Friday, July 30, 2004
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.
Scribed at 3:58 pm
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.
Scribed at 2:35 pm
Thursday, July 29, 2004
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.
Scribed at 10:26 am
Wednesday, July 28, 2004
Scribed at 6:14 pm
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?
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?
Scribed at 11:55 am
Tuesday, July 27, 2004
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.
Scribed at 11:22 am
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?
Scribed at 10:35 am
Monday, July 26, 2004
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.
Scribed at 5:29 pm
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?
Scribed at 12:43 pm
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"
Scribed at 12:03 pm
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?
Scribed at 11:02 am
Friday, July 23, 2004
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...
Scribed at 10:32 am
Thursday, July 22, 2004
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.
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.
Scribed at 4:08 pm
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.
Scribed at 2:54 pm
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."
Scribed at 11:15 am
Tuesday, July 20, 2004
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.
Scribed at 1:14 pm
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...
Scribed at 10:36 am
Scribed at 10:00 am
Monday, July 19, 2004
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.
Scribed at 2:10 pm
Scribed at 10:30 am
Stick! Stick! Stick! Stick! (Carrot) Stick! Stick!
In other news today, Blunkett is an arse.
Scribed at 10:10 am
Friday, July 16, 2004
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.
Scribed at 11:38 am
Thursday, July 15, 2004
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.
Scribed at 9:35 am
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.)
Scribed at 1:08 am
Wednesday, July 14, 2004
Cool, discovered the UK Freedom of Information Act Blog, which looks pretty independent of the uk govt and rather interesting...
Scribed at 5:41 pm
BBC coverage of the Butler Report on Iraq: Lord Butler's main findings were:
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?
Scribed at 3:14 pm
Tuesday, July 13, 2004
Scribed at 4:23 pm
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...
Scribed at 12:13 pm
I've decided that I must write something about Taoist Cloning, as there's an "attention market" for it, it seems.
Scribed at 11:42 am
Friday, July 09, 2004
Good'n'biased article on recent Mozilla and IE bugs and the patch releases. Amusingly, the Mozilla team patched (or rather, avoided) a bug that was supposed to be fixed in IE SP1, but apparently wasn't. (Windows users only...)
The Mozila fix is here, and comes in the form of a rather handy little XPI link. Obviously, you don't have to reboot your machine (which is still a pain in the arse for having to patch anything core in IE, AFAICS). Meanwhile, there's also a handy testpage if you want to see it all in action first...
Scribed at 10:10 am
Thursday, July 08, 2004
Hmm, must be getting more indecisive - can't decide on this one: Uniforms and House Systems for all in school reform.
On the one hand, I like the "community" spirit that a House system can bring, but on the other, I don't think that using a points system to motivate poeple to participate is perhaps the best for education. Personally, I was somewhat into house points in my (small) primary school, but didn't particularly care about them at my (larger) secondary school, and I have a feeling that children have many factors other than house points to "rate" their "popularity", especially among peers rather than academically.
The almost-enforced rule of uniforms instinctively smacks of front-line conformism (and I still think uniforms are more military than education), but then on the other hand, fashion counts for so much among many children these days. And adults, for that matter. And so a "set" uniform may avoid that, at least in school time.
Apparently the house system works, but I daresay that much of the success is extremely dependent on the context - the pupils, the teachers, and the attitudes of all.
Hmm. Is it better or worse to look to more short-term, easier-to-implement, easier-to-measure solutions to problems? Or is there still hope that we can instill a culture of long-term stability in all that we do?
Scribed at 4:02 pm
Wednesday, July 07, 2004
Have swapped over to using Blogger's in-built comment system, rather than the still-extremely-good Haloscan system, for 2 main reasons - 1. No limit on comment length, and 2. I get an e-mail when someone posts, without having to pay. Let me know what you think, if you dare.
I'll hopefully transfer across all the old comments (not too many) sometime soon.
Scribed at 5:58 pm
Upcoming seminar on GIS Mapping in the Public Sector, although I can't really afford 300 quid, and I can't see any Wiki or IRC channel so looks like I might be left out of that one a bit. Wonder how many people there also saw the various geolocationary stuff at NotCon. Still, if not, they can always watch the video and listen to the audio - woohoo! Notes a go-go!
Alas, I can't really get a feel for what's going to be discussed at the upcoming seminar either, with the titles "Electronically Mapping the Digital Divide" and "GIS and getting the most from the pan-government agreement". From a historical perspective, "architectural" mapping of a city's population can be very.. interesting, and often crops up in the form of various councils wishing to segregate some aspect of society. Two that spring to mind are walls to contains Jews, and l'hopital generale (yeah, hat-less) to contain the down-and-outs. We've already heard tale of the possibilities of RFID-enabled car number plates in the UK, which could easily be used to track/limit movement via car, and many people were fooled by Politech's article on RFID-tagging the homeless.
OK, so I admit that there aren't going to be shadowy talks going on at the seminar, and that GIS is somewhat separate to RFID-tracking tech - for the time being. But one wonders what the possibilities are once a system has a). a way of categorising a population according to economic/"moralistic" factors, and b). a method of tracking individuals within it.
Yay, tin-foil-hat time!
Scribed at 5:27 pm
kSpaces.net might be of interest to some who want to mark the filesystem up with RDF metadata. Unfortunately, like SdiDesk ;) , it requires Windows, although there's some Mono porting going on already.
Interesting comments on the Slashdot thread on desktop metadata include looking at the interface for equyally-ranked metadata (within the Haystack suite), re-inventing the LISP wheel, and a Semantic Web scripting language called Pike.
Scribed at 5:25 pm
Tuesday, July 06, 2004
Just cleaned up ThoughtStorms after a number of pages got hit with wiki-spam. Besides enforcing my view why I'm not running an open wiki (just as I don't have my e-mail address easily havestable), I wonder what kind of havesting structures and software the spammers are developing as we speak.
Following the e-mail paradigm, they'll have wiki spiders to find wiki sites all over the web. It would make sense then to write a number of "plug-ins" that detect and edit the pages for various different and popular wiki engines. Wiki Spammers could then assemble and sell huge lists of the URLs of these spidered wikis, just as they do with e-mail addresses now.
Fortunately, it may be a little easier to prevent such techniques - especially as a few web techniques for defending against bots have already been considered. For instance, having a non-registered wiki editor enter the text appearing on an image would be one way to keep a wiki public, if losing some accessibility. I'd be interested in hearing any other schemes that maintain accessibility though - maybe some kind of pattern matching thing? But then, that would just be defeated as many spam regular expression filtering techniques can be worked around.
Also, film of the week is Errol Morris' "The Fog of War" - a 2-hour interspersion of Robert McNamara and historical footage of various military-related activities. It gave me a fascinating insight into the thought processes, organisational procedures and systematic beliefs of those high up in any civilised administration. "Fahrenheit 9/11" is going to have a run for its money, and I'm not even too sure I can be bothered to go and see it at the moment...
Scribed at 9:45 pm
Amusing thought for the day. The rise of right-wing and minority parties, as well as a general apathy across Europe recently, represents a very displaced attitude towards politics on behalf of the voting public. People no longer feel that their say is important any more. In the UK, I think this is because they just don't feel listened to (partially because they probably aren't). But stuff still gets done, and laws, et al, still get decided. How? Why, the big companies, of course! When important debate comes up, the people involved are generally think tanks, focus groups and (most importantly) "industry experts" who, I suspect more often than not, prompted for the law in the first place. After all, we've already seen that if it's publically acceptable, then it's probably lawless (hence the rise of Napster, etc).
So in this way, the companies depend upon the politicians to "protect" themselves from the pull of the public. But here's the first catch - obviously the politicians themselves depend upon the voting of the public. We are, after all, still in a democracy, not a corporocracy. But they only depend upon them once every X years - in the meantime, they're attention can be focused wherever they like, and that generally happens to be the people with a). something to say, and b). the money/influence to say it. Which, I've noticed, tends not to be the public.
So the public want the politicians to listen to them. But - here's the second catch - do they? In absence of any real political involvement, the people have been left to fend for themselves. But the world they live in is contained and caged, made cushy and cosy by... yep - the companies! A society where people have no alternative but to get jobs and feed off whatever scraps and opinions get thrown their way by this week's "content provider". And so the circle is complete - the people depend upon the companies to let them live in their accustomed manner.
All 3 parties in the vicious circle are torn in the dual directions of the other 2, and at the moment, no-one really knows what they want. The corporates seem to have the most idea of "direction" and "purpose", while the government and the people seem to want to get dragged along, but not at the same time.
OK, mais c'est la vie, perhaps. I just find it amusing, and I'm curious as to where it could lead to if the more extreme parties - driven less by corporate want and more by some other desire (the isolated uniformity of the state, say, or the plight of the environment) - actually use their promise of giving attention to the people to get into more power than they have already. Where does that lead the cycle?
Is this the yin? Or the yang?
Scribed at 5:47 pm
Thursday, July 01, 2004
Interesting ruling in the US: "an e-mail provider did not break the law in reading his customers' communications without their consent.". "...the court found that because the e-mails were already in the random access memory, or RAM, of the defendant's computer system when he copied them, he did not intercept them while they were in transit over wires and therefore did not violate the Wiretap Act... The court ruled that the messages were in storage rather than transit.".
Of course, this opens up all sorts of new possibilities, doesn't it? Imagine if the local law enforcement no longer has to apply for a wiretap before they can do start just reading your mail out of cache.
Of course, all this would have been avoided using end-to-end PKI, yay.
Scribed at 2:51 pm
Apparently the BBC's new charter has some info on the BBC opening up their archives via the power of broadband:
"The BBC Creative Archive will establish a pool of high-quality content
which can be legally drawn on by collectors, enthusiasts, artists,
musicians, students, teachers and many others, who can search and use this
material non-commercially. And where exciting new works and products are
made using this material, we will showcase them on BBC services.
Initially we will release factual material, beginning with extracts from
natural history programmes. As demand grows, we are committed to extending
the Creative Archive across all areas of our output.
We are developing this unique initiative in partnership with other major
public and commercial audio-visual collections in the UK, including
leading museums and libraries. Our ambition is to help establish a common
resource which will extend the public’s access while protecting the
commercial rights of intellectual property owners."
How long until a privately-funded company can or will do this?
Scribed at 11:50 am