FOLLOW-UP: "FUD of the Year" from Microsoft

Following up from an earlier post, the presentation from Microsoft was not only shown to Best Buy employees but was also shown to employees from Staples and Office Depot. However, that's not the most important part, and that's why I made an entirely new post rather than updating the old post.
This is why.
As it turns out, there are many employees at these stores who do use Linux regularly and love it. Their jobs essentially forbid them to speak of it.
Yes, there are Geek Squad people who love Linux.
The issue is that a lot of money for Best Buy comes from Microsoft. This is why employees at these stores only demonstrate Linux on an individual and almost-secret level.
So please, go to these stores and start politely asking about Linux. When the employees listen, they'd be more than happy to share in the excitement.


Finally, a Solution to Poor Linux Marketing


Sure, Linux does have its share of OS-related issues, but that's not what I'm talking about here.
It's biggest problem is - nay, was - marketing. It was. Until now.
Finally, there are actually public Linux advertisements out there.
Ken Starks of the HeliOS Initiative has, with the help of others, managed to secure radio ads for Linux in the Austin, TX area. Finally, people will know about the alternative to costly OSs that aren't very reliable.
The beauty of it all? These ads will air (as far as I know) on a radio show hosted by a very pro-Microsoft person who also hosts a lot of ads for anti-virus and other software for Windows (the irony of course is that these ads explicitly jab at such software).
Please take a listen and support it.
Here's the full article.


RIAA, Stay of Of Elementary Schools!

It's another day and yet another blow upon freedom of creativity. Yes folks, the RIAA is at it again. This time, they are created curricula for elementary and middle schools, starting from 3rd grade.
You heard that right, 3rd grade. I'll get back to that later.
First, I'll look at what's totally wrong with this activity guide.
The activities for elementary and middle school students are identical save the tools used, but that's besides the point. Now I only need to do half the ranting!
What in the name of Kanye West is that?
It's a term the RIAA made up for the express purpose of furthering this activity. It has no other meaning outside of this context.
Next, those numbers are way off. It certainly does not cost the music industry over $7 million in lost sales due to copyright violations, and even if it did, it makes so much more money from actual sales that it doesn't really matter.
Next, who is affected by songlifting?
It's really just the RIAA. The truth is, if people are given a listen to a song, they are more likely to actually go out and buy the CD by themselves. Even otherwise, the CDs generate positive publicity which will reflect positively upon the artists in concerts and such. Only the recording industry is hurt, and they want to shout that out.

Next, draw the copyright symbol (©) on the chalkboard. Ask if students know what this symbol means and where they might have seen it (books, posters, CDs, etc.). Explain that the copyright symbol is used to identify the owner of a piece of intellectual property and serves as a reminder that it is illegal for anyone to copy or distribute that property without the owner’s permission. Students should understand that copyright law automatically protects intellectual property whether or not it is marked with the copyright symbol. You might also inform them that our nation’s Founders included copyright protection in the U.S. Constitution (Article I, Section 8), believing that it would encourage creativity by giving the creators of intellectual property an exclusive right to profit from their artistic talents.
This preceding quote is possibly my favorite part because it's the least correct. Here's something I suggest: Richard Stallman, Linus Torvalds, and Larry Lessig should all go around the country to different schools and draw the copyleft (intentionally the horizontal mirror-image of the copyright symbol) and ask them what it means. It's pretty well known in the freedomware (I'm gonna start using that term as a less ambiguous synonym of free software/software libre) community, which seems to be a mutual antagonist of industries like the RIAA. I'm pretty sure not too many teachers would get it either. Why should the RIAA be forcing copyright down 3rd-graders' throats?
Most importantly is my beef with the term intellectual property. I'll say it here, and it largely reflects the views of people like Stallman and Lessig.
Intellectual property is a near-farce.
That's right, it's a near-farce.
It's not totally a farce because initially, other people should not take credit for someone's work. However, intellectual "property" is not like physical property in that when someone else takes it, the original owner does not lose it. If I take your table, you are now minus one table. However, if I take your design for a table and tweak it a bit, you still have your original design. I will expand more upon this only if you ask me to elaborate on a specific point.
Furthermore, this interpretation of copyright completely ignores fair use. Fair use is the use of an author's work for free without the author's permission, and can be done if the author explicitly gives such permission or implicitly does so by letting a copyright or patent expire. Many artists do this in that they give away their songs for free on the interwebs. The RIAA, of course, collectively sticks its fingers in its ears and starts screaming like a siren when it hears the words "fair use".
Also, my other beef with copyright law is the term itself. It used to be that one had an exclusive copyright of 14 years with a possibility of one renewal, making a maximum total of 28 years; this has increased to 95 years. Also, before, the burden of making the copyright was on the author; now, for whatever reason, this is automatic. The former terms were implied in the Constitution and were explicitly stated in contemporaneous laws. I find it ironic that the RIAA uses the word "believes" to refer to the Framers' desire to encourage creativity through limited copyrights; then again, the RIAA makes no mention of an originally limited copyright.
Yup, the RIAA has a lot wrong in that one paragraph.
The next activity just strengthens that.

So the RIAA basically wants children to know that they must bow to its demands, and that fair and free use do not exist (and neither should limited copyrights with burden on the holder). More to the point, "piracy" is explicitly mentioned twice (in different word forms) while "fair use" is never even implied.

But my bigger problem is, why are they doing this to children?
Middle school students are fine candidates for this because they are just getting into mp3 players, CD mixes, online file sharing, and that sort of stuff. They should know about copyright law, but it should not be exclusively from one point of view; they should know both points of view and have the ability to decide between the two.
More importantly, though, is that elementary schoolers have much fewer, if any, such interests. They aren't as much into technology and probably have no idea what such things as file sharing are. So why does the RIAA feel the need to pursue such indoctrination?
I guess it's because they think it's best to get them while they're young.
But that's just wrong.
Teachers, please use some common sense and don't let private industries control public education like this.


Why are College Essays so Hard?

For most of my classmates as well as myself, it's that time: college applications.
Thankfully, the Common Application is now online and most other colleges have tried to make their applications as uniform and painless as possible. There's very little chance of losing paperwork as almost everything now is electronic.
The one major pain that remains, however, is in writing the essay.
Now it's even harder because along with the Common Application essay I have to write many different supplements for colleges as well as essays for non-Common Application schools.
But the question remains: why is writing the essay itself so hard, and why does it remain so even if there was only one essay to be written?
I think I have an answer for my fellow seniors.
One thing that is thought of as an issue is that almost all college essay questions are broad. This is actually good after a bit of thinking, because narrow essay questions about one's experiences limits one's ability to write the essay. Thus, this isn't really an issue.
The issue comes with how one is taught to write an essay and one's interests.
Students are usually taught to write essays at the beginning of middle school. These first essays along with the multitude of essays that follow are almost completely passionless analytical essays that require students to analyze and take a stand about some facet of a novel while exclusively using the 3rd person and only using material from the book for support. These essays continue throughout high school English classes.
The essays for college applications require that one spin a story around an event or idea. It requires that one use one's storytelling and fluffing abilities to make an essay sound better even if there is no more substance to speak of.
The other thing mentioned was one's interests. I can only speak for myself here, but I am very interested in science. My interest is such that I don't really read storybooks anymore but instead stick to nonfiction science- or technology-related books or news articles. I honestly have no patience for a book that tries hard to spin a story. This is why I stopped reading The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring after 70 pages and why I generally dislike John Steinbeck's works: the authors fluff up the stories way too much with description and almost fail to mention a plot of any kind. Reflecting this, my essays tend to be very direct and to-the-point without much storytelling; I don't like writing in a style of literature that I don't like either. This, however, means that some people may think my essay needs a lot of work while others will say it's fine. For example, my mom says my essay structure needs more "maturity", while my brother thinks I could make it even less formal. At the same time, he says it should come out naturally, almost spoken, while my dad says it needs to be more like a spun story. If I cave to too many demands, it won't sound like me anymore, and that's also bad.
I guess the only solution is to ask all English teachers above grade 6 in this area/country to require at least 1 of these personal-style essays per year so that students will be able to crank them out as easily on college applications as they do analytical essays in school.
I need to continue writing my essays now...


Civility got Killed - Key Word "Brutally"

I was listening to President Obama's speech on health care yesterday. I really liked the way he delivered it and the fact that he gave far more specifics - enough to get critics in the Democratic Party (including myself at times) to stop complaining about any lack of specific requirements in the health care proposal.
Most of what I'm going to say has been written elsewhere (mostly on the Washington Post), so what I'm writing is a summary of Post writers' arguments.
Obama was specific enough, as said above.
Some people are saying that this is too little, too late, but as we have seen from the raucous/violent town hall meetings, this is the perfect time to call out the opponents for who they really are and really call for civility; if he gave the speech before the bad stuff happened, the speech wouldn't really have stuck and he would have had to repeat something later on to the effect of returning to some civility.
However, the moment during this speech to Congress was the loud outburst from Senator Joe Wilson (R-SC). When Obama expounded upon the idea that illegal immigrants would not get this kind of coverage, Wilson shouted, "You liar!"
This, of course, is among other happenings, like other GOP Senators rudely texting on their smartphones or holding up papers like signs like "Ironic" or "What Bill?" or the supposed GOP health care plan (basically, keep everything the same, which is why it's only 15-20 pages long).
Whatever shred of credibility the GOP had as a party of at least slightly respectable politicians was torn to pieces then.
These actions may have been legal, but they certainly weren't right. Did anyone see Democratic Congresspeople do the same to Bush or Republican Congresspeople do the same to Clinton? (No.)
This even just went to show that the GOP Congresspeople are just as crude, uncouth, loudmouthed, inflexible, and blockheaded as the gun-toting constituents who went to town hall meetings that these people represent. Furthermore, it just goes to show how out-of-touch the Republican Party is with the times and the people; though approval of Obama is dropping (but will probably spike a bit after this speech), nearly 60% of people still support health care reform of any kind (mostly what Obama and other Democratic Congresspeople are proposing). Truly, all the GOP cares about now is a political victory of some kind; Obama should give up bipartisanship in the sense that working with the GOP is futile, so he really should only work with the more conservative elements of the Democratic Party to achieve this "bipartisan" consensus.
And truly, the Republican Party has finally shown its colors once and for all as the extreme right-wing fringe party. Bye-bye, GOP!


Senior Pictures - Stealing?

I had my senior pictures taken 2 weeks ago. I opted for the "bronze" level of picture-taking which was $25.
I got my picture proofs and the order forms for portraits this week. I seriously considering getting portraits until I saw the prices.
Does anyone realize how outrageous it is for someone to pay $54 for a single 8x10 portrait? One can get the same size and quality portrait from Target for under $20. I can guarantee that.
What exactly does LifeTouch do that makes these portraits so darn expensive? I can't fathom this. I think their prices are outright theft, plain and simple.
If you ask me what portraits I'm getting, I'll tell you: I'm making my own portraits from my proofs on GIMP. It'll take time, but it costs $0, thank you very much.
Did anyone else get portraits and/or was anyone else outraged by these exorbitant prices?

Socialist Education! Oh noes!

The big news this week was President Obama's address to students of all ages and their parents about education.
The bigger news was that prominent Republicans were lambasting it before they even knew what it was going to say. They claimed that Obama was going to "indoctrinate" schoolchildren in "leftist socialist ideologies".
Then, of course, Obama gave his speech. It was a speech that made sense - it was about students taking responsibility for their own education and for them to keep trying at it even when the going gets tough.
There was no hint of liberal ideology. In fact, personal responsibility is something many (now deceased) rational conservatives used to espouse. They should be proud.
Furthermore, the same conservatives who blasted the speech prior to its delivery without any basis changed course and praised it afterwards without any apology for bad prior judgment.
Why is this?


Movie Review: Disturbia

To make up for that ridiculously long previous post, this one will be ridiculously short.
I watched "Disturbia" on TNT at someone's house tonight.
Suffice it to say, it freaked me out, but then again, all horror movies generally do. Of course, I'm usually pretty easily scared by anything in a movie anyway.
That's all.

"FUD of the Year" from Microsoft

Well, folks, it's another day and another round of FUD from Microsoft. However, this really does take the cake for "FUD of the Year".
(For the uninitiated, "FUD" stands for "Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt". It's a really slick marketing move where a company uses vague phrases to create fear in consumers of an opponent's product without fighting it in concrete, rational terms. Microsoft is not the only company to do it but has been the most high-profile, arrogant, and lying software company to do it in the last few decades.)

Microsoft has felt the need to give the employees at Best Buy a presentation on why Windows 7 is better than Linux. My take on the concept itself will come at the end, but in general, this would be fine IF it didn't resort to a presentation filled half with outright lies and half with statements so vague that it may apply to Windows 7 easier than to Linux.
For those too lazy to actually click the link and to make setting up a context easier, I'm reposting all images from that site here.
For this one, it's funny that they don't mention Mac OS X (especially with v10.6 Snow Leopard coming out), but more on that later.
Also, how can Windows 7 run better on a netbook than Linux? New versions of Linux (like Linux Mint 7 Gloria with Compiz effects) can run well on computers (like mine) that are 5-6 years old (also like mine: 5.5 years old). These computers have lower specs than today's netbooks and don't have a chance of running Windows Vista or 7, yet Microsoft has the audacity to make this claim. Care to back that up with some numbers, Microsoft? I thought not (unless someone else has the time and patience to look it up, which I'd be more than willing to look at).
Follow the jump to read and see the rest of this nasty FUD.