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Home > Weblog w/e 27.1.2001

Saturday 27 January 2001, 23:10 GMT
Despair Inc trademarks the "frowning" emoticon, sues 7 million internet users. :-) [Via Metafilter]
Lunchbots: now your bowl of soup can morph into a ninja assassin! Words fail me... [Via NTK]
What Makes Diversity? Denise Meringolo ponders whether having a few non-white and female members of your cabinet is enough.
As Russia's space agency prepares to bring the Mir space station down to earth, here are a couple of striking images of the station in better days. [Via Robot Wisdom Weblog]
Friday 26 January 2001, 23:45 GMT
Another classic from The Onion: Vacationing Woman Thinks Cats Miss Her.
ZDNet has a story about US ISP Verio having declined to take down a web site it hosts on receiving a complaint from the MPAA about what they termed "illegal" content. Instead of simply blocking access to the site on receipt of the complaint, Verio actually passed the complaint on to their customer and invited him to respond to the complaint first. Verio deserves praise for taking such an entirely reasonable approach, but it's a sad comment on the current state of affairs that an ISP not caving in immediately is newsworthy.
Re-Versed Lyrics: secular pop music rewritten with Christian lyrics. For example, consider this little ditty, to be sung to the tune of Smells Like Teen Spirit:
In His Glory, it´s less dangerous
He is risen, exon´rate us
Jesus´s love is so contagious
He is risen, exon´rate us

The Mesiah
He´s no liah
Praise Him or face
Eternal Fire
[Via Popbitch]
What do you get when you combine an 18" dog with a 15" knife? One amazing X-ray image, for a start... [Via Metafilter]
The New York Times has a fascinating article (free registration required) about attempts to create search engines that focus on a particular type of content in the hopes of going where conventional search engines just don't reach. [Via Slashdot]
Thursday 25 January 2001, 21:35 GMT
Would you like a drink with your ice? [Via Memepool]
Microsoft's next version of Windows? [Via The Register]
An excellent essay by Bruce Sterling on California's energy crisis.
Also in FEED, Ana Marie Cox on the ultimate management textbook.
"Time to 'Fess up!" This is what happens if you fail to set a password on your home PC.
Carina Chocano wonders how many US celebs actually carried out their threats to leave the country if Dubya was elected.

Come to think of it, has "the millionaire Paul Daniels" left the country yet?
Carol Vorderman is worried about internet porn. The Register wonders why anyone should care what Carol Vorderman thinks about the internet.
Wednesday 24 January 2001, 23:55 GMT
Mark Knopfler has had a dinosaur named after him. How completely appropriate. (And, to be fair, he acknowledges this himself. Good to see he has a sense of humour about it.)
Did Jesus end his days in Japan? True or not, it's an interesting story about Japanese culture. [Via Rebecca's Pocket]
Novelist Caleb Carr suggested the other day in Salon that the (US) government needed to step in and protect us from "inaccurate" information on the internet. Salon's own Scott Rosenberg responded with a reasoned explanation of why this idea was a) undesirable and b) unworkable. Now Carr has responded in turn with a dismissive, rather snooty letter in which he simply refuses to address Rosenberg's arguments because the latter earns his living from the web and thus can't be expected to see why speech on the internet should be afforded less protection than that in other media.

It's tempting to read this as just another argument about the First Amendment to the US Constitution, but Carr's fear of an "untamed" internet as expressed in his original piece isn't unknown over here. Consider the suggestion by a Home Office minister that the government may take steps to protect children against paedophiles by "improved supervision of chatrooms." [ZDNet story on chatroom supervision via a posting to cyber-rights-UK mailing list]
Everyone who pays much attention to British politics knows that both major parties take notes on the fortunes of their US counterparts and try to import what appears to work. I hadn't realised that the Conservatives were so keen to import the Republican attitude to abortion.

With the shadow Health Minister, the shadow Home Secretary and the Leader of the Opposition all proclaiming relatively hawkish stands on the issue, can it be long before British politics is as polarised over this issue as the US system?
Tuesday 23 January 2001, 22:00 GMT
Ewok Holocaust. Suddenly Return of the Jedi goes up in my estimation. [Via Memepool]
Rumour has it that the government is soon to announce a deal to scrap admission fees for national museums and galleries. Excellent news.
The Register reports that due to delays and confusion within the NHS doctors are being forced to use Hotmail accounts to transmit confidential medical information. Good grief.
Today's news at Dark Horizons reveals that there's a possibility that The Corrs will write songs for and appear in a sequel to The Commitments.

I really enjoyed the original film, but I'm not sure that it needs a sequel, and especially not with members of The Corrs playing (no doubt) bigger roles than they did in the original.
Microsoft is clearly poised to enter the Applications Service Provider business with the help of Microsoft .NET, but The Register is doubtful that the average business or home user will be interested. I'm not so sure: for any business that isn't big enough to employ a proper system administrator the option of an ASP offering to look after installing and maintaining their applications, backing up their data and managing their entire IT department might well be tempting.

Initially Microsoft aren't going to worry too much about pulling in home users and small businesses, any more than they aimed MS Office at home users at first. Instead, they'll concentrate on ensuring that Office.NET becomes the default business application and its data formats become de facto standards, then sell Office.NET to smaller businesses and home users (perhaps in a package lacking some of the more heavyweight applications, the way they used to sell MS Office Small Business Edition without Access or PowerPoint) on the back of that dominance.
Electronic Arts is developing what amounts to a computer game version of The Game. This sounds utterly fantastic, and it's easy to imagine that this will be the start of a whole new genre. The very idea reads like something from a John Varley novel. [Via Techdirt]
Patents get sillier by the day. Now a company has patented the peanut butter & jelly sandwich. I trust the heirs of the Earl of Sandwich are paying close attention. [Via the null device]
Monday 22 January 2001, 22:15 GMT
After all the fuss this week about the "internet babies" you just knew someone was going to take a pot shot at the messenger. Both BBC News Online and The Guardian reported on moves by the Department of Health to get UK ISPs to "crack down" on child-brokers' web sites. This makes perfect sense if the sites are hosted in the UK, but according to the Guardian article the government thinks that even providing a conduit by which UK users can access overseas sites may be illegal (though my reading of the letter the Department of Health sent to ISPs doesn't suggest that they're pressing this interpretation of the law at present).

Hopefully the IWF and the ISPA will persuade ministers that holding ISPs responsible for the content of overseas sites their customers access is impractical, but all it needs is for one of the tabloids to get behind this notion of blocking all access to baby-broker sites and who knows where this could lead.
Molly Ivins has a distinctly Texan perspective on why Dubya's inauguration might not be a total disaster. [Via Yet Another Web Log]
Gina Arnold has written a rather confused Salon article on the trend towards kick-ass heroines in TV and film. If I've understood the gist of the article, it appears that she thinks that a) by showing women who fight (and beat) men TV and, more recently, film suggest that it's OK for men and women to fight one another on equal terms, which will lead to more women being beaten up by men who feel that the old rule that you "don't hit girls" has been retired, and b) "most" scenes of a woman beating a man up are sexually charged.

The former point might - just possibly - be somewhat valid, though I'm inclined to think that it's more of a sign of a positive development, insofar as it shows (rightly) that if it comes down to it women aren't necessarily helpless in the face of violence in all circumstances. The second point is just silly: for every battle between a man and a woman who are fighting their mutual attraction, there's a scene like the many in Buffy or Xena where the woman is simply out to kick the bad guy's ass.
Hotmail has a brilliant new anti-spam strategy. Not only will they not allow their customers to receive spam from known spammers, but they won't even let outgoing mail from Hotmail customers go to ISPs which are thought to provide access for spammers. Furthermore, they don't even tell their users this is what they're doing: they just drop the outgoing mail completely and then return, at best, a misleading error message to the sender. Another example of technical competence and openness from the Microsoft empire. [Via NewsTrolls]
On the other hand, it's nice to see evidence that spammers get their karmic comeuppance occasionally.
The BBC are thinking of launching an international news web site, complete with banner ads to help defray the site's running costs. The argument goes that as the site is intended primarily for non-UK viewers (ie people who aren't licence fee payers) it can be treated as a commercial enterprise and generate revenue. The BBC's rivals, naturally, don't see it that way and are screaming about a breach of the BBC charter and unfair competition.

It seems to me that as long as there's still a site aimed at the UK that holds the same news content and isn't ad-supported - ie as long as the BBC maintains the excellent BBC News Online site - then there's little reason to moan about the ad banners. In a world where "brands" are more important than physical products, why shouldn't the BBC capitalise on their brand in overseas markets? [Via NewsTrolls]
Evolt.org has a superb collection of old web browsers. Not just the current "big two" and alternatives like Opera and Lynx, but really old apps like Cello, the first web browser I ever used. The next term my university installed Mosaic alongside Cello, then the first versions of Netscape, and I was a faithful Netscape user until Opera came along. [Via Kottke.org]
Yet another silly internet/intellectual property dispute.
Sunday 21 January 2001, 20:30 GMT
Wireless Alarm Products Inc bring microprocessor technology to your frying pan. [Via ZZZ Online]
Webcams are so passé: X10 tells the tale of a slightly unusual application of wireless networking technology: mounting a wireless video camera to a model rocket to give us a spectacular view of take-off. (And of an unplanned hard landing too, in this case.) [Via Memepool]
Images of England is a rather nice prototype site from English Heritage which allows visitors to browse pictures of England's listed buildings. So far they've got 15,000 images which can be categorised by building type, location or period. I found a rather nice picture of The Old House in Tynemouth, where a family I used to know lived. I spent some pleasant summer afternoons at barbecues in the back garden of that house. [Via The View From Here]

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