iPhone & Apple TV

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That thing completely rocks. If you haven’t checked it out, get your butt over there and check out the demo. Simply incredible. They’re going to get my ridiculous bundle of money once this thing arrives. I can probably even stomach the switch to Cingular (*gag*) to get this hardware.

And I’ve already ordered the Apple TV. Been waiting for this for some time. Finally something decent to hook up to the high-def set that doesn’t involve the HD-DVD and Blu-Ray circle jerk.
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MAD Magazine on DVD

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Check it out – a new release of all the contents of MAD magazine plus tons of extras (including some great artist interviews) – all for $49.99 – Cheap! The best part is the whole thing is a series of linked PDFs that don’t appear to be limited in their ability to print or make copies of on your local drive.

Includes everything from October 1952 through December 2005. One thing I didn’t realize is that they used to accept advertising – way before they bowed to financial pressures and started including it in recent years. Weird.

Link to Amazon’s page for it.

ISP data retention laws

This would suck. The powers that be are agitating for new data retention laws that would force ISPs to keep track of just about everything you do online and hold that info for years. Imagine – every instant message or email you sent could have it’s destination and source logged for use by law enforcement. Any web site you visit or file you download – logged.

This means that at any point in the future, your online activities could be dredged up examined for any purpose or any cause that may be unpopular at the moment. Not to mention that your records are kept by companies who have a less than stellar track record for keeping things like that private. Hell, with info like that being stored, you can be sure that information will leak like a sieve.

Right now these companies keep some of this info, with varying amounts of enthusiasm and effectiveness, so don’t think you’re immune right now. However, you’re free to choose a provider who keeps nothing at all or use anonymizer services. In the future this may not be an option. Even now, having and using privacy tools is extremely important, even for everyday activities.

Check out:

Tor, (A relatively easy-to-use network anonymizer)

Privoxy (included with the complete Tor distribution, helps keep private data from being sent to every web site you visit. Also includes a nice ad-blocking setup as a bonus.)

Firefox with some nice plugins, specifically NoScript, FoxyProxy, SafeCache, and SafeHistory

Learn to use them and use them often. Little brother may be watching.

Zune won’t play your purchased music

I can’t even believe that this is true, but here is is, straight from the horse’s mouth:

Plays for Sure: Zune isn’t “Plays for Sure” compatible and the DRM-protected music from PFS services likely won’t play without the usual burn to CD workaround. Lee’s explanation: PFS was established to make sure non-integrated players and services were compatible; because Zune is an integrated environment, it doesn’t need PFS. Lee: “We wanted an integrated experience from the beginning. Our focus is on giving the user one great experience.”

You read that right – Microsoft is not going to allow their new Zune music player to use content purchased from stores supporting their own “Plays for Sure” technology. Again: IT WON’T PLAY CONTENT FROM STORES USING THEIR OWN FORMAT. WTF?

Apparently they’re going for the ultra-niche market of those people who haven’t yet bought a digital music player. Sure as hell won’t be people who have any investment in music they’ve purchased from their own music partners…

I would be pissed if I was Napster or Rhapsody or any of those other music store also-rans. This thing has the potential to just bury them. Their own partner has basically just dumped them for a new platform and not letting anyone else play. Suckers.

They’re trying to pull an Apple marketing move here and actually make a good end-to-end solution for music – but since when has Microsoft *EVER* been able to do that? They’ve already screwed their customers once with “Plays for Sure,” are you really going to trust them with your music purchases again?

Email Priorities

OK, when did this start and how can we stop it?NEARLY EVERY FREAKING EMAIL I GET now has the little “high priority” thing set. Doesn’t matter if they’re asking about the weather or if it’s a pardon from governor for that prisoner being executed. Almost all mail is being sent with this flag on. I’ve turned off the icons in my client that highlight the apparently ultra-urgent “LOL, YOULL LOVE THIS JOKE, LOL :-)” I get from “friends” or cow-orkers.

Seriously, did some new Outlook version get deployed which allows this to be defaulted to High for all mail? And who the hell are these jerks kidding that they think everything they send needs immediate attention? If you need immediate action, pick up the damn phone. Otherwise, it’s probably going to sit in my inbox for a while until I get enough cycles to deal with it.

Look, emails get delayed, lost, folded, spindled, and occasionally mutilated. It’s not a 100% reliable form of communication. If it really is important, email should only be a backup for a phone call. So DROP THE OVERUSE OF HIGH PRIORITY MAIL. It sucks, and if you continue to abuse it, you’ll suck too. It’s already been rendered useless for me, so just DROP IT

Another Clueless “Analyst”

I should have known what I was going to read when I saw this article. I should have known because the site was called “Renew America”, code for “All you godless heathens need to get out.” But read it I did. The guy who wrote it, Fred Hutchison, actually gives some good scientific philosophy background. Well, he got the people and their philosophy right, but he’s completely out in right field when applying their work to his pet cause. In reality, he’s just using this history to set up an elaborate strawman argument. One COMPLETELY and UTTERLY divorced from reality.

Check this out:

Recurring statement of evolutionists: “We do not have to respond to criticism from intelligent design people because they are not of science.” Truth: It is a fallacy to say they are not of science because they do not subscribe to a philosophy of materialism. It is contrary to an essential principle of science that inconvenient criticism can be disregarded. One of the time-tested principles of science is that the science community must attempt to “falsify” the results of research. Only conclusions that cannot be falsified should be accepted as sound research. The refusal of evolutionists to answer serious criticisms might be an evidence that they have no answer and prefer to silence the conversation.

This comes toward the middle of the article. He spends most of his words creating a random chain of reasoning that somehow science is all about materialism. Well, that’s nice. But what does that have to do with being able to falsify results? Materialism is a philosophy that that everything comes down to basic matter and it’s interactions. Something most scientists would agree with, I’d bet, but it isn’t necessarily a core tenant of science. Being able to falsify results is, and is something that the ID theorists (and the author of the article) need to throw out. See, with no way of testing their hypothesis (that an outside “being” or “force” (code for God in most of their minds) guided the creation of all life) they need to resort to tearing down science itself, by getting rid of one of it’s key tenets. Their whole “theory” is nothing more than a random conjecture if you can’t test (falsify) it. It’s no better than Last Tuesdayism.

But it gets even better:

Recurring statement of evolutionists: “There is no evidence to support intelligent design and no evidence that challenges evolution.” Truth: Such a statement can only be made by a liar, or one who has never read what the intelligent design scientists are saying. Evolutionists get away with the big lie tactic by suppressing the works of intelligent design scientists.

Yes, it’s all the big bad evolutionists suppressing the poor freedom fighters of intelligent design. I’ll give you a leg up here. The ONLY “evidence” that the intelligent design people have is this: Their own disbelief that something complex could come about without outside help. That’s it. There is absolutely NOTHING more to it than that. Everything else is just frosting on their cake of incredulity. In other words, they can’t believe their eyes, so they turn to making up invisible beings. For some reason, this makes more sense to them, but just don’t ask them to tell you where these invisible beings came from.

And we come last portion of the article where the author goes and dumps out some well-worn and well-rebutted creationist/intelligent design arguments against evolution. We’ll get to those in a moment, but I’d like to point something out (again.) Intelligent design doesn’t give any real evidence of it’s truth. It’s only purpose it to attack evolution, and we can see this in this article. Instead of putting forward a rational argument for intelligent design and show why it explains the facts as they have been observed better than evolution, it’s proponents only attack the the theory of evolution itself. And do it badly, as we’ve seen time and time again. On to his attack:

So in order, we have the old Cambrian Explosion “mystery”:

All nine phyla of complex animals appeared suddenly in the Cambrian rock in China. No complex animals appear in Pre-Cambrian rock. No transitional forms of simple creatures evolving into more complex creatures appear in Pre-Cambrian rocks. Some Chinese scientists have rejected Darwinism because of these findings. The American evolution establishment has suppressed the information, so that many American scientists and students of science have never heard of the “Cambrian explosion.” Scientists in Communist China have significant freedom of thought and publication. Biological science in democratic America is under the dictatorship of the evolution establishment. However, if President Bush has his way, high school children will be allowed to hear about the “Cambrian explosion.”

Well it’s nice that someone read a book and regurgitated the nine phyla fact. But it isn’t quite true about the complex animals missing from Pre Cambrian rock. See this for more information. And I like the dodge here: “No transitional forms of simple creatures evolving into more complex creatures appear in Pre-Cambrian rocks.” Notice that he doesn’t say Post-Cambrian (or even during the Cambrian explosion itself!) These transitional fossils are well documented. As to these mysterious Chinese scientists, well, good for them. As we’ve seen, being ignorant isn’t just an American thing. And it’s well known that President Bush is a well-respected micro-biologist and paleontologist when he’s not saving the world from the evil horde of evolutionists.

Claim two I cannot even begin to address here. It’s so full of mistakes, misconceptions, and misunderstandings of basic biology it’s truly amazing. Dogs can’t evolve into cats? Well, ok then. “A society of breeders can start with poodles and after thousands of generations of selective breeding wind up with a Saint Bernard. All the information in poodle DNA is also in Saint Bernard DNA.” Ahh, I bet their DNA isn’t identical. They’ve evolved. And somehow this turns into a rant about micro-evolution and macro-evolution, with some sort of assumption that the evolutionists don’t want our children to hear because it might make them question the God of Evolution and the Posse of Darwin. Or something. But again, President Bush to the rescue: “It is very easy to conceal the difference between micro-evolution and macro-evolution from students. The evolutionists do not play fair. If President Bush has his way, students will be allowed to hear about the difference between micro-evolution and macro-evolution.” Nobody is hiding anything. Read this for the real info.

Claim three is the old punctuated equilibrium theory, but muddled into a complete mess. He begins with a quick (and partly erroneous) introduction to PE, then inexplicably goes on to imply that the (evil) evolutionists wanted to suppress Gould’s theory: “Gould was too famous and too widely published for his theory of punctuated equilibrium to be suppressed. However, the evolution establishment has enough clout to prevent school children from hearing about punctuated equilibrium.” Again, we see the attacks against evolution. PE has been left by the wayside because it didn’t fit the facts well enough. But to these crusaders, is a suppression of the Truth. Or something. See, they don’t really care about what’s really fact or fiction. All they really want is a way to tear down the theory of evolution. Intelligent design or discredited theories – it doesn’t matter to them what the truth really is, as long as they can continually heap scorn on evolution. It’s they who want to suppress the truth about the world, and no one else. Apparently PE is too much for old Bush; the author doesn’t mention that he’ll be pushing this theory personally to the students of the world. (For more info on PE, see here and here.)

At the bottom you have these rather astounding closing paragraphs:

Like the theory of evolution, intelligent design science has links to a philosophy, namely the philosophy of Deism and natural law. However, intelligent design science is protected from corruption by its careful adherence to the empirical disciplines of Francis Bacon.

In conclusion, whether one believes in evolution or intelligent design science, one is obliged to consider that at present, the intelligent designers are operating at a higher level of integrity than the evolution establishment.

Ack! Bacon would eat these idiots for lunch. For all practical purposes, he FREAKING CREATED the methods of scientific inquiry being used today. The very same method being dismissed in the beginning of the article. Somehow, it’s the scientists with an enormous body of evidence for evolution that are in the wrong here. This author should be ashamed of himself for writing such obvious and utter falsehoods. A higher level of integrity? Bullshit. This article is the epitome of lack of integrity.

Motorola RAZR, GPRS, and T-Mobile

I finally had to ditch my (partially) trusty Nokia 3650. It had taken to turning itself off randomly every 5-10 minutes. A battery change and some wishful cleaning didn’t help, so I bit the bullet and purchased a new RAZR, which was just made available in the local T-Mobile stores. Yes, the thing doesn’t have have the capability of the 3650 with the well-developed series 60 platform, but damn is this thing sexy! Lightweight, thin, and a standard keypad – all things lacking on the 3650.

However, there was one problem. I got all my contacts and calendar synced in about five minutes, thanks to OS X’s iSync. But try as I might, I couldn’t get the little thing to establish a working GPRS connection. It would always just fail during (or just after) the authentication phase. Sometime silently, sometimes not. There are about a million tutorials on the web for getting GPRS working with OS X, and all point to this page that contains nicely formatted GPRS and modem scripts for just about every phone in existence, but nothing I did would make it work. Until…

I put the APN in the Phone Number field. Some pages want a *99# there, some want the word none (like for my 3650), some are blank. But for T-Mobile and this phone, it wanted the internet2.voicestream.net stuck in there. Worked like a champ. So, the quick settings I used are:

Phone Number: internet2.voicestream.net
Username and Password are both blank
Modem type: Motorola GPRS CID1 (retrieved from the above mentioned page, .ZIP linked here.)

Hopefully this will help someone else and save them some pain. And by the way, T-Mobile. Your help pages suck huge schlong. They are so content free as to be completely worthless.

MPAA Going After TV Downloads

You knew it was coming, didn’t you. The inevitable smack down of those evil mustache-twirling THIEVES that are downloading copies of the Simpsons. Yes, the dinosaur in the tar-pit that is the MPAA has sued and effectively shutdown six major Bit-Torrent sites specializing in TV shows.

I suppose that their recent loss in the broadcast flag legislation process caused them to lash out at the ones they love – the TV and movie going public. So refrain from downloading this crap all you who yearn to see what Apprentice gets that cushy job. For it won’t be long until the whole pile of crap that is the MPAA will be hopelessly sunk. If all they can come up with is more and more regulation, with less and less innovation, it’s inevitable that that someone with better ideas will pass them by.

Link to ZDNet article.
Link to MPAA press release (in PDF) [ Beware gratuitous fear mongering ]