Tag Archives: Technology

Slick Times in the Gulf

This world is so full of life and nature that exists outside the realm of mankind, that to think we have even more than a smattering of knowledge of it all is the height of conceit, and to think we have any control of it is just plain idiotic. Sure, the industrial age heralded an unprecedented understanding about the natural sciences relative to what we knew before. Compared to the sum total of knowledge in the dark ages, we could be considered almost omniscient. But that is not really saying much. It is like saying that, compared to a newborn, a high school graduate is brilliant; but no one would assume that high school graduate is about to cure cancer or understand the behavior of tachyons. We are smarter sure, but we don’t know everything.

We don’t know enough to really understand what the gulf oil spill is going to do in the long run. No one could have even predicted the events that led up to the spill. Sure, one could argue that if “proper precautions” were taken, the crisis would never have happened. But that is really not true, especially when you remember that accidents happen no matter how many plans you put into place. You cannot plan for every eventuality. Perhaps if BP had drilled secondary vents, they could relieve the pressure on that line so less oil would leak into the gulf. But that would not have prevented the explosion. Maybe if they make a determination that the explosion was “preventable,” someone will step forward and admit wrongdoing. Not likely, but one can always hope. Either way, that determination will be erroneous. We can always second guess our outcomes, but hindsight is 20/20 and the only good it does is to give the public a scapegoat.

Who should take the blame for this? Obama and the socialists? It would be easy to blame them. Bush and the conservatives? Easier still for the liberals to blame them. But really, the fault lies with BP. Only with BP. No one else can claim fault (unless the explosion was the direct result of an eco- terrorist act) because no one else was involved. The public wants to roast someone on a spit about it. Whenever something goes wrong the first thing the public wants to do is to assign blame. This makes the public feel superior and gives them comfort in their moral superiority. Never mind that the main reason BP was drilling there was to feed the public’s appetite for energy.

Obama made a declaration in an interview yesterday that he was in talks with experts so he “knows whose butt to kick” about the disaster. There are all kinds of people clamoring for the government to take over the efforts to repair the pipe and stop the leak. That is the last thing anyone should want. Why would we want an institution that cannot even balance a budget, cannot secure our nation’s borders, cannot solve healthcare crisis and cannot meet the basic needs of the nation to even try to fix a leak in a 40-inch pipe a mile under the surface of the ocean? They could only make matters worse. It would be like a plumber trying to wire in a 220 volt circuit, or a baker trying to repair a hot water heater. These are not similar skill sets. Nothing good can come of the attempt. There is no geologist just waiting around the West Wing waiting for a project. The best minds that can work on this problem already are.

The only thing the government can do is drive BP to work harder. Fine them a billion dollars a day that the leak is spewing. Give them the proper incentive to get this problem fixed. But stop getting in the way. Everyone knows what is going on, we don’t need more coverage, we don’t need more politicians getting airtime clamoring for the administration to act, and we don’t need bureaucrats getting in the way of real experts.

No one knows how the spill will affect the gulf ecosystems in the long run. Sure, it will kill of thousands, perhaps millions, of animals. Sure it will poison the waters. But the oceans are huge and you may not know this, but raw crude oil has been leaking into the ocean since the dawn of time through naturally occurring fissures in the ocean floor. Perhaps not as rapidly as the oil well leak, but it gets there none the less. The ocean cleans itself. It is part of nature. Don’t ask me to explain how. I don’t know. And that is my point.

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Filed under Media, Politics, Society

Resistance is Futile

That you are reading this means that you and I have both figured out how to get online, which means we both know how to use technology. I have always had a fascination with all things tech; I even work in a business that is at the forefront of new technologies. I like to assimilate new technologies into my collective—resistance is futile.

I have several computers; each with a specific purpose. I use a netbook to write these blogs and my book and anything else I compose. I have a Dell XPS that I use for graphics work such as scanning pictures and we have the media computer that is tied into the home theater, which is the machine that has given me fits of late. We also have two laptops, plus I have my work laptop. I also have a few more computers at work that I have to use as well. As a direct result, I have learned much about these machines, such as the fact that they don’t like people.

Why would they? We build them out of fire, smelting the metal compounds to make the wires and contacts and frames, casting the plastics for the cases and moving parts and we charge electricity through them constantly. It can’t be a comfortable life for these things, and we constantly demand that they do more and more. In fact, we have gone from asking machines to do our math for us to having them keep track of our inventories and finances to having them entertain us. Now we expect that they will not only keep track of our groceries in the refrigerator, but that they will order restock items for us. Which actually gives us an excuse for getting that Sara Lee pie or the extra can of whipped cream: the refrigerator did it.

So the media computer has been running pretty much 24 hours a day since I built it 5 years ago, even after the rebuild two years ago. I added a blu-ray player and upgraded the video card and added memory so it would be a viable blu-ray disk player for the home theater. Well, the machine had been complaining for months about the workload. It staged strikes and work stoppages, but I always managed to coax it back to work. Once I even had to fire the whole system and reload it. I have no qualms about strike busting my computers.

Well, over Christmas 2009, the media computer staged one last strike. When we came home, we found that it had crashed and it would not reboot for anything. This strike resulted in the death of the media computer, so it was time for a replacement. Now, I have minimum requirements for a media computer. Since it is performing a specific function, it has to have specific components. Well, I noticed that no new computers are being sold with Blu-ray players in them. This confounds me, since Blu-ray is the only way to watch true High Def on 1080p TVs. Oh, I found a few machines, but they were high-end gaming systems and I do not need that kind of computer; particularly when it costs $2300. Building a machine from scratch is no cheaper these days.

I decided to harvest the surviving organs from the corpse of the old media system and transplant them into a lower end, off-the-shelf computer. Thankfully, I didn’t have to worry about time or refrigeration. In order to use the transplants required that I get a computer that can accept them. Organ rejection can be a tough obstacle for any computer to overcome. I found a low end HP with the required slots and I opened it up for the operation.

The installation actually went very well. The problem happened during the driver installation. It seems that Windows 7, which is a vast improvement of Windows Vista, but still not as intuitive as XP, is still so new as to have some backwards compatibility issues with older equipment. The Blu-ray player developed an HDCP issue which caused intermittent flashing of a green screen during the playback.  It took a week of trial and error to find the problem and correct it. The new computer now works the way I need it to work and it seems rather stable, finally. But more to the point, it seems to like doing what it’s doing. It hasn’t given me any fits since I fixed the driver issue. Maybe this machine will like me.

I have to say that I am impressed with the Windows 7 version of Windows Media Center. It works with the TV tuner much better than the OEM software that came with it, and it integrates with all media seamlessly, including the Blu-ray. It makes computers act like they like entertaining us.

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Filed under Humor, Media, Personal