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Big Laser Guns For the Navy!

Friday, February 21st, 2014 - by Stephen Green

A

Welcome to the Laser Navy:

The Navy plans to deploy its first laser on a ship later this year, and it intends to test an electromagnetic rail gun prototype aboard a vessel within two years.

For the Navy, it’s not so much about the whiz-bang technology as it is about the economics of such armaments. Both costs pennies on the dollar compared with missiles and smart bombs, and the weapons can be fired continuously, unlike missiles and bombs, which eventually run out.

“It fundamentally changes the way we fight,” said Capt. Mike Ziv, program manager for directed energy and electric weapon systems for the Naval Sea Systems Command.

The Navy’s laser technology has evolved to the point that a prototype to be deployed aboard the USS Ponce this summer can be operated by a single sailor, he said.

The solid-state Laser Weapon System is designed to target what the Navy describes as “asymmetrical threats.” Those include aerial drones, speed boats and swarm boats, all potential threats to warships in the Persian Gulf, where the Ponce, a floating staging base, is set to be deployed.

All that power in the hands of a single sailor. It’s not just a high-tech weapon, but fully deployed lasers and EM guns would reduce the Navy’s logistical needs by… well, by a lot.

Amazing stuff, but I won’t really be happy until Special Forces troops are issued lightsabers.

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Flappy Bird Creator Has Right to Deny Fun

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

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There was a time, not too many years ago, when I was up on all the latest games on any given platform. Nowadays, with a wife, two young sons, and several other responsibilities — not so much.

I never even tried the most recent smartphone craze, something called Flappy Bird. Now, I may never get the chance. IGN reports:

The creator of Flappy Birdpulled the game from the iOS App Store and Google Play because it’s become an “addictive product”.

In his first interview since he followed through on his threat to remove the game, 29-year-old Dong Nguyen told Forbes that he has no plans to bring it back.

“Flappy Bird was designed to play in a few minutes when you are relaxed,” he said. “But it happened to become an addictive product. I think it has become a problem. To solve that problem, it’s best to take down Flappy Bird. It’s gone forever.”

Ultimately, it was guilt that motivated his decision to pull the game. “My life has not been as comfortable as I was before,” he explained. “I couldn’t sleep. I don’t think it’s a mistake. I have thought it through.”

Thus Nguyen disposes of his intellectual property in a manner that would make John Galt proud. We can argue whether Flappy Bird was actually addictive or whether it caused real harm. Regardless, though many may enjoy the game Nguyen created, as its owner he retains sole discretion as to whether it should remain available.

The decision to yank a smartphone game from the market may not prove controversial. However, similar decisions made upon the same principle of ownership generate controversy all the time. The champions of antitrust law and consumer protection, along with critics of intellectual property, adhere religiously to that famous Vulcan maxim: “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.”

Think of all the smartphone users like me who will never get the opportunity to play Flappy Bird. Who’s looking out for us? Who does Nguyen think he is, robbing us of the fun we never knew we could have?

Of course, it was never ours to have in the first place. We played no role in its creation, and thus hold no claim upon its use. Wasn’t there another flappy bird, The Little Red Hen, who taught us this long ago?

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Slamming Torah: There’s an App for That

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg
heebsilverman

Sarah Silverman, Hipster Jew Goddess.

Last week the Forward covered a “trendy Jewish spoken word” happening in the trendy neighborhood of Park Slope in the trendy part of trendy New York City known as Brooklyn. If the E! network hasn’t made you wary enough of the word “trendy” this article surely should. Basically, it’s about a doctoral student and an app techie using grant funding to study what makes Judaism trendy with millennials. And if that doesn’t set off any alarm bells in your head, let me be very clear: the title “Sermon Slam” shouldn’t fool you. Despite the religious-themed location, if God was invited to join in the party it was to sit and be talked at, not about let alone with.

For those of you unfamiliar with Judaism or hip lingo: Instead of reading the Torah portion, and perhaps even the Haftarah portion, then wrestling with the meaning of the portion through a discussion involving comparative texts, the Sermon Slam for young adults involves attacking the weekly Torah portion with a style akin to a poetry slam – rough-edged spoken verse rooted in the performer’s emotions and personal (potentially uneducated) perspective:

“Spoken word poetry has become increasingly sexy. …When you synergize that with something that sounds boring, like a sermon… it’s an ancient tradition that we’re now embracing and making our own. It’s for the people, by the people. That feels exciting to those of us in our 20s and 30s.”

I’m far from Orthodox, in fact I don’t identify as a Rabbinic Jew (Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, or Reconstructionist) at all. But this self aggrandizing hyperbole annoys me more than black hatters arguing over sleeve length ever could. Seriously, is Judaism so desperate for adherents that we’re getting grant funding to make the Torah “sexy”?

It gets worse. Apparently making the Torah “sexy” doesn’t involve actually reading the Torah as much as it involves creating a postmodern pastiche of Biblical words and pop culture lingo:

References to iPhones and to Facebook popped up in the same sentence as “Kiddush.” And the hallowed Hebrew names of God, “Adonai” and “Elohim,” were uttered in the same breath as “s–t.”

And now you know why I avoid obnoxious hipster Judaism like the plague. With its goddess worship of Sarah Silverman and Lena Dunham and its conversion of New York into the New Zion, this religion has nothing to do with God and Torah and everything to do with Judaizing the kind of liberal self help ethos already prolific within the New Age and Buddhist movements. What’s next for Sermon Slam, a Chopra-esque two-hour fundraising featurette on PBS?

hipsterjew

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Bill Gates: No More Poor Countries by 2035

Friday, January 24th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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We Shouldn’t Fear a Robotic Future

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

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There’s an old anecdote which tells that Milton Friedman visited a foreign country where workers were digging a canal with shovels. He asked an official why they weren’t using heavy machines, bulldozers or other earth movers. The official said the project was part of a jobs program. Friedman quipped that, if jobs were the goal, they ought to be digging with spoons.

The story has been retold many times, and the details vary. But the underlying principle remains the same. The object of production is value, not jobs.

As we contemplate the imminent advancement of robotics, and the capacity of machines to produce more of the value in our lives, the Friedman anecdote applies anew. MailOnline reports:

Experts are predicting a ‘jobocalypse’ as robots take over manual jobs, while scientists at Cambridge warn that machines should have their intelligence limited to stop them outsmarting us.

A new version of the movie RoboCop (out February 12) shows us a future where technology [revolutionizes] law enforcement, but that is just the tip of the iceberg for robotics.

‘I believe we are the inflection point where robotics are going to change everything you know and do,’ says Ben Way, author of Jobocalypse, a book about about the rise of the robots, told MailOnline.

He says everyone from bartenders to drivers are at risk.

‘They will have the impact to take away 70% of all traditional jobs in the next 30 years,’ he said.

That prospect seems less shocking when you place it into historical context, as I’ll explain on the next page.

For instance, if you went back in time to the dawn of the automobile and heard someone say 70% of jobs related to the care and distribution of horses would be gone in 30 years, would you freak? Of course not. Being from the future and such, you would understand that the loss of those jobs would pale in comparison to the increase in quality of life made possible by the new technology. You would also understand that the proliferation of automobiles would lead to the development of new jobs which those around you could scarcely imagine. If someone suggested that automobiles ought to be banned or that their development ought to be throttled in some way in order to preserve the horse industry, you would understand them to be a fool.

The same applies to robotics today. The only difference between scenarios is that we cannot see into the future. We cannot see what life will actually look like when robots dig our ditches, pour our drinks, and change our infants’ diapers. All we see are the “lost jobs.” We must imagine the higher quality of life and as of yet inconceivable jobs which will emerge in a society where so much can be done so cheaply.

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Republicans Are Still Clueless About Technology

Monday, January 13th, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard

2016 Presidential Survey  GOP.com

The RNC wants to know your favorite candidates for the 2016 presidential nomination and they’ve set up a handy straw poll on their website so you can make your views known. You can choose from a whopping thirty-two potential nominees including Rand Paul, Tea Party favorites Ted Cruz and Allen West, and a spate of undocumented Democrats establishment Republicans.

For the small price of your personal data (name, email address, zip code), you can vote for up to three candidates and then view the results…

Well, actually, no. For the small price of your data you are asked to make a donation and then you can view…

Still no.

Unlike the vast majority of polls of this sort where you’re asked for your opinion (and some of your data is mined), you don’t get to view the results. Apparently this is some top secret project of the RNC. Perhaps the outcome of the straw poll is known only to that stealthy RNC Chairman, Reince Priebus, who will at some future date enlighten the unwashed masses about who should really run for president.

One has to wonder how the decision-making process went with this straw poll. Did the RNC tech team not consider that site visitors would be annoyed at being tricked into handing over their data, only to discover that they wouldn’t be shown the results of the poll? Very poor form on the part of the RNC.

Of course, there could be a more cynical reason for this omission. The RNC may not want the public to view the results of the poll — it may burst the Christie bubble we’ve all been hearing so much about or may show that Republicans aren’t all that jazzed about the undocumented Democrats that the party would like to see win the nomination. After all, how awkward would it be if Jeb Bush went down to Ted Cruz or if Rob Portman lost badly to Allen West?

If you have any doubts that the RNC is after your data and your money and doesn’t give a hoot about your opinion, note that Ron Paul is included in the poll and that you can vote more than once.

While it won’t hurt anything to join the RNC’s mailing list, it will do little to help elect constitutional conservatives. A much better strategy is to identify good candidates and donate your time and talents directly to their campaigns.

And when Reince Priebus trots out the results of this straw poll in a few weeks, believe at your own risk.

2016 Presidential Survey  GOP2.com

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Hackers Take Down Major Gaming Servers As They Hunt Down Pro-Gamer

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013 - by Paula Bolyard
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[LANGUAGE WARNING]

James Varga, a 25-year-old professional gamer who goes by the screenname of PhantomLOrd, had quite an interesting day on Monday. What started out as a normal day (normal for a pro-gamer) would take a sudden turn into a dramatic cat-and-mouse game with the Derp hacker group and end with police and pizza delivery men swarming his L.A. area home.

James “PhantomL0rd” Varga gets paid to play video games — and apparently he’s quite good at them, including League of Legends, one of the most popular games on the internet. He often plays on Twitch.tv, a streaming service that allows gamers to share their experience live with others. According to Varga, he was achieving an unusually high score in League of Legends (LoL) on Monday when the server went down. He switched to another game with the same result. And then another. Eventually he figured out that the Derp hacking group was following him from game to game and not only knocking him off the sites, but also shutting down the games for all other players worldwide.

David Birti, a computer science student a Cedarville University, explained what happened:

Derp is a hacking collective that started out taking down small private game servers, but has recently moved on to much bigger targets. Starting on Monday, they claim to have taken down League of Legends and EVE Online (the two most-played games in the world), along with EA.com, Club Penguin, KCNA (a North Korean news agency), World of Tanks, Guild Wars 2, a private high school’s website, Runescape, and a Westboro Baptist Church site; all of this was done “for the lulz” (just for fun).

They accomplished this using a distributed denial of service attack (DDOS), which can take down servers for short periods of time by flooding them with nonsense traffic. This is usually accomplished with a botnet, which is a group of normal computers that are under the attacker’s control (usually via a virus). Since there are so many computers contributing to the flood, blocking all of them is infeasible. The larger a target is, the larger a botnet needs to be to take it down. And judging from the high-profile targets they’ve taken out, their botnet is undoubtedly very large.

Throughout the DDOS attacks Varga made several attempts to contact Derp representatives through online chat rooms. At one point Varga said, “The whole server is depending on us winning this game.” Reddit documented the entire drama, including screenshots of the chats. At one point Varga’s personal information was posted on the gaming sites — called DOXing — and pizzas started to arrive at his house.

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2 Turtle Doves: A Gift Guide for the Tech-Savvy

Monday, December 23rd, 2013 - by Becky Graebner

Today is Monday, December 23, 2013.  If we were having a literal countdown of the “Twelve days of Christmas” song, we would receive “two turtle doves” today.

There are only two days until Christmas!

Here is a gift guide for the people on your list who love electronics and gadgets.

61lYpytqmXL._SL1500_Audio:

Bose:  QuietComfort 15 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones

The best way to hear your music—without any interference.

HDMX: Classic Bluetooth Wireless Speaker

Connect this handy speaker to your Bluetooth-enabled device whenever you want to listen to music–at home, at work, and even on the beach!

full_GoPro_HD_Hero_3_357728Cameras:

Canon: Canon PowerShot A2500 16 MP Digital Camera

This camera’s 2.7-in LCD screen makes photo and video review/playback clear and easy.

GoPro: GoPro HERO3+ Black Edition

A tough, waterproof camera that allows even the most active owners to document their adventures.

Gadgets for the Car:

Belkin: 2-Port Car Charger with Lightning to USB Cable for iPhone 5/5S/iPod touch/iPod nano/iPad/iPad mini

This charger fits into any car power outlet and will charge two devices at once.

Garmin: Garmin Nüvi

Never get lost again.

Kids:

Leapfrog: LeapPad2 Power Learning Tablet

Over 800+ games, videos, and eBooks that are appropriate for kids.

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Phone:

OtterBox: Commuter Series Case for Samsung Galaxy S III

A durable case that will keep your S3 safe!

 

 

 

61URCnA-MtL._SL1500_Photos:

NIX Digital: 8 in Hi-Res Digital Photo Frame with Motion Sensor

All your photos in one place.

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New Mac Pro Goes on Sale Tomorrow

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013 - by Stephen Green

PRO

My 2009 Mac Pro is still running fine and fast, and I really have no need for the absurd power of the new Mac Pro.

But my Amex feels itchy, anyway.

Replacing the massive 47-pound milled aluminum tower under the desk with a small, sleek, and nearly silent cylinder which would fit comfortably and stylishly next to the Drobo on top of the desk?

The gotta-have-it-factor is out of this world for a workstation.

Want!

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Get Off the Phone!

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013 - by Paula Bolyard

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If you have a phone that’s equipped with a camera, you’ve likely noticed how easy it is to lapse into observing life vicariously, through the lenses of our cameras, instead of truly savoring the moment. Afterward, we regret that we were passive observers and we didn’t fully immerse ourselves in the experience. Be honest, who hasn’t let their food get cold while they scrolled through Instagram filters or “staged” the corned beef sandwich in an attempt to share the goodness with friends and family on Facebook? Even if  you have decided to eschew participating in this Brave New World of head-nodders milling about, you will find yourself accosted on all sides by serial selfie-snappers at family events, restaurants — even at funerals!

In a new video, Buick teams up with “intertainers” Rhett and Link, asking us to take a step back to evaluate our relationships with our phones through the parody song, Get Off the Phone:

Get off the phone now!
It’s gonna be okay
There’s no need to be afraid.
It doesn’t love you
Its gonna die one day.
The government is probably
Spying on you with it anyway.

Rhett and Link’s song, and the accompanying #IntheMoment campaign, turns the camera lens back on those of us with our heads buried in our smart phones — those of us watching virtual life on four-inch monitors while the real world transpires around us — sometimes without us. In one scene, a young dad is shown missing his son’s first taste of birthday cake as he’s busy Facebooking — about his son’s birthday. This hits a little too close to home for some of us.

There’s something tangentially related to a Buick in the ad/PSA/parody (Rhett and Link drive a Buick Regal in the video), but it’s mostly a secondary, subliminal message. As we continue down this road of smart technology and on to Google glass and whatever the Silicon Valley geniuses think up next, Buick asks us to consider some boundaries going forward. Technology shapes us — the way we work, play, and relate to one another as human beings. It’s important to pause now to consider how our increased dependence on technology wreaks existential changes to our relationships and our daily lives.

Should we dial it back at this point? Is that even possible or have we crossed the technological rubicon from which there is no return?

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Red Star on the Moon

Monday, December 16th, 2013 - by Rick Moran

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China has become the third nation to land a spacecraft on the moon. It was the first soft landing of a probe on the moon in nearly 40 years.

NBC News:

The achievement marked the next stage in an ambitious space program that aims to eventually put a Chinese astronaut on the moon.

The unmanned Chang’e 3 lander, named after a mythical Chinese goddess of the moon, touched down on Earth’s nearest neighbor following a 12-minute landing process.

The probe carried a six-wheeled moon rover called Yutu, or “Jade Rabbit,” the goddess’ pet in the myth. Within hours of its landing on a fairly flat, Earth-facing part of the moon, the rover was slated to separate from the Chang’e lander and embark on a three-month scientific exploration.

The achievement marked the next stage in an ambitious space program that aims to eventually put a Chinese astronaut on the moon.

The unmanned Chang’e 3 lander, named after a mythical Chinese goddess of the moon, touched down on Earth’s nearest neighbor following a 12-minute landing process.

The probe carried a six-wheeled moon rover called Yutu, or “Jade Rabbit,” the goddess’ pet in the myth. Within hours of its landing on a fairly flat, Earth-facing part of the moon, the rover was slated to separate from the Chang’e lander and embark on a three-month scientific exploration.

China’s military-backed space program has made methodical progress in a relatively short time, although it lags far behind the United States and Russia in technology and experience.

China sent its first astronaut into space in 2003, becoming the third nation after Russia and the United States to achieve manned space travel independently. In 2007, it sent its first probe to the moon, named Chang’e 1. A follow-up mission, called Chang’e 2, was launched to study the moon in 2010, and then left lunar orbit to make a close flyby of the asteroid Toutatis in 2012.

China plans to open a space station around 2020 and send an astronaut to the moon after that.

Space entrepreneur Dennis Wingo sees more to the Chinese space program than mere nationalistic pride:

China is spending billions on resource acquisition in Africa, South America and other places around the world,” he told FoxNews.com. “If you look at the design of their system for this mission, it is very much a mineral prospector as much as a science mission.”

The strong possibility that there is water on the moon in the form of near-crystallized ice located in craters at the lunar poles opens up exciting possibilities for permanent mining operations on earth’s satellite. Water is not only vital for cooling machinery and drinking, it’s oxygen molecules can be separated to make breathable air. The hydrogen can be extracted and when combined with small amounts of other elements, an efficient fuel for rockets, vehicles, and machinery — methane — can be created.

In short, any viable, self-sustaining mining colony can be profitable if water ice existing on the moon can be tapped and the resource exploited. China is going to have a head start on private US companies who also have been eying the moon for its minerals.

NASA is not going back to the moon, which is as it should be. From here on out, the space “race” is for those who seek to gather the riches that can be found out there. Our government has no interest in joining this race, and NASA is better suited to helping facilitate the private space industry’s development of hardware that will assist us in the commercial exploitation of resources on the moon and elsewhere.

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Cross-posted from the PJ Tatler

image illustration courtesy shutterstock / Bruce Rolff

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Another Blow for the Chevy Volt

Saturday, December 7th, 2013 - by Ed Driscoll

Obama-VW-Lemon-Parody-8-6-10

“Chevy Volt doesn’t make 2014 list of fuel economy leaders,” the Washington Examiner reports:

The Department of Energy released its 2014 fuel economy guide, complete with a list of fuel economy leaders, and yet again, the Volt didn’t make the list.

In fact, the Volt — a compact car — doesn’t even perform as well by most metrics as some midsize plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, according to the guide.

The Volt gets 37 combined mpg (35 mpg city, 40 mpg highway) using premium gasoline. That’s better than most non plug-in vehicles, for sure. But compare that to the Honda Accord plug-in hybrid, which gets 46 combined miles on gasoline — with no mention of it being premium — and 47 mpg in the city and 46 mpg on the highway. Or the Toyota Prius, which gets 50 mpg combined (51 mpg city, 49 mpg highway).

With a starting price of $34,185 (before the $7,500 tax credit, $26,685 if you get the full credit), the Volt isn’t exactly cheap. Compare that to the Prius, which outperforms the Volt on most measures and has a starting price of $29,990 before the tax credit.

The Volt has a range of 344 miles with premium gasoline. Compared to the Ford Fusion plug-in (602 miles with regular gasoline), the Accord plug-in (561 miles with regular gasoline) and the Prius (530 miles with regular gasoline), and the Volt falls further behind.

Perhaps the Government Motors vehicle simply isn’t as hot as it seemed when it was first envisioned — on the other hand, it can on occasion, get too hot for the wrong reasons. If so, here’s news you can use from car blog, Jalopnik: “What To Do When Your Electric Car Catches On Fire: An Explainer.”

On the other hand, perhaps this California proposal might light up Chevy Volts — or at least their sales:

One longtime critic of federal transportation spending once concluded that it would be less expensive for the government to buy every new transit rider a Jaguar XJ8 than it would be to build certain new rail systems. Unfortunately, California officials may not have realized that the idea of buying people new cars wasn’t a serious proposal as much as a way to illustrate a point about excessive spending.

The California Air Resources Board is now embarking on a program that would help poor people buy energy-efficient vehicles. In one scenario posed by the agency, a “voucher” might even pay the full price for a Nissan Leaf, an electric car with an MSRP above $21,000, or for used cars with lower price tags.

Perhaps the state could even design a low-cost “people’s car” for the masses…

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Cross-posted from Ed Driscoll’s blog

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Are Republicans Sabotaging Obamacare with Fraudulent Websites?

Friday, December 6th, 2013 - by Paula Bolyard

HealthcareHacked

Here’s the latest chapter in The Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy.

According to Forward Progressives:

There’s a saying that goes, “If you can’t win, cheat like hell” and it’s apparently the motto that the GOP has taken to heart across the country in their latest attempts to sabotage the Affordable Care Act.

What does their newest attempt involve? Creating fake websites with misinformation that look like state insurance exchanges in order to confuse consumers trying to find out what their new insurance options are under Obamacare.

Forward Progressives cites three websites recently shut down by the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office, including kynect101.com, which, according to the Kentucky AG, was “deceptively similar to kynect.ky.gov, Kentucky’s official health insurance exchange website….[S]ome consumers attempting to locate the site through search engines were being deceptively steered to the kynect101.com website instead of kynect.ky.gov, where they were provided false information about their options under the federal Affordable Care Act, including being informed that there were no plans with federal subsidies available to offset a portion of their insurance premiums.”

In a conspiratorial whisper, Forward Progressives blames Republicans. And what passes for proof with this crowd?

“f you were running a sabotage campaign, why not run it in a state with a fully functional health insurance exchange site and (not coincidentally) a GOP Senator who is facing a battle for re-election both from Democrats as well as from within his own party?

So apparently, as this conspiracy theory goes (if I’m following it correctly), because Kentucky is operating one of the only (mostly) functioning state exchanges in the country, Republicans, wishing to protect Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s immense Power to Control Everything have been running around creating bogus websites that would not only give Kentucky residents misinformation about their insurance options under the exchanges, but would also potentially leave their personal data in the hands of hackers. (Which, thank goodness, is totally unlike the actual Democrat-created marketplace website that gives Americans misinformation about their insurance options and leaves their personal data in the hands of hackers.) And Republicans have been doing this “across the country” according to Forward Progressives.

And you thought Bush Derangement Syndrome was bad? Progressives, usually content to wait a few years to start their revisionist history, are now revising on the fly. In their alternative reality, they’ve found a way to blame Republicans for (arguably) the most epic website failure in the history of the internet.

[Note to Sen. McConnell’s campaign: After the site was banned by the Kentucky AG, http://kynect101.com is once again available on Go Daddy for the low, low price of $69.99 plus commission.]

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So, Who’s Ready for a Sky Full of Amazon Drones?

Monday, December 2nd, 2013 - by Bryan Preston

amazon-primeair
60 Minutes previewed the future last night. Amazon is planning to use drone aircraft to enable 30-minute delivery of many products that we order online.

Charlie Rose: This is?

Jeff Bezos:…is…these are octocopters.

Charlie Rose: Yeah?

Jeff Bezos: These are effectively drones but there’s no reason that they can’t be used as delivery vehicles. Take a look up here so I can show you how it works.

Charlie Rose: All right. We’re talking about delivery here?

Jeff Bezos: We’re talking about delivery. There’s an item going into the vehicle. I know this looks like science fiction. It’s not.

Charlie Rose: Wow!

Jeff Bezos: This is early. This is still…years away. It drops the package.

Charlie Rose: And there’s the package.

Jeff Bezos: You come and get your package. And we can do half hour delivery.

Charlie Rose: Half hour delivery?

Jeff Bezos: Half hour delivery/and we can carry objects, we think, up to five pounds, which covers 86 percent of the items that we deliver.

Charlie Rose: And what is the range between the fulfillment center and where you can do this within…

Jeff Bezos: These…this…this…these gener…

Charlie Rose: 30 minutes?

Jeff Bezos: These generations of vehicles, it could be a 10-mile radius from a fulfillment center. So, in urban areas, you could actually cover very significant portions of the population. And so, it won’t work for everything; you know, we’re not gonna deliver kayaks or table saws this way. These are electric motors, so this is all electric; it’s very green, it’s better than driving trucks around. This is…this is all an R&D project.

Charlie Rose: With drones, there’s somebody sitting somewhere in front of a screen.

Jeff Bezos: Not these; these are autonomous. So you give ‘em instructions of which GPS coordinates to go to, and they take off and they fly to those GPS coordinates.

Charlie Rose: What’s the hardest challenge in making this happen?

Jeff Bezos: The hard part here is putting in all the redundancy, all the reliability, all the systems you need to say, ‘Look, this thing can’t land on somebody’s head while they’re walking around their neighborhood’…

Charlie Rose doesn’t know what a drone is? Sheesh.

This idea seems cool until you think it through for a bit. Amazon’s drones will be eyesores in the air and electromagnets for lawyers when one of them goes haywire and crashes in someone’s yard or in the middle of a street or, heaven forbid, kills a guy. Human nature can be a nasty thing. Lawfare is strangling innovation in America. Watch octocopter-chasing lawyers have a heyday over Amazon’s drones and its fat wallet. Watch the newspaper Amazon owns defend whatever the company does. And watch environmentalists slow this whole thing down in court.

The hardest part technologically probably isn’t building in redundancy. The hardest part is making sure these things don’t become magnets for thieves (other than the aforementioned lawyers). Where you have valuable product moving, you have the potential for heists. These drones could and probably will become targets, especially if they’re in operation at night. So game that out, and Amazon will end up working with the FAA to either create sky lanes through which its drones will have special permission to travel, which would be protected either from the air or the ground against theft, or they’ll have to arm the drones with countermeasures.

When Amazon merges with Google to perfect the drones’ accuracy, it’s all heading toward SkyNet.
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Cross-posted from the PJ Tatler

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10 Beautiful Sunrises from Southern California

Sunday, December 1st, 2013 - by Dave Swindle

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When I set my New Year’s Resolutions 11 months ago – 7 New Year’s Resolutions I Invite Others to Steal – #4 was:

Start Developing Some New Hobbies Beyond Internet Trolling. Something New Each Season Sounds Like a Good Goal.

I’m not sure when it began but this year I’ve really started getting into photography much more. I think the effectiveness of the iPhone camera and the ease of use of Instagram are the main culprit. It’s now just so quick to snap the image you want, crop and adjust it, throw on a caption and some categories, and send it out to the world moments after it happened.

One of my favorite things both to photograph and see of others is a great sunrise photo. I’ve gotten in the habit of trying to take them every morning when there’s something that seems worth sharing. It seems like Sunrise is usually the best time of day for me to be able to break for a few moments. Taking the photo and thinking about it tends to double as a time to slow down and meditate and mentally prepare for the day. In an ideal world I’d also take photos everyday at Noon and sunset too.

When I can’t or when the weather doesn’t bless Southern California with something worth remembering then others around the world help out.

There’s something kind of strange and comforting about seeing many images of the sun rise or set from different points around the world at the same time. It’s as though for a moment human beings can stop and though they may have nothing else in common at that moment they at least share that common uniting experience of awe at seeing the sun rise.

So I’m going to try and start sharing more of my best sunrise photos here at PJ Lifestyle. I also invite all the PJ Lifestyle and PJ columnist regulars to share their beautiful images of the sun rising, setting, or standing high at noon too. Just a photo and a sentence or paragraph or inspirational quote or something uplifting to accompany the image. If you haven’t started playing around yet with Instagram you should — it’s very easy and can be a helpful tool for blog posts.

I’m also intrigued to experiment with opening this New Media troublemaking up to PJ Lifestyle’s readers. Please send your photos to PJLifestyleSunshine@gmail.com.

I request that you include:

1. The image itself as a JPEG formatted for web. (Not super large or the raw image from your camera. 700 width across maximum.)

2. The time/date and (approximate) place it was taken.

3. A brief, positive statement or sentiment. (This can be as mundane as “I hope everyone has a great day today!”)

4. Your preferred attribution — and if you have a link to a website or twitter account or something then that’s fine to submit too.

You can also send images to me on Twitter and Instagram. Just tweet them at me or tag me on Instagram and I’ll see them.

Here are my 10 favorites from this month, the first three (one up top and two below) are from this morning:

December 1, 2013:

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I was sitting at my computer this morning editing a delightful Rhonda Robinson parenting post for tomorrow morning when I looked up and gasped at the sunrise above.

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Just spending a few minutes each morning focusing on beautiful images like this makes all the difference in the world.

November 29:

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November 28:

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Here Comes the Maxi iPad?

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013 - by Stephen Green

FAMILY

Mac Rumors has the report:

Following a September report stating that Apple may be working with Quanta Computer to develop a larger-sized iPad, Digitimes is now reporting that the Taiwanese-based manufacturer has landed the contract to mass-produce the tablet for the second half of 2014. Just last week, a report had claimed that the larger iPad was being targeted for an early 2014 launch.

The article also mentions that Quanta is expected to face difficulties when assembling the larger iPad because of its unique industrial design and assembly, which could also lead to constrained supplies:

Quanta is expected to encounter several challenges in terms of industrial design and assembly when making the large-size iPad. And since the size is not the mainstream specification, order volumes are expected to be limited, the sources said.

Leaving aside Digitimes’ (ahem) uneven reputation, that last bit doesn’t really pass the sniff test. Apple is hardly known to expand a product category just to fill a niche with low-volume sales.
*****

Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Xbox One… Step Short

Friday, November 22nd, 2013 - by Stephen Green

Xbox-One

I thought Xbox One was the right product marketed correctly. Sony has enjoyed more of a lock on the hardcore gamer audience, even if the PS3 was harder on developers. PS4 looks to have corrected that slight, while keeping the marketing focus (and product specs) on the gamers. Xbox was from the first generation meant to be more of a living room device. To that end the hardware, especially comparing the 360 to the PS3, was made easier for developers to work with. Taking things further with this third generation, the “One” in “Xbox One” is supposed to mean it’s the one device you have to plug into your television. It even offers HDMI In so that the console can act as the go-between with your TV and cable box.

But it all depends on execution, and that’s where things aren’t looking so great at launch time:

After about a week of using these voice commands every chance I could, I found them to be adequate but far from perfect. As evidenced by the above video, the voice commands were accurate about 80 to 90 percent of the time, depending on the command, the clarity of the voice, and the location of the speaker. The one significant exception to this rate was the “Xbox on” voice function, which only registered about 25 to 50 percent of the time when the system was in Instant-On mode. The system didn’t do much worse than normal at picking up commands through crosstalk, occasional stutters, and mumbling, but it occasionally refused to acknowledge slow, deliberate commands.

The 10 to 20 percent of commands that the system either ignored or misinterpreted was right on the line between “annoying but usable” and “frustratingly broken” to me. Having to repeat yourself once every eight or nine times is annoying, sure, but scrolling through a cluttered menu just to find the settings screen is arguably more annoying than saying “Xbox go to settings” even if you have to do it twice.

Reviewer Kyle Orland later says, “It would be nice if the system overall was a bit more forgiving or smarter about how it interprets voice commands as well.” Considering Microsoft has been pushing “natural language” use for years and years, it’s difficult to understand why they can’t make anything nearly as good as Apple’s Siri or Google Now. Another complaint is that it took two hours to transfer one particular game from Blu-Ray disc to the hard drive — and that’s a mandatory process. Apparently you can’t play directly from the removable media with these new-generation consoles. But if you’re going to require players to do that, you must absolutely make it as quick and as painless as possible.

Sony is going to make gamers (and developers) happy with PS4. Microsoft will almost certainly have more than enough high-quality, Xbox-exclusive titles to make the One a success, too. But if they’re going to conquer the whole living room, they’ll have to do better than this.

****

cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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How to Install a New Faucet in 7 Easy Steps

Thursday, November 21st, 2013 - by Builder Bob
Old Faucet - Lame.

Old Faucet – Lame.

I hate plumbing. I really, really hate it. Given the choice between doing a plumbing project or listening to a Miley Cyrus album, I would choose a root canal (at least a drill can stay on pitch). About the only thing I’m good at with plumbing is displaying copious amounts of hairy butt crack while working.

On the surface plumbing sounds relatively simple: pipes bring clean water in, and separate pipes take the poop water away. But with changing building codes and new developments in materials there is no standardized system, so you often don’t know if you’re going to be dealing with iron pipe, copper, pvc or cpvc, or new pex fittings, until you actually dig into a project.

There is a reason plumbers can charge $60+ per hour, and if you have more money than time or patience then I strongly recommend hiring one, particularly if you are dealing with a difficult issue. However, if you want to save a bunch of money and improve the look of your bathroom or kitchen, replacing a faucet is within the ability of most homeowners.

What You Need:

supplies

1. The first step in any plumbing project is to shut off the water to the area where you are working.

Most fixtures have shut off valves in the cabinet underneath. If yours are in good shape simply turn off the valves for both the cold and hot water, and move to step 4.  If however, you have ancient shutoffs from the 1970s and need to replace them you will have to shut off the main water supply to the house.  Most mainline shutoffs are located outside the house in an enclosed box underground. Beware if you live in the southwest like me; critters love the shade and moisture provided here, so look out for black widows, scorpions, and snakes. (Man aren’t you glad you decided to do this?) The other shut off should be located on top of the water heater. 

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How to Kill Internet Piracy

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013 - by Stephen Green

TUBEFLIX

Maybe the Germans have a word for something which amazes you without shocking you.

The end of the report also stuck out:

Meanwhile, file sharing continued emaciating on many fixed-access networks as streaming video options like Netflix, YouTube, and others proliferate.

File sharing now accounts for less than 10 percent of total daily traffic in North America, down from the more than 60 percent it netted in Sandvine’s first Global Internet Phenomena Report released more than 10 years ago.

Five years ago, it accounted for more than 31 percent.

So it turns out, if you make movies and TV shows readily and easily available at a decent price, people don’t pirate them nearly so much.

Go figure.

*****

Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Has Disney World Fulfilled Walt’s Dreams For His Florida Project?

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013 - by Chris Queen

Florida Project

Less than two months before his death from lung cancer, Walt Disney wrapped production on a short film detailing his plans for the 27,443 acres his company had purchased in Central Florida. He shared his grand vision for what his inner circle called the “Florida Project.” With writing help from Marty Sklar, Walt explained his ideas for more than just a theme park:

Right now our plans include an airport of the future (down here in Osceola County), an entrance complex where all visitors will enter Disney World, an industrial park area covering about 1000 acres, and of course, the theme park area way up here. And all these varied activities around the Disney World will be tied together with a high-speed rapid transit system running almost the full length of the property.

But the most exciting, by far the most important part of our Florida project—in fact, the heart of everything well be doing in Disney World—will be our experimental prototype city of tomorrow. We call it EPCOT, spelled E-P-C-O-T: Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. Here it is in larger scale.

EPCOT will take its cue from the new ideas and new technologies that are now emerging from the creative centers of American industry. It will be a community of tomorrow that will never be completed, but will always be introducing, and testing, and demonstrating new materials and new systems. And EPCOT will always be a showcase to the world of the ingenuity and imagination of American free enterprise.

The futuristic city included a domed urban area with climate control for shoppers and hotel guests, along with transportation throughout the city via People Mover and Monorail. Residents of EPCOT (or Progess City, as some came to call it) would always have the latest technology at their fingertips. It was a bold dream, for sure, and some believed it would die with Walt.

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The Grave Unhappiness Wrought by the Failure of the iWork Pages Update

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013 - by Roger Kimball

apple-iwork

Even as the world careens from crisis to crisis—will Iran get (and use) The Bomb? Will the euro finally fail? Will ObamaCare put the nail in the coffin of the U.S. economy and America’s tradition of self-reliance and individual liberty? No one’s crystal ball is sharp enough to say. But even as the world conjures with these and other pending catastrophes, there are still local tempests to conjure with. In the somewhat rarefied world of word-processing software, the corporate giant Apple has precipitated a category five storm in the teapot inhabited by users of its iWork suite of software: Pages, Numbers, and Keynote, the Word, Excel, and Powerpoint of the Apple eco-system.

Last week, in the course of a big Apple event in San Francisco, The Corporation announced, to considerable fanfare, new versions of iWork. There were smiles everywhere as a couple of Corporate officials took to the stage and demonstrated that, at long last, users would be able to collaborate on the same document simultaneously over the internet, on their Macs and/or their iPads and iPhones, even on PCs. This is a feature that Google has offered for some time, but Apple’s implementation was supposed to be more elegant (if less robust technically). The software had been rewritten from the ground up, they announced, adding many new features. It was a particularly welcome announcement for those who use the software because the last major update to the iWork software was in 2009, eons ago in the chronology of software. Patience was about to be rewarded. A new Apple triumph was about to be born. The new software, which Apple was offering for free, would make serious inroads into the hegemony of Microsoft’s Office suite, which is a de facto world-wide standard.

The celebratory mood lasted for about 15 minutes. Then a few people downloaded and started using the software. Uh oh. In its effort to make iWork compatible with the version that runs on the iPad and iPhone, Apple decided to neuter the desktop version of its software. “Big deal,” you say. “Use Microsoft Office.”  More and more people will do just that, I suspect. But in the meantime, there is high drama at the Apple support site and App store, where the hostile comments about the software vastly outnumber the positive comments. One independent reviewer summed up the verdict: “Pages 5: An unmitigated disaster.”

I’ve been using Pages myself for a couple of years. I’ve never liked Microsoft Office, and I’ve always harbored a particular dislike for Word, which I find bloated and unwieldy. Before using Pages, I wrote using a DOS- and then Windows-based programmer’s editor. It was a bare bones approach, but I liked the simplicity of the software and the control it offered over text manipulation. Together with a DOS-based PostScript layout tool, I was good to go.

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The Future Just Got Closer

Saturday, October 26th, 2013 - by Stephen Green

OBJECTS IN MIRROR

What to get to go with your 3D printer? A 3D laser scanner, of course.

*****

Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Will Netflix Beat HBO?

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013 - by Stephen Green

FLIX

That’s from Derek Thompson who asks, “How long can Netflix’s amazing run last?

But I think that’s the wrong question.

The right question might be, Why is HBO’s subscriber base nearly static?

HBO has seen Netflix grow and grow, yet have clung to their same old model. There was some brief excitement here at Casa Verde when they announced HBO Go, but the excitement quickly subsided when we found out it’s a “halfway pregnant” effort. Even at that HBO Go is available only to existing cable subscribers. Their growth model is… well, it’s there on the chart.

*****

Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Wikipedia Stunned That Companies Pay Users to Write Favorable Articles

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013 - by Bridget Johnson

wiki460

Wikipedia announced today that it’s investigating “as many as several hundred” users who may have been paid to promote organizations or products on the massive online encyclopedia.

“Our readers know Wikipedia’s not perfect, but they also know that it has their best interests at heart, and is never trying to sell them a product or propagandize them in any way. Our goal is to provide neutral, reliable information for our readers, and anything that threatens that is a serious problem. We are actively examining this situation and exploring our options,” Sue Gardner, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, said in a statement.

Wikipedia said it has already blocked or banned more than 250 user accounts for “non-neutral editing.”

Available in 287 languages, Wikipedia contains more than 29 million articles contributed by a global volunteer community of roughly 80,000 people.

“Editing-for-pay has been a divisive topic inside Wikipedia for many years, particularly when the edits to articles are promotional in nature. Unlike a university professor editing Wikipedia articles in their area of expertise, paid editing for promotional purposes, or paid advocacy editing as we call it, is extremely problematic. We consider it a ‘black hat’ practice. Paid advocacy editing violates the core principles that have made Wikipedia so valuable for so many people,” Gardner said.

“What is clear to everyone is that all material on Wikipedia needs to adhere to Wikipedia’s editorial policies, including those on neutrality and verifiability. It is also clear that companies that engage in unethical practices on Wikipedia risk seriously damaging their own reputations. In general, companies engaging in self-promotional activities on Wikipedia have come under heavy criticism from the press and the general public, with their actions widely viewed as inconsistent with Wikipedia’s educational mission.”

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