October 5, 2011

The police are not subject to the rules they enforce on gun owners

Filed under: Cancon, Law, Liberty — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 11:52

Lorne Gunter itemizes some of the many, many ways that legal gun owners in Canada can be tripped up by vagaries and inconsistencies in the law:

Since Bill C-68 became the law of the land more than 15 years ago, one of the most common charges police have laid against gun owners has been for unsafe storage. The reason for this is that the federal firearms law is very unclear about what constitutes safe and unsafe storage.

Is it enough to have one’s firearms locked away in a gun safe or must they also have trigger locks installed? How secure must the safe’s lock be: strong enough to keep a thief out for two minutes? Five? Fifteen?

Is it OK to store ammunition in the same safes as guns or must bullets and shells be in separate safes from one’s firearms? Must the two safes be in separate rooms?

There are no hard-and-fast rules, so in some provinces, unsafe storage provisions have become catchalls. In Ontario, for instance, most frontline officers have been trained to lay unsafe storage charges against any gun owner whose firearm lacks a trigger lock, even if the owner had just removed the lock so he could use his firearms to defend his home or family against intruders.

These unwritten rules make self-defence next to impossible. You are permitted by law to use a gun to defend yourself and your home against an armed intruder, but you cannot remove the locks on your guns to defend your loved ones, yourself or your property unless you’re willing to be charged with unsafe storage.

Perhaps the unsafe storage rules are should be called a Catch-22 rather than a catchall.

Oddly enough, the police don’t hold themselves to the same standard that they so unevenly enforce on the citizens. According to a recent FOIA result, police forces in Canada have lost more than 400 firearms over the last three years, but no police officers have faced criminal charges or loss of their jobs over these losses. Yet another way that the police have different rules than ordinary citizens.

Ontario election: pick a poll, any poll

Filed under: Cancon, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:55

Nobody knows what the result of Ontario’s election tomorrow will be . . . and the polls are even less effective than usual because they all report significantly different outcomes:

The latest poll by Angus Reid for the Toronto Star has the Tories ahead of the Liberals by three points, at 36 per cent and 33 per cent, respectively. The NDP has 26 per cent public support.

However, an Abacus survey for the Toronto Sun has the Liberals ahead by the same three-point margin, with the NDP at 24 per cent.

Both these numbers suggest a minority government for either party.

But, the Ipsos poll released Tuesday night show the Liberals heading for a majority, with a 10 point lead at 41 per cent. The Tories are at 31 per cent and NDP at 25 per cent.

Ipsos vice-president John Wright told 680News this poll could mean McGuinty will be heading back to Queen’s Park with a majority of seats.

The only consistent result is showing the NDP peaking at 25-26%, which may indicate the “halo effect” from the last federal election (where the NDP made impressive gains to become the official opposition) and the subsequent death of federal NDP leader Jack Layton.

Update: Kelly McParland offers an explanation for not just the current schizophrenia in the polls, but the entire election narrative:

No wonder voters are confused (or uncaring, which is more likely the case). If the MSM can’t make up its mind, how are mere voters supposed to, especially having paid the campaign no attention at all, other than by turning down the sound when some of the more offensive union-financed-but-not officially-supporting-McGuinty TV ads popped up. Personally I think the fault lies not with the electorate, which has had to vote in so many elections since 2006 that it can barely keep track of which party is breaking its promises any more, but with pundits, and especially with the Official Narrative, which was sent out from Pundit Headquarters in the midst of the summer doldrums, when most of the Ottawa pundits were either dozing in the backyard while pretending to work, or lazing at the cottage, where BlackBerry reception can be spotty. Some Ottawa golf courses also frown on the use of BlackBerries on the premises, which can add to the difficulty. Ottawa in the summer goes into a semi-permanent snooze, unlike Washington, where the war on one another never stops.

Having missed or misread the Official Narrative, pundits continued to insist that Tim Hudak was winning the race, when in fact there was no race. To have a race, you have to have voters who care in the slightest, which no one in Ontario did. This misconception arose because pundits continued to receive polls suggesting the Conservative leader was wiping the floor with the Liberals, and treated them seriously. Mr. Hudak was reported to be 10 or 20 points ahead. Big mistake. At the best of times, polls should be held with no more than two fingers at a time, and well away from the body. Polls taken during the summer, weeks before the official campaign has been declared, should be sprayed first with disinfectant, then deleted unread. I suspect Mr. Hudak never really had the lead he was given credit for, which made it inevitable that when the imaginary bulge suddenly disappeared, he would be blamed for frittering it away. Mr. McGuinty is now being hailed as a genius of the hustings, having somehow resurrected his party even as Ontarians continue trying to figure out how he got the job in the first place. This is being called “momentum.”

The irony of Bletchley Park’s funding windfall

Filed under: Britain, History, Technology, WW2 — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 10:47

Cory Doctorow has the good news about Bletchley Park’s recent grant:

Bletchley Park, the birthplace of modern crypto and the home of the WWII codebreaking effort, has received a £4.6m Heritage Lottery Fund grant to fund restoration efforts and new exhibits. Bletchley was broken up after the war and its work was literally buried as part of the Cold War climate of secrecy that prevailed. In the years that followed, neglect and time led to the near-destruction of many of the historic sites. The Bletchley Park trust has since done amazing work on a shoestring budget to restore and preserve Bletchley, creating a fabulous museum and rebuilding some of the most beautiful electromechanical computers I’ve ever seen.

[. . .]

Ironically, the money to restore Bletchley has come from the lottery, a government-run system designed to reinforce and exploit statistical innumeracy of the sort that Bletchley’s cryptographers overcame in order to help win the war.

The tight spot Pakistan finds itself in

Filed under: Asia, India, Military, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:41

More on the Pakistani situation from Strategy Page:

In Pakistan, decades of anti-American and anti-Indian propaganda, and support for Islamic radicalism, has brought the country to the brink of disaster. The U.S. has stopped being discreet and secretive about Pakistani military and intelligence (ISI) attacks on Americans during the last decade. These attacks were played down in the hope that Pakistan could be persuaded to eliminate the pro-terrorist people in the army and ISI. This didn’t happen. The army and the ISI needed the Islamic radicals, to keep tensions with India high (via Pakistani-backed terror attacks in Kashmir and elsewhere in India.) The army/ISI leaders fear loss of their large share of the national economy if the Indian “threat” is viewed more realistically. The political parties, which are corrupt, and often allies of the military, have backed the generals in their opposition to American demands to crack down on Islamic terrorism. Most Pakistanis believe that the United States cannot possibly operate in Afghanistan without the support of Pakistan. This despite vigorous NATO efforts to shift their supply lines from Pakistan to Central Asia. Pakistan believes that possession of nuclear weapons will keep the United States from doing anything drastic, like more raids into Pakistan to destroy terrorists. The May raid to kill Osama bin Laden shows that the U.S. could, and would, do this. Now Pakistan has said it will not shut down Islamic terrorist sanctuaries in North Waziristan (in the northeast) and Quetta (in the southwest). The U.S. says that if the Pakistanis won’t the U.S. will. Pakistan says that if America tries that, it will mean war. It’s no secret that the U.S. has made plans to seize Pakistani nuclear weapons, and India has just signed a cooperation treaty with Afghanistan. Pakistanis like to believe that they have America in a corner, but it’s becoming more likely that it is Pakistan that has painted itself into a corner. Pakistan has long complained of being surrounded by conspiracies and enemies. Now, because of Pakistani support for Islamic terrorism, those fears are about to become true. Pakistan denies any responsibility for this, insisting that it is the victim. That will make no difference in the end, other than to provide some incredulous footnotes in the histories of the late, great, Pakistan.

Apple’s new iPhone

Filed under: Europe, Law, Technology — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:14

I’ve been following the lead-up to yesterday’s Apple iPhone announcement, as I’m just out of contract on my original iPhone 3G (yes, Canadian carriers only offered 3-year contracts, unlike US carriers who offered 2-year deals). My iPhone 3G still works well: I’m still happy with it overall, but I’m starting to suffer from “aging hardware syndrome”. More and more of the apps I’ve been using are being updated to use the newer capabilities of more recent iPhones and no longer run on my phone. So far, it’s just been trivial stuff (games and non-critical apps) that I miss but didn’t depend on. It’s only a matter of time before one of the applications I depend on (like my time-tracking and billing software or my personal finance app) is no longer supported on the 3G. At that point, I’ll have to either jump to a newer iPhone or find equivalent apps that work on Android phones.

Yesterday’s announcement seems to have caused a lot of wailing in certain iPhone communities — as far as I can tell, mainly because Apple chose to call the new phone the “iPhone 4S” instead of “iPhone 5”. Yes, some people are upset because of nomenclature, even if the updated features are otherwise a nice upgrade over the existing iPhone 4. I’m sure there’s a term in psychology to describe that phenomenon.

Here’s an overview of the new iPhone and its headline software feature, Siri:

Siri really works, and it’s quite clever
I got some time to test it hands-on, in a booth in a fairly busy room of journalists. “What’s the weather like outside?” I asked. It came back with the weather in London (where I was). “What’s my father’s email address?” It came back with two email addresses for the person designated in the address book as “father”. Not what you’d call a comprehensive test, but it shows that it’s location-aware, context-aware, and works without training. (By contrast, I just tried “Siri app” on voice search on my Google Nexus S running Gingerbread: it took me to the web page for Syria.)

Siri is integrated through the whole phone
You press the home button and the interface comes up. Then ask it anything. It’s very neat. It uses Siri’s servers, so you’ll need a working connection.

I don’t know that I’d get much use of the Siri features, but I’m sure it will move a lot of phones for the “coolness” factor.

The iPhone 4S really does look and feel exactly like the iPhone 4
There’s no difference at all, externally. Apparently the iPhone 4S is very slightly heavier — 139g (4.9oz) v 136g (4.8oz) — but you’d need a very sensitive hand to detect it.

This is probably a good move on Apple’s part (aside from the well-publicized complaints about the iPhone 4’s antenna issues), as it keeps all the companies that produced accessories for the iPhone 4 happy — they don’t need to create a whole new line of things for the iPhone 4S. The push for mobile phones to standardize on mini-USB connectors is why Apple will be selling dongles to convert from the current 30-pin connector on the iPhone to mini-USB. Again, it meets the expectations of both regulators and third-party manufacturers. I suspect Apple will be pushed to provide the dongles as standard equipment for European markets.

The camera in the iPhone 4S is now an 8MP (up from 5MP in the last model), and is claimed to be much faster:

Taking pictures on the 4S is much quicker, and taking extra pictures is too
I tried the camera on taking pictures, and the setup is really fast. It takes more pictures quickly too — almost like firing the motordrive on an SLR camera. Apple says it takes 1.1 second to get to the “click” part — faster than any in a list it provided — and that it’s then just 0.5 second to take another one. It’s impressive: camera setup delay is one of the niggles of modern life (especially smartphone life) that has crept up on us without anyone doing very much.

Overall, the 4S looks to be a nice, incremental upgrade over the iPhone 4, but Siri is the most interesting new development.

In other news, however, Apple’s recent resort to “lawfare” against Samsung in Europe may rebound badly:

Apple’s new iPhone 4S faces the prospect of court injunctions in France and Italy from the Korean electronics firm Samsung, which says the phones breach patents it owns on wireless communications.

It is an escalation of the struggle between Samsung and Apple, who are fighting a number of increasingly bitter court battles in various territories around the world. Samsung, which is challenging Apple for the title of the world’s biggest maker of smartphones, says it plans to file preliminary injunctions in Paris and Milan on the basis that the iPhone 4S, announced in California on Tuesday night and expected in a number of countries including the UK from 14 October, infringes its patents on WCDMA technology.

Update: Speaking of Android phones, here’s Alun Taylor with a list of ten smartphone alternatives to the iPhone 4S:

Yes folks, it’s that time again when across the land otherwise rational and even sensible adults feel the need to whip themselves into a frenzy over the pending arrival of the latest iPhone.

To be honest, I find the whole charade rather entertaining and have taken to sauntering over to the Trafford Centre come launch day, grabbing a cup of coffee and a sticky bun, pulling up a chair and making fun of the twerps lined up outside the Apple Store opposite.

Yes, I know it’s wrong, but just like laughing at Daily Mail readers or at anyone who voted Liberal Democrat in the last general election, I simply can’t help it.

With Android devices now outselling iOS phones by two-to-one there are many, many alternatives if you want a good smartphone with access to a shed-load of apps but don’t want to take the Apple shilling.

So here are ten of the best Android-powered alternatives. In case you’re wondering why I’ve avoided any of the recent 3D phones like HTC’s Evo 3D or LG’s Optimus 3D, that would be because it’s a stupid technology bereft of point or purpose.

Remember, if none of these handsets put their hands up your dress, the next few months we will see the arrival of Samsung’s phenomenal 5.3in Galaxy Note; Sony Ericsson’s 1.4GHz powerhouse the Xperia S; Google’s Android 4.0-packing Nexus Prime; and LG’s LU6200 with its 4.5in, 1280 x 720 IPS screen. Choice — by gum, it’s a wonderful thing.

Update, the second: Joey deVilla explains the prospective iPhone 4S customer dilemma:

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