Thoughts on the Kony Video

If you are on facebook you have probably encountered the following video about a man named Joseph Kony:

There has been plenty of criticism of the video to go around. Some of the points are legitimate such as where the money the organization makes from contributions is going. Other people criticize the sharing of the video as slacktivism, a derogatory term coined to describe attempts to make a difference without doing much actual work. While I understand these concerns I do not agree with them. Our history has shown that powerful opinion that is widely circulated has the power to make a difference. Whether it is a video on YouTube found on social media or an opinion piece printed in a newspaper these arguments cause people to think and spur them to action.

The fact that the criticisms of the video have been circulating almost as widely as the video itself is a sign of an engaged citizenship that is thinking critically. People are aware that they are hearing only one side of the story in the video and want to learn more. Mainstream outlets like NPR and New York Times have posted analysis of the video. Many of my friends have posted critical links on facebook and some have even gone as far as asking others to consider the implications of engaging in an intervention. It is important to ask if we have the resources to dispense justice everywhere. Why should we go after Joseph Kony and not try to liberate North Korea? These are hard and complicated questions with multiple dimensions and viewpoints.

Fortunately it seems that this is a problem on the cusp of solution. The NPR piece suggests that the state department has been tackling the issue for two decades and they are on the verge of resolving the problems in Uganda. The Invisible Children organization has been using money to build communication infrastructure in the country. With little effort it sounds as if the capstone to this story will be a successful ending. It is important that we remember that it is not just Invisible Children that should get the credit, but the many others that have been involved over the past decades.

Mastered for iTunes

If you have an iPod, iPad, or iPhone you probably use iTunes. Recently Apple started releasing albums like Coldplay’s Mylo Xyloto as mastered for iTunes. This article from Ars Technica does a great job of explaining the process in depth. However if you want the quick explanation it is this: when you buy a song from iTunes you don’t get the full song. Parts of the song are chopped off to reduce the size of the file so it will download faster and fit on your iDevice. Originally Apple sold songs in what was termed 128kbps AAC. These songs were higher quality than most of the MP3s people were downloading from Napster but nowhere near as good as the actual CDs. Then they upped the ante with iTunes Plus allowing songs to be downloaded in 256kbps AAC. You get larger files but more song. The mastered for iTunes program takes it a step farther by allowing the audio technician to tweak how the songs are chopped so they sound truer to the original.

Does any of this make a difference? To the casual listener maybe not. Even the lower quality 128kbps AAC files sound better than what you get from the radio. The basic speakers and earbuds that most people use are not of a high enough quality for there to be a significant difference anyways. If you are using an FM transmitter with your iPod then you also are unlikely to be able to tell the difference in your car. However if you want to treat yourself, buy some high quality speakers or headphones and listen to the music in those. You might be surprised at what you have been missing.

3-4 Sunday Must Reads (+ watch & listen)

First here is an article about IBM’s mission control system in Rio De Janero. City geeks will appreciate the glimpse into the future and data geeks will love how they are leveraging all the different sources of information in real time. Government often seems to be slow to adopt technology but once a brave soul is able to demonstrate the value of something it is easier for the rest to follow. That is why I was excited to read that my town council is adopting iPads. Now if only they could do the same for the packets I get as a member of the Inland Wetlands Commission.

The topic of Rush Limbaugh and contraception has been beaten to death in the political press. If you want a good opinion piece on it you should read the one by Nick Kristof. He explains how the right to choose is under assault by the right. A few months ago my Constitutional Law professor gave a talk at the school where he expressed the sentiment that Roe might soon be dead. The right has been hacking away at it slowly and unless the left takes action it will once again disappear.

Finally school reform continues to be a topic of discussion as the state considers whether to implement changes. We are not the only state having this discussion so the New York Times published this fantastic op-ed piece by a special education teacher. From the piece I gleam that while teachers and tenure are the focus of reform we need to look at much more than that. The administration plays an important part in how a school is run and they too should bear some responsibility. To be frank, I do not see education as a policy problem. Only so much can be done at the top because the problems differ from place to place. Even within a place the problems are different for each student. I think the absolute worst thing about the current debate is the vitriol between those supporting and opposing reform; we would get a better result if everyone worked together.

I also wanted to share this video about how videos go viral:

Old Gems from the Hartford Courant

After mentioning that I had difficulty sharing a good twitter conversation earlier I discovered a tool called Storify. I figured I’d try it out for this post because I asked a reporter from the Hartford Courant for suggestions on some hidden gems and got some good links. Much thanks to Daniela Altimari and Mara Lee at the Hartford Courant for their suggestions!

Improving Performance on Mac OS X with CCleaner and TRIM

Today as I was perusing the Mac App Store I noticed that CCleaner, one of my favorite windows utilities, was the top free download. Since it worked so well in Windows I figured the Mac version would be worth a shot and I was not disappointed. It cleared about 10GB of cache files. I noticed an immediate performance boost on my system. However this may be because I use an SSD and as you have less space the performance tends to drop-off.

In OS X 10.6.8 Apple added in support for something called TRIM. Basically it’s a method for the computer to maintain the performance of your SSD. However they only enabled it for their hard drives. Yet the geeks among us know that third-party SSDs support TRIM as well. This blog post explains how to enable it after updating to the latest version.

If you do not have an SSD you are missing out! They come in various shapes and sizes but the vendor I hear recommended most is OWC. I personally use a 128GB model made by Kingston and it’s worked fine. A 128GB drive can be had for under $200. Above that the prices get a little more expensive. The downside of the SSD is that space is a bit limited compared to the 500GB and 1TB drives that standard laptops use. I use iCloud and an external 1TB drive to mitigate this issue.

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