Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Microsoft Tries/Threatens to Kill Linux (again).

Microsoft is trying to kill Linux. Which shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. But get this:

""I would not anticipate that we make a huge additional revenue stream from our Novell deal, but I do think it clearly establishes that open source is not free"

Well, I think that sums it up pretty well (link via slashdot too). So much for embracing new technologies (now what kind of software company would want to do that?). Instead, maybe they should litigate for its Intellectual Propery and try to leech more "revenue streams" from other companies instead of increasing value to the end user (and customer loyalty and more sales). Most of which I doubt they really have in the first place, or is just a complete load of bullshit. Sure Microsoft could sue if it's IP is actually contained in Linux, but that might not be such a great idea[1]. Keep in mind this is not the first time Microsoft has tried to kill Linux. Just when we thought everything was supposed to be getting better, it turns out Microsoft went back on its word. And when they're not trying to actually kill Linux, they're doing whatever they can to make life more painful and more expensive for existing Linux users. THEN they have the nerve to brag about the fact that "third parties" think Windows costs less to run? Please. It's not going to work. Not forever anyway. Microsoft: it may be a long way off, but your days are numbered. Ballmer: same to you, except for the "long way off" part.

[1] If Microsoft actually does manage to win for suing over this patent, I would probably cry. Not specifically because of Microsoft being evil, but more because it's symptomatic of a massive failure of the USPTO. Then again, it really wouldn't surprise me.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

SketchUp Tutorials Added

I'm posting some of my previous work in SketchUP onto Youtube. I recorded eight tutorials to help students at Lehigh University learn basic CAD skills required for Civil Engineering and Architecture.

I just uploaded these videos to Youtube. This project is still in 'Beta' phase. As of time of writing, Youtube has not finished processing all of these, so some of them don't work. I have not checked them for logistics errors either (blurriness, sound too loud/quiet, etc). Leave comments about any problems are email me bplennon at gmail.

T01 - Manufacturer Intro

T02a - Drawing in 3-D - Part1of2
T02b - Drawing in 3-D - Part2of2

T03 - Axes and Inferences

T04 - Drawing a Simple House

T05a - Using the Move Command
T05b - Moving Lines and Vertices
T05c - Creating Useful Objects with MOVE

T06 - Viewing Your Model

T07 - Measurements and Construction Lines

T08a - Overhanging Roof Part1of2
T08b - Overhanging Roof Part2of2

T09a - Exact Dimensions Part1of3
T09b - Exact Dimensions Part2of3
T09c - Exact Dimensions Part3of3

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Big Fat Model is a Big Fat Hypocrite

Here's a quick summary: some girl (let's just call her "Fatgirlfriend") is complaining that her good-for-nothing boyfriend (we'll call him "Douchebag") is playing World of Warcraft so much that he's neglecting his duties as a father and a boyfriend. In all fairness to him, he has a steady job, and the game IS really cool. But, she's right. You can watch Part 1 and Part 2 via youtube if you haven't seen it.
Rather than seeking help from other friends and family about the issue, she decides to go onto a talk show to prove her point. Only problem is, she picked the wrong one [1]. I think I liked the old Tyra better. Anyway, I've done a decently thorough job of picking the show apart. Read on.

Tyra asks Fatgirlfriend about how being neglected makes her feel.
tyra: "But, but, he's doing this with a video game. Something that's just a computer. It's not real."
I would like to quote South Park on this one:
Stan: "I AM socializing artard. I'm logged on to an MMORPG with people from all over the world and getting XP with my party using TeamSpeak"
Tyra: "...I'm not a artard".

Next, they seem to be mixing up their facts a bit. I don't mean to nitpick, but it's mentioned that Douchebag left while Fatgirlfriend was in labor with their child. To play the game for several hours, of course.

After this, they seem to get a bit mixed up.
Dr. Gary: "Why would he miss the most important part of his life?"
Although his girlfriend clearly said: "And then came back to the hospital before I gave birth"
...Personally, I would say the most important moment is when the baby is actually born, rather than the (up to two days) when the woman is in labor. Douchebag was able to sign off for a few minutes to see his baby being born (borne?).
Don't worry, it gets better.

Fatgirlfriend: "I gained a little bit of weight after I had our daughter, and that's when it kind of started.
tyra: "I hate that, because women always say that it's the weight and it's us, but that's not what it's about."

I had so many bullshit detectors going off at this point I almost fell out of my chair. Let's start with the easy one. "a little bit of weight"? A "LITTLE BIT"!? I can only imagine how difficult it must be to be thin during child birth, but you've gotta be kidding me. Well, why don't you judge for yourself:

But I'll let that one go for now. What really pissed me off in all that, was
the nerve of tyra, of all people, to claim that being fat doesn't matter. Nevermind the fact that this is coming from a woman who made a multimillion dollar career out of more or less being skinny and hot. But what she says goes against everything she's stood for. In fact, I think she an entire episode of her show devoted to showing how differently fat people are treated.
Of course, it wouldn't quite be fair to rip on tyra and Fatgirlfriend without giving
Douchebag a rip. "Oooohhh look at me, I'm scared to raise my kid because I have a 'syndrome' (he actually said he had a syndrome of sorts)! Do something doctor!" Shut up. Nobody wants to hear about it. At least admit that you're a moron and you need help and quit pretending it's a disease or syndrome that's not your fault.
I got a solution: how about we all try to MEET EACH OTHER HALFWAY. You know, COMPROMISE. So instead of this crappy ending:

Fatgirlfriend: You need to quit playing computer games
Douchebag: oh, ok fine.
tyra: High five!

We can have this:

Fatgirlfriend: You're a father now. Why don't you step up to your responsiblity and kick your destructive habits, and I'll put in some extra effort too?
Douchebag: I know! You stop being such a fatass, I'll stop being such a deadbeat! Then maybe I can address my real emotional issues rather than blaming it on Warcraft.
tyra: GREAT IDEA! And I'll ask the network to cancel my crappy show until I can construct an argument properly!

A great solution, if I do say so myself. The poor kid will actually have a father,
Douchebag will realize that spending time with family will be enjoyable, Fatgirlfriend will save thousands of dollars of treatment from premature heart disease, and best of all: I won't have to have my RSS feeds clogged up with tyra's blathering drivel. It's a win/win situation, and I think it will make EVERYONE happy!

[1] Words cannot express how badly I would have wanted to see this on the Springer show. Some guy would make a crude comment about Fatgirlfriend's weight, then Douchebag would get in-character and pick a fight, trying to cast spells on the guy. Ah the possibilities.

Monday, January 15, 2007

The Obscure Benefits of Piracy

The issue of piracy, particularly that of movies and music, has become a very important issue as of late. Record Industries are suing peer to peer users for stealing music. Music fans are crying foul and claiming fair use and the record industry is poisoning the market and cheating artists. Curiously, artists are taking stands across the whole spectrum. Bruce Springsteen and The Rolling Stones are offended that fans are stealing their hard work for their own use. On the other hand, artists such as John Perry Barlow, of the Grateful Dead, literally pay people to pirate their music.
Before going any further, I would like to reinforce the idea that I am not promoting piracy. As a consumer, you really are cheating hard-working and (sometimes) honest companies and artists. This article is not being written to encourage consumers to pirate works. Rather, it is intended to be directed at copyright holders, given an already giant pool of pirated material, and hopefully will provide some insight as to how to deal with it appropriately.
With that said, is this demon "piracy" actually bad? Or maybe I should say, is all piracy bad all of the time? The short answer to that is NO. Not by a long shot. Unfortunately, the term "bad" is subject to imprecise and ambiguous words like "fair". On the other hand, the law has a much clearer definition rooted in copyrights. From a legal standpoint, the phrase "without permission" prevails over any question of morality. Ideally, the law provides protection to suppliers of creative works, in order to generate incentives to produce such work. However, pirated copies of copyrighted works have always been around, and decreasing bandwidth and increasing popularity of peer to peer (P2P) file sharing, piracy is at an all time high. Furthermore, programs such as Freenet provide safe harbors and difficulty controlling and detecting piracy.
Without surprise, many copyright holders are crying foul, claiming all sorts of billions of dollars of industry losses. Are they losing anything? Is this piracy even bad for the industry? Generally speaking, I would say yes. But that's based on some rough assumptions. At a risk of oversimplifying, I am going to assume there are three types of users:
(a) people downloading material as a substitute for buying it
(b) people downloading backup copies of media they legitimately purchased
(c) people downloading media they would not care to buy, that is, downloading as a substitute for not having it

Next, I would like to define the aforementioned "loss". From here on out, when I say "loss", I mean:
- A monetary loss, or missed potential sale, where the user pirates the work as a specific substitute for purchasing it.
- A non-monetary loss, where the authors feel cheated, where others are using their work and possibly profiting off of it without giving the authors due credit.
Finally, I come to the central point of my editorial. There are three types of consumers that commit piracy, but cause no rational losses to the industry of any kind. I would like to introduce to you three hypothetical people: the "Photoshop kid", the "die-hard fan", and the "Fair Use copier".
The first person is the "Photoshop Kid". Assume that (a) the 'kid' has no real income source; there is no way he can afford a copy of Photoshop. This would correspond to user type C mentioned earlier. Whether the Photoshop Kid gets to use the program or not, the chance of Adobe making a sale here are zero. Sure, he is using copyrighted works without permission, and the hard-working programmers at Adobe have every right to feel cheated. But my advice: worry not. Photoshop Kid is not hurting anybody's balance sheet, and who knows, if he really likes the program, gets used to the layout, he might end up liking it so much that he will buy it when he can afford it. Let the baby have his bottle. Just overlook this one, and in a few years, you might actually have yourself a customer.
The second person is the "die-hard fan" with an infamous compilation, the "Best of" album. Consider a die-hard fan of a band, who absolutely MUST HAVE every album that comes out from this band. In fact, this fan has every single album this band has ever come out with, except for a new 'best of' album that is about to come out. In this case, our die-hard fan decides to download this album for free rather than buy it. This is a clear-cut type A example of piracy from earlier. The artist here suffers both a monetary and a non-monetary loss. This download means one less sale, and is certainly not a welcomed transaction. But consider this: what exactly is this "loss"? Conceivably, this fan has already compensated the author of this work through the purchase of earlier albums. Is there really any new artwork here? Please. The term "compilation" is a bit too generous. This is nothing more than a cheap repackage. It's little more than a playlist of popular songs with a new picture on the front. Maybe some sound editing if you're lucky. Copyright violations or not, musicians and record companies have some nerve charging full sticker price for this excuse for "artwork". The artist has already been compensated for this album both monetarily and philosophically through the purchase of the old albums. To claim a loss because this album is "stolen" would be pretty tough to rationalize in my opinion.
The third person is the "Fair Use copier". This case is aimed more particularly at the DVD market, where unlike VHS, every movie sold is locked down with an anti-copying scrambling mechanism. And region encoding. And it can't (legally) be copied to a mobile device (ie, iPod video or PSP). Let's say our friend Fair Use copier has purchased a DVD and wishes to copy it to an iPod video to watch in the car (as a passenger, hopefully) or somewhere other than a home theater. The DVD alone does not allow this, so our user downloads a copy, as a Type B downloader. Clearly, the artists and movie companies have gotten both their paycheck and their recognition from the sale, so no loss here. Would you really call this guy a "thief" or "pirate"?
Before I conclude, I would like to add a few final thoughts. I am not trying to advocate or defend piracy. This is targeted at artists, authors, movie and music producers, and software companies. Copyright holders have every right to sue these hypothetical users, but in many cases, it would be a dumb idea. Copyright holders: I very much respect your legal rights in these situations. But that is not the point here. Before you demand huge settlements, audit and sue your customers, make sure you do your homework first. Be sure you are targeting the right people, because some of them are not even hurting you in the first place. Remember, not all publicity is good publicity.

Resume Update

I am posting my resume here. I am interested in work primarily in the field of chemical engineering. However, I also have an extensive background in Economics, and essential skills in computer hardware and repair, programming, and 3D modeling & design. If you are interested please email me in the address provided.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Here I'll be putting thought-out, well-written articles and editorials. Or at least links to them.