Monthly Archives: July 2007

Ten ways you know that Big Oil is ripping you off

  1. Everyone raises prices to the same price at the same time (except for one station charging a penny less)
  2. Bleating about “adverse market conditions”, when none of them has made a quarterly loss in living memory.
  3. Pleading “shortages” or “supply problems” when no gas stations are closed and there is no rationing.
  4. Prices spike up by 20,25c or more…
  5. …but only trickle down a few pennies at a time.
  6. Prices spike on Fridays, High Days, Holidays and whenever the circus comes to town.
  7. Prices spike in Summer and at Thanksgiving because you somehow failed to see them coming.
  8. Petrol $3.31. Diesel $2.65. Why? They both come from the same source and go through similar refining processes…
  9. Whenever there is the threat of a Governmental Inquiry, prices go down until the “threat” has disappeared.
  10. New day, new price. How much are you willing to pay today?

Now Reading: The Renegade’s Guide to God, by David Foster

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Windows Guy Tries Ubuntu 7.04

Ran across this fascinating account of a Windows User’s foray into Ubuntu Linux.

For those of you who don’t know, Linux is a free operating system built around a Kernel (operating System core) written by a Finnish Student some years ago. Since then it has grown into a fully-fledged operating system, and in the last few years it has become easy enough for ordinary people to use and install.

I’ve been playing with various flavors (known as distributions or distros) for about four years on and off, and have been running a Linux box at home for the last year or so.

It doesn’t get much Mass-media press, mostly because Microsoft has enough money to bury them in FUD. I have yet to meet a single person that needs Windows Vista (or the hardware upgrade usually needed to run it), but it is difficult to find a computer manufacturer that still bundles XP and Windows 2000 – their best ever offering, in my opinion – is nearing the end of its supported life.

Ubuntu – a Swahili word that translates as “Humanity to Others” – is a distro that has been designed for the masses. Easy to install, easy to use, it comes with enough free tools and programs out of the box to keep most non-gamers happy. Web, Office Apps, e-mail are all there, free, gratis and for nothing, and many other apps are freely downloadable.

I found the title article to be a readable even-handed treatment, with none of the “love/hate” fanboy mentality that so often afflicts this arena.

Now Reading: How to Remodel a Man, by W. Bruce Cameron

RIP AoMP3

Well, it finally happened. AllOfMP3.com is dead. Killed by the Russian Authorities, apparently at the behest of the music industry, in a manner that looks more like a gangland hit than a legal process.

For those of you who didn’t know, AllOfMP3 sold music via download. The music was completely unprotected, with a wide range of options of format and quality. Unlike the music business, who charge by the song, they charged by the megabyte. This meant that a high-quality MP3 costs more than the same song encoded at a lower bitrate.

Firstly, AoMP3 broke no laws – they insisted that they were operating within Russian Law (the IP folks thin that US IP laws should apply worldwide), and successfully defended against several legal challenges. That was before the Russian Government shut down the company under pressure from the US. Apparently AoMP3 had to die before Russia could join the WTO – the World Trade Organization.

Their web page is non-existent – not even a static page to explain what has happened. It’s as if they were wiped off the face of the Earth.

I am sure that the people behind this are laughing today; but I am also sure that this action, like so many of their tactics in recent years, will not save them. Why? Because they missed the point. That allofmp3 was never about piracy.

Think about it. People paid for their allofmp3 music. Music that they probably could have gotten elsewhere for free. The only difference was the price.

The music business consider themselves art dealers, and price their wares accordingly. For the rest of us, music is no longer an art form. We no longer listen to music as a pastime – gone are the days when we would sit around and listen to music. It is normally a background to something else; working, playing, exercising, driving. In these enlightened times we listen to music while doing something else. Music has become essentially devalued… and the music business seem to have missed this. They are still complaining that $1 per song is too cheap for them, though it is too expensive for the rest of us.

Sell me unprotected music the way I want it at a reasonable price. 25-50c per track – twice what AoMP3 charged – is reasonable. $1 for a DRM-infested song is not.

AllofMP3 was not in the art business, they were selling data. And they were selling it as the disposable commodity that it has become, not as the irreplaceable art that it used to be.

More here.

Double-Oh-Dear: Casino Royale Review

If you were expecting a suave, debonair Bond with lots of gadgets and a bevy of beautiful scantily-clad women, look elsewhere. In an attempt to revive the flagging four-decade-old Bond franchise (I hate it when they refer to movies as if they were hamburgers), they have gone back to the beginning and reinvented Bond.

The original Casino Royale was a short story by Ian Fleming, and the first movie of that name was a spoof. This is a return to the beginning – almost a prequel to the Bond saga. As such, it answers a lot of questions about how Bond became a double-oh agent and what, precisely, that means.

Daniel Craig plays the title role, and while he is an excellent actor and an authentic secret agent, he simply does not look the part of Bond – the blond hair simply does not work, and his facial structure makes him look a little too Slavic to be Her Majesty’s Weapon of Mass Seduction.

The movie itself is much more raw than one would expect. It opens with a brutal scene in which Bond makes his first kill – Apparently you have to kill two people to earn the license to kill. This , which seems a little recursive to me, but maybe I am overthinking things as usual.

Initially, it is difficult to tell the time period in which the story is set. The initial scenery and the use of monochrome footage in the first few minutes had me thinking that it was set in the fifties or sixties. But before long it soon becomes apparent that it is set in the twenty-first century, and not the mid-twentieth.

There are some technical issues that annoyed me, but non-geeks probably wouldn’t have noticed them, so I’ll let that go. I was, however, annoyed at the lack of Q, which goes a long way towards explaining the gadgetlessness (is there even such a word?) of this movie. Another annoyance is that in the showdown card game was Poker, while in the book, it is Baccarat, which is much more “European”. I am not sure why they made this change – perhaps because poker is the current “big-money” card game here in the USA, or perhaps Baccarat is too easily confused with a certain pop music composer.

Normally, when reviewing a movie, it is fashionable to complain about the bits of the book that ended up on the cutting-room floor; not this one; In a cruel twist of irony, one of the worst scenes from the book – the torture scene (you’ll know it when you see it) is faithfully depicted in painful detail; a little too much information, methinks. His subsequent “recovery” is a little too speedy to be credible.

I used four bucks of my free Amazon Unbox credit for this movie, and while I don’t feel ripped off, I am really glad that I didn’t shell out more money to see this in the theater.