Friday, April 29, 2011

List Of "Best" Android Phones

Ok, it's actually a list of the most hacker friendly phones. But I call them the best because we're quickly reaching the point where cell phones are like computers. They're powerful as such. Today's cell phones could easily power the top-end games from ten years ago. This means that Apple-like nonsense of preventing me from doing things won't fly. That's why I call this list the "best" Android phones, because if I buy a computer, it damn well better let me do whatever I want to it.

Some phones aren't terribly hacker-friendly because the engineers designed something that just isn't conducive to hacking. This is annoying but understandable. Companies like Motorola, on the other hand, actively try to prevent you from doing things to their cell phones. Not a simple "Are you suuuuure?" security precaution. No. I mean road blocks. Big ones. Ya' know what Motorola? If you won't let me do what I want with MY PHONE, I'm not going to buy your fucking products. Go screw. Assholes.

As far as the list goes, this only covers Android phones. The iPhone, counter to Apple's usual M-O and their wishes, the iPhone is very hacker friendly. It can easily be jailbroken and enjoy access to alternative markets like Cydia. It's not like it could be any other way. The iPhone is an enormously popular phone, so it's going to have a huge hacker following making sure that buyers can continue to do WHAT THEY WANT with their newly bought phone. This also makes me smile since Apple frequently used to crow about their security compared to Windows, even though most security experts said this was simply because Windows had to face a much larger number of attacks. No, the iPhone is the big fish in the pond and look at how easily their phones crumble under hacker scrutiny. The only way Apple can guarantee security is to control, with an iron fist, the only way into the phone: iTunes and the App Store.

Sweet, sweet irony.

Right-Handedness Gives Hints to Why We're Human

A study has come out indicating that we might have been right-hand dominant as long as 500,000 years ago.

This is a very significant finding, if true, because it gives us a possible hint as to why we suddenly rocketed to the top of intellectual heap. I've long thought that the only explanation for our intellectual capabilities was the formation of a complex, logical language. Because there was something that was nearly a magic bullet in our evolution. In the geological timespan of a fart, we went from being overgrown chimps to walking on the moon. We had spent the previous 200 million years evolving and didn't do that. We've spent the last 500,000 years evolving with all of our primate cousins, and none of them did that. What was that magic bullet?

The only answer that makes sense is language. Specifically a logical language, whereby we can encode data into a verbal broadcast than can then be decoded and interpreted by an entirely separate brain. Unlike body language, or primal communication like hoots and hollars, the amount of information that can be wedged into complex logical language is multiple orders of magnitude more.

This is why art is usually seen as indicative of modern human thought. It's an internal thought made external through some sort of coding. Some other primates seem to be making strides towards this, like with female orangutans teaching their children, but we're the only ones that definitely did it. If logical language emerged in our common ancestor 500,000 years ago (modern humans emerged about 200,000 years ago, perhaps as long as 300,000), that has implications for Neanderthal study, namely, they likely did have language of some sort.

It would also give us greater insight into the evolutionary magic bullet that produced Mozart, which is a pretty big deal.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

NY Times Data Starting to Coalesce.

It's been almost a month since the NY Times paywall went live, and I think we finally can say a few substantive things about it.

First, since the paywall was so "leaky," there was no distinct drop-off after its installation. Compare this to the charts for Newsday:

Or this absolutely comical chart for the Times of London:

The NY Times' 24 month chart isn't nearly as dramatic;

but I suspect that's because their paywall is so loose. You can sidestep it by simply blocking Javascript, or downloading a little Javscript shortcut, or by coming in via Google or Yahoo, or via a link on Facebook or Twitter. Essentially, as long as you don't go to the Times via their home page, you never have to pay. Which seems to sorta' defeat the purpose of a paywall, but whatever.

Even though the leaky paywall is preventing a dramatic and newsworthy drop in readership, there are some data to be gleaned.

First off, while the Alexa Rank numbers are only mildly affected, the page views have been significantly moved.

Zooming in to the 6-month chart the effects are more apparent:

They have dropped, certainly, but they have also stopped fluctuating with the ebb and flow of internet traffic. This is troubling, since on a healthy website, growth comes from that very ebb and flow. Very tight numbers means that your audience is flatlining. While this means you have a stable audience, when you do lose audience members, it's very difficult to replace them.

If we again zoom in to the 6-month scale on the chart, we can also discern a little bit of possibly-relevant data.

Looking back on the 24-month chart, the Times was, slowly sometimes, trending upwards in readership and global rank. This trend possibly may have broken, with the Times' rank the lowest it's been since December of last year. This is troubling since the Times' most popular general audience competitor,, has been flat for the past two years. But even on this scale, we can see that while the heavy flow of news appears to have given CNN a boost in their readers, the Times has received no such boost and has, in fact, reverted to even lower numbers. CNN might break 50 and stay there in the next few months.

If we compare the NY Times to their biggest philosophical competitor, the LA Times, we see that the LA Times are growing while the NY Times is not.

All websites exhibit a great amount of fluctuation, so this past month is not enough to extrapolate long-term trends. The important fact to take away, though, is that while other websites went up, the NY Times went down. Both CNN and the LA Times are heading towards milestones on Alexa, with the former reaching for the 50th most popular website on Earth, and the latter heading toward 300.

I still think that it's too early to call the paywall a complete failure, but those page view numbers should be troubling for the Times executives. The nature of the paywall means that large chunks of the Times' audience could suddenly leave, resulting in shocking drops in readership. I think that this is a possibility because the paywall works via some Javascript that tracks article views. After twenty articles are viewed, the page is blocked asking for payment. With five daily views via Google, and unlimited numbers from Facebook and other social tools, it will take time for people to hit the wall a sufficient number of times to annoy them enough to simply stop going. Ironically, I think that this will make times of elevated news stories problematic for the Times, since people are more likely to hit the wall quickly and repeatedly, and since they won't care to pay when options like the BBC, CNN, LA Times, and Reuters are available much more quickly, they'll more likely to leave, find that they enjoy another website, and never return.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Why I Find Creationism Emotionally Hollow

Why Our Education System is Fundamentally Flawed

After recording these things, I started thinking about our education philosophy in contrast to that of the Tiger Mother and traditional Asian education. Unlike the Asian approach where their education and society are completely compatible, kids rejection of our tacit educational philosophy and thus falling through the cracks is a direct side-effect of our individualist culture. If we encourage kids to be themselves and find their own voice, while deifying inventors and innovators who toiled for long hours in some closed room to achieve something great. When we worship one thing, and then try to teach our kids as though they were another thing, we're destined for problems and failed kids.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I'm Not Sold on Tablets

Apple reported sales data today and amid the gangbusters numbers, an interesting factoid: they only sold 4.7 million iPads, when six million or more was expected.

If you don't already know, the iPad has been a runaway success, selling multiple times the numbers of all its competitors combined. In fact, the iPad's sales in comparison to other tablets has made many people question whether there is actually a market for tablets. There's certainly a market for iPads, but what about tablets?

I've played around with the iPad and like it very much. You'd be surprised how frequently you'll check the internet for shit when a terminal is easily at hand. Watching TV? You will Google EVERY FUCKING ACTOR YOU SEE. It's weird! You're driven to do this!

But I've owned a compact laptop, a Sony, for years. I know this already and the benefit of the iPad over my laptop is minimal. But there are MANY people who don't have a laptop anchored to their dining room table who don't know that this behavior pattern exists. These people would like a tablet. So why don't I think that they are large enough of a market to drive sales of anything but an Apple product?

First, though, I want to address the dream of tablets. They're straight out of science fiction, and I think that has blinded most tech geeks to their actual marketability. Truly, the iPad gets much closer to what a tablet should be, but even then, it's not a tablet, it's the iPad. It's very limited in its abilities, because the nature of tablet computing forces those limitations. A well-designed product has those limitations. Look at Microsoft's early forays into tablets. They tried shoehorning a full computing experience onto them and, shocker, it failed.

Even though other companies are failing while Apple sells out, thus making me think that tablets aren't the new mega-market some people want, the real reason I don't think tablets as tablets are destined for success is because the dream of tablet computing has already been achieved with smartphones. Especially the larger phones that sport 4+ inch screens. They do everything that sci-fi dreamt of for tablets, and more. And smartphones are certainly destined for success. In the future, damn-near everyone will have one. But unlike tablets, smartphones had large-scale successes long before Apple showed up. Symbian, Palm, and Microsoft confirmed that the market was there, and Apple solidified it and brought it to a mass market. We had nothing like that in tablets. Before Apple, everyone who tried, failed. I just can't imagine that that reality isn't still in effect today.

I Am Not a Right-Wing Nut Job

I've covered this sort of subject in my blog posts, but here I am addressing it directly. While I have many conservative ideals, I think that everyone should, I am primarily a progressive.

My conservative ideals stem from a belief that any mechanism that is designed should strive for efficiency. Efficiency is defined as achieving a finely defined goal with the smallest amount of energy and resources. There are problems that the government can and should solve (progressivism), those problems should be solved with the smallest, most efficient government possible (conservativism). That is the core of my conservative beliefs.

I am also somewhat conservative in the classical sense: I want large state government and small federal government. I want that because the Southern United States is retarded, and I want them to have as little control over me as possible. A large federal government gives them control.

You could also call me conservative in the sense that I think that government's ONLY goal is the stewardship of freedom. All actions taken by government should be with the mind of increasing freedom. This can come in odd ways, though. For example, high taxes take away the freedom of deciding on what I can spend my money, but they provide things like highways, which incalculably expand freedom.

It is in that quest for more freedom that I become incredibly progressive, though. Protecting people from problems expands their horizons. Remember Maslow's hierarchy to self-actualization. We cannot achieve a higher sense of self and existence when we are worrying about the fundamentals of life. If government can provide three square meals a day, medical care, and a bed to sleep in, the government should provide it. The goal of government vis-a-vis its constituents is to raise the baseline of life high enough such that death on the streets is impossible and there is always a helping hand to get you on your feet. Beyond that, the free market and capitalism is what will provide you with a 900" television and a BMW, but the government should make sure that if you fall, you don't fall into darkness.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Texas Raising the Speed Limit

Texas is considering raising its speed limit to 85mph. There are people who are saying that this is a bad idea. That is stupid.

They cite "speed-related" accidents. There is no such thing as a speed-related accident. If you are driving well and fast, you won't have an accident. Long stopping distance? That simply means the distance that can be considered tailgating becomes longer. That is why one of the few infractions that is heavily ticketed on the Autobahn is tailgating. Stop ticketing people for speeding, like American cops are prone to doing, and ticket them for asshole driving.

And speaking of the Autobahn, if speed is so bad, why does the German road system, which has many sections with no speed limit at all, have a lower accident rate than us? And why does it have a much lower multi-car accident rate than us?

This gets to the heart of the "speed-related" garbage. Reports cite speed as a factor in any accident where cars were exceeding the speed limit. Do you know anyone who follows the speed limit? I don't. And even under that broad classification, only one-third of accidents can be classified as speed-related. The majority of accidents happen on slow, side-roads and in intersections. And that makes perfect sense.

When you're on the highway, you're going very fast, but you spend most of your time going in, more or less, straight lines. There's very little opportunity for things to go wrong. When do things go wrong? When people are maneuvering. Turns, stopping, starting, etc.

They also spend depressingly little time discussing the speeds at which people are already driving. I think it safe to say that people are driving at speeds that find comfortable regardless of the speed limit. In Rhode Island, there is a two-lane secondary highway with a large grass island in between north and south-bound traffic. The speed limit is 50-55mph. Average speed? Somewhere north of 65, with the left lane always above 70. On the more open stretches of highway, with speed limits that range from 50-65mph, average speeds are over 70, with fast cars in excess of 90.

At the same time, though, we have people who are driving under the speed limit. On the highway, where the limit is 65, I encounter people driving 50 or less frequently. My observations aren't entirely anecdotal, either. I drive a lot, at all hours of the day, in multiple states, and am thus exposed to thousands of other drivers every week. The speed limit seems to have very little effect on the speeds that people drive. The nature of the roads seems to have a stronger effect on people's driving habits. Certainly, they look to the speed limit as advice on the dangers inherent to the roadway, but after that, it's personal desire.

What this means is, that if the law isn't doing anything, then change the law. We do not have laws based on ideals, or on things that seem right. We have laws based on reality! If no one obeys the law, the law is wrong, not the people.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Two Ism's And Some Games

Where is Ai Weiwei, and why is the United States pathetically silent on his disappearance? How can armies for the past 2,000 years all have been retarded? And are video games from 15 years ago better than those today?

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Friday, April 01, 2011

More Surveys

I just received a call, 1:20pm, from the National Organization for Marriage... again. In my first post on the subject, I commented on how suspicious the wording of the question was and the timing of the call. First off, if the name wasn't a hint, the National Organization for Marriage is a right-wing, religious organization that is of course against gay marriage, because letting two gay people do what they want will bring about the apocalypse or something. That bias in the polling makes me more circumspect of the actual poll.

My first call, on January 26th, was received at 2:00pm. They also asked whether I was 50-years of age or older. What demographic is at home at 2:00pm? Old people. And what do old people hate more than any other age bracket? Gays! This is in contrast to polling calls that I've received from Gallup, The New York Times, CNN, CBS, and other, I dunno' respectable organizations. I usually receive the calls after 5:00pm.

This successful call was actually the third. The first was successfully answered back in January, I then got a second which was answered by my machine at about 2:00pm yesterday. That's three calls, all around the same time, 1:45pm. Highly irregular.