mm218: Romney’s religion — we shouldn’t care!

December 10, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Forests have been felled, and electrons have been transformed by the gazillions since Mitt Romney officially tackled his difficult religion last week. Steve Chapman’s input was appreciatively noted in our last post.

Today we encountered an interesting pair of commentaries on the same topic worth continuing the conversation: Maureen Dowd in the NYTimes, and Charles Krauthammer in the Washington Post.

First, Dowd:

nytimes

Mitt’s No J.F.K.

By MAUREEN DOWD | Published: December 9, 2007

You’d think Catholics, who watched with trepidation as J.F.K. battled prejudice, would be sympathetic to Mitt Romney….

Mormons see themselves as the one true religion, and don’t buy all of the New Testament, he [Joseph Smith biographer Jon Krakauer] said, “which makes it curious why Mitt thinks evangelical Christians are his allies….”

“J.F.K.’s speech was to reassure Americans that he wasn’t a religious fanatic,” Mr. Krakauer agreed. “Mitt’s was to tell evangelical Christians, ‘I’m a religious fanatic just like you.’”

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Mitt’s No J.F.K. – New York Times

Krauthammer has his usual unique perspective — highly critical of Mike Huckabee for pushing Romney’s religion front and center:

washingtonpost

Huckabee Plays the Religion Card

By Charles Krauthammer | Friday, December 7, 2007; Page A39

Mormonism should be a total irrelevancy in any political campaign. It is not. Which is why Mitt Romney had to deliver his JFK “religion speech” yesterday. He didn’t want to. But he figured that he had to. Why? Because he’s being overtaken in Iowa. Why Iowa? Because about 40 percent of the Republican caucus voters in 2000 were self-described “Christian conservatives” — twice the number of those in New Hampshire, for example — and, for many of them, Mormonism is a Christian heresy.

It’s not relevant, and shame on Huckabee for forcing Romney to respond, says Krauthammer.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Charles Krauthammer – Huckabee Plays the Religion Card – washingtonpost.com

As it happens, Krauthammer, Dowd, and this writer are also members of minority religions in this country.

A country founded on the principles of political and religious liberty.

Principles which have come under attack from within in pernicious ways.

For the past seven years, the U.S. has been run by fanatical neo-con evangelical Christians. We can see the results, in a murderous and pointless exercise in Iraq; in the torture of political prisoners (when did the U.S. ever even have political prisoners — isn’t that for the Soviet Union?); in the brainless interruption on spurious religious grounds of stem cell research that could lead to amazing medical breakthroughs.

One dares say that any change just has to be for the better.

And when it comes down to it, a list of the problems MUDGE has with Huckabee, Romney, Giuliani, Thompson and all of the Republican contenders is plenty lengthy without anyone’s religious affiliation even moving the needle.

This is all a distraction, anyway. There’s still a bloody war on; the sub-prime driven financial crisis has barely scratched the surface; and as long as we’re speaking of sub-prime, let’s use that phrase to define public education, and then fix it!

These are the real issues to grapple with, and these conversations about a person’s private religious practice are meant to deflect us from the reality of the failures of the present government, and the empty promises of most of those who aim to succeed it.

In case you missed it, I’ll finish this with Krauthammer’s carefully drawn irony:

Every mention of God in every inaugural address in American history refers to the deity in this kind of all-embracing, universal, nondenominational way. (The one exception: William Henry Harrison. He caught cold delivering that inaugural address. Thirty-one days later, he was dead. Draw your own conclusion.)

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm217: Potpourri — Romney, alternative energy, Stockhausen

December 9, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

When MUDGE can’t decide which of several topics he’s most interested in discussing with faithful reader, he doesn’t decide at all (leaving that to The Decider, I suppose); rather, he enters SASB mode:

shortattention_thumb2[4]

We’ve quoted Steve Chapman previously here at Left-Handed Complement (here and here, for example). He’s on the editorial board of our home town paper, the Chicago Tribune, and writes for Reason magazine.

Pretty conservative guy in a very conservative environment. But, left-handed as I am, I find myself agreeing with Chapman surprisingly often.

chitrib

Romney flunks a religious test

Steve Chapman | December 9, 2007

Mitt Romney is worried about religious intolerance. He fears religious and nonreligious people will unite to punish him because of his Mormon faith. He thinks it would be much more in keeping with America’s noblest traditions if Mormons and other believers joined together to punish people of no faith.

On Thursday, Romney showed up at the George H.W. Bush Library in College Station, Texas, to announce that even if it costs him the White House, his Mormonism is non-negotiable. That came as a relief to those who suspected he would defuse the issue by undergoing a Methodist baptism.

Like John F. Kennedy, who said in 1960 that the presidency should not be “tarnished by arbitrarily withholding its occupancy from the members of any one religious group,” Romney said there should be no religious test for this office. “A person should not be elected because of his faith nor should he be rejected because of his faith,” he said.

Chapman continues by illustrating Romney’s misreading of U.S. history and the intent of the authors of this country and its Constitution.

He ignores evidence that the framers thought otherwise. The Constitution they so painstakingly drafted contains not a single mention of the Almighty—unlike the Articles of Confederation, which it replaced. A 1796 treaty, ratified by the Senate and signed by that very same John Adams, stipulated that the U.S. government “is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Romney flunks a religious test — chicagotribune.com

Now, as much as MUDGE is likely to cast a vote next November for a Democrat, one imagines that Steve Chapman will not.

However, Mitt Romney apparently will not get his vote:

In the end, though, Romney accomplished what he set out to do in this speech. Henceforth, no one can possibly justify voting against him because he’s a Mormon. Not when he’s provided so many other good reasons.

shortattention_thumb2[6]

nytimes

Efforts to Harvest Ocean’s Energy Open New Debate Front

By WILLIAM YARDLEY | Published: December 8, 2007

NEWPORT, Ore. — Chris Martinson and his fellow fishermen catch crab and shrimp in the same big swell that one day could generate an important part of the Northwest’s energy supply. Wave farms, harvested with high-tech buoys that are being tested here on the Oregon coast, would strain clean, renewable power from the surging sea.

They might make a mess of navigational charts, too.

“I don’t want it in my fishing grounds,” said Mr. Martinson, 40, who docks his 74-foot boat, Libra, here at Yaquina Bay, about 90 miles southwest of Portland. “I don’t want to be worried about driving around someone else’s million-dollar buoy.”

A hot-button topic, alternative energy sources have appeared in this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© several times (wind power here, hydro power here).

The concept of using living natural processes (rather than fossilized ones) is intriguing. But, as seen in the wind power story we discussed, even the free wind isn’t free of costs, monetary and environmental. And the same goes for ocean waves.

“Everyone wants that silver bullet,” said Fran Recht of the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission. “The question is, Is this as benign as everyone wants to say it is?”

Accompanying the NYTimes story was this intriguing graphic:

powerfromthesea

So, will a forest of anchored buoys interfere with fish and migratory marine mammals? How can it not?

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Efforts to Harvest Ocean’s Energy Open New Debate Front – New York Times

Turns out that the concept of NIMBY (not in my back yard) is alive and well several miles offshore Oregon in the Pacific Ocean!

People, everything has a cost. At first splash, power generating buoys seems more benign than most traditional or alternative energy sources.

shortattention_thumb2[6]

Say “Karlheinz Stockhausen” to most people, and, depending on your conversation partner’s degree of social etiquette, you’d be met by responses spanning the scale from quizzical stares to a smack in the jaw.

Yr (Justifiably) Humble Svt’s interest in serious music has been documented in the space several times (among them: here, here, here and most hilariously, here).

Yes, Karlheinz Stockhausen was a musician, a composer actually, and there was a time in MUDGE‘s young life when I was quite smitten with his ground-breaking compositions.

He died this week.

nytimes

Karlheinz Stockhausen, Influential Composer, Dies at 79

karlheinzstockhausen4

By PAUL GRIFFITHS |  Published: December 8, 2007

Karlheinz Stockhausen, an original and influential German composer who began his career as an inventor of new musical systems and ended it making operas to express his spiritual vision of the cosmos, died on Wednesday at his home in Kuerten-Kettenberg, Germany. He was 79.

Stockhausen was a pioneer of electronic music, at a time before Robert Moog made it simple to generate the complex sounds that have, thanks to Moog, become a ubiquitous feature of popular sonic culture. When Stockhausen began to chart a new course in European serious music in the early 50s, electronic music was pieced together, tone by tone, channel by channel, an agonizing arduous process.

At one time, I had recordings of his music from that era, but I hadn’t encountered them for sometime before my vinyl collection was ceded to my musical MUDGElet No. 3.

The classical music radio station in my town (and how many people can say that phrase these days?) never ever played Stockhausen’s music. Of course, they are hard-pressed to play music written after 1950, except that of John Adams, the Gian Carlo Menotti of this generation (i.e., feet anchored more in the 19th century than the 20th or 21st). So it’s been quite some time since I visited Stockhausen’s music.

The obituary in the NYTimes tells us that his later life took a most Wagnerian turn.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Karlheinz Stockhausen, Influential Composer, Dies at 79 – New York Times

Anyone interested in the topic of serious electronic music can follow this link to the article in Wikipedia.

So that’s today’s potpourri. We all remain hopeful that MUDGE‘s standard attention span returns real soon now.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm216: 5,000!

December 8, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

It’s been seven months nearly to the day since we got serious about this blogging habit.

Today, WordPress reports that we crossed a momentous threshold: the 5,000th hit on this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere©.

5000

In the context of the heavy-hitter sites out there, 5,000 is a few minutes’ yield.

For this amateur, though, the fact that an average of 23 readers per day, every day, stop here is humbling. One amazing day we had 90 hits (thanks, Patrick Smith!). Bunches more have subscribed via RSS, although no one can tell me how many.

No matter. It’s been a kick, and I plan to keep on kicking. I am grateful for your discernment (or patience).

The goal is to keep telling stories, keep providing a left-handed context to the weird universe out there, and, like my doctors and my lawyers, keep practicing until I get it right.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm215: A Maginot Line for the 21st Century?

December 8, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

The changing face of the military

Fifth in an occasional series

The series so far…

No

Title

Link

1

Go to war — Play videogames

mm155

2

Osprey: A Flying Shame

mm163

3

Abolish the Air Force

mm183

4

Proxy killers — Can you live with that?

mm211

5

A Maginot Line for the 21st Century

mm215

The one where we get our boots muddy… but still can read about UAVs!

fcs1

As I begin to write, it is still December 7. Still lives in infamy, although those alive to hear President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s ringing phrases are leaving us every day.

But an altogether fitting day to write about the military (okay, we’re at war. Every day we should be remembering and writing about the military, supporting and honoring our citizen soldiers stuck, truly stuck in the [quick]sand of Iraq).

Guess the Washington Post thought so too.

armymakeover

washingtonpost

The Army’s $200 Billion Makeover

March to Modernize Proves Ambitious and Controversial

By Alec Klein

Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 7, 2007; Page A01

EL PASO — A $200 billion plan to remake the largest war machine in history unfolds in one small way on a quiet country road in the Chihuahuan Desert.

Jack Hensley, one of a legion of contractors on the project, is hunkered in a slowly moving SUV, serving as target practice for a baby-faced soldier in a Humvee aiming a laser about 700 yards away. A moment later, another soldier in the Humvee punches commands into a computer transmitting data across an expanse of sand and mesquite to a site 2 1/2 miles away. On an actual battlefield, this is when a precision attack missile would be launched, killing Hensley almost instantly.

Welcome to Future Combat Systems: warfare for the wireless era…

In the Army’s vision, the war of the future is increasingly combat by mouse clicks. It’s as networked as the Internet, as mobile as a cellphone, as intuitive as a video game. The Army has a name for this vision: Future Combat Systems, or FCS. The project involves creating a family of 14 weapons, drones, robots, sensors and hybrid-electric combat vehicles connected by a wireless network. It has turned into the most ambitious modernization of the Army since World War II and the most expensive Army weapons program ever, military officials say.

FCS was devised in the 90s in response to the Army’s recognition that its responsiveness to the new paradigm of asymmetric warfare was altogether too sluggish.

Of course, the government, especially its military, cannot plan to spend $200billions without controversy. Hugely ambitious, those plans have consistently, like every government program, delivered less than promised, later than promised.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

The Army’s $200 Billion Makeover – washingtonpost.com

It probably is no surprise that every time FCS hits the news, its quoted costs rise, from $92billion when launched in the 90s, to $117billion in this interesting overview from 2004, to today’s $200billion and counting.

Danger Room, a member of L-HC‘s blogroll2 noted the Post’s story, and pointed to a most illuminating analysis published last May at a site, new to this writer, GovernmentExecutive.com.

Four years into the program, the Army still has not fully defined what the program’s vehicles, drones, robots and computer networks are required to do, GAO’s Francis says. Software needed to control FCS has doubled from initial estimates to a staggering 63 million lines of code, three times the amount being written for the Joint Strike Fighter. Of FCS’ 49 critical technologies, only one is fully mature. GAO noted that immature technologies are “markers for future cost growth.” The Army says 75 percent of FCS critical technologies have reached prototype stage. GAO disputed those claims, backed by an independent review team’s assessment that less than half the critical technologies were close to the prototype stage.

63 million lines of software… breathtaking. And, sure to grow. And then there’s the issue of component weight.

GAO pointed to the FCS vehicles’ burgeoning weight as signs of a program that remains poorly defined and predicated on technological breakthroughs that so far have failed to materialize. The Army originally wanted FCS vehicles to weigh less than 20 tons, and Boeing promised to meet that goal. But so far, engineers have failed to develop the high-tech, lightweight electromagnetic and composite armors required. Last year, Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Sorenson, the Army acquisition deputy, said vehicles would weigh 24 tons. Army budget documents released this year said FCS vehicles would tip the scales at 27 tons. Weight growth of a vehicle meant to be rapidly deployable by air is not an immaterial concern.

The analysis does a most comprehensive job of illuminating the planning and design flaws of the system. The tilt-rotor heavy lifters, whoppingly expensive with insufficient cargo capacity, and fatal vulnerability to even today’s inexpensive ground and air defense systems. The remote sensor systems that even today are fragile and proving inadequate to the realities of Iraq and Afghanistan. Armored vehicles that, as designed, would be unable to prevent fatal damage from even today’s IEDs, improvised explosive devices, which have killed or maimed so many U.S. personnel and their transports, much less future weaponry an enemy would be expected to field such as automatic cannon.

And always the issue: however brave the intention, FCS is a response to past conditions that most certainly will again endorse the adage that generals are doomed always to prepare to fight the last war.

But this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere©‘s fascination with UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) was ratified with this illustration, encountered at HowStuffWorks.com while researching FCS.

And, it’s diesel-powered!

fcs2-uav

So as some of us reflect on warfare, and our preparedness to fight the next one, on this weekend where we remember the “day that will live in infamy” that found this country only semi-prepared to fight a world war that had started nearly 10 years before, one can only sigh.

FCS: A 21st century, mobile, high-tech version of the Maginot Line?

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm214: Dell faces the music — it’s a trend!

December 6, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Dell Computer is the PC company one loves to hate. They make competent products. MUDGE uses three (count ’em, three!) of them regularly at work, actually, and has no complaints, other than those related to a corporate bean counters’ hardware refresh policy that keeps pushing back to indefinity (new coinage, if it is, covered under this site’s Creative Commons license). A five year old laptop is dark ages stuff, but I don’t blame Dell.

Years ago, Dell was an extraordinary success story. Everyone knows it: the college sophomore who figured out before anyone else how to commoditize an entire industry, and made it work by ruthlessly weeding fat out of the supply chain (i.e., source in Asia) and cutting out an entire swath of the retail distribution channel through direct to consumer telephone and then on-line sales.

Well the world has caught up, and finally, very late in this observer’s opinion, Dell has begun to make moves toward a more conventional retail selling strategy.

Dell Moves Further From Direct Sales

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | Published: December 6, 2007

DALLAS (AP) — Dell is venturing further from its direct-to-consumer sales model and will start selling computers at Best Buy stores in January.

The companies said Thursday that Best Buy Co. will sell Dell’s XPS and Inspiron notebook and desktop computers at more than 900 stores.

Dell built its business around selling personal computers directly to customers, but it has been cutting deals with retailers as growth of PC sales slowed. The Round Rock, Texas-based company lost its spot as the world’s No. 1 computer maker to Hewlett-Packard Co. late last year, and HP has stretched its lead since then.

Of course, this change of course smacks of hurry-up desperation, since as the story will note, they’ve missed the huge holiday selling season at Best Buy.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Dell Moves Further From Direct Sales – New York Times

So, MUDGE. One might ask, where does the hate come in?

Nearly seven months ago, in its very fledgling days, this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© presented a cautionary tale that, I believe, sheds some light.

Allow us, if you will, to take you back in time to a place called Left-Handed Complement post no. mm006

Storyteller

I tell stories. This is not news to those who know me. They’ve heard all of them, many times, many too many times, before. That won’t stop me from telling them here. In fact, you are a whole new audience for my stories. I can already feel my spouse poking me, as she does about seven minutes into the latest retelling of most any episode.

Ouch. But, let’s tell the one I alluded to last post. We were coy, and called my former PC a “heck.” I don’t know why I’m being so squeamish in a venue no one at all is looking at, but we can make this tale more generic this way, because I’m sure many of you can share similar ones.

I am a software tinkerer. I am always tweaking, downloading, never leaving well enough alone. There’s never enough RAM, enough HD, a big enough monitor to handle all the stuff I try to do at one time. So far, that places me only in the 56th percentile of PC users, I’m sure. But, this was not a problem related to all of that tinkering. This was a fundamental incompatibility between my printer, a most useful multifunction model from my (and pretty much everyone’s) favorite printer company, and the BIOS in my PC. When I purchased the printer, a mainstream model, and found this incompatibility with my PC, also well in the mainstream (dude!), I was forced to download and install an earlier version of the BIOS, a scary process involving creating copy of the download on a floppy disk to install/boot from. Pretty ugly for mainstream, but not that odd for a few years ago.

One day something changed. Don’t remember anymore exactly what, but I was getting ugly results trying to print. So, into support hell for literally hours, beginning with the printer company. Thirty minutes of hold time, and a lengthy explanation later, and I was directed to the PC company. What seemed like hours later, but probably 45 minutes or so actual time, I reached a support person in what seemed like an ex-US location. Explaining took a great deal of time, and the advice received wasn’t making a lot of sense, but I stayed patient (this was a few years ago while I still had some, apparently) throughout the ordeal. And I do mean ordeal, between disconnections, being bounced back and forth between printer company and PC company, speaking near midnight with people thinking about lunch.

A most frustrating eight (eight!) hours, and the problem really wasn’t resolved. I was resolved however to change PC brands. Oddly, the printer support people, obviously located in that same part of the world, may have been better trained, or more responsive, because I remain today a committed customer of their products.

But I went out virtually the next day and bought a new PC (it was time, four years since the last purchase), from a different manufacturer altogether: a Sony Vaio desktop. Well regarded in the various reviews I found on-line, with a built-in audio/visual media reputation, known for respected laptops, and NOT a “heck.” Brought it home, and let it sit unopened in the box for a few days, waiting, I guess, for the weekend and a suitable block of time – migrating from one PC to the next is not lightly undertaken (unlike placing a support call, it turns out, even though the time commitment turned out to be roughly similar!).

So, Sunday afternoon, took my shiny new box out of its box, plugged it all together, turned it on, and …

Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Sigh. Don’t know what happened to it between factory and my desk, but it was, and I can hear Andy Sipowicz saying it, D.O.A.

Okay, what to do? First, I’ll call tech support. Sigh.

So I called, and very much to my surprise, navigated through a simple menu, waited virtually no time at all, and found myself talking to a well informed support person.

In Florida!

He said that he could get someone out to my house the next day, but suggested that the best bet would be to return it to the retailer for an immediate replacement, which I did.

Glass-half-empty man, my standard persona, would usually think: what a terrible choice. D.O.A. out of the box! Find another brand!

Glass-half-full man, carrying the scars from eight hours of recent tech support frustration, actually thought: D.O.A., but resolved pleasantly, immediately (although it required an extra round-trip schlep to the retailer), by a cheerful person working in Florida on a Sunday afternoon.

The replacement system has worked perfectly ever since, although it is starting to show its age (not enough real horsepower for Vista, though I’m not seriously contemplating that can of worms!). Until and unless something horrible happens with my Vaio RS620G or my dealings with Sony, I’m sticking with that brand. They deserve it.

The lesson seems obvious to me, and I’ve read in the 2½ years since this incident that my former brand has begun to rethink its outsourcing ways.

There’s more to the bottom line than the bottom line. It’s the quality of the beans to be counted, Mr. Green Eyeshade. Or else, there just might be fewer beans to count next quarter.

The kid does tell a story, doesn’t he?

Okay, you’ve figured out what brand “heck” represented in the story.

So it’s this observer’s opinion that Dell’s problems of late have not been due to their direct to consumer model suddenly becoming obsolete.

I dare say that on-line retail sales of all kinds, especially technical gear like computers, is at an all-time high. Gear-heads like yours truly love to itemize components of PCs down to the cubic feet per minute air movement specification of their cooling fans, although as PC penetration moves into the last hold-out households prepackaged units sold by slick marketers like Best Buy will definitely move the needle.

But the issue is, if they’re so good, how come they were passed up? Let’s face it, everybody buys their components in Asia; many now assemble complete boxes there. It’s this curmudgeon’s perception that as opposed to outsourced supply, outsourced support, an easily discernable difference, has gradually chased customers away.

It’s no secret that Dell has moved support for their business customer base back on-shore, in response to strongly stated dissatisfaction.

Consumers, though, making an individual purchase every 2-4 years don’t have the business marketplace’s traction with a manufacturer, but they will, as MUDGE has, eventually exercise the only control that individuals have in a capitalist economy: vote with their feet. Here’s a trade publication story from a couple of years ago that supports my analysis.

I so voted, and lots of folks must have joined me, leading to HP’s recent attainment of sales leadership in the market.

I believe that Dell’s reputation for indifferent consumer support practices is what caught up to them. Maybe Best Buy and their Geek Squad can help repair the reputation.

In a time when the venerable and mighty IBM brand on a PC is owned by a Chinese manufacturer called Lenovo, U.S. companies can’t afford to stumble.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm213: Facebook — facing the music

December 5, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

I’m probably the very final person in the ‘Sphere to write about the Web 2.0 phenomenon, Facebook.

It’s simple: I don’t go there. I’m not a college student (wasn’t ever one for long, and that was two score plus years ago), and I don’t need another on-line locale to waste away the hours.

But, one can’t avoid encountering it in the (old and new) media, and I will admit to an occasional bout of Facebook-envy, as I read about the increasing average age (“we’re not just for students anymore”) — what am I missing?

So far, I’m confining my Web 2.0 activities to my LinkedIn participation, sparse as that is (and I joined that circle about five years ago, before anyone knew there was such a thing as social computing — just networking for job seekers and seekers-to-be), and of course, this daily habit I fondly call nanocorner of the ‘Sphere©.

So constant reader is probably way ahead of me encountering the story of Beacon, Facebook’s program that is tracking ‘Booker’s habits, especially buying habits, both within and (wait for it) outside of Facebook.

A (new and old) media firestorm. You’re always hurt most by the one you love, and a lot of people love Facebook. So, Facebook backtracked on Beacon, as this NYTimes Bits blog reports:

Zuckerberg Apologizes, Allows Facebook Users to Evade Beacon | By Saul Hansell

Mark Zuckerberg has produced a symphony of contrition in a blog post today about Facebook’s Beacon feature, which initially sent information on users’ Web purchases to their friends unless they specifically blocked the disclosure of each purchase.

facebookoptout

Hansell asks, “what took them so long to fix this?”

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Zuckerberg Apologizes, Allows Facebook Users to Evade Beacon – Bits – Technology – New York Times Blog

Here at WordPress.com’s site today, they were highlighting a post on the Techland blog from Fortune regarding this Beacon fracas. It stopped me cold.

Techland

RIP Facebook? | By Josh Quittner

A lot of people say that Facebook has jumped the shark. That’s flat out wrong. In fact, Facebook is now being devoured by the shark. There’s so much blood in the water, it’s attracting other sharks. And if Facebook’s not careful, one of them is bound to come along and finish it off. I’ve never seen anything like it in the annals of fast-rising tech companies that fail.

The really weird part of this story is that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with Facebook. It works as well as it ever has, and many of the people who use it (my kids for instance) are unaware of the worsening situation about its privacy-invading Beacon social ads scheme that tracks people’s web-surfing habits even when they’re not on the site. That’s bound to change. The market is fickle, something better is in the wings, and as soon as it arrives, the alienated and angry mob will race to it. Delphi’s errors begat Prodigy and its errors begat AOL, which was crushed by the Web.

Quittner paints quite a dire portrait.

What’s surprising here is the speed with which this thing is coming undone — and the ease with which it could have been avoided. What’s harming Facebook – perhaps to a terminal degree – is enormously bad PR. For a social media company, these folks don’t understand the first thing about communication…

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

FORTUNE: Techland RIP Facebook? «

Facebook, as so many of today’s tech meteors, was begun by kids in college, and its leadership is still quite young. Quittner points out that many such companies earn their maturity by hiring on a senior level guy or gal with some seasoning, in order to avoid fiascoes of the kind currently whipsawing Facebook.

MUDGE can be quite objective about this, in a way I suspect neither of today’s bloggers are able to. One suspects that certainly Quittner, and possibly Hansell (let’s face it — right now I feel like the only guy on the planet who is/was not a member), enjoyed their Facebook membership, and the sense of betrayal is palpable.

The true lesson of Beacon, in my opinion, is that there is great danger lurking in all of the social media/Web 2.0 space: Unpleasant consequences are possible when the urge to monetize becomes irresistible.

Facebook, with its zillions of prime age consumers was a rich prize, too ripe to leave alone.

Greed in moderation: it’s the capitalist way, after all.

Greed with technological amplification (i.e., Beacon): excessive, even in our world of institutional excess.

Okay, so here’s the L-HC warranty: no ads will ever appear here at Left-Handed Complement. No pay-for-post (as if!). Whatever links you find in the sidebar will never result in an outcome that includes dollars, euros, shekels or kopecks.

This is a hobby, folks. I spend only my time here; no more is expected of you, and thank you most sincerely for that!

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm212: Cheap computing in the news

December 4, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

shortattention_thumb2

We’ve appreciatively quoted John C. Dvorak here at Left-Handed Complement. First, because he writes about computer-based topics that interest me. Second, he writes quite well. Third, because his curmudgeonly chops put a guy named MUDGE to shame.

Today he weighs in on a familiar topic to L-HC reader, One Laptop Per Child. Dvorak, the curmudgeon’s curmudgeon, takes a pretty good swat at a program that we’ve enthusiastically followed for the past few months. For a history of our posts on this topic, you may peruse the links here:

mm088: Meet the XO
mm089: Amateur mapmaking…
mm099: A $99 Desktop…
mm149: India’s take…
mm153: By a Laptop, Get one…
mm162: Laptop with a Mission
mm170: Technology and Ed …
mm179: OLPC for India after all?
mm189: OLPC cranks up!
mm203: OLPC: News; discouraging word

pcmag

One Laptop Per Child Doesn’t Change the World

Does anyone but me see the OLPC XO-1 as an insulting “let them eat cake” sort of message to the world’s poor?

by John C. Dvorak

Hands Across America, Live AID, the Concert for Bangladesh, and so on. The American (and world) public has witnessed one feel-good event (and the ensuing scandals) after another. Each one manages to assuage our guilt about the world’s problems, at least a little. Now these folks think that any sort of participation in these events, or even their good thoughts about world poverty and starvation, actually help. Now they can sleep at night. It doesn’t matter that nothing has really changed.

This is how I view the cute, little One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) XO-1 computer, technology designed for the impoverished children of Africa and Alabama. This machine, which is the brainchild of onetime MIT media lab honcho Nick Negroponte, will save the world. His vision is to supply every child with what amounts to an advertising delivery mechanism. Hence the boys at Google are big investors.

Dvorak’s point: this program is a little like Marie Antoinette: “They’re starving, let them eat little green computers!”

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

One Laptop Per Child Doesn’t Change the World – Columns by PC Magazine

Whew, John! That emperor really is stumbling down the parade route starkers!

He does make a strong point, but I still like the initiative. Yes large swaths of the globe are starving, thirsty, and ignorant that there is anything better out there and how to get it. Yes, we need to send those folks food, pharmaceuticals, water purifiers.

But John, we can also send them practical educational devices, in the form of cute, green computers.

Maybe OLPC will help teach that world to feed, clothe and sustain themselves.

shortattention_thumb2[6]

We actually found Dvorak when researching this next item. The folks at Zonbu have also struck again. We actually linked to our original post in the list above, here it is again. Never let it be said we at L-HC don’t deliver on the promise of Sequitur Service©.

Zonbu Launches ‘Green’ Laptop

by Tony Hoffman

zonbunotebook

Zonbu, maker of the Zonbu Mini desktop PC, has announced a notebook computer along the same lines, to be manufactured by Everex.

The Zonbu Notebook is designed to be environmentally friendly, with lower power usage and less hazardous material than normal laptops, and proper recycling techniques.

We wrote about the original desktop Zonbu, and compared it to OLPC. They both represent a reasonably clean sheet of paper as far as their attempts to reinvent computing in a basic, efficient, manifestly less costly way.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Zonbu Launches ‘Green’ Laptop – News and Analysis by PC Magazine

Have a guy on our blogroll2 who has been talking up Zonbu; check him out if you like. I am always a fan of paying less, but I hardly think any of these devices are meant for the likes of yr humble svt. But, as I wrote previously,

Maybe someday, even MUDGE will pay less than $1200 for a PC. Never happened yet, since as prices per component go down, the sheer number of additional must-have components seems to have kept the price level, or growing. Maybe this paradigm shift will finally break that pattern.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm211: Proxy killers — Can you live with that?

December 3, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Written previously in this space (here, here and even here) about the fascinating advent of robotic military aircraft, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles — UAVs.

Well, we’re reminded lately that robots are also very much in use and under development for our ground-based forces.

Two stories popped out at us over the past couple of days. And they make for an interesting debate.

First, this intriguing story about the latest in a series of government funded development projects at Carnegie Mellon University, always a pioneer in the field of robotics, from CNET Blogs.

Meet the “Crusher:”

Army’s ‘Crusher’ gets $14 million makeover

Posted by Mark Rutherford Post a comment

(Credit: Carnegie Mellon University)

Carnegie Mellon University will upgrade its 6.5-ton robot mobile, the “Crusher,” by adding advanced suspension and hybrid-electric innards as part of a $14.4 million Army grant meant to push the envelope for unmanned ground vehicles.

The project, a result of more than two decades of robotics research by the university’s National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC), will demonstrate how advanced vehicle and navigation technology can solve transportation challenges like those encountered by supply convoys in Iraq, according to the university (PDF).

The balance of the short article is fascinating, not least for the inclusion of a YouTube video of Crusher touring the countryside by way of Popular Mechanics (anyone else surprised that that publication is still around?).

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Army’s ‘Crusher’ gets $14 million makeover | Military Tech – Mark Rutherford looks at how the military merges with the digital age – CNET Blogs

An interesting essay in Armed Forces Journal provides an argument in favor of maintaining the human element in warfare.

Who decides: Man or machine?

BY MAJ. DANIEL L. DAVIS

When the industrial revolution of the early 19th century threatened the centuries-old caste of the English artisans by replacing man with machine, they rose up, allegedly led by a man named Ned Ludd, in protest. To protect their way of life, they attempted to destroy the machines in hopes of clinging to their past. Since then, anyone who opposes technological advancement has been derided as a Luddite.

After reading an article in the Arizona Daily Star about future robotic warfare, such a title might well be lobbed at me — although for rather different reasons than my distinguished British predecessors.

The article celebrated the advent of technology that would soon see robots fighting wars for us, and even pondered what would happen when nations assemble robot armies. Although it brings to mind images of Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi battling the droid army in “Star Wars,” the idea is anything but science fiction.

Already, numerous robots in Iraq and Afghanistan are showing utility in counter-IED efforts and can significantly enhance a soldier’s ability to clear a hostile building. Similarly, semi-robotic UAVs provide imagery on enemy movements, as well as fire precision-guided weapons at enemy targets. Without a doubt, technology is providing a notable utility to the combat soldier.

Maj. Davis admits above the utility of robotic equipment. But he also effectively quotes Gen. George Patton (brilliant even if Nixon loved the George C. Scott portrayal):

“Wars may be fought with weapons,” he once said, “but they are won by men. It is the spirit of the men who follow and of the man who leads that gains the victory.”

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

ARMED FORCES JOURNAL – Who decides: Man or machine? – November 2007

For Maj. Davis it’s about morality (men choosing to kill which men, rather than leaving such decisions in the claws and CPUs of machines), not potential unemployment.

I guess I’ll buy that; he certainly is sincere.

But, there’s an outsourcing argument here that I think could be pursued.

Where do majors come from? Nobody joins the Army as a major, any more than 18 year olds join corporations as senior managers.

There’s a learning curve. One joins the Army, trains, drills, fights, survives, perhaps is sent to Officer Candidate School to train at a higher level, becomes a junior officer who trains, drills, fights, survives, and perhaps is promoted to major.

MUDGE has had this same discussion with the outsourcing functionary at his place of employment. Where is the next generation of IT operations managers going to come from, if the entry level positions from which most of the present generation has sprung are being outsourced to Bengaluru? Obvious answer: Bengaluru, of course!

So, assuming that robot combatants become increasingly prevalent, one could posit that the next generation or the next after that might be a very capable Maj. Crusher.

Now, that’s food for thought!

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm210: Google — 700MHz gorilla?

December 2, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

As an aspirational technologist, MUDGE has been watching with some bemusement the announcements from Google regarding its plan to bid on the auction for the 700MHz spectrum. A link in the clip below explains:

The radio spectrum is being returned by broadcasters as they move from analog to digital signals early in 2009. The signals can go long distances and penetrate thick walls. The auction is seen as a last chance for a new wireless player.

What does Google have in mind, anyway? As the auction approaches, the outlines of strategy seem to be looming out of the fog.

cnet

Google will change this industry forever

Posted by Don Reisinger

Now that Google has officially announced that it will bid on the 700MHz spectrum, most of us are speculating about the possibilities. And while I have my own beliefs about where Google will go with the spectrum, I’m sure many of you have your own.

But regardless of where you stand on this issue, one thing remains certain: the future of the technology industry is currently being shaped by high-paid Google lawyers and accountants who are working out the details of this auction.

Simply put, we’re on the precipice of something groundbreaking that will change this industry forever. Whether it will be good or bad is unknown, but regardless of the long-term effect, Google has its sights firmly planted on this 700MHz spectrum and if you ask me, we won’t even know what hit us.

Don Reisinger has some fascinating, if rather stunning, ideas about what he thinks Google is up to.

  1. Combined with Android, its proposed open standard for cellular telephony, the 700MHz band would provide fierce, perhaps even fatal competition for the cellular industry as presently constituted.
  2. In the form of free (?!) Wi-Fi access, Google could provide fierce, perhaps fatal competition for conventional land-line/fibre/cable ISPs.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Google will change this industry forever | Tech news blog – CNET News.com

Wow! Breathtaking. But, Google has the vision, and the deep pockets, thanks to its utterly incomprehensibly colossal market capitalization, to bring it off.

As counterpoint, we present the incisive and highly influential Om Malik:

gigaom

So Google Will Bid For Spectrum. Will It Play To Win?

Written by Om Malik
Friday, November 30, 2007 at 8:07 AM PT Comments (12)

For the past few months, Google CEO Eric Schmidt has hinted at every opportunity that Google (GOOG) will bid for the auction of the 700 MHz spectrum. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they issued a press release today and confirmed that they will bid on the so-called C-block of the 700 MHz spectrum.Big deal — because Google is not in it to win it. Like in an opening move in a game of high-stakes poker, Google will place an opening bet, but is unlikely to raise it.Google CEO Eric Schmidt in the press release said:

No matter which bidder ultimately prevails, the real winners of this auction are American consumers who likely will see more choices than ever before in how they access the Internet.

Excuse me, that ain’t the language of a winner.

Malik’s post links to a couple of his posts from earlier this year explaining the issues.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

So Google Will Bid For Spectrum. Will It Play To Win? – GigaOM

What’s going on here? Malik believes that Google’s vision is, or has become, constrained, perhaps due to the multiplicity of players. Reisinger has the more romantic view, if you will, of a breathtaking strategy that will, indeed, change the game forever.

What one can tell is that, this 700MHz auction is a very big deal indeed. Google has proven over and over again that Google is a very big deal indeed. They don’t win every battle they enter, but, with initiatives small and large, such as mapping, web based applications and of course, search, one has to acknowledge that, where Google treads, the paradigms change.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE