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Thursday 1 August 2002, 23:40 BST
King Arthur hangs up his crown. The Guardian marks the retirement of NUM president Arthur Scargill.

Whatever you may think of Scargill's politics, his tactics during the strikes of 1984-5 or the attitude Mrs Thatcher took in dealing with the former vanguard of the British Trades union movement, there's no denying that an article like this highlights just how much has changed in British politics and industrial relations since the 1970s. Younger readers may find it hard to believe, but there was a time when the question of who led the major British trade unions, and what their attitude would be towards the government of the day, was headline news.
I originally intended to post the above comment yesterday, but as of last night I've come down with some sort of summer 'flu. Consequently, I'll be doing very little web browsing for a couple of days and probably won't be updating my weblog.

In the absence of updates here, I suggest that you visit some of the many excellent sites listed in my sidebar.
Wednesday 31 July 2002, 23:25 BST
The tragic ineptitude of the English male. Canadian journalist Leah McLaren moved to London several months ago, and found her dating experiences distinctly underwhelming. Naturally, being an "acknowledged beauty" it couldn't possibly have been anything to do with her, so she just had to write a longish article for the Spectator explaining why this was entirely the fault of the men she went out with.

Inevitably, one of the men she dated has decided to set the record straight.

[Spectator article via MetaFilter, the case for the defence via Textism]
Say what you will about Hewlett Packard's computers, you can't deny that their legal department is right at the bleeding edge.

You may have heard of a piece of legislation passed in the United States a couple of years ago called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which criminalises the act of circumventing copyright protection mechanisms, even for the purposes of academic research (such as testing whether such mechanisms are actually secure.) This is silly enough, but now HP have broken new ground by threatening to invoke the DMCA against hackers who released a computer program which demonstrated a security flaw in HP's Tru64 operating system. Note that this has nothing to do with cracking a copyright protection mechanism - it's all about pointing out a flaw in a commercial product.

What makes it still worse is that the details of the flaw were communicated to HP a year ago and as far as anyone can tell they've done nothing to fix the problem, thereby leaving every Tru64-based system in existence potentially vulnerable to crackers with much less honourable intentions than the folks who notified HP of the problem in the first place. Even though Tru64 is to be phased out over the next few years, there's just no excuse for this sort of behaviour.

It'd be fun to see some large company which deployed Tru64 sue HP for providing a shoddy product and knowingly failing to fix it, but I'll bet a large sum of money that the terms of the license agreement for Tru64 absolve HP of liability for damages arising from flaws in their product.
A law student who sued the University of Wolverhampton because the course didn't live up to the prospectus has agreed a £30,000 out of court settlement. The university claims that the act of offering to settle in no way implies that they accept the student's arguments, but I doubt anyone with half a brain believes them.

That said, I find this comment from the student a tad disingenuous:
Mr Austen, who was born in England but lived in Australia until 1998, said he was unfamiliar with the British university system and had assumed universities were of the same standard.

"I took them at their word," he said.
Does anybody who has spent ten minutes researching which courses to apply for really believe that there's no difference between the teaching standards in different universities?

[Via Found]
Tuesday 30 July 2002, 23:15 BST
It looks as if 1 February 2019 won't be such a Red Letter Day after all.
Bookslut. The name says it all, really. I was particularly taken with Jen Crispin's The Joys of the Bus, as I do much of my leisure reading during my commute on the bus or metro.

The one problem I find is that when I'm going home after a particularly frustrating afternoon at work, or if I'm travelling to work knowing I'm in for a bad day, it takes at least half the journey to unwind to the point where I can concentrate on the text. When that happens, I tend to read The Guardian on my Palm instead, but I'm conscious as I do so that I'm losing precious leisure reading time.

[Via dust from a distant sun]
James Lileks is a pretty good writer on pretty much any topic that takes his fancy, but he's never better than when he's writing about Gnat, his little daughter. Lileks' post reflecting on Gnat's second birthday is one of the most touching things I've read in a long time. He concludes:
It's been two years and I've been there for every day. Seven hundred and thirty good-mornings and good nights, from the cross-eyed who-you stare you get at the start to the clever smile, the hug, the goonight daddy bye bye I get now. When you're a young adult, you wish yourself a long long life so you can do the things you simply must do. When you're a parent, you realize that little matters as much as the simple, daily act of caring for your child. Give me the time, so that I may give it to her. Happy birthday, sweetheart.
Several webloggers have noted that Verity Stob's humorous columns from Dr Dobb's Journal are available online.

I enjoyed Thirteen Ways To Loathe VB quite a bit, and I'd have to say that I've seen an awful lot of computers at Cruft Force 5 or worse.
Monday 29 July 2002, 21:50 BST
Microsoft's Peruvian Problems Persist. Having failed to persuade the author of a bill proposing that all software used by the Peruvian government should be Open Source, Bill Gates has resorted to making large cash donations to the Peruvian school system and getting the US ambassador to write to Peruvian politicians decrying the very idea that a government might be better off refusing to deal with purveyors of proprietary software.

Watching Microsoft squirm like this is all good fun. I wonder if any of the MPs who come near the top of the ballot to introduce Private Members' Bills in the next session of the UK parliament would fancy trying to pass a similar bill over here?

[Via the null device]
I find it difficult to believe that a couch constructed from mouse pads would be very comfortable. Or stable, come to that.

[Via MetaFilter]
Sunday 28 July 2002, 22:00 BST
The 150 Second Sell, Take 34. (NB/- New York Times article - free registration required.)

Marshall Sella finds out just how exacting the process of constructing a trailer for M Night Shyamalan's new film is. Fascinating stuff, but I think the article would have read very differently had the film being publicised not been by a director whose trademark is twisty, turny tales with a big surprise at the end. In fairness, the article does note the widely-held view that trailers in general give too much of the plot away. But it quotes a studio executive who responds that one film which suffered from such an overly-revealing trailer, What Lies Beneath, ended up taking US$30 million in its opening weekend as if that settles the issue. (Which, I suppose, it does if you're an accountant.)

[Via Lots of Co]
Viridian Note 00324: 911.net. Bruce Sterling maps out some of the possibilities now that ubiquitous computing has been given a kick up the backside by the events of September 11th. I particularly like his insight that insufficient attention is being paid to the question of how to turn this stuff off, and how we can know it's obeyed the instruction to turn itself off.

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