Sunday, December 8, 2013

A review of 'Masterworks of Man & Nature: Preserving our world heritage'

I came across this book in my collection and was reading through it when I came across page 41 with the header "An Urgent Call to Replenish the Earth". It is a statement or a call to action from the late Charles Birch, Emeritus Professor at the University of Sydney and a winner of the Templeton award. I'm not a fan of that foundation but the things Professor Birch points out on this page are hard ignore. Below are some excerpts:

"The sort of society we are building with the aid of science and technology has built-in, self-destructive features." 

"That there are limits to the resources of the Earth and the capacity of the Earth to cope with pollution of its water and atmosphere, has led to what is known as the 'impossibility theorem'. This states that the high rates of consumption and pollution of the rich nations would be impossible for all the peoples of the earth."

The most compelling section started with the following statement. 

"The rich must live more simply so that the poor may simply live." 

We are seeing the problems of a world where the goal is capitalism for all nations in the images this weekend from China and the severe pollution problem starting to engulf their cities. Professor Birch asks the question of whether we can morally justify a way of life that would be impossible for the rest of the world to enjoy without destroying the resources we all need for survival. He continues on to posit that the rest of nature has intrinsic value beyond its use to us or to our ecosystems survival and that we have a moral obligation to preserve the world around us. 

"It is not ony the basis of human life that is being destroyed by our activities. We are annihilating at least one thousand species who share the planet with us each year. This is nothing less than a holocaust of nature."

Professor Birch continues on to compare the period of the Enlightenment and the development of a theory for human rights and advances toward social justice to a hope for a new enlightenment of our age extending those concepts to all living things. 

"Every nation desperately needs to discover a vision of the future. Is all that matters increased GNP, reduced inflation and reduced overseas debt? Instead of measuring national health in terms of economic growth we could set our eyes on a more worthy goal. There is indeed such a goal that all could aspire to. It is for healthy people in a healthy environment with healthy relations to that environment, which includes the non-human creatures who share the earth with us." 

The question that comes next is the one I most wish to pose to all of us in all nations. Unfortunately this post will most likely pass into anominity like most things on the internet except videos of kittens and puppies. So I will leave you with this picture and say spread the word for the kittens and puppies. 

20120710 Kitten Winking 005 by cygnus921, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  cygnus921 

"Are we willing to pay the price of the redemption of that part of the earth we inhabit in terms of a revolution in values, in life styles, in economic and political goals and even in the nature of the science and technology we practise? The stage is set. Whether the play can be performed before the theatre burns down remains to be seen." - Charles Birch

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Switching from iOS or Android, to Firefox OS has never been cheaper!

With the iOS 7 update, the iPhone and iPad have adopted a look and feel much more in line with the Android OS. If you were afraid of the learning curve leaving the iPhone and haven't yet updated to iOS 7 you might just consider an switch to an Android device instead. If you're already using iOS 7 then congratulations you will already be familiar with the Android interface. The main difference between Android and iOS is that with Android you can get a lot deeper into the OS and customizing your experience with the phone on Android. If that sort of thing scares you then stick with Apple's highly predictable products that make it easy for me to hand an iPad over to my grandma or a 4 year old and have them downloading apps or shopping online in no time. I enjoy my iPhone for the simple reason it requires no intelligence or technology background to operate the phone and get as much out of it as can possibly be done.

I've tried several Android devices and OS releases over the years and while they had some perks I liked, I found myself fiddling with the phone a lot more than I ever do on the iPhone. Fortunately for me Google has been releasing apps for the iPhone and finally just gave us the Google Music app which allows me to connect to and download or stream my entire music collection that is now stored on Google Play. Before I had to use a third party app that worked most of the time but had frequent issues whenever Google or Apple changed something. When Google Maps got booted out of Apple in favor of their awful (but beautiful) maps I switched to Android. When Google Maps came back to Apple I switched back to the iPhone. Basically the Google products and services beat anything on iTunes, iWork, iBook hands down.

Take the music collection for instance, 12,000 songs I uploaded to the Google Play site and it got the Album, Artist, Song Title info correct along with the album artwork and all they got from me was the mp3 file. I'm still trying to get my iTunes cleaned up, and when using their new streaming option I've found numerous errors in the file names, artwork, album titles and even the artist info wrong in my iTunes. Why is it Google can get this right so much easier than Apple and they just got into the Music scene relatively recently in comparison to Apple? Bottom line I hate iTunes, I hate that I have to use iTunes to get content on and off my phone (or I can delete one track at a time from the phone), and I've found ways to work around Apple and use Google services on my iPhone. Those services run better on an Android device and so I'll probably switch someday, but as this article points out (thanks to Trevor for sharing this article) there are a couple issues with that move. Only two of slides here are even valid or legitimate arguments against switching but they are good concerns to raise. Slide 9 raises the issue of apps you may have on your iPhone for which you'll have to find either the same app or a replacement app on the Android market. Slide 10 raises the issue of malware in the Android market and the plethora of anti-virus and malware apps you can get on the marketplace is at least a testament to the concern being somewhat founded. I've certainly never seen an anti-malware app on the Apple marketplace.

One thing the article doesn't really get into is battery life, data usage and other things that on an Android you can really dig into and see where your battery life is going (what apps are eating it up) and where your data usage is heaviest (what apps are using the most data) which can be an interesting thing to review. On an iPhone the closest you get to anything like that is just how much space on your phone an app and it's data is taking up, beyond that you just have to experiment with shutting things off or uninstalling them from your phone to see if that improves battery life or reduces data usage.  All this to say that with these two competing markets with their devices and services are fairly similar and have pros and cons on either side. The argument continues and I don't think either is a clear winner at the point of this writing.

Enter a new and unlikely challenger... the non-profit Mozilla Foundation!

Firefox has entered the game and strangely enough they are largely funded by Google, and before that AOL (through Netscape as a subsidiary of AOL). Firefox now has their own marketplace with apps and everything else you find in Apple or Google devices. They have their own admittedly lower end device, but it comes free of any bloatware or contract or carrier. All the apps are basically web based so they take up very little space on the phone itself if any. The phone supports up to a 32GB MicroSD card and a standard MicroUSB charging port so it can be plugged in just about anywhere and you probably have a few MicroUSB cables around the house already. For a more thorough review of the Firefox ZTE Open phone and Firefox OS reviews you can check out this article or Google around. It's definitely not an iPhone or Android device and it has a lot of catching up to do but for a phone you can build your own apps for and has a 3-4 day battery life it is a good start for Firefox. Add to that the $80 price tag out the door with no contracts and the ability to select any carrier you desire also makes it a good entry level smartphone for anyone wanting to test out different carriers without making any commitments.