Thanks to one of Bush's brilliant ideas, NASA's budget is now mostly wasted in M2M (the human Mission to Mars) and the rest on the shuttle and ISS. A recent NPR interview put the orginisation further in question. Michael Griffin, director of NASA, doubted whether we would not all be better off under global warming and therefore should not prioritise its abatement.

With regards to the manned Space programme, NASA has recently experienced an astronaut bizarre love triangle and now allegations of drunken flight and systems sabotage. If NASA is to exist, which I believe it no longer should, its beneficial role should be to fund Earth Science, Astronomy, Aerospace Engineering, and general technology research in the public interest.

The Mars Rover and the Galileo and Cassini missions are examples of the incredible benefits that can come from a serious scientifically driven Space agency. The scientific value for those programmes has vastly exceeded the costs because they had the right idea: robotic exploration of outer space. Humans were not designed to live in space and so far the cost of such adventures is no were close to the benefits. Let human space exploration take place commercially as Richard Branson and Burt Rutan are demonstrating. Let scientists do their jobs correctly, and stop distorting their mission and their budgets with a child's fantasy. If children want to go into space, let them finance it themselves.

Linux, Peu à Peu

I mentioned before that given my disgust with M$ Vista, all future PCs I run would be Linux with a virtualised Windows Server 2003 Enterprise session. Despite my flirtations with Linux, Windows frankly works for every application I need personally or professionally and I cannot use Linux just as I cannot use OS X perpetually without a Parallels Windows session running inside. Do not get me wrong; I want to see Open Source Linux come to dominate computer operating systems, but in the short run it can only attract users by doing absolutely everything a normal Windows PC can do with the same level of convenience and full compatibility. Even some of the most enthusiastic Linux geeks I know have found themselves getting sucked back into Windows.

I have recommended Parallels especially for Mac users given the coherence feature. VMWare has some other advantages like hosting and remote connection as well as mountable bootable partitions rather than strictly virtual hard drives. VMWare Server is now free!

Finally, I have made this change for my personal PC which is set to Ubuntu Fiesty Fawn 32 bit natively with VMWare running WinXP32. Using this guide it was fairly straightforward as far as Linux installs go. Unfortunately for enterprise level 64 bit computing, the free VMWare Server does not yet cut the mustard. You need the multi-k$ version for that apparently. Peu à peu, we will be always running Linux. I am now doing it, and so can you.

Robert Hanson on Intellectual Property

Robert Hanson, GWT developer and author of the well regarded guide GWT in Action, has a great new post on his blog. He shares the practical viewpoint with the rest of the rational and uncorrupted world that piracy is generally a good and inevitable phenomenon and that Open Source is generally the best model to develop software not just in the aggregate, but also for specific customers. He rightly chastises those who follow the closed-source model of development. Furthermore this post explains the usefulness to Java developers of the JAD Eclipse plugin. Since Hanson praises piracy, it is worth noting that his book is available on several torrent networks.


Ron Paul

Ron Paul, a staunch libertarian, recently interviewed at Google as part of his campaign for the Presidency of the US - a must see. Many of his espoused positions such as supporting the gold and silver standards for public currency seem impractical or irrelevant, yet they are based upon sound legal foundation, ie the US Constitution. He is a candidate who is easy to distort, yet his solid character, sound principles, and political idealism are undeniable.

It is clear that the letter of the law set out by the Constitution has gradually been eroded and perverted by activist judicial decisions, misguided lawmakers, and tyrannical Presidents. Rather than a politically isolationist Republic of free citizens, the United States has become a fascist empire, able to invade, occupy, or completely eliminate other nations in blitzkrieg at the whim of a single individual. While most other current presidential candidates have supported these illegal and immoral policies, or at least in principle would use such illegal power under certain circumstances, Ron Paul is one of the few who has always in principle and practice been opposed (eg the Conquest of Iraq).

Through the "War on Drugs," a war against its own populace, their property, and freedom itself, the United States Government manifestly defecates upon the Enlightenment principles upon which it was founded and the cannabis paper upon which it was written. Any convoluted judicial argument for the legality of such policies should have long ago resulted in the prompt impeachment of any supporting justices and the arrest of any enforcing agents. By continuing to prosecute this crime against humanity, the US Government has undermined its own legitimacy.

As directed in the Constitution, Ron Paul supports States' rights in legislating or enforcing powers not guaranteed to the federal government in the Constitution.

On the Colbert Report where I was exposed to Paul, he supported the elimination of almost every federal agency and administration including United Nations agencies. In the interview, he comes off as somewhat of an extremist, yet in fact he is perhaps one of the few sane, thinking, and principled. I have little doubt that if given a proper chance, most of the World would gladly welcome a man such as this to take over the Presidency.

I realise that that the ideas asserted in this post probably do more to paint both Paul and myself as extremists than anything else, but I encourage readers to watch the Google interview and decide for themselves what the best course would be for the United States to follow.


Love and Castration

I have always found it bizarre that people profess their love for their pets, treating them in many respects better than fellow humans, yet castrate these beloved animals as a matter of course. In my view, castration is a vile mutilation and an extreme violation of a creature's dignity. An animal that requires castration for the purposes of taming perhaps should not be kept as a pet in the first place. Clearly there is a need to control population. Less invasive and potentially reversible measures such as vasectomies are more humane but rarely used alternatives.

Once again, technology comes to our rescue, allowing us to be more civilised. A new drug has been released in Australia which limits both sperm and testosterone production for several months thus fulfilling the targeted aspects of castration whilst preserving dignity and reversibility. There is an argument to be made for administering this to some people.



Microsoft has an impressive 3D photo viewing and analysis software, Photosynth, currently under development. A presentation from TED2007. Via Crooked Timber.


Portable Phones

From Freakonomics:
David Pogue of the New York Times points out that, in the midst of last week’s iPhone mania, most of us missed T-Mobile’s announcement of an innovative new system in which, under a certain plan, all calls made within range of a Wi-Fi wireless network are free.
The new T-Mobile cellular/VoIP WiFi crossover is the real smart-phone feature consumers should be demanding. The iPhone could have this capacity through a software upgrade, and only in implementing this feature along with opening up to other carriers, greater plan flexibility, and faster data networks would their elegantly designed product be truly compelling. Until then, I am holding out.


Hardware Recommendation: Addonics Diamond

The Addonics Diamond hard drive kit offers the highest quality external enclosure available for SATA drives. An optional 5.25" 'Mobile Rack' component allows the enclosure to slide seamlessly into a tower or server even as part of a hot-swappable RAID. As stated on their website, this drive kit makes any SATA drive into a portable data store. The kit works modularly to allow for USB, SATA, eSATA, IDE, or SCSI connexion. Given the quality construction and impressive flexibility, the Addonics Diamond kit is well worth the price.


The Least Among Us

Niall Ferguson, a history author, journalist, and Harvard professor, has a well written review of three new books on African Development politics and economics. I will add them to the list of things to read. Eliminating disease and poverty are the two biggest moral imperatives for the developed world. Nowhere are those problems more dire than sub-Saharan Africa.