Friday, 27-Mar-09 11:17
Creepy Computers

The new Battlestar Galactica discusses the relationship of man and machine at length, and towards the end, it gets rather pointy with it as well. But this exchange from the recent Loebner Price Competition, where computers and people are pitted against a panel of judges trying to determine which contestants are which, is quite jarring:

Round 7

Judge: What do u think of Kevin Warwick's enthusiasm for having machines take over the world?

Elbot: Fix it up a bit first. Then I'll take it over.

Don't know about you, but even with knowing that this was a programmed response from an AI researcher, it still sends chills down my spine.

(From Slashdot.)

Thursday, 26-Mar-09 10:30
Questionnaires 101

Dear unnamed researchers: I'm fine with filling your questionnaire. I like to give my opinion (who doesn't?). But you should pay a bit attention to scalability: Putting in 33 questions on 11 different products means 363 boxes to tick. If you actually need me to think and put in a number from 0-6, the time that I need to use to respond to the questions just explodes: at five seconds of thinking time for each question, I need to spend over half an hour to go through the entire list. Even if I know and use only half of the products, it's still about 15 minutes.

And that is fine too, but don't come telling me that "it's only going to take a couple of minutes."

US Government official forms have this "filling this form should take no more than XX minutes" in the bottom. If you make a form, try to figure out how long it actually takes for someone to respond to.

Saturday, 21-Mar-09 00:06
Sporgies for Dummies

Here's fun hobby for a Friday night at home.

Sporgies are short for "Spotify Orgies". Yeah, I know they have some different meanings but the name is cool enough still. The idea is that on Facebook or IRC or wherever you like to meet virtually, someone calls up a subject (say "swedish music") and everybody starts contributing to a playlist. You drink beer, dig up songs from Spotify, and send links to each other. Whoever called together the game, collects the playlist and shares it with everybody else.

The end result is usually rather hilarious, and you get to keep the playlist.

(Kudos to Kari Haakana for coining the term and probably the game too!)

Wednesday, 11-Mar-09 18:55
WTF is going on in Italy?

First, we read from the newspapers that despite crime rates actually going down, the parliament saw it to be necessary to allow citizen militia to patrol the streets (Finnish, $) - with no training or oversight.

Then, they propose a legislation which can get your blog or web site (including sites like Youtube and Facebook) censored if you disagree with any current legislation (of course, without any oversight again).

Then they sue Google executives for content on YouTube.

And now someone in the parliament is demanding to ban anonymity completely on the internet?

I don't claim to understand any of Italian politics, but this all sounds rather scary to me. May be that all this is just an effort to ride on cheap media tricks, but on the other hand... Major Italian TV channels are mostly endless game and variety shows. It's as if someone wanted to keep the people as stupid as possible.

Monday, 09-Mar-09 23:17
Great experiences

Can't remember who, but someone told me that "after six weeks, get a babysitter and go out". Excellent advice and we ended up splurging at Kappeli, where the menu and service turned a wonderful evening to a perfect one.

It's easy to badmouth a bad restaurant or service or product, but it's more rare to remember to say good things about positive experiences. So thank you for the nice waitress who gave us a nice, romantic table by the window; the cook who prepared a perfect meal; and especially Outi's parents who practically threw us out of the apartment.

Wednesday, 25-Feb-09 11:14
Lex Nokiasta vielä

Noniin, tulihan se sieltä. Jukka Kemppinen bongasi iltauutisista, että Lex Nokian tarkoituksena on estää muun muassa "tekijänoikeussuojatun materiaalin kopiointi."

Mertenhän tätä jo aiemmin spekuloi (mutta en löydä linkkiä kirjoitukseen). Eihän nyt voi olla sattumaa se, että poliisilla ei ole oikeutta teleliikenteen valvontaan tekijänoikeusrikoksissa, mutta Lex Nokian myötä kaikille yhteisötilaajille sellainen tulee. Ja jos nyt joku tulee ja sanoo vaikkapa teekkarikylän verkkoylläpidolle, että teillä saatetaan harrastaa laitonta kopiointia, niin eikö se ole juuri sellainen tilanne, jossa ylläpito saa alkaa valvoa mitä verkossa liikkuu?

13 d§:

"Yhteisötilaaja saa käsitellä tunnistamistietoja manuaalisesti, jos on perusteltu syy epäillä, että viestintäverkkoa, viestintäpalvelua tai maksullista tietoyhteiskunnan palvelua käytetään 13 b §:n 3 momentissa tarkoitettujen ohjeiden vastaisesti tai että yrityssalaisuus on luvattomasti annettu ulkopuoliselle ja jos:"

13b §:n 3 momentti:

"2) määriteltävä, minkälaisia viestejä sen viestintäverkon kautta saa välittää ja hakea, sekä miten sen viestintäverkkoa ja viestintäpalvelua saa muutoin käyttää ja minkälaisiin kohdeosoitteisiin viestintää ei saa harjoittaa."

Tuohan siis käytännössä tarkoittaa siis sitä, että käyttösääntöjen rikkominen antaa luvan seurata toimintaa. Luen tuon niin, että vaikkapa nettisensuurin (siis ei edes lapsipornosuotimien, vaan esim. Facebookissa käyminen työajalla, jos se on yritetty estää jotenkin) kiertäminen on riittävä syy sille, että nettiliikennettäsi aletaan seurata. Tosin vain silloin, että siitä voidaan osoittaa olevan merkittävää haittaa - mutta esimerkiksi torrentien hakeminen teekkarikylän verkossa (joka vienee merkittävän osan kaistasta) voisi sellainen olla. Pääasia kuitenkin on, että "merkittävä haitta" on yhteisötilaajan itsensä määrittelemä, ja jos esim. TKVK:n lakimiesten soittoihin vastaaminen vie merkittävän ajan ylläpidon elämästä, niin ehkä sekin voisi olla merkittävä haitta.

Ja siis toiminnanhan ei tarvitse olla todistettavasti laitonta. Jos joku jakaa merkittävän määrän tauhkaa koneeltaan, oli se miten kryptattua tahansa, se voi riittää siihen, että joku masiina jossain piippaa, ylläpito tutkii tunnistetiedot, ilmoittaa eteenpäin ja koneet takavarikoidaan tutkinnan ajaksi. Saa ne sitten muutaman kuukauden kuluttua takaisin, jos syytettä ei nosteta, mutta ei se paljoa lohduta.

Mutta tämähän on vain vainoharhaisuutta. Eihän kukaan koskaan näin oikeasti väärinkäyttäisi yrityssalaisuuksien suojaamiseksi tehtyä lakia. Eihän?

Luonnollisesti Suvi Linden väittää, että tämä koskee vain yrityssalaisuuksiin käsiksi pääseviä työntekijöitä, mutta tuossa 13d §:ssa on tuo maaginen tai, eikä ja. Ongelmahan on nyt siinä, että tässä laissa on koplattu yhteen sekä yrityssalaisuuksia valvova laki (joka siis on sinällään melkein bueno) että yhteisötilaajien oikeus käsitellä tunnistetietoja teknisten ongelmien ratkomiseksi, jolloin molemmat lait valuvat toistensa vaikutusalueille ja aikaansaavat hämäriä sivuvaikutuksia, joista osa kuulostaa Anssi Kotilaisen märältä päiväunelta.

Friday, 06-Feb-09 11:33
Finland's largest go tournament ever to take place tomorrow

The Takapotku-tournament, which has established itself as one of the major go tournaments in Finland in just a few measly years, is again starting tomorrow (7.2.) morning in the Hima&Sali-restaurant of the old Cable Factory in Ruoholahti, Helsinki. Currently, there are 110 registered participants, which makes this the biggest such event ever in the history of Finnish go (and a fairly large event considering any single game played in Finland). There are extremely strong players joining from Russia, UK and Sweden as well as the Finnish all-stars of go, feared throughout the continent due to their skills.

If you're interested in the game, this is a great opportunity to come and see the thrill of a top-notch competition personally. It doesn't get much better than this - until next year, when Tampere as the first city in Finland hosts the European Go Congress for 700+ players all over Europe and the world. Any go player will be happy to teach you the rules - just make sure you don't bother the people still playing!

(Disclaimer: I organized the first Takapotku tournament, back in 2003. It was already back then the largest tournament ever held in Finland, and it just keeps growing, thanks to the tender care of the new organizers.)

Monday, 02-Feb-09 13:42
Lex Nokia videos

You know, I was worried that these ads would be cheesy, but they're actually pretty darned good. I haven't written about Lex Nokia too much, mostly because of my preoccupation with The Kid and because everyone else has already said pretty well what's wrong with it (and anonymous cowards can go ahead and claim it's really because Nokia is my employer, 'cos that's what anonymous cowards do).

Anyway, if the corporations (and schools, and kindergartens, and libraries) get more freedoms than the police to spy on their users, it's only logical that in the near future, the police will get similar rights. Probably using child pornography as a smokescreen, since it works well against everything. In fact, it should be a law: "Any civil liberty can be squashed using child pornography as an argument." (Just like Godwin's law says that any discussion is moot after someone mentions Hitler). And, not soon after that, also right to inspect the content of the packets is given, so that pesky people who send MP3s over email can be prosecuted as well. You see, I don't think it's enough to prosecute anyone based on the headers only - you will need to read the contents as well in order to get the evidence. Currently, you do need a court order. However, it would be a lot more convenient and cheaper to give the right to read the contents as well - after all, it's only a minor technical change after the right to read the headers is given...

It is a slippery slope, and when you consider these as separate, isolated laws and reasonings, each single step kinda makes sense. But as a whole, in the end, it means that every internet user in this country will be monitored "just in case" they do anything bad. And that's not a big step away from the good ol' communist countries. I know this sounds kinda alarmist, but it has happened before, and it will happen again. Just ask any Chinese dissident, or anyone old enough to remember DDR. The fun thing is that some people will welcome the change, because they think it's just a way to get rid of bad people, and they themselves are not bad.

Anyway, here are the videos, in which you seen politicians wipe their arse with the Finnish Constitution. Very much to the point.

(Hitler. Ha, said it first! You can't argue anymore!)

Wednesday, 28-Jan-09 22:46
Doctor Who continues

I've been trying to keep up with the old Dr Who episodes being shown on MTV3 Scifi (which is probably the only TV channel I really watch these days - sad or what?). I have to admit that I sort of understand why the show went downhill during Colin Baker's tenure (Doctor #6) - not because Mr. Baker's acting (he's rather convincing as a Doctor, though unstable), but because of the overall change of making the show a bit more action-oriented, and, well, look very 80s (didn't work for Galactica 1980 either). I really liked the calm scientist approach of Jon Pertwee (who probably is my favourite Doctor to date), and to some extent the eccentricity (and the scarf) of Tom Baker, who had some pretty entertaining stories. Peter Davison didn't really sit well with me - he just didn't have the "older than thou, by 900 years" -feeling which all other Doctors do exude.

But anyhow, Doctor Who is THE classic SciFi-series, and for good reason. And at least they tried to make aliens look like aliens, unlike certain franchises which just put actors in prosthetic forehead bumps...

It's also fun to see how computing technology has changed - during Pertwees time, computers were large rooms with blinkenlichts, then during 80s you clearly see common household computers generating computer displays for TARDIS and other computers. Perhaps that's why the newer ones feel a bit childish - I was a child when computers looked like that.

Oh yeah, and the theme music simply rocks, for all versions.

(By the way; MTV3 SciFi just restarted Star Trek: Deep Space Nine from Season 1, Episode 1 a couple of days ago. So if you want to see it, grab a subscription now. It's 3€/month in Welho, though you do need a package subscription, which will drive the price up. But if you've already got one, then this is a cheap add-on. IMHO it's completely worth the money.)

Thursday, 22-Jan-09 12:30
Family = Family + 1

If you follow my Twitter, Facebook or Flickr feeds, this is already old news, but what the hey - this is where it all began, so it's only fair to talk a bit more about this here as well.

Outi gave birth (without any fancy-pants anesthesia, local or otherwise. It just all happened too fast :-) ) a healthy baby boy (3650g, 49 cm - since everyone will ask it anyway) at 17:16 EET on the 20th of January at the Jorvi hospital, just moments before Obama's inauguration speech. Considering all the trouble we had, everything went extremely well.

I'm very thankful of all the good wishes that people have sent our way. It's almost addictive to hear it all, but I know that it will soon subside, and routine will set in.

We were lucky to get a family room at the hospital, so I've been able to stay with Outi and the boy overnight. Which is nice. I think it really helps, since the unfamiliar routines can be learned together and at least personally it is important to me that I don't feel left out of the experience. Besides, these are my first nights in the hospital since my own birth, so that's another kind of new experience. I've so far discovered that the beds are not very comfy: I've slept on more comfortable roots. And for those who are wondering, yeah, lack of sleep has not yet been an issue. I'm re-discovering the part of myself which in the army learned to sleep essentially in any conditions...

Communication is still complicated with essentially only one bit of communication (cry/no-cry), but we (all three) are learning, and hope to achieve wider bandwidth soon. The only thing that kinda worries me is that we may have overdosed on Deep Space Nine during pregnancy - we are pretty convinced that when he burps, he says "pah-wraith"...

Thursday, 08-Jan-09 21:52
Still standing

A year ago I decided to become semi-vegetarian, and by that I mean actively choosing non-meat/fish option if it's available. So I guess this is the appropriate time to review how that has affected my life.

In short, not much.

I lost some weight during last spring, but I gained it all back during Outi's pregnancy (oddly enough, I probably gained more than she did). My health is not better nor worse, and life is pretty much the same. More stress, but that's probably not the fault of the diet. Since the wife insists on eating meat every day, my vegetarianism is pretty much restricted to office and restaurants, but it's still about half the meals.

I guess the biggest concrete change is the fact that the queues to the vegetarian dishes are much shorter at the office cafeteria, so I don't have to hang around with my tray so much. And the fact that I've discovered a number of very good dishes I wouldn't have otherwise sampled. And yeah, my tolerance for badly cooked meat has gone down. Meat is still great, but since an average industrially made vegetarian meal is just as bad as an average industrially made non-vegetarian one, it's pretty much the same difference which one you pick. It's kinda like whisky or beer - if you don't consume much, it's nice to sample different kinds, experience new tastes and be a bit snobby about not drinking Budweiser.

The point being: it probably won't make a difference in your day, unless you get all ass-tight about it (or you live in a place where a vegetarian meal is the same as the regular but without the meat). But it does lower your overall impact to the world, so it's probably - aside from changing the lightbulbs - one of the easiest ways to do something. Just stand in the other queue, cometh lunchtime.

(Though not, please, in our office. I very much like the short queues. ;-)

Saturday, 03-Jan-09 17:23
Hooray for WMV, the media "standard"

Got a Windows Media file. All of my Mac players (VLC, Quicktime, Niceplayer, WMV player) failed: all the sound was crackly and video broke down heavily.

No matter, let's go to the source, I thunk. Next, I tried Windows and Windows Media Player running under Parallels, figuring that that should at least work. Picture is fine, sound is missing. Apparently there was some strange audio codec fault and I was dismayed, not really in the mood to debug a system which otherwise was running fine.

The only media player that worked was finally VLC on Ubuntu (under Parallels, again) after installing a bunch of restricted codecs - but that was only a single command (yay apt). The only problem is that it also crashes every ten minutes, but that I can live with. At least I got sound...

Come on, Windows Media has been around for years, and it's still possible to get files which sometimes work and sometimes not? Folks, just use MP4, since it tends to play everywhere - or if you're strongly opposed to software patents and that jazz, Vorbis/Theora is a good choice, because it's easily portable and does not require licensing. And VLC plays that fine, too.

On the other hand, I was kinda happy to see that Linux seems to enjoy better multimedia player support than Mac these days, even under emulation.

Monday, 29-Dec-08 14:01
Spotify <3

A friend sent me an invite to Spotify, which is essentially a service where you can listen to any music you want. You can't download it, but as long as you are connected, you can listen to whatever they have in store - and they've got a LOT of stuff. You get to create your own playlists, and share them with others.

To me, Spotify is exactly how the music experience on the internet should work. For a long time, one of the arguments why piracy is so rampant is that the user experience of the legal download places is so crappy. Even when the user experience is tolerable (like on iTunes), the stuff that you get sold is mostly encumbered with DRM, which is just another fancy way of saying that you don't actually buy anything, you license a right to listen to the music for some time, but you pay for it per song. But they still make it look like you had actually bought something like a CD, which you can e.g. legally sell onwards.

Spotify sells you a monthly subscription for all the music they have. So the question of who owns the bits is moot, and so is the question of DRM too. Spotify makes music like water in an apartment block - you buy a subscription, and you get it from the tap. You drink it, you bathe in it, but in general, you don't hoard it.

Spotify is the first service that really gives you a better experience than Pirate Bay. You can, of course, still go apeshit about their player interface and how much better Amarok is, and that they don't support Linux, but for the most part, Spotify is really a trouble-free way of listening to music. It's not perfect, but I think it's the first one to light the way.

And now that they've enabled scrobbling to last.fm, it's even so much better :-) (Via Arctic Startup). I wouldn't still call my iTunes obsolete (since someone needs to sync my podcasts to my iPod, and Apple is really trying to make sure only they can do that - gagh, that's a good reason to start weaning myself from Apple stuff. My next media player is very unlikely to be an iPod, for that reason.)

Sunday, 28-Dec-08 20:15
What constantly surprises me...

...is the highly efficient pipeline that you get thrust into the moment the blue bars appear in the pregnancy test. Of course luck plays some part in the whole thing (you might get a nurse with whom your chemistries just don't match), but simply put - the level of the healthcare in this country is quite amazing. The reason why I am amazed about this is that I've never ever have had to check into a hospital as a patient - only a few visits to the company nurse or dentist are the only ones I've ever really needed. So I haven't really had the slightest clue as to where all my taxes are going.

Since May, we've been working our way in this tube, and the end is nigh (starting wk 35 today, and the probabilities are that this one is early rather than late). Even though there have been complications on the way in, they have been dealt with extreme professionalism and care. We've received all sorts of training, and while it certainly is one of these "you get out of it what you put in" -situations, we've felt that it has been worth the time. Everybody has also been really great towards us (except the people who constantly remind me that I'm not going to get any sleep soon. Oh please - and I say this in all friendship - it was fun the first three times. Now please shut up and tell me something that is actually useful. ;-)

And the motherhood package - essentially a box full of goodies - has a tendency to turn people not living in Finland green with envy. Purchasing power of the government FTW!

But I guess it makes sense to optimize the society for efficient reproduction of people. When only few children are born, it makes sense all around to make sure that they grow up well, and that the strain of parenthood is not too big. It's like designing a software process - make sure the components are developed in a healthy environment with proper tools by knowledgeable people, and it's all gonna be all right in the end ;-)

At any rate, I feel about as ready as I can be about being a parent. Yes, it is a great unknown, and I am trying very hard not to really expect anything. People tell me that everything will change - but I suspect we have a different definition of "everything". Of course many things will change, but that's what they do all the time anyway. This is just another change among others, and I will adapt.

Besides, I'm looking forward to the kid.

Monday, 22-Dec-08 01:25
Thwoa

I was just bored the other day, and so was Thwoa born.

It's stupid and simple, but I find staring at it oddly calming.

Tuesday, 09-Dec-08 13:07
A minor point

I can't really add anything new to the discussion around the Wikipedia censorship, but I can remind you about this quote:

"The state must declare the child to be the most precious treasure of the people. As long as the government is perceived as working for the benefit of the children, the people will happily endure almost any curtailment of liberty and almost any deprivation."

-- Adolph Hitler (Mein Kampf, the Ralph Manheim translation published by Houghton-Mifflin, 1943. pg 403)

Just remember this, ok?

Wednesday, 26-Nov-08 10:31
War wounds

Looks like from the original plethora of Java-based wiki engines, only Confluence, JSPWiki and XWiki remain - Confluence being the non-open source alternative. Some others still linger, but looks like the last releases have been in 2006-2007, so I don't know whether they are still really alive or not (hope that they are!)

Phew.

It feels good to have survived such a long time (seven years now, w00t!) with the presence of such awesome competition. We are now beginning a whole new era with becoming an Apache project and JSPWiki v3, which will signal the first major overhaul of the entire software since v2.0 in 2002. We've got a bunch of good committers (with a new one added this weekend - welcome, Florian!) and a bunch of pretty exciting things we want to do. And more the merrier, so please join up! Someone could for example design a cooler-looking template for 3.0... We've been looking the same since 2001 ;-)

Ohloh estimates that the total effort put into JSPWiki is worth $1,037,267 - that is, if you had paid someone to make a software with similar features, that's how much it would've taxed your wallet. You could also think of it in another way - I and others could've made a million if we hadn't used our free time to write this software (and mind you, all of the current developers are doing this on their free time, which I think is getting a bit exceptional these days for a medium-sized open source project).

But you can't really pin a monetary value to passion. Because that's what it's been - a passionate affair - throughout these years. And I hope to be spreading that passion even further in the future :-)

Wednesday, 26-Nov-08 01:18
Priha web site launch

After a couple of years of silent, on-off development I finally launched http://www.priha.org. Priha is a JSR-170, aka Java Content Repository implementation, available under the Apache Public License. Compared to luminaries like Jackrabbit, Priha is a single JAR file (at the moment; might have to use Lucene for search later), not very optimized and not yet a complete JSR-170 implementation. But it's simple and easily embeddable, so welcome others to join in the development :-)

(Yes, all this was prompted in the desire to make JSPWiki v3 backend to use JCR. Which is probably going to happen pretty soon.)

[Yeah, and I don't think most of you really care, but I need to give it some Googlejuice ;-) ]

Monday, 24-Nov-08 23:01
JSPWiki 2.8.1 is available

We're happy to announce the immediate availability of JSPWiki 2.8.1, a security and bugfix update to 2.8.0. It is available for download at the usual place, and the change log is also available.

Sunday, 23-Nov-08 15:54
Lapsen nimen valinnasta ja sen vaikeudesta

Uuden lapsen nimen valinta on kyllä kiitettävän hankala tehtävä. Nimisarjan pitäisi olla kaunis, rimmaava, kunnioittaa sukua ja mielellään sellainen, mikä ei aiheuta spontaaneja lumipesuja yläasteella. Useat hyvältä kuulostavat nimet torppaavat siihen, että toinen on tuntenut aiemmin samannimisen henkilön, jonka luonteenpiirteet eivät houkutelleet. Toistaiseksi olemme kuitenkin saaneet aikaiseksi seuraavia työnimiä:

  • Per Samuel
  • Päivi Ulla Unelma
  • Yrjö Kalevi Sulo
  • Iida Suvi Orvokki

Voi, kuinka olisikaan hienoa nähdä sitten väitöskirjassa komealta kalskahtava "Per S. Jalkanen".

Sunday, 16-Nov-08 01:11
Don't they have selectable ringing tones at Terok Nor?

Something I didn't realize until today, watching an episode of ST-DS9: Whenever they hail someone, everybody responds immediately? That, or "They're not responding, sir!" And that's always a big sign of trouble.

What if the other guy has his mouth full of food or something or is just taking the crap?

You know, the next time I call you on your cell phone and you don't answer after the first ring, I'm just going to assume that you're dead. Must be right, I learned it from Star Trek.

Wednesday, 12-Nov-08 19:44
The visit from the local garbage... car?

The doorbell rang.

"It's just the car with the blinkenlicht, don't answer", called Outi from the couch. (In Finnish, obviously.)

"A car with the blinkenlicht?" I replied. "This I gotta see."

I opened the door, and there were TWO cars waiting. We live in an apartment block, on the second floor, so seeing cars queuing up behind your door isn't exactly a common occurrence. There was a low sports car, pink (I think), and a black minivan. The minivan had an orange blinkenlicht on it. They're not full size; just maybe up to my chest. And they're made of obviously scrounged material.

"We take your garbage out, ten cents only", said the sportscar.

I look around and I see a young girl, about ten years old, standing next to my door. And next to the minivan stands a boy, maybe eight. They look very serious.

"Wow. How did you guys get those cars up here?" I ask, still a bit stunned. They point at the elevator. Duh.

"Did you build these yourself?" I query. The girl looks down, and mumbles something, which I take to be a negative answer. But the boy exclaims proudly that he had built the minivan all by himself. I suspect that he got a bit of adult help, but...

Good enough for me. I grab our pitiful garbage bag (which could easily devour a few more days full of trash), and the biotrash, and pass it to them, trying to hold back a laugh. Not a derisive one, mind you, but just simple joy at the idea and just the whole situation.

I thank them and give them the money. They shuffle off, obviously feeling suddenly very important. I watch them go, and suddenly wish that I will be able to raise my child well and keep it out of trouble.

Part of me hasn't really realized that I'm going to be a dad in less than three months. The rest are pretty much torn between confusion, fear and joy. We had our first family training ("perhevalmennus" - essentially a free service which teaches you to function like a cohesive family, and also teaches you about the basic things about child care) yesterday, and it was nice to see how pretty much everyone felt the same way.

So I suppose this is all good and normal.

But I have to admit that buying our first pram has made me really aware of all the other prams out there. They're bloody everywhere - how didn't I notice it before?

Sunday, 09-Nov-08 14:07
Couch astronomy

I've always been interested in the heavens above - but I've never really been one of those people who hunt for the clearest skies and have the most expensive telescopes in their back yards. I've so far been rather happy with these guys taking the pretty photographs which I can then adore in my own comfortable (and warm) living room. You see, skies are only really dark and clear in Finland during winter time - and unfortunately that tends to be mighty cold as well.

Anyway, the life for the couch astronomer has never really been better. NASA and ESA and JASA and, well, almost everyone, is happily putting all their cool stuff on the web for people to see. Computer programs like Stellarium and Celestia allow you to watch the night sky - even from different planets!

For example, take a look at these zoomable panoramas from the Spitzer space telescope (I highly recommend the "The Infrared Milky Way: GLIMPSE/MIPSGAL" set). For me, these celestial images stir something deeply within myself. I find them beautiful and exhilarating - and for me, knowing more about these only increases the wonder.

Monday, 03-Nov-08 15:56
Free fridge

We've got an extra fridge/freezer combo after our kitchen renovation; 190cm high, 59cm wide Rosenlew Wähäwirtanen Ekosystem. About 13 years old, still works well. Since we don't have a car, getting rid of it is kinda complicated, so if any of my readers are in need of one, drop me an email and agree to pick it up from Espoo.

Friday, 31-Oct-08 19:36
Putting the life on a single piece of paper

Just spent a good hour rewriting my CV. No, I didn't get fired or leave the company - it's just something I was asked to do for a project I undertook recently, and of which you will hear in due time (next spring-ish, is my guess).

Anyhoo, it's always been difficult for me to write a CV. On the other hand, I would very much like to write a small essay of each of the things that I've done, but that is obviously not possible for both size and confidentiality limitations. On the other hand, when you squeeze your CV down to a few lines, it sort of trivializes it all - how do you capture all the trials and challenges onto three lines? How do you explain how pivotal something has been to you, or what are the wonderful things and people you have learned during that time? How do you accurately describe your knowledge and assets?

It's even more difficult because different cultures treat CVs differently. Finns like a short, to the point-style with little ornaments. In some countries, you are supposed to exaggerate your accomplishments, which can sometimes lead to odd situations, when these people take a Finnish CV, and subtract the bullshit they would normally expect from a CV. Essentially, they'll end up with a document which says "Janne knows how to hold a spoon and no longer poops indoors."

But really the most difficult thing is the fact that once you've written it, and it all fit in a single A4, you look at it and remember all the jobs and the people, and you realize that that is all there is.

A single A4.

All your life's accomplishments. All the things you have been. And you can see whether you are going forward or backward, up or down, frying pan to a boiling kettle. It's unavoidably clear.

I don't know what makes me sad about it - the "that's it" -part, or the part that I care.

Which is probably why so many people take such a proud look at their children. You see, they don't fit on a piece of paper. They will write their own, in due time, and, I suppose, that gets added to your own.

(If you're interested, here's my A4(info). I'm not looking for work, but if you've got something really amazing going on, I am willing to listen. And hold a spoon for you.)

Wednesday, 29-Oct-08 16:39
A small plea

... to anyone who develops web applications. Install YSlow. It's the easiest way to figure out why watching mollusks dash a hundred yards is more pleasant than watching your web site load. Every ten minutes with Firebug and YSlow will save a thousand hours of time.

It sometimes seems to me that only a few companies really do care about the performance of their sites, trying to optimize execution speed rather than experience speed - but you can't really keep throwing more hardware at these problems. That is simply not a sustainable solution. But, if you pay someone to optimize your system you save on electricity, hardware, maintenance, and you are giving someone a job.

Thursday, 23-Oct-08 00:02
And I was so smug...

...about not watching a lot of TV. You know, what all self-righteous intellectuals should do: go about dissing TV and being proud of doing something meaningful as opposed to approaching a vegetative state on the couch.

Then three things happened:

  1. I installed the UK Auto Scheduler to my Topfield. And suddenly I could tape whatever I wanted without worrying about it changing air times.
  2. I ordered MTV3 Scifi, and realized that it's airing all episodes of Dr Who, Deep Space Nine and Voyager, the first one I had never seen and the rest I had mostly missed when they were first aired (Yes, the sad truth that I missed the last three seasons of DS9 completely. And people thought I was a Star Trek geek...)
  3. I got hooked to TVKaista, an online PVR system which records everything. Then you just go back and watch whatever you missed. A simply brilliant service, which unfortunately wastes quite a lot of resources (According to the copyright law, these guys must buy a separate box for every subscriber. Which is just dumb waste, environmentally and otherwise, especially since the money goes to hard drive vendors; not the authors of the content. I hope they get this one resolved soon so that they can use less resources and pay some of the saved money to the content authors.)

So now you know why I haven't been blogging. I'm totally immersed in passive media consumption - just simply because it is content that I want, whenever I want it. The freedom of not being tied to air schedules has completely changed my habits, and while I don't know how long this will last, it's just... pretty overwhelming.

Frankly, I don't even feel the urge to go and download anything off the internets anymore either. There's only so much time I can dedicate to watching television, and for my "yo box, entertain me for I am too tired to think!" -needs this all is more than enough.

There's a lot of power in traditional broadcasting still. They just need to adapt to the Internet distribution and content consuming models, and they'll be just fine.

Monday, 20-Oct-08 23:17
JSPWiki 2.8.0 released!

I am happy to be able to announce the first release of an Apache-licensed version of JSPWiki (though it is not yet an official Apache release; not even a podling release. That work starts now.)

It is available from the usual location at http://www.jspwiki.org/wiki/JSPWikiDownload

The cool new stuff is described here:

http://www.jspwiki.org/wiki/NewIn2.8

Personally, I'm pretty happy about getting this release out. There's been a lot of good work done by all contributors. It's probably the best release yet. If you want to test it out, try http://sandbox.jspwiki.org for a live installation which gets wiped out every day.

I have to admit that I'm pretty much on the same track as Linus on cutting releases: It's pretty much anti-climactic. Every release is preceded by a long lull during which everybody holds their breath as if not to accidentally break everything. And a new release appears as if out of boredom of nothing really happening, so therefore the thing must be stable.

This is a bit different from commercial software entities, which run around in great big loops and have lots of handwaving right before the software ships. I guess that's the difference between shipping "when it's ready" and "when we promised".

Friday, 17-Oct-08 11:31
It's the difference, stupid!

There have been recently some complaints about companies like Canonical (who make Ubuntu) or ~CentOS not contributing back to the upstream projects (like the Linux kernel, etc). I don't think it matters at all, simply because of two reasons:

It's probably fine as it is

Ubuntu mostly seems to concentrate on the user layer. Perhaps they are happy with the Linux core components as they are, and just simply don't need tweak the kernel at every occasion. And this goes with every single use of the OSS project - if you're happy with it, don't feel obligated to contribute back.

But if you do tweak the project, then there's a very important thing you must remember:

Deviation From The Trunk Is Expensive.

The further you deviate from the upstream trunk, the more it's going to cost you. You can maintain a small set of patches, but every single new revision of the underlying trunk is going to create you more headaches. There is a strong financial incentive to contribute back to the upstream, unless the changes you made are your own, critical business differentiators, in which case it is worth for you to pay the money, because that is why the customers are choosing your system.

Also, from my own personal experience as an OSS project lead, I have to admit that companies who do contribute back to the development have a whole lot more say as to where the project goes. We've had a few companies who've branched off our system, and then come back with suggestions how we could serve their particular problem. Typically, we tell them to make the changes and then contribute them as patches, and we'll happily take them in the trunk. They almost never do this, though some people do and it's really great. The end result is that these companies are then stuck with same age-old version of the system, and are unable to get the latest advances (including really useful stuff like security fixes), driven by some other companies, because it would be too cost-prohibitive for them to switch to the latest trunk.

The fun thing is that if you don't contribute in a quick manner, it's possible that the trunk has already changed so much that any contributions you send back are essentially worthless. So it is in your best interest to keep very close to the trunk, if you do build your version of the code.

I think this is just plain common sense, and one of the reasons why open source works: over the years, people have expressed concerns that someone could just take your code and make loads of money with it, if you give your source code for free. But because that won't stop the original development, you either need to choose to play ball with the trunk maintainers, or be prepared to use the money to essentially maintain your own version of the project. Which can be about as expensive as writing the whole thing on your own in the first place. So many companies choose to contribute back, because then the maintenance won't be their responsibility.

Open Source has these interesting built-in financial incentives, which transcend philosophical arguments about sharing and freedom and openness. Which is why open source makes so much sense as a perfectly viable model for any incremental development.

Monday, 13-Oct-08 17:17
Scandic is sustainable through... bottled water?

As you all know, bottled water is in the Nordic countries one of the worst offenders when it comes to environmental sustainability - and it ain't too far from the top from most other countries either. Our tap water is better than the bottled stuff.

Therefore it makes only sense that Scandic Hotels should start supporting sustainability by... getting an Olympic swimmer to create special water bottles? Well, at least they say that they will be filling them locally - and if they can recycle the bottles too, then it's way better than the current situation.

But still, this is quite an odd way to fight the climate change. I can only imagine how much damage to the environment the manufacture and disposal of a single bottle will be...

"10 euro cent per water bottle. This will be the foundation for Scandic Sustainability Fund, a newly established fund aimed at supporting initiatives which in various ways actively contribute to a more sustainable society. Scandic has earlier taken the decision to reduce fossil carbon dioxide emissions by removing all bottled mineral water from its hotels. Up to now, the hotel chain has sold a couple of million 33 cl bottles of mineral water a year. Instead, from this autumn Scandic will be filling and selling its own specially designed bottles of filtered and chilled water, still and sparkling."

(How about just letting people run their own water from the hotel tap? That's what I usually do if I travel - I fill up my bottles and let them cool during the night. Bottles get reused, though unfortunately they don't survive security checks these days. I probably need to buy myself a proper canteen for traveling; something that can travel in the checked luggage. Here's a business idea: someone start selling eco-themed canteens, please? You could ride on the anti-bottled water wave, and I would buy one right away. It needs to look cool, and be durable and easily portable. And expensive enough so that you don't just throw it away.)

Friday, 03-Oct-08 10:32
Oh please

My foreign readers might not have heard about this, but a Lappish newspaper, Lapin Kansa, fired their editor-in-chief for being gay. Needless to say, this has created an uproar, including Facebook groups calling for boycott on the Alma Media group, owner of the newspaper, who allegedly offered 100,000 euros to the person in question to keep their mouth shut and just resign. Alma Media is a large media corporation in Finland, with a number of local newspapers and internet services. By the way, if you have your blog on Vuodatus.net, you are using Alma Media's blogging platform.

Anyhoo, normally this is one person's word against someone else's - but frankly, all the discussion around this is really clearly showing that not all is well in the State of Lapland. To quote the vicar of Simo (translation mine):

Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE) does not get praise from the Laestadians. It claimed that Lapland is in the "heart of darkness", since gay and lesbian relationships are not approved.

"This was an outrageous attack against the majority. There are not many gays and lesbians, and now they control the entire media. YLE is harnessed to run the lesbo agenda", Lohi fumes.

"Not many"? Lohi himself says that there are about 5000 old-skool Laestadians (a local fundamentalist Christian branch) in Lapland, and maybe 5000 more. Lapland has about 180,000 inhabitants, so that's approximately 5% of population. If you scale this up to entire country, you find maybe 100,000 Laestadians total, for a measly 2% of the population.

Now, it is hard to say exactly how much of the population is homosexual, but different estimates give it between 2-7%. I have even heard the number 10% being thrown around. At any rate, the gay population is actually as large as the Laestadians - probably even bigger. And based on my grantedly limited sample of both, I will much rather carry the flag of the lesbian agenda than these narrow-minded fundamentalist Christian bigots.

Personally I believe this was all about money. These fundamentalists might've stopped ordering the newspaper, if the editor had been gay. Alma Media blundered, and didn't realize that before they hired here. The company did not want to face that potential loss, so they hashed out a "cunning plan", which boiled over when their opponent chose not to play ball. They probably also calculated that any boycott on the gay-agenda-toting-people is less damage than damage from the fundamentalists' boycott, and that the publicity is always good anyway.

Our society is in a phase where money trumps ethic issues. This isn't necessarily bad, mind you, even though it sounds horrible. Because of that, consumers do have power to choose which ethics they want the society turn to, and vote with their wallets - both positively (like Carrot Mobs) and negatively (boycotts). The bad thing obviously is that those who have the money, get to choose the ethics, too, which makes this an unstable system: there are few corrective mechanisms to keep the situation balanced.

Wednesday, 01-Oct-08 18:12
Ombudsman calls for chat room censorship

From Helsingin Sanomat: "Ombudsman Johanna Suurpää says that if administrators and chat room moderators don't voluntarily step in to curb inappropriate discussions, then the law should be changed to require them to do so ... "Even though the Internet could never be fully controlled, this is not enough of a reason to do nothing," she days."

...right. Where do these people come from?

Don't they realize that what is already illegal in the regular public place is illegal on the internet as well? Certain kinds of verbal abuse (like libel) should just simply be reported to the police and let them deal with it. The law is there, and it is same for everyone. Heck, we pay an inordinate amount of taxes so that we don't even have to pay the police to do their job!

However, when private corporations are forced to decide what is "acceptable speech", we're going down the slippery slope and fast. Freedom means that every single site must have the ability to decide on their own what kind of discussions they tolerate. If you don't like their policy, you can go elsewhere. If someone goes over the line, you talk first to the admins, and if they don't do anything, you can always go to the police.

Now, I don't mind the law saying that "complaints from the users must be taken seriously". That highlights the responsibility of the maintainers, and should probably make them think a bit. But if the law says that all the maintainers need to proactively start censoring discussion based on their interpretation of the law - then we're no longer in a free country. Especially since there is no longer a clear line between public and private on the internet: if something is visible to only your friends, is it a public discussion? Can the moderators step in and censor things then? What if you have a hundred friends? Ten? One?

The only way a moderator can be sure that nothing illegal is going on in his system is to read all the private messages as well. This includes person-to-person messages; personal emails; everything. There would be no more online privacy, but your innermost thoughts would be read and evaluated for "appropriateness" by a stranger with no or little training, and small pay.

And that is simply too high a price to pay for a bit of temporary peace of mind.

In a free country, punishment follows crime. Let's keep it that way.

Monday, 29-Sep-08 11:48
Teh win!

Got electricity bill today, and I'm happy: 20% reduction in total electricity usage from last year. I'm not quite sure what helped, but I think that figuring out how I use my computers was a major factor. We now keep them off (or in hibernation) most of the time when they're not used, and my desktop just wakes up at night to run remote backups, after which it shuts itself off again. You can save a surprising amount of energy by spending an hour or two twiddling the computer power-management setup. Also, using laptops more (now that we have two) probably also contributes quite a lot: a typical laptop takes about what, one fifth of the power of a regular desktop computer (60W vs 350W)?

The in-house sauna also lost some of its novelty value, and we cut down on using it to maybe two-three times a month. This was also probably the other major power-saving.

Now, I know we can do better this year, though the upcoming kid is going to make it difficult. What I would like to do is to have better measurements with immediate feedback. I know there are already companies offering that, but it seems to be quite sluggish to get the equipment installed when you're living in an apartment block...

Thursday, 25-Sep-08 12:27
Artic methane already escaping?

This, if true, could change everything about our global climate catastrophy.

In the past few days, the researchers have seen areas of sea foaming with gas bubbling up through "methane chimneys" rising from the sea floor. They believe that the sub-sea layer of permafrost, which has acted like a "lid" to prevent the gas from escaping, has melted away to allow methane to rise from underground deposits formed before the last ice age.

They have warned that this is likely to be linked with the rapid warming that the region has experienced in recent years.

Methane is about 20 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide and many scientists fear that its release could accelerate global warming in a giant positive feedback where more atmospheric methane causes higher temperatures, leading to further permafrost melting and the release of yet more methane.

The amount of methane stored beneath the Arctic is calculated to be greater than the total amount of carbon locked up in global coal reserves so there is intense interest in the stability of these deposits as the region warms at a faster rate than other places on earth.

A feedback loop. That's geek-talk for the same thing which causes the horrendous wailing when you put a mic close to a loudspeaker. You could also call it a chain reaction - just like an avalance or a nuclear bomb: a small problem rapidly grows really big, and there is no stopping it.

This problem cannot be solved anymore by recycling your banana peels. It needs law and legislation, threats and carrots from the highest authorities in every country.

Really, really fast.

(Via BB.)

Wednesday, 24-Sep-08 23:59
PGP sigs anyone?

I'm in need for some signatures for my new PGP key. If you want to trade signatures, and know me personally, call/email me.

If someone happens to know any key signing parties nearby, that would help too.

Sunday, 21-Sep-08 13:14
Small open source & corporations & communities rant

Y'know, there are loads of companies out there who do "get" open source. Even big ones, like IBM, Sun or even Nokia. I don't mean that everything they do is or should be Free or Open Source Software (FOSS), but when they choose to use or support open source for business reasons, they are savvy enough to understand how FOSS works, participate in the community, give back stuff which benefits everyone and in general work together with the project. Doesn't always work, and sometimes they make bad business decisions, but hey, at least the capacity is there.

Then you got the clueless ones.

Some time ago, I was contacted by an unnamed company, who wanted to use JSPWiki as a part of their product. We talked, but in the end, I told them: "It's open source, you can use it - within the license - anyway you want. I can't do any work for you now, but if you do choose to use JSPWiki, do participate in the community so that we can both benefit from each other."

A few days ago I got a letter. In the letter, the company said that they were disappointed in the fact that JSPWiki community didn't show any interest in co-operation, and that they had forked JSPWiki code and made it better, and that they were open sourcing it on their own.

Well... In the months between these two discussions, there were no emails to the community mailing lists, no issues filed by these guys, no patches contributed whatsoever. They apparently made the elementary mistake that you can take the head coder, and assume that this guy speaks for the whole community - just like a program manager would speak for the whole program.

Guess what, buddy? It doesn't work that way. The only way to convince an open source community is by putting money where your mouth is. You start the work, do it with passion, and if there are enough people who like it, you will get a community. There are no shortcuts, no magic. As I said before (in that particular rant/interview), in order to make an open source project to really work, you need two types in the community:

  1. People who do it for the passion. These people provide stability and long-term memory for the project. They may not contribute much code-wise, but they are essential in keeping the community together, keeping the spirit, and providing long-term vision. You can control these people about as much as you can control a herd of cats.
  2. People who do it for the money. These people are hired by corporations to work on a particular piece of the code. They provide the raw thinking power behind a lot of innovations of the system. But they go away, once their thing is done, leaving maintenance to the passionate people.

Sometimes a project is lucky enough to have both types embodied in the same people, which turns its viability up a knob. Many of the infrastructure projects are like this - Linux and Apache being good examples.

But you cannot treat a FOSS project the same way you would treat another company. There is no central person who makes decisions for everyone else, and nobody to make a deal with. You can buy individual developers, and make them take the project in a particular direction, but even then it really comes down to sitting down, rolling up the sleeves and banging out the code and contributing it back to the community.

Because if you don't, and you fork, you are responsible for the maintenance, the bugs, and the everything. And then you lose, because then you pay your own guys for the same stuff as what the project programmers are doing for free. And the further away you drift from the trunk, the more expensive it becomes to follow the community, and the more difficult it will be for you to reverse your decision, because few FOSS projects are interested in taking in patches for an ancient version of the codebase.

And the funny bit is - these guys forked from a version of JSPWiki which was still LGPL. They have no choice but to make it open source, because that is what LGPL says. If they were using the latest version, they could use it under the Apache license, which wouldn't be so restrictive. Though, I have to admit, that the cluelessness which has been shown so far might mean that they haven't even realized that they don't have a choice. I've had earlier problems with them not sticking to the LGPL license terms. I'd hate it if I had to go and bang them with a lawyer-shaped cluestick.

Frankly, while they say that they are going to open source their own fork, I don't give them much hope for success. Their behaviour so far shows that they cannot even talk to an existing community, so how on earth could they create a new community from scratch?

Friday, 19-Sep-08 18:30
New product announcement

In the grand tradition of announcing things before they're ready in the eventual hope of driving the share price up, Team BUNT announces their new project, bringing in exciting new features such as two self-contained propulsion units, two fine-motoric grappling apparatuses, self-aware expert system, automatic waste disposal unit, binaural audio processing, and internal power plant with a wide range of acceptable fuels.

We expect to deliver this product by 1Q2009. While the feature set is complete, we are currently finetuning the product and planning for delivery and maintenance. Thank you for your patience.

(Frankly, I'm half giddy, half scared, half worried, half relieved and half unable to count. Oh well. I am genetically wired to eat, poop and reproduce. Since the two others seem to work okay, I think I can handle this one too.

All already-dads out there are free to snicker in the comment section.)

Thursday, 18-Sep-08 16:36
USA to get unlimited access at personal history of Norwegians

Eh? WTF? Since when did Norway become a protectorate of the US? From Swedish Television News (translation mine):

"After seven years, agreement between USA and Norway is almost complete. Once the agreement is signed, CIA gains access to email addresses, travel histories, mobile numbers and internet logs."

The article is vague about under which conditions the information can be shared - but if Norway, a relatively sane Nordic country succumbs to this, then you can pretty much assume that CIA can read your email, too - with the blessings of your government. The Swedes already have their own FRA-law, which allows the Swedish military to monitor your emails and surfing habits already. Finland will surely fall flat on their faces as well - except that under the administration, this will surely not be told in public. Perhaps this is the reason why our Minister of Information, Suvi Linden is not so keen to condemn the acts of the Swedish authorities - she is perfectly aware that Finns are doing the exact same thing: listening on their own citizens and selling that information to the US. Would make sense and wouldn't surprise me at all.

This makes me very angry.

(Via Piraattiliitto.)

Tuesday, 16-Sep-08 01:20
IP address switch

The IP address of this server is changed. You might see some oddities because of it, but thanks to the magic which is mod_proxy I don't believe that it should be a problem to most people.

Otherwise, I'm pretty much so jetlagged now that I can barely keep my brain straight... I've got things to blog about, but it's just that they need a bit more than what I can give now.

Damn, microblogging really is making blogging more difficult.

Thursday, 11-Sep-08 18:17
O'Reilly Ignite! in Boston tonight

I'll be popping into the Ignite! event tonight. Ping me if you're coming too, or say hi...

Whee, my first Ignite! Maybe some day I'll dare to speak in one of these :-)

Tuesday, 09-Sep-08 23:54
Blue Fun

I usually like to visit theatre shows whenever I travel. Strange, that, because I usually rarely go to any shows in Helsinki.

Anyhoo, I stumbled upon the Blue Man Group while looking for something to see - and boy, was I not disappointed. I was laughing out loud even before the show had started...

Highly recommended - the videos in the referenced site just don't pay any justice to the experience itself.

Sunday, 07-Sep-08 16:04
Ambient Awareness - or what happens when you no longer are disconnected with anyone?

Clive Thompson's piece about ambient awareness. Well put together.

Sunday, 07-Sep-08 13:39
Finnish rocket launch success!

Congrats to the team!. Now that is rocket science! :-)

(Via.)

Saturday, 06-Sep-08 22:05
Kiitokset bloggaajille

Marikoo ja Visukintun jämät.
(English summary: Had a great bloggers gettogether. Thanks all! Beer, 1.5h of sleep, and flight to Boston.)

Olipa taasen mukava tavata bloggaajia, niin tuttuja kuin tuntemattomia. Sun äitis listaa onnistuneesti paikallaolijat (missä välissä nuo kaikki siellä olivat?), joskin ainakin tapaamani Sudet Tulevat puuttuu joukosta. Poissaolijoista ainakin Lord Boredomia kaipailtiin ääneen.

Erityiskiitokset sille tunnistamattomaksi jääneelle naishenkilölle, joka kanssani hetken aikaa keskusteltuani kysyi: "ai sä oot naimisissa"? Myönnettyäni hän katsoi minua hetken ja sanoi "Sääli." Kovasti kohteliasta ja tuli hyvä mieli. Kiitokset myös herra Vitille neuvoista, ja rva Haltia-Holmbergille hyvästä ja antoisasta keskustelusta.

(Ja huhuista huolimatta en edelleenkään aio järjestää miesbloggaajien "paras perse" -kisaa.)

Puolitoista tuntia unta ja nyt Bostonissa, pää täynnä räkää.

Tuesday, 02-Sep-08 15:37
Security and money

Here's a great quote from Bruce Schneier:

Or take another example: airport security. Assume that all the new airport security measures increase the waiting time at airports by -- and I'm making this up -- 30 minutes per passenger. There were 760 million passenger boardings in the United States in 2007. This means that the extra waiting time at airports has cost us a collective 43,000 years of extra waiting time. Assume a 70-year life expectancy, and the increased waiting time has "killed" 620 people per year -- 930 if you calculate the numbers based on 16 hours of awake time per day. So the question is: If we did away with increased airport security, would the result be more people dead from terrorism or fewer?

As he says, it is very difficult to pin a price on security, or to figure out when you're actually wasting money. And that most of these kinds of "security analyses" are bunk.

Monday, 01-Sep-08 15:14
YTV funnies

Looks like the Helsinki area transport authority (YTV) is already busily upgrading their ticket systems: I've now several times managed to not get my card read, because whenever I flash the card wallet, it just shows the text "*MIFARE*". I need to take the card out of the wallet, and show only that to the reader.

The explanation is that as an old RFID geek I have an Oyster card for London metro (which is a Mifare Classic card), a FeliCa card for Tokyo metro (which is sort similar to Mifare, except it's much more versatile and actually has some non-trivial security), and a bunch of other NFC cards. Previously, this has not been a problem, since they usually all live together nicely (and I like to see when they break), but in this case, it looks like the YTV ticket readers just simply cannot fathom that a person might have some other cards other than the YTV cards.

Since Mifare is a pretty common card (there are what, 500 million of them out there, mostly in public transit and access control - several cities in Finland do use Mifare as well), I would imagine that I'm not the only one who is stymied by the text "*MIFARE*" on the reader. Just putting a Tampere transport card in the same wallet with the Helsinki transport card would do the trick. However, I can at least interpret it - because I happen to have several years of training in the area. I just hope that this is just testing, and that the YTV designers are going to build in a nicer error display in reality. Though, they do not exactly have a great track record in desiging usable interfaces, as all the people who live in the capital area know...

(I will need to check whether this happens for all ISO 14443 cards, though.)

In short: if the reader says "*MIFARE*" to you, just make sure you don't have any other cards nearby. Or your keys, as they might contain Mifare too (heck, I have a wrist watch which contains a Mifare tag...)

Sunday, 24-Aug-08 12:31
Life after people

Finally got around to watching the wonderful Life after people document by the History Channel (got the link from Kasa). It's funny how insignificant all our efforts here seem to be, and - even though this was not mentioned in the document - our longest-lasting objects are now traveling in space, where our corrosive touch cannot reach them anymore.

Tuesday, 19-Aug-08 15:21
Following linkings

Is it just me, or have Technorati, Twingly, Icerocket and Google Blogsearch become completely useless in trying to figure out who is linking to whom? Icerocket finds one reference (which isn't my own) from 533 days ago; Technorati is finding nothing; Twingly just lists my own blog as someone who links to my own blog a lot; and Google Blogsearch is just generically braindead.

On the other hand, following actual referrers says that at least Nokia Conversations is linking to me again, and I get random inflow of traffic from here and there.

Have the spammers won the battle? Is link/trackback spam finally so bad that the baby is finally going out with the bathwater? Is this the end of the great interblogistic discussions (though I am not sure if they ever started)?

Or did the discussion just move to Facebook and Jaiku and Twitter and nobody told me?

Tuesday, 19-Aug-08 08:45
But is it feasible?

Sometimes there is a really large gap between designers and engineers, as pictured in this wonderful scetch from Smack the Pony. While feasibility is the key, it does not necessarily produce good results. You also need to have a bit of sanity in the mix.

Not that I really know whether it's usually the engineers or the designers which are the culprits. I often feel like there's a a huge gap even between engineers.

Thursday, 14-Aug-08 16:39
Revolution/Evolution

Here's a thought which I didn't really have much time to work on... But let's put it here to see if it catches on (and you can substitute the word "process" for "technology" in the following sentences):

When users have something they wish to accomplish, and you develop technology for it - that is evolution.

When you develop technology, and suddenly you have users who want to do something with it, something they couldn't do before - that is revolution.

Revolutionary steps aren't always bigger than evolutionary steps, even though we often think that way. But they in general enable new, interesting venues by jerking loose something which goes above and beyond of what we normally perceive.

I guess this is one of the reasons why it is important to listen to your users, but not do blindly as they suggest. You can only do incremental evolution, but you can never appear at a revolution, if you do. If guys at Xerox PARC had listened to the users, who wanted to have bigger monitors in order to have larger spreadsheets, we wouldn't have windows and icons and pointers these days, which would've kept computing out of regular Joe's hands.

(Of course, there's heck of a lot of technology which is developed and never gets any users, so they hardly count as a revolution.)

Monday, 11-Aug-08 08:50
Disappointed in Bookmooch

OK, there is one reason why Bookmooch sucks. And it's the fact that it seems that most people in it are "willing to send books to their home country only". There is little point to join the service if you're from a small country - no matter how many nice books are out there, you can't get them.

I'm pretty frustrated. It's not that expensive to send economy abroad, you cheap bastards!

Saturday, 09-Aug-08 13:21
The great fallacy of Plup

Vihreä Lanka (in Finnish) writes about the new bottled water called "Plup". They're donating 10 cents for every bottle bought to save the Baltic Sea (which is in a pretty bad shape), so they're advertising it as a "ecological thing to do".

Unfortunately, simple maths shows that they will have to sell about half a million bottles before they're even with the advertising money used so far. Not to mention that the damage to the environment per bottle is more than the the ten cents. Even the bottle is not recyclable. Is there a dissing group I could join? In fact, could somebody please sue these persons for false advertising?

If you care at all about the environment, the simplest thing you can possibly do is not to buy bottled water - and most especially, Plup. Just fill the bottles with tap water (and a dash of lemon, if that's your thing. It is mine.).

(This advice may not be valid in some countries - unless you want to have a close encounter of the porcelaine kind. I really hope this whole Plup thing is a joke.)

Friday, 08-Aug-08 18:21
Streets of Desire

Having been driving around for the past two weeks (rented a car to visit people) and relying on GPS navigation software (Nokia Maps and Navicore, mostly - they suck in different ways, but Nokia Maps is pretty okay for the money, though I still rely on Navicore more)... India and Africa and a lot of other nations have an immense number of streets which are unnamed. This, of course, presents challenges to navigation.

What would happen if Google or Navteq or Tele Atlas or Nokia some other big navi/map provider were to just de facto name the streets? Could they make it stick? Would the locals adopt those names? Could the big corporations, assisted by automatical software and imaging/GPS satellites, keep track of the changing of important public infrastructure better than the local officials?

'cos if these companies are hell-bent on selling everyone navi software and maps - and we all know how picky computers are with names and labels - something's gotta give somewhere.

(Oh yeah, Ropecon. Trying to get there, but still sitting lazily at the computer...)

Wednesday, 06-Aug-08 10:17
Google: "We locked you out of our empire and won't tell why"

This is one of the reasons why I don't want to move all my personal communication to Google (or any other single company for that matter). Remember this the next time you want to outsource your emails and documents.

When it comes down to your personal convenience and corporate policy, the policy wins; and once you start storing your documents in the network, the network will own them in a very concrete sense.

(Via BB.)

Tuesday, 05-Aug-08 22:26
Sampo goes WTF

The trouble with Sampo Bank gets a Daily WTF summary. It certainly qualifies - loss of estimated 20k customers (in a country of five million) due to one of the worst IT upgrade jobs ever is the stuff of legends. It's a story that IT professionals today will tell to their children over campfires, as a warning that some jobs come with too low a paycheck.

Friday, 01-Aug-08 10:28
Run Apple 1 BASIC as a scripting language for OSX, and other cool things

http://www.pagetable.com/. All the nostalgic übergeekery you could possibly want.

Saturday, 26-Jul-08 01:29
The Ground heads for the sky

The son of Levyvirasto, The Ground is here. And I like it.

It's the first, proper Finnish music store. It has a decent, web-based UI which works on my Mac, and it sells me DRM-free MP3s (which work nicely both on my laptop, desktop, iPod and my phone - which cannot be said on the offerings of the iTunes Music Store or the Nokia Music Store) of good quality with a price I'm willing to pay. There's also enough bandwidth - I get a full album in a minute.

There are still some flaws: The UI does not really promote music discovery (I would very much like to see a tie-in with the open APIs of Last.fm, for example), the selection is still not yet quite complete, the download was broken the first time (though it worked flawlessly the second time) and I do believe that Meat Loaf should not be classified as "classical music". But, as a whole, this is the first music store selling major brand music that I can see myself visiting more than once (many of the ones in the US refuse to sell to Europe, unfortunately). Spent 20+ euros in it in a flash (a Poets of the Fall album, a couple of tracks from Pet Shop Boys, and Kylie's X, if you absolutely want to know. Which you probably didn't - but now you know something you didn't know a moment earlier, and that in itself is valuable to realize.)

More of this, please. And preferably in a global scale; the whole notion of limiting music licensing to a single country sounds like exactly the kind of stuff that EU was established to abolish.

Monday, 21-Jul-08 12:25
Duodecim: Illegal drug stores must be censored!

Duodecim, the Finnish Medical Society may be joining the ranks of the people stepping down the slipper slope. Helsingin Sanomat 21.7.2008, page D2:

Tutkimuksen tekijät vaativatkin tiukempaa säätelyä ja valvontaa. Laittomien nettiapteekkien sivuille pääsy pitäisi estää.

(Roughly translated: "Authors of the study demand stricter control and supervision. Access to the web pages of illegal internet drug stores should be blocked.")

The article is unclear as to whether this is Duodecim's opinion or the opinion of the study (which was made by some anonymous private organization, not even named properly in the article, not even on their web site) quoted by Duodecim. Which of course makes it suspicious - anybody know the source of the study? Perhaps they are thinking that the doctor's ethic does not apply to freedom of speech?

(To reiterate: blocking web sites does not block the sales of illegal drugs. They will just switch their websites faster than you can block them. The only way to stop this is to go to the source, and slam those people in jail. The only thing blocking web sites does is that it opens the door to uncontrolled and unreasonable censorship.)

Thursday, 17-Jul-08 20:00
Me and my big mouth

The problem with ranting is that sometimes people listen to you and turn your rants into interviews on the official company blog.

Oh well. Any notoriety is good notoriety, I suppose.

(On a personal note: I've gone on an email diet for the holidays. I read and respond only to the most important, personal emails I get. All others get the backspace key or are ignored until I get back. This also concerns most blogs... I'm trying to concentrate on a small project I've been working on for about a year and a half now, as well as trying to read all the books I've mooched in the last couple of weeks. Nothing personal - I really, really need this.)

Tuesday, 08-Jul-08 17:41
Digital locality and friendship stasis

Dealing with mobile phones and NFC teaches about a few things about your surroundings. A simple way to model the world is to divide it to a few ranges:

  • Proximity - the range of touch. These are the objects that are most immediate to you, both in time and place: the laptop, the chair, your clothes, and so on.
  • Vicinity - the range of things around you which can impact you at a moment's notice. For example, the items in the same room. People don't matter if they're standing outside your room, but when they walk in, you take notice.
  • Shouting distance - Anything you can affect, but typically does not affect you unless you make it so.
  • The world - All the rest.

NFC works purely in the proximity range, but the different technologies we use change the rest. For example, a mobile phone brings anyone in your phonebook to the shouting distance, negating the effects of location.

So does the internet - and people. I've lately noticed how I keep tabs with people whom I know mostly from the digital world, but a lot of the physical world friends I don't keep up nearly as well with. Without a constant trickle of twitter or blog feed these friendships go into a stasis - unpacked the moment we see and we can continue again from where we left off.

So, thinking of the regular spacetime distances, what would be the digital equivalents?

  • Proximity - the people who gave you access to their private feeds, and the people who you have given access to yours. The person you are IMming to right now, or chatting with in IRC, or talking over the phone to. The person who just sent you an email that you have to read.
  • Vicinity - people whom you follow in Twitter or Jaiku or whose blog you've subscribed to. Your Facebook "friends". People whose statuses flow into your browser but you don't feel compelled to keep up to date on every single one of them.
  • Shouting distance - the invisible crowd who follow you in the different social services. Your blog readers who rarely comment, but who might link to you. The people in your address book that you don't call or text or mail.
  • The world - Orkut and all the other services that you never registered to and don't care at all about. As the old maps used to say, "here be Googles".

Of course, these are not static. Someone might pop into your proximity from the shouting distance by sending you an email about a blog post that touched him. Or people can flow out of your vicinity by becoming boring.

It is interesting to note how most of the social services are expanding the "vicinity" area at the cost of the shouting distance or the proximity - they invent new ways for you to concentrate on one thing (moving things out of your proximity field), but on the other hand they allow stuff from the shouting distance to flow in. It's when you start misusing these tools (like making Facebook or Twitter your primary hobby = move it to proximity) you'll start to see the limitations they have.

The question is - what tools are still missing from the different digital ranges? And is this an useful analogy which teaches us some insight into the world? And what to do with the half-eaten jar of Ben&Jerry's Chunky Monkey in my freezer?

Tuesday, 08-Jul-08 09:31
One-post-wonder

Heh. Here's something that gets pretty close to blog art - One Post Wonder, a collection of blogs who've only ever gotten just a single entry out.

Each entry starts someone's life story, and then it leaves you hanging for more. And you're never gonna get it.

(Via The Internet Superstar.)

Monday, 07-Jul-08 23:20
Moochin'

I finally got tired of duplicate books and stuff that I never read again anyway, and joined Bookmooch. It's almost like going to the flea market - within minutes, the local old hats have you surrounded and grab all the stuff worth something. Within four hours, I got half of my wares mooched; then when I added some more, I got four more.

So I've spent a couple of days going to the post office, wondering what the best way to mail books are, and learning about the cheapest ways to mail stuff. I am also desperately trying to think which authors I really want to mooch...

Let me know if there are any must-read books out there these days, preferably not related to IT. SF is fine, but some new acquaintances might be nice.

Monday, 30-Jun-08 19:48
Ubicomp, and why I think it's broken

A discussion (well, more of a rant) in Teemu's blog warrants repeat here - why I think the traditional vision of ubicomp, that is, the Internet of Things and the Smart Spaces is broken.

You see, I think that intelligence is relative. You feel stupid when you're with people who're smarter than you, but you could rule the land if you were the only person in a village of idiots. Kinda like social status or wealth - you don't have to be rich: it's enough to have more money than your neighbour.

The thing is, that when you make the space around you smarter, you make the people more stupid. And most people just don't like that. For example, I sometimes like to stay late in the office ('cos it's nice and quiet). The automatic system does not see me moving around, so it shuts off the lights and air conditioning. So you have to go an push a button or run around the corridor and wave your hands, hoping that the system will pick it up. And I just hate that.

People want to feel smarter, and in control. When you are overwhelmed with choice, you feel stupid. When you have five options, you can weigh them in your mind, and make a choice which you feel happy about - you feel both smart and in control. Apple gets this - the reason why iPhone is so cool is because it makes you feel powerful and in control as an user: you understand the options (no geekery involved), you can use it with ease, and you get to go wherever you want. Granted, your array of choice is limited, but that only exists so that you can feel smarter.

Mobile phones are an extension of you these days. Jan Chipchase notes that most people are very Maslowian: they carry means to a shelter (their keys); means to purchase food (money or credit cards); and means to connect to their circle of people (their cell phone). They give you power over bad weather, hunger or loneliness.

So I believe that the logical extension of putting smartness are the things that you carry with you. The idea of "googling for your keys" is alluring, but that does not warrant a full-scale smartification of the entire world. It's much easier to make the keys smarter so that they can talk to you and let you know where they are - not Google.

Same goes with money: it's increasingly becoming smarter. The chip cards are essentially small microcomputers of roughly the same scale as a Commodore 64 (though about 20 times faster).

One of the things about Near Field Communication that really fascinates me is how it takes the money and keys and puts them into your mobile phone. So it's real convergence of the most important things that most people carry. But more importantly, it's something which does not require the environment to become smarter. It makes you smarter because you have the power to use the mobile phone in any way you want.

The second big reason why the ubicomp vision is broken is cost.

Building infrastructure costs money. Maintaining infrastructure costs money. Making your environment smarter means that it needs to have maintenance. Yes, it can be smart and call a repairmain to come by - but as long as it's not a legal citizen, it can't pay for the repairs. So who's going swipe the cards?

Is it really ubiquitous, if it works only in very selected patches of the world where people can afford it?

However, consider your personal electronics - like the mobile phone. You get a new one every two years. The carriers will essentially force one down your throat. It's got more power than a turn-of-the-century PC. It's already with you. It's connected almost everywhere (third world countries and USA notwithstanding ;-). You get immediate, concrete, even life-saving benefit from carrying one around. The infra is already laid down, there is no need to bootstrap. Corporations are making loads of money from the infrastructure - but would they make money out of googling for your keys?

Personally, I think the iPhones and Androids and Limos and Nokias of the world have a lot more claim to the ubiquitous computing vision than the internet-of-things folks. They're already connected, and they're everywhere.

The third thing that I find broken in the whole thing is how the human factor has been cut from the equation. Yes, it is said to transform our lives, but I've yet to hear one good reason what exactly would make two home appliances want to talk to each other? And note - I am specifically saying want. Because at the moment, they don't want anything. They do as they are told, without any personality or desires. We need to figure out what a toaster wants (and not ask the one in Red Dwarf) to understand why they would need to network - and if they do, why aren't they talking to me instead of each other?

Yeah, I know that sounds weird. But consider this: we already speak of cars like "it has a tendency to understeer" or "why won't it go?" We are attaching emotions to things which don't have them - and does that not create them? Does it matter if they have any, if we treat them like they had?

Because in the end, it's my life, and all this stuff should be out there to make my life easier, more bearable, and in general nicer. And of course, all my fellow human beings.

(Ha, the lights went out while I was writing this. Damn you, smart environment! I am still here!)

P.S. Yes, I understand the desire behind the ubiquitous computing. I'm just saying that I think it's just mostly harmless tinkering, until either of the two things happen:

  1. the Singularity arrives, or
  2. someone figures out a really good business case for it and can solve all of the logistics issues around it.

My cynical self says to bet for option 1. Until then, I think it's just better to help you become smarter, which in turn makes the environment dumber.

Monday, 30-Jun-08 16:54
OFFSystem gives lawyers and law-makers new headaches

The problem with geeks and law is that geeks are way better and faster in interpreting reality than lawyers are in interpreting laws. Here's a good example - the Owner-Free Filing system.

The OFFSystem is a distributed file system (essentially creating a huge disk drive where you can put whatever content you want, and everyone else using the same system can see that content, too) - but what is interesting is that it is really stabbing at the heart of copyright as defined.

You see, it does not store encrypted data. It stores numbers, and it uses the same numbers to store many different kinds of data. So the question is - whether the store in itself is copyrighted or not? Yes, the act of fetching a file from the store may be illegal in some jurisdictions, since that may end up in a copyrighted work for which you do not have legal permission to use, but the store itself contains only numbers, from which it is impossible to figure out what the content actually is. So, in a way, while no actual copying of copyrighted content ever takes place, you could still be infringing someone's copyright. Just another example why the word "copy" in copyright means nothing in the digital age.

The legal system has been wrestling with the concept of whether offering .torrent -files is illegal, since they don't contain any copyrighted content - but they might point to copyrighted content - and if Pirate Bay is illegal, why isn't Google? (Since really the easiest way to find stuff these days is to go and type "xxx-movie torrent" in Google.)

OFFSystem and its likes (like Tahoe) are going to cause way more interpretation problems that Bittorrent ever did. And, while the courts are chewing on that, there's four-five years of time to invent something completely new.

Copyright is badly broken, out of touch with reality, and needs to be fixed.

Picture the song as this, but much longer.

24332984303829732498…398724

Now there are two other numbers that may be of interest, depending upon how you interpret them. Consider the following big numbers:

11230243302314110327…264211
and
12102741001515622171…134513

Then consider adding them together.

Are these numbers copyrighted? Can I store them on two separate computers? Would that break the law? What if they were never added together? Would their existence still break the law?

What if I give you two other numbers? Again, and again.

There are two consistent ways to answer the above questions. One leads to the conclusion that “All numbers are copyrighted.” The other leads to the conclusion that, “There exists encodings of copyrighted number that are NOT copyrighted.”

If the first conclusion is true, digital copyright is pointless. If the second is true digital copyright is meaningless.

(Via Slashdot)

(By the way - using the OFFSystem technology, you could make every song to be a copy of Never gonna give you up - all you would need to supply the mathematical difference between a song and the Rick Astley piece. So if you're a copyright lawyer, I suggest you grab your maths book or hire your friendly neighbourhood geek to explain all this.)

Edit: Also read this wonderful piece about the Colour of bits, and why the colour matters.

Wednesday, 25-Jun-08 10:12
EU wants to regulate bloggers to stifle "unfair competition"

Whooooooo boy. Pissing off several tens of millions of people is really smart, Ms. Mikko.

This report (English, Finnish version here) drafted by Estonian MEP Marianne Mikko details how bloggers, those pesky creatures, are unfairly providing free content to consumers, thus stifling competition with the real media providers and how blogs could be used for evil, which why they should be regulated. Witness the following, highly enlightening quotes:

M. whereas commercial publications are increasingly utilising user-generated content, especially audiovisual content for a nominal fee, raising questions of unfair competition among media professionals,"

...

N. whereasthe increased use and reliance on user generated content may adversely affect the privacy of citizens and public figures by creating conditions of permanent surveillance,

...

O. whereas weblogs are an increasingly common medium for self-expression by media professionals as well as private persons, the status of their authors and publishers, including their legal status, is neither determined nor made clear to the readers of the weblogs, causing uncertainties regarding impartiality, reliability, source protection, applicability of ethical codes and the assignment of liability in the event of lawsuits,

...

P. whereas the Member States have widescope for interpreting the remit of the public service media and its financing and whereas the commercial media has expressed concerns over unfair competition,

...

9. Suggests clarifying the status, legal or otherwise, of weblogs and encourages their voluntary labelling according to the professional and financial responsibilities and interests of their authors and publishers;

...

In this context the report points out that the undetermined and unindicated status of authors and publishers of weblogs causes uncertainties regarding impartiality, reliability, source protection, applicability of ethical codes and the assignment of liability in the event of lawsuits.
It recommends clarification of the legal status of different categories of weblog authors and publishers as well as disclosure of interests and voluntary labelling of weblogs. The report acknowledges the spreading use for a nominal fee of user-generated content by the commercial publications and the privacy and competition issues this generates. It recommends compensating non-professionals commensurately to the commercial value they generate and using ethical codes to protect the privacy of citizens and public figures.

Well, boo-hoo. Finland has this wonderful saying of "the responsibility is entirely on the listener's side". Simple maths should show you that this is a completely inane idea: there are tens of millions of blogs in Europe. Most of them are pseudonymous. Most of them are written by people who write to their friends. Do you actually think they would care at all about what EU says?

While I do sort of understand the concern that some media outlets are using user-generated content without any regard to copyright (which should be addressed), I am entirely happy to share my content for free (you just need to observe the SA bit of the CC license). If that disrupts your business model, you might want to think of a new one instead of going to your MEP to cry and demand that it is unfair competition. Heck, I'm not competing with you. I am ignoring you.

Ms. Mikko seems to have bought the "citizenship journalism" -line with the hook and sinker, too. While some bloggers could be considered journalists, most of them simply aren't. So treating all weblogs like they were should be pretty much a non-starter. And considering that the definition of a weblog is so vague, there is no choice except to make sure that all content online would be regulated in the same way.

Which, while I am sure it would be the wet dream of any pencil-pushing bureucrat, will not happen. Even China can't do it.

I guess what really pisses me off about this memo is the idea behind it - that the media is so important we can't leave it to amateurs, since they might produce crap and we couldn't know who paid them to do so!

Yeah, the last point seems to also be quite important: the EU is worried of bloggers whose agenda is "not known". So what if people are not just saying their personal opinions? Of course it's unethical if they don't tell people, but hey - everybody lies. Should we have legislation on telling lies in the pub as well - that telling a pretty lady you're really an engineer even though you claim you're a fighter pilot?

The motives of a blogger don't matter much, because bandwidth is unlimited. Yes, the motives of the main TV news channel do matter, because TV is a controlled, restricted, serial medium. The internet isn't. Anybody can say anything (barring copyright, NDAs and libel), so if you're speaking bullshit, and you matter, you will have ten blogs shooting you down. But nobody is going to give you airtime on the telly if you oppose the channel policy.

As to the urging to increase media literacy in EU - that's the smartest suggestion I've seen in the entire paper. I suggest Ms. Mikko takes the first course, so she can see what the difference between an unknown pseudonym blogging about her dog, a media blogger, and a newspaper is.

(I'll leave the privacy issue untouched - running out of time to rant...)

(Thanks to Piraattiliitto.)

Tuesday, 24-Jun-08 14:43
Another restaurant fails clue roll

The Internets and the fact that consumers have power these days still seems to escape some business owners. Mikko Eerola tested a local Latin American eatery called "Nuevo Latino", and wrote a review to eat.fi as well as to Jaiku. Unlike the other reviewers, he didn't much like the experience; just stated that he felt the food was good though overpriced and that the waiters were rude. So nothing very unusual in Helsinki. Could've been a bad day in the restaurant, too.

The story gets interesting when the restaurant owner sent an angry email (English) to Mr. Eerola, claiming that his bad review "sounded like defamation", and that his emails "will be reported as fraud" that they "will be in the obligation to take legal actions should this behaviour continue." Also, the restaurant contacted the Peruvian embassy, which in turn contacted Mr. Eerola's wife (who's from Peru and has nothing to do with the whole thing) "who should know better".

Fail.

Of course, he blogged about the letter (Finnish), and now the whole thing is blowing over the top. Newspapers are writing about it, bloggers are writing about it, and most people just simply condemn the behaviour of the restaurant, and consider them to be a bit silly and self-destructive.

Others, well... Suffice to say that at least one anonymous moron is now at Mikko Eerola's blog comment section spouting things that could very well be construed as death threats.

Obviously, I'm not going to go to that restaurant; and neither will I take any relatives, friends, or business associates to it. Bad food and service I can forgive. Threating people (with lawsuits or violence) who just simply voice their opinion I can't.

Update: Looks like the situation is resolved peacefully, the restaurant has apologized, blaming the individual efforts of two staff members.

Sunday, 22-Jun-08 23:29
Guy sells his life on eBay

I know this is old news, but the auction is on right now!

Just to refresh your memory: Ian Usher in Perth, Australia decided to sell his entire life. Yes, including friends and the job. He says:

"On the day it is all sold and settled I intend to walk out of my front door with my wallet in one pocket and my passport in the other, nothing else at all, and get on the train, with no idea where I am going or what the future holds for me."

The house looks decent, the place is pretty spectacular (with the Aussie lifestyle, too). No wonder the current bid is already - less than 24 hours of starting - at 2.2 Million AUD (~1.3 M€).

Perth is pretty much far, far away from everywhere, though.

Thursday, 19-Jun-08 23:53
The universal edit button

A few guys got together and built a "universal edit button" - essentially a small Firefox plugin that lets you know that you can change the content of a web page.

It's a good idea, and I hope it becomes so commonplace you don't really need a browser plugin anymore. Just like the RSS logo you see if you're browsing this site with any relatively modern browser.

JSPWiki will support this in version 2.8, out "soon". You can already test it at the JSPWiki sandbox. Other small wikis are following suite, like, oh, Wikipedia. Adding it to your JSPWiki installation is easy; just put the following in your templates/default/commonheader.jsp:

<%-- Support for the universal edit button (www.universaleditbutton.org) --%>
<wiki:CheckRequestContext context='view|info|diff|upload'>
  <wiki:Permission permission="edit">
    <wiki:PageType type="page">
    <link rel="alternate" type="application/x-wiki" 
          href="<wiki:EditLink format='url' />"
          title="<fmt:message key='actions.edit.title'/>" />
    </wiki:PageType>
  </wiki:Permission>
</wiki:CheckRequestContext>

More at readwriteweb.

Wednesday, 18-Jun-08 07:38
Tip: Firefox 3 download

In case you're trying to download Firefox 3, and are finding (among everyone else) that the mozilla.com servers are completely unresponsive due to the load, you can go directly to the distribution repository at http://releases.mozilla.org/pub/mozilla.org/firefox/releases/3.0/, and choose your operating system first, and then the language.

Saturday, 14-Jun-08 21:38
Siika

(Warning, obscure Finnish humor follows.)

So, these guys managed to get a whitefish of respectable size while icefishing last winter, and put the experience on Youtube. It simmers there for a while, just watched by friends. The unbridled joy of getting a whitefish of almost two kilograms is shared by few.

Aaand then someone makes a remix of that experience with a soundtrack.

And then a Muumi remake follows.

And then there was radioplay.

And, if my magic 8-ball is right, all signs point to yes, there will be more.

Thursday, 12-Jun-08 09:42
Phoenix landing

For some reason, this video makes me very happy every time I watch it. It's always nice to see hair-raising tension get relieved in joy and laughter.

(The video is a HD quality log of the seven minutes it takes for a Mars-bound spacecraft to decelerate from interplanetary speeds to zero. So many things could go wrong with it.)

Monday, 09-Jun-08 17:11
Back to civilization

Ha! With the new job, comes relocation. Out of the engineering pits of Pitäjänmäki into the civilized Ruoholahti I go, and whistle as I walk.

The fact that I will save an hour of commute every day is going to make wonders to my mental health.

Lunch, anyone?

Sunday, 08-Jun-08 22:51
Some nice TED talks

I find that TED talks is probably the most interesting video podcast out there. Here are a couple of my latest favourites:

Saturday, 31-May-08 22:19
Oh, my word!

So, just finished the last episode with the 2nd Doctor. Far more action than with the first one, but the second doctor, Patrick Troughton, just didn't seem to quite fit the role. The stories, however, seemed to be better overall. The last one - War Games - was actually pretty good, I thought.

Too bad so many of the episodes are missing.

Now started to watch the first episodes with the Third Doctor, Jon Pertwee. I'm shocked - it's in color!

Thursday, 29-May-08 08:19
Day changed their rules

I recently complained about the Day JCR Cup and their "we'll steal your software" -competition rules. Well, the friendly folks at Day saw my post and revised the rules, and even posted a note to my blog. It was not their intention to be so exclusive, and somebody screwed up, but now all is well again.

Thanks, folks! Great work!

It just highlights even more the need to read the licenses and rules carefully and complain, if you think they are incorrect. As with the Finnish Blogilista, some companies actually do respond to user feedback, and are willing to do the right thing (whereas others will ignore you, and others will even post excuses and insults to your blog). And this goes to the company employees as well: Many times the rules are drafted by lawyers, who do not necessarily understand the technology or your intents, no matter how good they are. So you just need to be vigilant and catch them in action, and correct these things before they go out.

Tuesday, 27-May-08 20:46
Funny as hell, if you're ancient

Does anybody else find it funny that the new addition to the International Space Station is called Kibo?

Monday, 26-May-08 20:17
Tweet

Social pressure (and curiosity) got me. I now have a Twitter account - ecyrd. Feel free to follow me around...

(What's a good S60 client for Twitter?)

Monday, 26-May-08 17:11
Finnish court says: CSS is effective, and watching DVDs on Linux is illegal (in practice)

In a rather surprising move, the Helsinki Court of Appeal turned the previous District Court decision that the DVD encryption algorithm called "CSS" is not efficient. Therefore programs like VLC, which contain the reverse-engineered algorithm and are able to play back DVDs, are illegal.

An appeal is already in process.

Of course, this is a strange decision since nobody is going to care about it and continue using their favourite DVD watching program anyway... Our courts tend to do these sort of strange decisions these days. Obviously, the police does not care as they have real issues to solve - but I am afraid that these kinds of decisions about unenforceable laws are going to pave way to "copyright police", private organizations funded by the media industry companies, with powers beyond the police, who won't be accountable to the public - only their shareholders.

Will corporate fascism be the flashpoint of the next World War?

Monday, 26-May-08 13:46
More license fun

You know, reading rules and EULAs is pretty important these days. Lately, there was a lot of discussion in the Finnish blogosphere about a Finnish blog aggregator claiming that they can reuse your blog content at will, if you use their service (which they changed pretty rapidly once the bloggers started complaining - nevertheless I find it rather worrying that they chose to try to smuggle it in anyway).

I got recently an invitation to the Day software JCR Cup 2008. I was considering trying to port JSPWiki to use their JCR implementation (as it would be fun and beneficial for everybody), but a quick look at the rules convinced me otherwise:

With regard to an entry you submit as part of the Contest, you grant Day a worldwide, perpetual, fully paid-up, exclusive license to make, sell, or use the technology related thereto, including but not limited to the software, algorithms, techniques, concepts, etc., associated with the entry.

The words "exclusive" and "associated with the entry" are the key ingredients here: The way I read this is that "If you do anything with our software, and make the mistake of submitting it to our contest, WE OWN IT AND MAKE LOTS OF MONEY WITH IT AND YOU CAN'T DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT, NYAH!"

It also means that there's no way I could ever submit JSPWiki+JCR combo into this competition, since I don't own the copyright of the full JSPWiki code base anymore, so I couldn't possibly even abide by the rules (as it most certainly would be "associated", but it's not my code). Besides, that kind of contest rules put a real damper on any ideas I might have. This kind of a thing is most likely targeted at a young hacker audience, who just want the Macbook Pro. But I'd save the real innovations for other competitions...

Of course companies can do any sort of competitions they want. Let this be just an example as to why it is a good thing to read and understand the competition rules before participating... Or you might end up doing something you regret.

Tuesday, 20-May-08 12:12
Using Facebook for what it was meant to

Heh. I got a chuckle out of the Facebook Widsets Pets application: you can create your own virtual pet out of yourself and have your friends take care of it.

You get to take virtual care of a picture of someone you once knew in a service mostly concerned about non-existent things like vampires. If it were any more redundant, it would create a perfect vacuum and make the universe implode.

Needless to say, I signed up immediately.

(Yeah, it's a Nokia app, so my ravings need to be taken with a pinch of salt. But I still think it's wonderfully bonkers ;-)

Sunday, 18-May-08 23:55
Splendid, my dear boy

Doctor Who is as much a classic as SciFi TV could ever be. It's been running on and off since 1963, which I guess is some sort of a record. I've seen the new series, but I don't think the old ones have ever been shown in Finnish TV before. Now, the MTV3 SciFi channel has been showing all episodes (well, those which still exist, anyway), and I've been recording and watching them all.

And you know, I'm starting to see why this has been running so long. Though the effects are crappy, and you can fast-forward through an episode at 6x speed and cuts are still further apart than in your average TV show today, the writing is, well, oddly fresh.

The Second Doctor is now on, and I sort of miss the grumpy First Doctor, though at first I hated him (Outi says he's got Charisma 3). Still, Mr. Ecclestone (Doctor #9) is the favourite.

My only problem is that the channel is showing the episodes in such a rapid succession, that it's really difficult to keep watching them. The hard drive of my PVR is filling up at an alarming rate... You know, one or two episodes a week would be a good speed. The current flood of two episodes per night five times a week means that if you miss a few, it's really hard to catch up.

Heh, first I complain that there's no SF in the TV - and now I'm complaining getting too much of it. Things have really changed in ten years when we got new episodes of Babylon 5 shipped via UPS to Finland as they were being aired... Could it be a sign that my generation has become "the establishment" which is getting pampered and exploited for a quick buck? Heck, they've got the money and they grew up with SciFi, so...?

Not that I'm complaining.

Just wondering.

Sunday, 18-May-08 16:29
Programmers are a strange bunch

OK, here's a weird bit: Every time when I think of the word "programmer", I think of people in white coats walking in the aisles between huge towers of very old computers, doing programming by turning knobs and dials.

I have no idea where I got this mental image from - but there it is.

I also think I'm coming down with the flu. But our kitchen project is advancing. Which is nice, since I'm already getting a bit tired of living without one.

Thursday, 15-May-08 20:14
Eben Moglen vs Tim O'Reilly

Any Web 2.0 believer simply needs to listen to Eben Moglen chewing Tim O'Reilly's butt.

Eben Moglen believes that Web 2.0 is a bunch of ballyhoo by self promoters. ... Over the last ten years, Moglen says, we've only talked about open source software and not ever thought seriously about the freedom of use while allowing monopolies to be created.

Mr. Moglen is the former lawyer and board member of the Free Software Foundation, and has some very important things to say.

Wednesday, 14-May-08 09:17
ESA recruiting new astronauts

If you fancy a really high-flying career, the European Space Agency is looking for new candidate astronauts.

The ideal European astronaut candidate should be competent in relevant scientific disciplines, including but not restricted to life sciences, physics, chemistry and medicine and/or be an engineer or pilot, and should have demonstrated outstanding abilities in research, applications or the educational field, preferably including operational skills.
Monday, 12-May-08 22:11
Blogilista, mitvit?

Lainaanpa uudistuneen Blogilistan käyttöehtoja, lihavointi minun:

Rekisteröityessään Palveluun tai muuten käyttäessään Palvelua Käyttäjä vakuuttaa tutustuneensa näihin Käyttöehtoihin ja sitoutuu noudattamaan niitä kaikessa Palvelun käytössä.

Siis suomeksi: jos edes käyt blogilista.fi:ssä kurkkaamassa, miltä se näyttää, niin kaikki allaoleva pätee.

Palvelun sisältämän materiaalin tekijän-, teollis- ja muut suojatut oikeudet ovat Palveluntarjoajalla tai sen sopimuskumppaneilla. Käyttäjän toimittaman materiaalin tekijänoikeus säilyy Käyttäjällä edellyttäen, että Käyttäjälle voi voimassaolevan lainsäädännön perusteella syntyä tekijänoikeus kyseiseen materiaaliin. Palveluntarjoajalla on kuitenkin oikeus käyttää (ml. linkittää) ja julkaista uudelleen korvauksetta, muunneltuna tai alkuperäisessä muodossaan, Käyttäjän Palvelussa tai sen kautta julkistamaa aineistoa Palvelussa ja sen markkinoinnissa sekä Palveluntarjoajan ja sen kanssa kulloinkin samaan konserniin kuuluvien yritysten tiedonvälitys-, pr- tai muussa liiketoiminnassa.

Eli kun olet käynyt kerran blogilista.fi:ssä, niin Sanoma Digital saa tehdä blogisi sisällöllä mitä huvittaa parantaakseen omaa bisnestään. Vaikka blogisi olisi lisännyt listalle joku toinen.

Just.

Tähän ei voi muuta kuin todeta vain seuraavaa:

"Tätä blogia lukemalla sinä ("LUKIJA") vapautat minut, niin omasta kuin työnantajasi puolesta, kaikista mahdollisista ei-neuvotelluista lisensseistä, sopimuksista, läpiklikatuista (clickthrough) lisensseistä, käyttöehdoista, kilpailukielloista ja salassapitovelvoitteista ("HUMPUUKISOPIMUS"), joihin olen mahdollisesti sitoutunut omasta, työnantajasi, heidän sopimuskumppaniensa, lisensoijiensa, agenttiensa sekä muiden sopimusosapuolten puolesta, ilman aikarajaa tai lisäehtoja tai olemassaolevien sovittujen sopimusten muuttamista tai raukeamista. Lisäksi vakuutat, että sinulla on oikeus vapauttaa minut kaikista edellämainituista Humpuukisopimuksista omasta tai työnantajasi puolesta."

Tuota ylläolevaa saa kopioida omaan blogiin vapaasti ja rajoituksetta. Se on pöllitty ja käännetty ReasonableAgreements.orgista...

Juttuhan on niin, että tämä blogi on lisensoitu BY-SA -lisenssin alla, ja jos joku luuseripoppoo alkaa käyttää tätä materiaalia ilman, että tuota Share Alike -klausuulia noudatetaan, niin alkaa remmi heilua. Nuo Blogilistan käyttöehdot eivät tosiaan yliaja tämän lisenssin yli, etenkään noin heppoisella humpuukisopimuksella. Poistan tämän blogin blogilistalta kunnes käyttöoikeudet on muutettu jotakuinkin järkeviksi, ja poistaisin tunnuksenikin, jos osaisin. Käyttäkää vaikka Bloglinesia, tai suomalaista vaihtoehtoa, Blogispottia.

Ai niin, en suosittele lisäämään tätä blogia Blogilistalle omin nokkinenne, sillä käyttöehdot sanovat selkeästi:

Mikäli aineiston saattaa Palveluun muu kuin kyseisen aineiston laatija tai omistaja (esim. henkilö ilmoittaa Palveluun toisen henkilön blogin), aineiston Palveluun saattanut henkilö on vastuussa aineiston sisällöstä näiden Käyttöehtojen mukaisesti, kunnes aineiston laatija tai omistaja on liittänyt aineiston Käyttäjätunnukseensa.

Eli siis jos lisäät jonkun toisen ihmisen blogin listalle, niin olet vastuussa kaikesta siitä, mitä siellä kirjoitellaan.

Lisäys: jaa, enpä ole ainoa. Moni muukin lienee havainnut saman. Blogit vain pois listalta, niin jo katoaa listan arvo. Lähetin vielä erikseen poistopyynnön tunnuksesta meilitse, saas nähdä vastataanko sieltä. Muuten, käyttöehtojen muutoksesta olisi pitänyt tulla meiliä vanhoille käyttäjille, mutta minä en ainakaan sellaista saanut.

Päivitys: käyttöehdot muuttuivat, hyvä. Mutta poistin tunnukseni anyway, koska en ole käyttänyt kyseistä palvelua vuosiin. Mitä minä yhdellä turhalla rekisteröinnillä teen - erityisesti palvelussa, joka osoittaa melkomoista kädettömyyttä päivityksissä, sensuroi "vahingossa" kommentteja eikä ymmärrä blogosfääriä sen vertaa, että tekisi järkevät käyttöehdot ensimmäisellä yrittämällä. Koska kuka tahansa olisi voinut kertoa, että tuollaisista teksteistä tulee itkuparku.

Saturday, 10-May-08 15:38
Mayhem! Destruction! Chaos!

Kitchen 2.0
You know, there is something very satisfying in tearing down your kitchen, ripping tiles off the walls, and blasting broken cupboards with devastating kicks. Most of the days, I create something - whether it is documentation or budgets at work, or JSPWiki back home, so for a change it feels very good to be on the destructive side of things.

Gotta break stuff before you can build new and beautiful things.

Friday, 09-May-08 08:18
Piracy is a public health hazard

So, if you share files, the LA County Board of Supervisors says that it's okay to take away your house for up to one year, because piracy is a public health hazard.

Come on - it's just kids sharing files! It's not like they're crystal meth users or other people who are really dangerous to their neighbourhood. This is really getting insane.

(Via /.)

Thursday, 08-May-08 23:12
Ninja Warrior rulez!

Makoto Nagano is the most awesome guy ever.

That is all.

Tuesday, 06-May-08 14:40
WIMA & NFC

If you want to see what I was doing last week, check out this video from Le Podcast. It's your average trade show stuff, but does have a couple of interesting talking heads (none of which is me, happily enough).

However, there was one demo which quite floored me, having pretty much seen everything in the NFC circles in the past few years. The Touch&Interact-demo from the University of Lancaster uses the mobile phone together with a Google Maps display to navigate, provide information, select, and do all sorts of other interesting stuff. The video is not as cool as seeing it in real life, but it's pretty cool nonetheless.

It's a nice example of how the physical can interact with the virtual.

Saturday, 03-May-08 00:45
Aggregating LazyWeb requests

Interesting - I uttered the word "LazyWeb" in my last blog posting, and turns out there are aggregators like Hoosgot which track these requests and make them available to everyone. So you can follow any requests anyone makes anywhere in the world, right in your RSS reader. Nice...

Friday, 02-May-08 13:43
LazyWeb server setup request

I just know there are people out there reading this blog who can give me just the perfect answer to this... so here goes.

I have two used dual-Xeon w/ hyperthreading Dell servers (loaned kindly by BaseN, thank you very much) which I'm planning to setup to replace an aging P4 shuttle, serving, among other things, this web site. I also have my private emails running on that server, as well as a bunch of personal home directories.

The question is, what is the optimal setup? The parameters which limit the setup are like this:

  • The web sites run Apache 2, which both serves static pages, some PHP/CGI-BIN stuff as well as a couple of instances of Tomcat
  • I am currently running two separate instances of Tomcat, so that when one is restarted due to e.g. JSPWiki upgrades, the startup does not adversely affect the other instance. Tomcat itself is fast; older versions of JSPWiki slow down when repositories are large. These are the worst offenders when it comes to memory consumption/load.
  • Private emails need to be on a relatively fast machine so IMAP access is not annoyingly slow. Also, spamassassin is the second worst CPU consumer currently (yes, I run spamd to even the load a bit).
  • I don't want to be installing/maintaining all the software across different computers, so I would prefer something like NFS to share common binaries & other stuff
  • The system must be optimized for easy maintenance (I use Ubuntu, and I have no intention of switching because I don't want to learn a new distro right now) and reliability. That is, as much redundancy in the system as possible - remember that these are used machines, so we could lose a CPU, a fan or a disk at any time, so we should be able to switch to a single-machine setup with as little downtime as possible.
  • Also running on these computers will be DNS, CVS (to be replaced with SVN in the future), mailing lists, and other small things.

There's plenty of network (Gigabit ethernet connections all around), and the machines are identical (2GB memory, 130 GB disk, 2x HT Xeon @2.6 GHz).

Any advice, hints or tips how this should be set up? I have considered virtual servers, but there are a bunch of reasons why they are not a good option just now.

Monday, 28-Apr-08 00:20
O, Monaco

This city-state is mindboggling. Where else can you see a supercar (a Ferrari F60 aka Enzo Ferrari in this case) parked outside a hotel - and then walk in the hotel, turn on the TV, and see the exact same car on Top Gear?

Part of me feels like I'm in a fairy tale, whisked away in some other reality. But unlike other unreal places, such as Las Vegas, this place oozes power. Las Vegas looks rich, but since most people in there are just passing through, it's all surface. Here, the roots go deep and drink well.

Friday, 25-Apr-08 17:27
Next week, Monaco

Just a quick note: if you happen to be in the WIMA conference next week, drop me a line or come to have a chat at the Nokia stand. We'll have lots of live demos of NFC and I'll be giving a talk as well.

(Dopplr says that I have no travel planned after this. That's a relief, though likely to be a brief one.)

Thursday, 24-Apr-08 15:16
Need a job?

We're looking for a seriously good web developer. The mission of our new team is to develop, prototype and verify new software concepts aiming at later productization. It's a cool job, but someone's gotta do it.

By "we" I mean my new team at Nokia Software & Services. Many of you already know this, but I'm switching to some new challenges inside the company. We now need some strong, all-around, experienced coders to complement the team - people who are proud to be a part of the Creative Class.

We want to create the future, but we're not afraid of falling flat on our faces a few times when doing it. We are on a serious mission, but we are going to make it a fun one.

(Don't send applications or requests of more info to me; click on the link above. Ability to comprehend written text is a crucial quality in any applicant... Also, be aware that you might end up working with me. If this thought fills you with unspeakable horror, then this might not be for you ;-)

Wednesday, 23-Apr-08 05:27
MSN Music servers going dark - so does your music

If you bought any DRM-encumbered music from MSN, you may be out of luck starting September. MSN is planning to turn off their DRM servers, which means that whichever five computers you were using to play the music with, and which they graciously allowed you to do so, will be the five computers that you will be using forever to listen to that music.

The problem (well, one of the problems) with these kinds of DRM systems is that they're bad business: normally, when you press and sell a CD, you don't have to care about it anymore. It's zero cost. But when you have to run a computer system which needs to check every time someone wants to play some music that you sold them - well, that's an extra cost throughout the lifetime of the record. What you save in duplication costs, you pay for bandwidth and electricity and maintenance later on. And none of that is bringing you any extra money. You're stuck with a legacy that you will need to support perhaps for tens - even hundreds of years after the sale; something which you don't need to do with an LP, CD, or even a DVD. And if you're successfull, and you sell a lot, then you will need to be upgrading and upgrading all the time, since you need to support all of your customers ever.

I understand why it sounds like a good deal to turn off the support for your DRM servers after a while. You probably made your customers sign a contract where you say that "we'll run this service as long as we like", but still, it sounds like screwing the customer to me. "We'll give you this media, but you know, we could turn it off next year, and because of the legislation, there is no way legally you can watch the movies or listen to the music you bought."

Is it no wonder that people resort to piracy when the legal options are this bad?

Tuesday, 22-Apr-08 10:42
Arthur C Clarke's goodbyes

Found this one accidentally. It's a good nine minutes: Arthur C Clarke's 90th birthday thoughts, three months prior to his death.

Tuesday, 22-Apr-08 08:29
The Fifth Cylon - revealed

Warning: Behind this link there be spoilers.

(Hehe. Thanks, Matt, for the chuckle.)

Monday, 21-Apr-08 17:26
Is Sharing Too Easy?

I use different sharing sites (like Flickr or Youtube) quite a lot. I don't have that much to share myself, but I follow quite a few people and do post my own share (heh). To make it easier for me I'm using different kinds of software to make it as effortless as possible: for example, I can use Shozu to share the cell phone pictures I take almost immediately, with a single click. It's become so effortless, it's almost a second nature.

But, since my cell phone is equally my personal and my corporate identity, this sometimes creates problems. A couple of days ago, I nearly (but not quite), without much thinking, shared some work plans to Flickr. We had a workshop, someone had to document the results, I got the job, and I used my cell phone to take notes. Oops.

Even a bigger oops was some time ago when I sent accidentally a picture of my one-time password list of my bank account to Flickr (yes, I've changed them since). That I didn't even realize at first (took me like 30 minutes), so there was a window of opportunity for some major damage. I've learned since to keep the list well hidden always.

We all laugh at the guys who send personal emails to the company's "everyone" mail alias. But with all this effortless sharing, these mistakes are very easy to make, even if you are a professional.

Often, security and usability are opposing forces. This is true especially in computing, which has both the potential of being the greatest boon ever created, and also the most efficient way of self-embarrasment. There is, after all, such a thing as making things too easy to use.

Tuesday, 15-Apr-08 13:03
Nokia 6212

Pim! Nokia 6212 Classic NFC phone has just been launched, along with the BH-210 NFC -enabled headset.

It's an awesome little thing. You can share your contacts or media from one phone to another just by tapping the phones together. No more Bluetooth searches - you don't even have to know you have Bluetooth or how to turn it on. Same thing with the headset; turn it on, tap it to the phone, and it works.

(Disclaimer: I work for Nokia in the NFC business area. So obviously I'm excited enough to become a corporate advertising channel for this!)

Tuesday, 15-Apr-08 10:02
Court: using open WiFi is illegal

A court in Salo, Finland has decreed that using a private, open WiFi network is illegal (Finnish). The accused had used his neighbours internet connection without permission through an open WiFi connection, and was fined.

This is a pretty interesting case - what about those who keep their WiFi open on purpose (like me)? Are we guilty of inciting a crime? Also, you don't necessarily know if a WiFi is open on purpose until you actually join it and see if you can access anything. Some operating systems also connect automatically to open networks (e.g. my WinXP is set up so that it joins whatever open network it sees), so you might be guilty of a crime made by a computer. I suppose this is the first case in the world where a piece of technology owned by you can commit a crime on its own, a crime for which you, the owner are responsible.

Of course, robots committing crimes are a regular in science fiction stories, but in a way it's cool to think that we're finally entering that age. On the other hand, this particular case is kind of dumb - you cannot apply the simplistic logic of WiFi network being private property any more than you can consider the light coming out of my windows private property. I know some people like to say that using an open WiFi is just like walking into someone's kitchen and eating all food "just because the front door was open", but this is not a valid analogy. A WiFi signal can be heard for hundreds of meters around - I could equally well argue that your WiFi signal is trespassing in the privacy of my living room.

So, this case cannot be solved through simple, false analogies (much like many things in the digital world - downloading music is not the same thing as stealing bread, thankyouverymuchforplaying), but it needs deeper understanding of the technologies and social issues involved.

The case is apparently going to a higher court, so I hope we'll see some informed discussion on this subject.

Sunday, 13-Apr-08 11:33
The Next Billion

Here's an awesome article at NY Times on Nokia's Jan Chipchase and the others who go around the world on a mission to understand people. I can't even begin to wrap my brain around the stuff that they do.

(Via Matt's del.icio.us stream.)

Saturday, 12-Apr-08 09:39
Janne's Law of Engineering

I've come to the hypothesis that "all engineering problems can be solved through the methodical appliance of yellow stickers."

It's amazing how much you can talk and talk, but when you finally draw it all up and put it on the wall, and rearrange a bit, suddenly things just become clear.

Monday, 07-Apr-08 21:42
Oomph.

You know things are going to be very difficult when you receive an error report written entirely in Comic Sans.

Friday, 04-Apr-08 11:10
Spam Competition

The JSPWiki sandbox is a wiki where you can try JSPWiki to your heart's content. All modifications are wiped out in 24 hours, and we've got all filters or restrictions turned off for the site.

Not entirely surprisingly, this has turned out to be a heaven for spammers. The site is of course not indexed by any search engines, and we have also the so-called "nofollow" turned on for every link, but this is not discouraging spammers from literally competing with each other in deleting the pages and replacing other people's spam with their own spam. A typical spam message lasts for about 30 minutes before it is replaced by someone else advertising something else.

So, spammers are effectively negating each other, since there is only one spam message in effect at any given time. So the "click window" through which your spam could possibly be located by someone is reduced to almost nothing - which means that you have to add more spam and faster. Which, in turn, reduces everyone's click window.

I never really thought that the wiki way would also work here - with spammers making each other less effective :-)

Friday, 04-Apr-08 09:18
Party Fun

Yesterday, I was just leaving work and going to the shop for some orange juice for the morning, as I was met with some old colleagues who were going to go to a send-off party of another old colleague. So I figured, what the hey, I'll join them and switched my orange juice to a couple of bottles of beer.

So, of course, the sendoff party was in a sauna (all parties in Finland are held in saunas), which was on the top floor (all corporate saunas are in top floors, naturally. The CEOs office does not rank as high as the sauna, and thus typically is only on the next floor). To get there, you use the elevator.

Which got stuck between floors, with a loud beep and a bang.

So, we stood there, nine of us in a very small, cramped space, with pizza and beer, everybody shedding clothes (it was getting somewhat warm) and traded stories of people stuck in an elevator over the weekend, drinking their own urine or whatnot. The alarm system just kept telling us that "yes, you are stuck in an elevator, please wait for someone to contact you."

Luckily, the building was filled with engineers, who were working late. And engineers have a tool for everything - in this case, one of those keys that open elevator doors from the outside.

So, no worries, a few minutes later we were climbing out of the elevator and greeted the rather amused crowd outside.

I don't know if this story has any morale, but lately my life has been somewhat busy (this morning is the first one in about two weeks when I haven't been speaking on the phone at 9 am already. I run the phone battery down before noon these days.) So in a way, getting this forced break in busyness, thanks to broken technology, was kind of welcome. It's good to be thrown off of the track every now and then.

Saturday, 29-Mar-08 09:45
You can't negotiate with protocols

Ed Felten raises a wonderful point:

This property of protocols — that you can’t get a meeting with them, convince them to change their behavior, or make a deal with them — seems especially challenging to some Washington policymakers. If, as they do, you live in a world driven by meetings and deal-making, a world where problem-solving means convincing someone to change something, then it’s natural to think that every protocol, and every piece of technology, must be owned and managed by some entity.

Engineers sometimes make a similar mistake in thinking about technology markets. We like to think that technologies are designed by engineers, but often it’s more accurate to say that some technology was designed by a market. And where the market is in charge, there is nobody to call when the technology needs to be changed.

This is something which really needs to be hammered down into policymakers and engineers head. This is how many companies think - big companies which are used to driving technology forward. But many innovations do not work that way - on the internet, companies form around these inventions, and the technology drives the companies.

There's something pretty deep here, and I can't articulate my thoughts really well on this subject. Maybe later. Now I'm off to my first go tournament in what, three years?

Wednesday, 26-Mar-08 08:44
Two wrongs...

Here's an interesting article - some scientists speculate that, because of Peak Oil (i.e. the fact that there are limited carbon-based burnable things buried in the ground), global warming might not be a complete disaster. It'll still be one big whopping major problem, but oil and coal will simply run out before the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere get to runaway levels.

So, in a way, one disaster might save us from another. That's comedy.

(Via Matt.)

Tuesday, 25-Mar-08 20:51
They lie to you

Of course, nobody is surprised to hear this, but it was still wonderful to see this project of photographing 100 product packagings and their contents.

(Via BB.)

Wednesday, 19-Mar-08 16:57
The Burning Question

Polttava kysymys is a campaign to demand a law which forces the country to reduce its carbon emissions yearly. If you would like to support this, please go to http://www.polttavakysymys.fi/ and send a card to your MP. If you don't know what to do in the face of the looming environmental catastrophy, do at least this simple act.

If you're not Finnish, but still live in Europe - go to http://www.thebigask.eu/ for further info to see if concerned people in your country are running a similar program. UK is already getting there, I see.

(Via Jyrki J.J. Kasvi)

Wednesday, 19-Mar-08 08:34
Arthur C Clarke is gone

RIP.

Man, he had such an impact on my life. I probably wouldn't be who I am now without his books.

A true visionary.

Tuesday, 18-Mar-08 21:13
L18N, the :-) way

(Sorry, only really obscure, narcissistic Finnish jokes here today.)

Jostain syystä tämä jaksaa naurattaa minua aina. Oma vitsi, paras vitsi.

JSPWikin kielitiedostot, englanti:

edit.locked=User "{0}" has started to edit this page, but has not yet \
    saved.  I won't stop you from editing this page anyway, BUT be aware that \
    the other person might be quite annoyed.  It would be courteous to wait for the lock \
    to expire or until the person stops editing the page.  The lock expires in \
    {1} minutes.

Suomi:

edit.locked=Huppistakeikkaa! Käättäjä "{0}" on mennynnä muokkaamaan tätä sivua \
    mutta ei oo vielä kehanna tallettaa.  Minen sinnuu estä, jos nyt väen vängällä tahonnii \
    sivua mennä mulkkamahan, mutta suattaapi tuo toinen vähän hermostua. \
    Jos nyt vielä viittisit vuottaa {1} minnuuttii, niin eiköpähän tuo ruojake sitten ole \
    lopettanna.

Vapaassa softankehityksessä on se hyvä puoli, ettei tätä tarvitse aina ottaa niin vakavasti.

(Jos keksitte, mitä murretta tuo on, niin hyvä. Minä en nimittäin tiedä. Minä en edes muista kirjoittaneeni tuota; se vain pullahti joskus hyvin myöhään yöllä versionhallintaan ja siellä se on tyytyväisenä asustanut jo monta kuukautta.)

Tuesday, 18-Mar-08 13:59
Measures of Success

You know that your managerial day has been successful, when both your phone and your Bluetooth headset run out of juice at 2 pm.

Gng.

Monday, 17-Mar-08 00:38
Blogs just entertainment, says the newspapers

The Finnish blogosphere is buzzing about an article in Helsingin Sanomat, which is deriding the blogs having become mostly entertainment, and not citizen journalism, as was touted a few years ago.

You know what? They're right.

And it does not matter. At all.

I am reminded of the early days of Linux. People said it would kill Windows and all other operating systems. But, if you look around today - Windows is still here, and going strong.

But the other operating systems are pretty much gone. The dozens of operating systems from the time - Xenix, SCO, IRIX, HP/UX, BeOS, Amiga - they're no longer contenders. Linux killed all other mid- and low-range operating systems. (The different BSD variants survive because they are works of love, not money. I would argue the same for OSX as well.)

Linus Torvalds has repeatedly said that he does not care too much about his competition - that he did what he did just for fun, not to kill other operating systems and assure dominance of the world. And this passion about doing the right thing is what made Linux what it is now - a very serious contender. It's not killing Windows - but it's certainly making a splash.

And to me blogs are much the same thing: they're about passion. In the long run, things that people care about tend to survive.

If blogs crush the mainstream journalism in the next few years, it's by accident, not on purpose. I doubt that they will (getting crushed by blogs would require some massively dumb sticking to 19th century practices), but if I were the editor of a small science journal or a handicraft magazine, I would worry. The readership of those is moving to the web - because it's cheaper, it's better, and there's more selection.

Stephen Eley pointed out in one of his podcasts that the listenership of his science fiction audio podcast, "Escape Pod", is already exceeding the subscriber amounts to almost all other science fiction periodicals. And why shouldn't it? It's of excellent quality, free (both as in speech and beer), and it even pays the authors. And clearly, it is a work of passion.

Just give it time, and passion. And ignore whatever other people are saying.

Build whatever matters to you.

Monday, 10-Mar-08 10:38
Censorship isn't really about freedom of speech

(Short recap: Finland is using secret, police-made lists to block foreign child pornography web sites. Unfortunately, the list has been proven to be wildly inaccurate, and its legality and efficiency have been heavily questioned.)

A lot of people (me included) have been talking about the internet block-lists as a freedom of speech-issue. To be precise, this is not exactly true. Because the sites are blocked at the ISP level, this means that they will still be there. People are totally free to write whatever they want - it's just that someone will choose what other people can read. A subtle distinction, but important nevertheless.

You see, I think it sends out a dangerous message. These block lists are saying that "yes, it's okay to rape and pillage and do whatever you want to minors, as long as nobody else knows about it." And this is exactly the wrong thing to say. We should expose these atrocities, and make sure that the web sites themselves are permanently shut down, and the people responsible taken to justice, not try to hide the fact that this sort of stuff is happening in the first place.

The unfortunate thing is that block lists are cheap for the government. They require half a person to maintain, and the actual cost of filtering is born by the operators - but even that is mostly a one-time cost, which can be amortized over a longer time. Finnish police is facing losses of 600-700 jobs until 2015, because their work needs to be more "efficient". Efficient in government lingo meaning doing the same job for less money, not better results.

This is the result of this "efficiency" demand. With respect to the internet, we will get the cheap and "efficient" alternative. It looks like something is being done, so that the people can feel all warm and fuzzy inside when they are told that the kiddie porn is gone from the internets, and the police is protecting you. But in reality, the illegal activity keeps going on and growing.

When you can't hear the cries of the children, you can't help them. When you don't know someone is in peril, you can't care about them. This is why blocking is bad, and being pro-blocking is actually damaging the children. If anything, people should be demanding more money to the police to help fight international crime instead of just nodding blithely at the eradication of our constitution at the interests of "efficiency".

(France is now, by the way, extending their child pornography blocks to information on making explosives or chemical weapons, terrorist propaganda and racial hate speech. It is only a matter of time before Finland follows. We wouldn't want to be pro-hate speech, now would we?)

Thursday, 06-Mar-08 18:07
Standing on two stools

Let me just state first of all that I like meat. And fish. And plenty of other things which go about their daily life until it ends with a hatchet buried in their necks. I don't see anything morally wrong in eating other creatures - in fact, that's pretty much what those other creatures do to survive. So why not me?

However, I do hear the arguments that vegans and vegetarians make. From economical and energy-efficiency point of view, it does not make much sense to use grain to feed a beast, when you could use the grain directly to feed people.

So, from the beginning of this year, I've sort of switched to being a half-vegetarian. I try to keep two-three days a week when I don't eat meat or fish products - or at least I don't have them as a main meal. I wanted to blog about this earlier, but I wanted to check that I could actually keep this promise to myself for a while before I went all public with it. I don't know about you, but at least for me it's always been too easy to just pick whatever meat or fish the corporate cafeteria is offering. This decision is making me actively choose other things now, and it's kind of working.

I'm not seeing any health benefits though, nor any other effects, except that I've started to be a bit picky about the beef I eat - it needs to be cooked just right; be the juicy, succulent, tender variety that you can slobber at by just thinking about putting it in your mouth... Not the "generic meat" that is so often served in places calling themselves restaurants. Makes you appreciate the good stuff more, when you don't ruin your taste with crap.

Actually, now that I think about it, the cause-effect relationship might go the other way, too - maybe I've just become too picky first?

Update: corrected terminology.

Wednesday, 05-Mar-08 12:03
Using less to sell more

Nine Inch Nails released its new album for free - there is even an official, fully legal download at Pirate Bay. High-quality MP3, Creative Commons licensed, completely free.

They way this record is supposed to make money is to give nine first songs for free, and then ask people to pay for the 25 other tracks. It's not much, just $5 for a direct download, but there are multiple other download options, the most expensive of which is $300.

Why would you pay $300 for something which is free?

Turns out that many people do just that, and within about two days, the entire set of these exclusive $300 packages is sold out, which turns out to about $750,000. Minus packaging, postage, etc, I would still imagine that everyone should be pretty happy.

It's encouraging to see people trying out these new internet business models - and that they are working!


Private comments? Drop me an email. Or complain in a nearby pub - that'll help.



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