In the news yesterday, 27 July 2005

I wanted to be able to talk about the news stories I found very interesting without creating an additional post for each story, so here is the first edition of “In the news today”.

This BBC story shows how NASA’s attitude about shuttle accidents has changed since the 2002 shuttle destruction. Previously NASA was more concerned about its PR image. How would it look if NASA was trying to check the shuttle for problems due to foam hitting the wing? For whatever reason, they decided to deny the astronauts the ability to check the condition of the shuttle, costing them their lives. This time around, with a possible heatshield tile missing from the Shuttle Discovery, they are doing a full diagnostic over the entire shuttle to determine the integrity of the protection system against the heat of reentry. I’m glad NASA has finally learned its lesson. I hope that this is one it doesn’t forget.

This BBC story mentions that the current US administration is moving away from the phrase “war on terror”.

In recent days, senior administration figures have been speaking publicly of “a global struggle against the enemies of freedom”, and of the need to use all “tools of statecraft” to defeat them.

I think this is a two tiered strategy by the government. First of all, they want to distance the terrorism conflict from the word war. This is because Bush and Cheney spent so much time conflagrating the War in Iraq with terrorism (despite its lack of truth) that most people see the two as synonymous. This poses a problem for Bush, who wants to be the President who tacked terrorism. Many people see the war in Iraq as another Vietnam in the worst case and barely a victory in the best case. On the other hand, I think most people are happy with the lack of terrorist acts on US soil, so separating the two issues in people’s minds would be helpful. Of course, it is his fault they are stuck together, but that’s something his legacy will have to deal with.

On the other side of things, this change of terms to describe our strategy against terrorism is not just another case of Washington spin. When fighting an enemy which isn’t represented by a whole country, it’s hard to have a real war. We can just wage war in the boundaries of every country with terrorists. Afghanistan was a unique case and I think it will be a stretch to apply to any current countries. Therefore it is up to our “soft” troops: the CIA and NSA. They are the ones who have to be the most diligent in finding the terrorists. Then they can communicate the information to their counterparts in the country involved. In the case of Scotland Yard or MI6 (whatever James Bond’s agency is) they would be most cooperative. In some other countries we might have to wage covert wars. However, the days of dropping troops into countries are pretty much over as far as terrorism goes.

This BBC news story says what I’ve been saying all along:

People who illegally share music files online are also big spenders on legal music downloads, research suggests.
Digital music research firm The Leading Question found that they spent four and a half times more on paid-for music downloads than average fans.

To me this says that people feel the same way that I do – 30 seconds is nowhere near enough time to preview a song and determine if you want to buy it. I know that they are trying to prevent the analogue recording trick, but they are just keeping me from buying music. Since a lot of music is crap, I’d rather download it first to make sure I like it. Then I buy the CD (or the legal music downloads) to support the band.

Why shouldn’t you use Windows on your computers/servers? Because a UK hacker accessed *97* US government computers…

“Via the internet, the defendant identified US government network computers with an open Microsoft Windows connection.”

Yeah, switch to Linux!

Finally, This article mentions that Sony wishes to create an download store for its video stores; in layman’s terms “an iTunes for movies”. It’s a great idea, but I’ll never buy into it for the same reason I dislike downloading music from iTunes and Napster.

1) I am not in control of the quality – most music stores release the music at an inferior quality when compared to ripping it off of commercial CDs

2) I can’t experience it on infinite computers – Napster and iTunes say I can only listen on 3 computers. I have four in my house, so what’s that about?

3) I can’t experience it on whatever portable player I want – iTunes only works on iPods and WMAs don’t play on iPods. This is BS and they know it.

Fix those issues and I’ll be a loyal customer.