Robert Aitchison

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Google failing at not being evil
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Sat 26 of Sept., 2009 11:54 PDT  (2536 Reads)

Google is one of the most pervasive companies in the world today, Google search dominates and has for some time, other services such as GMail and Google Apps and see extremely widespread adoption. It's not an exaggeration to say that Google has their hands on more data than any other entity and their own intentions are clear, they want to index and categorize all the world's information.

There is quite a bit of joking that Google will take over the world, that the Google systems will become sentient and enslave us and the like. There has also been some serious criticism but by and large Google gets a pass because of thier motto and their generally good behavior.

Their unofficial motto is Don't be evil, of course there is a story behind how that came to be but a big deal has been made about it and by and large Google has been on the not-evil side of other organizations with similar size and scope. After all the potential evil that Google could do is tremendous.

Still from time to time Google does something that is unabashedly evil, in this case they have sent a Cease and Desist letter to Cyanogen, developer of one of the more popular customized versions (known as "ROMs") of the Android platform that Google created and touted for it's supposed openness.

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Environmentalists screwing over the environment
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Fri 14 of Aug., 2009 08:55 PDT  (2245 Reads)

Several years ago I was using my trusty gas can to fill up my lawn mower, well I guess several years of use had taken it's toll and the fill nozzle broke. No problem I thought, I will just go to a local auto parts store and buy a new can.

What I found, after visiting several stores was that nobody had any gas cans, very strange and fairly annoying, I figured there must be a shortage of them (at the time most you bought were made by just a couple companies) there wasn't much I could do so I left enpty handed.

California, specifically the idots at the CARB in their infinite lack of wisdom decided that the cans in use were bad (mmmkay) because when you fill them some gasoline vapors escape through the vent, also because they work.

Well months later I started seeing new cans, these looked different, had new fangled nozzles and of course they did not have vents. I picked one up, figuring I was paying a bit extra for the new BS features but it's not like I had another choice.

It wasn't till I tried to use the can that I figured out how bad the situation really was.

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Alcohol as a "Date Rape" drug?
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Wed 12 of July, 2006 18:20 PDT  (10287 Reads)

Now the U.S. isn't big on personal responsibility these days, this was underscored when I came across this news story a little while ago (via Digg). The state of Wisconsin has decided to classify Alcohol as a "Date Rape" drug.

Sadly this isn't news, as TFA points out Wisconsin was the last state to declare this a law, and laws like this have been used (and more often abused) for years..

Now I'm going to start by stating that there is no excuse for rape, rapists deserve severe punishment, this includes those who use drugs (including alcohol) to incapacitate their victims without their knowledge or consent (such as giving a girl a Roofie Colada).

Second, I'm going to generalize by stating for example for the rest of this article that the accused rapist in this scenario will be a man and that the alleged victim will be a woman. Yes I know that it's possible for men to be rape victims, and yes I know it's possible for women to be rapists but lets face it this almost never happens (at least outside of prison).

A woman can go out with a guy, or maybe she meets him at a party, they are both drinking. They have a great time and by the end of the evening they have sex with both parties consenting. Now in 95% of cases this works out great for everybody involved. Sometimes the next day one of the people regrets that decision or one of a myriad of possible reasons, this has been going on since the dawn of time.

In the past, if this happened to you you used it as a life lesson, maybe you decide next time you won't drink as much. Clearly no crime was committed, after all the intoxicated party voluntarily consumed the alcohol, it's been well known for millenia that alcohol both lowers inhibitions and impairs judgement, so if you decide to drink you know what can, even will be the result of that choice.

Many parts of our legal system agree, people are (and should be) held accountable for crimes committed while intoxicated, so long as they administered the intoxicant themselves. Drunk driving is a perfect example of this, you wouldn't want the drunk drivers to be able to use being drunk as a defense.

Now for this one scenario things are different, if a woman decided the next morning they she really shouldn't have gone to bed with you, or worse, if she gets mad at you she can now claim that she was raped because her intoxication prevented her from properly consenting to the sex.

Seriously, we as a society can't have double standards like this, either a person is held responsible for their actions after voluntarily consuming an intoxicant or they aren't.

"The biggest no brainer in th history of mankind"
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Mon 05 of June, 2006 18:20 PDT  (17284 Reads)

Yes I've heard your insulting, insipid commercials far too many times, yes you'd better believe I'm sick of them and NO I don't have to listen to them anymore.

As a matter of fact whenever I hear one of your commericals come on I IMMEDIATELY change the radio station.

Believe me, like I would sleep on the floor before I bought a mattress from sit n sleep I would live in a cardboard box before I financed my home through your company, but then again I don't think I'm in your target market, perhaps I'm not enough of a human being.

Just a random rant, if you get it you get it, if you don't you are probably thoroughly confused.

Porno from the past results in "Kentucky Fired Teacher"
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Mon 08 of May, 2006 21:16 PDT  (9180 Reads)

I came across this one today. A science teacher in Kentucky was fired after it was discovered that she had appeared in an adult film 11 years ago.

It doesn't matter that since that time she has, as she put it, turned her life around. She served in the U.S. Army, went to college and has been teaching for two years.

According to the school superintendent she was fired because her presence would be "distracting" to students who had seen the film or knew about it.

Personally I don't have a problem with porn and wouldn't have a problem with someone being my kids teacher if they made pornos on every other weekend. What matters is how good of a teacher they are. Obviously you don't want anything inappropriate going on in the classroom setting but that falls into the "duh" category.

It seems like she should have grounds for an wrongful termination suit but who know what the laws are like in KY. Now that I think about it maybe they are just mad because she made a porno with people she wasn't related to :-)

Mail sizes have gotten out of control
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Mon 17 of April, 2006 18:46 PDT  (75357 Reads)

For those of you that don't know me professionally, I'm kind of an E-Mail? nut. I've been running my own mail server for almost 7 years, as an IT professional I have specialized in Microsoft Exchange and messaging in general.

I'm pretty hard core about E-Mail?, I'm definitely a pack rat, keeping every E-Mail? I possibly could ever need. As an example last year I wanted to buy a couple technical books, I price checked Bookpool, a site I bought books from many years ago (specifically in 1997) and found them to be the cheapest. I figured they still had my account in their system but couldn't remember what I was using for a password back then. I was able to find a specific E-Mail? from 1997 that had my account information in less than 5 minutes, which allowed me to access and use my Bookpool account.

I'm also a big believer in less is more, when it comes to E-Mail? that means keep your messages small and to the point. Don't include stuff you don't need (like lengthy signatures, large graphics, unnecessary (or unnecessarily large) screen shots or even fonts & colors unless it adds value to the E-Mail?.

As someone who started out with Dial-Up Internet access (actually to be more specific I started out with BBSs and 300 baud modems) I had it ingrained into me that every kilobyte counts. I'm not hard core enough to use something like PINE as an E-Mail? client but I'm definitely on the miserly side.

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Either have an Easter egg hunt, or don't
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Thu 13 of April, 2006 22:12 PDT  (15748 Reads)

Yesterday we were driving by a local park and saw a sign promoting an upcoming event, a Spring Egg Hunt.

Now being a non-Christian in a largely Christian society I'm definitely for trying to be inclusive wherever possible. I'm one of the people who believes in Holiday Parties instead of Christmas Parties but people should be able to keep their traditions unmolested.

An Easter Egg Hunt is just that, an event that is linked to Easter. It does happen to be a secular activity, and not a religious one it is still an inseparable part of Easter.

Governments annd Organizations are running scared, they are afraid to piss off the ACLU, which has an agenda to banish all evidence of religion from public eye. If they government is too afraid of a BS lawsuit to call an Easter Egg Hunt and Easter Egg Hunt, they should skip the event altogether.

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Kid turns in knife at school, faces expulsion
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Tue 04 of April, 2006 21:36 PDT  (4476 Reads)

In another example of "zero-tolerance" policies & atmospheres going awry I bring you (via Digg) this story.

Basically a 14 year old boy forgot he had a swiss army knife in his pocket, he realized that he had the knife on the bus and did the most responsible thing possible, he turned it in to the school office as soon as he got there.

What does he get for his act of responsibility? The maximum 10 day suspension and recommendation for expulsion.

When I was in high school I was cleaning out my backpack and realized that I had not just a knife, but an honest to god switchblade in my backpack and had been carrying it around for several weeks at least. Of course I never told anyone so I didn't get in trouble (I suppose it's never too late for things the be put on my "permanent record")

TiVo dramatically changes pricing structure, some good news, some bad
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Wed 08 of March, 2006 17:43 PST  (5029 Reads)

TiVo announced today that they are rolling out a new bundled pricing plans that are set to take effect next week.

The biggest change is moving from a buy the hardware than pay for the service model to pay a monthly fee and get the hardware for "free" plan.

Before you could buy a TiVo for anywhere from $50 to $150 (after rebate) then pay either $12.95/mo or $299 for the lifetime of the unit for service. If you already have a TiVo and were activating service for your second or subsequent units you get the discounted $6.95/mo options. The lifetime subscription paid for itself in just under 2 years over paying monthly and in under 4 years if paying the discounted monthly price. We got the lifetime (back when it was $250) and it paid for itself more than a year ago.

Now you will enter into a one, two or three year commitment, paying between $16.95/mo (3 year commitment) and $19.95/mo (1 year commitment) and they will include the TiVo itself.

Now what concerns me is the related announcement that they will be "revising" their other pricing plans, I suspect that means a price increase, and most disturbingly, buried in the fine print of the announcement, they will be discontinuing the lifetime service altogether next week.

I predict that there will be a run on TiVo's in the coming week once word gets out and people rush to get in under the old plan.

I'd like to take this opportunity to shamelessly trow in a plug for myself. If you find yourself headed to the store to buy a TiVo in the next few days (or beyond) I would definitely appreciate it if you would use my as a referrer. When you are activating your TiVo service enter my E-Mail? address ( in the field when asked about whether someone referred you. Thank you for your support)

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DRM will force you to upgrade your PC
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Fri 24 of Feb., 2006 17:42 PST  (5076 Reads)

Sorry for yet another DRM/Copyright/Fair use rant but I figured I'd get the word out on this one.

Ars Technica, an excellent technical news site recently posted an expose of sorts talking about how the new batch of DRM that the copyright cartel is shoving down our throats will be so restrictive that it will only allow you to play the content on devices that they "approve".

What this means is, that the new PC and flat panel monitor or new HDTV you just bought, or for that matter the one you buy in a month will not be able to watch the new DRM "protected" content in its full resolution, not because of any technical limitation, but because or an arbitrary, artificial restriction.

The specific technology we are talking about is HDCP, or "High-Bandwidth? Digital Content Protection". What HDCP does is makes sure that high definition video data is being sent only between approved HDCP certified devices, to make sure that it doesn't get recorded somehow along the way. If you buy a new HD-DVD or Blu Ray DVD player but your TV doesn't support HDCP then the player will intentionally degrade the signal to a much lower quality..

There are practically no HDCP devices out there on the market right now, in fact there was some recent trouble where some high end video cards that were initially advertised as HDCP compliant (ALL devices mush be HDCP complaint, not just your TV or monitor) turned out not to be (would suck if I spent extra for a card just to be HDCP compliant, so I wouldn't have to upgrade again so soon and it turns out that the card wasn't HDCP after all), while I'm sure that more and more devices will be coming out with HDCP support you will still need to upgrade.

And the point of all this, to make sure that most consumers cannot exercise their fair use rights over the content they paid good money for, heaven forbid that you make a legal, personal backup copy of your $25 HD-DVD movie. Of course the copyright cartel tells you it's to prevent piracy, but believe me the pirates are pretty much the only ones that are all ready and set to go for HDCP.

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Pointless and useless security for everyone - Code 10
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Mon 13 of Feb., 2006 21:34 PST  (3868 Reads)

Anyone who knows me knows that I've been highly critical of what's happened to our society in the name of security since 9/11. Generally it's my opinion that we have sold out our freedoms and changed our way of life and have delivered the terrorists like Bin Laden a victory in doing so.

This is made even worse by the fact that the vast majority of changes add noting in terms of real security and serve to at best provide a false sense of security to mindless sheep, to a more sinister purpose of putting money in people pockets (i.e. security consultants) to worse giving an excuse for those who those who think that we should live in a less free society to at worst giving sadistic people their jollies.

There are examples all over the place, from the USA PATRIOT Act, to removing your shoes at the airport security checkpoint to the NSA wiretaps and more.

I was reminded of this issue recently when news broke about a "foiled" plot to execute a 9/11 style attack in 2002. Why are we hearing about this now? Because the Bush administration is trying to justify to us the necessity of the NSA wiretapping program (though even they admit that the plot and stopping it had nothing at all to do with wiretapping) or at the very least distract us by working up fears of a "Terra" attack.

What's extra interesting about this particular plot was that supposedly the building that was targeted was the very same building I was working in at the time. Yep I worked on the 53rd floor of what was then called the "Library Tower" in 2002, so had this plot gone ahead it's entirely likely that I would have been in the building when the plane hit. See this post on Amy's home page with a nice picture, my office was next to Amy's


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Guy points out how TiVo's official "blog" sucks, gets drenched in haterade
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Thu 09 of Feb., 2006 14:03 PST  (3481 Reads)

**WARNING - extreme bloginess ahead***

Normally I don't make an article about something that someone else has written on their own site. It's pretty bloggy, especially if the someone else calls their web site a "blog", in this case it's extreme because a guy is posting on his "blog" about another "blog". Still despite the whole thing wreaking of "blog" I feel the need to talk about it here.

This morning I saw a post on the unofficial TiVo blog about how some other guy (Thomas Hawk) wrote in his blog about how the official TiVo blog (currently down, somewhat accesible here) sucks. (ok I'm getting a headache due to "blog" overload)

Now Mr. Hawk makes some pretty good points, generally about how the official TiVo blog is infrequently updated (even worse than my site), doesn't provide anything interesting (generally washed over press releases) and how the comments are very heavily sanitized to ensure that any comments that don't thoroughly exude unconditional love for all things TiVo (the company) never make it through. (disclaimer, I once had a comment posted to the offical TiVo blog that made it through, IIRC it was pretty much kissing TiVo's ass but being how I love TiVo I probably didnn't have to sell my soul to do it)

Continued below...

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Robert Aitchisons SUPER BOWL special!!!111one
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Wed 08 of Feb., 2006 18:17 PST  (3420 Reads)

What's that about the Super Bowl, oh yeah it's a football game. It's become something of a phenomenon here in the U.S., they would have us believe that people outside of the U.S. could give a crap as well but I remain unconvinced of that.

In any case, I've never been much of a sports fan, and to the extent that I am a sports fan football ranks pretty low on my list of favorite sports. Pretty much the only sports I really like are motor sports, especially stuff like Formula 1 or Rallying. Both Baseball & Basketball can be interesting, Football never did it for me, of course it's still light years ahead of Soccer (the fundamental flaw in Soccer is that when two equally matched teams compete the combined score is almost always less than 3).

For most of the U.S. though the Super Bowl is a major event. In the weeks leading up to the game you see bars advertising parties, as well as electronics stores advertising shiny new big screen TVs. One thing that is nearly universally (and conspicuously) absent from the barrage of ads is the phrase "Super Bowl" itself, everybody is talking about it but nobody is saying exactly what they are talking about.

The reason for this is obvious, in this commercialized and litigious society we live in you can't say "Super Bowl" unless you have paid someone a whole lotta money for the privilege of doing so. Heaven forbid that Paul's, (the king of big screens - 500 North Harbor, La Habra - free delivery from Ventura to Carlsbad - he is the king) or O'Sullivans sports bar use the term "Super Bowl" in their advertising. So everyone just uses the term "big game" instead.

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Yet more trouble in San Andreas
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Mon 30 of Jan., 2006 21:03 PST  (3909 Reads)

I wrote a while ago about how there was all this controversy surrounding the game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Well it looks like it's not over.

Right here in the (un)fair city of Los Angeles. It seems that our City Attorney has decided to sue the makers of the game accusing it of (get this) "hiding adult content of the game so it would garner an M rating".

Seriously, and his point is. It's pretty obvious that they created the scenes but realized that there was no way they would get the M rating so they changed the program so the scenes would not appear in the game. Of course they weren't counting on hackers finding and unlocking the scenes, maybe they should have.

Basically the guy is being a Punk Ass Bitch, is wasting my tax dollars just to get his name in the news (you;ll not it's nowhere on this page) and make it look like he is doing something. Certianly he's not doing anything for the children since they couldn't have bought the game with the original M rating and no halfway decent parent would buy a game like GTA for their kids.

See below for the E-Mail? I wrote to my city councilman (of course with the media whore's name and my addresses/phone number removed)

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BellSouth to "double dip" & charge content providers
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Wed 18 of Jan., 2006 22:21 PST  (3785 Reads)

Yesterday this article was posted on Slashdot about how BellSouth has plans (or at least desires) to charge content providers (think Google, or my own web site) to deliver their content to BellSouth? subscribers.

This means that on top of charging fees to subscribers, they want to charge more fees to the providers that the subscribers use.

Now I'm not a BellSouth? subscriber but if they implement such a thing it would be enough to get me to terminate my serive immediately.

It's outright extortion, they are talking about (as an example) charing Apple $0.10 per song "to ensure that the content is delivered quickly". Sounds like the mob telling a store owner "nice store you got here, would be a shame if anything happened to it"

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Lost my trial by declaration
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Sun 27 of Nov., 2005 20:19 PST  (4619 Reads)

This is a bit out of date but wanted to make sure I updated everyone on the resolution.

You may remember back in April I got a speeding ticket. I decided to fight the ticket. I sent off my Trial by Declaration back in September.

Well a few weeks ago I got the outcome of the Trial by Declaration and I lost. They just sent a form that said I was found guilty with no explanation. It would have been helpful to know if I was found guilty because the speed trap that nailed me was legal or because of some administrative error.

If I wanted to fight it further I would have had to request a new (in person) trial pretty quick after receiving the notice. Without knowing why I was found guilty I didn't do this. I figured that if the speed trap was in-fact legal that I would be wasting even more time by fighting it. I could have possibly gone to the courthouse and asked to see the evidence against me to make this determination but this itself would have meant taking more time off from work and frankly I'm too busy for that.

Of course it's all part of the scam, they get you on the speed traps then make fighting the tickets so difficult the vast majority of people will just pay the fine & grumble regardless of how BS the ticket was. Admittedly I myself would have done just that if I were eligible for Traffic School.

Weighing in on "rootkits" & of course DRM in general
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Wed 23 of Nov., 2005 17:46 PST  (3890 Reads)

Lately there has been a lot of buzz in the news about how Sony BMG included "rootkit" technology in it's copy protection software that it included on certian music CDs.

Now if you've been reading this site for a while you know where I stand on DRM, namely that DRM is useless for it's "stated" purpose, and that all it does, in fact all that it's designed to do is make it harder for people to exercise their fair use rights with the content they paid good money for.

If you haven't been paying close attention to the Sony case, here it is in a nutshell: Sony included copy protection software on it's CDs. This software included "rootkit" technology designed to make it hidden from the user and operating system. Hackers were able to exploit this software to have it hide viruses & trojan software.

Obviously there's a lot more to it, for the complete story with all the sordid details I'll refer you to the story from the guy who discovered the software on a CD he purchased. Here is the original report, and some updates in the time line

More commentary below

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Still wondering why DRM Sucks?
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Sun 04 of Sept., 2005 12:39 PDT  (3906 Reads)

I've talked before on numerous occasions on why DRM sucks for consumers. DRM is supposed to be there to prevent piracy of copyrighted materials. The problem is that any DRM scheme that would be successful at preventing piracy would make the content completely unusable. Pirates are well funded and technically savvy and can defeat the DRM as easy as they cross the street so the technology is completely useless for it's stated purpose.

Of course the stated purpose is completely different than it's actual purpose. What the DRM tehnnologies in use today do, in reality all they are designed to do is interfere with a consumers ability to exercise their Fair Use rights.

Well the EFF has published a handy guide explaining, at least in the context of music you "purchase" online at popular sites like iTunes or Napster 2.0. If you're still not convinced that DRM is bad and that you are throwing your money way by giving money to these sites to rent songs I highly suggest you read it.

Well we paid $30 for ONE song
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Thu 25 of Aug., 2005 19:11 PDT  (5140 Reads)

Yep you read that right, we effectively paid $30 for one song. Of course the "effectively" part means it's not that simple, but that's part of the problem.

You may remember a bit ago I wrote about how Tove & I got new cell phones. Tove's new phone has MP3 ring tone capability so we were looking at our music collection. Tove had one song in particular in mind to use as her ring tone, she wanted to use the "We don't need no education" ring tone from Pink Floyd's Another Brick in the Wall.

Well we don't have this in our CD collection, I figure it's an old song so the CD should be reasonably cheap, maybe in the $8 range. Boy was I wrong.

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Big Trouble in San Andreas - how bad parenting is the problem, not video games
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Sun 24 of July, 2005 15:02 PDT  (4838 Reads)

Recently there has ben an uproar over the video game, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. This game, and infact the entire Grand Theft Auto series has been no stranger to controversy. Admittedly I've never played any of he games since they don't appeal to me but as I understand it to advance in the game you have to shoot people, steal cars, sell drugs and all sorts of other despicable things (is it a wonder it doesn't appeal to me).

What's pushed it over the edge of reason is that in the latest installment players of the game could download a modification that unlocked content in the game that was hidden in the game. Apparently the publisher created the content but decided not have it be accessible in the game, probably because it didn't want this kind of grief. With the so-called "Hot Coffee" mod the hidden content was unlocked and it allowed players to engage in explicit sex inside the game.

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