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Home > Weblog w/e 4.5.2002

Saturday 4 May 2002, 21:50 BST
The life of a repo man is always intense. Paul Di Fillipo thinks Repo Man was the first cyberpunk film. It hadn't struck me that way at the time, but looking back I think he's got a point. Blade Runner arrived in cinemas a couple of years earlier, but it was loosely adapted from a Philip K Dick novel written a good decade before the cyberpunks arrived on the scene.

I haven't seen Repo Man for years. It doesn't look as if it's available on Region 2 DVD, but I might just have to treat myself to the Region 1 release. Except that I already have way too many books and DVDs to read, so I really shouldn't buy any more for about six months...
Anti-Semitism in Europe. The Economist takes a measured view of the situation. Recommended reading for the anti-idiotarians.

[Via rc3.org]
The Story About the Baby. A hilarious account of the first months in the life of one Cordelia Krizsan Vogel, daughter of a computer geek.

I was laughing so hard I forgot to breathe this morning as I read this.
My Current Fond Fantasy

I want to get a tape recorder and tape one of her loud, fussy screaming jags. Then I'll save the tape until she's fifteen. Then, late one night, I'll sneak into her room, play the tape at full volume, blast her ass out of bed, and scream, "How do YOU like it?"

I can't be the only person who has thought of this.
There's lots more, and it's all good.

[Via Found]
Barbara Castle, RIP.
Hawaii as seen from the Space Shuttle. Wow.
Is 56K enough? Do domestic internet users need broadband? Admittedly this piece is about the US market, but the same question applies in the UK.

I'm still on a dial-up connection at home, and even though ADSL is now available in my area I don't think I'll bother. I can easily open half a dozen or so web pages at one time in Opera and read the one that downloads first while the others arrive in the background. If I ever want to download files in the tens of megabytes, I'll set my PC to downloading them when I get to bed and check how things went the next morning. It's not that I don't know what high-speed internet access is like: I first used the internet at university back in 1992, and I can use the fast connection at work if I want to read some weblogs, catch up with my favourite online cartoons or just check my email during my lunch break. High speed access is nice, but not that big a deal given the way I use the internet.

The big change in my home internet usage came not when my ISP started supporting V.90 connections and doubled my download speeds, but when they started offering unmetered dial-up. I can't believe that as recently as a couple of years ago I used to have my PC dial up as soon as off-peak hours arrived and download updated versions of all my daily reads. I'd read them offline and copy the URLs of links I wanted to follow so I could go back online and read them all in a second online session.

[Via MetaFilter]
Friday 3 May 2002, 23:50 BST
Pass it on: When Mark Shuttleworth returns from space, everyone dress in ape suits.

[Via web-goddess]
A Japanese physicist has calculated that train carriages may trap the electromagnetic radiation from mobile phones, turning the carriage into a gigantic microwave oven on wheels.

What bothers me is that this whole article, including the comments from other scientists cited, seems to be based on theoretical calculations. I know that theory is important and calculating the likely magnitude of the effect is useful, but might it not help settle this argument if someone would just take some measurements?

[Via Boing Boing]
Patrick Nielsen Hayden reminds us of a quotation from a Robert Heinlein short story which is particularly apposite at a time when the Content Faction are trying to use the law to control the computer industry:
"There has grown up in the minds of certain groups in this country the notion that because a man or a corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years, the government and the courts are charged with the duty of guaranteeing such profit in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary public interest. This strange doctrine is not supported by statute nor common law. Neither individuals nor corporations have any right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped, or turned back, for their private benefit."
Incidentally, the Mike Godwin article linked to above about the machinations of the Content Faction is worth reading in its own right. Not least because it acknowledges that in the end some people might well be quite happy to lose much of the freedom offered by the current generation of personal computers if that was the price of gaining access to a lot more high-quality content.

[Mike Godwin essay via Amygdala]
A nice traditional May Day message.

[Via miss bitch]
Wednesday 1 May 2002, 20:25 BST
The Mini-Mizer: Picture Yourself In Plastic. Fun.

[Via Bifurcated Rivets]
The OpenCD Project plans to put together collections of high quality open source applications software for proprietary operating systems. The thinking is that most users don't notice the cost of proprietary operating systems, since when they buy their PC the OS comes with it. Putting together a collection of application software is a different matter, and this is where the project hopes to make a difference.

I think the idea of putting together a collection of the best open source applications and presenting them in an easy to install package is a good idea. A Windows PC running OpenOffice or Mozilla may not be as ideologically pure as a Linux machine with the same applications, but for the majority of non-techie users who want to actually use their PC it's a good deal. There's nothing to be done for those who demand 100% compatibility with the most popular commercial applications, of course, but there are a lot of people who really don't need Microsoft Office or Photoshop to write a letter, add up a few applications or do some image editing. I've noticed that some low-to-medium end PCs are now supplied with StarOffice: it'd be interesting to see what happened if one of the big PC suppliers offered their low-end PCs with OpenCD for £150 or so less than the same PC with commercial packages thrown in.

[Via Techdirt]
What Blogging Archetype Are You Most Like?

I'm Rebecca Blood, apparently. Which is most definitely a compliment. For me, that is.

[Via Amygdala]
Tuesday 30 April 2002, 22:45 BST
If Microsoft Buy ITV Digital.

[Via Found]
I'm not a fan of Stars In Their Eyes, let alone the "Celebrity" spin-off, but I might just have to watch one of the forthcoming episodes. Here's why, courtesy of the Pulp News page:
News just in...Jarvis will be appearing as Rolf Harris on Celebrity Stars in their Eyes, performing "Two Little Boys". I have a feeling it might be broadcast next Saturday night but will keep you informed. He's recording it on Tuesday 30th. (26/04)
Now that would be something to see...

[Via The View From Here]
Watch those ads, dammit! Admittedly Jamie Kellner is the CEO of Turner Broadcasting System, an American cable network, but I have a feeling he's speaking for most of his colleagues on this side of the Atlantic:
JK: [...] I'm a big believer we have to make television more convenient or we will drive the penetration of PVRs and things like that, which I'm not sure is good for the cable industry or the broadcast industry or the networks.

CW: Why not?

JK: Because of the ad skips.... It's theft. Your contract with the network when you get the show is you're going to watch the spots. Otherwise you couldn't get the show on an ad-supported basis. Any time you skip a commercial or watch the button you're actually stealing the programming.

CW: What if you have to go to the bathroom or get up to get a Coke?

JK: I guess there's a certain amount of tolerance for going to the bathroom. But if you formalize it and you create a device that skips certain second increments, you've got that only for one reason, unless you go to the bathroom for 30 seconds. They've done that just to make it easy for someone to skip a commercial.
You hear that? If you fail to pay attention to the adverts you're stealing from the TV network. But they're feeling generous, so they'll allow you a bathroom break.

Admittedly this exchange occurs two-thirds of the way through a long interview which is mostly about fairly technical matters relating to the business of running a cable network, but I'm amazed that Kellner is prepared to say out loud that all his customers are thieves. He may have a point when he argues that the advent of the TiVo means that the business model which underpins the advertising-supported network model is under strain, but there's a significant difference between "Viewers might have to get used to paying subscriptions if they want high quality TV" (the HBO model) and "You're all thieves!" (also known as the RIAA strategy).

I rather liked this contribution to the inevitable MetaFilter thread:
on reflection, i HAVE NO CONTRACT WITH ANY NETWORK. i have no obligation to even own a television receiver, much less turn it on. the fact that when i do turn it on, there is programming there is due to the speculative actions of others. all of that programming was placed there on a bet by the network - a bet that they could attract enough eyes to enable them to sell advertising to other people who are also speculating that enough of those eyes will actually watch the advertising and be influenced by it such that increased sales recover the cost of the advertising. i had no part in this scheme, and i'm in no way responsible or obligated to ensure the success of ANY of these gamblers. you pays yer money, you takes yer chances.
[Via the null device]
Don't leave home without it. An Intel-sponsored survey suggests that laptop users are becoming very attached to their laptops. Or does it?

It seems to me that most of the results are driven by two trends. Firstly, laptops are increasingly used in the home as a space-saving, portable easy to tidy away alternative to a desktop system. This explains the instances where people use laptops while watching TV, eating or in a state of undress. Secondly, laptops are expensive and may contain personal or business information, which explains why users regard them as something to be retained on their person when travelling wherever possible.

Now if you're talking PDAs, you might have a case. My Palm IIIx is truly indispensable and I do carry it pretty much everywhere. Why not? It's cheap, and the personal data on it is both easily backed up to my PC and capable of being password protected. If I lost it I wouldn't blink at the prospect of spending less money for a better specified model which could pick up all my backed up data in a matter of minutes. That's the very opposite of a Wintel-based laptop. Having said that, my PDA is purely for personal use. If I had a need to use standard desktop productivity applications on the road I might find further reasons to consider using a laptop. But there's no way I'd carry it round with me as I do my faithful Palm.

[Via Techdirt]
Monday 29 April 2002, 22:30 BST
Remember the guy who built a roller coaster around his barn? Kim Pedersen has built something just as impressive, if not quite as fast: a monorail around his garden.

[Via /usr/bin/girl]
Postmodernism, Writ Small. The unlikely story of the Post-ItTM note.

[Via Kottke]
A double helping of cute animals.

[Via Rebecca's Pocket]
Aides to Minnesota Governor and former professional wrestler/actor Jesse Ventura are considering producing a video game in support of his re-election campaign. Part of me wants to applaud the innovative thinking, but mostly I just cringe at the thought of how much further modern politics will be debased, turned into a cartoonish battle between good guys and bad guys, if this idea catches on.

I'm guessing the idea will be to use the game to amuse your own supporters by asking them "Can you catch up with Tony Blair before he gets to Brussels and signs away your sovereignty!" or challenging them "Can You Make the Tory tax promises add up? Try our Totally Impartial Budget Simulator." or "Stop the illegal immigrants from making it to the English end of the Channel Tunnel." A pretty dismal prospect, and that's before you consider the possibilities that someone will inadvertently distribute a virus with their CD, or that the Labour Party installation routine will seek out and remove any traces of the Tory campaign disk and inadvertently uninstall your video driver.

Still, there is one good point: it's unlikely any of the major parties will bother to produce a Linux port of their promo game.

[Via Techdirt]
Sunday 28 April 2002, 21:00 BST
Injudicious Conduct. Did you hear the one about the judge who not only heard a case, but acted as the prosecutor and a prosecution witness? An amazing collection of tales of judicial misconduct from the United States.

It would be nice to think that a similar list existed with respect to the antics of English judges, but a quick Google search didn't come up with anything remotely similar.

[Via q daily news]
Germaine Greer was not impressed by The Vagina Monologues.

[Via The View From Here]
Four Word Film Reviews. Neat.
The Scorpion King: Can pecs get Oscars?
[Via oh! indeed]
Why Conductors Have Great Sex. Or, "Eat your entrails, Mick Jagger."

[Via Arts & Letters Daily]

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