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Links March 2009

Cory Doctorow has written a column for The Guardian titled “You shouldn’t have to sell your soul just to download some music” [1]. One really interesting point he made was “The same companies that spent decades telling lawmakers that they were explicitly not the guardians of the morality of the young that they couldn’t be held accountable for sex, drugs and rock’n'roll, for gangsta rap, for drug-fuelled dance-parties did a complete reversal and began to beat their chests about the corrupting influence of downloading on the poor kiddies“.

The pt4me2 organisation advocates that the Victorian government spend more money on public transport infrastructure [2]. Recently the congestion on Melbourne roads has been getting worse, the costs of private car parks in the central city area have been increasing, and during peak hours all public transport is over-crowded. Some significant improvements are needed, and more trains, trams, and buses are the only possible way of coping with the number of people working in the city. Also there’s the issue of suburbs that lack any public transport, I wouldn’t want to live near one of those areas when petrol hits $8/L (as the CSIRO predicts for 2018).

Michael Tiemann writes about Microsoft’s latest patent attack against Linux [3]. He doesn’t pull any punches which is a very noteworthy thing. It’s pretty rare to see someone in a senior position in a company blog in a way that makes any significant comment about another company.

Dan Ariely gave an interesting talk about “Our Buggy Moral Code” [4]. One of the points was that people who declare themselves to be atheists are less likely to cheat when asked to swear on a bible first, another was that if someone who is identified as a member of the same group cheats then others will follow, but if an outsider cheats then they won’t. It seems that if you want to minimise cheating then you want to have only outsiders be seen to do it, and you want everyone to swear to follow some sort of moral code.

Flame has written a good rant titled “Anarchy is Dead” about the lack of popular outrage against the Australian government’s censorship plans [5].

Rolling Stone magazine has a good article about the US banking crisis [6]. A moderate amount of bad language, but no more than is deserved.

Amazing video of rounding up sheep that are fitted with LEDs at night [7].

Here’s an interesting TED talk by Saul Griffith about using kites to generate electricity [8]. Unfortunately he didn’t give much engineering information, it was more of an “executive summary” of what he has done. He claims that if a wartime level of effort was put in place then wind could supply all the electricity needs of the US within 10 years.

Adam Savage (of Mythbusters fame) gave a talk for TED about his obsession with the Dodo [9]. One thing that surprised me is how his manner in that talk differed from his appearance in Mythbusters. It seems that most of his crazy antics in Mythbusters are an act to entertain the audience. The information about the dodo was really interesting too. He then went on to talk about his recreation of the Maltese Falcon. His work can serve as inspiration for other geeks who want to try sculpting.

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