Lawrence Lessig Proposes "Innovation Environment Protection Agency"

Lawrence Lessig is the James Madison of our current day. He is our most astute systems thinker. When Lawrence Lessig explains that the FCC is doing more harm than good these days -- and that it needs to be replaced with a new agency -- he will soon have many heads nodding in agreement. In this Newsweek opinion piece Lessig explains in clear terms why we need an Innovation Enviroment Protection Agency (iEPA). He's not being cute in this nomenclature, either. Innovation thrives in some environments and suffocates in others. It's government job to make sure that innovation is thriving as much as possible.

Even ten years ago thoughtful people were beginning to say that the FCC should probably be abolished. The FCC came into existence to perform a function. It performed that function fairly well throughtout its lifespan. And now its lifespan has come to and end. We no longer need the FCC -- we need something different and better attuned to the realities of innovation and creativity in the digital age.

Although unelected, Lessig is one of our most thoughtful leaders. We would do well to heed his words.

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An Easy Way to Introduce Inkscape Drawing Program to Youth and Adults

Inkscape is a fun, free and very powerful vector drawing program that runs on all major computer platforms: Linux, Macintosh and Windows. This program can give you endless hours of enjoyment, even if you're not an artist. And if you develop mastery of using Inkscape, someone wants to pay you money to create graphics for them.

One of the best ways of introducing youth and adults to Inkscape is via the many excellent screencasts that show and explain how to use Inkscape. A very well made screencast about Inkscape was uploaded to YouTube yesterday. This screencast explains how to create stellations using Inkscape. Stellations are pretty polygons created from other polygons. Here is a Wikipedia article that shows some pretty 3D stellations.

One of the things I like about this screencast is the use of text, rather than spoken voice, to explain things. YouTube member TogrutaJedi reminds us that you don't always need to use your voice to explain things well. In fact, text-explained screenasting opens up the realm of screencasting to the thousands of people who who prefer not having their voice recorded.

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DigiYumi: Xbox Live Personal 'Security' Issues

There are many things to avoid when dealing with the Xbox 360 besides the looming threat of the red ring of death, and dealing with the sensitive build that scratches those 60 dollar games so easily. Consumers should be aware of the difficulty in canceling an Xbox Live Gold account. There Xbox Live offers a basic Silver that allows you to purchase games with Microsoft points, create a profile and gamertag and use Windows Live to talk to your friends. The 'real' Xbox Live account would be Gold which allows everything plus the ability to stream Netflix to your Xbox (with an active Netflix account of course), play against people online, be on the leader boards, find players ranked to your level of skill and more. New Silver accounts get a chance to test drive to a Gold account for a month. Simple to upgrade, much like the ease of adding Microsoft points to purchase games, themes and more from Xbox Live. However what they didn't make easy was the ability to cancel your Xbox Live account.

Privacy advocates be warned Microsoft's Xbox.com will not remove credit card information once it is entered into their website. People have have asked why they are unable to remove their own credit card information and they said that they simply don't do that. Much like refunds if you happen to say use your credit card to purchase a year subscription and then are automatically billed the next year. In order to cancel your account you must call 1-800-4MY-XBOX. After talking to a customer service representative on why they don't allow you to cancel your account online the standard 'security' was their prearranged answer. I questioned why it was so easy to add Microsoft's points and spend someone's money if they can get into your account but what was so harmful is someone might cancel your account? They send you an email when your account status changes. Chances are you would never miss a beat, and you wouldn't even need to reenter your credit card number! Security is such the top priority to Microsoft that if someone had access to your account they could easily answer every question that was asked by the Xbox Live support in order to verify your identity and cancel your account anyway. Including full name address gamertag and the last four digits of your credit card number.

The customer service representative often referred to the terms of service, and the fact that “Most companies don't allow you to cancel your account online.” I noted that the only other place I've ever ran into that required a phone call to cancel your subscription was Netzero. Which has recently been in a class action lawsuit for overcharging clients after they have canceled their accounts. Microsoft should consider future customer loyalty in the gaming system market and the sales of more then just Xbox Live. So you might get to charge a few people one more time then they intended, but the repercussions of losing a customer and trust are far more reaching. For anyone wishing to avoid the hassles of canceling, and having your credit card information engraved upon Microsoft's website you can always purchase an Xbox Live subscription card.

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Paul Simon's Heir - Dan Hardin - Revealed on YouTube

One of the best ways of identifying rising musical talent on YouTube is to locate people singing flawless cover songs of your favorite musical artist. I'm a huge fan of Paul Simon, so I recently searched YouTube for "Paul Simon cover" and discovered this flawless cover of Papa Hobo, one of Paul Simon's lesser known songs. Dan Hardin sure knows how to sing and play guitar. And I adore Papa Hobo. It's a complex song that packs so much musicality and meaning into two minutes.

Having enjoyed Dan Hardin's wonderful rendition of Papa Hobo, I was ready to dip my toes into Dan Hardin's original material. I wasn't prepared for what came next -- a song so much in the Paul Simon tradition, it both continues and expands the tradition. Some songs are hauntingly beautiful. Four Minute Waltz is such a song.

I watched it once. And then again. And then a third, fourth, fifth, sixth time.

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The Difference Between Vista, XP, Linux and Mac OS Explained

A middle school student I know asked me to explain the difference between Vista, XP, Linux and Mac OS. Here's the gist of our conversation:

Me: "You want to know the difference in real simple terms? Okay. Vista is bad gnews and GNU is good gnews. XP ain't such bad gnews, until you reach the blue screen of death, which ain't good gnews at all."

Middle schooler: "Okay, I think I understand. How about Mac OS?"

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New Haven Nonprofit Needs 150 Monitors

charity, recycling, giving
In this season of giving, one of the best ways to compound your giving is to assist organizations providing community support year round. One such organization is Concepts for Adaptive Learning, located in New Haven, Connecticut. The reasons why this organization deserves our support are chronicled in this Hartford Courant news article and in this New Haven Register news article.

Curtis Hill, executive director of Concepts for Adaptive Learning, made his need known on the Computer Refurbishers email list, run by Jim Lynch of CompuMentor. This email list brings together a large number of people doing computer refurbishing in their own town.

If you're not convinced that computer refurbishing is worthwhile, check out this video profile of Nonprofit Technology Resources, in Philadelphia, PA. Do you know what? Santa would be proud. Santa would be darn proud.

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