Developer. Gamer. Yo-Yo Thrower.

Control Tech or It Controls You

There are two types of people in the world today: People who control technology and people who let technology control them. Rarely is there a middle ground. The gap between the two is ever widening because there is a good amount of money out there for companies that want to control your whole computing experience. Sadly, the people who control technology are far fewer in number than the number of people who let technology control them.

The most prominent example of this phenomenon is with cell phones. The iPhone has such a dominant grasp on our culture so many things are glossed over in the name of marketing hype, peer pressure and nice aesthetics. It doesn’t even matter that the hardware powering the latest iteration of iPhone is roughly equivalent to last years Windows Mobile and Android devices – it’s already old technology! It’s using “new” features borrowed from the last version of Android, but yet continues to dominate the market. If you take a close look it’s not hard to ascertain why. It’s the same reason RIM has held on so long, a kind of technical ‘peer pressure’ (“Oh, you don’t have a BBM messenger PIN?”, “Oh, you can’t Facetime with me?”, “Why won’t you follow me on Instagram?”). Nevermind that all of these technical feats are available on every platform with different names – the fact that your friends have this particular flavour and you don’t is enough for 90% of people to go out and plunk down a whack of cash for out-of-date hardware bundled with secret police spies-on-you software (Claim it doesn’t all you want, but how can you ever really know what’s going on under the hood? Especially in light of recent NSA revelations).

The digital revolution is here (it has been for almost a decade), and it’s getting bigger – not just physically, but bigger parts of our whole lives in general. If people decide to remain technologically illiterate they will be left behind. Left behind not just in a “hard to find a job” sense, but things like: stuck paying (and re-paying) for videos/music locked with “Digital Rights Management” (DRM), forced to watch more ads, becoming a prisoner to whatever company you clicked “I Agree” with. Your ‘common’ hardware/software will be the ones most susceptible to attack (your wetware will also be more susceptible to phishing and other scams).

A friend of mine works at a large media conglomerate retail store and we were having a discussion about just how many people upgrade cell phones without fully knowing or understanding what it is they’re getting (or even why they need it). Not even wilfully either, I think some people just feel overwhelmed and almost desperate to keep up, so in an attempt to do so just go out and get what their friends have (knowing they can get ‘support’ from them easier than manuals/call-centers if they need it). This also led to people coming in to the store and asking about “the iPhone with the most gee-bees” – having no idea what a gigabyte is, what it does, or what having more means – just that higher numbers are “better”. These are the people who let technology control them, and it’s about 80% of people (that statistical data provided by The Institute of My Own Meandering Experiences).

I feel stuck. On the one hand, I want nothing more than to show these people the other options, to teach them how to choose properly. On the other hand, no one is interested in learning, things are expected to “just work” (a euphemism for “don’t ask me to troubleshoot problems”). I understand; people have priorities other than learning what SSL is, or what open source is, or what meta-data is — but these things are creeping farther and farther into our lives, are you really OK with not knowing? Are you OK just throwing money at a problem until it “just works” again (regardless if it’s done right)?

Free as in Freedom

Today is blackout day across the internet. Wikipedia is dark, Reddit is down, Google US has a big censored logo, and dozens of other sites are either dark or doing something to draw attention to the very scary PIPA and SOPA bills being considered in the United States. The bill has major ramifications for Canada, we’re already not seeing content because of the USA’s DCMA laws and the language in SOPA and PIPA make it clear that physical location of servers is important (for some reason) – even though Canadian sites might host purely Canadian content, if they are hosted in the USA (as many many sites are), they are to abide by the terms of SOPA and/or PIPA if passed. There’s TONS of information on this all around the internet today – go read it if you’re interested.
Read more…

Bitcoin – A Revolution in Currency Waiting to Happen

So I heard about Bitcoin a few months ago. I didn't pay much attention - it was on Reddit and I had a "Huh, that's kinda neat" moment and moved on with my day. Recently I've had the chance to take a closer look at this new e-currency - and seems to me that Bitcoin is something big - really really big. Like what the internet did to the publishing industry, or what torrents are doing to the record, movie and tv industries. That big, only with money.

It all sounded too good to be true. So I started playing. I setup my home PCs as miners and waited ... and waited ... and waited. It turns out that even with my beefy hardware, since I was mining alone I was probably going to be waiting months and months before I mined a single block (mining happens in "blocks" - 1 block = 50 Bitcoins). I did some reading and found that people are pooling their hardware together to make massive computing grids, that earn blocks fairly frequently and then distribute the 50 Bitcoins among the participants for that block evenly depending on how much power you've put in. I also found out that gamer graphics cards are tremendously better at mining than CPUs. My i7-950 CPU (a pretty damned good and recent CPU) mines at about 5 million hashes/second. My AMD 5850 on the other hand mines at about 230 million hashes/second.
Using "slushs" (the handle of the guy who started it) mining pool and my GPU (plus spare CPU, cause why not?) I earned my first full Bitcoin in a little over 50 hours. At time of writing this is about $26CAD. Not bad for spare computing cycles.

The way I look at Bitcoin is that in order to fully understand it you have to really fully understand three different very complicated things: Economics, mathematics, and computer science. I understand most of the computer science, and a little of the math. I don't even pretend to understand the economics. I know it was been reviewed by some very smart people (com-sci and economics professors) and in addition since it's open source and no one has figured out how to game the system yet - I feel comfortable putting some faith into the Bitcoin economy. Am I ready to put my life savings into it yet? (like this guy) No, but I am going to invest a little - I mean who knows - in 2016 a single Bitcoin could be worth a few grand (or nothing, hah).

There's tons of great reading out there if you're interested. The WeUseCoins site is very informative and easy to read (no technical background needed). If you're interested in just what you can buy right now there's a great Bitcoin Wiki entry filled with places that accept Bitcoins. That same wiki has some technical articles mostly aimed at developers. It's also got a great FAQ/Myths section.

I'm personally very excited for Bitcoin, and I hope it takes off. I think banks and governments hold too much power in terms of economics and currency. Truly, a Bitcoin type economy is a free one.

Using Component Inputs for your HD? Not for long.

New ICT flags in Blu-ray discs will detect analog connections and downconvert to 540p forcing you to use copy-protected HDMI to get full HD.

If you use the “three colours” inputs for your blueray player you may be in for a bit of a surprise on some new blu-ray discs. Alarmist Hollywood douchebags think that “plugging the analog hole” will prevent piracy. Maybe no one told them that AACS (the encryption scheme used in blu-ray discs) has already been thoroughly cracked and broken. All this is going to do is annoy the hell out of legitimate paying consumers who just won’t understand why they have to get an HDMI cable.

More here.


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