Shuttersparks

Welcome to my musings on whatever topic or current event catches my eye, plus stories, recipes, handyman tips, welding, photography, and what have you. Please comment on the blog post so everyone who visits can see your comments.

Category: Uncategorized (page 2 of 23)

Microsoft Bing Is Paying for Users?

Microsoft has now taken to paying people to use their search engine? Is it that bad?

http://www.discoverbing.com/education/searchwithpurpose/?fbid=eU87ehBy_x8&wom=false

It looks a little less blatant framed as a donation but then Microsoft has always been expert at putting lipstick on a pig.

I never did understand why Microsoft would go after the web search market at all. Of all the things they could possibly have done, they chose the one area where they cannot possibly succeed. What were they thinking? I guess the corporate culture in Redmond breeds either blindness, or arrogance, or maybe both.

Look, because of my work I do hundreds of searches every day, often searching for very obscure and hard to find information. I tried Bing. It sucked. From time to time I try it again and it continues to come up less effective than Google. Google is a lean, mean, lightning-fast search engine that almost invariably gets me immediately or almost immediately to the information I seek. It has no unnecessary visual distractions or crap that slows the loading of the page. It’s fine tuned and user friendly. And now Google has added even more cool features that help me a lot such as the timeline search. Fabulous.

Microsoft’s only hope to compete with Google search was to completely clone Google search and re-invent all of the proprietary magic that makes Google what it is, which even as rich as Microsoft is, they cannot afford to do.

Instead I’ll donate three bucks to charity myself and not use Bing.

Elena Kagan Lost My Support

It’s too bad really. Elena Kagan has a brilliant mind and is supremely qualified academically to be a Supreme Court justice, but the confirmation hearings and a reading of some of her opinions reveals a fundamental wrong-headedness about natural rights.

The wordings found in the Declaration of Independence (which is not the basis of law), and the Bill of Rights and Constitution (which are the basis of law) make it very clear that those documents are acknowledging pre-existing rights that all people have. The Bill of Rights and the Constitution do not confer any rights on the people. Those documents prohibit the government from infringing rights the people already have.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” (The right is preexisting.) “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” (The right already exists.) “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated…” (The right already exists.) And so the wording is throughout the Bill of Rights and Constitution.

The founders were very clear in their position that those rights are inherent in every person–God-given if you prefer. No man and no government has the power to confer those rights, so the founding documents of the United States do not make the error of attempting confer rights. Instead, those documents are the basis of laws that prohibit the government from infringing the rights we as human beings already have.

Yes I know that if you ask people on the street, many of them would agree with the statement: “our rights come from the Bill of Rights.” Well they don’t, and the distinction is critically important for a Supreme Court justice. Elena Kagan does not agree with the position of the founders on natural rights. In various opinions that Kagan has written, she uses the word “confer” with regard to rights protected by the Bill of Rights. She worded her opinions to say that the Bill of Rights “confers” those rights, and this is wrong-headed. It’s so wrong-headed that in my opinion it disqualifies her from serving as a Supreme Court justice, regardless of any other opinions she may have. She doesn’t agree with the fundamental thinking behind our founding documents. Instead believes that government has the power and the ability to confer rights on the people. Government has no such power. Despots and dictators like to believe they have those powers, pretend to have those powers, and use physical force to make it look like they have those powers. Perhaps Ms. Kagan would do better serving on the Supreme Court of a country like Myanmar, Iran, or North Korea, not the United States.

Cook Over Wood More Efficiently

A huge number of people in the world use wood fuel for cooking. Cooking over wood is very common here in Guatemala. Wood fires generally produce a lot of pollution and smoke, and result in deforestation in some areas.
But wood is not such a bad fuel if we burned it more efficiently. The problem is that methods for burning wood are terribly inefficient. Most wood fueled cooking setups waste over 90 percent of the heat produced. The heat just goes off into the atmosphere and not into the item being heated. We also burn wood at a lower than optimum temperature, which results in wasted fuel, incomplete burning, and production of smoke.
If we could raise the efficiency of the burning process and at the same time focus the heat produced into the cooking pot or other item being heated instead of wasting it, we could theoretically get the same cooking done faster, using a lot less wood, and producing a lot less pollution.
Devices that burn wood more efficiently and that you can cook on are not that difficult to construct if you know how to build things from sheet metal and weld it together. And you’ll end up with a fairly large, heavy, non-portable device. But most people in poor countries do not have the ability to build such things and cannot afford to buy a large, heavy, and thus expensive device.
In order to make an efficient wood burning device that is small and portable you have to use forced air. Well that’s out of the question in poor countries, isn’t it? But what if the device generated its own electricity to power a fan for the forced air. Way too complicated and unreliable, right?
Perhaps not. Check out the BioLite. It’s a pretty neat idea.

The BP Blues by the Dirty Cajuns

The Gandhi Model will not work in Iran

The Gandhi Model of peaceful, non-violent resistance worked in India and it worked for the civil rights movement in the United States. Unfortunately, I don’t think it will not work in Iran. The Gandhi Model only works if the ruling government is made up of people who have some basis in morality and who place at least some value on human life. But dealing with the rulers of Iran and the Basij is like dealing with a crocodile or great white shark. Passive resistance is useless.

Oops, did I just equate the rulers of Iran and the Basij to animals? I guess so.

A Reality Check for the Recording Industry

For several years now there have been stories in the news about the RIAA suing private individuals who engaged in music file sharing and downloading. Recently ASCAP tried to get into the act with the idea of charging royalties for ringtones and with their demands worded in such a way that it sounded like one would have to pay a royalty for whistling a tune.

What we are seeing are the dying gasps of an obsolete business model and I’d like to point out some realities that should be remembered by all involved.

Music has been a part of humanity for a very long time, thousands of years. The recording industry is a very recent phenomenon that has only existed for the last 100 years, ever since it became possible to record and play music on a machine. The invention of the phonograph made it possible for a business to spring up around the idea of selling pre-recorded music. This business model was viable as long as it was possible to control the means of production of the media. The end of this business model began with the introduction of tape cassettes, the first popular recording medium that made it easy for private individuals to copy music recordings for themselves and also to sell them. But cassettes still involved physical media and themselves cost money. There were also quality issues because a copy was never as good as the original, and successive copies rapidly became worse in quality. With the introduction of digital recording and the Internet, it became possible for private individuals to make copies without limit, with no loss of quality, and to transport copies anywhere in the world instantly, without physical media. This ability signaled the final end for the recording industry that sprang up 100 years ago.

Representatives of the recording industry loudly proclaim that the end of their business means the end of your music. They threaten that if nobody purchases their music, there will be no more good music and they would have you believe that the “recording industry” is music. This is, of course, a bald-faced lie. Representatives of the recording industry hope that people overlook the fact that their business is very young, only 100 years old, and they hope that people overlook the glaringly obviously fact that the greatest music produced by humankind was created before the recording industry even existed.

Music is art, not CDs. The music moguls who have made billions of dollars from selling the work of talented artists do not want to lose their cash cow. It has nothing to do with whether music will be created. Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, and all the rest did not create their music with the hopes of selling records, going “platinum”, or any of that. They created music because they were inspired, music was in their heart, and they wanted to say something with their music. The recording industry promotes the idea that they are music when in fact they are simply merchants of copies of works created by talented artists.

Whether they want to recognize it or not, the music moguls have lost their cash cow. They have lost it irretrievably because technology has moved past the need to sell physical media whose production and distribution can be controlled. The game is over. The business model is obsolete and dead, and can never be revived. It’s just sad and somewhat sickening to watch the recording industry press their law firms to come up with ever more outrageous attempts to rescue them from their sinking ship.

As we watch the death of the recording industry, bear in mind that the recording industry is not music, it is a particular way of marketing recorded music. Music is not going to go away. Keep a sense of perspective and don’t lose sight of the fact that the recording industry is made up of merchants no different than the fish merchant down the street. The fish merchant did not create the fish, he just sells the fish. The same is true of the recording industry merchants. Don’t be fooled by the hyped threats.

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