Critical Section


Tuesday,  09/02/03  10:59 PM

Have you had your fill of stories about the horrors of North Korea?  Or are you, like me, drawn to this incredible train wreck of incompetent governing?  Koreans are among the most intelligent and productive people on earth (average IQ 105), and South Korea is a triumph of capitalism (per capita GNP $9,700).  But as this Q&A with Philip Gourevitch illustrates, North Korea is a disaster.  And a dangerous one...

Sometimes you read things that have lots of facts, or contain a lot of great analysis, and you feel informed by them.  Other times you read things which just make you think.  In the latter category I came across a wonderful article by Katherine Boo in the print version of the New Yorker called The Marriage Cure.  Fortunately for you, I found the same article, sans pictures, on the website of the New American Foundation.  This article chronicles two poor black women in Oklahoma City, where a new project is attempting to teach women how to get and stay married.  The theory is that singleness, and especially single parentness, is a root case of poverty, rather than a consequence.  Really fascinating and thought provoking, I encourage everyone to read it.

VentureStar RLVSpace Review: Is there a business case for RLVs (reusable launch vehicles)?  it all comes down to cost.  Making a launch vehicle which can be recovered and reused is much more expensive, do you get the cost back over time?  The space shuttle is a clear counter-example, and every other attempt to build RLVs has failed.  However, the new model of suborbital RLVs might work, wherein the launch vehicle has two parts, a reusable "airplane" which gets you to the upper atmosphere, and then a non-reusable "rocket" which goes the rest of the way into orbit.  Many of the competitors for the X-prize are using this architecture, including Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne.

The NYTimes has a nice survey of string theory.  I'm not a physicist, but I don't think they're on the right track.  This is just too complicated to be a "theory of everything".  It is kind of like the way physicists used a complicated system of epicycles to explain planetary motion, before Kepler's ellipses.  In the end, W=UH, and string theory is too U.

(click for larger view)
Snapstream screen shot

PVRBlog reviews Snapstream, software which turns your PC into a Tivo-like PVR.  It sounds like this software really works, but I wonder if this category of product will ever replace stand-alone PVRs.  Entertainment on the PC always suffers from the "locality" problem; PCs are in the wrong place in the house for sitting and watching.  I suppose you could stream the video from your PC to your TV over a wireless network.

Sony has introduced a 500GB PVR in Japan.  [ via Gizmodo, and translated via Babelfish ]  Now that's what I'm talking about.  I'd still like an integrated DVD burner for permanent archive.  Actually I think what I'd really like is automated archiving to DVD.  500GB is actually overkill for anyone's current "working set" of recorded video.

And to go with your 500GB PVR, you'll need an Automatic Sports Video Analyzer, software which automatically fast-forwards through the boring parts of a game.  You know, the huddle in football, the interval between pitches in baseball, the long intervals between goals in soccer...  This is going to be big, wait and see.

See, PVRs are just kind of taking over.  In ten years we'll have fond reminiscence of VHS the way we currently remember 8-track tapes.  (You do remember 8-tracks, don't you? :)

Gateway 46-inch plasma TVOh, and to view your PVRed video, you'll need a large plasma TV, right?  Gateway now has a 46-inch model for $3,800.  That's still too small and too expensive, but we're getting there...  (In the user comments on CNet, someone wrote, "The viewing could be better in dark areas and for regular broadcasts, but what can I expect for $3,799?"  Ha ha ha.)

Wrapping up today's home entertainment news, About.com has a nice roundup of ten DVD recorders.  My only quibble is that they lay too much stress on recording format flexibility.  As I noted in my Sharp DVD recorder review, all DVD recorders are compatible with each other and with ordinary DVD players, as long as you write "vanilla" DVDs.

BW article: Music Pirates, You're Sunk.  "The recording industry's new onslaught against individual file traders won't win it any friends, but it sure seems to be working."  After reading the article I disagree with the "it sure seems to be working".  There is no evidence that consumers are buying more CDs in stores as a result of this action.  So unless "working" is defined as "consumers disliking the RIAA", it is definitely not working...

Apropos, The Register quotes Forrester: CDs and DVDs are doomed.  "Forrester reckons that a third of all music sales will be made by downloads in the next five years.  It also predicts that almost 15 per cent of films will be viewed by 'on-demand' services such as cable TV rather than by DVD or video by 2005."

Rageboy: The difference between Decoration and Art.  Rageboy is always worth reading - he writes at night when he should be sleeping, and it shows :) - but I pretty much disagree with the point.  I actually would rather visit the Louvre than a monster truck rally.

seamless videowall beforeseamless videowall afterA company called Seamless Display has developed technology for seamlessly combining multiple displays in video walls.  Cool!

Doh!  Man steals GPS tracking device.  Now that's stupid.

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