Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Was playing with a random baby at lunchtime, which got me thinking about who we are. Again.

I figure this. I need to "break" us into two things - effectively the conscious and the subsconscious. This is essential in understanding why we do the things we do. I don't like using these two words though, as they imply "awareness" and "instinct", and I think it is different to that - we can be unaware of socially-dependent decisions, for instance. I will use them here, but change them when I get round to writing this up properly. However, "biological" and "social" facets of our own "entity" would be more appropriate, perhaps.

The consciousness, that conceptually aware bit of us, wherever it comes from, is responsible for who we are. I think it is this bit that defines out attitudes, our thoughts, how we relate, etc etc. This is completely defined by our experiences and our memories.

The subconsciousness is something that exists before our consciousness develops. It is the animal within us, and it is what makes us eat, cry etc. A new born baby (or possibly anything up to the point where it exits the womb) is purely "subconsciousness", as it has no experience yet.

These two are in marked opposition to each other, and our sum is where they meet. For, in any given situation, either our subsconscious can rule over our consciousness, exerting biological pressures on informed decisions, e.g. to find food, to get angry, etc. or our "consciousness", informed by external factors, can make a decision that takes everything else into account.

Ramifications. This implies that those issues coming under our own body, such as food, pain, etc, are (initially) under direct control of our subconsciousness, while everything else (opinions, et al) is the consciousness. This is, however, entirely subject to change, as one or the other gains more influence.

Secondly, it also places a nice arc on how we should see life. If we start at one extreme - all biology, no thought - then there is something attractive and harmonious about ending it in a state of reversal - all thought, no instinct. Our lifelong lesson should be how to move all the functions we are born with into a state of control. We should take what we have, and use it to be our own self.

Historically, there are very few to have achieved this. Jesus, for instance, (religious issues aside) apparently fasted for 40 days - voluntarily overcoming hunger, and then went on to commit himself to his own death. Whether or not control over death counts I'm not sure yet, but control over the fear of death, and the pain involved, does.

Hmm.

Quick thought. It's pretty obvious now that spammers have resorted to trojans and viruses to set up open SMTP relays to avoid being traced. But couldn't this "home user" approach actually play against them? If a honeypot is set up, and infected, then used to send mail, isn't the real IP of the spammer announced readily to the owner of the honeypot? Or do the spammers have another layer of stealth, before they connect to the SMTP box?

Sigh. The inevitability of technology rolls into the probably well-intentioned, but lacking desires of a struggling government mentality

ID card database

I want to put together an article explaining why I think that this is a bad idea, but it needs to take into several aspects. One of these is privacy, and I'd like to concentrate on it individually, as I think it is separate to (as well as a major component of) a criticism of ID cards, and government surveillance in general. Then I may get around to taking a look at efficiency of government systems, but I feel this is more the area of "proper" research.

For now, some notes... Privacy seems to have become something that most people are now willing to give up, mostly (imho) because they a). don't realise the ramifications of it, and b). feel that they have nothing to hide. The former is a matter of education - one form of which is highlighting just how privacy affects them, and another being the more direct approach which comes out of when their privacy is actually intruded upon. Note the effect on people when Norwich Union used genetic testing to influence life insurance policies. The latter is probably just a different facet of the same thing - as in, people do not realise what is actually confidential about them - they take it for granted, and this is accentuated when privacy intrusion is sold as a criminal deterrent, moreso in the States than here (which acts as a prime case study as to why people should pay attention).

There is a level of hypocrisy amongst the public here. People say they have nothing to hide, yet are happy to accept whatever forms of "data control" happen to be applied to their information. I suspect that plenty of people would take offence if I started to rifle through their post and their private e-mail, yet they claim they have nothing to hide. They also assume this - access by an outsider for a purpose other than originally intended - as a preposterous idea, but it happens. A lot. There is no reason to assume that it doesn't, or that we should design our systems without this in mind.

WHY do we find privacy important? We need our own thoughtspace. We hate being monitored. Remember being back in school, and having the teacher look over your shoulder whilst you were working, or sitting an exam? The instant fear it brought? Maybe that was just me :) But we act differently when we know we are being individually monitored - indeed, this can be the POINT of monitoring. See the panopticon, Foucault's entire chronologicisation of objectification techniques. We are being made self-conscious to a point where we are no longer free to think by ourselves.

Maybe this is a root cause of why I feel that education, not monitoring is the path we must follow. In our lives, in our government, in ourselves. I would rather a world where each of acts individually, than one in which we are all afraid to think something new.


People doing nice things on September 12 is a good idea, but why not extend it to every 12th-of-the-month? :) (Or indeed every day?)

Unspellchecked, I release thee unto the waiting clutches of the world...

No Slogans

"The irony is that these are slogans that are actually trying to promote not a shoe, or a shirt, or a new drink, but a mindset, an emotion, a feeling that may have some real importance in what we have deemed life."

I feel like reading some Nick Cohen for some reason.

Monday, September 29, 2003

The Hutton Inquiry makes us look positively civilised here in the UK, after reading Mark Rasch's comments on a Wired article saying that the FBI are demanding journalists' notes on recently-acquired Adrian Lamo. The lack of media attention this gets anywhere puts the complete govenment-media coupling in, uh, more shame than it was before, imho. Can't quite believe they do this, and that no-one notices.

Amusing. IBM amended its counterclaim against SCO last week, stating that people should be able to distribute IBM's work for free: "The amended counterclaim filed last Thursday related to copyright infringement for seven pieces of code that IBM put into the open source community[...]. IBM says that these were all released under the GPL, and that SCO has no right to stop others from distributing these contributions and cannot itself distribute them because it is in violation of the GPL because it is seeking to restrict the distribution of Linux. "

Cool.

Local made, national effect

More on America's new MATRIX profiling database system - now that they've canned the TIA project, they need something to replace it.

The interesting thing is that they seemd to have learnt from the fact that a specific, single point of entry is much too easy to focus attention on. By drawing lots of attention to the TIA and Mr Poindexter, the government gave critics something to aim at. However, there are enough people that want this technology in every state thatit's plausible to introduce it one or two, then a few more, a dozen (which is where we are now), and pretty soon it's a majority, all independently running their own installation of the same system. After that, it's so very very childlike-y simple to pass data between the systems without anyone really noticing. It is a form of emergent decentralisation, and plays exactly the same game that hackers/terrorists/grass-roots/etc organisations have found necessary, but for different reasons. It relies on the fact that communicaiton is so easy, and that once you have all the pieces in place of their own accord, joining the dots is natural.

The danger here is that the similarly decentralised structure of the majority of the critics has come to see things as an "all-against-one" thing. Their scattered, yet flexible structure can be quickly brought to bear upon a particular entity, or a specific meme, and all of the power emanating from that collective focused like a magnifying glass harnessing a sunbeam. But that is not what's needed in this situation, for two reasons.

Firstly, the nature of the "threat" is not singular, as described above, which makes the organisation of the critics' passions a lot harder, although if they can manage it then they would be all the stronger.

Secondly, it is closely tied to geographical boundaries and areas, and thanks to judicial legacies being what they are, it may be that each state can (and should) be accountable to its own inhabitants.

This has the unfortunate effect of dividing the critics, and I suspect that there is a tendency for them to cluster in certain geographical areas. So while there may be a lot of negativity over the project in one state, the dissenting voices therein may have no impact on another state. While this may not necessarily be a bad thing, it makes the "universal" collative power of decentralised criticism unimplementable, or at least on a smaller scale. This lack of "entropy" within critics' geography may be extremely disadvantageous.

It'll be interesting to see how well the "enabling" power of the net manages to cope with a more subtle issue. Or maybe that's just human attention for you ;)

Friday, September 26, 2003

Bruce Willis offers $1m Saddam bounty: "Soldiers identify with action movies and action actors." [said a soldier]

See, that's half the problem, right there. Stupid, gung-ho bastads.

As more people get their limbs torn off and disturbing dents made in their flesh by large amounts of force in a relatively small area, there seems to be an inexcusable lack of any klind of thought or discussion as to who, why, what is going on out there.

In fact, the whole thing still smacks of arrogance rather than "peace-keeping". The rest of the world seems intent on forcing a change overnight, from tyranny to freedom-sponging capitalism, damn the past, screw the reality. Apparently Western culture works anywhere, at any time, and nothing will stop it.

While I agree that a "West-imposed lifestyle" may bring about less direct tyranny on a population, I have grave, grave concerns over the lack of attention to the clash between cultures. Part of the transition is surely to address the old regime, and blend it with a new way of life. Not just to flout it as patent ridiculousness and then just install an ideology evolved over time, in a continent and culture far away. At least the West has a present born of some kind of history. Iraq can look forward to looking back and thinking "now we are them."

When Freedom of Speech starts trespassing on business, rather than government interests. Ick.

AtStake fires executive over Microsoft criticism

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Prison Sentences For Faked Cancer

Questions.


  • Should people guilty of financial crime be put into prison? [Is the role of prison as a preventative deterrent? Or as an area to keep dangerous offenders apart from society? Is "society" in the last sentence different to "their own child"? Do either roles of prison work as intended?]

  • If not, what other punishments are effective? [From all perspectives, including cost to the system of the punishment/deterrent.]

  • Why did they do it? Is this the almost-expected result of a finance-oriented culture, or was something else the motivation?



I think this reinforces a notion I had this morning, regarding the whole "laws vs regulation" thing at the mo. Regulation is much, much more closely bound to education than law-making. Prison is an after-effect, and a dependency on it such as the US has and the UK is heading towards does nothing towards inital education. It is not enough to say "this is bad", we must teach people why it is bad. We are, after all, logical beings some of the time, and if people realise why something is bad, they are much less likely to do it when comparing those reasons against the reasons inherent in their nature, i.e. selfish tendencies.

>> Chuckle

Going through the Google Zeitgeist again, I was kind of amused by the notion of "diversity" for some reason. While it's true that the internet gives us access to a much wider range of material, I guess the fact of the matter is that people really don't look for it at all, and are much more likely to just transfer their day-to-day interests into netspace.

What made me chuckle was the various ideas of "diversity" and "patriotism" that get thrown around, especially in the UK. Thinking back to a recent Radio 4 "your views" round-up on Britain and the Euro, it seems that a lot of people don't want to switch to a united currency because pounds and pence is inherently 'British'. What is 'British', though? I can think of no popular culture within this place that can be proclaimed as 'home-grown', leading edge, or 'ours'. Our culture is now inherited mostly from the States - perhaps we should be using US Dollars instead? Perhaps 'Eastenders' counts as some kind of 'great' British institution, but I don't see the rest of the world falling over their feet to watch it.

Perhaps the net allows the world to roll into one, and for the idea of 'culture' to be applied on a global scale, rather than bounded by borders. Perhaps this is more of a threat to 'diversity' than globalisation, which people seem to get extremely worked up about. Or maybe it's just a different form of diversity.

More CD copy corrupti^w protection, that makes me wonder...

Anti-swap CD hits the racks: "Many Net swappers 'think it is their God-given right to steal music,' Whitmore says. 'They don't know any better. We have to teach them.'"

OK, I think this is a fair proposition: Music companies can do whatever they want with their CDs, but must accept that I am allowed to use "alternate means" to obtain the music if their product doesn't work on my set-up. This would be fair use, and would differentiate me from common thieves :)

Of course, the problem then is that the onus is on me to get hold of music I like, even if that's technically impossible.

Nah, screw it, I'm off to emusic.com. ;)

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Slashdot are reporting that two anti-spam organisations [1, 2] have closed down due to massive DDoS attacks and threats from the spammers.

I, along with most others, doubt the efficacy of laws when it comes to this bit. Is this a case where an anarchistic, "free market" approach to governance of spam should be realised, a la Lawrence Lessig's Spammer Bounty idea. Assuming that the spammers are unaffected by either "regulation" or "law", due to their apparent anonymity and their location independence, is the best way to deal with them to put them into the "Lion's den" of eachand every one of us? There are smart people out there, who can trace these things and report them, anonymously if need be. Or is, as John Gilmore suggests, an individual filter-based approach a "fairer" way, i.e. one that doesn't breach freedom of speech (which spammer bounty hunting invariably does), but investigates "freedom of listening" instead?

Quick note to point out that Borders in Brighton are selling Edgar Allen Poe's "Complete Tales & Poems" in one chunky hardback mother for a penny shy of a fiver. I need more shelves.

Lib Dems making some good points about council tax: ""How can it be right that the poorest tenth in society pays over four times more of their income in council tax than the richest tenth?"

Bloody hell, taxing the rich, now that's a novel idea...

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Had to blog this bit of my mad dreams last night. I was holding something, in a room, and there were two other people in there (I don't remember much about them), and one of them was trying to take whatever I was holding.

But, this is the strange bit. I remember them talking about "cycles" in the world. I seemd to know that they were talking about time, as in eras, or "loops" that were destined to repeat themselves (like Star Trek's Cause and Effect episode), and they wanted to know which one we were now in. They called these cycles something like "enaig" or "elaig" or something. Apparently it was from HHGTTG, but I think that might have been my mind trying to make sense of it.

Anyway, this is important for all you time scientists out there. Remember it.

Little quote from a BBC article which got me thinking...

Anti-spam laws 'lack bite': "The law is not going to work on its own, but is a stab at setting ethical boundaries for the misuse of e-mail."

Which begs the question - When are laws appropriate?

In fact, I think this breaks down a lot further. We need a system that breaks things up into more discrete control methods:


  1. Laws to be enforced

  2. "Guides" or "counsel", which are recommended

  3. Free interaction, i.e. no straightforward control - effectively an anarchistic domain



The first 2 can be thought of as "MUST" and "SHOULD" terms, for those of you familiar with RFCs. I also think there might be a level between the last 2, but it's not so obvious. The free market attitude, in its purest sense, comes in under the final approach.

More importantly, this allows us to ask what should be classified, and why it should be classified as something, rather than another.

I like to think that, ideally, we should start off with everything in the last category - anarchy. As we progress culturally/socially, certain ideas and thoughts and methods are moved into the second tier. Only things that everyone agrees should be made compulsory are placed into the highest level. Of course, much of this is what we already have. Unfortunately, I think there is a definite tendency to actively promote the top level over the other 2, i.e. that things MUST be controlled, rather than regulated. Or maybe I'm just seeing everything through black-tinted glasses, which is also possible.

However, a system should place as much emphasis on any one layer as it does on the other two, and I think this is the problem we face - that the government is far too eager to make laws than to either offer "assistance", or let things alone. What we need from a centralised body is information collation, a place whose main purpose is basically the sorting of research and study and opinion, before making results available.

There must be books on this kind of thing. I feel like I'm going over thousand-years-old ground...

>> Governance vs Counsel

More progress on the Uk's number-plate recognition scheme, and the more I read about stuff like this (and I've read a fair amount over the last few years), the more I have to wonder about the government's approach to "trust" (as highlighted by ol' Davey Blunkett, below). This ties in with cost versus benefits, role of government, "feature-creep" et al.

I guess the essential question is...

Do the government act in our interests, or against them?

Where "our" is that of society as a whole (*shudder* - such broad generalisation...).

And, specific to this case, we have...

- Is there a better way to stop criminals that are using the road?
- Do the new technologies infringe upon the "trust" between "us" and the government?

I'm not going to even try and answer this now. But I think it's important to approach this from an exceedingly unbiased view. i.e. not from the anarchic, grass-roots style that instantly dispatches governemnt policy, nor from the optimistic, spin-led, uninformed public point of view. Quite how to achieve this is a different matter, and generally with these things, history is the best teacher. I may write to my MP out of curiosity as well. A "trusted" system needs to be transparent, so it will good to find out just how transparent and accountable it is, through the routes I have available.

>> Mysteries

Of the multitude of necessities that mankind remains stubborn and loyal to, the unknown seems to be the greatest inspiration of them, and our fascination with that which we do not know has the ability to overwhelm, taunting us with its mocking knowingness.

Slashdot today unshifted a story on the solving of the Cyrillic Projector Code, a sculpture by James Sanborn at the CIA HQ. more info here, including a pointer to Antipodes, what appears to effectively be the next puzzle on the list. Despite looking really good, I love the way these sculptures are yet another example of permanent, longstanding mysteries, just waiting to be solved.

Similarly, Kuro5hin carried a story about Fernando Pessoa recently, which I haven't read through yet, but he seemed to lead the public into a net of trickery and string to be untangled.

Puzzle setting has been an art since we learned how to think. Or thought to learn. There must be so much about us that we haven't figured out yet, whether it be man-made or not.

Sunday, September 21, 2003

Witness the hypocrisy...

David Blunkett 1: "It is going to be a very big challenge to rebuild trust"

Well, yes, if you keep doing stuff like this:

David Blunkett 2: "That is what we are debating in cabinet at the moment... [whether] we have a register of all those in the country and... an identification system that relates to it"

Another veiled attempt to provide "autocracy" to a country gets rapidly metamorphosed into a "free market" ready for the powers-that-be to snap up. Hands up who didn't see this coming...

Iraq attacks kill three US troops: "In a major initiative to help rebuild the shattered economy, the Iraqi interim administration has announced that foreign investors will be allowed to buy complete control of previously state-owned enterprises - apart from those in the oil sector.

Foreign banks will be able to buy Iraqi financial institutions, while the central bank itself will become independent.
"

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Another thought. Isn't it weird how "I" is the only pronoun that gets capitalised, other than if referring to God? More proof that God is just the self? (But then, if god is dead, so am i. See here.) Or that the Catholic grammatacists of old were arrogant? Anyway, i shall try using the lower case pronoun "i" just as i would use the lower case "you", in future. And god should probably formally claim a lower case beginning, as it's definitely a concept rather than a being, if you (or i) think about it for any length of time.

>> monkeys

Apparently Capuchin monkeys reject unequal reward. (I don't like the use of the word "pay" in the original context, as it implies an abstract monetarism, when this seems to be more of a case of straightforward "reward".)

Lots of interesting questions coming off this one. At what point of "intelligence" do species become aware of other's relative standing and reward? Does this mean that humans are not just naturally led to a system of equality, but to consider themselves in terms of others as a natural instinct? What would happen if the two test subjects were placed in the same environment, rather than being separated physically?

If one follows through the results and conclusion obtained by the research, and applies it to humans, then it kind of makes sense that we are inherently "jealous", or that we at least recognise our own relative social undermining. But does this lead to a capitalist society, by way of then naturally wanting more than anybody else, or does such a culture simply exploit this inherentness, albeit deliberately perhaps? Is there human nature underlying the desire and consumerism that we see today? And is it futile (on a large scale rather than as an individual) to attempt to "educate" or otherwise persuade people that the opposite may be true. (For instance, in my own personal view, we generally have enough resources apiece to live a full life, and that happiness comes not through posession of relative social standing, but "inner contentment", but should this be expected of others?)

In short, there must be More Research done into everything.

p.s. I think i fixed the page to not use dodgy CSS ;) Let me know if not.

A cross-reference to Phil's latest blog entry, more as a comment than a post, as Blogger doesn't allow for comments (only xss ;). He sayeth:

" Hmm GrahamLally's De-Scribed is probably very interesting. But can't be read on the version of IE5 I'm using. Looks like there's a use of CSS to do tricks that basically break on some versions of IE (looked ok on Mozilla yesterday)

Bad trend. People are getting sloppy about browser compatability.
"

Actually, yes, c'est tres sloppy indeed, and I will be switching it back asap. In my defence, it was actually half intended to break Internet Explorer, namely the latest version, as a demonstration of the browser's failings - not because it doesn't yet support PNG alpha transparency without a DirectX plug-in thing (plenty in Google on that), but because it looks likely that no better solution will be released before the next major version, which will most likely be heavily integrated with Windows (as announced by Microsoft recently). The same applies to their glaring CSS bugs, which they seem extremely reluctant to fix.

Anyway, I have some time to put together a decent, non-poncy template over the next few days. Maybe. If anyone understands the importance of making information available to all and sundry, it's Phil. And then me. So I shall see what my fevered mark-up fingers can knock together as some kind of repentance. I always did prefer the black-and-white approach, anyway...

Firebird is out these days, which seems to do a sterling job of most things I throw at it, and that's without any of the groovy extensions. IE is so cliché these days, darrrrling...

This also trespasses upon my current thinking on progress vs accessibility, but I'm too drunk to formulate them coherently.

US Gov't Promoting Patent Extremism in the European Parliament

All the more scarier for the PNAC site earlier. I'm still trying to work out whether I'm subject to the bias of one side over another, or if the FFII actually know what they're talking about, much more than the politicians deciding the rules. Either way, it's still obvious that a software patent system would shove power over ideas further into the hands of the large companies, globally if this latest news has anything to do with it. And I can't think where all of the large companies are generally based, nooo... Gah.

I still haven't heard back from my MEP handling the patent issue, I will have to follow it up. The issue is quite sickening, really.

The world is not a very nice place

Look, if a 12 year old can get it right, what's wrong with the rest of us?

Finally been pointed at the site for the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) again. This is quite possibly the scariest thing I can think of on the net (apart from that "Letters with Serial Killers" thing I was reading last night), with ths on the first page:

The [PNAC] is a non-profit educational organization dedicated to a few fundamental propositions: that American leadership is good both for America and for the world; that such leadership requires military strength, diplomatic energy and commitment to moral principle; and that too few political leaders today are making the case for global leadership.

Check out the Statement of Principles too. Seriously, these are the people deciding not just where America wants to go today, but how the world should think. Note the names at the bottom of the SoP that include all our favourites: Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz...

The problem here is that these people are intelligent, and know what they're doing. Without equal intelligence to counter it, and the infrastructures to use it, the sheer level of power and influence that is wielded here will swamp any other attempt to define ideologies. We cannot simply rely on protests, paintbombs and all of the other low-culture, grass-roots arsenal that the people who care currently rely upon. This is an intellectual, ideological battle, and we currently stand on the wrong side of the balance. Everything that we are as a society is so heavily tilted towards those in power, that to change anything we must dismantle what we are so used to.

We cannot force people to change, we cannot expect them to suddenly see an alternative as if they were all Saul on the road to Damascus. We must analyse what we have, realise what is lacking, and offer alternatives on all fronts. We need to pick apart our own society from every possible angle, make it transparent and give people the opportunity and motiviation to look into it with their own eyes. The powers that are want us to accept what they offer, and we should have none of it, until these powers are who we are.

This morning was amazing :) I have realised the art of the environment, taking that which surrounds us and perceiving it as a kind of organic ecosystem, in constant turmoil and constant staticity. I look forward to going for walks through the canvas again.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

cnet has posted an interview with Adrian Lamo. Complete respect for him, one of the few people in the world with their head screwed on the right way.

Monday, September 15, 2003

>> Indie Brighton

The pavement on North Street, besides the crossing by HSBC, displayed a fresh graffiti stencil today - I'm used to seeing strange little sayings, or pictures of Dogs/Britney, sprayed in white under my feet by some intoxicated pixie - but this one read:

"VOTE TODAY. Brighton's Best Butt, Levi Store, Churchill Sq"

So the large corproates are in on the small spraying now, eh? I've also noticed plenty of "11-8x-xx" (no free advertising here ;) posters plastered willy-nilly on various surfaces that have mainly been the domain of club night promo posters up til now. I wonder if this is going to get bigger, in terms of corporate advertising. THe masses have broken the rules of promotion in order to get their message through the hordes of billboards, and in the process opened up the gates for all the franchises and the chains and the profitable outlets.

I think we'll see more adverts everywhere, as a result, which is kind of depressing. I'll soon be blotting out everything past my own feet.

>> Technology & Evolution

Been looking into IP briefly, after this Slashdot article, and all looks very exciting. Some points I note...

Who would I call? :) I never really use the landline at the moment, and most of my comms is done with e-mail (for lengthy stuff with no real response time), IM/texting (for more "informal" comms, but with a response time that I can put on hold) or mobile phone (only for short bursts of info, really, at a specific moment). All these have a "purpose of communication," and maybe I need to work out where Real time telephony fits in there.

The traditional telephone suffers from invasiveness - you are expected to answer the phone when it rings, and it's just so demanding, with its ever-functioning and omnipresent lurking. WHat I currently like about the idea of VOIP on PCs is that you would have to arrange a time, probably via SMS or something, that you knew the other person would respond at, as they need their machine on.


I'm drawn to this idea of "arrangement telephony," and getting some kind of control back over our lives.

Friday, September 12, 2003

Reading through these artist opinions on RIAA, technology, lawsuits, et al, I realised that the simple act of a 12 year old girl getting sued gets far more attention, and I mean farrrrr much more, than all the previous campaigning of other people.

What does that mean? That people are more concerned about "cute" scapegoats than their own rights? Is that altruism? Sacrifice? Media-led hypocrisy?

Friday. Had a crazy idea yesterday to embark upon a largish scale conversion of PDFs (about 1800 of them) into searchable text docs. Things you will need...

- Scripting abilities (check)
- Material (check)
- Database schema (working on)
- OCR software (looking at)
- 1 CVS repository
- Lots of webspace (Hmm, could be tricky)
- Time (not good, none until Sunday)
- A few crazy people who think it's a good idea (1 so far)
- Lots of cool people who don't mind checking/transcribing documents

I don't know how to even start on this. Yeek.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

>> Vaguities

Everything is the same thing, by Jon Carroll. Got me wondering just how big this whole RIAA thing is. It's not about paying for music. It's about what capitalism is. Or maybe I'm just paranoid =) Either way, there is a concept lying beneath all the rubble that an economy and "value" and income represent, about what we are versus what we have become. It's so blurred and distorted by our culture and society that I can't quite put my finger on it. But I think it's there. It's more than the fact that "you can't put a price on music, because music would exist without money".

We have bred a world of desirers rather than actors or thinkers, and now we should not be surprised when people want things. Consumerism has never been about ethics, and in fact a free-market model should never rely upon them in the slightest. Time to choose between a market and a world.

>> Technology vs Evolution

Just had a thought related to an old story about a spammer's details being leaked onto the web (Spammer shuts down after his details appear on web, also Sydney Morning Herald), and while it can be seen as just, or mob-rule, by some or others, what just struck me is the sheer amount of privacy attached to what we consider public, i.e. our e-mail address.

A few years ago, if you had an e-mail address when nobody else did, you were kind of proud of it and gave it out to anyone you met :) A few spams may have cropped up (more if you were on AOL, I suspect), but it was cool. And you could always change it if you didn't like it/the spam.

Nowadays, as our e-mail address has become one of our primary means of communication, like our address and our telephone number, the effort required to change it has overshadowed this original "frivolity" to the point where we are almost as protective of it as we are with our other details.

Personally, I find this shift interesting, as e-mail is unique amongst communication channels. Addresses encode a tangible, physical space that presents plenty of barriers to access - posting is expensive, for instance. Telephone can also be quite expensive, but is more effective than postal channels. E-Mail takes this further - anyone anywhere can contact you at no (or minimal) cost, so the potential of it being public is immense in comparison.

The New Zealand spammer case was a prime example of a "real world Denial Of Service" attack, i.e. it involved a huge amount of people using his personal details to achieve some effect (the prevention of spam, where spam is the "service"). In organisations, this is currently less of an issue, it would seem - mail campaigns tend to promote the use of a letter as a better way of getting noticed, whereas e-mails can simply be deleted. But nonetheless, we are now in a position of Accountability through Contactability, and other words ending in "ility". The consquences of this are quite big, I think, and I'll have to look into it more.

Because it needs all the attention it can get while SCOX stock price stays high.

Linux Today - Response to SCO's Open Letter

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

I don't understaaaaand.. Oliver Letwin, right-winger tory proposes a decentralised police force, US style, and wants to move the authoritative power away from London. Conservative Anarchism?

I'm not sure how closely this ties in with American systems, and I guess a lot would depend on how it's done and (still) the attitude of the Police Force, but surely it would be a good thing...

Oliver Letwin keeps talking (most) sense (out of all the politicians). If only he were Lib Dem, and I believed in the idea of a central monarchistic role, then I'd possibly say he should be the next PM.

I'm so confused.

This Slashdot post, for some reason, made me stop for a moment and consider consumer rationalism, and the fact that entire arguments for free markets are being undermined by advances in psychological study. How can you sustain a market supposedly guided (in the long term) by consumer choice when a). the market itself conspires to twist this choice in any way possible, and b). it lends itself to conglomeration, and as the larger these companies get, the more power they acquire.

This kind of pretty much confirms further my theory that capitalism and free marketism is a sound idea at first, but it doesn't scale in the real world. There are too many assumptions and idealisms with regard to "human nature". Will have to look into this more.

Awoke to find that Adrian Lamo has been released pending trial (SecurityFocus News), but ordered to find a job/full-time education, and not use computers. I'm not sure how long it'll take for him to go to trial.

"The 22-year-old was without the backpack that he usually carries, containing a change of clothes and the laptop computer with which he's hacked some of America's largest corporations. 'What backpack?,' he quipped. 'I lost it. It fell off a bridge.'"

Wow, this guy still has a sense of humour :) I can't stand the way he's being treated. It seems he chose to live like he did, and now he's being forced to embrace the system. I can imagine some cartoon in a hacker paper with the American law courts portrayed as some overshadowing puppeteer hammering strings into a Lamo doll's limbs. But maybe I've been watching too much (or not enough) Pinnochio.

The judge's attitude is typical too (from whatever you can surmise from a one-liner):

"This whole business of computer hacking, viruses and so forth is getting very wearisome," said Hollows, explaining his thinking from the bench."

Yeah, you could say the same thing for a lot of stuff. Have we stopped crime yet? That's getting quite tedious. Poverty? Nup. Ah well, viruses and cracking are new pests, let's put the whitehats in with the blackhats and just wait for it all to go away.

*sigh* Nice start. Morning, world.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Oh, day of irritation and foresightedlessness.

The Register informs us that all children are to get Unique IDs, and in conjunction with the tale that the chairman of the Police Superintendent's Association wants DNA from everybody, it's really not hard to see this all coming into force, especially if that Blunkett guy has anything to do with it. I'm glad that we have reached a peak, at which we believe that the answer to our own problems lies in monitoring, tracking and observation. Ooh, that's so advanced, so cultured and civilised. Yes, it's all happy and fuzzy under our new world. Well FUCK YOU. FUCK YOUR SHORTSIGHTED "INSIGHTFULNESS" AND YOUR WOOING AND COOING OVER THE LATEST TECHNOLOGY. FUCK YOUR ATTEMPT TO MAINTAIN CONTROL THROUGH UNNACCOUNTABLE PANOPTICISM. FUCK YOUR DISRESPECT FOR THE INDIVIDUAL AND YOUR OWN SELFISH, PATRONISING IVORY TOWER POINT OF VIEW.

Uh, ahem, I mean.. this is bad news.

Also bad news is that Adrian Lamo, nomad hacker of much morals, is set to give himself up to the Feds, after being "wanted" by the NY Times for "investigating" their network, and then reporting it to them. That's where curiosity and altruism get you. Yeah, nice. Freedom campaign at www.freelamo.com. Actually, he should have handed himself in almost an hour ago, so I'll keep an eye on the tech news...

You might notice I've switched the header around, and I'm now using a cool fading PNG effect thing, which looks really cool and fadey under Mozilla and, I suspect, Opera, but may or may not look good under Internet Explorer. Ah well.

I will have to try it out for myself when I can be bothered.

Whilst on the subject, if you are using Internet Explorer, are you aware just how broken it is? Take a gander in any of the million web design forums out there and do a search for "Explorer CSS bug"...

The web waits for no browser.

Monday, September 08, 2003

A morbid entry that is generally unrelated to anything else, but that I found interesting.

Cryptome have published a calendar of US Military Dead during Iraqi War, which includes those in Afghanistan. Whether or not the numbers are shocking, repulsive or nowt is a different question. What amazes me is the number of soldiers that have died in non-combat. And yes, I'm aware that the "war" ws officially declared over quite some time ago. But here's what I mean.

For the month of August, there was a total of 37 US militia deaths. Of these, 18 are claimed as deliberate, hostile deaths. This leaves 19 that do not fit directly into this category (see below), although a small number of these could be either deliberate or accidental.

By deliberate, I mean that they were killed by a meaningful attempt to cause damage to an enemy. These are mostly the result of a collision between a vehicle and an "improvised explosive device," but there is also one account of a rocket-propelled grenade, one of the inspection of a suspicious package, and one of sustained combat injuries.

Of the remaining 19, there are a few potentially counter-militia instances - car crashes for instance, and I am not completely sure what is meant by "non-hostile injury". Some of them are just a bit odd - Pfe. Michael S Adams "was participating in a small arms fire exercise on the range when a bullet ricocheted and ignited a fire in the building." A number of men apparently died in their sleep. There are a couple of accounts of people being thrown from, or caught in vehicles that were swerving or invovled in a chase. And one man jumped into a river and never resurfaced. All incidents are under investigation.

I am sure that this ratio of non-hostile to hostile deaths must be increasing with each month - I intend to look through the months preceding August to find out.. But it would make sense. It does, however, worry me that somewhere around half of the fatalities appear to be either an avoidable "accident", or simply a result of being out there. I suspect there are sums and calculations that work out the number of non-hostile fatalities to be expected from endurance and accident, and it's fair to say that in any large number of people involved in dangerous activities, in an enduring location, there will be a percentage of casualties. But it certainly makes me wonder just what is "necessary" and what isn't.

Should we worry less about what the enemy will do, and more about the simple facts of being in the army? Do families know that there is an "acceptable" risk involved?

Sunday, September 07, 2003

Weird, Blogger.com went all funny the other day and I ended up posting to the wrong blog, so I hope no-one's posted to mine instead... Here's what I was going to post:

Blaster worm linked to severity of blackout

I seem to remember thinking, all those weeks ago, that the idea of a worm taking out power networks was an incredible, unrealistic one. IT STILL IS. Apart from the unrealistic bit. Yeep.

Also need to put a link to this up, in an archivey kind of way...

E-Democracy, E-Governance and Public Net-Work - looks interesting.

Friday, September 05, 2003

Oops. I blogged this...

Mobiles 'to replace handheld PCs'

...and decided to go on and on about the issues and effects involved in convergence, when I managed to hit Control and Q whilst writing an e-mail. Mozilla really needs a "Are you sure you want to quite this form-in-progress" prompt - maybe I'll learn XUL and write one someday. BUt nevertheless, you're all spared my delusonial ranting - hurrah!

To be honest, it wasn't really going anywhere, anyway. But it did get me thinking of a related point. I was pondering whether the forced simplicity of interfaces in mobile technology was important in considering convergence, i.e. if usability would be sacrificed as more features were added, and started to compare it against the usability of desktop GUIs. This is something that I came across the other week over on Phil's ThoughtStorms wiki, maybe it's been sitting on my noodle like a purring cat without me knowing.

But rather than take a scalability standpoint on the matter, I'm also intrigued in breaking the thoughtmould of a common GUI metaphor, i.e. that of the desktop. The problem of this metaphor is that while it works for organising information, just as people organise it on their desks, it doesn't take into account the extended functionality that a computer system offers. Desks cannot be structurally affected by the information residing on them. (Unless the weight gets too much and they collapse... ;)

This is the restriction of the desktop metaphor, and hence why we should strive to free ourselves of it. Information is no longer passive data. Information is intertwined with functionality. It's as if reading a post-it note on your desk could automatically call somebody.

I think that many of the problems people have relating to computers is that they do not understand this extension, the concept that any information in the system can be used to perform tasks, rather than simply being a bucket that the human interacts with.

What we need is a metaphor that takes this into account, a paradigm that portrays information more as a "flow", that takes into account not just the content, but its relations with the environment in which it resides. By giving people this concept of interaction, we are in a much better position to then make full use of the technology.

By this, I certainly do not mean that we should all become geeks, and that I am proposing an advocacy of the inner workings of operating systems. I mean that the way in which we view a generic computer system needs to take into account the link between information and execution, content and functionality.

Will post this to my page, as I think it's something I'd like to build upon.


Quick news round-up...

Now that's what I call Professional Social Engineering:

"After supplying false names and signatures, they were given access to the top-security mainframe room. They knew the room's location and no directions were needed.

Inside, they spent two hours disconnecting two computers, which they put on trolleys and wheeled out of the room, past the security desk, into the lift and out of the building.
"

Meanwhile, the RIAA continue to blast their way through the Internet, offering amnesty to music sharers - but only if they delete all their "non-official" (let's say) material and send in an "amnesty form" with photo ID.

Uhhhh huh. Right. OK.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

The blog's been really quiet since last week - things are quite hectic around here and the world seems to have calmed down a bit. So I thought I'd post the second in a series of "Brighton indie places that I like to visit" (or "BIPTILV" - gotta work on that acronym). This week's is a little sandwich bar called Toast who do really nice sandwiches and smoothies and stuff, with big easy chairs in one corner, or a range of stools to watch the world go by from.

Queues tend to be rather large around lunchtime, so I find it best to go along after 2pm, if you don't mind the risk of some breads being gone. Grab a chair and a paper and go relax.