Website ‘Constitute’ Enables Comparison Of Constitutions

Website ‘Constitute’ enables comparison of constitutions around the world

Are you currently writing a new constitution for your imaginary new nation? Would you like to find out more about similarities and differences between, say, the United States Constitution and the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany (the Grundgesetz)? Here is a new handy tool for you.

The Comparative Constitutions Project (CCP) has recently launched the new website Constitute which enables users to compare the texts of constitutions from around the world.

Constitute website
Constitute website

Constitutional texts can be searched for specific passages or browsed by topics. The search results can be filtered further and downloaded for later consultation.

Constitute website
Constitute website

At the moment (September 2013, the scope of the project encompasses “the constitution that was in force in September of 2013 for nearly every independent state in the world.”

The project is supported by Google Ideas, the Indigo Trust and IC2.

I like the idea that Google supports this project with funding. Unfortunately, as the Snowden leaks have revealed, Google is also among the biggest tech companies subverting the US’s and other nations’ constitutions by enabling the totalitarian surveillance ambitions of the NSA.

Everyone involved in intelligence should use this website and reconsider whether the bureaucracy they are serving actually protects their respective constitution.


App ‘Buycott’ Aids Users In Consumer Boycotts

App ‘Buycott’ Aids Users In Consumer Boycotts

Consumer boycotts via smartphone

Consumers in the US (and elsewhere) are facing a dilemma: They may politically disagree with the corporations whose products they buy on a regular basis at their local supermarket. Often they do not know who they are supporting financially, because huge corporations own vast portfolios of consumer brands.

A new app called Buycott, available now for iOS and Android (soon) makes transparent who is behind a certain product that you buy in supermarkets. It helps individuals who want to engage in consumer boycotts.

The targeted corporations currently include Koch Industries, Monsanto, and Johnson & Johnson, but the database is being expanded. These corporations are US-based, but they are all huge multinational conglomerates.

The idea for the app was sparked at last year’s progressive Netroots Nation conference and brought to life by Ivan Pardo, an independent software developer from Los Angeles.

Read more:

New App Buycott Lets Users Protest Koch Brothers, Monsanto And More.” (Clare O’Connor, Huffington Post, 2013/05/15)

Auf deutsch:

Buycott: App klärt beim Einkauf auf“. (Heise Online, 18.05.2013)


Useful Tools: Podcast URL Extractor

If you like listening to podcasts, you might have run into the following problem: a friend recommends a certain interesting podcast to you, but it is only available on iTunes. That is an obstacle if you do not own Apple products or have the iTunes software installed on your Windows PC. On some operating systems, such as Linux, iTunes is not even natively available. You might try using WINE, but it is not optimal.

To add an iTunes podcast to a random podcatcher program, either on your computer, or on your smartphone, you need the rss feed address of the podcast. Luckily, there is a nifty website that extracts the rss feed from the iTunes page of a particular podcast.

Simply copy and paste the URL of the iTunes page of the podcast into a form field and get back the rss feed address to copy into your podcatcher.

You can also enter keywords, which will result in a list of related podcasts that may or may not be of interest to you.

Here is the page:

This is how it looks:

Happy podcast listening! Why not enlighten yourself with a good program while doing chores or sports?

Useful Tools: PDF Split and Merge (PDFsam)

Most people who write texts on their computer and export them to PDF format come across this problem every once in a while: how do I merge two different PDF files?

You might run into this when you have written a term paper and want to attach a fancy cover page to your text or, like me, need to merge all of your documents (cover letter, resume, diplomas, etc.) into one file for a job application via email.

Fear not, help is on the way!

A while ago, I discovered PDFsam (short for PDF Split and Merge), a free open source tool available for Linux, Mac, and Windows. There are two versions, a free basic version, which I use, and an enhanced version with some more features that requires a donation of your choice.

If you just need to glue several PDF files together, split, or rearrange them, the basic version is just fine. Have a look at it, try it out, and donate to the project if you can.

Screenshot of PDFsam
A screenshot of PDFsam on Linux Mint 12.

E-Books Are Huge At The Leipzig Book Fair In 2012

While browsing through the program for the Leipzig Book Fair this morning, I noticed that there is quite a high number of events dealing with various aspects of ebooks. In fact, ebooks are one of the special foci this year.

From end user-centric introductions about ebooks and ebook readers to questions for aspiring writers and publishers, there will be talks, presentations, and workshops throughout the four days.

I am looking forward to attending some of those events, but I have not made up my mind on which ones I will pick. With 44 events in the Category “E-Book/Internet” it will be absolutely impossible to visit all of them. Nevertheless, there will be a mountain of information, I am certain of that.

One question that I hope to find an answer to is whether there will be an affordable ebook reader that can display .pdf documents in A4 format well in the near future. So far I have had the opportunity of briefly checking out Amazon’s Kindle reader at a friend’s place and I found the e-ink display very pleasing to the eye. In my opinion it is definitely better than staring at a laptop screen for a long time. For reading novels or other texts that do not heavily rely on formatting, this is quite good. But when you have to read journal articles, the small size is a disadvantage.

Tablet computers, on the other hand, are bigger but do not have an e-ink display. Especially when you look at a glossy screen, this is becomes rather inconvenient after a while. From a reader’s point of view, I think this is a drawback.

Maybe somebody at the book fair knows whether the affordable A4 format ebook reader is around the corner. I would be tempted to buy one.