Friday, July 29, 2005


Exciting:, 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,,

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..."