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Archive for May, 2006

Although it was widely publicized that Bittorrent creator Bram Cohen was against network neutrality, Techdirt argues that he was actually referring to services like Cachelogic, which provide services that are not fundamentally incompatible with network neutrality.

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An American molecular geneticist has concluded after comparing more than 2,000 DNA samples that a person's capacity to believe in God is linked to brain chemicals.

According to the linked atticle, this research comes from the same person who claimed to have found a genetic sequence that makes homosexuality more likely in 1993, so this might be the sort of person who overhypes his results. Nonetheless this is very interesting and in spite of the researcher's own protests to the contrary I believe it might be evidence that religion (or faith) is a purely man-made construct; after all, taken to its logical conclusion, this suggests that any type of faith in a superior being may be due only to a genetic predisposition to believe in such a being, and that means that there is no prior reason to believe in God (any argument used to favour God's existence could probably be refuted by this research). Also, as one digg commenter pointed out, why would God create people genetically predisposed to not believe in him?

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An Amnesty campaign that allows users to republish and spread sites that are being repressed on their own sites. You can get a badge that will dynamically show different excerpts from censored sites around the world and link back to irrepressible.info where you can learn more about the site in question and the campaign itself.

Be sure to click the link and sign the pledge! 

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Wiki Democracy is an experiment that asks: if there were no laws in the United States, what laws would you impose on America? Users write their own laws, and through digg-like voting and comments, the best laws are filtered to the top.

Fascinating idea. There's also a section for Canadian laws.

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Thought-provoking essay from Wired.com, on why exactly you should be concerned about the NSA spying on us.

This article convincingly rebuts those who say that "If you're doing nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide." Choice quote:

Too many wrongly characterize the debate as "security versus privacy." The real choice is liberty versus control. Tyranny, whether it arises under threat of foreign physical attack or under constant domestic authoritative scrutiny, is still tyranny. Liberty requires security without intrusion, security plus privacy. Widespread police surveillance is the very definition of a police state. And that's why we should champion privacy even when we have nothing to hide. 

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Thoughts on E3

I don't play many video games – I actually do own a PS2 which I've let my brother borrow for about a year – but I was following E3 rather closely, mainly because half of Digg's front page stories over the past few days have been stories about E3 and because the competitive landscape has become quite intriguing. The whole next-gen console affair is very close to being a soap opera, especially for Sony, which has had to cope with delays and doubts as to the capabilities of the PS3. The essential reason for the delay might be Sony's desire to include a Blu-Ray drive on it and therefore give it an advantage in the DVD format 'war' (assuming there will be a non-inconsequential format war) but the PS3 is slated to come out in November, well after Blu-Ray players will become available (I'm going on memory here so I could be wrong). Sony has proven itself very good at inflating expectations for upcoming products so I don't think the payoff for the delay will be in the technology, and I do not foresee the PS3 will be technologically much better than the 360. Sony has also managed a good amount of ill will regarding how it treats its customers (think rootkit – yes, different division but same parent company) and tries to enforce its proprietary standards (atrac) when the market doesn't want them. They're betting that brand loyalty will push the PS3 to become the #1 console, but it seems to be more than that: it's almost as if they expect people to buy the PS3 as the default choice. This should not be surprising as Sony has been quite arrogant in the past and combined with Sony's misdeeds might be enough to ensure I do not buy one out of priciple (not I was necessarily going to buy one at 500 bucks, but still).

Where does that leave Sony? They've garnered a great deal of bad press over the PS3, and I strongly doubt they'll be able to exceed expectations about the PS3's technology. I don't know what they'll be doing for the online component, but they'll need a good product to compete with XBox Live. I expect the PS3 to become a lead weight around Sony's neck. They might come out on top in terms of pure numbers, but they will not maintain the type of dominance over the game market they had with the PS2.

The XBox 360 launched months ago and has a rather big head start, which Microsoft does not appear to have been able to take advantage of owing to shortages of the console in stores. Also the first incarnation had no next gen DVD capabilities, but I believe it was a good business move nonetheless. Whatever early lead MS can muster for the 360 is more important, IMO. The really interesting thing seems to be XBox Live which some people feel could grow into a platform to offer greater media connectivity in the home, and Microsoft would have a coherent strategy for turning the 360 into a real media device instead of just a gaming device. We won't know until Sony's offering is finalized.

So what then of the 'Wiivolution'? They're everyone's second choice, according to MS and Sony. MS and Sony seem to believe that this console war will be between them, but I suspect it will a lot tighter than last time around.There's a lot of goodwill that Nintendo's built up because they are perceived to be more innovative, and although some of it feels like mindless cheering for the underdog, Nintendo seems to have been the only company to make a concerted effort to extend video gaming to casual gamers and to keep prices reasonable. They'll catch any segemnt of the market that wants to play but can't fork over hundreds more for the other two systems or has no interest in the hardcore gaming aspect.

Personally I suspect that the Wii will inspire far more interest than either the 360 or PS3 among large segments of the technology buying public and for that reason I expect this console to do very well. At the end of 2007 I expect to see parity in the market (in terms of number of consoles sold). This will clearly be step up for Microsoft, a rather large problem for Sony (which is unlikely to maintain profitability in their games division) and will make Nintendo the big winner from this round of console wars.

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A Washington Post poll shows that the majority (63%) of Americans are ok with the cyber and wiretapping efforts of the NSA. A higher majority are ok if their personal calls were collected by the NSA. Americans are apparently willing to sacrifice privacy for security.

Baa-aa-aa.

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