Friday, September 22, 2006

Website of the Week - Google News Archive

posted by Scott Roche

I love Google. Seems like every week they're coming out with a new feature. If you're a history buff you might dig this. It's the ability to search historical archives with the power of Google. Go here and you can do just that. It tells you in the results if you have to pay for the article or not. Once the articles are found you have a timeline on the left that gives you dates that can help narrow your search or you can limit it to listed periodicals. One day these folks will own the net in the way that M$ owns the desktop. Only not evil (I hope).

Thursday, September 21, 2006

For Those Who Came In Late

Posted by codemorse

A warm welcome to our new visitors coming to us from Unclaimed Territory and Gateway Pundit. If you've poked about, you've probably noticed that Codemorse tends to center around politics, entertainment and technology.

While I'm a self-described liberal, you'll find no partisan politicking here - just generalized bile. Although Jabawacefti, our resident conservative, is on hiatus you can find his posts easily in the "Best of Codemorse" section over there in the sidebar to your right. Be sure to check out Scott's daily tech postings - his latest on anti-virus software is a must for anyone with a home computer.

You're encouraged to contribute, comment and critique. Personal attacks, or intentional cruelty are not tolerated but short of that, anything goes.

Drop your partisan leotards at the door and jump right in.

Power Aides

Posted by codemorse

This is a posting from late July on the conservative site "Powerline", but Oliver Willis linked to it in one of his more recent posts, and I thought it was amusing enough to reproduce in part for you here.

From Powerline:

It must be very strange to be President Bush. A man of extraordinary vision and brilliance approaching to genius, he can't get anyone to notice. He is like a great painter or musician who is ahead of his time, and who unveils one masterpiece after another to a reception that, when not bored, is hostile.

Hyperbolic? Well, maybe.

No maybe there, fellas. That's definately hyperbole. And hilariously, saying that "maybe" it's hyperbole is, in fact, more hyperbole. It's like a hyperbole cake with hyperbole filling with creamy hyperbole on top.

What is this towering megalith of hyperbole in reference to? Why, President Bush's proposed carbon emission reduction program. A program that apparently will have no actual effect on the atmosphere, nor will it reverse global warming.

I doubt that the pact will make any difference to the earth's climate, which will be determined, as always, by variations in the energy emitted by the sun. But when the real cause of a phenomenon is inaccessible, it makes people feel better to tinker with something that they can control. get this straight....Bush is a genius because he's come up with a pact that won't make any difference to the planet, but will give people the illusion that our President has done something - despite the fact that by Powerline's own stated belief, he's actually doing nothing.

That's a very strange definition of genius.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Software Wednesday - AVG

posted by Scott Roche

I worked on my boss's computer this past weekend. Turns out he had a Trojan. No not the latex variety. A Trojan Horse in computer terms is a malicious program that is disguised as or embedded within legitimate software

What makes it worse is he had a brand new version of Norton AV which did not catch this bad boy. So he was being a responsible PC owner. What did your friendly neighborhood tech do? Well I installed AVG. It's a free antivirus software that absolutely rocks. It found and fixed the virus infested files. Unfortunately I had to end up reinstalling Windows, because the virus had corrupted a few very important files.

Point is, Trojans have to be run from an executable and if he'd had this instead of Norton it probably would have caught the virus before it infected his system. Remember that while generally you get what you pay for there is a HUGE movement of folks who want to put good, cheap/free software in your hands. Unfortunately there is also a large number of people who want you to pay them $65 (or more)for crappy software.

Grisoft also makes an antispyware package that you can get at the same link above.

It was only a matter of time...

posted by Scott Roche

Virgin Atlantic Airways is restricting the use of Apple and Dell laptops and their Sony-manufactured batteries on its flights. The restrictions are in response the August recalls of millions of batteries used in the two companies' notebook computers due to a risk of overheating and fire, and it affects owners of Inspirons, Lattitudes, iBooks, PowerBooks, MacBooks or MacBook Pros. Virgin will allow customers to use these laptops, but only with seat-side power supplies (if you're flying coach, too bad). The batteries must be wrapped and confined to the owners carry-on luggage and kept separate from the computer. Korean Air recently imposed similar restrictions on laptops using Sony batteries. Virgin said they'd lift the restrictions "as soon as this safety issue is resolved." - source Wired

So no using laptops on Virgin. It's gotta be hard for the people checking bags to look for this. Every laptop's battery is in a different place. And no way can I see them limiting this to just those laptops. You're gonna have a lot of businessmen upgrade to avoid the hassle and so they can watch pr0...DVD's on those long trips. Good for the airline I guess.

On Vengeance

Posted by codemorse at Daily Kos - Reposted here.

From DailyKos:

[The approach is two-fold]....On one hand, hard sell the effectivness of torture techniques, while at the same time, the Bush administration soft peddles the techniques of torture as being as inconsequential as a military boot camp exercise or a harmless fraternity prank.

The GOP supporters of Mr. Bush are advocating that the President and Congress absolve themselves of any criminal responsibility for violating the Geneva Accords. The message the Bush administration is sending other nations is that the United States is free to pick and choose from the ala carte menu of torture violations banned by the Geneva Accords without withdrawing from the accords. Fully withdrawing from the Geneva Accords would place the United States on the blacklist of rogue nations who refuse to honor the accords.

Let's talk about a couple of those torture techniques that Rush Limbaugh refers to as "college pranks" ...Bush's proposed use of induced hypothermia involves subjecting the prisoner to exremely cold air temperatures aimed lowering the prisoner's body temperature.. The goal of induced hypothermia is to lower the body temperature of the prisoner enough to induce the severest of hypothermic symptoms without causing cardiac arrest.

Induced hypothermia is a technique of locking the prisoner into a walk-in freezer or refrigeration device in pitch black darkness and holding him there until the prisoner develops the following symptoms: inability to think or pay attention to events, confusion (some people don't realize they are affected), loss of judgment and reasoning, difficulty moving around or stumbling, feeling fearful, memory loss....

Would someone smarter than I please explain how the use of torture to procure information could be effective when the top symptoms of that torture include confusion, memory loss and the inability to think?

Sadly, I'm no pacifist. I wish I was. I want to believe that we can live in this world without resorting to violence - but I know all too well how effective and how enjoyable violence can be. All arguments about the "effectiveness" of torture aside, there's a darker part of the argument for torture that isn't being discussed, and it's important to acknowledge:

Torture is enjoyable for the torturer.

You can deny all you want, but human nature and thousands of years of civilization will call you a naive fool. Hurting people - especially when they've hurt you, either actually or in your perception - feels good. It gives you a rush, and unlike negotiations or accords, you don't need to engage in anything that might dampen your anger.

...And anger feels good, too.

Perhaps those in government advocating for the use of torture in violation of the Geneva accords are doing so out of a pragmatic desire to gain information. But the techniques being used seem almost designed to give us faulty, partial, or misleading information for our efforts.

When our methods of torture include techniques that would seem to automatically render information suspect and questionable, then the gathering of information is not that torture's primary objective.

The truth is that most people who advocate torture aren't doing so because they think it'll provide any useful information. They're advocating torture because its "deserved." They're advocating it, because it makes that base, primal, reptilian part of the brain (see: "The Lucifer Principle") that responds to vengeance lights up, Christmas Tree style.

And vengeance is an emotion everyone understands - You hurt me, and I'll hurt you. I'm sorry to say that I'm all-too-familiar with that line of reasoning. I've spent the better part of my life wrestling with the desire to toss my adopted morals to the side and just seek revenge. I haven't always succeeded.

So I understand the desire - I truly do. I just cannot condone or approve of it. Because as good as it feels to hurt someone, it fixes nothing. And what this country needs right now is to stop breaking things - either consciously or through lack of action (Iraq, New Orleans, Education, Healthcare, etc, et al) - and start fixing them, instead.

Malkin It Up As She Goes Along

Posted by codemorse

Glenn Greenwald once again uses common sense to battle the hypocrisy of "conservative" pundits. I recommend reading the entire post on his blog. It's that good.

From Unclaimed Territory:

Michelle Malkin is extremely upset because three convicted Christian terrorists in Indonesia are going to be executed despite -- in Michelle's words -- "grave doubts raised over the fairness of the trial." The title of her post is "Muslims will execute Christians" -- by which she means that the Government of a predominantly Muslim country will execute three defendants who happen to be Christian, because they also happen to have been convicted in a trial in an Indonesian court of law "of masterminding a massacre of 200 Muslims in Poso."Michelle favorably links to this article from Asia News which reports -- and I'm not making this up -- that the lawyers for the three convicted Terrorists:

'will take their case before the International Criminal Court in Geneva, as per a human rights convention ratified by Jakarta, to safeguard the three men’s right to life and to denounce irregularities of Indonesian trials.'

Michelle, and an equally outraged
Gateway Pundit (to whom she links), both provide contact information to protest on behalf of the Terrorists and to help those organizations trying to secure them a stay of execution and a new trial.

According to the article to which Michelle linked, the complaint is that the Terrorists "were convicted by a trial riddled with illegalities, like witnesses who were not listened to and evidence that was rejected by the court."

Wow -- a trial where the witnesses are not listened to and improper evidence was used. What kind of country would convict someone of terrorism using procedures like that? And what kind of disgusting barbarians would be opposed to having "the International Criminal Court in Geneva," pursuant to an international "human rights convention," demand greater legal protections for terrorists?

This post writes itself. For instance, I thought (from having
read Michelle's blog) that people who were concerned about due process for Terrorists are themselves pro-terrorists...

Except that the terrorists here are Christian. Which apparently makes all the difference in the world.

Yet another "wonderfully" illustrative example of how absurd the conservative War on Terror is. Had three Muslims conspired to mastermind the murder of 200 Christians, how do you think Ms. Malkin might have reacted?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Diebold! Die! (It's German, For "The bold! The!")

Posted by codemorse

From Daily Kos:

On Wednesday we did a live demo for our Princeton Computer Science colleagues of the vote-stealing software described in our paper and video. Afterward, Chris Tengi, a technical staff member, asked to look at the key that came with the voting machine. He noticed an alphanumeric code printed on the key, and remarked that he had a key at home with the same code on it. The next day he brought in his key and sure enough it opened the voting machine.

This seemed like a freakish coincidence -- until we learned how common these keys are.

Chris's key was left over from a previous job, maybe fifteen years ago. He said the key had opened either a file cabinet or the access panel on an old VAX computer. A little research revealed that the exact same key is used widely in office furniture, electronic equipment, jukeboxes, and hotel minibars.

It's a standard part, and like most standard parts it's easily purchased on the Internet. We bought several keys from an office furniture key shop -- they open the voting machine too. We ordered another key on eBay from a jukebox supply shop...

The future of democracy - any drunk with a minibar key can make a difference!

Good In "60" Seconds

"Studio 60," the new Aaron Sorkin show for NBC, is really good.

Having a Tivo has given me the ability to actually watch television shows other than "Lost" (I refuse to schedule my life around tv programming), and "Studio 60" is a gem. Any fan of Sorkin's West Wing or his much-loved Sports Night (both great shows, I'm told, but I never watched them) should tune in. Really, it's damn good.

Plus, it's got a guy I knew in college in it. Sure, he's in it for 30 seconds, and he's blurry - but he has lines! It's eerie and bizarre!

For those of you who care, here's my Tivo-enabled television viewing slate:

- The Daily Show
- The Colbert Report
- Lost
- Blade: The Series
- Supernatural
- The Henry Rollins Show
- Various History/Discovery channel shows

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Black Dahlia: A Review

Posted by codemorse

Watching "The Black Dahlia" is the cinematic equivalent of downing half a bottle of Jack Daniels, then chasing it with a quart of old, warm milk.

Rarely have I seen a film that fills itself up with promise, only to consciously deflate and castrate itself by the time the credits roll. If the experience weren't almost-agonizing to sit through, I'd recommend it as an exercise in the fickle nature of film.

"Dahlia" begins strongly, smartly, and engagingly - tracing the noirish friendship between two detectives in 1940's LA. It ends as a mess - a sodden, boring, exposition-laden tour of Hollywood idiocy and half-assedness.

There's no crime (pun entirely unintended) in having the central mystery of a film be a kind of McGuffin. The characters of Dwight and Lee are interesting enough to prop up that kind of film. The heightened "period" feeling of the film is fun to watch, in and of itself. But when your central mystery reveals itself to be an "Oscar-caliber" Scooby Doo episode, you've made a mistake.

That mistake is doubled when the various "twists" required to reach that Scooby Doo ending are packed into the final minutes of the film - in long and largely-incomphrehensible chunks of exposition that routinely and obscenely violate the "Show, don't tell" principle of movie-making.

Josh Hartnett is fine when he's required to be stoic. He's literally laughable when required to be passionate. Scarlett Johanssen continues to show that she's phenomenally attractive and marginally talented. And Aaron Eckhart's character belongs in a better, more interesting film.

In fact, the film's largest mistake is in its casting of its two leads. Hartnett cannot sell Noir despair or anger. He comes across as a petulent teenager who's had his bike taken away. Had the filmmakers simply switched their roles the film might have survived it's stupidly-concieved second half through the sheer force of Eckhart's charisma. As it is, the second that the older (better) actor leaves the screen - which he does, inexplicably and ridiculously, about half-way through the film - the entire enterprise begins to deflate on itself.

"The Black Dahlia" is packed with great actors. There are multiple "Hey! It's that guy!" moments. But all the acting-wattage in the world can't save a script that, faithful to the source or not, violates the First Commandment of studio filmmaking: Thou Shalt Be Entertaining.

Flip Flop Rockin'

Posted by codemorse

From the White House:

Q Thank you, Mr. President. Mr. President, former Secretary of State Colin Powell says the world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism. If a former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former Secretary of State feels this way, don't you think that Americans and the rest of the world are beginning to wonder whether you're following a flawed strategy?

THE PRESIDENT: If there's any comparison between the compassion and decency of the American people and the terrorist tactics of extremists, it's flawed logic. I simply can't accept that...

Well, that's a relief. Because accepting that would mean that you've totally misunderstood the question asked of you. Nevermind that Bush willfully misunderstands the question anyway. The reporter here is not asking about the comparison between the "compassion and decency of the American people and the terrorist tactics of extremists". He's asking about the specific strategy employed by our government. And he's asking it pretty damn clearly.

Q Mr. President, critics of your proposed bill on interrogation rules say there's another important test -- these critics include John McCain, who you've mentioned several times this morning -- and that test is this: If a CIA officer, paramilitary or special operations soldier from the United States were captured in Iran or North Korea, and they were roughed up, and those governments said, well, they were interrogated in accordance with our interpretation of the Geneva Conventions, and then they were put on trial and they were convicted based on secret evidence that they were not able to see, how would you react to that, as Commander-in-Chief?

THE PRESIDENT: David, my reaction is, is that if the nations such as those you named, adopted the standards within the Detainee Detention Act, the world would be better. That's my reaction. We're trying to clarify law. We're trying to set high standards, not ambiguous standards....Now, perhaps some in Congress don't think the program is important. That's fine. I don't know if they do or don't. I think it's vital, and I have the obligation to make sure that our professionals who I would ask to go conduct interrogations to find out what might be happening or who might be coming to this country, I got to give them the tools they need. And that is clear law.

Q But sir, this is an important point, and I think it depends --

THE PRESIDENT: The point I just made is the most important point.

Q Okay.

You question the President's God-given authority at your own peril, mortal! Kneel before Zod! It is President Zod's duty to provide clear and unambiguous standards! Standards so clearly unambiguous that you must possess Presidential clearance to review those standards! Standards so unambiguously clear that you cannot know anything about those standards, less the clarity and unambiguity be compromised!

Q: Thank you, Mr. President. Earlier this week, you told a group of journalists that you thought the idea of sending special forces to Pakistan to hunt down bin Laden was a strategy that would not work…recently you’ve also described bin Laden as a sort of modern day Hitler or Mussolini. And I’m wondering why, if you can explain why you think it’s a bad idea to send more resources to hunt down bin Laden, wherever he is?

THE PRESIDENT: Pakistan is a sovereign nation. In order for us to send thousands of troops into a sovereign nation, we’ve got to be invited by the government of Pakistan.

Well, that makes a lot of sense. Diplomatically, it might seriously piss some people off to simply rush into a middle-eastern country while ignoring the wishes of other nations. Except, we just did that. And except this (courtesy of This Modern World):

BUSH: America will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our country.

CHENEY: The United States will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our country.

Never! Except when it decides it will.

Kerry was the "flip-flopper"?