Archive for the ‘Random Thoughts’ Category

Stupidity Is everywhere. From individuals to large corporations, to governments, stupidity is one area where supply is on the increase. If only we could power the planet with stupidity.

Despite the huge amounts of stupidity scattered around, you’ll find a piece of stupidity that is so pure, so unbelievable that you just have to stand back and admire the minds that came up with it.

Today I got my first look at the new Nintendo DSi XL.

I’m a big fan of the DS Lite. I’ve had one for years, it’s gotten me through many long flights, many delays at airports, rainy days stuck in hotels. It’s a great little device.

It did always have one annoying problem. I couldn’t connect it to the internet when I was at home. I like many people use WPA security on my router, and the little Nintendo DS Lite didn’t like WPA encryption.

Option 1 – Change the security on my home network to suit the DS (not something I was willing to do).
Option 2 – Buy a little USB dongle from Nintendo to allow the DS Lite to connect through a computer.

I’ve decided to stop paying companies for solutions to problems that they create, it just encourages them so option 2 was also out.

Option 3 – Learn to live with the fact that I don’t use the internet features of games on my DS Lite.

Option 3 has worked reasonably well for me.

Nintendo released an update to the DS Lite a while back, the DSi, and what do you know, it claimed to handle WPA security settings for connecting to the internet. I must admit, that feature and a camera weren’t enough to get my interested so I ignored the DSi.

Now Nintendo have released a further update, the DSi XL, which is basically a bigger DSi.
So, for those who perhaps have a DS Lite and are wondering if the DSi or DSi XL are worth upgrading to, let me help you out. The answer is an emphatic No.

Here’s why.

1. Yes, the DSi now handles WPA security settings. But, it has been implemented in such a way that existing games, and indeed many new games won’t be able to use it.

In short, unless a game is specifically written for the DSi it must still connect to the internet through the old connection mechanism.

As stupidity goes this really takes the cake. I can not fathom what kind of people sat in a room and came up with that kind of solution and gave it the all clear.

2. DSi specific games (the ones that will be able to use WPA security settings) will be region locked.
Let me explain something about the Nintendo DS. It’s a small portable gaming device. The
kind you might bring on holiday, or on any long flight. The kind of device you might use to occupy your self for a few hours while waiting for a plane.

I’ve bought more than a few games while on holiday or while actually at an airport.

And because the DS was always region free, you could do that. But, no more.

Now unless you think to buy the games at home before you travel, you can forget about buying them at all.

I don’t know what commercial implications or benefits there are for Nintendo from making games Region free, but using myself as a sample of 1, it will mean less games being bought.

In perhaps the most ironic twist, the built in SD card slot on the DSi will make it much easier to download cracked pirated games for the DSi. Something that I would never have considered up until now. Games were usually cheap enough, and on the DSLite using pirated games involved a bit of hassle.

If Nintendo push forward with trying to region lock their DS games then they will be pushing people who would otherwise have bought a game towards pirated games. Stupid, Stupid, Stupid.

In a nutshell. The DSi (and DSi XL) doesn’t fix the one issue I had with the DS Lite, and it introduces a whole new kind of problem in the form of region Locking.

Bye Bye Nintendo, you’ve lost a fan. Stupid, Stupid, Stupid.

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Car owner shot by Repo Man

Posted: March 4, 2009 in Random Thoughts

The reality of surviving the downturn by setting up camp with a supply of tinned food and shotgun shells seems to be drawing closer. The strategy is sometimes used as an almost comical suggestion for how to get by in a world gone mad. In HALSELL, Alabama 67 year old Jimmy Tanks found out to is cost what happens when guns are introduced to a credit dispute.

HALSELL, Ala. – Alone in his mobile home off a winding dirt road, Jimmy Tanks heard a commotion at 2:30 a.m. just outside his bedroom window: Somebody was messing with his car.

The 67-year-old railroad retiree grabbed a gun, walked out the back door and confronted not a thief but a repo man and two helpers trying to tow off the Chrysler Sebring. Shots were fired, and Tanks wound up dead, a bullet in his chest.

I won’t bore you with the rights and wrongs of this tragedy, or ideas about what can and should be done to prevent this happening again and again as economies all over the world go down the toilet. You can get all that analysis by reading the original story here.

Something that does interest me about this story is the way it is reported.

The shooter Kenneth Alvin Smith is described as “an ex-Marine who preaches part-time and sings gospel music”

After the Columbine massacre in 1999 there were media claims (false claims it turned out) that the shooters were fans of Marilyn Manson. News reports skapegoated the band, there were calls for music to be banned, shows were picketed. Long after the shooting and long after the claims had been debunked one theme park even “disinvited” then band from appearing in a live show.

Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were not fans of Marilyn Manson, but the bands name is still attached to such shootings.

Kenneth Alvin Smith who shot Jimmy Tanks dead is apparently a part-time preacher and a gospel music fan. Yet, no calls for a crackdown on gospel music.

Now, I don’t think gospel music played any part in the shooting of Jimmy Tanks, it’s a ridiculous notion, but then I don’t think Marilyn Manson’s music had anything to do with Columbine or any other shooting.

What interests me is the notion that to this day we still have people who think that music can make people kill. I wonder about what might have been if Harris and Klebold had been fans of Marilyn Manson. How would the story have played out?

Why don’t we look at the music taste of every murderer?
Alternatively, why don’t we look at all Marilyn Manson fans and see how many end up as killers?

In the meantime lets keep a wary eye on the Gospel music fans out there. Until we’re sure that Marilyn Manson’s music is in the clear, we really shouldn’t take risks with other genres.

EA claims Up is Down

Posted: May 28, 2008 in Random Thoughts

Yesterday thepropertypin.com highlighted a case of an Estate Agent advertising an apartment as PRICE REDUCED FOR QUICK SALE when in fact the asking price had increased by €30,000 since March.

See Here.

I emailed the estate agent fully expecting them to correct their “mistake” and that would be the end of that. I was not prepared for the reply that came back.

I just sold a similar unit for 475,000, so I don’t understand.

So there you have it. Even if your apartment doesn’t sell, you can still increase the asking price, and if you can find an example of a “similar” unit selling for more at some time in the past, you get to bill the price increase as a decrease.

Up is Down, Down is Up. Truth is a Lie and lies are the truth.

This explaination relies on us accepting the following:

1. The EA is telling the truth about getting €475K
2. The EA is telling the truth about getting €475 recently
3. The EA is telling the truth about the other unit being similar

And we have to accept all of these things at a time when Estate Agents are crying about being “forced” to tell the truth about the selling prices they achieve.

Even if we are naive enough to accept all of the above, it still doesn’t get around the fact that this exact unit that is being advertised as “PRICED REDUCED”, was asking 30K LESS as recently as March.

Sometimes a price increase is just a price increase. The Truth can only be stretched so far.

Richard Hammond on Road Safety

Posted: October 27, 2007 in Random Thoughts

The Evening Herald recently carried a very short piece on some comments by Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond on road safety in Ireland. Now this was the Evening Herald so it’s entirely possible that Richard Hammond actually said the complete opposite of what I read, but let’s assume that the Herald got the general gist correct.

His first point was that it’s crazy that someone can fail their driving test and be allowed to drive away alone. That’s of course a perfectly valid point. I’ve said the same thing myself for years.

His next point however is where I have a problem. He suggested that young men have always wanted to drive fast and that governments should be focusing on trying to understand where that desire comes from.

Come on Rich! I like your show and you’re a very funny guy at times, but isn’t it a bit silly to coo and purr about how fast a Lamborghini is and how it’s speed makes all your senses tingle and then turn around and criticize a government for not bothering to find out where the desire to drive fast comes from.

Your entire show is an advertisement for driving fast.

Who’s responsible?

Posted: July 28, 2007 in Random Thoughts

Phoenix Arizona, July 27th 2007 – Four People were killed when two NEWS helicopters collided and fell to the ground while filming a live broadcast of a car chase that was unfolding on the ground below. A pilot and camera man on each chopper was killed, nobody on the ground was hurt.

The Police Chief suggested that the individual involved in the car chase might be held responsible for the deaths.

“I believe you will want to talk to investigators, but I think he will be held responsible for any of the deaths from this tragedy,” Harris told reporters at the scene. He did not elaborate.

If a straw poll on MSN is any guide the people of America feel roughly the same way about that as I do, “That’s Nuts”. 61% at the time of writing believe the suspect being chased should not be held responsible for the deaths.

Of course some will point out that if the individual had not broken the law and led the police on a chase then the choppers would not have been in a position to crash into each other, but that hardly suggests responsibility. Would Paris Hilton be responsible if two choppers collided while covering her release from Prison?

The reason why these choppers collided is that the people flying them had to fly close together to get the best shot, and had to talk to provide commentary to viewers watching the live feed, had to watch a monitors in the cockpits so they could see what the viewer could see, and oh yeah, had to fly the choppers watching instruments and keeping an eye out for other aircraft.

It’s a recipe for disaster and it’s amazing that it doesn’t happen more often. The first thing that surprised me was that the Pilot is also the reporter. Would it not make sense to have a pilot who was dedicated to flying the plane, perhaps leaving the reporting to the camera man who’s job is to watch the action? Or how about adding a third person to the team who can provide the commentary? Or how about they just beam the pictures back to the studio and let someone there be the journalist?

Flying a helicopter is not easy, it’s much much harder than driving a car for example. Would we tolerate journalists following a car chase at 100mph in a car while watching a monitor on the passenger seat and providing a running commentary? No we would not, yet we allow TV stations to put the lives of innocent bystanders at risk so that they can get a shot of yet another car chase, or worse a shot of this celebrity or that celebrity driving to or from court after yet another DUI conviction.

The truth is this isn’t NEWS, it’s entertainment, and it’s time we started recognising that. There is no justification for putting the lives of people on the ground at risk for the sake of Thrill TV dressed up as reporting. There is no justification for one distracted pilot much less the 2, 5 or 10 choppers that hover and dick and weave above whatever nonsense they have decided is newsworthy.

The TV stations that will try to blame the guy being chased. They’ll praise the skills of the pilots involved, they’ll provide endless coverage of the funerals (probably including shots from the air). They’ll describe the men involved as heroes who died bringing us the NEWS.

I don’t want to speak ill of the dead, especially those who’ve died so recently, but this accident was caused by Pilot or Pilot(s) error. It was caused by pilots being allowed to do things that no pilot should be allowed to do. If this accident involved regular pilots and it turned out that they had been messing with Video Camera’s and monitors when they crashed, the same TV stations would be hounding the authorities and asking why there aren’t tougher restrictions on pilot behaviour.

They guy being chased may be a criminal, but the blood in this particular case is on the hands of NEWS organisations who want the thrills regardless of the risk to their staff or the general public.

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The Future Is Here

Posted: January 25, 2007 in Random Thoughts

Every now and then I use a piece of technology that really stands out as a big step forward, something that makes you involuntarily say “this changes everything”.

The first time I saw HTML, used email, a mobile phone, a digital camera, skype. I’ve jsut noticed all of those things happened during visits to the US. I guess it’s true, they really are 5-10 years ahead of Europe.

Last night it happened again. Since September we’ve been using Netflix for our DVD rental needs. The discs arive in the mail, we watch them and drop them back in the mail box outside our door. A day or two later another disc arrives. We manage the list of disks we want through the netflix.com website.

It works, and I love it. There have been a few hiccups. 3 discs so far have been cracked, one or two more were scratched and unplayable. But they ship replacements fast, and the list of movies we’ve gotten through since September is impressive.

Last night, “The Corporation” arrived, cracked, unplayable. When I logged in to report the damage and request a replacement, I noticed that the new “Watch It Now” service had been launched.

I tried it out, and it works perfectly. A quick trip to Walmart for an SVGA cable and we watched “Clue” on our living room TV. The streaming started immediately, and there were no pauses or skips. The quality was excellent, although our TV isn’t a good machine for checking quality.

Now you might wonder why we would choose “Clue” of all the movies we could have chosen. Here’s the only problem. The selection is very very poor. Apart from the fact that there aren’t many movies and TV shows to choose from, those that are there are pretty pad. Clue is a fine movie and a good laugh, but it’s not great.

This is a pilot program, we are apparently one of the few to get early access to it, it will be rolled out to all Netflix subscribers over the next few months. I’m sure the selection of movies will improve.

It will need to. This move has been prompted by competition from Blockbuster who have been touting the fact that they have a network of stores which you can use in addition to their mail service. Netflix have hit back with instant gratification from downloads. The licencing costs of this are enough to wipe out almost all of their profits. So for it to work it needs to attract a lot of new customers.

But here’s the rub. Now that Netflix customers like me are being turned on to instant streaming movies, we might start looking at some of Netflix other competitors like Vongo who have streaming movies and a better selection of movies.

For now we’ll stick with Netflix, for the $15 a month we spend we get as many DVD’s a month as we can watch and ship back and forth, along with 15 hours of streaming viewing.

Regardless of who we settle on, instant movies and TV shows streamed over the internet is here. TV will never be the same again.

This changes everything.

I spent the New Year wandering around Washington DC in the shadows of the founding fathers (or their statues at least).

Those folks had some pretty radical ideas. “All men are created equal”, “endowed by their creator with certain un-alienable rights”.

In the preamble to the Declaration of Independence the authors managed to put into words a vision of a better way of living. They weren’t stating how things were. It would be almost 90 years before Lincoln would declare the freedom of slaves, so declaring the right to liberty in 1776 seems to have been more of a long term goal, than a proclamation of a great change in American society.

In truth even the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 didn’t really mark the delivery of those long promised rights. 100 years later on the steps of Lincoln’s Memorial, Martin Luther King lamented that “America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned”.

Incidently, if you’ve never heard the full speach do yourself a favour. Clear some time and listen to it.

Life and Liberty have never been inalienable, despite what you may have heard. The vast majority of US states still permit the Death Penalty. Civil Liberties have been systematically eroded in the name of security. Benjamin Franklin’s comments about giving away liberty in return for security and ending up with neither have never been more true, or more dramatically illustrated.

But what of the pursuit of happiness?

On returning from Washington DC I learned that Massachusetts (the only state that currently allows gay marriage) is likely to vote somethime in 2008 to ban future same sex marriages.

Surely the most basic example of the pursuit of happiness is that a person should be allowed to choose who they spend their life with. Is that really too much to ask? Is there really any compelling reason why society should not recognise the relationship that two people have without gender checking to make sure we have one of each?

What difference does it make to you and I if somewhere there is a married couple that happens to be all male, or all female?

Does it make you feel less married? If so you need to look at the thin piece of thread that’s holding your marriage together. Do you fear that allowing same sex marriages might encourage people who would otherwise be straight to “turn gay”? I don’t know about you, but most of us aren’t on the fence on this issue, regardless of how many gay people get married, I’m still not going to be attracted to men.

I could go on at length about all the crazy reasons I’ve heard for why gay marriage, should not be allowed. You’ve probably heard them too. The bottom line is I’ve never heard a single reason, that even came close to making any sense.

There once was a time when it was illegal for people of different races to marry. But somewhere along the way we realised that people are people. Your skin colour, your religion, or your wealth shouldn’t preclude you from marrying the person you want to marry. All that matters is finding someone who feels the same way.

On the subject of mixed race marriage, the US Supreme Court has already had it’s say. In Loving v. Virginia, which focused on an anti-miscegenation statute. Justice Warren wrote:

“The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.”

50 or 100 years from now, possibly sooner we’ll have learned that gender is no different to these other arbitrary reasons for discrimination. People are people, and they are all created equal. Any two who choose to marry each other should be allowed to.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Over 200 hundred years ago a group of dreamers handed us a roadmap. It’s time to stop worshiping monuments to these men and instead start building a monument to the dream itself, by realising it.