Tuesday, 28-Jul-09 11:33
Crowd-sourced image recognition project makes science

I've written before about Galaxy Zoo, a site where anyone gets to make cutting-edge science by helping scientists classify galaxies. After a short tutorial, you can just keep clicking through images to see if you can find something really interesting. I've spent several... ehm, slow mornings looking at those images, since at least it's something useful you can do while your brain is starting.

And they did make science - turns out there's a whole new class of galaxies which are green, just like small peas in the sky. And it was all thanks to this massive parallel processing: “No one person could have done this on their own,” Cardamone said. “Even if we had managed to look through 10,000 of these images, we would have only come across a few Green Peas and wouldn’t have recognized them as a unique class of galaxies.”

Of course, all sci-fi geeks are immediately reminded by David Brin's Heaven's Reach, and its green galaxies (he said, not daring to say any more lest I spoil something). Unfortunately, these are all way, way in the past of the universe, so no proof of intelligent life it is. But they are pretty.

Friday, 24-Jul-09 00:47
There's just something special about having someone else's poop under your fingernails

So the little one turned six months old. No, we did not have fancy celebrations - I've always found these "Oh look, we've dated for 100 hours" -things kinda contrived. But we've progressed pretty far: from being a stimulus-response package to a solid-eating poop machine with a charming personality and a will, though not yet the means, to be self-motile.

While it's really amazing to see the changes in the kid, I've also been quite fascinated by the changes we, the parents, are going through. People did warn me in advance that "everything changes". I disagreed then, and I still do: I still put on my pants one leg at a time, just like before. Then again, I am a trained physicist, so my definitions of "everything" and "change" are probably not the same as everybody else's. But I have to admit I have a far better understanding of what they meant now.

You see, the stuff they don't mention is that your brain changes. It's not the lack of sleep, nor the responsibility, nor the lack of free time, nor the rearrangement of the priorities, nor the endless discussion about poop - but the fact that hormones jump into your brain and play a little whack-a-mole with your personality. The mothers notice this more clearly (or not, but usually everybody around them does), since the changes are more radical, but yeah, it works the same way for the non-pregnant adults in the family too, even men.

And because all of this, you actually start to enjoy playing endless, mindless games like Peekaboo. You don't really mind poking into the diaper with a finger to check whether the smell has attained a solid form. You cherish waking up two hours earlier than usual just because the kid looks so insanely happy to see you and flashes his big, toothless grin just at the sight of your face when he manages to wake you up. You start finding Peter Pan anxiety-inducing because the children are left to survive on their own. Dead Baby -jokes stop being funny. And a dark corner of your mind knows that if this was because of anyone else, you would've already brought out the shotgun. It's love, Jim, but not as we know it.

Yeah, my brain is totally bonkers. And that changes the way you experience things, and, in some definitions, changes everything - and that is why it is so difficult to be prepared for parenthood. Even if you have read every single Dr Spock equivalent there is, and have spent tons of time babysitting other kids, you will still get mindfucked by the experience. You'll have a million generations of primordial survival/breeding instinct kicking in, and it gets really hard to keep the education in mind in all that turmoil.

But it's okay. It's what all animals are supposed to do, and these instincts and changes are there for a good reason. And who are we to argue with ourselves anyway?

Monday, 20-Jul-09 19:01
Why I don't like Web 2.0 anymore

Lately I've had this strange feeling that perhaps web tools are reaching their limits. Yes, I know, people are building really cool-looking tools like Google Wave, using a gazillion different toolkits like JQuery, and that everybody believes that in the future all the apps and the data live in the cloud and are accessible by browsers on any device whatsoever.

But I've got a few arguments why I think the tide may change.

First of all - Javascript and the browser are a lousy, lousy environment for development. Your layout engines have wildly differing notions as to how stuff should be rendered. You spend a LOT of time figuring out what works on which browser. You have to choose among a dozen of incompatible frameworks (JQuery, Dojo, Prototype, Mootools, etc) to build your app - and you need to do that in at least two languages, since you don't develop the server side on Javascript. The tools you write your code with have so far been really crappy (but tools like Firebug and Aptana Studio are helping).

Most importantly, you can only choose Javascript and HTML as your development environment. There is no other practical choice (Silverlight, Flash and JavaFX are not real contenders here). In fact, they have to invent new standards to go around all the crappiness that is HTML, CSS and JS, and it's going to take a long time before all reasonable environments support them. For chrissakes, people still use IE6!

I was also reminded by the harsh realities of web-based life when the cell connectivity went down (Joikuspot FTW, usually). No more doing anything with the apps that I needed. Luckily I'm pretty paranoid and keep a local copy of everything important. If I spend money on my laptop in order to be mobile, and able to work without wires or power, then why would I tie my productivity to the whims of the cell operator?

Anyhoo, I'm just so frustrated at the generic unusability of web-based apps compared to local apps running on my mobile or my laptop. However, there are some incredible benefits to keeping your data in the cloud, too.

My guess is that now that we're pretty much down to three operating systems on the personal computer area, and three operating systems on the mobile phone area, it again becomes cost-efficient to provide thick clients that have a copy of the data locally and the master copy in the cloud. That makes the benefits of working with cloud-based apps tangible, yet invisible. Version control systems like Git are very good at keeping track and sync of local and remote copies; storage systems like Amazon S3 are readily available; and most of the modern computers have way more horsepower than what is required to run a browser, since they have to deal with gaming requirements. There will be less need to target multiple browser environments simply because there just won't be that many operating systems anymore.

Google Earth is a good example of this new breed of applications: it keeps a local copy of the map data so that it's actually useful even if you're not online. With Ovi Maps you can keep a local copy of the map data, yet benefit from upgrades on the server side. Ovi Files stores a copy of your local files in the cloud, so that they're accessible from anywhere. (Yes, I had to work in a few references to my company products, didn't I? ;-)

Anyhoo. I might be wrong. Time will tell. Perhaps it's just my personal dislike for Javascript...

Saturday, 11-Jul-09 10:11
Nice surprise

I opened my mailbox on Thursday evening, and I heard that I had been invited to be a Member at the Apache Software Foundation. It's an honour to be invited to be in such an organization, and it's made even more important by the fact that it's bestowed upon me by my peers, which means that there are people out there who don't think I'm completely nuts.

And, to boot, this happened on a day before I leave for vacation - so it was like the perfect news to start my holidays with. Yay!

(BTW, we (Nokia) are looking for a good person to fulfil a Lead Architect role for a service line. The position is in US, but if you're interested, ping me.)

Monday, 15-Jun-09 02:24
If you don't share, nobody cares

Tweeted this today, not really thinking too much about it. That's how I express myself often, hiding truth behind a joke. (And no, I wasn't naked all day. But I didn't wear "proper" clothes either. So was the tweet true or not?) But I did get a couple of comments that got me thinking.

Recently, I've been growing to another role - that of the boss. It already creates some interesting communication when your colleagues read your blogs and tweets, and there's some nice tension when you know that your boss subscribes to your RSS streams. That's fine though - it creates a certain peer pressure model which keeps stuff like corporate secrets out of the internet, and may also lead to friendships beyond the corporate life.

However, I think the online life gets really interesting when you have people who report to you. Me, being part of the internet unit of the corporate behemoth these days, I get the ones who even better at living online than me. And, it's the same people you want to be doing things you tell them to, but at the same time they will be privy to parts of your life in which you're not the boss, but just a normal human being with average and not-so-average tastes. So it's kinda scary.

Now, I live on the borderline: I am not young enough to know of no other world than one with sharing online everything you have; but I am not old enough to believe in the necessity of keeping my different lives separate. Gen X, all the way :-).

Risto Linturi writes wonderfully (albeit in Finnish) on the generational differences of the necessity of keeping "roles": The elderly caution the kids that "you can't remove anything from the internet", and "be careful or all the stupid things you do will come back to haunt you later" - but the kids do it anyway, because sharing so much more efficient than the old way. It's an incredibly powerful way to create trust between people, and the young view the "must hide everything lest people figure out that I am not as smart as I try to look like" -attitude of their elders with suspicion. Which is obvious, considering that the mechanisms of trust are different, and as much as the older generations don't understand the young, neither do the young understand the older generations.

The fun thing is that the Internet amplifies this kind of mechanisms. Of how many private photo-sharing sites have you heard of recently? There are zillions of them, but none of them can match the popularity of Flickr, where everything, by default, is public (and the privacy controls are really coarse). The popularity of Flickr feeds the popularity of Flickr - because you can talk about it. You can show your pictures easily. There's a strong incentive towards sharing, and sharing begets sharing. Image searches find Flickr pictures, but they don't find your hidden pictures - so the Flickr pictures get shared even more. Putting stuff online openly is a much faster breeder, so to say, than private image sharing (which obviously has its uses as well - I keep most of the kids pictures hidden simply because it should be his decision to choose whether to share or not, so I'm deferring that decision until he can make it himself).

People, especially those who vote Pirate Party, say "sharing is caring", but I think it's more correct to say that "if you don't share, nobody cares." We live in an information age, and whoever moves information fastest or best, wins the race. In a few measly years, who is going to care about an artist whose works you can't download for free from the internet? You used to hear it for free from the radio; now you use Spotify or Pirate Bay.

I have been on the internet since 1989, and yeah, I've done stuff which can't be erased from the net and I feel now rather ashamed about. But never ever has this come back to haunt me. It may be that I've managed to keep the account on the positive side - that is, I do more of the stuff that makes me appear sane and fit to serve humanity than I do of the insane/oh-my-god -variety. Or it may be just the fact that there is always someone weirder on the internet.

OK, so here's the catch for me: In order to be able to actually function as a leader in an internet company, I simply have to choose the younger generation way, or there would be no credibility. But all (well, most) my superiors over time have been of the older generation, which means that all the role-models I have are inherently faulty. Which in turn means that I feel, on occasion, rather lost.

So here I go again, twaddling along with leaking boots, inventing stuff as I go along... Comfort zone is what happens to other people. *sigh*

Guys, I know you are reading this, so sod off and get back to work ;-)
Monday, 08-Jun-09 18:59
Dem Pirates

Sweden, as expected, voted one Piratpartiet member (Pirate Party) to the EU Parliament, with a possibility for a second one, if their delegation size increases by two.

Now, obviously, a single guy can't do much, and the elected representative, Christian Engström, just moves from the lobby wing of EU to the actual parliament, so I don't think there will be much impact on that side.

But what is really significant is the fact that Piratpartiet got 7.1% of votes. That 7% is huge amount of voters that any party would love to sign up, especially considering Piratpartiet's popularity in the 18-30 demographic (20% votes), who by the time of the next election, are going to be the 18-35 demographic, and therefore likely to grow from that 7%. So, it is very likely that some parties will start changing their rhetoric towards PP's lines in order to cannibalize their support; especially parties which are already pretty close in some ideals (like the Greens). The Pirate Party is seen as a single-agenda movement, and many people who in principle agree with the sentiment don't necessarily want to support a party whose other views are unknown, or just think that PP is too extremist in their views towards copyright.

So, there's at least 7% of voters to be grabbed by choosing to openly defend consumers and driving towards a more modern copyright and internet legislation. I say modern, because I feel that there is a good, solid middle path which actually takes into account the extremely rapid change that media creation and distribution and communication is currently ongoing, without sacrificing people's right for privacy and freedom of speech, but still fulfilling the original purpose of copyright, which was to give financial incentives for people to create. Unfortunately, the quest for this middle path is completely hidden by irrelevant discussions, bad metaphors, falsified or misinterpreted data, deeply entrenched opinions with no actual facts to back them up, and the simple inability to communicate across the board.

Perhaps it'll take a few years of fighting between the extremists on either side, and we may have to wait until that 20% becomes the 18-50 demographic. But time is on the side of the Pirate Party: If the idiotic "copyright enforcement over all civil liberties, damn you evil pirates" -trend continues for a few more years, will the "starving artists" have any friends left by the time the current teenagers actually have power? And how will they use the vast powers created by the current administrations? For good, or for revenge?

Sunday, 07-Jun-09 00:38
Vote!

The EU parliamental election is tomorrow. Even if you might feel that it's not affecting you, it is. The parliament has grown a collective spine over the past few years, and, as Jyrki Kasvi pointed out in his tweet, a lot of the issues are being decided already on an EU level.

So, no matter who you vote, vote.

Sunday, 17-May-09 05:29
Class Reunion

I'm writing this at my parents house, the same place I grew up. Today we had a 20 year high school ("lukio") class reunion, an event I had kind of been half-expecting, half-dreading. Expecting because we did live together for so many years; dreading because, well, it had been 20 years - half of our lifetime ago. People can change a lot in that time.

In the end, it turned out to be an awesome event. At first, people felt a bit apprehensive, but soon the sun and the beer opened the floodgates, and we talked. And we talked a lot. We shared our life tales; the wins, the losses. The good and the bad; the lucky strikes and the accidents. Some of us had had it rough; for some life had been smooth. Some were divorced, some were still with their high school sweetheart. Most of us had children, and their pictures were circulated eagerly and complimented upon.

After a dinner, we ended up watching videos from the time we spent together, and had collective self-embarathy moments. Then, we ended up in a discotheque ("Wiltsu") which had been reopened under the same name after 20 years, and which was to many of us a first touch of adulthood - so it was obviously THE place to go and visit. And we danced like we were eighteen.

Finally, it was a bit of traditional local food ("Vety") and watching the sun come up.

Good reset. Great company.

What really makes me happy is that I was able to rekindle some old friendships, and also - hopefully - actually start some new ones. Finding a common tune with someone you never really talked to before is an uplifting experience, no matter how many years pass or how old you are.

Sunday, 10-May-09 00:12
New Trek movie excellent addition to the Star Wars saga

Went to see the new Star Trek movie with low expectations. The previous movies in the saga had been, well, bad, and it has rarely translated well on the big screen. This time, all new cast and directors - could be bad, could be good.

The movie is good. It's really quite good.

The problem is - it's not Star Trek. Or at least it's not my Star Trek.

(May be spoilers here.)

After the movie, I sat there, in the half-empty theatre, watching people flow out. Feeling quite empty. Yeah, I had laughed, I was excited, but you know, it was as if I had seen something else than a Trek movie. A nice sci-fi flick, with planets exploding, gigantic war machines with a vengeance-driven ruler. Cute aliens. No technobabble. A triangle drama between the hansom but loner captain, a cool but uncertain man, who does not quite know where he belongs, and a beautiful lady with a strange hairdo. Lots of action and little complexity, conveyed through a barrage of special effects and lots of platforms on which the good and the evil guys can jump about.

Change a few names, have different spaceships, minor changes to the plotline, and this would've made a truly excellent Star Wars Episode 1; much better than the monstrosity that George Lucas came up with.

But it ain't Star Trek. There's no "what if". There's no thinking, no alien cultures. Just action. Just childish joy at breaking things. Nothing adult or difficult; nothing that compares to the best Star Trek episodes (of all the series).

OK, maybe I'm old. Maybe this is exactly how the old trekkies felt when Star Trek - The Next Generation appeared. And I remember the cries of foul play when people learned that there was going to be a remake of Battlestar Galactica, and Starbuck was going to be a woman!

But there was a difference: the new BSG series was actually really good. It really showed something different, something that very few series had done before. It challenged people with non-trivialized plotlines and did evil things to main characters that we loved. The new Star Trek isn't better than the original. It's a superimposition of Star Wars on top of the Star Trek universe. There is nothing new in it. Everything has been seen before, in other surroundings.

To summarize: the new Trek movie is a nice action flick with lots of in-references and jokes thrown in for the fans. But it's a movie with little power. Someone could make a great TV series based on it, but any movie sequels I'm probably going to skip.

(Update: Ha! "The writers have said their goal is for the film to appeal not just to Trek fans, but to new audiences as well. They hoped to bring the feel of the original Star Wars trilogy into the movie, since Abrams has often said he's more a fan of Star Wars than Star Trek.")

Wednesday, 15-Apr-09 11:37
EU Parliament suggests new privacy guidelines

While the evil and secret ACTA treaty is being forged in the depths of Mordor Berne, some positive news comes from EU. The Parliament has adopted a report on privacy on the internet, which includes some gems such as:

...proceed to the adoption of the directive on criminal measures aimed at the enforcement of intellectual property rights, following an assessment, in the light of contemporary innovation research, of the extent to which it is necessary and proportionate, and while simultaneously prohibiting, in pursuit of that purpose, the systematic monitoring and surveillance of all users" activities on the Internet, and ensuring that the penalties are proportionate to the infringements committed; within this context, also respect the freedom of expression and association of individual users and combat the incentives for cyber-violations of intellectual property rights, including certain excessive access restrictions placed by intellectual property holders themselves;

...urge the Member States to identify all entities which use Net Surveillance and to draw up publicly accessible annual reports on Net Surveillance ensuring legality, proportionality and transparency;

...condemn government-imposed censorship of the content that may be searched on Internet sites, especially when such restrictions can have a 'chilling effect' on political speech;

...call on the Member States to ensure that freedom of expression is not subject to arbitrary restrictions from the public and/or private sphere and to avoid all legislative or administrative measures that could have a "chilling effect" on all aspects of freedom of speech;

It isn't half bad. Now it remains to be seen whether the political will of the parliament can be turned into something concrete.

Saturday, 04-Apr-09 14:03
Choice is good. Kinda.

You know when something sits at the back of your brain and you just can't quite dislodge it but you can't really understand what it is either? Well, this is one of those blog entries.

I started to think about what the internet really means and where it comes from and what the continuum of the things are. Here are some bits from my train of thought:

  • Reading & Writing: We were no longer had to be in a given place or time to get information. Tomes of knowledge could be consumed by anyone who just acquired the necessary skills, no matter when or where.
  • Printing press: Served as a means to get reading/writing to so many more people.
  • Train & Mass transport: Again, a means to get the books produced by the printing press to even more places.
  • The Internet: A renessance of literacy. Just dropped the threshold of participation in the human knowledge pool again a lot more.

But the internet isn't the end-all in this sequence. It's still relatively expensive to get to, and in many places of the world it just isn't practical. Much like the monks of old, only a few people get access to it.

Some people look at the number of mobile phone subscribers and say that the "mobile internet" is the next step. Yes, mobile phones are available for almost everyone at prices which are no longer prohibitive. But still, they are primarily for voice - doing the same stuff as what we used to do before the invention of writing. And it's going to take a long time before everyone in Africa has a smartphone.

Incidentally, this progression is also the reason why I'm not that hot on location-based services. I mean, why add dependence just when we managed to get rid of it? Yes, they're useful to some degree (and it's cool to be able to figure out your own dependencies and not be limited by what is there physically - kinda like drawing on a blank piece of paper after spending lots of effort rubbing it clean), but still it's akin to freezing yer balls off at a nudist beach after spending millennia figuring out how not to freeze them by inventing all kinds of new clothes.

The way I see it, while the internet almost completely demolishes our time- and location -dependence, it does not still address some fundamental problems with the idea of spreading knowledge. One big issue is language - our choice of material is limited by the languages we know. Even with filtered and aggregated media (like newspapers or TV) we're still bound by the limits of the languages the editors know. I like to quote a work-specific example: Nokia has been involved with NFC for years, and we've been running big pilots with thousands of people and selling the stuff commercially for ages, but not until we did a couple of small pilots in English-speaking countries, and got English-language coverage, did the Finnish press really pick it up.

An even bigger issue is cultural. All cultures try to limit the free flow of information to some degree, for legal reasons or because they don't like the idea in general. The recently popular "internet censorship" is not really that different from the censorship slapped on every kind of media - and it's pretty much as ineffective too. People have always found ways around it if they needed to; it's just a way to pretend that bad things don't exist. And that's really the problem: The internet has something for everyone, which means that you don't need to be exposed to the stuff you don't want to be exposed to. It's really difficult to blow your mind if all you read are the same blogs and same newssites which serve you the same stuff all over again; stuff to which you already agree to.

At least when you only had a few books, you could read them all and be exposed to opinions and facts you didn't really want to know.

I don't know what the next step after the internet is going to be, but I think it should primarily concentrate on abolishing the cultural dependencies of our minds. You know, make it really easy to really see what the world is like. By that I don't mean that we should agree, but that we should at least try to understand what we're talking about and where the other guys are coming from.

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.


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



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