DRM, Microsoft Vista and NPR

Vista’s Suicide Bomb: who gets hurt? | The Register

Digital rights management (DRM) is something that Apple, Inc., (formerly Apple Computer, Inc.) had to implement into its iPod/iTunes scheme in order to convince the hopelessly dated Luddites that run the music industry to try the legitimate sale of digital music. The scheme is, of course, costly, cumbersome (though far smoother than any other DRM scheme) and unpopular with customers who are used to being able to copy or digitize (i.e., rip) their own CDs, but now find that they have even less freedom with the digital media that they buy.

It all comes to a head with Microsoft’s Vista operating system, however. According to the above theregister.com article, Vista’s DRM scheme is horribly restrictive. It is embedded at the firmware level in your computer and certain devices. All this means is that it is nearly impossible to use any software scheme to even allow yourself to play your own music on another computer that you own. Furthermore, the scheme propagates itself to mobile players, like Microsoft’s Zune, such that playing your music on more than one player becomes a chore.

The most terrifying aspect of this DRM scheme is that it can apply itself to music Continue reading DRM, Microsoft Vista and NPR

Mac Aqua Look on Windows XP

After nearly fours years on a Macintosh, working on Micro$osft Windoze XP has become quite a chore. Fortunately, given time and administrator privileges, one can remedy the Windoze GUI doldrums by making the Micro$oft interface pretty.Apple OS X Panther Aqua Look for Microsoft Windows XPThe process is not for the faint of heart, but it could be made easier if all the right information was in one place. Hopefully, I will achieve that here.

First things first. Microsoft prevents you from installing any themes of which it does not approve. In other words, they insist that you install the drab garbage that survives their pathetic design department. So, the first thing you need to do is remove the Windows XP restrictions on installing third party themes and visual styles. You can do this with Uxtheme Multi-patcher. It does not work with 64-bit Windows, and it is recommended that you be on Windows XP SP-2. (In other words, make sure that your operating system is up to date.) At first, it looks scary, because a lot of strange things happen to your computer when this program does its thing, but just follow the on-screen instructions, and after rebooting, you can go ahead with the next step.

C:\Windows\Resources\Themes\Now, you can download and install the themes and visual styles that you want. I recommend going straight for the visual styles because themes present a pain that is not justified by the payoff. Download the Tiger visual style from devinatart.com, and place the Tiger theme folder inside the C:\Windows\Resources\Themes\ folder as shown in the screen capture to the right.

How to Activate a theme in Windows XPNow, to activate the theme, right-click on your desktop, click “properties”. First, go to the “Themes” tab and make sure that themes are “enabled”. Then, go to the appearance tab, and choose the Tiger theme that you want from the drag-down menus. Lastly, be sure to hit the “effects” button and enable “Clear Type” font smoothing to get the prettiest picture you possibly can.

I assume that you know how to change the desktop background, so add the coup de grace with an Apple wallpaper, navigate to the same Tiger folder, then go inside it and go to the “wallpapers” folder, and choose the wallpaper that turns you on. Strangely enough, I chose one of the standard Windows wallpapers on my computer. I guess not everything that Microsoft provides is crap.

And, that’s it. Now, you have made your ugly Windows XP desktop into this ravishingly beautiful Macintosh OS 10.4 Tiger desktop. Isn’t the Aqua graphical user interface beautiful? Now, you are well on your way to making the final switch to Macintosh. Everybody should. It’s the only way to force Microsoft to be original.

Sex Prolongs Life, but Causes Cancer

BBC NEWS | Health | Oral sex linked to throat cancer

Our brain trust at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, the best American medical school, have managed to condemn the last form of intimacy: kissing. Damned be those ultrasensitive analytical methods and data mining methods that condemn everything from french fries (Chemical & Engineering News) to Ex-Lax.

Of course, the statistical strength of these studies is, in general, beyond reasonable doubt. Nevertheless, the question of whether these measures will effect real and measurable benefits in the longevity and the long-term well-being of the general populace persists. Are the correlations between diseases and these ingredients (like phenolphthalein, and acrylamide) real or chimerical? Will the measured benefits gained from their banishment be real or coincidental?

Statistics is an awfully powerful branch of knowledge, and its immeasurable benefits to everything from clinical medicine to inventory management and marketing are not to be denied, but it stands to reason whether the banning of ingredients that have been in consistent use during a century that saw unprecedented gains in longevity and well-being in the industrialized world will have any measurable long-term effects. One can only hope that the efforts in which we are investing heavily will tell, in due time.

The “Conservative” Collapse Begins

Va. Tells NYC to Stop Gun Stings – washingtonpost.com

Ah, yes, the fractious reality of the Republican Party is beginning to percolate to the surface for everyone to see. Soon people may even remember that the Republican Party as founded by Lincoln and propagated by the likes of Eisenhower, Rockefeller, Romney, Reagan and even Nixon is indeed a socially progressive and fiscally conservative movement. With Giuliani’s vehement defense of his pro-choice stance today, the right fringe’s stranglehold on the Republican Political apparatus may finally be loosening.

May 1: Birthday of SPAM

Reaction to the DEC Spam of 1978

You want to believe that greed was never as intense as it is now, and that the lows to which salesmen of reputable companies stoop in order to make a sale were not always as the lows achieved by modern SPAMmers. Then you encounter articles like the one above, about the first incidence of SPAM email. You assume that it happened in the mid 1990s, just when email use was becoming prevalent. But, no. It was in 1978, very soon after email was born. And, the culprit was not some shady internet character trying to pitch something illicit or unsavory. It was a salesman from Digital Equipment Corp (DEC) trying to sell wares to the members of the then internet: mainly defense contractors and academics (who were probably acting as defense contractors).

The link above appeared in this Google history widget. It is amazing that a DEC salesman carried out the deed. After all, DEC was renowned as an engineering powerhouse that made due without any fancy marketing by relying on the strength of its products. (This ultimately led to DEC’s demise in 1998, when it was bought by Compaq, a company too inept to use DEC’s technology to survive.) In this context, it is perhaps sad that this salesman’s efforts were so horribly misplaced temporally. Ten years later, this marketing may have been of some use to DEC. After all, the ultimate irony is that DEC did not have this sort of aggressive marketing when it needed it.

Image from Doug Jones’ Collection of DEC Logos

The Anthrax Scare Wasn’t

Chemical & Engineering News Brief It is a good time to harken to the postal anthrax scare that besieged the country soon after September 11, 2001. As if the hysteria created by the 9/11 disaster needed to be fueled any further, many FBI experts asserted that the anthrax spores found in the tainted letters were weapons grade, of the highest lethality, and composed of materials that assured maximum dispersal. From this Chemical & Engineering News brief in late 2006:

But FBI scientist Douglas J. Beecher refutes that description (Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 2006, 72, 5304). He writes that “a widely
circulated misconception is that the spores were produced using additives and sophisticated engineering supposedly akin to military
weapon production.” On the contrary, he writes, the anthrax powders in the letters “were comprised simply of spores purified to
different extents.” The FBI would not make Beecher available for interviews.

What are we to make of this? Certainly, this revelation lends credibility to all the conspiracy theorists who have been proselytizing since 9/11. So, why would the FBI refuse to allow its scientist, Beecher, speak?

The conspiracy theorists, of course, have plenty of answers for this question, and it is perhaps in the interest of the FBI and the “powers that be” for conspiracy theorists to push these answers in the absence of any legitimizing response from the government. “Divide and conquer” was the Roman motto, and the American government seems to be evading accountability by dividing up its own constituents into two classes of gullible people–the theorists and the reactionaries to the theorists.

And, this is precisely the sort of recklessness that reduces a government’s legitimacy. Ronald Reagan was wrong. The problem with government is not that it wastes money. The problem is that our government is sowing the seeds of mistrust and, thus, undermining the trust in government that is vital and fundamental to democracy. If people cannot have faith that a government that they elect is going to act on their behalf, they will have no reason to participate in the system. A system with no participants is by definition not a democracy.

Click on the thumbnail above to view the brief as a jpg image, or click here to download this news brief in pdf format.

New Uptime Record

New uptime record of 28 days Immediately after the first recorded high uptime, came this one. It was recorded just before the next OS upgraded prompted me to restart my trusty, crusty old 867 MHz G4 Powerbook Macintosh (Titanium).

As always, many, many software packages were compiled and installed by fink. The various browsers, Firefox, Omniweb and Safari were opened and closed hundreds of times, the abominable programs Word and Excel (by Micro$soft) were run numerous times, and many photos and graphics were processed via iPhoto and Omnigraffle and imagemagick.

General “Motors”

Toyota to build $1.3 billion plant in Mississippi | Reuters

The account of the events contained in the above article is the final affirmation that Toyota will overtake General Motors as the largest auto manufacturer in the world. And, this prediction, of course, came to fruition in the last few weeks.

Given the tattered state of GM, one is left to wonder whether the word “Motors” belongs in the name. After all, the company’s most profitable division is its finance division, GMAC, and as of yesterda, May 2, 2007, even GMAC profits are slumping as a result of the bursting of the “sub-prime” mortgage bubble. As soon as GMAC is separated from GM, GM will become a company treading water: losing market share while it attempts to maintain pricing points that at least recoup its costs. It will be General “Motors”, for the motors are hardly high tech and barely selling. GM is a victim of its own arrogance (as documented in Roger & Me nearly 20 years ago), gross mismanagement and lack of foresight ( as documented by Who Killed the Electric Car).

It is a wonder, then, why anybody entertains GM’s or any American car maker’s laments about worker costs. American car companies blame worker costs for declining sales, while foreign automakers ascribe their increasing sales to the low cost of American auto workers.

Doing Our Part to Warm the Planet

Only a Bush-appointed EPA chief can claim progress in reducing green house gases (GHGs) when the report issued by the agency he heads states pointedly that GHG emission had risen 16% by 2004, relative to emissions in 1990. Here is a direct link to the report at the EPA:

EPA : Global Warming : Resource Center : Publications : GHG Emissions : US Emissions Inventory 2006

Here is a local link to the “Fast Facts” document, which is also accessible through the above link:
US Emissions Inventory 2006
One wonders why GHG generation was down 1.3% in 2001. Could it have anything to do with airplanes not flying for a few days after 9/11? Or the economic slowdown that followed?

After examining the document, one might find it interesting that carbon dioxide emission increases as auto fuel efficiency decreases, and that emissions for electricity generation hold relatively steady. Clearly, regulations have an effect, and when cars–SUVs, specifically–aren’t regulated, the results are unsurprisingly dismal.