Wednesday
Apr162014

Larry Page Hasn't A Clue What Charity Is

Well, that ruins whatever respect for Mr. Page I had left. I used to occasionally point to him as a fellow Gen-X'er (a fellow salt and pepper haired Gen-X'er at that) who led a corporation and became an infulencial leader and innovator. This is because too many in my generation struggle to get hired, let alone land an opportunity to found and lead a company.

Well, he's an idiot. And his definition of charity is frankly twisted and dangerous.

Establishing large, well run, philanthropic institutions is nothing new. Carnegie and Rockefeller were pioneers of creating highly managed charitable giving. But, and this is a huge but, those foundations give money to charitable causes, which directly assist the poor, not corporations, which might produce benefits for them. Those organizations, and their many imitators, have supported colleges and universities, built public libraries -my hometown library in Brockton was built with Carnegie funds- built hospitals, clinics and research facilities, fed the poor, and provided open space and public recreation for countless people.

Larry Page hasn't a clue what charity is, and it's pretty clear he never will.

Wednesday
Apr162014

The French Government Fears Its People

Just a quick observation. In the US the people are afraid of the government; in France the government is afraid of the people.

Citizens don't need to own firearms to make their government fear them. It just takes united demands, constant political pressure, and some strong unions here and there. While I understand the argument that unionized workers see themselves as union members first and company employees second, look at the victories they have won for workers in France, including workers who aren't unionized. Here's the latest example.

Tuesday
Apr152014

NSA Spying Revelations To Continue Well Into 2014

Edward Snowden became a household name to consumers of news media in June 2013. It also helped make The Guardian a well recognized name in elite news journalism, and they now have a Pulizer for their effors.

The reports of how the NSA has spied on virtually all electronic communications over the last 15 years (and probably longer) will continue to be released. According to SNowden, some of the biggest revelations are yet to come. We can expect more details about how the NSA partnered with corporations to collect mass data on citzens. They collect data on what you buy, where you go, and what you are into. And almost none of it related to keeping the "homeland" safe.

While we wait for more deatils on NSA programs, both past and existing, we have a blockbuster piece by two of the best investigative "Global War on Terror" journalists around, Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill. In it, they explain how drone strkes target mobile phones, using an NSA owned database of mobile phone numbers. It had long been suspected that the drones go after phones, not people identified visually. That helps explains all the "collateral damage" when these phones are detected in the open in crowded areas. Furthermore, we know US often follows an initial hellfire missle strike with a second strike in the same location to kill friends, family, and even medics (if that isn't state terrorism...). What drives the drone strikes? Data

Thursday
Apr102014

I didn't think my first post would be this way.

I feel it must.

Why do Americans feel the needs to call anyone with an English, Scottish, Welsh, or Irish accent British?

No, it's not all Americans, but the majority I've encountered feel the need to classify me as British.

"Oh, you're British!?"

NO! NO! NO! You fucking twit, I'm ENGLISH! E N G L I S H, NOT British!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Georgraphically, yes, I am considered British.

However, the fact that I hail from Northern England, makes me ENGLISH!

My family Hails from North England. If we want to be exact, Corbridge is a village in Northumberland, England,

situated 16 miles (26 km) west of Newcastle and 4 miles (6 km) east of Hexham.

Again, I'm fucking ENGLISH!

Where does this hatred come from? It's not hatred at all.

Believe me, I'm not the only one. Scots, Welsh and those of Northern Ireland rather be called by where they're from, instead of British. 

We share in the UK great, long and historic rivalries. As nations, as people and especially when it comes to both football (HOWAY THE LADS!) and rugby.

With that said, our pride gets the best of us, IT SURE DOES OF ME, when I'm called British.

Tuesday
Mar182014

ASUS X200CA (Pentium) Review

A great little vehicle to try out a Linux distribution.

The 11.6" ASUS X200CA (late 2013) with the Pentium "Ivy Bridge" processor is a great little performer. Costs were cut to be sure. It's black plastic. The battery is not replaceable. It's a budget notebook rather than an entry level ultrabook. However, for those who want pretty good computing power on the cheap, it's a fine choice. It's actually a great choice for anyone who ants to give Linux a spin without breaking the bank, which is why I got it.

So, it is plastic, but it's also light - just three pounds. The keyboard took only 15 minutes to master coming from the much larger MacBook 13". This is, essentially, a disposable laptop. It's something you use for 2-4 years and then resell or recycle. Battery life is a consistent 3-3.5 hours when fully charged, and with the brightness turned down a bit, and the device is not streaming video. The display is an LED lit 1366x768. Not nearly the best of what's available today, but it does support full 1080p resolution. The speakers are front firing, which is impressive at this price point. But like any laptop, headphones will provide the best possible audio quality.

The screen is also plastic, but seems scratch resistant. The touchscreen is very good - sensitive and responsive. Even if you install a Linux distribution, the touchscreen will still provide some functionality. I love the built in SD card reader. No more tethering my camera to my laptop to process and file photos.

The last thing I need to get used to is the fan and heat vent on the left edge of the keyboard. It is easy to clean, says ASUS (with one of those Staples spray can dusters). The fan is no louder than the Apple MacBook fan. But it's right behind the vent, and it gets warm as soon as you turn on the device.So I'm figuring out how to keep an upright typing position and keep my left fingers away from the vent opening.

On the plus side, the ports are almost kept to a minimum. Aside from a legacy VGA port I will never use, there are two USB 2.0 ports, a USB 3.0 port (colored blue for easy identification), an RJ-45 network cable port, a very useful HDMI video out, and an equally useful SD card slot for easy uploading of pictures from most digital cameras. Users of Google Plus' photo editor and YouTube will especially appreciate that.


This laptop makes the case that like tablets and phones, laptops are gadgets you use for two years and then move on to the next one. A lot of people use their MacBooks for two years, but I've had mine for nearly 5 years and it is built to last. The ASUS has a 64 bit Ivy Bridge processor. That's the latest and one of the best. It could go four years, but you'd have to take extra special care of it. Separate bag. No spills. No food. Go easy. This thing has what you need on the inside, but you need to be gentle with it.


I have oily hands. The keyboard's keys, thankfully, are oil and fingerprint proof. Unfortunately, the rest of the device isn't.. You might want to consider the metal finish version if you don't like fingerprints (the ever so slightly heavier Q200). Fortunately, the laptop looks like new with a few circular wipes of a dry cloth or moist sponge. I do like the textured plastic and the wedge shape of the device. Just have to limit how much I touch that plastic. Stick to the keys and and a mouse (the cool ASUS blue ray optical mouse is a fine accessory for this), and you will minimize the blemeshes on this laptop.

For my Linux distribution, I chose Linix Mint (Cinnamon). I have seen Red Hat Linux on servers. And I have seen early incarnations of Linux on desktops, back when you had to write a developer a check and receive a stack of 3.5" floppy disks in the mail. But this was my first installation of Linix on any personal computer, and I love it. I can move on from Apple and iTunes, and go my own way. That has its pros and cons. Using an open office suite (LibreOffice), browsing the Internet on Google Chrome, and playing games on Steam is fantastic (Chrome has not run well lately in OSX). Editing photos and burning music playlists onto CDs take a little more work (yes, I still make mix CDs). But I am learning as I go, and Linux Mint is one slick operating system that proivides an opimal desktop on which to get things done, and uses minimal resources. I wish I had switched to Linux years ago.

I trust ASUS. They make great monitors, components, and tablets. But clearly going from a MacBook to this is a step down in luxury. Sort of like going from a BMW to a Mazda. But Mazdas are still a lot of fun. If you want to get into Linux computing, this might be your perfect first vehicle to give it a spin.

Monday
Mar172014

A Rational Criminal Act: 1971 FBI Burglars Reveal Themselves

This past January, members of the famed Citizens' Commission to Investigate the FBI stepped forward and revealed themselves in a conference call with the US news media.  

In 1971, the group broke into a small FBI field office in Media, Pennsylvania, while the nation was followng the Ali-Frasier fight (the 15 round "Fight of the Century," in which Frazier knocked out Ali). They stole thousands of documents. Nearly half of the documents detailed a domestic spying program which had begun under FBI director, J. Edgar Hoover, who had a year more to live, and was going to serve as bureau director until the day he died, in May 1972.

The statute of limitations ran out on the bugulary in March, 1976, but members of the group decided that now was a perfect time to reveal themselves, less than a year after Edward Snowden's daring theft of Pentagon and NSA materials, and just in time to helop promote a new book on the break-in.

The 1971 FBI bulgulary is one of the most significant acts of whistleblowing in US history. The stolen documents  were xeroxed and distributed to the media, much like the Pentagon Papers were. The proof that the FBI was committing more time and resources to spying on non-violent activists than investigating organized and interstate crime was too much for that era's Congress to ignore, and led to major -albeit temporary- reforms. 

Hoover was a relentless bureaucrat, who cowed presidents and the Congress for decades, because, it was feared, he had dirt on EVERYBODY. No one wanted to hold him to account. And so it took eight private citizens, breaking the law, to reveal the far worse law breaking of the FBI. Does this sound familiar? Edward Snowden come to mind?

When members of Citizens' Commission stepped forward, NBC featured two of them, the married Raines couple, on the Today show. As the mainstream media usually does, they brought out a figure to provide some sort of counterpoint. They found retired agent Patrick Kelly, who charaterized the Raines' as "rationalizing a criminal act." I would argue that their act is very easy to explain: it was a rational crime. It had to be done. The unconstituinal actions of the FBI had to be revealed by a comparitively tiny crime. It was, frankly, a precursor to electronic acts of thivery, such as those by Anonymous and Wikileaks. 

Needless to say, the responses from the right wing to this news story were both predictable and sad.

Friday
Feb282014

World Class Cities Are Made With Infrastructure, Not Asturity.

Can we talk about the UK for a few seconds? That country has a Tory government, which practices the voodoo brand of economics called austerity, horrible storms, likely associated with climate change, which conservatives insist is a liberal hoax, and now a wave of crap! There'll always be a Britain!

Thursday
Feb132014

One of the Most Extraordinary Developments in the Christie Scandals Happened Sunday

By now, it is so well established that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is a corrupt bully, that futher reporting on his scandals ought to be suspended until the seopenas for the investigations are in. MSNBC was covering Christie so much last month, I thought it was embarassing. This nation is still at war in Afghnistan, we have a catestrophic, global envionmental crisis, the US job market is still dismal, the US has an ongoing gun violence problem, reproductive and women's rights are under fierce attack, Guantanemo is still open, the wealth gap is the biggest it has been in nearly a century, and the US Congress is intent on destroying what's left of the nation - and I mean both sides of the aisle.

The Chistie marathon, thankfully, has subsided a bit. 

Now I'm not denying that Christie's quests for political vengence, which have cost his state quite a lot in terms of money and image, is not significant. It is. He's the most prominant politician to engage in this sort of behavior since President Richard Nixon. Not that Christie is similar to the late Richard Nixon himself. Nixon was a vicious, paranoid, seeing enemies and conspiracies everywhere. Christie is a vicious bully, a classic coward who attacks and demeans those weaker than he is. I leave it to the pundits and historians like myself to argue which is worse.

Here's what I think will be the big story until all the supenas are carried out. The editorial board of the Star-Ledger, led by Tom Moran, has issued what is essentially a retraction of their endorsement for Chris Christie in his 2013 reelection bid. He won, of course. It is too late, of course. 

There is a fitting cliche: sin in haste, and repent at leisure. At least Moran is admitting the mistake, unlike, for example, the New York Times which allowed the Bush gang to push their invasion of Iraq on their pages, backed the criminal war and published a quiet, partial retraction over a year later.

This is not a perfect story of journalistic excellence, however. Iif one goes to the link and reads Moran's retraction, he basically says that the Star-Ledger knew all about Christie's scandals and his bad character, and endorsed him anyway. So what else do they know? We'll find out as the investigation proceeds this spring.

Sunday
Feb092014

The Bloomberg and Kelly Leave NYC Wealthier, Probably Hated

Almost all at taxpayer expense of course.

The whole 2004 RNC ordeal ruined New York for me. It proved to me that this town is not for us little people. It isn't even for progressives or dissenters. It's an imperialist, millionaire's playground.

To my fellow New Yorkers, I say, learn your history. This was the only major city not to kick out the British during the American Revolution. That explains a lot right there. So did Ed Koch's sucking up to the GOP in the run up to that convention.

Bloomberg and Kelly have cost this town countless millions of dollars, while systematically trashing the Constitution. And the Bloomberg penalty for all this criminal stupidity? Three consecutive electoral victories as mayor of America's largest city.

Bloomberg spent over $600 Million on his three mayorial campaigns, but leaves office at least four times richer than when he first ran for office. He knew where the biggest ROI was: himself. The rich get richer, right?

Meanwhile, Bloomy's pit bull gets his big reward

However, he has asked our city for $1.5M a year for protection. Who hates Ray Kelly so much?

Tuesday
Dec102013

LG V500 ("G Pad") 8.3 Review

Forget the Q-Pair app (although if you're the kind of person who must have both your phone and tablet tunred on when you com home after a day at work, it does work well). And you should also probably forget the IR blaster (I haven't bothered to play with it yet).

Yes, never mind the extras. The LG V500 (unfortunately named the G Pad) is simply a gorgeous tablet. But with a $349 retail price, is it worth $100 more than the Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.0 or Nexus 7? I would argue that depends on how much it seduces you, and how long you intend to keep it. I know what I've decided. It took just 30 minutes with the tablet to make up my mind. Here's what you need to know.

 

What's in the box?

LG keeps it simple. The box has the tablet, a universal Android micro USB charger, and a manual most users will never read.

I have to applaud LG for sticking with the micro USB charging / data port. They could have gone the ASUS or cheap tablet route and used a propriatary cable connection, but a micro USB port means that you can use the same charger to power your Android phone or this tablet. It took a while for Android to catch up to Apple's unified power and data connections, but the four major manufacturers, Motorola, HTC, Samsung, and LG have gotten it together. Wearable devices, like bluetooth headsets, Google Glass, and wristwatches, already use the micro USB charging standard. So while we wait for possible universal wireless charging capabilitires, we Android users have a single stanard to charge all of our mobile devices, just as Apple has the lightning connection to unite its lineup.

 

What makes it run?

 The processor is not the fastest, but it is solid for a device like this. It's a quad core Qualcomm Snapdragon 600, running at 1.7GHz and nearly 2GB of RAM. That's plenty powerful. And the display is top notch. It' a 1920x1200, LED lit display that delivers 273 ppi, more than the Nexus 7's 216 ppi. So it has twice the RAM, and 25% higher resolution as the Nexus 7. Plus it has an aluminum back instead of plastic. Three writers over at Android Central think that's enough to justify the extra $100. I would argue that at the sale price of $299, the extra cost is completely justified.

Performance is simply solid. Some of you care about Vellamo results, so here they are. It's near the top of the current tablet crop.

 

 

What makes it special?

A man can hold one of the best tablets on the market in one hand. I admit, I like the 10.1" form factor. It's closer to the size of a magazine. My previous tablet was the ASUS Transformer TF300T. But stepping down to 8 inches was not a rough as I thought it would be. Magazines and books look fine. The LG V500 is light and very portable, like an Amazon Kindle. It's easier to use on a crowded train, and doesn't draw as much attention as an Apple iPad. It's a niche size in between the 7" and 10.1" tablets, and I really like it. 

I wish I could say that the battery life is stellar, but I don't yet know for certain. It is not near the Apple iPad perfromance, but to get over six hours at 75% brightness would be nice. Until I'm proven otherwise, I have to say that battery life is about average for a 7 to 8-inch device. Some reviewers have gotten through a full weekend of light use, at low brightness. Needless to say, if you use it to stream HD movies, the battery will not last long. The top of the unit gets the warmest when used continuously.

 

How is the software?

This is where some fine tuning may be required. LG, like its primary rival, Samsung, is into modifying the Android interface to the point it becomes cluttered with extra features, apps, and custom icons. If you are an experienced Android user, then you probably know that installing a well reviewed launcher can suppress the manufacturer's tinkerings with color schemes and icons. In LG's case, their defaut icons are a little too busy for most people's taste.

The eaiest way to fix this is with a good launcher. No need to root your device. I love Apex Launcher. It lets you revert your icons, appliation tray, and application dock (at the bottom of the screen) to a default Android 4.x appearance, or you can download and install custom icon packs and themes for a completely different look. It's one of the few apps worth paying for, and it can help you make any Android phone or tablet your own. See? It's fixed. It took just a little thought and effort while watching sports on the telly.

But, alas, there is one thing that you cannot get rid of on the V500, and that is the very busy notification shade.

What is going on there? There are shortcut buttons to adjust sound and brightness in the first row, shortcuts to apps in the second, and then slider controls for brightness and sound in the next two rows. Why have slider cntrols wheh we already have useful shortcut buttons? Some reviewers feel that this is a result of LG trying to one-up Samsung in some twisted war between two Korean manufacturers. Some at Andrid Central have speculated (out loud, in their podcasts) that this is a "Korean" thing, in which logical users interfaces get tossed in favor of flashy extras. Korea is different, to be sure, with it's far superior, much faster mobile networks, and wider array of gandgets that consumers can buy (not unlike Japan). But back to this busy shade.

LG first introduced this shade last year on the Optimus G (which is the phone I use, and love, and call the G1, as that was really the predecessor of their current flagship phone, the G2). However, on the G1, the shade is less busy and I've come to to like it a lot. Here is the shade on the G1 phone. It's clean. I have shortcut buttons to adjust the sound level, brightness, Wi-Fi radio, and airplane mode, and below that, my notifications. I think that's an improvement over stock android, and it isn't annoying at all. It's pretty useful. 

While the busier shade of the G2 phone and V500 tablet is less practical, at least the displays of those devices is larger, so you can quickly scoll past the clutter and get to what you want to look at in the first place - your notifications.

But LG still made changes in the second year of ther "G" user interface. The lock screen of the G1 phone is customizable. You can choose a wallpaper, a big clock or calendar overlay, and four apps you can quickly launch by swiping over them. Here are two versions of the G1 lock screen. 

 

With the V500 tablet, and presumably the G2 phone, the ability to choose a clock/calendar graphic to the lock screen is gone. You still choose six icons and the wallpaper, but you only get a big clock at the top of screen. A very minor gripe for me, but I just found it odd that after adding so much to their UI, LG would then take something attractive away from it.

 

What is this menu button doing here?

Well, there is one other thing that is not quite right with the LG setup. They continue to defy the Android standards guide and use a menu button in the lower right of the screen. It replaces any menu buttons that appear in apps. There's no real harm here. It's just LG being different, just how Samsung insists on replacing the Home button with a physical button on all of its Galaxy phones and tablets. I knew this going in, and I don't mind it as much as Android developers do. It works.

What I wish LG added, however, is the ability to long-press the Home button, which brings up recent apps and the option launch Google Now from there. I have that feature on my G1 phone. LG has taken it away (at least for now) on their new tablet. Here it is on my G1 phone. 

 

Any Accessories? 

Not really. LG makes them, but they are not yet available in the US (and they might never get here). They are beginning to appear on eBay. And this fine Korean seller on eBay has colored, grippy hard shells that protrect the tablet's aluminum rear plate. I got one in light blue.

 

A Google Play Edition!

I was about to close this review by saying that this is the best tablet for under $300 (when on sale). I still think that. But lookey here! Google has just released a Google Play edition of the LG V500 running Android 4.4 Kit Kat for $349. It's available in black only, but it's suddenly the best Andrid tablet on the market, at any price. 

The Google Play edition strips out all the of the superfulus LG apps, restores the icons and notification shade to stock Android style, and replaces LG's menu button on the lower right to what Google demands, the "recents" button, which lets you quickly go back to a recently used app.

So if you go for this unique, medium sized tablet, you have two outstanding versions to choose from at different price points: $299-$349 for the LG version in black or white, and $349 for the Google Play version in black. It's the best of what Android does in two distinct flavors, and it's my choice for tablet of the year.