2010 January 28: iPads, Legos, McDonalds, and Toyotas

There are a few things I wanted to touch on today, so I will do so.
Many of you have doubtless heard of Apple's new tablet PC (Mac?), the iPad. As far as I've read, reaction has been lukewarm; the OS is the iPhone OS (not a full Mac OS X), and the thing can't even render certain (many) sites (i.e. those with Adobe Flash) properly; Apple thinks it can get away with it by offering a stand as an accessory. Hah!
More disturbingly (Linux Today), though, it seems like the iPad is chock-full of DRM. I am an opponent of DRM; if DRM existed in the 1980s, when desktop computers were in their infancy, we would be far behind where we are today in terms of computers. Apple is not allowing anyone to install "unauthorized" (i.e. not from the Apple Store) software, calling it a criminal offense even when no copyright laws are broken. This just goes to show that as a computing culture, Apple is even more closed than Microsoft; variety and quality are no doubt hurt by this. Not only is this applied to consumers - even producers can't opt out of this lock-in, especially free software producers who want to maintain their works' licenses like the GPL. Basically, the only person who benefits from this lock-in is Apple, as now, no outside developers can profit at all from this new machine. The Slashdot article on this also mentions that this may portend bad things for Mac OS X's future in terms of openness; surely, it will, given how much more tightly Apple has been clenching its brushed aluminum fist recently.
I want to switch gears now (no pun intended) to talk about Legos. I'm a huge fan of Legos; I happen to be the president of my school's Robotics Club, which uses Lego Mindstorm kits to build and program robots for in-house competitions (and hopefully BotBall in the future) (I talked about this club's raffle fundraiser in a post from 2009 October). The beauty of these things is that they can be put together in virtually any combination; to be sure, 6 bricks of size 2x4 can be put together in over 100 million ways. Here we are, building robots! The possibilities are endless. But I digress...
I watch Tom and Jerry. It comes on Cartoon Network. It is awesome (and I am not ashamed at all to say that). But I digress yet again...
More to the point, on Cartoon Network I see (between Tom and Jerry shorts) a lot of ads, mainly for kids. Many of these ads are for Lego kits, in the forms of Toy Story, Star Wars, etc.
I am saddened to see the proliferation of these assembly-by-instruction-manual kits. For some of the newer kits, there seem to be only a few large pieces that fit together easily, making the thing worse. I am saddened to see this because the whole point of Lego toys was to be able to create anything from one's imagination using the starter parts (and in the case of robots, an RCX and maybe a few motors and wheels (and maybe not even wheels), but nothing else). That is the point of the Lego set; it allows the imagination to proliferate through reality. Here, with these kits, manufacturers have done the imagination; it's just up to the kids to assemble the pieces as they are. This has also been a gradual process; the early kits had only a few more special pieces to make the action figures or whatever, while the current kits seem to have only specialized pieces that can only fit together to make the figure in question. If I need to get gifts for kids (who are old enough to not swallow small parts), I will be getting them Legos - real Legos.
Also on Cartoon Network, I have been seeing a lot of McDonald's ads. I'm not sure why they still need to advertise, but whatever, it's all good. Except, it's not.
The first questionable ad I saw aired around a year ago (maybe it was a little more recent). The ad shows an elementary-school-age soccer match; the winning team is made of trim, athletic kids, while the losing team is slightly more pudgy on the whole. The winning team gets a trophy and rubs it in the losing team's faces, until one of the losing team member's parents get that team McDonald's food to cheer them up. Then, the pudgy kids start rubbing the fact that they have McDonald's (and the winners don't) into the winners' faces, and the winners actually seem to care more about not having McDonald's (than winning).
It's obvious that according to McDonald's, eating McDonald's food and not staying in too good shape is more important than actually winning sports tournaments (or doing more useful things of a similar vein). That is not a good message to send to growing kids. Then again, maybe it's kind of obvious why the team that lost did so. Maybe?
The second ad is still on the air. It shows a bunch of kids looking through a telescope with Ronald McDonald, saying that they can't see anything. Ronald throws a giant handful of magic through the telescope into the sky, displaying a sparkly sky full of stars, nebulae, and fireworks; in the middle of it all is the McDonald's logo.
I initially nitpicked by saying that the kids were able to see the stars before, so they didn't need Ronald, and I was going to extend this into a rant about how poor basic education is these days, but I'm not. The more worrisome thing is the logo in the center of the sky. The message? McDonald's is the center of the universe.
Maybe I should be like Morgan Spurlock: smack a kid every time we drive by McDonald's to make them hate going (or even going by) there.
The last thing I wanted to talk about is the ongoing Toyota recall. Toyota, since the time of my last writing [about this subject], has recalled a few more million vehicles. Yes, you read that right: a few more million. Also, I did not know this before, but Lexus and Scion models are supposed to not be affected as the cars are all built with the Denso accelerators (good), not the CTS (no relation to Cadillac CTS) accelerators (bad) (Denso and CTS are suppliers of accelerator pedals, with, I believe, Denso being Japanese and CTS being American). In any case, do not buy a Toyota, and when buying a Lexus or Scion, consider all of the other alternatives (yes, there are a lot out there, but it's worth researching), and if that becomes the decided vehicle to purchase, exercise extreme caution before purchasing (i.e. take a test drive (or two), thoroughly inspect the vehicle (especially that driver's footwell) for issues, etc.).
There, I'm done.

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