December 2003

Happy New Year!

Blogroll pruning

As its almost the end of the year, now seems a good time to remove from my blogroll the blogs which either I no longer read or which havent been updated for way to long.

So goodbye to:
The Cosmocrat
Expecting to Fly
Homefront USA

Quote of the Day: Governments helping terrorists

Al-Qaeda supporters may or may not be planning to board an aeroplane somewhere to launch an attack on America or Britain. But they neednt bother; officials in the West have already instilled fear and loathing in the skies in al-Qaedas name.
- Brendan ONeill on the UK governments plans to put armed air marshals on selected flights to the US.

The Calendar That No-One Wants

The Unofficial House of Commons Calendar

(via Voxpolitics)

Stay Safe. Stay Uninformed.

FBI urges police to watch for people carrying almanacs

The FBI is warning police nationwide to be alert for people carrying almanacs, cautioning that the popular reference books covering everything from abbreviations to weather trends could be used for terrorist planning.

In a bulletin sent Christmas Eve to about 18,000 police organizations, the FBI said terrorists may use almanacs to assist with target selection and pre-operational planning.

It urged officers to watch during searches, traffic stops and other investigations for anyone carrying almanacs, especially if the books are annotated in suspicious ways.

How long before the Americans decide that a copy of either Time Out or The Rough Guide is evidence that someone is a terrorist?

(via Keys Corner)

What every megalomaniac needs!

The Electrolux Death Ray, brought to you by Brotron Labs


New Years Resolutions for All

Wired News asked a dozen experts in fields likely to touch all our lives to answer the question What do you wish would happen in 2004, and what do you think will actually happen?

Answers include:

Simon Davies, director of Privacy International:

I wish everyone would become more aggressive about protecting their civil liberties in 2004.

What probably will happen is that government will continue to lie and manipulate in a determined effort to confuse imagery and reality. Government has become a master of deception. It has set out to compromise the fragile freedoms that remain, while at the same time providing agencies with a constantly expanding spectrum of powers. Public officials proclaim their support for individual rights and privacy while silently engineering their demise. I do hope people can learn to become angry about this trend.

Robert Ferrell, security researcher and author:

My 2004 wish is for Bill Gates to call a press conference and announce that, as a result of a visit from the ghosts of disgruntled customers past, present and future, hes hired Ross Anderson to oversee a complete retooling of all Microsoft products with out-of-the-box application security in mind. No new versions of any Microsoft software will be issued until this effort has been completed.

What undoubtedly will happen is that Bill Gates will allow Steve Ballmer to continue spending way too much time thinking up new ways of embarrassing himself and the company in public with his cheesy motivational hoopla while aggressively avoiding any implementation of actual security engineering best practices beyond the occasional utterance of empty phrases like Secure Computing Initiative. Meanwhile, more Microsoft executives will leave to run various government agencies with the same level of attention to quality they displayed in the private sector.

Paul Jones, director of ibiblio, the Internets first and largest contributor-run digital library:

I wish true copyright reform that would recognize the importance of sharing and archiving would happen in 2004.

What probably will happen is further extensions of corporate protections that harm artists, (the) audience and our culture. The trend of extension of the monopolists powers over a culture from creation through archiving is difficult to explain and to reverse.

Still Im hoping that more and more people understand that cultural creations spring from us all and must return to us all having enriched the artist appropriately. Im hoping that artists can break through the monopolist hold on distribution (recorded music, radio music and concert bookings) to bring innovative work from our culture and to our culture.

Im hoping that a reasonable business model will emerge that will benefit us all and allow us to share and become larger people with an even greater selection of materials added to our culture and preserved for the pleasure and remaking of and by later generations.

Tim OReilly, open-source and open-standards activist, founder and CEO of computer book publishing firm OReilly Associates:

I wish that Apple would take the best practices of the individual iApps, and make them consistent across the whole suite. We need some equivalent to the original Apple human interface guidelines, updated for the network era, to state a vision of the consistent behavior expected of Internet-era applications.

Apples a smart company, so I really hope Im not spitting in the wind on this one; theres no good reason why we shouldnt see some progress on this front announced at Macworld, and I hope more will come throughout the year.

I wish that Nat Friedman (of Novell/Ximian) would finish up Dashboard for Linux, and that everyone from Apple to Microsoft would copy his ideas, since Dashboard is one of the smartest user-centric innovations Ive seen in a long time.

Unfortunately, Novells got a lot on their plate, and innovation may have to wait in the queue behind various kinds of integration and catch-up efforts.

I wish that the various Web services data vendors (including Amazon, Google, EBay,, and many others) would realize that they comprise the building blocks of a future Internet operating system, and act accordingly, engaging with each other to interoperate.

Unfortunately, I worry that the competition between Amazon, Google and EBay will lead to rivalries that make them forget the foundation of their success in the open Internet.

I wish that Adobe, Macromedia and other leading PC software vendors would port their products to Linux, since were just about at a tipping point for Linux on the desktop. I remember this great quote from Warren Buffett: Sometimes Mr. Market offers his wares cheaply, and sometimes they are dear. Ive never understood why people hate to buy them when they are cheap, but rush to buy them when they are dear. Linux application market share is cheap right now, so that makes it a great time to enter the market.

My guess, though, is that most folks will wait till 2005 or later, and then be rushing to catch up to the leaders who moved early.

I wish that the U.S. Patent Office would make it a requirement that any software patent application be accompanied by source code that demonstrates the invention in question. The original tradeoff in the patent system was that you gave up your trade secrets teaching everyone else how to do your invention in exchange for a limited monopoly on your invention.

Of course, anything so reasonable is unlikely, because there are so many entrenched interests here that Washington resembles a taffy pull between those interests far more than it reflects an attempt to find real solutions to what is becoming a very serious handicap for software innovation.

Suresh Ramasubramanian, manager of security and antispam operations for Outblaze, one of the worlds largest providers of e-mail and messaging solutions:

I wish that spam would just go away in 2004.

What probably will happen is that the amount of spam that is being sent out will explode in volume, filling your inbox the way it never got filled before, driving ISPs to stronger and stronger filters.

Well have more poorly conceived laws like the recently passed U.S. and British ones that are full of holes that you can drive a truckload of spam through. Laws against spam will be watered down by direct marketers who tend to equate e-mail with physical direct marketing and fail to realize that cold calls are not the same thing in e-mail, as in other forms of marketing, thanks to the transference of cost.

It is a vicious cycle, which will one day lead to e-mail as we know it dying entirely, to be replaced by some completely new way of communication that lends itself less to spam than good old SMTP does. And then spammers will find a way to spam that brand-new communication medium as well, and anti-spammers will try as best as they can to lock spammers out of this new communication medium.

Sure, we all believe that good will, at some future cataclysmic date, finally triumph over evil. But spam is not a simple black-and-white, good-and-evil type thing; there are gray areas in this that neither spammers nor anti-spammers can agree on right now. So I rather suspect that life will go on as usual, with rather more spam cluttering our inboxes than ever before.

(on a side note, I found Spam Bully so useful, I paid for it.)

Oxblood Ruffin, executive director and founder of Hacktivismo, a group of international hackers, human rights workers, artists and others who seek to further the goals of human rights through technology:

I wish that technology firms would grow a conscience in 2004.

Companies like Cisco and Websense are exporting censorship technologies to China that make them money, but create a democratic deficit behind the Great Firewall. These same companies argue that they have no control over how their products are used, and regardless, Chinese economic development will lead to political development.

This rationale is naive at best and self-serving at worst. Censorship not only stifles the free flow of information, it also creates international instability. And while Western companies continue to focus on short-term profit, the long-term results are clearly to our disadvantage.

There is not a single technology that doesnt go to the Peoples Liberation Army for testing and reverse engineering. And while we continue to reward China for bad behavior, theyre laughing at us and looking for the next group of suckers eager to make a nickel. Move over Enron, youve just been eclipsed in the greed and gutless department.

George Smith, virus researcher and senior fellow at GlobalSecurity.Org a defense affairs think tank:

I wish people would treat regular virus frenzies like an IQ test. If you convene a congressional hearing in the aftermath of the next PurplePeopleEater Worm, fly experts across the country to purse their lips and utter noises of concern, spout estimates of economic damages that are the same magnitude as a yearly expenditure to reconstruct Iraq and get angry at a Department of Justice flunky over its inability to hang someone, you flunk.

What Id like to see happen once would be for someone to have the nerve to stand up in such a national forum and call the exercise good phlogiston, state the electronic infrastructures not fixable, that more education will never fix our computer virus problem and that well all be back in three months to say the same thing for the rest of you nincompoops.

But it wont happen everyone will continue to pretend they have an IQ of 60.

Happy New Year!

(via Zentelligence)

Quote of the Day: Graves of Mass Destruction

Anybody who has seen these mass graves and can still say this regime should not have been toppled, I think are in a very difficult situation to justify their views.
- Ann Clwyd

(via normblog)

Fishy Terrorists

I know that post 9/11 Americas attitude to terroism is approaching paranoia - to put it politely - but this is beyond belief.

An American college student was told that her small Betta fish was too much of a security risk to be allowed onto a plane. How anyone would be able to hijack an aircraft with a fish is completely beyond me.


Grumpy Old Men

I just caught an episode of Grumpy Old Men on BBC2.

Whats really frightening is how much of it I found myself agreeing with.