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Free iPhone 3GS upgrade to iPhone 4?

So Radioshack is offering $50 off the price of an iPhone 4 for the next several days. As far as I can tell, the difference between the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 3GS is not that great, so I've not really been that interested. But it got me thinking.

It turns out that there are many sites that supposedly give you cash for your old iPhone. Oddly, Radioshack is offering $125, and I see sites like and offering anything between $125 and as much as $315. How can that be? I am not sure.

As current AT&T contract lock in is over, so from my calculations: $300 for the phone, $50 discount from Radioshack is $250, so if I can get $250 for my old phone, it's a free upgrade. My remaining question is, who the heck is and can I trust them?

Photo sharing thoughts

I just returned from my mother's birthday party with about 300 photos - I would say 70% of them are no good, so I selected about 40 of the best ones and then had to decide how to share them with everyone who cared.

A little bit of research produced the following options which I am sharing with YOU to save you and me some time in the future.

Note that I am on a Mac and thus I use iPhoto to store the pictures, and have an Apple MobileMe account.

  • Option 1: Create a MobileMe Gallery directly from iPhoto and upload the pictures. This works well but the gallery has many clever features which may confuse some of the inexperienced computer users who want to see the pictures.

  • Option 2: Send to FaceBook directly from iPhoto. This also works well. Because most (but not all) of the people who would like to see the photos are my friends on Facebook they will immediately see the photos and I don't have to send them emails. Also there are many friends on facebook who I would normally not bother with an email announcement but who will appreciate seeing the photos. On the other hand, once the album 'scrolls' off their feed in facebook they will probably have a hard time finding it.

  • Option 3: I am experimenting with a very simple and free site called Yogile which offers a brain dead simple viewer experience. Drawback is that I cannot send the photos directly from iPhoto, but on the other hand it gives an easy URL which I can email to everyone who might be interested.

  • Option 4: I considered Flickr, which I love. But I often find that people who don't know it or are very inexperienced with computers oddly get quite confused because again it has many many features.

Any other that I should consider?

Wikileaks: Truth or Truthy or something entirely different?

David Weinberger has, as usual, an interesting take, and some interesting links relevant to our perception and the defense or offense of Wikileaks. From his post:

"I here just want to comment on a particular theory of truth that many are using to justify Wikileaks. This ideas says that “the truth” is a neutral and accurate depiction of how the world is. One is thus always justified in stating the truth.

That definition may be true, or it may be true as stipulated, but it’s not useful. In fact, it’s the opposite of useful because it misses truth’s value. Someone who babbles an endless series of true statements is insane. Kierkegaard talked about this as “objective madness.”

He imagines a patient walking home from a stay in an insane asylum trying to convince people he’s sane by repeating over and over something true: “The world is round. The world is round.” The same ex-patient would be just as insane if he varied his list of true things as he strolls down the street: “The world is round. Books have weight. Wheels roll. My toenails are growing.” (from Truth is Not Enough)

Bubble Bubble Sign Of Trouble

The thing about a bubble is that while people worry about it, no one is actually sure whether they are in one, and especially when it will be over. The other thing about bubbles is that they keep happening because they are the result of human nature (greed and self-deception):

"Less than a decade after the dot-com bust taught Wall Street and Silicon Valley investors that what goes up does not keep going up forever, a growing number of entrepreneurs and a few venture capitalists are beginning to wonder if investments in tech start-ups are headed toward another big bust."…

"The chief evidence, according to industry experts and analysts, is the way venture capitalists and established companies are clamoring to give money to young companies, including those with only a shred of an idea. They are piling into me-too start-ups that imitate popular Web companies that already received financing. Companies that involve social shopping, mobile photo sharing and new social networking are finding it easy to attract investors because no one wants to miss the next big thing." (from Sillicon Valey Shows Sign of a New Dot-Com frenzy)

Why we need new election technology

I work at the Open Source Digital Voting Foundation, where we are creating new, modern, open source, and publicly owned technology for operating all aspects of voting in the US.

By the way, do not assume this means 'internet voting' -- it does not. There is a lot of old technology use to run elections today, a lot of it developed and sold (expensive) by for profit companies. And there's a lot more to running an election than how a voter casts a vote. We aim to develop tools and technology that is made available for free to anyone who wants it.

It's important and exciting work. I came across this bit as a small reminder of why we need it:

"Once the polls close, each of the digital scanners used at the city’s polling sites spews out a supermarketlike receipt. Election workers cut the paper strips and sort them by election district, since a polling place may serve more than one district. They then use a calculator to tally the results for each candidate, and the count is transcribed by hand onto “return of canvass” forms. They are given to police officers at the polling places, who take them to local precinct houses, where the numbers are entered in a computer and transmitted to the board and to The Associated Press — which distributes them to other news organizations." (from Recount Finds 195,000 Voters Were Missed on Election Night)

Amazing Stuxnet story

With apologies for quoting a Foxnews story, and with thanks to Scott Adams for the link, here's a fascinating behind the scenes story of Stuxnet:

"The mission: Infiltrate the highly advanced, securely guarded enemy headquarters where scientists in the clutches of an evil master are secretly building a weapon that can destroy the world. Then render that weapon harmless and escape undetected." (from Mystery Surrounds Cyber Missile That Crippled Iran's Nuclear Weapons Ambitions)

and how well did it work?

"“We brought it into our lab to study it and even with precautions it spread everywhere at incredible speed,” Byres said." (from Mystery Surrounds Cyber Missile That Crippled Iran's Nuclear Weapons Ambitions)

Read the whole thing, it's fascinating! Mystery Surrounds Cyber Missile That Crippled Iran's Nuclear Weapons Ambitions

[GEEKY] Ruby 2.0 Refinements in Practice

I went to RubyConf and heard a detailed presentation on a new possible feature of possible Ruby 2.0 called 'Refinements'. I have to admit that I didn't fully grasp how the feature really would be used. Here's a nice and quite techical article about it: Ruby 2.0 Refinements in Practice from Katz Got Your Tongue?:

"The first thing you need to understand is that the purpose of refinements in Ruby 2.0 is to make monkey-patching safer. Specifically, the goal is to make it possible to extend core classes, but to limit the effect of those extensions to a particular area of code."

Facebook security

screen-shot-2010-11-23-at-84149-pmI was experimenting with a little known feature in Facebook, "Download Your Information" which will actually supposedly give you a copy of everything that is 'yours' on Facebook.

The definition of what is 'yours' is fairly tricky of course: is what you posted on someone else's wall 'yours' or 'theirs'? And so on.

But what interested me was how they made double and triple sure that in fact it was me who was downloading my information.

I had to supply my own password again: ok that makes sense.

But then for extra extra security I was shown a bunch of wall photos of people who are my 'friends' and asked to identify them from a multiple choice set of friends. This is harder than you think: not every friend is such a good friend. And not all the wall photos are recognizable. They might be childhood photos, or out of focus group shots at a party or whatever.

But really quite a smart way to make sure that the downloaded content does not fall into the wrong hands.

‘Like a Full-Body Massage’: Thinking About the TSA

Check out 'Like a Full-Body Massage': Thinking About the TSA(from James Fallows :: The Atlantic:

"3) The 'zero-risk' mentality vs 'acceptable' risk. Every society accepts some risks as part of its overall social contract. People die when they drive cars, they die when they drink, they die from crime, they die when planes go down, they die on bikes. The only way to eliminate the risk would be to eliminate the activities -- no driving, no drinking, no weapons of any kind, no planes or bikes. While risk/reward tradeoffs vary between, say, Sweden and China, no nation accepts the total social controls that would be necessary to eliminate risk altogether." (from:'Like a Full-Body Massage': Thinking About the TSA)

Yup. I wrote about this before. And I agree. At this point we've gone too far in (pretending to) make it impossible for a terrorist hit of some kind. We can't prevent it at 100% and the way we are going at it and the direction it's taking us is not acceptable. Unfortunately there's something about our political discourse that makes taking this position a hard one for an actual political 'leader' to espouse.