music, technology & life in pasadena, california

A Few Words on the Banking Crisis

The current financial crisis in the US is a perfect example of what happens when government adopts a laissez-faire attitude and businessmen are allowed free reign to expand their “synergy” in the marketplace. Deregulation in the financial markets has set the stage and invited the possibility of abuse because human nature, at least among the humans that comprise the business world, consistently falls to the lowest common denominator of ethical behavior.

You may say that it doesn’t matter, that deregulation has allowed the US markets to grow and prosper far beyond anyone’s wildest dream, but if there isn’t a “there” there, it’s as vaporous as a desert mirage.

September 19, 2008 | Link to this entry

Hijacked by Google

I’ve been living with Google Desktop Search for the better part of six months. After a short installation procedure and indexing time, everything on your computer’s hard drive is indexed for search. Instant search. No longer do you have to wait while your operating system’s Find feature churns endlessly looking for that obscure text or Word document; it all happens in under a second. It’s a big boon to desktop productivity.

I was hesitant at first because I was worried about the possibility of someone at Google being able to read the contents of my hard drive, but with Zone Alarm Pro installed I’m notified whenever a program wants to “call home” and I can block the action, so I felt pretty safe.

Recently while working in my office, I heard my computer shut down and restart. Hmmm, strange…I didn’t notice a power failure or brownout. When the computer finished rebooting there was an extra toolbar along the right side of the screen that was almost impossible to get rid of. When I finally cleared the windows, my whole desktop had been rearranged and icons moved. When I finally got a handle on the incident, I realized that Google Desktop/Toolbar had updated itself (I had allowed it to “call home” earlier in the day) and installed its new version onto the drive, all without telling me or even asking me if that’s what I wanted.

I later found that the sidebar was Google Gadgets, a useless group of applications that mimic Apple’s Widgets. OK, maybe they're not useless, but I hate having things cluttering the desktop. Do you really need to have a real-time thermometer, analog clock or news aggregator open all the time taking up valuable screen-estate?

I don’t mind when a piece of software checks for updates, but no action should be taken without the express wishes of the user and that clearly did not happen here. Updating should never be automatic. It should be opt in, not opt out. I took it as a sign to be wary of Google, the company whose motto has always been “Don’t be evil”.

Well, it was good while it lasted…

September 14, 2008 | Link to this entry

False Idols

American Idol, that sad modern bastion of television ratings and mediocrity, sank to a new low recently. As the show started broadcasting reruns of previous seasons on syndicated channels, they decided to replace the tracks of the live in-house band with a sequenced electronic score in order to save money and bypass reuse payments to the musicians originally playing on the show, contrary to the contract they signed when engaging the players.

In this time of incessant cutbacks even among the most profitable of ventures, it still amazes me that a show dedicated to finding new talent promoting live performances with a live orchestra would decide to do a hack job on its own product. That it is the biggest moneymaker on television and the reuse fees are a pittance in relation what the show brings in doubly amazes and boggles the mind.

The musician’s union threatened to sue for breach of contract and after a standoff, a settlement was reached and the players received their payment.

I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised by the gall of the show that NPR describes as, “…the untalented judging the over-reaching.”

September 9, 2008 | Link to this entry


Paul Viapiano is a guitarist working in film, television and live performance based in sunny Pasadena, California.

You can email me here.

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