Global Military Spending

September 27th, 2006 § 0

This year global military spending has reached the highest point of history, outranking even the highest years of the Cold War.

Global military spending this year is estimated to reach US$1,059bn, outstripping the highest figure reached during the Cold War in real terms, and roughly fifteen times current international aid expenditure. This growth in military budgets has caused a boom for the arms industry, with the top 100 arms companies seeing their sales increase by almost 60 per cent, from US$157bn in 2000 to US$268bn in 2004.

One has to ask oneself if Bill Clinton or Al Gore were in power would this be happening… The answer is no. The US economy would be growing in the direction of services and international consumer goods.

American influence would be expanding as its products and its businessmen took over whole markets and could even control huge sections of the media sector via their advertising.

I know how the system of control and domination of foreign markets works, from my experience as head of televison in Russia for two of the world’s largest ad agencies with, in both cases, P&G as our principal client.

Of course, some American expansion into new markets carries on anyway, despite the animosity of the Cheney years. There is a great deal of momentum in world trade which takes years and decades to succumb fully to inertia and negative forces. But the Americans would be having a lot more success stories and a lot less bloodshed, had they not played the imperial card and instead carried on with Bill Clinton’s friendship hand.

Had the Israel-Palestinian issue been resolved instead of launching the foolish (and deadly) Iraq crusade, there would have been little standing in the way of a mass PR and business benefit to American business throughout the world.

And we would be in a much better position to take on issues like world hunger. Not solve them, but make them a lot better.

If we could alleviate world hunger even a little bit it would be a wonderful thing. Each statistical percentage points is the difference between hundreds of thousands starving. Conversely, each billion dollars of military spending ends up costing tens of thousands loss of life and limb.

Statistics like this should make us angry, not depressed. This is how our money and how our efforts are being spent – on arms and not on helping our fellow man.

Vote, protest and educate.

Hearts and Minds: British Soldiers ‘laughed’ as they beat detainees, court martial told

September 27th, 2006 § 0

No doubt the Americans learned their bad habits from the English masters of two centuries ago. Here’s what the British soldiers in Iraq are up to.

Mr Matairi, whose brother was killed by Saddam Hussein’s regime, said he felt betrayed at being ill-treated by British soldiers he had welcomed to Iraq.

“I put flowers in my children’s hands to welcome the British soldiers when they came to free us from Saddam,” Mr Matairi told the court with the aid of an interpreter.

“I could not believe that these criminals were from Britain. According to our knowledge it was a civilised country, so I could not believe it.”

Mr Matairi said he feared that the treatment he received would leave his three children fatherless. “We were hit all the time, continuously without knowing the reason why,” he added.

Mr Matairi, part-owner of the hotel from which he and his staff were arrested, told them “we are going to die”.

“They [the soldiers] were celebrating the beatings like it was Christmas,” he said.

He said the soldiers laughed at his cries of pain, playing a karate chop game as they hit him.

Next time you are listening to Tony Blair droning on and on about compassion and democracy, it’s worth remembering where the buck stops.

Laughing British soldiers playing games of karate chop and torturing Iraqis, innocent* and otherwise.

* If they were not innocent, what would they be guilty of? Wanting foreign invaders of their country out…

Internet Marketing No BS Checklist

September 27th, 2006 § 0

John T. Reed maintains a fabulous list of the real estate gurus out there operating. I say operating as few of the teach anything of substance. Some of the worst include and best-known include: Ron LeGrand, Robert Kiyosaki, Russ Whitney and Carleton Sheets.

While most of John T. Reed’s site is specifically related to real estate, the no BS checklist could apply to almost any business involving high-priced training and gurus. I’m thinking specifically of internet marketing.

Here’s just a single goodie – # 37:

37. Riff raff in audience. If you go to a live presentation of some sort, you can see, in-person, the other customers of the guru in question. B.S. artist gurus have audiences that look sleazy, unkempt, the bottom of the socio-economic barrel. The better the audience looks, the better the quality of the guru’s information as a general rule. Think of it this way. Look around the room and ask yourself, “Are these people who I want to be like when I grow up?” If not, leave.

Fantastic advice. Not universally true but almost so.

Thinking of doing business? Get thee hence and memorise this No BS list.

Slap on the wrist for White Collar Criminals

September 27th, 2006 § 0

There is no justice in the world. While there are people doing life sentences (three strikes and you’re out) for stealing hubcaps in California, one of the five core figures in business crimes which shook the American economy gets six years of minimum security. The judge even knocked time off of the plea-bargain his lawyers had made.

Andrew Fastow, who helped engineer the financial trickery that sank Enron Corp and then helped convict his former bosses in the scandal, had four years knocked off the plea deal he made, receiving a six-year sentence instead.

US District Judge Ken Hoyt said the 44-year-old former Enron chief financial officer had given “exceptional” assistance to prosecutors, had pledged to help victims and had shown remorse, and his wife had gone to prison for a year….

Judge Hoyt imposed no fine and recommended a minimum-security prison for Fastow.

Enron’s crash caused investors to lose billions and cost thousands of employees their jobs and retirement savings.

No fine!

Unbelievable.

This means Andrew Fastow should be out on the street within two and a half years. Perhaps he will even have weekends out.

The Enron men should be going away for twenty years and up. Business leaders need some clear signals from the criminal justice system that their misdeeds will not go unpunished.

How can we expect honesty and diligence from:

  • ordinary people
  • small business owners
  • employees
  • politicians

when every day they see the rewards for crime.

On the other hand, a mass murderer and an election thief is allowed to stay in The White House and continue to menace the world and hold up peace in the Middle East.

We are entering a Modern Dark Ages, a latter day feudalism. There is one set of laws for hereditary lords and another for the common folk.

Any such system degenerates quickly enough into mass bloodshed and disintegration. It is the opposite of a merit-based system. It is the opposite of fairness. Such a system encourages sycophancy and corruption. Third-world nepotism makes it into the big leagues.

Frankly, these are not the rules of the game which I would wish on my children and grandchildren. Or yours.

Internet Boom – Bust – Boom

September 18th, 2006 § 0

If you’ve ever tried to save music videos from your browser onto your hard drive, you’ve run into then name Akamai. Usually the final video, once you’ve removed all the frames and html and everything surrounding it, is hosted from an Akamai address with a bunch of numbers as the URL.

It turns out Akamai is a very old compamy, originally founded in 1995.

Like other Net infrastructure plays, Akamai got swept up in dot-com fever. Following its 1999 IPO, the stock price soared from $26 in late October to $345 on New Year’s Eve. But when the Internet bubble burst, many of Akamai’s customers went bust or just disappeared. Then Lewin was killed on September 11 on American Airlines Flight 11, which crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York. In 2001, Akamai lost $2.4 billion; a year later, the share price bottomed at just 56¢.

Akamai stock has tripled over the past year to $43.

Lessons to be taken here:

  • the value of persistence
  • the foolishness of financial markets (i.e. the lemming effect)
  • the value over time of good ideas
  • the importance of load spreading for speed in web applications (i.e. almost all the big companies including Google, Apple and Microsoft are using Akamai – if there were an easier or cheaper way, they’d be using it)

Internet Boom - Bust - Boom Continues »

Bad Sector – I/O Error in OS X while Backing Up

September 12th, 2006 § 5

I’ve just lost lots of hours this week trying to rescue my boot firewire drive. It’s a notebook sized 2.5″ Drive in a sleek little aluminum Firewire 800 case from O’ToStore.

Apparently the drive has been failing for weeks and I just haven’t been noticing. Alas SMART does not work on Firewire drives or I probably would have noticed right away.

The cause of the failure? Bad sectors.

I normally backup my boot drive every week or so, but let it slip for a few weeks this time.

When I got around to making the backup using SuperDuper! (free edition, full backup), my backup failed on an I/O error. An I/O error is the equivalent of a bad sector.

Now I was really in trouble. My backup boot disk was shot as well. Strangely enough the original still worked well enough running the OS as long as I wasn’t trying to back it up.

Bad Sector - I/O Error in OS X while Backing Up Continues »

Backup and File Synchronisation Software for Apple OS X

September 12th, 2006 § 0

For a background on how this review came about and on some of the nuances of using these backup and file synchronisation utilities in stress testing, please see my post on Input/Output Errors in OS X during Back Up.

Backup and File Synchronisation Software for Apple OS X Major Players

SuperDuper! – super when it works. Gets best of breed in a highly technical review of these backup utilities (well worth reading). Priced right at $28. Quality demo (only SmartUpdate not available). Every reason to use and buy. Will not succeed against I/O errors however. Helpful and friendly support. No draconian license policy. Highly recommended.

Carbon Copy Cloner (CCC) – Freeware. Extensive documentation. But seen better days as creator Mike Bombich was hired by Apple a couple of years ago and can’t spend as much time on it as he used to. At its best with OS 10.2.

ASR (Apple System Restore) – Freeware. Perhaps this is what Mike Bombich has been up to while at Apple. A very good and robust solution that only seems to fail with I/O issues and that it creates only disk images rather than bootable volumes (except as a 2 step, image and then volume). Here are Apple’s instructions for use:

For backup quality and speed, it’s hard to beat Apple Software Restore (ASR). This is the program used to build software restore CDs on HFS+ volumes. To use ASR, make an image of your disk using Disk Utility (use Create Image From Directory, not Create Image From Device); this backup can then be restored onto other disks, or even the same disk. ASR can restore in place, or by reformatting a disk and copying files onto it. In many cases, the latter usage is much faster, but of course it does remove any existing files.

Synchronize! Pro X – $100 – can do folder synchronization, incremental backups and will not fail against bad sectors and I/O errors. Any drive reporting bad sectors and I/O errors should be retired from service anyway, not repaired. Original license policy very reasonable – personal license for personal comptuers. Ridiculous license policy implemented around version 3.4 driving many users from the product: license valid for a single computer. Subsequently modified to allow a full version on one computer (with scheduling) and occasional use from a secondary computer. Unfortunately developer is aggressive and snarky. On the telephone he asks questions like “Do you even know how to read?” If he would fix his attitude and his license policy, the product is utilitarian and excellent. Reading through the entire VersionTracker section, alas it seems unlikely that Qdea’s Mr. Sontag will ever be a nice friendly man. To some people, this issue may be unimportant. There is also some risk with a one man operation in such a specialilsed sphere with a comparatively expensive product that Mr. Sontag may leave the software business (by inclination, by illness, by death). Or he wouldn’t like your questions and decide to cut off support and rescind your license (I believe he’s done that at least once). Of course for a single copy that is less of an issue but with a site license, I would be concerned.

InTech QuickBack. Part of a whole suite with a reasonable overall cost of $90. InTech Speed Utilities come in an non-upgradeable version with lots of hard drives (where I discovered it). I haven’t successfully used the QuickBack part of the suite but based on MediaScanner and Quickbench performance, I have no reason to doubt that it is as effective as any other bootable backup utility apart from SuperDuper who have their own and superior engine.

LaCie SilverKeeper. Free. Not very attractive but very effective. Reasonably quick. Maintained regularly (current version 1.1.4 updated for 10.4). Highly recommended alternative low cost solution. It is a backup utility not a file sync utility unfortunately.

Unison. Free. Open source. A pain to setup. You need to create sets, you cannot just work on the fly. Very good tracking of changes though. A true industrial sync solution. Programmers and command line junkies should look no further.

Recommended arsenal for backup:

Backup and File Synchronisation Software for Apple OS X Continues »

EXIF Photo Orientation and OS X

September 7th, 2006 § 2

Photo orientation is the way your photos look coming out of the camera – there are two alternatives Landscape (horizontal) and Portrait (vertical).

Landscape Orientation
Landscape Orientation
Portrait Orientation
Portrait Orientation

Many modern cameras digital include a sensor which tells the camera if it is in Portrait or Landscape mode. This includes most modern Canon and Nikon cameras, as well as those of other manufacturers but not including, notably for me, Pentax DSLR up to the *ist DS.

How does it work? The camera leaves a comment on the EXIF file for image software to rotate the camera the same way it was held at the time the picture was taken. Technically this is done with an orientation tag embedded into the picture.

Many image software applications handle these rotations automatically in their most recent versions. In principle, automated photo orientation based on EXIF tags should be a very good thing, saving the user time and trouble. In fact, EXIF based photo orientation is a mixed lot for the end user.

Image software packages handle EXIF orientation in various and complex ways. At a basic level, some software ignores the tag altogether. It’s when the software acts on EXIF orientation things get complicated.

In Mac OS X 10.3.9, Apple’s built-in image and PDF browser preview ignores this tag (Preview version 2.1). Apparently in Mac OS 10.4, Preview recognises the tag and performs the rotation automatically.

iView MediaPro recognises the orientation tag as well (version 3.1.1 and I believe has done so from version 2.6 and up). iPhoto does as well (from version 5 and up but somebody else will have to test this as I won’t run iPhoto on my computer – a friend lost half of her European pictures to its vagaries).

When it comes time to opening your pictures in Photoshop or Elements, you’re also covered. The image will show up correctly orientated. When you save a copy out of Photoshop it will stay that way.

All well and good.

But in the end, the automatic rotation won’t save you when it’s game time and its time to post your images…

As soon as you you try to upload your automatically oriented pictures, a rude surprise awaits. Your images are all sideways!

Auto Rotate Online
Auto Rotated Image Online – Oops

EXIF Photo Orientation and OS X Continues »