January 30, 2010

Control and the iPad

To paraphrase (myself): a boycott of the iPhone [is] the act of a responsible technology user. Annalee Newitz at io9, among many, many others [ Gizmodo | Mashable ] , has a long rant about the closed nature of the iPad in the article Why The iPad Is Crap Futurism. Newitz points out [t]he iPad has all the problems of television, with none of the benefits of computers. However, Newitz is not of the boycott ilk and instead suggests people... do something else?

I know a lot of otherwise-savvy consumers and hackers who are already drooling over the iPad and putting in their orders. They hate the idea of a restricted device, but they love the shiny-shiny. I'm not saying that they should deprive themselves of this pretty new toy. What I am saying is that this toy represents a crappy, pathetic future. It is no more revolutionary than those expensive, hot boots I bought at Fluevog, and only slightly more useful.

Mashable was more explicit:

You won't be able to drag and drop or share files with other computers like you can with your laptop on your home network. You won't be able to download a program or music file from the web and play it on the spot. You won't be able to use any application that doesn't meet Apple's strict approval guidelines.

And really, if consumers want a deficient-yet-wish-fulfilling device, tech pundits aren't going to stop them. Still, when someone asks you (oh, tech pundit) what specs they should look for in a new home computer or printer, what do you say? First of all, you steer them away from throwing their money away on inkjets. They may not listen and may only think of the $$$s they'll save buying a sleek looking HP DeskJet, but you would at least pass the knowledge along. As before, this necessary-yet-unheeded advice will be the same with the iPad, if a bit more philosophical. User control on the iPad, when included at all, is almost an afterthought. An appendix ready to be excised for it's absence of utility. Home computers gave us power through their mutability; Apple's new devices tell us we aren't responsible enough to install any applications we want. This may be the future of internet appliances, but it should not replace home computers.

With netbooks now nearly as powerful as full-sized laptops and costing < $300 (cf. a $500 iPad), it may be time to replace my humble 2-year-old first generation Asus Eee.

[ updated 1 Feb 2010 ]

The backlash backlash has begun with Gizmodo's article iPad Snivelers: Put Up or Shut Up. A poorly written rant against those who criticize the iPad saying, basically, that using other flawed hardware or software--along with failure to create your own hardware (no, I am not making this up)--bars you from complaining about the iPad's flaws. If this is the state of the art of Apple defenders, we critics should feel vindicated. The iPad is a platform that, if it dominated households, would have prevented the creation of the Firefox browser. How railing against such an environment can be called noxious ... childish ... defeatist is beyond me.

[ updated 2 Feb 2010 ]

Two more interesting takes (with further backlash backlash showing up in the comments). The iPad's Closed System: Sometimes I Hate Being Right at Popular Science questions the choice of iPhone OS over OSX, reemphasizing the gripes that Mashable had: [With OSX,] you can download and install any program you want. You can watch TV shows and movies from a variety or sources. You can purchase and listen to music however you prefer. Heck, you can poke around a file system. But you can't do any of this on the iPad. Google's Tablet versus Apple's iPad: Open versus Closed? at RWW goes further afield and examines how each is closed in different ways, offering a choice between the one that watches your activities everywhere on the web [Google] and the one that wants to control what the web even is [Apple]. However since Google's offering is not even an offering yet, much speculation is contained.

posted by sstrader at 10:43 AM in Home Network & Gadgets , Phones | tagged io9, iphone | permalink

January 28, 2010

Playing around with Google Maps when I should be jogging

I really need to start jogging again. My standard 4.5-mile route:

posted by sstrader at 4:33 PM in Personal | tagged jogging | permalink

January 24, 2010

Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission

Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission from Wikipedia is a good starting place and editing has pretty much settled down. Here are some links that are a bit, letussay, angry:

  • Money Isn't Speech and Corporations Aren't People from Slate - Argues against the ruling for corporate personhood. The author, David Kairys, discusses how and to what degrees money is speech and corporations are people. Furthermore, if speech can be reasonably limited, why can't corporate spending be so? The author also points to another article of his, Freedom of Speech I, where he outlines how much the free speech rights came from the work of labor unions in the 1930s and again in the 1960s (take from that as you will).
This Week in Crazy: Clarence Thomas http://salon.com/technology/how_the_world_works/2010/01/22/week_in_crazy_clarence_thomas wanted to eliminate transparency for any corporate political contributions The Court's Blow to Democracy http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/22/opinion/22fri1.html Supreme Court Decision on Campaign Finance http://www.kqed.org/epArchive/R201001251000 "corporations will give to incumbents" Obama says Supreme Court ruling allows foreign companies to spend money on politics http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2010/jan/26/barack-obama/obama-says-supreme-court-ruling-allows-foreign-com/
posted by sstrader at 10:08 PM in Politics | permalink

January 17, 2010

Xmas in Vegas

Lisa & I spent Xmas in Vegas from December 23rd to 27th. I should have documented the fun sooner.

Late flight Wednesday and check in at The Venetian with a late dinner at the Grand Lux Cafe where we got to scope out the gambling crowd. Great deal on the hotel made the four night stay cost about the same as the flight.


Thursday we rented a car and headed to Red Rock Canyon for hiking. All cars were taken except for a 15-person van, a Corvette, and a Nissan 350Z. Rental for the day cost about the same as the flight (slight exaggeration) so we decided on the 350Z. Sweet ride. RRC was around 18 miles outside of Las Vegas. Driving out of town was odd because there's no transition from city-to-non-city, but rather just an abrupt end to all buildings and you're immediately in the dessert. Once at the park, we took the scenic drive that looped through the region and stopped at several trails. There were many other visitors, but It wasn't too crowded. What I noticed most about the rock cliffs was that the viewer lost any sense of scale because of the vast patterns on the sandstone. What looked only 10s of meters away dropped much further in the distance as soon as we saw the dots of rock climbers. Brave, brave, rock climbers. Or, as soon as we saw the tiny dots of our shadow on the rocks below:

rock shadow rock shadow

Here we are frolicking:

her me

After the hike, we drove back into town and down to a casino in south Vegas to watch Avatar in 3D IMAX [ 3/5 | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ]. If you're planning on seeing this, definitely go the 3D route. It really is a beautiful film even if most of the characters, with the exception of the male lead, are lazily written, and the themes are a bit obvious. Flaws aside, it was definitely a cinema experience. I remember, however, that after the expansive beauty of Red Rock Canyon, I wasn't as wowed as many reviewers or at all "let down" by the bleakness of the real world in comparison. Although I can imagine how someone living in Detroit might feel otherwise.


Evening was dinner at Alize at the Top of the Palms. Beautiful view and a perfect meal.

Friday started with brunch at Payard Bistro at Caesar's Palace. Lisa had plans to go to the buffet at the Bellagio, but the line in was at least 100-people long (I don't think I'm exaggerating) and it looked rather kid-infested. Blech. Plan B a nice restaurant at Bellagio, but that would have been a 2 hour wait so I searched via Google Maps on my phone and found Payard's. Highly recommended! Small, very French, and the perfect quiet choice for Xmas brunch.


The bulk of the day was various shenanigans walking up and down the strip with what seemed like the entirety of the population of China, visiting the art gallery at the Bellagio, and taking the monorail to the new Las Vegas CityCenter. Along with Asians, the strip was filled with cast-off trading-card-sized leaflets of naked women on them. They stayed in Vegas. Dinner was at Enoteca San Marco back home at The Venetian. The restaurant was in the winding, two-story, indoor mall that had a faux-sky ceiling (see below) so I was expecting only average food but it was very good. They had an octopus, celery, and potato salad (weird, I know) that was outstanding.

boobs sky ceiling

Saturday we started with brunch at Bouchon in The Venetian. It was another French locale and an excellent meal. After, we were again in need of a rental car to get to Hoover Dam (having missed out on a group tour). The hotel Hertz Lady had, again, those same three cars and nothing else so we went online and rented one from a place at the airport. Taxi + rental fee (for a more humble Nissan Versa) was still less than what the 350Z would have cost.


It was a gray day going to see a megalithic, gray structure but still impressive. We wandered a little in the museum. Most interesting construction fact: they had to dig four tunnels through the canyon in order to divert the river while the dam was being constructed. Work on the tunnels took as much effort as constructing the dam itself!

danger dam

Return and dress up for an evening show of Zumanity at New York New York. It was a burlesque version of a Cirque du Soleil show with a 50s-style couple hosting and, along with twin corpulent stippers, playfully pestering members of the audience. There wasn't a bad seat in the theater, but we were sooo happy we weren't up front! Dinner after at Serrano in ARIA at CityCenter for Spanish tapas. We also met our waiter from Payard and Lisa discovered her New Favorite Drink: a Spanish dessert wine called Don PX Pedro Ximenez.


Short day Sunday wandering around one last time looking for gifts for the nieces but we couldn't agree on items that were both Las Vegassy and non-cheesey so ended up with nothing. Rats. Lazy flight home and another week of relaxing!

Continue reading "Xmas in Vegas"
posted by sstrader at 11:40 AM in Where was I? | tagged restaurant | permalink

January 14, 2010

Currently listening to

Almost a year ago, I got the itch to hear some orchestral song cycles and backburnered the task to find some recordings. It took this long. These are my first MP3 purchases from Amazon. The Mahler recording has a lot of distortion (at least, it does on my crappy PC speakers that otherwise sound "good enough"). The Canteloube and Glazunov don't have this problem. The Glazunov symphonies I picked up for free after Amazon gave me a $5 credit. Worth it even not-for-free.

Continue reading "Currently listening to"
posted by sstrader at 12:11 PM in Current Interests , Music | permalink

January 13, 2010

Three Stanislaw Lem novels

While speaking with a Russian co-worker about Tarkovsky's Solaris, we moved on to discussing Lem's novels. I'd read a few in high school, but only really remember The Cyberiad (which was adapted into an opera in 1970). Picked up these three and hope to eventually find a non-movie-branded copy of Solaris.

The Futurological Congress was a quick read and a darkly satiric anti-future taking society's dependence on mood-altering drugs to an absurd extreme. I'm halfway through Fiasco, a late work of his. It contains rhapsodic creativity along with somewhat hard science. Where The Futurological Congress has the rambling absurdity of The Cyberiad, Fiasco is more like Tarkovsky's moody Solaris.

Continue reading "Three Stanislaw Lem novels"
posted by sstrader at 2:12 PM in Current Interests , Language & Literature | permalink

January 8, 2010

Assault Girls

I'd first heard about the movie Assault Girls (Asaruto gâruzu) [ IMDB ] from a couple of io9 articles last year. Out on 19 December in Japan but no sign of it here except for the two stylish and trashy trailers. Looks like a lightweight story of giggly girl adventure on Arrakis; lush yet throwaway. Twitchfilm has a comprehensive review describing it as, ultimately, a flick for fans only with (much) more style than substance. Still, I'll be looking for a copy in the future. At ~65 minutes, it's too short for a feature, but maybe Plaza Theater will pick it up for a double-feature with Oshii's Avalon [ IMDB ].

The first clip is an 8-minute segment featuring one of the main characters and pretty much defines style over substance--with a Japanese wtf at the end.The second is the official trailer:

posted by sstrader at 5:27 PM in Cinema | tagged asian cinema, io9 | permalink

January 5, 2010

Singleton for Java

Abstract generic class to use when you need class-level singletons (i.e. everyone's favorite factory pattern):

public abstract class Singleton<T> {

	protected T t;

	protected abstract T init();

	public T get() {
		if (t == null) {
			t = init();
		return t;

	public void clear() {
		t = null;


Simple use:

public class MyClass {

	protected Singleton<MyResource> myResource = new Singleton() {

		protected MyResource init() {
			return new MyResource();


	public void doWork() {

posted by sstrader at 11:03 PM in Programming | permalink

January 4, 2010

Current home media options

Slashdot has an article on the state of media appliances for your home. Discussions on the following:

  • D-Link's BoxeeBox (repackaged Boxee machine) - streaming web content including Netflix, YouTube, and most anything else
  • Syabas' PopBox - Netflix
  • The Roku set-top box - Netflix
  • Samsung's BD-P1590 - CD/DVD/Blu-ray, Blockbuster, Netflix, YouTube, Pandora
  • PS3 - DVD/Blu-ray, Blockbuster, Netflix

My current media setup at home includes:

  • TiVo Series 2 - Amazon and Blockbuster rentals, includes new releases, from $1 to $6 each
  • Laptop - Netflix, Hulu, The Auteurs, and anything web-based
  • Oppo DVD player

When the Roku came out, I was intrigued (only $100!) but didn't really need it since my laptop acts as a universal client. And that seems to be the issue with the current round-up of devices: a laptop gives you everything. Considering the fact that Hulu is not yet supported on any of the above STB, I wouldn't hold my breath for sites like The Auteurs to be (and bittorrent is completely out). The only downside to a laptop is that using it is like watching TV circa 1970: no universal remote to start/stop/skip. Not so bad for 2-hour movies; annoying for a marathon of 44-minute episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Appliances make it more natural--Boxee being the most versatile--but compromises must be made for any of them.

posted by sstrader at 2:28 PM in Home Network & Gadgets | permalink

January 2, 2010

Today's reading list

  • Welcome to the out-of-control decade: We have seen the future, and it doesn't belong to you - More and more I'm considering a boycott of the iPhone the act of a responsible technology user. People stop using applications out of convenience if they are cumbersome. People stop using apps for moral reasons if they steal private information. Because Apple controls what software is allowed to be written for the iPhone, it is a closed hardware system where the owner is unable to install anything they might want. No one would ever produce a laptop that restricted users in such a manner; it would be met with the same abhorrence as an application stealing private information. I remember having an old iRiver MP3 player (256 MB!) that only allowed me to copy to it and not from it. MP3 players, despite the RIAA, have become more open. Will all personal devices start trending towards the closed system that Apple models? My comment on selling your privacy for convenience (a major theme in the young adult novel Feed): Something we think we want can give us what we want and yet still be destructive.
  • Separating Explosives from the Detonator - Bruce Schneier is vindicated for his longtime warnings of the US's flawed security theater: Only two things have made flying safer [since 9/11]: the reinforcement of cockpit doors, and the fact that passengers know now to resist hijackers. A round-up of his interviews after the fact. Commenting on how rare it is for a terrorist act hurt anyone (highway fatalities being a more serious threat), he says: A terrorist attack cannot possibly destroy our country's way of life; it's only our reaction to that attack that can do that kind of damage.
  • UPular mixed by Pogo [ via VOTD: POGO's UPular] - A fun and funky remix of scenes from UP. Made me want to watch the (wonderful) movie again.

  • Watch This: Skhizein, an Incredible Animated Short Film - Thoughtful animated short from France about a man who exists beside himself after being hit by a meteor. Beautiful.

    Skhizein (Jérémy Clapin,2008) from Bertie on Vimeo.

posted by sstrader at 11:53 AM in Phones , Today's reading list | tagged iphone | permalink