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Home > Weblog w/e 14.10.2000


Thursday 12 October 2000, 22:30 BST
Life in space, of an all too familiar kind. [Via Guardian Weblog]
Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey envisioned a rather more advanced form of spaceborne life. The film may not be a popular favourite, but it was one of the landmark films of the 1960s and even after all this time it's far and away the best science fiction film ever made. Now a fan has put the content of the printed programme which was released in 1968 to accompany the film on the web. It's a strikingly elegant site, with lovely images, accompanied by the original text from the programme. Well worth a look. [Via Memepool]
Unfortunately, Psion tells The Register that the images of the next generation PDA/phone I mentioned the other day are just of a concept machine and bear no resemblance to the actual systems they're working on.
ICANN now has five new Regional Directors, elected by ordinary internet users (albeit, those like me who could be bothered to register as At-Large Members). The electoral process was far from perfect, mainly because the active electorate was such a tiny fraction of the internet's user base, but it resulted in the election of some representatives of non-commercial interests, and that in itself has to be a good thing.

One might argue that the number of representatives allotted to each region should have been in proportion to the number of active internet users, but unless you boosted the number of Regional Directors to a ridiculously high level that would have all but wiped out the chances of a fair hearing for Africa and Latin America/The Caribbean. Better to over-represent those regions now, while the internet is in its infancy, than to shut them out altogether. [Via NewsScan]
Tuesday 10 October 2000, 23:30 BST
A succinct explanation from Weld Pond, writing for ZDNet, of the benefits of reverse engineering, a practice which various large companies are keen to see stamped out. Some of the discussions of the legal sanctions against reverse engineering are US-specific, but the general principle applies worldwide: companies, particularly in the IT industry, are unlikely to be upfront about the information their software records about its users, so reverse engineering may be the only way to find out that your word processing software encodes a unique ID in your documents, or to establish exactly what information that filtering software blocks out. [Via NewsTrolls]
According to Declan McCullagh, Wired magazine reports (in the current edition, which is not yet online) that various MS competitors formed a committee to gather evidence against Microsoft and push the US government towards taking anti-trust action. Microsoft, predictably, has greeted this story by noting that:
It is becoming more and more clear that our competitors like Sun, helped drive the case from start to finish.
Duh! Presumably this sort of corporate-funded pressure on the government was somehow different from the various Microsoft-funded "grassroots" campaigns against the anti-trust case. Obviously what Sun et al should have done is kept quiet and taken it like a man while Microsoft wielded its power to restrict choice within the personal computer industry. A summary of the Wired article can be found at Cluebot.com. [Via Politech]
Is this what the Psion Series 9 will look like? The Register has found a Norwegian site which claims (according to The Register - I can't read Norwegian, so I'll have to trust them on this) to have pictures of the next Nokia/Psion PDA-cum-mobile phone. It certainly looks as if they're carrying on their tradition of packing a lot of functionality into a tiny, well-designed package. The real question is whether the average user will really want all that functionality and be prepared to pay for it. I'm now a contented Palm IIIx user: there was nothing wrong with my Psion Series 5, it was just too bulky to carry around if I wasn't wearing a jacket and I found myself using 20% of the functionality 80% of the time. I have a feeling that I may be more like the typical user in my priorities than Psion would like.
Monday 9 October 2000, 22:40 BST
Obviously, someone with very little imagination was given the job of registering the domain for the House Of Lords Appointments Commission. Short and snappy it ain't: http://www.houseoflordsappointmentscommission.gov.uk/. [Via extenuating circumstances]
Surprise, surprise: the film industry is messing with, sorry "enhancing," the Region 1 DVD scheme to ensure that multi-region players will have problems playing them. The leaked memo giving details can be read at DVD Debate.com. I'll give it about six months before someone finds a hack that will allow manufacturers to get round this, and all Warner Brothers and Columbia Tristar will do is create a ton of bad feeling among early adopters whose players may not play the enhanced disks properly. [Via Metafilter]
Would a quarter of a million pounds be enough to change your life?
Anne Widdecombe's proposal for a crackdown on possession of cannabis has blown up in her face in a most gratifying manner, with seven of her colleagues admitting that they'd indulged at one time. The Guardian reports that, seeking to extricate herself from the hole she'd dug, she commented that she wasn't concerned about what middle class people did at university got up to in the interests of youthful experimentation, but about the effects of drugs on housing estates. This doesn't square well with her conference tirade, which included the following ringing declaration:
"It means zero tolerance of possession. No more getting away with just a caution, no more hoping that a blind eye will be turned."
We shouldn't really be surprised. This is the way politics works in both parties now: find any excuse for the middle class, but judge the working class/undeserving poor harshly. All those parenting orders and curfews are way more likely to be inflicted on those undisciplined working class families than the offspring of middle class professionals, who are just "experimenting" and should be allowed to pick up the pieces without getting any sort of a lasting stain on their record when they're just starting out.
The only downside of Ms Widdecombe's bad week is that it's likely to improve the prospects of Michael Portillo within the Tory party. Since I'm on the subject of the SAS's biggest fan, I can't resist pointing readers to Roy Hattersley's bitchy but perfectly reasonable reaction to Portillo's big speech last week, as published in today's Guardian.
Sunday 8 October 2000, 22:30 BST
The mindset of the Class of 2004, according to Beloit College, Wisconsin. Admittedly this is a bit too Americanised to apply neatly to British freshers, but reading it still made me feel very, very old. [Via a posting from Steven N Orso in uk.media.tv.sf.babylon5]
No doubt Beloit College will be including something about Prince William in their article on the mindset of the Class of 2014. According to BBC News Online British Council offices in the United States have seen an unusually large number of inquiries about St Andrews University, where he'll be studying the History of Art from next year. [Via Metafilter]
Space is big. Really big. For a concrete illustration of just how big, residents of Boston can check out a scale model of the solar system. They'll even provide you with a Community Solar System Passport (PDF format) to complete as you find the planets on the streets of Boston. [Via a posting from Christopher K Davis in rec.arts.sf.written]
For some reason, this photo made me laugh out loud.
I wonder if this fascinating page (one of the IgNobel Prize winners I linked to yesterday) will be blocked by anyone's over-zealous content filtering software?

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