Thursday, 31-Jan-08 20:24
Speed on!

There is something inherently beautiful in the Dopplr Raumzeitgeist. Funny to see Finland as one of the top-10 destination countries, but since this is mostly for business travellers, it is not exactly a big surprise, considering a particular former rubber boot factory.

Dopplr is a great little web application. I like the no-fuss design and the general simplicity (though the "Add new trip" -button could be in a more prominent location. I keep losing it.)

There is also a Dopplr Offsetr for those who wish to calculate how much CO2 you are chugging into the atmosphere. You know, offsetting your carbon isn't really that expensive, and it's pretty easy to do - just check how many miles you have and offset them all in one big lump every year. (I use Climatecare.org). Of course, it won't help in reducing the use of carbon-based fuels, but at least it's something.

Thursday, 31-Jan-08 00:09
War on!

I've destroyed the last couple of nights by engaging in playing Battle for Wesnoth, a free (as in "under GPL") role-playing game. While it's no World of Warcraft, it's still pretty awesome. If you get easily hooked on turn-based strategy games like Civilization or the infamous Nethack, you could spend many long hours with Wesnoth...

It's a wonderful little game, and it's all free. Available on Linux, Mac OSX and Windows. It's even available for the good, ol' Amiga and a lot of operating systems you might have never heard about).

It also serves as a great trip down the memory lane to those long nights that you spent playing games instead of studying for the exams at the university... Erm. Not that I ever did that. Really.

Stop laughing. I have to get this music out of my head.

Wednesday, 30-Jan-08 10:39
Ignite! Helsinki

I don't know much about this, but it sounds interesting.

http://ignite.oreilly.com/2008/01/first-ignite-event-in-helsinki.html

Saturday, 26-Jan-08 13:33
Lazy designers

Saw the following on http://www.kuvalehdet.fi/lahjalehti:

Kirjoita 8-numeroinen asiakasnumerosi ilman kirjaintunnusta. Jos asiakasnumerossasi on yhdeksän merkkiä, jätä ensimmäinen nolla pois. Jos asiakasnumerosi on lyhyempi kuin 8-numeroa., lisää tarvittava määrä nollia numeron eteen.

Roughly translated as: "Type in your 8-digit customer code. If your customer code has nine digits, leave the first zero out. If it has less than 8 digits, add a suitable number of zeros in front of it."

Excuse me? Writing a piece of code which does that automatically - even in Javascript, in the browser - is the kind of an exercise you give to a first-year programming student right after the first "Hello World" -program.

Why burden the user with the complexities and rules of the underlying database?

Saturday, 26-Jan-08 00:19
Takeshi's Castle

I've been watching Takeshi's Castle on JIM (in Finnish: "Hullut japanilaiset", a really dumb and somewhat derogatory translation, if you ask me. "Crazy Japanese people". Sheesh.)

It's just... insane ...ly fun to watch.

While some of the challenges make you cringe with pain, some of them are a laughing riot - like the game where people dress up like giant hands and fall flat on their faces in a desperate attempt to find the right answer to a mathematical task.

Still, makes you wonder how many people get seriously injured in the shootings.

Monday, 21-Jan-08 09:04
Message from God

"Bob, what do you mean 'someone copyrighted Mercury'?"

"Look for yourself! http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/messenger/multimedia/phone_crater.html"

"Oh crap. So now the whole NASA is a pirate organization... I wonder if Pirate Bay would agree to co-host us?"

Monday, 21-Jan-08 00:05
EU pushing forward for ISPs filtering traffic?

Hum... I'm rather worried right now. It appears that the European Commission is leaning towards EU-wide data traffic monitoring. euparl.blogspot.com writes:

To recap, the Commission saw great merit in an anti-piracy system where Internet Service Providers ("ISPs") would voluntarily agree to monitor their users and report the infringers to the industry reps or to the authorities, as well as possibly cut off their internet connection. From what we have heard from our sources at the Commission, a lot of the feedback they have currently received has been very supportive of the idea of filtering and monitoring.

This is not at all good. Since it is impossible to stop copyright infringement except by very deeply invading the privacy of personal communication (just imagine what would happen if people would start sending MP3s to each other via email - no wait, people are doing that already), legislation like that means that we will very quickly have a monitoring system in our hands which surpasses pretty much everything ever seen. The numbers about piracy are already totally made up, so they can also make up numbers that show that it is essential that they get to read your email. And don't forget, since some people might be sending child porn over email, everybody's email must be read.

The child porn monitoring system in Finland is already voluntary, and it's already listing sites which don't have much to do with child porn. It has also been already suggested that "since the system is already in place, it could be used to weed out internet gambling. And yeah, terrorist websites."

Slippery slope, anyone?

Saturday, 19-Jan-08 14:42
Broken windows applied to software

I was reading Malcolm Gladwell's Tipping Point (I know, as a resident geek I should've read it a long time ago), and he was explaining the theory of broken windows, which Wikipedia defines as:

"Consider a building with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it's unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside."

There has been a lot of criticism towards this idea, and it's not been conclusively proven. But it is intriguing - because what it does is that it suggests that it's not always best to solve the biggest problem first. So I started to think about software and bugs.

In a complex project, you always get bugs. You get simple errors (like typos in the user interface), and large and complicated errors (like concurrency issues). Sometimes they are trivial (do not affect the program execution or purpose in any way); and sometimes they are critical (they make the software useless for the intended purpose).

In your average corporate project, you typically fix bugs by starting from showstoppers and you go down in criticality. This often means that you are left with a number of simple and trivial bugs, that you just don't have time to fix before shipping. Since these simple bugs tend to be also the most common, your error counts don't necessarily even go down, but increase slowly over time.

With open source projects, people often like to "get the low hanging fruits", that is, fix the simple issues. It makes them feel useful, and it gives them bits of fame. For JSPWiki, we get a lot of fixes for the really simple things from the same people who found the issue in the first place - they're not complicated patches, but they scratch their particular itch.

So, I'm wondering, could it be that even in software, the fact that the software has lots of bugs, breeds more bugs? If the codebase is already buggy, developers become more relaxed about maintaining quality, and think they can get away with something that just sorta works. And, if the project management adopted a zero-tolerance policy towards ANY kind of bugs, it might actually increase incoming code quality. This means that instead of allocating people to work on the top-level issues, everybody would be encouraged to squash the simple bugs first to keep the total error counts as low as possible, because in the time it takes you fix a really complicated thing, you can fix ten small ones. It would make people care more about quality, and hopefully, over time, make the project better. Some of this thinking is visible in Test Driven Development, as well as most of the other Agile methods, but I don't know if someone has really done any studies on this.

Apparently there's a book called The Pragmatic Programmer which touches the same subjects. Anybody know if this is any good?

Saturday, 19-Jan-08 11:49
"I'm feeling lucky"

This hilarious video has all Web 2.0 services in a party when Google's parents leave town... I was pretty much LMAO the way through. Thanks to Outi :)

Wednesday, 16-Jan-08 23:24
Library of Congress to tackle crowdsourcing

This is an awesome idea:

Out of some 14 million prints, photographs and other visual materials at the Library of Congress, more than 3,000 photos from two of our most popular collections are being made available on our new Flickr page, to include only images for which no copyright restrictions are known to exist.

The real magic comes when the power of the Flickr community takes over. We want people to tag, comment and make notes on the images, just like any other Flickr photo, which will benefit not only the community but also the collections themselves.

(Via BB.)

Friday, 11-Jan-08 11:17
Today's quote

A co-worker, when talking about wikis and access control: "You don't lock the Moomin House for the night."

Wednesday, 09-Jan-08 18:35
"I am right and the entire industry is wrong"

Daily WTF sometimes manages to dig up the most absurd cases from the madhouse which is the IT world. This example had me laughing out loud:

Therefore, the solution to this specific technical problem, and every technical problem that you will have in the future with multimedia, is framing.

...

In short, the entire industry is wrong on the framing issue and Gary is right. This happens a lot to me. Framing solves this problem and every other multi-page, multi-page source, and multi-media WWW development job. That is why frames are your friend.

(Daily WTF: I am right and the entire industry is wrong. Warning: strong geeky content. Requires basic HTML skills and having lived in the 21st century.)

Tuesday, 08-Jan-08 22:07
Finnish Internet Censorship goes on

It is not mandated by law. Nobody needs to censorship anything. It's just something that the government and the police inofficially decided to do, and the ISPs have joined in - because no ISP wants to be known as the "kiddie porn ISP". There was just a brief discussion on whether it is legal for an ISP to block pages, but that was quickly circumvented by making a law which says it's okay to block kiddie porn (but nothing else).

But it's not just kiddie porn. All of the top-3 google hits for gay porn are also blocked (your google results may vary - some people have apparently found up to three pages worth of hits being blocked). It's probably an accident, but how do you know? Maybe there's someone who thinks homosexuality is evil in the force? Probably not, but it cannot be discounted. Many of the pages blocked allegedly contain only regular porn. (Don't know, I'm not that much into research.)

You see, the blocklist content is extremely super-secret, and its contents cannot be revealed. There is no way to know how exactly this list is compiled, who compiles it, and how you get off it. The thing is, it's pretty easy to build a bot, which automatically scans porn sites and finds out which pages are blocked. Which is exactly what Matti Nikki did, and published the list (785 domains and counting). I ran a quick check of the sites on the list against my spam folder, but couldn't find matches. The question is, if I did, would having those links (or maybe pics) on my hard drive be a crime? Technically, it would be possession. In practice, however, I never do check the contents of my spambox, I just skim it in case of false positives every few weeks, then delete the contents. But in the meanwhile, it could be filled with all kinds of crap. You could probably even make a Denial-of-Service attack on a person by spamming them with kiddie porn emails, then ratting on them.

The fun thing is that the only thing this is probably going to do is to create noise. The child pornography industry will not be touched by this (since there are trivial ways to go around this block). The people who browse for kiddie porn won't be caught. More and more pages will be added - on taxpayer money - and the porn sites keep changing faster. Hey, think about this: if the DNS blocks used by the police blocklist really worked, we would never see spam.

But it is really difficult to talk about this. Any word against this blocking will be read as waving the flag for child molestation. "Why are you so interested in this - are we bothering your hobbies?" they may ask. But that's how it starts. The copyright industry has already suggested that the blocklists should be used to block sites which contain illegally distributed material. Sounds fair, doesn't it? It's illegal, so what's the harm? Then come questions about borderline cases - and it's always easier to be quiet. Soon, you realize you can't access this blog, because I used to have the word "masturbation" in my tagline - it's already happened.

Things change. Moral codes are different - many people across the globe would consider normal Finnish sauna pictures child pornography. You take pics of your kids bathing, store them on your laptop, and go to jail if someone decides to go through your laptop at the border crossing.

These things need to be discussed out in the open. My hat's off to Matti Nikki for taking this as public as he has. We can't just cower below our tables and trust that the police protects us from the evil internets. They can't. Nobody can.

Tuesday, 08-Jan-08 19:31
Continuous Mobile Attention

You might already know about Continuous Partial Attention, coined by Nat Torkington ten years ago. That's how we deal with life - we try to dip into multiple streams of information at once: watch tv and eat; read emails while listening to a presentation; doodle while on the phone. Some people have made it a real art, to the point that you wonder if they're never wholly anywhere.

These days you see people wandering on the streets, talking to ethereal voices (which would've been the sign of a loony only ten measly years ago), or texting away furiously. Online, many people have a chat window or IRC open, so that they can always be reached, and they are always partly present in the online community. A colleague of mine used to keep Skype open all the time when he was at home, because his wife and kids were living in a foreign country. So he was constantly present at their life. It's free, so why call them when he wanted to talk - he could just holler.

You might see where I'm going here.

Soon, people will have flat-rate data plans. Not just the iPhone users, but everyone. Maybe this will even start with the iPhone crowd, dunno. But then someone will install Skype on it. Or something like TeamTalk. And suddenly, with the ability to be continuously (and for free) half-present among your friends, family, or some other peer group, we'll see a lot more people wandering on the streets, never really quite there, listening and talking to voices in their heads.

All you really need is a Bluetooth headset, a multi-user Skype (or Gizmo) and a free 3G data plan, and you can be present in multiple locations at the same time. Be (partly) with your family, no matter where you are. Shift attention to whatever needs it. No switching, no choosing, no dialing. Just presence. And probably, a horribly mangled death under a bus.

(Yeah, and you can extend this to video as well, but that's going to need a bit more hardware innovation. That doesn't some people from trying, though.)

Saturday, 05-Jan-08 12:19
DRM is dead?

Not quite. But if someone tells you that DRM is necessary for online music stores, you can now point out to them that the last bastion of DRM, Sony BMG, has now decided to sell DRM-free music. Nobody is of course very surprised by this - the problems associated with DRM make it difficult for even computer-savvy people to cope with.

However, the DRM-free music is available through Amazon, and they sell it only to the US. Thanks to the system where you have to license music separately for each country, the rest of the world is pretty much still screwed.

It is an interesting question how much of the Apple's DRM strategy was actually behind this: the only way to sell music to iPods (which are the most common form of MP3 players out there) is to either sell music via iTunes (because the iPod DRM is proprietary to Apple), or to sell it DRM-free. This means that if some other form of media players gains dominance (say, cell phones), DRM might just make a comeback. EU has been asking for an open DRM standard for years now, and Microsoft is pretty liberal about their licensing of the Windows Media DRM.

On the other hand, once you start selling unencumbered music to consumers, it may be rather difficult to start selling them DRM-encumbered music later on again...

Saturday, 05-Jan-08 00:15
Unfortunate product placements

Sometimes, you should really think which program you sponsor.

It's funnier if you're a Finn, tho'.

(Thanks to medice on IRC.)

Thursday, 03-Jan-08 19:19
Station identification

I'm stealing this meme shamelessly from Charlie. Sometimes it really is good to stop for a station identification.

The Butt Ugly Weblog

Hi ho folks! This is the personal weblog of Janne Jalkanen. By day, I am a Program Manager at Nokia, and I work in the Near Field Communications (NFC) area. I do sometimes write about NFC in this blog, so you should know that my viewpoint is tainted by what I do and know about the matter. Don't expect any confidential or super-ziikrit stuff here, though - I've been around the block enough. Besides, many of my colleagues are also reading this, and would probably - no, hopefully - notify me if I screw up. Please do not send me any ideas about what Nokia should or should not do - this is my personal blog after all.

By night, I am an open source programmer, leading the JSPWiki effort. The project is one of the oldest wiki engines around (about 7 years now), and existed well before the Wikipedia hype curve. It's got about 130,000 lines of code, and a core developer team of around three-to-five people. We've been currently adopted into the Apache Incubation process, and hopefully can graduate during sometime this year. I also have some other things brewing up, and maybe you will hear about them later on. Even this blog runs on JSPWiki (but as you can see, I am no graphic designer).

At home, I live with a wonderful wife, and five mice. Of which you won't see much in this blog, though. I did propose to my wife on my blog, though. Which was interesting - especially since we ended up as front page news in the Finnish IT press for one morning.

As a geek, I write a lot to this blog about computers, and life in the digital void. Or, maybe not so much about computers - I'm not that interested in them as things - but really about how they are changing what we are and can do. I do often rant about copyright and DRM, but I am fairly midstream and try to be realistic. However, you can expect rants on quite a few different subjects on this blog, or if I'm really busy/tired, then just links to interesting articles. I do also use this as an external memory for my brain.

If you see articles written in Finnish, they are typically just commentary on the Finnish blogosphere, or some other deeply Finnish thing, where it's more important to reach a different kind of audience than what normally hangs here. I don't write often enough to warrant a real Finnish -language blog, and, well, frankly, a lot about this blog is also about online presence management and personal brand. I know it sounds really bad, but... there you go. I've said it. I can't claim that this is a very well -managed brand, but at least it's something. Maybe it will get me a great job one day, maybe it won't. At least it got me married, so it can't be that bad. (And by the way, when I was trying online dating, pointing them to this page was a really great way to check if our sense of humour matched. You wouldn't believe how weirded out some people get over it.)

Obviously, nothing I say here should be constituted as the official opinion of Nokia on anything - all opinions expressed here are mine and mine only. Any comments on the entries to this blog belong to their writers, in both good and bad (that is, if you write something stupid, you are responsible for your words). I do not edit nor moderate comments, except to correct obvious wikimarkup typos; or to remove spam. This is an extension of my living room, and over these few years I've been blocking, I'm glad to say I haven't had to throw anyone out yet (I've had to ask people to leave though, once or twice). You, my dear readers, are a smart and friendly bunch. Thank you.

Well, this is me (or a part of me anyway), and you're reading the Butt Ugly Weblog. It's off to 2008!

By the way, I changed by TagLine just today, and I hope to remember to update it more often than once a year. If you can figure out what it means, please let me know. I invented it very early Wednesday morning listening to a pipe or something go "ping" every Random(2,5) seconds.

(Note to self: isn't it kinda loser-ish or worrying to put your "work self" as the first, most definining thing about yourself? Or am I just being overly analytical?)

Thursday, 03-Jan-08 14:23
DRM is about sales, not piracy

Here's an interesting problem: A person buys a new monitor, with the end result that Microsoft wants full access to all of his files on his computer, and Netflix wants to delete all media files bought from competitors, e.g. Amazon.

Well, technically they're not deleting the files, but they're revoking access rights. But to most consumers, the end result is the same: it won't play.

And why? Because of DRM - Digital Restrictions Management. You could circument it by buying a separate "DRM-approved" -monitor (and, I'm sure, a part of the money goes into the coffins of the media industry).

Cases like these show well that DRM is not, and really never has been about fighting piracy or preventing copying. It's just a ruse to force you to buy things that are "approved" or "officially licensed", and to make sure you keep buying the same stuff all over again.

Why? Because it's cheaper to sell you the same record several times over, than it is to create new content. There's an overhead in creating new content (remember, the artists need to be paid, and not all of them succeed), so it's more economical to take the same content you already have and re-sell it all over again. Witness the gazillion different Collectors Editions and Director's Cuts out there on the DVD market...

Funnily enough, the unprotected (e.g. pirated) files on the hard drive of course have no such problems. They cannot be revoked or resold to you - you essentially own them and it's up to you to take care of them. It's really difficult to comprehend why you would use anything which has DRM on it, if you plan to keep it. If you just watch/listen it and throw it away, then it does not really matter. A lot of media is like that. But a lot of it isn't. I couldn't really give a hoot whether my last.fm stream is encrypted or not (it isn't), but the stuff I buy - well, I think it's only fair that I don't have to go and beg for permission to listen to it if I buy new loudspeakers.

(And, before I have my comment section filled with people who say that I just want everything for free, let me point out that I'm entirely happy to pay for the things I like. I just find it evil that when you buy something, you are treated as a potential criminal, for example, get threatened every time you start watching a DVD. Also, since DRM is not proven to be effective in curbing piracy, only creates problems for the consumer [imagine, if you had to talk your grandparents through the situation described in the article], and is mostly used just to achieve after-sales consumer control, I find it rather offensive.)

(Via BB)


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