Archive for March, 2009

22
Mar
09

Claim Chowder Bobby Jindal Style

Remember back when Bobby Jindal gave his ever so stupid and out of touch response to Barack Obama’s state of the economy speech? Remember how flabbergasted everyone was when he singled out volcano monitoring as a waste of government funding, especially considering how his state still hadn’t recovered from Hurricane Katrina yet? Well, it should go without saying that volcanos tend to violently erupt and wipe out all life for miles around, but in case any morons still think its a waste, this just came through my RSS:

Alert level raised for Alaska volcano

I think Palin and Jindal should go discuss whose natural disasters are more worthy of attention. Fucking Republicans.

22
Mar
09

Mixed Feelings From the BSG Finale

Before I get started, I’d just to mention that I totally called the ending back in January, so credit where credit’s due, bitches!

Now that that’s out of the way, I’m going to tempt fate by admitting that I was mostly satisfied by Battlestar’s finale. I thought that the colony battle was spectacular, with some of the best VFX I’ve ever seen. There are only two possible ways that BSG could have ended. Everyone dies or the fleet finds “our” Earth. I was assuming that the show would end on the latter, if only because of the teaser at the end of the third season. Given that, the question becomes, when do they find Earth, and what condition would it be in? If the fleet shows up in 2009, the we end up with BSG:ID4 or V or something like that. Introducing an advanced alien, yet human element to our world would be incredibly destabilizing and could lead to an interesting story, but probably poorly executed. Having the fleet show up in the future would be even worse. You’d have BSG:TNG or BSG: Robotech.

Weird.

Having the fleet arrive in the distant past is the best way to end, even though I would have done things differently. This is not what I have a problem with. Some things about the finale jumped out at me immediately, but that I was able to get over, but after a few days’ reflection (and a second viewing courtesy of The Pirate Bay), there are more things that bother me. I’m still not as upset as some people, but I find myself more than a little disappointed.

What the Fuck is Starbuck?!?

Since Razor, we’ve known that Starbuck is the Harbinger of Death. Wow, that’s pretty badass, especially since she already died and came back (never mind that Razor took place before she died in reel time). Three separate hybrids told her that, including Anders. I thought that there was going to be some huge shit surrounding her, but no.

While she performed admirably helping the fleet get to Earth (including jumping Galactica into Earth orbit), that’s not what I would expect from the Harbinger of Death. In fact, she kinda turned out to be the opposite of that. Lots and lots of buildup that became nothing. Especially when she vanished in the middle of a conversation with Lee.

As I said on Twitter: What. The. Fuck. Which leads me to my next point.

The Head Characters and Tech is teh Badz

Head Six and Head Baltar were really angels of God? God is really guiding humanity’s path? This whole show, which had some of the hardest science of any mass market scifi ever, was really a show about magic in space? The last scene in present-day New York City spelled that out pretty clearly. That’s so lame. Really, I can’t get my head around how disappointing and frustrating that is.

What they also made fairly clear is that technology and scientific advances are bad and will eventually lead to out destruction. Um, what? In typical religious determinism, human free choice doesn’t really exist. Apparently, if we build robots, they will rise up and kill us.

Well, all this has happened before, and will probably happen again. Why?

Because evil robot stories make money and because scifi authors and TV producers tend not to understand either how computers or the brain work. Why does AI always want to kill us? Why is it always this:

Hal-9000.jpg

Instead of this

wall-e.jpg

or this

Johnny5.jpg

All these characters are equally unlikely to ever occur, simply because AI based on computer logic and hardware will always act like a computer. Asimo is not going to turn into a Cylon. I hold this notion in the same contempt that I hold singularity nuts. No matter how many computations per second that a processor can manage, it will still not act like a human brain. And this leads to to:

Technological Abandonment

People have made a big deal out of the fleet’s total abandonment of their advanced technology, including the actual fleet. As much as people may not like it, it was needed for the sake of the story. If people had retained access to such advanced tech as artificial gravity, massive generation of electricity, FTL tech, communications, etc, then they would have been able to rebuild a robust space-faring society within a few generations. I’m assuming a while to rebuild simply because the fleet had little or no industrial capacity and after so long in space, I imagine that the civilian ships were in pretty bad shape. Not necessarily as bad as Galactica, but without serious time in drydock, all the ships would eventually suffer catastrophic damage, probably sooner rather than later. Additionally, Galactica herself suffered such intense damage that she was structurally unsound and would have been scrapped even under the best of circumstances.

I personally would not have gone with the Luddite route. There are plenty of conspiracy theories of ancient advanced civilizations that flourished thousands of years ago only to mysteriously disappear. There are even stories of ancient, global societies that build impressive cities using the same unit of measurement. I would have gone in that direction.

Certainly there are dangers with leaving unstable weapons of mass destruction in Earth orbit, but rather than shooting everything off into the sun, we could have left the fleet in, say Jupiter orbit? That way, instead of a human/cylon mitochondrial eve bullshit, we could have ended with the discovery of a mysterious fleet in deep space, which held the promise of an incredible story. That would be cool, and I think HAL 9000 would approve.

15
Mar
09

Why the Fuck Do I Pay Taxes?

Its the question that I ask every time tax season comes around. Well, actually, its what I ask every time I look at my paycheck and figure out just how badly I’ve been raped this time. I don’t like dwelling on it, because, as I’m sure everyone else who’s the not filthy rich CEO of a bank or other parasitic institution, the thought of how much I pay, and how little I get back, just gets my rage on.

While the apparent amount of taxes I pay doesn’t seem as much as some people, it is quite a bit. I’m not going to get into the details, but there’s quite a bit of money that gets flushed down the toilet of government. In theory, taxes are a vital part of a society. Tax money keeps government running. Taxes fund social goods like public schools, public roads, public transportation, infrastructure and the like. It even puts food on my table, since my paycheck comes from a taxpayer-funded NIH grant, so I can add public health to my list. So, given my own list of all the good things that my taxes help pay for, how could I possibly be pissed about having to pay?

The answer’s quite simple: most of my tax money doesn’t go to the public good. In fact, the public good the always the first thing to get cut when government funding gets lean. No, the reason why I’m pissed is because most of my taxes are wasted on bullshit. Even before the financial collapse, your know, the one brought about by Wall Street’s immense and insatiable greed, most of our tax money didn’t go towards the public good. The vast majority of the federal budget goes towards the military. No, that’s not right. Most of that money goes towards the military-industrial complex, which is basically Lockheed, Newport News Shipyard and the like. I wouldn’t even really be that upset, if not for the fact that these corporations charge insane amounts of money, but can barely deliver. Navy and Coast Guard ships are late and so below standards that ships are being rejected. Soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan have been chronically short of all sorts of supplies since the start of both wars. There are no sci-fi weapons for fuck’s sake!

The point is, for all the money that gets flushed down the Pentagon toilet every year for the past few decades, there is very little to show for it. Aging equipment, shortages, massively over-budget (and aften underperforming) new projects all beg the question: why is there no oversight? Now combine the chronic irresponsibility of the military budget and combine it with two horribly managed wars, in which $9 billion (with a B) in cash simply drove out of the Federal Reserve Bank in New York, flew to Iraq and disappeared.

What. The. Fuck.

Now combine that with the financial meltdown, the state of American healthcare and the state of American infrastructure. The fact of the matter is that Congress allowed the financial services market to become too large, while allowing specific institutions to become to large. Congress keeps dumping more and more money on these thieves, who caused all their own problems by hurting us and who, instead of using that money to help us, are predictably, helping themselves. This is of course at the expense of virtually everything else. Hell, the government could give every single person in the US a billion dollars (with a B) and it would be cheaper than what’s going on now.

So, what do we do about it?

Unfortunately, not much. Congress is in charge of tax law, and they’ve proved themselves to be quite resistant to any reforms that help we the people over we the super rich bankers who pay for your fucking campaigns. We could do like Larry Lessig and try to change Congress, but that’s much easier said than done. You could always refuse to pay your taxes, but that tends to not end well. There’s another option, but I’ll not speak of it, since only right wing shitbags get to talk about violent insurrection against the government without getting in trouble, so I’ll avoid it.

So in the end, I pay taxes because I have to. I don’t know what to about this problem, but I don’t care to have the FBI come and blow up my house and kill my family, nor do I want to go underground. Both of those seem worse than my current situation, but the question remains how to make real reform and make the government work for we the people. Congress and Obama have shown that they’re not going to go anything for us unless they have to. I’m going to make more noise, but that’s not going to be enough.

14
Mar
09

Wither iPhone OS 3?

OK, so Apple’s going to lift its skirt on Tuesday and show us all what its been working on since last year. For most people, this is basically non-news. The chance of Apple releasing anything that you can buy or even use outside of a development environment is basically zero. For me, as a daily and enthusiastic user (and wannabe developer), this announcement will provide me with endless drool-worthiness that will consume my every waking thought until I can get my grubby hands on new hardware come June.

Or something like that…

In all seriousness, this event is interesting simply because we’ll get to see where the iPhone is headed for the future (or next year or so, until Apple changes again). While that’s all well and good, but the real fun is with the fact-free speculation! I am clearly not above, as might be inferred by my woefully inaccurate Macworld 2009 prediction (most of which eventually came true, as of last week’s refreshes, so there!) so I’ll stick my neck out again.

BGR has said that the big news will be MMS and tethering, neither of which I care about, so if that’s the extent, I’ll be wanting that hour of my life back. Luckily, I seem to have a bigger imagination than BGR, so I think that the big news will be a UI overhaul, which includes better app management, greater use of background processes and real resolution independence. These three things combined make for a much stronger and larger iPhone OS ecosystem.

I have 62(!) apps that I downloaded from the App Store, plus the default apps that can’t be removed plus a couple of jailbreak apps (Qik and Winterboard) all spread out over seven pages and the dock. I have made some attempts at organization, but I find myself flicking between app pages way too often, and its gotten irritating. I don’t know what the best approach to app management on the iPhone is, but I do know that this ain’t it.

I’m expecting that the iPhone v.3 hardware, unlike the iPhone 3G, will have some significant upgrades. Newer, better SoC, more efficient, more storage flash RAM, but most importantly, more RAM. More than anything else, the limited 128MB of RAM in the iPhone (EDGE and 3G) is the limiting factor. I wanted an iPhone 3G until I realized that its guts were basically the same as the original. It was basically a 2008 phone using 2007 hardware. I figured that Apple would have to do a hardware update every year, so a two-year upgrade cycle should work for me.

I don’t think there’s any way that the v.3 iPhone won’t have significantly more horsepower to throw at the OS. Clearly, looking at the hardware that’s in the Pre, that 2009 vintage smartphones are significantly more capable than 2007 phones. Or, let me put it this way: if Palm was under the same constraints that Apple was under when it was developing the iPhone, the Pre wouldn’t have been possible. This should go without saying, especially when you compare what Palm was shipping when the iPhone shipped to the iPhone or the Pre. There’s such a difference between the Pre and the Treo 750 or 680 that the only thing that gives you any indication that they were made by the same company is the logo is the same on both.

Apple has now had two years of real-world experience of how to interact with a mobile platform and how to tweak hardware to the limits of its capabilities. I’m hoping that Apple grows the iPhone’s anemic RA from 128MB to at least 512MB or, even better, a gig. I think that lots and lots of RAM is essential for a good mobile experience. Of course the CPU, which may or may not be a new PA Semi design will be more efficient and sip less juice, probably have better antennas and there’ll be more flash memory. All of this is good, but the memory’s the key. I think we’ll know for sure if true background processes are in the new SDK.

The Pre has a great UI and an interesting paradigm. Clearly, Apple is not going to blatantly rip off Palm’s UI, but there are some really good ideas there. The really interesting thing is one that won’t have an immediate payoff: resolution independence.

Currently, the iPhone’s UI is based on bitmapped images. This assumes that the iPhone’s screen will be the same size and resolution. I’m also assuming that the v.3 will have the same size screen, if only because the iPhone has to remain pocketable. It can, however, have a higher resolution screen. A resolution-independent SDK allows Apple to do this without breaking third-party apps. Just like how Apple held its original SDK event in order to give developers enough time to populate the App Store when it launched, Apple again needs to give developers time to update their apps to take advantage of the new features. Apple has updated the original SDK several times since it was announced and since the App Store went live, usually with no announcement. By making such a big deal about the 3.0 OS and SDK, Apple is putting developers on notice by making sure that every iPhone user will be aware of the new features and will be demanding them when 3.0 goes live. If the iPhone OS goes resolution-independent with version 3.0, you can bet that there will be an Apple tablet this year, and it will be running on the iPhone OS, not Mac OS X.

12
Mar
09

Growed Up

So I finally went and got my own domain and hosting. I’d like to think its because I’m taking all this more seriously, or that I’m starting to mature as a person, but probably not. Its just because I wanted to. I wanted my own space, so I got it.

I’m still playing with layout and setup, so I’ll likely be changing the way everything looks and feels until I like everything. That might take a while, but its all in good fun.

10
Mar
09

Moving!

Just a note that I’ve turned my attention to my new website, over at dssstrkl.com. I just felt it was time to graduate to my own domain.

Cheers!