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Home > Weblog w/e 3.3.2001

Saturday 3 March 2001, 23:35 GMT
Internet Culture Review, a thoughtful essay by Paul Ford about the gap between the internet-driven revolution prophesied by Kevin Kelly, John Perry Barlow and friends and the present, post-bubble corporate-dominated web.

It's easy to be pessimistic about the way that commerce has come to dominate the web, but as some posters to the Metafilter discussion of Ford's essay have pointed out there's still plenty of good, unconventional content out there: it just needs to be found, a process in which I'd like to think weblogs play no small part. [Via Misnomer]
GAZM.org. Probably The World's Worst Design For A Web-Based Discussion Forum, Ever. [Via NewsTrolls]
Seriously funny cat pictures. [Via Haddock Directory]
So make time to fix the ADSL routing, dammit! [Via NTK]
Hilarious email from a very pissed-off manager. [Via Viama's Weblog]
Nice to see that PC Format magazine is adhering to the very highest standards of journalistic integrity. Not.
Friday 2 March 2001, 23:50 GMT
Jesus Christ Superstore. "Putting the fun back into fundamentalism and the laughter into sectarian slaughter." Despite the name, they offer action figures for all the major world religions. Good stuff. [Via Metafilter]
Stephen Lemons interviews director Roland Joffé in Salon about his new film, and touches on the parallels between the Court of Louis XIV (the setting of his latest film) and his place in the film business. A good talk with a level-headed director who doesn't seem at all "Hollywood."
The Web Page From Hell. Not quite as bad as the page I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, but still pretty stunning. [Via Metafilter]
ICANN has announced plans to relieve VeriSign of responsibility for registrations of .org domains, supposedly to balance their awarding VeriSign control of .com and .net for an extra four years. Trouble is, they've announced that they plan to "return" .org to its original purpose by only allowing US-registered not-for-profit organisations to hold .org domains. The Register reports on the shitstorm this has raised on ICANN's own online forum and at Slashdot as thousands of .org domain holders see the prospect of their domains being summarily confiscated regardless of how long they've based their online presence on the only Global Top Level Domain that could reasonably accomodate non-commercial users. Furthermore, the .org domain was actually intended as a "miscellaneous" global domain - see RFC 1591 - rather than as a domain solely for not-for-profits.

In fairness to ICANN this is only a proposal at this stage, and they have indicated that they're aware that existing domain registrants will have issues with this change and that there will need to be a transitional period. It's possible that they'll only apply this new approach to new registrations and will allow existing holders of .org domains to retain them.

Also, there may be some resistance from unexpected sources to this idea. As one poster to Slashdot pointed out, Microsoft (nobody's idea of a not-for-profit organisation) owns microsoft.org, and I doubt they'll be keen to give it up. Still, any way you look at it it's another huge publicity own-goal for ICANN.
Thursday 1 March 2001, 23:55 GMT
Minneapolis is to erect a statue of Mary Tyler Moore on the very spot where her character threw her hat in the air in the title sequence of her famous 70s sitcom. It makes you wonder what the UK equivalent might be: a statue of John Cleese beating his car with a tree branch in some tree-lined suburban street, or perhaps a statue of the Spitting Image version of Mrs Thatcher on the steps of 10 Downing Street? [Via Windowseat Weblog]
The Hitchhikers Guide to Star Trek. [Via rec.arts.sf.written]
Americans For Purity: Winning The War On Masturbation.
If we outlaw dildos and require that all sausages, cucumbers and carrots be sold pre-sliced, we will make it much easier for the women among us to resist the temptation to Masturbate.
[Via Three Way Action]
Another excellent weblog-cum-journal to add to my daily rota: frequently uninspired. I especially like the snoozing moggy at the top of the page. [Via GBlogs]
"White-Collar Sweatshop": Suzy Hanson reviews a new book by Jill Andresky Fraser which spells out the extent to which the economic success of the last decade was built on the back of a staggering decline in quality of life for the majority of white collar workers.

While the book's title will undoubtedly - rightly - cause people with a sense of perspective to note that the workers Fraser profiles are hardly working in anything like real sweatshop conditions, that doesn't affect the basic argument, which is entirely sound.
A lovely image of the International Space Station. [Via APOD]
Wednesday 28 February 2001, 23:55 GMT
Further to Monday's link to the DeCSS gallery, I was very taken with letter sent by the site's author in response to a request from the Motion Picture Association that he take down his page. Oddly enough, the page is still there: hopefully it'll remain for a long while yet. [Via rc3.org]
The Register has an alarming story about one company's attempt to replace the soon-to-die Napster. ShareSniffer exploits a common configuration error in internet-connected PCs - especially ones running Windows - which allows anyone who can determine a computer's IP address to find out that they can gain access to that PC's hard drives using standard Windows functionality. The company claims that this is just a way of turning every PC into a web server at the click of a mouse, but since its functionality is pretty much identical to that which a cracker's tool would use I suspect that there's a legion of lawyers itching to prove them wrong.
Two doctors suspended for operating on wrong part of brain. They, er, looked at the CT scan the wrong way round when preparing to operate. Oops... [Via Metafilter]
Thus has a change of heart. After blasting their fellow ISPs the other day for claiming that cracking down on internet child porn was too difficult, Demon Internet's corporate parent has now admitted that censoring Usenet really is technically unfeasible and they're totally reliant on alerts from the IWF, just as they have been since 1996. I'd imagine that Mr Monserrat, who was so vocal just a few days ago, feels rather silly now.
Tuesday 27 February 2001, 23:40 GMT
OpenCola: a soft drink made with mystery ingredient GPL. [Via Metafilter]
Now you can add that extra bit of realism to your games of Subbuteo. Shopkeeper and table football fanatic Tom Taylor has produced anatomically-correct streakers (of both sexes), plus a policeman to chase them off the pitch. The idea is that you flick the streaker onto the pitch to break your opponent's concentration at a vital moment. Presumably the next step is to add a whole bunch of terrace-dwellers and mount a pitch invasion to try to get the match called off... [Via ClearSphere]
Compaq's online support system tries to cover even the really basic questions. I'm sure there'll be instructions for retracting the cup holder in there somewhere too. [Via Metafilter]
MSN UK have announced that they're planning to start charging users of their portal perhaps as much as £60 per year for the use of "premium services" which they're going to roll out later this year, though they emphasise that their core services like Hotmail will remain free. The only specific premium service mentioned in this report is spam filtering: I think they'll have to come up with something a lot more compelling than that to persuade people to part with hard cash. Have Microsoft already forgotten what a roaring success their experiment with charging a subscription for Slate was, or do they have something special in store? (All I can think of is some form of super-duper integration of MSN's content with Windows XP/Internet Explorer 6, though you'd think word of something like that would have leaked out from the beta testers.)
Monday 26 February 2001, 23:55 GMT
Janelle Brown and Katharine Mieszkowski write in Salon about how the casualties of the dot.com slowdown are coping with life away from the treadmill.
Tracking dissent online is turning into big business. How long before some government employs one of these companies to watch out for subversion and threats of "terrorist" acts?
How many ways can you come up with to distribute DeCSS? Some of them are remarkably inventive, to put it mildly... [Via Misnomer]
Thomas Frank surveys the state of Singapore's smiley happy New Economy. Frank isn't really describing anything that William Gibson hasn't already covered in his essay in Wired, Disneyland With The Death Penalty, but what I find striking is the extent to which the political and social climate in the United States and the UK seems closer to Singapore today than it did half a decade or so ago. The acceptance of liberal capitalism, the weight given to economic over social development, the paternalism, the power of corporations - all seem to be moving steadily towards the Singapore model. Scary. [Via Metafilter]
Moby has a little proposition for Ricky Martin. However, there is a catch... [Via the null device]
Sunday 25 February 2001, 23:00 GMT
Youths Unified in Effort to Stamp Out Smut, But Divided Over What It Is. No, this isn't an Onion headline. [Via NTK]
Julian Dibbell ponders the relationship between steganography, Napster and cypherpunk dreams of a pirate utopia. (In short, he's feeling nostalgic for 1992, before big business started taking an interest in arcane topics like cryptography.)
It looks as if the Italian parliament doesn't want Italy to have a home-grown software industry. [Via cyber-rights-UK]
Just a quick mention that E4 are showing the last two seasons of one of my favourite TV programmes, Party of Five. Unfortunately I only have access to terrestrial TV, so I'll have to wait and see whether Channel 4 have also bought the terrestrial rights to the show, but in the meantime fans of the show may want to join one of the mailing lists related to the show.
The Notional Missile Defence site has some advice for President Bush II:
Space is very large, George. In fact, it's huge.

Surely you saw pool tables in your misspent youth? Replace the balls with the tiniest, edge-of-visibility, specks of whatever white dust you fancy. Scatter a few dozen of them somewhere near the baize. To win, you have to pot all of them - and the white-ball is another speck. You have five minutes. And you have to use computers and they have to run hundred-million-line programs.
[Via NTK]

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