Monday, October 29, 2007

Watching the Watchers: May the Farce Be With You

With the next Presidential campaign season well under way, both sides are looking for political grist to mill. Democrats were justifiably interested in whistle-blowers in the Justice Department, especially during the tenure of its former head. It isn't surprising that the House Judiciary Committee would be in charge of sifting through any tips that came in from the web. And it isn't really even surprising that they haven't even started looking at them yet. What is surprising is when someone sends a memo to all those who used the anonymous e-mail tip line with all the users' e-mail addresses in the clear. And they copied the Vice President on the memo.

Only slightly less farcical is television personality Stephen Colbert's "candidacy" in the Presidential race. And his "campaign" may be getting a serious look by the Federal Election Commission. Colbert may have found a (clever and humorous) loophole around the difficulties of having an illegal corporate sponsor for his campaign, but he's going to have a harder time if Comedy Central gets prosecuted for allowing a candidate to have editorial control over a TV show. This ABC story goes into the details nicely. Colbert has so far walked the tightrope well enough to keep the stunt mere parody while at the same time garnering all sorts of media attention for his program. I have to think a man that can do that won't actually be running for President, but wouldn't it be an interesting story if he did?

Monday, October 22, 2007

One Reason Your Parents Will Be Calling You in 2009

I'm going to assume if you are reading stuff on this tiny corner of the 'tubes, you are reasonably tech savvy. So, you've probably heard about the impending shutdown of television's over-the-air analog signals. It's something that's going to make generations of televisions into junk almost overnight. Unless you buy a government subsidized converter box. Or, if you have cable, in which case you get to keep your analog signals until 2012. Since I read technology web sites, I've known about it for a while. Though I do keep getting the final date wrong. (It's February 2009.) But the truth is that there hasn't been much real publicity about the changeover. That is beginning to change. Best Buy has ended all sales of televisions without digital tuners, and the FCC has fined a series of retailers for selling analog-only televisions without the mandated consumer warning that it will soon not be able to get signals. The first places someone may see any real warnings are apparently the places that want to sell you a TV. Naturally, there will probably be something of a conflict of interest there.

In any case, it's going to be up to those of us who follow these things to be able to answer the questions put forth by our relatives, friends, church members, random people on the street, and dogs looking to watch Seinfeld reruns while they play poker. Yes, I myself was in a conversation a couple of days ago where the change was mentioned in passing, and half of the group were shocked. Ignorance is out there people! As alarming as it may seem, there are indeed folks who's lives don't center around television technology, and they are going to be mightily confused soon. It's amusing now, but it's probably going to get annoying before it's over. We who are known as "tech" types have a little over a year to study up. If you don't know the difference between TV, DTV, and HDTV, consider this the first pop-quiz.

I'm also considering coming up with some sort of consulting rate plan...

Headline Hunting

Normally for this segment, I pick headlines that are humorous due to something ironic or clever about the headline (whether intentional by the writer or not). Today's entry stands on its own, and it's an accurate summary of the article too. Without further introduction, I present, Monkeys attack Delhi politician. The story is quite interesting, and whether you find it humorous or sad could tell you quite a bit about yourself.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Situation Report

Posts may come more sporadically than normal for a while: the Combine is on the move.

Also, there are rumors of cake.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

This Week's Link Fest

Starting off in the land of the historical, details are beginning to come out regarding the real story behind the Sputnik launch. Vladimir Isachenkov has the byline of a really in depth and interesting AP story born of talks with the actual people involved in the project that created Earth's first artificial satellite. It's quite a story of engineering daring and political spin.

Meanwhile in Japan, the development of a new stealth fighter is under way and Slashdot provides the relevant links, complete with speculative images that bear a close resemblance to the US F-22.

If fighter jets aren't your style, perhaps the first commercial organic light emitting diode television would be more your speed. The TV itself is a relatively tiny 11 inches, and the $1700+ price is anything but small. However OLEDs are one of the primary contenders to be the future of televisions, replacing the relatively low contrast solid state LED and fragile plasma screens that have only recently become common. OLEDs may eventually enable flexible displays and print-quality resolution, but they will have to overcome the relatively short lifespan of the display materials as well as the usual hurdles of a concept moving from the lab to the store.

Finally, if all this talk of technology makes you weary (or if you just need a little boost), try doing some simple stretches to get the blood moving again.