Blogging’s been a little infrequent of late, and it’ll be at least a week before anything comes up regularly since on Wednesday I head to Edmonton for the Canadian Undergraduate Physics Conference – both to represent SFU Physics at the Graduate Studies fair and to support my overstressed girlfriend who’s been organizing this event for the past year.

So here’s some news (in no particular order or even semblance of relatedness other than that it all interests me):

  • Obama is doing a better job defending our medicare system then most (but not all) Canadian politicians
  • On the CFI and accountability issue, I had received an informal response from CFI Transnational a few weeks ago (essentially saying the system works so why fix it), but they have yet to release anything official. I’ll likely come back to this next week.
  • In Malaysia, they’re going to cane a Muslim woman for drinking a beer. She’ll be the first woman in Malaysia to be caned for drinking under the Sharia Law there that only applies to Muslims (for now). It’s supposed to be a “ceremonial” caning as opposed to anything painful, but I still don’t think that cuts it. We don’t “ceremonially” spank children because it’s nearly as bad as actually spanking a child.
  • I got a new Netbook, and it kicks ass. I also got an external DVD burner and used it to put Windows XP on my old netbook which I plan to give to my girlfriend (so she no longer has to lug around her 10 lb “laptop”). The funds for this were provided by the UofA ECE department for me having the top presentation of the 2009 EE 495 research project.
  • Eee PC 1005HA

  • If you’re interested in what my research career is shaping up to look like for the next couple years, and don’t want to wait for my inevitable posts that attempt to boil it down for easier consumption, you can try to get through this guy’s thesis [pdf] which somewhat relates to what I might be doing (I’m still not 100% sure since our lab’s not fully operational yet). Short form: measuring exotic micron-scale forces with Bose-Einstein Condensates.
  • Finally, North Vancouver is considering an obscure piece of technology to make getting up the steep hills easier on bicycles. See the video below:

Why Zunes suck

So I’ve covered Why iPods Suck, now what about the Zune (in my 4 days experience with 1 2)?

  1. Microsoft Zune software – while it closes and stays closed, its still the main/only way to transfer stuff to the Zune. It’s not as bad as iTunes.
  2. No Marketplace in Canada – I had to change my computer to say that I live in the USA to get access to the free podcasts from the Zune Marketplace, but without a US credit card I won’t be buying any DRM-free music from there (Apple’s music store wasn’t available in Canada right away either, this is more of a time issue).
  3. Still a proprietary USB/docking connection – this is even better because there’s very few accessories for the Zune yet.
  4. Useless Wifi – I guess it’s good at draining your battery life, but does anyone actually use it to share music between Zunes or to Sync (when the cable is faster)
  5. Apple Fanboys/girls (more so the Anti-Micro$ofters) – this time they simply dismiss the product because it’s made by Microsoft. Great scepticism children.

Why iPods suck

Apparently talking smack about the iPod on a science/politics/atheism blog will get me more traffic/comments than my average post, here’s a list of why the iPod sucks (and to be fair I will follow with a list of things that suck about the Zune as well):

  1. iTunes – Why should I have to download firmware cracks to use a device to its full potential? Perhaps I don’t want to give Steve Jobs any more money than I already did for the iPod. Finally, why can’t iTunes at least just turn off and not want to sit in my tray hogging resources that don’t belong to it?
  2. Overpriced – Still $50 more than Zunes on average, and roughly double what any other competitor charges.
  3. The fanboys/girls – Seriously, it’s just a freaking piece of plastic and electronics. Let’s not all be tools to a “hip” marketing campaign. Apple didn’t invent the mp3 player anymore than Microsoft invented the GUI operating system.
  4. AAC – Maybe, just maybe, I want a useful format that the rest of the world uses to listen to music with.
  5. Standards? – Why screw the entire MP3 accessory market the same way that cell phone accessories are screwed by making your plug proprietary? I shouldn’t expect more from the company that likes to control every aspect of its computer line, but still, imagine if one stereo dock ran Zunes, iPods and other less common brands, and all with one plug. This is your fault Apple, being the company that launched the MP3 player to primetime

DRM almost made the list, and is an honourable mention since it took until March of this year for Apple to cut it out of iTunes. Another honourable mention is the lack of card expandability, some flash mp3 players offer SD card expansion, it’s rare though, so I won’t hold it against Apple.

And to be fair, some of these points are shared with other mp3 players, but Apple receives far more credit and good press than it likely deserves.

Just remember: What’s popular is not always what’s best or what’s right – look at Islam/Christianity (or all religions), or the numbers that vote Conservative (or don’t vote at all).

(Don’t worry, a return to regularly-scheduled blogging topics is coming).

Suck it Apple, I bought a Zune

On Sunday I bought the 8GB Black Microsoft Zune MP3 player. Today, I returned that one that died and got another one (which had slightly different packaging and is thus far holding up).

Microsoft 8GB Zune

The player requires the Zune software to transfer music (although when you close the software it actually goes away, unlike someone else’s software). And unfortunately, the Marketplace (MS’s answer to the iTunes store) is unavailable outside the US for now. However, by setting your computer’s region to US, you can at least access the Marketplace and download the free podcasts that are available (you can’t buy points without a US credit card though, unless you eBay them).

So far the player is worth it’s $100 price tag, besides the first DOA one that crapped out. It should keep me entertained for at least a little while longer (and especially on long Vancouver commutes that I expect in the fall).

New comment rule: Think first

People are stupid.

And not just everyday, “where’d I leave my keys” stupid, but going to get themselves into real trouble stupid. Especially when they get behind the fake anonymity of a computer.

Or should I spell it Annonymous:

I ripped one down Faggets.

I ripped one down, and i will rip more. Get ready to have no more posters, waste your money F A G G O T S

You are not anonymous when you post online. Your IP address is logged dipshit.

So I know you posted from a University of Alberta computer. This means you logged on, and even luckier for me your bigoted comment is timestamped.

When you are given a CCID on campus, it doesn’t give you unlimited rights on campus computers like you can do at home. There is a Campus Computing Conditions of Use which specifically states:

5. Within the broad context of free academic discussion and debate, all forms of electronic communication are expected to reflect high ethical standards and mutual respect and civility. Users will be sensitive to the public nature of shared facilities and take care not to display in such public locations images, sounds or messages which could create an atmosphere of discomfort or harassment for others. Users will refrain from transmitting to others in any location inappropriate images, sounds or messages which might reasonably be considered harassing, offensive, or defamatory.

And further as an example of unacceptable use:

H) Objectionable content: The use of obscene, racist or sexist language, public display of pornography, and similar actions clearly violate the ethical standards of the University community and is as inappropriate for electronic communications as it is for other forms of University discourse. Such use contravenes section 5) and often section 1) of this policy. [emphasis added]

Now, I’m all for free speech, and I’ll typically leave obscene comments up (mainly because it makes the commenter look stupid), but if you are stupid, I’m going to call you on it.

Annonymous has been reported to abuse@ualberta.ca and as will most cowards who act the same. If you’re behind your home computer, I’m not going to send the thought police after you, because as far as I’m concerned you can be as obnoxious as you want from home.

But if you’re using public computers (or public wireless), you are required to follow their terms of service because you are using their equipment. You don’t own the University’s computers or internet connection, everyone does.

So here’s my simple rule for comments, and I’m ripping this off Bad Astronomy, Don’t be a jerk and don’t be stupid.

The internet isn’t as “annonymous” as you cowards would like to believe.

Finally, if you ever have that moment of regret and want a stupid, angry, whatever comment removed, I have that power and will do it provided you email me.

Trust Me, I’m a Nerd or Google Chrome Review

When I first got my computer, i figured that 20 gigs out of my relatively tiny 80 gig drive would be lots for windows XP on its own partition. I was recently proven horribly wrong. I discovered that, interestingly enough, I had 20 gigs of operating system and was able to back up everything I needed on an 8 Gig USB stick. Ridiculous.

Anyways, while I’ve been waiting on setup to reformat the drive and reinstall windows, I’ve been fiddling around with Google Chrome on my dad’s PC. Continue reading Trust Me, I’m a Nerd or Google Chrome Review

Spore attacked by ‘militant’ atheists

(Originally posted on Edger, I added additional commentary here)

Will Wright, creator of the Sim games, is releasing a new game entitled Spore later this year, in which gamers will be able to play god for a world, developing life from single-celled organisms, to space-faring civilizations.

Religion can even develop in the game, which according to Wright, has only been criticized by ‘militant atheists.’ Wright describes himself as an atheist.

No reactions have hit the blogosphere yet regarding religion in Spore, but I personally don’t see how ‘militant’ atheists could have an issue with religion in a game. This story seems like Wright may disagree with people like Dawkins and Hitchens who argue that we don’t need to be friendly anymore.

This really annoys me, since there’s this perception that people like Dawkins, PZ Myers, etc. are these angry, hot-headed rage-a-holics out to eat babies and destroy religious belief at any and all costs. When in fact they are described as generally nice people, most married, who live productive and happy lives. When they do talk about religion, they don’t “preach” intolerance, they don’t physically attack (as the word militant would imply), they merely suggest that there shall be no sacred cows, and that everything should be up for debate. How horrible it is that someone says something about the validity of your belief, he must be a vicious, angry lowlife.

I used to play a lot of Sim games (I don’t play many video games anymore due to time), and likely will play again in the future, but these comments do push me to a bit more annoyance with Will Wright.

In earlier news, Wright declard that Spore was performing at 38% the capacity of God, since it acheived 1,589,000 species in 18 days, which took God 7 (according to Wright, several commenters correctly pointed out God created all the animals in two days).

How to use UWS with an Eee PC

My university began rolling out its new wireless network service last year, University Wireless Services (UWS) which features 802.11g and no more Putty SSH authentication.  It runs fast and is decently reliable everywhere it’s been installed so far.

However, AICT only supports Windows XP and Vista, and OSX 10.4 and 10.5.  So what do you do if you have an Eee PC running a custom version of Xandros Linux?  Google search until its fixed.

The best run through is outlined here, and for anyone running a Linux Eee PC on campus, follow these steps.  These should also translate simply to other distros, but don’t quote me on that.  Just make sure you change the name of their wireless network to “UWS.”

The pro side is that you will successfully get UWS working on your Eee PC, the con is that it will take a large number of complicated steps that involve modifying files key to your computer and its ability to surf wirelessly.