Sunday, February 22, 2009

The credit crunch for dummies

Not a bad explanation - simplifies a few steps, but the gist of it is there, as far as I understand what happened.

Basically, a bunch of people decided to make money by selling mortgage-backed investments that were high risk, on the basis that when the mortgages defaulted, they could just repossess the house and sell it for a profit.

Except they did it so much, that they killed the market for property (especially as they had helped stoke the housing bubble by lending to just about anyone).

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Ho-ly shit...

This story on the Herald Sun website tells it all.

84 confirmed dead. So far.

This picture from the ABC News website gives you an idea of what happened.

More photos here.

And some video.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

In the "Yeah, right, pull the other one" category...


Iran have just announced that they have successfully launched their first satellite.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says he hopes the launch will help the spread of monotheism, peace and justice.
Oh, really, you don't say?

And the Yanks & Russkis only developed rockets to launch satellites & put men on the moon, too. The fact that you could put a nuclear warhead on the top and drop it onto virtually any point on the planet is entirely beside the point, isn't it?

A bit like the Iranian nuclear program is purely for electrical generation. Using a reactor design that is more dangerous & unstable than most civilian designs, and which is used in the rest of the world for producing weapons-grade plutonium.


According to Paul Leventhal of the Nuclear Control Institute, if Iran were to withdraw from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and renounce the agreement with Russia, the Bushehr reactor could produce a quarter ton of plutonium per year, which Leventhal said was enough for at least 30 atomic bombs
Yup, I'll buy that.

Especially from a country whose leader's idea of 'justice' is 'wiping Israel off the map'...

The once and future e-book

The iRex iLiad - one of the contenders, but at AUD$1200, that's a whole lotta paperbacks!

I read a rather interesting article on Ars Technica this morning. I highly recommend it, if you're at all interested in electronic devices and the potential for them to be used for storing books (novels, encyclopedias, textbooks, reference books, pretty much anything).

I liked this particular quote:
Everything is set for another run at this e-book thing. Will Apple wake from its apparent slumber and pull the sword from the stone—the sword that's currently taped to its hand and sheathed in a teflon-lined crevice?

The iLiad shown above is probably closest to what I'd like in an e-book reader - something that's got a great screen, and the ability to make notes & drawings.

The wish list, however, is still large:
  • Colour screen, with video support;
  • WiFi (so you can use it for web browsing, natch!);
  • Handwriting recognition (even something a la Palm's Graffiti - those glyphs are easy to learn, and fast to write);
  • Something more than 256MB of internal memory (really, that's kinda small these days, although the ability to slap in large capacity CF cards is nice);
  • User-swappable batteries - I mean, a 3-hour charge time doesn't help much when your battery goes flat mid-flight;
  • A price a bit lower than that of a full-on notebook PC;
  • e-books that are priced realistically. Come on, $19.95 for an electronic edition that costs $0.00 (to the nearest cent) to reproduce? Haven't you book publishers learned *anything* from watching the digital music scene?
In the meantime, the author's suggestion of an iPhone would be neat, too (although I'd probably prefer a larger screen for reading books). If only the electronic versions of books weren't (a) damned expensive, and (b) frequently not available at all.

Dymocks here in Oz claim to have 94,000 e-books available for purchase. The problems with that:
  • they're spread across at least four different (incompatible, natch) digital formats;
  • many of them are as expensive, if not more so, than their dead-tree equivalents, and that's on top of having to pay $$bigbucks for a portable device capable of displaying them;
  • all of them have DRM, which is just plain bad news for paying customers, but not for 'non-paying customers' (or pirates, as the publishing industry likes to call them).

Actually, I've a recent example of that. I tried to install & play my copy of IL2:1946 on Windows 7 on my PC at home. IL2 is a fun game, and well worth paying for IMHO. It's just a shame that I couldn't get it to run on Windows 7, because of the @#$% copy protection. I had to download a crack for the game just to run it. I might as well have just downloaded the whole game, right? Would have saved me a lot of aggravation, because it would have worked first time, and I wouldn't have spent a day trying to figure out why it wouldn't run.


Go read the article, it's worth it.