Saturday, December 31, 2005

Updated Site Feed

I updated the feed for this site yesterday, so you may want to re-subscribe, if you use that service.

If, perchance, you do not know what a feed is, let me try to explain it:

On this site, as in many others, there is a small orange square in the menu bar to the side. On this site it is above the button that says “I power Blogger” and beside the button that says “Get Firefox...” If you click on that button in Internet Explorer, you will get a bunch of text that does not make much sense. If you have a more advanced browser, such as Firefox, you can bookmark the page that opens, and when you click on it, it will show you the latest headlines.

Its a pretty cool little trick that a great many websites are offering. If you do not have Firefox, you can download it from this website simply by clicking on the aforementioned button underneath the archives section.

In addition to that feature, there are many other advantages to the Firefox browser. For example, it has a much higher security rating than Internet Explorer.

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Sweet Photos

I have spent the better part of two hours looking through the photos at Dan Chung's Blog.

He is a photographer for a London newspaper called The Guardian. If you have a moment, and you enjoy photographs, go check this out. There are photos from events like Live8 in London to a very moving series from when he went on a trip to Niger.

I am quite stunned at, not only the quality of the photos (from the camera quality perspective), but the creative angles he finds to shoot from.

Great find!

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Friday, December 30, 2005

Digital Photography Tips For Beginners

There is an excellent article over at Macworld that gives a ton of great advice on how to capture the moment. It is not to technical, and is aimed squarely at those who wish to capture the moment without becoming a “professional” in the process.

I don't think it even mentions using the Mac as a platform, so Windows users, this is for you too.

This article will help you get the most out of the camera you have, and it is written in a down-to-earth fashion. I picked up a few things from it, I hope you can too.

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Thursday, December 29, 2005

“How's that [new iPod]?”

In yet another somewhat misleadingly titled article, experts are warning that many listen to portable music players at volumes that are way to high. According to the article, this is, in large part, due to the earbud style of headset. Because it lets in a big percentage of outside noise, users tend to turn up the music more. 110 to 120 dB (Decibels) on average.

I am an avid music listener, though it is usually on my computer that I carry out this activity. I have a laptop, so I find that more portable devices tend to work better for me. One time (I think 2000 or 2001) I went to CES (Consumer Electronics Show), and saw the Shure booth. Yes, they have some of the coolest wireless systems known to sound technicians, but I saw the earbuds associated with the in-ear monitors for musicians and tried them. On putting them in my ears I was impressed with how quiet it became inside my head.

I could hear clearly the music that was playing, and the buds were small enough to be practically invisible. This link is to the brand I have. There are other good brands, though. Yes, you will spend some money, depending on what you want. You could spend $100 bucks now, and have your hearing later, or not spend the money, and not be able to listen to any music later in life.

A side advantage to this style, is that in-ears tend to seem louder (because they are closer to your eardrum, and because they create a closed space in your ear), so the end result is longer battery life. I have found that, compared to my studio quality Sony headphones (which list at about $100), my $70 Shure headphones take 50% of the output volume from any given device (and they are more accurate with frequency response).

If you got an iPod (or other personal music player) for Christmas, look into this style of headphones. They are quiet, sound better than most any other type of headphone, and are well worth the money spent.

If you are considering a noise cancellation headset, try these first. I have used them many times on planes with a very pleasing result.

For the most pleasing result, it is possible to get ear-moulds (just like for hearing aids). This is what most musicians are doing, and it gives the most comfortable fit, along with the best isolation possible.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Email Etiquette: 5 Rules

Etiquette is important in email, just as it is with the rest of life. I have collected here, some of the things that bug me most about emails I receive from people. If you feel like I missed something, bring it up in the comments.

Only sending forwards:
There are, believe it or not, people who still do this. Typically, they send forwards of forwards of forwards (etc.). When I get emails from a fellow human being, I appreciate that person putting some thought into letting me know how they are doing, and actually typing out a message. Most of these just click forward, select the entire address book, and hit send.

If you really want to share something like this with your friends get a blog. Copy. Paste. If your friends want to read it they will. If everyone did this, it would save countless terabytes on email servers around the world, as well as reducing spam. One way spammers get your email address is mass emails that are not sent using the BCC field.

I don't mind the occasional forward from someone who actually talks with me from time to time--but they should not be the norm.

Poor (If Existent) Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar:
Not everyone is an English Major. That is fine. Just do the best you can. It is very difficult to read anything without punctuation (this includes caps at the beginning of the sentence), using a spell checker is easy enough, and if you can use a computer, and you don't have a handle on grammar--good luck in life. Over-use of smilies and text messaging “words” is out too--they serve a purpose, but I don't want to wade through them in an email.
Come to think of it, over-use of anything gets tiring. It is fine to be casual, just be careful how casual you get.

Giving My Email to a Corporate Entity:
Someone did this to me recently. The amount of spam in my account has tripled. Company A says that if this person gets six people to create accounts, said company will give this person a $600 (US) piece of software (or, an iPod--it varies). That is all well and good, but in order to create an account, one must enter six more email addresses. Its good for the spammer company, not really for anyone else. Inboxes are filled with spam, no one can unsubscribe (not even using the link provided--which is not recommended).

If someone asks you for someone else's email address, its a good idea to know (with at least 90% certainty) how that data will be used. I look at email addresses like I do physical ones. If someone asked me for six of my friends addresses I would laugh in their face. I don't know if I have enemies I would do that to.

The Work Email:
I have friends who frequently write from work. Its fine with me if they do that, but that email goes into the corporation's official record. If you reply to that email at the same address it is not a private conversation. For my part, its not a problem, but I have seen some, um... er... questionable material on coworkers email screens.

Large Attachments:
I have probably violated each of these rules at different times, but this is the one I have infringed on most. (Though, in my defense, I would have gladly removed anyone from the list who said they wanted off.)
Many people still have dial-up. Think about this before clicking the “Send” button. Do(es) your recipient(s) have a dial-up connection? If so, do you know them well enough to know if they mind waiting 17 minutes to download that 4 MB picture of your mother-in-law asleep in front of the TV (if they want the photo at all)?
One option is to provide a link to the file, which they could download at their discretion. If that is not possible, you could send a short email describing what you want to send them, and ask if they want it.

General Rules:
Etiquette is all about treating other people how they want to be treated. Think about what you are sending, before you send it. Think about your audience. Think about the limitations of their computer and/or bandwidth (for mass emails, use the lowest common denominator).

It does not take a lot of work to think these things through, and when one gets in the habit, it takes even less time. You may not get thanked for your thoughtfulness, but that is not the point.


Ran across this today. Could not resist sharing it:
“I don't like composers who think. It gets in the way of their plagiarism.”

--Howard Deitz

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I have mentioned here that I was planning a post about some of the various and unique foods that grow here in Brazil. I finally got around to it. There are more pictures on my Flickr page, if you want to see more.
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The acerola is a fruit that is about the size and shape of a cherry. None of the ones I have eaten have been sweet. I have not eaten many, so I don't know if they are supposed to ripen more, or not.
They do have a rather pleasant bitter flavor, which, with a bit of sugar is very good. Typically these are served in the form of juice.
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This very odd fruit (called Jackfruit in English) is about the size of a basketball, and is covered with short, spiny green things. They are not really sharp, as in cactus, but they are a little sharp. The edible part is around the seed, and has the consistency of garlic, or similar. Not much flavor here. In the lower center of the photo there is a seed with the meat on, and a seed without the meat.

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The pitomba is also about the size of a cherry. However, the seed takes up such a large portion of the fruit area, that there is almost no fruit at all. Even so, there are many vendors on the streets who sell these, so they must be pretty popular. The outside of the fruit (the skin, or peel) is sort of like a leathery orange peel, but thinner, and not connected to the fruit like an orange peel is. The fruit itself gives kind of a dry feeling on the tongue, but is quite wet. I think it sort of recalls the flavor of lemon in a way, but not as strong by a long shot. This might be one you just have to try yourself, as I am having difficulty coming up with descriptors for it. I am open to suggestions in the comments (though, it would help if you have actually eaten this...).
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Here is another fruit that has a difficult flavor to describe. It is also the only fruit of these that I have a strong distaste for (that said, I would rather eat this than panelada). The piqui [Portuguese] (good Scrabble word, by the way--if its in your dictionary) is eaten after being boiled. There is a thin coating of flour-like (in texture) meat on the seed, and this is what is cooked and eaten. The smell is very distinct and pungent, and reminds me of--well, it just reminds me of the first time I ate the fruit. One must scrape the meat off the seed with their teeth, and its kind of grainy and a bit flavorless to me, but my wife likes it, as do others around the house. If you get the opportunity to try it, do. I don't want to discourage anyone from trying new things just because I don't like them.
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This is a fruit called bacuri. It is evidently a very good fruit to make juice out of. I don't remember its flavor, as this photo was taken almost (maybe over) a year ago.
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Here is probably the oddest fruit I have ever seen, touched, or eaten. Cupuaçu (coo-poo-a-su). It grows in a nut-like enclosure about a foot, to 16 inches long, by about 6 inches wide--on trees, I am told. This first picture shows the removed fruit of one enclosure, as well as the inside of half of one of the nut-like enclosure (I was going to use nut-case, but did not like the connotations that went along with it.).
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Update: This post has been revised and added to at my new blog, it can now be found  under the title "The Fruits of Brazil."

Monday, December 26, 2005

Driving Classes?

I have no desire to own a high end sports car. At least not unless I can actually afford the insurance, and maintenance on such a purchase.

That said, I would LOVE to drive one on a closed course. I ran across a video today, that is nothing less than incredible. Its just over 10 minutes long, so it will take a bit to download, but its is well worth it if you love sports cars, driving, etc.

All the narration and dialogue is in Japanese, so don't ask me to translate it for you.

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The Darker Side Of Brazil

If you share any interest with me in the country of Brazil, you may be very interested in this article at the BBC News Website. While I do not see the corporate side of the corruption here on a daily basis, I have been asked for a bribe from a government official. The fact that I have been asked for a bribe did not surprise me so much as that I have only dealt with three government agencies since I arrived (well--not including customs).

Street vendors, and menial task jobs are a way of life here, as the article says. I was watching a sidewalk being paved a few weeks ago, and was amazed at the size of the crew doing the work. At home in the States, the crew would have been half the size, and they would have had machines to do most of the tedious parts of the labor. Here everything is done by hand because--at least it seems this way to me--it is cheaper to pay a laborer than it is to buy a machine that would take the place of five of them.

The article talks about much more, and is very well written. If you have questions for me post in the comments, and I will do my best to answer.

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Friday, December 23, 2005

Eight (yes: 8) GB of Compact Flash Goodness

This one is for the pro-level digital photographers out there. Transcend has released the new card and says that it will reach speeds of 120x.
When you have 500 RAW pictures on your card I suppose that transfer rates start to matter more, so that 120x comes in handy real quick like. Transfer rates are (read/write) 20/18 MB per second. UDMA compatible.

More info here.

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Apologies for the long absence...

The phone company said it would only be 72 hours that they needed to take the DSL away for.

Over three weeks later, they got it together. I will be writing entries tomorrow.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Canon 5D Review (Does the “D” stand for drool?)

I can't claim to own an actual Digital SLR--yet, but I have been looking at the market for a couple of months now. The Canon 5D looks like an excellent camera.

Frontview-001Digital Photography Review has a very in-depth review of the camera. The camera weighs in at US$3,299 bones, but according to them it lives up to, and maybe past the price expectation. The lens is extra dough.

If money were not an issue I would probably end up with one of these in my own hands, but I would also like to check out Nikon's latest offering.

As an aside, if you are looking into purchasing any form of digital camera, Digital Photography Review is a great place to look at reviews. Very detailed, very informative, and they don't seem to be nearly as slanted as some review sites out there.

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Mac OS X Tips for the Switchers

Well, I should say that I learned a couple things in this article, and I have been using OS X for several years now.

Lots of keyboard shortcuts, and things to make life easier while interacting with your Mac. Whether you are a “Switcher,” thinking about being one, or a seasoned user, take a look at this article.

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Cyberhand to Shake Up Prosthetics

Here is a worthy use of time and money. This project seeks to build a prosthetic hand that is as close as possible to the real thing.

Quoted from the website:

1. be felt by an amputee as the lost natural limb delivering her/him a natural sensory feedback by
means of the stimulation of some specific afferent nerves;

2. be controlled in a very natural way by processing the efferent neural signals coming from the
central nervous system (reducing the discomfort of the current EMG-based control prosthesis).
For videos, pics, and other information, have a look at the link above.

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Monday, November 28, 2005

How to talk to a human.

You mean you don't like waiting forever, and wading through all the menus on the phone before speaking with a human being? This guy has saved your... day. Its a cheat sheet on how to get right to a human listed by company.

Pretty cool.

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How do you back up your photos?

I, for a long time, did not have any form of backup plan for any of my files. That changed when the person on the phone with me said something like, “From what it sounds like, you could loose all your files. Your hard drive could go any moment.”

After thinking for a few moments about how much of my life is stored on my precious lappy, I went to the store and purchased a new external hard disc drive. I have had no further problems with my hard drive, but I am glad to have the back up in the event I do.

The next step is to get an off-site back up system. This is important because, what happens if my computer and hard drive are stolen, or destroyed?

There is a company called Safesnaps that claims they will never delete your files, and they have a program that auto updates from your computer. The service is under $8 a month. This will get you unlimited storage, but they can also raise the price down the line. Look at the terms and conditions before getting into this one. It could be good.

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Saturday, November 26, 2005

Olive Musica and Symphony

If you are not already on the Sonos music system, another cool option (and possibly cheaper) is the Olive Musica, or their Symphony.

This little box will convert your CDs to your chosen format, including lossless, store it on the internal hard drive, and play it back for you. It has PC and Mac compatibility and can auto-find music on your home network. If you have old media, like tapes and records, you can record them directly to this hard drive.

It has an optical out to get your music to the amplifier with the best quality, and you can purchase remotes for each room in the house, which enables playing different music in every room of the house.

The 160GB Musica is going for $1099 on the website, the 80GB (the website is not clear on this) version is $899, and the Sonata (the remote that can go in a separate room) is $199.

Of course its marketing speak, but they have a bunch of audiophile types that are quoted as saying this is a great machine.

For my pennies, though I am looking at this as quite a value over the aforementioned Sonos, especially if you already have stereo amplifiers in the rooms where you want them (part of the cost of the Sonos system is that they have integrated amplifiers in each unit).

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Friday, November 25, 2005

XML or RSS Feeds Now Available

Just a quick note to let you know there is a link for viewing in XML or RSS, Newsgator, or whatever format you may use.

If you don't know what all that means, the basic explanations is that it is an extremely simplified way of viewing news, or blog web pages, which can either provide a summary, or a full version of the web page. It auto-updates, so that you know when there is new information available.

Firefox is the most ubiquitous browser for Windows with this feature, and is much more secure the Internet Exploder. You might want to check it out.

I will put a link to the Firefox Browser on this site.

The Firefox browser is also available for Mac users. If you have questions post them in the comments, and I will try to help.

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adidas_1 goes 1.1

Computers in shoes. Now we have really done it.

Actually this is a pretty cool thing. I helped out (was paid to help out) with the staging and product launch of the adidas_1 shoe. It was one of the cooler shows I ever worked on. Personal insight aside, though, this product is pretty innovative.

They have a computer in the shoe that tells a servo motor how much force to exert to determine the hardness/softness of the sole. It changes on the fly, so when you go from a paved road to a sidewalk to a grassy knoll the shoe changes its cushioning with changes to the running environment.

Anyway, there is a very cool flash presentation over at the adidas_1 site where you can check out all the features of the adidas_1 1.1

Have fun, but its best with broadband.

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A New Way to Surf The Web

Okay, its not really a new way per se. Its really more of a new address system.

It looks like some people are not satisfied with the .com .org .net way of addressing sites, so they came up with a different way to do it.

A company called UnifiedRoot could make the .com suffix as bust as the .com era. The wording on their website says it best:
“Instead of having multiple domain names like ”“, ”“, ”“, ”“, one can register a single TLD and build around the dot to adopt a more flexible, logical, and simple addressing standard like ”“.”
It costs quite a bit--enough that it would be out of reach for most humble bloggers, but don't be surprised if you start seeing domains without the .com.

My gut reaction: Its pretty cool, however, it could be confusing to the uninformed user.
What do you think?

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Thursday, November 24, 2005

The Brazilian Version of NASCAR

Stock car racing is not just for the US. Formula 1 Racing is huge here in Brazil, but Stock Car Brasil is big as well.

I have only had the opportunity to watch a couple of events, but I find the racing to be much more intense than NASCAR. I think the primary reason is that it is not strict circle track racing. The tracks are very similar to (if not the same venues) the F1 tracks.

The actual cars are different from NASCAR as well. They are smaller. Chevrolet Astra, and the Mitsubishi Lancer are the only models that are raced. The side windows are shut, and the doors open (swing-up style).

There are two classes of cars: The V8, and the V8 Light. The basic difference is 100 HP, and 500 RPM, with the V8 class having up to 450 HP at 6000 RPM, and the V8 Light being 350 HP at 5500 RPM. The displacement of the engines is 5.7 liters (350 cubic inches).

Having been in Brazil quite some time, I am used to the driving by now (most of the time), but the first few days here are always an interesting adjustment, as everyone seems to think it is a race to the next stoplight. I might work up another post about day to day driving here, but suffice it to say at this point that its similar to a NASCAR race--lots of close calls.

Stock Car Brasil website.

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Top 10 Things To Do When Your XBox 360 Is Dead

10. Open the nearest window (opening is optional), account for trajectory and velocity, then hope it grows wings.

9. Use the heat from the unit to re-warm the Thanksgiving leftovers.

8. Use the power supply as a substitute football for the annual family game.

7. Spray paint the unit orange, and use as a traffic cone.

6. Drop from a very high place to see if terminal velocity is really all its cracked up to be.

5. Get a refund, give half to the poor, the other half invest in Google stocks. In a few months, buy the PS3 with the profits.

4. Remember those AOL disks... ?

3. That wireless controller might make a good hackie-sack.

2. Try putting Linux on it.

1. I am poor. (See #5)

This post is entirely humor. Do not attempt these things unless you actually want to destroy your Xbox 360. I actually am poor. Do not invest in any stock without proper research and advise. Any damage done to any persons or property as a result of your actions is your responsibility, and the writer of this post does not accept any liability for your actions.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Coolest Hot Wheels Toy

This link is for anyone who had Hot Wheels when they were a kid. And for kids who have Hot Wheels now.

Wow, is all I can say...

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Creative Commons Licensing

I have seen the license on a few web pages here and there, but never really thought much about licensing my work. This blog is not at the level (nor is my other one) where I would really need to worry about someone using my work in a way that I would not desire.

I am getting ready to write an entry about some of the fruits and vegetables here in Brazil that are not available in the US, and as part of that I am preparing some photos on another website to link here. The other website offers the option of licensing one's public photos under the Creative Commons license.

If you have a website, blog, or other work that you want to retain your rights to, as well as let users know how and if they can re-use it for their purposes, I highly recommend doing the following:

  • Click here to go to the website.
  • Click on the “Publish” link in the new window.
  • Choose your preferences (plain English descriptions prevail here!) regarding your copyright.
  • If you have a website, or blog, they provide the HTML code to paste into your template
It took me far less than half an hour to do, and it is well worth the effort. The result of a user clicking on the button on your website reveals your preferences of fair use. Its that simple.

I also note that there are options for other types of work (video, photography, etc.) available on the site. I have not checked into that part yet, but I probably will in the near future.

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Monday, November 21, 2005

Greenhouse Gas in the Ground

I am not an extreme environmentalist. I like to do what I can, recycle when possible, reuse often, not drive when I don't need to, and so on. I even like ideas that promote better environmental responsibility.

This is not one of those ideas. The gist is that we could collect the harmful gasses, and put them in the empty caverns where there used to be oil. I guess it has some merit, in that it gives us something to do with those gases while searching for another fuel source.

At the same time, could not we use the dollars spent on research and development for this project, and speed up development of the hydrogen economy?

It just seems a waste of our time and resources to spend on something like this.

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JVC Digital Camcorders

Skip the tape, the DVD, or mini-DVD, and go right to the hard drive. That's what you want anyway, right?

Well, it is what I want. Especially after my experience with a certain Sony mini-DVD camcorder.

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BIOS is has a description of these cameras, or you could check out the JVC website.

The prices are kind of high, but if you account for what one would have to spend on media over the life of the camera, that brings the price down too. Its a way cool idea, and timely too. One of the more frustrating things about the small DVD's is that they run out after such a short time.

All that plastic ends up in the landfill at one point or another as well. I am diggin' on these (except for the pricey numbers).

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Corvette or camera?

Shopping for a new digital camera? If megapixels is all that matters to you, check out this story on Engadget. Its about a 22 megapixel wonder.
I checked out the preview on The Luminous Landscape and it takes some really nice pictures, but I am thinking that I would rather use the money for a new sports car, or maybe a down payment on a house.

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Sunday, November 20, 2005

Money and Entertainment

There is an article on c|net news by Damon Darlin that has some really good breakdowns on entertainment spending. I have always been amazed at how much others spend on movies, eating out, video games etc., but I guess they share that amazement of me when I tell them how much I spent on one guitar (so we are even, right?).

Anyway, the article has some good suggestions for saving money on that ballooning entertainment budget.

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Saturday, November 19, 2005

One Laptop Per Child Project (OLPC), The $100 Laptop

First, this is a great cause. Making a computer that is cost-effective in the developing world is not only admirable, but important.

What a difference this can make to those countries where the per-capita income is much lower than the US, and most of Western Europe. Not to mention the poor in those countries. I currently live in Brazil, a country where many people merely scrape by on two or three incomes per home. Computers are pure luxury here.

I purchased a computer for my wife about a year ago so that we could stay in touch while I was in the States. It cost me a little more than US $500. Now, I know that is not all that bad, as it was an all inclusive package. I am afraid to check to see if the operating system, and other software is pirated, though. All of that came pre-loaded, and I don't know if there were any CD's or licenses included.

Five-hundred bucks, though, is quite a price here. In the city where I am, its rent for seven months, with enough for food for a week or two left over.

I am not sure how this whole thing will work as far as the different governments involved. I have seen that the Brazilian Government is involved, which is probably good. See, when I bought that computer a year ago, I was told that about half of the $500 I spent went to taxes. However, since this project is supposed to be entirely government funded (with some subsidy coming from a different version for sale direct to the consumer), the cost to the end-user should not be a problem.

I am excited about this project, not only for the cost, but for the inclusion of software (open source), and the compatibility with peer machines.

To learn more click here for the MIT website, or here for the Wiki entry.

The next important step is to make sure that these children have a cost-effective way of connecting to the internet. This is another high-cost item here, which needs to be addressed.


I originally intended to mention that this initiative could change the balance of the internet. More non-English speaking people would have access. More bloggers in the blogosphere.

These are good things, but the internet community will have to make some adjustments due to the influx of new users.

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Sory's Story

Being a musician currently in a country where CD and DVD piracy is almost more common than legit sources, I can see why Sony would want to protect their content. That is not an excuse for them, what they did was stupid. And, I am no PR firm, but they really messed that up as well. This whole root kit thing is crazy.

At any rate, they have posted a list of the titles with the offensive software. Looks like it includes some of my favorites, like Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles, Billy Holiday, plus 49 others. Includes instructions about how to tell if your CD is infected has the software on it. Better check your collection.

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DTV and Channel Frederator

I am sure that there are options for the Windows users of the world, but DTV is a Mac thing (Windows version "soon"). Its a program (free=very good price) that tracks and, if you tell it to, downloads podcasts for you. I guess if you have one of those new-fangled iPods with Video you can even put the vids on your new iPod from here.

Its a pretty cool program, but my favorite part is a podcast that is available via this program called Channel Frederator. Its cartoons! Free! Its cool stuff. Check it out.

You can download episodes directly from the C.F. site as well, then vote on the cartoons in the episode (after a very painless sign-up/login process).

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Terminal Tutorial

If you have Mac OS X, and have ever opened the terminal window and thought “Um... yeah... what next?” I have good news. Mary Norbury-Glaser has created a step-by-step tutorial on using the Tiger Terminal. It even starts out with where to find the terminal window.

The article is pretty long (the first of five installments is three pages!), but it is very step-by-step. It does get into some stuff that she says can damage your system if you run the wrong commands, so use with caution. You'll also need administrative privileges on your Mac.

So, have fun getting your hands dirty in Terminal.

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Friday, November 18, 2005

Nature "Beats Up" Technology Again

I just found an article on the BBC website that talks about the similarities in design between the LED (light emitting diode) and the coloration on certain butterfly wings.

Its got some pretty heavy technobabble in there, primarily about the design of the LED, but once you wade through that, it talks about the cool way butterflies make those bright colors.