Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Google's Chromium Netbook: why?

Chromium OS - BrowserImage by okubax via FlickrThe CR-48, a prototype based on Google's Chromium OS, was released to select people. It is interesting experiment, but it seems to be ultimately pointless.

First, it's a "netbook" size item, so it's small enough to carry around, but it's NOT small enough to fit in a pocket. So you pretty much have to open it to use it.

Second, it virtually REQUIRES internet connection, WiFi or 3G. Apparently it will come with 100MB of 3G connectivity (through Verizon) free for 2 years or something.

Third, all the apps, storage, and so on are online. It just run web apps. It has virtually no internal storage. Everything is stored in the cloud.

So why does this thing even exist? Android can do web apps, and do it better, though it will probably need it in tablet form, not smartphone form.

Is it for people who HATE computers? People who hate computers won't touch it in ANY form. It's like making candy for sugar-phobics. Eeek.

It is fast to boot up, mostly foolproof, and much much simpler than a PC or Mac. So it is aimed at an audience that have NOT stepped up to a PC or Mac, but want Internet connectivity somehow. The question is, how big is that audience?
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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Wikileaks: really making government more accountable?

Logo used by WikileaksImage via WikipediaWikileaks supporters are claiming world-wide conspiracy to shut down Wikileaks for embarrassing governments worldwide. They claim we all should save Wikileaks because it is making governments more accountable.

But which governments needs to be held more accountable? Compared to hundreds of other governments and organizations, the US government is positively wide-open and transparent even BEFORE Wikileaks leaked out all this ****.

Everybody knows that when you attack a problem, you attack it where it does the most good, not where it do very little good.

For example, let's say there's a certain type of preventable accident that kills about 30 people a year, vs. 30000 people a year. Which type of accident should you try to really prevent, if it's about the same cost? The 30000 people kind, of course. Any one who go after the 30 people type will be ridiculed for being crazy and stupid.

Yet that's what Wikileaks is doing: making an already quite-open US government "accountable" when there are bazillion governments and agencies that NEEDS to be held accountable. Government in China, Iran, and so on needs some exposure. Who really makes the decisions there? What lead to those decisions? Who really ordered the Tiananmen Square massacre? What is the real GDP of China? Who really won the election in Iran? Who ordered the crackdown? What are the casualties during all those protests? Etc.

What Wikileaks really is: a media bully with delusion of gradeur.
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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Wikileaks: Does nothing useful except controversy

So called WikiLeaks and Julian Assange's efforts to leak huge amounts of US documents only serves to make US look bad, and does nothing really to help the situation.

While I agree that US must have accountability for its actions, much of the leaked documents only serves to embarrass US and allies, and  therefore, does not really improve the situation.

In fact, only Western countries would allow such leaks to continue. All the leaks do is destabilize the situation.

I'd be far more impressed if he managed to leak North Korea documents, or Iranian documents. As is, he's just a gossiper who managed to dig up some juicy stuff.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Another day, another "scam": Hexagonal Water Revitalizer

A local TV station is showing "Water Revitalizer" which supposedly produces a purer "hexagonal water" which is supposedly better for you. (in case you are in the SF Bay Area, it's on the ICN channel, I think it's 26-4 or something like that)

First of all, there is no such thing as hexagonal water. It's something invented by quacks as "pseudo-science" to explain the hexagonal shape crystals the water forms when it freezes, and claims if you can generate hexagonal water it's better for you. Why? Nobody can actually explain.

Chemically it's exactly the same as normal water. It doesn't go through any sort of filter or purification in this special pitcher. All it does, as far as I can tell, is it uses induction to 'spin' the water (kinda like that Nu Wave oven demo). How that generates hexagonal water? No ****ing clue.

Yet you can find one for sale on Amazon for $500 USD ?!?!?!  AND books that touts the supposedly benefits.

It's gotten so bad, even WIRED magazine have an article busting this scam.
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Friday, November 19, 2010

I *hate* idiots, I really do: the people defending Four Loko drinks

People "defending" Four Loko are claiming it's all politics when it comes to Four Loko, on how the government is a conspiracy to defend the big alcohol makers, and so on. Here's one such example, placed under "humor"

Four Loko is a malt liquor (12% alcohol), flavored with fruit so it tastes sort of like a juice drink, AND reinforced with caffeine (156 mg, about a cup of coffee), usually served cold and cheap.

This is a deadly combination, as the combo is designed to make you drink more.

1) Convenient package -- pop open a can and chug, no mixing required
2) Gives a heavy buzz... malt liquor is cheap and high alcohol content
3) Cold drinks in a can -- chug and chug some more, esp. with the fruity flavors
4) Stimulants keep you awake -- so you can chug some more

Before you know it, you have alcohol poisoning... severe overdose of alcohol, and a visit to the ER, or heaven.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Pharmanex scanner... money making machine or just a scam?

Nu Skin EnterprisesImage via Wikipedia
Just the other day I got an offer that some body is bring some sort of machine from UC (that's University of California) to do some sort of health scan for free. I was already skeptical.

So the machine arrived... It's about the size of two large shoes stacked on top of each other. It's labelled Pharmanex S2. There's a "blue-laser" on one end. I was supposed to wash my hands and have it scan me for my antioxidant levels.

I scored terrible, as I guesed I would. And I expected, the lady operating the machine started promoting some vitamins called Lifepak Nano. I thanked her and left, and pulled out my Moto Droid to look up the company.

There's plenty of information, but they all just copy each other. The gist is simple: Pharmanex is owned by NuSkin, the cosmetics MLM. (I am somewhat familiar with Nu Skin as my aunt was a distributor once upon a time)  Pharmanex "BioPhotonic" scanner is real.

What does it do? It supposedly scans your skin for presense of skin keratonids, an anti-oxidant. It supposedly is an accurate measure for your overall body antioxidant level, supposedly higher is better. And of course, their Lifepak Nano will help boost you antioxidant level, so suppose you take our supplements for a month, come back and get another scan, we guarantee your score will be better!

There's an itch in my brain that this starts to sound very scammy, as there is no third-party research in any sort of major review that supports the conclusions. Nothing on WebMD, Mayo Clinic, or such. Any such reviews are cited either from or the few places that have one of these machines.

The science is real... up to a point. Raman Spectroscopy is a way to scan tissue for presence of certain stuff. The original method was developed to scan for Lutein, that thing good for your eyes, without poking a needle into your eyeball and suck out some fluids.

The only test that supposedly proves this machine is useful is a study funded by Pharmanex itself in a clinical trial in China (2006?) on about 100 people. Supposedly 100 people get blood drawn AND skin tested by this scanner and there's a correlation between the levels of skin antioxidant and the blood antioxidant. However, this test had not been duplicated at all.

Furthermore there is no proof that high levels of antioxidant in your body is better for you.
Thus, this machine is basically a self-justifying proposition. This machine "proves" you need more vitamins.

You can probably get better score by just drinking a cup of carrot juice very day for 3 weeks.

So it's not a scam per se... The only thing they guarantee, that you'll score better on their machine, is absolutely true. Whether it will actually help your overall health, well, they did not make any promise about that at all. That would be illegal under FDA guidelines.
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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

China's new anti-ship missile is a paper-tiger

A while back Yahoo published this little story:

This is sensationalism, because they did not ask any REAL experts, or something who actually has a brain.

First of all, what exactly is Dong Feng 21? or "East Wind 21"? It is a "ballistic anti-ship missile".

Or to describe it... it goes up OUT of the atmosphere, like an ICBM, then dives at the the target at hypersonic speeds from above.

Sounds impressive, until you consider the problem of such an idea.

ICBM only works against FIXED targets... such as CITIES. Do you know why? Because once the warhead enters the atmosphere, it can no longer communicate. It is surrounded by ionized air caused by the re-entry. Every spacecraft suffers through this "blackout" period upon re-entry. No matter what the size. Which basically means once the weapon enters atmosphere, it is BLIND and can no longer make course corrections. It can MAKE some, but it would not know where to go. It may as well not make any. That way it cannot be jammed.

Which also means it is a sitting duck when coming back down through the atmopshere. And there's no disguising it. It's visible for hundred miles. You can't hide it. People will see you coming. 

Which basically means if the target moves, changes course once the missile enters the atmopshere, the missile is virtually GUARANTEED to miss, because it takes several minutes for the missile to come back through the atmosphere. 

Also, how is the missile going to get the course correction? From satellites. Yes, China has a series of radar satellites to keep track on things, and they can be used to keep tabs on the US CVBG... and perhaps, pass final target corrections to a DF-21. However, how many of those do China have?

You have to also keep in mind that a ballistic missile is visible for HUNDREDS of miles, as it reaches up, WAY UP, and there are plenty of satellites on ALL sides that are keeping track of any sort of ballistic launches.

Does China have anti-satellite capabilities? Yes, but so does the US. And any attempt at hitting the satellites is pretty much declaration of war.

So in conclusion, DF-21 is, at best, a one-shot weapon, and will never work again... sort of like the Al Qaeda attack against the US on 9/11, and that's the BEST case.

What's the worst case? It's a paper tiger that will never work, and is an empty threat.

Finally... consider this fact... Soviet Union had been working on how to kill US CVBG's for DECADES... until fall of Berlin Wall. They never bothered with a ASBM. Instead they just work on faster regular super-sonic anti-ship missiles... and better bombers.

And the physics around this problem has NOT changed. So, does China actually have a chance in making DF-21 work? Only against a FIXED target.  Maybe they can hit CVBG while it's in port in Japan, but they can sneak a nuke near the ship much easier.

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Friday, October 1, 2010

Stolen Valor Act ruled unconstitutional: thoughts and comments

Cover of "Stolen Valor: How the Vietnam G...Cover via Amazon
Recently, the "Stolen Valor Act" was declared unconstitutional by two US Circuit Court of Appeals. On one hand it makes sense, on the other hand such perps *should* be punished.

So what is the Stolen Valor Act? It is a law passed in 2005 that makes it a Federal crime to impersonate a US military veteran, wearing uniforms, displaying medals s/he never received, and so on. This was named after a book "Stolen Valor", which documented many "fake" veterans used their alleged service to reduce their prison sentence, obtain government benefits, and in general benefited from the misrepresentation.

The court basically ruled that First Amendment, i.e. right to free speech, means people have the right to lie and falsely claim things.

I find such logic troubling, but I understand where they are coming from. Government cannot pick and choose which speech to protect, unless they present clear and present danger to the public. The famous example is "yelling 'fire!' in a crowded theater, thus causing panic" is NOT free speech, because people are harmed. In the "stolen valor" cases, where fake veterans wear medals they were not entitled, the judge basically said there's no "victim". The veterans who have earned such medals can't be hurt by a few fakers.

Yet I find the logic troubling. While the real vets and medal winners are not hurt, the general public is hurt, if exposed to the fakes. On the other hand, it is not like a physical hurt, but more of betrayal, being lied to, and so on.

It is basically fraud, but more of a "reputation fraud". It is like padding one's resume, claiming school degree that doesn't exist, and so on. Wearing a medal automatically gives the wearer legitimacy, and claiming legitimacy where there is none is fraud. Just like claiming degree when it doesn't exist.

Who is hurt when one impersonates law enforcement? Depends on what the fake cop did, right? Yet impersonating an officer is automatically a crime, such as wearing a fake uniform and fake badge in public. It's only NOT a crime if you fully know it's a joke, such as acting out a fantasy, or a prank.

Yet military uniform and medals are NOT considered the same as police uniform and badge, at least in this regard. Fake veterans wearing fake medals committed no crime, yet their intention is clearly to deceive those around him/her.

Why should it NOT be a crime?
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About Whitman-gate, and what's wrong with the allegations

I am a skeptic, not into politics. I consider myself a moderate Republican (like our Governator) but that is not the reason I doubt the charges against Whitman. I see a lot of problems with these charges, and I'll list them.

* Since when does a HOUSEKEEPER get "mileage reimbursements"? Yet that is what Allred claims she will sue Whitman for "Nicky".

* $23 / hour for only 15 hours a week is a lot. How many hours did "Nicky" work and NOT get paid? Was there a log that can be somehow verified, or is this just a matter of single-sided claims?

* WHY is that letter in the hands of "Nicki"?

Whitman's explanation is that Dr. Marsh got the letter, glanced at it, decided that Nicki probably transposed a digit or two, so wrote a note and gave it to Nicki to take care of, and Nicki intentionally held the letter and never mailed it back, and nobody ever followed up. Marsh never thought of it again, never told his wife, and Nicki, having essentially "stole" the letter, kept quiet about it.

Allred's explanation is that Dr. Marsh read the letter, knew that Nicki is illegal, but decided to say nothing, and instead used the letter to blackmail her into working overtime without pay and generally feel like ****.

Nothing said by Allred so far contradicts Whitman's explanation, and it sounds perfectly reasonable to me, at least. They may have erred in not filling out the letter himself and returned it, but the explanation why is reasonable.

On the other hand, Allred's explanation does have a few holes... the biggest of which is that very letter she claims is evidence. If the March/Whitman household wish to "blackmail" Nicki into working for free, they would never have mentioned the letter. All they have to say is "I know you are illegal. I like you, so I won't call the INS. But I need you to work a couple more hours for free."  Why mention the letter at all? Why give the letter to Nicki to be kept as evidence?

The allegations make no sense, and as some papers have stated, this has every sign of being an "October Surprise": only revealed 30 days before the election to derail the Whitman campaign in the arena of publicity, with little facts to be had.
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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

WTF?! -- you may have seen the crash, but this guy was ON the scene

Watch the driver actually got ejected as the car broke apart, flew off, BOUNCED off the road, slid across THREE LANES of asphalt, landed 10 ft in front of the guy's car as he slid to a stop!

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Friday, August 20, 2010

Judicial Tyranny -- is there really such a thing?

A lot of conservatives, esp. Christian right-wing folks, such as Pat Buchanan, wrote that it is nothing less than "judicial tyranny", when Judge Walker overturned California's Prop 8, which banned "gay marriage".

But what exactly *is* judicial tyranny? Nobody is sure exactly. According to wikipedia entry, judicial tyranny can be traced back all the way to Thomas Jefferson, who lamented that a judge, who was often appointed for life, was able to exert his views upon the nation, even though the party that appointed him had long since faded from the scene. 

However, that is not how Pat Buchanan used the term. He is basically saying that the judge is defying will of the people. Since he's only one person, and there are bazillion votes in California that said yes to Prop 8, the judge had a tyranny over them.

Let is ignore the issue itself, which is controversial enough, and focus on the "idea" of judicial tyranny, and its cousin, "judicial activism", and its opposite, "judicial restraint".


I had previously wrote that any judge that seem to have acted against the "majority" is considered a "judicial activist". Apparently, a "judicial tyranny" is just an extreme form of "judicial activism", and if the judge simply rule for the majority, he acted with "judicial restraint".

But isn't an activist "good"? Activists are championing a cause, right? So why is "judicial activist" considered an epithet? Is that why they invented this new term "judicial tyranny"?

All laws are passed by the majority, are they not? And if the law is determined to conflict with the Constitution, the supreme law of the land, the "law" loses by default, correct? After all, it is the law of ALL US of A, not just California. US of A is a BIGGER majority than California, right?

Our Constitution is written so the three branches, judicial, executive, and legislative, can provide checks and balances upon each other (and states). So the judicial branch is expected to act against the legislative and executive branches if they get out of hand, and vice versa. If there was no judicial branch, Congress (legislative) can vote to get rid of all the Latinos, or Chinese, or whoever, and nobody will say anything about it. It is the "majority decision". But it can't be done, because it'd be unconstitutional, and the judicial branch will slap it down.

Judicial branch have the judges, and a judge's job is to interpret law, and if laws are in conflict, resolve the conflict, sometimes by making new interpretations, due to changing circumstances, at other times by striking down some or all provisions within the law. Judges are NOT supposed to care about "will of the people". Indeed, ALL laws reflect "will of the people", but some laws are stronger than others... such as the Constitution.

So does a judge have the power to overturn laws passed by the will of the people? Absolutely. It is given to them in the Constitution. And it is to protect your rights, so the majority can't abuse their power to take away your rights.

Thus, there is no such thing as judicial tyranny, or judicial activism.

What does that leave the people who is screaming "judicial tyranny"?

Sore losers.


Again, this analysis does NOT concern itself with the issues, but merely with the concept of judicial tyranny / judicial activism / judicial restraint. The label has been slapped on too many judges, as political epithets, when judges are apolotical (or at least, is supposed to be).

One more note: judge's influence on the laws are limited to what cases were brought before them, and most courts use random schedules to make sure nobody has an exclusive on certain types of cases.  So accusing them of activism, again, to me, is sour grapes.

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Sunday, August 8, 2010

RANT: Someone who knows just enough to be dangerous

Star Trek: The Next GenerationImage via Wikipedia
Kelly L. Ross wrote a paper called "fascist ideology of Star Trek". While he raised a few interesting points, he used all the wrong evidence to make his point, and it is this sort of "bad thinking" that I'd like to point out.

First, Ross claims ST:TNG is anti-religion. His evidence? One episode of ST:TNG.

"Such a story [TNG: Who Watches the Watchers?] is so blatantly hostile to theistic religion, that it is astonishing that it provoked neither comment nor protest. Perhaps the messages contained in science fiction television are simply not noticed."

Perhaps Ross failed to recall that 1) in the episode The Mintakans have no god (that we've seen), but are superstitious, until the main character got the incomplete mind wipe and decided "the Picard" is their god.  2) Liko was about to sacrifice Troi (disguised as a Mintakan), due to a storm which he believe "the Picard" had sent to demonstrate his anger. That was only averted when Picard returned to offer proof that he is mortal, not god. 

This episode is about trying to REPAIR the damage to Prime Directive. Picard is NOT a god, and refuse to be treated as one. The episode is NOT anti religion, but anti-belief-of-someone-who-is-not-god-as-god. Didn't one of the Ten Commandments read "Thou shall not worship false gods before me"? Mintakans are not prohibited from believing in god. Mintakans were just pursuaded to not worship Picard as god. If they choose to believe some other deity of their own creation, that is their choice to do so.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Interesting: does Circuit Court of Appeals even HAVE jurisdiction regarding AZ?

According to this article, a lawyer, based on direct reading of constitution, says that ANY lawsuit involving the state as a party must be filed with the SUPREME COURT, not Court of Appeals.

"Article III, Sec. 2, clause 2 [of US Constitution] says:
"In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction."

How can Eric Holder, the Attorney General of the US of A, not know this part of the US Constitution?

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Friday, July 23, 2010

RANT: when health Gestapos strike

Taco truck on Rainier Avenue, Columbia City, S...Image via Wikipedia
Health Gestapos are everywhere, and in the name of "healthy kids", they set their sights on... taco truck that no student even patronizes.

The story begins with a famous taco truck of San Francisco, the "Tonayense", is parked near a school. The problem with this fact: the truck was there first. Really. The school opened later.

So what's wrong with the taco truck parked near a school? It's actually against city law. Sometime in 2007, San Francisco city council passed a law prohibiting any "mobile food vendors" from selling food within 1500 ft of any school, to complete the "wellness policy" of schools, advocated by a "parents group".

(For comparison, most restraining orders against domestic abuser only require the abuser to stay 500 ft away from the victim)

So why was this policy in place? The advocacy group claims that 1) the mobile food vendors sell unhealthy food 2) it creates two classes of students: those that can afford to dine outside, and those who don't  3) it hurts the school cafeteria by depriving it of income.

The principal of the school in question had NO complaint about the taco truck at all. He eats there almost every day, and he had seen NO STUDENTS AT ALL. Several city papers also staked out the place. No students.

As for the claims... A1) The tacos and burritos and whatnot are no less healthy than any national fast food stores  A2) only seniors in the high school are allowed off campus for lunch, and almost all of them consider the taco truck too expensive  A3) San Francisco school policy for cafeteria is to feed EVERY student that comes through, whether they can pay or not, so cafeteria CANNOT be hurt by students eating elsewhere. It is not in the money earning business any way.

The taco truck was forced to move two blocks, but not before it raised a stink through a series of hearings, and many charges and counter-charges of misrepresentation, lies, and whatnot in public.

Much ado about nothing, I say.
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Saturday, July 10, 2010

D*** opportunists; looters in protest rallys

Any time there is some sort of a large protest rally, some opportunists and anarchists have to spoil the cause.

The Mehserle trial in Los Angeles returned an "involuntary manslaughter w/ gun enhancement" guilty verdict. So what happens in Oakland? A peaceful rally starting a 6PM allowed people to get out of downtown Oakland if they want to... And the supports and anarchists and looters to gather about. Once it gets dark (9PM) the mess started.

The threat is from all over. The anarchists are instigating incidents by cheering on and starting attacks on police. Oakland PD exercised considerable restraint when they retreated one block after another at about 7PM to establish perimeter around the area. However, when it's dark, the police are concentrating on the main group, trying to contain them to downtown, and picking up the instigators / anarchists whenever possible. Then the bands of looters started to appear... Groups of 6-10 wearing hooded sweatshirts (known as "hoodies") with the hood up rushed shoe stores, phone stores.. Nothing too expensive to require extensive alarm, but contains something desirable. TV cameras covered a Foot Locker getting looted, and the damn looters are brave enough to rush in EVEN WHEN SURROUNDED BY CAMERAS. One even got his hood up as he ran in.

Volunteers in downtown, armed with just cellphones and their voice, yelled at potential looters, most of whom when on to search for unobserved shops to loot. And other OPD units are on hand chasing down looters.

And the tally says it all: more than half arrested are NOT Oakland residents.
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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

RANT: Presenting opinions as facts

The MPAA's "Copy Protection Awareness Ico...Image via Wikipedia
When presenting information, it is VERY important not to present opinions as facts. It ruins the presenter's credibility otherwise. Yet you see people everything failing to separate facts from opinion, and tries to prove an opinion with more opinions. Here is one example:
"No. A [no]CD crack is not illegal. It's just a simpler way to play your games if the game requires you to have the CD in the drive every time you play. If the disk is scratched and isn't working properly, then it would be highly unfair to need to purchase the game all over again. [no]CD cracks just bypass a ridiculous, unneeded, annoying process.

CD cracks are available LEGALLY at"
-- larry.riverside, on Yahoo!Answers, in response to "Are no-CD cracks illegal?"
The problem here is out of the five sentences, there are no less than FOUR opinions, or hypothesis, when there should be only one, the hypothesis that the subsequent facts are supposed to prove or support. You can't prove an opinion with more opinions.

  • "CD cracks is not illegal" is the hypothesis and an opinion. That is what he's trying to prove.
  • "CD cracks makes your life simpler, so you don't have to insert the media every time" is a fact. 
  • "If you damage your CD media, you should not have to buy the media again" is an opinion. "Should" indicates an opinion.
  • "CD Crack just bypass an annoying process [copy protection]" is an opinion. If he had written "CD crack bypasses copy protection", that would be a fact.
  • "CD cracks are available legally at" is an opinion. If he had written "CD cracks are available at" that would be a fact.
The only fact presented, "CD crack makes your life simpler", does NOT support "CD cracks are not illegal". The two are not relevant. The fact does not prove the opinion. There is no "A, therefore B" causality.

In fact, if you rewrite the last two opinions as facts, by taking out the editorial adverbs, they do not support the hypothesis either.

"CD crack bypasses copy protection" does not prove "CD cracks are not illegal".

"CD cracks are available at" does not prove "CD cracks are not illegal".

Thus, the entire argument is a big FAIL.

I have to make one thing clear: this is NOT about the morality of noCD cracks. This is about LEGALITY of noCD cracks. The fact are simple: noCD cracks are in fact illegal, as they violate the "anti-circumvention" provisions of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. I think there are some circumstances where noCD cracks are justified, but that is an opinion, not a fact.

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Monday, June 21, 2010

China's labor class: doom for the existing government?

The labor class is supposed to be the backbone of any communist society, such as China. Yet, it seems that the labor class has always been the one being exploited in China. According to communists, only those doing honest labor, such as farmers and laborers are "good", and any sort of owner (store owner, land owner) are "bad". Yet the only way the current government earn money is by selling things, and that is mainly done by selling the labor of all the laborers to foreign companies. Foxconn is a Taiwanese company, making products to HP, Apple, and so on, using Chinese labor.

The problem with the idea is when the labor class gets tired of being exploited, you have a revolution. Can the government manage the tight-rope walk between exploiting its labor force / citizens, and convincing the outside companies to continue to invest money?
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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Stupid claims by Gaza activists

The Israeli raid of the so-called "freedom flotilla" trying to run the blockade was a PR disaster for Israel, but some of the accusations by the pro-Gaza activists are just way out of line. The activists have claimed everything from high-seas piracy to unprovoked attack and so on. When they use hyperbole like that, and press cover them, but does not reveal the truth, the media has succumbed to the "spin".

The truth is the flotilla had been warned multiple times they are sailing into an internationally announced blockade of a terrorist organization, Hamas. They were warned before they sailed, after they sailed, AND once again before they entered the blockade area. In fact, the Israelis offered to escort them to Israeli port where the goods can be transshipped to Gaza... after inspection.

The international law on blockade zones is actually pretty simple: if the ship knowingly sails into a blockade zone and/or suspected of carrying contraband, does NOT stop upon being challenged, and/or actively resists being stopped, the ship can be attacked. Frankly, the ship can be SUNK, legally. The Israeli commandos actually exercised considerably restraint as they beat back the the 60-100 metal bar wielding thugs without causing even MORE casualties, other than 9 of the thugs killed.

For what laws are in effect, read this:

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Arizona's "Safe Streets" act, i.e. SB1070 -- safe from court challenges

Do you know why Arizon's SB1070 (and its revisions) are safe from any court challenges from ACLU and other organizations?

In order to challenge a law in court, one must demonstrate that the law in question is in conflict with an existing law, and the conflict must be resolved by the court, who then must rule. The resolution can be a full overturn, or explain that there is no conflict, or anything in between. 

The primary approach expected to challenge SB1070 is the preemption argument. American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and some constitution law scholars claim that Arizona law is preempted by Federal immigration laws. The US Constitution specified that only Federal government may enact and enforce immigration laws, not the states. Thus, Arizona law is preempted by the Federal laws on immigration.

The secondary approach is the rights argument, specifically 14th Amendment, in that States shall pass no law abridging any citizen or lawful resident of their Federally guaranteed rights. Their argument would be that the normal citizen or legal resident rights are violated by SB1070, and therefore SB1070 must be repealed.
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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Do you know the terms KIRF and Shanzhai?

Let this article explain what is KIRF, shanzhai, and how they are affecting the Chinese economy.
China, with the recent Foxconn suicides, has garnered international attention and highlights it as a source of cheap labor to feed the world economy. However, China is also famous for being the clone factory of the world. People in China has no respect for "copyright", and this had lead to a ton of commercial friction between it and other companies and countries.

Microsoft recently is basically refusing to expand its operation in China, citing lack of intellectual property protection. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer stated recently that even though China has about 10-15% of global PC market, only 1% of Microsoft's revenue is coming from sales in China, when theoretically it should be proportional. Furthermore, Chinese government has recently announced a procurement policy that supposedly rewards "native innovation", which is interpreted as favoring "domestic clones" of foreign products. it was so alarming even US Secretary of Treasury Tim Geitner had to make a statement that he had talked to his counterpart in China and the policy will be modified and clarified.

Has China been turned into a country of cheap labor and clones? Let us check into the the phenomenon of KIRF, shanzhai, and the problem's roots.
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Friday, June 4, 2010

Chinese Joke about Osama Bin Laden... is it funny?

賓拉登說:中國是全球唯一絕對不能惹的國家! 阿拉伯半島電視臺對賓拉登的最新採訪。
Bin Laden said: China is the only country in the world should not be attacked! Arabian peninsula TV station interview revealed.

賓 拉登說:中國是全球唯一絕對不能惹的國家!
Bin Laden said: China is the only country in the world that should not be attacked!

This is the reason: Al Qaeda actually sent 8 terrorists to attack China. 

Result: one man tried to bomb the Beijing West Gate Bridge, but lost his way on the bridge.
(Cultural reference: the West Gate Bridge is actually a series of foot bridges. It is very easy to get lost if you don't have a map or read the signs)

One man tried to bring a bomb onboard a bus in Shanghai, but he wasn't able to get on a bus after two full hours. 

One man tried to bomb a supermarket in Wuhan, but when he tried to detonate, he found that a pickpocket had taken his detonator. 

一人在炸成都政府大樓時,在門口被保安當作疆獨份子逮捕、狂揍、逼 供。 
One man tried to bomb the government building in Chendu, but was immediately arrested by Public Security as a suspicious character from the outer Mongolian regions, and was beaten into a confession. 

一人成功地河北炸礦,死傷數百人,潛回蓋達基地後,半年沒見任何新 聞報導,遂被組織以謊報戰果罪"處決了; 
One man was able to successfully attack a coal mine in Hebei, and there were several hundred casualties. He made it back to Al Qaeda base, but after six months, there was absolutely no news coverage. He was then executed by Al Qaeda for lying. 

One man tried to bomb the market in Kwongzhou, but as soon as he made it out of the train station, a motorcycle bandit took his backpack bomb. 

One man disappeared right after he entered China. Later Al Qaeda agents found him in a Shanghai hospital. Turned out he ate contaminated food, and possibly fake liquor, and was poisoned into a coma. 

Bin laden was desperate and sent one of his few woman operatives to blow up Hainan island. Unfortunately, she was tricked by a human smuggler and sold as a sex slave. 

Bin laden finally declared, REMEMBER! China is the only country in the world not to be attacked!

I can't claim credit for this joke. I heard it months ago, but just remembered it now to translate it.

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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

AZ's SB1710... did you actually read it?

Did you actually read the law and the updates? Or did you just believe what people on TV and whatnot tell you to believe?

Did you know that Governor Brewer had actually revised the laws on 30-APR-2010, to further fix up the language to avoid any confusion as to the intent of the law?

Did you know that the law exactly mirrors the Federal law, and thus, cannot be pre-empted by Federal law, no matter what ACLU would like to claim?

For some neutral analysis, read this:

It is nowhere as NEAR controversial as its critics want you to believe.
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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

RANT: China's real estate prices... WORSE than the US bubble!

Any one care to guess how much did our real estate prices spike during the "boom days" leading up to the sub-prime mess? Here is a graph from Wikipedia showing you the price spike:

The price index went from year 1998 or so, at just over 100, to 185 at 2005. That is roughly 80% increase. (see the original wikipedia article), in about 7 years. Right?

Guess how the real estate prices in China is doing?

(linked from )

This is from Feb 2007 to Feb 2010, a mere THREE years, 60% increase. Their real estate bubble is growing much faster than the rate of our bubble.

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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Online plagiarism... it can only get worse

As more and more people go online to look for content, more advertisers are also going online to capture their attention, and that means more advertising dollars, and more people competing for those dollars.

One way to get them is write articles and such for Hubpages or Squidoo, which are similar to blogs, but better organized, with more of a community. However, even in such communities, you will find content pirates who steal content from others, hoping for some of that advertising income.

And there are even auto-rewriters to "fix up" the pirated material so a simple plagiarism scanner won't catch it.

How to spot plagiarists, here or elsewhere

How I found a plagiarist here on Hubpages

Just the other day, I was doing hub hopping, when I came across a printer review. I recognized the model, as the model is several years old, so I am surprised to see a review just appearing hours before. I was only going to rate up/down, but somehow the wording doesn't sound right for normal user's review. The printer is no longer made, yet the review sounds as if the printer was brand new. Furthermore, in a personal review, the reviewer talks about his or her experience with the printer, what s/he likes and dislikes. Yet this review doesn't say that. It actually compared the printer to two other printers, and even provided timed comparison for a standard test! (This printer took _______ long to complete the test, while printer B took ______ long...)
This sounds so suspicious, I decided to see if I can dig up some more information. I took some sentences randomly from the hub, put them in quotes, and plug them into Google. No match.
I then took the three brands of printer mentioned, plugged them into Google, plus "review", and voila, found a PC Magazine article review, that referred to the exact same three printers.,2817,1970425,00.asp
I then started to compare a random paragraph... And found 90% match. Here's an excerpt from the review:
"On our business applications suite (timed with QualityLogic's hardware and software), the 1018's total time was 11 minutes 28 seconds, compared with roughly 8:50 for the Lexmark and Samsung printers. That's enough of a difference to be noticeable, but I wouldn't call it intolerable, and I'm pretty impatient about waiting for printers...."
Whereas the alleged plagiarist has a matching paragraph:
"On the commercial software suite (monitored with proper components and computer software), the 1018's overall time frame is eleven minutes twenty eight seconds, when compared with around 8:50 for a Lexmark and also Samsung printers. Which is enough of a variance to be notable, and fairly tolerable, in case you are concerned about printing speed. "
See the trick? major words have been substituted, but the sentence is virtually the same, and some details were taken out, but the sentences are a one-to-one match. Even the timed figures, 11:28, and 8:50 are exactly the same. Though the plagiarist substituted words for numbers, hoping to throw off exact-quote searches.
A quick check of the remainder confirms the suspicion: the entire hub was copied from the review, but reworded slightly.
The hub has been flagged for review. I've left a comment to give plagiarist notice, but the comment was denied, so it is clear that the plagiarist chose to ignore the warning.
UPDATE: the "offending" hub is no longer there. Apparently Hubpages takes this sort of plagiarism seriously.

Why plagiarize at all here?

First, I was puzzled. Hubpages is not school or work. I can understand if there is time pressure to produce some sort of work or school, so why would someone plagiarize an article just to pump up their hub count? Then I realized why: adsense earnings.
It is perfectly possible to earn month by writing hubs, and make money from adsense. There are several articles over at TheKeywordAcademy that explains how to. As this is not about that, I am not linking to it, but you can find it on Google easily. The point is, if you target the right keywords, you can make money through Hubpages and adsense. Due to Hubpage's size, a hub ranks higher than the same article published on a blog or such.
However, you need content, and the quickest way to put content on Hubpages is to steal them.
Yet, direct stealing is out, because there are plagiarism scanners out there. Yet most are only subject to random sentence searches, and computers are not very good in matching up stuff if you substitute a lot of stuff. Yet a person doing this is just, well, doh. So, yes, there is software to help with this sort of cheating. It's known as a "rewriter". I am NOT going to link to it, but they are out there. If you feed an existing article to it, it will pull information from the web, substitute exact words with generic words, replace words with synonyms, and other tricks, to produce an article that still reads okay, but will likely NOT trigger a plagiarism scanner, because it is not a straight copy and paste.
The hub referenced above is likely the result of a rewriter. 

So how *do* you spot a plagiarist?

Most of time, it would just be a "gut instinct", depending on your field of expertise.
I happen to be an IT expert. I know computers inside out, and most operating systems and peripherals. I also subscribed to PC magazine for many years. I also contribute many hubs, and write several blogs. Thus, I know what a personal hub should should sound like, and a professional review should sound like. The hub above sounded completely wrong. It wasn't something I can put a finger on first, but the more I read it, the more I realized it is NOT a personal review. A personal review would NOT have comparison with other printers, esp. timed, as well as other details.
This lead to further research, and discovery of the source.
Basically, the offense here is TOO MUCH detail, and the WRONG TYPES of details.
If you suspect that whatever you are reading is an auto-rewrite, you need to pick keywords from the article for research. The trick is picking the right ones. A rewriter is designed to defeat exact quote searches, but they cannot substitute keywords without destroying the article. So you have to use that against them. 
If it is a printer review, put in the brand name, plus "printer review".If you find the proper nouns, use them. I found "Lexmark", "Samsung", and "HP", so I put in those, plus "printer review", and out came the result I was looking for. You can do something similar for your own research.
The numbers are also a give-away, as would any details, like address, phone number, date reference, location names, and so on. Those cannot be changed without messing up the article.
Once you found the possible "donor", you then randomly pick a paragraph and commence matching manually.


Hubpages is a great little community that can be a good source of side income if you produce quality hubs. However, it can be ruined by some unscrupulous hub'ers who wish to pollute our community with their stolen goods.
If you run across a hub you believe to be pirated, or result of auto-rewrite, you should flag it, along with the suspected "donor article", and send it to hubpages admin for review. If you are not sure, post the hub in the forums and perhaps we can study it together.
Together, we can keep the hubs clean of pirates.
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Monday, April 5, 2010

RANT: Jihadists are simply on the wrong battlefield

A green version of http://commons.wikimedia.or...Image via Wikipedia
One person had asked that how is Jihadists similar to the kamikazes during WW2, and how can people who aren't afraid to die be defeated?

My initial answer is simple: kill them. If they are dead, they cannot win.

However, the issue is a little complicated than that. To answer that question, we have to examine the motive. If we can prevent their ideal outcome, then they do not win, right?

Ever wonder what exactly the Jihadists are fighting for? What is their "ideal outcome"?

Osama bin Laden and many other Jihadists had stated before that Al Qaeda basically want to reestablish the Caliphate, a new Islamic superpower, preferably around the world. They see this conflict as a war between two value systems: Islamic, and Western.

Are there similarities between the Jihadists and the kamikazes? Yes. The similarities between them is they are trying to protect their "way of life", just as we are trying to protect ours.

However, upon closer examination, the Jihadist's arguments are much weaker.

The kamikaze pilots in WW2 believe they are sacrificing themselves to protect their country, their village, their family, and their emperor, and they'd be technically correct, as the US does have plans to invade and occupy Japan, if the atomic bombs were not dropped.

The Jihadists believe that they are protecting their faith against encroaching Western values. It is a MUCH weaker argument overall, because Western values is about choice, as one can choose to embrace it or not. Jihadists can argue that the encroaching values IS an invasion, but it is an invasion of ideas, new vs. old, and as the saying goes, "change is inevitable".

Or to put it another way:

Kamikaze rationale: invaders are coming to pillage and rape! Defend the village with your lives!

Jihadist rationale: boys are coming to the village to date our girls! Kill the boys! We can't let them corrupt our girls! Defend the village with your lives!

It is simply ridiculous by Western standards, but the Jihadists are deadly serious about it.

Jihadists are simply fighting on the wrong battlefield. They are fighting war of ideas with PHYSICAL weapons. So what are the chances they can succeed? Can you fight war of idea physical weapons? Unfortunately, yes. That's why they are called terrorists.

Or to put it another way: there are two ways to turn the world into Islamic empire: one, you convert all the non-Muslims, or two, you kill all the non-Muslims. Since Al Qaeda is not in the conversion business, it must be in the killing business.

So can you defeat people like that? Depends on your definition of "defeat". You can prevent them from winning, and they will never win. But can you root them out and destroy them once and for all? No. You can't DEFEAT an ideology, at least not with physical weapons. EDUCATION is the key. Teach the truth about Western civilization (something the Al Qaeda does NOT want), both good and bad, and teach the falsehoods about the Jihadists, how they have perverted the Koran, and let people make up their own mind. 

And yes, the Jihadists have perverted the Koran. Jihad is not just about war, but about one's faith, and defense of it, and there's nothing in the Koran that states that the laws of war can be suspended for jihad. Prophet Mohammed specifically forbade killing of women, children, elderly, messengers, prisoners, and such, as well as outlawing treachery and betrayal, even collateral damage. The laws and edicts have been followed by major Muslim armies, such as King Saladin's army through the Crusades and such. It is only very recently that Jihadists decided to reinterpret the edicts so they don't apply to infidels.

So it is a war of ideas. Spread the truth about the Jihadist betrayal of their faith, and you can eventually defeat them. So, the question is, are WE fighting on the right battlefield as well?
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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

RANT: Droopy pants is one of the stupidest fashion ever

Cracks in the windowImage by unsure shot via Flickr
Why is it popular to have ill-fitting pants that almost falls off one's butt, with the pant crotch almost to one's knees?

I mean, even African-Americans are making fun of the phenomenon! Remember "Pants on the Ground" (Youtube Video)?

Come on, even Lil Wayne had to pull up his pants on the Grammys, man! That's just ridiculous! As the pundits put it, "buy a belt, man!"

Why is it a fashion statement in the first place? It isn't! Do you know where it came from? PRISON. That's right, it came from some jailbirds. Prison jumpsuits are usually one size fits all. So you'll never find one that fits. Apparently, some jailbirds gotten so used to be idea of ill-fitting cloths, they decide to wear ill-fitting cloths even when they got OUT of jail.

When some of those ill-fitting-cloth'ed folks got turned around and became rap artists, and made money, and made music videos, they brought their lack of fashion to the TV, and people start imitating them, not knowing why these 'stars' wear ill-fitting cloths to start with.

Normally I don't care about people's fashion, as I think most fashion is ridiculous, but this is more ridiculous than most. Most fashion at least looks interesting, but this looks ridiculous, and has ridiculous origins.

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