Thursday, August 19, 2010

Support for older Intel Graphics Chipsets in Lucid Lynx

For those having trouble getting Intel Brookdale G [82845G/GL] and similar chipsets to work on Ubuntu 10.04, I have good news. The Ubuntu Wiki has a page containing workarounds and fixes for the issue. My preferred choice right now is to install the backported Maverick kernel. This is also good news, because Ubuntu 10.10 should be expected to work on these machines without adjustment. Of course, if you just want the system to work with basic office-style functionality, VESA mode is a good alternative, but it will disable accelerated video.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tutorial on making colored maps

This Tutorial uses a Python script and free SVG maps to make maps based on csv data files! I know what I'm going to be doing tonight when I get off work!

How to make a US county thematic map using free tools []

Michael made his own version of the same map following the tutorial! Here it is:

Video, State of Free Software

Listen to this video of Eben Moglen's presentation on the State of Free Software.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Oregon's E-Cycle program flawed

We are required by law to print the following three lines on receipts for purchases of new computers or monitors, or to distribute one of several graphical alternatives:

Oregon E-Cycles: Free Recycling
for Computers, Monitors and TVs 1-888-5-ECYCLE

Unfortunately, the Oregon E-Cycles program is seriously flawed and could hurt the freedom of the economy and the freedom of choice of consumers. Don't get me wrong. I support and encourage recycling and care for the environment, but this law over-reaches its purpose. The e-cycle website states: "Only those brands listed as pending or compliant may be sold in or into Oregon. If a brand is not listed, it may not be sold. Sales restrictions apply to all types of sales including retail, catalog, phone and Internet sales."

The DEQ decides the fee that a particular manufacturer must pay to register. If they don't pay up, they aren't allowed to sell their product [legally] in Oregon. DEQ determines the fee based on statistical information which they acquire in order to determine the market share held by the brand in question. They start with national statistics and adjust it based on a limited amount of local statistics. The minimum fee right now is $40. If a brand has more than 0.01% market share based upon DEQ's manipulated statistics, the fee goes up to $200. For brands with more than 1%, the fee is $15,000, which is the amount they are apparently collecting from prominent national manufacturers such as Dell and HP-Compaq.

Imagine if every state implemented an identical program. Dell would have to pay three quarters of a million dollars every year just to be an authorized manufacturer, and that money does not go towards recycling. The manufacturers pay for the recycling fees themselves. A little shop that assembles generic computers would have to pay a combined $2000 to all fifty states, which might be more than they make in computer sales during the year, especially if new computer sales is not their main line of business.

This is, of course, a bad scenario. It is unlikely that all fifty states would demand payment from a vendor. The states would have to become aware of that brand being imported into their state before they would likely make such a demand, and even so, is it enforceable if another state demands that you pay them a fee just because someone carried your product across state lines?

Also, what's to say that a particular state can't raise the rates or file you in a higher market-share tier in order to pressure you out of the business. If I was a vendor in another state, and Oregon DEQ contacted me, I would be tempted to simply disable shipping to Oregon on my website, and place a warning label on my packaging saying that the product may not be imported into Oregon by the original owner--that's right! Used and refurbished equipment is exempt from the program.

Here's the bad part of the law: Oregon is shooting itself in the foot because it is trying to force manufacturers around the world to comply with its fees, which could reduce the choice that customers living in Oregon have on what they may purchase. Someone will have to set up a company just across the border that will purchase a new computer for you from a non-compliant manufacturer, then resell it to you as used equipment.

Frankly, I shouldn't have to pay fees to any other states, and other companies shouldn't have to pay fees to my state. No taxation without representation! If the states want to have purchasers pay fees because they purchased a computer or monitor, then the state should include this on the tax forms for their own residents.

Now, from the retailer point of view. Other than my purchasing options being limited by a list of brands put out by DEQ, which is quite disturbing, I also notice that I had the choice of using the three lines shown above on my receipts, or including one of the other printed materials of which there is a wide variety. The problem? All the materials are in color, and the section on logos specifically says that if you need alternate format logos including B&W that you must contact DEQ manually to request it. Why would a recycle program require me to print in color? They must want me to recycle my cyan and yellow toner cartridges on my laser printer more often. Well, I opted for the three lines instead to conserve toner, and to avoid showing the logo of this program which I detest.

Think about how much time and money is wasted handling all the extra paperwork, calculating annual market share reports, and certifying manufacturers. This process needs to stop.

If you too find this law to be over-reaching and limiting of your freedom, or believe that it does not serve the interests of recycling or caring for the environment, please contact your state senators and let them know that the flaws of this program need to be exposed so that action may begin to correct it and implement proper recycling legislation in its place.