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Archive for June, 2006

After more than two weeks of wanting to hurl random objects at my television (and eventually learning to turn it off and put up with the lack of audiovisual distractions), my computer has finally been returned to me, with a brand new dual core chip. Yay! Now I can get back to goofing off on my computer instead of goofing off watching tv, which is good because goofing off is much more fun, interactive, and time-consuming when done on a computer than with a television. (Perhaps sensing my happiness at getting my computer back, the technician at KCP inquired, “Did you miss it?” after getting it from the back room. Yes. Yes I did miss it.)

Now I don’t need to surf the internet at work anymore. I don’t NEED to, that is:) 

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I've now officially moved offices. Three doors down, slightly smaller office that's less likely to be occupied by a third person (owing to the department's absurd space issues, there is the ever present threat that any given office that only holds two people will get three when new arrivals come), thus crowding the office. Amazingly I now have a bookcase – this is one of the perks of being a PhD student, I suppose. I also have a whiteboard, which at the moment is covered with old writing. And I get a nerf basketball hoop, which is just decoration, of course. And a phone (!). There's also a concrete piece of Stirling Hall inside the office, a cut-out of London hanging on the back wall, a slinky, a stuffed bird sitting on top of my monitor, and a Galilean barometer that used to be Tara's. All things that define the office. My old office had…umm, desks. And computers. And…well, that's it. The office has also been cleaned of its pre-existing mess of cables and unusually dirty floor.

Hooray. 

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Blog news and stuff

Astute readers of my blog, assuming any exist, will have noticed that I have a tendency to change blog themes on a regular basis. This is because it's difficult finding a good theme with staying power – by which I mean a theme that doesn't get tired after a few days, at least to my eyes. Lots of themes look pretty, but I after a while begin to look dull and my blog is in need of refreshment. It's the same principle that's at work when I choose a desktop theme or desktop background. Many themes and pictures I find on the web look nice but but start to hurt my eyes after a few days, and only a select few have been able to remain tolerable. (Aside: I think the OS X theme is like this. I don't have a Mac, but this is one reason I would be reluctant to purchase one. I'm sure that full-of-eye-candy aqua theme is going to drive me to distraction once the novelty wears off. I like Bluecurve much better – subtle prettiness, unobtrusive, much higher productivity.)

Anyway, I've now switched themes again and hope that this one sticks.  Also I will try to find a new name for this blog. I chose the rather tongue-in-cheek title for this blog because I wasn't sure how I would direct its focus over time. Now that the subject matter for the blog appears to have settled down I will change titles just as soon as I work out a decent one.

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Michael Geist describes lobbying activities by CRIA, including private events to lobby government officials planned by the industry and paid for by the government.

read more | digg story

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Verizon spent $4.2 million last year lobbying congress. Google spent $160 000.

read more | digg story

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Within the last century, electronic communications have increasingly become the vehicle of democratic discourse. Because radio and television broadcasting are expensive with limited frequencies available, the wealthy have dominated broadcasting. The Web places into the common man's hands the capability of global electronic broadcasting.

read more | digg story

To me the issue is that DRM (and its twn, the abdication of net neutrality) will allow content providers (=big companies, usually) to control content in ways that conflict with: 1: how their customers want to use that content, and 2: more importantly, the open culture of the internet that allows people to share content liberally, which includes political speech. Such content control will make it more difficult to use the internet as a platform for expressing political opinions and for accessing such content. This is serious because the internet is the first technology that has allowed this content to be disseminated rapidly and relatively unobstructed by national borders and the first technology to make it easy for anyone to do so; giving large content providers extensive control over how content is created and accessed (and over who can do it, on the net neutrality side of the coin) will make it more difficult for ordinary users to engage in political discourse on the internet (because these companies will be in control of the technologies used to access said content) and will turn the internet into another medium with high entry barriers, which will restrict it to those who have the money to provide the content. Just like, say, mainstream newsmedia. Of course, in that case there are natural limitations (limited bandwidth); in this case, it would be an artificial constraint that completely ignores and defeats the internet's ability to facilitate and enable communication and content creation.

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First we had problems with the physics network, what with my machine being used to send spam (another break-in this weekend, incidentally) and now my home PC conks out. I started it up on Saturday morning to find that it shut itself off automatically… then I turned it on again and it happened again… and again… finally I went into the BIOS and noticed that the CPU fan had failed. Oh the horror… better that the computer turned itself off, though than the CPU getting fried. I opened it up, checked to see if it had too much dust on it or if the connection needed tightening, but nothing helped. Through my case window I saw that the fan would start and stop at regular intervals, while the temperature showed the CPU temperature increasing well beyond the target temperature of 72 degrees (I became frightened after it hit 90 and turned it off myself). Off to KCP and yes, the sales guy said to bring it in. I brought it in this morning and decided to upgrade to a dual core chip (which I've been meaning to do) and also the chipset fan, which has not worked for a while.

So now I have no home computer and I'm posting from my office at Physics. Not having a computer all weekend has taught me just how bad television is these days – I often leave it on when using my computer without really watching it but now that I devoted my full attention to TV there were times when I felt like hurling something – like my temporarily useless computer – at the screen. I think I've become too integrated with a multitasking culture (even now I am writing this while testing and running an obnoxious data fitting algorithm and grumbling incessantly about the lousy fortran code I have to deal with) and I don't understand how anybody can devote their full attention to anything on TV, the vast majority of programming failing to engage my intellectual faculties even slightly. And of all the terrible things on TV, could there be anything worse than what is shown during PBS pledge drives? Saturday night's 'entertainment' was Lawrence Welk, which would put me to sleep if it didn't make me furious to believe that somebody at PBS actually thought, 'I know! Let's bring back one of the most asinine, insipid, mindlessly uninspiring TV shows ever concocted to try to squeeze money out of people with no taste!' There's actually some good programming on PBS – Frontline (great AIDS documentary last week), Nova, NOW, etc, not to mention plenty of independent documentarians and filmmakers who I'm sure would love some exposure for their work on PBS, but someone actually decided that Lawrence Welk, that egregious waste of perfectly good electromagnetic radiation, would be a better candidate. What the fuck is PBS here for? What could possibly be the point of airing Lawrence Welk?? PBS could be doing so much more, especially during pledge drives, than airing such garbage. It certainly doesn't help court young viewers, who have got enormous competition from the internet (and other sources) for entertainment and information, and it completely fails the mission to 'deliver quality programming' which at the moment is mostly relegated to being broadcast during non-pledge drive weeks. I will be very angry if Frontline is replaced with some nonsense like Helmut Lotti (is he still around?) or James Last (I'm pretty sure they still broadcast him occasionally) this Tuesday even if they are marginally better than Lawrence Welk.

In case you can't tell, I REALLY hate Lawrence Welk and this was a convenient post to let rip. Fortunately I had Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver to keep me company, and I think it will remain by my side for a while.

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