Monthly Archives: April 2009

Kindle 2

One of the most interesting products that’s come out recently is Amazon’s Kindle, which is attempting to do for books what the iPod did for music (even offering titles for $9.99 apiece on their website). The design is impressively sleek, and the new version boasts a whole host of interesting digital features–from internet access for immediate downloading and wikipedia lookups to text-to-speech for an instant (if mechanical-sounding) audiobook.

But the Kindle 2’s biggest “features” all seem to revolve around its ability to emulate paper–glare-free screen for reading in the sun, 16 shades of gray for that real bookish look and 20% faster page-turning. Interestingly enough, despite the supposed power of the digital book, one of the primary focuses of purveyors of these fine goods has been to de-digitalize the reading experience as much as possible. Kindle boasts the increased power of portable internet access, but still attempts to make its product as book-like as possible.

I wonder if this is a problem that Gutenberg encountered when he first invented the press–was there an adjustment period for literate Europeans (and there were way fewer of them at the time) to get used to movable type? I have always heard complaints about the eye strain caused by reading type on a screen, and I wonder if it may be something humans are capable of genetically adapting to.

In any case, my other interesting point about Kindle is its marketing strategy. In March, Amazon added a free Kindle App to the Apple store in order to allow iPhone users to read books without a Kindle. This strategy actually mirrors Apple’s own approach with the original iPod–offering Kindle as the go-to digital book reader, regardless of who was offering the access. I’m assuming that Amazon hopes that offering the Kindle on multiple platforms will give them a near-monopoly on the digital book market, much as the iPod has become synonymous with mp3 players.

Unfortunately, the iPhone App doesn’t offer what I find to be the Kindle’s most intriguing feature, which is their newspaper reader. With the industry slowly fading out across the world, it’s interesting to see Kindle offering a clearly modern solution to keep newspaper subscriptions alive. Should the technology become widespread, the effect on newspapers would be tremendous–distribution would be revolutionized, although the paper industry would take one hell of a hit. All in all, I would say that Amazon has something here, although it’s hard to tell if Kindle has the staying power to truly replace paper (especially at the similarly iPod-esque price of $350). But it certainly has the potential, and that fact leaves me fascinated. We’ll just have to keep watching to see what happens.

“lil Susan Boyle”

Now, a Britain’s Got Talent 10-year-old contestant is a YouTube sensation. She starts off with a very elementary ballet routine, and then stuns the judges with her singing. The Susan Boyle buzz hasn’t even worn off yet. Coincidental? Hmm…  This is a little too ironic for me.

Organized Atheism?

Another New York Times article, this time about a new phenomenon sweeping the nation. Apparently, atheist and humanist societies have begun sprouting up and, what’s so bizarre to me, organizing a movement of their own. Not that this has much to do with this course per sé, but I always thought of atheism as a rebellion against organized religion. It’s understandable that these people want to get together, but I think the existence and success of these groups shows a misunderstanding with humanism in general. Organizing atheism makes it a religion, and a religion that closely mirrors many sects of Protestant Christianity. Say what you want about the G-d aspect of it, but at the end of the day Christianity is a humanist religion–the problem is that it is an indoctrinated humanism, a proscriptive view of ultimate Good and Evil. By codifying and organizing atheism, you create yet another humanist religion, probably with some new traditions of its own. But what is the difference, really, between celebrating a pagan spring fertility festival and celebrating Easter? I guess this is my problem with a lot of liberal Western thought. If you identify a certain organized group as a problem in society, how is the solution going out and creating another organized group to counter it? But that’s what atheists seem to be doing now. Perhaps there is just something in human nature that makes them want to have a structured system of beliefs. Reason, after all, is the primary atheist deity. Maybe it should be expected that they would begin to truly worship it.

I believe that started as a site that allowed you to watch the life of Justin 24 hours a day 7 days a week.   It has essentially evolved into a site that allows you to watch live anything.   I found this site extremely odd in that several people are now “lifecasting”.   Essentially, they are volunatarily living their lives like Truman did in that movie The Truman Show.   Really, really weird.   I went on a site of one of the people who was lifecasting, and in the chatroom on the page several people were just saying really perverted things to the girl.   I don’t know why you’d want your life online like that.   I think that aspect of the site is very strange, but I was definitely glad to have a site like this weekend when I wanted to watch the Sharks vs Ducks hockey game.   Other than that plus though, I’m still kind of weirded out.

Ownership Issues…of Food

I’ll take pretty much any opportunity I can get to plug Hulu, since it’s one site that understands the importance of online streaming. But in addition to the tv shows that everyone watches on there, they also have a pretty solid collection of films. I happened to start watching this one today, and I figured I’d share it with you all. It’s a documentary about the workings of the modern food industry, and it has a lot of fascinating and disturbing material–especially if you’re of the opinion that corporations are pretty much destroying the planet.

But, what I found most interesting about this film is the oddly familiar ownership issues that have come into play in the food industry. As soon as a court ruling was made allowing engineered plants to be patented, there was a mad rush by the major agro-industrial companies to snap up all of the existing non-patented seeds. And since ownership is, and will probably continue to be, the primary issue in terms of internet policy, I thought the connection was worth looking into, although I don’t blame you if you don’t feel like spending the full hour and a half to watch the damn thing.

The Pirate Google

If you’re reeling in the aftermath of the recent guilty verdict against the Pirate Bay, why not try The Pirate Google for your torrent-downloading and ‘net-democratizing needs?

This site is not affiliated with Google, it simply makes use of Google Custom Search to restrict your searches to Torrent files. You can do this with any regular Google search by appending your query with filetype:torrent. This technique can be used for any type of file supported by Google.

The intention of this site is to demonstrate the double standard that was exemplified in the recent Pirate Bay Trial. Sites such as Google offer much the same functionality as The Pirate Bay and other Bit Torrent sites but are not targeted by media conglomerates such as the IFPI as they have the political and legal clout to defend themselves unlike these small independent sites.

This site is created in support of an open, neutral internet accessible and equitable to all regardless of political or financial standing.

Link via BoingBoing, which also has great ongoing coverage of Internet copyright issues.

Swine Flu!

So, my radio alarm is set to the local news station, and this morning I woke up to the exciting news that many people think the recent outbreak of swine flu in Mexico may be the work of eco-terrorists. And, hot on the heels of that terrifying thought is the fact that Twitter seems to be at least partially responsible for the growing fears over this “epidemic” (judge for yourself whether those quotation marks are deserved). Here’s the article I’m referring to. Apparently there’s been an influx of false rumors, hearsay, and all the other good stuff that a program like Twitter allows to become widespread. But, in Twitter’s defense, I have to question whether people wouldn’t be freaked out if it didn’t exist–a program like this is more of a reflection of public opinion than a creator of it (although it does have the ability to spread rumors much farther than their usual circulation). Just think of the uproar over SARS

The Past and Now

I still have a strong connection to my community at home and to my old high school (which is in my community). I am always looking for new stuff about my high school on the web to see what is improving, who is going to college, emailing teachers about what is like within the school. It is a home for me till this day. I was constantly looking for new stuff about the high school that I never took time to look at the past and compare it to now. I was on Google and came across this video. I was a sophomore when this was made. This video is about the art program that was brought to our school through another program called reach-out for at risk youth. This program has really made a difference with the students and has made a difference on how they treat the school. Our school use to be trashed all the time. Once this program came along, people stopped and thought twice about writing on the walls because it was their paintings throughout the hallways. It got many of the students involved and gave them a different way to look at school, self expression, and life.

Evolution of the web

I know we have already decided about what we would like to dig more into as a class, but I have something that i wantyed to learn more about and just thought I share some of the articles with you guys. I wanted to learn more about web design, the construction and evolution of web-design, and what is considered good today. I would also like to know what works what doesn’t even though we are told generally not to do certain things and we do them anyway. I know we have briefly went over this, but i guess I would like to get more into the technical stuff.

Private Uses of Cyberspace

I never thought about women being the higher influence in writing fiction and the use of cyberspace for private space. Before reading the rest of the article, I tried to think about why that us. I would guess it would be because women felt intimidated and marginalized. It was the only space where they can be whoever they want to be and not be characterized, judged, or stereotyped. I find these reasons also true for others who choose to express themselves through cyberspace.

                      While reading, I really started to take into consideration the hidden passion that women do not show in the real world. This is the reason why they turn to the internet. They did not feel condoned to share their passions for the opposite sex or anything else that seemed private to the public. I think that it is sad that even though women have found another venue to express them, they still choose to suppress what they feel in reality and put it all into writing and into the virtual world. Why does it have to be that way?

                      Even though this article had a focus about women using fan culture as a venue to express themselves and form relationships, I think that this is also true for the opposite sex. In my opinion, the male sex seems to be shyer than the female sex. I would find that in the present they are the ones using the virtual world or the internet as a way to establish relationships (friendship or other). Also, when analyzing this information we have to take into consideration the age groups we are looking at.

                      I do not agree with the idea that women should only turn to the internet and writings to uncensor themselves, but I do agree with finding a way where you can feel comfortable letting go and sharing what is inside of you.