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BP Profits

Byron Grove, BP’s chief financial officer said a week after the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion that it was too early to talk about how much BP would be spending on the cleanup.

2010 First Quarter financial statements for BP show profits double the same period last year at $6.08 billion.

Over the past few years BP has been fined for workplace safety violations… but apparently the company hasn’t had a problem staying in business and making record amounts of money.

The oil spill cleanup is after all, just a cost of doing business for BP; and perhaps it’s time to crank up that cost with hefty fines for each and every day it continues.

The Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar has threatened BP with a government take over of the clean up… but last I check the government was already involved.  And US Coast Guard Admiral Thad W Allen has been clear that their is little more that they can do… mainly because there isn’t a contingency plan for this type of spill — by any government agency.

In 1989 Exxon was hit hard by a consumer boycott when they dragged their feet in the clean up of the Valdez spill; but so far there’s no sign that consumers are slowing their purchases at BP — the largest oil and gas producer in North American, and one of the largest in the United States (selling under the retail labels of BP and Arco).

Maybe when the news media starts providing images of animals and habitat that’s devastated by the oil spill consumers might wake up — but there are actually live feeds of the oil spewing from the damaged rig that show oil-soaked birds and now there’s plenty of footage of landfall of the spill in Louisiana… so maybe not.

The oil and gas industries are the 14th largest contributors to congress — almost $7 billion per year ( http://politics.usnews.com/congress/industries — don’t be shocked by how many times Harry Reid is the #1 recipient of that money — and by all means use this list to know who to vote out of office) — so it’s understandable why the federal government is slow is really punish BP; after all, we know that our elected official look out for their interests first (which involves looking out for the interests of those who give you money — over those who you consider sheep who’ll just continue to vote for you).

FINES FINES and MORE FINES — if BP is making money hand over foot, let’s make sure that they bare the full cost of this cleanup and the costs of un-doing the damage that they’ve caused…  I’m thinking $50 million per day would be just about right to force BP to take real action.

Beware of vendors that support SPAM!

I’ve know for a very long time that many websites that sell goods and services to consumers also sell (or trade) the email addresses they register.

SPAM (Unsolicited Commercial Email – UCE) is when any entity sends you an email soliciting money for goods or services that you have not specifically requested.

Thus, when one company provided email marketers your email address (without your express permission) they are supporting SPAM, and companies that support SPAM are no better than the SPAMmers themselves since they are making money from SPAM.

But how would you know who sold your email address?

That’s easy, for years I’ve provided each vendor I do business with a unique email address which tracks any and all mail back to them.

Recently I found that a company I purchased a couple items from — CDR DVD Media ( www.cdrdvdrmedia.com ) sold or traded my email address to an email marketer.  What’s really funny in this is that CDR DVD Media uses Yahoo! (a company that purports to oppose SPAMming and hold it customers to high anti-SPAM standards) to process orders (so it appears it’s easy for Yahoo to talk the talk, but maybe they should walk the walk and actually adopt a ZERO tolerance policy against SPAMmers and their customers that support them — oh right, that means Yahoo would cut into it’s revenue stream, and they really probably only want to prevent SPAMming from free customers).

My policy (and I recommend it become you policy) is that you NEVER do business with SPAMmers or companies that support SPAMming.  Of course, I warned of the growing problem of SPAM/UCE over 15 years ago… and it’s easy for any and everyone to see now what burying your head in the sand does to prevent greedy marketers from breaking the law (yeah — SPAM is against the law in a number of states; and often SPAMmers steal services to send out their message).

D-Link DGS-2208 Eight Port Gigabit Switch

I ordered a couple of these from Amazon last month to make  my temporary network wiring a little easier until I can do some permanent wiring throughout the house.

They were very inexpensive, and had a rebate (limit two).

The newer version of these switches (hardware revision C) are Energy Star certified — they consume very little power, and produce almost no heat at all.

The bottom line is they work, and work well — are affordable to purchase, and reasonably eco-friendly.

Resetting NTFS File Permissions

From time to time after you’ve installed a piece of software and removed it (or removed users) you’ll find that you’re unable to delete a file or directory from Windows when using a NTFS file system (and that’s really the only file system you should be using for Windows).

The simplest way to handle that (assuming all you’re doing to do is delete the file or directory) is to do the following in a command prompt:

takeown /R /F %1

icacls %1 /T /Q /C /RESET

%1 is the Windows convention for a parameter (so you could put this in a batch file); you can manually substitute the name of the file or directory; also you could change into the directory containing the files and/or directories and use “*” (wildcard) rather than a file name.

NOTE:  You will need to elevate the privilege of the command prompt (launch it as user ‘administrator’).

Linux usability

While doing my preliminary look at usability in several Linux distributions that had adopted a Mac-ish paradigm I decided I needed to lay several ground rules to fully review them.

First, I decided that using a virtual machine was fine for getting intial impressions, but that just wasn’t going to be acceptable for a complete review… and I also decide that doing a review on only one piece of hardware wasn’t going to give me a very good idea of what problems a user might see related to the computer.

It’s certainly no problem for me to find a computer or two to install these Linux distributions on and run them through their paces; however, I don’t have any “low-end” hardware, so my tests are going to use fairly current generations of hardware, so be aware that my impressions might not match your impression if you’re planning on running these on hardware that is more than a couple years old (and by a couple year old I mean hardware who’s components were current no more than two years ago).

I’ll perform the following:

  1. Install the distribution (without requiring any settings manually)
  2. Update itself (and applications)
  3. Start up, shut down, log on, log off
  4. Browse the web (that’s a given)
  5. Read email (including setting up the email program)
  6. Play a CD (music)
  7. Play several music files
  8. Play a DVD (movie)
  9. Play several video files
  10. Edit a WYSIWYG document
  11. Edit an image
  12. View and print a PDF
  13. Access a thumb drive
  14. Access files stored on a network device
  15. Access secure digital media (though a USB card reader)
  16. Scan an image
  17. Open a ZIP archive; create a ZIP archive
  18. Email an attachment, recover an email attachment
  19. Install a new (and useful) application
  20. Alter the appearance (preferably using a theme)

Beyond these simple tests I’ll try and appraise the simplicity, clarity, and ease of use of the interface… I’ll also comment on the overall appearance, the look and feel.

Lady Gaga

In case you’ve been living under a rock in a cave in a remote part of the world… meet Lady Gaga!

When Lady Gaga was a little girl, she would sing along on her mini plastic tape recorder to Michael Jackson and Cyndi Lauper hits and get twirled in the air in daddy’s arms to the sounds of the Rolling Stones and the Beatles. The precocious child would dance around the table at fancy Upper West Side restaurants using the breadsticks as a baton. And, she would innocently greet a new babysitter in nothing but her birthday suit.

It’s no wonder that little girl from a good Italian New York family, turned into the exhibitionist, multi-talented singer-songwriter with a flair for theatrics that she is today: Lady Gaga.

“I was always an entertainer. I was a ham as a little girl and I’m a ham today,” says Lady Gaga, 23, who made a name for herself on the Lower East Side club scene with the infectious dance-pop party song “Beautiful Dirty Rich,” and wild, theatrical, and often tongue-in-cheek “shock art” performances where Gaga – who designs and makes many of her stage outfits — would strip down to her hand-crafted hot pants and bikini top, light cans of hairspray on fire, and strike a pose as a disco ball lowered from the ceiling to the orchestral sounds of A Clockwork Orange.

“I always loved rock and pop and theater. When I discovered Queen and David Bowie is when it really came together for me and I realized I could do all three,” says Gaga, who nicked her name from Queen’s song “Radio Gaga” and who cites rock star girlfriends, Peggy Bundy, and Donatella Versace as her fashion icons. “I look at those artists as icons in art. It’s not just about the music. It’s about the performance, the attitude, the look; it’s everything. And, that is where I live as an artist and that is what I want to accomplish.”

That goal might seem lofty, but consider the artist: Gaga is the girl who at age 4 learned piano by ear. By age 13, she had written her first piano ballad. At 14, she played open mike nights at clubs such as New York’s the Bitter End by night and was teased for her quirky, eccentric style by her Convent of the Sacred Heart School (the Manhattan private school Nicky and Paris Hilton attended) classmates by day. At age 17, she became was one of 20 kids in the world to get early admission to Tisch School of the Arts at NYU. Signed by her 20th birthday and writing songs for other artists (such as the Pussycat Dolls, and has been asked to write for a series of Interscope artists) before her debut album was even released, Lady Gaga has earned the right to reach for the sky.

“My goal as an artist is to funnel a pop record to a world in a very interesting way,” says Gaga, who wrote all of her lyrics, all of her melodies, and played most of the synth work on her album, The Fame (Streamline/KonLive/Cherrytree/Interscope). “I almost want to trick people into hanging with something that is really cool with a pop song. It’s almost like the spoonful of sugar and I’m the medicine.”

On The Fame, it’s as if Gaga took two parts dance-pop, one part electro-pop, and one part rock with a splash of disco and burlesque and generously poured it into the figurative martini glasses of the world in an effort to get everyone drunk with her Fame. “The Fame is about how anyone can feel famous,” she explains. “Pop culture is art. It doesn’t make you cool to hate pop culture, so I embraced it and you hear it all over The Fame. But, it’s a sharable fame. I want to invite you all to the party. I want people to feel a part of this lifestyle.”

The CD’s opener and first single, “Just Dance,” gets the dance floor rocking with it’s “fun, L.A., celebratory vibe.” As for the equally catchy, “Boys Boys Boys,” Gaga doesn’t mind wearing her influences on her sleeve. “I wanted to write the female version of Motley Crue’s ‘Girls Girls Girls,’ but with my own twist. I wanted to write a pop song that rockers would like.”

“Beautiful Dirty Rich” sums up her time of self-discovery, living in the Lower East Side and dabbling in drugs and the party scene. “That time, and that song, was just me trying to figure things out,” says Gaga. “Once I grabbed the reigns of my artistry, I fell in love with that more than I did with the party life.” On first listen, “Paparazzi” might come off as a love song to cameras, and in all honestly, Gaga jokes “on one level it IS about wooing the paparazzi and wanting fame. But, it’s not to be taken completely seriously. It’s about everyone’s obsession with that idea. But, it’s also about wanting a guy to love you and the struggle of whether you can have success or love or both.”

Gaga shows her passion for love songs on such softer tracks as the Queen-influenced “Brown Eyes” and the sweet kiss-off break-up song “Nothing I can Say (eh eh).” “‘Brown Eyes’ is the most vulnerable song on the album,” she explains. “‘Eh Eh’ is my simple pop song about finding someone new and breaking up with the old boyfriend.”

For the new tour for this album, fans will be treated to a more polished version of what they saw (and loved) at her critically acclaimed Lollapalooza show in August 2007 and Winter Music Conference performance in March 2008. “This new show is the couture version of my handmade downtown performance of the past few years. It’s more fine-tuned, but some of my favorite elements to my past shows – the disco balls, hot pants, sequin, and stilettos – will still be there. Just more fierce and more of a conceptual show with a vision for pop performance art.”

It’s been a while since a new pop artist has made her way in the music industry the old-fashioned/grass roots way by paying her dues with seedy club gigs and self-promotion. This is one rising pop star who hasn’t been plucked from a model casting call, born into a famous family, won a reality TV singing contest, or emerged from a teen cable TV sitcom. “I did this the way you are supposed to. I played every club in New York City and I bombed in every club and then killed it in every club and I found myself as an artist. I learned how to survive as an artist, get real, and how to fail and then figure out who I was as singer and performer. And, I worked hard.”

Gaga adds with a wink in her eye, “And, now, I’m just trying to change the world one sequin at a time.”

sldn.org

Lady Gaga on Wikipedia

Lady Gaga: Official Site

Lady Gaga

Separation of Church and State

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees the separation of church and state.

The phase “separation of church and state” comes from a letter written in 1802 by President Thomas Jefferson to the Baptists from Danbury [Connecticut]; but the concept pre-dates the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and was largely championed in it’s adopted form by James Madison (the principal drafter of the United States Bill of Rights).

The ideological basis of the separation of church and state are often credited to English philosopher John Locke and his principle of social contract.  It can also be seen implicitly in the flight of Roger Williams from Massachusetts to Rhode Island.

Many in the religious right argue that our founding fathers did not intend fro the First Amendment to create a godless country; and they continue to argue that the United States is a Christian nation, and Christian beliefs are centric to the nation and the Constitution.  However, that argument is not supported by the verbiage of the Treaty of Tripoli.

The Treaty of Tripoli, (unanimously) ratified by the US Senate and signed by President John Adams (one of the founding fathers) in 1797 contains in Article 11 the following:

Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen,—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

It seems clear that it isn’t necessary to dig into the Federalist Papers, the Declaration of Independence, or read in depth biographies of the founding fathers to understand that they never intended religion to be a central pillar of United States and that it was in fact their intent to prevent religion (particularly organized religion) from exerting control on the government and it’s policies.

Why then, two hundred years later do Christians seems to have carte blance to have the precepts of their religion imposed on the country as law and policy?

One place you can clearly see the Christians exercising control is state and local mandated ordinances forbidding retail operations on Sunday (particularly as it relates to alcohol sales).  While perhaps not as flagrant as it was fifty years ago, it’s is still clearly an affront to the religious freedom and separation guarantied by the US Constitution and a fundamental founding principal of this county.

To [mis]quote Lewis Carrol … the time has come the walrus said to speak of many things …

My personal belief is that each and every time any governmental unit attempts to impose the will of an organized religion there should be quick and severe recourse.

Religious invocations should be forbidden in any governmental sponsored event (that includes public school events, local governmental meetings, etc); civil oaths should be the default in any judicial or administrative hearing; and laws which are based solely on religious fundamentals stricken down.

Christians now account for less than 75% of the adult US population, and that number has been decreasing at an increasing rate over the past two decades with non-religious individuals the fastest growing segment (currently over 15% of the adult US population).

The United States was founded on the principles of freedom of religion (including freedom from religion), it’s time we honor the core values of those who built the framework that has endured the tests of time by ending religious persecution once and for all.

SyncMate

Fairly often I get messages from vendors who’ve read a posting I’ve made on a “similar” product to one of theirs and they suggest that I take a look at their product… and I welcome these messages.

When I got such a request from Eltima Software on SyncMate a few months ago I read their web page and thought that their product sounded like it’d be worth taking a look at — so finally this week (mostly because I was talking through the issues of device synchronization with a friend of mine) I got around to testing out the software.

First, the software comes in a free edition as well as an “expert edition” (which isn’t free) — and I’ll go over the list of features and cost later; for now my review will cover only the free version and components.

Second, SyncMate runs only on a Mac; so if you don’t have a Mac, you probably won’t be interested (and SyncMate isn’t the killer app, it won’t justify you running out and buying a Mac to synchronize your devices).

Here’s my objective: keep my contact list and calendar synchronized on my HTC TouchPro2.

Thumbnail —

  • I have a HTC TouchPro2 [unlocked] running Windows Mobile 6.5
  • Over 500 contacts (many with detailed information and a picture)
  • I have several calendar events per week (with reminders); often multiple on a single day
  • I don’t use Outlook (and never will again)
  • I currently use Microsoft MyPhone (the basic features are free, and they are barely worth that price)

Criteria —

  • Sync needs to be “easy”
  • Sync needs to be “reliable”
  • Sync should work via Bluetooth, WiFi, Internet, and/or USB
  • Sync must include all information

And they’re off…

I first tried to get everything working with Bluetooth — that was a fricking night mare; so I dropped by and just plugged in a USB cable (which installed the sync component for SyncMate on my Windows Mobile device).

After that, I just followed the prompts on the screen to setup my device in SyncMate, decide what to sync, and what direction to sync it in (which for me was just syncing my phone to my Mac, since I didn’t really have any information on my Mac), and pressing a button — and then waiting patiently.

SyncMate was able to sync 100% of the contact information and calendar information from the phone to the Mac — and I was able to view that information in the Mac’s Address Book and iCalendar programs.

But wait… I’m not done.

Eltima also provides a sync component for Windows (desktop); so I installed that on a Windows 7 machine — and after a little fumbling around I was able to push the contact synchronization information from my Mac (which I’d gotten from my phone) to Windows 7 — the system Address Book; and then backup the .contact files to my RAID5 array!

A little background —

When I upgraded to Windows 7, Microsoft advertised the Windows 7 Sync Center — a way to manage and synchronize devices; silly me, I just assumed that Microsoft would support Windows Mobile 6.5 (their flag ship mobile phone operating system) out of the box.  They didn’t — you had the run the POS Device Center software that came out with Vista — which would have been acceptable, except it only synchronizes with Outlook and that POS ain’t happening on my computers ever again.

So began my quest began.

OK, so SyncMate works; and sSyncMate will do what I want… but now let’s really “talk” about it.

One of the first things I noticed after setting up the Windows sync component was that it crashed (often)… and it was difficult to convince the SyncMate on the Mac that the PC was alive again after re-launching the sync component.

The interface for SyncMate is a little clunky… it just doesn’t have a very well though out flow; and could definitely use some human engineering to improve it.  It’s usable, but far from ergonomic.

The free version of SyncMate is extremely limited; in fact, I wouldn’t class it as much a free version as I would a teaser version.  For me, it does 99.99% of what I want — it synchronizes my contact (and handles all the fields), it synchronizes my calendar, and it will read my SMS messages (but doesn’t allow me to do anything with them except view them in the free version).

The “Expert Edition” adds a number of features that you might want; but given that it’s $39.95 for a single license (plus $11.99 for lifetime upgrades — which I would say is an absolute requirement) I think it’s priced way too high; you can review the additional features (one of which is a SMS manager, which I think it’s a little retarded that they have two SMS plugins — one that reads, one that manages — I think of the two together).

Here are the pluses to the free edition:

  • Synchronizes contacts (their feature chart notes Entourage 2008 support, but in fact they don’t do anything but give you the instructions to make Entourage use the OS-X contacts)
  • Synchronizes calendar events (again with the Entourage support — see above)
  • Provided device information (handy but not essential)
  • SMS reader
  • Internet sharing (hmm… I thought OS-X could do that by itself)

The expert editions provide these features that I think would probably be nice:

  • Backup
  • SMS manager
  • Call history
  • To Do’s
  • Autosync

And the following are enhancements they should add:

  • Stable Windows sync component
  • Android support (without using Google)
  • Windows Live Mail support
  • Windows Live Calendar support
  • Windows Live synchronization
  • Windows version

Finally, they need to rethink the pricing model.  $39.95 for the personal license is just too much; I’d think $19.95 is more in keeping, particularly since a lifetime upgrade guarantee is $11.99 extra; and the business license is $49.95 (I don’t really why there’s a difference unless the business license included the one of the “priority support plans” they offer — and of course I didn’t see a guarantee on the “priority support” — like getting you money back if they failed to resolve an issue, or answer within a specified time period.

Here’s what I think they should consider:


Personal License $19.95
Family Pack (5) $39.95
Lifetime Upgrade Guarantee $9.95


So basically I think their prices are too high (and yeah, mine above are on the low side, and certainly $24.95 and $49.95 are not unreasonable amounts, but that’s about the limit in my mind, and I think the lower price would encourage a larger user base — and probably end up being more profitable); and I think their “family pack” being 6 units rather than 5 units like Apple is retarded; and I think the lifetime upgrade should be one price… I don’t have any comments on the pricing of the priority support plans since they don’t have any details on the plans.  As to corporate licensing, they can handle that on a case-by-case basis; but they definitely need to eliminate their distinction between a personal and business license; though I have no issue with excluding business use of the family pack.

I would have purchased a license right away (just because I like to support reasonably well done software) had it been priced right; but at the price they want to charge, they’re going to have to fix the Windows sync component, and actually make it have a reasonable feature set…

I am going to use the free version; and I’ll consider upgrading to the “Expert Edition” when they either add features (fix features) and / or address the pricing.

Eltima Software
SyncMate

Re-mount Xoom External SD Card for Read-Write

If you’re having trouble writing to your external uSD card in your Motorol Xoom, you’re not alone.

If you’re rooted the device, the solution is fairly straight forward…

Open up a terminal prompt, then type the following three commands:

su

umount /mnt/external1

mount -t vfat -o fmask=0000,dmask=0000,rw /dev/block/platform/sdhci-tegra.2/mmcblk1p1 /mnt/external1

When you type “su” you’ll have to approve privilege elevation.

The umount commend unmounts the uSD card

And the mount command re-mounts the uSD card with read-write privilege.

You’ll need to do this each time your Xoom is booted; and I’m going to see about creating an application that will do this auto-magically.

Once again, this will only work on a rooted Xoom; and this solution is based on reading on xda-developers.com.

I want to give credit where credit was due, but there’s a typo there (mmcblk0p1 rather than mmcblk1p1 — at least that was the device/partition on my Xoom that the uSD card appeared as).

You can determine the correct device on your Xoom by just typing “mount” in the terminal window and locating the device mounted at /mnt/external1.

50 Years of US Peace Corp

Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of John F Kennedy’s founding of the US Peace Corps (1-March-1961)… originally just a pilot program, but approved and funded by congress now as an American fixture.

The Peace Corps traces its roots and mission to 1960, when then Senator John F. Kennedy challenged students at the University of Michigan to serve their country in the cause of peace by living and working in developing countries. From that inspiration grew an agency of the federal government devoted to world peace and friendship.

Since that time, 200,000+ Peace Corps Volunteers have served in 139 host countries to work on issues ranging from AIDS education to information technology and environmental preservation.

Today’s Peace Corps is more vital than ever, working in emerging and essential areas such as information technology and business development, and contributing to the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. Peace Corps Volunteers continue to help countless individuals who want to build a better life for themselves, their children, and their communities.

President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps to promote world peace and friendship.

The Peace Corps’ mission has three simple goals:

  1. Helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
  2. Helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
  3. Helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.

http://www.peacecorps.gov/