Tuesday, June 30, 2009

iPod Touch and Dell

A number of blogs and articles have decided to take Apple to task for charging iPod Touch owners $9.99 for upgrade to 3.0. The issue is the fact that the upgrade, which came earlier for the iPhone was free for them, but us poor Touch owners have to pay through the nose, well, perhaps not through the nose, but that it seems to be an issue. Andrew Nusca wrote a blog at ZDNet.com regarding this issue. He entitled it "Are iPod touch users second class citizens? Apple says 'yes'". It does seem rather unfair, because we still pay all sorts of money for the iTunes store, in fact we paid a pretty good price for the privilege of having the iPhone sans phone. Now as I have written I do enjoy the touch I have, I listen to a lot of music and podcasts, plus I surf the web and have some nice photographs to look at. I've got a nice one of Stephanie and Jon as my wallpaper, for example.

The issue is best seen with the numbers, some 6 million copies of 3.0 have been downloaded by owners of the iPhone, but only:
However, just 1 percent of iPod touch users accessing AdMob’s network had upgraded by the same date, according to the company. Seventy-eight percent were running the latest point release of iPhone Software 2.0, released last year.

That's quite a discrepancy when you think about it, as the article states, something like 40% of iphone owners have the new software but a mere handful have done the same with the ipod touch.

I suspect two things may be the problem, one is the price, it's not paying for anything with the touch is the issue, since many of us have purchased apps and games for the touch, so that's not the issue. It is probably the fact that one group pays and the other doesn't. Some have suggested that iphone owners pay for the upgrade through the subscription, while touch owners don't. That may be true, after all the only money Apple makes on the touch happens when you buy it, there is no steady stream of income. One question is will this make the device worthless? If everything is now being geared to 3.0, will that mean an end of apps that will work on the touch? It is possible, if Apple wants to turn off a whole lot of users, a group that may not think of upgrading to the iPhone. It tends to happen.

I haven't downloaded the upgrade, I'm debating it in my mind. I'm not sure, I like what I can do with the touch right now. The upgrades don't interest me, probably because it is not my primary device for connecting to the Internet, for example. Although there are some features which do interest me, such as the landscape keyboard and the bluetooth ability, especially if it means more then just headphones. I have a bluetooth dongle which I use with my laptop and cellphone, so if I can use it the same way, it's something to consider.

It may also be a simple case that Apple is mis-reading their clientele, it does happen and nowadays, when it does, the company usually ends up getting taken to task. More then one company, in its efforts to screw the consumer finds out there is something called "Internet", that quickly gets the word out and the company ends up looking very bad.

So much for Apple, now what about Dell? It appears Dell may be re-entering the personal device market. An article in the Wall Street Journal states that: Dell is Working on a Portable Web Gadget. From the article, the new thing will be slightly larger then the touch and use Android software. It is supposed to be the first in a long line of "Mobile Internet Devices", which fill the gap between the smartphone and the laptop, actually probably the netbook. It's the small device that gives more room and probably storage as well as memory then the smartphone, read iphone but would fit in a pocket and be far easier to carry around. Hopefully the battery life will be better then the touch, which when you go to wifi tends to diminish. This is another reason to be suspicious of the upgrade, what will Bluetooth do to the battery life? I know from my cellphone, there is a faster drain when I've got bluetooth turned on. I also understand, early phones with Android ran into the same battery problems.

A "leaked" photograph of the Dell Android 'phone':

One blogger suggests it resembles the Palm Pre, but I think it more resembles the Dell Axim X50/51 series of PDA's. Likely it will not be a smartphone, or an Android phone, at least not in North America, apparently there is talk of a Dellphone coming to China in the near future.

Perhaps not being a phone is the winning combination. If you have read any of my past writings, you know I am a fan of the Dell Axim, in fact I still use my X3i daily. It contains my spreadsheets, contacts, calendar, games and music files. I also use it to connect to the Internet when I can't be bothered with the desktop or even the laptop. I replaced the standard battery with a larger one, so it has more of a charge. I'm not sure why Dell stopped making the Axim although I think it had to do with the rise of smartphones, people didn't want to carry around a whole lot of electronic devices. The Axim received good reviews when they first came out, due to the fact they put a whole lot of features and sold them at a reasonable price. They were very popular as well, in fact owners tended to be very loyal. I should know, I am one of those loyal owners.

It seems with the rise of the netbooks, people want something larger then a smartphone and if it holds true, not being a phone may not be a huge issue. So we shall have to wait. If Dell can do it, they will return to the smaller device market- I have got to find another word for 'device', and it is something which will interest a lot of people.

Stay tuned for further developments

Monday, June 29, 2009

What Truly Matters

Last week, it seems was the time for celebrities to die. You know the list, Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, Billy Mays. All of them have passed on and much of the time of the last weekend was spent looking at the lives. While we do remember the lives of those lost and the impact each has had on popular culture, let's not forget what really counts. It is what is happening in Iran.

People are still protesting in Iran, it may not be in the streets, but they are still demanding a fair and just election. People are still being arrested and murdered by the State thugs that are under the control of the ruling body.

Recent, a group of Iranian bloggers issued a statement regarding the election. Here it is:
Statement by a group of Iranian bloggers about the Presidential elections and the subsequent events

1) We, a group of Iranian bloggers, strongly condemn the violent and repressive confrontation of Iranian government against Iranian people’s legitimate and peaceful demonstrations and ask government officials to comply with Article 27 of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Constitution which emphasizes “Public gatherings and marches may be freely held, provided arms are not carried and that they are not detrimental to the fundamental principles of Islam.”

2) We consider the violations in the presidential elections, and their sad consequences a big blow to the democratic principles of the Islamic Republic regime, and observing the mounting evidence of fraud presented by the candidates and others, we believe that election fraud is obvious and we ask for a new election.

3) Actions such as deporting foreign reporters, arresting local journalists, censorship of the news and misrepresenting the facts, cutting off the SMS network and filtering of the internet cannot silence the voices of Iranian people as no darkness and suffocation can go on forever. We invite the Iranian government to honest and friendly interaction with its people and we hope to witness the narrowing of the huge gap between people and the government.

A part of the large community of Iranian bloggers

Consider this from the BBC:
One hardline cleric has called for people who take their protests to the streets to be charged with waging war on God, an offence that in Iran carries the death penalty.

With the constitution, a great deal of power rests with the clerics. So for a hardliner to make this statement, it probably echoes the feelings of a number of people who make up the government. If you think this person may be speaking for himself or an unimportant part of the Iranian society, here is another fact to consider:
Saeed Mortazavi, a prominent Iranian jurist and prosecutor of the Islamic Revolutionary Court, has been tapped to lead the investigation of jailed reformist leaders and party officials amidst widespread demonstrations in response the disputed June 12th presidential election.

Mortazavi, who has been implicated by Human Rights Watch for torture, illegal detention and coercion for confessions, gained infamy for his role in the death of a Canadian-Iranian photographer who was tortured, beaten and raped while detained in 2003. In 2000, Mortazavi led a crackdown against the Islamic Republic’s domestic opposition, ordering the closure of over 100 newspapers. Four years later he detained more than twenty bloggers and journalists, holding them in unknown locations. “The leading role of Saeed Mortazavi in the crackdown in Tehran should set off alarm bells for anyone familiar with his record,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, the Middle East and North Africa director of Human Rights Watch.

In 2005, the BBC published an article entitled: "The Price Paid for Blogging Iran". In the article Clark Boyd states:
Web logs have become a popular forum for dissent. And the Iranian government has responded by arresting dozens of bloggers.

If that was 2005, imagine what is going on right now. With such things as cameraphones and Twitter, the message is getting out to the world. It is through YouTube we saw the video of protests turning violent as the State apparatus decided to silent those who questioned the outcome of the election. We saw the death of Neda Agha Soltan, the message is getting out.

Blogging is so simple in the west, but in Iran, the potential for danger is real. For further information you can read the article Ctr+Alt+Delete:Iran's Response to the Internet from the site, Iran Human Rights Documentation Center

It is up to us in the West to keep the pressure on, to let the protesters know they are not forgotten.

Show Solidarity with the Iranian People.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Brantford- Music City Canada

The good news about Harmony Square, besides being a natural place for people to gather is that the Bell Stage has become the place for musicians to gather for all sorts of concerts.

From its inception, those responsible have made sure, or so it seems, that music would be at the forefront of all events. I've been there a couple of times already and it has impressed how music is being used to bring people together.

As it is with us as people, music eventually comes to the forefront. After all, music is such a part of our lives that it simply makes sense. It seems so far there is a lot of music happening.

Take for example today, I was downtown because of a photocrawl sponsored by the Brantford Arts Block. Of course I arrived late and I wasn't sure where everyone was going to meet. However when I got there, a whole lot of people had assembled:

From what I gathered, the local music school was having a year end or a season ending performance with a number of the students. The various students and their bands were to perform various Beatles songs. They weren't just doing note by note covers, but bringing into the song their own interpretations. The first group decided to take the Beatles songs and add a punk sensibility to them. I talked briefly with the father of the lead singer and suggested it was the Ramones meet the Beatles.

It was good and did bring the crowd to give them a good hand of applause. It is an interesting concept, to bring classic rock to the crowd, especially since the parents of the students cut their teeth, for the most part with the Beatles.

It was one of those things that just happen, you go to Harmony Square and watch the music take place.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Investigative Powers for the 21st Century Act

It appears the present government in Canada is very interested in what you do with your computer. I mean, really, really interested in what your computer is doing. The reason I say that is two bills that are currently before the House of Commons. The first is Bill C-46, also known as the Investigative
Powers for the 21st Century Act
and Bill C-47, also known as Technical Assistance for Law Enforcement in the 21st Century
. Funny how both those titles are refered to as the 'short' titles to the bills.

I will admit I haven't read the second one, but if I can give the explanation for it as found on the Public Safety website, it is a bill:

it will address the challenges posed by modern technologies that did not exist when the legal framework for interception was designed nearly 40 years ago. Police forces and CSIS will continue to require warrants for interception. This legislation will simply ensure that when warrants are issued, a technical solution is available so that police forces and CSIS can actually intercept communications.

In other words, it instructs ISP's to have available the means to intercept and hand over to who ever shows up with a warrent, the material requested by the warrent. As the bill itself states:
The purpose of this Act is to ensure that telecommunications service providers have the capability to enable national security and law enforcement agencies to exercise their authority to intercept communications and to require telecommunications service providers to provide subscriber and other information, without unreasonably impairing the privacy of individuals, the provision of telecommunications services to Canadians or the competitiveness of the Canadian telecommunications industry.

I would imagine that also included in this demand is that ISP's better have the ability and server farms out there to store all that data because you just never know when somebody will show up with a warrent.

Let me say, that's nothing. The bill I've been reading and really questioning is the first one, Bill C-46, this act empowers the law enforcement agencies the right to take whatever they want from you without necessarily having a warrent. I'll talk about that in a few paragraphs.

Bill C-46 considers a lot of behavior that is to be illegal in Canada, all having to do with telecommunications and the transmittion of voice and date. In particular the latter. It is an attempt to modernize the work of fighting crime and giving the law enforcement agencies the powers to search modern telecommunications material and also declare what behavior is illegal.

Let's mention just a few: phone phreaking
Everyone who, without lawful excuse,makes, possesses, sells, offers for sale, imports, obtains for use, distributes or makes available a device that is designed or adapted primarily to use a telecommunication facility or obtain a telecommunication service without payment of a lawful charge, under circumstances that give rise to a reasonable inference that the device has been used or is or was intended to be used for that purpose, is(a) guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than two years; or
(b) guilty of an offence punishable on

So if the police ever stop you, better get rid of the Cap'n Crunch bos'n whistle, otherwise you are screwed.

Computer Virus is illegal:
(1.1) Everyone commits mischief who wilfully
(a) destroys or alters computer data;(b) renders computer data meaningless, useless
or ineffective;(c) obstructs, interrupts or interferes with the
lawful use of computer data; or(d) obstructs, interrupts or interferes with a
person in the lawful use of computer data or denies access to computer data to a personwho is entitled to access to it.

So better get rid of your copy of the Virus Creation Laboratory software otherwise you could be in trouble as well. Not that it's all that effect anyways.

AS well, phishing, uploading trojans, stealing sensitive data off computers or turning computers into spam generating zombies is also now illegal in Canada.

So what's the problem with all that, these are all annoyances that should be dealt with by the strength of the law. As well, it does put strong sentences on people who use computers for child pornography or enticing children and producing and disseminating hate material. All would agree these are crimes which should be dealt with and if these scumbags end up with a few more years in jail then previously, a good thing.

There are a few problems, the first is Form 5.001
FORM 5.001
(Subsection 487.012(1))
Province of ..........
(territorial division)
To (name of person), of .........., (office or occupation):
Because I have reasonable grounds to suspect that the computer data specified below is in your possession or control and that that computer data will assist in the investigation of an offence that has been or will be committed under (specify the provision of the Criminal Code or other Act of Parliament),
will assist in the investigation of an offence that has been committed under (specify the provision of the law of the foreign state) that is being conducted by a person or authority, (name of person or authority), with responsibility in (specify the name of the foreign state) for the investigation of such offences, you are required to preserve (specify the computer data) that is in your possession or control when you receive this demand until (insert date) unless, before that date, this demand is revoked or a document that contains that data is obtained under a warrant or an order.
This demand is subject to the following
If you contravene this demand without lawful excuse, you may be subject to a fine.
You are required to destroy the computer data that would not be retained in the ordinary course of business, and any document that is prepared for the purpose of preserving the computer data,in accordance with section 487.0194 of the Criminal Code. If you contravene that provision without lawful excuse, you may be subject to a fine, to imprisonment or to both.
(Signature of peace officer or public officer)

In other words, if the nice Police Officer shows up to your house with this piece of paper, it's 'hand it over'. Notice, this is not a search warrent, it's permission to seize your property. Now the bill specifies that this is good for only 21 days after which they return the property. Now, if you think that when you get your computer back, it might be a good idea to wipe clean the hard drive, reformat it, and then re-install the operating system, the bill has another form, 5.002 which gives law enforcement agencies the right to preserve what you have on that hard drive:
Before making the order, the justice or judge must be satisfied by information on oath in Form 5.002
(a) that there are reasonable grounds to suspect that an offence has been or will be committed under this or any other Act of Parliament or has been committed under a law of a foreign state, that the computer data is in the person’s possession or control and that it will assist in the investigation of the offence; and
(b) that a peace officer or public officer intends to apply or has applied for a warrant or an order in connection with the investigation to obtain a document that contains the computer data.

What's the issue? If there are bad guys, then the government should have as much in the way of power to go after them, after all, we live in a scary world. Let's again consider it, the law says that if you are annoying, you are guilty:
Everyone commits an offence who, with intent to alarm or annoy a person, makes an indecent communication to that person or to any other person by a means of telecommunication

I can be arrested if I'm annoying. Think about it, most of us spend a great deal of time annoying somebody. Just because I tweet something that someone finds annoying, does that mean I should expect to see a police officer with form 5.001?

What I find very disturbing, and Drew Wilson brings this up in his blog Zero Paid, that this act gives foreign governments the right to go after Canadian citizens. The section of the Bill that deals with this is 487.012:
in the case of an offence committed under a law of a foreign state, an investigation is being conducted by a person or authority with responsibility in that state for the investigation of such offences; and
(c) the computer data is in the person’s possession or control and will assist in the
investigation of the offence.

This is troubling, if I should break the law of another nation, and if the foreign government finds out where I live, I can expect to see Form 5.001. Now there are a lot of reasons, to go after me, some very good. However, what if I'm a dissident living in Canada and I publish articles critical of that foreign government, or I send information to those who are involved in resistance groups. What if I print something or criticize a government and state that little girls should receive the same education as little boys. In some nations that is considered wrong. What protection do I have? According to that section, almost none. Now let's say the hard drive that contains my critical articles also has the names and email addresses of other dissidents- what happens to that information, is it handed over to that unfriendly government? Let's say the country I am critical about is involved in sensitive trade negotiations with my government, what happens if I'm on the bargaining table?

Drew tends, in his blog, to consider DRM issues, but it could be a lot worse.

I suppose the question is, would a government throw any of its citizens, or people here, under the bus? That's the question.

Perhaps it is time to consider True Crypt, but then again, the Bill gives the law enforcement officials the right to get the password out of you. A solution, John C. Dvorak suggested encrypt the drive twice and between the encryption just have some regular documents and stuff, to satisfy them.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Nerdcore Reggae

As many may know I am a big fan of Nerdcore. If you don't know what nerdcore aka nerdcore hip-hop is all about, it's; music that considers things such as old gaming platforms, star trek and star wars- all the things that are of interest to the nerd in all of us.

Nerdcore is the music of choice of such artists such as Doc Popular or the God Father of Nerdcore, MC Frontalot.

Likely you might think this is a pretty obscure form of music, only popular among those people who spend time on Twitter or YouTube. Just before you think it's totally obscure, consider this he has been featured in Wired (naturally) and MSNBC. The latter considered the documentary Nerdcore Rising, which was based upon MC Frontalot's first US tour. You can watch the trailer:

Yeah you may think, I get nerdcore, songs about LOLcats and all that is of interest to the computer nerd in all of us. It's about style and substance too:

Of course, the good news of tech nerd has now gone beyond the hip hop and entered the area of reggae. The artist Randy Ponzio who has the excellent website Questpoetics has written, produced and posted the song "Tech Nerds", it's all about the world of Leo Laporte and the TWIT network. It's all about how listening to the TWIT podcasts turned him into a tech nerd:

As all of us who have been listening to Leo Laporte for the last 200 episodes, and congratulations Leo on that milestone, we have all become tech nerds, especially since he hasn't been all over the place with twitter. You have to admit it was nauseating after a time, I mean it's twitter, not the invention of sliced bread. But once he sort of soured off twitter, although he still mentions it on net@nite, which isn't bad because I think that's the podcast that should carry news and information on things like twitter or facebook. It can be said that Leo Laporte and Kevin Rose has turned us into tech nerds.

If you think Randy is a one trick pony, he's got some excellent vidcasts and other songs that you can enjoy.

Nerdcore Hiphop, Nerdcore Reggae, the rising musical forms.

You heard it here first.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Going Green

This posting has nothing to do with whether or not you bring your own bags to the supermarket or WalMart. Nor does it have anything to do with the Green Party of Canada or the Global Greens.

It has to do with the reaction to the recent Iranian Presidential elections. When the results were first announced, it appeared that the incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won reelection. However, if you have been following the news, a great number of Iranians, especially the younger adults have disagreed. They have taken to the streets in great number to protest what they consider is the 'stealing' of the election.

The young people are using the green color to demonstrate their solidarity with the man they consider to have fairly won the election, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, and to show their reaction against the election results.

It might be easy to dismiss the young people as simply sour losers, after all, 'their' candidate didn't win, it's called democracy, get over it. However, there seems to be a great deal of questions as to the validity of the results.

It would take too much time to get into the nuance, you can read about the election here.

Now for the color of this blog:

people are being asked to show their solidarity with the Iranian protesters by using the colour green as part of their blog or avatar. People are turning their avatar green on Twitter to show solidarity and support for the students who are blogging, tweeting and posting videos to show the world what is happening in Iran.

A website has been established that will turn your avatar green.

Of course there are those who will ask, how does this help? After all its a relatively safe thing to do, changing the colour of one's avatar, no one is getting shot here.

What are we doing? We are letting the young people know, there are many outside of Iran who are showing they do care what is going on in that wonderful nation. They are not alone and people are doing their best to get the message out. While they are asking for intervention, this should be recognized as not possible. Iran is a sovereign nation and outside interference would only compromise the Revolution as those in power use the news of outsiders getting involved as a means of cheapening the stand of the reformers as nothing more then agents of foreign interests.

So what else? Show the green colour.

Write to the Iranian embassy and let them know you are standing with the reformers. In Canada, the website is here.

Watch the videos, remember these people are standing against the State for something they believe in, something we do share with them and that is freedom.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Europe 2009, from the safety of this side of the Atlantic

Being a political junkie I was, of course, glued to the television and computer to follow the results of the European Parliamentary Elections. The European Parliament is one of the inventions of the European Union and so it allows all Europeans a voice in the discussion of issues which effect the Continent as a whole. It's members are elected to a five year term by direct universal sufferage of the various nation states. What makes it interesting, besides the fact that most Europeans have no idea what it does, is the fact that it has two meeting places. As the EU attempts to be the EU, it has to spread out the largess so that no single place has more then its fair share of EU money. It's would be akin to the House of Commons continuing to meet in Ottawa with its committee work being done by some building in Vancouver. With the seat of power being in Winnipeg.
The European Parliament has two meeting places, namely the Louise Weiss building in Strasbourg, France, which serves for twelve four-day plenary sessions per year and is the official seat, and the Espace Léopold (Dutch: Leopoldruimte) complex in Brussels, Belgium, the larger of the two, which serves for committee meetings, political groups and complementary plenary sessions. The cost of having all MEPs and their staff moving several times a year from one place to another is of concern to some. The Secretariat of the European Parliament, the Parliament's administrative body, is based in Luxembourg.

At this point, this famous scene from the BBC series Yes Minister should be used:

Something about 'Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.'.

The good news is the Parliament is gaining more authority and one day may be more of a legislative branch and wrestle control from the bureaucrats who now inhabit Brussels. It may make the EU a truly democratic body with real clout to deal with issues that encompass all of Europe. One desire expressed by many is that there should be transnational candidates, so that a person in the UK could vote for a candidate in France, for example.

What did I learn about the election, much of the story centred on a couple of things, the first being that the Centre-Right, the European People's Party holds the plurality of the seats in the Parliament, much as they did at dissolution. The big losers have been the Party of European Socialists. Although what is interesting is that both the main blocs lost seats at this time. The EPP held onto strength by the victories experienced in France, Italy, Germany, the UK and Poland. But there is some interesting twists to this: in two of those nations, France and Italy, the Socialist opposition to Centre-Right governments, governments that should have suffered at the hands of the voters during the recession, were almost non-existent. That might be a strong phrase, perhaps a better one is, they couldn't get their act together. So the EPP may have won more by default then anything else. In Poland, the EPP is composed of members of the governing party, which has led Poland through the recession with a great deal of success, apparently it's the only nation in which the economy is growing. However, it should be pointed out that only 27% of eligible voters went to the polls, so with its share of the popular vote at 15% it means on 13.5% of the electorate supported the government party. The Conservatives did well in the UK because the Labour Party is having some problems of its own, such as preparingn to sacrifice the Prime Minister on the altar of inefficiency.

The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe did what Liberals tend to do and that is stay in the middle ground between the left and the right andn stay the course. They'll probably have about 100 seats when all is said and done.

I should point out that in Spain, the governing Socialist party is getting beaten, which is about right for a government in the midst of recession. So things do act out right when there is a strong opposition.

The winners seem to be as follows:

The Greens, which managed to win 50 seats, some have thought this may have been where the left vote went. In France the party picked up a number of seats, a country where the Socialist Opposition simply didn't work.

The No Alliance, which went from 29 seats to 88 seats. This is composed of winning candidates who are not declared as being a part of any bloc or having a bloc. Many in this tend to be the protest parties, those of the fringe and those of the growing far right. It is here the real result of the recession is probably seen. In the UK there is some hand-wringing as the British National Party, an anti-immigration, anti-Europe, pro-white party elected two members to the European Parliament. What does this mean? Is Britian becoming racist, or revealing its racist nature? Is it a protest vote against mainstream politicians who live with their inflated expense accounts?

As always, the Euroskeptic feeling is always present in the UK, with the election of a number of UK Independence Party elected, in fact this party tied Labour with the number of seats. This tends to be the party of Euroskeptics, standing more for Britain then Brussels. Still a great deal of this group is composed of extreme right wing parties, such as those elected in Hungary, Roumania and Bulgaria. One commentator wondered if members of this group would be able to come together as a bloc and have influence on the the debate and composition of various committees. At the same time it was observed while they may have the same views, a lot of them don't like the others, plus most are hiding their anti-racists views, although the Hungarian group is quite open about their hostility to gypsies.

However, all is not lost, the Swedish Pirate Party has won a seat. It polled 7.1% of the popular voted to send one member to Strasbourg. The Pirate Party has been growing in membership and influence ever since the trial of the founders of The Pirate Bay,many believe the trial was a sham and it was rigged against the three by the might of the entertainment industry. This will be on-going. So there is a Pirate in the European Parliament.

While discussion has been made, I think the real impact is the turn-out of the vote, 43% across Europe showed up and voted. This I think is the real story and demonstrates the fact that where there was no real credible opposition, people simply didn't bother. I haven't done the research but I would guess that this percentage is under the national average of the European member nations by about 20% give or take. It is interesting to note, where there was a credible opposition, such as in the UK, Spain and Portugal, the governing party lost big time, where there was not, it was as if the victory was by default. The voters, unless truly motivated did not necessarily vote Green but would be happy to park their vote in the fringe, where a message could be sent to the national party that they better smarten up. If so, then it could be said the European Parliamentary election are the international equivalent to a by-election, where the voters can send a message to the government without really bringing about something bad.

But when all is said and done, the real opposition is found with those who stayed home, either because there was an absence of a credible opposition, or their skepticism to Europe made them conclude it wasn`t worth the effort.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Finding Brantford's Spirit

It's fascinating being part of the revival of a downtown.

For many years downtown Brantford was considered a disaster, a place more to be avoided then to be enjoyed. When the economy went south about ten years ago Brantford became a ghost town, in fact a horror movie was shot here and the producers didn't have to make any great changes.

Now, the downtown is vibrant with life and culture. The development of Harmony Square has been an important part of the revitalization. As you know if you go back about a year, Brantford had its first jazz festival in the downtown and it was great.

Today, Harmony Square and a part of the downtown was the place to be to celebrate the Arts in the City. With the sun shining the the temperatures approaching those of a late spring weekend, it was a great day.

So the streets and the square was part of people, participating, enjoying and sharing their love of culture and culture with those around them. There was paintings and singing, there was even a drum circle established for those who wanted to pound some drums:


There was things for the kids to do, including the practice of their fencing ability:

I only spent a little over an hour at the Square but it was a great time.

One of the best was Gail Obediah, a local singer songwriter from the Six Nations of the Grand River. She sang songs that she had written and the crowd supported her energy and talent

There's a great deal taking place in Harmony Square, it will be a good summer to enjoy for the city.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

A Dell Moment

So I'm thinking to myself that I haven't said much about the new Dell Studio 17 laptop I purchased early this year. It still is a nice working machine and I'm enjoy using it for all my social networking and generally working around with the computer. It is working fine and I'm loading it with my photographs, music and other such things that I want to save and keep. As well, I can report the Dell back up service is doing a good thing backing up documents and the sort.

I've even watched a few movies on it, and with the headphones plugged in, a nice time is had by me and I don't disturb too many people.

But today I decided to watch a few Video podcasts. I've got my favourites, shows such as: Diggnation, CommandN, Geek Entertainment TV and, of course, CrankyGeeks> I mean what would I do without my weekly watching of John C. Dvorak and all the rest of the Cranks. Seriously for a relatively short time slot, they do discuss a number of the tech news headlines. Plus John C. is quick to dismiss that which is either a) a obvious twitter, google or apple PR plant disguising as a 'news story', or b) something really not that interesting. Or how about a week without Kevin Rose or Alex Albrecht, I mean, come on, if this isn't 'must see TV', I don't know what is.

For most of the time I watch over the iPod Touch. I got my iTunes set up to download them once a week, or whenever they are available. I watch, that is until today.

I watched on the glorious 17 inch HiDef screen that is the Studio laptop and let me say, not likely to watch on the Touch. There is no comparison, the colours, the quality are spectacular. It now appears many of the vidcasts are done in HiDef and I can enjoy each and every moment on the big computer screen.

It is simply spectacular. Dell designed a great computer when they decided to make the Studio. As I have read it's a link between the Dell Inspiron and the Dell XPS.

It is considered a 'desktop replacement' meaning it has the same power as the standard desktop but in a portable form. It certainly does, as it stands right now this has more memory as the main desktop. There's much I can do with this machine and do it from the comfort of the chair.

If you can remember, I posted photographs I took of the opening of the Dell box, it now seems I'm not the only one because if you go to YouTube you can find a number of videos of people doing the same thing. Perhaps for my next laptop I'll do that. Not that I'm planning to buy one any time soon, I'm enjoying this one too much, plus I got the extended warrenty on it so I'm good to go for the next three years.

Here's an example of a video:

My Dell, I think I'll keep it.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Getting Binged

The word on the web is the launch of Microsoft's new search engine Bing. From what the news articles on the web are pointing out, it's Microsoft's attempt to catch up and pass Yahoo. If this is true, then it's a gainable objective, if they decide to take on Google, they are probably at least ten years too late for that to happen.

Of course, this is not Microsoft's first attempt at a browser, they've had a few in the past conneted with good old MSN. If you can remember how bad that was, you know that it did nothing to enhance Microsoft in the Internet world. Mind you, throughout the 90's and this decade, people have been convinced there is something wrong with Microsoft. They are the Evil Empire of the Computer. This is not to say they haven't done some clunks; such as the fact Bill Gates himself dismissed the Internet and then there is that little Anti-Trust problem. As you know it had to do with the fact that Internet Explorer was bundled with Windows 95 and so the average user simply went to it by default. This destroyed Netscape and gave IE a market share that was very high.

So Microsoft has had a bad reputation, which wasn't enhanced by Windows Vista. In fact a recent Time article, which I mentioned in my last blog declared it to be a technological lemon, up there with satellite radio.

Now it's Bing's time. Some complain that the name is a bit contrived and is:
Google was a stupid name that eventually grew on me. Bing seems to be trying too hard to become a verb.

David Coursey wrote an article that was rather critical of Bing. The title of the article is Microsoft Bing goes Live: So what?
He doesn't trash it totally, rather he finds nothing in it to move from Google:
There's nothing wrong with Bing, so much as there's nothing that makes me feel I've got to have it. Or even want to use it again.On good thing about Bing: At present, there is less advertising on search result pages. My bet is Microsoft very much wants that to change, but for now Bing pages are nicely uncluttered.

From the other camp is coming some very nice reviews, David Dignan wrote: Bing is Live:Nice First Impression. Some are congratulating Steve Ballmer for doing this and jumping the first set date of launch, was it an attempt to catch Google a bit off guard?

What about it? It is neat. There is the blank bar to type and it's surrounded by a very nice photograph. It is fast and seems to get good results. Microsoft claims the algorithms of its' search engine. Jennifer LeClaire wrote:
With Bing, Microsoft is renewing its focus on relevancy. Ipos Insights reports Relevant Products/Services that 66 percent of people are using online search more frequently to make complex decisions. Bing aims to help slice and dice information for that majority.

It wants to help people to make the right decisions with their search and therefore more relevent.

I've tried it a bit of time and like I said, it is a nice picture. One thing that should be done is to allow the user to personalize it with their own photographs and pictures. That would be nice and it's something that is available on a number of webistes and services. Give us a chance to change the background and we will be happy.

The map service is very good. I've used it to look up garden centres and it gives a number of results, with all the information I need. The news is lacking, let's face it, this is one of the places Google rocks. It featues the news on the newsheading. I like the opportunity to glean a large number of news sources to get an understanding of what is happening. If I know what is happening, I simply type the name in the box of Bing, in the news format and I will find the same thing, centred upon that word. It's good to have all those sources, but first of all, it's good to do a search of what is happening out there.

Now the report, would I use Bing? I can see myself doing that. Will it replace Google? Does anyone remember and use Cuil?

With Microsoft's resources it is likely to be more then "just another search engine" but will not be the Google killer. It's okay and that's about it.