Media Experiment

8-17-05 These Torrents are officially down. You can try the torrent links but I can't guarantee they'll work.

UPDATES: 1/8/05 TsunamiTorrent V3 released with new footage(now working). Tracker back online should work for most of you now but we need backup trackers!! If you have a server and some bandwidth to spare please leave a comment. The tsunami downloads are beneath the donate links. New satellite photos from Aceh here. Amazon.com is using their One Click technology to good effect: 172,000 people have donated $14Million. Huge thanks to Matta's Blog for providing the backup tracker and to Cheese&Crackers for content. Some articles on tsunami blogs here, here, here, here and here.

United States Agency for International DevelopmentDonate to the International Response FundSupport South Asia Tsunami Relief EffortsInformation resource for the humanitarian relief community

BACKGROUND: After watching the demand for satellite photos and tsunami videos bring down scores of websites (including one Indian government site) I decided to make use of some newfangled software to make the files available. That software is DownHillBattle's BlogTorrent, an upgraded version of BitTorrent. Read this Wired article for a good overview of the idea behind 'torrent technology. The point is that the files are available and thanks to BlogTorrent you don't have to be a software engineer to figure out how to download them. The following footage is kid safe, no footage or photos of the deceased included. I don't have ads on my site so I'm not making any money from this. I'm considering changing to a once a week release schedule so people aren't having to hunt down individual files.

DOWNLOADS:(Important! These downloads start slow but pick up speed, please be patient)
UPDATE 1/8/04 New footage released in TsunamiTorrentV3

TsunamiTorrentV1 (164MB)
Don't Have BitTorrent? Click HERE
Do have BitTorrent? Click HERE

TsunamiTorrentV2 (66MB These are new as of 12/30 and not contained in V1)
Don't have BitTorrent? Click HERE
Do have BitTorrent? Click HERE

TsunamiTorrentV3 (86MB These are new as of 1/8 and not contained in V2)
Now Working!! My Internet connection died but it's back up, sorry for the inconvenience.
Don't have BitTorrent? Click HERE
Do have BitTorrent? Click HERE

  • BitTorrent downloads generally start slow and pick up speed so be patient.
  • Please leave your downloader open after you finish the download, it helps other people download the files.
  • If you can't play some of the videos you may need to get the DivX codec which you can find here. It also wouldn't hurt to have the latest version of Windows Media Player or VLC.


Idea to Help

The guys over at India's department of Space, National Remote Sensing Agency posted a link to an 8MB powerpoint slide of satellite images of the affected areas which effectively crippled their server due to the demand. Nobody can get to any of the data which has the potential to be useful in assessing damage, planning etc due to the lack of communication on the ground. I'm working with a guy from France to get the files up on the P2P networks which will hopefully reduce the strain on the NRSA website and get the information flowing again... more to follow...

So far it's been a success, here are two working links to the file. Not that many images considering the size of the file but it looks like a lot of maps are going to have to be redrawn.


This image is hot off of a satellite. Looks like a couple of towns are just gone.

Quote(s) of the Day

"Why did you do this to us, God?" wailed an old woman in a devastated fishing village in southern India's Tamil Nadu state. "What did we do to upset you? This is worse than death."

Faith obviously has a lot of benefits but when things go horribly wrong and the only thing to blame is God's will it would seem even more painful than simply attributing it to bad luck. More blogger photos here.

"A part of me wants to say f*$@ you to being a journalist and go out there and get involved in the aid work. Carry bags of food to the people who need it. But another part keeps saying my work is here. Making calls and making sure people stay informed. Seen things today I never thought I'd see. Seen things I don't ever want to see. How do you ask a question from a father who saw his 4 year old child being dragged off into the sea and be sensitive about it? Do you say sorry? Does that cut it? 2 friends dead. They were on a romantic beach holiday. I like to believe they died holding each other's hands. 2 more missing. Presumed dead. Find a vehicle in about an hour and head off down South to look for them, or identify their bodies. If anyone had told me the day was going to be like this maybe I'd have stayed in bed."


Harrowing Account

A blogger was in Phuket during the tsunami and snapped some truly amazing photos. Check it out HERE


Tis the season of sharing...

... so here are links to my favourite free things on the Internet:

By free I don't mean registration required or trial period or spyware mandatory. I mean free as in someone handing you a beer out of the goodness of their heart. This stuff was all created by people with no profit motive for the good of society.

Free Antivrus
I fix computers on the side for beer money and the one thing that annoys the hell out of me is Antivirus companies and their 6 month free trials. Most people don't realize that they run out after 6 months and so believe that they're eternally protected. Virus' take over during month 7 and the inevitable phone call to Kirk ensues. AVG is a free antivirus program that works but there are hoops to jump through and it's generally just annoying. Enter Clamwin, a truely free Antivirus program. It scans my laptop every night at 3AM and auto updates its antivirus definitions as well. There is no trial period, no requests for credit cards, it just works.

Free Music
The Wired Creative Commons CD has a bunch of well known artists including David Byrne of Talking Heads fame and the Beastie Boys. Here's a quote
"These musicians are saying that true creativity needs to be open, fluid, and alive. When it comes to copyright, they are pro-choice. Here are 16 songs that encourage people to play with their tunes, not just play them."
Download the MP3s HERE

Here is a brief description of the Creative Commons License in case you're wondering why that music is free.
"Creative Commons is a non-profit corporation founded on the notion that some people may not want to exercise all of the intellectual property rights the law affords them. We believe there is an unmet demand for an easy yet reliable way to tell the world "Some rights reserved" or even "No rights reserved." Many people have long since concluded that all-out copyright doesn't help them gain the exposure and widespread distribution they want. Many entrepreneurs and artists have come to prefer relying on innovative business models rather than full-fledged copyright to secure a return on their creative investment. Still others get fulfillment from contributing to and participating in an intellectual commons. For whatever reasons, it is clear that many citizens of the Internet want to share their work -- and the power to reuse, modify, and distribute their work -- with others on generous terms. Creative Commons intends to help people express this preference for sharing by offering the world a set of licenses on our Website, at no charge."

More free stuff in my next post


Sad Statistic

"Fear factor: 44 percent of Americans queried in Cornell national poll favor curtailing some liberties for Muslim Americans" (link)

What!! What century and country am I living in? Didn't anybody learn anything from the Japanese internment camps we set up during WWII? Here's an interesting quote from Lessig.org

The major civil liberties issue in World War II arose out of the internment of 120,000 individuals of Japanese descent, two-thirds of whom were American citizens, representing 90% of all American citizens of Japanese ancestry. It is useful to compare how the United States dealt with individuals of German and Italian ancestry. All German and Italian citizens who were in the United States during World War II (that is, citizens of those nations) were reviewed by the FBI and military authorities. If they were determined to be dangerous to the national security, they were detained. If they were found not to be dangerous (as was the case for the vast majority), they were allowed to remain in the U.S. under relatively modest restrictions. Of course, no effort was made to round up American citizens of German or Italian origin."

And another quote:
"The forced removal and internment of more than 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry from the west coast of the United States during World War II constitutes a dark chapter in American history. More than 65,000 were Nisei (second generation), American born, American educated and American in heart and mind. No charges were filed, no hearing held, only the vague term, "military necessity" was used and it was to destroy the social, economic and cultural lives of a population which had been in existence in the United States for more than 50 years."

I guess 44% of Americans look at that as a bright chapter in American history. I really strongly believe that teaching young kids that America is perfect and doesn't make mistakes can have longterm consequences. Is constructive criticism really unpatriotic?

While I'm on a quoting rampage, here is a quote from "A Christmas Carol" that I found kind of funny (and timely). I guess I could try to reach and say that the doornail is the first amendment and that our ancestors are America's founding fathers, but I won't.

"I don't mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country's done for. You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a door-nail."


Democratic Media

I updated my links on the right side of the page to include some free online books about the media and culture. The Free Culture book is a good read if you have the time.

There is an amazing article at LegalAffairs.org about human nature. It's technically about the need to plan ahead for the inevitable emergence of Artificial Intelligence and its legal status but to come to any conclusions about that subject you need to take a hard look at what we are as humans.

"But some A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) researchers believe that moment might not be far off. And as their creations begin to display a growing number of human attributes and capabilities—as computers write poems and serve as caretakers and receptionists—these researchers have begun to explore the ethical and legal status of their creations. "Strong A.I." is the theory that machines can be built that will not merely act as if conscious, but will actually be conscious, and advocates of this view envision a two-front assault on the fortress of human exceptionalism involving both the physical and functional properties of the brain. And these researchers predict a breach within the next half-century."

Human exceptionalism is why we blame the problems with law on the politicians an not on those who elected them. Maybe faith is the problem. We have food stuck in our teeth but we're supposedly created in God's image so there is no need to look in the mirror.

There is an interesting flash presentation about the future of the media that raises some interesting questions. We blame politicians for the problems with the country just as we blame the media outlets for crap tv and the death of hard news. So here is my idea:
Media doesn't shape society as much as it is a reflection of our current level of awareness. Politicians are only as corrupt as we and the systems we've designed allow them to be. The author of the flash presentation doesn't come to any real conclusions about what to do about the problem. If media is just a reflection of who we are then it makes sense to assume that if we put some hard thought into improving education the media landscape will eventually reflect that change. Here's the problem, democracy is as painfully short sighted as the average voter. Low prescription drug prices and entitlement programs trump education and always will. Democracy is the best system available and it has a fatal flaw.

Just a quick software note about strong AI. In my opinion it'd be much much easier to create a system from which consciousness emerges than to try to create consciousness using predefined rules. At least one argument in favor of unplugging the machine from the Law Review article is invalid. Check out my caffeine fueled post on emergence here.


Buy Gillette Stock, NOW

Brilliant marketing comes in all shapes and sizes as evidenced by Gillette's new vibrating shaver the Venus Vibrance. Here's a not so subtle quote from the article.

"Our testing indicated that there is an upside potential to penetrate more razors at a slightly reduced price," Hoffman says."

One of my finace professors back in college always used to say "The market always wins." Nosy zealots predictably try to ban the local adult gift store but somehow demand always seems to prevail. The puritanical musket has officially backfired. A major marketing campaign is about to get underway for these devices which I'm guessing will be a lot like the Herbal Essences ads that have been running for a couple of years now.

I just had a great idea for a business. The first urban scarecrow, available at all major retailers...

I'm going to add a Gillette stock chart as a sort of experiment to see if it's possible to make money reading blogs. It's at 45.0 as I post this, the chart should auto-update.



Changed my blog name. It's a better fit than Zero Comments because people actually comment every once in a while. According to my google search it's also unused as a blog or book title. If by some miracle of capitalism I was someday able to earn a living writing books I'd want to have some memorable characters. I think I've got one I really like, he doesn't have a name yet but here's his m.o. from an earlier post.

"A biologist, studying the habits of small, furry, monogamous woodland mammals understands the cold, inevitable truth that prairie vole love is a byproduct of evolution meant to increase the fitness and therefore survival of the couple's offspring. Unfortunately he's unable to relate this truth to his own life... The main character will have his heart predictably broken before realizing the parallels with the creature he has devoted his life to. He adopts the voles and they live in his home, a perrenial reminder of his failure as a mammal"

The second character I could adapt from another post about my ideal living situation when I'm an old man..
"It's morning and I'm somewhere about a mile off shore in an old sail boat. I don't have on quite enough clothes to keep me warm but my PH Balanced beard and overheating laptop keep me at a perfect temperature. I've created a harness and pulley system for my requisite golden lab. He scampers down the hull of the boat, perfectly counterbalanced, cleaning off the barnicles thanks to the peanut butter I applied at the dock. It's a beautiful symbiotic relationship much like the bird that cleans the alligator's teeth. And so I sit, inspired by the sounds of the seagulls and hungry dog, writing about software and caffeine, not knowing how to steer the boat but content in the knowledge that our coast guard will again prove their heroism."

The third character is based on an idea I had last night. I live in sunny San Diego and there is a tanning salon frequented during the summer months for reasons unbeknownst. The character owns a salon and offsets his energy bills by installing an array of solar panels on his roof. He inevitably succumbs to greed and installs a couple of skylights because of the inefficiency of the solar panels. Everything is going well until the solar panel repair guy starts checking out the patrons through the skylights. Scandal ensues.

Another character works as a coal miner in the future. After fusion is realized as a power source we figure out a way to remove the billions of tons of carbon from our atmosphere, forever plugging the ozone hole. Unfortunately the carbon has to go somewhere so we reopen thousands of abandoned coal mines, returning the soot to its rightful home. He realizes the potential of the raw materials at his fingertips and develops a way to create diamond from the raw carbon, resulting in a cartel that rivals DeBeers.

Hmm, I have a newfound respect for people that write books. It's not easy coming up with ideas.


Toilet Humor

This is a pretty mindless post, just found this cartoon kind of amusing...


Hollyweird under attack

I met a smart, thoughful, cute young lady today who unfortunately was interviewing me so I didn't get to find out much about her but she made me think. Why do I write this thing? Why do I put my deepest, weirdest thoughts out there for all to see? Is it because I'm a little standoffish with people so I figure a one way connection is better than none? I think she got the impression that I enjoy solitude. Is there a difference between being used to something and really liking it? I hope isolation doesn't become the new opiate of the masses. Ok enough about me, here's some information about Bittorrent, the next generation of peer to peer file trading systems...

Bittorrent is good at one thing, transferring gigantic files over the Internet. It's starting to get a lot of press now on major news sites because instead of downloading a song or two people are downloading entire uncompressed CDs and 7 gigabyte DVDs. Bittorrent has a system that prevents the RIAA or other antipiracy agency from uploading fake files which can corrupt swarmed downloads resulting in that godawful screeching noise sometimes heard in nefariously acquired MP3s.

A major difference between Kazaa and Bittorrent is that you generally only download one thing at a time from Bittorrent which makes it harder for the MPAA/RIAA to sue for multiple infringement. Think of it as Napster except there is no one server handling all of the transactions, there are thousands of them all over the world. Today the MPAA has decided that instead of going after the people that download, they're going after the people who host the trackers. That's all well and good but news recently leaked about a system in development that would decentralize the trackers leaving the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) with only the downloaders to go after. That's a problem because of the following stats from Suprnova.org:

348668 seeded torrents (563910 total), 7229906 seeds & 9186110 downloaders (16416016 peers), on 1461 active trackers.

9 million people are using it as I type this just on Suprnova and it's still not a household word. What happens when everybody finds out? If 50% of the population is rampantly violating copyrights then at what point does the law become invalid? I wonder if in 15 years when broadband is 50x faster we will have only actors working that really like doing it. Sure they'll get paid, not from royalties or a $20million paycheck but by people who choose to donate through their website because they appreciate that actor's work. It sounds crazy but the guy who invented bittorrent gave it away for free and simply added a "Donate" button on his site. He's now extremely wealthy because 9Million people are using his software right now and so even if a fraction of the BT users donate, it adds up.


Lobotomy Revival

We humans are a strange bunch. Work is progressing on a Nuclear Fusion Reactor called ITER that would solve a bunch of humanity's problems but Japan and France are fighting over who gets to host the project. We have brilliant minds creating something that has stalled because of political tomfoolery. Why is it that we can be so incredibly short sighted and at the same time capable of such amazing technical feats?

After thinking a lot about democracy I've come to the conclusion that it's broken. How can something that's the best alternative be broken? Because it's derived from an imperfect species known as people. A very few people are proposing Parecon as an alternative. It's basically Socialism 2.0. Here's a quote:
Based on that experience we can predict, with great confidence, that private enterprise market economies in a “second coming” would generate inequality and alienation just as they have the first time around. The only difference would be that “born again” capitalism would surely kill us all since it would begin with “initial conditions” — 5 billion people, modern industrial technology, and an already damaged ecosystem — that would do in mother earth in fairly short order. God has given capitalism the rainbow sign. No more water, the fire next time!"

Sounds great in theory but people, even smart ones, on average tend to look out for numero uno. And if you apply the rationale behind democracy to thoughfulness then the only thing that matters is the average. Yes the occasional Ghandi and Mother Teresa arrive and become famous precisely because that are so different from the norm. I'm sure we'll eventually be able to rid ourselves of our impulsive heritage, maybe through surgery, a lobotomy revival?
"One of the core findings, Davidson says, deals with the interplay between several distinct brain regions, namely the orbital frontal cortex, the anterior cingulate cortex and the amygdala. The orbital frontal cortex plays a crucial role in constraining impulsive outbursts, while the anterior cingulate cortex recruits other brain regions in the response to conflict. The amygdala, a tiny but highly influential portion of the brain, is involved in the production of a fear response and other negative emotions."
The only problem is that we would become horrendously boring, spontaneity would be another relic of our caveman past.

I don't love the theory of Evolution because it contradicts religious beliefs. I love it because if you choose to really believe that we're just hapless, upright walking, fur-deficient apes then everything starts to make sense. It's the equivalent of the awareness that we're all sinners in religion, a guilt pressure release valve. The death penalty becomes irrational because the only reason to incarcerate people is to keep them away from the rest of society. You can replace remorse with a newfound awareness of what exactly we're made of. Ego flies out the window because 0.0001 times 2 is twice as big but still gets rounded to zero most of the time. All of the bizzare social norms based on puritanical idealism (teaching abstinence in school) get replaced with more sensible alternatives. Heaven and Hell are illogical if we're all capable of good and evil depending on our surroundings and upbringing. It's really kind of refreshing even though on the down side I don't think I'll see my parents in heaven or even my future kids. If eternal bliss is awaiting us somewhere up in the sky then it makes sense to take our time here for granted.

Maybe that's what a loss of innocence is. Reaching the age where you realize that finding out about santa was just the tip of the iceberg. As I get older I hear words like faith, hope, redemption, etc. thrown around. Linguistic braincandy for people who can't afford Prozac? I don't think so. Faith I have a problem with but I do have hope, hope that technology will improve education, possibly enough that young people won't just freak out, close their eyes and grab the nearest holy book when the going gets rough. Sure, this paragraph is bound to piss off the majority of my readers but I write to figure things out.


Quote of the Day

It's been a while since my last quote of the day but here's a real classic from Donald Rumsfeld regarding the grilling he took from a troop about a lack of adequate armor on our vehicles. A sentence that starts bad and spirals into nonsense. A quote that has inspired me to reopen my $2 word and alliteration vault... His words a cryptic cacophony of incoherence tragically escaped from a mind pregnant with incompetence.

"I don't know what the facts are but somebody's certainly going to sit down with him and find out what he knows that they may not know, and make sure he knows what they know that he may not know, and that's a good thing."

That is the most eloquent description of bureaucracy I think I've ever read.