Liberals Who Pine for Conservatives

As a liberal who grew up with, works with, and lives with great people who are conservatives, this piece by the Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne, Jr. speaks volumes about how I feel about them. Which is that conservative voices are an important party of a progressive society. Unfortunately, as Dionne points out, we haven’t seen that kind of conservative in the past year when discussing the current administration or health care reform:

Many who call themselves conservatives propose to cast aside even government programs that have stood the test of time. They seem to imagine a world in which government withers away, a phrase that comes from Friedrich Engels, not Buckley. Or they tie themselves up in unruly contradictions, declaring simultaneously that they are dead-set against government-run health care and passionate defenders of Medicare.

And while modern conservatism has usually supported the market against the state, its oldest and most durable brand understood that the market was an imperfect instrument. True conservatives may give “two cheers for capitalism,” as Irving Kristol put it in the title of one of his books, but never three.

The world and this country desperately needs both liberals and conservatives, but those who truly champion those values and can peacefully and constructively reach a compromise.

Top Level Domains for Companies

Yesterday, Canon announced they were acquiring the generic top level domain .canon. I predict as this practice becomes more commonplace, it is going to result in a web-browser security nightmare. There are already plenty of people who don’t understand how to read a web address to comprehend if they are actually at the site they think they are. This is going to open up a whole new world to shady folks who use confusion and social engineering to pull off all sorts of bad things.

Ad Blocking Software

I don’t have a really good solution to what Ars Technica’s Ken Fisher describes as devastating to websites (ad funded sites, anyway). However, I don’t use ad blockers myself. I’m a big fan of ad-supported, freemium versions of software and sites, and it’s my way of supporting those which I am not willing to out-right pay for. It’s not that I don’t know now to install or use these, I just choose not to. Frankly, when a site, application, or even a television program offers relevant ads, I’m often thankful to have seen them. I subscribe to the idea that effective advertising is just seen as information, not a sell.

TiVo Releases Biggest Update in a Decade

In something of a surprise to me, Coleman-Dyer household favorite TiVo released a updates pretty much everything today. Primarily, they showed off their upcoming DVR hardware, called TiVo Premiere. I have to say, it looks very slick:
The new hardware is a smaller form factor and has a very streamlined look. What’s more, the new remote there may look just like the TiVo XL remote, but it has a slide-out keyboard (similar to many popular mobile phones). This allows you to enter text in search fields, but also can be used to quickly filter your "Now Playing" list. And speaking of the interface, it has been completely overhauled to match the look of the Flash-based TiVo Search beta that was included in the most recent service update. They also added the feature that I most wanted: playlist profiles.

I’m really excited to see that Tivo, despite years of questions regarding their future, is still working to remain fresh and keep their top spot in the field of DVRs. (Both images from GDGT)

Portal Gets a Mysterious Update

Also in the surprise-to-me-release category, Valve released a rather strange update to their 2007 hit Portal today. Though not much in terms of gameplay was added, the ever-present radios placed throughout the game now seem to have some sort of significance. Carrying the radios to various points within the level unlock a new game achievement. What’s more, the radios begin to broadcast various signals such as Morse code, data transmissions, etc. Some very crafty gamers have found that this is actually a rabbit hole leading to a out-of-game alternate reality campaign. Portal remains one of the most amazing games ever and if this is the how Valve chooses to start a marketing campaign for a sequel, then this bodes well for the future of the game. Here are a couple of screenshots I took while exploring some of the new game features:

Updated: It looks like Portal 2 is official (this December) and it is likely coming to the mac, too.

Ruining it for the Rest of Us

The Pew Research Center has put up a nice, interactive graphic showing some marriage statistics by state. So, based on what we’ve always been told, you might expect liberal states — especially those which have allowed same sex marriages — to have some of the worst numbers.

It doesn’t really pan out that way, though. In particular, the states with the highest percentage of men having been married three or more times are some of the reddest of the red states: Arkansas (10%), Oklahoma (9%), Tennessee (9%), Alabama (8%), and Mississippi (8%). The state with the lowest percentage in this category? Blue, gay-lovin’ Massachusetts at 2% (stats aren’t much different for women, incidentally). So much for the gays ruining marriage; we heterosexuals seem to be devaluing that hallowed institution just fine on our own.

Clarity Trumps Brevity

Dan Silverman doesn’t like his Avaya desktop phone1 very much. He explains how its cryptic buttons don’t really provide enough information to make sense of their function. He also includes this gem on what happens when industrial design fails (which is almost always, to some extent):

Yes, in the case of electronic devices, the design should intuitively convey how it works without the need for a manual. But if the design is bad, a manual is the next best thing.

Writing the manual or the help should be integral to the process of design and not left until the end (or worse, after the product ships). Good manuals and help can indeed be the next best thing to an inspired design and make products far more usable.

1see how I invented a new phrase to describe an old thing based on the way we do things now?

One Hundred Year FUD

Nate Anderson at Ars Technica takes a trip down memory lane for the content industry’s century-long fight against technology. Every step is a fight against the conveniences we enjoy everyday (and these fools later learned to monetize):

The anxious rhetoric around new technology is really quite shocking in its vehemence, from claims that the player piano will destroy musical taste and the “national throat” to concerns that the VCR is like the “Boston strangler” to claims that only Hollywood’s premier content could make the DTV transition a success. Most of it turned out to be absurd hyperbole, but it’s interesting to see just how consistent the words and the fears remain across more than a century of innovation and a host of very different devices.

So here they are, in their own words—the copyright holders who demanded restrictions on player pianos, photocopiers, VCRs, home taping, DAT, MP3 players, Napster, the DVR, digital radio, and digital TV.

I Think You Know Why I’m Calling You

John Graham-Cumming recounts his successful efforts to have the British government formally apologize for its treatment of Alan Turing:

On the bus home I heard directly that Alan Turing’s nieces had many memories of their Uncle Alan. They even still had his teddy bear. I hung up and sat at the back of the bus and cried quietly. I had always felt that Alan Turing’s treatment was appalling, but to hear the family speak of the man was too much. I was convinced that I had to see my campaign, which had started on an impulse, to its completion.

Graham-Cumming did all this in a little more than a month and as he states "most of it from the top of a red London double-decker bus using an iPhone." I’m personally thrilled at his success as it has been a long time coming. Whether we know it or not, Turing played a large part in all of our modern lives and certainly the recent history of Britain.

So What Does Health Care Look Like in Other Countries?

So, what does health care and insurance look like in other countries? T.R. Reid answers five common misunderstandings about other countries’ health care and insurance systems:

In many ways, foreign health-care models are not really “foreign” to America, because our crazy-quilt health-care system uses elements of all of them. For Native Americans or veterans, we’re Britain: The government provides health care, funding it through general taxes, and patients get no bills. For people who get insurance through their jobs, we’re Germany: Premiums are split between workers and employers, and private insurance plans pay private doctors and hospitals. For people over 65, we’re Canada: Everyone pays premiums for an insurance plan run by the government, and the public plan pays private doctors and hospitals according to a set fee schedule. And for the tens of millions without insurance coverage, we’re Burundi or Burma: In the world’s poor nations, sick people pay out of pocket for medical care; those who can’t pay stay sick or die.

For some more myths about health care reform, you can visit (a site which is routinely name-checked by honest people of both parties) or CNN Fact Check on President Obama’s address tonight.