Greetings to all you nice folk.
I have moved my blog to Wordpress.com because I want to have the option of engaging with my readers and Tumblr doesn’t offer a commenting feature.
Many of you know that Google has been developing an operating system for computers, Chrome OS. They have partnered with a few manufacturers to bring that OS to some very nice hardware, namely the Chromebooks from Samsung.
The $250 laptop is 11.6 inches and 2.4 pounds. The thing starts up in 10 seconds and resumes from sleep in the time it takes you to lift the display. The hardware is pretty good (I’d love a version with more than 2GB of ram). The software, the OS, is different and probably the future for most computer users. Google is way ahead of the curve on this one.
Chrome OS is a different type of operating system. Instead of creating a new framework that developers can create applications for, Google has used their browser as the core function of their OS. This means your primary use-case on this computer is browsing the web. Don’t expect to install Photoshop.
To be fair, Google added file organization and a music player but that’s about it. The method they offer to add more functionality is through their Chrome Web Store. This store is a place to find games, productivity apps and everything in between. This framework already exists and has a rich ecosystem of apps and developers (compared to an ecosystem for a new OS framework).
My wife and I are in the market for a new laptop and I really like the idea of Chrome OS (I really like the price of Chromebook). As a test-case, over the next few months I will attempt to move as much of my ‘home’ computing software to the internet with the Chrome Web Store as a resource for doing so.
One piece of software that my wife uses, almost daily, is photo software. A quick search on the Google Web Store revealed a nice web app called Pixlr. This software is amazing (for living on the web-only). I will encourage my wife to use this app moving forward. One feature I like better on Pixlr than our current software is the ability to read and save photos to and from various web services. I can open and save photos from/to Picasa, Flickr, Facebook, a proprietary Pixlr library and of course directly from/to my computer. One feature that is particularly important when thinking about switching to Chrome OS is the ability to have all my photos in the cloud. Opening and saving to Picasa is fantastic (I should mention that I currently save all my photos into a Pictures folder that is mapped to my Google Drive storage…my files live in the cloud).
Speaking of Google Drive storage, with each Chromebook purchase Google will give you 100GB of free online storage for 2 years. That’s enough space to move all of my files to the cloud (except for some video/movie files which I store on a local hard drive that’s connected to my WD TV Live set-top box for viewing on my TV). I already pay for 25GB of extra storage, on top of the 5GB they give you, which I use for pictures, documents, and many other types of files (I’m at 18.2GB usage). In fact, the only files I don’t store in Google Drive are music files. But Google has provided a solution for that too.
I currently use iTunes on my laptop but I will be switching to Google Play Music during this test period. I already have all my music stored in Google Play Music (for free). Basically, I just need to refresh my content and stop using iTunes (I use Pandora 75% of the time anyway).
Assuming Chrome OS will play various video file formats (I currently use VLC media player but usually just watch videos, Netflix or Hulu on my WD TV Live) the only software I don’t see a solution for is Torrents. Update: after some research, BitTorrent has offered an in-browser solution for downloading via Torrent files (it’s not quite finished but it’s in active development).
There you go. All of my ‘home’ usage is already or will be easy to switch to the browser/internet. I say ‘home’ usage because I’m a web developer and the online-only solutions for my industry haven’t been made usable yet (Koding is trying).
I can’t say this is a totally courageous move because I’m in the process of building a home, desktop, computer that will be quite powerful and very able to run all the desktop applications I currently enjoy. However, as a second primary, home computer Chromebook will be an excellent, inexpensive, solution.
Thoughts? Connect on Twitter @KeithMon
Google Now is software that predicts when and how to connect you with information that is relevant to your situation. It currently exists on Chromebook and in their smartphone OS Android version 4, Ice Cream Sandwich. To build this software gradually they have started with 10 “cards” which are basically predictive functions. A card is a collection of logical tasks that use your data and data around you to perform relevant notifications.
For example, it uses your calendar data and tells you when you have an appointment. Let’s be clear, most calendar software has the ability to set reminders. What’s happening here is that Google is making assumptions about your appointment: you want to be reminded 45 minutes before a lunch meeting. Google made a guess that for most people, 45 minutes was the right amount of time to let you know before a lunch meeting.
I’m sure everything can be customized to your liking but the power of those assumptions is easy to overlook. Google Now launched with 10 cards that do these predictions for various categories and you can bet they are working hard to expand. I expect they will eventually open up development for others to create cards or to integrate those features into their app development process.
This type of software is the future. Up until now, we have been telling computers what to do: input/output. We tell it to do so something and it does. Google is building numerous assumptions into the software so that it can “make decisions” without your input. Not even Apple’s Siri does this. Siri is just a interface that uses your voice instead of physical input. People have talked about how Siri could be the start of artificial intelligence but it doesn’t even come close. To be clear I think Siri does make some broad assumptions but they seem to be generalized, not specific to you (they don’t use your data). I think the most important part of AI is making assumptions. At it’s core, this is what IBM’s Watson computer does (you may recall Watson won at Jeopardy against the two all-time best, human, contestants).
As Google adds more assumptions to their software it will become increasingly more useful. These are features that you want, you just don’t know it yet. It will never be true AI but it will emulate it and make people much more dependent on the technology. However, it will add lots of value to the lives of the people using it.
I should mention that I have never used Siri or Google Now. I’m speaking from what I’ve read about both services. If you understand these systems and have some input please let me know!
Connect with me on Twitter @KeithMon
I’ve been looking into our political system because I think it’s partially broken. I didn’t think I would get so involved but I’ve just expounded on a solution for fixing the partisan stagnation that we experience because of the two-party system that we have in the US (I’m jumping off from ideas that my friend, Thomas Pudewell, first proposed to me during a conversation).
The two-party political system is flawed and misrepresents a large portion of the population. The parties have become more extreme in their views so they can be seen as holding to the values of their party. Many people are extreme liberals or extreme conservatives who find representation in the Democratic or Republican parties. That’s great but what about the people who fall somewhere in the middle? A democracy is about letting the people make decisions. If a large portion of the population isn’t being represented than something is broken. The following is my proposal for starting the change toward a more fair system.
Let’s create a federal law that expressly regulates the primary election process to create open primaries and allow every candidate with at least 25% of the popular vote to proceed to the general election. Each party would be allowed two, three or maybe four candidates whom they could submit into the primary election (we can decide how many candidates each party can send at a later time). This of itself will not fix the problem because the issue is the massive size of the Democratic and Republican political media machines and their current momentum. Though, this law would be a start.
The writers of the constitution deliberately avoided regulating political parties (in hopes they would not form). The parties today exist as a special type of organization and are run internally by their own management structure. I could make a proposal for regulation that would make demands on parties to structure themselves a specific way. Or you could make an argument for changing the underlying foundation of the legal organizational structure but that change would never happen and it would be unnecessary.
As mentioned, the real issue is the two media machines. We could write the law allowing all candidates with 25% or more popular support to proceed to the general election but that assumes two things. First, another one or more parties will surface or be created that have a government operation paradigm that resonates with at least a quarter of the population (my initial argument is that there is space for a third party because so many people aren’t being represented). Two, that the parties would still perform some type of internal vetting. If the primary election process was regulated by law than the parties would use caucuses or other means to internally find and vet their candidates before sending them to the primaries. This would keep the basic structure of the parties intact without changing so much as to make the law unpassable. Yes, many parties in specific states don’t use the caucus method and instead rely solely on the primaries to choose their top person. Those states without caucuses would have to develop them but it’s a much easier transition than many other options to regulate the presidential election process (I’m, truly, all ears if you have another recommendation).
The first assumption is the more interesting of the two because the parties would quickly find a type of solution for picking candidates to send to the primaries. However, a third party of that size (at least 25%) would have to fall between Democrats and Republicans on the generalized scale of liberal to conservative. The real question is what would it take to build that party and would the law mentioned above even be necessary if such a ‘moderate’ party existed?
I think such a party could, with brute-force, grass-roots action, get a candidate to the primary. However, there is an underlying disunity about how each state presents the votes for their candidate; whether through an open or closed primary voting process or through an unregulated caucus. I would like to see this law pass because it would standardize the methods through which we choose our general election candidates for President of the United States instead of leaving it up to large partisan organizations (the Democratic and Republican parties).
The party system is definitely flawed. Though, I think they have merit for existing. It would be nice if they existed for two basic reasons only. To hold different viewpoints on how to operate the government and to better vet and narrow the field of candidates who also hold the same viewpoints. They should be frameworks to help us identify with like-minded people instead of media and propaganda machines. I hope a law such as this would influence the parties through organic means to adjust their methods without resorting to over-regulation.
The realities of such a law being ratified are very slim. For such a law to pass we would either have to convince the two existing parties to create a framework by which they would loose power or build a third party from the ground up and once it had rested more equal power from the other two parties propose these changes after the fact. Either way, it’s a complicated and formidable task.
What would it take to build a third party? That’s the fun question because it has less to do with hitting the streets and knocking on doors and more about ‘inception’. We would take our ideas and ideals that embody a moderate party and circulate them to intellectuals through forums and letters to elected officials and through other means. We wouldn’t try to build a party, rather we would build a framework for our ideals and let the party be created organically as the ideas reach critical mass with more people who have become disenfranchised by the extremes of the existing parties.
A person shouldn’t be expected to have a solution for every potential foreign issue. However, you can have a framework through which you observe and make decisions.
The foreign policy should be a reflection of the country’s value system. We hold that all people were created equal with certain inalienable rights. Those rights guide our decision at home and abroad. As a country we extend those rights to all our citizens no matter where in the world they might be. That means we will not tolerate other people harming our citizens.
To protect these values we erect layers of protection, through various means, as a defense against those wishing to do us harm at home.
We plant consulates in all foreign countries that are friendly for two reasons. One, to keep open pathways of communication between us and the foreign government and two, to keep tabs on our people wherever they might be.
We maintain a policy of speaking softly and carrying the biggest stick. Not so that we may invade countries to conquer them but to deter and stop terrorist from attacking our home and to provide aide to countries in need who call upon us to extend our values outward for the betterment of people who are suffering (not governments).
What other considerations affect a foreign policy at this macro level?
What would a micro level view of foreign policy look like?
This post is about what role I believe a federal government should play in our lives.
1. Small government not for the sake of having smaller government but for the very specific reasons I list below:
2. Regulation is important but too much regulation makes it difficult for businesses to launch, change direction and expand. There is a middle ground somewhere and it takes forethought and careful consideration to be there. I offer two areas that need regulation to differing degrees. There are probably other areas that I haven’t considered yet but these two seem to be of the biggest concern.
3. Military superiority and advancement are key to protecting the United States. Let me start off by saying that Bill Clinton did a great thing by balancing the budget while he was in office. We had good times, domestically, under his leadership (in general). However, he balanced the budget at the cost of our military. He gutted military spending in order to take care of domestic concerns. Don’t get me wrong, I think we should take care of domestic concerns like jobs creation before giving money or aide to other countries, too. But look what happened. Clinton spent eight years dismantling our military and shortly after he left office Al-Qaida attacked America in the deadliest terrorist attack we have ever seen. Where was America, internationally, when Osama was gathering his forces? If America had overtly displayed its military dominance during that time perhaps such an attack would never have taken place. Bush inherited a broken military. Its no wonder there was miscommunication and lack of cohesion in the military, and other security agencies, that lead to some bad military decision by President Bush. A strong American military is the first defense, as a deterrent, against evil in the world that seeks to tear down the freedom-rich country that we have created. We don’t need to spend half our budget on military spending but we do need to allocate a reasonable amount of resources so we maintain our dominance (for protection of our citizens).
These ideals are what I see as the role of the federal government. I’m not saying these are the only principles we should live by because every society needs to have laws that govern it’s citizens domestically. However, my ideal rejects civil law at the federal level in favor of state-run legal systems. Laws that control the actions of citizens should be as local as is reasonably possible. In that way the people who are affected have the most say in what those laws are. There are some situations where it is important for the federal government to step in and solve issues that aren’t specific to one state. That’s good and important but as an exception not the rule. There are other federal government responsibilities I have not mentioned because I haven’t studied them closely. One such responsibility is maintaining currency. Currency should be regulated by the federal government so that citizens are free to “trade” between states easily. For any areas currently controlled by the federal government, that I have not mentioned, I welcome a civilized debate about whether they should be under federal or state control (or exist at all).
The culture of politicians in America is sick. It is unhealthy for citizens to volunteer for service in the government and then decide to stay in power for as long as they can (or be allowed to do so). The current political landscape is ripe with examples of politicians who get into positions of power and are then swayed by outside lobbyists to tailor a specific law in favor of that group. This creates a situation where politicians are made to choose between serving the people and considering what’s good for a specific business or organization. The way I see it we are setting up our people to fail and to make compromises that are unhealthy for our legal system. Let’s do it differently, I have two proposals to change things.
In these two ways we can begin to change the culture in Washington back to one of patriotism and service to our country.
If you took the time to read this lengthy post, thank you, I will value any feedback you provide. I’m especially interested to discover a similar discussion about your ideal government.
UPDATE: I updated this post and title from “My Republican Ideal” to “My Political Ideal” because a friend pointed out that each individual has their own ideas for government and the best we can do is connect with a party that more closely matches our ideals than another party. I also removed a comment that was inflammatory because that’s not what I intended with this post.