More Swype

If you have an Android which does not come preloaded with Swype, it looks like sign-up for the beta accounts are open again. I cannot overstate Swype's awesomeness.


Teachable Moments

The President has condescendingly talked about Teachable Moments in the past. In other contexts, he has promoted and promised Openness in Government. His Administration has been far from transparent, and has relied on Washington-insider deals to do and mostly not do anything. While modest gains have been made particularly in terms of transparency of government contracts, precious little of the vast amount classified data has been revealed to the public.

Meanwhile, in the name of safety and security, Federal Government drones, undeserving of basic customer service roles, have been deputised to examine naked photographs of all travellers and to grope their genitalia as a matter of standard procedure. When I was travelling last week, I sustained an uppercut to the groin because the TSA agent was nervous, untrained, and utterly incompetent. At this time, I am still considering legal action.

Recently, citizens have taken matters into their own hands and have shared classified documents with the public through WikiLeaks. This action has been condemned by the same administration which has promised openness. Upholding the law is the appropriate role of the Executive. However, an administration that has promised openness and has been elected on such reasonable assurances ought to use this Teachable Moment to open the records and procedures of the government, as was promised.


HTC Incredible

Do not bother with the HTC Incredible. It has way too many restrictions, does not even have a physical keyboard, and will not allow the installation of Swype. It makes typing frustrating and cumbersome.


Droid 2

The Droid 2 from verizon which will be sold under the international name of Droid Pro, is slightly faster than the Droid, but comes with significantly more bloatware. It does come prepackaged with the Swype keyboard, which makes on screen typing vastly easier, but all told, if you must buy a phone at a retail price, the Droid 2 is not worth it. The origainal Droid can be made to have all the same functionality with nearly the same performance. Buy a used or refurbished Droid 1 on eBay instead of a Droid 2.



Recently we upgraded our Verizon Motorola Droid to the Android 2.2 Froyo OS (upgrade available). Froyo is almost entirely a win. It runs everything much faster, and includes plenty of upgrades all around although some apps are not yet fully debugged for the new OS. However, in their infinite inanity, Verizon locked down the Droid's tethering ability with the new OS, and any attempts lead one to a page for a new plan upgrade they can purchase to enable previously free tethering. This is a brilliant way to alienate loyal customers. Fortunately, there is an app for that. EasyRoot safely roots the Droid phones for $1. Rooting, is giving the user and with user permission other applications, superuser complete control over their Linux phone. Once rooted, many other free applications allow users to take full advantage of their phone's potential including effective use of the terminal, phone-wide ad-blocking, and fixing USB tethering, and turning the phone into a wifi hotspot. EasyRoot has been blocked from the Android Market owing to Verizon's cozy relationship with Google, however it is still available for manual install. EasyRoot even has unroot capability in case you have to take your phone in for service.

*Update* - We also managed to root the Droid 2 using the following procedures: link.


Capitol Green Girls

Capitol Green Girls is a blog focusing on Conservation, Sustainability, and Green Commerce. The authors have a particular insight into the ENGO community, environmental businesses and environmental legislative developments in Washington, DC. CGG also provides insight into greenwashers in Washington who discredit those trying to make real progress towards long term sustainability. In this way, greenwashers undermine the health of the planet. Consider subscribing to Capitol Green Girls.



The new documentary Gasland (torrent) has been released. It is an eye opening look at the poisoning caused by Hydraulic Fracturing, not to be confused with fraking, in natural gas extraction from shale. The film is an investigative report made by one man whose local water-source was under threat. As it stands, drilling companies generally do not even have to publish which chemicals they use in fracking. The film is worth seeing. It reveals how State and Federal governments, and particularly the Bush administration, trampled the interests of the environment and the people in favour of profit-motivated energy companies. Generally, energy companies refused to speak in the documentary, and so the film is unintentionally one-sided, yet probably accurate.


Remote Desktop and Android

Power users of M$ Windows know well the usefulness and neatness of Remote Desktop. XtraLogic has an RDP Client for Android which works brilliantly; we have tested it. Check out the video on the site. On the Motorolla Droid, connecting through the built in PPTP VPN it does not work as well, but we have noticed many problems with this VPN functionality on Android. Unfortunately this means you might be stuck having to open up RDP connectivity to the internet which is a very clear security risk. Be productive, but be careful.


Human Accidents

Dukes of Douches is a relatively new and interesting blog concerned with hypocrisy and injustice on the world stage and often in the US mainstream media. It sometimes sinks to the level of a celebrity tabloid, but shines through with insight and relevance when its attention is turned to the larger issues of mankind and its leaders. I was particularly impressed by the recent post regarding the Bopal criminal decision. The post makes reference to the Yes Men, producers of two films everyone should see.

The recent Bopal court decision sets dangerous precedent and the topic fits in well with our previous post on Environmental Accidents. We are witnessing an incomprehensible lack of punishment of Union Carbide or compensation for the victims of an industrial and environment disaster. Such court decisions only incentivise companies to externalise their costs - even in the form of human lives and suffering.

We must recognise that by design, Corporations are psychopathic. We should not expect them to make moral or socially responsible decisions. Instead, they should be assumed to maximise their own profit potential while minimising financial risk, even if it means placing enormous costs on others. Rather than worrying about whether corporations are good or evil, the laws and the enforcement of laws must effectively internalize costs to the corporation and guarantee prohibitory insurance requirements for companies who in an extreme scenario might inflict costs on other lifeforms. Courts bear the brunt of the responsibility to ensure these requirements are enforced so as to protect human life and the environment from the inexorable profit maximisation calculations and occasional incompetence of industry.


Environmental Accidents

The modern economy is utterly dependant on the scarce and non-renewable natural resource crude oil. Unfortunately, a failure to tax the price of crude and to mandate sufficient insurance, and to exact sufficient environmental penalties has created industries like nuclear power and offshore drilling which ought to be uninsurable in a well designed marketplace.

The failure of regulation aside, British Petroleum, Transocean, and Haliburton ought to be nationalised in the United States. The combined value of the companies at USD 200B is insufficient to cover the damages that they have caused through their excessive risk-taking and poor engineering. While there has been a response to try to stop the leak, it is a global emergency that requires the most urgent of responses from the world.

The Exxon Valdez incident should have been the turning point in the late 80s where the governments of the world should have agreed to property rights and regulations for activities on the Oceans and a penalty schedule for environmental accidents. Nothing of course has ever been agreed. Within the United States, a jury demanded only a modest penalty of $5B. Exxon fought this very light penalty and eventually the Supreme Court reduced the fee to a pitiful $500 million. The Supreme Court should have increased the fee 10 times rather than decreasing it 10 times. From an environmental perspective, it was the worst ruling the Supreme Court has ever made. Congress should have quickly enacted new legislation which would have exacted proper penalties for these disasters, but they too are a complete failure along with the executive branch. Other countries should demand compensation for these disasters, particularly the latest one which affects more than just the United States.


Themes in GWT

As a Google junky, we tend to prefer Google products over competitors if we can help it. Therefore when faced with a need to learn a website creation package preferably based in Java, we inevitably learned to use GWT. GWT is a brilliant software which allows you to write web apps with the ease of Java and many of its libraries, and compile them into fast, obfuscated, and optimised Javascript for every browser. Google Wave runs on GWT. Unfortunately, the real brilliance of the toolkit lies in the compiler and the development tools and hooks. Unfortunately, they have completely neglected the CSS skinning of the toolkit, and generally leave it up to developers to hire their own CSS designers. There are only 3 primary themes built into the toolkit, and they all look amateurish. Instantiations makes a tool, GWT Designer, which allows WYSIWYG manipulation to help design GWT based pages. This can speed in basic layout development and simple colour and font manipulations, but you pay for it with awkward, ugly, and verbose Java code you then have to manually clean up later. If you know Java and the GWT library well, it is almost worth it just to skip GWT Designer entirely. That said, we fully respect and have been impressed by the features of GWT Designer.

To help developers make compelling apps and websites and perhaps to stimulate interest in GWT, we encourage Google to devote more resources to design, themes, and templates for GWT. What do other GWT developers think?


Verizon Skype

Yesterday Verizon started a new promotion to allow free Skype-to-Skype calling on its Smartphones, sending and receiving. On Android, this is possible with the new and improved Skype Mobile App. Verizon actually enables this through its voice network rather than over the datafeed, allowing good integration with Bluetooth devices and much higher fidelity of communication. Skype is a closed source, proprietary P2P voice protocol and unless that changes, it is probably a dead-end company. However, with sponsorship and special privilege from large telecoms, Skype perhaps has a new lease on life against the coming existential threat from the refactoring of Gizmo5 with Google Voice. In conclusion, if you have a Verizon smartphone or communicate regularly with someone who has a Verizon smartphone, consider using Skype.


Healthcare in the United States

We have pointed out on here many of the reasons the US health care system is distorted, monopolistic, and inefficient. Obviously there are many things wrong that we did not address. We largely avoided discussing the demand side of the equation, including brokerage services like insurance. From what we have seen, those demand side elements are all that was tweaked in the latest legislation. Thus there remains the entire other side of the equation needing legislative redress.

We are most happy for the moment though that a passage of this bill will finally mean people will stop talking about "Health Care". The protraction of the issue in the public forum with little to no substantive progress has been excruciating. Let us celebrate the end to the collective insanity.


Secure Obfuscated and Encrypted Web Browsing for Iranians

For those, particularly Iranians, who wish to browse the web safely, Haystack may be a good solution.

Haystack is not an ordinary proxy system. It employs a sophisticated mathematical formula to hide users' real Internet traffic inside a continuous stream of innocuous-looking requests. In addition to providing anonymity, Haystack uses strong cryptography, ensuring that even if users' traffic is detected, it cannot be read. Trying to find and decipher our users' traffic amidst all the other traffic on the web really is like trying to find a needle in the proverbial Haystack.

Once installed Haystack will provide completely uncensored access to the internet from Iran while simultaneously protecting the user's identity. No more Facebook blocks, no more government warning pages when you try to load Twitter or access news sites -- just unfiltered Internet.

...Not that Facebook is how you should be spending your time online.


VPN Solutions

Previously we mentioned OpenVPN, a solid VPN solution. Hamachi by Logmein.com is a VPN solution which uses UDP, non error correcting protocol wrapping an encryped TCP connection. This creates a large efficiency gain over other VPNs which wrap error correcting encrypted TCP protocol inside of error correcting TCP packets. From our testing, Hamachi was able to maximise our bandwidth of 2.8 MB/s without processor strain, while the best performance we received through OpenVPN was 600KB/s.

Unlike OpenVPN which is very difficult to set up, Hamachi sets up in about a minute and requires a virtual LAN name password. In this way your computer starts VPN connections as easily as one might join a chat room and you become connected not just to one machine, but every machine that has been authorised on that virtual LAN and whom the user has authorised. Included in the client is also an IP to IP non-recording encrypted chat mechanism.

Hamachi is freemium software and is actively developed. Here is a great podcast explaining the intelligent design of Hamachi.

Hamachi is the Japanese word for Yellow Fin Tuna.

Google Chrome Extensions

Google Chrome has finally added Extensions, and so far all the standard extensions I use in Firefox now have equivalents in Chrome. This includes Readability, Google Translate, Google Voice, Adblocker, and Flash Block. Since its inception, Chrome was faster than Firefox. Now that there are extensions Chrome, it is the best browser available. We will keep Firefox around as a backup and will always respect the Open Source Mozilla Foundation.

Soon we will be demoing the Google Chrome OS and will give our review.


Annular Eclipse

As in an Annulus or Ring. Today features the longest annular solar eclipse for the next 1 k years.


Our Review of Avatar

Watching Avatar in 3D was an incredible experience. Avatar seems 10 years ahead of its time in terms of technology and effects. In terms of story, it was refreshing to see a major film so blatantly subversive towards the status quo of military imperialism and corporate environmental destruction. James Cameron has demonstrated that the traditional theatre must adapt and push the envelope of what is possible to stay relevant. Audiences will pay.



Technocalyps is the most detailed documentary I have seen yet on the topic of the coming Transhuman revolution. While the mainstream is obsessed with the usual tired propaganda, distraction, and manipulation, scientists are moving forward in building our post-human future. Issues of science, technological progress, environmental change and humanity's role therein should be at the forefront of cultural awareness.

As Bruce Sterling points out in the film:
It is important to realize that [Posthumanity] is not the end of history. It does not solve all our problems. It just creates new problems and this is going to intensify...Posthumanity does't liberate you from yourself, it makes you more than you were before...You are just going to have more power..When you have more power you have more responsibility not less.

Technocalyps can be found on Google Video and preferably on the Torrent Networks.


Alex Jones Reviews Avatar

Alex Jones is a man with a perspective worth understanding. His review of Avatar succinctly expresses many of his fears about the direction society is heading. In his mind, Elites, Corporations, and Environmentalists are collaborating to depopulate the planet and subjugate those remaining. His vision may not be too far from the mark. Humanity needs to properly understand and address the forces at work which could bring about the next depopulation event, be it from nature or human design.