personal politics

On the Stimulus

I’ve been thinking about the economic stimulus and its ugly cousin, the Wall Street bailout for a long time now, and what it means for us, both as participants living in an economy that we have little control over and as citizens of a democracy that we, at least in theory, have ultimate control over. Rather than get into the stimulus bill itself, which I find inscrutable and insanely long, I’m more interested in the people and thought that brought it about.

The idea behind Congress is that most people either don’t have the time or the expertise to run the government. Back in the late Eighteenth Century, most people, the commoners, plebeians or the mob, simply didn’t have anywhere near the education or experience required to participate in fundamental functions of government. From a more practical perspective, a complex society simply couldn’t function if everyone had to be involved in every decision of the government. Direct democracy, which today takes the form of popular voting, town hall meetings and caucuses, is a very time-consuming process. It takes a lot of work to be an active participant in direct democracy, if only to make informed choices when going to vote twice a year. Imagine the amount of research done for learning the ballot measures for the average major election year, and multiply that by every day.

Congress (and state legislatures, and local boards and the like) has to deal with extremely complex issues as a matter of course. Society would simply grind to a halt if everyone had to deal with all those issues. Infrastructure would break down, science would stop, the power would go out, and so on. Thus, we hire people to go to Washington to deal with that. They’re supposed to go to Washington to represent the people who live near them and to fight for their interests.

Of course, the reality is quite different from my overly simplistic summary. Yes, we live in a representative democracy, but we are far from represented in Washington. People always complain about the obvious disconnect between what the country wants and what comes out of Congress. The bailout and the stimulus are the most recent and egregious examples. The American public was overwhelmingly opposed to bailing out Wall Street and put an incredible amount of pressure of Congress not to pass the bill. It makes perfect sense that the public would feel this way since we’ve been spoon fed the idea that in a free market capitalist system those who can’t keep their competitive edge, fail. Yet somehow that idea is being pushed aside in favor of a system that keeps failing and uncompetitive financial institutions from being revealed as the broken and unsustainable institutions they truly are. However, despite this fact Congress passed the bailout overwhelmingly, with virtually no restrictions on how the money was to be spent. The stimulus is a similar situation, but the public is in favor of a package that creates and protects jobs, public health and forces banks, especially ones that received bailout money, to resume lending. What we got was a gift to corporations, but very little protection or economic help to workers or homeowners.

We assume that government is corrupt, and with good reason. The question is why? We have the power to remove people who we don’t like. If a congressman sucks, we kick them out and stick in someone better, right? Well, no. The majority of congressional seats are considered safe. Those people are so secure in their seats that they’re highly unlikely to be unseated by an opponent, even one from the same party. The power of incumbency is one of the strongest forces in American politics. One of the reasons for this tends to be the lack of credible opponents. Take my representative, who happens to be the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. By all accounts, people in San Francisco think that she’s been doing a rather shitty job of leading House Democrats to fulfill the promises that swept them back into power. She (and Harry Reid) caved to the Bush Administration time and time again, even when the public was clearly against Bush. Even after Obama’s massive victory, Congress still bent to Bush’s will all through the lame duck session. Does Congress do these things because the members are hideously corrupt, or because they are so weak-willed that they simply lack the ability to stand up to the worst president in US history, who has already been repudiated by the public? Sadly, no. The true answer is as simple as it is depressing. Congress acts the way it does because we the people are not their constituents. Congress does not represent we the people, it represents those who pay them. Of course there are members who truly try to do their jobs for the betterment of we the people, but as a body, we the people are just the chumps who pull levers every two years.

Despite the public anger towards Congress, the same people tend to keep getting elected. Why? Despite the massive corruption in the political system, no reforms are demanded by we the people to force our representatives to represent our interests over those who prey on us. Congress falls over itself to grant a wonderful socialist paradise to Wall Street, but balks at keeping middle class families in their homes, even though to rescue the economy, bailing out the middle and working class while leashing Wall Street is the guaranteed path to success.


Site Admin Durrr

I just realized that I had never written anything in my about page, and looking at my stats, that’s one of the first things that people look at.


Well that’s fixed now with a short bio. Anything else anyone wants to know?

Oh, and while I’m at it, I just uploaded a bunch of stuff that’s been sitting on my iPhone since like November onto Flickr.


My Awesome and Totally Unique BSG Conspiracy Theory

SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t seen Sometimes a Great Notion yet, and care about spoilers for some reason, stop reading now. If you haven’t seen it yet, you should also stop reading now, because you’re obviously not a Battlestar fan, and therefore suck.

I’ll just some out and say it: the planet that the fleet arrived at in Revelations is not Earth. Or at least is not our Earth, the planet that was shown in Crossroads, Part 2 at the end of Season 3.

You might be asking where or what is my proof? Its quite simple. Nothing that is shown in BSG is done by accident. The Darth Mojo blog goes into great detail about the agonizing detail that the artists and producers go into for each shot. In his podcast, Ron Moore mentioned that he showed Earth that was clearly Earth with a clear shot of North America. He did that to show the audience that the series was clearly going to end and that the fleet would find Earth.

However, we were never shown the surface of the planet in Sometimes a Great Notion. Ever. All we ever got was an oblique angle of the planet’s terminator with the fleet silhouetted against the sun. We saw ships flying through clouds, but no glimpse of the continents or large swath of surface.

If the planet in Sometimes a Great Notion was Earth, it would have been clearly shown as such. It wasn’t shown; its not Earth. Look at my proof:


Crossroads Earth. I can see my house from here!


Notion Earth.

Of course we’ll get more information over the course of the next nine episodes, but its far more fun to speculate!

Any thoughts?


Off to DC

I dropped my mom off at SFO so she can go to DC to watch Obama’s inauguration. As much as I’d like to go, she really deserves it. She froze in New Hampshire in 2004 supporting Dean in the primaries, and was an early Obama supporter because he continued Dean’s 50 state policy (and seems to be a firm believer, even after the election). Plus, she got the tickets through my cousin Cindy, who just got back from an extended tour in Iraq just a few months ago.

My parents had been sending Cindy care packages for her whole tour in Iraq and my mom is recording an album for military families left at home. The last two years were really shitty for her, and she really deserves this trip. Hopefully, it’ll be the start of a better year for all of us, but especially her.

hardware Mac personal

My Macworld 09 Predicition

I don’t have any special access to Apple (which is to say that I have none and read the rumors like everyone else), but I do have logic, history and wishful thinking, so here’s my take on what’s going to come out of Macworld.

Snow Leopard: We’ll get a demo and release date. Some people are saying that Apple will release OS X 10.6 during Macworld, but I have to call bullshit on that. Based on what I’ve heard coming out of NDAland says that 10.6 is not done yet. Close, but no way in hell are disks getting pressed yet. Probably a late spring or June (WWDC-ish) release.

Display Port: Everyone’s getting it. Monoprice says that its mini DP adaptors are coming on 1/16/09. That’s a whole four days after the Phillnote. I think they know what’s up. Additionally, the iMac and Mac Mini will be getting new graphics (the Mini will probably get the 9400M, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed for the 9600).

Mac Pro: Clearly, the Pro’s going to be the first Mac to go Core i7, but the question is when. My gut says not at Macworld, but in the next month or so, via press release and an hour long outage that makes some MacMacs wet themselves. I’d like a new case for the i7 Mac Pros, simply because I never liked the cheese grater G5 case and because the iMac and laptop Intel transition cases are all gone.

iMac: Same case, Display Port, new graphics, minor updates (bigger default HDD, RAM, etc). I don’t think that the iMac will be getting any HTPC features like a TV tuner or HDMI port. What’s the point of hooking up a 24″ iMac to an HDTV, right?

Mac Mini: I think the 2009 Mini will be a totally different beast compared to what’s currently shipping. I’m going to combine logic with some wishful thinking here and say that the new Mini’s going to be Apple’s real push into the living room. The rumors say that it’ll have two video outs, a mini Disply Port and a mini DVI. I’m going to call bullshit and remind everyone that DVI is now dead to Apple. I say mini Display Port and HDMI. Since DP supports ACDP just like HDMI, the DRM’s not an issue, which leads to a Blu-ray build to order option. Combine that with an updated Front Row and HD rentals all in a new good-looking case, and that’s a winner.

iWork/iLife: 09 updates are a pretty safe bet. New templates, new features, probably no new apps. Takes Phill less than 10 minutes to get through.

iPods: Phill brags about how great the holiday season was, record sales, massive iPod Touch market share, etc. No new hardware. Duh.

iPhone: Same deal: Record sales, kicked WinMo’s ass, RIM better sleep with one eye open, etc. No new hardware, including the Nano. iPhone apps are not resolution-independent, and a smaller screen would break a lot of apps and make everything look like crap.

Maybe an iPod-based dumbphone for the cheapskates, but I highly doubt that.

One More Thing: the fabled xMac. Kinda. I think Apple realizes the value of the home server. The problem is that a good home server is an expandable box that I can put a bunch of ever-larger hard drives into, like HP’s MediaSmart WHS box. I can kind of see Apple making a box two or three times as tall as the new Mini, with a removable back plate that you can slide SATA drives into, a la the Mac Pro.

Such a machine will either run vanilla OS X with some specialized server software or, more likely, an embedded OS X with all the admin functions based on an app on the client machines.

personal photography politics

War on Photography – Jan 4 2009 Edition (Updated)

Stories like this just piss me off. Its yet another example of police abusing their powers by making up anti-photography laws on the spot, usually because of 9/11 or terrorism.


That’s why this police shooting at the Fruitvale BART station is so infuriating. The official story is that police broke up a fight between two groups and that one of the officer’s weapons accidentally “discharged” while they were questioning the men, killing one, Oscar Grant. The witnesses tell a different story. They said that the doomed man was handcuffed behind his back and on his belly when one of the officers shot him in the back. The bullet passed through his body, ricocheted off the floor and re-entered his belly.

Anyone who’s ever taken BART should immediately be asking themselves why what happened is a mystery since there are surveillance cameras in every station, including on the platform. Except that according to BART, those cameras are for monitoring only and are not capable of recording anything.


So here we have a situation where witnesses’ and the police accounts differ significantly, and there’s a man dead at the hands of the police. There are cameras everywhere, but they’re apparently useless. There’s an investigation, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the officer will be found to have applied appropriate force and suffer no consequences, just like pretty much every other time a cop murders someone.

But the real reason why I’m pissed about the Amtrak story is because of what wasn’t mentioned in the Chronicle stories, but was mentioned in the Kron (SF Channel 4) piece: the police confiscated cell phones and cameras from people in the crowd. Cops lie, witnesses can lie, be intimidated or be simply mistaken, but pictures don’t. Especially when multiple pictures and videos from several sources at different angles all tell the same story. As much as governments and corporations want to use cameras to watch us, it is those same cameras, in the public’s hands that can hold those with power accountable for their actions, and THAT’S why there’s a war on photography. It has nothing to do with terrorists, but with abusive and corrupt officials knowing that they can’t act with impunity as long as people are there recording them.

I know from personal experience that the mere act of pointing a camera at people can cause them to behave differently. But there’s a difference from people not making complete stops at a stop sign in the middle of the night and a badged officer of the law, armed with a deadly weapon and baked with the power of the state and the authority to take your freedom away deciding to abuse that power. That’s why we need to keep our cameras out and pointed at power.


Well, well, well. It would seem as if the cops didn’t get all of the passenger videos, because one of them got out and guess what? It shows the cop in question shooting Grant in the back while trying to handcuff him. Of course, BART Police are “seriously investigating.” Somehow, I still think its going to be ruled a good shooting with no consequences whatsoever. On the other hand, it seems as if the only way the truth would ever come out was through citizens recording police abuses. Another shocker there.

iPhone personal

Higher Resolution

Its always in fashion for people to make bullshit resolutions on New Year’s that they forget about on January 2. This isn’t about that. This is about the increased resolution that I’ve been able to observe my life with. I’ve been using several web apps and iPhone apps to finely observe and detail different aspects of my life. I’ve been using to manage my finances, and just started using for my fitness and gas Cubby for my car.

I spent over an hour and a half on Mint organizing my spending, and when I was done, I was shocked. Without getting into the details here, I spend money like a moron. Mainly too much eating out, but lots of little purchases that really add up pretty quickly. I always wondered where the hell my money’s been going, and now I know. What’s cool is that Mint keeps track of this stuff more or less in real time, automatically. And its the automatically that’s really the key here.

No matter how much I try to budget of which app I use, I never manage to keep track of everything, and eventually just stop. Now its just a matter of checking and seeing where I am. Mint also has trends that you can compare with other users, in depth transaction data, and one of the easiest budgeting system that I’ve ever used. I only wish that the iPhone app would allow a full account update like the website does, but I’m sure that’s in the pipe, since that seems to be the number one request.

Using data mining like this is great for me, since the resolution of the data is fine enough and presented in such a way that I think I’ll really be able to manage my finances well.

Now Livestrong is a different story. It provides lots of detail, but I’m just as bad at entering what I eat as what I buy. We’ll see…

hardware home theater Mac personal Windows

Home Theater Part 2: HTPC

I think I should start off with a note. I’m not writing this for any other reason than to geek out over stuff in writing. I’m not bragging or showing off or anything like that. I like to obsess over details, configurations and componants before I actually buy anything. Writing what I want to do helps me plan things out and make better decisions later on. It also keeps me from driving everyone around me crazy from taking about it nonstop until I finally take the plunge. Also, the choice of componants should clearly indicate that this is a budget system.

The interesting thing is that I wrote an HTPC post maybe eight months ago, but deleted it because it ended up being a hardware wish list and me bitching that the thing still wouldn’t do everything that I wanted, after spending close to a thousand (pretend) dollars. It was too hypothetical. Now, on the other hand, its a serious consideration. The landscape is different enough now that I get to completely revisit the subject. First thing is to decide what exactly this thing is supposed to do. Second is to look at my hardware and software options, including and out of box solutions versus building my own system.


Most of the HTPC setup that I’ve seen are heavily geared towards watching and time-shifting television shows. I’ve thought about this for some time and came to an interesting conclusion. I just don’t watch that much TV. Which is to say that I don’t watch that many TV shows that I would care to record or time shift. Even when I miss a show that I wanted to catch, I either have an iTunes subscription or can easily find a hi-def torrent somewhere. However, that’s not to say that things won’t ever change, so I’d like to keep this option open. TV tuners are available both as PCI cards and as USB dongles, so adding one later shouldn’t be an issue. I just have to make sure that it’ll play nice with the Harmony and with Comcast, preferably before I buy!


For me, this is the biggie. I like movies. A lot. I’m a huge Netflix fan, getting as much as I can out of my disk plan, and recently out of the Instant View as I can. I’m also a Boxee fan, and eagerly await fixes to some of the bugs that’s holding it down. I’m also in the process of rebuilding my old Quicksilver into a multi-terabyte media serving monster. The plan is to rip my DVD collection with handbrake stick them into my central iTunes library so I can access them over the LAN without having to hunt disks down. Since these are my own rips, anything that plays nice with iTunes shouldn’t have any issues playing them back.

The other consideration is Blu-ray. If I so choose, I can add a Blu-ray drive to a Windows-based HTPC. There are some ramifications to this. A Blu-ray drive currently requires Windows, as neither Linux nor OS X support the AACS DRM needed to decode the disks. Which sucks. However, the alternative is to rip the disk and perform some voodoo in Ubuntu, or run Boot Camp from a Mac. Neither solution is as elegant or smooth as just having WMC just running. I hate DRM, since it limits the things I can do and my options. That’s why I’m still keeping the PS3 in mind, since I can keep the DRM stupidity limited to the black box that way. In any case, I’ll want an HDMI port for the best picture and to complete the ACDP-compliant chain for BR playback.

Since I mentioned the PS3 and DRM, I’ll just point out that I have no intention of buying or renting any movies from the Playstation Network. Ever. Their DRM is positively draconian. I don’t care at all for Fairplay, but at least I’m allowed to back stuff up and restore for if (when) a hard disk fails. I should also point out that I don’t buy movies from iTunes, either, and I usually only rent the $0.99 rentals.


Since this machine will be connected to my central iTunes library, it’ll also have full access to all my music. This is fortuitous, since it will also be connected to my stereo! There’s not much else to say about my music, since its fairly mature. I’ll probably want to re-rip some of my earlier rips at a higher bitrate, since they were originally done at 128kbps and I now favor 320kbps. Having my music streaming from the HTPC means that it’ll be piped through the stereo, which is always a plus.

The other issue is movie and TV sound. If I don’t connect the HTPC to the reciever, I’ll want to pipe the sound there. I’ll want an optical port to connect to the receiver.

Other Stuff

There are lots of other nifty things than an HTPC can do conected to an HDTV. There’s MAME, huge web browsing, Netflix, Hulu, etc. I’ve been playing with Boxee, but its still in alpha, and it shows. On the other hand, its getting better and more stable with every release, so I imagine I’ll find it becomes a part of my permanent entertainment system in no time.


The Apple Setup

I’m primarily a Mac user and default to Apple products first. My temporary HTPC is my first-gen Macbook Pro, which has given me a lot of experience about what I really want and can accomplish with a dedicated HTPC. The problem is that Apple doesn’t make a dedicated HTPC (yet). The two obvious choices are an TV or a Mac Mini. I considered the TV first, simply because its cheaper and is supposed to be a dedicated set-top box. It has an HDMI port and is highly hackable, most notably via Boxee. However, its nowhere near as versatile as a full computer. Boxee can run Netflix instant viewing quite comfortably on a Mini, but not at all on the TV, because the smaller device doesn’t have the raw horsepower to decode the stream. The TV can decode HD iTunes downloads because of h.264 hardware accelerators for which no public APIs exist.

What I’m hoping for is an updated Mini that combines the HTPC features of the TV with the full computer-ness of the Mini (but with modern components like the nVidia 9400M graphics card).

The Dell Solution

I like the Dell Studio Hybrid. Its in the same price range as the Mac Mini, but has a few advantages. It was clearly meant to be used as an HTPC with an HDMI port and an optional Blu-ray player (which adds over $200, but you can’t get a slim Blu-ray player for any cheaper. If at all). It also comes with Vista, which is only useful because WMC is damned good. Plus, just about every peripheral I could get will work with it. On the downside, it still ships with the Intel graphics. Plus, it runs Windows, which, WMC aside, sucks and will eventually fuck up and piss me off. Boxee doesn’t yet work on Windows, but should this month.

The DIY Solution

The benefits of building your own HTPC are, of course, the same as building any PC. You can select exactly the components you want, and not have to deal with crap you don’t. This usually comes at the cost of integration and size. Those are dealt with by thorough research and artful cable management and by careful choice of case. I’m not going to go too in-depth about my reasoning behind the following list of parts, since it should be fairly obvious. The case isn’t the most powerful or extendable, but its quiet, smallish and it looks like a piece of home theater equipment, rather than a PC. The same goes for the processor. AMD gets its ass kicked by Intel on the high end, but I’m not looking for a octo-core gaming monster. I want a processor that won’t immediately kick the fans in, but can still handle HD content without trouble. In that, AMD excels. The X2 BE-2300 is a 64 bit, 1.9GHz dual-core processor that consumes 45 watts! That’s damn impressive. Low power means lower energy costs, but more importantly, less heat, which means less fan noise. The Antec case has some good air flow management and three 120mm fans, which spin slowly, generating less noise.

Proc: AMD Althon X2 BE-2300 $34.99

Mobo: As
us M2N68-VM
with HDMI $66.99

RAM: Corsair 4GB (2x2GB) $69

HDD: WD Caviar 1TB with 5-year warranty $119.99

Optical: Lite-On 4x Blu-ray $89.99

Case: Antec Fusion HTPC Case $174.99

Video: On-board

Sound: On-board

Of course, there are other miscellaneous parts, but these are the biggies. This configuration leaves both PCI slots on the motherboard open, so I can add something like a tuner card or eSATA later. The case also has room for a second hard drive. 1.5TB drives are coming down in price, so I might splurge for one of those. It might also be interesting to boot Windows from a flash drive, and leave the hard disks open for more media.

Clearly, a DIY HTPC is the most fun and quickly becomes the most powerful. If I was to build this machine today, I’d probably test install it with the Windows 7 beta, and see how well that works. Depending on how stable the configuration is, I’d probably just leave 7 on there until I can get a retail copy. Otherwise, I’d just load Vista and wait until I can upgrade to Win7 final.

The interesting thing is that this configuration costs 573.91, which is ~$20 cheaper than the Mini and ~$130 more than the base Hybrid, but is significantly more capable than each (adding a Blu-ray drive to the Hybrid adds $200). That ignores shipping and tax, but prices change often enough that doing exact comparisons is a waste of time.

The reason why I’m only considering Macs or Windows is because Linux won’t easily work with iTunes or Blu-ray. There are a couple of really cool Linux media centers, but they all require more work than I’m really willing to put into this. Windows will work with a minimum of effort on my part. This machine needs to be rock-solid and need as little post-setup configuration as possible, almost appliance-like. I don’t think I can pull that off with Linux right now.

So, I’ll have a much better idea of where I stand after the Philnote on Tuesday. In any case, I have a really good idea of what I’m going to be spending my tax return on!

hardware home theater personal

The Future of my Home Theater

So after my last post, here’s where things stand now. The Olevia is still standing tall and proud. The cheapo upscale DVD player is holding up admirably, and the PS3’s gone. That’s OK, it was always going away, and that just makes it easier to hook up my Macbook Pro without having to juggle too many cables (and that DVi-HDMI adaptor). Plus, my Logitech Harmony 880 rules over the whole system like Sauron and his One Ring. While this setup is great for watching TV and Netflix, both DVD and streaming, there is a noticeable lack of HD content. Right now, my most reliable sources of HD content are the local OTA stations which broadcast in HD, and the latest season of Supernatural, which I’ve been downloading in HD .mkv format from the Pirate Bay. (I buy the DVD set and don’t feel the need to buy episodes from iTunes and pay again for the DVDs.) Oh, and various HD video podcasts from Revision 3, the Hubblecast HD and the Hidden Universe HD. Those last two are really great and if you’re at all into space science and astronomy are must-sees. Clearly, there’s lots of HD content that I’m not getting, so there’s more work to be done. So here’s my post-Christmas, but pre-Macworld plans of where I want to go with my setup.

What I’m NOT going to do

I’m not going to get Comcast HD. They charge way too much and their HD looks like shit. When you compare Comcast with OTA HD, OTA is by far superior. I’d rather not pay much more and lose what I already have, or have to do some cable-splitting hack where the Comcast box goes to the composite, while the unencrypted cable or antenna go right into the TV’s tuner. That’s too much work, too much hassle, and too much money. Fuck Comcast. If there was some way to get Discovery, Animal Planet, History, etc without poking my eyes out, that would be awesome, but they look good enough right now, and if I really want them in HD, there’s the DVD, Netflix or TPB.


The speakers on the Olevia aren’t bad. In fact, they’re much better than the speakers in the old TV. But, the fact remains that a 5.1 system is just that much better. I’m not an audiophile, and so just like the fact that I can’t tell the difference between 720 and 1080 on a screen that’s smaller than 50″, I can’t hear the difference between systems that are “good enough.” To that end, I’m looking at three low-ish to mid-range 5.1 audio systems. The power output on all three systems is similar and the only real differences between them, at least from my perspective, is the array of ports. I suppose I could always go the route of buying my audio componants seperately, but I have my doubts that I could build a comperable system for less money that sounds that much better than a system in a box.

The Sony HTDDWG700 is the least expensive and has the fewest ports of the bunch. It has no HDMI, and only a single optical and single coaxial audio in, as well as an AM/FM tuner and dedicated iPod dock port (proprietary, not USB) and RCA audio. It sounds good, but I’m clearly limited in what I can attach to it and there’s no room for expansion. Again, not bad, but I don’t want to spend $199 on something that I’ll likely want to replace if I add a few more content sources. I could route everything into the Olevia, and use its optical out to connect to the reciever, but that still limits my options.

I’ll probably buy it if it drops to $150 or less.

The Pioneer HTP-2920 is better than the Sony, with more audio inputs, but no HDMI. It is more powerful, but slightly. Its slightly more expensive than the Sony, but not too much at $220.

The Yamaha YHT-390BL is clearly the best of the bunch, even though its almost twice as much as the Sony. It has two HDMI in, two optical and coaxial audio in and a bunch of composite and RCA in. I can also buy the reciever itself for $199. This is the one I want, bar none. It retails for $349 at Amazon and $369 at Best Buy. There’s probably a price point that’ll make me jump, but I can’t say for sure what that might be. In the end, this will probably be the system I buy, simply because its that much more capable and more future-proof than the other systems. It makes more sense to me to wait and buy the better system that I’ll be more happy with for a longer period of time.

We’ll see though.

HD Video

Here’s the meat of the issue. Quality surround sound really brings the experience home, but that doesn’t count for too much without the video. There are three methods of getting HD content onto the TV that I’m looking into: OTA, Blu-ray, and the Internet. The local stations here in San Francisco all broadcast in SD and HD. For example, Fox SD is channel 2 and Fox HD is channel 2-1. Not every station is that simple, like the CW, which is channel 12 on cable, but is TV 44, so the HD channel (even on cable) is 44-1. Not the most intuative setup, but easy enough to figure out. Plus, the remote allows me to program channels, so its just a single button away now.

The other two HD sources, Blu-ray and Internet are more complicated mainly because of the componants involved. Since there’s not really an all in one solution, the setup that will give the features and flexibility that I want basically require some sort of home theater PC.

The Blu-ray issue is easier to deal with on its own. A stand-alone player is out of the question for two reasons. First, they’re too expensive. There’s no good reason why disc players should start at $299 and go up from there. Ignoring audio/videophile equipment, which is always overpriced, I just can’t justify that price to myself, let alone Nicky. I think if I do go the stand-alone route, the obvious and only answer is a PS3.

The other solution, an HTPC, is so complex itself that I’m just going to stop here and finish tomorrow, since this is already long enough.

iPhone personal politics stoopid

Paranoia Wins Out

So I read this story yesterday which just pushed me over the edge into full scale paranoia. I now require instant password on my iphone, password when leaving the screen saver or when waking up. I haven’t had auto-login for a while, so that’s nothing new. I’m also looking into full-disk encryption (which seems to be a no-go for Macs for now), fully encrypting all my email (which is problematic since I use gmail) and am looking for other ways to protect myself.

The Smith ruling turned on the fact that “addressing information” of the sort obtained by a pen register had been conveyed to the phone company and stored in their records. It was emphatically not a finding that a person’s “addressing information”—the names and phone numbers of the other people someone contacts—was just per se unprotected. And in fact, Congress responded to Smith by establishing a statutory requirement that police obtain a court order (though subject to a lower evidentiary standard than full-blown Fourth Amendment warrants) before using a pen-register or a trap-and-trace device to get that “addressing information” from a telecom. So even if police had wanted to get Fierros-Alvarez’s call history from that less protected source, they’d at least be subject to some judicial process.

Um, no.

But in any case, let’s see anyone argue that my info doesn’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy when its behind a password (and hopefully soon, 256-bit AES encryption).

Fascist assholes.