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Comment The USDA, All the Way (Score 4, Insightful) 126

Such an easy question. The USDA totally caters to huge corporate interests like Monsanto and Smithfield, helping to ensure that America's food supply is dominated by sugary junk food, GMO crops, and the cruelest factory farmed meat and egg products imaginable. And don't even get me started about the sham that is American's meat inspection system. Nearly everything that's wrong with the Standard American Diet can be traced directly to USDA policies, that sell out the interests of consumers, the environment, and farmed animals at every turn.

If the USDA doesn't deserve a spot on the list of the world's four worst government departments, I don't know what agency does.

Comment Mr. Reader for iOS (Score 1) 287

Disclosure: I'm an (unpaid) beta tester.

This is hands down the best RSS reader I've ever used, and I think tablet computers are by far the best platform for reading RSS feeds. Mr. Reader is elegant, massively customizable, and constantly improving. I use it every day and I can't recommend it more highly.

It currently synchs with Google Reader, and like every active RSS reader client the developer is now researching a replacement RSS service.

Comment Re:Hardly a fair comparison (Score 4, Insightful) 135

To me, the biggest advantage to owning the Kindle edition isn't anything you've written. It's that, when I purchase the Kindle edition, it's one less item I need to keep in my house, tote the next time I move, and ultimately get rid of.

On top of that, it's environmentally the right thing to do—one less book that needs to be manufactured and shipped somewhere.

And don't even get me started on how great the highlighting feature is, where you can underline and automatically collect key passages without defacing your book. It's changed how I read.

I personally refuse to buy books from publishers who price their Kindle books higher than the discounted paperback price. If they don't want to embrace where the publishing world is headed, then screw 'em.

Comment prehistory meets postmodernity (Score 4, Interesting) 160

On the one hand, this article makes a clear case that there will be children in Chad mindlessly turning a crank for one hour and 47 minutes in order to do their homework for the night.

Yet on the other hand, these kids have orders of magnitude more computing horsepower than I did as a Reagan-era high school kid in an upper middle class community. Hard to know who should envy who.

PlayStation (Games)

USAF Unveils Supercomputer Made of 1,760 PS3s 163

digitaldc writes with this excerpt from Gamasutra: "The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has connected 1,760 PlayStation 3 systems together to create what the organization is calling the fastest interactive computer in the entire Defense Department. The Condor Cluster, as the group of systems is known, also includes 168 separate graphical processing units and 84 coordinating servers in a parallel array capable of performing 500 trillion floating point operations per second (500 TFLOPS), according to AFRL Director of High Power Computing Mark Barnell."

3 Drinks a Day Keeps the Doctor Away 470

Nzimmer911 writes "Heavy drinkers outlive non-drinkers according to a 20 years study following 1,824 people. From the article: 'But a new paper in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research suggests that - for reasons that aren't entirely clear - abstaining from alcohol does actually tend to increase one's risk of dying even when you exclude former drinkers. The most shocking part? Abstainers' mortality rates are higher than those of heavy drinkers.'"

Comment Re:Unfriending due to Farmville (Score 2, Informative) 251

There's a much more elegant solution to your problem.

1) In Facebook's left column, select "Create a New List."

2) Call it "Non Bozos."

3) Select every non-Farmville playing friend who you actually want to be part of your news feed.

4) When you're finished, click your "Non Bozos" list, and you'll see a news feed made up of just those people.

5) Bookmark that page, and make that bookmark the normal way you visit Facebook from now on.

This will solve your Farmville problem and also make your news feed experience 100 times better, since you'll only be getting updates from people you care about.

Comment Re:Just to start us off with a car analogy... (Score 1) 222

you never actually buy anything with DRM, you simply rent it.

I've never heard it put this way before, and it's a wonderful point.

And it also frames my purchasing behavior in a way that makes a lot of sense. Specifically, I have no problem whatsoever paying for DRM stuff, if it's offered at a steeply discounted price that makes one-time use attractive.

I would never buy DRM music from iTunes, or for that matter even pay for non-DRM music in Apple's proprietary codecs, because if I'm paying money for music I want to feel like I own it for life.

Even if DRM technically gives me lifetime access to a given product, I assume I'm going to lose the key, or the company running the DRM valdiation server will go out of business.

That's why, like iTunes music, Kindle doesn't make any sense to me. I assume at some point, whether in five years or twenty, I'm going to get locked out of all the books I supposedly own --- if for no other reason than I'm likely to switch to a different eBook reader five or twenty years from now that's not Kindle compatible. Given that I don't feel like Kindle truly offers permanent ownership, I think its prices aren't nearly discounted enough to be attractive.

The best book I've read lately is _Eating Animals_ which Amazon currently sells for $14.90. This for a hardcover book printed on acid-free paper. It'll last the rest of my life and then some, so the only way I lose ownership is if I decide to give it away. The Kindle version,by contrast, is $11.92 --- barely a $3 discount. Given the DRM and the device lock-in, that's ridiculously expensive compared to the hardcover.

What would make infinitely more sense is if I could *rent* the book on Kindle for, say, $3 or $4 --- for a six month period. As dstar said in the parent post, "you never actually buy anything with DRM, you simply rent it."

And to me, there's nothing at all wrong with that --- if things are priced accordingly, and even with DRM expiration dates. Where things become morally suspect is when a DRM item is sold under the pretense that the buyer has gained lifetime ownership. It just ain't true.

Returning to the Slashdot story on Lulu, I've got no problem at all with Lulu deciding to offer DRM books. But I think they should be offered in such a way that it's clear that readers are renting them for one-time use, not buying them for a lifetime --- and they should be priced accordingly. If these terms are explicit and DRM is part of the deal, I don't have any problem with that. Just like I don't have any problem with the fact that I currently rent my access both to NFL Game Rewind and to NetFlix's "Watch Instantly" feature. There's DRM in both these products, but there are no false pretenses that the reasonable price I'm paying is buying me lifetime access to what I see.

In the case of NFL Replay and Netflix's "Watch Instantly," I'm getting one-time access to stuff I very much want to see but don't want to own, at a very fair price. DRM makes this sort of deal attractive and workable to both me and to the rights holders, and I think that's great. I don't think DRM's the devil at all. In fact, I'd like to see more products wrapped in DRM and available at a steep discount for one-time use. The world would be a better place for rights holders and consumers alike.

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"Open the pod bay doors, HAL." -- Dave Bowman, 2001