Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Morons With Bats (and Geek Wednesday)

Before we start the WOW with Geek Wednesday (go ahead, sue me, Bill), can we all please take a moment to stop these kooks beating the seals? Is there anything that people won't fucking do for money? This shit just gets my ass every bit as red as Iraq and Gitmo and NSA wiretapping and NYPD spying and tax breaks to the mega-wealthy while New Orleans drowns. All right, I'd probably stop short of spray painting old ladies in fur coats (though I also wouldn't lift a finger to stop anyone who does), but those PETA people have it right.

Geek Wednesday

Sliding right into our Site of the Week selection, PETA also has an outstanding collection of websites. The design, content, multimedia, server power, and smooth navigation of these sites makes them models of their kind. Like movie stars? Check out some of the videos at PETA2. They also know that, in our culture, sex sells anything and everything: check out their pictorial listing of vegan hotties. The fact is, the kids are right: they're hot mainly because they're healthy, and they're healthy because they've made some good choices, and research backs them up. And they get to strut their stuff on one of the cooler pieces of HTML on the web.

When Unions Get Dangerous: I'm all for the Employee Freedom of Choice Act, now stuck somewhere in Congress, because workers need the right to organize, they deserve it. Where unions get sleazy is when their lips get stuck to the corporate tit. The CWA has done just that in its opposition to Net Neutrality. In the interest of protecting its workers' jobs, which are tied to Big Telcom and its rampant monopolism, the CWA has spouted the same corporate trail of projectile lies that AT&T and its ilk have shot by us.

I've written about this plenty of times here, so I won't bore you with a rehash, but Net Neutrality is a people's issue, and it must remain so if we are to have any hope of salvaging democracy and some semblance of a free press from the corporate hegemony that rules us all today. Click that Save the Internet graphic in the sidebar and add your voice.

Apple Store

You buy a Dell, You Go To...: So I was starting to soften on Dell lately. They've had their butts whooped hard on Wall Street and in the open market by Apple and HP, and they're taking a good long look at bundling Linux in their boxes. So I got onto my Linkshare page and thought I'd get into their ad program and—gasp—start posting ads for Dell. Here is their response to my application (by the way, the bullet points showed up in my email exactly as you see them):

Dear Brian Donohue:

We regret to inform you that Dell Home Systems has chosen not to accept you into their affiliate program at this time. We reserve the right to reject your application if we determine your site is unsuitable. The most common reason for being declined acceptance into the program is that the site falls into one of the following categories:

¿ Sites that are unavailable or are under construction

¿ Site classified as Personal Home Pages

¿ Sites that do not contain a computer or electronics category

But it can also be for the following:

¿ Aesthetically unpleasing sites

¿ Sites with mature/adult content

¿ Sites with hate/violent/offensive content Sites containing sexually explicit materials Sites promoting alcoholic beverages or excessive drinking/drug use

¿ Sites promoting discrimination based on race, sex, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation, or age

¿ Sites that promote violence or illegal activities Sites containing extreme religious content Gambling or lottery sites

Well, none of that made any sense (well, I think DR's "aesthetically pleasing" for a blog). Then I saw the real reason:

¿ Political sites that endorse one party or extreme political sites

Well, that explains everything...that is, if you have a little background info. I get mine from, which is a site that everyone here ought to have bookmarked. Here's their rundown on Apple (left) and Dell (right). Any questions?

What's strange about this is that I bet if I got onto Dell's site and set myself up to buy one of their boxes, they wouldn't reject my credit card because I'm a lefty. But they won't let me run their ads. Hmm, it took Apple all of one day to approve my application; they didn't seem to have any of the long list of concerns that Dell has with DR.

So if you're in the market for a great machine that won't make you pay for the Vista bloatware, click that link up there and get a Mac. Or if you don't wish to support a company that has allied itself with the likes of Nike (perfectly understandable, which is why I don't do iPod ads here), then go to System76. They've got a very cool-looking ultra-portable added to their lineup, and all of their boxes sport that marvelous OS that we've praised here before, Ubuntu Linux. And in about three weeks you'll be able to upgrade (for free) to the next version of Ubuntu, the Feisty Fawn. Fear not, Windows-freaks: upgrading Ubuntu is nothing like the nightmare of moving from XP to Vista. I've tested it through three versions (Hoary Hedgehog to Dapper Drake to Edgy Eft): you write a line of code into a command line, hit enter, wait about half an hour, restart, and you've got yourself a fresh, updated, working OS. Try that with any two flavors of Windows—I dare you.

There are other wonders of the Open Source world to explore, once you've got that gleaming new Linux box on your lap. I'm working on another book (this one's a guide to living a decent human life amid the domination of corporate oppression and the tyranny of corporate government, a theme we may have casually touched upon here and there in this space). I'll be writing it in Ubuntu on Open Office. How is that possible on a MacBook, you ask?

Nothing to it: that's the beta2 of VMware Fusion. Since it's beta software, it's free for now (and Parallels, by the way, has brought its price down $20). As you can see, I have Ubuntu running smoothly on the MacBook now. It takes one of the processors to itself, along with 512MB of RAM, and runs very nicely on it, too, as long as I don't have a lot of Mac stuff running in the background. On a box with a Core Duo processor and a gig of RAM, with Linux as the only OS, it would absolutely fly.

Game Corner: We don't do this sort of thing very often, but I've found a couple of games that are worth recommending. I play when I'm waiting for something to happen inside me that will get me writing. The game takes me out of that semi-panicked, worrisome mode of consciousness most commonly associated with writer's block, so that after an hour or so, I'm ready to flog away at the keyboard with a reasonably clear head. Try it sometime.

Anyway, I found a terrific word game over at Big Fish (link in sidebar): it's called Haiku Journey (for the two or three BeOS fans among you out there, that should strike a chord), and it reveals what a production team must be required to create one of these games. They obviously needed poets for the actual haiku that comprise one of the puzzles of the game; researchers to deliver the history of haiku that appears throughout as you pass between levels; graphic designers and artists for the lovely panel artwork; wordsmiths for writing the rules to the various word puzzles; and of course some kickass geeks for writing the code to make the whole thing work. The game loads a bit slowly on my Wintel box (a Gateway P4 1.3GHz with 640MB of RAM and an nVidia GeForce 128MB video card), but after a few minutes of loading the graphics, sounds, dictionaries, and file caches, the game appears and runs smoothly from there. And take it from a fellow who's a fairly adept word geek: after a dozen levels or so, it starts to get fairly challenging.

The other game I've been playing is the Mac version of Reflexive's brick-basher, Ricochet. What I like about this one is the combination of design, engaging play, flexibility (it comes with a level editor), and perhaps most of all, imagination and humor. The geeks who made this game obviously had fun with it themselves: there are metallic brick "walls" in the shape of everything from Elvis' guitar to Kirk's Enterprise. And for the breakout psychotics among you, there are multiple levels of play: easy (my usual choice), average, hard, and "insane." The latter features an aspirin-tablet sized ball rocketing around at speeds that could only be mastered by a character from an opera by The Who.

Finally today, highlights from my latest hour at StumbleUpon:

  • Al Gore's hilarious SNL skit. Worth another look.

  • Orwell's brilliant essay on politics and English.

  • Aesop's Fables. All of them, with the morals.

  • LocalHost80: a great compendium of resources for web geeks.

  • Tips for Writers. Simple, most of them, and just the ones that we all tend to forget.

  • Frankfurt's icono-classic, On Bullshit.

  • The Nightmare Project. Sweet dreams.
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