Monthly Archives: September 2008

Bailout Thoughts

Ok, so the $700B Wall-Street bailout was shot down in Congress. The Dow fell 800 points on hearing the news (which caused a lot of panic) and regained half of that the following day (which did not seem to calm the panic). Some are blaming the speaker for a Partisan speech made from the house floor.

Personally, I am glad. In a surprise decision that reminds me of the OJ Criminal Trial verdict, the right decision was made, though not necessarily for the right reason.

  • I do not believe that it is right that the Taxpayer should have to foot the bill for corporate stupidity – on Wall Street or elsewhere. If Main Street is having problems, then I submit that Washington may be the problem rather than the solution.
  • I do not believe that bailouts fall within the Constitutional Mandate of the Congress.
  • I do not believe that the economy will collapse because a bunch of Wall Street megaliths fail.
  • I do not believe that preserving my job – or anyone else’s – is Congress’ job.
  • I do not believe that Wall Street is as important as it thinks it is. We have put too much faith in what happens there.
  • I do not believe that the drop in the Dow is anything to worry about; the Dow dropped 700+ points after September 11th, and it recovered in fifty-nine-days. Is this a bigger tragedy? I think not.

Funny how the Government is ready to bail out their friends on Wall Street and elsewhere but expects us ordinary folks to abide by free-market economics.

Hey, if they have billions of dollars of our money to burn and want to nationalize something, why not the Oil Companies and/or the railways? Now there’s an idea…

Just kidding. This bill will probably get passed anyway… there is too much money at stake.

Now Reading: The Stainless Steel Rat’s Revenge, by Harry Harrison

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Patriotic Duty my… er… foot!

I read recently that Vice-Presidential candidate Joe Biden was quoted last week as saying that it is our patriotic duty to pay taxes.

Let’s see what he actually said: “It’s time to be patriotic… Time to jump in. Time to be part of the deal. Time to help get America out of the rut… [Democrats] want to take money and put it back in the pocket of middle-class people.

I really don’t know where to start, except, perhaps, with the word “Bull”.

Taxation is not a moral or ethical responsibility, it is a legal necessity. Personally I think that the income tax is both pernicious and wrong, but I pay them in full. Patriotism has nothing to do with it.

The tone of his words suggest that it if the affluent paid more money to the Government that things would somehow improve. I don’t believe that for a minute.

Think about it; for months they have been telling us that giving us back some of our taxes is supposed to “stimulate” the economy. Now they are saying the exact opposite. Besides: I have never had a problem that Washington has fixed. Have you?

The Government should serve the people, not the other way round. Or, as Thomas Jefferson put it: “When the Government fears the People, there is Liberty. When the People fear the Government, there is Tyranny.

The Federal Government long ago exceeded its constitutional limits, and now we are paying the price. We cannot spend money we don’t have and expect some future generation to pick up the tab.

Mr Biden has forgotten, perhaps, that once upon a time there was a revolution in this country. A revolution that was sparked by a tax of half of one per cent.

Now Reading: Content, by Corey Doctorow

Curse you, Apple!

I have found that if you disconnect an iPod while it is synchronizing, the file that was being transferred is lost, and the space on the iPod becomes unusable. This is not usually a problem unless you happen to be transferring a movie, in which case you can lose a Gigabyte or more of space. Do this a few times and a sizable chunk of space becomes unusable.

The easy way to fix this is to wipe and re-load the iPod, a simple operation. Just connect, press the “restore” button and wait. For a Nano, this wait is only a few minutes, but to re-load my 80GB iPod with 55GB of music and 20GB of video takes a couple of hours.

When I hit the “restore” button, iTunes asked me if I wanted to upgrade the firmware (the software on the iPod) to the latest version (1.3). I declined…and was dumped back to the main screen with no work done.

Apparently, iTunes thinks “No I don’t want to upgrade the firmware” means “No I don’t want to restore“. I’ll warrant that this has more to do with preventing iPhone users from reverting to earlier, more hackable versions of the firmware… but why oh why should I have to deal with the fallout from this?

In my little corner of the universe, the word “restore” means to revert something to an earlier – usually original – configuration. Apparently Apple are using a different dictionary in which you have to go forward to go back.

Since I needed to do a restore, I went ahead and did it again, this time giving permission for the upgrade, and let it restore.

Time passed.

A couple of hours later I checked in, to find that the restore had completed, except iTunes had decided that a couple of dozen videos could not be loaded because they were “not supported by the iPod”. That’s funny… they had lived and played on it quite happily before.

Scratching my head, I asked the obvious question: “What changed?” The Firmware, that’s what. So I decided that the best way to fix this would be to roll back the Firmware to the “working” version (1.2). After doing a little Googling I found out that:

  • The latest version of iTunes does not allow a restore without FORCING an upgrade to the latest firmware.
  • If you delete the firmware file from the PC, iTunes automagically fetches it from the Internet.
  • If you try to get around this by disconnecting from the Internet, iTunes flatly refuses to perform a restore.

Curse you, Apple!

It is possible to revert to an earlier firmware version, but it involves installing an old version of iTunes and running a free third-party program called iPod Wizard.

Even if you succeed in doing all this, the latest version of iTunes will still insist on upgrading the firmware before doing a restore, contrary to what Apple themselves say on their own support page.

As it happens, there is a workaround; the Videos that would not play were ripped from DVDs (I don’t buy content from Apple due to a philosophical problem with DRM). I am able to re-rip them, and tests have shown that they will work, so I can get around this problem.

I don’t mind having to do a little work to do what I need to do, but I strongly object to having systems that were deliberately designed to fight with me. Apple’s philosophy seems to be “we know what’s best for you”. For those who just want to use their machine, that’s all well and good; but thost of us who like to tinker are going to have a battle on their hands.

Makes me glad I don’t have a Mac.

A Free GPS? Yes Please!

A couple of months ago I stumbled across this site. They purport to sign you up for a Credit Card, and once “activated” (used), they mail out your free GPS.

Having little to lose, I signed up. The Card arrived about a week later. The week after that, my Water Heater went out. I used the card to purchase a new one. I had the money, but it took a week to get it out of my savings.

Two weeks later I paid off the balance in full.

Five weeks after that, my free GPS arrived – a Garmin Nuvi 200 (mailed from Amazon, no less). It had the latest (2009) maps and works very nicely. I registered it without any trouble and even downloaded some extra goodies, such as a Spitfire instead of a Car (cos I is British, you know…)

The moral of this story is that information has value. The company that provided this offer was not doing this out of the goodness of their heart; they were doing so for a profit. The information that they gained from me had value. That value was roughly $80 (the bulk-purchase price of a Garmin Nuvi 200). Theoretically they must have recouped at least that much by selling my name, address, and e-mail address to those who wanted it.

In the two months since signing up I have seen no change in my volume of junk mail (I get very little), but I now get 30-50 spam e-mails a day. It is pretty obvious to whom they sold my details: The Credit Card Company and… every spammer in town.

That’s ok, though. I got fair value for my information. Too many businesses act like they have a divine right to sell your info on to all comers, and they enable this through small print in privacy policies. My information has value – if you want to sell it, I want a piece of the pie. Now I know how big that piece really is. And I can always cancel the Credit Card.

The Spam is not a problem; I use Gmail, which has the best spam filter I have ever seen. In a typical month, perhaps one or two messages slip through the filter, and I have yet to see a false positive (a non-spam message incorrectly marked as spam). And since I have two e-mail addresses (one for personal, one for things like this) it really is no trouble at all.

  • Retail Price: $160.
  • Cost to me: $0.
  • Getting Free Stuff: Priceless.

Verdict: SCORE!!!

Now Reading: Your Government has failed you: Breaking the cycle of National Security Disasters, by Richard A. Clarke