Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Different Approaches to "Mobile" TV

The BBC looks at the "future" of mobile TV via 3G, including comments from Endemol people and from Nokia.

Endemol seem very excited, and are perhaps on the right track by aiming at quiz shows and -hum- reality tv shows. There are some stats for mobile TV usage in the article, which indicates the kind of audience they should be targetting: "Orange found that ... 36% watching its service [sic] during lunch and other breaks. Some 18% watched TV while travelling to and from work, 12% while queuing or waiting for friends and 10% watched it at home." - in other words, mobile TV is mostly a time-killer. I would say this is true, and what separates it from being "TV on your mobile", as it were. Usage patterns are different, which means that formats and contents need to be different. Marlk Selby of Nokia compares selling mobile TV to selling mobile web access, and while he says the former may be easier, there's certainly a similar shift in understanding needed to get from a large screen format to a small one.

This quote, near the end, though, just makes my eyebrows go all wobbly...

"3G has capacity limitations and if two or three people in one place are receiving a TV picture, you can't make a phone call," explained Mr Sharp.

Ouch. This is effectively a Denial of Service against the main purpose of telephones then - a handful of people accessing a few video feeds sounds like it might kill voice access for anyone near them. The "one place" aspect is fairly vague though. Does a whole road count as a "place"? An office block? Given that the only way this is really going to take off is if a certain length of time (not data - consumers don't want to understand compression algorithms) is pre-paid, it sounds like you could render a busy area 3G-less with a small number of flat-fee handsets. Ah well, there's still landlines :)

It's also great to see Nokia breaking out into the world of "mobile" television. Now that they've gotten away from using the phone as a starting point, and moved more towards mobile computing devices, their new products are looking promising - indeed, I'm not sure when it's arriving but I'm looking forward to the delivery of a new Debian-based Nokia 770 to hack around with. If only 10% of people watching TV on their mobiles are at home, then devices like this could be pretty big - indeed, why bother paying for 3G data when you have a flat-fee wireless broadband access point 3 metres from you? If I had to bet on either Nokia's or Endemol's ploy, my money's already on the former.

Finally, missing commas lead to a faintly amusing quote from the article...

"One solution said Mr Bazalgette could lie in advertising."

Should the BBC be condoning such blatant flouting of advertisement honesty law? ;)

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Technology Culture

My essay over the holidays is (hopefully) on the link between technology/items and politics. A pretty broad area so narrowing it down towards, perhaps, cultural and sociological effects of individual items. Which makes this Wired story on Americans' addictions to gadgets quite interesting.

Some nice quotes first off:

"Our culture is about distraction, numbing oneself," said David Greenfield

The appeal of different high-tech products differs from group to group.

"Part of the reason is the hype, the commercial selling of it," [Greenfield] said. "Some people feel the products will improve the quality of their lives. But do we really need to be connected in every way, shape or form?"

This relates to the direction I was thinking of - that (in addition to other, more technical/economic factors that I want to blog about at some point) technology as a "product" (e.g. iPods) or a "brand" (e.g. DVDs, or even RSS) acts as a social indicator - not just of status (e.g. how much it costs to adapt to/invest in a technology), but also of the nature of a person (at least in a limited, technically-biased sense). The rise of the PS2 was, I claim, a social phenomenon rather than a technical one - people bought them because others bought them and because of the image portrayed by marketing, not because of any particular applicable functional advantage.

My essay hopes to go into why this "social compatibility" aspect to technology affects society and therefore politics, but politics aside, it's similarly important for technical pioneers and entrepreneurs to understand the nature of the playground as it stands currently - i.e. that one cannot rely on a technology being taken up on a large scale purely on technical grounds.


Proof of Survival of the Fittest, surely?

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Bull in a China Shop

Western Banks are probably about to explode (not literally) in China. Barclays enters the fray.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Internet triumphs over Record Industry (Again)

JCB Song hits top spot.

"We have refused deals from record labels, as we feel that we want to go our own way, and represent our values, rather than the profit-driven values of the mainstream."

This should freak the music industry out even more than the rise of the download era - because it shows that the technology allows independents to find popularity. Whereas the music industry can offer people cheap downloads if they really wanted to, there's not much they can do if people no longer need the industry.

Let's see 'em ban legal downloads now :)

Spying on your own population is the norm these days

Bush defends phone-tapping policy:

"Mr Bush also said he expected a "full investigation" into who leaked information about the wiretap programme.

"My personal opinion is it was a shameful act for someone to disclose this very important programme in a time of war," he said.

"The fact that we're discussing this programme is helping the enemy," he added.

Politicians struggle to deal with the ambiguous, vacuous, dual-use nature of nuclear technology, but leave sorting out the ambiguous, vacuous dual-use nature of their own laws to revolutions and the politically argumentative. It's good to ask questions.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Language is all about what's left unsaid...

Phil wonders about the standardisation (or not) of language. I was going to post this as a comment, but it got big enough to warrant its own blog reply...

"Search engines are a powerful incentive to keep to some kind of standards."

An interesting technical reason (and the same could be said - moreso? - of tagging), but I come at this from a slightly different point of view - does the ability to spell indicate some level of intelligence and if so, is that a cultural bias or a more instinctual, "group seeking" one? I started to think about this before but never came back to it.

I also find that I make the mistake between "they're", "their" and "there" far more than I do with "its/it's" or even "to/too" - maybe theyre's less nit-picking over it, so you look out for it less...

Anyway, my question is - are we right to use spelling and grammar as an indicator of "intellectual validity"? And/or do other factors come into play depending on the arena in which the content is?

For instance, spelling mistakes in an academic paper are considered far more serious than spelling mistakes in a blog entry, due to the air of quality and checking associated with the former. That air of quality is similarly applied to the concepts in the academic paper, which translates into a reputation for the content, regardless of what's actually written. Therefore, their are inherent associations we make between mistakes that we see, and the quality of content that we take in, but those associations are largely a result of the mechanisms that have built up around the publishing methods employed.

That's one aspect, as I see it. The second aspect (which I think I touch on in the "article" linked to above) is that there may also be a more "individual" (i.e. not bound to the infrastructural reputation mechanisms) connection between SPG and intellect that we, as native speakers of some language, make without thinking. That is, understanding and comprehension of a language indicates a certain level of thought, which translates (correctly or not) into a similar level of being able to pick up non-linguistic concepts, etc.

This would be fair if, say, the "model" that underlies any language is similar in comprehension to models for anything else. i.e. Language has rules, just as everything else has rules. Understanding those rules may or may not be the same for both linguistics and non-linguistic subjects, but if you can "get" the rules to the former, their's more chance that you "get" those for the latter too.

Thirdly, language is more than just an agreement. It can also be considered, I think, as an esotericism - a platform that has many non-obvious intricacies that require a thorough grounding in the language to understand - things like allusions, puns, cultural knowledge, and so on. I have noticed over the past year, for instance, that talking to foreigners is profoundly different to talking to English people - that level of tacit understanding - "unspoken implications" - achievable in any language speaks volumes. Unfortunately (but necessarily) this level often gets stripped out under "translation" (global English vs "local" English, say), or when using transfer means such as e-mail. While not completely confined to spelling errors and such like, the same idea that "linguistic knowledge == ability to understand tacit inferences" may prevail.

A last point, related to the first 2 above, is that (as Phil mentions) mistakes indicate "rushed" content. Perhaps the absence of mistakes indicates an ability to check over what you've written, which further indicates a more thoughtful approach to the content - if you've gone back and checked the lexical side, maybe you're brain has had time to process things semantically/logically as well.

In that sense, then, the gatekeeper is in all of us...

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Friday, December 09, 2005

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Monday, December 05, 2005

ISX a go-go

Iraq's Stock Exchange has reopened as the ISX, with slightly more "practical" technology than the Americans had hoped for... 2 questions then:

1. Could this act as an alternative rallying point for "conflict" - i.e. via a market mechanism rather than a Bazaar of Violence? (Or, even, act as a new target for the latter instead.)

2. Is this a useful mechanism for gauging "public" opinion in Iraq, and anticipation of the war efforts? Is it affected by current events much?

The ISX website requires Bling that I don't have, and I can't see it under the BBC nor Yahoo finance. Maybe it's too early.

Update: If you don't got Flash, here's the ISX main page.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Podcasting Guidelines?

Just noticed there's a new "Brighton Podcast" out (if a somewhat generic name). I'm downloading it now, but I'm curious - is there an optimal/maximum size/length for a podcast? This one's 2 hours long, and is a whopping 82.5MB download. (I remember when 100k was all I could download from my local BBS over a 2400bps modem and I thought I was the luckiest guy in the world, etc)

TBH, I start to lose interest in most podcasts after a few minutes, especially cos I can do something else at the same time, which generally takes over my brain. We'll see how this one fares...

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

OECD, housing, and intelligent cultures

OECD: Global growth is "exceptionally vigourous" (if at risk from oil prices, US assets, global trade, yadda yadda), but house prices in UK, Ireland and Spain are “significantly overvalued”. Keeping things stable seems to be the future, although...

"[The OECD] warned of the danger of a protracted period of large house price falls with implications for a slowdown in consumer spending."

Are there parallels here with the dot com boom? The amount of money naive hope going into the Internet pre-2001 sustained it for a while, but things turned around pretty quickly*. Over-valuing in the house prices could perhaps be compared to this, as it represents a sense of hope in the economy. Fortunately, there seems to be a bit more sense surrounding the issue, at least from an economic point of view.

If that's somewhat the case, is there something underlying this short, sharp "series" of "ready investment"? In other words, are we becoming more willing to invest in something, without really thinking through how it's *really* going to pan out? Related questions:

1. Are there other instances of such investment?

2. Where does this leave us in terms of "completeness of information" regarding any particular market? There's some level of assumption that markets operate on an emergent "intelligence", but can other factors change the level of this intelligence, or at least partially occlude it?

Maybe we just need to wait and see how the housing market here turns out. My predictions of a bust over the last few years are looking like jelly...

* Here's a chart of UCAS applicants, broken down by ethnicity, to Maths and Computing...

Chart showing UCAS applicants to maths and CS, 1996 to 2004

(Source: UCAS data run through a Perl script.)

Friday, November 25, 2005

Botnets are Brill for UK industry

Gotta love spin... Botnets = Broadband! says govt minister.

By that logic, Sussex Uni should claim their annual instances of Meningitis are proof of their continuing ability to attract foreign investment.*

While I have to agree a little with the minister in question to some extent, I'd much rather question the amount of knowledge about firewalls and what having broadband means to you there is out there. Should we hand out sports cars to all the people that can't drive?

* Assuming, as we all do, that increased contact with foreign "bodies" increases the chance of infection by said unfamiliar items.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Stumbling and Mumbling: A racist "European model"?

Posted this over at Stumbling and Mumbling: A racist "European model"? which argues that market-driven societies lead to less racism. Will come back to this argument once again when I have time - probably in a few years... :)

"Reminds me of a BBC Radio 4 programme. I agree with what some other posters (e.g. stu) have said - money itself has no bias, just as technology or atoms don't. But I don't believe that profit-seeking and cultural bias are inherently mutually exclusive. I would say that markets and technology (moreso the latter) have meant that transactions have become more "anonymous", so that the possibilities for bias are removed (e.g. on-line commerce, finance by proxy, etc), but that would merely hide any racism that continues to exists in non-market society, without actually addressing the issue. Do markets, as another example, lead to a redressing of the imbalance in sexism?

If you were to argue that racism is less apparent because we're more isolated, and because we're forced less to interact with people that we don't want to... that's an interesting avenue."

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Photos from scribex

Finally started keeping a Flickr photo stream. Selected photos from the collection being uploaded gradually...

Monday, November 07, 2005

Thursday, November 03, 2005

How ATM fraud nearly brought down British banking

This tale of Phantom Withdrawals, and the insecurity of UK banks, is pretty scary.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Senior economic adviser quits Treasury

Interesting FT take on Sir Nicholas Stern leaving the Treasury...

"His departure leaves the chancellor without a senior official or trusted adviser able to provide top-level independent economic advice. ...

"Mr Brown now has no economists as special advisers and his four-strong Council of Economic Advisers has only one member, Paul Gregg, with an economics background and he is the only part-time member.

"Officials say Sir Nicholas's spell at the Treasury had been marred by difficult relationships with Mr Brown."

More evidence of a government that, if it doesn't like what it hears, tells people to get out?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Social Books

LibraryThing is currently pickling my intrigue. Seems to be very well laid out and extremely easy to use.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Tutors 'forced to inflate grades'

Chris Woodhead, professor at the University of Buckingham, on the price of academic "quality":

"I just feel for young people, who are wasting three years of their lives, who are ending up with a degree which won't have any intellectual meaning and which won't have any currency in the workplace."

The final quote from the Dept of Education highlights the possible paradox:

"It is right that we try to get more money into our universities to fund expansion - all talented young people, whatever their background, should have the chance to engage in good quality higher education." (my emphasis.)

Universities are now deeply engaged in a market system, just as secondary education and, from an attentional point of view, politicians are. The rhetoric of choice means that hype is ever more important. And where hype is needed, "opportunity" forms. Opportunity, that is, to bend whichever way fits the figures. Hence exclusive selection will find a way, paralleled - as seen above - by simply moving the goal posts for what the statistics measure.

"Quality" has many meanings in a market environment.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Thursday, October 27, 2005

A plethora of Start-ups, and Spolsky on WWW II

Semi interesting link from /., if only because it hints at interesting things but surrounds them with a bunch of technocrap: Thinking Outside the VC Box - on the "Momentary Enterprise". A Slashdot comment picks up on why it might be a bad idea for economic stability, but fails to convince me as to why it won't happen. What I find intriguing is:

a). the idea that very short term profit as an aim for a company is very much in-line with economic thinking. In the long term, for instance, you have to factor in such context as environmental damage, etc, which cut into costs, which is detrimental to a company (let alone humans). A narrowly-scoped, project-led existence actually makes some kind of economic sense.

b). the contrast to current theories of firm's existence - namely (and correct me if I'm out here) either profit-making or survival - or, generally, some mix of the two. This "momentary" model purposefully sacrifices the latter in favour of the former (which is what separates it from, say, the dot-com bubble of pure hype but with implied hope of sustainability and growth.) The "sustainability", as it were, takes effect on a much lower level - that of the individual. If people are free to create businesses, join/leave businesses, and destroy them, then isn't that like just swapping project teams within an existing, long-term company? So long as there are abundant businesses, then the survival of the individual, across many individuals, is something near-constant.

Hell, some people think it strange that people used to stay with one company for 30-40 years. Now people think 5 years with one company is too long. Extrapolated trend?

Secondly, Joel Spolsky makes me laugh with this quote:

When people use the term Web 2.0, I always feel a little bit stupider for the rest of the day.

The line between "yes there is a revolution" and "no there isn't" is fuzzy (as Phil points out) - too fuzzy, says I, to really care about. "AJAX" is to javascript + the new browser generation + XML, as "Web 2.0" is to RSS + AJAX + tagging + stuff. In other words, the fuzzy packaging isn't really - technologically, at least - as important as what it's doing, and how people use it. The ability to package all these concepts up into one phrase may help to alert people about these new technologies, but they still evolve "independently" (in that they're realtively (and increasingly?) modular) of each other. "Evolve" perhaps being the key word. Anyone can define such phrases (in fact, I'd say this is Web 3.0 at least), so in the end they don't matter a huge deal. People are impressed by Google Maps. I'm impressed by RSS feeds in Thunderbird. Whatever you call it as a "concept" makes no real difference, I say. Will bundling them together have an influence? Maybe so, but probably not as much as you think.

I think perhaps there's also an argument that web "sceners" are inherently culty, and love anything that differentiates themselves from the hordes. Before everyone started using the net, "The Net" was the big cliquey thing. But now it's popular, it's much more difficult to stand out. Thus, "Web 2.0" is for sure a marketing invention (based on some very useful tech), but alongside that it can be seen as a psychological need for attention. These two things then combine to stretch vocabularies and ideas, such that we're now adopting (buzz?) words for things that have always been around, but have been less important. An economy of attention, long tails and power laws etc have always been around. Do they act any different once they've been identified? Or are they just excuses and justifications for when things go wrong?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

R U up4ID?

Into the Machine launches a new initiative to show some solidarity with the beleagoured (is that a word?) MPs who keep voting for ID cards.

(Trumpets and curtains)

The up4ID campaign is go! Spread the word.

The £750m cost of a few bombs

The problem with terrorism over here, perhaps, is that it kind of works. (Note that I can probably get arrested for blogging so. I should disclaim that any kind of violence in order to threaten the financial health of a country is, well, somewhat drastic, to say the least. Personally, I love the chaotic London Underground, and am rather annoyed that it'll be a while until I consider it "safe" again.)

Afghan 'drug lord' handed to US

How sad. The importance of terrorism in swinging people's opinions is now so great that the term "narco-terrorism" is being used seriously. I suspect it's no coincidence that Baz Mohammad's mention of "jihad", in reference to selling drugs to America, is being played up.

US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales also ignores fundamental neo-con eco-politics when he says that "those who seek to destroy American lives will be brought to justice". If there ain't a market demand, then it's difficult to supply people with $25m-worth of heroin. Where exactly is that demand coming from?

Or is Alberto trying to portray US drug takers as merely victims of the Afghan drug cartels? Well, maybe it's not so clear cut. Wipe out the cartels and we'll see if the problem goes away. Or if the demand simply gets supplied from somewhere else.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Bloody economists

On a different note, I'm rapidly learning that while economics itself is intersting, economists serve only to confuse me about things that made perfect sense before. Even in the way you pronounce it: Economics, Economists... Bah.

On Fluenza - initial notes

I can't work out if govt plans to buy two flu vaccines for every person in case of outbreak of bird flu is:

  • meant to calm people down

  • meant to make people more afraid; or

  • the result of the government being afraid (both of outbreak, and of being seen to not do anything) and being pushed into it by industry

    • Ask yourself - do we really need this much vaccine, especially when it doesn't actually exist yet? How much research has been done into how feasible this vaccine is? (I'm not a biology person...) When Sir Liam Donaldson mentions that:

      Roche, which manufactures the drug, had originally agreed to deliver the full order by March 2007, but under government pressure, it had agreed to bring the deadline forward to next September.

      what was the "government pressure" exactly? Did it involve the promise of more money?

      And while it may be great that a company is on the case with making a vaccine, what measures are being taken to actually distribute the stuff to places where it matters?

      Furthermore, the people dealing with this are going to be the same people being trained up for terrorist attacks et al at the same time. What pressures are we placing on our infrastructure to have all of these contingency plans in place?

      *sigh* I can see I'm going to have to read the PDF... So much reading to do...

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


Alas, "David Blunkett is an Arse" is no more. In it's ashes rise the shadowy figure of "Into The Machine". Good name or not? We shall see...


Haven't seen this before... Have Blogger had backlinks (like trackbacks, but using Google's "link:" and blogsearch) for very long?

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Here, birdy-birdy...

Good to see that bird flu outbreaks are good for some.

Forking Labour

If there is unrest within Labour (the split, perhaps, between "old" and "new", only "new" is now firmly to the right), uncertainty amongst Labour supporters, and a lack of interest/decision on the part of voters (and that the Lib Dems are too left), then what makes sense? I say the Labour party is close to being forked. I also suggest that the new party be called "In Labour".

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Working With Chaos

The CSS formatting may be in need of fixing, but Exmosis: Working With Chaos.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Game theory pioneers win Nobel economics prize

Game theorist gets Nobel economics prize. Not got time to write much now, but been at Uni just over a week now, delving into economics, sociology and change, and Game Theory, Chaos and Fractals keep popping up. (In my mind, at least ;) I have even less trust of economics now (modelling, in particular) than I did when I started, suffice to say...

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Sony vs Common Sense

Sony loses PS2 chipping case in Oz: 'There is no copyright reason why the purchaser should not be entitled to copy the CD-Rom and modify the console in such a way as to enjoy his or her lawfully acquired property without inhibition,'

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Who's funding Iraq?

I think I had countries like Russian in mind when I wrote this. But is Iraq insurgency being supported by factions closer to home?

Update, a few seconds later. (Via my rollyo search) I found this old BBC article from 2002, that mentions the economic co-operation between Russia, Iraq and Iran pre-Invasion. Furthermore, this article from 2004 notes that "Russia is one of Iraq's main creditors." Is global politics and warfare really just about getting people to owe you money, like a big version of banks competing to lend you money? Is a war a Long Term Investment?

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Paradigmal Faith

My AI course started out by failing to define "intelligence". My Public Policy course seems to be starting out by failing to define either "policy" or "power".

Science and economics, then, are closely aligned in terms of ways in which we can look at the world. Both seek to quantify everything into discrete packets, so that we can line these packets up and manipulate them to our hearts' contents. Perhaps this is why science and economics both occupy such a fundamental position in modern society - they reinforce each other, and sit kindly within the tiny pockets of "intelligence" inside our heads.

But this seems to be the kicker - neither is capable of defining a large part of the real world. Science measures physical things. Economics measures ... value, but only in a very limited sense. What price love? What price jealousy? How much happiness can you fit in a 100cl beaker?

In short, the tools and paradigms we have available to us, and that we concentrate our effrots into, are not sufficient for actually going about our living. They are there to prop up an idea of control. They are ways to make ourselves as a race feel better for the true lack of control we actually have. So long as we play by the rules we have set out for ourselves, we are safe.

Alas, then, that so many of life's little challenges are so unmeasurable. And alas that we will continue to try and shoehorn global efforts such as our relationship with the environment, and our societal priorities, into these under-performing paradigms. This is why we will fail, but we are too blinded by our own machinery to truly think "outside the box".

The debate is no longer about capitalism vs socialism. We need a debate on "progress" vs the nature of reality itself. Reality is scary, we'd better get used to it.

Friday, September 30, 2005

An intriguing realisation

I've had the pieces of this in my head for a long time, but fragmented. Only now do I realise the effectiveness and simplicity of it all.

Growth needs resources to feed on - cheap labour to exploit, and steady demand in one way or another. What's the quickest way to create both a cheap source of labour, and a large demand for essentials?

Why, war, of course!

Creating a psychological demand for luxuries requires work, which is why, perhaps, it's only essential for places where creating a war is (currently) out of the question. Everywhere else, destruction breeds desire.

Subsets of language and intelligence

Random. unresearched RFC: The play between language and thought is ongoing, but is there a parallel to be drawn in the world of programming? Where's the separation and interedependency between the lexical/syntactic aspect and the semantic aspect of any programming "language"? Are concepts (such as procedures, datatypes, objects, etc) influenced by the keywords as much as the keywords used are influenced by the original concepts set out by the inventors of the language? Is how a language is used (its "deeds", perhaps) partially based on what the language sets out to contain, and partially on how it expresses itself?

By way of explanation, I was wondering about machine intelligence, and intelligent design, for some reason. (AI is, by definition possibly, "intelligent design".) The relationship between concepts and internal representation, and interfacing with non-like organisms such as ourselves, through language, is still in its infancy, I feel. To get workable linguistics, you need a working internal representation - context. But all of the computational contexts are defined in terms of our own language - that's the way computers work currently. Is this, then, a paradox? Can we ever achieve a workable AI capable of linguistics if its "universe" is already defined and restricted via our own linguistics?

Roll up, roll up.

Rollyo looks very interesting. You can specify a number of sites (up to 25) and then search within them. You can also explore other people's "searchrolls", as they're called, and add them (I think). Here's me.

Unfortunately, you can only search domains, which makes it difficult to search through Thoughtstorms. You can, however, add a "searchlet" to Firefox very easily, which is good to see.

What would be really cool, though, would be searching through your del.icio.us bookmarks. Maybe some kind of caching mechanism on exmosis, perhaps...

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

11-year-old boy can't drive until he's 12


Student target 'lacks ambition'

Lots of fringe meetings going on in Brighton this week, one of which hosted the claim that 50% of students entering university is not enough. Watching (or hearing of) many of the shenanigans going on at Sussex Uni at the present time, this comes across as particularly amusing,

Targets are targets, and seem to actually be a very bad way of measuring anything. In this particular instance, quantity in no way implies quality - the latter of which is surely what we need for industrial competition and the rest. As it is, the calls to squeeze more students into lecture halls often fail to take into account the increase in infrastructure needed to do them justice. Changes in funding and bad accounting (ahum) mean that it can be difficult for Unis to scale well, leaving a whole load of new students not being very well supported.

Of course, doing things by the numbers merely hides this fact. A judgement based on proximity to the target will give us a false sense of competition and success, and guess who'll be paying for it in the long run? Yup, the students who have paid all that money to study, and still can't get a job.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Meanwhile in Afghanistan

BBC again on not much voting in Afghanistan. Corruption, dis-interest, confusion, scepticism, too much detail... same old democracy story then ;)

Hey, at least they get a choice.

Could rigidly imposing democracy on states actually highlight the flaws of democracy? (Or of assuming that democracy "just works", at least.)

Writing your own show

BBC News have a curious quote from Blair that (once again) indicates his mind acts more like a memory hole than a whole memory. Versions of events get rewritten on the fly, apparently.

"There is no doubt in my mind at all that what is happening in Iraq now is crucial for the future of our own security, never the security of Iraq or the greater Middle East, ... It is crucial for the security of the world. If they are defeated - this type of global terrorism and insurgency in Iraq - we will defeat them everywhere."

The waters are muddied thoroughly by this statement - are we dealing with "global" terrorists here, or military insurgents that use similar tactics? Attackers or defenders?

To equate insurgency with global terrorism in Iraq is a bold statement. Here's how I recall events.

1. We apparently invaded Iraq because Saddam Hussein was thought to have WMDs. Not because he supported people who were attacking other countries. (There are plenty of large superpowers who will do that anyway...) Blair has stuck by his - partially justified, I think - claim that removing Saddam was the right thing to do, and that the people of Iraq are better off.

2. Iraq is a hotbed of inflammatory cultures. Not realising that, but trying to get the country to run anyway, has led to violence. We have, in effect, opened up a "mini war" within the country, in attempts to avoid a larger possible instability between states. Perhaps you can't make an omlette without breaking a few eggs...

Where does "global terrorism" come into this? It doesn't. Not on this scale, anyway. The problem is that 2 different layers have come into contact.

On the one hand, we have the "world leader's" idea of stability and peace, in which the highest class - the bureaucratic might, as it were, of each state - maintains a power over their own state, and through a bargaining system of "I'll rub your back if you rub mine" power, the world is kept generally a balanced place. This is why many powers will happily back a despot who nevertheless is willing to comply with the status quo.

Secondly, the "lower" layer consisting of ... more "every day" people, let's say, also realises that they have an opportunity to have some control over their lives. (Power corrupts, of course, and I suspect if this section actually gained power, they'd be no less pernicious than any generation previously.)

Now these two layers start clashing because the void that kept them apart previously has been removed, and we see the political and physical equivalent of 2 tectonic plates sliding into each other. Each side has their own agenda, and whether one is more "correct" than the other, I couldn't really say. I know that each side believes that they're correct though, which is the really damaging thing.

And in the midst of this, Blair repeatedly betrays his image of co-operation that he would love to portray. What we're left with is an arrogance that sickens, and a man who feels llittle need to consult.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Won't get fooled again

A look into Microsoft's code dev revamp.

What's gets me a little bit is that, in some axis, this is parallel to the "anti-PR" PR often used by MS executives - namely, stating that the last product suffered because of X, and new, upcoming product is naturally better because they've learned and they've changed things around.

OK, this makes sense, and I guess why this makes consumers trust them "again" makes some kind of sense - so long as you assume that consumers and investors alike are short-term lemmings with the memory of a goldfish - generally, this assumption is proved true.

So, much like Moss and her coke habits, it's not a shock then. But isn't this a very real problem in itself? Should we pride ourselves on having a world in which everything we do is based upon the previous and following 2 or 3 years? What keeps us in this perpetual domain of gullibility?

Perhaps we're naturally gullible - we want to trust people, just like we want things to work out as we always dreamed they would. Maybe this goes hand-in-hand with the idea that all we're ever being sold - from the carefully-picked colour schemes of car adverts, to the psychologically fulfilling curves of mp3 players - is a fantasy. If aesthetics and branding are the "arty-farty" side of marketing wish fulfillment, then perhaps the ability to forgive and completely forget is the more "down to earth" version - the business way of finding the ideal horse to back. We want things to work, we want things to return money. So we look past ongoing inconsistencies.

The same phenomenon appears in politics, as has been well known for many years now. Only when things go really badly wrong - and I mean riots, death, gargantuan media coverage and society-stopping action - does the fallibility of the situation - and of the leaders who were meant to avoid it - get engraved into our minds. But on the whole, a moderate government can get away with many dark things, and still be forgiven. People carry on believing that the new promises will be acted out, and a few ruffled feathers can soon be put back into place by picking a universal foe. Standard tactics.

I think the problem is perhaps that we are ultimately extremely constrained, in terms of how much of any given situation we can actually ever see. We only see things once they get to breaking point - wars, suffering, floods - and the fly-by-night nature (which is inherent) of the news broadcast machine only has limited time to investigate the true causes of Why Things Happen. This, in turn, leads us to have an incomplete picture of cause and effect in our heads - in other words, we tend to only associate disasters/flaws/etc with a very small, and ultimately unimportant subset of the factors that led to them. We never get around to really understanding why things happen, so we carry on making the same mistakes, continue to believe the lies.

Changing this isn't easy. Our lives are now constructed so that we don't have the time, energy or motivation to understand things. Hopefully, as I go into academia, I'll bear this in mind - accessibility of understanding, and of uncovered research, can often be just as important as the discoveries themselves.

P.S. Is it just me, or does Jim Allchin look like Tony Blair?

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


A haphazard form of the present. Just back from the sublime Múm. I have a fortnight "off" before Uni starts. I have finished 'Discipline and Punish' and am brimming with thoughts of prisons and normalisation systems - does the penal system create delinquency? Just read Phil's thoughts on Markets vs knowledge/reason and am reminded of a thought that when people talk of people as being "rational", they often define rationality in some idealistic way - according to science, according to law, according to the plot of a movie. Lose the dreams and understand that causality is the only rationale. My bonsai is weak. I have no urge to listen to podcasts. A poem.

"The skip and the slide, the ominous hide
Of a beast as big as its belly.
The old leering tide lets you slip right inside
Your own reality show on the telly."

Friday, September 16, 2005

The ungathering

Yes, yes, I used to play Magic. But that makes this page all the funnier...

Well worth reading afterwards, if you haven't had it to your inbox yet: Larry Bradshaw and Lorrie Beth Slonsky write about their first-hand experience of Katrina.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Oliver 'sparks school food drop'

Hmm, backlash is always interesting. At least the issue is getting some air.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Stumbling around in the dark

BBC: Brown calls for oil price effort. The gist I get from it is that Brown thinks Opec are "hiding" their reserves, and that they should open up and let everyone have access to it.

I reckon this should have been seen coming for a long, long time (not to say I foresaw it ;). Our own naivety will kill us.

Point 4, and covered half way down the article, is the important bit:

New World Bank fund to help developing countries invest in alternative sources of energy. "Mr Brown wants more effort put into finding greener alternatives, with the World Bank to set up a fund to help developing countries do the same."

Sometimes you don't get anywhere without a crisis. The future is one big crisis, currently.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Meanwhile, in the other place...

While I remember. If anyone's wondering why exmosis.net isn't changing much these days, it's because the changes are going into the new version instead, but I haven't launched this properly yet as there are some big bugs in it. (The CSS, in some browsers, for example.)

But if you want (and can read) the latest stuff there, check out the above link.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Hot Air?

With all this talk of oil prices, it's good to be reminded that we're screwed for gas, too.

Plays For Sure...?

Heh, an
amusing look at HMV's DRM FAQ* from the Reg.

* 3 consecutive TLAs means this is going to be a Happy Day...

Cracks in Windows beginning to show?

Up until now, my geek fanaticism has been mostly self-interest. I like Linux because I'm a tech-head (and it's free). Using Windows is like wearing a straitjacket to start to learn how to knit.

But in the last 48 hours, things feel.. "different". I'm shifting from the point of view that Linux and OSS are merely toys for geeks, to one that actualyl believes we may be seeing the start of the end of MS as a monopoly. As Lloyd Grossman would say, let's look at the evidence...

1. This Reg article on Microsoft in China shows that a clash of global ideologies is still alive and well. The analogy to the Cold War is probably most apt and appreciated.

2. The other day, I switched my desktop to using Kubuntu - a KDE-equipped version of user-friendly distro Ubuntu. I finally got fed up of the somewhat-spurious performance of my Slackware install, and after half an hour, had a working desktop back up and running. So far, I'm glad to announce, everything I've wanted to do - using USB drives, viewing photos, burning CDs, re-formatting DVD-RWs,etc - has gone perfectly first time - I finally feel that I could quite happily give Linux to a newbie and they'd be impressed enough to keep using it.

The biggest factor that made me sit up, though, was upon demonstrating the software-installation process (browse library via Kynaptic/Synaptic, choose programs, install (download via ADSL), run) to her, my girlfriend said "Cool, why doesn't Windows do that?"

3. Using the same installation process as above, I installed OpenOffice.org 2.0 and gave it a quick try on some documents that 1.0 had stumbled a bit over. The new version feels a lot more compatible, initially. Alas, I'm not a power Office user (take note, Phil ;) so it's difficult for me to say how well the rest of the application/suite has improved. But my (limited) use of 1.0 nevertheless failed to inspire confidence in me. 2.0 restores that to a large extent.

This new rush of experience has given me hope, and joy. Obviously it's still early days, but I feel there's now a plausible x86 alternative to Windows more than ever.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Web and text vote trials dropped

Ah, smoe sense at last when it comes to voting.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Survival of New Orleans

Back from Slovenia, didn't get too caught out by heavy rain, but I was reminded how much fun listening to a storm overhead from a small tent can be.

Still, we were lucky... mgno.com has a good feed from New Orleans - the self-sufficiency required by a data centre for emergency situations has proved good, and 2 or 3 teams are blogging and video-streaming from "Outpost Crystal". This bit, from an informal interview with a citizen, sent shivers down me:

The people are so desperate that they're doing anything they can think of to impress the authorities enough to bring some buses. These things include standing in single file lines with the eldery in front, women and children next; sweeping up the area and cleaning the windows and anything else that would show the people are not barbarians.

Friday, August 19, 2005


I'm off to Slovenia for 2 weeks. Might blog, might not... ;)

Missile Attack

Terrorists against freedom, democracy, yadda yadda. Oh, and US Navy ships.

One thing that struck me as I read this. This phrase:

Katyusha rockets were used in all three attacks, officials say.

Wikipedia says:

The term is now often used to describe small artillery rockets in general, whether they are Soviet-derived or originally built.

...which doesn't say much. But given the global "caution" against the US, the market forces present in the various guerrilla situations, and - perhaps most importantly - the constant disposition of large states and powers to see foreign countries as "extensions" of their own, and covertly provide finances, equipment and training to one side or another, are we actually completely (ok, mostly) misguided by seeing things in terms of "terrorists/freedom fighters" against armies?

What are the chances that, in terms of finance, motivation, and sheer persistence, the battles being fought in Aghanistan, in Iraq and in the news are just performances by puppets, largely controlled by shadowy remains of superpowers who obviously can't "fight capitalism" in public?

On another note, here's a pretty picture:


Just Letters is amusing and intriguing, almost hypnotic. Sometimes, it's just as much fun to watch as it is to participate in.

Black Death - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Fun things to think about after reading Wikipedia, #76234. The Black Death created capitalism.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Yang breeds yang...

Russia joins forces with China. "Analysts say China and Russia are signalling they are prepared to counter US dominance in international affairs."

This is a case of one show of might leading to another show of might, and lessons from the Cold War/most other wars teach us where this ends up. But on the other hand, the US has spent the last 60 years building up its global military force, and shows no sign of stopping as it continues to look spacewards. In the face of such hedonistic, idealistic arrogance, is this actually an unavoidable and necessary step towards maintaining some FUBAR status quo?

While many on the left would love to see the US taken down a peg or two, the scope that it restricts itself to is .. well, restrictive. For many, this is a war of words on words, and a battle of values against values. But he whole picture includes not just these (essential) grounds, but also an equally important level of support based on physical might. In other words, an army is something the left refuses to provide. Perhaps this is why many liberals are seen as "sympathisers" of the ruthless enemies of the Western World - terrorists and world leaders alike - and why the left will always be the first to question the difference between a "suicide bomber" and a "freedom fighter">

Meanwhile, the right understands firepower. It's simple. it's technical, it doesn't argue back. It acts as defence, but in two ways - defence against any marauding parties of course, but also defence against changing oneself - a tool to preserve the way of life and the values of the bearer. Better to fight than to change, et al.

How do we learn? From catastophe or crisis, usually. I wouldn't bet that it's any different this time.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Britain == Business

Something to realise - the most important thing in Britain today, for those that "run" it - is money, which means big businesses are more important than small businesses, and business men/women are more important than anyone else.

Only official sponsors can mention certain Olympics-related keywords.

How great - "London/Britain" wins the Olympic Games, but then it's all kept out of the hands of the people who actually live here. (Anyone have any rough idea what rough "percentage" of business made out of the olympics will disppear into large multinationals?)

Is it any wonder that financial sectors are considered a target?

See also...

The 2012 marketing minefield

The Olympics and the need to make money

Why London won the Olympics

And if Michael Howard is right, being British means selling out anyone you know to scrape in the spondulies. You can't just "invent" an identity. Unless you're on the Internet :) And when he says "There are people, as we have seen recently, who are fundamentally hostile to the values of this country", perhaps we should take a moment to figure out how nice we are to each other first?

Maybe it's about time "we" start thinking about what's important to us - not what values politicians and marketing gumpf wants us to think. Step foward, ideas.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Cannabis cafe raided

While i'm on the Argus site, this one makes me laugh at times, but also makes me utterly depressed. Cannabis cafe raided:

[Police] said complaints from the public and council leaders had become more frequent over the last three months and they had been planning yesterday's operation for six weeks.

Unfortunately, nowhere in the article does it go into detail of these complaints. It only mentions...

One man ... said: "We see all types of people going in there to get drugs. You name it, there are mums with children and people with walking sticks and crutches."

Yeah, sounds like trouble to me. Better shut the place down. Damn pregnant woman - all hormonal, never know what they're going to do next. Might just flip out and go crazy.

A day in the knife

Never let it be said that Brighton isn't full of crazy people.

(Link looks temporary, will try to remember to update tomorrow...)

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Morning Walk notes

For the self

1. We can think of our perception of ourself in the same way as we perceive others, i.e. actions that we perceive (our own motions, or anything in others) are echoes of intent buried deeper in the "mind". (This is basically intention vs awareness.)

2. In order to explore where this intention comes from and what it "looks like", we need to stop thinking and merely observe. Active thinking gets in the way of observing.

3. Intention is intrinsically linked to sensorial data, but usually the amount of incoming data is too huge to be able to observe fully (like watching an unfiltered packet log). Therefore, start out small - block out certain senses and concentrate on environments that focus on one sense at a time (e.g. closing your eyes while a clock ticks, or a quiet room with a moving light).

(4. Sidenote: Realising that there is no such thing as "free will" (as most people would like to define it) is the first step to creating simulative models of thought?)

For society and evolution

4. Societies are emegent aggregations of individuals. Is the "optimum" individual to be in that society, then, that which is closest to the idea of an "avergae" individual? If so, are societies self-regulatory, naturally imposing forces upon individuals to keep to that average? Furthermore, is this a generic rule for any system made up of "individuals" or nodes? Are there "forces" placed on, say, neural nodes that naturally weed out nodes that are inherently different? If so, are all these systems "survival seeking" by nature? (Stability isn't just an evolutionary advantage - it's required for something to exist in the first place, and non-stability (aka normalisation) = non-existence.) If so, are humans and animals just one (tiny?) system that naturally - i.e. by it's nature of existing - have a want/need/pre-requirement to maintain themselves, but which only we call "survival" for some reason?

5. If 4, does this place altruism vs self-interest in a different realm of understanding? If everything is a fractal series of "survival system" layers, then self-interest could be considered of necessity to any particular "lower layer" (i.e. the individual in a group, a node in a brain, etc) and altruism could be considered of necessity to the upper layer (i.e. a pull towards the larger "entity/system").

6. How, then, do groups evolve? And if individuals are groups, can we scale up the factors that evolve individuals to apply to groups too? This would weigh, it seems, on the idea of how we can create "larger", more stable groups, e.g. on a global scale (but also on a local scale too). Understanding the factors that lead to evolution of any system mean that our actions are morely likely to take effect. Practically speaking, this means we should stop trying to come up with ideas for "progress" merely on the ideas merits, and instead come up with ideas based on how well they'll work. Become an "effectiveness-oriented" thinker.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

UK petrol prices hit new record

BBC News: UK petrol prices hit new record

Lib Dem Treasury spokesman Vince Cable says:

"I think it's quite likely that prices will continue to rise in the short and medium term - by that I mean weeks and months ... But there is a sort of basic law here that what goes up must come down. High prices lead to low prices and I think too many people are assuming that this period of very high prices is going to continue indefinitely, and it won't."

Now, I have some faith in economic cycles etc, but surely it's a little remiss to claim that, in the long term, prices will flatten out and we'll all be happy little drivers...

The other interesting thing, for me, is how this relates to the various market swings as influenced by the interest rates. The balance between production and debt is pretty fine these days, but both are hit pretty hard if the price of oil and petrol go up - twicefold, as consumers pay both for their own usage, and for that used in the production of stuff they buy, while businesses pay in the production stage, and indirectly as consumers have less money to buy their stuff.

In other words, are we being squeezed yet?

Friday, August 05, 2005

Licensing Search v0.0.1

Very soft launching, as I need a small number of testers. Have knocked up an attempt at letting people search through alcohol and entertainment license applications, in light of the August 6th deadline to apply for extended hours.

There are 2 aspects to this testing:

1. Accessibility/browser testing - I don't have anything other than Firefox and Konqueror. (OK, and Lynx.)
2. Content accuracy - I've parsed some PDFs, but only looked up a few pubs that I know.

Here it is if you want to try it out: Brighton and Hove Licensing Search

Release Notes:

1. The original documents have very bad formatting (no commas, etc) so I've done some rough cleaning. Addresses still appear without commas though - something I hope to address soon.

2. The data covers applications up to the 24th, so there are still a fair few pubs and venues not in there. The Council are supposed to be releasing the latest lot "soon"...

3. Also hopiing to add more links for information, etc.

Any feedback, feel free to leave comments here, on the news item there, or via e-mail to beerfind [at] exmosis [dot] net.

Friday, July 29, 2005


Exciting: OurMedia.org, backed by the Internet Archive is a commons storage silo. You can sign up, then upload any media you want. Free. The FAQ is pretty comprehensive and re-assuring too.

Having delved briefly into the realm of podcasting yesterday (i.e. plugging a mic in), this could be a possible answer to some of the issues (storage + bandwidth costs) I've been a little worried about. I've yet to see what speed and reliability the site offers, but looks pretty promising nonetheless. THere is such a thing as a free lunch?

Also, what does this mean for grass roots communities that would otherwise perhaps struggle to either a) manage bandwidth or b) set-up distributed distribution such as BitTorrent? Can we expect to see towns full of local video diaries? Regular Phone-to-RSS videocasts from schoolchildren?

(via the newly launched e-mint)

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

More progress of brain

Got a fair bit of work done on the publishing side of my vim-brain-environment-thing (I need a name, really) at the weekend.

Here you can see a published page. Looks largely the same, at least in terms of content, which is good, but I can now edit using vim. The old editing process is:

  1. Log into my website as an admin.

  2. Go to the page I want to edit, click "edit" and edit it using a Javascript-based HTML editor. This was ok, but was getting to me as it was clunky, pretty cpu-intensive, did funny things with frames (and hence the browser's back button) and was often difficult to get to look right.

  3. Hit "save". Done.

Fairly short, but still, it annoyed me. I much prefer to edit text properly. So here's the new process (which some may find worse, admittedly ;)...

  1. On my home machine (or whichever machine I have my notes checked out of CVS on), edit the page using vim (including VimNotes and Markdown for navigation and readability).

  2. Check page into CVS, run a quick command to flag things as "to be published".

  3. On the server, run a quick command that checks the "publish" flag from CVS, and checks everything out from CVS if found. Does some other bits and bobs too (or will do ;)

  4. Page-serving Perl script now does translation from Markdown-format text to HTML the first time a page is requested after it's updated. The results are saved as a cache.

Still got a fair way to go, but that's a good start. Things still to do:

  • Go through all the pages and check they look ok as a webpage. I've lost all my tables, which affects only a handful, but useful things such as the homepage layout and the Markup Matrix.

  • Regularly check if something needs to be published.

  • Add the ability to mark files as "private", and don't access them via the web if marked so.

  • Handle "recently updated" better.

  • Work out what internal links there and generate a list on the side for website navigation.

  • Various other things and tweaks.

Hopefully, eventually, I'll be able to package this all up a bit, and make it easy to install for anyone else wanting to organise and publish their brains via Vim. (Don't all rush at once ;)

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Evil twins

It really is annoying when people have the same name as you, isn't it?

Trading down.. no, wait - up.. no, down... no...

High Streets vs eBay.

Given the success of schemes such as Ebay and Freecycle (in Brighton, at least), why aren't there start-ups all over the place getting on the "swapshop" bandwagon?

Update: Actually, that's a pretty unfair comparison, especially given other news.

Update 2: But then again...

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

In with the old

Good to see professionals are still discussing "Happy Slapping". Do people still do that anymore, or did it die out after it got too popular?

Man, I'm getting so out of touch with the kids these days...

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Creative Commons Humbug

Interesting article via /.: John Dvorak: Creative Commons Humbug. Too late to think/comment about it. Maybe tomorrow.

MSRSS vs the world, and .mobi?

Things are pretty busy and summery lately, so posting has slowed down a little. Here's a coupla things I noted from Computer Weekly...

Jack Schofield's article, "Quick and dirty substitute for Soap" looks into Microsoft's use of RSS for lots of aspects of, well, everything:

Microsoft has floated some fairly trivial examples. It has suggested that, if you go to a conference, your calendar schedule could be continuously updated by an RSS feed, or you could have a regularly updated list of the top 20 downloads from a music site. Grandparents could have a screen saver auto-updated with pictures of their grandchildren as the parents post them to a photo-sharing site, or a 'live' version of their kids' Amazon wish-lists.

And here's where I'm confused. RSS represents a rolling list of latest items, doesn't it? This makes it fine for updates and recent things, but for "static" lists - i.e. where position within the list represents more than just a chronological publishing order - doesn't it start to break down?

My Amazon wish list, for example, frequently has things removed from it. Top 20 downloads have nothing to do with chronology - only individual rankings relative to the other downloads. Same for calendars. The only way of using an RSS feed that lists the top X of anything is to throw away the old one (unless you're tracking movement over time).

The photo idea I like, but then it's already been done.

The advantages of using RSS (i.e. a ubiquity of clients that understand it) is one thing, but expanding its purpose is something else entirely. It's possible, I imagine, to twist the things listed above into a kind of "list of diffs", so that I receive a feed indicating what's been added, what's been edited, and what's been removed, but isn't this fnudamentally broken? The point about RSS feeds is that I can fetch one at any time - if I haven't ever obtained it before, if I got it 5 minutes ago, or if I haven't checked it in 10 days - and just get the latest updates. Not the whole shebang - I might miss some articles, say, if they've fallen off the end. It's most certainly not a complete sync action. (An "everything but the kitchen" sync? ;)

So the only way I can see this working properly is if MS manage to "add" their own "extensions" to any of these formats. A nice trick - squeeze "extra functionality" in to a nicely compact format, hi-jack the name, and flush out other clients. Can we expect to see an RSS-war echoing the days of experimental browser HTML/Javascript?

Secondly, I see a new .mobi TLD has been approved. In my geek head, this doesn't work at all. TLDs encapsulate particular types of group (under countries, that is) - companies, organisations, network providers, people (although .name and .me kind of miss that one subtley). The access type - or protocol - is part of the subdomain, hence www.example.com, mail.example.com, ftp.example.com.

Why are mobile phones any different? (Unless I've missed the whole point, and these TLDs are intended for mobile network providers. Not the impression I get.)


Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Universe 'too queer' to grasp

Good stuff from Richard Dawkins, but as Ashraf Ghani reminds us at the end of the article, sometimes even current thinking is way too small.

BBC go open

Woo - BBC OpenSource goes live.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Co-operation and Competition - neccesary twins

One of Tom Atlee's thoughts is sticking in my head this week, although I'm not yet sure where it will lead.

Growing Together at the Emerging Edge of Evolution: "complexity, cooperation, competition and intelligence are deeply intertwined".

He then follows up with:

  • Competition BETWEEN life-forms stimulates cooperation WITHIN them.

  • A cooperative life system can allow competition to safely flourish within it.

This, to me, makes so much more sense than either the "competition is the best way to drive forth progress" or the "everyone should live together in peace and harmony" views. Competition and co-operation produce each other. But simultaneously, both keep each other in check. Accepting this can lead to some important insight, I think: To generate one, look to the other.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Broadband premiering

Neat, the BBC are playing around with showing comedy on their website before it hits the TV. Extra neat, just because the Mighty Boosh is one of my favourites too...

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Hitting the Fan

Repost from David Blunkett is an Arse:

A morning of bomb blasts paralyses London, and with it much of the network and travel infrastructures of the South East.

Already the obvious middle-Eastern terrorist links are suspected - but not confirmed. The timing coincides with many things - the 2012 Olympic announcement, G8, and Bush's birthday (yesterday), but for me none of these make much sense. I'd be heartly surprised to learn that the chaos didn't arise out of our foreign policy and our perceived chumminess with said Bush. When local politics is so internationalised, other people's problems become our own.

But what to expect in the aftermath - or indeed right now, for that matter? America used terrorist attacks to authorise increasingly dictatorial laws. Spain used attacks to vote in a more left-wing policy. I suspect, in my sceptical state, that we can expect Blair and Clarke to follow the former on this, alas. I suspect the headlines will be full of mournful (naturally) cabinet ministers. This is fair. But what I also expect to see is resumed rhetoric on the nature of the beast we're "at war with", about the "British resolve" and about not "succumbing to murderers".

Well bollocks to that. Over the next few days, we need pressure on the MPs to remind them that all this shit comes out of their decisions, and their pulling strings on the world arena. And we need to question these decisions, constantly.

We need to remember that we already have full-on security processes, and yet stuff like this still happens because the causes are still being created on a day-to-day basis. When Blair presses for increased surveillance, ubiquitous tracking systems and the renewed urge for an ID system, don't ever forget that there are much, much larger problems that lead to such unrest, and that if we're to get to the bottom of them, we need much, much better action than simply watching over us all and pretending the problem will go away.

Fear is here, and the politicians will be very willing to capitalise on it.

Everything's Connected

Heavens. people start blowing up London transport, and the whole country falls apart. Ripple effect - the telephone network, news sites (BBC is unreachable right now), workplaces - all come to a standstill because everyone acts the same in these situations, and pretty much no system can deal with that. Fallout in the next 24 hours. Tinfoil hat time.

Follow the headlines on Google News U.K..

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

US Afghan tactics 'need rethink'

Having the US bomb everything in Afghanistan, including the locals, not necessarily the best way to please the locals, say the locals. No shit.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Compulsory voting, says Hoon

Not completely sure where I stand on compulsory voting, although I'm not so keen when it's considered as the only route to political interest, nor when people make such non-sequiturs as Geoff Hoon makes:

Mr Hoon will argue that "international experience points to compulsory voting being the most effective way to increase turnout". It is "the most obvious way to bring those who feel alienated into the political process and the best means to enhance civic participation". It would also "bring back the sense that we can all work together".

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Playground politics

Ahh, quality snide remarks in "UK's EU logo flies into trouble":

The [Eurosceptic] Bruges Group, which has Baroness Thatcher among its members, says [Jack Straw] must adequately explain the similarity [of logos] by noon on Friday.
Otherwise, the group ... says it will consider applying for an injunction to stop the presidency logo being used.

Lord Lamont [of the Bruges Group] said: "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Obviously, the government has realised that the Bruges Group has been right all along about the federal ambitions of the EU."

"Michael Johnson, of the design firm, said ... "I'm afraid that Mr Lamont's (logo) seems to be too old and too unmemorable for anyone to know of it,"

Great stuff.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Progress of brain!

It's 2 in the morning, but I've got somewhere that I like.

Vim + VimNotes + Markdown syntax colouring

Here's a screenshot of it all running via gvim. I'll probably run it under plain command-line vim, but the screenshot demonstrates the "VimNotes" menu item that lists all of the existing pages/sections.

I like the ability to search through all my pages at the touch of a button (F4) and the ability to create new ones with another (F2). Folding (like outlining, but perhaps more limited) is also good, although I'm wondering if I can tie in the Vim Outliner stuff too - at the moment, I can switch between the two by changing the filename extension, but maybe I can "embed" Outlining into any page using some custom mark-up (e.g. "[[[OTL]]]") - that would be useful, I think. Still, I prefer the readability of Markdown over the functionality of Outlining, so it's not too urgent.

I also like the direct opening of URLs in the background, and I suspect I can use Another Vim script to open just about everything else...

All I need now is to update my website to take the VimNotes headers into account, and re-convert all my existing content into compatible files, and set up CVS properly... Hurrah!

Friday, July 01, 2005

Crime, Punishment, and Maslow's Hierarchy

I'm reading Foucault's "Discipline and Punish" currently, but (separately) have also been reminded of Maslows Hierarchy of Needs. Reading this story about a global crackdown on warez, and the associated Slashdot comments has got me thinking about them together though.

"D & P" is currently examining the purpose of punishment, and the almost scientific manner of mapping and matching the seriousness of the punishment to the seriousness of the crime. Many of the opinions against the increasing heavy-handedness of the media industry, and the related punishment for piracy*, question the sensibility and rationality in the disproportion between the 2. But maybe this is looking at it the wrong way.

If, rather than rational and sense - which are mostly relative anyway, we adopt a view that resembles Maslow's Hierarchy, perhaps we can understand better the progress of "justice" in the modern era. Traditionally, the hierarchy refers to the needs of an individual - physical factors, then safety, then love, etc. However, I think this can be scaled up to a societal application as well. We as a society are somewhat "advanced" in that we have food aplenty, and that we are relatively safe (despite what politicians keep trying to tell us). (I would question heavily whether we have achieved anything further up the ladder yet...)

That's not to say that we've 'eradicated' murder and rape and gruesome stuff like that. But we're "safe" as a whole in terms of invasion, in terms of general lifestyle.

So our priorities have shifted - just as the priorities of an individual shift as they mature and evolve. Both society and the individual prioritise threats to the most immediate layer of the hierarchy, and in the West's case, this has moved on from being either survival or chaos, and has emerged as "income". (I suspect this factor is halfway between the "safety" and "love" levels - it has its roots in the former, but aims loftily for the latter. Economy is a security of the mind.)

This would explain the increasing emphasis on things that many consider "unnecessary", and the associated emphasis on avoiding "economic chaos". The question is, is this a necessary step in the progress of society, or are we barking up the wrong tree? In other words, do we need this fascination with money in order to get past it? And if so, should we expect to see much more emphasis placed on things that, traditionally, would be considered "extraneous"?

I think that level 3 - "Love/Belonging" - comes out of a realisation that money doesn't give you everything. We're only now starting to realise that the economic systems we have in place may get things moving/stable technically, but actually do very little in terms of other important factors such as societal and ecological needs. Unfortunately, this realisation also often comes out of loss, and having to face up to what one could only describe as "regret". And if you go down this route, then you realise the only possible outcome for the road we're on is that a whole load of stuff is going to have to be "lost" before we get past our fixation with money.

* from the msnbc article: "...Bush signed a new law last month setting tough penalties of up to 10 years in prison for anyone caught distributing a movie or song before its commercial release..."

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Proliferation of unusable domains

I dunno,. maybe it's just me, but are domains that combine words with TLDs - such as del.icio.us and blo.gs - harder to remember/type? Punctuation mid-word is very unnatural.

Bush enacts anti-terror measures

Bush gives himself more powers to intrude upon everyone

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The latest battlefield

Bush blabbers on. How can people still actually believe this crap? :

"The terrorists who attacked us - and the terrorists we face - murder in the name of a totalitarian ideology that hates freedom, rejects tolerance, and despises all dissent."


"Many terrorists who kill innocent men, women, and children on the streets of Baghdad are followers of the same murderous ideology that took the lives of our citizens in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania."

Hands up who thinks the insurgency (there's a clue in the name) would be blowing stuff and people up in Baghdad if Iraq hadn't been invaded?

Blair continues to decline apologies for "toppling" Saddam. Fair enough, but it's about time leaders started accepting some responsibility for the violence they created.

Meanwhile, there's a good answer for my previous question, and for Phil's closing question. Fear.

Not fear of terrorists - that's a smokescreen. The real fear here is an insecurity of the soul, a deeply embedded, cultural insecurity that hides itself through bluster, arms and propaganda. The illusion that unless other cultures are "restricted", the US - no, the Western way of life will be snatched away.

"Shock and Awe" tactics aren't primarily a display of might against an enemy, with the intention to make them gawp and question who they're up against - that's only a side effect. Rather, they're a display of might to comfort the instigators, the people back home, that they can rest easy cos no-one's about to take all the stuff they've "earned" away from them.

The "latest battlefield" isn't a place. It's the minds of all the spectators, watching comfortably from cosy armchairs through blaring TV sets. And on that field, it's a battle between what we imagine ourselves to be, and what we truly are but that we can never admit.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Warnings vs Reality vs Public Consensus

Oil hits $60, yet the impetus to actually seriously look into/be concerned about the issue is still very... small. At what point will the general guy in the street start to really question what lies ahead? At what point will the general consensus begin to turn against oil? At the moment, it's as if the problem will "sort itself out" somehow. Public complacency is rife. For how long?

Other stuff:

Iran bored with US now

Richard Whitely, RIP :-(

Friday, June 24, 2005


Having much fun checking out the Glastonbury weather and the associated flow of Flickr photos... Ulp.

Monday, June 20, 2005

After the fall

The Economist on raging house prices: After the fall. Lots of naysaying and "ifs", and ends with... "the biggest increase in wealth in history was largely an illusion."

Friday, June 17, 2005

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

No Term Limits for the U.S. President?

Goody, looks like we might get Bush for a third term - current US legislation limits a president to 2 terms... Can't think of any good reason why that would be there, nosirree...

Bums up!

Now that's the way to enjoy Scotch...

Friday, June 10, 2005

More on (Moron) Copyright

EU to try and bump copyright up too, to be more "in line" with the US, ha.

Another thought just hit me, along the same lines as my rant at Steve's this morning. In the article, James Purnell (who's rapidly earning a similarly-named blog)is quoted as saying:

"The music industry is a risky business and finding talent and artists is expensive"

The thing here is that technology allows us to find new ways of discovering artists. The PR hierarchy can be flattened, but the moneymakers don't want it to be.

As always, progress is hindered by the power hungry.

'Sick note culture'

Gosh, start fining parents for taking their children on holiday during term time, and sickness rates mysteriously go up. Criminy.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

BBC podcasts

I think the BBC podcast feeds trial should get some coverage, as it's a fairly hefty shift in how people can get their media. I haven't really looked into it much yet, but it's good to see another really simple scheme being adopted because it's simple.

Google on the chase

The legal backlash has begun... "Google is always happy to see developers interested in our products and we commend you on the service. That said, we would appreciate it if you voluntarily remove
your service

IANAL and can't be bothered to go through the Terms of Google Maps right now though, so no idea how this affects everything else... Try the Slashdot posts though.

Contractual Obligations

Nice philosophy quote today:  Society is indeed a contract...it becomes a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.  -- Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France 

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Economy 2.0: Blurring the boundaries...

What is "property"? A gamer in China has been given life after stabbing a fellow gamer who "borrowed" his sword in-game, then proceeded to sell it off for almost 500 quid.

The two viewpoints of interest come at the end of the article:

Following the case, associate law professor at Beijing's Renmin University of China said that such weapons should be deemed as private property because players "have to spend time and money for them".

But a lawyer for one Shanghai-based internet game company told a Chinese newspaper that the weapons were in fact just data created by games providers and therefore not the property of gamers.

While possibly seeming somewhat silly to those of us who don't spend as much time immersed in on-line worlds, it strikes me that this is comparable to - if not even more sensible than - the ongoing legal wranglings around every other non-tangible "product" in our society - from music, to software, to films, to text. All of these are just "data" that we've created, copied, manipulated and "unset" to obtain something recognisable, too. Yet we have industries and laws around these too - laws that are being fought over as I type.

"Property" comes out of a materialist thinking. The problem is that we've moved on from our materialist paradigm, into a physical reality that threatens to trade scarcity and demand for ubiquity and supply. So far, economies based on information have been nothing more than a hack - an attempt to shove new ideas into the old hole. However, as the new methods outpace and outstretch old thinking more and more, we'll find increasingly that the hack just doesn't hold together - not without a whole bunch of laws, and lawyers and police to back them up. In short, we're doomed to a future of strangled enforcement simply because our philosophy doesn't match our desire.

We need a refresh. We need to start thinking progressively rather than defensively, only governments and corporates are currently too entrenched in the way of life that benefits themselves to take notice. History shows that this mismatch between societal strata will have to be forced out of place before the people that "run" the show actually listen.

This ties in with a question I asked on the alt ec tribe. There are different kinds of alternative, depending on where you are and where you've come from. I think what we need now is a radically different idea of economics based on a radically different idea of "property". We need to combine the new paradigm with the old in order to get somewhere useful.

But at the same time, it's not enough to simply come up with something *different*. If possible, a new economy should act as a "superset" of the old, a backwards compatible version 2.0 economy that fills in the holes in the old one that cause all the grief we've inherited today. A lot of what we have works, and we'd be foolish to re-invent the money wheel. Maybe shifting the idea of "property" to take into account all the things of a less tangible nature would simply be enough?

How much would you pay for your soul?

Tuesday, June 07, 2005


Chinese blogs face restrictions

In amongst all the moaning about politics and corporates, it's weird to think just how much freedom of speech we actually have. I, for one, am particularly grateful.

UK Music Copyright to be doubled?

100 years? That sucks. As far as I can tell, the reasoning is that "record companies can plough money back into unearthing new talent." IMHO, if they're still relying on 50-year-old songs to make money for today, then what's wrong with their current set-up?

Monday, June 06, 2005


Heh. People don't trust politicians... a shame when some of them tend towards sense, some of the time.

The Shortfalls of an Information Society

Hmm, here's a challenge for the long term...

Local democracy on-line is great - lots of people have lots of different views, and seem to be able to discuss them sensibly, which is a good start :) Politics naturally enters into it, and along with politics we naturally get polemicism - fair enough - and, as a result, "persuasional techniques". Representation on the net, when detached from absolute nymity, is extremely intriguing.

An ongoing case in Brighton concerns the treatment of protestors at an arms company by local Police. So far, reports have been contributed either by the protestors in an effort to get their case known, or by media who run to their own rules (as far as I'm concerned). It's been very difficult to get a bias-free story, anyway. So I read this message from an "independent" with great interest.

Now, on the one hand, I'm somewhat suspicious of the police, and can believe that they'd be unnecessarily heavy-handed. But on the other hand, I feel equally guilty about jumping to conclusions - hence my interest in the post above. The question is, how can I trust the view of a supposed independent to be authentic? That is, not that their report isn't misjudged, as it were, but that they are as independent as they say they are.

For now, because I'm not involved with the situation and because I don't know the poster, my main resources are a). previous posts by the same person, b) their profile (which doesn't exist) and c). Google, although here we start to see just what Google lacks.

Indeed, at this point we start to see what on-line communication as a whole lacks. Reputation networks still have a long way to go, but for things like this, there's some great potential for small-scope (e.g. per-mailing list) trust networks. Only thing is, I'm not sure quite how they should work just yet...

Sunday, June 05, 2005

A mere dozen

BBC News: Saddam 'to face just 12 charges'

"A spokesman said the 12 charges of crimes against humanity were fully documented and there was no point "wasting time" dealing with all 500."

No point? Or (as the cynic in my bones speaks to me) too much chance that his dealings with the West will be highlighted? The past is being rewritten as we read it. Once Saddam is out of the picture, the no-one cares what the history books say.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Pecking Orders

Anarchy is unnatural? Why do people seem to naturally want to sort themselves into a hierarchy or pecking order?


It's good to know that the using Paypal to buy something on ebay still gives me the same sense of excitement as when I received my first e-mail from overseas... Comms is all the more amazing when you know how it works.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Comic nudity in court

Remember kids,
nudity is bad. Can't have young people looking at nature, my my, no.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005