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MinneBar 2008: State of the State: Technology in Minnesota

At MinneBar on May 10, a major event was a panel titled State of the State: Technology in Minnesota. The panel included Douglas Olson, Jamie Thinglestad, Michael Gorman, Robert Stephens, Dan Grigsby, and Matthew Dornquast. This is a recording of that session.

Download MP3


Our Political Mess

While I was looking at the web sites of different candidates in the primary, I found a rather annoying trend. Too many don't really say anything other than that they want the position. One I saw even looked like a geocities site from the 90s. However, many have introduced an "Issues" section, which seems like a great thing at first. But in looking at the sites, it seems everyone has the same 4-6 issues, and list that they are important and need to be handled. The problem is most don't say how. I could see maybe not having details on a couple pending finding out available resources and options, but say that and at least give a general indication of the direction they'd like. I think it's great that more people are sick of the existing politicians and think they can do better. Unfortunately thinking one can do better without having actually thought of or being willing to state how doesn't help a lot. Even more unfortunate is most people will just think "oh, they care about that" and assume based on party or other reasons that are just as ridiculous that they will agree with the candidate.

That said, MN primaries are Tuesday. Find the candidates in your area and search a bit. The 3 "major parties" all have multiple candidates at the state level (senate), and within the metro it appears several areas have competition within parties for senate and/or house positions. As the primary determines who's on the general election ballot, you may want to consider the party of your voting in the primary, as you may not want to vote for the same people who you'd necessarily want in office. For example if you're OK with anyone from a certain party (hopefully not just because they're in that party), but you have a strong preference of a certain candidate in a different party, you may want to cast your primary votes in that party. Voting one way in the primary doesn't mean you have to vote for the same people in the general election. So make sure you vote on Tuesday.


Open Data Formats

I find it interesting that news of Minnesota's new proposed "open data format" requirements came up because I was just talking to a coworker about the Massachusetts requirements today. While short term it may be a bit of a pain for everyone, long term it will definitely be needed as things are otherwise going the direction of being locked up in proprietary formats with DRM and the vendor throwing DMCA complaints in the direction of anyone who even thinks about not paying for access to their own data.

I do find it interesting how far it's going though. Documents are usually addressed when discussions come up, but the interesting part is other media. That whole free to use in perpetuity is cool, but it rules out MPEG-2, MP3 and AAC as storage formats. While the licenses have come down since the pre-2002 dvd-player-software-not-bundled-with-drive days, it's still not free. The concept is nice on a philosophical level, but it's well past what the federal government has required for things like DTV (MPEG-2 and DD) which could have implications for how well it's accepted. Uncompressed formats such as WAV or YCbCr bitstreams aren't really reasonable for storage (or even transmission of HD content). One big catch is while Vorbis and FLAC are pretty far advanced and probably reasonable for audio, things like Xvid have iffy backgrounds and Theora doesn't seem to have a lot of support behind it yet. While the proprietary as the companies are solid and will be around and willing to support it is nice on one hand (IIRC the official reason why the FCC picked MPEG-2 for DTV, which disregards lobbying that likely took place), if it's free anyone can create an implementation of it. In case you didn't notice by the links to the open formats, a lot of the work in this regard for free stuff is being pushed through the Xiph.Org Foundation (the Ogg people). It seems there's enough support out there from the community in general and groups like Xiph.Org willing to back it up that it'd be possible. It'll be interesting to see how far it really goes, and what happens in the world of data formats if it stays mostly intact and other governmental organizations take similar approaches.

Information on H. F. No. 3971 from the MN House site for those interested.


Least corrupt?

So I'm glancing through the sorta news and reading the stats. First one that hits me is that Minnesota's government is ranked "seventh least corrupt". I find the implied expected corruptness interesting. Apparently we're also 3rd ranked third in overall government performance. That third place is a B- (tied with 6 other states). The kicker is "Highest marks were for money management." Yea... Apparently we're first in percent of people getting colon inspections though, which may or may not be related to being the healthiest state on average.