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Home > Weblog w/e 3.2.2001


Saturday 3 February 2001, 23:10 GMT
Face recognition software + databases of known criminals + surveillance cameras = ? Is the prospect of spotting the occasional criminal before he or she commits a crime worth giving law enforcement agencies the power to semi-automatically track the movements of all citizens? David Brin's The Transparent Society moves a step closer...
How to make a snowflake.
Meet Saint Ned of Springfield. [Via PopPolitics]
The other day I linked to a magnificent shot of an airliner passing by the moon. This picture is still more impressive, if not quite as colourful.
Like many free ISPs in the US, Juno is finding it hard to turn a profit. They've come up with an unusual solution: renting out their users' spare CPU cycles to the highest bidder. [Via Politech]
Chris Lehmann considers the differing ways the father figure is depicted in a selection of current books and films. What is a "role model", anyway?
There are reports that Republicans in California are keen on having Arnold Schwarzenegger run for governor in 2002. It wouldn't be the first time California's had a film star as governor, but it would be the first time the US would have had two stars of the film Predator in office at one time. [Via Looka!]
Friday 2 February 2001, 23:55 GMT
I know this is just a mock-up, but pardon me while I drool anyway... [Via Haddock Directory]
Meet William A. Bartron. William has an unusual approach to coping with pain. [Via Pigs & Fishes]
What do you get when you introduce Billy Corgan to Charlie Brown? Smashing Peanuts. [Via the null device]
Another urban legend bites the dust.
Thursday 1 February 2001, 23:55 GMT
Help Joe get 1 million visitors to his web site by Valentine's Day. Trust me, he'll be forever grateful. [Via Pigs & Fishes]
Gordon R Dickson, RIP. [Via Windowseat Weblog]
Copyright idiocies: #3,557 in a never-ending series. [Via Techdirt]
Wednesday 31 January 2001, 23:15 GMT
Coming Attractions has some impressive stills from the forthcoming Tim Burton remake/reworking of Planet Of The Apes. It looks as if the new version will look the part, but it still doesn't sound to me much like a Tim Burton project. [Via Dark Horizons]
ZDNet reports that many internet users leave their systems wide open to crackers by not applying security patches to their software. The article concentrates on business users, but at least that sort of system will tend to have a professional system administrator who can figure out what needs patching. The real fun will start when the broadband revolution really hits the home marketplace, and millions of desktop PCs are left wide open because the average home PC user hasn't a clue that software even needs patching.

I don't agree with the article's conclusion that auto-updating is the answer to this problem: once I have a working system, the last thing I want is my software suppliers deciding to change it behind my back. What I'd like is a commitment from software suppliers to email clear, timely update notices - not ads, not marketing newsletters, just details of what patches are available, what they do and where to get them - to users who register for them. Of course, this wouldn't help the sort of user who wouldn't know a Winsock from a window cleaner: the only solution for that type of user - and let's face it, they shouldn't have to become computer wizards just to use a PC - is to use an Application Service Provider who'll update their software for them and worry about keeping it all running. [Via Tomalak's Realm]
Slashdot has a thread about the release of some Open Source banking software. Not software aimed at end users, but at allowing bankers to integrate different banking systems easily. There's much approving comment about the banking industry "embracing" Open Source, but I'm with the cynics who'd like the software that controls access to their money to be old, trusted and not remotely bleeding-edge. As more than one poster pointed out, the recent security problems with BIND (a piece of Open Source software which has been around for years) hasn't exactly helped convince non-believers that "many eyeballs" necessarily results in greater security and reliability.
Tuesday 30 January 2001, 22:10 GMT
How Stuff Works. An amazing compendium of facts about all sorts of neat technology - definitely one for the bookmark file. [Via Bump]
Stainless steel business cards: just what the world needs. [Via Memepool]
Slashdot has a thread about a possible challenge to the attempt by CMGI (owners of the Alta Vista web portal/search engine) to extract their pound of flesh from every other search engine out there. Alan Emtage, who released Archie, a system for cataloguing the contents of open access FTP servers, in 1989, has said he'd assist anyone sued by CMGI in demonstrating that the Alta Vista patents didn't involve any novel new techniques.

Naturally most of the Slashdot crowd have treated this news like manna from heaven, though it's still likely that someone will have to sue or be sued to get a definitive answer to the question of the validity of the CMGI patents. As usual, the only people assured of a win in this situation are the lawyers.
Greg Knauss lets off some steam over at Suck about the utter uselessness of WAP phones.
In the wake of the Yahoo!/France fiasco, now an Italian court has ruled that it has the power to order that sites hosted outside Italy be shut down if they're accessible to Italian-based web users. Good luck to them trying to implement their judgements... [Via Politech]
With an election nearing, former Guardian editor Peter Preston anticipates a cry that Something Must Be Done about the internet in the wake of the "internet twins" and the arrest of members of net child porn rings. The good news is that he has a clear idea, expressed in layman's terms and without reference to inapplicable concepts (to UK readers) like the First Amendment to the US Constitution, of why this is an urge that should be resisted. Whether the average Daily Mail reader will give a damn about the possibilities of the internet as a tool for freedom of speech and the dissemination of truths (as well as lies) is another matter entirely, sad to say.
An eBay customer gets a very expensive lesson in grammar and punctuation. [Via Techdirt]
Monday 29 January 2001, 23:15 GMT
Janet Reitman has written an interesting piece for Salon on what it takes for a female photojournalist to avoid being dismissed as a "shutterbabe."
Airliner porn. This picture is pretty damn fine, but then this one is rather striking also. I could spend hours browsing this site. [Via Memepool]
The True Tale of Norton I, Emperor of the United States. [Via The Dreaming]
Call me juvenile, but I thought this was hilarious. [Via Bifurcated Rivets]
The Real-Time Science Data Access Page is amazing. It's basically a portal page for a range of sites offering real-time updates of astronomical, meteorlogical and oceanographic data. Think of it as a real-time snapshot of the state of the solar system. [Via TBTF Blog]
Sunday 28 January 2001, 22:30 GMT
At last! Thanks to the wonders of modern technology we can all have our own, fully functional gaydar. [Via a posting to rec.arts.sf.written]
Microsoft look like resting their publicity campaign for .NET for a bit. Not much point in talking about how we're all going to rely on Microsoft to keep us permanently connected to our applications and data over a network when they've just dropped off the internet themselves twice in the last seven days. [Via Techdirt]
Michael Lind looks at the strangely constant history of America's Two (political) Tribes.
While we're on the subject of American politics, James Fallows and Joseph Ellis discuss just why modern politicians don't seem to measure up to America's Founding Fathers.
In the wake of the "internet babies" scandal, the b-tailing industry is facing a crisis...
Over in the Land of the Free, the Virginia Senate has authorised a county to pass a law which would make it illegal for people to sleep in their own houses unless they were in their bedroom. [Via Metafilter]
We all have our favourite TV shows and our favourite characters. We also have characters we'd like to see die a grisly death, and now there's a site where you can decide Who Would You Kill? [Via Memepool]
If a potential employer decided to type your name into a search engine, would you be worried at what he or she might find? Should you? Linda Formichelli thinks you should be. I think that a lot of lawyers are going to get very rich in years to come figuring out the answer to the latter question. [Via Techdirt]

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