Logic’s Last Stand

May 15, 2010

Children Aren’t Your Props

Filed under: Life, Philosophy, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Zurahn @ 10:28 pm

In an e-mail exchange with Ryan Tate of Valleywag, Steve Jobs repeatedly referred to Apple’s platforms as providing freedom. “Freedom from programs that steal your private data,” he says, “Freedom from programs that trash your battery. Freedom from porn. Yup, freedom.”

Freedom is not from it is of. Freedom of expression, not from it. But that’s not what I’m writing about. Tate’s response included the line, “Porn is just fine! And I think my wife would agree.” Jobs added in a later e-mail,

“And you might care more about porn when you have kids…”

I have simply had enough of the world’s Helen Lovejoy complex. In school, teachers loved to use the word respect. How we should all have respect. I never could quite get a handle on what they meant exactly, but I can tell you this: it’s about time the world’s children were treated with some.

Children aren’t so frail as to be driven to delinquency by seeing a breast. They aren’t so mindless as to be turned into serial killers by playing a videogame. They aren’t so ignorant not to deserve the truth. And they aren’t so worthless as to be used for the sake of pushing a political agenda.

They aren’t your pets and they aren’t your props. Argue all you want about what causes harm, but include yourselves. We’re all people, and quit trying to pretend otherwise.


May 6, 2010

What is it, America?

Filed under: Life, Politics — Zurahn @ 10:28 pm

Okay, so it’s been more than a year now with Barack Obama as president of the United States. There have been some good things, such as making adjustments to the insane Bush-era corporate tax-breaks, some broken promises, such as a complete avoidance of the topic of Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell, and you can decide either way what you think. That said, the right has lost their minds.

There are always those on the far end of either side, yes, but brushing this off as equivalent fringe groups is an act of desperate equivocation. It is becoming increasingly evident that there is about 25% of the population that is so crushingly uneducated and simply put, dangerously stupid. Take for example, this video,

It has affected politics. It has affected media. It has affected education. It has affected diplomacy. When you have a quarter of the population who are completely controllable yet utterly insane, you’re going to have problems.

So, for those who want to know. Obama is not a socialist, he’s not even liberal. The only thing killing America is the systematic undermining of the American science curriculum. And if you don’t want your tax dollars to go toward public health care because you trust the government less than corporations running it for a profit? You’re merely stupid. If you don’t want your tax dollars to go toward public health care because you don’t want to “pay for someone else’s problem” you’re a sociopath.

It’s the job of the still mentally competent to disparage those whose political opinion can be summarized into the words socialist, freedom, Jesus and guns for the harm they cause. It’s not a valid opinion to state talking points which are factually wrong. It’s not a valid position to state unsupported nonsense without backing. And it’s not a valid position that when the other side wins an election, it’s tyranny.

August 4, 2009

Blaspheming Freedom

Filed under: Life, Philosophy, Politics — Zurahn @ 1:25 am

On July 23, Ireland passed the proposed blasphemy law that makes it a crime to blaspheme, punishable by a fine up to the equivalent of ~$35,000 USD. This is an affront not only to personal freedoms, but to the expression of ideas and transmission of information. Knowledge itself is blasphemous to religion.

So, dear Interwebs, let’s do our part. Ireland is apparently out in terms of blasphemy, so we’re going to have to pick up the slack. Please make your way to the blasphemy thread and make the world a more offensive–and free–place:


Seriously, don’t hold back now.

June 24, 2009

I Didn’t Pay to See a Commercial

Filed under: Computers, Gaming, Life, Movies, Music, Philosophy, Politics — Tags: , , , — Zurahn @ 12:50 am

An often ignored aspect of the “piracy” issue, at least on the side of strict intellectual copyright laws, is the matter of quality. The traditional concept of “pirated” media is that they’re cheap, low-quality versions. Poor quality and a hassle. Well, perhaps once true, this hardly the case anymore, and the shared versions over the Internet are a significant problem for traditional media because the quality is in fact better.

When you have a better product, it’s easier to charge more. If you have the same product, you can still get the sale based out of guilt and implicit morality. When your product is worse than what’s free, you’re a lost cause.

Put in a DVD and you are treated to a series of advertisements showing off the publisher of the content. Choose to play the content, and you then get the honour of sitting through the warning reminding you that you can get a free version without all this crap, except you shouldn’t. Try and play it in your DVD drive, hopefully the CSS decryption software can manage to work its way past that anti-copying DRM that clearly works so well.

This extends to videogames as well. How long does it take just to get to the title screen? Is it entirely necessary to tell me everytime I put in the game to whom the developer outsourced the cinematics? You’ve already gotten my money for this product; don’t make me less likely to do the same in the future.

The FBI warning is ironically an advertisement unto itself for why it’s beneficial to act against it.

May 24, 2009

This Is My Country

Filed under: Computers, Freeware, Life, Movies, Music, Philosophy, Politics — Zurahn @ 1:28 am

I live on the border to the United States of America. A place where the people love their country almost as much as they love hearing themselves say as much. It’s one of those indisputable, inarguable truths that would otherwise be unfathomable to be without, equivalent to the love of one’s mother. Well then, what does this lowly, despondent introvert think of his obnoxious, overbearing extroverted nation? While it’s nice to feel in a superior position to the boisterous Americans, I can’t say the need for patriotism is quite so onerous on me. Call it ambivalence, if you like.

But that’s not to say I’m in no way patriotic. At least, not when taken in the spirit of the word, and not necessarily in the direct literal sense of a recognized state. My country is one without borders, without limits. In the truest sense of the word it is by the people and for the people. My country is the Internet.

In every way as one would dictate their emphatic devotion to his community, so can you place that within my own digital world. In the physical world I am very liberal, but in the virtual world I am libertarian bordering on anarchist. The Internet is the last true bastion of freedom the world over, and I won’t–I can’t–give it up without a fight.

And there is a fight. It’s not in the news, it’s not on television. But it is happening. There’s propaganda in the news, yes, but not the real story, because there’s noone there to understand it. The terms net neutrality, piracy and the like are thrown around with no understanding, no actual reporting. Nobody cares.

For the better part of the year what little efforts the Internet community can manage with regard to politics here in Canada has been fighting off the Conservative push for bill C-61, termed the “Canadian DMCA”. A media-lobby push for legislating against their outdated and dying business model. How many members of parliament even know what a byte actually is? How many representatives have any idea what DNS even stands for? Without a basic understanding of how the Internet functions, they’re on a collision course to break one of the greatest achievements in human history.

It’s not just Canada, or the United States. It’s the world over. The Pirate Bay case is currently under review for the judge’s undisclosed membership to copyright lobbies. The judge appointed to review the case? Was removed for the same bias. This is in Sweden.

And no, it’s not just a matter of idiot politicians and lobbies. The Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have long since monopolized the market and are consequently abusing their power. Usenet support from Rogers was killed under the guise of protecting against child pornography. Bell Canada’s throttling is suffocating resellers as they’re effected as well. You get what you get, because that’s all you’ve got.

Meanwhile society as a whole is as ignorant as those in control. The Conficker worm has affected by rough estimates at least 10 million PCs. This is a worm that is only on Windows XP, transmits primarily via a long-since patched exploit in network sharing–which should be off–that should also just be blocked by Windows Firewall anyway, and would be completely nullified by passing the connection through a NAT router, which you should be doing anyway. There are services such as “Geek Squad” that costs more than buying a new computer, which is convenient since they can then can sell you that too. Your computer is not “broken” you just don’t know what you’re doing.

I’m running Linux as a desktop operating system. I wrote and maintain TheVGPress.com, which runs on the Apache Web Server and is coded in PHP 5 using a MySQL database. All of which have been developed and written over the Internet, are open-source and free for anyone to use. Freedom: It’s more than just a turn of phrase. It has meaning, and you can see it here.

This is my country; this is my world. My entertainment, my hobbies, interests, friends. My hopes, dreams, and aspirations.

All of it. It’s all in danger. In danger of ignorance, of corruption, of greed and profiteering. Morality and law are two entirely different things. While I wrote a series of pieces on the morality of the sharing of copyrighted materials, which in itself wasn’t one-sided, legally standing there is no argument. Arguing that, for example, downloading a song that a recording studio has the rights to is illegal threatens literally everything. You’ve now made the entire structure of the Internet invalid. I’ve gone on long enough; if you don’t understand how that last sentence is true, then that’s exactly the point. You don’t understand. Nobody in any sort of position to make a decision on what is right has any idea what right is.

Some may have a view of my country as a bit weird. What with the grammatically challenged cats, random videos, and a penchant for abhorrently graphic imagery. Well you’re close. We’re out of our damned minds. And that’s just the way we like it.

April 21, 2009

Enemies of Information 2

Filed under: Computers, Freeware, Life, Philosophy, Politics — Zurahn @ 11:31 pm

I’m not a fan of people saying stupid things. OK, I enjoy it a little, but that’s to hide the crushing depression. Though, because of a excessive need not to be wrong, I tend to laugh and move on. However, when you talk moron about tech, as seen in my last rant, I just can’t let that slide.

So enter CNBC, who has outdone themselves:

PC vs Mac: The Real Cost

In case you have a strong allergic reaction to BS, I can simplify this down to a single screenshot:

The Ultimate Stupid

Let’s just run through these.

1) Norton Antivirus $50/year

Avast Antivirus – $0/year. Also unneccessary. Also not a PC-only issue.

Multimedia Software $80-$104

[citation needed] VLC – $0, Windows Media Player is preinstalled in every system. So long as you’re going to be talking about Apple, QuickTime has a free version on Windows, however crappy. There’s also QuickTime Alternative.

Photoshop $140
What version of Photoshop are you getting for $140? Also in case you skipped the video, the jackass actually said this exact quote: “Photoshop–you get that with Apple, you don’t get that with a PC” In case it’s not obvious, that’s just flat wrong.

Paint.NET – $0, GIMP – $0

Video Editing $100
Windows Movie Maker is INCLUDED in Windows. VirtualDUB – $0.

Music Software $100
This guy is the worst shopper ever.

Windows Media Player is preinstalled in every system, Songbird – $0, iTunes – $0 FFS

Geek Squad Visit $129
Oh go to Hell

I know it’s gotten bad in the American media, but WTF? This is from a news channel. No sources, blatantly factually wrong information. I’m not sure what is less discomforting to think this is, either an utter and blatant propoganda piece either to manipulate the market or as having been bought off, or complete and total ignorance and incompetence.

Some additional choice quotes,

“Serious problem with viruses that you don’t have with a Mac”

Actually, you do have virii on a Mac. Most notably some trojans traversing bitTorrent. Macs still do have some security though obscurity to downplay the threat, but it has virtually nothing to do with OSX, and it’s not non-existing. PS: OSX has been the first to fall in Pwn2Own two years running. The exploit that won? The programmer already won last year so he had stopped, and saved the exploit for the entire year that it went unpatched and used it to win this year.

“If your PC breaks down–Macs tend not to”

IT’S THE SAME HARDWARE. PC hardware is heavily standardized, and Apple went to x86 architecture years ago, leaving behind the old hardware incompatibility brought by its use of PowerPC (for better or worse). It’s not impossible that Apple has better manufacturing that most PC manufacturers, but you’re going to have to substantiated that claim given all the lies prior.

“If your PC breaks down, you’re gonna wanna call the Geek Squad”

No you’re not. Aside from that, if your PC “breaks down” you’re not going to have a choice but to bring it into the store, in which case the diagnostic (which is the $129 price he quoted) is actually $69.99. Similarly, this doesn’t take into consideration manufacturer’s warranty–same as you’d get from Apple–which would cover you in a hardware failure. Lastly, if we’re talking outside of warranty, somehow I doubt Apple is going to have the better price.

“$699 PC in order to get it to perform like an Apple Mac, you’re talkin’ about something closer to $1500”

Add up every single thing on his stupid list and you’re still only at $1300, and that includes the Geek Squad diagnosis.

“Even if you’re looking at a $1500 PC, that’s still less expensive than an Apple Mac”

Last I checked, Macbooks start at $1300. iMacs from $1200. He has never mentioned specs.

BTW you don’t even know your freaking Shakespeare; it’s “The lady dost protest too much, methinks”

And finally, let’s cap off the stupid with one more list.

Citation Needed

You can pretty much sum this entirely up to [citation needed].

If you’re going to sink this low, you may as well just get opinions from random celebrities. At least then there’s the off-chance you might get some factual information.

February 15, 2009

Enemies of Information

Filed under: Computers, Philosophy, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Zurahn @ 8:53 pm

The Internet has very quickly gone from a niche hobby to a revolutionary worldwide connection of information and ideas.  We all started at different points when it comes to our exposure to it, leaving mixed feelings on its place and purpose.  At the heart of the direction of the Internet on every level, there are two diametric philosophies: politicization leading to corporatizing, proprietizing and homogenizing, versus the free software movement pushing toward transparency, collaboration, expression and freedom.

Whether it’s from simply the software side where GNU and Linux has been growing steadily in quality and marketshare both on the OS side and just free and open-source projects such as Audacity, GIMP, Firefox and many others thriving on Windows itself, or within the realm of legislation in the debate over net neutrality and the importance of the freedom and anonymity of web users and web content.

So, this story is par the course, but no less misinformed, misleading and downright wrong than any other on the side of enforcing the unenforcable on the Internet.

The first thing to note about the article is that the purported security risks relate not the structure of the Internet, but the passing of information itself.  It’s not that the Internet is insecure, it’s that Windows is insecure.  How many of those 12 million computers were running Linux?  There will never be a perfectly secure OS, but the point is that the vulnerabilities were in software, not distribution.  Hilariously, the article says Conficker succeed by “easily sidestepping the world’s best cyberdefenses.”

For one, the answer to my earlier question on Linux is zero, because Conficker is Windows-only.  Second, Conficker is a worm, which means it spreads by scanning ports then exploiting a service, in this case port 445 — a known malware hotspot that should unless absolutely necessary be blocked for all incoming traffic.  A single obvious firewall setting stops it easily, and merely passing your connection through a router at default settings will likely do the trick on its own.  World’s best?  It’s not impossible to run a secure Windows machine, just as it’s not impossible to infect a Mac.

The second important point is that their solution never once mentions security in terms of technology or programming.  Security by law enforcement is just absurd.  Perhaps a result of American self-absorbtion, but it always seems to be forgotten that the Internet is worldwide.  Good luck with that driver’s license methodology in stopping scams from Nigeria.

There are inherent security problems with the architecture of the Internet due to its initial roots, the article actually has that correct, but they are way off base in terms of what those weaknesses are.  The problems are the public protocols, which have been forced to be updated, the most obvious example being HTTP which was designed as plaintext, but due to security issues SSL encryption was built on-top.  Similarly, DNS has never exactly been the most immutable, hence the push for DNSSEC, a replacement with security in mind.

What’s holding DNSSEC up?  Most ISPs can’t handle the increased overhead.  Redesigning the Internet would do nothing to improve the stubborn western ISPs who have neglected investing in infrastructure and instead opted for milking the consumer as much as possible.

And ultimately, nomatter how you structure the Internet, you have to accept that fact that you can’t ignore the problem of the Dancing Pigs — most users are going to do what they want, security be damned.  This is inherently and necessarily an Operating System problem if anywhere.  The truth is, the underlying problem with security is not in protocol — the security in that is only supplementary, at least in terms of something along the lines of a worm or virus infection — but rather, PEBKAC, and nomatter what you do, that will forever and always be the case.

I can improve the security of how the user interfaces to the Internet by an order of magnitude by changing your login–don’t run as a super-user (Administrator) and that will severely cripple the vast majority of existing issues.  Sandbox to eliminate nearly everything else.  Add on continual improvement toward phishing and malware reporting in browsers themselves and we can do this.

Meanwhile the underlying philosophical concepts are just as harmful, with the article stating, “users would give up their anonymity and certain freedoms in return for safety.”  Who is it here that has not witnessed the incredible depletion of American freedoms under the guise of security and the devastating consequences?  Never more evident has it been the accuracy of Benjamin Franklin’s statement, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

The Internet is by necessity neutral and anonymous.  A cumulative database of all the knowledge of all of mankind available to every individual connected is already one of the most important progressions in history and can only become more essential with time.  Legislation and propaganda by those who know the least what they’re trying to undermine are not only ignorant, but treasonous; not to a nation, but to mankind.

February 12, 2009

Canadian Nationalism

Filed under: Philosophy, Politics — Tags: , , , — Zurahn @ 1:32 am

A news story hit the CBC tonight about a small New Brunswick school that removed the daily practice of the singing of O Canada (the national anthem). While interesting, that’s not what I consider the story here. The story are the comments on the news article. Flaming, pugilistic, racist, nationalist drivel.

The exact reason why the national anthem should not be played daily has nothing to do with political correctness with regard to its reference to God or its extremely mild male bias in phrasing, but rather blatant nationalistic indoctrination.

If you want to teach kids to be proud of Canada, how about instead of pounding “Stand on guard for thee” into their skulls, you teach them about the legally provided support of multiculturalism passed in 1971. How about the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that further stengthened prior rights by entrenching it in the Constitution itself in 1982. Perhaps even a nod to Vancouver consistently being considered one of, if not the most livable city? Push it all the way and even just the stereotype of Canadians being polite to a fault.

We take the values that, for better or worse, define Canada and throw them out the window at a pin drop. Rather than suggesting that perhaps if the anthem were that precious that it would arise on its own outside of school — that it’d have some purpose outside of daily brainwashing — an angry mob responds with “Go back to your own country.”

You know what? There’s one more Canadian value, which is anti-American sentiment. The United States is a melting pot; this concept is that of the Borg: assimilate. That multicultural law I mentioned earlier, which I consider the foundation of Canadian values, is the exact opposite. No matter who you are, what your culture or values, bring them with you. Enrich Canada with that culture, and that itself is what makes you Canadian.

The commenters are outraged about a song. I’m ashamed at how un-Canadian they have responded.

November 15, 2008

I Can’t Express the Stupidity

Filed under: Computers, Freeware, Philosophy, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Zurahn @ 5:38 pm

I spend an unimaginable amount of time on the computer; it’s just what I do. So whereas there are ultimately plenty of more important issues, it’s hard not to focus on the tech stories.

And here we have an amazingly absurd attack on Internet freedoms, programmer, client and just about everyone in contact with a computer’s freedoms courtesy of the Société civile des Producteurs de Phonogrammes en France (SPPF).

This group has taken upon itself to sue various US companies for copyright infringment. The usual fare of peer-to-peer clients are in tow, but the SPPF has managed to push these suits to a whole new level of crazy by including Sourceforge in the mix.

Sourceforge, for the unenlightened, is a massive repository of open-source projects; some big name projects from the site are Audacity, K-Meleon, Notepad++, 7-Zip, and of the reason for the suit, programs such as ShareAza.

There is here an attempt to extend legal discourse to the hosting of a project of a program that uses potentially can use to infringe on copyright. An explanation would be needed for the logic not to extend further to just directly suing Cisco, Seagate or the estate of Charles Babbage

But if only that was the only issue with the whole story. It appears that the basis for the lawsuit is a requisite for these programs to filter materials protected by copyright. We’re not even in poor logic anymore, we’ve officially reached impossible standards. That is not feasible, period.

Excuse me while I get started on my lawsuit against Dennis Ritchie, for creating the C Programming language, which was used to create PHP, which is the language used for MediaWiki, the framework used on Wikipedia, which hosts information about TCP/IP, facilitating the knowledge to create Internet connections used in every peer-to-peer software. Easy money.

November 5, 2008

No More Discrimination?

Filed under: Life, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Zurahn @ 11:27 am

The election of Barack Obama to the presidency of the United States was a big moment in American history, with pundits proudly stating that its proof of the country having put discrimination behind it.

Two steps forward, one step back, however. In the fervor over the presidential race, the several anti-homosexuality propositions have been forgotten.

Arizona Proposition 102, Ban on Gay Marriage
Passes: 56% to 44%

Arkansas Initiative 1, Ban on Gay Couples to Adopt Children
Passes: 57% to 43%

California Proposition 8, Ban on Gay Marriage
Passes: 52% to 48%

Florida Amendment 1, Ban on Gay Marriage
Passes: 62% to 38%

The elimination of slavery was the recognition that fundamental human rights, and personal rights outlined in the federal constitution could not be overridden by state constitutions. Yet, in the historic election of the first African-American president, we see state constitutions being amended to eliminate rights of minorities.

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