Month: January 2010

Tech: Another gripe

So awhile back I ordered a Texas Instruments eZ430-Chronos-433 sports watch development kit. That 433 at the end, it’s the frequency in MHz. 433MHz falls right in the amateur radio 70cm band. I told TI I hold a valid license for operation in the amateur bands too.

I get a notice of backorder from a jobber firm, Harte Hanks. I reply that they can substitute the 866MHz unit but get no response. So here I go, don’t order from Texas Instruments. That is, unless you want your product back ordered or you don’t expect a response back from their order fulfillment house.

God Damn it Apple! Make sure it works before you push it out!

Dear Apple,

I’ve run into this problem with different pieces of Apple hardware. For example, I had a G3 Powerbook that had the version before Snow Leopard. The damned thing would NOT connect to an 802.11g router.

Now it’s my iPod Touch running v3.1.2 of the iPhoneOS software. I have a few nits to pick.

When you pushed the latest update to 3.1.2 you broke the genius functionality. Pressing genius simply blows you back to the home screen. Nice going, did you even bother to test this before you shipped it?

And lets not even get into the failure of bluetooth support for Motorola S9 earphones. I can use the play/pause and volume controls but the damned Touch doesn’t support the track select either, or even the phone button. I do run Fring on my Touch and would love to be able to use the S9’s with it. It would be nice if you fucking geniuses (And I’m talking to you Mr. Jobs) would build functionality in instead of crippling it and then charging for a feature enhancement that has been inherent in the devices (Bluetooth ring a bell?)

And another gripe, the shit ass headphone jack on the 2nd gen Touch. It sucks. Fails after about a year of plugging/unplugging. And I’ll be damned if I’m going to shell $45 to Apple to just put the same damned thing back in. I’ll hack it to extract audio from the dock pins thank you very much.

And do I have to mention the Flash debacle? You’re pretty much the only mobile device that DOESN’T support Flash. You’ve hemmed and hawwed about resources, etc. I don’t give a fuck about your cries, send it out and let us decide if we want to use it or not. I find it interesting that you can play flash based YouTube videos just fine, so what gives?

And DRM, walk away from it. Seriously, walk away. Your iPad is dead on arrival due to two factors. Number one is that the biggest group that uses touch screens is the medical profession. And the DRM restrictions on the iPad, I suspect you’ll be shoveling this little lovely into landfills (Apple Lisa anyone?) before long. It’s been proven time and again that DRM laden devices meet with consumer resistance. We don’t want to be told HOW and WHEN we can play music or read books.

If it weren’t for the fact that I consider the iPod the best music player out there I’d he hard pressed not to buy another one in a few years. But you need to listen to your technically savvy users and do the right thing.

My video take on the Prop 8 case

I should also mention, if for example the appeals court and the US Supreme Court were to refuse the case I suppose they could attempt a constitutional amendment in the U.S. But that’s a high bar:

The Amendment Process

There are essentially two ways spelled out in the Constitution for how to propose an amendment. One has never been used.

The first method is for a bill to pass both houses of the legislature, by a two-thirds majority in each. Once the bill has passed both houses, it goes on to the states. This is the route taken by all current amendments. Because of some long outstanding amendments, such as the 27th, Congress will normally put a time limit (typically seven years) for the bill to be approved as an amendment (for example, see the 21st and 22nd).

The second method prescribed is for a Constitutional Convention to be called by two-thirds of the legislatures of the States, and for that Convention to propose one or more amendments. These amendments are then sent to the states to be approved by three-fourths of the legislatures or conventions. This route has never been taken, and there is discussion in political science circles about just how such a convention would be convened, and what kind of changes it would bring about.

Regardless of which of the two proposal routes is taken, the amendment must be ratified, or approved, by three-fourths of states. There are two ways to do this, too. The text of the amendment may specify whether the bill must be passed by the state legislatures or by a state convention. See the Ratification Convention Page for a discussion of the make up of a convention. Amendments are sent to the legislatures of the states by default. Only one amendment, the 21st, specified a convention. In any case, passage by the legislature or convention is by simple majority.

The Constitution, then, spells out four paths for an amendment:

* Proposal by convention of states, ratification by state conventions (never used)
* Proposal by convention of states, ratification by state legislatures (never used)
* Proposal by Congress, ratification by state conventions (used once)
* Proposal by Congress, ratification by state legislatures (used all other times)

It is interesting to note that at no point does the President have a role in the formal amendment process (though he would be free to make his opinion known). He cannot veto an amendment proposal, nor a ratification. This point is clear in Article 5, and was reaffirmed by the Supreme Court in Hollingsworth v Virginia (3 US 378 [1798]):

The negative of the President applies only to the ordinary cases of legislation: He has nothing to do with the proposition, or adoption, of amendments to the Constitution.

A Mouse in the House

Last night Angie the cat was intently watching for something under the work table in the kitchen. I snooped and though I too saw something mouse like moving there.

So today I’m about to do dishes and out of the corner of my eye I see it. The mouse. Angie is freaking out.

Right now I’ve got a trap down baited with peanut butter. The little suckers just LOVE peanut butter. If that doesn’t work I’ve got some nice cheese in the fridge I can put in there.

Every time we get cold snaps, we get mice. Keyron used to get freaked by it but now he’s familiar with it. Live in a city and there are three pests you’ll always have, mice, rats and cockroaches. No rats or cockroaches thus far but definitely mice.

I’ll see what the trap digs up later tonight.

A thread on Reading

So I saw a thread on Polt’s Palace about reading.

I read a lot. I’m not really happy unless I have reading material. I follow over 100 blogs via RSS feeds, and those feeds range from Science Blogs (SciBlogs, Futurity) to Civil Rights (Prop8TrialTracker), all the way to personal blogs and social networking (Digg, Slashdot)

And here are some of my ebooks. Can you tell me what is out of place here? Hint, Adams.

My Ebooks
My Ebooks

Yes – I read. Right now I’m reading that Adams book “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency”

All because my friend Nick got me the Ultimate Hitchhikers Guide for Christmas. That re-ignited my love of the genius of Adams’ writing. So I went on my public libraries site and put the books on hold. Then I searched on bittorent and imagine my shock, it’s all there. So I cancelled the library holds and now I know where to get books in digital form. I’m loving it.

Moving a Senator to Support Marriage Equality: Another thing to love about Rhode Island

This is a marriage equality post but it also brings out what I’ve often said about moving marriage equality forward in the state. Your reps and senators are human, just like you. As such they shop in the same places, live in your district, in short they are your neighbors.

So this evening I had an opportunity to stop at the Walgreen’s store on Atwells Ave, in Providence. As I’m coming out I had to do a double take but there he was, my state Senator Paul V. Jabour scraping dog crap off the bottom of his shoe.

Being an opportunist I stopped by and said “Senator, I think we need a pooper scooper law in the state or the city.”. He laughed. I went on to tell him I wanted to talk to him about marriage equality. He’s on board. But he said something very interesting.

A lot of senators are scared to do anything with the amount of voter outrage that is out there right now. I told him that I’ve been suggesting that we in the marriage equality camp need to encourage our legislators and explained to him that in his district alone there are close to 400 supporters of full equality and that the area in general was pretty much the gay central of Providence.

He also let slip that Sen. Rhoda Perry is holding the equality bill which surprise the hell out of me. I think she needs to be convinced that she won’t suffer at the ballot box for moving this bill forward.

It almost appears as though we have enough support in both the house and senate to move this with a veto proof majority but everyone is terrified of it. We need to assuage their fears. One hand washes the other. If they support us, we help out on their campaigns, not that many of us haven’t already been doing that.

But we really need to put on the full court press if we want marriage equality in RI in 2010.

Pondering Perry v. Schwarzenegger

I’ve been watching the transcripts from the trial and a few things become very clear.

The team of Olson and Boies and all their associate counsels, as well as their expert witnesses have done a wonderful job so far of establishing that religious animus was behind the Proposition 8 vote. They are also doing a great job of proving that being LGBT does in fact put one in a suspect class, that we don’t have the political or economic power the opposition posits that we do have. This means that it would behoove the judge in this case to apply a strict scrutiny standard.

Strict scrutiny is a more difficult obstacle for the defendants.

Another thing that is becoming apparent is that the counsel for the defendants will pull out any dirty trick they can in order to impeach the credibility of the plaintiff witnesses. Using outdated reports and publications, using single source studies, etc. The questions posed by defense counsel are very snippy and it becoming clear that the line of questioning is very irritating to Judge Walker.

And todays testimony by Bill Tam was interesting. Tam seems to have very selective memory of what his role in the whole Prop 8 battler was at the time.

I’m reading the transcripts with a certain amount of anticipation. When even two of the defenses star witnesses make the case against Prop 8 in their depositions, you know the Prop 8 proponents aka the defense is in trouble.

The Encouragment of Stupidty in the U.S.

I’m getting increasingly concerned about the ignorance regarding electronic hobbyists in this country.

Recently it was this, where an 11 year old created a home made motion detector. Said detector caused a complete evacuation of the school.

I’m hoping someone posts pictures of the device soon. That the police actually x-rayed it leads me to believe that someone needs to have their heads examined.

It’s in a school of all things. Someone in the school must teach a science class and would know about electronics. But nobody thought to think first. Instead they used a knee jerk reaction, cost the community a large amount of money, and in the end it was a simple electronic device. Hell, you could put one together with a photocell and a comparator that can detect changes in light levels and then activate a trigger.

That 11 year old needs to be nurtured and encouraged. We need more electronic engineers in this country.

But we’re seeing a decline in people who cannot distinguish that the devices they use wouldn’t be possible without the advanced engineering that has come about due to training a generation in the art and science of electronics.

I suppose I’d be classed a terrorist threat because I solder together electronic devices:

Bare Bones Baord
Bare Bones Board
Parts arrayed
Parts arrayed

Is this tool deadly? It could be said that yes it is deadly since at 900F it’ll burn through tissue and cauterize any blood vessels you happen to hit. But I use it for soldering, which is the otherwise known act of utilizing heat to alloy different metals to produce a strong bond. BTW, this soldering station with all the attachments (Different tips, replacement handle and tweezer iron comes to < $100 at MPJA.)

Soldering Station
Soldering Station

It’s the dumbing down of America and it saddens me. You know I recently did the program review at a local Career and Technical School. And you know what struck me, there isn’t an electronics program. Even at my Catholic high school in the early 1980’s they at least offered electronics courses.

But this whole episode of involving the police is ridiculous. And of course the police aren’t the brightest bulbs either. But then as I’ve said before, as a rule they don’t recruit for brains, they recruit for those who can be trained and who will stay in the job for long enough to recoup the investment in training.

We need thinking people teaching the children in our schools, we need thinking people doing law enforcement, in essence let us stop dumbing down America because in the long run we’ll all suffer for it.

The week in review

So this week was once again fairly eventful. To begin, Mayor David Cicilline of Providence holds these little “Meet with the Mayor” events throughout the city on a regular basis. You sign up and get ten minutes with the mayor. So when I got the email that he’d be in the neighborhood on Tuesday I had to go and see him.

I talked to him about two things. The first is the cities move to consolidate departments into one building. The requirements are pretty hefty so I suggested some of the development in the Olneyville section of the city. I suggested that since RIPTA is starting to move toward streetcars, this would be a natural place to anchor city offices. The mayor thought that was a good idea.

The second thing was snow removal. According to the mayor they’ve tried gentle warnings to no avail. I explained that they had the stones to enforce the recycling regulations, and that since they privatized parking enforcement they could have them also enforce the sidewalk ordinances. I also suggested bumping the first fine to $100

The mayor mentions there are a lot of elderly but I countered that some of the biggest offenders were city and state owned properties. Put it this way, I know in my neighborhood even the elderly neighbors make god damned sure the sidewalks are down to pavement. The ones who don’t shovel their sidewalks tend to be absentee landlords or around parking lots. If they’ve got the money to live elsewhere maybe they could pay some kids $20 or $30 to clear sidewalks on their properties.

On Thursday I participated in yet another program review (Career and Technical Education or CTE) for the Rhode Island Department of Education. This time it was at the newly constructed Hanley Career and Technical school in Providence.

The facility is absolutely gorgeous! The whole group was around my age cohort and we pretty much all said that if schools looked like this when we were kids we probably wouldn’t ever want to leave.

Hanley isn’t the vocational school of yore either. Now you need to be up to the same academic levels as the rest of the city high schools in addition to your career or vocational classes. The school day runs 7:30AM to 3:30PM, a full eight hours.

They have trades and career paths such as electrical, hvac, building technologies, graphic communications, culinary, and cosmetology.

One thing that interested me is that they utilize a point system. The difference is their point system isn’t by nature punitive but motivational. You get points for attendance, for wearing a school shirt, etc. When you accumulate a certain number of points you can redeem them in a school store for bling like iPods, Sidekicks, etc.

And in the class we reviewed they use an interesting grading system for the assignments. You grade yourself, then you’re graded by peers and finally by the teacher. It turns out the kids are hardest on themselves.

This coming week has some things going on too. Tuesday I’m up in the Boston/Cambridge area for an interview. It’s an educational institution and this particular job is within a research unit. It’d be a change for me, last time I was in academia it was on the non-educational side.

Then of course we’ll have our weekly PEAC (Providence Equality Action Committee)
meeting that evening. It meets at the Bell Street Chapel (5 Bell St, Providence, RI 02909).

Wednesday it’s Providence Geeks. The featured company will be one we saw back in May that designs iPhone and Touch games. They’re coming back with more info.

Thursday Keyron and I meet with a client to discuss how to cram 10 people into about 600 square feet. He’ll handle the space planning while I’ll handle the telecom, networking and data side.

Food wise, it’s been a decidedly vegetarian streak this week. I made a big batch of salad and then I made spinach pies. Ok, the spinach pies have a half stick of pepperoni in them but I can’t do it. I can’t stop with the meat.

Some thoughts on the Prop 8 trial in CA

I’ve been pretty quiet about this because I wanted to observe enough to make some judgments of my own.

If you’d like to follow along, the Courage Campaing has a site called the Prop 8 Trial Tracker. If you’re an RSS freak like me, just click here and drag the address to your RSS reader.

Ok, here we go. This week we’ve seen a number of expert witnesses from our side. They range from economists, psychologists, sociologists, etc. It’s a pantheon of the human sciences and with some very heavy hitters.

Those who wish to keep Prop 8 valid bring up old data, old studies, old book revisions, etc. to try and discredit some of the expert witnesses and fail miserably at the task, to the point of ridicule by the courtroom, the judge or both!

Of course I cannot wait for their side to be the ones being grilled. We’ve already seen two of their witnesses decline to testify for fear of reprisal. I have two words for those people, fucking pussies!

Our side has the data and the logic. Their side has nothing but discredited and outdated ideas.