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Saturday 3 June 2000, 23:55 BST
You have to give Salon credit. Their big redesign has been hugely unpopular. At first they apologised for having upset their faithful readers, which is unusual enough for a big, popular web site. Now they've backtracked, and withdrawn a number of the more irritating features of their redesign. No doubt they'll attract a fair bit of criticism for retreating, but I think they should be applauded for responding to their readers' concerns rather than digging in and defending the redesign against all comers.
SatireWire reports that the Federal Reserve is resorting to drastic measures to slow the unsustainable growth of the US e-conomy. [Via Blog]
The recent survey which suggested that the English aren't terribly taken with the whole internet hype bandwagon has attracted a fair bit of comment in new media publications stateside. Coincidentally, I've seen two articles by the same author (Hillary Rosner) in different publications today that discuss the difference in attitudes to the internet. Her Feed article notes that the English lack of enthusiasm may open up job opportunities for American dot.commers in British-based internet firms. In The Standard, Rosner discusses the experiences of Americans in the British (or rather, the London) internet business. The Feed article is particularly interesting, noting that to a degree the English reluctance to embrace the internet "revolution" wholeheartedly is due to technical, financial and social constraints, but also pointing out that the resistance to hype on this side of the Atlantic may result in a more sustainable internet boom. By contrast, The Standard's article is at its most interesting when it talks about the culture clash between the always-on 24/7/365 business style of the expat Americans and the more laid-back style of their British counterparts.
Do you have a geek in your life? If so, Salon reviews The Geek Handbook, which should assist you in keeping him or her in working order.
You might assume from reading about the rise of Napster that everyone on the internet is in favour of free music, and especially everyone who is involved in the free software movement. You'd be wrong: ZDNet reports that such Open Source luminaries as Linus Torvalds, Eric Raymond and Larry Wall have decried the use of Napster to circulate material against the wishes of the copyright holder. Note that Torvalds doesn't uncritically swallow the music industry line: according to the article he's well aware that to some extent the current legal battles over copyright are about the interests of the record labels rather than those of the artists. However, Larry Wall put it best:
"Open source should be about giving away things voluntarily," he says. "When you force someone to give you something, it's no longer giving, it's stealing. Persons of leisurely moral growth often confuse giving with taking."
Wednesday 31 May 2000, 22:55 BST
Modern computer hardware just doesn't last the way old computers used to. Want evidence? Take a look at this. [Via Pigs & Fishes]
There is such an ailment as Compulsive Shopping Disorder. This discovery brought to you by those nice pharmaceutical giants who just happen to have a cure on the way, reports Mother Jones. [Via Arts & Letters Daily]
Remember Greg, creator of the world's scariest "hompayge"? Well, now his girlfriend Lurlene is at it too. What a lovely couple - I can't wait to see the wedding pictures. [Via Metafilter]
We all know that the web has been growing at a frightening rate for years now, with millions of new sites appearing every year. However, there's also an awful lot of sites which are neglected, still available but left to stagnate. Ghost Sites chronicles some of these sites, from old promotional sites for Hollywood films to sites which still proudly advertise that they are "best viewed in Netscape Navigator 1.1N" or another of these newfangled HTML 3.0 browsers. A real trip down memory lane, in a medium which tends to place way too much value on novelty and the latest gizmos. [Via Memepool]
Tuesday 30 May 2000, 22:45 BST
Arthur C Clarke, the greatest living English science fiction writer, finally received his knighthood last week, a mere two years after the original investiture ceremony (which was to have been presided over by Prince Charles) was postponed because the Sunday Mirror published what turned out to be an unsubstantiated claim that he was a paedophile. Happily Sir Arthur has better things to do with his time than spend his last years in court pursuing a libel suit, so instead he's carried on co-writing novels and living in his adopted home of Sri Lanka.
Boo.com wasn't the only major new media business failure this month. Over in the States, the Digital Entertainment Network collapsed at around the same time as Boo.com, and was seen as the same sort of harbinger of doom for overhyped dot.coms. Now the Online Journalism Review's Matt Welch describes his time with the company: the profligacy, lack of direction and cynicism he observed probably wasn't that much different in principle to what was going on in any number of dot.coms awash with venture capital at the time, but the sheer scale is very impressive. Unless you were one of the people supplying DEN with its capital, that is. [Via Robot Wisdom]
This is, as the domain name suggests, a distinctly creepy site. I assume (hope!) it's a joke. [Via Netsurfer Digest]
I wonder how long it'll be before this bright idea from the American front in The War on Drugs is adopted by New Labour. [Via Metafilter]
If you thought that the process of patenting anything that moved was a step too far, how do you feel about the latest bright idea: patenting the smell of freshly cut grass. [Via Slashdot]
Sunday 28 May 2000, 22:40 BST
Never let it be said that e-commerce has become staid and boring. InYourPants.com promises to help you follow your mother's advice and always wear clean underwear. [Via Techdirt]
It's long been argued by critics of filtering software that the criteria used to block access to web sites are discriminatory and applied in a haphazard way, and now Wired News reports that Peacefire have come up with yet another demonstration of why it is that the secrecy that surrounds filtering software needs to be stripped away. In short, it looks as if the same standards are not applied to sites operated by "family-friendly" organisations which are critical of homosexuality and to sites set up by individuals which offer the same criticism (even when those sites use wording copied directly from the "organisational" sites.)
Until this month the information provided by the Global Positioning System for civilian use was intentionally made less accurate than that supplied by the same satellite system for military users. Now the GPS system provides equally accurate data to all users, and CNN reports that advertisers are drooling at the prospect of being able to really target ads at users, based on knowledge of their location. Combine this with the wireless internet access revolution we're told is coming, and you get a scenario whereby a cafe can beam an ad at you as you come up their street telling you that they currently offer a 10% discount if you order from their lunch menu. Is that really what we want from the wireless internet? [Via Slashdot]

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