Rare Earth Less Rare

China recently started to use its supply of rare earth elements as a political bargaining chip - or possibly just a nationalistic play based around their desire to start shifting over their entire car fleet to hybrids, a stated goal.

Any way that you look at it, the move (preventing the export of many rare earth elements) was going to screw over Japan and the US. Japan, never a fan of China (though tied to them economically much more that even the US is) quickly inked an agreement with China's smaller rival to the south, Vietnam (yes - China helped Vietnam in the Vietnamese war, but they are not traditional allies, and because of the Spratly islands and other reasons, they have not been allies for quite some time, and are becoming increasingly antagonistic towards each other).

The US has now figured out a way to deal with the ban also. A US company has decided to reopen a mine near LA which will be able to supply of the US demand within a few years. This mine closed 10 years ago, when Chinese imports put it out of business.
Molycorp's Facilities at Mountain Pass AlanM1 via Wikimedia

UAW Targets Asians and Germans

So, the UAW has succeeded in (nearly) killing off the American auto companies. Chrysler is mostly dead, Ford and GM needed government money (GM a full on purchase from the American people - $150 per person or so).

The UAW is to a large degree to blame for this. They are a bunch of lazy overpaid workers who fight hard to ensure that pay is based on tenure rather than skill and hard work. They really are one of the worst, most despicable, most destructive organizations still operating in the US.
Bob King

And now, they are trying to organize the US plants of the foreign automakers. What assholes. Those plants have been able to do well and grow precisely because they have NOT had the UAW working there. And these are not underpaid and unhappy workers. They are paid well, have good satisfaction, and oh wait, he is a big one... STILL HAVE JOBS. Lets see whats happened to Detroit, home of the UAW and all the love and joy that they bring...

Yeah. Detroit is in one of the worst states of urban decay of any city in the world, and that is what the UAW has to offer. They have killed off the body they have been so long feeding off of, and they are now looking for a new host. Please, please if you work in a foreign auto plant, do not allow in the UAW. I like the idea that some of my cars, even if they are not made by American brands, are still made in American factories. Well, actually, I dont care at all if my car in particular is made in America, but in general, I think this country should still be able to operate high value-added factories, considering our focus on technology.

Anyway, my rant for today, and I apologize for being away for so long. I will be bombarding this blog with my thoughts for the next few days, catching up before the new year.

Chrome OS = Fail

Google has just handed out its first netbooks, with the first public version of Chrome OS onboard.

In my opinion, it is a complete failure. You can read the detailed review here from engadget, but basically, the critical piece of information is this "if you have seen the Chrome browser, you have seen Chrome OS."

That, in my opinion, is not a good thing. You see, I have a netbook, and I love it. It has Windows XP Pro on it, which is relatively lightweight (better than Mac OSX or Win 7 in terms of battery use), but is compatible with... everything. Really, just about everything runs on XP.

So why then would I want a netbook which does just a fraction of what my current netbook does?

The Google plan is to sell you a netbook which comes with a lightweight OS and a data plan from Verizon wireless. This is at a time when more and more smartphones come with the ability to tether (something I have always had on my Pre), so that you can simply hook your laptop to your phone and use that connection. It is also at a time when netbooks are dying out in favor of tablets. On a tablet, you accept the limitations of it not being a full computer, because it is clearly not a full computer. I see absolutely no reason anyone would pay more to get a Google branded netbook which does less than a regular netbook.

It seems ridiculous to me that Google is coming out with this now, when it is hard at work on Android 3.0 which is designed for tablets, and is really the most direct competitor to Chrome OS. There is no way anyone would use this on a real laptop, and so... what the hell has Google made here?

Too little too late on this one Google. If it came out 3 years ago, it might have made some sense. Today, its just stupid.


Bittorent and Tracking

Yes - if you download things illegally, you are breaking the law. Unless you have fair use of the article in question.

I have gotten a takedown notice from Verizon for copyright infringement, which is pretty frigging annoying. I downloaded an epsiode of True Blood which was available through OnDemand as I am an HBO subscriber. I did so to watch the episode over at my girlfriends house.

However, they are claiming that I am somehow still sharing the file. Which means that they have no goddamn idea what they are doing, because I never shared the file. Dumbasses. For more info on the epic fail that is IP tracking for torrents, read on.

Researchers discover that “Practically any Internet user can be framed for copyright infringement today,” and that “Even without being explicitly framed, innocent users may still receive complaints.”

University of Washington researchersreleased a new study today that suggests that the current tactics being employed by the entertainment industry to target copyright infringement amongBitTorrent users are flawed and prone to false accusations.

“Because current enforcement techniques are weak, it is possible that anyone, regardless of sharing content or using BitTorrent, could get a DMCA. takedown notice claiming they were committing copyright infringement,” said Mr. Piatek.

Tadayoshi Kohno, an assistant professor, Michael Piatek a graduate student, and Arvind Krishnamurthy, a research assistant professor, argue in “Challenges and Directions for Monitoring P2P FileSharing Networks” that the current method employed by copyright holders to identify illegal file-sharers can not conclusively determine if actual copyright infringement has taken place.

“We have conducted the first scientific, experimental study of monitoring and copyright enforcement on P2P networks and have made several discoveries which we find surprising,” they write.

The study is curious result of a previous measurement of BitTorrent conducted in August of 2007 in which they received more than 200 DMCA takedown notices without having actually downloaded or uploaded any data whatsoever. They then recently realized that this was worth revisiting to determine just how rampant or widespread the practice is.

Among their findings:

  • Practically any Internet user can be framed for copyright infringement today.
    By profiling copyright enforcement in the popular BitTorrent file sharing system, we were able to generate hundreds of real DMCA takedown notices for computers at the University of Washington that never downloaded nor shared any content whatsoever.

    Further, we were able to remotely generate complaints for nonsense devices including several printers and a (non-NAT) wireless access point. Our results demonstrate several simple techniques that a malicious user could use to frame arbitrary network endpoints.

  • Even without being explicitly framed, innocent users may still receive complaints.
    Because of the inconclusive techniques used to identify infringing BitTorrent users, users may receive DMCA complaints even if they have not been explicitly framed by a malicious user and even if they have never used P2P software!
  • Software packages designed to preserve the privacy of P2P users are not completely effective.
    To avoid DMCA complaints today, many privacy conscious users employ IP blacklisting software designed to avoid communication with monitoring and enforcement agencies. We find that this software often fails to identify many likely monitoring agents, but we also discover that these agents exhibit characteristics that make distinguishing them straightforward.

The purpose of their study was to highlight the need for greater transparency among copyright holders and law enforcement when it comes to the methodology and techniques they use to identify illegal file-sharing.

In the study they “…intentionally try to receive DMCA takedown notices.” To do this they measured and analyzed tens of thousands of live BitTorrent swarms with and the DMCA complaints these measurements attracted.

As we all know, the way it works is that copyright holders monitor P2P and file-sharing collecting evidence of infringement, and then issuing Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notices to people it suspects of illegal file-sharing. These notices are formal requests to stop sharing the copyrighted material in question and are usually sent to a user’s ISP when then forwards it to the individual whose IP address stands accused in the notice.

The researchers asked themselves “how are infringing users identified?” There are two options – indirect or direct.

Indirect detection means simply looking a the list of connect IP addresses in the BitTorrent client and assuming illegal data transfer has actually taken place.

Direct detection involves connecting to one of the peers in a swarm and then actually exchanging data with that peer to confirm copyright infringement. This method is obviously not the preferred choice since it is much more labor and resource intensive.

Despite the “direct detection” method being the most conclusive and the standard approach for monitoring other file-sharing networks like Gnutella, the researchers conclude that the “indirect detection” method is being used to monitor BitTorrent.

They even went so far as to implicate three laserjet printers for illegally downloading copies of “Iron Man” by using the network device’s IP address as a proxy server in the BitTorrent client.

Moreover, it’s long been argued that the BitTorrent community is immune to the type of lawsuits targeting users of Direct Connect-style file-sharing programs since it does involve much more labor and resources. Also, since it concerns packets, or pieces of data, could one really be accused of illegally sharing 12% of a song? Would they then face 12% of the standard fines for copyright infringement?

I think what the study really shows is that copyright holders are merely trying to scare users away from using BitTorrent and aren’t doing any of the real investigative work currently employed to catch users of direct connect programs like KaZaA or Limewire which is much, much easier to ascertain.

The 4th Amendment

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

Just wanted to make sure everyone had a quick read up on their constitution. Because, you see, when you read it this way it should be pretty clear: the searches currently going on in airports across this country are, in fact, unconstitutional. The issue is that no one has the balls to say what freaking makes sense: no plane has been hijacked by a US citizen since at least the 1960's, and I could find no clear reference to any incident at all.

Its not about searching everyone. That's unconstitutional, in the same way that you don't get recorded every time you make a phone call because some people use phones for crime.

Of course, with the current administration, the chances of there being any push back against the TSA is minimal, not that Bush was anything but a massive liability on that front as well.

Russia Is Crazy... Truck Edition

This movie is just Russian trucks being Russian trucks. And it is awesome.

Harvard Scientists Reverse Aging in (certain) Mice

Yes - aging can be reversed. If you are a mouse, and you have a shortage of telomerase.

Laboratory mouse in a scientist's hand

The cute little white fluffy guys managed to rejuvenate their ageing organs:

"The Harvard group focused on a process called telomere shortening. Most cells in the body contain 23 pairs of chromosomes, which carry our DNA. At the ends of each chromosome is a protective cap called a telomere. Each time a cell divides, the telomeres are snipped shorter, until eventually they stop working and the cell dies or goes into a suspended state called "senescence". The process is behind much of the wear and tear associated with ageing.

At Harvard, they bred genetically manipulated mice that lacked an enzyme called telomerase that stops telomeres getting shorter. Without the enzyme, the mice aged prematurely and suffered ailments, including a poor sense of smell, smaller brain size, infertility and damaged intestines and spleens. But when DePinho gave the mice injections to reactivate the enzyme, it repaired the damaged tissues and reversed the signs of ageing.

"These were severely aged animals, but after a month of treatment they showed a substantial restoration, including the growth of new neurons in their brains," said DePinho"

There is one major issue: the reason that we age is, more or less, cancer. It was a genetic trade-off made over millenia made to keep more of us alive, longer. You see, cancer is when cells go haywire and replicate out of control. The older that cells get, the more likely that they will go out of control.

So even if you could introduce a whole shit ton of telomerase enzyme into the human body and slow down/reverse the ageing process (it is more complex than that, but lets start there) - you would still be facing down a very high rate of cancer.

The answer, of course is simple. If we can cure cancer (and yes - we are getting better at that) we will be much more able to cure ageing. And damn would that be a good day.

Obama Administration Considering Cellphone Jammers in Cars

Nope, this is not April 1st. The Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in an MSNBC interview a few days ago that they were looking into requiring the instillation of cellphone jamming equipment in every car.

Really, not just banning cellphone use, they have jumped right past that to crazy fucking nanny state insanity. They say this could save up to 5,500 lives a year. I would not be surprised if it cost that many lives as well, not to mention billions and billions of dollars in lost productivity.

It is completely ridiculous on many levels, and a sign of how idiotic this administration is that it was even brought up in a serious interview. It is unlikely it will save lives: distracted driving is very hard to pin down to cellphone use - why not ban eating food in your car, changing radio stations, looking at billboards, talking to a passenger, or having kids in the back seat. Furthermore, the cellphone companies paid the FCC for that spectrum, and now the government wants to install 100 million jammers? I call bullshit. Finally, the very idea that the government will regulate behavior in our cars (which really, most Americans see as personal extensions of the home) not through laws, but through a device which forces behavioral change? Even in 1984, Orwell only had cameras watching people, not devices which stopped them from "breaking the law."

Insane motherfuckers. I am so glad they no longer had the power they did. Lets hope they dont do too much damage in the next month. Luckily, they are too stupid to get much done.


Excuse me, I'm a carnivore - Hilarious