Philip Berne

Let Them Eat Cake

It is inevitable. A columnist will post a thoughtful article on a polarizing topic, and the comments section will explode. Whether the column was sensationalizing one side or the other, or if the columnist took a more moderate stance, it doesn't matter. Often, the commenters have obviously not even read past the headline. They see the word that sets them off, that raises their blood temperature to a boil, and they have to attack. Or they see their side being razed, beaten down once again by the mindless cretins who are always on the attack. They charge into battle, swinging blindly and hitting whatever stands in their path. In the end, the same thing always happens. The argument goes meta, and becomes about arguing itself. Then, someone brings up Hitler.

No, wait, not Hitler. I meant Linux. Somebody brings up Linux.

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The Swiftness of Internet Justice

In 1988, Michael Dukakis was asked a question at a debate that probably helped end his career. Moderator Bernard Shaw asked him if his wife were raped and murdered, would he favor the death penalty? You can see a video of the exchange on YouTube, but needless to say Dukakis' answer is completely unsatisfying. He talks about how the death penalty is not a deterrent. He talks about Massachusetts and the drop in crime there. He never talks about his wife, even in the hypothetical. I've thought a lot about this question. I am not in favor of the death penalty, and this seems to be the sort of question that always pops up to challenge people who think like me. Here's how I would have answered:

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Movie Review: The Millennium Trilogy

The final movie chapter in Stieg Larsson's so-called Millennium Trilogy books finally came to my local independent theater, and I decided to see it before I actually read this book, since I knew it would not be around long enough for me to finish reading. "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" actually wraps up the ongoing story of Lisbeth Salander in a very neat and tidy way. There aren't loose ends, so much as there is the possibility of more to come, and in fact Stieg Larsson, who died at the age of 50 before seeing any of these books published, left an unfinished book behind, and possibly synopses for more.

Actually, I haven't even started the last book in the trilogy, though I've read the first two. I probably won't even buy it, now that I've seen the movie. All of the movies stayed relatively true to the plot and the spirit of the books.

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iVote Therefore I Am

If you're living in the United States right now, chances are you're sick of hearing about elections and politics. That's why I'm writing this today, instead of last week. I want to ride the coattails of that nausea and make a suggestion for the future of voting. The problem, I think, is that politicians do not care about you. They are ignoring you, and right they should. You don't matter. Your issues don't matter. Your concerns don't matter. Politicians only care about one type of person, and it's not you, because chances are, you didn't vote.

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What Zuckerberg Never Said About the iPad

Facebook held a press conference about its new mobile strategy on Wednesday. In a nutshell, Facebook is updating apps for Android and iOS, and it is not building a Facebook phone. Instead, it's going to be platform agnostic and try to treat all platforms equally.

Ho-hum. Sounds pretty dull, right? I mean, no hardware announcement. No shiny phone to handle and photograph. The big news is that you'll be able to log onto your favorite poker app with your Facebook ID. Oh, and Facebook is going to start offering local coupons, based on location. You could practically see the crowd falling asleep.

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Movie Review: Saw 3D

I walked into Saw 3D with only one expectation. Having skipped the last few Saw movies, I figured that I would understand what was going on without knowing the plot. After all, the first Saw movie had arguably little plot, and the next one I watched had even less. So, I figured that by the time they reached the penultimate Saw, the film would probably have been reduced to simple bloody vignettes. The so-called traps. Unfortunately for me, I was even wrong on this count. The writers of Saw 3D actually took it upon themselves to craft a plot and wrap up any loose ends. This is the idiocy of Saw 3D in a nutshell. It's a movie that has no idea how terrible it really is.

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The Myth of the Apple Bias

If you work for a Web site that covers consumer electronics, eventually you are going to be accused of two things: having an Apple bias and trying to destroy Finland. The backlash against Apple coverage is exquisite, as far as baseless Internet accusations go. It's not quite on the level of 9/11 conspiracy nutjobs or the racist and homophobic bigots you'll find scouring YouTube comments, but it does have its own patterns. Beyond simple bias, I've seen numerous Web sites accused of taking actual bribes and payments from Apple. Are these accusations completely without merit? The answer is complicated.

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Eating the Dog’s Food

I knew a woman who worked for a packaged goods company. She worked on snack foods, but the company, a huge, multi-national conglomerate, also made high quality pet foods. If you visited her at work, her desk would be covered in the crunchy snacks she helped create. Next to her desk, her neighbor had an unfortunate supply of rat poison, the product on which he worked. A few desks down, a co-worker kept an open bowl of dog treats on the desk.

"Do you folks get a lot of dogs visiting?" I asked, assuming that he was keeping treats around for four-legged guests.

"No," she said. "He eats those."

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The Epidemic of Update Fever

While I was working as a teacher, I got a job moonlighting at an Apple retail store in a high-class mall in the Boston area. I worked as a Mac Specialist on the sales floor, and the most common question I got was whether the customer should buy now, or wait until the next version came out. Inevitably, that laptop or iPod they bought today would be rendered obsolete by a faster version with more memory and a lower price tag. Apple is pretty good about helping you out if you just bought your new kit the day before the newer version is released, but after about a month, you're boned. This is the way with technology. There are three things you can count on in life: death, the planned obsolescence of the cool gadget you just bought, and taxes.

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Please Touch This

Last night, an embargo lifted and a stream of technology sites posted reviews for a major new product launch. I'm not going to bother telling you which launch, that isn't the point, and you can probably figure it out (hint: not the MacBook Air). It's always a rush to be part of that initial surge of interest. It's hard to sleep afterwards. Instead, I took to Twitter and started posting my thoughts and answering questions.

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I Don’t Use It, Why Should You?

I use my DVD drive all the time. Some readers may laugh, but I actually pay for movies and music content. Sometimes, I'll find a deal on a movie or a CD that is better than what I could find online. I take it home, I rip it to my laptop, and it's mine, convenient and digital. I used my DVD drive when I installed Windows 7 on my MacBook, and when I had to reinstall iWork, after iMovie started crashing again. In my old Camry, my tape deck stopped working, and that's my favorite way to connect my iPod to my car stereo. Radio transmitters don't work reliably in my area, but instead of shelling out a few hundred bucks to buy a proper car stereo for a car that won't last me through next year, I did what we used to do back in the old days. I burned a CD.

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Movie Review: Jackass 3D

First, an apology. To properly review "Jackass 3D," I'm going to have to make many references to a man's nether regions. I'm going to run out of synonyms. I will try to keep this column family friendly, as the SlashGear overlords prefer, so I'll err on the side of being repetitive. Needless to say, when the producers titled this movie "Jackass 3D," they really had things backwards. The movie is not about the rear end. It's mostly concerned with the other side of things, as it were.

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