Friday, December 17, 2004

Punish the good.

Look! This is the level of sophistication we have running the UK:

Despite the only publically-owned rail service's punctuality increasing by 5%, "the transport secretary, Alistair Darling, has insisted that the service will be put out to tender for a private operator in the new year."

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Emergent BBC.

Interesting things today: Book on Emergence looks intriguing, and a follow-up post to Wikiproxy, explaining how the BBC are taking it on-board, rather than suing the pants off Stefan. Beans.


Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Spam and anonymity

Salon have an expose on how spammers work, but you have to watch an ad first, so jump to this Slashdot comment instead.

Every story I read about spammers actually tends to impress and intrigue me. This one reveals a) just how anonymous they can be, and b) the extent to which reputation-based networks are used amongst affiliates.

In some sense, spammers are the first real high-profile (as in mass broadcast) demographic to grasp the concept of organised anonymity, with social engineering techniques generally being far more "efficient" in tracking them down than technical procedures. And, I figure (in my cypherpunk hat), if spammers can make it work, then why not any other similarly-motivated group? Sure, it's more effort than average, but it's not that much more. Again, of course, the real weakness will be human.

Most people hate spammers, but are they a living example of a future free from government?

Self-help on the telly

PublicTechnology report that the NHS Direct Digital TV channel goes live this Thursday, which I'll be interested to see after working for 3 years in the DTV thingy and see it go mostly nowhere. (Another great opportunity, like 3G, missed through stupid business models...) Can the benefits of the scheme (which, IMHO, is a jolly good idea in principle) overcome the combined turgidity and clunkiness of (my*) DTV's user interface and slowness? Is it even being released onto NTL? More to come... I hope.

* I'm aware that dependent on the platform they've chosen, the interface and speed with which the system operates may vary considerably...

Friday, December 10, 2004

Dance into the danger zone

"'There won't be much Christmas cheer in your workplace if your winter wonderland turns out to be a danger zone'"

Thursday, December 02, 2004

SMASH th' STATE!!

Zippy gets anarchic

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

BBC suffers odd image attack

Apparently even a "malicious program" has to look like a posing lady these days... Smartphones suffer Skulls attack. p.s. back from Barcelona.

Friday, November 19, 2004

In Absentia?

Checking the date of my last post against the penultimate one, I notice
my blogging's becoming quite sporadic at the moment.

Why? Busy, busy, busy. Work, work, work. Maybe this is why nobody else I
know keeps a blog - I'm just slack.

It's not all bad though. I've been venturing into the worlds of
international software projects, the Realm of the Businessman, Amsterdam
hotels and the art of living. I've also been working on the MUD a fair bit, too.

Out of all of this I'm developing a greater sense of the world, and
asking questions that I probably wouldn't have asked otherwise. Such
as... What's the best social infrastructure to organise information (a
la Wiki vs Webpage, but on a grander scale)? What do I *need* to do,
compared to what I *want* to do, compared to what I *should* do? Why are
companies deemed more important than people? Where should philosophical
education come from, and what should it aim for?

So, everything's bubbling under. I still have that link to Geek Credit open, waiting to
be explored thoroughly, and normal service should be resumed in my lifetime.

Fair and share

Spot the Runtime

Monday, November 08, 2004

Race to the top

Outsourcing is good for UK Business, says CBI. The article states that we've been exporting services more than importing them, i.e. our skilled workforces are being outsourced from abroad.

But where does this leave us long term still? Are we in a race to the top, between our education system and the education systems of cheap, developing nations? Is the answer to continue to push people into further education, probably at their own expense?

Hmm, a knowledge-based class system in the making. Finally! ;)


Proving Ground

Looks like the 3G battle is on this week, in the run-up to Christmas, with Vodafone splashing out 100m quid on their launch frenzy.

An unnamed analyst told The Observer this Sunday: "If it doesn't work out, [Vodafone] is toast."

From my point of view (which admittedly may be biased, twisted, bitter and wrong), the demand for 3G isn't exactly great - people have phones and they're not chomping at the bit to get streamed video. However, maybe it's one of those things where the *real* killer applications will only crop up once the technology is readily available... the next few months could actually be quite interesting.

I'm sticking to my ol' tin can and string, though.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

A global democracy

Well, the votes are in, Kerry's out and the Internet is awash with global sentiment as to the state of the world. Here's a fantastic sample from a mailing list I'm on, anonymity preserved...


Re: fuck bush

sorry i don't speak english. I'm french but me too i FUCK BUSH AND FAMILY. bye bye!!!


Thank God us lefties are so much more civilised, eh?

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Things to See

Watch The Corporation. Or order it.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

3G Sucks

...well, at least streaming video does. Why? Because no-one wants portable video rant rant etc etc. Finally, some market research, rather than just market searching.

Hnng.

Update: BBC coverage says:

"[Jupiter analyst] Mr Fogg said portable video players were likely to remain a niche product that would not be able to compete with devices dedicated to music playback."

Sometimes I hope the 3G companies fail, just because they're missing the point of perhaps one of the most revolutionary communication updates ever. I repeat. 3G is not crap. Forcing streaming video over 3G because you can't figure out a better payment system is crap.

Give people access to the 3G nets, and the ability to produce their own services, and it'll go far. That, and input/output convergence - use the device as a channel, rather than an endpoint. Let me stream stuff from one point, through the device, and out onto a nearby presentation device, such as a stero/PC/TV.

The desire to choke content in order to squeeze blood money out is going to kill the communications/content business.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Required Reading

Halloween's over, but I'm still spooked out. I actually respect the words of a guy who probably masterminded the deaths of a few thousand American citizens more than I respect any of the campaign propaganda coming out of the mouths of either of the US presidential hopefuls. Depressing and scary. Maybe it's time to move to Sweden...

Full transcript of bin Ladin's speech at Al Jazeera, or maybe some CNN version if you're that way inclined. Check the differences though.

Oh, and BBC Coverage seems to offer similar, saying:

"In that tape, although not made for public consumption, [OBL] revealed himself to be a thoughtful operator as well as a dedicated fighter.

Just as he did in this latest tape.
"

...although the focus in the media still seems to be on the fact that Bin Laden is making immediate threats and claiming responsibility for 11/9/01. Ho hum.

Have we really lost that much insight within our media and political systems?

Friday, October 29, 2004

Bournemouth go PKI

PGP corp announced that Bournemouth Council are taking up PGP to "secure electronic communications containing personal information between the Council and its residents, merchants, and other government agencies."

Great to see some central organisations finally realising the value of PKI. Hopefully this'll spur both individuals in the area, and other councils alike to follow suit.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Ridicule is nothing to be scared of.

Hmm, I appear to be concerned about America today. Or maybe I'm just amused, in some sick way.

Take, for instance, this commentary from Mathew Manweller bigging up the importance of the US election, and the apparent necessity of Bush getting in. What I found "unusual", for a pro-Bush opinion, is twofold:

1. It actually recognises that the rest of the world is looking at the US to see what they'll do next. Unfortunately, he also gets it completely wrong:

If we ... turn out the current occupant of the White House, the message to the world and ourselves will be two-fold. First, we will reject the notion that America can do big things. Once a nation that tamed a frontier, stood down the Nazis and stood upon the moon, we will announce to the world that bringing democracy to the Middle East is too big of a task for us.

Yes, that's right, the rest of us cower in shame because we don't aim high enough and big enough. Which maybe explains why 8 large nations resent American policies. Or maybe it doesn't.

2. It acknowledges an underlying insecurity inherent in American culture:

"Terrorists will know that a steady stream of grisly photos for CNN is all you need to break the will of the American people. Our own self-doubt will take it from there." (My underlining.)

Admission that strong-headed policies are merely to distract the home population from the fear inside themselves? Some might see it that way.

Coupled together, the two facets highlight an important part to understanding what George Bush represents - the fact that America as an "ideology" is about proving itself - not just to others, but to itself.

Of course, I'd be wrong to claim that it is only the US that suffers from such immaturity - I suspect that every nation has some element of this in its culture, and hope that all governments everywhere will some day be able to look at themselves earnestly. But here and now, it is most evident in the States, to the point where you can almost taste it.

Perhaps it's this insecurity that may ultimately put us all in unnecessary danger. But then, perhaps it's also the key to changing the fucked up world we have around us.

Web Terror

So apparently the Bush site was blocked to those outside the the States for "security reasons". The fear of the individual's influence over the political and social realm has manifested itself on the web in the same way that it's done so in the "real" world - through fantastically-broad censorship, filtering and access prevention. (Or are all these the same thing?)

Globalisation seems to be coming to a head with the forthcoming elections, twisting already vociferous and well-connected populations into extremely polarised mobs. Just where should a line be drawn for participation, in a world in which the long-clamoured path to the removal of borders has been steadily paved by an odd mix of hulking companies and progressive individuals?

Some Americans say that American elections should be for American people, and I guess that most other nations would do the same. (But then most other nations perhaps don't have as much global power as the American leader either.) But are they right, or is there now a case to be made that democratic borders no longer tally with those of influence? For an example, let's take a hypothetical and purposefully quite extreme situation. If the act of going to war was put to a referendum in the UK, should those in the "targeted" nation be ceded some similar say - whether via the same mechanism or otherwise - in the decision to be made?

Alas, I have no answers for any of this. I'm mostly certain that influence in today's world will increasingly run in both directions, and that the examples centred around the upcoming election are merely very specific, highly sensitive examples of the return feedback towards the US building up globally. But when should we start to take a good, hard look at the democratic institutions we hold so dear to our civilisations?


Florida ballot papers go missing

Just how FUBAR is the US political system? Insane.

"We really have no idea what's going on"

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Hate hate hate

Today I have discovered we hates software.com, although I can't remember how I got to it now. I'm also wondering how you contribute (as it looks like a mailing list or something...)

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Technology in war

From /.. Good read on the nature of war, the utopia of the US military, and front-line geeks... How Technology Failed in Iraq

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

McSalad, coming through your door soon...

More BBC. MacDonalds is switching to posting crap through your letterbox. But - get this - it's not junk mail, oh no...

"'We take issue with the term junk mail, ' says [McD spokeswoman] Ms Pierce. 'This is not junk mail. It is a booklet, not a leaflet or flyer. It is high quality and will stand out.'"

No Ms McD, I tend to define "junk" as "unwanted", not as "how much cash has been spent on it". If I find one plonking onto my doormat in the morning, I'll be forced to spend the rest of the day tracking down Ronald McDonald to show which slot he can shove it in.

BBC Round-up

Wartime pan-Atlantic code-breakers failed to click. Alan Turing unwittingly surmises then what I reckon about a lot of Western attitude today:

"Generally speaking, their attitude is so purely mechanical and mathematical that they often fail to see the wood for the trees and do not like to admit that experience and a knowledge of immediately prior developments, combined with a little manual work, may often produce the answer more quickly than machinery."

Corrupt oil companies and overpaid Congo fat-cats continue to convince me that letting markets run "free", or unchecked, would just make things worse in so many ways.

Monday, October 18, 2004

The rise of the common coder

I almost feel guilty for putting this on the radar, for fear of it getting knocked down by stiff-collared boardroomers, but maybe the BBC will see the light.

Wikiproxy is from one of the guys behind the coding behind such jewels as Up My Street and They Work For You. What is it? Well, check out his full announcement complete with background ramble, but in a nutshell it allows you to browse BBC News On-line, but with outgoing links as appropriate to other fantastically useful services such as Wikipedia (for more info on a subject) and Technorati (so you can see who's linked to the story you're reading).

For a good example, try this "Army deployments 'not political'" story.

Complicated project? Not really. Certainly something that others can take and adapt to other sites/mirror if necessary.

Just as with They Work For You, I wonder just how much of a climate-change in terms of information-processing this represents. I want to believe that this is important, for two reasons. Firstly, it's a shift towards individuals and ad-hoc collections for data-handling and presentation - information as we, the public, want it, not as some far-off company want to hand it to us. Secondly, it's a push in the direction of the same big companies, to provide information in as open a form as possible, or failing that, to provide links to services that others find useful, all in the face of their corporate blandness.

Remembering back, this could be a repeat of the Odeon accessibility debacle. They may not have liked the accessible version, but it prompted a huge, concentrated outcry from all the disgruntled users, and maybe it had some effect. (We wait to see if an accessible booking form is on the way...)

Friday, October 15, 2004

IOU USD 7.4 trillion

I don't really get this. Apparently one of the "features" of western capitalist societies is increasing economic "health". Yet it looks like the main thing that's probably underpinning the current US recovery is . So much debt, in fact, that it's reached its legal limit. How is a system economically healthy if it's in over-arching debt?

I admit that reading DAvid Boyle's book "Funny Money" has highlighted the question "Is money just a tangible form of people's belief?" If it is, then that kind of confirms my suspicion that money's just a new-age religion.

Nvu

While probably not really for me, I was pleased to see an interesting-looking OSS web authoring package called Nvu include support for XHTML Friends Network.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Miscellanea

Update on Yusuf Islam ne Cat Steven's no-fly FBI ordeal - page 1 reveals just how shady the no-fly list still is, and page 3 hints at how anyone can unwittingly become a terrorism supporter these days (as I figured elsewhere).

Next week is Local Democracy week, and looks like politics is going the speed dating way. Question is, should democracy cater to a dumbed-down, television-fed audience in order to entice them in and make it more relevant, or will such tactics mean we end up with a dumbed-down yet-still-centrally-controlled system that achieves relatively little?

My current printfest comes from co-intelligence.org, which is looking intriguing. Hope to cover some of the things in here more prominently at a later date, but I like to alert people to this kind of thing anyway. Link goodness, mmm.

Have a good day...

qotd

I like today's quote so much I'm blogging it, so nyeh.

"What a country calls its vital economic interests are not the things which enable its citizens to live, but the things which enable it to make war. Gasoline is much more likely than wheat to be a cause of international conflict."

-- Simone Weil, The Need for Roots (1952?)

Monday, October 11, 2004

"This MS E-Mail will self-destruct in 30 days..."

How key Microsoft legal emails 'autodestruct'

Sunday, October 10, 2004

There's more than one TLD

Do you know the difference between .com and .org? Remember kids, just because there was a ".com boom" doesn't mean that it's the only TLD...

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Nobody wants DRM

Insightful: The Reg on Why Microsoft don't Get It. Covering convergence, consumer demand, the music industry, DRM and MS vs Apple.

House of Cards

Yay, 3 of my favourite things - politics, the internet and yellow - come together to make Polidex - trade in your favourite MPs! Can it predict anything though? And how much fun can I have shouting "Blunkett - I choose *you*!" all the time?

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Question Time.

OK, OK, so I said I'd give up reading the news. Maybe it isn't that easy - but I've definitely cut down.

Anyway, the BBC have a little timeline of the hunt for Saddam's Toys, linked to from Straw justifies himself.

Here's a question, though. Why does it start from the publication of the government's dossier? This is what keeps getting me, to the point where I think I may be WRONG or even MAD about my own memory.

As I remember it, the government published the dossier as a result of increasing public demand for argumentative evidence. Up until that point, we had simply been told that piling all this pressure in Hussein was the right thing to do. I remember this kind of clearly because I remember dismissing the dossier as a dumbed-down pamphlet that played more to the emotion than the brain, as if the government were merely trying to convince the public of the validity of their train of thought based on gory anecdotes and fear figures, rather than any - uh - politics, for example. I remember dismissing the pamphlet as propaganda.

This means that much must have gone on before it was published. But here's where my memory is blurred. What was it? Infuriating.




I'd also like to not get sidetracked by the arguments presented then, and the arguments still being presented now, as to why it would be a good idea/was a good idea to depose Hussein. In fact, all the media and political efforts to concentrate on the evidence then, the reports now, and the apparent moral case for war just prove to me quite how much of a void there is in reporting and politics alike.

For me, the questions that remain unasked in the right circles are:

1. Where was the sense of restraint (that should be a given) amongst leaders before heading into war? We're oft told that was was considered a last resort, but I see very little evidence that those in power would wait any longer had they had to go through it again, nor do I remember much talk of restraint at the time. Urgency was the order of the day. War was wanted. Why? And what other things will leaders rush into given half the evidence?

2. Am I to believe that justification after the act is now a moral way in which to act? Given the shoddy evidence, the bias inherent in intelligence agencies, the clambouring for public support and the reasons-versus-discoveries, this has been, in my mind, very much a case of "shoot first, ask questions later." Is this an attitude to now be upheld then? If we let this one pass, can all political action be counted as necessary until proven unnecessary?

3. Why is the philosophical side of global politics remaining out of sight, as if politicians are afraid of it like some unnatural, freakish son? Saddam's behaviour in Iraq (which I do not defend in any way, in case you thought me a soft-tailed tree-licking lefty) is being presented as a be all and an end all of despotism - one man, one vision of terror, all ended in one war. Realists amongst us know that the world is a whole load more fucked up than that, and a fair amount of it caused not by turning a blind eye to despots, but by the "moral" eye being blinded by the eye of economics and political relations. Where are all the questions regarding where our arms trade is sending its wares, for instance? Instead, we're treated to a cut-down, under-the-carpet view of international relations. Perhaps all hell would break looseif the public realised just what was going on in the world...

Anyway. Maybe it's time to write to my MP or something.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Evolution in the making

Going though the latest E-government Bulletin, I kind of got -gosh- excited. Why? Not because of any single item in particular, but merely down to the change in the direction of thinking that does, against all my scepticism, seem to be sweeping the ranks of the public sector.

I think, though, the triggering moment was looking through the new e-GIF accreditation site. Now, buying certificates and accreditation to say (officially) that you know how to use XML may not be ground breaking stuff, but it did highlight to me the efforts that are being put in so that information can reach the public more easily. Things start to tie together, very slowly. I agreed heartily with Jason Kitcat's vision of joined up government earlier in the week, but the scale of things didn't quite hit home until just now.

There are still some huge gaps though between the public sector's "belief" in technology, and what can possibly be achieved given "only", even, the technology available to us today. In fact, maybe that's it - maybe we have now reached a point where the technology is good enough. Perhaps we can finally stop looking at new ways to shunt information about and actually build a working infrastructure on top of the specifications and libraries that are now gaining stability and credibility all around us. In other words, maybe the human factor is the bottleneck - the skills, the motivation, and the vision.

But I probably digress. My moment of realisation linked up the tendencies being revealed today with where they'll take us in the future. Why is information flow so important? Because information is power, in an ever-clichedly way. Information allows us to make reasoned choices, and decisions that are less affected by emotion, spin and hype. Once the public has the information, not only can it decide things much better for itself, but also it can build the tools it requires that process this information. This phase has already started.

So governments moving towards a culture of dissemination rather than mere trust (as in "we're your representative, just trust us...") is a good thing. But still, the gulf between the public sector and the rest of the technological sphere is too big. Yes, there are great efforts to get information around, but at the same time, the truly useful vision of being "joined up" is hampered by a general lack of willingness, on behalf of the government, to actively integrate itself with the tools being built by those who already understand and are using the technology. For instance, the government are keen to promote their own, in-house projects, but I hear nary a peep out of them regarding many of the extremely useful ideas built by both the private sector and volunteers alike. Why is this?

I am excited because I think that the role of the government is changing, from that of representative and arbitrator, to co-ordinator. The technology available to us should finally allow us to organise ourselves, given the right information, rather than simply ask for change and hope that a central reservoir of electeds sees things the way we do. Granted, we will still need figureheads to stand in the middle of everyone, but they become more like a chairman at a meeting - someone to smooth the discussion and push for progress - and less like a spokesperson for an organisation.

This is a ripple that goes all the way through the systems we have in place, and it's this sense of scale that has given me more of a sense of motivation and "faith" in what we're doing today. For a while, I've figured that we can't just take our existing processes, stick an "e" in front of them and put them on-line. But now I think that it may be time to think differently about everything - the role of MPs and wards, the relation between a mass of people and a single channel of communication to those who decide the laws we live under, and the control we have over our own lives.

I think that if we keep pushing for more information, and so long as the technology remains available to us, the change in attitude will slowly become more reflected in the hierarchy that rules over us. Local councils and local MPs will merely reflect the efforts of the people under their "control", rather than acting as decision-maker and project-instigator, and the gap between how the public sector sees itself and how it can function will narrow.

Perhaps the government doesn't realise the power inherent in the move towards an information-based society. But really, they don't have to, so long as the information keeps being opened up like an oil pipeline, and there are people to look at it, and manipulate it. Bit by bit, I hope, democracy will take on a new meaning.

Gnowsis

One to try: Gnowsis, a semantic desktop thingy. Release notes.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Making like the FT

ePolitix snips:

"Research published by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors concludes that the private sector is unlikely to adopt more sustainable building processes unless prompted by governments. Regulation is essential if there is to be any progress in controlling the massive environmental impact of global construction activity, RICS concludes."

and

"The latest CBI financial services quarterly survey finds that 40 per cent of firms said business volumes were down over the past quarter while 26 per cent said they were up. The balance of minus 14 per cent compares with plus 44 per cent in the previous survey and represents the first fall in business volumes for 18 months."

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Clogging

Hurrah, one of my local Green Party councillors, Keith Taylor, has started to blog, and also seems to be getting quite into it.

(Ta to Jason Kitcat for bring ing it up at the meeting last week, who's also started a blog since last time I checked...)

Kwiki-o-matic

Software of the week is Kwiki - a modular Perl-based wiki. Installing (as root) was as easy as CPAN can be, and installing further plugins is just as easy. Setting up a new (non-public, sorry) wiki site is just a case of doing (not as root) "wiki -new" in a directory within my (Apache) web root, and adding in the plugins I installed earlier is just "kwiki -add Kwiki::Plugin".

Following the theme docs, I also made my own little module to change the styling, in about half an hour. So now I can install/uninstall it as I wish.

On top of the Slackware packaging system running on the box, it's all been fantastically easy. Yes, some day, all software will be this way...

Friday, October 01, 2004

My advertised innocence R.I.P.

The past week has been odd - alternatingly depressing and joyous as pulses of culture veer past me with seemingly more lucidation than before I went away. Take adverts, for example. These ubiquitous moments of comic and artistic showcasing have now been stripped bare and rendered for what they really are, after having experienced such locations as -shock- metro stations that hadn't yet been surrendered to the marketer's wet dream. Remember, perhaps, that to realise the true embodiment of something you see every day, simply live without it for at least 2 weeks. You too can silently scream in wonder at the sheer absurdity of 99.5% of the marketing dross that hits our optics, merely by first coming to understand just how unnecessary (at least, not to the extreme portrayed so lovingly) most products are. Join me on my "It's just a fucking toothbrush!" campaign. Of death.

[sidelink: Adbusters]

More on advertising and its insidious effect on every day life soon, I hope. Me have rant stored...

As a side effect of having been de-sensitised, I think I'm also becoming much less accepting, in a similar way, of various other messages and their made-up PR-spun delivery boys and girls - even less so than previously, that is. It's as if the ability to sneer completely at over-hyped, gee-whiz products has knocked-on to allow itself to be applied to over-hyped, gee-whiz politoshians, germalists and excretionary businessmen alike. In many ways, this isn't surprising - they do share a very core familial (almost in-bred) set of genes, resulting in a very loud, very shouty phenotype that manages to hold unbelievably little "real" substance. They are all as extremely expensive (in terms of attention), extremely fluffy vases, that are so inordinately dense as to be of little practical purpose at all.

Here is another example. Perhaps (or perhaps not?) the Iraqi PM's speech was mostly written by the White House in order to give a favourable view of the position in Iraq. Whether it's true or not, the fact of the matter is that it's actually very easy to work out if people are interested in acting with your interests at heart. To wit:


  1. What they do genuinely makes sense to you.

  2. They don't keep telling you that it's for your interests.


I would be a fool if I continued to believe that the majority (and, by utilitarian extension, all?) of information presented to me on a daily basis from such quarters as discussed above was actually of any practical use. In an act of final and exhuberant gross-over-simplification, I hereby claim that Companies act solely in their own interests and are therefore to be shunned, the major-player politicians only seek power to further their own viewpoint (whatever it may be) and so should be untrusted for holding a hidden agenda despite promoting democracy et al, and all news media is more-than-acceptably biased and so worthless.

Something in me is irritated by the constant distractions pushed into my face by the advertisers, the scaremongerers and the heart-pluckers. Facts of the world will filter into me naturally, and I will hopefully have more time to think my own and others' thoughts without fear of having dredged up some co-sponsored, bent approximation of reasoned instinct. I wish to exercise my freedom of thought again.

Meanwhile, look at the pretty space balloons.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

What's in a name?

"Local tax authorities refused the request, saying the name could lead to the boy being ridiculed in later life.

But MPs say the law is inconsistent as the names Tarzan or Batman are allowed.
"

I hope to call my son "Kaja-baja-googoo" as that's not a superhero name, and thus, not open to trademark infringement accusations.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Tiddlers

TiddlyWiki - a client-side only, Javascript-based personal wiki/notebook. "Navigation" is more like displaying different notes, than linking between pages, and saving is quite a manual task currently. But I like the look of it, and syncing between machines would be a doddle-oddle.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Pro fox, anti ban!

Been down watching line of police at the Pro-Hunting demo outside the Labour convention, so seems appropriate to post the most unbiased look at the issue I could find on the net - try getting an impartial view of the matter through Google...

Thinking over the political stage, I wonder - Is there a danger of politics being ruled less and less by common-sensed, balanced thinking, and more by appealing, en masse, to the (now much more reachable) public's instincts and their emotions?

Thinking of the two main mass-mobilisation issues this week - hunting and the war - it seems that there are many more people willing to shout vociferously about something than actually think about it. I heard one (anti-hunt, I assumed) woman asking another with hound puppies on leads, in a very serious manner, if "hares are becoming extinct", what with all the hunting...

In some ways, politics is extremely over-complicated, and needs to be made simpler to understand - but this is never going to be true also of the many-factored world in which it operates. Having a strong opinion on an issue (strong enough to march, say) currently seems to be a far cry from understanding it.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Breaking the silence

OK, so when I said "abated", I meant "stopped". Back soon, with plenty of thoughts and notes - I recommend exploring Eastern Europe to anyone looking for somewhere a little different, but not so overwhelmingly other-worldly as to be insurmountable.

In the meantime, some BBC links to pick up no later...

Crime detection stats

Fear and elections

Back soon...

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Poo sticks.

Gah, the day before I go away and it looks like my e-mail is down. Seeing as I can't remember everyone's address, I figure if I post here, *some* of you will read it and let everyone else know (hey Rob, I know you read this... ;). That, and the "message not delivered yet" responses should help...

I hope they're getting queued somewhere. *Gulp*.

Off Out for a Bit

As of tomorrow morning, Scribe is going off-shore for 3 weeks. I hope to blog some of what I see in Europe, but the regular fervour will be abated somewhat. In the meantime, don't forget about Zippy...

Friday, September 03, 2004

TGIF

Ah good, I like to leave on a sensical note. And at least there's an air of common sense hitting the walls at this late hour today...

Letwin calls us compensation-seeking cowards

TUC says we work too much

Shut up, that's why

Never mind the civil liberties, this week I resent ubiquitous police helicoptering as it's SO FRIGGIN LOUD. Quiet, up there. Hnnng.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Infomerge a go-go

Finally gotten around to reading the Networked Semantic Desktop paper, which has been sitting open on my desktop for a week now, and I like what it sayeth. Anything with a heading of "Surviving the Information Flood and Creating Knowledge in the Process" has got to be good...

It doesn't really suggest anything concrete - it's more an overview of existing efforts in 3 fields - p2p services, social networking, and semantic data - and the combination and future of all 3 of these to create distributed knowledge that's accessible by both machine and mind. There's a fair amount of talk about how metadata can emerge from social networks, which has got me thinking a fair bit.

Currently, I think it'd be great to be able to use the existing p2p networks for more social-network-based activities. For instance, imagine creating an RSS feed of "documents" you're currently reading (including books, PDFs, web pages, e-mails, etc.) and being able to subscribe to other's similar feeds. This would form a kind of p2p network which was then backed up by something similar to existing networks - distributed file storage - with peer-based reputation to advise you on which documents you may find most interesting.

The problem as I see it is that the current range of p2p networks are to specified, and choose to concentrate on either one type of file (such as music), or one type of usage. At leats with the network I use most (eMule/eDonkey), metadata is only concerned with the format of the file, not its semantics. You can add comments to files, but I don't think you can search through them. There needs to be a further level of metadata for *human* use. It's also intended for more "public" networking, rather than more social/reputational peering, and so the queuing system implemented would perhaps get in the way of usable document peering.

I hope to follow up the other software and networks cited in the document, but some of me wonders if there's too much diversification going on here. We either need something so simple that anyone can take it, use it and adopt it to their needs - if this doesn't exist now, I suspect it's not long until it does. - or we need technology that allows people to set up their own decentralised nodes easily, based on existing common protocols such as ftp/scp/http. This is a form of limiting factor when it comes to any of this decentralised peer stuff - take-up and economies of scale.

I shall continue my search as time allows...

Gah.

Coises. Big Blip 04 is on in Brighton whilst I'm off in Europe. I will be missing evolutionary music, more swarm music (not my cup of tea, anyway), stuff on biological cells, artificially evolving buildings, and technology to create the "unforeseen, the unthought and the unknown" (?).

Amongst others.

WinXP SP2 = security placebo?

Is Windows service pack 2 nothing more than a marketing placebo? Are we doomed to yet more security propaganda in the face of MS' ease-of-use sales tactics? Hum, probably.

Personally, I still lament the lack of ssh client in Windows by default. Or do I? Maybe if they included one, I'd lament the death of Putty and WinSCP... *sigh*

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Rant for Sure

Further exciting news about MSN starting up their own music store to integrate all lovely like with Windows. The interesting link is that they're also releasing a propaganda^W marketing drive based on players that have been marked as being able to "Play For Sure", to imply that other players will be more hassle than they're worth.

So is this true? *Is* selecting technical productry actually quite difficult? Take one extreme, for example - building your own PC. To do so, you need to ensure that your motherboard speaks to your CPU, and to your memory, and for those who don't have a head for obscure naming conventions such as "C2370A" and "256MHz DDR", this is a pain in the head. So perhaps, on a large scale, it makes sense for people to let others do the work for them.

Now think of music technology. We have, for all intents, a variety of standards - tape, CD, minidisc - and appropriate boundaries when it comes to devices to play them too. Nobody has ever needed much guidance beyond "CD-player" or "MiniDisc" player before. Sure, they may want advice on what the advantages each platform has to offer are, but it's pretty damn difficult to buy a CD player if you want to play minidiscs.

But what do we have now? Now, we have competing technical products merging with a consumer marketplace - the former tending to be a mix of acronyms and brandnames (Real vs iTunes vs mp3 vs Ogg vs WMF) and the latter usually avoiding such diversity as much as can be. And so perhaps the mass consumistry are justified in getting a little confused over what's what. And, as our poor little consuming brains have been trained to think as little as possible, perhaps we have reached the point where we'll buy what we know to work, rather than wishing to do just a tiny bit of investigation for our own good once in a while.

So is this a successful MS ploy? Maybe - but only so long as *perceived* confusion reigns, i.e. so long as the consumer is dumbed down but constantly bombarded with "choice". Yup, the sad truth. Our system of competition is maybe at complete loggerheads with our pursuit of simplicity. Monopoly is freedom - freedom from thinking, freedom from anguish over decisions, freedom from responsibility.

So once again, we can see that it's in MS' best interests to actively divide the marketplace and maintain a level of confusion amongst buyers, so long as they know that their chief tactic in the marketplace - simplicity - will work because people are afraid of technology, afraid of learning. Dumb down the public, then dumb down the gizmos. Given this established technique, is it any wonder they're pulling out of standards groups?

So what's to be done? MS have no intention nor reason for playing on the same standards-populated playing field as the disparate - those who must come together and agree on something for their own survival. I see some possible avenues:

1. Establish an infrastructure that encourages education within the consuming public. This doesn't have to be a technical education, merely a guide to technology that allows people to make informed decisions. Naming conventions and other traditional PR psych-devices should be employed to make the process as easy as possible - no more of this "RSS vs RDF vs RTFM" nonsense. Proper names. This could also allow the public to discover the benefits and advantages of each format more easily, in a currently-confusing world.

2. Establish more channels to simplify the communication between the technical guys and the public - this is similar to point #1 above, but is to be thought of more as an industrial effort rather than a decentralised drive, which I kind of see #1 as being. Release technical information with the consumer in mind, i.e. not just stats and bandwidth figures, but what it will mean to them and the impact it may have. More PR. I'm feeling dirty.

3. Encourage governments to see that the proliferation of (free) standards is of huge importance to small and medium sized companies, as well as public organisations. As we progress, it seems that various public authorities are acting more and more like private corporations anyway, so just as standards must currently be promoted by those implementing them in a business sense to take off, so it makes sense to have them "promoted" by public organisations. Some may say that public organisations shouldn't necessarily promote either proprietary or open standards over the other merely because of the politics involved, and that the decision should be made on functionality and efficiency. Personally, I'm coming round to the view that when the decision is being made on behalf of the public, the politics may actually be more important than the functionality - open standards are for all, just as political bodies are designed for all.

In short, I suspect that, under a free market, forcing companies to adhere to standards when they obviously don't need to is out of the question. But I also think that if open standards, for the reasons above, are to become accepted, a lot of thought has to be put into the best way to do this, against the might of some extremely large companies, whose interests are not best served by such schemes. "Playing for Sure" should be something that we all strive for in all things.

Travel for n00bs

Does this BBC picture, taken from "Asylum error judge demands answer", amuse anyone else?



Because I couldn't work out what a round-trip to India might entail.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Visual opiate

In the Guardian today, John Humphrys turns on a TV after 5 years and finds out how shit it is. In his commentary, he touches upon many points, most of which I heartily agree with. For instance, he raises the question (in my mind) of whether free markets can maintain social values, or if there's a race-to-the-bottom effect that emerges from doing things only for financial reasons.

He also makes the point... "Reality implies authenticity and honesty. And whatever some of this stuff may be, it is not authentic and it is not honest." Precisely. "Reality" TV these days is no more "real" than the performers on street corners ad-libbing bizarrities for the whims of the passing public.

Television has become more than either information or entertainment. It has reached the point where it has become the thoughts of a nation. It provides us with sensory stimulation in the first place, followed by conversational material merely by its popularity and ability to shock us, Without it we feel uneasy, like there's a void that needs filling but that we have forgotten how to fill. People have realised the problem of sitting babies in front of televisions, as though they're some sort of surrogate nanny, but they have yet to truly wake up to the problem of an entire population being nursed into vapid amusement by some constant feed of fake emotion. Childhood itself is simply an attitude, an approach to learning about the world, and just because we have reached an arbitrary age doesn't make a constant feed of brainless "excitement" any less of a destructive power.

One thing I've noticedis the decline in Channel 4's programming quality. Once the culty, driving, very non-mainstream flip-side of television, now consigned to showing hour-after-hour domesticated shows concerning gardens, DIY and hoovering. Visible maturation. Why is there this strange trend in capital-driven systems to conglomerate and converge on "popular" formats, and then lose any ambition and risk-taking that "competition" is supposed to lead to? Look towards the mainstream film, music and computer game industries for irrefutable, ongoing evidence of such "internal attraction" in progress.

Some people decry the obligatory public license fee for the BBC, claiming that people shouldn't be forced to pay, and that the BBC should run privately. I'd be inclined to agree, if only it weren't for the sheer amount of pap and advertising that is generated by the private companies. Is this a clearcut highlighting of what I've been trying to figure out recently - namely, just what does get lost in the transition from public organisations to private capitalism? How exactly o we price up the things we value most?

I'll sign off with another quote from the piece, which sums up the fact that someone, somewhere, will probably always be trying to control the masses for some reason.

"In the bad old days we had paternalists trying to capture the masses for what they believed in their patrician way to be good. Now we have businessmen calculating how much they can get away with to titillate or to outrage the masses and deliver the profits. Which is worse?"

Friday, August 27, 2004

The Price of Power

Some light reading for the weekend? The price of power: Poverty, climate change, the coming energy crisis and the renewable revolution.

From the Press Release:

"Around the world control of fossil fuels is linked to corruption and violence. Burning them causes climate change which in turn puts an impossible obstacle in the way of ending poverty. Reshaping our energy supply holds the secret to ending poverty and preventing global warming. Small-scale renewables remain the best answer for communities and the environment." -- Andrew Simms.

Hyperlink Policy

I wish people would stop doing really dumb things "for my protection". Take, for example, the Olympic Games 2004 hyperlink policy, which asks me to register with them (giving a description of my site and a reason for linking - does recursive pointing out of link policies count?). But obviously.

An article with more comment, and states that the "organizers use software [?] that searches for links and checks if permission was requested". Let's see if Google take down this blog now, then. (Or maybe it's only those who link to the main Olympics page.)

Thursday, August 26, 2004

World == crazy

Hmm, I'm in an amused mood today. Amused by human beings in general, I think. Some BBC stories to laugh at...

"Burn 'im! Burn 'im!" I say. The funniest thing about the Blair impeachment campaign is the surrounding quotes. Keith Vaz says "This is a silly story for the end of the silly season." - surely he means a silly story for a silly state of affairs? Meanwhile Donald Anderson calls it a ""no-hoper in legal terms", which amuses me as that's what I'd usually claim for most of the Home Office's stunts. Ah well, pudding and pie.

Also, maybe cleaning products cause asthma, not dust. I suspect the BBC are pimping for a headline-grabbing story, and the cleaning products mentioned probably take up a small part of a giant list in the original research, but hey. It doth amuseth me.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Gas goes up

BBC News: Not just the oil that's looking unsustainable...

Monday, August 23, 2004

Home Ec

Whizzy super pop fun alternate economics day today:

The Guardian has a story about a possible national online marketplace. You can tell it's a government initiative as it begins with an "e-".

Also found an old BBC article by the proponent mentioned in the article above - Wingham Rowan on "Guaranteed Electronic Markets".

They also have something on Obi Obi creek in Australia, and its struggles against the march of Woolworths.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Language vs thought

Cool - possible evidence that language shapes what we can think. This makes sense to me, and I kind of worry about a homogenisation of language, and our progress towards a single global language for this reason. English is ok, but it lacks so *much* too. Whenever I hear about words in other languages that it would take us a whole sentence to get across, still without getting the real "meaning" behind it, I always want to learn more languages... :)

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Ho hum

3G peeps screw it up again

You know what I'd really like from a 3G phone? Consider the fact that I have several gigabytes of music on my PC at home, that's already hooked up to broadband. Now, wouldn't it be cool if I could select from and listen to the music served from my own PC on my phone? Yeah. However:

1. Upstream broadband is still crap, although i could probably get some AM-radio quality stream coming off it.
2. The record companies seem intent on controlling the path from record store to wherever I listen to it. Theoretically, they could legally induce a DRM society such that when I buy some music, I get the CD, and the ability to listen to it via a 3G stream. Will they? No. Would I still be able to listen to my old music/the 99% of music not avilable for download currently? No. Would they let me do it under Linux? Ha.

Similarly, I love the idea of being able to tune into net radio streams - imagine being able to get FIP wherever I go!

Maybe the problem with this new "corporate broadband vision" is that it's all very one-way. The supposed demand is pushed as the ability to download or stream content from services, when really what the killer app is, is being able to shunt things from yourself to yourself, or between friends. What peer-to-peer tech has really proved is that the combined forces of millions of people is a much better "market", with much wider choice of content than established chains. I can now listen to and watch things I've downloaded that I can never get on DVD/CD/whatever. Consumers are publishers.

We all need to stop thinking in these terms of "the corporates sell, we buy". It limits us. We need to think of it in terms of "people produce, people buy, people trade." As "consumers", we've never had it so good. Even legally, there's more content being put out there that's free to consume than ever before, to the point where we no longer have to pay for content.

As consumers, we can realise that we don't have to buy things because people say we have to buy things. This is choice.

As producers, we can realise that we can now produce, and disseminate, with minimal investment.

The established need to realise that this is what people want.

The comms tech people need to realise the sheer power the technology holds, without kow-towwing to the established moneymakers.

Empower me, you bastards.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Is that your terror document, sir?

Anti-terror police charge eight. Among the charges against the eight is the crime of:

"Possessing a reconnaissance plan of the Prudential Building in New Jersey."

Yup, expect all architects' offices to be under military guard soon, and anyone who wants plans from the local council to be locked up immediately. Our buildings are now the territory, and are to be used and viewed in much the same way as a battle commander would survey the natural habitat before a fight. As such, only outlaws need to know how buildings are made, once construction has been reclassified entirely as an MoD task.

Do you see where this is going?

Another 3 years...

The FT reports that the UK govt are to sign up with Microsoft for another 3 years, yay.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

What's going on out there?

BBC News is claiming the Iraq government are calling for coalition forces to stand down, but that the US insist otherwise:

""I call for multinational forces to leave Najaf and for only Iraqi forces to remain there," [Ibrahim Jaafari] said in remarks broadcast by [now defunct?] Arabic TV channel al-Jazeera.

... But the US military - whose intervention was requested by the Najaf governor last week - has said it plans to press on with its offensive in the city.
"

Left hand? RIght hand? Power political vs power military?

Meanwhile, there's a decent analysis of the political side of the battle at Time.com:

"By inviting the U.S. military to invade the spiritual epicenter of Iraqi Shiism, the new government risks fatally undermining its prospects for establishing legitimacy among Iraq's majority community. Even though the Sadrists have provoked the confrontation, the prevailing animosity towards the U.S. forces among ordinary Shiites will likely play to Moqtada's advantage in his political challenge to the Allawi government."

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Linksplat

Some via BoingBoing.

Mobile phone-based "dialler" (or "texter", perhaps) trojan horse

Flickr allows you to search for keywords that people have tagged to their photos, add notes to your photos, etc. Looks kind of interesting, as in it may have some use :)

A simple Hello Kitty Doom III mod...

And, most exciting, Lewis Carroll's scrapbook is completely on-line, as in they've scanned in all the pages and referenced all the works in it. Impressive.

Monday, August 09, 2004

hackshop

Love Mark Simpkin's "suggestion for an edemocracy, geo, mobile, social software hackathon/workshop" and reminds me that I should really make the effort to code more...

In the public eye

My attention is drawn to the TellParliament.net website - an online forum for "Parliamentary Select Committee consultation online" - now this is promising, and a step in a good direction. There seems to be a real willingness to connect with the public behind it, and a decent effort at letting public debate take place somwhere where it feels like you may actually be read. Alas, I found it too late to comment in the house of Commons modernisation thread...

The Value of Blogs

The revolution will not be blogged

Bill Thompson looks at the results from the Hansard Society's "MPs and Blogging" report, which he attended.

Haven't read the report yet - will print it out and look over it later. Bill's article seems to put a downer on blogs, saying that they're generally not going to achieve anything, but the report summary seems to suggest that there is potential, in terms of communication, for them. And politicians.

My initial thought is that perhaps political blogs are merely a fuel, rather than an outcome. By allowing people to publish, they get people thinking about what they're writing, and encourage people to become more involved in something they wouldn't normally have got as involved in. This is re-inforced by the peered, reputational nature of the "blogosphere" (ick, that's a horrid word. How about, um... blog + net = "blognette", pronounced "blon-yet"?) that can amplify the dissemination of enthusiasm from blog to blog.

What we need is a study that looks at the amount that certain people read and write blogs, and the amount to which they get actively involved in more "traditional" political adventures.


Thursday, August 05, 2004

Obvious.

Well, duh. Expect worse to come. Will we see another, more prolonged World War develop in about 50 years' time? What if we leave the necessary investment in alternative power so late that economies crash and we can't afford to develop it to the levels sufficient to maintain society as we think we know it today? Or at least to make the transition smoothly...

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

The 60s: Cause or Effect?

Frank Furedi explores the relationship between Western establishment and the liberalness of the 60s, with good conclusion: "The authoritarian imagination confuses permissiveness with the prevailing climate of non-judgementalism. Permissiveness is a precondition for a truly tolerant society, but tolerance should not mean a reluctance to make moral judgments or to take strong stands against forms of behaviour deemed wrong."

He particularly highlights the difference between the claim that the government makes - that the 60s' cultural landscape and permissiveness caused much of today's problems - and the social environment that led to much of the 60s' cultural shift, and that has also led to the problems of today.

I think this is a very important difference to draw, as it shows the government seeking to justify their own ideologies, and to cast aspersions on apparent historical goofs, when in reality we should be questioning just how the government came to its conclusions, and whether they're indeed justified.

Ho hum, even more reason to keep a close eye on those we elect. Are we having fun yet?

A threat to democracy

I'd usually skip over George Monbiot's stuff, but will link to his op-ed in today's Guardian merely because I was thinking along the same lines not 10 minutes ago. He doesn't state much new in it, but as time goes on, the sentiments expressed in it do bear closer and closer scrutiny.

My thoughts today are something like the following. Again, nothing new, but re-asserting statements is a good way, IMHO, to nudge the brain into (subconsciously) thinking about a way forward.


  • Voting accomplishes very little these days, in comparison to what it could achieve. How can we re-unite the electorate with the voting process, to make it more relevant?

  • How can we integrate the quantitative voting process with a qualitative assessment of the issues within a particular matter?

  • Is the best to progress to go through the established systems, or work around them using new methods, with the idea being they'll eventually find their way into the establishment?


More thought is needed... perhaps some medi(t|c)ation on the matter...


More about that Terror Booklet

CCW makes an acute observation on the forthcoming emergencies-planning booklet. Where's mine, eh?

Monday, August 02, 2004

The RSS Effect

Another scale-emergent infrastructure problem?

RSS Traffic Burdens Publisher's Servers:

Infoworld.com experiences a "massive surge of RSS newsreader activity at the top of every hour," according to Chad Dickerson, the CTO of Infoworld. "If I didn’t know how RSS worked, I would think we were being slammed by a bunch of zombies sitting on compromised home PCs"

I remember at my old job, actually syncing all of the PCs' clocks to be accurate would have meant that they would all have tried to update their virus definition files at the same time, so actually them having different times saved network load. Perhaps their are similarities and analogies here to monocultures and normalisation dangers. (With wild abandon, what if everyone in society did think and act the same? Would we eventually self-combust through lack of free thinkers?)

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Exmosis rant: Language to Control Fears

(Gah, getting confused, this went to the wrong blog before, so re-posting here...)

Lots of activity over at David Blunkett is an Arse, what with the release of the Commons Home Affairs Commision report on ID cards (with BBC coverage), parodies of the emergency plan and the Privacy International Big Brother 2004 awards.

Friday, July 30, 2004

Softly softly catchee housey

Is Gordon Brown over-estimating the housing market? Experts seem to think so. ("Experts" being the NIESR.)

How much of a threat are you?

How bizarre. In addition to the police gathering earlier, we've also had our post "put on hold" at work - in order for someone to check through the post or something. I'm wondering just what kind of "threat" has been received. Amusingly, it seems to have reached me before the emergency precaution booklet.

No more Pier

Arse, English Heritage pulls the pier's plug. I'm sure many people have lots to say about the political situation surrounding this... personally, I reckon it'd be fun to extract it, and install it in a big field somewhere in the middle of nowhere. That should confuse future archaelogists.

Meanwhile, there also seems to be some kind of bomb warning or somesuch going on in town - police and fire people were gathering outside the coffee shop where I was having my lunch, redirecting traffic away and generally being quite calm. When I asked a policeywoman what was going on, she said something about "just a scare, probably", which amused me :) Been attempting to collect thoughts on such violence, and threats thereof, in my locality, so maybe I'll get round to caging them up in words as well soon.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

BBC & Slashdot Round up

Yeeehaaaa, fools.

Hacking RFIDs - do you understand the technology you depend upon?

Take the e-mail phish scam test (though the intended rollovers don't seem to work in Mozilla - I had to view source ;).

What else is on p2p networks?

To read: Great Hackers.


Wednesday, July 28, 2004

All just a little bit of history repeating

Nintendo: What goes around comes around. (Original Register article.)

RFC: Accessible mail links

OK, there are a fair few techies reading this I guess, and a fair few puzzle solvers too, so I'm hoping for some decent coments on the following problem.

On a website where accessibility is mandatory, i.e. a public sector service that has to comply to various accessibility standards, what's the best way to present e-mail addresses to contact people at?

Ideally, the best thing is an open mailto: link, but naturally this attracts spam. You could disguise the e-mail address using, say, Javascript or an Image, but each needs an accessible alternative, such as a NOSCRIPT tag or an ALT attr, which would contain the plain e-mail anyway, rendering it useless. And you could use automatic filtering (Bayesian, Spam Assassin, etc) to filter out e-mails, but this would have to be *thoroughly* tested to really make sure you don't trash anyone's e-mail - this is probably at least doubly important for a public service than, say, an individual inbox.

I can't think of a decent way off the top of my head, and TBH, I'm not even sure how well Bayesian filters work (due to not having used them much). Is there a third way?

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Notes On Sudan

OK, I've started a page on exmosis to keep track of notes on sudan. There so far: religion, geography, history, a huge canal and the involvement of Chevron Oil Co.

Sudan

Phil pointed at the BBC's Sudan conflict FAQ, which led me to the maybe-useful page on Sudan Government and Information. I say "maybe" as, after looking through various polls, maps and descriptions, I found that apparently "man has lived in the Sudan for at least nine million years". The toilet paper timeline says otherwise, so now I'm less inclined to believe anything today.

Nobody tell me any facts, ok?

Monday, July 26, 2004

Moblogging = Fad

Look, dammit, cameraphones are dumb, and here's the data.

OK, that's harsh. But I still can't think of any reason why the ability to take pictures and post them straight to the web will be anything more than a niche media thing. Or a porn RSS feed. Oh, and there was that rather cool camera phone as remote control thing at NotCon, too.

The Unmediated blog, however, looks rather exciting ("Tracking the tools that decentralize the media."). I may add it to my list.

Wailing and Gnashing of Teeth

This sounds extremely fascinating, from the latest Headstar E-Government Bulletin:

"Local councils could use technology to build a new sense of local
community by moving away from centralised web services towards
smaller local online projects, according to a new report from
independent think tank the New Local Government Network
"

But then if you go the site quoted for the NLGN - www.nlgn.org.uk - what do you get presented with, but an ARSING Flash-only page - not e'en a "To Index" or "Skip this page" link. Gnash, wail, gnash.

Thankfully, Google turns up the goods, but when will anyone learn?

Collective Raspberry

Criticism isn't wanted round 'ere... this is a local government, for local people. Your kind only bring questions... and where there are questions, there's accountability. Begone!

Expert who criticised Blair to go: "Mr Morrison has worked for the committee for five years and his contract will end in October 2004. The committee has no plans to employ a new investigator"


Africa enters the Matrix

The Matrix was a good trilogy, but I'd like to see it again properly because it seems that I'm drawing increasingly more analogies between it and the real world. Take for instance, this article (via Slashdot) on Africa seizing a share of the IT Outsourcing market. Contrast the images it throws up, of countries governments dedicating their resources to build up efficient communication infrastructures, and architecture to house massive call centres (like the ones over here - soon to be bingo halls?), with the CG visions of fields of human power in the films - the rows and rows of individuals all waiting to power some harvesting energy that depends on them.

Some say that the "human as a battery" theory in the Matrix was a dodgy plot hole. But with the rest of the films being allusions to religion, philosophy and a general look at who we are, perhaps this is slightly more subtle poke at who (or what) we've become in the world we've created - a world in which our buildings and our cities are testament to the much, much larger - "global" - system that we've pulled over our eyes, but that depends on us to keep it going. Are we really alive, or are we just sources of power?

Friday, July 23, 2004

2 Things

Thing 1: MyOwnCSS is a Firefox-extension implementation of a variation on an idea I had some time ago - the ability for anyone to attach a new stylesheet to a page, and share it with others. I think, ideally, you could have a server run pages through HTMLTidy too, to make them a bit more accessible, but hey.

Thing 2: My latest copy of 2600 says Freedom Downtime is available on DVD, finally - hurrah! Definitely getting my copy soon...

A plagued species

Fantastic - are we just monkeys with brain damage? :)

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Sign Language on the Web

Hampshire's Milestones Museum has added Windows Media Video links for all its text content, so that people who primarily communicate via sign-language can click and get a video of the text being signed. Neat, and another example of just the same information being presented in different ways - a bit like the images-versus-other-content design in XHTML 2, below.

Two thoughts:

1. It would be cool if anyone could add their own "interpretation" or translation of any content, anywhere - like a cross between a Wiki and an Annotea service.

2. This is exactly where we're heading, I hope. Along with/instead of "BSL" links by content, you could have a "choose your language" link which allows you to replace the english text with whatever you like. It's getting there, bit by bit.

XHTML vs HTML vs XML vs XHTML 2

The w3c have a XHTML and HTML FAQ up, explaining why XHTML good, HTML bad, and other useful stuff. Intrigued to note another reason for disliking IE - it has no idea what "application/xhtml+xml" is, unlike every other browser's latest release. Don't worry though, there's a hacky workaround for IE. Yet again.

Wonder when APLAWS+ will see the light...

Also, first I've heard of XHTML 2 - the image-as-alternative-to-content stuff is kind of exciting. To me. A geek.

Plankton Make Cloud

This was mentioned by a science-ship-lubbing friend/pirate a few weeks ago, as someone on his ship was looking into the same thing. For some reason, I find it comforting. Maybe you do, too.

Plankton Cool Off With Own Clouds: "DMSP is an important link in the plankton-to-cloud cycle because, as it leaves the phytoplankton cells and enters into the water, bacteria break it down into a chemical called dimethylsulfide, or DMS. Evaporated water, in turn, carries the DMS into the air where the chemical reacts with oxygen to form various sulfur compounds. These compounds collect as dust particles that promote water condensation, which, finally, leads to cloud formation."

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

where wanderlust leads ...

LJ Blog: A cypherpunk in Baghdad. Good read.

Stoicism and Taoism

Link via Phil... Apparently I'm 100% Sartre, 85% Spinoza, 80% Stoic and then 63% Nietzche.

Actually, the first time I did it, I was more Stoic, and 70% Nel Noddings, whom I've never heard of, but then I went back and thought some more about the answers. My Rand-ness has decreased now, too.

There's a certain relationship between Stoicism and Taoism which I'm also happy to explore further. Wonder how Sartre fits in with it all, then...

Update: Nel Noddings has some books on feminine approaches to ethics.

Free science

Waiting for the Science and Technology Committee to publish their report "Scientific Publications: Free for all?" on-line. (Update: Aha, it's here.)

In the meantime, this quote made me laugh: "And children as young as 10 could face on-the-spot fines for unruly behaviour."

Look, if we're going to go down the punishment route rather than actually teach them something, we might as well just give them the chair or something...

txtkit

txtkit: I've no idea how it works yet, but damn it looks cool. Alas, it only runs on MacOS X, so I have to somehow coerce a Mac-running broadband-hugging friend into giving me a go on their kit... :)

Monday, July 19, 2004

On capitalism vs community

Amongst all the fatalist police-statists and the resigned political cynics at the BBC Have Your Say on the govt's crime crackdown plan, Raymond Rudaizky seems to air a voice of restrained sensibility:

"Crime is only partially solved by punishment. The main reasons for crime rest in the society that is essentially created by Government. In my view, prolific crime in England and Wales is caused by this Government constantly ignoring the large number of under-privileged and doing everything in their power to assist the rich minority to get richer."

Perhaps, quite feasibly, loss of community - and therefore, loss of a sense of individual responsibility - is one factor of the second invisible hand of capitalism. Following through on Ayn Rand's objectivist philosophy, our society is one in which we are encouraged to trade with others, and otherwise take a stance of non-interference in others' matters. Unfortunately, perhaps we have managed to instill an air of private goods exchange through a technical infrastructure, but none of the rest of the philosophy along with - ideologies that are much harder to obtain via purely technical means.

I am by no means an objectivism advocate, but I understand that in order to be truly successful, and successfully true to its roots, there is much needed in the way of education within a society. Interaction through purely transactional and economic methods is, as an understatement, in no way naturally appealing to any of us, and so in order to arrive within a society in which the benefits of such thinking outweigh the possible disadvantanges, the way of the system must be understood by all. There are "contracts" and agreements inherent in the system - most of which we realise through laws. But these rules that are supposed to guide us to a "better world" are only useful for those that are in the system, and that understand it. Everyone else - including those who are not yet in it, and those who are, for one reason or another, excluded from it - are not bound by the rules. And so it is the 10,000 other devices that we as humans employ in order to make our way through life and the world that come moreso into play, and it is these devices as a natural occurence that objectivism and capitalism neglect to take into account. They say "this way is not natural, but it is good. You must be unnatural to be good, and if you are naturally-inclined, then you are bad (and we will punish you)."

Is there a get-out clause? We are encouraged to trade as much as possible, from birth until we die. We offer our goods and services for money, we offer our money for goods and services. The system wants us to be integrated into it as much as possible.

At what point does the system explain to me that I should consider others, or that my own life is worth something by itself, as it stands? I have been told that in order to be "successful", I must best others. I have been told that I must constantly "improve" myself in the eyes of others, to gain promotion, more money, more stature, to not get left behind. In order to survive, apparently, I must win.

But too late. I realise the only way to win is to not play the game.

Arse

In light of noticing that there are no Google results for "Blunkett is an Arse", I have started the "David Blunkett is an Arse" blog.

Blunkett targets worst criminals

Stick! Stick! Stick! Stick! (Carrot) Stick! Stick!

In other news today, Blunkett is an arse.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Analyst almost understands technology

Broadband divide [read "Patchwork"] on the horizon: "'Products will have to tailored for the lowest common denominator,'" said Mr Fogg, the report's author.

Hint: Products should be tailored so that the viewer can view the content as they like, according to their access. None of this "Lowest Common Denominator", other than the ability to present text, perhaps.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

The wind changes

Two things in my life recently have got together and spawned a love child that is currently busy setting up its nest in my brain. As Agent Cooper put it, "when 2 separate events occur simultaneously pertaining to the same object of inquiry, we must always pay strict attention!" The disctinctive parents this week are the oft-here-mentioned film The Fog of War, and the currently-ongoing discussion regarding the Butler Report.

The first has allowed me to see a little into the usually-murky minds of Those Who Run The Country, and the second has allowed me to apply this insight to a particular climactic real-world example.

All of which has given me a greater glimpse into the pro-war argument. Not from the point of view of many, in that the short-term, terrorist-hiding abilities of Iraq have been disrupted, and that the Iraqi people are "free" - no, this is a viewpoint that has never sat comfortably with me for some reason that maybe I'll go into at some point.
And I have believed for a long time, and continue to do so, that much of the reason for the war is the safe passage of oil from the middle East to the West. I still simultaneously realise that in order to trade with people (including for oil), you need people that are willing to trade with you - this in itself is a kind of "forced capitalism", and probably inherently leads to more nepotistic practice, rather than a "truly free market" as some would prefer.

But when Tony Blair says that "Iraq, the region, the wider world is a better and safer place without Saddam," I think what he actually means is that he thinks the world is safer because there is now a relatively-small, but extremely high-profile example of the US/UK's poster-child, "democracy" - and with it capitalism. Iraq, like Israel, is a wake-up call to the fanatical religious sections of the world - an emotional appeal to those that, perhaps, some in the West see as "trapped" by religion. Perhaps this is the "freedom" that our leaders speak of? The point of Iraq is to say to the rest of the non-capitalist world, "look, democracy works, capitalism works, and you can be like this too." It is a direct export of our values and our way of life, the path of which has already been laid down by our global communications - our infiltrative, subcultural broadcast of an MTV faith.

This is about long, long, long term changes to the world. In some ways, it is about unity. In others, it is about a different kind of oppression, a much larger, much more co-ordinated ruling, powerful elite. It is an altruistic attitude, but one that imposes itself without any consideration, like a self-righteous, sweeping busybody. I am not sure whether it has confidence in itself, though.

And my understanding of it is now powerful enough to begin challenging my laissez-faire side. I agree to some extent with the view above, but am not certain that its action sare justified. Do you, at the essential times, take a motherly control over others and get them to do things they may not want in order to open their eyes? Or should you let people evolve of their own accord, make their own mistakes, and allow them to ultimately come to some conclusion that is sustainable, and understood - most importantly - by themselves?

I am still quite happy pursuing the latter.

Stupid Odeon

Comments and posts weren't getting published just now due to problems at Blogger, but tis now fixed. I've also hopefully fixed up the broken comment layout.

Meanwhile, if you want something to go "arghle DUH" over, how about Odeon shutting down an accessible version of their god-awful site. (Note - latter link may work in IE. Get a decent browser and enjoy it in all its broken glory.)

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

New blog

Cool, discovered the UK Freedom of Information Act Blog, which looks pretty independent of the uk govt and rather interesting...

'Serious flaws'

BBC coverage of the Butler Report on Iraq: Lord Butler's main findings were:

  • The 45 minutes claim was 'unsubstantiated'

  • No individuals were to blame for failures

  • Intelligence had been pushed to the 'outer limits but not beyond'

  • There was no deliberate distortion of intelligence by politicians

  • Limits of intelligence not 'made sufficiently clear' in September 2002 dossier"


  • So... "serious failing"s, but no-one's to blame? This kind of concretes into place my growing suspicion that much of our country - and, to mirror it, the US - is run by the "invisible hand of government". That is to say that there is so much implied within the echelons of administration that an atmosphere or an "emotion" can be maintained without anyone having to express it in words, anywhere. This is possibly why the report could conclude that "there was no evidence of 'deliberate distortion' of intelligence by politicians."

    The report's conclusion is hypocritical, incomplete. The Government should be responsible for not asking questions of the intelligence agencies, just as the intelligence agencies should have questioned themselves more, and just as - to a lesser extent, perhaps - the BBC should have questioned their "facts" that culminated in the Hutton inquiry. To say that the 'system is at fault', but that individuals aren't is merely a wuss-out clause.

    I also like the way this gets spun by Tony: "I cannot honestly say I believe getting rid of Saddam was a mistake at all. Iraq, the region, the wider world is a better and safer place without Saddam." - yup folks, reasoning for going to war now includes personal instinct and gut emotion. Next time you've got a pretty good feeling that someone presents a threat to you (as I do with many people I pass on the street), just have them "eliminated". Remember, they'd probably just beat up or stab someone else.

    Oh, and in the meantime, how about we, uh, stop selling £992m-worth of arms to countries whose policies we don't approve of, for instance? (Figure before discount, I suspect.) [Amnesty, more Guardian] Wouldn't that help in some way?

    Tuesday, July 13, 2004

    Dreamfall: The Rebirth

    Ha, looks like my old domain name, www.dreamfall.com has been usurped by a large company. Hindsight, eh? Ah well, c'est la vie... Still, maybe I could get the javascript-heavy original dreamfall page working on new browsers. If you're on Netscape/IE 4, you can probably see it ok...

    Announcing...

    An experiment in content diversification...

    Head over to Hacking Reality for a new blog focusing on poking and prodding every bit and byte of who we are, and the world we're in. The hope is to make this into a group blog, so if anyone fancies contributing, get in touch... Just posted regarding easter eggs in casino machines.

    I've also created the parallel Reality Hackers tribe as a gathering point.

    Both need a fair amount of work at the moment to become ... useful. A better description of what reality hacking is would be good, plus what it includes (lots of things). Watch them spaces...

    Search-result inspired rants

    I've decided that I must write something about Taoist Cloning, as there's an "attention market" for it, it seems.