Monday, 31-Oct-05 00:57
MP3s galore

Went to see the Japan Pop exhibition in Tennispalatsi. Somewhere along the way I realized that I had four MP3-players with me: my iPod Nano; an iRiver 795 (which I use because of its recording ability only); a Nokia N90 phone; and a loaner Nokia 770 Internet Tablet from work (with the newest software it's quite snappy). Every single piece of electronics I was carrying is able to play MP3s.

There's an old saying of software development which says "Every program attempts to expand until it can read mail. Those programs which cannot so expand are replaced by ones which can."

I wonder if it could be rephrased these days? "All hardware attempts to expand until it can play MP3s. Hardware which cannot so expand will be replaced by something which can."

(After a long hiatus, I made a new podcast. Enjoy.)

Sunday, 30-Oct-05 01:36
Blogosphere simulation

Had a lazy moment, so I decided to do something that has been bouncing in my head for a while: could the Power Law of weblogs be simulated? The basic idea of the Power Law is that in any blogosphere, certain blogs become more popular than others (and this without the help of any top-lists or anything). So I made a bunch of rules, hooked them to a graphing library, and lo! The Power Law formed in front of my eyes. In fact, it formed with almost any assumptions.

This very simple applet I wrote creates a blogosphere of 1000 bloggers. Each blogger follows the following rules:

  • Initially, all bloggers have 20 subscriptions to random blogs.
  • Every day, every blogger makes a post.
  • There is a 10% chance for him to post a link to an another blog.
  • Every day, the blogger updates his subscription list as follows:
    1. There is a <2% chance that a blogger drops a subscription (the probability is decreased if the blogger has fewer blogs in his subscription list.
    2. There is a 5% chance that the blogger subscribes to a blog if someone on his subscription list has linked to it.
    3. There is a 1% chance that a blogger subscribes to a blog that posts a link to his blog.
    4. There is a maximum of 40 blogs any blogger will subscribe to.

It turns out that very quickly, even after a few iterations, some bloggers become more popular than others (because it's more probable that people link to them), and therefore get more links. Which makes them, in the next turn, more popular. Very quickly, some bloggers gain a very large audience, whereas most of the bloggers will plateau to an average level.

So don't complain about something as trivial as the top-list making some Finnish bloggers more popular than others. This is something that is built-in the linking structure of the Blogosphere. It might be interesting to add some sort of an "interestingness" -feature on the blogs and see if these blogs bubble up to the top, but... There's only so much time :-)

Update: The following quote from Shirky's article, is the key thing (emphasis mine): "In systems where many people are free to choose between many options, a small subset of the whole will get a disproportionate amount of traffic (or attention, or income), even if no members of the system actively work towards such an outcome. This has nothing to do with moral weakness, selling out, or any other psychological explanation. The very act of choosing, spread widely enough and freely enough, creates a power law distribution."

(Standard disclaimer: this is not a scientific proof. It's in fact a very silly and simple proof, with perhaps bad assumptions. But it should validate the basic idea. Any statisticians in the audience are free to comment, and I shall attempt to make the code more robust.)

Thursday, 27-Oct-05 17:56
Thinglinks link the things that bind the world together

Ulla-Maaria Mutanen seems to be onto something here:

Most products of the pro-am revolution are, however, not part of the long tail. Neither are most works of art, design objects, handcrafts, or the products of small manufacturers in developing countries. The reason why they are not part of the long tail is that recommendations are based on unique product identifiers. Without an identifier, the product does not exist on the market. Where product codes end, so does the long tail.

So, for all these small scale products that fall through the cracks of organized capitalism, they created ThingLinks: essentially free URIs you can just allocate for free.

I see immediately one problem here: at the lowest end of the long tail, the quantity of objects just explodes. Real mass production: there are just so many people making small things. (A free sneaky ad: check out Outi's jewellery; that's the kind of thing that's targeted by the ~ThingLink.)

Anyhow, in my understanding the product codes exist in order to make inventories easier; not to make it easier for consumers to find out more. This is handled by putting the phone number of the manufacturer or importer on the label, and mandatory lists of ingredients, etc. Few people actually take a barcode reader (readily available) and go to the web to search for more information on common objects. And the ones that you would go to find information about, have names (and trademarks, and brans). Is there a really a need or a want among people to find out more about a sweater they bought from a shop somewhere in Siberia, and what kind of information could you even find out about a sweater?

The thing becomes more interesting when applied to bigger pieces of art; say paintings or songs. With more work, and more emotional involvement, a story is born. And it might be interesting to find out about this story. Perhaps.

But I certainly see a point for something like this for small manufacturers in third world countries. In order to enhance their infrastructure and logistics, it would make sense to start working on things like barcodes (2D and regular) for ~ThingLinks, RFID/NFC tag formats, etc. Note that ~ThingLinks are not compatible with currently existing infrastructure, so it would be difficult to impose them in countries where such an infrastructure already exists. But then again, using ~ThingLinks in third world countries would require infrastructure, which they might not be able to afford...

Somehow, I'm not excited. Then again, I am a grumpy, old bastard these days. And often wrong.

Thursday, 27-Oct-05 15:26
Make your own Mac Mini robot

Well, these guys did it: a fully functional robot based on a Mac Mini and an iSight video camera. Wonderful :)

(Via ~PetrosB)

Thursday, 27-Oct-05 00:09
A very boring update

In case you want to see what a ~PowerMac G5 looks like, I just uploaded a bunch of pictures to Flickr. Unless you are into serious technopornography, don't bother to look.

Me? I'm just drooling on the computer and realizing that JSPWiki could be far more optimized for multiple CPUs than what it currently is. Hmm...

Anyhoo... One thing that I've been baking my noodle with lately is the concept of attention - particularly Continuous Partial Attention (CPA) from Linda Stone. I've certainly noticed that I am capable of multitasking until it becomes a real problem. I also know the concept of Flow (or "Zone"). It makes me wonder, purely from a hacker's viewpoint, is it just a coincidence that so many programmers I know also manifest these two capabilities, which appear diametrically opposed.

The programmer's life is to live in a state of CPA, but to seek the Flow. Strange paradox.

But anyhoo; I was listening to this ITConversations podcast from Supernova 2005, and the statistics presented by Linda Stone were somewhat worrying: the average office worker manages, on the average, to work 11 minutes on a single task - and is interrupted (again, on the average) three times during this 11-minute period. And every time the worker gets interrupted, it's about 25 minutes to get back to the task. And yet, some people (yes, including myself) willfully call for these interruptions by keeping tabs on blogs, email, SMSs, etc. Sometimes it seems that the only way to get anything done is to spend a few extra hours at work, but even then you can interrupt yourself when you let your mind wander. Even worse, if you get into the Zone, and you get interrupted, you end up in a quasi-state: not quite capable of handling the interruption ("you're again million miles away, darling"), but unable to get back into the Zone. This is bad, and it's getting worse, as I get older. And all, as Linda Stone puts it, "because we are so afraid of missing something important, we divide our attention everywhere and do not concentrate on the task at hand."

One thing that I learned during by years of practicing martial arts was controlling your attention: not letting it wander and making it concentrated on the situation around you. I seem to have forgotten most of it, so maybe I should restart practicing it somehow. But how, that is the question? It's so much easier to concentrate with someone trying to punch you in the face than it is to do when staring at a Powerpoint slide.

There is a concept of awareness, called Zanshin, which is traditionally difficult to explain. On the surface the concept of being aware of everything smells like CPA. But I think that this CPA thing may be just a bastardized, wrong interpretation of Zanshin. It's not about dividing your attention; it's really just that, being aware of things. Maybe the fact that the online world is not real contributes to this? Do we have the capacity to divide our attention into two realms at once? Perhaps we don't, and that explains the incredible popularity of blogs, online gaming, and other forms of this... pseudo-reality.

Maybe I'm just rambling, because I am in a form of a Zone. I'm writing this pretty much on one sitting; and thoughts flow through my head, but unlike when I am programming, I lack the language to dump this all in a form that would be unambiguous to the recipient. Which is annoying. I can sort of feel things happening around me, but I cannot really respond. I'm not really thinking; things just flow through from my brain onto the screen.

I need more of this, and less of CPA.

Tell me, how do you manage? How do you fight CPA? How do you keep the balance? Or do you?

Read plenty more about this concept, called Life Hacking, from New York Times. Matt Jones also speaks wise words, though he did all this two years ago already.

I'll need to think more about what this means with respect to the mobile vs. portable computing and the foreground-background thing.

(Or maybe I am just rambling.)

Monday, 24-Oct-05 12:47
How much is your blog worth?

My blog is worth $70,002.96.
How much is your blog worth?

Well, here's a new competition for everyone who measures their self-worth as a blogger with respect to how others are doing.

(I have to admit that the ability to embed CSS directly into Wiki markup is pretty cool. All the stuff on the left is done with CSS positioning and styles.)

(Via Peikko.)

Sunday, 23-Oct-05 15:42
Todays illegal link

You might remember an illegal copyright violation called All Your Base Are Belong To Us, a hilarious spoof of an 80s video game with... interesting English. Well, someone has illegally mixed this with Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody, and produced yet another hilarious illegal copyright violation called The Zero Wing Rhapsody. Warning: you may need to be very geek in order to appreciate this.

(Via Boing Boing. Am I a criminal because I link to funny animations on the internet that mix copyrighted stuff together without asking permission?)

Friday, 21-Oct-05 17:21
Off with the head! Er. Linux, I mean.

As astute readers may know, I've had problems with both hardware and software for quite some time now. My Ubuntu Linux workstation has grown very flaky, and I am just too tired to try and figure out what is going on. (I cannot run Eclipse nor any Java GUI program for long; aRTs has never been stable for me, to the extent that I haven't been able to watch any multimedia on my desktop for years now; and KDE's DCOPServer keeps hanging, so I need to login/logout every few days - it's apparently something that happens to very, very few people in the world, so nobody is able to fix it. And I spent 30 minutes on the floor pressing the reset button - the computer wouldn't boot.) I'm through trying to figure out the innards of Linux for now. I just can't be bothered anymore. I've been doing it since Linux kernel 0.99pl17 or something, and it's just become too tiring. I just want my computer to work, so I can concentrate on the productive stuff, and not spend my time on trying to get the computer to work. I want to figure out solutions to new problems, not to keep rehashing the same old problems that someone else should've already solved for me.

So I caved in and ordered a shiny new dual-core PowerMac G5. It's way too expensive, but if it keeps me from gnawing my fingers off due to frustration that could turn galaxies into pudding, then it's quite an acceptable price.

I'll get back to home desktop Linux in a year or two to check what is going on. But for now, I'm just going to surrender, throw myself on my back, and let Uncle Steve lick my balls.

Thursday, 20-Oct-05 12:36
Blog.jspwiki.org goes online

After many years of supporting weblogs in JSPWiki, I finally got off my ass and made the official JSPWiki development weblog. Welcome!

Wednesday, 19-Oct-05 13:48
Poistuin top-listoilta

(English summary: Finnish blog politics. I quit blogilista.fi top list. Boring.)

Peesaan nyt kolleegakaimaa ja poistun blogilista.fi:n top- ja hot-listoilta (näköjään sijalta 31). Pääsevätpähän muut ihmiset nyt siihen parkumaansa sisäpiiriin. (Ei, minä en tiedä kuulunko minä siihen. Kukaan ei ole kertonut mikä tämä sisäpiiri oikeasti on ja keitä siihen kuuluu. Jos joku sen voisi määritellä, niin se (ja foto) olis kiva.)

Oikeasti olen kyllä harkinnut tuota jo pitkään, sillä jos näin saisi nostettua uusia, mielenkiintoisia blogeja muiden luettavaksi, niin hyvä. Henkilökohtaisesti epäilen asiaa. Tosiseikkahan on se, että listoilla noustaan ylöspäin siksi, että kirjoitukset vetoavat useampiin ihmisiin kuin jollain toisella. Ja kuten David Foster Wallace sanoo:

TV is not vulgar and prurient and dumb because the people who compose the audience are vulgar and dumb. Television is the way it is simply because people tend to be extremely similar in their vulgar and prurient and dumb interests and wildly different in their refined and aesthetic and noble interests.

Kun tarpeeksi ihmisiä kertyy yhteen, heidän keskuudestaan automaattisesti nousevat ne yksilöt, jotka vetoavat suurimpaan osaan ihmisistä. He eivät ole parhaita, älykkäimpiä, nopeimpia, vahvimpia, eivätkä ketterimpiä. Sen sijaan he vain kiinnostavat tarpeeksi montaa muuta ihmistä - ei tietenkään kaikkia, mutta tarpeeksi montaa. He vetoavat siihen yhteiseen, alimpaan tasoon meidän mielissämme, ja siksi meille jää käsitys siitä, että he ovat "hyviä". Eivät "parhaita" tai "suosikkeja", mutta "ihan ok". Minä en ainakaan ole erityisen hyvä kirjoittaja, ja tiedän, että iso osa lukijoistani on ihmisiä, jotka tuntevat minut henkilökohtaisesti yksityiselämän (hei sisko!), työn (hi WM Team & NSS!) tai Open Source -ohjelmistojeni kautta. Kuten Blogistanian omasta mielestäni terävimpiin kirjoittajiin kuuluva Turisti sanoo:

Joku älypää tietenkin keksii seuraavaksi ryhtyä nillittämään siitä, että kerään ympärilleni jonkin sortin sisäpiiriä.

Niin varmaan keräänkin.

Niitä piiriläisiä kutsutaan ystäviksi.

Kävijöistäni näyttäisi tällä hetkellä vain noin 7% tulevan blogilistan kautta. Katsotaan, miten tämä muuttuu listoilta poistumisen myötä. Luultavasti ei mihinkään.

Tuesday, 18-Oct-05 17:11
Chief editor of the largest Finnish newspaper starts blog

Reetta Meriläinen, the chief editor of Helsingin Sanomat has started her own blog. Helsingin Sanomat is the largest newspaper in Finland. This is roughly the same if the chief editor of New York Times started to blog...

It will be quite interesting to see whether the blog will be used to participate in discussion, or whether it will be just a broadcasting channel for the stuff that didn't fit in the editorials. I just hope it won't just be a "day in the editor's life" -type blog. Helsingin Sanomat gets often criticized for one-sided coverage - maybe this means they are prepared for a change.

One thing that Mediaviikko didn't quite get, but Helsingin Sanomat seems to, is the fact that while blogs are hype, one should not treat them as hype: do not think that you should start to blog just because everyone else does it, too. Blog, if you feel like you have something to say. And be prepared for the fact that a billion people can see your blog, and might just respond.

At it's best, blogging is a way to conduct dialogue with people who care; at its worst, it can be a huge mob of uninformed people lynching others. In any case, it's just text.

They say that a "pen is mightier than the sword." It's quite true, you know.

Monday, 17-Oct-05 20:52
Mediaviikko censors critique

The Mediaviikko magazine published an editorial praising the new copyright law . Promptly, and not altogether unsurprisingly, it gained over forty comments many of them pointing out several mistakes in the original article. There were also some abusive comments - though nothing very out-of-the-ordinary for the Internet. (I followed the conversation, and even posted one of the first, initial comments.)

What does Mediaviikko do? They remove all comments - because "most of them were sent from anonymous email addresses". Well, duh. If you allow anonymous commenting on your web site, you do get anonymous comments. You don't need to be a rocket scientist to figure that one out.

But it's incomprehensible why they had to remove all comments and revised their article without saying what they did - does the truth hurt that much?

For the record: here are the mistakes I found from the current version of the article (in Finnish):

  • "Olisikin ollut täysin käsittämätöntä, jos oikeusvaltio olisi hyväksynyt toisen omaisuuden varastamisen, kuten eräät tahot koettivat vaatia." - Ei, kukaan ei vaatinut lupaa varastaa toisten omaisuutta. Varastaminen on ollut laitonta tähänkin mennessä. Uusi laki vain on suunniteltu niin huonosti, että se määrittelee esimerkiksi ohjelmien nauhoittamisen televisiosta ilman lupaa tai laillisesti ostetun DVD:n katsomisen Linux-tietokoneella "varastamiseksi" - ja tämä sotii ihan yleistä oikeustajua vastaan.
  • "CD-levyjen luvaton maahantuonti ja musiikin luvaton lataaminen netistä kielletään" - Laki ei kiellä CD-levyjen maahantuontia, mutta vaikeuttaa merkittävästi esimerkiksi sellaisten ihmisten musiikinkuuntelua, jotka sattuvat pitämään jostain harvinaisemmasta, mutta jotka eivät kykene ostamaan musiikkia verkkokaupoista vaikkapa luottokortin tai kielitaidon puutteen takia. Outoa on myös se, että laillisesti ostetun ohjelman kopiosuojauksen kiertäminen hyväänkin tarkoitukseen on paha rikkomus, josta voi jopa heilahtaa häkki, mutta musiikin luvaton lataaminen netistä (eli ns. piratismi) ei ole edes rangaistavaa. Muutenkaan teksti ei ehkä menisi äidinkielenopettajan syynistä läpi: "luvaton kielletään" - eihän asia voi olla luvatonta ennen kuin se kielletään? Vai onko periaate päätoimittajan maailmassa "kaikki on luvatonta paitsi se, mikä on erikseen sallittua?"
  • "Nyt cd-levyjen piraattikopiot ja netin kautta luvattomasti ladattavat musiikkikappaleet vievät leivän tekijöiden suusta." RIAA:n mukaan maailmassa myytiin 808 miljoonaa CD:tä vuonna 2002, n. 10% lasku edellisvuodesta. Samaan aikaan verkoissa siirrettiin noin 2.1 miljardia levyä. Vaikka levymyynnin lasku kokonaisuudessaan laitettaisiin pelkän nettipiratismin syyksi (eikä esimerkiksi yleisen laman, CD:iden hintojen nousun tai musiikin huonouden), maailmassa on silti tehty n. 2.0 miljardia laitonta levylatausta, jotka eivät voi siis olla pois kenenkään suusta. Referenssi.
  • "Yleisön saataviin asetetuista laillisista teoksista voidaan jatkossakin tehdä kopioita yksityiseen käyttöön, kun kopioija pyytää luvan tekijältä." Kopiointi yksityiskäyttöön on edelleenkin sallittua, eikä lupaa tarvitse erikseen kysyä. Sen sijaan se, mikä on kiellettyä, on teknisen suojauksen kiertäminen - esimerkiksi kopiosuojatun CD:n siirto PC-koneelle. Tälläisiä virheellisiä tietoja ei tulisi levittää lehden pääkirjoituksessa. Ihmisille voi jäädä väärä kuva.
  • "Uusi laki näet vaikuttaa suotuisasti yleisön asenteisiin." No ei todellakaan vaikuta. Jos uuden lain mukaan on kerran vähemmän rangaistavaa olla maksamatta ja hakea jotain verkosta ilmaiseksi, kuin ostaa kopiosuojattu CD kaupasta ja tehdä siitä kopio, jotta se toimisi iPodissa tai autostereoissa, niin tämä on kovasti väärä viesti. Lisäksi laki on niin epäselvä, että sitä ei esimerkiksi oikeustieteen professori Jukka Kemppisen mukaan ymmärrä edes normaalin juristin koulutuksella. Tämän osoittavat hyvin opetusministeriön sekavat ja ristiriitaiset lausunnot.
  • "Rahat kerätäänkin mainostuloilla ja kuluttajien selektiivisellä tavoittamisella tietokantojen avulla." Tämä, hämmentävää kyllä, ei ole virhe, vaan ihan järkevä lause. Hyvä kysymys tosin on sitten se, että mihin sitä kopiosuojausta sitten tarvitaan, jos tärkeät ja rahanarvoiset asiat ovat mainokset ja kuluttajien profilointi?
  • "Mediaviikko on poistanut pääkirjoitukseen liittyvät aiemmat viestit uudesta käytännöstä johtuen, ja toivottaa uudet tekstit tervetulleiksi reilun pelin hengessä." Just. Myös kaikki asialliset kommentit on poistettu - ja juttua on muutettu julkaisemisen jälkeen kertomatta mitä on muutettu. Todella reilua peliä - esimerkiksi nyt jos he muuttavat tekstiään, niin tämä minun kommenttini alkaakin näyttää yhtäkkiä liioittelulta. Reilu peli on tästä hommasta kaukana. Venäläinen revisionismi ei sovi länsimaiseen julkaisutoimintaan.

Kaiken kaikkiaan: hyvin, hyvin, hyvin huono suoritus Mediaviikolta. Jos kirjoittaa provokatiivisia, täynnä virheitä olevia juttuja ja sallii anonyymit kommentit, niin ei ehkä pitäisi olla kovin yllättynyt siitä, että saa anonyymejä kommentteja, jotka voivat olla kärkeviäkin. Tyhmä saa olla ja tietämätönkin, mutta asiallisten kommenttien ja kritiikin poistaminen on paha, paha, paha asia, joka haiskahtaa kauas ja korkealle. Minulta ainakin meni luottamus kyseiseen julkaisuun.

Update: Jussi Og had cached the entire CC-licensed, original document, including most of the comments (which are quite civil, actually), and other media have already started to pound on Mediaviikko.

Update2: Jani of Marginaali seems to be running a contest on "who writes the best humorous summary of the original article".

Monday, 17-Oct-05 14:53
Set up your own ~WiFi hotspot

Become your own ~WiFi (aka WLAN, aka IEEE 802.11) hotspot provider! PublicIP needs you just to pop in a CD and connect a couple of wires... And even the computer you need needs to have a Pentium CPU and a whopping 128 MB of memory, so any old hog will do. You can, if you want, have user registration, firewall filtering, and content filtering. It also firewalls people out of your private network, so you can just use your regular connection. And it's all open source...

Seriously: projects like these make it a lot easier for public places (cafes, libraries, museums, hotels) to set up a secure and safe wireless internet connection. Little money is needed for the setup, and it provides quite a lot of value to the customers. Quite a lot of people are buying laptops these days, so it's no longer a geek-only exclusive domain.

(Thanks to Anne S for the tip.)

Monday, 17-Oct-05 00:19
Daring steps into depths of the abyss

I just upgraded this particular server to JSPWiki 2.3.31-CVS. It's my first live installation of this new software - and I have no idea how it's going to work. So please excuse me, if things suddenly break or my content becomes garbled and it looks like the typings of a monkey on acid.

(On a more personal note: My Finnish podcast has finally been accepted into the iTunes podcast directory. And for some strange reason it was even number one for a while (now it's around #3...). Panic. Must. Try. To. Speak. Something. Sensible.

Thursday, 13-Oct-05 16:12
F.R.U.S.T.R.A.T.I.O.N

I've spent the last two nights configuring PCs. Yes, Outi got herself a brand new display card, and I got the honor of installing it.

The following text may contain words that are inappropriate for the younger people in the audience.

I haven't slept well for two nights now. I have been crawling on the floor, scraping my knuckles on sharp metal parts, resetting CMOS, twiddling with BIOS settings (yes, I checked AGP Voltage, tried them all out), staring Yahoo search results with bleary eyes, upgrading BIOS, drivers - even reinstalling Windows XP - and that crappy pile of shit not worth a fart from Stalin's embalmed ass still crashes randomly. Sometimes it runs, sometimes it does not. The best combo I've so far found is to lower the bus speed to 133 MHz and manually make sure the AGP speed is half that - it works with the 100MHz/50MHz combo, and 133 MHz/67 MHz, but not any faster that that. Which sucks because the machine used to have FSB @ 166 MHz...

Why the blazing fucks do I have to do this!?! Why can't I just plug it in and It Would Work? Who was the mind-maggot who designed something which makes you wish you were a Teletubby on a barbeque stick over fire, because then you would at least be having fun?

I hate, hate, hate, HATE PC hardware. People tend to think that geeks like to tinker with PC hardware, but let me tell you once and for all: We positively HATE it. We'd rather make cool things and not spend precious hours crawling under the desk, and trying to live with the mistakes made by shitty-brained morons from outer space.

If anyone has any ideas on how to make a ATI Radeon 9600 card (which has already been exchanged once, so the card is unlikely to be faulty) to work on an EPOX 8RDA+ motherboard, I sorely need your advice about now. Otherwise I will shoot the bunny.

(And "buy a Mac" is not good advice in this case: if it were an option, I would've already done it.)

(While I am complaining, I would also really like to know what the guy who decided that the default state of KMix in KDE is to have all the channels MUTED, was thinking. It's completely non-obvious, and makes configuring sound a royal PITA, unless you happen to know what you are doing. And you need to log out if you want to save the settings; otherwise it mutes all the channels at the next log-in again. Hel-lo? Do you guys have any brain cells left from all the C++?)

Update: temporary solution was to rip my nVidia Geforce 3 from my Linux box to Outi's computer, and install the Radeon 9600 to my Linux machine. Outi's computer works now fine, but I still spent several hours trying to make Linux understand about 3D acceleration and failed. If the suckage in our apartment was gravity, the Sun would revolve around Earth, not vice versa.

Wednesday, 12-Oct-05 15:01
Teenagers: "I don't pay for music anymore"

This is sort of obvious data for anyone who has been paying any attention, but it's certainly refreshing to hear the things from the horse's mouth. This hilarious panel took place in Web 2.0 conference, with a bunch of innovators, creators, visionaries and hackers talking to five teenagers. Some choice quotes from the bunch, none of whom recognized the word Skype :-D

Q: Who has an iPod?

3 of 5 have ipods.

Sean: I thought it would be nice to pay the artists initially, but then my computer crashed, so I used Podutil to bypass Apple's DRM and get music from a friend.

Sasha: I have 10 paid songs out of 1500 on my iPod.

Steph: I never pay for downloading a song, I go to a friend's house to get their music.

---

Q: Let's say you want to buy a CD player, where would you go?

Sean: ummm, a CD player...? (laugher)

---

Q: Where do you guys go for news?

Sean: reuters, NPR podcast, "I'll go to multiple news sites because i don't trust any one site."

In five-ten years, these will be the guys thinking about the future. And they're used to having free music that is not tied to owning a physical copy or a single computer. In the developing countries such as China and India this will be even more so.

The discussion about whether one can copy a copy-protected CD or not is not really about CDs. It's about freedom to control your own environment and your own life. The copyright industry wants to turn the world into a police state, where they have the power - because they think they own music, and they should also decide how others must consume it, simply because being a monopoly is a good profit opportunity. The new legislation contains the first steps towards this.

Professor Matti Pohjola points out one key difference between patents and copyright: Patents don't stop you from innovating on an old idea (you are free to improve on an existing design and patent it yourself), but copyright does. You cannot make derivative works of a copyrighted song, for example, without explicit permission. Copyright always requires you to make a new work, which means that from a cultural perspective, any work of art protected by copyright is a dead end.

I strongly feel that copyright and patent legislation should be converged. After all, they're currently used for similar purposes: controlling and monetizing "intellectual property". We Finns should start by moving the copyright issues from our Ministry of Education to our Ministry of Trade and Industry, where patent, trademark, and consumer issues are currently already being handled.

Wednesday, 12-Oct-05 10:08
Planet Broadband project

Om Malik is collecting a broadband profile of the planet on a wiki. It needs people who can write about the broadband situation in their home country - could someone drop a word there about Finland?

(Via Many-to-many.)

Tuesday, 11-Oct-05 10:39
Why doing dumb laws is a bad idea

The late debate around the Finnish Copyright law has resulted in a dysfunctional law. Which is sort of fine, as long as nobody takes undue advantage of it.

Unfortunately, most laws will be taken advantage of. Here are a couple of chilling examples:

Terrorism Laws Used to Stifle Political Speech

Walter Wolfgang, an 82-year-old political veteran, was forcefully removed from the UK Labour party conference for calling a speaker, Jack Straw, a liar. (Opinions on whether Jack Straw is or is not a liar are irrelevant here.) He was later denied access to the conference on basis of anti-terror laws. Keep in mind that as recently as the 1980s, Labour Party conferences were heated affairs compared with today's media shows.

So, speaking against the government is terrorism? The letter of the law certainly allows this - but I doubt it's in the spirit of the law.

Read more from Bruce Schneier.

Also, the new US legislation that allows FBI to attack "obscene" websites, seems to be working "well". Many a porn site dealing with more niche issues has been shut down - and the government gets to decide what exactly is offending and what is not. Considering that certain politicians (who were mostly also behind the new Copywrong Law) are also driving similar legislation to Finland, we can expect similar "community values" to be controlling the Internet and free speech over here in the future, too.

Don't get me wrong: I am sure that this site was pretty awful. It might even have been illegal (breaking privacy legislation, etc). It may have been the right decision to shut it down. But what I don't like is some sheriff saying that the "content shocks the community" - whatever that is, and the fact that people are likely take this at a face value. I mean - if the police says it is awful, then it must've been awful, yes? (Hint: the right answer is not "yes".)

You can follow this to the logical conclusion on your own. There is certainly enough historical precedence...

The owner of "war porn" site ~NowThatsFuckedUp.com (not worksafe) has been charged with 300 misdemeanors and one felony. He's in jail on more than $150K bail.

He made an offer on the Web site that if they posted pictures proving they were military serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, he would give them free access to the paid sections of the Web site.

For about six or seven months, people claiming to be members of the military have been sending in pictures of life overseas, ranging from picturesque scenery to hideous pictures of people burned black and unrecognizable, or with body parts mangled or blown apart.

According to Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, the area that includes pornographic pictures was equally distasteful. "Normal people don't have the ability to imagine how perverse and horrific these images were," he said. "It certainly is content that shocks the community."

(Via Boing Boing.)

Monday, 10-Oct-05 10:06
Can't do nothing no more

EOS magazine has an article on the receding ice in the Arctic. Mike Davis comments:

For almost 30 years, Arctic sea ice has been thinning and shrinking so dramatically that "a summer ice-free Arctic Ocean within a century is a real possibility." The scientists, however, add a new observation -- that this process is probably irreversible.

It's not really the melting of the Arctic ice, but the completely unknown effects it will have on the Golf stream and the glaciers in Greenland (which, if melted completely, might rise sea levels up to 6 meters).

(Via Boing Boing.)

Wednesday, 05-Oct-05 16:22
Finnish copyright legislation tightens

So yeah, the vote is over (the results are available here, if you want to see how your favourite MP voted). The end result is that the copyright law is accepted and becomes a law after the president has stamped it. An addendum was created, which says that the government should follow the law and possibly change it if it seems to be bad - but this is what the government is supposed to be doing anyway, so the end result is just glorified rhetorics designed to lure in voters.

The good thing is that because of all the publicity, both consumers and MPs will have a heightened awareness towards possible misuse. And should be start having similar problems as with the Americans are having with DMCA, it's likely that the government might actually do something about it. So, the probability for abuse of the copyright law did lessen somewhat. Which is good.

But the fact still remains, that after the President stamps the law, I will be a criminal. And so will be a significant chunk of the Finnish population. I'll just ignore it, and keep doing what I have done before - moving DVDs to my laptop for in-flight viewing, telling people on how to circumvent pesky copy protection if all they want to do is just to play a CD in their car player, and speak aloud against the copyright madness.

Quite a few people haven't yet realized that content industry is a hidden monopoly of commons: You can't buy a Britney Spears album from anyone but Britney's record company. And if you like Britney, that's a monopoly. Try telling an eight-year-old that "Well, you can't have Britney, but how about this other artist X? It's almost as good, and not copy-protected." The apparent consumer choice to choose between different shops is just an illusion - if the record company says the record should be copy-protected, then ALL of the disks will be copy-protected. THEY get to decide who listens it, where, and when. And you don't have a choice or a say in the matter - except NOT to buy it at all. You can't go to a different shop to buy it without copy protection. You can't download it from the net without copy protection (legally anyway). The talk about markets solving these issues is bullshit - for a market to function it needs to be free, not a monopoly. You could as well be saying that "competition will drive Alko [The Finnish alcohol monopoly chain] away from the business" - that ain't gonna happen, because you will get fined for trying to open up a competing shop next to it.

Update: Incidentally, Professor Matti Pohjola talks about the same thing in today's DigiToday. In Finnish, tho'.

Wednesday, 05-Oct-05 15:40
Mobile user experience in the age of Ubiquitous connectivity

Thanks to Timo and del.icio.us, I found this presentation from Fabio Sergio from MEX 2005. He talks about the future of mobile user interfaces, and how they will change when everything is connected. Good stuff.

As we look around us inanimate things are slowly coming to life, veneered with layers of digital information. From payments made by touching things to street signs that broadcast messages our belongings are moving from supporting our behaviors to developing their own.

In the brave new world mobile connected devices will be at the center of the convergence of wide-band wireless connectivity, RFID and (A)GPS-enabled applications. They will stop being purely at the receiving end of data streams and become conduits, mustering bits from objects and infusing them into other objects.

How will all of this impact the design of mobile-mediated experiences? Are we moving towards a world of seamless socio-economical transactions or rather towards a permission-based reality, plagued by constant confirm/cancel requests? What new scenarios will be driven by these innovations?

Wednesday, 05-Oct-05 14:39
Star Wreck downloaded 500,000 times

...so says Taneli Tikka, the CEO of Magenta, who's hosting the downloads of Star Wreck.

So, within five days of its release, it is already a Finnish superhit. In fact, the 10th most watched film ever in Finland had only 750 965 viewers. Though of course, we're talking about apples and oranges here: SES only measures box office, and the movies have been screened in TV countless times.

But still, it cannot be refuted that Star Wreck is one of the most popular Finnish movies of all time. Using practically nothing but internet distribution, in five days. If this is not a clear signal on how the Internet is really changing the traditional entertainment industry, I don't know what is...

Update: Thu Oct 06, 2005 09:31 the count is at 596165 downloads. Wow.

Tuesday, 04-Oct-05 15:20
Demonstration

The demonstration is over, "at least 300 people" were present according to the police (I'd estimate it slightly higher, maybe 400), and we heard speeches. I wasn't particularly impressed though, but now I at least understand why some people are MPs... They are excellent speakers (esp. Soini and Kankaanniemi), and are able to take the crowd with their presentation alone, even if their normal politic views would be completely against the beliefs of the listeners. But in war, the enemy of your enemy is your friend...

Digitoday is blogging the discussion on the law in real time from the Parliament house. RSS is available.

Edit: I created a Flickr photoset of my pics from the event. They're pretty crappy, though.

Monday, 03-Oct-05 17:24
The thing that really strikes me strange...

...is that in the copyright discussion, one side (e.g. EFFI, and all sorts of worried organizations) can tell you at length what is wrong with the copyright law as proposed, cite what has happened elsewhere in the world, tell horror stories, quote analyses of the law, and in general be very educated about it; whereas the organizations representing the artists usually just say "well, it's just better, and it must be accepted as soon as possible", but they never itemize the reasons exactly why it is better for the artists?

Could it be that all those reasons could be shot down analytically? Could it be that they don't dare to say that they don't really understand the law as proposed? Could it be that someone else is speaking on their behalf?

Saturday, 01-Oct-05 20:13
Yum.

FYI: Ben & Jerry's Ice cream is now available from Stockmann's. Maybe this is old news, but I didn't know about it before...

A bucket didn't last long.

Saturday, 01-Oct-05 12:13
Star Wreck now available for download

Go. Download a fine movie for free. Available in Bittorrent or direct download (Bittorrent recommended).

And feel free to share; it's a part of the Creative Commons.

Amazing.

Update: I am now seeding the Bittorrent from my laptop and blogging about it while sitting on the toilet. How Web 2.0!


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