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Month: December 2006

HP R927

by David Veksler David Veksler No Comments

While playing with my new HP Photosmart R927 camera, I noticed some that it had some interesting built-in effects, such as the comparison of original to result below. Other effects include watercolor, borders, color adjustments, retro, vintage, and even a slimming control. But the coolest feature is the built in photo adviser, which analyzes your photo and offers advice for better shots in-camera.

TV photo

No doubt all of this is made possible by the exponential growth in memory and processing power. Increasingly, even the most mundane devices are getting processing capabilities that rival the desktop computers of a few years back. My TV has a USB port to upgrade the operating system, my cell phone runs Java, my router runs Linux, my short-lived Epson printer repaired old photos and spit out shiny new ones with a single click. The focus of current development is making devices more functional and independent. What’s next? I think the next great challenge will be to make them all talk to each other, seamlessly and without wires.

Medical Refugees Flee to India

by David Veksler David Veksler 2 Comments

Wired writes about Americans who “outsource” their medical procedures to India. Luxurious treatment abroad used to be only available to the rich – now ordinary Americans can save 2/3 of the cost of operations by going abroad. Besides the difference in wage rates, why do you think medical procedures are so much cheaper in India? Could medical liability laws and the FDA have something to do with it?

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Sweden's "soft dictatorship"

by David Veksler David Veksler No Comments

Bruce Bawer writes in the New York Sun about Sweden’s “soft dictatorship:”

. …the official view was neatly captured in a post-September 11 editorial in the nation’s largest newspaper, Aftonbladet, which assured readers that the terrorists who attacked New York and Washington weren’t Sweden’s enemies but simply hated ” U.S. imperialism,” a reasonable position given that “the U.S. is the greatest mass murderer of our time.” Such views, taught in Sweden’s classrooms and enshrined in Sweden’s state-approved schoolbooks, are reiterated daily by Sweden’s mainstream press organizations, all of which are either government-owned or government-subsidized.

In Sweden, whose murder rate is currently twice that of America and where Muslims now constitute over 10% of the population and are disproportionately unemployed and prone to violence, the Swedish press routinely depicts America as crime-ridden. Polls show that the majority of Swedes are deeply disturbed by their country’s dramatic social changes and highly critical of the policies that brought them about. Yet the crime and violence generally go unreported, so only rarely does any of the criticism seep into the press.

Recently, the city of Stockholm carried out a survey of ninth-grade boys in the predominantly Muslim suburb of Rinkeby. The survey showed that in the last year, 17% of the boys had forced someone to have sex, 31% had hurt someone so badly that the victim required medical care, and 24% had committed burglary or broken into a car. Sensational statistics — but in all of Sweden, they appear to have been published only in a daily newssheet that is distributed free on the subways.

When voices of dissent do break through in Sweden, they’re often punished. During the runup to the Iraq war, the Swedish government censured the independent TV channel TV4 for running an “Oprah” episode that presented both pro- and anti-war arguments. TV4 was charged with violating press-balance guidelines when in fact its offense was being too balanced — it had exposed Swedish viewers to ideas from which journalists had otherwise shielded them.

Earlier this year, for example, the government closed down the Sweden Democrats’ Web site because it had published a cartoon of Muhammad… If the Bush administration had closed down a Democratic Party Web site¸ there would be scare headlines and editorials thundering about dictatorship — and rightly so. But when Sweden’s rulers did it, it was apparently acceptable — because they did it in the name of political correctness.

Sweden (along with Cuba) has long been the darling welfare state of leftists everywhere. Do you think they would find the above facts shocking, or just brush them off, just as they have brushed off the millions of starving serfs and thousands of dissents murdered and imprisoned in Cuba?

Edit: I looked up some economic statistics for Sweden:

Sweden had a de facto unemployment rate of 20–25 percent…. Sweden has gone from being the fourth richest country in the world in 1970 to being the fourteenth richest in 2002. Today the average American has 37 percent higher purchasing power and almost twice as high private consumption as the average Swede… More than 30 percent of the Swedish population falls below the American poverty line.

My Windows Vista Experience

by David Veksler David Veksler No Comments

I installed Windows Vista and Office 2007 last week. If you’re also eager to try out a next gen OS, my experience might be useful:

Office 2007 looks great. The new Ribbon UI is very intuitive. My favorite new features were the PDF export and Outlook’s ability to auto-magically configure your mail based on your email address and password.

My Vista experience wasn’t so smooth. When I installed Vista Ultimate x64, I ran into a major issue: it requires all the drivers to be signed. The only reason I want to use the 64 bit version is that 32 bit XP and Vista fail to recognize that I have 3GB of RAM, not 2. Unfortunately, I use lots of home-brew/open source applications that aren’t signed, such as SpeedFan and TrueCrypt, which are not even eligible for the $500/year commercial software certificate.

This effectively locks out a lot of non-commercial software that works with hardware. Vista does provide a very inconvenient workaround – you can press F8 at boot every time to disable signed driver checking. After I installed SpeedFan, I have to do this every time, since Vista will not even boot, and helpfully suggests that I reinstall Windows.
Now, I understand that there are legitimate reasons for requiring drivers to be signed, but I wish that Microsoft would have left that choice up to me. Much as I love Microsoft products, I have to wonder whether some executive is gleeful at having banned all those nasty open-source projects.

The other two issues I had were with my sound card and mouse. Neither of my 5.1 surround cards supports anything other than stereo, and only one of them has a signed 64-bit driver. The other issue is apparently a common bug with Microsoft Wireless mice – the default driver disables the power management. A driver update fixed it – though I don’t know how the average user is expected to figure that out. I also noticed that my hard drive is grinding away nearly 24/7. I have no idea what it’s doing – I suspect Windows is indexing some file or other, though Google Desktop never made so much noise.

Anyway, the OS looks great, and I especially like flip 3D view (Press Win+Tab). There’s much more to be said, but you can read about it from someone who’s more obsessed than me.

Ahh, the Wonders of Socialized Healthcare

by David Veksler David Veksler No Comments

The UK’s Tony Collins holds the Guinness World Record for the longest wait on a hospital trolley after spending 77 hours and 30 minutes stuck outside the toilets in the Princess Margaret Hospital, Swindon, UK, between February 24 and 27, 2001.

“I’d contracted a virus,” said Tony about his record-breaking experience, “and although I was taken in at 3 p.m. on the Saturday, it wasn’t until 8.30 p.m. on the Tuesday that I was found a bed in another ward, when an elderly patient was moved to make room for me.”

Windows Vista: the world's largest engineering project

by David Veksler David Veksler No Comments

According to some sources, Windows Vista took 10,000 engineers 5 years to write, costing Microsoft about $10 billion dollars. That makes it one of the biggest engineering projects in history. Chances are very good that you’ll be using Vista on a daily basis within a few years. The development process was not without its setbacks and disappointments, but has there ever been a single project in history that has directly provided a value to so many people?

By the way, the buzz in the media is that Windows Vista is the last of its kind –the market is moving too fast to spend so many resources trying to get so many features out at once. Vista is partly a demonstration of that – it dropped a number of major features because they made the product too complex, and would have delayed the release. I wouldn’t count Microsoft out yet – but I’m sure there’s exciting times up ahead.

Earth 2020: three outcomes to global warming

by David Veksler David Veksler 8 Comments

Let’s assume that “global warming” is the hoax that I think it is. What happens when, sometime around 2020, no evidence of global warming (as a historically unique trend) is found? The following scenarios are three plausible outcomes to the “global warming” crisis.

A) The Fraud Discredited
Politicians and the scientific community admit their error. Environmentalist regulations and environmental agencies are cut back or eliminated. The hundreds of think-tanks, non-profits, and lobbying agencies that survive on the profits from the environmentalist hysteria voluntarily disband.

B) A disaster narrowly averted
Continual improvements in solar power or another renewable technology make it more cost efficient than fossil-fuel based power. The market gradually changes until solar power is dominant.
Politicians proclaim victory, and praise the regulatory state and state-coerced green energy. They stress the need for continual vigilance as they look around for a new crisis to bankroll their campaigns.

C) A self-fulfilling prophecy
Faced with a lack of evidence for global warming, environmentalists focus instead on random climate variation and natural disasters under the banner of “climate change,” which can conveniently be blamed for heat waves, cold fronts, hurricanes, and even tsunamis. The draconian regulatory state gradually erodes the wealth producing capacity of industry, thus destroying the only tool man has to deal with nature’s fury. The EPA/ /DOJ wrecks the economy, FDA causes plagues, and the FCC makes sure the party line gets coverage. The Son of Kyoto shifts energy production and industry from relatively clean, developed nations to environmentally irresponsible developing ones. Innovations in energy production/consumption become prohibitively expensive to get past the regulatory state.
By 2020, nature is unpredictable as ever, but our ability to deal with it is crippled by the state. Politicians seize upon the global havoc they unleashed as proof of the need for further regulation.

Which outcome is most likely? Very likely, it will be a combination of all three. Which one is pre-eminent depends on your estimate of the world’s sanity.