Good day to be a geek

Yesterday was a good day in the scheme of geekiness, with the releases of Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger and the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy film.
Reviews of Tiger:
Wall St. Journal (Walter Mossberg); NY Times (David Pogue). The NY Times even devoted an Editorial Observer column to the debut of Tiger: The Strange Pleasure of Upgrading Software.
For more technical details, there are reviews at Macintouch and Ars Technica. For a more in-depth look at features, see Daring Fireball: Tiger Details.
Hitchhiker’s Guide: (Stephanie Zacharek); Slate (David Edelstein); NY Times (Manhola Dargis); BBC News (Darren Waters).
Combining movies and the Mac, Apple is featuring the trailer for Serenity in high definition. (Requires the new QuickTime 7.) Shiny.

Analog to digital in TV-land

Mark Cuban: Shutting off Analog TV, The transition to Digital – It’s Time – Blog Maverick – _: “The conventional wisdom among cable networks is that the market of HDTV consumers is still too small for them to cost justify investing in new content, equipment and distribution, which for the biggest network conglomerates will reach hundreds of millions of dollars in conversion costs, incremental equipment and distribution costs.”
Engadget’s Stephen Speicher: The Clicker: From analog to digital: “First, the terms “analog” and “digital” are a bit of a misnomer. Both digital television (DTV) and traditional television are broadcast using analog signals. The difference comes not from how they broadcast but instead from what they broadcast. When traditional televisions tune into an analog signal they see a series of waves. These waves are directly used to drive the television.”
Previously: I want my DTV, Spectrum Free-for-all, Spectrum Wars

Mmm… muckraking

The NY Times last week profiled celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, his campaign to reform school lunches in Britain and the television program about the campaign: Look Who’s in the School Kitchen, Dishing Out Advice.
Based on Jeremy’s recommendation, I also went out and found torrents to download the series, Jamie’s School Dinners. While I have yet to watch through the entire series, what I have seen is certainly interesting, with a clearly defined goal, cohesive narrative structure and developing characters.
While the British are not particularly well-known for their culinary feats, the descent away from nutrition is a major problem in America, too. While the muckraking Super-Size Me and Fast Food Nation have brought the issue of fast food and nutrition to the public consciousness, neither Spurlock or Schlosser were in a position to do more than point out the problem. Oliver has worked to make British children eat healthier diets.
The Guardian: Cool dinners: “Jamie Oliver was so appalled by the state of school lunches that he decided to sort them out.… It’s not easy providing pukka tucker for 37p a head.”
eGullet: jamies dinners
Related: Market Failure on the Long Tail, New Food Pyramid Unveiled. Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and POlicy.

Legislatin’ the Rain

Rick Santorum (R-PA) introduced National Weather Services Duties Act of 2005 (S.786), which will prohibit the National Weather Service from providing data or services that compete with weather data products from the private sector.

(b) COMPETITION WITH PRIVATE SECTOR- The Secretary of Commerce shall not provide, or assist other entities in providing, a product or service (other than a product or service described in subsection (a)(1)) that is or could be provided by the private sector unless–
(1) the Secretary determines that the private sector is unwilling or unable to provide such product or service; or
(2) the United States Government is obligated to provide such product or service under international aviation agreements to provide meteorological services and exchange meteorological information.”

The AP reports: Santorum’s bill would change National Weather Service offerings: “The bill would protect the 14 private weather service companies in Pennsylvania — including AccuWeather in State College, Pa., Santorum spokeswoman Chrissy Shott said. AccuWeather, which says it employs about 340 people, provides weather data to a variety of outlets — including media organizations such as The Associated Press.”
By releasing data for only the cost of reproduction, the US government stimulates innovative services in the weather field. In a February article in the Financial Times, James Boyle discusses the benefits the public has received from this free access to weather data: Public information wants to be free

The United States makes complete weather data available to anyone at the cost of reproduction. If the superb government websites and data feeds aren’t enough, for the price of a box of blank DVD’s you can have the entire history of weather records across the continental US. European countries, by contrast, typically claim government copyright over weather data and often require the payment of substantial fees. Which approach is better? If I had to suggest one article on this subject it would be the magisterial study by Peter Weiss called “Borders in Cyberspace,” published by the National Academies of Science. Weiss suggests that the US approach generates far more social wealth. True, the information is initially provided for free, but a thriving private weather industry has sprung up which takes the publicly funded data as its raw material and then adds value to it. The US weather risk management industry, for example, is ten times bigger than the European one, employing more people, producing more valuable products, generating more social wealth.

When the public sector makes available scientific data for free or at cost, everyone wins. See State Support for Information Access. Public data is a public good. By allowing the state to provide more data, the private sector will likely become more innovative. A state-supported monopoly leads to stagnation, not progress and innovation.
At what price does Senator Santorum put the benefits of a donor ahead of the public interest? Ezra Klein estimates $7,500: Cheap as Well as Nasty.
Between Lawyers: Chilling Effect on Frost Forecasts
Gothamist: Wither the Weather?
Copyfight’s Donna Wentworth also recalled Boyle’s FT article: Help Break the IP Stupidity Pact

Spitzer targets Spyware

The NY Attorney General is suing spyware distributor Intermix Media: State sues major “spyware” distributor: “The lawsuit arises under the State’s General Business Law, which prohibits false advertising and deceptive business practices, and New York’s common law prohibitions against trespass. Legislation specifically directed at ‘spyware’ and ‘adware,’ including bills applying or strengthening criminal sanctions for its distribution, has been proposed both in Congress and in the New York legislature, as well as legislatures across the country.”
Verified Petition: People v. Intermix Media, Inc.
Brookman Affirmation
EFF Deep Links: Spitzer Suit Shows the Right Way to Fight Spyware: “The lawsuit is a step forward for end-users’ rights to control their own computers, and shows the right way to address the spyware problem: with lawsuits, not new laws.”

Health Insurance in the Ownership Society

In his Friday column, Paul Krugman makes a very effective and concise version of the case for national health insurance: Passing the Buck:

So we’ve created a vast and hugely expensive insurance bureaucracy that accomplishes nothing. The resources spent by private insurers don’t reduce overall costs; they simply shift those costs to other people and institutions. It’s perverse but true that this system, which insures only 85 percent of the population, costs much more than we would pay for a system that covered everyone.

By not tying health insurance to employment, we open the economy to more opportunities for entrepreneurship. The main incentive in going to work for The Man, rather than for one’s self is to get benefits like health insurance (and a regular salary.) By making health insurance a condition of citizenship, rather than employment, we encourage individual initiative and make it possible for people to start their own businesses. Isn’t that the central part of an ownership society?

DeLay Hates the Internet

The AP reports some choice comments from Rep. Tom Delay (R-TX) DeLay Continues Attacks on Federal Courts: “‘We’ve got Justice Kennedy writing decisions based upon international law, not the Constitution of the United States? That’s just outrageous,’ DeLay told Fox News Radio on Tuesday. ‘And not only that, but he said in session that he does his own research on the Internet? That is just incredibly outrageous.'”
A Supreme Court justice doing his own research? On the internet? As if there’s some giant archive of law on the internet?

More Budweiser tm

The AP reports about the latest front in the global dispute between Budejovicky Budvar and Anheuser-Busch over the Budweiser trademark: Brewery Claims Victory Over Anheuser-Busch: “Czech brewery Budejovicky Budvar said Wednesday it won the latest round of its global legal battle against U.S. beer giant Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc., gaining the right to sell its beer under its original brand names in Cambodia.”
Previously: This Trademark’s for who?