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Friday, March 27, 2009

How To: Improve Backwards Compatibility in Windows Vista and Windows 7

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Microsoft changed the indexing structure in Windows when they made Vista which causes some programs not to work in the new OS, however Vista and 7 have a hidden feature that allows old programs that ran on the old indexing system to work again. Strangely, Microsoft hasn’t enabled this by default but it is an easy “feature” to regain. (Windows 7 Beta 1 is depicted, however the same principals apply to Vista.)

1. Open the Control Panel and (in classic view) select “Programs and Features” from the menu.

2. In the left panel, select “Turn Windows features on or off.”

3. Wait for the list to populate and make sure that the “Indexing Service” feature is checked.

4. Select “Ok” and wait for the feature to be installed.

Windows 7 has a new feature to help enable compatibility mode for old programs; right click on an application and there is an entry “Troubleshoot compatibility.” Selecting this will open a wizard that asks a series of questions about what happens when you attempt to launch the program and Windows figures out which settings to apply to the program.

Essay: The 2008 Presidential election campaign and America’s democratic values.

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"The 2008 Presidential election campaign demonstrated America’s ability to balance key foreign and domestic issues with its democratic values." Discuss.

In the eight years prior to the 2008 US election, the Bush (Jr.) Administration introduced many new factors to the US political spectrum that would not have been anticipated prior to that Administration. The September 11 2001 suicide attacks which killed many people and destroyed buildings in central New York triggered George Bush of the Republican Party to begin the ‘war on terror,’ entering Iraq on the false pretence of it possessing ‘weapons of mass destruction.’ In the following years many US and international soldiers died in the war which also cost the country financially. The ‘sub prime mortgage crisis’ that took hold in 2008 further pressured the coffers of the US government. With Americans’ freedoms, standard of living and employment under threat from these new pressures, the voters became discontented with their leadership. American democracy upholds values that are supposed to allow the citizens true power in the ruling of their country, these include; sufficient representation of the people; a leader is elected based on a majority; the rights of minorities to vote for any culture, division or other minority; elections being held to make politicians and parties responsible for their actions; the ability of everyone to participate in ‘political life’; and the freedom and liberty of the American people being displayed in the political decisions of the government.

The 2008 Presidential elections saw a major division between the ideals and backgrounds of the Republican and Democratic candidates and their running mates. Barack Obama, an Afro-American who promised; strong emission reduction targets; withdrawal of US troops from Iraq; supports abortion and; supports a ‘path of legalization for illegal immigrants’ campaigned against war veteran John McCain who; has no target set for emission reduction but agrees that there is a problem; supports the Iraq war and wishes to see it through to its end; wishes to overturn Roe v. Wade and; supports a ‘path of legalization for illegal immigrants’. The values of the two candidates are not entirely dissimilar, however the different takes on major issues appeal to different groups of America. It could be argued that McCain, despite his will to separate himself from the history of his party, represented the Bush style of administration. Obama’s promise to take troops out or Iraq, juxtaposed with McCain’s plan which was identical to that of the previous administration, gave great appeal to Americans who were just beginning to realise the effects that the war had had on their country. The American people held the Republicans accountable for the messy war and gave McCain a hard start in the election campaign. This war also threatened to restrict the American people’s freedom and liberty and with growing discontent about decisions regarding issues both abroad and on American soil the government no longer represented the people. Yet again, McCain was held accountable for both voting with and standing by the Iraq war in his election campaign. The McCain election campaign was continually hampered by this accountability, being entirely engulfed close to the election by the financial crisis that gripped the US and weakened the US dollar, causing a surge in oil prices on a scale never before seen.

The 2008 Presidential election campaign was the time when all the policy, good and bad, came to the table and the American people would choose who they preferred to lead their country. The election showed a larger than usual turnout for the election which made the 2008 election a more accurate representation of the majority views in both the leadership and congress. Barack Obama, an Afro-American, possibly triggered a larger turnout for ethnic minorities in the US, who had been suffering an increasing stigma about them since the September 11th suicide bombings, seeing him as a route for their own liberty in their own country. Obama, coming as a fresh option to the political scene, was able to appeal to the American people through being an advocate for the Democratic Values of the US, causing a larger turnout that worked to his favour, giving him the majority.

The 2008 US Presidential elections showed how the democratic values of the US interacted with previous foreign and domestic issues and accountabilities to engineer a situation that favoured the main alternative of Barack Obama over the Republican candidate of John McCain. McCain lost his chance by being held accountable, reasonably or not, for the flaws of the Bush Administration. The American people gave Obama the majority in a high number of voters because they felt McCain no longer accurately represented the people of America.

Friday Fun: Death of the Diffuser

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The Formula 1 paddock is up in arms today with Brawn GP, Toyota and Williams having complaints made against them about their diffusers (in easy terms, a diffuser is part of the aerodynamics on the underside of a car). The FIA court of appeal will judge whether the results of Sunday's race will be valid in two weeks time, but in the meanwhile have a look at this:
If ever there were to be a complaint made about a Formula 1 car’s aerodynamics it should have been made in 1969 against Brabham (Pictured below) and Ferrari. These teams had introduced an additional, inverted spoiler to the front of the car some years earlier and by ’69 this and the back spoiler had reached ridiculous heights. Safety immediately jumps out as a concern; imagine a crash from behind – the rear spoiler looks like it could act like an axe ready to fell either driver! Accolades to Brabham and Ferrari for keeping the metal pipe industry running in the 1960s.

Image from: 'The Concise Encyclopedia of Formula 1', David Tremayne and Mark Hughes, Parragon Books 2003.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Holding to the Constitution, is Victoria's government being hypocritical?

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Today (6/3/09) The Age newspaper reported that the South Australian Premier, Mike Rann, will be holding Victoria to the constitution in relation to the distribution of water from the Murray-Darling river system. The paper also reported that Victorian Water minister Tim Holding in return accused the South Australian government of having an “appalling” record with water. But how well placed is Victoria to make such a judgement? The state is the largest user of water from the Murray-Darling at 34.2%, with SA only drawing 9.3% (The Age). The state has also recently started farming rice which requires fields to be flooded, wasting water through evaporation and ground absorption. New South Wales (which draws 32.6% of water from the river (The Age)) produces most of Australia’s rice crop, with all of the country’s harvest being grown in the Murray-Darling basin. Cotton is another water demanding crop that is grown in the basin, and has been the cause of deforestation in Uzbekistan and salination in the Aral Sea (
These and other crops are unsuitable for growing in Australia in general, where rainfall is barely high enough in some places to provide water for day-to-day tasks; towns in South Australia such as Goolwa are simply running out of water. Crops such as these can be imported easily from other countries, allowing our water to be used in more useful ways, after all it’s be harder and more expensive to import water than it is to import rice and cotton. The Murray River requires constant dredging to keep flowing to the Coorong. Despite the water situation, rice can still be grown in Australia; several species or rice can grow on dry land, some of which are perennial which would also fix some soil erosion problems. Victoria, and New South Wales, should put tighter restraints on the farming of high water usage crops, perhaps limiting the total number of hectares that can be grown? Goolwa is thirsty, as too is Victoria.
(6/3/09 - Melbourne dams at 30.6%, down 4.8% from same time last year.)

Same-sex marriage – need we have this black and white style argument again?

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Written August 31, 2008

Why should GOVERNMENT legislation stop love?

One need not look hard to find parallels between the black rights movements of the 1800s and early 1900s and the gay rights movements that are growing in strength today. Both campaigns ask for the same kinds of privileges that the majority takes for granted; governmental privileges, acceptance by society and marriage acknowledgement, the latter being one of the strongest debates. The two main players in the gay marriage debate are religion and human rights; protecting the religious sanctity of marriage as being between a man and a woman, versus the human rights argument that homosexuals cannot help being so and restricting their rights to marriage is nothing short of discrimination.

Marriage started out as a religious ceremony steeped in tradition, but in recent times has broadened and can now solely be for the purpose of a display of love and commitment, without the religious symbolism. However, the fact that marriage is a religious ceremony means that the particular religion an individual follows can make its own rules in regards to it. Gays who have been brought up with a religion that teaches gay marriage to be illicit have a conflict between their sexual orientation and their religion. At this many would just say “well change to being heterosexual then and follow god!”, but this is an argument that ignores one crucial fact – gays do not choose to be gay. There is a one in ten chance that a person is born gay, this is as a result of testosterone levels during development in the womb and a gene on the X chromosome, all these affecting the way in which the brain of the adolescent develops. So gays cannot change to being heterosexual, no more than heterosexuals can change to being gay, but if they don’t then they will not be accepted by their religion which has taught marriage to be between a man and a woman.

Marriage is controlled by the government and membership of a religion is controlled by the individual church. Australia’s founding was not based on religious principals, like the founding of many other countries was, so why is the government discriminating people for the sake of religious influence? If a particular religion chooses not to accept same-sex marriage then so be it! Why should gay people of other backgrounds that accept the ceremony suffer as a result?

The Anglican Church is looking at splitting over same-sex marriage and the ordination of gay clergy. However, if this happens Australian Anglican gays will still be barred from marriage because the other group said no to the government. If your neighbours decides to paint their living room in a colour that you really hate you are powerless to stop them because it doesn’t affect you, in fact you may not even ever know! This situation is exactly the same as that of gay marriage; if a group of homosexual people, whose sexual orientation does not affect you wish to get married, how does this affect you? They may be in Perth and you in Melbourne, how do they pose any threat to you and your sexual orientation and religious beliefs? Gayness is not contagious and if their religion said no then they wouldn’t have been married in the first place; where is the threat?

Just as in the black rights debates, gays are no more a threat to society and religion than any other person, so why stop them from doing what every other person has the right to do? The government’s position on same-sex marriage is not only based on groundless arguments but is also a form of discrimination. In years to come we will look back on this stance with disgust, just as we do now at the discrimination of blacks.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Opinion: An Informed Society.

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Today the Victorian Police have sent the following text message to Victorian mobile phones:

“Msg from Vic Police:Extreme weather in Vic expected Mon night & Tues.High wind & fire risk.Listen to local ABC Radio for emergency updates.Do not reply to this”

This is an excellent warning system that has been brought into action after Victoria’s Black Saturday fires last January, so what else could a system like this be extended to? A similar system could be developed to send an emergency text message to all in the vicinity of an armed robber, or the utilities (power, eater etc.) could warn users of impending service cuts and/or advise them when the service will be resumed by the use of a simple text message (See “Water Main Burst”). Even evacuation advice for a large department store could be issued via customers’ mobile phones and strong wind warnings could be issued to campers in tree-heavy areas.

Perhaps the government could subsidise a worthy system like this? Text messages are a more immediate and easily received format for emergency information than an announcement over a speaker (which could be inaudible or cause panic) or on the internet, which people may not see/hear. This could help save lives (in worst case scenario) and avoid confusion and panic in the public.

Many households now have at least one mobile phone within, and people could easily pass on the message to neighbours or those around them who don’t have a mobile themselves. This is an excellent move by Victoria Police and a concept that could be applied with great effect to a wide range of emergency situations.

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