iFixit – Very COOL!

While perusing my latest issue of Mother Jones today, I came across a great article about the iFixit website and the fix rather than replace movement.

Wow! What a refreshing idea; fix something rather than toss it in a landfill and purchase another. Who’d a-thunk it? Well, let me brief you younger folks on a bit of history…

Back in the Dark Ages… oh, say 25 years ago or so… we used to actually fix things. Yup. That’s right. When your dad’s Sony Walkman or mom’s Singer sewing machine stopped working for some reason, they’d take it into a shop where a repair person*, with actual knowledge of the device and real tools, would sit at a work bench and troubleshoot and fix the issue for them. Awesome, huh? Then, dad and mom would pay a small price (compared to the price of a replacement) and take their Walkman or sewing machine home for many more years of use and enjoyment.

Now, why did such a remarkably sensible solution to broken items go the way of the T-Rex? Well, it’s simple. Greed. Yup. That’s right. You youngsters may have heard me gripe about greed before. It’s an all-pervasive sickness in this world at the moment. I’m not here to bitch today, though. I’m here to tell you about a really cool website that might appeal to you tech nerds and geeks out there.

iFixit – it’s sorta’ like a Wikipedia for fixing stuff. Between this site and another old favorite of mine, How Stuff Works, you should be able to fix just about anything in your home, as long as you have the skills and can get the parts needed to do the fix. Fixing things yourself is rewarding. You feel you accomplished something. Wouldn’t it be cool to be able to fix that favorite old laptop of yours with the jammed up keyboard? You can do it. It could actually be rocket science, but hey… rockets aren’t that complicated. Really! ;)

Well, next time you play with your little iThing, think about the 11 year old Chinese girl who works 16 hour shifts in the factory that makes that thing. Think about the entire countrysides laid waste by the mining of rare earths to make that thing work. Think about all your friends and neighbors who would love a job in a factory that makes stuff instead of some dead-end job in a cubicle farm of some call center. When your iThing breaks, FIX IT! That’ll piss Apple off, huh? Heh-heh…

Later…

~Eric

*For 20+ years I was a component level electronics repair technician. That career no longer exists in the U.S. because very little is actually repaired here anymore. It’s a sad thing. :(

Image credits: Technician from clipartheaven.com.


Adobe/Google Backroom Boogie

Well, I don’t know who is bending over for whom, but there seems to be some strange bedfellow action going on here.

Gregg Keizer @ ComputerWorld writes:

Adobe today said that it would stop offering direct downloads of Flash Player for Linux, telling users to move to Google’s Chrome browser, which bundles Flash with its updates.

*Emphasis mine.

OK, well then… let me state my case plainly for Adobe: KISS MY ASS! You’ll NOT be dictating to me what/how I use my own equipment in my own home. I don’t think I’ll follow your orders to use Google Chrome. I happen to like Firefox, Opera, and Seamonkey. What’s that you say? No more Flash for me. Unless you figure out a way to disable my current Flash plugin, my Flash will be just fine.

Besides, there are open source alternatives out there. Ain’t it great?!

So, pardon me Adobe for being blunt here, but PISS OFF! And take your not-doing-any-evil-as-long-as-greed-doesn’t-count pal Google along with you.

There. I feel better now.

Later…

~Eric

Further reading: Adobe to Linux users: Get Chrome or forget Flash from ComputerWorld


Every Once In A While…

… I actually agree with something Richard Stallman had to say.

I was perusing my usual spots today and ran across an article on jalopnik.com regarding that annoying damned Check Engine light on your dashboard display. I’ve been ranting about the monopolization of the auto repair industry by the manufacturers for years now. Jason Torchinsky writes on Jalopnik about his war against the Check Engine light.

From the article Richard Stallman Weighs In On The Check Engine Light:

My fight against the check engine light still goes on, though, like an uncle with an extensive collection of pornography, I’m sure many of you were hoping I’d just keep it to myself. Well, like your pervy uncle, I won’t. I can’t. And, I’m not alone. Among the many emails I received, most suggesting I speak with my clergyperson, I received an email from Richard Stallman, the founder of the free software movement and the man who started the GNU/Linux operating system.

An email from Stallman himself! I’m impressed. Richard never emails me. :(

Jason goes on to quote Stallman:

I agree with you about the “Check engine” light, but that is a symptom of a broader and deeper problem: the owners of cars do not control, what the car’s computers do.  These computers are running _proprietary_ software, software that controls its users.

Jason asks:

So why should general drivers care?

Stallman responds in typical geek fashion with a bullet list:

1. So anyone can maintain the engine — including your choice of mechanic.

2. To protect against abusive features (see http://www.bostonreview.net/BR33.2/stallman.php).  In this case, hiding information from you.  With free software in that computer, people would make programs to give them more info than the Check Engine light gives.  And you could use them even if you don’t modify your car in any way.

RAH! RAH! Sir Richard! I couldn’t have said this better myself. For years now the automotive industry has been attempting to kill the independent parts and service industries in this country by forcing automobile owners to go directly to the dealers for any and all service/parts that might be needed. How have they done this? With PROPRIETARY TECHNOLOGY, PARTS, TOOLS, TRAINING, etc. That’s how.

Nowadays, you almost always have to go to a dealer for even the most minor repairs or parts. This has killed the mom/pop auto repair/parts business in this country. It’s GREED on the part of BIG AUTO that has driven this to its current state; costing many their small business, and/or employment. How have we let this happen? The same way we let all oppression happen; through ignorance and apathy.

New cars are great if you can afford the maintenance agreements. If not, you better trade-in and get a new one once that warranty is up. Of course, this is exactly what BIG AUTO wants you to do. Vicious circle, huh?

Have a great weekend!

~Eric

Image credits: check engine light from repairpal.com article - Understanding the Check Engine Light

Richard Stallman courtesy of Wikipedia.org


Google Wants YOU!

Well, they want ALL of your Internet usage data, anyway.

In yesterday’s news, stories were published all over the Internet regarding Google’s new upcoming NO-OPT-OUT Privacy Agreement due to hit the streets in early March. Google, in their ever widening, ever more frenetic feeding frenzy to control every bit of data on the Internet, has decided that they will now combine ALL of your data across all of their apps, that you are already so addicted to using, into one nice and easily (for them) accessible pile.

BIG BROOGLE, er… I mean Google will now be able to track your activity online from your Gmails to Auntie Em all the way to that stash of Uncle Bob’s tinfoil hat designs that you have sitting in your Picasa account. So, is that cool or what? Google is a giant seine net that scoops up every bit of cyber data that you so kindly make available to them on a daily basis. They use this data to ENRICH themselves, their shareholders, and their business partners. If you ain’t in any of those categories, you ain’t seeing any $ showing up in your bank accounts, even though it’s your data providing them with that money.

So, is there something wrong with making a buck? No, of course there isn’t. That’s the capitalist way, comrades. It’s what has made America China great! I don’t have an issue with companies and individuals making money. Hey! Money makes the world go ’round. Commerce is good. However, when you are forced to agree to terms by a bully in the schoolyard who takes your baloney sandwich that mom packed for you, well… that just ain’t right.

I’m not naive. I know that Google isn’t the first evil empire to do this stuff. There was Microsoft before them, forcing folks buying computers to use their OS… or at least pay for it. Once you got the system home, you could wipe that OS off the drive and put something good, like GNU/Linux on there. ;) You still had some choice, if you were knowledgeable enough and had the motivation. The sheeple just used Windows; just like the sheeple will continue to use Google. That’s the way of the world, I s’pose. Doesn’t mean I can’t bitch about it, though.

Choice is yours folks. Remember the saying, “If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.” Free minds, free knowledge, FREEDOM! Only the greedy feel the need to use profit/loss columns to determine something’s worth.

Later…

~Eric

Further reading:

Google announces privacy changes across products; users can’t opt outWashington Post Business

Google Privacy Police Change: How Does It Affect You? – International Business Times

Google’s Privacy Policy: A Wakeup Call, But That’s It - PCMagazine

Related article:

Google Won’t Pwn Me! - Nocturnal Slacker v1.0

Image credits: Google is watching you – ownership unknown. If you own the copyright to this image, contact the author to amend usage here.


Present Shock – Will Technology Destroy Us?

In 1970, Alvin Toffler wrote a book called Future Shock, wherein he speculates that we are being overwhelmed by the rapid changes in technology and society.

I was nine years old in 1970. We were guzzling .29 cent a gallon highly leaded gasoline and making calls on heavy bakelite rotary dialed telephones; many of us sharing party lines. Here we are a scant 40 years later and folks are walking around wearing phones in their ears or carrying around hand-held devices that only science fiction writers had the foresight to dream up back then. Where is this headed, and do we really want to go there as a species?

Technology is a wonderful thing, but like all wonderful things, men have a tendency to twist it to their own means. Einstein once said, “Technological progress is like an ax in the hands of a pathological criminal.” This reminds me of another great quote, from 1970, coincidentally: Pogo cartoonist Walt Kelly stated, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”  This is a blog about technology, or one specific area of it, anyway. Maybe this article will make you think a bit about this subject.

To me, technology, like a handgun, is neither good nor evil. It just is. What is good or evil depends on how it’s used. The human race has access to absolutely amazing things these days. We have an emerging noosphere in the form of the Internet. What I wonder about is how all this technology and knowledge will be used. What’s it going to be like in another 40 years or so? Will we still be here?

The Doomsday Clock was moved up a minute recently as a result of stalled nuclear arms reductions, unsafe nuclear power plants, and climate change. That’s the least of our troubles. While technology provides jobs, improves our lives, brings us pleasure, enables instant contact with each other; there are entities out there in the corporate word bleeding every shred of data from us to use for their own means.

Privacy? This is quite possibly a thing of the past. We like to think we still have our privacy, but the reality is that Big Bro and everyone else willing to pay for it can gain access to every tidbit of data about us out there right now. I read today that Google is now going to include G+ data into the search stream when folks go there to search for something. Hmm… I always knew G+ was a means to an end. There’s a saying going around these days regarding free online services. I don’t know who first said it, but it’s disturbingly accurate. “If you’re not paying for the product, you ARE the product.”

Where is this all heading?

Let’s talk about the medical field for a moment. We have pacemakers, manufactured joints, prostheses, etc. This form of technology is exploding at an amazing pace. In a few years, I wouldn’t doubt there there will be augmentations available similar to the ones in the game Deus Ex. I wrote a review of the latest game in that series earlier at Nocturnal Slacker v2.0. While the game is fun and the story is intriguing, the possibilities for abuse, as shown in that game, are terrifying. I’m 50 years old. I may still live to see something like this in the near future. Your grandkids will, for sure.

Speculating on the future is no one’s strong suit, really. It’s much too unpredictable because man is often an unpredictable animal. We’ll just have to wait and see. In the meantime, though, you can make a difference in how the future turns out by staying informed, choosing leaders who you believe will make the right decisions for our future as a species, and standing up for your rights. Don’t let the greedy few trample the lives of the rest of us.

I’ll close now before I start into a angry diatribe regarding unrestrained capitalism and greed.

Whoops! See what I mean? ;)

Later…

~Eric


Carla Schroder On the Cloud

This woman tells it like it is. Bravo, Carla!

Carla says:

The problem with all this cloud nonsense is it’s exactly that–nonsense. Hosted services are nothing new. What would be new and radical and transformative are attractive products reasonably-priced, and good customer service.

Hear! Hear! As most of my loyal readers know, I’m not fan of the cloud. It’s a large cistern of feces (for you less ejoomacated folks – a crock of shit). It’s just another way for some mega corp to bleed you of your hard earned $ by teasing you with wonderful cloud services. Yeah… right.

Carla speaks about cloud security:

Not only that, but is there anyone who can claim bragging rights to good security, and protecting customer’s data from intrusions? Anyone?

HAHA! Yeah… sure. It’s secure. Just trust us with all yer data. We’ll take care of it fer ya’. Yup! Remember Yuri?

Read the rest of Carla Schroder’s rant. It’s a good one.

Cloud this!

Later…

~Eric


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