Friday, February 29, 2008

WikiLeaks uncensored.

Thanks in no small part to the efforts of The EFF and others, the honorable District Judge Jeffrey S. White has withdrew an earlier order blocking the domain name resolution.

“There are serious concerns that the court has, and serious questions raised, about the effectiveness of any order that this court might issue given the current state of affairs,” Judge White said, lamenting the fact that constitutional law might not be able to keep up with technological change.

Yeah, censorship is hard. I feel for you. I mean, how are we supposed to hide tax evasion now.


OSGGFG: 4.0 Free Racing Games

Next up in the Open Source Gamers Guide to Free Games: OSGGFG 4.0 Racing Games.

It's been a long time since I looked into open source racing games, certainly long enough for some new entries to the field. What surprised me most was the complete dearth of motocross games. I've put out a memo to @gamestudio to get to work on 2 new games to help fill the void.

I have to confess a love, nay addiction of a certain closed-source non-free NFSU2 running under Wine. I had hoped to find a suitable Open Source replacement. Instead I found 10 open source racers to supplement it.

Read More @ AC

5th Place, I'm making a move.

No trophy for 8th place in Torcs

Multiplayer in Armagetron Advanced.

Trigger, It's Cool I know a shortcut.

Super Tux Kart

EXTREME Tux Racer = Extreme belly rash.

Slune Racing

TrackMania on a less than successful attempt.

VDrift Drift Style Racing

All in all, not a bad group. Read the Full Article @ AC


Thursday, February 28, 2008

House votes to cut Tax Breaks for Oil Companies

In a sudden outbreak of intelligence, The House of Representatives have voted to cut back on more than 18 BILLION in tax breaks to the major deomestic oil producers.

Also under the bill, consumers would gain new tax breaks for buying plug-in hybrid cars, which can run on batteries that can be recharged by plugging in to electric outlets. Local governments would be able to issue as much as $3.6 billion of tax-credit bonds to finance projects to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. Companies would get a new tax credit of 50 cents a gallon for cellulosic alcohol produced as a fuel.

Oil and gas companies would lose some $13.6 billion in tax breaks granted in 2004 for domestically produced goods. Exxon Mobil (XOM), Chevron Corp. (CVX), ConocoPhillips (COP), Royal Dutch Shell (RDSA), and BP Plc (BP) would lose the tax breaks entirely. The deduction would be frozen at 6% for smaller oil and gas companies. That deduction had been scheduled to jump to 9% in 2010.

Don't get to excited though, the President has threatened a Veto and the Senate has killed it on 2 other occasions.

The House last year repeatedly passed similar legislation, but the Senate has proved intractable. Last year, the Senate fell one vote short of the number of votes needed to repeal the oil tax breaks amid opposition from oil-state senators.

Frustrated, Democrats are contemplating adding parts of the energy tax package to a budget reconciliation measure moving through Congress, according to one Democratic aide. Such measures need a simple majority to pass. That would get around a procedural hurdle in the Senate in which 60 votes are needed to move forward on legislation, a hurdle that has been a repeated stumbling block.

So maybe with luck and expert politicing, we can get this bill sent to the White House, where it will be thoughtfully considered and immediately Vetoed.


Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Flu, Obama, Clinton, Ralph Nader, WTF

Every muscle hurts, every crease in the blanket, Every joint. The Flu is cutting a vicious swath through my family. Basically a whole house full of moaning and restlessness. After being in Bed for more than 13hrs, I had to get up. Had to find medication. Check the web for a minute.

"Hillary Clinton would make a fine president and I think all reasonable people know that. She would make a better president, offering more constructive policies protecting more Americans, than McCain could ever hope to. Her problem is that Americans, in any given election cycle, can become inflamed with a true passion for change that can only exist in a country like ours. She does not represent that change as well as Mr. Obama does. In spite of her superior capabilities in many areas, Obama would still move into the White House with more foreign policy experience than George Bush had when Bush and his brother stole the election in 2000."

How insightful, who wrote that, Alec Baldwin. WTF.

Sunday, Feb. 24
Ralph Nader

Ralph Nader sat down with Tim Russert to announce a third bid for the White House. Plus, we had a political roundtable with insights and analysis on Clinton vs. Obama and McCain vs. the New York Times -- featuring David Brooks, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Michele Norris and Chuck Todd.

Meet The Press with Tim Russert. I give up, I can't watch, I'm going back to bed, You are welcome to. I find it helpful to have a bucket nearby, but that may just be the flu.


Friday, February 22, 2008

OLPC A Good Idea, Badly Misunderstood

ITWire has a rant disguised as an opinion piece titled OLPC: one bad idea per child by Sam Varghese.

I should let it be known I have written on the OLPC XO before.
All of my articles have showered it with praise. My kid wants one, I wouldn't mind tinkering a bit with it myself. So it should come as no surprise how I feel about Sam's article. Although no real point was made, I will do my best to address his comments.

For instance, we have personal computers and poorer denizens of this earth do not. Development agencies are very good at exploiting this sense of guilt - which is fairly common in the West. These agencies have do-good agendas, well-meaning no doubt, but more focused on their own survival than anything else. One thing common to practically all these agencies is that they actually believe that Western technology can alleviate any and all problems in the Third World.
As proven time and again, technology from whatever part of the world can and does alleviate SOME problems in the Third World. Desalination, Purification, Solar Ovens, Solar panels, Cellular Phones, are all great examples.

Similarly, with these agencies, ads of poor children drinking water from a filthy stream are a good way to bring in a stream of donations, which in turn help to keep said agency running. It pays wages for a number of people who can then salve their consciences by convincing themselves that they are doing "good". Helps them to sleep at night, I guess.
Any actual good done, I suppose is irrelevant to your rant, I mean narrative.

And so we come to the One Laptop Per Child project. Not exactly built on the same lines as a project aimed at development in a poorer country, but exploiting many of the same feelings. The initial stated goal was to supply laptops that would cost $US100 to children in underdeveloped countries - Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Nigeria, Libya, and Pakistan were those which initially signed up to participate.
An actual fact, Bravo.

Associating the project with the idea of "open source" was a wonderful way to get people involved - Red Hat supplies a customised GNU/Linux distribution for the XO - but that idea has now been diluted to some extent by the intrusion of Microsoft which is developing a version of Windows XP to run on the little laptop.
These are the stated principles of the OLPC project.

XO is built from free and open-source software. Our commitment to software freedom gives children the opportunity to use their laptops on their own terms.
That part of "on their own terms" requires the XO to be able to run whatever software the child prefers and is capable of running. Microsoft is working as hard as it can to get the XO to run a stripped and gutted version of XP on it. The XO will ship with its own software and the purchasing country can choose to install whatever it likes. For OLPC's official stance on free software please refer to

Microsoft knows that catching them young is key to creating a whole new generation of Windows users - people who have no choice but to accept whatever the company dishes out.
That's 2 facts, Kudos.

As the OLPC's Ivan Krstic wrote,"To claim we should prohibit XO customers from running XP in the interest of freedom is to claim everyone should be free to make a choice - as long as it's a choice we agree with."
Yeah, what he said.

I don't know about the robustness - when I asked whether my son could drop the laptop from a height of five feet (it is supposed to be able to withstand such a shock), the man who had the laptop on display said "no" very fast.
It wasn't yours? You expected to be able to throw down the display model (possibly the only one) at a conference? I'm shocked they didn't let you hit it with a hammer. For demonstration of its robustness, see David Pogue with his demo unit. Note what happens at 1:25.

The OLPC appears to be on the defensive when approached by the media. I asked Jim Gettys, the vice-president of software, whether he was willing to spend some time talking about it recently while he was in Melbourne. His answer was "maybe." I gave him a time and place but though he showed up, he told me that he had to speak to a number of other people first. I waited for what I considered a reasonable amount of time and then went about my own business.
What you considered to be a reasonable amount of time. You mean as a blogger who wasn't giving a talk at the conference involved in a worldwide organization who had appointments with actual press and possibly people who would help the cause. In other words he had a job to do, and if he could fit you in he would.

Gettys's talk at the Linux conference in Melbourne in January is one of the few for which video is not available on the web. I wonder why. There are slides - with the standard heart-rending pictures of poor children from various countries who apparently will be the beneficiaries of this munificence.
Actually it is 60 pages with a few pictures of children who did receive the XO laptop and a few pictures showing the environment in which they are used. All but one of the pictures of children show well dress schoolchildren working happily on their laptop. In between those pictures is a wealth of information that you dismiss without a word. You can and should download the presentation , actually read it instead of just looking at the pictures and decide for yourself.

(His talk clashed with one delivered by Dirk Hohndel of Intel and I attended the latter).
I can hardly wait to read the incredible story you will write based on a talk you actually attended.

Not every country which has been approached to join the project has looked favourably on Negroponte's advances. Way back in 2006, India categorically rejected the project. The Times of India quoted the ministry of human resources development as saying it was intrigued that no developed country had been chosen to be part of the project "given the fact that most of the developed world is far from universalising the possession and use of laptops among children of 6-12 age group".
Guess you have not seen this then. The Indian government was under the same false impressions you are. Mainly
Technology can only do so much to eradicate deep-rooted cultural and social problems in developing and under-developed countries. You need political action to solve these problems, a laptop will do nothing to help. It may actually do more damage than good by creating wants which people then seek to satisfy by stealing.
If the village has ONE LAPTOP PER CHILD, who is going to steal them?

Try looking at this in a different way. We are not talking about whether we should be supplying these people with food, clean water, electricity, etc OR a laptop. We are talking about spending money on supplying books which are expensive, heavy and easily damaged or an XO for a child. Which does more good? Which is more utilitarian? Which is a better investment? Better yet which is the child more likely to learn from?

Not for nothing is this called a ground-breaking project. They'll have to break a lot of ground in a great many countries to bury all the waste that is left behind as the project's legacy.
Oh, sorry, I thought you were a reasonable person, I see now I was mistaken. You really think this is all being done for a nefarious profit based motivation don't you? It is easy to believe that OLPC is a selfish organization if you are unfamiliar with empathy and selfless acts of human decency. Shame on you sir.


Net Neutrality Take 2

The last time Net Neutrality was taken up by congress, a concerned citizen felt it necessary to voice his opinion to his local representative.

He forwarded me the response he received in hopes I would share it with you dear readers.

Feel free to scroll down, click and read the whole thing, it is an excellent example of political speech and passing the buck.

The gist (for the lazy) was that although the Honorable Ed Whitfield voted for for the original bill, he voted against the amendment giving anyone the authority to enforce it. Then he notes that the Senate failed to pass its own version and the bill died just like Schoolhouse Rock describes.

My advice to this young man, and to all of you, is to not be discouraged and make sure his voice is heard again on the newest upcoming Net Neutrality bill making its way through the political meat grinder in Washington right now. Also make sure your friends do the same. Be sure to mention as a registered voter the "Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2008” (HR 5353) is an important issue for you and will certainly inform your future voting decisions.

As more and more media corporations (TimeWarner, etc) control consumer access to the Internet, regulation and controls must be established to ensure equal access to content from a variety of sources. I see no better institution than the Federal Communication Commision, short of creating one for this purpose (not the worst idea I've heard), to fill that role.

For more on the new bill and track its progress


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

WikiLeaks Censored ... sort of

The New York Times and others are reporting on a Federal Judge's order to force Dynadot from resolving the domain name and block anyone from transferring the registrar.

On Friday, Judge Jeffrey S. White of the Federal District Court in San Francisco granted a permanent injunction ordering Dynadot of San Mateo, Calif., the site’s domain name registrar, to disable the domain name. The order had the effect of locking the front door to the site — a largely ineffectual action that kept back doors to the site, and several copies of it, available to sophisticated Web users who knew where to look.

Wikileaks can still be accessed through several mirrors as well as its Ip address @

Legal experts thankfully are stating just how ridiculous this order is.

Judge White’s order disabling the entire site “is clearly not constitutional,” said David Ardia, the director of the Citizen Media Law Project at Harvard Law School. “There is no justification under the First Amendment for shutting down an entire Web site.” NYTimes

"This is akin to seizing all the copies of the New York Times, locking the doors and ordering the landlords not to let anyone back in the building," said Julie Turner, a Palo Alto Internet attorney who briefly represented Wikileaks, but not during last week's hearing in front of White. Wikileaks was not represented at that hearing.
Associated Press

Then there are a minority who say this case is not about censorship.

While many weblog postings about the Wikileaks case have been quick to claim that government-backed Web censorship is taking place, the possibility that trade secrets may be involved or that laws may have been broken by leaking the documents do complicate matters significantly, said Bart Lazar, a partner with the law firm of Seyfarth Shaw.

"There is a difference between stating your opinion and illegally posting trade secret information," Lazar told LinuxInsider. "If the information is truly a trade secret, namely it is the subject of reasonable efforts to protect and has value by reason of it being a trade secret, and the trade secret was, in fact, misappropriated, the likelihood is that the case and injunction should be upheld."
Linux Insider

You can check the documents yourself . They are all over the web, proving just how effective the order is. It appears the trade secrets involve hiding assets, tax evasion and using private investigators to harass whistle blowers. Certainly we must protect these all important trade secrets.

Read the judge's Full order (pdf)

Here's hoping for a quick appeal and reversal.


Sunday, February 17, 2008

IBM ready to PowerUp Free MMO

IBM has launched a new Free 3D educational MMO to teach children about environmental science.

"Innovation is the key to competitiveness in today's globally integrated economy, but just when we need it to skyrocket, interest in math and science has been declining in the United States," said Stanley S. Litow, VP of Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs and President of IBM International Foundation. "American competitiveness demands more interest in math and science by students. Virtual worlds and 3D are an unexplored resource in education. We asked our best researchers to incorporate the use of this technology into traditional educational curriculum."

PowerUp has kids trying to save the planet Helios from ecological disasters alone or in groups.

If any one out there is listening, Planet Helios is being destroyed and we need your help!

Hundreds of years ago the nations of our planet realized that the side effects from burning fossil fuels for energy were damaging the atmosphere and changing the climate. They joined together to develop and build technologies to create electricity from available renewable energy resources like wind, sun and water power. Meanwhile the planet's citizens–our ancestors– pulled together and pledged to use less energy. This ushered in a Golden Age of energy balance and ecological harmony.

Available for Windows 98,ME,XP,Vista
Sadly no Linux or Mac Client. I'll get back to you on Wine support.Update: Wine No Worky, Cedega reports need newer DirectX, hmmm.

For more information, screenshots downloads and video hop on over to

The obligatory Youtube Video.

Pretty Skies


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Free Software is Good, m'Kay

A few days ago a story was posted to FSDaily with the assuming title of "Can we please stop fighting FUD with FUD?" from Free Software Magazine. The gist of the article is the author's opinion that some, especially new, free software users have a habit of spreading FUD (Fear Uncertainty & Doubt) when comparing it to proprietary software.

In some ways he is right. Free Software usually wins on it's merits, if not it's philosophy. But I want to comment on a few of his statements.

If you’re to going run down Microsoft products then you need to be specific. What products suck, why and how do they suck?

Whoa, this may require more space than I really want to devote.

I see a lot of this type of thing that simply shows the proponent has rarely used the product in question. Aside from that, is this really a good argument to make?
It is a great argument, if the ways proprietary software sucks could easily be improved if it was released as free software.
Are we really going to be so arrogant as to imply that free software doesn’t suck at all? By running down the opposition aren’t we implying there are no issues with “our” software?
Excellent point, some free software does suck or has issues or both.
The only problem with this being that when we or someone else complains about how or why free software sucks, someone (the developers, you or anyone else) can come along and address those issues.

The article concludes by throwing down the gauntlet.
I—for one—would like to see more blogs and comments on why free software is good rather than why Microsoft is bad. So let’s start here. Your task is complete the sentence “Free software is good because…” in less than 50 words.
I pick up your gauntlet Mr Cartwright and offer my answer. Ahem...

Free Software is good because it offers you choices unavailable with proprietary software. It also eliminates vendor lock-in, patch dependence, forced upgrades, and per user license policing.

28 Words.

I would like to expound on the word choices above. These Choices or Freedoms give you the ability to :

Study the source code to learn how portions of the software work.

Modify the source code to adapt to your circumstances or fix problems.

Modify the source code to create new works and even compete with the original work.

Distribute the software freely, given that you follow the licensing terms.

Anyone who writes for Free Software Magazine already knows these points, but he felt it necessary to ask for them to be written, rather than write them again. I'm going to join Ryan Cartwright and ask that we all stop the FUD.

I mean really, hasn't Microsoft been through enough?


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Happy Darwin Day Chuck

09-02-12)On 12 February 1809 in Shropshire England a man was born who would change the way we look at the world. 51 ears later he published a book that attempted to explain the diversity of life on this planet. His theory would lay the foundation for modern biology and pave the way for whole new fields of science and study.

That man was Charles Darwin and today marks Charles Darwin's 199th birthday. 149 years after the publication of Origin of a Species being critically examined and studied. His ideas were controversial in his day, because they were in opposition to religious teachings on the origins of man. Darwin's theory has become a scientifically accepted explanation. But, there are still some who doubt the veracity of Natural Selection and Mutation known collectively as Evolutionary Theory, more often than not for the same reasons as it was disputed 149 years ago. If you believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible or the Quran, Evolution cannot be true. Many that hold this view actively try to discredit Darwin and Evolution in a variety of ways, unsuccessfully in most cases.

On this day we celebrate Darwin as a man and as a scientist. He spent many years travelling the globe, gathering data, and studying animals both in the wild and in the flesh and bone. He built his work on the facts and was not influenced by popular opinion. In essence he was a scientist without parallel.

Suggested Activities for Darwin Day

Read or Re-Read Darwin's works.
Downloads at Project Gutenberg including On the Origins Of Species
Read Online @ The complete works of Charles Darwin

Watch The PBS Nova Special on Darwin.
Google Video Link

Find out why Darwin still matters.
An essay by Biologist Richard Dawkins

Fight Back against the anti Evolutionist use social networks like Digg! and promote evolution stories. Here are two submissions from me, If you find more submit them.
Evolution Just A Theory?
A Respectable man with a Dangerous Idea

Digg Search
Reddit Search

Watch Kenneth Miller destroy Intelligent Design.

Happy Darwin Day.


Sunday, February 10, 2008

Taking out the Trash

It's a chore we all have to do. Even here in the digital domain.

Being a fairly public netizen and blogger, I get a ton o spam. Filters take care of 99.7% of it, so I don't have to see the 120 Penile Enhancement offers and various email scams sent to me every day. Every once in a while those .3% do show up in the inbox. So as a service to the community (and for my own twisted amusement) it was decided to collect and air this scam spam for public viewing. Not wanting to clog up this blog with it, why not dedicate another for just that purpose.

Head on over to Mrcopilot's Trash to take a gander at what passes for the state of the art in filter busting scam spam if you are interested in that sort of thing.

My favorite is the pay up or we will kill you message I received yesterday. Check it out at Death Threats for Profit. Give it a Digg, to alert the masses. I must admit, that one made me pause for a second. Not even sure how that could possibly be an effective money maker. But then again we are amazed any of these ever work on anyone.


Friday, February 8, 2008

OSGGFG 3.1: Tee Wars

TeeWars was noticeably absent from the last edition of the Open Source Gamers Guide to Free Games: OSGGFG part 3: The Platformers. I apologize, it was an oversight on my part. To make up for it I am giving the game full review here.

TeeWars is an online multi-player platform 2d shooter. Thats a mouthful, game play involves running, jumping, shooting and dying .. a lot.

TeeWars' motto is Cute little buggers with guns, and cute little buggers they are. You can customize your avatar's color and shape in a variety of ways to make your Tee unique, although they all end up very reminiscent of a certain pink Nintendo character who shall remain nameless.

The control system in TeeWars utilizes the keyboard for movement and the mouse for aiming your weapon and grappling hook. Yes, that is right I said grappling hook. Not only can your Tee Jump and Double Jump, he has the ability to latch onto any platform, wall or overhead area and swing or ascend up the line. Even a passing enemy can be grabbed and brought closer under the thump of your giant mallet. This leads to some thrilling acrobatic game play once you overcome the initial problem of teaching your hands to operate independently.

The arsenal of weapons available to your cute little cuddly avatar are lethal. Available weapons run from an over sized mallet, a single shot rifle, Grenade Launcher, Machine gun, and a Shotgun to the deadly katana sword. Ammunition is limited for each weapon giving the game a very good sense of balance. Even a Tee with his mallet can be a match for a bazooka toting nemesis.

Power Ups in the form of Hearts shields and weapons are spread liberally throughout the maps to help you recover health and build up shielding for protection.

Game play matches include you against the world death match, team death match and capture the flag, All are a blast to play, either over the Internet or on a LAN with a few friends. Emoticon balloons as well as a full chat system are implemented to let you talk smack to that one Tee who has fragged you 20 times in a row before you were able to obliterate him with a well timed shot.

Graphically the game is 2d with detailed independently scrolling backgrounds and clever level design. Characters are a simple design but lovingly detailed, changing expression when hit or are jumping or falling.

Sounds are cute and surprisingly fitting given the amount of carnage you are in the middle of. Adorable little taunts and giggles are heard as you disappear in a poof of stars after being hit by gunfire. Happily you respawn with a hammer far from the scene of your last death. There is no music, as of this writing but there is so much going on it would likely be distracting.

Overall, TeeWars is way too much fun packed into a tiny package. I give it 4.5 out of 5. I take off a half a point for the lack of a soundtrack. Go get it now you won't be disappointed. TeeWars is available for Windows, Mac and Linux.


Update: New Version Released with New License: Teewars Becomes TeeWorlds, Stays Fun

Quote of the Day Harlan Ellison

Harlan Ellison is often lauded and or maligned for his abrasiveness. Personally, I enjoy his writing and am constantly entertained with his numerous public scuffles.

Todays Quote of the day comes from the film Dreams With Sharp Teeth, a film about Harlan Ellison. While discussing the plight of writers and getting paid for it, he comes out with this pearl of wisdom.

"I sell my soul, but at the highest rates, the highest rates. I don't take a piss without getting paid for it."

See it in context below

This clip puts this movie on my must see list. I still have fond memories of his reviews in my collection of Asimov's and Astounding Science Fiction mags. No one speaks their mind as clearly and as pointedly as Ellison.


Thursday, February 7, 2008

Energy Biofuel and Carbon Emmisions

Two new studies are making their way across the web this week examining the environmental impact of the manufacturing biofuels.

Sites are interviewing one of the authors, Joseph Fargione of The Nature Conservancy, to get an authoritative viewpoint. At first glance his arguments appear valid.

"Carbon is the main building block of life, so plants are 50 percent carbon by dry weight," Fargione said. "So when you're looking at a rainforest, there's tons and tons of carbon stored in the plant biomass and in the soils."

When land is cleared either by cutting trees down or by burning, much of that stored carbon is released into the atmosphere.

"Fire releases the carbon directly, as carbon dioxide, and decomposition, when plants decay, that also releases the carbon as carbon dioxide," Fargione explained. "And this carbon dioxide goes into the air as an important greenhouse gas and contributes to global warming."

Large amounts of carbon in these ecosystems are released each year through deforestation and other land conversion.

"Over the last 150 years, 25 percent of our carbon emissions have come from land clearing," Fargione said.

Biofuels from crops such as corn, sugarcane, soybeans and palms require land to grow on. Most of this land must either directly or indirectly come from the destruction of natural ecosystems, because "right now we're asking the world's farmers to feed 6 billion people, and they're doing it on some fixed amount of land," Fargione said. "And if we're also going to produce energy, that requires new land, and that new land has to come from somewhere."

Clearing natural ecosystems, either for farming food crops or growing biofuel crops, creates what Fargione calls a "carbon debt." The initial clearing of the land releases an amount of carbon dioxide that could take decades or centuries to make up for by using biofuels. BioFuels Can Be Bad
Can be bad, OK, he has a point, if you clear cut a rainforest, and BURN it, of course you will get a Carbon Debt in the process. Is anyone actually considering this insane tactic? If you are stop it, please. Domestic production here in the US will be faced with no such problem.

Other arguments by Fargione are also overblown. Consider this quote from The New Scientist.

The idea makes intuitive environmental sense – plants take up carbon dioxide as they grow, so biofuels should help reduce greenhouse gas emissions – but the full environmental cost of biofuels is only now becoming clear.

Extra emissions are created from the production of fertiliser needed to grow corn, for example, leading some researchers to predict that the energy released by burning ethanol is only 25% greater than that used to grow and process the fuel.

...When the carbon released by those clearances is taken into account, corn ethanol produces nearly twice as much carbon as petrol.

The New Scientist: Biofuels emissions may be 'worse than petrol'

I can agree with this one. Anyone that argues we should be using Food crops for fuel production is hurting the cause. One only need look at the effects that ethanol has had on corn pricing as of late, for a practical reason why it is a bad idea. Corn and other food products require vast amounts of fertilizer and farm equipment causing an increasing amount of carbon emissions, there is a an environmental reason. However, there are crops that do neither.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) believes that biofuels—made from crops of native grasses, such as fast- growing switchgrass—could reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil, curb emissions of the "greenhouse gas" carbon dioxide, and strengthen America's farm economy.
Biofuels from Switchgrass: Greener Energy Pastures
Switchgrass is a renewable crop, requires planting every 10 years, and uses heavy equipment only during harvest. It also does quite well with little to no fertilizer. These facts are ignored by the study. Instead focusing on worst case scenarios and painting the entire BioFuel industry in a negative light.

Let me be clear about this. Biofuels are not a longterm solution. They are a stopgap measure intended to reduce Co2 emmisions and reduce the dependence on foreign oil.

Getting rid of the combustion engine will take time and courage. Two things that scientist and political watchdogs will tell you we sorely are lacking.

We cannot wait for it, We must act now to reduce emissions and consumption of finite resources we have no control over. Lest we continue down this slippery slope that leaves our children and grandchildren in a very dirty and very violent world.


Update: I have sent off an email to Mr Fargoine, hoping to get clarification.
He did reply with copies of the two reports. And this response.
The problem with diverting cropland to fuel production is that people have to eat, and so land is converted to food production elsewhere. This is occurring as US farmers switch from soy to corn, increasing soy prices which spurs deforestation of Amazonian rainforest for soy production.

We simply cannot ask the world's farmers to produce food for 6 billion people, and also ask them to produce energy, without using additional land. That land has to come from somewhere. Unfortunately, much of it is coming from natural ecosystems.

What most people don't realize is how much carbon is stored in natural ecosystems. There is three times as much carbon locked up in plants and soils as there is the atmosphere. Land use change cause 20% of our carbon emissions. Any policy to fight climate change must take land use into account, or it won't work.
Unfortunately, the press ignores the biomass ethanol numbers and focuses on the worst case numbers. LArgely because the study emphasizes those points as well.

Here are the two pieces of information that are most important to me.
Barring biofuels produced directly on forest or grassland
would encourage biofuel processors to rely on existing
croplands, but farmers would replace crops by plowing up
new lands. An effective system would have to guarantee that
biofuels use a feedstock, such as a waste product or carbon-
poor lands that will not trigger significant emissions from
land use change.
SOM Text
Tables S1 to S3
Appendix A to F
17 October 2007; accepted 28 January 2008
Published online 7 February 2008; 10.1126/science.1151861
Take a look at this chart and pay special attention to the far right.
Materials and Methods
Tables S1 and S2
8 November 2007; accepted 24 January 2008
Published online 7 February 2008; 10.1126/science.1152747

This is exactly what I am talking about. This study should be used to promote prairie biomass ethanol instead of condemning it along with corn ethanol.

Special thanks to Joe for providing the data that helps clear this up. Although I think he should emphasize these points a little better to the media. Even with pointed questions, I had to dig into the reports instead of getting a straight answer.


Monday, February 4, 2008

Windows Platform Death Revisited

After my KDE article, comments are everywhere complaining about the headline.
OSNews,, and even the Dot. One guy even blogged his grief about it.

So here I offer a response.

First off, Get a grip. Articles need good titles. This one was too good to pass up.

Second, according to the company that produces Windows XP, end of life is Jan 2009, 11 months from now. See Microsoft Lifecycle

Third, the article clearly states that my Windows development platform was going unused for months at a time. No more .Net and no more embedded coding. I preferred to use a text editor on the linux box. Kate for embedded, Kdevelop + QT for cross platform apps. In that sense it was dying. Giving me Kate on Windows does a world of good for it's usability.

My only question is, Why don't these people ask these questions here?

Windows is the market leader, it will be for some time. We all know this. However, I bought my last copy long ago. I recommend it to no-one, I support it not at all. OK, I still help my mother out when she calls.

At my home there is one laptop with XP, explicitly for the purpose of maintaining .Net applications, testing cross platform apps and re-programming an embedded processor.

This was the KDE for windows test machine. Since KDE installation, It has been very popular with my pre-Teen daughter, who never even touched it before. She now wants KDE4 on her Kubuntu box. She doesn't even know about all the cool Plasma, KWin compositing stuff, only what KDE for Win shipped with.

In my circle, Windows isn't dying, it's all but dead. Our next Laptop will be a Everex Cloudbook or Asus eeePC. All of our PCs run Linux with KDE for a variety of reasons, but mostly because it works.

Hold on while I check what the end of life is on our distros. Oh yeah, there isn't one. That is no small distinction. Planned obsolescence is not something I intend to support with my money, but to each their own.


Update 3/24/08: Computer World has a nice explanation on the XP lifecycle titled:

Windows XP: Going, going ... gone?

Covered by Slashdot with the Headline: The Death of Windows XP

I fully expect all you complainers to give them hell just like you did me.


Friday, February 1, 2008

Yahoo vs MSN vs Google

Much webspace has been used on the recent acquisition bid by Microsoft to buy Yahoo.
The New York Times Technology Section has basically been taken over by stories discussing the merger.

Notice the trend. Microsoft has it's MSN page set as the default of virtually every Windows machine in the free world. Google is the Default home page in the #2 browser spot. Leaving Yahoo to hope that users will set their page to default. Yahoo is facing a pretty steep decline, Microsoft is falling off the chart, meanwhile Google is steadily climbing year after year.

So if you are Microsoft, losing a three way race, what do you do. Emulate your competition doesn't seem to be working. Buy out the #2 and take second place by default. For years that is exactly what the have been trying to do.

yahoo microsoft google
Yahoo is faced with re-rejecting the most generous offer from Microsoft or disappointing it's investors with Dollar Signs in their eyes. It really is a no win situation for them.

Interestingly, Google has nothing to say on the matter. I would expect them to swoop in and offer to save Yahoo from the Borg, with a partnership/major investment. Yahoo would much rather not give up the ground they have fought for over the last few years to the same people they have been fighting. They have repeatedly said no to Microsoft, much to Steve Ballmer's chagrin. Now conveniently, right after less than stellar earning reports and the resignation of their Board Chairman, Yahoo is left with little choice in the matter.

In light of the significance of this proposal to your shareholders and ours, as well as the potential for selective disclosures, our intention is to publicly release the text of this letter tomorrow morning.

Due to the importance of these discussions and the value represented by our proposal, we expect the Yahoo! Board to engage in a full review of our proposal. My leadership team and I would be happy to make ourselves available to meet with you and your Board at your earliest convenience. Depending on the nature of your response, Microsoft reserves the right to pursue all necessary steps to ensure that Yahoo!’s shareholders are provided with the opportunity to realize the value inherent in our proposal.

Microsoft plays hardball. They always have. If they can't compete, they buy.

It is time for Google to play hardball too. Offer Yahoo a way out, without handing the keys over to Microsoft.

This will probably not happen, Google reads the news and blogs too. They undoubtably see the comments by current Yahoo customers.

I love yahoo. But if taken over by microsoft, I will leave in a flash….

I like yahoo, been there for eamil since 1995. But if MicroSoft takes over I will be going to google all the way

I use Yahoo as my homepage, search engine, and for my newsgroup. If Microsoft pursues a hostile takeover, I am switching to another host.

My homepage, etc is Yahoo and if there is a hostile takeover, I will switch also.

I will also change my host if msft takes over.

I use Google, and they are the reason Microsoft wants yahoo.
so either way , it don’t matter to me

I used to have a hotmail e-mail. When Microsoft bought it I’ve lost my inbox besides i’ve got a new on fully of spans. So i switched my e-mail to Yahoo…… What should i do now? Should i consider an e-mail at google’s gmail?

Hmmm…Want to no how Microsoft and Yahoo will decide how to proceed from here on out? By researching the applicable info. using Google.

So it may not make financial sense for Google to save Yahoo from Microsoft, but it would be a much sweeter victory to snatch it from their clutches and get the goodwill of Yahoo's customer base. I cannot find one Yahoo customer that believes MSFT would be a good thing for Yahoo's services.

Employees are another class of people no one seems to be interested in discussing, except Steve Ballmer.

– Operational efficiencies: Eliminating redundant infrastructure and duplicative operating costs will improve the financial performance of the combined entity.

Wouldn't want to be a Yahoo employee reading that.

I'll leave you with one more NY Times Comment:
This deal would be a perfect marriage: The sophistication and style of Yahoo with the reliability and trustworthiness of Microsoft.
— Posted by Dan

UPDATE: Google didn't stay silent for long.

So Microsoft's hostile bid for Yahoo! raises troubling questions. This is about more than simply a financial transaction, one company taking over another. It's about preserving the underlying principles of the Internet: openness and innovation.


Could a combination of the two take advantage of a PC software monopoly to unfairly limit the ability of consumers to freely access competitors' email, IM, and web-based services? Policymakers around the world need to ask these questions -- and consumers deserve satisfying answers.

UPDATE 2/4/2008:

The NyTimes
Reports exactly what I suspected.

Privately, Google, seeing the potential deal as a direct attack, went much further. Its chief executive, Eric E. Schmidt, placed a call to Yahoo’s chief, Jerry Yang, offering the company’s help in fending off Microsoft, possibly in the form of a partnership between the companies, people briefed on the call said.

But with a twist I didn't see coming.

One person involved in Yahoo’s deliberations suggested that “the sum of the parts are worth more than the whole,” arguing that its various pieces like Yahoo Finance, for example, could be sold to a company like the News Corporation for a huge premium while Yahoo Sports could be sold to a company like ESPN, a unit of the Walt Disney Company.

And an even better tactic no one considered over at Seeking Alpha.
Google could even bid for giggles–or help fund an effort to take Yahoo private.That latter point is important. What if Google helped fund a white-knight bidder? It would make total sense. And there would be a nice bonus–if Yahoo goes private the first thing the new owners would do is outsource search to Google.
I love this idea. I might even use Yahoo once in a while.


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