Category Archives: Tech

Doing My Part to Villainize Microsoft

“The state can’t give you freedom, and the state can’t take it away. Freedom is something you’re born with, and then one day someone tries to deny it. The extent to which you resist is the extent to which you are free.”

-Utah Phillips

Those new Vista ads are so alluring aren’t they? The new Microsoft operating system is going to be just like seeing a deer walk by your window! It will be just like that rocket ship to the moon! Dear God it is state of the art. It is so state of the art, most video games won’t be designed to run on it until mid-2008 . Vista is so ahead of it’s time that more than half of the computers in the U.S. can’t even run it! If you want to run the Vista operating system, you had better get a new computer because a study conducted by SoftChoice Corporation stated that 50% of the current breed of personal computers are “below Windows Vista’s basic system requirements” while 94% are not equipped to run on Windows Vista Premium edition Which is fine because computers are disposable, right? It is not as though there are landfills filled with computer junk.

Well, not in this country, anyway. We just send it all to the Phillipines, Thailand, and other places an ocean away from the stench of the dumpsite. I sure hope the next Microsoft operating system is more backwards compatible than Vista because it is supposedly due out in 2009. Fortunately, Vista was six years late because it took so long to fix all of the glitches in Windows XP. Perhaps that will give some of the people in Manila a chance to sort through the wreckage this new software will bring.

Microsoft is not thinking about this. Who can blame them; they are too busy with lawsuits. Anti-virus software makers Symantec and another company named “Vista”. One of the selling points of Vista is that it comes with its own anti-virus software built in. Symantec is claiming that software is theirs, and patented. Just by bundling security products with Windows folks will talk of Monopoly. That is all it took for Internet Explorer to squash the business of far-superior Netscape. But this case is different.

First, an inside source told me that Microsoft didn’t bother to insure that competitors software will actually work on Vista. This could be incompetence: many things don’t yet work on Vista. But it also looks sinister. People that don’t know much about computers will just assume that Vista’s competitors’ anti-virus software doesn’t work at all. They will not assume that the beautiful, (Wow! Look at it!) Vista goddess is the problem.

Second, it is getting much harder to buy computers that don’t come with Vista. I have a friend that was shopping for a laptop at a large, west coast computer store. All of their computers that had WindowsXP were on clearance. The salesperson told her they weren’t supposed to be selling them at all because their contract with Microsoft says they will only sell computers with Vista (if you were considering buying a computer and not building it yourself, best go now while you can still get one with XP). I can’t think of anything more monopolistic than such a contract that forces you to only sell one product. But hey, I’m sure Bill is just thinking off all of those poor unemployed Filipinos that could be staffing dumpsites to hold the brand-new XP computers no one is allowed to sell.


This whole blog is a sham, a set-up. It is nothing compared to what truly makes Vista an evil abomination. The real reason to give Vista the boot is DRM: Digital Rights Management. DRM is the technology that decides whether you have the right to access things on your own computer. You want to watch a movie? Vista will make sure you have a legit version of it or it won’t play.

Presumably, Microsoft has implemented this at the nagging of Hollywood and the record industry. But that’s a bunch of hooey. From the security blog on

“And while it may have started as a partnership, in the end Microsoft is going to end up locking the movie companies into selling content in its proprietary formats.

We saw this trick before; Apple pulled it on the recording industry. First iTunes worked in partnership with the major record labels to distribute content, but soon Warner Music’s CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr. found that he wasn’t able to dictate a pricing model to Steve Jobs. The same thing will happen here; after Vista is firmly entrenched in the marketplace, Sony’s Howard Stringer won’t be able to dictate pricing or terms to Bill Gates. This is a war for 21st-century movie distribution and, when the dust settles, Hollywood won’t know what hit them.”
This is not only about mp3s and bootleg videos. DRM can be used on any part of your system. Before Windows even starts, it can ask the computer if this user has permission to use the computer. If not, Windows won’t boot at all.

Few outside of the tech world are worried about this, mostly because they don’t know about it. And many of the law-abiding citizens that don’t have a multi-gig collection of contraband will say DRM makes the internet a safe and legal place to download. These are the same people that smiled and nodded as their civil liberties were Patriot-Acted away. Make no mistake, this is about freedom. If it is not recognized as such, it is only because our computers are one of the only spaces left where people are accustomed to having absolute liberty. It is only because we have never had that freedom taken away.

“I want to resist!” I hear you saying, “But what am I to do? You are suggesting problems with no solutions, like a typical liberal democrat!”

Fear not, gentle reader, there is a solution. Take a look at that slick interface at the top of the screen. You might have thought a transparent 3-D desktop and windows that burst into flames are the hallmarks of Vista. But this “WOW!” factor belongs to Linux. The computer shown here is running Ubuntu Linux. It is free and it is fully supported for free (Microsoft has raised the price of support for their products to $59 per incident). It is easier to install and easy to use. It comes with hundreds of free programs. It is more secure and stable than windows will ever be. And it leaves your desktop with that minty-fresh, non-corporate smell.

This is What My Computer Dreams About

Let’s hear it for the internet. Through constant innovation, the web seems to be buidling a better everything.
Or in this case, a screensaver.
I was just sitting here, in rapt awe of my screensaver, and I thought I’d take a few minutes to tell you why my screensaver is more bad-ass than yours (unless you have the same one, of course). Anyhow, I really want all of my readers to listen to the Derrick Jensen speech I posted in my last blog so I didn’t want to have any heavy reading in this one.

The screensaver I use is called “Electric Sheep”, so named for the Philip K. Dick novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.
It starts with a fractal. Now, I’m used to the electric art of Winamp visualization plug-ins. This makes those look like a fourth graders computer class project (or a Windows Media Player visualization, same thing, really). Each of these fractals is a “sheep”.

But people who have the screensaver can vote, yay or nay, on whether or not they like the sheep, as the screensaver is going. The bad ones drop and — here’s the beauty part — the winners breed.

The original sheep is soon lost, as all over the world thousands of people vote for their favorites and these beget newer, more beautiful sheep, for sheep-generations. This adds to the beauty because the sheep are always delicate and extreemely complex, with the whisps and shadows of their electric ancestors still vaguely visible. It also makes them less predictable than your average pixelated visualization, because patterns are not based on a program but on previous sheep. It does all this while your computer is sleeping. Because people are always voting, the sheep are always changing, so no matter how long you run it, it never gets old.
There’s no Paula Abdul overseer, the screensaver blends them automatically. However, if you go the website, you can look up a sheeps “lineage”
and “genomes.” It’s a great concept with a stunning execution. If you’re still using that bouncing Windows logo, you might want to give this a try. It’s freeware. It works for Linux too, but obviously wouldn’t be recommended for folks with dial-up connections.

the Ever Expanding Blogosphere

Last night I was looking for a good way to host pictures on myspace when I got sucked into the blog mashable until three o’ clock in the morn’. This is a blog about blogs and the social networking sites, specifically the economics and business models they are using. But they also do a lot of research and talk about various newcomers to the scene. Here is a summation of what I learned:While everyone knows that myspace has the lead when it comes to the width and breadth of social networking sites, there are some contenders for specific interests. I had heard of deviant art (for artists) but not, social networking for writers. There is a new competitor for art by the name of humble voice, which supposedly has a noteably more beautiful interface than myspace. Urbis’s strength is the opportunity for criticism of one’s work. Both sites have a ranking system, in the tradition of sites like but judging your work, rather than looks. I will most likely start an urbis account for my creative writing, as this blog isn’t the appropriate outlet for it.

I am also excited to start an account with bikespace, a social network for cyclists. On bikespace, you can create route maps, form groups of riders, and evite folks on rides. Bikespace is still in beta so newcomers could be influential.

If you are looking for someone to host all the pics and songs you want on your page, try They give you a gig and you can upload files from your computer. They will spit out the html to put it on your page. The only catch is that they delete your content if you are inactive for a month.
If you just want to throw some pics on your myspace, most folks have been using flickr and photobucket. But I am more excited about tinypic, allyoucanupload, and imageshack, which don’t require any login information. I’m not a professional photographer, I don’t want to chat about my pics. I just want to get them up and out to myspace.

Another interesting addition to the blogoshere are the remixing sites splice and jamglue. At these sites, you can take songs and sound clips with creative commons liscensing and remix them to make new songs.

I have been downloading mixing plug-ins from but now you can just do it all on the web. Then you can upload it to your blog for all the world (okay, the myspace world) to hear.
Here’s an example:

.. classid=”clsid:d27cdb6e-ae6d-11cf-96b8-444553540000″ codebase=”,0,0,0″ height=”150″ width=”400″>..>
I am most excited about Put your pipes away, my Oakstermdam friends; it’s a music sharing site. If you have been looking for a way to give money to the bands you love but want to keep downloading and sharing music, weedshare might be the answer. Personally, when I get my hands on good music I can’t wait to share it with others, particularly because the music I like is not playing on MTV (but then, what is?). The problem is that bands need distribution and the only way to do that has been through record companies. But with weedshare, you become the distributor. You can play any song free three times, then you buy for five dollars. If your friend wants the track, instead of buying it from itunes, they can buy it from you. You get a percentage of the money. Then if your friend passes the song on to someone else, they get a percentage, too. It is a concept so beautiful it makes me want to cry (or are is that the last vestiges of PMS?). More on this later, after I’ve thoroughly checked out their site.

All in all, the mashable blog raises one particularly interesting point: the more myspace expands, the more it cuts into the business that it is creating. If myspace video becomes hugely successful, youtube will lose their business. While this looks unlikely, it is certainly possible for smaller contenders like those mentioned above. Yet add-ons like this are what made myspace hugely popular. On the other hand, one can’t blame myspace for wanting to provide everything, so folks don’t have to look to other websites to complete the social networking experience.

All this means to my awesome, devoted readers: you will be seeing more and hearing more on my blog in the future. As usual, your comments are always welcome.

Opera—It Ain’t Your Mama’s Browser Anymore

I remember when my mom was trying out the Opera browser. She’s always quick to find the next trend. At the time, you had to pay to use it or have pesky ads on your desktop. Those days are gone. The new Opera is free and fast. Are you ready to leave Mozilla behind?

I know, you’re all attached to Mozilla as the only alternative to IE and the blessed-bringer of tabbed browsing. Guess what? Opera invented tabbed browsing. They were also the first to have a Google toolbar. The new opera has this feature where you can use any search engine in the url box. For example, if I wanted to search for the “history of Crete” on Wikepedia, I would type:

w history of Crete

into the url box; hit enter, and it will take you straight the results. And you can set Opera to do this for any search engine you want. I have ones for the Urban Dictionary and, though these would never be included in a standard browser.

This wasn’t what won me over, though. I’m sure you’re not spending countless hours on bittorrent because that would imply that you are downloading copywrited stuff and I don’t know anyone who does that. But let’s just say, you know, that guy, your cousin’s friend, who downloads torrents. If he uses Opera, he can just click on the torrent and it will download like it’s a regular link because Opera has a built-in torrent program.

The thing that won my heart is the “notes” feature. Often I keep a word processing program open just so I can copy/paste things into it that I found online. Opera has a built in note pad. You just select the text and on the right-click menu you can add a note. It will save this text in the “notes” area as well as the url you got it from.

They also have these widgets that you can use to further customize your Opera experience: mp3 players, video games, calendars, news feeds, a “to do” list, etc. You can make your own widgets. I’m a little skeptical of widgets. On the one hand, if all you do all day is browse the net, then why not have everything attached to your browser? On the other, why use a widget sketchpad (for example) to draw pictures when I can use the Gimp or Photoshop?

Hey, Ray**, when you’re looking at porn, don’t you generally have ten or twelve tabs open at a time? When you hover over the tabs in Opera it shows you a little thumbnail of the page (similar to the way Safari does it) so you know just which throbbing man-muscle to click on.

But wait, there’s more! Remember how when you do a Google image search, first you have to click on the link then click again on “see full-sized image”? Opera has a rewind and fast forward button that you would use in situations like that to zip past the middle pages. Those programmers all the way in Norway have me figured out. Amazing.

Dear Mozilla,

It’s been a beautiful love affair. But I’ve found someone better, with more features. I won’t forget you. Can we still be friends?


The Peacheater
*If your still using the antiquated Microsoft Explorer, get out of the Bronze Age my friend. Do you still listen to 8-tracks?

**Insert here the name of your friend whose internet porn collection rivals the number of records at your local college radio station

Plug Plug Plug Pandora

Imagine a radio station that could predict what kind of songs that you like and only play those songs. As the music plays, you can customize it further by voting for or against particular songs.

But of course, my hipster friends, you all ready know that such a station exists; it’s called Pandora. You know, as well, that the idea behind Pandora is to imagine each song can be broken down into its own DNA structure. They achieve this by listening to thousands of songs and breaking them down into specific pieces. For example, Pandora indicates that I like songs that feature folk influences, major key tonality, prominent organ, acoustic and rhythm guitars. (Wait, maybe I should add some Le Tigre to de-emphasize the folk aspect. Just a minute.)

It knows this because I told it four or five bands that I like and created a playlist for me. Correction, it is constantly creating a playlist for me, perfecting and selecting for my listening pleasure.

Pandora is not for people who want to listen to the same five bands over and over (and over and over) again. It is for people who use Myspace as a way listen to the newest bands or download streaming audio of their favorite D.J.s.

Speaking of Myspace, remember when no one used it because we were all on Friendster? Personally, I switched over to Mspace because of the ability to customize the music on my profile. Friendster has, in a stroke (the Strokes are a good band, hold on while I add them to my Pandora list ) of brilliance, decided to partner up with Pandora to create customized radio stations. So if you have a Friendster account and you haven’t logged in for a while that would be an easy way to check out Pandora, if you haven’t all ready.

The interface is not perfect. It is hard move forward and backwards in your playlist. There’s no way to post your list on a blog (this may be of questionable legality, anyway, but people are doing it as is). You can’t give incremental or weighted rankings, only yes/no votes. Yet it is intuitively easy to use. As long as they have that, and the program works its magic, they will work out the kinks (oh! I like the Kinks! Just let me add them to my Pandora list and I’ll be right back). And the beauty part is that it does work.

Part of what people seem to get sucked into with the new technologies are the various abilities to customize their experience. Now we have a product that you can spend time tinkering with or just leave it alone and it will perfect it for you. That’s pretty damn special. I’m putting my money on this as the next big net phenomenon. Or I would be, if I weren’t spending so much time playing with it.