Air is warming over Antarctica, warns CNN.
Green TV is the world’s first broadband TV channel dedicated to environmental issues, and they're working together with UNEP (United Nations Environmental Programme). Content is available on all of the current popular formats, including Flash video.
(Via tav @ freenode.)
To continue my mobile pet peeves series: One of the advantages and disadvantages of working for Nokia is that people have Ideas. And they want to share them.
While many of these ideas are cool, there's one recurring thing that rings my bozo meter: The Key That Solves Everything, aka The Silver Bullet Of Mobile User Interfaces. You see, a lot of people think that phones are difficult to use. And I can't blame them - they can be a real pain in the ass sometimes; even the simple ones. The great idea is that all of their problems could be solved by adding just one extra physical button to the phone! You know, you just press it and it solves problem X!
Unfortunately, problem X is different for each person. Some people just want to have easy access to email, some people want to have the clock jump up, some people want it to collect your shopping list from your wife, some people want it to paint your house blue, call the police and call your dog by dirty names, and... well, you get the drift.
Now, what do you get if you build a mobile phone which has a dedicated button for each functionality? Yup, you get something that looks vaguely like a VCR remote control designed by Philip K. Dick from HELL! And still people would moan "but you got a button for Y, why not X, it's as important as Y!"
There are a lot of ways to make mobile phones easier to use. Hardly any of them involve adding more buttons. Buttons tend to scare people. Loads and loads of buttons make some people curl away in a corner and whimper, and that's not a pretty sight. Look at the Apple remote control - they got rid of almost all the buttons, and have now only six to control a vast array of functionality. And people think that is good.
(Oh, by the way, I fear we caved in under the pressure: The new Nokia N-series phones have a multimedia button, which you can theoretically make do whatever you want... So please stop about this already. Pretty please?)
I've had a very bad day today, and I probably managed to piss off quite a lot of people. So I figured I might as well get this one (and the few next ones) off my chest as well.
Over the years, I've seen all sorts of wearable/ubiquitous/mobile applications, that just get me easily in the state of mild enragement. Let me list my top peeves in this blog, and be warned that there will be plenty'o'ranting. Not all of the following text is to be taken completely seriously.
This will be a series to which I'll be posting daily until I run out of holy steam.
Have you ever had the urge to find a good restaurant in a strange city, but just don't know what to do, and wish there was a way you could open your mobile phone and it could tell you? No? It turns out that there's a large number of socially inept people, who apparently don't want to talk to any of the locals and simply ask, but they would rather live in their own small little world and have carefully managed and computer-recommended "foreign" experiences when going abroad. Well, maybe not so large. Maybe it's just a tiny number of people. But way too many of these people seem to be building mobile applications, and I just can't count the use cases I've been presented which start with "You're in a foreign city, and you would like to have dinner, and don't know where to go to..."
For chrissakes - ASK a local person. You'll have fun trying to cross the language barrier - and if you don't pass, just be adventurous and pick a place, any place. There's nothing wrong with some human contact. Not everything has to be mediated through the computer and social algorithms.
Besides, while traveling is cheap, it's not something that most people do very often. And not very many people are willing to pay the sky-high mobile data roaming fees either (I've managed to rack up a 1200€ phone bill once while traveling, just by checking my email and a bit of googling). And there's a difference between whipping out your 3G phone or a battered copy of Lonely Planet in the middle of Miami...
We don't need a Yet Another Tourist Guide. We need more stuff that's useful in the daily life of a normal person!
This is not the only application that attempts to overlay relatively useless data on top of the real world. While some of the apps I've seen are genuinely useful, many of these so-called Augmented Reality applications seem to be more concerned in diminishing the nasty bits of reality out of the equation: things like language barriers and getting lost and talking to people. Building a social recommendation engine for restaurants so that you could find "the perfect place" in a faraway city sounds decidedly antisocial to me: what's so social about NOT talking to people and letting some algorithm decide your preferences for you? While you may have never seen your best friend except through a webcam, there's still life outside the internet, hell-o?!?
Perhaps this is because the guys who write this stuff are antisocial geeks. Or perhaps it's just that it would suit their particular lifestyle as well; a lifestyle I would call as "The Comfort Optimizing Frequent Traveller With Only Three Hours Of Free Time After The Meeting". While there's obviously some money in it (the kind of people that need this stuff usually don't have any life outside of work and therefore have lots of money because they have no way to spend it), I still wouldn't call it anything really useful to the average mobile phone user - which would be these days anyone who can talk and can scrounge the money for the phone bill.
Oh well. Check out the Ultimate Tour Guide at Tinmith. That's what everyone should be wearing in all foreign cities all the time. At least the locals would have fun.
Whoa! Captain Pirk of CPP Potkustart (of the Star Wreck fame) has been chosen as one of the finalists for the The Fictional Finnish Person (Satusuomalainen) contest, sharing the top eight with such illustrious persons as Uuno Turhapuro, Väinämöinen and Moomintroll.
That should teach them to run internet votes. I can already hear the rattle of complaints flowing to Yle... "Wrong person!" "But that's a nerd!" "He's not famous because I've never heard of him!" "Geeks used modems to hack the system!" (This was, BTW, a real comment from someone who got annoyed at Finland sending a monster rock man to the Eurovision Song Contest.) ;-)
Here's an interesting experiment on the boundaries of digital copyright: Monolith is a program that will take a file (say, MP3) and mix it with a known file so that no information from the original file is left. However, if the other file is known to the recipient as well, they can easily derive the original file from it.
For example, suppose that fileA is an MP3 of a Beatles song, and the Element file is an MP3 of a Britney Spears song copyrighted by Jive Records. It is possible to find a Basis file that, when munged with the Spears song, will produce the Beatles song as the Mono file. Jive Records certainly cannot claim copyright over the Beatles song (which is copyrighted by Apple Records), nor can they claim copyright over any other Mono files munged from MP3s of their songs.
While it's clear that this is essentially just simple encryption (an encrypted file never has any bits of the original one), and that distributing a monolith'd version of a copyrighted file is as bad as sending it in the original format, it does suggest that the concepts of "copying", "replication", and "distribution" probably need a bit more thinking in the digital age. After all, this is not about distributing a copy of the original file, but something that has the potential of becoming the original file, after a suitable transformation is found. And, since any file can be transformed to any other file, once a suitable key is constructed, you could claim that every file is copyrighted by everyone...
Read the whole discussion in the Monolith pages for a deeper understanding. Here's another interesting quote, which plays nicely on the fact that the record companies are claiming that you are only buying the CD, not the content on it:
This is probably not lawyer-proof, but it does illustrate a point, which I am sure, will be tested in court in the near future.
Yeah. One would think that they would learn. But no, one must try until one succeeds. At what, that I have no idea of...
From Boing Boing:
I'm all for paying artists. But I am all against installing dangerous software on unsuspecting victims' computers. Unfortunately, many people seem to think that ends justify the means, and that unless you are willing to give up total control of your computer and life to the rights owners, you are a communist who wants to have everything for free.
I read a good quote today, but I can't remember it where I read it from: "Fascism happens when people who believe they are right start removing rights from those, who they believe to be wrong."
There's a difference between agreeing together what is fair and what is right (like most laws and commerce); and then there's the case where one side unanimously says what you can do (like DRM). We need more the "agreeing together" -part and less "I can do whatever I want" -part.
What I did is that I took iTunes, and told it to get 15 random songs. I then hunted down an image of each artist, and mashed them together.
Your job, should you choose to accept it, is to recognize the artists.
Some of these are really easy, and some of them are very hard.
You know, I was at the funeral of a Sunni and asked his brother, you know, he'd been murdered - probably by Shi'ites, I think - I asked his brother if there was going to be a civil war and he said look, I'm married to a Shi'ite. You want me to kill my wife? Why do you westerners always want civil war?
I gotta get this guy's books.
(Via Mette, whose blog you should absolutely be reading if you can read Finnish.)
Sami Suomalainen writes in the comments of a previous entry: "Most executives don't even know what a blog is. In Finland, which is seemingly technology oriented and modern, this is simply shocking."
I am not surprised or shocked. I don't see blogs as technology. Blogs are a medium. At some very deep level, books are a technology, too, but you don't really perceive them as such. You buy books because the content interests you, not because they happen to be using the latest in printing technology. You watch television because the program draws your attention; not because it happens to have a HDTV screen (after the first few minutes of technolust, anyway).
I've been saying this for a long time, but the Finnish blogosphere is mostly not very interesting. There are good writers, but quite few of them have really anything to say. Even fewer say things that are original, and not just translations of things from the English blogosphere. Most of them write in English, even. Personally, I think the craft bloggers and taxi driver blogs are the most interesting and important thing in the Finnish blogosphere right now...
Yes, I agree with Sami that we're pretty badly behind of USA in business blogging. Partly because of the media infatuation with the word "verkkopäiväkirja", partly because Finland is missing the same kind of "hey, I'm here, listen to my ideas, I want to make a million with them" -culture that is so pervasive in the USA (which is probably good), and partly because things are already pretty well. Blogs for businesses are networking, self-promotion, public relations and discussion all rolled in one, topped with a personal touch. That requires pretty special people to handle; versatile people who actually like to speak and be heard by completely unknown people. (Which, traditionally, in Finland is considered to be a bad thing - just watch the reaction if you go an talk to anyone you don't know in a tram in Helsinki.)
I completely agree that companies are missing out on something big if they don't participate in the blogosphere. But on the other hand, I'm confident that evolution will weed out the weak. The companies that pick up on blogging (both as followers and authors) will have a competitive edge over those who don't. And some people will make money teaching them how to blog. Some people will attempt to create a hype and a bubble so that they can cash in quickly (lots of signs for a new bubble are already in the air). Some people will do the same, but fail to cash in...
But shocked? No... Disillusioned, if anything.
Finland is a small country with a big internal resistance to change. Our celebrities are minor, our worries minuscule, and you can get on the front page of all newspapers by shooting someone. It's a safe country to be, but let's not kid ourselves into thinking that we are the most agile and forward-thinking nation in the world. Buying lots of cell phones does not a trend make.
With stability comes resistance.
I have no idea whatsoever who I have this influence over, but apparently I have some.
(Oh yeah, and don't for a moment think that I would've posted this if I didn't have a relatively high score. Selfish, sad geek bastard desperate for attention - that's me ;-)
(Update: it seems that the value changes pretty rapidly; I get anything between 7500 and 8300. So I'm keeping the highest one I got.)
Steve Litchfield asks over at Tommi's S60 blog:
To me SMSs carry both emotional and informational content. I hated, hated, hated it when I lost my first SMS messages from Outi due to the fact that I was not able to backup the SMSs from my Nokia 3650 when I needed to empty the entire memory to run some work-related stuff on it. I've received (and sent) many emotion-packed text messages over the year. Some of them were worth storing; some of them were definitely not; and some of them... well, it probably would've have been better never to send them in the first place.
The nature of the text message is - as Steve points out - time specific. I would even characterize it as being mood-, situation-, location-, and context-specific, too. I guess the argument is that when those things cease to exist or be valid, the SMS loses its meaning, too. But you can reverse the argument as well - the SMS can be the thing that still ties you to that specific mood, situation, location or time. It can be a memory, as much as anything.
Then again, I store all my email, too.
How do you store your text messages? Do you write the most important down in a booklet (I know some people do)? Do you use folders (most Nokia phonse allow that these days)? Do you perhaps not care at all?
Maybe 2006 will be the year of business blogging in Finland - and I don't mean in advertising. There's a new portal called yritysblogit.fi, which at the moment seems pretty scarce. I am not quite sure what they're after - and certainly they're trying to leverage this "buy 100 pixels from us" meme - but the fact is that different kinds of aggregation/portal services will be in the future more and more necessary. We have great tools for authoring blogs, but frankly, many of the tools used for reading blogs are not as good as they could be. For example, blogilista.fi does not really support reading of blogs, and instead serves as a better bookmarking service that can tell you if something has happened.
However, portals are a fidgety thing. It's kinda like building a phone book: easy to collect initially, but a pain to maintain, and probably not a great business. Good business perhaps, but not great. I'm not expecting much from this one.
The bigger question is: when will the first professional blogging network in Finland start? By that I mean people who actually get paid to blog, and someone is then assuming editorial responsibility over the network - yes, a sort of an online magazine of blogs. Someone would take care of sales of advertisements, promotion and paying the bloggers, and the bloggers would write. I could immediately think of several bloggers whose blogs could be transferred under an blogging network umbrella...
Businesses blogging is good. But where's the business in blogging?
Ford spokeswoman Kathleen Vokes said in response to the boycott announcement, "Ford is proud of its tradition of treating all with respect and we remain focused on that we do best, building and selling innovative cars and trucks worldwide."
Australian government has ordered a takedown of a web site which contained a satirical spoof of the Aussie PM John 'liberties are bad, mmmkay?' Howard's speech.
Well... No. What you do is that you issue a Cease and Desist order to the guy who has that web site, and order him to take the offending material down, or to modify it so that it no longer infringes a copyright. You see, otherwise people will accuse you of being a spineless government puppet that advocates censorship on people who speak against the government. And it looks really, really, really bad FOR THE WHOLE COUNTRY.
It's a different thing to take down an illegal copy of the latest Britney Spears album, and a totally different thing to take down something which a) does not necessarily even infringe copyright (it may look the same, but it does not necessarily use the same code, and it certainly has completely different content), and b) contains criticism against the leaders of the country. Most importantly, you don't say "to us, it looks like a phishing site" when you have obviously no clue whatsoever what phishing is, and what a phishing site really does. Especially if you're the Chief Technical Officer of an internet company.
Since nothing important disappears in the internet, a PDF copy of the web site is of course available. Look for yourselves. It's not even offending: it's just a satirical apology speech that he thinks the PM should've issued when talking about Iraq and the war there. This way it surely gets more publicity than it would've otherwise.
(Oh yeah, a stunt like that might also look like serious copyright abuse, and really fuel the whole copyright debate again, raising questions like "now, is that really the way that copyright is supposed to be used" and "has copyright become an effective tool for shutting down competition and criticism"? But that would be quite far-fetched, now wouldn't it?)
Finnish Red Cross is low on blood. Go and give some, if you are eligible. This is smart.
The headline? Yeah, it just somehow came up in the casual conversation while the nurse was drawing my blood to check if it was still okay. You see, I have been having the worst flatulence evah for the past two days - you know, the kind which sounds like someone drove a car into a swamp, and it's slowly sinking and the driver is struggling to escape, but he can't get his safety belt unlocked; the kind which actually make the legs of your pants shuffle; the kind which make you really ponder about the fundamental difference of a liquid and a gas; the kind... Ugh. Anyhow. Well, it turns out some people light their farts for fun. That is stupid.
But I just had to use the headline for something.
For a moment, I thought that MPAA is storming theatres with armed and masked NATO forces, ordering air raids on pirates and sending ten-year old kids with iPods to Guantanamo.
Then I realized that NATO stands here for National Association of Theatre Owners... Too bad, the image was kinda powerful.
Do you know what a "straw man argument" is? It's when you carefully construct your opponent's arguments so that they have a hole - e.g. "well, this straw man here represents you. I can easily push you over with my hand, so therefore I can push over you with my hand, too." It's a pretty standard technique in heated arguments over empty pints of beer. But you should not use it in scientific debate.
Recently, Melanie Rieback et al published a paper detailing RFID viruses and worms, where they show that particular RFID system backends are vulnerable to SQL injection attacks, built an entire web site about it, and are - in a pretty alarmistic tone, I might add - shouting how RFID is dangerous, and RFID worms and viruses are just around the corner.
Unfortunately, if you read the paper through carefully, you see that they have constructer their own backend, which just happens to be vulnerable to SQL injection attacks. So, they carefully built a system which is vulnerable to these attacks, and wrote a big article about how RFID systems in general are vulnerable. It has no analysis of any of existing middleware products, nor does it attempt to analyze whether they are susceptible to this kind of a problem. It might well be that none of the existing products in the world are vulnerable to these attacks. This is bad, bad, bad science. All the article does is that it sets up a big straw man, and shoots it down; essential proving the existence of SQL injection attacks against any system that uses them. There are plenty of OSS products that have had the same bug; this is well known science, and has nothing to do with RFID systems.
The beginning of the article makes a bunch of good points on how the RFID world should pay more attention to security and how, once the RFID systems become more commonplace, you can no longer get away with thinking that nobody else is ever going to read and write your tags. Very good, and lots to think about to those who are building RFID middleware, especially chapter 7, which provides practical instructions on writing good middleware.
But... I wouldn't mind the paper so much if it wasn't touted as the Most Important Thing Since Pamela Anderson Got Fake Boobs. Come on - getting your own "rfidvirus.org" web site (with headlines like "How to write a RFID virus") for a single paper, which just says that any badly designed computer system has security holes? That's just alarmist and scaremongering, and riding on the general "RFID is evil" -wave.
(Disclaimer: I work for Nokia, which produces RFID products; and I also am involved with the NFC Forum work (so I claim some expertise on the matter), but everything I say is, of course, my personal views and not corporate opinions.)
(Link via Digitoday.)
Update: Some commentary from Ed Felten.
Update2: Slashdot commentators, for once, get it right. This is a backend issue, nothing to do with RFID.
Update3: BoingBoing has good commentary. "this is all a bunch of hooey"
Yes, we have small plastic bags everywhere. Boys, if you ever plan to get together with a woman doing beadcraft, prepare yourselves.
One of the things that computer programmers often ignore is the power of numbers. You see, often a computer programmer just needs to pick a number, any number, to mean something-or-the-other. For example, they could say that "9" means "rotate the disk to the left" and "8" would mean "rotate the disk to the right", and "0" for "stop the disk". The computer does not care what these numbers are; it just compares them to the instructions it was given, and then executes the instructions as it was programmed.
Sometimes programmers get creative, and think of meanings for the numbers, if they're read in a certain way. For example, the Java binary code uses the number "3405691582" so that Java programs know that the file is meant for them. Exciting? Well, if you convert this number to the so-called hexadecimal notation, i.e. base 16 instead of the usual base 10, it becomes "CAFEBABE" - a suitable name for something that derives its name from a kind of coffee.
These funny magic number references are everywhere. I can't count the number of times I've smuggled hexadecimal numbers like DEADBEEF, DECAFBAD, BADCAFE, B5 (for Babylon 5) to different programs. There are probably only a handful of people in the world who will ever see them, but at least they'll get a chuckle (or a groan). As I said, the numbers don't matter, so you might as make them interesting.
Sometimes magic numbers happen by accident, or people think they see them even when they aren't there. A good example is the story that the bar codes you see on products actually contain the number "666", i.e. the Devil's number. (Snopes, of course, has something to say as well.)
I've recently been involved in some standardization work, and during some high-caffeine moment I got a brilliant idea: companies should hire "summer kabbalists" to put some real meaning into the numbers. Think about it: ten years from now (ten internet years is the equivalent of thousand years in real life, yes?) a danbrownesque chase through RFCs and W3C Notes, countless hours of debugging of esoteric line protocols, billions of microcontrollers in the world using the same magical numbers that point to hidden treasures of unimaginable wealth and documents that would prove once and for all that Steve Jobs is the bastar brother of Bill Gates.
It would make standards work so much more interesting.
Hookay... Google does Mars, just like they do Earth. My dad bought a new laptop (his 166 MHz PII with Win98 was no longer very good at browsing the web, so I got him a new Apple iBook), so I sneaked Google Earth onto it when I had the machine for a few days to install things. He was quite impressed to see a satellite picture of his summer cottage, the Colosseum, the Big Ben...
Well, the Conan O'Brien special has finally aired in the US. It quite accurately points out the weirdosity inherent in Finnish TV talk shows. I wish we had some decent ones... The rest of it is actually quite standard "let's show this odd shit to tourists" -stuff. Which I guess is fine - it's probably better to be known as a nation of harmless idiots that like to run to frozen sea naked and don't see anything odd in having sausages after sauna, than a nation of high unemployment, record suicide rates and lonely people. Denial - it's not only a river in Egypt!
Anyhoo: Conan apparently tried to visit some Finnish apartments, but nobody was home. I can only imagine the frustration of those people next week, when the show officially airs here... Probably every single friend and relative will call them to let them know that Conan O'Brien was knocking on their door, but they weren't there. Salt, wounds, rubbing - what great fun for the whole family!
Drunken bloggin is fun. I think. Outi tells me that I am going to be very sorry in the joringn. It's okay. Dreunken coding is what reall makes me embrarrased. Not really bloging.l
Had a long discussion today / tonight about intersting things. Not a lot of information there. But maybe cool things happenigs soon. Sorry to be vague. ;-)
...because of the Night Elves, of course!
(No, my dearest, that is not the reason I play. Really.)
There is a something deeply satisfying in changing the status of a specification from "Draft" to "Final", and clicking on "Submit changes".
Blackberry settled with NTP for 600 Million USD. Blackberry has a subscriber base of about 600,000 people, so that makes one thousand USD per subscriber.
Think about it. If you have a great idea, you must be able to make over a thousand $ per user of profit in order to recoup potential IPR costs. This is not promoting innovation, it's squashing innovation.
The problem is that many companies that stand up and say that patents encourage innovation are companies which concentrate on gathering a massive patent portfolio, then licensing it to others. Not all of these companies even sell any products - for them, innovation, licensing and patents are one and the same thing. However, to them selling things and services to consumers is not innovation. It's a bother, though sometimes a necessity.
"Intellectual Property" (IPR) ignores consumers. IPR is an abstract thing, stuff that is written on papers and fought over in courts. Even bits are like concrete compared to the aetherness of IPR. No consumer ever bought intellectual property for the sake of it being intellectual property: they (we?) buy stuff because it gives us some concrete benefit, be it emotional, physical, spiritual, social or monetary.
But that's why consumers are called consumers. They consume, they don't create. And IPR is intertwined strongly with "creation". Is it then no wonder that normal, everyday people, who're stepping out of the obedient consumer role and creating and sharing things on their own, are hitting the rules of IPR designed for corporations. You only need to take a long look at a discussion board to see e.g. middle-aged housewives wondering about whether they have a permission to sell a piece of jewelry based on a design bought from a website in the US. This is a hairy subject even for experts, and certainly something that the average person should not need to wrestle with.
As they are, the rules of Intellectual Property are more of a burden than they are a benefit. They benefit only smart people who've managed to twist them into their benefit: creation is encouraged, but not sharing and dissemination. For example, copyright runs from the date of creation, not from date of publishing. (Though, I have to agree that it would be too difficult to start it from the date of publishing, as the concept of "publishing" is far more vague than the concept of "creation". Minority-language newspapers have many articles publishing things for the sake of publishing things for IPR purposes.)
The RIM case is nasty. If you switch viewpoints, you could well argue that "well, NTP had their IPR broken for years, and therefore they can ask as much money as they want from RIM." This would be the greedy way of thinking. Unfortunately, IPR is not a clearcut thing. If someone steals bread from you, and he is caught on CCTV, he's busted. End of story. However, by making bread in a certain way you might be infringing on someone else's IPR. And they will wait until you're making loads of money on it, and then they will move in, and demand as much money as you can possibly pay, and ruin you financially for a long time. Even if you pay loads of lawyers loads of money, you could still be infringing without knowing about it for years.
The crappy thing is that even if you invented this new way yourself, it's enough that someone else, somewhere in the world, figured out the same way a few days earlier, you might still be infringing. Again, there's no way to know about this.
I know I'm slamming patents and copyright together in a large mishmash here. Normal people usually never have to deal with patent infringements, except through secondary effects such as the RIM case, or drug prices, or Linux media players, but copyright is increasingly more present in our lives. They're overlapping at an alarming rate, too, with DMCA being used to stop competition.
I think the IPR legislation should be redesigned into something that really fosters innovation, creation, sharing and dissemination for the greater good. Not abolished, but redesigned. As it currently stands, it's as if to protect a dragon's lair: hoarding is good, sharing is bad. And you need to be really big to take advantage of it.
(Gng. Coherence is overrated.)
Busy. Personal inbox: 1766 emails. About a hundred of them need my personal attention. People are getting annoyed. JSPWiki needs bug fixes, so we can go beta. Watched Top Gun and Coctail in a desperate attempt to reset brain. Brain was reset. Think it's refusing to boot back up properly again. Lost some grammar. The thingy that goes between sentences. I think. Whatchamacallit. Anyway.
I have too many ideas to do. Too little time. Need to shop some new furniture tomorrow. Having pile of clothes by front door not good.
Need to think something more important to say.
Jesus singing 'I will survive'. I laughed, though I would assume many people won't. Especially some of the people who have been commenting on this video at Youtube... You can't miss them - they're the ones who write in all caps.
Private comments? Drop me an email. Or complain in a nearby pub - that'll help.
|"Main" last changed on 06-Mar-2012 10:13:04 EET by JanneJalkanen.|