The Null Device


Brand USA has a hell of an image problem, it seems; it's not just al-Qaeda who hate what America stands for these days. Now American tourists in Europe and other places are finding themselves the targets of abuse over their government's unilateralist policies and thirst for war and/or their compatriots' penchant for oversized cars. The abuse ranges from people spitting at them and calling their names to being interrogated by taxi drivers about "America's megalomania". Something else to thank the President for.

But one incident really stung. "Man, it was bad," says the Rat Pack-y star of Swingers. "These girls saw us and were kind of flirting, and they kept asking us if we were American. Finally we said, 'Yes,' and they just took off. "One girl turns and says, 'We were hoping you were Canadian.' Canadian? Since when was it cooler to be Canadian?"

(Mind you, it could be argued that that is a small price to pay for your nation being feared and respected across the world; at least until China takes over as the dominant superpower, and follows in America's unilateralist footsteps. If you want a good future for your kids, make sure they can speak Mandarin.)

Meanwhile, Americans abroad are advised to blend in, avoiding fast-food restaurants, clothing bearing the US flag or sports team logos and discussion of politics. To which one might add learning to say "I'm Canadian" in many different languages. (via Reenhead)

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US man buys "Give Peace A Chance" T-shirt, wears it in the same mall, and is arrested for trespassing for refusing to take it off; if convicted, he could face a year in prison. Um, what is this "liberty" thing we're meant to be fighting for again? (via bOING bOING)

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The Archos Jukebox Recorder arrived today. My first impressions are pretty good. It's reasonably small (larger than an iPod, but smaller than the cassette Walkman from my childhood), a bit better-looking than in the photos (they replaced the light blue with a tasteful charcoal grey), and feels fairly solid (the case seems to be made out of a light alloy of some sort). It came with a USB cable (A-A male-male, for some odd reason), a carrying pouch (which doesn't look quite as flash as the unit), a pair of cheap-looking headphones (which don't sound too bad, actually), a power adaptor (despite the fact that there's no Australian distributor, the unit shipped all the way from France packaged with an Australian power adaptor), and the obligatory headphone-plug-to-2-RCA-plugs cable.

Plugged into a computer, it looks like a USB Mass Storage device (as expected); in particular, like a hard disk containing one VFAT partition. It came with about 4 MP3s preloaded onto it, including the Thievery Corporation remix of GusGus's Polyesterday, as well as some naff country song, a generic electronic number and a track by a (presumably) French band which I've yet to listen to. (Aside to indie musicians: now there's an idea for a promotional technique...) With USB 1.1, it is rather on the slow side, but the device does USB 2.0 as well; time to get a USB 2.0 card, methinks.

Taking it for a spin, the sound quality (from 192kbps MP3s) is quite good, and the interface is quite usable too. (In case you're wondering, the first thing I played on it was Minimum Chips' Freckles EP.) I haven't tested the recording function yet. I've installed the Rockbox firmware on it, and it works quite nicely.

The only drawback I've noticed so far is that the manual seems a bit vague and short of information; for example, it doesn't tell you what the two LEDs mean, or indeed whether the S/PDIF socket is optical, coaxial or both (as it is on my old MiniDisc).

The unit ended up costing me some AUP650 in total, including shipping from France. (There was no import tarriff, as recording devices are tariff-free in Australia. If you decide to buy one and UPS tell you Customs want money for it, remind them that it's a recording device and they'll let it pass untrammelled.) That's almost 400 pesos less than an iPod costs here (and that's not counting the cost of a FireWire card one needs for talking to an iPod), and unlike the iPod, it does recording too. All in all, I'm quite pleased with it.

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From my SpamCop filter:

[5028] (You're someone's American Idol _Preview_ )

That's funny, because last time I checked, I wasn't American.

That's one of the annoying things about spam; other than assuming that you're a financially bankrupt sexually depraved narcissist, most of it assumes that you're (a) American, or (b) fluent in Spanish, Chinese or Korean. I suppose if someone's already a bottom-feeding scumbag, there's no point in them weeding out the obviously inappropriate addresses. After all, it's not like it's their own network bandwidth they're wasting. Hell, why not? Who says there isn't at least one gullible Sino-Argentino-American pornhound somewhere in the .aq domain?

Oh, and if you're the one who has been submitting my address to those "someone has a crush on you" websites, don't bother; I don't feed them. (Given that they're a scam for harvesting email addresses for spamming, for one.) (In fact, if you've developed a crush on someone just by reading their blog, I suggest that you see your mental health professional.)

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A few years ago, Australia's conservative government gave the local censorship board sweeping authority to take down offensive web sites. Surprisingly, this has not impaired the availability of hardcore pornography. So they're looking at changing the law. And if you thought that means getting rid of the whole white elephant, you'd be wrong. Hard-line neo-conservative PM John Howard and "World's Greatest Luddite" Senator Alston are looking at a number of options, including a Singaporean/Saudi-style national filter and mandatory porn filters on all Internet connections at the ISP level (except for those who have signed a "pervert register" to get to download porn; though you may have trouble getting a job requiring "moral integrity" if your name is on the register). Labor has made noises about not supporting such legislation, though, so it may well get blocked in the Senate.

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Via Richard, arguably one of the less unpleasant things to be named "George" these days: the second MP3 player/USB flash disk in this review; 128Mb of storage, 10 hours of battery life, voice recording (to WAV files), and a doovy-looking LCD display, in a keyring-sized package, for AUP253, including postage. Very tempting, at first thought.

Though, when you think about it, 128Mb is rather inadequate for a MP3 player. That's 2 or 3 albums at most, depending on the bit rate and length. There's no way you could carry around the dozen or so desert island discs, and various other things you may wish to listen to, on one. So with such you could keep wiping and replacing its contents every day, deciding in advance what to listen to (and wearing out the Flash memory), or else make it into a dynamic "mix tape" of sorts; all of which involves a bit too much fussing and fiddling around. So, on second thoughts, I may give it a miss.