Monday, January 31, 2005

Free Brazil!

Activists Urge Free Open Source Software

"two big screens betrayed the fact that the computer was running on Windows, with the operating system's toolbar visible at the bottom of the screens.

Lessig noticed and the computer was quickly disconnected and replaced with a laptop running on open-source software.
"

Hope Phil's having fun.

I'm missing something...

Eh? "Newbury magistrates also banned the girl, from the West Berkshire area, who was 12 when it happened, from driving for two years."

Is anyone else confused about how she can be banned from driving when she can't legally drive anyway?

Maybe they mean on her own land...

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Climate crisis near 'in 10 years'

Oops, we're screwed. OK, seriously, does anyone think that world leaders have the motivation to change our ecological momentum in such short a time span? The scale of the problem is way outclassed by the sheer arrogance of the people who are screwing it up, which is why we're screwed. Not because of the technology. Because of the people.

The best we can hope for is a Vogon Construction Fleet. At least that might be funny.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Forgotten, schmotten

Retailers set straight on Chip and PIN: "Where a retailer has a Chip and PIN terminal but a customer asks to sign instead, either because they have an old card or have forgotten their pin, the retailer will not be held liable for card fraud."

So, if I have a stolen card that I can forge the signature for (or have my own signature on with forged details in the card), I can just pretend I've forgotten the PIN and the retailer will be fine with that (as they stand to lose nothing)? I don't get it.

Also, still not sure how this changes things in on-line payments. A point brought up about ID Cards in thisspyblog post.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Real threat?

FBI hunts Chinese 'terror gang' on "an unknown and uncorroborated source regarding an unspecified potential threat". Phew.

Monday, January 17, 2005

When is democracy not a democracy?

Some people love the way Bush is a "down to Earth", "ordinary" man. I, however, find his logic flawed and his morals questionable. Maybe that's the same thing.

US voters 'endorsed Iraq policy': "The newspaper asked Mr Bush why no-one had been held responsible for wrong information about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq or mistakes made after the US-led war.

'Well, we had an accountability moment, and that's called the 2004 election,' he replied."

Hear that? If a party is re-voted in to power, no-one's accountable. We can forget all about it now and go home. The previous presidency, therefore was flawless, i.e. infallible. In other words (let me stress this again), Bush has just given himself (ok, after the fact) Infallibility on the same level as the Pope. Yup, Bush = God's man.

A democracy without accountability is like, um, a balloon without helium.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Music to deter yobs by...

Originally Tribed, but I want to see how easy it is to get content from one place to another... :) Also originally linked to in relation to Reality Hacking, hence the apparent dismissal of the more.. "societal" aspects.

BBC Article on how people are using Mozart to move "undesirables" on...

news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/4154711.stm

Whether or not this "effective" on a large scale isn't so on-topic, but it's interesting to see people using the social ins and outs of a group to control them.

I suspect the same techniques could be used *very* easily on other demographics too. Conversely, for example, teenagers play loud music to deter their parent from coming into their room. How else could you tap into people's social trends to manipulate their actions? Is there a link between "socially picky" about taste, and being vulnerable to this approach?

Prague cab takes mayor for a ride

Mayor in disguise: "The daily paper... persuaded Mr Bem to dye his hair black, slick it back and put on a moustache, goatee beard and pair of expensive shades for his disguise. ... He found himself in a taxi with a rigged meter and was charged the equivalent of 26 euros ($34) for a trip which should normally have cost 4.3 euros."

Thursday, January 13, 2005

More random linkage

The Reister has a good read on catching a hacker. Social hacking still rules the day, it seems...

10x10

10x10 is pretty cool. Needs Flash.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

A thousand words.

As an alternative to the synthetically-sentimental British media described below, Cryptome are posting various collations of photos regarding the tsunami - from the scenes, from related events, et al. Some of the photos are probably not what you'd ever see in the news as they're pretty graphic, but their freeze-frame quality and the lack of being told what to think alongside makes them all the more thought-provoking. You've been warned, etc.

Set 1
Set 2
Set 3
Set 4
Set 5

Askbristol

Askbristol is one of the first runners out of the block conceived by the local e-democracy national project, and is of particular interest to me as there are surreptitious moves afoot to do a related project or 2 in Brighton. The breadth of content and ineractivity seems pretty good, with surveys, forums and expert-question-and-answer sessions, but I'm most curious as to how "independent" it comes across, as opposed to being controlled by the council. However, it seems in order to find out, I have to sign up, or perhaps it's too new...

We shall see.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Furry, tree-bound destiny

Was Star Wars really "a long time ago", or were the Ewoks just a nightmare vision of the future?

Friday, January 07, 2005

Breaking through the walls of emotion...

Have to say I agree with these 2 spiked articles: "How we deal with disasters" and On the length of silences. The British, it must be said, have developed a very in-apt, very arrogant process of dealing with very sad events, to the point where the overbearing imposition of sympathy makes me lose all sense of the original tragedy. In such times, it becomes ever more important to hold on to what's real, and not let ourselves be carried off on waves of perceived guilt.

Swoop on fake CD factory

Spot the Cliche:) : "One investigator said: 'They're not only robbing the music industry but stealing money from starving children in Africa.'"

Actually, the thin worth pointing out is that the Argus are giving away today's news for free again, hurrah!

Unocal to go Chinese?

China oil firm 'plans Unocal bid'. 13 billion bucks.

The impression I've always had is that the West want to spread free markets as they get to make the rules and they know the playing field and have a headstart in it, in other words world domination. What happens if the Chinese manage to swing the game in the other direction? Will we see top people decrying capitalism when the head honchos start falling away?


Thursday, January 06, 2005

Transport Direct

OK, I'm seriously impressed with the service offered by new govt site Transport Direct. Click the "Door to Door" tab, enter 2 postcodes, and get back train/bus/car/etc details to get from A to B, including marked maps and durations.

The smallest niggle I have is that it doesn't list a route for just walking, but that's forgivable :)

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Personal revelation for the day

Exmosis: eXmosis: The Digital Divide and Small Worlds

How we should be concentrating not on getting everyone on-line, but rather how best to disseminate information from one communications medium to another.

U.S. forces key to containing China

Let's face it, the war against terror is nothing really. One world superpower versus a few determined, but mostly unorganised and unideological* activists. The second bigest superpower, China, is still ragingly communist and while they may be openly entertaining free market practice, you can bet your boots that the US is paranoidly watching them in case they extend such influence to, say, foreign elections. The neocons are takin no chances, I suspect. At least, I wouldn't if I were them. Which is why we should start taking US troop movements seriously - both for military and political reasons.

* I have yet to be convinced that the majority of what-we-call-terrorism is a pro-ideological battle to impose fundamentalism on the West (a la USSR imposing communism during the cold war), rather than simply a resistance against the creeping and creepy imposition of Western culture on the rest of the world. Thus, unideoloical rather than pro-ideological. So there.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Interview: Richard Stallman

This quote from an Interview with Richard Stallman starts to cut to the future we need to start facing up to:

"Free (as in speech) software addresses the issue of how computer users can have freedom to cooperate and to control their own computers. This is the larger issue that becomes relevant when you start talking about 'How are people going to have jobs that pay them decently?' The answer is: in the world of the low wage treaties, they're not going to.

"It's inconsistent and future to subject millions of people to the loss of freedom that non-free software imposes, just so that a tiny segment of society will have better paying jobs, when we're ignoring all the rest of society with their lousy jobs.

"If you want to start doing something about that problem, do it at the right level, which is the level of the power balance between corporations and countries. Corporations are too powerful now. We have to knock them down. I don't believe in abolishing business or even in abolishing corporations, but we've got to make sure that no corporation is powerful enough that it can say to all the countries in the world, 'I'll punish any country that doesn't obey.'
"

It's no good to be afraid of outsourcing, or to try and reverse the trend by forcing big businesses to think twice. The fact that corporations are bigger than many countries is a clue here - to the fact that there's a trend towards the small people, in whatever quantity, becoming extremely powerless in the face of the business.

However, that's not to say that the small people are powerless to achieve their own needs by themselves. Stopping businesses from doing something is one thing, but ignoring them is another altogether.

From the the vast majority of people's point of view, a globalised capitalism is rapidly becoming against their interests, as the high-tech infrastructures we rely upon inherently depend upon our ability to pay, and therefore our ability to find sufficiently-paid work. To follow the software paradigm, those who rely on Windows legitimately will ultimately find it harder and harder to pay the asking price, if the expected income derived from their job is reduced due to a much larger, world-sized labour market. Currently, this affects developing countries more than developed, but as workforces shift away from the West, and people start worrying about where their food rather than their bandwidth is coming from, who controls the code that controls our infrastructure will become increasingly important.

To take another example, there is much to-ing and fro-ing over the use of Open-Source software in public agencies, Governments, et al. The arguments revolving around this tend to center on one thing - cost. Installation cost, support cost, TCO. Nowhere have I seen (and I may just be blind) anyone pushing for open-source software as a source for independence. For a local government with the right skills and open source software can do so, so much more by itself than one with the right skills and a closed code base. Furthermore, the money generated through technical support on a local basis is money that goes on to stick around in the same local economy - what goes around, comes around, all to the benefit of the people you see and speak to every day. In a world where "traditional" jobs are now based 5,000 miles away, that's pretty influential, IMHO.