Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Why are We so Accepting?

Do you know who EULA is? That’s capital E-U-L-A, pronounced You-lah. She’s not a Hollywood starlet, but you would have seen her on dozens of screens. In fact, you’ve seen her on your very own screen, your computer, if you looked carefully.  You won’t see EULA unless you own a computing device, so perhaps you’ve seen her on your Tablet PC, Kindle or Nook, or on your mobile phone? I know you’ve seen her in all of them, whichever ones you have, even though you may have gotten only a fleeting glimpse of her. However, most people don’t look carefully, or at all, at EULA.  But I guarantee EULA is present in every one of those devices. In fact, those devices won’t even run if you don’t at least pay lip service to EULA. She has a mind of her own, and although she looks similar every time she appears to you, yet she can also be very different.  In fact, there are thousands of EULAs. Have you guessed who EULA is yet?  
You may have guessed by now that EULA is not an actual person. You may be asking yourself “What do all those different computing or electronic devices have in common?” Yes, they all have a computer chip, but that’s not EULA, even though she may be on some chips. She appears every time you download an “App,” that is, an application, on any kind of device. And it doesn’t matter what the app is, whether it’s as complex as Microsoft Office, or as simple as Angry Birds or Amazing Alex – the most popular $.99 games on the Internet right now. Let me give you the biggest hint: EULA is a document that you accepted from the product app manufacturer - and you probably don’t even remember doing it.
OK, enough suspense about EULA. It stands for “End User License Agreement.” It may not sound so ominous, but in reality, it’s a legal document in which you have only one right.  Only by clicking “I Accept” or “OK”, do you get the right to actually use the software you’ve paid for!  For almost all applications, if you don’t click “I Accept,” they simply don’t want your business! This shouldn’t be a surprise, because you should know by now that software companies have been hard asses for a very long time.  They think that their software is so valuable, that you will do anything to get it, even give up your consumer protection rights.  And every time you click “I Accept” online, or buy a software package and load it, that’s exactly what you do! You give away all your rights, and, you give the company unlimited rights over you, and what’s on your hard drive. Hence, you get “Automatic updates” at the most inopportune times.
Even if you want to download free software, you must “accept” the company’s EULA, or, no download. In our modern world full of so many electronic devices, you and I, and 900 million other folks with computers, are simply “end users.” That’s a euphemism for “consumer,” which contains the word “con,” and not by mistake. “Con,” as in confidence trick, that is. Con as in “mark,” or “sucker.” And we all know “There’s a sucker born every minute.” This truism was first coined in 1885, some say, by the great P.T. Barnum. If you can imagine the circus, with all its carnies, hoaxes, and bizarre attractions, you get the picture. Because for some reason, when we are attracted to something, no matter how vacuous or stupid it is, we feel compelled to own it. 
We consume software applications at an astonishing rate. Remember the Dot-Com Bubble from 1995 - 2000? That’s when our “app”etite really took off. And now, every government agency, magazine and company has a website, where, in a few seconds, you can easily find their unique application program, and download it via the Internet.  You can Google any type of product you like, for example games, security programs, business applications, and thousands of other products from A to Z. If you’re like me, you may download a new app every week to do one thing or another. However, unlike me, you may never read the End User License Agreement attached to that software program.I read every single one, yet, I’ve still gotten burned with unwanted monthly charges for products I didn’t know I bought. I had to pay e-Cig.com  $69.95 for electronic cigarettes which didn’t help me stop smoking. Too late, I had to scour the fine print in the EULA to find a way out of it. It’s like the many free trial offers that are never really free! My wife Janet
 really isn’t happy when I sign up for these “bargains” without her knowing! And there’s no such thing as “driving a hard bargain” with these software companies.
The most important part of the EULA is two words: “License Agreement.” You see, you are not actually buying aproduct, like Microsoft Office or Angry Birds. You are actually only “licensing” the right to use the software from the manufacturer, who retains all ownership rights to the software. They even have the right to cancel your use of it, for no reason at all. Also, the EULA states that the manufacturer has no obligation to you to “fix” any problems with the software. It’s usually sold “as is,” and you know what that means - problems. However, reputable firms with a Tech Support or Customer Care Center may help you! But guess what? The EULA will probably state that there’s a charge for fixing the real difficult problems. The EULA, for example, will also tell you if there’s a 15% “restocking fee” to return the product, if you don’t want it, like I had to do for my worthless electronic cigarettes. The EULA will also tell you that the company has no liability to you, the government or anyone else for their product, but that you will be prosecuted by the full extent of the law, if you make an unauthorized copy. And it goes on and on.
Bottom line, the End User License Agreement is a one-way proposition – take it or leave it. Either click “I Accept” and move to the checkout screen, or don’t click it and be refused the sale. But, on every screen which has the little check box for “I Accept,” there’s also a tiny blue link that you should click first, to actually read their License Agreement from start to finish! Speaking from experience as a Contracting Manager in my past career, I would strongly recommend you get in the habit of clicking that link, and at least perusing the EULA. You might just save yourself $69.95 a month!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The God Particle: Part two

The Prophets from Adam to Baha’u’llah, that is, Abraham, Moses, Krishna, Buddha, Christ, Muhammad and the Bab, all told us what the force was that held ourselves and the universe together. Simply put: it’s the love of God for His creation. The Bible tells us God created us out of His love for us, and He also created the heavens and the earth for our dominion and happiness. Nature serves man in His search for meaning and the reality of all things. Man is driven to seek the truth in the reality of existence, to know the reason why everything exists. The search for truth and the discovery process, have no end.
To materialists this is epitomized by science, and to the faithful it’s epitomized by religion. Search and discovery, science and religion, are as old as mankind. How can science and religion disagree, when both seek and discover the truth? Is truth one? Or is it divided? Every single day, science and technology advance new discoveries which often overturn the old facts. Was the old information wrong?  Was it wrong to call Pluto a planet? Or is it merely a difference of degree and classification to now call it a dwarf planet and not a major planet? Science changes its facts and discoveries every day, as do new religions appearing one after the other, like Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Baha’i.  It would seem to me that both scientific truth and religious social truth are relative to the age in which they appear. Spiritual truths however, are timeless, applying to every age.
As a layman, a non-scientist, all I can do is watch the news and read the articles about this new Higgs-boson particle, and try to understand what it means. Yet people of faith have always known what keeps the universe together. This new discovery, just like more to come in the future, does not shake my faith, but confirms it. In my heart of hearts, and in my mind, I’ve understood for some time what keeps the universe together. It’s the supreme magnetic force from God, just as Einstein clearly alluded to in the opening quotation.
The Higgs-boson particle was headline news for one or two days, and then was quickly forgotten by most people who had heard it. Except the scientists and the faithful, of course.

The God Particle: Part one

I’ve always loved and appreciated Albert Einstein, a past native of Princeton, my parent’s hometown. One of his many quotes is: “Everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science, becomes convinced, that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe-a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which, we with our modest powers, must feel humble.”
I’ve always had a strong belief in one God, obtained from my mother and a strict Catholic School upbringing. And I’ve always wondered why there has been such continued controversy between accepting scientific and religious truth together. Science discovers and explains physical reality. Religion has always explained spiritual and social reality. To me, both agree and are in complete harmony, since truth is truth, no matter what the the source.
For example, in the time of Moses it was forbidden to eat pork. This was conveyed as religious law, but was also a very protective social law. Centuries ago pork that wasn’t cooked properly caused a severe disease called Trichinosis. The Trichnia worm is a parasite, which creates severe sickness and even hemorrhaging. In the time of Moses, this was a common disease, especially since raw meat fed to animals could also cause the parasite to pass to humans. So Moses forbade the eating of pork.  It therefore follows that not eating pork was a great social law. Even the Prophet Muhammed confirmed this great law and added to it. Over 1.3 billion people follow this great law today.
But then times changed. Proper cooking methods improved dramatically. Last year only eleven cases of Trichinosis were reported in the U.S., and all were successfully treated. What I’m trying to say, is that this law, not eating pork, was a great truth, and science has confirmed the reason for this law as I just described. But then times changed, and eating properly cooked pork became safe. My example is merely to point out that science is truth. Religion is truth. But both are subject to the immutable law of the universe, which is “change.”
My faith in God was recently confirmed by an earth-shaking scientific announcement on July 4, 2012. It was the existence of the Higgs-Boson particle by scientists at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, in Geneva,  Switzerland. It was proven using the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. The announcement culminated a 48 year search for the elusive sub-atomic particle known as Higgs-Boson. Peter Higgs and others postulated in 1964 that there was a mechanism by which atomic and sub-atomic particles were able to gain mass, or concrete reality, and that all matter contained bosons.
The idea that energy and matter are made up of small invisible particles dates to the 6th century before the common era (BCE).  It was Democritus, a Greek philosopher, who coined the term “atomos” in 450 BCE. Many consider Democritus the “father of modern science.” We now know that the atom is a basic unit of matter that consists of a dense central nucleus surrounded by a cloud of negatively charged electrons.  But we had no sure name for what held these components together until July 4th.
The Higgs-Boson, is commonly referred to as the God Particle, to the chagrin of scientists. It came from the title of the book The God Particle: If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question?   It was written and published in 1993 by Nobel physicist Leon Lederman. The book contained the author’s assertion that the discovery of the particle is crucial to a final understanding of the structure of matter.
We’ve all learned about atoms in school. We learned that each atom, smaller than any eye can see, is made up of a nucleus, protons and electrons.  Most of us are familiar with the chemical composition of matter, which we learned as the Periodic Table of the Elements. In that table for example, water is made up of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom bound together, or H2O.
Not only do atoms have a nucleus, protons and electrons, but they also have elementary or fundamental particles. You may have heard of quantum mechanics or particle physics.  These sciences describe how atoms move and act. Quantum mechanics describes the fields that atoms travel in, and particle physics describes things like baryons, quarks, fermions, bosons and other sub-atomic particles which make up the atom.  The existence of the Higgs-boson particle proves how elementary particles in atoms gain mass. Without the ability to gain mass, atoms could not exist. That’s why July 4th, 2012 is an historic day for science and mankind – man has finally discovered the force that holds everything in the universe together. But Higgs-boson is only one name for it. I think the God Particle is also apt.