polemicist: a writer who argues in opposition to others  

A BLOG about science, technology, consumerism, philosophy, higher education, media and other bothersome stuff that makes up modern life...

20070928.0832 And the Other Shoe Drops...

Predictably Apple released a new software update (1.1.1) intended to brick any iPhones that have been modded.  That is explicitly their intent as noted in the popup screen for the update:

iPhone Software

Version 1.1.1

WARNING: Apple has discovered that some of the unauthorized unlocking programs available on the Internet may cause irreparable damage to the iPhone's software. IF YOU HAVE MODIFIED YOUR iPHONE'S SOFTWARE, APPLYING THIS SOFTWARE UPDATE MAY RESULT IN YOUR iPHONE BECOMING PERMANENTLY INOPERABLE. Making unauthorized modifications to the software on your iPhone violates the iPhone software license agreement, and the inability to use your iPhone due to unauthorized software modifications is not covered under your iPhone's warranty.

This version of the software includes additional new features, bug fixes and supersedes all previous versions.

New features include:

• iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store
• Louder speakerphone and receiver volume
• Home Button double-click shortcut to phone favorites or music controls
• Space bar double-tap shortcut to intelligently insert period and space
• Mail attachments are viewable in portrait and landscape
• Stocks and cities in Stocks and Weather can be re-ordered
• Apple Bluetooth Headset battery status in the Status Bar
• Support for TV Out
• Preference to turn off EDGE/GPRS when roaming internationally
• New Passcode lock time intervals
• Adjustable alert volume

For feature descriptions and complete instructions, see the users guide for your iPhone at:

For more information about iPhone, go to:

To troubleshoot your iPhone, or to view additional support information go to:

For detailed information on Security Updates, please visit this website:

Let me tell you something - this is a SCARY update.  They actually re-activate your phone...  This leads me to believe that it's aimed at the Geohot hacks rather than the Apploader hacks.  But what do I know?


20070926.1413 Testing 1, 2 ..

so? [


]  anything worth seeing?  Nope?  Move along...

What I really wanted to do was to put up a feedback area where people could curse me out & threaten me & stuff...  But I ended up with this instead.  How hard is it to make a rollover 20 line text widget?  Or an audited system with email approvals or something for actual posting threads that maybe get dumped into a big XML file so something.  It's not a big deal and it makes a LOT of sense.... hello?  Is this thing on?

20070924.1007  Did I Just See an Ad!?

OK - That's weird - I just logged in to edit the blog & saw a pop-up ad.  Now it's one thing if they start embedding ads in the blog... (they haven't yet, but it's always possible) .. it's another to embed them in the Editing Tool.  Who would possibly entice me so much as to trigger my ADHD and make me forget what I'm doing right in the middle of editing.

Let's hope that was random & had more to do with the other 10 tabs I had open at the time...

So I found yet another problem with the iPhone and Safari - no rollover images.  Since there's no mouse point & click interface - it's just a Touch-as-Click interface.  You can't move the pointer over something without clicking on it.  

Trying to build an interface with a lot of interactivity now has another hurdle - iPhones.  I spend a little time over the weekend building a web page interface only to find that I couldn't use it properly on my iPhone.  It's such a simple and ubiquitous thing that we take it for granted - of course the pointer will be there.... um nope!  Oops!

I can see now why there's no flash player yet.  Rollover triggers are a BIG missing feature - and I can't think of a 'gesture' to replace it - except maybe the double tap thing...  Sounds a little awkward, but then again, it beats not having it at all.

20070921.0949 Turning Japanese

 I've ranted in the past about Ugly Americans.  So now I'll try to do my part in fixing the inherent problem - Ignorance.  Always remember, "Ignorance is curable".

Recently I went to a book signing for Masaharu Morimoto's new cookbook.  It was very cool to meet the infamous Iron Chef himself - he seems like a very decent fellow and clearly he is intensely skilled.  Upon reading the book I noticed there's an entire section in there about How to Eat Sushi.

So let me combine what I have learned with what he has taught and try to teach everyone a little Japanese Etiquette: 

  • The hot towel is for your hands, not your face - Even Ling Ling on Drawn Together has made jokes about this and still people don't get it.
  • You really should add neither wasabi nor soy sauce to your sushi - you should do so only when the food is not to your liking as it is prepared - since it is up to the chef to apply the appropriate amounts while cooking. 
  • Don't mix the wasabi into your soy sauce - wasabi and soy sauce should only mix in one place - in your mouth.
  • Don't soak the rice of the sushi in soy sauce - if you have to use it, graze the fish with it.
  • It is the chef's job to make each piece a perfect mouthful.  Morimoto says that if you must cut a piece in half, then you have to put both pieces in your mouth at the same time.
  • Don't nibble - put the whole piece in your mouth at once.
  • Don't order your sushi to be cut in eight pieces.  
  • Eat the ginger between sushi pieces - not stacked on top of them.  (I actually don't like the ginger, I clear my palette with green tea instead.  But I don't like Sorbet either.)
  • Sake etiquette is detailed enough for it's own posting - but to keep it simple - your should pour from your bottle into other people's cups - never leaving them empty.   And you should allow them to do the same for you. 
  • "sushi" actually means "flavored rice", whereas "sashimi" generally means raw fish slices.  Thus, when ordering sushi - if you have undue fears of raw fish - don't just assume that all of it is raw.  In fact, most of it isn't.  Furthermore, 'raw' means something different than what you are getting since most of the fish that isn't cooked is in fact cured.

So hopefully that will help a little.  If you are interested in learning Japanese at all, or for that matter, one of several foreign languages, you might want to have a look at trymango, which is a (currently free beta) enterprise language tutorial system.

20070920.1708 That Tears It!

So Apple FINALLY made it possible to use songs as ring-tones.  And the truth of it is that you have to BUY them - twice.  There's a Ring-tone editor built into the new version of iTunes and it ONLY works with songs that you BUY from their store.  You can't use songs that you already own.  So far there's no way to create your own Ringtones for free - even if you wanted to record them yourself - you know, like original ones.

So it wasn't a bug - it was a FEATURE, much like the missing Instant Messenger application.  This is where they want to make all their money.  First you need to re-buy the song from iTunes for US$0.99 and then you have to pay another US$0.99 for up to 30 seconds of the same song.

20070920.0956 Duh!

First Hyundai had the Big Duh Sale.  Do I even have to explain that a company known for making the cheapest cars imaginable tries to sell luxury vehicles & no one wants to buy them - at any price?  um... DUH!

 Then George the 2nd proclaims that America will be at war well beyond his own presidency.  i.e. He's not cleaning up his mess.  "Stay the Course" means "it's your problem now".  Everyone is used to gasoline being >$3/gallon - when before this mess we would all complain if it hit $2.  Oh & what business are all of your family & friends in again Mr. Bush?  Oil?  And everyone waves a flag & says this is great?  um... DUH!

And then I just found this transcription of The View on BoingBoing in which not only are we challenging Natural Selection, but now we're also questioning if the world is flat. um...  DUH!

Just who is handing out the Stupid-Pills?  Why am I not making money off of it?  Do I have to remind people that the Pope recently held a scientific forum about Evolution?  He's actually been really good about separating the religion from the science & showing that they can co-exist without rubbing up against each other.  But you know, some guy who wrote a politically charged childrens textbook must somehow know better...  Or so some folks would think.  um... DUH!

20070919.0911 Virtual Switzerland

 Why oh why must the government constantly try to get involved with the Internet?  When will they understand that they invented it too well to begin with?  It can survive a nuclear war by routing around damage - so what makes them think that it wont treat any kind of censorship the same way?  That's been a byword of the Internet since the days that you weren't allowed to sell anything over it.

The DoJ has completely taken the side of corporations in the Net Neutrality war.  This goes directly against the way that the Internet presently is and always has been.  Somehow in this ruling, they are implying that they understand how the Internet works and should work better than those whom actually built it.

What does all of this mean do you as a consumer?  Well, today for example, email is free.  In the future, you will have to pay for it.  You'll have to pay to send it and to receive it.  A lot like text messages on your cell phone today.  On my iPhone plan for example, if I send or receive a text message it costs me US$0.15 .  Mind you, ANYONE can text me at any time.

I know someone who vindictively texted his ex-girlfriend non-stop all day & night until he had racked up charges equivalent to the money she owed him.  It works like that.

 It will matter if you are on the same sub-net that your friends are on.  If so - maybe you get a discount.

Don't think for one minute that you're going to get innovation from the corporations as a result of handing them tiered service controls.  What you will get is an endless series of weird hidden charges for things that should be free.  Text messages for example are measured in bytes - but I can download a 2.5Mb video clip for free?  Huh?

The result of things like mySpace is that there has been a chilling effect on people running their own web servers.  The trend is to go to a large corporation & pay them hosting fees or don't pay them at all and allow ads to be embedded in your content.

The results of doing away with Net Neutrality will be even worse.  Today EVERYONE has the capacity to run their own web server built into the operating system of their computers - but very few people actually do it because their ISP won't let them - or else wants to charge them with a service fee hike just to let them use port 80.  Most ISP's won't let you run your own email server as it is.  If you try they more or less outright accuse you of being a spammer.

Corporations do not encourage innovation - they stifle it in the name of Intellectual Property licensing and pervert it in the name of marketing.  What corporations do well is to mass produce and mass market things.  Corporations take a good idea and make it ubiquitous to society.  They excel at the grunt work and flounder at the creative work.  My point is not to bash corporations, only to point out that they are not well suited to hold the reins, rather they are more suited to tending the barn where the carriage is stored and selling tickets for rides.

I'm not saying lock them out of the equation.  I'm saying that it's working just fine the way it is.  The Internet isn't broken - stop trying to fix it.  In this case it's a lot like trying to 'fix' a cat.

20070918.0840 Vegas Can be Seedy

 One thing that you notice quickly when you visit Las Vegas is that every bar you sit at there are Video Poker machines built right into the bar.  Personally I can't stand them, as they're only one step up from slot-machines, which I only ever lose money at.  Of course that is the point - I get that.  But the 'entertainment' I'm getting for my money is nothing like what you get at a Baccarat or Roulette table.  Or even - for that matter, playing Poker.

That being said - I think all in all I had a much better time playing on Freemont Street than I did on the Strip.  The stakes are lower, the people are more relaxed and you don't have to walk very far for variety.  You can't get an imported beer, but you can play for hours on $100 if you aren't stupid with it.  That's about a half hour tops at someplace like the Wynn - and you have to walk through a mall to get there.  (But then again, I don't think their 'thing' is "walk-in" players so that's probably the point.)

20070917.1018 What Else Can We Make Crash?

 The iPhone got me to the party about an after after it was over - which is to say that I've been indulging in video podcasts en masse since recently discovering them.  Probably half of my memory is taken up by video - and I'm pretty sure there's more in there at any given time than I can watch before the battery dies.

That being said, a recent episode of Geek Entertainment truly frightened me.  Apparently there's software out there called Microsoft Auto - designed to integrate your car with your handheld-digital-device-du jour.

This is enough to make a vein pop in my temple.  (Let's try to ignore the number of times they mentioned the Zune and that they actually showed one in the segment...)  How many times have we used this as an explanation for the User Woes of the World?  

"If Micro$oft invented the car - it would just stop running in the middle of the fast-lane, the speedometer would turn blue and you would need to start the engine again every now and then for no apparent reason.  You would also assume this is how it was supposed to work."

Let's try another one ...

"If Micro$oft invented the wheel - then at the center of every tire on your car you would have a round rock with a layer of wood, copper, bronze, and steel wrapped with several different layers of rubber, each getting stronger towards the outside and retrofitted low profile rims chiseled in the side."

How many airport readouts and miscellaneous kiosks do I have to pass with the blue screen of death or a Windows boot-screen stuck on the display before people realize that building Windows into anything besides a desktop computer makes that something just as useless and frustrating to use as Windows is on anything else?

20070913.1120 What's Holding it Up?

Las Vegas is currently undergoing a construction boom.  There are new resorts & casinos going up as fast as anything in Dubai right now.  As a result, they are digging holes in the ground.  This is exposing Las Vegas' dirty secret.  Walking by any of these sites you want to fall over gagging - the smell of raw sewage is unbelievable.  Being as you've stuck a city in the middle of the desert for what were essentially political reasons rather than practical ones of geography - the sewage has no where to go.

Nothing is left to the imagination when wadded up paper runs in the gutters on Las Vegas Blvd. i.e. The Strip.  The RV park outside my window at Circus Circus (a total dump itself) literally had a river of raw sewage running down the middle of it.   I was waiting to see plague carts rolling down the street & to hear people shouting "bring out your dead".

Clearly the towers of Sin City are being held up by deep anchors in a Strata of dookie.  Calling the entire city a cesspool is not factually inaccurate.  This must be where the Beast of Golgotha retreated after Jay & Silent Bob cleaned it's clock...

20070911.0936 Prioritizing Pressure

 If you look at the date of this entry you will note that it's an emotional sort of day.  Some would say it's one of those days when you should feel patriotic in some way.  I define a Patriot as someone who loves their country enough to do something about taking care of it.  One would think that the President of that country would then arguably be amongst it's ranks of patriots.  So what has he been doing to take care of our country in the last 6 years?

The Question: To perform some completely random research with almost no scientific basis whatsoever I just pumped in the phrase "pressure from the white house" into Google (in quotes) to see what's been important in the priority list.  You can talk all you want about things, but to get things done that are important to you when you're The President - you apply pressure, right?

The Process: So I went through the first couple of results pages, dropped anything that didn't have to do with the sitting president and anything where the story was saying there wasn't any pressure from the white house.  If there was more than one story about the same issue, then I used the first one I found, since it would have been higher in the Google ranking.  Then I put them into chronological order.

The Results:

 Have you noticed anything that's missing?  If you're not willing to read all that - let me summarize for you - there's a lot of pressure on the EPA not to tell the public that what is going on is bad for their health.  There's a lot of pressure to hedge bets for corporations and their interests.  There's pressure to keep those in power exactly where they are and for no one to know what they are up to.  There's pressure to make a political agenda appear to be National Security interests.  There is a LOT of pressure to remove the civil rights of American Citizens in ways that have always been considered illegal in this country in the past.  But above all - there is pressure to keep those in government loyal to the President - not to the country - not to the people - to the President.

So what was missing?  Anything to do with 9/11/01 other than lying to us about it. 

20070910.1643 Communist Sympathizer

Apparently Intel is donating 6,000 computers to Chinese farmers.  Do I have to be the one to ask why they didn't donate them to say, I dunno, American farmers?  Do you think maybe we can cut a deal to trade Intel for Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp?  Corporate sponsorship goes a lot further than charity organizations.  Ask anyone in New Orleans about that.  (There are no fortune 500 companies in New Orleans anymore - they all pulled out & left the city to rot.)

What the hell is going on when we debate the efficacy of science by starting a debate about evolution in this country and yet we send the best fruits of our scientific achievements off-shore so we can save a few bucks on bamboo umbrellas and crap at Walmart?  Why don't we look to our own house before trying to solve the ills of another, especially when they're engaging in economic warfare?


20070905.0924 Are you Really, Really Sure you want to do that?

Let the dead-horse-flogging begin!  I installed IE7 (Internet Explorer 7)  today, much to my chagrin.  I don't understand how a company that purports to "only hire smart people" like Micro$oft can consistently botch the software installation procedure.  It is painful, intrusive and scary - Every Time, for Every Product.

The following is what I ended up with after running the program for the first time:

 This is stupid on so many levels...  

For starters - "a site in your Trusted sites list." + "If you don't trust the current page" = "We don't trust you to trust them"

 This amounts to the philosophy of the New Security Conscious M$ Product as being "do not trust the user".  It is also a cop out implying that the years of insecure and buggy products that they've sold were always the users fault.  Shift the responsibility = Shift the Blame.

Next it's worth pointing out that "" is an external site that they called up when I launched the program.  I certainly didn't type in that URL.  That's a little shifty to begin with since now they're sending information back to home base without my permission.

But let's not forget to point out that this "security warning" was triggered by suspicious activity performed by the default actions of the browser itself.  Did no one on the testing team try to do a fresh install?

20070904.0855 So they're your "Partner", huh?

Recently an AT&T store opened close to my office.  I thought this was really convenient, so I stopped by last week during lunch to buy a replacement iPhone headset.  

Let's face it - the "classic" iPod ear-buds with the new connector and a built in switch & microphone - is a dog.  It has long been said they they don't fit every pair of ears (like mine for example) and they are extremely fragile.  Being that they spend most of their lives either dangling from your pocket or knotted up inside it - this is a bit of a problem.

One month into owning them and one of the speakers is dented to the point where it buzzes when anything in the human speech frequency range is played.  That is to say all the time, since they're really only useful for those frequencies and not for say - listening to Primus at full blast.  There is simply no low-end range worth mentioning.

Anyway I went into this neat new AT&T store to buy a headset.  Instantly they tried selling me a stereo bluetooth headset with no microphone.  Fortunately I know the specs to my gear and shut him down instantly.  Next he tried selling me ROKR accessories - again "not the same thing dude".  Finally I was told to go to the Apple store - or else find something and they'll special order it for me.

So now I'm stuck with having to buy a new set of ear-buds.  In my opinion they're designed to be disposable.  At $29 they must have the highest profit margin of anything sold in the Apple store.

Having read MAKE magazine a lot recently - I am tempted to build my own and to post it as a weekend project.  I'm thinking some really high-end headphones & a decent microphone grafted together might really help me out this snowboarding season.  If I plan it right, and add another connector, I can provide an instant soundtrack to my helmet-cam too... More on that to come...  First I have a trip to Las Vegas coming up - so I'm thinking more about Baccarat & Hunter S. Thompson trivia than schematics at the moment.