central, even immortal. They are ready to dump our schools."

Moving in a Wired World -

"If Thomas Edison wired your digs for electricity and Alexander Graham Bell installed your phones, consider upgrading to newer technologies when you move."

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Angry Economist-Too many poor

"There are too many poor people in New York State. We could try to increase their wealth through the same old same old methods of income redistribution, or economic development. Or we could try some innovative new scheme, like ... paying them to leave. Why not? Let's make New York State a better place to live by getting rid of its poor people."

I'm tempted to quote the whole thing but the punch line is worth the trip.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Silicon Valley Users Guide: How to write for your company's blog

Why Google Doc's presentation feature kills Powerpoint...

(Note: Not written by me.)

Verizon Wins Key FCC Auctions -

"Google Inc., another potential newcomer, didn't win any licenses, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said at a press conference at the agency's headquarters."

Surprising. How soon will the winners feel the need to monetize? In other words, will there "soon" be some nice new wireless capabilities for the masses, or will this simply be another avenue for high priced business-only products?

Flaws emerge in Facebook's new privacy controls | Surveillance State - CNET Blogs

"Given an example situation where a student doesn't wish for the Facebook-using professors at their university to be able to view their profile, it would be trivially easy for a professor to log in, and change his or her own status to that of an undergrad.

To test this out, I changed my own status at Indiana University to that of an undergrad, a staff member, and an alumni before switching back to being a graduate student. Facebook's system didn't complain once, and I was able to verify that the updated status was indeed reflected on my own profile."

Throw Grandma Under the Bus - HUMAN EVENTS

"As an authentic post-racial American, I will not patronize blacks by pretending Obama's pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, is anything other than a raving racist loon. If a white pastor had said what Rev. Wright said -- not about black people, but literally, the exact same things -- I think we'd notice that he's crazier than Ward Churchill and David Duke's love child. (Indeed, both Churchill and the Rev. Wright referred to the attacks of 9/11 as the chickens coming 'home to roost.')"

Wright's Rantings Won't Sink Obama

"Wright's rantings are not reflective of Obama's views on anything. Why did he stay in the church? Because he's a black Chicago politician who comes from a mixed marriage and went to Columbia and Harvard. Suspected of not being black enough or sufficiently tied to the minority community, he needed the networking opportunities Wright afforded him in his church to get elected. If he had not risen to the top of Chicago black politics, we would never have heard of him. But obviously, he can't say that. So what should he say?"

This melodrama not only tells us all we need to know about Obama, it also tells us all we need to know about most politicians' relationship with their professed religion, their professed views on economics, science, education, healthcare, welfare, pick your topic.

That is why voting for a career politician (of which we have three to choose at this moment) is always a craps shoot. McCain had marginally more of a life before politics, however as was the case with Kennedy, Kerry, and probably Bush, this may have been a knowing stepping stone move (working for a law firm for a few years being the safer and thus more popular route).

Maybe even more important than term limits would be requirement that those seeking certain offices have prior experience doing real work of some sort. It's so much easier to respect those who have.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Housing Bust Fuels Blame Game -

"Subprime was initially aimed at people with weak credit. But by 2005 and 2006, lenders encouraged many types of better-off borrowers to take such loans, including people with large incomes who wanted to speculate on rental housing. Many subprime loans were made to refinance low-income people who already owned homes, often loading them up with more mortgage debt and creating the risk of foreclosure.

Government-sponsored companies that buy and guarantee mortgages also joined the subprime fray. In 2002, the Bush administration began criticizing the companies, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, saying they were 'trailing' the rest of the mortgage market in terms of their financing of homes for low-income people and minorities."

White House e-mail controversy may affect current computers

"Richard Smith, a forensic specialist at Boston Software Forensics, said the process of making forensic copies of hard drives can be time-consuming and expensive, costing up to $1,500 and taking several hours to complete per machine.

He added that the process is standard computer forensic work in the private sector and could cost less if economies of scale are considered. Smith said the process involves duplicating the hard drive and then building an index and analysis program to search through the copy of the hard drive."

This sounds like nonsense to me. Why wouldn't one simply copy the active data (using a low-level utility) from the original disk to a compatible replacement and then put the replacement disk into service, keeping the original as the "forensic" copy?

Agreed however that chances of recovering anything useful are close to nil.

Shuttle's $199 Linux PC shipping next month | Tech news blog - CNET

Title links to CNet, picture links to product page.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Official Google Blog: Google for Non-Profits

"Many of you spend your days making this world a better place, and we want to do our part to help. Today, we're excited to launch Google For Non-Profits, a one-stop shop for tools to help advance your organization's mission in a smart, cost-efficient way.

This site features ideas and tutorials for how you can use Google tools to promote your work, raise money and operate more efficiently. And to get inspired, you'll also find examples of innovative ways other non-profits are using our products to further their causes."

Link: Google for Non-Profits

Ex-Google Employee on Scaling an Organization

"With 70 people the odds that two people are working on the same thing are probably pretty low. With 17,000, it’s almost a 100% that two or three people will be working on the same idea, or at least very similar ideas, at different parts of the organization. I think there is a certain amount of cost to just coordinating that activity. I’ve been really impressed with how Google has been able to scale, but inherently it has to change – just because there’s that coordination cost."

Yahoo Sets Bullish Financial Targets -

"'The concern was a weak March quarter would significantly disrupt Yahoo's shares and Microsoft might pull its bid,' said Canaccord Adams analyst Colin Gillis. 'I think it was important to come out there and say the business isn't falling apart.'"

Bullish? I wonder if that was a typo.

Anyway, seems odd that a company who wants not to be acquired is going out of its way to be more attractive.

Interesting little soap opera.

Monday, March 17, 2008

SANS Internet Storm Center; Cooperative Network Security Community - Internet Security - isc

"The idea is for the attacker to attempt communicating with the device via a wireless network. Even if the victim's device does not complete the connection, the device's power will be used up at a higher rate than if it remained idle. An attacker can issue a high number of such connection requests to deplete batteries of all mobile devices in the proximity."

WordPerfect antitrust case greenlighted by the Supreme Court

"A key piece of evidence comes from a 1994 e-mail from outgoing Microsoft chairman Bill Gates in which he ordered that some details on Windows' inner workings not be provided to his company's competitors. 'I have decided that we should not publish these extensions,' wrote Gates. 'We should wait until we have away to do a high level of integration that will be harder for likes of Notes, WordPerfect to achieve, and which will give Office a real advantage... We can't compete with Lotus and WordPerfect/Novell without this.'"

Sunday, March 16, 2008

10 Ideas That Are Changing The World - What's Next 2008 - TIME

"More than money, more than politics, ideas are the secret power that this planet runs on. Here are a few you need to know about

* Common Wealth
* The End of Customer Service
* The Post-Movie-Star Era
* Reverse Radicalism
* Kitchen Chemistry
* Geoengineering
* Synthetic Authenticity
* The New Austerity
* Mandatory Health
* Re-Judaizing Jesus"

Friday, March 14, 2008

Slashdot | Hobbyists Create GPLed DIY Super TV Antenna

"Retired and hobbyist antenna engineers working together in the Digital Home forums have taken an obscure 1950s UHF TV antenna called the Hoverman [PDF] and subjected the design to modern software-based computer modeling in hopes of optimizing its middling performance. The result: the new Gray-Hoverman antenna is more powerful than similar commercially manufactured consumer antennas in every category, sometimes by whopping amounts. Best thing yet: they've released the design, diagrams, and schematics under the GPLv3 so that we can roll our own! Quoth one of the testers, a former U.S. Government antenna engineer: 'Boy, this antenna is hot... This antenna is a vast, and I mean REALLY VAST improvement over anything I have used.' The home thread of the Gray-Hoverman development gives the background of their great work."

Actual articles are still Slashdotted. Sounds worth looking into, when possible.

How government makes things worse - The Boston Globe

"Trapped in a no-win situation entirely of the government's making, lenders could only hope that home prices would continue to rise, staving off the inevitable collapse. But once the housing bubble burst, there was no escape. Mortgage lenders have been bankrupted, thousands of subprime homeowners have been foreclosed on, and countless would-be borrowers can no longer get credit. The financial fallout has hurt investors around the world. And all of it thanks to the government, which was sure it understood the credit industry better than the free market did, and confidently created the conditions that made disaster unavoidable."

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Eliot Spitzer -- A Man Without A Party - HUMAN EVENTS

"On Monday afternoon, the Big Three Networks (NBC, ABC and CBS) and the Associated Press led the charge of the wall-to-wall coverage of the breaking news that Spitzer was involved with an interstate prostitution ring. And with near unanimity they failed to mention that Spitzer is a Democrat."


Rackspace is moving into the mall

Couple of interesting interviews here:

"But today Rackspace is moving into the mall (video of Graham showing me the mall from the outside), right on schedule, and everyone we talked with yesterday thought it was the most exciting thing that Rackspace had ever done."

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Proposed Law Looks to Wipe Out Problem

"The Florida legislature looks to regulate toilet paper in a restaurant bathroom."

The Tools Google Uses Internally

"A web seminar Google held yesterday at KMWorld Magazine offered a great deal of insight into how Google manages projects and communication internally. The presentation by Google followed an employee through his first few weeks at the company, explaining the many tools he’s using..."

Hulu Goes Public

Yahoo May Join Google-Led Social Networking Alliance - Bits - Technology - New York Times Blog

"Yahoo intends to join OpenSocial, a Google-led alliance that is developing a common set of standards so developers can create programs that run on many social networks and other Web sites, according to a person with direct knowledge of Yahoo’s plans."

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

How an information system helped nail Eliot Spitzer and a prostitution ring | Between the Lines |

But does it run Linux?

(Valleywag link)

Pollution Is Called a Byproduct of a ‘Clean’ Fuel - New York Times

"The spills, at the Alabama Biodiesel Corporation plant outside this city about 17 miles from Tuscaloosa, are similar to others that have come from biofuel plants in the Midwest. The discharges, which can be hazardous to birds and fish, have many people scratching their heads over the seeming incongruity of pollution from an industry that sells products with the promise of blue skies and clear streams."

Wall Street Cheers As Its Nemesis Plunges Into Crisis -

"But in his eight-year run as New York attorney general, ending in 2006, Mr. Spitzer appeared at times to get personal in pursuing individuals. Critics said he bullied opponents, threatening to publicly reveal embarrassing details of a company's business or an executive's conduct to force management changes or headline-grabbing fines. In the case against Mr. Grasso, lawyers working for Mr. Spitzer asked the former Big Board chairman in a deposition about personal relationships and collected information about Mr. Grasso's spending habits and his family's travel."


Making me cry...

The Dirty Job of Digging for Accurate Information | Kara Swisher | BoomTown | AllThingsD

"First, let’s see if we can sort this latest rumor about the acquisition fever wafting around the popular Digg news site, published by TechCrunch last week."

FCC's Martin Faults Comcast -

"In a speech given at Stanford University Law School on Friday, Mr. Martin said he found it troubling that the company initially denied it was slowing or blocking its broadband-Internet customers' access to a file-sharing peer-to-peer software application.

'A hallmark of what should be seen as a reasonable business practice is certainly whether or not the people engaging in that practice are willing to describe it publicly,'
Mr. Martin said."

Just imagine if that principle were widely applied, it might change a lot of things. Including government.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Why Apple Will Dominate Next Gen Computing - ReadWriteWeb

"We have been hearing a lot about platforms and APIs recently. But not all platforms are made equal. First compare this offering with what Microsoft offered for Windows a while back. Redmond's convoluted APIs, COM, OLE, and ActiveX still make developers shake their heads. Instead of cultivating elegance and simplicity, Microsoft pushed for complexity. Why? Because it kept exclusivity, kept people learning new weird stuff, kept people getting new certifications. But Apple's culture and code is rooted in elegance and extreme simplicity."

Bit of a fanboi article, but some interesting info (and misinfo).

(Almost) New Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg Speaks! | Kara Swisher | BoomTown | AllThingsD

"While Sandberg says she knows the heat and hype around its $15 billion valuation attract attention, she thinks the company needs to focus on scaling operationally, scaling geographically and scaling monetization, and the rest will take care of itself."

Uh... yeah.

Salesforce to Integrate with Google Apps?


"In June 2007, Google signed a partnership with Salesforce to include Google AdWords in its applications, but Wall Street Journal speculated that the result 'could be a Web-based offering that integrates some of Google's online services such as email and instant-messaging with those of, whose customer-relationship management tools help salespeople track their accounts.' Maybe this year Wall Street Journal's prediction comes true."

Spitzer Is Linked to Prostitution Ring - New York Times

"Mr. Spitzer, a first term Democrat who pledged to bring ethics reform an end the often seamy ways of Albany, is married with three children."

Oh never mind then. Democrats are not subject to the law.

Friday, March 07, 2008

I, Cringely . Antisocial | PBS

"What killed CB radio was that moment when its annoyance factor exceeded its utility -- a utility already driven down by low traffic conviction rates and the eventual understanding that if everyone were a speeder then most cops wouldn't stop anyone.

I am beginning to think that Internet social networking is another CB radio, destined to crash and burn."

I liked that part, and I haven't even read the rest of the article yet.

In Silicon Valley, a Flight to Safety -

"In January, the unemployment rate in Silicon Valley's metropolitan areas of San Jose, Sunnyvale and Santa Clara rose to 5.3% from 4.8% a year ago. And while the region added a net 28,000 new jobs last year, that was down from 33,000 in 2006, according to Joint Venture Silicon Valley, a nonprofit group representing local businesses and government agencies. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate in North Carolina's Raleigh-Durham-Cary region -- where Research Triangle Park is located -- was 3.6% in December, virtually unchanged from 3.7% a year ago, according to the state's employment commission."

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Gates No Longer World's Richest Man -

"Gates is now worth $58 billion and is ranked third in the world. He is up $2 billion from a year ago, but would have been perhaps as rich--or richer--than Buffett had Microsoft not made an unsolicited bid for Yahoo! at the beginning of February."

Johnny Chung Lee - Projects - Wii

$Billions of Microsoft Table Computing Research down the drain...

Really, somebody ought to be trying to get this guy to sign a contract NOW!

Storing Information for Profit - New York Times

"The three entrepreneurial firms see opportunity in changing smaller companies’ perceptions about computers. Rather than keeping all corporate data, confidential and otherwise, in software programs within the organization, the three firms would hold it online.

“We will take all the payment and receivable accounts, invoices, payroll, employee health insurance documents and keep them up to date in our servers,” said Patrick Dolan, founder and chairman of BPO Management (the initials stand for business process outsourcing)."

Cyber-Rebels in Cuba Defy State’s Limits - New York Times

"HAVANA — A growing underground network of young people armed with computer memory sticks, digital cameras and clandestine Internet hookups has been mounting some challenges to the Cuban government in recent months, spreading news that the official state media try to suppress."

Linux Client Turns Beta « Official Linden Blog

"After extensive testing and loads of community involvement, we’re happy to announce that the Linux version of the Second Life viewer has gone beta and is available for download at:" Says They Don't Want to Become Women's Site

Now, according to Forbes, an spokesperson says that “reports of the site becoming oriented towards older women are false and were fueled by an erroneous Associated Press article that has since been changed"*. According to Forbes, “even though the company plans on building on this user base it isn’t going to abandon other users in pursuit of it.”

What a farce!

George F. Will - In Cuba, Ignorance In Amber -

"In the wise man's prisons -- according to Armando Valladares's memoir of 22 years in them ('Against All Hope') -- some doors are welded shut and prisoners are fed watery soup sometimes laced with glass, or dead rats, or half a cow's intestine, rectum included, containing feces. In 2003, the wise man's pulverizing police state, always struggling to reduce Cuba's civil society to a dust of individuals, sentenced 78 democracy advocates, after one-day secret trials, to up to 28 years in those prisons. Pilgrims praising Cuban health care call to mind Pat Moynihan's acerbic observation that when travel to China was liberalized, many visitors seemed more impressed by the absence of flies than by the absence of freedom."

Vegas Clinic May Have Sickened Thousands

"LAS VEGAS (AP) - Nearly 40,000 people learned this week that a trip to the doctor may have made them sick. In a type of scandal more often associated with Third World countries, a Las Vegas clinic was found to be reusing syringes and vials of medication for nearly four years. The shoddy practices may have led to an outbreak of the potentially fatal hepatitis C virus and exposed patients to HIV, too.

The discovery led to the biggest public health notification operation in U.S. history, brought demands for investigations and caused scores of lawyers to seek out patients at risk for infections."

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Free Preview -

"SAN FRANCISCO -- Facebook Inc. has hired Google Inc. veteran Sheryl Sandberg to serve as its chief operating officer, a move by the social-networking start-up to further buttress its management amid a push to expand its operations and make more money from the popular site."

Election Process Broken

Election Process Broken

"Let it be said: Our border can be secured; the illegal aliens can be sent home; the magnets that draw them here can be turned off. This crisis can be resolved if the courage and will are there. Unfortunately, we have a government that does not seem to care and probable nominees neither of whom is committed in his heart to doing it.

Given the manifest will of the people that this invasion from the south be halted and rolled back, the 2008 election is shaping up as yet further confirmation that American democracy is a fraud."

Well, fraud implies intent, and I'm not sure I'm willing to go there.

We clearly have a system that produces surprising results during the primaries while the general election is almost always forecast accurately well in advance.

Oh for the smoke filled rooms!

Should any of this surprise us? Have you noticed that we have a primary system that in no way resembles our general election? Each party does their own thing, states vote at different times, rendering the latter ones almost meaningless, which in turn leads to earlier primaries each year. The Dems allow delegate votes to be split, the Reps use winner-take-all. (Update: and I forgot to mention that some states like Texas allow cross over voting and some say that now that the Republican nomination is more or less settled, Republicans might vote for the Democrat that they think is easier to beat. This is being given as one explanation for yesterday's results in Texas, at least and maybe Ohio too).

It has become less and less clear to me how this is better than just letting party higher-ups select the nominee in a big room somewhere. If average people are going to feel they didn't have a say in the matter anyway, why not at least do the thing as cheaply as possible?

And then there are those election machines (no, not the ones in Chicago and New York, I'm referring to the mechanical variety). We had a system that pretty much worked for years, until one day in November of 2000 when Al Gore (peace be upon him) sitting in a limousine somewhere, couldn't make up his mind whether to concede the election to George Bush or not. He waffled a bit, and we've been waffling a lot over how to run elections ever since. Eight years and several questionable elections later, many states are dumping the expensive electronic retrofitted laptops that replaced the paper-driven mechanical voting machines and replacing them with... paper-driven mechanical voting machines. Thank you Al Gore (PBUH), I hope your ego has been adequately salved by the intervening Nobel Prizes, Academy Awards, and that odd Miss America title you received as consolation prizes.

It has now become a standard operating procedure to question the outcome of each election based on one or two close states, and to find something inappropriate about their process that could only be explained by some sort of underhanded tampering. Everyone (especially the losers, and especially if they are Democrats) get all worked up for a month or two and then forget all about it. Never mind that there are election irregularities all over the place that don't even get reported, because it is the nature of people who do these things to cover up as many mistakes as possible.

What do you want to bet that this election will be no different?

Never ascribe to malice, that which can be explained by incompetence. (Update: But... looking at that picture above, one can't help but think that if there was a vast conspiracy of some sort to elect another big-government, no-change President, things could not possibly be going better than they are now.)

Monday, March 03, 2008

Rumor: Microsoft set for vast data-center push

"I've also heard that people may be 'stunned' about the extent to which Microsoft will embrace open-source software and interoperability in its plan. We shall see."

The only thing that will "stun" people is if they populate these data centers with Linux servers.

I don't think it beyond the realm of possibility either. Consider the alternative. Last time I worked with Microsoft servers it was still a royal pain in the backside to configure them remotely. Microsoft was just getting around to vending a tool (name of which I've forgotten) to allow for such things, but it worked poorly. No doubt it has improved, but my guess is that it takes more flunkies per gigahertz to run a Windows server farm than any other variety, and that doesn't count all the flunkies that have to go around repairing and re-installing software on end-user's desks. All well and good when it is an invisibly small part of your product line. But imagine all the companies that will line up to get rid of their own computer rooms and have Microsoft provide that service to them. These companies, some of which may remember that they actually spent less when they were dependent on the big bad mainframe, won't mind paying a premium to get themselves out of the computer maintenance business again.

Timesharing2.0 here we come!

But when it gets rolling, it will no longer matter to Microsoft that they set an example, "eating their own dog food" so to speak with Windows server, which has eaten (no pun intended) about as far into the Unix and Mainframe server markets as it is going to. Microsoft is going to be focused on saving Kilowatts, efficient and transparent virtualization, and most of all, centers that can run with almost no personnel on hand, be administered from Redmond, or India, or anywhere, including a web page at the customer site. They may, in the long run, even see some advantages in vending cheap thin clients to their customers, because, after all, they will be responsible for keeping these machines up to date and virus free and we all know that's almost impossible with Windows. Deals they have with Novell and Citrix may well grease the skids for this thing being an almost totally transparent switch from the hokey mostly client paradigm we suffer under now to something that resembles the true client/server model we talked about in the 90s.

I promise not to be stunned.

Intel Announces New Chip for Small Computers - New York Times

"Officially called the Intel Atom, the new chip family is designed specifically for devices that require both little power and a low price, and range in size from a hand-held gadget to a small, lightweight notebook computer."

Microsoft Expands Online Services

"Microsoft will invite several thousand businesses to test the services beginning today, and sometime later will begin charging a subscription fee for the services, said Microsoft Senior Vice President Chris Capossela. He declined to disclose pricing."

Babies born on 29 February attack Microsoft leap year bug

"It should be said that Microsoft recently committed to fixing this bug. But Brouwer is still annoyed. 'Microsoft tried to squeeze their bug into the OOXML standard, and IBM said 'You can't put that in here.' And Microsoft said 'But that bug has been in our software for 20 years, it has to be in the standard.''"

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Judge allows Wikileaks site to re-open - Yahoo! News

"At a court hearing in San Francisco, White [who apparently gets his latest opinions from the Internet] said he had 'serious questions' about whether the legal measures sought by the bank 'would be constitutionally approriate' and whether they constituted prior restraint by the government. He also cited 'possible violations of the First Amendment.'"

I guess the judge was just having a little fun at the expense of the First Amendment. Weee, look how powerful I am!

Amazon MP3 Now Open To Linux Users

"Indeed, the Amazon MP3 Downloader software bridge with which consumers are able to get their purchased songs off the Web and into their iTunes and Windows Media Player libraries, is now compatible with Ubuntu, Fedora, Debian, and OpenSUSE systems."