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Home > Weblog w/e 21.10.2000


Saturday 21 October 2000, 22:25 BST
"We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further." Richard Dawkins continues to fight the good fight against religious superstition, this time at Forbes.com. [Via Metafilter]
Bush Horrified To Learn Presidential Salary. [Via The Onion]
"Most people do not realise that their vets are, more than likely, not qualified to confuse cats." Go to the professionals: Confuse A Cat. [Via Yet Another Web Log]
Architects using Quake to do walk-throughs of their creations. They had a few teething problems ...
Mr Richens revealed that the lifts were a bit dangerous because "if you get in while it's upstairs, it comes down and hits you on the head, and you die.
... but it's working much better now. Oh, and they had to take the guns away from users. Spoilsports: what better way to critique that unisex bathroom than by fragging the designer? [Via BBC News Online]
The RouterGod Celebrity Lecture Series: Seven of Nine On OSPF, Alicia Silverstone Discusses Basic ISDN. Well, it's an improvement on Britney on high energy physics. [Via Memepool]
The Myth Of Fingerprints. A fascinating essay by Simon Cole in Lingua Franca on why fingerprint identification is far from the infallible method it's painted as every day in the courts. [Via Guardian Weblog]
Deja.com are looking to sell off their business in two parts, with the Usenet archive being separated from the "precision buying service." Hopefully one effect of this split is that the great product-linking fiasco from July won't be repeated. The Yahoo News story which reports the prospective sale notes that 90% of Deja.com's five million users made use of the Usenet service, whereas no more than 20% of them used the precision buying service. A case of the tail trying to wag the dog? I wonder whether the eventual buyer of the archive will bring 1995-1999 back on line? [Via Metafilter]
Tim O'Reilly and Jeff Bezos had a major disagreement over the use of patents to protect business practices earlier this year. Now Wired News reports that they've joined forces to fund a site which aims to identify prior art which can be used to invalidate bad patents. Better still, O'Reilly has put up US$10,000 for anyone who can invalidate the Amazon.com 1-Click Shopping patent which sparked off the row with Bezos in the first place.
Andy Mueller-Maguhn, a member of the Chaos Computer Club, was elected to the ICANN board earlier this month to represent the European Region. Wired News asked him what he hopes to achieve. (It's worth reading this in conjunction with the piece in Feed by Brendan Koerner I linked to the other day.)
Thursday 19 October 2000, 22:00 BST
As I was saying the other day, the universe is a really big place. The man-made object that has travelled furthest into the depths of the universe has just fallen silent, possibly forever, more that seven billion miles from Earth after 28 years in space.

Pioneer 10 was launched way back in 1972 and since the flypast of Jupiter in 1973 which was the focal point of its voyage it's continued to operate, sending back signals giving invaluable information about the conditions of the outer reaches of the solar system, and finally reaching the edge of the solar system and heading out into interstellar space.

Just another piece of space junk, cluttering up the universe? Not at all. As NASA put it,
We expect Pioneer to last an indeterminate period of time, probably outlasting its home planet, the Earth. In 5 billion years, the Sun will become a red giant, expand, envelop the orbit of the Earth, and consume it. Pioneer will still be out there in interstellar space. [...] Pioneer 10 and any etched metal message aboard it are likely to survive for much longer periods than any of the works of Man on Earth.
Just stop and think about that for a minute... [Via Slashdot]
Bill Gates talking sense. Yes, really. According to TechWeb News, he was at a conference on how private investors can make a difference in Third World countries, and responded to a question about the viability of the market of very poor people:
At one point, Shuster pressed Gates about the viability of the market of people who make less than $1 a day. Gates paused, and said that this was "not a significant market" before addressing the comment more directly.

"Do people have a clear idea of what it means to make $1 a day?" Gates said. "There is no electricity. No power systems. These people are trying to stay alive. There is no need for a PC."

When Shuster mentioned solar power as a possibility Gates became even more agitated, saying solar power was not affordable at that level. Shuster then talked about CEOs who "get it" with regard to the Internet, and stated that Gates -- if these "health first" comments were any indication -- didn't "get it."

"I've never been a 'get it' kind of guy," Gates said. "But I get there are other things these people need other than technology."
Now I've no doubt that in thirty years' time if those people are affluent enough to afford PCs Microsoft will compete to sell them software (or, more likely by then, rent them software), but it's gratifying to see that, unlike the Wired crowd who preach that free markets and cheap, pervasive IT will save the world, Bill Gates does, indeed, "Get It." [Via Rebecca's Pocket]
Cadaver Incorporated. When you need 'em, you'll need 'em bad. [Via Memepool]
Politics is too important to be left to the wreckers and cynics, says Joyce McMillan. And she's absolutely right. [Via Guardian Weblog]
Brendan I. Koerner has written a love letter to the hacker community for Feed.
Wednesday 18 October 2000, 23:30 BST
Get ready for another billion newbies, says Giles Turnbull at WriteTheWeb. He foresees still more attempts by major media corporations to lock users into their vision of the internet, only this time using hardware as well as software to ensure that users don't (can't?) stray. One point about his article gives me hope: he refers to the way Usenet has fallen by the wayside as a pointer to the way forward. The thing is, I read Usenet every single day I go online, and all the attention paid to the millions of web pages created in the last six years does nothing to detract from my ability to carry on reading Usenet.

Admittedly users of set-top boxes probably won't find a news client installed and their ISPs/content providers won't wish to run a news server or provide a news client anyway, but that's just an extension of the situation we have now where consumers need to decide whether they want to sign up with a full-service ISP or a bare-bones content provider. When AOL or MSN or Freeserve try to persuade us all to abandon TCP/IP and move over to a proprietary protocol, that's when we need to worry about a corporate takeover of the internet. [Via Newstrolls]
Al Gore = Mr Spock and George W Bush = Captain Kirk? I'm not sure which of them should be the more worried by the comparison. [Via NewsTrolls]
The oldest Open Source project in the world? [Via BBspot]
John McTiernan is currently helming a remake of Rollerball, and one of the film's stars, LL Cool J, is quoted by Sci Fi Wire as telling the French edition of Premiere magazine that the new film is going to surpass the 1975 original. Asked about the biting satire of corporate power in the original film, he commented that "I don't think Rollerball is so much about a social statement. .... I think it's a popcorn movie." I can only assume that he hasn't seen the original.
The Fabulous Ruins of Detroit. Interesting images, plus some well-written commentary. Definitely a site for your bookmark file. [Via BlueEar Links]
Tuesday 17 October 2000, 23:30 BST
"Thanks, Pantene Pro-V! Now, I can finally be the person everybody else wants me to be." The Onion does it again. [Via Misnomer]
Christopher Hitchens reviews a new biography of George Orwell, the lonely conscience of the English Left. [Via Arts & Letters Daily]
Truth in advertising. I suspect this message to potential subscribers was written by this particular ISP's Director of Operations, not their Marketing Director. And it's all the better for it. [Via Metafilter]
The Web Is Like Canada. Which means it isn't like TV, dammit! [Via NewsTrolls]
Monday 16 October 2000, 23:00 BST
The winners of this year's Darwin Awards have been announced.
Steven Feuerstein has been writing books on Oracle programming for years now, and he got bored with using the same old personnel department example applications to illustrate his programming methodologies. He decided to try using some more radical examples, and got an unexpectedly heated response from some readers. This led him to muse about the hidden ideology of computer textbooks in a column at the O'Reilly Associates web site. [Via NTK]
Boss' Day. One American custom I hope we don't import. [Via Feed]
Winners of the "I look like my dog" contest. No comment required. [Via Memepool]
Sunday 15 October 2000, 22:00 BST
Screenshots. Extraordinarily creepy computer game-style renderings of famous cultural and fictional moments: from Elian Gonzales being rescued by an armed policeman to Fredo's death scene from The Godfather Part II. [Via NTK]
A very wonderful rant by Dan Hon in response to a recent Slashdot article by Jon Katz which concluded that what the US school system really needs is to buy lots and lots of computers to release the potential of America's elementary and middle school pupils.
The Evil Dead done with Lego. Cool. [Via NTK]
The Register paints a gloomy picture of the high stakes debate over making software patents legal in Europe. Clearly not a good idea, but since the multinationals which hope to make a lot of money out of forcing small businesses to pay licensing fees are backing the idea expect much strife before a decision is made.
I mentioned the ICANN election results the other day, and commented that the idea of equal representation for the different regions regardless of the number of internet users at present was a good idea. Kendall Clark read about the election result at Cluebot.com, and got really upset at the implications of their coverage of the story. Trouble is, I think he reads far more into the Cluebot.com story than there actually is there. Rejecting the notion that regional representation on the ICANN Board is one thing, but I saw nothing in the Cluebot.com article to suggest that the objection was grounded in racism.

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