Libertarian Philosophy Values Human Rights, However…

The Libertarian political philosophy does value human rights, this is true. The most commonly cited Human Rights are the Traditional Rights of Englishmen that our Founding Fathers were raised to believe they had, but didn’t have: Life, Liberty, and Estate. The alleged abridgment of these rights is the moral authority on which the birth of our country rests.

How would one interpret a modern and reasonable meaning of these rights, henceforth called the Unalienable Rights of American Citizens, in the 21st century? Could it provide for us a reasonable yardstick to measure the progress of our elected representatives today? Even in the 21st century? Maybe. Let’s give it a shot. I submit the following:

Life. That would mean, for example, moving closer to Single-Payer Health Care (SPHC) for all citizens. The Edmund Burke conservative approach would obviously be to gradually expand Medicare, Medicaid, and the Veterans Administration to encompass and provide care for all citizens, and then combine them all into a Citizens National Healthcare Administration while leaving citizens free to elect for care from the private sector if they so choose.

Liberty. That would mean, for example, moving closer to allowing and recognizing unfettered marriage rights amongst consenting adults. It is not the State’s place to decide which relationships between adult consenting humans are and are not valid. If such recognition is to be granted at all, it must be granted to all.

Estate. For example we must move closer to a society that does not allow citizens to go without and die starving in the gutter. Mr. Jefferson advocated that we American Citizens seize land from Native Americans (only marginally human and savages, in his view, who lived in that very State of Nature that Locke mentions frequently, and who were certainly not American Citizens for whom these Unalienable Rights ought to apply) and give those lands to American Citizens so that they’d all have a stake in society and wish for its prosperity. Alas, the Native Americans have no good land left to seize, and so we must seek other solutions.

Let us ponder what the group of men we saw ushered into congressional office in 2010 under the auspices of the so-called “Libertarian” Tea Party (never-mind for the moment that the original Boston Tea Party was in response to lowered taxes and corporate welfare that both hurt the middle class, and not higher taxes as is so often claimed), and traditional conservative Republicans trying to get “Tea Party Street Cred” have demonstrated to us since:

Life. They’ve opposed anything resembling SPHC, even going so far as to oppose the ridiculous compromise that was brokered to have an “individual mandate” requiring that citizens must purchase health insurance from a private firm without any meaningful egalitarian public option offered. The necessary and proper thing to do for our country is to demand that there be a overarching public option for health care to move us closer to SPHC and correct this fault in the foundation, not argue for destroying the whole building.

Liberty. Under the guise of a thinly veiled claim that amounts to “States have the right to violate the 14th amendment to the United States Constitution,” Liberty is generally opposed. That veil is very thin and transparent indeed, in light of the following two facts and resultant conclusion posed as a rhetorical question. Fact one would be that society generally acknowledges that no one chooses to be gay, and that gay men and women cannot “pray the gay away.” Fact two, with that in mind, is that Loving v. Virginia happened. If States cannot ban heteroracial marriages, what gives them the constitutional authority to ban or fail to recognize homosexual marriages?

Estate. Unlike the Boston Tea Party radicals they claim to be named for, our “Libertarian” Tea Party friends argue for even lower taxes for the very wealthy, even as we know that this harms the middle class. Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Locke agree that voting citizens must have a meaningful material stake in society. Acknowledging that there are not still fertile lands (and this is true, the reservations aren’t exactly prime fertile soil) presently under the ownership of those few remaining Native Americans, who can we seize from? And if such seizures are to be equated with “theft,” a notion I very much disagree with, then please do recall that the thing to do when you identify stolen property is to return said property. One cannot have it both ways at once. Some may claim that taxation is “theft,” but if one chooses to do so then one must also return the stolen real estate they own or reside upon to its rightful owner or owners (Native Americans still had the Commons in place when we Europeans all showed up, so collective ownership would be appropriate if they wish for it) in order to avoid rank hypocrisy and have the “taxation is theft, and I’m opposed to thievery” claim have any credence whatsoever.

And thus, we see the vast difference between what so-called Libertarians claim their principles are, and the policies they advocate once elected. As John Locke said:

Whensoever therefore the legislative shall transgress this fundamental rule of society; and either by ambition, fear, folly or corruption, endeavour to grasp themselves, or put into the hands of any other, an absolute power over the lives, liberties, and estates of the people; by this breach of trust they forfeit the power the people had put into their hands for quite contrary ends, and it devolves to the people, who have a right to resume their original liberty, and, by the establishment of a new legislative, (such as they shall think fit) provide for their own safety and security, which is the end for which they are in society.

November approaches. How will you vote in 2012?

Libertarian Philosophy Values Human Rights, However…

Making the White Pandigital 7″ Novel Useful (Without rooting it, hacking it, or doing anything else risky)

Here’s a video showing the general performance and feel of this device:

I always told myself that once Android tablets dropped below $100, I’d pick one up. That has now happened with the $85 PanDigital 7-Inch Tablet Computer – White. I’ll skip the review and the full tech specs, as those are widely available. The only caveat I will add is that you should ignore complaints about the original item’s locked down software. The device, as it ships today, is infinitely more useful than the original.

If the review you are reading shows images of the device looking like this, then ignore the review.

The reviews you should pay attention to are the ones written after the major upgrade to this device of January 2011, and images in the review should look like this:

If your device looks like the second image above, ignore this paragraph. If you already have an older one and it looks like the first picture, then the first step in making it useful as more than an e-book reader is to click here if you are a Windows user or here (link 1 and link 2) if you are not a Windows user. I’ll assume for the rest of this article that you are not using the locked-down firmware either because your device is more recent, or because you’ve loaded the more recent OEM firmware.

We will not be rooting our device. Many guides are available for that, this instead will document how to make this device useful without taking that risk. I’m going to sharing a few tips and pointers that I’ve found made this device much more useful than intended, including by breaking free of the Barnes & Noble and SlideMe duopoly over the software available to the device.

App Stores that Work On This Device.

As you have probably already realized, the Pandigital 7″ is not officially supported by Google and so all of the “standard” Google apps are missing — including the Android Marketplace. If you open this article on your Pandigital and click these links, you will be guided through the process of enabling these various alternatives to the Android Marketplace.

  • Amazon Appstore. One paid app for free every day, and a fairly wide selection of apps in general – It is of sufficiently high quality that I have this installed on my cell phone that does have the official Android Marketplace too. This is probably the closest to a drop-in replacement to the Android Marketplace currently available. The biggest downside is that if an app doesn’t officially support our device, then it will not allow us to even attempt to install it. This includes, mind bogglingly enough, the Amazon Kindle app.
  • Opera Mobile Store. But fear not! The Opera Mobile Store does allow you to install the Kindle App onto your Pandigital and it works just fine. Though it has a smaller selection, there appear to be many cases wherein the Opera Mobile Store will let me attempt to install an app that the Amazon Appstore does not.
  • Soc.io Mall. This seems marginally better than the SlideMe app store, but worth including because it is still nonetheless better. You must go hereon your desktop computer to register before you can log in on your Pandigital, as there seems to be a bug in the app itself.
  • Freewarelovers. Use this to manually download .apk files for those apps that are not available in any of the above, but that are still normally free from the Android Marketplace.
  • Thepiratebay.org. Do not use this unless you live in Sweden and have the written permission of everyone that has ever published an app in the official Android Marketplace. It works just fine for everyone, but if you don’t meet the two above criteria and use it then you are a bad person and going to hell after being put to death by DMCA agents who will fastrope into your house in the middle of the night and shoot your dog. I’m going to trust you on this one using the honor system, mmmk?

Some Useful Software Now Available to you.

The following are available at one or more of the above stores, and I’ve confirmed that they work on the Pandigital 7″.

  • Kindle. Best-in-breed e-book store reader. Available from the Opera Mobile Store.
  • TV.com. Allows watching of a few TV shows, including the original Star Trek series. Available from the Opera Mobile Store.
  • Opera Mini. Best-in-breed web browser for Android. Available from the Amazon Appstore.
  • Skyfire. Web browser with mediocre flash video playback capability.
  • Dropbox. Available here, this is the easiest way to move files back and forth between your desktop and your device without plugging things in and unplugging them, and without moving SD cards back and forth.
  • Launcher Pro. Replaces the default home screen with a much nicer one and is the best-in-breed alternative home screen. Available here.
  • Star Traders RPG. Available from the Amazon Appstore, it’s a fun little game that can kill time.
  • Bathroom Reader. Takes you to a semi-random Wikipedia article, such as “Random Sports Article”, “Random Celebrity Article”, “Random Technology Article”, and several other categories. Available from the Amazon Appstore.

Well, that is most of what I have discovered about the possibilities of this $85 device so far. What have you discovered?

Making the White Pandigital 7″ Novel Useful (Without rooting it, hacking it, or doing anything else risky)

Civil Rights in the 21st Century, and a Brave Citizen

To summarize that 14 minute video, Michael Allison of Illinois has been charged with “eavesdropping” for publicly recording the actions of Law Officers in the execution of their duties, and now faces 75 years in prison. He has refused a plea deal, and seems to be attempting to force this issue to go either before the supreme court of Illinois where the relevant laws will hopefully be shot down, or to the US Supreme Court where identical laws across our nation (including in California) would all be shot down. We need more patriots like this man – most people would simply take the plea deal (probation and no jail time) knowing that the result would be future citizens facing a situation similar to his in the future. Since about 1954, the US Supreme court has been the most often used policy-level venue to address Civil Rights issues, but Amending the US Constitution remains a valid fall-back.

Click here to find out if your State, like California and Illinois, is one of the Dirty Dozen.

In this event that this isn’t settled in the courts within the next decade or so, me and a friend have drafted a very rough proposed Amendment to the US Constitution that would directly address this. Version “B” of our draft reads as follows:

Amendment Regarding the Use of Privately Owned Recording Devices

Section 1. Nothing in this amendment shall be interpreted as applying to recording devices owned by Federal, State, or Local governments or as applying to officials thereof using recording devices while acting in any official capacity.

Section 2. In all public areas of the United States inside the various states and territories thereof, Federal, State, and Local government officials being recorded in the execution of their duties on public lands such as parks and roads need not be informed nor provide consent for their actions to be legally recorded. On private property, existing Federal, State, and Local laws shall continue to be in effect.

Section 3. When such recording is occurring using a mobile device, the private individual must make reasonable efforts to maintain at least 20 feet of distance from the official.

Section 4. In any case wherein such recording devices are searched or seized, any and all recordings that include Federal, State, or Local government officials executing their duties shall be held for a period of not less than 10 years in an unmodified state. Copies must be entered into the public record in an unmodified state except where such modifications are permitted in section 5, and in such a way that the general public can readily access them, unless the recording would prejudice an ongoing criminal investigation.

Section 5. The faces, voices, and unique identifying marks of private persons may obfuscated only to the extent necessary to prevent recognition of specific persons in any of the following cases:

a) If requested by the person in question or legal representatives of such person.
b) If done by a State or locally established and legally empowered privacy committee.
c) As required by State law or Local government ordinance.

In addition, the obfuscation must be removed if requested by the person or legal representatives of such persons.

Section 6. Section 5 obfuscation is to be done at the expense of States or Local governances that have or wish to enact such laws. The extent of Section 5 obfuscation is to be determined by the locality in which the recording was made, not by the jurisdiction of the official that seized the material.

Section 7. Local jurisdictions are to create and maintain websites to facilitate this, and such websites shall not record any data regarding persons accessing said website.

Slowly, a few judges seem to be concluding that the existing US Bill of Rights covers most of the above and are nullifying existing laws as unconstitutional. To read about that angle being taken, click here.

Civil Rights in the 21st Century, and a Brave Citizen

The Greedy Restaurant Shares Software Improvements with Other Restaurants

EDIT: If you are actually looking for Open Source Restaurant Reservation software, take a look here.

I recently came across a question asked by a high school student in the United Kingdom. One of his teachers had asked a question that seemed to imply that needing to share improvements to open source restaurant reservation software with the open source project that created the software was a disadvantage of using open source software.

Im currently delivering a high school qualification in the UK and part of the course is on open source. We have just had an examination paper with a question on what are the disadvantages of using open source software to create a restaurant booking system.

One of the model answers says that the restaurant would have to then release their changes to the public.

For some reason, the fact that this was a model answer bothers me, because that implies that this answer is something the student should strive to emulate to receive a good grade. As if that answer could possibly be part of a coherent answer that makes any reasonable attempt to take the full implications of open source economics into consideration.

So, let us examine the many ways in which sharing code improvements with “the public” for $0.00 is to the advantage of the individual restaurant. Each of the below points could easily be expanded to be an essay unto itself, but I shall endeavor to be brief. We will start by examining a few ways in which it has no negative effect on the individual restaurant because it almost certainly isn’t going to help the competition. Then, we will look at how it will help the restaurant.

Sharing Hurts Nothing.

To begin with, their food and customer service will never be identical to another restaurant – a streamlined reservation system does not change the attire or politeness of staff, nor the amount of curry in the food. Restaurants supply a heterogeneous product, and that product ain’t software.

Furthermore, the software would not even necessarily work for any other restaurant unless it was using an identical software stack minus these trivial modifications.

Thirdly, restaurants outside that city or county are not competitors. If one restaurant in several cities or counties use, improve, and share the software then each of these restaurants will benefit at the expense of all other restaurants in their respective cities. Unless the software becomes ubiquitous, odds are the small number of restaurants adopting the software will be from different cities — located in different markets.

Sharing Has Many Benefits.

It is in each individual restaurant’s best interests to submit the improvements upstream so that each time a new version of the software comes out, they can benefit from all of the other improvements without the need to re-patch the new version of the software with the stuff they wrote. It is far more efficient and streamlined to allocate resources towards working as part of the wider team than to allocate all of the resources that would be needed to maintain internal patches and revision control.

If a single competing restaurant in the given city does use the improved software, then it will still be in that other restaurant’s best interests to share-alike as well any improvements they make (or bug reports, or even feature requests) — so the two restaurants in the same city (eg, market) using this software can both share a comparative advantage over the other n restaurants in town.

Finally, explicit costs of sharing code improvements upstream (eg, “to the public”) are nil as the IT guy that is familiar with Open Source and can do a bit of coding is already assumed to be an employee in the scenario created by the question, and the Marginal Benefit of releasing modified source code back is almost certainly going to exceed Marginal Cost. If there is one thing drilled into the head of any student of economics, it is that if MB > MC – you move forward and do it. Period, and end of story.

So, clearly, it is not a disadvantage for a restaurant to share improvements made to the software “with the public”. They will not be getting any direct revenue for this software, but they will be getting additional indirect revenue through the continuous improvement in their critical customer service infrastructure that this is a key contributor to. The restaurant should not contribute code improvements upstream to be nice or to be communists, they should share this stuff for $0.00 to be greedy rational self-interested business people trying to make as much money as humanly possible.

The Greedy Restaurant Shares Software Improvements with Other Restaurants

Facing AT&T’s new 150GB Monthly Cap, How to Monitor/Calculate your Usage

AT&T internet customers now face a monthly bandwidth cap, and will have to pay additional money per month if they exceed that limit. This is especially of concern for daily Netflix users, but frequent .torrent users may also have cause for concern. The specific target of this action on AT&T’s part is Netflix users; people who pay AT&T for internet service and Netflix for TV/Movie service. AT&T would rather you pay them for both and Netflix for nothing, so they are going to charge you a little extra for your disobedience.

As frustrating as this may be, the current United States Congress (R) and folks appointed by President Obama (D) all agree that this is an appropriate, allowable, and legal thing for AT&T to be doing.

If you wish to be obedient to AT&T, this link will take you to what AT&T offers to replace Netflix with.

If you would rather monitor your internet usage to avoid the disobedience fee, keep reading.

I made a picture, and I think it explains it well enough. There are per-computer bandwidth monitors, but these must then generally be installed on every computer in the household connected to the internet — including your Netflix-enabled DVR that probably will not allow this. The method presented below works regardless of how many computers or devices are using your internet connection.

If you use a sample time period that is not representative of your normal internet usage, this method will fail. Use the internet how your normally do for several days, and then do your calculations.

What you need:

  • Your computer, connected to the internet at your home, with a web browser.
  • A calculator (the one on your computer works fine).
  • This assumes you are using the standard “2wire” router that most AT&T customers are using. If you are using something different, you may have to enter a different number into your web browser. If that is you, and you figured out what that number was, please list the model/make of your router and that number in the comments section.

Synopsis of this method:

  1. Enter ‘192.168.1.254’ into your web browser.
  2. Navigate to ‘broadband link’ and then to ‘statistics’.
  3. Note the number of bytes received, and the numbers of days that was collected for.
  4. Divide the first number by the latter for your average bytes per day.
  5. Convert that number to gigabytes by dividing it by 1 billion. Multiply that by 30 for your predicted monthly bandwidth usage.
  6. If that number is far below 150, then you have nothing to worry about.
  7. If it is close to 150 and you need more precise calculations, use data from a larger number of days and google to find a byte to gigabyte calculator.
Facing AT&T’s new 150GB Monthly Cap, How to Monitor/Calculate your Usage

Android -> Linux Desktop Remote Control (better documentation than official)

I just went ahead and used URemoteDesktop to turn my Android phone into a remote control for when I am watching movies or listening to music on my computer, and don’t have immediate access to my keyboard.


(Image Credit: From here, published under this license.)

The app I used and its Linux support is good, but the official English documentation is not that great.  Also, much of the website is in Spanish (something I can not read!). The official English documentation works if one is already savvy enough to understand it all, but still leaves the user having to type numerous terminal commands to get it going.

One advantage of this app over others, in my opinion, is that it doesn’t try to be smart and tailor itself to specific desktop software. It sends generic play, volume up, etc, commands and leaves it to your computer to interpret. It seems to work everywhere that the identical buttons on my keyboard work. I like that, because it doesn’t place barriers between me and trying new software out.

Hopefully these instructions will simplify the process, and require only one terminal command on your computer. It will even tell you your current “Host IP Address” needed by the Android phone. I hope these directions are basic enough to be accessible to all – if not, please let me know what I need to clarify.

These directions are for Ubuntu. If you aren’t using Ubuntu, you probably already know how to translate the directions into your distribution’s lingo. If you aren’t using gnome, you probably know how to translate directions into gnome.

Install Instructions:

1 ) Install the app on your phone. You can search the market for “URemoteDesktop” on your phone, or point the barcode scanner here:

2 ) Download the needed .zip file from here. That is the desktop server that talks to the app on your phone. Double click on that .zip, and extract it to your home folder so that it is at /home/YOURUSERNAME/URemoteDesktop_Server.

3 ) Install the xautomation and curl packages, needed for the server to work: sudo apt-get install xautomation curl

4 ) Go to places -> Home Folder -> URemoteDesktop_Server

5 ) Right click on launch.sh -> Properties -> Permissions -> Verify that “Execute” is checked next to “Owner”. Do the same process with vd.sh.

6 ) Type this in a terminal: gedit ~/.bashrc

6 ) Copy and paste this line of code at the end of .bashrc, replacing ‘whatever’ with whatever you want (I used ‘amote’), but leaving the rest the same:

alias whatever='echo My IP is && curl http://www.whatismyip.com/automation/n09230945.asp && echo && cd ~/URemoteDesktop_Server && ./launch.sh

7 ) Save and exit.

8 ) CLOSE THE TERMINAL, and you are done. If you leave the terminal open, you aren’t done yet.

Use Instructions:

1 ) Open a terminal (you did close it when you were done installing, right?).

2 ) Type ‘whatever‘ or ‘amote’ and hit enter.

3 ) On the next line in the terminal, it will tell you your IP address.

4 ) Turn your phone’s wifi connection on, connect to your home wireless network. Start the app on your phone.

5 ) Put the IP Address from step 3 into the app.

6 ) Works!

Android -> Linux Desktop Remote Control (better documentation than official)

iOS (iPod, iPad) Devices on Linux – Long Term non-jailbreaking Solution

Outline of the Problem.

Many people would like to have their iOS devices, such as iPods and iPads interact with their Linux devices. Apple clearly lists Microsoft Windows or OS X as a requirement for such devices, but I can nonetheless understand why someone may wish to get use out of a gift they received or similar instead of selling it or giving it away. There are several reasons why I personally avoid such devices, but I can respect the choices of others.

Those that have chosen to own iOS devices and not use proprietary desktop operating systems are frequently met with frustration when trying to sync them or have them otherwise communicate. A method is developed by a clever open source volunteer programmer, it works for a few months, then suddenly stops working with an iOS update. Rinse, repeat.

There is already a long-term solution that, while legal, voids your warranty on the device and is often difficult for non-techy types.

A Humble Proposal.

There generally is no long-term approach outlined to break this cycle that doesn’t involve voiding of warranties, so I will outline and propose one.

  1. Look into methods to cease software/firmware updates to the device.
  2. Wait for the open source volunteer programmers to work around Apple’s shenanigans as of the last time you did get an update, and thus your device will eventually work again.
  3. Continue to not update the device.

I have no idea if this is currently possible without jailbreaking an iPhone with an active data plan that is always internet-facing, but I would encourage the aforementioned open source volunteer programmers and casual tinkerers to focus on a method wherein the device is not fully jailbroken. Only any forced system update software needs to be turned off, disabled, or have its knee caps busted with a sledge hammer. Ideally, the semi-skilled bureaucrat at the Apple Store will not be able to tell at a that this was done when casually going through the itemized warranty verification checklist.

The simplest method of avoiding updates for an iPod is to simply never connect it to iTunes.

Worth Noting.

This long-term solution could be implemented in addition to the current short-term solution that works, as outlined somewhere on the internet so that you can get your device working today. I cannot link to the current method because that would render this post obsolete exactly one iOS update from now, but I can offer you a hint: for the short-term solution that currently works, you need to be looking at how-to guides and discussion forum posts more recent than the date of the last iOS update you received.

Remember that the short-term solutions are cyclical and temporary. Don’t be surprised if the method that worked last month no longer works today.

If your iOS device is receiving updates, one will eventually break all currently existing non-iTunes & non-Steve-approved support.

Limitations.

This difficulty is by design, not accident. The entire point of many of Apple’s so-called security updates is to maintain or re-introduce Apple’s security and control. Over you.

The base problem that causes the problem outlined in this article is a social problem – how people treat people, such as how the folks running the Apple Corporation treat customers. Thus, what I propose here falls into the realm of a technological solution to a social problem. In itself, that presents a problem. A smart fellow just the other day pointed out that technological solutions to social problems are generally imperfect (much like military solutions to social problems). This proposal, even if implemented perfectly, will still be imperfect. It will still require extra hassle on the part of the end-user, for example.

If you have come across this blog entry, then you have also probably read a relevant Wikipedia article or two, or maybe even three. Thus, I trust that you already know that there is a series of social solutions to this social problem and ones like it. Please respectfully and tactfully advocate for such a solution, when you see such an opportunity present itself.

iOS (iPod, iPad) Devices on Linux – Long Term non-jailbreaking Solution