Friday, September 26, 2008

Sometimes China gets it. And sometimes they don't.

Stupid obvious statement: There are lots of very smart people in the Chinese government.
Not so stupid question: Why do all those smart people not realize that people prefer genuine over fake?

The 2008 Olympic opening ceremony was unfortunate. Somewhat understandable - because they didn't want something to go horribly wrong and not have anything at all - but unfortunate in that they seem to miss the fact that people would rather have something real rather than perfect (as if they can be completely perfect). The world would have understood if a huge rain storm (or smog) had prevented any view at all of the footsteps to the birdsnest. But as I said, it is somewhat understandable because it is, most of all, a work of entertainment.

Last summer there was melamine contamination in pet food. The Chinese government appears to have denied it before they even investigated the claim. First of all, why does the Chinese government need to deny anything? The pet food is made by a company, not the government. Or at least, that is what we are led to believe.

Unbelievable that they would even consider doing though, was a press release of how a Chinese space mission was going - before it even launched! On 26 Sept 2008, the story hit the wires:

The article described the Shenzhou VII space craft orbiting the Earth and outlined a conversation between the astronauts.


The article later described the reaction to a successful outcome of the mission. "Ten minutes later, the ship disappears below the horizon. Warm clapping and excited cheering breaks the night sky, echoing across the silent Pacific Ocean."

It is as if the government is afraid that if everything isn't picture perfect, the world will fall apart. The crazy part is that every knows that it isn't perfect, so the only ones that the government is fooling is themselves.

It would be worth it for them to adopt a picture of the truth, rather than a picture of perfection.

A /. article on the Chinese firewall has some interesting observations related to this. Perhaps the government's desire to portray perfection is based on its desire to paint an image of China as being the best nation in the world, for whatever definition of "best" you want to use. You'd think that a civilization as ancient as that which China hosts would have learned a long time ago that perfection is never achievable (and any person that actually thinks for themselves will immediately identify "perfection" as simply an illusion).

And at what point do you stop the lieing? Do you take it as far as Microsoft does, and their apparent self-image of perfection that is so obviously flawed (to everyone except Microsoft) that it is a joke?

Updated years later: The Chinese govt is still at it. Of course, they aren't the only ones... no other than the DOJ of the USA got caught.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

HDTV Antenna

Some things are not worth buying, while others are. An antenna for an HDTV may fall into that category. Depending on which stations you are trying to pick up (and how far away those are), you may or may not need one.

The ever present /. discussion on the topic.

Random quote and links of interest that I've found:

Terk HDTVa Indoor Amplified High-Definition Antenna for Off-Air HDTV Reception has decent, but not the best reviews. the below is supposedly better:

Regarding Philips High Performance Amplified Indoor Uhf/Vhf/Fm/HDTV Antenna:
An improvement of the PHD TV3, July 7, 2007
By Diego Banducci (San Francisco, CA United States) - See all my reviews
At $500 per year for basic cable, the financial argument for buying an antenna is compelling if you're not a cable junkie. So the issue is which one to buy.

We live in a reception hollow about 15 miles from most of the local station antennas. This antenna improved reception for all of the stations in the area when compared with our old PHD TV3, especially major network affiliates, but was weak on independent stations. (Prior to that, we had a Terk, which was the worst of the bunch).

Philips seems to be oblivious to the fact that a lot of people who buy indoor antennas place them in the attic or some other enclosed space. The instructions for this antenna tell you to set the rabbit ears straight vertical for channels 2 - 6, and horizontal for VHF channels above 6. The latter is difficult, if not impossible, in an enclosed space.

So we just set them straight up, which worked fine for all VHF channels except 7, a marked improvement over the PHD TV3.

UHF reception, on the other hand, is somewhat worse. But we don't watch much UHF.

The gain control is useless. On every other antenna I've tried, the gain control has improved reception, but not this one.

I found the other reviews on this page (especially Y. Chang's) very helpful, and recommend reading them.

Update: Several years ago I read an amazon review that described the Winegard SS-3000 as being far and away the best indoor antenna. I couldn't remember the name, but recently tracked it down and bought one. It really is the Gold Standard of indoor TV antennas. Unlike most others, it is compact, has no rabbit ears, and incorporates modern technology in its design. I was able to buy one from Affordable HDTV in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA. It's more expensive than the others (costs about 100 bucks), but is significantly better. An identical product is sold by Terk as the TERK HDTVLP Indoor / Outdoor TV and HDTV Antenna:

Winegard also sells an outdoor model SS-2000 "Squareshooter" that looks to me like it could easily be mounted indoors. It too has received excellent reviews, although I have not tried it. It sells for about the same price as the SS-3000. It is also sold by Terk as TERK HD-TVS Slim Profile Outdoor HDtv Antenna.

Monday, September 08, 2008


SSL is obviously worth it, for a number of reasons: guarantees you are talking to whom you think you are, and you can do so securely.

Where to get a certificate?
  • CAcert (not approved by Mozilla yet)
  • StartSSL
  • StartCom
  • RapidSSL
  • InstantSSL