RePress: WordPress de-censoring proxy

RePress. It's "just" a proxy, but trivial to install. That's the cool part, that you can install it onto any server running WordPress with a click, and that it has a configurable whitelist of the sites which it will proxy. Simple idea, but effective.
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Ellis on Space Flight

Deathmatch on Mars

The thing is, it's a bigger question than maybe it looks: everyone but China has abandoned human spaceflight. Russia uses its crewed capability to make money from America, at this point. ISS was only lofted as a place for the Shuttle to go, because the Shuttle was such a crocked piece of shit that it couldn't reliably go more than two hundred miles up. And sometimes exploded trying even that.

I'm not pessimistic about Chinese creativity, because if you're starting a space program from scratch, of course you look at what worked for other people. I see combinations of Apollo and Russian technologies, robust and proven gear. Apollo vehicles made round trips of half a million miles and brought 'em back alive even when the gas tanks exploded.

Now, some people will say to you that Virgin space tourism counts as human spaceflight. But to put a bit of perspective on that, what they do is what Alan Shepard did in Freedom 7 in 1961 ----" a suborbital lob of fifteen minutes duration, an order of magnitude below what Yuri Gagarin did a month earlier. So what you can say about Virgin Galactic in 2012 is that it's matched capability with, um, 1961.

[...] You know, it's funny: a couple of years ago, a film producer told me that he thought the opening vista of Kennedy Space Center as an inoperative wasteground, lightly populated by shanty towns, was implausibly grim. In a way, he was right: the place is now so poisoned by spacelaunch byproduct that it's going to take years and millions to clean it to the point where it can be occupied.

Previously, previously.

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Webcast cameras

Dear layzweb, what's the state of the art in cheap, low-light video cameras and/or switchers?

If you've been watching the DNA Lounge webcasts over the last decade, you may have noticed that the picture is kinda dark and grainy, nightclubs being what they are.

I'm wondering whether the available tech has advanced to the point where I could improve low-light performance and/or resolution without spending a fortune.

I strongly suspect the answer is no, but I figured I'd throw it out there.

About half of the shots you typically see on the stream are coming from that same batch of camcorders that I bought back in 1999, all of which are Sony TRS17 or similar. They are indestructible. They're "nightshot" camcorders, meaning they have IR, but we don't use that. They just happened to be pretty good in low light without IR. The rest of the shots, especially for shots of live acts on stage, come from a pair of Panasonic WV-NS324 pan-tilt-zoom cameras.

All of them feed analog SD NTSC to a video switcher, and from there to the webcast. Details.

So, one option would be to replace them all with whatever the lowest-end HD camcorder is, re-cable everything for HDMI-over-Cat5, and get an HDMI switcher. This would mean getting rid of the panning cameras and replacing those with fixed-position fixed-zoom shots, which is probably fine. But, even if the camcorders are only a couple hundred bucks each, that would still probably come out to over $5k, which is kind of steep for something that makes us no money whatsoever. It also couldn't easily be done incrementally, due to the switch from composite coax to HDMI.

You'd think there would be an easy way to deliver video from the cameras to the switcher as MPEG streams over Ethernet, instead of going through uncompressed HDMI and a bunch of Cat5 converters, but if there is, I'm unaware of it.

Please note: before you suggest a camera or camera system, bear in mind that most "security systems" are designed to be used in environments that are as bright as the surface of the Sun. Most non-camcorder video cameras eat shit in less than 7 lux or so. What I have now are lower than 1 lux. If something says "0 lux" that's a lie (that means "it comes with an IR spotlight, and will give you a goofy-looking black-and-white image.")


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Dear Lazyweb, why do Google and friends think I'm not in the United States?

The server that hosts my web sites has the IP It is located in Santa Clara, California. But based on the weird behavior I get when retrieving URLs from there, I infer that Google, Youtube, Myspace and Facebook think it's not in the United States.

I assume this means the IP block is mis-listed in some database somewhere. Who runs that database? Since they all have it wrong, they must have gotten their data from the same place.

I don't even know what country it thinks it's in... But it's not here.

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Benefit Corporations

Businesses seek state's new 'benefit corporation' status

A dozen companies committed to maximizing social good while turning a profit have filed papers with the state to become California's first "benefit corporations." It was the first business day they could register under a recently approved state law that gives companies a way to legally structure their businesses to consider social and environmental efforts as part of their missions.

While that may sound like marketing hype, it's important from a legal standpoint because it helps shield benefit corporations from lawsuits brought by shareholders who say that company do-gooding has diluted the value of their stock.

California becomes the seventh state to adopt this relatively new corporate structure. Until now, California corporate law mandated that shareholders' interests trump those of all other parties. Entrepreneurs who wanted to incorporate green initiatives or social causes into their businesses were often forced to become nonprofits, limiting their ability to raise venture capital.

California's new category allows corporations to officially adopt policies "that create a material positive impact on society and the environment" as an integral part their legal charter. The Huffman legislation also expands the fiduciary duty of executives and board members to include the interests of workers and the community.

The Rise of Benefit Corporations

When America began, the states chartered corporations for public purposes, like building bridges. They could earn profits, but their legitimacy flowed from their delegated mission.

Today, corporations are chartered without any public purposes at all. They are legally bound to pursue a single private purpose: profit maximization. Thus, far from advancing the common good, many for-profit corporations have come to defy the law, corrupt the officials charged with enforcing it and inflict harm on the public with impunity. The consequences are visible in the wreckage left by BP, Massey Energy, Enron, AIG, Lehman Brothers, Blackwater and Exxon Mobil, to name a few recent wrongdoers. Profits rule; anything goes.

We need a new business model inspired by the old one. Corporations should again come to bolster democratic purposes, not thwart them. To be sure, there will be no return to the legislative short leash, especially now that the Supreme Court has invited corporations to spend treasury funds electing pliant and obsequious lawmakers. But socially minded businesses should at least have the right to operate outside the straitjacket legal requirements of Delaware Code profit maximization. [...]

This is an important shift in law. The fear of shareholder litigation has driven many public-spirited businesses, most famously Ben & Jerry's, to take the high bid rather than the high road in a corporate takeover fight. Becoming a Benefit Corporation declares legal independence from the profits-ber-alles model. [...]

It may take a while to displace the rent-seeking leviathans that get rich off lobbying, power plays, pyramid schemes and defense contracts. Then again, a lot of those companies have relocated their operations abroad in search of cheaper labor, while the Benefit Corporations are taking root and blossoming right here in America, restoring the bonds of community while doing honest commerce. This is what economic recovery looks like.

Previously, previously, previously, previously.

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Bill Would Ban Using Human Fetuses in Food, Just in Case Anybody's Thinking of Doing That

Bill Would Ban Using Human Fetuses in Food, Just in Case Anybody's Thinking of Doing That

Oklahoma state senator Ralph Shortey is concerned about the possibility that some nefarious person or entity is using aborted human fetuses in food, and has introduced legislation to put a stop to this. Or, to keep it from starting, because he isn't exactly sure that anybody's really doing this, or how or where they'd be doing it if they were. Still, can't be too careful.

SB 1418 is, at least for the moment, just this one sentence:

No person or entity shall manufacture or knowingly sell food or any other product intended for human consumption which contains aborted human fetuses in the ingredients or which used aborted human fetuses in the research or development of any of the ingredients.

[...] "People are thinking that this has to do with fetuses being chopped up and put in our burritos," Shortey said, something no one had been thinking until he said it. "That's not the case," he went on. "It's beyond that." That's right -- they are also in our chalupas.

[...] According to Shortey, there are companies out there "using embryonic stem cells to research and basically cause a chemical reaction to determine whether or not something tastes good or not." He said he read last year that a pro-life group was boycotting an unnamed company for this, and I guess if you've read someplace that somebody is upset about something that might be happening somewhere in the world, that's really all you need to know before writing a law banning what you believe that thing to be.

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