Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Irrefutable proof

SlashDot has an article where Climate Change is yet again being debated.

Here is my contribution.

I hope you realise that you have made your own set of ASS-U-ME's that bias where you stand on this issue. You take some controversial ideas as axioms, and pick and choose which unknowns you will demand irrefutable proof of.

You said: "carbon taxes that would demolish the economy". I have seen no credible evidence to back up this type of claim. In fact, everything of credibility I have read over the decades suggests the opposite, which is that transferring taxes from some of the places it is now (such as income) onto emissions/pollution/etc would have a long term benefit to the economy. This has the ultimate effect of reducing these emissions, reducing the externalisation of these costs onto society (and thus governments) to clean up, and ultimately reduces taxation. I have been a supporter of what is called the "Green Tax Shift" for a much longer time than I have been aware of climate change.

You appears to have a "sky is falling" attitude towards this beneficial economic correction. Taking your own tone, I believe it is you that has to come up with 100% irrefutable evidence of your claim of economic harm before anything you say can be taken seriously.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Why copyright if climate change is so serious?

I don't have a formal article to post, but I have some ideas I want to get out there to be discussed. Please respond to this post as my hope is to get a thread going, and to see what other people think.

I was at the OpenConcept 10'th anniversary on Friday, and one of the people I bumped into is Mike Kaulbars. He was Rina's TA back at Carleton, and I know him from PERC. He is someone who is now dedicating much of his time to climate change, and if you read or listen to him he is not optimistic.

While there are some who disagree with the scientists, I'm not one of them. I believe we are in a global experiment that we can't predict, and that will have dire consequences for our species. I don't personally think we are talking about extinction level event, but given how fragile our societies and economies are I expect disruptions far greater than anything we have ever seen in our past. It would be understating the issue to compare it to a world war as I believe it may include a world war as one of the geopolitical components.

Like many Canadians, I'm embarrassed with our participation. The news always includes articles such as Guardian: Scientists target Canada over climate change where prominent campaigners, politicians and scientists have called for Canada to be suspended from the Commonwealth over its climate change policies. I do not consider this to be a partisan issue given both the Liberals and Conservative parties who have governed federally are generally asleep at the wheel, with individual MPs and party members who are aware (Dion, etc) being the exception rather than a rule.

I believe that climate change and other environmental impacts should be seen as a form of debt that some economies have accumulated. This is why I subscribe to the idea that it is the economies that borrowed the most who should be the ones paying it down. This means that while I believe the majority-world countries (BRIC countries: Brazil, Russia, India, China) should be participants in global treaties, that their participation should be nearly entirely financed by the allegedly "richest" countries (IE: the ones that borrowed the most).

It would simply be wrong and unsustainable in my mind to suggest that countries who had borrowed the least should be denied the ability to develop their economies, while allowing the most indebted countries to remain allegedly "rich".

I say unsustainable as I believe if this nonsense is perpetuated that it will lead to escalating conflicts between the indebted countries and the rest of the world. The earlier steps will be at a level of trade which may decimate the indebted economies, and later stages involving warfare. I can't imagine the rest of the world allowing North Americans to continue to drive SUVs as we head into global food security issues without a few weapons (possibly including nukes given some of those countries are nuclear capable) being aimed at those SUVs.

There are a few ways to minimise this inevitable conflict. The simplest is for the debt repayment to be done nearly entirely financially. This would involved indebted countries paying large portions of their (likely declining) GDP towards not only their own emission reductions but the reductions of less indebted countries. For those silly people who thought that the Green Shift was going to impact the economy, this will have a far more profound impact -- as should be expected of those in massive debt.

Another less discussed, but critical part of the solution is knowledge transfer. Some of the emissions reductions will come from the use and improvement of more energy efficient technologies.

I am of the belief that part of the debt needs to be paid in the form of nullifying some exclusive rights that would otherwise have royalties going to the most indebted counties (Not coincidentally over 50% of worldwide royalties flow into the United States). Majority-world countries should be able to (without permission or payment) implement and improve on any technology which would either directly reduce their emissions, or indirectly help them in further technological development (IE: information and communications technology).

This would mean to me that while art and entertainment could be royalty bearing (for those who chose that method of compensation), that scientific, medical and technological knowledge would not require permission or payment to the most indebted nations (their citizens, their corporations). This would include no longer taking seriously any request from the less critical parts of the economy (IE: arts and entertainment) trying to dictate features or access to these more critical developments. This would include, but not be limited to, making the two locks of DRM illegal rather than legally protected. It would also include rejecting any law that might threaten someone's access to information technology simply because of the de-minimus offence of not paying entertainment industry fees (3-strikes and other such hypocritical nonsense).

This type of mandate would be consistent with how some of these most indebted nations became allegedly "rich". The United States did not honour foreign copyright until relatively recently, allowing their domestic publishing industry to be built first.

I feel that once countries representing a majority of the worlds population have royalty-free access to the knowledge of the most indebted countries that it will simply make good economic sense for those indebted countries to adopt peer production techniques for their own knowledge development in these scientific and technical areas. It would make no sense to stick with an outdated property-based incentive system inside western countries while the rest of the world moves forward even faster using peer production.

A gradual change in geopolitics has ties to why ACTA (the Orwellian double-speak labelled Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) exists at all. The policy thinking is the same as the 1995 National Information Infrastructure: new technology threatens older business models, so the new technology should be crippled. NII failed within the USA, so the special interest groups (which includes USTR/USPTO which are under regulatory capture) took the policy to WIPO which came out with the so-called "Internet" treaties in 1996. Fast forward to today when the majority world countries have recognised that WIPO should be working for them and this same type of backward-facing policy is no longer able to be pushed through WIPO. The special interest groups then move to bypass WIPO and create yet another institution to push their backward policy, which is ACTA.

Put in the context of the rest of this article it is obvious that I believe this thinking is backwards.

First is that while I believe that some specific intermediaries are being made redundant by new technology, that these changes overall benefit individual artists and entertainers more than it hurts. It does represent a change, but an insignificant change for our storytellers compared to the larger changes they have already gone through (IE: the advent of the technology to record audio and video, or print books), and even less significant than the changes society as a whole will be going through as a result of changes in the natural world.

The second is that even if I could be convinced that new communications technology would wipe out commercial arts and entertainment that I would consider it a small price to pay. We need to act globally to solve some pretty critical global problems, and it is inconceivable to me that we would reduce the effectiveness of and access to communications technology simply to allow commercial entertainment to exist.

Short-term we need to push politicians to abandon the dishonesty of ACTA, instead focusing on quickly modernising WIPO to fulfil its mandate as a UN special agency. If WIPO can't be made to fulfil this mandate then it should be replaced with a new agency that is able to, and disband WIPO. This agency would become the appropriate agency to move forward on exclusive rights policy that is consistent with health and climate necessities, which would be a major expansion of the works already done under the title of Development Agenda.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Taranova Timeshare...scam?

I'm trying to figure this out for a couple I know where the husband died. The husband bought a Taranova timeshare that finishes in the 2040's, which would have made the couple over a hundred years old. The widow didn't have any interest in the timeshare.

The whole thing reads like a scam to me as there doesn't seem to be any easy way out, and they continue to demand fees of the widow. Is anyone more familiar with what these things are, why anyone would ever want one, and how a widow could get out of it?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Google, Android 2.0 sticks fork in GPS devices?

Interesting that ZDNet Larry Dignan is suggesting that Android phones will mark the end of traditional GPS devices. Android is a mobile operating system, and I don't see why traditional GPS hardware can't eventually become Android devices without the phone.

I guess I see value in separating the hardware feature of a wide variety of devices we may want from a more open operating system that could run on this hardware.

I was thinking of purchasing a Neo FreeRunner phone running Openmoko instead of a GPS device, and depending on when I decide to purchase I may end up with an phone (with GPS, media playing capabilities, etc) running Android as a different option.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

There's a Google API for that...err..soon.

I have a small project that keeps dragging me deeper into Google API's which seem like they will do what I want, but not quite yet. The latest was to find Google Apps Script, only to find out the preview has ended. I've asked when this will be available (See also: BLOG posting) for http://spreadsheets.google.com , and haven't yet seen any replies.

Here is the scenario. The final output is a Google map that will show up on a website. That part of the Google Maps API I seem to have figured out.

As inputs there is a Google Map that has farms, restaurants, and other locations pinpointed and labeled with a ID. That ID corresponds to a row of information that is currently held in a spreadsheet. What I want to do is mash together the Map information (KML output from Google Maps) with the spreadsheet information such that I have lat and long columns filled in.

It is trivial to upload this spreadsheet to Google Docs, and the person maintaining the information has already done this to allow for easier sharing.

Google Apps Script seemed ideal as it would run without anything special hosted elsewhere (IE: it is JavaScript running on Google). It would would have the ability to not only read and manipulate a Google Spreadsheet, but also to be able to source information from elsewhere (IE: the Google Map XML) as part of the manipulation. If only this API were available.

The next best would be if I could use Spreadsheets Gadgets, but everything I've seen suggests that this API only allows read-only access to the spreadsheet. The intended audience seems to be people doing output visualizations. This will be helpful in the project in other ways (IE: for outputting an XML file to be used as input for our Google Maps application), but not at all helpful for this aspect.

It seems that I'll have to go with an application that runs elsewhere using the Google Spreadsheets Data API, or just do this the old fashioned way of importing the spreadsheet data (via CVS) into MySQL to be manipulated that way. This isn't convenient in this situation as it would be best if the application didn't need to be hosted elsewhere, and eithor ran internal to Google (Google Apps Script) or ran in the browser (Google Gadget).

If anyone reading this has any alternative suggestions, please post in the comments.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

Nortel Graffiti

My current contract has me working in the Skyline Campus in Ottawa. This 8 building complex was purchased by PWGSC back in 2003 when it was still occupied by Nortel. It is now occupied by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) and Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

This is the end of my first week at this new location, and more AAFC people are moving into this campus all the time. It seems that not everything was cleaned up from when Nortel was here. On the 2'nd floor mens room there is graffiti which is clearly left over from Nortel.

Some things seen on the walls of the stalls:

"How the " (not to be blogged) "does Nortel expect me to feed my kids"
"nolonger@nortelnetworks.com ---> welfare.org"

An irony for those who know some of the mistakes that Nortel made that meant that they are in the hard times they are now: all the desks and conference rooms (and so-on) in this complex have Cisco IP phones.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Letter to CBC and Clive Doucet about OCTranspo drivers strike

The following was sent yesterday morning to CBC Morning and to my councillor Clive Doucet. I think we need to fire any councillors that still support Mr. O'Brien in this issue.

I was appalled to hear on the radio this morning that Mr. O'Brien has injected himself as the sole representative of city council on this issue. I could say like some callers that I am "done" with Mr. O'Brien, but I was never with him in the first place. The only reason he is mayor is because we still use the antiquated First Past the Post electoral system. He was not the first choice of the majority of Ottawa voters, and if we used a modern ranked ballot voting system we would quickly have realized he wasn't their second or third choice either.

I believe it is overdue for city council to put in a better representative, or speak individually as representatives of their constituents. We don't elect the Union, and they are only intended to represent the drivers. Councillors are our only representatives in this important issue, and should be representing both current residents and future residents (IE: environmental deficits increased by this strike).

Monday, January 12, 2009

Linux video issues: boxing day punishment

I seem to have run into a number of problems with my video. I figured someone reading this might be able to offer some help, and getting some frustration off my mind might make me more calm.

I broke a personal rule this year: I participated in boxing day shopping. The Samsung SyncMaster T220 LCD monitor was on sale for $200. Since I wanted to stop using my old tube monitors to save electricity, I figured this would be a good time to do this and I bought two (one for my desktop, one for my wife Rina).

Took them home, plugged one into Rina's computer and it just worked right away. We set the resolution to a lower-than-maximum which was more to Rina's liking (1024x768). This computer is using the S3 Savage video built onto the motherboard (Chip: id 8d04, "ProSavage DDR-K"). It runs Ubuntu with xorg autodetecting everything based on a bare-minimum xorg.conf.

I plugged the other one into my computer and the screen simply displayed “Not optimum mode. Recommended mode: 1680x1050 60Hz”. Using system-config-display running from the console it could detect my card (Matrox G450 - Chipset: "mgag400", 16M Video RAM) and the monitor, but would never give a display mode that would work with the monitor.

I figured I would buy a new video card that would not only drive the monitor, but hopefully be accelerated so I could get those cool windowing effects/etc. I ordered an ASUS (Well, ATI) AH3450 card which was mentioned as supported by the radeon driver (It's listed in the "radon" man page).

This turned out to not work out well. While the card worked, it didn't seem to work for accelerated graphics at all. In fact, video seemed much slower than with the G450 card even when set to the same screen resolution.

I decided to experiment with the proprietary driver, just to see how this would work. The fglrx driver is bundled by rpmfusion, which I already use for a few video codecs/etc. This turned out as I expected given how well I find proprietary software to work: the driver was unstable and I didn't know when booting the system whether it was going to freeze up or not. I also saw a lot of odd flickering artifacts on the screen (Note: I did test this monitor with Rina's computer to see if the monitor was broken, and it is fine), which made it realistically unusable. The card also has audio for the SDMI interface and this seemed to kill my existing SB Live audio (IE: new audio device showed up, but my SB Live was gone. USB headset still worked).

I made an additional mistake: I figured that maybe the problem was outdated software, so I upgraded my Fedora Core 9 computer to Fedora Core 10. After I upgraded all the things that were still out-of-date after that badly done upgrade, I noticed no improvement with the radeon card.

I put the G450 back in the machine. Rather than restoring me to the previous working state, now my X video extensions are broken. I can run vlc and mplayer with slow video using the 'x11' video output driver (IE: `mplayer -vo x11 *.mp4` ), but 'xv' (IE: `mplayer -vo xv *.mp4` ) just shows me a blue window where my video would normally have been.

I seem to now have brought my computer to a state where video is broken with my G450 and tube monitor, as well as the Radeon and LCD monitor.

Any suggestions to try next would be appreciated.