Many apologies for the unexpected disappearance -
long enough, in fact, that several friends have been moved to phone
to make sure that a fully-loaded server cabinet hadn't fallen on me
or something! Thanks for that - the thoughts have been very much
In fact a nasty 'flu bug had sneaked through my
body's firewall, and laid me low to an unprecedented degree - I
didn't even look at a computer for three days at the start of
the week, which is probably a new record for me in recent years. I'm
still somewhat reminiscent of a freshly-exhumed corpse, but I'm
definitely on the mend and I hope that normal blogging (or what
passes for it) will resume tomorrow.
week we started noticing serious problems with our Internet
connectivity, and some research determined that we could no longer
contact any of the multiple DNS servers provided by our ISP, PSINet/Telstra.
Worse, our own external host names held on these servers were
equally unavailable, meaning that as well as our corporate web site
disappearing from the net none of our external users could connect
to any of the various remote access services we provide. The outage
persisted all afternoon, and although Telstra were not particularly
forthcoming with either information or a solution we managed to work
around the worst of the problems by diverting our users to IP
addresses rather than host names, and by Friday morning everything
seemed to be back to normal.
The obvious explanation, given the apparently
high level of redundancy of the servers themselves, was that the ISP
had been a victim of a large-scale denial of service attack levelled
at the entire DNS infrastructure. They would by no means be the
first ISP to be targeted in this way, but as could be expected their
official statement didn't exactly admit to any hostile
"The issue was caused by an elevated level
of apparently legitimate DNS queries coming from a very large
number of sources. DNS servers became overloaded and unable to be
contacted via the network"
Reading between the lines, however, it's pretty
clear. That description fits a DDoS attack to a T, and whatever
Telstra say I know what I think... The only remaining
questions are "who did it, and why?", and "will they do it
again?". Telstra themselves aren't saying, and only time will
clean bill of health - the US government team examining
Microsoft's Vista and IE7 products has decided that there are no
antitrust issues with the new products, and that Microsoft's legal
commitment to documenting protocols and middleware layers in both
Windows XP and Vista is being adhered to. The EU, of course, is
rather less convinced - but that's more because they view Microsoft
as a significant source of income rather than for any genuine
Another step forward - the judge in the suits brought by the EFF
against the US Government and various telcos for warrantless
wiretapping has again rejected the Justice Department's motion to
dismiss the suits because of alleged "state secrets", and instead
has consolidated the cases into five main suits against the five
major telcos involved. So far Judge Walker has been surprisingly
cooperative in blocking the government's demands to brush the whole
issue under the carpet; how long can this continue?
Nowhere to hide - a nasty little flaw in the password management
system built into the Firefox browser could allow malicious web
pages to retrieve ID and password details without the consent of the
user. Embedding appropriate tags in, for example, a MySpace page,
causes the password manager to automatically insert stored details
into hidden form fields on the page, from where they can easily be
transmitted onwards. Ouch!
Pots and Kettles # 437 - a bug in Apple's OS X allows malformed
disk image downloads to crash the
operating system or, according to some reports, to allow execution
of arbitrary code. The comments at Ars Technica are interesting,
however, as unusually for that site there are as many critics as
fanboys and I do wonder if the ever-increasing number of Mac
security flaws (along with Apple's rather poor track record in
discussing them openly) is starting to bring a sea change of
Megapixels don't matter - Dan has
written about this
several times in the last few years, and now the New York Times
has joined the fight. They printed a 16" x 24" photograph of the
same scene taken by three different cameras, one with a resolution
of 13 megapixels, one 8, and the third 5, and then challenged
passers by to tell the difference. Only one person out of many
dozens could - and apparently she was a photography professor...
law is an ass - television "place-shifting" specialist Sling
Media has partnered with UK telco 3 to allow subscribers to watch
television on their phones via a Slingbox attached to their home
media system. There are a number of problems with this, however, in
that the terms and conditions of the Sky satellite service, for one,
forbid watching its media outside the home, and UK broadcasting law
requires a television licence if the handset is connected to a mains
supply during viewing.
give up your day job - an Indian student has developed an
optical storage technique he calls "rainbow data", which uses
coloured geometric shapes to store information on ordinary paper. He
claims that a piece of paper four inches square can hold up to 450Gb
(although the report at The Register casts doubt on this
figure) and is intending to develop the technology in both
directions, downwards into cellphone-sized scanners and upwards into
petabyte-scale databanks. I have to admit that I am extremely
Links for the middle of the week:
Playing dirty - after considerable pressure from the PDA
community the software distributor Handango has agreed to compensate
Omnisoft for evicting them from its product catalogue, but is still
refusing to sell their products. It isn't clear
how the rift arose, but loss of such a major sales channel could
present real problems for the small developer.
Liberating post codes - after the privatisation of the Italian
post office, the new owners have removed the freely available post
codes database and replaced it with a commercial product costing
several thousand Euros. Following a public outcry, however, the old
database has now been recreated as an open source project, along the
lines of the NPEM project I linked to the other
No new tricks for old dogs - virus writers have run out of good
ideas, according to Russian AV specialist Kaspersky Lab, and these
days it's just one boring old worm after another. The present
stalemate between the malware creators and the anti-virus software
companies can't last, though, and Kaspersky's Alex Gostev thinks
that one or the other will gain the ascendancy soon.
The popular vote -
photo site Flickr has updated its statistics on the cameras used to
take the photographs it hosts, and once again Canon is a clear
winner in both the high-end and snappy categories. I do wonder
whether these figures are skewed by the failure of some other
manufacturers to encode the EXIF data that Flickr uses for its
analysis into the photos, though.
Flawed legislation - in spite of clear warnings from experts in
the field (now where have I heard that before?), the UK government
have persisted with misguided clauses in the newly published Police
and Justice Act that could make it illegal to distribute network
analysis tools such as NMAP, or release information on security
vulnerabilities, on the grounds that they could be used by hackers.
Like it or lump it - a Washington DC-area TV station, part of the Fox
group, has created an online blogging tool to allow viewers to
respond to their broadcasts. Typically, however, it has a
wonderfully fascist set of terms and conditions clauses such as
"If at any time you are not happy with the Forums or object to any
material within the Forums, your sole remedy is to stop using them".
Sublime to ridiculous - an Oakland teenager has become the
eighteenth amateur physicist to achieve nuclear fusion, following
the success of his deuterium gas-fuelled Inertial Electrostatic
Confinement system. Amusingly, he only turned to fusion research
after his mother forbade him to build a hyperbaric chamber - so I
hope she's pleased with herself!
Pots and kettles - as if in answer to the media industry's
spurious claims that music piracy funds international terrorism, it
has now been alleged that former Italian Prime Minister Silvio
Berlusconi has been using copyright licences to launder money -
apparently with the willing complicity of the MPAA members and the
estranged husband of the British government minister responsible for
Circular references - a new service pays bloggers to write
reviews of products and services - but as these are largely limited
to other web sites The Register suggests that the inevitable result
is more of the depressingly tail-chasing blogging model so familiar
from LiveJournal et al, but with considerable potential for
blatant perfidy thanks to the addition of the root of all evil...
I'm still waiting for the fan tray to cool my
Acoustirack server cabinet (shown below flaunting some of its many
green LEDs after dark), and as in its absence I've had to leave
both doors wide open I've been more than usually aware of the noise
levels. Some experimenting last week showed that the four 40mm fans
in the Netgear gigabit switch and the Raq web server appliance were
responsible for much of the annoying, high-pitched component of the
noise in spite of their diminutive size, as the big 120mm units in
the PowerEdge server and Clariion disk arrays are far less intrusive
in spite of the massive airflow they provide. Although the sound
from the little fans is far less noticeable with the doors
(briefly!) closed, every little helps and my goal is to reduce the
ambient noise in the house as far as possible.
With this in mind I picked up a handful of
40mm fans from specialist QuietPC. The first attempt to install
them was unsuccessful, as the Raq web server turns out to use
extremely slim models that fit into a precise space in the power
supply casing and CPU heatsink shroud - I can modify both, but only
with more effort than I have time for right now. In the meantime,
though, I've ordered a pair of
suitable replacements from Strongbolt Linux specialist
OSOffice.co.uk, and although they probably aren't as quiet as the
Rasurbo models they are apparently an improvement on the originals.
Opening up the Netgear switch looked more
promising, and in fact I actually replaced one of the two
side-mounted fans with little fuss. At that point, however, I
powered up the switch to check the airflow direction, and although
the fan was indeed as silent as advertised, unfortunately there
turned out to be a good reason for that... The airflow is quoted as
4.7CFM, but I wonder about the accuracy of even that modest figure
as the movement of air is barely noticeable on one's fingers only a
few centimetres away from the blades. It suffered very
badly in comparison with the remaining one of the original Sunon
units mounted beside it, and such insignificant airflow is completely
inadequate for the switch.
I'm also going to have to remove
the single Rasurbo model that I had actually managed to install, on the heatsink
of the Via CPU powering my Axis 262
network camera recorder. Those Pentium compatibles run far
cooler than Intel's originals, but having felt the meagre performance of
the Rasurbo units I'll be happier replacing the off-the-shelf Akasa
fan I used to replace the failing original. I can't say that I
would recommend these fans for any but the least demanding
applications, and in fact it's hard to imagine any component that
wouldn't be served just as well by a good passive cooler.
In the US the locations of zip codes are in the
public domain, but in England the Royal Mail jealously guards their
postal codes database and charges a significant licensing fee
to companies who wish to access it. A pair of web sites are
attempting to reclaim the information, however, which I think is
definitely a worthy cause. New
Popular Edition Maps allows you to pinpoint your own postcode,
or any others you know, using copyright free street maps from the
1940s, and Free the
Postcode! is doing the same thing using latitude and longitude
readings extracted from the increasingly popular GPS navigators.
Both sites are off to a good start, but will only become worthwhile
with continued contributions from members of the public - so add
your own codes and spread the word!
The cost of Nigeria - Internet scams, credit card fraud and
money laundering operations originating in Nigeria cost UK
companies and individuals millions of pounds a year, claims a report
from the Chatham House think-tank, but neither country is taking any
meaningful steps to address the problem. The classic advance-fee
scam is as popular as ever, it seems, with an estimated £275 million
being lost in 2005 alone. The report suggests that the success of
the scam is based on the stereotyped Western view of Africans as
simple-minded and unsophisticated:
"A European who believes in this might find
it unremarkable that a Nigerian holding tens of millions of
dollars would be clueless about what to do with it. In such
circumstances, what could be more natural than to turn to the
clever white person for help?"
If this is indeed the case then the victims of
these frauds are certainly paying the price for their antiquated,
racist opinions, and there is definitely an element of poetic
justice in that. In this day and age one doesn't have to be terribly
"sophisticated" to know that sending all your bank account details
to an anonymous overseas email address is a bad, bad idea...
Experts in the field - the Bush government has dismissed a draft
of a classified CIA report that found no significant evidence of a
secret Iranian nuclear weapons program in addition to the civilian
operations already declared to the IAEA, according to journalist
Seymour Hersh of the New Yorker. A senior intelligence official
revealed that the White House had been "hostile" to the report,
serving as yet another illustration of how closed the administration
is to the truth. The CIA are not notorious for their liberal
viewpoint, of course, and would seem to have little incentive to
cover up the existence of such a program should it exist, but just
as with Iraq's phantom WMDs the White House would much rather have a
clear threat in order to maintain the perceived threat of Islamic
terrorism that has allowed them to get away with so much over the
last six years.
Oh, the humanity - Boston mayor Thomas Menino is planning to
send Sony a bill for the police that had to attend a near-riot at
the city's Sony Style store on the day of the PS3 launch, one of a
number of similar disturbances that happened across the country.
Supplies of the console were extremely limited, with some stores
only receiving a few units - but this didn't stop large crowds
assembling and as many retailers ores hadn't devised measures for
handling the demand there were a number of ugly incidents. Aside
from the 500 people that mobbed the Boston store, a Wal-Mart in
California had to be closed to avoid injuries and a Wisconsin man
was hospitalised after being trampled in the rush. The most serious
incident happened in Connecticut, when two gunmen tried to rob a
group of people waiting in line for a store to open, shooting one of
them when he refused to hand over his money. Is all publicity
really good publicity? I wonder if Sony thinks so this week...
novel defence - one of victims in the RIAA's seemingly endless
series of file-sharing suits is claming that the legal settlement
between the industry and Sharman Networks, the manufacturer of the
Kazaa P2P software, exonerates him from paying any damages. The
RIAA's claims that Sharman was liable for any copyright
infringements made by Kazaa users were upheld, and defendant David
Greubel's lawyers say that that this means that the recording
companies have already been fully compensated for whatever music he
may have traded. Greubel is also attempting to cap the damages
claimed by the RIAA, insisting that the sum of $750 per song sought
is completely excessive in comparison to the 70¢
that they would have received from a legal music download. Both are
very reasonable claims, on the face of it, and it will be very
interesting to see what a judge and jury make of them.
Diamond Geezer - firstly, tonight, a quick plug for an excellent
London 'blog. Diamond Geezer has a wealth of fascinating information
about London and its surroundings - little-known facts, lots of
photographs, culture, the environment, gossip, you name it. A
fascinating resource for locals and tourists alike. He's been
posting since 2002, and I'm not sure how I'm missed him for so long!
To the max - Ron Toms is well known amongst gadget junkies for
his marvellous "back
yard artillery" sites, now joined by a growing number of
spin-offs. The latest of these, Extreme Exercise Equipment, is
offering the AquaSkipper, a sort of aquatic bicycle which has to be
seen to be believed.
A new twist - the classic cup-and-string telephone is given a
new lease of life with a concept from avant-garde designer Duncan
Wilson. The form is instantly recognisable, but this time the cups
conceal a short-range radio transceiver with the antenna concealed
in the stub of the string.
Trouble in paradise - popular virtual world Second Life is
struggling with a wave of drive-by clonings following the release of
a tool that allows in-game artefacts to be copied, whether the
item's "owner" approves or not. Needless to say, this is having a
terrible effect on the game's virtual economy...
Voting with their feet - news that an innocent victim of cheque
fraud was arrested by the police on the instigation of the Bank Of
America has caused a massive PR backlash, and across the country
many thousands of customers are withdrawing their money and closing
Stretching the law - consumer information site
BlackFriday.info was sent a spurious DMCA take-down notice after
publishing details of sale prices on offer at retail chain Best Buy,
on the completely spurious grounds that their prices were
Biting the hand - in the wake of the latest wave of Home Office
legislation, a Welsh chief constable has attacked the government's
approach to law and order, saying that their constant introduction
of new laws was more to respond to tabloid criticism than part of
any planned strategy.
Too good to last - after being available for a little over a
month, both the Chinese and English versions of online encyclopedia
site Wikipedia have once more been blocked by the Chinese
government's net censor. How long can they hold back the tide, one
wonders - and how long will they keep trying?
not theft - the MPAA is flexing its muscles again, filing a
lawsuit against a company that sells both DVDs and personal media
players, and obligingly copies the former onto the latter if a
customer purchases them all together.
Outrageous - the hype over Sony's PS3 has reached new levels of
absurdity, with a pre-order for the console having just been sold on
eBay for the unbelievable figure of $9000 - plus $65 shipping. It's
hard to believe that anyone wants a games console so very badly...
Innovative use of technology - a Manchester man has been
convicted of theft and imprisoned after using an MP3 player to copy
card details from free-standing ATM machines in shops and bars, then
cloning fake cards from them to purchase around £200,000 of goods
Cry foul - the carefully orchestrated election fraud in Florida
was a key factor in allowing Bush to steal Al Gore's presidency in
2000, and now it appears that the state has been the site of another
serious irregularity that allowed the Republicans to retain control
of a hotly-contested congressional seat.
Wolves at the door - I'm wondering if Google is regretting its
purchase of YouTube yet, with the news that a company that
manufactures pipe making machinery, Universal Tube, is to sue the
search giant over the similarity of the domain names. Sounds like
another thoroughly spurious suit, to me...
A support vacuum - Mark Shuttleworth, founder of the
increasingly popular Ubuntu Linux distribution, has finally admitted
that Apache is actually rather a weird and wonderful application to
support, with a distinct lack of standards and conventions between
distributions. And I thought it was just me...
finally, at online comic strip Questionable Content,
Quantum Fetish Mechanics. I won't comment, except to say that I
have suspected the existence of such a phenomenon for some time...
Today's big news is the release of
Business Edition to MSDN and Volume Licensing subscribers. It's
a 2Gb DVD image, and as could be predicted Microsoft's servers were
a touch busy this afternoon and transfer speeds are fairly poor -
but I've left it downloading over the weekend, and doubtless it will
be ready to burn to disk by Monday morning.
Unusually, for someone who was using pre-release
versions of Windows 95, 98 and 2000 well before their official
launch, for various reasons I've avoided installing any of the
public Vista betas and my only experience with the new OS so far is
a few minutes poking at a colleague's laptop running RC1. I'm really
looking forward to installing it at home, however, and will take the
opportunity to do a complete rebuild of my main desktop system as
well - the environment I'm running now is almost six years old,
originally an installation of Windows 2000 on a
dual CPU Pentium III
back when both were new, then upgraded in stages over the years to
Windows XP on the current
dual P4 Xeon system. Needless to say, in spite of careful
housekeeping its performance is probably far from optimum, and by
now even a clean install of XP would be a breath of fresh air! I
have to admit to some misgivings about the hand-holding (some would
say "nagging") features of the new OS, but all-in-all I'm expecting
great things when I finally take the plunge.
2D data revisited - the ultra-flat CAT6 network cable
blogged about in September of last year still isn't on the
market, but Videk are offering a CAT5e product that, although it
isn't quite so wafer thin, is at least distinguished by not
The word on the street - the increasingly fanatical Sony PS3
evangelists will be disappointed to hear that although the iSuppli's
now legendary component cost evaluation reveals that the
manufacturer will be losing heavily on each console sold, thanks to
falling component costs Microsoft's Xbox 360 has turned the corner
into profitability considerably sooner than expected.
New maps of hell - a report commissioned by the US Justice
Department suggests that contrary to popular belief only 1% of web
pages contain sexually explicit material, a figure which will
certainly assist the ACLU in their suit against the pointless
Children's Online Protection Act.
Price technology integration - at the recently revamped
Daily WTF, a fable that warns against complaining about a lack
of work, and provides an innovative solution to avoiding the trauma
that inevitably resulted. Link courtesy of the inestimable
Dan Rutter. He's my hero...
Damned if they do - Microsoft is receiving extensive criticism
over the possibly excessive degree of hand-holding provided by the
new security features in Vista, but at Bit-Tech Chris Caines says
that they're just responding to the changing market for operating
systems and can't really be blamed.
street software - UK supermarket chain Tesco has launched its
own range of budget computer software, rebranding offerings from
some of the smaller yet still well-known manufacturers. The
portfolio includes sound and image editing, antivirus, personal
finance and an office suite. Trusted Reviews has the details.
Hacked again - to nobody's great surprise (except, apparently,
the Home Office's), one of the 3 million newly issued UK biometric
passports has been hacked in a blaze of publicity by The Guardian.
In fact the exploit is the same basic design flaw that has been
exposed several times before, but even on its own it is enough to
render the entire scheme worthless.
Seasoned techies often have a soft spot for
Brunner's classic 1975 science fiction novel The Shockwave
Rider, thanks to the author's remarkable prescience in
describing a global public computer network several years before the
birth of its real world counterpart, and also for imagining
self-replicating viruses to infect it (as well as the now
commonly-used term "worm" to describe them) well over a decade
before rtm decided
to implement one.
Thirty years later, however, it seems that one
more of Brunner's ideas has leaked out of the novel and into the
public eye, largely thanks to the publication of another book,
Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki. The new book's thesis
is the idea that an average of the opinions of a large number of
people can be surprisingly accurate, and more so than any one of its
individuals - an idea traditionally exploited by those in the know
to win the popular "guess the number of x in a jar" competitions.
Although many reviews credit the original work in
the field, undertaken by the RAND Corporation in the Cold War era, I
have yet to find one that mentions the "Delphi Pool" of Brunner's
novel in spite of the fact that his was probably the first
description of the technique outside of academic papers and
classified military documents, and certainly the only
depiction of such a concept being employed every day by most of the
population of the earth! In Brunner's dystopia the Delphi Boards are
used as a form of entertainment, a means of gambling, a way to solve
personal problems and gain advice, and by governments to form policy
and gauge the mood of their citizens.
It's a fascinating idea, and deserves to be
highlighted now that Surowiecki's own book is suddenly all over the
media. The Shockwave Rider was a remarkable work when it was
first published, not only because of its unusual vision but also
because it is a damn good read, and it's very nice to discover that
even three decades later it still has something to contribute to the
Meanwhile, back in our own dystopia, another of
Brunner's recurring themes, that elections would be widely
manipulated by the governments of the day in order to retain power,
has taken another step closer with the ever-increasing reports of
significant issues involving electronic voting machines in last
week's US mid-term elections.
points us to Bruce Schneier's accounts of problems in Florida,
The Yellow Doggerel Democrat links to the news that in
California you might have been able vote as often as you liked, and
Ars Technica has an overview of the whole gloomy affair. Whether
you agree with suspicions that the right wing government-corporate
alliance is behind these bizarre security weaknesses, or if instead
you'd rather believe that it's just down to incredible incompetence
in the design, manufacture and testing of these systems, by now
nobody can deny that a) they don't always correctly record the
voter's intentions and b) there's no way of confirming after the
election what those intentions really were. With the current state
of the art, these machines have no place in a genuinely democratic
election, and any government that adopts them as enthusiastically as
has happened in the US and Europe deserves to be viewed with
Tesla lives - transmitting electrical power without wires has
been one of the twentieth century's equivalents of the Philosopher's
Stone, but it looks as if a team at MIT have laid the groundwork for
a practical method of doing just that. If their computer simulations
are accurate, this will be huge...
The Prestige - for some reason I've only recently noticed a
novel by the venerable UK science fiction author Christopher Priest,
and even before my surprise at having missed a work by a favourite
author had faded, I was even more surprised to find that it had been
made into a major Hollywood film!
The cult of "i" - Apple's dominance of the MP3 player market may
not be as permanent as Steve Jobs likes to think, following
publication of a survey suggesting that 58 percent of iPod owners
were either "somewhat likely" or "extremely likely" to switch to a
Zune as their next player. Time will tell.
Zune - as could be expected, Microsoft's new portable media
player is creating a blaze of argument around the web, with the
usual suspects damning anything by "Microsucks" unseen, and people
who have actually used the thing tending to be considerably more
favourably towards it.
vengeance from beyond the grave - Chris Dawes, the controversial
founder of network management software house Micromuse, died in a
car crash in 1999, but the High Court has just ruled that his estate
will pay £259,000 in damages to a woman who Dawes imprisoned for
three days, during which he repeatedly assaulted and raped her, in
the year before his death - shortly after interviewing me for a job
with the company, as it happens! I was aware at the time that Dawes
was somewhat odd (he's one of the few people I've ever met who wears
more black than I do, which should definitely have been a warning
sign) but I somehow managed to miss the news of his attack on Amanda
Lawson and yesterday's report in The Register certainly
brought a raised eyebrow.
Last week I swapped my old HP OfficeJet 6110 multi-function
printer for a later, spiffier
OfficeJet 7410, and although the prints are both fast and very
high quality, there was a small glitch... One of the main appeals of
this model was the second paper tray, so I was somewhat dismayed
that I didn't seem to be able to select this tray in the printing
dialogs. Fortunately a quick search of the web turned up
the information that the problem is caused by a bug in HP's driver installer, which is
easily cured by a registry patch. In the key:
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ SYSTEM \ CurrentControlSet
\ Control \ Print \ Printers
HP Officejet 7400 series\ PrinterDriverData
the chances are that the entry HPDJEnableSecondTray
is completely missing. If so, create it as a REG DWORD and assign it
the value 1. You don't even need to reboot - the next time the
printer dialog opens various options for both upper and lower trays will be
available right away. It's a good fix, but several thumbs down to HP
for having neither documented nor corrected it after all this time...
Meanwhile, elsewhere, let's
kick off by tonight criticising a few governments:
The menace of biometrics - the Future of Identity in the
Information Society project, an EU-funded policy research group,
has warned that current plans for biometric passports and ID cards
will dramatically decrease security and privacy, and increase the
risk of identity theft.
Eerily familiar - meanwhile, a remarkable similar report on
RFID-enabled ID documents from the Data Privacy and Integrity
Advisory Committee of the DHS has just been dismissed by the US
Government, proving that unfortunately politicians are the same the
Feature creep - meanwhile, again... The Nuffield Council
on Bioethics has launched a year-long project to investigate the UK
government's determination to document the DNA of every person in
the country, on the ever-popular and ever-spurious grounds of
fighting terrorism and illegal immigration.
Somebody else's fault - a cross-party parliamentary committee
has strongly criticised the UK government for repeatedly blaming the
Human Rights Act for their own failings in policy and strategy, when
in fact none of the recently highlighted cases have been caused by
weaknesses in the law itself.
Canadian sleaze - controversial Heritage Minister Bev Oda is
still soliciting and accepting significant amounts of money from
media industry companies that she is supposed to be regulating, in
what appears to be a clear conflict of interest.
Universal vs. the Zune - and talking of the media industry,
Universal Music Group has twisted Microsoft's arm into paying them a
percentage for each device sold, in addition to the standard fees
for downloads and subscriptions, on the tired old grounds that it
will pay for music piracy.
Saunders Syndrome - Hewlett Packard's CEO Mark Hurd has the sort
of convenient failings of memory that business tycoons caught with
their pants down often seem to develop, and also a curious naiveté
about gaining access to confidential information about one's enemies
"off the web".
A Newsweek poll suggests that
George Bush's approval rating has sunk to a new low of 31%, and
that a significant majority of those polled approved of the
legislative priorities cited by the Democratic party leaders
following their gains in the mid-terms. Strong support for policies
such as lowering Medicare drug prices, raising the minimum wage and
cutting the interest rate of student loans suggest a genuine
groundswell of traditional liberal values, and I find that very
However, at the same time, more than two thirds
of those polled expressed concerns that the new Congress would spend
too much time investigating the administration and Republican
scandals, which puzzles me somewhat. Although polls like this can
be, and often are, worded in such a way that respondents are
into a particular answer ("would you rather that terrorists
killed an American soldier or a puppy?"), considering the
coverage given by a decidedly right-wing mainstream press to even a
small proportion of sleaze, crime and unconstitutional behaviour
that has been highlighted by the independent media, there is
obviously a lot worth investigating.
Eight years ago we saw a full three-ring circus
because one Arkansas wide-boy
keep it in his pants, but today it seems that the President can
lie, cheat, steal and bribe, doling out largesse to his cronies in
the form of fat government contracts in a degree that hasn't been
seen since the days of Tammany Hall's
parcelling out 19th century New York. Oh, yes, and he's really,
really bad at his job, too, even aside from all that...
Clinton was impeached, thanks to the witch-hunt
stirred up by Kenneth Starr, but in spite of the fact that Bush has
clearly broken the law on many occasions and acted against the US
Constitution on many more, I have the horrible feeling that he will
escape action against him. The American people just don't seem to
have the heart for
impeachment hearing so soon after Clinton, however richly it is
Meanwhile, closer to home, my colleague showed up
with Land Rover as scheduled, and between us we man-handled not only
the spare server cabinet but also an obsolete tape library and my
old Pioneer CD library
into the trailer and off to the skip. I was sad to see the latter
go, especially, but it's always been something of a white elephant
and right now I'd rather have the space. I'm sufficiently eccentric
to have a medium-sized network installation in my kitchen, but it
does still have to serve as a kitchen as well!
Having freed up some space I put the doors and
side panels onto the new cabinet, and stood back to enjoy the
silence. It's by no means completely noiseless, I have to say, and
testimonial with the customer not realising that the hardware
had already been powered up is somewhat hard to believe...
Everything is completely inaudible from the adjoining room or
upstairs, though, which is a great improvement and even
though the reality doesn't quite live up to the PR I'm certainly
happy enough overall.
One thing that is clear, however, is that
I really do need
fan tray for the roof that is currently back-ordered from
Kustom PCs. In spite of
the significant quantity of large fans moving air through the cases
of the servers and peripherals themselves, the long vent in the rear
door doesn't seem to be achieving much and the temperature inside
the cabinet is a little higher than I like. I'm quite confident that
six 120mm fans will change that, however, and hopefully I'm not
going to have to wait too long before they arrive.
The work to migrate my home network
infrastructure into the new Acoustirack cabinet went very well,
today, and although there's some tidying of cables and tweaking of
settings still to do, I'm very pleased with the results so far. A
colleague from work is coming tomorrow with a Land Rover and large
trailer to take the old cabinet away, but until then the kitchen is
still hip-deep in hardware!
As well as installing the new cabinet, I was also
upgrading from my old CompuAdd server to a Dell PowerEdge 4400 found
on eBay - this is an old system, by today's standards, but still a
real workhorse: dual 933MHz PIII Xeon CPUs, a gigabyte of RAM, eight
36Gb drives internally and more PCI slots than you can shake an
interrupt at. The latter is one of the reasons I chose such a
heavyweight system, as with a pair of Adaptec 39160 SCSI cards and a
pair of QLogic 2200 fibre channel HBAs, as well as the Intel gigabit
network card and a sound card (to play audio books while I'm working
in the kitchen!) I needed not only the physical expansion capacity
but also a motherboard with sufficient firmware address space to
cope with such a large number of large, complex images being
executed on boot time. The latter was often a problem with the old
server, requiring some black magic tricks such as rearranging the
cards in their slots to change the loading sequence, but as I'd
hoped the 4400 swallows them all without complaint.
I used Symantec Ghost to clone the old system
onto the new server, expanding the partition from 72Gb to 240Gb as
it went, then immediately re-installed Server 2003 over the top to
take the new motherboard and peripheral hardware into account. This
is one of my staple techniques with desktop operating systems, but
I've never actually tried it with a domain controller before and I
was gratified to find that it worked just as well.
While the disk partition was ghosting across I
installed the requisite shelves and cable management oddments, and
fitted the firewall, Axis camera recorder, RaQ web server and
gigabit switch into their homes at the top of the cabinet. Once the
old hardware is out of the way, I can tidy the rest of the cables
and then get the side panel back on - if only temporarily, as I'm
expecting the second disk array early next week so I'm not going to
bother with the finishing touches until that is in place.
I am itching to find out how quiet it all is when
buttoned up, though - hopefully tomorrow, so watch this space!
The Register has a couple of well-written
and informative articles online, today. The first, by Thomas Greene,
discusses US Defence Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld's fall from grace in the wake of the Democratic
gains in the mid-terms, and the ramifications of his likely
replacement, former CIA director Robert Gates. The second, by George
Smith, covers the hype that followed the US government's publication
of what has been described as a "cookbook" for
constructing nuclear weapons. As usual, the mainstream media has
had a difficult time separating the fact from the fiction, but
Smith's article manages to defuse a proportion of the fuss.
Speaking in tongues - DARPA is to fund a massive project to
develop software that will transcribe, translate, and summarize text
and speech in languages such as Arabic and Mandarin Chinese, without
training or human intervention and with a target of 95% accuracy in
both transcription and translation. It's an extremely ambitious
goal, but if they succeed the civilian spin-offs could literally be
See-sawing - the EFF's lawsuit against telecoms giant AT&T, over
their complicity with the US government's illegal domestic
surveillance programme, has hit another snag when an appeals court
ruled that the defendants could resubmit their arguments that the
case must be dismissed in order to "protect state secrets". Given
that the story has been all over the left wing media this year, it's
hard to see exactly what secrets need protecting - except maybe the
names of the people responsible?
- ALIPR, or Automatic Linguistic Indexing of Pictures, is an online
system that attempts to analyse the subject of a photograph and
choose appropriate words to describe it. This has great potential
for automating the indexing of images both at home and commercially,
but my tests suggest that it still has a long way to go - not least
that the company should check compatibility with the IE7 browser,
which seems to have problems submitting additional keywords to an
Float like a lepidoptera, sting like a hymenoptera - as someone
who has always been irresistible to mosquitoes and other "biting"
insects, and who has lately developed some kind of spectacular
allergy to their bites, news of scientific investigations into what
makes some people more attractive than others is of great interest.
Hard facts seem scarce at present, however, and the few tentative
don't seem at all accurate in my case!
Links at the speed of light...
PC World not all that - a survey by the Computing Which?
consumer magazine has given a resounding thumbs-down to the repair
service of high street chain PC World.
Biting the hand - UK tech industry organ The Register has had
its first experience with a DMCA "take-down notice", and it didn't
like it one little bit.
Undercover of the night - in spite of a recent deal with the
Federal Trade Commission, copies of the Zango Cash adware are still
finding their way onto unsuspecting PCs.
Damned if they do - the PatchGuard feature that protects the
kernel of 64bit Windows is here to stay, says Microsoft, whatever
the anti-virus companies think about it.
Gone but not forgotten - the annoying Mac dude from Apple's
current ad campaign is out on his ear, it seems, leaving just the
enormously talented John Hodgman as the PC.
Bad news from the Vatican - in the wake of yesterday's shake-up
in the House of Representatives, the new chair the subcommittee on
Internet and IP may be in the pocket of the media industry.
It's alive! - the Vista OS has been released to manufacturing,
so it should be available Volume License business customers to
download within the next couple of weeks. Weee!
Oops, apocalypse! - Sony's imminent PS3 will require a software
update as soon as it's launched, it seems, to add compatibility with
the PlayStation Network online service.
The inevitable conflict - ahead of the copyright lawsuits
against new acquisition YouTube, Google's own Google Video service
is being sued for copyright infringement.
How to win friends and influence people - and talking of the
search giant, apparently they've just sent out a worm to all 50,000
subscribers to the Google Video mailing list.
Questionable science - the Pope has reminded scientists that
they have "a moral obligation to accuracy", a requirement from which
religious doctrine is apparently exempt?
A vicious attack - an updated designed to sabotage Xbox 360s
with mod chips seems to be affecting unadulterated consoles as well,
to the considerable annoyance of gamers...
A surprising twist - the Hong Kong privacy commissioner has
ordered a school to stop fingerprinting its students, in the hope of
discouraging other schools from similar actions.
Strange bedfellows - more details of Microsoft's deal with SUSE
Linux owner Novell are emerging, and I'm surprised at the breadth
and depth of the relationship implied.
Lies and damn lies - a leading authority on usability and
ergonomics has criticised the methodology behind Apple's recent
claims about the benefits of large monitors.
A few random links...
purloined letter - Dan's new weblog,
How To Spot A Psychopath,
goes from strength to strength, but I'm very glad to see that the
main Dan's Data site is not languishing in comparison. His
latest idea, as usual perfectly workable but decidedly off-the-wall,
suggests that home users could back up their important data by
concealing it within the sort of media popular on the P2P networks
and letting loose. I think I'll stick to a nice LTO tape library,
myself, but elsewhere Dan recommends a couple of neat little Windows
Cleaner Pro expunges the remnants of device drivers for
video cards and the like, so often left lying around after a
hardware update, and
reveals exactly which applications are responsible for those
annoying "this file is being used" messages that prevent deleting or
It could be worse - the US mid-term elections have resulted in a
clear win in the House for the Democrats, and although the Senate is
a close race there is still hope. As expected, though, a significant
number of "irregularities"
connected with electronic voting machines have been reported, along
with a whole army of more traditional election fraud techniques, and
its safe to assume that in fact we are looking at something of a
landslide in both Senate and Congress.
will it play in Peoria? - Ars Technica has been testing
the final beta of Vista on a range of garden variety PCs, including
a standard low-end corporate laptop, an old Gateway desktop, and a
SFF Shuttle home system. Unfortunately the results were not terribly
impressive, especially with the in-place upgrade of the corporate
system and its VPN software, something that will be a common
technique as big companies start to adopt the new OS next year.
Drowning, not waving - reports of a massive upturn in spam
volumes this year are coming from all corners of the web, and the
figures provided by filtering service Postini are fairly typical - a
120% increase over the last year, and 59% in the last two months
alone. The cause is a combination of ever-expanding 'botnets used to
pump out messages, and a new set of techniques to slip them through
spam filters - and right now the outlook is fairly bleak.
Open sesame - I tried my hand at lock picking
last year, and I had an
unexpected success just when I was starting to feel that the whole
exercise was pointless. Had I been armed with the lavishly
illustrated LockSport guide, however, I would either have succeeded
much sooner or just forced the lock with a large screwdriver right
available here as a PDF - grab it now before some busybody
decides that it's too subversive...
With two of my PFYs out of the office this week,
and an evening spent upgrading a printer for a friend, it's been
something of a long day. On days like this I shamelessly borrow
links from the bigger weblogs, and the first part of tonight's news
snippets are courtesy of the always-excellent geek site Ars
Oh, the vanity - Wikipedia is in the news again, following the
discovery that an entry on a fringe scientific theory, written
mostly by the man proposing the idea and so in violation of the
site's strict rules, had escaped notice for several months. Entries
like this are always controversial, as although a new theory's
proponent is often actually the best person to write about it, this
risks propagation of some highly questionable science until the peer
review process catches up with it.
Selling out - only six months after releasing their DisplayPort
next generation video interface, capable of carrying high definition
video with a bandwidth of 10.8Gbps, the VESA group has proposed a
1.1 update that includes high bandwidth digital content protection (HDCP)
support. This was inevitable, I suppose, thanks to the long reach
and deep pockets of the media industry, and unless a miracle happens
we have to face the fact that future technology is going to be
lousy with DRM.
Still battling on - Forgent Networks, one of the web's least
popular companies following their lawsuits over use of the JPEG
image compression algorithm, has announced that all outstanding
claims have now been settled, netting the company around $8 million
in compensation. This is considerably less than they had originally
hoped, I'm sure, which may explain why they have just announced a
new round of lawsuits involving basic patent which may cover digital
knife in the back - Patricia Santangelo is one of the few people
targeted by the RIAA who have fought the charges all the way to
court, and as expected the industry group is making life as
unpleasant for her as possible. Their latest attack is on two of her
children, aged 16 and 20, who are being sued for copyright
violations which were allegedly revealed during the case against
their mother. It all sounds like a purely punitive measure, and is
typical of the industry's attitudes overall.
The truth will out - a report prepared by researchers at the
Australian Institute of Criminology says that the software and media
industries claims of losses due to piracy are "self-serving
hyperbole," "epistemologically unreliable," and "absurd". No links
were found between piracy and organised crime, as is often claimed,
and the report was especially critical of the use of unverified
piracy statistics in court cases - I'm sure Mrs Santangelo would
PS3 fans - Sony's journey to bring the PS3 to market has been
long and arduous, it seems, with repeated delays and significant
difficulties with flagship technologies such as Blu-Ray. Enthusiasts
testing the console at Sony's recent Expo in Honolulu seem to be
smitten, however, and with stores already having filled their
pre-order quotas and promises of a console being sold on eBay for
thousands of dollars, the company may stand a chance of recouping
its massive development losses.
Java excuses - one of my colleagues has been having all sorts of
difficulties using Java on the final beta of Windows Vista, and in
his quest for answers he unearthed a long post on the Java.net
weblog explaining that developing for the new OS was very difficult,
and offering what are basically a bunch of excuses. In spite of what
the article says, though, my colleague was only able to find a
working version as an entire development kit, rather than the usual
(and much smaller!) runtime.
Strange priorities - Time Magazine's Invention Of The Year for
2006 is the controversial video sharing service YouTube, in spite of
competition from alternative energy and ultra-efficient vehicles,
water-repellent nano-fabrics, a vaccine against cervical cancer, a
robotic system to rehabilitate stroke victims, and many others.
Given those, and the fact that YouTube was by no means the first
site of its type, merely the one that grew fastest, I do think that
the choice was rather whimsical...
A blast from the past - scientists have extracted the complete
genetic recipe for a dormant "fossil" retrovirus from the human
genome, and have recreated it in the lab. The Phoenix Virus is still
capable of infecting human cells, but it seems that we have
resistance against such ancient attackers and it is not especially
virulent. I had no idea that our DNA was populated by remnants of
these "human endogenous retroviruses" (HERVs) and have to admit that
I find the whole thing a little spooky...
Guess The Logo - web
users see the famous logos for Amazon, eBay, Google, MySpace and
others many times a day, but how well can we actually remember them?
In my case, it seems, very badly indeed, and given the cunningly
substituted colours and fine details in the quiz I suspect that many
others would have similar problems...
Having a single 42U server rack in one's kitchen
is eccentric, but having a pair is probably crossing over the line
into tinfoil hat territory. Fortunately it's only a temporary
measure, and by this time next week I'm hoping that the old cabinet
will be back in the office and my servers and network infrastructure
will be safely nestled in the
Acoustirack. I've already moved the new domain controller and
the fibre channel disk unit into place, and I'm just waiting on a
set of rails for the black APC UPS so that it can be slid into place
at the bottom of the stack. With an equally black tape library
destined for the gap between server and DAE, too, I think it's going
to look great... :-)
My concerns about the rigidity of a flat-packed
self-assembly cabinet were groundless, fortunately, as even though
the frame is held together only with a stronger equivalent of the
cam bolts commonly found in Ikea furniture and the like, the end
result is perfectly solid and stable. The cabinet is by no means
perfect overall, however, and although the flaws are relatively
minor taken in isolation, in a unit that costs at least five
times as much as a regular server cabinet I have to say that I
didn't really expect any problems at all!
To begin with, the bolts that attach the door's
inner panel to the outer panel could do with being about 5mm
longer... They only just engage with the screw threads in the
brackets, and in fact one bolt out of the 24 on both doors will not
engage at all - presumably the captive nut in the bracket has a
poorly-machined thread. If they were just a little longer
there wouldn't be a problem at all, and would give greater
confidence in the strength of what is actually an extremely heavy
module - but as they are it's very much a case of spoiling the ship
for a halfpenny 's worth of tar...
Next, there is a straight-through sound path at
the top and bottom of the door baffles, which I would certainly like
to think was not in the original specifications... The entire door
assembly has been cunningly designed so that sound waves must take a
U-shaped path between two layers of foam, and under those
circumstances very little noise should escape. However, the inner
panel is a few centimetres too short, and when attached to the outer
panel you can actually look diagonally through a significant
aperture at the top and bottom of the door. I wasn't very impressed
with that, but I can't decide whether it's a bizarre design
oversight or a sign of sloppy manufacturing.
Another small but annoying flaw is that the
sound-proofing foam is not actually that accurately cut to
fit the metal panels. It's noticeable on the door panels,
especially, where the rectangular cut-outs for the brackets that
join the inner and outer panels don't really match up with the
brackets themselves - although, in fact, it's debatable whether
those cut-outs are really necessary at all, as all they expose are
permanent rivets that don't really need to be accessible!
When combined with the inaccurate location of
some of the earthing tags, these aberrations in the shapes of the
foam make for some head-scratching moments. On the left, above, a
tag on a side panel is almost outside its cut-out - and on the
right, you can see that the cut-out would indeed miss the tag
completely when the foam was moved down into place. In the latter
case, I had to flatten the tag down against the door panel to allow
me to attach the foam. The tags are just spot-welded on, and so
these are surely manufacturing defects caused by lack of attention
to the proper placement.
I purchased the optional castors, and it turns
out that they attach using the same fittings and mounting holes as
the jacking feet. Given the significant weight of the cabinet
itself, let alone when full of server hardware, it would be nice to
be able to wind down a set of stabilising feet when it is in its
final position as I do with my Dell cabinets at the office. This is
especially relevant as the castors are attached an unusually long
way under the chassis of the cabinet, making the brakes attached to
the front pair almost inaccessible by a foot - and they are much too
stiff to operate by hand!
There are a few other quirks, such as the folded
edges of one door panel and one floor panel not having been formed
properly into a right angle, but those can be corrected with precise
application of brute force and won't be an issue in the long run.
I'm also a little concerned that the two parts of the roof assembly
aren't held down very tightly by the plastic cams that attach them,
but any vibration there can easily be fixed with a layer of foam
tape and in any case things may fit differently when the fan tray
arrives to replace one of the existing components.
All-in-all, I'm extremely pleased with the
cabinet, and if it manages to reduce the apparent sound levels in
the house as much as the manufacturer suggests it will be well worth
the money - but it was unbelievably expensive for a server
cabinet (for that money I could have bought four of the already
rather over-priced Dell models I have at work, which aside from the
acoustic foam are actually very similar overall), and given that I
really didn't expect to be writing several pages about its flaws.
It's actually rather a shame...
I've been thinking of buying a new printer,
recently, and having decided on HP's do-everything
OfficeJet 7410 I started shopping around. As usual, I looked on
eBay first, but all the recent offerings had some strange and
worrying clause half-hidden in the small print (They've tested
the printer, but not the scanner? Why is that, exactly?) so I
cast the net further afield. A search on Froogle UK turned up a
listing for a company named
e-Xcessories, who looked no worse than any of the other
box-shifters in the market, and an order was duly placed and
acknowledged. However, by the middle of this week I had started to
wonder where my printer was, and on checking the order status on
their web site I was surprised to see a note appended to my account
to say that the item was not in stock and the order had been
cancelled. I was particularly annoyed not to have been informed of
this immediately via email, instead of having to chase the status
myself after waiting several days, and also annoyed that the printer
was still very much shown as being in stock - just as it had been
when I placed the order. An enquiry about this resulted in a rather
"Please also note that at this moment our UK
warehouse is not able to store the printers and hence all printers
are only for the US market. We shall be having them soon down the
line. Meanwhile the products that we carry at this moment for the
UK market are 1. Printer toner / Cartridges and consumables, 2.
Digital Camera and Accessories, 3. Memory Cards."
Now, there was never any clear indication on the
web site that e-Xcessories is anything other than a UK-based company
- the front page of their web site has several prominent references
to a "UK Sales Hotline" - and there is certainly no
suggestion that they can only supply part of their catalogue range
to the UK market. "Down the line" is a wonderfully indeterminate
timescale, so as usual I'm voting with my feet and won't even
consider shopping with them again - and I have already started to
leave appropriate reviews at sites such as
Reseller Ratings. Caveat
palpable hit! - following pressure from the online community,
Microsoft has agreed to relax the Vista license terms that restrict
transferring the OS to newly-purchased or built computers. This is a
highly significant decision, as aside from removing a significant
issue for hardcore PC enthusiasts, it proves that the Seattle giant
is finally willing to listen to its customers.
A palpable miss! - unfortunately, all is less than rosy
elsewhere in the Vista license, with a newly-discovered clause
forbidding publication of information about bugs in the OS, or
performance figures, except under terms set by Microsoft. This is
very familiar from other companies, of course, but that doesn't make
it any easier to swallow.
Excessive growth - according to recent figures from analysis
firm Netcraft, the Internet now contains 100 million web sites, of
which around half are actually active. The study doesn't reveal how
many of those sites actually contain any worthwhile content, of
course, but I would expect that it is a vanishingly small
Levels of incompetence - the US Department of Homeland Security
were desperate to conceal the chaos caused to the already flawed
"US-VISIT" border screening system by the Zotob virus last year, and
their ineffectual response to the threat, to the point where Wired
News had to take legal action to force the Department to abide by
the Freedom of Information Act.
Blast from the past - Boing Boing provides a pointer to a
set of slides from a NASA presentation at the start of the Apollo
programme, around 1962 or 1963. As well as some impressively
accurate depictions of the Apollo CSM, there is also a chart showing
the growth of the destructive power of weapons over time!
The inside skinny - an article at Tom's Hardware Guide explains
"How notebook batteries work and why they blow up", a
marvellous title that, fortunately, is matched by some useful advice
on the care and feeding of NiMH and Lithium-based batteries. For my
money, though, the best guide of all is still "Dan's Quick Guide
to Memory Effect, You Idiots", courtesy of the inestimable
All the same in the dark - also at Tom's, an interesting chart
comparing the maximum throughput of domestic broadband routers,
the methodology used to test them. The figures are enlightening,
with a range from 94 MBps for the latest Netgear hardware to less
than 1 Mbit for an old SMC Barricade. Hmmm...
News with a political bent, tonight.
custodiet - two services from the News Sniffer project
monitor corporate news organisations to uncover bias, and the
results are both fascinating and worrying. Watch Your Mouth
monitors the BBC's 'Have Your Say' website and detects when comments
are censored, and Revisionista tracks the articles at news
websites and detects when changes are made. Both have a surprising
amount to report on, it seems, and some of the Beeb's comment
censorship is very puzzling.
- with the trendy, ethical Web 2.0 companies like Yahoo and Google
apparently happy to roll over on demand at the whim of the Chinese
government, a breath of fresh has arrived from an unlikely source.
Fred Tipson, senior policy counsel at Microsoft, said concerns over
persecution of bloggers and other repressive activities might force
the company to reconsider its business in China. "Things are
getting bad... and perhaps we have to look again at our presence
there", he said.
Bare-faced - on the other hand, a representative of the Chinese
government speaking at the same UN Internet Sumnmit at Athens has
categorically denied that his country is practicing any form of
internet censorship, and that nobody has been arrested for blogging
criticism of official policies. Needless to say, reports from
private individuals inside the country and from organisations such
as Amnesty International, say otherwise, and I know who I believe...
I told you so - suddenly there is a generous handful of reports
of serious problems with electronic voting machines in Florida and Texas, with incorrect votes being recorded in spite of numerous
attempts. A spokesperson in Miami admitted that this isn't uncommon,
but it seems that little or nothing is being done about the faulty
hardware. Sheesh, anyone would think that techies and civil
liberties groups hadn't been warning of just this kind of danger for
several years... :-(
Big brother - Information Commissioner Richard Thomas has warned
that Britain ranks alongside Russia and China as an "endemic
surveillance society", thanks to pervasive CCTV monitoring and
extensive data gathering by both government agencies and businesses.
Two years ago he warned that the country was in danger of
"sleepwalking" into a culture of habitual surveillance of the
individual, now he has suggested that we are already there... And,
unfortunately, I think he is right.
Fatally flawed - MySpace has announced that they will use the
Gracenote music recognition database (once the free CDDB service
until stolen by Escient
in 2001) to identify and block music uploaded by community members
to their profiles. Unfortunately the technology is far from
reliable, and there are already stories of indie bands and amateur
musicians having their own music banned when they try to add it to
their MySpace pages!
Echo chamber - Apple's quality control failings have been in the
limelight, recently, thanks to explosive batteries, virus-riddled
iPods, and more problems with MacBooks than you can shake a
single-button mouse at. An article at Wired suggests that the
number of problems is no greater, but that they're just getting a
lot more coverage thanks to Apple's recent growth - I've read a lot
about the company's history, recently, and in fact their reputation
for quality is largely the product of user hype and good PR.
choas rules - a small furore is brewing over a recent
publication of the classic counter-culture work Principia
Discordia, once firmly in the public domain. However, Ronin
Press has reprinted a bastardised "cut-and-shut" version of the
original, and is now claiming copyright on the work. The
and their ilk are up in arms, of course, but the last word has to go
to Amazon reviewer Ivan "Axebaud" Saunter:
I have not bought this book, since I don't
need another version of the text. However, I am readily giving it
five stars, for it has thrown upon modern discordians even more
Chaos and Confusion than they deserve.
True words, indeed.
November, already? The year has positively flown by!
While I muse on the passing of time, therefore, and agonise about the
imminent arrival of christmas, some quick links:
Jumping the gun - Microsoft's Vista OS hasn't even shipped to
corporates, yet, but there is already a tips and tweaks guide available at
ZDNet. Most of them are fairly prosaic, though, I have to say.
Eggs on faces
- beleaguered importer Lik-Sang's parting shot is to reveal that several
executives from Sony Europe bought grey market PSPs before their official
launch. Sony say that it was research...
Condemned - high street retailers PC World and Dixons have announced
that they will not be stocking Rockstar's controversial game "Bully", for
some reason renamed as "Canis Canem Edit" in Europe.
Heads in the sand - Dutch authorities are undeterred by the revelation
that yet another model of electronic voting machine can be compromised, in
spite of previous reports from the CCC.
Form over function - Microsoft detractors insist that the entire
concept of Vista is lipstick on a pig, but pictures of the new retail
packaging at the Vista blog show that at least the pig is well made-up...
source if the problem - my company's mail filtering service has been
whining about a massive increase of spam from 'botnets, recently, and the
news is finally starting to make the headlines.
harm - Google's reputation for ethical business practices has taken
something of a beating, recently, and new claims that they are secretly
assisting the CIA and NSA are not going to help...
oil - electromagnetic radiation from laptops and cell-phones is aging
our skin, according to cosmetics company Clarins, but fortunately their 3P
Screen Mist is at hand to protect us.
Music, non stop - free music player Amarok is an exact open source
equivalent of Apple's iTunes, only without the unpleasantly restrictive
DRM and without locking you into a particular player. Marvellous...
Corporate bastardry #437 - the US music industry has managed to
include a whole raft of DMCA-like restrictions in Australia's new
copyright legislation, which is currently being rushed through parliament.
Foiled again - another candidate for the next big thing in data
storage is disk drives with platters made from ultra-thin metal foil,
giving noticeably improved performance and storage capacity.
And finally, at the Nielsen-Hayden blog Making Light,
the terrorists who don't count. Reminiscent of my recent comment about
the anthrax attacks, Patrick points out that
virtually no media coverage is being given to a significant and
long-running campaign of terrorism happening inside the continental United
Since 1977, casualties from this war include
seven murders, 17 attempted murders, three kidnappings, 152 assaults,
305 completed or attempted bombings and arsons, 375 invasions, 482
stalking incidents, 380 death threats, 618 bomb threats, 100 acid
attacks, and 1,254 acts of vandalism.
The perpetrators of this catalogue of crime? Right-wing
Christian fundamentalists protesting abortion in what they openly admit is
a "holy war." Am I wrong to believe that the US government should be
paying more attention to this than to ineffectual no-fly lists and
pointless surveillance of anti-war protestors? It's the War On Some
Terror, Patrick says, to match the long-running and equally shameful War
On Some Drugs.
The count of visitors is a new record (just!) at around
9100 last month, and at almost 16000 page hits that figure isn't far behind
either. The ratio of less than 1:2 shows once again that most visitors read
one page before clicking off elsewhere, and as the vast majority come via
Google or one of the other search engines that is to be expected. Still, as
I keep telling myself, it could be worse: I could be writing in LiveJournal