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Comment Re:Ethanol is just stupid (Score 0) 894

The free market's whole point is to kill failures, so no doubt there is many.

The free market does not have a point. The idea was to create a financial system out of the general economic trading that has been with man since prehistory. An exchange of goods and services. There is a rough justice to such bartering, given there are no great differences in wealth and power between the participants.

What we have now, however, is not this thing, and I'm glad of it. The primary sellers are huge corporations that pursue every legal avenue available to maximize profits, including patents, licenses and copyrights. When the laws do not favor them, they lobby to get the laws changed. To them it has nothing to do with fairness; it is entirely a cost-effectiveness equation.

Regulation, at its best, is the only really effective shield against this kind of rapaciousness. That's not to say it's always good, but to decry all government intervention is to also bash the only check on corporate power available to us.

Comment Re:Ethanol is just stupid (Score 0) 894

Isn't life wonderful when we just let the government do things?

Sometimes it is. There are unquestionably things government is best suited to do. Regulation to take the sharp edges off the free market is one of those things.

As far as corn prices go, it's unlikely that ethanol is a big part of that, and Pepsi and Mountain Dew release their "throwback" line as a small thing, not nearly in large enough quantities to lend credence to your theory. And to describe the market for corn as "free" is ignorant at best, and disingenuous at worst; government farm subsidies play a substantial role in the price of corn in the U.S., which in turn has fueled high fructose corn syrup's ascendancy as universal filler-sweetener in this country.

The Media

Chicago Tribune Reporters Don't Want Readers' Pre-Approval 176

theodp writes "Irked by the Marketing department's solicitation of subscribers' opinions on stories before they were published, 55 reporters and editors at the Chicago Tribune signed an e-mail demanding the practice be stopped. 'It is a fundamental principle of journalism that we do not give people outside the newspaper the option of deciding whether or not we should publish a story, whether they be advertisers, politicians or just regular readers,' the e-mail read."
The Courts

Italy May Hold Its Own Pirate Bay Trial 120

hyanakin writes with an excerpt from TorrentFreak: "Following the Swedish verdict, Italy is now considering starting its own trial against the people involved with The Pirate Bay. This would be the first criminal prosecution against the Pirate Bay 'founders' outside their home country." Funny thing: almost 20 years ago, CD stores in Germany all seemed to be full of bootleg concert CDs pressed in Italy.
GNU is Not Unix

Basic Linux Boot On Open Graphics Card 177

David Vuorio writes "The Open Graphics Project aims to develop a fully open-source graphics card; all specs, designs, and source code are released under Free licenses. Right now, FPGAs (large-scale reprogrammable chips) are used to build a development platform called OGD1. They've just completed an alpha version of legacy VGA emulation, apparently not an easy feat. This YouTube clip shows Gentoo booting up in text mode, with OGD1 acting as the primary display. The Linux Fund is receiving donations, so that ten OGD1 boards can be bought (at cost) for developers. Also, the FSF shows their interest by asking volunteers to help with the OGP wiki."
Software

Microsoft Office 2007 SP2 Released, Supports ODF Out of the Box 274

shutdown -p now writes "On April 28, Microsoft released service pack 2 for Microsoft Office 2007. Among other changes, it includes the earlier-promised support for ODF text documents and spreadsheets, featured prominently on the 'Save As' menu alongside Office Open XML and the legacy Office 97-2007 formats. It is also possible to configure Office applications to use ODF as the default format for new documents. In addition, the service pack also includes 'Save as PDF' out of the box, and better Firefox support by SharePoint."
The Internet

Controversial Web "Framing" Makes a Comeback 210

theodp writes "The WSJ reports that the controversial practice of framing seems to be making a comeback on the Web. Big sites like Digg, Facebook, Ask.com and StumbleUpon have all begun framing links recently, joining the likes of Google, which employs the technique for Image Search. Long ago, Jakob Nielsen argued that 'frames break the fundamental user model of the web page,' but, today's practitioners contend, 'it's a feature, not a bug,' and say it provides publishers with massive distribution they wouldn't otherwise have."
Communications

Al-Qaeda Used Basic Codes, Calling Cards, Hotmail 285

jd writes "In startling revelations, convicted terrorist Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri admitted that Al Qaeda used public telephones, pre-paid calling cards, search engines and Hotmail. Al-Marri 'used a '10-code' to protect the [phone] numbers — subtracting the actual digits in the phone numbers from 10 to arrive at a coded number.' The real story behind all this is that the terrorists weren't using sophisticated methods to avoid detection or monitoring — which tells us just how crappy SIGINT really is right now. If the NSA needs to wiretap the whole of the US because they can't break into a Hotmail account, you know they've got problems. FindLaw has a copy of al-Marri's plea agreement (the tech-related information begins on page 12), and the LA Times has further details on his case."
Input Devices

New Type of 3D Game Controller Harnesses MEMS Gyro 33

An anonymous reader writes "A new category of 3-D motion controller for gamers uses a novel type of micro-electro-mechanical system (MEMS) gyroscope to track hand motions with unparalleled accuracy. By detecting the natural motions made by remote control users — as opposed to the unnatural motions that gamers must learn to control today — the MEMS chip is sure to be incorporated in both game consoles and other consumer electronics like TV remote controls. Nintendo has already incorporated a similar MEMS gyro into its forthcoming MotionPlus controller for the Wii, but this newer type of gyroscopic motion sensor will enable even more intuitive and agile control."
Mozilla

NoScript Adds Subscriptions To Adblock Plus 408

hahiss writes "Apparently, NoScript has taken to adding its own whitelist updates to Adblock Plus — so that the ads on the NoScript page show up — without notifying users. (It is described on the NoScript addon page, however.) This was a part of the last update to NoScript. Wladimir Palant, the main developer of Adblock Plus, describes the situation in an informative blog post." Update — 5/02 at 12:30 GMT by SS: Reader spyrochaete notes that "InformAction, makers of the NoScript extension for Firefox, have removed the recently introduced AdBlock exceptions which unblocked the revenue-producing ads on the NoScript homepage with little or no warning to the user. According to the changelog, InformAction pushed out an update specifically addressing this controversial decision 'permanently and with no questions asked.'"
Technology

Microchips That Shook the World 185

wjousts writes "IEEE Spectrum has an interesting article on '25 Microchips That Shook the World,' including such classics as the Signetics NE555 Timer, MOS Technology 6502 Microprocessor (Apple II, Commodore PET and the brain of Bender) and the Intel 8088 Microprocessor. Quoting: 'Among the many great chips that have emerged from fabs during the half-century reign of the integrated circuit, a small group stands out. Their designs proved so cutting-edge, so out of the box, so ahead of their time, that we are left groping for more technology clichés to describe them. Suffice it to say that they gave us the technology that made our brief, otherwise tedious existence in this universe worth living.'"
Supercomputing

Flu Models Predict Pandemic, But Flu Chips Ready 216

An anonymous reader writes "Supercomputer software models predict that swine flu will likely go pandemic sometime next week, but flu chips capable of detecting the virus within four hours are already rolling off the assembly line. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which has designated swine flu as the '2009 H1N1 flu virus,' is modeling the spread of the virus using modeling software designed by the Department of Defense back when avian flu was a perceived threat. Now those programs are being run on cluster supercomputers and predict that officials are not implementing enough social distancing--such as closing all schools--to prevent a pandemic. Companies that designed flu-detecting chips for avian flu, are quickly retrofitting them to detect swine flu, with the first flu chips being delivered to labs today." Relatedly, at least one bio-surveillance firm is claiming they detected and warned the CDC and the WHO about the swine flu problem in Mexico over two weeks before the alert was issued.
Censorship

Pirate Party Banned From Social Networking Site 354

An anonymous reader writes to tell us that as the European Parliament elections loom, StudiVZ, Germany's largest social networking site, has opened up to political parties for election campaigning. That is, if you aren't the Pirate Party. "The other political parties were allowed to have a special account to show they are an organization and not an individual. The Pirate Party, however, was not allowed to have one and instead operated on a standard user account registered by an individual. StudiVZ noticed that the Pirate Party account was not a "real person" and despite it having a thriving network with hundreds of followers, it was summarily deleted. This means that it is impossible for the Pirate Party to have a presence at all on the largest social networking site in Germany." Update: 05/02 19:17 GMT by T : Reader riot notes: "FYI: I just translated the press release to English."
Sun Microsystems

Employee (Almost) Chronicles Sun's Top Ten Failures 194

Business and Open Source pundit Matt Asay picked up on a recent attempt by Sun's Dan Baigent to chronicle the ten largest failures that took the tech giant from a $200 billion peak valuation to the recent buyout by Oracle for a mere $7.4 billion. Unfortunately, Dan only made it to number three on his list before Sun pulled the plug. How long will it take corporate overlords until they finally realize that broad level censorship and trying to control the message are far more harmful than just becoming part of the discourse? "I find that I tend to learn much more from my failures than from my successes. I'd be grateful for the chance to learn from Sun's, too. Sun, please let Baigent continue his countdown. It allows Sun to constructively chronicle its own failings, rather than allowing others to do so in less generous terms."
Linux Business

Linux Reaches 1% Usage Share 414

je ne sais quoi writes "The April data is out for the Net Applications 'market share' survey of operating systems (more accurately referred to as a usage share). For the first time, Linux has reached 1%. This past month the Linux share increased by 0.12% which is well above the average monthly increase of 0.02%. Historically, the Net Applications estimate of market share has been lower than that of other organizations who measure this, but the abnormally large increase reported this month brings it closer to the median estimate of 1.11%. For other operating systems, Windows XP continued its slow decline by 0.64% to 62.21%, whereas Vista use is still increasing to 23.90%, but its rate of adoption is slowing. That is, this month's increase of 0.48% is well below the 12-month average increase of 0.78% and down from the peak rate of increase of 1.00% per month on average in January-February 2008. The total Windows share dropped to 87.90%. Mac OS use decreased slightly to 9.73% from 9.77%, but usage share of the iPhone and iPod Touch combined increased by 0.1%."

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