Microsoft are shifting gears on Longhorn features and aiming for maximum distribution of the new graphics and messaging components: WinFS will be available as a beta when the Longhorn release comes out as a client. Avalon and Indigo will be part of Longhorn, but also made available separately at the time the client ships for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003, sources said.

Compulsory Voting

In Australia, we must vote in every federal, state or local election. It’s compulsory to register at the voting booths on election day (you can always put in an invalid ‘protest’ vote if you wish) or you’ll be fined a fairly pissweak amount by the government. Voting, or at least turning up, is a civic responsibility of the individual. So it always frustrates me that the US does not have compulsory voting. One of the arguments in favour of non-compulsory voting really gives me the shits: “If everyone had to vote, that would mean a lot of uninformed people voting in *my* elections!”

This sounds right, because if you’re talking about a civic responsibility of the individual, then surely it is that individual’s civic responsibility to be informed! So, ignoring for a moment the suboptimal level of education in the USA (because voting is also non-compulsory in the UK), is this true? Is the responsibility fully on the side of the individual? I don’t believe so, not for a moment.

Without compulsory voting, and using the US as an example, the “voting market” is well known, deeply researched and intricately analysed. It’s already a politically active market. No surprises. That’s why the media analysis always concentrates on “inactive voters” and “the undecided”. There’s no movement in the market. What’s the problem with that? Well, that means that the political process has no responsibility to the people! It is only responsible to the “voting market”, which is fraught with special interests, is a special interest group unto itself, and not representative of the society at large. The politicians and their spin-meisters have a tiny (30% in the USA) target market to work with. They don’t need to address the entire populace at all. The “voting public” is the “voting market”.

In Australia, politicians and lobby groups must address the entire populace to address the “voting market”. In some cases, that means the complexity of the conversation is scaled down a bit, but it can also scale up. The political process is answerable to everyone, and must address everyone to make an impact. If everyone in the USA had to vote, I believe more people would be annoyed that their third-party votes are wasted. I believe more people would be pushing for a viable multiparty process. I believe more people would be informed because the political process would have to address, and be responsible to, everyone.

Non-compulsory voting perpetuates a lack of responsibility on the part of voters and the political process. It perpetuates the special interests of the “voting market”. It perpetuates a system that is only one political party ahead of a fascist state.

The next person who asks if Indubstrial is a typo or the final name of the theme can go chow down on jwz’s favourite bucket. That is all. (The Indubstrial page has the real answer.)

Interesting to see lots of linkage to my fear-and-loathing post. Note that I’ve been to the USA before – Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon when I was about 10; and Boston for the Summit a couple of years ago.

I’m staying at the Holiday Inn Express, San Francisco Airport South. It’s in Burlingame, about 16km away from the Moscone Centre. The phone number is (650) 3472381 in the US, or 0011-1-650-3472381 in Australia.

Fear and Loathing in the USA

So, to put this in a little context, since arriving in the USA on Tuesday, I’ve been heavily jetlagged and thinking more about work than play (this leg was supposed to be play). At least I didn’t have to deal with a bomb scare on my way over.

OSCON was a pretty good conference, possibly more eclectic than, definitely bigger, but not very relaxed. It seemed like everyone was there to work the crowd, see the people they needed to see, and maybe squeeze some socialising in where possible. It certainly felt that way to me, despite meeting a bunch of great people for the first time. Even my talk was downbeat, though it seemed to go well enough.

Deep digital-camera-fu still eludes me. Pipka suggested we buy one at the airport, so I’ve been trying to get in the swing of taking lots of photos. I have much to learn from Miguel and Nat. Anyway, I took a few lame photos of OSCON for your viewing pleasure.

I don’t feel comfortable here. It’s like a giddy nightmare set in a theme park devoted to “big”. Everything is big – if not in size, then in volume or sheer in-your-face-ness. The cars are huge, though you could scarcely describe them as cars. The television in my hotel room is almost twice the size of our TV at home. The convenience store is a kidney-punch of choice and product. The Burger King girl yelled at me, very, very politely, with a searing-flesh smile. I felt nauseous flicking between the CNN and Fox News coverage of the Democratic National Convention. Some of the TV ads are fearmongering by design, by regulation, or by fear of lawsuits – every drug ad I’ve seen so far spends half the time explaining the benefits, and the other half explaining the (often very scary) side effects.

The big story outside politics is about the disappearance of a woman named Lori Hacking. The news channels are completely saturating the story, talking up every angle, interviewing loosely relevant sources, brutally characterising the main players, “investigating” the background information, and repeating the details over and over. I was shocked by this kind of stuff during the early Iraq war coverage in Australia – this is just as bad, only it’s about a single missing person, assumed dead.

I’m going to San Francisco for a week today, though I might just leave for London early if I don’t feel any better. Girl, there’s a better life for me and you…

NewsForge covered my OSCON talk, noting most of the important bits, particularly the beer and loathing (… that being Coopers-not-Foster’s and people leaving for OS X). It briefly mentioned my reaction to the recent “fork” of GNOME, which I should probably write about some time.

Caught between a rock and a hard plaice? Ha ha ha. Ha ha. I had to wipe tears from my eyes. Anyway, so Blogfish looks totally awesome.