Tag Archives: Politics

The Gigabyte Tax

Image Courtesy of XKCD

Hard drive and flash drive manufacturers are taxing your devices. It’s insidious and I think the public has a right to know the two ways your drive is being taxed!

Ever notice that the size of a folder is sometimes smaller than the size it takes up on the disk? You can see the truth in this by looking at the properties of any file or folder. The reason is the size of your file chunks. See, a file is not stored right next to another file or even all the pieces of itself. It’s broken up into buckets of the same size. For big files the empty space in these buckets is small but for small files it can add up quick.

These chunks can’t have pieces of two different files inside them, and the chunks must all be the same size. NTFS, the standard file system on Windows hard drives, has chunks of 4 kilobytes. Many programs have thousands of tiny files, storing settings and other data. Let’s say we have 1024 one kilobyte files, or one megabyte. Since each file needs its own bucket, and the buckets are 4 kilobytes in size, our 1 megabyte of files takes up 4 times as much space. On flash drives there is even more wasteful storage spending, with chunk sizes of 16 or 32 kilobytes. Our 1 meg in files can take up as much as 32! (For CDs and DVDs this is not true since they use a file system that uses every bit of space).

But that’s only one tax you have to pay. When you buy an 8 gigabyte flash drive what you get is only about 7.47 gigabytes. That’s a more than 6% tax! It gets even worse at higher capacities. I bought one 64Gb drive that was 59.5Gb and the same brand a month or so later and only got 57.5! That’s a 33% tax increase in a month, raising my rates to more than 10%!

See drive makers aren’t using the engineering definition of a gigabyte. They’re selling you a GB not a Gb. A GB may be a 1000 megabytes instead of 1024, or even less. My own hard drive tax is 200Gb+. That’s 250 movies or 1000s of songs and pictures.

However you vote this November, make sure they are willing to sign a pledge to stem the tide of the gigabyte tax. It hurts small businesses and digital hoarders everywhere.

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We’re all in this together

I hate living in a battleground state.

There’s a lot of nonsense that’s being slung by both sides. Frankly my wife and I are using Netflix and some DVR fast-forwarding to avoid the worst of it. But there’s one bit of doggerel being flung around by a number of my conservative and Christian friends (and commercials in general) that needs to be addressed:

“You didn’t build that.”

America has a dual relationship with success. We are united as a society, but individual in our triumphs. Small business owners create jobs, and yet we blame the government for unemployment.

Why is it a hard concept to admit that while hard work and determination are always a factor in success; luck, timing and the efforts of others are just as important? Any company that ships things on trucks relies on the highway infrastructure. Any business that sells something on the internet relies on not only their own data-centers, but the data-centers, servers, switches and hubs of thousands of others. And any company that relies on electricity relies on the power grid.

It’s not practical for us to build everything by ourselves. Factories used to make their own electricity (or at least power machinery with water wheels). But it isn’t cost effective, especially in a competitive market, to build every part, supply every need in house. You need other people.

Let’s take a look at a very individualistic profession, authors. I think self-published writers may have one of the best cases for individualistic success. They write their own material, and they put it out into the marketplace. Except for that marketplace to exist someone had to create the internet, credit cards, and devices to read books. Any good author also has beta readers, editors, and for non-fiction the dozens of previous works done by the authors who came before them.

It’s arrogant to think that all it takes to succeed is your own desire, your own sweat, your time and your investment. It isn’t humble. It isn’t grateful. And frankly it isn’t very Christian.

“With God all things are possible” kind of implies we might need a little help. We’re called to live in community. We’re called to sacrifice our will for God’s will, and the Bible doesn’t seem to put a lot of stock in material wealth.

I’m not saying that building a business, whether it’s selling books, or selling widgets, isn’t something you shouldn’t be proud of. It’s true that business wouldn’t exist if you hadn’t put your mind to it. But that wasn’t the only factor. Your employees put in their time, their effort. Your customers support you not only with money but word of mouth and brand loyalty. And yes, you rely on a lot of things the government, other business, and the society as a whole have put in place for you to succeed.

The phrase should be: “You didn’t build that alone.”

I don’t think it’s wrong to want to keep some of the fruits of your labor. But I also feel that we owe a debt to those who helped us, both directly and indirectly. And as Christians we should know that in the end everything is God’s and that we are called to be stewards, not owners of wealth.

I’m pulling for ya, we’re all in this together.

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Squirrel Rant #1

Some days we just gotta blow off some steam.

– Why does Outlook assume I’m two days late for a meeting at the end of Friday? Did it ever occur to it that I closed Outlook before I went to the meeting, and haven’t had a chance to open it back up until Monday morning? Even if I was two days late, isn’t it a little too late to tell me? Why depress me with things I cannot change, and why assume that I haven’t done something just because I didn’t tell you? Outlook is like a girlfriend who has to know where you are every minute. We need to talk.

– If President Obama and candidate Romney are really worried about the economy, why not instead of airing attack ads, use that money to pay for more advertising to get me to buy products. Obama thinks you should go get a delicious Papa John’s pizza, better ingredients for a better candidate. Romney brand dog biscuits. You’ll like the way you look in Obama’s suits, I guarantee it. All their current ads are accomplishing is depressing or angering me, which I guess causes most people to eat, so maybe in their way they are helping the economy. Yes I want two pints of ice cream. It’s a harsh world out there!

– I’ll join the ranks of people complaining about the new Facebook e-mail, particularly my inability to delete or rename it. Even if I had to get stuck with a default name, couldn’t they have done bentrube3@facebook.com (my name and then a number in ascending order of when people with my name joined). I realize this would create johnsmith9567@facebook.com, but it’s still better than 92357929@facebook.com. “I am not a number, I am a free man!”

– My one major complaint with the power outage was the traffic signals, particularly those at big intersections like Henderson and Olentangy River Road. We’re already switching them to LED, which takes fairly small amounts of energy. Why couldn’t we set up some sort of solar powered battery backup system for at least major intersections? The technology is there, in the garden lights you can pick up at Menards for less than $20. These lights sit out in the sun all day, and can stay lit for up to 6 hours! Get a bigger battery, and a bigger collector, and those traffic lights would never have to go out. I know it might be a little expensive, but if I can light my house cheap with similar technology, couldn’t you at least figure it out for one of Columbus’ most dangerous intersections. (4-way stop doesn’t quite cut it with 12 directions).

– Why can’t my computer figure out that if I plug in my headphones I want it to turn the speakers off? For some reason my Win 7 machine is handling these as separate channels that don’t auto switch (no problem with this on my Win 7 machine at work). I’m half annoyed, and have pleased to have another problem to solve.

Ah, I feel better. So fresh and so clean.

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Focus!

So, ironically enough, I just got paid to give my political opinion.

Last Thursday I was invited to take part in a focus group on political and civic issues. We met on Monday night. Normally I don’t go in for this sort of thing. I don’t do surveys over the phone, and even less of the ones I get in my e-mail. I generally think that we poll too much as Americans, that we’re always asking for opinions before people have really had a chance to form them.

But $100 to sit in a room for two hours and talk, I’ll bite.

Aside from jokes my wife was making about the name “Harvest Research” and how she’d worry they’d taken my brain if I didn’t come home (a real nice joke to make to someone who’s been playing System Shock 2 for the last week), I was worried that I was going to be thrown in the midst of a fairly confrontational and controversial setting.

It’s one thing to be listen to extremist views of Facebook and the like, it’s quite another to be dragged into a conversation at work, or to choose to sit in a room with people who don’t agree with you.

I enjoyed it.

There were definitely a couple of early cringe moments, particularly when playing word association games with current and potential Presidents. There are a couple of the classic attacks of both sides that when I hear them causes me to have to use all my will power not to vent in frustration. However, the same could equally be said  of some of the things I say, and I was impressed at how civil and even convivial the conversation was.

We were a surprisingly diverse group, even with just eight people, all guys around my age. While we had been told to let every one talk and finish their sentences, there was no real disincentive preventing us from debating with one another, or even going on the offensive. We’d get paid either way. But we didn’t fight. Instead everyone displayed fairly sophisticated opinions and emotions regarding the election, the various political parties and the candidates. I felt comfortable sharing some of my own mixed views and disappointments, as well as my aspirations and hopes.

Additionally, we experienced a phenomena that I (perhaps this is biased) think is unique to men. Within less than two hours, a group of men who had little in common, and in fact openly disagreed with each other on important issues, were cracking jokes, both about ourselves, the situation, and our fellow focus group members. We took what I thought was going to be a kind of stressful situation, and made it fun.

It was the typical weird focus group experience. There were one way mirrors, and everything was being taped. But it was also a surprisingly vibrant and interesting discussion of the issues, without trying to make converts of the other people in the room. It was refreshing, at a time when I’ve been seeing a reacting to vitriol that is being spewed in so many other places on the web.

We need to do this more. Find people who disagree with us and invite them to dinner. Talk honestly about our feelings and our beliefs and really listen. Maybe it was the formalized setting. Maybe we felt we should behave because we were getting paid. But I actually think it was more than that. We can be better versions of ourselves if we just make a little effort.

And yes I still have my brain, though I think one of my kidneys is missing.

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Okay, enough with the crazy

I’m sure most of you don’t really care who I’m going to vote for in the 2012 election. I try to keep things around the blog from getting too political, in part because I think it detracts from the overall theme, and because I believe if I don’t have something to say on a subject, then I shouldn’t write about it.

Facebook on the other hand seems to bring out the crazy in everyone.

I have friends on both ends of the political spectrum, some who are moderates like myself who care about specific issues such as labor conditions or alternative energy, but most of the ones I see in my newsfeed are coming from the more extreme ends of the spectrum.

It was different when the internet was anonymous. People could spout off any opinion, take on any personality they wanted to online, and it wouldn’t be traced back to them. But now we really can’t lean on anonymity as our excuse for why we’ve gone off the deep end. It’s something else, a fracturing of society, an over simplification of viewpoint, I’m not sure what.

I’m a believer in the complex argument, in the discussion, in the long form communication. When I’m trying to wrestle with an idea I write about it essays, in short stories, even in novels. I try to listen to other people’s opinions and see where they are coming from and not assume they are the enemy.

We’re all in this together.

Regardless of who wins in November we will still be all in this together and sometimes it’s important to remember that when we say things that might lose our friends, or at least force them to stop following us in their newsfeed. 2012 won’t decide us, nor will 2016, or the next dozen elections. How we treat each other as people both online and off, will.

As a bit of sidebar, I think it is in extremely poor taste to joke about a heinous crime being the sign of a zombie apocalypse. If you actually think about what happened, it’s not something to joke about. I understand that zombies are kind of in again, that they have historically been used in all sorts of fiction to represent various fears, socialism, communism, etc. But biting a man’s face off while being high on drugs is not something to laugh about.

Think a little bit more about what you post, and what kind of person it’s making you.

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Filed under Faith + Life, Round-Ups